Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Flashback: The Howling

The Howling 1981
Director: Joe Dante
Writer: John Sayles
Starring Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Dennis Dugan, Christopher Stone, Belinda Balaski, Kevin McCarthy, John Carradine, Slim Pickens, Elizabeth Brooks, Robert Picardo and Noble Willingham
There are many werewolf films, but for me one stands far above the rest as my all time favorite werewolf film and that is The Howling. It is a well crafted and scary film and it has some great acting performances. The transformation scenes are phenomenal and really freak you the hell out. And unlike American Werewolf in London, it does not really rely on the humor as much as that film does. All the humor does is accentuate the film. This is a film that has a claustrophobic feel at times and that is mainly due to the location the story takes place in. This is a film that gets better with repeated viewings and has some of the best looking werewolves in any werewolf film.
The plot basics are this, there is a serial killer running loose in New York and the only person who is in contact with him is news reporter Karen White (Wallace) and she helps the police corral and arrest him, but after her ordeal she needs some rest and rehabilitation. Her psychiatrist (Macnee) recommends a secluded forest area called The Colony. She goes there and at first it seems idyllic, but she hears strange sounds at night and soon her husband (Stone) begins to act strangely and she soon discovers the horrifying secret of The Colony and along with her friend (Dugan) tries to escape it.
This is a superb film. The direction by Dante is both humorous and eerie. A perfect example of this is the opening scene in the peep show. He really conveys the filthiness and depravity of the scene and makes it all the more horrifying when Eddie shows up. The script by Sayles has deft humorous touches that really ease the viewer during the tense parts of the film. I especially liked the scene in the book store that was very amusing and relieved the tension a bit. He really amps up the terror when needed though, like when Belinda Balaski is attacked by the werewolf in the office, that is truly a scary sequence. The cast is excellent. Wallace gives her best performance in this film. She is strong when called for and really shows the gamut of emotions needed for a role like this. Macnee is great as well, he plays the kindly doctor well until it is revealed who he really is and it pays off well. Brooks also brings a sensuous allure to her role and is very mesmerizing to watch. The SFX and effects by Rob Bottin are amazing and he gives us one of the best transformation scenes seen in any werewolf film. The score by Pino Donaggio really sets the mood for the film too and keeps you on the edge of your seat. This is one of the finest werewolf films and well worth digging up.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

House of the Devil

House of the Devil 2009
Director: Ti West
Writer: Ti West
Starring Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Greta Gerwig, AJ Bowen, Dee Wallace and Heather Robb

The 80s were a golden age for classic horror films and Ti West does his best to recreate that feeling with House of the Devil. This is a film that reminds me of the 1987 film Spellbinder along with the classic 70’s film The Devil’s Rain. West did a perfect job hatching this story in the early 80’s as it would not have worked as well in the modern day with cell phones and the internet. The lead actress would have had an easy way out if she had those options. But setting it in the 80s, where you still have to rely on rotary phones was a brilliant conceit on his part. You really feel the apprehension and fear that the lead is subjected through. The film does have a slow build up, but it is well worth the wait. It has a rousing climax that puts it up there with other classic horror films of the era. This is a film that works best if you are in a certain frame of mind and especially if you grew up with films like Children of the Corn and Poltergeist.
The plot basics are this, it is the year 1983 and Samantha (Donahue) is a college student who needs some quick money so she can move into a new apartment. She answers a advertisement for a babysitter. She has her best friend (Gerwig) drive her to the location and it seems to be an eerie and ominous house far away from any neighbors or civilization. She has reservations about taking the job after meeting the people and finding out what the job entails. But they offer her more money than she expects and she acquiesces. It seems that she is hired to watch the owners of the house’s frail mother. But weird and strange things begin to happen and she starts fearing for her life and tries to get away. Though it seems the owners (Noonan and Woronov) have malevolent plans in store for Samantha.
This is a exceptionally well done film. West’s direction really feels like a lost 80’s film and the tone carries you throughout the entire story. The way he shoots the film has that grainy 80’s video feel to it and it really works. The script is minimal at best and that really works in the films favor. It keeps the film taut and suspenseful until the obligatory horror film twist ending. The cast is great. Donahue as Samantha is a great lead and you really side with her and want her to prevail. Noonan and Woronov are great foils and you feel that they are up to no good immediately. Gerwig as Megan is a delight to watch and really hilarious, I would have liked to seen more of her in the film. The brief bit with Wallace is quite good too. The SFX and effects in the film are very well done. I especially liked the look of the demon. The score and music brought a real 80’s feel to the film and really cemented the traditional feel of the film. This is a hidden gem and a real treat for true horror fans, definitely seek this one out.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Flashbacks: I Spit On Your Grave

I Spit On Your Grave 1978
Director: Meir Zarchi
Writer: Meir Zarchi
Starring Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Richard Pace, Anthony Nichols, Gunter Kleemann and Alexis Magnetti
There are many revenge films of the 70’s and there are few that are more sadistic and brutal than I Spit On Your Grave. The only one that comes close is Last House On the Left. This film throws as many atrocities as it can into your eyes and hopes if they throw enough of them that they will stick. If that was the filmmaker’s vision I really think they have succeeded with this cult film. This is not a film for everyone, but if you enjoy brutal and perverse horror, this really is your cup of tea. This film really works because there is not a hint of sensuous in the entire film. The rape scene is interminably long and very difficult to watch. There has not been a worse Rape enacted in film until Irreversible. The rape is not sexual and you feel nothing but pity and sympathy for the girl who is ravished in this way and when she recovers and hatches her plan for revenge you really root for her and relish the malevolent wys she devises to kill her tormentors. This is not a easy film to watch but one that is well worth seeing.
The plot basics are this, Jennifer (Keaton) is a writer who decides to take some time off in a secluded area of the woods to work on her writing. All seems to be going well until she draws the attention of 4 men who keep ogling her and trying to proposition her. One day these 4 men capture and rape her and leave her for dead after they are done. Somehow, she survives and as she nurses herself back to health she concocts a plan to seek revenge on these men who have violated her. One by one she hunts them down and seduces them and then lays out her traps with deadly efficiency. When all is said and done these men will rue the day they ever messed with this woman.
This is a excellent film. Zarchi’s direction is very tight. The way he just leers on the interminably long rape scene will wear the viewer out and that is what really makes the film work. The way he shoots the climactic final scene is splendidly shot too; it gives you goose bumps as you watch Jennifer wield her hatchet at the last 2 tormentors. The script is very economical. There really isn’t much to it other than the basic plot and that simple premise carries the film and you do not need more than that. The cast is quite good, Keaton gives a bravura performance as a woman who is wronged and enacts bloody vengeance for those wrongs. During the rape scene you really feel her anguish. Pace also does an excellent job as Matthew, the village idiot. He is really the only male you feel any sympathy for through out the entire movie, though that does not last long. The SFX and effects are nominal; in the film, but what is there really works like the castration scene. You do not see much but what you do see makes you groan. One of the best aspects of this film is how there is no music in the film at all; it really plays up the utter starkness of the film. It is especially fitting at the very end. This is one of the best Revenge films and well worth seeing. But, be warned you need a strong constitution to sit through this film.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever

Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever 2009
Director: Ti West
Writer: Joshua Malkin
Starring Rider Strong, Noah Segan, Alexi Wasser, Rusty Kelley, Marc Senter, Giuseppe Andrews, Michael Bowen, Regan Deal, Judah Friedlander and Larry Fessenden
The original Cabin Fever is one of the crowning achievements in horror films in the past 10 years and a sequel had a lot to give up too and this one delivers. In just terms of sickness and depravity it really pays off. It also gives you lots of sex and gore to keep the horror fanatics such as myself happy. The film also pays homage to many other classic fright films like Carrie and Night of the Creeps. From the beginning the film seems to top each scene with the next one. This is a film that is a gore hound’s delight and also has a sick twisted sense of humor that will keep you revisiting the movie. This film is shot expertly and never makes the viewer lose a beat. The cast is excellent and the story just easily flows till the ending. My only complaint is it needed a more solid ending, it just seemed like it stopped and there was not an actual denouement. But with that, this is a fun horror film that any self respecting fan of 70s and 80s horror will love.
The plot basics are this, it opens immediately after the ending of the original film with Paul (Strong) carrying the virus and floating down the river, he contaminates the river and the water reaches a local water bottling plant that starts using it for their bottled spring water. We meet John (Segan) and Alex (Kelley) who really want to go to the prom but do not have dates. John has a problem with a bully Marc (Senter) over the girl of his dreams Cassie (Wasser) and after a showdown e ultimately decides to go to the prom. The problem is everyone has been drinking the water and is now falling apart and the Government shows up to quarantine the school so now John and Cassie have to find a way out of the school and not to get infected.
This is a excellently done horror film. West’s direction is tight and he really shines the camera on all the grotesque carnage that happens. I especially liked the school bus scene that was really gloriously icky. He also does a great job of directing the cast; they all have great chemistry on screen. The script is tight as well. It has a great sense of humor in it and it is all quite twisted which works with the film’s tone. I especially loved the return of Deputy Winston, his character was a hoot as always. The cast was superb; Segan was a great lead who really manned up at the end. Kelley as his buddy had most of the comic relief and he had great delivery. Wasser was a pretty and capable romantic lead. Senter as always was a evil bastard and I always enjoy watching him work. The supporting roles by Bowen and Friedlander were great as always too, Andrews return as Winston was my favorite role in the film he just was funny as hell with every moment he was on screen. The SFX and effects in the film were great; I especially loved the school bus splat and the oozing penis bits. The music in the film was trendy and edgy and really conveyed the tone of the film. This is a film that never has a dull moment and gives you lots of great and sick payoffs, well worth seeing.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare On Elm Street 2010
Director: Samuel Bayer
Writers: Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer
Starring Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidey, Kellan Lutz, Clancy Brown and Connie Britton

Horror remakes are a dime of dozen nowadays and very few of them are as memorable or even superior to the originals. The latest of the batch is the reworking of A Nightmare On Elm Street. While the film does an excellent job of being a decent horror film, it fails in bringing us a superior revamped version of the venerable classic. The direction of the film is handled ably well and the story does it’s job, but it doesn’t take any chances or try to add anything new to the mix. The cast does well too, especially Haley. He is a great choice for the new Freddy, though he does not erase your memories of Robert Englund in the role. The film also has some good scares in it and they bring you the blood and guts by the buckets and that works well in the film. This is not enough to vault the film into the win column for superior remakes though, at best it is just a decent one and after watching it you just want to see the original again.
The plot basics are this, Death seems to be stalking the teenagers of Springwood. They are all having horrid nightmares about a demonic maniac with a glove made of razors (Haley) and soon the teens start dying one by one in their sleep. Soon, Nancy (Mara) starts to investigate and discovers a conspiracy from the adults of Springwood to keep the teens unaware about a child molester they took out in a case of vigilante justice and it now seems that this molester and child killer is haunting the dreams of the teenagers and exacting his own bloody revenge on the kids. It is now up to Nancy and her boyfriend (Gallner) to combat the demon and find a way to defeat him once and for all.
This is a well executed film. The direction by Bayer is excellent, he really knows how to sustain the tension in a horror film and the film has many genuine scary moments. The opening diner scene is one of the best examples of this. The script does the job and gives a back-story to Freddy that is lacking in the original series, though it is a misstep for the writers to try and show Freddy in a kinder light. The characters are all rather weak except for Freddy, it seems as if they could be kids from any slasher film with nothing that sets them apart from any other film. The cast is decent, with solid props going to Haley as Freddy. He is quite menacing, though he is missing that sick sense of humor Englund had. Also, the supporting jobs that Brown and Britton do are great. Mara and Gallner are decent leads, just nothing special. The SFX and make up effects in the film are excellent, I especially liked the diner scene and when Tina bites it. The score does the job but is not as evocative as the original’s. All in all, this was a decent remake that falls a bit short of reinventing the wheel, but it is well worth checking out.
This one gets 3 out of 5

I am back!!

Sorry that it has been awhile, put I had computer issues and it has tooken 4 months to get back up and running, but the review machine is up and running once again.