Wednesday, September 30, 2009

First Anniversary / Third Quarter Review - 2009

Well, today is a pretty special day. Today marks the one year anniversary of the official beginning of my blog. One year ago today I was sitting here reviewing the ultra sleazy Linda Blair cult classic Savage Streets. I didn't really know what this blog would become, if it would last or if I'd get sick of it. Well, as this post proves it's still alive and kicking. The reviews have slowed down a little recently but I have no plans of stopping. I actually plan on something very special for the month of October which will be announced shortly.

So, now that another quarter has finished (very hard to believe) and we are approaching the end of 2009, I have compiled another list of the films I have watched between 7/1/09 and 9/30/09. I said this last quarter review but I still owe Mykal from the great Radiation Cinema a review of At Midnight I Take Your Soul. This month, I promise!

So without further adieu:

7/2
The Howling

7/4
Howling 2
Howling 3

7/5
Howling 4
Howling 5
Howling 6

7/6
Howling: New Moon Rising

7/8
Easy Rider

7/10
Shark Hunter
The Terminator

7/11
Above the Law
Hard to Kill
Marked for Death
Out for Justice

7/12
Under Siege
Fire Down Below
Marathon Man
Keoma

7/13
10th Victim

7/14
Operation Kid Brother

7/16
Casino Royale (1967)

7/17
Danger: Diabolik

7/18
Ms. 45
Crimes of Passion

7/19
The Funeral
Bad Lieutenant

7/20
Fear City

7/23
Body Snatchers

7/24
G Force

7/26
Mean Streets
Taxi Driver

7/27
Jaws

7/29
Combat Shock

7/30
Cobra

8/1
Kenny & Co.
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

8/2
Nighthawks

8/8
Trapped

8/9
Eiger Sanction
Straw Dogs

8/17
Torso

8/21
Husbands

8/22
A Virgin Among the Living Dead

8/23
Blood and Black Lace

8/27
Screwballs

8/30
Black Sabbath

9/1
Halloween 2 (2009)

9/2
Halloween (2007)

9/3
Cat People

9/6
Urban Legend

9/7
My Bloody Valentine 3D

9/9
The Prowler
Blair Witch Project

9/10
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2

9/12
The Mist
Nightmare on Elm Street

9/13
Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge

9/15
David Bowie - Glass Spider

9/18
Urban Legends: Final Cut

9/19
The Friends of Eddie Coyle

9/20
Bullitt

9/25
The Haunted World of El Superbeasto

9/26
The Mechanic

9/27
The Devil Rides Out
The Evil Dead
Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn

9/28
Army of Darkness

9/30
U2: Rattle and Hum

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Evil Dead (1981, Sam Raimi)

Ooh, looky here. It's almost Halloween. Well not really, but it's close enough. I guess this marks my official Horror Movie-a-thon. What this season will bring me I have no idea yet, but it should make for some good reviewin'. Well, I hope. One thing is for sure, I won't be reviewing the Halloween series (been there, done that), which should make things a little more interesting and a little less predictable. I recently posted a (not so) vague statement about reviewing the Nightmare on Elm Street series. That may happen...or it may not. We'll see. Anyway, enough jibber jabber. Let's get to it. One of the most loved horror series of all time, which began the careers of genre veterans Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell and which was even turned into a musical. THE EVIL DEAD! I actually saw this film for the first time back in my sophomore year of high school. It was February vacation and I had just watched Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead and was absolutely blown away. My local video store was having a special, rent 3 movies for $6.00. Looking for more zombie type films I picked up Day of the Dead, Dead Alive and The Evil Dead. I love telling that story and refer to it as probably the most important week of my movie watching life. I even remember what tape I listened to in the car to and from the video store (the Duran Duran offshoot band Arcadia's So Red The Rose) Though I liked the film it wasn't until many years later that my friend bought me a copy for my birthday and since then it has been in rotation regularly, usually around Halloween.

The Evil Dead follows a group of 5 college kids heading out to a deserted cabin for the weekend. While there, they discover a tape recorder and a weird looking book. They play the tape which explains how the book is bound in human flesh and is called the Book of the Dead. The voice on the tape reads a chant from the book that opens up a doorway for evil to come through. Soon enough, each of the kids is possessed one by one leaving only Ash (Bruce Campbell) to try to save himself from this evil.

The Evil Dead is plain and simple one of the greatest, most original and funnest horror films I have ever seen. There is a big debate between fans of the series whether the first or the second Evil Dead film is superior. I don't know how this argument can even exist. Evil Dead 2 is a fine film (as my upcoming review will illustrate) but the first Evil Dead is untouchable. The film is scary, funny and has some of the most unrelenting, gory violence ever put on screen. Despite the small budget and the year it was made, this film still excels in every way. Those factors seem to me to be a test for the crew to push themselves even harder, which they did with dazzling results. Bruce Campbell steals the show here and becomes one of the best horror icons of all time. Do yourself a favor and go watch this now, even if it's for the twentieth time.

RATING: 5/5

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009, Rob Zombie)

Shortly after Rob Zombie's new Halloween sequel hit theaters, another new film of his was also released on DVD (there were a few screenings as well, I believe). This film has been in the works for quite some time and I have been pretty eager to see it. Though vastly different than Halloween 2, it's still a Rob Zombie movie so as different as it is, it is guaranteed to have a few key ingredients: extreme violence, a bunch of dirty (and usually bad) one liners and a ton of nudity. Oh, did I mention that it's a cartoon?!?

The Haunted World of El Superbeasto follows a Mexican luchador (wrestler) who is also a disco dancing, sex hungry, foul mouthed crime fighter. Superbeasto (Tom Papa), along with his sister Suzi X (Sherri Moon Zombie) and her robot Murray (Brian Posehn) must save a stripper named Velvet Von Black (Rosario Dawson), who also happens to have the mark of the devil (on her ass). She is being targeted by the evil Dr. Satan (Paul Giamatti) to become his bride, which will turn him into an all powerful monster.

This is a fun movie and a dirty movie. It was also pretty funny. The actors (or at least their voices) are all perfect for the characters. The story was fun, my favorite part of which was definitely the Nazi Zombies. I really liked the animation too. It reminded me of a mix between an old Hannah Barbera Saturday morning cartoon, Ren and Stimpy, Heavy Metal and a Ralph Bakshi film. The nudity was a little uncomfortable at times (though there is a song in the film that states you shouldn't be ashamed of enjoying it) but overall the film was well done. It didn't blow me away but it surely has some replay value and fans of Rob Zombie films.

RATING: 3/5


Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Blair Witch Project (1999, Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez)


Ten years already? Wow, seems like yesterday that the world was overcome with Blair Witch Mania. It's hard to believe that a movie like this has become a bookmark in the pages of pop culture history. I don't mean that in a negative way, it's just so strange that a low budget horror film could do what this film did. I saw this film in the theater during the hysteria and I remember no one in the theater moving a muscle through the whole film. Seeing it in the theater was such a memorable experience that I figured seeing it on video would cheapen it. I finally decided to watch it again.

The Blair Witch Project is the story of three college students, Heather (Heather Donahue), Josh (Joshua Leonard) and Mike (Michael Williams), who are filming a documentary about a local legend called the Blair Witch. They plan to spend the weekend in the woods of Maryland to try to find any clues on the validity of the legend. Before long, the trio get lost and they soon start seeing and hearing things out of the ordinary. They also run out of food and must do whatever they can to find their way out of the woods after they lose their map.

The Blair Witch Project is not a typical horror film. The film has no gore and uses atmosphere, POV camera work and supposed true events to scare the audience. And it all works perfectly. This film suffered greatly from being over hyped after its release, which is unfortunate but there is still a cult out there who will forever cherish this film and remember when it was released. If for some reason you've never seen this or haven't seen it in a long time, I suggest turning out all the lights and watching it with the sound cranked. I watched it on my portable dvd player with headphones on and the sound definitely enhanced the scariness of the film. The acting is very believable but it should be because the actors didn't know what to expect through a lot of the filming. Fuck all the naysayers, I love this film but it's not something I could watch all the time. Maybe in another ten years....

RATING: 5/5


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Prowler (1981, Joseph Zito)


The Prowler - aka Rosemary's Killer - is an early 80's slasher film. Yup, that's pretty much it. Not much more to say. It's not really too well known but it came out at the dawn of the genre and has a memorable villain. He actually reminds me a lot of the miner from My Bloody Valentine, a film from the same era. I forget where I first heard of the film but I knew that Tom Savini did the makeup effects for it so when I found a copy for rent, I went for it. I remember it was at the Blockbuster that used to be on rte 135 in Framingham. They had a decent selection of videos, especially for a Blockbuster, and I occasionally found an oddball title like this one. I actually remember that my best friend and I watched this the day of our high school prom, I don't remember if it was junior or senior year. I actually wasn't impressed by it and it was about a year ago that I finally saw it again. Though still underwhelmed all these years later I decided to give it a third watch.

The Prowler begins in the 40's around the time of World War 2. A woman named Rosemary sends a letter to her boyfriend in the army telling him that she cannot wait any longer for him to come home and hopes they can still be friends when he does. Can you imagine? Going to war to kill some Nazis and some bitch can't even wait for you to come home to break up with you? I tell ya, it's the bitches that'll git'chas. Anyway, he finally does come home and decides to find the girl and put a pitchfork through her and her new boytoy, all while dressed head to toe in an all black army uniform. Ah, sweet revenge. Flash forward 35 years and someone dressed in the same uniform starts killing college kids at their graduation dance, the same place where the first two victims were killed.

The Prowler is a slasher that relies on equal parts gory kills by the master Tom Savini and atmosphere. The story is pretty simple and it's not very original or inventive. In other words, you've pretty much seen everything before. What really hampers the film is the pace. It gets off to a good start but the middle third of the film is reaaallly sloooow. That's not to say the film is a complete waste of time or even bad for that matter, it's just not the best of its kind. Still, the fact that I watched it for a third time means that I knew I would get something out of it. The acting is ok, nothing great. The dialogue is a little cheesy in parts but it's nothing out of the ordinary for this type of film. So other than the great makeup effects, the movie is really just average. Still, I actually thought the killer looked really cool and the whodunnit story worked well enough (I didn't know who the killer was the first two times I watched it).

RATING: 3/5


Monday, September 7, 2009

My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009, Patrick Lussier)


As I'm sure you're aware, 3D is back. The number 1 movie at the box office for the last two weekends in a row was Final Destination 3D. 3D is nothing new but until recently, the technology to create a 3D film that didn't give you a migraine or make you cross eyed seemed nearly impossible. Finally though, with this new Real D stuff or whatever it's called, you can now see 3D films that look great and don't involve expensive surgery to fix that lazy eye. Though not the first horror film in 3D, My Bloody Valentine, a remake of a classic Canadian slasher film from the early 80's, is the first in this new wave of eye friendly 3D horror films. Since the release of MBV and Final Destination, several new 3D horror films are in the works, including Piranha 3D and Halloween 3D. Can't wait.

My Bloody Valentine 3D begins with Harry Warden, a miner who goes crazy and kills a bunch of fellow miners at the old Hanniger mines. It was originally thought that Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles), son of the mine's owner, had killed the men when he forgot to close the methane lines which caused an explosion in the mines, but the bodies were found pickaxed to death. It is determined that Harry killed the men after the explosion so they wouldn't use up all of the oxygen. Harry Warden was in a coma after the explosion and wakes up the following Valentine's Day to begin another killing spree. Four teenagers, including Tom Hanniger, his girlfriend Sarah (Jaime King), Axel Palmer (Kerr Smith) and his girlfriend Irene (Betsy Rue), go down to the mine where the original murders occurred to find themselves being stalked by Harry Warden. They escape and Harry is thought to be dead. 10 years later, Tom comes back to town to sell the mines after his father dies. Shortly after, Harry Warden returns to get revenge on the town.

My Bloody Valentine 3D is an awesome re-telling of the original with eye popping (literally) effects and other crazy shit flyin' out at you. The story has been changed around a little and some new characters added, but the basic plot is very similar. The cast is all great, especially Jensen Ackles (from the current hit TV show Supernatural), Kerr Smith (best known from TV's Dawson's Creek and the first Final Destination film), Jaime King and the almighty Tom Atkins (Halloween III, The Fog, Creepshow, Maniac Cop and many others). The gore is top notch, the story is great, Harry Warden is one of the most iconic killers from the dawn of the slasher films and the 3D is impeccable and used to the full extent. The best surprise was the DVD, which is in anaglyphic 3D (the red and blue glasses kind). I have some other DVDs that use this technique and, to put it nicely, they suck balls. This DVD though is surprisingly clear and the 3D looks great. It does lose a lot of the color that the Real D format has perfected but it's still a great watch. I wouldn't say this film is better or worse than the original. I'd say that the weaknesses of the original are taken up a notch in the remake but at the same time, there are some things about the original that could never be improved upon.

RATING: 4/5


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Urban Legend (1998, Jamie Blanks)


Back to the late 90's, a time when horror films featured the hottest teenage actors from the hottest teenage television dramas (Dawson's Creek, Party of Five, etc). Though this whole sub-genre of horror films for teeny boppers was started by Wes Craven's Scream, I would probably say that Urban Legend is the epitome of this type of film. I wouldn't say it's the best but it has all of the components that make up this unique group of horror films. Read on to see why.

Urban Legend begins with a college girl (Natasha Gregson Wagner) stopping at a gas station to get gas. She thinks that the gas station attendant (Brad Dourif) is trying to kill her so she drives off but soon finds out he was only trying to warn her that someone was hiding in her back seat. She is swiftly decapitated and the word gets out on her college campus. Natalie (Alicia Witt), a fellow college student who is somehow involved with the murder victim, soon finds herself in the middle of a massacre when all of her friends begin to pop up dead. The strange thing though is that each one is killed in the same fashion as a different Urban Legend. Who is the killer and why are their killings based on Urban Legends?

Ok, like I said, Urban Legend isn't the best of the 90's teen horror film boom, but it has all of the ingredients that made up that sub-genre. A whodunit plot, a masked killer, cameos from actors of classic horror films and/or tongue and cheek references to older horror films and (of course) teen actors (or 20 something actors playing teens) from the popular teen TV dramas of the time. Let's go through the actors in this film one by one just so you can see how the cast pretty much made this film:

Jared Leto - every teenage girl's crush from the mid 90's for his role as Jordan Catalano from the cult teen drama My So Called Life. A relatively early movie role for Leto who went on to star in such films as Requiem for a Dream, Panic Room, Alexander and Lord of War. Also found fame and fortune singing for the band 30 Seconds to Mars.

Alicia Witt - pasty, but in a hot way, redhead from the 90's sitcom Cybill...or at least that's where I knew her from when this movie came out.

Tara Reid - star of such hit films as the American Pie trilogy, Van Wilder, Josie and the Pussycats, Cruel Intentions, who partied too hard, had a bad tummy tuck and has recently been doing Crow sequels and other DTV dreck such as Incubus and Vipers. Such a shame. She was always my favorite American Pie girl.

Joshua Jackson - no 90's teen slasher would be complete without a member from the hit teen drama Dawson's Creek. Jackson did some other memorable films (some from the same genre) such as Scream 2, Apt Pupil, Cruel Intentions and The Skulls.

Michael Rosenbaum - it wasn't until a few years after this film that I heard the name Michael Rosenbaum again - this time in the TV series Smallville as the young Lex Luthor.

Rebecca Gayheart - aka "the Noxzema girl" as I knew her (and is referenced briefly as an in-joke in the film), who was also in a few notable late 90's films such as Scream 2 and Jawbreaker. She then went on to marry "McSteamy" from Grey's Anatomy.

Robert Englund - duh

Brad Dourif - Versatile actor who plays a similar character in this film as his Oscar-nominated performance of Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Horror fans would know him as Charles Lee Ray and the voice of Chucky from the Child's Play films, as well as from roles in Critters 4, Alien Resurrection, Exorcist 3 and most recently in the Wizard of Gore remake as well as Rob Zombie's Halloween and Halloween 2.

Danielle Harris - well known to horror fans for being in 4 Halloween films, the first two (parts 4 and 5) she played Michael Myers' young niece Jamie and then as Annie Brackett in Rob Zombie's Halloween and Halloween 2. She has also played alongside such action heroes as Sylvester Stallone, Steven Seagal and Bruce Willis.

Ok, so there you have it. What a cast. The movie itself is fun and upon watching it for the 3rd time, I liked it a lot more than the first two times. I saw it shortly after it debuted on video back in the late 90's and then less than a year ago. The film has some good scares but doesn't take itself too seriously.

RATING: 3/5



Friday, September 4, 2009

Cat People (1982, Paul Schrader)


After watching Rob Zombie's Halloween and Halloween 2 and seeing Malcolm McDowell steal the show, I decided to check out Cat People again. I had seen him in Caligula and A Clockwork Orange but never realized he was also in Cat People until I saw a still of him turning into a cat on the cover of an old issue of Fangoria. It has been at least 10 years since I saw the film for the first time in High School. Actually the reason I even watched it the first time is because of my 12th grade English Teacher, Mr. Bates (or Master Bates as we'd call him). He mentioned Cat People and how one of the characters got his arm ripped off and you could see the veins and muscles stretching and ripping. That was enough for me to check it out.

Cat People is the story of a girl named Irena (Nastassia Kinski) coming to live with her estranged brother Paul (Malcolm McDowell) in New Orleans. It turns out that Paul is a werecat, a man who turns into a panther when he gets laid and must kill a human to turn back into a human himself. Anyway, Paul is captured before he can kill someone, by the zoo's curator Oliver (John Heard) and Irena finds herself at the zoo though she's not sure why, since she doesn't know of Paul's secret yet. Paul the panther manages to kill one of the zookeepers (Ed Begley Jr.) so he can turn back into a human while Irena becomes romantically involved with Oliver. This infuriates Paul who has plans of his own for Irena...but that you have to watch the film to figure out.

Cat People was actually much more enjoyable the second time. The first time I thought it sucked and only really cared about the arm-ripping scene...well, and seeing Nastassia Kinski and Annette O'Toole nekkid. The story and the characters were all interesting and the actors were all very good. McDowell kicked ass as the creepy Paul and Kinski's heroine was great too. I would mention John Heard (the father from Home Alone) but he was one of the stars of C.H.U.D., one of my most hated films so I will not. I will mention Tom Burman though, the makeup effects master who did some really cool effects (see arm-ripping) as well as some fantastic transformations. Overall the film was a little long and slow in places but it was fun and different. Oh and I love the theme song by David Bowie and Giorgio Moroder (which is also being used in Quentin Tarantino's new film Inglourious Basterds).

RATING: 3/5



Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Halloween 2 (2009, Rob Zombie)



So this past Monday night I went to see Halloween 2. I didn't know what to expect and I didn't really care. It's a fucking Halloween movie and I'm seein' it! I've seen every Halloween film in the theater since part 6 (except the dreadful Halloween Resurrection) so I didn't want to miss this one. The reviews have been pretty negative but I had purposely not read much about it to avoid spoilage. I did enjoy Rob Zombie's remake of the first film (I actually just finished watching it for the 3rd time and am thinking my 3/5 review should be changed to a 4/5) and was hopeful that the sequel had some redeeming qualities.

Halloween 2 takes place right after the previous film, the survivors of which are in the hospital being stitched up (with Wayne Toth's gruesomely realistic makeup effects). Michael quickly comes back from the dead to kill them (in a scenario similar to the original Halloween 2). This all ends up being a nightmare from the mind of Laurie Strode, who one year later, is suffering from major post traumatic stress disorder. Soon we find out that Michael actually is still alive and as Halloween approaches, he sees visions of his dead mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) and himself as a child (not Daeg Faerch) prompting him to go back home to Haddonfield and kill his sister.

Despite the constant criticism I keep hearing about this film, I actually liked it a lot. I liked how Rob Zombie did whatever he wanted with it. Though the first Halloween film was definitely a Rob Zombie film, he still kept a lot of things from the original (music, characters and pretty much the whole last half). I thought everything pretty much worked. One thing I really liked about it was that it felt like a good old horror sequel. I remember seeing Halloween 6 in the theater and feeling the same way. Every horror movie coming out nowadays is just another reboot (God I'm sick of that word). I never thought I'd be saying this but it's actually refreshing to just see an ordinary sequel for once. Yes of course this is a sequel to a reboot but if it was tweaked a little, it could have been a sequel to the original series. I thought all of the acting, characters, music and cinematography were well done. The reappearance of Deborah Myers was strange but I think it was handled well and I was impressed with the way the scenes with her and Michael as a boy were filmed. I do wish Daeg Faerch came back (damn that kid is creepy) but I guess puberty is unkind to child actor's having to reprise roles.

RATING: 3/5