Monday, October 31, 2011

The Master of Horror - Dario Argento

Next year's lists will not be so crammed, I promise. I'll admit I tried to squeeze a few viewings in of films the night before, having not seen them but knowing they had a strong legacy in the genre. I'm sure some that I critiqued or rather ignored will grow on me and the list will inevitably change, hell Boyfriend's With Fangs needs a drastic update since last year. So do know that none of them are absolute or near such (maybe with the exception of Stephen Kings) and that all contain the fine print "So far".

Thus to prevent addressing it in ever paragraph of this list (as it inevitably would be) lets just mention the flaws of Argento's work; awful sound transfers, not the best acting, and plot instances that fail. Its safe to say character development and the logical plot are not his strong points. What are? Setting up atmosphere in set design (I've heard he's meticulous about such things), collaborating well with composers, directing his DP's to gorgeous cinematographic heights and creating a beauty in death, something I don't believe any other filmmaker has done quiet so well. To note I didn't get distinctly different in separating the giallo's from the true horrors as I would therefore not have a list and they are scary despite trying for a more crime fiction motif. Not solely a master of Italian horror but basically a master of horror in general Dario Argento's films established a cult following based of his work. Not all can be Argento fans (understandably) but those who are appreciate them for what they are, broken masterpieces. So for this year's Master of Horror I focused on my favorite country of horror by one of my favorite directors, My Top Five Favorite Dario Argento Films:

#5 Phenomena (1985)

This is Argento's heavy metal rock film of the 80's, a combination I couldn't dream up if I'd even believed it to work. However, it does in this outlandish piece of cinema. Usual Argento the film has excessive flaws in plot, where most lead dead or near death, and dialogue. Often I'm afraid that he's more interested in surprising us with a killer than establishing a substantial reason as to why this person is murdering everyone. Regardless Phenomena did capture my heart briefly at it's start, young Jennifer Connelly and Donald Pleasence are good in their roles which they play against a beautiful Swiss Alps scenery. The soundtrack is killer as it plays loud chords and blares inside the story, and unlike other films its never inaptly played (I'm looking at you Deep Red). Jennifer's creepy bug telepathy and the rest of the works I've praised place this as number five on my list.

#4 Opera (1987)

Another gore fest Argento with surrealism at play. Again he creates a beautiful sculptured film that transcends the expectation of art. A deeply unhinged but emotionally sympathetic lead makes this the closest thing Argento has had to a character study. Of course bad dubbing doesn't precede the film but no less tolerable than normal. This is by far the most brutal flick ever conceived from this MOH. Harsh and stunning at the same time.

#3 The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)

Oddly The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is less known or rather less acclaimed than his other films. I'm a little confused to this; yes there's an absence of blood but this is one of the best Argento films ever, and it happens to be the first he directed. It follows the basic giallo plot of a writer who witnesses an attempted murder outside an art gallery and begins to investigate for himself. In a way I felt that Deep Red was almost a remake of this, between the similar plots and Sam eerily wearing the same black button up shirt and khaki pants as Marc Daily. The film, though mostly giallo, has a very haunting atmosphere, curtosy of an enchanting score by Ennio Morricone. It takes a real horror turn when Sam's girlfriend is locked in her apartment and the killer is trying to break in. A little excessive reaction but ultimately effective in capturing the terror of that moment, which is to attribute to good acting, especially by lead Tony Musante. No amateur directing shown on his half, Argento's first try was impressively good and a tense suspenseful watch, with a bit of humor.

#2 Deep Red (1975)

If Phenomena hadn't of fallen apart towards the end it had a better chance at ranking higher than Deep Red. But overall Deep Red is the more composed film and the quintessential of his giallo's. A complex range of characters speaking between Italian and English this was the film that scared me since seeing Suspiria. A breach of safety in my seat when I jumped from that laughing doll, a provoked chill from the break in and the death at Amanda Righetti's house, and essentially a great build of tension for the Italian thriller. Deep Red is a quite important viewing in the world of giallo films, not only Argento's most significant but arguably one of the most significant of the genre. And even better a killer with motivation! Deep Red is topped with good performances and an astounding soundtrack (though not the best, in my opinion) which makes it a must see.

#1 Suspiria

This was likely obvious as my header is of the film's eloquent cover but it's not as if there's any other choice. As gathered I liked/loved the other four films on this list nothing comes close to the bravura of Suspiria; a bleeding array of colors via the director of photography and a deafening soundtrack by the Goblins escalate the film to horror movie greatness. The lost in translation aspect appears here as Jessica Harper's Suzy is attending a ballet school in a foregin country. The plot doesn't succumb to the typical monsters as we tend to expect (vampires, werewolves, etc) but does a more rare fear of witches. Suspiria is the work of an preeminent nightmare caught on film, the images, the blood, the lack of distinction to what's going on, the distorted set pieces...nothing is right within the film. Captured soundly by Argento, bad dubbing and odd dialect aside this I'd argue is Argento's most seamless film. Unlike the others which become tangled in themselves Suspiria stays generally focused (I didn't say absolute now did I), and delivers a horror induced ending. As said Suspiria does not go without faults but I don't care, my favorite Argento film is certainty not Oscar worthy, nor is my favorite horror movie. Two titles that Suspiria shares.

Honorable Mentions: Inferno (1980), the sort of sequel to Suspiria that takes a focus on the Mother of Darkness, with a beautiful underwater sequence guest directed by Mario Bava. Tenebre (1982), another giallo piece that follows the murder surrounding a novelist's new book; a blood spattered ending is undoubtedly to satisfy fans.

If you're reading post your own.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

Dennis has recently married Julie and is now step dad to her two girls Katie and Kristi. He's a struggling videographer, a business which he runs out of his home giving him access to a lot of video equipment. While filming arguably the most dull sex tape ever between him and Julie an earthquake happens on film. But the natural disaster pales next to what Dennis sees after the quake has stopped, a spirit standing in their room. Immediately he wants to pursue this further and sets up cameras around the house to see if he can find anything else quite like it. It doesn't take the spirit long, or rather Toby, to make another appearance on tape as he's not shy. But as the haunting becomes more evident Dennis is discovering that this isn't harmless as Toby has a plan for his family, particularly the youngest Kristi.

I enjoyed both one and two in the franchise, finding them properly paced and effectively jumpy but as a whole I'm not necessarily a fan. That's not to say I don't like them, because I do, its just I appreciate them more for their technical plots and story buildup rather than have an actual love for the series. Where the first two relied on the subtly paced and what you don't see, the third takes the opposite approach and bares all. In the end it works rather well, this is by far the most terrifying of the series and I was in constant dread knowing that every time they were on camera something was going to happen, you just didn't know what. Which is a brilliance behind the writing, you've come to expect a certain set of rules to the ghost that's been stalking this family but they essentially throw away all previous behavior and throw you off with new bits of horror. Paranormal Activity 3 made more ploys towards the typical haunted house film (I saw that babysitter peak her head around the corner), where the ghost became physically violent and manifested itself in front of us for scares. The last fifteen minutes not only change how you see the spirit but how you see the series as a whole, it will literally alter your viewing experience. I immediately wanted to go back and watch the previous two films.

Dennis the likable hippie bum of a step dad is essential in pissing this ghost off with his camera taunting. Am I the only one who noticed Katie basically grew up and started dating her step dad? The parallels between Micah and Dennis are endless down to camera obsession and not having any clear manifestation of a job. While cute, younger Katie and Kristie are not young prodigy actors I hate to say. But I don't necessarily expect much from such so I won't pry further. Lauren Bittner and Christopher Nicholas Smith are fine as the parents, they seem convincing as a couple and that's all that really is needed. In this film the focus is less on the family's emotional struggle and more about the spirit and setting up what's to happen. Therefore acting is incidental and things such as camera placing are more prominent. In addition to two bedroom cams directors and DP set up a living room camera with its base on a fan to give a wide scope moving effect around the room. A very adept approach in creating a new way to scare the audience, as we see what the characters in the kitchen don't.

The film fells less realistic, as did the second, than the first despite having Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (directors of the documentary Catfish) there to give it that more realistic approach. Though it had its slow moments the first film's realism was based off the sense that everything was on camera, even the pointless stuff. The third is not so much; everything that is on camera is relevant to the plot and set up so it comes off more as a film than that cleaver found footage effect. As of last time the trailer is deceptive, I don't believe that one clip in that trailer makes it to the actual cut of the film. A lot of reviews are claiming this as the best film in the series, I'm less kind. I'll admit while it's the most dire of the series (I jumped...a lot) I'm still accrediting the first film for being the best. Simply because I prefer the what we don't see to what we do. Still that's not to prevent you from seeing the third installment, without a doubt it'll be the scariest experience you've had in theaters for a while.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What Goes Bump In The Night

It hasn't gone unnoticed that I did not post a film review last Thursday and did not for several reasons. The most critical being that the review I did write for The Last House on the Left remake was more like a thesis and analysis of the film than an actual basic four paragraph review. It was difficult to edit within two days and I'm still not content with it. I will post it soon or later, maybe even a edited and an unedited version but I'm not sure when that'll be. I'd also care to note, as in the fashion of last years lists, I'm getting sick! The ills of October never fail to ensure. Regardless I will be back to posting my Paranormal Activity 3 review Thursday night, ill or not. And the usual: The grammar in this post is awful, blah blah.

There's an idiomatic to most ghost's films, whether they expose themselves as somatic or tediously as cerebral haunts; they scare the masses more than any other type of genre film. If you're struggling to see the cadence of my notion simply look at film's sister medium, TV. What more horror shows are we offered? There's a capacious list of ghost hunting shows, communications with the paranormal, and the haunted house experience than any other genre horror has to offer. Does Leslie Vernon have a TV show (I fucking wish), or what about a crime noir with giallo sub-settings? These don't exist because they don't effect the broad viewing audience, but the idea that the life after does. The idea itself works in the basis of other more complex fears (fear of God, discontent in death, the un-lived life, etc). What happens after death is by far the more disquieting of phobias as there is no clear answer. Hence for my second to last list of the month I picked one of the more redoubtable sub genre's of horror, My Top Five Favorite Haunted House Films:

#5 House on Haunted Hill (1959)

House on Haunted Hill is one of those films that contradicts itself in quality. Helmed as a classic the film, in my opinion, has immense plot holes, obnoxious characters of the suicidal variety, and a lack of sense. The film becomes balanced in that it is creepy; beyond bumps and noises the film uses strange 'what the fuck?' moments to capture the audience's fear. Particularly the scene with the maid in the basement. In its dated effects and murder mystery finale the film still manages to scare.

#4 Insidious (2010)

Insidious is the most recent film on this list, having only been out for a year but I did find it as a rather  efficacious ghost story, with a unique re-imagining to the genre with the astral projection. Several scary and jumpy moments where you're terrified for the family. The film does suffer from an unsteady plot direction (the end result) but is scary throughout. Directed and written by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, who also created Saw, the film is aesthetically shot, well acted, rhythmically scored, and as said scary. And of course Lin Shaye (don't pretend like you didn't think I'd mention her, you should know me better than that by now) is in it's awesome.

#3 The Shining (1980)

Here's the reason The Shining holds above other films, the ghosts in the Overlook don't hurt the family in throwing tables and flickering lights but they drive Jack Torrance to absolute insanity, granted that he wasn't all the way stable to begin with. Stanley Kubrick's removal of emotion by soundly capturing the emptiness of the hotel made The Shinning horrifying beyond compare. As a child I remember the scene that scared me the most was the woman in the bathtub, I was afraid to go near a tub for years because of her. The film was critically pissed on upon release (as was Carpenter's The Thing) but is now also regarded as a classic of the genre.

#2 Paranormal Activity (2007)

Paranormal Activity is the film that came out of nowhere. Having no chance at a release in a Halloween fashion it made it's way to into theaters by demanding viewers and achieved an audience. Slow for a start (nothing happens the first half an hour) but genuinely creepy with it's subtle usages, Paranormal is able to get under you skin. The found footage was past me, in truth, but not without trying. Micah and Katie feel real as well as their relationship problems. Not over playing the haunting made the film prominent for me.

#1 Poltergeist (1982)

The term poltergeist is generally used to describe the more physical ghosts that make rapping's and bang things about the house, but the film diverted it past that and into a much more terrifying embodiment of a haunting. There's a little bit of everyone's range of horror in Poltergeist, from closets to clowns, or trees the film continues to scare. I've always been in particular discomfort to the face peeling scene. The film is lead by a very wrenching bit of emotions from the characters who've lost their daughter in a the supernatural world, by which you become inclined and left inside the film with the family. Unlike others Poltergeist is able to effectively show the demon spirits without coming off too corny and also pairs with the translucent presence in moving the furniture. Directed by Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper (or not?) the film is an exceptional haunted house film, and my personal favorite.

Honorable Mentions: I was specific with this list by intent when I said Haunted House, there's phenomenal ghost stories like The Fog but I did not want to have the HM go on to unbearable lengths, as it already is. The Amityville Horror (1979), a family moves into a house where a grotesque set of murder occurred a year before, based on the horrifying true story. The Amityville Horror (2005), Ryan Reynolds in a very creepy performance in the stand alone remake of the same name. The Haunting (1963), a woman becomes more than a guest at a house when she realizes it wants her. The Innocents (1961), a woman treads a boundary of insanity and a haunting when she notices the little boy she's governess for is not so innocent anymore. Thir13en Ghosts (2001), a widower is relieved of money when he inherits his uncle's glass house only to be mislead when he realizes there's ghosts that lurk. The Grudge (2004), a house possess a violent spirit whose angst kills all those who enter it. Rose Red (2002), with its demolition nearing a house gets another chance to devour it's guests when a group of psychics stay the night to do paranormal research. Also to note I did have the full intention of watching The Changeling and The Legend of Hell House but was not able to due to an issue with the viewings. As an indirect recommendation every haunted house list I've looked up they easily make it and hold good placing.

If you're reading post your own.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Death by Engine

I...don't have much to say this week other than THANK YOU! For the obscene amount of comments I got, specially from Carrie GreenDemented Dreamer, and Drymonema. The former whose novels you need to buy and the two latter who have exceptional reviews; Drynmonema is also doing a collection of lists. As my limited five list B-movies likely isn't enough try his top ten for the more obscure B horror films. And if my review of The House of the Devil didn't intrigue you Demented Dreamer should with his in-depth review. I'm also tired from work today and three shots in so my grammar isn't perfection (like how I have an excuse every week), please forgive the inane writing style and continuous use of the word 'tension'.

This week's list is a bit uncommon as it's not all the way horror as it is more of thrillers. But thrillers have a tendency to provoke an anxiety for characters whereas horror doesn't always. There's two things that are guaranteed when watching these types of genre film; the cover art of the rear view mirror and a lot of tension. If you don't know what I'm talking about then don't worry I doubt your alone. There's not a lot of films such as these and even less of what I've seen. Without any more delay this week's list is My Top Five Favorite Car Thrillers:

#5 Christine (1983)

Christine is not the best of Carpenter, nor is it the best of King, but it's not bad. The horror is odd as it relates to a car being possessed and having an emotional fixation on it's owner, Archie. But while it's not the most relatable it is unique in concept. My favorite scene is where Christine repairs herself in front of Archie, his look is darkened as he intently watches her and the atmosphere gives way to an uncanny moment.

#4 Duel (1971)

A man driving home makes the commonly rude act of cutting off a trucker, a mistake he wont make again as the truck now wont stop chasing him until he's dead. I am one of the few that don't hold Duel high in regards, that's not to say I didn't like it but I don't praise it like some do. It's not the film's fault per say but rather Dennis Weaver's character, I'm not sure how to put this without being rude but...he's an asshole. He cuts the trucker off in the first place! I have little sympathy for him. Despite that though Duel does have several thrilling moments as the truck stalks Weaver and does its very best to kill him. Increasing tension provided by Steven Speilberg's directing makes Duel a good car thriller.

#3 Joy Ride (2001)

Joy Ride is the most horror of the five film on this list, two brothers who teasingly fuck with a trucker over a radio are paid the price when the trucker comes after them. Joy Ride isn't a film beyond flaws, not even close, there's a lot of cliche teen horror decisions and the ending fell a part a little bit for me, but good acting by Leelee Sobieski, Paul Walker, and Steve Zahn prove as strong points for the film. As well as a significant amount of tension squeezed out of the plot.

#2 The Hitcher (1986)

Yes The Hitcher ranks higher than Duel, hate me all you want but I love the HBO film staring ET's friend, C. Thomas Howel, and Rutger Hauer as the serial hitch hiker (what more can you ask for in a villain?). The lesson in never picking up a hitch hiker proves true when immediately Howel picks up Hauer and he waste no time in being sketchy. The film made Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments (as does Duel and Christine) and the moment that still continues to shock is when Hauer has Jennifer Jason Leigh tied between two trucks, her limbs resting on his foot on the gas peddle.

#1 Death Proof (2010)

I've gushed about Robert England (far too much, I'll admit), and Craven and King, but have I really gotten around to how much I love Quinten Tarantino? No I haven't since he writes more action movies than he does horror. The lovely exception is this thrilling film where Tarantino plays homage to the old car films but provides us with a holy shit moment like no other. The film has eight set of women, all being stalked by Kurt Russel (why doesn't he play more bad guys?), an ex stuntman who has an erotic fixation on killing women with his stunt car. The first set of girls are the more relateble of the eight but the second set is what escalates the film's suspense. Zoe Bell, Tarantino's go to stunt girl, plays herself and willing straps herself to the hood of the car while driving hundred plus miles down a stretch of road to create an edge of your seat nerve splitting moment.

Honorable Mentions: Rubber (2010) director Quentin Dupieux social commentary on a rubber tire's telepathic powers, which he productively uses to kill living things, all while chasing the love of his life. I'd like to note two things, the first in relation to the film Rubber. Netflix recommended this to me based on my interest in Wristcutters: A Love Story, I Love You Phillip Morris, and Trick 'r Treat. If that doesn't convey this film than I don't know what does. Also I apologize for another short honorable mentions, but this type of film is rather slim. Of course there's great films like Gone in 60 Seconds and Vanishing Point but those feel more action than they do as thrillers.

If you're reading post your own.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Midnight Son (2011)

In Midnight Son Jacob has suffered from a sensitive skin condition all his life where any exposure to the sun will severely burn him. As an adult he begins to notice that more symptoms seem to be appearing, specifically a thirst for blood. Tight for supplies Jacob has to resort to different, and creative, matters to curb his hunger which gets him involved with a blood dealer who provokes trouble in the security guard’s life. All this happens to align with his meeting of Mary, an attractive bar tender/candy cigarette dispenser who doesn’t appear to mind Jacob’s nocturnal lifestyle. As Jacob begins to divulge further into his vampirism his liking of Mary grows and the two begin to connect on an intimate level.

Midnight Son was the only full length film I saw at the Mile High Horror Film Festival and I'm glad I did. It was beautifully shot, beautifully written, and beautifully acted. Basically it was a sublime film that I want to own. It's what most modern vampire love films are not, romantic and horrifying; capturing the trauma of relationships and the inner desires, vampire and human alike. As much as I did love the film its not full horror, as the only truly terrifying part is the last five minutes and the aesthetic last frame. Up until then it’s mainly Jacob adapting to his life and falling for Mary. That’s not to attest that it’s not a horror film, it is but like another in its genre, Let The Right One In, its just not in your face. The subtle and kempt paced finale is a moving and violent build up, and the final image haunts you long after it fades to black.

Writer and director Scott Leberecht created a unique script where Jacob's conditions weren't just amounted to vampirism but diagnosed as actual illnesses (anemic photosensitive anyone?). The love story is not only convincing but quietly played between our two leads Zak Kilberg and Maya Parish. There's that struggle but desire to come back. Kilberg's Jacob is able to let way with his carnal changes in breathtaking pain but doesn't overplay the hatred of what he is. Parish plays a darker Mary with her drug habit, but it’s countered with her tending towards Jacob's unusual lifestyle. Both actors are deeply in-stitched in their roles, and with each other; there was never a moment where I didn't believe that Jacob liked Mary. The lighting and cinematography give way to a more gritty style; with a conducted base of grim tones and camera angles, several scenes stay in your mind from the art alone.

This review isn't particularly long as there isn't much to say about Midnight Son other than's a beautiful film. If ever in need for a definition of the adjective and noun when used together this would be the film to render such. There were a few questions I had that went unanswered but another thing Leberecht did was set up the script so I was able to imagine what happened after the credits (my questions pertain to more of Jacob’s past). I’d also like to note that the image of Jacob holding a blood stained Starbucks coffee cup is really just waiting to become iconic. Midnight Son isn't available for direct watchers as of the current, mostly gaining its viewings at film festivals. Therefore access to this uniquely incredible film is limited. However, if there is a film festival within your range playing this GO SEE IT. Please do not miss it; you won’t regret what I find to be a gorgeously laid out film and what’s currently developing into a favorite of mine. 

Go to the film's website,, to get more info and try to get it in your area.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Scream Queens

Yesterday was not a good day. While I was able to attend the Mile High Horror Film Festival, which was amazing, there were a lot of other things that attributed to it just not being a good day. Therefore my tone may appear more sullen than wanted, though it's not as if this blog normally reeks of the macabre sort of humor. I'm also blessed with a migraine, so you know as it is basically every week this is not my best writing.

Horror is a torn genre when it comes to its portrayal of woman. Often seen more in a negative light as it is rare for people to make the most rational of decisions when they are avoiding a machete wielding supernatural killer. But I digress woman have an important part in horror and the genre intends to give woman a more dominant role in film, whether people acknowledge it or not. Most often there's the final girl, not the final guy. This weeks list is composed of my favorite leading ladies in horror, they are the final girls (or not) that prove credible and strong, My Top Five Favorite Scream Queens:

#5 Fay Wray (King Kong, Mystery of the Wax Museum)

This is one of those entrants that I don't care too much for, but as a horror fan and in respect to the history of this blog, Fray Wray makes the list. Wray is the first of the Scream Queens playing the damsel in distress in King Kong, and a less demanding part in Mystery of the Wax Museum, where she essentially had to stand there and look good. Wray has been noted saying that she hated her role as Scream Queen, saying she didn't like the term or it's meaning so she moved to Europe. But without her wailing lungs or charming inability to play dumb women wouldn't have an important part in horror without her.

#4 Danielle Harris (Halloween 4 & 5, Rob Zombie's Halloween 1 & 2, Hatchet 2)

Harris rarely plays a final girl in horror as she's backup best friend in the Zombie's Halloween, but she's also been in horror from an early start having been in the original Halloween series as Michael's niece Jamie, and in a number of other less known films. Often remit but I've always liked her and think she surpasses costar Scout Taylor Compton in acting. I've never been sure why Harris hasn't been more publicly noted as a Scream Queen but regardless thereof she makes my list.

#3 Sarah Michelle Geller (Buffy, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Grudge)

It's a confident statement that Sarah Michelle Geller basically owned the 90's with her regular campy horror TV show and her appearance in horror films. Geller is one of the few who never really abandoned her horror image for more 'respectable' parts, still appearing in horror films like Possession (and before you argue Scooby Doo with me it's a horror film for a kid). In my opinion I wished her character Helen lived in I Know What You Did Last Summer, she had a fair run with that killer and I found her more competent than Julie. Her filmography isn't necessarily bulky but her vampire slaying TV show not only makes her identifiable but arguably the most bad ass female of horror ever.

#2 Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, The Fog, Prom Night)

For whatever reason I fell in love with Jamie Lee Curtis in The Fog. Don't misunderstand, she's still one of my favorite final girls and horror characters of all time (Laurie Strode) but something about the drifter who sleeps with Tom Atkins gave her that edge I didn't see in the previous Carpenter films. Curtis was the Scream Queen for quite awhile, only having her mom previously hold the title. Curtis's first film, Halloween, is the classic of the genre and her portrayal as Laurie was sympathetic and likable. It revived the image of woman in horror and transcended them past the victims and into survivors.

#1 Dee Wallace (The Howling, The Hills Have Eyes, Cujo)

Dee Wallace is a horror veteran in all respects. She's done Wes Craven to Stephen King, and then stared in the werewolf cult film The Howling. There's not really any other way that I can say this but I just fucking love Dee Wallace. Dee is an amazing actress among other things but like Ms. Harris she's void of acknowledgement outside the horror community. Mostly recognized as the mom in Steven Spielberg's cult children's classic ET: The Extra Terrestrial, she's stand alone scream queen in Cujo where she had to carry the film with child actor Danny Pintauro inside a broken car. Wallace was also in Zombie's Halloween as Laurie's adoptive mom, and casted based on her legacy as a horror actress. She'll be in his new film Lords of Salem as well, which I'm excited to see her coming back to the genre. As I said I love Dee Wallace, she's an incredible actress and my favorite leading lady of horror.

Honroable Mentions; There's a lengthy list of Scream Queens so in order to even make the honorable mentions the actress had to appear in either a series of films or at least two or more. Janet Leigh (Psycho, The Fog), Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, From Beyond, Castle Freak), Neve Cambell (Scream 1 - 4), Eliza Dushku (Wrong Turn, The Alphabet Killer), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Final Destination 3, Death Proof, Black Christmas Remake), Heather Langenkamp (Nightmare on Elm Street 1, 3, & 7), Sigourney Weaver (Alien 1 - 4, The Village), Ali Larter (Final Destination 1 & 2, Resident Evil 2 - 4), Asia Argento (Land of the Dead, Mother of Tears), Brooke Lewis (iMurders, Polycarp). Elizabeth Shannon unfortunately does not make this list, while she's done an extensive list of films (Thir13en Ghost, Cursed, Jack Frost) I find her to be a dead giveaway, meaning which as soon as I see her face I know she's going to die. Therefore she's not an effective scream queen. She even died in Scary Movie...

If you're reading post your own.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The House of the Devil (2009)

College student Sam is looking for a way out of her college dorm and her less than hospitable roommate. With her new house set to move into Sam's only problem is coming up with advanced rent by the end of the week. When she sees an ad for a babysitting job it appears as the perfect solution. But upon arriving at the house Sam finds that the babysitting job isn't really for a baby and the house isn't all that normal. Taking it despite reservations Sam soon realizes that the lunar eclipse aligning with the night is not all that of a coincidence.

The film is set and decorated as an 80's movie, with a splash of Grindhouse. Writer and director Ti West filmed the movie on 16 mm film to give it a grainy appearance reminiscent of the days before HD. The sets are rather homey and realistic and it freely lets you slip into the film as the Ulman's house is resemblant to your neighbor's home. Costume, music, dialogue, all 80's with a hint of modern to keep it current. That's why I say it's an 80's film because if it wasn't for the date it'd easily could be. It doesn't move fast, it takes it's pace cautiously and slow building up the suspense all for a very blood soaked climax. In a way this film could be the cure for the horror dilemma for those who prefer story build up over gore and vice verse, as the latter is almost absent the entire film, but makes an explosive appearance in the last half hour. The horror is present in the glimpses of the Ulman's secret as Sam wanders throughout the house, and in the only death in the first part of the film which will catch you off guard, at the very least.

Jocelin Donahue plays the slightly naive Sam in a very true to form portrayal. She's likable, sweet, and relatable, she's also rather smart, something Ti West did do away with the 80's horror facade; the less than competent final girl. Whenever I see Greta Gerwig I always think she's strung out, as I did in this, however I actually liked her this time around. Her character is the typical extroverted friend to counter the shy and understanding nature to Sam, but she plays it convincing despite it's cliche. However the villains in this don't come off as well as the lead, Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov who play the Ulmans are not good. I know that they are suppose to come off creepy and talk and act a bit weird but it all seems forced. Dee Wallace stops by and makes a five minute cameo, which is just awesome. As mentioned above Ti West worked with cinematographer Elliot Rockett to nail that 80's vibe. I'm hoping that West continues to write and direct films as well as this, since a lack of story substance can be common in today's mainstream films.

I love the 1980's throwback, so much actually that I propose that the torture porn genre retire and this becomes the new sub genre of the decade. In addition to the Grindhouse films that are reviving themselves. As much as I'd like that to happen I don't think it will, if anything the 'Found Footage' is becoming a more dominant category in the genre. Anyways, besides the ending leaving me a little confused I really liked the film, as you can tell, it gets a bit of hate for the slow moving plot but the artistic value alone should be appreciated. If your feeling nostalgic but want something new I'd give it a rent or watch it on Netflix Instant Watch for convenience.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Love Me Despite My Low Budget

I'ts Monday, October 3rd which means...the return of the Top Five Lists! Don't tell me you're not excited to see my arrogant opinion on which film ranks higher solely on the basis of my taste. This years list were a little bit more challenging and required a little bit of research, that I'm still actually in process of doing, but I like them and I think that they are fair. Then again it's all my opinion so if your list is completely opposite of mine please post it.

Not everyone appreciates or even understands the it's so bad its good film concept. I however have always loved those films that tried their best but didn't quite make it. Some of my most enjoyable horror viewing experiences have been laughing at the unintentional humor in films. This set is limited as filtering through the good and the bad is more difficult, and you're more likely to come across the latter. Also this is one of the more nostalgic lists for me, I've never been a huge fan of newer B films for they haven't had the time to ripen. Therefore my honorable mentions are limited to only one film. Anyways for the first list of the month I give you The Top Five Best (Worst) B Horror Films:

#5 The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

This film's raison d'etre is to define the term bizarre. Maybe the most illogical film I've ever seen, I left Dr. Phibes wondering what the hell I had just watched. Not in the sense that it didn't make sense but as to why things happened was more or less beyond me. My only possible conception of a description is House of Wax and A Shot in the Dark having rough sex for an hour and a half. Literally the depiction of a madman fucking the absurd slapstick of inspector Clouseau. The film comes quipped with bats being hung by string and Price's make up peeling off. In addition to being a strange little B-movie the film does have a brilliant display of set pieces, creepy and elegant. A Vincent Price film making this list was inevitable; even if this is not your favorite Price film (as it is not mine) it's for sure a strange film.

#4 Dolls (1987)

Dolls is likely the least known of this list. A small film I managed to catch on Chiller one night, it's like Puppet Master with a more whimsical approach. The meaning of the inner child being discussed and Judy's daydreaming of her parents getting eaten by a giant teddy bear are played in effect towards that. The doll effects are independent movie good of their times (which means not good), with two creepy Madonna wannabe British chicks that may scare more than the actual dolls. Several humorous moments, likable characters, and grotesque kills warranted Dolls a second watch for me.

#3 Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

Ed Wood Jr. is the godfather of B-movies. Infamy of such Glen or Glenda can only be mastered by a man passionate to believe that what he's making is good. There's quite a lengthy list of Wood films that are the quintessential of bad B-movies but Plan 9 is the classic. A little slow but mildly entertaining with cult horror stars Bela Lagosi and Vampira. A classic opening by The Amazing Criswall, the psychic, and the iconic image of the toy space craft being caught on fire over a miniature Hollywood model make for the birth place of B-movies. The film is claimed to be the worst film of all time, I disagree, its bad but in a lovable way.

#2 Troll 2 (1990)

A reviewer on Netflix basically summed it up in a sentence "Troll 2 is so bad it transcends film" (And because of Netflix I'm unable to properly quote them, but the rest of their review is available on the Troll/Troll 2 double feature page). Troll 2 is rare in that there is no irony, the intent of the film is to be serious and serious it is not. Director Claudio Fragasso was aiming for a family film, not the hot mess of a film that would reach cult status nearly twenty years later. There's an illimitable amount of discussions as to why Troll 2 qualifies (or doesn't in others opinions) for this list. But where do I start? The actors and their genuinely bad performances? What about the film not even being about trolls but rather goblins? What scene or line do I pick? "Nilbog is Goblin spelled backwards!" or "Oh my GAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWD"? Troll 2 is beyond description, its impractical of me to attempt to accurately convey it in a paragraph; it speaks for itself.

#1 Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

Simulating a few of the lists last year Killer Klowns ranks above the rest because it does more than its genre title limits it. It's one of the few B-movies that looked at itself, knew it was a B-movie, and went all out with it. The film has everything that could be reserved as campy, cotton candy webs, popcorn guns, a space shipped replicate of a circus tent. Who's not drawn in to the love triangle between Mike, Debbie, and Dave? Or what about the two brothers who drive the ice cream truck to pick up girls? Despite none of its being serious, Killer Klowns is able to rest on people's phobia of clowns, so in a way it still manages a scare. I have no doubt that others will disagree with this list, particularly this film in exact, but as I said it's the B-movie that knew it was a B-movie, and embraced itself.

Honorable Mentions: The Gate (1987), two boys discover their backyard is the gateway to hell, through a heavy metal record no less.

If you've made it this far post your own.