Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Master Movie Review

I’ll say this much for Paul Thomas Anderson: he’s one of the few filmmakers working within the Hollywood system who can consistently make gutsy and challenging films. He doesn’t pander to any audience; his endings don’t come wrapped in tight packages; there is no paint-by-numbers to tell you exactly how to feel and when. He creates emotionally and spiritually complex works that often leave us scratching our heads and that maybe, just maybe, leave us a little better off as human beings than when we walked into his world.

With that said, I’m becoming increasingly frustrated by his films. I don’t object to their complexity or challenges, but I have misgivings about the general lack of joy to be found at any moments in The Master. Boogie Nights and Magnolia are films I can watch over and over, finding joy amid the tremendous sorrow every time. There was real vibrancy and panache in Anderson’s directing style. He combined the dexterity of Altman maintaining multiple characters and threads with the energy of Scorsese. Then he started to go quiet.

Seven Movie Review

Although I saw this when I was already 17, it scared the shit out of me. When I saw it for the first time in the cinema I literally fell out of my chair at the moment when the 'sloth' victim turns out not to be dead. This was one of the most terrifying cinematic experiences I've ever had.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

Seven is the one film as I reached toward adulthood that really got under my skin in a way that terrified me. This police procedural thriller about a sadistic serial killer was created through the use of set design and cinematography that are just unnerving. I can’t recall another film of its kind that left me so shaken. It’s unrelenting not only in its sick and ghastly murders, of which we only ever see the aftermath, but also in its dark and depressing tone, designed specifically to destroy the audience’s will to go on, the way the rain continually pours down on the movie’s unnamed city and casts a gloom outside every window. Even the ending, which ties everything together and offers some explanation for the apparent irrationality of the killer, is almost entirely without hope or a denouement.

25 Years Ago This Month: October 1987

David Mamet's first film as director was House of Games, one of the great films about confidence men.

Before Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to the Oscar for Best Director, she once directed a cult vampire film called Near Dark starring Bill Paxton.

The late 80s saw a string of films similar to Like Father, Like Son, in which two people change bodies for a while. In this one medical doctor Dudley Moore and his son, a high school track runner played by Kirk Cameron, accidentally exchange minds after ingesting an Indian potion of some sort.

Movie List: Top Ten Friday the 13th Deaths

So now that I've posted reviews of all the Friday the 13th films along with lists and ratings of all the deaths in those films, I've compiled my Top Ten of all those deaths. For this list I have not considered deaths of Jason or accidental deaths or deaths at the hands of anyone else. Only those perpetrated by Mrs. Voorhees (Friday the 13th); Roy (Friday the 13th: A New Beginning); and Jason (Part II; Part III; Part IV; Part VI; Part VII; Part VIII; Jason Goes to Hell; Jason X; Freddy vs. Jason) have been considered.

In retrospect, my individual ratings were sometimes a little skewed. I have included the rating I applied when I reviewed the film, but in some cases I have chosen a "7" over and "8" because my reaction now is stronger.

Honorable mentions:
- In Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning Junior's head is chopped off while riding his motorcycle in circles whining to his mother about getting his ass kicked earlier (6).
- In Friday the 13th Part 3 Vera has a harpoon fired directly into her eye from long distance (7).
- In Friday the 13th Part 3 Andy gets cut in half as he walks on his hands (6).
- In Freddy vs. Jason Freeburg is sliced completely in half by a machete (7).

10. In Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI Sissy is pulled through an open window, her head is twisted around and removed (8).

Modern Classic Movie Review: The Silence of the Lambs

I probably saw this movie sometime when I was in high school. I was fairly familiar with it and I found it pretty damn frightening. It's not quite a horror movie in the same vein as a slasher film, but I thought it worth including because it's a variation on horror and it was part of my childhood and youth.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

The killer's gaze is turned back on the audience, turning the power structure of the horror film around.

The Silence of the Lambs turns the serial killer and slasher film genre on its head by crafting the most compelling character not as the killer whom the FBI is hunting, but as the already convicted Hannibal Lecter, who sits in a basement cell and may have crucial information to help them catch their man. More remarkable than that is that everyone remembers Lecter as this imposing and frightening villain, a role that helped Anthony Hopkins win the Best Actor Oscar, but he is on screen for all of 16 minutes. That speaks to the power of seduction that he possesses.

Modern Classic Horror Review: Scream

This is the natural closing to my personal journey because it was released during winter break of my first year in college. So I was at the beginning stages of becoming a full-fledged adult and being finished with things like getting scared by horror movies. That said, this was a cinematic experience that genuinely frightened me. This was a slasher film to put a cap on a generation's worth of slasher films that relied heavily on certain conventions. I still think it's a fantastic horror movie, but its effect has certainly worn off and been done to death in the intervening years.

Click here for a list of other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

By the end of 1996 it had been so long since a genuinely scary horror movie had been in wide release that it seemed like the genre might be dead forever. Our old friends Freddy, Jason, and Michael had been flogged into oblivion and people were well attuned to the genre conventions resulting in audiences that were a lot smarter than those going to see slasher films 15 and 20 years earlier. These conventions included things like the couple that has sex getting killed; the drug users getting killed; dumb female characters always making the wrong decisions and getting dead as a result; idiot police officers; revenge motives rooted in a complicated back story; obvious suspects as red herrings; and on and on. Kevin Williamson was an aspiring screenwriter when he wrote Scream and eventually sold it, after which legendary horror director Wes Craven was hired to direct.

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers Movie Review

Because this was released when I was already nearing the end of high school it wasn't really a part of my horror culture when I was a kid. I watched it once when I rented it with a friend, but honestly that was probably when we were in college, past my cutoff year of 1996 for this October series.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

As incredible as it was that Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers improved upon the quality, or lack therof, of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, that’s nothing compared to Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, the series’ sixth film. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to criticize here, but taken as a whole experience it’s more fun, better written and acted, and scarier than most other horror sequels.

Thanks, Sandy

Hurricane Sandy set me back a little bit. I didn't get to watch a couple more movies I wanted to add to this October project because I was without power all day yesterday. The last two reviews go up today and I still have two horror reviews to write that I hope to post today. Time permitting, I will still watch one more to make it five horror reviews today.

After today it's back to my normal film viewing and posting schedule. And I hope not to watch any horror films for quite some time. I'm tired.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers Movie Review

My familiarity with the Halloween series was always less than Friday the 13th and Nightmare because I found these films much scarier. I was even less familiar with this particular sequel and found watching it again that I remembered little of it in detail.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

You don’t expect any horror movie sequel to be better in any real measurable way than its predecessor. Sure, I feel that Friday the 13th Part VII: The NewBlood is the best in the series, but that’s splitting hairs. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers breaks the rule by being a noticeable improvement over Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. Interestingly, the main characters and the story are not all that dissimilar. The differences are all in Dominique Othenin-Girard’s direction.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Witchboard Movie Review

This one I also wonder if my older sister had it on video. I really only remember seeing it once. I think it was already 1992 when she was living back home, so maybe that's why I remember it so well.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

Let me be clear up front that any limited praise I offer for Witchboard, a 1986 horror movie about a mishap with a Ouija board, is not meant to suggest that it’s worth seeking out. It is, by almost every measurable calculus, a hilariously bad movie. But it happens to aspire to do something more than most horror flick filmmakers even dream about. Whereas the majority of horror films, especially in the slasher sub-genre of the 70s and 80s, are interested solely in killing off a bunch of indistinguishable characters who have nothing interesting to say, and doing it in varied and gruesome ways.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers Movie Review

I was always much less familiar with the Halloween sequels growing up probably for a combination of two reasons: they weren't as popular and so didn't play on TV as often and they scared me a lot more so I avoided them.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

A writer’s strike was responsible for the production of the horror movie spoof Student Bodies in 1981 as well as Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers in 1988. The differences are astounding. Whereas the earlier film was already written and given production backing by a major studio looking for non-union projects, the latter was written slapdash by Alan B. McElroy and a team of story writers in a matter of days to get it finished before the impending strike was to begin. Believe me, it feels rushed.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween II Movie Review

I had very little memory of this first sequel. Some of it looked familiar as I watched it for this series, but mostly I don't think I ever really saw it.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

These days film sequels are almost obligatory when it comes to any big budget action, comedy, or horror film. Studios are always looking to create a franchise cash cow that they can continue milking for minimal investment and effort. But there was a time when sequels were mostly limited to horror films. It was a pretty obvious fit. Films produced in the horror genre were traditionally low budget films written quickly and on the cheap, using casts of mostly unknown actors (though many of these such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Bacon, Johnny Depp, and Jennifer Aniston have gone on to become stars), shot and produced in an almost guerilla style in a matter of a few weeks. The popular ones made significant returns on investment, so sequels were usually inevitable. What’s more, they were (and continue to be) almost universally excoriated by critics because they tend to be cheap retreads of what came before. It’s insulting to people like me who spend a great deal of time watching movies.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

From My Collection: Horror Classic Review of Halloween

For me this was always one of the scariest horror movies of my childhood and youth. I'm not even sure I saw this in its entirety before my teenage years or even before college, but I'm sure I caught pieces of it here and there.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

John Carpenter’s Halloween remains one of the great classics of the horror genre with good reason. It spawned a tireless list of copycats that attempted to repeat the formulas of a low-budget film with a psycho killer picking off young people who take drugs and have sex. Unfortunately, the writers and directors responsible for films like Friday the 13th and even the Halloween sequels forgot about the great artistry that went into Halloween. In a way, Carptenter’s original film is the purest of the slasher films. It is simply constructed and executed from a smart screenplay by Carpenter and Debra Hill. It features a memorably hunting musical score by Carpenter and a faceless killer of blank expression and inexplicable motivation upsetting the delicate balance of suburban America.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bad Dreams Movie Review

I think my older sister had this on video and that's how I came to see it. My strong memories of it suggest that I saw it more than once, though. I found it scary enough as a kid.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

The entire premise of Bad Dreams falls apart by listening to the philosophy of the Jim Jones-like cult figure at the beginning who leads a 1970s hippie youth cult known as Unity Field in mass suicide. The deepest thing he espouses is that “life and death are two different states of being.” Whoa! If charismatic cult figures only peddled such cheap nonsense, they’d have few followers. One young girl escapes the flaming death trap at the last moment and wakes from her coma thirteen years later in a psychiatric institution.

Freddy vs. Jason Movie Review

Like with Jason X, this one shouldn't even be included in this October series but for a sense of completion with bothNightmare and Friday. How could I not include it? I have it noted that I saw this in the theater, but I have no memory of that whatsoever. It was released in theaters a week before I left on a three month backpacking trip. I find it hard to believe it was still in theaters when I returned. And I doubt I would have rushed out to see it while I was preparing for such a big trip.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

I wonder how long after acquiring the rights to Friday the 13th it took New Line executives to start fantasizing a combination movie with A Nightmare on Elm Street. It took more than ten years to finally get Freddy vs. Jason into production and then released. Was it worth the wait? Does the end result provide those who were clamoring for the ultimate confrontation of 80s horror icons with a showdown worthy of the classic status of something like Godzilla vs. Mothra? I’m not so sure.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Jason X Movie Review

Just like with the previous film in the series eight years earlier, I only watched this for a sense of completion. Technically I shouldn't have even included it in this October series as it's meant to be a personal journey through my childhood memories of horror films, but I also wanted to list out all the deaths in the Friday the 13th series. Also, it just seemed wrong to leave this out. My friend and I rented this ten years ago and had good fun with it.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

I’m trying to imagine how the idea for Jason X was pitched to New Line Cinema in such a way that they were willing to give it a green light. Not only that, but it actually got a theatrical release. How do you think they sold an idea for Jason Voorhees to be frozen and then thawed out 450 years in the future so that he can continue his killing spree aboard a space ship? “Get this: Jason in space,” is the only phrase you would need, I suppose. And if that’s how it was presented, it’s no wonder that what came out the other end of production was the mind-blowingly bad film I just watched – for the second time! Yes, I watched it on a lark with a friend many years ago. How could we not? But I had blocked most of it out. Readers, I assure you that this is a true stinker with one minor – very minor – saving grace that I still found hysterical.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Student Bodies Movie Review

This was a seminal and important film for my childhood where the horror genre is concerned. I always remembered most of the movie distinctly. Watching it again I pretty much knew exactly what was coming at every moment even though it had probably been twenty years or more since I'd seen it last. This was a movie that my older sister and brother used to watch on TV and laugh through. I found a lot of it quite funny and I'd like to think that wasn't just because I was laughing along with them. Oddly enough, I probably learned about the conventions of the genre mostly from this film and as a result found scary movies more ridiculous after.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

"You Mrs. Malvert."
Before there was the horror spoof Scary Movie and long before the self-referential and convention-skewering Scream, there was Student Bodies, a little known cult favorite that should have been made on a shoestring budget by amateurs and then wasted away in a dustbin. It would have but for a stroke of luck in the form of a Writer’s Guild strike which meant Paramount was willing to bankroll non-union projects. So a ridiculous satire written and directed by Mickey Rose (a collaborator on some early Woody Allen films) with a cast of nobodies, most of whom were making their first movie and never went on to any kind of film career after, got a sizable budget to work with. It didn’t do very well at the box office, but later built a small following on cable, where I used to encounter it as a child.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday Movie Review

I rented this in high school not because I thought it would be any good or even because I thought it might scare me, but just out of some kind of loyalty to the series. I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to see this thing through to the end. Wasn't scary in the least.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

When the torch for Friday the 13th was passed from Paramount to New Line in the early 90s, the series had already gone from bad to worse before passing into Oh My God That’s Terrible. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday pushes past the limits of “so bad it’s good” and falls into an abyss I would like to call “so bad it has virtually no redeeming value and should never have been considered and those responsible should lower their heads in shame as they fall on their swords.” It takes the whole mythos of the franchise, lights it on fire and then pisses on the ashes. It doesn’t even have the redeeming value of being movie at whose shortcomings you can laugh.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Poltergeist II: The Other Side Movie Review

This film might have scared me even more than the first one. That guy playing Revered Kane is just eerie and scary as hell. Every scene with him stuck with me for a long time, and still does really.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

In your best soft southern drawl: "Are ya lost, little girl?" Good luck sleeping now.
The success and strong positive reception of Poltergeist pretty much necessitated a sequel. Sure, most horror movies even in the early 80s had sequels following a year or two later, but Poltergeist is not your average horror movie. It has a real story. While it’s easy for most people to write off the horror genre in its entirety as easily digestible junk and not ‘real’ movies, this one had a good story and identifiable characters with real things to say. And their story was not yet complete, both in terms of the paranormal psychic terror inflicted on them and the unresolved issues of family dynamics. Poltergeist II is an admirable follow-up that delves into the story behind the psychic horror that invaded the Freelings’ home and further develops the patriarch Steven’s character as a man struggling with his inability to adequately protect his family.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan Movie Review

This one I used to catch quite a lot on cable. It contains my all time favorite death in a horror movie so it holds a special place in my heart for that. It also takes place (a small portion of it, anyway) in the city I love. But did it scare me as a kid? Probably a little, but the setting of New York City made it much less scary.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

Jason frightens some Times Square punks.

Where else could they take it, really? After a mother seeking vengeance for her drowned son; the same son come back seeking vengeance for his beheaded mother; the reins taken over by a third killer; the reins taken back by Jason; and Jason squaring off against a girl with telekinetic powers, what could possibly come next in the Friday the 13th series? Well, in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, we find out.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood Movie Review

This particular chapter didn't figure quite as strongly in my childhood as the two on either side of it. I'm not sure why that is. I know I saw it, or most of it, piecemeal on TV. But my memories of this were scattered.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

It becomes fairly obvious by the seventh film in the series that the Friday the 13th franchise was desperately seeking new ideas. So in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, instead of simply unleashing Jason onto an unwitting group of youths in the woods, screenwriters Daryl Haney and Manuel Fidello decided to provide him with an adversary he’d never seen before. That’s how we wind up with Tina Shepherd, a teenager blessed (or cursed depending on your perspective) with the power of telekinesis. Her abilities are introduced in a brief prologue in which she accidentally kills her father by causing the collapse of a dock at Crystal Lake.

Argo Movie Review

Just about everyone knows or remembers that in 1979 Iranian revolutionaries seized control of the American embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for the next 444 days, after which all of them went home alive. The story was on the minds of nearly everyone in the country. The incident figured heavily in the sense of national pride when the U.S. hockey team defeated Russia and won gold at the Lake Placid Olympics. My six year old brother was so disturbed by the story that he scratched Iran off a beautiful glass globe that belonged to my great grandfather.

The part I never knew, and what many people apparently never knew, was that six Americans escaped out the back door and hid at the home of the Canadian ambassador while the CIA worked out scenarios for exfiltrating them. Even less known than that was the method eventually used and the cover provided to bring them home safely. The real story was declassified in 1997 and has now been turned into a movie called Argo and directed by Ben Affleck. Chris Terrio wrote the screenplay based on a 2007 “Wired” article by Joshuah Bearman and on a book by the CIA operative Tony Mendez, who orchestrated the escape. Apollo 13 has been playing recently on AMC. What I remembered most about that movie was how great Ron Howard was at building suspense through a story whose outcome we already knew. Those three astronauts survived, but we feel the tension along with them because they don’t know what their futures hold. That’s how I felt during much of Argo.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI Movie Review

This is the other of two Friday the 13th films that I remembered best because it played on TV a lot at a crucial time when I was growing up. I had certain deaths from this movie in particular kind of etched into my brain.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

After a one film diversion in which a mere mortal takes the murderous reins from Jason in Fridaythe 13th: A New Beginning, the real deal Jason was brought back by popular demand. Things really start to run off the rails for this series in Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI. It still has enough earnestness in its voice to believe that writer and director Tom McLoughlin’s intention was to make a serious horror film. You could read it as a bit tongue in cheek as in the self-referential moment when a woman driving a car in the woods stops short and tells her boyfriend (Hey! Is that Tony Goldwyn?) she’s seen enough horror movies to know that you don’t mess with a big guy wearing a mask.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning Movie Review

This is one of twoFriday the 13th films that I remembered best. It must have played on TV a lot at a crucial time when I was growing up. Despite how stupid this movie is, it scared a great deal as a child.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

With the fourth Fridaythe 13th sequel Paramount attempted to take the series in a new direction by having the killer be someone other than Jason. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning picks up with a traumatized Tommy Jarvis (the boy who did Jason in at the end of Friday the 13th: TheFinal Chapter) looking for Jason’s grave and finding two boys there to dig him up. The sequence turns out to be Tommy’s nightmare. He’s been sent to an alternative psychiatric center run by a caring and understanding doctor who treats troubled teens in a communal farm setting.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter Movie Review

I knew that Corey Feldman was in this one, but as I watched it for this October series I discovered I had never seen it. I was dumbfounded because I honestly believed I'd seen them all.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

You might think that by the time a horror series gets to its third sequel it could have little to no redeeming value. The thing is, after Friday the 13th Part III, the series had almost nowhere to go but up. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is by far the best in the series up to that point. That’s merely a comment on the film’s technical merits and story, but not the horror elements which remain feeble and not frightening.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Friday the 13th Part III Movie Review

My greatest recollection of this film was the hokey use of 3D. I never saw it in that format because it was only available that way in cinemas, but you can spot the moments in the film that are meant to have shit popping out of the screen into your face.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

Friday the 13th Part III was part of the 1980s’ short-lived craze with 3D cinema exposition. That incarnation of the technology was nothing like the more immersive 3D we see so often today. It was a rehashing of the old 1950s style of having things pop out of the screen at your face. Watching a movie like that on TV means having to endure shot compositions contrived to have knives, pitchforks and eyeballs directed toward the camera. Its artificiality calls attention to itself in a way that instantly draws you out of the film. Even without such antics, Part III would still be a spectacularly bad movie.

Microcosmos Movie Review

One of the most remarkable documentaries is not a traditional documentary the way most people think of the genre as having various talking heads and a narrator revealing facts about a particular topic. Microcosmos takes as its subject matter the world of insects and other tiny creatures that live under our feet and in the trees and flowers, but the only factual information presented is a brief voiceover early in the film. Otherwise directors Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou employ state of the art miniature cameras to enter a world heretofore unseen by most people.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Horror Classic Movie Review: Poltergeist

I remember watching this quite young because it was a popular movie when I was a kid and my whole family watched it, I think. Of course, I identified with the boy in the film and I even had a tree outside my bedroom window.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews

My memories of Poltergeist resonate from my childhood when I was scared almost senseless by the supernatural spirits that haunt the Freeling household in a California suburb. As I watched it again many years later I realized that probably as a child I saw my own family in the Freelings. There’s Diane (JoBeth Williams), who is a housewife raising three kids: the teenaged Dana (Dominique Dunne); middle child Robbie (Oliver Robins) and the five or six year old Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke). Steven (Craig T. Nelson) is a local realtor and stalwart Dad who wants to protect his family. I must have been about Carol Anne’s age when I first saw the film. I have an older brother and sister just like she does and my parents were also in their mid-30s back then. I even had a large tree growing outside my bedroom window just to cap off the similarities.

Friday the 13th Part II Movie Review

This may have been the one that scare me most probably because Jason with that brown sack over his head with eye holes cut out is far creepier than the absurd hockey mask. Of course in the later films he's built like a tank and takes on the aura of something akin to the Terminator, making it a little hard to take seriously. But a crazy guy living in a shantytown shack in the woods with a shrine to his dead mother? And he wears a bag on his head? And he kills people? Man, that f---ed me up.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

As bad as Friday the 13th is, it’s nothing compared to Friday the 13th Part II. Here’s a film that makes the absolute minimum effort to present something new and different. It basically recreates the same premise but sets it in a camp on the other side of Crystal Lake: a group of young people preparing for a youth camp get killed on-by-one by a stalking psycho lurking in the surrounding woods. The big difference is that Jason is now the killer. We only learn that for certain at the end when Ginny (Amy Steel) stumbles upon his lair complete with a creepy shrine featuring his mother’s severed head.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Horror Classic Movie Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

I'm not entirely sure this film belongs in this October series because it's not a film that was part of my childhood memories of scary movies. I don't think I saw this until I was in college. But the film was always something I was aware of. Everyone knew about Leatherface and how this was supposed to be one of the scariest movies. It actually scare me quite a lot when I did finally see it.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

A demented family portrait.
The most terrifying movies I’ve seen all come out of the 1970s, the time of the New Hollywood Golden Age, when studios were willing to back risky projects because audiences were willing to lay down money for challenging subject matter. Sometimes they just wanted visceral thrills. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre certainly provided the latter, although I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a challenging film or that it has anything of real importance to say. Its sole purpose is to scare the shit out of whoever is daring enough to see it. Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel’s story is a depiction of a demented hick family in central Texas, where they prey on helpless victims, offering them a sadistic nightmare of torture.

Horror Classic Review: Friday the 13th

I probably never saw the original movie until after I'd seen a few of the others for the simple fact that it was long before my time and it was not widely available on cable. Certain images from the film always stayed with me like Mrs. Voorhees in that awful sweater and her short blonde her and of course her decapitation at the end. I also always remembered that scare at the end when Alice is attacked on the lack by the boy Jason leaping out of the water. The series as a whole had a profound effect of fright on me throughout my childhood. Even as a teenager watching some of these films made me nervous to have to turn all the lights off and go to bed.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

People often forget that the killer in the original Friday the 13th was not Jason, but his mother Mrs. Voorhees. Wes Craven’s self-aware horror film Scream even calls attention to this fact by having the killer use it as a little-known piece of trivia to taunt a victim. Jason is nothing more than a sad story of a boy drowning in a lake, the result of negligence on the part of his camp counselors. Probably what people don’t forget quite so easily is that Friday the 13th is a not very competently made slasher film that is not all that scary to boot.

Looper Movie Review

When a filmmaker ventures down the wormhole of time travel as a narrative device, he’s setting his film up to be prodded and picked apart in the minutest detail to discover all the flaws and inconsistencies. The best time travel movies tend to be the ones that have some intelligence about the process and implications of traveling to the past, but mostly they succeed when the time travel becomes secondary to other elements in the film.

Take a film like Back to the Future, for example. Yes, without the time travel there is no story, but the breakneck pace, the good writing, the funny jokes all take precedence over the fact of Marty going 30 years into the past. In the case of Rian Johnson’s Looper, I could talk about a paradox that unravels the entire story if we follow logical consistency, but we’re dealing with a science fiction action film that relies on something that doesn’t exist and is only theoretically possible in terms of traveling forward in time. In Johnson’s film, the only time travel happens backward.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Trouble with the Curve Movie Review

I have to give Clint Eastwood a lot of credit for his acting choices as he gets older. He has never shied away from playing his age, a rarity in a business that rewards youth and vigor. Roughly since Unforgiven he has continued to play characters whose age has some profound impact on the story. As Gus in Trouble with the Curve, Eastwood plays a baseball scout who faces irrelevancy by the new technologies and theories that have a way of creeping into the workplace.

My Bloody Valentine Movie Review

My sixth grade teacher insanely allowed us to watch this movie in class. I remember we watched it in an adjoining room separate from the rest of the class. No one was forced to watch it. We were in that room by choice. If memory serves, my classmate Tom Ciavarella brought the film in. Tom, if you're out there, can you confirm this? I don't remember the movie having much effect on me or being all that scary. Watching it again I understood why.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

This is the 'hot' scene in the movie: a shirtless woman getting it on with a guy in a coal miner's outfit.
The 1981 slasher film My Bloody Valentine is so forgettable that only six days after watching it, I’m having trouble recalling a lot of the details – and I saw it once at age 11 when my sixth grade teacher inexplicably allowed us to watch it in class. It is so forgettable that it didn’t even manage to spawn a sequel due to its poor box office. However, it did manage to get a recent remake as part of the spate of horror film reboots that started about five or six years ago. The only truly remarkable thing about the film is that a small Canadian production with an entirely unknown cast and crew of amateurs was produced and distributed by Paramount Pictures.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Movie Review

That feeling of being infinite is one of the amazing things about being a teenager and also the most frustrating thing about dealing with teenagers. I look back on my high school days with fond memories even as I recall that there was a fair amount of trepidation going to school on the first day of freshman year. But through four years of making new friends, drifting apart from old ones, growing up and slowly becoming the person I am today, I don’t have much recollection of ever feeling like it was going to end. Now I look back and wish I’d taken it slower, for those four years are, in fact, finite. These feelings and many more are captured eloquently in Stephen Chbosky’s film version of his own novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hellbound: Hellraiser II Movie Review

My memory suggested that I had seen this film and watching it again confirmed that to some extent. Much of the movie was unfamiliar to me, but some parts were very familiar which seems to mean that I only ever saw bits and pieces while flipping channels. The truth is, the Hellraiser films just don't figure that heavily in my youth. But because they were something that most people my age knew about, talked about, and had seen, I decided to include the first two films in this October series.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

Yes, and that's about how you might feel while watching this film.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II comes across as if screenwriter Peter Atkins placed elements of Hellraiser on a board on the wall, threw darts at it while wearing a blindfold, and whatever he hit earned its place in the sequel. This film is a total mess. It is not only incoherent on its own terms, but barely meshes with its predecessor in any meaningful way. It retains the premise and the majority of the main characters, but loses any sense of plotting, cause and effect, and basic storytelling.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

April Fool's Day Movie Review

SPOILERS: I used to catch this on TV when I was young and I always kind of liked it. It scared me well enough, even after learning the ending which reveals there was never really anything to be scared of.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

It’s a nice little surprise to discover that a horror film I’d always assumed was really bad turns out to be far less bad than it has any right to be. I used to watch the slasher film April Fool’s Day when I caught it on cable. It was never the most popular within the genre. Having been released amid a sea of similar films, it just never had the chance to catch on as strongly. It didn’t have the built in franchise of killers like Jason, Freddy, and Michael, who were already deep into sequels and strong cult followings by 1986.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wes Craven's New Nightmare Movie Review

This is one of the few films in this October series that I watched for the first time. This was kind of a big deal when it was released when I was in high school, but I just didn't have much interest in horror movies anymore. The premise was sort of interesting, but I just never got around to it. No, it had no direct effect on me as a kid, but it was part of the conversation, so I thought it important to include it. Also, it's the only one of the Nightmare series I hadn't seen.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

Artists often talk about their work as if it were a living, breathing thing. In the artist’s mind, an inanimate object takes on qualities that make it seem like it’s more than the material it’s made from. Once an audience gets a hold of a piece of art, the metaphor takes on a whole new life as meanings are ascribed, intentions discussed, and, in the case of pop culture, obsessions are created. The Nightmare on Elm Street series and, more specifically, Freddy became cult sensations through the 1980s. You might say they took on a life of their own outside their various creators, in particular the original creator Wes Craven, whose idea had morphed into something completely different by the last two or three films.

The idea for Wes Craven’s New Nightmare had been kicking around since A Nightmare on Elm Street 3. New Line had rejected the premise in favor of a more traditional slasher film. You can call New Nightmare the seventh film in the series, but it doesn’t fit within the series continuity. It takes place in the ostensible real world of Hollywood, where Heather Langenkamp (playing herself) lives with her husband Chase (David Newsom) and their young son Dylan (Miko Hughes). Chase is a special effects guy who’s been secretly working on a new Freddy glove for Wes Craven (who also plays himself, in addition to writing and directing the film). Craven the character has a new idea for a horror movie and he wants Heather to star. However, she’s being tormented by phone calls taunting her with the Freddy nursery rhyme and she has ambivalent feelings about her son being exposed to those kinds of films.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare Movie Review

This was released at a point when I was growing out of that childhood phase of being fascinated by the way horror films could make your spine tingle, scare the hell out of you, and make you peak around dark corners in your home and even check under your bed before going to sleep. The things I heard about it were so awful, I didn't have much interest in it, but at some point as an early teen or sometime in middle school I rented it. Watching it for this horror series nearly all of it was familiar and I knew what was going to happen.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

Time has truly not been kind to Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, the sixth and intended final chapter in the Nightmare on Elm Street series. It is remarkably dated, which is quite a feat considering the climax of the film was made in 3D, a format that has finally made a big splash in the film industry after several failed attempts over the decades. It also fails to find a settled tone, shifting clumsily from traditional horror conventions to slapstick comedy. The juxtaposition of comedy and horror is incongruous in this particular film and would be much better handled several years later by Wes Craven, the man who not so incidentally created the series and its antagonist Freddy Krueger. Do I need to even mention that Robert Englund returns to play Freddy, hopefully reaping a sizable paycheck for his efforts?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child Movie Review

This was the first scary movie I saw in the movie theater. My older sister took me when I was eleven. This was not a very scary movie to me and never resonated as strongly as Nightmare 1 and Nightmare 3.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

“It’s a boy!” Freddy proudly proclaims after he is reborn from the womb of Amanda Krueger within one of Alice’s nightmares in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. Alice (Lisa Wilcox) is one of two survivors from the previous film, along with Dan, now her boyfriend. Oddly, Alice has begun having Freddy nightmares while she’s presumably awake. What she later discovers is that her unborn child inside her is capable of dreaming, providing Freddy his valuable invitation to kill again.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master Movie Review

I don't even remember how or when I watched this as a kid. Most likely my older sister (still into horror movies) rented it and I watched it before she returned it. I remember liking it, but not really finding it scary.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

You need only note that Robert Englund had top cast billing for A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master to see the direction the series was heading. Freddy had become the driving force behind the series’ success. Without a mask to hide behind, he was given personality along with dialogue riddled with jokes and quips that grew hokier in this fourth installment. Directed by Renny Harlin, one of only a handful of horror film directors to actually go on to a sizable Hollywood career, Nightmare 4 begins the real downward trend of the series, though it is still reasonably fun if hardly ever frightening.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors Movie Review

This was always the Nightmare film I was most familiar with. It was probably on TV more often than the others when I was old enough to be watching TV on my own at night. So this one scare me the most.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

For the third A Nightmare on Elm Street film, New Line wisely brought Wes Craven back on as a producer. The result is that rare horror sequel that is better than the preceding film. Even if it doesn’t quite surpass the directorial skill of the original, it remains a creepy and occasionally fear-inducing effort. It is more disturbing than scary because Freddy Krueger, at a certain point, ceases to be a scary icon. He’s endowed with, dare I say, too much personality. His grotesque visage is all he has to summon visceral fear.