Category Archives: Reviews

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Evil Dead 2

1987 / d. Sam Raimi
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Essentially a remake of the first film, but this time brimming with nonstop tongue-in-cheek (or more accurately eyeball-in-mouth) and slapstick humour. Bruce Campbell reprises his role as Ash, hamming it up to the max with an over-the-top performance that never fails to put a smile on my face. Director Sam Raimi pulled no punches and managed to crank the gore-dial even higher, offering enough arterial spray and flesh trauma to satisfy any gore connoisseur.

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Evil Dead, The

1981 / d. Sam Raimi
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Claiming to be the “ultimate experience in grueling terror”, THE EVIL DEAD is truly an unrelenting splatter gem. Ridiculously over-the-top gore has this walking a fine line between outright horrific and ludicrously comical, but it’s a thrilling line all the same. An incredibly memorable performance from Bruce Campbell transformed him into an ass-kicking cult icon. Unrepentently violent and shocking, but not horrifying, THE EVIL DEAD is a monumental achievement in the horror genre.

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Evil Laugh

1986 / d. Dominick Brascia
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It’s like FRIDAY THE 13TH meets THE BIG CHILL… or, that’s what the writing on the back of the VHS promises. The truth is, it’s really not like either of those films, though it does reference them (and a plethora of other 70s and 80s movies) quite frequently. It’s a blatant commentary/deconstruction of the slasher film, containing a selection of exaggerated stock characters: the jock, the geek, the uptight girl, the bimbo, and the killer lurking in the shadows. In this case there’s even a paranoid horror buff whose obsession with Fangoria magazines leads him to believe he’s actually in a horror film himself (silly lad, your self-awareness won’t save you this time!). The plot centers around a group of med students who travel to a remote house for a little R&R, but unbeknownst to them a psychotic murderer is lying in wait. Everything down the kills walks the line between mediocre and outright ridiculous, but it’s the kind of flick that never takes itself seriously, so it’s all in good fun. In the midst of a decade of bad slashers that tried to be good, it’s refreshing to watch a film that–while still being a traditional 80s slasher–pokes a little fun at the genre at the same time.

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Exorcismus

2010 / d. Manuel Carballo
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I’m a sucker for demonic possession films. I foolishly go into each one expecting to relive the magic of watching THE EXORCIST for the first time, and instead walk away disappointed. EXORCISMUS is no exception. A young girl becomes possessed by an evil entity, and the only solution is an exorcism — which the girl’s parents allow to be recorded. Contrived and imitative scare tactics creep from one scene to the next, while the audience sits and waits for the promised appearance of Doug Bradley. I mean really, if an actor is in a film for all of ten minutes, don’t bill his name as one of the top three actors on the movie poster… it’s misleading and results in a movie-goer feeling duped. Furthermore, when was the last time you saw his name credited as Douglas Bradley? I sure haven’t. And by using his full first name, I somehow was under the assumption that his role was going  to be serious, epic, and that he was going to conjure up the spirit of Father Merrin and put some holy-shit-smackdown on Satan in this film. But… no such luck, which is why EXORCISMUS now joins the ranks of THE LAST EXORCISM, THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, and all the other Satan-inspired movies which just failed to impress.

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Exorcist III

Written & Directed By: William Peter Blatty
Starring:
George C. Scott
Ed Flanders
Brad Dourif

Tonight was Oscar night, and like every other Oscar night for the past thirty-seven years, there wasn’t a single horror film nominated. That is, not since director William Friedkin adapted a novel by author William Peter Blatty about a normal American girl, who becomes possessed by the devil.

If you ask a roomful of horror fans to write a list of what they consider to be the top five scariest films ever made, it would be a safe bet that The Exorcist would be on 99% of those lists. It is widely considered to be the scariest film ever made, and while it has been subjected to a barrage of parodies and countless homages, it is still every bit as frightening today as it was when it was first released in 1973.

A film with such commercial success and critical acclaim was too good to be left alone, and thus a sequel was filmed four years later, helmed by John Boorman and starring original actress Linda Blair. It goes without saying that any movie that follows what is considered the scariest film of all timewill naturally fall short – the Exorcist 2: Heretic is generally regarded as the weakest installment in the series, and overall just a poorly made horror film (though in this reviewer’s opinion, the film did have merits worth mentioning, and will be discussed in a later review).

After the disappointing sequel, the Exorcist series lay dormant for years until author William Peter Blatty decided to adapt his novel, “Legion”, into what would become The Exorcist: Part 3. Writing and directing himself, Blatty picked up the storyline and characters from the first film, while changing the tone and atmosphere drastically. The film, released in 1990, is highly reflective of the shift that was occuring in horror cinema at the time. Ever-so-slowly the monster in movies was changing; away from the ridiculousness of unstoppable Boogeymen and fantastic creatures, and towards the dark side of humanity itself. This redefinition of horror, which showed that the actions within human nature are far more disturbing than anything dreamt up, is still aggressively being explored in today’s modern horror films.

The Exorcist 3 was successful for this very reason: it didn’t seek to simply re-do the first film (which is one of the criticisms of part two), but managed to develop the storyline and characters further, in a different type of setting and with a darker, more grisly plot. The writing, which is always the foundation for the film, is as solid as can be. Blatty’s flair for dialogue is well crafted, and superbly delivered by the talented cast. George C. Scott’s portrayal of Lieutenant Kinderman is powerful, believable, and ultimately what makes the film interesting and compelling to watch.

The film may explore the sadistic side of mankind, but it’s also in a large part a supernatural horror film dealing with the same topic as the previous two films: demonic possession. Horror fans will not be disappointed by this incredibly overlooked and neglected film which, without a doubt, is a worthy sequel to the first film and deserving of more praise than it has received.

 

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Fade to Black

1980 / d. Vernon Zimmerman
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Avid cinemaphile Eric Binford struggles with social disorders which stem from living his abusive wheel-chair bound aunt. When his sanity ultimately slips away, he delves into a psychotic film fantasy, in which he becomes some of his most beloved movie icons. Atmospheric and fun the first time, the film doesn’t hold up well on repeat performances. Still, effective performances by Dennis Christopher and Linda Kerridge (as the Marilyn Monroe look-alike love interest) make this worth a watch. Note the singular case.

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Familiar

John is a simple man, he lives a simple life- in a mediocre house with his teenage daughter and his even simpler wife. If only contentment was equally as simple. John has an anger inside of him that has been growing for quite some time. His simple life and inner rage have become all too familiar and something is about to change.

TRAILER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sBQadfeT2eM

The Film
FAMILIAR is beautifully shot. The scenes and camera work are very calm and calculated much like the character of John (Robert Nolan) at first glance. As the voice inside him grows impatient and demanding, so do the framing  and camera movement, allowing the intensity to build on par with John’s increasing dissolution.

The film begins with John taking you through a day in the life of his discontent. The build-up takes it’s time and John’s complaining starts to run its course after a while. As much as you want to hate John for all of his negativity and scheming against his seemingly innocent wife (Astrida Auza) and daughter (Cathryn Hostick), it is almost impossible. As the film moves along you begin to dislike them just as much as he does. They are dull and predictable and you want something bad to happen to them, or just something to happen at all.

It’s rather genius that as John’s inner voice becomes more impatient, so does the audience. Forcing the viewer  to crave violence is a strategy I find both unsettling and brilliant. Die-hard genre fans needn’t worry! Though the journey feels long, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it shines blood red. I’m not about to divulge any spoilers, but I assure you that the payoff is excellent and probably not what you’d expect. The special effects are fantastic and the quality of this film overall is pretty impressive for a low budget short, begging the question, what could they do if given the means and opportunity for a full length feature?

FAMILIAR comes to us from Fatal Pictures based out of Toronto.  Their previous shorts CONSUMPTION (2008) and WORM (2010) screened internationally at a wide range of popular genre festivals including Dark Bridges Film Festival, Screamfest, Oklahoma Horror Film Fest and The Sydney Underground film festival.

Co-founders Zach Green and Richard Powell  are responsible for nearly every aspect of the filmmaking process from initial concept to marketing. Producer Zach also edits and is heavily involved in post, with hopes of writing and directing in the future. Writer/Director Richard also takes an active role in the editing room alongside his producing partner. Together they work to create original and challenging independent films of high quality and artistic value.

Check out the INTERVIEW with Fatal Pictures

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FAMILY (Masters of Horror 2006)

2006 / d. John Landis
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This particular episode, directed by John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), is about an average man, living an average life, with his not so average family. Having stalked and killed a woman and child, he bathes their corpses in acid and dresses up their skeletons for Sunday dinner. It’s his ideal family, cost effective with no real mouths to feed and he is in complete control…well until little Sarah wants a visit from Grandpa. His family continues to grow with every kill, until some pesky new neighbours move in next door.

The effects were decent, a few minor CG issues, but overall pretty good- especially in the last scene. The acting, on the other hand, was quite bland, with George Wendt being the best part. Both the story and direction overall were fantastic. With twists and turns and enough suspense to keep you captive from beginning to end, FAMILY was all in all a great episode and MMM approved.

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Father’s Day

Written & Directed By: Astron-6
Starring:
Adam Brooks
Matthew Kennedy
Connor Sweeney
Mackensie Murdock

Media reviewed: Toronto After Dark Film Festival screening

If you’re anything like me (that is, under the age of 40) you probably don’t actually remember the “grindhouse” era.  We’ve seen the films, sure, thanks to the home video boom in the 80′s and the recent grindhouse revival (and subsequent dead horse flogging) but the actual experience of seeing cheap, grainy, worn out genre films in a dank, smelly theatre populated with perverts is lost on us.  Our grindhouse experience was the dimly lit horror section of our local video store, the shag carpet in the basement of a friend’s house, that one guy you knew whose extremely liberal parents had a satellite dish and pay-per-view.  The worn, 4th generation tapes, the tracking lines that you could never quite get rid of, especially during the nudity…this was our grindhouse!  The guys who form the Canadian movie-making collective Astron-6 must understand this because “Father’s Day” was the first faux grindhouse film I’ve seen that actually made me feel nostalgic.

The film begins as though it was taped off of a pay-per-view late night program, complete with tracking lines.  The premise: a monster known as Chris Fuchman is raping and murdering fathers on Father’s Day.  Fuchman is being tracked by Ahab (Adam Brooks) who seeks revenge for the death of his own father.  Assisting him in his obsessive quest are John the priest (Matthew Kennedy) and Twink the street hustler (Conor Sweeney).  I won’t spoil the rest and honestly, the movie gets so ridiculous that you simply have to see it to believe it.  All you need to know is that the gore is fantastic and completely insane, the performances are tastefully hammy and the commercial break in the middle had me instinctively reaching for the fast-forward button.  The movie drags a bit toward the end as the increasingly nonsensical plot is fleshed out but the payoff of Lloyd Kaufman as God makes up for it.

Speaking of Maestro Kaufman, did I neglect to mention that this is a Troma film?  The film began as a fake trailer (watch it here: www.astron-6.com/fathersday.html) that led to Troma commissioning the full version for $10,000.  After enjoying an extremely limited theatrical run, the DVD should be out soon as part of Troma’s New Directors series.  I can’t be the only one hoping for a limited VHS release as well!

The generation that cut their teeth on VHS is now making movies and the aesthetic is creeping back in to fringes of the genre.  Ti West kicked it off with the “House of the Devil” VHS release and other distributors have begun resurrecting the format for promotional or collectible purposes.  Tape swapping events and even VHS screenings are popping up everywhere as the video/grindhouse (rewindhouse?) reminds the under 40 crowd why they like horror in the first place.  So head to the thrift store and pick up a VCR or two for cheap, I have a feeling you might be needing them.

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Flesheater

Written & Directed By: S. William Hinzman
Starring:
S. William Hinzman
John Mowod
Leslie Ann Wick

It was three in the morning on a warm April night the first time I saw “Flesheater”. I was sitting on the floor in my small apartment with my friend — both of us delusional, hysterical, warped out of our minds on strong rum and sleep deprivation. Too exhausted to move, and too burned out to sleep, I scoured my DVD collection for something to throw on the television and blindly pulled Flesheater off the shelf. We looked at the DVD and realized it was still unopened. “Should we give it a chance?” my friend asked. “Why not?” I thought, “A good zombie film may be the perfect way to bring this twisted evening to completion.” The sun would be up soon, but until then, we were going to mix fresh drinks and experience a movie that was new to both of us.

We shut off the lights and the TV came to life — violent red letters blared across the screen: “…this EVIL which will take FLESH and BLOOD from thee and turn all ye unto EVIL…” The next thing we knew we were smack dab in the middle of the woods, surrounded by 1980s teenagers, underage drinking, and bad dancing. However, the redeeming quality to the film was the atmosphere — much like Savini’s “Night of the Living Dead” remake, the overall feel of the film was spot on.

A few minutes into the movie, a farmer uncovered an ancient burial ground in his field: a stone (bearing the same warning that appeared in those firey red letters before the film began) and a full length coffin bound by a chain and padlock. Exasperated, he angrily mutters the words “Damn college kids” as he proceeds to break the padlock and pry open the dusty coffin. “Damn college kids?” I repeated outloud, “This stupid fucker is about to unleash a zombie plague!”

Had the man taken my advice, perhaps the carnage that was to ensue could have been avoided. But alas he did not, and instead he freed the Flesheater (Bill Hinzman) from the grave. After that, it didn’t take long for the zombie horde to grow: the zombie farmer bit another, who bit another, and soon the remaining teenagers were forced to find shelter in an abandoned house.

Sound familiar? It should, as the entire film proceded to unfold in a way highly remeniscent of George Romero’s original “Night of the Living Dead.” Hinzman, who stars as the Flesheater and also serves as director, was essentially giving himself a part where he could once again be a badass, flesh feasting zombie that on numerous occasions got a handful of naked lady flesh as well. But what can I say — he plays the role well, and in addition to that his directorial skills are decent. Flesheater turned out to be not a bad film at all — daresay even a good zombie flick.

But that’s as far into it I’m going to get. It’s worth a rental — and if you’re fortunate to a score a copy of the well-priced “Zombie Pack 2″ DVD collection, you’ll find a copy of Flesheater inside (along with Burial Ground and Zombie Holocaust, making it a decent addition to your shelf).

Expect to be entertained, just don’t expect to be amazed by the intelligence of the characters. I mean, if I knew it was a bad idea to open up a padlocked coffin bearing a menacing inscription, even while blitzed on alcohol and lacking sleep in the worst ways possible, it’s a safe assumption that the film operates according to the idiot plot.

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Freaks

Directed By: Tod Browning
Written By: Clarence Aaron ‘Tod’ Robbins
Starring:
Wallace Ford
Leila Hyams
Olga Baclanova

For such a short little film, Tod Browning’s 1932 masterpiece Freaks has had a torrid history of controversy and international bannings. This horrific take on the lives, loves, and losses at the circus remains disturbing, tragic, and twisted seventy-five years later.

Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova) is a beautiful trapeze artist, and the little Hans (Harry Earles) is quickly smitten with her. Despite fellow tiny performer Frieda (Daisy Earles) warnings that Cleopatra is laughing at Hans and only marrying him for his money, life at the circus goes on for the collection of ‘freaks’. When the strongman Hercules (Henry Victor) accidentally reveals his and Cleopatra’s plans at the wedding feast, the drunk Cleopatra also spills her disdain for the ‘freaks’. Although they claim to accept Cleopatra as one of their own, when Hans falls ill due to Cleopatra’s poisonings, the freaks take matters into their own hands and exact a horrid revenge.

Freaks is a story so strong that it effectively ended director Tod Browning’s (Dracula, The Unholy Three, London After Midnight) career. For numerous reasons, A-list Hollywood personal Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow refused to work on this loose adaptation of Tod Robbin’s short story ‘Spurs’. Audiences were shocked at the exploitative nature of Freaks, and for many years, it was banned abroad. Today we are of course much more accepting to all walks of life; but as much as we desensitize ourselves with sex, blood, and gore, Freaks still offers plenty of disturbing imagery.

The cruel treatment of the circus’ little people, the abuse of the hermaphrodites and Siamese twins — these and other deformed performers are mocked, laughed at, played, and deceived — but they serve their comeuppance swiftly and with equally cruelty. Browning’s vignette gives us a voyeuristic approach into this bizarre behind the scenes sideshow tale. The Bearded Lady (Olga Roderick) and the Skeletal Man (Peter Robinson) can love just like the rest of us. This very subject matter is too far from our mainstream; it is freakish to us. Freaks makes us uncomfortable and that’s part of the horror. We don’t like to admit our prudish, cruel ways. We know we shouldn’t look, but like the gapers at the car wreck, we just can’t help ourselves. Have we learned the error of our ways yet? Perhaps not.

What’s so delightful about Freaks is that as exploitative as it is, it’s also a serious eye-opener about our society’s mistreatment of those we perceive to be different. Instead of costumed cast, masked actors, and smoke and mirrors, real circus personal were employed. Olga Baclanova’s Cleopatra is beautiful and deceitful. We love her thirties looks, but her ugly personality reflects the ignorant feelings of the time. Daisy Earles as Frida is more beautiful as the little lady who sees Cleopatra for what she really is. The entire cast delivers just fine — from the Human Torso Prince Randian to the Armless Girl Frances O’Connor and then some. It’s adorable and disturbing at the same time.

Freaks is dated in its thought and style, which may make it unviewable to some; but it’s also still right on the money in unveiling bigotry. Kids who aren’t mature enough to understand the visual and social complexities here should definitely not watch, nor should prudes or the squeamish. Freaks isn’t just a bizarre old horror picture. The final comeuppance is indeed scary (“One of us! One of us!”), but this classic should be seen and studied often by film students and classic enthusiasts year round.

Though some sequences are lost, Freaks is available in several DVD editions and video on demand options. I’m surprised the full video isn’t officially available free online, but I digress. Freaks is an affordable, worthy — nay necessary addition to your film collection. “We accept her!”

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Friday the 13th

1980 / d. Sean Cunningham
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Splatter maestro Tom Savini lends his special effects wizardry to create this highly influential nerve grinder. Raw, shocking, and still an edge-of-your seat experience, this film helped set the stage for the next twenty years of slasher movies.

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Friday the 13th (1980)

Directed By: Sean S. Cunningham
Written By:
Victor Miller
Starring:
Adrienne King
Betsy Palmer

Everyone remembers their first time watching Friday the 13th — particularly horror virgins who went into the film having no real experience with other movies in the genre. Even by today’s standards the movie can still bring the viewer to the edge of their seat, thanks to the tight angles, the well-lit night shots, and the nail-biting soundtrack that rivals that of John Carpenter’s Halloween. In 1980 when the film was first released, it was even more shocking: it was a bloodbath set in celluloid. For those horror virgins, their cherry wasn’t just popped, it was ruthlessly torn through with a rusty machete. This unrepentent assault on the senses has earned its place in the annals of horror history, and for good reason — it inspired a generation of films, introduced the legendary monster Jason Voorhees, and is still the yardstick by which modern horror films are measured against, over twenty years later.

From the first frame, we’re thrown into the dark woods of Crystal Lake in the year 1958, where a bright summer moon hangs high above a group of happy counsellors who sit and sing songs –

Hang down your head Tom Dooley… hang down your head and cry…

The camera, with it’s ambiguous perspective, records the scene of a young man and a young lady as they leave the group and sneak off into the darkness, driven by teenage lust. The scene doesn’t last long before the camera perspective is revealed to be the killer’s point of view, bringing the audience behind the eyes of the killer as “he” confronts the teenagers. The moment before the young girl meets a premature end, the camera freezes on her face: eyes wide with terror, caught in the midst of a vain cry for help. Burned into our memories, the frame ignites to pure white, and the opening sequence is complete.

This sets the tone for what develops into an absolute nerve-grinding experience. No one is safe at Camp Crystal Lake, and those who do meet their untimely end are slaughtered so mercilessly there are scenes that to this day, after multiple viewings, still make me cringe. The special effects, masterfully executed by gore maestro Tom Savini, are beautiful and painful to watch at the same time. Friday the 13th is clearly a low-budget production, but much the same as in “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” it actually adds to the realism of the film, making it gritty and believable. It is in fact almost preferable (in this reviewer’s opinion) to see the original print of Friday the 13th, and not a digitally restored one. The scratches on the celluloid, and the low-quality film give it an unrefined appearance, and make it all the more grisly and shocking.

As I stare outside tonight, the spring moon is bright and full, like it was at Camp Crystal Lake the night the first murders occured. As the cool breeze blows by, I can almost hear the faint strains of a campfire chorus:

Hang down your head Tom Dooley… poor man is gonna die…

Happy camping.

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Friday the 13th (2009)

2009 / d. Marcus Nispel
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Jason Voorhees returns to the silver screen, this time adding new tallies to his bodycount in slick, heavily polished, Hollywood style. Call me crazy, but I didn’t think this film was half bad. A few intentionally funny chuckles, and as pointless as remakes may be, I don’t mind Marcus Nispel as a director. Plus, the incredibly graphic and white-knuckle opening earned my respect.

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Friday the 13th III

1982 / d. Steve Miner
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Thanks to DVD, this puppy can now be viewed in splendiferous 3D once again! Corny, campy (literally!) fun, this is really one of the best sequels in the series and also sees Jason Voorhees trade in his one-eyed potato-sack for his trademark hockey mask. It’s eye-popping enjoyment!

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From Beyond

1986 / d. Stuart Gordon
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If you like REANIMATOR, odds are you’ll also love FROM BEYOND. Released just one year later, FROM BEYOND recaptures much of the same horror zaniness, and also reunites Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs, this time adding Ken Foree into the mix. Once again drawing from an old H.P. Lovecraft story, it tells the tale of an obsessed scientist who opens a gateway into another realm, and the horrors which subsequently ensue. The characters are each touched by Lovecraft’s recurring themes of madness and insanity, which often seems the only appropriate response after witnessing the horrors that they are subjected to. It’s fun, it’s campy, and it’s gross. Not to mention it has a little something for both the guys and gals out there: a mustached Ken Foree wearing only a set of bright red skivvies, and a leather-clad Barbara Crampton both grace the screen. Saucy!

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Funny Games

2008 / d. Michael Haneke
                                     
A brilliantly twisted piece of work from director Michael Haneke (Cache, The White Ribbon), Funny Games is a shot-for-shot remake of his original 1997 film of the same name. Naomi Watts, Tim Roth and Devon Gearhart play a family heading up to their lake house for a vacation. Soon after arriving, two young men (Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet) arrive at their doorstep, asking to borrow some eggs. What unfolds over the next two hours is a series of horrifying psychological “funny games” played by the family at the mercy of these two men. Haneke is a master of the shock horror, without resorting to blood and gore. The thought of a home invasion scares many families into buying home alarm systems, but the extent these two men go to, for no explained reason, is one of the single most terrifying aspects of the film, one that sticks with you long after the credits have rolled. Even more warped is the constant breaking of the fourth wall by the two men, addressing the audience and even rewinding the film when things don’t go their way. This might break the illusion for some, but for others (especially fans of Haneke) it will only serve to further the depravity of the film. Purists might want to watch the Austrian original, but with the 2008 American version, Haneke has only changed the location and the actors; it’s still a shot-for-shot remake of his own film and the horror aspect of home invasion is still kept well-intact. Do yourself a favour and set some time aside to play Funny Games.

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Furfangs, The

Directed By: Andrea Ricca

What do you need to make a film? According to moviemaker Andrea Ricca, just one cameraone computer, and zero budget! Now I’ll admit that I had never heard of Mr. Ricca until just recently, when it was recommended that I head over to his website to check out his third, and most recent Independent short film: The Furfangs. And when I did, the first thing that caught my eye was the well-designed movie poster — a very Critters inspired scene featuring sharp-toothed fuzzballs with ominously glowing white eyes and mischievous grins. The film already passed the first test: the creatures looked promisingly excellent.

Weighing in with a playtime of just over five minutes, a one-man cast, and not a single line of dialogue, The Furfangs is a highly entertaining endeavour. It focuses around a middle-aged man, who one night receives some very bizarre guests… of the extraterrestrial variety. Though initially deceived by their cuddly appearance, the tribble-sized aliens bare their teeth (quite literally) and turn into the houseguests from hell. The man must use his wits to rid his home of the alien threat before they demolish his house, and wreak further havoc in his life.

Andrea Ricca proves that all you need to make a great movie is a love of filmmaking. It’s impossible not to like this short flick: twisted creatures, tongue-in-cheek humour, and tight editing prove that Mr. Ricca has a genuine knack for making movies. The creatures interact perfectly with the live-action main character, and for a no-budget production the CGI is done amazingly well. It’s no wonder that Andrea’s previous films — also employing large quantities of CGI — have already been featured in SFX Magazine, and even scored him a Rondo nomination.

Short films are hit and miss. Virtually anyone with a camera can make a movie, but it takes someone with a keen instinct for pacing and editing to produce a great short. The Furfangs is a shining example of microcinema at its best: energetic, creative, and fun from start to finish. What’s really impressive is how Ricca manages to create the illusion of decent production values, while in reality having literally no budget. How does he achieve this? Well in addition to the excellent attention to lighting, CGI rendering, and editing, there’s one aspect to a movie which is supremely important (yet often neglected) in the Indie film industry: music. Music is the soul of a film, and if it doesn’t match what’s happening onscreen the results can be disastrous. What really sets this apart from other short films is the highly appropriate soundtrack, courtesy of Gianfilippo de Mattia, whose amazing score complements the film perfectly.

So there you have it, folks. If you haven’t been able to tell, I really dug this short film and highly recommend you check it out. You can watch it either by going to Andrea Ricca’s website, or by viewing it on YouTube. If you like it, leave him a comment — I’m sure he’d love to know his films are being enjoyed.

Kudos, Mr. Ricca. You’ve made an excellent movie!

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Girls Against Boys

2012 / d. Austin Chick
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While the story may not appeal to everyone, and some may feel that this type of rape-revenge has been done before, I believe the minor differences in this film go a long way to set it apart. There is one clear victim and even though her actions are heavily influenced by a “wild card” character so to speak, her reactions to her own behaviour are not typically that of the victims we are used to seeing in this subgenre. The mental state of the characters ranges from enjoyment to indifference with little regret and, at times, it creates a very twisted form of comic relief. With beautiful cinematography, very stylized and not at all gritty as one would expect, I only found myself disappointed with a few slow motion shots toward the end. These shots were great in the beginning, but when the story progression is already slow, the last thing I wanted was each individual shot matching the pace. Good performances and a solid amount of blood. The last death was my personal fave.

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Gore Gore Girls, The

1972 / d. H. G. Lewis
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Repulsive low-budget bloodfest from the godfather of gore, Herschell Gordon Lewis. The movie watches like a cheap 70s porno, with a soundtrack to match (say what you will, the music is actually a hilarious selling point), and is certainly not for everyone. Women will need to look past the misogynistic overtones to enjoy the campy, gratuitous gore, which includes everything from a rump beating with a meat tenderizer, nipple removals with a pair of scissors, to a ruthless face scalding in a pot of boiling oil. Sleazy fun at its best… or maybe worst.

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Halloween

1978 / d. John Carpenter
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John Carpenter’s late seventies romp in unadulterated terror was a trailblazer, establishing a template for the next decade of slasher flicks to follow. Haddonfield, Illinois: Six year old Michael Myers brutally stabs his sister to death, and after spending fifteen years in Smiths Grove Asylum, escapes and returns to his hometown for some long overdue trick or treating. Made on a shoestring budget and featuring a nail-biter of a soundtrack, HALLOWEEN is arguably the best executed slasher film ever made. It’s a shame that it was subjected to a barrage of progressively weaker sequels that, until HALLOWEEN H20, weakened the credibility of the series.

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Halloween (1978)

Directed By: John Carpenter
Written By: John Carpenter & Debra Hill
Starring:
Jamie Lee Curtis
Donald Pleasance
PJ Soles
Nancy Loomis

“Death has come to your little town, Sherrif…”
- Dr. Samuel Loomis

After a long, hot summer, it has finally returned: October. For those of us who love horror films, being scared, or even just enjoy decorating our homes and handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, October is a special time of year. It arrives at a crawl-pace, and seems to pass by so quickly, which is why it’s important to savour each and every day of autumn. For me, that includes a tradition of compiling a list of 30 horror films, and watching one every night of the month in an attempt to stay constantly in the Halloween mood. It’s a routine not entirely dissimilar from those chocolate advent calendars… but with more screaming, and a heck of a lot more blood.

As the editor of the Blood Theatre, it seems that these days I spend the majority of my time doing exactly that: editing reviews and articles, mainting the website, and rarely having the opportunity to sit back and write. Which is unfortunate, because I love having the chance to reflect on some of the horror films which I love (and every so often hate). It gives me the chance to re-live them… to re-experience them, and in some cases, get just a little bit nostalgic. Which is why, on the occasion of it being the first of October, I thought it was only too appropriate to present to you a review of my very favourite horror film of all-time: HALLOWEEN.

For those of you who read one of my very early reviews of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, you may recall my mentioning that I actually viewed FRIDAY THE 13′TH, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, and HALLOWEEN all for the first time, together, one Halloween night in my youth. The three films left an incredible impact on me: FRIDAY THE 13′TH was raw, visceral, and unrelenting; NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET was almost poetic, darkly sinister, and packed a concept that made you question reality itself; however, HALLOWEEN became my favourite of the three films almost instantly. It was atmospheric, suspenseful, and unforgettable. I don’t think there is another horror film that I’ve watched as many times (admittedly, the film has probably seen over 50 plays between my VCR and DVD player), and it has held up on every subsequent viewing. To me, it is the perfect horror film.

The story is brilliant in its simplicity: in Haddonfield, Illinois, a six year old boy murders his sister on Halloween night. He spends the next fifteen years in the Smith’s Grove mental institution under the care of a psychiatrist who comes to realize the unspeakable evil that lies behind the boys eyes. And then, one cold October night, Michael escapes and returns to Haddonfield to begin what is to become, a legendary massacre. Enter: Laurie Strode, and her friends Annie and Linda… three highschool girls who, thinking that their Halloween night will be a routine evening of babysitting, become the target for Michael’s bloodlust. Why them? Well, until the (originally unintended) sequel came around, there was nomotivation… no reason. And therein lies the horror of HALLOWEEN.

Perhaps it’s the memorable performances: the film debut of young, innocent Jamie Lee Curtis; the intense eyes of Donald Pleasance; thetotally air-headed dialogue of P.J. Soles; the stiff attitude of Nancy Loomis; or the endearing and honest face of Charles Cyphers. Maybe it’s the haunting image of Michael’s white mask slowly emerging from the darkness, courtesy of the sheer artistic brilliance of Dean Cundey; the unforgettable, nailbiting minimalist soundtrack; or the story, written by the now-legendary John Carpenter and the late Debra Hill. If we take a moment to step back, we realize that it could be any number or combination of those things. So, perhaps better yet, it’s important to recognize that HALLOWEEN has become one of the most important horror films ever created because, in an astronomically rare occurance, allof the elements were there: the stars aligned and gave life to a masterpiece in creative tension.

When people ask me to list off my top five favourite films, even if the list isn’t specifically horror themed, HALLOWEEN will always be there. Personally, it has been a very significant film in my life, and I will forever be grateful to John Carpenter for creating it. Its shoestring budget proved that all you need to make a great, timeless classic is a passion for filmmaking and a daring imagination.

I leave you now, on this cold October 1st, as a heavy rain falls outside of my window… much like that fateful night when Michael escaped from the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. Before the nightmare began. Before HE came home.

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Halloween 2

1981 / d. Rick Rosenthal
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Picking up directly where the first HALLOWEEN ends, we continue to follow Laurie Strode as she struggles to survive an attack from a masked boogeyman hellbent on ending her life. Creepy hospital scenes and a driving re-do of John Carpenter’s classic musical score create tension and a true atmosphere of Halloween night, while the plot shines light on the relationship between Myers and Strode. Aside from the fact that Myers’ mask is clearly altered, the overall feeling and tone between the movies remains consistent. A worthy sequel, and the perfect film to set the mood for Samhain.

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Halloween 2 (2009)

Written & Directed By: Rob Zombie
Starring:
Scout Taylor Compton
Malcolm McDowell
Tyler Mane

In a purely hetero way, I love Rob Zombie. More than a few songs regularly find their way into my daily playlist, and when he became musican-turned-filmmaker, I was more than psyched. However, maybe it was the immense hype that surrounded his first film House of 1000 Corpses, but my first reaction to the film wasn’t good — in fact, I disliked it immensely. I appreciated parts of it, but overall I just wasn’t sold on his directorial abilities. I guess that’s perhaps the danger of making your first feature film a throwback movie that owes many of it’s scenes to earlier films: back in the day, I’d rather have just sat down with the first two Texas Chainsaw movies than watched House of 1000 Corpses.

And then Devil’s Rejects was released. If I had any doubts about Zombie’s abilities as a filmmaker, they were certainly set straight. I was so blown away by his style and talent behind the camera that I became an immediate fan again. And upon going back and watching House of 1000 Corpses again, I loved it.

When it was set that he was directing the “remake” of Halloween, despite the fact I was against remaking a seemingly unremakable horror classic, I knew that it was in good hands. Perhaps the best hands in the industry, since I knew he wasn’t going to spoon feed us an identical version of the original (ala the Psycho remake), but instead put his own savage twist on it. And boy was I ever right. The Halloween remake was less a remake than a re-envisioning, using the mythology as the springboard to launch into a new version of the Michael Myers tale unlike any we had seen before. It was graphic, well written, well acted, and simply put: well done.

And then came along the sequel.

In all fairness, the original 1981 Halloween 2 fell short of the first film as well. It’s not that Halloween 2 (either of them really) were bad films, it’s just hard to be a follow-up to a film that just got it right and was magic on celluloid. Both Halloween films were excellent, and as we all know, it’s near impossible to completely recapture the same level of excellence when it comes to sequels. In John Carpenter’s original Halloween 2, the film is essential in that in many ways it forms the crux of the series, establishing the relationship between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers (even though in Carpenter’s own words, he came up with the idea after sitting infront of the typewriter for hours drinking beer). In Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2, there is nothing particularly essential about it, aside from the fact that it continues the “new” mythology that he began to create in the first film.

So, by now you’re obviously aware that the film isn’t fantastic. But how “not fantastic” is it? Well let’s take a look at some of the negative aspects. Firstly, I, like any other red-blooded male, will admit that his wife (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a beautiful woman to look at (and with good acting skills as well), and I appreciate the fact that he manages to cast her in all of his films. But her character in this film was more detrimental than anything else. What most horror fans walk away with is the feeling that her character has almost transformed into that of an attractive Mrs. Voorhees, commanding her boogeyman son to continue his gruesome killing spree. Furthermore, let’s take a minute to talk about that disturbed boy of hers. I have no problems with the overall look of Michael Myers — it’s darker, grittier, and really reflects Zombie’s style well. But the decision to have Myers sport an enormous forest beard through the film, well… it just wound up looking like a late-in-his-career Jim Morrison going on a bloody rampage (and don’t get me wrong, I too had always assumed that if such a scenario were to happen, it would be really awesome). Lastly, without delving deeply into it, I will only add that the direction in which Zombie took the character of Dr. Sam Loomis was, although different, in my opinion deviated too far from the spirit of the original character, and was so different in treatment that he might as well have not even shared the same name.

There’s a surprising amount to analyze and discuss in Halloween 2, particularly the concept of the white horse and the actual role that his mother played in the film. But unfortunately there just isn’t enough time in this review to tackle all the issues. I would like to end by saying that although this probably seems like a scathing review of the film, it wasn’t all bad. It was just unfocused, and seemed like Zombie didn’t have a perfectly clear vision of what he wanted to achieve with the film. Stylistically, it was 100% Rob Zombie. But coming from the brilliance of the first film, it’s difficult not to be just a little disappointed with his follow-up effort.

That said, I look forward to his next movie, because I know he’ll manage to successfully redeem himself. Just like Michael Myers, you can’t keep the guy down, and that’s why I love him (again… in a purely hetero way, of course.)

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Halloween 2 (2009)

HALLOWEEN 2
2009 / d. Rob Zombie
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Rob Zombie’s sequel to his incredibly well done re-imagining of HALLOWEEN was sadly, an enormous letdown. An unfocused script was the culprit, which turned Michael Myers into a walking, talking (oh yeah, you heard right), heavily-bearded Jim Morrison lookalike. Zombie’s wife (Sherri Moon Zombie) returns as Michael’s mother, in a simply bizarre role that was far too reminiscent of Pamela Voorhees for my liking. However, the film was deliciously violent in typical Rob Zombie fashion. While I love him as a director, hopefully he’ll put this flop behind him and go back to making films more like THE DEVIL’S REJECTS.