Category Archives: Reviews

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Halloween 3

1982 / d. Tommy Lee Wallace
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Watch HALLOWEEN 3 and you’ll see: an eccentric, silver-haired maskmaker with grandiose plans and a demented sense of humour; facial reconstructions by men in grey suits; seizure inducing 1980s digital effects; and who could forget, an annoying TV jingle which will be stuck in your head for days to come! Aside from the title, HALLOWEEN 3 owes nothing to the Halloween franchise, and because of that many an unknowing viewer has left disappointed, expecting to see Michael Myers continue his onscreen bodycount. Though generally ignored, HALLOWEEN 3 has its moments, and is corny enough to be enjoyable with the right attitude. Listen for an uncredited voice cameo by Jamie Lee Curtis as the telephone operator!

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Halloween 6

1995 / d. Joe Chappelle
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My personal least favourite of the series, but without a doubt the most graphic and mean spirited installment. Seeking to develop even more mythology around Michael Myers, HALLOWEEN 6 further explores the “man in black” from the previous film, as well as delves deeper into the Cult of Thorn storyline. Absolute rubbish that takes the series to an all-time low before the much needed HALLOWEEN H20 injected some much-needed credibility back into the franchise.

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Halloween H20

Directed By: Steve Miner
Written By: Robert Zappia & Matt Greenberg
Starring:
Jamie Leigh Curtis
Josh Hartnett
Michelle Williams

Halloween H20, the “where are they now” installment of the franchise, is not bad at all — in fact, it is quite good. It certainly redeemed the series after the unfortunate bitter taste that was left after part six, and overall it successfully captured the atmosphere and other elements from the original that made it a nice throwback to the 70s. Had they actually stopped the series here (with the exception of Rob Zombie’s re-envisioning which I quite enjoyed) the series may have retained more credibility and not been further plagued by sub-par sequels. Halloween H20 was in my mind the definitive final chapter, and certainly the last good film in the franchise.

Taking place exactly twenty years after the grim events of the first two films, Halloween H20 essentially skips over the previous three sequels (excluding the third film which was devoid entirely of the Halloween mythos) and once again reunites audiences with Laurie Strode, a now middle-aged woman seeking to restore some peace to her shattered life. Having taken all precautions to avoid ever meeting her deranged brother again, she has changed her name, moved to California, and works as headmistress of an exclusive boarding school where her 17-year-old son (Josh Hartnett in his first role) attends. She suffers the effects of post-traumatic stress, and in turn resorts to alcoholism — the result of which has created an ever-increasing rift between her and her son, who resents the fact that he is forced to look after an over-protective mother who lives in constant fear.

Ultimately, Laurie’s worst nightmare turns into reality when her psychopath brother returns to continue his spree of violence and butchery, working his way through the student body in an attempt to get Laurie and her son. Just as the film eludes to paralleling the classic Frankenstein tale, there reaches a point where Laurie has nothing left to lose, and must redeem herself by facing the monster alone. What ensues is a high-tension game of cat-and-mouse, and an unforgettable climax.

Why this film is so often overlooked and frowned upon is unknown to me. I believe it was successful in everything it set out to do: it brought the franchise to an acceptable conclusion, while maintaining the atmosphere and overall feeling of the first two films (despite it’s much higher budget). While I enjoy the other sequels simply for the sole reason that they show Michael Myers slashing his way through Haddonfield on Halloween night, the true Halloween series for me will always be parts 1, 2, and H20.

In my opinion, it is wise to stay away from subsequent sequels. They take the series in a direction that I never thought it would go, and have overall been rather dissapointing. Halloween H20, while it is often overlooked, stands as one of the last (if not the last) great slasher film to be released into theatres. It captured all the good aspects of the slasher genre, and should take it’s place as a worthy horror film in the annals of horror history.

Happy Halloween.

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Halloween H20

1998 / d. Steve Miner
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An excellent installment in the long-winded HALLOWEEN franchise, and in this reviewer’s opinion, the second best film after John Carpenter’s original. Ignoring parts 4, 5, and 6, HALLOWEEN H20 reunites us with Laurie Strode, who has since changed her name, become headmistress at a remote boarding school, and is the mother of a sixteen year old son. She is faced to confront her demons once and for all when her dear old brother returns, leading to an epic and intense free-for-all. Plenty of homages to the previous HALLOWEEN films thanks to a well rounded script by Kevin Williamson, and even a brief appearance by Janet Leigh and the original car from Psycho. It’s a shame they couldn’t leave it on this note, and had to drag the series further through the mud.

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Haute Tension

2003 / d. Alexandre Aja
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An unrelenting and savage piece of horror filmmaking which grabbed the attention of filmgoers worldwide and solidified Alexandre Aja as one of the most promising modern-day horror filmmakers. True to its name, HIGH TENSION moves you to the edge of your seat and holds you there for the duration of the picture, as we follow a young woman (Marie) as she struggles to save her abducted friend from the sadistic whims of a vicious and deranged killer. See it UNCUT to really appreciate the graphic and cringe-worthy special effects, but savour it for director Aja’s sheer brilliance at building and maintaining tension. Highly recommended; this one remains a personal favourite even after several viewings.

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Hell of the Living Dead

1980 / d. Bruno Mattei
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The legendary HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD (a.k.a. VIRUS, a.k.a. NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES) is the film that made Bruno Mattei a household name amongst horror fans. Not because the film is good by any means, but just the opposite: this thing watches like a bad Ed Wood movie, in more ways than one. Filled with random bits of National Geographic stock footage, the inconsistency and flat plot makes this flick like a rabid dog: in serious need of being shotgunned. Some decent effects and the usual ‘testine-gorging is all this snooze-fest has to offer.

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Hellraiser

1987 / d. Clive Barker
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Adapting his short novella THE HELLBOUND HEART into a full-length film, HELLRAISER marks the legendary Clive Barker’s debut into the realm of horror filmmaking. Though the film would be subjected to a slew of mixed sequels, the 1987 original is where it’s at. The raw, unpolished feel which permeates every frame of celluloid, lends itself to a tense and unnerving film experience. The gritty quality, haunting gothic orchestral score, and taboo subject matter create an interesting unpredictability, which thrusts the viewer into a horrifying world of pleasure, pain, beauty, and darkness.

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Hemlock Grove

Netflix sure has come a long way over the years; in March of 2013, it was estimated that over 33 million people currently subscribe to their service. As video stores seemingly fall by the wayside, the popularity and reign of Netflix only continues to rise. Given their power position, It’s really no surprise that projects began developing with the intention of being Netflix exclusive.

Enter: Hemlock Grove; a thirteen episode series made specifically for Netflix. When the initial trailer began to surface, I’ll admit I had no idea what to expect. On the surface it appeared to be another “Anytown U.S.A. has a dark secret” type of stories — but what caught my attention was a name: Eli Roth. The man responsible for bringing us such graphic delicacies as HOSTEL and (my personal favourite) CABIN FEVER. In addition to serving as executive producer, Roth also acted as director of the premiere episode. If a guy with such a solid track record was attaching his name to the project, how could it be bad? At the very least we could surely expect disgusting, cringe-worthy traditional effects… couldn’t we?

The basic premise of Hemlock Grove is simple enough: when a series of brutal murders begin, it becomes a race to discover the culprit before he (or it) continues their spree of destruction. From the very beginning we’re tossed into the simply bizarre universe of Hemlock Grove; a town so weird and dysfunctional that the savage murders almost seem to pale in comparison. There’s a girl convinced she was impregnated by an angel; a boy with a blood-fetish who has seemingly mastered the old Jedi mindtrick; his giant, blue-glowing, eye-deformed medical experiment of a sister; their sadistic, manipulative, and sex-starved creature of a mother… and the list goes on, and on, and on.

I kid you not: everything in Hemlock Grove is a mystery to which there is never an answer; it is a perpetual “…” that leaves you hanging until the series reaches its end, still leaving you strung up and waiting for a proper resolution. And to make it worse, the entire time the writers treat you as if you already know why everything is happening. I understand it was influenced heavily by Twin Peaks — of that there’s no doubt — but even Twin Peaks was easier and more satisfying to follow! At least the absurd was expected, and even served a purpose in the story.

Writing and story aside, I did thoroughly enjoy the cast. Famke Janssen, Bill Skarsgård, Landon Liboiron… the performances were all well done. The up-and-coming Freya Tingley handled some tense, mature scenes brilliantly, and Kaniehtiio Horn was particularly effective in her possession scenes. If the material they had been given was as good as their acting I would no doubt be writing a very different review.

But let’s talk effects, because again, with Eli Roth’s name front and centre we’re surely expecting an emphasis on practical, old-school guts and grue. Did it deliver? Yes and no. At the very heart of it, this is a werewolf story. No matter what else happens in a werewolf story, the most important scene is the transformation, and over the years special effects gurus (like Rick Baker) have elevated these scenes to an art. I don’t think we were necessarily expecting Hemlock Grove to top the beauty of, say, An American Werewolf in London… but I also don’t think we were expecting to see the majority of it achieved through CGI. Where the concept succeeded, the execution failed.

No matter how much I wanted to like the show, I just couldn’t get into it. And that’s disappointing to me since I legitimately dig Eli Roth and everything he’s attached his name to.

When all is said and done, the series suffered from a bad story and an under-developed script more than anything else. On the plus side, if you ever lay awake at night and wondered what would happen if they blended True Blood, Twilight, and Twin Peaks together? At least now you have your answer:

Welcome to Hemlock Grove.

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Hills Have Eyes, The (2006)

2006 / d. Alexandre Aja
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This, along with Rob Zombie’s redux of HALLOWEEN, were the two most pleasantly surprising films of the 2000-2009 decade. Director Alexandre Aja stupefied me with his awe inspiring skills on HIGH TENSION, and it’s no wonder he was hand-picked by Wes Craven himself to direct this flick. Gratuitous, gory, suspenseful, and filled with enough updated social commentary to make it relevant for today’s younger audiences, THE HILLS HAVE EYES will provide an ample ninety-minute shockfest you’re not soon to forget!

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I Know What You Did Last Summer

1997 / d. Jim Gillespie
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Released one year after Wes Craven’s SCREAM, this adaptation of Lois Duncan’s classic novella is considered a forerunner in the onslaught of teen slashers which characterized the late 90s and 00s (see: URBAN LEGEND, VALENTINE, FINAL DESTINATION, SWIMFAN, DISTURBIA, and others). While many of the above mentioned films have been met with varied degrees of acceptance among horror fans, it is this reviewer’s opinion that I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER belongs in the higher echelon of teen slasher films. Though frequently dismissed for its teen idol cast (Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze Jr, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Ryan Phillipe), the quality of the film boasts surprisingly high production values, and excellent filmmaking techniques from start to finish. Overall, a solid, “teen-friendly” horror flick, followed by incredibly disappointing and very weak sequels.

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I Spit On Your Grave

1978 / d. Meir Zarchi
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A well known flick belonging to the “rape/revenge” subgenre, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is a film completely devoid of taste and decency, but also lacking any suspense or real thrills. Purely exploitative, but slow paced and even outright goofy at times, one is better off to watch Wes Craven’s 1972 gem: THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT or even the often downplayed–but far more entertaining–HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK. The only real selling point here is the groin-grabbingly-gory bathtub castration scene. Yikes.

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I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

1998 / d. Danny Cannon
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I wish I could say this film reeled in the scares, but like a fish out of water, this was just a huge flop. Julie James and her new (more alive) friends go on a tropical getaway weekend, but their plans soon hit a snag when resiliant fisherman returns. The first film should have been left alone without producers looking to cash in on its success, thus opening a whole can of worms and hitting rock bottom with this flick.

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Indie Game Review: Dead Pixels

Platform: xBox360
Release Date: 9/15/2011
Cost: $1.00 (80 Microsoft Points)

THE LOWDOWN:
Absolutely rockin’ old-school sidescroller that’s chock full of zombie blasting carnage! With the look and feel of an old NES game, the short levels and smooth gameplay is heavily addictive. Multiplayer co-op allows you and your friends to kick back in a retro environment, and unleash some pain on horde after horde of 8-bit flesheaters! You can tell that the game was made by fans of the zombie genre, since there are countless homages sprinkled throughout. When you enter the shop the merchant greets you with a friendly “Hello Stranger!” welcome, the shotgun is called a Boomstick, and one of the zombies spits green acid (remind you of any games that left you for dead?) It’s fast, it’s fun, and man, it’s only a buck! You can’t go wrong!

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Indie Game Review: Plague

Platform: xBox360
Release Date
: 8/19/2011
Cost: $1.00

THE LOWDOWN:
Next up is PLAGUE, yet another game which only costs a measly little dollar (or 80 Microsoft points) to download. I agree, this game is definitely stretching it as far as being considered “horror”, but it does take place in a post-apocalyptic future, so that’s good enough for me! Just like DEAD PIXELS was fun game play that paid homage to the zombie genre, PLAGUE is a fast-paced action game that’s reminiscent of early 2D side-scrolling shooters like CONTRA, NARC, or the oft forgotten METAL WARRIORS [side note: "Metal Warriors" is one of my all-time favorite games, and if you've ever played it, let me know!] The levels are one big homage (there’s an obvious SUPER MARIO BROS level, a GALAGA level, and even a subtle BUCKY O’ HARE stage) and the weaponry ranges from your basic rocket launchers to “black hole” guns, and even a rifle that shoots out a controllable “centipede” like from the early arcade game! True, some of the levels are just impossible to play through without dying a dozen times, but with unlimited continues and a roster of fun characters to choose from, who cares? PLAGUE is the perfect game to sit down with a buddy and rock through all the insanity that the the co-op mode has to offer!

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Indie Game Review: Samurai VS Zombie

Platform: xBox360
Release Date: 02/01/2010
Cost: $1.00 (80 Microsoft Points)

THE LOWDOWN:
 If it wasn’t for my cousin who downloads these $1 games like a fiend, I probably wouldn’t have reviewed as many of these Indie horror games as I have. Overall, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by most of the games I’ve played. Although they’ve all been pretty repetitive and lacking any sort of compelling plot, they’ve been entertaining, and well worth the 80 Microsoft points. But then along came SAMURAI VS ZOMBIE… which teaches you the true meaning of mind-numbing repetition. Gamer beware, this game is sure to build mini-biceps on your thumbs, because all you’re doing is mashing the gamepad in an effort to slash as many zombies as possible. And man-oh-man, are there ever a lot of zombies to kill. I don’t know what it is about this game that gets old so fast, because to be honest, the overall production values are decent. The gameplay is smooth and the cell-shaded graphics are well-rendered… but perhaps it’s the sheer monotony of it that makes the game so… boring. No, it can’t be that, because THE $1 ZOMBIE GAME was just about as monotonous as you can get, and yet I could play it for hours. I think what it all comes down to is that it feels like work to kill the zombies. The swords aren’t slicing off limbs, there are no “one-hit-kills”; you’re just hacking and hacking away in an attempt to whittle down their life-bars with no satisfying payoff when they finally succumb to sweet death. It’s too bad, because the game did have potential. Regardless, this is one that, having played through it, I just can’t recommend.

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Indie Game Review: The $1 Zombie Game

Platform: xBox360
Release Date: 10/06/2011
Cost: $1.00

THE LOWDOWN:
So speaking of games that only cost a dollar… here’s one that hearkens back to the style of the original Playstation. There’s not much by way of storyline… it’s essentially just level after level after level of zombie slaying, within the same confined area. Before each round starts, you get a little snippet of the main character’s journal, which is definitely worth reading, since it gets darkly humourous as the game progresses. Each new round presents you with more, and faster, zombies. Your firearms change as well, giving you a new specialty gun every round, along with a side pistol that has unlimited ammo. It’s pretty brainless, but it’s fun nonetheless. There’s nothing more satisfying than firing a mini-gun into a horde of about twenty zombies and just watching the screen fill up with red mist! Worth every penny.

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Insidious

2010 / d. James Wan
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Effective and downright creepy endeavour from the director who brought us SAW and DEAD SILENCE. When their son falls into an unexplainable catatonic state, Josh and Renai Lambert discover that the cause of their son’s illness is far beyond anything they could have imagined in their worst nightmares. Director Wan succeeds in presenting us with a plethora of surprisingly memorable scenes that have a penchant for resurfacing in the mind during particularly dark and quiet hours. The only complaint is that the film can seem a tad unfocused, as the last half and the first half are so dramatically different. Regardless, a genuinely well-crafted and unsettling horror film. Kudos for the use of Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” which added heavily to the memorability of the flick.

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It’s Alive

1974 / d. Larry Cohen
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What should Frank and Lenore Davis expect while they’re expecting? If your answer is anything other than “the spawn of Satan”, you’re horribly wrong! After a delivery room massacre, the horrific fruit of Frank’s loins is loosed on the city, and begins carrying out an infantile bloodbath. You’ve heard of the “terrible twos“? Well here’s a case of theterrible two-days-old! IT’S ALIVE, despite hiding under the guise of a ridiculous horror film, tackles important issues like familial rejection, the fear of birthing an unhealthy child, and the pressures which stem from accepting responsibility for the actions of your children. Frank, Lenore, and their non-mutated son are all presented as exaggerated sterotypes as they would have existed in a typical 1970s family hierarchy. Frank is a man’s man, whose obligation is to protect his family above all else, whereas Lenore’s maternal instincts drive her to look past the derangement of the baby, and see it for what it essentially is: her child. Though not overly graphic, Rick Baker’s special effects are a pleasure to watch as always, and the film overall makes for an excellent watch. Highly recommended.

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JAWS

1975 / d. Stephen Speilberg
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I’ll admit, I probably went about 12 years in between viewings of JAWS. Not because I dislike the movie by any means, and not because I was too scared of it to watch it a second time; for me, it’s just one of those films that seems to get neglected. So when it was selected as the viewing material for Monster Movie Monday, I was happy to revisit it after all these years and see how it stacked up against my very vague recollection of it. Obviously it’s classic — everything down to the iconic bah-duh… bah-duh… bah-duh bah-duh bah-duh bah-duh – and the quotable dialogue (I too think you’re going to need a bigger boat, Brody). JAWS has a sort of timeless summery feel which makes it familiar and easy to enjoy during the hot months. My problem with JAWS, however, was only reaffirmed after watching it again recently. I can watch the movie and enjoy it, but I can’t pinpoint what genre I’m watching. It’s a weird blend of horror/thriller/drama, and I’ve never personally subscribed to the idea that just because it has a killer shark as its antagonist that we should all-at-once consider it a horror film. It’s not the shark itself that’s scary, it’s the idea of the shark… of something dangerous lurking beneath the water. To me, you could replace the shark with any other monster and the film could be equally tense and unnerving.

All that said, I do like JAWS, even if I do find it genre-confused and silly at times. Would I recommend it for a Monster Movie Monday viewing? Nah. It’s a serious film which demands your attention. Pop in a copy of JAWS 3D if you’re looking for a good group-viewing experience!

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JAWS (1975)

Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb
Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfus

Every year on my birthday, I like to indulge in the finer things. After waking up on a simmering August morning, I take some vitamins, maybe eat some bran, then pop on the 1975 hit summer classic, Jaws. I watch it by myself as it is the only way to watch this film. The suspense is felt at such a greater depth alone, rather than risk watching it with the distraction of other human beings. My father would play the VHS in our living room every summer and would discuss Jaws trivia and general shark information. He recounted the time he first saw the flick on the big screen, when everyone screamed and threw their popcorn at the sight of a decapitated head popping up from a sunken ship.

Before slasher flicks became the mainstream in American horror movies, film makers took a few different routes to create a horrifying experience for their viewers (THE EXORCIST 1973 most notably comes to mind). I believe Jaws is a true horror movie even when it sways to action, drama, adventure and thriller. Produced by David Brown and Richard D. Zanuck, the story is based off of Peter Benchley’s novel “Jaws” and was adapted by a young Steven Spielberg who bit off more than he could chew. Surprisingly, the film became quite the success after countless days wading in the water, and Verna Fields scrambling in the cutting room to finish the project. With Barrie Butler on board as cinematographer, the film is warm and beautiful with terrifying shots set-up to make our stomachs churn. The visual is stimulated with the most simplistic, dark and now iconic two-note sound created by John Williams. Our heart beats faster and faster with each da-duh, da-duh…

On the surface, (no pun intended) the story line is about a shark on a murder spree where three fellows set out to hunt and exterminate the creature on a not-so-perfectly sized boat. Underneath it all, it’s a story of fear and the complexities of humanity. The location is Amity, where the summer is hot and the people need to cool down at its most popular tourist attraction, the beach. The hero of the story is new-to-town police chief named Brody, a family man who values his job but is plagued by a deep seated fear of the water. The villain is mayor Larry Vaughn, an ignorant politician fueled by greed as he refuses to close the beach after mauled up bodies wash along shore. When Brody musters up heroic qualities of conquering his fears, he stands up to the mayor and overcomes the ocean in order to battle a much darker force. Supporting characters include Quint, a gruff seasoned sea-man war veteran and Hooper, a young and rich oceanographer with just enough energy to help chase after a great white.

What Jaws has to offer as a horror movie is terrifying suspense, and chaotic death scenes. Compared to horror movies of modern day, however, the blood and gore is not over-the-top but is used when necessary. The powerful introduction of the film sets the mood. The warmth of a sunset and some guitar strumming relaxes the senses until it is assaulted by the point of view shots of an unseen predator, preying on a young woman swimming in the beach. Her death scene is violent without using a drop of blood. Perhaps one of the most chaotic scenes is during the busiest beach day (my favourite shot in all of film history is Brody’s epiphany from the shore) where young Alex Kintner suffers a visually brutal shark attack. The mix of blood, his bright yellow inflatable, and his dismemberment leave a lasting impression. Later, a discussion ensues over the dissecting of a dead shark, and as the mayor claims, he does not want to see “that little Kintner boy spill out all over the dock”, leaving us with an even gorier picture painted in our imaginations. The death finale of the shark himself, or “Bruce” as they named the mechanical shark behind the scenes, suffers a well orchestrated explosive death, giving the audience a sigh of relief.

In the greater scheme of things, the shark is a symbol in this story. It is the greatest monster in the water, a predator, it is aggressive, hungry, and it knows no fear. It does not understand empathy nor will it give mercy. What is most horrifying of all, is that the shark is also given human qualities. The shark works alone, is methodical, and plans to terrorize his victims in the same neighbourhood. It is the reactions from the people throughout the story that reveal true humanity, to squash the offensive in order to create a form of peace. It’s top of the ocean food chain vs top of the city food chain in this epic story telling of fear.

On my birthday this year, I will enjoy the 1970′s birthday suits, bleeding limbs, the feel of real film before my eyes, and sing “Show Me the Way to Go Home”. I will bask in the glory in the making of and viewing of my favourite horror movie, Jaws.

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Joyride

2001 / d. John Dahl
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Another Leelee Sobieski yarn, yes, but a creepy truck driver pursuing teens after a practical joke gone awry makes up for the young cast. Kinky CB radio innuendo and scary chases ala Duel keep this dark ode to the open road in the plus column. Do however avoid the video sequel JOY RIDE 2: DEAD AHEAD.

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Legion of Monsters TPB

Dennis Hopeless (writer), Juan Doe (artist), Wil Quintana (colours), Dave Lanphear (letters). $15.99

If you’re the person who enjoys having fun while reading your horror, look no further than Marvel’s Legion of Monsters mini-series. Collecting issues #1-4, LoM is a hilariously intriguing look at some of Marvel’s most prominent creatures of the night: The Legion’s leader, the vampire Morbius; with Jack Russell, the Werewolf by Night; The Living Mummy, and Manphibian all leads in the story.

Acting as a monster policing force, the anti-heroes are at work to round up stray monsters and pull them into the depths of New York City where they can live freely. Naturally, something stirs up problems with the underworld leaving the monsters in a state of chaos. Monsters start attacking each other and begin rampaging amongst the surface world.

Enter Elisa Bloodstone – monster slayer. She is set up early in the story as someone who tricks monsters into trying to kill her via stereotypical monster-movie lore:  Elisa dancing in a bedroom in her underwear while the monster sniffs her “innocence” out. Unfortunately for the unnamed monster, this means total doom.

Elisa realizes there is a problem with the monsters and teams up with Morbius’ monster police to help solve the problem. Quickly established as funny with tons of wit, the story turns into a murder mystery with the characters trying to solve the reason why monsters are trying to kill everything.

Writer Dennis Hopeless hits the nail in the coffin with this story. Each page is guaranteed to make you feel worried for the team, wonder what could happen next, or even just laugh out loud.

Monster-driven dialogue is not something that is seen too often with stories, let alone comic books. Hopeless manages to give each character a distinct voice, as well as their own sense of humor. While Morbius and Bloodstone are shown as the leads of the story, the supporting roles are necessary as well as natural feeling as any friendship would be – whether you’re a monster or not.

Playing off that, Hopeless shows the reader that monsters aren’t entirely monsters either. The characters have emotions, feelings, and love for one another. Despite being hideously grotesque, monsters like Manphibian remind the reader of that ‘loser kid’ from grade school who grew up to embrace his loser-dom.  Morbius is smart, witty, and is looking for love in all of the wrong places. Although they are monsters, they are just as human and colorful as everyone else in our lives we could think of.

And colorful does not even begin to explain the excitement and thrills that comes from Juan Doe’s art. Images are flashy, tastefully cartoony, and brilliantly executed. Everything moves with excellent fluidity. Lines are clean when needed and disrupted when required. Doe has such a strong feel about the mood Hopeless wants to create that it would be as if they were in each others heads.

Meanwhile colorist Wil Quintana excels at tying the mood of the story together between Hopeless and Doe. Bright colors are never overdone, while even the darkest of colors still compliment Doe’s pencils and inks. Given the mix of the monsters available, Quintana has a lot of room to play around with colors, and he doesn’t seem to fool around with it at all.

While the series only lasted four issues, the trade paperback is an excellent way to make this book quickly accessible to enjoy at your own leisure and pass around to your friends. Although we may not see anything from the Legion of Monsters any time soon due to poor sales figures, this story stands out as being one of the best monster-books in a long time. Easily re-readable, action-packed, and funny- you’ll be demanding more from the Legion as soon as you close the book.

Grade: 9/10

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Leprechaun

1993 / d. Mark Jones
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Never — and I mean ever – stand between a Leprechaun and their gold. And that’s pretty much the moral of the story right there. But let’s face it, you know going into this thing that you’re not about to watch another CITIZEN KANE… you’re going to watch a b-movie about a malevolent, miserly Irishman who has no pretense about killing you if you steal his Lucky Char—err, treasure. Jennifer Aniston may take top billing, but Warwick Davis is the true star here. Whether he’s spouting Irish puns, shooting festive green lightning out of his fingertips, or inflicting death-by-pogo-stick, he’s always stealing the show! Oddball writing that seems to me almost reminiscent of KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, LEPRECHAUN is campy Irish fun. In fact, you could almost say, “it’s cine-magically delicious!”

…leave me alone, I tried.

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Let the Right One In

2008 / d. Tomas Alfredson
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Poetic, haunting; a horror film which transcends the (quite often) tired banality of vampire movies, and becomes something greater: a work of fine art. Set against the backdrop of a quiet, Swedish winter, it presents us with the story of a lonely adolescent boy (Oskar) who falls in love with the girl-next-door: Eli the vampire. At the very heart of it, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is a compelling and tragic romance: two characters functioning independent of morality or ethics, driven only by desires and needs, and made all the more disturbing by their youth. There are no heroes, only people doing terrible things out of the sense of duty which comes from loving another person unconditionally. This, coupled with the stark examination of betrayal, loneliness, and corruption are what truly make this film disturbing and memorable. The title itself serves as a warning to us, the viewer: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. More than just an admonition against granting vampires permission into our homes, we are also challenged to be careful about who we invite into our lives. Let the right one in. Advice worth heeding.

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Lovely Molly

Written & Directed By: Eduardo Sanchez
Starring:
Gretchen Lodge
Johnny Lewis
Alexandra Holden

Media Reviewed: Preview screening

Destined to live forever in the shadow of The Blair Witch Project (1999), Eduardo Sanchez has delivered a very effective riff on the old haunted house tale with only marginal use of handheld camera footage.  Lovely Molly is Sanchez’s first full length film since the disappointing Chinese ghost story Seventh Moon (2008) and (barring a few missteps) should help him break free from the “found footage” stigma.

Following our introduction to Molly (Gretchen Lodge) (via video camera footage of her unsuccessful suicide attempt) we are taken back several months to her wedding day and introduced to her new husband Tim (Johnny Lewis) and her older sister Hannah (Alexandra Holden).  The newlyweds move into Molly’s childhood home, an ominous dusty grey house in the countryside.  The characters are not fleshed out immediately, we are given more information about them as we need it like Tim’s job as a truck driver (keeping him out of town much of the time), Molly’s job with mall cleaning personnel and her former problems with heroin addiction.  The “less is more” approach that Sanchez based Blair Witch on is used to great organic effect in Lovely Molly and makes us feel that we are a fly on the wall watching the events unfold rather than being told a story.

As the hauntings get worse so too does Molly’s ability to maintain her sanity.  Tim returns home to find her naked and catatonic in her childhood bedroom.  She slips back into heroin use which gives Tim and Hannah the perfect excuse for her increasingly erratic behaviour.  In an attempt to prove that she is not crazy, Molly attempts to record the events with a video camera, of course coming up with nothing.  We’re also shown footage of strange symbols in a cellar beneath the shed, late night prowling through the woods and peeping in on an unnamed neighbouring family.  The date stamp on the footage gives us a sense of the short timeline of events as the video camera becomes both Molly’s diary and confessional.

We learn fairly quickly that the likely haunter is Molly and Hannah’s father who sexually abused Molly when she was a child.  The ghost seems determined to continue the abuse from beyond the grave and even follows Molly to work.  As she unravels, Molly alternates between victim and aggressor as the evil spirit takes over; she pleads to Tim for help and then attempts to seduce the local pastor.

The performances in Lovely Molly are a bit uneven but the atmosphere and sound design make up for it, firmly keeping us in the story.  A small quibble I had with the otherwise brilliant score by Tortoise was the regular use of incredibly piercing high frequency tones during most of the “scary” parts, I assume they were used to create tension in the audience but they became increasingly grating as the film went on, which, I suppose, may have been the intention.  The ending was a little bit of a letdown and includes an unnecessary reveal but is suitably bleak and leaves us wanting more in the best possible way.  Sanchez has finally risen above his “one-hit-wonder” status and I look forward to his next effort, I just hope this time we won’t have to wait more than a decade.

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