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Fright Fest 2018: Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)

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Vampire in Brooklyn wasn’t the vampire movie we wanted, but as far as 1995 goes, it was the vampire movie we needed. Nor is Vampire in Brooklyn the most notorious on our vampire movie lineup everyone loves to trash–that honor has been reserved for another movie you’ll see in the weeks to come. While not the most hated, Vampire in Brooklyn certainly doesn’t doesn’t deserve the hate it does get. 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, 2 stars on IMDb, and 1 star from Roger Ebert, I’m not feeling much love out there. 1995 produced some really great movies, Se7en for one. Braveheart also came out that year, as well as Apollo 13HEAT, and Batman: Forever (yes, I included Batman Forever, get over it). Those are some heavy hitters. But as far as horror (Se7en should be in that category), the pickings were slim. We had maybe four or five good ones, including Lord of Illusion, Tales from the Hood, Demon Knight, The Prophecy, and Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh. All great. All super dark in material and context. Horror is by nature dark and heavy and somber, but between real life horrors, the Oklahoma City Bombing and OJ being found innocent, we needed a break from reality. For me, Vampire in Brooklyn was a welcomed break from the real world.  Continue Reading

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Fright Fest 2018: The Hunger (1983)

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The vampire has been a popular recurring theme since movies began. Even before the most iconic bloodsucker, Bela Lugosi, appeared in DRACULA (1931), there was NOSFERATU (1922). Every generation has created its own image of the monster, either as a new adaptation of Stoker’s novel, or, more interesting, as some new twist on the theme. The vampire seems to be unique among the classic monsters in that it is simultaneously feared and desired. The vampire can be seen as some existential romantic figure who promises victory over death, or as a parasite spreading eternal damnation. In one figure is wrapped all our obsessions with love, sex, death and disease. Each subsequent vampire movie ends up being a reflection of the current generation’s phobias and desires.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

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I don’t expect you to understand.

I’ve discussed Shadow of the Vampire – at some length – with some excellent podcasters, all of whom have considerably better insight into this movie than I. To find that full conversation, please click here. What follows truncates some of what you’ll hear there, along with some additional thoughts of my own. Standing on the shoulders of giants, etc. Thanks to James, Jack, and Daniel.

 What follows contains spoilers. Go watch the movie.

 Shadow of the Vampire is a seriously strange movie.

Made in 2000, directed by E. Elias Merhige and written by Steven Katz, Shadow of the Vampire is a fictionalized account of the filming of 1922’s Nosferatu. It stars John Malkovich as Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, the driven director determined to create his masterpiece vampire movie at any cost, and Willem Defoe as Max Shreck, the theatre actor Murnau has discovered to play the titular vampire.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Stake Land (2010)

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Starring: Nick Damici, Connor Paolo, Michael Cerveris, Sean Nelson, Kelly McGillis, and Danielle Harris

Written By: Nick Damici & Jim Mickle

Directed By: Jim Mickle

Synopsis:  After a plague turns America into a realm of vampires, a hunter (Nick Damici) of the depraved creatures travels cross-country with an orphan (Connor Paolo) he rescued, searching for a safe haven.

So, I thought for Fright Fest we were taking a look at vampire movies? I watched this film for the first time specifically for this review. I had heard amazing things about this movie, most of which I completely agree with. However, in my opinion, this IS NOT a vampire movie. This is a zombie apocalypse film. Yes, the creatures have fangs and are called vamps. Yes, this is a gruesome, tear you limb from limb kind of take on one of the most famous horror creatures that we know of. However, to me this isn’t about vampires. The creatures barely resemble anything like what we know. This could be good for some, but for me, it didn’t work.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Near Dark (1987)

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Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, Strange Days, Zero Dark Thirty

Starring: Adrian Pasdar (Heroes, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Solarbabies), Jenny Wright (Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Young Guns 2, Lawnmower Man), Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Pumpkinhead, Hard Target), Bill Paxton (Aliens, Frailty, Predator 2), Jennette Goldstein (Aliens, Terminator 2, Leathal Weapon 2), and Tim Thomerson (Dollman, Trancers Film Series)

Written By: Kathryn Bigelow (Blue Steel, The Loveless) and Eric Red (The Hitcher, Bad Moon, Body Parts)

Release Year: 1987

Growing up, my dad and I didn’t agree on many films. It might surprise one to know, but a preacher and his horror loving son aren’t going to have a lot in common when it comes to cinematic tastes, or much of anything really. Also, if you spell “Horror” a little different, that sentence takes on a whole new meaning, someone hit the rimshot sound effect for me. Despite the gulf between us, we did manage to connect on a handful of movies, The Last Starfighter¸ Enemy Mine, Predator, and the one you happen to be reading about right now, Near Dark. Maybe it was because the vampires didn’t act like the typical, supernatural vampires, maybe it’s because the western style distracted him from the fact he was watching a horror movie, or maybe he just liked it and I should stop analyzing why to better appreciate that we had one more movie to add to our very short list.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Underworld (2003)

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Directed by Len Wiseman

Written by Len Wiseman, Kevin Grevioux & Danny McBride

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Shane Brolly, Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy

The Gist: A war has been raging between vampires and lycans for centuries though there has been peace for many years until lycans come out of hiding once more. Selene, a vampire warrior, and daughter of one of the most powerful vampire lords, Viktor, finds herself in the middle of the war and a mystery when she meets Michael who is wanted by both sides.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998)

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One thing horror fans love to do is debate which film marked what is historically known as The Decline of John Carpenter. Some believe it began with the final chapter of Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy, In the Mouth of Madness. Others waggle disdainful fingers at his comedy misstep, Memoirs of an Invisible Man. There’s never a right answer to speculation such as this, but one thing practically everyone agrees on is that Vampires does not belong in the conversation when discussing John Carpenter’s classics.

To a certain extent, it’s a salient point. Carpenter’s latter-day career has often been considered inferior by hardcore fans of the director, preferring to focus on his output during the 1980s. The 1990s were a time when Carpenter could have used a monster hit. Vampires wasn’t it, only recouping its $20 million production budget by a few hundred thousand dollars. General audiences were less than impressed, giving the film a Cinemascore grade of D+.

There’s a reason for this, but it may not be the one you’re expecting. That’s because Vampires isn’t a horror movie.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Thirst (2009)

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(This review contains SPOILERS.)

In most bloodsucking horror fare, narcissism and vampirism make for logical bedfellows – after all, how wouldn’t immortality place a chip on the inheritor’s shoulder? Even characters as ingratiating as those in Daughters of Darkness hint at an egotism stemming from their ability to live life on their own terms. Whether narcissism is conveyed through a guise of modesty or grandiosity, it all boils down to one unified sentiment: “fuck you – I can do whatever I want.”

Park Chan-wook’s Thirst takes vampiric narcissism to unpredictable places. Three-quarters of the way through my most recent viewing, I jotted down “no likeable characters” in my notes – surprised that it had taken me that long to consciously notice. Perhaps it’s the clever metaphor of vampirism as a stand-in for human relationships – and the ecstasy and pain contained within – that, despite all the gory and surrealistic imagery on display, grounds the plot in a sense of reality.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Let The Right One In (2008)

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Starring: Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Ika Nord, & Peter Carlberg

Written By: John Ajvide Lindqvist

Directed By: Tomas Alfredson

Synopsis: When Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a sensitive, bullied 12-year-old boy living with his mother in suburban Sweden, meets his new neighbor, the mysterious and moody Eli (Lina Leandersson), they strike up a friendship. Initially reserved with each other, Oskar and Eli slowly form a close bond, but it soon becomes apparent that she is no ordinary young girl. Eventually, Eli shares her dark, macabre secret with Oskar, revealing her connection to a string of bloody local murders.

I first saw Let The Right One In a little over a year ago. I had heard about it of course, the film received TONS of critical and audience acclaim from its festival runs and initial opening. It was kind of hard to not hear about this new vampire romance film that was (and in my opinion still is) generating quite a following. Unfortunately for the timing of this film’s release, another vampire romance story had been making waves with a much, much wider audience. Yes, I am referring to Twilight (2008). However, we are not here to discuss sparkling vampires.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

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Starring: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement, Jonny Brugh, Ben Fransham, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, and Stu Rutherford

Written and Directed by: Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement

What We Do In The Shadows is a mocumentary about four vampires who live in a “flatting situation” in New Zealand, and it’s quite possibly the best vampire film in existence. It’s a comedy that mostly centres around friendship and the various bizarre issues experienced through life as a vampire. Each of the main characters is ingeniously based on familiar ‘vampire types’ in popular culture, and are styled and dressed according to the time period in which they were transformed. We have Petyr, an 8000 year-old ‘Nosferatu’ type, resembling Count Orlok. Viago is an 18th century dandy, similar to Louis and Lestat from Interview with the Vampire. Deacon was a Nazi vampire. Vladislav is based on Dracula (the Francis Ford Coppola version). Then we have Nick, who is turned into a vampire during ‘filming’, and is the self-professed ‘Twilight type’. The story centres on the group in their everyday life and leads up to ‘The Unholy Masquerade’, an exclusive supernatural ball. Along the way, we meet side characters such as other vampires, werewolves (“not swear wolves!”), familiars, victims, and Stu, Nick’s human friend.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

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The blood is the life….

The movie starts with a tragedy. A suicide and the damning of a soul. How can a church whom the count fights for damn the soul of the woman he loves? Feeding from the blood of God’s precious child he becomes immortal, but at what cost? He lives centuries waiting to reclaim his love which it turns out is Wilhelmina Harker. Is this a love story or a horror story? Blood and wine and evil create a story that isn’t by the  book of the same name. It is in my opinion more along the lines of Anne Rice with the love story. Is this saying that the movie isn’t good? No! Not at all! This is the movie that sealed my love for gothic horror and horror in general. Sadie Frost was possibly my first horror movie crush.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Lifeforce (1985)

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Lifeforce

Released: 1985

Directed by: Tobe Hooper

Written by: Dan O’ Bannon and Don Jakoby

Starring: Steve Railsback; Peter Firth; Aubrey Morris; Mathilda May; Patrick Stewart

After  Poltergeist  was released to critical and box office success in 1982, director Tobe Hooper was a hot commodity.*  Having already established himself as a genre master with his debut film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,  the twisted backwoods horror Eaten Alive   (which featured an early appearance by a very young Robert Englund), a superb television miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and the underappreciated (and unnervingly creepy) classic The Funhouse, his collaboration with Steven Spielberg seemed to set Hooper on a much deserved and long overdue transition into the mainstream spotlight.  Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Dracula (1931)

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Behold! Dracula, the movie that launched a twenty-three year progression of monster movies we call Universal Classics. Who could have predicted the success despite a rather tremendous stage career of not only the film but also the glowing eyed antagonist, Bela Lugosi? Dracula, the dashing, mysterious godfather of modern horror cinema, released at the Roxy Theater in New York City, on February 12, 1931. Even the cleverly crafted “fainting” rumors and “on-call” medical staff in the lobby orchestrated by nervous executives, hoping to induce some natural sense of morbid curiosity, was unnecessary. According to film historian Michael Fitzgerald, within the first 48 hours of Dracula’s release, the Roxy Theater had sold over 50,000 tickets. Horror had just become mainstream. Dracula’s acclaim paved the way for the other classics we’ve grown to love, our other Universal Studios Monsters, such as: Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Wolfman, each owing their existence to the success of one film, even if said film wasn’t entirely all that great. There were some issues, on and off stage. But I think, by and large, the success, as it began at first, was due to the period in which the film released. Lets take a look back in time (key Twilight Zone theme).  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: JASON X (2001).

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There seems to be a reoccurring joke among horror fans. When a franchise goes to die, it goes to die in space. I’m not sure which franchise started it. Maybe when Critters went into outer space in Critters 4 (1991), or maybe it was Leprechaun 4 (1997)…but to be fair, this series died waaaaay before then. Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996) went into space, however brief. And truth be told, that movie was pretty darn good. However the joke started it would seem a fan favorite amongst the slasher sub-genre ALSO decided to venture out into space. Friday the 13th part X upon their 10th film explored where no slasher had gone before. Now, to be clear, the movie was titled Jason X, just like with Jason Goes to Hell (as apposed to Friday the 13th part 9), due to a lack of property rights with Paramount. They were able to snag the characters, or character, but not the franchised title as a true Friday the 13th. Despite that, fans have pretty much just grouped them all together. Not caring for all the boring legality. With all that settled, lets get back to what we’re really here for. Was Jason X good? Or did the franchise die in space? Heaven help us, we’re going to find out together.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: FREDDY VS. JASON (2003)

[Probably some spoilers—like you give a fuck, bitch (Freddy voice)]

 

Okay, when this came out, I’d seen every film in the two series this was a crossover of. It would be hard to say which of the two had held up the most, and neither would qualify as serious horror properties by the time this came about. But by then that wasn’t really the point. Not for myself or most fans I knew, at least.

The first few films in each series (well, probably first one or two for Freddy) were pretty serious, dark horror films that happened to be about teenagers frolicking and getting horribly slaughtered. They both became somewhat tongue-in-cheek affairs the further they went on, then eventually each had a remake of some sort, and just before this crossover, Nightmare had what I felt was a very well done return to serious territory that was also “meta”-rrific and a step outside the canon. Craven himself directed that one, and it showed. Actually to this day the only one of these films I haven’t seen is the remake of Nightmare, but I’ve heard I really haven’t missed much. I personally even enjoyed the Friday the 13th sort-of remake reboot-ening, but only saw it once and wasn’t exactly sober, so be gentle.

So, Full Disclosure™—while I have love for both of these characters and properties, I personally would own up to landing pretty squarely in the Team Jason camp—Get It? ‘Camp’? We try to have fun here…

The real question, though, is: does this crossover live up to what people enjoy about each franchise and character and make for an enjoyable film on its own?

Well, heck-a-doodle-doo-doo-muh-bob-a-reeni—let’s find out what I thought, shall we?  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Jigsaw (2017)

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The Jigsaw killer strikes again a decade after his death, setting up several traps for five people who need to atone for their sins. This film follows a male and a female forensic pathologist as they help uncover clues as to how the Jigsaw killer has returned from the dead. Meanwhile, a team of detectives suspect that these two are the copycat killers. Find out for yourself whether or not Jigsaw faked his death! I mean… he is the only one able to do something like this, right? Or did he set up enough secret traps before his death to last a lifetime?

First, let’s discuss a little bit about the films prior to Jigsaw. The original film, Saw, was the most unique out of the lot. The budget wasn’t extremely high, and in comparison to the following films it did not nearly have the amount of gore that this series is so famous for. Most of the films follow an ongoing detective investigation trying to find the Jigsaw killer and rescue those still alive while we watch them try to escape the traps that the Jigsaw killer and his accomplices set up for them.  Continue Reading

Reviews in the Machine: The Ridge by Jeffery X Martin

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For those who know me understand, I will never win awards for the worlds fastest reader. I see other bibliophiles and their Goodreads accomplishments and marvel. My own wife can sit down and consume a 800 page mega-novel in the span of a few days. Its insane. I don’t get how its even possible. But hey, to each their own pace, right? So, when a fast read, and I mean a good fast read, comes along, its worth celebrating. Such was the case when I started Jeffery X Martin’s new book, The Ridge on a Saturday morning and finished that night.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Scream 3 (2000)

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What do you get when you take a ghost mask, a voice-changer, and a knife — and then multiply it by three? Scream 3, of course!

This film opens with a scene somewhat mirroring the original opening scene from the very first Scream movie, but with a twist — the whole “Wanna play a game?” scenario with everything starting off somewhat flirty and harmless. This time, though, the killer calls Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) saying that he’s outside of his girlfriend’s bathroom. Of course, when Cotton hears this he rushes home to his girlfriend’s rescue… only to find her hiding, and, unknowingly, with the killer still in the house. Shortly after, they are both attacked, and neither make it out alive.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Se7en (1995)

 

While slasher films can be gritty they mostly stay within the realm of hokey, not in a bad way, but in a fun and enduring way. Slashers are those movies we watch when we want to turn our brains off for a while and watch some masked burnt mysterious whatever maniac do horrible things to teenagers. Serial killer movies however, while can be equally hokey, normally tend to lean towards the more serious of the two. Most serial killer movies that I’ve seen are dark and intrinsically layered films that force me to keep my brain working, to watch out for the clues, and to digest whatever metaphor or symbolism packed in bloody imagery that the director is intending for me to swallow. We’re talking Silence of the Lambs, Zodiac, Identity, American Psycho, Henry, and the list goes on. Se7en is no different.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Friday the 13th part 2 (1981)

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A quick warning: this article spoils Friday the 13th Part 2 from hell to breakfast. If you’ve not seen this movie, maybe give this a miss.

“Jason was dead to begin with… this must be distinctly understood, or else nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate” — Charles Dickens.

I know. You’re a horror fan. You love the old school stuff, especially those great iconic slashers from the Eighties. There’s that Halloween Blu-Ray collection on your shelf, complete with the sound-corrected Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6. You’ve got a Freddy Kreuger glove. You use it to scare your little niece on holidays. And you absolutely love Jason. He’s Jiminy Cricket with a machete, the bloody enforcer of all the morals you rebelled against as a teenager. Don’t do drugs. Don’t have pre-marital sex. Don’t be fat or offensive in any way. Conform or be cast out. Jason Fucking Voorhees. He is the physical embodiment of the entire Reagan Administration, and he’s the best, right?  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : You’re Next (2011)

next3Starring:  Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, A.J. Bowen, and Joe Swanberg

Written By:  Simon Barrett

Directed By: Adam Wingard

Synopsis: Aubrey and Paul Davison plan to celebrate their wedding anniversary at their remote weekend estate. Unfortunately, the festivities take a terrible turn for the worse when their home is invaded by a group of masked individuals armed with knives and crossbows.

My favorite sub-genre of Horror are slashers. As we all know, the slasher film had its hay-day in the 80’s but every once in a while a fun modern slasher comes along and hits the world of cinema like a breath of fresh air. I was born at the end of the 80’s so I was really only able to enjoy watching these films on tv or going to my local Blockbuster or Hollywood Video and renting every slasher that I could get my hands on.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975)

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“The Legend of Lizzie Borden” from 1975, directed by Paul Wendkos, was a movie I had been dying to watch, both because I like to stomach anything Lizzie Borden-related and due to actress Elizabeth Montgomery. I’ve always been a fan of hers from growing up watching re-runs of “Bewitched” and she starred in the lead role as Lizzie Borden. “The Legend of Lizzie Borden” came out when I was just one-year-old, so I wasn’t one of those crowded around the TV watching it on ABC Movie of the Week when it aired, but I had read just how much it would have been controversial at the time for how much violence it showed. Violence, by the way, that doesn’t hold a candle to what we watch now, or would back then as the ‘80s approached, in terms of slasher films. If I had a been a bit older, we would have never been allowed to watch it in my house anyway. Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Red Dragon (2002)

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Red Dragon (2002) has the unenviable task of following in the footsteps of the instant classic and award-winning The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

The novel of the same name by Thomas Harris was the first in the Hannibal Lecter series and takes place prior to The Silence of the Lambs, even though the movie adaptation came out 11 years later. A previous adaptation of the novel was released prior to Lambs in 1986 under the Manhunter title, starring William Petersen as lead character Will Graham before Petersen went on to be a star on the hit TV show CSI.

While Manhunter has gone on to have a cult following in recent years, it barely made a blip on the radar of most moviegoers, earning just a few million dollars at the box office. So of course someone in Hollywood decided we needed another adaptation of the book starring Hopkins again as Lecter.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Friday the 13th part 5 (1985)

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Horror fans can be divided on a lot of different things. The works of Master of Macabre Stephen King comes to mind. Remakes and reboots of beloved classics such as A Nightmare of Elm Street, The Omen, or the upcoming release of another take on Dario Argento’s masterpiece Suspiria can conjure quick debate. We all have our tastes on what is good and what we think is not good. Be that as it may, there are also flicks in which bring instant rejoicing or equally jovial disdain. Take for instance, I believe a majority of horror fans would agree collectively that John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) is a treasured cult classic. Or that The Exorcist is one of the scariest movies ever made (sure, there’s always that one jerk who denies the truth). And the same goes for the ones we agree we don’t like, such as Nine Lives starring…Paris Hilton (ugh), Shyamalan’s The Happening, or even Exorcist II: The Heretic. This also applies among fans of the Friday the 13th series, while the best ones are hotly debated, the worst is widely agreed upon. And so on this Friday the 13th I thought I’d talk about the one everyone loves to hate, Part 5: A New Beginning. Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Sleepaway Camp (1983)

[YEAH, I’M SPOILING THE BEST PART… ‘CAUSE WHAT ELSE IS THERE IN THIS ONE?]

Okay, being totally honest—I had only seen the very last scene from this film before watching the whole thing a few nights ago. I’d stumbled onto it in some list of shocking horror moments or something and wasn’t worried about it being spoiled, so I watched it. That scene stuck with me, and also made me (mistakenly!) assume this was a disturbing, dark film throughout. Hahahaha… No. Not at all. That’s not to say it’s bad… but I think the backwards way I experienced it actually says a lot about this film and its legend, if you can call it that. This is more like a Troma film for the most part with a few decent kills and one very effective, weird scene.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : High Tension (2003)

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In an early scene of HIGH TENSION, a man in a creepy van has sex with a severed head and then drops it outside before driving off. The sadistic violence is at the core of the films in the French Extreme movement. However, movies like HIGH TENSION, MARTYRS, and INSIDE aren’t just about how much gore they can show, but about stripping everything down and pushing the audience’s tolerance to the limits while still being visually stunning at times.

Co-writer and Director, Alexandre Aja borrowed from Dean Koontz’s book, INTENSITY, for the first half of the film but quickly veers off into his own material. The surprise ending is pretty much exposed in the beginning of the film, but it still works The audience is left uncertain of the truth of what they are watching. Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Terror Firmer (1999)

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Now THIS is my kind of film. It’s 124 minutes of the stupidest, most offensive garbage I’ve ever seen – and, trust me, I’ve seen a LOT. As a taster, the top-rated IMDB review ends with the line: “How many ‘eating faeces’ scenes can a normal person watch before going insane?”

Cheap, nasty, and utterly repellent, this Tro-masterpiece is for fans of early John Waters, early Peter Jackson, and general trash aficionados.

Terror Firmer is a film made by the infamously tasteless Troma studio. It’s also the Troma film to end all Troma films, and piles atrocity upon puerile atrocity, packages it in a box of provocation, and decorates that box with a bow made of congealed bodily fluids. It’s as silly and outrageously violent as you’d expect, and tells the tale of how a Troma film production is thwarted by the antics of a deranged sexual sadist who keeps slaughtering cast members and crew. Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Psycho (1960)

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Psycho is a psychological suspense/horror film produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1960.  It is based on the Robert Bloch novel of the same name, published the year before; the novel, in turn, was based on the Ed Gein murders.

Ed Gein was a serial killer in Wisconsin in the 1950s.  A ‘mama’s boy,’ Gein was devastated by the death of his mother in 1945, and felt all alone in the world; when she was alive, she was a domineering, prudish woman, teaching him that all women were sexually promiscuous instruments of the devil.

Soon after her death, Ed began making a “woman suit” so he could “be” his mother by crawling into a woman’s skin.  For this purpose, he tanned the skins of women.  He also admitted to robbing nine graves.  Body parts were found all over his house as ghoulish works of art.  These macabre crimes were the inspiration not only for Psycho, but also The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Buffalo Bill character in Silence of the Lambs, and numerous other horror movies.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Reivew: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)

[95 minutes. R. Director: Samuel Bayer]

Within the past two decades, horror remakes have gone from distinctive, auteur-driven works to mass-produced product. Horror remakes prior to the millennium were created with specific intent: Werner Herzog’s 1979 rendition of Nosferatu reconsidered F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film with improved technology; John Carpenter’s re-take of The Thing updated a 1950s alien-invasion flick into a transformative missive on assimilation and isolation; and David Cronenberg brought gravitas to his FX-heavy, 1986 version of The Fly.

Heck, even Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of Psycho was noteworthy for its big-studio gamble on a film that amounted to an elaborate “because I can” technical experiment.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Intruder (1989)

IntruderWith Intruder, Scott Spiegel, co-writer of Evil Dead 2, made a taut, humorous, reasonably thrilling offer to the slasher genre just as the 80’s came to a close. Boasting a decent cast of horror regulars such as Elizabeth Cox (The Wraith, Night of the Creeps), Dan Hicks (Darkman, Evil Dead 2), and of course Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi, and Bruce Campbell, this film is sure to entertain most fans of 80s horror.

DISCLAIMER: If you are drawn to the film because Bruce Campbell’s name is on the cover, you should know up front that he only appears for a short cameo at the very end. However, there’s quite a bit of Elizabeth, Sam, and Ted to hold you over.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: MANHUNTER (1986)

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You Owe Me Awe!

Manhunter (1986) – essay by Kit Power

Expect spoilers. If you don’t want to be spoiled, go watch the damn movie. I’d recommend it.

As soon as the list of movie titles went up for this project, I knew I wanted to cover Natural Born Killers. And I had initially promised myself that’d do – there’s a lot of talented writers in the machine mean pool these days, and it’s not like I don’t have the odd other project to be getting on with.

And then I saw that Manhunter was on the list.

So here we are.

And it’s impossible for me to talk about the movie without talking about it’s more famous cousin, Silence Of The Lambs – covered on this site with admirable enthusiasm by Chad A Clarke. I don’t have much to add to his piece, but I do want to note that like many, if not most people, I saw …Lambs first, and discovered Manhunter later – my memory is as part of a late night film season on Channel 4.  Continue Reading

THE BRIDES OF DRACULA w/ guest Ian McKinney

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When I was asked to do this review I was initially reluctant, as it would mean re-watching a movie I remember fondly from my childhood. And rather than viewing it with a sense of nostalgia I was being asked to be analytical, and I was concerned that it would be found wanting. Often the passage of time can be unkind to treasured memories, especially when they are examined in the cold light of day. Luckily my fears were unfounded, I watched it – and loved it.

Over the years, the popularity of Hammer Horror Movies has ebbed and flowed with the fashions of the times. Horror has become more realistic and often sadistic, consequently the theatrical, and somewhat simplistic morals of the Hammer Horrors seemed antiquated and naïve. Although after watching this movie, I can recommend it to anyone who enjoys entertainment more than prolonged scenes of torture and mutilation.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Jason Lives (1986)

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Absence makes the heart grow fonder: a quote that always reign true when it comes to issues of the heart and mind. We miss what makes us comfortable.

In 1984, Paramount killed off Jason Voorhees—they wanted to take Friday the 13th in a new direction; after four films, the studio decided to take a chance and introduce a new killer, it didn’t sit right with fans. What did they want? What did they need? Jason, of course.

Jason made his mighty screen come back on August, 1st 1986.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: The Funhouse 1981

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This was a first time watch for me, and I have to say, while very formulaic, it is a fun watch. Tobe Hooper was a master of using atmosphere, lighting and soundscapes over gore and jump scares.  This little gem is sandwiched between two of Hooper’s bigger known films, the made-for-t.v. Salem’s Lot in 1979 and Poltergeist in 1982.  Of course, his Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974 broke massive ground in the history of horror cinema.  While Funhouse is not in my eyes a true slasher, it seems that there were, in the history of this fun house, other “accidents and incidents,” which I suppose makes Frank and his dad serial killers?

The story is a tried and true trope of teenagers sneaking around where they ought not be.  Amy (Elizabeth Berridge), Buzz (Cooper Huckabee), Liz (Largo Woodruff) and Ritchie (Miles Chapin) go to the carnival together…instead of the movie.  Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Scream 2 (1997)

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As a general rule, I’m not a fan of sequels when it comes to horror movies, especially when we are talking about slasher films. Mostly because it rarely feels like the narrative from the original film is going anywhere as much as simply being restarted. Sequels are constantly criticized as being little more than cash grabs from studios, trying to continue to profit off a successful property. And I think that horror is one realm where this criticism is more valid. Horror is one genre where sequels often have the feel of rinse and repeat, as it isn’t at all unusual for horror franchises to make it to seven, eight or nine films. For me, proper horror is quick and brutal and once it’s done, the stage is cleared.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Friday the 13th PART III 3D (1982)

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As a horror fan I feel rather fortunate that so many of my favorite thrillers released on the year of my birth. A quick Google re-search will reveal a VHS candy store of goody gore and lovable murderers, from The Thing to Poltergeist to Halloween III (the one without Myers) to Amityville II: The Possession (the one that was like The Exorcist but with incest) to The New York Ripper to Pieces, Parasite, The Slumber Party Massacre, and…Friday the 13th…PART 3 (cue groovy disco music). And among the other entries in the franchise, PART 3 is I would say my second favorite. There are many factors that play into my rating but unless you’ve seen it you probably won’t understand. So do me a solid and go pop this flayed VHS cause this review will be chopped full of SPOILERS. Readers…you have been warned!  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Candyman (1992)

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Let’s get right to the point. Candyman (based on the story The Forbidden by the timeless Clive Barker) scared the shit out of me when I first watched it. I’m not sure if it was the Deep baritone voice of Tony Todd as the terrifying title character which is the first dialogue we hear as we see an army of bees crawl over each other, or the delicate musical score by Phillip Glass which was subtle and really got under the skin. I remember my sister had been to the cinema to watch it and was said it was the most frightening thing she had seen at the time. I was, of course, too young to go and watch it so when I saw the VHS pop up at our local video shop I couldn’t wait to watch it. Thankfully, due to the lax attitude of the owner of our shop and such things as certification being less of an issue at the time, I sat down to watch the film as a young kid who didn’t know any better. When it was done, I agreed with my sister. It was horrifying and stayed with me for some time.

As it happens, I haven’t watched it again since and so in doing this review decided to pick it up in super shiny Blu ray so I could see if it was still as scary the second time around.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

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Starring: Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, William Vail, Teri McMinn, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, John Dugan, and Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface.

Written By: Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper

Directed By: Tobe Hooper

Synopsis: A brother and sister set out with their friends to check on the grave of their grandfather after hearing about instances of grave robbing and vandalism. After taking a detour to their family’s old farmhouse, they discover and soon become victims to a family of crazed, murderous cannibals.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: The Collector (2009)

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After making a splash with their major studio debut, Feast, and shouldering the burden of continuing the formidable Saw series from the third entry on, screenwriters Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton came into their own with the release of The Collector in 2009. Dunstan directed the film from a script co-written with Melton that was originally pitched as a Saw prequel. The end result was a horror movie similar to the Saw films in its levels and methods of violence and gore, but with a chillingly different breed of killer.

And in the annals of horror, he and the film he dominantes are barely a footnote.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Friday the 13th (1980), part III

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These holidays (F13) are so few and far between, I couldn’t resist saying a few words about one of my all time favorite horror movie franchises. As a younger fan of the slasher genre, I watched more of Nightmare on Elm Street. In a way, i think that’s because Freddy is more “kid stuff,” especially the flicks starting with part 3, aka Dream Warriors. It became more and more of a build up to those sweet one-liners, such as: “Wanna suck face?” or “How’s this for a wet dream?” or “Welcome to prime time bitch!” and then breaking into that cackling laughter whilst the soon to be dispatched teen flees for however many seconds of life they have left. Good times. But i think it was around 1994-95 when my allegiances changed when Jason Goes to Hell released to VHS. Somehow, one of my buddies (Matt) was able to get his hands on a copy. Fangoria was still really popular back then too and they had done a full spread on the movie. Needless to say, from that moment forward, my slasher heart belonged to Jason Voorhees.   Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review: Friday The 13th (1980), part two

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As today is Friday, the Thirteenth, we had a moral and ethical obligation to pay homage to one of the biggest slasher films of all time. So of course we had more than  one angle on the issue.

What scares me?

That’s a big question, one that I would have a hard time capturing in one essay. So in the context of this review, what originally scared me when I was introduced to this horror genre in which I now reside?

Horror has had a long and storied history in the cinema, dating back over a hundred years of style, mood and atmosphere. And I was lucky enough to board the ship right in the middle of one of the renaissances of the genre.

What scared the hell out of me was the realism of movies in the late seventies and eighties. Check out the work of George Romero and Wes Craven and you can see what I’m talking about.  These films weren’t about the beautiful fantasy and magic of Hollywood. This was about making you feel like you stumbled across a crime in progress and you don’t dare move, lest you be spotted yourself. This is about being placed in front of something that you can’t bring yourself to turn away from.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Friday The 13th (1980), part one

F13 4Tonight we take a look at one of the big four.  I mean, really, when one hears the word SLASHER, four characters jump to mind, right? Freddy Krueger, Michael Meyers, Leatherface and of course, Jason Voorhees.

There are countless other stalker killers out there, but for some reason, these four are synonymous with the word slasher.  It doesn’t seem to matter that there were slashers before and after these classics were made, these are the Grandaddies of the slasher family. Take it or leave it.  One might make a case for Chucky, The Firefly Clan and others, and while terrifying and time-tested, in my opinion, Chucky has become a lampoon of himself and The Fireflys were only in two(?) movies.  That’s not to say that Jason and Freddy haven’t become parodies either, but that’s a topic for another day.  Today we talk about the birth of all things Camp Crystal Lake and why teenagers of the 80’s didn’t want to go to camp.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Child’s Play (1988)

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Starring: Brad Dourif, Alex Vincent, Chris Sarandon, Catherine Hicks

Directed by: Tom Holland

Written by: Don Mancini, John Lafia, Tom Holland

What begins like a crime thriller quickly escalates into a bizarre horror about a dying murderer who manages to use black magic to transfer his consciousness into a ‘Good Guys’ doll. ‘Chucky’ finds a home with 6-year-old Andy, initially befriending and manipulating him into helping him commit more murders, and then Andy himself becomes the target as Chucky plans to transfer his consciousness into him before he can be killed in his doll form.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Bay Of Blood (1971)

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Fans of Bava’s films know they are more about style than plot. The revolutionary use of color and framing create mood and atmosphere that leave a deep impression.  A BAY OF BLOOD is loose and sometimes confusing, but it set the tone for many important films to come after it. The main film is, of course, Sean Cunningham’s FRIDAY THE 13th.

A BAY OF BLOOD centers around the inhabitants of a small bay. Countess Frida, (Isa Miranda,) is murdered by her husband, who is then himself murdered. The murders set off a chaotic chain of events as neighbors and family members fight and back stab each other for control of the bay. Among them is Simon, (Claudio Camaso,) the Countess’s illegitimate son; Renata (Claudine Auger),  his step sister, and her husband Albert (Luigi Pistilli); Frank (Chris Avram,) a greedy businessman and his secretary Laura (Anna Maria Rosati), and card reader Anna (Laura Betti), spreading doom and gloom with her insect loving husband. There is also a side story of two young couples camping out in one of the empty houses and falling prey to the killer. The ending involving Renata and Albert’s children also makes no real sense.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

 

[ blahblahblah Spoilers Probably yaddayaddayadda ]

This is a weird one, you guys. Not in a deliberate, fun way. More in a… I-have-no-idea-what-the-director-was-thinking-half-the-time kind of way. I’m going to keep myself to the format I’ve been using for the most part and not get too far ahead of myself this time. I’ll just say this one might be a little less meaty than my usual review as I’m not sure how much I can say about this one. We’ll see what happens as I get further down this cuppa (Joe)…  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

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Rob Zombie knows movies, and he takes his knowledge of and passion for film and applies it to his own projects.  Sometimes he is successful in his execution, sometimes he isn’t.  It all boils down to personal preference.  When it comes to The Devil’s Rejects, I believe he was successful.

This film came out in 2005 and is the follow-up to House of 1000 Corpses.  It follows the Firefly family as they attempt to escape the law.  The film is a mash up of different genres, including crime films and sexploitation, drawing heavily from slasher films with murder and gore to beat the band.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: SCHRAMM (1993)

 

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[65 minutes. Unrated. Director: Jorg Buttgereit]

Sometimes – okay, a lot of the time – I question the logic that drives my physical-media collection. Why are some DVDs more disposable and trade-worthy than others? Why are others as immovable as Stonehenge? There are films that sit on my shelves, never leaving the shrink-wrap; and others that are so mood-specific, I only re-watch after a passage of years. Salo is a great film, no question about it, but two hours of feel-good vibes it most certainly ain’t.

The same applies to the work of director Jorg Buttgereit.

After a string of shorts, his career began proper with the worldwide-controversial Video Nasty Nekromantik, which took a semi-comedic approach to a young couple’s desire to bring a rotting corpse into the bedroom. While a fine showcase for Buttgereit’s low-budget ingenuity (including some sick – and sick-funny – practical gore effects), the film was little more than the sum of its shock value (and I liked its labored, cheap-looking sequel even less).

The director fared much better with two other efforts: 1990’s actively oppressive Der Todesking (English translation: The Death King), which follows a group of unfortunate souls who fall victim to a lethal chain letter over the course of a week. The film is devoid of hope, and its experimental nature (more anthology than conventional narrative) creates a detachment from the characters that is deliberately cold. One can imagine Buttgereit’s intent: “This is humanity with the forced pleasantries and rule of law removed – see it and weep.”  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers In Review : Scream (1996) DOUBLE FEATURE part 2

kinopoisk.ruFor a significant number of years, the concept of slasher movies fell away. The major horror franchises of Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm St. and Halloween found themselves struggling to stay relevant with the demographic that made them classics. Meanwhile, in 1996, a single question stirred a new generation:

Do you like scary movies? 

Continue Reading

Fright Fest 2018: Blade (1998)

blade1At the start, let me get out of the way that I fully acknowledge that in no way is Blade a perfect film. I don’t place it in my list of favorites – its isn’t even my favorite vampire film and I’m not going to argue that it should be for you.

It isn’t horror – in any interpretation of the word. I would categorize this alongside other similarly themed films as Underworld or Van Helsing. Films that may involve supernatural creatures or monsters as part of the story but are clearly just intended to be action movies, thrillers at best. Is this really important in the evaluation of it as a film? Probably not. But considering the context of reviewing vampire movies this month, I think it’s a relevant issue to bring to light. Is it really a vampire movie? Or is it just a movie that happens to have vampires in it?

So, I don’t think this is necessarily a shining example of what I would consider vampire lore. I can’t stand the notion that a vampire could be able to survive being out during the day because he’s wearing sunblock. And I tend to think that it takes a concept that should be fairly straightforward and simple and places it on an arbitrarily grandiose scale with notions of this massive underground society and with pseudo-mythological notions of the “day-walker”. Whatever, it’s all just pieces of the story to me and I don’t give it that much importance.

And I do tend to believe that the movie is a tad superficial. At times, I can’t escape the feeling that what the movie is really trying to do is show me how cool leather can look and sound.

I’ll also admit that I haven’t read even a frame of the comics that this movie was based blade2on. So for me, I’m coming at this and seeing the movie in a vacuum for what it is. For me, this is all about just sitting down in front of a movie and enjoying, or not. Any previous knowledge or expectations are left at the door.

The question naturally and fairly becomes, why the hell do I like this film when by all rights and on paper, this should be a movie I don’t like?

It could be that it came along in the perfect point in my life. I was in the process of moving out of my dorm, it was the end of my senior year of college and it was a stressful time. There was a lot that needed to get done and my brother was in town helping me out.

And as things were finally angling down towards being finished, he and I took time out to catch a late-night showing of this. And I think it was exactly what I needed at the moment. Mindless, fun, loud action film at the theater that gave me something to escape into.

It could also be that, growing up in the eighties and nineties, Wesley Snipes was a major name and bulwark of my movie experiences, from as early as Major League, with fairly notable roles throughout much of the years to come. And looking back now, from the distant perspective of 2018, the Blade franchise was kind of the last hurrah for Snipes in terms of his visibility as an actor. This is not a criticism of him, by any means and I hope that wherever he is, he’s living comfortably, working on what he wants to and has found happiness on the back of the great work he has produced over his life.

Despite the annoyances over the little things and the parts I wish had been done differently, I have to put out there that I think the opening sequence of this film was one of the best I’ve seen. As absurd as the notion is of underground vampire clubs, it was a perfect way to introduce Blade as a character and I loved watching the intensity of him taking that room apart. It established the perfect mood for a movie that is designed to keep you in your seat, eating popcorn and drinking soda. It’s a great movie visually, with great dark tones to it and despite the summer blockbuster status, it still has some hints at blade3harder edges that would suggest that maybe they were going for an adult audience at least. This is the kind of movie that you aren’t supposed to take that seriously. It’s a nice balance of the Marvel formula of action and funny talking combined with some gory and bloody bits as well.

And if there is anything Wesley Snipes does to perfection, it’s action movies. And this was one of his swan songs in that regard. Take it in for what it’s worth, great action and fun fictional escape routes from the dreary reality of our day to day existences.

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

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