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Posts tagged “science fiction fantasy

Kong: Skull Island (2017) REVIEW

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Okay, seriously…have you seen the new Kong? For starters though, i’ll admit it is kinda strange taking on a creature feature review outside of the Creature Features in Review series. However, as I had the gumption to finally watch the latest of Kong movies, Kong: Skull Island, I felt compelled to write down some of my thoughts regarding said movie. There are no spoilers here, per say. Kong holds not mystery that hasn’t already been shown in the many previews and trailers that came out prior to the movie’s release. So, I don’t feel bad talking about it.  Continue Reading

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Dark Designs: Tales of Mad Science

 

Science without limits. Madness without end.

All proceeds from the purchase of this ebook will be donated to Doctors Without Borders / Medicins Sans Frontieres.

This is a warning. What you are about to read violates the boundaries of imagination, in a world where science breeds and breathes without restraint. A world very much like our own.

Within these shadowy corridors you will discover characters seeking retribution, understanding, power, a second chance at life—human stories of undiscovered species, government secrets, the horrors of parenthood, adolescence and bullying, envisioned through a warped lens of megalomania, suffering, and blind hubris. Curious inventors dabble with portals to alternate worlds, overzealous scientists and precocious children toy with living beings, offer medical marvels, and pick away at the thin veil of reality.

You can run. You can look away. But don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Witness our Dark Designs.

David Cronenberg, infamous director and storyteller of body-horror movies such as The Fly (1986), Shivers (1975), and Videodrome (1983), once said, “Everybody’s a mad scientist, and life is their lab. We’re all trying to experiment to find a way to live, to solve problems, to fend off madness and chaos.” This statement of Cronenberg’s is a rather optimistic one. And not altogether inaccurate, we are after all trying to find ways to live in harmony and in doing so we must solve problems that arise to get there. But that’s not really the genesis of the purpose of mad scientist stories. The notion of “mad science” is self-explanatory, that there is something strange or “mad” in the unknown realities that surround us. Even today, quantum theorists are often seen as “mad” scientists, practitioners of metaphysics more than actual provable science. And in some ways, there’s some truth in that metaphysics and quantum mechanics often overlap, which brings us to one of the most exhilarating and equally terrifying aspects about science, that is, it’s never ending, always searching, constantly discovering something new, something previously unknown, beyond us.  In part, our understanding of science; or more to point, our misunderstanding of science has become the inspiration over centuries for what has been deemed the quintessential “mad scientist.” Not for reasons given by Cronenberg above, that we are all in the same pursuit, but out of fear, fear bred from the unknown, and fear of what all these discovers, these advances, will bring us. And even more alarming, how far are we willing to go to achieve the impossible?

My first impression while surveying the history of “mad science” was that Victor Frankenstein, created by the imagination of a twenty-one-year-old Mary Shelley, was the first of the mad scientists to be conjured into the literary world. I was wrong. It was actually Dr. Faustus, written in 1604 by Christopher Marlowe, that should be credited as the first “mad scientist.” Dr. Faustus was perhaps more alchemical in nature than traditional science, but still the story serves as asking the proverbial question all mad scientist stories ask, “How far are we willing to go…?”  Some of the more popular “mad scientists” who defied boundaries and terrified audiences with their audacity against “nature” include, Dr. Moreau, an H.G. Wells story penned in 1896, and Danforth & Dyer in “At the Mountains of Madness” by H. P. Lovecraft, published in 1931. These stories are typically told from the perspective of a layman looking into nightmarish worlds, boiled in a cauldron of obsession and forbidden knowledge. H.P. Lovecraft would go on to create a few more characters in this realm of unrestrained science with Dr. Herbert West, one of my personal favorites, and Charles Dexter Ward.

Growing up, the one “mad scientist” story that ignited my imagination and kept me glued to the edge of my seat was Steven Spielberg’s science-fiction epic Jurassic Park (1993). Even in my pubescent years, the memory still rings clear today, the duel realities of science, that in the wonder of watching a baby dino hatch or Dr. Grant’s first realization of what was going on as the Jeep drove through the part to the Visitor’s Center, first realizing that those massive tree trucks were moving and were not in fact trees, being held prisoner in a sort of child-like spell, and then suddenly seeing it all go wrong, demonstrated the dangers of unrestrained science, that even now the question of trust must be asked. Ian Malcolm, played by a black leather clad Jeff Goldblum, has one of the more illuminating statements in the film, a statement that has rung in the minds of audiences for over four-hundred years, when he says, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Today, “mad scientist” stories have for the most part found themselves kicked to the kid’s corner, in such books as Meet the Creeps or Franny K. Stein. Sadly, there isn’t much being offered in way of adult entertainment. This was the prime motivation for raising the question to my Shadow Work Publishing cohorts of collaborating on a mad scientist anthology. While science continues to evolve and new discoveries are being made every day, the question posed in 1604 still remains relevant today, “How far are we willing to go” in the pursuit of said discover what consequences, if any, will we face? We landed on the title, Dark Designs, more or less on the alluring sinister quality, but not just that, also, as our quote says, “Science without limits. Madness without end,” there is a certain amount of ambiguity regarding science, that without limits perhaps we could possibly go “too far,” and in reaching such limits, madness is sure to follow. Here, as you turn the page, you’ll find yourself in a world without limits, where science breeds and breathes without restraint. You’ll walk these corridors with characters seeking retribution, understanding, revenge, and perhaps for some a second chance on life. These are human stories through the spyglass of mad science, of undiscovered insects, government secrets, horrors of parenthood, adolescence, and bullying, about curious inventors dabbling in portals to alternate worlds, of ambitious biologists and overzealous children tinkering with things they probably shouldn’t, and stories that stretch our understanding of the boundaries of life.

From Shadow Work Publishing, and the sixteen authors of which contributed to this charity anthology for Doctors Without Borders, thank you and bid you welcome our Dark Designs: Tales of Mad Science.

You can get YOUR copy of Dark Designs: Tales of Mad Science for $0.99!!!


Fright Fest: Planet of the Vampires (1965)

 

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[WARNING: EXTREME DIGRESSIONS, LATERAL ASSOCIATIONS, AND UNSOLICITED MUSINGS FOLLOW] To start, a confession—as much as I enjoy Italian horror (and horror in general), I’m not sure if I’d ever seen one of Mario Bava’s films in its entirety [preemptive update: since choosing this film for review and watching it through a couple times, I coincidentally had the pleasure of finally watching Blood and Black Lace at a good friend’s birthday movie party]. I’d seen a few of his son Lamberto’s, but looking over the Elder Bava’s filmography I couldn’t honestly say I could attach a title listed to a film I could clearly remember. My early days of watching Giallo and other types of Italian horror coincided with attending art/film school in San Francisco, so you’ll have to forgive my own uncertainty—as I wasn’t always completely sober while viewing a great deal of the offerings from “Le Video” and other VHS-lined halls of magical filmic goodness. I’m much clearer on the Argento, Soavi, and Fulci (my personal favorite) films I devoured at the time, but there were others that, for whatever reason, remain a vague blur.

So, why did I choose this film of all films? Second confession—if you know me this won’t come as too big a shock, but I’m borderline obsessive about the Alien film franchise. It is taking a considerable effort to not expand upon that statement with the finer distinctions I make between the different film entries, EU comics, novels, games, etc. and their varying levels of individual quality. You’re welcome (just trust me… you’re welcome). Simple version—I like Alien-related things that are good.
Okay, I’ll just cut to it—I chose Planet of the Vampires for review because Nicolas Winding Refn (Pusher, Bronson, Valhalla Rising, Drive) said this recently while introducing a new 4k print of Planet at Cannes as a “Cannes Classic”:

“Planet of the Vampires” is the film that Ridley Scott and Dan O’Bannon stole from to make ‘Alien.’ We found the elements, we have the evidence tonight. This is the origin!”

Could it be that a film I hold so close to my heart could have pilfered from another film openly, or at least been heavily influenced? I was torn by this… so this review will be a bit torn. I’m going to abandon the regular review what-I-liked/didn’t-like format I would do and try something different. I ended up watching the film twice, with two mindsets—first, looking for connections to Alien. Then, as its own film (which would’ve been impossible for me the first time, feverishly Alien-crazed as my feeble mind tends to be).

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And so…

PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES AS POSSIBLE ALIEN INSPIRATION/SOURCE MATERIAL:

I’d heard in the past that Alien strongly resembled another film, It! The Terror From Beyond Space, but still haven’t watched that due to stumbling onto some images of the creature in the film—it… didn’t do much for me. That’s unfair, I know, but it’s hard when you’ve been spoiled (and scarred) by the diseased mind of a brilliant Swiss dark surrealist like Giger. Planet of the Vampires intrigued me for different reasons.

The Wikipedia article for Planet’s “Influence” page states that Ridley Scott (director of Alien) and Dan O’Bannon (main writer of Alien; co-written with Ronald Shusett, then revised heavily by Walter Hill and David Giler before being rolled back some), had stated they’d never seen Planet before making Alien. From what I know of Scott, that wouldn’t surprise me. After some snooping, though, I discovered some different things about O’Bannon’s history with it.

O’Bannon is quoted as saying he was ‘aware’ of Planet but didn’t feel like he’d ever watched all of it. He also says that he thought about Forbidden Planet (a classic I’m more familiar with) way more than It! while writing Alien. His approach seemed to be to make the ultimate scary-monster-on-a-ship movie, pulling from a lifetime of Sci-Fi film watching—something crystallized in this quote: “I didn’t steal from anybody—I stole from everybody!

So, where does this Planet/Alien comparison—that I’ve now stumbled onto many times while researching this review—come from?
Planet of the Vampires
starts with two ships (Argos and Galliot) in space near a planet. They discuss a signal they’ve been monitoring from an unknown origin somewhere down on the surface. A powerful force grabs their ships and exerts an incredible force on them, pulling them down into the planet’s atmosphere. They are set down in a strangely gentle fashion after such powerful artificial force. Upon touching down all but the captain of the Argos go mad, immediately attacking him and each other. He’s able to smack sense into most of them, and then he and a crew member chase the still-crazed doctor out onto the spooky planet surface. After he is released from whatever mysterious power had hold of him, the captain sends him back inside.

So far we have a mysterious planet (large moon in Alien, but close enough), a signal of unknown origin, and a rocky, dark planet surface. Okay, I see that. This is followed by a dangerous trip across the spooky, dark planet’s surface to investigate the fate of the Galliott. The Galliott’s crew are mostly dead, with a few missing.

There’s a decent chunk here with nothing comparable, then they find a third ship near the Argos while doing a survey, and a few of them go to investigate. So we also have space-suited ship crew investigating a planet’s surface, only to find a… “alien” ship. Not only that but the remains of said alien crew are skeletons of humanoids of great size—possibly up to three times that of an average human.

I see where this is going… These basic elements (and that they later take off, with malicious stowaways aboard) are similar between the two films, and from what I’ve come across the imagery of the skeletal alien crew is one of the strongest “gotcha!” things for those who feel Alien was directly influenced by Planet, due to the similarity to the former film’s “Space Jockey”/ “Pilot” scene.

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But Planet was not the only film about a crew touching down on a spooky planet, finding weird things, and leaving with something that wasn’t exactly pleasant in their ship. Other than It! The Terror From Beyond Space, the director of another Sci-Fi movie called Queen of Blood, Curtis Harrington, is quoted as saying he felt the makers of Alien most likely had been heavily inspired by his film—due to it also having that same rough barebones plot. I’m no expert, but I’m sure there are at least a few other Sci-Fi films from before Alien’s late 1970s writing and production that could be boiled down to the same basic structure.

Also, It! The Terror From Beyond Space is the closer film to the follow-through of Alien by default—Planet doesn’t have what you would call a “creature” per se. There is a zombie- or revenant-like reanimation and possession that takes place, followed by more insidious mimicry of human behavior. I’d go so far as to say Planet’s last act more closely resembles John Carpenter’s The Thing in its emphasis on paranoia and mimics trying to use their human hosts’ technology to their advantage—that is if The Thing was also missing its well-loved practical creature effects. Giger’s nightmarish creations were undoubtedly a huge part of Alien’s power and success as a film. There is nothing like that in Planet of the Vampires.

To sum up my thoughts, I feel like it’s a little unfair to say Alien stole from anyone Sci-Fi film—it appears to have been more of a loving potpourri of elements from many earlier Sci-Fi films with attempts of their own at claustrophobia and scares. The setup of Alien is not its greatest strength and is its least original aspect. Thankfully, it more than makes up for that in the realms of atmosphere, design, special effects, acting, genuine fear, and well-earned and -executed scares.

Valaquen at Strange Shapes, a favorite blog of mine as an Alien series fan, puts it best I feel with this line: “The story of the Nostromo could easily be that of the Demeter, the ship that Dracula stowed upon on his way to London.”

It’s not the bare-bones plot, but what they did with it that made Alien groundbreaking and frightening.

Whereas the legacy of Planet of the Vampires is cheapened by it being treated as a footnote in the history of Alien. I honestly wish I’d heard of it in a different context. Which leads me to…

PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES AS A FILM ON ITS OWN TERMS:

As stated above, the film begins with two ships in space. Well, it starts with a title sequence with some pleasant spacy shots. Then, we see the two ships. Right off the bat, it’s clear we’re in for a B-movie affair of some kind, as the model work for the ships and space background is done well enough, but leaning toward cheap and a bit cheesy. This isn’t a strike against the film coming from me, for the record. A shot focused on a bright section of one ship model dissolves into a shot of space out through a circular ship bridge area, the camera tilting down to show more examples of what I’ve learned Bava was known for—getting the most out of low-budget production values. Large banks of glowing, pulsing readouts and other kinds of equipment are seemingly lit in such way as to make it less clear how much empty space the set actually has. This could also have been a stylistic choice, but I have a feeling I’m not entirely wrong either way.

Then we are treated to one of my favorite things about this film—the costuming. The crew spacesuits are dark, form-fitting, and sleek, with bright orange trim. One has to imagine that—and this is really the last Alien-ish part, I swear—whether or not Ridley Scott had ever seen Planet before making Alien, he’s seen it since, and wanted to either poke some fun at that or make a genuine homage.

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My only complaint is they only wear their snazzy bright yellow helmets in the scene I mentioned earlier where the captain and a crewman chase the doctor out onto the planet surface after they touch down. They make great paperweights for the rest of the film, sitting on flat surfaces all over the Argos and Galliot just looking cool and not helping the space adventurers breathe safely.

The sets are also really well done. The interiors are deliberately minimal and have glowing and blinking machines placed strategically. But where the sets really impress is the exterior planet shots. A thick ankle-deep fog blankets the planet surface, swirling around at every step that breaks it. Rocky outcroppings, spires, and crags on the planet surface look suitably natural and menacing. Lava patches are well-executed with superimposition and matting.  The ships’ implied sizes are reinforced by landing supports and airlock set constructions. The airlock hatch mechanics are smooth and believable. There’s a weight to their use that feels right as if they’re part of a large vessel and not a cheap suggestion of one.

Also, the use of the different sets and camera tricks gives the planet a good sense of size. They have to travel good distances between ships and don’t just jump around through editing.

Photographic effects bring the sets together and make the planet surface feel dangerous and foreboding, and this otherworldly feel is consistent. Optical printer post-production slo-mo is used to give the rising of a few dead Galliott crew members a strange and menacing feel.

The atmosphere, in general, is fantastic. The planet is mysterious and spooky, even before they find the remnants of the alien presence. The open interiors of the ships go from comforting chambers of safety to increasingly empty areas hiding possible terrors around every corner.

A lot of the heavy lifting for the atmosphere is the lighting. Having now seen Blood and Black Lace since deciding on Planet for this review, I can definitely express with confidence that Bava’s lighting is my favorite thing about his films (so far; I have much more to watch). Those two films have different cinematographers, but Bava seemed to have a strong enough sense of light and color that it was dictated at a directorial level. His bold, almost garish color choices are toned down some in Planet, going for darker, cooler colors than the bold reds and violets he plays off the darkness in Blood. There is some of that in Planet, though, when the reluctant planet explorers are traversing the surface and having to climb over and around lava flows.

He also uses a nice trick, backlighting the rocky set pieces from a distance, suggesting either light poking in through the thick atmosphere or unseen moons or other celestial bodies throwing light from afar. But the surface areas are dark, mostly lit up by lava or eerie, dim fill lighting. These two things contrast nicely.

The performances are pretty good too. According to Wikipedia (don’t hate), Barry Sullivan was the only actor speaking English, Norma Bengell (a Brazilian) spoke Portuguese, and the rest of the international cast spoke their own languages—not understanding each other as they performed.

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I knew that most of the voices were dubbed, but wouldn’t have guessed they were so disconnected. They all perform well together. There are some “scream queen” worthy moments and some pleasantly hammy, scenery-chewing moments (unintentionally amplified by the dubbing, I’d say).

There’s even a twist ending. I won’t spoil the specifics, but whether you end up unsure if it was tacked on or not (as I still am), it gives the whole thing a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits outro feel.

CONCLUSION

As I expressed above in detail, I doubt this film was a huge influence on Alien directly. On its own merits, I really enjoyed it. It’s a straight-faced sci-fi/horror piece with great use of budget and plenty entertainment value. Or as the original trailer dubs it…

 

I’ll give Planet of the Vampires…………….7/10.

 

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PATRICK LOVELAND writes screenplays, novels, and short stories. By day, he works at a state college in Southern California, where he lives with his wife and young daughter. His stories have appeared in anthologies published by April Moon Books, Bold Venture Press, The Sirens Call Ezine by Sirens Call Publications, and the award-winning Crime Factory zine. Patrick Loveland’s first novel, A TEAR IN THE VEIL, will be published in early 2017 by April Moon Books.  Twitter: https://twitter.com/pmloveland   Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pmloveland/   Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00S78LF9M Blog [under construction]: https://patrickloveland.wordpress.com/

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PALE HIGHWAY: book in review

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Before I dive into this review, I had to brew myself a fresh cup of joe, to put myself in tune, hopefully, with the ways of Nicholas Conley. The ground bean vapors, I pray, will act as my spiritual guide in writing this review. I’m not sure how many of you know who Nicholas Conley is, but for those who don’t let me say, if I may, how fantastic of a guy he really is. and not just because how you might find his name on the back of my first novel, Reinheit, but also because of his charm towards all walks of life. Nicholas is an adventurer, both in the literary world and in the literal world around us. He is a fan of science fiction, comic books, and horror movies. His new novel, Pale Highway (of which I will be reviewing here) was based in large of his experiences with Alzheimer’s patients while working at a nursing home.

Before we begin, here’s the blurb provided on the back of the book to give you a somewhat general idea of what Pale Highway is about:

“Gabriel Schist is spending his remaining years at Bright New Day, a nursing home. He once won the Nobel Prize for inventing a vaccine for AIDS. But now, he has Alzheimer’s, and his mind is slowly slipping away.

When one of the residents comes down with a horrific virus, Gabriel realizes that he is the only one who can find a cure. Encouraged by Victor, an odd stranger, he convinces the administrator to allow him to study the virus. Soon, reality begins to shift, and Gabriel’s hallucinations interfere with his work.

As the death count mounts, Gabriel is in a race against the clock and his own mind. Can he find a cure before his brain deteriorates past the point of no return?”

So there you have it, the general premise of things to come.

Nicholas Conley’s Pale Highway is a fantastic read in a brand I typically do not indulge in, yet somehow, through his characterization and prose, in the guise of Gabriel Schist, Nicholas was able to hold me spellbound all the way to the completion of the story. When I say, “not my typical brand,” this is true, I typically do not read disaster, world plague type books (well, except for perhaps Stephen King’s The Stand). Nothing personal to the sub-genre, but it has been my experience, for the most part, those kinds of books typically skim over character development in lieu for action sequences, and too often (sadly) hateful rhetoric and needless doomsday-isms. LET ME BE VERY CLEAR AT THIS JUNCTION, Pale Highway does none of those things. In fact, the “plague” acted as nothing more than to keep the momentum of the story, to keep motivations rolling towards its ultimate conclusion. The real story is in the tired, tragic life of one Gabriel Schist. In that story, we find so much more than the arc of one man’s life, we also find perhaps a “highway,” if you will, pointing us toward deeper, more meaningful questions, not about what we’ll wear this weekend on a date, but rather, questions of what we’re doing with our lives, how we’re treating those we love and strangers alike, who we are spending time with. In the immortal words of Henry David Thoreau, “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

The prologue puts us a little bit into the future, giving the reader a small glimpse of things to come. A Black Virus has swept into the halls of Bright New Day and into the lap of one Gabriel Schist, a Nobel Prize winning genius/scientist suffering with Alzheimer’s, who, somehow, is supposed to stop the epidemic. From here, we know the score. Something bad is on the way, and given Mr. Schist’s cognitive condition, the odds are not in his favor, but instead of playing up some sort of blockbuster-ish global terrorism BS as so many other biological Armageddon books typically do, no, from here we move into the lives of the people residing in the beds of Bright New Day, a nursing home along the coast of New Hampshire. And we also get to experience, if only marginally yet beautifully written, how it is to live in a nursing home, how it is to have your basic cognitive functions slowly slip away. You can tell right away, this story was written from experience, and I suspect that the character known as Harry could possibly be a mirror of Nicholas himself.

Be-that-as-it-may, one of the finer qualities of the book was how Nicholas carefully walked the reader through Gabriel’s life. We get to see, inch by painful inch, his story unfold, from the lows to the highs, so much so that certain elements are so systematically revealed, there is a real mesmerizing quality to the pages.

Without revealing too much, and I want to leave a lot of detail out of this review, mostly because I want a first time reader to discover these things on their own, in their natural environment and revelation. However, if we were to look upon this work as a musical composition, I’d say Nicholas hit a range of notes, colliding together in a spectacularly rich, dramatic, heartbreaking, and joyous crescendo. There were moments of happiness. There were moments of tragedy and helplessness (lots of helplessness, and not too surprising considering the subject matter). Lots of regret and understanding purpose. And, especially towards the middle and later half, moments of dementia, unsure if things seen are real or the figment of Gabriel’s imagination, hallucinations caused by his rapidly decaying mind.

And…I will not spoil the rest. You’ll have to find out on your own what happens. Overall, my only complaint, and this is marginal, was the absence of the daughter, Melanie, from a majority of the story. There is a beautiful father-daughter scene in chapter 2, and I had hoped to see more of them. But the focus was not on Melanie, but rather Gabriel, thus, we did not venture far from his perspective. And that’s okay, it doesnt ruin anything at all. When she finally does come back into play, those moments really captured the emotional momentum, literally bringing tears to my eyes. Thank you for that, Nicolas, really. And bravo, sir. Bravo.

My Review: 5/5

You can get your copy of Pale Highway on Amazon, here.

 


The Best of Underrated Horror

It goes without saying, horror is a generally underrated genre in cinema.  Who goes up for the Golden Globes? Not horror. Flicks like Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi, Lincoln, and Les Miserables are typical contenders for the “Hollywood choice,” all the while excellent horror flicks are getting left out in the alley, searching in the dumpster out behind Roosevelt hotel for some leftover love and recognition. Sure, on occasion a few horror titles will sneak in an (less prestigious) Oscar, but these are typically awards for special effects and not for the screenplay, acting or directorial effort themselves. Now don’t get me wrong, its a good day when traditional effects gets some recognition, but giving a horror movie props for only the effects is like complementing a restaurant for their decor and not the food. And if the manager or chef only care what you think about all the cool stuff on their walls, then maybe you shouldn’t eat the food anyways.

The last horror movie that got its share of recognition was Silence of the Lambs (1991). For obvious reasons, there is no way I can talk trash about this amazing movie; It deserved every award. However, its now been over twenty-two years since Hannibal Lecter ate the hearts of adoring fans…i’ll say it again, twenty-two years… has there really been no horror movies worthy of Academy recognition since? Well..for long time fans of the genre, it comes at no surprise that horror gets so little attention from Hollywood. We accept that horror will never win a Golden Globe. Horror isn’t done to be artsy; horror is done to make a statement, to say something about the apple-cart, about society and the world we cope with. Horror is also done because we’re all a bunch of twisted individuals, nerds and geeks with our own system of appreciation and recognition, such as the Saturn Award (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) and Spikes Scream (they canceled the awards for 2012 for unknown reasons and if they’ll be back for 2013 is still unclear) Yet, sometimes even in our own avenues for recognition, excellent horror still slips through the cracks.

Thank goodness for blogs and horror nerds! This statement isn’t just a bit of shameless self promotion, i’m also thinking about the many other horror nerd blogs on my reading list. Amateur reporting helps friends find those rare horror indies, the direct to DVD flicks we might have missed or have zero time to find for ourselves. Bloody Disgusting and IMDb have generated a few good lists on their sites, but I thought i’d throw in my two cents on the subject. Its rather reasonable to assume that a lot of folks do not have oodles of couch time to watch every single unknown horror movie. Its nauseating using what precious little time we have to watch something truly horrible. SO, let us nerds do the work for you! Trust me, we don’t mind. And the real benefit here is the more we share the more these underrated horror movies get print and press time. Thus far, looking at what a few other blogs have mentioned (I’d hate to repeat the same old underrated movies) and what, in my humble opinion, has been largely forgotten, I have generated the following six underrated horror movies. Enjoy!

1. Event Horizon (1997)

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During the late summer of 1997, Event Horizon was received with general negativity. The movie that was pitched as “The Shinning in space,” was rushed during final cut, which unfortunately may have caused most of Event Horizon’s less desired qualities. However, despite the setback and first reception, Event Horizon has lazily found its way into the cult following circus. There seemed to be a wave of demonic inspired movies during the later years of the 90’s (a few others not included on my list: Fallen, The Devils Advocate, Sleepy Hallow, and In The Mouth of Madness) and Event Horizon held its ground as the only descent horror movie in space, followed only by Hellraiser: Bloodline, which I thought was rather good, despite what others have been saying (you cannot tell me the Twins-cenobite creation wasn’t the sickest creation to date!). Bottom Line: Event Horizon is a horror worth checking out. Its light on the science fiction, but heavy on the horror, blended with the perfect seasoning of actors.

2. Zodiac (2007)

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Zodiac proves, for me at least, that not all horror has to be blood and guts and actions sequences. What really brings out the horror in Zodiac is how irrefutable the “based on a true story” this movie is. Other poltergeist or crime based flicks make the claim as based on a true story; however, we know without a doubt how real the zodiac killer was and still remains today, especially for the folks that had lived in the San Francisco Bay area during the 60’s and 70’s. One of the part of the movie, (a part critics cared little for) gave audiences a little taste of the longevity of the Zodiac case by prolonging the movie into a near three hour screening. Zodiac never made it to the acclaim of Silence of the Lambs, though it deserved the recognition. No, Mark Ruffalo did not outperform Sir Anthony Hopkins; Zodiac was just a solid movie with plenty of story and excellent acting. Bottom Line: Zodiac is great period piece to be sure and worth checking out, just make sure you’ve got the time and an extra-large bowl of popcorn.

3. Grave Encounters (2011)

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One of the best horror mockumentaries you’ll ever watch, period. Grave Encounters was released back in 2011, but apparently no one bothered watching it. I didn’t even hear about it until sometime last year when it was released on Netflix streaming. And even then, I was a little apprehensive. The low-budget home video vibe is a risky venture, with so many horrible ones being put out there. Ever since Blair Witch let the cat out of the bag, (Cannibal Holocaust for an older generation) that these “documentaries” are not “real” per-say, audiences now know off the bat what they’re walking into. The trick is to make everything feel real, and Grave Encounters pulls this trick off perfectly! Things do move slow, which is a part of the anticipation. But when the crazy starts it doesn’t slow down. Bottom Line: if your not a fan of the “home video cam” look, you may still enjoy this one. If you enjoyed VHS or REC, you’ll definitely love this one.

4. Innkeepers (2011)

Innkeepers

A couple of years ago there was a lot of positive talk about this movie going to theaters and then…nothing. Innkeepers simple disappeared from all internet blog chatter. I actually forgot all about wanting to watch this one until, just like Grave Encounters, it popped up on Netflix streaming. During the first 45 minutes or so, you’ll think your watching a spoof with all the light-hearted awkward moments with Claire and Luke, but when things turn serious, you’ll realize how good of a horror movie Innkeepers really is. Comedy and horror are two excellently paired emotions that must be captured just right or the entire production will feel thrown off. Innkeepers keeps the balance beautifully. An old fashion ghost story without feeling old fashion. Bottom Line: if you’re into ghost stories, you should most certainly check this one out.

5. Friday the 13th part 2 (1981)

friday the 13th part 2

You might be asking yourself: “how in the world does a Friday the 13th franchise movie make its way unto an underrated horror movie list?” Sure, you got me there. Friday the 13th part 2 should already be automatically endorsed and recognized because of its association as part 2 in a long history of Friday’s.  However, even with that being said, part 2 in my opinion is the most ignored and underrated Friday addition in the series. Why? Some folks have complained about the production value. Or that it was rushed by greedy executives trying to cash in on the first film. But even with all its down sides, the movie is still amazing and a legendary foundation for the character Jason to build upon. The hockey masked killer we’ve all come to love hasn’t developed there yet, here with part 2 we’re seeing Jason at his most basic level, the old potato sack killing hillbilly everyone has forgotten he once was. With part 2, we get to see Jason at his roots and his awkward, near religious, obsession with his mother. Bottom Line: if your a fan of the series and still haven’t taken the time to watch this movie, shame on you! Watch it and see where it all began. See why Jason functions the way he does and a deeper look into the motivations behind why he kills.

6. Stake Land (2010)

stake-land-originalWow! Where the heck did this movie come from?!? I’ve seen Stake Land among the recently added horror movies on Netflix streaming and have been curious regarding watching it, but until last night, never gave it a chance. I haven’t really heard much about this one, the synopsis sounded interesting, but to be honest, the vampire genre has become kind of worn out, an old hat, as the saying goes. I’ve never been so glad to be so very wrong. Stake Land takes this tired vampire genre and gives it a fresh breath of life. The best part of Stake Land is how its really not so much about the vampires, its about the people surviving this new apocalyptic world. This way of storytelling is what made Romero zombie movies so much better than the others guys stuff. The characters in this new vampire tale are deep and believable, even the ones you end up hating. Stake Land also comes across as an excellent commentary on the social issues of the day, community, family, adolescence, religion, and war. Bottom Line: fantastic movie! Even if your tired of vampire movies, or creature features in general, this movie will not disappoint you or bore you. I’d love to see a zombie movie done the same way.

Well, there’s my list of underrated horror movies, each added for their own particular reasons. Though i’m sometimes a little disappointed in Hollywood for not giving horror its well deserved credit in their little award shows, I understand that the real folks keeping horror alive are the fans. Together we share our favorites and our thoughts on certain titles, shaping a standard while at the same time not creating unwanted restraints on, what is in my humble opinion, the best art form in cinema. The more we share with each other, the more we experience the genre we love. So, let your voice be heard and share here horror movies you think have been wrongly ignored or passed over.