Archive for the 'Horror' Category
When I was a kid, there was a handful of movies I watched over and over and over and over. The more of these movies I watch as an adult, the more I wonder to myself: what the heck kind of kid was I? I am very thankful to have had parents that trusted me to watch basically whatever I wanted, because the movies I considered favorites as a kid obviously have had an enormous impact on my taste in weird stuff later in life, and for that I am forever grateful! Though I wouldn’t call Lady in White a particularly weird movie, I think it’s at least safe to say that, despite the fact there are children in the movie, it is not a movie made for children! Just what the appeal was to an 8-year-old me, I can’t say, except I did have a thing for ghosts…
The story is set in Small Town, NY, 1962. It’s Halloween, and little Frankie Scarlatti (Lukas Haas) is super pumped for his favorite holiday; the boy is, after all, an aspiring horror writer. He dazzles his class with his giant monster story, but two young boys are less than impressed, and decide it would be a great idea to lock Frankie in the coat room all night long. They trick him into thinking he’s left his hat, a gift from his father, in the coat room. While he goes in to look for it, they slam the door, lock it, and leave him to spend Halloween alone in the dark, conveniently overlooking a cemetery!
Frankie finally drifts off to sleep, but soon he is rudely awakened by the ghostly figure of a young girl, skipping and singing her way into the coat room. She is talking to someone, but we can’t see who. Their interaction becomes dark very quickly when the unseen person throttles the ghost and drags her out of the coat room by her hair. Frankie tries to keep silent and hidden, but eventually the unknown man notices him and starts choking him, too, until he passes out.
When Frankie wakes up, he is unable to identify the person who choked him, though according to the racist community all signs point to the African-American janitor, who had passed out in the school’s basement while drinking. The situation doesn’t look very good for the janitor; Frankie’s attack has been linked to the murder of eleven children over the years, one of whom is Melissa Ann Montgomery, without a doubt the same girl Frankie saw dancing in the coat room. Frankie senses the janitor isn’t the killer, but he has no proof. His only hope is to retrieve the man’s ring from the vent in the cloak room, which he is certain will identify the true murderer.
The film tells the story of a pretty standard murder mystery, intriguing for kids I guess because it’s kids who actually solve the thing, not the adults. And while there is definitely a lot of eye candy here for kids, there are some uncomfortable moments of violence against children that are definitely super creepy and must have scared the crap out of me when I was little. Perhaps the adult-world scary stuff was mitigated by Frankie’s friendship with Melissa the ghost girl; the two become “friends” and it becomes Frankie’s mission to reunite Melissa with her mother who committed suicide after her daughter’s death.
Then there is, of course, the actual story of the Lady in White, a local legend about an old woman who haunts a scary old house by the cliffs. The characters mention her throughout the film, and her true story is something Frankie uncovers while figuring out just about every other secret of his small town. So, there are an awful lot of dirty little secrets for a nine-year-old boy to stumble upon; good thing he likes a thrilling mystery.
All in all, this movie is good enough, though it must be said that it is absolutely dripping with sentimentality. Frankie is re-telling us the story years later, so I guess it’s understandable that a trip back home after years of being away would evoke strong nostalgia, but they lay it on pretty damn thick here – there’s Frankie’s grandmother, who is always yelling at the family to get out of the cold, and Frankie’s grandfather, who does his best to hide behind various buildings to get a smoke without being caught by his wife. There’s the general store with all your favorite old Halloween toys, goofiness between Frankie and his brother Geno; anything you can think of that would make you yearn for days long passed, it’s here and it’s a bit much. This is obviously something that didn’t strike me as problematic as a kid, but it’s virtually impossible to watch the movie now without vomiting a little in your mouth over its sickly sweetness.
If you can get past the overt nostalgia and the weird adult-on-child violence, this movie’s pretty okay, but it’s a far cry from a must-see. The best mysteries always involve a ghost here and there, so it’s got that going for it. But, the best part about the movie is probably the casting; Lukas Haas and his big eyes are just about perfect for the role of a budding mystery novelist. It is hard for me to see that guy as anyone other than Frankie Scarlatti.
There was a time in my life where I was a little J-horror curious. I did my duty and rented all the staples; you know the ones, Ju-on, Ringu, Audition and the like. Looking back, I feel like I did this out of some weird sense of horror-love obligation, and not actually because I liked the movies. Audition marked the end of the road for me; after that one, which I did not like, I gave up on the J-horror experience. Ever since, I’ve been reluctant to sit down and dedicate time to them.
This is not fair, of course; one shouldn’t dismiss an entire sub-genre so easily. That being said, I think I still groaned audibly when the husband pulled out Pulse and informed me that’s what we’d be watching that evening. I probably said something along like: “Japanese horror? Ugh.” But I’ve too often said I’ll watch anything to declare J-horror off-limits, so I watched.
Pulse centers around a few different groups of young people working and studying in Tokyo. First we are acquainted with Kudo, a young woman whose co-worker Taguchi has been mysteriously out of touch for the last few days. Kudo decides it’s been too long and goes to his apartment to check up on him. When she finds him there, he is distant and aloof, and slowly walks away from her into another room where he promptly commits suicide. The only clues the group of friends has into Toguchi’s suicide are some mysterious pictures of him at his computer…
Meanwhile, Ryosuke, a college kid who doesn’t know much about computers gets his first internet connection. Without help from Rryosuke, his computer connects itself to a website that just shows dark,
grainy video of random people, all of them alone. Ryosuke goes to the university to see if anyone there can help figure out why his computer brought him to the website. Here he meets Harue, who offers him some suggestions on getting screen shots of the website for her to examine.
Throughout the movie, our friends continue to delve deeper into the world of this internet weirdness, and what they find is, of course, totally disturbing, though frankly I couldn’t tell you exactly what it is they do find. There are some creepy shadows on the walls, some disturbed people who refuse to talk, and other people simply disappearing into thin air. I guess really what they really find is alienation and loneliness. These feelings, naturally induced by the anonymity offered by the big city are only multiplied by the seeming connectivity of technology.
I appreciate what the film is trying to convey, but I don’t think I’m such a fan of how it goes about doing so. It bears a lot of the hallmarks of Japanese Horror, namely a deep, dark mystery that almost always has
long, black hair. There are weird ghostly creatures with mouths at jaunty angles and elbows and knees in all the wrong places. I guess I just saw this too long after I’d seen all the other J-horror flicks I’d already written off. I must at least mention that Pulse is one of the first of the new wave of J-horror as I think of it, so it definitely gets credit for that.
As far as Japanese horror flicks from the aughts go, this is probably one of the best I’ve seen. The fact still remains, though, I am just not all that impressed with the style of these films. If it’s the kind of thing you’re into, than this movie should definitely be at the top of your to-watch list, if you haven’t already seen it. If it’s not your bag, well, take it or leave it.
Writing silly blog posts about schlocky b-horror and the like isn’t a hard thing to do; such films don’t necessarily demand quality reviews. The task of writing up a legitimately “Good” movie is much more daunting. For example, how can the words of an amateur movie geek possibly do a film like Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face any sort of justice? The truth is, I probably can’t. This, of course, is not going to stop me from trying.
Dr. Génessier is France’s premier surgeon, famous for his lectures and innovative techniques. Lesser known is his penchant for hideous experimentation; his secluded, maximum-security laboratory is home to many poor creatures who are subject to his scientific whims. One of these subjects happens to be his very own daughter, Christiane. Unfortunately for her, she has yet to fully recover from a car accident caused by her father’s carelessness. She is suffering perhaps the worst deformity a person could imagine: she has no face.
After “escaping” from the hospital, the authorities have no idea what’s happened to poor Christiane, until they find a body in the local river. They are convinced it must be Christiane, for the corpse had no face. Once Dr. Génessier confirms the body is indeed Christiane’s, he no longer has to worry about his daughter being found by the cops, and he can continue on his mission to graft a new face onto his daughter.
The only way to do this, of course, is to lure unsuspecting young and beautiful girls to the laboratory. He does this with the help of his assistant, Louise (Alida Valli, whom you probably know from Suspiria), whose own face is a triumph of the good doctor’s surgical abilities. Naturally indebted to him for life, she skulks around town looking for unattached young women who could do without their faces.
While the doctor claims his intentions are only to help save the life and happiness of his daughter, it is clear the man is a real ego case with an awful lot to prove; he cares not that his daughter is kept prisoner in her own home, thought dead by everyone, including her poor fiance, Jacques. He also seems not to care a lick that he must ruin the lives of other young women to preserve his status as France’s top surgeon. Christiane is filled with despair, not knowing if she will ever escape life behind a terrible, expressionless mask. With her overbearing father and Louise constantly watching her, how will she ever get out?
This movie is creepy to the Nth degree! Masks often provoke discomfort and horror, no? Here, there is also sadness: Christiane does not want to be cooped up alone for the whole of her life while her father attempts to perfect his surgical résumé, and even though we cannot see her face, there is something inherently sad about that expressionless mask. Each time she calls her fiance Jacques and hears his voice, but cannot respond, it’s almost as though the mask gets a little bit sadder.
The film is also surprisingly gory for 1960; the surgical scenes are pretty up-close-and-personal, not leaving a whole heck of a lot to the imagination. Still, it’s nothing compared to the ridiculous, in-your-face garbage most horror flicks tout today. Perhaps that’s just because there isn’t much of the envelope left to push these days? Either way, Eyes Without a Face definitely earns its horror badge, though the film is in large part a crime drama in addition to a horror flick. Anyway, the film is more creepy-horror than gory-horror; the domineering father, the mystery behind the mask, the wanton kidnapping of young women for dreadful surgical purposes; all of these elements will no doubt inspire horror and disgust in the viewer!
Finally, it would be wrong of me to write up this post without mentioning Pedro Almodóvar’s recent film The Skin I Live In. While not a direct remake of Eyes Without a Face, Almodóvar more than nods to Franju, and while watching Eyes all I could think about is how desperately I need a copy of The Skin I Live In! If only more filmmakers could show imagination and flair while nodding to their predecessors instead of blatantly ripping them off or doing soulless remakes…
There are a lot of movies out there these days that aim to shock and horrify, and they’ll go to drastic measures to do so. Take, for instance, Tom Six’s The Human Centipede. The thought of hinging helpless folks ass-to-mouth in hopes of creating one digestive system out of multiple human bodies sure is shocking and horrifying. But, it is also ridiculous and unbelievable, and that’s ultimately why Six fails at his job. For something to be truly shocking and horrifying, it must be believable. That is what makes What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? such an incredibly successful and effective shocker; not only did the film’s two stars, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, despise each-other in real life, the storyline they play out here is totally and completely believable.
It all started with Vaudeville, 1917. Baby Jane is a huge child star, singing treacly songs about sending letters to daddy in heaven (sealed with a kiss, to boot). You can even get a life-size Baby Jane doll, complete with blonde ringlets. Jane’s sister, Blanche (Crawford) is mousy and jealous. Their mother
promises Blanche she will one day have her turn in the spotlight, and she is right: fast-forward to the 1930′s where Blanche is the star. The only reason Jane is getting any work is because it’s written into Blanche’s contract that for every picture she does, Jane does one, too.
Unfortunately, Blanche’s time in the sun is cut short by a tragic accident; she is crushed between a car and the gate of her family’s mansion and resigned to a wheelchair for the rest of her life, effectively ending her career, and her autonomy. Though Jane was never officially charged with causing the accident, everyone is certain she is guilty, and so she is charged with caring for Blanche for the rest of her life. And thus begins a sick and twisted journey into the mind of a deranged, psychotic, washed-up alcoholic and the torment and terror she rains down upon her meek, defenseless, paralyzed sister. Three decades after the accident, Blanche is constantly tormented by Jane, and once Jane finds out Blanche is trying to sell the house they live in and send her off to a sanitarium, Jane does all she can to cut off Blanche’s ties with the outside world and make her nothing but a prisoner…
This film is renowned for being a camp classic, and there is plenty of camp to go around. Bette Davis’s performance is absolutely outrageous (and fantastically entertaining), but it’s also not completely out of the realm of believability: people go crazy sometimes, especially in Hollywood. Jealousy and stardom really make a terrible cocktail, as evidenced by Crawford and Davis’s actual off-screen rivalry. But it’s more than just campy, it is legitimately frightening! It’s not often I think of anything that’s considered camp as actually scary, and that I think is what makes Baby Jane so awesome. I found myself shocked at what was happening to Jane and how she was treating Blanche, but also shocked by Davis’s acting. I mean, like, wow, that woman seems seriously unhinged! How can you ham it up so hardcore and still be believable? A true feat, I think, and one we are lucky to behold!
Private detectives are always getting into some sort of trouble; either they’re totally broke or they’re in way over their ignorant heads. It’s probably safe to say Clive Barker’s private detectives fare the worst of all. Just ask Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula), the gumshoe extraordinaire in Lord of Illusions. He managed to stumble his way into a freaky cult. I mean, like, freaky even for Los Angeles.
of the cult were able to shake loose of Nix’s mental grip and return just in time to save her from destruction. One of these saviors was a man named Swann, whom Nix thought of as something of a protégé. Burned by his rejection and stymied sacrifice, Nix casts a spell on Swann which causes him to see things as they truly are, or something. His friends’ faces become monstrous, the world around them liquid and terrifying. He finally snaps out of it, but never forgets the vision. He and the other good guys are able to trap Nix, put a horrifying iron mask on his face and bury him deep as hell.
You know, I don’t think I liked this movie very much. It screams 1995 in some of the worst ways. Some of the characters exhibit those black and white extremes that only work if whatever you’re watching is laughably bad (I’m thinking Alien Warrior or Death Wish 3 here). The ones that don’t still manage to make decisions that you’d never make, and that left me frustrated with the movie. Furthermore, it doesn’t help that Nix, the baddest of baddies, is played by Daniel von Bargen, none-other than Seinfeld’s Kruger (if you’re not familiar, he was one of the silliest, dumbest bosses ever portrayed in television history). Now, that’s hardly Clive Barker’s fault, but nevertheless made the movie that much more ridiculous for me.
I’ve said many times before, I’ll gamble my time on just about any movie. And, as time passes on it seems I’ll gamble my money, too. I don’t quite know if it’s a rush, a thrill, or what, but I’m more willing now than any other time in my life to blow a few bucks on a potential stinker at the used record store. And, as I’ve also said before, though these gambles rarely pay off it is worth it when they do. One such positive case: I, Madman. Completely sold by the synopsis on the back, we brought it home and were pleasantly surprised to find a competent, engaging horror movie. Yay!
Virginia works in a used bookstore by day, and reads pulpy horror novels by night. Her boyfriend, Richard, is a police detective and can’t wrap his
head around why she wastes her time reading that crap, especially because she gets so darn absorbed she always gives herself a fright. Things get particularly bad when she finds a copy of I, Madman on her doorstep…
Virginia easily sees herself in the shoes of the book’s main character, a young actress who is the victim of the affections of a mad scientist who incessantly stalks her. He’s also pretty good at murdering people, but it’s the strangest thing: the murders in the book seem to bear a striking resemblance to the murders that are happening around the city. Soon enough, Virginia knows she can predict where and when the next murder will take place, but can she
and the cops get there soon enough to prevent it from happening?
In the end, I, Madman is a fun horror flick that’s worth checking out. It seems to be sorely under-watched for something that’s actually worthwhile; I’d never even heard of it, and in fact probably never would have heard of it if we hadn’t seen it there amongst the other rejected DVDs. It’s directed by Tibor Takács, a name I wasn’t familiar with until seeing this movie, though he also directed The Gate, which was a childhood favorite of mine. I can’t say if his other stuff is worth checking out, but maybe, just maybe…
The first time I watched The Boogey Man, I’d never heard of its director, Ulli Lommel. A few years later I watched Strangers in Paradise and thought it was stupidly amazing. I wanted more Ulli Lommel, so I decided to revisit The Boogey Man.
Unfortunately, the two are nothing alike, except maybe that they’re both batshit crazy weird. That worked for Strangers in Paradise, which I think benefits from being a whacked-out mess. The Boogey Man, on the other hand, is just a terribly ill-conceived horror film that only succeeds at confusing its audience.
After having seen the movie twice, I still can’t really tell you what it’s about, but I’m going to try anyway.
Lacey and Jake suffer abuse at the hands of their drunken mother and her drunken boyfriend. Lacey gets the biggest knife she can from the kitchen to cut the rope with which her brother’s been tied to the bedpost. Then Jake takes the knife and murders the hell out of that boyfriend. Then he never talks again. Then years later mirrors break and an evil is unleashed and people start dying again. Lacey’s asshole husband doesn’t care that she’s emotionally disturbed and makes her keep a broken mirror in the kitchen, especially after Jake decides to paint all the other mirrors black.
It’s not really until looking at the description of this film that I realize the point of the mirror thing: Lacey apparently witnessed the murder through the mirror’s reflection and when the evil boyfriend died his
spirit was caught in a mirror. So clearly that means mirrors everywhere harbor his evil spirit?
Yeah, dudes, I don’t know about this one. It’s confusing, arduous to get through and has little payoff. I spent most of its 82 minutes scratching my head, trying to figure out what the heck was going on. I will say that some of the shots are strangely amusing, like the knife bobbing up and down in the hallway, or the young boy whose head gets caught in a slammed window, but these oddly-shot moments don’t add up to a worthwhile movie. Still, something in me doesn’t want to give up on Lommel yet. I don’t want to believe that Strangers in Paradise was an anomaly. I want to believe instead that this is the anomaly. I’m almost certainly going to be disappointed…
Well, the ghost story has struck again. This time, it’s The Conjuring that had me clutching stuffed animals from my childhood to my face in hopes of stifling my screams. Now, it is important to note that a ghost story doesn’t have to be particularly good, or even particularly scary for that matter, to work on me like a charm. It just takes a little “boo” here and there and I turn into a pile of fear jelly.
The Conjuring is supposedly based on a true story. The same “paranormal investigators” that inspired The Amityville Horror and A Haunting in Connecticut, Ed & Lorraine Warren, are behind this one, too. This time, they’re called upon by a woman in absolute desperation: she and her family (husband, five girls) are being terrorized in their new home. Selling the thing is out of the question; they sunk all their money into the place.
Her children can’t sleep, and she is covered in mysterious bruises, which she blames on anemia. Lorraine Warren has a different suspicion, though, and despite her husband’s reservations is determined to help the family in need. Her research yields terrifying results; you’ll have to watch (or heck, read Wikipedia for the details) that lead to plenty of screams and spilled popcorn.
Yes, this movie scared the crap out of me. Surprisingly, I did not suffer nightmares or the need to run from the bathroom to my bed in the middle of the night like I did after The Innkeepers. Perhaps part of the reason for that is the movie kind of gets a little ridiculously over the top towards the end, or it just might be that the build-up is always more exciting to me than the actual ghost-human
confrontation. And, since The Innkeepers is 95% build-up, that would explain why it’s scarier to me, and more effective than this movie. But, if you like ghost stories, you shouldn’t miss this; it is pretty standard, but it does its job pretty well.
Ghosts aside, though, the costume and set design is a mid-century cream dream! The film is set in 1971, and the clothing, the kitchenware, the furniture, everything is just to die for. I think I actually said a few times I’d live in that horrible, terrifying, haunted house if it came fully-equipped with that gorgeous freaking kitchen! This is probably not going to be a distraction for most viewers, but for me, it actually helped make me feel a little more at ease when I know I was supposed to be tensing up. I wonder if I’m the only one that felt the urge to hit up etsy after watching this?
Screamers sounds awesome: a science fiction flick based on Philip K. Dick with robots and post-apocalyptic war-zones starring Peter Weller? Sh’yeah, sign me up, right? Unfortunately the film itself isn’t as good as one would hope. That’s not to say it isn’t good, it just isn’t great.
As most science fiction plots are, it’s complicated. There’s a war on a mining planet, and both sides have just about exhausted their resources. Joe Hendricksson (Peter Weller) is lucky; his side created a pretty intense weapon that has kept them safe in their bunker: Autonomous Mobile Swords, or Screamers. Because, well, they scream right before they’re about to kill you.
The Screamers detect your heartbeat, and that’s when they strike. The only way to survive when they’re near you is by having a device on your body that blots out your heartbeat’s signal, so you become invisible to the screamers. Any enemies without this device will soon be dinner for the screamers.
Some stuff happens and Hendricksson is soon convinced he and his company have been left on the planet to die. He takes a fresh-faced, idiot-boy soldier with him while trekking to the enemy’s headquarters. While he’s out there, he finds some really weird shit, namely Screamers that have taken a completely different form. Has the other side learned from and improved upon their
technology? Or, have the Screamers evolved into new “life” forms of their own volition?
As I said, it’s complicated, and frankly I didn’t really follow it until my husband explained it to me. Science fiction plots are often a weakness of mine, unfortunately. So, anyway, I don’t see the sense in explaining the whole thing here because, well, that wouldn’t be so much fun for you if you decide to watch the movie. Anyway, a whole lot of people with credibility thought this movie was pretty okay. I agree, it’s okay, but really nothing more. I was a little irritated with the characters; they’re all pretty one-dimensional and, well, some of them are straight-up annoying. There’s also that 90′s-badass-chick thing going on with the female lead, Jessica (Jennifer Rubin), and I find that stuff pretty insufferable. But, if that’s sort of thing, this isn’t a bad way to go.