Saturday, October 31, 2020

Trick or Trailers: Candyman (2021)

In a different world, we would have already seen director Nia DaCosta's Candyman remake by now. It was originally meant to premiere in June, then was pushed to this October, and now is scheduled to hit theaters in August of next year. Will the world be in a better - or at least a more normal - place by then? Will theaters be busy again with new releases? We'll see. As we know, everything is so tenuous and uncertain the these days.  

When it comes to Candyman, all we have for now is this effective trailer:    

 

I'll admit, I was highly skeptical of a Candyman remake or reboot (although I guess this is actually more of a sequel of sorts) but this trailer immediately turned me around on that. 


Candyman
, as a franchise, always had a tough time replicating the success of Bernard Rose's original. Both 1995's Farewell to the Flesh or 1999's Day of the Dead were weak follow-ups so the prospect of a new Candyman seemed likely to be yet another so-so entry. And, for all we know, it still might be. 

But hey, you gotta say the trailer looks extremely promising, right? 


Sure, that's what trailers do - convince us to part with our money for the cost of a ticket. Even when they have to deceive us about the movie in question. But I always like to take the optimistic view. No matter how many times I get burned by a horror trailer, it doesn't stop me from getting excited all over again for another new movie. 


At this point, of course, the idea of getting excited for a new movie in the theaters seems like something of a distant memory. There's so much real tragedy attached to the pandemic that whining about the lack of movies on the big screen is just a trivial concern but yet it's these trivial distractions in our lives, those reliable sources of escapism, that are often able to buoy our spirits in tough times. 


I know that a lot of people are happy streaming and maybe for them not going to the movies on a regular basis doesn't feel like much of a loss. But to me it does. Even if these delayed movies, like Candyman, were released to streaming, it just wouldn't be the same for me. 

I like the ritual of going to the theater, I like the experience of seeing a movie on a big screen, with a crowd. Without it, life feels a bit, well, empty. 


Whether or not I end up liking the new Candyman, if I do see it on the big screen, I know I will consider the experience to be a sweet one. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Trick or Trailers: Wishmaster (1997)

I believe that only a certain type of person could ever be hyped for Wishmaster. That isn't a knock on it at all, just a statement of fact. 

No matter how this movie was marketed, it was only going to speak to a certain segment of movie goers. While there's definitely a non-genre audience that can get excited for the likes of, say, Misery or Bram Stoker's Dracula or whatever, Wishmaster is another matter. 

Released in 1997, Wishmaster had '90s direct to video written all over it and yet was given a wide theatrical release. Anyone catching this trailer knew immediately whether it was for them or not.  

 
Every second of that trailer is pitched squarely to FANGORIA subscribers, not to the kind of wider audience that was fueling the then-resurgence of theatrical horror, kicked off by Scream in '96. 

Right from the Live Entertainment logo to the "Wes Craven Presents" label to the appearance of genre faves like Tony Todd and the corny vibe of the Wishmaster himself (played to hammy perfection by Andrew Divoff), this was not the stuff of mainstream blockbusters. 

No, this was something that you'd grab off the shelf of your local video store, alongside Leprechaun 4: In Space. But that's what I love about Wishmaster. It's a movie for hardcore horror nerds that somehow got an unlikely break and played on the big screen. 


The month after Wishmaster's release, both Devil's Advocate and I Know What You Did Last Summer were released to theaters, just in time for Halloween. Both of those films had the kind of mainstream appeal that Wishmaster didn't. In the case of Devil's Advocate, you've got big stars like Keanu Reeves and a big budget and in the case of I Know What You Did, you had stars on the rise like Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jennifer Love Hewitt and a screenplay penned by Scream's Kevin Williamson. With Wishmaster, on the other hand, you had a screenplay by the guy who wrote some of the Hellraiser sequels and cameoes by Ted Raimi, Kane Hodder, Robert Englund and Tony Todd - with a voice over appearance by Phantasm's Angus Scrimm to boot!  


And yet, Wishmaster did well enough to spawn three direct to video sequels! So many efforts to deliberately create a new horror icon tank that you have to give Wishmaster credit for actually successfully launching a franchise. True, Wishmaster may not be a household name like Freddy or Jason but, hey, he's got four movies to his name and that's the kind of success that the people behind Dr. Giggles or the Trickster would have made their own wish to the Djinn for! 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Trick or Trailers: The Forgotten (2004)


It's a weird thing that, somehow, the early 00's seem like a far more ancient, mist-enshrouded time to me than the '90s and even the '80s do. Maybe it's because I spend so much time revisiting the films and TV shows of the '80s and '90s that those years are still somehow able to seem "current" to me whereas I hardly give the 00's much thought and when I am occasionally reminded of a film from that era it seems like unearthing a relic from a lost, long ago age. 

Case in point, ironically, is 2004's The Forgotten. This trailer was on a DVD for another movie that I recently watched and as soon as it came up it was shocking to be suddenly reminded that it ever existed.   

   

I probably haven't thought about this movie since seeing this in the theaters back in '04. Never mind probably, I can guarantee I haven't. 

Even seeing the trailer again, I couldn't recall a thing about what the big reveal in the film was, how people's memories were being taken from them or why. 


I'm guessing it wasn't a very good movie but *checks Wikipedia* oh, man, it was directed by Joseph Ruben, who directed some of my favorites, like Dreamscape and The Stepfather. And with Julianne Moore, Anthony Edwards and Gary Sinise, it certainly has the kind of cast that would give anyone hope that they were going to see a quality movie. But, *checks Wikipedia again* yeeeah, I just read the synopsis and I can see why this one didn't stick with me. It's a safe bet that I walked out of this one disappointed, vowing never to think of it again. What a letdown this must have been after the trailer!   

Maybe some movies should exist only as trailers. So many mediocre-to-bad movies have such cool and intriguing trailers that it's a shame that seeing the actual movie causes them to evaporate from memory entirely, after months of anticipation.  

There's such a Schrodinger's Cat thing with trailers, isn't there? If we never looked at the movies themselves, the movie that the trailer conjures in our imagination would forever be a living thing. But often times, as soon as we see the movie, we discover that what we were so excited for was already dead long before the first trailer was cut.

That just makes me love trailers all the more, honestly. They may occasionally trick you into getting your hopes up but, in the end, these disappointments are easily forgotten. So much so that, years later, you may be surprised to be reminded that they ever happened at all.  
   

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Trick or Trailers: My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)

A lot of times I find that modern attempts to recapture the slasher heyday of the '80s fall flat. It's just a vibe that isn't easy to nail and seem authentic rather than second hand. One notable exception, in my book, is 2009's My Bloody Valentine remake. The original is one of my favorites and yet I find the remake to be a completely satisfying update, boasting some wonderfully nasty creative kills that would have made it a legendary gore flick had it come out in the early '80s. 

One of the best aspects of My Bloody Valentine '09, though - the element that it was primarily marketed on - is sadly lost on home viewings. This was a movie that really had to be seen in the theater in order to get the full effect. 

This was the first horror movie to utilize the new 3D technology that was ushered in with 2007's Beowulf and this trailer goes all out to hype the exciting novelty of seeing a modern horror movie in 3D: 

 

Cinema snobs typically label 3D as a cheap gimmick but I say screw that. Anything that makes for a more exciting experience should be used to its full potential. I'm sure back when color was introduced to film, some wet blankets probably rolled their eyes and saw it as just pandering to people who needed too much to hold their interest.  

I say not only is there no shame in milking 3D for all its worth, I say it's a crime against the audience if you don't! When this trailer shows me Harry Warden hurling his pick axe over an audience, I say that's a ride I want to take!   

To its credit, this movie absolutely goes all out to squeeze everything it can out of the 3D format - perhaps more than any modern 3D horror movie has since (although I remember Final Destination 5 being very solid in this regard). And it's not just about objects flying at the screen, it's about using depth, too. Director Patrick Lussier is consistently ingenious in finding ways to immerse viewers in the action, like having a victim holding a spring bed frame between themselves and Harry Warden as he swings his pick axe. 

Some might say that the 3D format is long played out, that the novelty isn't there anymore. I say not even close. I think too few filmmakers have even tried using 3D to its best potential, with My Bloody Valentine being one of the exceptions. When the theatrical experience eventually comes back, as I fully believe it will, I think 3D could be one way to entice audiences back. 

Watching the My Bloody Valentine 3D trailer is a reminder that there's just some experiences that you can't have sitting at home.


Thursday, October 22, 2020

Trick or Trailers: Jason X (2002)

Man, it feels like these October days are just burning away faster and faster. Honestly, how is it possible that we're little over a week away from Halloween? I'm telling you, there's just no keeping up! But anyhow, as much as this Halloween season (along with the rest of 2020) is feeling like a dismal wash, one bright spot this month has been the arrival of Scream Factory's glorious Friday the 13th box set. 

The fact that I own all of these movies many times over in various formats doesn't diminish any of my geeky excitement over having them all together for the first time in one beautifully designed package. The box, the casings, the discs themselves, it all looks wonderful - such a difference from the "who cares?" attitude that Paramount always seemed to bring to the original eight films. 

Warners/New Line was always a little better in packaging their entries but having all twelve films together in a set that shows real care across the board is awesome. The only reason any fan will ever need to upgrade now is if the legal obstacles to a new film are ever cleared and we finally get Friday the 13th Part 13. I have to imagine it will happen at some point. I mean, come on, how could it not? 

In the meantime, though, having this set is compelling me to revisit the entire series (which is only making it seem even less like October - I associate Friday with the spring and summer, not the fall!) and, of course, all the trailers. 

One of the best of the bunch, in my opinion, remains Jason X

 

What a splendidly cheesy trailer this is! While there's an automatic eye roll effect that happens as soon as fans hear a slasher series is heading to space, I love that this trailer doesn't care about that. It leans into the premise and sells it hard, like it's the coolest thing that ever happened.  

Sure, one could say that it gives away too much. It could be argued, I suppose, that it would have been better to keep Uber Jason under wraps as a surprise to be delivered by the movie itself but I say to hell with that. Far better to just put it out there. It's the movie's big selling point so why hide it? You can't have your tagline be "Evil Gets An Upgrade" without showing what that upgrade's gonna look like.  

Of course, all the coolness of the Uber Jason design aside (how much of a bummer is it, by the way, that we never got a Jason X 2? I would have loved to have seen Kane Hodder come back and rock that look at least one more time), it's really the Drowning Pool song that makes this trailer. It was a stroke of genius on whoever it was in the New Line marketing department who thought to slap "Bodies" on this. 

Call that song corny if you will but as soon as it kicks in, it's like "Oh yeeeeaah!" And from the vantage point of 2020, hearing it now brings on a such warm rush of early '00 vibes. 

Back then, those years did not feel like such a great era but, you know, we got through 'em and so now that time has its own kind of nostalgic glow. Let's hope we'll be able to say the same about this time we're living through now one of these days. No matter what, as Jason X shows us, we've always got to keep our eyes on the future. 

Chances are, some cool shit is likely to go down there.   

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Trick or Trailers: Paranormal Activity (2009)

Are we really in October already? Like halfway through it, at that? 

Well, according to the calendar we definitely are. But it seems like time doesn't really have the same meaning as it used to, right? The weather changes with the seasons and we come up on holidays and other milestones but yet it feels like we went into limbo way back in March and still haven't come out of it. 

But no matter how different things might feel, officially being in October means that another round of Trick or Trailers is due! I haven't checked on how many years I've been doing this but I know it's been more than a few. Early on, I was conscious of trying not to repeat any trailers from years past but at this point, I'm not going to bother to go back and double check. I'm just going with my gut and hoping that I'm not just rehashing things. We'll see how it goes!     

First up, 2009's effective trailer for the original Paranormal Activity: 

   

This is one of my absolute favorite styles of horror trailers - selling people on the reactions of an audience. But man, everything about this trailer makes me want to cry now. An audience lined up to see a movie! In a packed theater, no less! Everybody screaming and hiding their eyes and clutching their companions and just sharing the rush of that communal fright! God, how I want to get back to that. 

With theater going pretty much on pause, as studios continue to hold back most of their product until the pandemic situation improves, I'm desperately missing the joys of getting hyped for new movies and anticipating trekking to the theater on opening night to have that experience with an audience. I know there's no shortage of new genre product on streaming services but, I'm sorry, pulling something up on Netflix or Hulu is no substitute for seeing a new horror movie on the big screen. Especially ones that caution you to "Don't See It Alone!" 

That experience is so key to appreciating movies and to horror movies, especially, that it is so dispiriting (no ghost pun intended!) to have it on hold and with such uncertainty as to when it might return. 

Watching the first PA trailer these days makes for a bittersweet reminder of better times, of the kind of simple, silly pleasures that we took for granted, never expecting that they might one day end. 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Trick or Trailers: The Horror Show (1989)


Back when I named this blog, way back in (gasp!) 2007, I didn't put much thought into it. Truth be told, I've always kind of hated it and wish I'd taken a moment or two to come up with something better.

But what I definitely don't hate is the movie that the name hails from, 1989's The Horror Show. I mean, what's to hate about this:



Pure gold is what that is!

Originally meant to be House III (and released overseas as such), The Horror Show was re-titled in the US due to its intensity being out of step with the lighthearted nature of the first two House installments.


Casting classic character actor Brion James as horror icon in the making, "Meat Cleaver Max," was an inspired move that should have guaranteed that The Horror Show would spawn its own franchise.


Certainly, James tore into his role with all the gusto you'd expect, giving Max Jenke a signature maniacal laugh and spitting out lines like "I'm coming back to tear your world apart...I'm going to fuck you up!" with pure commitment. Brion had to be the first and only choice for this. I can't imagine anyone else even trying to out-Jenke James.

Pairing an actor as formidable as James with one as equally formidable as Lance Henriksen as the cop that Jenke torments was a masterstroke of casting. Having these two acting powerhouses face off against each other is not just rare in the slasher sub-genre, it's completely unheard of. That alone makes The Horror Show notable.


Sadly, all that talent and the name of Friday the 13th and House producer Sean Cunningham couldn't get audiences to buy enough tickets to The Horror Show back in the day and James never got the chance to be the next Freddy Krueger.

Hardly seems fair but those are the breaks. In life, you take your shots and you make the best of them. In the case of The Horror Show, Brion James made every moment count. When you've got the chance to become the next horror icon, you've got to think of it as the opportunity of a lifetime and swing for the fences. And you can't just chew some of the scenery, you've got to chew all of it.


Above all, win or lose, make damn sure they remember you.