Monday, May 31, 2010
Over at Shock Till You Drop, I'm looking back at Poltergeist as part of our Summer Shocks series. To read the full review, click here. And if you're a citizen of the U.S. of A. be sure to rise for the playing of our national anthem.
Happy Memorial Day!
Friday, May 28, 2010
It's fitting that Wolfen is about shape-shifters as it's an altogether different animal from most horror films. Director Michael Wadleigh came up with something compelling and it shows. Unfortunately, it just wasn't immediately obvious to most audiences at the time.
To read Ryan's full Wolfen review, click here.
When I finally saw the movie for myself on VHS, I was not disappointed. It remains such a terrific shocker (rewatching it just the other week, there was a 'gotcha' scare involving Sharon Stone's character in a barn that 'got me' so badly - even though I knew it was coming - that I damn near sprained my neck!) and it's such a key movie in Wes Craven's filmography (bringing dream imagery into his work in a big way) that I'm puzzled as to why it hasn't been given a Region 1 DVD release.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Read Ryan's Phantasm review here.
Read my Amityville Horror review here.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
That "Swan Song" was such a solid closer came as a double-relief for this fan. First, it redeemed the most wobbly season in the show's history. While Season Five was not without its share of top-shelf episodes, it was by far the most unsteady year in the show's run. Previously, the show's writers and producers deftly jumped back and forth between the mythology episodes and the done-in-one "monster of the week" shows but this season, episodes where the boys were sidetracked from the looming apocalypse to hunt, say Paris Hilton as a shape-shifter, frequently felt shoe-horned in. At the same time, too many of the mythology episodes ("Dark Side of the Moon," in particular) felt like they were just marking time until the finale. Kripke had his endgame planned but for the sake of having a full season he had to noticeably dawdle for time on the way there with too many patience-trying bouts of Sam and Dean doubting each other, then getting back on the same page again, only to slip back into being at odds on how to prevent the apocalypse. Thankfully, the finale was able to put the herky-jerky quality of the season to bed.
Secondly, the success of "Swan Song" was proof that Kripke hasn't just been jerking the chain of the audience for the past five years. As much as I love The X-Files, it still fries me that Chris Carter didn't have any clue on how to pull his show's convoluted mythology together (I bailed on Lost in Season Three for fear of getting taken in the same way twice - a decision that now looks like it was a smart move). Kripke, however, really did know how his story ended rather than just fudging his finale.
My biggest fear going into "Swan Song" was that the task of concluding the show's ongoing storylines would be compromised by the need to set-up next season. Thankfully, Kripke gave the series some closure while leaving the door open for more stories with the Winchester brothers. "Swan Song" could easily have served as the final episode in the series as by the hour's end, this chapter of the saga of Sam and Dean Winchester has been properly shut - although as Chuck says, "nothing ever really ends."
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
These days, as I approach middle-age (or maybe I'm already there) my appetite for the extreme isn't what it used to be. The idea of watching The Human Centipede feels like committing to a burdensome chore rather than welcoming the opportunity to enjoy some potentially taboo-smashing entertainment and I have to wonder why that is. Why am I watching Stuart Gordon's Dolls (1987) for the umpteenth time when The Human Centipede is readily available? Maybe it's just that given the limited time I have to watch films on my own - when my wife and son are otherwise occupied - I don't want to waste time watching something I feel I'm not likely to enjoy. After all, life is too short.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Even though it would've been easy - especially in the '80s - to slap together a scenario involving careless kids channeling the wrong spirit, writer/director Kevin S. Tenney took a more researched approach. For all I know, Tenney could've been pulling everything out of his ass but Witchboard appears to be earnest about serious about schooling the audience on the dos and don'ts of the Ouija - it isn't just treated as some phony MacGuffin like the Necronomicon in The Evil Dead (1982).
Tenney uses the character of Brandon Sinclair (Stephen Nichols) as the film's resident occult expert to walk the audience through the proper usage of Ouijas. One of the first scenes in the movie has Brandon giving a group of mostly drunken partiers a starter's guide. As he explains: "For the best results, the ouija should be used by two people, preferably a man and a woman, and it shouldn't be sitting on a table, it should sit on our knees so there's as much body contact as possible. Also the two people should have clean, pure systems so that the energy flowing through us through the planchette is as strong as it can be."
That's a lot more than I ever knew about Ouijas before seeing Witchboard, I can tell you that! It could be that all that info is on the boxes that they sell Ouijas in but I kind of doubt it (although at the very least they must tell you that the triangular object that the spirits guide across the board is called a planchette). No, I think Tenney actually had to go look this shit up - and this was back when researching a subject didn't just mean googling it. For a guy making a low-budget horror movie, Tenney really went the extra mile!
After the party - and the Ouija demonstration - takes a sour turn thanks to a heated exchange between Brandon and his former best bud Jim (Todd Allen), Brandon leaves in a huff and makes the mistake of leaving his Ouija behind in Jim's home. While the Ouija is temporarily in the care of Jim's live-in girlfriend Linda (Tawny Kitaen, of Whitesnake video fame), she breaks the number one rule of the ouija board and uses it alone, allowing herself to fall under the influence of the spirit of a child named David. Linda's growing obsession with the Ouija is referred to by Brandon as "progressive entrapment" and he tries to convince Jim, the hard-nosed skeptic, that Linda - and everyone around her - is in danger. You'd think this would be easy to do as people around Jim and Linda start to die in almost spectacular ways (the creative deaths that Tenney is able to realize on his meager $1,000,000 budget don't quite rival those of The Omen - even though one death via falling sheet rock is a memorably well-timed shock) but Jim's long-standing issues with Brandon make it hard for Jim not to think that Brandon is just jealous of his relationship with Linda. This bitter relationship between Brandon and Jim proves to be the heart of the film.
While it was common in the wake of the slasher trend of the '80s for directors to insist that their film wasn't just a slice n' dice picture and that their film didn't just have cardboard characters getting dispatched in innovative ways, that talk almost always proved to be just talk. Witchboard, however, really is a movie with (at least two!) fully developed characters as in their efforts to protect Linda, Brandon and Jim are forced to come together and deal with the issues that wrecked their friendship. Intriguingly, Tenney doesn't make it obvious from the start which of the two men - if either - is the more sympathetic character. Early on, Brandon seems like a high-handed prick and Jim an unassuming everyman but as the film goes on, it's not as clear who we ought to side with as Brandon starts to show much more humanity and Jim reacts to conflict and confusion by coming across as a flippant jerk. Kitean is never more than just eye-candy (she's often seen in negligee and there's an obligatory shower scene as well) but Tenney makes Brandon and Jim into the kind of thought-out characters that seldom appear in horror films.
I can't say I ever thought Witchboard was anything great (it could've benefited from more atmospheric direction - the movie suffers from looking overlit) but compared to the glossy, overblown nonsense that too often passes for horror these days (I'm looking at you, Platinum Dunes!), it comes across as a winning effort. And I'm still fond of the punk rocker medium (Kathleen Wilhoite) who practices her quirky brand of "psychic humor" before taking a fatal dive on to a sun dial.
To use the customary sign-off after using the Ouija: "Good-bye."
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
The most dramatic thing about Dren isn't the cleft down the center of her head or her X-shaped pupils but that she's a monster in 2010 without any back-up. It's become so common now to see monsters travelling in anonymous hordes, finding strength in numbers, that it jumps out to see one going solo.
Monday, May 3, 2010
While it's nice for those who enjoy these kind of movies to count on seeing them all year round, some might say that the idea of a summer movie season has been rendered obsolete. I say it doesn't matter what else is released the rest of the year - to not be excited about the summer movie season is like being blasé about Christmas: Not going to happen.
Admittedly, this summer looks pretty light on films to anticipate (and real light on horror - I guess Drag Me To Hell's weak showing last June took a toll) but here's my top ten reasons why I'm looking forward to the next few months of movies:
This adaptation of the DC horror/western comic will suck, surely, so maybe it shouldn't be on this list at all. But on the other hand - they made a freakin' Jonah Hex movie and that blows my mind! Hex is a character that only the most die-hard comic fans have any idea about, a character that even within the comic book community has extremely limited appeal - in other words, he sounds like the ideal character to build a big budget summer movie around, doesn't he?
Oh, and it's also a Western - and we know that's proven box office gold right there. So...this will be tanking in a big way when it hits theaters on June 18th (serving further death notice, Hex shares that date with Toy Story 3) but I'll be eagerly checking it out just the same.