Why is horror still a bad word?

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“To a new world of gods and monsters!”

- Dr. Pretorius, Bride Of Frankenstein, 1935

Where have all the monsters gone?
The vampires have been de-fanged and transformed into teen heartthrobs. Frankenstein’s monster is now an action hero. The wolfman will warm your heart, rather than rip it out. The Creature from the Black Lagoon got lost somewhere in the shuffle. The Mummy is being re-imagined yet again. And the list goes on…

Universal Studios has long had a name synonymous with the legendary monsters of modern cinema,  beginning in 1923 with Lon Cheney in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The studio had great success with it’s long line of monster and horror films in the 1930’s when Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi stepped in and became Dracula, The Mummy, and Frankenstein’s monster. The studio developed many adaptations of the work of Edgar Allan Poe and seemed to thrive in the darker side of the growing medium of film. In the ’40s, Lon Cheney Jr. filled the shoes of the Wolf Man, even as the original Universal monsters were now becoming ripe for comedy and parody films, effectively ending their legacy with Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein. In the ’50s, The Creature from the Black Lagoon was a surprise hit, reviving some of the classic films for theatrical distribution as double features, and the company attempted to keep their monsters relevant  all the way through the 1960’s, when they began to disappear.

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Over the following decades, many homages and attempts to revitalize these now classic characters have appeared to varying receptions. Excepting honest and loving tributes like 1974’s  Young Frankenstein and 1987’s Monster Squad, most of these attempts to bring the monsters back into the spotlight have been spectacular failures. Of course some good can be found in many of the remakes over the years, like Kenneth Branagh’s flawed but fun take on Frankenstein and the recent gothic remake of The Wolf Man, many of the others have been pure embarrassments like Van Helsing and the recently released Dracula Untold.

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Now, Universal Studios has inexplicably announced that they are attempting to re-brand and re-imagine their stable of classic monsters for a new generation, but without all that pesky horror stuff getting in the way. Continuing in the vein they began a few weeks ago with the really rotten new Dracula film, these legendary horror icons will become a new breed of action star, in the hopes that the studio will be able to compete with the likes of the many superhero films crowding the box office lately.

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According to Universal studio head Donna Langley, “We have to mine our resources. We don’t have any capes [in our film library]. But what we do have is an incredible legacy and history with the monster characters. We’ve tried over the years to make monster movies — unsuccessfully, actually. So, we took a good, hard look at it, and we settled upon an idea, which is to take it out of the horror genre, put it more in the action-adventure genre and make it present day, bringing these incredibly rich and complex characters into present day and reimagine them and reintroduce them to a contemporary audience.”

Which, to me, sounds like a horrible idea. And leads to the question “Why is horror still a bad word?”

Horror has consistently proven to be a genre populated with quality work, if you take the time to do your homework and find it. Many of the great directors of our time have deep roots in the horror genre, which has been a springboard for film-makers like Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Jackson, David Cronenberg, Sam Raimi, and most recently, James Gunn. Despite all of this, the horror genre has always been the red-headed stepchild of cinema, for some reason or other.  One reason could be the glut of lower budgeted “B” films that flooded the market throughout the 60s and 70s, giving the genre a bad rap. Even The Exorcist, which should have been a clear best picture winner in 1973, was snubbed because it was an unforgiving horror film. The Silence of the Lambs finally broke the stigma in 1991, but is widely regarded as a thriller. Many horror films are marketed as “psychological thrillers” or other nonsense simply in an attempt to reach a wider audience.

Right now, “horror” is everywhere, especially your television set. One of the most popular shows on TV right now has the word right in the middle of it’s title, but has proven to be more of a musical comedy of late rather than the American Horror Story it promises. Zombies have proven to make great lovers in a few recent laughable romantic comedies like Warm Bodies and Life After Beth. And the less said about the sparkling fresh teenage “vampires” of the Twilight saga, the better.

And now, we are primed to get a series of films featuring our beloved Universal monsters in a modern day setting, all designed to lead up to an action adventure spectacle reminiscent of Marvel’s cinematic universe. A horrible, misguided idea from a bunch of studio heads who are so empty of interesting ideas that they are mining decades-old properties and reshaping them into a package that doesn’t even fit. If Dracula Untold was meant to be a jumping off point for this new series, then the path is already lost, as that film was a jumbled, confused and pointless mess which I wouldn’t have even bothered to see if it weren’t playing a double feature at my local drive-in with the far superior Nightcrawler.

But that is just me, and my opinion as a life-long fan of monsters and all things horror.
Please, Universal, just let our monsters be monsters, or else don’t bother to resurrect them.
Thank you.

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Ash vs. Evil Dead TV series is coming in 2015!

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Everyone’s favorite every-man is returning to the screen at last!
Thanks to Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and the Starz network, fans of the chainsaw-handed wiseguy can rejoice over his triumphant return to the series that started it all. The first Evil Dead film hit theaters way back in 1981, followed by Evil Dead 2 : Dead by Dawn (my all-time favorite movie!)  in 1987 and Ash vs. Army of Darkness in 1993. The legacy was continued last year with a well-received remake which teased the return of our grinning hero Ash in a post-credits sequence, and we have been subsequently teased with further adventures in the world of Evil Dead, but with no real substance until today.
While Sam Raimi revealed his plans for an Evil Dead television series (and a possible AoD sequel) back in July at Comic-Con, the commitment was set in stone today, as Starz officially announced their order for a ten episode run of the show to premiere sometime in 2015. The exciting news is that the show will continue the misfortunate adventures of our beloved hero Ash, and be written by Sam Raimi and his brother and long-time collaborator Ivan Raimi. Rob Tapert, who produced the original films is also along for the ride. Raimi will reportedly be directing the premiere episode, setting the tone for what is to come.

According to Raimi, “Evil Dead has always been a blast. Bruce, Rob, and I are thrilled to have the opportunity to tell the next chapter in Ash’s lame, but heroic saga. With his chainsaw arm and his ‘boomstick,’ Ash is back to kick some monster butt. And brother, this time there’s a truckload of it.”
“I’m really excited to bring this series to the Evil Dead fans worldwide — it’s going to be everything they have been clamoring for: serious deadite ass-kicking and plenty of outrageous humor,” said Campbell.
“Starz first worked with Sam and Rob on Spartacus, and we are thrilled to be back in business with them,” said Carmi Zlotnik, managing director of Starz. “With Sam writing and directing and Bruce Campbell returning to the screen, we are certain the show will give Evil Dead fans around the world the fix they’ve been craving.”

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While the Army of Darkness comic book series has continued the storyline in several different incarnations over the years, the direction of the storyline for the series is still unknown. I personally think it would be great to see Ash as king of that forgotten realm that he so valiantly and sarcastically defended all those years ago. As a huge fan of these films, I can obviously see all kinds of great potential in this series and am beyond excited for the return of good ol’ Ash and his wise-cracking ways.

What would you guys like to see from this exciting return of a classic character?

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Open Windows is clever, timely, and confusing.

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Open Windows, the new film from Timecrimes director Nacho Vigalondo is a groundbreaking and hypnotic journey through the nightmares of modern technology.
The film tells the twisted tale of Nick (Elijah Wood), a young geek with a fan blog who gets pulled deep into a convoluted plot by a mysterious voice on the other end of the internet. His website is a classy fan site for big time star Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey), who is attending a press conference for her newest sci-fi big budget adventure film. Nick has been contacted by her representatives and been told that he has won a dinner date with the young lady, which he learns she has abruptly cancelled. The voice on the other end of the line is “Chord”, who initially claims to be one of the producers working with the starlet, but leads Nick down a rabbit hole of strange and uncomfortable twists and turns. Before Nick knows it, he (and the audience) is sucked right into this strange sequence of events, and the pace is so frantic we never even have the chance to question what is going on.

While the concept can be considered to be a modern day take on Hitchcock’s Rear Window, the real gimmick here is that everything you see in the film is via a computer screen, so Nick’s laptop is of key importance. The screens and windows dance in and out of our focus, and really help the voyeuristic tone of the film, making the audience complicit with the progressively more nerve-wracking events.  Chord quickly reveals himself to be more enigmatic than we thought, as he orchestrates a convoluted series of events that involve torture, kidnapping and virtual extortion. Touching on a timely theme of young starlets being exploited by media outlets, this ambitious film has a lot to say, and in an entirely new format.

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According to the director, “Some years ago my producers asked me to come up with a movie in which social networks and the language of the Internet would feature heavily. I made a counter-proposal: taking the concept to its limit by writing a film that took place entirely on the desktop of a computer, pushing the envelope of the production to make it a really unique adventure.”

Elijah Wood is great in his part as the puppet being dragged along by the strings of a sinister maniac, and I love seeing the little hobbit take on strange roles like this at this time in his career. Nick is a sympathetic stalker, being forced into an uncomfortable situation by a much more nefarious puppeteer, but he tellingly doesn’t wrestle too hard with his conscience when he gets a chance to peek at the holy grail. When the stakes become considerably higher, however, he rises to the occasion to become her hero and joins forces with some amusing French hackers to save the day. Sort of…

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Nothing in this film is what it appears to be, and while the breakneck pace of the first two thirds drags the audience along for the ride, the final act kind of stops the film dead in its tracks. Some questionable technology combined with new characters (and one easily forgettable but vitally important one from the beginning) turn the climactic scenes into a jumbled, confusing mess.

The first time I watched it I found myself asking What the FUCK just happened?

Upon a second viewing, things became a little clearer toward the end, but I think it is safe to say that the director used a few cheats to get to the desired conclusion. As with Timecrimes, the science of the sci-fi is clearly not as important to the director as the fiction, but I just didn’t feel that it worked as well here. Overall, Open Windows is a fun and unique experience in a whole new style of film-making, and will not be easy to forget despite the somewhat unsatisfying wrap-up. The film is currently available On Demand, and will also start a limited theatrical run today November 7th, although to be honest I think watching this one on a laptop or mobile device makes the whole package more satisfying.




Trailer for Dark Star : H.R. Giger’s World

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Earlier this year, we lost a great of the dark art world when H.R. Giger passed away at the age of 74. Known the world over for his one of a kind imagination and haunting designs, this artist was responsible for some of the most interesting artwork of the last century. Now, to carry on his legacy of dark beauty, film-maker Belinda Sallin brings us a new collection of interviews with the artist himself  along with Carmen Maria Giger, Stanislav Grof, Hans H. Kunz, Leslie Barany, Paul Tobler,Tom Gabriel Fischer, Carmen Scheifele de Vega, Mia Bonzanigo, Andreas J. Hirsch, Marco Witzig, Sandra Beretta, and Müggi III.
The film proposes to answer the question Who is the artist H.R. Giger? What kind of person is behind the terrifying and disturbing beings he has created?
Check out the trailer below, and be sure and see this intriguing film when it releases to get to know more about this amazing artist!

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Legendary director John Carpenter’s Lost Themes!

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John Carpenter, the man responsible for a long list of great films from the 1980s, is back with a new collection of original music. As many of us know, Carpenter not only wrote and directed such classics as Halloween, The Thing, and Prince of Darkness, he also composed the scores for many of these films, some of which have gone on to be influential icons in the worlds of film and music.
The new album, entitled Lost Themes, will be available from Sacred Bones Releasing on February 3rd 2015.
Although the title seems to suggest that these songs were somehow hidden gems from the past, in reality the album is composed entirely of brand new music from the 66-year-old auteur. Carpenter says :

Lost Themes was all about having fun. It can be both great and bad to score over images, which is what I’m used to. Here there were no pressures. No actors asking me what they’re supposed to do. No crew waiting. No cutting room to go to. No release pending. It’s just fun. And I couldn’t have a better set-up at my house, where I depended on (collaborators) Cody (Carpenter, of the band Ludrium) and Daniel (Davies, who scored I, Frankenstein) to bring me ideas as we began improvising. The plan was to make my music more complete and fuller, because we had unlimited tracks. I wasn’t dealing with just analogue anymore. It’s a brand new world. And there was nothing in any of our heads when we started other than to make it moody.

The first track from the album can be heard below, or if you prefer to hear the new theme set to scenes from the director’s past films click here to go to the Sacred Bones website.

Lost Themes track listing:

01 – Vortex
02 – Obsidian
03 – Fallen
04 – Domain
05 – Mystery
06 – Abyss
07 – Wraith
08 – Purgatory
09 – Night

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Fantasm – A documentary that will make you feel right at home.

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The new documentary Fantasm is a love letter to the horror community, specifically the huge groups of dedicated fans who frequent conventions all over the country.
Begun as a student film project, director and ardent horror fan Kyle Kutchta has assembled a dedicated and loving  look at the phenomenon of horror conventions and the people just like you and I who religiously attend them.

In an effort to understand his own fascination with the genre, the young director embarked on a journey to six horror conventions throughout the united states. Through interviews with actors, directors, horror experts and fellow fans at conventions, Kyle discovered that it’s not only the love of the genre that makes these gatherings so special, but it’s the sense of community.
Fantasm features insight from such notable names as Tom Atkins (Escape from New York), Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Lloyd Kaufman (The Toxic Avenger), Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2), Richard Johnson (The Haunting) and more, alongside the dedicated fans who attend horror conventions.
Clocking in at just under an hour, the documentary is a quick and fascinating look at the culture of weirdos and horror nerds and our connection through the love of horror on film. In fact, the entire show seems to be more of an introduction to the scene meant for outsiders and naysayers. Many of the interviewees try very hard to defend their love of the genre and prove that horror folk are just like everyone else.  Obviously this could be a great help for any horror fans who have ever felt unjustly persecuted for their love of cinematic grue, as this film provides proof that young outsiders and misfits are being welcomed in and accepted to the fold.
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Aside from the fascinating conversations with the aforementioned horror luminaries in defense of our beloved gore, which would make it well worth a watch, the film proves to be somewhat of an eye-opener to older more jaded fans like myself. With a director who is barely in his twenties, he has an entirely different perspective on horror culture than I do. For example, early on in the film he describes how first seeing the remake of “Dawn Of The Dead” in 2006 led to his fascination and eventual passion for the dark side. In a way, this makes the case for remakes, which us older fans tend to write off without merit. According to this young man, the remake led him to the original Romero films, and further down the rabbit hole of classic films that many of us know and love. In fact, the Dawn remake is mentioned fondly several times by younger horror fans, and it is interesting to think of that film a different way, through the eyes of a new horror watcher. The fact that it ignited love for the genre and created a whole new generation of horror geeks is wonderful, and it is a key to the effectiveness of this documentary that it inspires people (even us old guys) to look at the genre in entirely different ways.
Overall, Fantasm is a quick and fun watch which makes the viewer feel right at home among friends, which is the obvious legacy of the community of horror fans who frequent these conventions. It is the next best thing to being there, and will be fun to pop in and watch during the off seasons. It also serves as a great introduction for new and future generations to the whole culture and experience of the convention scene. While at times it seemed to be defending horror just a bit too much for my taste, it is good evidence to have the next time you feel ostracized or left out of something because of your infatuation with fictional evils.

Fantasm will be officially released on DVD on November 11th 2014, and anyone who pre-orders the film before then can get it for a discounted price of $13, also signed by the director.
The DVD will include such special features as the original student film, extended interviews, bloopers, trailers, and a special “Dinner at the Kuchta’s” featurette.
Follow Fantasm on Facebook and Twitter, and be sure and get your very own copy right here!
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Help discover Found Footage 3D!

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Two trends that are widely regarded as overused gimmicks are coming together at last, in a valiant effort to unite them for the good of movie fans everywhere.
Found Footage 3D intends to be that singular film which transforms the bad into good, and finds a way to use these techniques as useful ways to tell a story rather than the tired gimmicks they have become. The innovative film has been completely shot, and in the editing process they discovered that the budget for their effects was double what they thought it would be for some tricky effects shots.
While director Steven Degennaro is adamant on his use of mostly practical effects during the shooting of the film, it turns out that at least one shot required much more in post-production. Check out his reasonable plea in the very amusing video below :

This film comes from some serious horror fans, who even went so far as to enlist the assistance of a co-creator of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Kim Henkel. According to the film-makers this project is meant to be the Scream of the “found footage” genre, reshaping the familiar elements into something new and exciting. According to their indiegogo campaign :

You may remember the same thing happening to slasher movies in the late 80s and early 90s. So when Scream came along, horror fans were ready for a smart movie that poked fun at the worst of the genre while exemplifying the best of it. It was funny, clever, and scary in equal measure, and it’s one of my absolute favorite horror movies.

Which is why, 20 years later, I’m making Found Footage 3D.

FF3D is about a group of filmmakers who go to a cabin in the woods to shoot “the first 3D found-footage horror movie”, but find themselves IN a found-footage horror movie when the evil entity from their film escapes into their behind-the-scenes footage.

Like Scream, the characters know all of the rules, tricks, and clichés of the genre. Like Scream, it turns those clichés on their heads and exposes many of the genre’s recent efforts for what they are: cynical cash grabs by clueless amateurs and/or Hollywood suits with dollar signs in their eyes. And, like Scream, FF3D is not just funny—it’s scary as hell.

Make no mistake—this is a horror movie, not a spoof.

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Finding new and engaging ways of using these techniques in the face of the backlash these two genres seem to encompass seems to be the risky proposition here. Director Steven Degennaro took to reddit yesterday to answer any questions, and we were able to learn a little more about the film and the ideas behind it. For example, in response to the question of the current state of animosity in these genres and why he chose to combine them, he says :

3D and found footage are actual a more natural fit for than even I realized when I started to write this script. Because we are making a movie where the camera actually exists inside the world of the story, we get to play with 3D in a way that no one has ever really done before. If we want something to appear in one eye, but not the other, we can do that. If we want footage on a computer monitor that someone is filming to appear in 3D to the audience instead of just a flat screen, we can do that do. And we can have things move from one window on a computer screen into another window by coming into and out of the plane of the monitor. There are lots of things like that that I’ve had a ton of fun playing around with.

At the same time, the nature of found footage means that we used consumer-grade camcorders to shoot the movie. One of the qualities that these cameras have is really deep focus, meaning that we were able to compose shots with lots of layers of depth in 3D. In a more traditional movie, the thing you want the audience to look at is in focus and the rest of the shot is blurry, which means that even if you (as an audience member) wanted to, you couldn’t look at the background, or a tree in front of the characters. With our movie, there’s a much more realistic sense of depth because your eyes can choose to focus anywhere on the screen (for the most part). It’s much more like real life, which makes it perfect for found footage, which is supposed to be immersive and real.

Another interesting answer from the director came in response to the question of how he thinks his film separates itself from the current glut of found footage and/or 3D films :

Mostly by telling a compelling story with quality acting. There are a whole bunch of people who think that because they own a cell phone and have a couple of friends, that makes them a filmmaker. They think that found footage is easy. It’s not. I’ve made 4 or 5 short films now, and worked on hundreds of movies in my career as a sound guy, and I can say pretty confidently that making a found footage movie is actually a lot more difficult than making a “regular” movie in a lot of ways.

So even though this is my first feature, I’ve been in this business for almost a decade, and I’ve been writing scripts for longer than that. I spend two years working on this script and months finding the perfect actors. Our budget is considerably higher than your average found footage movie, but still lower than your average indie horror flick. So we get the best of both worlds, meaning that rather than blowing our entire budget on lighting and Red cameras and all the other things that are required to make a low-budget move look professional, we instead were able to spend that money on the things that actual matter to making a movie better: hiring the right cast and crew to tell a really compelling story.

The other thing we have going for us in the “meta” angle. Our movie is funny and smart in how it approaches the tropes and cliches of found footage and skewers the glut of derivative crapfests that have been released in the last few years, while at the same time telling a story that is truly scary. So if you love found footage movies, then you’ll love our film. And if you think most found footage movies are stupid, you’ll still love our movie.

Or so we hope, anyway. The audience will ultimately have to decide for themselves.

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The film’s indiegogo campaign goes on for a few more days, until November 11th, so get in there and show your support for an independent film project from some creative people who are dedicated to bringing you a new and uniquely horrifying experience!
They have tons of great rewards up for grabs, including signed props, T-shirts, original Texas Chainsaw merchandise from the private collection of Kim Henkle, and even a bloody chunk of flesh and bone from one of the film’s more gruesome deaths!
Support their indiegogo campaign here, and learn more on the official Found Footage 3D website.

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New Home Viewing Releases for November 2014

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We made it through another year, and another Halloween season!
Of course, last month was filled to the brim with horrific releases, and I personally slogged through all of the Halloween films thanks to the amazing box set released in September. Many of last month’s releases were well worth watching, and will be coming out in various formats over the coming months. I hope everyone is enjoying the new redesign of the site, and take a few minutes to look around at all of the new features we have going on! Feel free to jump in and stab a friend, start a discussion, and test your knowledge with some of our all-new quizzes!
With all of that said, let’s take a look at what November is bringing for all of us agoraphobics!

 

November 4thThe Taking of Deborah Logan (DVD)

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Synopsis : Mia Medina (Michelle Ang) has finally found the perfect subject for her PhD thesis film on Alzheimer’s Disease. For the next several months, cameras will record the everyday life of mother Deborah Logan (Jill Larson) and her daughter, Sarah (Anne Ramsay). But as the days progress, strange things begin to happen around Deborah that are not consistent with any findings about Alzheimer’s. It becomes apparent that there’s something besides Alzheimer’s that has taken control of Deborah’s life. It’s an evil that is far worse than the debilitating disease with which she was first diagnosed.

This one is already available on Netflix Streaming, and we gave it a watch the other night. It is a good creepy slow-burner, and the mother is eerily effective. Definitely worth a watch.

November 4thGhost Bride (DVD)

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Synopsis : Supernatural thriller from New Zealand filmmaker David Blyth following the romance between Chinese immigrant Jason Chen and Kiwi girl Skye. When Chen proposes to Skye, tensions arise from his parents and the woman they wanted him to wed, Mei Ling. But the traditional Chinese culture clash is nothing compared to the conflict of two worlds: the living and the dead.

 

November 7thOpen Windows (On Demand)

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Synopsis : An actress named Jill refuses to have dinner with Nick, a fan who won a date with her in an Internet contest. In return, a guy named Chord, posing as Jill’s campaign manager, helps Nick to follow in the footsteps of the actress from his own computer. Nick starts a game in which he realizes that he is only a puppet into the maniacal plans devised by Chord, to hunt down the star.

From the director of Timecrimes, this one was a fun watch, and I love Elijah wood’s recent turn to horror/thriller films. Unfortunately, though this one starts strong it becomes jumbled and confusing by the end of things. Overall, it is a very inventive and cool flick. Recommended.

November 7th — Jessabelle (On Demand)

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Synopsis : Follows a woman who is forced to return to her father’s home in Louisiana when a car accident leaves her without the use of her legs. It’s not long before she discovers a mystery surrounding her own birth, as well as an angry ghost determined to destroy her.

 

November 11thDemons / Demons 2 (Blu-Ray)

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Finally on Blu-ray! The 1985 classic from Lamberto Bava is one of my favorite gross out flicks of all time!
If you have never seen this one, consider it a must. For a full look at this classic of Italian splatter, check out my article in the most recent coffin-shaped issue of Gore Noir!

 

November 11thFantasm (DVD)

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In this interesting looking documentary, horror fanatic Kyle Kuchta embarked on a journey to six horror conventions throughout the United States in an effort to understand his own fascination with the genre. Through interviews with actors, directors, horror experts and fellow fans at conventions, Kyle discovered that it’s not only the love of the genre that makes these gatherings so special, but it’s the sense of community.
This new film is available exclusively for pre-order here for a discounted price of $13, signed by the director. In addition to the feature-length documentary, this limited edition DVD includes the original student film, extended interviews, bloopers, “Dinner at the Kuchta’s,” trailers and the Kickstarter video.

November 11thTrue Blood: The Complete Series

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Love it or hate it, the HBO series definitely had its moments of greatness. Since the series wrapped up this past summer with season 7, now for the first time the entire show is available on Blu-ray! I feel a marathon coming on!

 

November 14th — Starry Eyes (On Demand)

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Synopsis : Sarah (Alex Essoe) is a beautiful actress that wants to make it in the acting world. She’s willing to do whatever it takes, even at the detriment of her own personal being. When she’s scouted for the film The Silver Scream, Sarah has to decide exactly how much she’s willing to go through for fame.

 

November 18thHousebound (DVD)

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Synopsis : Kylie Bucknell is forced to return to the house she grew up in when the court places her on home detention. Her punishment is made all the more unbearable by the fact she has to live there with her mother Miriam – a well-intentioned blabbermouth who’s convinced that the house is haunted. Kylie dismisses Miriam’s superstitions as nothing more than a distraction from a life occupied by boiled vegetables & small-town gossip. However, when she too becomes privy to unsettling whispers & strange bumps in the night, she begins to wonder whether she’s inherited her overactive imagination, or if the house is in fact possessed by a hostile spirit who’s not particularly thrilled about her return.

This was another one on my recent watch-list for Halloween. It boasts a great premise, with a bold main character, some strange happenings and a very dry sense of humor. I loved it!

 

November 25th — Feed The Gods (On Demand)

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Synopsis : When slacker/aspiring filmmaker Will finds the parents of his adopted brother Kris, he sees the opportunity to get some closure for his brother, as well as maybe capture a heartwarming reunion on camera. With Kris’ fiancé Brit in tow, the three of them head out to discover this long-lost family. What they are unprepared for though, is what exactly the cryptic small town has in store for them. Weird locals abound and rumors of a Bigfoot creature haunting the area at first seem silly…but things quickly escalate into a frantic, scary and action-packed nightmare with more than a few casualties along the way.  

 

November 28th — The Babadook (On Demand)

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Synopsis : Six years after the death of her husband, Amelia struggles to discipline her “out-of-control” six-year-old Samuel – a son she finds difficult to love. Samuel’s dreams are plagued by a monster he believes is coming to kill them both. When a disturbing storybook called “The Babadook” turns up at their house, Samuel is convinced that the Babadook is the creature he’s been dreaming about. And when Amelia begins to see glimpses of the creature herself, it slowly dawns on her that the thing Samuel has been warning her about may well be real.

This one has been a festival hit, and I have heard nothing but raves about it. Looking forward to checking it out at the end of the month!

Well, that wraps up our list of new releases fro November. Be sure and leave a comment about which of these films interest you, or start a new discussion with other horror fans like yourself in our all-new Members section, right up there in the top right corner!
Happy watching!



Three more days till… Halloween : Resurrection (2002)

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HALLOWEEN RESURRECTION (2002)

“I searched forever for a memorable quote to start this article with, but couldn’t find a single one in this horrible, pointless film.”

- Larry Darling Jr, author of this article.

Any constant readers of this site over the past three years will recognize and hopefully appreciate the fact that I rarely post negative reviews. The way I look at all of this is simple: I love horror movies, even the bad ones. In certain cases, I especially love the bad ones. As a blogger, I tend to subscribe to the “Promote what you love rather than bash what you hate” point of view, and there is generally something positive to be found in every film if you look closely enough. Sometimes just the simple fact that someone got off their ass and created something is enough to give me some measure of enjoyment.

All that being said, I fucking hate Halloween : Resurrection.

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If you have been following along at home, I have been counting down to Halloween 2014 by watching every single film and trying to build an interesting post about each one, thanks to the new Blu-ray collection released last month. And honestly, up to this point it has been a pretty enjoyable journey through the twisted, nonsensical, and often convoluted mythology the film-makers created over the years. The genuine chills of the original and clever execution of the first sequel ; the randomness of Part 3 ; the introduction of Danielle Harris as Jamie in part 4 and 5 ; even the critical overload of oddball ideas that made up part 6, each of these installments brought something interesting to the table. Culminating with the cathartic 20th anniversary of the original with H20, which brought the story of Laurie Strode vs. her murderous brother to a satisfying conclusion for fans of the series.

Is there a more fitting end to the decades-long saga than Laurie finally putting Michael Myers down once and for all, as we fade to black along with the desperate crooning of that guy from Creed? Well, possibly a better choice of song, but I digress…

After H20 hit big at the box office, work started immediately on the next film in the series, which was then referred to as Halloween : Homecoming. Continuing the film-making by committee way of doing things that had haunted the franchise for years, there were of course many disputes on the direction the series should take, especially after being ended so definitively in the last film. The Weinsteins suggested a completely new direction for the series, similar to the spectacular failure of part 3, but long time producer Moustapha Akkad would have none of that nonsense. Online polls and test screenings influenced this film heavily, as public opinion seemed of much greater importance than creativity. The script went through several writers and two directors were attached and dropped due to creative differences, before they finally settled on Halloween 2 director Rick Rosenthal, who should be ashamed of himself.

All of these spoons stirring the cauldron, and the best that they could come up with was this?

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The film begins with what can only be described as a giant slap in the face to everything that came before it. We catch up with Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis filling out her contractual obligation of a cameo in the sequel), now catatonic in some low-level asylum. We quickly learn from two nurses during an expository walk down the hallway, that Laurie lost her mind after finding out that the man she decapitated during the emotional climax of the previous film was not Michael after all. He was an innocent security guard, and Michael had actually crushed the poor father of three’s larynx and switched costumes with him, playing the ultimate trick on everyone. Yeah.

So, essentially in the opening scenes of the new film, the idea is to piss all over everything that came before and insult the fan base that has been along for the ride for all these years. Whoever came up with that one deserves an award for being a huge asshole.

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Within the first ten minutes, Michael shows up at the asylum and hacks his way through a few bumbling guards, chasing Laurie to the roof of the building. Little does he know she has cleverly assembled an Ewok-level trap which he steps right into for some fucking reason! She pushes a button and has him dangling in the air by one roped foot, but hesitates, and he turns the tables and stabs her and she falls to her death after a sisterly smooch on the lips.

To hear the people responsible for this travesty call it a satisfying conclusion to the story of Laurie Strode is just plain offensive. This is not satisfying in any way, rather incredibly lame, disappointing, and downright unforgivable. You know what was a satisfying conclusion to her story? The ending of H20, that’s what! Okay, let me take a breath.

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While it is tempting to just turn the damn thing off right there, it would be a shame to miss the one good performance in the whole movie. The kid in the dorm room who bursts in to warn the new batch of victims that they are, well, victims all the while caressing their panties on a drying rack. He is the best thing about the whole movie. What the Cabin In The Woods crew would refer to as “The Harbinger”, this kid eats the scenery alive in his few seconds on screen, and leaves the rest of the actors in the film to try and catch up to his incredible performance.

Considering that after the appearance of The Harbinger there are still about 80 minutes of film to fill up, we get a bunch of half-baked ideas thrown into a blender with a cast of one-dimensional characters all tossed sloppily into a ridiculous and technologically-naive scenario.

Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks show up for some fucking reason (well, the honest reason is that the producers learned that the Halloween films tested well with African-American audiences thanks to LL Cool J, and rushed to populate this sequel with more brown faces) as producers of some stupid show with an even more ridiculous name — Dangertainment. Seriously.

They assemble a fresh-faced cast of hot-at-the-time young stars (because that was what made H20 successful, right?) and fit them all with cameras in  the goal of producing the biggest new thing in the “internet universe”, whatever that is. These one-dimensional future victims are brought to the childhood home of Michael Myers, in order to broadcast the scary night to the whole world through the grossly misunderstood 2002 world wide web.

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I don’t even know if the characters have names, other than Bitch, Slut, Black Guy, Dorky Guy, Smart Redhead, and Edgy Leather Jacket Guy. The dialogue is stiff, forced and unconvincing, and sounds like what old guys think teenagers sound like. The characters are vacant and uninteresting. At one point Slut (or Bitch I can’t remember) asks Black Guy if all he ever thinks about is food. He might as well just answer, “Yes, because that is the only characteristic that they wrote for me.”

Oh yeah, there is also a subplot concerning the geeky kid who has an online crush with one of the victims, and corresponds with her using some giant primitive internet text messaging device. Seriously, what the fuck is that thing supposed to be?

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Anyway, unbeknownst to any of these moronic caricatures, Michael has returned to his home. Apparently he has given up on his life-long goal of ending his bloodline (which would have logically led to him stalking Laurie’s still-living son) and only wants to come home, only to find it populated with nubile young victims. Could they make it any easier for him?

As expected, he takes them out one by one in a style that is meant to recall the first film but is just plain boring as filmed, seen through POV camera angles and grainy footage on security screens. Michael meets his match, however, when he comes across the one and only Busta Rhymes, who then proceeds to spin kick Michael in the face (while making Bruce Lee style noises) and ultimately electrocutes him right in the balls.

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Yup, Michael Myers got taken out once and for all by a loud-mouthed rapper, who even proceeds to insult the legendary killer after his death. Which, of course, is followed by a lame jump scare attempt in the morgue which lets us know that he is still alive…zzzz

Certainly the worst entry in the whole series, and it can even be blamed for the franchise becoming ripe for a complete overhaul, which then leads us to Rob Zombie’s remakes, only serving as another reason to hate this movie. A pointless, ignorant and offensive entry to the series, this one will be collecting dust on my shelf while the originals will certainly come out again and again.

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As for the special features, there is a lot to slog through, but most of them consist of on-set interviews, in which the actors and crew are forced to speak politely about the piece of garbage they knew they were unleashing on the world. A few alternate (but just as bad) endings and deleted scenes round out the bonus material, along with featurettes talking about how innovative the head cameras were and blah blah blah.



Four more days till… Halloween : H20 (1998)

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Laurie Strode: My brother killed my sister.

Will Brennan: How did he do that?

Laurie Strode: With a really big, sharp kitchen knife.

After almost 20 years of trying to escape her fate as the ultimate scream queen, at long last Jamie Lee Curtis decided to return to the role that made her famous. Setting aside her well-known distaste for the genre that had made her, she zealously came onboard to this sequel, hoping for a full reunion including original director John Carpenter.
Although for years Carpenter had been absent from the series as well, he agreed to return to the director’s chair for a nominal fee of $10 million. An exorbitant amount in the eyes of producer Moustapha Akkad, despite the fact that Carpenter’s original had grossed over $55 million on a budget of $300,000 back in 1978. In 1998, however, Carpenter remained adamant that he deserved to earn from his creation one way or the other and stood his ground.

That said, the director they finally brought on for the film was Steve Miner, a veteran of the early Friday the 13th films, who had recently worked with Jamie Lee Curtis on Forever Young. A script that abandoned all of the convoluted elements from the previous sequels was written by Robert Zappia, and was later polished by the ubiquitous-at-the-time Kevin Williamson. Considered a direct sequel to the events of Halloween II, it was meant to return the series to it’s roots as the suspenseful creation it had once been.The film was released on August 7th,1998 boasting the biggest budget yet in the history of the franchise.

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While it seems very odd to just abandon the entire notion of everything Danielle Harris’ character of Jamie had gone through in the intervening years, the film quickly acknowledges that Laurie did indeed fake her death in a car crash before establishing a whole new life and continuity for the character. When we first see Laurie Strode all these years later, she is a tightly wound headmistress at an all-girls school, suffering from severe nightmares and barely keeping her functioning alcoholism under control.

Despite the fact that the film-makers all claim to have the intentions of returning the film to it’s humble beginnings, the script is one that tries too hard to be clever. The omnipresent in-jokes which populate the film, combined with distracting stunt-casting threatens to overwhelm the carefully built undercurrent of tension. The film is mostly successful, and ultimately much more satisfying than any of the previous sequels, if only for the delight the audience gets from returning to one of modern horror’s most beloved characters.

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The connection to the original 1978 film is immediately established in the opening scenes of the film, as nurse Marion from Halloween 1 and 2 finds her office ransacked and robbed. The file on Laurie Strode has gone missing, and young neighbor Joseph Gordon Levitt gets an ice skate to the forehead for his efforts to help, while Michael makes a bee-line for his sister’s new home in Northern California. The opening credits roll with a haunting re-recording of Dr. Loomis’ chilling speech from the original, and all of this helps to make the audience feel that we are in familiar territory.

Laurie has a comfortable albeit jittery life at the school under the name Keri Tate, including a teenaged son and George Clooney-lookalike boyfriend. The aforementioned stunt-casting rears it’s head here for both better and worse. The good is in the form of Janet Leigh, Curtis’s mother and veteran of Hitchcock’s Psycho, as Laurie’s secretary still driving the classic car from her iconic appearance at the Bates Motel all those years ago. It is a great nod to the things that came before. Where the casting goes horribly wrong is rapper L L Cool J as the security guard of the school, with aspirations to become a romance novelist. His scenes and performance are hokey and distracting.

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The film as a whole is without a doubt a product of it’s time. The slasher and franchise films were seemingly dead, and the Scream series (also written by Williamson) had debuted with a self-referential splash just two years before, changing the face of contemporary horror. So, obviously, more “homages” and references to the past populate the film, but it rarely distracts from the meat of the story, which is pretty lean and mean.

Although H20 does take it’s time getting to the finale that audiences had been clamoring to see for years, the slow and steady pace is in fact more reminiscent to the first film than any of the previous sequels ever came. It is also a bold move to change the setting completely from the streets of Haddonfield to a wide open and vacant boarding school, lending itself to some new ways to thrill the audience.

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When Laurie comes face to face with her persistent brother at last, it is a showdown that works to great effect. When Laurie finally decides to stop running and go on the offensive, calling out for Michael while brandishing a fire axe, it is a rewarding sequence for fans of the films, a pay off twenty years in the making. The fight between them is decidedly epic, and leads to a touching moment between the disparate siblings a moment before she removes his head with a satisfying swing of her fire axe and fades into the credits with a ridiculously out of place Creed song.

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Definitively ending the saga of Laurie vs. Michael which had begun two decades before, H20 was the most satisfying entry since the first one, and should have ended the series once and for all, with class and a soulful 90’s power ballad. But no, even decapitation couldn’t keep Michael down, as we will learn tomorrow when we take a look at the single most insulting film in the whole series, Halloween : Resurrection.

This new disc in the complete Blu-ray collection includes a brand new commentary with director Steve Miner and Jamie Lee Curtis, along with an all-new featurette, The Making of Halloween H20. Also included are some vintage interviews, the original trailer, and an interesting collection of scenes using the original, largely rejected score by John Ottman, which interestingly change the tone of the film quite a bit.


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