Friday, October 30, 2009

Month of Horror: The Missing Days

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
If any of the movies on this list deserve its own post, it's Behind the Mask. A mockumentary about a Michael Myers-style serial killer sounds like the equation for an unbearable gimmicky film but that's not the case here. Before the movie had ended, I had purchased my copy off of Amazon for a ridiculously low price. The only reason Behind the Mask made it into the Month of Horror schedule was because of its numerous inclusions on "Best Horror Comedy" lists I read through about four weeks ago. I should track down those list-writers and thank them. And you should thank me once you watch this and love it as much as I did. If I could recommend one movie from these 31 horrific days, this would be the one.

Misery is the best Stephen King adaptation that's ever been commited to film. And that's including 1408. This year, my Halloween costume consisted of a brown wig, a turtleneck top, a blue jumper, and a mallet. Anyone care to guess who I went as?


Zombieland is the best horror comedy since Shaun of the Dead (were there others?) and the type of movie I'll end up seeing in theaters multiple times. Waiting for an eventual DVD release just doesn't seem possible. The narrative is well-structured, the comedy is tight, and the movie is fun. Really fun. The only downside comes in Jesse Eisenberg's performance (picture Michael Cera-lite) which is only minorly bothersome.

The Entity

With all the hype swirling around Paranormal Activity (the most profitable movie of all-time), it was only a matter of time before someone mentioned The Entity in their review. That person wasn't going to be me, I'd never heard of The Entity before. Whitney's friend Jacob is the man to thank for hearing about this movie (through me, of course). This movie, like Behind the Mask, really deserved its own post but an overwhelmingly busy schedule just didn't allow it. Whether or not you enjoyed PA, the odds that you'll enjoy The Entity is high, really high, Cheech and Chong high. That is, if you can stand to watch a movie about ghost rape. Barbara Hershey (Hannah and Her Sisters) stars as a single mom who starts getting harassed by an unseen force. The attacks come at random with without explaination. Together, a duo of supernatual experts and Hershey decide to take on whatever's targeted her. The Entity will most likely end up on the MoH's Top 5 list. Ignore the terrible DVD cover art and watch the awesome movie.


Want to know how bad Pumpkinhead is? The first thirty minutes are far more engrossing than the last sixty. It's always a bad sign when the titular monster shows up and the movie gets steadily worse and worse. Following a Southern father and his adorable Coke-bottle glasses-wearing son as they go through their daily rituals is 30x more interesting and watching Pumpkinhead exude lameness.

How to Ruin Your Daughter's Life in Three Easy Steps: Step One - Buy a stolen crucifix that used to belong to a beloved Latin American priest. Step Two - Mail it to her. Step Three - Actually, that's all you have to do. There is no step three. I guess, if you wanted to, you could tell her that she's adopted and that her birthparents were Osmonds. That'd suck. Stigmata looks so cool that, at times, you get distracted that the plot is stupid and the movie's not really worth watching.

Caught Hitchcock's classic at a free screening at Utah's best theater, Brewvies, where you can get burgers, fries, corndogs, pizzas, beers, and pretty much whatever else you're in the mood for and eat during the screening. The crowd was unruly and the DVD was projected in the wrong aspect ratio which made for an unforgetable night. The cast looked like midgets and the crowd came up with a drinking game for everytime a "dead thing!" showed up on screen. Maybe it was the 90+ cuts, but by the time the infamous shower scene had ended, I had forgotten all about the game. That's when one guy hit his cue with perfect timing. "DEAD THING!" Great night. Lots of fun. The only downside was when my wife won a DVD copy of the Last House on the Left remake...what if she makes me watch it? At least our Month of Horror is almost over!

Black Sunday

Mario Bava's gruesome story about vengeful witch who gets The Devil's Mask nailed to her face in a major way. The opening scene to Black Sunday is unforgettable. The subsequent scenes...not so much. It's beautifully shot; the Italian exploitation movie uses light and shadows with an expertise usually reserved for German Expressionism. The narrative is lacking, and at time, boring, but if you're going to watch one of Bava's films, this should be the one.

Swamp Thing

A campy retelling of the Frakenstein legend. Wes Craven stood at bat twice, both as writer and director. The result of his comic book adaptation is an If Troma Has Money type of film that falls somewhere between Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze and that Captain America movie no one else seems to remember. When you're thirty days into your Month of Horror, Swamp Thing is a welcomed change of pace. It's worth watching just for the monsterous sword fight in the film's finale. It's the best fight scene since ZOMBIE VS. SHARK!
[Note: Sorry about the messed up indentations and any other uglified elements you're not used to seeing at He Shot Cyrus. Blogger has decided to be difficult lately and as much as I hate it, switching to a Dot Com just makes me queezy.]
[Note: Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it.]



14-Hour Horror Movie Marathon
Halloween Party
At My House!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Month of Horror - Day 26: Zombie

Zombies are the best monsters ever. Vampires are boring. Wolfmen show up as frequenly as periods. Mummies remind me of the Michelin Man. Zombies travel in packs, eat human flesh, and have no qualms about ruining your life.

Along with Ghoulies and Condorman, the movie poster for Zombie has stuck with me since childhood. It's sat on the Instant Queue (isn't it nice how that phrase has entered filmlovers' vocab this year?) for a while, waiting for the perfect time to either sink or swim. Well folks, tonight was the night, and this movie swims. It's the Michael Phelps of Italian zombie pictures. If it weren't for a few lesser scenes, one could argue this movie against Dawn of the Dead as the best late-70s flesh-eating flick.

The blood, gore, and general "grossness" of Zombie put the movie on a fast track toward Video Nasty lists all over Europe. It earned an X rating here in the States. The poster has nothing on the cool stuff you'll see in the movie. Director Lucio Fulci had a thing for letting the characters' insides trade places with their outsides. And then there's the eye-gouging scene. The eye-gouging scene will stick with you into your last days.

Like other Italian horror movies, it's easy to spot which actors are actually speaking English and which ones recorded their scenes in Italian and were dubbed over. All of the performances are equally strong; none of the characters really stick out past one another. But some of the scenes stick out so much further than the others. I mentioned the eye-gouging but I didn't mention the shark!

This is the only movie in existence to have a ZOMBIE VS. SHARK BATTLE! It's okay if you don't believe your eyes, because I didn't at first either. But here's photographic evidence that someone, somewhere, filmed an underwater scene between God's two greatest creatures. And don't just think that they wrestle around a little and that's it. Oh no no no, there's blood, my friends. But I can't tell you whose.

We've watch a lot of good movies this month, but this one gets the El Gringo Official Tip of the Afro. If you don't believe me, take a look at this picture of Danny DeVito right after he watched Zombie.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Month of Horror - Day 24: Fido

Timmy Robinson is a typical 1950s American boy in a not-so-typical 1950s America. The same radiation we hoped would warm our burritos has also had some adverse effects on our country's dead. Thirty years after the Zombie War, a powerful corporation called ZombieCom developed domesticization collars which would allow good ol' fashioned white folk to turn the undead into unpaid servants. It's difficult to ignore that there aren't any black people in this U.S.A. and that's the definitely not in the film by accident. Racial injustice is one of the many issues that Fido tries to touch on. Zombie films have commented on social issues before (Night of the Living Dead and racism, Dawn of the Dead and consumerism) but I don't know if any of them have tried to tackle as many as Fido. And while that sets Fido up to be stronger, the result is a film that's been spread too thin.
Fido is Zombie Lite. The gore is PG-13. The humor chuckle-inspiring. Think "Leave it to Beaver" + Shaun of the Dead + Far from Heaven. Dad works too hard, mom's unhappy in her marriage, child's feeling neglected, dad is replaced by a zombie-minority, corporate America attacks the transformed family who rebels and solidifies their status, which is then misreported by the news media. Whew. Fido tried to be a lot of things but all it really ends up being is a cute, charming, nice, light movie that speaks softly on important issues while lacking the confidence to say what it means.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Month of Horror - Day 23: Lady in White

"Harold Williams is a perfect scapegoat! He's black!"

The year is 1962.

Frankie gets trapped in a school closet without The Neverending Story to keep him occupied, he's forced to spend his holiday weekend watching ghost children get assaulted and being choked to near-death from a masked intruder with a passion for strangling youngsters.

Things get a lot more boring for Frankie when his Italian corn-farming, iron-working family takes him home to await the fate of a framed man named Harold Williams, who's more affectionately refered to as "that black son of a bitch." Tension mounts within the community as Williams' family is harassed by white churchgoers (go figure). During all this, some sort of spirit woman stands outside of Frankie's window, the little girl from the closet hangs out by his Christmas tree, and the voice narration (think: Dreyfuss in Stand By Me) refuses to quit.

The production history of the film is deserves to be discussed. Determined to avoid working with studios, writer and director Frank LaLoggia teamed up with a relative who knew about the stock market. They turned their independent production company into a publicly traded penny stock. Eventually, they raised the 5 million bucks they needed to shoot and got to work. Once the film was completed, they shopped it around to distributors until they got the deal that worked for them. Unfortunately, the movie only went on to make about 1.7 million in the U.S. With all due respect LaLoggia and his vision, but I understand why more people didn't fall in love with film. 1. It's too long. 2. Nothing happens.

The ghosts don't haunt, they ask favors. The Lady in White is pretty much...a ghost who wears a white dress. Although, fans of "Who's the Boss" will be pleasantly surprised with the Sister of the Lady in White, a sequel I plan on writing. The mystery surrounding the cloakroom and series of murders that have taken place in the town eventually gets answered but it's all pretty unconvincing. Harold Williams is released but it wasn't clear why. The actual killer gives himself away. But while it may have its problems, I have to happy that the man who didn't want to make a studio picture didn't have to make a studio picture. Overall, the look of the film is very professional while the narrative is creative. I'm glad I saw it but I wouldn't watch it again.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Month of Horror - Day 22: Twilight Zone: The Movie

One of my favorite bloggers, Jason Soto, is hosting the
Reasons Not to Have Kids blog-a-thon.

His site, Invasion of the B-Movies is super rad,
it won a Lammy, and y'all should read it.

Some might consider my Eraserhead post to be evidence enough for the "no kids" arguement but I had other plans. Joe Dante is one of my favorite directors. Matinee, Gremlins, and the savagely underrated TV show "Eerie, Indiana" were all given to us, as precious gifts, from Mr. Dante. Someone throw a virgin in a volcano, the world needs more of his work!

Growing up, "The Twilight Zone" was one of my favorite shows. In 1983, Dante teamed up with three other directors to construct a feature-length film comprised of four segments, three episode remakes and one original story.

Dante's segment featured one of the scariest children of all time. His name is Anthony and he's fuckin' ALL FUCKING POWERFUL. The limits to this kid's supernatural abilities would shock even David Blaine. Want proof?

He'll make you pull a fucking rabbit out of your
goddamn top hat!

He'll fucking turn your fucking front porch
into a goddamn giant eyeball!

He'll wish your fucking ass into cartoon land!

Hope you don't like talking or eating because
he'll wish your fucking mouth off!

Get the picture?

Let's look at Anthony's competition.

The Children of the Corn -- Attack people if they enter a corn field.
Anthony -- Can turn people into a corn field.

Girl from The Ring -- Crawls through television screens. Looks scary.
Anthony -- Can put you in a television. Is scary.

Regan from The Exorcist -- Possessed by the devil. Defeated by religious faith.
Anthony -- Is pretty much God.

Anthony = Scariest child on film since Tatum O'Neil in Paper Moon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Month of Horror - Day 21: Christine

"She smiled at me. I want to have deep, meaningful sex with her."

When I was in high school, I attempted to pursude my parents to buy me a broken down El Camino. My friend's dad was selling it, was gonna let me have it real cheap. Dad's wasn't a car guy. I was even less of one. Didn't matter though. I convinced myself that with just a little "elbow grease," a term I'd heard on a Chico and the Man rerun, that car would be up and running in no time. The convincing began and ended with me. Dad explained that our family couldn't produce elbow grease, something about genetics and which part of Prussia we came from. I know what part of Prussia the kid in Christine came from but it must have been different than my ancestors. That kid's got grease coming out of both elbows. And he's got moxie, a term I heard on ollllllld-time raaaaaaadio.

When Arnie, a bookish fellow with a love for giant black-framed glasses, spends two-hundred and fifty of his hard earned American dollars on a junky Chrysler Plymouth Fury, everyone he knows gives him shit. We don't get a lot of background here. Maybe this was like the twentieth old pile of scrap metal he'd tried to rebuild. Maybe, one time, he stole 400 bucks from Grandpa Jardine for a dilapidated Chevy Nova. Whatever history this kid had with useless vehicles, his friends and family had had it up to here. [Note: Pretend I lifted my hand up, palm down, to a specific level around my forehead.]

Nothing was going to stop Arnie. People named Arnie are rarely stopped. [See: Pete & Pete] He fixes that car up and gives her all his sweet, sweet lovin'. His TLC is just what Christine needed to turn back into her old psychopathic murdering self. When someone smashes her up with a sledgehammer, she runs him over until he splits in two. When someone shits on her dashboard, she blows up the gas station he's standing in. Fair is fair. But when Christine starts going after Arnie's only two friends, you'd think that Arnie would care. Turns out, not so much.

Let's be honest, a lot of Stephen King movies are boring. Salem's Lot? Was that thing made out of cardboard? Cujo? The dog had rabies. I grew up in the country, everything had rabies. Stand By Me? That movie wasn't even scary!

Christine has a secret weapon though! Do you know who directed this movie? John "Fuck you, I'll write my own score" Carpenter! The man who brought you Halloween, Escape from New York, Big Trouble in Little China, Assault on Precinct 13, and Dark Star loaded up his cameras and made a movie about scary cars. And it's awesome! The dialogue is funny, the death scenes are rad, and the movie taught me an important lesson: Buy Japanese.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Month of Horror - Day 20: Eraserhead

"Well, Henry, what do you know?"

For a long time, I thought Eraserhead starred Tim Robbins.
See why?

The last time Eraserhead was featured on He Shot Cyrus it was on the Top 5 Movies I Don't Ever Want to Watch list. It fell under the "So-Called Classic That Doesn't Appeal to Me on Any Level" category. The point of the list was to watch all of those movies my brain had dismissed long ago. I made it through The Gingerdead Man, the six-hour Pride and Prejudice miniseries, and Last House on the Left before I decided that I liked myself too much to continue. Tonight, masochism rides again. Luckily, I'm feeling pretty open-minded, pretty receptive to the avant-garde side of life. When you spend your day writing scripts for corporate Flash tutorials, an undead roasted baby chick just...helps.

At my high school, there were these two brothers, Anthony and Denney, twins. They didn't care for Will Smith, She's All That, or the hidden meaning behind Mambo No. 5. None of the important high school things. They liked David Bowie, their noise composure group "Fleshhook" and best of all, fucked up movies. One of my favorite memories is watching a bootleg VHS tape of Meet the Feebles that Anthony let me borrow. I grew up in a strict religious house and watching that herion-addicted rabbit-puppet just...helped.

One day, sophmore year, I think, Anthony told me about a movie called Eraserhead. He didn't go into details but he said that it made him never want to have children. Suddenly, my religious propaganda-filled youth flooded back to me and Eraserhead offically became the "Watch and Go to Hell" movie, to be avoided at all costs. As I matured, I became pretty sure that watching Eraserhead wasn't going to talk me out of performing God's will. That was left up to my future wife. But even knowing that I wasn't at risk for cinematic sterilization didn't pursuade me to watch the movie. I didn't really want anything to do with Tim Robbins' silent film about mad scientists and baby murder (which is what I thought Eraserhead was).

Turns out, I was only partially right. And by "partially right," I mean "completely wrong." Eraserhead turned out to be a movie about...something. Right? Lynch deals with themes of manhood, sexuality, parenthood, social relationships, the Other, the Abject, and the Ugly (sounds like a Western), and facial growths in the entertainment industry. It's not saying much, but the narrative was much more accessible than I thought it would be.

The main character, Henry Spencer (who's played by Jack Nance (who's played by Tim Robbins)) becomes the proud single father of a young Admiral Ackbar.

Once again, film shows the horrors of pre-marital sex. Just like the Bible says, "It's a Trap!" This poofy-haired printer-on-vacation tries his very best to take care of his embalmed baby calf but after a while it just becomes too much for him. Before taking matters into his own hands, he meets a delightful ensamble of characters. One has chipmunk cheeks (most likely tumors), another has really bad acne and a fondness for staring out of windows, and this one woman who enjoys sex. Sure, they're all freaks in their own way, but I think what David Lynch is trying to say is that...oh, I have no idea. And neither do you.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Month of Horror - Day 19: Carnival of Souls

"Hey, I don't want to get turned on again,
but I was thinking of asking you to dinner."

Carnival of Souls must be commended for truly capturing the horrors of Utah. As I am a current inhabitant of this "lovely" "state", I can verify that everything documented in Herk Harvey's 1962 classic is wholly accurate. Catholics are very aware that they're "clearly not the biggest church" and organists are lured across state lines with promises of employment. The locals are friendly yet firm, alcohol leads to loose morals, and of course, non-religious women are ghoul-haunted--have been since 1820.

The movie opens on a splendid joy ride turned scene of multiple drownings. The sole survivor, a woman named Mary, packs up and heads out to America's 45th state. She's that organist we were talking about earlier. On her way through the Bonneville Salt Flats, she starts seeing things...ghostly things. This isn't unusual. During our trip home after last year's Cinequest, I thought I saw John Candy driving a 24-Hour Plumbing truck. He was driving from the passenger's seat while watching his scenes from National Lampoon's Vacation on a giant Egg McMuffin. Utah's an odd place to be sleepy. While Mary's visions aren't as overrun with celebrity cameos and product placement, they're two times as creepy.

The director, Herk Harvey, made a career out of instructional and educational videos. Carnival of Souls was his only feature film. The budget was an extremely modest $17,000. Although, those were 1962 dollars. Today, that could come out's see, if nickels were only a penny...carry the 1/16...ah, I don't know. It cost more than Paranormal Activity. After making a trek from California back home to Kansas (America's most special state), Harvey noticed an abandoned funstructure called Saltair. He immediately knew that it would be the setting for his ghastly feature. Here's a genuinely incredible quote from the world's most reliable source, Wikipedia:

"Saltair was a family place, intended to provide a safe and wholesome atmosphere with the open supervision of Church leaders. While some of the other resorts in the area were seen as "spiritually bleak," a young courting Mormon couple could visit Saltair without worrying about gossip, which was more prevalent at the time, when Mormonism was more culturally conservative than it is today."


Theologic theme parks aside, for a How to Buckle Your Safety Belt filmmaker to knock it out of the park on his first try is more than noteworthy, it's goddamn impressive. For the record, Herk Harvey's Hollywood batting record is 1.000; not even Vondie Curtis-Hall can claim that.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Month of Horror - Day 15: Re-Animator

"Don't expect it to tango; it has a broken back."
We've hit the half-way mark on our Month of Horror. Our first fifteen days have been exciting. I've been introduced to some movies that I now consider among my favorite horror flicks: The Fly, The Stepford Wives, and Paranormal Activity to name some. What's interesting about the last one is how many people aren't agreeing with me. Now, I haven't read a lot of reviews of Paranormal Activity but I have read a lot of Facebook updates. Maybe it's the hype, maybe it's to compensate for the pants-pissing terror they experienced, or maybe they just didn't like it. That's the dilemma I'm going through with Re-Animator.

For some reason, I didn't love Re-Animator. Should have. Didn't.

The possible causes have been narrowed down to three.

First, the score grates my ears. The main theme to Re-Animator is the main theme to Psycho. Only Psycho did it better, much better. The day Bernard Herrmann wrote Psycho's score, he left any jazz influences he might have had at home. Such influences were not missed. But somehow, twenty-five years later, someone felt that the only thing the music was missing was some smooth saxaphone. Vomitpuke.

Second, the hype. Hype hurts films and I hate that. What's been positive in my experience, however, is that hype usually only ruins first viewings. I have a hypothesis involving Re-Animator and second viewings that I plan on experimenting with in the near furute.

Third, an overwhelming feeling that I'd seen it all before. This is most definitely not the film's fault, it was made before Dead Alive and Frankenhooker but that doesn't change the fact that Re-Animator seemed awfully familiar.

My conclusion in this oddly weighted five-paragraph essay about Re-Animator is that all things considered, I was probably just having an off-night. The score is annoying but hype and similarity are stupid reasons to not like something. To read a much better review of Re-Animator, visit one of my favorite defunct blogs, The Kinetoscope Parlor.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Month of Horror: Dracula

"Isn't this a strange conversation for men who aren't crazy?"

It's always been my dream to have villagers speak my name with fear. Knowing that all references to me are made in whispers...that'd be satisfying. But I don't see it ever happening. I'm yet to own a castle, my bed isn't a box, and I buy my clothes from Threadless. People don't speak my name in fear, they shout it across parking lots, trying to get my attention--just to give me a Head Nod Hello. Yes, I see you. Here's my uninspired Hand Wave Head Nod response. After high school, I had to make the choice: hire a PR group to get my name out among any surrounding villages or go to film school. Today, my talkative neighbor refused to let me go to work without first hearing about her daughter's swim meet. It was then that I knew I had made the wrong decision.

Count Dracula may not be living but he's living the dream. Those Hungarians know he isn't interesting in swim meets or stew recipies. So they leave him the hell alone. But the Count doesn't make his lifestyle out to be all roses. In fact, shortly after we meet him, he packs up his belongings and moves to England. Maybe the high amounts of rain let him go out more than beautiful, sunny, Transylvania. While he doesn't seem to have many friends back home, he's quickly accepted into England's social circles. Those blue bloods will let anyone with ball attire enter their homes. They'll even invite them in when necessary.

Before this goes any further, I have something to say. Count Dracula wouldn't do his own carriage driving. There's no way he's hopping up on that buggy and running those horses down the mountain. Although, if you're trying to keep the whole vampire thing under wraps, you probably end up doing quite a bit of multitasking. You wouldn't hire a cook or a maid--they might get suspicious, especially when all you consume is O-positive. But that's no reason to let your house end up in such an slipshod state. Look at that giant spider web. It'd take less effort to clean it up than to keep walking around it.

No wonder he didn't want houseguests, Count Dracula is a slob. He probably has a room full of old newspapers that he refuses to throw away. Maybe he's a hoarder who felt it was easier to move than to organize his life. Dracula needs to learn that he can't sail away from his problems.

Remember that movie Van Helsing?
The one where he looked like this:

The casting director for this movie went in a different direction:

But Edward Van Sloan's version is much more badass. He has literally no fear of vampires. Actually, no one in this movie does. When they discover Count Dracula's less-than-human condition, they don't freak out; they don't form an angry mob. They hang out with him some more, get to know the guy, and slowly formulate a plan to maybe do something about it sometime. When Dracula tries to hypnotise him, it simply doesn't work. He just doesn't allow it. That's how cool this guy is. But even so, I bet he can't run into an old college buddy he's purposely been avoiding and not "catch up" for half an hour instead of doing the grocery shopping he came there to do.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Month of Horror - Day 13: Candyman

"They found it floating in the toilet. Can't fix that. Better off dead."

Well, this wasn't the Sammy Davis Jr. documentary I was hoping for. Turns out, it's a horror movie. But it's wasn't the Monster Gives Children Candy to Point them Towards a Future of Insulin Production Problems movie I was hoping for either. Someone's got to make that movie, it's a guaranteed smash hit. This one's pretty good too but Type 2 Diabetes Man tastes like box office gold.

Throughout the years, Virginia Madsen's career has seen its share of peaks and valleys. For every Sideways she's made, there's two or three B-movies waiting in the shadows. Candyman lies somewhere in the middle. As entertaining as it is, it's surprising that the film wasn't a bigger hit. In fact, director Bernard Rose's filmography only has one recognizable title: Candyman. The source material came from Clive Barker (Hellraiser) and the project is put together competently enough. I don't see why Candyman isn't brought up in the same breaths as Michael, Jason, and Freddy. Maybe if he went by his Christian name more people would recognize him as a ruthless killer.

Two graduate students, researching urban legends, decide to investigate the origins of the Candyman myth. They follow a janitor's lead about a murder in a housing project. The ladies suit up and head over to the other side of the tracks. Funny thing is, they seem more afraid of poor black people than than soul-seeking demons with hooks for hands. It's understandable, poor black people are scary. Uh...maybe that's why Rose's career took a turn towards the "independent." If America wasn't ready for a black superhero, maybe they weren't ready for a black murderer. Wait, that doesn't sound like America...

Virginia Madsen's character, Helen, must have been the inspiration for Agent Scully from "X-Files." In Candyman, the truth is out there too, only "out there" is in a shit-covered bathroom. Everything goes wrong for the young scholar when she sticks her nose where it doesn't belong. Candyman starts framing her for murders, kidnappings, dog beheadings, and tax fraud. Next thing she knows, she's voted Least Popular at her high school reunion. Then her favorite Pearl Jam cassette tape gets caught in the player and all the tape comes out all over the place and stuff. Helen's life is hard and this guy refuses to pull his punches.

Elementary school was filled with ghost stories and mirror dares. Say Bloody Mary (three times), Candyman (five times), or Col. Nathan R. Jessup (just once) into a mirror and see what happens. Most of the time, nothing would happen, other times, nothing would happen. But that didn't mean that we wouldn't pretend that an old woman with spiders for eyes appeared right behind us trying to trade us Atomic Fireballs for our eternal souls. Sometimes we'd take the deal, if there were enough Atomic Fireballs on the table. And that's how we all got Type 2 Diabetes. SHE STRIKES AGAIN!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Month of Horror - Day 12: Paranormal Activity

PEOPLE! PARANORMAL ACTIVITY IS NOT FUCKING AROUND! I'm going to try very hard not to give anything away so this review will be pretty short. The basic plot revolves around a young couple of hotties who think there's something strange in their neighborhood. Instead of making the appropriate phone call, they ignore Ray Parker Jr. and decide to handle things on their own despite his ascent up the 1984 pop charts. The hotties place a camera in their bedroom and wait for something irregular to show up. Then my wife broke my hand. Then I developed an irregular heartbeat. Then I pooped myself a little. This movie is scary.

If you haven't heard about Paranoral Activity yet, don't feel bad. None of my friends I texted afterwards knew what I was talking about either. Here's a little history to catch you up. This guy named Orin Peli scraped together $11,000 and shot a horror movie in his bedroom. He called it Paranormal Activity. It started gaining buzz at film festivals, including Slamdance, and was eventually picked up by Dreamworks. Steven Speilberg loved it but made a couple suggestions. A new ending was shot and the length was shortened.

Now Dreamworks had the unique task of marketing an $11,000 movie to the general public. They decided to try viral and word of mouth marketing. And it worked. They opened in select college towns and started up a website where you could request that the film would open in your town. A million requests would guarantee a nationwide release. I requested Salt Lake City somewhere around 311,000. Within the next 48 hours, the magic number had been reached. So keep your eye out, it'll be headed to your town soon. Some tips for those excited to see Paranormal Activity: first, don't read too much about the movie before you go--hype has the potential to kill your fun deaddeaddead. Second, take your friends along, you'll want someone to talk to afterwards. Third, wear Pampers.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Month of Horror - Day Eleven: Fright Night

"Who are you that interupts my nightly feeding?"

Fright Night is the type of movie I would have loved when I was a kid--had I been allowed to watch R-rated movies. Don't worry, The Little Vampire was a fine replacement. So were the made-for-TV Goosebumps shorts. This movie has all my favorite things from back then, monsters, jokes, and boobs. Tonight, we right a childhood wrong and watch a movie that I'm sure to like more than Disney's Halloweentown or any of the other God-awful Horror Films for Families I was subjected to throughout my formative years.

When an attractive gay couple moves in next door to a nosy teen with voyueristic hobbies, trouble ensues as the boy accuses one of them of being a vampire. He builds a bullshit case with a slew of "evidence" like "he killed a woman" and "he drank her blood before shoving the remains in his car trunk." Typical bullshit like that. Like any young homophobe, he enlists the help of his straight, white, virgin girlfriend, his annoying buddy, and the local pedophilic TV host. Together, this ragtag group performs a series of Vampire Tests and then decides to commit a hate crime.

History has given us a plethora of lovable sidekicks. Millhouse, Gromit, and Ethel Merman, just to name a few. In some cases, you like the sidekicks more than their more celebrated counterparts. Chewie, Goose, and Pedro just to name a few. Other times, you hope the sidekick dies. Fright Night's "Evil" Ed Thompson is the most annoying character ever recorded onto celluloid. He's worse than Jar Jar. Worse than the Klumps. He's even worse than postpubescent Rudy Huxtable. The high levels of "awfulness" in voice and the lack of sleeves on his t-shirts puts this little jackass on my list. That's right, Evil Ed made the list, right between "Deities" and "Florida."

As a vampire movie, Fright Night works. It plays with the mythology, provides an appropriate amount of gore, and has an 80s soundtrack soon to be downloaded by this writer. The Lost Boys is definitely the best vampire flick of the decade, but this one's up there. The only problem with movies like this are that the first act sets up a group of antagonists and the last act is comprised of taking them by one by one by one. It takes forever and the killings in Fright Night aren't that spectacular. That being said, when the straight, white, virgin gets lured into a life of vampirism, whoever was in charge of make-up should have won an Oscar. Want proof?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Month of Horror - Day Ten: Bride of Frankenstein

"He's blind! He isn't human!"

Anyone remember my review of Frankenstein from a while back? In short, I fucking loved it (the movie, not the review). (Edit: the movie and the review). The Universal Monsters have made such an impact on film and pop culture that those who haven't seen the actual films might feel like they have. Wrongwrongwrong. Frankenstein is top-notch and today it was time to learn about the Mrs.

As it would turn out, we wouldn't get much time to get to know the lady as she's hardly in the film. This movie would have been more appropriately titled Weekend at Frankies 2. Like every American child born after Jesus, Mary Poppins was a household staple for myself. Did you know that Katie Nanna, the grumpy woman who couldn't cut it as the Banks' childcare provider, also played the Monster Bride? Elsa Lanchester deserves to be the subject of a worldwide blog-a-thon. Once the bride finally does show up, she's wonderful, proving to the world, once and for all, that "no" means "no" and even more importantly, that frizzy hair shouldn't be hidden under hats or mummification garb. Her three guttural moans and two on-screen minutes were all it took to solidify her as...the only memorable female monster of the Universal era.

If the titular character only shows up at the end, what's the rest of the movie filled with? I'll tell you. Bride of Frankenstein is a humorous send-up of the monster genre, complete with angry villagers, mad scientists, and people mispronouncing the word "lever" (see: leever). After the windmill burns to the ground, the doctor's monster take off runnin' like Roman Polanski (too soon?). In the forest, he meets gypsies who are quickly attacked after they attempt to save their own lives from the 8'4'' creature who just invaded their camp. After they part ways, he meets a blind man.

In the world of Frankenstein, the blind are completely rejected from society, cast into poorly lit cottages in the middle of the woods, and left to die alone. Even the gypsies have each other. The entire blind community consists of one Apostle-looking guy with the eye problem. This one-man show takes in the green beast and decides to teach him how to speak. After just a few lessons, the monster speaks more eloquently than anyone ever featured on this website. In the end, his struggle to learn is thwarted by a man of indiscernible origin and his rifle.

I'm going to leave you, my dear readers, with a single question: who do you think got the kickback for the pro-smoking campaign launched about fourty minutes in?

Best Halloween Costume Ever?

Must find a way to make this happen!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Month of Horror - Day Eight: Joe Dante's Homecoming

"Holy Mother of Hip-Hop Jesus"

My second favorite place in the world is the Castro Theater in San Francisco. It's the city's 100th historical landmark and features beautiful architecture and live wurlitzer music. It was there that I first saw The Taking of Pelham One Two Three when they screened it on a double-bill with Network. Some of the best film-going experiences have been at the Castro. This is where Midnites for Maniacs marathons are held, including the 12-hour "Animals Attacking Humans" 5-film extravaganza. I volunteered for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival more than a couple times, during which I met famed film critic Leonard Maltin. The Castro will always hold a special place in my movie-loving heart.

I'll never forget the day my future wife and I hopped on a bus to catch a Saturday morning double feature: Gremlins 2 and Matinee. As much as I love the Gremlins movies, Matinee is one of my favorites of all time. Getting the chance to see it on the big screen was a rare opportunity. Getting the chance to meet Joe Dante was an even more rare opportunity. After the first film ended, I ran into the director in the lobby. There, we talked about Matinee and a number of his other films. It was awesome. I'm easily starstruck to begin with, but to really get to talk to one of my favorite filmmakers made my year.

Positive reviews for Dante's next film, The Hole, made me excited to see what he'd been working on for the past few years. That's when I discovered Homecoming, a film he directed for the Masters of Horror series. Here's the plot in a nutshell, America's recently deceased veterans aren't too happy with how their country's being run so they decide to come back and change things up--by voting. The zombies don't eat brains, they don't kill the innocents, they just stand in line like everyone else until they cast their ballots.

Let's get one point out of the way early, this film is less subtle than Crash. It's got a point to make and it's going to make it, no matter what. If you want to find out that point, you'll have to watch the movie...or rememer that Joe Dante is not Kelsey Grammer, Hollywood's only conservative.

Themes aside, let's get down to the hunky-gory. Zombies usually bring quite a bit of the old bloodguts but in this case, more violence happens to the undead than the living. Shame. Their legs are blown off, their bodies are shattered across car hoods, and even worse, their voting rights are in jeopardy. These Masters of Horror films are pretty hit and miss and this one is unfortunately is one of the latter. Instead of bashing on a lesser piece from (did I mention he was one of my favorite directors) Dante, I'd rather take this time to remember the brilliance.

Note: My favorite place in the world is Amoema Music on Haight

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Month of Horror - Day Eight: The Changling

"It's an old house, it makes noises"

The Changeling stars George C. Scott as John Russell, a composer whose wife and child die in a freak hit by a semi truck accident. He moves into a mansion where he quickly realizes that he's not alone. But before we get into all that, I'm feeling an unstoppable urge to rant. Please excuse me, this won't take but a minute.

This guy...THIS GUY...he deserves that he gets. He buys a gigantic three story mansion and for what? It's not like he has a wife and daughter to live there with him! What's he going to do with all those rooms? He's gonna get haunted! That's what he's gonna do! Little dead boys are going to live in his bathtubs and his windows are going to bust all out. Don't ask me to feel sorry for him, rich old man, he can buy new windows. What he should do is rent out those rooms real cheap to people who don't have rooms, sad old man...his piano playing ass could use the company.

Sorry about that, it had to be said. Don't judge the movie on my anger. Last year's marathon was sort of disappointing. This year's been nothing but home runs. The Fly, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, The Stepford Wives, Evil Dead II, and more! I have to wholly recommend The Changeling to any fans of horror/thriller/mystery movies. This isn't really a review, I'm not going to go into a lot of the details of the film. Just trust me and make the leap. The Changeling gets a 10/10.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Month of Horror - Day Seven: Interview with the Vampire

"There's still life in the old lady, yet!"

Sometimes you hear a phrase so many times that the meaning of the words becomes masked by a separate meaning. Take "Interview with the Vampire." I'd heard the movie title so many times that it became one word "Interviewwiththevampire" that only translated to "that Tom Cruise movie" or that "Anne Rice book." It wasn't until the movie opened in a San Francisco hotel room with Christian Slater preparing to interview a vampire that the proper context solidified.

There's one reason this was my first viewing. Vampires have a tendency to be boring. Zombies are my supernatural creature of choice. I'm aware that the only classifications between differing types of zombies are: fast and slow. But at least zombies don't ballroom dance or worry whether their outfits match. And if they did attend a fancy ball, it'd be to eat brains, not to socialize. And they wouldn't wait, just hanging around until their favorite song to finish, zombies get. down. to. business.

Interview with the Vampire isn't a boring film by any means. It's well constructed and the narrative is genuinely interesting. It's fair to say that Interview is the Gone with the Wind of bloodsucker flicks. The sets are impeccable and the acting, while at times over-the-top, is sufficient. And when Antonio Banderas shows up with his Cher-hair, the movie switches from epic to legendary. Kirsten Dunst gives her career-peaking performance and Brad Pitt continues to prove why he got paid all those checks covered in zeros.

The first half of this movie plays like a vampiric episode of "My Two Dads," which I am more than okay with. Adopting a young child can be hard for any couple--but when your adorable daughter starts hiding corpses in her room, wackiness is sure to ensue. If someone had told me that Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise were totally gay for each other, my list of Must-See Movies would have had a new addition long ago. For some reason, gay vampires seem much more interesting than straight ones. Turns out, gay vampires are a more common occurance than I thought. Anyone interested can read this B.A. Thesis entitled "The Vampire in Modern American Media 1975-2000" I found online. Don't worry, it's not mine.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Month of Horror - Day 06: Hellraiser

"What does 'gone' mean?"
If you ever find yourself in 1992 and want to terrify an eight year old child, just introduce him/her to Pinhead. Doesn't have to be the movie; even those trading cards will do. The VHS box did it to me. Hellraiser, along with Ghoulies, Silent Night Deadly Night, and Condorman, had one of the most memorable posters of my childhood. Even though that pincushion face was seared into my brain almost two decade ago, I never watched Hellraiser...that is...until tonight!

Watching Hellraiser in my formative years wouldn't have scarred me. But that's only because I wouldn't have understood what was going on. Sure, the word "sex" might have become synonymous with flesh hooks and rodent slayings, but these days, if you haven't shoved a hook through your lover by 4th Grade Finals Week, then you're behind the curve.

This was Clive Barker's first feature film. He wrote the novel, adapted the screenplay, and directed the movie. He only cost a cool million and brought in twenty times that. After that major success, he flopped with Nightbreed, and had a minor success with Lord of Illusions. Known mostly for his writings, Barker is quoted by the World's Most Reliable Source, Wikipedia, as being "one of the leading authors of contemporary horror/fantasy." His story, "The Forbidden" served as the source material for Candyman, a film I want to watch this month.

The most horrific part of Hellraiser is watching this woman screw.

The plot is interesting enough and the blood and guts keep the pace up. Something I didn't realize was that the Cenobites weren't the main baddies, they served as more of a background group, the Sci-Fi Supremes, if you will. Their distinctive looks made them the most interesting part of Hellraiser which is probably why Pinhead showed up on everything from lunchboxes to bobbleheads.

But there's one thing that I noticed
about them, maybe you'll agree.
The Cenobites remind me of the
Superman II villains + the live-action Koopa Troopas.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Month of Horror - Day Five: The Stepford Wives

"If I'm wrong, then I'm insane, but if
I'm right, it's worse than if I'm right."

Whitney and I are batting 1.000 with this Month of Horror thing. We've loved all four movies we've chosen (The Fly, Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, Evil Dead II, and Ravenous) and tonight makes us 5/5. The Stepford Wives, which disappointingly turned out NOT to be the Kidman/Walken vehicle of '04, is a movie I haven't seen in years. The screenplay was penned by William Goldman who wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President's Men. The director spent his life working on movies I've never heard of before. But this creepy domestic thriller might even be better than the Frank Oz version. And he directed The Indian in the Cupboard!

Maybe it's the Autumn-colored Station Wagons or the orgasam-inducing wallpaper but there's something about how the world looked through 1970s celluloid that makes me warm inside--like I ate a roasted marshmellow. The music was something else, wasn't it? Simon and Garfunkel wrote songs directly for movies! These days, some nobody woman won't stop demanding that I "feel the rain on your skin." BOOOOOO! I do not like that. Somebody build me a time machine with magical internet capabilites so that I can blog from four decades ago!

Back to the wives of Stepford. Sexy ass Joanna gets dragged to the 'burbs by her bald ass husband Walter. All the ladies there are boring ass housewives who live to clean. Now, my one semester at Vermont's Academy for Feminists had me believing that women can be more than wives and mothers. But after The Stepford Wives, I found that I might have been misled. While these ladies might be boring, they sure know how to please a man. Throaty voices, giant hats, and blank stares. That's what the Boy Scouts taught me to look for in a potential wifepartner.

Honestly, The Stepford Wives is the scariest movie we've watched all month. Domesticity is far more terrifying than demonic possession, genetic maniuplation, and Christianity.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Month of Horror - Day Four: Ravenous

"He was licking me!"
This is what Guy Pearce looks like to me. No matter how many Guy Pearce movies I watch, he never looks familiar. The Hurt Locker, Rescue Dawn, Memento, L.A. Confidential, etc. I've seen them all. I just couldn't pick this guy out of a lineup. Honestly, if Guy Pearce murdered my mom right in front of me, I wouldn't bother calling the police. What would I tell them? "The most forgetable actor of all time might have just killed my mom."

Tonight, Whitney chose Ravenous, a period piece/cannibal flick that stars what's his name. After watching it, I'm in no better position to name my dear mother's attacker than I was before.America's most repected and reliable source for film criticism, the IMDB message board, contained the following quote from a Mr. or Mrs. "lilacblossom89:" "I've always thought of Ravenous as a horror film for people who don't like horror films." The point lilacblossom89 was trying to make is that Ravenous doesn't play out like your typical scary movie. First off, there's no teenagers, high school parties, or summer camps. What you get instead is a Mexican/American War backdrop, upbeat banjo music, and Jeffrey Jones.

Will horror fans enjoy Ravenous? The smart ones will. If all you're looking for from the genre is the Prom Night remake, possibly in 3-D, then keep moving. But if enjoy well-written scripts, BAFTA worthy acting performances, and the band Blur, then this is the movie for you. The music alone makes Ravenous worth watching. Damon Albarn (Blur's frontman) and Michael Nyman (a frequent collaborator of Peter Greenaway) worked on supplying the movie with a truly unqiue score.

The action doesn't disappoint either. When a group of military men face off against a cannibalistic Windigo, the blades fly and the bodies tumble. What's annoying (and this is going to give some stuff away, so tread carefully) is how every actor I had a vested interest in gets killed off early on. Then I'm stuck with That One Guy and David Arquette. But the movie stays interesting, exciting, actually, and what I thought would be a boring Thriller of Long Ago proves itself to be an underrated addition to the Movies I'd Recommend list.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Month of Horror - Day Three: Evil Dead II

"Swallow this."

Years of my life had been spent thinking I had seen The Evil Dead. The truth was revealed when I decided to "re-watch it" a few weeks ago, only to realize that the movie was almost entirely new to me. As it turns out, a friend had shown me a few clips back in high school but I'd never watched the whole movie. I've definitely seen Army of Darkness many times. There's no doubt about that. But what about Evil Dead II? Do I have two secret shames to live up to? No better time to find out than the Month of Horror.
Two minutes in, all my questions are answered. This was my first time watching Evil Dead II. After some deep self-reflection, I realized what must have happened. In high school, I watched those clips but not the whole movies. Since I had forgotten that fact, I just assumed that the movie wasn't very memorable and therefore, not that great. Wrongwrongwrong. These movies are fantawesome (which is a new word I just created specifically for the Evil Dead trilogy) and should be watched by all.
Sam Raimi is the King of Horror Comedy and it's too bad that the Spider-Man movies have kept him so occupied for the past decade. Drag Me to Hell was a lot of fun though. Not too many movies have made me laugh out loud while peeking at the screen through my fingers. As far as Evil Dead II is concerned, I laughed a lot more than I was screamed but remained thoroughly entertained throughout. It's too bad that the first quarter century of my life didn't include two of Raimi's best films.

Some of the familiar scenes included a naked corpse woman dancing in the woods, the craziest looking deer head, and Ash battling against his own hand in what was clearly a thinly-veiled comment about man's own struggles with masturbation. Some of the best new (to me) scenes involved the origins of the Shotgun Hand, Evil Ash, and a timewarp, which I also saw as a comment about man and masturbation.

What's interesting about the first two Evil Dead movies is that how difficult it is to compare the two even though they are relatively similar. One is funnier while the other is scarrier, but both take place in the same cabin with the same evil spirit running around causing all sorts of trouble for groups of frightened woodland tourists. Even with similiar characters and narratives, they can't really be weighed against one another. Maybe it's a monetary. Steven King talked the man who butchered Dune into financing Dead II for 3.6 million bucks while the first one only spent $375,000. For what The Evil Dead did with 1/10 of the money, it's pretty clear which is the more impressive film.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Month of Horror - Day Two: Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter

"Here you go, Jesus. You'll need this to kill that
jackrabbit albino son of a bitch."

I know what you're thinking. "Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter? Sounds boring."

With any other movie, you might be right. But with this one, you couldn't be more wronger. Take one part New Testament, one part Troma, and three parts low-budget bloodsucking and you've got Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. I've got to say, even though The Passion of the Christ had more blood and guts, this movie is even more entertaining. And Phil Caracas' Jesus is definitely my favorite on-screen Mr. Christ of all-time (sorry, Mr. Dafoe).

When the world's lesbians become a target for bloodthirsty vampires, it's up to Jesus Christ and his Mexican wrestling buddy El Santo to save the day. It just occured to me, this is the perfect movie. If enough people saw this, Hollywood as we know it would be forced to shut down. Screenwriters around the world would throw out their laptops and get real jobs like oil rig work. Then all Starbucks Coffee locations would have to shut down and capitalism would crumble.

Good thing no one's ever seen this movie.

Actually, it played at the Slamdance Film Festival and has since found a cult following and a spot in the Netflix Instant Watch library. Shot on 16mm Bolex cameras with subpar sound dubbing used for all the dialogue, JCVH is exactly what fans of independent so bad they're good movies are looking for. The action is hokey, the music is all homemade disco-inspired techno, and the acting is something else.

The inclusion of Mexican wrestling legend El Santo (played here by some obese white guy) as Jesus' sidekick was inspiring. This movie combines my three favorite things, lucha libre, all things sacrilegious, and the fight against injustice towards homosexuals.

Plus, check out the babe in the Psychosis mask.
Go see this movie, then show it to your mom.