Saturday, October 31, 2009

#1 - Frankenstein

Frankenstein (1931)
Directed by: James Whale. Written by: Francis Edward Faragoh and Garrett Fort based on the novel by Mary Shelley.

Plot: Scientist (Colin Clive) decides to create a man using bits of dead people. He succeeds but his creation (Boris Karloff) gets away from him and terrorizes the country side.

Review: What can I say about this movie? It is, for me at least, the definitive horror film. Just about everything in it has become so engrained in the collective consciousness that one doesn't even have to watch it. Almost.

The film runs like a downward spiral, from the opening scenes of Colin Clive robbing graves and playing God, to the horrible ending which I know is coming but wish it wasn't because Dr. Frankenstein and his creation are not evil but misguided and confused.

I will admit that the film suffers from some heavy handed morality, but I'm willing to forgive it on the account of sheer awesomeness.

It has a combination of elements which should be the prototype for other horror flicks - it is sweet (the creature makes happy daisy chains with the cute little kid by the pond) and also shocking (the creature biffs the kid into the pond) and sort of subtle. I mean, they don't have to show explicit shots of intestines to be shocking.

Boris Karloff is fucking brilliant as the daemon, and Colin Clive is appealing as the titular character (who I'm surprised is not an icon of emo culture). Also, it has Dwight Frye in it which is never a bad thing, and the female lead (Mae Clarke) isn't completely obnoxious.

Throw on top of all that the wicked sets, the moody lighting and cinematorgraphy and the kick ass finale with the windmill (which they totally ruined in the sequel) and you have the greatest fucking horror flick ever made.

I actually took the time to read the book recently and it's fucking amazing too. It's weird coz it is better than the movie, and yet it retroactively made me like the movie more.

Favourite Part: There is this scene somewhere in the middle when Frankenstein first introduces the monster to daylight. It's this long silent scene (which reminds you that sound was relatively new in film) with the creature sort of shambling across the room and reaching for the light. I don't know why but that sort of haunts me. Go figure.

Other versions:
Tons. The only ones I can think of off hand are Mary Shelley's Frankenstein which is a much closer adaptation of the novel and could have been good except that Kenneth Brannagh as Frankenstein and Robert de Niro as the daemon really don't do it for me, and Curse of Frankenstein which had Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in the main roles and was packed with goodness.

Sequels: Lots.

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

#2 - Invasion of the Body Sntachers

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Directed by: Philip Kaufman. Written by: W.D. Richter, based on the novel by Jack Finney.

Plot: Earth is invaded by aliens which create copies of sleeping humans. The copies which hatch out of pods are identical to the originals, but they are totally emotionless and super creepy. A small group of people try to avoid being turned into Pod People with limited success.

Review: This is probably one of the most paranoia-inducing movies ever created, including The Thing. Though somewhat similar, I find this movie beats The Thing not only for paranoia value but also for sheer horror. The Thing is horrible but so gratuitous it is unbelievable. One is repulsed by the gooey monsters, and wouldn’t want that to happen, but Body Snatchers is more subtly awful. While The Thing relies mostly on the gross out (very effectively, I might add. It’s about the grossest movie ever), Body Snatchers spends more time on the loss of identity, one of the most disturbing things the mind can comprehend.

On top of that is the snappy script, containing a few brief moments of humour in with the crushing horror - crushing is exactly the adjective required for this movie. It creeps inexorably towards doom, finishing up with one of the most awful, shocking endings concocted by a cruel mind. I fucking hate this movie. Also, the performances from the four lead actors (Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Veronica Cartwright and Jeff Goldblum) kick ass way beyond the call of duty.

But seriously, though, I’ve only managed to stomach this movie twice just coz I feel awful after I watch it. In a good way, if you know what I mean. A good horror movie really should make you feel awful, in a good way. Some make you feel awful because you can’t believe you spent eighty minutes of your life watching utter garbage, but the best ones totally demoralize.

In other words, horror fans are disgusting masochists.

And this film is deeply depraved.

One of it’s many brilliant features is the casting of Leonard Nimoy as this writer dude - as we all know, Leonard Nimoy, though endearing, is incredibly wooden and unmotivated, making him absolutely perfect for this movie. You never suspect that he is a pod person (nor do any of the other characters) because he always acts like that. It’s just Leonard Nimoy doing his thing. It’s great.

The Don Siegel cameo is also a nice touch (interestingly, there is a part for Veronica Cartwright in the latest remake, though it is not executed with particular wit. The novelty wears off when you finish going, “Hey, it’s Veronica Cartwright! I love Veronica Cartwright!”. She should totally be in way more stuff).

But yeah. This movie is the shit.

Favourite Part: Though it makes me cringe, the ending is crazy. I won’t give the details for once in my life, but needless to say it is pretty fucked. Even though I knew the ending first time I saw this movie, it caught me by surprise. It’s just that whack.

Other versions: This is a remake of the 1956 film of the same title, which is also very good. I would’ve put it on here but I didn’t feel like reviewing it (also, it got the list down to ninety, which is a nice round number). Also, Body Snatchers from the nineties, which was surprisingly good considering the nineties feel, and The Invasion, which should have been better considering those involved.

Sequels: None. Mercifully.

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

#3 - Eyes Without a Face

Review Later

#4 - Alien

Alien (1979)
Directed by: Ridley Scott. Written by: Dan O'Bannon.

Plot: A group of people on a mining vessel or something answer a distress call and pick up a hostile, man-eating life form.

Review: This movie is really fucked up. It has entered the collective consciousness now I guess so that the thought of an alien exploding from a dude's chest, though gory and disgusting, barely makes people bat an eyelash, but when you actually think about it... it's pretty sick.

And it scared the fucking crap out of me when I saw it (I am easily scared). I knew exactly what was coming in the dinner scene and yet it got me. It still gets me. And the movie always makes me a little bit sad.

For me, Alien is all about the characters. Without them, it would just be a generic slasher movie (albeit with one of the freakiest monsters ever, barring the thing from The Thing). But it's not.

Unlike the generic slasher movie, where I can't wait to see the whiny little skanks die nasty deaths, I really don't want the characters in this movie to get killed, and it brings me down when, inevitably, they do. They're not bad people. Sure, Lambert is a little shrill, Ripley is a frigid bitch-monster and Ash.... let's not even go there, and they're all friggin money grubbers but they're all kind of likeable (except Ash. Dude is a creep and an asshole).

They manage to do that with the sequel, but not to the same extent as in this movie.

I know a lot of people think that Aliens is better than this movie, and I can sort of see where they're coming from, but they're wrong. It's easy to write this one off due to general lack of splosions (I think there is one splosion in this movie, right at the very end) but for me, good acting and writing goes farther (not that the acting and writing was bad in Aliens, it's just... ugh. If you don't know what I'm talking about I'm not going to explain it to you).

Oh yeah, then there's the monster. I know I mentioned it before, but holy fuck that thing is freaky. I mean, honest to god. It traumatized the hell out of me as a kid despite the fact that all the weird sexual stuff went totally over my head, and when I think about the worst possible horror movie death, death by Alien is right up there. I occasionally have dreams about it actually.

Anyway. Yeah. Woo.

Favourite Part:
I had a sort of funny conversation about the scene where Ash tries to kill Ripley by sticking a rolled up magazine down her throat. I was saying, "how exactly is he killing her? I mean, she can just breathe through her nose, right? Stupid robot." Mr. Red thought about it for a moment, then said, "Well, if it went far enough it wouldblock all air from passing to her lungs", to which I replied, "Holy shit, I never thought of that. I would totally get killed by that guy". Mr. Green joined the conversation at this point saying, "Yeah, you would be all like 'stupid robot, you can't kill me' and then you'd die"

In other words, I don't really have a specific part I really like more than anything else.

Other versions:

Sequels: Aliens, Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection, Alien vs. Predator and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

#5 - 28 Days Later

Review Later

#6 - The Fly

Review Later

#7 - Rosemary's Baby

Review Later

Monday, October 26, 2009

#8 - The Thing

The Thing (1982)
Directed by: John Carpenter. Written by: Bill Lancaster, based on the short story Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr.

Plot: Scientists stationed in Antarctica come across a gooey alien life form capable of assimilating other life forms and creating identical facsimiles of them - this poses a problem as no one knows who is human and who is alien copy. Paranoia abounds.

Review: This movie is actually kind of like Invasion of the Body Snatchers run through Alien but without any of the female characters (mind you, if there had been any women in this movie you can bet your ass one of them would have been Adrienne Barbeau, and no one wants that), only grosser.

The alien life form itself is probably one of the most fucked up things ever committed to film (supposedly the effects guy who made a lot of the stuff suffered a nervous breakdown during the making of the film or something) and disgustingly realistic.

The movie is not afraid of showing shit which is almost unnecessarily gross (I mean, really, the alien could have been a giant flower or something) with disturbing amounts of enthusiasm. In one scene I think they do an autopsy on the Thing and we see I guess Wilford Brimley going through its guts and stuff. Ew.

The grossest part for me is probably the bit where the Thing eats all the dogs. Pretty nasty shit.

But the point of this movie is not the gratuitously horrible special effects. That is merely the icing on the cake, and what got me to watch the movie in the first place (“spider legs come out of a guy’s head?! Fuckin a!”). The film’s substance lies in the superior character development (you don’t particularly want the people to get assimilated by the Thing - except maybe Wilford Brimley, he was an asshole), fast pacing and interesting structure.

This is the kind of movie that you kind of have to watch once, taking notes, and then watch all over again to piece together bits of stuff. I’ve seen this movie three or four times now and I’m still never sure who is a Thing. For example, in the petri dish scene, I can never remember who turns out to be a Thing (now that I’ve thought about it, I’ll probably remember). And I’m always trying to figure out when exactly people got absorbed. It’s sort of hard to keep track of. Very weird.

And what the hell happened to Nauls? I can keep track during the last few minutes of the movie, so it’s like he just disappears. I can’t for the life of me think of what happens to him.

So yeah, this is the movie that keeps me up at night, not because of fear (I have Body Snatchers for that - conceptually much more terrifying), but because I’m trying to work stuff out. There’s a whole school of thought that suggests Kurt Russell is in fact a Thing - I do not ascribe to this. I think the evidence leans towards his being human, although for me, it doesn’t really matter too much. Whether he is or isn’t, you know, they never made a sequel.

I did have an idea for a sequel last time I watched this though - set in 1985, lets say, a group of rich students just graduated from high school (we’ll say slightly uneven boy-girl ratio just to increase the tension) are heading down to visit the uncle of one of the girls, a scientist who owns a property on the southernmost tip of Chile. They arrive but find the uncle mysteriously vanished. However, they do discover a set of notes regarding a penguin which the uncle found especially distressing, and a sample of penguin tissue.

When out smoking a joint, one of the guys is assaulted by a demented man, who turns out to be the girl’s uncle. He has evidently gone crazy, and tries to kill the guy with an axe. They patch the boy up with first aid supplies found in the house despite the uncle screaming that everything inside the house is ‘contaminated’.

And then a bunch of stuff happens. It turns out that one of the girls is immune to becoming a Thing, and also psychic, so the Thing (rather than assimilating everybody) decides to just lurk around and hack people up with an axe. Or something.

If the movie people use this idea, they have to give me ten dollars and a crew t-shirt.

But yeah, this is a pretty solid sci-fi thriller and extremely creepy. I could probably watch it several times in a row and not get bored. Yay!

Favourite Part: The aforementioned spider-head was pretty fucking cool. And disturbed. I mean, his tongue. It was so long. Ew. But yeah, very neat bit of FX work.

Other versions:
Semi remake of The Thing from Another World, although they aren’t really all that similar.

Sequels: They’re working on a prequel, but maybe the entire cast and crew will contract malaria (no, that’s too harsh. Maybe just mild dysentery) halfway through shooting and have to cancel production. Pray with me, brothers. EDIT: I saw it and thought it was not bad.

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

#9 - Near Dark

Review to come

Thursday, October 22, 2009

#10 - Carnival of Souls

Carnival of Souls (1962)
Directed by: Herk Harvey. Written by: John Clifford.

Plot: After a car accident of which she is the only survivor, a young woman (Candace Hilligoss) starts having strange visions of a ghostly carnival. She hears circus music everywhere she goes, she keeps running into this scary zombie-looking guy (Herk Harvey) and she seems to be totally losing her shit.

Review: This is another movie which scared the living piss out of me when I was a kid. There’s this one scene where she’s driving down the highway at night and this creepy organ music comes on the radio and she keeps changing the channel but it’s always the same music and then she looks over and this fucking scary face is in the window… I think I cried. I still hate driving places at night. And listening to the radio. And windows. This movie totally fucked me up.

It’s also probably one of the creepiest horror movies ever made. Candace Hilligoss is very convincing - interestingly, she only went on to make one other movie (Curse of the Living Corpse, which also starred Roy Schneider (!) and from the plot description on IMDb sounds sort of like a long episode of Tales from the Crypt), and the spooky guy is really spooky.

I gather that this movie was made on a fairly low budget, but it’s one of those movies that manages to make it look like a lot more than it actually was (again, weirdly, Herk Harvey didn’t really go on to do anything else). I also gather than this film is regarded as something of a ‘forgotten classic’ which makes me feel lucky that my library happened to have it and I happened to see it at a fairly young age, traumatizing the shit out of me.

Another interesting note, the zombies in Night of the Living Dead were lifted pretty much wholesale from the waterlogged ghouls in this movie, in terms of appearance.

I dunno, I’m really surprised this movie doesn’t get more attention than it does and I’m always shocked when people haven’t heard of it. Horror fans, that is, normal people don’t shock me anymore. Not that I’m that well versed in horror, but I’d say as far as American flicks go I’m not doing too bad.

But yeah, this is a great psychological mindfuck creeper flick and always good to watch. Makes the hair on the back of the neck prickle. Good stuff.

Favourite Part:
I think the whole movie is actually pretty solid but for some reason I find Candace Hilligoss’ performance particularly striking. She’s not a great actor by any means but she’s got a certain something I can really identify with for whatever reason. I like her.

Other versions:
Supposedly Wes Craven did a 're-imagining' in the nineties which I’ve never heard of and isn’t supposed to be especially good. Thirty year rule says it’ll be remade again within fifteen years.

Sequels: None.

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

#11 - Let the Right One In

Latte den Ratte Komma In (2008)
Directed by: Tomas Alfredson. Written by: John Ajvide Lindqvist, based on his novel.

Plot: A young boy (Kare Hedebrant) who gets picked on mercilessly at school and who apparently has a few issues, befriends the strange girl (Lina Leandersson) who moved in next door. It is soon revealed that she is actually a horrible bloodthirsty vampire.

Review: Though this film is, ostensibly (I’ve been waiting my whole life to use the word ‘ostensibly’ in a sentence), a romance, it harkens back to a time when vampires were really fucking nasty monsters and not particularly sexy. Eli is not just a normal person with super powers who drinks blood from time to time. She’s not remotely human.

Which makes the relationship between her and Oskar even more touching and yet disturbed. This movie is actually seriously fucked up. I mean, for starters there’s the relationship between Eli and her ‘helper’ (Per Ragnar), an older guy with a real paedophile thing going on.

And there’s a lot of other whack shit going on. I kind of want to read the novel - it sounds really interesting, if the film is any indication.

I also thought the movie looked really fucking great. It’s Swedish, so, you know, everything is really morbid (I haven’t seen that many Swedish movies, but not a single one of them has been a real fun party. They’ve all been really depressing), but it’s probably one of the least colourful countries ever so that isn’t too surprising. However, they’ve got the almost total lack of pigment going for them in this. There’s a deathly pallour over the whole movie which looks really cool.

It’s really beautiful but also really filthy and awful. That’s what I’m kind of talking about the vampire not being especially sexy. She looks like she doesn’t really clean herself at all, and there’s all kinds of blood and stuff. She’s not elegant or really that dignified. She’s a kid.

It’s pretty twisted. Gotta love it.

But it’s also cool. And totally goth. I’m actually surprised it hasn’t already become a thing in the emo world. I mean, come on. Bullied kid gets help from vampire. What more do They want? It doesn’t really go down that particular road, thank God, but it could have done so very easily. I totally anticipate that from the American remake (insert sad emote here).

All told, I thought this movie was fuckin a, and was glad it wasn’t actually that scary. For about the first half hour I was sitting at the edge of my seat grinding my teeth because I just knew something was going to scare the living shit out of me. But it didn’t and eventually I relaxed and enjoyed the movie.

Yup. Actually, now that I think about it, this has a little bit in common with 30 Days of Night, although it is a vastly superior film. I think it’s just the vampires plus snow that’s getting me… everything is just really pale and really close. But the resemblance pretty much ends there. Eli, though scary and weird, is still a good character who I can sympathize with. And she doesn't run around shrieking like... um... well, like the frickin vampires in 30 Days. It's also not based on a comic book which shows and is somewhat more realistic.

Anyway, I totally recommend this movie to anyone who misses the days when vampires weren’t sissies, or anyone else, really. It’s good stuff.

Favourite Part: I just love that it was Swedish. I really want to move to Sweden. I hear they have free university there too, which is awesome. I wonder how hard it is to get citizenship? Maybe I could marry for it…

Other versions: American remake in the works. This is stupid, although I must say it has piqued my interest, mainly because it’s going to be a Hammer co-production. I thought that Hammer basically vanished off the face of the earth, like, thirty years ago but apparently they’re still around and they’re going to go for the vampire thing again. This is cool. Also, I read that Richard Jenkins is going to be in it. I love him. He makes me happy. He's going to be playing the creepy paedophile guy, which isn't an especially creative casting choice seeing as he actually even looks like the guy in this movie a little bit, but it is still a pretty good one.

Sequels: None.

Click here to read my original review (March 14th, 2009).

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

#12 - Silence of the Lambs

Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Directed by: Jonathan Demme. Written by: Ted Tally based on the novel by Thomas Harris.

Plot: An FBI n00b (Jodi Foster) on the trail of a serial killer (Ted Levine) must recruit the help of another serial killer who I guess was also a profiler or something before he was put away (Anthony Hopkins). Put that way, this movie sounds super sleazy. Whoo.

Review: Guh. I didn't write anything for this one either. Jeez. Um. This movie is sort of weird. I mean, it seems somewhat unconventional, at least to me.

I guess it isn't really that weird - the agent-seeks-murderer-to-catch-other-murderer theme is fairly common, it just isn't usually done that well. It's more sleazy. Like, you know, the two of them have to be in a car together for the whole movie, or a plane, or some shit like that and it's all 'ooh, who's gonna kill who and when and why and blah'. I can't think of any examples but you know what I'm talking about.

This is done sort of differently. It's practically two movies. First we have the plot about the main serial killer who is doing his thing, keeping a lady in a pit, being all weird, makin a suit out of skin. Pretty standard torture-porn stuff, only he doesn't actually kill anybody IN the movie (he has a couple victims under his belt, so to speak, but they die before the start of the flick). Not that interesting apart from the fact that it's shot well and Ted Levine is fucking weird.

And then there's the Jodi Foster-Anthony Hopkins plot which is vastly more engrossing. Both of them are fantastic and I hate to use the word 'chemistry' but I guess it applies here pretty well. I always love Jodi Foster. I could watch her changing lighbulbs and it would probably freak me out (whenever she acts stressed it makes me stressed. If you put a lump of coal up my ass, by the end of Panic Room you'd have a diamond).

This is also one of Anthony Hopkins' better performances. He's borderline obnoxious, like, what accent is that exactly (according to the latest shitty sequel, he's... what? Slovenian or something? Lithuanian? I don't know. Gaspard Ulliel is French)? I always though he was supposed to be an American accent but Anthony Hopkins was just doing a really shitty job. Go figure. But he's still kind of hot.

Anyway, yeah, this is a good flick. One of the better serial killer movies ever, that's for sure.

Favourite Part: I liked buddy's skin suit, I thought it was cool. I kinda want one, actually.

Other versions: Apparently there is an Indian remake called Sangharsh. WTF.

: Hannibal, which was sort of mediocre. Two prequels, Red Dragon which was actually pretty good, and the aforementioned Hannibal Rising which was one of the worst movies I've seen this year.

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

#13 - Repulsion

Repulsion (1965)
Directed by: Roman Polanski. Written by: Roman Polanski and Gerard Brach.

Plot: Weird young woman (Catherine Deneuve) gets left alone in the apartment she shares with her sister for a little too long. She goes nuts and, like, kills a guy.

Review: When I decided I was going to do the one hundred, I started writing reviews. I got up to about here and figured, hey, I have lots of time, why not take it easy for a while. Ha. Things happened, I didn't write them. Fuck. So the next couple of reviews I am just pulling out of my ass. And they are going to suck. Hoo lordy.

Anyway, this is one of the creepiest movies I have ever seen. I watched it on TV and it still retained its creepiness. I mean, usually movies become really un-creepy when violated by commercials, but this one wasn't actually too bad. Something about the fact that the commercial they seemed to show more than anything on Scream at the time was one for Oscar Meyer or some shit. So, you know, something really weird and creepy would be happening and then some old broad would come on and talk about meat. Eegh.

Unlike the time I watched Signs, and thy kept showing this ad for some kind of yeast infection medication and Mr. Green kept saying, "You know where they stick that? In your ear! Isn't that weird?" every time it came on. I didn't have the heart to tell him where they really stuck it.

Um. Yeah. This movie is pretty much an exercise in how to build atmosphere right. First off, it's in black and white which really does make everything look better. Way more spooky. Second off, Catherine Deneuve does batshit insane very effectively. She hardly has three lines of dialogue in the whole movie, and that sort of helps. She is quiet and creepy and totally hawt but that's beside the point.

The film is well paced and slowly works its way into the realm of total weirdery., yet managing to be realistic and believable. I would totally not be surprised if that happened to me if I stayed inside my house alone long enough. I mean, hells, I'm halfway there already.

Yup, pretty good flick. Nothing more to say, got to get on to the next thing. Sheeyit.

Favourite Part:
I like that weird dead rabbit thing. That was fucked.

Other versions: None.

Sequels: None.

Click here to read my original review (August 11th 2008)

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

#14 - The Wicker Man

The Wicker Man (1973)
Directed by: Robin Hardy. Written by: Anthony Shaffer.

Plot: A police guy (Edward Woodward) goes out to an isolated isle to investigate either a murder or a disappearance (unfortunately, I am getting a lot of crossover from the shitty remake which I actually saw before this movie. Fail). He finds that all of the inhabitants of the island are pagan weirdoes and involved in human sacrifice.

Review: Ya know, it’s horribly dated but this is actually a pretty good movie. It’s one of those ones that I was expecting to be just sort of average or whatever, and lessened by the fact that I knew what the shocking ending was going to be, but it was still really good. It surprised me how good it was.

It’s bizarre and disturbing how much I enjoyed this movie. It was practically a musical for fuck sake. Like, what the hell?

It’s just that… I dunno, it never goes too far with anything. It goes along at exactly the right pace, the characters are all right, it maintains the right level of weirdness throughout. It’s all just really right.

Especially in contrast with the remake which manages to do everything wrong. Pacing, character development, casting, cinematography, script… basically everything that can go wrong did.

I thought that it was easy to sympathize with most/all of the characters in this movie. Edward Woodward is sort of intolerant towards the freaks, but you know, that’s just how he his. He’s got his own problems. And the pagan weirdoes… well, they’re kinda confused, but they’re doing what they have to do to cover their asses. Everybody is weirdly likeable.

But this is a really weird movie, on a lot of levels. I dunno, it sort of defies words. Good stuff though. Very cool. Except painfully seventies. But ya know it manages.

Can’t think of anything else to add on the subject. Oh yeah, you get to see Christopher Lee in drag, which is as disturbing as it sounds. He actually looks alarmingly like Cher. It’s scary.

Yeah, I’m trying to think of something just to pad this review out to a slightly less pitiful length. Um. Well. Britt Eckland spends, like, the whole movie naked. I think that can be counted as a plus. She is pretty sexy.

Aaaaaand… um… yeah. Pretty good movie. Okay, whatever. I really can’t think of anything else to say about it. Just watch the fucker.

Favourite Part: Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!

Other versions: Aforementioned shitty remake. Stars Nicholas Cage. Need I say more?

Sequels: None.

Click here to read my original (and equally garbled) review (June 2nd, 2007).

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

Saturday, October 17, 2009

#15 - The Exorcist

The Exorcist (1973)
Directed by: William Friedkin. Written by: William Peter Blatty, based on his novel.

Plot: An actress (Ellen Burstyn) discovers that her daughter (Linda Blair) is possessed by some ancient demonic force, if not Satanus himself. She recruits the help of a young priest who has lost his faith or something (Jason Miller) and an older priest who would go on to do battle with Satanus as an older man in the prequels (Max Von Sydow).

Review: This is one of those confusing movies. It’s loaded with fluids spraying every which way, weird make-up and young girls screaming obscenities, and yet I do not find myself laughing through the whole thing. On the contrary, I find myself rather disturbed. It's bizarre.

In fact, the second time I watched this movie there were parts I couldn’t even really watch. I figured I’d already seen them, I didn’t really need to see them again, and averted my eyes. One part in particular which I still don't really want to mention in writing. You know what part I’m talking about.

Another interesting point is that this movie works whether or not you believe in the devil. I don’t really (honestly, I’ve been rather confused spiritually for the last little while. I was raised atheist, I guess, but ya know… I’m starting to believe. Score one for the Lord, right? Wrong. I always thought a pantheon of deities made way more sense than one almighty god, so I’m not going to run out and join the church just yet. Not to worry), and yet this movie is still fundamentally scary.

My friend Mr. White said after watching this (and I paraphrase) “it’s freaky coz, you know, everybody has a bed”. As silly a statement as that is, she is right. Not in the fact that everybody has a bed. There are a lot of people who don’t. But that is why it is freaky. I guess.

I mean, all of the horror stuff takes place in the bed. Actually, the real horror is that this could have happened to anyone. There was nothing Regan really did to deserve that. Sure, she bugged her mom for a pony but come on. That seems a little fuckin harsh there.

Although there is a lot of religious stuff which almost seems hilarious except that, like, it’s Max Von Sydow and I find it impossible to take him lightly. My god he’s a good looking guy though. I mean, he was playing an old dude in this but he was still very attractive. He’s still good looking now and he's like ninety or some shit. It's quite impressive. God. That's actually one of the fundemental reasons that Virgin Spring is better than Last House on the Left.

But I digress. This movie freaked the hell out of me. It’s just really fucked. And you know, I really feel bad for Ellen Burstyn there. She actually seemed like a really nice person and then bam, Satanus. I guess that’s what appeals to me about this movie. The characters of Regan and… Regan’s mom are appealing enough that I really care what’s going on.

Favourite Part:
Woo Max. He's the shit.

Other versions: No, but you know it’s coming.

Sequels: Exorcist 2: The Heretic and Exorcist 3. Two prequels, both telling the same story, Exorcist: The Beginning (the one I saw and supposedly the inferior one) and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist.

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

Friday, October 16, 2009

#16 - Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Directed by: Edgar Wright. Written by: Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg.

Plot: Loser (Simon Pegg) breaks up with his girlfriend (Kate Ashfield) and must try to find some way to win her back. Meanwhile, London gets completely overrun with zombies.

Review: I don’t really think this movie needs an explanation, but I guess the same goes for many movies on this list. Ah well.

Granted, I don’t think this should actually be called one of the ‘great horror movies’ (I’m going to mention once again that this list is not the best horror flicks ever, rather, the ones I enjoyed most. Some of them have artistic and historical merit. Others do not). It isn’t even really a horror movie. Not in the sense that, say, Aliens is not a horror movie (it is an action movie, but it’s also a monster movie so I counted it). Although it is more a comedy than anything.

But it’s a post-zombie film and thus extremely referential. Mr. Blue and I were talking about this a few days ago (from this writing, so, mid-July) and trying to come up with great original horror flicks of the last twenty years. Movies that aren’t parodies, remakes, references to other movies.

There aren’t very many and most of them suck. The few we came up with included The Blair Witch Project (supposedly it’s a rip-off of The Last Broadcast. Raise your hand if you’ve seen that (I actually really want to see that, but haven’t yet come across it in my travels. Partially because I thought it was called The Jersey Devil up until now)), The Orphanage, Let the Right One In, a few others I can’t remember now. But there weren’t many. It is sad.

I blame the fact that most of the people who are making horror films today are people who grew up in movie theatres watching Evil Dead, thought it was the best movie ever and didn’t really see the point in going outside of those conventions (not that this movie is a spin on Evil Dead, I was just using that as an example).

Take Rob Zombie for example. As much as I like Rob Zombie and his films, they aren’t really much more than riffs on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I think that House of 1’000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects were way better remakes of TCM than the actual remake, sticking with the spirit of the films (and I thought that his version of Halloween was the best slasher movie remake I’ve seen as yet), they’re still really derivative and way more interesting when you’ve seen the movies they are referencing because then you can sit there and snicker about how clever you are for knowing what they’re on about.

Unfortunately, this seems to be the major trend as people are generally afraid of doing anything new. And I know, this was true of previous decades, but not to this extent. I hate to say it, but there were some really exciting and revolutionary horror pics made in the seventies. TCM, The Exorcist, Dawn of the Dead, Alien. Nothing made since then has come anywhere close to the impact of these films.

Sure, people rip stuff off just as much as ever. But the things they are ripping off now were just referencing other films in the first place.

The thing that really worries me is what will happen with the next generation of horror filmmakers - referencing the films referencing the films from the seventies. That’s pretty sick. In fact, it’s already happening. I’ve met teenagers that tell me they want to make movies like Grindhouse. When I asked them what actual grind house movies they were into, they said, “oh no, I’m not into that old crap” (I’m paraphrasing there). So wrong.

So while I think this movie is fucking brilliant - the characters are well done, the script is witty, it’s British - and enjoy it immensely, I still think that it is part of a movement in the horror genre which I am quite adverse to.

Although as a rom-com it’s probably the fucking greatest ever. I mean, honest to God. In fact, it succeeds as the kind of movie that guys and girls can actually both get into. It’s a good date movie (at least I think so, but then I’m weird. I would really like it if a guy took me to this movie.). Whoo.

Aaaaaaaaaanyway. Yeah. Good stuff…

Favourite Part: Bill Nighy is the best. The way he says “You’ve got red on you” makes my heart sing.

Other versions: None.

Sequels: None.

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

#17 - Ginger Snaps

Ginger Snaps (2000)
Directed by: John Fawcett. Written by: Karen Walton.

Plot: Two very close sisters who enjoy photography and talking about death have a run in with a werewolf. One of them (Katherine Isabelle) is bitten and begins to slowly change into a monster while the other sister (Emily Perkins) tries to cope with the ordeal.

Review: This is probably the best werewolf movie I have seen. Granted, I haven’t seen a whole lot of werewolf flicks but the ones I have seen I generally haven’t liked (with a few notable exceptions, ex: American Werewolf, Wolf, Captain Werewolf vs. Vampire Lady). This is not due to a dislike of werewolves. I love werewolves, as a people, however, werewolf movies usually suffer from two major problems. First, they are only werewolves for, like, a few days out of the month. The rest of the time they are indistinguishable from humans, unlike vampires which are vampires all the time. This means you either have to skip huge periods of time or show their boring ass life.

Second, there’s the whole FX thing. Unfortunately, you can’t really do a werewolf movie without some kind of FX. You really have to see the person in full wolf get-up at least once or else the movie feels like a total rip off. These days, there are three approaches to this: make-up (the Wolf Man look - normal guy with a lot of facial hair, pointy teeth, and maybe claws or something), really fucking cool prosthetics/puppets/stop-motion shit (American Werewolf, The Howling - the werewolf may be a guy in a wolf-suit or some kind of animatronic puppet, but at least it isn’t a man in a mask) or CGI (fuck you). Or a combination.

All of them look like shit, just some of them look better than others.

This movie deals with both problems fairly well. The first one is solved by having the transformation take place over a month, at the end of which the girl presumably is stuck in wolf form. This was sort of the idea behind Wolf, only Jack Nicholson was almost an okay guy in that - I mean, he rescued Michelle Pfeifer from that other dude, right?

The second problem is dealt with by not really showing the full monster except in one or two shots and even then you don’t really get a good look at it. The transformation of the character in this movie is way more important than the special FX and they totally take your attention away from that with good dialogue, pacing and so forth. The monster still looks like shit, but you don’t notice so much.

Now. I’ve been trying to figure out why the sequel is hailed for being so much better than this movie. My theory is that the majority of people (read: men. Sorry guys) who watch these movies either don’t get or are grossed out by the blatant menstruation analogy. In the sequel, they made it about drug addiction and rehab instead, which I think people are more comfortable with.

However, the period thing is half the appeal of this movie. Not only is it one of the best werewolf movies, it’s also one of the best female coming of age movies ever, being a very good depiction of what it is actually like to go through puberty. It’s a little bit exaggerated, but not much. You (or rather, I) can identify with the characters completely (being as I am teenager with morbid obsessions, hot friends and… flakiness. But then, who wasn’t at one point, right?).

Also, you get to see a guy getting his period and his reaction to it, which is pretty satisfying in and of itself (“my pen burst” “your red pen?”. HAHaha).

Plus the two leads are both extremely good, and I lament that I never really see them in anything else of note (not to say that they haven’t done anything of note, I just haven’t seen it).

Yep. This movie is pretty wow. And, ya know, painfully Canadian, but that's okay...

Favourite Part:
Ginger and Brigitte’s mother (Mimi Rogers). She cracks me up and makes me nauseous simultaneously. Gotta love it.

Other versions:

Sequels: The inferior Ginger Snaps: Unleashed and bizarre Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning - the fact that it is subtitled The Beginning should be a warning sign in and of itself. About the same two characters, only it’s set waaaaaaay back in the day. Doesn’t make a lot of sense but the costumes are sort of nice.

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

Thursday, October 15, 2009

#18 - The Others

The Others (2001)
Written and Directed by: Alejandro Amenabar.

Plot: Set either at the very end of WW2 or just afterwards (I can’t remember which), about a weird, scary and possibly demented woman (Nicole Kidman) and her two young children (Alakina Mann & James Bentley), both of whom are allergic to sunlight, living alone in a spooky, isolated old house. And then weird shit starts to happen.

Review: This is a good, old fashioned, ultra creepy haunted house movie, relying on atmosphere and weirdness rather than, you know, FX (ahemTheHauntinghackcough). And it is very atmospheric and weird, with a nice colour scheme (I seem to remember everything being brown. Although maybe it’s coz I generally remember everything in sepia tone).

However, Nicole Kidman is pretty much the creepiest thing ever in this movie. I mean, the ‘ghosts’ ain’t got nothing on her. She’s very good but… holy shit. Funnily enough, I remember when I saw this one of the first things that popped into my mind was 'if they ever make a movie of His Dark Materials, she would kick ass as Mrs. Coulter'. She’s just so fucking scary. Still don't wanna watch the damn thing though.

The other really cool thing about this movie is that because it is a twist-ending movie, you kind of expect it to deteriorate in quality with each viewing, but it actually doesn’t (granted, it is infinitely more fun when you watch it with a friend who doesn’t know what’s going on coz then you get to laugh at their ‘what the fuck’ face), unlike, say any Shyamalan movie other than maybe The Sixth Sense (maybe).

Fuckin Shyamalan. Well anyway, yeah, the second time I saw this movie I was so involved with the creepy whacked out shit that was going on that I kind of forgot what was going to happen so I was still like ‘oh my God, really?’. Granted, I am of slightly sub-par intelligence, but still, it surprised me.

Anyway, this should probably be watched with The Orphanage, another good old-timey haunted house movie, not jam packed with special FX and not a total rip off of some Japanese movie. It kind of makes me wonder why the only people who can make a decent American-style ghost movie are Spanish. Although, it does make sense. The best American Westerns are Italian and the best American rock music is Japanese (see Zoobombs. I saw them at the Khyber in Halifax last year and they fucking rocked. My head exploded). Go figure.


Favourite Part:
Christopher Eccleston! Man, I miss him as the Doctor. He was awesome. :(

Other versions: None.


Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

#19 - The Collector

The Collector (1965)
Directed by: William Wyler. Written by: Stanley Mann (Stan the Mann?) & John Kohn based on the novel by John Fowles.

Disturbed man (Terence Stamp) kidnaps a woman (Samantha Eggar) and keeps her locked in his basement waiting for her to fall in love with him.

Review: This is an intensely fucked up movie. Lots of movies on this list I have described as ‘fucked up’ but this movie trumps the shit out of them. It’s one of the creepiest movies I’ve ever seen, almost nauseatingly so.

It’s also one of those ‘what would you do?’ movies and throughout I found myself wondering how I would get out of that. I probably wouldn’t ever be in that situation but you never know what’ll happen. You have to be prepared. I mean, I live in the country so, you know, that shit could happen at any time. Fuck.

Anyway, Terence Stamp is unbelievably creepy and messed up, the kind of guy who makes Norman Bates look really normal (no, he doesn’t have mother issues but… he collects girls like butterflies, man. That’s fucked). And I dunno, the British just makes him even creepier. Also, that whole uber polite thing. Polite people give me the willies. Everyone knows they’re all a lot of psychos.

Samantha Eggar is also a very convincing victim (ya know, someone should make a movie that’s the reverse of this. You know a chick keeping a dude hostage. Actually, they probably have, it was probably really sleazy. I can just picture it. Gah, never mind). You sort of feel bad for her, but you also feel bad for the guy as well so it’s hard. I fluctuated between hating one and the other, although I think I wound up on his side just coz, I dunno, I share a lot of his views on the world. He seemed like an interesting guy anyway. Although Samantha Eggar was in Dr. Dolittle so that sort of sways me her way. Course her character in that was a skanky ass bitch who inexplicably wanted to be a man but didn't kick that much ass anyway. WTF.

But yeah, it’s actually a pretty good romance as well, as far as romances go. It’s weird - it is really gross and horrible yet kind of cute and endearing. I don’t know how or why that works out but it does.

It’s a pretty good movie. Had me at the edge of my seat the whole time so I guess it’s pretty effective. It jarred the nerves and then made me feel like crap for several days. And it reminded me of some other movie as well right after I watched it, but that’s gone now. The only thing I can think of is The Vanishing but it’s not really that much like The Vanishing. I dunno.

Yeah, it was good though.

Favourite Part:
I liked the whole set up he had for her. That was cool. If I ever get abducted by a similar variety of whacko, I hope he has funds. Unfortunately, the chances are he'll be a damn redneck and just keep me tied up in a shack or something. Dammit. Where are all the gentleman-whackos?

Other versions:
Apparently (according to the IMDb) remade as Atame! with Antonio Banderas. Weird.

Sequels: None.

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

Monday, October 12, 2009

#20 - There is no Number 20

That's right, I fucked up and counted a movie twice. Can't think of anything else deserving of this spot so I'll just skip it. So... this is now my eighty nine favourite horror flicks. Shit.

#21 - The Orphanage

El Orfanto (2007)
Directed by: Juan Antonio Bayona. Written by: Sergio G. Sanchez.

Woman (Belen Rueda) returns to the decrepit orphanage where she grew up, intending to fix it up and turn it into a home for disabled children. But after a while she starts seeing apparitions of her playmates from when she was a child, and then her young son (Roger Princep) disappears. She is convinced he has been spirited away by malicious ghosts.

Review: This movie is extremely fucked up. It actually blows my mind how fucked up it is. It seems like just your average haunted house movie, which would be alright seeing as the cast, Belen Rueda in particular, is very good and the movie is practically shot in creep-e-vision. I seem to remember it all being in really washed out colours, all very grainy and weird, but that might just be my defective memory.

But instead of just leaving it there, the creepiest ghost movie ever, they had to turn it around with a nasty twist ending which makes you go all “holy fuck, I can’t believe they actually did that”, but also really gets into the narcissism of the main character and her inability to admit that she could be wrong.

It’s interesting. And fucked. I mean, I don’t think they could get away with that in an American movie.

But really, this is a genuinely disturbing movie and one of the few really scary movies I’ve seen in theatre. It made me jump and shout in alarm. Especially that scene where the woman gets creamed by the ambulance. Holy shit that fucked me up.

The movie also builds dread and paranoia throughout (it’s one of those paranoid movies. The main character seems to be on the verge of starting in on conspiracy theories), really freaking me out.

Yeah, this movie kind of haunts me. I generally find haunted house movies to be the scariest subgenre (that being said, I don't really like them a whole lot. There isn't a lot of room for innovation) and this is one of the scariest I have seen. It follows all the traditions, it’s very dark and it doesn’t pull any of its punches. It’s also extremely refreshing when the horror genre is pretty much dominated by self-referential slasher flicks and remakes of Japanese movies. It’s nice to see a clean, old-fashioned horror movie without having to go ‘oh, was that a reference to Army of Darkness?’ every ten minutes.

It’s good for everybody. Watch it today.

Favourite Part: That little kid with the sack mask really freaked me out, maaaaaaan.

Other versions: None.

Sequels: None.

Click here to read my original review. (Jan 20th, 2008)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

#22 - The Tenant

La Locataire (1976)
Directed by: Roman Polanski. Written by: Roman Polanski and Gerard Brach, based on the novel by Roland Topor.

Plot: A quiet, mild mannered man (Roman Polanski) rents an apartment, the previous occupant of which committed suicide by jumping from the window. The other inhabitants of the building start treating him strangely and he grows increasingly more paranoid and less sure of his own identity.

Review: Disturbing film. It’s one of those psychological thrillers for smart people but it doesn’t ever rub it in too much or make me feel dumb, and it’s really fucking creepy besides. The way the guy slowly descends into total insanity is morbidly fascinating, much like Repulsion. The two movies have a great deal in common - both are sickening dissections of crazy people. Slow and fucked up.

The really interesting thing about this movie is that Polanski cast himself in the lead role and is actually really good. I mean really good. Usually when a person directs, (co)writes and stars… well, they’re a little less than wow. It’s also a good indication that the person is a megalomaniacal nut job.

However, Polanski pulls it off. His character is very subdued and restrained and he does a very good job of portraying a guy on the verge of flipping his shit. And he’s really likeable too, which makes the inevitable loss of mind sort of depressing. Of course, he does get to snog Isabelle Adjani which is fair compensation… she’s real purdy.

But yeah, this is another example of how to make a really creepy thriller. It’s all about character. Character is the most important part.

I dunno, this movie was pretty awesome, although the image of Roman Polanski in drag still haunts my brain. I quite like him (I know, he’s like a child molester or whatever but, man, he had a messed up life. His mother died in a concentration camp and his wife was murdered. Cut the guy some slack. Seriously. And, you know, they tricked him into going to to Switzerland. That's not cool), but you know, that was kind of creepy. Not that I don’t like guys in drag. It looks good on some guys and hey, whatever you’re into is cool by me (except, I dunno, queer stomping. And fucking kittens. That is not right), but Roman Polanski is just kind of creepy so… there’s that.

Anyway… this movie is good.

Favourite Part:
I dunno, I liked the whole movie. The weird atmosphere made it feel almost as though it’s in another dimension… although, actually, that’s the case with every Polanski movie.

Other versions: None.

Sequels: None.

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

Saturday, October 10, 2009

#23 - Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Directed by: Tobe Hooper. Written by: Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel.

Plot: A group of teenagers go out to backwoods Texas during a grave robbing spree to make sure their grandfather’s grave is intact and stop off at the old man’s house. They pick up a demented hitchhiker who ‘marks’ their van and are soon plunged into a horrible redneck nightmare.

Review: This is one of those movies where you can actually sit down and look at all the things the kids did wrong. Granted, they didn’t engage in premarital sex or drug use, but they still made a bunch of very bad decisions.

First, they went to Texas. Everyone knows to steer clear of fucking Texas, especially if you’re a fucking Yankee. You couldn’t pay me to go to Texas. Not only did they go to Texas, they went to backwoods Texas. The major cities in Texas are probably pretty safe (at least from cannibal rednecks - I mean, all big cities come with their own special problems), so, you know, if you have to go to Texas, stick to the densely populated areas.

Second, they picked up the hitchhiker. Never, never pick up fucking hitchhikers. It never ends well for anyone. Especially when they are clearly deranged. As soon as they bring out a knife, kick them the hell out of your vehicle. Then, if they make a weird marking in blood on the side of your van, get your ass back to fucking Houston immediately and get your car washed before proceeding. You don’t want redneck blood (or any blood, for that matter) on your car, trust me.

Third, they split up. I’m not sure why they did this, or even why they went to the old house in the first place if not to neck, and they didn’t really do much necking. But anyway, splitting up is always death.

Fourth, they went in the guy’s house. That is pretty much the last straw. They could have just knocked on the guy’s door and, when nobody answered, gone back to the van but no. They had to go in the guy’s fucking house. That is just disrespectful in everyway. Plus, they went in and screamed at his art which, though a little on the macabre side, was actually pretty fucking cool.

Granted, this was one of the first films of its breed (although remarkably similar to 2,000 Maniacs, thematically) so these rules were not already well established, but the thing about going in the guy’s house, man, that’s just courtesy.

Anyway, this film was extremely influential in the horror genre, indeed people are still ripping it off and not doing a particularly good job of it either. The thing which holds this film above many similar movies (both in content and in execution - this film was extremely low budget, doing a lot with what it had, but it still shows) is a very definite sense of aesthetics. There are many really weird but beautiful shots in the movie, the likes of which are entirely lacking in, say, any of the Friday the 13th flicks. It gives you the impression that Tobe Hooper and the rest of the crew actually had an idea of what they were doing and weren’t just slapping some piece of shit together to make money.

Although, that’s sort of what the sequels feel like… like some weird drug fuelled hallucination slapped together to make money. I am not an advocate of making flicks while on drugs. It will only be interesting to the maker. No, this is a very interesting film and also very entertaining (despite the disproportionate amount of violence toward women which, interestingly, gets turned around in the remake).

Mmyep. I'm tired of writing this now.

Favourite Part: The part where the girl walks in and finds that freaky-ass bone sculpture. I love that thing. I want it in my living room.

Other versions: There is a remake.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (obnoxious), Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 (best sequel as far as I’m concerned) and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (piece of fucking shit).

Click here to read my original review. (October 11th, 2007)

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

#24 - The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Written and Directed by: Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez.

Plot: Three young filmmakers (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams) head out into the woods to shoot a documentary about the local urban legend of the Blair Witch. Weird things start happening and soon their fear and paranoia gets the better of them.

Review: This is less a traditional movie and more a film school exercise in less-is-more - how long can you keep the audience going without showing anything? And how much weird shit can we do without the audience getting wise? And, from what I’ve ascertained, they got people real good. I know a lot of people who despised this movie as they thought it was real and were offended when they found out it wasn’t.

I laugh at this.

Anyway, the movie is extremely interesting from a mechanical standpoint. Never during the movie do we see the thing which is terrorizing (and possibly killing) the characters. We never find out what it is. By the end of the movie we’re not even one hundred percent sure that there actually is anything. Sure, one of the people goes missing and the other two find a package with a weird little chunk of flesh in it (I still think it was an ear. Or a bellybutton). Sure they never showed up but, you know, I’m not totally convinced.

That level of ambiguity would normally be extremely irritating, but in this movie it works, very effectively. The point being that it isn’t really about that. It’s about a couple of people lost in the woods, flipping their shit.

That is the stuff that really gets to me. That little moment when it goes from “we’re having a good time. Yeah, so there are weird noises in the woods - it’s the woods, there are supposed to be weird noises” to “okay, seriously, this isn’t funny anymore”. And though the characters’ reactions are seemingly overdramatic, they are actually very realistic, at least in my experience.

The actors are convincingly scared shitless. They realize that they have no idea what the fuck they are doing and they have no way to get out of it. They break down. I generally find people freaking out at one another much more disturbing than any amount of gore or scary stuff, and some of the scenes in this movie make my stomach hurt.

Apparently, most of the film was unscripted and the actors didn’t know what was going to happen most of the time. This adds to the horrific realism of the film. Although, I do feel bad for the actors. Poor bastards.

Anyway, in another interesting note, this film supposedly broke the record for highest grossing independently produced film, the record formerly having been held by Halloween.

Also, though it was not the first film to use this gimmick, it can probably be credited with starting the recent trend of first-person horror flicks (i.e., Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead), although it took almost ten years for it to become the fad it is now. This is interesting to me.

So yeah, even though this is not the most amazing film ever, it makes a lot of what would be shortcomings work for it, and cleverly utilizes its limited resources (whatever the shit that means. I hate multisyllabic words. Don’t you think it’s funny that the word ‘monosyllabic’ has many syllables? I just thought of that), and it’s a very good exercise.

I swear to God it feels like a film school project though. It’s funny.

Favourite Part: I dunno, all the best parts are vaguely nauseating. The part where the tent gets shaken is pretty freaky. I gather that the people had no idea that was going to happen. It always scares Mr. Green, too, which is funny.

Other versions: None.

Sequels: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. Had one or two interesting ideas going on, but it’s really just a total waste of time.

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

#25 - The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense (1999)
Written and Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan.

Plot: A young boy (Haley Joel Osment) has the ability to see dead people, who basically just wander around doing whatever. “They don’t know they’re dead”. This disturbs his mother (Toni Colette), and he starts seeing a psychiatrist (Bruce Willis). And of course there is a twist but, you know, I’ll just let you hold on to that one.

Review: Shyamalan should have really stopped making movies and just left it at this. Then, when people think back on him, they could go “Wow, Sixth Sense was a great movie. Too bad he never went on to do anything else after that”. Actually, I’ll let him have Signs because I kinda liked Signs (possibly the Mel Gibson factor), and Unbreakable just to be nice. Unbreakable was shitty, but it’s easily avoidable and some how not as… tarnishing.

Everything else, though, can go straight in the toilet. I sort of liked The Village up until the crappy twist ending which basically just said, “Ha, I’m way smarter than you. Admit it” Lady in the Water sucked and I was too demoralized to even attempt The Happening. The title turned me off more than anything, as well as the fact that I could not for the life of me find out what the fuck it was supposed to be about. I don’t think there was even any information on the box regarding the actual theme of the film. Fuck that shit.

Mr. White told me it is about trees eating people or something. That sounds not good. Also, IMDb tells me that Unbreakable 2 is ‘In Production’. Fuck that shit too, I retract my previous statement about Unbreakable 1, it can get erased from human memory along with the rest of the crap. And you know what, there should be a petition to get him to stop making movies. Never mind Uwe Boll. Uwe Boll should be encouraged. His movies suck so powerfully I would rather be lobotomized than watch them (okay, that is a little extreme, but you know what I mean), and yet I want him to succeed. I mean somebody has to make it, right? It’s not his fault.

Moving on. This movie is good. It does make a point of how smart Shyamalan is in relation to the audience, but that doesn’t draw my attention like it does in his other films. Unfortunately, having now seen his other films, this one is retroactively ruined, but whatever. I can still almost go back to a time when I didn’t think he was an asshole…

Man, I just can’t get enough of hating on Shyamalan right now. I am such a bitch.

But whatever. Haley Joel Osment’s performance is fantastic (too bad he hasn’t really done too much since - he was good in A.I. and I really liked that Lion movie with Robert Duvall and Michael Caine, but other than that…). He totally overshadows Bruce Willis in this movie and he’s only, like, eleven. And creepy as fuck. In the time honoured tradition of fucking creepy kids in fucking creepy ghost movies, he is probably one of the best, right up there with the fucking kid from The Shining and Damien fucking Thorne and… I dunno… THE RED QUEEN IN RESIDENT FUCKING EVIL. Creeeeeeeeeeepy.

Um, yeah, this movie creeped the hell out of me.

Favourite Part: I really liked Toni Collette in this movie. She was fucking good.

Other versions: None.

Sequels: None.

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

#26 - Dracula

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola. Written by: James V. Hart based on the novel by Bram Stoker.

Plot: An ancient vampire (Gary Oldman) travels from his home in the back woods of Romania to London in order to bother a beautiful young woman with an unconvincing accent (Winona Ryder).

Review: Mind you Winona Ryder’s accent sounds pretty pro compared to Keanu Reeves’ - my friend once said “it’s not an accent, it’s a speech impediment”.

This movie, though filled with sex and deliciousness, is almost more fun to laugh and joke about than watch. It’s very funny. But it’s also bursting with awesomeness.

First off, Gary Oldman is fucking hot (I mean, he was even hot in Fifth Element for fuck sake, even with that weird plastic thing on his head) and a kick ass actor besides, acting like a total spastic insane freak in this and still being oddly sympathetic. I will admit, he’s an actor’s actor, if you know what I mean, but that demented intensity works in this movie.

The whole movie is possessed of said demented intensity (see: Anthony Hopkins. Holy shit. Hey, I just realized they were both in Hannibal. Jeez. Sir Tony pwnd the bejeezus out of G.O. in that one too. Wow). Everything about it is completely exaggerated and over the top. I can’t help but love it.

Second off, back to the sexiness front. This movie is damn sexy. The book is pretty racy for its time, but this movie just doesn’t fuck around. It’s pretty much wall to wall sex and nudity for two hours (well maybe not, but it feels like that, especially when you’re watching it with a friend who says “Ew” whenever they see nipples. To be fair, I did scream “NIPPLE!” in the one shot with the nipple in Dancer Upstairs and forever after referred to it as “that nipple movie". How many more times can I use the word ‘nipple’ in this parenthetical? None apparently)

Third, the movie seems to take place in a really weird alternate reality where everything is weird and grotesque. I guess that’s part of the over the top, exaggerated comment, however, I thought it deserved its own number.

Finally, the casting of Tom Waits as Renfield was probably the best casting move ever made. He’s fucking amazing and blows my mind every time. Over the top and exaggerated, yes, but brilliant. And yet sympathetic!

Everything about this movie is deranged and disturbing but loveable. Example, who would like a guy who turns into a humanoid wolf-monster to rape a girl, then murders her, then seduces her best friend? And yet you do. It’s impossible not to. This movie is horrible, distgusting and utterly charming. Therein lies the horror. You know you would totally go for that guy. That’s the point of a vampire movie.

Actually, back to the casting, most of the roles are perfectly cast. The only problem is Keanu fucking Reeves as Jonathan. And Winona Ryder as Mina, but she is not so offensive. However, why they would choose to cast two Americans in those roles when the film is otherwise dominated by British actors (excepting of course Tom Waits, who was bat shit crazy so who cares and Bill Campbell who was playing an American anyway) is beyond me. Cary Elwes should have been Jonathan, anyone could have played Arthur (Richard Grant would have made a good Jonathan as well, but he pwnd the role of Jack - Arthur is much less interesting). Dammit. Cary Elwes needs to be in more stuff in the past, back when he was, you know, young and in stuff I actually wanted to watch (most recent thing I saw him in: Shadow of the Vampire).

Ah well. The movie has its flaws but they just accentuate its good parts. I love this movie.

Favourite Part: I like G.O.'s weird armour at the beginning. It looks like his skin's off.

Other versions: It’s fucking Dracula.

: None.

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

#27 - Dawn of the Dead

Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Written and Directed by: George Romero.

Plot: Presumably set sometime after Night of the Living Dead, a small group of people flees the city and winds up in a zombie infested shopping mall.

Review: When you really think about it, not that much actually happens in the movie, although that’s not really what you think about when you’re watching it. Like pretty much every movie in Romero’s … of the Dead series, the film is more about the domestic conflicts of the human characters rather than the battle between the living and the undead.

This sets Romero’s films apart from other, lesser zombie films in a way - they’re dramas with zombies in the background (just like Shaun of the Dead is a romcom with zombies). And this is arguably his best.

For starters (and actually this is the most important advantage), the characters in this movie are way more likeable and generally better. The characters in Night of the Living Dead were all right, but those in the subsequent entries in the pseudo-series grew more and more irritating. Take Day of the Dead for example. Assholes killing assholes. The only likeable character in the whole movie is Bub.

The characters in this flick have their unpleasant moments but that sort of makes them more interesting and human.

So this is probably my favourite horror film with an overtly social subtext (other horror flicks may have social subtexts but none of them are quite as obvious as this one), and it’s the kind of movie you can pick apart and discuss at length. For example, towards the end of the movie the remaining characters basically devolve into a warped version of the American Family, fighting over whether the television gets to stay on during dinner.

Nothing extraordinary, just people fighting with people. The zombies don’t even matter. This is the horrible reality of the zombie invasion which many people fail to address - in addition to worrying about zombies, you will be shut in a small space with a bunch of people who are no doubt going to annoy the fucking shit out of you. Horror.

Also, when the bikers are attacking the mall and trashing the place, if David Emge had just left them alone and not gone all apeshit about his possessions, they would have been fine. The bikers weren’t interested in the people, really, just the stuff. Materialistic American greed dooms them in the end. Interesting.

Admittedly, you can read a lot of stuff into the movie that may or may not be there, but it is interesting none the less.

Also, there’s tons of violence and gore and zombies getting wasted and shit. w00t.

Favourite Part: The Hare Krishna zombie is a slice of fried gold (I’m not going to go into what I think it symbolizes - I feel I’ve done enough bullshit explanation for one day). It’s just so weird and creepy and its what I think about every time I see Hare Krishnas anywhere.

Other versions
: Watchable Zack Snyder remake of the same title, featuring Fast Zombies.

Sequels: Follows Night of the Living Dead. Followed by Day of the Dead (crap), Land of the Dead (not quite as crappy as Day but still crap) and Diary of the Dead (crappier than Day and Land put together).

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

#28 - White Zombie

White Zombie (1932)
Directed by: Victor Halperin. Written by: Garnett Weston.

Plot: Young woman (Madge Bellamy) is turned into a zombie by a creepy plantation owner with a cool beard (Bela Lugosi). Her fiance (John Harron) must rescue her.

Review: This is one of the earliest zombie movies, and probably one of the best, definitely in the non-ghoul subgenre (the zombies are hypnotized and do the bidding of their evil master rather than being undead flesh-eaters), I was honestly surprised at how good it was considering how little I knew about it. Usually with a movie like this you hear all kinds of stuff about how amazing it is (and then it’s usually kind of disappointing), but I had heard very little about this. Basically all I knew about it was that it starred Lugosi and Rob Zombie’s band was named after it, but other than that, you know, nothing.

Admittedly, it is a little slow in spots, but that’s sort of the style of the time and it makes up for it with really good cinematography which makes you wonder why anyone would want to shoot anything in colour. Very atmospheric, very moody. Very nice.

Some of the acting (Madge Bellamy) was less than good, but she’s a zombie for most of the movie so that works. Although, she acts like a zombie the rest of the time so it’s kind of hard to tell what the fuck happened.

But other than that, the movie kicks spooky ass the whole way through. ((Note: this is another review I started one day and finished several days later - sorry for any loss of direction…)) Lugosi rocks the beard (yes, it qualifies as a bweird, but it is cool) and is mega creepy.

It’s nice and clean and old fashioned which is a good thing. Guy turns chickie into a zombie but he doesn’t, you know, interfere. It’s all wholesome.

And yet there are one or two extremely disturbing scenes. One scene in which one of the zombies working at Lugosi’s mill (or whatever) falls into the grinding machine and is, presumably, turned into hamburger (mmmm). Later, one of the other zombies - a scary looking dude called Chauvin (Frederick Peters) - is advancing towards the hero. The hero shoots him at least once in the chest, we see the bullet wounds and the zombie keeps advancing, until I think he falls off a cliff.

Not that bad by today’s standards obviously, but I remember watching I think Public Enemy around the same time as this and Mr. Blue and I were discussing afterwards and neither of us could remember any shot of actual bullet wounds. It just seemed odd. It was whacked. Very neat-o.

This is a majorly awesome movie.

Favourite Part:
There’s this really weird scene where Legendre (Lugosi) is turning this other guy (Robert Frazer?) into a zombie and asking him questions about the process. It’s really creepy and you get this impression that Legendre is, you know, totally fucked.

Other versions: None.

Sequels: None.

Click here to read my original review (May 18th, 2008)

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

Saturday, October 3, 2009

#29 - Cronos

Cronos (1993)
Moderately Trashy

Written and Directed by: Guillermo del Toro.

Plot: Friendly old antiques dealer (Federico Luppi) accidentally activates a device which causes him to grow steadily younger, but also to lust after human blood. He must then fight it out with another dying old guy (Claudio Brook) who wants the device for himself.

: This movie is frigging amazing, from the sort of decaying yet beautiful scenery one expects from a del Toro movie (this was apparently his first flick - good for him), to the weirdly heart-warming relationship between the vampire guy and his granddaughter (Tamara Shanath), which doesn’t really change that much as he turns into a vampire or even after his apparent death. She’s a good kid.

It is also filled with lots of bizarre but inventive imagery (ex: vampire sleeping in toy chest - cute/creepy), as well as smatterings of religious iconography and lots of stuff with bugs. Can’t forget the bugs, although this movie has significantly fewer bugs than, say, Mimic.

It is suitably dark and gothic as well.

And the main character is just so appealing. He’s such a nice guy, and then he’s a vampire, which sucks for him. He doesn’t deserve that. It's a total bummer. Poor guy. Jeez.

Ron Perlman was kind of annoying, though. He was kind of the weak spot in the movie for me which is too bad coz I really like Ron Perlman. Usually he makes every movie better but not in this case. In this case he just bothered me. That sucks. Although I do understand the necessity for his character, it was still an obnoxious character and he played it in an obnoxious way. And he was the only person with an American accent. That’s what really gets me. A movie full of Spanish-speaking people with pleasant Mexican accents (all the people in this had really nice voices), so the one American voice just drills into the brain like a drill.

But really, I love Ron Perlman. He should actually be in every movie. The world would be a much nicer place that way, I think.

Anyway, I liked this movie. I thought it was nice. This review was really weak, sorry. I haven't been able to create anything worth shit for the last little while now. Fuck around.

Favourite Part
: The bit where the guy explains his need for blood to his granddaughter, comparing it to a cigarette addiction. I liked that scene, it just had a certain… something… it touched me.

Other versions: None (let’s hope it stays that way…)

Sequels: None.

Click here to read my original review (January 1st, 2009)

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

Friday, October 2, 2009

#30 - In the Mouth of Madness

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
Extremely Trashy

Directed by: John Carpenter. Written by: Michael De Luca.

Dude (Sam Neill) goes on a search for reclusive writer (Jurgen Prochnow) and winds up in an isolated village which appears to be under the spell of an extremely evil force. Extremely fucked up shit ensues.

Review: I know that, strictly speaking, this movie doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it‘s probably my favourite John Carpenter movie, after The Thing. I know a lot of you will want to break VHS copies of Halloween off in my ass for saying that, but… hey, I can’t tell a lie, man.

And I mean favourite is a very strong word. I love all of his films. Except for Someone’s Watching Me!. That was a piece of shit. And Village of the Damned because it was boring. And Ghosts of Mars because it was Prince of Darkness set on Mars. And Cigarette Burns because it was In the Mouth of Madness but about a movie. Believe it or not, They Live is fine by me.

Moving on, this movie is totally whacked out and actually really scared me. It’s pretty much the ultimate John Carpenter movie, containing elements of possession, apocalypse, small-group dynamics, hive-mind, and really cool FX (I always think that he did The Tommy knockers (another piece of shit), but I guess that was somebody else. It sure as hell felt like a JC movie). Plus elements of Stephen King and Lovecraft.

It also has a typically depressing ending. John Carpenter movies always end horribly. Nobody makes it, not really. The problem is not solved, whatever the fuck it is is still out there. It’s brilliant but it always makes me feel like shit.

This movie is also one of those paranoia inducing ones - it’s a hell of a creepy movie and makes you think about stuff you would rather not think about. I mean, a book that has the power to drive the reader insane (wasn’t that the gist of House of Leaves? The book itself, I mean, not the book within the book. I didn’t get all the way through so I don’t know. I need to remind myself to finish that. I had it on hold at the library forever and it finally came in just when we moved. Suck). That’s the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night, coz you wouldn’t know, right?

Anyway, yeah, this movie is majorly cool and majorly freaky, and you know what, Sam Neill is totally the man. He’s, like, one of the scariest guys alive but he’s really good. He did a bunch of movies there with that weird Satanic thing going on. He plays the incarnation of some kind of satanic force in Event Horizon and the antichrist in Final Conflict and there's this whole religious undertone to this movie...

He’s kind of captain nineties though. He hasn’t done a whole lot lately. That’s sad. He is my hero.

Favourite Part: I liked the monster stuff.

Other versions: None.

Sequels: None.

Starrt ... Prev ...... Next ... End

Thursday, October 1, 2009

#31 - Night of the Living Dead

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Directed by: George Romero. Written by: John A. Russo and George Romero.

Plot: When people start rising from the dead as bloodthirsty ghouls, a group of jerks hiding in an old farmhouse must fight for survival, both against the ghouls and against each other.

Review: Known for being the original zombie movie, as in the first one to depict ‘zombies’ as flesh eating cadavers rather than people under the influence of magic or drugs (although that honour (if it can in fact be called an honour) should really go to Last Man on Earth), it is the inspiration for one of the biggest trends in horror history.

And it’s also, you know, the shit. They managed to make a fantastic movie on a crap budget (I guess - I didn’t actually do any research to back this up, but I’m guessing the budget was pretty low) which is always an accomplishment.

It is generally pretty tense and creepy, with occasional bursts of gore (somehow enhanced by being in black and white… I never understood how that worked exactly. I guess it’s just more classy or something), a morbid sense of humour, and interesting (albeit unintentional) racial undertones.

I always found it weird that that was a coincidence, seeing as every other movie in Romero’s ______ of the Dead series is a blatant social commentary (a fact which kind of bothers me about the movies - I don’t like social subtext, although, actually, horror films are probably the most affected by this out of any genre, except maybe science fiction, seeing as they tend to reflect the collected anxieties of the culture at the time, serving as windows into what people were really thinking about at any given period in the last century, from the fear of nuclear holocaust in the fifties, to the fear of sexually transmitted disease in the eighties, to the current trend involving bad things happening in foreign countries and the zombification of the public, it’s all so… obvious), but, according to the story, Duane Jones was just the best actor the filmmakers knew. And he’s actually pretty good, so that makes sense. It’s weird that he didn’t really do anything else after this - you would think just the novelty of his being in Night would have won him a few parts. But the guy’s only got, like, eight credits on IMDb, so I guess not. That is sad.

The other actors do a decent job, particularly Judith O’Dea - I always liked her, don’t know why. She never really went on to anything either. That is weird.

But anyway, it’s a really good movie, if a little slow at times, and filled with disgusting black and white mayhem.

Favourite Part
: “They’re coming to get you Barbra. Look! There’s one of them now” “Johnny, stop it, you’re scaring me”

Other versions: The weird remake from the nineties, helmed by Tom Savini and yet strangely lacking in gore. They did a 3-D remake a couple of years ago, which I did not see.

Sequels: Dawn of the Dead (the only good one so far), Day of the Dead (worth watching for Bub), Land of the Dead (dull) and Diary of the Dead (worse than dull). More to come, no doubt.

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End

#32 - Psycho

Psycho (1960)
Moderately Trashy

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock. Written by: Joseph Stefano, based on the novel by Robert Bloch.

Plot: A young woman (Janet Leigh) robs her boss and, while on the run, stops over at a motel in the middle of nowhere. There she meets the sort of charming but sort of creepy owner (Anthony Perkins) and gets stabbed to death in the shower. Her sister (Vera Miles) and boyfriend (John Gavin) begin investigating the motel and owner and uncover the least surprising twist ending ever.

Unfortunately, everybody knows what the twist is, which sort of detracts somewhat from the movie. It’s sad, really.

However, the movie is still made well enough to make up for that. It actually seems somewhat old fashioned today, not in subject matter but in the rigid protocol in which the scenes are structured, which was always one of my problems with Hitchcock movies - not that I’m shitting on the Hitch, I actually really like his stuff and his horribly morbid sense of humour, it’s just… there’s that thing he do. He does certain things in a certain way, always. His movies are always very obviously suspense films and there aren’t very many variations in the scene formula. Or something. You know what I mean.

That being said, the film is very suspenseful, even though you know what the twist is. You never know who is going to die and when, which I guess is some of the suspense. Suspense!

Um, yeah, it is also an extremely influential film, almost ridiculously so. It has been homaged, ripped-off, referenced and spoofed probably a thousand times in different things. It’s scary when you think about it, but that’s another thing which takes away from the film. I know I have been bombarded since an early age with Psycho imagery, so that when I actually saw it (and I still would have been fairly young), most of everything had rubbed off, which is too bad because it really is a good movie.

Mind you, at my current age I am able to take it away from that a bit better and appreciate it for itself. Yay for me.

Anyway, I just watch it now because I think Norman Bates is hot.

Favourite Part: Norman Bates. He really is a nice guy, if only he weren’t so screwed up. Although, the problems are part of the appeal. I would say that no woman can resist Norman Bates but I think it’s just me. It’s that awkward nerdiness that gets me. It’s so cute and sad. And it doesn’t help that Anthony Perkins is totally adorable.

Other versions: There is the really unnecessary remake.

Sequels: Psychos 2 and 3 were sort of indistinguishable and pathetic, Psycho 4 was a little different, taking the ‘origins’ approach, but is still a piece of crap, just going to prove that you shouldn’t watch any movie subtitled ‘The Beginning’. It’s just a bad idea.

Start ... Prev ...... Next ... End