Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Below (2002, David Twohy)

David Twohy has mastered the art of the B-movie and relies on good old fashioned solid movie craftsmanship. Below is a throw back to old school haunted house movies with a modern twist, although it is set during WW II on an American submarine. After the sub picks up a few survivors weird things begin to happen on deck.
Unexplainable and very creepy things. It doesn’t help matters that a German warship is chasing after them.

Let’s Not Get Physical

Today I walked into a Target and I realized after spending an hour in the electronics department that there was very little that I wanted. I don’t need any of this crap-hell no one does-but I really believed this today. Maybe their selection is terribly limited at this point,  yet it’s always been limited. No instead I am realizing that physical media is almost dead, more zombiefied than anything else.

Well I will admit I thought about a Blu Ray player and I was wishing I had the money for a bigger TV. Gaming systems are nice however I have actual pressing monetary needs. Yet I still at times make a purchase-but these days its used. A lot of my CD collection is from Half-Priced Books and even then I’m considering buying music online.

The Cloud and digital downloads are making it less necessary to own physical copies of Blu Rays and DVDs. I’m awaiting a time when everything will be online, although we are practically at that point already. This is a good thing for us consumers yet bad news for the big chain stores. Best Buy in particular.

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Night of the Demons (1988, Kevin Tenney)

Thanks to Scream Factory I was able to view another 80s cult film, this one being titled Night of the Demons. By the late 1980s the horror film genre was tired of slasher movies, and so films like this one were more the norm, although of course a group of teenagers wander into some abandoned building and get horribly murdered. However “Night” has a more slower pace, as it builds up the tension until events really get out of hand. And naturally a film like this has a morality tale of sorts included, offering up why one should not mess with forces beyond our world, or something like that. Not really a complex message, although this movie is pretty straightforward, which is part of its charm. Also the opener is darkly humorous, as it features an old man preparing to lace his candy apples with razor blades. How that side story concludes, is um, with a quite gruesome surprise.

This is the type of horror movie where you have character names such as Angela, Judy, Helen, Max and Roger. Although of course you have a guy like Stooge, who by the end of the film truly lives up to his human pig reputation. Most of the film doesn’t contain humor and is a suspenseful movie, turning into a chase style trying to escape movie by the conclusion. Despite having some cliches “Night” has some surprises, and I was entertained despite the film’s low budget limitations. I also liked that the film saves its gory elements for later on, and doesn’t become too campy, the bizarre plot aside. Oh and the film has a really good soundtrack, with one of the tracks being sang by Bauhaus, who also contributed a track to the 1980s horror classic The Hunger. I’m not sure why or how this film spawned multiple sequels (plus the typical horror remake) although by the 1980s franchises had become the norm for anything halfway successful or notable.

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Ravenous (1999, Antonia Bird)

Owing something of a debt to the underrated and funny Cannibal! The Musical, the 1999 cult film Ravenous works as a horror/comedy/western that has some bleak humor and offers up a decent social/political commentary as well. The cast is fantastic, as the two main stars are Guy Pearce, and Robert Carlyle, who at the time were still up and coming stars. Rounding out the rest of the bunch is Jeffrey Jones, David Arquette, Jeremy Davies, Neal McDonough and John Spencer. They aid in the film being as good as it is, although the humorous moments and the freaky elements combine to form a unique and entertaining movie. Of course one doesn’t quite know what to expect when viewing a film based off of the cannibalism tales of the Donner Party and Alferd Packer. Also the score by Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn is full of western twang and only underlines the insanity that populates most of the film.

Starting out innocently enough, Ravenous begins with a solider, Boyd, being sent out to a fort in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. From there the soldiers stationed at Fort Spencer, plus Boyd, run into a man who turns out to be a cannibal. There is a scene that is equal parts creepy, hilarious, action packed and rather violent, and I will not reveal what exactly happens because it should be viewed in the context of the film. Later on, Carlyle’s psychotic, murderous soldier mentions Manifest Destiny, twisting the idea of expansion to fit his own evil desires, reminding the audience that westward expansion was supported by violent conquest of the local American Indians. Even though at times this film’s material wears a bit thin, Ravenous is still a nice addition to the horror genre. Not only do I love the ending, but I also wish that Hollywood would make another film quite like this one, or at least one that was a horror western, although perhaps that already happened and such a film was not as good as Bird’s effort. Too bad if that’s the case.

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: The Innocents (1961, Jack Clayton)

How to know you are in a horror movie: a playboy uncle tasks you with being the governess to a pair of children in a gigantic mansion located in the countryside, far away from help or people of any kind. Plus the previous mistress died in mysterious circumstances, but hey that’s not important and the added bonus is you don’t know how she died. Good times. This is the basis for The Innocents, based on the Turning of the Screw, a movie that I’m not sure can be called a haunted house movie or a crazy people movie. The film nicely leaves the viewer to interpret that for themselves, and it results in an ending that is haunting although a tad unclear to me, which is also fine I guess.

Anchoring the entire film is Deborah Kerr, who plays Miss Giddens, the governess challenged with ruling over the children. Flora is the girl, Miles is the boy, and at first they seem to be charming and wonderful but naturally are hiding darker secrets lying beneath the surface. The black and white cinematography is utterly stunning, and this is due to Freddie Francis, who went on to direct many Hammer Studios and other horror movies and is talented in his own right. Certain scenes build up the tension and add to the uncertainty of Giddens’ state of mind, while also suggesting that perhaps the spirits of the dead have come back to attack the living.

One of the main things I love about this movie is how events spiral out of control, that by the last act the film has achieved a bizarre high level that not too many horror movies reach. Another nice touch is how many scenes are without music, that silence is used to maximum effect and makes the film even more creepy. The Innocents has an otherworldly feel, and it helps that the child actors are also fantastic-Miles is particularly freaky and reminds me of the child actor they had for The Omen. This is a film that has a very good chance of cracking my Top 50 Horror Films list.