It’s Hammer Time Presents: The Phantom of the Opera (1962, Terence Fisher)

Unlike its predecessors, Terence Fisher’s The Phantom of the Opera (1962) is more of a modern style take on the original 1925 classic, which starred Lon Chaney. In this remake Herbert Lom tackles the role, and gives it style, grace, and a tragic flare that was missing from the original film. In fact despite not being as good as the 1925 version one thing I like about the 1962 adaption is that it is more in tune with the book. The Phantom was not a monster at first, but in the end was turned into one because of circumstance-in this case, it is because the Phantom was robbed of his works by an arrogant and selfish individual, leading to him turning into a horribly disfigured man. Also I was a bit reminded of the 2004 musical, especially since there are actually musical numbers in this movie and much of the film is as much a drama as it is a horror movie.

The cast is pretty good here-Hammer Studios regular Michael Gough is wonderfully evil and sinister, Edward de Souza plays a solid and likable hero, and Heather Sears is rather good while doing the thankless job of being the pretty damsel who ends up the object of the Phantom’s desire. Much like Fisher’s other Hammer films the visuals here are stunning, and the set designs are remarkable. Even though it lacks the 1925 version’s high level of creepiness, and Lom unfortunately doesn’t measure up to Lon Chaney’s brilliant and freaky Phantom, who he completely made his own, this is a rather solid remake. Some of Hammer Studio’s most notable efforts included non-franchise movies such as this one, and its a shame that this movie failed at the box office. At least its developed a cult following since.

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Phantoms (1998, Joe Chappelle)

Too bad the creature storming a remote Colorado ski town takes on the knowledge of its victims. The people it mercilessly devoured went to their gross goo covered graves thinking they had been eaten by the devil. Which doesn’t make a lot of sense, although maybe when one is being eaten whole by a monster one lacks the time to think properly. Such is Phantoms, a campy yet surprisingly enjoyable horror film that has gotten endless bad reviews since its release. And of course praise in the form of “Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms, yo.”

Before he started directing quality movies and winning Oscars Ben Affleck bounced from one poorly reviewed film to another. Nevermind that Phantoms is actually good, undeserving of the hate it received. You have Rose McGowan being gorgeous, Affleck offering steely resolve, Peter O’Toole wonderfully hamming it up and Liev Schreiber acting creepy. All in one monster movie filled package that wisely borrowed from other previous and better films.

You have references to Tremors and The Blob remake in addition to some scenes reminding me of 28 Days Later which is funny considering Phantoms came first. Sure there is some awful dialogue and the ending is weak and a tad standard by modern horror conventions. However the film maintains a good level of atmosphere and it also wisely keeps the monster mostly under wraps. Every year I view one horror film that actually turns out to be a gem that wasn’t fairly received, and this year I think its Phantoms.

The Revolution is Here….Maybe?

Weeks have passed since a policeman in Fergunson, Missouri shot and killed a man. After that terrible moment people started protesting the fact that, well, a man was shot six times when he may not have even been guilty. This resulted in the police reacting in a manner benefitting a fascist, well, police state. The whole mess has left myself and others wondering exactly how something like this could even happen in America, which is supposed to be the land of the free. Never mind the growing income equality, the fact that many politicians are okay with measures that slash funding for much needed services or that racism hasn’t been magically conquered just because we, the people (well over half the voting population) elected an African American president. The hate that so many black people face every day never went away, and it speaks to the problems of overbearing police authority, the militarization of our police forces, and a growing divide between the haves and have not’s in this great country of ours.

So its no surprise that people have taken to the streets in protest, and I salute them for it although its sad that outsiders have looted and given those legitimately speaking their mind a bad name. Ferguson’s police has responded with tactics that make me ashamed and sad, angry and furious, left wondering what could possibly be going through their minds as they tear gas crowds that have also featured journalists and even a senator. Journalists by the way have been falsely imprisoned, as one journalist wrote about, in addition to being threatened by police. This is not what should be happening in America, the supposed land of the free, home of the brave. Also I’m rather depressed that people are actively supporting the policeman that shot Michael Brown, the dead man who was shot six times. I don’t care if Brown was attacking the policeman there is no need to shoot someone six times. Six goddamn times. I thought the police were supposed to try and apprehend suspects without killing them, but hey what the hell do I know? I’m just a civilian after all.

What is even more depressing is the thought that the police will not be held properly accountable for this beyond screwed up mess that has occurred. I do agree that the officer that shot Brown should have his day in court, although the trial if it even happens will probably take place miles away from Ferguson. Its both funny and tragic that before all this took place I didn’t even know where Ferguson, Missouri was or had even heard of such a place. However if we, the people do not take the lessons of this tragedy to heart such moments in time will unfortunately happen again. Its up to those in power to finally act and keep in mind that our country sadly has a long way to go before solving the problems of excessive authority, racism and prejudice.

Horrorfest 2014: Presents: A Field In England (2013, Ben Wheatley)

Wandering through the English countryside a group of deserting soliders flee a battle gone horribly wrong. Having witnessed death they seek comfort and shelter at a distant ale house. Only too late do they realize that two men have commandeered them for a dark purpose: the finding of a great treasure. Having escaped one master they are now under new management; one of them says of their new lord, named O’ Neil, “It does not surprise me that the Devil is an Irishman, though I thought perhaps a little taller.”

This is only the beginning of their horrors, both seen and lurking beneath the surface. A Field In England has many of the grace notes of a Ben Wheatley film, only in this case he dials up the surreal factor to new heights. Part drug trip part nightmarish journey into a fresh green hell, filmed in glorious black and white, this is a jarring and harsh movie. There is even some grin inducing bleak humor, followed by sharp and nasty violence. Each man falls prey to their own nature, with one of them transforming. Into what, well….that is a bit unclear.

As in all of Wheatley’s films truths emerge and people’s real selves are unwrapped, as if they were nasty presents from a demonic Santa. Chaso erupts and lives are changed forever. That stark final shot is perhaps the most jarring and odd climax to any of Wheatley’s works, and I have no idea what it means. Still this is a creepy and excellent movie, fine tuned and crafted to give the viewer an outer worldly experience.

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Phantasm II (1988, Don Coscarelli)

Created almost a decade after the original cult classic, Phantasm II is a really cool, well made sequel. Reggie, Mike return to do battle with The Tall Man once more after surviving the events of the first film. Hunting the evil being across the United States, this film has the look and feel of a road trip movie in addition to being a horror film. The stakes are even higher in this movie, as Mike rushes to save a girl he loves from a terrifying fate.

Unlike the first movie there is more action involved. Particularly in the form of a chainsaw battle, which is epic. Also the flying spheres of death are back and one turns out to be the ultimate in horribly killing people. The series retains its dark sense of humor and keeps the strong weird factor that makes it so watchable and interesting in the first place.

Furthermore elements of this film are right at home stylistically when it comes to some of Don Coscarelli’s work. You have inter-dimensional beings, sinister henchmen that dress only in black, and even a mocking of organized religion. It seems that many of the 80s and 90s horror films had something to comment about God, the Devil, and evil versus good in the world. Also the flamethrower moments plus the beings from another plane of existence reminded me a bit of one of his latest films, John Dies At The End, which I also enjoyed last year.

Naturally this is not the last entry in the series. I look forward to viewing the rest of the Phantasm series and enjoying what they have to offer. Oh and they are making another one, which just goes to show that nothing truly ends.

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Zombie (1979, Lucio Fulci)

Lucio Fulci sure loves his zombies, as evidenced by many of his movies. Especially the aptly named cult classic Zombie, made in 1979 and styled as a quasi sequel to George A. Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead. However this film is more graphic and violent, which is the usual hallmarks of a Fulci movie. This one starts out with a brutal killing followed by a freaky and gory incident on a boat in the New York harbor.

A reporter and the daughter of a doctor team up together and decide to travel down to the island to find him. This leads to them using a pair of vacationing adventurers and a mysterious island where a strange doctor is conducting bizarre experiments. Nothing is what it seems and the undead lurk around every corner, set on devouring the living. This is made especially clear during a horrific scene where a woman is powerless to stop a zombie from attacking her in gruesome fashion.

From that point on the film turns into a walking nightmare, as the undead rise and begin to attack. Most zombie movies have a siege moment at one point or another, and Zombie sure provides it. Funny how cowboys vs Native Americans are incorporated in many horror films, as the heroes must blast their way out and prevent themselves from becoming monster food. Also it helps that they have enough guns to battle the zombie menace.

Despite the low budget and the cheesy acting this is a really well shot horror film. Also the film has one of the coolest moments ever when a shark battles a zombie. Plus the ending is fantastic and eerie, a fitting conclusion to what could be Fulci’s masterwork. Also the film could be seen as a case study in different awesome ways to slaughter a zombie. Even though its not really dived into more there is also a subtitle yet also obvious commentary on how the island’s inhabitants get revenge/seek to devour their seemingly white colonial masters, in addition to the island’s curses that plagued its Spanish rulers coming back to haunt the living centuries later. I can’t wait to see some of his other films, as I have already viewed and liked a few of his other works.

Horrorfest 2014: Still Not Quite Dead

Since 2008 I have watched horror movies from August to early November ever year. Its a grand tradition, one that I will probably keep on doing until I’m finally tired of horror movies…..or more likely run out of the free time necessary to binge every year. There is no set schedule this time, and the theme is horror franchises. Buckle up folks: its going to be another fun ride.

The Dry Run:

1. Zombie (1979, Lucio Fulci)-Zombies
2. Phantasm II (1988, Don Coscarell)-Supernatural
3. A Field In England (2013, Ben Wheatley)-Crazy People

Netflix Instant Viewing Films:

1.    Phantoms (1998, Joe Chappelle)-Creature Feature
2.    The Ninth Gate (1999, Roman Polanski)-Satanic
3.    Red State (2011, Kevin Smith)-Rednecks
4.    Sharknado (2013, Anthony C. Ferrante)-Creature Feature
5.    V/H/S/2 (2013, Simon Barrett, Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sanchez, Timo Tjahjanto, Adam Wingard)-Anthology
6.    Ravenous (1999, Antonia Bird)-Crazy People
7.    Below (2002, David Twohy)-Ghosts
8.    Wishmaster (1997, Robert Kurtzman)-Supernatural
9.    Grabbers (2012, Jon Wright)-Aliens
10.    Candyman (1992, Bernard Rose)-Slasher
11.    The Keep (1983, Michael Mann)-Supernatural
12.    Humanoids From The Deep (1980, Barbara Peeters)-Creature Feature
13.    Black Sabbath (1964, Mario Bava)-Anthology
14.    Visiting Hours (1982, Jean-Calude Lord)-Slasher
15.    Dust Devil (1992, Richard Stanley)-Slasher
16.    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920, John S. Robertson)-Creature Feature
17.    Night of the Living Dead (1990, Tom Savini)-Instant Viewing-Zombies
18.    Event Horizon (1997, Paul W.S. Anderson)-Instant Viewing-WTF

The Franchises:

Listed are only ones that I have not seen yet. I might think of more later. I’ve viewed most of the Halloween series and all of the Friday the 13th films so they will not be featured.

1.    A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989, Stephen Hopkins)
2.    Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991, Rachel Talalay)
3.    Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994, Wes Craven)
4.    Child’s Play (1988, Tom Holland)
5.    Child’s Play 2 (1990, John Lafia)
6.    Child’s Play 3 (1991, Jack Bender)
7.    Bride of Chucky (1998, Ronny Yu)
8.    Seed of Chucky (2004, Don Mancini)
9.    Curse of Chucky (2013, Don Mancini)
10.    Halloween: Resurrection (2002, Rick Rosenthal)
11.    Psycho II (1983, Richard Franklin)
12.    Psycho III (1986, Anthony Perkins)
13.    Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990, Mick Garris)
14.    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986, Tobe Hooper)
15.    Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990, Jeff Burr)
16.    Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994, Kim Henkel)
17.    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003, Marcus Nispel)
18.    Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013, John Luessenhop)
19.    Critters 3 (1991, Kristine Peterson)
20.    Critters 4 (1992, Rupert Harvey)