Wes Craven’s Final Nightmare


Back in high school when I was starting out as a young freshman getting more into horror movies I saw a film called Scream. I also watched Scream 2 also that night, and both films left a good impression upon me. Shortly after I also viewed for the first time one of his classics, A Nightmare On Elm Street. This is a creepy and effective horror movie with a freaky jump scare near the end and some great performances from its young cast. Therefore last night I was bummed when I discovered that Wes Craven had died from brain cancer. It’s truly a shame as the guy helped shape and influence horror many times over.

I’ve seen other films of his over the years, from the other Scream movies to cult flicks such as The People Under The Stairs and The Serpent and the Rainbow. Both underrated and enjoyable movies that are examples of how Craven also was able to work in social and political commentary into his films. I also had a blast viewing Scream 4 in theaters-it’s a fine send off for the current bunch and it’s why for better or worse that there is a Scream TV show.

There is also other famous Craven films such as his classic revenge flick The Last House On The Left and A New Nightmare, which I dig a lot. Thanks to the Scream films Craven and Kevin Williamson helped bring horror movies back from the fringe in the 1990s, and for that alone he deserves to be celebrated. Few people have the luck and the talent to be a part of two major series and to change an entire genre more than once.

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Dust Devil (1992, Richard Stanley)


Operating as equal parts The Hitcher (1986), vampire film and pure nightmare, Dust Devil is a fascinating exercise in style that also mediates upon feminism, urban legends and the past coming back to haunt the present. Richard Stanley sets the film in the obvious dusty setting of Namibia, a place that becomes a strong aspect of the film and turns the movie into a quasi-horror western. The western aspects are particularly strong concerning the Dust Devil, who operates as a mythical killer who feeds upon the life force of those he kills. This ritual is explained by the film’s narrator, Joe, the film’s narrator, in the movie’s eerie opening. The Dust Devil is played with utmost sinister quality by Robert John Burke, who menaces the film’s heroine, Wendy Robinson, played by Chelsea Field, who acts as the film’s survival girl. Although the movie at times features the Dust Devil actually sparing her or expressing a twisted love for Wendy, thus offering a slightly different take on the slasher villain/survival girl dynamic. One can argue that in all slasher movies the villain has a murderous obsession with the unlucky woman that has managed to not be murdered by him (or her, in certain cases). Also I love that this film has cult film and horror actor Zakes Moake as Sgt. Ben Mukurob, a South African police officer who is convinced that the Dust Devil is a supernatural being despite others not believing him.

Although the film presents some apartheid and racial politics unfortunately the film does not properly dive into that issue, choosing instead to be more of an ominous and heavily intense slasher film. This is too bad considering the cast involved and the fact that this movie came out in 1992, yet it still does not prevent me from enjoying the film and considering it to be an underrated cult gem from the early 1990s. Despite the decade’s lack of consistency when it comes to horror movies the 1990s still had some great films to offer, and Dust Devil is one of those. I also loved how towards the end the film references the Mad Max series, and that it does not journey into a cliched finale. I wonder how much Stanley borrowed from The Hitcher, although tales of creepy murders being picked up by unsuspecting victims is an old tale, and there are other films I have not seen that also deal with slightly similar concepts. Furthermore I actually would have liked this film to get a sequel, which is a rare thought considering how so many second films do not always live up to the original installments. I wanted to know more about the Dust Devil, and the last shot is curiously open ended.

PS: I found the so called director’s cut, as the film was originally gutted by the studio that released it. I believe that version is the one on Netflix that I watched.

King of the Monsters


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Back when I was in middle school I bought my first movie. It was on VHS and it was titled King Kong vs Godzilla. Made in 1963, it was Toho Studios featuring the big green guy against the huge monkey as they rampaged across Japan. Having viewed this movie numerous times since my purchase I can fairly say that its a favorite of mine. And that despite being one of the lesser entries in the series it is responsible for me becoming a Godzilla fan. Although I will admit that only over the last couple of years I have viewed more of the films. I have seen both of the American modern entries in theaters also, with the  1998 version being terrible while the latest one was fantastic. 

This year I spent Memorial Day weekend and the rest of the year viewing every Godzilla film that was on Netflix Instant Viewing. Some were rather disappointing (Godzilla’s Revenge and Godzilla Returns) while others were really cool (Godzilla vs Mothra). I’ve thus gained a deeper appreciation for a movie icon that has been around for over 60 years. What I like about the old school Godzilla movies is how they are wonderfully simplistic and yet manage to be highly entertaining. Also Ishro Honda is a constant director involved in the series, as he did create Godzilla with the original classic.

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: Phantom of the Paradise (1974, Brian De Palma)


Why there are not more gothic horror operas in cinema I don’t know. Perhaps it’s due to the few ones being released bombing or not being successful. Phamtom of the Paradise did poorly at the box office, which is a shame considering that it’s wondeful and entertaining. I loved the musical numbers and the film’s cast compliments the proceedings well. Jessica Harper is the standout, although Paul Williams’ wonderfully evil Swan and William Finley as the tragic Winslow/the Phantom also turn in fine performances. I also enjoyed seeing Gerrit Graham as Beef, a 70s style glam rocker who is funny and entertaining. 

Brian De Palma has always utilized different influences, particularly Alfred Hitchcock, although here he channels Orson Welles more. Especially in a great split scene take that reminded me of the classic Touch of Evil. The musical numbers are the film’s strongest aspect, although the best song is saved for the end credits: “The Hell Of It,” a nasty ditty sung by Williams himself. Harper has an equally great number with “Special To Me”-the dance she performs at the end of it is rather amusing. Finley’s “Faust” is strangely beautiful as well; “Dream a bunch of friends,” one of its lyrics, is poetry. 

De Palma manages to create what is possibly the best of the Phantom of the Opera adaptions. While this film is cheesy at times it’s engaging and fantastic,  humorous and creepy. This is the kind of musical that I can endorse, and it is also one of his best films. An overabundance of style and a quality helping of exuberance is never a bad thing, and De Palma’s films always have those aspects in bunches. “Goodbye goodbye goodbye…”

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978, Philip Kaufman)


Eerie and very sinister, quiet and deadly. You only really too late that your own friends and neighbors are being replaced by creatures unknown. This is a force beyond our understanding, a parasite that feeds upon man. Do not, I repeat, do not fall asleep. You shall dream your last dream if you do, and the rest is a walking nightmare. Conformity is the norm already in human culture, which is unfortunate. Most unfortunate. Welcome to Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The original 1956 classic dealt with McCarthyism and communism, fear of the other and the suburbs not being a safe haven. Philip Kaufman’s equally great remake moves the action to San Francisco, trafficking in 1970s style paranoia and the fear of government bureaucracy in the wake of Watergate and the Vietnam War. Donald Sutherland, Blake Adams, Veronica Cartwright, Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy round out a fine cast that adds to the expert direction. The soundtrack is nice and creepy, although the film easily uses silence to underline the horror of what is occurring.

One of the best parts of the film is when a person literally crumbles away in Sutherland’s arms. What a terrifying concept, that a person could be destroyed and an unfeeling monster emerges, occupying their living space. Also the film wonderfully uses Nimoy and Sutherland,  who both fit the material rather well and are the major players in a situation that could determine the fate of the human race.

While I’m not sure if the other two remakes are even worth seeing the 1978 version is almost equal to the 1956 adaptation of the novel all of them are based on. Due to spoofs and time I knew the film’s ending, and yet that finale still amazes. This film is another worthy additon to sci-fi and horror.

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: Night of the Demons 2 (1994, Brian Trenchard-Smith)


Many horror sequels have a high rate of diminishing returns. However in the case of Night of the Demons 2 the sequel is that rare one that inproves upon the original. Although the first one didn’t set the bar very high-yet I did enjoy it despite it’s low budget and B movie cast. The sequel continues along the same lines, mixing dark humor with gross out gore.

Also this film has some star power in a young, not yet famous Christine Taylor, who has since appeared in many famous comedies. Plus the characters here are better than the ones in the first film. I rather liked Mouse, yet its Gloria, the take no prisoners nun, who is the film’s main attraction. Naturally Angela returns to wreck more havoc, which makes me wonder why people would go into a cursed old house in the first place. Oh right, it’s a horror movie.

One of the best nasty moments is when one of the possessed girls spouts an arm out of her chest,  using it to nab a perverted greaser. Sure this isn’t high art and I’m sure they ripped off The Evil Dead II, yet I was entertained. Besides this film has an Uzi filled with holy water and a big grand monster style finale. I’m also wondering why a 90s movie felt like an 80s release. Odd. Good, but odd. I have little hope for the third one, and I’m amused that this is a series.

Horrorfest 2015: The Final Chapter


There’s no theme this year. Also this might be the last one. Maybe. List which is always subject to change endlessly and whenever I feel like it:

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Netflix Instant Viewing

1. The Babadook (2014, creature feature)
2. Pet Sematary 2 (1992, demonic)
3. Housebound (2014, ghosts)
4. Late Phases (2014, werewolf)
5. The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977, mad scientist)
6. Troll (1986, creature feature)
7. Disturbing Behavior (1998, crazy people)
8. Nightbreed: Director’s Cut (1990, monsters)
9. V/H/S: Viral (2014, anthology)
10. Starry Eyes (2014, crazy people)
11. Almost Human (2013, slasher)
12. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2013, giallo)
13. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014, vampire)
14. The Quiet Ones (2014, ghosts)
15. Ghoulies Go To College (1991, monsters)
16. Leprechaun 3 (1995, creature feature)
17. Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997, creature feature)
18. Ju-on: The Grudge (2002, ghosts)
19. Damien: The Omen II (1978, demonic)
20. Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981, demonic)
21. The Fly (1958, creature feature)
22. Dead Silence (2007, killer puppets)
23. Deep Star Six (1989, creature feature)
24. Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988, demonic)
25. Vampire in Brooklyn (1995, vampires)
26. The Sacrament (2013, crazy people)
27. Murders In The Rue Morgue (1971, slasher)
28. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978, aliens)

Other Media:

29. IT (1990, creature feature)
30. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986, slasher)
31. Society (1989, creature feature)
32. Murder Party (2007, slasher)
33. Q The Winged Serpent (1982, creature feature)
34. Night of the Demons 2 (1994, demonic)
35. God Told Me To (1976, crazy people)

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Child’s Play (1988, Holland)


While I still have yet to view the rest of the series I doubt any of the entries measure up to the original Child’s Play, directed by famous horror filmmaker Tom Holland. Despite the ridiculous nature of the film’s premise Holland never lets the material get out of hand or stop being really creepy. Everyone knows who Chucky is by now so the surprise of him being the killer is long gone, however this film was well directed and executed to the point where that didn’t matter. I’m reminded of Friday the 13th (1980) where in the modern era you know who the killer is and yet the film is suspenseful enough that having prior knowledge is mostly irrelevant to the film’s success. Also Brad Dourif brings Chucky to villainous life in a manner that only a good actor can do-after all, playing a doll is tough work. The film also benefits from the Chicago setting, which is utilized properly and adds to the film’s eerie atmosphere.

Plus this film has a great cast: Chris Sarandon in a rare good guy role, Catherine Hicks as Andy’s troubled mom, and of course Dourif plus Alex Vincent, who is one of those child actors that isn’t annoying in a horror movie. Even though killer doll movies aren’t the most scariest in the world, Child’s Play manages to be a really spooky and entertaining horror film with a chilling finale. I look forward to viewing the rest of the series even if my expectations will be lower-I have heard that the second one is rather underrated. The 80s has some really quality horror films and I think that Child’s Play is certainly one of those, even if it falls short of being a truly great horror film.

Follow The Candle Lights


College’s Fantasy Park is a glorious synthesizer driven masterpiece that is one of my all time favorite songs. “Come on come on, follow the candle lights.” I should really get my hands on the album it’s featured on one of these days. They’re a great part of the awesome 80s style movement that is driving a lot of techno and dance music these days, which is fine because the 80s had plenty of great dance music to begin with.

2014 Horrorfest Presents: Big Ass Spider (2013, Mike Mendez)


Despite being rather low budget and feeling as if it was a SyFy movie of the week Big Ass Spider is pure, dumb entertainment that had plenty of good moments to offset the noticeably poor acting and cheap special effects.  Greg Grunberg’s Alex and Lombardo Boyar’s José have great chemistry together and are one of the reasons why this film even works in the first place, multiple homages to classic gigantic killer insect movies aside. And it does always help to have Ray Wise, who doesn’t seem to mind that he’s in a movie where the characters have the look and feel of people reacting to a clearly CGI-ed monster rampaging through some city. Naturally it’s Los Angeles, which has seen it’s fair share of being destroyed in countless movies over the past century, and will probably be continued to destroyed long into this century and into the next. Hopefully for the people who live there an actual natural disaster never happens again, yet I highly doubt it will be gigantic killer mutant spiders. No, those are more likely to strike the Midwest….crap….

The story here is kind of flimsy and the dialogue isn’t the best, yet I laughed at a lot of the one liners and I was never bored, which is a good thing. What amuses me about giant killer bug movies is how ridiculous they are, and the best ones seem to embrace the outrageous elements of such a concept. Although it’s not a great film by any means I still liked Big Ass Spider, and I wouldn’t mind if they made a sequel where hapless Alex and Jose continue to battle the super insect creatures that threaten mankind. I’m surprised that more movies don’t exist where an exterminator has to defeat a huge bug-after all, they deal with the little ones on a regular basis. 

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