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. 

Seek The Dragon (Manhunter, 1986)


Originally written for Horrorfest 2012:

Peering into the soul and heart of a monster often ends with the innocent doing the searching becoming the very thing they were hunting. So goes the warning, which Will keeps in mind as he desperately pursues a serial killer on the lose, a man who slaughters his victims without warning. This chase could not only cost Will his life, but also his soul, a fact that he keeps in mind despite not abandoning the chase or holding off even though his wife, his friend and colleague, and others warn him. Obsession is sometimes a dangerous and powerful motivator, despite the risks involved. Chasing someone who kills due to it being in their nature is the same as joining the locals on a safari hunt for a tiger that feeds on humans. The animal just might wrap its jaws around your neck and squeeze.

This feeling of paranoia, of searching for a madman is expertly showcased through well shot and lit scenes. The amazing use of color, the framing of shots, all underlying the mind and psyche of the film’s characters. The deliciously 80s soundtrack, lush and electronic, only further homes in that point, the rather bleak chase leading Will towards the so called “Tooth Fairy,” a man who views himself as more than just a human being consisting of flesh and blood. Hannibal Lecktor is present in this film, yet he serves as a mere vessel for the main killer, who looks to him as a master teacher in the art of inflicting pain upon others. One man only comes to realize too late that he is to be another example of how easy the task of human slaughter comes to certain people.

Buried within all of the chaos is a fine philosophical discussion, particularly in a scene between Hannibal and Will in which Hannibal imparts his so called “Words of Wisdom.” The survival of the human race feels at stake here, the battle for its very soul hanging in the balance, boiled down to a cop, a woman, and a killer. That essence drives Manhunter, makes it more than just a typical slasher movie, and is why it is the direct equal to the also excellent Silence of The Lambs. In fact, one could argue that this movie is the better of the two, diving into the bleak heart of human nature. Man is both darkness and light, the two of them coexisting within, and perhaps only in women lies salvation.

It’s Draft Time


For one weekend the NFL grabs the sports fans’ attention with a draft that since the 1980s is the biggest and most famous draft of them all. I don’t always watch yet I do pay attention to my team is drafting especially in the first and second rounds. A team can potentially make or break their season based on what needs they address and if they also satisfy certain wants as well. Also you have fans present which can lead to boos and cheers for players. From what I read on Twitter tonight many of those boos were aimed at Roger Goodell. Well deserved I might add.

So I wonder how the Chiefs and the Packers will do this weekend. I know both teams took a defensive player in the first round and unless they become a liability shoring up the defense is a smart although not really flashy move. I would rather see my teams make good draft moves and also look to the future while setting up playoff pushes for next season. As Browns fans can attest to the draft is a tricky and cruel mistress at times. It sure makes for quality entertainment however.

Shinny Happy TV


Well it took me three years but I finally got an XBox 360 and a 42 inch bigscreen TV by splitting the cost with my roommate. Both were also used and thus came cheaper than they normally do, which was nice. It is also a sign of the times as plenty of material items have become cheaper due to the market being saturated and a rise in Internet sales.

This is a good thing for consumers while it’s a bad thing for companies. While that is a concern at the same time all I can think about is my nice shinny TV and the Xbox I can play in my spare time. Although I will probably buy a new TV from an actual store, thus giving back to the poor big businesses that like to outsource and not pay their employees a living wage.

Ten Years Dead: Night of the Living Dead Essay (Warning: Spoilers)


From 2005, no less. Whoa that’s 10 years since I wrote about George A. Romero’s masterpiece Night of the Living Dead (1968). Unfortunately I was unable to discuss the film in full detail without using spoilers and mentioning key plot points, although at this point if you haven’t seen George A. Romero’s classic film then you should go fix that ASAP.

Despite the snubbing the horror movie genre receives from many critics, there are actually a good many horror films that have received substantial praise from both critics and fans. One such film is original Night of the Living Dead, made in 1968 by the famous and renowned director George A. Romero. I’ve heard it referred to as the Citizen Kane of horror movies, and while I haven’t seen enough to agree with that statement, Night is indeed a landmark in the history of horror movies, and in cinema.

Before I begin my attempt to discuss the film’s plot, stars, and the finer points of human flesh, I feel the need to say how I discovered this film in the first place. It was back in the fall of 2001, when I was a sophomore at my local high school. Being that it was Halloween, we decided to rent a couple of horror movies, thus continuing a tradition of sorts that we’ve done every year since the 8th Grade.

After walking through the door and being greeted by one of the store clerks wearing some freaky mask, we wandered into the video store aisle marked “Horror.” While my friend picked Scream 3, which was a fairly new release, I noticed a VHS cover, which I think had a zombie on it (my memory is kind of fuzzy). I read the back of the movie, which said it was about some people getting attacked by zombies, and I thought it would be gory fun. Get this: there were two copies of Night of the Living Dead, both the original and the remake. I thought I was getting the remake. But no, when my friend and I popped the tape in back at his house, I discovered to my surprise that it was an old black and white film instead.

Being young and wanting quick scares, my friend didn’t like the film and I found it to be alright at best, with the ending quite shocking and the famous “girl zombie” scene to be gruesome. Turning to the fun of Scream 3, which I found scary at the time (I only saw the rest of the trilogy two Halloweens ago), we both forgot about the other film. That was roughly four years and four viewings ago. Multiple viewings quickly changed my thoughts and views on the flick, but one could say that about a number of movies. I could go on all about me, but I’d rather focus on the film itself.

As the movie opens, we see Johnny boy and his sister Barbara on their way to place flowers on some dead person’s grave. Who that person is isn’t relevant to the story, but instead it serves as an ample plot device, since Johnny is reminded of how he used to scare Barbra, going on to say “They coming to get you Barbara,” with a stupid look on his face. He should have kept his mouth shut, because one of them comes alright. He’s defiantly not human, looks like Lurch’s long lost cousin, and he proceeds to bash Johnny’s head into a tomb stone. Lurch attempts to grab Barbara, but she ditches her car (“Johnny has the keys” is what she says later on), and runs like hell, finally reaching an abandoned farmhouse. This scene marks the change in the movie from quiet and relaxed to a freaky, heavy sense of dread, and I find the zombie attack to be somewhat surreal and almost out of place, which is why it works. Rising from the grave, clearly awakened by gongs being banged by crazed Buddhist monks, dozens of zombies slowly converge upon the farmhouse. All hope seems lost for poor Barbara, who by this point has become a buddle of fried nerves, scared out of her bloody mind, and clearly in no shape to battle the undead hordes.

That’s when the protagonist of our film comes in out of nowhere, riding in an old broke down car and wielding what looks like a tire iron. His name is Ben, and he is her knight in shinning armor, or, in actual reality, an African-American male completely surrounded by whitey. Seriously, Ben is the only black man we see in the entire flick-even the zombies are white! While Romero claims that his decision to cast Duane Jones in the role wasn’t motivated by race, the film’s events (which I will get to later) make me wonder. Completely unfazed by the fact that he’s surrounded by flesh eaters, he walks out on the front porch and sets some of the creatures on fire, and also quickly boards up the house. The guy even finds a lever action shotgun, and starts loading the weapon; Ben is a man of action, and here we witness what has become a common cliché in many movies: the quick thinking man of action, who stays calm, knows what to do, and isn’t afraid to act.

The movie wouldn’t be complete without some drama within the house itself, and this is supplied by Harry, a racist, his wife and child, and the young couple Tom and Judy. Harry doesn’t trust Ben’s decisions and wants to be in charge, providing the film with an added and interesting dimension: Harry feels that he is the bigger man, that he’s right, that he has to be the alpha male of the group. It’s not just a matter of race, but also a matter of serious pride; this pride ends up leading to the destruction of the group, and a bitter irony: that Harry was right about the basement of the house being the safest place to hide. Well at least in the end for the most part; although at the same time staying up in the main house, where there are multiple escape routes makes sense too.

At its core, Night of the Living Dead is many things. It’s clear that the movie is a horror version of those old westerns where the cowboys are holed up in a small cabin or fort, with the savage Indians attacking it, trying to break in and scalp everyone inside. Of course the Indians never ate the cowboys (last time I checked), but that seems to be the main reason why most of the movie takes place inside an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere. The claustrophobic feeling of the house has a clear effect upon the inhabitants, and this only ups the film’s slowly building sense of tension. I also feel that the movie in a way mirrors the social and political upheavals that were taking place at that time in America. Ben and Harry’s struggles for control certainly reflect upon the racial conflicts that had exploded in many American cities, along with the film’s ending, which caught me completely off guard. Also, the movie’s few extremely violent scenes are perhaps references to the Vietnam War; in that American troops mowed down countless, nameless Vietnamese communists-only replace the communists with flesh eating zombies. I also have to note that many of the zombies had the look of dirty, druggy hippies, which makes me wonder if Romero was commenting on the country’s counterculture as well.

A final theme I think the movie touches on is the horrifying thought that mankind at its worst reverts to its most primitive, primal and gruesome instincts, and I think the zombies reflect this. That at any time, any place, and your loved one may go berserk and decide to either gnaw on your flesh, or stab you to death with a garden trowel. They are no longer human, and reasoning with them won’t save you. Which is to me a very scary thought indeed.

“Night,” like most horror movies isn’t well known for its actors, or good acting in general. That seems to be an extra bonus, especially if you take a look at the slasher films of the 1980s. But even on a shoe string budget Romero manages to get some pretty good acting out of some of the movie’s cast, especially Duane Jones. Jones as Ben is really the film’s strongest character, and while it’s not an entirely fleshed out role, Jones does a wonderful job portraying a man surrounded by what one could call a surrealistic nightmare. What makes Ben so damn cool is that he takes no prisoners, refuses to surrender, uses everything at his disposal to kill the zombies, and until the second half of the film, he has a plan. What also makes his character so fascinating is how Ben slowly comes to realize that even he is human, and that despite all his planning everything goes terribly wrong. This feeling is further explored in a scene where Ben is trapped in the basement, haunted by the fact that he is now all alone, and that the bastard hippie people eaters have finally broken into the house. Ben has been defeated, and he knows it.

As for the other actors, Karl Hardman as Harry, we see a man who is the complete opposite of Ben. Harry seems to be nervous, racist, (one could say that Ben was racists at times also), and paranoid. His struggles with Ben and the distrust that exists between them do indeed add the needed dynamic to the film, and his demise is equal parts gory, tragic, and horrifying, and showcase’s the film’s third theme about lack of true humanity. Judith O’Dea, who as Barbara is stuck in the role of the woman in need of rescue, is the film’s truly realistic side, in that she’s scared out of her mind. While most of us think that we’d act like Ben in such a situation, more than likely many of us would be frightened, and wondering whether or not we would survive. Oh, and what happens to poor Barb is something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, and is horribly ironic.

The film in itself has plenty of irony, some people who get their just deserts, and others who were unlucky enough to be caught of the middle of two angry men and the horde of the undead. Romero by the way smartly only has a few scenes of gore, and so their shock value and the effect of disgust they aim to project are seared onto the audience’s mind; this is in sharp contrast to the rest of his zombie series. Although the part where the zombie girl stabs her mother to death with a garden tool is a clear homage (or rip off if that’s your opinion) of the famous shower scene in “Psycho,” with the blood splattering, the screams of the dying, and the sharp musical notes in the background. That scene gets me every time, simply because the image of a woman’s spawn butchering her is to me quite cringe worthy, and somewhat shocking.

Stamped with Romero’s unique vision, driven by tension, gore, a cast of realistic characters, and a thoughtful commentary on humanity that may or may not have been intentional, Night of the Living Dead is a movie experience every horror fan should have. The movie proves that not all horror films are mindless, gory thrill machines, and that the genre has contributed more to the world of cinema than is generally acknowledge.

A Pair of True Detectives Season 1 (Possible Spoilers)


Its been a long time since I reviewed a TV show episode by episode, or at least focused on the overall season. The last show I covered episode by episode was Lost, and the last season I reviewed overall was Season 1 of Game of Thrones. So I present to you folks my short, not really in-depth enough thoughts on True Detective’s first episode. I wrote all of these entries last year:

True Detective Season 1 Episode 1: The Long Bright Dark

Opening in the Deep South and focusing in on a case that had long been thought solved in 1995, the HBO show True Detective utilizes flashbacks and flash forwards for a season centering around two Louisiana State CID’s, Rust and Marty. These former partners are being interviewed, or more likely interrogated, by current detectives because someone has been killed in the same fashion as the girl that they found in a field over a decade prior. Having fallen out after years of working together, Marty and Rust are grilled separately, each giving accounts of what transpired during the murder investigation. In the process certain elements come to light, and we begin to get a certain picture of who these men are and how they think.

This is especially made clear in a scene in which Rust offers his darkly humorous and brutal outlook on humanity after Marty unfortunately asks Rust what his belief system is. Matthew McConaughey breaks free of his movie persona here, delivering a brooding monologue that Woody Harrelson reacts to quite strongly, which in turn was funny and rather apt given the nature of what Rust had just said. Its interesting that Marty’s wife, Maggie, wants Rust to meet Marty’s family, as the two men seem to have little in common and Rust is no longer a family man. Perhaps curious to see who has her husband’s life in his hands, although maybe also a typical formality of sorts. What occurs as a result of that decision is Maggie realizing what Marty already knows: that Rust is on edge, teetering on that line between sanity and madness.

Another choice moment is when Rust in the interview forces one of the detectives to get him a six pack of Lone Star as he continues to chain smoke away during their questioning. The first episode concludes with a rather nice puzzling quote that does not come across as typical or cliche based on how McConaughey delivers the line. Harrelson and McConaughey display a natural rapport and connection in this show, playing off of one another and reflecting their fantastic talents onscreen. I’m looking forward to viewing the rest of the series based on this gorgeously shot, bleak and neatly directed episode.

Long Live Civility


M. Gustave: You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed that’s what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant… oh, fuck it.-The Grand Budapest Hotel

Today I had a Twitter conversation with a fellow follower. He made the mistake of reading the comments section of an Internet article. I too choose to often do so because well, people love to look at car crashes. Of course in that case car crashes are accidental-terrible racist, homophobic and or sexist comments are not. So much for the 21st century.

Still I’m reminded of the scene in The Grand Budapest Hotel where Ralph Fiennes mediates upon civility in a barbaric and hostile world. His end response of “Fuck it” is a feeling that many exasperated people have when they venture into the Internet and read certain posts. I mean who the hell are these people? I’ll admit I curse way too much and I often fail to use proper grammar yet these idiots are the toilet bowl scum of the online world.

It’s really quite depressing and honestly I don’t have a solution to the problem. I’ll try and encourage those who behave as if they were not raised to be buffoons, yet online anonymity encourages terrible behavior. The sad thing is that not even having their actual name attached to their posts is enough to detour them from making comments that are insanely cringe worthy. A pessimistic individual would note this as the human race being doomed. I think I would go with hoping the sane end up prevailing.

I’ve Got The Madness


March Madness is the greatest time of the year. It’s as if they had the World Cup and the Olympics happen yearly. Although I don’t have time to watch all the games anymore there have been times in the past where I tuned in for a majority of the NCAA Tournament. I got hooked on the tourney in 1995 and I have filled out a bracket every year since 2003 I think.

While I’m not informed enough to post about all my picks I will say that I’m going with Arizona this year to win it all. Yep I have a serious bias-at least I admit it. More than likely the Kentucky Wildcats will go undefeated. Besides while I have picked the overall winner three out of the last four years most of the time my bracket dies by the second weekend at the latest. There are just too many random factors to account for and its damn near impossible to pick all of the games right. That doesn’t mean people don’t go for the million or billion dollar bracket challenges. I might even give it a shot. But probably not since they send you email advertisements.

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