Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Malignant (2021, James Wan)


After doing big time Hollywood franchise movies, James Wan returned to give us another freaky horror movie. In this case I’m not sure if Malignant is a great bad movie, a good movie, or a complete mess. However I dug this movie a lot, and it managed to creep me out and even scare me at times, which is more than I can say for a lot of horror movies.

Madison (Annabelle Wallis) begins to have nightmarish visions of murders in Seattle. Her sister, Sydney (Maddie Hasson) decides to investigate, and what she uncovers is both shocking and disturbing. James Wan creates a horror movie that is equal parts giallo, supernatural thriller, and body horror movie in one crazy, glorious package.

This movie should be viewed for the cop station scene alone, and also because it’s a giant homage to the films that clearly inspired James Wan. Plus George Young is actually really good as the one cop who mostly believes Madison, and the final act is utterly insane. Some may not enjoy this movie, yet I feel many such as myself will champion it years from now.

Horrorfest 2018 Presents: Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989, Shinya Tsukamoto)


How does one describe Tetsuo: The Iron Man? Is Shinya Tsukamoto’s movie the disturbed love child of Eraserhead and David Cronenberg body horror? The beginning of industrial metal music, combined with music video style imagery and editing cuts? Or something even beyond all that, a nightmare fuel vision that draws the viewer in, never letting go, haunting all who view Tsukamoto’s masterpiece of flesh and metal. Bound together forever, entwined, destined to conquer a world that has let technology and industry that holds domain over mankind. After all, humanity has surrendered control to beings that will eventually overwhelm us if we are not careful. Plus the images presented are horrific yet also fascinating, literal but also metaphorical: I give this movie credit for managing to walk the fine line between desperation and meaning, a very uneasy task for any filmmaker tackling such material.

If you are looking for a movie with drawn out characters or an easy to follow plot, this movie is not for you. Instead if, like myself, you wish to seek out challenging films that present another worldview, then Tetsuo is a great choice. I also chuckled at how the end title says “Game Over,” as if the last insane act is a video game. Considering the 1980s, its a perfect title image, and predicted how many films in the years to come either adapted video games or choose to be structured like them. Also be prepared for a movie where a man has a giant drill coming out of him, not to mention turning into a monstrous pile of scrap metal, consuming all other metal around him. I wish I could write more about this film, however I wish to avoid spoilers and I think Tetsuo requires additional viewings. Which will have to be achieved through Shudder again, since according to Wikipedia all releases of the film are out of print. Maybe I should appeal to Criterion to add the film to their collection.

Horrorfest 2017 Presents: Bite (2015, Chad Archibald)


Do not watch Bite while eating, as the film roughly 40 minutes in becomes gross. I have viewed a lot of body horror film and yet I still find this movie disgusting. Which is clearly what those who made it had in mind, while channeling other films. Modern horror does that a lot, and unfortunately too much familiar territory is covered as a result.

The cast mostly helps this film, although Jordan Gray is bland as Casey’s boyfriend.  Elma Begovic is rather sympathetic as Casey, despite turning into a monster. Denise Yuen and Annette Wozniak play her friends: one who cares about her, the other does not. Things get out of hand quickly 40 minutes in, and the body horror elements were the film’s strongest.

I did not care for the found footage style opening, and the movie took a bit too long to really get moving. Still Bite is not all bad, and it was not a complete waste of time. Oh and bugs creep me out, just like everyone else. Yet they can also be oddly fascinating. From a distance, behind glass.

Horrorfest 2017: Dead Can Dance!


Image result for Dead Can Dance gif
Go Zombie Michael, Go!

Okay enough Friday the 13th homage titles. If you have not listened to the band Dead Can Dance, do so. Anyways its time for more horror films, as I have fallen into the old habit of viewing them every year. Plus writing reviews, which I plan to do much faster this time. My public library (three separate branches in town) has enough to get me started, and I am finally making the switch to Blu Ray after years of slumming it with DVD’s. So for my few readers, time to get scared…again.

PS: Long overdue reviews being written now. Also unfortunately this one was a rare bust due to life issues, lack of streaming, etc.

Public Library Edition Planned List (in alphabetical order):

1. Bite (2015, body horror)
2. The Black Torment (1964, gothic horror)
3. Blair Witch (2016, duh)
4. Blood For Dracula (1974, duh again)
5. Bram Stroker’s Dracula (1992, DUH)
6. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935, creature feature)
7. Crawlspace (1986, crazy people)
8. A Cure For Wellness (2016, crazy people)
9. Drag Me To Hell (2009, demons)
10. Flesh For Frankenstein (1973, creature feature)
11. Final Destination 2 (2003, DEATH)
12. Fright Night (2011, vampires)
13. The Girl With All The Gifts (2016, zombies)
14. Green Room (2016, crazy people)
15. The Horror Show (1989, evil spirit)
16. Krampus (2015, duh)
17. Legion (Exorcist III Director’s Cut, 1990, demonic)
18. Leviathan (1989, creature feature)
19. Lights Out (2016, evil spirits)
20. Little Shop of Horrors (1986, creature feature)
21. The Neon Demon (2016, crazy people)
22. Prison (1988, evil spirits)
23. The Quiet Ones (2013, evil spirits)
24. The Ring (2002, pissed off spirit)
25. The Tall Man (2012, urban legends)
26. Wrong Turn (2003, cannibals)
27. 31 (2016, seriously crazy people)

Other:

28. Night Monster (1942, creature feature)
29. Mother! (2017, crazy people)
30. The Manster (1959, creature feature)
31. Raw (2017, cannibals)
32. The Satanic Rights of Dracula (1974, yep)
33. Urban Legend (1998, slasher)
34. It (2017, Pennywise the Dancing Clown!)
35. Pieces (1982, giallo)
36. Alice, Sweet Alice (1976, giallo)

Halloween:

Rewatch: Return of the Living Dead (1985, zombies)

37. Jennifer’s Body (2009, demonic)
38. Salem’s Lot (1979, vampires)

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: Starry Eyes (2014, Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer)


After some thought, I realize something: if one digs further within themselves, a proper understanding of Sarah emerges. You feel her desperation and frustration, the willingness to do whatever it takes to become a star in Hollywood. Her friends don’t get this and they really don’t care, existing as parasites draining her life force. Masterfully played by Alex Essoe, suffering from a mental disorder and unsure of reality, Sarah is easy prey for the aptly named  Astraeus Pictures. This is not the first or last time someone has a dark commentary on Hollywood and stardom, yet despite Starry Eyes‘ flaws Essoe is captivating. Events unravel in disturbing fashion, and her roommate and friends only comprehend too late who they were dealing with. Oh and body horror comes into play because hey becoming a different person requires sacrifice, loss of innocence, and oh yeah some body parts.

Also the difference between hiding your dark side and embracing it becomes clear in brutal terms. This is a creepy movie, utilizing such classics as Rosemary’s Baby and All About Eve, resulting in a nightmarish film that I’m still pondering. I wonder if a second viewing wouldn’t make me appreciate this film more, or if I would notice more flaws. I do hope that Essoe gets more parts thanks to this movie, and that Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer have more to offer the horror genre. If Sarah could do it all over again would she make the same choices? Is rebirth truly worth the price of one’s soul? How many successful people have paid a price that only they know about to achieve the American dream of stardom? There might not be any answers to these questions.

Top 20 Horror Films of the 2000s Presents: Ginger Snaps (2000)


6.    Ginger Snaps (2000, John Fawcet)

Blood. So much blood. Perhaps its to be expected of a movie that is really about young girls going through puberty, experiencing their period for the first time-and so the red stuff flows. Yet in the end its all about a nasty problem that one sister tries to help the other sister with: being a werewolf. Its bad enough becoming a woman when you also have to be concerned with trying to eat the ones you love once the full moon arises. Ginger Snaps is freaky, weird, gross, and tragic, a sexual opera played out among its main characters, utilizing body horror perfectly-because after all werewolf films concern themselves with body transformation and mutilation, skin covered in hair, the body once human now beast. Having been aware of this film’s well known reputation I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, however after everything starts to go south and the body count starts to rise I knew I was viewing something unique and frightening.

As to why most of the truly good or great werewolf movies exist after 1981 is interesting. Maybe the special effects just were not up to par for decades, although I love the original The Wolfman and think its a classic. The Howling has excellent werewolf makeup and FX, and the only knock against Ginger Snaps is that the werewolves look sort of fake here. That doesn’t take away from the crazy relationship between a pair of sisters, one who ends up changing and the other who feels even more alienated than usual as a result. More feminist driven horror movies need to exist, and one can thank Ginger Snaps and others for helping lead the way or at least breaking the mold.

Top 20 Horror Films of the 2000s Presents: Black Swan (2010)


7.    Black Swan (2010, Darren Aronofsky)

This is one of those entries on my list where people say “Well is this really a horror movie?” I think it fits the basic criteria, which is  disturbing, nightmarish, completely insane by all means, and haunting to the max. Featuring a powerhouse acting job by the lovely Natalie Portman, Arnonofsky takes a rather ordinary plot-a ballet company doing Swan Lake-and turns into a frightening experience combing fantasy with reality, and featuring body horror that would be right at home in a David Cronenberg film. Having Mila Kunis act as Portman’s more outgoing, adventurous counterpart/rival was a great touch, and I loved how expertly creepy and slimy Vincent Cassel was in the role of her director. A man who gets way too close to his dancers, commanding high respect and demanding extreme perfection to the point of causing his performers to be exhausted. This literal balancing act is what causes Portman’s Nina to slowly and then rapidly become unbalanced, giving the movie its bleak center: the pressure causing what little sanity the poor girl had to begin with to ebb away.

Something I truly love about this film is how the darkness builds up to a fevered pitch, as Nina goes from being only able to portray the White Swan to embracing the Black Swan of the title, going inwards into herself and uncovering the madness necessary to let go. Perhaps this is a bloody and sad tale of method acting gone utterly wrong, or simply just another fine psychological driven movie from Arnonofsky, who with Black Swan, The Wrestler, Pi and others is one of the best of the modern directors. Whatever the case the transformation is something I still brood upon from time to time, pondering whether art attracts insane people. Maybe people are driven insane by art. Something in the middle, perhaps.

Top 20 Horror Films of the 2000s Presents: Slither (2006)


8.    Slither (2006, James Gunn)

After years of putting this movie off I finally decided to see what all of the fuss was about and finally watched it one or two Horrorfests ago. Needless to say I get why people love this movie so much (and I’m now included in their company): its gross, really darkly funny, and incredibly entertaining. Slither exists as a throwback to films such as Night of the Creeps while also channeling Shivers, two equally disgusting movies about creepy bug creatures invading people’s brains and turning them into brain dead zombies. In Slither’s case the aliens are from outer space, popping out of a meteor and infecting the town’s local millionaire-Grant Grant, wonderfully played by famous character actor Michael Rooker-which leads to him infecting others in the process since he ends up becoming a mutated beast. Things just get progressively worse from there, and the rest of the movie features the town’s sheriff (endlessly dependable Nathan Fillion) and Grant Grant’s wife (the lovely Elizabeth Banks) trying to end the infestation.

As great as Fillion is in this movie-his sheriff is equal parts humorous and completely bewildered by the situation-its really Gregg Henry’s slick mayor who has some of the movie’s best lines. “Bitch is hardcore” is one of my favorites, among others; hell I could quote most of the entire movie. Not too many films succeed in combing comedy with horror, and Slither pulls that feat off really well. Especially in the scene where Fillion fights a deer: you just have to see it to believe it. Its a shame that this movie was not a box office hit, especially since its so well made and is a blast to watch. Hopefully more people seek out this movie on DVD and Blu Ray, although I would not recommend watching this while eating. The monster version of Grant Grant is enough to cause some people to vomit. Some horror movies really are not for the faint of heart.

Auto-Erotic, Accidents, and Almost Death: A Look At Crash


In 2005, I experienced a car crash that was absolutely brutal and completely life changing, to say the least. I was hit from the side, t-boned as they called it, so I lived while sustaining a concussion. My friend, who was a passenger and who lived while being only slightly injured, had to tell me what happened that day because I don’t remember. A day in my life is gone forever, and all I have left are pictures of a terrible moment that almost killed me. That’s a scary thought, one that I have never forgotten.

Some say your life flashes before your eyes when death approaches, yet that didn’t happen for me. I’m sure there was no white light, or the singing of angels, or anything else. Just that moment where I probably thought to myself “Oh shit, I’m going to die” as the other car rammed into my driver’s side, pushing me off the road and into a small plot of green grass resting next to the strip of hot July asphalt that ran on the far side of town. Next to a Country Kitchen, in fact.

Side Hit

This is my 1997 Ford Taurus-I took this and other pictures of the aftermath at the local junkyard. The car was completely totaled, and I woke up the next day having spent half the day in the hospital, and the entire rest of the night puking and wondering what the hell had happened to me. Not a good experience.

So with a tad hesitation I viewed David Cronenberg’s Crash (1996), not to be confused with the movie about racism that won Best Picture and which I never bothered to watch. Cronenberg in the 1990s decided that after over two decades of doing body horror he would tackle something new and fresh, and this can actually be considered a cousin to Naked Lunch in that both films tackle the artist and certain weird levels of making and creating something with one’s own hands. In this case with Crash though the art is achieved with car accidents, some staged, others that happened merely viewed and remembered by those obsessed with the horror and the spectacle, with sex involved too.

Which is not surprising, since many of Cronenberg’s movies have deal with sexuality and the human body one way or another. There is even elements of body horror in this film, moments that are quite stark and rather provocative , hence the NC-17 rating that was unfairly earned in my opinion. Why is that violence is so often given a pass, yet sex brings in the censorship police? It’s a tad silly how so many Americans are prudish when it comes to the subject matter of sex, and that’s why I think that Cronenberg included it in so many of his films. Arousal is a weapon even in these movies, especially when it comes to man vs. women sexual politics.

Back in 1996 I’m sure the movie was far shocking to people than it is now, and the fact that films such as Blue Valentine have also displayed sex graphically makes Crash a tad dated. For some reason I felt the film doesn’t go far enough, and maybe that’s because if had gone completely over the edge there is no way that it would have been released. However Crash does a fantastic job overall of giving you the sense of that deer in the headlights, that feeling of Death starring you in the face as you spiral head on into a tangled web of violence and bodies, metal and glass, plastic and rubber.

Not to mention you still get his thoughts on technology-its mutilation of the body, the graphing together of steel and human flesh. Disturbing, sure, powerful absolutely, and completely engaging to the last frame. No one quite makes films like David Cronenberg, and perhaps that’s a good thing because his vision remains unique and absorbing. Perhaps even absolute, a lasting take on modern society and the human psyche.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑