Horrorfest 2016 Presents: Jacob’s Ladder (1990, Adrian Lyne)


For some reason psychological horror thrillers were a big thing in the late 1980s and 1990s. They were usually well made and had a higher pedigree than many lower budget horror films. Jacob’s Ladder was one of them, and it’s a great and freaky journey into the psyche of its main character, played by the famous actor Tim Robbins. Robbins does a fantastic job of conveying man on the verge of madness, haunted by his past. Adrian Lyne does a fine job of visually presenting these nightmares and giving us a window into Jacob’s shattered mind.

Dealing with his troubles are his girlfriend, Jezzie, played by Elizabeth Peña and his chiropractor, Louis (Danny Aiello). Neither though really has answers for what is going on with Jacob, and even his own old army unit fails to give him any peace. One scene where Jacob is wheeled through a hospital is quite freaky, and there are other eerie moments that make the viewer wonder what is really going on.

My only major complaint about this film is that I already knew certain major details. I wish I could have seen this in theaters back in 1990, as I’m sure that this movie surprised many movie goers. I consider this to be a well made horror drama, one that is much tragic as it is scary. Also it’s too bad that even decades later Vietnam and other war vets suffer from the traumatic events of war.

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: Society (1989, Brian Yuzna)


Ever felt as if you didn’t belong, even though you had it all? Bill is rich and is at the top of the world, yet he he has these sweat causing nightmares that convince him nothing is okay. Something is wrong. Very wrong. Unfortunately for young Bill he is about to discover just how correct he is about his fears. What lurks beneath the shinny happy life that Bill is a part of in the upper class suburbs. The truth is far more disturbing that he could ever realize.

Brian Yuzna was responsible for some of the Re-Animator films and he jumped at the chance to create a unique film. Despite Society being a soap opera it is still an eerie movie that works fairly well. Billy Warlock is great as Bill, playing the character straight and conveying his youthful terror and suspicions quite well. Also Yuzna can’t help but include body horror and a scene that is one of the most disgusting of all time. I won’t even try to figure out who the villians of the movie are. Worm people? Beings from another world?

Well at the very least I would prefer lizard people over them. That’s for sure. For our sakes I hope it’s all fiction. Also you can’t hate on a horror movie with special effects done by Screaming Mad  George. Too bad that there wasn’t a franchise made out this film since Yuzna had some interesting, if obvious, ideas. He also is not afraid to go to dark and gross places, which is a plus.

 

 

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: The Conjuring (2013, James Wan)


Sporting a talented cast and channeling precious classic horror films The Conjuring is a near great film. James Wan seems to have a knack for horror, having also directed others such as Saw  and Insidious. Reportedly based on the cast files of a pair of psychic researchers named Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), this is a really freaky and entertaining movie. The 1970s setting is  a bonus, and I do like how this film answers the question of all haunting films: why don’t the people just leave? As in the good horror films the answer isn’t simple, and the solution may be unpleasant.

Having previously dealt with a creepy looking doll (interestingly the most eerie thing in the entire movie) called Annabelle, the Warrens seem content to rest and spend time with their daughter. However a Rhode Island couple named Roger and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) approach them in a desperate bid to defeat the malevolent spirit that may be threatening them and their children. Naturally there are horror cliches such as the dog refusing to enter the house (dogs always sense the evil, don’t they?) and strange sounds echoing throughout the house. Wan uses plenty of slow burn and intense close up shots to make the audience feel as if they are in the house, and he actually doesn’t abuse jump scares or offer cheap moments, something that too many directors overuse in movies such as this one. Also it helps that the cast is all top notch, as Livingston and Wilson have also appeared in horror movies and Farmiga has a knack for playing both strong and vulnerable. However it is Taylor, who also starred in the remake of The Haunting, who is the main attraction of this movie. She has the difficult task of playing a woman that at first wonders if she is crazy, then slowly accepts what is going on, and in the end is forced to deal with the evil on a personal level.

Thanks to this movie I will never be able to think about a game of hide and seek again, not to mention whenever I hear multiple clapping. Plus I dug the scenes where the Warrens host question and answer sessions with local colleges, as they show footage of some of their encounters. The film even uses found footage style film making at one point with a valid reason to do so, which is cool too. Whether or not the actual incident in question ever happened I’m not sure, yet I am curious to learn more about the Warrens and I look forward to the planned sequel, which will feature both Wilson and Farmiga returning along with Wan, who is a promising young horror film maker in his own right. Also this film has a great original score, something that is worth mentioning as not too many modern horror films have exceptional original scores or original scores in general. This one does.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: City of the Living Dead (1980, Lucio Fulci)


Hungry for the flesh of the living, they emerge from the earth to prey upon the living and devour them whole. Ravenous and unrelenting, they are the undead: zombies, creatures of the night, unholy terrors that lurk beneath the pretty facade of normal everyday life. Lucio Fulci doesn’t just shoot his 1980 film City of the Living Dead in the darkness because its a low budget movie. No its because he is choosing to lay bare the terrors that await us when the sun goes down and the light fades away.

Light is peace and a refuge from what nasty beasts lie in wait for man and woman as they stumble around in the empty black of nighttime. There is no telling what may lay around the corner, and usually its something that is very hungry and has plenty of teeth. Although I guess these zombies are decaying and lack teeth so they make due by tearing your flesh apart. Quite chilling, really. That’s not even without touching upon the horrific and famous death by drill scene that occurs in the movie as well, and is rather bloody.

Despite the low budget limitations that plagued his entire career Fulci always managed to create films that were pure experiences in terror and City of the Living Dead does not fail in that area. I liked the scene where a child discovers a zombie dwelling in their closet and makes the mistake of opening the door. Its a truly creepy moment in a movie that depends heavily on atmosphere, and in that regard Fulci was in touch with his fellow horror filmmakers Mario Bava and Dario Argento.

All three were gifted at ignoring plot conventions and simply making horror films that struck at the nerve of the viewer, although Bava and Argento were more talented than Fulci. Still I rather enjoyed City of the Living Dead. Its kind of dumb, and yet it has a nasty charm that can be admired. Besides that opener is perfect: a nice day in a cemetery shattered by the suicide of a priest that happens to release the Gates of Hell. That’s truly something.

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