Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Week 5: Inferno

At last, it's here.
The big day is upon us.

A happy Halloween to all of you from the Third Row.

I could continue to build on this intro, but we've got a LOT on the table today. So let's kick off this big Halloween celebration of 9 titles right here and now, shall we?

Med School Bloopers and the even more controversial More Med School Bloopers still remain two of the most infamous of the banned Fox specials

10/23 - Day of the Dead

This is the final part (well, before he reopened the doors decades later) of George Romero's Dead trilogy, and certainly one of the more unique entries. I had only very vague memories of this one before rewatching this month. I have to say, while I'm not surprised to hear this one is something of the black sheep of the franchise, I'm also pretty pleased to hear opinion of it has gone up from that of the original negative wave. Yes, this is a different style of zombie film for Romero, but it still contains many of the elements that the man does best when he's on his A game - maintains a good sense of tension, some great gore, and all while managing some social commentary. Commentary that, as horror goes, is actually fairly well thought out without feeling too on the nose. From the sound of things, it was his decision to set this far enough into the zombie outbreak that humanity may be down to just a few scraps and holdouts, a question the cast themselves debate at points, could be taken by some as pretty bleak, even by the standards of the zombie film. Pair that with the fact that the humans in this are a motley group ranging from the noble to the power-mad and violent, and the zombies become more of set dressing to the post-apocalypse drama playing out within the base- Until the last act, of course. Romero holds back on the zombie carnage for a while, but when the time comes to open the floodgates, the man does NOT disappoint.
That said, some of his most effective bits of directing in this for me weren't actually the zombie related parts. Rather, I was surprised to find Romero managing to convey a great sense of horror in several of the nightmares that Sarah (Lori Cardille, in arguably the best of the female lead roles in the original trilogy) has throughout the film. While they follow the somewhat conventional 'you don't know it's a dream until the big reveal' rule, Romero still manages to slip that reveal in such a way that they still provide some good jolts. It's actually a rather nice touch from the man and shows he's adept with other types of horror as well.
Back to the story- I will say it's not without its downsides. While I was actually fine with the more bleak character-focus, I do have to admit parts of the narrative felt a little stretched for time. More problematic is the antagonists in this. While the main cast are, as the Dead films go, pretty well fleshed out - I don't mind saying this was the one group I was actually most hoping to see survive to the end -  the antagonist soldiers within the base feel like their villain role is laid on thick and heavy. Having one jerk in the base like Steel or Rickles (G. Howard Klar and Ralph Marreo respectively) is one thing, but it seems they all act that way - except for Joseph Pilato as Rhodes, who's an even bigger monster. Actually, I will concede from my earlier point, they are a LITTLE on the nose as far as a message here. The theme about communications and understand does at least get a bit better treatment on the other side care of the subplot involving one of the base's scientists (Richard Liberty) teaching zombies to coexist (with a good performance by Sherman Howard as one of his test subjects, conveying much of his regained emotion through body language and a few groans.)
It's also worth noting this film isn't entirely what Romero had originally envisioned - his script for this movie was a much bigger project to begin with, and many of the cuts made were the price he had to pay for being able to make the film unrated like he wanted to. While I will continue to wonder what could have been (I've read some of the original draft of the script, plan to finish) what we have still isn't bad. It's not without its occasional bumps and shortcomings, but it's still a suitably ambitious look at the dark final days of the Dead universe. least until Land of the Dead came out, anyway.

I'll admit it. If I could be sure I wouldn't get run down for doing so, I'd go out one Halloween and re-enact this scene.

10/24 - Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

This marks a first here for The Third Row - covering a remake and THEN doing the original. To be fair, the same will likely happen with The Thing in the future. That said, there's a reason that the Body Snatchers story has been consistently remade with each new generation - it's a genuinely creepy prospect. The idea that people you've known your whole life could somehow be replaced and only you would notice and the notion that you could somehow go to sleep and not wake up yourself are genuinely terrifying prospects that are also universal and timeless.

It DOES also help that it's the kind of idea that lends itself perfectly to any number of movements of the times: the 1970s version playing to the 'I'm OK, You're OK' self-help craze and this version, while not by conscious intent, owing strongly to the paranoia of McCarthyism running rampant through the country at the time (curiously, the film has been read as being about both McCarthy and the Communists. Director Don Siegel has denied either were by design, but it certainly is telling in any case.)

Regardless your take on it, this still remains a great take on the story. Some may find the horror takes a while to really get moving, much of the first act being more about re-establishing the ties between protagonist Dr. Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) and his ex-girlfriend, Becky (Dana Wynter.) There are certainly hints of it, but it doesn't become a major plot point until roughly a half hour into the film. Fortunately, the time spent building up to it works - both in that it's well used to set up character ties for the rest of the movie, and for the fact that the nature of the titular invasion requires an insidious presence.
Once the movie begins to lay out the nature of the pods and how far into the community of Santa Mira their influence reaches, things start getting interesting. Given how they work, nothing is considered 'safe' anymore and all bets are off the table. By the time the last act rolls around, there's that grim sense of dread that nothing can stop them.

Which means this is as good a spot as any to discuss the movie's big weakness - studio interference. It's pretty well known that Siegel had to change the ending of this movie under protest, at the insistence of the studio heads. His desired spot to end the movie was the now famous scene of McCarthy trying in vain to warn people of the coming takeover, eventually yelling to us in the audience "YOU'RE NEXT!" The studios felt this was too bleak and, in a trick that would later be repeated with Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, had a new more upbeat ending tacked on (and intro in this case) as well as a voiceover narration outlining things. It doesn't completely destroy the movie, but watching it, one can't help but notice how the scenes and narrative really don't go with the rest of the film at all. You can even imagine them being removed and see the film flow much better as a result of that.

Luckily, that's really the only fault this film has going for it. Otherwise, it remains an effective, well-acted thriller that still manages to deliver some good jolts as it nears turning 60. Even the finale, despite knowing it's coming, maintains a sense of dread that is worth commending here.

It's really a shame the subsequent remakes haven't quite been able to live up to the first two versions.

"'They're coming to get me?' GOOD."

10/25 - Night of the Living Dead (remake)

And we're back on the remake front.

This is another I find myself split on as I look at it in its role as a remake. I do have to admit - there's a couple of things this version does that I actually like more than I did in the original. In particular, almost all of the characters seem to be improved here - especially Barbara, whose shellshock in the original renders her almost a non-entity, and is now a more active player. While her more proactive stance could be seen as a bit of a cliche in and of itself, Patricia Tallman plays it well here. Likewise, Tom (now played by William Butler) actually has something of a role and personality where he's mainly just sort of "there" in the first film. In the role of Ben, while I'm not sure I'd say Tony Todd surpasses Duane Jones, he does safely at least deliver on equal footing. About the only character who really suffers in this version is basement-favoring Harry Cooper (Tom Towles.) Granted, Harry's supposed to be somewhat unlikable by design, but here, the performance is laughably bad, with Harry's overacted anger making him lose it at even the slightest provocation. It's an oddly overemphatic performance in a film that otherwise handles its characters fairly well.

The tradeoff here, however, is that the story loses some of its edge. While Savini's revisit has a more fleshed out cast, and his zombie gore is, as expected, at the top of his game, his direction doesn't have quite the same memorable touch to it as Romero's original. A big part of why Romero's original has endured is his direction in the film that maintains a great sense of that grim atmosphere and suspense. Savini's direction isn't bad, but he never quite hits that same sense of dread, or some of those genuinely iconic moments that have so defined the original. To his credit, he does manage a few standouts in this as well, in particular with regards to the zombie hunting team at the end (some scenes of which are reportedly based on parts that Romero had initially planned for the original but decided to leave out for concerns they would be seen as too political.)

All in all, this is part of that rare, but not AS rare as the surpassing remake field - the remakes that actually aren't bad, but don't really outdo their source material either. If nothing else, it makes for an interesting companion piece to the original, and again, Savini carnage is always worth the watch.

I plan to use this image as incentive to get my future kids to not pick at injuries.
...once again, they may not be my kids for much longer afterward, but I will have no regrets.

10/26 - Videodrome

Cronenberg's back for another year, and he's bringing one of his most iconic movies with him. Even to this day, this feels like one of his most ambitious movies, and I think that's a big part of what's allowed it to age as well as it has, despite dealing in video technology that would be seen as ancient by today's standards. In terms of what it has to say and how it says it, there really isn't anything else quite like Videodrome out there.
Which is kind of a relief, really. Not because I dislike this movie, mind you. In fact, I was actually really pleased to be able to put this one into the draw this year, but it is a story that requires a very specific kind of director to do it justice, and, let's face it, there aren't many like Cronenberg out there.
That said, one of the interesting elements about this is, again, how well this has aged. Yes, all the old TV and video gear looks VERY out of date now (almost depressingly so for realizing when this was made,) but frankly, what the film has to say about the relationship people have with media, and how the projected image at times seems to surpass the 'flesh and blood' reality, has actually become even more relevant in the current age of technology. Even at just the basic level of Max Renn (James Woods) seeking to find the next big shocker and desiring Videodrome, a show that is essentially the utmost logical extension of torture-porn, this still feels relevant. That's before getting into the above-mentioned philosophical discussions and getting mixed up in the political agendas of two factions that each seek to exploit that extra element of media control. Couple all of this with some vividly nightmarish hallucination sequences, many of which STILL look phenomenal  even by today's standards - barring a few slips prosthetic issues, anyway. This is the kind of movie I feel like I'm not doing justice by keeping it to a short writeup...but at the same time, I think I burned up my good faith on allowing these to run too long after what I put you guys through by unloading on Red State, so I'll be trying to keep these quicker.
This certainly won't be a movie to everyone's tastes. Some may not care for the harsh depictions of sex and violence that Max's bread and butter. Others still will be turned away by the body-warping hallucinations and the waxing philosophical on the nature of flesh and the screen. At the same time, however, I would still push for everyone to at least give it a shot regardless. Cause even if you don't like it, I can safely promise you won't see many others of its kind unless you ride in some VERY particular circles.

"...he's right outside, isn't he?"

10/27 - The Innocents

This is a film I will admit to having a sentimental attachment to even before I get into it. This was among the first batch of movies used for study back at college when I was first getting into the idea of film study (it was a course on film & literature, and this was used as an adaptation of The Turn of the Screw.) Even outside of that, rewatching this I'm still impressed at how effectively this movie can suck one in. It's definitely not a 'mile a minute' scarefest, and heavily favors the art of the slow burn. Which is really one of its best strengths. The movie eases you in very slowly, and for much of the first half, the only clues you have that something may be suspicious are the rather creepy song sung in the beginning and Deborah Kerr's assurance "I only wanted to save the children. I didn't want to destroy them!" This clue, combined with the immersive atmosphere created by director Jack Clayton and cinematographer Freddie Francis helps keep you from asking "where's the horror" as the film builds up its mystery.
Then when they do start the wheels turning, the shift in tone is handled well, never missing a beat as the protagonist, governess Miss Giddens (Kerr) slowly finds herself being confronted with ghosts of her job's past. Ghosts that may be coming back to roost in the present in her two young charges (Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin, both graduates of the school of downright creepy child acting.) Probably one of the best tricks in this film's arsenal comes as it moves along and more clues are unearthed. In most haunting movies, the more you learn, the more certain you become that the haunting is real. In this case, the further the movie goes into exposition, the more it instead leaves you questioning Giddens's sanity. By the end, even having seen it before, I still find myself left with just as much evidence for the children being possessed as I am that it's all a delusion. It's that uncertainty that makes the film's climax so memorable, and adds to why so many praise this as one of the great ghost stories of film.

"OK...this wasn't as fun as I'd initially hoped."

10/28 - Vampyres

Let me just get this out of my system first - oh WOW. I'm still trying to remember which list I'd found this one on after watching it. Cause it's definitely one of the stranger titles I've encountered in the three years I've run this (and this is coming from me, mind you.)
That said, it's a rather curious film. I can't rightly say it's an amazingly memorable piece, but at the same time, I wouldn't call it one of the worst I've seen either. One of the more standout moments for this, I can sum up as saying: anyone who thinks the entire 'erotic vampire' concept is a fairly new idea clearly hasn't been too versed in horror for long. When I saw this film tagged with an 'X' rating, I just figured that was an exaggeration. Nope, this one definitely earns it with a fair amount of on-screen sex. Though, to be fair, it IS a vampire movie, so that tends to come with the territory.
Anyway, I have to admit this is actually an interesting take on the vampire concept. For one, this goes with the generally less explored idea of the woman as the vampire...well, more accurately women, and a bisexual couple at that, and instead, the man is the food. In particular, we focus on the case of Ted (Murray Brown, further adding to the interesting dynamic shift in his overall powerlessness in the plot,) a traveler picked up by the two vampiresses, and one of the few they haven't simply killed in feeding. Why he's kept alive is never made clear, but it serves well as a means for the audience to slowly unravel the mystery of Fran and Miriam (Marianne Morris and Anulka respectively) and what they truly are. There is also a secondary plot involving a couple (Sally Faulkner and Brian Deacon) who catch wind of something being up in the local mysterious abandoned castle (which, as fun facts go, was the same Richard O'Brian used for The Rocky Horror Picture Show.) Unfortunately, either they were meant to be in there as a red herring, or the writers just weren't sure what to do with them, since their plot never really goes anywhere, despite laying out some interesting potential clues that it could.
In all, this film is something of a give and take. It certainly has some interesting ideas behind it, and it plays into some of the lesser utilized tropes of the vampire mythology, but at the same time, it never quite hits high enough highs to make it a masterpiece of the genre.
Still certainly worth giving a watch if you're curious-and again I will stress, in true 70s fashion, they work in a fair amount of sex of several stripes, just so you know what you're in for.

Maybe it's just me, but having seen what's underneath...the mask is actually worse.

10/29 - The Orphanage

Like I'd said earlier this month - a big part of the draw to a good ghost story lies in the puzzle factor. Behind almost every good haunting, there's a mystery that needs to be unearthed, and in this film, that's no exception. In fact, part of what makes this one stand out even more is the fact is balances multiple mysteries at once, and links them together so one has to be solved to reach the other.
Though this is just part of the strength of Sergio G. Sánchez's script on this one. The other lies in the central focus on adoptive mother Laura (Belén Rueda, going all aces on her performance.) As the main person tapped to solve the mysteries at the center of this movie, in order to find her adopted son Simon (Roger Princep,) Laura has a lot of the movie riding on her. Fortunately, both Sanchez's writing and Rueda's acting are more than up to the challenge of carrying that.
On top of that, J.A. Bayona's direction makes for the third strong component in this film (which Sanchez had reportedly been trying to bring to the screen for years) about how the disappearance of one child opens the door on a secret that's been hidden for decades. It's actually quite commendable that, even with the larger revelations made, the film never loses sight of the fact Laura is first and foremost interested in getting her son back. It's the kind of thing that, in another film, could risk backfiring and prioritizing the past over the present. In this case, both are handled in fair balance and Laura's determination maintains its focus.
Outside of that, the story also still does well on the horror front. Bayona is a director with a good sense of building suspense, and gaining a couple of good jolts out of it. Even in scenes where there's nothing supernatural going on, he still manages a handful of good jump moments (one of which I want to mention, but won't since I don't want to spoil it.) Outside of the atmosphere, he also shows an adept hand at keeping the 'connecting the dots' element of finding clues at a good pace, leaving the viewer wanting to see the next step without feeling like the film is slacking off at any point.
Finally, and on top of all of this, there's the simple fact that this film is ultimately about familial ties, not necessarily by blood, but there all the same, and the strength they have under certain circumstances. Even before Simon's disappearance, we see enough of the family's life (Fernando Cayo rounds of the group as father Carlos, who makes the skeptic in this equation) to get a sense of the shared love between the family members. It's a little touch that goes a long way on selling this premise.
The result is an intriguing little mystery with some good suspense and a surprising amount of warmth. Which feels weird to say for a Halloween writeup, but then, this is after Vampyres, so stranger things have happened here.

Everyone has that one college memory like this. Anyone who says otherwise is repressing it.

10/30 - Kill Theory

I'll admit I've always been a bit biased when it comes to slasher films. It's one of those formulas that can be really good if done right, but there are so many ways one can get it wrong- so I get somewhat jaded with the whole formula. As such, it's nice to see a film that manages to skew the concept in a way I haven't seen done before.
Kill Theory is one of those cases of a film that, in a lot of ways, would be pretty average, but the concept helps elevate it. It doesn't make it into a masterpiece, but it does at least make it stand out.
The premise starts off giving you a sense of where things could be going by showing us the film's unnamed antagonist early on - a man who has been undergoing psychiatric treatment for the fact he killed several of his friends on a climbing expedition to save himself. "Anyone would do what I did," he asserts, despite the courts and court appointed doctor swearing that's just not true. So what does he do? Like any aspiring psychopath, he sets up a giant human project to test his theory - selecting a group of college-aged kids on the verge of graduating, he essentially traps them in the house with a simple choice: one of you leaves alive, or none leave alive.
It's an interesting inversion of the traditional psycho formula. While he will kill the kids if he has to, his entire plan ideally relies on driving them to kill each other and prove his point. As a result, his actual threat involvement is minimal, and instead he just lets them hash it out. Which adds an extra thread of interest, as it makes it harder to determine who will double-cross who (within reason, anyway. There's some members of the group you just KNOW will be self-serving killers when the time comes.)
I realize I'm placing a lot of emphasis on just the concept here, but it's not exaggeration to say it's the movie's best feature. This isn't to say the rest is bad, rather it's pretty standard in a lot of ways. The acting is passable, and there's a couple of decent shocks with the kills, but director Chris Moore mainly just does an Okay job on the movie. otherwise. It's the idea that really makes his OK work stand out as something more, and makes it worth giving this one a watch.
Plus, if nothing else, it stands to inspire some interesting ice breaker discussions afterward.


10/31 - Alien

And so we come to it. The big day...
And out of this year's spread, I couldn't have asked for a better film out of the assortment to get the 31st.
This is one of those rare films I liked the first time I saw it, and I find myself liking even more on subsequent viewings.
As for why...oh man, that would be impossible to go into everything and still keep this short.
This is one of those movies it feels weird to rightly classify as a singular type of horror, for one thing. Yes, it's a monster movie, but given the atmosphere of the ship, and the ways the Alien operates within it, this also has some overlap of sorts with the haunted house movie (albeit a house that's essentially impossible to leave) and the psycho killer story.
In fact, on the latter note, this is one of those things I like about the first Alien that never came back after Aliens came along. Watching how the creature operates in the first movie, it doesn't feel like an animal. At least, not like any animal we'd be familiar with. It methodically hunts the crew of the Nostromo one by one, learning the ship and using its surroundings to its advantage.
Which is part of what really makes it so ultimately scary as an enemy. Yes, there's the claws, fangs, and acid blood, and those are all disturbing as well, plus the fact it's a biology designed by the brilliant H.R. Giger, and those are all parts of it. But the truly disturbing element is never being entirely sure of its mentality beyond its will to survive. The aliens in the sequels are still disturbing, but that is largely born out of their sheer numbers. Much of their mindset is definitely more of a hive-driven mentality. In the first, we have no such point of logic. This creature simply is. It can't be reasoned with, its logic makes it hard to outsmart, and it has been learning the layout of your ship as well as you know it. It is almost the perfect threat.
It's appropriate that it takes an act of desperation to truly stop this thing as it outwits every other tactic they can throw at it.
No, I don't mind invoking the line here: in many ways, I do admire its purity.
Of course, this isn't to say the Alien itself is the only thing in this movie worth praising. The victims are all well-portrayed as well, with director Ridley Scott gathering a great cast including the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, and Ian Holm together to try and survive this perfect killer from space. Alongside Weaver (whose work as Ripley had so defined the character that she remains as much an iconic part of the franchise as the titular creatures themselves), the other standout I find myself being impressed with on this watch is Holm as the ship's new science officer, the mysterious Ash. Everything about the way Holm plays the role shows a very controlled personality that fits perfectly with the secrets he winds up revealing as the movie goes on. It's one of those things that, the first time seeing the movie, one would not think to look for, but knowing it's there, it's a very nice touch to see maintained.
Further adding to the film is the direction by Ridley Scott and the script by Dan O'Bannon. The two have created a tight, tense story involving a small cast and a big ship (that looks both lived in and incredibly foreboding thanks to set design by Michael Seymour and Ian Whittaker.) Despite the giant hallways, they still maintain a distinct sense of claustrophobia as the crew are hunted, and the mysterious nature of their enemy is revealed. Probably one of the strongest demonstrations of this coming during the sequence when Skerritt's Captain Dallas goes into the ship's air ducts to flush the creature out. We see most of the sequence played out on a radar screen, but thanks to the editing and seeing the cast responding, the tension is palpable, and the big reveal is still a shocker to this day.
With this rewatch once again confirming it, I will again say for the record - this remains one of my favorite horror films. A genuinely creepy tale of a small group in the cold isolation of space who find out in the worst way possible that they're not alone. It's a right mix of elements that three sequels, two semi-sequels, and a sort of alternate universe prequel have never been able to recapture sense and I love every minute of it.

Whew...that was...that was a sprint.

Keep an eye out tomorrow. We've got another project lined up for next month.

Yeah, yeah, keep groaning.

In the meantime, a Happy Halloween to all, and to all CANDY TIME!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Halloween Week 4: The Final Chapter

Well, the month is starting to wrap itself up.

I want to apologize for the delay on this one. That's what happens when you have teeth pulled out of your head.

Things will be back on track in time for the big day. For now, here's the first half of this week, the final three will be bussed in with the last wave.

"Seriously? You think that's gonna be enough?"

10/19 Godzilla

I imagine some people may ask how this qualifies as a horror film- And I will ask if they ever watched the very first. While it's hard to imagine given the franchise, the first IS actually pretty disturbing.
(At least to me, anyway)
Let me take you back in time for a moment: one of the first big things I accredit to my current tastes is my late grandfather. I don't remember him too well (though from what I hear, I take after him in several regards,) but one thing I remember to this day - Godzilla. I got into the Godzilla films through him. For a while, this was mainly in the form of the 'Godzilla VS *' films, where Godzilla himself is almost akin to the Incredible Hulk. He's uncontrollable, he's destructive, but when all the dust settles, he's still on our side.
Then I got to seeing the one that started it all. Granted, it was the Godzilla: King of the Monsters edit with Raymond Burr (for this project, I used the original Ishirô Honda version.) It was like a punch in the gut - this monster who I had previously always viewed as a sort of hero was instead pure disaster. Further, the destruction that so often gets glossed over in these films was presented in a sharp and genuinely disturbing focus here.
With this memory in mind, I watched it again, and I have to say, the impression still holds up. There's a reason this movie is still considered one of the poster children for the 'horrors of the atomic age' brand of cinema - it doesn't forget the horror. Further, in this first film, Godzilla is treated as less of a character than it would later become. Most of the first half is more concerned with its human characters, with Godzilla treated more as an impending disaster. Fortunately, the human players in this are all worth the time the movie gives them. In particular the two standouts here being Kurosawa veteran Shimura Takashi as Professor Yamane, whose interest in studying Godzilla turns to horror at what it can do, and Akihito Hirata as Doctor Serizawa. The latter in particular is a performance I'm still impressed by to this day, both in terms of how Hirata plays the character and how he's written. If Godzilla is meant to be seen as the atomic bomb, Serizawa is this story's equivalent of Oppenheimer, a man horrified by the destructive potential his research has tapped into. Hirata handles that guilt and conviction with a surprising degree of intensity that has me curious to see more of his performances.
Further on the 'Godzilla as nuclear destruction' idea, the movie's viewpoint is one that is definitely informed by Japan's own experiences with atomic power. This is actually one of the things that really informs parts of this movie - in particular the scenes of Godzilla's main rampage and subsequent aftermath (to this day, there's one sequence in one of the makeshift hospitals after the attack that strikes a nerve with me. In a movie about a giant mutated dinosaur on a rampage, it's a sharp shot of reality that almost hits harder because of that.)
In all, this is a movie that has aged surprisingly well. Alongside effects that kicked off Japan's tokusatsu boom (effects that still look pretty good given the movie's age, I might add) the film has not lost its emotional resonance even after all of this time.
I can't speak for other people, but next year's update has a lot to live up to in my eyes. I'm not gonna write it off, but it's gonna have a tough job ahead of it.

...OK, does Alice Cooper murdering someone with a bicycle really need anything else said for it?

10/20 Prince of Darkness

We come to it at last - with this, John Carpenter's Apocalypse trilogy, though out of order, is now complete.

This is one of those films I feel somewhat split on. On its own merits, I will admit that I like the movie. It's a different take on a horror film, and has its share of memorable sequences in it. On the other hand, it definitely feels like a weaker Carpenter film compared to his other works of the era.
That said, I think part of it is simply the fact that, as Carpenter's works go, this one feels a bit more experimental compared to many of his other 80s titles. This isn't a bad thing, mind you. Part of what strikes me about this one is the fact the narrative is such a departure from many of Carpenter's other films of the era, and as such, it doesn't always hit quite the same high notes as his other work does. Still, the ambition makes up for it.
Incidentally, while I've never found a statement confirming on this, I can't help but wonder if this was another film where Carpenter was inspired by the works of Italian horror. The influences have been noted before (most particularly the fact the theme to Halloween is definitely inspired by the theme to Argento's Deep Red) and in this case, watching the movie again, I couldn't help but feel a sort of similarity between this and Lucio Fulci's The Beyond. Complete with how the narrative seems a bit more freeform around the central item of evil (trading the door to Hell out for the Devil in a jar.)
The resulting film is a curious one in its own right. The cast, while not the greatest assemblage of Carpenter's players, has several welcome faces among them, including returning cast members Donald Pleasance, Dennis Dun, and Victor Wong. Probably the two big standouts as far as new cast members go here are Peter Jason, who would go on to be a recurring Carpenter veteran, and Alice Cooper (yes, THAT Alice Cooper) as a schizophrenic derelict turned into one of Satan's minions. The latter is actually a nice touch in part because Cooper plays the role completely mute, relying on sheer presence to make himself stand out.
In all, this is still a generally enjoyable film. While it has some flaws care of its more freeform narrative, it makes up for them in some pretty unique touches and a couple of pretty inventive scare moments. While perhaps not as strong as the start and stop of the trilogy, it's still a welcome piece in Carpenter's works.

" mean the guy who directed Clerks? He made a WHAT now?!"

10/21 Red State

OK, I'm gonna warn you guys now. I've had to rewrite my thoughts on this one several times now.
If any statement I've done on this site manages to make me enemies, this would probably be the one to do it. Cause this is one of those movies that it seems people either really like or really hate.
With that said, this is my second time watching this movie. I went in the first time having heard some mixed buzz, but honestly wanting to give it a fair shake. What I found was...well, I'll get to that, but let's just say, I wasn't particularly pleased with the result.
So this time, I wanted to see if  I could give it another chance. I read up on some of the behind the scenes, as well as hearing about the film from the horse's mouth, care of Smith's statements in Kevin Smith: Burn in Hell.

Incidentally, before I go into this film, I'd like to say two things to Smith regarding his statements in that special:
1) Regardless of how you feel about Red State, it doesn't wash the fact Cop Out was a bad movie. Film doesn't work that way.
2) As an extension of this logic, try suggesting people who like David Cross's stand-up shouldn't rip on the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies, because Cross has acknowledged that they were how he funded other projects. (Incidentally, he REALLY doesn't seem to like being reminded of them.)
Seriously, you can't expect people to forgive a bad film just cause the money from it got used on a better one.

That said, I'll just get this out now - Red State is a VERY problematic movie, and on several levels. Which is a shame, since it has some interesting ideas, and certainly some commendable elements to it. Unfortunately, the overall product is riddled with issues.
First of these lies in the concept itself - I still would really, really like to see a good horror film about fundamentalists. The problem is, the practice itself is so disturbing in real life, that what horror films I've seen try and tackle the subject all ultimately pale by comparison (the documentary Jesus Camp remains my high bar for fundie horror.) At first, the film actually seems to be off to a decent start with it too, presenting a sort of skewed version of Westboro Baptist (Smith isn't exactly subtle about the fact they're the group he's calling out in this - complete with his confirming it in his stories of promoting the movie in BiH.) This first half hour, while it has a few hiccups, is actually still pretty good, and manages to even get a bit of intensity into a few moments. Unfortunately, the film then shifts gears, and the fundie horror is quickly discarded. This is one of those areas where learning about the behind the scenes on the film actually hurt matters, largely thanks to learning that many of the twists in this movie's script were somewhat arbitrary as a result of Smith's attempts to completely blindside his audience. The result ultimately causes any sort of message towards the WBC to fall on its backside, only to attempt to salvage itself in a rather heavy-handed message about how people's beliefs drive them to extremes all-around, which is then overtly explained in a rewritten ending to the movie that smacks of Smith having watched No Country For Old Men before working this.
Of course, even before that ending, the film seems determined to make sure you know what it's trying to say at several points. One of the biggest faults of this script, and it's something of a problem Smith's had in general, is that he's a very dialogue-driven filmmaker. When you look at his films, you find it's rare he simply lets an action speak for itself without accenting it with more dialogue (I found myself looking back and realizing several of the action scenes in Dogma are afflicted with cases of re-explaining just what the viewers have seen. The movie's still good, but the fact is, it's there.) This is already problematic enough in the horror genre, where actions regularly speak much much louder than words. This becomes a bigger stumbling block for Smith here as well because, rather than simply narrating the events as in other films, he uses these extra dialogues to keep explaining to his audience "Let me tell you why this is wrong." Probably one of the most damning examples of this comes amid the plot twists as the WBC equivalents, who have been revealed to be heavily armed, get into a shootout with the ATF. The ATF team, lead by John Goodman in one of the movie's two standout roles, is given orders to treat the church as a terrorist cell and wipe them out. As Goodman gives the order, he's treated to a heavy-handed speech by one of his subordinates about how what they're doing is wrong. This is just one of many, mind you. You could make a drinking game rule out of the number of scenes where people explain how what's happening is wrong for one reason or another, saying it almost more to the audience than their co-stars. It's heavy-handed moralizing in a film that, ironically, is pitched as critiquing a group notorious for its abuse of heavy-handed morality. Even stranger since the film spends much of the first part vilifying their equivalent here only to then try and make you feel it's a bad thing when the government comes in guns blazing in an awkward attempt at moral ambiguity. It's also somewhat ironic that, amidst the carnage, a would-be victim of the church (played by Kyle Gallner) responds to the horror by asking why he should care. It's a scene that inadvertently presents one of the other big problems with the movie - it changes sides and ideas enough times that after a while one finds it hard to really care about any of the players involved. Goodman's ATF agent is probably the closest this film really seems to have to a moral center or relatable character, and even he gets undone by having to tell the moral of the story at the very end.
I could keep going on this. Like I said, it is a VERY problematic film on a lot of levels, and its unfortunate, as it does have its good points. Alongside Goodman's performance, Michael Parks's turn as the head of the church is arguably one of the best things the movie has going for it. Watching the energy he builds around his performance, he is quite believable as the leader of a cult-like sect, and that further strengthens the first act of the film.

There's a part of me that's actually considering turning this into a full write-up somewhere along the line, cause this could keep going for a long while on the number of issues I wound up having with this film. But this is already running far longer than a short writeup should be. So for now, let's just leave this off as a case of some VERY misplaced ambition that, despite some strong aspects, ultimately falls on its own sword.

"'No Refunds' my eye! I'll show this stupid wishing well!"

10/22 AM1200

After a rant like that (which, let's face it, almost justifies the shortened entry here) there's something to be said for a film that has simplicity as its strongest weapon.
I'd had this suggested to me last year, and admittedly was a little uncertain at the time, given its status as a short film (40 minutes runtime.) But then I realized, after running Marble Hornets, this was certainly worth including.
That said, I'm actually rather glad for the 40 minute runtime in this case. 40 minutes is all the story really needs to tell itself, and I actually find the brevity refreshing rather than if someone had tried to pad this out with an additional hour or so of material.
Further adding to that simplicity, the film keeps to a few key players, and manages them well. Even of those players, the only one we really wind up needing much background on is Eric Lange as the film's protagonist Sam (though his flashbacks do allow for a good performance by Ray Wise as a colleague of his who he threw to the wolves.) The flashback part of the film is also interesting- it shows how the events unfolded and how Sam got where he is at the start of the movie - it's edited in such a way that you only see it in the relevant pieces that lead to what he did wrong. Once the stage is set, the film's later half plays out in a different, but still fascinating style. Rather than the disorienting flashbacks of the first part, the film now switches to some wonderfully uncomfortable sections of silence as it builds to the third act. This is where we are introduced to the other major player of the film, played by John Billingslea. What follows here could almost be a film in its own right, but with the buildup of the first two acts, is stronger all around here. I won't go too much into detail so as not to give anything away. All I will say is, as attempts at Lovecraftian cinema go, this is one of those cases of a film that does a great job with trying to capture the feel of what a modern day Lovecraft story would be.
Even the big reveal, while somewhat hindered by lower budget CG, is played with enough atmosphere and a careful enough hand to not reveal too much as to do justice to the man's legacy.
I realize this feels rather brief compared to the last writeup, but again, with only 40 minutes to speak of, I can only go so far into detail without giving things away.
Really, all that needs to be said for this is that it's a film that works at its best because of its simplicity. It takes a classically Lovecraftian style narrative and plays it with the just the right air of mystery to keep you hooked from start to finish.

So...for only four days, that still covers a good spread for about a week.

Keep an eye out on the 31st, when we cover the other three from this week as well as the final six in a big Halloween sendoff.

...oh, don't give me that grief about that subtitle. Friday the 13th played the same trick with their fourth and STILL cranked out six more after!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Halloween Week 3: Lord of the Dead

Well, as I warned last week, the first part of this week's entries is decidedly not for those of a claustrophobic persuasion. Otherwise, this has been an interesting week. Besides the above mentioned phobia-baiting, we have an anthology movie, our second sequel for the year - though this time we actually covered the start already - a murderous clown (It isn't Halloween without one!) and two... ... ...we'll discuss them when we get to them.

Now then, we've got a full week ahead, so let's get to work


10/12 - The Descent

Unusual fun fact to keep in mind watching this movie: none of this was filmed in actual caves. This is, of course, understandable, for the risks such an environment would pose to both cast and crew, but it then makes it rather surprising to look at the caves in this and realize they were all artificially constructed. Just one of those minor bits that works in this movie's favor.

Of course, they couldn't afford to have the caves look bad in this feature. So much of this film's strength lies in its claustrophobic atmosphere, and director Neil Marshall knows it. Even before the film's monstrosities, a race of sub-human creatures living in the caverns, make their appearance, the film is already playing on its audience with just how unnerving the caves are. A strong example of this is shown early on in the cave-in scene that causes the film's leads to get trapped in the cave in the first place. It leads to a tense moment where the movie's protagonist Sarah (Shauna Macdonald, who has since admitted not all of her fear in those caves was fake) is trapped in a tunnel that could collapse on her. Even realizing the film isn't likely to kill her off that soon, it's hard not to tense up as her teammates try to get her out of there. Likewise, a sequence with trying to cross a gap where the team has to improvise a rope way across leads to some solid tension awaiting the drop.

...all this before the crawlers (the director's name for them) arrive. Once they take to the scene, the movie shifts gears in a way that still maintains the disturbing element, but finds new ways to make it unsettling. The first half could almost be read as a straight drama - we're introduced to the team, we learn some of their background, and what happens to them in the caves, while unsettling, could still be the stuff of a very tense dramatic film. Once the group realizes they're not alone in the caves, that survival becomes much more primal and much more disturbing. Particularly in the case of Sarah and Juno (Natalie Mendoza)- the two figures at the center of this- who find their survival instinct may take them places a person wouldn't ordinarily wish to go.

The blood flows, the bodies start stacking up, and the film's last act becomes genuinely disturbing in a whole new way. The claustrophobia of the first half now feels strangely mild compared to the growing risk of how much of one's humanity a person will risk to stay alive. The result is messy and nihilistic...but luckily, that's by design. Further adding to the luck, it all works - alongside the impressive sets and tense direction, the cast are all well suited to the material. In many cases, the fear and agitation that grows among the group as things go wrong feels natural in a way that almost leads one to wonder how much of the sets were getting to some of them.

I know it's a cliched line to use here, but really, this is one of those films where, once it gets rolling, it won't let you stop for air. Thankfully, because it's really a big part of what makes this work as well as it does.

"You know what's funny?  You're one of the only people to get in the car with me that actually lives to tell about it.
Feels pretty cool, huh?"

10/13 - The Vanishing

I'd say this film is a breather after the roller coaster into Hell that was The Descent, but that would be somewhat disingenuous under the circumstances.

More accurately, George Sluizer's The Vanishing (or Spoorloos, for the linguistic purists in the house,) is a very slow burn. In fact, the movie mainly can be seen to have one particular scare to it - but the build-up to it, and it subsequent payoff are such that it's more than worth the trip leading up to it.

Of course, even without the scare, it's still a very well made movie. Rather than being a straight up horror, it's a mystery for much of its run-time. At the start, we're introduced to one of our two leads, Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets) on a road trip. At a fateful stopping point, his girlfriend Saskia (Johnana ter Steege) disappears with no one the wiser as to how it happened. What follows is two stories running concurrently - one of Rex's slow descent into obsession to find out what became of Saskia, the other concerning one Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu in a genuinely disturbing performance) a prominent family man and sociopath who may hold the key to Rex's mystery.

One of the curious things about this dual-story technique is how Sluizer (with a script by Tim Krabbé, based on his own novel) give both stories enough focus without actually crossing paths until the final act. This is more impressive given the two different moods each story conveys: Rex is a man driven by loss and not knowing what happened, who slowly becomes consumed by it, even to the point of losing his fiance (Gwen Eckhaus, playing supportive, but realizing its limits in this case.) In his storyline, the events remain unknown until they cross over with Raymond's. Raymond's meanwhile, is in large part told in flashback as he slowly confirms our suspicions of his involvement in the disappearance while all the while avoiding the big mystery - just what did he do with her? By the time Rex and Raymond meet and Raymond lays out the bait to answer the question, we're just as eager as Rex to learn the truth...and it still remains among the most famous/infamous endings in horror cinema when it gets there.

It's certainly a different breed of horror for this time of year, but not a bad one. Sluizer and his cast put together a story that both unsettles and strikes a chord. We feel bad for Rex in his obsession as we feel disturbed by Raymond's methodical practice of his methods. Both fascinate in completely different ways, and the film never misses a beat with either.

If you don't mind a more low-key buildup to one HELL of a payoff, this is a mystery worth pursuing.

I'm starting to notice horror films have a VERY exaggerated impression of the damage a single shovel swing can do to a human head. Right now Nekromantik holds the prize with a swing that was apparently made with the shovel of the gods.

10/14 - Nekromantik

...OK. Either there's a problem with this movie, or there's a problem with me. I'll present my case and let you decide and either continue reading or contacting the proper authorities.

I've been sitting on my thoughts on this one for a while before trying to set them into text. I wanted to be fair to this movie, because it's a film that's VERY easy to write off, in no small part based on the fact it's a movie about necrophilia (let's just get THAT elephant into the room now.)

Even after my initial reactions, I even checked out several other critical responses to this movie to see if there was anything I may have missed in interpretation.

With all that in mind, I should probably just get this off my chest and get rolling, huh?

For a movie as notorious and infamous as this was built up to be, this was...incredibly boring.
Which feels weird to say under the circumstances, I admit, but that's really the best word for it. I almost wish if I was gonna castigate this movie, I could at least say I was among those disgusted/offended by it. I couldn't even fall there (though I DO admit the actual on-screen animal brutality wasn't netting this one brownie points any more than it did for Cannibal Holocaust. Though at least there, Deodato answered for it in court. I've not found any word on if Jörg Buttgereit got called on it.)

Part of the problem is the fact the movie seems to be unsure of just what it's trying to say for itself. I mean, there's certainly some nuggets of idea within it, particularly in how it presents its main character, Rob Schmadtke (Daktari Lorenz,) a quiet man working for a street cleaning company with an unusual fixation on death. Luckily (?) for him, his girlfriend (Beatrice Manowski) not only is OK with this, she shares in his predilection, which is the one way he can get away with the collection of parts he's collected from corpses on the job. One day, after a somewhat comic interlude involving a botched shooting, Rob gets the chance to bring home a full human corpse for he and his girlfriend to use in a three-way (that's right...get all those stiff jokes out of your systems now, guys.) This is the element of the movie that's at the heart of a lot of the controversy, and the moment where I started realizing my starting question of this movie. While I recognize the controversy value in the idea of a couple having a three way with a rotting corpse, for some reason, I really couldn't feel that disgusted. In fact, I couldn't feel much of anything, beyond noting that, and this is something I will give the movie, the musical score is actually pretty nice, if a touch repetitive within the movie itself.

Anyway, after this rather long sequence, Rob's predilection for the dead starts to interfere at his job - where he's promptly fired. His girlfriend, willing to support a love for dead bodies, but apparently not that big on the fact he's unemployed, leaves him and takes the corpse with her - never mind the fact said corpse is similarly jobless, which sort of undermines her whole complaint.

What follows feels like the awkward cousin of Eraserhead, as we follow Rob through his coping with the breakup, which includes a dead animal and two homicides (for a guy whose girlfriend criticizes for not really standing up for himself, he's picking an odd way to fix the problem) and an ending that...well...I won't say for spoilers, but somehow, for a film like this, it really feels like there was no other way this could end.

There's just so many things about this movie that didn't land right for me, and I find it strangely alarming that none of them are the things they probably should be. I can see where the film seems to want to be going at points - in particular with the exploration of the link between the notions of love and death, which is an idea the film rolls with right out of the start. Unfortunately, it never feels like the film says enough about the idea. It does at least start to build the link, but never really makes a statement about it beyond it being there. Likewise, despite the fact the film centers on two necrophiliacs, the film never really seems to explore it for much beyond as a tool of shock. In fact, a lot of this movie seems like it's uncertain of if it wants to go for something to say or just go for the shock value. To the point where many of the shocks have no real sting to them whatsoever. Further adding to this problem is the fact that many of the scenes feel like they're being extended purely to play for time (the first five minutes of the movie, for example, include two somewhat prolonged sequences of characters urinating that don't really add anything to the film. Especially since one of the two is dead shortly thereafter.)

Perhaps it's me. Perhaps I really am that jaded as a person now, but outside of being mildly put off by the actual animal killing in this one, much of the rest of the shocks in this really just didn't do anything for me at all. I was neither intrigued nor disgusted. They were simply there, and, in many cases, just wind up feeling like padding. The above pictured shot, for example, runs for a good five seconds of just that twitching. Which seems kind of minor in text, but when you consider the fact there's a lot of similar time management decisions in a movie that only runs for 75 minutes, it's hard not to hold it against the director.

This isn't to say the film is entirely devoid of merit. Like I said above, the movie's score is quite nice, and, with a few exceptions, many of the film's effects are actually well done. Unfortunately, these only do just so much to tip the scale on a movie that just feels like so much nothing a lot of the time. More so since it feels like the movie is trying to be something at times, but never really seems to go all in.

Unless there's something of a German perspective required that I'm missing here, anyway. I'm game to try and discuss this if someone feels so it is though, the movie just felt like a swing and a miss to me.

Sadly, on a few of Takashi Miike's jack in the boxes were ever produced before they were promptly pulled from the market. Sad day in the toy industry, that one.

10/15 - Three... Extremes

As promised, we have this year's anthology entry. This one is actually a bit of a different style from last year when I discussed Trick 'r Treat. Where that film had all of its stories united by the common theme of Halloween, Three... Extremes operates on something of a different style of anthology. Outside of going to some pretty dark territory as horror stories go, there really isn't a united theme. It's not even held by a unifying nation - the films are from three distinct voices from Asia (China, South Korea, and Japan in particular,) each flexing their unique styles with some genuinely unsettling results.

Like many good anthologies, it's tough to really pick a single favorite here. Even moreso given the directors in question here include Park Chan-Wook and Takashi Miike. Though I do have to admit, Chan-Wook's segment of this, Cut, a story in which a director (Byung-hun Lee) is taken hostage and tormented by an extra from his movies (Won-hie Lim, in a blend of comic and disturbed) is one I was pretty surprised by. In no small part because of Chan-Wook's penchant for black comedy that really helps propel this movie along, both in terms of the character interactions and some of the camera work and cuts. It has a sort of twisted energy that keeps the segments 40~ minute runtime moving along with almost as much manic glee as Lim's stranger shows. Despite that constant motion, the film's big reveals are handled in such a way as to still jolt when the time comes.

From there, the next standout is the Chinese segment, director Fruit Chan's Dumplings. This also takes the prize for being easily the most squirm-inducing of the three stories, involving an aging actress (Miriam Yeung) who undergoes an unusual treatment to restore her youth overseen by a mysterious woman (Bai Ling, playing an interesting sort of latter-day witch type.) The secret of the find it out early into the story, but I will nevertheless refrain from saying here, simply because it's something that just hits so much better when you see it on screen. The result, while not explicitly gory, is still fairly gruesome just thanks to how it plays in the mind's eye. It's a segment that works with the imagination brilliantly and Fruit Chan plays it with a sufficiently light touch to sell the premise.

Rounding out the three, but certainly none the lesser for quality, is Takashi Miike's Box. A story of a young girl who is haunted by dreams of herself being buried in a box that, as the story goes on, we start to learn may not be just the dreams we think they are. This is one of those stories where one of the biggest strengths is Miike's penchant for atmosphere. The story itself is certainly good, and I have to admit to being rather surprised at several points in the directions it took. Further, the casting on this segment is well chosen, with particular praise for Mai and Yuu Suzuki, playing the protagonist and her twin sister as children - it's always a good sign when child actors can deliver a good performance, particularly with an unusual role like this one. Both of these things, however, while strong, still aren't quite as memorable as the entire feel of the movie set up by Miike and cinematographer Kôichi Kawakami. It conveys both the winter colds and the warmer dark areas of the flashbacks quite well just by the lighting within the sequence.

This is certainly an ambitious spread for an anthology - rather than a thematic story element, it's three short works highlighting three veterans of Asian horror. Under the circumstances, each brings a solid A-game, and the result flows better than I was initially expecting going in. To the point where I'm also considering looking into the feature length version of Chan's story that was reportedly remade from this after this anthology was released.

Sometimes, something to be said for something short and sweet
OK, maybe sweet isn't the right word.

At the time, spiking the director of the community theater's coffee with LSD seemed like it'd be a fun joke.
...then we all saw what it did for his production of
Jesus Christ Superstar.

10/16 - The Exorcist III: Legion

OK, I'm jumping the gun sequel-wise here. In all fairness, as a general rule, I will try to respect sequel order here, but Legion is kind of a curious case for two reasons:

1) Exorcist II: The Heretic is... ... ...well, let's put it this way, I could probably do an entire article on the ultimately erratic nature of the entire Exorcist franchise. The Heretic, in living up to its namesake, so sharply diverges from the themes of the first film that it's no surprise many of the people involved with the original disown it.
2) Legion was actually penned to be an official sequel even at the novel stage - so much so that the film version is even directed by the author of both original books.

So we may discuss II here at some point down the line, either for Halloween or a piece all on its own. Understand in the meantime, this is kind of a shift from my usual style (albeit one I think Blatty would agree with.)

Anyway, as a follow-up to the first movie, I'm actually pretty surprised with this movie on the rewatch. On the one hand, it's a rather different film in terms of its core story - rather than focusing specifically on the afflicted possessee as the center of the story, the possession itself is actually kept off to the side this time around. In fact, at the start of this movie, the only real ties we have to the first movie are the returning characters of Lt. Kinderman (here played by the late George C. Scott [who, fun fact, would be turning 87 today if were alive. THE MORE YOU KNOW,] as Lee J. Cobb was unfortunately dead at the time) and Father Dyer (now played Ed Flanders.) Otherwise, the story is, itself, a sort of murder mystery, as bodies start turning up connected to a series of murders by a killer who has been dead for years. In fact, outside of some curious dreams - which include some rather interesting celebrity cameos -  much of the first half is light on the supernatural. It isn't until the reveal of the mysterious Patient X (played in a dual role by returning actor Jason Miller and Brad Dourif, in another role showing that, for as bizarre as his choices are, he's not an untalented actor) that the film starts to reclaim its otherworldly elements. Thematically, the story is closer to the first film than The Heretic, in this film exploring another case of lapsed faith care of Scott's Lt. Kinderman. Shifting that idea to this character allows them to look at the similar concept through fresh eyes - where Damien Karras's loss in faith before was born out of personal loss in his life, in Kinderman's case, it comes as a result of his time as a police officer leading him to regularly come face to face with some of the worst sides of humanity. In this light, casting Scott in the role is actually a good call on Blatty's part, as he is able to capture that world-weary cynicism well here.

Unfortunately, while the sequel nature of the film does lead to some of its more interesting elements mentioned above, it's also one of the film's weaknesses in a way. Most notably with regards to the last act of the film, which Blatty has gone on record as saying was a rewrite/reshoot done under protest, as the studios felt that an Exorcist sequel needed an actual exorcism (the original book, Legion, doesn't end with one.) As a result, much of the last act feels somewhat clumsily added in, and Kinderman's crisis of faith is given a rather awkward finale. Which is a shame, as the first section of this movie, while not award-winning, is still a fairly solid follow-up in its own right. Blatty shows some decent skill as a director with some sequences, such as a long take in a hallway that does a surprising job at building up suspense over several minutes before the payoff. Unfortunately, that last act is a hard stumbling block to get over.

Blatty has since said, given the chance, he'd like to put together the cut he had initially filmed - and personally, I'd be curious to see it. Unfortunately, the footage remains missing at this point. Still, it stands as a decent effort haunted by the shadow of what might have been.

By this point in the screaming, ice cream isn't really gonna do much good.
He's welcome to keep trying though.

10/17 - We All Scream For Ice Cream

OK, I may need to start tagging some of the other Masters of Horror titles for this list in the future. They're shorter films, but more importantly, they're interesting as quick takes that operate a bit more freely of studio requisites.

Which brings us to this installment from the series, and the above-mentioned homicidal clown. This film manages to strike a weird sort of balance. In some regards, there's parts of the premise that feel goofy as Hell, primarily how deaths are meted out in this tale of revenge. On the other hand, when the film wants to build up some creepiness, it makes a nice play for it, even if you're not already naturally unnerved by clowns.

It's got some of the classic horror elements going for it in some ways - a group of friends united by a dark secret from their past that is now coming back to haunt them is a pretty time-honored launching point for horror stories. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you; there's a good reason people come back to it - it works. In this case, it actually does lead to one of the more memorable parts of the casting, at least. As the victim turned spirit of revenge in this version, I was actually somewhat surprised by the performance shift in William Forsythe as the film's antagonist, Buster. In flashbacks, he actually comes across as genuinely good with children - playing the innocent believably in his role, which then makes his later stints of creepy-voiced revenge a pleasant surprise in terms of range. The rest of the cast run the gamut from decent, to a couple of over the top parts that at times feel a bit much (Colin Cunningham as a former bully now just turned local scum lays it on just a little too thick here.)

Alongside Forsythe, the other thing I really have to give this film points for it s some of its visual effects. Most notably with regards to how Buster claims his victims - it's an idea that, on paper, feels incredibly goofy. Even the first few quick times we see it on screen, I had a hard time taking it seriously. Once the film showed the death in terms of a full playout, I have to admit to being impressed with the caliber of the effects. For a relatively lower budget to work from, these are grimly creative kills and quite well done in their execution.

In a way, this was actually a fun little revenge story. Like the series it's a part of it, it's the kind of film that shows some nice potential for things to come, and on its own is an entertaining little piece of horror. Not the kind of thing that may necessarily keep you up at night (unless, again, you're a serious coulrophobe*) but still, a pretty fun scare for an hour, and just enough to leave one wanting more.

Well played, guys. I'm intrigued to see more.

*that's fear of clowns for those playing at home.

So many fond memories of summer camp here.  This takes me back...

10/18 - Beware! Children at Play

Well, here's another famous first for this year - this marks our first Troma movie featured on the Halloween run.

...and oh, LORDY is it out there.

I think probably one of the best gauges for this movie comes when you watch the Director's Cut DVD and it includes a prelude by Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman explaining the response when the movie's trailers were first rolled out. The reactions from the audiences were pure shock over the film's finale - in which the local town's adults take the fight back to their murderous children...and the fight goes about how you'd subsequently expect.

There's a reason why I bring this anecdote up here - because, as many have said before me, really the finale is this movie's high point. Much of the movie before it alternates between being hilariously bad and just bad. The margin between, of course, will vary from person to person. I have to admit, the low-budget kills in this one ARE pretty damn funny to me (in particular in the case of a Bible salesman who winds up on the wrong side of a scythe.) Otherwise, the acting, writing, and direction aren't exactly doing this movie any favors here.

Well, the acting does SOME, but not by design.

But I'm getting off course, so let's dive into the best part of this - good old-fashioned child murder! Really, it's hard NOT to discuss this, cause it is both the film's most famous and infamous scene. Both for the sheer over the top nature of seeing a group of grown adults absolutely massacre a group of children, and for the fact it's done with a healthy dose of the Troma level-effects and acting just makes an already insane moment even more priceless. Keep a close eye on the already dead children - the breathers are easy to spot.

I kind of wish I could say more for this movie, but the fact is, I can only say just so much before I go past roasting to cremating this. The movie is VERY much a Troma title, in all the best and worst ways (even the ADR is off, giving the movie an effect not unlike a B-grade kung-fu dub.) I'm not sure I'd put this on the same level as some of their other titles like The Toxic Avenger or Cannibal!, but it's not without its somewhat psychotic charms. I think I'm almost more inclined to forgive this one over Nekromantik simply because this is a movie that's so unapologetic about what it is and what it's trying to do that it's genuinely hard to hold much against it. It's z-grade and wears that like a badge of honor. So much so that it loops around at points landing pretty safely into 'so bad it's good' territory.

Outside of the finale, I'm not sure there's anything about this one I'll remember...but oh MAN, what a finale to remember.

Well, that was a very insane way to end this week.

Pretty wild selection this week, and I don't mind saying looking forward to next week's spread too.

Till then, folks!
Also, we may have some new material to offer up over the week regarding a local event here. More details to come!

...and hey, we're now halfway through this year's run.

So far pretty good. We've even avoided having another child fatali--

...son of a bitch.
Well, there's always next year!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Halloween Week 2: Farewell to the Flesh

Welcome back for week 2 of our Halloween festivities. Once again, we've got an interesting spread going - flesh-eating zombies, ghosts, and that most horrific of creatures - the high schooler.

OK, that's kind of a cheap joke, but I have yet to be proven wrong.

Anyway, we have a full seven this week, so how about we dive right in?

Blood, fire, screaming, and dead bodies...reminds me of my prom.
[NOTE: The author of this piece did not actually attend prom. At least, not that he's informed legal of.]

10/5 - Carrie 

OK, this is actually kind of a cool piece of randomized trivia: first time a Stephen King movie is featured in the Halloween blocks, and on top of that, it's both based on his first novel published, as well as the first filmed adaptation of his work.

It's always interesting to rewatch one of those films after you've seen it enough times casually and heard it invoked in pop culture time and again. Done right, you still find yourself catching little details that you either didn't notice before or forgot about. In some ways, it's like watching the film for the first time all over again.
Which is a bit of a weird way to lead this one off, but it was pleasantly surprising giving this one a more direct watch than I have in some time. In particular for realizing just how much of early DePalma's style is present in a lot of this movie. Like when I discussed Sisters last year, one can see his eye for good camera work as well as his love of Hitchcock (here most embodied in taking a musical cue from Bernard Hermann's score to Psycho) in several places. In fact, with the exception of the contemporary aesthetics of the movie, this has aged surprisingly well. To be fair to said aesthetic...well, it's a movie about high schoolers. No matter what decade you make the movie in, it's going to date itself. It's just a risk that comes with the subject matter. Fortunately, in this case, it doesn't detract too much from the main film. This is further helped along by the casting - there's a reason this is still one of Sissy Spacek's most well known roles, and one she got an Academy Award nomination for. As the title character, Spacek embodies the abused and soft-spoken Carrie White to a T, making her sympathetic without feeling overdone in the pity department. Also earning a nomination, and the other MVP of the cast, is Piper Laurie as Carrie's hyper-religious mother. When she is onscreen, she all but hijacks the scene with her fervor (in the very best sense of the word.) It's a role that definitely risks flying into parody, Laurie herself allegedly thought the film was going to be a comedy, but she still manages to just keep it on the line rather than flying over the proverbial cliff. With these two as the centerpieces, the rest of the cast fare well in their various roles of support or antagonism (including a young John Travolta, who, despite the advertising now playing him up, is a fairly minor role in the movie.)
Once you adjust to the above-mentioned aesthetic, the movie is still actually quite well done visually. Alongside DePalma's already mentioned camera-work (one of the highlights of which is the infamous prom scene) some of the set design in this is well done. The prime example of this being the White house - feeling perfectly cramped and spartan, all centered around an incredibly unsettling prayer closet (in which the filmmakers took on the challenge of 'How can we make a crucified Jesus statue even creepier?')
With the remake due out next week, I have to say the film's got a lot to live up to. Sure, it can at least one up the very 1970s feel of this movie, but given how many other parts of this version all hit their mark, the remake is going to have to work VERY hard to hope to do it one better.

For the record, based on the promotions, I'm not optimistic. But that's just me talking. I could be proven wrong (I DID already say once this week marketing for films has been in a slump.)

"...all that and NOW the list calls for a cold case corpse?
This is the worst scavenger hunt I've ever been involved in!"

10/6 - The Changeling

This is one of those films that's been on my 'to do' list for a long time now. On finally getting around to watching it, I am glad to say it was worth the wait.
As I discussed last week with The Woman in Black, there's something to be said for a straight-forward ghost story from time to time. Further proving that point, Peter Medak's The Changeling is a good example of many of the draws of this breed of story. For one, it's another great case of a slow burn - much of the first part of the story is less concerned with the supernatural aspects as it is with the background of the movie's protagonist, John Russel (George C. Scott, in a surprisingly somber role.) Even when the unusual elements come, they ease their way in, often appearing in the form of sounds or minor actions, such as a door being opened by no one in particular. In many cases, it's fairly minor things, but they do a very good job of building up an air of mystery on the film. Which leads to one of the other big draws to many ghost stories, and part of the appeal to this one - figuring out the puzzle at the center of it all. Even more than in The Woman in Black, this movie's particular specter hinges on a secret of the past. When we finally start getting clues revealed during a well-directed seance sequence, the film slowly eschews the spiritual cat and mouse and becomes more of a mystery as John tries to discover what this spirit is trying to tell him. The second half, admittedly, doesn't have quite as much of a spooky air to it as a result of this. It still maintains an interesting narrative, just not one that maintains the air of suspense the first half did. Instead, the draw is now on seeing just what John is about to find out - which itself, is a good story twist (albeit one I won't go into here so as not to spoil the movie.) Fortunately, even though it loses the tone for the second half, the first still maintains the spookiness well enough to carry the movie. Once again, one of the real signs of a good ghost story is when it leaves you bracing for the moment when the other shoe drops before it's even begun to raise it. Before we begin to learn just what John is dealing with, the movie has that feeling in spades - building an entire atmosphere around what or who is inhabiting the house with him and just what it wants.
Alongside the narrative strength, the movie's other areas also carry their weight quite well. Alongside Scott, whose performance is different from his norm but still well handled, the rest of the film's cast are commendable - in particular Trish Van Devere (Scott's wife at the time) as a local woman who becomes a friend to John in his investigation, and veteran actor Melvyn Douglas in one of his last roles as a prominent politican who may have ties to the mystery in John's house. These performances, further aided by an atmospheric score by Rick Wilkins and some eerie cinematography by John Coquillon. The latter in particular puts his skills to good use in many parts of this movie, at times framing scenes through the ghost's eyes to great effect. One particular example of this being early on in the film as John first moves in - on entering the house's music hall, the camera starts out viewing John and Claire (Van Devere) from the floor level. As they get closer, the camera slowly starts to rise as though getting up to stare at them from a smaller eye level. It's a minor effect, but still a very nice touch.

This may not be one of those films that's going to keep people sleepless for nights on end, but it's still worth the watch. It's an eerie little ghost story with a fascinating puzzle at its center, and one worth sitting down to pay the extra attention on.

One of those moments where the look on one's face sums up their whole day in a single expression perfectly...

10/7 - Shaun of the Dead 

Just as a heads-up from here: the randomizer apparently really felt a yen for zombies this year. While previous years had roughly 2 or 3, this year we're up to 4 or 5, depending how you want to look at it.

Luckily, they started us off on a good note.  With this, we're now 3-for-3 on Edgar Wright this year [notes to self: see about working Hot Fuzz into the reviews after this month.]

I'm going to start by saying, prior to this week, I hadn't really sat down to watch this movie in a long time. By that, I mean it may have been at least 5 years since I watched this in its entirety before this week. You can imagine my happiness to realize the movie still holds up VERY well. Fresh from their work on the series Spaced (which I will again plug here - especially as much of the cast appear in this in various small roles that adds to the humor,) Edgar Wright teamed up with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to put together this, the first of the Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy. Granted, they weren't intending to make a trilogy at the time this was made, so no sense going too into detail on that.

Anyway, after this much time, I'm still pleasantly surprised with how this film starts on one gear and shifts to another. On the surface, it reads like a spoof of the zombie genre - and while it does make fun of some of the elements of the genre, the humor is less genre-riffing as it is just a comedy that happens to involve a zombie outbreak. On top of that, it also manages to make itself a fairly well done story about an affable, if somewhat shiftless slacker (Pegg) who is determined to get his life together - and it just happens that outbreak provides him the suitable kick in the ass to do it. One of the things that's really surprising about this one is, for as much humor as this has going for it (and it's pretty damn funny,) it also manages to counter it with some decent emotional weight at points. When ill fortune befalls the small group of survivors, the film actually manages to get some genuine sadness out of a few of the scenes. A good example of this fairly early on is with regards to Shaun's stepfather, Phil (Bill Nighy.) At first, we see him as the classic stiff hard-ass stepfather - like Shaun, we hate his guts. As things get worse, and he finally decides to make his piece with Shaun, the scene actually puts him in a new light without it feeling contrived. This is one of those areas where I really have to commend a lot of the cast. For a group where many of the members are known for comedy, they further prove that comedic actors are capable of handling darker emotions more than capably as well. In particular, Pegg shines in a few moments when faced with the idea of losing his loved ones - for playing a goof for much of the movie, when his emotions really start intensifying, it's hard not to genuinely feel bad for Shaun. Like his later work in The World's End, Pegg shows some surprisingly dramatic chops at points amid the humor.

Of course, not wanting to downplay the humor, I will again stress - when the movie is going for the laughs, it goes all in. Wright and co have a wonderfully black sense of humor, and a zombie outbreak setting is a perfect place to play with that. This includes both the quieter gags (genre fans will likely be amused by a lot of the little shout-outs to previous zombie movie veterans throughout) as well as some of the out-and-out splatter/slapstick humor - such as the entire protracted sequence of Shaun and Ed trying, and failing, various ways to kill two zombies in their back yard. The humor is further added to by the sharp camera work and editing. In particular two sequences that really stand out here: the first when Shaun heads out to the store, oblivious to the outbreak around him - the sequence is a single continuous take from his leaving the flat to the store and back, Shaun remaining completely unaware of the scenes of carnage unfolding around him throughout the sequence. It's impressive how smoothly the whole take plays out not missing a beat the entire time. The other segment here, and arguably one of the most well-known scenes in the film, is during the survivors' hold-out at the local pub...where they find the owner has already been infected. What ensues is a wildly choreographed fight scene set to Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now.' The sequence is VERY well edited, syncing to the music without feeling like it's breaking the scene in that context, and making a darkly comic blast out of the band's high-energy song. It's a moment that succeeds in being a great action piece as well as being out and out funny as Hell.

I could keep going, but there's only so much I could polish this movie up while others are in the cue. In a nutshell, it's a rather fun, twisted take on zombie horror that also manages to do something a little bit more with story and editing. Finding that it's aged this well is so far one of the highlights of this month's run for me.

As obnoxiously precocious children in movies go, there are few that scream 'Hug me!' quite like this kid.

10/8 - Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Further proving the randomizer is on a zombie kick this year, and that maybe it's not as random as the program advertises itself to be. I'm not just talking for two zombie movies in a row here, but rather two from when the zombie genre started to kick back into the boom it went through for a few years (and some would argue still is, but I've said my piece on that matter.)

That said, I find myself somewhat of two minds with regards to Zack Snyder's remake of Dawn of the Dead. On its own, it's actually a pretty solid zombie movie. For a director I've had some issues with in the past, particularly with regards to his problems of living up to the potential of what he's given to work with, his feature debut was actually a rather solid start. Additionally, it helps that he avoids one of the popular pitfalls remakes can fall into - what shoutouts to the previous version this movie has are fairly minor and treated as easter eggs within the movie, rather than direct scene lifts and overt calls to it (barring the original's famous 'When there's no room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth,' though the context on that one is a nice touch.) This can trip up a remake in a big way since, rather than allow the remake to stand as its own telling, it seems to be either latching on to nostalgia for the older version, or inadvertently setting itself up to look lesser by comparison. In this case, beyond the title and a very loose similar story, Snyder's version, written by James Gunn, takes the concept in a whole other direction. In many ways, this is probably for the better since, while I love the original version, just updating that story isn't particularly likely to hold up well. Instead, Gunn and Snyder just use the jumping off point of hiding out in a mall against a zombie outbreak and build their own narrative here.

Which is part of where the drawback in this comes in to play. While on its own, the movie isn't bad, as an adaptation, it does feel somewhat wanting in certain areas. Most notably the fact that, while they got the zombie carnage down quite well, this movie loses the more satirical edge Romero's original had. It acknowledges parts of the earlier film's message on consumer culture, but they feel ultimately disconnected and lost in the proverbial sound and fury.
and the blood.
Especially the blood.

That said, back to its own merits, this is arguably some of Snyder's best work as a director. At least in part, this is thanks to the fact that it works well with the man's strong suit for spectacle and large scale carnage. In fact, probably one of his best moments in this film is actually the film's opening titles - a montage of the outbreak played out in news footage set to Johnny Cash's 'The Man Comes Around.' Minimal character focus, no actual dialogue beyond news reports, but the sequence does a great job of encapsulating all the horrors of a zombie outbreak on a grand scale. It's that broader scope that seems to be where Snyder's most at ease, and a concept like this gives him a lot of good action set pieces to play with there. To that end, it's fascinating to see his earlier dabbling in slow motion before it became a punchline of a lot of his films. On the smaller scale, the cast are actually all pretty well chosen for this movie, in particular Ving Rhames in one of the few characters who could be seen as having a parallel to the old version. While the script doesn't really do much in terms of deep character study, what it gives the actors to work with, they make good use of. They even manage a few of the more emotional moments have seen a Snyder film successfully pull off.

In all, I can't say this qualifies as a remake that surpasses its original. It is, however, still one that can stand as a solid movie on its own, which is still fairly rare to find as remakes go anyway.

Who knows, maybe some day Snyder will be able to get back just what he had in him that made this one work that then got away from him later. For now, at least he'll always have this.
Well, this and 300, but that was a whole other matter in terms of why it worked.

Back to the horror!

"Cliff's Notes? Did I just hear you say CLIFF'S NOTES?!"

10/9 - Theatre of Blood

Back for his second year in a row on the Third Row Halloween runs, it's time for another highlight of Vincent Price's career. In particular, this is the movie he considered to be his personal favorite.

In starting this, I once again have to give Price some considerable brownie points. Once again, he proves he was ahead of the game on theme killings years before anyone else saw it as a marketable way to make your murderer stand out. In this case, it's an even more curious theme - as Price's weapon of choice is the writings of the Bard himself.

It's not surprising that Theatre of Blood is treated in part as a comedy. Even the premise - Price as a disgraced Shakespearean actor who uses Shakespeare-based murders to reap vengeance upon his critics, feels somewhat silly on paper. Fortunately, that's where a lot of this movie's charm comes from. By this point, Price had certainly tread similar waters before with The Abominable Dr. Phibes, but where Phibes was played as a fairly serious tale of revenge born out of the loss of a loved one, here director Doug Hickox gives us a wrath born more from ego than anything else. Further, while Phibes operates out of a sinister hideaway, Theatre of Blood's Edwin Lionheart makes his lair in a theater filled with vagrants and meth-drinkers. In a lot of ways, it's almost like the comedic counterpart to Phibes.

Of course, it still doesn't forget it's a horror film as well - say what you will for the Bard's prose, he knew how to make for some violent kills, and writers Anthony Greville-Bell, Stanley Mann, and John Kohn pick some gems to use for material in this. In fact, with the possible exception of one of the later kills, most of the murders in this themselves are fairly serious. The comedy largely comes from Price's role as Edwin. In the movie, Edwin is a rather hammy actor, and Price is having a blast playing that up. Watching him eagerly gloat as he reminds his victims of their printed slights against him in particular is an escalating bit of humor, starting fairly straight forward and slowly climbing to more and more pitched craziness with each new designed kill. It actually gets rather fun trying to figure out what Edwin's next move is going to be, in part just to see how ridiculous they get.
Alongside Price's comic zeal, the other standout in this cast actually goes to a young Diana Rigg as his daughter, Edwina (with an ego like his character in this has, are we THAT surprised by the name?) While she doesn't get as many chances to live up the lunacy as Price does, she still gets her share of moments playing up other personas in disguise and definitely doesn't mind being along for the ride.

A good blend of literary smarts, some creative kills, and a gleefully dark streak of comedy all make a very good case for seeing why Price would consider this to be among his best work.

Unfortunately for the monster, you really can't make much for pick-up lines out of the likes of 'bread, friend, good, fire, bad.'

10/10 - The Bride of Frankenstein

Embarrassing confession - this was actually the first time I've seen this movie. I'd seen the original Frankenstein, but this was my first time seeing the sequel in full.

I have to say though, I can now see why it's held in as high regard as it is. The movie still holds up quite well as extension of the original story, and even if you haven't seen it, it's still gives you enough of what you need to know in order to jump right in. Further, it's worth seeing this just for its influence alone. I had some knowledge of its legacy going in and even I was surprised at the sheer number of titles I wound up recognizing would later make call backs to this (it was hard to keep a straight face during the blind man scene through no fault of the movie's own, but just thanks to the Young Frankenstein parody coming to mind as a result.)

Additionally, this film does make a bit more of an effort to try and hew this story a bit closer to Mary Shelly's original work than the first did (further added to by a new prologue feature Elsa Lanchester as Shelly.) Taking its own narrative loosely from a portion of the original novel itself, this movie further tries to build on the humanization of the monster, again played by the legendary Boris Karloff. To that end, while the casting on this is generally good all around (the other standout being Ernest Thesiger as Henry's mentor Dr. Pretorius) it's Karloff that still stands out in this. Even more impressive given he's both under considerable makeup and only has very limited dialogue. Despite those setbacks, he still proves himself capable of conveying a great deal of emotion through simple gestures that make it understandable that he became such an iconic name in the genre. This isn't to sell short Lanchester, again appearing as the titular bride. Like Karloff, her performance here is largely a matter of gestures, and in a screentime of under 10 minutes, she still creates an iconic character that has endured to this day.

I do have to admit some parts of the film are a bit odd to watch now even without the sense of indirect familiarity. To be fair, this is partially by design (director James Whale himself described what he was making here as 'a hoot,' and was reported to have been heard laughing at one of the screenings of it.) In general though, the film is still quite watchable, and even the odd parts are at least fun in their goofiness.

It's certainly a sequel of a different stripe, but what it sets out to do, it happens to do quite well. This is one of the classics that's earned that status.

OK, I'll be the one to say it - Bodyworks has finally gone too far.

10/11 - Autopsy

and what better way to close out the week than some good-natured blood letting to get out those bad humors.

OK, that one was a bit of reaching joke, but after a classic like Bride of Frankenstein, I had to find some way to segue into this modern slasher piece. In any case, this was a pretty brisk title to end out the week with. I will apologize if I don't go as into detail on this one. Not because it's necessarily bad, but because it's a fairly basic movie. It's your classic 'reckless 20-somethings run afoul of misfortune' storyline - in this case, the misfortune coming care of a hospital staffed by graduates of the Josef Mengele School of Medicine (...too dark?)

Said staff have some pretty welcome casting bits to them as a nice bonus. In particular, the film's primary antagonist, Dr. Benway, as played by Robert Patrick. As a villain role for Patrick, this was kind of a pleasant break from his more famous stoic killing machine role in Terminator 2. Here, he tries to pass himself off as friendlier, keep the darker side under wraps until the ride is in full motion and the blood is flowing. Even there, he keeps it strangely sedate. It's a different sort of character, but he carries it well. The other standout in the staff being Jenette Goldstein, further proving her ability to blend into any number of roles here, lapsing from a seemingly bureaucratic nurse who, likewise, lets her evil side out to play as the movie goes on.

It's that moment when the movie starts letting the blood fly - cause let's face it, in a movie like this, the kids themselves are primarily just there to die. It sounds horrible, but it's true - that it actually starts showing some of its real strength. In particular, for a gore piece, this has some pretty solid effects work. Though it says something that some of the most effective moments are actually pretty light on the actual gore, but are still unsettling to watch just for what's happening (two words: lumbar puncture.)

I feel somewhat bad keeping this one brief, but really there's not a whole lot of detail you can go into here. It's a pretty straightforward slash and bleed, with no bid to make an extra message (which is perhaps for the better, since when those backfire, they backfire HARD.) For what it wants to be, it does its job well. It's not a particularly high profile job, but I can't condemn them for doing it with zeal all the same.

As one last side note, I do have to say - having seen the unused alternate ending for this one, I think I prefer it. True, it results in a recurring discussion point being discarded, but it's also a more unexpected ending. The ending this movie does have works, but it's admittedly a bit more predictable in its delivery.

Just a minor quibble.

Well, this was a particularly messy week. I think only two of the days didn't involve gallon levels of blood.

Also, I've been asked to pass along this message from our legal department - apparently the randomizer decided next week it wanted to mess with people with claustrophobia, so you've been warned.

...till then!