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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Last 3 HORROR Movies

It being October—or “Shocktober,” as I like to say—I’ve pretty much limited my film intake to horror fare, which I’ve found comes in real handy when it’s time to post another Last 3 Horror Movies.  By the way, it’s time RIGHT NOW!

Title: Playback (2012)

Why did I watch this?: Why does anybody watch anything?

The viewing experience:  Playback is about a lot of stuff: family secrets, urban legends, demon possession, horny teens, the Devil kinda, etc., etc.  None of it adds up to a pleasant viewing experience however, in fact, I probably should’ve rolled with that “turn-this-off-now” feeling I got during the film’s opening sequence, which is primarily concerned with an infant in peril.  I’ve found since becoming a father that I have a low tolerance for this sort of thing.  But, feeling charitable—after all, it is the holiday season—I stuck with Playback and was the opposite of rewarded.

Playback isn’t all bad.  There is a pretty big extended celebrity cameo.  Which I’ll get to in a second.

Lingering questions: If the ultimate villain of Playback is the actual Devil (see also: Satan, Lucifer, The Prince of Darkness, Ol’ Horny Head Goat Feet), which we’re led to believe it is, why does he need to inhabit the body of a human being, or, rather, insert his soul into a fleshy human vessel, to complete his work on Earth?  And what kind of work is he trying to complete?  I mean, in Playback, Lucifer’s endgame appears to simply be replacing his next-of-kin’s soul with his own.  Then what?  And why would Satan need to use a video camera to capture souls?  He’s Satan!  Doesn’t he have eerie devil powers or whatever?

Also, the Devil spends most of the film’s runtime inside the body of a young man who isn’t blood-related to him, and things seem to be going just fine.  So, why is he so keen on setting up shop inside Julian?  There is a throwaway line, in which Satan, via Quinn—the film’s primary human antagonist, not my three-year-old daughter—mentions the weakness of human flesh and how he wishes he didn’t have to use it all the time and blah blah blah, but are things going to be any different inside of Julian?  It is never suggested that they will be.  Why am I still thinking about this?

Why is everybody’s favorite band Shiny Toy Guns?  They are mentioned once every 15 minutes.  It’s insane!

31 Days of Horror-worthy?: Of course not.  Not even for the big extended celebrity cameo which I promise I’ll get to in a minute, OK?

IMdB Plot Keywords: shot in the arm; shot in the stomach; shot in the forehead (the film’s crowning achievement—we’ll get there); head in a toilet; wheelchair bound; reference to Martin Scorsese; murder of a nude woman

IOU: When a relatively big name shows up in a low-budget creepy—like, say, a Charles S Dutton in a modern retelling of the old Monkey’s Paw story (stay tuned)—I always wonder, “To whom did that guy owe a favor?”  I then take a dainty sip of tea, adjust my ascot and continue feeling superior to everyone.

Playback’s got it’s very own Charles S. Dutton in Christian Slater, star of Heathers and Heathers DVD commentary track (probably).  This is the second time in the last two months I’ve experienced a surprise Slater Sighting.  First he popped up in Nymphomaniac: Volume 1 as the titular character’s oddly-accented father (I like Christian Slater just fine, but every time he’s on screen, the film grinds to a halt).  And now Playback, in which he plays a perverted police officer who eventually gets shot in the forehead (told ya!) while the hypnotized object of his sick desires listlessly watches. 

Lingering question about Christian Slater’s character's head:  Was Christian Slater’s character’s head merely a balloon filled with blood?  I only ask because when Quinn—the bad guy, not the sweet, innocent daughter I tuck into bed every night—shoots him, it not only explodes like a balloon, but sprays the wall and the face of teenage girl with whom he is obsessed, with blood only, no chunks of brain or shards of skull.  Like the old woman’s head in Deadly Friend when Kristy Swason-bot throws a basketball at it.

Title: Creature (2011)

Why did I watch this?: I convinced myself that it might be a secret Killer Croc origin story movie.  It wasn’t.  Also, I hadn’t yet watched a “creature feature” this Halloween season and, wouldn’t you know, creature is right in the name of this one, in fact, you could say it is the name!

The viewing experience: Creature is a scuzzy little film about gross backwoods creeps who worship a hulking gator-man.  It’s shamelessly exploitative, skin-crawlingly icky and just a smidge misogynistic. It’s also got a dude in a rubber man-gator costume beating the piss out of people, so, you know, it’s pretty good.

IMdb Plot Keywords: full frontal female nudity; topless female nudity; female rear nudity; female nudity; female frontal nudity; female full frontal nudity; lesbian kiss…hey, where you going?!? There’s another movie after this one!

A warning to viewers who are not fans of incest: Incest is a major theme of Creature, so people who do not care for incest, should probably watch something else.  I mean, I know those above plot keywords suggest all kinds of nudity and sex, but you should be aware that at least one of those sex acts (i.e. a handjob) is performed by a sister on her brother while the brother is taking pictures of two other people having non-incestuous sex.  Perhaps the fact that two kinds of sex are being performed simultaneously will help your mind cancel out the sex you find deviant and gross (i.e. the incest one) and you’ll be able to soldier through Creature unafraid and unoffended.  I just wanted to offer a friendly warning.

31 Days of Horror-worthy?: It might be useful as a dumb palette cleanser halfway through the month, but you could probably find something better to scratch your creature feature itch.

Title: Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

Why did I watch this?: Oddly enough, this is the only entry in the original Halloween series I'd never seen.  As a completist, I felt it my duty to finally experience Resurrection the way it was meant to be experienced: on a phone while I was doing something else.  I largely experienced Halloween: Resurrection as if it were a podcast--the worst podcast ever recorded.

The viewing experience: I did not like this one bit.  I felt like Professor Frink when he received the Happy Dude phone call from the AT-5000 Auto-dialer ("Oh, Halloween, look what they have you doing.").  It was depressing, and no amount of Busta Rhymes calling Michael Myers a "motherfucker" could make it any better.

But what is it about?: I don't want to talk about it.  Don't make me.

31 Days of Horror-worthy?: N/A

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Scary Masks Ranked!!!

A slasher is only as good as his mask.  This being October—I often refer to it was “Shocktober”—I thought it would be appropriate to rank horror movie slasher masks from least menacing to most.  I think you’ll be surprised to learn that this has never been done before.  Do a Google search.  The internet is completely devoid of horror movie mask rankings.  Weird, right?
It can be difficult to separate the mask from the violent actions carried out by the mask wearer when compiling a list of this sort, but I’ve tried my best to focus on my personal emotional response to each mask represented, and leave said masked killer’s actions out of it.  On occasion, I have made passing mention of the heinous acts committed by the “man (or woman???) behind the mask,” but I’ve tried to keep the proceedings relatively masked-focused, a real mask-fest, if you will.

11. Ghostface (Scream and its sequels)

The Ghostface mask is such a sell-out, man.  After Scream came out, you couldn’t go anywhere without Ghostface being all up in your face.  Everyone had a Scream mask!  I think they were used as cereal box prizes in some markets.

10. Animal-masked assassins (You're Next)

Animal masks, when donned by hulking men brandishing crossbows, are creepy and horrifying, but by themselves, they’re no big whoop.  The same masks worn, say, during a child’s Sunday afternoon tea party or a classy, upscale orgy at a sprawling country manor, would seem fine, almost necessary.

9. Jason Vorhees (Friday the 13th: Part 3 and beyond)

Iconic, but not scary, that is, unless you find hockey players inherently frightening.  Quick thought: what if hockey goalies, along with their hockey stick, also brandished a machete when defending the net?  Hockey players are already allowed to punch each other in the face whenever compelled, so why not up the violence factor and add sharp, deadly weapons to the proceedings?  It’s worth at least considering, right?  (Fun Fact: I thought the burlap sack from Part 2 was scarier.)

8. "Satan" (Satan's Little Helper)

One question that lingers as the delightfully creepy Satan’s Little Helper’s credits roll is what about the killer’s mask made the titular helper automatically think, “Yep, that’s Satan all right!” exactly?  Even before confirming the fact with said killer, Dougie is convinced he’s found the hero of his favorite video game/the Prince of Darkness, and in his hometown, no less!  To me this mask doesn’t scream Satan or Lucifer or The Devil.  It just looks like any of a hundred ugly rubber monster faces hanging from a hook at your local, pop-up Halloween superstore right this very minute.  It isn’t scary, but it’s ugly and it kind of gives me a stomachache. As much as I love horror movies, I have always had a very physical reaction to rubber monster masks, especially the ones that retain their misshapen, skewed and deformed appearance even after they’ve been placed over someone’s human head.  The Satan’s Little Helper mask is gross, but this list is primarily concerned with scary, so, here it remains at #8.

***BONUS MASK*** Jesus (also Satan's Little Helper)

Satan’s Little Helper’s murderous madman dons a trio of costumes over the course of the movie, and costume #2 involves an infinitely creepier mask that I felt kind of weird adding to the list proper.  By all rights, this mask should appear at the top of this and every scary mask list ever made for the rest of time, but, it's Jesus, guys, so, you know, c'mon.

7. God Mask (The Purage: Anarchy)

I haven't seen The Purge or it's sequel, but I know whenever this guy popped up on my TV screen in the weeks leading up to Anarchy's release, I felt really uneasy.  First, the mask looks like the kind your high school chum's faux-artsy mom would hang on the wall in the guest room.  It'd be part of, like, a whole ballet or theater theme, but it would actually scream, "I'm a crazy person who is definitely watching you while you sleep...and there's a good chance I'm wearing this mask while I do it."  Second, it's the crudely scrawled "GOD" across the forehead.  I haven't seen Anarchy, but I know what it's about.  This guy is playing the part of God on Purge night, and if you have the bad luck to encounter him and his creepy mask, you're not going to enjoy the results.

6. Henry Creedlow (Bruiser)

I don't remember particularly enjoying Bruiser, but this mask--holy crap, this mask!--still creeps me out.  It's those beady, pinhole eyes what do it.  

5. Mr. Mouse (Torment)

Scarier than the fact that this unstoppable, homicidal brute's mouse mask is a creepy, deformed mess, is the fact that said mask started out as the head of a beloved stuffed mouse.  Why did Liam's stuffed animals all have giant, irregularly-shaped heads?!?  A stuffed animal head should never fit comfortably on the head of a psycho killer.

4. Man in the Mask, Dollface & Pin-Up Girl (The Strangers)

The thought of people breaking into my home while me and my family are in it, terrifies me to the bones, and that is why I'm (oddly) drawn to home invasion horror flicks so much.  The Strangers is one of the scariest I've seen (The sun comes up...our heroes have survived the night...AND IT ISN'T OVER!!! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!), and those masks are a big part of it.  

3. Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its many sequels)

This mask is made out of the flesh stripped from horny teens and nameless drifters.  This mask is worn by a slovenly, cannibalistic butcher with little to no discernible social skills.  Everything about Leatherface is filthy and diseased and sticky and gross, and that is pretty much a recipe for scary.

2. The Old Hag (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves)

Walt Disney's Snow White has the distinction of being the first animated feature film ever made.  It is beautifully animated, and remains a solid watch to this day.  It's also the source of all childhood nightmares and the lingering unease I feel whenever I'm around old people.  I watched Snow White with my three-year-old daughter recently, and, oh boy, did she not enjoy the Evil Queen in Old Hag mode.  Neither did I.  She is extremely unpleasant to look at.  It is a testament to Snow White's goodness that she is kind to such a disturbing--and clearly disturbed--character.  I'm not saying members of the elderly community should be disparaged and shunned because of their wrinkled skin, bony fingers, scraggly hair and toothless, gaping maws, I'm simply suggesting one think twice before accepting any fruit from one.  Stick to the individually wrapped hard candies they've got stashed in one of the many candy dish stations in their house.  Those probably haven't been poisoned.

1. Michael Myers (the Halloween series, at least the ones that aren't about Stonehenge and bugs coming out of people's faces*)
"What's that?  Giant Electric Penguin named my mask the scariest?  How do I feel?  How do you think I feel?!?  Like singing, of course!!!"

Haddonfield's own Michael Myers tops our list, because what's scarier than William Shatner's face turned inside out?  And don't say William Shatner's regular face, because that isn't very nice.

*And, yes, I know Michael has a cameo in Season of the Witch!  What do you take me for, an amateur?!?  Sheesh!
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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Last 3 HORROR Movies

I enjoy movies of various genres (comedy, drama, science fiction, documentary, talking cat, talking dog, farting moose, tentacle porn, etc), but I mostly like horror, and since it's October--I call it "Shocktober" (wink, wink)--what better way to fill space on my blog than to post horror editions of my most popular/easiest to generate feature Last 3 Movies?!?  I get to write about horror--which I would love to get paid to do if anybody important has stumbled onto this page and is currently reading this aside--and you get exposure to a genre you might not be that familiar with, but have been considering checking out.  Also, you get to see how much sick, twisted entertainment I cram into my brain on a weekly basis and marvel at how well-adjusted I am.  

Title: Rites of Spring (2011)

Synopsis: Mumblegore sweetheart AJ Bowen stars as one of a quartet of lowlifes who kidnap a little girl and hold her for ransom in an abandoned insane asylum.  Want to guess what happens next?  I guarantee you're wrong.

In another movie, a twitchy old man kidnaps two buxom 20-somethings, strings them up in his terror barn and prepares them for sacrifice.  To what, you might ask?  Well, that'll have to wait for Movie #3.

In Movie #3, Movies #1 and #2 collide in a sticky plume of blood and guts, when a crusty, yet surprisingly athletic, mummy crawls out of the barn cellar and chases everyone around with scythe for 20 hackneyed minutes.

Why did I watch this?: I've been on a big AJ Bowen kick as of late, in fact, it kind of crept up on me without me realizing it.  I think I like him because he always comes across as a pretty nice dude.  Sure, he's a kidnapper in this one, but he's the token one with the heart-of-gold.  And, well, [SPOILER ALERT!!!] I guess he doesn't turn out to be an upstanding citizen in You're Next. [SPOILER ALERT OVER!!!].  But he's a helluva guy in The Sacrament.  There you go.

I also like him because he's stocky and bearded, like me.  He does have a beautiful head of hair, but I won't hold that against him.

31 Days of Horror-worthy?: I'm pretty confident you could find 31 better films to watch this October.  I was more interested in the kidnapping/ransom plot than any of the weird "corn ritual" garbage, but even that was fairly unoriginal and dull.  I liked how the the corn demon/gymnast mummy was dispatched by the film's final girl at the end, the classic place in a horror film for the final girl to make her last stand, but I also didn't care much about said corn creature because he doesn't get a whole lot of back story.  He just kinda leaps out of the basement and starts scything everybody who gets in his way.  There is simultaneously too much and nothing at all going on in Rites of Spring, so I can't recommend it.  I do recommend the two other AJ Bowen movies I mentioned earlier though.  They're both fantastic!

Lingering questions:  What happened to the little girl?  She escapes from her kidnappers and is last seen running off into the woods.  Is there a deleted scene where she runs into Scythy, but he lets her go because he has a soft spot for children?  Or was there a much ghastlier scene where the little girl gets her head split in half?  Scythy doesn't come across as a sentimental chap from the short time we spend with him.  Maybe it's better we don't know what happens to the little girl, I mean, her mom is dead and her dad's been chopped to pieces by a corn mummy.  She's got a tough life ahead of her, and I don't need to see that.

Is the Stranger, the "clever" name given to the man conducting the nonsensical "rites of spring," which involved a lot of sponge baths and wrist slicing, the last survivor member of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family, because I'm pretty sure he lives in their house?  Maybe he bought it later.  This question is going to haunt me for the next three seconds.

There we go.  Over it.

Title: Banshee Chapter (2013)

Alternate Title: All Your Favorite Conspiracy Theories: The Movie

The Synopsis "They" Don't Want You To Read: Part found-footage, part documentary (quickly abandoned), all creepy sounds and jump scares, Banshee Chapter builds on the true story of Project MKUltra, a mind control program carried out by the CIA from the 1950's through the early 70's.  It's also kind of based on an H.P. Lovecraft story.  All I know is that I watched this in the comfort of my own bed, my wonderful wife sleeping peacefully beside me, the soft purr of my cat between us and a positive attitude in my heart, and I was creeped out the whole damn time!!!

Anyway, some guy disappears after ingesting an LSD-like drug supposedly used in Project MKUltra and his college friend, Anne, goes looking for him.  Along the way she learns about number stations, encounters otherworldly beings in the dessert and hooks up with a Hunter S Thompson-like weirdo, played by Ted Levine, who gives the best-slash-most-distracting performance in the movie, to solve the mystery of DMT-19 and her friend's whereabouts.

31 Days of Horror-worthy?: Yeah.  It's not terribly original and it doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense, but I was immensely creeped out the whole time.  Numbers station broadcasts are right up there with killer ventriloquist dummies and masked home invaders when it comes to horror movie tropes that freak me out.  And Levine is fun as Hunter S. Thompson, because, c'mon, that's who he's playing!

Not recommended for: Johnny Depp

Title: Axed (2012)

Alternate Title: Jerk Dad

Synopsis: A stuffy British dad gets fired from his job and chases his family around the countryside with an axe.  The title is a fun play on words!  Get it!?!  Hooray!

The dad in question does a lot more than chase his family around with an axe, I guess.  He also murders his boss after forcing his wife to simulate sex with him in front of the children; gives his son a gay porn mag and tells him to chop some wood; runs around screaming and axing everything and everyone in sight.  Ugh.  This movie is dull, repetitive and dumb.  But, you know what, it's not that bad.  I mean, it's got a lot to say about the world we live in today and lack of job security and how the daily pain of living can wear a middle-class, white man down and...

No, it sucks.

31 Days of Horror-worthy: Nope.

About the sound: Axed is remarkably well-acted and nice to look at considering it is a boring B-movie cheapie with little reason to exist.  Jonathan Hansler, who plays the titular jerk dad, has fun with his role and is, in turn, fun to watch.  Everyone's fine, actually.  I wish these actors and the cinematographer all the best.  What isn't fine are the sound effects.  I'm not sure that's even the proper term when talking about movies.  What's it called?  Foley or something?  I think sound effects are apropos in Axed's case however, because it sounds like a lot of the foley work was done using a Halloween sound effects CD. You kind of have to see it (hear it?) to believe it, but I will provide one example that never stops being funny.  Several times throughout the film, Hansler's character will excuse himself to the attic where his boss is tied to an old bed.  Hansler proceeds to punch the man in the head violently, over and over, during each visit.  Each time Hansler's fist connects with his fellow actors face, we literally hear the sound of a basketball being dribbled.  It is insane!  And that's only one of many examples.

The most remarkable moment though comes much later in the film, during the obligatory "night chase through the spooky woods" scene, that goes on for way, way, WAY too long.  The son character finally stands up to his dad and smashes him in the back of the head with a chunk of firewood.  Dad loses his balance for a moment, then proceeds to lunge at his son with the axe.  The axe and log collide several times, a moment a viewer who has already witnessed basketball head punches and pitchfork puncture sounds akin to that of a three-hole punch would expect to be accompanied by an appropriately inappropriate sound effect, like maybe the clang of sword upon shield or two raw chickens being tossed down an empty stairwell.  Instead, we get nothing!  No sound!  So dumb.

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