Archive for the 'horror' Category

Top 5 Movies I Might Watch Today If I Feel Like It

It’s Halloween and I have the day off from work. I’m obligated to watch some movies that are in the holiday spirit, am I not? Right this second I’m watching Pale Rider as part of some MacGuffin-related Clint Eastwood research. It is not a horror film (except Clint Eastwood has said his character in it, The Preacher, is pretty much a ghost. So there’s that?). Why am I watching a Western?! I need some horror! Here are my main candidates for the day:

5. A Chinese Ghost Story

Because I rented this for a roundtable possibility and then we didn’t use it (hear us talk about what we watched instead, Cemetery Man, here!). I think it is due to Scarecrow tomorrow, so I better get on it. (I am terrible about renting things that I can have for a week and then not watching them until the last second. Like, in the two hours before I have to go to store to make the 8 PM deadline.) Also, it sounds pretty sweet. “1987 Hong Kong romantic comedy horror film”? It won’t be boring, I’m sure.

4. House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Because of Netflix streaming! And because of Vincent Price! And because it is 74 minutes long, leaving me time for other filmic adventures! It also feel like a pure, “Halloween-y” movie to me. There’s nothing like a good ol’ black & white haunted house.

3. 28 Days Later…

Because I own it, I love it, it is one of my favorite films of all time, I never get tired of it, and it is just pure, great storytelling. It is one of those films where if I start thinking about it, I’ve created an itch that won’t go away until I just watch it again.

2. Paranormal Activity

Oh my god, I should not have noticed that this movie is streaming on Netflix. Because it scared me so bad the first time around, I put it on my Top 5 Great Films I’ll Never Watch Again list! And I should stay true to my word. But, it’s daytime? And I know what to expect now? Oh god no, I shouldn’t do it because nighttime will come again and I’ll still be in a place which is how all ghosts and demons get you, as evidenced in this film. Aaaarggggh.

1. Thirst

Because I have had this Chan-wook Park film on disc from Netflix since January of 2010. Not even kidding. Going on two years of anticipation with this one! And I can handle vampires, because vampires are not real. Not like the ghosts and demons that will kill me in my bed if I watch Paranormal Activity again.

May you all watch something great today, and not have nightmares tonight.


Will these demons EVER stay buried??

I am not in the business of trying to hide my love for weirdo 70s and 80s Italian horror films, but I can’t say it’s something I get around to writing about much. But lo! The Final Girl film club (which I love and haven’t participated in nearly enough) this month speaks to said love, by focusing on The Church, a splendidly wack-a-doo creation from the minds of writer/director Michele Soavi and co-writer Dario Argento. This is one of those films where I feel like I sort of have no business liking it as much as I do, which is bizarrely one of my favorite ways to feel about a film.

We spend much of the action in quite an elaborate cathedral, which has purposefully (though inconveniently for its current users) been built on the mass grave of a 12th century village that may or may not have been full of demon worshipers. (Whether they were actually in league with the demons before the slaughter, or just caught up with them later when there was nothing else to do in the afterlife and the “good guys” [creepy priest-types ordering around knights wearing bucket helmets] had committed mass-murder, I’m not sure.)

If you’ve ever thought to yourself “but what happens to a head AFTER it’s been severed in a massacre?” this movie is here to tell you. They are not messing around in the opening massacre scene. Nor, once we cut to the present-day cathedral, are any of those characters messing around: the floppy-haired librarian and the sexy fresco-restorer know each other for I think around 12 hours before they are both in bed together and going around deciphering old parchments that SHOULD OBVIOUSLY BE LEFT ALONE. Librarian goes from zero to pulling-his-own-heart-out-of-his-chest-crazy pretty quickly after that, and soon all pagany hell is breaking loose in the church. The demons/ghosts sit tight until the perfect time to strike, which is when the church is full of:

–a bunch of models and photographers shooting wedding gowns
–a class full of 12-year-olds on a field trip
–a dysfunctional, verbally abusive, motorcycle-riding young couple
–a dysfunctional, verbally abusive senior citizen couple
–a variety of creepy priests, and one nice one (who gets dissed by the other priests for not speaking Latin, Mean Girls-style)
–probably some other freaks I am forgetting

The demon onslaught leads to an absolute symphony of is-this-real-or-am-I-hallucinating madness for the characters, and a little bit for the viewers as well. What has been a fairly straightforward narrative all of a sudden goes Full Crazytown. But it is awesome.

This movie is full of entertainingly manic camerawork, acting that hits the absolute sweet spot between good and cheesy, great music (Goblin at work again), and amazing images—my favorites being the moldering arms shooting out of a limp burlap bag to strangle he who dares look inside with his floppy hair, and a model whose elaborate dress gets caught in the closing cathedral doors, trapping her against them. I dig the combination 80s + gothic aesthetic.

This movie is streaming on Netflix and you should totally watch it! If you like this sort of thing. Which you should.

What to watch on Halloween if you’re a wimp

You all know of my love for scary movies. But: a confession. I’m feeling more sympathy these days for people who can’t deal with the scary. And that’s because I seriously had a nightmare the day after seeing Paranormal Activity. This is not a usual symptom for me, but this was an all-out, had to get up and turn on the lights kind of nightmare. So, a list for all you wimps out there, myself apparently sometimes included.

1. Trick ‘r Treat

This poor movie was hyped up like crazy and then lost in a bizarre Warner Bros. release date shift. It’s been unceremoniously released straight-to-DVD this month, two years after it was supposed to go to theaters. I’m happy to report that it is very much worth a rental. Four urban-legendy-type stories intertwine at a town’s Halloween celebration, with alternately creepy and funny results. Not really scary, but perfectly captures the mood of the holiday.

2. Re-Animator

Sure, there’s a disturbing element at work in the mission of Dr. Herbert West. But this is brilliant camp all the way. When he re-animates a certain smashed house pet….you may shriek at first, but mostly you’ll just laugh more than you might be proud of.

3. Supernatural, season four, episode five, “Monster Movie”

The spectacular Supernatural was deep into some crazy ongoing storylines by this point in season four, but the series has always been good at taking a break now and then for a fun one-off episode. You need about as much backstory for this one as for a typical Scooby-Doo adventure. Yet, it’s one of my favorites. Just two hot brothers, facing off against a shape-shifter with a thing for classic movie monsters. Extremely appropriate for the season.

4. The Addams Family

Because it’s been too long since you’ve seen this hugely entertaining movie. Admit it. You love this movie. Yes. You can quote it right now. And it ends with Halloween. So it’s perfect all around. Watch, then dance the Mamushka. You know you want to.

5. Gremlins 2: The New Batch

Because you have to watch the first one at Christmas, not Halloween! But the sequel is a great little monster movie by its own merits.

Enjoy the holiday, everyone!

Oh yeah! Horror movie season!

We’ve had a particularly nice beginning-of-fall here in Seattle, so even though there’s been chatter about Halloween, I haven’t really felt its approach. But the days are getting shorter, the weather has taken a turn for the dreary, and the cold, dark evenings cause me to cozy up to the Internet more and more. The result of this confluence: I’ve finally remembered that it’s the time of year to talk about horror movies here at the ol’ blog.

Technically I could say I started yesterday with my rave of Paranormal Activity. If you’ll indulge an odd segue, when I was writing that round-up of recent films, I noticed that while I sometimes give TV shows a specific grade at the end of a review, I never do for movies. Perhaps it’s because I so adore Roger Ebert, who dislikes such grades (but does provide themwith some grousingas a major film reviewer must). Yet, I’m obsessive about rating films on Netflix. I’ve tried to rate every movie I’ve ever seen (except those with no listing in Netflixa surprisingly high number. Thank you, Mac film classes and SIFF cinema). The great thing about Netflix ratings, though, is that they stand for how much you personally love or hate the movie, rather than asking for an accurate reflection of a film’s significance. Thus, I can justify giving 5 stars to my beloved Home Alone (“Loved It”, in Netflix translation) and only 3 (“Liked It”) to Woody Allen’s seminal Manhattan.

So, what does this have to do with anything, you’re asking? Here’s my idea for kicking off a series of horror-themed posts: sharing the five horror films I’ve given 5 stars to on Netflix. If this seems a rather exclusive club, it’s not, really. Anything that falls under “Classic” or “Thrillers” or “Sci Fi & Fantasy” in Netflix’s categorization system wouldn’t have popped up in my search. So, The Birds, The Exorcist, Psycho, Alien, The Thing? All eliminated.

For extra fun: I bet if you read this blog regularly, you can guess at least a few of the five. So, I’m listing them after the jump. I’ve never used the jump before! It sort of annoys me. But I’ll do it anyway, just this once.

Continue reading ‘Oh yeah! Horror movie season!’

Recently at the movies

Many gems out there right now.

1. Paranormal Activity

I really, really hate that title. And I really, really liked this movie. You know the film was worth your money when afterward you spend as much time as the length of it discussing it with your friends. Not only did the movie provide genuine scares, it laughed in the face of horror clichés while doing it. (The thing-appears-in-mirror’s-reflection and the why-doesn’t-anyone-believe-us are particularly well-not-served.) I’ve read a few reviews of people who didn’t like the film, complaining about the shaky cam, small cast, confined set, etc. I’m not sure what extravagance they’re expecting from an $11,000 movie, and the confined set is half the point, buuuuuuut….whatever. The one criticism I truly throw my hands up to is that not enough happens in the film. To people who think this I say: if you don’t like movies where the anticipation is a crucial part of the enjoyment, then I and Dr. Frank-N-Furter would like to tell you to please stop trying to be a horror fan and just go watch the WWE or something.

2. Whip It

What a shame that this movie tanked at the box office! Ellen Page, Alia Shawkat, Juliette Lewis, Marcia Gay Harden, Drew Barrymore, Kristen Wiig: I would have been joyful to see this cast just having fun in a bad movie. But this is not at all a bad movie. It’s full of small moments that are both offbeat and genuine, it tells a satisfying sports story in a fresh arena, it tells a satisfying coming-of-age story while remembering that the most important thing about coming of age is not necessarily getting yourself a boyfriend, as so many teen movies would have you think. Even the standard movie tropes such as the overbearing mom and the secret-football-watching dad feel dusted off and spruced up. It’s cute and fun! And those are good things.

3. Bright Star

Lovely. Lovely. Lovely. I mean, it’s Jane Campion, so you knew it would be visually lovely. But that word sticks in my head to describe everything else as well: the dialogue, the performances, the quick little cuts, the faces. The unanimous opinion of those I saw it with: this is a movie to buy and watch again and again. The best romance I have seen in ages, and so much more than a romance. A portrait of two pure people, and hopefully the springboard for even greater things for Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw.

4. Where the Wild Things Are

Yep, I saw it! Wham! Preview fundraiser! Cinerama! Max Records and Dave Eggers were there! It was good! And that’s all I’ll say about it for now, since I’m not sure if I’m “allowed” to blog pre-release.

And even having seen one movie that isn’t even out yet, I’m so far behind…A Serious Man? Zombieland? The Informant? I need more time!

Damn you, Corbis!!!

Please add this to the list of things you never knew you wanted to see: a close-up of William Shatner with gaping black holes in his eye sockets. Seriously. It’s like seeing an actual Michael Meyers mask come to life! And it’s my favorite moment in The Devil’s Rain, this month’s Final Girl film of the month pick.

This is one of those great, bad 70s horror movies with a cast full of gems. It’s Shatner, Tom Skerritt, and Ida Lupino vs. Ernest Borgnine and some devil worshipers. And Eddie Albert is there too! For reasons I was never quite clear on! Yes, he’s the obligatory ESP expert which one must have to do a top-tier bad 70s horror movie, but…let’s just say the threads of the plot don’t really come together there.

Okay, let’s begin at the beginning. Which is practically an in medias res beginning (that means everythin’ done started without us!), which is actually sort of cool for this type of film. Ida’s fretting, and a storm’s a-brewin’. In comes her son, Mark Preston (that’s Shatner). Seems Dad’s missing and somebody named Corbis took him. Then dad shows up and everything’s okay, but then his face totally melts!!!! You’ll be impressed by the decent melty effects, but don’t be too happy about that: by the end of the movie you’ll never want to see another face melt again, and that will be a sad feeling indeed.

See, the Preston family and this Jonathan Corbis have been at odds for about 300 years over this book. It’s an evil book, filled with evil bloody signatures of sold souls. Corbis can’t deliver these souls to the devil (or whatever) until he has the book. Naturally, the Prestons have hidden this in a place no one could ever get to: under a floorboard in their living room. Clever bastards!

Somehow, Corbis kidnaps mom in about two seconds while Mark’s out at the car. Naturally he goes to track her down, and ends up in a spaghetti western for a quick genre mash-up when he confronts Corbis in a ghost town. It’s all pretty neat at this point, actually. I was digging the horror/western thing. But never fear, we’ll soon devolve into nonsense and all will be right with the world again.

I’ll skip some of the confrontations and ceremonies that go on and just tell you that, after some pomp and circumstance, all the Prestons end up with no eyeballs, and their souls caught up in this orb called The Devil’s Rain. EXCEPT: other brother Tom Skerritt, who apparently has been kept in the dark about this Corbis business! Until he gets a telegram about it at just about the same time his vaguely psychic wife has some visions about the same thing. Naturally. They go sticking their noses in the devil worshipers’ business and eventually end up saving the day….or do they?! You won’t care because you’ll still be reveling in the awesomeness of seeing Ernest Borgnine in his goat make-up.

This is not the best bad horror movie ever (ahem, Scarecrows), but it’s worth it for the Shatnery goodness and all the rest. Some good trivia going on with this one too: John Travolta pops up for a minute (I read conflicting reports about whether this was his first or second film role); and the real High Priest of the Church of Satan was a technical adviser. The real guy! Lending credibility to the whole thing, just like devil worshipers always do. This guy clearly saw many a face melt in his time, cuz I tell you, the meltiness seems accurate.


Eight reasons it’s an epic time to be a horror fan

It’s almost that time of year…so many horror movies to look forward to in the coming months.

1. Thirst, July 31
Chan-Wook Park made a vampire movie!! Oh it’s gonna be sooooo bloody. Can’t wait can’t wait.

2. Grace, August 14 (maybe later for us poor, unfortunate souls who don’t live in NYC or LA)
Two words: evil baby.

3. Halloween II, August 28
(Roman numerals courtesy of the filmmakers, not me. Also used in the title for original Halloween II!) Because even though Rob Zombie’s first trip down Michael Meyers lane was just aiite for me, you can’t not be excited about seeing that mask.
4. The Final Destination, August 28
In 3-D! Which I am still not tired of! I’ll be seeing this before the aforementioned H2. (Who decided opening those two on the same weekend was a good idea?)

5. Jennifer’s Body, September 18
Trailer is promising, very promising. Definitely feeding my insane girl crush on Amanda Seyfried. Go, Diablo, go!

6. Zombieland,  October 9
Woody Harrelson fights zombies! With Emma Stone! Who I also have a girl crush on! (last sentence = bad grammar…on whom I also have a girl crush?)

7. The Vampire’s Assistant, October 23
John C. Reilly, Willem Dafoe, Salma Hayek, Patrick Fugit, Ken Watanabe, Jane Krakowski, directed by Paul Weitz…this is not gonna be your tween’s vampire movie. Just throwing out a guess that none of the vamps will sparkle.

8. The Wolf Man, November 6
Benicio del Toro, I feel like I haven’t seen you in anything in forever…please be as awesome in this as I suspect you’ll be.

Missing from my list: Saw VI. They’re just gonna keep making these, huh? Strangely, the more of them that come out, the more I sort of actually want to watch one of them. Never even saw the first one, but I do love me some ridiculous sequels…oh, a sudden urge to watch Jason Takes Manhattan

Woo, horror film season!

Other projects:

Downton Gabby: podcasting about Downton Abbey from a funny, foul-mouthed, feminist perspective

Quick Lit: reading one short story a day in 2015

Grand Dames: collecting sundry achievements of admirable women

The MacGuffin: archive of my days as a film critic

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