Saturday, October 1, 2016

My October (and November....and December) Super-Sized 31-Part Postravaganza Day Twenty-Three: Theatre of Blood

It's October, and it also just happens to be my 50th post on this site.  So I'm going to do it up right.  Every day this month, this post is going to grow as I give some quick-fire thoughts on a movie that I checked out that day.  So keep checking in!

Day 1--Martyrs

I'm so glad I went with this one early in the month.  I mainly gave it a try because it's high on the lists of a lot of people whose opinions I respect, so I couldn't just avoid it forever.  But knowing what I do about French extreme flicks and the general nihilism that comes out of European horror, I don't know if I'd have the emotional stamina to get through this at the end of a month of horror movies.  It's not even the gore that gets me.  I like gore.  Gore is my friend.  It's just that these movies tend to be very mean, and Martyrs is no exception.  Every performance is spot on.  The plot is structured very well with a mid-movie twist that certainly got my attention.  But it just left me feeling so gutted (this isn't the first time you European bastards!) that I know this is going to be a one and done for me.

Day 2--Starry Eyes

 I’ve never lived in LA and I’ve certainly never experienced the life of a working actor, but if I had to guess I’d say that Starry Eyes taps into the pressure and anxiety of that experience with chill-inducing effectiveness.  And that’s before we even get to the body horror portion of the proceedings.  That’s probably why this movie worked so well on me.  We get the one-two punch of the psychological trauma followed by the physical decay.  More than death, the idea of my body being irrevocably altered for the worse is a terrifying notion to me.  And while the violence is fairly brief, it’s jaw-droppingly brutal.  I definitely dug this one, and it also confirmed my hunch that I should never move to Hollywood, so that’s just a bonus.

Day 3-- We Are Still Here

So I have to say that I'm kind of in love with this movie.  It's some dark American gothic at its best with an old house that could have very well been from the area where I grew up, a small town with a dark past, and protagonists that I was rooting for every step of the way.  Barbara Crampton (of Re-Aminator fame) seems to be having a horror movie renaissance as of late and she's fantastic here.  Andrew Sensenig played off her well, finding the balance between old-fashioned skeptic and warm husband nicely.  (Although I must admit, I kept mistaking him for Daniel Stern.)  Of course, the ash-ghosts were amazing and the climax provided some top-shelf gore and a perfectly bittersweet ending.  Given the snowy setting, this movie may become an annual winter tradition from now on.

Day 4--Creep

I would say the number one thing that Creep has going for it is that it realizes how naturally weird Mark Duplass is.  In most of his movies he plays it quirky, but Creep dials that up a few notches and lets the awkwardness drift into the truly off-putting.  My biggest complaint though, and minor spoiler alert, is that if I find myself in a situation where I've had to fend off a nutjob wearing a wolf mask and then I realize that he knows where I live, guess what?  I don't fucking live there anymore.  This was in my head for most of the third act, but I must tip my cap to a final scene that just about makes up for it.  All in all....that was fucking weird.

Day 5--Dead Silence

 I don't have a whole lot to say about this one.  It was fine.  Although the movie should have ended five minutes into its running time with that fucking dummy burning in a fireplace.  And Donnie Wahlberg was not a good detective.  If he's so sure it was Ryan Kwanten's character, what was with all of the digging up of the dummy graves?  Speaking of Kwanten, he's much more entertaining when he's got a southern drawl and is an idiot.  All in all, it was watchable enough but not one I'll be rushing to see again.

Day 6--The Houses October Built

More than anything, this movie just made me want to go to a haunted hayride.  The most interesting parts of the movie were when they were filming themselves going through some of the haunts.  As things started getting serious there was definitely a creepy factor, but I thought that the climax was, well, a bit anti-climactic.  I'd say that this movie would serve best as a good pre-game flick before going out to an actual haunted attraction just to give the night some extra jitters.  Certainly a good watch for this time of the month.

Day 7--Halloween III

I have to confess that for a long time I've operated under the notion that Halloween III is a bad movie based primarily off of the fact that the series deviated from Michael Myers.  That seemed to be the general consensus and I'm easily persuaded.  But recently enough people have come around on Halloween III that I decided to give it another try this year.  And I'll say that anyone going into this movie expecting something resembling Halloween I or II would have been understandably disappointed.  This movie is missing not only Michael Myers, but also the mood of the first two movies.  Where as Halloween I and II were classic slashers, built on stalking and suspense,  Halloween III is just a mad, conspiracy-filled mystery that's also kinda sleazy.  Our protagonist Dr. Dan Challis is a drunk and a lech (he's also 100% charming and kind of amazing).  Heads are getting ripped off, kids are getting killed off, and it's just all so ridiculous.  But what makes it fun is that although the movie plays it straight, I think it knows it's ridiculous.  We get a great moment during the climax where our heroes sneak around the villains literally by walking behind a wheeled cart of Halloween masks.  No way that wasn't supposed to induce a chuckle.  So now I have to say, I definitely get the appeal of Halloween III.

Day 8--The Wolf Man (2010)

I really don't get why this movie doesn't get more love.  Yes, I understand that it was an unnecessary remake of one of the original horror classics.  But dammit it's so much fun.  This is one that I've watched every October with my wife since it came out.  It's B-movie silliness with a Hollywood budget.  Benicio del Toro is fantastic as Lawrence Talbot, deciding to play things understated in order to anchor the movie.  This allows Anthony Hopkins, meanwhile, to chew scenery like bubblegum.  Hopkins hams it up like someone who thinks he's slumming it and is just tickled by the whole experience.  Throw a dash of Hugo Weaving, a sprinkle of Emily Blunt, throw it all into enough blood and gore to fill a swimming pool, and you get an underrated gem that's great for getting into the Halloween spirit.

Day 9--Phantasm Ravager

 I have to admit that I was nervous going into this one.  I'm a huge fan of the Phantasm series, but I knew this movie had absolutely no budget, and as this series has gone on we've learned not to expect any sense of finality.  So the question is, was this final entry going to be worth it, or was it going to end Angus Scrimm's legacy on a down note?  Well, first of all, let me say that the lack of budget showed in this movie.  The CGI for the spheres was really poor.  And at the end of the movie, not a damn thing was really answered.  All that being said, I really, really enjoyed this flick.   We get moments with virtually everyone we've grown to love throughout the series (although, Rocky only gets one scene, and it's post-credits?  Lame).  In a series whose focus has always been about our (futile) fight against death, I thought that the angle of Reggie battling dementia was a great way to examine death for someone getting into their later years while also having a built-in device to allow for that trademark Phantasm reality-bending.  But make no mistake, I'm of the mindset that the Tall Man is real, so I thought the ending was a perfect way to wrap things up without, as I said, really resolving anything definitively.  A great final chapter to the series, and a terrific swan song for Mr. Scrimm.

Day 10--Housebound

So while this was my first watch, it was actually my second attempt.  The first time I tried watching it I fell asleep, which at first I thought was because I started it way past my bedtime.  As I started my second attempt, I realized there was another problem:  the first act of this movie is really dull.  What’s more, the main protagonist Kylie is very unlikeable in the beginning of this movie.  Granted, she’s surrounded by imbeciles and is in a shit situation, but they really lay on the “fuck this” attitude pretty thick.  That being said, I think this was a deliberate choice as it affects the final acts, which are a lot more solid.  As I was watching this play out, I was getting whiffs of Stir of Echoes, some Hot Fuzz, and even some People Under the Stairs.  Things come together really well with a good blend of horror and comedy, including some really fun gore.  So while I do need to dock some points for a ho-hum start, it finishes very well.

Day 11--Baskin

Baskin is a Turkish horror movie (per Wikipedia only the 8th Turkish film ever released in the States) about a group of police officers who stumble on a cult that puts them through a series of surreal and tortuous ordeals.  Please don't ask me to explain much beyond that because I didn't really get much else.  This movie had some very strong visuals, and some of the individual set pieces were interesting, but they didn't quite add up to a satisfying movie.  I do give credit for finding one of the most naturally creepy looking gentlemen I've ever seen to play the cult leader.  Beyond that, though, I think they may have stretched the notion of surreal a bit too far and accidentally tread into the realm of confusing.

Day 12--Rites of Spring

More like Wrongs of Spring.  Burn.  Seriously, though, this wasn't very good.  We get two seemingly unrelated stories, one about a kidnapping gone awry and another about a low rent Jeepers Creepers situation (I don't even like the actual Jeepers Creepers all that much).  They wind up intertwining in a way that seems overly coincidental and, more importantly, is not at all interesting.  I blame myself for this one.  It was one that lured me in with funky cover art even though my instincts and the Netflix rating weren't promising.  Eh, they can't all be winners.

Day 13--Perfect Host

Perfect Host is one of those movies that's been sitting in my Netflix queue for ages, not because I wasn't sure I'd like it but more because I was worried that seeing David Hyde Pierce playing a psychopath would irreparably warp my view of him.  Frasier is comfort food for me, so that last thing I need is to have to picture Niles wearing people's faces as underwear or some other kind of demented shit.  Having seen the movie, I can say that while it has it's fair share of darkly bizarre moments, it still manages to maintain a level of light-heartedness.  And that's quite a feat for a movie where Pierce shows his captive footage of him mutilating himself with a butcher knife.  I can also appreciate that the movie avoids being one-note by constantly introducing new elements and plot twists.  It actually gets right to the edge of being too twisty but somehow manages to pull it off in the end.  This flick was definitely out there, but it was super entertaining and one that I definitely look forward to checking out again.

Day 14--Friday the 13th VIII:  Jason Takes Manhattan

First of all, I know that I said today's movie would be Goosebumps, but I'm calling an audible.  And yes, I know the real question:  Why the hell am I bothering to watch this movie at all?  Well I'm a staunch defender of part VII, which most people can't stand.  And recently I've heard a few people say that Part VIII isn't without it's charm.  I've also got a bit of a sweet spot for the opening theme song, "The Darkest Side of the Night" due to it's bright 80s sheen.  So I figured what could it hurt to give this another try?  As it turns out it didn't hurt a bit.  In fact, I fell asleep within 30 minutes of it starting.  It's still lame.

Day 15--Night of the Living Deb

 Another audible on this one as I found out that The Ward is no longer on Netflix, and as much as I love John Carpenter I've heard nothing good about The Ward so I sure as hell wasn't going to pay to watch it.  So I'm going with something that has absolutely nothing to do with Carpenter because why not?  This flick is in the sub-sub genre of zom-rom-com, and it's goofy as fuck.  Everything about this movie is over-the-top, including leads Maria Thayer and Michael Cassidy.  Thayer in particular leans into her quirky character, blasting right past annoying and slamming directly into endearing.  Honestly, the silly nature of this movie shouldn't work as well as it does.  Let's be clear, it ain't even a little bit scary.  But I definitely laughed out loud several times.  I'd recommend it for anyone who doesn't mind their horror flicks to have a healthy dose of silly, a silly-filled center, with some silly sprinkled on top for good measure.

Day 16--Bad Milo!

As with Night of the Living Deb, Bad Milo! is more for fans of comedies than it is for fans of horror.  Fortunately I'm just fine with that, and this flick features a murderer's row of character actors and comedians, starting with lead Ken Marino, who I've loved ever since his turn as Ron Donald in Party Down.  He's less milquetoast here, but he does have a problem with stress, which manifests itself as a monster that crawls out of his ass and attacks whatever is causing his said stress.  How am I not going to love that?  Add to that appearances by Kumail Nanjiani, Stephen Root, and Swedish treasure Peter Stomare, and you get something that was a hell of a lot of fun. 

Day 17--Troll Hunter

I feel like I should have liked this movie more than I did.  It had an interesting premise, the effects for the trolls were well done, and the setting was gorgeous.  But for some reason it just didn't resonate with me.  I'll admit, sometimes I have trouble getting into the groove of a foreign language film, as I always feel like there's a slight disconnect between what's actually being said and how it's been translated into not only English, but also into the American vernacular.  Sometimes it just feels like there's something missing.  These seems to be the case here as I had trouble fully connecting with the movie.  I think this was fully personal preference, however, so if you haven't seen it don't take my experience as evidence that the movie won't work for you.

Day 18--Goosebumps

This one was fun.  It certainly didn't do anything groundbreaking but I also don't think it was trying to do so.   Essentially it was a vessel to allow Jack Black to ham it up (I'm still in the camp who is completely fine with this) as well as to parade out various nods to R.L. Stine's greatest hits.  The movie still works for those who haven't read anything from the Goosebumps series, or those like me who have the memory of a goldfish and can't remember a whole lot from them.  It seems like a perfect watch for if you're having a group of friends over and you want something that you can enjoy but don't need to worry too much about if other things draw your attention away from time to time.

Day 19--Ginger Snaps

I was going to do this later on in the list, but when I mentioned on social media that I'd never seen it before I had more than one person tell me that it's amazing and that I needed to check it out ASAP.  This often spells doom for my chances of liking a movie, as I'll either come in with expectations that are too high or I'll dislike it just because other people told me it's great and I'm a curmudgeonly asshole who doesn't like being told what to like. Ginger Snaps, however, more than lived up to the hype.  You'll be shocked to know that I'm not a teenage girl, but even so I was amazed at how realistically Ginger and Bridget's relationship as sisters played out.  I hear a lot about how great Katharine Isabelle is as Ginger, but I was even more impressed with Emily Perkins, who as Bridget has to find the balance between being utterly appalled by what's becoming of her sister, while also holding on to the fact that she loves her very deeply.  I also liked how this situation made her evaluate things that she always took for granted, such as her realization that a portion of their bond had to do with the fact that they didn't have anything else going on.  But in the end, this doesn't make the bond any less significant, and the final frames of the movie play out in beautifully bittersweet fashion.  This is definitely in the top tier of this month's viewings.

Day 20--The Blob 

This movie was so much damn fun.  From watching a 28-year old Steve McQueen attempt to play a 17-year-old to people trying to sell being eaten by goopy Jell-O, everything about this movie had me grinning from beginning to end.  I live within driving distance of Phoenixville, home of the famous Colonial Theater where the film's climax was shot.  I think I'm going to need to check out their annual screening, Blobfest, as this seems exactly the kind of movie you need to see in a group.  If you haven't seen this yet and you appreciate good camp, do yourself a favor and give it a watch.

Day 21--Hellbound:  Hellraiser II

The original Hellraiser is my favorite movie of all time, and I've always seen Hellbound as a follow-up almost on par with the first film.  But when I watched Hellbound this time around I decided to live-tweet it, and when I live-tweet I tend to look for quirks about the movie to poke fun at.  I'd never realized before that there are a number of things to take digs at in this flick.  For example, the main house from the first Hellraiser is completely destroyed at the end of the movie, yet in part 2 the cops are searching the house with no explanation of how it's still there.  It also makes no sense that Julia still looks like Julia after she absorbs other people's skin, and it's a pretty big coincidence that Kirsty escapes the Cenobites only to wind up under the authority of a doctor who is himself obsessed with the Lament Configuration.  So as a story, Hellbound is very flawed.  That being said, there are still some amazing set pieces, and I'll always get chills when the OG Cenobites face off with the Channard Cenobite.  So while it's not quite as good as I remember it, I've still got a big soft spot for the movie.

Day 22--Suspiria

I think it's time that I finally come to terms with something that I've been denying for quite some time.  I don't think I'm all that into giallo movies, which makes me feel like a bad horror fan because so many people do and they're so influential in the genre.  But while I can certainly appreciate the bright colors and the gore, they just don't have enough substance to keep my attention.  Such is the case with perhaps the best known of the bunch, Suspiria.  While it's got that iconic soundtrack from Goblin as well as some classic visuals (head through the plate-glass window anyone?) there's just a lot of time spent not doing very much.  At this point I won't write off giallos completely, but I probably won't be rushing out to see one anytime soon.

Day 23--Theatre of Blood

What can I say about this flick other than that it's got Vincent Price dialed up to eleven.  As a shamed Shakespearean actor out to take his revenge against the critics who wronged him, Price chews up so much scenery I'm surprised he's got the ability to talk.  And to be clear, it's magnificent.  It's a reminder of why we love Vincent Price, and as it's getting into the early 70s, gore is getting to be in fashion so we have plenty of the red stuff to go around.  It's a very silly movie, but damned if it's not entertaining.

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