Setting The Scene

InnkeepersDuring a recent viewing of Ti West’s The Innkeepers (which I plan to post a full review of soon), I found myself taking a step back to really appreciate the director’s choice of setting.  West sets his movie in the Yankee Pedlar, a real 122-year-old hotel in Connecticut with a history of strange occurrences and ghost stories.  The hotel, with its creaky stairs, antique fixtures, and basement full of old trinkets and cobwebs, really creates the right atmosphere for West’s old-fashioned ghost story.

I also came across this article about horror movies set in Las Vegas which included the Fright Night remake.  Despite my general apathy toward horror classic remakes, I was pleasantly surprised by Fright Night and that’s partly because much of it takes place in the suburbs of Las Vegas where hundreds of planned communities are located just outside of the downtown area.  Having driven through this area during a road trip a few years ago, I found it to be a strange mass of houses just plopped right in the middle of the desert.  It’s bizarre and that makes it a cool location for a horror film.  Check out the rest of the article above for other films set in Las Vegas.

Ultimately, all of this got me thinking about some of my favorite horror films and their settings, so here’s a quick list broken up by type of location for you to check out.

Old houses and buildings – perhaps a bit cliche, but the “haunted house” concept will never go away because it’s inherently scary to think that the place you should be safest is actually a hazard.

  • The Ammityville Horror
  • The Changeling
  • The Innkeepers
  • Paranormal Activity

Cities – Just because there are thousands of people around you at any given time, that doesn’t mean you’re safe.

  • Fright Night
  • Jason Takes Manhattan
  • Basket Case

The woods/nature – the outdoors are filled with natural beauty…and killers

  • Friday the 13th
  • The Evil Dead
  • Cabin in the Woods

What settings freak you out?  Leave a comment and let me know.

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Remakville Takes Another Chop at Texas Chainsaw

If there’s one Horror movie Saga I wish had stopped at one installment. (besides SAW that is) it would have to be Tobe Hooper’s Classic  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Now, I know we all love Bill Mosley at his best as “Chop Top Sawyer” and how can you lose with Dennis Hopper as a deranged… Well really just Dennis Hopper being himself.  However, I would trade all of those ‘classic’ performances just to keep the original a stand alone bit of grainy brilliance, the perfect blend of absurdist theater and gore.

Even watching the original today, Hooper’s choice of low tech equipment still makes Leather Face untimely terrifying when his hulking figure bursts into the frame and horrifying when his face eclipses the flashlight beam in the wheelchair scene. It shouldn’t be lost that Texas Chainsaw 74 came on the scene one year after the Exorcist and had big shoes to fill to up the terror bar, and somehow it succeeded in earning that place in horror history. Maybe, its the fact that it was semi-inspired by Ed Gein real life affinity for mutilating women into accessories so it toted that ‘based on ‘a true story realism’ before that type of thing became a sickeningly over played fad.

Whatever the reality was, viewers of Chainsaw 74‘, when they were first “dragged to dinner,” bound and gagged, they felt like the journey that led them to face the 40 whacks from grandpa was somehow believable in the way we all believe nightmares when we sleep, no matter how absurd they are, because Chainsaw 74′s horror was real enough and  to convince us we weren’t dreaming. Unfortunately, the first three sequels that followed decided to FOCUS on the absurd, and forgot about the horror that wears down our willingness to challenge the absurdity of the unfolding nightmare.

On the other hand, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) made Samuel Beckett look like a realist as it redefined the parameters of ridiculousness at every turn with Dennis Hopper’s tap dancing chainsaw duels. Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)  tried to hang its hat on the same ol’ meathook by attempting to re-hash a climax with painfully similar  bound girl at the dinner table routine –But at least we got Ken Foree basically reprising his Dawn of the Dead (1978) role. As for ‘Leatherface’s’ successor, that piece of crap with Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey known as Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994), well I couldn’t cover in a book let alone a blog how far removed that thing was from the 74′ classic.

Ten years later, the first rounds of remakes rolled in with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and while I thought maybe R. Lee Ermey could save the Jessica Biel train-wreck with his dead pan drill sergeant delivery the sad reality was that his role was understated by the film’s unoriginal modernization which was as mundane as any other American horror film to be released that year. While the capture of Biel’s ‘Last Girl’ characters by Ermey, Leatherface, and Co. wisely skirted the usual bondage at the dinner table with a mere ‘wink’ comment by Ermey about her staying for dinner or something of the like, the film was only horrific in its inability to add anything but more overused conventions to a no longer scary character. If it succeeded at anything it at very least toned down the Looney Toons nature left behind by McConaughey scrambling to find the proper remote to control his robot leg. (Boy I wish I was kidding)

While I can’t comment on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006), as I checked out before that, the fact remains that its been ten years and OF COURSE since we haven’t had a 3D entry we definitely need another Texas Chainsaw Reboot, but I ask what’s the point? There’s no way to return to that grainy footage, that massacre in the wheel chair, the girl dragged off the porch to be hung like meat on a hook, or that first appearance… that red background adorned with cattle skulls, this hulking figure stepping in front of it without any sound spike beyond a distant pig squeal and then the clunk of the hammer and the blood choking seizure that followed. Perfect grainy brutality.

If Leatherface took his final bow as that blood soaked girl, alive, but half out of her mind, cruised away in the rusty flat bed of a  pickup truck while he danced away the night with his chainsaw. We would all remember Texas Chainsaw more fondly than we do now or more importantly then we will, most likely, next week.

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Don’t TREAD on Me: A Review of Rubber

Quentin Dupieux ‘s Movie Rubber 2010 could be the first film to go down in history as both the best movie ever made and the worst movie ever made. Since the major plot of the movie involves watching a living Psychokinetic tire roll around on its own volition it’s pretty obvious to figure out why the latter may be true, but why I would consider it great… that’s a little  more complicated. Aside from the major plot points which involves “Robert” the tire using his supernatural abilities to mutilate desert creatures and decapitate humans, the film also charmingly spits on the fourth wall and the audience behind it.

The film’s self-aware attitude comes right out of the gate with star Stephen Spinella ‘s (who deadpan delivery of black humor is nothing sort of brilliant) unleashing one of the greatest monologues in film history. The NO REASON Speech sets the tone of the film as a sort of an anti-apology to why there’s a movie about a living Psychokinetic tire. However, that is far from the last insult to the audience.

The second layer of Rubber is that the film has actually provided its own audience in the form of a group of obnoxious viewers camping out in the desert and watching the film through binoculars. We learn as the film rolls on that Spinella has hired an assassin to eliminate the audience so the reality of the movie can cease to exist, leaving him free to stop portraying his character, Lieutenant Chad. Unfortunately, and with hilarity, things never work out the way Spinella would want them to.

Shifting gears away from the meta-movie, we find Robert is still rolling through the desert pursuing a young girl with unclear motivations. Sometimes, he seems ready to kill  her and other times Robert merely seems fascinated by her actions and wishes to emulate them in some whim to “try out humanity.”  Most impressive in this process is Dupieux’s use of camera angles and music to attribute emotion to a tire during his quest for  identity and blood, until he inevitably must meet Chad for the final showdown.

At the end of the day, the more I talk about this film the less I do it justice, as it can only be experienced. However to say it’s quite unique is a massive understatement. Its blend of black and dry humor, with parody of horror conventions, and absurdist theatre makes the film endlessly entertaining. If you have not caught this one, and you have an appreciation for dry wit or an affection for B Horror then you have to check it out.

http://www.rubberthemovie.com/

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Hellraiser TV Series In The Works

Dread Central (via Variety) had an interesting post a few days ago about a potential Hellraiser TV series currently in development.  Apparently RHI Entertainment, who were formerly Hallmark Entertainment if you can believe it, have rebranded to become Sonar Entertainment and are now interested in producing TV shows with Hellraiser being an initial idea.  Typically when I hear movie remake news, I get indignant and complain (please reference any number of posts on this blog) but with this one I’m somewhat positive.  In the past few years television has quickly become my favorite medium for onscreen adaptations of novels with Game of Thrones being the most obvious example and the potential for a Dark Tower adaptation has me salivating.  The long-form medium of a series really opens up the potential for complex storytelling that just isn’t possible in feature films.  Imagine Game of Thrones as a 2-hour movie – ugh. I think it goes without saying that I’m talking about non-network TV here.  HBO or Showtime would be the most desirable locations for a Hellraiser show, but both FX and AMC have shown they are capable of putting out edgy series as well.

And let’s face it – the only good entries in the Hellraiser series are the first two.  The other seven are hokey, low budget affairs that were mostly straight to DVD.  So, it’s not like a TV series would be desecrating a great body of work.  Also positive is that Larry Kupin, who produced the first two films is apparently attached to this project.  It’s doubtful that Clive Barker will return to direct, but hopefully the series can match some of the gruesome design and effects from the first film – the bar has been set pretty high there:

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Watch Evil Dead And The Thing Online For Free

Out of all the movies that, over the years, have managed to gain “cult” status, a good percentage of them are horror films. Why? In general, horror is a genre that constantly needs to push boundaries in order to remain fresh and popular. Horror directors are more likely to take risks with controversial themes, effects, and levels of violence. This has resulted in a great number of horror films over the years being disregarded or even condemned upon release, whilst afterwards horror fans have gradually managed to access these movies and build them up into popular cult classics. Here are two of the best, both available from www.lovefilm.com,where you can rent DVDs and Blu-Rays or even watch movies online.

Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981) was one of the first films in the UK to be labelled a video nasty – films that were criticised for their violent content and often censored, or even banned. Made on a low budget, The Evil Dead features plenty of blood and gore, along with stop motion effects that may now seem outdated but were quite unique at the time. Although it received mixed reviews on release, the film has since gained a massive following, as have its sequels Evil Dead II (1987) and the humorous Army of Darkness (1993). There have also been many spin offs of the series such as video games, comic books, and even a musical. A remake of the original film is planned for 2013.

Made at a similar time to the first Evil Dead, John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) was already a remake of an existing science fiction movie, 1951’s The Thing From Another World. Carpenter, however, stuck closer to the source material, a novella called Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr. Carpenter created a tense film strewn with paranoia, alongside revolutionary special effects. At the time of release, The Thing had to compete with a much more family friend alien flick – Stephen Spielberg’s ET. Understandably it failed to impress at the time, but like The Evil Dead has become increasingly popular ever since. The 2011 prequel, also titled The Thing, was decent but failed to capture the tension of John Carpenter’s cult classic.

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What this…. A Mansion?

No, its not a Mansion, nor is Capcom interested in being “the master of unlocking,” the next great survival horror title, proven by the arrival of  Resident Evil 6′s announcement trailer that broadcasts the fact that we’re going to have another high flying forced-Co-op action title. However, after this franchise  alienated half its fan base by tossing out RE’s signature atmospheric adventure/Survival horror genre and, with it, its classic foot soldiers, the shambling Romero-esk, corpses; RE 6′s trailer seems to, at very least, promise the revival of the latter. While no one will mourn for the loss of the clearly racially offensive retarded AI drones that replaced the living dead for the past two games, This new title is sure to continue to polarize fans on whether or not RE should be action oriented or not. Either way, the announcement comes with a release date, 11/20/2012 and a lengthy trailer that you can  check out Here.

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Juan of the Dead’ May deserve a second look

When the first teaser of this obviously pilfered-titled piece hit the net over a year ago I was skeptical on the very basis of its shameless reference to the Pegg/Wright masterpiece. A very sparse teaser that seemed to want to bring a Ghostbusters style send up to the Zombie genre didn’t really help matters either. However, after very successful film festival  run and a new full length trailer, I decided that the matter was worth at very least another google search.

What I found was very well done, well linked up, and professional looking website that included a new full length trailer, which left me thinking that this piece could have its own original brand of charm and humor.  Aside from that, Zombie films tend to be an excellent vessel for sub-texts and with a country that’s been a political nightmare for the better part of half-a-century I expect this movie to bring a boatload of a new brand of social commentary to world audiences.  Perhaps, more important than anything is the novelty of a Cuban movie hitting the states.

Even though no release date has been given, Report of this movie sailing across the to US here in the states have surfaced. In the mean time, I recommend everyone give this one a chance despite the lack luster, rip-off title.

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Alien 0? Tweenlight 4-1 and K.Smith’s attempt at Horror.

Since its been few months since either of us have had the time or drive to type anything short of an Amazon search query, I thought I’d take a look back at what we’ve missed.

Prometheus…After a bunch of comic-booky garbage, popularly known as the AVP films, Alien’s orginal director Ridley Scott returns to the franchise with a new vision that ambiguously holds the title of prequel, in the sense of an origin story, to the once beloved Sigourney Weaver space opera. Scott, and others involved with the project, have provided conflicting reports as to how much Prometheus will actually tie into the  franchise, but the  inspiration seemed to be to tell the story of the “Space Jockey” and his  derelict space vessel where the alien was initially encountered in the first film.

However, recent interviews with Scott provided further  confusion as he played down any connection with the Alien franchise saying that, “the keen fan will recognize strands of Alien‘s DNA,” but basically seems to suggest that it will have little to do with his signature acid blooded beasts. Despite all that noise, the marketing department seemed to not hesitate to use the classic slow forming ALIEN-style font in the trailer. Also, anyone who has 70 seconds to spare to watch the teaser might notice a few other familiar sights: people in Cryo-chambers, Giger style architecture, diseased crew members, and even the Space Jockey’s ship itself.  I wonder if we’ll all  be surprised if someone is secretly an android.

Even if it has as little to do with the sci-fi giant as Ridley seems to want everyone to believe, how can you go wrong with the guy that directed Alien, Blade Runner, and that oh so Witty 1984 Apple Macintosh Computer Superbowl ad.

Check out the trailer for yourself Here

Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1… Yeah, I saw it. And as to be expected they dragged out a lot of the film’s teeny romantic aspects, especially the wedding and honeymoon, which droned on for a grueling while, but I must say that many aspects were done with a great deal more skill and grace than I would have expected. A perfectly controlled hyperbolic bloodbath dream sequence paved the way  for a darker film waiting to emerge, and as the tone soured the illustration of Bella Swan’s “sickness” was executed with a convincing transformation to an emaciated body  usually reserved for Holocaust victims. Unfortunately, one of the most painful exceptions to the rule was the presentation of the wolf-telepathy between Jacob and his pack which looked like a drunken argument between angry muppets after a long night of Kermit’s Green Jager shots.

Objectively, I would say the film was well done and probably a welcome entry for its fan base, albeit as hokey as usual.

Red StateI heard Jay and Silent Bob Fight God Nuts was the original title, but didn’t have quite the same ring. After seeing Smith’s fad-style of direction go out of favor and his originality wavier with it, I had been skeptical of Kevin’s Smith ability to direct anything well anymore let alone horror.  However, Red State had some merit to it . The plot follows three exaggerations of  high school boys that decide they  should all go do the same chick that they met on the internet at once. (Cause we all knew lots of straight Teen boys that would be cool with a Pseudo-homosexual experience for no good reason in the confines of the most judgmental  age bracket.)  Regardless , and unfortunately for them, the whole setup happens to be a ploy by an extremist church to kidnap the three of them and execute them in their church for being sexually unwholesome, I guess.

Enter-Abin Cooper…an interesting mix of bible-literalist, radical extremist, and cliche all wrapped into one. While Smith does a good job of creating tension with one of the boys  locked in cage, watching as Abin and his congregation mock and murder a homosexual man they’ve captured, every character in the room is pretty cookie cutter bible nut.  In all fairness, though, the piece is hardly intended as a character study.

Shortly after things are looking bleak for the ill-fated teens, the film shifts POV to John Goodman’s character, Joseph Keenan, an ATF agent that’s prepped for the audience as a red blooded typical American from the second he rolls out of bed and onto the screen. His cigarette smoking and coffee drinking self receives a call from his high ranking government superior while his wife cooks him a hardy breakfast of eggs and processed ham.  We soon learn that ATF has had their ever-watching eye on Abin’s cult for some time, and they want Goodman to perform a raid on their church. Despite Goodman’s warnings and concerns that ATF’s track record is a little tainted in such operations his superiors force him to mobilize a team to surround the church.

The rest of the movie carries out as you would expect: all hell breaks loose in a manner that heavy handedly criticizes events like the Waco assault. As the ATF starts killing Abin’s followers more brutally than this film attempts subtlety, the remaining hostages dwindle away and the movie works its way to a  deus ex machina ending that’s sort of clever but sort of just pulled out of someone’s ass also. I guess Smith never heard of Chekhov’s gun or maybe it was just out of bullets.

Most offensive is the outro, where Goodman has to debrief with two high ranking government officials that make over the top “hot button issues” jokes about terrorism and how they can subvert due process because they’re the government. (PATRIOT ACT Blah Blah TERRIORISM Blah blah ENTER YOUR FAVORITE ANTI-USA BUZZWORD HERE.)  Smith myswell have given them black handle bar mustaches to twirl while they bellow out deep laughs. However, Goodman shuts them up by rambling off childlike dog metaphors in a manner eerily similar to the one-speech-a-movie Silent Bob used to give.  Curious.

Even though I sound like I hated it, Smith does pull off suspense, drama, and discomfort at a level that I enjoyed, but subtlety is not his forte. While the film’s commentary is a bit BIT too TOO much, I agree with most of what he trying to say. The theme that any extreme leads to evil is a timeless and good subject, especially when these acts are perpetrated by those in power, its just when you approach it with the skillful tact and subtlety of Donkey Kong tossing a barrel the message loses a smidgen of power, But I guess in a movie where you’re expected to believe that anyone could shoot at John Goodman from an elevated position less than 100 yards away and miss, you need to suspend disbelief a little.

Final thoughts…honestly that’s really all I’ve had time to watch on the horror front these days…If you feel like you were cheated a Paranormal Activity 3 review then it probably would have went like this.

Matt: “It’s the best thing ever”

Chris: “It’s the worst movie ever “

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Short Film Released From Trick ‘R Treat Director

Yeah, I know we haven’t done anything on this site forever.  We’ve been busy/lazy, blah blah blah blah.  Well here’s something that I can post that requires almost no effort on my part, so I can continue on my with my blatant disregard for our 6 readers.

Director Michael Dougherty, the man behind 2007′s Trick ‘R Treat, has released a quick two-minute video for FearNet that briefly features Sam, the evil doll/ghoul from the film.  It rides the line between adorable and morbid quite well and definitely makes me want to watch Trick ‘R Treat again.  If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and check it out (along with this new clip).  It’s something to hold you over until Trick ‘R Treat 2, which is still in the works.

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The GodMonster of Indian Flats

Once in a brief while a movie comes along that is so ungodly terrible that it’s wonderful. How I could have missed such a classic my entire life is beyond me, but somehow The Godmonster of Indian Flats has slipped under the radar since its release in 1973. Operating on level of hokiness and lack of logic that Mystery Science Theater (shocking they never covered it) would have a wet dream about, the movie is supposed to follow the story of a mutated sheep that runs amuck in a midwest town that prides itself on its traditional appearance and tourist-trap mock old west setting.  Not the case, the overgrown sheep monster has less than 10% of the actual narrative . So what fills up the rest? Nothing, but the most random bunch of events anyone has ever squeezed into a film.

The bulk of the narrative concerns itself with an African American named Barnstable that has been sent as an emissary from a billionaire employee to buy the town. While the mayor refuses Barnstable’s offers he still insists that he enjoy their hospitality, which involves taverns, a whore house, and an old-west parade complete with shooting range. However, the whole event turns out to be a giant charade to convince Barnstable that one of his stray bullets has killed the Sheriff’s German Shepard.

In order to further discredit Barnstable, the sheriff holds a black-tie church funeral for the dog, and the entire town turns out. While this is going on we have the “main plot” of a drifter named Eddie coming into town and falling in love with the local professor assistant, Mariposa, while her employer experiments with his imprisoned mutated lamb. Eddie and Mariposa perform typical youthful hi-jinx as the professor plays with bad sound effects, Tesla coils, and what ever equipment could be rented from the last Frankenstein set.

Meanwhile, Barnstable, has taken to trying to go to door to door to buy out the land  leases from the locals, but is falling on hard times due to his unpopularity from the fallout of the fake slain dog, that we learn has just played dead and is doing fine in Carolina, where the sheriff shipped him off to. Since Barnstable refuses to leave and starts spending his time consorting with the whore’s house’s local madame, Alta, the mayor sends his evil henceman, Philip Mal Dove, that lures Barnstable back to his apartment with the promise of friendly drinks. When the two men settle in with cocktails, Maldove laments about his ignorance to big-city life, experimental bi-sexuality, and all other manner of things that Barnstable must have seen in his time in the big apple. Then Maldove assaults him, shoots himself with his own gun, and frames Barnstable for the crime. I guess most people like to break the ice with Bi-sexuality discussions before they try to frame you for attempted murder.

Back at the ranch, we have more crappy sound effects, more Telsa coils, and more footage of the gimpy, hunchbacked, mutant lamb. Barnstable’s, unfortunately, isn’t having any fun with science, as his false imprisonment is just another clever rouge to eliminate him The Sheriff sits idle with mouth fulls of steak and peas as the film cranks up the racial tension dial by marching a lynch mob into the jail to put Barnstable in the noose.

With some help from Alta, Barnstable is spared from execution, and the friendly neighborhood madame takes him to the nutty Professor for asylum. While Prof. Clemens initially offers his aid he folds like a house of cards the moment the tear gas brigade rolls in to claim their prisoner. Unfortunately, the commotion upsets the monster sheep who escapes containment.

Mariposa tries to lure the sheep back by doing a bizarre pixie dance across the screen for no good reason while Eddie chases after her screaming her name about a dozen times. However nothing works and the RAMPAGE of the GODMONSTER begins, which consists of him blowing up one gas stations where no one gets injured and scaring some school children away from their picnic. Then it goes down to lasso squad of drunken cowboys.

If you’re not confused yet, congratulations, but the ending should put you over the top. We cut back to the mayor who is riding in a limousine with Barnstable, who he has released, and informed that he has sold the land to his employer on his own terms. In short, I was going to do what you wanted but first we had to lynch you, beat you several times, throw you into a jail cell, and make you think you killed a dog.  With that awkward conversation out of the way, we cut to gathering in the town square where the mayor has screwed over the Professor and has stolen the giant sheep to boost his tourism and then rants about how the railroad tracks will now be paved with gold and unveils the creature in a cage. What follows is beyond describe.

To put it simply, the crowd, without precedent, starts a riot–as signified by the same recycled shot of people running down a hill–and: random gunslingers show up and kill Philip Maldove, stuff blows up, the monster is disintegrated, and the mayor keeps screaming and laughing like a madman, “I beat you, Barnstable!” The end of a classic, for sure.

While I apologize for the lack of a spoiler alert, the real joy of this film is experiencing it and realizing that someone spent over 130,000 (of 1970s money) to make this abomination. And its not just that the acting is awful or the creature looks like a mix between Quasimodo and Sherry Lewis’s worst nightmare it’s the fact that there is absolutely no logic to the progression of images that litter the screen. At least if the movie had a little more to do with the monster than I could understand the title and maybe appreciate it as a hokey old creature feature, but it doesn’t.

The driving force of the narrative is the underlining racism and militantly conservative nature of those in power. While the aftermath of the riot results in a dead monster sheep the audience is shown smoking rising from his burning body that drifts on the wind to a flock of sheep who inhale it. Playing sinister music, and implications of more monsters means nothing. The monster had no effect on the events that destroyed the town,…perhaps it came to show us that we were the real monsters? Or it’s probably just crap.

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