Posted on: October 31st, 2009 TEN of TERROR RECAP!

We started the TEN of TERROR, our month-long horror movie celebration, on October 1st with Poltergeist and concluded last night with John Carpenter’s classic Halloween. There is no doubt that, for me anyways, taking the time to pay tribute to these films has made my Halloween experience that much richer this year, and we hope it’s done the same for you.

For easy viewing, we’ve compiled an easy list for you to go back and read your favorite entries this year, or if you haven’t been following, this is the place you need to be before the sun goes down and the ghouls come out tonight.

With that, we at GKS hope you all have a fun and safe Halloween! We’d like to thank Fanboy Radio, Forces of Geek and Three Panel Opera for helping spread the word on TEN of TERROR, and naturally, thanks to everyone for reading, commenting and making it fun.

TEN of TERROR 2009

#1: Poltergeist

#2: The Frighteners

#3: Creepshow

#4: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

#5: Re-Animator

Top 10 Death Scenes

Top 10 Haunted Movie Houses

#6: Haute Tension

#7: The Mist

Top 10 Movie Monsters

Top 10 Retro Horror Flicks

#8: Dawn of the Dead

#9: The Shining

Top 10 Horror Remakes

#10: Halloween

See you next year…

Posted on: October 30th, 2009 TEN of TERROR #10: Halloween

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No other horror film resonates with the season quite like John Carpenter’s take on the boogeyman archetype. In 91 minutes, Carpenter managed to terrify a generation and create one of the most iconic fictional forms of evil still recognized by popular culture today. That film is our final entry into the TEN of TERROR for this year… Halloween.

halloween-movie-posterThe most terrifying thing about Halloween, which often gets over-looked and misconstrued as a paranormal element, is the film’s complete plausibility. Halloween, the origin of the “slasher” genre, does feature a rather unyielding force of a villain, but is too often and unreasonably grouped in with abstract entities like Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees or Pinhead (I never quite understood how Pinhead fits in with these slasher characters). Michael Meyers, the shape, the mask-clad, knife-brandishing killer, embodies the qualities of these abnormal freaks, but the real terror is that he is completely and entirely human. He is the personification of what Dr. Loomis would call “pure evil”, but Meyers puts his pants on one leg at a time. The validity of this becomes weaker the further into the franchise you get, but for all intents and purposes, the first film is incredibly disturbing due to the “real” factor.

What’s even more disturbing, is that although Meyers is a mere mortal, albeit a seemingly unstoppable one, there is no rhyme or reason to his motive for killing. No one knew why Michael killed his family when he was six years old. They couldn’t explain why he came back to Haddonfield fifteen years later to finish what he started. There’s no reasoning with Michael Meyers. There’s no mercy or communicating with him. Like the shark from Jaws, Meyers is a man with a sole purpose, but we know not the release Meyers gets from murder. Is it rage or sadness? Catharsis? My major criticism of Rob Zombies remake was the fact that the mystery was removed and we were meant to feel sympathy for Michael. Carpenter nailed it on the head with Halloween; there is no answer to these questions, it is completely out of anyone’s control. The term “boogeyman” is mentioned in the film by the Tommy character, and there isn’t a more fitting term for Meyers; the inability to rationalize with an entity of pure malevolence leaves one completely and utterly helpless. There’s nothing more terrifying than that, which is why the plight of Michael’s long-lost sister Laurie is so endearing to horror fans.

halloween2Michael Meyers isn’t the only amazing part of this Halloween. John Carpenter turned a relatively low-budgeted shoot into a monumentally imitated example of film-making. Halloween shaped the future of the genre and made a defining impact that very few films have ever done. His and Debra Hill’s writing is both inspired and original; the film’s dialogue suffers not from the pitfalls of 70’s genre films, and the pacing keeps you on the edge of your seat. Carpenter understands how to tease the hairs on the back of our neck. Again with the comparison to Jaws, we are shown glimpses of Michael early on in the film, be it his shoulder or shoes, but the big reveals come later in the film, after we’ve been wound up into a frenzy. The first time we see the mask is through a fogged up car windshield when Meyers strangles a poor broad from the backseat; if you don’t find that chilling, even this day in age, then you can’t appreciate true horror. Getting back to the Carpenter factor – the man’s career is legendary, as is his style and trademark. Halloween, however, was his second major studio film (preceded by Assault on Precinct 13) and therefore has a much more subtle touch from the writer/director. Not to detract from Carpenter’s future works (he is, after all, my favorite director), but Halloween comes off as the man’s most serious, concentrated work next to The Thing.

loomis1The film features some fairly good performances, especially from Donald Pleasance as Dr. Samuel Loomis, the child-psychiatrist on the trail of the renegade Meyers who was previously under his supervision. Every moment of screen-time featuring Pleasance is a cinematic treat; he is entirely believable and equally entertaining. His conviction to the role and certainty that behind Michael’s eyes exists pure evil, makes for an indelible character in film history. Pleasance had a phenomenal career including some highly memorable roles, including Blofeld in the James Bond series, but none will be as ingrained in our minds like Dr. Loomis. He makes this flick just as much as Michael does. The film is also responsible for introducing us to Jamie Lee Curtis, as the level-headed and virtuous Laurie Strode. For a while there Curtis was dubbed the “Scream Queen”, and although her sobs are a bit green in Halloween, the title is just; Jamie Lee did a fantastic job in the flick and is a testament to Carpenter and Hill’s impeccable eye for casting. Dare I also point out that Jamie Lee is kinda cute in the film. Now, before you start calling me a hermaphrodite lover, seriously stop and take a look, she’s got a fantastic bone-structure, and when she got a bit older in the mid-eighties she was a knockout. Anyways, back to the movie…

You can’t leave a review of Halloween without acknowledging the second monster of the film… the score. Oh, and look at who’s credited for that… John Carpenter. Aside from, oh, maybe Jaws, Halloween features on of the most distinguishable theme songs ever written. The piano keys used in the film act as an aural heartbeat, pounding and thumping, driving us further and further into the atmosphere and darkness. It’s entirely simple and primitive, at times we forget it’s even there, but without it Halloween would be a very different film.

The Halloween franchise is an odd one in that for the most part, the films have been mediocre at best and downright atrocious at their worst. The name and mythos of the series still remains strong and qualitative though thanks to the first, important film.

Trivia

  • Being on such a tight budget, the Michael Meyers mask was purchased at a cheap costume shop; the mask is a Star Trek William Shatner mask painted white with the eye holes expanded. The mask cost $1.98.
  • At the time of release it was the highest grossing independent film ever made. The film’s budget was $325,000 and went on to gross $47 million.
  • Tommy and his friend watch The Thing From Another World on the television; Carpenter would go on to remake that film four years later.
  • Tommy Doyle was named after a character in Rear Window, while Sam Loomis was named after a character in Psycho.
  • Michael Meyers was named after the distributor of Carpenter’s previous film, Assault On Precinct 13.
  • All of the actors in the film wore their own clothes.
  • Both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing were approached for the role of Dr. Loomis. 
  • John Carpenter provided the telephone voice for Annie’s boyfriend.
  • All of Donald Pleasance’s scenes were shot in 5 days; he was paid $20,000.
  • The only female lead that was actually a teenager during shooting was Jamie Lee Curtis; the rest were in their 20’s yet still playing high school students.
  • The extended television cut of the film reveals that Michael Meyers’ middle name is Audrey.

With that we conclude our main TEN of TERROR feature for this year. On behalf of GKS, I really appreciate all of your comments and we’ll see you next year for ten more. Have a safe and ghoul-filled Halloween!

Posted on: October 28th, 2009 TEN of TERROR: Top 10 Horror Remakes

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Ah the dreaded ‘R’ word. Wanna upset thousands of filmophiles over the internet? Just announce a remake and stand by and watch the message boards fill up with hate and death threats.

Horror is the most remade genre; it’s iconography, cheap-thrills and mathematical execution make it the perfect fodder for glossing over, re-packaging and re-selling. Out of the thousands of horror movies given the remake treatment each year, we’ve made it easy for you and compiled a list of the best. Though remember kids, “best” simply means it’s not as terrible as the worst – for all intents and purposes, history has dictated that you should stick to the original in most cases.

Dawn of the Dead

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Zach Snyder remade George Romero’s classic (#8 on our TEN of TERROR) in 2004 to rave reviews. Even though the film was a major departure from the original, tonally and thematically, the modern version stands on its own as a kick-ass, fast-paced zombie thriller.

Friday the 13th

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Touted not so much a remake as a “re-telling”, this version borrowed from elements of parts 1-3, bringing an updated version of Jason Voorhees to a cannon-worthy entry into the franchise. Though the film suffers from the flaws of the originals (throw-away, sterotypical characters), this version is simple (and sometimes silly) fun.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

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The first in the strong of horror remakes from Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes, the remake of Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic is a valiant effort in capturing what made the original so effective. For the most part the film does just that; it’s disturbing, atmospheric and exploits a time and essence of Americana while providing chills and screams.

The Fly

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A masterpiece in story-telling from director David Cronenberg, The Fly takes on the monster aspect of the Vincent Price original and adds a level of psychological torment and gore. There’s no doubt the legacy this film has within the sci-fi/horror genres and this is one of the exceptions where the remake is better than the original.

The Hills Have Eyes

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Director Alexandre Aja followed up Haute Tension (our #6 pick) with a remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes about a family terrorized by mutant hillbillies in the desert. If anything, Aja pulled off a clinic on how to make your audience squirm in their seats for two hours. If you can sit through this gruesome, gory remake, then you could be in for a bit of fun. Sicko.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

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Highly touted as one of the best remakes ever made, and one of the best of the sci-fi/horror genre of the 70’s, this version takes what is an already awesome concept and really brought it to new heights. It currently sits at a 97% fresh rating over at Rotten Tomatoes.

The Thing

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John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of The Thing From Another World is a paramount in suspense and visual effects. It’s a yearly staple in mine, and many other’s, homes and truly a horrific spectacle to behold.

Willard

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Many people know not of the remake or the original. The 2003 remake starring Crispin Glover as a timid mad who can seemingly control rats to do his bidding is full of fun, whimsy, and somewhere in there an air of creepiness. It’s worth it alone to hear Crispin’s cover of Michael Jackson’s “Ben”.

The Ring

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Gore Verbinski’s 2002 remake of Japaneses horror film Ringu took theaters by storm, becoming a critical and commercial success. Rightfully so, as this remake is pretty darn good at providing some tense, memorable scenes. The sequel however, sucked.

House on Haunted Hill

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I give major props to writer Robb White and Director William Castle for taking a classic, campy horror film, taking what made it work, and simply and inventively updating it. They didn’t try to make it serious or stray from the entertaining tone of the Vincent Price original, an this made the film a wickedly fun flick.

And just to balance the scales, here’s the top 10 horror remakes you will want to avoid at all costs…

The Worst Horror Remakes

Day the Earth Stood Still
The Omen
Wicker Man
Thirteen Ghosts
When a Stranger Calls
The Hitcher
Black Christmas
The Haunting
The Fog
The Amityville Horror 

Posted on: October 27th, 2009 TEN of TERROR #9: The Shining

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I had a hard time placing this entry in the second-last spot of TEN of TERROR, as quite frankly I consider this one the better made film. Not only is it one of the most parodied films of all time – more than a few scenes and lines of dialogue have become ingrained in pop-culture’s memory – it’s also one of the most genuinely frightening films ever made. Stanley Kubrick, the film’s legendary director, managed to translate the original Stephen King story (one of three King adaptations in TEN of TERROR) into a visual spectacle of the mad and macabre. That film… The Shining.

TheShining_788880cThe Shining takes writer Jack Torrance, played stirringly by Jack Nicholson, and his family (the awkward and domestic Shelley Duvall and the boyish Danny Lloyd) to the remote mountain hotel, The Overlook. See, the hotel closes down over the winter season and ol’ Jack lands a job taking care of the hotel during the off-time, the perfect chance for a writer to get some long-needed solitude. Though the hotel is not without it’s bizarre history – right away the hotel manager tells Jack of a previous winter tenant that went stir-crazy and ended up killing his family. Cabin fever, he called it. This doesn’t derail Jack one bit though, and before you know it it’s the four of them all alone, at the will of the big, ominous Overlook. Oh, and his weird little son Danny, he’s got ESP and talks to a boy that lives in his mouth, Tony. The gang isn’t even at the Overlook yet and already Danny’s getting visions of creepy little twin girls in the hallway, and the elevator doors opening, unleashing a tidal wave of blood into the lobby of the Overlook. Before long, Jack succumbs to the power of the hotel, and his wife and son find themselves trapped in the isolated wilderness, terrorized by the axe-wielding patriarch.

I’ll cut right to it – this film is creepy as all hell. Kubrick knew how to shoot horror in a psychological way; things are more scary when the mind is left to explore the horrors of the hotel. The Shining has it’s visual wonders, don’t get me wrong, but Kubrick took the high-road and presented us with real, tangible terror. He realizes things that are truly frightening in everyday living; silence, high-pitch squeals, bear suits, Jack Nicholson’s eyebrows and little twin girls. The experience one receives when watching The Shining is entirely surreal, yet relatable at the same time. Many of the physical frights are unworldly, but the true tone of the film – the loneliness, the isolation – is a fear shared by all of us.

shiningshelleymesThe film, released in May of 1980, was made on a budget of $12 million. It is widely recognized that the production of The Shining was long and arduous, a common side-effect of Kubrick’s meticulous film-making process; in this case, principal photography lasted a full year. Rumour has it that it was a very tense set, with Shelley Duvall not getting along with Kubrick at all, to the point where she became physically ill and began losing her hair. Towards the end of the shoot, even Jack Nicholson had become increasingly agitated with the way things were progressing (or, rather, not progressing) on-set. On a lighter, more superfluous note, the film also marks the first use of a Steadicam for Kubrick, necessary for the multitudes of long, flowing camera shots through the massive hotel.

When the film came out, it was surprisingly met with mixed reviews from fans and critics, and was even nominated for not one, but two Golden Raspberry awards (Worst Director & Worst Actress). It wasn’t until the film had a chance to sink in that it began to gain recognition as being an inventive entry into the genre (and earn Warner Bros. A profit). Remember, this was a year that saw Friday the 13th and The Fog scaring audiences; by comparison The Shining is tonally, visually and thematically very different from these two. The film also ran into criticism for straying from Stephen King’s original story, even from King himself who was quoted to have “hated the film”. To side with purists of the book, Kubrick did take the film away from some of the underlying themes of King’s novel, not to mention almost entirely changing Jack’s character and omitting an entire sub-plot about the hotel’s defective boiler. While it may not have been a faithful adaptation, Kubrick took the heart of the story and made it his own and many elements unique to the film have been celebrated (for example, the “all work and no play” and “here’s Johnny” scenes). Stanley Kubrick did what most adaptation should strive to do – translate the work for a different medium by stripping the elements down to the establish the basic narrative and make a film. This is perhaps where most literary adaptations fail and become unnecessarily convoluted. The Shining is unmistakably a Kubrick film, more-so than it is a Stephen King film.

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Love it or hate it, there’s no denying the importance The Shining has had both on the horror genre and pop-culture itself. When it comes to immersing audiences into a psychedelic state of dementia and discomfort, the film is king. It is entirely unlike any other horror film you’ve ever seen, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t remember their first time watching it.

We here at GKS sing the praise loudly for this film, one of the best in the genre and in the TEN of TERROR.

Trivia

  • Stephen King was actively involved in over-seeing a 1997 television mini-series adaptation of his novel. This version starred the dude from Wings and wasn’t received very well.
  • A week after the initial release of the film, a scene at the very end of the film was cut from all subsequent screenings. The scene in question changed the ending that we all know and love today, but just didn’t make much sense. Projectionists literally had to cut this out of the film reels.
  • SPOILER: When Jack impales Dick in the chest with the hammer, Nicholson used a real axe and took a real swing. Actor Scatman Crothers, who played Dick Hallorann, wore a protective chest-piece to protect him from the force of the axe.
  • The axe mentioned above is on display in Planet Hollywood, Orlando.
  • The exterior shots of the hotel were filmed at the Timberland Lodge in Oregon; hotel management asked that the infamous room be changed from 217 to 237 for the movie. The hotel didn’t actually have a room 237 and feared that guests would be afraid to stay in the room made famous in the movie.
  • The opening shots of the film, panoramic shots of Glacier National Park, were also used in the closing moments of the original cut of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.
  • The scene in which Dick Hallorann explains the shining to young Danny was shot 148 times, a world record for most takes of a single scene.
  • Kubrick met with Robert DeNiro and Robin Wiliams about the role of Jack Torrance before deciding on Jack Nicholson.
  • The famous “here’s Johnny” line was ad-libbed by Jack Nicholson. Inspired by the intro to the Johnny Carson Show, the audio from the film was used during the opening to one of the anniversary episodes.
  • Stanley Kubrick showed the cast and crew Eraserhead, The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby to “get them in the mood”.
  • For the bathroom scene where Jack breaks down the door, the props department had to build a stronger door as Jack Nicholson had previously worked as a volunteer fire marshal and destroyed it rather easily.
  • Apparently Stanley Kubrick rejected a draft of the screenplay from Stephen King himself.
  • Stanley Kubrick shot the film in script order; this meant that every single set was to be pre-built and standing by.
  • 5000 children auditioned for the role of Danny Torrance.
  • Lloyd (the bartender) and Grady (the former care-taker) never blink onscreen.
  • Much of the fake snow used in The Shining was used during the Hoth scenes of The Empire Strikes Back.
  • During filming of the “maze chase” scene, crew-members often became lost and would need to rely on walkie-talkies to get out.

That wraps up #9… we’re almost at the end. Return soon for TEN of TERROR #10!

Posted on: October 26th, 2009 TEN of TERROR #8: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

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This film is not only my favorite film of all time, it is easily one of the greatest horror films ever made and one of the most inspired social commentaries the genre has ever seen. That film, George A. Romero’s true magnum opus, could be the best movie in this entire TEN of TERROR theme month, the eight entry… Dawn of the Dead.

dawn-of-the-dead-movie-poster-smallThe film opens with mass panic inside a television station in the throws of chaos brought on by a zombie outbreak. Argento sets the mood perfectly and brings us right down to street level, with help of the soundtrack – brilliantly provided by Italian prog-rock composers Goblin (with help from Italian horror director and Romero pal Dario Argento). From there we then literally hit the streets with a S.W.A.T. group on the undead front-lines. Their targets soon move from living drug dealers and thugs to walking corpses with a taste for flesh and it’s situation: no-win for these cats. When we see our main characters meet up, around the eighteen minute mark, they are en route to safety via helicopter. They are then forced to land in the one place they believe they can take refuge – the mall. The mall becomes its own character; everything you would need to keep alive, to start a contained social eco-system, is there, amidst the feeding dead. The film explores the ultimate fantasy and the ultimate nightmare: does one thrive on being the “last person on earth”, or does one continue running in search of hope and survivors? The zombies in this film are attracted to the mall because this was a place of utmost importance in their lives, and at the same time our survivors submit to that same state of complacency and comfort. Maybe not so much a subtle satire on commercialism from writer/director George Romero, but an inventive and daring approach to a gore-laden, predominantly senseless sub-genre.

I’m not even going to sugar-coat it, kids, nor am I going to censor my child-like adoration: I fucking adore this movie. This movie is completely, entirely and absolutely incredible. I’m a reasonable man, a subjective man; you have to be when it comes to the gritty world of film-blogging/reviewing. Quite simply, if you don’t see how this film is a masterpiece, on every level, then you have not the sense to be critiquing film. Dawn of the Dead is the “Dark Knight” of zombie movies, although dare I say that The Dark Knight is flawed, where Dawn of the Dead is a flat-out perfection.

The real star of the film is its atmosphere, its surroundings and environments. It is, after all, a tale of survival, of jarring the system and resetting the status quo. In order to do that properly, if at all, you must believe the world that our characters exist in; Romero has made everything come to life. Everything seems genuine, not just the performances. The quaint, dated set-design, the props, the type of film Romero shot on, everything just seems so real and visceral. Michael Gornick’s cinematography is stellar, capturing the vastness and depth of the mall inside, and the desolation and baron surface of the world beyond the glass doors. Soaring helicopter shots and tail-gating driving shots keep the audience up-close when the film calls for action, while the intimacy and growth of our four lone characters keep us immersed and caring for when the movie slows down. The the shopping centre itself, the Monroeville Mall located near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is the perfect environment to stage new life in the midst of a society crumbling to zombies.

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While the zombie effects themselves are quite crude, the blood a blinding red against blue-caked faces, the violence and gore is never over-done, nor is it in needless excess. Those wince-inducing moments of teeth-meet-flesh are just, reasonable, believable and flat-out entertaining and scary. Dawn of the Dead knows how to make things scary: if we care about the characters, we will care when they are attacked or hurt or God forbid killed. I keep using the Saw movies to argue good films, but this is the perfect example: we don’t care about most of the characters because they’re never developed; when they die, our experience is only their visually over-the-top death; in the case of Dawn of the Dead, we are surviving with our characters, and their fates are anchoring us to our seats. A fair amount of this can be credited to the impeccable writing, but recognition must be given to the film’s main leads.

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I can never understand how Ken Foree, who plays the strong soul of the group, Peter, didn’t explode into stardom once this was released. The man had everything you could have wanted in a lead actor; charm, looks, and way more than decent acting chops. Scott H. Reiniger, who plays the young and enthusiastic Roger, personifies the fantasy of the film; he’s no doubt closest to the true demographic of fans of the film, therefore the one we care about most. His fate in the movie, one of the most iconic scenes in the film, really does makes us as cold as the re-animated that wander the halls of the Monroeville Mall. The cast is perfectly book-ended by Francine (Gaylen Ross) and Stephen (David Emge), aka “Flyboy”, as the troubled-in-love couple who represent perfect normalcy. The two of them may have a couple of “don’t do that you idiot” moments, but let’s face it: normal people are idiots and would probably do that. The two of them are the brick and mortar that keep the struggle of survival alive.

If all you know of Dawn of the Dead is Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake, you must realize that the original film is not a running, jumping, clawing, heart-pounding shocker. Although Snyder’s film is faithful to the concept of Romero’s, they are polar opposites in tone and theme. Snyder’s is a hard-rock music video while Romero’s Dawn is a slow-burn, real-time capture of survival and working within the confines of everything in your life up until that point in time. In comparison that may seem like Snyder has the winning ticket, but I guarantee you that the 1978 version will leave a far more indelible mark on your movie-memory over time.

I finish this entry of TEN of TERROR with a quote from Roger Ebert (who gave the film a four-out-of-four rating):

“It is gruesome, sickening, disgusting, violent, brutal and appalling. Nobody ever said art had to be in good taste.”

Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is just that: art. It’s a wonderfully crafted piece of storytelling with something to say. If you haven’t seen the film (and yet I’m sure you’ve seen the remake), get yourself to ye olde dvdery shoppe and make it happen. For you die-hards like me, be sure to pick up the “ultimate edition” – it comes with three different versions of the film (U.S. Theatrical version, extended version and European version), a ridiculous amount of documentaries and special features and insanely beautiful packaging.

Trivia

  • The film is known as Zombi in Italy.
  • Writer/Director George A. Romero has three cameos in the film – in the television studio, the Santa Claus biker and a background zombie in the mall.
  • The gun store was not an actual shop in the mall; the scene were the characters acquire their weapons was shot elsewhere and edited to look part of the mall.
  • Tom Savini, the legendary special effects artist and genre actor, cameos as one of the main bikers.
  • Two zombie kids attack Peter in the airport; they were played by Tom Savini’s niece and nephew, and are the only zombies in a Romero film to run.
  • The fake blood in the film was made from peanut butter, cane sugar syrup and red food coloring.
  • Because the film was shot in an actual mall (during the Christmas season no less), filming had to take place while it was shut, from the hours of 10pm to 6am. The mall’s music system would automatically turn on, and although the doors didn’t open until 9am, no one on set knew how to turn the music off.
  • The extras appearing in the film received a boxed lunch, $20 and a t-shirt.
  • The MPAA originally threatened George Romero with an X rating, a rating notoriously associated with pornography. Romero ultimately convinced distributors to release the film without a rating, though those under 17 would not be admitted.
  • Dario Argento was such a huge fan of Romero that he insisted Romero write the script in his hometown of Rome. George Romero finished the script in 3 weeks. Argento then went on to aid in shaping the film’s soundtrack, and even edited the film for foreign release.
  • The word “zombie” was never mentioned in Night of the Living Dead – Peter is the first person in the franchise to refer to the infected as such.
  • SPOILER: The film’s original ending was far more bleak than the slightly ambiguous one that was used – in the script, Peter shoots himself in the head and Fran sticks her head into the helicopter’s moving propeller blades.

We’re almost done folks, return tomorrow for TEN of TERROR #9!

Posted on: October 26th, 2009 TEN OF TERROR: Top 10 Retro Horror Flicks

I’ve never been what one might call “current”.  It’s not like I live under a rock but my preferences in movies and music have always prepped me more for a conversation with my grandmother than one with my friends.

So my contribution to the Ten Of Terror?  Well, why not do a retro list?  Alright, great-What do you base the list on?  The most enjoyable?  That’s kind of hard to justify.  I like a lot of movies for no particular reason.  Scariest?  Not so much.  It’s a little hard to be scared of creatures when you can see the strings that hold them up.  How about the most influential?  Makes sense.

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#10.  “She will tear up the whole town until she finds Harry.”  “And then she’ll tear up Harry.”-Attack of the 50 ft Woman (1958):

Hell hath no fury like an alcoholic 50-foot tall woman’s scorn. It’s a simple enough idea: man cheats on rich wife, wife gets angry and takes a drive, she sees an alien ship, goes back to prove to everyone she’s not crazy, radiation makes her a giant, woman seeks revenge on husband. There’s a giant paper-mache hand, the acting is terrible and the giant alien, and later the woman, are fairly transparent due to the overlap of film reels. But, hey. It’s 1958. All things considered, it’s pretty impressive.

Its cultural popularity is nothing to argue over. We just saw Susan from Monsters Vs. Aliens as a direct tribute to the 50 foot original, not to mention the remake with Bridget Bardot back in 1993. Why should this classic B-movie even reach the list? It was the first massively popular horror movies that revolved around a female antagonist. While true she’s actually treated as more of an anti-hero, she’s still ultimately the cause of death and destruction in the small town. All in all, this movie was the start of the sexy villains in horror flicks back in the 50s and 60s. And trust me, after this one they flooded onto the screen.

HOW#9.  “To you they are wax, but to me their creator, they live and breathe.”-House of Wax (1953):

Probably just an excuse to get Vincent Price on this list, this one hits the Number 9 on the basis that it was the first movie to give you the classic 3-D experience. I say classic because those goofy transparent glasses that we have today are not cool. Red and blue pieces of plastic glued to cardboard, now that’s cool. Pair those bad boys up with stereophonic goodness? You start the beginning of a history filled with cheap promotional techniques that become more of a pull than the movies themselves. From this we got chairs with electric shock systems installed, vibrating chairs, smell-o-vision and random giveaways. Thanks, Marketing Department.

It was the start of Vincent Price’s horror legacy. You could see it in 3-D, and it’s honestly and legitimately creepy. Please, let me have this one.

#8.  “It’s alive….IT’S ALIVE!”-Frankenstein (1931):

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You have a brilliant novel about the monster, a couple movie adaptations prior to your own, and you decide not to follow any earlier depictions and just make up your own esthetics.  In the meantime, you are held responsible for the most iconic character in horror history.  A gutsy move paid off.

Frankenstein1910The first movie adaptation of Mary Shelly’s novel was all the way back in 1910.  This ultra-quick silent movie actually followed the novel description fairly close.  Granted, you see that monster now (pictured left) and he’s hilarious and I suppose it’s possible Universal felt the same way. The movie isn’t ground breaking; it hits the Top Ten simply for the fact that it caused a cultural phenomenon.  Boris Karloff’s role as the monster has inspired an unimaginable number of works from Mel Brooks to Konomi’s Castlevania.


WOTW#7.  “All radio is dead, which means that these tape recordings I’m making are for the sake of future history…if any.”-War of the Worlds (1953):

The horrors of a space invasion in beautiful Technicolor.  In my humble opinion, the greatest science fiction movie to date.  In fact, if someday I were to meet my demise by an alien ship that resembled an athletic cup with lights, I think I’d go with a smile on my face.  Okay, that might be because the sound the lasers make is the same sound of Starfleet phasers in ST:TOS, but my bright green disintegration would be beautiful at any rate.

Like any solid horror movie, this treasure has serious moral and religious undertones.  Okay, not really undertones-this one hits you over the head with it.  The military doesn’t retaliate on the aliens until the pastor is killed, you’ll find what you’re looking for in a church, evil isn’t destroyed until it attacks God, and never underestimate the power of prayer.  I’ve always found apocalyptic films especially terrifying.  Not because the world is ending; that doesn’t matter.  It’s the fear of what happens to your fellow man when a crisis is upon you.  Here you are, trying to do what’s right and you get attacked by a guy scared out of his mind that wants to steal your truck full of scientific instruments.  It makes you not only scared of strangers or people you know, but it makes you truly question yourself and what you could become if frightened enough.

Nosferatu#6.  “Recently I discovered that to preserve their diabolic power, vampires must sleep during the day in the same unhallowed ground in which they had been buried.”-Nosferatu (1922):

Before there were sexy vampires, there were creatures that kill instead of recruit.  Undead rat-like monsters that were creepy more so than sinful.

This silent German ditty was actually done illegally in that the screenplay was written without film rights to Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”.  That eventually led to one hell of a lawsuit but the affects of such were barely enough to keep us from seeing the movie today.

By no means the first vampire movie, the production is not what makes this movie important.  This movie is the reason we believe sunlight and vampires don’t mix.  Count Orlok (the vampire) is destroyed in the end by an open window.  Not exactly thrilling but a little obscure when you think that wasn’t ever a part of the novel.  Maybe Galeen had a deadline and just came up with it randomly; whatever the reason, he changed our perception of vampires and their weaknesses.

POTO#5.  “If I am the Phantom, it is because man’s hatred has made me so…If I shall be saved, it will be because your love redeems me.”-Phantom of the Opera (1925):

Here it is 1925, speakeasies as far the eye can see, and none of them hold enough alcohol for you when you see Lon Chaney, Sr..

My mom has a motionette figure of this phantom that she’s had for years.  It used to give me nightmares.  That fact alone may have pushed this one up to number five.  Now, is this technically a horror film?  Eh.  You give me a deformed man living in an opera house in Paris stalking a young singer and holding her captive while trying to murder her lover, then you have just handed me a scary movie.  Especially in 1925 when action and love stories reigned supreme in silent movies.

Chaney1925Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, had ever come close to the gruesome makeup design in Phantom of the Opera.  Lon Chaney was given the opportunity to create his own makeup design after his work in The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1923.  So with some false teeth, wires, pins and heavy makeup, Chaney created iconic Phantom.  The man looked like a living deformed skeleton and it is reported (although easily fabricated) that there were several instances of fainting in the audience when the face was revealed from under The Phantom’s mask.  The best part of all is that the horrific reveal was kept a secret from the public until the film premiere.  Think of the hype that the Cloverfield monster generated before the premiere, and now think of how it would have been if there were no internet.  There, that’s how The Phantom of the Opera release happened.  This just happened to be a much better movie.  The huge success of this film almost single-handedly built the Universal Horror Empire.

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#4. “As if men don’t desire strangers! As if… oh, I refuse to speak of disgusting things, because they disgust me! You understand, boy? Go on; go tell her she’ll not be appeasing her ugly appetite with MY food… or my son! Or do I have to tell her because you don’t have the guts? Huh, boy? You have the guts, boy?”-Psycho (1960):

Sex and horror movies, they go together like…me and a nap.  Why’s that?  Outside of maybe time on the toilet, when are you the most vulnerable?  So it’s only natural that a killer comes a calling when you’re naked.  In the shower.  In a hotel.  In the middle of nowhere.

Throw in the force of a controlling mother with her sexually repressed son, and you get the creepiest hotel ever.  This Hitchcock thriller offered up the threat of the human mind.  Yeah, sure-practically every noir film dealt with the twists and turns of the human mind, but a killer with a split personality that snaps when he meets a woman that part of him wants and the other part fears?  Brilliant.  Opens up a whole new realm of horrors dealing not with monsters or aliens but a Mama’s Boy smothered to the point of insanity.

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#3.  “They are not men, Madame.  They are dead bodies!”-White Zombie (1932):

They don’t feed on flesh.  They don’t have any natural instincts.  They don’t have a union.

This flick was really a starting point for zombies as we see them.  Similar films prior to this have typically relied upon a ghost or spirits being raised from the dead.  This movie was the one most accepted as a pioneer in corpses being raised from the dead.  Brought about via special poison and dark arts telepathy, these corpses are controlled by one man.  He just so happens to operate a sugar mill…free labor!  The big differentiating factor in these zombies from modern zombies is that these can come back from being undead and be their old selves again.

This is a prime example of zombies that can be controlled for personal gain.  We see a rich man fall in love with an engaged woman after meeting her once.  Well, honestly, what says “I love you” more than turning your object of affection into an undead slave?

RB#2.  “Hail Satan!”-Rosemary’s Baby (1968):

You’re just lying in bed trying to sleep one off and suddenly, you’re getting raped by the devil.  It happens.

There’s God and there’s Satan.  It’s good and evil, light and dark, Jedi and Sith.  Somehow we humans just muddle along among the gray area. Then along comes Rosemary’s Baby; the first movie to show us Satan as not only flesh but as an infant-typically deemed as the essence of innocence.

Without heavily relying upon gore and violence (although the rape scene is incredibly horrific) this brought on a whole new list of fears to the general public: neighborhood cults, devil spawn, child abduction by doctors and little old ladies distributing chocolate mousse as a date-rape drug.

#1. A widespread investigation of funeral homes, morgues, and hospitals has concluded that the unburied dead have been returning to life and seeking human victims.”-Night of the Living Dead (1968):

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Basically the “So You’re Living In The Zombie Apocalypse” preparation guide.  THE ZOMBIE MOVIE.

Now, it’s true-this all started because of Russo and Romero wanted to do something similar to Richard Matheson’s novel “I Am Legend” but this hokey low-budget wonder caused a cultural phenomenon.  Whereas Matheson dealt with the scenario where everybody had been turned into monsters, Russo and Romero started at the beginning of humanity’s end during all its stages of panic and chaos.

In my eyes, it stands as the first truly scary movie.  You have to figure, before this there were never any movies about a catastrophe this horrifying in a setting that could be your rural or suburban town.  Sure, we had alien invasions and shady people but this isn’t campy acting and cheap theatrics.  This is terrifying imagery of former humans acting on the carnal instinct of hunger.  It’s not like people in the 60s saw a lot of children eating corpses. The moviegoer also has to deal with evil triumphing over good with the deaths of every main character regardless of race, sex and education.  To put anything else in the Number 1 spot would be a crime against humanity.

Posted on: October 25th, 2009 TEN of TERROR: Top 10 Movie Monsters

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Decades of legendary silver-screen monsters make compiling this list an arduous, difficult task, but no challenge is too big for GKS. We present to you, TEN of TERROR’s Top 10 Movie Monsters.

The criteria is as follows:

The monster must not be explicitly human/humanoid or animal (ie, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Meyers or shark from Jaws). The monster must be organic (machines, androids, etc. don’t count).

The list is based on scariness, lethality, and general malevolence, and is in ranked order (#1 being the most of these attributes).

#10. Gill-Man from Creature from the Black Lagoon

The creature, known affectionately as the “Gill-Man”, is a classic movie monster for a reason. It’s got that iconic look and a lethal set of claws mixed with a prehistoric temper. Though it’s body-count is relatively low for a movie monster, and the beast was taken down with mere bullets, the legend and legacy of the creature from the Black Lagoon earns it a spot on this list.

#9. The Creeper from Jeepers Creepers

Say what you will about Jeepers Creepers (decent horror film, horrible title), the “Creeper” does just that, creeps the hell outta me. It isn’t enough that the Creeper will try to run you off the road with his truck of death, he’ll also capture you, kill you, eat your body parts and sew your ass to a cave wall. And he does all that before he reveals his true, winged form.

#8. Xenomorphs from the Alien series

One of the most destructive forms in the history of the galaxy, the xenomorphs are natural survivors and even better killers. The species operates in mass numbers, using humans as hosts to new soldiers, with razor sharp claws, a retractable second-mouth and a prehensile tail like a lance.

#7. The Predator from the Predator series

The xenomorphs natural predator… and everything else’s. This grotesque monster is not only physically lethal and superior to humans, it also harnesses technology beyond our comprehension. Hunting, humans and aliens alike, is a way of life for these horrific beings. They’re also living proof that Danny Glover is, in fact, a total bad-ass.

#6. Graboids from the Tremors series

The Tremors movies may not have been great (though the first film will always have a spot in my heart), but the underground-dwelling monsters that terrorize them are scary as hell. Similar to the cryptozoological wonder known as the “Mongolian death worm”, the graboids are the supreme conqueror of the world’s biggest natural resource – dirt. And unfortunately for you, your ass is standing on it. Think of the graboid as the mobile Sarlaac pit from Return of the Jedi.

#5. Gwoemul from The Host

South Korea’s giant sewer monster is a prime example of why you should never toss bottles of formaldehyde down the drain – if you do, you will inadvertently create a giant, unstoppable mutant amphibian creature that will destroy every living thing in it’s path.

#4. The Thing from John Carpenter’s The Thing

The thing has no true face, no true form and no true motive. It spreads from body to body like wild-fire, assimilating everything in it’s path from human to animal. When it does show it’s form, the one it chooses to be seen as, it resembles a physical abomination of tentacles, teeth, body parts and terror. The thing is the killer that will tear you apart from the inside before you even knew you were infected.

#3. The Blob from The Blob

What does space have against us? Are humans just the pussiest beings in the galaxy? Even an amorphous amoeba like The Blob, the most unassuming movie monster of all time, is one of the most deadliest. It’s literally just a huge blob of goo that slowly engulfs an entire town, growing exponentially in size as it does so. Granted, the creature can be defeated rather easily on paper, by being frozen, the blob could very well be the end of us all should life ever imitate art.

#2. Cloverfield Monster from Cloverfield

The creature of unknown origin dubbed the “Cloverfield monster”, stands over 30 stories tall and weighs over 6,400 tons. And it’s only a baby. The amount of damage, destruction and death that this monstrous creature wreaked upon New York is almost unfathomable. Not only was the city itself laid to waste by the behemoth, but thousands of people felt the wrath of the confused beast. To make matters worse, the monster is covered with thousands of little parasite-like spiders that drop from the creature; the “spiders” themselves are terrifying enough, but suffer a bite from one of these things and you bleed from every orifice on your body until you eventually swell up and burst. The Cloverfield monster proved without a doubt that it is entirely and completely frightening.

#1. Godzilla from the Godzilla series

Is there any other movie monster more iconic than Japan’s Gojira? The legendary prehistoric sea-creature has both terrorized and defended Japan’s shores for decades, wreaking a record amount of havoc to both environment and population. Aside from being 300 feet tall with stegosaurus-like armour plating, Godzilla heals very quickly as well as being incredibly resilient to injury. If that isn’t enough to have you shake in your boots, the colossal beast has thermonuclear heat-breath. Godzilla has fought, and defeated, some of the most terrifying monsters and aliens ever seen, and it’s iconography and impact on pop-culture is universally recognized making it the #1 movie monster of all time.

What say you, what are some of your favorite movie monsters?

Posted on: October 23rd, 2009 TEN of TERROR #7: The Mist

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When this film came out in November of ‘07, I wrote what could be one of my most praising reviews yet and I still stand by that, making our seventh entry in TEN of TERROR the adaptation of the Stephen King short story… The Mist.

Simply put, The Mist is phenomenally underrated. It’s got everything that a horror-sci-fi film fanatic could want and it doesn’t treat you like you’re an idiot. The direction, courtesy of the great Frank Darabont, is fantastic, the writing is tight and suspenseful and the creature design is original and terrifying. The film is an entity all it’s own, while at the same time paying homage to traditional horror and fantasy crafted by the likes of John Carpenter and The Twilight Zone, and dipping it’s tentacled toes in H.G. Wells and H.P. Lovecraft. Above and beyond all that, The Mist is so much fun to watch with your friends.

The Mist follows David Drayton (played by fanboy-hunk Tom Jane) in a small Maine town the day after a wicked thunderstorm. Drayton, his young son, and a dozen or so townsfolk find themselves trapped in the local supermarket when a thick mist covers the town. Things go from alarming to deadly, as horrific creatures begin to emerge from the dense fog. Renegade tentacles, guns, mop-torches, mob-frenzies, corpses exploding with alien spiders, dragon-beasts, stingers in the neck, severed torsos… need I go on?

mist2bThe film takes the high-road at every turn and paints a picture of humanity and morality that’s startlingly real though surrounded by fantastical elements. The Mist tackles fear and desperation on a basic human level. There are undertones of racial tension and class separation. Examples of the best and worst parts of a conceptual Americana are painted in gloomy strokes, making the fatal fog a backdrop for the question: is this all karma? From a science-fiction standpoint, the film succeeds where most other modern creature-features become bogged down; the origin of the mist and it’s monsters is only vaguely mentioned in dialogue once. We don’t need to know where they came from and how they got here, that’s not important to us, just as it’s not important to the folks stuck in the supermarket. All that really matters is how they survive these new threats.

If you haven’t, go check out my initial review so I don’t go on like a broken record about how fun and creative this little flick is. Major praise and recognition must be given to Frank Darabont for seeing this project through; it’s one Stephen King adaptation he had intended to do after The Shawshank Redemption but instead took on The Green Mile. You can tell that The Mist is a labor of love – the film just feels like everything received that extra attention. Darabont was extremely respectful to the source material, but took it and made it his own, most noticeably with the film’s dark and dreary ending. While the film version doesn’t negate the conclusion of King’s short story, it does carry on after and provide a finite answer to the fates of our characters. Stephen King himself praised Darabont’s ending, which arguably is more terrifying than the creatures or themselves. Not only did I leave the theater shaken, asking what I would do in Drayton’s shoes, but I was completely surprised that a major studio would have the balls to let Darabont see this vision realized. Where the film could have gone the way of a typical Hollywood horror ending, instead audiences were jolted with a thought-provoking, mentally-jarring Empire Strikes Back-esque finale.

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When the film was released on DVD, Dimension included the black and white version of the film as well; make no mistake, this is the superior cut of the film, and the one you should watch immediately (a video introduction by Darabont himself reveals this version to be his preferred). The Mist truly comes alive in black and white and the film becomes infinitely scarier, it’s atmosphere truer. Every grain, every detail pops and the film becomes timeless. The film’s already distinct camera-work, provided by the same crew from The Shield TV series, almost feels like a documentary from the fifties, or a living, breathing radio show of horror. I can’t stress enough how awesome the black and white cut of the film is.

So many people mention The Descent as a contender for the best horror movie of recent years. While I loved The Descent, and wouldn’t argue that, The Mist is completely underrated and more worthy of such a title. Perhaps it’s the CGI that threw people off – it’s no Transformers, folks, but let us not forget how popular I Am Legend is, and that had atrocious visual effects. Or maybe it’s the aforementioned shocking ending that didn’t agree with the mainstream-big-mommas-house audience (though to be fair, the film does currently sit at 72% fresh over at Rotten Tomatoes). None of these arguments matter though, as some of the greatest films ever made were ill-received by theaters. The Mist is bold, it’s a unique celebration of the genre, and it nails everything it sets out to do: entertain, terrify and inspire. I strongly encourage you to take in The Mist once more, or watch it for the first time with the lights out.

Trivia

  • William Sadler, who plays the character of Jim in the film, provided the voice for David Drayton for the audio version of the novel.
  • The first scene in the film shows the David Drayton character painting in his room; among the pieces are a design for Stephen King’s Dark Tower and a movie poster for John Carpenter’s The Thing, both of which were created by the legendary movie-poster artist Drew Struzan (including the poster for The Mist).
  • One of the rotating book-displays in the supermarket contains only Stephen King books.
  • Writer/Director Frank Darabont would only do the film with Dimension if they let his ending stay intact.
  • Stephen King himself was offered the role of the biker character, which he turned down.
  • The film was shot during the six-week hiatus of the TV series The Shield. The Mist used their camera crew, cinematographer, editor and script-supervisor. Frank Darabont has directed episodes of the show.
  • Frank Darabont had originally written a scene for the beginning of the film that showed the origin of the creatures. Star Andre Braugher convinced Darabont to leave this scene out (thank goodness).
  • The first tentacled creature we see in the film is incredibly similar to another creature from the Stephen King story, From A Buick 8.

TEN of TERROR continues soon with #8!

Posted on: October 21st, 2009 TEN of TERROR #6: Haute Tension

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This instalment goes foreign! If you live in the UK you will know it as Swtichblade Romance, and if you’re North American the title card read High Tension. I’m a pretentious film-blogger in Canada, so of course I use the film’s french (and actual) title. That film is our sixth entry in TEN of TERROR… Haute Tension.

afficheI, like most other cats that took a chance on this flick, walked past this title in my local blue-yellow video rental chain a few years ago and the box art sold me on a $6 rental: a skinny, blond girl soaked in blood, wielding a circular-saw. Like everyone else, I wasn’t quite expecting what I saw once the film started up. Extreme gore, overt sexuality and perversion, severe dismemberment and outrageous violence are the brick and mortar of Haute Tension; normally this level of explicitness would turn me off a film – take Saw for example – but in this case I found the story, this horror take on the cat-and-mouse model, keeping me engaged. It is like driving past a car-wreck that you can’t take your eyes off of.

The films is about two college girlfriends, Marie (Cécile de France) and Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco), who head to Alex’s parent’s house in the french countryside for the weekend. A visit from a disgusting serial killer later, and Alex is hogtied in the back of his truck and Marie is along for the ride.

The film is co-written and directed by Alexandre Aja, who gained a bit of attention after the North American release of the film. He was touted as a “director to watch” and made good on his hype with the visceral 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes, but a flop with 2008’s Mirrors has since thrown him off the mainstream map. It’s a shame really, because The Hills Have Eyes, and even more so Haute Tension, really are technically well directed and I believe Aja can bring some strong films to the horror genre. His next film will be another remake, Piranha 3-D, starring Elizabeth Shue (?!), Ving Rhames, Richard Dreyfuss, Christopher Lloyd and Jerry O’Connell. Though the concept of giant killer… piranhas excites me, I’m not holding out hope for this film and would instead like to see Aja bring something original to the table. But back to the film at hand…

hauteThere’s three very distinct acts of Haute Tension, each with their own homage to the genre. The first act of the film, hands down the most shocking and visually profound, is the love-child of Takashi Miike and Tobe Hooper, while the middle-act, the slow-burn creaky floor-board thriller is almost hitchcockian in tone. The film concludes with a twisted mind-fuck of a third-act with hints of Lucio Fulci and M. Night Shayamalan (before he sucked hard). Although these comparisons may draw disbelief from you – understandably, the aforementioned filmmakers are of a high-calibre – I merely mean to point out the tones and aesthetic cues of which Aja seemingly called upon to craft his own film. With Haute Tension, you can tell that Aja is new, still learning his craft, but to his credit as absurd as the film may be it certainly is entertaining. Dare I say that there are moments where he nearly comes off like the french-horror Tarantino.

Appalling murder scenes aside, Haute Tension faced a couple hurdles. The MPAA had their way with the film, removing a solid 3 minutes from the opening murder-scene to bring the rating down from NC-17 to R for American theatrical audiences. The full NC-17 cut was however released on an unrated DVD. The film has also received some attention for bearing an oddly-similar resemblance to the Dean Koontz (haha funny name) novel titled Intensity. Apparently there are paramount scenes in the film that are nearly identical to the book, with exception to the last few minutes… the film’s big twist ending.

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Haute Tension fits nicely into TEN of TERROR, as it’s a lesser-known horror film, and a genre-spanning one at that. It manages to fit suspense, ultra-violence, and psychedelic plot-twists into one inventive, homage-filled and stylized little flick. Definitely worth adding to your horror-film cue this year.

Trivia

  • In the Silent Hill: Homecoming video game, an unlock-able weapon – the circular saw – earns you the achievement “High Tension”.
  • “Aja & Freres” can be read on the back of the killer’s overalls. This is, of course a reference to director Alexandre Aja.
  • The film was shot in only 36 days.
  • There is a scene where a blood-splatter hits the camera lens; this was, in fact, unintentional.
  • SPOILER: The murder of Jimmy was inspired by the Scatman Crothers/axe scene from The Shining.
  • Alexandre Aja presented the script to Luc Besson, who convinced them to heavy alter the pacing of the twist-ending.
  • One of the cameras used in the film was soaked with so much fake blood, that when used in a totally different movie it began to leak.

That does it for this entry. Come back real soon for TEN of TERROR #7!

Posted on: October 19th, 2009 TEN of TERROR: Top 10 Haunted Movie Houses

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Nothing keeps me up at night more than the thought that my house could be haunted. Your home is supposed to be a place of ultimate safety, of sanctuary – ghosts, spirits, poltergeist or a haunting is truly one of the most terrifying ordeals one must have to go through when dealing with the paranormal. With that, I’ve compiled a list of the then most hauntiest haunted houses in movies.

#10: Russell’s Mansion – The Changeling

So George C. Scott’s character’s wife and daughter kick the bucket, so what does he do? He moves into a huge Victorian mansion bachelor pad. He’s not alone though, and the ghost of a young child begins freaking his day up, shattering windows, slamming doors, and generally being a creepy kid ghost.

 

#9: Danvers State Mental Hospital – Session 9

Asbestos isn’t the only thing in the walls of this abandoned mental hospital, in this case it’s a demonic spirit that will make you do things you wish you hadn’t. Like The Hangover but way less funny.

 

#8: The Rueda House – The Orphanage (El Orfanato)

Again with the creepy kid ghosts. The house in The Orphanage isn’t really dangerous per se, the ghosts here are more like annoying little gnats. But they look creepy as all hell. Especially the kid with the burlap-sac-button-eye mask. That alone, ghost or no ghost, would have me packing my bags.

#7: Nebbercracker’s House – Monster House

Here’s a really interesting take on the whole haunted house genre – the house in this case is a creature itself. It has window eyes, door teeth and a rug tongue. Granted it exists in computer generated graphics, the thought of a giant house eating the neighbourhood kids is
quite terrifying. Really great animated film too, watch it right away if you haven’t yet.

#6. Dana Barrett’s apartment – Ghostbusters

It’s 1984. You’re Sigourney Weaver. You’ve just unpacked your groceries and the eggs you bought pop out onto the counter and fry on their own. Then you open the fridge and instead of last nights stroganoff, you see a horned beast glaring back at you. Then, after a hot, sweaty workout, you sit down on your favorite lazy-boy when all of a sudden that creature from your fridge comes out of your chair and possesses you. Next thing you know, your apartment is a portal for the undead to enter our realm. 900 sq. ft. Only $750/m. Amenities inc. Gym, laundromat and rotting corpses.

#5. The Lutz House – The Amityville Horror

This could be the most famous haunted house, and rightfully so – I wouldn’t spend one night in this hell hole. Swarms of flies, floating eyes, bleeding walls and ominous voices are just some of the horrors you would endure before ultimately trying to kill your whole family. Or if you’re talking Amityville Horror 2, the worst you will do is sleep with your sister. Either way, GET OUT.

#4. Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute – The House on Haunted Hill (1999)

The remake of the Vincent Price classic took the haunted house concept to a new and interesting level. The property in this case is a huge and daunting former-mental asylum. Though the doctor in charge, before the place burned everyone alive, may have needed work on his bedside manner and is in fact still practicing… on haunting your face off.

#3. The Freeling’s House – Poltergeist

I’ve covered the severity of this house in TEN of TERROR #1, but it bares repeating. You’re not safe anywhere in this house. Wanna make a steak? Nope. Maggots got to it. Wanna wash your face? Nope. You just peeled your face off. Clowns. Corpses. Demon trees. Need I say more?

#2. The house in Nerima – Ju-On (The Grudge)

The house from Ju-On, or its American version The Grudge, is so terrifying in that it will kill you even after you’ve left. The second you step foot in there, boom. You’re done. Next thing you know you’ll be curling up on the couch with a bag of chips. You open the bag, reach in, and bam. Asian kid ghost came out of the bag and scared you to death.

#1. The Overlook Hotel – The Shining

The Overlook. Beautiful. Luxurious. Isolated. Jack Torrance and his family found this out over several long, chilling months alone in this sprawling mountain hotel. It also happens to be built on an ancient Indian burial ground and has a long history of murder and madness. This place has it all: elevators filled with blood, creepy twin girl ghosts, bears blowing dudes, fat grandma bathtub ghosts, axes in the chest, all work and no play.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look back at the scariest haunted houses in film. Keep checking GKS for more TEN of TERROR content.

Posted on: October 18th, 2009 TEN of TERROR: 10 Best Death Scenes

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Ah, Halloween. Is there a more fun time of the year? No. October is the one month a year when it’s ok to be scared and let lose and have some fun. And nothing says October like horror films. Trust me, there is a lot of those out there, and some of them have some really, really good death scenes. There are those iconic ones everyone puts on all of their top ten lists, and then there are those that are so obscure that putting them on a top ten list will bring them to the light that they deserve. My list here is kinda a mix of the two. It represents all the best, most fun ways to die in cinema.

#10

Number 10 on my list is from Alien. Yep, that poor sap who had the little cute blood thirsty alien pop out of his chest. There has got to be some serious lack of intelligence on that ship. I mean come on, this guy has an alien organism on his face that mysteriously dies and you do not keep him in some sort of quarantine? Seriously people. But that aside, what a way to go.

#9

Number 9 is a particularly nerve wracking and gruesome death scene. Remember the doctor from Saw III? The one with the shotgun collar on? I do. That woman was forced to work not knowing when or if she’d be on the receiving end of that untold destruction. And when it went off? Glorious gruesome brutality. Now that was an insidious death scene. SPOILER WARNING: The link below shows the ending for Saw III.

Click here to watch #9

#8

Next up at #8 is a movie I like but will be scoffed at, and no I haven’t seen the original. I know REC is a great movie, but I really liked Quarantine. The entire ending when it was a little spot light of night vision and Dexter’s Sister got drug off into the darkness suddenly was just awesome.

#7

Number 7 for me is the cameraman in Cloverfield. The dude was an idiot for not hearing the giant monster come up behind him. Loser. He deserved to die. I hope that when he died, he also exploded like the others did when scratched by those mini monsters. But still, he got eaten. Alive. On camera. For being stupid. Great times had by all.

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#6

#6 is a group award. When I think back to a kid and watching horror movies I had awful pieces of crap like Ghoulies to hold me over. But I really gotta give my #6 place to anyone, and I mean ANYONE, who got eaten in any of the Critters movies. I salute you all who got eaten by evil space hamsters. What a fun and embarrassing way to go.

#5

So for my number 5 choice I gotta hand it to Chrissie in Jaws. Don’t know who she is? She’s the beach babe that gets eaten in the first five minutes. Why was she swimming in the dark anyways? Who knows, but she bit it good with no one around to see it.

#4

On to number 4. Nothing grosses me out more than when The Fly ate that guy by throwing up on him and eating him. Eww. Guess it didn’t pay off to be such a douche bag that day. And I gotta wonder what his family was thinking that night cause something tells me ‘daddy got dissolved by a giant fly and eaten’ was not the first thing on their minds. Editor’s note: technically he didn’t die, but this is still a worthy scene.

#3

Number 3 is a classic and I love it. It is one of the most iconic scenes in cinema and it deserves to be on every list out there, including mine. It needs no explination. You know it just by these few words – Psycho, shower, death, scene. Enough said. But it’s not my number one choice for best death scene. How do you top that scene? Keep reading.

#2

I am a fan of the Hostel movies, and number 2 comes from that series’ number 2 – The bloody bath scene. Wow. How messed up would it be to be that poor, poor girl who goes on vacation only to be hung naked upside down and cut open so some freak woman can bathe in your blood? Guess she should have gone to Disneyland.

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#1

And now for my number one best death scene in a movie. Ever. It comes from one of the best, most horrible movies ever. We watched it simply cause on the back of the box was a small pic of this death scene and that was all we needed. Since then it has become one of my groups favorite movies ever, and it even spawned a sequel. I am of course talking about Jack Frost. No, not that family friendly Michael Keaton one, the b movie ‘serial killer mutates into a killer snowman’ one. Yep, you read it right. But it gets better. Not only is the movie full of horrible lines to quote, but it also has the best death scene ever. It involves Shannon Elizabeth, Nadia from American Pie, getting sexed to death in a bath tub by said killer snowman with a carrot. You have got to see it to believe it. And she has to put this on her resume. But it is worth every penny from beginning to end so go get Jack Frost TODAY.

So that’s my list of best death scenes in horror movies. What are yours? Hit up the comments below and let us know.

Posted on: October 17th, 2009 TEN of TERROR #5: Re-Animator

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What would Halloween be without a gross-out, campy, out-of-left-field, cult horror film to quench our thirst for blood and giggles? I, for one, need this relief from serious fright-fests and frankly, grow weary of the Evil Dead films. There. I’ve said it. I’m tired of Ash fighting the deadites; we know it’s great but it’s lost its charm and subsequent cult status. Which is why I’m bringing in the Evil Dead replacement for TEN of TERROR #5… Re-Animator.

If you haven’t seen Re-Animator, you’re in for a sickly treat. Based on the H.P. Lovecraft short story, Herbert West: Re-Animator, the film stars the amazing Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West, a young scientist obsessed with developing a formula to bring the dead back to life. When his studies take him from Switzerland to a medical school in New England, Herbert makes great advances in his development and is soon re-animating the dead. The film also stars Bruce Abbot, Barbara Crampton and David Gail and was directed by Stuart Gordon (Robot Jox, King of the Ants).

Re-AnimatorIf anything, Re-Animator stays afloat on two elements. The first element being Jeffrey Combs’ performance as Herbert West. Echoing my sentiments for the man from my review of The Frighteners, Combs seems to pull his performances out from his the very pit of his existence. He creates these almost unsociable characters so flawlessly and believably that you almost don’t ever want to meet Combs himself out of fear that he’ll smell your neck and strangle you to death. In Re-Animator we really only get to see the surface of the Herbert West character, and only Combs’ performance could make us want to see more. When you really step back and think about it, West isn’t a hero, nor is he a villain; he’s just a scientist obsessed, so driven by this goal to re-create life that he cares not for the consequence. Combs created a character so unique and involved that you forget that he’s the fool that started the chaos; if anything you want more and end up rooting for the guy if only so you can watch him at work.

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The second element that keeps this film watchable are the many “what the fuck?” moments littered throughout its 95 minute runtime. All of these moments are wonderfully smothered with buckets of blood and sinew and brain fragments. “Torture porn” films like Hostel need take a lesson from films like Re-Animator and Kill Bill; if you’re going to do excessive gore, it’s gotta be entertaining – surround your film with lightheartedness and fun and excitement, and you can pull off copious amounts of guts. The Saw movies aren’t entertaining because its just mindless gore with no payoff, nothing to keep us connected. For all intents and purposes, these films are just showing us shocking and horrendous imagery; we may a well be watching a real autopsy. But with films like Re-Animator or Dead Alive, even Evil Dead II, the excessive carnage is making us laugh and fits tonally in with the overall experience of the movie. I can have fun with a dude walking around holding his own head in Re-Animator, while I don’t have fun with a woman getting her rib-cage split open in Saw III. There’s just no payoff anymore if you’ve taken it that far just for that reason alone; Re-Animator sees those boundaries ahead and gives you a quick sampling before touching down on the ridiculous again. One scene in particular comes to mind that will surely make your date squirm, involving a re-animated severed head and a naked lady, is far more effective thanany of the torture devices in Saw or Hostel.

Director Stuart Gordon created a film that could very well serve as a bridge for new readers to venture into the mad and macabre world of H.P. Lovecraft, just as Sam Raimi has done with the Evil Dead films. Re-Animator as a movie captures the imagination of Lovecraft while steering it into a relatable time with relatable people. There are no Cthulhu or necronomicons here to bog down your modern-day mind, and yet the film is so wonderfully Lovecraftian at heart. It’s a shame this film hasn’t broken its cult status to become more of a seasonal favorite, as it fits perfectly on the shelf among other inspired works from John Carpenter, Clive Barker or Guillermo Del Toro.

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The film was released on October 18, 1985 on a budget of $900,000 and has since grossed over $2 million. Reviews for Re-Animator have been consistently positive – mainstream critics such as Roger Ebert have praised the film’s high entertainment quotient and the film currently sits at a 92% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Re-Animator has spawned two sequels continuing the story of Herbert West and starring Jeffrey Combs, Bride of Re-Animator and Beyond Re-Animator.

Definitely one of the sillier entries in TEN of TERROR, Re-Animator is an instant classic. If you’re a big fan of the Evil Dead films, or horror-comedy in general, get ye to a store and pick up a copy to watch with your friends. Re-Animator is the perfect warm-up or simmer-down to a long horror movie marathon.

Trivia

  • In the morgue scene, the first re-animated corpse was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body double. I could recognize that bubble-butt anywhere.
  • The original story by H.P. Lovecraft, entitled “Herbert West: Re-Animator”, was intended as a parody of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
  • 25 gallons of fake blood was used during the film’s production.
  • Director Stuart Gordon has stated he’d be interested in making a fourth film in the series called House of Re-Animator, which would see Herbert West in the white house, re-animating a long-dead vice-president. This, I can get behind.

That wraps up #5, TEN of TERROR #6 coming at ya in a heartbeat…

Posted on: October 14th, 2009 TEN of TERROR #4: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3

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You didn’t actually think these were all going to be scary, did you? Halloween is a time to celebrate horror films from all walks, be it the legitimately frightening films to the downright terrible b-movies. No film of the genre is exempt from TEN of TERROR, not even one from a mindless franchise. While the concept of Freddy Krueger, the entity that attacks kids in their dreams as a form of revenge against the parents that killed him, is incredibly unique and worthy of many great stories, we really only got a couple decent movies out of the franchise, at this point eight films deep with a remake en route.

Halloween, and with that TEN of TERROR should be fun, which is why we’ve selected A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors as our fourth entry in GKS Halloween programming.

The plot for the third film is pretty simple, yet genius – Nancy, the sole survivor of Freddy’s previous attacks, now works as a researcher at a psychiatric institution for teens. When Freddy returns and begins pimping his brand of terror on these nutty kids, one of them reveals a talent that may help put ol’ knifey-hands away for good. Freddy in a mental hospital – how awesome is that!

I’m going to try something a little different for this entry. I’ve got the dvd of this on right now, it just started, so I’m going to write this entry in real-time; a written commentary if you will. I’ll try my best to have it make sense to you, the reader who most likely isn’t watching the film at this time.

Okay. Pressing play. Here we go.

The film starts out with a pretty cool quote:

“Sleep. Those little slices of death. How I loathe them.” – Edgar Allan Poe

And cue one of the cheesiest title cards ever – wipe reveal followed by neon green subtitle. Even for 1987 this is a little cheesy.

Patricia Arquette’s credit just appeared – she was 19 at the time. Hubba hubba. Not to sound like that guy, but Patricia Arquette is wicked cute back then as she is today.

Cue awful 80’s tune “Into the Fire”. I’m Faaaalllllliiinnn’… INTO THE FI-YAH!

First Dream Sequence

584-13756Patricia Arquette’s character wakes up outside the paper mache house she made. Little kids skipping rope and singing. Little girl on a tricycle. Creepy. Arquette, stupidly, enters the house. Cue boiler room full of skulls and 80’s synth. The floor just turned to tar – classic Freddy! The little girl turns into a skeleton and Arquette’s in a room full of hanging bodies. Then she wakes up. Definitely a great nightmare sequence.

Oh shit! She wasn’t awake after all, Freddy’s in the bathroom mirror! The tap just turned into a Freddy hand!

Now her mom thinks she attempted suicide – > looney bin.

Cowboy Curtis himself, Laurence Fishburne, plays a nurse in this here coconut college.

We’re 11 minutes in and this flick kicks-ass already, though I’m beginning to feel wary about this real-time blogging thing.

Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) just showed up – now she knows that Arquette is legit and not just a nutter. The lead doctor at the hospital (who also looks frighteningly like Bill Mahr) is totally putting the moves on her.

Intro – Phillip the sleepwalker. “Welcome to the snake pit”. Bad-ass.

Intro – Kincaid. I take that back, he’s the bad-ass. But with a helium voice.

Intro – Joey. Doesn’t talk. Tear drop tattoo. Affinity for hot nurses. Can’t blame him.

Second Dream Sequence

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Arquette falls asleep in her room. Door opens, tricycle rolls in and melts! Now she’s in the Freddy house. Pig on a platter just squealed at her. Awesome. The rug and the walls start moving holy shit! A giant Freddy snake monster is eating her! She’s waist deep in it’s mouth! Nancy heard her screaming now she’s in the dream? This is intense. Snake Freddy looks bad-ass. Nancy woke up. She looks 17. How can a 17 year old be a scientific researcher?

Intro – Will. Wheelchair kid.

Intro – Jennifer. Wants to be an actress. Way too fat, cmon.

Intro – Taryn. She’s the bitch of the group and a former junkie. I can see it.

Wheelchair kid, Taryn the junkie and sad boy are playing D&D in bed. Larry Fishburne just shut the game down. We all know D&D leads to mental institute orgies.

Oh boy… Nancy and Bill Mahr are on a date. She just dropped the Freddy bomb, dates over.

Third Dream Sequence

Phillip kid is asleep. Marionette next to bed turns into Freddy. AWESOME stop-motion animation happening. Freddy just cut his tendons out and is walking him around like a marionette! This is insane. He just walked him to the roof! All the looney’s think he’s a jumper. Freddy cut the cords…. splat.

Death toll – 1

Kincaid just landed himself a night in the “quiet room”. What a bad-ass.

Now they’re putting the kids on hypnocil, a dream suppressant. Freddy vs. Jason referenced a ton from this movie.

Fourth Dream Sequence

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Jennifer, the fat actress, is watching some tv. Late night talk-show. Freddy is the host! The wall-mounted tv set just grew arms and Freddy’s head came out of the top!

Freddy:

“This is it Jennifer, your big break in tv… welcome to prime-time bitch!”

Jennifer’s head -> television set = Death toll – 2

Fifth Dream Sequence

6567anightmareon-jpgThe doctor just hypnotized Nancy and all the kids. Ho boy. The naughty nurse gave Joey the ol’ wink and he follows her. Wheelchair kid can walk! That’s his dream ability! He just called himself the “wizard master”, I hate this kid. Patricia Arquette can do gymnastics. Kincaid can bend metal chairs. Taryn the junkie has a mohawk and thinks she’s beautiful. I never have dreams like these.

Joey’s unzipping the nurse’s gown… those are the worst 80’s fake tits I’ve ever seen. Now they’re frenching. Her tongue is a foot long and she spits out mini tongues, tying him to the bed. It’s Freddy!

“What’s wrong Joey, tongue tied?”

The bed falls away and now he’s hanging over a pit of fire. A nurse wakes everyone up and now sad boy Joey is in a coma.

Oh snap Nancy and Bill Mahr got fired! This truly is the Empire Strikes Back of Freddy movies.

We get a little back-story on Freddy’s origin. Apparently the mental institution used to be a dirty old psycho ward and one Amanda Krueger got locked in one night. She was raped by all the nutsos and became pregnant. Freddy literally is the son of a hundred maniacs. Well… just one really. That’s a lot of sperm though, Maury has his work cut out this time.

Cool! Sad boy just had his chest slashed while in a coma. It reads: COME AND GET HIM BITCH. Jesus, I love Freddy.

Cue Nancy’s dad, drinking in a bar, the dead-beat.

Great, now Arquette’s alone in the “quiet room”. Fuck, Heather Langenkamp’s acting is brutal. Nancy’s dad takes Bill Mahr to an old junk-yard to dig up Freddy’s bones. Seriously. They wrote that in this movie.

“Let’s go kick this mothafucka’s ass all over dream-land” – Kincaid.

I wish it were this goddamn easy to fall asleep in real life, seriously. Maybe I need a “quiet room”.

So apparently Arquette’s power, aside from gymnastics, is being able to pull people into here dream. She can consolidate dreams. She’s the dream-consolidator. Good lord, I hope I never pull anyone into one of my dreams…

Musical interlude – INTO THE FI-YAHHHHHHH!

Sixth Dream Sequence

Nightmare304Arquette is back to the beginning of the movie. Freddy kills her mom and her severed head is bitching at her. Arquette does a bad-ass wall-flip and dives through a window into Freddy’s house. Taryn the junkie, now punk-rockified, is wandering some dingy back-alley. She’s actually kind of hot now with this 4 foot mohawk. Her and Freddy get in a knife-fight. Freddy’s claws turn to syringes and he stabs Taryn right in the arms.

Death toll – 3

Now wheelchair kid is walking around and finds some crazy torture wheelchair courtesy of Freddy. This thing has spikes and chains, etc. Freddy just brought major lols with “when you wake up, it’s back in the saddle again”. Now wheelchair kid is being chased by the wheelchair of death. Oh the irony, he gets his legs slashed.

But wait! He’s the wizard master! With a cloak… dear lord this scene is unwatchable. Boom. Freddy just gave him the five-finger death punch to the heart. Later wizard master.

Death toll – 4

“Yo! Freddy! Where you hidin’ at you burnt-ass pussy?” – Kincaid.

I love this guy.

Now Nancy, Arquette and Kincaid are going down to the boiler room. These people are nuts. LOL Sad boy is STILL hanging over a pit of fire. INTO THE FI-YAH!

Freddy just did a kick-up! That guy can move.

You turkey, stabbing Freddy in a dream won’t do shit. He’ll just pull it out and lick it. That’s what she said. Also bad-ass: Freddy’s stomach is made up of screaming heads. I need to find the script for this movie to corroborate it’s kickassedness.

Holy hell Freddy’s bones just animated in the real world. How can that happen? Nancy’s dad just got impaled on the tail-fin of a cadillac. That’s the only way I want to go, seriously. With Creedence coming out of the stereo.

Death toll – 5

Now Freddy’s bones are digging a grave for Bill Mahr. This movie is sooooo ironic!

So, sad boy’s dream power is sonic scream (again with the irony). This would have been more effective however, if said scream didn’t sound like his was mid-puberty.

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Nancy got punked thinking that was actually the ghost of her dad… it was Freddy you moron! Now she’s stabbed. But to be fair, that was low… even for Krueger. So Nancy just stabbed him with his own gloved hand. Quit hittin’ yourself!

Nancy kicked it. Death toll – 6

Bill Mahr is burying Freddy’s skeleton. Apparently holy water is toxic to him and he went all glowey and disappeared.

Final death toll, including Freddy – 7

End credits, “Dream Warriors” – WE’RE THE DREAAAAAMMM WARRIOOORRRRRRRSSS.

So there you have it folks, you’ve just spent 96 minutes with yours truly watching my favorite entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Though I’ve been making fun of it today, it really is a fun watch, though severely dated. Dare I say it’s one of the more inventive 80’s slasher-stye horror films. My only real complaints are the ending, far too rushed and unclear, and the total misuse of Kincaid. They hyped him up as this real tough guy, but we barely got to see a one-on-one with Freddy. I much preferred the scene from Jason Takes Manhattan where the boxer-dude goes a round with Jason only to have his head hadokened off into a dumpster.

Those minor complaints aside, I love this movie. If you can get past the thick layer of cheese and not compare it to the infinitely darker first movie, you will love it to.

Trivia

  • Taryn can be seen wearing a Dokken shirt in her first scene – Dokken provided the two tracks for this movie that I lovingly make fun of. INTO THE FI-YAH!
  • The original Freddy snake looked too much like a penis so they covered it with green slime. This scene was shot then played in reverse to give the effect that the snake was eating Patricia Arquette.
  • Apparently Freddy’s glove was stolen from the set of this film, to appear later in Ash’s workshop in Evil Dead II. Rumor has it that directors Sam Raimi and Wes Craven have kept this tradition of swapping the glove alive.
  • Robert Englund, the man behind the makeup, wrote a treatment for this film that went unused.
  • The film was banned in Queensland until 1990 when the Queensland Film Board of Review was abolished.

Stay tuned for TEN of TERROR #5!

Posted on: October 10th, 2009 TEN of TERROR #3: Creepshow

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There’s nothing quite like a good horror anthology, little morsels of single-serve, cut-to-the-chase goodness, to set the mood on a dark October night. Who better to commandeer such a project than the master of written terror, Stephen King, and one of the finest directors the genre has to offer? None better, which is why our third pick is that collaboration, 1982’s Creepshow.

Creepshow is a living breathing horror-comic, much in the spirit of Tales From The Crypt (which is even paid tribute to in the film’s opening credits); five short stories from Stephen King – two of which are adaptations of previously released short stories – brought to life through the eye of zombie-master George A. Romero. Sharp writing, covering five different facets of the horror genre, coupled with a stellar ensemble cast giving truly fun performances makes this flick a yearly tradition in my house, and more than worthy of a spot on this list.

Let’s take a look at the film’s segments, shall we?

Part I – Father’s Day

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Starring: Ed Harris, Viveca Lindfors

Creepshow hits the ground running with this first segment, written by King specifically for the film, in which a family reunion on the third Sunday in June turns to terror as the murdered family patriarch rises from the grave. He wants his cake and his money-grubbing family dead!

Father’s Day is tied for my favorite segment in Creepshow. There’s some really great lines to go with some wonderfully-scene-chewing acting from old crazy aunt Bedelia. A shockingly-young Ed Harris dances up a storm, which must be seen to be believed, and the monster-costume is pretty cool. Romero dips into Dario Argento’s basket of lighting tricks to have some really gorgeous and colorful shots. Note that the score in this segment (provided by John Harrison), is kick-ass.

Part II – The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill

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Starring: Stephen King

The film’s writer himself is the lead in this segment, an almost one-man-show, as Jordy Verrill, a less-than-educated hillbilly (aka, hillwilliam) that becomes infected with a strange mutating disease after a meteorite crash-lands on his property. This segment, adapted from a pre-existing short-story titled Weeds, is the most light-hearted of the film, mainly from Stephen King’s acting. It really is a terrible performance, but given the sheer idiocy of the character, it works perfectly – and I’ll bet a dime or two that King went over-the-top on purpose. If anything, this segment feels like a tribute to bad campy horror, and it works wonderfully, all the way up to the grim, mossy end.

Watching Stephen King in overalls chugging a near vertical bottle of hooch is so lol-worthy you will pause and re-wind, I guarantee.

Part III – Something to Tide You Over

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Starring: Leslie Neilson, Gaylen Ross, Ted Danson

To me, this is the gem of the anthology. The great Leslie Neilson turns in a relatively serious performance as a rich man who sadistically deals with his cheating wife and her lover. From start to finish, this is just a great segment, very cold and subtle and it all burns up to a wicked ending. Leslie Neilson is awesome and totally outside of his range of recognition, as is Ted Danson.

This segment has again a great score, and some really classic imagery – how can you forget a man buried neck-deep in the sand while the tide rushes in? Like Father’s Day, Stephen King wrote this segment expressly for the film.

Part IV – The Crate

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Starring: Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau

Adapted from a previously published short-story, The Crate tells the tale of a timid college professor who discovers a crate – over 100 years old – in the basement of the college. In that crate, a feral creature and the perfect way to dispose of an emotionally-abusive wife.

The Crate didn’t really stand out to me the first time I saw Creepshow, but the more I revisit the film, the more I get it; the real monster in this segment isn’t the creature from the crate at all, but rather the way we justify extreme actions when our spirits have been broken. Hal Holbrook gives what could be the most dramatic performance in the entire anthology; his character is so perfectly sympathetic and entirely believable. It’s this display of subtlety and story-telling that takes our mind off the brutal monster puppet they used. Adrienne Barbeau also shines as the slightly-over-the-top mega-bitch.

Part V – They’re Creeping Up On You

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Starring: E.G. Marshall

The final segment of Creepshow, written just for the film, is kind of the odd man out; it’s not bad, by any means, but I wouldn’t classify it as a horror short. It would fit perfectly at home as an episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. That’s not to say it’s not a great addition to the film, it is just tonally different than the four previous chapters.

E.G. Marshall plays Upson Pratt, a rich and ruthless businessman who lives his life sealed in his apartment, where he balances his time between perpetuating his corporate greed and battling his crippling mysophobia – a pathological fear of dirt, germs and contamination. Karma rears its ugly head when hordes of cockroaches begin to invade his plastic prison of perfection.

Although this is my least favorite segment in the film, and in my opinion an odd pic to end the movie, E.G. Marshall is so awesomely despicable and that alone makes this one fun.


creepshow_xl_01filmAThe film opened in November of 1982 – a huge year for movies on the whole – fairly successful, making it’s budget back in five days and ultimately taking in $21 million. Though the film was met with mixed reviews from critics, Creepshow is quite celebrated by fans of the genre.

The film received the sequel treatment with Creepshow 2 in 1987. The film was written by George A. Romero and based on short-stories by Stephen King. Though the film – directed by Michael Gornick – is totally watchable, and features three interesting horror-shorts, it just doesn’t deliver on the same level as the first film. There seemed to be a lack of heart, and it’s less of a celebration of the culture that preceded it.

If anything, Creepshow works as an homage to the camp and cheesiness of the genre. If you take it seriously, you’re never going to be satisfied, but if you’re in the mood for fun, exploitative and vibrantly adapted comic-book horror, you’re in for a treat.

Trivia

  • Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill, plays the young boy in the book-end segments of the film.
  • The marble ashtray, used as the deadly weapon in the Father’s Day segment, appears in every segment in the film.
  • A road-sign for Castle Rock appears at the end of The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill. Castle Rock is, of course, the fictitious Maine town featured in most of Stephen King’s writings.
  • Max Von Sydow was, apparently, originally cast as Upson Pratt in They’re Creeping Up On You.
  • George A. Romero nicknamed the monster from The Crate “Fluffy”.

That wraps up TEN of TERROR #3… stay tuned for #4…

Posted on: October 5th, 2009 TEN of TERROR #2: The Frighteners

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It was July of 1996. Two week’s after its the 4th of July, audiences were still flocking to see Roland Emmerich’s alien-action spectacle Independence Day and taking in Danny Boyle’s drug-ridden roller-coaster Trainspotting. If you were like me, you may have missed seeing our next entry into TEN of TERROR in the theater… The Frighteners.

Co-written, co-produced and directed by a relatively unknown Peter Jackson, The Frighteners is an immensely fun horror-comedy featuring an awesome ensemble cast including Michael J. Fox, John Astin, Jeffrey Combs, Jake Busey and Chi McBride. The Frighteners follows Frank Banister, a widowed and out-of-work architect who can see and interact with ghosts (those that didn’t go into the light when they died). Bannister uses this unique ability to stage hauntings in people’s homes, and under the guise of a “paranormal investigator” proceeds to charge them large sums of money for a false exorcism. When a horrifying spirit known as “the reaper” goes on a seemingly arbitrary killing spree, Bannister is framed for the murders and the race is on to clear his name and stop the rising death-toll.

films-frightenersAt the time of release, The Frighteners was Peter Jackson’s first big budget studio film; he previously gained noticed with Meet the Feebles, Dead Alive and Heavenly Creatures. The Frighteners also served as a huge point of growth for the visual effects studio Weta, the company now notorious for bringing the Lord of the Rings universe to life. Weta had only been in existence for three years and at the time the visual/practical effects needed for The Frighteners were pretty ground-breaking. Computer-generated effects such as ghosts crawling around over walls and surfaces, and the flowing cape of the grim reaper were only some of the effects Weta pulled off amazingly. There’s no doubt that The Frighteners helped put Weta on the map, giving New Line the confidence to bring the company on-board for the massive task of creating effects for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Since then the studio, which was founded by Peter Jackson, has created stunning visual effects for I, Robot, King Kong and District 9 among many others.

Although the film was considered a disappointment at the box office, the film was largely well-received by critics (the film currently sits at a 71% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and has gained quite the cult following.

TheFrighteners

The Frighteners just works on so many levels. It’s legitimately funny and actually frightening at many times. Robert Zemeckis served as executive producer on the film, and it certainly fits into his repertoire of films from the late 80’s, early 90’s (Back to the Future, Death Becomes Her). The film has this incredibly defined atmosphere to it; everything from the various characters living in the quiet town to the town itself. These people and locations serve to make these fantastic paranormal elements, the ghosts and the history of the town, entirely believable. The real star of the film though, is its cast.

The Frighteners is Michael J. Fox’s second-last film credit (not including voice-acting), and in my opinion his performance as the con-artist-turned-hero Frank Banister is his best right next to his iconic Marty McFly from the Back to the Future films. Frank Bannister is a fully-fleshed character (pun intended) that goes through a spectrum of emotions and ultimately changes throughout the story. He’s also incredibly likable and funny, even when he’s blatantly conning people out of their money. I credit a large part of that charm to Fox, though the impeccable writing didn’t hurt either.

Cap9Surrounding Fox’s Bannister is a tremendous supporting cast. Jake Busey channels his father’s bat-shit craziness into a grin-inducing villain; like Michael J. Fox, I’ll bet a fair amount of this character is a by-product of the actor himself. The film also boasts some pretty hilarious ghostly performances; the great John Astin (Gomez from The Addams Family tv show) brings the laughs as The Judge, a long-deceased gun-toting cowboy with a sexual eye for King Tut’s wife. Chi McBride also dazzles as Cyrus, the spectre of a 70’s era hustler and Frank Bannister’s associate in the staged haunting business. Above all of these brilliant performances though, lies one that is truly for the ages and that is Jeffrey Combs as FBI agent Milton Dammers. Folks, this could be one of the greatest displays of eccentric we will ever see on film. Every shivering, sweating, jittery, creepy scene this character is in is damned electric. Combs (Re-Animator) completely steals the movie and magnificently chews every once of scenery; that is not a bad thing at all. It amazes as to why this man isn’t in more large studio films. If you haven’t yet seen The Frighteners, I would say that Combs’s performance is worth the viewing alone; lucky for you there are many reasons to love this flick.

The Frighteners isn’t typically regarded as a must-watch Halloween movie, but after revisiting this gem it has rightfully earned itself a spot in that list. This film is pure fun all the way through and is the perfect fodder for a dark October night (or any night of the year for that matter). Also, do take note of yet another wicked score from Danny Elfman; the music throughout the film is so appropriate it really enhances the story and becomes almost a character itself; something that great film scores do.

The Frighteners is available in a two-disc director’s cut dvd; no blu-ray as of yet sadly.

Trivia:

  • Apparently Michael J. Fox blew his lines numerously by calling The Judge “Doc”, Christopher Lloyd’s character’s name in the Back to the Future movies.
  • R. Lee Ermy’s ghost-general character is an obvious homage to his iconic role as Sgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket.
  • The Frighteners wasn’t released theatrically in Tasmania, as the film’s content was similar to real life events that occurred shortly before release. I’m assuming it was serial killings, not ghosts.
  • Co-writer, co-producer and director Peter Jackson has a cameo in the film as a body-pierced punk-rocker.
  • The film was originally intended to be a Tales from the Crypt feature, however Robert Zemeckis felt it stood on it’s own legs.
  • Danny Elfman, who scored Jackson’s previous film Heavenly Creatures, agreed to do the film before even knowing the story.

Stay tuned for more horror goodness with TEN of TERROR #3!