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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 31: Trick ‘r Treat

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 31: Trick ‘r Treat

There are times when I hear of a film that, having played at a few test screenings, or possibly film festivals, gets shelved because the reaction wasn’t up to the standards the filmmakers had set for themselves.  Other times, the film is so wretchedly awful that the chance of it ever seeing the light of day seems as dim as the dark room the celluloid was developed in.  There are even times when a film was unable to pick up distribution upon completion, for a whole myriad of reasons.

Today’s film falls into the later category.  

Upon hearing of the film some time ago, I’d wrongfully assumed it to be a remake of Trick or Treat (1986) or Trick or Treats (1982).  When I learned about the production of the film, and its lack of distribution, I wrote it off as another horribly contructed film.  However, I soon began to hear rumblings of how enjoyable the film was, and noticed it being mentioned in other film blogs and articles.

For reasons that defy understanding, I forgot about the film as its DVD release came and went, only briefly becoming aware of it again periodically, usually around this time of year.

Recently, I began recieving notices that Legendary Pictures was going to be screening the film on Youtube via Facebook, with a live Q+A to follow.  My ears perked up, I cleared my schedule, and decided to add my review to this series on 31 frightful films.  When I learned of it taking place on Halloween, I knew it would be the final entry in the series.

I’m so glad I that waited.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 31: Trick ‘r Treat


Director: Michael Dougherty
Year: 2007
Cast: Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker, Tahmoh Penikett
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 82 mins. / Color / OAR 2.35.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★★★ / A

An anthology of four stories, connected by their occurance on the same city block on Halloween:  A neighborly high school principal harbors a dark secret, a college virgin seeks to find the man to share herself with, a group of youth take a trip to the site of a deadly accident, and a curmudgeon old man gets more tricks than treats.

Right from the start, I knew I was going to enjoy this film.  Dougherty pays a somewhat homage to one of my favorite films that take place on Halloween, by utilizing a POV shot of a killer in a mask (Halloween).  The suspense alone in the opening scene is so well directed, and edited, that I was on the edge of my seat before the opening titles had even begun.  When they did, they also were cleverly executed, standing out from the current glut of horror films for its homage to another classic horror anthology (Creepshow).

The script, stripped from the visual tropes of a cat jumping across the path of an unsuspecting victim from the trash cans just off screen, and absent of the musical cues meant to invoke a gutteral reaction of fright, still manages to hold its suspense, delivering twists and turns in the vein of a classic Tales From the Crypt tome.  The stories are tightly interwoven, creating a cohesive overarching plot to an otherwise unrelated group of shorts, sans the Holiday in which they occur.  Very well done.

As for the aforementioned visuals, the cinematography from Glen MacPherson (Rambo, The Final Destination, Exit Wounds) is dark and atmospheric, perfectly framed to maximize the effects of the most haunted of holidays.  The costuming is original, creating an iconic character (that which is on the poster) sure to join the ranks of a Freddy Krueger, Pinhead, Leatherface, and Chucky.


While the gore is a bit over-the-top, it is far from gore porn.  It strangely didn’t feel gratuitous, blending in well with the comical undertones the film delivered, much in the same way Sam Raimi did years ago with his Evil Dead trilogy.

The acting also was exceptional, which wasn’t surprising given the calibre of talent Dougherty brough into the fold.  The cast easily handled what could have been camp, were the roles in the hands of less experienced talent.

The most enjoyable aspect, for me, was the fact that it takes place on Halloween.  Most horror films which many would associate with the frightfully festive day have nothing to do with the actual day itself.  Here, Dougherty, who also serves as screenwriter (Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, X2, Superman Returns), focuses on the traditions of the holiday, as well as the mythologies often associated with same.  Thankfully, he crafted a wonderfully entertaining addition.  An addition that deserves to be, and will be, viewed again and again, for many years to come.

     

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Posted by on October 31, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 30: Halloween II

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 30: Halloween II

I consider the original Halloween by John Carpenter to be one of the best horror films ever made.  Many detractors may deride the film for its violence, its wanton use of gore, or its hokey style of killings.  I’d challenge those persons to review the film, and notice that none of those things actually apply to the film that many would argue started the slasher film genre, if not certainly the holiday themed horror film.

I had seen the original for the first time on a brisk Halloween night on my family’s living room television.  My family were subscribers to ONTV, and we would often gather round to watch films such as Star Wars and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

It was on one such night where my father popped his famous bag of popcorn, buttered salt added, pulled up my little wooden white rocking chair, and allowed me to view what would spawn numerous sequels and remakes for years to come.

Having not seen the sequel for many years, I decided to revisit it for the penultimate entry in this year’s series.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 30: Halloween II

Halloween II PosterDirector: Rick Rosenthal
Year: 1981
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Charles Cyphers
Language: English
Country: USA
Specs: 92 mins. / Color / OAR 2.35:1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★★ / B

After a horrible night of being attacked  and seeing her friends killed my masked killer Michael Myers, Laurie Strode is taken to a hospital to recover from her wounds.  Unfortunately, the crazed killer is still on the loose, and tracks her down, in order to finish the job.

Less superior to the original in many ways. For starters, Rosenthal attempts to have Michael mimic the mannerisms he displays in the first film, but done with much less style and/or creepiness.

Second, the motivations of Michael this time around are much less understandable. In the first film, he is after Laurie, and everyone associated with her. Here, he kills randomly, for killing sake. He begins by going to a neighborhood house, and killing the husband and wife for no apparent reason.

The violence has been punched up, and has become more “shock value” than suspenseful, more of what many viewers would associate with the slasher genre and the effects work of horror guru’s like Tom Savini. Now we get a syringe in the eye, a boiled face, and two bullets into the eyes. Also, the actions in this film rely solely on the stupidity of the characters.
Halloween II Lobby
Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the film is the choice to house it entirely within a hospital. Hospitals are normally quite busy, well lit, and well staffed. In order to make it fit the mold of a horror film, however, they strangely make the hospital staffed by only a couple people, very dimly lit, if lit at all, and nary a patient in site, with the exception of poor, can-barely-walk, always in a daze Laurie Strode.

When coupled with the first film, it is enjoyable to view.  I also found enjoyable what obviously was intended to be the finale for what became a long running franchise.  Even if it were a bit of a different feel than its predecessor.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 27: Freddy vs. Jason

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 27: Freddy vs. Jason

For years, horror fans were clamoring for two of the most iconic stars of slasher films to appear in a film together.

Since Leatherface and Chucky weren’t available, Robocop and The Terminator weren’t an option, and Aliens vs Predator would never work, filmmakers opted for the two whose monikers grace the title of todays entry.

The only problem the filmmakers would have, would be how to tie the two franchises together in a way that would satiate the desires of fans of either blade wielding terror.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 27: Freddy vs. Jason

Director: Ronny Yu
Year: 2003
Cast: Ken Kirzinger, Kelly Rowland, Robert Englund, Jason Ritter
Language: English
Country: USA
Specs: 97 mins. / Color / OAR 2.35:1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★/ C

Freddy Krueger, in an attempt to terrorize people whom have stopped believeing in him, seeks the aid of fellow serial killer Jason Voorhees (of Friday the 13th fame) to assist in his never ending assault on the teens of his world.

The opening sequence was well done. Freddy’s monologue, the gutteral sounds he emates as he speaks, and the montage of kills from the previous films in the series all are done in a way to evoke fear and horror once again, bringing a much needed element back into the franchise from the start.

I’m sure the name of the boyfriend (Michael) of the first victim, and the owner of the house on Elm St. (Laurie) was intentional, in a nod to the other classic slasher that fans would have welcomed. Even the inclusion of Jason’s mother, and his reanimation is cleverly done, leading into one of the most interesting opening credit sequences out of both killers solo efforts.

The dialogue, however, is where the film derails, and dives down into mediocrity. The kills that defy science, no matter the strength of Jason and/or Freddy, also play more comical than scary.

Other than Jason Ritter, the acting is pretty bad. In fact, i thought the silicon in EVERY actress had more character than the “hosts”.

All in all, fans of either franchise will enjoy it, if they can get past the fact that the entire film makes no sense if the previous entries in either franchise are cannon.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 26: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 26: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

One, Two
Buckle My Shoe

I will never be able to sing this nursery rhyme the way it was written thanks to the Nightmare on Elm Street series. In fact, I cannot recall any of the verses beyond Three and Four. However, I can recite verbatim the haunted variation of the rhyme from the mind of Wes Craven.

I only wish that when I once spoke with Craven, I had asked him about the history of his version. Perhaps I will forever count it as one of the regrets in life I will take to the grave…

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 26: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

Director: Wes Craven
Year: 1994
Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Wes Craven, Robert Englund
Language: English
Country: USA
Specs: 112 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85:1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★★/ B

Heather Langenkamp, star of the original Nightmare on Elm Street film, finds she has a stalker who resembles Freddy Krueger, the fictional villain in the same set of films. After events in her life turn deadly, she realizes that the stalker is a demon in the persona of her fictional nemesis.

This entry starts out to be a very intelligent and clever take on the Elm Street series. It mostly presents plenty of scary moments, portraying Freddy once again as evil.

However, the last part of the film dips again into the absurd, with Freddy becoming somewhat of a clown. He stretches, grows, uses a super long tongue to strangle, etc.

Special effects are done well, and minor use of CG is blended in nicely. The makeup and glove are redone this time around, and are welcome additions.

Low on gore also, compared to the others in the series, that is. A clever twist from Craven, rejuvenating a tired series, bringing what would have been closure to the series on a high note.

That is, had tomorrow’s entry not been made.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 22: Dark Night of the Scarecrow

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 22: Dark Night of the Scarecrow

The made-for-tv film was a category that used to be populated by dozens of productions per year.  Sunday nights spent in front of the tv with our paper Chatham’s bag filled with freshly popped butter-salt popcorn at the ready was a weekly ritual in the house of this film fan.  It’s a genre of film I miss, and wish would make a concerted return to the air beyond the offerings of the spurned wife tales found on Lifetime channel.

Today’s film came to me as a surprise.  I’d never heard of the film, and wasn’t sure how enjoyable a horror film that originally made it’s premiere on CBS over 30 years ago would be.  While I have fond memories of The Night Strangler or The Burning Bed, neither of those films were as much horror as they were suspense.  In fact, I couldn’t recall having seen any horror films on TV that were originally created for that medium.

Thankfully, a friend of mine pointed me in the direction of the featured tale I bring to you today.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 22: Dark Night of the Scarecrow

Scarecrow VHSDirector: Frank De Felitta
Year: 1981
Cast: Larry Drake, Charles Durning, Tonya Crowe, Jocelyn Brando, Lane Smith
Language: English
Country: USA
Specs: 96 mins. / Color / OAR 1.33.1 / MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Rating: ★★★★ / B

After a retarded man, dressed as a scarecrow in an attempt to escape a crazed lynch mob intent on unjustly murdering him for a crime he didn’t commit, is found and slain, the members of the mob are hunted and killed by someone resembling same said scarecrow.

I enjoyed this suspenseful thriller from the moment the title cards began.  Call is nostalgia for a bygone era, or call it appreciation for talented character actors at their best, this film is surprisingly terse and tense for a film appearing on network television over 30 years ago.

From the opening scene of Drake’s (Darkman, Dr. Giggles) Bubba befriending the young girl in a scene reminiscent of Frankenstein, to the closing shots of the ghostly scarecrow ominously hanging in the corn field, the acting never truly dips into hamminess, despite its portrayal of country bumpkins and oversized simpletons.  In fact, I was surprised to see such familiar faces peppered throughout this feature.

The editing is also notable, successfully amping up the suspense in a way more attributable to a theatrical pic than a made-for-tv production.  The camera work also is commendable.  And while the story nor elements of the plot without flaws (it never is explained nor understood why a little girls parents would allow her to roam deserted fields with a mentally retarded adult), it does call forth memories of the elements commonly found in a classic episode of The Twilight Zone.Dark Night of the Scarecrow

I heartily recommend any fan of revenge pics, ghost stories, or classic made-for-television horror films to track down and give this haunted tale a viewing.  You’ll

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 20: Freddy’s Dead – The Final Nightmare

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 20: Freddy’s Dead – The Final Nightmare

Sometimes you feel like a nut.

Sometimes you don’t.

Almond Joy’s got nuts.

And so does today’s film.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 20: Freddy’s Dead – The Final Nightmare

freddys_dead_ver2_xlgDirector: Rachel Talalay
Year: 1991
Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Zane, Shon Greenblatt
Language: English
Country: USA
Specs: 105 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★ / D

Acting is bad (Rosanne and Tom Arnold??!?!), direction is typical Hollywood over-produced nonsense.  Actions of the characters make little sense.  Sets are so obviously Backlot looking.  Typical characterizations (angry rebellious older teen girl, carefree smoking long haired young boy teen, rebel without a cause could care less teen boy,).  Not a scary moment in the film.  Instead, we are treated to a boy being nearly suffocated by a map that is way too large!  We get “homages?” to Wizard of Oz, with Freddy being the wicked witch.  We get the typical crazy teacher in the ghost town who teaches an empty class, as all the children are missing.

House is abandoned and boarded up, but it has porch light on, and all the lights in the house are conveniently on.  Freddy resembles NOTHING of the character in the other films, and is strictly a cartoony character this time.  Freddy “toys” with victim (“fingers on chalkboard for deaf kid”, “pin drops”, “noise till head explodes”.)

“K. Krueger?  That could be anything from Kevin to Kyle” is the tripe we have to listen to.  “Thanks for lending me an ear”.

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 19: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 – The Dream Child

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 19: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 – The Dream Child

I love posters that are not photoshopped poses.  Many times, with the painted poster, or the artistic poster that truly was created by a person with talent, a person will talk about the image of the one-sheet many years after they’ve seen the film (or haven’t seen, as it were).

Some iconic posters over the years have been any poster from Saul Bass, Drew Struzan, Boris Vallejo, Richard Amsel, Bill Gold, and Anthony Goldschmidt.  The poster alone from any of these maestro’s would sell tickets to a movie, regardless the pic.

Sometimes it would be as great as the film.  Sometimes….the only good thing about the film.

Today is just one of those instances…

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 19: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 – The Dream Child

nightmare_on_elm_street_fiveDirector: Stephen Hopkins
Year: 1989
Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Kelly Jo Minter
Language: English
Country: USA
Specs: 89 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★ / D

Freddy, in attempt to finally destroy Alice, begins to haunt her through the dreams of her unborn child, whom he hopes of possess, allowing for him to be reborn into the world.

What a mess.  The story makes little sense this time around.  Pointless elements that haven’t any justification, laughable makeup and special effects, zero scares, and the most inane one liners delivered from Freddy hitherto.  I actually think every sentence spoken from Freddy is a very UNFUNNY one liner.

Whereas the first and third film in this franchise had a reason, this iteration has no reason whatsoever why Freddy hunts and kills his victims.  The sound effects are completely amateurish sounding.  The film feels like a rejected “Puppet Master” film retooled to be a Freddy pic instead.

Nightmare 5 FoodyTo close it off, the end credits song is perhaps one of the worst songs ever to appear in a film.  Were they serious???

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2013 in Movies

 

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