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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 29: Kuroneko

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 29: Kuroneko

I dislike cats.  I’m aware that many filmmakers have the same lack of appreciation for the beasts with 9 lives. Cat’s Eye, Pet Sematary, The Black Cat, The Cat People, even A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 all feature these ferocious felines.

It was with much trepidation (not really) that I sat to watch today’s film.  I knew that I would likely have an experience of shock simply from the subject matter alone.  I braved my fears, however, and happily accessed my Hulu+ account to view this classic of Japanese horror.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 29: Yabu No Naka No Kuroneko “Kuroneko”

Kuroneko posterDirector: Kaneto Shindou
Year: 1968
Cast: Kichiemon Nakamura, Nobuko Otowa, Kei Satou
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan
Specs: 99 mins. / Black and White / OAR 2.35:1 / MPAA Rating: NR
Rating: ★★★ / C

After being brutally raped and murdered by a gang of wandering samurai, a woman and her daughter return from the grave to haunt and kill them.

What odd choices of filmmaking, such as random jump cuts, unmotivated images of a black cat, disjointed jumping of the plane, cuts of ghosts and fallen samurai bodies out of nowhere, and the continual bamboo forest immersed in a dense fog imagery.

Some of the visuals were haunting, however.  The women with their painted on eyebrows, floating in their white kimono, amidst the secluded cabin in the woods, certainly ought to be enough to hold the interest of many aficionado’s of horror.  Sadly, I found the aforementioned problems too problematic to be saved by the later interesting elements.

It simply didn’t rise above anything other than average.  Certainly not after watching the superior Onibaba.  Thankfully, however, it’s not as bewildering as House.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 28: Onibaba

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 28: Onibaba

I’ve long been a fan of Japanese cinema. Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, Kon Ichikawa, and my favorite, Yasujiro Ozu, are masters of cinema few western audiences have seen. Amazingly, other than the run of horror movies that came from the land of the rising sun a few years back, such as Ringu and Ju On, I wasn’t familiar with any other in that genre.

Thankfully, a recent trip to the video store, and my viewing of their Criterion collection they have near the back of the store, I came across a few films considered to be classics in the J-horror genre.

With this new knowledge, I followed up my visit by searching both Hulu and Netflix for other films originating from the land famous for samurai, geisha, and ninja.

Happily, today’s film was one of the films featured on Hulu+ Criterion Collection. Without hesitation, I pressed play on my tiny appleTV remote, and took in the surprise that was today’s entry.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 28: Onibaba


Director: Kaneto Shindou
Year: 1965
Cast: Nobuko Otowa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kei Satou
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan
Specs: 103 mins. / Black and White / OAR 2.35:1 / MPAA Rating: NR
Rating: ★★★★★ / A

I wasn’t sure how this film was considered a horror film for most of the film. I felt more like a revenge picture, and an excellently crafted one at that. However, [SPOILER]…

I was completely blown away by the twist near the end of the film that confirmed this to indeed be a horror film. The mastery that Shindou displayed on bringing together this morality tale was superb, and worthy of all the praise I’ve since read up on for this film.

It was shocking to see such graphic sensuality, given the year the film was made. Certainly not a film I’d be able to show in my film appreciation class without a major disclaimer.


The cinematography is simply amazing. The waves in the grass, the use of shadows, and the framing of each scene is a marvel to see. The acting is equally as impressive. This is not your over-the-top theatrics found in many other films of that same era. Instead we are witness to the depravity of war, and the loneliness of seclusion, in a manner that is completely engrossing.

I will never feel the same way when I am faced with the choice of the shortcut through the grassy field or the long dirt path around it. I certainly will be needing a proper foot cleansing after such a proposition presents itself.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 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 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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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 18: Silent Night, Deadly Night

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 18: Silent Night, Deadly Night

It was a swealtering summer night in the suburbs of my hometown.  My brother and I were spending another night with my cousin, looking forward to the traditional night of watching a double feature in the living room of his tiny downstair apartment.  We loved to stay the night, as my aunt seemed to have no qualms about the type of films we would be allowed to view.  Compared to my mothers restrictions on something as seemingly innocent as Strawberry Shortcake or The Care Bears, a film that featured any worldly vice or plot was like a trip to Fantasy Island.

This night, my cousin was ecstatic.  He had stated that he was a fan of both films on the bill, and was sure we would equally enjoy them.  We turned down all of the lights, grabbed our individual servings of Jiffy Pop, and sat down to watch the first of our VHS tapes that night.

Sleepaway Camp was the first feature.  The second feature was the film I chose tonight for this series on frightful films during the month of October.  I chose the film not because I remembered it as a classic, but because amazingly, I remembered nothing about either film prior to tonights viewing.  I simply remembered the title of the films, and have wanted to revisit them both since my days as a youth.

As I write this, I wish I could unremember once again.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 18: Silent Night, Deadly Night

Silent Night Deadly NightDirector: Charles E. Sellier Jr.
Year: 1984
Cast: Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Robert Brian Wilson
Language: English
Country: USA
Specs: 85 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★ / F

Years after witnessing the brutal murder of his parents, a young man goes on a murderous rampage, dressed as Santa, choosing those he deems as “Naughty” as his victims.

What the 7734 were they thinking?  My word, what a travesty.  There is nothing about this film that I found enjoyable, frightening, intriguing, or any other emotion other than belwilderment.  While I could remember nothing about the film (I must have blocked it from my memory upon my initial viewing), I was aware that it spawned 4 sequels.  How that happened is beyond me.

The film is a worthless slasher pic that was as painful to watch as Chinese Food by Alison Gold.  I would have enjoyed it more had I miraculously experienced a Stay Tuned moment and found myself one of the victims of Billy’s axe to the stomach.  The dialogue, acting, plot, deaths, costuming, sets, all are about as shallow as my toddlers swimming pool.

I understand that parents boycotted the film upon its initial release due to its subject matter of a killer Santa.  I would rather have picketed the bank that funded this mess for wasting peoples money on such dreck.

Killer SantaIf you are as wanton as the un jovial man in red, by all means, rush out and rent this stinker.  If you are of the same character as the family in the Saturday Night Live skit The Gross-Out Family, then ask for the collector’s DVD box set of this film for your Christmas gift.  Otherwise, save yourself the misery and rent Misery instead.  At least you’ll enjoy the maniac with an ax (or a hammer in the theatrical version) much more.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 16: The Mummy

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 16: The Mummy

I often feel like the Gill- Man from Creature from the Black Lagoon got the shaft. Other than a pair of sequels in 1955 (Revenge of the Creature) and 1956 (The Creature Walks Among Us), the scaly monster from the deep has not been featured in any other films, other than The Monster Squad and Hotel Transylvania, since his initial unveiling.

Perhaps a television show called The Creature Diaries didn’t have quite the same ring as the CW’s sudser about another creature of the night? I’m guessing The Gurgling wouldn’t have appeared as menacing atop a poster hanging in the lobby of the local cineplex as another more lupine film from Joe Dante in 1981 did. Certainly, had Kevin Bacon wanted to team with Paul Verhoeven to give us The Hollow Thing from Deep Down in a Cove Somewhere in The Amazon, the marketing people would have shot it down in favor of their other 2000 film nobody saw (get it?!).

Today’s film, however, features a classic monster that hasn’t suffered the same fate as his green gilled partner in slime.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 16: The Mummy


Director: Terence Fisher
Year: 1959
Cast: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Furneaux
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Specs: 88 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating:
Rating: ★★★★★ / A

After being woken from years of hibernation within his tomb, mummified Egyptian high priest Karnak seeks out those responsible for his awakening, when they disturb the tomb of his lover and Princess, Ananka, to avenge their desecration.

The opening music is amazing, deep and resonating as the opening credits unfold. Composer Franz Reizenstein helped create an atmosphere of wonder, accompanied by the wonderful sets and wardrobe expected in a Hammer film.

I always appreciated when the classic monster films were period pieces, allowing for a more immersive tale of fantasy and intrigue. This film does not deter, nor does it disappoint.

There were some directorial decisions that I found jarring, such as the numerous fades to the next scene as someone is speaking, and wondered if I were missing some excised scene, or if my stream had hiccuped. Overall, however, the calibre of the story, acting, and scenery overcame any misgivings I may have had.


The action and the suspense are simply top-notch. Special-effects are also superb, bearing in mind the time in which they were made. Many elements of these Hammer films, in part due to its being set in the past, no doubt, are timeless, and hold up against any modern film in the same genre, often surpassing it in originality.

I recommend this film to any fan of the classic Universal monster films. I suggest this film to any fan of the other entries in Hammers stable of features. Lastly, I urge any fan of the more recent outings from Universal and Stephen Sommers to view this film immediately, lest the curse of Ananka fall on you.

By the way, for those keeping score, the films/tv shows mentioned in the exordium were The Vampire Diaries, The Howling, and The Hollow Man, natch.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 15: Love at First Bite

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 15: Love at First Bite

When I was a child, I loved to visit my uncle and see what new toys he had acquired since my last visit.  Years before I knew who Ridley Scott or Sigorney Weaver was, he had a 18″ Alien action figure.  While I had dozens upon dozens of Luke Skywalkers, Darth Vaders, Stormtroopers and Snaggletooths, he was the only person I knew whose parents would spring for a Tie FIghter and Millenium Falcon.  However, with all the expensive, rare, and coveted toys that he had in his massive toy box, there was one gadget that he was in possession of that was a favorite of mine, The Laugh Bag.

The Laugh Bag was a small box within a small bag, no larger than my hand, which would produce an insanely annoying laugh with the simple press of a button.  We would press that button over and over, often walking around the basement mimicking the laugh ourselves, much to the consternation of my poor grandmother.

When I originally saw today’s film, I loved it for merely one reason.  There was a character in the film that had a memorable laugh, that I found to be equally as impressionable as my uncles giggle machine.

<span style=”color: red;”>31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 15: Love at First Bite</span>

love_at_first_biteDirector: Stan Dragoti
Year: 1979
Cast: George Hamilton, Susan Saint James, Richard Benjamin, Arte Johnson
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 94 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: PG
Rating: ★★★½ / C+

Having been evicted from his home in Transylvania, Count Dracula travels to New York, where he meets whom he believes to be his long lost love, Mina Harker, reincarnated.  As he pursues her, her former lover, a descendant of the famous Van Helsing, pursues the count.

Revisiting the film for the first time since I was a child, I only remembered that the film was a comedy.  If I were to be viewing the film for the first time, I may be surprised to find it as such at the beginning.  As the opening credits begin, a tech music track plays, giving the impression the film about to unroll is a film in the vein of The Lost Boys.  However, the moment we see Hamilton, accompanied by the overpowering sounds of howling wolves, and the line that he delivers, we know we are in for a film of a different genre entirely.

Within moments, I was shocked to see Hamilton looking pale, his bronzed skin nowhere in sight.  Johnson, as Renfeld, then delivers his memorable laugh, and the tone has been set.  There were a number of scenes in the film that were wonderfully crafted send ups, and others that were jovial attempts at juvenile humor.  The passage through customs was amongst the best, in pure Zucker Brothers fashion.  In fact, I was surprised that the film was not a product of the famous filmmakers (Kentucky Fried Movie, their first effort, preceded this film by 2 years).

Interesting of note, was the timeliness of the scene with Sherman Hemsley, especially since the newest Oxygen show on prosperity gospel preachers (Preachers of L.A.) has been in the news. I also enjoyed seeing Isabel Sanford make a cameo as the fiery judge!

Something I did not remember from my childhood, but became instantly evident upon viewing with my more mature eyes, was the tone of the films comedy.  The swinging 70s are on display in full form, with much of the humor focusing on sex and drug use.

Some of the humor was a bit stale, perhaps in part due to its overabundance of use numerous satires since.  There have been no shortage of send ups to films in the horror genre, even those that contain the count himself (Dracula Dead & Loving It).  While the film surely was no Young Frankenstein, it certainly was more entertaining than Saturday the 14th.  I’m glad I revisited this pic.  Perhaps you may enjoy doing the same…

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 14: The Conjuring

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 14: The Conjuring

Haunted houses.  They pepper the landscape as Halloween draws near.  Many festivals and campgrounds feature some form of the attraction, be it a walk-through, a car and rail, or a religious variant intent on scaring a customer into paradise.  When it comes to the celluloid variant, Hollywood is no different.

Sometimes, they combine a genuine tale of a ghostly abode with a possession film.  Thankfully, today’s film fits such a bill.

<span style=”color: red;”>31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 14: The Conjuring</span>

conjuring_ver2_xlgDirector: James Wan
Year: 2013
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor
Country: United States
Specs: 112 mins. / Color / OAR 2.35.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★★ / B+

From the opening moments of this film, I knew I was in for an immersive experience in which I would likely lose much sleep.  The music, excellently crafted, sets the tone for the film the moment the picture fades from black.  I instantly reached for my iPad to begin a second screen experience in order to see the credits of composer Joseph Bishara (Insidious, Insidious: Chapter 2) and cinematographer John R. Leonetti (Insidious, Insidious: Chapter 2, The Mask), whose camera work was beautifully haunting as well.

The editing, something I always notice, was superb.  Each scene is allowed to breath, only cutting when necessary, facilitating the eeriness necessary to amp the nerves of the viewer into the stratosphere.

That’s not to say the film was flawless.  There were certain story elements that I found baffling, such as the hidden room being the room that contains the heater to heat the house (they didn’t notice during their initial purchase that it appeared the house had no heater nor basement?)  However, the film was so excellently crafted that I was tempted to pause and watch an episode of Golden Girls every 20 minutes in order to take the edge off.  The unknown is always more tense than what we can see, hence the reason Hitchcock’s films were so suspenseful/successful.

IMG_6285.dng

Prepare the chamomile laced with Xanax.  Otherwise it’s bound to be a long night…

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2013 in Movies

 

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