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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 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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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 13: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 – The Dream Master

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 13: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 – The Dream Master

Every once in a while, it’s nice to return to a storied franchise to revisit characters you connected with in prior entries.  You enjoy the charisma that a certain actor or actress brought to a character, and hope that the filmmakers are able to catch lightning in a bottle, once again.

Sometimes, it doesn’t quite work that way.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 13: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 – The Dream Master

nightmare_on_elm_street_four_xlgDirector: Renny Harlin
Year: 1988
Cast: Robert Englund, Rodney Eastman, Lisa Wilcox, Tuesday Knight
Country: United States
Specs: 93 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★ / C-

Freddy returns to torment the remaining survivors of The Dream Warriors, in hopes to eradicate them from ever having a chance to destroy him, once and for all.

For starters, the return of surviving characters from part 3, yet with the lead being recast from the perfect Patricia Arquette, is a drastic mistake.  Tuesday Knight’s portrayal of Kristen Parker simply lacks any charisma, and fails to explore any added dimensions.

The return of gratuitous and formulaic elements that are all too common in many slasher films are here, as is the absolutely groaning one liners from Freddy.  The fact that the bones of Freddy come back together by way of a dogs urine is reminiscent of the more ludicrous Friday the 13th sequels.

As with other entries in this franchise, they also forgo the continuity of the original and instead invent their own.  In the original, when Freddy kills someone, the effects are seen in their reality.  Not here.  Also, Freddy resorts to comical ways to kill people, instead of the straight finger blades in the original.

The acting is about as ham-fisted as they come.  The plot is rather predictable (the set up of the karate lesson in the beginning of the flick).  There is zero suspense nor frights.  Freddy is a laughable goof.  The dialogues from Freddy are unneeded.  The actions are just plain dumb (as Kristen burns in a bed of flames, everyone just sits and watches, instead of putting out the fire to prevent the house from burning down, let alone save a badly burned girl).

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 12: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 12: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives (1986) had He’s Back (Man Behind the Mask) from Alice Cooper, Pet Sematary (1989) had the Ramones song of the same name, Trick or Treat (1986) had an entire soundtrack, and today’s film had Dream Warriors by Dokken.  It was a good few years for fans of both metal and horror.  I hadn’t seen today’s film in many years, and hesitated revisiting a film that I had fond memories of.  As I committed to going through the Nightmare on Elm Street series for the weekend posts of this month long series, I had little choice.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 12: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

nightmare_on_elm_street_threeDirector: Chuck Russell
Year: 1987
Cast: Patricia Arquette, Laurence Fishburne, Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, Craig Wasson
Country: United States
Specs: 96 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★★ / B+

A group of youth learn to control their dreams in an effort to defeat serial killer Freddy Krueger once and for all.

A return to form, with plenty of very eery and freaky moments/atmosphere.  I love how we’ve returned to see dreams that we’ve all experienced (running and suddenly the ground is sludge and you cannot run while the bogey man chases you down!).  Very nice sound f/x and music.

Some of the acting is a bit over the top, particularly as they witness the death of the first boy.  Also, Freddy has become a bit more comical in this film, delivering some cheesy 80s one-liners.  Of course, in true horror film fashion, the ways that Freddy kills people gets more inventive and ridiculous from film to film, this film being no exception.

This well written and cleverly directed entry is actual suspenseful, and features some impressive special f/x, making this a smidgen more enjoyable than the original.  I’m guessing the fact that Frank Darabont was one of the screenwriters had much to do with that.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 8: Byzantium

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 8: Byzantium

Vampires. They have been the subject of numerous films throughout the decades. They have appeared, according to ranker.com, in over 197 films. To begin to entertain the idea of producing a new edition that will resonate with audiences surely must be a daunting task. To be able to offer something new that isn’t formulaic nor a simple rehash takes talent beyond measure.

I’ve stated before, (and based on the number of films, television programs, novels, and video games that continuously get released, it’s apparent I’m not alone), that I enjoy these celluloid exhibitions featuring the notorious creatures of the night. I recently heard about today’s film whilst reading an issue of Empire magazine. They stated that the film was a four star affair. I instantly knew that I had to view this film. I originally had a sequel to a rather storied franchise queued up and ready to go, bucket of freshly made stove-top popcorn at the ready, wife and children tucked away snuggly in their beds. Instead, I did a switcheroo and opted instead for this nocturnal tale.

31 Days of Frights and Films – Day 8: Byzantium


Director: Neil Jordan
Year: 2112
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton, Sam Riley
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Specs: 118 mins. / Color / OAR 2.35.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★★★ / A

A pair of mysterious women descend upon a small unsuspecting town, hiding from a mysterious organization that is attempting to locate them. Unfortunately for the inhabitants of the town, they bring death with them, leaving a trail of bodies in their wake.

Not since Ludwig Von Drake recorded The Spectrum Song has there been an occasion where I was instantly immersed in a world of vivid color. The use of hues by cinematographer Sean Bobbitt was amazing, and made me all the more grateful I chose to view this on a 52″ HDTV as opposed to an iPad on my train ride into work. I was instantly taken in by the mesmerizing score that opens the film. Whereas other films I’ve written about feature over-the-top musical scores that overpower the senses, Jordan opts for a more subtle, yet beautifully melancholic soundtrack, only elevated by the haunting cinematography that unfolds from the start. The film continues to play slowly, thanks to the superb editing from Tony Lawson (Michael Collins, End of the Affair, Straw Dogs), allowing each scene to breath, even during the few gruesome images that are peppered throughout. During an upsetting decapitation, instead of cutting to the beats of the latest techno mix, we are allowed to take in the atmosphere of the locale, which only serves to up the emotional impact.


I thoroughly appreciated Jordan’s ability to effectively utilize imagery in a way that most viewers will remember elements and/or scenes to the film that never actually appeared. A film about a stripper who is also a prostitute, the men she has slept with, numerous occasions of unlawful entry, and we never are witness to any of the acts nor images of humans in their “au natural” state. Pure genius. Proof positive that the imagination is much more powerful of a tool than any canvas can ever paint.

Saoirse Ronan shines in her role as the tortured soul to Gemma Arterton’s femme fatale. Her eyes are stunningly mesmerizing, and hold the viewer every single time she looks into the lens, harking back to the famous Steve McCurry photograph that graced a National Geographic cover. The rest of the cast, who are equally as impressive in their own right, also bring life to their characters in a way that never hints at mediocrity. Jordan truly displays his gift of finding such a stellar cast.


If you enjoy atmospheric films that are light on the action and heavy on the illustrative character studies, I strongly recommend this film. I’m positive you will be thrilled.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Movies

 

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