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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 17: Hausu “House”

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 17: Hausu “House”

“Just try it” the pusher had told me. I knew better, however. I’d heard all about the effects of acid drops, and I wanted nothing to do with it. I had heard about people having “flashbacks” years after dropping the hallucinogenic drug, and I had no interest in having one come to me in the middle of an important speech, or while I’m piloting an impossible mission to rid the world of an evil galactic empire (you see, I am capable of ambitiously dreaming without the aid of a chemically induced chimera).

As I began to view today’s entry in this month long series of horror films timed to the upcoming All Hallow’s Eve, I suspected that somehow someone had slipped me a Mickey at some point in my past, and I was now suffering the onslaught of the aforementioned HPPD.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 17: Hausu “House


Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi
Year: 1977
Cast: Kimiko Ikegami, Yôko Minamida, Miki Jinbo, Kumiko Ohba
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan
Specs: 88 mins. / Color / OAR 1.37.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★ / D

A schoolgirl travels with her classmates to visit her reclusive aunt, only to tragically learn that the country house in which she resides is alive.

Having lived in Japan, and thus having an understanding of their fascination with watermelons, I was able to relate to the set-up of bringing the delectable fruit as a gift to the oba-san. I was not, however, able to relate to the outcome of such a generous gesture. Needless to say, I will forever think of watermelons, and, much to the dismay of my toddler daughter and her fascination with all things Snow White, wishing wells, in a much different light after having watched this fanciful flick.

The film is certainly to be commended for its effort and originality. However, much like a 2 year olds finger painted murals on the wall in the recently remodeled foyer, it may not be welcomed nor retained.

The acting in this foreign picture was amateurish. I understand that most of the cast were mere dilettantes, and it shows. Of course, there is so much zaniness going on in this film, I’m not sure I even paid much heed to the acting chops of the talent. Cheesy effects are the best way I can describe the effects here. Cartoonish ghosts, plastic body parts, kaleidoscope of colors, novelty shop eye balls, the outlandishness never lets up.

The story doesn’t serve much purpose, either. It simply serves to showcase the forenamed effects. I honestly felt Obayashi had lost his mind, and this film was the result.

Don’t confuse this with excellent William Katt film of the same name. This is not another version of that same story. In fact, in has more in common with This House Possessed than it does the franchise starter from 1986.

If you want to be bedazzled by the puerile antics of a film, this is for you. If you hate cats and find them as creepy as I do, you’ll want to visit another haunt.

Don’t say I didn’t imashimeru you.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2013 in Movies

 

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