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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 2: V/H/S

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 2: V/H/S

On this, the second day of my month long series on films in the horror genre (or a variation thereof), I decided to take a trip down memory lane. I pondered what film ought I sacrifice two hours (more once I’ve written this post) to as I rummaged through the mess of Blu-rays, DVD’s, VCD’s, and Laserdiscs that I’ve accumulated over the years. Many of these films remain in the original cellophane (no comments about that please, that is a blog for another day) and haven’t been touched since I chose to store them in the box. I reached high atop the towering stack within the darkest recesses of the closest within my office. I tilted the box that hadn’t been opened in ages, ghosting myself with the inch or so of dust that had accumulated on top and now slid down like a massive mudslide coming from the sides of Mt. Fuji resting in my hair and on my face. I cracked the box open, and saw something that peaked my interest. I instantly recalled images I had recently come across in the local newspaper. I had seen pictures of a grim grinning ghostly exponent heralding the release of the newest addition to the massive franchise of films featuring the ghastly Sadako, or as U.S. readers may know her, the girl from The Ring. Sadako 3-D2 4-D.


Behold, in front of me, was a DVD of a movie that I hadn’t seen in years, long before the reality of ingesting octopus balls and the carcass of Mr. Ed would become a reality. I wondered if I ought to revisit the film, that being The Ring 0? Then I remembered, the film was featured as a major plot device an object that happened to be a video format I had neglected. A format long ago forgotten, unless you shop at the library, or are an overseas missionary. Not Betamax, no no no. Something far more available in its heyday. Not HD-DVD, neither. VHS. The Ring movies focused on a VHS tape. Thankfully, that was the moment when I recalled a newer movie I had not yet seen. Another film with a sequel in the local cineplex this very season. Rather than skip straight to the overpriced shopping mall to gaze upon the newest entry in all it’s ear piercing glory, I chose to go back to my queue, to visit the original entry.

Because of that not so quick witted decision, I am now able to bring to you:

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 2: V/H/S

Director:
Adam Wingard
David Bruckner
Ti West
Glenn McQuaid
Joe Swanberg
Radio Silence
Year: 2012
Cast: Adam Wingard, Joe Swanberg, Lane Hughes, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Chad Villella, Jason Yachanin, Calvin Reeder, Hannah Fierman
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 116 mins. / Color / OAR N/A / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★★ / B

A group of petty thieves are contracted by an anonymous 3rd party to break into a house and retrieve a mystery VHS tape. Finding the presumed homeowner dead, they begin to rummage through hundreds of found VHS tapes, viewing each on a television next to the corpse, in hopes of locating the tape requested. Startled, they soon realize that each cassette contains a grim video of some poor unsuspecting victims demise.


I am thankful that I had zero knowledge of the film prior to my viewing. It made my “enjoyment” of this terrifying anthology all the more startling with each haunting segment. The film is comprised of 5 short-films, posed as found footage films within the main story-arc (Tape 56) of the petty thieves and their home invasion. Perhaps the strongest of the shorts, Bruckner’s Amateur Night, was also the most terrifying. The aspect that I enjoyed most, with all of the segments, was the “reveal” at the end of each, akin to a gorified episode of Twilight Zone, or Night Gallery (itself a more gruesome take on creator Rod Serling’s seminal classic.)

In recent cinema history, we’ve seen a glut of films of this sub-genre grace the local silver screen. Apartment 143, Paranormal Activity, The Last Broadcast, and of course, The Blair Witch Project. This film, however, stands apart from those others. It is unpredictable at times, which, for this genre, is rarer than a Caucasian in the town I currently reside.

Each film was created entirely autonomous from the others, with its own cast and crew, and it makes for a stronger whole, in my opinion. While not all of the subjects are equal in their caliber, I appreciated the variety of styles of each creative team.


There certainly is a fair share of scares, an equal amount of gruesome imagery, and creative and inventive plots to hold the interest of even the most jaded of horror film fans. While not a masterpiece in and of itself, it is a film that I would happily recommend to anyone that hasn’t just finished off an extra large portion of lasagne from their local Italian eatery.

In conclusion, it’s a film best viewed with the lights on. However, if you choose to not heed my advice, I heartily suggest watching an episode of lighter fare afterwards, such as the latest episode of Dads.

On second thought, that’s worse. Forget what I said. Enjoy the nightmares…

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Howl-oween: Day 16 – Ghost Story

As with many other films in this review of 31 Horror movies this season of Halloween, I never actually saw today’s film in its entirety.  I do remember as a young boy sitting in the living room of my aunt (who would let my brother and I watch movies that my mother would have killed her for) watching this film, but didn’t remember much beyond a scene near the end of the film involving a car, a deserted country road, and a ghost standing in the middle.

Through the years, I’d see the video sitting on the shelf of the local rental store, and would usually pass it over for the newest release.  I did intend on getting around to seeing it, but alas, that never happened.

Until now…

31 Days of Howl-oween

A Review of Films Filled with Frights

Day 16

Film #16


~ Ghost Story ~

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2010 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Howl-oween: Day 13 – The Changeling

Haunted House films have been around for as long as movies have been coming out of Hollywood.  There are also as many Haunted House films as there are years Hollywood’s been pumping them out.  Some have been downright scary, and others have been knee-slapping hilarious.

A number of these films are bound to find their way into this list of 31 Horror films.  Today’s, I’m happy to write, is worthy of your time.

31 Days of Howl-oween

A Review of Films Filled with Frights

Day 13

Film #13

~ The Changeling ~

Director:  Peter Medak
Year:  1979
Cast: George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Melvyn Douglas
Language:  English
Country:  Canada
Specs:  107 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85:1 / MPAA Rating: R

After his family is killed in an auto accident, composer Dr. Russell (Scott) rents an old Victorian house in suburban Seattle to regroup his thoughts while he works on his next composition.  Soon Dr. Russell learns that the house in haunted by the spirit of a young child.  As Dr. Russell researches the past of the house and its spiritual inhabitant, he uncovers a dark secret with ties to a powerful politician.

A wonderfully suspenseful haunted house film, with plenty of scares for the uninitiated.  George C. Scott is the perfect choice to play the inquisitive Dr., and he delivers with perfection.  The film plays like a mystery suspense more than an in-your-face shock or gimmicky horror film.  The moody lighting, as well as the mesmerizing musical score all lend to the likability of this ghost story.

While the ending does border on the contrived, and is rather abrupt at that, it doesn’t deter from the overall experience of the film, thankfully.  The rest of the film more than makes up for this minor quibble.

An even more surprising aspect to the film is that is doesn’t rely on anything gratuitous as a crutch to make up for missing plot.  Surprising in that the director is the same who would bring us the 1998 film “Species II”.  I digress, so I’ll save that for another day…

My Rating:  **** / B

Available on Amazon: The Changeling

To Be Continued…

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2010 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Howl-oween: Day 10 – This House Possessed

I remember seeing today’s entry as a little boy growing up in the midwest.  I was terrified by one scene in particular, which stayed with me all these years later.  The scene?  A breathing wall!

I could never place the film, and searched for years to try to find that scene, watching every theatrical haunted house picture of the 70s and 80s I could find.  Thankfully, cable television, in particular, Ted Turner, came to the rescue.  They ran the film as part of their Halloween programming, and I just happened to catch it.  As luck would have it, I was, and am, in the midst of a series focusing on films that are considered “horror” films.

Perhaps you’ve heard of or seen today’s film?…

31 Days of Howl-oween

A Review of Films Filled with Frights

Day 10

Film #10

~ This House Possessed ~

Director:  William Wiard
Year:  1981
Cast: Parker Stevenson, Lisa Eilbacher, Joan Bennett, Slim Pickens, David Paymer, K Callan
Language:  English
Country:  United States
Specs:  92 mins. / Color / OAR 1.33:1 / MPAA Rating: NR

When a rock star (Stevenson) suffers a nervous breakdown, he decides to get away to the scenic town of Rancho Santa Fe.  He purchases a furnished house and invites his nurse from the hospital to come along as a live-in nurse, which she happily accepts.  Soon the two begin to fall in love, just as a series of mysterious deaths begin to occur at the house.  They begin to suspect there may be more to the house than meets the eye, and set out to learn all they can about the house’s history, confirming a haunting truth.

Never have I seen a film deemed a horror film without a single scare in it.  In fact, I would garner this felt more like a Hardy Boys TV Movie of the Week than it did a Haunted House film.  There is so much nonsense in this film that even the actors must have knew what a turkey this was.

We get to see a house than can spy on people through it’s security camera system, no matter where in the state of California they are (and I thought the old Superfriends cartoons were bad!).  We get a 5 minute scene of Stevenson singing a “rock” song or two, whereupon he suddenly collapses from exhaustion.  We get a bubbling boiling swimming pool which nobody seems to notice!  We even get a breathing wall (for what reason again???)!

The acting, at least, isn’t horrible.  Some of the cameos, although horrendously stereotypical, are a welcome treat for fans of films of a different era (from “James Bond” to “Lois and Clark”!).

As I’ve said before, some things are better left to memory than revisiting.  In this case, I’m glad to free up that space for something far more memorable!

My Rating:  ** / D+

Stay tuned…

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2010 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Howl-oween: Day 06 – House

31 Days of Howl-oween

A Review of Films Filled with Frights

Day 6

Film #06


~ House ~

Director:  Steve Miner
Year:  1986
Cast:  William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll, Kay Lenz
Language:  English
Country:  United States
Specs:  93 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85:1 / MPAA Rating: R

Dealing with the recent disappearance of his son, divorce from his wife, suicide of his aunt, and continuing nightmares from his service in Vietnam, horror novelist Roger Cobb decides to take residence in his deceased uncle’s house to write his next novel.  Soon Roger begins to experience strange and demonic happenings, and he has to decide if the hauntings are real, or a result of his post traumatic stress disorder, all while his nosy neighbor attempts to intrude on his intended solitude.

This movie dubbed a horror-comedy is not a gut busting comedy, but more of a quirky horror movie (it does come to us from writer Fred Dekker [story by] of “Tales from the Crypt” and “Monster Squad” fame).  There are certainly plenty of goofy looking monsters, but the scares are aplenty in this haunted house tale.  There are some genuinely funny lines, particularly from the amusing George Wendt, but most of the acting is played straight, instead of the slapstick antics that are common in other films of this class.  In fact, it is not until the second act that anything resembling comedy even appears in the film.

The acting is very well done, and the dialogue is perfectly fit to the actors cast in the roles.  The creature effects are excellent, particularly the eerie Big Ben, complete in army fatigues.  The film thankfully wasn’t predictable, as can be a common obstacle to other horror films, and was engrossing from start to finish.

Next time I see a dog digging in the backyard, I may just get a little queasy.

My Rating:  **** / B

Available from Amazon: House DVD

Stay tuned…

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2010 in Movies

 

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