RSS

Tag Archives: Top Horror Films

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.

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 12, 2013 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 10: The House at the End of the Street

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 10: The House at the End of the Street

Every once in a while, I come across a film that stands so far above the competition, it belongs in a class of its own. The script is so eloquently woven it commands accolades and awards. The story takes the genre into new territory, creating an entire generation of copycat films due to its success. The acting is of a caliber scarcely spoken of outside of awards season, elevating the actors into a class observed by few in the world. The direction is stupendous, earning the auteur “a film by…” credit on each subsequent film. Scores of film lovers around the world clamor for a deluxe collector’s edition Blu-ray or DVD to adorn their massive shelving unit in their darkened home theater.

Today’s masterpiece….is none of those.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 10: The House at the End of the Street


Director: Mark Tonderai
Year: 2112
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Max Thieriot, Elisabeth Shue, Gil Bellows
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 101 mins. / Color / OAR 2.35.1 / MPAA Rating: PG-13
Rating: ★★ / D

A young girl and her estranged mother decide to move to a new home in the country to begin a path of healing for their broken relationship.  Learning that a horrible murder happened in the house across the way only complicates things, especially when all is not what it seems.

Within moments of the opening scene, I checked the menu of my television set to confirm that I hadn’t accidentally switched the input to MTV, or another music video channel. Once I realized that I indeed was watching Netflix, thanks in part to my realization that a music video hasn’t been played on MTV since I was a tyke, I knew I was in for an experience.

The opening scene begins with a crazed teen wandering the halls of her suburban home, hammer in hand, in order to slay her suspecting parents. Not UNSUSPECTING, but fully aware their daughter is a little this side of sane. Yet they both [SPOILER ALERT] allow themselves to defenselessly get pummeled to death by the half their size nutjob.

Lest I lead you to believe the script was the only problem, their death is confirmed when we see a low angle shot from below the bed they rest in of the feathers from their pillows and/or comforter shower the floor, followed by a steady amount of blood. John Woo this is not.

We also are priveledged to see such mesmerizing camera work, such as dolly, crane, shaky cam, dolly, shaky cam, crane, canted angle, birds eye POV, [good lord please stop, I’m getting sea sick], dolly, crane, dolly, crane…ugh. I felt like I’d mistakenly inserted into my video player one of my students horrible productions. How was it, I wondered, that the director was allowed to constantly use every movable camera trick in the book. I was nauseous.


Of course, it would all have been slightly excused had the dialogue fared any better.

For instance, in a early scene that takes place at a “parents aren’t home” party, a girl passes out [alcohol induced, no doubt]. The odd choice of direction aside [that being everything moving in slow motion then speedily ramped up into fast motion (called ramping) and tricky artistic edits and spinning bottles and (again I asked if this was a music video) flashing lights] Lawrence’s characters reaction and dialogue is comical.

In another scene, we are succumbed to such prose as:
“What happened to the body.” “They never found it.” “They think she’s still alive and living in the woods.” “WHAT!?!?!?!” as a reaction of utter horror and fear is on the characters face. Based on the complete lack of knowledge of anything at that point in the film for the character, its simply played for the audience and their prior knowledge. What tripe.

I honestly feel like I’ve already wasted enough time with watching the film and spending time to write this blog. I will wrap it up (something I wish the film had done 90 minutes sooner than it did) by stating how sad I was to see the caliber of talent on screen fail miserably in this film. It only must be a testament to the direction they were receiving. I don’t know how else to explain the cardboard performances and pain inducing dialogue.

Just to clarify, I nominate this film as definitely a must pass, even for fans of Lawrence and Shue.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 10, 2013 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 9: The Bay

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 9: The Bay

I spent a large part of my youth growing up in a coastal town famous for its boat marinas. As such, we had a boat docked in one of those marinas. My father used to take us out regularly far into the massive body of water to go swimming, fishing, or just plain relaxing. Other times he’d take us just around the bend from the marina, to a cove famous for its swimming holes. Sadly, much to the consternation of my stay-at-home mother, he would also often times leave the boat parked in the dock, and let us simply swim off the back of the boat. Looking back now as an adult, I see how foolish that may have been. Many other large cabin cruisers pulling in and out of the marina, filthy greasy film floating on the surface, the rainbow of colors reflecting in the hot summer sun. Even at that age I had moments of hesitation when my siblings were so blindly diving into the sludge from the rear of the cabin cruiser.


He also would let us fish, often gutting, cooking, and eating the fish within hours of our catch. To the dismay of my mother, his brother figured little better. He would take my cousin and I swimming in what was perhaps the most polluted river in the country, if not the state. There are many times I remember getting some bacterial fungal disease, which certainly came from the river, only to be told I likely was having an allergic reaction to some food I had not eaten.

Had I seen today’s film prior to my childhood, I am positive I would have lived an entirely different life.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 9: The Bay


Director: Barry Levinson
Year: 2012
Cast: Will Rogers, Kristen Connolly, Kether Donohue
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 84 mins. / Color / OAR N/A / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★★ / B

After a pair of divers mysteriously die in an apparent shark attack, a seemingly unconnected bacterial outbreak occurs in a small coastal town, causing disaster and panic in its wake.

I had briefly noticed today’s film when it was prominently displayed on my Apple TVs What’s New screen last year. When I had read the information about the film, I found it interesting that Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Wag the Dog, Good Morning Vietnam) had helmed this entry into the horror genre. He primarily has chosen films that are dramatic and/or political in tone. The reviews I read gave the film good marks, however, as is the case with more films than I care to admit, it slipped off my radar until preparing for this series of films for the month of October.

To cut to the chase, let me state that this is a film that I recommend all to see. Fans of other films that focus on an epidemic of mass proportions, such as Outbreak, Contagion, and 28 Days Later, will assuredly find this film to be enjoyable. For others, after watching the film, if you do not react in a way that causes you to take note, you perhaps have been swimming in the same waters as I did in my childhood a day too long. It’s a horror film, that is so eerily believable, that I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. A found footage film yet again, and another that truly fits the medium.

I particularly found impressive Levinson’s use of multiple cameras to tell the story. Whereas most found footage pics focus on 1 camera that contains a tape of the incident that serves as the film, The Bay instead is composed of security cameras, ATM cameras, civilian cameras, traffic cameras, news crew cameras, and whatever other kind of video source that was “found” in the city that is affected. It is a clever twist on the found footage pic, and a welcome one at that.

There was ample amounts of gore, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen on an episode of ER, and not the kind you’ve seen in Saw. Be ready, if you have the stomach for it, to hit Google after you’ve watched this film, to see how much of the plot has been based in reality, and how much of it is Hollywood fiction. According to Levinson, during a screening on the films initial release, he stated that 85% of what is seen in the film is partially based on fact. Now that is SCARY!


The weakest element in the entire film is the character Donna, or rather Kether Donohue. She annoyingly licks her lips to moisturize them throughout the entire film. I couldn’t stop wishing someone would have simply thrown her a tube of lip balm, and gotten on with the show. It seemed more a nervous twitch of an amateur actress than it did a character trait she had developed (forgive me if I’m wrong). Also, there’s nothing here regarding cinematography, set pieces, music, or sound-effects for that matter. This is simply a character driven fear fest.

No ghosts, vampires, or extraterrestrial beings in this one. This is simply a matter of what you don’t see, in our real world, might kill you.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 9, 2013 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 7: The Possession

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 7: The Possession

I try to reserve judgement until after I’ve seen a film in it’s entirety. I owe that much to the filmmakers who’ve spend a large portion of their year (or more if you are making Cleopatra) attempting to put together something worth my hard earned ducat. However, after watching today’s film, I find that practice more arduous to do.

Ghost_House_Pictures_logo_2

Not having had any prior knowledge of today’s film preceding my viewing, I was surprised to see the logo that opens the film. As soon as I saw Ghost House Pictures insignia, I had reservations. Afterall, I found the last two films I’ve viewed from Sam Raimi’s company (Drag Me to Hell and 30 Days of Night) to be less than stellar. I also didn’t find their foray into television programing (Legend of the Seeker) anything noteworthy, although I did stick it out for the entirety of its two campy seasons. I’m not sure what it is. Perhaps the films are rather futile for horror films, feeling more like a big budget action flick than a atmospheric horror film? Perhaps it’s the over the top sound effects, the clean and sterile lighting, the same cookie cutter characters in each film, or the fast paced jarred editing? Either way, today’s film fell squarely into the fold of their previous efforts.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 7: The Possession

possession_ver2_xlg

Director: Ole Bordedal
Year: 2012
Cast: Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick
Country: United States
Specs: 92 mins. / Color / OAR 2.35.1 / MPAA Rating: PG-13
Rating: ★★★ / C

A young girl, after finding an antique wooden box containing mysterious symbols carved into it, begins to suffer abnormal behaviors, much to the consternation of her recently divorced parents. It soon becomes apparant she is possessed by an entity not of earthly origins, and the race against the clock to rid their prepubescent daughter of the demonic spirit begins.

From the very first scene, I knew I was in for more of the same. An old woman stands in front of a box, demonic voices coming from within, when suddenly, timed to the frantic editing, she becomes possessed and begins to contort and fling across the room.

We then are introduced to the characters that we soon care nothing about. They take actions that don’t make sense. For instance: Why does the girl get startled by the old woman who is the neighbor? Why does she slowly follow her and peer into the window. Who is the bandaged freak who screams at her? Why is the girl allowed to stop off and pick up the box? Why does she want it? Why does an entire room of supposed God fearing Jews feign fear at the mere sight of the box? Or are they truly afraid? Are they all really faithless? Too many odd questions.

Frustratingly, in addition, there are scene after scene of odd edit decisions. There are numerous instances in which the tiniest semblance of suspense is building, the camera is dollying, the tension is at a high, and it cuts to black mid-beat, mid sound cue, sounding like a piece of the soundtrack is missing, rather than a meticulously timed trim. Not sure what effect they were going for, but I found it jarring and annoying.

I also found vexing plot devices that simply come across as slipshod or indolent, although I know that certainly wasn’t the case. However, I’m not sure how else to react when situations such as “Little Girl is vegan, and is ravenously tearing into a raw steak, therefore she MUST be possessed” are a major plot point. Why else was that silly conversation that opens the film there? Am I instead supposed to see it as a message? Either way, it strikes me as stodgy and amateurish.

possession-steak-movie

Maybe it was the title that doomed this film? A quick search of other films with the same title show that film critics such as Leonard Maltin are rather dismissive of them, as well (1981-★½, 2002-★★, 2010-★½). However, to avoid sounding uncouth, I will admit that it did deliver on some scares. Nonetheless, whereas the frights found in a film like The Exorcist certainly command repeat viewings (if one so dares), this film is too marred by the aforementioned issues to warrant any kind of further thought. It was simply an average film. C rating.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 5: A Nightmare on Elm Street

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 5:  A Nightmare on Elm Street

For these weekend posts during this marathon of horror films, I’ve decided to simply post brief reviews from my files of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. These reviews will likely be shorter than my daily posts, and may even be a bit more unrefined, but they fill the list out on those days when most people, myself included, are doing something other than spending time on the world-wide webs.

After all, this is a great time of year to do more than stay inside watching films. Cider mills, pick up games of touch football, and hay rides at the haunted fairgrounds all are worthy excursions to be had! Enjoy.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 5: A Nightmare on Elm Street

nightmare_on_elm_streetDirector: Wes Craven
Year: 1984
Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund
Country: United States
Specs: 91 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★★ / B

Nancy and her teenage friends are being tormented by a serial killer in their dreams, who happens to possess the power to make events that happen in their dream state a reality.  She must race against the clock to figure a way to defeat this menacing figure, before he successfully slays each one of them, one by one.

The original that started it all. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this film, not having seen it for a number of years.

The story itself is a very clever one. If you die in your sleep, you really die. The reason being, there is a killer in there! Now, there are many plot holes, silly exposition, goofy special effects (the tongue coming out of the phone), and rather bad acting (the drunkard mother). However, the film still does a good job of avoiding the norms for films of this type. There isn’t any real nudity, there isn’t any real drug use, and there IS a plot. I especially appreciated how Craven acknowledges that evil can be overcome if we have faith.

Of course, that makes the ending all the more confusing. But I’ll save that for another day.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 4: 30 Days of Night

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 4:  30 Days of Night

We’ve recently seen coming from the dream factory a number of films that have their basis on a comic book or other form of graphic media. We’ve had movies about superheroes, movies about hit men, even movies about alien invasions. Of course, the current, and possibly hottest property that has found its way from the funny pages to the live action front is Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, which has been nominated for a Golden Globe and the recipient of an Emmy, to name a few of the accolades it has garnered.

I had heard about today’s film many years ago, when I saw the giant billboard featuring its blood-red background towering over the local In-N-Out burger on Sunset Boulevard. At the time I had counted it off as an advert for a 30 day film festival of horror films (not all that uncommon in Tinseltown). I would only later learn that I was grossly mistaken, and that it was a feature film about the most nocturnal of nemesis’, vampires.

I’ve long been a fan of vampire films. I count among my favorite vampiric entries The Lost Boys, Dracula ( the one with Bella Lugosi, not the one with Keanu Reeves, natch). I’ve enjoyed games based around the vampire mythos, such as Castlevania, and Bloodrayne, spending hard earned cash to obtain an out-of-print entry for a system I had not yet owned. I’ve equally enjoyed an old yarn fashioned around the bloodsucking mythological creatures of yore, as in The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice, The Vampire Archives by Otto Penzler, Bram Stoker’s masterpiece, and Salems’ Lot, from the master of macabre, Stephen King. Not to be left out, I also have enjoyed reading comic books set in the world of these creatures of the night. Having met Marv Wolfman, the author and creator of one of my favorite vampire series of all time, Tomb of Dracula, has been a highlight of my career in entertainment.

Thankfully, in my recent search for new and interesting comics to fill my iPad’s memory, I came across a series on Comixology from writer Steve Niles and artist Ben Templesmith that I later found to be the basis for today’s film. So it was no surprise when I noticed the film that I chose for today’s entry on the local video mart DVD rack.

With that, I give you:

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 4: 30 Days of Night

Director: David Slade
Year: 2007
Cast: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 109 mins. / Color / OAR 2.35.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★ / C+

A group of bloodthirsty vampires descend upon a small Alaskan town during the time of year when the town has 30 days without a moment of daylight.

I enjoy films that take a format that is perhaps bordering on tiresome, or lack of originality and bring something new. Even when it’s a reboot of a familiar film, or franchise, if it contains a little editing here and there to enhance what was already a proven formula, I welcome it with open arms. Sadly, in this case, I can’t say the same.

I didn’t find the film abysmal, nor boring, by any means. But neither did I find it to be a masterpiece, a film that belongs on every DVD shelf. It simply was a vapid entry in a genre that is a bit long in the tooth.

That’s not to say the acting wasn’t stellar. In fact, because of Hartnett, George (Amityville Horror), Huston (Children of Men, 21 Grams), and Foster (3:10 to Yuma), the film was much better than it would have been had it contained a less commanding cast. The setting also was very enjoyable, lending to a believability to the locale of Barrow, Alaska (in that it was actually shot in New Zealand).


Sadly, it simply plays like a by-the-numbers action movie, set in the world of horror. The film is far from scary, spooky, suspenseful, or horrifying in any way. That is, unless you find gruesome bloodletting horrifying, which I do at times. Predictability is another aspect that haunts this film. The scene that involves a little girl with her back turned to us would only surprise the most inane banal mind viewing it. The reveal was so foreseeable, I used the interval between it and her appearance as the timer for my tea bag to stew in my freshly brewed pot.

I did find little interesting touches, such as the creation of a new dialect for the vampires, to be intriguing and original. I’m sure there are some linguistic lovers that likely learning another language based on the lexicon found here.


The films grammar simply felt platitudinous, at best, and I’m saying that as a fan of the original material. It just feels like something a film student might learn in action screenwriting 101, with more blood added for good measure.

All in all I’m saying it was an average film. You never know, I may come back and boost that rating up once I finish the rest of this series. I know I’ve got some stinkers just ahead.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 5, 2013 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: