Summer of Horror: The Hills Have Eyes, The Taking of Deborah Logan, The Human Centipede

Well folks, this is it. The final entry in 2015’s Summer of Horror. I can’t believe another Summer is (more or less) behind us and Phase I is beginning tomorrow!

I’m happy that this year I managed to watch more horror movies than I did last year, but it came at the expense of being a little fast and loose as far as which films I ended up reviewing (being unemployed for much of the Summer also helped). There are still several classics I haven’t gotten around to, including Freaks, Suspiria, and Tales from the Darkside. But that’s why this is an annual tradition!

On to the reviews.

The Hills Have Eyes

Hills have eyes

This jumped to the top of my list upon yesterday’s sad news. I might not have gotten around to it otherwise, which is sad because it was one of the first films I came up with when putting together the Summer of Horror watch list.

Another proud entry in the Redneck Torture Family subgenre, The Hills Have Eyes is pretty remarkable in the wake of Wes Craven’s later work. This is nothing like Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s not fun, it’s not flashy, it’s not pop, and it shares more in common with Texas Chainsaw Massacre than it does Halloween or Friday the 13th. It’s a remarkably vicious and dirty film, playing out like a very small scale version of Mad Max. A pure fight for survival in an endless desert.

It definitely shows signs of age, not to mention the semi-sloppy stylings of a young director just cutting his teeth. Characters often behave totally illogically, or otherwise show inappropriately muted reactions to horrifying events early in the film. But as things escalate, the situation becomes more and more desperate and brutal, accelerating the pace considerably in the second half. And it ends with a bleak, nihilistic resolution that highlights the indifferent pointlessness of all the savagery we had just witnessed.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on August 31st, 2015 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | No Comments -

Remembering Wes Craven

wes craven

The year was 1990, I think. I was 6 or 7 years old, on a Summer vacation at my Grandma’s house in Connecticut, as was our routine almost every year. One night, I was watching TV in the den and a Freddy movie was on. I sort of knew who Freddy Krueger was based on schoolyard word of mouth, but I had never seen any of the movies.

In what I later knew to be Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, the scene I’ll never forget was Freddy inhabiting the form of a marionette hanging on a kid’s wall. He came to life, cut his own strings with his famous bladed glove, and scampered across the room to do his murders. It terrified me. That night, as I failed miserably to fall asleep, framed pictures and anything else hanging on the walls of the room looked like they could become Freddy at any moment. That was my first experience with a horror movie really getting under my skin, making me feel fear long after it was over.

There are a number of Wes Craven’s films I haven’t seen. Indeed, a few of them have been sitting on my Summer of Horror list for a few years, waiting for me to get around to them. But if his only legacy were the Nightmare on Elm Street films, that would still be enough in my mind to earn him a place among the horror legends. The original was, for a time, my absolute favorite horror movie, and is still firmly in my top five. Craven didn’t direct Dream Warriors, but it’s the only one of the many sequels (until New Nightmare) he had a direct hand in writing, and it’s a campy, fun ride. The aforementioned New Nightmare is a fantastic, meta expansion of the Freddy mythology and the best of the sequels.

Then of course there’s Scream, another mega hit that invented the whole idea of self-aware pop horror movies that acknowledge their own history, paving the way for films like Cabin in the Woods. The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House on the Left, and The People Under the Stairs are all genre classics in different ways.

His last film as a director was Scream 4, a film I found to be a frustrating missed opportunity to revitalize another lagging horror franchise. Personally, I was hoping he’d come out with one more horror knockout, but alas, he was taken by that greatest of evils, cancer.

I’ll remember Wes Craven primarily for Freddy Krueger, a character so iconic that he changed the culture of Halloween forever. Since I’ve been making memories, not a single Halloween has passed that I didn’t see Freddy’s burned visage somewhere, and for the past decade or so, I haven’t let a Halloween pass without watching one of his movies. And that fateful night in Connecticut in 1990 might have started it all.

Rest in peace, Wes.

Ghosted by Jon on August 30th, 2015 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

The First Signs

Whenever I find myself at a store that has a seasonal section right now, I make a point to walk by it. Back to school is the thing now, of course. But in a weird way that only I would acknowledge, I have started to associate the back to school aisle with what always comes after it…

I love seeing the first hints of Halloween season slowly starting to appear. July and August are so absurdly early for pumpkins to start showing up, especially because it’s so unreasonably hot outside in Phoenix. But appear they do, and although I try to contain the celebration aspect of Halloween to September and October only, I also feel I have an obligation to document these pre-season moments.

Costco Halloween 15
Costco is always first out of the gate, with their Halloween section (such as it is) appearing in early July typically. Unfortunately that pattern extends to an even further degree to Christmas, and by mid-October – prime Halloween time for all others – this stuff cedes its territory to Santa and his minions. But this year Costco upped their Halloween game with the two items above. Their usual M.O. is one scary decoration and one cutesy decoration. Not only did they stock two decorations I’d consider buying myself, they went ahead and added in one of those skeleton dogs that are becoming… disturbingly popular in recent years.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on August 20th, 2015 | Filed Under Musings | 1 Comment -

Let’s have another go at Frankenstein, shall we?

Last year, I pissed off an internet commentator by having the audacity to suggest that the critically and commercially panned I, Frankenstein might not represent the most savvy approach to this character and story. Or indeed, to all the other Universal classic monsters Hollywood is currently trying to reboot.

Wouldn’t you know it? We’re getting another take on the story with Victor Frankenstein. Let’s have a look:

Right off the bat, this looks better than Sexy Karate Frankenstein, though I still find the tone a little odd. It kind of reminds me of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies, or if I’m being pejorative, Van Helsing… It’s action packed and fun-looking, but is making some sort of effort to be true to the atmosphere of the original story, if not the mood.

I love the principal cast, and it’s nice fun seeing Andrew Scott (Moriarty in Sherlock, the BBC one) show up in another role. However, I’m personally not a fan of this trend of titling movies on full names. John Carter and Jack Reacher and Rocky Balboa and Jack Ryan and Alex Cross… Especially with this film ostensibly focusing on both Frankenstein and Igor (its most original conceit), I’d think a title like “Frankenstein & Igor” would have been more fitting. Or even just “Dr. Frankenstein”. Anyway.

Like I, Frankenstein this one is ALSO not being produced by Universal, so in all likelihood we can expect yet another adaptation of the character in the near future. But with their planned shared universe and commitment to the action-horror vibe, I just don’t know…

Let’s not make a Frankenstein Untold please.

Ghosted by Jon on August 18th, 2015 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

Summer of Horror: The Devil’s Rejects, Housebound, White Zombie

The Devil’s Rejects

Devil's Rejects

 

Here it is, at long last, Rob Zombie’s supposed “masterpiece”. His highest rated film, critically. And it’s, ummm, hmm…

Look, there’s no other way to say it – Rob Zombie shouldn’t write dialogue. I’m sure he loves the way his characters speak, primarily in expletives, shouting, and verbal rape. And I’m sure he has fans that love it as well, but I’ve always found it to be the biggest weakness in every one of his films. It’s grating, and beyond that, EVERY ONE OF HIS CHARACTERS SPEAKS THAT WAY. It’s a stylistic decision that, regardless of whatever else he has going on visually, plotwise, or characterwise, you have to be on board with, or you’ll hate the whole movie.

That’s what makes reviewing The Devil’s Rejects so frustrating, because it’s all true that this is Zombie’s most technically proficient film. He’s an undeniably talented visual filmmaker (as previously stated), and this, as a loose sequel to House of 1000 Corpses, has so many interesting ideas. It plucks a handful of characters from that utterly bonkers, acid trip nightmarescape of a movie and drops them into a real world setting, then invites us to get to know them as people even as they torture and violate innocents.

This movie deliberately robs you of anyone to root for. The main characters are all murdering rapists (and raping murderers), and you want to see them pay for their crimes, but the local sheriff with his own personal vendetta to settle is nearly as despicable. He may be on the side of the law, but he’s just as violent, sadistic, and just plain gross as any of the titular Rejects.

All of Rob Zombie’s staples (explicit dialogue, torture, grindhouse cinematography, Southern rock, filthy sex, filth in general…) are here, and they work best in this film out of all. Even the normally eye-rolling use of Free Bird is put up against such a beautifully filmed “Thelma and Louise” sequence that it actually, miraculously, works.  Just like his use of Love Hurts in Halloween, when you hear it, you can’t believe he’s actually getting away with it.

Having now seen all but one of Rob Zombie’s films, I feel comfortable saying this is about as good as you can get from him. He won’t ever change. These are the movies he wants to see, and he’s gonna keep making ’em. There’s a slight chance he could surprise me with his upcoming 31, or his supposed Groucho Marx biopic, but until he rescinds screenplay duties and hires a more gung-ho editor, if you’ve seen one Rob Zombie film you’ve kind of seen them all.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on August 17th, 2015 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | 1 Comment -

Silent Valley: A Haunting: A Kickstarter

Perhaps you remember in the past me holding out my hand, Oliver-like, begging for donations to help fund our ever-growing Halloween extravaganza, which now includes an honest-to-goodness haunted house! Well this year, we’re taking the crowdfunding idea to the logical next step.

We’re Kickstarting our brand new, more legit garage haunt – Silent Valley: A Haunting. Check out the deets on the Kickstarter page. So if you know me, or you’re in the Phoenix area, OR you’re just such a generous saintly person you like to donate money to peoples’ dreams, consider tossing a few bucks our way. I promise, if you’re on this site you’ll dig what we’re up to this year.

Ghosted by Jon on August 11th, 2015 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

Summer of Horror: House of 1000 Corpses, The Orphanage, Creep

House of 1000 Corpses

House_of_1000_Corpses_poster

In preparation for a larger editorial I’ve been planning for some time on the directorial career of one Robert Cummings, AKA Rob Zombie, I thought it time to verse myself on his small filmography. First up, his debut as a movie maker, House of 1000 Corpses.

Here’s a little teaser for the editorial I’ll be writing. It’s about how there seems to be a bit of a consensus, or at least a common opinion, that Rob Zombie has the potential to make a great horror film, but hasn’t done it yet. He dabbled in music video directing before moving on to films, and his flair for visuals is inarguable. What’s also inarguable is that Rob Zombie has a “thing”, and he won’t downplay or step away from that thing for any reason. The dude likes crazy rednecks, filthy environments, twisted sexual humor, 1970’s southern rock music, and screaming. And he intends to stuff all his films to the brim with those things.

So as for House of 1000 Corpses, it sets the tone for exactly what you’re in for any time you see a Rob Zombie film. Plot-wise it’s an entry in the storied “redneck torture family” sub-genre, and borrows liberally from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with a dash of creepy carnival and a dusting of literal monsters. Of course, you have the screaming, filthy rednecks and their cringe-worthy sexual humor. You also have atrocious, profanity-laden dialogue that’s over the top in a bad way, obnoxious lead characters that you actually look forward to seeing murdered, and avant garde nightmare-esque cutaways. All this adds up to an arduous viewing experience, to say the least. It’s extreme, sure, but it just feels like too much. Like an entire 3 course meal that’s nothing but fried cheese and bacon. You long for just a tiny bit of normality to act as a contrast.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on August 6th, 2015 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | 3 Comments -

Summer of Horror: It Follows

 

it follows

Note: Typically my format for Summer of Horror reviews is to lump three together for the sake of efficiency. But I found It Follows noteworthy enough to warrant its own full length review.

Every year has its out-of-left-field surprise horror hit, released in late Winter or Spring, far from the halcyon horror days of September and October. Cabin in the Woods, You’re Next, Oculus, and The Babadook being recent examples. It Follows was the latest film to generate that kind of positive buzz, but sadly I wasn’t able to carve out time to see it theatrically.

Talk to anyone about It Follows, and they’ll likely focus on the premise, which is both highly unique and somewhat convoluted. Put in the simplest possible terms, it’s a sexually transmitted stalker-killer that can shapeshift. And it walks. It only walks, and of course, it follows.

You can get a crash course on the “rules” of this antagonist and the plot setup by reading any other review. But for my own purposes, and those of my readers, I find it more salient to point out another oddity about It Follows: It’s absolutely a modern-day Halloween. As in John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978).

Seriously.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on July 21st, 2015 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | No Comments -

Summer of Horror: Session 9, Army of Darkness, They Live

Session 9

Session 9

 

You know, I get the sense that the creators of Session 9 found that spooky wheelchair seen in the poster above inside the Danvers Mental Asylum and loved its look so much they made it the central visual motif of the entire film, even though it doesn’t factor into the plot at all.

There’s a habit some documentary filmmakers fall prey to – “falling in love with the access” – wherein the thesis of the documentary ends up taking a backseat to raw information they have at their disposal. A similar thing plagues Session 9, as the real-life Danvers State Mental Hospital – a genuinely creepy and notoriously haunted mental asylum – is where much of the film was shot. They even used trinkets and artifacts left in the abandoned building as some of the film’s props, likely including the aforementioned wheelchair.

As a result, it seems as if the goldmine of a shooting location was meant to compensate for what is, at its center, a rather bland and unsatisfying story. Session 9 is the kind of film that spreads its scares out very, very widely, resulting in an agonizingly slow pace that, while rich with character development, just simply is not all that interesting.

The payoff, which you can tell from frame one is going to involve some kind of a twist (as horror films trading in mental illness ALWAYS do), doesn’t completely justify the protracted buildup. But there are some very nice, atmospheric creepy scenes, and they only made me wish the filmmakers had spent a little less time filming in broad daylight.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on July 2nd, 2015 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | 1 Comment -

Summer of Horror 2015

Summer of horror 2015 banner

My hair caught fire when I stepped out into the sunlight this afternoon, so I know another Phoenix Summer has heralded its arrival (even if it doesn’t officially begin until Sunday – bollocks, I say).

Another Summer means, well, many things to many people. But for me ONE of those things, one of the very exciting things, is Summer of Horror. This will be my third year in a row of gritting my teeth, cranking up the A/C, and settling in for some horror movies to slowly ease my way into another Halloween season. As always, the purpose is to catch myself up on some of the more notable and/or historic horror films that one might consider essential viewing for any horror hound, but I’m delighted to say that in the past two iterations of this, nearly all of the true essentials have been dealt with. I’m certainly not claiming to have seen every culturally significant horror movie, but I’m far enough along in the process to allow for more branching out into the realms of the modern and the obscure.

This year’s list will be a totally mixed bag, similar to last year. No themes, no eras, just whatever horror films I’ve felt compelled to get under my belt (and whatever ones I can rope my brothers into viewing with me) – three reviews at a time, as the gods intended.

So if you please, prepare to come along on this journey with me, and to pass judgment upon me for the utterly iconic horror films I, proprietor of I Remember Halloween dot Net, had managed not to see. Fortunately, that shame list is getting shorter and shorter.

By the time it’s all over, we’ll be there. Halloween 2015. It’s gonna be a spooky good time!

Ghosted by Jon on June 19th, 2015 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -
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