Sunday, October 31, 2010

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2010: Night #13 The Haunting In Connecticut

Ah! It's Hallowe'en! I hope it's red 'n' black, and slimy green for you. As always I have left the best movie for last. The Haunting InConnecticut is another movie based on a true story. Up until the haunting really shifts into high gear the story is fairly close to the original incidents. I was thrilled when I found out they were making this movie, and even more so when I watched the movie and saw what they had done. Let's start with our star Kyle Gallner. You may have seen him in Jennifer's Body and the Nightmare on Elm Street remake. He just makes this movie so much more. I wouldn't sneeze at Virginia Madsen either. She's been in Candyman, The Haunting, and The Prophecy. The rest of the notable actors in the movie's family include Amanda Crew from Final Destination 3 and Martin Donovan from Insomnia (2002) or on TV in Ghost Whisperer or Masters of Horror (2007).

A last mention on cast is the helpful reverend played by Elias Koteas who was also in The Prophecy with Madsen; otherwise you mightrecall him from Lost Souls, The Fourth Kind, Shutter Island or Let Me In (2010), or if you're really sharp in a small role in Apt Pupil. There is something I have to gush about in Haunting In Connecticut and it is one word... ectoplasm! It's right there on the cover. We're not talking green slime here, we're talking something much more textbook, and I for one love it. It's the icing on a very cool cake. Now, for those of you who don't know, this is a movie about a mother who moves her family into a house that was formerly a mortuary because the house is close to the hospital where her one son is undergoing an experimental cancer treatment. The place is haunted, but the how and why is all of the fun. Enjoy, and Happy Hallowe'en!

Mood: festive.

Music: This Is Halloween by Danny Elfman. MP3s

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2010: Night #12 The Shining (1980)

The night before Hallowe'en, Devil's Night. Can you feel the excitement? Are you ready? Well if not then you should be aftertonight's movie. In a list of movies with infamously haunted places there is one name that towers over the others. It is called The Overlook Hotel, and it is not real, but most people will know the name nonetheless, even if they don't recall from where. The Overlook is based for the most part on a real hotel called The Stanley Hotel and is the creation of Stephen King in his novel The Shining. This is the first movie adaptation of that novel. The mastermind behind it is none other than Stanley Kubrick. Mind you some people aren't so sure on the mastermind part. This movie deviates from the novel on several levels. To me this makes for the more interesting of the two kind of novel to movie adaptations.

Kubrick had his own vision for the story. It is both familiar and divergent. Starting off we have the cast. The movie stars Jack Nicholson,Shelley Duvall, and young Danny Lloyd as a family maintaining The Overlook Hotel during the long and harsh winter. This is the same as King's story. It's not a spoiler, but the only thing I'll say here about the differences is that in Kubrick's movie the hotel has a hedge maze, and the novel--and remake mini-series--has hedge animals that come to life. As one might expect from a Kubrick movie there is a great attention to detail from sets to locations to the acting, and of course the direction. As for the haunting, the Shining has it in spades. Also, if you don't know, the shining is actually psychic ability, exemplified by Danny Lloyd's character and the cook played by Scatman Crothers.

Mood: stoked.

Music: Halloween by Helloween. MP3s

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Friday, October 29, 2010

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2010: Night #11 Poltergeist II: The Other Side

If you are new to my array of blogs or just have forgotten, my favourite movie of all time, any genre, is the originalPoltergeist. I already told you all about it for last year's Hallowe'en movie. I decided not to repeat myself although there were more than a couple haunting movies previously covered that I could have tackled again. Poltergeist II: The Other Side is a great sequel. It didn't have to be as brilliant, or as beautiful as the original, it just had to keep you involved with the family. It helped immensely that Craig T. Nelson, Jobeth Williams, and of course little Heather O'Rourke returned--and the boy too. With them came Zelda Rubinstein as the absolutely iconic Tangina Barrons. This time the Freelings have moved in with the children's grandmother but the ghosts still want Carol Anne, especially their leader the Reverend Kane played by Julian Beck.

Let's start there, with Julian Beck as Kane. That is one seriously creepy old man. Beck is just absolutely amazing whether it is pretending to be a sweet innocent old codger or the seething, wrathful, fire and brimstone, cult leader unsatisfied even in death to let his followers go. That in itself is also the coolest thing about this movie--the back-story that dovetails so well into the goings on of the previous film. That is likely because Poltergeist II has the same writing team that brought us the original movie: Michael Grais and Mark Victor. Kane has another problem beside Tangina this time out in the form of a Native American shaman played by Will Sampson. Both Sampson and Beck were supposed to have died after working on this movie because of the Poltergeist curse--also Dominique Dunne and Heather O'Rourke--one of the creepiest (false) movie legends.

Mood: inspired.

Music: Halloween by Aqua. MP3s

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2010: Night #10 The Amityville Horror (2005)

As Hallowe'en draws near and the movies become about bigger, more spectacular, and more infamous hauntings on film. The AmityvilleHorror is probably the most talked about haunting on this continent popularised by the novel, original movie with several sequels, and now this recent remake. Scott Kosar wrote this Amityville Horror screenplay--also The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Crazies remakes. Amityville is one of the Platinum Dunes remakes. It stars Ryan Reynolds, and Melissa George who you may remember from Turistas and 30 Days of Night. They buy a house that is priced within their means because the previous family was murdered in it. Notable playing the role of one of Melissa's boys is Jesse James who definitely stood out in The Butterfly Effect. The priest in this remake is played by Philip Baker Hall from Lost Souls.

There is one scene in this movie that I want nothing more than to tell you about, but it would be such a spoiler. I almost hate tomention that it involves the character played by Rachel Nichols from the short-lived TV show The Inside, also from 2005, and a year later the movie The Woods. As a remake this movie draws comparison to the original, and a certain amount of ire. I'm a fan of this and the original. This one does it's own thing in some cases. It involves some aspects that are hinted at in the novel that weren't an issue in the original movie. It drops some aspects and scenes from both progenitors. Some of the changes could be interesting to see pursued in a sequel, though I have not heard anything about a sequel to this movie. You can save it for another night, but I thought the commentary track did a good job of explaining some parts that seemed a bit random.

Mood: excitable.

Music: This House is Haunted by Alice Cooper. MP3s

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2010: Night #9 An American Haunting (director's cut)

Last night we had a pretty scary haunting movie. Well get ready for a much more impressive haunting. I won't mislead you, this is more of ahorror movie, which I think to a degree lessens the scares, but your mileage may vary. An American Haunting is loosely based on the real life haunting of John and Lucy Bell, played by Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek. The true story is one of the more infamous hauntings and fairly well documented given the time frame. The ghost was referred to as the Bell Witch. In 1819 General Jackson--yes later President Andrew Jackson--was even witness to the handiwork of the witch. Of course that isn't a part of the movie but wow, a U.S. president with an account of not only a ghost but a ghost witch. For reference as the title says I'm going with the director's cut. I cannot speak to the theatrical version.

Rounding out the cast is Rachel Hurd-Wood as the daughter Betsy Bell, and James D'Arcy who appeared in Exorcist: The Beginning (released just the year before)--that was the good prequel with the doctor and the hyenas--as the local schoolteacher. The general premise is that John Bell's house is haunted shortly after a land dispute with a woman considered by many to be a witch--FYI the witch woman had died before the real historical haunting. Betsy receives the worst of the torment from the very active ghost. The movie also opens and closes with scenes from the modern day. These scenes are a point of contention among some viewers. They are part of a small secondary plot added to the movie--at least I'd never heard it conjectured of the real story--which in itself sits unwell with some fans. I don't let it detract from the rest of this movie.

Just a final FYI, the real Bell Witch was frequently referred to as a poltergeist even though it spoke, among other vocal things, claimed the identity of the dead woman, and acted more intelligently, not to mention maliciously.

Mood: eager.

Music: Wake The Dead by Alice Cooper. MP3s

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2010: Night #8 Paranormal Activity

Tonight I have for you one of the big name recent horrors, Paranormal Activity. It got a lot of press and a lot of support--I for one have myname amongst the throng of people who petitioned to get this movie released. Some people love it, some people are indifferent, and of course there are the hardcore detractors. I for one thought it was great for what it intended. It wasn't a heavy effects movie, it certainly wasn't a gory movie, or one chockfull of spectres jumping out from every corner. It kept my attention all of the way through, which is a good testament for a movie with so few characters or sets. If you don't know what it is about here it is without spoilers--I hit a spoiler myself sadly, just a few weeks before getting to see it the first time. A couple decides that a ghost is haunting them and the man gets a video camera to catch the haunting on tape.

Pretty simple set up for a movie that received so much talk. Paranormal Activity was the first movie from writer-director Oren Peli. Despite being filmed in English it was still under consideration to be remade for North American audiences. That was apparently taken off of the table after the efforts of many horror fans to convince the studio not to do such an unjustified things. So, we have the movie as is, and the sequel is in theatres right now. Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat are the two stars of the movie playing characters with the same first names and no last names given. There is a psychic that Katie calls in to help, and one of her friends. That's it for cast. Everything takes place in or just outside of the house. It just goes to show that you do not need a lot to make a horror movie that works. It also doesn’t require a huge budget either. However, we knew that.

Mood: expectant.

Music: Halloween in Heaven by Type O Negative. MP3s

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Monday, October 25, 2010

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2010: Night #7 House on Haunted Hill (1999)

We're at around the halfway mark now. Tonight I give you the remake of House on Haunted Hill. A group of people are invited to ahaunted house and offered a lot of money to spend he entire night. I have to tell you I felt severely let down by the original, even thought it had Vincent Price in it. This remake isn't without its flaws, but I still think it is a great remake and it's a movie I like to re-watch. For one thing it is jam packed with nameable actors and actresses. Let's start with Geoffrey Rush as the tongue-in-cheek named Stephen H. Price. Then there's Famke Janssen as his wife. There's a bit part for musician Lisa Loeb and the one and only James Marsters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Taye Diggs is in it as a party invitee along with Ali Larter--from Final Destination 1 and 2, among other things. Then we have la pièce de resistance, Jeffrey Combs, man of horror.

William Malone directed this House on Haunted Hill, as well as fear dot com, and Parasomnia--all three of which have Combs in them, which sure says something to me. Robb White wrote the original House on Haunted Hill and the original Thir13een Ghosts, and The Tingler for William Castle. Dick Beebe wrote the new Haunted Hill screenplay, as well as wrote on Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. It's quite the collection of horror people that was all made possible by Dark Castle Entertainment. One of my favourite little things in this movie is the basement area with the Honoré Fragonard-style flayed cadaver art. In general it's cool that the house used to be a psychiatric institute, and that is something that gets even more coverage in the sequel--which is available paired with this film in the sales link above. Go now, and enjoy!

Mood: cheery.

Music: Haunted by Evanescence. MP3s

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2010: Night #6 1408

Tonight's movie is one from the mind of Stephen King about one of the most haunted hotels, Manhattan's Dolphin Hotel. Everyone whostays in a particular room gets the full on haunting treatment. That room is 1408. John Cusack plays a paranormal debunker writing a book about haunted hotels and the Dolphin should prove to be crowning chapter. Cusack always seemed to skate just along the periphery of horror or other genre movie roles until recently, but he certainly stepped into it with 1408. This movie is something of an oddball and I almost didn't include it in the thirteen nights. There is so much more than a regular haunting going on in this movie. You'll just have to watch it to find out, if you haven't already seen it. I have only seen the theatrical version so far and cannot comment on the director's cut, which was included in the set that I bought.

There are also some other familiar faces in this movie, such as Samuel L. Jackson as the hotel manger. He certainly gets aroundHollywood movies across all genres. Horror newcomer Mary McCormack plays Cusack's ex-wife. She doesn't have a lot of screen time, but it was probably a good gig in between TV shows. Tony Shalhoub has a spot too as Cusack's literary agent. I just have to point out that Shalhoub was also in the heavily haunted movie Thir13en Ghosts, though here he doesn't get in on any of the action. That movie's ghosts put me in mind of the ones 1408 a little bit. The 1408 ghosts aren't so over top or gruesome, but they are stylized, and honestly I was a little disappointed in that quality of the effects. I'd even compare them to back when The Lawnmower Man came out, but this is maybe all too much information. Don't let this dissuade you from watching 1408.

Mood: contemplative.

Music: House Of 1000 Corpses by Rob Zombie. MP3s

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2010: Night #5 White Noise

It's the weekend before the big night, eight days yet to go. Tonight we have White Noise starring Michael Keaton as aman who becomes obsessed with EVPs, also know as Electronic Voice Phenomena. His preferred method is using video. What you do--yes you can try it for yourself, but hopefully you won't get results like portrayed in this film--is you find a blank television channel and you record the static for hours and hours. Then you play it back and somewhere along the line you find ghosts in the video. This is a method that is getting harder and harder to use with the decline of VCRs and the advent of digital TV broadcasts and the static filled unused channels being blocked by cable and satellite providers for your convenience. This is a very interesting movie. I was unfortunately saddled with a Pan & Scan copy and may have to repurchase Widescreen.

I think it says something that I'm considering double dipping over the problem that ended with me ordering the wrong version. It might be an easy answer if I start in with Blu-Ray--I haven't even considered the switch yet. White Noise puts me in mind of couple other films in pieces, a matter of mood, and of cinematography rather than plot or events per se. It has a sort of The Mothman Prophecies vibe and some of the scenes have the kind of visual feel that was present in the remake of the TV series Night Stalker (2005) starring Stuart Townsend. There is also some comparison to be made to The Sixth Sense--no not like that. I find it a little amusing that after all this time Keaton becomes involved in a movie about ghosts where he has to deal the repercussions of their existence such a long time after he played one of the most famous ghosts of cinema, Beetlejuice.

Mood: leery.

Music: Haunted by Poe. MP3s

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Friday, October 22, 2010

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2010: Night #4 Route 666

Route 666 is the fourth movie in our thirteen. It stars Lou Diamond Phillips--no stranger to small horror titles--as a Marshall incharge of retrieving and protecting a run away witness played by Steven Williams--who for me will always be Creighton Duke from Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. Phillips is partnered up with some other law enforcement men and women, one of which is played by Lori Petty. They take the titular Route 666--a part of the normal Route 66--as a way of eluding some hit men after Williams. The road has been closed for some time for being dangerous, but of course the terrain is the least of anyone's worries since it's viciously haunted. I will let you know that this isn't your usual haunting and I for one really like the different take. The ghosts follow their own rules and that includes their appearance.

The ghosts could easily be mistaken for zombies until they’re seen in action. As far as their background they are a prison road crew complete with equipment for use to deadly effect--that's all I'll say here. I really like the makeup jobs, and their mannerisms are just icing on the cake. It's great that people make offbeat, out of the ordinary movies like this one. The director is William Wesley who also directed Scarecrows (1988), which sounds like a similar horror layered onto a crime drama storyline. Movies like this, that meld more than one kind of story together, are sometimes distracting, but I think it was well used here. It puts me in mind of Dead Birds except better organised and executed. I found the music to be interesting, but not as much as the jackhammer sound effect, which really stood out as different and stuck with me.

Mood: furtive.

Music: Haunted by Type O Negative. MP3s

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2010: Night #3 The Fog (2005)

It's Thursday and our movie is the 2005 remake of The Fog. The first question you must be asking is why the remake? Don’t get mewrong, the original is classic John Carpenter, but it was so random overall. As far as storyline goes I prefer this remake with its solid back-story to explain the ghosts. It has a little bit of randomness and of course a modern aesthetic, but Carpenter himself seemed congenial to the film in the extras, so what the hey. The remake stars Tom Welling from Smallville and his love interest is Maggie Grace from Lost. The iconic radio host played by Adrienne Barbeau in the original is now played by Selma Blair from Hellboy and seems much more peripheral to the story. The director, Rupert Wainwright, also directed Stigmata and the episode "Echoes" of the TV horror series Fear Itself.

Remakes are a touchy subject, but I'm always of the mind that a movie should be watched on its own merits. Not on the original version, not on previous movies in a franchise, not even in comparison to other work by the same director. When it comes to discussing them it's okay to compare, but I don't think a strict comparison is fair either, something softer is required. Reviews on the other hand fit in with watching. The best remakes don't either try to outdo the original or just copy it; they go their own direction. That's why I like this The Fog too and why it's here. Now about the actual fog. It looks great here, but it doesn't exactly get the same importance. I don't know if it has more screen time or not, but it wasn't as powerful a point of tension. It's kind of like the radio host, there, has its place, but isn't the show runner it could have been.

Mood: obscure.

Music: Fear Of The Dark by Iron Maiden. MP3s

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