Saturday, October 31, 2009

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2009: Night #13 Poltergeist

Ah! It's Hallowe'en! How are you my pretties? Ready with your candy and drinks to settle in for our movie of the dark night of nights? Good. Sit back and press play on the number one pick for Hallowe'en and my all time favourite horror movie, Poltergeist. This week I read more than one article talking about people's memories of their early horror movie experiences and the sense of great fear, dread, and trepidation of but immense attraction to particular films and shows. For me Poltergeist stands as one of my experiences like that. The commercials and trailers for Poltergeist were terrifying and I loved every jangly-nerve, heart beating hard moment until I could see the movie. I saw it short weeks after Xtro on that same video disc format. I don't know how many times I watched it that weekend, but it was a lot.

One thing I always say about Poltergeist is that it is the most beautiful horror movie I've seen. Some of the scenes are just as awe inspiring as they are creepy or scary. Beyond the visuals there is also the family component that adds so much to the movie. The horror is so much the better for the contrasting scenes and for the real tension created because we feel for this family. The movie touches on a lot horror staples providing a great smorgasbord of terrors. Then there are the imagined horrors behind the scenes. The Poltergeist trilogy has been considered cursed, what with the deaths of Dominique Dunne (murdered), Julian Beck and Will Sampson (cancer), and finally child star Heather O'Rourke (disease). On the other hand Craig T. Nelson has done more than all right.

Mood: festive.
Music: This Is Halloween by Danny Elfman off of The Nightmare Before Christmas (soundtrack).

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Friday, October 30, 2009

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2009: Night #12 The Crow

The night before Hallowe'en is infamously known as Devil's Night and is a time of trouble ranging from the annoying to the destructive to the violent. In some places, like Detroit, Devil's Night was known for its record number of arson cases. The Crow is one of the few movies about the night, which is somewhat understandable with Hallowe'en being a much juicier target. The Crow isn't necessarily a horror movie even though it is in the vein. It's more of a dark action movie. It is also one of those rare movies where the star met with an untimely death on the set with the accident that took Brandon Lee's life. The filmmakers turned the movie into something of an homage to this young talent. They also did an excellent job of completing the film in his absence.

When I first saw The Crow at the theatre I was left with two impressions. The first was that this was a very special movie. The second, during the viewing, was that it pulled in a lot of ideas from different places and had that feeling of reusing bits of others films. What is odd about this second impression is that it very quickly faded. Whatever movies I felt The Crow borrowed from were quickly subsumed by the movie and I quickly could not recall any of them, those elements, themes, and scenes now belong to The Crow. Put together with the rest of the movie they no longer belong to the original sources in any kind of important way, as odd as that sounds. As for The Crow's original graphic novels I only know what I've heard in the DVD extras plus a little from additional bits in the TV series.

Mood: mellow.
Music: Dead Souls by Nine Inch Nails off of The Crow: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2009: Night #11 A Nightmare on Elm Street

Anyone who knows me had to know when I did favourites and classics that this movie would be near to the top of the list. In fact it would be second if I didn't have a more topical movie for the night before Halloween. Freddy Krueger is the man, the most iconic figure of all horror movies, known around the entire world. There is a reason for that, and this movie is the genesis of all of it. What makes A Nightmare on Elm Street such a great movie? Well aside from Freddy brought to amazing unlife by Robert Englund there is also the supremely deft hand of director Wes Craven guided here and there by Robert Shaye head of New Line Cinema. The story is very well done weaving its local mythos. The script is also very thematic and literate. Everything is just done right.

The success of A Nightmare on Elm is both critical and financial. New Line Cinema has earned the nickname of The House that Freddy Built. There is so much that can be done, and to a degree has, with Freddy Krueger. Lurking in nightmares, able to kill in dreams, but beyond that able to take control of the dreams and do as he wishes. It gives the filmmakers great latitude. There is an endless parade of ideas. A Nightmare on Elm Street also stands as one of the film franchises where the villain's foil is female and should to his reckoning be as easy pickings as the rest--starting of course with Heather Langenkamp's Nancy. This never seems particularly vexing to Freddy even though Robert Englund sees Freddy, and portrays him, with a sort of cowboy ethos right down to the gunslingers stance he adopts.

Mood: excited.
Music: Welcome to My Nightmare by Alice Cooper off of Welcome to My Nightmare.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2009: Night #10 Carrie

The movie for tonight is the classic, Carrie. It is based on the book by Stephen King. It is a story very close to me since I consider it the first adult horror novel I read. Sure there were those creepy book series but they were young adult, as good as they were, which was quite good. I even wrote a paper in English class on Carrie--as the only person in the class allowed to use King because I got around and found reference material on him and his work. For a short novel there is a wealth of material for discourse. There is great depth to it and not much of it lost in translation to the movie even with the differences. Brian DePalma was a good choice of director. The composer who wrote the score is Pino Donaggio who also scored The Howling.

Carrie has immensely talented main cast with Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie who are both just incredible. The fact that Nancy Allen stands out as great too really says something in the shadow of the other two. The movie also boasts John Travolta in a really early role, and let's not forget P.J. Soles who later showed up in Halloween. Who doesn't remember P.J. in Carrie with that hat on her head even while wearing her prom dress? That's commitment to a hat. Speaking of incongruous, what about the tuxedo rental scene where De Palma speeds up the film and sound to leaven an already light scene? The climax of the movie is a double one and it's only too bad they couldn't have pulled it off the way that they intended special effects-wise.

Mood: slack.
Music: Bucket of Blood by Pino Donaggio off of Carrie (soundtrack).

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2009: Night #9 Evil Dead

If I've had great movies and classics up to this point welcome to the next step up. I am one of the ones who prefers the original Evil Dead to the more comedic sequel as a matter of preferring pure horror movies overall. I rather believe that Evil Dead is indeed the Ultimate Experience in Grueling Horror. Not that there aren't rougher movies, though those tend to lack the elements I require to call a movie horror rather than a sub-genre or related one. Not that there aren't more horrific movies, they lack the grueling bit. I think this because, well, it's Evil Dead and its vicious, and violent, and rakes poor Ash over the coals even though the rest of his friends really get it too. Director Sam Raimi and his friends actor Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert created an institution.

I was rather late to the party watching Evil Dead. I didn't see it until my early college days. I remember seeing the second one in the local video store but never the first so thankfully I did not see them out of order. I would not suggest seeing the trilogy out of order. I had from a source I no longer recall heard something about an alternate version of the scene with Cheryl in the woods ending with two Cheryls. Where this bizarre and by all accounts imaginary alternate scene was dreamed up, I do not know and seems limited to whomever it was that told me the tale. Cheryl's woods scene as it stands in the movie is one of those moments everyone talks about. It is also one of the scenes that got it labelled as another of the video nasties.

Mood: taunted.
Music: Perfect Crime by Guns N' Roses off of Use Your Illusion I.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2009: Night #8 Xtro

This is likely the first real horror movie that I ever saw. I mean that wasn't on TV during the day. I don't remember seeing any at night by then. However I don't clearly remember any of the movies I must have seen during the day on weekends. When I first saw Xtro the format was videodiscs. They were before real laser discs, and before VHS, though Betamax had come on the scene and the store was renting a few of those too. For me Xtro is an infamous movie. I wasn't the only one my age to see it, but really, that said, we were all too young. I remember wanting to see Halloween 3 but being denied by my parents so a scary movie masquerading as science fiction was a good choice. That they never saw the nudity or gore was a small miracle given the number of times I watched it.

As much as I'm against spoilers, sometimes if a scene is early enough in the film I will let things slip. Xtro contains one of these things you need to let slip so that people will know just what kind of movie it is. For Xtro that scene is where a woman is attacked by an alien and within minutes violently gives birth to a full-grown man. To this day the movie still remains one of my favourites. It took what seemed like forever for it come out on DVD, finally doing so in 2005--at least in North America. Xtro was of course one of the British video nasties, though this time actually from Britain. Despite its origins the film bore credit screens with the old New Line Cinema logo and was one of the Smart Egg pictures; a pair of company names that stood for horror even before New Line hit it super huge.

Mood: fine.
Music: Distant Skies by Stratovarius off of Fourth Dimension.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2009: Night #7 The Howling

There are two kinds of people in the world. There are those that think An American Werewolf in London is the best werewolf movie ever, and those that know The Howling is the best. The first compliment I give The Howling is to call it a piece of cinema in the best sense. It's not one of the many psuedo-documentary style movies (that doesn't mean the shaky cam reality show style movies either), though that style is often put to good use. The Howling instead is layered. It has that through the camera's eye touch of surrealism to it, but isn't strange or off-kilter. It's scripted, and measured, something more than a movie or a flick. Beyond that it pays homage to not only its predecessors and the creators influences but also to itself with multiple werewolf allusions throughout.

The Howling is something of a who's who or horror. One exception is Robert Picardo who is more known for his roles on shows like Star Trek: Voyager and Stargate: Atlantis--his role in 976-EVIL comes years later. He plays Eddie Quist who sparks the whole thing with horror staple and star Dee Wallace. There are bit parts and cameos by the likes of John Carradine, Dick Miller, Forrest J. Ackerman, and Roger Corman. Of course director Joe Dante is well known for the Gremlins movies. Rob Bottin's werewolf transformation special effects are astounding and one of the points of disagreement between The Howling fans and American Werewolf fans. The werewolves Rob has brought to life are frightening in the extreme and really bring the horror to this movie.

Mood: wild.
Music: Uncle Jack by Motley Crue of off Motley Crue.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2009: Night #6 Silent Night, Deadly Night

Oddly enough it just wouldn't be Hallowe'en without a Christmas themed horror film. The mother of them all as far as I am concerned is Silent Night, Deadly Night. I've also been known to call it the Carrie of slasher films. It really is a phenomenal movie and of course it is also an incredibly infamous film surrounded by immense and intense controversy. The venom pitched at this movie is almost ludicrous. Most of it was sight unseen and a lot of it just plain incorrect in its assumptions. My favourite thrashing involved a complete demonisation and smear campaign against all of the actors painting them as cavorting monsters. The comment that the movie makes--and there is one to be seen, not in a bad preachy way, but by example--is entirely lost on detractors and in a lot of cases fans alike.

I really have to give kudos to Robert Brian Wilson as Billy the star of Silent Night, Deadly Night. People focus on the monosyllabic portion of the movie (PUNISH!) and disregard the lead up (NAUGHTY!) where Robert makes you really feel for Billy and is just phenomenal as looking like someone just sick with fear. Seriously, the humanity he gives to the role prior to the breakdown is great. He has a haunted, tormented look almost worthy of James Brolin in the original Amityville Horror. Speaking of actors, Will Hare as Billy's grandpa is probably the creepiest old codger this side of Julian Beck in Poltergeist II, which is really saying something. I also have a soft spot for Britt Leach as Ira Sims the toy-store owner. Lastly, though it is not available anywhere, the soundtrack is exceedingly cool especially the creepy "Santa's Watching" song.

Mood: creepy.
Music: The Night Santa Went Crazy by Weird Al Yankovic off of Bad Hair Day.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2009: Night #5 Shocker

How do you follow up an enormously successful film about arazor-gloved, burned man who kills you in your dreams. Obviously you move from fire to electricity and have your supernatural killer do his thing by possessing people and going anywhere electrons can. Tonight I suggest Shocker from director Wes Craven for our viewing pleasure. Yes the cheese is there, some of it stringy and gooey, but don't let that dissuade you from this quirky gem. Horace Pinker is no Freddy Krueger, but then again who is? Mitch Pileggi who you might recall from the X-Files or more recently on Stargate: Antlantis plays Horace a man turned high voltage engine of slaughter when his death sentence is fulfilled. It's hard to imagine him as the same actor, which says much of his acting skill.

Shocker is another movie with a killer soundtrack. One of the coolest bands on the album is the Dudes of Wrath comprising band members from KISS, Def Leppard, Quiet Riot, and Motley Crue. An absolute can't miss song called "Demon Bell - The Ballad Of Horace Pinker" by Dangerous Toys also has an awesome presence in its scene in the movie. As for the film itself, I've seen complaints about one of the side-plots even though it circles back and fulfills a need in the story. I rather like it even if the ghostly element is somewhat at odds with the other supernatural elements in the plot. He's hard to miss but Ted Raimi has--for him--a rather lengthy role. Also keep an eye for a brief scene with Heather Langenkamp and one with Wes himself. They're really easy to miss.

Mood: electric.
Music: My Last Words by Megadeth off of Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2009: Night #4 The Blair Witch Project

It is hard to image that someone has not seen this movie, but there are always people. I certainly have not seen everything, and the closer you get to newly released the less likely I've seen a particular movie yet. However, some things you expect everyone has seen. Tonight's movie is The Blair Witch Project and it is certainly one film I think every horror fan should see. This is not to say everyone will like it as much as I do. Some people literally can't sit and watch the shaky-camera movies. So that is one initial problem. Others will not be fond of the slow pace that builds up over time. There also might be the small issue that so much has been said about the movie that all the best parts have been spoiled. Don't let these things stop you from experiencing this film.

Right now I want to tell you a little story about my experience watching The Blair Witch Project for the first time in the theatre. I went to an afternoon matinee with a friend a couple weeks after the movie had opened. The hype was still high, but the complaints of the shaking were about too. As the film progressed the temperature in the theatre dropped little by little. It was quite chilly, someone had to have the air conditioning up too high--it was August after all. The film came to the now famous, or perhaps infamous, ending and the credits rolled. As soon as the end credits started the temperature immediately returned to normal. That of course means that it was not cold in the theatre, but instead the movie had a great impact on both us since my friend agreed on the instantaneous return of warmth.

Mood: mellow.
Music: My Girlfriend's Girlfriend by Type O Negative off of October Rust.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2009: Night #3 Waxwork

Tonight I picked out Waxwork for the movie. Note that thesale's link is for the DVD is the edition that also includes the sequel Waxwork II: Lost in Time. I would have suggested the second movie for tonight if not that the original is the better horror movie. That said the second movie is a lot more fun. It's something of a horror comedy in parts and overall a great adventure movie. If you really wanted you could watch both tonight. The first movie though certainly has enough great moments and is a favourite mine even if it is not "the" favourite of the two. Waxwork's director and writer Anthony Hickox also directed the second film, and Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth as well. Anthony is the son of Douglas Hickox director of the Vincent Price classic Theater of Blood.

The two Waxwork films star Zach Galligan who played Billy in both of the Gremlins movies. The first movie also stars Deborah Foreman whom some may remember from the original April Fool's Day. Should you watch the second movie Debrah is replaced by Monika Schnarre who has been on numerous genre television shows. People expecting Waxwork to be a rip-off of House of Wax can rest assured this is hardly the case. It's no spoiler that Waxwork involves a full on supernatural element. The back of the box blurb says it all, waxwork filled scenes of classic horror monsters and villains are missing only one thing, victims. Of course there's more to it than that and even once you get the idea there's tonnes of room to proceed. There are some really great interesting scenes just to prove this.

Mood: solid.
Music: Caught Somewhere In Time by Iron Maiden off of Somewhere In Time.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2009: Night #2 Hellraiser

For the second night of the thirteen I've chosen a classic, and
favourite of many, the original Hellraiser. I remember when I first rented it, though I do not know how long ago that was after it was released on VHS at the video store. Used to be quite some time between film release and video release, plus the rental stores always had a certain amount of time before movies would be sold to individuals. I was quite uncertain about seeing the film. A lot of talk circulated around that (blasphemously) considered Pinhead to be better than Freddy Krueger. Shocking I know, and hardly anything more than a personal preference--go Freddy! Hellraiser certainly did not fail to live up to the rest of the hype surrounding it. It was very edge of the seat stuff, a great testament to Clive Barker as director.

It's not very often that an author will direct the movie made based on
one of their books. Least of all are those films such smash hits. Pinhead of course is an incredibly iconic horror figure and stands easily alongside Freddy, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers. Pinhead also has some of the coolest antagonist lines in any movies. There are numerous lines of his in this movie that are eminently quotable. At the same time, they are not your typical one-liners, instead opting for the serious and not deadpan, but straight lines. Doug Bradley's voice and demeanour as Pinhead make the film almost as much as the scripts adherence to Barker's "The Hellbound Heart". Not that it follows everything for indeed Pinhead is much cooler than the novella's lead cenobite.

Mood: sardonic.
Music: Hellraiser by Ozzy Osbourne off of No More Tears.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

13 Nights of Hallowe'en 2009: Night #1 Strangeland

Hello, and welcome to the first of the thirteen nights of Hallowe’en.

What we do with these thirteen nights is we watch a horror movie or other kind of movie fitting to the festive spirit of All Hallows Eve. The full list of this years movies is available at WraithStop™. Tonight is the first night running to Hallowe’en, which is the thirteenth night. Come back to this blog every day for a heads up about that night’s movie.

Tonight’s movie is "Strangeland" which was written by and stars Dee Snider who is most famously known for the glam metal band Twisted Sister. Yes, a twisted movie from Twisted Sister, including even a song from a briefly re-united Twisted Sister. It's not just being cute to call this a twisted movie. Strangeland is about Captain Howdy, a cyber-stalker looking to help people by providing them the physical trials and pain of primitive cultures. The movie made the circuit of tradeshows revolving around tattoos, piercings, and body modification, rather than the film festivals. One thing you may notice is that Genevieve is played by Linda Cardellini from the last seasons of ER. Also included in the cast is Robert Englund, the original man of your nightmare, Freddy Krueger, in a role that really surprises.

By now some might be wondering from where they know that name, Captain Howdy. In the Exorcist, Regan MacNeil (played by Linda Blair) said with her Ouija board that she spoke to someone named Captain Howdy. Similarly that name is a song title from Twisted Sister's album "Stay Hungry" and the remixed "Still Hungry". While still on the topic of music, Strangeland has an awesome soundtrack available that is just full of great songs from a number of great bands. As for the movie itself, don't worry it's not gorno, though it could be easy to imagine as a step in that direction, this was 1998 after all. No instead it's a horror in the thriller vein and it certainly has its twists and turns. It is not your run of the mill retread plot. Enjoy, like all of this year's movies it's one of my favourites.

Mood: excited.
Music: Captain Howdy by Twisted Sister off of Still Hungry.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Halloween Movies

Since this is the last blog entry before we begin the 13 Nights of Hallowe'en I thought it only appropriate to talk about Halloween movies. Some people call most to all horror movies Halloween movies. Personally, I think only certain classes of horror movies should earn that moniker. Halloween is about the time of the year when the veil between the land of the living and the land of the dead is at its thinnest and things bleed through from one side to the other. This means that Halloween movies should be firmly rooted in the supernatural vein. I like a slasher flick as much as the next fan, but most of them lack that certain something, the unnatural element. Of course not all of them are rooted in mortal killers. Some even make the transition from one style to the other through sequels.

On the flip side there has been a recent trend of non-supernatural horror movies coming out around Halloween that the newest crop of horror fans will gladly call Halloween movies. This is of course the Saw franchise. The sixth film in the series is set to premier October 23, 2009. The IMDB already has an entry for Saw VII in 2010. As usual it is all a matter of perspective and preference.

So what of the division in supernatural movies? There are monster movies including vampires, werewolves, and zombies. Then there are the possession and haunting movies. Is one of these groups more a propos than the other? I would say not really. The costumes and scares of Halloween were meant to say to spirits, don't mess with me I'm no more natural than you and maybe even scarier. The others of course fit right into the fear of being haunted on All Hallow's Eve.

No matter how you slice it or label your movies the point is the same, a fun scare in the Halloween season, or just any time. See you on the 19th for the first night of our extravaganza.

Mood: creepy.

Music: The Unforgiven by Metallica and Haunted by Evanescence.

Metallica: Metallica
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Evanescence: Fallen
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