2010 HALLOWEEN HORROR-DORK-A-THON

Amidst the frenetic tizzy (that’s right, I said tizzy) that demands a more-than-sizable chunk of the Cinephreak’s available time (read: filmmaking to-do’s such as editing, writing and pre-production on a handful of projects), time is often carved out for watching moviefilms. After all, I’m hopelessly addicted to cinema and you occasionally have to fuel your vices. This particular blog will be dedicated to my most recent excursion. Updates on all the projects alluded to in the aforementioned parenthetical will be saved for a forthcoming blast of bloggy blog action.

I love Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday. I love horror. It’s my favorite genre. Every year I ritualistically force the two into a lurid, seductive embrace and binge on horror films – a marathon in-home film festival of which I am the sole attendant. The celebratory event has often lasted an entire weekend in the past (when H’ween falls on or near one), or at the very least, all day/night on Oct 31st. This year I decided to up the ante: I had to watch a horror movie every day in the month of October, leading up to the annual massive weekend Dork-A-Thon. The rules stipulated I could, of course, watch more than one movie a day, so long as at least one was watched. It was an endurance trial, but was a crap-ton of fun. A fine mixture of quality and crap. Unfortunately I didn’t get to include my favorite thing on this festive journey – my wife (she don’t do the scary stuffs). Luckily, my kitties (Chance and Lucky) often kept me company (and often reacted appropriately). The following is the good-bad-and-ugly lineup I had, in order, replete with my reactionary comments. 50 horror flicks in a month, with 13 occurring during Halloween weekend alone. My dorkness truly knows no bounds. And so without further adue…

DAY 1: BOY EATS GIRL – The title of this flick suggests something akin to awesome. Sadly, that’s where the coolness stops. It had some decent gore here and there (zombies + running farm equipment = a fun mess), but mostly fell flat and isn’t nearly as clever as I’d hoped. It was like the unwarranted bastard child of SHAUN OF THE DEAD and THE RAGE: CARRIE 2.  A rocky start to the binge that I picked totally at random.

DAY 2: THE THING and VAMPIRES (John Carpenter double feature night) – I’ve seen both of these countless times already. THE THING is one of my favorites, I’d argue it’s damn near a perfect film. I make a point to watch this one every Halloween. VAMPIRES has always been a guilty pleasure for me. I know it’s not really “good”, but it’s just so damn much fun. Kind of a great companion piece to FROM DUSK TIL DAWN, in tone and ambiance. James Woods crushes it in this one. Tonight put a much better taste in my mouth.

DAY 3: SHOCK – This was one of Mario Bava’s that I hadn’t seen before. Decent moments, cinematographically-speaking. Tonally it was occasionally effectively tense. But overall… meh. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. Can’t hold a candle to his A-game.

DAY 4 – TEETH – I hadn’t seen this one before. And I loved the piss out of it. Really surprised me, as I anticipated a middle-of-the-road horror flick with a cool premise (vagina dentata!). I loved that it’s sort of a psychotic tale of women’s empowerment with a frighteningly sharp social commentary on religious fanaticism, societal acceptance, and environmental pollution… but at the same time is just a horror flick about a chick with teeth in her junk. Really well-paced, strong performances, and some horrible crap happens to Sean McNamara’s son from Nip/Tuck. A much more graphic film than I expected, too.

DAY 5: DEAD AND DEADER – Dean Cain is a zombie and says “I smell dead people.” That’s the best I can say about this one. Occasionally fun, but mostly tired and unnecessary, rife with forced attempts at fanboy cinematic commentary and shout-outs (read: trying too hard to be Tarantino).

DAY 6: BLOOD MONKEY – There is a movie called BLOOD MONKEY. Nuff said. Oh, and there’s totally a scene where the monkey pees on a camp of people from the trees before killing them. Giant, yellow, torrential streams of evil monkey piss. Awesome. (And no, the movie is not good.)

DAY 7: PLASTERHEAD – Would’ve been much better had I, in fact, been plastered. This one was a real chore to get through. I’ve earned my masochism badge for not hitting stop. Yikes.

DAY 8: THE PROWLER – This was an average 80s slasher, but with some incredible gore and excellent makeup FX (Savini!). Hadn’t seen it before. Not sure if it’s one I’d eagerly revisit, but an enjoyable, if not disposable, viewing.

DAY 9: LEFT BANK – Holy crap did this film sneak up on me and kick my ass. Haunting, dangerous, and effectively beautiful (in a jacked up way), this harrowing little Dutch film was often truly creepy. Would make a fantastic companion piece to Lars von Trier’s ANTICHRIST. In fact, to me it kind of feels like what you’d get if von Trier tried his hand at a remake of ROSEMARY’S BABY. Not for the weak of… anything, really, but I highly recommend this one. A disquieting, gorgeously shot gem.

DAY 10: 2001 MANIACS and CAPTIVITY – Random double feature picked from Fear Net’s On-Demand section. 2001 MANIACS was campy, stupid fun that knew exactly what it was trying to do – and in that, often succeeded. Fun bits from Robert Englund and a lot of CABIN FEVER alum. Not “good” by any stretch of the imagination, but a gory bit of depraved entertainment. CAPTIVITY was an aborted turd. Overwrought, tired, predictable and trite, laced with REALLY slick cinematography. But no matter how much you gloss it up, a turd is still shit.

DAY 11: THE FOURTH KIND – I’d heard rave responses to this flick. While I don’t feel the narrative approach is a success, I do appreciate the concept. Overall, nothing that special. But I can’t lie… It did freak me out on more than one occasion. Maybe I’m a pussy.

DAY 12: WARLOCK – I’d actually never seen this before. It’s insanely dated, visually (yay ’80s effects!), but it’s a helluva lotta fun. Dug this one.

DAY 13: DARKNESS FALLS – Kill me. I totally ignored my instincts here. I honestly don’t know why I subjected myself to this. I’d heard it was awful. It looked awful. But I’m in the minority in that I actually dug THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING, and thought Jonathan Liebesman showed a knack for keen visuals. But everything here went wrong, oh so wrong. I still can’t get the taste of this crap out of my mouth. I’ve had wet farts that were more enjoyable.

DAY 14: TALES FROM THE HOOD – Yup. This totally happened. And I loved every moment of it.

DAY 15: THE TOOLBOX MURDERS – The original one, not Tobe Hooper’s new one. Hadn’t seen it before. Had some good kills, and an effectively sleazy vibe throughout. Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it. Overall, a bit disappointed, especially given the controversy it originally garnered.

DAY 16: THE CHURCH and MY NAME IS BRUCE – Oh did I love THE CHURCH. Argento (who I love) was on board for the writing, but Saovi was at the helm, and this turned out to be one of the best Italian horror offerings I’ve seen. Excellent cinematography, masterful building of tension. Mostly, just stunning. MY NAME IS BRUCE was funny for about 0.5 seconds. The novelty wore off all too quickly. This could’ve (and should’ve) been great.

DAY 17 – SHROOMS and ZOMBIE STRIPPERS – SHROOMS sucks. It’s decently shot and all, but it’s just consistently bad. Awful characters, awful script. One girl actually delivers the line “I just OD’d on the heroin of shrooms! I don’t know what’s real!” Wow. ZOMBIE STRIPPERS was exactly what you’d expect from the title. Mostly campy and bad in a fun way, but entirely overstayed its welcome. I spent the majority of these films’ runtimes working on a script, so thankfully I wasn’t too bored.

DAY 18: PUPPET MASTER – Hell yes. Love me some murdering puppets. Contemplated making a running theme of it, after this and TALES FROM THE HOOD. Love it when the little puppet chick is seducing the dude and pukes the suck-pods onto him.

DAY 19: THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW – Not to be confused with the recent atrocity, SORORITY ROW. This one was a decent amount of fun, I thought. Nothing special, but mostly solid. What you want from an 80s horror flick.

DAY 20: HEMO, ZOMBIELAND and THE AMITYVILLE HORROR – Had a decent binge tonight. HEMO is an indie film from Bob Freville that I really dug. A different take on the vampire genre, this essentially is a drug film, focusing more on the effects of addiction and the characters’ downward spiral in each others’ arms rather than the sanguinarian/vampiric aspect of the tale. An ethereal little tale that often existed in a sort of middleground consciousness. Screwed up, but with heart. My kinda love story. ZOMBIELAND I’ve already seen, but never get tired of. THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (the original, not the remake) I’d seen before, many years ago, and remembered not liking it at all. But I thought I’d give it a second chance. And I’m glad I did, cause for some reason on this viewing I thought it was pretty fantastic. Guess my mood shifts more than I thought. One of those instances where I ended up watching the exact film I was in the mood for.

DAY 21: HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL – This is the newer one, with Geoffrey Rush and crew. I’m fully aware that this isn’t a good movie. But it’s an inexplicable guilty pleasure for me. I have fun every time I see it.

DAY 22: TRIANGLE – This one was highly recommended to me by a friend, and I’m glad he turned me on to it. It’s an eerily woven little tale, with a great sense of atmosphere. It’s predictable (honestly I called it early on in the first act), but still entertaining to watch play out. Kind of had a Christopher Nolan quality about it. A decent thriller, I’d recommend it too.

DAY 23: MICHAEL JACKSON’S THRILLER and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON – Rocked out to some Landis today. Good times. Kenzie watched the THRILLER video with me and we were singing and dancing the zombie creep the rest of the day.

DAY 24: BLACULA and HATCHET – All I can say about Blacula is: HELL YES. Lucky (our newest kitty, who sports three legs) sat on the couch and watched this with me. Rather, she tried to sleep while I watched it. But towards the end there was a slo-mo shot of a vampire chick SCREAMING and running towards the screen with fangs agape. This woke her up and she stared at the screen in terror until the vamp was gone. This movie entertained me. But it scared the hell outta my cat. HATCHET… Okay, I give up. I don’t get why so many people went nuts over this one. I watched it back when it first came out after several recommendations from friends. I even bought it on a whim. And I hated it. I love some crappy movies, but thought this was just piss poor. But, as I’m curious about Adam Green’s newer work (FROZEN, HATCHET II), I thought I’d give it a second chance. Nope. Still didn’t like it. Admittedly, there was some pretty cool gore here and there, but I guess I’ll just have to sit tight in the minority in not digging this one.

DAY 25: TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE – Not good, but fun. I’m a fan of anthology films (e.g. THREE EXTREMES, FOUR ROOMS, GRINDHOUSE, etc). Crazy how many actors I like are in this sucker – Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, Harry from DEXTER (yes he has a name, but that’s what he’s known as to me, dammit!). The middle tale in this one started my trend of watching movies with evil kitties… and so…

DAY 26: CAT’S EYE – Not good. But I loved when the cat fought the evil bedroom troll at the end and saved little Drew Barrymore.

Day 27: MASTERS OF HORROR: THE BLACK CAT and THE BLACK CAT (Lucio Fulci’s) – I’m occasionally a fan of the MOH series (especially Miike and Carpenter’s installments). This one (by Stuart Gordon) was decent. Jeffrey Combs is always fascinating on screen, methinks. I’d seen Fulci’s THE BLACK CAT before but wanted to include it with my evil kitties trend. It’ s a solid film from the maestro.

DAY 28: TWO EVIL EYES – Romero and Argento each directing a film in this film. Good stuff. Argento might’ve had the best take on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat”, in my opinion (tough to call, though). Lucky watched most of these evil kitty films with me. She didn’t seem to happy about it. The devil cats would hiss and give warning meows and she would look at me as if to ask to make it stop. Had to keep the volume remote handy for these installments.

DAYS 29-31: The Halloween Weekend HorrorBingeMarathonFest BEGINS!

Had a diverse lineup this time around, methinks:

THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS – I’d actually never seen this. Old Craven is better Craven indeed, but this one was middle-of-the-road for me. It was just sort of weird and fun, but didn’t really feel like a horror film to me. Liked it, didn’t love it.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY – My first viewing of this, too. I didn’t want to see it in theaters. It felt more like a watch at home by yourself in the dark sorta flick. From there, I just procrastinated and might now be the last person in the world to watch it. My expectations were pretty low, and I went in expecting to be unimpressed. But I actually liked it. Totally see why it was so popular, and somehow it makes the whole “you know it’s fake but we’ll pretend it’s real” lost footage spiel work, despite THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT sucking most all of the helium outta that balloon way back when. It was genuinely creepy, and had me nervous on more than one occasion. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we’re currently buying our first house. But yeah… It sorta got to me.

FRIGHT NIGHT – Fun, fun, fun. This thing is like THE GOONIES for adults. A total guilty pleasure.

FRONTIER(S) – I’d wanted to see this one for awhile. The French have been on a roll lately when it comes to horror, it seems (I haven’t seen MARTYRS or INSIDE, but hear they pack a punch). Though I was skeptical, as this was one of the After Dark Horrorfest films, and I drank the Kool-Aid for that franchise’s first two years… and not a one of the films is good. At all. So I passed this one over, but then it was recommended to me by some friends whose opinions I trust. I gotta say… this one is pretty rad. Starts a bit slow, but picks itself out of the lull pretty effectively. Sort of presents as a European version of HOSTEL, but then goes somewhere else (and I really dug where it went). And the red stuff… this sucker is brutal as hell. There’s one particular bit with a table saw that had me cheering. I kind of feel bad for one of the actresses, as she spent the majority of the third act doused in blood so thick you could only see the whites of her eyes to know she was a person. Not for the squeamish.

ORPHAN – I really dug this one, too. More of an “evil kid” thriller along the lines of THE OMEN, or even THE GOOD SON (a bad comparison probably). But it’s effective, creepy, really well-paced, and looks slick as hell. I’m frightened of Isabelle Fuhrman (she was great). Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard were excellent (though I’m usually a fan of both of them).

ALIEN: DIRECTOR’S CUT – I’ve seen ALIEN more times than I can realistically count. It’s a classic. And people mistakenly lump it on the sci-fi side of the fence when in reality, it’s straight f’n horror. I’d never actually seen the director’s cut before, and while it felt a tad different (bits added, removed, and shaved here and there), it’s nothing that noticeable and to me neither addded to nor detracted from the film as it stood. I’m all for a director nitpicking and honing his/her vision, though (unless it’s a George Lucas Syndrome situation) so whatevs.

NIGHT OF THE CREEPS – Good cheap fun. The original SLITHER.

HALLOWEEN 2 (ROB ZOMBIE’S) – I’d heard all sorts of awful things about this one. I’m actually a decent fan of Zombie’s first HALLOWEEN (even though it doesn’t hold a candle to Carpenter’s original masterpiece). So I sat down to give this one a shot, or at least just get through it. It’s all over the place, and isn’t at all concerned with logic. Made me feel like I was on drugs (I have a feeling that was intentional). Though, even though the script is a mess… I sort of enjoyed it. It’s at least brutal as all get out (again, but makes NO sense whatsoever).  But it was sort of fun on a mindless level. Granted, the beers I’d had kicked in during this viewing, so that might explain why I didn’t completely hate it. Probably a flick where you need to be under the influence of… well, anything.

DAYBREAKERS – I’ve heard people sing this one’s praises, and others trash it readily. I had a blast with this one. Hawke, Dafoe and Neill were great, and it was all around slick-as-hell fun. The Spierig Brothers made some major strides from UNDEAD (which I think is a ton of fun, personally) on the technical side. Though some of the effects looked great, while some didn’t. There were a few moments where they were trying to do a little too much and the effects/budget couldn’t keep up. Still, A for effort. Despite how tired the vampire craze is getting, this one feels fresh.

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) – The original granddaddy. Never get tired of this one. Love it to hell and back. Still effective, still gets under your skin. Totally makes me want to take a road trip.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) – Haven’t seen the remake. This one I love. Wes Craven will never make a better film (though I’ve got mad love for the original LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT). A classic that was really ahead of its time.

THE EXORCIST – Probably my favorite horror film. A flat-out masterpiece in every sense of the word. Consistently creepy and genuinely terrifying. When I first saw this film way back when, it was the middle of the night and afterward I immediately had to rush through the house and turn all the lights on. Messed with my head for days. Excellent script, directing, cinematography, and acting. I still get chills when Max von Sydow’s Father Merrin shows up in the fog to do battle with the devil, standing outside the house by that lamppost. Like a badass. Everything about this film worked. I watched the “Version You’ve Never Seen”, which… I’d never seen. Didn’t make the original better or worse, just was a nice companion piece, I thought.

THE SHINING – Perfect way to close the festivities. This also is one I watch every Halloween. And I never get tired of it. From a directing standpoint, it’s damn near perfect (though not my favorite Kubrick film… it does come damn close). Brilliantly paced, with some mesmerizingly frightening, iconic imagery. If Nicholson never did another film aside from this one, he’d still be a legend. Totally makes me want to roam around a ginormous empty hotel for months (sounds like a writer’s dream). And every time Jack plops down for a drink from Lloyd the Bartender it makes me want a drink. They make bourbon sexy. Probably not a film to show at AA meetings.

And so there you have it! A month’s worth of uber-dorkiness dedicated to a genre I love, for a holiday I love. I think I celebrated in style this time out, though several films I wanted to watch just couldn’t get squeezed in (you should’ve seen the “to watch” list I was working from… I need help). If you actually read this whole thing… Thank you. I appreciate you letting me waste your time. Now back to something more productive.

Best,
Jake

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~ by cinephreakpictures on November 16, 2010.

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