Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Review: Trilogy of Terror

I thought we'd go back in time just a wee bit. Heck even before I was born. Trilogy of Terror debuted in 1975 on ABC as a made-for-TV movie. It was actually supposed to be the pilot for a new horror anthology series but sadly it was never picked up.

The movie is made up of three segments all played by the beautiful and talented actress Karen Black who was previously in the epic movie Easy Rider. The three segments are based on stories written by Richard Matheson who may be best known for writing I Am Legend and various Twilight Zone episodes including Terror at 20,000 feet. Since there is no wraparound for this movie why don't we just start at the beginning yes?

Our appetizer course in this terrifying feast is brought to us in the form of "Julie". Did I mention that all three segments are named after the titular character? No? Well let's move on.

 She's a horror movie multitasker. Say that five times fast!

This story revolves around the bookish and shy college professor Julia. She is being pursed by a creepy and voyeuristic sleazebag student name Chad (Robert Burton). Yeah, Chad. She resists his advances but finally gives him a shot. After slipping Julia a roofie during their date he takes her to a sleazy motel and proceeds to take staged photos of her. There is also an implied rape which just makes me sick. Chad then uses those same photos to keep her under his control after she tries to break things off with him. But we slowly learn that Julia is not all that she seems and start to question who is really being manipulated here?

She's thinking what we all are. I want to punch you in you smug face Chad!

Unfortunately as with most horror anthology films the first segment is the weakest and this one is no exception. This was my least favorite of the three. I found the writing to be very bland and the dialogue delivery was at times awful. Sometimes bad dialogue can be good but this is just plain bad.

The silver lining here is of course Karen Black. She isn't give much to do or to say in the first half of the segment. It's only in the latter half that she really starts to shine. Julia comes out of her shell so to speak and we get a sense for the power she can command. I found myself wanting more of this Julia but it came too little too late to save this one for me.

For the main course we are served up "Millicent & Therese". This segment tells us the tale of two very different sisters living under the same roof after their father dies. This is already trouble am I right? Right? Ok I'll stop. One is the old maid and very prudent sister Millicent. The other is fast living, beautiful and hard partying Therese.

 She's writing her grandchild a check for 5 bucks no doubt.

Well I will have a seat right there thank you.

Our story starts out shortly after the funeral of their father with a visit from Therese's boyfriend. Millicent convinces him to leave her after telling him tales of witchcraft, devil worship, and incest all at the hands of out of control Therese. This, for obvious reasons, enrages Therese and she threatens to kill Millicent. This is when Millicent calls on Dr. Ramsey (George Gaynes) and he offers to come by. everyone has a doctor for a friend right? Unfortunately for him he runs into Therese instead and after a failed seduction she berates him and tells him never to come back. Millicent then calls her friend Dr. Ramsey once again and says she knows how to defeat her evil sister once and for all. With her own medicine. Black magic and voodoo. Will she succeed and should she be playing with forces she doesn't know how to control? You'll just have to watch and see.

As the order implies, this is my second favorite segment of the bunch. We get to see more of Karen Black's acting chops in the form of two very different characters here. I love the transformations and the subtle use of makeup to make Millicent look much older and plain while the Therese character uses the same makeup to amplify Karen's already apparent beauty. Ms. Black plays both equally well. The sexy and seductive Therese oozes confidence and cunning reminiscent of Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, while Millicent shows almost biblical conviction and determination similar to that of Mrs. Carmody in Stephen King's The Mist.

There isn't too much bad to say here other than I wish the story would have been fleshed out a little and we had more of a back story. In that sense it could have been much more interesting. As with the first segment, this wasn't very scary. At least not to me. Interesting? Yes. Scary? Sadly, no.

Our final tale is the icing on the cake and it's brought to us courtesy of "Alice". This story concerns the lovely Alice who lives alone in a large high-rise apartment complex. Alice has just returned from shopping for a present for her Anthropology professor boyfriend. She first calls her controlling mother to tell her that she has a hot date and can't see her tonight. All is not well with these two but that's another discussion. The bad news about her shopping extravaganza is that she got a hideous looking and sharp-toothed Zuni fetish doll. Ok. Sure. Why not? Worse presents have been had. Except for the fact that it comes with a cryptic scroll that says this Zuni fetish doll is named "He Who Kills" and claims to be the resting place for a Zuni hunter spirit. Does this place offer refunds? Who am I kidding? I would have taken it home too, but for myself. The scroll also warns that the chain binding the doll should never be removed lest grave danger befall that person in the form of a homicidal doll. Oh Alice.Of course the chain comes off and then the fun really begins. This doll is out for blood and begins violently stalking, attacking and chasing her around her apartment. Will Alice pull an "Alice" of Resident Evil fame and kick some undead ass or will the doll claim another victim in what I'm sure is a long career written in blood.

No mother I don't want to hang out tonight. I have a hot date!

I definitely recommend that you watch and find out even if you are afraid off dolls. This is my favorite segment (I'm sure many others as well) and the scariest of the bunch. This third leg of the tour is based off of a short story by Matheson called "Prey". The first two were teleplays written by him. Maybe this says something about his stories via book vs. TV? Or maybe not. He wrote some really good Twilight Zone episodes such as The Invaders and Once Upon A Time.

Karen Black again shines, and all by herself I might add. She might just be the original scream queen. Eat your heart out Jamie Lee Curtis. She does a terrific job of conveying the fear and terror one might feel being locked up in a dark apartment with a tiny killer doll looking to use your intestines as Christmas tree decorations.

I love the sense of isolation and foreboding this story conveys. Being trapped alone gives me the sense of some sort of claustrophobia but throw in the Zuni doll? Forget it.

I also applaud the look of the doll. Whoever designed the doll really made it look quite menacing. The Zuni warrior also makes these screeching and screaming noises that add to the fear and tension. You occasionally hear little footsteps tapping. Subtle shadows moving. What was that? Is that him? Aaaahhhhhh!!

This may not be the first thing you want to see when you wake up in the morning. Or maybe this is an upgrade?

All in all this horror anthology movie was just ok for me. One thing that I didn't like was the twist endings for the first two segments. You could see them coming a mile away. I'm not sure if this is due to bad writing or that audiences nowadays are just too used to that. Now you would have to throw 3 or 4 curve balls their way (and mine) just to be surprised. Or we are just too jaded? Maybe both. Conversely the third segment twist was a very happy exception to this rule.

Again, I will say that Karen Black is a gem in this and really put her heart and soul into every part of this film. She really should have went further with her career in my humble opinion. Sadly she was typecast and like many others only received cult status much later in life. I would recommend you watch this film at least once if not just for the last segment. It's also a short film by today's standards if that's a concern for you. With a running time of 72 minutes you could breeze through it and be back in time for happy hour! I give it a 5/10 but judge it for yourself. Love you all!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Top 15 Scariest Movie Moments

Throughout cinema history there have certainly been a wide array of very scary movies. Some that made you jump, some that may have made you squeal, and others that will just leave you huddled up under your blanket with a nightlight on and praying your ass off. But if you were truly scared, then there is usually a certain moment that sticks with you after the credits roll.

Here I would like to list my top 15 scariest movie moments. Now while all of these movies are downright frightening as a whole, I wanted to list those certain scenes that stuck with me through the years. Please allow me to present these terrifying moments that still manage to give me a little jolt of something special and tend to bring out that handy nightlight again.

***Spoilers Below***

15. Ringu

Most Americans might know this film as The Ring, but what they may not know is that it is a remake of the far superior Japanese flick Ringu. While they both have their fair share of chills and jumps, I still to this day believe that Ringu is the much creepier and disturbing of the two. The Japanese just know how to do horror better for the most part. At least when it comes to evil spirits, ghosts, and ghouls in my humble opinion. 

The ending scene really hit me when I first saw it many years ago. Here we have our main male protagonist Ryuji at home thinking all is well in good. Wrong. The evil little ghost Sadako isn't done with her murderous ways yet. In a well shot and tense scene, Sadajo comes through the screen of the television to the horror of poor Ryuji. Something about the look, the way she moves, and her freaky weird eyes gets to you. This is a scene that will have you making sure your TV is unplugged before going to sleep.

14. The Serpent and The Rainbow

I watched this movie quite a bit as a youngster and was quite terrified by it. A zombie movie that by modern standards doesn't actually have any zombies in it. But this movie is based on the real life account of a man by the name of Clairvius Narcisse who claims to have been turned into a zombie with a potent and 'near' deadly brew and then promptly buried alive. What's more frightening then something that could actually happen to you?

Now most of us have a natural fear of being buried alive and for good reason. Claustrophobia anyone? Hell, in the olden days, your loved ones would actually bury you with pole and bell attached to the inside of your coffin so if you were per chance still alive, you could ring the bell letting them know to dig you up. And then promptly cut your head off and drive a stake through your heart because they probably thought you were a vampire. Ok, maybe not. In one such suffocating scene that plays on the aforementioned fear, our main hero Dennis played by Bill Pullman gets a little taste of the zombie drug he's been searching for. Not as fun as you might think. He begs and pleads with whoever may listen not to bury him because he's not dead. Alas, to no avail, because that's just what happens. I want to be shot out into space like good old Spock was after seeing this scene. Trailer below

13. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

I remember first seeing this film around the age of 12 at my house literally all alone in the middle of the night. Didn't much want to go to sleep after that. The film plays on two interesting and scary premises. One, losing your humanity. Our emotions are one of the strongest parts of what makes us human. When an alien invader threatens to replace you and take it all of that away, it's a chilling and very bleak prospect to say the least. Two, sleep. We all need to sleep to survive (tweakers may disagree), unfortunately that's when the pods assimilate you. Nevertheless, you're left with little choice. You must sleep at some point, but yet you know once you do, it could be your last dream.

This could be a recurring theme. The end scene. I mean this is when most scare jumps and twists are thrown at you of course. They are common fare nowadays, but further back in cinema horror history, it seemed as if they were few and far between. Most of the time the bad guy dies and the good guy gets the girl. And a lot of the time when films did throw in a twist ending, it was either poorly executed or the movie might have benefited from the standard formula in my opinion. This ending however doesn't disappoint. The closing minutes show our escaped hero Matthew outside watching some poor kids being led to the pods. The female supporting character Nancy is waiting outside for him. She ironically had told Matthew earlier in the flick how to evade the pod people by showing no emotion whatsoever. Unfortunately, Nancy was looking for solace and help from Matthew. That was her first and last mistake. Once he sees her emotions, he points her out and lets out a piercing loud scream to alert the others of her presence. Bleak and cold. Bad guys win, humanity is screwed, and I'm left sleepless in the Valley. Sheesh.

12. Audition

Oh Takashi you frighten us so. In my opinion this is one of Miike's best and most disturbing films. The imagery he uses disturbs you as usual and the pacing leaves you feeling quite uneasy the deeper into the movie you go. This eerie tale tells of  a down trodden man named AoyamaAsamiAsami is pretty much bat shit crazy with an acute pension for torture. Sounds like all of my ex gf's. I kid, I kid.

There are actually two scenes that tie for the most disturbing of the movie and they actually quite close together. The first being is when we finally get to see what's in that creepy bag Asami has in her apartment. The grotesque contents happen to be her missing boss. Albeit sans many various body parts. Our lovely leading leading vomits into a bowl and feeds it to him. He dutifully chomps it down. Typically anything with vomit and eating in the same sentence gets me a bit queasy and I'm sure most other people as well.

The second and final scene is when Asami finally loses it and reveals her true inner crazy. After sneaking into Aoyama's house and finding a picture of his dead wife, she decides to drug him and start with some torture. Jealous much? She proceeds to slowly and painfully stick needles all over his body including the eyeballs. Ouch. Once Asami tires of that game, she turns to removing body parts. Her favorite weapon of choice is the wire saw. She just seems too damn gleeful while slowing sawing off his foot. The sound effects are truly bone chilling. Pun intended. Miike is so wonderful at crafting slow and painful torture scenes. See Imprint. These horrifying sequences will make you think twice about that blind date.

11. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

"Don't mess with Texas" is a slogan that really takes it to the extreme in this film my friends. Inspired by very real serial killer Ed Gein, Tobe Hooper brings us his gritty, unrelenting, and disturbing vision of horror that definitely stands the test of time. Go on now, watch it! Although the film is not actually very bloody by today's standards, at the time it was considered extremely violent and gory. And that's even with the cuts Hooper made hoping for a PG rating to no avail. The movie introduced audiences to lovable 'ol Leatherface and spawned many sequels, remakes, and prequels for years to come. Oh boy.

The scene that gave me nightmares was the first time we actually ever see Leatherface in action. The typical group of teenagers stops at female lead Sally's old family home to take a look around. Unfortunately for them they don't know that the house is now inhabited by cannibalistic nutcases. Too bad, so sad. One of the kids named Kirk decides to have a looksie inside and see if anyone would be kind enough to spare some gas. He hears a kind of squealing noise coming from inside a room down the hall. As he goes to investigate he trips a little, and before he knows it Leatherface is looming over him with a huge mallet in hand to crush Kirk's skull in two. Kirk writhes on the ground before Leatherface pulls him into his lair and slams the steel door behind him. Bamm! It will leave speechless and wondering with anxiety what the hell is going on behind closed doors. Sometimes less is more, and in this case that statement couldn't be more right. I must say that this horror masterpiece may leave you wanting a shower afterwards. If so, the film did its job.

10. Pet Sematary

Helmed terrifically by director Mary Lambert, Pet Semetary is one of my favorite King adaptations to the big screen. Everything just works for me here. From the beautiful, yet eerie filming location in Maine. To the neighbor we all wish we had. I'm looking at you Jud Crandell. And the funny and disgusting looking ghost Pascow. I watched this one again recently and it definitely still holds up in the scares department.

While the movie is full of disturbing images and frightening moments such as evil little Gage Creed running around with scalpel in hand. I still have to stick with twisted 'ol Zelda on this one folks. The scene when Rachel is telling Louis the tale of her grotesque older sister Zelda dying always stuck with me. There are a couple of other times when Zelda shows up again to make you crap yourself, and those are no less terrifying. Huge kudos to the makeup department and Andrew Hubastek's acting to making any scene with Zelda in it scary as hell.

09. Halloween

Oh John Carpenter, why aren't you making gems like this anymore? Halloween has become the father (the godfather being Psycho naturally) of slasher movies and the formula is a tried and true staple 33 years later. Halloween was made on a shoe string budget and became a huge success for a few reasons. Jamie Lee Curtis's believable acting and screaming chops. Donald Pleasance. Throw in unique camera shots, dark lighting, a catchy score, and we have a winner here folks. Oh yeah, did I mention it's scary as shit? Need I say more?

End scene again people. I know, but hey, trust me. After Laurie finishes messing our boy Michael up with her scary movie heroine powers, she thinks the boogie man is dead and she can finally rest. After sending the kids away for help she slumps down in the doorway exhausted. That's when it happens. Mr. Meyers sits up ready for more action and the creepy music starts. dunt. dunt dunt. dunt. dunt dunt. Unearthly perfection. Now this is the quintessential moment when the black lady stands up in the theater screaming at the screen, "Run bitch, run!". We've all done it before and that's why this scene works so well. The fear we feel for the character and ourselves is palpable. As Jamie Kennedy so eloquently put it in 'Scream' (another great film from Johnny boy), "Never assume the bad guy is dead".

08. Creepshow 2-The Raft Segment

Ok, so Creepshow part duex isn't half the movie the first one is for a variety of reasons, but it does have some gems in there. One such gem as The Raft segment based off of a short story by Stephen King. Yeah, he'll be on this list a lot. What can I say? He knows horror my friends. After saying all of that, this film still holds a special nostalgic place in my heart, and a terrifying as well one thanks to The Raft segment. Water and horror just gets to me everytime. Well, if it's done right that is.

It's hard to pick one scene that really stood out on The Raft Segment because I thought it was great as a whole. But if  I had to choose, which I do, then again I would have to say the ending. As the two surviving members of the original foursome, Laverne and Randy are left to deal with the carnivorous blob lurking in the water hungry for more blood. For some reason Randy decides it's a good time to start feeling up a passed out Rachel. Maybe he wanted one last hurrah before his certain demise, but come on man. Either way Laverene shouldn't have laid on the raft after seeing what happened to Deke. Too little too late because the blob like creature gets to her face and hair through the cracks. She is promptly eaten while Randy decides his last chance is to make a swim for it. He actually does make it to shore and decides he should taunt the the creature. Blobby is having none of it and goes tidal wave to get his last meal. That last little twist there always made me chuckle. I think the reason why this scared me is because of my fear of blob like creatures that devour you slowly and painfully. As well as anything that has to do with water, and things in the water that can kill you. Stay out of the water folks.

07. Friday the 13th

Ahhh one of my favorite movie franchise of all time, Friday the 13th. Crazed killer in a mask, tits and ass, and of course, murderous mayhem. What more could you want in a campy horror flick? Although Jason Voorhees is the star of this franchise, it was of course his mother who did all the killing in this first film. Betsy Palmer can play crazy. Oh yes, she can. I would vote this first installment somewhere in the middle of the franchise for me. It had some inventive kills thank to my man Savini and a wonderful premise, but the mediocre acting and lack of budget dull the blade so to speak. Nevertheless, it will always have a special place in my heart and the hearts of horror fans worldwide thanks to Alice, Mrs. Voorhess, and one scary as hell ending.

The moment in this motion picture that still haunts me and can give me a jump is of course, you guessed it, the ending. After lopping the head off of Mrs. Voorhess, Alice decides its a good time to push off a canoe into the lake and pass out. Yeah, because being out in the middle of a lake in a canoe, in pitch black darkness, after you've just been terrorized for the night isn't scary at all right? Well not to our bad ass Alice. She awakes to a beautiful morning and still lake with the police waiting at the shore. There's beautiful music and all is well, except it's not. Our boy Jason finally decides to make his presence know by leaping out of the water like Aquaman to pull poor Alice to her demise. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! That was me screaming like a little girl and jumping up and down when I first saw that scene as a kid. But wait, it was all a dream. Gotcha! She wakes up in her hospital bed and knows Jason is still out there. If the sequel count is anything to go by, then yes, he definitely is still out there. The edning was added after Savini suggested it because of another successful chair jumper scene that will be mentioned here on this list shortly.

06. The Shining

Now we come to Stanley Kubrick's horror masterpiece, The Shining. Or as Groundskeeper Willie calls it, The Shinning. I saw this film at a very young age and it always left me feeling a bit uneasy. The huge visuals, surreal imagery, and ominous score always lent it's talents to scaring the piss out of me. But that's the point right? I know that Stephen King himself famously hated this adaptation, but I still think it's a classic and should be a staple of any horror fans collection.

This scene is not only hugely disturbing to me, it's incredibly disgusting. After little Danny boy takes a visit to Room 237, he shows back up beaten and disturbed to his mother’s horror. She asks Jack to go take a look-see and see if they are actually alone in the hotel. Although, she harbors doubts and thinks Jack may be behind this event. So Jack goes on his merry way only to find a beautiful and very naked woman in the room. Of course Jack gets a bit randy and decides to slip her the 'ol tongue. Sure, why not? As he's laying a smooch on her, Jack notices to his utter horror and disgust that the fine lady has turned into a decomposed old hag. Uggghhh. Jack recoils slowly in terror as the grotesque old woman stalks him right out of the room with a smile on her face and arms outstretched for some more lip smacking. Jack locks the door and runs as fast his legs can carry him. Would you do any less? I think not! Of course, that is just what I would do and this moment still creeps me out in the extreme.

05. Jaws

Well here we are back in the water.....where we don't belong dammit! And we certainly pay for it in a slew of bloody nightmares thanks to Jaws. This classic Spielberg flick about a giant, and I do meant giant great white shark that takes a little (or huge) bite out of unsuspecting summer beach goers in the lovely town of Amity. Part of what makes this film work so well are the brilliant performances by Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw, the creepy Jaws theme music, as well as the fact that you don't get to see the not so realistic shark all that much do to malfunctions. Less is sometimes more and in this case it makes the film that much scarier. Though however corny looking I still prefer animatronics to CGI most of the time, but that's another story.

The scariest moment in Jaws for me is when Hooper and Brody are investigating the half-submerged and seemingly abandoned boat of local fisherman Ben Gardner in the dead of night. I repeat, dead of night! Good idea when there is a giant man eating shark running around.......hmmm. Well Hooper decides to take a look around the hull and see what's going on. He ends up finding a hole in the bottom of the boat and a giant sharks tooth to as well. While Hooper is inspecting the tooth, the disembodied head of poor fisherman Gardner pops out to scare the living hell out of Hooper as well as probably everyone else that has ever watched the scene. Oddly this scene was actually added post-production because Spielberg wanted one extra scare. Greedy bastard! It ended up being filmed in the film editors pool and I would say the scene definitely paid off in the end. By paid off, I mean giving me nightmares for years.

04. Tales From The Crypt-...And All Through The House Segment

Next we have the wonderful horror movie anthology Tales From The Crypt from 1972. Based on the original Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror comics (as was the later HBO series, which I also love) from the 50's and 60's, this film brings us five bloody segments of terror filled fun. While all of the segments are quite scary I must say, the one that really always got to me was ....And All Through The House.

In this Christmas horror themed segment we have a couple enjoying a nice Christmas eve at home by the fire. The wife Joanne for some reason picks this particular time to literally axe her husband from the marriage picture. While trying to dispose of her husbands body she hears a news bulletin on the radio about a crazed escaped mental patient roaming nearby dressed up like jolly ol' Saint Nick. She thinks little of it until unfortunately for her he shows up literally with bells on. Not to mention with murder and mayhem on his deranged mind. What follows is a scary and suspenseful game of cat and mouse. It's hard to pick one particular moment in the segment to say is the scariest because the whole segment is, I'll just say the end.....again. Sorry. After thinking she finally got rid of the maniacal Santa and prepping her husbands body for police discovery, she decides it's time to call the authorities. But sadly for her it's little too late. She notices her daughters bedroom door open and hears those bells ringing in the house. Her daughter then comes through the door with Santa in tow. Damn brat let the killer in! The nerve. Well our evil Santa decides that she's been naughty and dishes out the punishment. Death. This scared me as a kid and still does today.

03. Phantasm

Oh Angus Scrimm, aka The Tall Man. How I love thee. Well your performance in this film anyway. Phantasm was a low budget horror film directed and written by the talented Don Coscarelli and released in 1979. This movie manages to frighten the viewer in so many ways. The Tall Man, inventive kills by an evil flying orb, a lot of the film takes place in a mausoleum, and one hell of a creepy score. All of that adds up to nightmares galore for humanity.

The scene that comes to mind in Phantasm as the most mind bendinly terrifying is one which happens when our lovable little hero Mike is sleeping soundly in his bed. Although not for long. As Mike opens his eyes he sees The Tall Man standing over him with arms spread and tombstones (presumably of his victims) in the background. Then little zombie arms thrust up through the ground on either side of Mike, grasping and tearing at him to try and drag him down to hell. Not the first thing you want to happen to you after you wake up in the morning. Although this could be the norm in that town when The Tall Man decided to move into town. Might be time to sell the house and get out of dodge me thinks.

02. Black Sabbath-The Drop of Water Segment

Well my love for horror movie anthologies surfaces again. Here we have the epic flick Black Sabbath (the wonderful band names themselves after this film) directed by the prolific horror director Mario Bava. Almost my first pick for the top spot mind you. The film consists of three segments. The Telephone, The Wurdalak, and The Drop of Water. In my opinion being weakest to strongest, although all are great. I actually hadn't seen this movie until a couple of years ago and it turned out to be a revelation in horror goodness.

The scariest part of the film is the segment entitled The Drop of Water. The story is about a pretty young nurse who prepares the recently deceased for burial in their homes. I guess this was regular practice in Victorian London. She is called to one such house to prepare some freakishly looking old lady for burial who wont close her eyes. Not off to a good start. The nurse decides it's a good idea to take the dead old hags ring as extra payment. Once she returns home strange events start to happen. Of course. The scariest moment in this segment comes next. After being harassed by a buzzing fly, dripping water, and a crazy light show in her house, the nurse opens the door to her room only to see the dead old woman lying in her bed. She gasps in terror and the malevolent creature sits up. This part scared the daylights out of me, but in such a great way. It always stuck with me and I'm sure it will for you too! Just watch and don't forget to leave the lights on..........

01. 'Salem's Lot

Now we come to our number one spot and most terrifying scene for me. I give you 'Salem's Lot. Who has inspired so many frightening movies to be made based off of their novels but the master of horror Stephen King himself. Hell I already have a couple other of his films on this list already. The 'Salem's Lot TV miniseries debuted in 1979 and was directed by the masterful Tobe Hooper of Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame (another film on this list). While there are some differences from the book, the story remains relatively the same and just as scary. And while some might say this film is not as great as some of the other films I listed as a whole, but I believe this scene trumps them all in the end.

Now comes scene that gave me bad dreams forever and helped countless therapists to send their children to college thanks to traumatized patients. After (Nosferatu inspired) head vampire Kurt Barlow arrives in Salem's Lot, people of course start to disappear one after the other. One of the first such vanishings comes from little Ralphie Glick. He is given over to Barlow as an offering from his familiar Straker. Awww, what a nice gift. Ralphie of course would like to keep the family together and comes back one night for his older brother Danny. While Danny is sleeping in bed (of course) and appearing to have a bad dream, mists start to appear outside of his window. A good sign to run? Then his pale, scary eyed, and newly fanged little brother Ralphie shows up floating outside. He has this faint little smile on his face while he scratches at the window for his brother to let him in. His brother does let him in and Ralphie floats in towards Danny and all the while smiling. Yikes, uggh, and ahhh! Scary stuff my friends. This is part of what horror movies are missing these days. While I love the gore, the parts in movies that scare me the most usually lack gore and blood and rely on our deepest fears. Take note future writers and directors. I want to see more of this!

Thanks guys and gals for checking out my list and send me your favorite scary movie moments. I hope to be back soon with some more reviews for ya'll.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Top 5 Horror Movie Sequels That Live Up To the Original (Or sometimes surpass it)

I think we've all been there at one time or another. A sequel for one of your favorite horror movies gets announced. Finally gets made, and you finally get to see it. What happens? Utter disappointment is what happens. Now it could be because we put such high expectations on movie sequels or maybe we just want to see a great horror movie for crying out loud. A great film that just happens to involve boobs, blood, and mayhem. Hey it can be done. Granted sometimes the awfulness can be attributed to new directors, actors, and radically different scripts and direction. However, such changes can also lead to a different vision and a great movie in its own right.

Of course there have been many great movie sequels to non-horror genres such as Empire Strikes Back, Godfather II, and Rocky II. Unfortunately for horror enthusiasts, great movie sequels are far and few between. All this despite movie studios cranking out sequel after sequel, as well as remakes and reimagining's. I've talked about that dirty little topic before. But there are a few exceptions in that category as well, like the Dawn of the Dead remake and The Thing. Let us now focus on the few entries I could muster for my top five horror sequels that managed to live up to the original, if not surpass it.

Also we are talking about imeddiate horror movie sequels or else I would have had The Final Friday on this list. No part 5's, X's etc. Just Part Duex's. Well, mostly, but we'll get to that later.

**Some Spoilers Below**

Friday the 13th: Part II


Our first taste of the homicidal yet loveable Jason Voorhees, albeit with the potatoe sack mask and somewhat hillbilly look going on. However, some would say that this version of Jason is much scarier and menacing. I would sometimes concur with that observation, but not always. The hockey mask is iconic and however strange and goofy it seems to us now, it still gave me nightmares wondering what the heck was going on under that thing. Initially this second installment was going to just use the title Friday the 13th, but with a different story and setting altogether ala Halloween III. Especially seeing as how the ending of Part I was just supposed to a dream sequence with the young Jason. But, at the persistence from the producers for the first film, we now have a treasure trove of Jason kills to revile in.

I think the reason this sequel works is that one, we actually have a menacing killer here. As much as I loved deranged Pamela Voorhees in the first film, it's much scarier (at least to me) having a giant, angry, and mutated maniac after your blood, rather than a creepy old woman yelling "Kill her Mommy". Sorry ladies to sound misogynic. Two, we have a badass heroine in Ginny. She takes on Jason and gives him all he can handle and more. Does that make up for the earlier remark ladies? Third, we have Crazy Ralph, enough said. Also I tend to think the acting is better, the story is pretty well fleshed out, and there are some memorable kills to boot. I'm looking at you Mark. Poor guy. Not to mention we have a pretty shocking opening scene that was a little unexpected. Jason walking around a suburban neighborhood. Nobody notices this? Tisk tisk. So for me this one lives up to the original and introduces us to our favorite unstoppable cock blocker and sequel generator. I present Mr. Voorhees.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Just as the title suggests, you’re going to hell. Sorry. We have the return of Pinhead and his cenobites in this terrific sequel. We also finally get to see Clive Barker's insane vision of hell which is a real treat. Most of the action of the first film takes place in Kirsty’s house, so it's a nice change of pace. Tony Randal takes over as director and we have the very dark place he himself was in at the time to thank for this bloody fun ride that is Hellraiser II. Reprising their rolls are Kirsty, Julia, Uncle Frank, and brilliant newcomer Dr. Channard.

This sequel gives us more of what we wanted right after seeing Pinhead and his cenobites. More! And we get much, much more. We get to go actually go to hell and see some lovely things. Oh yes, we see some things. We see new and disturbing creatures. Hell, we even get to see Leviathan, the ruler of hell. Good stuff. We also get a new main protagonist shift to the evil Channard cenobite after Pinhead tries to protect Kirsty. I guess hell didn't like that? Oh yeah, there's going to be a battle here folks and it won't be pretty. The film takes a much darker and sinister tone than the original film thanks to a great script by Clive Barker and Peter Atkins, as well as the demented direction from Tony Randal's mind. The film has sort of an acid trip quality to it that makes it unique and memorable. Warning, one should probably not take acid and watch this. You'll be freaking out enough from an overdose of blood, darkness, and gore. So, for all of the above reasons, this sequel does justice to the original and expands on the cannon for us gore hounds.

Army of Darkness (aka Evil Dead Part III)

Alright, I know what you're all thinking. "Hey, what about Evil Dead II"! Not so fast my young padawans. First of all, we can have a debate all day long as to whether or not Evil Dead II was a sequel or a remake of the first film. But anyone that has seen both can reasonably agree that it is indeed a remake of the first film. You could also make the argument that this is not even in fact a horror film, but in my mind the film still retains its basic horror elements at its core. Secondly, the script for Army of Darkness was intended to be the second film according to Sam Raimi, but they just couldn't get the budget so that was scrapped until after the success of Evil Dead II. So there you have it. This 'second' installment takes place directly after the events of the first (second) film. We have our charismatic hero (Bruce Campbell) with boomstick in tow transported back to the dark ages to face off with some demons. What more could you ask for?

This sequel follows the same comedy / horror premise even more so than Evil Dead II. This is part of why it works so well and makes Army of Darkness so memorable. Sam Raimi dared to do something different with the genre and for that I applaud him. I remember seeing this film in the drive in with my brothers and my mom as a double feature with TMNT II. I laughed my ass off while still being generally scared in some scenes. Hey I was 11! The much bigger budget allowed for better special effects, along with some awesome Ray Harrhausen stop motion like effects in the end battle scenes. Of course this is one of Bruce Campbell's finest performances, so that doesn't hurt either in making this film a standout in horror movie sequels. "Give me some sugar baby".

Halloween II

"I shot him six times", exclaims Dr. Loomis after realizing the presumed dead Michael is gone from the scene and on the rampage again. What a way to open this second installment which takes place literally five minutes after the first one ends. After the wildly successful first installment you knew a second one was not far behind. Carpenter wrote the script again, but refused to direct. He chose Rick Rosenthal, although Carpenter did come in for some re-shoots in post production for more gore and scares.

The 'Shape' is back and he still wants to kill Laurie. Ok, so not much has changed. But does it need to? The first one was brilliant and this sequel is no exception. It pretty much follows the same formula, but with  much more gore. Sprinkle in some boobs and a kid with a razorblade in his mouth at the local hospital and you got something here. Works for me. Basically Donald Pleasance and Jaime Lee Curtis carry most the film with their great performances. The direction was well done, although I'm not sure how much Carpenter had to do with that. See above. Michael was played this time by Dick Warlock very similarly to the first film, so you can't tell much of a difference. Halloween II scared the crap out of me as a child and I can still watch it over and over again today with much enjoyment and glee.


Here we have as the title suggests, plural Aliens as opposed to the singular alien in the first film. James Cameron again brings us the sci-fi horror goods here. This film is one of his best and really solidifies his master status in film making. Again, one could argue that this film is more action and sci-fi than horror, but I would disagree. I believe it's a mixture of all three in fact. A perfect mixture of guns, space, and guts. Aliens vs. Ripley and her Space Marines. I love it.

Not much needs to be said here does it? One of the best movies of all time, let alone horror sequels in my opinion, and I'm sure many others. Some would in fact say that this film even surpasses the original. This second film takes a decidedly more in your face and actiony approach, but it really does work. Now we have many different aspects that make Aliens great. I mean take a look at the characters alone. We have the badass Lance Henrikson as Bishop. He does a hell of a cool knife trick. We have the full of it Hudson. Get some! Vasquez and Drake's tough as nails and take no prisoners attitude. Weyland-Yutani's whiney bitch Burke. And of course our heroine Ripley is back for even more Alien killing and she's got some experience under her belt this time fella's. Last, but not least, we finally get introduced to the Alien Queen. Definitely one of the coolest looking aliens in all of sci-fi lore. All in all this sequel is a masterpiece as was the original Alien. Two pretty different films, but both great in their own right.

Honorbale Mentions

Dawn of The Dead: One of the best horror movies of all time, let alone zombie movies. If you do indeed consider this the sequel to Night of the Living Dead as I do, then this could be # 1 on my list. The fact is that it's too loosely related to the first one to be a true sequel, although still part of a proper trilogy. Tricky how that works isn't it.

Blade II: Best one of the series. Great action. New vampire species and Del Toro at the helm. All good stuff.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre II: Following in the same vein as Evil Dead II. Some memorable characters, some slapstick comedy, and Dennis Hopper going insane with a huge chainsaw. Now that's a horror movie.

Well there you have it. My top five picks for horror movie sequels that did not in fact suck. You may have some picks of your own so feel free to comment. I'll be back soon with some more reviews from The Devils Backbone and Pet Sematary.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Review: Hatchet II

Adam Green again writes and directs the sequel to the underground cult hit 'Hatchet'. Kane Hodder reprises his role as Crowley, as does Tony Todd as Reverend Zombie. Danielle Harris takes over the role of Marybeth and hell; we even get Perry Shen back as Shawn's twin brother. The movie was released unrated in U.S. theaters briefly before AMC pulled it due to complaints. That act alone gets my seal of approval. This time we have double the budget, twice as much blood, and you guessed it, twice as many kills.

                               Reverend Zombie working the 'ol charm.

*Some Spoilers Below*

The sequel picks up right where the last film ended. The deranged and disfigured Victor Crowley has Marybeth in his clutches ready for the kill. She quickly jams her thumb in his eye and he releases her in agony. She then swims away only to be picked up by a local fisherman named Jack Cracker. Fitting I suppose. He takes her to the safety of his shack to tend to her. But, when he realizes who Marybeth and her family are, she is quickly kicked out and sent on her way back to New Orleans with no explanation. She is only briefly told to ask Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd) about her family's past. The Reverend hesitantly tells Marybeth about her family's past, as well as more of Victors. Apparently her father was part of the group of three children that started the fire which helped kill Crowley, as you see in flashbacks from the first film. With some obvious ulterior motives at hand, Zombie agrees to help her go back to the swamp and retrieve her family's body along with his lost boat. Of course not without some backup and heavy firepower. We do need more death you see. The call goes out to the local fisherman for a five hundred dollar reward for their help that night and five thousand for the head of the fabled Victor Crowley. Few brave souls take the challenge, but those who do will be in for a real surprise courtesy of a vindictive hatchet wielding madman named Victor Crowley. Pretty much the same movie as the first film. People in a swamp getting hacked up by Victor. Not a bad thing though.

                                    A face only a mother could love?

The acting is pretty bad all around here minus Tony Todd and Danielle Harris, and even they are hamming it up most of the time. What did I expect though? Todd of course is a veteran of horror movies and most well known for "Candyman' and the 'Final Destination' series. His deep voice an imposing stature make him an ominous figure in almost any horror movie, but it just seems like he was phoning it in most of the time. Not good, but just alright. Now Harris was great in the 'Halloween' series and remakes, but some of her lines and acting were just atrocious. Again, meh (and yes, I hate this quasi word too!). It's probably as much to do with the fairly awful script as it is the actors. Well, wait a minute though. I must say that the character of Layton played very well by AJ Bowen is the actor with the most charisma. He is fairly well developed and likeable, as well as being able to actual not overact in his scenes. I’m looking at you Todd and Harris! I wish they would have done more with the Layton character. Look out for him in the future. Everyone else is generic. The token black guy, the hot chick, and the tough guy. If it's not broke, don't fix it I suppose.

                      Victor is a ready for some cuttin' action. Big enough for ya?

The blood flows frequently and by the buckets in this second installment. It is reported that 136 gallons of fake blood were used for Hatchet II. That's more than double than the original installment. There are some original and interesting kills, but I was pretty underwhelmed by most of the special effects. They just didn't look as good as the original and they had double the budget. What went wrong? One ridiculously long chainsaw and a double cut in half scene sticks out. Also, a funny sex scene with a hatchet to the vaginal area stay with you. The Hatchet is used much more in this installment, and Crowley even brings back the much beloved belt sander for some gruesome work. I like it!

                     Marybeth seems a bit mad here and wants a piece of Victor.

Overall I was a little disappointed with this sequel. Maybe I was expecting too much, or maybe I was just sober. It seemed a little rushed and the actors uninspired. A weak script and so-so special effects in certain places really do a disservice to the film. We do get some more back story about Crowley, but it actually seemed to detract from the mythos and wasn't really necessary in my opinion. According to Adam Green, there are supposed to be two more installments in the series. Just two more? Tisk tisk. Di you learn nothing from Friday the 13th, or the Saw series? I just hope that those sequels rise to a somewhat higher level of writing and originality than this one. I would say at least check it out if you have an hour and half to kill and love slasher flick as much as I do. 2 1/2 skulls out of 5 friends.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Review: Three Extremes

Here we have an anthology horror flick brought to us by three different and extraordinary talented Asian directors. First we have ’Dumplings’ by Fruit Chan representing Hong Kong. Next we have 'Cut' by Park Chan-wook hailing from South Korea. Finally we have 'Box' by the brilliant Takashi Miike out of Japan. The film runs in at just about two hours, which as you'll see, was plenty of time for each segment to develop thoroughly and tell their horrifying tales in bloody fashion. Three Extremes is a movie that lives up to its namesake in every way. Extremely frightening, bloody, and strange as you shall see.

*Some Spoilers Below*

                   Ummm this dumpling looks......strange...and fleshy. Yummy

Let us start at the beginning of course. 'Dumplings' from Fruit Chan. How to describe this one? Hmmmmm. Well, if you have an aversion to food and horror, you may want to skip to the next segment. Here is the tale of the rich and former actress Connie (Tian Meme). She is starting to feel her looks are fading and she sees her husband is seeking comfort elsewhere. In order to get her youthful looks and husband’s affection back, she'll do whatever it takes. And I do mean whatever. She hears tell tale of a woman named Mei (Bai Ling) who makes 'special' dumplings that can takes years off your looks. So off she goes to visit Aunt Mei (as she is apparently called) in what appears to be the poor part of town. I can never tell in China. Sorry. After some brief conversation about how to make 'good' dumplings, she reluctantly agrees to eat them without really knowing what's actually in them. Not the best idea is it? After a couple more beauty sessions, Connie soon finds out that Mei has her own special ingredient to add to the dumplings and things take a bizarre and horrifying turn.

                             Aunt Mei showing off some dough handling skills.

The acting is pretty decent all around here, but really Bai Ling (Mei) is really the shining star. She exudes charisma and sensuality, with just a dash of craziness for good measure. I must say I'm not the biggest fan of food and gore either, although the director did a good job of not just focusing on that particular gross aspect entirely. There are some scenes that make you cringe, such as the sounds of bones crunching and unholy bloody vagina's. I know, scary huh? There was also one laughable love scene between Connie and her husband. It involves water in the'll just have to watch and see. Overall I liked the subject matter, story, and gore, but it was definitely the weakest segment for me. Make your own conclusions ultimately. Interestingly though, Fruit Chan released a 90 minute uncut version of the segement. I haven't seen it, but it could fill in some gaps and questions I had.

                                            Fingers need a choppin'

Next up is 'Cut'. As the name implies, there is plenty of that going on in this segment. This tale is that of a famous and wealthy director played here very nicely by Lee Byung-hun. But for all of his wealth and fame he is still a very nice and down to earth guy. He seems to have it all......but does he? After another hard days work, he shows up back home to get some rest. Well that isn't going to happen because there is a deranged man that wants to have some words with him. The director and his lovely wife are captured by this weirdo, brought back to the studio lot, and subdued in some quite elaborate ways. There is also a random little girl tied up as well, but that is a whole other thing all together. So this hilariously awesome psycho turns out to be some disgruntled extra that has worked on all of the directors movies, yet the director still has no effing clue who he is. He soon tells the director that for every five minutes he doesn't get the answers he wants he's going to cut off one of his wife’s fingers. By the way all of her fingers are super glued to her piano. That much easier to cut off. Oh yes, the blood will flow. Any way, he also gives the director the alternate option of killing the little girl tied up instead and this will horror can all be ended. Will such a nice guy be able to do such a horrible thing and is he really so good after all? Check it out and see. You will be pleasantly surprised.

  You might lose some fingers but rest assured you'll keep that hairdo. Torture enough.

I must say that this segment was my favorite by far. It really had it all. Great acting, blood 'o plenty and an interesting plot. The standout here though has to be the crazy and disgruntled extra played by Lim Won-hee. His mix of physical comedy and serious psycho calm brought a whole new depth to an otherwise generic character plot. Mention must go to Lee Byung-hun though as well. His character arc from nice to crazy is very well acted. The director Park Chan-wook managed to capture a surrealism and dream-like quality to this segment that entrances you and doesn't let go. The blood and gore wasn't overdone here. It was used in all of the right spots and I must say I was quite impressed by the practical special effects. Very nicely done.

                           I'm not sure where one ends and the other begins.

And last but not least we have 'Box' from beautifully insane director Takashi Miike. I must say this one is the hardest to describe properly. We have a young writer name Kyoko (Kyoko Hasegawa) who is having strange dreams / visions of her young sister Shoko and a masked man named Yoshii. In this segment you will see everything from strange tiny boxes, burnt corpses, creepy dead girls, midgets, Siamese twins, and contortionists. Yeah, you heard me right. Really that's as far as I'm going to go with this one. Sorry. One must really see it first hand it for their own interpretation. Yes, it's that strange. I do feel like I'm somewhat coping out on this segment review, but I'm not even sure what I just watched!!

                                             Why hello there! I see you........

Now don't get me wrong, I really liked this segment. My second favorite in fact. And I definitely love pretty much all of what Miike does. His movies always have a very strange dream like / hallucinogenic state to them that really suck you in and let me tell you this segment is no exception. The acting is good, the story while very strange, is strangely compelling. At Miike's direction we are shown a masterful, artistic, and haunting story. While it's probably the least 'horror' filled segment, it does have a very creepy vibe to it. More akin to a ghost story than anything else, while actually not being a ghost story. Again, well done, but ultimately I found it a little jumbled and strange. Just watch it!

I really miss horror anthology movies. I grew up with the Creepshows and Tales from the Darkside movies and I loved them. Three Extremes brings me back to those times, and I hope it brings you back as well. While all three segments are very well done and have their own distinct flavors of horror and gore, they all still share a somewhat dream-like quality to them. I'm not sure if that was planned or just coincidence. Either way it just serves to enhance the overall surreal experience of watching this film. I've said it before and I'll say it again. If you want well done horror movies, we must turn our heads East ever and ever increasingly. I would definitely recommend this film and I hope to see many more like it in the near future. 4/5 skulls.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Review: I Saw the Devil

You know I usually do my reviews right after I watch the film, or maybe a day later. But this film was so intense; I had to actually wait a couple of weeks to let it all the madness sink in. This masterpiece of mayhem is brought to us by premier Korean director Park Chan-wook, who also brought us the disgustingly awesome 'Cut' segment from the underrated horror film 'Three Extremes'. It also just so happens to star two of the best working Korean actors today, veteran Choi Min-sik from 'Oldboy' fame and the dashing Lee Byung-hun, who also plays Storm Shadow from 'G.I. Joe'. Throw these three together and what you are left with is a haunting horror film filled with beautiful imagery, terrific acting, and blood a plenty.

                              He seems so unnaturally calm doesn't he?

The film starts out with one of our main characters Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun) and his fiancĂ© Joo-yun (Oh San-ha) chatting on the phone while she is driving through a desolate stretch of mountain road. I know, I know this is how many horror movies start, but stay with me. Her car breaks down and she is forced to the side of the road to wait for a tow truck. This is when our main villain shows up. Kyung-chul is played devilishly (pun intended) brilliant here by Choi Min-sik. Unfortunately for Joo-yun, Kyung-chul just happens to be there with bells on. In a very brutal opening scene, Kyung-chul beats her near to death and then takes her back to his lair for some unremorseful fun in his chamber of horrors. It is a very powerful and somewhat sad scene that shows us just how psychotic Kyung-chul really is. Once her dismembered body shows up in the local river, the movie then switches to Soo-hyun. It becomes his mission to find whoever is responsible and make them pay dearly. And I do mean dearly. See, Soo-hyun just so happens to be a top government secret agent of some sort and all around badass. This is not good news for Kyung-chul as the movie shows us throughout. What culminates is a cat and mouse game where the hunter becomes the hunted. Much pain and blood shall be felt by many on both sides before this one is over. The ending will leave you speechless.

                           Soo-hyun looking like he's ready to kick some ass!

The acting is stellar all around here. Lee Byung-hun as the stoic secret agent Soo-hyun works very well here. His descent into depravity and sadness is shown to us with great force and power. Choi Min-sik as his nemesis Kyung-chul  shows us a masterpiece of insanity. Not since Hannibal Lecter have I seen such brutality and madness translated on screen so effectively. Every time he looks at someone you just know he's not thinking good thoughts. Director Park Chan-wook brings us some terrific scenes filled with blood and the anticipation of more blood. One wonderfully directed and chair gripping scene is when a couple of bandits try to pick up and rob our bad guy. Kyung-chul figures out what's going on and it gets messy from there. Chan-wook manages to capture some great acting as well from some of the supporting cast. He makes us care just as much about Soo-yun's father Det. Jang and the lead detective on the case Det. Oh as we do about the leads. Even Kyung-chul's cannibal friend Tae-joo (Choi Moo-sung) is given time to shine and shows us some new and wonderful horrors. Well done Mr., Chan-wook.

                                  Kyung-chul doesn't look too happy here.

This film is hard to review because there is almost nothing wrong with it. I must say the movie could have been a tad shorter and the pacing at times could be slow. But, that really doesn't matter too much when you're glued to your seat trying to figure out what's going to happen next. The film really keeps you involved and that's why it works so well. Not just because of the blood and guts, mind you it has plenty of that, but the fact that the acting and story are so well done here. That's what Hollywood needs to understand. You can make a longer horror movie that revolves around actual acting just as much as it does the blood and storyline, while still making a good movie. Definitely check this one out horror fanatics. You will not be disappointed 5/5 skulls.