Helloween Day Fifteen: The Wolfen

October 15, 2016 0

The Wolfen is a 1981 American horror movie starring Albert Finney, loosely based on the Whitley Strieber novel of the same name. First things first: this is not a werewolf movie. If you watch this flick expecting werewolves, you are going to be disappointed. I couldn’t find The Wolfen online, so I took it out for free at my library. Support your local library, kids!

The plot: a bigwig developer and his wife drive out to NYC in the middle of the night and are murdered by mysterious creatures we don’t see. New York City cops Dewey Wilson and Rebecca Neff are given the case. Playing hardboiled cop Dewey, Albert Finney gives his New York accent his all. I’ve lived in this area my entire life and can say that he doesn’t sound anything like a Native New Yorker, but I do appreciate him trying.

The murders are a political hot potato. The bigwig developer had plenty of enemies worldwide, so terrorism is suspected. Suspicion falls on a group of Native Americans working on a bridge, giving rise to some cringe-worthy dialogue. Edward James Olmos runs around naked on the beach. The mysterious creatures kill homeless people in the South Bronx, and then follow Dewey and Rebecca to Manhattan. The novel explains why; the movie doesn’t. Will our heroes survive?

The Woofen – I mean The Wolfen – is a long movie. The screenplay is unfocused. I wasn’t sure if I was watching a murder mystery, an eco-thriller or a horror movie. In the end it’s none of these things, which might be one of the reasons the movie’s not remembered, fondly or otherwise. Long periods go by when nothing happens and it takes too long to see the Wolfen. The action scenes – especially the climax – are laughable. As monsters, the Wolfen aren’t very frightening – in fact they’re downright fluffy.

I enjoyed The Wolfen, but that might be because I read the book and understood what was going on. The writers don’t do a good job of conveying basic information. I will say this movie was way ahead of its time in predicting the rise of scavengers, as witnessed by the spread of the coyote and the coywolf. Slow, confusing in parts, The Wolfen isn’t a classic and I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. This movie is a product of its time, for better or for worse.

 

Helloween Day Fourteen: The Beyond

October 14, 2016 0

beyond

Click on the image for the trailer!

A total gross-out of a movie, The Beyond is a 1981 horror flick directed by Italian director Lucio Fulci. OV Guide was supposed to have it for free, and indeed they did – the first twenty minutes. I watched the rest via a seven-day subscription to Shudder, so technically it is free. If you’re like me, you’ll forget to unsubscribe in time.

The plot: Liza inherits an old Louisiana hotel from her uncle. Fifty or so years earlier the angry townspeople killed the hotel’s resident painter, who was painting a portrait of Hell; sort of like Hieronymus Bosch, if Bosch had no talent and lived in Louisiana. The hotel itself is located over one of the seven gateways to Hell. This is NOT a spoiler, as that tidbit appears in the first sentence of the synopsis.

The action starts when Joe the Plumber (?!?!) gets his face squeezed off, treating us to a popping eyeball scene. For some reason much of the gore in The Beyond centers on faces. Tarantulas eat a character’s face, a dog bites off a woman’s face and acid melts no less than two people’s faces off.

A mysterious blind woman with freaky eyes tries to warn Liza off, but our heroine is determined to reopen the hotel, even though nobody but cackling ghouls and flesh-eating demons live here now. She’s aided and abetted by hunky Doc John McCabe. Could there be romance brewing? No. The Beyond has no interest in sex at all. After 70 minutes of extras getting killed off, the dead finally rise. Can Liza and Doc McCabe escape?

The Beyond is considered a classic in certain quarters. I don’t know about that, but I would advise you not to watch it while eating. There’s no plot. Even though there’s lots of jump scares, The Beyond isn’t a scary movie. If you have a strong stomach, it’s sort of funny. I like Fulci’s Zombie a lot better, maybe because there’s a shark-zombie battle and the eyeball-popping scene is better. Recommended for gore-aficionados only.

Helloween Day Twelve: The Pact

October 12, 2016 0

An American horror movie that came out in 2012, The Pact is yet another recommendation of English horror novelist Adam Nevill. The link to the article is here. I watched The Pact for free on Netflix streaming.

The plot: when Annie and Nicole’s mother passes, the sisters must reconcile their differences in order to solve dear ole Ma’s murder. No wait, that’s a Lifetime movie. In this movie Nicole disappears in her mother’s house in the first ten minutes. Annie, who hates her mother and the house she grew up in, nevertheless shows up on her motorcycle. Annie isn’t too concerned about Nicole’s disappearing act because she’s pulled this crap before, even though this time she left behind her little girl.

Staying in her mom’s creepy house, Annie starts hearing and seeing weird shit, ending with her being attacked by an invisible entity and her cousin Liz disappearing. Annie, showing great strength of character, goes back into the house to retrieve Nicole’s daughter Eva when she hears her crying. However, this ghost isn’t a quitter; it simply follows Annie to her hotel.

Determined to find out what happened to her sister and cousin, Annie doesn’t give up either. Plot abounds: a headless ghost, a hidden nook in dear ole’ Ma’s house with peepholes to every room in the house. Soon Annie discovers ghosts are the least of her problems…

If The Pact were a shitty movie, I’d say that the house’s wallpaper was the scariest thing about it. While it is true that dear old Ma’s house oozes creepiness, this isn’t a shitty movie. It’s a solid entry with plenty of jump scares. The Pact has lots of thriller/haunted house tropes: the good-looking cop, the ghost, the serial killer, the freaky looking psychic, but they never veer into cliché. The elements all blend, creating a movie that’s spooky as hell. Oh yeah, I also like the fact that they don’t explain the title; if you’re paying attention, it’s obvious. Recommended.

 

Helloween Day Eleven: Blood Glacier

October 11, 2016 0

An Austrian (!) movie, Blood Glacier came out in 2013. It’s not on my list because my list went out the window and now I’m watching whatever I feel like. The movie’s in German with English subtitles, and I watched it for free on Netflix Streaming. Thank god, if I paid money for this I’d be upset.

The plot: Janek (a technician) and Tinni (his dog) are working with three scientists in the Austrian Alps. Because of climate change the glaciers are receding at an alarming rate, so the scientists are there to study the environmental effects. Janek, who is very sad because his girlfriend dumped him, is there to get drunk and stagger around camp in his underwear. Janek’s only friend is his faithful hound Tinni.

Tinni the dog is the most sympathetic character in Blood Glacier. Janek is the textbook definition of a loser, and the three scientists are stupid assholes. Being a stupid asshole in a horror movie is a deadly combination. Stupid people who aren’t assholes can be reasoned with, and the same holds true of assholes who aren’t stupid, but there’s no reasoning with stupid assholes. End of digression.

Janek, Tinni and one of the stupid assholes ascend to Monitoring Station #3, because it’s important that everything’s in tiptop shape for the Prime Minister’s visit tomorrow. The glacier has melted, and what’s left looks like frozen blood. The plot grinds into action: a monster attacks Tinni in the unearthed cave and Janek learns that his ex works for the prime minister; she’s a scientist or something.The base is soon attacked by a combination of a wood louse and a fox. Apparently, global warming has unleashed The Thing’s stupider cousin. The monster’s blood cells get into you and form hybrid organisms. The fox ate the wood louse so the resulting creature…doesn’t look like a fox at all. It looks like a fake monster, but whatever.

For some reason the Prime Minister and her retinue decide to hike to the base, but their pleasant walk is interrupted by a screaming young woman in Daisy Dukes pursued by a flying bug-thing. I don’t know where she came from, and her presence is never explained. In the meantime two of the scientists revisit the blood glacier, where the highlight of the movie occurs. I won’t spoil the wonderful moment, but it almost makes this flick worth seeing.

Blood Glacier is derivative of John Carpenter’s The Thing, without the good screenplay, great acting or awesome creature effects. It’s a mildly entertaining B-movie, a pleasant way to waste ninety minutes of your life. A warning to dog lovers: don’t see Blood Glacier. Obviously no animals were harmed during the making of etc., etc., but you’ve been warned.

Helloween Day Ten: Pontypool

October 10, 2016 0

 

Pontypool, a 2008 horror movie, wasn’t on my original list, but I dropped Insidious because of my vow to not watch more than one movie per director (James Wan). I heard about Pontypool when it came out, but never got around to watching it. I think I saw an article in the New York Times, which depending on your point-of-view is either a good or bad sign. I watched it for free on Netflix Streaming.

The plot: Grant Mazzy is a shock jock radio DJ stuck in Pontypool, Ontario, which he thinks is the ass-end of nowhere. He’s in his car in the middle of a snowstorm when a woman knocks on his car window. She speaks to him, but luckily for him he can’t hear what she’s saying.

Mazzy works in a studio is in a basement. His crew consists of Sydney Briar, the producer; Laurel-Anne, the techie; and weather guy Ken Loney in his Sunshine Chopper. Mazzy does his shtick, which doesn’t play well in Pontypool, but he’s a pro. As the movie progresses that becomes obvious.

Strange things start happening. Calls come in about mobs congregating in the streets, busting shit up and assumedly eating people, although for some reason the movie is coy about that. Yes, it’s the zombie plague, but instead of being spread via zombie bite or zombie spit, the virus transmits by words, a concept that sounds cool but makes no sense at all, but then again neither do zombies. If the victim hears and understands the infected word, he or she will start babbling nonsense before turning mindless and wandering about in a zombie haze doing zombie things. The cure: kiss is kill, pen is pile. I won’t be any more specific than that.

Pontypool reminded me of The Blair Witch Project in that it looks like it was filmed on a $1,000 budget. It’s obvious the filmmakers aren’t horror veterans; there’s one jump-scare, and that’s it. The idea’s a good one that doesn’t quite make sense. The best part of the movie is the dialogue, most of which is strange.

Pontypool is an interesting movie that didn’t gel for me. I spent most of it not knowing what was going on, which for me isn’t a bad thing, but I can see how that would drive other people crazy. Still, I enjoyed Pontypool. I like it when filmmakers try new things, even if most of the movie is filmed in a basement. Recommended.

Helloween Day Nine: Event Horizon

October 9, 2016 0

Event Horizon came out in 1997. I believe I saw it on a best-of list on the Internet, but I can’t recall where. I watched it for free on Netflix streaming. The plot: Dr. Weir – played by a twitchy Sam Neill – develops a warp drive. Anyone who’s watched Star Trek knows what a warp drive is, but nobody seems to know how it works. Simply put, a warp drive creates a black hole that rips a hole in the space-time continuum, allowing a ship to instantly travel infinite distances. If you say, gee that sounds ominous, you might be right.

The warp drive is housed in the Event Horizon, a space ship shaped like a cross where the doors have teeth. The fabled warp drive itself resembles a medieval torture device. The Event Horizon disappeared without a trace, and returned seven years later. A rescue ship is sent out, led by Captain Miller and his crew. The rescue crew finds floating body parts and blood all over the walls. When gravity is restored, the bodies crash to the floor, smashing into pieces like glass. When one of the crewmen decides to stick his hand into the warp drive (don’t ask…) suddenly the rescuers need rescuing.

Stranded on The Event Horizon, the crew starts seeing visions of dead lovers and friends. It could be too much carbon monoxide…or maybe it’s something else. The ship’s logs start out normally, and end in scenes that look like one of the Marquis de Sade’s parties. So where did the Event Horizon vanish to? I’ll give you a hint: it’s a four-letter word, and the last two letters are l-l.

There are lots of jump scares in Event Horizon. There’s also plenty of blood and gore. According to Wikipedia, this movie bombed when it came out. That’s probably because it mixes two genres, space travel and slasher movie, whose audiences don’t mix. I myself found Event Horizon to be quite entertaining, so there’s that. The movie’s derivative, but so is every other movie that comes out nowadays. Think Hellraiser in outer space and you’ll get the idea. Recommended.

Helloween Day Eight: The Conjuring

October 8, 2016 0

I’ve seen hundreds of bad horror movies in my life, and I’m willing to bet you’ve never heard of most of them. After awhile movies like Dead Girls (girl-band murdered by a psycho), Highway to Hell (pizza delivery boy vs. Hellcop), Syngenor (Syngenor!) and Satan’s Princess (the title says it all) take their toll. Unfortunately, most bad horror movies aren’t scary or even funny. They’re just dull. I’m sorry to report that Rabid Grannies isn’t as good as it sounds; the guys at MST3K wouldn’t touch this direct-to-video crap.

But once in awhile a very, very special movie comes along.

The Conjuring is the Disney Haunted Mansion of horror movies. It takes all the beats, tropes and dumb clichés of the genre, creepy dolls, possessed mommies, kids talking to their invisible friends, things that go bump in the night, stupid people who descend into the basement saying ‘who’s there?,’ and rolls them into an overstuffed Greatest Hits version of a haunted house movie.

The plot: if you’ve seen The Amityville Horror or any other haunted house movie, you know the plot. The Perron family, mom, dad and five (!) daughters, move into their new house, only to discover it’s haunted. They ask acclaimed (?) demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren to help rid them of evil spirit Bathsheba.

The point when I knew I was watching a very special movie came when one of the older kids – it’s hard to tell them apart, because the writers never bother giving them actual personalities – is awoken by her sleepwalking sister trying to walk into the standing wardrobe. When the cranky teen goes to help her sister we pan up to see Bathsheba, looking like Linda Blair on a bad hair day, crouching atop the wardrobe, whereupon she leaps upon the dumbstruck teen with a great shriek.

((A side-note: Bathsheba must have been one happy spirit. She has FIVE kids and their hapless Mom to torment, an embarrassment of riches.))

The Conjuring is set in the 70’s. Ed sports a pair of rockin’ sideburns and Lorraine favors big collars. Indeed, the movie is full of 70’s touches. There are station wagons, VW bugs, even a Brady Bunch episode. The attitudes are delightfully retro. When Mrs. Perron mentions their frantic dog outside, chained to a tree, Mr. Perron waves it off, saying something like ‘the dog will be fine (Spoiler: the dog isn’t fine).’ Today the pooch would have his own air-conditioned doghouse. In other ways The Conjuring falls down on the job. If you watch any 70’s flick, you will know that all the characters smoke like chimneys.

I am not going to get into whether the Warrens were hucksters, but will note that The Conjuring is based on the True Case Files of the Warrens. Fair enough. There are those who say Godzilla’s based on a true story, also. The Warrens ARE bad parents, keeping a treasure trove of demon-infested relics in their study. At one point Ed finds his young daughter wandering around the study and mildly scolds her.

((Side-note #2: it would be remiss to not mention the presence of Annabelle, the Creepy Doll From Hell Who Should Have Her Own Movie, in The Conjuring. I must confess that I think haunted dolls are way overrated. Annabelle is creepy, yes, but I bet I could kick a five-pound doll’s ass.))

Nobody in The Conjuring has much of a personality. Ed’s concern for his wife is cute, but he’s such a pushover we know he’ll just roll over whenever he tries to put his foot down. The Perrons are so full of domestic bliss that it’s almost a relief when Bathsheba starts her antics. At one point Mrs. Perron asks her husband if he feels up to christening the house, i.e. fucking, and my high hopes were immediately crushed by a cute domestic scene.

((Side-note #3: you have to wonder about Mr. and Mrs. Perron’s family planning skills. At first I figured they were good Catholics. Makes sense, since they have five kids, but it turns out they never got around to baptizing those kids, which doesn’t sound very Catholic to me. Maybe they’re the type of people who drift through life hoping things will turn out okay. Please note that these are the type of people who end up in haunted-house movies.))

The Conjuring has two direct inspirations: Poltergeist (the original) and the TV series Friday the 13th, about three dumb jackasses trying to retrieve an antique store full of cursed items. The monkey doll and staticky TV are direct shout-outs. Bottom line: The Conjuring is well-made, but it most definitely is not a good movie. Four out of the five flicks I’ve seen so far are better. But, honestly, I will remember this movie when the others are dim memories. The Conjuring is a true rarity, a good bad movie, and I can’t wait to see the sequel. Highly recommended!

Helloween Day Seven: It Follows

October 7, 2016 0

It Follows is an American horror movie released in 2014. I bought the Blu-Ray last year and it sat in my cabinet for months, unwatched. I’ve heard a lot about this movie, good and bad. There are people who love it, and people who think it’s way overrated. You know, everyone’s got an opinion. I heard the hype and bought the movie, so it’s based on my own recommendation.

The plot: Annie is a high school student who starts dating Hugh. Annie likes Hugh, even though he’s a weirdo who does things like flee movie theaters in a panic because he sees people who aren’t there. They have sex in his car and then he chloroforms her, ties her to a wheelchair and tells her that it will follow her and she should pass it on, just like he did to her. Right on cue, the naked woman shows up. It turns out that Hugh has indeed passed it on; but instead of a venereal disease, it’s a bloodthirsty evil spirit. Slow but implacable, it follows. If it kills Annie, it will come for Hugh, and then the person who gave it to him, and so on.

I thought It Follows was an effective horror movie. There’s a plot and the characters aren’t throwaways. The director has an interesting aesthetic sense which gives the movie a creepy atmosphere. There’s a lot of strange imagery. Annie has her own ‘Scooby crew,’ and one of the girls carries around an e-reader that looks like a seashell. The sodas aren’t name brand, and neither are the porn magazines. Besides sex, the director also has a thing for deserted buildings, urban decay and bodies of water, large and small. These images recur throughout the movie. On the downside: I thought the climax was muddled. The Scooby crew’s plan to kill it doesn’t make sense, but then again, they are high school students.

It Follows is worth seeing. I watched the Blu-Ray, but I believe it’s available on Showtime streaming.

 

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