Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Remakes: The Thing

Whew, THE THING. THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD.  Both films shaped my love of horror films for different reasons and both were equally amazing and powerful works in my mind.

Howard Hawks really brought the  John W. Campbell short story "Who goes there?" to life with his Direction. There are Howard Hawks moments throughout the film and it's SO WONDERFULLY 50s. (( I ALWAYS mess this up.  Christian Nyby was also a Director on this film, but I always leave him out. Sorry Chris. :)   ))
Quick dialog and some grand play with the camera and character interactions makes this one of the biggies from my childhood. Mom would make a huge bowl of popcorn and we'd sit and watch the afternoon movie back in the ye old 1970-somethings and we'd never miss THE THING when it was on.

You know the story. A team of scientists in a remote, arctic outpost pair up with the Air Force to investigate a U.F.O. crash site. They discover an alien occupant and bring it back to the base to check out. Said occupant thaws and mayhem ensues as the small outpost wages war against the alien to save the planet from being taken over.

There are little things in here that make me smile time and time again. Conversations are like machine gun fire - rattling off quickly and smoothly with some cute, 1950s moments that are just awesome. Some good writing there. Then there are things like doors opening and closing. Watch the film again. You'll see doors opening and closing, people going in and out and people talking about doors throughout. But why?'ll find out! HA! And the James Arness monster makeup is grand.

The story goes that test makeup was done on a stand-in offsite before shooting started. Jack Pierce did the makeup, I believe. When the effects artist got the perfect THING, he tossed the stand-in into the car to drive him over to the studio to show the execs. On the way over, a women in another car looked over and started SCREAMING at the top of her lungs in her vehicle. The makeup artist knew this was the one after that.

I just love this film.

THE THING - 1982
Now, I went a long while wanting to kill every remake with fire. They could never make me happy. Walking into the theater, sitting down and having this film unfold before me like it did - even with pages and pages of FANGORIA magazine pre-press committed to memory - just completely blew our minds.

Here you have two people (my Mother and I) who not only loved the original, but had all these huge,  emotional ties to it as well. The film had to be amazing to make us come anywhere close to liking it as much as the original film. We sat there at the opening copter scene and were interested. This was different and we were ok with it and wondered where it would lead.

Turns out it lead to some of the most impressive effects work we'd seen and we'd seen a lot being genre film lovers for years and years. Rob Bottin took things up to screaming standards with his practical effects work and blew us away. It was fantastic.

The script was grand as well, taking the original storyline and adding some super details and game changing plot points into the mix that made this an update well worth sparing from the flames of hatred. They basically kept the whole of the story and added this mystery element of who was good and who was bad in that ramped the game up to new and fantastic heights.

And Carpenter was SPOT ON POINT with all his work on the film with a cast that took everything and played it real and deadly serious. That's why this remake stands out among many as a work that can not only stand on it's own, but one that people really can't see being without in the horror community.

And, this is what I really want out of a remake. I really don't mind them anymore, but...make an effort. That's all I ask. Try something interesting. Update the sucker with something cool and new. Maybe do some writing. :)

I suppose I should take a look at the 2011 THE THING (...that we couLd not come up with a better name for)  but, I don't really wanna. :)

I'll be looking at some other remakes that do just that. And...some that don't, but give it a shot.

Our recent MANIAC compare and contrast takes a look at the remake.   Take a look if you have not already.


Well, color me surprised. I liked DEVIL. It's not without it's faults, but they are outweighed by what the film has to offer.

The plot is super simple. There is a group of people trapped in an elevator. No one can get it working again despite the efforts of the security staff and maintenance people. The lights flicker...dim...and go dark. And that's when the incidents start to occur. Will the detective on the scene be able to calm them down enough so they won't hurt each other so he has time to sort out what's going on? And, will that one security guy STOP going on about...the Devil?

This is a classic "lifeboat" situation with a twist. We're not just dealing with trapped people on edge here. It's a pressure cooker with a supernatural bent. A great "Who dunnit?" plot line with some great reveals and fun edit work. There's a flickering light element that is a lot of fun. It was a fun gag that had me giggling at one point.

The detective work within the film works, too. There's nothing flying in from left field. Everything seems to work and flow naturally. And the way the story unfolds really had me engaged.

Now, the film isn't without it's "faults". The screenplay was based on an M. Night Shyamalan story, so it has some heavy handed themes about good and evil. But, that aside, the story is also a lot of fun and packed with great, rolling set pieces that lead the viewer along nicely.

John Erick Dowdle's direction is pretty dern good as well. Looking back on his other efforts, he does have some shining moments in the darkness. 2007's The Poughkeepsie Tapes was all the rage. In 2008, he was handed Quarantine. While the film SHOULD have worked due to the success of the original...released in the same didn't have the same success as the amazing Spanish original. Two years later, Devil came and received ok reviews, but I think people were not ready to see this claustrophobic horror mystery unfold - a tale told in one space, basically.

Much of what works here is Brian Nelson's script. It's a lot of fun and moves quickly. Seeing as he was involved in HARD CANDY and 30 DAYS OF NIGHT - two more films that take place in basically the same area in a closed in way, it's not surprising that this film worked so well. 

I had this in my list on NETFLIX for a while and hovered over it several times. be honest...M. Night being involved made me shy away. It's sad, but true. I was so into him when he first showed up on the scene and now I see his name on something and shy away. Personally, DEVIL has me back in the M. Night camp.

If you're in the mood for a good story, interesting situations and some fun acting, give DEVIL a go.

Phenomena Behind the Scenes Footage

A great horror find from the STIGMATOPHILIA HORROR BLOG !

Rare behind the scenes footage from Dario Argento's 1985 film Phenomena.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It Came From My Childhood

I was just thinking back on a few films that shaped my childhood love of horror. Sitting on the sofa on a Saturday afternoon or evening watching some great black and white goodness. Now, mind you, I wasn't around when these originally came out. :::grin:::  However, these were the films of the 50s-ish era that I was comfortable watching as a child. And I'd watch them over and over and over again.

What are your favorites from childhood?

The Thing from Another World

The Creature from the Black Lagoon



Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The Mole People

The Deadly Mantis

The Incredible Shrinking Man

Night of the Demon

The Blob

The Fly

The Tingler

Mr. Sardonicus

13 Ghosts

The Birds

Day of the Triffids

Dementia 13

The Abominable Dr. Phibes

Mephisto Waltz

Twins of Evil

The Asphyx

Trilogy of Terror

Alice, Sweet Alice

Kingdom of the Spiders

...and a little later in life...





Tourist Trap

Do you like horror movies?

"Do you like 
                            horror movies too?"

Monday, October 28, 2013

Recent Anthology Films

I love a good horror anthology film. Love love love 'em.
Some past faves have been...

 BLACK SABBATH - The Drop Of Water still haunts my subconscious. So grand. Fantastic Bava.

TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972) - Cushing. Peter Cushing. :)

 THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD - Waxwork love. Oh...and more Cushing, Lee and Pitt! 

CREEPSHOW - "Where's my cake, Bedelia?! It's Father's Day...and I want my CAKE!"

I'm sure I could go on if I wasn't being sleepy and lazy, but you know the drill. You have a central tale and several small tales wrapped within it. When done properly, you get a "campfire tales" feel going. Scary stories told to get the goosebumps going. I love them.

Well, this recent crop of campfire tales that we have rolling in now fills me with a similar feeling. Sure, the general feel has been updated and usually involves some sort of tech - smartphone or hand held cameras all the rage, of course. But, when the story is solid and the overall tale is well told, it can be a lot of fun.

There is a bit of backlash going against them now. I, of course, blame the internet in general. People are safe behind their computers and tick-tack their hate behind a mask of anonymity. I admit it - I've done it myself, but I've cured myself. How? I simply say, "Well, at least THEY have something completed and out in the world to VIEW. You can talk crap about their work when your work doesn't consist of corporate logos and business magazine adverts, Johnson!" That seemed to do it for me and I have far more compassion for creative works now. :)

The VHS movies make me happy. I mean, come on. You have the creepy house thing going for the wrap stories, then you have a series of nightmares that unfold one after one telling tale after tale of horrific goodness. Hell, nothing wrong with that. Now, I get that some people can't take the camera work and that's fine. But...just don't watch it. To me, it's like someone saying, "I fucking HATE movies about dogs!" Then, they watch Benji and just rail against it. LOL!   They point out that there is a Skype conversation in the film and wag their fingers at it and say tisk tisk. you mean the same segment that has a woman thinking her house is haunted and seeing some HELLA CREEPY CRAP in her apartment?!?!?!  WHY are you bringing the format into play here? It's creepy ghost coolness! Gimmie more and stop bringing formats into it. What if one of the segments was really BETA and not VHS? Who gives a shit?  :)

Sign me up for more of these, man.

And THE ABCs OF DEATH was a lot of fun as well. I'll be right there when the second one comes out. 26 letters. 26 Directors. Numerous, nasty ways to die with very creative story lines and styles. Awesome. Yet, there were people that said, "There were 26 little stories in this film - some were like five minutes long!" Uh...yeah....2 hour film....26 films based on the alphabet....get it?  Did they expect a 13 hour film packed with 30 minute movies? Again, I loved this format and thought it was energetic and interesting. My only regret was that I didn't make it out to a theater to see it with a crowd...though watching it on VOD at home around 11pm with my home made popcorn and a glass (...or two...) of good whiskey was a fun way to watch as well.

The Theater Bizarre was a fun ride as well. A slightly odd wrap segment with fun and entertaining short tales unfolding for us to view. Sure thing - give 'em to me.

While I do love a 90 minute story format, these small anthology films allow for some fun horror exploration on a smaller level. This allows for a story to get in, tell it's tale and get out. Tight ideas that are in and out like nightmare ninjas. I totally dig the format. It also allows for a different flow. A faster delivery of the message or punchline.

Long and the short - you have some super talented folks making films. They love making these films and love that we love to watch them. They long to entertain us. They make a real effort to create things that we like while holding on to the spark that makes them who they are.

You have the right to dislike the work, sure. You could hate it as well. However, keep in mind that these are just works of fiction meant to entertain. Save the venom for people who beat people and animals, perhaps.

Let's celebrate the fact that people can give us genre goodness and that we can see it in the theater or the comfort of our homes. I, for one, love very much.

I'll hop down off my soapbox now. I think I'll go stream some of the VHS segments again.

The Beyond

Lucio Fulci.

Fulci is one of my favorites for sure. His films are cinematic nightmares that unfold like fever dreams. THE BEYOND is one of the strange ones for sure. So many strange goings on.

A women inherits a hotel in Louisiana and tries to fix it up so that she can get back on her feet financially. A strange crew of characters come with the house  - old workers that come with the inheritance in a way. Everything is going fine...until a series of accidents starts taking people out one by one. Oh, and there is also the evil spirit buried in the hotel walls. That always puts a damper on schedules when you're trying to open a hotel . heh

Fulci loves his body horrors and this film has many of them. There are spider attacks, acid deaths, dog attacks, zombie attacks and the must have Fulci eye injuries as well. It's classic, gore filled, Italian horror, but there is something else to it as well. The Beyond is a story of hell and opening a gate to it. Once you see into it, you are cursed. It's a dark tale for sure and it's filled with iconic horror scenes with blind spirits, zombies and gore spraying EVERYWHERE. This should be on every horror lover's view list.

And that nightmare quality shines through in The Beyond. There are things that happen that really do seem like they are right out of a nightmare. Things in the dark that are reaching for you and clawing at you. The stuff that keeps people up at night. Fulci is a master of bringing every bit of that dread and fear to the screen. It's nasty stuff. I love it. :) However, it lacks the same edge as some of Argento's work.  It just doesn't seem as mean and targeted. I'm not sure why. It just seems like bad things are happening to anyone and everyone around the scene - male or female or child or animal. It's just going to get you and it doesn't care who you are, where as Argento films seem to target females far more than males.

The Beyond part of a trilogy of terror that Fulci has going on as pointed out by the HYPNOBOBS podcast ZOMBI ZOMBI PART III. (It's a must hear for zombie lovers) The trilogy of hell consists of City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981) and The House By The Cemetery (1981) and after listening to the podcast, I have to agree with the synopsis.t would make a fantastic triple bill!

VERSUS: Maniac

It's the return of VERSUS!  

I did a MANIAC double feature Saturday and Sunday and while I may have been disturbed by the content, I wasn't disappointed in either film.  Both Maniac features were great, genre fair.

I had seen most of the original Maniac ages ago, so I started with the remake so I wouldn't be directly comparing it to the original while watching. I was happy that I took this route - it seemed like the way to go for sure.

The plot of both films is simple. An abused child grows up to be a very mentally disturbed man who slays women to deal with the damage incurred from his toxic mother as a boy . Short, not so sweet and to the point. A point usually found at the tip of a knife blade.

Frank Khalfoun (High Tension) did a marvelous job with the retelling of this little terror tale in the 2012 version. Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur also did a great job updating Joe Spinell's original script. This was key to the whole thing coming together. And the main gimmick of having the film be in first person unless we're seeing a reflection is an amazing feat. It never came off as forced or contrived, which I was sure I was going to be finger wagging about at some point. The execution was spot on. And the one time we drift away from the first person shot really makes sense from the story perspective.

Elijah Wood is no mere Hobbit in this, either. He's really...crazy looking. In that creepy, "tears the wings off of flies" way, too. He's a menacing force that knocks it out of the park. It's a role that many would most likely run from, honestly. Who wants to be "that guy"- the vicious, serials killer of women.

And, that's something that almost had me switching the film off. I knew what the content was and I was familiar with the story, but the violence and visuals associated with the acts are hard to take at times. I'm getting older, I think, and I'm losing my desire to see things like this. I'm leaning more towards unreal ghosty flicks and creatures instead of these real world monstrous humans. However, there was something to the film that transcended the violence for me and I was able to hang in there. I guess it was the strong storyline and fantastic acting. Still, this was not one for the weak of heart. There is some really brutal stuff in here. I'm just not feeling the violence these know...I still watch these films. I'll just file that under habit. Or, a bi-polar nature. Not sure. :)

Now the original 1980 version is no cake walk either. It's angry and grungy and gritty with that same violence factor, but it's watchable for other reasons. Joe Spinell's performance as Frank Zito is pitch perfect. While Wood is somewhat charming and "cute", Spinell is just large and chubby and sweaty. He's the unwashed, greasy haired guy you see waiting for a slice on the street or sitting in the subway across from you. The guy you just don't want to be around.

The film has the grindhouse grit of the time and it's a fantastic time capsule for the era. William Lustig's direction is of the era as well and it's a lot of fun to watch. This has to be his top rated film. And Tom

Savini's effects work was top of the line at this point as well. Some of the effects work in Maniac is amazing. (The shotgun scene - whew)

Both films hold their own for various reasons and both should be watched and enjoyed ( much as one can enjoy them...:::grin:::) on their own merits. While the films are the same overall as far as the story goes, they are also very different and I think this makes a strong case for remakes of classic genre films. There were updates made and very interesting takes and changes on the original film. Nothing super major, but the small changes were enjoyable and interesting. The 30 years between the films really helps here as well. When you have 30 or more years between films, there is a lot that can be updated and altered in a very positive way. Again, we are not seeing a remake made of a film made in the same year ::::cough:::  REC  :::cough::::   We have space to play with a major update with a new tone.

I'd still love to see some of my old favorites done in this same, big budget update way. NIGHT OF THE DEMON, THE NIGHT WALKER, and THEM! redone like THE THING? Sign me up! But, it would have to be done well and with some seriousness. That might make the likes of THEM! difficult because you need 50s black and white charm to sell giant ants attacking people. 

This is no NIGHT OF THE DEMONS situation here where the original is clearly the way to go IMHO. Both Maniac versions are well worth checking out. So, I'm calling this a tie.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Bay of Blood

Mario Bava is so damn good. I love his classic, giallo style. A BAY OF BLOOD aka TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE is a giallo lover's dream. It has all the classic elements.

The plot is super basic. There is a property by the bay owned by a wheelchair bound older woman. She's not selling, but many folks want the property. And...the the killing begin. Neighbors, traveling hippy types and more fall prey to greed and villainy. It seems like everyone has a hidden agenda.

The film is well shot and has that Bava feel. Glamor, lighting and kinetic camera work keep the film moving along even though there isn't much in the way of plot when you really dissect it. Some of the shots are fantastic. The lighting in Bava's movies always gets me.

I love the beauties in his films as well. Classic 70s lovelies. Brigitte Skay (in all her curvy glory :::sigh:::) , Anna Maria Rosati and Claudine Auger to name a few.

And, if you're a horror lover, you might want to add this to your list because many of Bava's deaths in Bay of Blood were stollen...borrowed?....later by other films. There are two that appear in FRIDAY THE 13th films in this alone.  And the film just runs off the rails on the death scale towards the end. And the phrase "Trust No One" is top of mind in this for sure.

Well worth a viddy! The Bay is certainly bloody.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Theatre Bizarre (2011)

The Theatre Bizarre was another Netflix special - tossed on as a background film while I was doing other things. It turned out to be another one that I stopped and put on when I could actually sit and watch it.

We have another anthology venture here. A woman gets drawn to this strange theater and slips inside. Mannequins and dummies populate seats here and there. She takes a seat herself and Udo Kier walks onto the stage in some of the most creepy dummy makeup I've seen in a while. He introduces the first act and additional dummies come to life on stage...and away we go.

I won't go into much more. We have a series of short horror films presented well, shot well and written well for the most part. The stories are interesting and engaging and well worth a viddy. Sort of like the old HITCHHIKER HBO show from back in the day. Nothing "brilliant", but nothing I wish I had my life back from either.

On Netflix streaming at the time of this post.  Check it!


Douglas Buck ... (segment "The Accident")
Buddy Giovinazzo ... (segment "I Love You")
David Gregory ... (segment "Sweets")
Karim Hussain ... (segment "Vision Stains")
Jeremy Kasten ... (framing segments)
Tom Savini ... (segment "Wet Dreams")
Richard Stanley ... (segment "The Mother Of Toads")