Samuel Glass

THIRD ANNUAL SIN CITY HORROR FEST – NOTABLES (II)

THE NOTABLES (SHORTS)

AFTER THE FLESH – Maybe the plot of this short was meant to be taken literally, but I didn’t see it that way. I interpreted this one to be the story of how when a relationship dies, sometimes it’s like the person themselves dies, yet continues to haunt your life if you don’t have the ability to let go. And also, how the inability to move on can eventually destroy your chance at a new life…and you might be stuck in the past, forever.

(THIS FILM IS CURRENTLY STILL ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT. To see the trailer for AFTER THE FLESH, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APlUmuDuqs4)

GRAVE EXPECTATIONS – You might recall some years back, when filmmakers and studios were trying to make alternative historic timeline horror a “thing,” with movies like PRIDE, PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES and ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER. Well, this is kind of Charles Dickens, by way of Sondheim’s SWEENEY TODD, except only in the gore sense…it’s NOT a musical. But it definitely is black comedy…this time around, it’s more like PRIDE AND PREJUDICE WITH CADAVERS THAT AREN’T QUITE DEAD.

(Unfortunately, no reference links were available for this entry at time of publication.)

IN HER SHOES – Evil kids are always guaranteed to be creepy…but evil dead kids? Yeah, happy nightmares with that. In this one, a young girl, visiting the grave of a relative with her mother, soon wanders off, lured away by what appears to be the ghost of a little girl…who possesses a very special pair of shoes. HOW special? You’ll know when you see it. This brings to mind those really good “blackout sketches” from Rod Serling’s NIGHT GALLERY series.

(THIS FILM IS CURRENTLY STILL ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT. To see the trailer for IN HER SHOES, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-9Vz4RBU7I)

NEPENTHES – Remember the movie THE RUINS, and the implications of that ending? What would happen if those murderous, carnivorous and frighteningly sentient plants got out into the world and really started doing their thing? THIS is one of the scenarios that present that possibility…and it’s creepy, gross and scary as F$%!.

(THIS FILM IS CURRENTLY STILL ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT.  To see the trailer for NEPENTHES, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yiFRg0IL-0&fbclid=IwAR0NpiiS2AE1FQjB824pGpQAzHjFZ8dI-7GsIE5rqfYaVLRhzcwKJKAK1qY)

ROOMMATE – Once upon a time, any horror film with an all-black cast was highly unusual, unless it was “blaxploitation”. Kudos to director   for completely changing the game up, with a scenario that would fit ANY cast, regardless of the ethnic background. Two roommates go through the usual changes that roommates will – especially female roommates. Except add an extra sinister, TWILIGHT ZONE-type edge to that, and you’re there. Nicely done by the cast and director, and an ending that I’m sure Jordan Peele would approve of…

(Unfortunately, no reference links were available for this entry at time of publication.)

THE DEVIL’S PASSENGER – Plays straight up like one of those old Seventies “Movie Of The Week” entries, except this one has today’s cell phones! A woman is driving in back of a beaten-up van, when suddenly, she sees the desperate face of a woman in the back window, screaming for help.  If you saw that, what would YOU do? Well, you’ll get a look at what she does…and how no good deed truly goes unpunished…

(To see THE DEVIL’S PASSENGER online, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHMm6cEdfwY)

WICKEN – A simple tale, terrifyingly told, in the vein of that great old classic thriller, NIGHT OF THE DEMON…with a little 21st Century spin on it. A young woman is spending “face time” on her laptop with her brother, when he does the unthinkable.  What seems like just very weird behavior at first, soon begins to make sense as she is menaced by a spectral figure that is going to do her some real damage, unless she can bring herself to repeat her brother’s actions. It’s like THE RING, but “streaming” instead of on VHS.

(Unfortunately, no reference links were available for this entry at time of publication.)

CLOSURE – We’ve seen it before: the triumphant police detective confronts the vile, unrepentently evil serial murderer she’s finally going to bring to justice.  This guy doesn’t have the suave cultured manner of Hannibal Lecter, but he’s not stupid. And worse, he’s willing to do anything to make sure that his captor’s victory is short-lived. ANYTHING.

It has the look and feel of something weird you’d find at an old, dusty Eighties video store.  Great score to go with, and appropriate performances from the entire cast, complete with a nice little twist that may be unexpected for both horror AND non-horror vets!

(THIS FILM IS CURRENTLY STILL ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT.  To see the teaser trailer for CLOSURE, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMZx5ibLytY&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR2TqFdEth_h4r2kJJJ1k6s5D7yUsP-DlxdTOXmf_6kD-BAp_VuhTaQn3L8)

DEATH AND TACOS – I don’t know if a lot of horror filmmakers were raised on SNL, but here’s another short that might have made the show…if they left the aspect of cannibalism intact. And connected to a funeral, no less. That’s all I really should say about this one. Just…watch it.

(Unfortunately, no reference links were available for this entry at time of publication.)

SHE FELL – A concerned husband takes his wife to the ER, her face bleeding. With this title, I guess I don’t have to tell you much more about what this one has in mind. But I love domestic abuse stories, especially when there’s a nasty little surprise in store…for the abuser.  And that surprise, in this case, might be showing us the dawn of a brand new horror icon. (I certainly hope so!)

(THIS FILM IS CURRENTLY STILL ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT. To see the preview trailer for SHE FELL, visit https://vimeo.com/350354831?fbclid=IwAR1ta4svgS1cT3OyB6Yfuh1pvg62m5m9b4MjV9NmijDc1ryTHMs70DAaOdQ)

HOW TO BE A GOOD HOUSEWIFE – Director/writer  read an article that outlined exactly what the title of this movie implies…and thought about how absolutely fucking NUTS it would drive a Fifties housewife, to have to try and comply with every single “tip” the piece outlined.  And from that thought, this short was born, and it is wonderful. Hearkening back to the good old days of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, when video director James Signorelli, amongst others, made funny, edgy video pieces for the show.

THE DESECRATEDWINNER: BEST SOUND DESIGN

Because of a glitch in the initial showing of this short, it was confusing as hell for the audience, who thought it was some kind of art-school exercise. Once things were fixed, though, what was finally revealed was a nightmarish scenario on par with LAST SHIFT or THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE. A young morgue attendant soon discovers that on this night, nothing at work is as it should be, to put it mildly. Not that cadavers could ever be “happy”, but these ones are pissed as fuck.

(At this writing, a trailer for THE DESECRATED is not available online.  But the audience reactions at other festivals have been very similar, and you can see some of that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOyvD7zwSx8)

HIGH DESERT HELL – THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE…relocated to the desert. Except no chainsaws needed here. The creepy atmosphere of old-timey houses, abandoned and otherwise, and the appearance of a wild-eyed, aging religious zealot, are more than ample red flags that should’ve told these four friends, that a vacay in Las Vegas would’ve been much smarter…AND safer.

(THIS FILM IS CURRENTLY STILL ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT. To see the trailer for HIGH DESERT HELL, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-exrPg2TDU)

NIGHT TIDE – In the midst of his deteriorating relationship, a man is seemingly trapped in an alternate universe inside his house, where he’s being haunted…by his dead wife. But the question is: what is he seeing? The premonition of a horrific tragedy to come? Or has it already happened?

(NIGHT TIDE can be seen on the home page of writer/director RICHARD MILLER’S YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/user/godmiller/featured)

BRUTAL REALTY INC.WINNER: BEST SCREENPLAY, JOSEPH MUELLER; BEST KILL (SIGN STAB)

Black-metal daemon THE SUMMONER, (London May), a drummer with killer skills on the skins, nevertheless has become disillusioned with his lot in life…or is that more “undeath”? In any case, he’s as dejected as anyone without a soul can be and feels like his missing out somehow. So, he decides to pursue his true passion…SELLING REAL ESTATE! (Cue guitar squeals here)

But certain people and obstacles stand in his way, and he decides that’s not going to stop him. A positive short about never giving up on your dreams, and while going after them, never compromise on being the best you that you can be. Oh, yeah, with metal, gore and dismemberment thrown in with the message, too. The Summoner is a great character…the male answer to Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, perhaps? Man, if the two of them could team up!

(THIS FILM IS CURRENTLY STILL ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT. To see the trailer for BRUTAL REALTY INC., visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8SZQOyvNho)

FILTHWINNER: SPECIAL FX

I always tip my hat to filmmakers with big-budget aspirations, who choose to fulfill that need to tell their stories via animation. The development of the characters and art direction is nothing short of outstanding, in this shockingly violent tale of FRANKENSTEIN-gone-neo-film noir.

(THIS FILM CURRENTLY STILL ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT. To see the trailer for FILTH, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jooGkw0Scd8&feature=youtu.be)

FIVE COURSE MEAL – Absolutely Cronenbergian in its concept and execution (pun intended), a loving young couple decides to participate together, in a mysterious experiment that seems simple enough on the face of it. By the end, however, you may find yourself in need of a barf bag, as the movie explores the nature and the boundaries of addiction, gluttony, and what humans are willing to do to fulfill a driving need for “MORE”, once it overwhelms any other sensibility.  Great across the board, but extra kudos for the stomach-churning special effects.

(THIS FILM IS CURRENTLY STILL ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT. To see the trailer for FIVE COURSE MEAL, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTAlTDqYnkI)

DECOYED – A spooky short that can be interpreted a number of ways, like any piece of art. What I took away from it was that it’s the story of a guy trying to outrun old age, and the fear of not being able to retire to the kind of life he wants, as his twilight years close in.  You’ll have to decide for yourself what YOU think is going on.

(THIS FILM IS CURRENTLY STILL ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT. To see the trailer for DECOYED, visit https://vimeo.com/325823685?fbclid=IwAR0afC73zXbz0xcvpoOR9OKS6unKwgSr8_9C_r2fcibobQ0Yn72QH29VIVs)

SURVIVOR GIRL – Ever wonder what the life of a “Final Girl” from FRIDAY THE 13TH or HALLOWEEN must be like? Even if you haven’t, this one answers that question…and you may never look at your favorite surviving heroine from a horror franchise quite the same way again.

(THIS FILM IS CURRENTLY STILL ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT. To see the trailer for SURVIVOR GIRL, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6a6qIZvqnJ0)

WINDOW DRESSING – The premise is simple enough: a pretty young girl responds to a “Help Wanted” sign in a shop window.  The proprietor, who seems nice enough, has one simple request: redo the window display for the shop, which needs an upgrade. Easy peasy, right? NOPE. Be careful what jobs you decide to take on…some require a lot more than the usual forty-hours a week…

(To see WINDOW DRESSING online, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yj3ZNsWLwlE)

OCULARIS – A young girl wakes inside her car in a building’s parking lot.  Slowly, she begins to piece together that some kind of national emergency has happened…something that’s possibly viral.  Meanwhile, back at home, her father, mother and sister have already discovered that the event is far, far worse than any airborne toxins or viruses.

(Unfortunately, no reference links were available for this entry at time of publication.)

SOMEWHERE WITHIN – With the help of a friend, a man seeks to conquer his deepest, darkest fears…and in probably the most appropriate place possible: the tunnels and storm drains that run underneath the city of Las Vegas.  If you want a prime example of homegrown indie filmmaking in the Shorts category, you didn’t need to look much further than this.  Not to mention the unexpected turn the story takes, as unexpected as a dark passageway that ends in a cul-de-sac.  Creepy and unforgettable.

(Unfortunately, no reference links were available for this entry at time of publication.)

Posted by Samuel Glass in ATTRACTIONS AND DESTINATIONS, Categories, MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments

THIRD ANNUAL SIN CITY HORROR FEST IN LAS VEGAS, NV – WINNERS (I)

SIN CITY HORROR FEST 2019: “BEST OF THE FEST”

The following is a completely subjective review of the offerings presented by this year’s third annual SIN CITY HORROR FEST, from the weekend of September 13TH to the 15TH.  The shorts aren’t ranked in order of “Best-To-Worst”; they are, in my mind, the ones that still lingered with me even a day or two after seeing them, and they deserve what I thought should be the Top Ten Spots, if I were judging.

SHORTS: TOP TEN

1. CERDITA (PIGGY) – WINNER: BEST SHORT; BEST ACTRESS: LAURA GALAN

Whether or not Spanish director CARLOTA M. PEREDA intentionally left off the English subtitles for this one, it didn’t need them, anyway. The gist of what’s happening is all too clear in any language.  For Sara, cruelly nicknamed “Cerdita”, it’s an act of sheer bravery to put on a two-piece bathing suit and dare to venture into the scummy waters of the local swimming pool, and we soon find out why. She’s mercilessly teased and pretty much assaulted by a pretty, petty group of “mean girls”; probably the same ones she goes to school with. Meanwhile, unnoticed by any of them, a serial killer has just finished up with his latest victim – and he’s looking for more.

This one goes exactly where you think it will, and yet the ending is oddly satisfying. It would certainly make a dynamite PSA about bullying.

(THIS FILM IS CURRENTLY STILL ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT. To see the trailer for CERDITA (PIGGY), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c643XSTJoCU)

2. ATOMIC ED – Director NICOLAS HUGON’S short is a nifty French-Canadian live-action “graphic novel”, in the vein of TURBO KID, with a little STRANGER THINGS mixed in. Ed is an engineering savant and a martial arts enthusiast. He’s also in love with the girl who used to be his babysitter when he was much younger, but now she’s on the arm of the local asshole bully. But the outbreak of a sudden, unexplainable and deadly virus is about to turn Ed into the kind of guy he didn’t think he could be…and turn his friends and everyone else into something that can’t be classified as human.

(THIS FILM IS CURRENTLY STILL ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT. To see the trailer for ATOMIC ED, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ya3YDlM860o)

3. ZEBRA – Like one of Stephen King’s funnier dark stories. Think of ABFAB’S Patsy and Edina as two old broads in their eighties, living in a nursing home, and with a yen to commit serial murder, make them Aussies, and you’ve got it. Director PETER SPANN has made an incredibly funny black comedy that warrants development into a feature, especially with the two female leads, who are hysterical.

(To see ZEBRA online, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=974OgMgPGic)

4. THE DARLINGS – WINNER: BEST SCORE

“The Darlings” seem to be an edgier, live-action version of Josie and the Pussycats: an all-female glam punk band who are always hungry for performing, partying…and pizza.  On an appropriately creepy full-moon night, their manager has booked them to play at a private party in a big secluded mansion…coincidentally on the same night that a former singer/songwriter-turned-cult leader, “Cheer-Up Charlie” (sound familiar?) has just broken out of the mental facility where he was imprisoned.  You won’t know where this is going, until it gets there.  Seasoned horror vets won’t be all that surprised by the climax, but it’s still a lot of fun…and yeah, it won the Best Score award for a good reason!

(THIS FILM IS CURRENTLY STILL ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT.  To see the trailer for THE DARLINGS, visit https://vimeo.com/313943557)

5. SAIGONE – Sometimes, a short will give you some kind of back story to explain what the fuck is going on, and other times, you get ‘nada’. SAIGONE is one of the latter kind, and all the better for it. Exquisitely shot and edited, it’s the tale of girl-meets-boy…both in separate cages, out in the middle of nowhere. Their captor? An elderly guy with the coldest eyes and most evil disposition you could possibly imagine…when he’s not rocking out to Vietnamese pop songs. Yes, seriously.

(Unfortunately, no reference links were available for this entry at time of publication.)

6. SHE MUST VANISH – Writer/director KYLE MARTELLACCI, who also did the nice short I MAKE CORPSES, which you can see at PromoteHorror.com, hits one of my sweet spots with this one. I love witchy thrillers where spells are cast for good, or for evil, or both in some kind of battle for power, and this is the best of its kind at this festival. So well-acted, directed and shot, it’s another one of those you hope at some point will be given the rare opportunity for development into a full-length feature.

(THIS FILM IS CURRENTLY STILL ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT. To see the trailer for SHE MUST VANISH, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iblTL3fqhm8)

7. ALWAYS – WINNER: BEST DIRECTOR, SAM ZAPIAIN; BEST ACTOR, DAVID KURTZ; BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY, RYAN GALVAN

A nightmarish, poignant cinematic metaphor for what it’s like to deal with adult diabetes. Fest winner for Best Cinematography – with very good reason.

(Unfortunately, no reference links were available for this entry at time of publication.)

8. BOO – No, “BOO” isn’t a ghost story. It’s a tale about addiction, and the woman in this case – her nickname being ‘Boo’ – coming from a meeting, where she’s just received a SEVEN-YEAR chip for maintaining the credo of “IT WORKS IF YOU WORK IT.” But of course, on a night she should be reveling in this achievement with her friends from the group, Boo is about to face the biggest challenge to her sobriety EVER. Can she deal with it? You’ll just have to watch it to find out.

(Unfortunately, no reference links were available for this entry at time of publication.)

9. HOUSE HUNTING – WINNER: BEST EDITING

This is one that goes beyond found-footage…and it’s terrifying as hell.  Built on the premise of the onset of a new internet video phenomenon: people who sneak into other people’s homes and use cameras to photograph them in secret. It’s not just home invasion, it’s worse – it’s a complete violation of personal boundaries, that you don’t even know are being violated. Until your friends tell you to go check out YouTube, and you find yourself the star of a video you didn’t even know was being taped.  The premise is so creepily compelling, that this one has now been picked up by Warner Brothers for possible development into a feature!

(Unfortunately, no reference links were available for this entry at time of publication.)

10. THE MUFFIN MAN – WINNER: BEST KILLER

Remember when Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez put out GRINDHOUSE, and they did a contest for Fake Grindhouse Trailers, the best of which would be featured as the “opener” for the film? (The original winner, I believe, was HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN by Jason Eisener, which eventually became the Rutger Hauer movie.) Well, if this gem isn’t enough to warrant bringing that contest back, I don’t know what the fuck is. It’s as brutal, nasty, corny, over-the-top…everything you’d want in a grindhouse-style trailer! Do you know “THE MUFFIN MAN?” If you do, don’t ask him for anything that’s “gluten-free.” Just pray that what he bakes for you is DEATH-FREE!

(To visit THE MUFFIN MAN, go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIgdxAoxYfw)

THE FEATURES

SCHFLV has a limit on features, so it’s much easier to rate them.  (I was unable to stay for the Sunday night screening of TABITHA: WITCH OF THE ORDER, so unfortunately, that’s a title I’ll have to see and review separately at a later date.)  But as far as the ones I did see, I can honestly rank them in order of the impression they made on me.  The rankings of the features here, I must add, are completely subjective.  It wasn’t the easiest call to make, since every feature in its own way was indicative of the level of excellence that the SCHFLV guys look for, and have been fortunate enough to find these past three years.

#5. NEVER HIKE ALONE (A FRIDAY THE 13TH FAN FILM)Directed by VINCENTE DI SANTI

Say the phrase “fan film”, and usually it’s enough to inspire cringing and lots of eye-rolling responses, especially when they’re as awful as they can possibly get.  But good news! NEVER HIKE ALONE isn’t one of them!

A pleasant diversion from the recent legal SNAFUS entangling the FRIDAY franchise, director Di Santi’s “love letter to Jason Voorhees” stars DREW LEIGHTY as social media sensation “Kyle McLeod”, whose specialty is taking on the Great Outdoors, and photographing his adventures for his fans in real time.  His latest hike takes him into uncharted territory, where he decides to cut his traveling time in half, through an area clearly marked with a “NO TRESSPASSING” sign. (There’s Red Flag Numero UNO.)  It gets really dicey, once he realizes that the actual place he’s ventured into is…the spot where a certain camp was once located, and has been attached to some pretty gruesomely legendary stories…stories which he soon discovers were all too true.

With a minimal cast (including a franchise icon whom fans will love seeing), Di Santi manages to keep the suspense taut and gets maximum scares out of the scenario that don’t feel cheap or unearned.  He also does triple duty here, not just by writing and directing, but also by putting his own spin on Jason, in a way that other “Jason” actors (especially Kane Hodder) would gladly stamp with their ‘Seal Of Approval’.  And the ending implies a possible sequel…one I personally wouldn’t mind seeing one little bit.  New Line could do a lot worse than to give Vincente a shot at doing whatever the next installment in the franchise is…he’s certainly proven himself with a film that excels beyond what normally passes for a “fan film”.

(THIS FILM IS STILL ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT. To see the trailer for NEVER HIKE ALONE, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnJBgzez2ZQ)

#4. THE HEAD – Directed by MICHAEL KEENE

WHERE do I even begin?

WARHOL.  WATERS.  WISEAU.  Names that you’ve come to know, and even love, as masters in the area of “outre” cinema.  MULTIPLE MANIACS. DESPERATE LIVING. PINK FLAMINGOS. FLESH.  TRASH.  HEAT.  BAD.  THE ROOM.  Titles that have stood the test of time as some of the most genuinely out-there, notable pieces of ‘fringe’ filmmaking that people have written dissertations and even their Masters’ thesis about. Even that last one, where Wiseau seemed to come in late on being “IN” on the joke.

Well, there’s no denying it – writer/director Michael Keene is in on it from the very beginning, and if you’re not familiar with any of the cinematic artists I just mentioned, chances are that his new film, THE HEAD, won’t be for you.  AT ALL. Note I said that in caps.  There’s a good reason behind that.  No matter if you can recite the entire script of FEMALE TROUBLE, you still may not be ready for what Keene has in store for you.  But you’ll certainly know it within the first few minutes.

Think of a film like Alex Cox’s REPO MAN. Slava Tsukerman’s cult masterpiece, LIQUID SKY. John McNaughton’s trippy, blackly comic sci-fi horror opus THE BORROWER.

Now, try to imagine what any of those films would have looked like, if the filmmakers responsible for them didn’t have a dime for a budget.  And no, I don’t mean barely two pennies to rub together. I mean ZIP, NADA, NYET. Oh, and the only thing they had to shoot their projects on was a VHS camcorder from the Eighties.

If you can envision that, you almost have Keene’s film in mind.

And in spite of the fact that the movie on the face of it seems absolutely pointless to the very edge of absurdity, it does have a plot.  And that absurdity is the point.

Boy-meets-head. Boy-falls-in-love-with-head. Head-completely-ruins-boy’s life.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

And that’s still oversimplifying the glorious outrageousness of Keene’s vision. Besides being a loving tribute to all of the ballsy lensers of the Eighties, who had nothing but a vision and let nothing stop them in the realization of it, THE HEAD pops a big, punked-out middle finger up at big-budget, pretty-to-look-at, completely empty multiplex blockbusters, by daring to be, for lack of a better way of putting it – an “anti-movie” movie.

And showcasing some of the best punk thrash cuts that Las Vegas has to offer, it may not have won the Festival award for Best Score, but I sure as hell want that soundtrack!

(If you’re feeling in the mood for some….uh, I mean THE HEAD, you can find the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTfNcR1-U7Y.)

#3. “Z”WINNER: BEST FILM, BEST SCORE (BRADLEY STUCKEL), BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY, BEST SOUND DESIGN – Directed by BRANDON CHRISTENSEN

The frustrated film marketer in me IMMEDIATELY came up with a tagline for the poster, if there would have been one: “Some Childish Things WILL NOT Be Put Away.”) If you like “evil child” thrillers like INSIDIOUS, ORPHAN or THE PRODIGY, Z will be right up your alley.

The son of two typical parents (aren’t they always?), are amused at first when their boy develops a relationship with a new imaginary playmate he calls “Z”. But amusement turns to grave concern and then outright terror, when “Z” begins to bring out unpredictably violent tendencies in their little boy.  Tendencies that indicate that “Z” might be a demon…or maybe something even worse.

An excellent, terrifying psychological thriller with some unexpected twists, “Z” is hardly the first outing for director Christensen, who has scared the pants off of horror fans before with STILL/BORN, and was one of the creative minds behind Colin Minihan’s excellent retake on the zombie apocalypse thriller, IT STAINS THE SANDS RED.

((Unfortunately, no reference links were available for this entry at time of publication.  But it has been announced that “Z” will be released to VOD streaming platforms in December of this year.)

#2. ONE MUST FALLWINNER: BEST DIRECTOR; BEST SPECIAL FX; BEST ACTOR & BEST KILLER (BARRY PIACENTE) – Directed by ANTONIO PANTOJA

You may remember from some years back, an excellent and very weird film called CURDLED.  In that movie, a woman working on a crime-scene cleaning crew developed a morbid and growing romantic fascination with the serial killer whose messes they were hired to clean up.

ONE MUST FALL puts a very different spin on that scenario.  Two down-on-their-luck office drones replace their dead-end jobs by signing up with a crime scene cleaning crew. But a question not asked very often does arise: what if during the process of cleaning up, they discover that the perpetrator of a crime has never left the crime scene?

They soon learn the terrifying answer, as they’re preyed upon by the city’s first reported serial murderer.  And he is one for the books.

The cast is game for all of the grueling paces that director Pantoja puts them through, but you won’t walk away from this one without the memory of actor Barry Piacente stained on your brain indefinitely, as the grandiose and remorseless serial murderer who gets off on torture and murder…and those who cross his path will be lucky if he gets right to the ‘murder’ part!

(THIS FILM IS CURRENTLY STILL ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT, BUT HAS BEEN SET FOR RELEASE.  To see the trailer for ONE MUST FALL, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAT6l5npavI)

#1. STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGERWINNER: BEST SCREENPLAY (JASON ZINK); BEST KILL (DEATH BY BEER BONG) – Directed by JASON ZINK

There’s nothing I love better than a movie that truly takes me into cultures with their own languages and customs that I’ve never been aware of…especially when they’re right here in our very own country. And STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER does that and then some.

As an MTV-head, I know my punk ‘basics’. The Clash, Blondie, The B-52’s, The Go-Gos, DEVO, most of the bands that started out punk and eventually went “new wave”. I learned more later by seeking out the more hardcore but still well-known groups: The Sex Pistols, The Dead Kennedys, Human Sexual Response, L7, Black Flag, etc.

I’d heard quite a bit about the sub-genres and the sub-genres of those, but I knew nothing about the “straight edge” movement before this film. So I was surprised to learn a few things, especially in the form of a punk ‘drama’ that takes a turn into “survival thriller” mode.

Brad (CORY KAYS) is the co-founder of a “straight edge” group within the local punk scene.  For the uneducated – of which I was one – “straight edgers” are about celebrating the music, without the anarchistic, nihilistic trappings: no booze, no drugs, no white supremacist skinheads, no assholes, period. It all seems to be on the up-and-up at first, but the co-founder/now-ringleader James (JULIO MONTENEGRO JR. in a riveting performance) has taken things to a ‘zero-tolerance’, almost fascist level, even beating up on the lead singer of a band while onstage, when they decline his request not to play a song called “Boozehound.”

I recently saw a film whose tagline was “Be careful what you believe in.” I think that sentiment would’ve been more fitting for STRAIGHT EDGE, considering the surprising turn the movie takes.

Increasingly disenchanted with James’s growing militancy in actions and attitude, Brad falls in with unrepentant partyers Sean (SEAN JONES, who could be the older, boozier brother of Zach Galifianakis), and Sean’s neighbor, “Maybe” (EVEY REIDY), who Brad falls hard for.  Seeing his protégé “going over to the dark side” snaps something off in James, and this is where the film takes its most frightening turn, when the straight-edge leader demands proof of loyalty in ways that will turn deadly for a lot of people.

So maybe the line I mentioned needs just one small adjustment: “Be careful who you believe in.” STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER turns quickly into a riff on YOU’RE NEXT and GREEN ROOM, but in a more terrifying way.  Because the danger and violence comes not from people who you expect it from – home invaders or Nazi skinheads – but from the kind of guys you’d least expect it from, all in the name of ‘keeping it clean.’  The performances here are great, with Kays, Reidy, Jones and especially Montenegro being the standouts.  Writer/director Zink is surefooted in both his writing and direction, setting up a scenario that is scarily realistic, with a message that couldn’t be more relevant than now.

I predict that STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER will be one of those films that soon develops a very strong and growing cult following, once it goes into wide release.

(THIS FILM IS CURRENTLY STILL ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT. To see the trailer for STRAIGHT EDGE KEGGER, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCruOb4CYZg)

Posted by Samuel Glass in ATTRACTIONS AND DESTINATIONS, Categories, EVENTS, MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: DAY THIRTY-ONE – 10/31/18…HALLOWEEN!!!

HALLOWEEN – 2017: GET OUT

And here we are at last, friends and fiends (and both combined)! We’ve arrived at our entry from last year’s Halloween, and it was a game-changer. GET OUT was the brilliantly dark commentary on race relations in America that we thought we never needed. But writer/director JORDAN PEELE begged to differ, and thankfully, gave us a take on modern horror we never even considered.

 

Chris Washington, superbly underplayed by DANIEL KALUUYA (BLACK PANTHER, the BLACK MIRROR episode “Five Million Merits”) is more nervous than a black pizza delivery guy taking pies to a KKK rally. His beautiful girlfriend, Rose Armitage, (ALISON WILLIAMS, daughter of newscaster BRIAN) is taking him home for the weekend to meet her parents, and as he’s suspected, she hasn’t told them yet that he’s black. Strange and not-so-strange things happen on that trip out to the Armitage’s country home, including a stop by a local policeman. Whatever you think would happen in this case does go there, and gets shut down just as quickly by Rose; something we’d hope more ‘non-African-American’ people would do.

Chris and Rose make it to the house, where her parents are waiting. And Dean and Missy Armitage (BRADLEY WHITFORD and CATHERINE KEENER) aren’t just welcoming, they are accommodating to Chris almost to a fault, in that way that liberal, “color-blind” people sometimes have, that can border on the embarrassing. And Chris responds positively to them, even if they appear to be trying way too hard.

 

But certain indicators are present, that there’s a whole lot more to things than Chris is really being allowed to see.  Like the strange behavior of the Armitage “help”: their maid, Georgina, (wonderfully portrayed by BETTY GABRIEL), and the groundskeeper, Walter, (MARCUS HENDERSON).

And we couldn’t leave out Rose’s weirdly antagonistic brother, Jeremy, (the always-reliable CALEB LANDRY JONES), whose challenging demeanor towards Chris shifts uneasily between barely suppressed racism and an almost sexual fetishization of the power and strength he attributes to Chris.

But just when the weekend couldn’t seem to get any weirder, Chris has arrived at the same time the Armitages are throwing a ‘party’ for their closest friends, and when he’s introduced to them, the ROSEMARY’S BABY similarities start to come fast and furious, culminating in an unsettling encounter with one black man who looks strangely familiar, Andre Logan King (LAKEITH STANFIELD of SORRY TO BOTHER YOU) and his wife, Philomena, (GERALDINE SINGER). Chris, a photographer, takes Andre’s picture, and he immediately snaps, going into some kind of fugue state, in which he tells Chris to “get out!”

If you’ve seen this about ten times like I have, you know what happens next. If you haven’t, all I can say is this: get ready for the strangest and creepiest “game of bingo” you ever saw, a McGuffin of a twist involving overtones of Baron Frankenstein and more than just overtones of bigotry, and also to swear off of drinking tea for the rest of your life!

I can’t say too much more about the outstanding cast without really spoiling things, except to say that they’re all on-point, and some special kudos need to go to STEPHEN ROOT (OFFICE SPACE) as an important character at the Armitage’s ‘party’, and LIL REL HOWERY in a hysterical but all-too-relatable role as Rod, Chris’s best buddy who works as a TSI agent, and who doesn’t like the whole idea of going to visit Rose’s parents from the word ‘go’.

I found it pretty humorous when the conservative types bashed this movie as being “anti-white”, when it was just as pointed in its commentary regarding taking “ultra-liberals” to task as well. But what put GET OUT above most other horror films is that even without the politics simmering just beneath the surface, it’s still an out-and-out well-done psychological horror thriller, period.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: Horror just a year ago delved into even more artfully unsettling territory, giving us the likes of HAPPY DEATH DAY, MOTHER!, IT COMES AT NIGHT, ALIEN: COVENANT, ANNABELLE: CREATION, LIFE, GERALD’S GAME, the movie version of King’s IT and THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER.

And that about wraps it up for this year, poison ghouls! I hope you enjoyed this shambling stroll down Memory Lane as much as I did bringing it to you, and that you have some great plans for the holiday! As they said at the end of CREEPSHOW, “Until next time…”

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FAMILY HORROR, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, OPINION, SCI-FI HORROR, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 1 comment

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Thirty – 10/30/18

10/30 – 2016: DON’T BREATHE/TRAIN TO BUSAN

And yet again, I came upon a year where it was too hard to decide which films to feature, and it got narrowed down to two: a home invasion thriller that upends the premise of a classic chiller from the Sixties, and a zombie action drama unlike anything audiences had seen before.

If you’re old enough to remember (as I do) the Terence Young-directed thriller from 1967, WAIT UNTIL DARK, the best screen adaptation of Frederick Knott’s smash play there will ever be, you’ll recall Audrey Hepburn as the “champion blind lady”, who manages to get the goods on three crooks trying to outsmart her, including a terrifyingly good Alan Arkin.  FEDE ALVAREZ, who totally retooled Sam Raimi’s EVIL DEAD in a gore-drenched remake in 2013, got the brilliant idea of taking that scenario and flipping it around. The result? The cracklingly good ‘home invasion’ flick, DON’T BREATHE…which literally describes what you’ll find yourself doing through the second and third acts of his DEAD follow-up.

Once again tapping the talents of his muse/leading lady JANE LEVY, and adding DYLAN MINNETTE and DANIEL ZOVATO into the mix, the three of them play juvenile burglars out to make one last big score. Zovato’s “Money”, the wannabe-badass of the group hits upon a plan. Rumor has it that there’s an old, blind Iraq war vet who lives alone, and has a shitload of cash stashed somewhere in his house.

Old. Blind. Isolated. Rich. Easy pickins, right?

Except, of course, if the man in question happens to be STEPHEN LANG (AVATAR, BAND OF THE HAND, LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN), who usually plays ‘not-fuck-with-able’ sighted characters on his worst days. So is the man he plays here going to be an easy target? Not on your life.

I won’t disclose how they find out, but the three thieves soon learn they’ve got their hands full. And worst of all, they’re on the Blind Man’s turf. Where they know next to nothing about his house, he has that blind person’s super-heightened senses of everything that’s around him, especially sound. And that’s where the title comes in.  BREATHE is a mindfuck all the way around. The “bad guys” turn out to be so much less dangerous than their intended ‘victim’, and even though they were up to no good, you end up rooting for them to be able to get the hell out of the predicament they made for themselves.

But much like the script that Alvarez crafted with writing/producing partner RODO SAYAGUES, you never have any idea of what’s coming next, and the twists and turns will keep you on the edge of your sofa, all the way up to the gasp-inducing finale.  I didn’t care much for Alvarez’s take on the Raimi film, to be completely honest, but DON’T BREATHE won me over immediately. I don’t doubt that if you love a good, solid thriller, the same will happen for you with this one.

As for our other feature…

Like many people, I gave up on THE WALKING DEAD at about Season Six. Or was it Seven? No matter. By the time Negan was finally introduced after what seemed like a lifetime’s worth of speculation, I was pretty much “zombie’d-out”. With multiple TV series devoted to them (including FEAR THE WALKING DEAD), I just didn’t feel like anything new could be done with the sub-genre. Or at least, no one was trying very hard to.

And then, along comes TRAIN TO BUSAN.

This pulse-pounding thriller from Korean director SANG-HO YEON, took what appears to be a simple enough premise – transferring the scenario of Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD from a shopping mall to a commuter train – and, using the tried-and-true conceit of character investment by the audience, turns his film into a grueling, 90-minute terror ride that fans have taken again and again since its initial release. (It was one of the biggest box-office smashes in Korea that year, and for good reason!)

Work-obsessed businessman Seok-woo (YOO GONG) is taking his daughter, Soo-an (SU-AN KIM) to be with her mother, from whom he is estranged. But what seems like the beginning of a downer of a family drama, takes a sharp left turn, as father and daughter board the train leaving Seoul and bound for Busan, just as a mysterious zombie virus descends upon the city, transforming those affected by it into speedy, groveling flesh-munchers, infecting any and everyone who happens to get bitten.

The terror grows with the size of the undead hordes, and the chances for survival shrink faster than the Seoul skyline in the distance. As the struggle begins, a beefy laborer, Sang-hwa (the scene-stealing DONG-SEOK MA) who starts out having an antagonistic relationship with Seok-woo, soon joins forces with him as a badly-needed ally, as he tries to keep himself and his daughter alive, while also still trying to fulfill his promise to Soo-an to get her to Busan to see her mother.

 

As I often like to say, “Terror needs no translation”, and that definitely applies here. Director Yeon, working from the script he wrote with JOO-SUK PARK, knows his way around an action sequence, and manages to blow the audience away with several suspenseful setpieces, involving situations that have never been presented before the way they are here, even in top-notch zombie thrillers like 28 DAYS LATER and WORLD WAR Z (which TRAIN shares some similarities with.)

International filmmakers are ‘bringing it’ with their takes on the zombie genre, with everything from BUSAN, to the recent Chinese productions of ZOMBIOLOGY and LOST IN APOCALYPSE. I wish George Romero were still here to see this, and to remark on it in his own unique way…

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: 2016 bounced crazily between sci-fi/horror, the supernatural and man-made monsters with such offerings as 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, THE CONJURING 2, SPLIT, THE WAILING, RAW, THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, UNDER THE SHADOW and the excellent THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FAMILY HORROR, FEATURED CONTENT, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, HALLOWEEN, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, OPINION, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, ZOMBIES, 1 comment

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Twenty-Nine – 10/29/18

10/29 – 2015: BONE TOMAHAWK/GREEN ROOM

A tense tale about the search for a missing woman in the Old West, (BONE TOMAHAWK), and the story of a punk rock band that accepts a gig from Hell (GREEN ROOM). You wouldn’t think these two films had very much in common, and you’d be right. Except that it not only introduced audiences to two remarkable new filmmaking talents, but also gave them two films that went to some unexpected places, redefining what it means to ‘gaze into the abyss’…and see with terrifying clarity, what it is that’s staring back.

S. CRAIG ZAHLER hasn’t been a big part of ‘the scene’, so when BONE TOMAHAWK arrived, it felt kind of like a random lightning strike, and had about the same effect on fans! When you see names like KURT RUSSELL, DAVID ARQUETTE, RICHARD JENKINS, PATRICK WILSON and MATTHEW FOX associated with a film from a relative newbie, you know that script has got to be something special. And it certainly is.  How best to describe this without spoiling the living hell out of it? Okay – for you film buffs out there who go back as far as I do, think THE SEARCHERS-meets-THE HILLS HAVE EYES. For you latter-day movie kids, think DEADWOOD or TOMBSTONE, with just a taste of THE DESCENT thrown in.

When the wife of a small-town settler (WILSON) vanishes, Russell is the sheriff who rounds up a posse to go after her and the people who took her, probably Indians by all the signs. So in the first half of the film, you think that what you’re getting is a modern-day take on a classic kind of Western.  And for the most part, you are.  Then, the second half kicks in.  And I don’t want to say more than that, except keep the smelling salts handy.

For old hands Russell and Jenkins, this is familiar territory, and their roles fit them like old, worn, favorite gloves. Even Arquette doesn’t have to stretch here, his own cameo pretty much an extension of the role he played in the underrated cult classic, RAVENOUS. (And Arquette gets beautiful support from an unexpected cameo by no less than SID HAIG, but I won’t say where or when that happens).

But it’s Matthew Fox who gets the part that’s the most ‘against-type.’ His leading man good looks serve him well, to augment a character you probably could only spend two minutes with before wanting to kill him. It’s quite the revelation.  But not as much as the 180-degree-turn BONE TOMAHAWK makes, into territory that most Westerns wouldn’t even think about going into. This is one of those you’ll be telling your friends about once you’ve seen it, and there are scenes I can promise that will stay with you for a very long time.

On the other side of this, GREEN ROOM is a brilliantly crafted B-thriller with great performances, and a sad footnote, as the movie that pretty much defined the career of the late ANTON YELCHIN, even as he exploded onto the pop culture scene as the “new” Ensign Anton Chekhov in J.J. Abrams’ retooling of the STAR TREK series.

The follow-up to his bracing revenge tale, BLUE RUIN, writer/director JEREMY SAULNIER brings to light the tragic and unsettling tale of a punk band called “The Ain’t-Rights”, composed of Yelchin as “Pat”, along with JOE COLE, CALLUM TURNER and ALIA SHAKWAT as his band mates. Closing out their most recent tour, they were set to do a gig that was arranged by a college boy fan, which fell through without warning.  Stuck with no other options, their benefactor quickly sets up another gig for them.  Out in the middle of nowhere. At a clubhouse.  For neo-Nazi types.

Not the best of circumstances, but money is money and a gig is a gig. Things are pretty dicey from the get-go, and it doesn’t help that the band kicks off their set with a rousing cover of The Dead Kennedy’s classic “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” Even with that, they do manage to win over the surly crowd. Or so they think.

Retreating back to what passes in this shithole for their “green room”, they’re told not to go in, but someone forgets something in there, and does it anyway. And that’s when they see it: the murdered body of a girl they saw earlier when they were playing in the club.  Things go south fairly quickly, when the skinhead staff trap them inside the room because of what they saw. But two things make it apparent that they probably won’t be allowed to leave alive: when Amber (IMOGEN POOTS), the dead girl’s ‘best friend’ becomes a captive as well, and when the leader of the skinhead cell, Darcy, arrives to take charge of things and “clean up the mess.”  In other words: ‘no loose ends.’

Yet again, we have a script that’s impressive enough to attract an amazing lineup of talent, but especially for the role of the deeply evil Darcy, a complete game-changer for PATRICK STEWART, who said in an interview that when he read the script, the part scared him so badly that he knew he had to do it. Darcy began an arc of parts that Stewart has accepted to change his “Captain Jean-Luc Picard” image, and this was certainly a great way to start.

Every step Saulnier takes with GREEN ROOM proves beyond a doubt, that BLUE RUIN was definitely no fluke, and as a ‘good luck charm’, the cast of ROOM includes the monumentally talented actor/writer/director MACON BLAIR, who was the star of RUIN, and is behind the tremendously dark and funny character piece, I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE., made for Netflix. Here in ROOM, Blair has a pretty important role as well as Darcy’s main lieutenant, and that’s about as much as I can say about that.

Bracing, razor-sharp and violent, GREEN ROOM isn’t for the squeamish, and provides some pretty sweet surprises not only for lovers of survival chillers, but mystery lovers as well, as The Ain’t-Rights begin to learn that there’s more than just a case of domestic violence going on behind the scenes.

So that gives you two options of films that gained a lot of traction from word-of-mouth, and rightfully so.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: THE WITCH, THE INVITATION, THE VISIT, CRIMSON PEAK, KRAMPUS, THE FINAL GIRLS, INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 and GOOSEBUMPS were just some of the movies that gave horror fans a widely diverse selection to choose from, in both quantity and quality, for 2015.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, HALLOWEEN, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, OPINION, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Twenty-Eight – 10/28/18

10/28 – 2014: THE GUEST

Full disclosure: beyond clips from the show, I never saw DAN STEVENS in any full episodes of DOWNTON ABBEY, but I get it. His role in director ADAM WINGARD’S THE GUEST was about as far from the Abbey as he could possibly get…and then some.

If you are already familiar with Wingard’s previous work, (YOU’RE NEXT!, A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE, the V/H/S series), then you’d think you know what to expect. That’s kind of true, but even familiarity with his other films isn’t going to prepare you for some of the wicked twists here.

When “David” (STEVENS) comes knocking on the front door of the Petersen’s place one day, and announces that he knew their deceased son from the war, their natural inclination is to welcome him into their home. Which they do. There’s immediate chemistry between him and their daughter, Anna (MAIKA MONROE of IT FOLLOWS), yet Anna senses there might be something else there…something possibly on the dangerous side. And actually, she was way underestimating that instinctive assessment.

Wingard and writer SIMON BARRETT don’t bring anything new to the table, in terms of subverting our prejudices about what a “good guy with a gun” looks like, or what he will do. But what they do with their scenario is done as well as you think it could be, from the same guys who gave us YOU’RE NEXT! THE GUEST is more of an action-suspense thriller with some decent nods to horror conventions, just like that film was.  And both Stevens and Monroe just kick ass in their respective roles, and left me hoping that we might see a sequel someday.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: 2014 was damn near an embarrassment of riches, that gave us movies like HOUSEBOUND, THE PURGE: ANARCHY, GOODNIGHT, MOMMY, SPRING, DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD, THE BABADOOK, WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, A GIRL WALKS HOME AT NIGHT and, of course, IT FOLLOWS.

Posted by Samuel Glass in Categories, EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, OPINION, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Twenty-One – 10/21/18

10/21 – 2007: TRICK ‘R’ TREAT

Vying for the title of “The Perfect Halloween movie,” the ascent of TRICK ‘R’ TREAT to top the lists of many horror fans, as their new favorite anthology ever (which Yours Cruelly completely agrees with) is yet another tale of one of those “Little Films That Could…And Did!”

Writer/director MICHAEL DOUGHERTY had one hell of an ally helping him get his movie made: his former boss, BRYAN SINGER, who agreed to produce it through his company, Bad Hat Harry Films. When Warner’s had no idea how to market it, they dumped it into theaters and then onto DVD, thinking it would sink without a trace. They were gravely mistaken. Word-of-mouth is a powerful form of communication among movie fans, and that’s how the scoop on TRICK ‘R’ TREAT went out. Soon the DVD began to develop a loyal following, which is how a sequel finally came to be greenlighted.

But enough backstory. The reason why anyone is talking about this great little gem of a holiday shocker is the story, and the wonderfully dark way in which it’s told.  It’s an anthology piece, but unlike most anthologies that have stand-alone stories all linked together by a single theme, like HOLIDAYS, for example, this one hearkens back more to a classic story collection like DEAD OF NIGHT, ASYLUM or TALES FROM THE CRYPT, typically in which a group of people are all held in a place where their stories unfold, one-by-one, and they all get terrifyingly closer to knowing why they’re there, and what their fates will be.

A young couple, Henry and Emma (TAHMOH PENIKETT and LESLIE BIBB) are returning from a party, in costume. While he enjoys everything about All Hallows’ Eve, she’s more of a Halloween “Grinch.” (In a story where such “Grinches” never fare well, as you’ll soon see).  As they return home, neither one of them knows that they’re being watched.  Or who is watching them…

In spite of his warnings to the contrary, Emma snuffs out the lit Jack O’Lantern in their yard before midnight…something you aren’t supposed to do. Henry, who’s already gone into the house, doesn’t realize that his girlfriend is about to pay the ultimate price for her holiday transgression. But when he comes back out, he discovers that she definitely has…in the most gruesome way possible.  And this is just the opening sequence!

Zombie ghosts, vampires, werewolves,  serial killers and “Sam” (QUINN LORD) – the cutest-yet-most-terrifying demonic presence ever to grace a movie screen all await you, in interlocking stories that follow the townsfolk as they celebrate Halloween…each in his or her own way. And the ‘monsters’ and these people, as well as the horrific secrets they have in common, are all revealed in a manner unlike many anthologies had attempted to carry through on, but the ones that followed TREAT got a clue from Dougherty’s deft storytelling skills pretty quickly, (example: the brilliantly hellish anthology, SOUTHBOUND.)  Murder, betrayal, revenge, retribution…all neatly tied up in a bag not unlike the one that little “Sam” has been known to carry…with blood dripping from the bottom!

The storytelling alone would be good enough for it to warrant the growing following it’s gotten since its release to DVD, but the cast being augmented by the talents of ANNA PAQUIN (before TRUE BLOOD), DYLAN BAKER and BRIAN COX certainly doesn’t hurt, (though the fates some characters suffer most certainly do!)

You could always do worse than this for a night of treat-laden terror! And fans have long been stoked about the news about that sequel, due out very soon!

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: Springing out to yell “BOO!” in 2007: GRINDHOUSE, REC, THE ORPHANAGE, INSIDE, 28 WEEKS LATER, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, THE MIST, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR and Stephen King’s 1408!

Posted by Samuel Glass in ANTHOLOGY, EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, HALLOWEEN, HORROR COMEDIES, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, OPINION, SATANIC/DEMONIC, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, VAMPIRES, WEREWOLVES, ZOMBIES, 1 comment

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day TWENTY – 10/20/18

10/20 – 2006: PAN’S LABYRINTH

“Hell Is For Children”, Pat Benatar told us, but nobody knows this better than one of my favorite filmmakers, GUILLERMO DEL TORO.  “War Is Hell” is a topic that’s never been up for debate, and at its hungriest, it’s a bloodthirsty beast that spares no one, especially kids. Del Toro chronicled its devastating effects on the little ones in not one, but two classic films: THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE and PAN’S LABYRINTH.

LABYRINTH is the harrowing story of young Ofelia (wonderfully played by IVANA BAQUERO), whose pregnant mother has recently married the cruel warmonger, Captain Vidal, (a stunning portrait of evil portrayed excellently by SERGI LOPEZ.) Vidal is part of the fascist Falangist army that was an integral part of Franco’s rule over Spain at the time, 1944.

Ofelia, a huge fan of fairy tales, finds herself living one, when a faerie leads her into a Labyrinth, where she meets the old Faun to whom it belongs, and vice versa.

The Faun tells her that she’s actually a princess, and that her real father, the King, has been waiting for her in the “make-believe” realm.  But in order to see him again and take her rightful place once more, she must pass three crucial tests.

 

One of those tests involves bringing back something from the lair of the fearsome “Pale Man”, a task that she barely accomplishes without losing her life.

As gruesome as some of the horrors are in the world of the Labyrinth, none of them holds a candle to the brutalities perpetrated by Ofelia’s vain, cruel stepfather, and that’s part of the point.

Ofelia’s brave quest to complete all of the tests and finally see her real father, leads to a violent and finally tragic collision of both worlds. Is the story destined for a “happily ever after” kind of conclusion? Maybe, but keep in mind that this is a Guillermo del Toro story…

Masterful character actor DOUG JONES added two more unforgettable entities to his ‘coterie of creatures’, with his stunning dual portrayals of the Faun and the Pale Man. Though he would continue to play creatures well after LABYRINTH, the next one to make such a powerful impression on audiences wouldn’t come about until del Toro’s latest breathtaking film, THE SHAPE OF WATER.

If you’ve never seen a Guillermo del Toro film, this would be an excellent place to start. If you have, especially this one, there’s no better way I can think of to revisit his brand of dark magic…

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: 2006 also delivered unto horror-hungry fans such outstanding films as SLITHER, BEHIND THE MASK, THE HOST, FIDO, THEM, SEVERANCE, SILENT HILL, Aja and Levasseur’s shockingly good remake of Wes Craven’s THE HILLS HAVE EYES and THE BABY’S ROOM.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FAMILY HORROR, FEATURED CONTENT, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, HALLOWEEN, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, OPINION, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 1 comment

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Nineteen – 10/19/18

10/19 – 2005: THE DESCENT

Thanks to films like DOG SOLDIERS, NEIL MARSHALL has now become the ‘go-to guy’ for action movies, especially when it’s action/horror. But the other great film that cemented his position was THE DESCENT, a subterranean ‘monster mash’, with something you don’t see everyday…an entire cast of kick-ass female characters!

Sarah (SHAUNA MACDONALD) and her ‘band of sisters’ are off on an adventure, as her buds rally ‘round her, to help her through the tragic deaths of her husband and daughter in a terrible accident.

Are you thinking “Lifetime” movie right now? Forget it. Sarah and her friends aren’t here for a book club…their idea of kicking back is going spelunking, which means exploring underground caves, for those not familiar. And in this case, it means previously uncharted caves, adding to the excitement.

And the terror. If you have seriously bad claustrophobia, you may want to leave now, because even though I don’t, there are a couple of harrowing sequences when I had to remind myself to breathe!

And just to make it interesting, how about throwing in an unexpected band of C.H.U.D.s to keep things lively? (If you never saw that movie, that stands for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers, which these beasties definitely are.)

So the battle against fears both rational and irrational suddenly turns into a ferociously bloody fight for survival, as the creatures respond to what they think of as a ‘dinner bell’, with our spelunking sisters being the main course on the menu. Who will make it out alive, if anyone? There’s some further wrinkles developed in the story, that makes the answer to that question even more intriguing. An answer you’ll love to discover…when you’re not biting your nails down to the quick!

In spite of two different controversial endings, (both which are available on the Blu-Ray and some DVD versions), THE DESCENT garnered enough of a following to spawn a sequel, which of course can’t touch Marshall’s deft hand directing the first one.  But that’s also still worth a look.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: 2005 was also “Ground Zero” for the explosions of SAW II, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, LADY VENGEANCE, THE JACKET, HARD CANDY, LAND OF THE DEAD, THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, NOROI: THE CURSE and THE CALL OF CTHULHU.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, HALLOWEEN, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, OPINION, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, WOMEN IN HORROR, 0 comments

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Eighteen – 10/18/18

10/18 – 2004: SHAUN OF THE DEAD/DAWN OF THE DEAD

What the hell do you do with a year that not only gave us one of the best remakes ever of a George A. Romero masterpiece, but also the great horror dramedy that was inspired by the original version of said film?  Why, you review them both, of course!

The now-famous horror-comedy team of SIMON PEGG and NICK FROST, together with their frequent partner-in-crime, director EDGAR WRIGHT, had long since been fans of Romero’s entire body of work, when they began to cook up their own impossibly nutty take on not just that film, but the entire zombie genre, SHAUN OF THE DEAD. Think of what would have happened if the MONTY PYTHON group had gotten hold of the original script for DAWN, and put their own special “stamp” on it, and you’re pretty much there.

 

Pegg plays the titular electronic store clerk Shaun, of course…a rather ordinary bloke living a rather ordinary existence, save for a few unfortunate things…like his strained relationship with his mum, and his girlfriend, who’s now his ex. And like every guy who’s been through this, even though he has his best bud and roomie, Ed (FROST) who has his back like always, nothing is going to be the same for him, until he has his girl, Liz (KATE ASHFIELD) back.  But there is the bothersome matter of a zombie apocalypse to deal with, right in the middle of his “get my ex back” campaign.

  

There’s plenty of action in this, in between the guffaws and gaffes, not to mention enough bloodletting to satisfy gorehounds who might otherwise be inclined to skip it.  But as writers, Pegg and Wright never forget to give us fully-realized characters, and some stunning and memorable setpieces, including a look at Shaun’s daily routine in before-and-after apocalypse mode, which even with repeat viewings is still as funny and frightening as it was the first time.

A dead-on (pun intended) skewering of everyday British life, pop culture and the human condition (not to mention the condition of the undead who were once your family, friends and neighbors) SHAUN is never less than a brilliantly-conceived, funny-as-hell, sometimes gory and sometimes even touching tribute from two absolute super-fans of not just George Romero, but the sub-genre of horror that he singlehandedly created. In fact, the mutual admiration society they had going on was so intense, that George actually gave both Simon and Nick cameos in LAND OF THE DEAD!

Which brings us to the ‘new and improved’ version of DAWN. If it had been any other writing/directing team, I could imagine this remake of a classic would have sunk from the multiplexes without a trace. Until you consider that the writer and director in question are JAMES GUNN and ZACK SNYDER.  Now we’re talking!

The original DAWN opening, somewhat picking up from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, was pretty scary stuff, and you’d think that there wouldn’t be too many ways to make it scarier. But that’s where Snyder and Gunn say “Here, hold our beers.”

A family morning wake-up call has never been more horrific.  In the blink of an eye, the drowsy family morning routine of Ana (SARAH POLLEY) goes from being blasé, to a total bloodbath, when their infected daughter bites and kills her husband, turning HIM into an undead flesh-eater. The shocking sequence where she escapes, only to witness her entire neighborhood descending into mayhem is as unforgettable as anything Romero ever pulled off.

  

That’s not the only place where Gunn as a screenwriter stuck to the original Romero story beats, but still brought his own vibe and dark sense of humor to the proceedings. As Ana takes her chances with a group of survivors who decide to hole up in a local mall, just like in the original, the story pulls in the rest of the outstanding cast including VING RHAMES, JAKE WEBER, MICHAEL KELLY, TY BURRELL and MEKHI PHIFER.

And Phifer’s other half in the film, Luda (INNA KOROBKINA) is very, very pregnant, soon providing us with the horrific answer to a question we didn’t exactly get from, say, THE WALKING DEAD: what happens to pregnant women in the zombie apocalypse, who give birth to…well, you fill in the blank.

Not the biggest ‘feel-good’ zombie film in the bunch by a long shot (and those who have seen it multiple times know exactly why), this DAWN remake still stands tall as one of the better ones in the scads of Romero tributes, knockoffs and wanna-be’s.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: SAW, THREE…EXTREMES, SHUTTER, THE VILLAGE and GINGER SNAPS II: UNLEASHED were just some of the other goodies dropped on horror fans in 2004.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FAMILY HORROR, FEATURED CONTENT, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, HALLOWEEN, HORROR COMEDIES, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, OPINION, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, ZOMBIES, 0 comments

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Seventeen – 10/17/18

10/17 – 2003: HIGH TENSION (a.k.a. SWITCHBLADE ROMANCE)

Ah, yes…HIGH TENSION; the film that had me hating on director ALEXANDER AJA and writing/producing partner GREGORY LEVASSEUR so much, that I categorically refused to watch anything they put out for years. The movie was that good…and the ending that infuriating. (They eventually won me back with their remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES.)

It was only in English class in school, that I was ever introduced to the concept of the “unreliable narrator.” I don’t remember ever having seen it in film before HIGH TENSION, and once I did, I decided I really didn’t like it. And from the response of the audience I was with, I knew I wasn’t alone in that sentiment.  Maybe it had so much to do with the first two thirds of the movie being one of the best, bloodiest, most nail-biting slashers that had come along in a very long time. Being strung along in that context does not work well for those who invest heavily in the characters and the scenario.  And how could you not?

The film opens with two young college girls traveling through the beautiful but very remote French countryside. Marie (CECILE DE FRANCE) and Alexia (MAIWENN, a.k.a. MAIWENN LEBESCO of THE FIFTH ELEMENT), are on break, of course, and going to spend their time off at the farmhouse of Alexia’s parents. It’s supposed to be the most tranquil, ideal getaway. Which is going to become an absolute fucking nightmare.

Because not all that far off, a deranged killer (PHILIPPE NAHON) is on the loose, and from the stunningly gross first shot we see of him, we know that anyone in his path is in for a world of hurt…and worse.

We get the usual welcome home as the girls reach their destination, Alexia’s parents welcome them, and they get settled in.  Everything is fine…until Alexia’s father answers the doorbell in the middle of the night. Bad move, dad.  What follows that knock is two acts’ worth of some of the most bloody (literally) brilliant, harrowing and horrific scenes of suspense and carnage this side of De Palma. The first time I saw this, I just knew I was watching a modern classic unfolding before my wondering eyes.

After viciously laying waste to the family, The Killer snatches up Alexia and takes her hostage..for  Gawd only knows what.  And Marie, who has managed to duck him at every turn, goes to save her best friend, and you root for her to succeed every step of the way.

Then…along comes the final act.

It wasn’t that long ago that I hated this movie so much, that in a purposefully vindictive act of sabotage, I would have spoiled the entire film for you, here and now, just to spare you from the feeling of outrage and betrayal that I felt when it was all said and done.  But no, I’m not going to do that – I’ll take the high road.  I’ve a better understanding now of what Aja and Levasseur intended, and though I still may not like it, I do respect it with some time gone by.

So I will just let you do the viewing, and you can decide how you feel about the film as a whole. But De France and Maiwenn are fantastic, playing their roles the way they were directed to, and the audience’s investment in them and the other characters really helps with the shock value, when the blood, bone and brains start to fly.

To sum it up with just my opinion: HIGH TENSION is a film with bite, that also sucks. Depending on how you look at it. And I guess, taking into account the definition I used before about what ‘art’ is, it’s also a very ‘artfully’ realized piece of horror cinema.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT:  Also terrifying audiences that year: A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, GOZU, IDENTITY, DEAD END, OPEN WATER, DARK WOODS, thr remake of WILLARD, and the remake of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, HALLOWEEN, OPINION, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Sixteen – 10/16/18

10/16 – 2002: MAY

“If you can’t find a friend…MAKE ONE.”

Not the exact tag line, but it does capture the main idea behind what I have come to regard, as the best film that writer/director LUCKY MCKEE and his main muse, ANGELA BETTIS, have ever collaborated on. And we’re talking about a duo who also gave us the excellent MASTERS OF HORROR episode, “Sick Girl”, and the movie that almost ran people out of the theater, THE WOMAN, McKee’s excellent team-up with late, great horror author JACK KETCHUM (THE GIRL NEXT DOOR).

I have always been of the half-joking opinion, that there should be a law that states that Angela never be allowed to do movies with any other director but Lucky, and MAY is the reason why. It’s a brilliant, horrific and heartbreaking meditation on loneliness, self-hatred and just that overall feeling of “not being able to fit in.” What would have happened in CARRIE, how would the story have played out if she’d still been bullied, maligned and ostracized, but she had no telekinetic powers to lash out with? MAY provides one truly unsettling and yet also depressingly dark answer to that question.

Bettis, of course, plays the title character, but before that, we see her as a young girl – lonely and isolated, and her condition with a lazy eye doesn’t help things at all.  Her mother gives her a “friend’ to keep her company: a doll in a glass case. But not just any doll.  This is one of the creepiest dolls I think I’ve ever seen in film history – it makes ANNABELLE look like Raggedy Ann!

The grown-up May, some years later, loves to sew and make things. That aptitude translates into what she does for her day job, working for a veterinarian, helping with the animals and even with some surgeries.

Her lesbian co-worker, Polly, (ANNA FARIS with one of her great, subtly funny turns) has something of a crush on May, but things between them stay mostly in the ‘friend zone’.

It’s only when she meets a hunky mechanic named Adam (JEREMY SISTO), that May begins to see the possibilities of having a life beyond her mostly solitary existence. It’s her ‘uniqueness’ that draws both Adam and Polly to her, who consider themselves to be equally “weird” people, but there’s more than a bit of miscommunication going on here.  While their own “off-beat-ness” is something of an affectation, what they’re reading as “quirky” and “interesting” about May is a whole hell of a lot more than that: May’s sanity is hanging on day-by-day, by the slenderest of threads, and it wouldn’t take much at all for it to snap like a rotten twig.  As Adam and May begin to date, he soon realizes because of certain behaviors she exhibits, that this poor girl just simply isn’t ‘all there’ and breaks it off with her.

Then, Polly decides that it’s the perfect time for them to take their friendship to the next level, until she, too, begins to see and sense what Adam did, and she also shuts May out of her life.

Remember what I said about her sanity, and about how it wouldn’t take much for her to lose it? Seems like bald-faced rejection is what finally does the trick.

I don’t want to say anymore than I have to, except that it all leads to an inevitable, bloody and devastatingly sad conclusion. All this girl ever wanted was a true friend, and even at the climax, she never really gets one.  If there were any justice in the cinematic world, Bettis should have gotten an Oscar nod out of this singular and unforgettable performance, but I doubt that the Academy, even though they recognized a movie like THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS – they weren’t quite ready for a film like MAY.

McKee knows at all times exactly what kind of audience he’s aiming for, and he hits the bull’s-eye every time. He does character-driven pieces like no other filmmaker I know, and MAY offers a seductive promise of a neo-Gothic brand of horror, to those fans who are always hungry for something that ventures pretty far off the beaten path of “mainstream” thrills and chills. He likes to examine the human condition in a way that is unapologetically blunt and in-your-face. You can see these attributes in most of his work, but not as sharply defined as it is in MAY.

Sisto, Faris, as well as indie fave JAMES DUVAL and WILL ESTES, all give great performances as friends or friends of May’s ‘friends’, but the responsibility for reaching out and touching the audience most profoundly, rests on Bettis’s slender shoulders, and she is more than capable of handling that task. I don’t hear too many people discussing this movie anymore, which is a damn shame. If any film is deserving of a much wider audience, MAY is definitely one of them.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT:  This is also the year that gave us RED DRAGON, DOG SOLDIERS, BUBBA HO-TEP, JU-ON: THE GRUDGE, THE RING, DARK WATER, SIGNS, THE EYE and 28 DAYS LATER.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, OPINION, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, WOMEN IN HORROR, 0 comments

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Fifteen – 10/15/18

10/15 – 2001: FRAILTY

When the world lost BILL PAXTON, it didn’t just lose an endlessly talented, gifted actor. It turned out that he was one helluva director as well, whose abilities behind the camera will now never be fully realized. But at least we have one great example of what we could’ve expected, in the only film he helmed before his untimely passing: FRAILTY.  If you love thrillers with premises and endings that will keep you up with the lights on, and talking about it with friends and family for weeks after seeing it, FRAILTY will be more than happy to oblige you.  There have been similar films about faith, religious mania, and how someone affected by both could have trouble separating the real from the unreal. But this is a movie that goes a whole lot farther than that…

Fenton Meiks (MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY in one of his best performances), walks into an FBI office one night and announces that he has important information on the man known as the “God’s Hand Killer”, a statement that immediately grabs everyone’s attention. But Fenton also states that he won’t speak to anyone but the lead investigator on the God’s Hand case, one Agent Wesley Doyle (POWERS BOOTHE).

Doyle immediately turns all of his attention to Fenton, who confesses on the spot that he just finished burying his brother, Adam, in the family rose garden, “just like he promised”, since it was Adam he fingers as the killer the Feds are looking for.  After confirming this by contacting the office of the sheriff of the town Fenton is from, he asks exactly how Fenton knows that Adam was the “God’s Hand” Killer.  Rather than answer him directly, Fenton shifts gears, and by way of explanation, begins to tell the agent all about his dark family history.

It was up to widower Dad Meiks (PAXTON) to raise his two sons alone. But things begin to careen off the rails, when late one night, Dad wakes up his sons to tell them that he has received a message from God, via an angel: he and his family have been chosen to become “God’s Hands”, and to rid the earth of demons – demons disguised in human form. Where the younger boy, Adam is psyched to have been given such a task – kind of like a superhero – the older Fenton had pretty much determined that his father’s cheese done slid off his cracker, (as Stephen King would say.)

As much as Fenton hopes this is just a crackpot idea that Dad has that will eventually be forgotten…no dice. Dad soon starts collecting things that he was ‘shown’ he should use to prepare for their ‘holy mission’: an axe, some rope, a length of pipe – things a serial killer would use. And not long after that, things get even worse: now, Dad has an actual list of people that “God” has tasked them to take out.  To Fenton’s growing dismay, things begin to escalate – especially when Dad brings home the first victim. It’s then that a battle of wills begins between father and son, with the youngest caught in the middle.

The story alternates between Fenton’s flashback tale, and the uneasy bond he forms with Agent Doyle. The resulting climax isn’t just jaw-dropping, you will want to see this twice, maybe three times, just to confirm what this movie is asking you to do at its very core – more of an act of suspension of belief, rather than disbelief.

A labor of love for Paxton, BRENT HANLEY’S incredible script offers more of a reversal/”fake-out” version of THE SIXTH SENSE’S stunning climactic twist reveal, and you can tell from the way that he crafted the picture, Paxton was looking forward to the intense shock to the system that audiences would experience at the end. And he was right, because I have only seen FRAILTY once, yet that ending still haunts me.

He is amazing as Dad Meiks, so surefooted and iron-willed, armed with this “mission from God”, while MATT O’LEARY and JEREMY SUMPTER as the younger Fenton and Adam, respectively, give very well-modulated performances for child actors.  McConaughey portrays Fenton as one cool customer, and Boothe does a wonderful job of portraying the blinkered Doyle, who is so determined to get answers about the identity and whereabouts of the “God’s Hand” Killer, he never contemplates for a second that getting the answers may not be the triumphant achievement he’s expecting.

FRAILTY is part of the legacy that Bill Paxton left us, of a talent he was only beginning to explore. I’m saddened by the fact that we won’t get any new films from him as a director or actor, but grateful that we have things like this to remember him by.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: 2001 was also the launchpad for THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE, THE OTHERS, PULSE, ICHI THE KILLER, SESSION 9, JOY RIDE, FROM HELL, BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF and THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FAMILY HORROR, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, OPINION, PARANORMAL, SATANIC/DEMONIC, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Fourteen – 10/14/18

10/14 – 2000: PITCH BLACK

When RIDLEY SCOTT’S ALIEN threw down the gauntlet for other filmmakers who braved exploring the sci-fi genre, and all the sub-genres therein, there were a lot of misfires that fans got out of the deal; a lot of copycat wannabes, and ideas that were tremendous on paper, but they just didn’t pan out.  Luckily for us, PITCH BLACK happens to be one of the ones that did.

Carolyn Fry (RADHA MITCHELL – SILENT HILL, THE DARKNESS) is a pilot on a routine trip, hauling cargo and passengers, including a group who are off to start a settlement on another planet.  When a freak meteor storm cripples the ship and makes it necessary to ‘lighten the load’, she has two choices: eject the cargo or the passengers. But before she can make the most damning call of the two, the ship crash-lands on an unfamiliar planet that happened to be nearby.

Two problems quickly become apparent: the first is that two of her passengers happened to be a bounty hunter named Johns (COLE HAUSER, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN), and his ‘cargo’…a legendary dangerous convicted criminal named Richard B. Riddick (VIN DIESEL, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS). And now Riddick has disappeared, and is out there…watching, waiting to make his move.

The second problem? They quickly find out that they’re not alone, the hard way. Vicious, carnivorous alien creatures live on this planet, just underground…and because the light is death to them, they only come out at night to hunt and to feed, when it gets dark.

The planet, once site of its own settlement is now desolate, with not a soul to be found. And Carolyn and the survivors of the crash soon find out why.  Every number of years or so on the planet, a total eclipse occurs, leaving everything in complete, utter darkness. And lucky them…they just got stranded not long before the next eclipse is set to happen. They may have been travelers before…but now, they’re about to become snacks.

Working from a screenplay crafted by director DAVID TWOHY, with JIM AND KEN WHEAT (THE SILENT SCREAM, LIES), PITCH BLACK is a clever, nerve-wracking thrill ride with a damn good scenario, that almost bests what are considered to be the top sci-fi horror classics – even ALIEN itself.

Plus it has a fantastic supporting cast that includes KEITH DAVID (THEY LIVE, John Carpenter’s THE THING), CLAUDIA BLACK (FARSCAPE) and LEWIS FITZ-GERALD (BREAKER MORANT, THE WOLVERINE).

Twohy has a knack for working with modestly-budgeted, well-scripted sub-genre films, as he proved all too well before with WARLOCK, (starring JULIAN SANDS in the title role,) and the underrated, underwater ghost chiller BELOW. He keeps the pace brisk, the suspense taut and follows the Golden Rule of never showing the audience too much of the creatures, designed by master effects artist PATRICK TATOPOULOS (STARGATE, DARK CITY).

Though some characters here are better developed than others, everyone gives memorable performances, particularly Mitchell, Hauser and David.  But it’s Diesel’s Riddick that you walk away from the film remembering most. A murderous convict who barely considers himself to be human, PITCH BLACK becomes as much about him trying to locate some shreds of humanity left in his blasted soul, and actually doing it, under the direst circumstances that anyone could possibly imagine.

So unforgettable was his portrayal, that Universal attempted to cash in with a sequel, THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, which is still being debated today as to whether or not it was a worthy follow-up. (It has DAME JUDI DENCH in it, so call me biased.)

In any case, it’s yet another great choice for your upcoming ‘Halloween Horrorthon’. In fact, if you really want to get a good group debate going, double it up with ALIEN and see which one comes out the victor!

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: 2000 also gave us AMERICAN PSYCHO, GINGER SNAPS, BATTLE ROYALE, SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE, FINAL DESTINATION, THE GIFT, JU-ON (a.k.a. THE GRUDGE) and WHAT LIES BENEATH.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, HORROR HEROES, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, OPINION, SCI-FI HORROR, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, URBAN DECAY/DYSTOPIAN FUTURES, 0 comments

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day THIRTEEN – 10/13/18

10/13 – 1999: THE SIXTH SENSE

How in the wide, wide world of sports could it be possible to make and break your career right out of the gate, with your first smash box office hit? Ask extremely controversial director M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN, because that’s exactly what happened with THE SIXTH SENSE, one of the best paranormal ‘mind-fuck’ chillers ever made. And there had been some really good ones that came before, and that followed it. But none had quite the same impact that this did, only the third film he’d made.

BRUCE WILLIS, whose last big film the year before, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, didn’t exactly set multiplex box offices aflame (although now it’s a beloved sci-fi cult classic) stars here as Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a disillusioned child psychologist. Tragically attacked by one of his former charges, who then commits suicide, Malcolm considers himself a failure, and is looking for redemption from the horrific debacle.

His potential chance comes in the form of Cole Sear, the role that defined the career of HALEY JOEL OSMENT, although he’d done some films and TV before, including a small role in FOREST GUMP. As the famous line goes, Cole sees “dead people”, who don’t seem to know they’re dead, and worst of all – they all want to talk to him, though he has no idea why he has this connection to the spirit world.

It’s Malcolm who finally seems to be the most helpful adult that Cole can confide in, as he advises him to listen when the spirits communicate with him, to see what it is that they want. And as it turns out, they want many different things. Perhaps the second most stunning sequence in the film is Cole’s encounter with the ghost of a young girl named Kyra Collins, (future star of “THE O.C.” MISCHA BARTON), whose untimely death via a mysterious illness, turns out to be a lot more than her family knew about.

Shyamalan’s greatest gift isn’t just the cleverness of the storytelling. He has real empathy for all of his characters, even the unlikable ones, and therefore you become equally invested in them.  So much so, that until you’ve seen this multiple times, you don’t realize how he’s setting you up for one of the most stunning ‘reveals’, not just in horror film history, but film in general.  And that’s how he also managed to make and then break himself all at once. Not unlike ORSON WELLES did with CITIZEN KANE, Shyamalan made one of the most audacious debuts to come from a fledgling director up to that time period, and in the films that followed, audiences expected every “Shyamalan twist” to be just as gasp-inducing as the first time. But he soon discovered that the hardest act to follow was himself.

Willis gives one of the best performances of his career outside his usual forays into action blockbusters, (DEATH BECOMES HER has the other great turn). HALEY JOEL OSMENT seemed destined for super-stardom, as one of the least saccharine, real little kids ever to break into cinema. OLIVIA WILLIAMS has what amounts to a cameo as Malcolm’s wife, Anna, but what she does is effective and vitally important to the story, and she’s perfect for it. DONNIE WAHLBERG as the distraught former patient, whose horrendous act of violence sets the plot in motion, shows where the acting chops in that family really are.

But the one to really watch here is TONI COLLETTE, as single mom Lynn Sear. I would go as far as to put her performance right up there with ELLEN BURSTYN’S in THE EXORCIST. As a mother desperately trying to understand what’s going on with her kid, and feeling nearly powerless to help, she neither overplays or underplays it, hitting the sweet spot particularly in a scene that is a tear-jerker: when she truly comes to believe in her son’s abilities, as he reveals something to her that he couldn’t have possibly known about otherwise. (Everyone who’s seen it remembers that scene.) In fact, watching it back again, it comes as no surprise that THE SIXTH SENSE was nominated for – you got it – SIX Oscars, including nods for Osment, Collette and of course for Shyamalan’s directing.

After a rough period of diminishing returns on his features, that seemingly began with LADY IN THE WATER, going rapidly downhill from there, “Night” has made a considerable comeback with THE VISIT, SPLIT, and the soon-to-be-released GLASS. (I wonder if that one holds any interest for me? Hmmm…)  But THE SIXTH SENSE is that one that every director wishes they had in their arsenal, but also fears…because it’s that ‘lightning-in-a-bottle’ that you can only really capture once, and never again.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: This was the same year that also gave us RAVENOUS, AUDITION, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, STIR OF ECHOES, SLEEPY HOLLOW, and existenZ.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FAMILY HORROR, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, OPINION, PARANORMAL, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments

SID HAIG Turns Dreidels Into “DREAD-DLES” In The New Holiday Shocker HANUKKAH

Remember the old joke about holiday slasher movies eventually covering every holiday on the calendar? (People still want to know what happened to Eli Roth’s plans to make his GRINDHOUSE ‘fake trailer’, THANKSGIVING into an actual film!)

Well, it really isn’t a joke anymore! Beloved cult icon SID HAIG is now starring in the upcoming slasher HANUKKAH, co-starring CHARLES FLEISCHER (WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?, ZODIAC), P.J. SOLES (HALLOWEEN, CARRIE, ROCK AND ROLL HIGH SCHOOL), CAROLINE WILLIAMS (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, TALES OF POE) and writer/actor JOE KNETTER (ZOMBIE BUKKAKE).

The sophomore feature of writer/director EBEN MCGARR (SICK GIRL), HANUKKAH’S plot goes a little something like this:

“Obediah Lazarus is the son of Judah Lazarus, the original Hanukiller. In 1983, Judah terrorized NY for seven nights and was preparing to sacrifice his eight-year-old son, Obediah, on the eighth night. Judah was convinced it was God’s will, like Abraham and Isaac, to sacrifice his only son to God. Luckily for Obediah, police tracked Judah down and stopped the sacrifice, but Judah was gunned down in the process. Warped by hatred with no guidance, Obediah Lazarus becomes a religious extremist, intolerant of non-Jews, “bad Jews”, and those he perceives to be enemies of the Jewish faith. He is about to unleash eight nights of horror. A group of Jewish teens are getting ready to party for the holidays, but are in for a Festival of Frights. With the help of a wise Rabbi, they deduce that the murder victims have violated Judaic law and that their only chance at survival is to embrace their faith.”

Does this mean that we’ll be seeing a menorah used as a blunt instrument? Watch for the release of HANUKKAH to find out!

Trailer For HANUKKAH:

Posted by Samuel Glass in CAST AND CREW NEWS, COMING SOON, HORROR NEWS, NEW RELEASES, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, 0 comments
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Twelve – 10/12/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Twelve – 10/12/18

10/12 – 1998: FALLEN

When you look at the filmography of an actor like DENZEL WASHINGTON, you don’t see a lot of missteps.  Lots of different, fascinating, captivating performances in a wide range of projects, in various genres. You know what else you don’t see? A lot of horror/sci-fi/fantasy films.  That can’t be coincidental. Denzel doesn’t seem to be the kind of actor that gravitates towards monster and slasher films by choice.  In most cases, one could hardly blame him.  We know there’s a lot of trash out there…because we have to watch it.  So it has to be one special script that can attract the attention of a Denzel Washington (or someone of his type). Something so amazingly different, that once he read it, he was immediately on board with doing it.  FALLEN just so happened to be that story.

Written by NICHOLAS KAZAN (FRANCES, AT CLOSE RANGE, REVERSAL OF FORTUNE) and directed by GREGORY HOBLIT, (a TV director known mostly for HILL STREET BLUES, L.A. LAW and N.Y.P.D. BLUE, until he directed 1996’s PRIMAL FEAR, which introduced movie audiences to EDWARD NORTON), FALLEN isn’t your average script by any definition of the word. Skipping much of the blood and gore that a film like this would usually rely on and goes for the psychological chills instead.  Not to mention – it takes a ROLLING STONES tune not known for being inherently creepy, and changes all that in the blink of an   eye.

FALLEN casts Denzel as Detective John Hobbes. Every good detective has his nemesis, and John’s was the notorious serial killer Edgar Reese (a fantastic turn by THE PROPHECY’S ELIAS KOTEAS). It’s been Hobbes’ determined efforts that finally landed Reese into the gas chamber seat he so richly deserves.

But on the day of Reese’s execution, as Hobbes sits with the other witnesses, Reese does something unexpected…and chilling. As they’re strapping him in, he sings directly to the cop – The Stones classic “Time Is On My Side”.  An attempt by a deranged psychopath, to make one last show of braggadocio? You would think so.  Not so fast, though. When dead bodies start turning up, killed in the same manner that was Reese’s M.O., and John starts getting hang-up calls in the middle of the night – something that Reese loved to do to taunt him – John starts to get the feeling that even though he saw Reese die, none of this is really over.

Then, suddenly, random strangers begin singing “Time Is On My Side”…to HIM. And that’s where shit really starts to get real.

Reese was ‘nice’ enough to leave him several clues, which lead John to articles about a celebrated cop named Robert Milano, who was not only eventually disgraced, but ended up committing suicide. His boss, Lt. Stanton (DONALD SUTHERLAND) balks when he hears Milano’s name and warns John to drop it, but hey, would any cop that Denzel plays drop anything?

His sleuthing eventually leads him to Milano’s daughter, Gretta (EMBETH DAVITZ), a student of theology who has even more dire warnings about this case than Stanton did. Still refusing to turn it loose, John hikes up to the old Milano family vacation cabin, out in the middle of nowhere, where Robert decided to air out his head with a bullet.

Kind of ironic that Koteas, who played a good guy in THE PROPHECY, plays the baddie in FALLEN, which is headed in almost the same direction as the previous film.  Do I mean…ANGELS again? Why, yes, I do, and not the good ones.

Meet AZAZEL.  

If Pazuzu from THE EXORCIST had an evil older brother, Azazel would be it. Possessing people by the power of touch, he’s one of the FALLEN (get it?) who has a bone to pick with both mankind and The Deity Who Made Them, and for him…payback’s a bitch. He doesn’t exactly care about John Hobbes, but since the cop came after him while he was hiding out in Edgar Reese’s body, why not have a little “fun” destroying his life, the same way he did Milano’s?

And so the battle of wills begins between a man and the demonic angel who has it in for him.  Will it be a win, a loss, or a ‘draw’? Check out FALLEN and see!

Besides Sutherland and Davitz, the cast also boasts ROBERT JOYJAMES GANDOLFINI and AIDA TURTURRO (in a small cameo), both pre-SOPRANOS; GABRIEL CASSEUS as John’s sweet, mentally-challenged brother, Art, and giving one of his best and most frightening performances – JOHN GOODMAN as Jonesy, John’s partner of over a decade. Goodman wasn’t known for playing baddies yet, though the Coen Brothers gave him wackadoos to play that were pretty close, (especially in BARTON FINK). The real douchebags he would eventually play in films like DEATH SENTENCE were far off yet, but you can see hints of that in his performance here.

DP NEWTON THOMAS SIGEL seems to have a gift for making Philadelphia look creepy, and he uses that talent to full advantage here. And TAN DUN’S dark, ambient score is never intrusive, which is a good thing for a movie that’s heavier on creeping dread and unease, than buckets of brains dashed across the screen.

All-in-all, FALLEN is one more excellent recommendation one can make to that person that hates horror films, but loves Denzel Washington movies.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: 1998 was also a year that included BLADE, RINGU, THE X-FILES, THE FACULTY, APT PUPIL, and JOHN CARPENTER’S VAMPIRE$.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, OPINION, PARANORMAL, SATANIC/DEMONIC, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Eleven – 10/11/18

10/11 – 1997: LOST HIGHWAY

For viewers who are about linear, sensible, relatable storytelling with the whole ‘beginning-middle-and-end’ thing going on, DAVID LYNCH has always been a tough nut to crack. If you cannot accept that it’s about his own unique vision, and just go along for the ride, then it’s best to avoid his body of cinematic work. Even his more accessible films like WILD AT HEART and BLUE VELVET, still never stray far from his strange sense of playing with time, identity and very unreliable narrators and narratives. And nowhere is this more true than in his seemingly undecipherable horror-melodrama, LOST HIGHWAY.

Some critics and Lynch fans have called it a meditation on the creative process itself; others have called it yet another chronicle of dissociative identity disorder, as in Adrian Lyne’s JACOB’S LADDER, or Alexander Aja’s macabre murderfest, HIGH TENSION (a.k.a. SWITCHBLADE ROMANCE). In any case, a film where BILL PULLMAN suddenly morphs into BALTHAZAR GETTY, isn’t going to be something you casually pull up on Netflix for date night.

Fred Madison (PULLMAN) is a musician by trade, specifically a sax player.  He and his wife, Renee (PATRICIA ARQUETTE) have been having problems of late, with Fred convinced that she’s having an affair, while he’s out working. Meanwhile, they experience the kind of random weirdness that any couple in a David Lynch film would – with one of the most startling things being the tapes.

The tapes? Yep – mysterious video tapes in plain brown envelopes that just appear on the Madisons’ doorstep. And each time they play them, it’s a view of their house, with the ‘cameraman’ coming in a bit closer each time. Strange, for sure, and you’d think they’d be more alarmed about it.  But they don’t feel the need to get the cops involved…until one of the tapes turns out to have been shot not just inside the house, but in their bedroom…while they were sleeping.

But things are about to get even more effed up. At a party, Fred meets a “Mystery Man” (probably the strangest and most unsettling role that ROBERT BLAKE ever had in his career), who seems to know Fred…very well. Something this man does during their encounter plays like a party trick…or is it a warning? A way of explaining events that haven’t happened yet?

You won’t have time to think too hard about that, because shortly after that party, Renee Madison is found brutally murdered, and Fred goes up for it immediately.

But wait. If you thought things were strange before, here, hold David’s beer. While Fred is locked up in jail, awaiting arraignment, weird lights flash in the cell, Fred seems to have one hell of a headache, and then suddenly…he’s just not there anymore.  He’s been replaced by a much younger guy, named Pete Dayton (GETTY). Completely flabbergasted, since Fred Madison is their alleged perp and not Pete, the cops have no choice but to let him go.

While Fred played music, Pete’s a mechanic, and he works for a very volatile gangster who goes by the name of Mr. Eddy (the late ROBERT LOGGIA, adding another great role to his already impressive collection.) Eddy has a stunning blonde girlfriend named Alice Wakefield, and isn’t it rich, that except for the platinum blond hair, Alice could be Renee Madison’s twin sister?

Pete is immediately smitten with Alice, of course, and a dangerous affair begins between the two of them. But as if Pete didn’t have enough problems already, there’s the ‘small’ matter of how the hell he managed to wake up in Fred Madison’s cell. Pete’s parents (GARY BUSEY and LUCY BUTLER) seem to know all about how that happened, and it has something to do with a “mysterious man” they met.

Starting to get it now? No? That’s probably intentional, as it seems to be with most Lynch films.  You always seem to be just on the edge of figuring out what the hell is going on, and then the answer is snatched away again by another weird, random event or characters.

The rest of the film is just like that: feeding you clues and hints about how Fred’s and Pete’s lives intersect; their connection to Renee/Alice, and the part that the Mystery Man plays in all of it – someone whom even Mr. Eddy seems to know. And yes, Fred does eventually come back into the picture, but how it happens and what it means, takes a whole lot more time and ink to ponder than what we have here.

If the ambiguities of TWIN PEAKS were a major turn-off for you, and/or you just don’t care for Lynch’s work, anyway, you might want to stay as far away as possible from LOST HIGHWAY. It makes it more than a little difficult to judge the quality of the performances, if you have absolutely no idea what the hell the characters are supposed to be doing in the first place. But the cast – at least to me – seemed to be doing pretty well.  And there’s the usual raft of cameos from a diverse range of actors that goes from HENRY ROLLINS, to GIOVANNI RIBISI and NATASHA GREGSON WAGNER. Hell, even RICHARD PRYOR (in his last screen appearance) turns up for a hot minute!

Technically, as with Lynch’s other films, it’s damn near perfect. DP PETER DEMING, who shot all of the SCREAM sequels after the original, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, and would shoot MULHOLLAND DRIVE for Lynch after this, does his part to…enhance the weirdness, I guess? And of course, no Lynch film would be complete without the presence of composer ANGELO BADALAMENTI, who does one of his best jobs creeping out viewers since the TWIN PEAKS score, while NINE INCH NAILS’ frontman TRENT REZNOR kicks major ass on putting together the soundtrack, one of the best ever for a Lynch film (it introduced me to RAMMSTEIN, SMASHING PUMPKINS and a LOU REED cover I’d never heard before!)

They say that if something is a piece of art, it’s not going to be a thing that everyone can agree upon, which I guess means that LOST HIGHWAY is definitely art.

Back in my video store clerking days, I issued a challenge about HIGHWAY, to co-workers and customers alike: I would come out of my own pocket to pay $100 to anyone who could sum up the plot of this film, in a way that made complete sense as a straightforward, logical narrative.

Take this as a recommendation, a warning, or whatever you like…I never had to pay up.

Other “HONORABLE MAYHEM” of the cerebral kind released that year included CUBE, EVENT HORIZON, FUNNY GAMES, THE KINGDOM, THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE and SCREAM 2.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, OPINION, PARANORMAL, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Ten – 10/10/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Ten – 10/10/18

10/10 – 1996: SCREAM/FROM DUSK TILL DAWN

1996…It was a draw for me; too tough to narrow down the list of all the great flicks I had to choose from. I finally managed to whittle it down to two: SCREAM, and FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, and even then, I just couldn’t bring myself to choose between them. Both are as important and influential to the genre during this time, yet both are certainly unique: one redefined what fans had thought of the teen slasher genre, while the other took vampire lore to a whole new place unconsidered up to that point.

Legendary director WES CRAVEN had always been an innovator of modern horror, re-establishing himself in several sub-genres over the course of many decades. With LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW, he’d done things that most directors in the field never achieve over the course of their entire careers. So when he was looking for the next big thing, he wasn’t even considering sticking with horror, when he crossed paths with a brilliantly subversive script by DAWSON’S CREEK scribe KEVIN WILLIAMSON; a nicely-nasty little number called “SCARY MOVIE”, which was soon to beretitled…SCREAM.

Snarky, self-reverential, almost to the point of being a bit too “nudge-winky” at times, nevertheless, SCREAM never once forgot to bring the laughs, the scares AND the gore in ample supply.  A slasher of teens begins to decimate the youth population of the little bedroom community of Woodsboro, but if that wasn’t bad enough, said killer seems to be every bit as smart as the “Scooby Gang wanna-be” group of horror-loving kids, who soon realize that their stalker not only knows the ‘rules of horror’ as well as – if not  better than they do, and he’s not only using the playbook to take them out one-by-one, but he (or she?) is even bending and changing the rules! Much like Williamson’s TV creation, the cast couldn’t have been more suited as an ensemble, even though the standout was DREW BARRYMORE, if only for the mere fact that she pulls a “Janet-Leigh-in-PSYCHO” on the audience in the first few moments of the film – a shock that has since become legendary, even though people still remember where the idea came from!

NEVE CAMPBELL, SKEET ULRICH, ROSE MCGOWAN, JAMIE KENNEDY, MATTHEW LILLARD, W. EARL BROWN, LIEV SCHREIBER, COURTNEY COX and DAVID ARQUETTE (who married and divorced over the course of the franchise); JOSEPH WHIPP (who could’ve been playing the same character from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET – and probably was!), plus unexpected cameos from LINDA BLAIR and HENRY WINKLER going way out-of-typecasting as an asshole of a principal…It didn’t get any better than this! Plus Craven’s direction, with tongue firmly-in-cheek the entire time, could have you rolling your eyes and chuckling one minute, and yes, SCREAMING the next! This film helped usher in a new age, where the movie and the characters were as smart – if not smarter than the audience that eagerly made SCREAM a box office smash!

Meanwhile, thanks to buddy and sometime collaborator QUENTIN TARANTINO, cinematic ‘one-man-band’ ROBERT RODRIGUEZ was having fun playing “Dr. Frankenstein”, by smashing two unexpected sub-genres together, if not three: serial killers, true crime…and vampires.  FROM DUSK TILL DAWN is the kind of film you never expect…until it bops you upside the head from seemingly out of nowhere!

The notorious Gecko brothers, handsome and sarcastic Seth (GEORGE CLOONEY) and ‘quiet, reserved’ Richard (no less than TARANTINO himself) are cutting a swath of robbery, assault and murder across the Southwest.  The “murder” part of their spree is owed mostly to Richard, who just can’t curb his impulses to kill and rape people. Well, to be a bit more specific, he kills and rapes womennot the men, let’s be clear on that (as Richard would probably say himself.)

Their antics – but especially Richard’s body count – has made it necessary to hotfoot it South of the Border, and maybe lay low somewhere in Mexico, until things die down…If they do. Along the way, as they change vehicles, they hijack an RV and the vacationing family inside it and skip town.

The intent was to just keep on going until they reached their objective, but all that changes when they make a fateful detour to a truck stop on the way.  But not just ANY truck stop: The “TITTY TWISTER.” A blood-and-guts dive that definitely lives up to its name…in more ways than one. And its hours of operation are…well, you know the title.

The bar has some of the most gorgeous dancing girls you ever saw, but they’re all woofers compared to the luscious, insanely beautiful main attraction, a hypnotic dancer who goes by the name of ‘SANTANICO PANDEMONIUM’.  No one into women could possibly resist her, and all men should, as Seth and Richard quickly discover, along with the rest of the hapless ‘Twister’ patrons, when the girls, the bouncers, the bartenders, everyone who ‘works’ there, finally reveal their true faces.  They’re all flesh-and-blood hungry vamps, and less the TWILIGHT variety than the FRIGHT NIGHT kind.

Rodriguez knew exactly what the fans wanted from Quentin’s script, and together, they sure gave it to us…stylish, sensual, sexy and soaked in red. And the Tarantino/Rodriguez combo attracted a cast that was instant boxoffice catnip, right down to the cameos: HARVEY KEITEL, JULIETTE LEWIS, FRED WILLIAMSON, TOM SAVINI; the stunning SALMA HAYEK as “SANTANICO”; everybody’s favorite badass, DANNY TREJO, plus CHEECH MARIN, MICHAEL PARKS, JOHN SAXON, KELLY PRESTON, MARC LAWRENCE; even a special appearance by Robert’s favorite “Hell House band”, TITO AND TARANTULA…Hell, you just knew that if he wasn’t already starring in it, Quentin would have probably directed this one, too!

The “Titty Twister” sequences – especially the gore-soaked fight scenes – are now a thing of legend, (check out Savini’s “special weapon” and the reason why his character’s nickname is “Sex Machine”!) and the closing shot is as breathtaking as any iconic final scene from the best and most unforgettable horror films, (I’d compare it for impact to the last shot of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT; in fact, DAWN’S final shot is probably a tad better.)

But for thrills, chills and maximum blood spills, whether you’ve seen these movies a hundred times or not even once…you can’t go wrong with these choices for a monumentally successful Halloween Night of Frights!

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, HALLOWEEN, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, OPINION, SATANIC/DEMONIC, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, VAMPIRES, 0 comments
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Nine – 10/09/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Nine – 10/09/18

10/09 – 1995: THE PROPHECY

First ROSEMARY’S BABY, then THE EXORCIST, then the blockbuster success of THE OMEN opened the floodgates for religious-minded, Satanic-tinged thrillers.  They were always lighting up cinema screen with varying degrees of quality and success (THE DEVIL’S RAIN, anyone?), but for the most part, they were well done and managed to bring the chills and keep the creepiness factor turned up to “eleven.”  One of the better entries into the “Sweepstakes of Sin” was THE PROPHECY, brought to us care of filmmaker GREGORY WIDEN, (HIGHLANDER, BACKDRAFT), with a different spin on things than usual, and a solid cast to bring as much gravitas to the story as any of the better films about the anti-Christ and mankind facing possible Armageddon.

The scenario here takes the “What If?” approach about the Bible. Angels are not only real but battling with each other. Just as the story goes, God’s Once Most-Favored Creations aren’t real happy with Sky Daddy throwing them over, to concentrate all his love and care on his other Most-Favored Creations: HUMANKIND. In fact, it’s caused a rift between them. On the one side, there’s the angels like ‘Simon’ (ERIC STOLTZ of MASK, THE FLY 2 and KILLING ZOE), who aren’t all that fond of humans, but are willing to “go along to get along” with their Father, while on the flip side of things, you have Gabriel (CHRISTOPHER WALKEN, delivering one of his usual delicious, balls-to-the-wall performances), who would love nothing more than to see mankind obliterated, and will go through as many of his winged brethren as he needs to, in order to make it happen.

 

A series of “strange and deadly occurrences” stemming from this “angel war” engulfs several unsuspecting humans: Detective Thomas Dagget (ELIAS KOTEAS of CRASH, ZODIAC, GATTACA and FALLEN), a failed priest-turned-cop; Katherine (VIRGINIA MADSEN from CANDYMAN, DUNE and ELECTRIC DREAMS), a teacher at a small Southwestern school for Native American children, and Mary (MORIAH “SHINING DOVE” SNYDER in her first major movie role), one of Katherine’s students.

The “prophecy” of the title is all about this centuries-long war of angels, which has been at a draw so far, but it has been said that if the ‘anti-human’ angels can take possession of humankind’s most evil soul, they can use that evil to win the war, bring about the “End Of Days” and destroy “the talking monkeys”, as Gabriel and not a few of the other angels derisively refer to them. The Holy War comes to Earth as Simon finds the owner of that ‘black soul’, one Col. Hawthorne, and takes the soul, hiding it away inside the body of innocent little Mary, before dying at Gabriel’s hand.

Eventually, the ‘strange case’ that Dagget is now working and the sudden strange behavior of Mary brings him and Katherine together, just as Gabriel is looking for all three of them. It means nothing at all to him, to kill anyone who gets in the way of his search for the little girl, and he’s not above raising the dead to help him with that search. ADAM GOLDBERG (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN) and AMANDA PLUMMER (PULP FICTION) portray Jerry and Rachael, respectively; two of the unfortunate souls who end up in Gabriel’s brutal clutches.

And just as it looks like it’s really about to become ‘crunch time’ for mankind, who should show up, but Lucifer himself! What role he plays in all of this is up to you to find out – I won’t spoil the terrific ending – but just knowing that VIGGO MORTENSEN plays him, should have you sprinting for wherever you get your movies from, to grab this gem. It’s only a cameo, but at least for me, that performance packs every bit of the punch he had as Aragorn in THE LORD OF THE RINGS franchise.

The special effects might seem a little on the primitive side these days, considering, but the kind of ambitious canvas that Widen loves to paint his stories on will never be out-of-style. See it for the performances, for the thrills of the story, and for a totally different perspective on angels…especially on the fallen one that “God favored above all others”…

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, HALLOWEEN, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, PARANORMAL, SATANIC/DEMONIC, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments