Matthew Lillard

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

Haunt Off – 13 Ghosts Versus Thir13en Ghosts

William Castle's 13 Ghosts
Versus
Terry Castle's Thir13en Ghosts
Part 3 of 3

By Woofer McWooferson

13 Ghosts - Plato Zorba v Cyrus Kriticos

Plato v Cyrus

It isn't easy to compare movies that came out 51 years apart, particularly when those films are in the horror genre and involves ghosts. This final analysis compares William Castle's 13 Ghosts to Terry Castle's Thir13en Ghosts, bearing in mind that Ms. Castle was only a co-producer and did not direct it whereas William Castle both produced and directed 13 Ghosts.

Being the showman that he was, William Castle touted 13 Ghosts as being in Illusion-O, a film technique that allowed audiences to see the “real” ghosts in the movie by looking through one lens or to watch a tamer version sans ghosts by looking through the other. In the film, there is a single set of glasses that Plato Zorba used to see ghosts and which is left to his nephew Cyrus and his family. In addition to a change of color on the screen, a message would flash to indicate that it was time to use the viewer, effectively making the audience part of the film. The Zorba family was affable and it was easy for audiences to relate to their situation – both on the natural and supernatural levels. The mother and father were kind and thoughtful, the daughter beautiful and charming, and the boy intelligent, playful, and a fan of all things horror. The ghosts, while disturbing, were only half the Zorba family's problem; lawyer Ben Rush was the other half, and quite the problem he was. Viewers genuinely wanted Rush to be caught or killed by the ghosts!

Everything that made 13 Ghosts charming and fun is missing from Thir13en Ghosts. The uncle has gone from eccentric to evil, the ghosts from tortured souls to malevolent, murdering entities, and the family from a loving and caring unit to a collection of individuals to whom the audience cannot relate nor care about, leaving viewers unconcerned for their well-being. The “sprawling old mansion” has been replaced by a super high tech, 3-D Rubik's house and deliberate tension-building sequences with real dialogue were replaced by jump scares and the witty quips that seem to overpopulate today's horror. Whereas 13 Ghosts only had one viewer for all in the family to share, Thir13en Ghosts had several, the better to allow the camera to follow as each member is confronted by one or more of the indiscriminate but vengeful spirits. It revolves around its effects rather allowing the effects to enhance the story.

Final word on the Haunt Off - 13 vs Thir13en:

Do yourself a favor. Save Th13en Ghosts for a popcorn and soda party that never wakes up. Then dim the lights and put on 13 Ghosts instead.

Check out my review of 13 Ghosts, and my review of Thir13en Ghosts .

13 Ghosts – 10/10 claws, fun for the entire family.
Th13en Ghosts - 4/10 claws – All four claws are for the ghosts and the house.

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments

MOVIE REVIEW: Thir13en Ghosts (2001)

By Woofer McWooferson

Thir13en Ghosts (2001) movie poster.

Thir13en Ghosts (2001) movie poster

Director: Steve Beck; Writers: Robb White (story), Neal Marshall Stevens, (screenplay), Richard D'Ovidio (screenplay); Stars: Tony Shalhoub, Matthew Lillard, F. Murray Abraham, Shannon Elizabeth; Rating: R; Run Time: 91 min; Genre: Horror | Mystery | Thriller; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2001

On its own Thir13en Ghosts (co-produced by Terry Castle, the daughter of William Castle) is an entertaining entry in the horror genre that still manages to fall short on many levels. The plot is quite simple: Cyrus Kriticos (F. Murray Abraham), wealthy and eccentric collector, dies and leaves everything to his nephew Arthur (Tony Shaloub) and his family - including his house, fortune, and malicious collection of ghosts that he has captured with the help of Dennis Rafkin (Matthew Lillard), a troubled psychic. As is obvious from the title, the ghosts are the focal point of the inheritance and the biggest hurdle for the family to overcome. Malicious is an understatement as they are angry and vicious, and they take great pleasure in hurting the living.

Thir13en Ghosts is filled with some amazing special effects. Each of the ghosts is a work of art and has a complete backstory that we only glimpse a part of in the movie. That is a real shame as it would have fleshed out the story and given the movie depth. In that same vein, the house itself is another amazing effect and would be seriously cool to live in - well, except for the literally all glass walls. Maybe have one or two private areas. But the nature of the house as a ghost prison is glossed over and only referenced with as having binding spells and their ability to prevent ghosts from crossing. The house shifts and changes, but there is no explanation regarding why or what goal Cyrus had in mind (aside from money, but there are easier ways to make money than collecting ghosts).

It's not a bad movie, but it's not a good movie. The acting, aside from F. Murry Abraham, Tony Shaloub, and Matthew Lillard, leaves much to be desired. The plot is thin and could've been better if they'd taken the time to explain more. The house is awesome, and the ghost effects are great. However, there are too many jump scares and comedic comments of the sort that seem to pervade trendy horror movies these days.

Find out more about Thir13en Ghosts at IMDB. Check out part 1 where I review William Castle's 13 Ghosts, the film that inspired this remake, and watch for part 3 where I compare the father's and the daughter's films.

4/10 claws - All four claws are for the ghosts and the house

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments