Samuel Glass Jr

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 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 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
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Seven – 10/07/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Seven – 10/07/18

10/07 – 1993: BODY SNATCHERS

 

 

 

Of the approximately half-dozen remakes there have been, since director DON SIEGEL first terrified the world with INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, based on Jack Finney’s timeless sci-fi terror tale, two standout versions are, for me, the smartest of the bunch. The first is PHILIP KAUFMAN’S dark satirizing of the San Francisco “self-awareness” scene back in 1978, and BODY SNATCHERS, the often-unsung version directed by genre favorite ABEL FERRARA (MS. .45, KING OF NEW YORK, FEAR CITY, BAD LIEUTENANT).  Ferrara’s ferocious, take-no-prisoners sensibility and dark sense of humor was a glove-like fit for an adaptation worked on by no less than five writers, which included STUART GORDON, DENNIS PAOLI and LARRY COHEN.

The oft-told story was still very flexible in terms of where it could be set and how it reflected the times in which it was being re-told. And what better place to set a story about assimilation, blind compliance and loss of identity, than on an ARMY BASE? Brilliant.

 

 

 

 

 

GABRIELLE ANWAR (SCENT OF A WOMAN) plays Marti Malone, the oldest daughter of the Malone family, along with dad Steve (TERRY KINNEY of HBO’S OZ), and little brother Andy (REILLY MURPHY).

As good as everyone is in the cast, though, the must-see performance of the film comes from…MEG TILLY as mom, Carol Malone. Yeah, the same Meg Tilly you knew from THE BIG CHILL is here to deliver a “bigger chill” of a totally different kind, with a monologue that’s as chilling as any pivotal “possession” scene in the other versions, including the original.

Filming at an actual base as well as the surrounding areas in Selma, Alabama, Ferrara and DP BOJAN BAZELLI (PUMPKINHEAD) were able to infuse this version of Finney’s story with the same sharp sense of dread and paranoia that is inherent in the other successful versions.

  

Other interested parties who become involved in the nightmarish events that begin to engulf both the soldiers on base and civilians alike, include characters played by BILLY WIRTH (THE LOST BOYS), CHRISTINE ELISE, (CHILD’S PLAY 2), R. LEE ERMEY (FULL METAL JACKET) and FOREST WHITAKER (THE CRYING GAME, A RAGE IN HARLEM).

There’s so much more I want to say about this ‘hidden’ gem, but once again, it’s one of those cases where the less I spoil for you, the better it will be if you’re seeing it for the first time. In fact, try doing a ‘double’ with this and the Kaufman version!

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FAMILY HORROR, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, SCI-FI HORROR, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Eight – 10/08/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Eight – 10/08/18

10/08 – 1994: INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE was the novel that crowned High Priestess of Gothic Horror ANNE RICE as the “Doyenne of the Dracula Set.” A lot of excitement and buzz swirled around the news that Warner Brothers was out to transform it into a feature film, with no less than THE COMPANY OF WOLVES and THE CRYING GAME director NEIL JORDAN at the helm.  There was absolutely no way they could go wrong.  The story of “Louis and Lestat” seemed primed for absolute success.

And then…they cast it. Uh-oh.

   

BRAD PITT as Louis. Okay, not what I had in mind when reading the book, but I could buy it. STEPHEN REA. ANTONIO BANDERAS, in a cameo that made you want to see a movie just about his character. THANDIE NEWTON, in a small role that eventually would put her on the path to that magnificent performance in HBO’S series version of WESTWORLD. CHRISTIAN SLATER as the “interviewer” the title refers to. And as Lestat…TOM CRUISE.

WHO…????

I’m sure anyone who remembers being there, recalls the absolute eruption of anger that piece of casting news caused. And no, I wasn’t exactly jazzed about it, either. Tom Cruise has always been good at being…Tom Cruise. RISKY BUSINESS. COCKTAIL. TOP GUN. That guy. The one time I could see him giving his all to really disappear into a role was playing Ron Kovic in BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, which admittedly was quite the departure for him. But a horror film about the eternally high-falutin’ undead? Especially a character familiar to fans of the books (and many who opined that DAVID BOWIE should’ve had that role)? Before a single frame of film was shot, it was pretty much a sure bet for deeply invested Louis-and-Lestat fans, that this flick was destined to tank at the box office.

Here’s the thing, though: once Anne Rice gave her own ‘seal of approval’ to Tom’s casting, the furor died down.  Well, at least a little. I remember reading that book at least a dozen times and thinking of either Bowie or someone like, say, JULIAN SANDS in the part, and that I’d have to hold my nose and go see it anyway, in order to support not only Neil Jordan and Anne, but ‘take one for the team’, for horror’s sake across the board.

Here’s the other thing: Tom wasn’t terrible.  It didn’t seem to me as if he completely botched the role, but I don’t think he gave it the “oomph” that the absolute right actor could have. (Unfortunately, perfect possibilities like AMERICAN HORROR STORY’S EVAN PETERS, or GAME OF THRONES’ HARRY LLOYD (“Viserys Targaryen”) hadn’t been discovered yet.)

Besides, between his ‘not bad’ performance and Brad Pitt’s good one (I always wonder what would’ve happened if they’d switched roles), nobody anticipated that the relative newcomer, KIRSTEN DUNST as a century-older-than-her-years Claudia, would steal the movie away from everybody! If the casting of the leads was somewhat problematic, there was NO question in anyone’s mind about her. She was Claudia.

The New Orleans setting for the story of the eternally youthful, eternally sorrowful Louis, and his dysfunctional “vampire family” couldn’t have been more suitable for Jordan’s dark sense of vision, gorgeously photographed by legendary DP PHILIPPE ROUSSELOT (BIG FISH, CONSTANTINE, THE BRAVE ONE), along with stunning visual and makeup FX helping bring Rice’s characters and situations to unforgettable life.

And it’s all helped along by a captivatingly baroque and sometimes thunderous score by ELLIOT GOLDENTHAL (IN DREAMS, PET SEMATARY, ALIEN 3), who at times seems to be trying to “out-Zimmer” HANS ZIMMER, and yet with a tale this outrageous, the cues and themes never seem to be overwhelming or out-of-place.

If anything, I hope if you’ve never seen this, that you’ll take the book for a spin first. (Yes, for my taste, the books are always better than the movies.)  Even if you aren’t a Tom Cruise fan – and it will work better for those who are – there’s much to discover, and eventually fall in love with about this movie.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, HORROR HEROES, OPINION, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, VAMPIRES, 0 comments
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Six – 10/06/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Six – 10/06/18

10/06 – 1992: CANDYMAN

“It was always you, Helen…”

All you have to do is say that to someone, and then watch as they shudder as if a big spider just moonwalked across the back of their neck. If that’s the reaction they give you, then you know they’re probably a fan of CANDYMAN.  Besides Stephen King, Ira Levin and Dean Koontz, not many writers have had the indelible, undeniable impact on the horror genre that CLIVE BARKER has, and if HELLRAISER had been his only contribution, his legacy would have been set. But the man wrote such compelling, irresistibly addictive stories that begged to be adapted for the screen (though the success of doing so is another thing entirely,) that other filmmakers took the plunge to try and replicate what he did with his touchstone of a film.

 

For my money, the only person who’s been about as successful as Barker has in translating his own tales is British director BERNARD ROSE (PAPERHOUSE), a stunning visual fantasist in his own right, on par with the likes of MARY LAMBERT and GUILLERMO DEL TORO. No one could’ve been a better fit for CANDYMAN than Rose, and it shows in every frame.  Based on Barker’s tale, “The Forbidden”, there hadn’t been a story like this before, that encapsulated the themes of racism, classism, misogyny, poverty, mythology and the supernatural quite like this.

Helen Lyle (the radiant VIRGINIA MADSEN of such cult hits as DUNE and ELECTRIC DREAMS) is a grad student working on her dissertation, about how urban myths affect the landscape and people in impoverished areas, and vice versa. The main target of her research is Chicago’s notorious Cabrini Green projects, where she comes to learn about the ultimate horror story: the gruesome and tragic tale of Daniel Robitaille, a.k.a. “The Candyman.”

An artistically-talented black man who dared to fall in love with a white woman, Daniel payed the ultimate price, losing a hand and having honeycombs filled with live bees shoved into his chest cavity, as a gruesomely fatal form of torture.  And now, he has become legend: say his name three times in front of a mirror, and his vengeance-hungry ghost will appear, to deliver a demise you wouldn’t want to imagine.

Ever the cynical academic, Helen believes less than nothing about the things she actually writes about, so she decides to try and conjure him up. Imagine her shock, terror and dread fascination…when she succeeds.

Now Candyman is laying waste to people in her life (some way more deserving of a brutal death than others), and letting her take the fall for it, trying to break her down physically and psychologically, so that soon she will have no choice but to join him and “be his victim” forever…and become ‘legend’ as he has.

Director Rose’s surrealist sensibilities were the perfect platform with which to elevate Barker’s tale to a whole new level as a film, thanks in no small part to DP ANTHONY B. RICHMOND (DON’T LOOK NOW, RAVENOUS, AUTOPSY).  And the actors were more than happy to tackle and own their roles in this endeavor: Madsen has never been a more beautiful combination of strength and vulnerability – even in DUNE, which hardly gave her as much to do as she has here – and CANDYMAN is the role that finally made genre actor TONY TODD a household name, and with good reason. He slips into the skin and psyche of Daniel Robitaille like it was the role he was born to play, which isn’t far from the truth.

Plus a great supporting cast that includes KASI LEMMONS (THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) as Helen’s best friend; XANDER BERKELEY (GATTACA, AIR FORCE ONE, TAPEHEADS and way too many other credits to list here) as Helen’s faithless other half; VANESSA WILLIAMS, (a.k.a. VANESSA L. WILLIAMS), TED RAIMI, and STANLEY DESANTIS in an unforgettable cameo as Helen’s condescending headshrinker.

And just when you think it couldn’t get any better, iconoclastic composer PHILIP GLASS contributed what has to be his best and most beloved score after KOYAANISQATSI, a sumptuous, reverent and almost religious musical landscape that intensifies in majesty to match the onscreen horror, (a style of composition that would later be replicated by other composers as diverse as ELIOTT GOLDENTHAL and MICHAEL NYMAN & DAMON ALBARN.)

CANDYMAN isn’t just a piece of horror mastery as worthy and as iconic as A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET or FRIDAY THE 13TH, but a necessary item in every dyed-in-the-wool horror lover’s library.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, HALLOWEEN, HORROR HEROES, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, PARANORMAL, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, URBAN DECAY/DYSTOPIAN FUTURES, 1 comment
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Five – 10/05/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Five – 10/05/18

10/05 – 1991: THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.  Or “When Starling Met Lecter.” Oh, yes.  The horror film that famously – or infamously – swept the Oscars. And no, I don’t give two shits in a high wind how people have tried to re-classify it: “psychological drama”, “police procedural”, “intense crime thriller.” Bullshit. When people like Larry Cohen, William Lustig and Abel Ferrara have made similarly-themed films, critics looked so far down their noses at those guys and their work, their condescending eyeballs nearly rolled out of their skulls. But because the film had a high-toned pedigree both in front of and behind the camera, they nearly broke their spines bending over backwards to call it anything else but what it is. And what it will always be to me: a very well-made horror film.

Unless you started cave-dwelling at the top of 1991 and hadn’t emerged until now, you know all about this masterpiece from late, great, extraordinary director JONATHAN DEMME: rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling (a peerless performance by JODIE FOSTER) is given a dog’s dinner of a task. An elusive serial killer by the name of Buffalo Bill, a.k.a. Jame Gumb – who got his nickname from the score of women he’s kidnapped, tortured, killed and then skinned (in that very order, if they were lucky) -is on the loose, and to help try and catch him, Clarice has to consult the one brilliant doctor who might know exactly how to find and stop this madman.

But that’s the catch.  That ‘doctor’ is one Hannibal Lecter (SIR ANTHONY HOPKINS in the role that won him the Oscar), and though his IQ is through the roof, he’s even more insane than Bill. Buffalo Bill skins people. Dr. Lecter eats them.  (Your best, snarky “Jack Sprat” comment goes here.)

And did I mention that this film gives you a “two-fer”? Actually, so much more than that. On one level, you have the battle of wills between Hannibal and Clarice, which also has the underpinnings of a creepy yet fascinating kind of ‘love’ story: Lecter’s keen intellect and spooky proclivity for reading and dissecting people and their minds with a single glance, versus Starling’s quiet, almost unflappable reserve and steely resolve. Then on yet another level, you have the whole woman-trying-to-break-the-glass-ceiling, as she has to endure the usual indignities of surviving and trying to thrive in what is essentially an old boys’ club.

And yet still on a third level, you have the harrowing Buffalo Bill story, as Clarice and the Feds race against time to save his latest victim from becoming part of the ‘skin suit’ he is meticulously sewing together, to…transform? Possess women’s bodies in the most extreme way possible? With someone this crazy, who knows?

Adapted by TED TALLY, from the insanely popular bestseller written by THOMAS HARRIS, to serve as the second part of his “Lecter Trilogy” (beginning with RED DRAGON and ending with the controversial HANNIBAL), this one had it all: legendary cinematographer TAK FUJIMOTO on camera; HOWARD SHORE taking care of the tense and unsettling score, and a supporting cast of aces that included Demme’s old mentor ROGER CORMAN, DIANE BAKER, SCOTT GLENN, CHARLES NAPIER, KASI LEMMONS, FRANKIE FAISON, BROOKE SMITH in a career-defining role as a stubborn victim; ANTHONY HEALD as Hannibal’s doctor, who manages to out-sneer even WILLIAM ATHERTON for the “Completely, Insufferably Smarmy” Award.

And most importantly of all, the “shoulda-been-nominated”-worthy turn by TED LEVINE as Jame/Bill, who gave us the chillingly phenomenal and iconic scene with the killer that was composed almost on the spot by him and Demme, (if you’ve seen the movie even once, you know the scene I’m talking about: “Goodbye Horses.”)

And once you’ve glimpsed this top-notch tale of tension, terror and one of the most nail-biting climactic confrontations ever commended to film, director Michael Mann’s version of ‘Red Dragon,” MANHUNTER – the one that really started it all – is more than worth your time to check out, as well as the lesser but still stunning remake, RED DRAGON; the third movie in the trilogy, HANNIBAL, with JULIANNE MOORE subbing for Foster and genre maven RIDLEY SCOTT directing, and even HANNIBAL RISING, the prequel that attempted to tell Lecter’s back story, with a mixed amount of success.

 

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, HALLOWEEN, HORROR HEROES, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments
HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Four – 10/04/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Four – 10/04/18

10/04 – 1990: JACOB’S LADDER

 

I was a pretty big Adrian Lyne fan when JACOB’S LADDER came out. I mean, come on! FOXES, FLASHDANCE, FATAL ATTRACTION, NINE AND A HALF WEEKS.  If anyone had the kind of eccentric visual flair that would translate very well into horror, it would be him. Plus, the script was by BRUCE JOEL RUBIN (BRAINSTORM, GHOST, DEADLY FRIEND). How could I not anticipate this movie?

Well, anticipate it, I did.  And hate it, I did, too (sorry for the “Yoda-isms”). But the strong emotions that it evoked in me and the audience I saw it with – who were about as pissed-off as I was by the ending – may have been Lyne’s intention all along. It just took me a decade or two to realize that. And now I kind of see it in a different light than before, because…why? I can relate to it better, now that time has passed, and I have a bit more life experience under my belt? Maybe.  But enough about me. The movie is what’s important here, and if you’ve never seen it before, it’s one of those where you owe yourself the chance to start it at the very least.  As with any cinema, you can always bail if you’re not into it.

TIM ROBBINS plays Jacob Singer, a Vietnam vet affected by a pretty severe case of a kind of dissociative disorder. In English, that means he has an extreme problem keeping fantasies, nightmares and delusions separated from reality, and that’s if he can keep track of when and where they happened.  Or even if they happened to him at all.

He may be back ‘in country’, but it doesn’t appear that he came back alone, as he is constantly bombarded with horrific visions and images that only he is able to see. He literally brought his demons back from the war with him, and they seem ready to skin him alive…and do things much, much worse than that.

Only two seemingly bright spots in his life give him a reason not to go completely fucking looney tunes: his sympathetic girlfriend, Jezzie (ELIZABETH PENA) and a good friend who’s also his “doctor”, Louis (DANNY AIELLO.)

It seems that the harder Jacob tries to run from the apparitions pursuing him, (in a series of eerily shot, terrifying set-pieces), the more intense and terrifying his experiences become, leading to a climax where…well, I won’t say here, but I will give you a hint: think back to when you studied Ambrose Bierce in high school English. And for you more literate types, that is one helluva huge spoiler.

JACOB’S LADDER was, to my knowledge, my first exposure to the concept of an ‘unreliable narrator’, where the lead character you’re invested in either purposefully, or through no fault of his or her own, are caught up in circumstances that convince you that one thing is happening, until you find out at the end that everything you thought you knew was dead wrong.  Which explained the pissed-off audience.  And little did I know – it wouldn’t be the last time I encountered this kind of thing in a film, especially a horror film.

But overall, Lyne, the cheeky bastard, did a splendid job of mind-fucking his viewers, as he should have, following the Rubin script. And it is pretty much one of Tim Robbins’ best performances.  Not to mention that the striking and disorienting special visual FX were the kind of images that no one had really seen at that time – not outside of a weird MTV video, anyway. Now, it’s par for the course for many horror films, and usually considered “tried-and-true.” Whether or not I think it’s Lyne’s best work is irrelevant now.  When people ask about good horror films with a Vietnam theme, I always mention JACOB’S LADDER in the same breath as Bob Clark’s groundbreaking cult classic, DEATHDREAM, or even “ANTHONY M. DAWSON’S” CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, PARANORMAL, SATANIC/DEMONIC, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments