I was recently asked by Man Crates what would be the essential things I would want with me were I to find myself in a horror film. They’re a company that creates awesome gifts for men packaged in wooden crates opened with a crowbar; they wanted to know how I’d fill a crate to survive the whole movie. It seems difficult, since the horror genre is so varied. Wooden stakes would seem like a pretty good choice if you found yourself dealing with vampires, but what if you gather your wooden stakes only to find yourself in a werewolf movie, or a slasher?
Depending on the vampire movie, wooden stakes may not even do you any good. Ideally, you want something that’s easy to carry, lightweight, and can help you in the most situations. Something that is an “I win” button against a particular type of monster that may be chasing you is putting all of your eggs in one basket, and that’s flirting with disaster. So, the first question is: Do you want to fight back or run away?
A weapon was my first thought. You can only run in the movies for so long before whatever it is catches up to you. Even previously drowned kids drowned and turned into lumbering psychopaths seem to have the speed of a cheetah when the cameras aren’t watching. Eventually, you’re going to have to face that thing down. Guns are right out. Not only do you have to deal with the fact that ammo runs out at the worst possible time, many of the monsters you may face shrug them off. If you’ve brought your Glock in the hopes of getting… Continue reading
A sound collage from the DAMAGED Hearing 2006 Halloween Special, utilizing musical loops, movie clips, soundboards, sound effects, high frequencies and low pitches, backwards masking, and villainous unmasking. Constructed by Louis Fowler and recorded live on the air at KRFC Studios on October 31st, 2006.
Lincoln Taggert (Ronen Rubinstein) is a teen who is tormented by his classmates and his father (Andrew Bryniarski). One day he lashes out against one of the bullies at school injuring him, so Lincoln is sent to a camp for troubled teens. Lincoln makes fast friends with a fellow outcast named Isaac (Spencer Breslin, yes Abigail’s older brother) and an attractive young lady named Kaitlin (Grace Phipps). That’s pretty much where the good times end for Lincoln as he is swiftly targeted by the camp’s bullies led by the preppy and arrogant Willie (Maestro Harrell). Enter Moira (Sierra McCormick), a vengeful ghost that Lincoln inadvertently summons when he wishes all of his tormentors dead. What follows is sort of like if Moaning Myrtle killed Draco Malfoy and his friends on behalf of Harry Potter and Co.
First-time director Adam Egypt Mortimer does a competent job presenting the screenplay that he wrote with co-writer Brian DeLeeuw. My blood boiled as I watched Lincoln pushed around by all of the assholes in his life and I wanted to them reap the whirlwind as much as the character probably did. Ronan Rubinstein really sells the tortured teen bit during the first act of the film. His performance succeeds in bringing the audience on as an ally. It’s when the stakes are raised and the supernatural elements are trotted out at the end of the second act that we see cracks in the facade. When gravitas is called for in some of the dialogue driven scenes, Rubinstein’s delivery plays comically understated. This could be a deliberate choice, but it doesn’t jive too well with the film’s otherwise heavy subject matter. That said, Rubinstein is a striking screen presence that reminded me a… Continue reading
The holiday season is generally seen as the most magical time of the year, but not all of that magic is seen as good magic. In ancient European folklore, particularly German and Austro-Bavarian Alpine folklore, the horned-devil known as “Krampus” is the darker magical counterpart to St. Nicholas. While St. Nick rewards the good children with gifts and treats, Krampus is said to punish naughty children and take them back to his underworld – and this holiday season, the Christmas villain took the the screen once again in the not exactly self-titled movie, Krampus.
In this movie telling, the premise varies slightly from the original folklore legend in that the creature comes to punish not only misbehaving children, but anyone who has lost the Christmas spirit – children and adults alike, no one is safe from the Krampus. Summoned initially by a child who has become disillusioned with Christmas, the demon of the movie also seemingly grants one wish for that child, albeit in a very twisted way.
Directed by Michael Dougherty of Trick ‘r Treat fame, the movie stars Adam Scott and Toni Collette as parents Tom and Sarah Engel, Emjay Anthony as Max Engel, and Krista Stadler as the German grandmother Omi Engel. When Max loses his Christmas spirit due to the particularly horrible behavior of his cousins and their visiting family, he unwittingly summons the spirit of Krampus. What ensues is part horror, comedy and redemption story reminiscent of A Christmas Carol – and at one point, Omi explains the “Krampus” legend and describes her own personal experience with the demon during her childhood.
As the movie progresses, the initially disparate members of this dysfunctional extended family find they have to work together if they are to survive the onslaught of Krampus and… Continue reading
It’s the time of year when the weather gets colder, the leaves change color, and horror films bound across your cable channels each and every night leading up to the 31st. Horror films have us gripping the edge of our seats at the best of times, but never more so than during Halloween. In honor of this spooky holiday, we’re detouring into the particularly devious sub-genre of home invasion horror – films that play on our deepest fear of never feeling safe again even in our own houses.
Funny Games (2007)
Two young, seemingly wholesome, boy-next-door types turn out to be psychopathic killers playing sadistic games on vacationing families. These games are played according to a strict and preordained set of rules that end with the deaths of their victims before a predetermined deadline. This film adds an artistic and sometimes literary twist as it utilizes the “breaking of the fourth wall” effect since the killers acknowledge an outside audience (us) and even “rewind” the action when one of their victims is perceived to be acting outside the rules of the game.
Panic Room (2002)
A recently divorced mother, Meg Altman played by Jodie Foster, and diabetic daughter (Kristen Stewart) take refuge in a panic room built into their recently purchased Manhattan brownstone when three men break in to steal several million dollars’ worth of bonds. This story was inspired by the vast amount of news on panic rooms at the time and was praised for its portrayal of feminism and diabetes. In retrospect, Meg probably could have taken advantage of their high tech security system as the thieves broke into their house with incredible ease.
You’re Next (2011)
I made a silly fake movie trailer in iMovie to commemorate our recent trip to Salem, Massachusetts. Salem is a great city, and a visit should be on every horror fan’s bucket list. We’ll talk all about it on Episode 432 of the podcast. Enjoy!
A young family deals with their son’s sudden strange behavior after a visit to a secluded Christmas tree field. Students film a documentary in an abandoned building where unsolved murders occurred. A prodigal nephew goes to a country manor to beg money from a wealthy aunt, only to put his entire family in danger of being slaughtered by Krampus. All this plays out, while Santa deals with a zombie elf outbreak in the toy shop. Interwoven throughout the action are scenes of William Shatner doing his Shatner thing in all of its hypnotic glory.
Fans of the Ginger Snaps films will be happy to return to the little town of Bailey Downs in the new anthology feature A Christmas Horror Story. The film opens on a computer generated North Pole (one of Christmas’ few weaknesses is this cheap looking fractal landscape and architectural animation). A wounded, battle-ready Santa Claus stands in the reindeer stable, chest heaving, a bleeding claw wound on his face. The structure is under siege from an unseen force banging at the doors. Bright white light shines through the widening gap in the doors as whatever waits outside tries to get in. The film cuts to 12 hours earlier and DJ Dangerous Dan (William Shatner) is broadcasting from a lonely radio station on Christmas Eve. It’s just Dan and his Scrooge-esque producer, Norman. Visibly disgusted by Dan’s Christmas cheer, Norman storms out of the station, DJ Dan tells listeners that Norman is on his way to the Bailey Downs Mall for a radio remote broadcast.
The film is cleverly constructed. The Dangerous Dan scenes seem, at first, to serve as a classic horror… Continue reading
I just got back from watching Guillermo Del Toro’s newest film, Crimson Peak, and holy balls was it a doozy. Doozy in a good way? Was it doozy like, “Oh Jesus that was a doozy!” (followed by a derisive eye roll). Well, read on MacDuff, read on.
Just the Facts Ma’am:
Crimson Peak is basically, When Edith Met Thomas. It starts off in turn-of-the-century Buffalo, NY. Edith (played by the radiant Mia Wasikowska) is a headstrong young woman; an aspiring writer who models herself after Mary Shelley, and prefers to write ghost stories over love stories. Her father is a wealthy, self-made man whose business involves the design and construction of buildings. Thusly, we meet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston, smoldering as ever). He’s a baronet with a small landholding in England who has invented a machine that will mine clay for bricks more efficiently. He only has a model version and has come to ask Edith’s father and his associates to invest in his idea. Edith’s dad doesn’t like the looks of this kid one bit and is really not loving how much attention Sharpe is paying his daughter. He’d like to see her get cozy with the nice young Opthamologist, Dr. McMichaels (Charlie Hunnam, less hammy than in Pacific Rim) but Edith has got the puppy-dog eyes for Thomas. The young baronet and his sister are being hosted by a number of families who are impressed with the idea of actual European aristocracy but Edith’s dad just isn’t having it. Plots unfold, this and that happens and eventually Thomas and Edith wind up married and heading across the sea to England to live in the crumbling family Manor, Allerdale Hall, also known as Crimson Peak because of the way the red clay stains the snow.… Continue reading
I have an awful memory, and I often find myself asking my husband or friends if I liked a movie I saw if some time has passed. So now I tweet my movie feelings almost immediately after watching so I have that record for myself later on. This was my tweet after Hellions:
Saw Hellions. Did not understand Hellions.
— Amy Morris (@amynotlp) September 20, 2015
Hellions has a great concept – it’s Halloween night and our protagonist is a teenage girl facing an unexpected pregnancy in a fun, creepy town protected by Sheriff Robert Patrick. Teen mom is home alone waiting for her boyfriend when a bunch of spooky, silent kids start ringing the doorbell for candy. But they aren’t really kids and they don’t want candy. Things get muddy from there. Our teen mom is trapped in the house fighting off the spooky not-kids and the audience is treated to some bizarre voiceovers and hallucinations and some very pretty lighting filters, but it doesn’t really boil down to much I could understand. Clearly the spooky not-kids want Teen Mom’s baby, but why is not adequately explained. And what they are isn’t clear either. But they look great. Visually, Hellions is neat. Story-wise, I just wasn’t sure it was what I wanted it to be. It was confusing.
Final Rating: ** / *****
HELLIONS – IFC Midnight
VOD AND iTUNES: September 18, 2015
DIRECTED BY: Bruce McDonald
CAST: Chloe Rose, Robert Patrick, Rossif Sutherland
SYNOPSIS: A teenager must survive a Halloween night from Hell when malevolent trick-or-treaters come knocking at her door.
RUNTIME: 80 minutes
RATING: Not Rated
DISTRIBUTOR: IFC Midnight
From Ian Holm’s portrayal of Ashe in Alien to Brent Spiner’s Data in Star Trek, our fascination with realistic Artificial Intelligence has evolved over time. The premise is certainly not a new one, but it still touches us at a primal level: What does it mean to be human? The old adage of “if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…” is ultimately one of identity and identification. If it looks human and acts human, well… That’s a question that has tripped us up for decades.
UNCANNY is the story of a gifted young scientist, David (Mark Webber), who has spent the last 10 years of his life willingly locked away in a Tony Stark-esque candyland with state of the art technology creating the most realistic artificial intelligence the world has ever seen: Adam (David Clayton Rogers). Funded by the mysterious Mr. Castle (Rainn Wilson), all’s well in this little tech Biodome until Joy (Lucy Griffiths), the reporter brought in to do a story on Adam, arrives. Emotions flare and tensions rise as a male robot with developing human emotions, an emotionally stunted male scientist, and a techno-obsessed former-roboticist female reporter are in close proximity for a week.
UNCANNY is, at its core, a good story and a solid premise. The filming and visuals are executed well, and the acting is solid. The limited cast does an admirable job of dealing with the cumbersome dialogue, which follows the tradition of Star Trek with its pseudo-science technological banter. The ambient audio seems to fade in and out oddly for much of the film, which is slightly distracting but remains a mild nuisance at worst. By and large, it is a polished production speaking to the talents of those involved.
Without giving too much away (as… Continue reading