I have posted this many times: it is still my favorite tribute to the Master of the Macabre!
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Adam Green, I really, really want to like your films. You seem like a cool guy, you are very knowledgeable about the horror genre and you even like cats! But I have not liked a single one of your films. Hatchet was a let down, Frozen jumped the shark with the wolves, and Hatchet 2 took me two weeks to watch.
So it pains me to write this review (not as much as it pained me to watch the movie, and not nearly as much as it will pain you, my dear reader, to read my review.) Lets start with the positive: some of the kills were quite inventive. My favorite was the doggie style beheading. See the film and you will know what I am talking about. The gore effects are good, and Tony Todd gives it his all (as usual) as Reverend Zombie, the Voodoo master/charlatan who has a strong, financial reason to clear the swamp of the dreaded Victor Crowley.
Now to the bad: the film was really boring. Danielle Harris plays Marybeth, the only survivor from the first film. She leads a ragtag group of hunters back in to the swamp to gather the remains of her family and kill Victor Crowley for good. No one she brings with her is very interesting with the exception of Reverend Zombie. Tom Holland, Director of Fright Night and Child's Play has a role as Marybeth's Uncle, whom Zombie requested join the group. His character is not interesting, it just interesting that Green got Holland to do the film.
Green gives Crowley some more back story, and Kane Hodder returns as both Victor and his Father. It is made clear in this film that Crowley is actually a ghost: a very pissed off ghost that can kill people. Why Marybeth or Zombie thinks they can shut him down for good is beyond me. In any case, this is the Green explains why Crowley can't be killed and what distinguishes it from other slasher films.
Frozen was a big improvement over Hatchet (and much better than Hatchet 2) and I look forward to seeing Green's next film. I just hope it isn't another Hatchet. He was heading in the right direction with Frozen. Keep heading in that direction Mr. Green.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Thursday, May 19, 2011
The 1981 Slasher was one of the first films from "Miramax." Yes, before producing such Oscar bait as The English Patient and The King's Speech (which I still can't believe beat The Social Network for best picture), the Brothers Weinstein were making cheapo Friday the 13th rip-offs. The Burning begins when a Summer Camp prank goes horribly wrong. Four teenagers decide to get even with mean old "Cropsy", the caretaker at the camp. The prank goes pretty well until Cropsy catches on fire. Five years later, Cropsy is released from the hospital after a series of unsuccessful skin grafts. After killing a prostitute, Cropsy returns to the woods to wreak havoc on on the "they are to old for summer camp" teenagers staying there.
After what seems to be a million false scares, Cropsy starts a killin' and maiming a group that have gone on an extended canoe trip. Included in this group are Jason Alexander (with a full head of hair: he is a teenager but looks about 35), Holly Hunter (who has one line but probably comes of best here), and one of my least favorite actors in the world, Fisher Stevens. I have no reason for disliking Fisher Stevens really, I just do. If him and Shia LaBeouf were in a film together, even if it was the most awesome thing ever filmed, I would probably actively protest it. If Julia Roberts also starred, my head might explode.
Back to the film. Cropsy targets the usual suspects: teenagers having sex, the loner weirdo, anyone who goes off in the woods by themselves. There are a few things different about this Slasher that I liked. The first is the infamous "raft" scene. I had heard about this and Tom Savini's amazing make-up and special effects work on it. What I did not expect is how scary it was. The build is well done, and when the actual slaughtering begins, it is quick and dirty and shocking. I loved it. The second thing I liked about this film is there is a lot of carnage, but also a lot of survivors. Most of the kids make it out, and instead of a "final girl" we get two "final guys," including one who really should have been killed off. It was different, and that is surprising in a cookie cutter slasher. I also loved the 80's fashions. They are really the best.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I love fashion but don't talk about it much, due in part to the fact that I possess no fashion sense of my own. I did come across the designer Jean Charles de Castelbajac recently and I am totally obsessed. I think even a horror hound could love his work. Check it out at http://www.jc-de-castelbajac.com/index.html
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Dragonwyck is not a horror film, despite the awesome name and the Vincent Price-ness. It is a Gothic romance in the tradition of Rebecca but with a much less happy ending. Recommended to me by my parents (!), Dragonwyck stars a very young, handsome, tall Vincent Price as Nicholas Van Ryn, a 19th century wealthy American land owner. Van Ryn is a Patroon, the American equivalent of a feudal lord. I didn't know such things ever existed, but they did. Gene Tierney plays the young, naive Miranda Wells, a distant relation of Van Ryn. When Van Ryn writes her family and offers to hire her as a Governess for his young daughter, Miranda jumps at the chance to escape her provincial existence.
Miranda is beautiful and innocent, the complete opposite of Van Ryn's wife. He falls in love with his young charge, and she with him. The only thing left to do is murder the wife and marry the Governess, which happens in short order. Miranda knows nothing of the murder part. She only knows that she loves Van Ryn, despite some serious warnings from local villagers and the help about him and Dragonwyck. Not only is the house haunted (a strange little subplot that really goes nowhere) but Van Ryn is haunted too. When their child, a son, dies, Van Ryn goes crazy ala Henry VIII.
Well, he doesn't as much go crazy as he becomes a raving drug addict. It is up to the local Doctor to save Miranda from the out of control Patroon.
From what I understand this was one of Vincent Price's first "leading man" roles. He is amazing. Handsome, dangerous, brooding: perfect for Van Ryn. You could see why Miranda would fall in love with him, and despite all of his terrible deeds, you feel sorry for him in the end. Dragonwyck is a good Gothic romance with just enough atmosphere to keep a horror fan interested.
Gene Tierney and Vincent Price made four films together. Dragonwyck, Laura, Hudson's Bay, and one of the creepiest films I have ever seen, Leave her to Heaven. Gene Tierney gives an incredible performance in Leave her to Heaven. Price has a small role in the film, but as usual he is top notch. If you find yourself with nothing to do on a dark and stormy night may I suggest a Gene Tierney/Vincent Price movie marathon? I would substitute The Ghost and Mrs. Muir for Hudson's Bay. It doesn't have Price in it, but Rex Harrison's ghost is a sight to behold!
Monday, May 2, 2011
There is a lot of affection in the blogosphere for Lady in White. The film, made in 1988 and seen by everyone except for me, tells the story of Frankie Scarlatti (played by Lukas Haas), a young boy growing up in the early sixties. Frankie lives a pretty idyllic life, with a loving father and older brother, and two eccentric Italian grandparents to provide comic relief. Of course, his mother is dead, but that is pretty typical for a film such as this. One afternoon, on Halloween, Frankie is locked in the cloakroom of his school by a couple of bullies (now a days they would just trash him on Facebook.) Frankie falls asleep and when he wakes he is greeted by the ghost of a little singing "Did you ever see a dream?" by Bing Crosby. The girl sees him as well, but before they can communicate Frankie witnesses her being BRUTALLY MURDERED in front of his eyes. If that isn't enough to ruin your day he then is attacked by the REAL KILLER, who just happens to return to the cloakroom to retrieve an item he may have lost during the murder years ago. Frankie isn't killed, but he is injured, and the drunk black janitor is accused of the crime. Frankie doesn't know who attacked him, and this being 1962 the cops throw the janitor in prison and throw away the key.
Up until the cloakroom scene Lady in White reminded me of films such as A Christmas Story. It seemed like a nostalgic look back on childhood, a time when everything was simple and magic. What this film is really trying to emulate is To Kill a Mockingbird. Yes, everything is simple and magic but then something really shitty happens and you have to grow up fast. The child murder (albeit of a ghost child but still shocking) really jolted me. The problem is, the tone of the film does not change after this horrific event. I mean, the brother and grandparents are still providing comic relief, the father is still too strangely affectionate and caring, and Frankie still looks and acts like a moron. Although now he is a moron being visited by a ghost. The ghost, the first victim of a serial child killer, asks Frankie to help find her "mom." Turns out Mom killed herself after the serial killer got to her a child. I am so confused by this movie.
Who is dead? Who is alive? Who cares! By the time Katherine Helmond showed up as a "Lady in White" I had pretty much checked out. It was pretty easy to figure out who the killer was, but honestly I was hoping half the time it would turn out to be Frankie's Dad. It wouldn't surprise me with this movie. The Director, Frank LaLoggia, throws so much at the screen (including an overbearing soundtrack composed by.....Frank LaLoggia) that nothing seems to stick. The film aspires to greatness. It looks great and the performances are well done (even Haas, who I have always had a problem with much like my problem with Shia LaBeouf). It is trying to say something about racism and I guess child abuse, but it mixes this all up with jokes about masturbation and other shenanigans that come straight out of The Wonder Years. Oh yeah, and there are ghosts.
I missed this film when I was a kid and perhaps if I had seen it then I would have a different reaction to it now. Not every film we see and love as a kid is that great. I mean, I must of watched Night of the Comet 50 times as a kid. I couldn't even sit though it now. I had no clue what Lady in White was about except for the ghost aspect. I think I had it in my mind that it was a scary ghost story. Instead, it looks like it was made for kids (except for the child murdering).
I think the Netflix gods were trying to tell me something. This movie sat on my table for 2 months. They were saying "you are not going to like this movie even though everyone else does..." They were right!