Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Exorcist (1973) Entered As Part Of The Horror Canon

I toyed with the idea of making the first entry into The Horror Canon a lesser known or less popular title, just to shake things up. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the true horror classics were going to prove their belonging no matter what I tried to do. So, I just got out of the way and let the films speak for themselves. The first to stand up to the test...

Everybody has an opinion on this film. No matter if you love it or hate it, there's no denying the stamp this film has put on our culture. The Catholic Church has pronounced the actual film negative itself evil. Pea soup makes people think of only one thing. "The Power of Christ compels you!" has become a punchline. Everybody knows the reputation of the film, but do people realize that this is one of the scariest movies EVER?! Still today it is unsettling, uncomfortable, and exhausting to watch.

Directed by William Friedkin, and starring Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb, Jason Miller, and of course Linda Blair, The Exorcist won 2 Oscars (Best Sound and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium) and was nominated for 7 more. The script was written by William Peter Blatty, who adapted it from his own novel.

The film opens in Northern Iraq with some unsettling imagery, a palpable feeling of dread, and a creepy statue that we see again near the end of the film.

Throughout the film we have a great side story that comes into play later concerning Father Karras (Jason Miller) and his mother. The screen below is from Father Karras' dream. It's tense and leaves you with an eerie feeling.

Lt. Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb) checks out the staircase where Burke met his demise. It's all at once ordinary, sinister, and foreboding.

This abomination in the church is one of the more tame acts witnessed by the audience. The level of offensive verbal and physical battery dished out by young Reagan is still harsh, even by today's standards.

The pea soup... It's what most people first mention when this film comes up in conversation. It's abrupt, unexpected, and shocking.

This iconic scene marks the beginning of one of cinema's most well known battles between Good and Evil. We see Father Merrin arrive by cab...

...and then we see The Devil waiting to meet him. Reagan truly looks like a monster all through the second part of this film. The voice makes things all the more awful.

As the confrontation crescendos, the creepy statue from the beginning of the film shows itself once again. It's almost over, but the price to be paid is steep.

The aftermath...

Two dead priests. Despite all the demonic taunting and uncomfortable imagery, the audience is finally given peace, but at the cost of two good men's lives.

People believe this film is evil. I believe that this film has the power to scare, and get people thinking about what they believe...

And with that I give you The Exorcist, officially canonized in the world of horror cinema.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Camp Superlatives!

The Friday the 13th films... I am unable to view them subjectively anymore. I've seen them too many times to know if they suck, or are works of art. Regardless, here I pick some of my favorite moments and characters to award superlatives to.

Worst "Cool Guy" Who Totally Misses the Mark: Andy (Friday The 13th Part 3)
Andy is dopey, annoying, and has the dumbest haircut ever. We're supposed to like this guy?

Best Original Story Element: The Jason Hunter
(Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter)
He's the big brother of Sandy (Friday the 13th Part 2) and he's planning revenge.

Best Jason: Friday The 13th - The Final Chapter
Jason is relentless in this movie. He shows up where he's not expected, he plays dead, and he runs!

Weirdest Character: This Guy
(Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning)
This guy has no reason to be in the film other than to hike up the body count...and be a perv.

Cutest Camp Couple: Jeff & Sandy
(Friday The 13th Part 2)
These two can't seem to stay out of trouble, but we love 'em anyway. Their truck gets towed, they almost get arrested, they get dead.

Best Law Enforcement Official: Sheriff Tucker
(Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning)
It's awesome that this film FINALLY features a sheriff that ACTUALLY believes that Jason IS the killer...except that Jason is NOT the killer.

Worst Impression of a Teenager: Victor J. Faden
(Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning)
How was this guy cast as a teenager?! It just doesn't make any sense...

Most Uncomfortable Moment: Tie "I've got something real neat to show you up in my bedroom!" and "C'mon, climb up Miss."
Mrs. Jarvis is okay with Tommy taking strangers up to his bedroom. Maybe that is the root of all his emotional problems later on, and not Jason...
And Enos, the Dirty Old Man with the roamin' hands.

Scariest Moment: "He's Killing Me!"
(Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter)
It's dark. Trish can't see what's going on except that the Jason Hunter has bitten off more than he can chew. The way he screams makes the whole scene.

Best Red Herring: Steve Christy
(Friday The 13th)
Before anyone knew about Jason Voorhees and the 10 sequels and 1 remake, I bet everyone in the theater totally thought this guy was the killer.

Best Campfire: Friday The 13th Part 2
This is the best version of the Camp Crystal Lake back story I've ever heard. It's suitably creepy, totally effective, and ends with a laugh.

Best Town Crazy: Ralph, the original "Prophet of Doom"
(Friday The 13th & Friday The 13th Part 2)
Who else could it be? There are a few more characters like this in the series, but no one else get's to yell "Its got a death curse!"

Best Kill: Tie: Marcie (Friday The 13th) and Fox (Friday The 13th Part 3)
These are both brutal murders. Marcie's because you get to watch it as it happens, and see her character reacting to the situation. Fox's because you see the aftermath and think "How the crap did that happen?!"

Biggest Douche: Tie: Ned (Friday The 13th) and Scott (Friday The 13th Part 2)
It's so painful to watch every other character in the movie become increasingly annoyed with Ned. And Scott is so confident, but for seemingly no reason. I can't be alone in my dislike of these characters, can I?

Best Final Girl: Ginny Fields
(Friday The 13th Part 2)
Smart, funny, beautiful. Ginny is the best Final Girl of any slasher movie...ever.

The Top 13 Things That Come to Mind When I Think of the Friday the 13th Movies

(this article was originally written by me and posted by Stacie Ponder on the phenomenal Final Girl blog as part of the "Friday the 13th Blog-A-Thon, July 13th, 2007)

It’s Friday the 13th. You all know that. And I wanted to do something special to celebrate it. By ‘something special’ I mean watch the movie series. Again. It seems that’s all my unmotivated,
unimaginative brain can muster every Friday the 13th. But this time is different. I was challenged to take part in THE “Friday The 13th Blog-a-thon” (for the uninitiated, try to make a regular part of your information/entertainment diet). I’m not saying that watching the F13 movie series on this every-so-often pseudo holiday is a bad way to celebrate. Quite the opposite. I just need some inspiration from time to time.

Now, in front of you is a list. I know, I know. You’ve already looked ahead and you’ve noticed that this list has 13 entries. 13 of them! You're thinking, "Chris, that's just plain crazy!" But, this being a special day and all I’ve decided to pull out all the stops. This list contains the first 13 things that come to mind when I think of the Friday the 13th movies. The entries are in no particular order. I hope you enjoy this very special ‘Top 13 Things That Come To Mind When I Think Of The Friday The 13th Movies.’

1. Near the end of “Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood” when Dr. Crews and Mrs. Shepherd are looking for Tina, Mrs. Shepherd is yelling “Tina! Tina!” I always wanted to tell her to stop, because what a terrible sound she makes.

2. Grown-up Tommy Jarvis is some sort of kung Fu champion. He really knows how to mix it up in “Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning.” I’m always impressed.

3. During most of the 90’s I worked at a summer camp in Maine. There was a “haunted camp” a few miles away through the woods. At night we would go there and try to scare each other, of course inspired by the Friday movies.

4. I always laugh at the end of “Friday the 13th Part 2” when Paul and Ginny take off Jason’s mask and look at his face. After being shocked at Jason’s deformities, Paul says “Jesus…” I always try to picture it like a Scooby-Doo ending and when they unmask the killer Paul says t hat because he thinks the killer WAS Jesus.

5. In “Friday the 13th” Annie is talking to you-know-who. “I guess I always wanted to work with children. I hate when people call them kids. Sounds like little goats. But when you’ve had a dream as long as I have, you’ll do anything.” What the crap is she talking about?! And what does she mean by ‘anything?’

6. The banana eating hitchhiker in “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter” is one of my favorite characters in any of the movies. And her premeditated reaction to the insults she knows she’s going to get from people is awesome.

7. I bet being picked up and slammed against a tree while in a sleeping bag would really suck. So, I hope that never happens to me.

8. Once, my friend and I watched all the Friday movies and wrote down a list of the ways everyone died. Man, after all these years I still can’t figure out why we thought that was a good idea.

9. Crispin Glover is a wacky dancer. Is that the way he dances in real life?

10. When I was 13 years old, my friends and I decided that we looked old enough to get in to see “Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan“ in theaters. The plan was to tell our parents that we were going to see “Weekend at Bernie’s.” Apparently, we forgot to take into account the ticket booth guy’s common sense, because he busted us. And because we got a ride to the theater and were stranded there for the duration, we decided to go see “Weekend at Bernie’s.”

11. Another stupid conversation, this time from “Friday the 13th Part 3.” Rick is talking to Chrissy as he’s putting bails of hay in the barn. “I realize I’m just a dumb country boy and my feeling really don’t matter, but this is the sweat of a worker on my forehead, not of a lover. Now, I believe that there is a time and a place for everything. And now’s the time, and now’s the place, if you know what I mean.” No, Rick I don’t know what you mean. Who wrote your crappy dialog?!

12. For whatever reason, “Friday the 13th Part 3” is a perfect Halloween movie for me. I watch it every year.

13. At the beginning of “Friday the 13th Part 3” Harold walks toward his house and accidentally knocks over a stick holding up the laundry line. His wife immediately yells out the window at him, “God damn it Harold! I spent all day yesterday washing your clothes. Look what you’re doing to them. You know I work very hard around here trying to keep up with you and all your sloppy habits. And I get no help from you at all!” It’s just funny to me how quickly she is on
this poor guy.

Enjoy your Friday the 13th. I’m going now to watch the movies. Again.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Perfect Halloween viewing:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The NEW Golden Age Of Slasher Flicks

Every horror fan worth their weight in Karo syrup knows that 1981 was a classic year for horror movies, especially slasher flicks. An American Werewolf In London, The Burning, The Evil Dead, Friday The 13th Part 2, Halloween II, The Howling, My Bloody Valentine, Scanners... and those are just the big names I can remember. There were countless other knock-offs and wannabes that I'm still finding out about after 28 years...

In 1996-97, there was a resurgence in the slasher genre led by Wes Craven's Scream. There were a few good films in this wave (Urban Legend, I Know What You Did Last Summer). There was A LOT of crap during this comeback as well (Do You Want To Know A Secret, The Curve) The sub-genre became a parody of itself, unfortunately making films like Scary Movie and Scream If You Know What I Did Last Friday The 13th popular for a time... ...

Well here we are, roughly a decade later, and it seems as though slasher flicks are again the order of the day. The reboots of Friday the 13th and My Bloody Valentine have ushered in the new slasher era. I, for one, think it's a great thing. While the 90's slasher craze focused on horror irony and fresh faces that they could cover a poster with, '09 seems to be bringing it back to the basics of blood, nudity, and shocks!

It got me thinking... If I'm still discovering 80's horror movies to enjoy, will the same thing happen to new genre fans 30 years from now? There have been movies I've heard about, and just HAD to see. Long out of print, I've had to scour and search for these films. The Burning, Night of the Creeps, Nightmare, Dellamorte Dellamore, Unmasked Part 25... I've had the pleasure of hunting these films as I read the (sometimes) fabled stories about them, and finally found copies. Now, most of them are currently (or soon to be) widely available on DVD. In 30 years, will horror fans be talking about Hatchet and Behind the Mask like we talk about Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street now?

It's more likely that we'll still be talking about Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street then too... and that's not at all a bad thing, mind you. But just in case, here are a list of some potential slasher "lost classics" that people might be looking frantically for come 2039...

Harper's Island... a pleasant surprise, considering it's a short run TV series on CBS. It surprised me a few times...

Frayed... This film definitely learned a few things from the slasher flicks that came before it. I was really happy to dig into this one. It rewarded me with several scares and a great feel to it.

Kids Go To The Woods...Kids Get Dead... An homage to the glut of slasher flicks that we were inundated with in the 1980's. A total gore fest worth the time of any fan of 80's slashers.

Midnight Movie... It's a flick that tries to throw in a new twist to the genre. I dont know how successful it was, but like most slasher flicks, turn off your brain and you'll have a super-duper time!

Hatchet... It entertains. Plenty of awesome cameos for sharp eyed viewers. The practical FX are definitely going to take you back.

Laid To Rest... It has a really great killer that delivers the goods, which is all I ask for.

Murder Loves Killers Too... A wonderful indie effort that goes way overboard all the time. It's a blood soaked love letter to it's fore bearers. Watch the special features for a list of titles they passed on...

Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon... Great film that shows the standard scenario from a new perspective. Who ever thought a maniacal murderer could be so likable!?

Speaking of likable... Dexter (Showtime Series)... Okay, you got me. It's not a slasher movie. But doesn't it get downright close when Dexter does what he does best...

So there you have it, these are the gems that are guaranteed* to be the lost classics that people 30 years from now will be paying absurd prices for!

*not guaranteed

13 Movies for Halloween!

Halloween is a great holiday. It's all inclusive, and can be tailored to anyone's taste. Some people go trick or treating. Others have a "party 'til you puke" attitude toward the special day. I, myself, choose to watch movies. With friends or alone, in public or private, that is how I celebrate.

Here are 13 films guaranteed to make your custom-made holiday even better! Some are newly released. Others are old standbys. All are just a little better when seen in autumn.

One of the greatest fright flicks of all time, being watched in October for maximum effectiveness...

Originally conceived as the Little Rascals meets the Universal Monsters, it's all the classic monsters, with an 80's twist. You'll thank me.

Would a halloween season be complete without one Vincent Price movie? I say "No!" Watch him in this cheesy cult classic.

Ghost stories seem really creepy to me this time of year. Living in New England will do that to ya, I suppose... This movie is beautifully shot and well acted. It will give you chills.

This is one movie that will polarize the horror viewing community. I'm on the "love it" side for it's off the wall story, catchy jingle, and unmerciful murder of a child.

This Friday has the best Halloween feel to me, especially during the scenes at night. Jason is to be feared.

The tag line says it all: "The most fun you ever have being scared." 5 great stories with a creepy, disturbing wraparound story, this flick is perfect for Halloween.

Typical stereotypes mess with evil forces beyond their control, a few surprises, laugh-out-loud funny moments, nuns getting massacred... It is as awesome as it sounds!

The original is great, but this is better (in my opinion). Barbara is better developed as a character, Tony Todd is awesome, Cooper gets it the way he should. 'Nuff said.

This has a similar feel to The Convent. Kids messing with scary things that are better left alone...Possession...naughty placement of a lipstick...gore...awesome!

A forgotten gem of the 80's, this is about a Sorority Halloween dance. From the movie-within-a-music-video-within-a-movie opening, to the demonic possession of the finale, this is a movie that has it all... And you'll expect none of it! (and dig that theme song!)

This is simply the best Poe adaptation of recent years. Combs is awesome, the gore is plentiful, the paranoia is palpable, and the end is unexpected.

The new addition to the Halloween perennials. It's funny, spooky, scary, gory, and best of all, clever. This is the new standard by which all Halloween movies will be held in the future. I was skeptical about it after hearing everyone's praise, but it is one movie that lives up to all the hubbub.

Also, there are a few films that I will never pull off the shelf until October rolls around. And while I'm not a huge ghost fan, I really enjoy watching ghost/haunted house stories this time of year. There's just something about ghost stories and New England...

Anyway, here's a scene from one of my October faves.