Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Halloween Season 2010 Begins...

It's now September, and that means my favorite time of year. For the next 3 months, things are perfect in New England. The weather's a little cooler and the pumpkin ales start showing up in stores, the foliage shows its impressive colors and General Mills monster cereals are now available to fill my stomach, promises of Halloween specials litter the TV Guide channel and the "Spirit of Halloween" stores show up and leave almost as quickly as a traveling carnival. There's so much to like.

Anyway, in the spirit of the season, here's a twist on the now classic song "This Is Halloween" from the perennial treat "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

The Halloween season if finally here. Enjoy it...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The House Of The Devil (2009)

Stacie over at Final Girl has invited us, once again, to join her in watching something grand. Or maybe it's not the movie that is grand, but rather that we are all watching it together that is grand. We are the world. Or something...

This month's pick was the 2009 Ti West flick "The House Of The Devil." And I have a new crush. Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue). Just look at her. How could you not want her to triumph over evil?!

Samantha, or Sam as she prefers, is bettering her situation by moving out of the dorm room she shares with her, let's say "less than desirable" roommate. She's found the perfect apartment with the perfect landlady, but she may have a problem coming up with the money for the first month's rent. So she goes job hunting.

College job boards are the perfect solution to any financial woes you may have and Sam knows it. Sam answers the call of Mr. & Mrs. Ulman. They are seemingly in immediate need of a babysitter. Even though the situation seems weird, Sam is going to see it through. I mean, the Ulman's are willing to pay a huge amount of money for a few hours of her time. What could possibly go wrong? The movie revolves around the timing of a full lunar eclipse, and the unnamed Satanic cult that is willing to do anything to see their mission through.

This movie is not perfect, but it is hugely entertaining. I found myself staring at the screen as we see lingering camera shots. I found myself holding my breath as the characters were investigating things that needed investigating. As plot points were slowly revealed to the characters (and sometimes exclusively to the viewer) I found my mind wandering to see where this film might be taking me. There are lots of "big reveal" scenes in this film, some where pieces of the puzzle are answered, and some where a twist in the plot would cause us more questions.

Two of the reasons this film worked so well were the performances of Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov. These two were perfectly cast as Mr. & Mrs. Ulman. Tom Noonan is pitch perfect in his role as he is timid, yet at the same time, sinister enough to command your attention.

Mary Woronov is charming as Mrs. Ulman. She is disarming and seems genuine, yet you know there are things that she is hiding.

At the end of the film, when almost all of the Satanists' intentions are known, there is a ritual scene that is quite disturbing. The introduction to this scene is shot with all quick cuts and loud music, and would feel more at home in a Saw movie than in this one.

I assume that this is the Grandmother who shows up. It's not really made clear who it is, but that is my guess.

Overall, this movie is great. There is an immense feeling of nostalgia that will make you feel right at home. While the story is nothing new, the way that it is presented is indeed spectacular. There are certain elements that feel out of place, like the aforementioned quick cut scene, but I also had a problem with the actor who played Victor Ulman. His look didn't seem to match the time period the film was trying to portray. It's kind of a strange complaint, but his scenes took me out of the movie.

Those are truly minor complaints. This movie was created as an homage to the greatest age of horror movies that I know. I had a blast with it. There are many, many great scenes that will have you jumping out of your seat, or sinking into the couch. At the end of the day, isn't that why we watch these things?

(One more picture of Sam to wash that horrible Grandmother picture taste out of my mouth.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) Entered As Part Of The Horror Canon

As far as organizing a canon of horror films, maybe I shouldn't have started at the tippy top with The Exorcist. I mean, anything that is added to the list from that point is certainly a step down, right?

I think not! Try this on for size...

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre...the reputation of this movie alone is enough to send people running. This film does a phenomenal job of making the viewer uncomfortable. Try looking at a meat hook or a hitch hiker the same way again, and you'll find it's not possible.

This is director Tobe Hooper's first (and arguably best) film in his long running career. The film stars Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen, Edwin Neal, and a host of others, mostly unknown. In 1976 the film won a Critics Award at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival.

The documentary style of this film and the lingering shots were the perfect way to put the viewer on edge almost immediately.

A group of teens are visiting a small town in Texas. They are checking on the grave of one of their grandfathers as there have been a recent rash of grave robbings in the area. It all begins with a hitch hiker. The man is absolutely nuts.

There are a lot of really beautiful shots in this film. Given the subject matter it's a wonder there were opportunities for such art.

The gang looks on as their hitch hiker mutilates his own hand with a jackknife.

The above sequence is startling. It's the first appearance of Leatherface. He comes out of nowhere and leaves just as suddenly. His total disregard for life is evident in every move he makes.

Pam investigates Kirk's disappearance. Again, this is a beautifully shot sequence.

Pam discovers her fate: first the meat hook, then the freezer. The scenes in this film are almost all set up to make the viewer uncomfortable.

Marilyn Burns certainly does a great job conveying terror. Leatherface follows so closely behind Sally that the viewer is also out of breath by the time the chase is over.

Leatherface gets up close and personal during dinner. This sequence in the film is masterfully shot. Hooper gets inside of our heads by having the family tell Sally what she's in for next.

Watching Sally fear for her life can be uncomfortable. There is close up after close up of screaming characters. This film is relentless.

A passer-by aids Sally in her escape. As Sally gets away you can see that she's not fared well. She is cracking up.

Frustrated, Leatherface swings his chainsaw violently. The movie ends abruptly.

Everything about The Texas Chain Saw Massacre feels dirty, makes you uncomfortable, tests your tolerances. The 83 minute film will get into your head, fuck with you, and stay there. Its reputation is deserved.

And with that I give you The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, officially canonized in the world of horror cinema.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Something To Look Forward To...

I know a lot of people aren't fans of the first one, but it was the first film in a long time to frighten me. So I have high expectations here...

Monday, July 5, 2010

My Top 10 Willie Inducing Moments!

Andre Dumas has invited us all to take part in a special project in which I am to take an introspective look at what scares me. I started by thinking about what scared me when I was younger, and logically moved on to what scares me now. You know what I found out? A lot of it hasn't changed.

Following is my list, in no particular order, of exactly what scares me. Regardless of the placing, all of these movie moments are cemented into my memory because I'm a big scaredy-cat. And I don't think that's a bad thing.

Even though I know it's coming, the scene near the end where the killer is hiding in the harlequin outfit always gets me!

Zelda scares the crap out of me! I still lean away from the TV screen when she jumps out of bed.

I wince every time Bill Mosley hits his head on that tombstone. Every time!

"Thanks for the ride, Lady!" After watching this flick I look everywhere for that dude, just to make sure he's not following me.

Mr. Barlow is one ugly vampire. When he shows up at the jail I'm never ready for it.

We see Josh standing in the corner and then the movie just ends after a brief violent altercation. I got chills the first time.

Donald Sutherland makes me uncomfortable when he points out his former comrade at the end of the movie...genuinely uncomfortable.

At one point, there is a person sneaking around the residence. A noise is heard from the next room. Maybe this person is not alone. Using a peep hole they peer into the next room. There is no movement. Suddenly someones eyeball comes to the peephole from the other side! They are not alone after all. It scares the shit out of me!

Samara coming out of the TV had me sinking into the couch like never before.

When Karen Black sits waiting for her mother to come visit, pounding that knife into the floor, staring at the door, she breaks into that super-creepy, extra-toothy grin...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Umm, That's Not Horror...

Horror is subjective. While I think The Blair Witch Project is scary, there are many people who don't agree. While I don't necessarily think Evil Dead 2 is all that great, there are those that would hang me for saying so. And that's what makes the horror genre so great, is the fun that people have being all opinionated about certain titles, and so on and so forth...

But sometimes having an opinion is dangerous. It brings people out of their comfort zone and forces them to form their own opinions. Well, here's me being opinionated: People, it's okay to think outside of the box. It's alright to get a little creative in bending the rules as to what defines our beloved genre. Have fun with it. Don't be caught in the snare of becoming a "Horror Snob" (though that is a prestigious rank among our community).

One thing is for certain though. None of the following titles are horror, though they are clearly inspired by the horrific.

So next time you find yourself pining for non-genre fare, but you feel dirty for even thinking such things, take heart in knowing that there are plenty of options that will keep you respectable. And if you bend the rules just enough, you can even hang on to your respected Horror Snob status.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Camp Sunningdale

All through my teen years I worked at a summer camp in Maine, Camp Sebago. It was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by forest, with a nearby lake. One of my favorite parts of camp was bringing new staff members to "the haunted camp" each summer. It was called Camp Sunningdale. It was about a 20 minute walk through the woods, and we would only take people at night. It had been closed since the 1960's and not really cared for. It was a perfect place to scare people.

The first time I heard about Camp Sunningdale was in the summer of 1992. No one that I talked to knew how to get there. It wasn't until the following summer that I would be able to find this rotted camp thanks to a friend's vague directions, "Head down the road until you see power lines head off into the woods. Follow them."

Here are some recent pictures of the camp, taken in the late summer of 2007. Camp Sunningdale is in the process of being fixed up, I believe. It's a shame they would ruin all that atmosphere and try to make a real camp in that area again...

This is the path through the woods to get to Camp Sunningdale. The powerlines often come down below head level...

This is your first view of camp. The path is overgrown and the cabins are noticeably falling apart.

This is the first cabin you pass. It's very small with one bedroom and one bathroom. Perhaps a head counselor's cabin?

This is the backside view of one row of cabins. The shutter ropes are rotted and the roofs are in disrepair.

The cabins are fun to explore, but not at all safe to be in. Plus, they are full of spiders...

*I'll have another post at some point with some interior pictures of the cabins, and photos of the rec hall.