30 Days of Fright – 30: Halloween (2007)

And so on the last day of this year’s reviews we come full circle and find ourselves back where we started, with Halloween, though this time it’s the 2007 version.

Unlike the original, this version of Halloween starts off following young Michael Myers as he goes about his business of developing serious psychopathic tendencies. Young Mikey’s home life is shite so he likes to hurt small animals (you can see the obvious pop-psychology link there) but quickly moves up to killing one of the kids at school. After a particularly rough evening at home, coincidentally Halloween, Michael kills his sister, her boyfriend, and her mother’s boyfriend. Mike soon finds himself banged up in a secure hospital where he’s being treated by Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell).

Fifteen years pass and the once co-operative Michael has retreated from reality and become obsessed with making masks. Loomis has given up on the case and decided that there’s an easier living to be made from writing books and lecturing about Michael as opposed to treating him. Michael’s mother had also taken the easy way out and killed herself leaving her only remaining child, still a baby, behind to fend for herself.

Michael, now grown, busts out of the clink one night and heads home to kick off a major killing spree, with Loomis hot on his tail (probably feeling guilty about raking in the cash on the back of young Mike), and the local sheriff helping out too. Once home, Michael focuses his attentions on a young girl, Laurie Strode, who is roughly the same age as his little sister would be…

Is Mike Myers gonna hav’ ta choke a bitch?

Rob Zombie took the directing job for the remake of Halloween and did an outstanding job. The 2007 Halloween is a far superior film to its predecessor, offering at least some explanation for Myers behaviour and a nice twist in the little sister angle as well as modernising the story with care, not trampling over the original but just making it, well, good.

There are some nicely unsettling scenes, especially the killing of the kid near the beginning, and there is more than one nice homage to the original, the gravity defying scene where the guy is pinned to the wall with a knife is there, but with humour and this time you can laugh along instead of going “that can’t happen”, and Blue Oyster Cults “Don’t Fear The Reaper” gets a spin too.

The performances in this version are great, the young Michael is an evil little bastard and McDowell as Loomis is just right in that he’s not quite balanced himself, which makes for a decent screen psychiatrist. The show is stolen however by Scout Taylor-Compton as Laurie – her performance puts Jamie Lee Curtis to shame as she managed to make the character likable and someone you don’t want to see hurt, as opposed to Curtis who you wish would get killed quickly just so you wouldn’t have to put up with anymore of her bullshit.

It’s hard to find fault at all with this Halloween, the only gripe I can think of is that in order to fully appreciate this version you need to suffer through the original.

Two Thumbs Firmly Up for Rob Zombie’s Halloween

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween_%282007_film%29
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0373883/

30 Days of Fright – 29: Drag Me To Hell

Like many people I have recently developed a problem with Michael Bay, the director/producer behind such commercially orientated movies as the recent Transformers flicks and the incredibly dodgy (i.e. shite) big screen adaptation of Miami Vice. Michael Bay doesn’t really make movies at all anymore; instead he trots out overly long commercials for a wide range of useful products, from soft drinks to cars and movie tie-in happy meals.

That’s why so many people have difficulty with him, he takes the basic elements necessary to successfully sell you something and packages it in a special effects laden bag of crap with a Linkin Park soundtrack that he then chucks at fourteen year old boys, safe in the knowledge that the cash will soon come tumbling in. What really bothers me is how Michael treats his audience, like they’re just the worst kind of idiot who will buy anything; it’s as if he looks down his nose at the people who watch his movies. He’s supposed to be serving the audience in the cinema but seems to be more concerned with his advertisers and pushing their shit. As a salesman I’m sure he’s quite effective, but as a movie maker he really is the most base fucker out there!

Movies with too much CGI that treat their audience like fools have become a Michael Bay trademark of sorts, but unfortunately he is not the only film maker who operates like that.

Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell (2009) tells the terrifying tale of Christine Brown (played by Alison Lohman) as she tries to shake off her rural upbringing and make it big on the mean streets of L.A. as a loan officer for a high street bank. Scary.

Christine is up for a big promotion and this has an impact on the way she deals with a particular customer one day. An elderly woman of eastern European extraction, Mrs. Ganush, calls into the bank looking for an extension on her mortgage as she’s been ill and is having difficulty meeting her payments. The bank is about to foreclose on the loan and seize her house, so things are bad for Ganush. Christine decides to “make the tough decision” to impress her boss and declines the request. Ganush gets down on her knees and begs Christine to reconsider, but this just prompts security to throw her out, which shames the old woman terribly.

As many elderly eastern European women are (at least in the movies), Mrs. Ganush is in league with some kind of dark force and she puts a curse on Christine, promising that before three days have passed, Christine will be the one begging for help. Christine dismisses this of course, until that evening when, as she’s leaving the bank, she’s attacked by a sinister presence in the car park that turns out to be Ganush, who attacks her in a vicious manner using handkerchiefs and concrete blocks and bodily fluids.

Christine tries to shrug this off and seeks solace in her boyfriends arms. On the way home they stop so that she can get her fortune read. The fortune teller is well read and actually gifted in clairvoyance and he informs Christine that something terrible is cursing her and she’s in some serious trouble. The serious trouble is a demon called Lamia that torments its victims for three days before dragging them to Hell.

Christine soon takes the threat seriously and tries a variety of different techniques to shake off the curse, but as with any ancient evil there’s no guarantee that anything will work…

In my country I neurosurgeon, now I compare many many meerkats!

Drag Me To Hell has one of the most spectacular opening scenes in a film ever and the opening credits are a joy to behold in that they capture the essence of the great horror movies from the late sixties and early seventies. Watching the opening ten minutes of this movie reminded me of films like The Wicker Man and Witchfinder General, so I was full of hope and admiration from early on. As the movie progressed however my hopes and dreams were crushed and I was left a shell of my former self, angry for having been suckered in.

The main problems with Drag Me To Hell are as follows:

The Oscilloscope Effect:
The music gets quiet… there’s a shadow… then… BOOM!!! A REALLY LOUD NOISE!!! A FLASHING LIGHT!!!!!! SCARY!!!! Then the music gets quiet… there’s a shadow… then… BOOM!!! A REALLY LOUD NOISE!!! A FLASHING LIGHT!!!!!! SCARY!!!! Then the music gets quiet…

This is how each five minutes of the movie is structured. After the first two times it’s as boring as shit and it makes the film woefully predictable. If you’re a young man bringing a girl out for the first time then this would be a great film to bring her to (if she’s the sort to jump at movies. If on the other hand you’re a girl who doesn’t jump at this sort of thing then find a young bloke who does and bring him to see it – see, no sexism here!). Sam Raimi has used this trick in an effort to get you to jump as opposed to giving you a genuine fright and it’s an unfortunate patronising device. One reviewers comment on the DVD case is that DMTH is the “scariest movie of the decade” – trust me it’s not, being made to jump this way is not scary, it’s just a reflex from a loud noise.

The Bucket of Sick:
The other big problem is the dependence on gross-out scenes where bodily fluids and other materials are splashed into people’s mouths. The Ganush character pukes all sorts of things into Christine’s mouth at various times and while its gross the first time it happens too much. The puking is also a symptom of the other major problem.

The Xbox Live Subscription:
There is waaaaaay too much CGI in this film. All those bodily fluids and strange shadows are done on a computer and done badly. Other special effects that feature are just as bad, in particular the levitation scene is fucking appalling and is reminiscent of Scary Movie, with the levitating character literally dancing a jig just like in that film.

I love the idea of a horror movie about a curse, as a concept it’s a refreshing change from the run of the mill horror that gets made. But, Ganush had the ability to curse her enemies as well as having a propensity for violence, so how come she had such trouble paying the mortgage? For that matter, why did she have a mortgage at all? Couldn’t she use her powers to look after herself a little better?

And what’s the whole thing about Christine being fat as a kid? Was that just so the eastern European one could make a comment about how she used to be fat or was it about the ice creams? Ice Cream is mentioned at least twice and seems to have something to do with letting the audience know that Christine is under a little pressure. Really? No fucking shit Sherlock – she’s about to be dragged to Hell for an eternity as the plaything of the Devil and all his little goblins, I think it’s a safe bet that we could all figure out that she’s under a little strain (though it didn’t really effect her appetite).

One final big gripe. The poster/dvd cover is deceptive – the girl in the picture looks far hotter than the chick who’s in the movie:

Leathery Jackety Hotness!
Meh. Probably would, you know, if there was nothing better to do

Everything about Drag Me To Hell is lazy and commercial and that reinforces the notion that Sam Raimi didn’t care about his audience this time out. I wish I could have liked this movie more than I did, but I was deceived from the start, Drag Me To Hell was supposed to be more than it is.

Two Thumbs Down for Drag Me To Hell

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drag_me_to_hell
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1127180/

30 Days of Fright – 28: The Haunting in Connecticut

Amazing! Magnificent! A roller coaster ride from start to finish! A powerful portrayal of the human condition as it relates to the possibility of life after death! A tour de Force! These are all ways that will never be used to describe The Haunting in Connecticut as it’s as boring as shit!

The Haunting in Connecticut (2009) follows the Campbell family as they struggle with their eldest child Matt who is being treated for cancer. Matt’s mother routinely takes him on long trips to the hospital where he is part of an experimental treatment programme. The travelling back and forth is having an adverse effect on Matt and often takes twice as long as it would if the boy were healthy.

Deciding that Matt’s health is being effected by the commute the Campbell’s decide to rent a house nearer to the hospital. Matt’s mother Sara finds a nice large house that she can rent cheaply due to its past as a funeral home. Sara decides to keep this fact from the rest of the family, not wanting to scare the younger children or to dwell on it herself. Shortly after they move in Matt begins to experience strange visions and at first he believes they are related to his treatment but he soon discovers the true nature of the house and the horrific activities that its previous tenants practiced there.

All the pictures I found from The Haunting in Connecticut were as dull as the film, so here’s shock rocker Marilyn Manson instead!

Haunting is more of a human drama about coping with a very sick child in the family than a horror film, or even a drama about the paranormal, Matt’s suffering a lot, his father had trouble in the past with alcohol, his mother is trying her best to hold the family together the best she can, and the other children are trying to live as normal a childhood as possible under the circumstances, which makes for a tragic tale to be sure but who gives a fuck? I came for the haunting part, not the remake of Beaches or some other shite.

In terms of the haunting, the film uses the terrible history of the house as the basis for the supernatural activity. The house used to be a funeral home, which is a juvenile device – it’s like setting a film in a cemetery or morgue, frightening to children but not really popular haunts for ghosts due to the fact that people don’t tend to die in these locations but are already dead when they arrive.

The family are only renting the house, which is not a very strong bond to a place, I mean why be prepared to sacrifice everything for someone else’s property, it’s not the family home nor is there a big financial motivation for ignoring the obvious as there would be if the family were after buying the gaff.

Despite one of the main young characters suffering from cancer it’s still hard to care for anyone in Haunting as both the past and present characters are just too dull. The frustration caused by the boys sickness and his uncertainty as to whether the things he sees are real or not is underplayed and his momentary descents into apparent madness are just too much of a cliché to be acceptable.

Haunting could have worked as a drama, that is without the haunting at all, and I’m sure it would have appealed to audiences who like those sorts of films, however as a horror it falls flat. The quest for a decent, modern haunted house story continues.

Two Thumbs Down for The Haunting in Connecticut.

To discover more (the film is supposed to be based on a true story after all) then check out:
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Haunting_in_Connecticut
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0492044/

30 Days of Fright – 27: End of Days

There aren’t many films that you could accurately describe as Action/Horror but it’s by far the best way to describe the amazing trip that is End of Days.

Governor Schwarzenegger (R-CA) plays Jericho Cane, an ex-cop turned heavy drinking, heavy hitting, private security specialist protecting those who can pay in downtown New York city in late 1999. He is tasked with providing security for some yuppie banker type played by Gabriel Byrne who has just recently been possessed by the Devil and is walking the Earth in an attempt to find a particular girl who is capable of having his child and thus usher in a new reign of Hell on Earth.

Cane saves the yuppie from an assassination attempt by a wayward priest who warns him of the impending End of Days and sparks some of that old cop instinct. Cane investigates and realises that the old priest was trying to protect a certain girl – the same one old Gabriel is interested in – from a rather nasty fate as the Antichrist’s mammy. Meanwhile, the Devil is on hot pursuit of his new girlfriend, who’s been living with a bunch of Satanists all her life without realizing it. Old Nick turns up to claim his woman but is foiled by Arnie who takes the poor girl under his wing.

The Devil, being who he is, doesn’t take kindly to this, and tries to tempt Ahnold into betraying the girl and revealing where she’s hidden by offering him back his wife and young daughter who had been murdered, and thus return him to the life he had known before their deaths. Being the decent bloke he is, the Governator doesn’t rat the girl out, which forces the Devil into a more drastic course of action, just as the New Year approaches…

 Where’s Gabriel’s other hand?

I first mentioned this movie here and it in part inspired this blog – my original Halloween movie reviews from 2008 had been published on my Bebo page and it was time for a new home and at the time I’d been spending a lot of time thinking about how rare real hackers are and how rare real Devil worshippers are, hence Hacker’s Coven (it’s a blog for them both!), so you can probably guess that I like this film. You’d be right!

However, End of Days is a deeply flawed movie on many levels. Firstly, The Devil, while pretty naughty is, well, not very Satanic. He has some powers and he likes to kill skateboarders, but while he can look into the hearts of men and see their deepest desires he is incapable of keeping track of the one girl he really needs. Somehow he knew she was in New York but after that he’s clueless. He’s able to bend space and time to present Arnie with the chance to have his family back, but for some reason he couldn’t nip back to yer one’s birth and maybe have some sort of tracking device surgically implanted into her. And while he’s able to survive a fall from an apartment window onto the street below he gets badly hurt when hit by a train or shot with the right sort of gun.

The acting in the film is, to be fair, totally shite, except for Gabriel Byrne who did a decent enough turn (though he was channeling Al Pacino as the Devil on more than one occasion). Kevin Pollak (Hockney from The Usual Suspects) was good too and I’d like to have seen more of him in the movies, but I think his inclusion in End of Days played a big part in the other major problem the film suffers from.

End of Days feels like a rip-off of some other films. There are some very strong parallels between End of Days and The Devil’s Advocate. Both movies deal with the Devil trying to start a family, both feature power-house performances from the actor in the diabolical role that greatly outshines everything else in the movie, both are set in New York, both are set in the winter (so as to allow the main men to wear long coats), and both feature the hero of the story suffering roughly the same fate. Also, there are a good number of times when Pollak and Byrne are on screen that you think you’re watching the (really fucked up) sequel to The Usual Suspects, you half expect Arnie to cut out the accent and start walking properly as you figure out he was Keyser Soze all along.

Despite its failings, End of Days is a really fun movie that has enough blood and guts and Satanism to make it a horror as well as plenty of guns and bullets to make it an action flick. It’s really hard to watch End of Days and see Arnie peg the Devil out of a window and not think “fuckin’ a!”

Two Thumbs Up for End of Days

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/End_of_Days_%28film%29
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0146675/

30 Days of Fright – 26: The Amityville Horror (2005)

Some people just don’t get the recognition they deserve. I’ve long thought that Robin Hardy (the director of the original Wicker Man) should have gotten an Oscar for that film. Thomas M. Disch, the American author of “The M.D.” and many other fine works, doesn’t get half the recognition he deserves, even after his death which is usually the fast-track to the big time. And the bloke in Cafe India in Tullamore who makes the Jalfrezi sauce should be given a medal for his fine work.

To this list I must unfortunately add Mellissa George, the fine actress who has graced many great horror movies with her presence, featuring as Stella in 30 Days of Night, and as Helen in wΔz, as well as turning up in Dark City and (apparently) Grey’s Anatomy and Home & Away (not that I’d know, never having seen these shows, of course!). She’s back again in the 2005 version of The Amityville Horror as Kathy, the poor cow married to George Lutz.

The 2005 version of The Amityville Horror starts off in roughly the same manner as it’s 1970’s predecessor. A family is brutally murdered in their beds one night by one of the kids. The action skips forwards a few years and along come the Lutz family, Geaorge and his missus Kathy and her kids from a previous marriage. They are able to buy th house at a discount price due to the killings putting most buyers off.

Things are grand at first, it’s a big house so there’s plenty of space and the grounds are impressive so life is good for the Lutz’s. However, George starts to act strangely, getting distant and waking up in the middle of the night for no good reason. He gets more and more irritable, especially as he finds it increasingly difficult to stay warm, and he begins to take things out on the rest of the family. Soon, the kids are getting caught up in things too, as the youngest has a new imaginary friend, who may not be imaginary at all, and the situation gets progressively worse in and around the house, until the Lutz’s are in danger of becomming the next family of victims…

George & Kathy go to play house – but if they’re out here, then who turned on the lights?

There’s a lot right with the new Amityville and there’s a lot wrong too. Firstly, Melissa George is excellent and to be fair, Ryan Reynolds as Geoarge Lutz isn’t bad either, I just wish he didn’t go around showing off his overly chiselled torso every chance he got (it’s demeaning to us good looking fellas!). The big problem with Reynolds is as soon as he begins to establish himself as George Lutz, he pulls a face and he’s right back to being Van Wilder all over again, no amount of beard can ever cover that up.

The remake takes a lot of liberties with the Amityville story, for example moving the house further into the countryside and thus making it more remote, adding several hundred years to the age of the house so that it can have much more of a sordid history and therefore shift the blame for the trouble in the house away from Ronnie Defeo (the real life killer) to the unsettled spirits of the indians buried on the ground the house is built on. Yep, that’s right, an Indian Burial Ground.

It’s unfortunate that Amityville gets bogged down in devices like these as the first half or so is outstanding, with some proper scary moments up to about the point where the babysitter is telling the story to the kids. There are effects that will make you jump and certain scenes that leaves a lingering sense of dread – then we get into George’s troubles and the wheels come off the wagon.

The real George Lutz died in 2006 but did get a chance to see the remake. He fucking hated it, calling the film “drivel” and then sueing the film makers. I shall be a little kinder…

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for the remade Amityville Horror.

To find out more (and there’s loads more to find out) then take a gander at:
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0384806/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Amityville_Horror_(2005_film)
For a far-out and wacky take on the story, check out The Amityville Murders: http://www.amityvillemurders.com/
Another nice look at the story can be found here: http://www.prairieghosts.com/amityville.html

30 Days of Fright – 25: Saw

It’s hard to write something frightening. The act of sitting down and coming up with a story that can make people afraid is tough due to the fact that most writers aren’t going to get the heebie jeebies from something they wrote. This seems to have led to film writers taking easier and easier options when scripting horror, the escaped killer for a teen slasher for example, or in recent years the notion of Torture Porn.

Torture Porn, as I’ve said before, is a sub-genre of horror that basically puts people you don’t care about into situations you don’t care to watch. The style is marked by only a passing interest in story, no attention to character development, and an over-dependence on techniques that film students would be reluctant to use. There are a few notable examples of TP and last nights flick is one of the leading lights of this particularly crass type of film.

The main action in Saw (2004) is set in a manky bathroom where two lads are chained by their legs to opposite walls – a photographer called Adam and a Doctor called Gordon. Neither of them know how they got there or why, nor do they know each other. Lying in the middle of the room is a dead body, a man who appears to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The corpse is still holding the gun in one hand and in the other a small tape recorder. Both of the boys find tapes in their pockets and manage to get the recorder to play them. The tapes contain a recording of a man giving each of the bucko’s a mesage, one must escape, the other must kill or his family will be murdered.

The lads think really really hard about why they might be there and over the course of the film they figure out that they the victims of a killer who kidnaps and puts people into situations where they ultimately kill themselves. While they’re figuring this out they find different things in the room that may or may not help them, including the saw of the title that turns out to be useless on chains but ideal for cutting off feet. Meanwhile, a police investigation into the killer is on-going and as we see that progress it becomes apparent that the two lads in the bathroom are part of a much bigger picture and may not be the total strangers they claim to be…

Clowns – Creepy Bastards!

I’ve never seen a film that didn’t have a narrator depend so much on exposition to tell the story as Saw. All the way through the two boys remeber things that they explain to each other that moves the story along a little, but it’s just so ham-fisted as to be laughable. If only that was the only problem with the film.

Saw takes some people you know nothing about and shows them being subjected to tortures. The reasons for the torture are meaningless, the character of the killer is underdeveloped and really only exists because somone has to be behind the murders. The motivation given for the killer doing what he does is outlandish to say the least, as many people must go through the ordeal he did and not come out the far side wanting to preach via torture, even if they had seen Seven once too often. How he had the time and money to do what he did is never explained either.

The violence isn’t the only shocking part of Saw, the terrible performances from the leads are the real horror. Danny Glover is appalling as the cop and Cary Elwes is totally unbelievable as the Doctor, which is a shame as he can actually act, as anyone who stuck with the X-Files until the last few seasons (like me) can testify.

Saw is a big part of the torture porn phenomenon and has become the most financially successful horror franchise in cinema history, beating out classics like the Nightmares on Elm Street and the Fridays the Thirteenth. I’m not sure why people flock to the cinemas to see this stuff, maybe it’s the gross-out violence or maybe they enjoy laughing at the victims (while giving thanks that it’s not happening to them). Whatever the reason, and it’s probably a pretty base one, audiences have enjoyed watching people getting badly hurt and killed to the tune of about $670 million.

I’m not one of them.

Two Thumbs Down for Saw.

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387564/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saw_(film)

30 Days of Fright – 24: Scream

Do you like scary movies? I do, and I’ve watched a few recently.With the large number of horror films out there it’s probably no surprise that so many of them are quite similiar. Once you start categorising these films into Vampire, Teen Slasher, Satan, Zombie categories, then the similarities become even more apparent. The teen slasher genre probably has more cliches and trademarks then all the other types of horror movies put together which is probably what makes it such an easy target for taking the piss.

Scream (1996) is set in a rural town in Godknowswheresville, in sleepy middle America. One night a high school girl and her boyfriend are brutally murdered after the killer taunts his victim over the phone with odd questions about horror films. The town is shocked by the killings which bring the news media down once again, as one year prior a woman was raped and murdered there. Her daughter, Sidney, is a classmate of the dead girl and she and her friends deal with the killings as only teenagers can.

Sidney’s father is away on business, and the next night she is attacked in her home by the killer. She escapes, but her boyfriend Billy becomes the prime suspect for the murders, until the killer calls Sidney while Billy is in jail for questioning.

With the killer still on the loose the school is closed and a curfew imposed. With the kids all off home and unbeknownst to anyone, the school principle is murdered. That night, the kids throw a party and are having a great time until an uninvited guest turns up…

Why do those telesales people always ring during dinner?

Scream reinvigorated the market for teen slasher movies in the mid-ninties, and it did this by throwing in a few decent tricks. Firstly, audiences were shocked by a big name actress, Drew Barrymore, getting viciously slaughtered in the first five minutes of the film. With the girl everyone thought was going to be the lead dead, anything was possible.

With the big shock only sinking in audiences were treated to a series of decent homages to practically every horror movie made since 1970. A Nightmare on Elm Street is referenced all over the place due to both movies being made by Wes Craven, and the scene in the school with Fred the janitor is brilliant. But it’s not just Craven movies that get the nod, Texas Chainsaw, Halloween (a lot), Frankenstein, and rakes of others. This was a smart move, acknowledging the films that set the ground work for Scream and introduced a level of humour that worked very well.

Scream is a clichéd story but that’s the point, it plays up to the things you expect from a movie like this, the running up the stairs, the cheerleader type victims, the ending that’s not the ending, and so on.

The over-riding sensation I got as I watched Scream was a sense of déjà vu and not just because I’d seen the film before but because it’s stunning how similar Scary Movie is to the film it parodies, it’s almost as if Scary Movie wasn’t a parody at all but in fact a remake, which makes a little more sense when you think about it, as Scream is really a parody itself.

Two Thumbs Up coz “it’s a Scream, baby!”

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scream_(film)
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117571/

30 Days of Fright – 23: Dawn of the Dead

Once upon a time Zombies movies were a staple of low budget horror. The same is still true and zombie movies do get trotted out every now and then, thanks in no small part to films like 28 Days Later reinventing the way zombies are portrayed on screen, making them fast for example, or not really creatures of the undead but victims of terrible disease. Whatever the style of the film the theme of a zombie flick is usually the same, dealing with matters of social collapse and how people in extreme situations will do anything to survive.

In recent years there have been only a few zombie films that weren’t low budget productions, 28 Weeks Later
being one of them, but last nights film really set the standard for big budget Hollywood zombie films.

Dawn of the Dead (2004) is based on a 1978 movie by Gearge A. Romero, the zombie master himself. Sarah Polley plays a nurse who heads home after a long shift to her suburban palace in middle America, in a nice neighbourhood where kids play on the street and all is well. She wakes up the next morning and the place has gone to hell, zombies everywhere, rioting in the streets, ambulances knocking down people, children turned cannibal, all sorts of bad stuff. She makes a break for it but ends up crashing her car.

Escaping on foot she runs into a cop and a group of other survivors who decide to hide in a local shopping mall. In the relative safety of the mall, the survivors set themsleves up with food and entertainment, occassionally taking in additional survivors as they turn up and fighting off the zombie hoards who swarm around the mall.

Deciding after a while that they can’t stay in the mall forever and that all the potentially safe places nearby are now infested with the undead, the group decide to reinforce some buses in the the mall car park and make a break for the marina, from where they intend to escape on a boat.

Across from the mall is a gun store where the owner is holed up. He’s not doing so well, starving in fact, so a rescue mission is launched, but the rescuers forgot to factor in the raw determination and iron grit creatures of the undead exhibit while in the pursuit of brains…

The Guinness marketing team hard at work

Dawn of the Dead is easily the best of the remakes of those seventies zombie movies. It’s a good film in it’s own right, made with all the gloss and special effects that a pile of money can afford. The acting is OK too, though some casting decisions seem to have been based on name recognition as opposed to ability, not that I’m going to name anyone (Ving Rhames), and it would have been nice to see more of Matt Frewer.

Dawn of the Dead features a great soundtrack featuring twists on contemporary rock tracks as well as some older country tunes – the use of Johnny Cash on the soundtrack was inspired – and the music used in the film ties in with the humour in the script very well, for a real laugh watch the scene in Dawn of the Dead where the lads are shooting celebrity look-a-like zombies.

Two Thumbs Up for Dawn of the Dead

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawn_of_the_Dead_(2004_film)
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0363547/

30 Days of Fright – 22: Cannibal Holocaust

People who know me know that I am probably the least likely person in the world to write a diet book, yet I am seriously contemplating publishing what I’m calling The C-Plan. If by this point you’ve guessed that the C stands for Cannibal then well done, however I’m not going to be recommending that you turn man eater but instead simply watch Cannibal Holocaust whenever you’re feeling hungry – trust me it’ll drive thoughts of food right out of your head.

Cannibal Holocaust (1980) is, as the name suggests, basically an exploitation film about cannibals. A film crew with a reputation for getting extreme footage from war zones head to the Amazon to make a documentary about the native tribes. The crew disappear and an anthropologist is hired by the TV company who were financing the documentary to go and find them.

Monroe, the anthropologist, and his guides go into the rainforest and encounter the tribes living there. They witness the various barbaric traditions of the tribes including cannibalism and, as they get closer to one specific tribe, are dragged into some unsavoury practices. After winning the trust of the tribe, Monroe retrieves the films the missing crew had shot and returns to New York.

The TV company executives push for the release of the film but Monroe discourages them until he finally forces them to watch it for themselves and see not only what happened to the film crew but also what they did down in the Amazon…

I couldn’t find a picture from Cannibal Holocaust that was suitable for publishing so here’s Dr. Phil, a bloke who wrote a diet book but never missed a fucking meal in his life!*

Cannibal Holocaust is, well, it’s pretty shocking, but it’s not that shocking and to be fair, it’s not that bad. Cannibal was part of a spate of movies that hit cinemas in the late seventies and early eighties and like the zombie craze of about the same time, nearly all these films came from Italy. Unlike its counterparts though, Holocaust actually has some cultural merit.

In terms of the movie itself, the story is decent enough and proved to be the inspiration for films like The Blair Witch Project. The idea of making a documentary in the Amazon must cross TV producers’ minds all the time, and the idea of sending down a team of hardened film makers to get cutting edge footage is reasonable, as is the trouble they get into when they meet the tribes. Sending an anthropologist is also reasonable, so as to smooth over any problems that may have occurred with the natives. Basically, Holocaust is a well written film, though the dialogue is just what you’d expect from a low budget Italian film made in 1980.

The actors chosen for Holocaust are interesting, picked mostly for their Italian credentials as opposed to their acting abilities – one major point of interest is that Robert Kerman, who played Monroe, was a porn star at the time. I think it’s fair to assume that a few of the others in the film were into adult movies too as there’s a good bit of full-on nudity in Cannibal Holocaust and at one point one of the lads (who really liked to rock out with his cock out) performs a move that really belonged more in a porn film then a horror.

Things really got interesting for Cannibal Holocaust once the film got a public airing. After a showing in Milan, the director, Ruggero Deodato, was arrested and charged with murder as the effects in the film were so realistic (for the time) and the documentary scenes looked so authentic (for the time) that the Italian authorities thought Cannibal Holocaust was a snuff film and that some of the on-screen killings were real. Deodato got away with it, but the film was banned for ages, caught up in the video nasty business in the eighties. The film is still controversial as there are genuine scenes of animal cruelty in it that are sickening and some of the cannibal moments are disturbing even to sophisticated modern audiences.

So, if you’re a tubby greedy guts then take a gander at Cannibal Holocaust before meals and you’ll soon be a size zero (and therefore quite un-appetising to local cannibals!)

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Cannibal Holocaust.

* Please note that the Dr. Phil joke is not mine, I nicked it from Denis Leary (who probably nicked it from Bill Hicks!)

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannibal_Holocaust
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078935/

30 Days of Fright – 21: House of Wax

Paris Hilton is a skanky hoor and I sincerely apologise for the following review as it’s about a movie she’s in, thus keeping that skank in the headlines for longer then she deserves!

House of Wax (2005) follows a bunch of six American teens out on a road trip to see a football game. After a little fiddling with the GPS in one of the cars the gang get lost and are forced to make camp for the night in a remote part of the countryside.

During the night the camp is visited by someone in a jeep who never gets out but makes the kids a little nervous anyway. The next morning one of the two cars they’re travelling in is found to have a broken fan belt so all bar two of the group head off to the game, leaving the cars owner and his girlfriend to head into a nearby town to get the part for the car.

In town they run into an unsavoury mechanic who tells them the story of the family that ran the wax museum in the town and the tragedy that befell them, despite the amazingly realistic wax sculptures that were once a tourist attraction.

Of course, bad things start to happen to our intrepid football fans and they quickly discover that there’s more to the town then just great wax statues.

Cry, bitch! (how I fucking hate Paris Hilton)

 It’s important when discussing the 2005 version of House of Wax (yep, it’s a remake, soon I’m going to stop mentioning that as so many of these films are remakes) to state right from the start that Paris Hilton does get killed in this film. However, as far as I’m concerned, her death was a poor one, over far too quickly and with nowhere near enough gore.

Hilton aside, House of Wax is not a bad film. For a change it’s easy to like some of the characters in this movie, so you do feel concern for them as they go through the motions of their ordeal. Carly (Elisha Cuthbert) is likeable as is her brother, even the villain of the piece is someone you don’t mind seeing on screen.

One of the other things I really liked about House of Wax is the soundtrack which features great music from bands like Deftones and Marilyn Manson, though there are times where figuring out the name of a certain song playing in the background or just thinking about a band is preferable to watching the movie, especially in the first act or so which is a little slow as it’s setting the scene for the action to take place.

Certain scenes in House of Wax feel very familiar – the ankle cut that marks the beginning of the violence is a wound that was made popular by Hostel, though as far as I can figure, House of Wax came first – in fact all the horror in House of Wax is a tad familiar and on that front there’s nothing new here – still I can’t bring myself to really dislike this movie.

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for House of Wax.
Two Thumbs Down for Paris Hilton.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Wax_(2005_film)
imdb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0397065/