Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Halloween 2010: September 29

I don't have a whole lot to say tonight, other then September being over too quickly and October looking far too busy.


Subspecies IV: Bloodstorm (1998)

The plot is convoluted, juggling far too many story lines for a movie like this. I dislike the way two major characters from the previous films are killed off, off-screen, in the opening minutes. Michele’s behavior is inconsistent. The special effects are much, much cheaper. The ending has no punch. They should have called it quits after part three. (4/10)

Phenomena (1985)
The first act is much slower then I remember it being. Even a drunk Donald Pleascene and a helper monkey can’t defeat that. However, there are some great moments, even in these slower scenes, such as the opening kill and the sleepwalking sequence. However, Dario knocks it out of the part in the final lap. That last act is perfect, EC Comics horror stuff, over-the-top horror shenanigans that resolves the film’s of its earlier flaws. I also love Simonetti’s main theme.(8/10)

Pig Hunt (2008)
I suspect this got the greenlight during the Hogzilla/Monster Pig phenomena from a few years ago. Ultimately, that pig ends up being the film’s weakest aspect. It’s not the most convincing creature make-up, first-off, and the movie starts to loose steam once the cult of pig worshippers show up in the last act. The character set-up in the first act is kind of slow too. It’s the middle section, with the band of revenge seeking rampaging rednecks, that this movie really shines. Dirt bikes, dune buggies, weird baseball bat hook things, lots of high-pitch action direction… It’s during these moments that the movie most reaches the “Southern Comfort,” “Deliverance” on PCP feel I suspect the filmmaker was going for. It’s also the most entertaining bits here. If nothing else, this proves that James Isaacs doesn’t have his head completely up his own ass. (7/10)

Frozen (2010)
Setting up characters can be hard. The trio in this flick comes off as both a group of legitimately likable people and, at times, kind of jerks, loaded with the kind of petty relationship drama that usually sinks flicks like this. However, once the worse case scenario kicks in, all that stuff gets pushed away. The movie does a really good job of putting the audience in the character’s seat (Pun.) and, when things go really wrong, you feel that same sense of panic. The cast also mostly prevents making contrived, stupid decisions, the other thing that usually sinks flicks like this.(8/10)

Halloween 2010: September 28

So Animal Planet's "Lost Tapes" came back tonight. For those still unaware of this series, and I can't blame you if you are, in high-concept short terms, the show could basically be described as "Cloverfield: The Series." Each episode chronicles an encounter with a monsterous cryptozoological creature or a monster of mythology. Each encounter is presented in the mockumentry, "found footage" style. No matter how absurd, each week the writers dream up a new reason while someone encountering this type of monster would be constantly recording it the whole time. The reason you probably haven't heard of the show is because Animal Planet is a pretty unlikely place to find a horror anthology show. The show barely fits the channel's theme to begin with and recent episodes that focus on zombies and vampires completely break with the "Animal" part of the channel's moniker.

In a world where all the best horror-related television shows are on Showtime or shitty (Or both.), this is what passes for quality horror television for me. It's an unabashed guilty pleasure of mine. Yes, "Lost Tapes" is often ridiculous, poorly acted, and quite campy. Yet there's something sincere about it. It's completely goofy and totally serious, like a latter day "Unsolved Mysteries" or a slightly better made "Fact or Fiction: Beyond Belief." A winking acknowledgment of the show's own short-comings would make it totally unbearable. The Monster Kid and amateur cryptozoologist in me can't help but kind of love it.

Also tonight, I continue to work my way through the "Subspecies" box set while also sitting down for the first time with some late-period slasher flicks I'd miss seeing.


“Lost Tapes: Zombies”
This episode seems to homage video games more then anything else. It’s first-person perspective intentionally recalls countless FPS and the premise, a private security firm brought in to deal with a house full of zombies, is reminiscent of the original “Resident Evil.” The episode does get one or two good shock moment in and the pacing isn’t bad. However, the non-cryptozoological episodes are generally less interesting for me. Max Brooks is brought in as a “Zombie Expert” and is aggravatingly self-important. The show brings up voodoo and neurotoxins but then presents typical Romero style zombies. The Enigma Corporation is also apparently going to become reoccurring characters this season. I’m not sure if I like that. (6/10)

“Lost Tapes: Kraken”
The premise is dynamite: A kraken attacking an isolated oil rig. However, the execution is pretty maudlin and there’s a major lack of giant squid action. I do like that the edutainment content is upped from the last episode but this one kind of drags. (5/10)

Bloodlust: Subspecies III (1994)

I like that Radu gets some character development here. While the movie never stoops so low to become an actual romantic take on the vampire legend, it’s clear he’s actually developing romantic feelings for Michele. This is also the series at its most comic booky and carefree, the addition of a trigger happy special forces guy to the cast should clue you in there. This honestly provides a pretty satisfying conclusion to the story. (7/10)

Urban Legends (1998)
The contrived melodrama of late-nineties slasher films really isn’t any more or less cheesy then that of 1980s slashers, but they are generally a lot less charming. The lack of gore and gratuitous nudity and the presence of Tara Reid and the retarded looking Abercromie Killer don’t do the movie any favors. After a pretty dire eighty minutes, the camp and ridiculousness goes up a notch and I actually began to enjoy myself some. If the movie was at that heightened level of silliness the whole time, I would’ve enjoyed it a whole lot more. (5/10)

Dark Ride (2006)
This one has all the ingredients of a classic slasher movie: A threatening killer with personality and a unique look; a cast of distinct, amusing characters (Love the movie nerd guy!); a fantastic setting which it uses extremely well; and great gory kills. The killer’s super strength is maybe exaggerated, the story structure could use some work, and I’m not sure I like that twist ending. Overall though this one really surprised me and I’d say it makes the upcoming remake of “The Funhouse” even more unnecessary then it was to begin with. (7.5/10)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Halloween 2010: September 27

Another Halloween tradition around these parts, for me anyway, is the Yearly Consuming of the Monster Cereals. I'm not a cereal eater, generally speaking, and the sugary content of most modern kid's cereals (Cause who eats grown-up cereals?) actually hurt my teeth and coat my mouth with some sort of weird layer.

But I make an exception for the General Mills monster cereals, even if they are even more sugary then most other kid's cereals. The Monster Kid in me can't help but love them simply for their premise. Once upon a time, you could actually find Count Chocula year round and around October, Frankenberry and Boo Berry were both very easy to find. These days, you can find just one on Halloween week if your lucky. Last year I didn't even find a box of Frankenberry anywhere in the tristate area.

This year I got lucky. My local Target had a huge display up, containing all three brands, each one decked out with a fancy new box designs. I stocked up, and actually acquired multiple boxes of Boo Berry, it being my favorite. Sadly, I come home and discover I'm out of milk. But, soon... Soon, my friends.

I'm also extremely curious about Fruit Brute and Yummy Mummy. Fruit Brute was phased out years before I came along and my mom never allowed me to eat any of these cereals as a kid, due to their ridiculous sugar content. Thus, I missed Yummy Mummy as well. So if you see some freak buying twenty year old boxes of stale obscure children cereals off of eBay, you know who that freak is.

Anyway, what the hell am I talking about? Here's some Mini-Reviews:

Bloodstone: Subspecies II (1993)
Much more polished then the first film. The movie looks nicer, the direction is nicer, the atmosphere is thicker, and the story is better written and paced. The lead character of Michelle actually has a pretty solid character arc and the series starts to build up its own mythology. A superior sequel in pretty much every way. (7/10)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)

A direct remake of the 1931 version and wholly unnecessary. Spencer Tracer is completely miscasted. His Jekyll is neither repressed nor frustrated while his Hyde comes off as more of a leering mischief maker then a true threat. (The low key make-up doesn’t help any.) Ingrid Bergman is slightly better but she lacks the raw sexuality and the vulnerable of Miriam Hopkins’ Ivy. The surreal transformation sequences feature lots of heavy handed Freudian symbolism and come off as pretty corny today. There’s only real reason to see this one is as a point of comparison with the vastly superior 1931 take. (5/10)

Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005)
A decent little thriller that mostly comes off as a lark more then anything else. It says a lot about what Argento’s career is like these days that a movie this minor is actually something of a return to form. (6/10)

Triangle (2009)

I can’t decide if Melissa George’s performance is overdone, inconsistent, or just right. The “characters stuck in a time loop” premise is interesting, even if we the viewer can quickly see where this is going to end up. Even if this one doesn’t totally come together, Christopher Smith continues to be one of the more interesting young directors working in the horror genre. (6/10)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Halloween 2010: September 26

All right, it's time to stop fucking around. October 1st isn't until this Friday, but the Halloween season has fucking started. All the cool kids agree. Time to get the annual month-long horror-a-thon rolling.

I've got a shit load of plans. In addition to my write-ups here, I also plan on debuting Director's Report Cards for George Romero and Mario Bava. I have a huge list of things I want to watch, a bunch of old classics I want to revisit, including re-watching "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" in its entirety. The local Apollo Theater is showing a series of classic public domain horror flicks as well as Rocky Horror late in the month. The monthly Horror Remix at my local Alamo Drafthouse is Halloween themed this month, obviously. I'm not sure when my small home town got so cool, but I'm not really complaining.

Also, for the first time in forever, there will be a bunch of actual horror movies in theaters soon. Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter," despite not really being a horror film, is the most exciting release and the director's first interesting flick in a long time. "Monsters" seems to be the little indie horror flick that could this year. If it's any good or not... Well, I'll be the judge of that. Depending on reviews, I might give "Let Me In" and "Paranormal Activity 2" a look. "Hatchet II" and the "I Spit on Your Grave" remake are bringing unrated horror back to theaters, which is pretty cool. Naturally, "Saw 3D" is also arriving to further undo any good graces that franchise might have left.

Anyway, enough of my yammering. Let's get to the mini-reviews.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
I don’t know how I manage to miss seeing this one until now. What I first noticed is how different this movie is from the Universal Monster movies of the same era. While the Universal films are distinguished by heavy Expressionistic atmosphere and static direction, the visual direction in this film is spectacular and ahead of its time. Director Rouben Mamoulian makes great use of point-of-view and visual motif. March makes Jekyll and Hyde distinct characters, one a moral but frustrated man, while the other is a sadistic monster. His make-up is iconic. Over all, this rightfully stands among Browning’s “Dracula” and Whales’ “Frankenstein” as a classic of horror. (9/10)

Subspecies (1991)
Looks pretty cheap and the plot plays fast and loose, but Radu is a badass horror villain, I like the cheesy Full Moon effects, and the movie does get some actual atmosphere out of the real Romanian location. (7/10)

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? (2010)
Despite getting coverage in “Fangoria” magazine, this is only the most marginal of horror film. Not because murder and madness are hardly exclusive to that genre, but more because of the down-to-Earth, nonfantastic direction Herzog brings to the proceedings. He roots the David Lynch weirdness in a sensible, quietly nihilistic reality. (7/10)

Habit (1995)
Larry Fessenden’s horror films are hard for a lot of people to get into but I love his mixture of classical horror ideals, modern neurosis, naturalistic direction, and tasty sociological subtext. This is actually an example of the filmmaker at his most personal and accessible. (8/10)