Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The 1950s Are Alive With the Sound of Screaming

Really its a shame that "Popcorn" came out at the tail end of the slasher genre craze, considering that its smarter and savvier than some of its lesser competition. The changing of directors midway through shooting, and switching actresses as well, apparently lead to this movie going from having a supernatural feel and being really out there, to instead being turned into your seeimgly typical "Killer on the loose" film with some certain twists involved. Also I have to note that "Possesor" certainly makes for one twisted and bizarre short film, although these days it would pass for a not weird enough music video, certainly outdone by say, something from Nine Inch Nails.

Despite the fact that this movie is engaging and entertaining, there's really not much to write home about. The film isn't particularly deep or truly interesting in that regard, even if its better made than say, some of the latter Jason or Michael Myers movies. There's our hapless heroine, plagued by terrifying and mysterious dreams that do not make any sense. The rest of the cast is filled out by college students, led by a teacher who's your typical college professor sleeping with one of his students. What makes this movie a cut above the average masked killer movie is really its setting, which is an abandoned movie theater cleaned back up to host a scary movie festival.

Another movie released two years after this one, Joe Dante's "Matinee," probably pays better homage to the campy 50s and 60s horror movies that "Popcorn" so lovingly displays and mocks to a certain degree. I admit not having seen that movie, so I cannot say for certain, aside from judging based on Dante's previous body of work. Still, "Popcorn" is certainly not without its charms, and certain elements were clearly taken and used by Wes Craven later on in "Scream 2," which is a more clever and better movie than this one.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What's That Buzzing Sound?

At this point, I've seen a decent amount of David Cronenberg's work, so I have a fair grasp of many of his themes and ideas. Despite not having yet dived into his 90s and most of his 2000s movies, I still have viewed a lot of his 70s and 80s films, ones that dealt with body mutilation, mutation, sex, and featured lots of gore and disgusting moments. His remake of the 1958 sci-fi picture "The Fly" is no exception, only there's something more at work here. Aside from a plot that was inspired by Kafka, to a certain degree.

This is why Cronenberg's horror movies are a cut above typical horror movie fare-he operates within a certain perimeter of ideas, never wavering from his vision no matter how disturbing that vision may end up being. Jeff Goldblum's Brudle is a scientist playing God with powers he does not even understand, and in the process this completely backfires on him.

Clearly Cronenberg is covering disease and its nasty effects upon the human body, and one could even make a case that this movie is partly about the AIDS epidemic that by 1986 was ravaging America. Even though by the third act his body is falling apart, his girlfriend Veronica refuses to abandon him, perhaps out of love, but also out of guilt of some kind. In some ways I'm reminded of Scanners, where a man clearly not entirely human still is able to stay with a normal, regular human being.

Several scenes in this movie are key, especially a dream sequence that is beyond terrifying, and a last act that clearly shows the mad scientist being turned into a full blown monster. A man going from creator to creation is something that Cronenberg has done before, primarily in Videodrome, and it works even better here. Although he has made several other movies that are better than this one, his remake brashly takes an older version and gives it a modern update that's nastier, more brutal, and more shocking. I am aware there is a sequel, but I doubt without Cronenberg's daft touch or Goldblum and Davis's honest, raw performances its even half as good.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Horrorfest 2011

Every year since 2008, I've tried to watch a bunch of horror movies from August to early November. This year will be no different, although considering that I'm starting to run out of the more famous and major horror movies, as the years go on the lists will probably feature more modern and lesser known films.

Total Viewed: 25 films

First Six List: (out of 100, or ****)

Die Monster, Die! (1965)-62, **
The Fly (1986)-95, *** 1/2
Night of the Ghouls (1959)-21, * 1/2
Popcorn (1991)-75, ***/** 1/2
Deep Red (1975)-92, *** 1/2
Dead and Buried (1981)-82, ***

Average Rating: 71, or ** 1/2

Next Up:

Cronos (1993)-93, *** 1/2
The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
The Shiver of the Vampires (1971)-74, ** 1/2 or ***

Family Video Rentals:

*Dawn of the Dead (2004)-90, *** or *** 1/2
*Cat People (1982)-90, ***
*A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)-75, ** 1/2 or ***
*Halloween H20 (1998)-80, ***
*The Hitcher (1986)-85, ***
*The Hills Have Eyes (1977)-80, ***
*Innocent Blood (1992)-81, ***
*Slither (2006)-94, *** 1/2
*Pulse (2001)-88, ***
*Undead (2003)-64, ** 1/2 or **

Average Rating: 82, or ***


*The Gorgon (1964)-71, ** 1/2
*Dementia 13 (1964)-80, ***
*The Devil's Bride (1968)-84, ***
*The Changeling (1979)-95, *** 1/2
*Christine (1983)-85, ***
*Ginger Snaps (2000)-95, *** 1/2

Average Rating: 85, or ***

Meh, Monster, Meh!

Many movies have been inspired by, and based off of, H.P. Lovecraft's many stories that he wrote back in the early 1900s. Die Monster, Die! (!965) is one of those, based on Lovecraft's tale called The Colour In Space, which I will admit I've never read. Still that story has to be more engaging and entertaining than this picture, which doesn't do Lovecraft any kind of justice.

Despite containing many gorgeous visuals, the movie comes off as more of a House of Usher ripoff than anything in the Lovecraft mythology. If maybe the story it is based off of is very similar to the movie, knowing something of Lovecraft I bet that his story has heavy atmosphere, is quite creepy, and works very well. Sometimes certain ideas and stories don't translate well from the printed word to the silver screen, and this is certainly one of those cases.

Which is too bad, because some scenes work really well, Boris Karloff gives it his usual all, and the last act is quite bizarre. Too bad that what comes before it is a relatively uninteresting movie that could have stood to use more creepiness. Certainly this movie is sadly a dud, and a rather forgettable one at that.