Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Down A Dark Alley: The 2000s

Ah the 2000s. The modern age of horror films. Which leads to tricky genre defying films that may or may not be horror movies, plus too many remakes and sequels. Still there are some high quality films, and remember: just because its old doesn't mean its good, and just because its new doesn't mean its terrible.

Much like From Dusk Till Dawn, this is as much an action movie as it is a horror film. Both genres are melded together very well however, especially since this also becomes a hybrid of different aspects of horror movies, ranging from the "Party lost in the woods and facing some unknown horrible danger," to the siege element most famously used in Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead. The description of the film according to one reviewer is that "Its Jaws meets Alien," but to me its more like "Predator meets Alien Meets Night of the Living Dead." Marshall though wisely makes the film his own, giving us his own unique twist on the werewolf genre.

Unlike zombies, which are frightening yet bumbling, and vampires, which are sleek, deadly, and refined, werewolves have the distinction of being humans turned into pure animals. As shown in the movie, they have their own predator instincts, but when there is no full moon take on the form of regular humans, therefore being harder to spot than other monsters. The badass moments in this movie kind of distract from any serious exploration of the creatures, but that is not even really needed since at this point they have been explored previously and we already have all the information there is to know about them.

In addition to being endlessly entertaining, Marshall in his limited time actually fleshes out most of the characters and makes us like some of them, something that is often discarded in the genre. This movie is not only notable for being quite enjoyable, but also an example of how it is still possible to create something that isn't a lame carbon copy of another movie already done before. I want to see more from Marshall, as The Descent looks terrifying, although Doomsday seems to be a bit on the lame side. 91

Scare Level=4.5

Confession: I've never read any of Lovecraft's works. This partly due to laziness, but mostly because after reading the descriptions of what they are about, I get a bit freaked out and lose my nerve. Seriously the thought of ancient monster elder gods slumbering, waiting to be awaken by human idiots that will end up becoming their slave meat puppets is pretty creepy. The movie kind of builds on that idea, if only limiting itself a bit due to its rather short and sweet running time.

Due to being a cool homage/throwback/experiment to silent cinema, the movie thrives largely on pure atmosphere, which is what the early silent horror movies and the Val Lewton films completely feed off of. Since the creators decided to use old school filming techniques, 1920s style acting (lots of lip reading, of course) they really weren't going to utilize more modern aspects such as the jump scare anyways. Which I actually like a great deal, being as these methods resulted in a truly eerie movie.

My only problem with this otherwise fine movie is the running length-its too goddamn short. Sure I admire the idea of leaving the audience wanting more, but many things could have been further fleshed out and the ending left me a bit unsatisfied. Yet I highly recommend checking this out, if only to enjoy a slice of cinema long since gone and now completely outdated. 90

Scare Level=5.0

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Down A Dark Alley Presents: 1990s Horror

Ah yes, the 1990s-a decade when horror went underground. Yet there are some really good, even great entries into the horror genre during this period, although as noted in one of my write ups there were also some awful ones, although that's true of every decade. Here's a couple that sort of encompass what the 90s had to offer.

What more can I say about a film that has accurately been labeled one of the worst movies of all time? This film has to be seen to be believed, for its badness is all in a class by itself. The hilarity level is insanely high, and I can't imagine anyone aside from small children finding this movie to be at all scary.

Never mind the wretched dialogue, the acting that makes the people in the Friday the 13th series look like trained thespians, or the fact that many scenes absolutely do not make any sense at all. I was laughing so hard throughout, not only at the crazy ghost grandpa that keeps appearing and then vanishing at all the wrong times, but at the evil she-bitch supposedly driving things.

This film has everything from corn porn (I'm not kidding. You have to see it to really believe it, and its very funny), to a guy screaming about them eating him, and oh yeah Grandpa is actually creepier than any of the goblins. There's not a troll to actually be found in this film, which means that the film makers cannot only be sued for wasting people's time and money with this crap, but also for a misleading title. Not that anyone would waste their time doing so, although God knows at the same time we did end up with something that proves that anyone can make a movie. And sucker someone into financing it regardless of how horrible it is. 25, but a 90 on the laughter scare

Scare Level (out of 10)=-5. Yes, you read that right. -5 is correct.

PS: Here's the hilarious and classic scene that really makes the movie:

Without a doubt this is the most bloody, most gory horror movie I have ever seen. The film starts off relatively crazy to begin with before settling down into a false sense of calm before a storm that unleashes itself in a fashion relative to other films such as The Evil Dead series, giving us moments that must be seen to be believed. I had no idea what I was getting into when I viewed this film, and boy was it a hidden, awesome, freaky weird treat.

Right now I'm struggling to find images from the film that I can actually post without offending people's sensibilities, and ones that aren't extremely nasty. This film has everything from a demonic zombie baby that results in a hilarious slapstick routine in the park, to the grand finale involving a lawn mower and tons of zombies. Plus there's the kung fu priest who kicks ass for the Lord, and a gigantic monster that reminded me of the ones in The Evil Dead II and some other films I've seen.

Back before he made the Lord of the Rings movies, Jackson was known for making some of the nastiest horror movies around. I'm still hoping for that Jackson to return, as so far I've enjoyed two of his horror films (The Frightners is another one). Gotta love a movie that manages to mix in comedy with horror, and also be highly entertaining to no end. I'm not sure if this movie is excellent. I don't even know if its worthy of the rating I gave it. But I think it is. That's all that matters. 98

Scare Level=2.0

Really I don't need to see all of Robert Rodriguez's filmography to know that this is his best movie. I also liked Sin City, but I find this movie more refreshing, since it is a more original work and has a kinetic energy that works extremely well. The fact that he also gets away with casting George Clooney as a dark anti-hero is something interesting, plus the fact that Clooney works completely against type here. I like that alot, even though the rest of the cast is fairly standard, although having Fred "The Hammer" Williamson and Tom "FX Master" Savini, and Danny Trejo plus hottie Selma Hayek is all around cool.

Despite the movie not being a full fledged horror movie, I count it as such considering that the first half is merely build up for the insanity that follows in the second, more incredibly entertaining last half. To me the movie wisely builds up the characters and their motivations, gives us a kickass and darkly comedic opener, and then goes into Grindhouse mode in Mexico as the shit hits the fan and the vampires reveal themselves in a rather freaky and surprising manner. Although these creatures of the night are far different, and do not fit the typical vampire standard, as some are really more like vicious mindless animals, resembling almost zombies. While others are quite human like, so the movie really doesn't follow or have a consistent opinion on the matter.

The last act brilliantly goes into crazy overdrive, featuring tons of violence, blood, and much killing, as if Rodriguez was being paid by the hour to chock in as much overbearing yet radical moments as possible. Too bad that the movie really doesn't have much of a good ending, though, or that it manages to go beyond anything basic. Still what fun is to be had watching such a film, and a good reminder that what a movie should at least aim for is leaving the viewer with the feeling they watched something worthwhile. 85

Scare Level=5.5/10

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Down A Dark Alley: Jason Redux

Here are the other reviews covering the work of one Jason Vorhees. Personal note: not all of the films in the series were seen during Horrorfests. Also at some point I plan on doing future updates of all reviews surrounding the series, too. Keep in mind I wrote these a couple years back.

Not much can really be said of the series that hasn't been stated already. "Its a cash grab enterprise, all about the money." "Most of it blows goats." "Meh." And the like. Me, I like the Friday the 13th movies. Okay, well not all of them, but most of them, yes. They are entertaining, and actually semi-enjoyable. The first 2 were all about being scary, and then the third and forth featured a descent into a pulp, campy style that I rather like. What you have here is the best one of the bunch.

After Part V didn't do so hot, the series creators realized they needed to bring back Jason. Nevermind the evil bastard was killed off at the end of Part IV (this isn't a spoiler, considering the only people who don't know this have been living under a rock their whole lives), it was time to bring him back. From the dead! *Cue the dun dun duh! music* In a fashion that paid homage to the Bava and Hammer horror movies in an awesome fashion that had left me with a grin on my face. Yes, this and Part IV are easily the most fun entries in the series overall.

I have to say that even though he's a cool protagonist, Tommy is kind of boring and a bit of a stiff in this one. Corey Feldman and even the guy from Part V were both much better, but then again its a thankless role. Since he's supposed to be the one to try and convince everyone that Jason is alive, battle Jason, etc. You can't really say much more about this movie, except that it has some good kills, some people actually not acting like idiots, and it covers Jason's surprised reaction to seeing children at the camp he's called home for so long. If you don't want to bother watching the entire series (I don't recommend it, but that's just me), check this one out. 85

Scare Level (out of 10)=2.0

Unlike the last one, this movie was merely decent, although there were some notable moments, as the series kind of reverted back to the "Consistent but not particularly great" mode that it is mostly stuck in. Still, considering the small track record of good seventh entries in long standing movie series, its not bad, and its certainly reliable in what it offers. Also, even though the first 3 movies were establishing the Jason mythology, and the next three covered Tommy Jarvis and his battles with the masked maniac, this one stands alone as the next trio was simply "Jason Goes to...." followed by him fighting Freddy.

So the creators made the best of the last movie in the regular series to really feature Jason at Camp Crystal Lake. If anything, its akin to a send off, and so they made the best of it and featured some nasty kills, plus Jason fighting a girl named Tina. WHO CAN MOVE SHIT WITH HER MIND! That's just crazy, plus awesome, thrown in with goddamn cool. The movie's problem is that you don't get enough of her wielding those wacked out powers, even though without them this movie wouldn't have been as entertaining, or even worthwhile.

Because at this point, the characters had mostly become really weak. When the silent, non-speaking guy in the hockey mask becomes the most interesting dude in the picture, you have problems. Even when he does do something badass like the sleeping bag kill, or when he saws a guy in half. Part Four was the last movie to actually have people who you cared about, or at least were worthy of acknowledging. Although I guess in Part VIII there were some decent cast members, I suppose. Anyways the series just kept going downhill from here. 76

Scare Level: 1.5

Okay, even though I knew that the series goes downhill from Part VI, I still pressed on; I plan to eventually view Jason X, and Freddy V. Jason, which I hear is actually quite good. Yet I couldn't resist watching more-I'll admit that I've become a fan of sorts, and that Jason is interesting. He's less annoying than Freddy, more creepy and inventive with his kills than Michael Myers. I've already seen most of the Halloween series, and I will eventually tackle the Nightmare on Elm Street movies (I've only seen the first one). Oh and this movie really doesn't have much going for it aside from the high camp value and its funny yet strangely welcoming 80s cheesiness. While it gets a lot of hate, I'm not one of those folks, as I save my disdain for the craptastic Jason Goes to Hell (which I watched last October). Plus the female lead here is actually quite cute and very likable.

In regards to her dreams/nightmares/visions of Jason as a boy, well that is the creators ripping off that one girl's nightmare/what may have happened to her in Part III. Both are semi-creepy here, and the only really thing that could possibly freak anyone out. But at the same time the fact that Jason not only takes out an entire cruise liner and ends up wandering around Manhattan, while the locals are so jaded they hardly even notice. That is something I find to be hilarious and great, if only because there is also a scene where Jason scares off some punks by simply lifting up his mask.

This movie unsurprisingly represented the series decline in box office receipts as well as standing for what really went wrong with the series. Still, considering that Jason was last scary in Part II and Part IV, it really isn't this movie's fault that by 1989 viewers weren't scared at all of the big lug. Oh and the remake while a nice attempt at a throwback to the series' glory days does actually signify that the old school slashers may just be not frightening enough to impact a hip and cynical new generation. 68

Scare Level=1.0

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Down A Dark Alley: The 80s and Mr. Vorhees

After finally going through the entire Jason series over the course of three-four years, some of the Horrorfests saw scattered viewings of movies in the series. Presented first tonight will be two reviews, followed by three more write ups. All brought to you by Jason Vorhees, one of the greatest fictional villains of all time.

When people discuss sequels better than the original, this one isn't even mentioned. Sure its not a great film by any stretch of the means, but in many ways its superior to the first film, and it adds a great deal to the series. What I like best about the movie is that Miner devotes his time and energy to making a movie that has some scary elements, and is really quite creepy. Sure the original was made with the same purpose in mind, but here its somewhat amplified in many ways.

For instance, Jason actually makes an appearance here, and he's very creepy. Instead of having the hockey mask though, Jason instead sports a bag on his head-and strangely enough I find that more frightening than the hockey mask. If only because in Part II Jason is a myth and a legend, wandering around in the woods like a ghostly presence, haunting every step. The counselors who foolishly decide to set up shop too close to Crystal Lake only invite their doom, because well this is domain of Jason. Enter it and you end up dead on the business end of some sharp objects.

Man is the last chunk of this film pretty high on the tension and the jump scares, with the final fight being long and rather drawn out, and featuring the rather lovely heroine being chased by, and forced to, fight Jason. What gets revealed is kind of freaky and sort of awesome, and the film has one of the most effective and scary jump scares near the conclusion. I saw it coming because of a Friday the 13th thread on Rotten Tomatoes, but I'll be damned if it didn't cause me to go kind of numb anyways. I'm not a huge fan of gore and slasher flicks, but I rather enjoyed this one and the first film, which I saw last Halloween. 83

Scare Level (out of 10): 7.5

Honestly there's not much to this film here. While yes it does feature Jason finally donning the famous hockey mask and thus fully becoming the badass super serial killer that everyone knows, that's only one of the two reasons to even see this. The other is the rather inventive and cool deaths, although that means that the film makers put more into the violence than story or characters. That's not a good thing.

Really the characters in this movie suck. At least the ones in the first and second ranged from decent to somewhat likable. I really didn't gave a damn about anyone here, and thus any sort of tension that could have emerged really faded quickly. The main heroine is also not really smart, although I guess she's really cute. She defeats Jason by per dumb luck, really. Although there is a decently creepy flashback scene that works.

What's somewhat amusing is that this movie was made in 3D. So you really needed the glasses to find any of that remotely cool, and besides I find 3D to be rather lame. Quite a bummer that this film isn't as entertaining as the first film or as creepy as the third movie. I do look forward to the fourth film though, as I've heard good things. One last thing though: the film tries to copy the effective twists of the first two films, and fails. Miserably. 56

Scare Level: 3.5