Movie Review- “The Thing”- What a dog.

Eh. That’s the only emotion I can evoke from the “The Thing”. Of course, I am not the only person to have said that about the film because those of us who experienced John Carpenter’s original masterpiece are spoiled by originality and man-made special effects. Remember those? I feel like I’m turning into a curmudgeon when it comes to remakes in general, but especially when it comes to horror film remakes. And by the way, the John Carpenter version was a remake. The original, original was released in 1951. I remember my dad telling me that he saw that film as a kid so when the 1982 version came out, it was an instant family tradition. Sick, huh? I don’t think he could have ever imagined that he was taking his twelve-year-old daughter to witness the spider-head.

Let’s start with the clear distinction between John Carpenter’s original and this Thing. John Carpenter’s was indeed, a horror film. It was disturbing, hopeless, terrifying, shocking, way the hell ahead of its time, and it still holds up.  If you want to be technical about it, it was a sci-fi horror film which gave Alien a run for its money. (Alien came out a few years prior but was the reigning shocker for this time period.) This prequel started out OK, then made the mistake that so many horror films make today. It turned into an action-adventure movie. I realize that we are now dealing with an audience that has a five second attention span so in an effort to expose a new audience to “the classics”, there is an ardent need to tweak an original story line and bring it into the future. I hate that! STOP IT! I’m finished with that. How about teaching this generation how to appreciate a well-told story with proper character build up so you at least give a rat’s ass about the people whose demise you are witnessing. The 1982 version started out a bit slow. It was an involved, intelligent story that required your attention, not to stay on track but to appreciate the elements, the surroundings, and the situation that these men were in.

For those who were never fortunate enough to experience the John Carpenter version starts with a helicopter chasing a beautiful husky, which sets the scene for dread from the get go. You wonder why they are chasing this beautiful creature only to find rather quickly that things are not as they appear. The American researches who join the scene, learn that the helicopter was the remaining Norwegian researches who were there before them, having succombed to a mutating alien they had discovered in the ice. That’s it.

So what did that Thing have that this Thing didn’t have? Well, I get that this current one is a sequel so the filmmakers are hoping that there won’t be any comparisons, only appreciation for both films separately. Sorry. The first had Kurt Russell, who was once an untouchable badass who could easily shame current day wannabe badasses. The other missing element is the patience the 1982 version had. It started out with a bang, but still maintained a pace that kept building without becoming a kitschy, action film. The action scenes were tension building, not adventurous. Big difference. The best part of the 2011 version for me? The ending credits. Not just because the film ended but because it salvaged it’s importance (if any) by tying in to the beginning of the 1982 version. Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler. I’m just saying to stay for the credits if you do intend to see it. I didn’t hate this movie, I’m just guilty of trying to turn this into something that it’s not.

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Countdown to Halloween! (Oh yeah, it’s scary movie review time.)

Jack-o-latern

Image via Wikipedia

Oooooohhhhhhhh! It’s my favorite time of year! I’m one of those crazy people that believes that Halloween is truly a holiday and one to be celebrated at that! I know it’s supposed to be for kids but having grown up loving horror films and dressing up, it’s an event worthy of becoming a national holiday. I’ve noticed that I have my own sick little tradition of watching at least one horror film every night in October, leading up to Halloween for the simple act of doing it. Because I can. Some people climb mountains because they are there, I watch horror films every night because they too, are simply just there. One must have goals in life (or in this case, ghouls) n’est pas?

I have  been pretty good this month but not perfect. Until this weekend. From here on out, every night baby, without fail. I won’t be satisfied until I am a paranoid mess by November 1. It’s tradition.

Let’s start with the most disgusting horror film I have seen in YEARS.  Human Centipede 2, Full Sequence. Now, let’s be clear about something. At somebody’s suggestion, I watched Human Centipede 1, First Sequence a few months ago and demanded to have my hour and fifteen minutes of my life back. It’s a film that quickly gained a cult following based on the shock value and originality of the subject matter.( If you don’t know what it’s about, use your imagination in the worst possible way based on the title until you cringe. You’ll come up with at least the gist of the story line.) It’s a disgusting plot. Plain and simple. But,true horror fans who roam the earth in our own zombie-like state ultimately appreciate originality where it is nearly impossible to find these days. So I was torn when I saw the first one because I kind of hated it but appreciated that nobody had done it yet. That made me invested enough to want to see where they were going to go with this story. It’s just pure, sick curiosity.

In short, the first film was about a German doctor who was a lunatic and sewed people together, creating a human centipede. (Gag. I mean it, gag. Even the actors in the film gagged.) Having said that, The sequel I have to say, on the heals of this premise, was genius. The sequel is about a fan of the original Human Centipede film who is not “quite right” to begin with and becomes obsessed with the film. Human Centipede Part Deux does a fantastic job of character building because they found a protagonist who is pitiful, causing the viewer to feel some sort of compassion and understanding for his lunacy. At least that was the intent. Believe me, the compassion goes away at some point due to the “ick” factor. Laurence R. Harvey who portrays the evil troll is going to have a difficult time shaking this image of him from the minds of movie goers the way Linda Blair did with The Exorcist. He’s creepy, nasty, slimy, crazy, odd-looking, and holds a regular job like the rest of us.That’s the part that works. The normal guy who goes cuckoo in regular society. It creates the this could happen to you, vibe. He does a great job of becoming seriously scary, and horrifying which will work for those who like the shock-value horror films. If that’s what you like, this delivers. My only spoiler is that now there are twelve people where the first had three, so imagine the “explosive” content of the film.

Movies like Hostel which I admit I enjoyed, tend to be on in the Eww Gross categories but I’m not kept awake by those films. They are fun to watch in the moment and then you go home and sleep just fine with the lights off and your sleeping mask on. In my opinion, if you don’t sleep with the lights on or at least pop one eye open wondering, what was that after you watched a horror film, then the film didn’t do it’s job.  I am old-school when it comes to my horror films.

In all fairness, everybody is affected by different forms of horror. For some it’s sharks, zombies, vampires, ghosts, etc. For me, it’s good old-fashioned demons and Lucifer. Yep, Luci does it every time for me.( I will post later about what films still scare me every time I see them but I still put myself through it!) Mr. Harvey and Tom Six (creator of the Human Centipede series) did a worthy job given the storyline but I admit, I slept like a baby. Maybe waking up once or twice only to shake my head thinking, man that was gross.

Horror Films-Add these to your Fright Night!

Michael Myers (Halloween)

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I know there are lists everywhere about the top 10…20…25 horror films of all time. First of all, like any other list, everybody has their own list of what “The Best” is. After all, what creeps one person out doesn’t necessarily creep another person out. For example, vampires and zombies have only mildly scared me. But anything remotely close to ghosts or the supernatural? Now we’re talking. Of course, a film that affects the psyche of an entire generation or instills fear on the masses such as “Jaws”, can be considered a success and should receive a well deserved high status. But what about those other movies that don’t get too much attention that still made you open your eyes in the dark in the middle of the night? You know, that movie that while you were watching it you said, “that was the dumbest, weakest horror film I’ve ever seen.” Or, “that didn’t scare me at all.” Only to find yourself thinking about it later. Horror doesn’t necessarily need to have a monster in it. An “odd” little girl or a mute tall man can be all you need.

Here are my lists of films that may or may not have made it on other Best horror films of all time lists. They only made my overall list if they:

  • Made me sleep with my parents as a kid
  • Had a compelling enough story to make me care about the characters. A lot of movies today have characters in them that make me care less if they live or die. Sometimes I’m on the killer’s side.
  • Had an outstanding musical score that makes me cringe just hearing it.

Let’s start with the classics:

Nosferatu-yes, he was the original vampire, but still the scariest one.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?-Before there was Misery, there was Baby Jane. Rat on a silver platter anyone?

Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte-this would not be considered shocking now but it was at the time. Still a great story.

Burnt Offerings-See a pattern? Forget Dark Victory. Bette Davis could have made a career as the original scream queen.

-House of Wax-or anything Vincent Price for that matter. Mr. Creepy in his day.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers-That scene where Kevin McCarthy looks at the camera and screams, “they’re coming!” is still classic.

Films that scared the Catholic kids (like me):

The Exorcist

Amityville Horror

The Omen-THE ORIGINAL. Not the crappy remake.

Rosemary’s Baby

-Carnival of Souls-The 1962 version.

Great movies with great musical score or rhyme:

-Halloween-They just don’t write themes like that anymore.

Nightmare on Elm Street-Remember the nursery rhyme?

The Legend of Lizzie Borden-That rhyme is even worse.

Psycho-Who knew string instruments could be so terrifying?

Jaws-I never considered this to be a horror film but it did change how we felt about swimming in the ocean. Da dum…da dum..da dum…da dum……ahhh!

The Shining-The music in that isn’t instantly recognizable but it’s big, scary, and terrifying when you hear it. I still hate hearing it.

Foreign Films

Ringu-Japan -This is the original The Ring, before we got a hold of it and Americanized it.

Ju-on-Japan-The original The Grudge. Same as above. Right now the Japanese have the formula for great horror films in my opinion.

Them-France-This is the original, The Strangers.

Calvaire (The Ordeal)-France/Belgium-This movie from Belgium is a combination of Deliverance, and Misery. It’s borderline horror, more on creepy suspense but definitely worth checking out.

Great monsters, villains

-Silence of the Lambs- Hannibal Lechter. Certainly the most educated and classiest of villains.

-Alien-to date, this is the only movie that made me start crying from fear. I was nine! Nobody saw that little alien thing coming during the dinner scene!

The Descent-The monsters in this are great! I don’t even like so-called monsters but these guys creeped me out.

SAW – Yay Jigsaw! A great concept from a young writer/filmmaker that caught on.

The Midnight Meat Train-The meat packing guy is an effective villain. Good old fashioned, void of emotion killing machine. Reminded me of Michael Myers. The only weird thing is that Bradley Cooper and Brooke Shields are in this film.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre-Leatherface. That’s all that needs to be said about him.

Hellraiser-Pinhead

Of course, Freddy, Michael, and Jason. That goes without saying.

And you think chicks can’t be scary? Check out this group:

-Carrie-and her mother for that matter. This is one of those movies that had it all. Scary music, creepy girl, even creepier mother, one of the scariest endings of all time. Brian de Palma was king for a while.

The Omen(The original)-Never mind the kid, what about his nanny! That woman was a walking nightmare.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose-Eeek. Just…eek.

Paranormal Activity-I’m sorry. I found Katie Featherstone to be scary. I know this is sacrilege to somebody.

-Misery-Kathy Bates

The Exorcist-Of course, I have to end with the queen herself. Still going strong sister!

* I just have to make the point that there are a lot of remakes coming out. That’s fine and good but I encourage this generation to watch the originals. The stories may seem to be at a slower pace but the villains in the older movies were slower and scarier. Michael Myers was scary because while Jamie Lee Curtis was running, he still caught up to her just walking and taking his sweet time. That’s scary. Same thing with Night of the Living Dead. They practically crawled and still killed everybody. Today, the zombies are running? Give me a break!

Whatever your poison, Happy Horrors!

Movie Review-Paranormal Activity 2

Of course I saw Paranormal Activity 2 on opening weekend. I am after all, a self-proclaimed horror film nut. My greatest passion is travel but one of my favorite pastimes in life is watching and endlessly critiquing horror films. I love all genres of movies but I’ve watched horror films as long as I can remember. That might explain why I still freak out should I happen to wake up at 3:15 am (Amityville Horror anyone?) Anyway, on to the review.

I only decided to give my opinion on this movie because it’s getting a bad rap by so many horror film fans and critics. The criticism I have read is that it’s just more of the same. I have to say that yes, it is more of the same but thank God. In terms of wrapping up a story or continuing a story that was not supposed to have a continuation, it was successful. Originally, this was the little horror movie that could, made with a very low budget and a good idea. My main concern with P.A.2 was that it was going to suffer the same fate as Blair Witch 2, where the big studio got involved and screwed up the story by veering off into never-never land, ignoring the original formula that made it popular to begin with. Sometimes simplicity works best as was the case with the original Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. To my relief, P.A.2 did not suffer that fate. I went into it wondering how this story was going to tie in with the first movie. The scenario they created actually worked considering that the director from the first movie was merely a producer on this project and didn’t have as much input as he did in the original. Thankfully, the transition between the two films was relatively seamless and I was impressed with how a new team was able to come in and create a decent prequel to the film. Did it work in terms of going down as one of the best horror stories I’ve ever watched? Hardly, but I appreciate this story for what it is and I hope it does become a franchise. If so and a third film comes of it,  I and others I’m sure would then expect a project with a bigger budget and more special effects, otherwise it could be in danger of becoming a one trick pony. Having said that, here is why it worked for me:

There is a baby and a dog in this film. The fact that there is a baby and a dog, created instant dread for me and kept me uncomfortable the entire time. At first I thought that those elements made it too uncomfortable, almost distracting, but the discomfort made it scarier, and certainly made the situation more dreadful. After all, I paid to feel completely and utterly hopeless, right?

There are six still cameras to constantly look at which means that your eyes are darting around like mad, looking for “something evil” to show itself somewhere. The fact that you are constantly looking means that you are engaged with the story, though there are moments of  “looking for nothing” which does start to drag on a bit. But the scare tactics in the Paranormal Activity movies have been subtle which is what I have appreciated about them so far. I also appreciate how they can lull you into a false sense of security and then let you have it with both barrels.

As in the first P.A., the conclusion of this one did not disappoint. There was a familiar element mixed with something totally unexpected which I thought was a pretty good formula. In Paranormal Activity 1, we were going in circles about which ending should have been the official ending where as in P.A.2, I didn’t really want to change what they did. But it will be interesting to see if there were alternates when the DVD is released.

I appreciate this film along with its predecsesor for what they are: a simple little, no frills horror story. No big names, no distracting eyeballs popping out to make you go, Ewwww instead of Eeeekkkk! I like some of this generations horror films but given that they are starting to dig deep and just recreate the classics, I can appreciate something different such as this storyline.  I mean, didn’t sweet, little Miss Katie scare you at all? Just a little?!