Archive for October, 2010

15 REALLY COOL HORROR MOVIES TO WATCH ON HALLOWEEN!

October 27, 2010

Everybody likes to watch horror movies on Halloween, right? Here’s a list I compiled of some titles that don’t always get the love they deserve. Some are not available on DVD or are out of print, so you’ll have to do some looking, but it’ll definitely be worth it.  Here goes:

1. HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH

Shunned by horror fans everywhere upon its initial release for not having anything to do at all with the slasher saga featuring Michael Myers, this is an overlooked and misunderstood classic that’s finally beginning to get some respect from nerds everywhere. It deserves it, because HALLOWEEN III is a delightfully fucked up film about the holiday. The plot involves a crazy old toy maker and owner of a novelty company called Silver Shamrock who plans on killing all the children on Halloween that wear his new line of masks during a special T.V. “promotion” shown on the day! How crazy is that? Featuring a solid starring role by the great Tom Atkins (NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, THE FOG), an amazing score by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth, and one of the most disturbing scenes involving a family watching television ever filmed, this is a perfect movie to watch on the night of Samhain, trust me.

2. NIGHTBREED

Clive Barker’s masterpiece about a secret community of mutant creatures that live in a mysterious dreamland is less about monsters and more about just trying to fit in when you’re different from everyone else. What nerd couldn’t relate to that? Featuring fantastic effects, great gore and an incredibly creepy performance by horror directing legend David Cronenberg as a serial killer shrink, this movie ROCKS!

3. TOURIST TRAP

Probably one of the creepiest horror movies ever made, this one is about a group of teenagers that become stranded at a secluded roadside wax museum, where they are murdered one by one by a lunatic who has telekinetic control over his mannequins. What?! For a PG rated movie it’s one of the scariest I’ve ever seen. The murders are far more innovative than the usual stalk and slash and the special effects are terrific. Did I mention there’s a sizzling hot Tanya Roberts running around in a halter top and short shorts? Are you sold yet?

4. THE KINDRED

This is one of my favorite slimy monster movies from the 80s. A group of friends stay at an old, scary house so they can help their friend unlock the mystery of his dead mother’s secret experiment, which involves a gross little creature that starts killing them off. Highlights include, Academy Award winning actor Rod Steiger screaming his lungs out while being showered in goo and a scene involving a watermelon that’s simply sublime.

5. POPCORN

What’s not to love about a scary movie that takes place in a theatre during an all-night horrorthon? Absolutely nothing! This film is SO much fun in every conceivable way you can’t help but fall in love with it. More than your typical slasher, it has a great mystery and a very strange back story that keeps you guessing. It also has horror veterans like Jill Schoelen (THE STEPFATHER) and Dee Wallace (THE HOWLING, CUJO) delivering great performances, and it features a very original death involving a giant prop mosquito. Pass the popcorn, please.

6. PUMPKINHEAD

The late Stan Winston directed this great horror flick for the holiday about a man who conjures up a giant monster to kill a group of kids who accidentally murdered his son. Featuring amazing special effects by the master himself and an iconic and terrifying looking creature that still holds up to anything created today. This is a perfect Halloween flick in every way. It also serves as an interesting morality tale and it’s got Lance Henriksen acting his ass off as usual.

7. TERROR VISION

Did you ever wonder what E.T. would be like if instead of a cute, Reese’s pieces addicted alien we got a flesh eating monster in its place? Look no further, because TERROR VISION is what you’ve been dreaming about. This is pure B-movie bliss. The Putterman family has just installed a new satellite system on their T.V. that starts receiving transmissions from an alien world. All hell breaks loose when a creature with an insatiable appetite crosses through and into their home where it starts eating everything and everyone in sight. This is a fun, campy movie that features performances by Gerrit Graham (USED CARS), Mary Woronov (DEATH RACE 2000, ROCK ‘N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL) and Jon Gries (JOYSTICKS). Switch back to cable, quick!

8. PRINCE OF DARKNESS

One of John Carpenter’s most underrated films as well as one awesome spin on the run of the mill demon possession formula. A group of physics students and a priest (Donald Pleasence) lock themselves in an old abandoned church in Los Angeles to decipher an ancient warning involving a swirling mass of green liquid kept in the basement. They soon discover that the contents of the jar contain the energy of Satan himself who plans on releasing an Anti-God upon the Earth! Holy shit! The students who get too close are turned into mindless zombies after being sprayed in the mouth with the substance and the city’s homeless surround the church to do the dark lord’s bidding. This is one scary, original and atmospheric horror movie with a creepy plot device involving a future transmission beamed backwards into your sleeping subconscious that still gives me goose bumps to this day.

9. HAUSU (HOUSE)

One of the weirdest, coolest and most original haunted house movies ever made, this Japanese horror film from the 70s is like watching a Grimm’s fairy tale on LSD. The plot involves a young schoolgirl who invites her six girlfriends to her Aunt’s remote country house for the summer. They soon discover the house is alive with evil spirits and they are slowly killed off in highly imaginative ways. One overweight girl has her head turned into a watermelon, while another girl who likes music is eaten alive by a piano. Incredible imagery and beautifully drawn characters makes this a surreal ghost story classic.

10. FROM BEYOND

From the twisted minds of H.P. Lovecraft, director Stuart Gordon (RE-ANIMATOR) and screenwriter Brian Yuzna (SOCIETY) comes this freaky, psychedelic horror flick from the 80s! Dark humor and grisly violence combine in a plot about a group of scientists performing experiments with a machine called the “resonator” that stimulates the pineal gland and opens up a parallel universe filled with hostile creatures. It has an amazing cast featuring Jeffery Combs (THE FRIGHTENERS), Ken Foree (DAWN OF THE DEAD) and the always sexy, Barbara Crampton (who’s dressed in a leather bondage outfit at one point. WOOF!). Atmospheric, bold and one highly entertaining film.

11.,12., & 13. PHANTASM I, II & III

I didn’t include PHANTASM IV: OBLIVION because it’s my least favorite in the series, but if you want to check out an awesome horror trilogy this Halloween, you can’t do much better than Don Coscarelli’s PHANTASM movies. Each film picks up after the last film leaves off and each one increases the insanity, surrealism and gore output by a thousand percent. The storyline involving The Tall Man (an evil funeral home operator from another world) and his attempt to turn the recently deceased into vicious little dwarves that are used as slave labor on his home planet, is one of the most original ever conceived. Reggie Bannister and Angus Scrimm keep things consistent with their perfect performances and the silver balls are always a joy to watch as they kill people in the most imaginative and violent ways possible. I also love the way you never know for sure if what you’re watching is reality or a dream and Coscarelli did it long before Wes Craven ever did with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.

14. THE BROOD

My favorite David Cronenberg movie and one of the scariest and weirdest “evil children” films ever made. An always excellent and intense, Oliver Reed plays a psychologist who performs a controversial therapy technique on his patients called “Pschoplasms”. One of his favorite disciples is a troubled mother who may be connected to a group of deformed children that brutally murder everyone she seems to have an issue with. This is another twisted entry into Cronenberg’s body horror films and one of his scariest. The day care scene is one of the most disturbing sequences ever filmed.

15. DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE

Ever wonder what PSYCHO would have been like if there was no mystery at all and instead of dressing like his mother and stabbing women in the shower, Norman dressed in a fire retardant outfit and burned them alive with a flame thrower? If the answer is yes, than this is the film you’ve been looking for. It is a sleazy, weird little piece of exploitation madness from 1980 that will really freak you out. More in the vein of William Lustig’s MANIAC than the Hitchcock classic, the story is about an abused Momma’s boy who reacts to the death of his cruel matriarch by playing his records really loud and frying women to a crisp in a special fireproof room he constructs in the family abode. Great movie, but you might need to take a SILKWOOD style shower to scrub the griminess off when this one’s over.

Well, that’s my list for this year. Have a happy Halloween and watch some scary movies!

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The Third Annual All Night Horror Show @ The New Bev!

October 12, 2010

It was that magical time of the year again! That time when Phil Blankenship hosts his Third Annual All Night Horror Show at the fabulous New Beverly Cinema here in L.A. I’ve attended the first two all nighters and I was there again for another heaping helping of scary flicks shown over a 12 hour period. It’s a serious endurance test for all horror movie maniacs and if you can make it all the way to the end, you’re one of the proud, the brave and the insane. This year was without a doubt, the best one I’ve ever attended. Each selection made me very happy and I’m marking the days on my calendar ’till next year’s all nighter. The following is a hazy recollection filtered through various chemicals (actually it was only a lot of caffeine and sugar this year ’cause I’m on the wagon):

1st movie:

DARIO ARGENTO’S TENEBRAE (1982) is my second favorite giallo of all time, right after Argento’s DEEP RED. It was a joy to watch this on the big screen with an audience. This fun filled and extremely violent movie is about a famous giallo writer who has come to Rome to promote his new book, Tenebrae. In an unsuspected bit of unwanted publicity, a black gloved killer is slicing women up and stuffing pages from the book in their mouths. Argento is clearly having fun with the genre as everyone is a suspect in this flick and the red herrings are tossed around like a trip to an Asian fish market. At one point even a vicious doberman is a possible killer (by the way, the dog is one of the best actors I’ve ever seen, and at one point it actually sizes up a tall fence, backs up and jumps it in a single bound). Even the actual killer turns out to be a red herring for yet another mysterious killer! The bloody murders are incredibly stylish as usual, especially one where a woman has her arm chopped off with an ax that sprays a geyser of blood against a wall like an abstract artist painting his canvas. The audience ate this one up and it was a great way to start things off.

2nd movie:

What better way to follow up a great Italian horror movie then with another great Italian horror movie. LUCIO FULCI’S THE GATES OF HELL (A.K.A. THE CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD) is a wonderfully insane supernatural zombie flick. It’s about a priest who happens to hang himself in a cemetery over one of the 7 portals of Hell, in a town call Dunwich. Bad choice, because all kinds of crazy hell breaks loose, literally. Before long the residents are having the back of their heads ripped off by zombies that can actually teleport. Let me tell ya, there is nothing more unfair than a zombie that can just materialize out of thin air directly behind you. You can’t defend yourself against that. How about the suicidal priest coming back as a demon who can telepathically make your eyes bleed and cause you to puke out your guts? Not cool. And just when you thought everyone was safe and sound inside the house, cue the maggot storm! That’s right, real maggots showering you from head to toe. These events have their toll on the towns people’s patience, as clearly shown when a protective father shoves a guys head through a power drill because he catches him smoking weed with his daughter. This movie’s plot is all over the map and concludes with a final shot that I still don’t really understand, but I don’t care. I love this movie and it really plays well with an audience. Nobody does crazy fucked up horror as well as the Italians do. Bravo!

3rd movie:

THE EVIL is a creepy little haunted house movie from 1978 that I’ve never seen before. Richard Crenna and Joanna Pettet play a couple who have just purchased an old, cob web filled mansion. They invite a group of friends and some former psychiatric patients of Crenna to help clean the place up. But when Crenna opens up a door in the basement that’s sealed with a weird looking crucifix (bad sign) an evil presence seals the home up making escape impossible. A ghostly apparition tries to help, but one by one the guests drop like flies. There are lots of electrocutions, a dog pushes a woman down a flight of stairs, Andrew Prine (wearing a weird pair of sailor pants) gets stuck in quick sand, and Victor Buono plays the goddamned Devil. What more can I say?

??Surprise movie??

Last year’s surprise movie almost created a near riot when three episodes of TALES FROM THE CRYPT were shown and met with a fairly negative reaction. Well, Phil made up for it this year with a very well received presentation of the 80s Heavy Metal Horror classic TRICK OR TREAT (1986). It was just what everyone wanted at exactly the right time. The fourth film in the night is the RALLY movie where you really need to invigorate the crowd and this one did just that. I’ve never seen TRICK OR TREAT before, so it was a great TREAT for me to finally see it on the big screen with an extremely enthusiastic crowd. The plot concerns a high school metalhead named Eddie Weinbauer (played by Marc Price A.K.A. Skippy from FAMILY TIES) who is constantly being bullied by a group of mean jocks. He is the number one fan of a devil worshipping metal God named Sammi Curr, who is killed in a accidental hotel fire. Heartbroken Eddie seeks support from a metal DJ named Nuke (Gene Simmons) and is given a rare demo album the deceased rock star cut before his untimely death. Eddie soon realizes that Sammi Curr is trying to return to life through the backwards passages on his record. Before long, he starts getting back at the bullies who’ve wronged him as the homicidal rocker returns to the world of the living. This movie was a lot of fucking fun! The awesome music was by the hair band FASTWAY and it was directed by actor Charles Martin Smith (AMERICAN GRAFFITI, STARMAN). Rock on!

5th movie:

Global panic ensues when it is revealed that a mysterious UFO is actually a giant bird that flies at supersonic speed and has no regard for life or architecture. – IMDB plot description for THE GIANT CLAW.

I remember seeing scenes from THE GIANT CLAW (1957) as part of the incredible MOVIE ORGY that Joe Dante edited together along with a handful of other shlocky creature features from the 50s. This one peaked my interest because it featured a giant rubbery looking vulture swooping down and destroying buildings and knocking airplanes out of the sky. This was an inspired choice. A nice taste of old school monster movie madness. It’s about a hot shot jet pilot (are there any other kind?) who spies a UFO “as big as a battleship” one day while flying a test mission. He’s dismissed as a crackpot, but when it becomes apparent that there is actually a giant bird destroying shit and gobbling people up, he becomes the hero who must save the day. Turns out the creature is from some antimatter universe and can only be destroyed with antimatter weaponry (pure nonsensical 50s logic). This movie was a surprising amount of campy fun that kept me chuckling as we pressed further into the early morning hours.

6th movie:

BREEDERS (1986) had been described to me previously as “80 minutes of alien rape” and that’s exactly what it was. This was the HOLY FUCKING SHIT movie of the night and at a time when my attention was drifting towards sleep, it perked me up and kept me glued to the screen with its ridiculous plot, cheesy gore, excessive nudity and the worst acting ever committed to film. The single women of New York are being attacked and raped by a creature that mutates from human form into a nasty, slimy monster with tentacles and a huge penis-finger. The women are all virgins, which is a tough nut to swallow considering all the actresses are in their late twenties, live in the largest city in the world and it’s the 80s. One of the virgin victims is a bathing suit model who snorts cocaine for lunch and does nude aerobics in the studio. The only two people who can crack the case are the world’s dumbest police detective and an equally dumb female doctor with huge hair, who also happens to be a virgin. They uncover a hidden lair in the subway tunnels where the rape victims bathe in a hot tub full of alien semen so they can transform into something more horrifying. This movie was like SEX AND THE CITY meets HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP. Pure madness and I loved every second of it.

7th movie:

I blacked out from exhaustion following BREEDERS, but I managed to stir awake just in time to catch the last half of THE OUTING (1987). Another wacky 80s horror flick that I somehow missed back in the day. This one (from what I can gather) was about a group of teenagers who somehow awaken an evil monster genie from a bottle. The kids have decided to spend the night in a museum and that’s where the genie starts magically killing them off one by one. One girl is bitten to death by cobras while she takes a bath and two wannabe rapist jocks are murdered with their own masks. It all leads to a showdown with the giant rubber genie chasing the main girl and her parents through the museum as they attempt to destroy the magic lamp. I always thought genies were supposed to be helpful and grant you three wishes and shit. This movie felt like a surreal dream that I was having or how I really wanted NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM to actually play. It closed the All Night Horror Show with a bang!

My fellow Horror Show veteran, Grae Drake (who couldn’t make it all the way through last year) and I stumbled out into the bright early morning sun feeling like we really accomplished something. Anyone can hang for part of the night, but it takes a certain kind of geek warrior to make it ’till the very end. It’s what separates the men from the boys. Or the normal from the crazy. Can’t wait until next year!

 

Wide awake and ready to be scared at the start of the All Night Horror Show.

 

 

12 hours later. We survived.

 

My Top 10 Favorite Slasher Films of All Time

October 5, 2010

With Halloween just around the corner, I’ve decided to compile a list of my all time favorite films from my all time favorite sub genre of horror: the slasher film. From the inspirations drawn from the Italian Giallo genre, the slasher film exploded in the late 70s and early 80s. The year 1981 gave birth to hundreds of cheaply made slashers and each one of them made money. The simple formula of a crazed killer stalking and killing a group of unsuspecting teenagers one by one has been probably the most successful form of American horror next to the zombie film. It was a direct product of a cynical era still trying to come to terms with sexual freedom and the women’s movement. Some call the films puritanical rage against feminism and the casual sex and drug use of the late 60s and early 70s. Whatever it was that caused this pop culture phenomenon, I regard the slasher genre as one of the most honest and pure forms of horror ever created. To this day Hollywood continues to churn out slasher films for new generations of teenagers to enjoy. They are a rite of passage for young lovers and a good excuse to cling on to somebody in the dark. This is a list of my all time favorites…

1. HALLOWEEN (1978)

This is the undisputed classic that was such a huge success, it created a flood of copycats trying to cash in on its low budget money making magic, and it is the main reason the slasher genre was born. It is also the template for all slasher films to follow: Deranged, masked killer escapes on the anniversary of committing a horrible crime and kills every horny, pot smoking teenager he comes across. The “survivor” girl is a prudish, all American type who must confront the maniac one on one. This is also the first slasher to create an unstoppable killer who simply will not die, so he can return again in sequel after sequel. It is also the first of many “holiday” theme slasher films, taking the best of them for its own and creating the most iconic killer ever created, Michael Myers. Everything about this one is perfect. John Carpenter’s brilliant direction combined with Dean Cundey’s incredible steadicam photography, the erie opening theme music and Jamie Lee Curtis’ beautiful portrayal of Laurie Strode add up to greatness. This film also has the amazing Donald Pleasance as the greatest adversarial psychiatrist ever born. As Sam Loomis, he is the Captain Ahab to the boogeyman’s Moby Dick. This film is a genre definer.

Best sequel: HALLOWEEN II (1981)

2. BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

HALLOWEEN may have been the slasher film to start the wave of imitations, but John Carpenter himself was obviously inspired by this, the first holiday themed slasher film ever made. Although its inspirations are more Giallo than anything else, this is the movie that started it all. A crazed maniac has broken into a sorority house that’s emptying out for the Christmas holiday. He delivers frightening obscene phone calls to the few girls remaining and then starts killing them off one by one. The creepiest thing about this movie is the fact that you are never aware of who and why the killer is doing what he’s doing. Several red herrings are tossed around, but in the end the lunatic is still loose and never revealed. This is probably one of the most chilling and creepiest slashers ever made. If Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN is the Father of the genre, BLACK CHRISTMAS is the Grandfather.

3. MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)

Another great entry in the holiday slasher formula. This one concerns an escaped madman named Harry Warden, who has returned to the town of Valentine’s Bluff on you guessed it, Valentine’s Day, to extract some vengeance on the towns people who left him in an collapsed mine shaft for way too long. Or is it really Harry Warden? There’s a romantic love triangle at work in this grimy, working class slasher that really changes the game in a very interesting way. The final reveal and ending scene are one of the most chilling I’ve ever witnessed.

4. THE BURNING

The “summer camp” slasher is another wonderful byproduct of the genre and a direct result of the success of the original FRIDAY THE 13th. THE BURNING stands out for many reasons. First, it was written and produced by the Weinstein brothers and industry mogul Brad Grey. Second, it features first time performances by Jason Alexander (with hair), Fisher Stevens and Holly Hunter. Third, it breaks from the standard slasher formula in several unique ways: There is a mass group murder in which the horribly burned killer Cropsey chops up a raft full of kids with a pair of gardening sheers. Also, the “survival” girl prototype is abandoned for a “survival” boy. The gore effects by maestro Tom Savini are top notch and there is a pervasive theme of sleaze, voyeurism and aggressive male sexuality that makes this one a little grimier than the others.

5. THE PROWLER (1981)

THE PROWLER is another one of those slashers that fucks around with the spurned lover concept. This one opens with a WWII G.I. jilted in a Dear John letter who returns home with a vengeance. After killing his disloyal love and her new beau with a pitchfork, the movie jumps decades ahead to a dance thrown at the same sight as the previous murders. This movie is a total balls out slasher with some of the goriest and most creative kills ever produced by SFX master, Tom Savini. It also has a scary ass ending that’ll make you jump out of your seat with fright.

6. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)

Wes Craven really changed the game with this awesomely entertaining and atmospheric slasher that totally twists the genre in a unique way by inventing a killer who’s already dead and can only kill you in your dreams. Sooner or later we all have to sleep and that’s when the iconic Freddy Krueger gets you with his glove made of knives. The first one is still the most serious and the most scary.

Best sequel: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: THE DREAM WARRIORS

7. FRIDAY THE 13th (1980)

This one owes just as much to Mario Bava’s Giallo classic TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE (A.K.A BAY OF BLOOD) as it does to HALLOWEEN. The first of the “summer camp” slashers, it is also the first to really amp up the inventive and violent kill scenes. Tom Savini creates one brutal murder after another, as a mysterious killer starts offing a group of counsellors trying to open a closed camp. This is the first of one of the longest running slasher series ever made and the introduction to the iconic Jason Vorhees.

Best sequel: FRIDAY THE 13th PART 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER

8. SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984)

There is a perverse joy I get from this film about a crazy orphan who dresses up like Santa Claus and butchers folks with an ax at Christmas time. A child is severely traumatized by watching a criminal dressed like Ole Saint Nick kill his father and mother (after raping her). He grows up to be a psycho who loses his shit at the holidays and starts offing the locals. The movie is cheaply made in Utah and features some of the cheesiest acting since TROLL 2, but there is something so delightfully WRONG about the movie, I just can’t help but love it to death. B-movie hottie Linnea Quigley impaled on a pair of deer antlers while topless and wearing a pair of Daisy Duke’s has to be seen to be believed. This movie was picketed by angry parents upon its initial release for degrading the holiday. Just another reason to love it.

Best sequel: SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 2

9. SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1984)

If you’ve never seen SLEEPAWAY CAMP before, you haven’t lived a full and complete life. It is one of the craziest, weirdest, most off center summer camp slashers ever conceived. People are killed with boiling pots of water, beehives and a hot curling iron. The acting is unnerving at times. The overall ambience of the film is like David Lynch on model glue. And the ending! My god, the fucking insanity that is the ending must be seen with your own eyes, which you will need to wash out with powerful industrial chemicals afterwards. Only the 1980’s could produce a film this warped and fun to watch.

Best sequel: THE RETURN TO SLEEPAWAY CAMP

10. SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1984)

What happens when a feminist writes a slasher movie and it’s directed by another female? SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE is what happens, bitches! This film works as a parody of the genre, while at times it also appears to be playing it somewhat straight. The result is a hilarious send up of all the slasher standards that have come before it. A group of high school girls throw a slumber party and an uninvited guest shows up and starts killing them. The maniac is a very average looking guy clad from head to toe in denim and sporting a large drill that is used more than once as an obvious phallic symbol. The movie is what Eli Roth’s THANKSGIVING trailer was. A very funny take on a worn formula.

Best sequel: SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE 3

Hope you enjoyed my Slasher Top 10. If I get a chance, I’ll do a list of the rarest and most seldom seen slashers of all time soon. Nerd out!