Sunday, 28 April 2013

5 Films about Houses of Horror

**Please note that there may be spoilers throughout the blog**

Every neighbourhood has them, a house that has been boarded up and has a scary reputation to it's name.  Neighbourhood tales of strange families or weird people that have lived in these houses, that never came out during the day or made bizarre sounds from their basements that could never be explained.  The kind of house where local kids knew to walk or peddle their bikes faster to get by or would dare their friends to ring the bell to see if you were chicken.  Everybody has passed by these houses, wondered about the rumors and may have even heard of someone disappearing from these houses of horrors.

Here 5 Films about Houses of Horrors:

5. The House of Seven Corpses (1974) - Director Eric Hartman is making a movie about a family that died in a creepy old house.  All seven members of the family were killed in some hideous way, which was somehow tied to their occult practices and Hartman wants to recreate it in his zombie movie.  Luckily, David, Hartman's assisstant was able to secure the location of the real house and everything is running smooth with the exception of the caretaker, Edgar ruining shots by interrupting because the scene is not acurate and his endless tours of the house.  While on one of these tours, David finds a old book on witchcraft and suggests Hartman use some of the incantations in the film, to give it a real taste of authenticity.  So in during the next scene, Hartman gets his leading lady, Gayle to really sell some of the lines David has found in the book.  Unfortunately, this raises a zombie, who is looking to feed on the souls of the living.  Can Hartman save his cast and crew from the undead and still keep his film under budget or is he doomed to be another victim in the house of the 7 corpses?
  The opening montage is pretty killer, it has the 7 murders of the original people in the house and the special effects crew did a good job on them.  I was also excited to see that John Carradine and John Ireland were in this and even though Carradine's role isn't huge, he still one of the only highlights for this film.  However, once the opening credits are over the film seems to slow down and drag.  There are some scenes that aren't necessary, like Carradine as the caretaker Edgar, explaining everything we just saw in the montage and them actually filming things with the exception of the scene for the incantation.  I think that the script could have been tightened up.  Also, the zombie shows up late in the film and when he does, his work is fast and done off camera and that would have been more interesting to see then some of the earlier scenes.  The ending is a little confusing and somewhat acceptable if you really stretch your imagination.  It's only 90 minutes but it feels much longer and you should only visit this house if you have extra time.  Cannot find a trailer of here's a clip.

4. House On The Edge of the Park (1980) - On the way home from a disco, Alex runs a young lady off the road and into a deserted park.  When she turns down his advances for love, he rape/strangles her and the steals her locket as a trophy.
  A few weeks later, Alex is working at his garage/parking lot and his dim friend Ricky runs in excited because he's finally going to go dancing in the club with his friend Alex.  Alex tells him that he needs to chill out and they're just about on their way to party.  As they are leaving a car pulls up and young couple, Tom and Lisa get out and ask Alex to look at their car because it's causing them some issues and making a funny sound.  Alex tells them that he's sorry and to bring it back tomorrow but Ricky, wanting to please Alex, says that he can look at it.  Tom pops the hood and Ricky starts looking for the issue.  Lisa tells Alex that they are going to a party with a few friends and they must get going soon because some of their friends are waiting.  Ricky fixes the car quickly and Alex refuses to take money but asks if they can go to the party with them in return for the work.  Tom and Lisa agree and they all head up to the cabin.
  When they get to the cabin, they are greeted by Tom and Lisa's friends, Howard, Gloria and Glenda, who offer them some drinks and turn on the music.  The upscale crowd are pleased to have some working class people to mingle with and right away Gloria starts dancing with Ricky.  This eventually turns into Ricky doing a strip tease while the yuppies egg him on, but Alex puts a stop to it and tells Ricky that they're making him look like an asshole.  Tom invites everyone to a game of poker and Ricky joins in with Howard and Glenda.  Gloria watches the game and Lisa decides to take a shower?  So, Alex follows her upstairs and helps her scrub herself, but not for long Lisa leaves him in the shower holding the soap.
  Frustrated Alex goes back downstairs and sees that Ricky is losing all of his money and these richies are making an ass out of him.  Fed up, Alex pulls a straight razor on everybody and forces them to play one more hand.  Ricky wins all of the money and then Tom and Howard attack Alex to disarm him.  Unfortunately, Alex gets the better of them and has Howard tied up and beats Tom senselessly.  Alex gives Ricky a bottle to use as a club and now this is Alex's type of party.  Can anyone of the party people stop Alex or are they all going to all victim to his sadistic rape fantasies?
  Director Ruggero Deodata (Cannibal Holocaust, Cut and Run) shot this in three weeks on a very limited budget and you can tell.  Although a good story with a terrific ending, the picture seems rushed and drags in areas that could have been better if given time to shoot.  David Hess (RIP) (Last House on the Left, Swamp Thing) brings the evil into the Alex character, like only David Hess can. Similar to the Krug character, Alex can be just as charming as he is dangerous.  The film is also ugly in the same way Last House on the Left is, and feels more like a sleazy sex film but this is where the terror is found.  You know what kind of person Alex is and what he's capable of, so you fear for the party guests.  There isn't a huge body count but there are some intense bloody scenes. The pacing is slow, the ending is good and if you like Deodata's work then you might want to look this one up.

3. The Old Dark House (1932) - It's a dark stormy night and the Wavertons, Philip and Margaret and their friend, Penderel are traveling across the back roads of Wales.  After narrowly avoiding a landslide the trio seek shelter in a, you guessed it, old dark house.  After banging on the door a number of times, it is finally answered by a the bearded mute caretaker named Morgan.  Luckily, the brother of the home owner, Horace Femm as well and invites them in.  The trio begs Horace if they can stay the night and he tells them, they probably can if his sister, Rebecca Femm allows them.  She comes downstairs and although she is almost deaf and old as the hills, she is still a spitfire.  After some humming and hawing she agrees to let them stay but there's no beds!  Rebecca takes Margaret upstairs to change and tells her some of the horrible going ons at the house.  Downstairs Horace, also tells the gentlemen of some tales about the creepy house.  Then after worrying their guests, it's time for dinner!  During dinner there is another large bang on the door and in come some more weary travelers, Sir William Porterhouse and his lady friend Gladys, the dancer.  The Femm's invite them to stay the night until the storm clears.
That night, mysterious things begin to happen and members of parties start disappearing.  Can the guests make it through the night in the Femm house or would the storm have been the safer choice to make?
  I really enjoyed The Old Dark House and unlike director James Whale earlier Frankenstein, this is a horror/comedy but still creepy none the less.  Boris Karloff shows up again as Morgan the caretaker, in full make up and still doesn't get to speak, which is humerous because Whale doesn't let him speak until he plays the Mummy.  Melvyn Douglas (The Changeling, The Tenant) is fantastic in this as the wisecracking bachelor and the Charles Laughton makes his first "Hollywood" film as the playboy with the heart of gold, Sir William Porterhouse.  The real star though is Ernest Thesiger, who plays Horace Femm.  He has such a creepy look to him and he shows such a range of emotions throughout this film, that I think he's quite brilliant and rather underrated as an actor.  The writing is sharp in that early film, quick back and forth way.  The banter sounds so natural, with so many good quips, puns and amusing insults, that it's sad to think that we've lost this kind of humour that is so clever over the years of cinema. There isn't a huge body count or a bunch of bloody scenes, but the horror comes from 5 strangers out of their elements and needing help to survive a terrible storm from a very peculiar family.  If you like old movies or looking into some classic horror then you'd enjoy this. Couldn't find a trailer, so here's a clip.

2. Legend of Hell House (1973) -Eccentric millionaire, Mr. Duetsch hires leading physicist, Dr. Lionel Barret to head up an investigation into whether or not there is life after death. Easy!  Mr. Duetsch is sending Dr. Barrett to the infamous Hell House with two other renowned psychics, Florence Tanner, a mental medium and Ben Fischer, a physical medium and the only surviving member of a previous expedition into Hell House.  Barrett has a week to come up with definitive proof or he will not be paid.
  The team arrives and Barrett's wife, Ann decides that she will join the team in their adventure in Hell House.  Once inside, Fischer explains that the house was owned by a horrible person named, Emeric Belasco, a six foot "Roaring Giant" of a man who used his wealth to humilated people and host perverse parties of the body and soul.  Fischer goes on to explain that, Hell House is the "Mount Everest" of haunted houses and that there are a number of spirits that have stayed in the house due to Belasco's twisted desires.
  The first night they settle in and everything seems okay but the next day, Florence does a reading and has an encounter with a boy spirit, who claims to be Belasco's son, Daniel.  The spirit even takes over her body and speaks through her telling them all to leave.  They do not heed the warning and they stay, but later on Dr. Barrett is attacked and almost killed by a poltergeist phenomenon.  Has this team bitten off more than they can chew and is Fischer going to be the only one to survive this investigation again or can they unlock the secret of the house and finally allow the soul of Belasco to rest?
  This was a excellent film and I would almost put it right up there with Poltergeist.  Almost.  I wasn't that crazy about the ending and thought it was a bit anticlimactic.  Which is disappointing because the ghost in the house is pretty evil and there are some pretty decent special effects in this movie.  The cast is great as well, Roddy MacDowell (Planet of the Apes, Fright Night) takes off his ape make up and plays Ben Fischer, Pamela Franklin (The Innocents, Satan's School For Girls) is excellent as Miss Tanner and Clive Revill (Empire Strikes Back) as Dr. Barrett.  Scary film with lots of good twists and turns, that should keep you up at night after you see it. 

1. House of 1000 Corpses (2003) - A group of friends, Jerry, Bill, Mary and Denise are travelling across country and writing a book on interesting roadside attractions.  When they come across Captain Spaulding's Museum of Monster's and Madmen, they are in heaven!  Owned and operated by a grumpy man dressed as a clown, Captain Spaulding gives them a jokingly hard time and lets them in on a local legend called Dr. Satan.  He even gives them a map to visit the tree where he was this ruthless maniac was hanged.  After going through the Murder Ride, which is an old time carnival ride that displays serial killers throughout the ages, Jerry is super excited to visit the hanging tree of Dr. Satan.  So, the gang load into the car and hit the road in the pouring rain but before they go, Denise calls her father, just to let him know where she is and they should be home soon.  On the way there, they pick up a gorgeous hithhiker, named Baby who tells them that she knows exactly where the Dr. Satan tree is and she can lead them right to it.  Unfortunately, they get a flat but that's ok, cuz Baby's house is close and she can have her brother Rufus fix their tire.  So they head to Baby's house and when they get there, Baby lets them know that she nailed all the dolls to the wall on the outside of the house.  Weird, but okay, they go in and are greeted by, Mother Firefly, an aged beauty who still seems to enjoy young men.  Mother Firefly invites them all to dinner and the gang slowly meets the rest of the family, like Tiny, who's father burned him terribly when he was a baby, Grandpa Hugo and the madman who seems to be running the house Otis.  After dinner, the family puts on a show for their guests and Baby sings a song.  During the song, Baby is a little too flirtatious with Bill and makes Mary jealous and the ladies start to fight. Catfight!  Bill and Jerry break them up just in time because Rufus has go the tire fixed.  Unfortunately, when the gang tries to leave Otis and the family attack and kidnap them for their own sadistic pleasures.  Will anyone escape this house of horrors or will they be victims number 1,001, 1,002...?
For a first film, director Rob Zombie does an incredible job here.  You can really tell that he loves the genre of horror that he's working with.  Although usually compared to obviously Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Hills Have Eyes, I think it has a real Spider Baby feel to it. Spider Baby has a more playful fun maniac family feeling and there isn't really any humour in either Massacre or Hills.  Sid Haig (Spider Baby, Devil's Rejects) is brilliant as Captain Spaulding and I wish there was more of him in this and Bill Mosely is pretty killer as Otis.  Actually, Zombie puts together an interesting group of horror characters with a fantastic cast of notable and now notable names like Rainn Wilson, Karen Black, Walter Goggins, Chris Hardwick and an assortment of others who you've seen in countless horror films over the years. Yes, there are some gruesome scenes and there is some bizarre shit going on but the story is decent, the ending makes sense and there is plenty of blood for everybody.  Definitely a must see and I'm sad it took me so long to see it.

So the next time you go by that house, remember these films because this is what you may find there in a deserted cellar or a locked up attic.  However, if that dare is too much for you to turn down, then at least bring an axe when you sneak in or ring the doorbell because then you might give you a fighting chance.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

5 Maniac Movies

**Please note that there may be spoilers throughout the blog**

 Maniacs, their everywhere nowadays.  The term used to mean so much more but now it's just a passing tagline that gets thrown around by anyone and their 5 year old.  I blame Jennifer Beales and Flashdance for turning this word maniac into the euphemism that it has become today.  I don't think that Jennifer Beales's character displayed any of the dictionary defined terms to being a maniac, she didn't exhibit any symptoms of wild behaviour that lead to violence or put her into any throws of dementia and she didn't even kill anybody on screen. She just really liked to dance and her dream was to be a ballerina and maybe that is what made her crazy.  Who knows?
  But think of all the other horror movie icons who earned the title of maniac, like Jason Voorhees or Leatherface.  Who put in the time and work into sequel after sequel, raising the body counts, trying to find ways to make their jobs interesting and not even getting paid for it, those guys were maniacs!  So the following films are for those guys and the terrific examples of what the term maniac used to stand for.

Here are 5 Maniac Movies:

5. Neon Maniacs (aka Evil Dead Warriors) (1986) - A group teens are hangin at the park at night, drinking some beers, throwing the ole pigskin around and trying to get laid, when the village people of the dead attack them!  These monsters cut through the group of friends like a knife in hot butter, leaving only Paula cringing in the van with the doors locked.  As the strange collection of the dead attack the van, it starts to rain and shortly after the pounding stops.  When she finally opens the door, she is met by the police and taken in for questioning.  The police have no idea what to make of her story, so the let her go and like any teen who has just watch all of her good friends butchered like pigs, she has a swim in the pool to top off the night.
  The next morning when she goes to school, everybody wants to know what happened and a plucky young middle schooler named Natalie shows up to ask her the hard questions but is dismissed and sent packing.  In the cafeteria, one of her missing friend's sister starts a fight with her and luckily the boy who loves her from a far, Steven jumps in to stop this cat fight. Booo!  Paula gets sent home and pouts about not being able to go to school.
  Natalie decides to do some investigating of her own, so that night she sneaks down to the Golden Gate Bridge and starts filming a door.  Luckily, it's the right door because a parade of evil villains marches out.  Unfortunately, they see her and chase her down but she barely escapes.  Also that night, Paula and Steven have a date and are chased by this creepy conglomerate but thanks to public transit system, they escape unscathed.
  Natalie eventually convinces Paula and Steven to let her help them and now they must stop this horrid group from killing anymore people in their area of town!
   There are definitely some good things about this film that slightly out weigh the bad.  The beginning is excellent and then it really loses it's momentum after the police get involved.  The ending of the film desperately tries to rally but the scripting doesn't allow an ending that really seems suitable or plausible.  Like in most B-horrors, the police are usually idiots and in this one, it's no different but instead of a pair of detectives, there's like 5 cops on this case and they still can't figure out what to do.  The monsters maniacs seem to be village people of maniacs, there's a Samurai, a Native American, a cop, a neanderthal and a number of other types of costumes for this small army of monsters.  The make up is fine though for the monsters and the special effects are somewhat good too.  I like the green ooze that comes out of their heads, when punched or clubbed.  It's an alright little time waster but not my favourite maniac movie.

4. Maniac (aka Sex Maniac) (1934) - Former vaudeville performer, Don Maxwell starts working with mad scientist, Dr. Meirschultz on a special serum that will bring people back from the dead.  After successfully robbing the morgue of a dead girl and serum working to revive the girl, Dr. Meirschultz wants to shift gears and put a heart he made into a dead mobster.  Maxwell tries to retrieve the body of the mobster but is stopped by a gang of adorable cats!? Dr. Meirschultz is unhappy with this failure but has a new idea, he tells Don that he should kill himself and then the doctor will bring him back to life, then hands him a gun.  Good idea! ;) Unfortunately, Don decides to kill the doctor instead, but what is he gonna do with the body and what about the doctors appointments?  The only thing to do is, dress up like the doctor and pretend to be him.  Of course!  Just as Don's transformation is completed, Mr. Buckley and his wife arrive for their appointment.  Don accidentally shoots Mr. Buckley with adrenaline, which turns him into a crazed sex maniac and he takes off into the night.  Mrs. Buckley is pissed and discovers the body of the real Dr. Meirschultz, that Don left on the floor in the middle of the lab. What is Don going to do now that he has been discovered and what other crazy shit can they throw in this movie to continue the story along? Lots, trust me!
  This movie is a lot of fun and one of the best B-movies that I've seen for a while.  I was surprised to see a couple of things in this, one being a young Phyllis Diller and there was nudity shown, which is rare from this time, unless you're watching old stag films.  Anyway, as for the story, it's like they took a bunch of ideas, including Poe's story, "The Black Cat" and fused them together badly but it's so insane that it's fun.  Dwain Esper also borrows footage from other films, like Haxan and Fritz Lang's Siegfried to overlay on his scenes of mental anguish and madness.  The film is a real hoot, it's under an hour and any lover of B-movies or old horror films is sure to fall in love with this classic.  It's a public domain film, so I included it in it's entirety here. 


3. 2000 Maniacs (1964) - Two hillbillies trick 6 Yankees into detouring into their town for the centennial year celebration!  Yeeeeeeeee Haw! The two young married couples, the Millers and the Wells arrive first and are greeted by Mayor Buckman, who welcomes them and lets them know that they are the "Special Guests" of the centennial and that allows them free room and board at the hotel and free eats all weekend. Hot doggy!  Then, Terry Adams and her hitchhiking friend, Tom White arrive and Mayor Buckman gives them the same hullabaloo and all three couples are ushered to the hotel.
  As their "Special Guests" head back to the hotel, Mayor Buckman and his two henchman, Lester and Rufus hang back.  They talk ominously about their plans for their guests and decide who to apply special treatment to first.  By the next day, some of the couples have seem to gone missing and then Tom and Terry discover a rock with a plaque on it.  The plaque says that the town was overrun with Yankees a hundred years ago during the civil war!  The Yankees slaughtered the town and were never brought to justice!  Tom and Terry realize that these people are killing their "Special Guests" for revenge and that they're next!  Can they escape this crazy redneck town or will the south rise again and get it's revenge!?!?!
  This is the second film in Herschell Gordon Lewis "Bloody Trilogy" and it's a pretty fun little horror flick.  Unlike "Blood Feast", Lewis went for more tongue in cheek humour, which really opens the film up and makes it more enjoyable.  Don't get me wrong, there are some gory scenes but done with more of a comedic edge and will have you laughing with the movie.  I thought the ending was great and I liked the little twists throughout the film.  Campy and silly but really enjoyable and worth watching again and again.

2. Maniac Cop (1988) - On the way home from work, a waitress from a cop bar gets mugged.  She fights off her attackers and runs to get away.  The muggers chase her down to the wharf and she sees a police officer, so she runs to him screaming for help.  The police officer immediately chokes her to death and throws her lifeless corpse aside.  The two muggers freak out, try to escape but are arrested and tell the police what they saw but nobody believes them except for Detective Mike McCrae.  McCrae doesn't think that the muggers could have killed the waitress because neither of them were strong enough to do the sort of damage that was done to the victims neck.  In the following days, McCrae is proven right because there are a number of reports of incidents where a large man dressed as a police officer is killing innocent people for no reason.  Now, Mike McCrae must find this maniac cop and save the public from one his own.
   Director William Lustig (Maniac, Vigilante) really went to town on this film with a great script from Larry Cohen (It's Alive, The Stuff).  This film has a toooooon of violence and the body count is huge.  It also has a terrific cast with Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead, Army of Darkness), Richard roundtree (Shaft, Se7en) and Tom Atkins (The Fog, Escape From New York) as Frank McCrea.  The story is interesting and it has a big ending that is not in your usual slasher film.  Terrific film to share coffee and doughnuts with. 

1. Maniac (1980) - On a sandy beach in the early morning a young couple starts to get ready to head home after a night of shagging on the beach.  Unfortunately maniac Frank Zito is also on that beach and he's out for blood.  After strangling the boyfriend while he was skipping rocks, he then murders the girlfriend and scalps her.  He then brings the scalp home and puts it on his mannequin and cuddles beside it in bed.  Now that Frank has a taste for blood, he heads out on a few more murderous adventures before he meets with beautiful photographer named Anna.  With Anna he seems to not need to kill but how long will it last?  Can Frank stop his nightly rampages or will his relationship with Anna wind up with more bodies in his bed?
  What I like about Maniac is that director William Lustig (Maniac Cop, Vigilante) doesn't mess around and gets right into it at the beginning with the Frank Zito character.  Zito is a killer, he's crazy and when he goes out, he's bringing a scalp home.  One of the reasons, Joe Spinell's performance was probably so great was because he was a co-wrote the screen play with C.A Rosenberg and understood what his character was thinking.  Also what makes this film great is the outstanding work by special effect master, Tom Savini.  The kills in the film look fabulous and Savini even has Zito blow his head off in what is probably my favourite Savini special effect ever.  Love it!  This is a great film and after 30 years I think it still holds up and needs to be seen by horror fans everywhere.  

  So let's start taking the word Maniac back people!  Remove it from the people who are horrible drivers, coupon cutters and the mildly peculiar and put it back on the real psychos and miscreants where it really belongs. Like you, you maniac!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

5 Things You Don't Do in Horror Movies!

**Please note that there may be spoilers throughout the blog**

I think we all know that there are certain things that people shouldn't do in horror movies.  We shouldn't investigate a strange noise in the basement, we shouldn't open the closet door after it creaks open and we should never ever split up from each other! Byb doing any of these things in a horror film will only bring unpleasant consequences.  Before Wes Craven's smash horror film, "Scream", other producers in the late 70's and early 80's, also recognized that there are some tricks to surviving a grindhouse film and tried their luck at writing full films on some of these concepts.

Here are 5 Things You Don't Do in Horror Movies!

5. Don't Answer The Phone (1980) - Photographer, Vietnam Vet and maniac, Kirk Smith likes to strangle and rape women, then he shoves candles into his victims orifices and take pictures of his handy work.  After the murders, Kirk also likes to a call a psychologist, Dr. Gale on her radio talk show and using a terrible spanish accent, he tell her about his his maddening headaches.  She encourages him to seek real professional help and he usually just hangs up on her.
  Police detectives, McCabe and Hatcher have just taken the case and they're stumped!  They have semen samples, hair follicles and punch card computers.  How are they ever going to find this guy?  While they sit at their desk waiting for Kirk to turn himself in, Kirk murders one of Dr. Gale's patients.  Doctor Gale comes downtown to offer her help with the case but McCabe won't have any of it because he doesn't believe in shrinks.  Shortly after, Kirk forces a hooker to call Dr. Gale's show and kills her while their talking live on air!  Now McCabe and Hatcher will have to work with Dr. Gale and try to stop crazy man Kirk from killing any more women!
  This movie was all over the place.  The scenes with Kirk, played by Nicholas Worth (Swamp Thing, Hell Comes To Frogtown) are pretty intense, unforgiving and can put a knot in your stomach.  Unfortunately, his brutal behavior is dealt with by the police in a glib, comedic way.  The detectives, who seem to have graduated from the Dragnet academy of police work spend more time cracking jokes and sitting at their desks than they do looking for a suspect.  Also, a love story is tacked on between Detective McCabe, played by James Westmoreland (The Monroes) and Dr. Gale, played by Flo Lawrence (Lords of Salem, Over The Top), which is pointless and unnecessary.  The soundtrack is annoying and most times doesn't fit what's going on.  It has it's moments but they seem far and few between, you may not want to answer this call.

4. Don't Go Near The Park (1979) - Brother and sister, Gar and Tra did something awful, I didn't quite understand what they did but it was so awful that an old witch had to put a curse on them.  The curse is also confusing but I think they need to eat flesh from teenagers to survive until they can sacrifice a child from their own clan and that will give them eternal life but they can only do this 12 thousand years in the future.
  Fast forward to 1979, the future! Gar, who's now Mark is still eating teenage innards.  He rent's a room from a lady and she discovers that he kills people!  However, it's 1979 and I guess there is a severe lack of eligible bachelors because she marries Mark and they a have a baby girl together, which they named Bondi.  Unfortunately, for Bondi, her mother is a real cow and doesn't like that her father spends time with her.  On her 16th birthday, Bondi's mother has a fit and tells Mark that either he goes or she goes.  Mark gives Bondi the ugliest amulet in world and says good-bye.  Bondi, also decides to hit the road and strike out on her own.
  After some twists and turns, that are unnerving and confusing, she ends up at an abandoned park and finds a old ranch house, where to other runaways, Nick and Cowboy live with a mysterious lady named Patty.  Patty likes to dress up like a witch and scare people at the park!  Sometimes she wears an eyepatch when she takes off her mask and sometimes she doesn't.  Anywhoo, eventually Bondi finds out this place is haunted by creatures that eat flesh but she doesn't want to leave her new best friends, Nick & Cowboy! What's a girl to do?
  This movie is sooooooo ridiculous, you'd have to watch it to understand.  It goes from this scary movie and then shifts into an after school special.  The gore effects, which there isn't too much, and having Linnea Quigley are really it's saving graces to this film.  However, it is pretty funny to watch as director Lawrence David Foldes keeps changing his mind about what kind of movie he wants to make.  The sets, look like sets and the acting in this is awful but if you're looking to Mystery Science Theatre something, this would be a good choice.

3. Don't Go In The Basement (aka The Forgotten) (1973) - Nurse Charlotte Beale has just arrived for her first day of work at the Stephens Sanitarium for the mentally ill.  She is informed by a Dr. Geraldine Masters that before she arrive Dr. Stephens was murdered by one of the patients and the other nurse hasn't "taken leave".  Dr. Masters tells Charlotte that she isn't needed and has everything under control but when Charlotte says that she'll go and see if she can get her old job back, Masters changes her mind and asks her to stay.  So Charlotte decides to stay.
  The first night there is strange for Charlotte and the patients are acting weird, even for people in a mental institution.  One of the elderly patients, Mrs. Callingham keeps trying to tell Charlotte something but her tongue cut out gets cut out that night and isn't able to communicate after that.  The phones no longer work for some reason and the tension in the asylum is rising.  Can Charlotte find out the mystery of the missing tongue and escape this madhouse or will she become a patient there under Dr. Masters control?
  I like what this film tries to do and can appreciate the effort that went into it.  There are some gory scenes at the beginning and then at the end but sadly the middle seems to drag on and on and on.  There are a lot of patients to focus on and some of them get lost in the mix.  There are some moments of confusion and you really have to stretch your suspension of belief for some of it to still make sense.  Still, it's a alright picture that can be enjoyed by any horror fan, who appreciates B-movies.

2. Don't Go In The House (1979) - An explosion at work sets one of Donny Kohler's friend a flame and he stands back to watch the fire engulf his pal.  Other workers rush over to help and give Donny shit for not trying to save his friend, except for Ben.  Ben tells Donny that he understands that Donny froze up and invites him out for a beer, but Donny refuses and says he needs to get home.  Donny heads home to take care of aged mother but when he gets home and walks into the kitchen, he remembers how his mom would hold his arms over the fire on the stove when he was bad.  Putting it out of his mind, he makes the food for his mother and heads up stairs to her room.  When he gets upstairs, he finds his mother dead in her favourite chair and so he tries yelling at her but this has no effect on her, she remains dead.  At first he's sad, then he's relieved and like any tormented child runs around the house blasting his loud disco music and jumping on the furniture!  That is until he hears the voices whispering.  The voices in his head start to tell him to do bad things.
  The next day, Donny calls into work sick and starts putting metal walls up in one room and then like any child in grieving, he goes and buys a flame retardant suit.  Now his plan is almost complete, he just needs one more thing, a girl and what better place to find a girl than at the local flower shop.  So, he heads downtown and after making the florist miss her bus, he offers her a lift home.  She accepts and he asks her if they can stop at his home to pick something up but when they stop at home, Donny knocks the florist out! When she wakes up, she is naked and hanging from a hook in a metal room.  Danny walks in with his brand new suit and flamethrower and hoses her down in flames, until she is nice and crispy.  Danny is ready now and realizes that this is what he should be doing with his life but is there anyone out there that can stop him?
  This was an interesting film and it had a semi Hitchcock "Psycho" feel to it.  The scenes with the flamethrower are pretty graphic and got this on the Video Nasty list but it really turns into a one note film after the first couple.  As he collects his victims, there doesn't seem to be any mystery as to what is going to happen to them and it gets old quick.  The voices inside Donny's head are an interesting touch and his spiral into insanity is well played out by Dan Grimaldi (The Sopranos).  The problem for the film is how does Donny get discovered because he is a loner, but they work an alright twist that creates a plausible and acceptable ending.  Some elements of the film may be too hot for some to handle, make sure you wear protection while watching.    

1. Don't Go In The Woods (1981) - Ingrid, Peter, Joanie and Craig head into the woods for a summer camping trip.  Unfortunatley, there is a mad woodsman viking looking guy killing campers there too!  The sheriff has had a report of a couple missing people but he's waiting 24 hours to see if they turn up, so he's gonna take a ride in the helicopter.  Meanwhile, people are being hacked to pieces by this madman and Craig is murdered the next day!  Peter, Joanie and Ingrid split up and try to race out of the woods.  Will they survive this camping nightmare?
  There really isn't much to this movie and that might be why I enjoyed so much.  There's no character development, no discovery of greater truth or even a reason why this guy is doing it but there is a crazy guy who kills a lot of people in the woods!  The body count on this movie is huge!  I don't know if these woods were giving special offers on kijiji or what but a ton of people die in this movie.  It's extremely low budget but there are some good special effects and some that will make you laugh.  The acting isn't very good but I'm sure they tried their best and sometimes that counts.  It's a lot of fun to watch but probably better to watch with friends and if you need an excuse it was on the famous Video Nasty list as well, so just relax, turn off your brain and enjoy.

When Tarantino and Rodrigez produced their Grindhouse movies they included a number of fake trailers, (two actually became movies) and there was one trailer called "Don't" that was spoofing these films.  I kept thinking of when I was watching these movies.  None of these films had a huge cast or a lot of money but they are certainly fun to watch and if they didn't teach you how to escape an insane killer, well at least they showed you that you can make a cool slasher film on a limited budget.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

5 Frightening Found Footage Films

Ever since "The Blair Witch Project" revitalized the found footage genre in 1999, studios and film makers have been desperately trying create the next big realistic scare.  These films have an advantage of being shot with a smaller budget and can reap a larger profit when released but their disadvantage is trying to create something that looks authentic and have people belive that these stories are true.  When "Cannibal Holocaust" was released, Deodato was arrested because they thought the film was a snuff film and the actors were murdered.  When in fact, Deodato had the actors sign a contract saying they wouldn't appear in the media for at least a year.  Eventually, he had to bring them all on national television to prove that the were fine.  "Blair Witch" was similar to some extent and used the internet to create a legend or background to the mythos that they were trying to sell before releasing the film.  So, people could point to their computer and say, "look it's real".
  Have the descendents of these films, created the same sort of emotional impact on the film community or have we been stuck with bad home videos of horror? 
Here are 5 Frightening Found Footage Films

5. August Underground (2001) - A guy invites his friend with a video camera into his basement where he has a women, who has been tortured, tied to a chair and her boyfriend is dead in the bathtub in the next room.  These guys then go out and attack and kill people for no reason.
  Whenever I search any depraved film lists on IMDB or anywhere else, these August Underground films pop up.  I've seen the 2nd one "August Underground Mordem", not knowing it was a trilogy and I wasn't that excited to see this one.  Sure, they have people drenched in blood and there are violent scenes but there's absolutely no story to this.  It's just random acts of violence perpetrated for shock value and when I watch this, it feels like I'm watching someone's home movies about their vacation and I don't really care.  The killers aren't even interesting and really have no imagination.  It's like Beavis and Butthead went out and caught a girl were then going to torture her.  "I'm going to make her eat poop!" one says and the other pours urine on her.  Who cares.  There is no tension and I can't believe these characters could out wit their moms, let alone the police and how they haven't been caught is beyond me.  It's only 70 minutes, thank goodness, but that could be put to better use making your own horror snuff movie.

4. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) - A documentary crew comes to a small town at the request of a future serial killer named Leslie Vernon.  He explains that his mother was raped by a psycho and when he was born, she saw that she was raising a madmen as well. Eventually he killed his dad and hung his mother with a rope in the orchard.  The town found out, was enraged and threw him off over the waterfalls.
  Now he has return and wishes to get revenge on the town by murdering a group of teens.  He explains how he's going to do it and with the help of his mentor, Eugene, he sets up a killing ground that any of the high profile killers like Myers, Voorhees or Krueger would be proud of.  But once everything is set in motion, can the documentary host, Taylor Gentry let this madman kill those kids for her movie or does this killer have other plans for her and her crew.
  I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this and the only real flaw in this film is that it keeps switching from found footage to an actual movie, which can be annoying at times.  It takes you right out of the believability of the story, when characters start showing up in clips of things that hasn't happened yet or everybody puts the camera down and the movie keeps going.
  Nathan Baesel plays the Leslie Vernon character to a tee.  He's funny and quirky but when it comes to the serial killer business that whole demeanor changes and he lethal and methodical.  Angela Goethals, who plays Taylor, is great as well.  Her character seems to enjoy all the stalking and antics of Vernon until she realizes that it's not just a game.  She finally realizes that Vernon is serious and she just can't stand by and him execute these children one by one.  Excellent supporting cast with Robert England (Nightmare on Elm Street), Zelda Rubinstein (Poltergeist) and Scott Wilson (The Walking Dead), and just having them in the film makes it better.  As horror comedies go, this one is pretty good and you'll definitely have some laughs at the breaking down of the 4th wall.  Vernon explains his plans and you can see elements of other films inside his.  There are some excellent kill scenes that are good and horror fans shouldn't be disappointed with this one.

3. Grave Encounters (2011) - The movie starts with the producer of the video explaining that this group was shooting a television series on paranormal sites and that these tapes were found after the team went missing and the tapes have only been edited for time.
  The film then begins with Lance Preston and his team of paranormal investigators shooting their six episode at an abandoned mental institution.  After six shows, Lance is not expecting to see any ghosts or anything extraordinary.  He pays off a grounds keeper to lie and brings in so people to talk about their  haunting experiences inside the institution.  The team discover a bathtub where a patient killed herself, a window that mysteriously opens by itself and they hear tale of a doctor that was killed by a mob of patients for performing unnecessary lobotomies on them.  Lance and his team decide to spend the night there and have the caretaker chain to door of the building.
  That night they set up cameras throughout the building and then in the dark hours start searching for these phantoms of former patients.  They go through the building checking the supernatural hot spots recommended by the people they interviewed and come up with nothing.  Until, their cameraman, T.C. goes into a room and has a door slammed shut on him! Then Matt, their tech guy, disappears while trying to retrieve some visual and sound equipment.  Lance, T.C. and Sasha, the sound girl start to search the building for Matt but some weird things start to occur, like the front door is no longer the front door and leads to other areas of the building, some staircases lead up or down to concrete walls and the sun hasn't risen although these watches say it's the middle of the afternoon!  Can this team of ghost hunters escape this mental institution or will they go mad from horrors that have yet to appear?
  This was pretty good and it had some nice scares in it.  I thought it was funny that most of the characters are actually skeptical about ghosts and they just do the show to get paid.  Makes me wonder how many of those shows are truly like that.  The special effects are good but you can tell the directors, the Vicious Brothers are working with a limited budget.  Still, well made horror movie and I can't wait to see the sequel.

2. The Last Exorcism (2010) - Cotton Marcus has been a evangelical preacher for a long time.  It started when his father thought having a child preacher would be a good hook and bring in larger crowds but as Cotton has grown and his faith has fallen to the wayside.  He explains to the documentary crew that he has done a number of exorcisms and the only thing that he's really exorcised is the idea of demons out of people's minds.  He claims that there are no real demons and since he read about a child dying during an exorcism, he wants to try and put a stop to them all together.  Out of the handful of letters, that he receives daily, he blindly chooses one about a girl, Nell who is possessed by a demon and is killing the live stock at her family's farm.  He tells the team to get ready and they head out to "exorcise" this girls demons.
  When they arrive, they are confronted my a teenage boy who tells them to leave.  Cotton and his team refuse and the boy starts throwing rocks at their car.  They take off and get to the Sweetzer farm, where they meet Nell's father Louis Sweetzer and discover that the boy throwing the rocks was Louis's son Caleb.  Caleb and Cotton sort things out and then Cotton goes in the house to meet with Nell.  He asks her a number of probing questions and then sits down with Louis with his book of demons.  He flips through the book and tells Louis that his daughter is possessed by a demon named Abalam.  He asks the Sweetzer family to excuse him as he prepares Nell's room for the exorcism.  In the room, Cotton explains to his camera crew a few of the tricks of the trade, like clear fishing wire to move things, hidden speakers & his ipod that have dozens of demon sounds and a smoking crucifix which signifies the demon is gone.  Cotton then gives a stunning performance and cast out the demon from Nell.  He collects his money from Mr. Sweetzer and he leaves with his team to their motel for a good night sleep.
  However, in the middle of the night Nell shows up distraught in Cotton's room.  They bring her to the hospital and Louis checks her out of there right away.  Cotton and his crew follow them back to the farm and Nell slashes Caleb's face with a knife.  Things are getting out of hand and Cotton is not sure if there is a real demon is inside the girl or if it's something else!  Has Cotton finally found the true demon, but his lose of faith has weakened him in this battle for this poor girl's soul or is he the one being conned by a teenage hustler who is in a whole different world of trouble?
  I really enjoyed this film partially because it shows how much baloney goes into these evangelical shows and how a modern exorcism can actually be really harmful to the people being exorcised.  Anyway, Patrick Fabian is terrific as Cotton, he's charming, funny and everything you'd want a huckster preacher to be and he even does magic.  Ashley Bell was great as well, I don't even mind the contorted body motions that have become so cliche in horror today.  The cat and mouse game of is it a demon, is it no a demon angle is played up really well by director Daniel Stamm and I really loved the ending because it was so unexpected and old school, that it is really worth the price of admission.  It's not very gory but it has a great plot and I think your just has surprised as the characters are when it comes to the ending.  This one has a sequel two, but how could it be the last then?

1. Noroi: The Curse (2005) - The film begins by explaining that paranormal expert and documentary film maker, Masafumi Kobayashi has disappeared, his house has been burnt down and his wife was killed in the fire while  he was investigating the most disturbing supernatural occurence in his career.
  The film then begins with Kobayashi talking with a woman about her strange neighbour, Junko Ishii, who lives with her 8 year old son, next door.  The woman tells Kobayashi about the weird baby sounds that come from Ishii's apartment and when he goes over to speak with the Ishii, Kobayashi discovers a number of dead pigeons around her home.  When Ishii answers the door, she tears into Kobayashi and he and his camera man just have to leave because of the crazy.  Shortly after this meeting, the woman neighbour perishes in a car accident and Ishii and her son have disappeared.
  On a TV program, Kana Yano, another acquaintance of Kobayashi's,  exhibits her amazing psychic powers and is kidnapped from her family shortly after.  While on another TV program, Kobayashi is being interview about the supernatural with another actress, Marika Matsumoto, who was attacked by a spirit on yet another supernatural reality show, when she is the attack by a another guest, a tin foil hat wearing psychic named, Hiro!  Hiro believes that Marika is being eaten by ectoplasmic worms and he is trying to save her.  He also was a friend of the missing psyhic girl, Kana Yano.
  However, Marika has troubles of her own, lately she has been fashioning looped nooses around the house out of wire while she has been sleeping.  So, Kobayashi films Marika one evening and while watching the tape the next morning, he hears her growling the name Kagutaba while she's a sleep.  After investigating the name Kagutaba, he discovers that it was a demon that hung around the small village of Shimokage.  This village was suppose to be a community of sorcerers who accidentally rose the demon, Kagutaba and every year since then they have been performing a sacred ritual to keep this demon at bay.  Unfortunately, something went wrong the last year while it was being performed by Junko Ishii and her father.  What!  Yep, Junko Ishii played the demon, passed out and now may be controlling her! Shut the front door!  Kobayashi races down to Shimokage, only to discover that Ishii home is covered in the looped nooses and the ground is covered in dead pigeons. Not the best look.  Also, Ishii and her son were there but they are gone again!  Now Kobayashi with the help of Marika and Hiro must find Ishii, try and stop this demon and save Kana Yano!
  It sounds more convoluted and confusing then it really is and when you start watching it, it does make sense.  Director Koji Shiraishi directs a terrific little pot boiler and has a truly unforgettable ending.  The only thing I wasn't crazy about was the Hiro character.  I wish they didn't make him seem cartoonishly crazy.  Tin foil hat and coat and screamed way more often than needed too.  I thought that if his character was toned down a tad, he wouldn't be as annoying.  Good film though but make sure you turn off the lights for this one or maybe you should leave them on.

Found footage films will probably never disappear and I don't think any film will recreate the same sort of buzz or impact that films like "The Blair Witch Project" or "Cannibal Holocaust" had on it's audience.  Nowadays I think the audience is too savvy and have access to too much information for them to be truly fooled into thinking that what they're seeing is real.  Unfortunately, when I watch these films, I'm looking for a good story and not the next urban legend that these films are suppose to generated.