31 Days of Horror 2016, Day 31: The Lost Boys (1987)/ Return of the Living Dead (1985) DOUBLE FEATURE

Two great movies with two great soundtracks. I need not say more, but you can’t stop me! Happy Halloween!

Things I Love About The Lost Boys (i.e. an arbitrary list of junk you already know about, but might read anyway):

1. It has two sets of credits. First McMann’s Cry Little Sister, with a flyover shot of the waters of Santa Monica. Then, after a quick attack, an Echo and the Bunnymen cover of The Doors’ People are Strange

2. Santa Monica pier punks. 

3. Greasy sax man.

4. “Maggots. You’re eating maggots, Michael.”

5. Bill S. Preston, Vampire

6. The homoerotic Rob Lowe poster on Sam’s closet door

7. The fact that Sam apparently doesnt know how to bathe properly. Unless youre supposed to completely cover yourself in bubbles and shampoo, and then comb it through your hair. Maybe I’m the one doing it wrong.

8. The mostly incompetent Frog Brothers, who are super intense about everything.

9. Everywhere the Lost Boys go, they’re whooping. Dirt biking down a wooded path: whooping. Eating chinese food: whooping. Flying into their lair to go to bed for the day: Whoooo! HaHaHa!

10. Super cool, understated vamp make-up.


Things I Love About Return of the Living Dead:

1. It’s set in Louisville! I’ve heard a few different stories about the “based on true events” disclaimer at the beginning. From what I can tell, the true origin begins with a corpse that simply sat up on the enbalming table of its own accord, due to some weird form of rigor mortis.

2. Small town punks, cruising in the SUICIDE car.

3. The first reanimated corpse, a split dog. It seems pretty happy until it gets slapped around with a crutch.

4. It’s all the military’s fault. They should keep better track of their vats of toxic waste, of course.

5. That scene in the credits when the tar man’s face melts off, and the toxic chemical seeps into the vents, animating the fridge cadaver.

6. “Do you ever fantasize about being killed? Do you ever think about all the different ways of dying, you know, violently? And wonder, like, what would be the most horrible way to die? Well for me, the worst way would be for a bunch of old men to get around me, and start biting me and eating me alive.”

7. The Trioxin Theme

https://youtu.be/uo6eIriOgSg
8. Tar Man. Just a skeleton covered in goo. Nothing fancy. Simple and beautiful.

9. Frank. The most incompetent mentor ever. He will teach you to pack a box with peanuts and totally lose his cool in a sticky situation. He’ll show off vats of toxic waste to impress some kid. A pro.

10. None of the undead match. Some are rotted skeletons, some are jaundice yellow, some are green and rotten. Some can talk, others can only scream. There’s no consistency. Somehow it’s perfect.

Challenge Fulfilled: A Worthy Double Feature

31 Days of Horror 2016, Day 30: Ginger Snaps (2000)

Werewolf movies have all the potential in the world to go wrong. If they don’t do something original with the creature, if they take themselves too seriously, if the transformation isn’t quality (and shown), if the beast itself looks cheap; all of these factors can weigh the picture down if they aren’t exectued right. and that’s on top of all the other, typical, facets of the film. So Ginger Snaps has a lot resting on its shoulders, because it’s also a coming of age flick. Good news: it’s a really, really great werewolf movie. This isn’t news to fans of the genre. We’ve been touting the film since its release, and it’s one I’ve revisited many times. Somehow though, this movie failed to gain mainstream traction, which is a real shame. Any horror fan, casual or devoted, should see it.

The story follows two strange and unusual sisters, Brigitte and Ginger, who are attached at the hip. They’re at a difficult pubescent stange, made all the worse when Ginger is attacked by an unknown creature. She soon finds herself growing a tail, sprouting coarse hair, and filled with the desire to tear things apart. Of course, her awkward but loyal sister is there to help. The two have made a pact to die together and Brigitte intends to keep it. Their devotion is well developed and believable, in part because the pacing of this film is just right. We get the right amount of time with the sisters before the attack and change. We get the right amount of transformation, seeing Ginger change and yet still try to cling on to her identity. The big bad itself gets significant screen time in the final act, with very limited cut aways to hide the effects. The werewolf looks great after all, so why would you want to hide it? A lot of work went into the crafting this creature, combining an actual suit with animatronic expression in the eyes and mouth. This wolf also has a distinctive appearance; a bit more fleshy than hairy, and pale skinned. Definitely not like any other werewolf you’ve seen.

Of course, all of this would have been for none had it not been for the performances of Emily Perkins (Brigitte) and Katherin Isabelle (Ginger). The two are totally believable as sisters, and embody two ends of the adolescent female spectrum. Brigitte is pre-pubescent and incredibly awkward. She does anything Ginger tells her too, which isn’t surprising because Ginger is older, pretty, and abrasive. This isn’t to say Ginger’s affection for her sister isn’t genuine, however. She’s incredibly protective, even once her wolfiness starts to set in. I must also admit, Katherine Isabelle is really adorable. 

Challenge Fulfilled: Twenty-Aught Horror

31 Days of Horror 2016, Day 29: Night Gallery

If you’re a fan of Rod Serling, this one is a no brainer. In the vein of The Twilight Zone, its an anthology show that provides you with a few short tales per episode. While some segments shine brighter than others, this horror based show by the master of episodic storytelling, on the whole, delivers for the duration of its three seasons. If forced to choose between this or the 80’s era Twilight Zone, stick with Serling. Definitely the superior of the two shows.

Last night I just put on an episode at random was luckily treated to some Vincent Price. If you want to dip your toe into the Night Gallery water, though; I recommend the pilot. It is honestly the best pilot episode ive ever seen for a show. In The Cemetary, we learn for about the thousandth time that inheriting a too good to be true piece of property is never a good thing. In this case it’s less about the house itself and more about a painting inside of it. One that depicts the house itself, including the nearby family graveyard. One that changes every time the new owner walks by, depicting his frightening demise.

This is a tidy little pilot as well, because it fits right in to the show’s frame narrative. At the brginning of each episode, Rod Serling introduces us to a different painting in the Night Gallery, and the first story of the night will be based on it. So, if you like art, this is a neat little addition. I have to wonder what happened to all of the original art that was featured on the show, and would definitely see a traveling Night Gallery exhibit. Though, I’m certain theres a fairly limited audience for that.

So, if you need a quick horror story to watch while youre putting on your Halloween Makeup, or carving a pumpkin, I recommend this show highly. 

Challenge Fulfilled: Anthology Horror

31 Days of Horror 2016, Day 28: Phantasm (1979) (4K Remaster)

I had to let this movie sink in overnight  before I could even begin to write about it. Phantasm is so incredibly hard for me to react to, because for every shot or scene that I loved, there was another one that made me squint my eyes, put my fingers against my temples and say “what?!” There’s this gut instinct to love it, and yet an unignorable desire to poke fun. I also get the impression that I’m not alone in this.

Allow me to elaborate…I think Phantasm may just be a perfect execution of the uncanny, not in spite of its problems, but because of them. These completely surreal moments are peppered throughout the film, and they create real, quality, capital D, dread. Early on we see Mike, the film’s 13 year old protagonist, sneaking around a graveyard to spy on the funeral of a family friend. Meanwhile, cloaked figures dart behind neighboring tombstones. The scene is reminiscent of the outdoor spookiness in The Turn of the Screw, in which an indistinct figure bobs behind some shrubs; never revealing itself, but lurking in broad daylight. We’re treated to so many dark passage ways and shadowy scenes in horror movies, that there’s really something spine-tingling about a threat in the sunshine. Phantasm is full of these types of moments, which yank us into discomfort because something strange is happening in a time or place it should not be happening. When Mike sees the Tall Man walking down a city sidewalk, right past his friend at the ice cream truck, it’s totally off putting; even though Angus Scrimm’s performance is completely grandiose. When the town soothsayer tells Mike that fear is the killer, her imaginary pain box disappears and she breaks into maniacal laughter. None of this is treated as unusual by the other characters, even though it totally should be. A severed finger crawls around a wooden box. A metal orb sucks the blood right out of someone’s cranium and spits it out like a little gory wishing fountain. A host of undead grab Mike in a dream, in which his bed sets in the town cemetery, and the Tall Man looms over him, shouting something like “BOY!” Two dudes play guitar on the front porch, with emphasis on a tuning fork. A gaudy gal in purple shows off her goods, pulls out a knife, and turns into Angus Scrimm just before she stabs someone, mid coitus. All of these scenes and more, believe it or not, are offered with little explanation. Although, they do all seem to lend significantly to the plot. It’s as if Coscarelli sat down and wrote a bunch of weird scenes, and then tried to imagine a way to tie them together. And as bad as that sounds, it’s not. This movie just works. Perhaps it’s Myrow and Seagrave’s original score that glues it together. Maybe it’s A. Michael Baldwin’s performance. Maybe it’s the fact that the evil entities of this film come from another dimension, so anything goes. This film is truly a patchwork of horror. 

I only ever saw this movie once, at a very young age, and I never considered it a favorite. I am so glad I took the time to give it another chance, and that I got to do so in a theatre, treat of JJ Abrams 4K restoration. I wrote this review knowing practically nothing about the mythology of the Tall Man and the world he comes from, so I may have to give some of the sequels a go. Here are a handful of my favorite screen grabs from the trailer for the restored film.

Challenge Fulfilled: A Movie Starring Angus Scrimm

31 Days of Horror 2016, Day 27: Scream 2 (1997)

At first, I didn’t want to like this sequel. It started off entirely too serious, and seemed to have lost the charm of the original Scream. Coming only a single year after its predecessor, Scream 2 has the formula for a disaster. Even the characters claim so, engaging in a conversation within the first 10 minutes of the movie, about how sequels suck. But…this sequel doesn’t really suck.

 

I also forgot how utterly star studded the cast of Scream 2 is. A young Timothy Olyphant, so strange outside of his Raylan Givins gear; Jada Pinkett Smith, Omar Epps, Heather Graham, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Joshua Jackson, Jerry O’Connell. This isn’t even counting all the returning actors, like Neve herself walking around lile a perpetual Delia’s model. The cherry on top has to be pre nose job Portia de Rossi. It’s as if they dumped a bunch of late 90’s TV stars in a big bucket and just blended them up. And the cameos…beautuful. Wes Craven himself, and Matthew Lillard, appearing uncredited and unnecessarily to brighten things up. AND if there’s one thing I like better than greasy Skeet doing Skeet things, it’s Luke Wilson pretending to be Skeet doing Skeet things, in the blockbuster, Stab. Like uttering the line “Sid, I think you need to get over it. Moms leave, that’s the way to cookie crumbles”…not that it makes any sense at all that this scene is in Stab, since nobody was around to see Sidney and Billy’s actual conversation at the top of the staircase, back in highschool, the first time she was being stalked. It’s quality self mockery. There’s probably a bizarre thesis in this somewhere, about the Scream universe being self referential and possibly all some kind of confusing Truman Show. Let’s just let that idea rest though, for now.

Of course some pills are a little harder to swallow, like Jamie Kennedy trying to act tough and put the killer on his place. Or the added threat of Cotton Weary, who for some reason is really desperate to get on TV and prove his “innocence”. Even though a nationally popular book and movie have already done the work for him. It definitely feels like this sequel tried pretty hard to raise the whodunit stakes. Really, at times Scream 2 feels like it takes itself just a little too seriously. Like during the stage rehearsal scene. We get it… Sydney is some kind of martyr. 

On the bright side, here’s Luke Wilson pretending to be Skeet one more time.

Challenge Fulfilled: A Movie and its Sequel.

31 Days of Horror 2016, Day 26: Children of the Corn (1984)

There’s a sort of magic to this movie that makes you forget about all the bad child acting and completely weird opening scenes. In my mind, the movie always starts with the young couple driving in the yellow car, into the town of Gatlin. I had completely forgotten about the soda fountain homicide, and the weird little hotel room, birthday dance that must happen before we get to all these scenes in which Malachai is yelling and kids are hanging out in corn fields. I figure I’m not alone in that. The good things about this movie just completely overshadow the bad. Front and center of course is the weird little old man face of Isaac. 

I have to give a bit of credit to the cinematography of this movie. I know that seems weird because ultimately Children of the Corn is just a cheap King adaptation like the myriad of others made in the eighties, but there are moments in this film that make it stand out. Every time Malachai unsheaths a blade, it shines resplendently. Every scarecrow hangs on a handmade, cattywompus cross. Every little object seems lovingly chosen and focused on for at least a moment. A bowl made of corn. A worn copy of Night Shift laying tilted on the dashboard. The people who made this movie cared, and it shows. So in spite of the bad, early CG, and a poorly paced scene in which a gas station attendant fights off a gang of pre-adolescents for over six minutes, Children of the Corn is totally likeable.

That said…dang these kids just cannot act. Sure they memorized their lines, but this is definitely the kind of child acting that’s hard to ignore, with giant gesturing and slack jawed expressions. Save that little dude Isaac of course, who probably already had a mortgage and kids of his own by the time he was in this movie. I bet that child actor got his start on a forensics team because he is DRAMATIC.

Glad to revisit this one. Not going all out for the sequels, though.

Challenge Fulfilled: A Stephen King Adaptation

Bonus: I made this quiz so you can find out which of the Children of the Corn you are! Just follow this link!

31 Days of Horror 2016, Day 25: Ghosthouse (1988)

Watching this, it felt like a bunch of scenes were missing. Everything sort of skipped around, characters took action without any internal motivation, and had the “missing scenes” been there the movie still wouldn’t have followed a logical progression. On top of that, the way these characters were written is just really awful. They’re the kind of people who cross the street, and stop dead in their tracks to stare at the speeding bus thats coming right toward them. Do not watch if you struggle with yelling at characters on the television. 

This Italian horror flick, directed by Umberto Lenzi, was apparently marketed overseas as an Evil Dead sequel. That’s a pretty far stretch, as the young adults in this movie aren’t trapped in the ghost house the way that Ash is in the cabin. They just keep running back into it of their own free will..for an hour and a half…despite the rogue doberman pincher, a meat cleaver weilding redneck, and the bloodthirsty ghost of a little girl who already literally murdered one of their friends via exploding glass jars and flying fan blades. A little ghost girl who carries around a ceramic clown doll who has clearly been set to “evil”

The clown in question also announces its presence with an admittedly creepy song, to which the victims always reply by saying “What is that song?!” or simply staring curiously. I’m not sure why they can’t figure it out. In spite of its stupidity, there were a couple of fun things about this movie. For one, the characters all look like they’re friends of Marty McFly, and they bust out some appreciable retro technology. (“Computers…ugh” says the cleaver weilding redneck, by the way). Also, this skeleton dude shows up for absolutely no reason, and I’m not complaining because who doesn’t love a good skull covered in maggots. And he’s playing a good game of knifey/spooney. 

Overall, this movie was hard to get through. Take my advice and don’t pay anything to see it.

Challenge Fulfilled: Italian Horror