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Month: October 2013

October 22, 2013

This is Halloween: Maniac (2012)

Maniac (2012) – Perspective


In modern horror, the thought of re-making fringe horror films is always confusing to me. What audience is this re-make for?  Who is going to see it?  Is it viable for a studio to release a film that maybe a handful of people will see, let alone be nostalgic for?  I raise my hand proudly!  I love cult horror films, they always hold a special please in my sick little heart.  Some of my fondest memories, like I’ve mentioned before, was watching USA’s Up All Night, and MonsterVision on TNT with Joe Bob Briggs.

While horror in recent years has been stripped of its soul and replaced with found footage and other nonsense, it’s nice to know that someone is still out there respecting the cult horror of yesteryear.  That person is Alexandre Aja.  This Frenchman knows his horror, even if its over-the-top, gut-wrenching, blood-soaked horror, its the horror that I love.  He knows just how far to push the exploitation envelop, and while he might not have directed the film I’m about to get into reviewing, he was the brainchild behind developing  the 2012 remake of “Maniac” based on the 1980 original.

“Maniac” stars Elijah Wood as Frank, a loner who runs a mannequin shop in an unnamed urban sprawl.  Devoted to his work, needless to say he has a hard time connecting with the opposite sex, so he does what any normal person would do;  he trolls dating sites (a plot point that quickly loses steam), murders, and scalps women.  That is until the day he meets Anna, a young artist interested in his mannequins.  While Frank tries to pursue a normal relationship with Anna, his thirst for blood is unquenchable and he continues to kill.

Sure, I’m simplifying the plot for sake of spoilers, but there is a lot to like about “Maniac.”  While there are are deviations from the original, namely the infamous “Disco Boy Scene” the remake focuses on Frank’s relationship with his mannequins, women, and his rather complicated mommy issues.  While the “Disco Boy Scene” would have been cool to see with modern SFX, it would have added nothing to the remake overall.  But fret not gorehounds, there are plenty of moments where you’ll forget all about “Disco Boy.”

Comparing the original “Maniac” to it’s remake is tough to do.  The original relies on tension, with a grimier and grittier look, very reminiscent to Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver.”  Joe Spinell, who was already a pretty rough looking dude, plays Frank to a tee and there is never any doubt he’s a maniac.  The on-screen murders are brutal and you feel the terror of his victims as well as the pain of Spinell who is acting against his will and can’t stop killing.

This time around Elijah Wood plays Frank, and while you might think Wood as a murderous creep is a tough sell, see what he did in “Sin City” as Kevin, or just see what he’s doing now as Ryan Newman on “Wilfred.”  Wood gives a convincing performance as the twisted serial killer who collects scalps, which he adorns to the top of his mannequins’ heads.

The choice to shoot most of the film from Frank’s perspective is an interesting choice.  It’s found footage without being found footage.  I would almost consider “Maniac” the serial killer version of “Enter the Void,” from Gaspar Noe.  You might even call this film a “first-person killer.”  There are a few scenes where the camera swings around to reveal Frank making a kill, but for the most part, I like the idea of “actually” see ing through the eyes of the killer.

Is 2012’s “Maniac” and improvement over the original?  It all depends on your perspective.  The original was playing up the fears of the still-fresh-in-their-minds “Son of Sam” murders in New York from the late 1970s, so it was reasonably timely and terrifying at the same time.  The remake is pretty much a shot in the dark, cashing in on the found footage craze and the dying out torture-porn aesthetic.  It’s also rips off some of the retro-style of “Drive,” however, I respect the fact that directors and writers who are fans of cult genre fare, like “Maniac,” decided to take the proverbial stab at making a genre film that only hardcore horror fans would be familiar with.  I salute Aja and director Franck Khalfoun for creating something with teeth to compete against dribble like “Paranormal Activity 45: Stop Moving Into This House!” and doing a little-known classic justice some 30 years later.

Fun Fact:  “Goodbye Horses” by Q. Lazzarus, is featured in another prominent film; 1991’s “Silence of the Lambs” which also featured a serial killer who murdered women.

October 21, 2013

Simplistic Reviews Presents: Simply Horrifying featuring Tales from the Crypt Ep. 09

Welcoming you back to the Crypt, this is Matt with another edition of Simply Horrifying.  As we creep into Season Three of “Tales from the Crypt” we start off with a real bang, and a snap, and a pluck of your eyeballs with the help of a circling vulture.
“Carrion Death” is not only a clever name, but it’s also a damn good episode starring  Kyle MacLachlan as a murderer who not only just escaped death row, but just robbed a bank too.  What a go-getter.  With a cop in hot pursuit, Mexico in sight, and a pesky vulture looking to grab the leftovers, what will become of this unlikely trio?
For the full review, click the link above, if you dare…….
October 18, 2013

Simplistic Reviews Presents: Simply Horrifying featuring Tales from the Crypt Ep. 08

Welcome back to Simply Horrifying as we reach an end to Season Two of “Tales from the Crypt” with a twisted tale of secrets identities entitled, cleverly enough, “The Secret.”  It’s a nice wrap-up to the season that was arguably the strongest season out of the entire series.  Also of note was that this was the second episode in the series featuring Larry Drake, who you might remember as the psycho Santa in the Season One episode, “And All Through the House.”

Click the link above for the full review, if you dare…….

October 17, 2013

Simplistic Reviews Presents: Simply Horrifying featuring Tales from the Crypt Ep. 07

The number seven is lucky for some, but guess what, it isn’t for you!  HAHAHA!  Well, you must be kind of lucky if you’re back and ready to enjoy another episode of Simply Horrifying.  In this terrifying tale we see what it really takes to make it in show business as Morton Downey Jr stars in “Television Terror” one of the first haunted house-style stories to appear on “Tales from the Crypt.”

Click the link above for the reviews, if you dare…..

October 17, 2013

This is Halloween (TV): Toy Story of Terror


Toy Story of Terror – Devilishly

The one thing you can count on with Pixar is that you always get quality.  Despite some of their weaker efforts (“Cars” “Cars 2” to a lesser extent, “Brave”) there always seems to be a silver lining to anything Pixar creates.  I may not like “Cars” but I can respect that it looks gorgeous.  Sorry “Cars” fans, I just don’t find fart jokes spun by a redneck comedian to be very funny.

While most Pixar fare is made for the big screen, and evokes such emotion and heart, its nice to see that Disney/Pixar (yes, I’ll give Disney their due) created something for the Halloween season, and it very well might be the best thing you’ll see this Fall.  This of course is the devilishly clever “Toy Story of Terror” a spooky mini adventure starring all of your favorite “Toy Story” pals.

The writers at Pixar have to be some of the best writers in the world.  They know how to perfectly cater to fans of Disney while at the same time sneaking in little odes and jabs to other films and their appropriate genres and fans.  They just get it, simple as that.  “Terror” begins at some point after “Toy Story 3” ends.  Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the crew are in the care of Bonnie as they head to some undisclosed location on a dark and stormy night.  After a flat tire, Bonnie, her mother, and the toys settle into a roadside motel while they wait for the tow truck in the morning.  Needless to say, hi-jinks and close-calls ensue and of course there is a happy ending.  Like most Pixar films, its not the story that’s always compelling, its the actual journey.

What I respect the most is that all the voices from the previous “Story” films return, including Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, and Joan Cusack, but there are also a few extra treats along the way, including Ken Marino, or as I like to refer to him as, Louie, the “I WANNA DIP BY BALLS IN IT” guy.

Along with Ken Marino, what would a “Toy Story” be without some new characters, and the best has to be Combat Carl, voiced by Carl Weathers.  This character is so perfect and I love the subtle reference to “Predator” thrown in as Combat Carl is missing a hand.  Those are the things that make me love Pixar.  Who would throw in a “Predator” reference into a TV show made for children?

Timothy Dalton is also great as Mr. Pricklepants, who’s essentially Randy from the “Scream” series.  He calls out horror movie cliches at every turn and it’s wonderful to see it done in a Shakespearean way.  The more I think about “Terror” is that the animation is for the kids, while the dialogue is made for adults who love horror and action films.  Maybe Shane Black ghostwrote this entire special?

Bottom line, “Toy Story of Terror” is a wonder to behold.  The story is perfect for the time allotted, the introduction of new toys now looking for their owner adds a great side story to the entire “Toy Story” mythology, and Pixar and Disney spare no expense to create a standalone story that rivals anything in the Pixar catalog.  Hopefully this tradition continues and becomes this generation’s “Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin.”

Fun Fact:  Everyone knows that the Cowboy Woody doll is pretty sought after in the “Toy Story” universe.  You’ll notice that the $2,000 winning bid was from Al McWhiggin of Al’s Toy Barn.

October 17, 2013

Big Fan

Big Fan: Intense   …But fun.


Patton Oswalt plays a lovable but passionate fan of his football team. Not just any football team, but his New York Giants. To him no other team should even exist on this earth. But then one day his favorite player kicks the crap out of him. This puts him in a bad place.

Emotionally he becomes unstable and it leads to a place that surprised me at first.  He has to pick between him or his football team and the way it plays out was pretty awesome.

This is a film that I couldn’t really guess what came next. So many films anymore are very predicable. Patton Oswalt really shines in this film. This may be a comedy slash drama, but I would really like to see him go more toward the drama end. He really just fit this film in such a way I couldn’t see anyone else play. Micheal Rapaport and Kevin Corrigan also star, both hold a screen present not too many can. The ending will leave a smile on your face and wanting more. I would also like more from director and writer, Robert D. Siegel who on top of this wrote, The Wrestler. Both films I enjoyed and only wish we got more of his work.

Been a fan of Oswalt for the longest time, and this film might just sealed it for you as well.

October 16, 2013

Simplistic Reviews Presents: Simply Horrifying featuring Tales from the Crypt Ep. 06

Prepare for another murderous and marauding romp as we re-enter the Crypt for another edition of Simply Horrifying.  In one of the more interesting, and lighter, episodes we have Harry Anderson, who you might remember from “Night Court,” as an artist working for “Tales from the Crypt” who’s creations are suddenly taking on a life of their own after he begins taking experimental pills for his little “bedroom problem.”  The episode is entitled “Korman’s Kalamity,” and while the episode is goofy and ridiculous it still have enough gore and monsters to come off as a little scary.

One other interesting tidbit is the fact that “Korman’s” was directed by Rowdy Herrington, the man behind the 1989 classic, “Road House.” Enough said.

Click the video above for the full review, if you dare……

October 15, 2013

This Is Halloween: The American Scream

The American Scream – Spirit


What’s American?  Apple pie?  Baseball?  Government shutdowns?  Sure, all these things makes America great, but something has to be missing….what could it be? How about starting your own business, being an entrepreneur?  That’s one thing, admittedly, America is good at doing.  In the documentary, “The American Scream,” we follow three people taking their obsession to new heights: the art of creating homemade haunted houses.

In the town of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, Halloween is a big deal, as it usually is in a small town.  Sure, you have your houses that only put out a jack-o-lantern or maybe some cobwebs in the windows, but three particular residences in Fairhaven turn their homes into “house haunts.”

The American Scream” follows Victor Bariteau, an office drone who dreams of turning his house haunt into a full time job, the father and son team of Matt and Richard Brodeur, who share an interesting and symbiotic relationship, and finally Manny Souza, a city worker who recently suffered a heart attack and who’s house haunt is in danger of not getting done on time.

The documentary begins 31 days before Halloween as all three families are starting to prep for the big day.  What makes this film so interesting is how much the holiday means to each family, but at the same time how it turns them against each other, to a degree.  Victor, who dreams of making this once a year holiday his career, has sacrificed spending Halloween with his family, such as trick-or-treating.  Keeping up on repairs to his house has also suffered, leaving his home a mess.  Manny tries to keep up with Victor, and does a decent job, but with him not being in the best of health has to rely on the kindness of strangers that share his love for the holiday.

“The American Scream” offers a look into a holiday that many retail stores pass over most of the time.  Sure, you have your costume shops like “Spirit of Halloween” and “Halloween Express” but by the time October comes around, Christmas decorations are already up in stores, and aside from sales on candy, Halloween is a holiday that is treated like the bastard child of American holidays.  Hell, Arbor Day gets nearly as much publicity.  It’s refreshing to see a small community get behind a holiday like Halloween an give it the respect it deserves.

While some people do get into the holiday spirit, that holiday is usually Christmas.  You have bright lights, shining stars, and who could forget that cute little manger scene that folks are so keen on.  You look at Halloween and you have everything that is anti-Christian; ghosts, goblins, and zombies, but, if you read your Bible, the Good Book is full of things that you might consider evil; Satan, ghosts, and vengeful spirits.  I might be getting a little off-topic here but why is Halloween usually treated with such contempt, while there was plenty of superstitious nonsense going on during Christmas.

Getting back to small towns,  Halloween is a much bigger deal, and it shows in “The American Scream.”  It shows that Halloween brings people together and is a much more communal holiday than that of Thanksgiving or Christmas.  I mean you don’t let people into your house when you’re having Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, but you will nearly invite people into your home to collect candy or enter a spooky haunted house that takes you months to construct so that it can be enjoyed for just one evening.  That’s putting heart into a holiday.

Living in Florida, I weep sometimes when I see what states like Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and California do to commemorate Halloween.  Sure, we have Halloween Horror Nights, one of the better Halloween-themed attractions in the state, but the costs for Horror Nights have become astronomical and price a lot of true Halloween fans out.  In states like Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, where Halloween still truly lives and breathes, its created by true fans of the holiday who want to share their joy with the masses.  Sure, there is money to be made, but you can’t put a price tag on screams and the adrenaline rush you get when a man with a fake ax and a skeleton mask jumps out of the dark to scare you half to death.  That’s “The American Scream” right there.

Fun Fact:  According to Haunt World, the best Haunted Attraction in the US in 2013 is The 13th Floor/The Asylum in Denver, CO.

October 15, 2013

Simplistic Reviews Presents: Simply Horrifying featuring Tales from the Crypt Ep. 05

Welcome to Hell Muthafu*ka!  Or….just welcome back to another edition of Simply Horrifying as we continue our jaunt down memory lane remembering some of the best episodes of “Tales from the Crypt.”  In this episode, which is also one of my favorites, we have two comedians in the starring role, one being the immortal Don Rickles and the other being “Bobcat” Goldthwait, as two ventriloquists in “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy.”

Directed by Richard Donner, “Dummy” is the story of a retired ventriloquist and a young up-and-coming ventriloquist’s attempt to back in big.  Remember a long time ago when ventriloquist’s were treated like kings and women threw themselves at them wishing they were the puppets?  Well, neither do I.

This episode offers a pretty good twist and both comedians put out pretty good performances, mainly Rickles who is pretty convincing as the retired performing holding back a dark secret.  All in all, one of the better episodes from Season Two.

Click the link above for the full review, if you dare……

October 8, 2013

This Is Halloween: Scream 2


Scream 2 – Outlier

Certain things sell me on a film, especially a horror film.  The main thing(s) is whether it keeps me interested, engaged, and I’m able to care about a few of the characters.  You wouldn’t normally say that a soundtrack for a film is what made you like the film even more.  However, “Scream 2” is that type of film, an outlier where the soundtrack is as good as the film itself.  But of course there is an excellent movie hidden behind the soundtrack.

“Scream 2” the first sequel in the popular “Scream” series is “The Godfather II” of the horror genre.  Not only is Wes Craven back, with Kevin Williamson penning the screenplay again, but Craven ups the ante and creates a sequel that provides more laughs, more tension, and an even hipper cast than the first film, including Raylan Givens.  Once again we start with a sequence that later in the series becomes standard protocol where a famous person(s) that you wouldn’t think would get killed, gets killed.  Meanwhile, Sidney Prescott, our heroine in the previous film, has gone off the college where she’s followed by Ghostface.  But wait, you might say, “Wait a minute, Ghostface is dead, that was Billy Loomis and his buddy Stu!”  I would rebuttal and say, “You know what would have been cool, if Ghostface Killah played Ghostface!”  I still say we get that petition signed and just cast “Scream 5” with everybody from the Wu-Tang Clan.

While Sidney is trying to adjust to college life, a new boyfriend, and playing Cassandra, her friends are killed one at a time by Ghostface, who just LOVES sequels; they’re bloodier, sillier, and have ridiculous plot twists.  While “Scream 2” is all of this and more, the fact that it’s self-aware without being fully self-aware works extremely well.  The characters never follow their own advice even though they try to justify their decisions for being the typical horror stereotypes.  Just like the first “Scream” the characters are likable and are typical of the slasher genre, but Craven and Williamson do a great job of expanding the world of Woodsboro from it’s small town beginnings in the first film, to a college campus where there is a larger group of suspects in a more condensed, claustrophobic area.

Now, let me get back to the real reason to like this film; the soundtrack.  If you haven’t enjoyed the “Scream 2” soundtrack, do yourself a favor and give it a listen.  The tracks range from Master P to Dave Matthews Band, but I still think there should have been some Wu-Tang on the soundtrack, it just seems like a lost opportunity.

Overall, “Scream 2” would have been a great way to end the series, but what would a horror series be without a few more sequels, which we got with the underwhelming “Scream 3” and the underrated “Scream 4.”  However, “Scream 2” stands alone as a horror sequel that not only meets a fan’s expectations but was so much more than a cooker-cutter sequel to make more money.  While Wes Craven’s record as a horror director had been spotty since “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” the “Scream” franchise gave him a second lease on life, and “Scream 2” stands as one of his best efforts in a career that spans over 40 years.  An outlier indeed, “Scream 2” gives you what you want, but it gives it in a way where excess isn’t required.

Fun Fact:  As if there wasn’t enough to like about “Scream 2,” Danny Elfman, composer of “Batman,” “Spider-man,” and former lead singer of Oingo Boingo, took the time to compose the Cassandra theme heard HERE for the film.

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