Month: October 2015

October 14, 2015

The Horror Time Capsule – 1991: The Pit and the Pendulum

PREACHY

The Pit and the Pendulum –Preachy

There is no doubt that outside of Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe has been one of the most influential authors for filmmakers to rely upon. Okay, I’ll include H.P. Lovecraft in that conversation as well. And, you know what, that is a perfect segway considering Stuart Gordon’s “The Pit and the Pendulum.”

“Pit” is a take on the classic Poe story about the Spanish Inquisition and it’s most famous torture instrument; The Pendulum. In this tale, a couple, Maria and Antonio, are taken prisoner after Maria is accused of being a witch. The Grand Inquisitor, played by horror favorite, Lance Henrickson, takes a liking to Maria and believes that she has godly powers. Antonio, tries to free his beloved, but finds himself at the mercy of the dreaded Pendulum. Will they both escape?

So, this film same out where it seemed that horror had really gone stale was were looking back at old ideas for horror. The main one that comes to my mind is “The Phantom of the Opera” remake starring Robert Englund. Whereas the “Phantom” was a bit of a mess, and relied on gore, “Pit” while there is some gore, relies more on the horror of the Inquisition with an added dose of the supernatural.

I brought up Lovecraft earlier in this review because two names who are synonymous with Lovecraftian films, Stuart Gordon and Jeffrey Combs, direct and star in the film, respectively. Gordon would go on to work on “Dagon” and pretty much any other film that would be based around some sort of Poe or Lovecraft lore.

Overall, I thought this movie would be far worse than it was, but there is actually some very gallows humor throughout and there are some absolutely silly “Spanish” accents, like they aren’t even trying, which I think adds that extra touch of class. Henricksen stands out as the Grand Inquisitor of course, and he hams it up big time.

If you’re a Poe fan, you might like this film, but I’m sure you might have issues. However, it’s still a fun film if you can get past the religious preaching and overacting.

Here are some other films from ’91 that aren’t the pits:

Child’s Play3
Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
The People Under the Stairs
Sometimes They Come Back

October 14, 2015

The Horror Time Capsule – 1992: Candyman

ICONIC

Candyman – Iconic

One thing that has always been a constant is the need for horror icons, especially in the slasher genre. Mainly, it all equals money for studios. Between “Friday the 13th” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” the 80s were the times of franchising everything and anything. Enter the 90s, and in the vein those classics from the 80s, we were gifted another potential boogeyman who could have become the next horror icon, but two lackluster sequels later, we only have the original film, which is still a solid film on it’s own; enter “Candyman,’ from 1992.

Based on the Clive Barker novella, “Candyman” is the tale of folklore and mythology in the ghetto of Chicago, whereas the original tale was told in the slums of London. Helen is a grad student working on urban myths who stumbles upon a rather gruesome tale of a man with a hook for a hand who kills at will. Digging deeper into the story of Candyman unearths a story of a man who fell in love with a woman and is murdered in cold blood with the help of bees and honey. Soon Helen finds herself haunted by Candyman who wants Helen to become his newest victim and restore his visage which he believes Helen has destroyed.

If nothing else, “Candyman” is a 90s reboot of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” a story about belief and how mythology plays an important part in our daily lives. The same way that Freddy is powerful based on his fear, is the same way that Candyman is effective in his terror.

What I still think makes “Candyman” scary, is the same way that people are still scared of Freddy Kruger; it’s a childhood fear. I remember first hearing about this film when I was in 4th grade and just the thought of being alone in a bathroom and saying “Candyman” five times in a mirror scared me more than anything. Even the thought of being dared to say it by some friends scared me. Looking at it now as an adult I realize that this is all make believe, but still, there is that little thing in the back of your head that you still think it might be real.

Overall, “Candyman” is an interesting film that has a great Gothic/Shakespearean feel to it. There is tragedy and bloodshed, not to mention an interesting twist at the end that you might not see coming.

We dare you to watch these other 1992 films in a mirror five times:

Alien 3
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Hellraiser 3
Sleepwalkers

October 8, 2015

Simplistic TV: American Horror Story: Hotel

HOMAGE

American Horror Story: Hotel – Homage

Here’s my history with “American Horror Story;” I like maybe half the season and I just kind of “check out.” I don’t know what it is about the series, but unlike other people, it’s never dug it’s nails into me and made me want to finish off a season. “Freak Show” came pretty close last season, but once they did away with Twisty the Clown, I tuned out. The took away, at least to me, the best past of the show, and aborted it.

This brings me to the newest edition of the “AHS” anthology; “Hotel.” What I’m looking for is a reason to keep checking out this season and keeping it on until the end. If I get what I saw in the first 20 or so minutes in the premier, I think I’ll be happy. Full disclosure, the first 20 minutes scared my wife away who couldn’t watch anymore.

“Hotel” stars the Hotel Cortez, an old hotel in Los Angeles, with a sordid history of murder, mayhem, and of course…ghosts. Most of the standard cast returns from “AHS” past, including Kathy Bates as yet another old coot who has seen too much. Sarah Paulson returns as a weirdo once again. Wes Bently is back too, this time as a cop with a family. Last but not least we have Lady Gaga being introduced as surprise surprise; a weirdo.

You might ask yourself, “Matt, why are you being so dismissive of this season so far?” Well, I’m not, I’m just painting this season in generalizations so far as to not give anything away

Overall, the premier pushed the limits in a lot of ways that even kind of surprised me, but perhaps this is the “Gaga Effect” where limits must be pushed. I think this newest edition to the “AHS” series has a lot of potential since it seems to take a lot from the past, namely the “Murder House” season with enough wacky characters where it will remind you of the latest season “Freak Show.”

Of course the same people will turn in no matter what, but I think there is enough crossover appeal where even curious, or bi-curious, members of the audience might even give this season a try. Me, for one, enjoys the bygone era of old seedy Los Angeles, and to end this, I really hope they decide not to go the “Freak Show” route and include music interludes. So far, so good.

October 7, 2015

The Horror Time Capsule – 1990: Stephen King’s Graveyard Shift

EARWORM

Stephen King’s Graveyard Shift – Earworm

I’ve done my fair share of reading Stephen King, but most of his longform work can be just that….work. I’ve mainly enjoyed his short stories in “Night Shift” and “Skeleton Crew,” but that’s mainly because I have a short attention span when it comes to reading. This brings me to a film that while it isn’t very good, it’s very memorable; “Stephen King’s Graveyard Shift.”

“Shift” is the tale about a backwoods town where the economy is based around a mill that is infested with rats, and other murdery type creatures. A group of men, and a woman, are tasked with cleaning up the mill and getting it up to code by clearing out out the rat problem. However, there is bigger, deadlier, problem around the mill and people start turning up dead.

The film runs a tidy 88 minutes, which is just the right amount of time to tell the tale of a mill with rat problems, but there are plenty of fun takeaways from this film.

One, Brad Dourif, who you might knows as the voice of Chucky, or if you’re not a horror fan, as Grima Wormtounge in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, plays the creepy exterminator who hates rats and makes an instant impression. He reminds me of the foul-mouthed cousin of John Goodman’s exterminator in “Arachnophobia.”

Two, there are some very odd accents in this film, namely Stephen Macht, who’s accent is a place between a southern plantation owner and a British parliament leader, it’s just odd, and somewhat oft-putting.

Three, and this is only if you stick around for the whole film, the credit song. A combination of lines from the film and jazz beat, this might be the most memorable part of the film.

Overall, this isn’t a bad film, it’s just a Stephen King short that ended up being a film like so many films before and after. “Gravetard Shift” just happens to have enough quirks to make it enjoyable and memorable.

If you thought this film was bitchin’, check out these others from 1990:

Child’s Play 2
Gremlins 2
It
Leatherface: TCM 3
Nightbreed
Night of the Living Dead (1990)
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie
Tremors

October 6, 2015

The Horror Time Capsule – 1989: Friday the 13th Pt. 8: Jason Takes Manhattan

CHEESE

Friday the 13th Pt. 8 – Cheese

There is good cheese, and bad cheese; “Friday the 13th Pt. 8” is equals part both, mainly because it is so God damned 80s. It reeks of everything the 1980s was and will always be remembered by. In fact, this film is the most 80s of all the films in the series. Did I mention how 80s this film is….

So, “Jason Takes Manhattan.” Once again, Jason rises from the grave, again, with the help of some lightning and a metal anchor. After his first two welcome back kill of some horny, and whiny, teens, he catches a ride with more horny and whiny teens on a high school cruise to New York City. On this doomed cruise is Renny, a teen who also happens to have some history with Jason, her dickhead “stepfather-of-sorts” and Kelly Hu in one of her first roles.

Needless to say, Jason kills a bunch of kids, visits Manhattan, and is of course stopped in one of the oddest endings to a “Friday the 13th” movie.

Two things that stand out to me in this one is the resemblance to “The New Blood.” We have a teen heroine who has a history with Jason in addition to an overbearing father figure and worrisome mother figure. There is a pseudo-romance between said heroine and hero that is somewhat awkward, and of course the girl who is jealous of the heroine but gets her comeuppance.

The other thing is the vision of New York itself. People tend to forget that New York in the 80s and 90s was pretty much a cesspool. It was pretty dirty and you could say dangerous before gentrification took over. There also seemed to be a lot of open toxic waster just hanging around. New Yorkers who grew up in the 80s and 90s in the city, is this true?

Anyway, while this is one of the weaker edition in the series, it’s still totally watchable if not just for the fashion, funny Jason kills, and of course we can’t forget Kane Hodder who just brings something special to the Jason role.

For more awesome 80s fashion, check out these other hits:

976-EVIL
Friday the 13th Pt 8
Halloween 5
Leviathan
Nightmare on Elm Street 5
Pet Sematary
Warlock

October 5, 2015

The Horror Time Capsule – 1988: Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers

WASTE

Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers – Waste

I’ll give the first “Sleepaway Camp” credit….it had balls, in fact it had cock and balls. Spoiler alert, the killer was a guy all along. Of course, “Camp” wasn’t breaking new ground, check out “Dressed to Kill” if you want a real cross-dressing murder story. But the sequel to “Camp,” is just a cash in film that has some interesting scenes, but overall it’s cheap, silly, and overall just a waste.

“Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers” begins with a “necessary” exposition scene where campers around the fire explain the events in the first film where a girl named Angela killed nearly everyone at Camp Arawak. The twist; Angela was really a boy named Peter who’s family was killed. Twist…..

Under an assumed named, Anglea, fresh out of the asylum, is now a camp counselor at Camp Rolling Hills. Obsessed with manners, Angela begins to off all of the philandering counselors one at a time. We’ve heard this all before.

I hate to be a bastard to this film, but when something isn’t good, it isn’t very good, which is funny because I have memories of this film dating back to around 6th grade where I first heard the Rolling Hills Camp song (the dirty version of course). I think 6th grade Matt was just interested to her what camp counselors would do if you paid them money…..

Of course there are two more films in the “Sleepaway Camp” series, but if you know what is good for you, you shouldn’t go past this one. Sure, if you’re a slasher film buff, watch them, but be warned, it only goes down hill from here.

Here are the rest of the best from good old 1988:

The Blob
Child’s Play
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Hellraiser 2
Maniac Cop
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4
Night of the Demons
Pumpkinhead

October 4, 2015

The Horror Time Capsule – 1987: Near Dark

DECENT

Near Dark – Decent

It was only a matter of time before I’d sneak a vampire review in here, and I tried to think of one of the most obscure ones I could. This brings me to “Near Dark” and if you pay close enough attention, or use your imagination you might think this is a vampire sequel to “Aliens”

Out tale begins with Caleb, a cowboy on the prowl for a lady love; he finds one in Mae, a mysterious girl who needs to be home before dawn. Caleb bites off more than he can chew after he asks for a kiss and soon finds himself turning into a vampire. He is kidnapped by Mae’s “family” which includes Severen (Bill Paxton) and Jesse (Lance Hendrickson). Jesse tasks Caleb with making his first kill within two days or the family will kill him.

Meanwhile, Caleb’s father, Loy, along with his sister are on the hunt to find him and find him they do, while they narrowly escape from the family with Caleb in tow. At the end of the day Caleb figures out a way to stop the vampires and lives happily ever after.

There are a lot of interesting things about this film. First is the cast, which is pretty much half the cast of James Cameron’s “Aliens.”The other tie-in is the director, Katheryn Bigelow, who was married to Cameron at the time. I almost feel like as soon as “Aliens” wrapped Paxton and Hendrickson walked over to a set right across the street and started filming this.

Speaking of Paxton, he steals the show as Severen, the most loony of this vampire family. His antics in the bar scene make the film and show his comedic timing as well as his acting mania. People might give him crap for his overacting in “Aliens” but his overacting in “Near Dark” is exactly what is needed in this film.

Overall, “Near Dark” is a fun film and you can see the tidbits that shows like “True Blood” stole from this offbeat look on our favorite onscreen bloodsuckers.

Here are some other awesome flicks from 1987:

Bad Taste
Creepshow 2
Dolls
Evil Dead 2
Hellraiser
Nightmare of Elm Street 3
Opera

October 3, 2015

The Horror Time Capsule – 1986: The Fly

MELTY

The Fly – Melty

At it’s core, “The Fly” is a love story that just happens to end tragically. In the vein of “Frankenstein” and any other mad scientist film you can think of, not only is “The Fly” memorable for it’s strong acting and storytelling, it’s probably most memorable for it’s extreme gore and transformation scenes. To this day, I would still put up the SFX in this film as some of the best that have ever been done in horror/sci-fi.

Jeff Goldblum stars as Dr. Seth Brundle, a struggling scientist working out the kinks on his teleportation machine. By his side is a young Geena Davis who is smitten with Brundle, but is also involved with slimy magazine editor, Stathis Borans.

Brundle seems to be on the brink of something that would change science forever, but he forgot to close his windows and doors because one tiny little fly puts that cabash on that and Brundle slowly begins to turn into a half-man/half-fly hybrid with grotesque results.

In the sci-fi genre, I don’t think you get something as perfect as this film. The acting is strong, for the genre, the effects are horrific and still shocking to this day, and at the end of the day, you feel bad and you have empathy for Brundle and his slowly departure from humanity into a creature. This is Goldblum’s film to shine, and while he mainly plays in the background, without many major starring roles, the role of Brundlefly will live on forever in horror/sci-fi lore.

Of course this is a remake of “The Fly” from the 1950s, but aside from the fact that both films are about men turning into flies, most of the similarities stop there. David Cronenberg puts his own unique stamp on this remake that includes a broken arm, complete with bone sticking through the skin, maggot pregnancy, and of course my favorite, a melting foot and hand.

You like “The Fly” here are some other goodies from 1986:

Aliens
April Fool’s Day
Critters

Friday the 13th Pt 6
House
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

October 2, 2015

The Horror Time Capsule – 1985: Return of the Living Dead

WHIMSICAL

Return of the Living Dead: Whimsical

Moving along to 1985 I’m picking one of my horror guilty pleasures. While I’m a little “zombified” by zombies and the undead in general, one film really holds a special place in my heart, and while I do love the Romero Trilogy of Night, Dawn, and Dead, there is nothing like the fun and all out insanity of “Return of the Living Dead.”

It’s weird to talk about “Return of the Living Dead” when I could have easily picked “Dawn of the Dead” for 1985, but who really wants to hear about the message George Romero was trying to make about the evil of capitalism, that’s all been done before. What I want to talk about are goofy government conspiracies, graveyard stripping, a mortician who might be a Nazi, and of course talking zombies.

“Return” is the tale of government foul-ups and cover-ups. When a toxin is release by two bumbling chemical warehouse workers it awakens the dead from a nearby cemetery which ruins the time of a group of punk rockers who are partying in said cemetery. That’s pretty much all you need to know about this film, that, and it’s tons of fun.

While “Night” and “Dawn” relied on practical horror and a message of social change, “Return” is the Id of those films. There is blood, boobs, and more blood. There is also the first concept and idea that zombies enjoy to not just munch on flesh, but also “brains.” This plot point is revealed by a talking zombie.

There should be so many things that bother me about this film. One, the zombies talk. Two, the characters are goofy and whiny. And three, my cardinal sin, the zombies RUN. This, to my knowledge, is the first example of running zombies, but I’ll give it a pass considering the goofy nature of this film.

 Here are some other oldies but goodies from ’85:

Cat’s Eye
Day of the Dead
Fright Night
Friday the 13th Pt 5
Ghoulies
Lifeforce
Nightmare of Elm Street 2
Silver Bullet

October 1, 2015

The Horror Time Capsule – 1984: Gremlins

GOOPY

Gremlins – Goopy

To kick off The Horror Time Capsule, I thought I would go with something that I remember seeing as a kid a lot, but not so much as an adult. It’s funny how so many films in the 80s that were geared towards kids had so many non-kid friendly moments and themes. This brings me to “Gremlins” a kids film that could have only been made in the 80s.

In short, the plot of this film features an exotic pet brought home from Chinatown that has very specific rules that need to be followed in order to best care for the pet. That pet is Gizmo, and Gizmo is a Mogwai.

Now in small town America, and under the care of Billy Peltzer, who like any good pet owner, doesn’t care for his pet correctly which leads to more Mogwais that don’t have the same innocent temperament as Gizmo. More hijinks ensure that see the once fuzzy Mogwais transform into green and even meaner, Gremlins.

While I wouldn’t consider this a “horror” film in the traditional sense, this was Joe Dante’s biggest film to date. And while I consider “The Howling” his horror opus, “Gremlins” is by far his most memorable film, in my opinion of course.

The is murder, general monster hijinks, monsters exploding in microwaves, monsters melting into puddles of goop, and of course my favorite, a story about someone’s dad dying in the chimney after pretending to be Santa Claus and breaking his neck. Noting quite says “Merry Christmas” like a dead dad story.

Here are some other 1984 favorites:

CHUD
Children of the Corn
Friday the 13th Part 4
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Silent Night, Deadly Night

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