Halloween

October 15, 2015

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast (Ep. 56) October 2015

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES

To celebrate this creepy time of year, why not hang with the creepy movie aficionados in the biz.  On this Halloween edition of the Simplistic Reviews Podcast, the boys talk candy…fall TV premieres…Ronda Rousey’s Roadhouse and Hayden Christensen.

This episode is filled to the brim with tricks and treats.  Grab your machete, your knife glove, and put on your inside out William Shatner mask and enjoy!

NOTES
Jennifer Lawrence’s Hunger Games C-word poster
Sam Smith Writing On the Wall
Ellen Pompeo criticizes Daniel Craig

MUSIC
Created A Monster by B.o.B. 
Murder Was The Case By Snoop Dogg
Bonfire By Childish Gambino
Saw Theme By Charles Clouser
Halloween Theme By John Carpenter

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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 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

September 28, 2015

The Horror Time Capsule!!!

Hey guys and gals, Matt here.

I know all of us in the blogging community like to get in the spirit of Halloween, and we also all like blog-a-thons, and to try something a little different out, I thought that I’d put this idea out there.

We are looking for contributors to help us with putting out 31 reviews in 31 days for the month of October. Instead of just writing 31 random reviews, we thought we would do a little time capsule. Starting in 1984 and ending in this year in horror, 2015.

Click see the link HERE to get an idea of what horror looked like from 1984-2015 and e-mail us at contact@simplisticreviews.net if you want to get involved. Let us know the film you’d like to write about (it doesn’t have to be from the list, it can be any horror film from that year) and what date works for you and we’ll let you know if that date is available.

To better cross-promote, grab the banner and stick it on your site.

Click Here to Download the Artwork

February 2, 2015

The Guest

The Guest – Homage

HOMAGE

If anyone knows our site you know we have an unhealthy proclivity for the 1980s. It’s what made us the animals we are today. Ultra-violence, one-liners, and many many more hyphenated phrases came from this glorious decade of excess. What’s even better is that the people who are our age are now directing films and a lot of them have the same sensibilities as we do….what a wonderful world we live in. This brings me to “The Guest” another effort from Adam Wingard who has also worked on “V/H/S” “The ABCs of Death” and “You’re Next.” However, “The Guest” is his strongest effort so far and is a true homage to the 80s thrillers of yesteryear.

The film starts with a shot of a man running from something and, BOOM, title card. You already know this film is going to be good. Next, we meet The Peterson family who have recently lost a member of their family, Caleb, to war. There comes a knock at the door and enter David, the good-looking ex-soldier friend of Caleb who has been tasked with helping the family anyway possible. Rounding out the family, outside of the grieving mother Laura is Spencer, the father, daughter Anna, and bullied son Luke. Upon David’s arrival in town things slowly start happening that both benefit the Peterson family and make them very uncomfortable. As tension reaches a boiling point, both the Petersons and their town will never be the same. Going any further with the story would be a disservice.

I’ll preface before I continue. Yes, there is a story in this film, and it’s rather weak and limited, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. So, “The Guest,” yeah, this movie is awesome. It’s an incredible, earnest throwback to anything made by John Carpenter, namely “Assault in Precinct 13” and the unstoppable force theme of “Halloween.” There are also dashes of “Fear” and “Drive.” What makes the film work, however, is the slow burn of “Guest.” You have a feeling right off the bat that something isn’t quite right with David and just when you think there is a logical explanation, the film takes a turn that isn’t quite expected, and that’s where some people might turn away and write the film off. However, if you know anything about thrillers in the 80s and early 90s, this was par for the course. You expected something ridiculous to happen, and eventually it does, with blood-soaked glee (hey, another hyphenated word).

On to more gloating about this film….the soundtrack. Again, if you love John Carpenter or anything other synth-forward (hyphenated again) 80s soundtrack, again, this is the film for you. I’ll be the first to say that while I love the “Halloween” soundtrack, my favorite Carpenter score is by and far, “Christine.” It’s pulse-pounding, driving, literally, and incredibly unrelenting, very much like the soundtrack for “Guest.” While there are some cheesy bits thrown in, the work by Steve Moore is impeccably 80s and it works with the tone of the film.

If I was to criticize anything from the film, it would be the thin plot, or lack there of a plot. This film is strictly for people well versed in 80s cinema, the pacing, and the style. Adam Wingard is obviously well-versed in what he thinks people wants to see in a throwback piece like this, and while some people might knock the film for that, and I understand, that doesn’t make them right.

After singing the praises of “The Guest” nearly this entire review, is it worth the praise. Well, duh, of course it is. It’s a great throwback film with a style all it’s own and it’s super entertaining. Is it zany and lacks sense, of course it does, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Fun Fact: In the original screenplay, the story took place in Korea and it had far more action, including a car chase that was 50 pages long.  

November 1, 2014

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast (Ep. 32) Halloween Edition 2014

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

On this Spooktacular Halloween edition of The Simplistic Reviews Podcast, the boys welcome back JD Duran from Insession Film.  Other than further corrupting this classy professional podcaster…the boys talk about Marvel’s HUGE announcements, DC’s HUGE announcements, gush over The Flash, bitch more about Gotham, comment on the Boardwalk Empire finale, Walking Dead premiere, and consider NBC’s Constantine.  JD also gets to moderate our second ever draft, which this time involves the boys trying to make their best monster squad.  It’s a razor ‘blade in the apple’ sort of show that you don’t want to miss.

SHOW NOTES
Insession Film
Cenobites
The Monster Squad
Marvel Film Slate
DC Film Slate
Age Of Ultron Teaser
Age Of Ultron Extended
Ever See Chinatown Motherf@%ker?!
Skinny Zach Galafanakis
Jason Biggs pissing on Chelsea Handler

MUSIC NOTES
“Nightmare On My Street” By DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
“Autumn Thunder” By Sam Spence
“My Flows Is Tight” By Lord Digga
“Inside The Actors Studio” By Angelo Badalamenti

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October 23, 2014

Yet Another 31 Nights of Halloween: American Horror Story: Freak Show

FINALLY

AHS: Freak Show – Finally

I would have written this article the week this show premiered, but the more I write reviews about the pilot episodes for shows, the more I realize that that is a pretty flawed review, case in point, my initial take on “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD,” but there are also times when I’m right, case in point, “The Bridge.” This isn’t about me being right and wrong however, this is about me finally getting a show that I thought I would like, and low and behold, despite a few flaws here and there, I actually enjoy, albeit, I can only enjoy it for one season. “America Horror Story: Freak Show” combines the mythic qualities of the traveling side show, an interesting cast of characters, and of course, one of the creepiest depictions of a clown since Pennywise. I’m finally on the “American Horror Story” bandwagon.

“Freak Show” is essentially the story of murder and mayhem in a small Florida town in the 1950s. The added twist is that Elsa Mars’ Freak Show is in town, making them the prime suspects. Meanwhile, conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler are under investigation for the murder of their mother, but are spirited away by Elsa to join her troupe of freaks. What we find out that no one else knows yet, is that the actual culprit of the murders, or at least most of the murders, is Twisty, a wandering clown who loves magic tricks, juggling, stabbing people with scissors, and abducting children.

The main complaint that a lot of people have about “AHS” is the extreme violence, and radical psycho-sexual aspects of the show. I mean, people, you kind of know what you are getting into when watching a show about depraved and disturbed people; you are going to see some crazy sh*t, it’s just the way it is. Growing up watching horror my whole life, there is very little that can disturb me, but I guess since the (mainstream) horror genre has, for all intensive purposes, been de-balled, it’s all the more shocking to see shocking things on TV. But I mean this is FX, their motto is literally “No Limits.” Where is the surprise here people?

If you are a seasoned “AHS” vet, there are plenty of actors that you’ll recognize from previous seasons, including Sarah Paulson, who I think steals the show as the conjoined Tattler twins, Jessica Lange, who is going all out in her final season of “AHS” as Elsa Mars, and Evan Peters as Jimmy Darling, the Lobster Boy, who has probably already given a few ladies a new idea to try in the bedroom. One of the bigger additions to the cast, no pun intended, is Michael Chiklis, who plays circus strongman, Dell Toledo. Being a huge fan of “The Shield” it’s great to see Chiklis back on a network that gave him his most well known character, Vic Mackey. What gives the show even more cred is the use of actual “freaks” in the cast.

In an ultra-PC world that is so sensitive about the perceived needs and wants of those less fortunate, it’s an interesting idea to use actual sideshow performers as many people I’m sure see this as a form of exploitation. When Todd Browning’s “Freaks” was released in 1932, the uproar was unprecedented. Normally people would have to go to an actual circus freak show to see this assortment of oddities, but Browning put it right in everyone’s face on the silver screen. Over 80 years later, we are seeing the same thing on Hulu, VOD, and live on Wednesday night right now FX. The other humorous thing is that you would think that people would be up-in-arms about the exploitation of real “freaks” on a show, but the real backlash is from actual clowns about the portrayal of Twisty the Clown. Zeitgeist of the times is most certainly at its funniest when people are worked up more about clowns than what people used to find reprehensible nearly a century ago.

While I generally enjoy “Freak Show” so far, there are a few things that I find simply off-putting, namely the misguided and just plain weird musical numbers. Not knowing much going into this season, the first musical number to me sounded natural and fit in with the era the show was working within. However, the next musical number, which was a re-working of the Fiona Apple “classic,” “Criminal” complete with a mosh put and a midget crowd surfing…..yeah. I assume this will be a theme throughout this series, and it really takes me out of the moment. Combining the “Glee” elements with this show just seems like pandering to a few fans.

Where this season will go, and how far it will go, intrigues me to no end. The characters that are being created are rich and seem to have a lot of history to tell and the simple contrast of peaceful suburban life in the 1950s being disrupted by a serial-killing clown and a troupe of carnies creates a mood of dread and excitement.

Fun Fact: In 1991, Jim Rose Circus, a modern day Freak Show, plays the Lollapalooza Festival, starting a new wave of performers and resurgence of interest in the genre.

October 3, 2014

Yet Another 31 Nights of Halloween: Halloween (1978) Redux

MAGIC

 Halloween – Magic

Kicking off this year’s edition of the “31 Nights of Halloween” I only felt it appropriate to re-review a film that we reviewed a long time ago, and really needs no introduction. It’s the 1978 touchstone for horror; John Carpenter’s “Halloween.” This will also mark the first in a series of reviews all about the “Halloween” franchise, even the abysmal “Halloween: Resurrection.” So away we go from Smith’s Grove to Haddonfield.

“Halloween” starts with the murder of a young girl named Judith Myers by her 6-year old brother, Michael. After being institutionalized for 15 years under the watchful eye of Dr. Samuel Loomis, Michael is able to escape the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium and Loomis knows there is only one place where he can be headed; the scene of his original crime in Haddonfield, Illinois.

Meanwhile we meet Laurie Strode and her friends Annie and Linda, just three girls looking to hook-up, smoke weed, and have a good time on Halloween, well, at least Annie and Linda are. Laurie is more the straight arrow type, looking forward to babysitting Tommy Doyle, watching “The Thing” and carving jack-o-lanterns. However, a dark presence has invaded the small town of Haddonfield and is looking to kill horny, weed smoking, babysitting teens.

As day turns into night, Dr. Loomis warns the local Sheriff, Leigh Brackett, that evil is coming to his little town and officers need to be on alert looking for Myers. Ever the skeptic, Brackett agrees to Loomis’ demands, but tells him he’s got until tonight to track down Myers.

Needless to say, Myers murder spree goes off without a hitch, victims including Annie and Linda, not to mention a dog, a horny boyfriend, and some stranger while on the road to Haddonfield. With only Laurie remaining, she is able to fight him off with a knitting needle, a wire hanger, and finally Michael’s own knife. But you can’t keep a good “unstoppable force” down as Michael moves in to finish off Laurie. However, putting the pieces together with the help of some screaming kids, Dr. Loomis comes to the rescue and empties his revolver into the chest of Michael and the nightmare is finally over as Myers falls over the balcony to his death.

As Loomis comforts Laurie and tells her that Michael was the boogeyman, the doctor leans over the balcony to observe his kill, but is shocked to see that Myers is gone, nowhere to be found.

There isn’t much to say about “Halloween” that hasn’t been said before; it’s one of the best proto-slasher films ever made, outside of possibly “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” The different between Michael Myers and Leatherface, however, is where Leatherface is a hulking caricature of serial killers like Ed Gein, Myers is simply the silent force that cannot be stopped and there is no rhyme or reason. That makes the film so much scarier; you can’t rationalize with something that you can’t understand.

What makes “Halloween” stand apart from the rest of the crop of slasher fare that exploded in the 1980s was the sense of dread and the play on the fear of Halloween itself. This is more apparent in “Halloween 2” but you can still see how Halloween affects the town. The streets are empty, people lock themselves in the house, they don’t open doors, and it’s way easier to scare people, as Loomis does to a group of kids playing around the old Myers house. It’s interesting to see moments of levity in a horror film. It’s also interesting to look back at “Halloween” after seeing it the numerous sequels, that perhaps Haddonfield has always been that type of town that has harbored the terrible secret of the Myers murders and it’s legacy. Despite the fact that “Halloween” and “Halloween 2” are supposed to be standalone films and the Myers arc is supposed to end, it makes a little more sense why the streets are empty in Haddonfield after dark and people are reluctant to open the doors to screams of terror, or at least that is the way that I look at it.

Getting away from the subtext of “Halloween” and more into the actual substance, there are numerous things that I simply love about this film. The biggest, and most long-lasting effect “Halloween” has made on the public, is the music, which for my money is nearly as recognizable as the “Star Wars” theme, “Jaws” theme, or any other soundtrack theme ever. It still can raise the hair on the back of your neck, and just hearing the opening piano notes, people will automatically say “Oh, Michael Myers.” And while “Halloween” is a great film on it’s own, it wouldn’t be half the film it is without John Carpenter’s score.

The characters and actors are top notch as well. I’m not a child of the 70s, shoot, I’m barely a child of the 80s, but if I was to venture a guess, I would assume that Annie, Laurie, and Linda, are pretty typical kids of the 1970s. The talk about guys, do drugs, and get into trouble. My one gripe would be the overuse of the word “Totally” by Linda. If my count is correct, I heard “Totally” 13 times; probably close to the amount of screen time Linda gets, so you get a “Totally” a minute. There is also a lot of name dropping in this film, which I guess is a thing. The most famous of them all is Ben Tramer, who has a pseudo-important role in the sequel. These, again, are just minor quibbles.

The last thing that really stands up is the actual creation and depiction of Michael Myers. Pure and simple, there is no rhyme or reason behind Myers, he just is. In later sequels it’s explained, sort of, that he worships Samhain and his reason for killing is that he is the curse of his family name, so he mist kill all members of his family? That stuff is just weird, but if you just take the first film into account, the fact that there really isn’t a reason for the murder of his sister and the senseless murder of everyone else, is pretty scary. Even in our daily lives, we constantly search for the what if’s and why’s when something awful happens. From mass shootings, to serial killings, to everything in-between, we want to know why. In the case of Michael Myers, there is no why, the only explanation is that he is pure evil, which when you think about a doctor saying that (Loomis) is pretty silly, but it’s also understandable. Sometimes there is no reason for bad things that happen, which is both frustrating, and terribly frightening.

For a film being close to 40 years old, “Halloween” has aged very well. The scares are timeless, the music adds to the never-ending sense of dread, and the characters are still pretty relatable. You can go into the film deeper and talk about how it either exploits women, empowers women, or is a morality tale that punishes the evil people who do drugs and have sex out of wedlock, but that’s for another review, and I’m looking at this from a pure horror film aspect, and the film still plays very well. While there might be scarier films out there, “Halloween” for my money, can still scare someone who hasn’t seen it and is a milestone for not only horror, but film in general.

Fun Fact: It took John Carpenter four days to complete the score for “Halloween.”

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