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October 30, 2015

The Horror Time Capsule – 2000: Scream 3


Scream 3 – Weak

Like any good trilogy, there is always one of the films that fails; most of the time at least. “The Godfather Trilogy” had Part 3, “Back to the Future” had Part 3, so I guess it goes to show you that most Part 3’s are pretty bad or just jump the shark entirely. This bring me to “Scream 3” a film that only jumps the shark, but nearly ruins a series that redefined the horror genre.

“Scream 3” is the continuing story of Sidney Prescott and the killer in the Ghostface mask. This time around the movie within a movie “Stab 3: Return to Woodsboro” is in production when people start getting murdered based around the film’s script. Back on the case is Gale Weathers, Deputy Dewey, and a brand new cast of characters.

Overall, this film really lacks the fun and freshness of the first two films, and the story gets so convoluted with new story-lines and “revelations” that is just all becomes too much, and that is exactly the reason “Scream 3” is the lowest rated in the series.

The one bright spot is Park Posey who is playing Gale Weathers in the “Stab” film. I’ve always been a Posey fan, and this is one of her most memorable and fun roles in quite a while.

I won’t spoil the ending for those who still haven’t gotten around to watching “Scream 3” but it’s one of the most ridiculous ones, almost as ridiculous as Sidney seeing her dead mother throughout the film, but that’s neither here nor there….

Do you like scary movies…..well, check out these other films from 2000:

Final Destination
Ginger Snaps
Hollow Man
Pitch Black
What Lies Beneath

August 31, 2015

Simplistic Interviews – Marc Ferman of Popcorn Frights Film Festival

It’s been a while since we’ve actually had a legit interview on this site, but we have a good one for all you horror fans out there. This October 1st through the 4th, the Wynwood District of Miami will be dripping with horror as the 1st Annual Popcorn Frights Film Festival takes over O Cinema. One the men behind the madness, Marc Ferman, was kind enough to take some time out of his schedule and answer some questions.

Q: What was your first experience with the horror genre? What made you a fan?
A: When I was young, I was actually terrified by horror films (which is probably normal for little kids).  I would watch them on TV and then proceed to have nightmares.  I can’t recall exactly when my feelings towards horror had shifted but I believe one of the first films in the genre that I truly fell in love with was John Carpenter’s “Christine”.  After that, I wanted to watch any film based on a Stephen King novel and any film directed by Carpenter.
Q: Being the first, and only, horror festival in Miami, what pressure did you feel on the need to make it special? What are your expectations?
A: There are successful horror film festivals all over the world and I have always wished one would pop up in Miami.  For the past five years I have been attending the SXSW Film Festival in Austin Texas and the midnight films have been some of my favorites.  The film community in South Florida has been slowly maturing and I felt (as well as Popcorn Frights co-founder Igor Shteyrenberg), that South Florida is ready for a festival like this.  Our expectations are realistic.  We didn’t want to book a large amount of films for our first year. We are treating this first year of the festival as an introduction of things to come.  We want to show horror/genre fans that we can bring them films that they will love.  We also want to show the filmmakers that there is a market for their films here in South Florida.  It just hasn’t be successfully tapped into yet.  We plan to help change that.
Q: What was your criteria for the films that you chose to be in the festival?
A: We want films that stand out and we also wanted films that are very different from each other. Yes, our four nights of films are horror, but they couldn’t be more different.
Q: What has the reception been like around the horror community in Miami? How have genre fans embraced this festival since it’s inception?
A: Based just on social networking, the response has been fantastic.  We feel like we have impressed a great deal of people with the films we were able to secure for the first year of the festival.  The word has also spread worldwide about the festival due to us having the North American premiere of “Howl”. 
Q: The state of horror as it stands today….thoughts on if you think the genre is becoming stagnant or do you still think that are still fresh ideas out there to be had?
A: I feel the horror films that get wide theatrical releases from major studios have become stagnant.  They all feel like remakes of Poltergeist (including the actual “Poltergeist” remake), just with different titles.  However, I believe there is some great horror out there.  Films like “It Follows”, “The Town that Dreaded Sundown” (remake), “You’re Next” are terrific.  There is also a film coming out this fall called “The Final Girls” which I fell in love with at SXSW back in March.  I feel that people who grew up loving films like “The Howling” will get a kick out of “Howl” which we are thrilled to be showing this year.
Q: Films like “The Babadook” “Housebound” and films by directors like Ti West and Adam Wingard are bringing back an old-school 70s and 80s feeling back to the horror genre, is this something you feel helps horror or are films like this keeping old fans happy while forgetting about creating new fans of the genre?
A: I feel bringing back the old school style of horror works if the movie you are making is actually good.  Anything can become stagnant if the same thing gets churned out over and over again.  The trick is to try and reinvent an idea that has already existed. BTW, Ti West and Adam Wingard are both fantastic filmmakers.  I would also like to see more from Fede Alvarez (his remake of “Evil Dead” impressed me).
Q: What films would you put on you “Horror Mount Rushmore?”
A: A Nightmare on Elm Street, An American Werewolf in London, Halloween, and Superman IV” The Quest for Peace.  Friday the 13th Part II
Q: What are your thoughts on “found footage?”
A: Remember that stagnant question you asked me earlier?
Q: What are your goals for future edition of “Popcorn Frights” and do you see this as a jumping off point for more film festivals in the Wynwood and Miami area?
A: We have some big ideas in regards to following up this festival.  This will be an annual event but we will also have special film events taking place throughout the year.
Follow Popcorn Frights on Facebook 
Buy your tickets HERE before they run out
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 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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