Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Ring 2 (2005)

Let me preface this review with saying I loved The Ring. It is one of the few films that turns me into a trembling, sniveling shadow of my former self EVERY time I watch it. In fact, I enjoyed The Ring more than the original Ringu. It is a genuinely creepy film that gets under my skin every time. After watching The Ring, I was petrified of all unlabeled VHS tapes. I even went through all my VHS to make sure they were labeled...if they weren't I HAD to watch them (for the safety of humanity!) to make sure they weren't THE tape.

The Ring left such a strong impression on me, I was hoping The Ring 2 would have at least a little bit of that chutzpah. I knew it would probably be pretty bad, but I just wanted to be scared, or at the very least creeped out. No. Such. Luck.

Rachel and her son Aidan have moved to a small town in Oregon to get away from the memories of what happened in Seattle. They settle down to try to lead a normal life, one that doesn't involve a vengeful ghost of a girl down a well. Rachel, working at the town's small newspaper, learns of the death of a boy who was found in front of his TV, his house flooded, his scared girlfriend hiding in the basement. She has a hunch that Samara and the tape are back, and boy is she right! It appears Samara is after Rachel and Aidan, not for their lives, but for their life. Now Rachel must figure out how to get Samara out of their lives for good...

Ugh...they COULD have done so much with this movie. It was not scary at all. In fact, I jumped only once - that was within the first 10 minutes. Speaking of the opening, I felt like I was in a cheesy teenybopper slasher flick. It was too damn generic. After the infamous video was played, we learn teenybopper boy made teenybopper girl watch it in order for him to survive. She ends up covering her eyes and not watching it, much to the chagrin of teenybopper boy. Now for the ONE scene that scared me - it was a shot of Samara's hand reaching out of the well. That's it! It was a surprise scare, too, which doesn't count in my book. It's just a cheap trick. Anyone can do a surprise scare with the right music and editing.

Whereas The Ring built up dread through it's blue-imbued atmosphere and the unraveling of the mystery, The Ring 2 relied heavily on deer and water imagery. I will not dignify the awful deer scene, but let's just say I felt like I was stuck in a very bad 50s creature-feature.

I felt no dread during this sequel - I just awaited the next laughable scene. Samara's adoption story seemed tacked on and created to give an easy solution on how to get rid of her, though I did enjoy seeing Sissy Spacek in the role of Samara's birth mother.

The Ring 2 was a letdown. It was not scary, it was not creepy, it just plodded along until the lackluster ending. That's it - BORING!

Check it out on Amazon!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Three Extremes (2004)

Crunch, crunch, crunch goes the first short in the Asian movie three-fer Three...Extremes. This first short is titled Dumplings and tells the sordid tale of a woman whose dumplings are famous for their rejuvenation powers...but what goes into making those dumplings is a bit shocking. An ex-TV star, hoping to recapture her husband's passion, begins this dumpling treatment and sees dramatic results in her appearance. She becomes obsessed with the dumplings even after she finds out what goes into them...ick!

Not so much scary as stomach-churning, I made the mistake of eating some dinner while watching this movie. My stomach was flip-flopping throughout the entire short! I thought this was the best of the bunch, just for its shock value and strong story. Plus Bai Ling, bless her crazy fashion sense (in real life, not the film!), does a pretty good acting job with her slicing and dicing of the mystery ingredient.

The next film, Cut, tells the tale of a successful but oh-so-nice director who is kidnapped along with his wife by an irate extra who has worked in all his movies. Extra is pissed that the director is rich and successful yet is still such a nice guy. The director must chose between strangling a small child or the kidnapper will cut off one of his wife's fingers (the wife is a pianist) every 5 minutes. The extra is HILARIOUS, performing a musical bit as different extras he has played in the director's films. That was pretty much the highlight of the film - the rest was so-so.

The last film, Box, is the most artistic and examines one woman's reality. She has dreams in which she is buried in a small box in an isolated snowy field. We learn that as a girl she and her sister were performers in a circus act. As their finale, they would contort themselves into small metal boxes. The lead was jealous of her sister as she was preferred by their trainer (who some believe to also be their father - which I don't buy). This leads to the sister's accidental death by being burned alive inside of her metal box! The remaining sister has been haunted by this and eventually returns to the snowy land where the circus big top still stands. She is confronted by her trainer, begs for forgiveness, ends up in the box in the snow, and wakes up next to her sister. As with some other Asian movies, Box toys with our sense of time and sense of reality. Out of the three films, this one is most beautifully shot with stark landscapes and careful attention to set design that evokes the moods of the characters.

Still, my favorite was Dumplings...though my recommendation is not to eat while you watch it!

Order it on Amazon!

They (2002)

Instructions: Watch on a dark and rainy night, preferably alone. Leave all the lights off and leave your closet door slightly ajar. Try not to jump at shadows and try to fight the urge to shut your closet door - these two things will be challenging to do after watching They!

They is a movie that preys on the childhood fear of the dark. Childhood friend Billy commits suicide in front of psych major Julia after rambling about his fear of the dark and she sets out to discover what is lurking in the shadows. Strange blackouts occur throughout the city, and Julia's childhood night terrors return. Billy had these as well, as did his two roommates. They are in the shadows, causing the blackouts, preying on Julia and others with night terrors. To others, though, Julia appears to be going crazy, perhaps due to the stresses of school. Will anyone believe her? Is she really going crazy? What do They want?

Well, you never find out what they want - sure, they drag you away, but are they going to eat you? Did they just want to scare you? WTF? I suppose that if one follows the alternate ending, it makes this point moot, but that isn't the ending the filmmakers decided to go with, now is it? So the audience is left to wonder, why? I also didn't like the design of the creatures and the fact that they showed them too much. I believe it would have been more effective to keep them shrouded in darkness and mystery, where the audience is never sure what they look like. This would have achieved many more scares, perhaps giving the audience some night terrors of their own.

I did like the premise of the story. Who wasn't scared of the dark as a kid? Who hasn't believed there was something lurking in their closet? The absolute horror of the unknown is a very real fear for most people. I did appreciate that this movie employed flickering lights to a whole new level. I am still frightened a bit when the lights go out, especially during a big storm. I recommend it, but I wish they would have either used the alternate ending or explained the creatures' motives.

I watched this movie with my ex boyfriend, who hates any kind of horror movie, and he jumped many a time while watching it. I know I'm a little jaded when it comes to horror - I usually know what to expect and when to expect it - so it was nice to see someone pretty fresh to the horror genre react so strongly to They.

Again, I suggest watching it on a stormy and lonely night for maximum spook-value.

Order it on Amazon!

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Locker/The Locker 2 (2003)

In my slight obsession for all Asian horror-themed films, I decided to check out The Locker, even though it looked like a gigantic Ju-On rip-off. I believe I am in the minority when I say that Ju-On is one of my all time fave J-horror films. Ju-On had me covering both my eyes AND ears in fear. I had nightmares...I was scared! It still gives me the shivers when I watch it, and I still can't help hiding in the blankets with my hands covering my eyes it creeps me out so much.

Anyway, back to the original point of The Locker...I ordered it from Netflix, and when it came I found that the DVD contained both The Locker and The Locker II! Oh happy day! The Locker begins with six college-age kids on a camping trip - all about hooking up, drinking beer, and having a grand time until one of the girls hears a baby crying...No one believes her, of course. The next day they all go back to the city. One of the girls has stashed her schoolbooks and such in a locker which is believed to be a lucky locker that grants wishes. Well, soon everyone from that happy camper group is dead, except for one girl. Seems they all died of shock (ok, so they've thrown some Ringu copying in here as well...) The locker is evil, EVIL!! Soon we discover that about 5 years ago an abandoned baby was found in the the spirit of the baby girl (now 5 years old) is out for revenge! Child-sized handprints show up everywhere and the sound of a baby crying is frequently heard.

Ok, kids freak me out as it is -- but this movie just didn't do it for me. Murderous 5 year olds with long black hair just don't scare me. Just kick the little bugger! It had the same old tricks as Ju-On, tho much less scary. Blah, The Locker, Blah!!

The Locker II wasn't much better - one of the girls who died in the previous movie used to tutor a middle school girl, now the middle school girl is intent on solving the mystery of the locker. This one seemed pretty ho-hum as well, except for the scene where the three bitchy and popular girls are attacked in a parked car by the ghost. It is much better than it sounds, believe me!

You know, I actually felt really bad for the 5 year old locker ghost. Her mom didn't want her so she shoved her in some dirty and isolated locker, and now people keep demanding good luck from her. Well, SCREW THAT! I'd seek revenge too and cause a bit of a ruckus. I still don't see how people could be shocked to death by this lil' ghostess (did ANYONE ever read that book about ghostesses with toastesses? It was one of my faves growing up, but I believe it was an older book - looked like from the '50s or '60s or sumthin). She was just soooo adorable - except for her Cousin It hair - girl needs a trim! If I had a confrontation with her, I would want to give her a big hug! Alas, that's what the lone survivor did in the first Locker, and she ended up dying anyway in the sequel. Psh...I still woulda shown the love!

Bottom line, if you want second-rate Asian horror and are petrified of kids, especially ones with super crazy Cousin It hair, rent The Locker and The Locker II. Otherwise, I really wouldn't bother...I'm already forgetting about these movies.

Order the two-pack on Amazon!

Thursday, March 9, 2006

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

I have finally gotten around to viewing one of the great-great-great ancestors of the horror genre, the great German Expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. says that Caligari is:
A milestone of the silent film era and one of the first "art films" to gain international acclaim, this eerie German classic from 1919 remains the most prominent example of German expressionism in the emerging art of the cinema. Stylistically, the look of the film's painted sets--distorted perspectives, sharp angles, twisted architecture--was designed to reflect (or express) the splintered psychology of its title character, a sinister figure who uses a lanky somnambulist (Conrad Veidt) as a circus attraction. But when Caligari and his sleepwalker are suspected of murder, their novelty act is surrounded by more supernatural implications. With its mad-doctor scenario, striking visuals, and a haunting, zombie-like character at its center, Caligari was one of the first horror films to reach an international audience, sending shock waves through artistic circles and serving as a strong influence on the classic horror films of the 1920s, '30s, and beyond. It's a museum piece today, of interest more for its historical importance, but Caligari still casts a considerable spell..
The amazing style of this film first lured me in with its funhouse-feel of its design. A very eerie, stylized funhouse, that is.

The film begins with Francis and Alan - bestest of friends, even when in love with the same girl - heading to the town fair. There, they see Dr. Caligari's exhibit of a "somnambulist," Cesare. Cesare can tell the future, and when Alan asks how long he will live, Cesare says, "until dawn!" OK, HERE is where the movie really grabbed me. I was like, "Oh no he didn't!!"

Of course Cesare's prophecy comes true, and Francis is convinced that Dr. Caligari controlled Cesare to commit the murder. Soon, Francis' love, Jane, is kidnapped by Cesare. The townsfolk chase Cesare thru the fantastically nightmarish scenery until he releases Jane but he continues to run. Cesare finally is caught when he drops dead with exhaustion. Meanwhile, Francis has been watching Dr. Caligari...after Cesare is discovered, Caligari makes a run for it, with Francis tailing him. They end up at an insane asylum...and it gets so good after that, I won't spoil it!

Even though this was a silent film, it was very well done. I was yawning a bit towards the beginning, but after I got used to reading the titles and after the story started moving along, I was fully engaged. Yes, it is a grainy black and white SILENT film. Yes you have to read. Yes it is a little slow in places. It is one amazing film, though. I still cannot believe it was made in 1919 (and released in 1920)...absolutely superb! The orchestra that provides the music throughout the entire film is excellent, perfectly conveying the mood and atmosphere. The set design and art direction are just amazing...the story is completely engaging...

This is a definite must-own for horror fans!

Order it on Amazon!

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Black Christmas (1974)

Black Christmas is a cult favorite among horror-lovers. Ooooh boy was this good! It's Christmas time, and in the sorority house all the sisters are leaving to go home to their families. The girls throw one last party, and receive some pretty obscene phone calls. The next day, most of the girls leave for the holiday leaving only a few in the house, along with the boozy den-mother.

One of the girls is missing, though (she was killed the previous night at the party, wrapped in a plastic sheet and placed in the attic)...The police finally get involved after a 13-year-old is found murdered in a nearby park. The creepy phone calls persist as one by one the girls (and others!) are killed.

I fear obscene phone calls so this movie really creeped me out. The killer goes all out with the heavy breathing, the screeching of obscenities, even playing different roles on the phone. Olivia Hussey (she of Romeo and Juliet fame - the Franco Zeffirelli version) is also in it -- she's got to have the best hair ever! Margot Kidder also puts in a performance as the party-hardy head of the sorority.

Watch this movie alone in the dark and see how far you jump when your phone rings - I totally freaked when my phone rang in the middle of the movie!

Order it on Amazon!

Originally posted on

The Legend of Hell House (1973)

The Legend of Hell House was a spooky haunted house movie made in England ... a scientist is hired by a rich old eccentric to take a team into hell house and discover its secrets. Along with the scientist comes his wife, a psychic, and the lone survivor of the previous expedition to the mansion. The four set up shop and the lone survivor, whose name is Fischer, explains why the house is so evil - "Drug addiction, alcoholism, sadism, bestiality, mutilation, murder, vampirism, necrophilia, cannibalism, not to mention a gamut of sexual goodies. Shall I go on?" Hehe...I love the sexual goodies bit - especially since he says it in a British accent!

Anywho, seems as tho the owner, Belasco, was one big sicko! The women begin to be possessed by the spirits in the house - Lionel's (the scientist) wife makes a coupla passes at Fischer after reading some erotica the house offered. The psychic, Florence, has a coupla close encounters with Belasco's ghost (who she believes to be his tortured son) and ends up having sex with him to show him he is loved. Sex with a ghost?! How is that even possible?! Nonetheless, it's still pretty awesome, cuz it's just not something you see every day!

As in all horror movies, sex is a big no-no (especially with an evil ghost!) and Florence ends up being possessed by Belasco. Meanwhile, Lionel's wife is not herself either, but some super-horny vixen! Instead of taking advantage of this, the scientist decides he needs to get rid of all the energy (i.e. ghosts) in the house, so he brings in a big machine that should reverse something or other and BASICALLY blow all the ghosts/energy/spirits/etc. to kingdom come.

Well now the house couldn't be having any of that...basically saying, "this is my house, bitch!" as it continues to kick all their asses. Did anyone survive? You'll just have to watch to find out...

I really enjoyed this movie and loved its great atmosphere, stunning cinematography, good suspense - I also have such a girl crush on Pamela Franklin, who plays Florence the psychic. She is just soooo adorable!! I found out she was also the little girl Flora in The Innocents, another great haunted house movie (I think The Others ripped it off, even tho I adore The Others).

Nevertheless, The Legend of Hell House ranks high on my list of favorite haunted house movies and if you haven't seen it (for shame!) go hightail it to your nearest Netflix queue and move it to #1 or just buy it on Amazon!

Originally written for
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