Saturday, April 29, 2006

Masters of Horror - Cigarette Burns (2005)

This film is part of Showtime's Masters of Horror collection and is directed by John Carpenter, and Cigarette Burns is probably one of the best in the series.

A struggling theater manager (Norman Reedus, who played one of the brothers in Boondock Saints) is hired by wealthy Mr. Ballinger (Udo Kier) to track down the print of an infamous film called La Fin Absolue du Monde (The Absolute End of the World). It seems this film was only screened once, which resulted in a bloodbath at the festival where it first played.

Mr. Ballinger is a collector of rare films and various "props" from these films, and is obsessed with finding the only print of this film. The theater owner, Kirby Sweetman, agrees to find the film for a fee of $200,000. This is how much he owes the theater owner, who also happens to be his dead girlfriend's father. In flashbacks, we see that Kirby's girlfriend Annie committed suicide. He is still haunted by her death and Annie's father blames Kirby for her death.

Kirby is a discerning theater manager, and only screens rare and fine films such as Argento's Deep Red (which I was delighted to see up on the marquee as Profundo Rosso) He is soon obsessed with finding such a rare film as La Fin Absolue du Monde. He tracks down people who have seen the film or know about the film. Most of them are obsessed with the film and yet others are secretive about it, that is, unless they are dead. All people who have come in contact with it have been profoundly changed, such is the power of the film.


As Kirby gets closer to it, he begins to see things, specifically a circle with images of his dead wife in them. These circles are "cigarette burns," which indicate a reel change in a movie. He eventually begins seeing other images, images that are directly from the film. He learns that the film shows a divine being, an angel, being sacrificed. He is told that the act is so intimate and brutal that it changes everyone who is connected to or watches the film.

He finally tracks down the director's wife, Katja. She speaks of the power it has over people, and how her husband tried to kill her and then committed suicide after watching the film one too many times. Katja gives Kirby the film, telling him she wished it was never made.

Kirby delivers the film to Mr. Ballinger, who watches it with champagne until he eviscerates himself and loads his intestines into the projector. His butler also watches the film, and cuts up his body before stabbing himself in both his eyes. Kirby ends up watching the film as well...


This was a thoroughly disturbing and unsettling movie. I wasn't sure how the 1 hour time constraint would suit Carpenter, but he handled it expertly. I liked how Carpenter tackled the idea that films really do have the power to change us. Though many deny it, films can have a profound impact on the audience or certain individuals.

I haven't seen any other installments of the Masters of Horror, but I do hear that Carpenter's Cigarette Burns is the best in the series. This film will haunt me for a while.

Order it from Amazon!

Visiting Hours (1982)

So, this time I did decide to participate in the Final Girl Film Club to watch the hospital horror movie Visiting Hours. I was enticed to watch because William Shatner was in it (he is mildly amusing to me) and it was set in a hospital (I hate hospitals - they freak me out). I was sorely disappointed in Shatner, the hospital setting and the movie in general.

It was a real snooze, and played out more as a thriller (though it didn't thrill me at all) than as a horror movie.

It begins with our heroine, Deborah Ballin (Lee Grant) conducting a TV interview on women's rights, abusive relationships and women's self defense. She defends an abused women who is on trial for killing her husband, though Ballin argues it was just self defense. This opening scene lets the viewers know that Ballin is a strong woman who stands up for women's rights.

After being told by her producer (William Shatner) that her segement won't air, Ballin is upset and heads home. Her house is a real pigsty and we follow her throughout while she has a series of fake scares (a loose parrot, water left running in the shower, etc.). There are many POV shots that mimic someone watching her (from inside a closet, for example), but most of them turn out to be fake. This gimmick is used all throughout the movie and it really started to get on my nerves.

Finally, the killer, who appears to be nude and wearing her jewelry, jumps at at her and slices her up a bit. She gets away and tries to escape via dumbwaiter (brilliant!) until the killer cuts the cord and she falls to the first floor. Then some guy comes running up the steps to her rescue and she gets carted off to the hospital.

Ok, did my DVD skip or something? Did I leave the room? I think I missed something from when she crashed to the first floor to someone rescuing her...can anyone clue me in?

At the hospital, we meet the kindly Nurse Sheila (Linda Purl) who takes care of Ballin in the hospital. She is intent on keeping Ballin safe. The rest of the film switches between showing us the killer (Michael Ironside) trying to get to Ballin and Ballin trying to keep away from the killer. This film focused a lot on the killer and his life. It may have shown and explained too much, for the killer wasn't scary to me, just pathetic in his hate for women. I really just wanted to rip his testicles clean off and shove them down his throat.

Mr. Killer terrorizes any women that get in his way. He enjoys torturing them a little bit before they die. He takes Poloroids of them as they are dying. He doesn't mind killing any men that get in his way, but (predictibly) he has a mommy complex and loves watching women suffer and die. It sounds sick (and it is), but not scary. He just ended up pissing me off and I loved watching him get his in the end.

I don't feel like going into the rest of the movie since it's basically just the killer sneaking in and out of the hospital trying to kill Ballin. This movie coulda-shoulda-woulda been a whole lot better if it focused more on the terror of being stuck in a hospital with a killer coming after you instead of focusing on the killer. Also, Shatner was sorely misused and his character was BORING. The hospital setting did convey a sense of isolation, but I think it could have been better utilized. It seems a waste of space to write anymore about it, so skip this movie unless you're perverted and like to see hate for women spread out on the screen.

Check it out on Amazon!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Tourist Trap (1979)

Tourist Trap (or as I like to call it, When Mannequins Attack!) is a creepy movie about a group of 20-somethings that get stranded at an old fashioned "tourist trap." This particular tourist trap is a museum that features lots and lots of realistic mannequins, lovingly tended to by the charming Mr. Slausen.

After getting a flat tire on an old highway, Woody heads off to get help, leaving his girlfriend Eileen behind to wait for their friends to catch up. He finds a seemingly abandoned gas station, until he is locked in a room with laughing mannequins. Knives, vases, and other various sharp objects start whizzing by poor Woody, until he is finally shish-kabobed by a steel pipe through his back.

Back at the car, Eileen is working on her tan until her friends Becky, Jerry and Molly pull up in their car. They decide to go look for Woody in Jerry's car, and end up near a tourist spot called Slausen's Lost Oasis. Suddenly the car dies, and while Jerry attempts to fix it, the girls go skinny dipping in a lagoon. Mr. Slausen shows up shotgun in hand, but he is very charming and friendly. Molly is soon smitten with him. Mr. Slausen offers to fix their car if they will come back to his place while he fetches some tools. They agree and soon they are admiring his mannequin museum at his Oasis.

Jerry and Mr. Slausen go back to try and fix the car, but not before Mr. Slausen firmly suggests the girls sit tight. Eileen is creeped out and takes off to go look for Woody. Bad choice, Eileen...she is soon turned into a creepy mannequin by a masked killer.

Back at Slausen's, Becky and Molly worry about Eileen and about Mr. Slausen's reaction when he finds her gone. Sure enough, Mr. Slausen returns and is a little peeved to find Eileen missing. He goes out to look for her, telling the girls that Jerry has taken his truck into town so they are to stay put and wait. Mr. Slausen finds Eileen the Mannequin in his house, but lies to Becky and Molly, saying he couldn't find her. He leaves again, explaining he will go look for Eileen some more.

Becky finds Mr. Slausen's mausoleum of mannequins disturbing, so she convinces Molly to go down to the house with her to look for Eileen. Once there, they think they hear Eileen and Woody in an upstairs bedroom. Becky naturally wants to give them a good scare, but Molly goes back to the museum to wait for Mr. Slausen.

Becky winds up coming face to face with a masked weirdo as he makes his mannequins attack her. The mannequins surround Becky, moving their eyes and mouths, singing in high pitched voices. Becky is knocked out and ends up waking up in the basement. Jerry is also down there, as is a hitchhiker named Tina. They are all tied up, except Tina is a little worse off than Becky or Jerry because she is tied down to a table. Looks like our Masked Mannequin Man is planning on having some fun with her! He arrives in yet another creepy mask and proceeds to pour plaster over Tina's face, explaining to her that when her mouth and nose are covered up and she can no longer breathe, she will panic and her heart will explode. Well, he was right...

People start getting axed by the masked weirdo left and right...will anyone ever escape the Tourist Trap?

You know, I wasn't really into this movie the first time watching it, but thinking about it more and more, it's pretty frickin' sweet. When the mannequins start moving around, it is pretty eerie. Slausen's mask choices are also very creepy. They are completely expressionless but made-up to the nines. This movie has tones of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Friday the 13th and Carrie (the whole moving-objects-with-the-mind angle).

Tourist Trap is a hidden gem that's well worth seeking out!

Order it on Amazon!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Wolf Creek (2005)

Saturday night my lil' sister and I huddled up on the couch to watch a movie we had both waited a while to see - Wolf Creek. All I knew about this movie was that it was Australian and involved three kids stuck in the desolate Outback with a sadistic killer. I was hoping to be scared a little to a lot. I had heard this film being compared to the (original) Texas Chainsaw Massacre, so I was pretty stoked.

Wow, was I wrong...this movie was horrible!

Wolf Creek begins with friends Ben, Kristy and Liz taking a road trip across Australia to Wolf Creek Crater in the Outback. They are happy and relaxed, and there is a burgeoning romance between Liz and Ben. This part of the film is slow, dreamlike and lazy - a serenity that is shattered abruptly at around the 55 minute mark. They arrive at their destination, Wolf Creek, and spend a few hours hiking. Back at their car, they realize that all their watches have stopped working. Not only that, but their car won't even start. Soon, headlights approach and an Outback man by the name of Mick offers to tow their car back to his place. Here, he says, he can fix it and they can be back on the road in no time. The kids feel their isn't something quite right about him, but his back-woods charm convinces them to trust Mick. He tows them further and further into the Outback, hundreds of miles away from a soul, to his encampment. Around a roaring campfire, they all joke and talk until one by one they drift asleep. Everyone, that is, except for Mick who is still "working" on their car. Here the DVD hit about 55 minutes and the three friends entered into a nightmare.

After a full night and day's sleep, Liz wakes up bound and gagged. She escapes and follows Kristy's screams to a warehouse where she is being tortured by Mick. Yada yada running screaming running running bleeding screaming running yada yada...(Translation: Liz and Kristy escape together, end up trashing their escape truck, Liz goes back to Mick's camp to steal another car, finds some interesting tidbits, ends up getting killed anywho - lots of screaming, running, bleeding).

After Liz doesn't return, Kristy runs runs runs and just keeps running until she hits a main road. Here, a man who stops to help her just ends up dead, as does she after a quick car chase with Crocodile Dundee (I mean Mick, but whatever, I wasn't caring at this point).

So, both Liz and Kristy are dead - but where's that clever Ben? Ah, he's still holed up in one of the torture chambers. He also manages to escape from a crucified pose Mick has devised for him and runs runs runs until he passes out by a road. Luckily for him, some German tourists pick him up and he is safe.

The end of the film states that no traces of Mick or the girls were ever found, and after being held under suspicion, Ben is released.

Geesh, was I ever bored with this movie! I was just never really scared, and that's my big complaint with this movie. I was horrified by some of the things Mick does and says to the girls, but never truly scared. Torture scenes can be scary (see Audition), but the ones from Wolf Creek were just there to horrify or exploit the audience. And why the heck did they leave Ben out of the action for so long? That seemed like a major mistake to me.

I liked the beautiful shots of the Aussie Outback and the slow start to the movie. It made me wait for the action, and I love me some delayed gratification! Yet, when the action did start, it was a major let down.

My lil' sis, who also enjoys horror movies, did not like this movie either. At the end, we both said, "Geez, that was dumb!"

Ugh...what a waste of a Netflix movie! And to those of you who have compared this to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre...all I can say is, FOR SHAME!!

Check it out on Amazon!

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

Before I give this film a yay or a nay, let me comment on the music throughout. Ooooh it's so bad it's magically delicious. The first song made me feel like I was watching Flashdance, but the rest of the music in the movie sounded like the old Scooby-Doo cartoons, mixed in with disco. It made me giggle a little too much, probably at all the wrong moments. Even though the music seemed horrible, I still enjoyed it and even found myself dancing a lil' bit. (Sidenote: How awkward would it have been if my roommate walked in and there I was, dancing on the bed to Scooby-Doo music while a bloody murder scene played?!)

Yah, he would probably join in and we'd have ourselves a lil' dance party...cuz he's better than you! Anyways, the music was entertaining as was the rest of the movie.

The story: Virginia belongs to the clique of the elite 10 at Crawford Academy. She begins to have flashbacks of a horrible accident that led to her needing brain surgery. These flashbacks lead to long blackouts, where she can't remember anything that's happened. Meanwhile, her friends from the elite 10 are disappearing one by one. Virginia sees a few of her friends who have been murdered, and begins to think she is responsible for their deaths. Yet when she tries to show the bodies to someone else, the murder scene is cleaned up with no trace of murder. Has she lost her marbles?? Is she really killing off all her friends or is someone else responsible??

I think I liked this movie because it had a nice back story that went deeper than most typical slashers. Virginia came from a very wealthy but dysfunctional family. Her father was rarely home and her mother was a bitter alcoholic. Yet, her parents did love her. Her mother threw her a birthday party and invited all the richest kids from Virginia's school - the same kids who she is bestest friends with now! At the time, Virginia was very unpopular so none of the kids showed up, opting instead to go to one of their own parties. Mother freaked out and drove Virginia to the other party. Well, of course the snooty snoots wouldn't let her in, no matter how much hollerin' and crying Mother did. Mother got back in the car with Virginia (driving drunk...tsk tsk) and promptly misjudged a pull-up bridge. Mother died, and after taking a dip in the drink, Virginia got her head cut up pretty bad by a passing boat. She needed brain surgery, which is shown pretty explicitly in this movie. This surgery leads to headaches, black outs and possibly loopy behavior, so daddy dearest keeps a close eye on her. At least she's popular now, even if she is acting a lil' homicidal (and possibly killing off her only friends)!

I liked this movie, even with the implausible twist ending. I realize I gotta suspend my judgment cuz it's "just a movie" but accuracy and realism are pretty important in a movie. The twist ending here is just not realistic, but it sure is fun to think "what if..." Also, the rest of the 10 weren't really fleshed-out characters. I couldn't even tell them apart sometimes! Even though I had problems with the twist (hmmm...I wonder if Scream stole their ending from this flick), some of the character development and the music, I would still recommend this movie. It had substance, a back story that worked, good killings (killer kabobs, right off the barbie!), and mystery.

Check it out on Amazon!

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Dead and Buried (1981)

Dead and Buried spins the yarn of the seemingly idyllic small town of Potter's Bluff that harbors a nasty secret. Visitors are meeting their untimely deaths at the hands of the townsfolk, only to show up a few days later as residents of the town. Hmmmm...just what is going on here????

I was pleasantly surprised by this movie! I actually liked it. It didn't rely on hot young actors and actually had a plot with minimal holes in it. The deaths were pretty brutal, but it didn't rely solely on gore to give the audience the heebie jeebies. The first scene opened with a visiting photographer being seduced by one of the townsfolk on the beach...and just when he thought he was gonna get it on with her, the creepy townsfolk attack him and BURN HIM ALIVE! He somehow survives the ordeal, but when he's recuperating in the hospital, the seductress comes back and STABS HIM IN THE EYE WITH A SYRINGE!! ::Cringe:: Days later, though, he is up 'n' at 'em, now working at the gas station.

The new town sheriff (James Farentino), along with the old-timey mortician (a delightful Jack Albertson), try to solve the mystery before it's too late! More murders happen (and more "new" residents show up) and the sheriff doesn't know what the heck is going on! Plus, he suspects his wife is up to something. Uh oh, trouble at work and at home! The guy can't get a break!

Visitors continue to die - a drunk fisherman is harpooned and chopped up, a hitchhiker is bashed over the head with a rock, and a doctor is forced to ingest acid/poison. Soon, it appears as though voodoo or witchcraft is at work controlling the townsfolk and those who come back to life...but who is responsible?

There's a bit of a twist ending at the end, but it worked for me. Some people complain that the ending doesn't jive with the rest of the movie, but I thought everything was pretty well explained at the end.

Anywho, check this movie out with low expectations (like i did) and you'll probably end up diggin' it (hardy har)!

Order it on Amazon!

Saturday, April 1, 2006

April Fool's Day (1986)

April Fool's Day - another group of crazy college kids decide to stay at their friend's isolated island mansion for the weekend, only to be butchered left and right. Is it all a big joke or for real?

Wow - I had low hopes for this beauty. Its pacing was a bit slow, but it made up for it in the many deaths. I loved when they fell down the well and found the bodies at the bottom! Then there is the whole Muffy/Buffy mystery. Muffy (who invited all her friends to her mansion for the weekend) seems to be behaving oddly, dressing differently and keeping to herself. Has her twin sister Buffy come back for revenge by pretending to be Muffy? Is it all an April Fool's joke? You'll have to watch it to see what happens!

Order it on Amazon!

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