Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I Was a Teenage Zombie (1987)

This movie was recommended to me by a fellow zombie enthusiast via MySpace. He remembers watching it long ago as a kid and being grossed out.

The story: A group of high school guys are trying to score some "mariji-hoobie" for the big Spring Dance, but it seems the town is dry. Pimp lookalike drug dealer Mussolini (Moose for short) is the only guy who has any weed. The guys buy, but it seems like the weed has gone bad! I thought they would all turn to zombies after this, but noooooo...not yet. They try to muscle Moose to give them their money back, but end up accidentally killing him. Well, it's more like a banana peel killed him, but they feel pretty sore about the whole incident and decide to dump him in the river. The river, you see, has been contaminated by the local nuclear power plant with radioactive materials. No one will ever find big meanie Moose in that gunk!

Except, well, the radioactivity reanimates Moose and he becomes a very green looking zombie (really more Hulk-looking than a zombie). He is super strong and super fast. Since his last memory was telling the high school guys he'd kill 'em, he sets about doing that very thing. He rips out one guy's tongue, has sex with one of the guy's girlfriends and kills her by pinning her legs over her head, and rips off one guy's face. The face ripping was pretty well done for such a low budget movie, but overall there wasn't that much gore. Anyways, the boys know they must stop Moose. The brainy boy suggests killing his memories, which means destroying the brain. They attempt this, but Moose breaks the neck of their most popular and beloved friend, Dan. Without Dan, the rest of the gang doesn't know how to stop Moose, who continues to kill people who wronged him.

Well, brainiac decides that Dan as a zombie is the only way to defeat Moose. The boys dump Dan's body in the river and he comes back as a zombie. Dan is his regular self, except for his blue, green, and gray rotting skin. His love interest, Cindy Faithful, still wants to be with him, even if he is a zombie. Dan has many conflicting emotions - anger, happiness, despair. In the end though, when Moose attacks the Spring Dance, Dan goes up zombie-style against him. Moose ends up killing Cindy, but Dan cuts off Moose's head and slices it in two for revenge. He then carries Cindy back to the river so she can be reanimated and they live happily ever zombies.

Well, this was obviously a student or independent movie. I had many technical gripes about this film. First of all, the audio is horrible - I had to turn the volume up hecka loud to be able to hear the dialogue, but at the same time, the background music would completely overwhelm the scene. Speaking of the music, there was just too much of it and it was placed awkwardly in scenes. There was music in almost every scene, which was very unnecessary. Also, the camera angles were all wrong. For example, in a conversation between two people, the camera angles made it seem like they were talking in the wrong direction, which made it seem like they were talking to no one. There were also inconsistencies in the actual plot. The Spring Dance, for example, was supposed to be the night of the whole Moose debacle, but it didn't happen until several weeks (months?) later.

Still, this movie had a certain charm which I can't really explain. It reminded me of a '50s creature feature/date movie that you can't take seriously. I didn't like it that much because of the many mistakes, but it kinda grows on you, like radioactive river water. It is a horrible movie, don't get me wrong - cheesy, inconsistent, with bad acting and even worse filming and audio - but there's just something about it. Check it out yourself, but don't blame me if you absolutely hate it and don't see its charm.

Check it out on Amazon!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Blood and Black Lace (1964)

Directed by Mario Bava, Blood and Black Lace is one of the first "giallo" movies and is considered a groundbreaking film in that genre. "Gialli" are mystery films (usually featuring a masked, trenchcoat wearing killer) that feature lots of violent and bloody deaths (that usually befall beautiful women).

The story: Models in a couture fashion house get murdered by a masked killer. Blackmail, drugs, sex and greed all play into the plot of the privileged fashion society in which the beautiful models live (and die).

The look of the film reminds me of Dario Argento's gorgeous Suspira. Bava, like Argento, uses lots of colorful Technicolor lights throughout the film to portray different moods and settings. The murder scenes were also very inventive for 1964, and today they still pack quite a punch. The first murder scene in which we see the masked and gloved killer dragging the body of one of the models is very striking and creepy. I loved the murder scene with the girl in the pretty yet so creepy at the same time. The plot, though secondary to the murders, is suspenseful. I didn't figure out who the killer was by the end, though I usually have at least a hunch. Also, I have to say that it was a joy seeing it in Italian. I hate films (like most of Argento's) that are either dubbed or do the silly back-and-forth between dubbed and subtitled. Those drive me nuts, and I end up not being able to enjoy the film. This one was perfect, as I could hear (and understand) the Italian perfectly.

This giallo is highly recommended! Do not expect an American-type slasher, though. Italian gialli are much different than your standard slice and dice American slasher. Gialli are more sophisticated, though still not for the faint of heart.

Buy it on Amazon!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Uzumaki (2000)

Ah, what a giddy ride Uzumaki is! It reminded me of something Tim Burton would direct in all his whimsical, twisted glory.

The story: People in a small Japanese town start to obsess over spirals. A girl and her best guy friend try to figure out what's happening before all their families and friends are overtaken by this otherworldly obsession. This film is chock full of atmosphere, cool special effects and an interesting story. This film is original, and while some parts aren't entirely believable or explained (giant human slugs) it is still well worth seeing.

The film isn't outright scary, so don't go in expecting Ju-On, Ringu, etc. It is definitely creepy, though. Watch for the man that commits suicide in a washer, so he can become a spiral himself, or the woman who becomes obsessed with warding off anything with a spiral shape, including cutting off her own fingerprints and ears. The film was beautifully shot, with scenes getting progressively darker as the town's fate with the uzumaki was sealed. It was also interesting how whimsical music juxtaposed with the creepy scenes.

Well worth your while, especially if you like Asian horror films and want to branch out beyond Ju-On or Ringu.

Order it on Amazon!

Whispering Corridors (1998)

Wow, I just realized that I had never reviewed this Korean film. I'm pretty sure I didn't like it, since I didn't take the time to even write a review, and I gave it two stars in Netflix. Hmmm...I'm not sure exactly what I didn't like about it, though.

Here's the Netflix synopsis:
This groundbreaking Korean film stars Kang-hie Choi as Se-yeon Choi, an intrepid teacher at an all-girls school whose prying ways are awarded with a murder-mystery she now must unravel. After a handful of students begin to turn up dead, administrators scramble to cover up the deaths and pass them off as suicides, a betrayal that spurs Se-yeon to action. But, like the proverbial cat, the curious educator may be marked for death.
It begins strongly enough with a teacher being murdered and strung up, suicide-style, for students to find. It seems the vengeful ghost of a student is killing off teachers and students, one by one. A teacher and student try to solve the mystery and stop the ghost. The movie drags a little in the middle, and though I don't exactly remember the ending, I must have hated it since the beginning and middle weren't all that bad.

I'm surprised they haven't done an American remake of this movie, since it's supposed to be one of the first horror movies that kicked off the Asian craze. This is a relief, because I'm usually not too fond of remakes, reworkings, reimagings, or whatever those crazy kids call it these days!

If you've got a rainy afternoon to kill, rent this movie to see where the Asian horror craze came from.

Check it out on Amazon!

The Sentinel (1977)

The Sentinel concerns the tale of a building that is the gateway to hell, and those that must guard the world from its evil. It was released in 1977, after the success of such satanic-themed films like The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby. Like those two films, it deals with the struggle between good and evil.

Successful model Allison Parker moves into a very nice, but very inexpensive apartment building. Her neighbors are a bit odd, loud clanging goes on in the middle of the night, a blind priest resides in the top tower and Allison keeps having fainting spells. She begins to question her own sanity when her landlady claims that she has no other tenants besides the priest. Soon, her and her boyfriend discover that the building houses the struggle between good and evil, and that Allison is supposed to become the next sentinel.

This movie reminded me a bit of Polanski's overlooked film, The Tenant, especially because of the creepy neighbors and the uncertainty of the lead character's sanity. There are shades of Rosemary's Baby in atmosphere and the feelings of paranoia and isolation. From The Exorcist, it borrows the idea of why bad things happen to good (or innocent) people.

The Sentinel was a good film...I can't think of anything wrong with it, though it has been over a week since I viewed it. I really enjoyed one of the scenes at the end where all the evil people in Allison's apartment try to attack her. I read that they actually used real deformed and/or handicapped people for this scene, and because of that the director got into a lot of hot water. Ugh...that scene still gives me the creeps.

Order it on Amazon!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

In the Mouth of Madness is a great movie influenced in part by H.P. Lovecraft. Sutter Cane is a successful horror author who suddenly goes missing while writing his next book. John Trent, an independent insurance investigator, is hired by Mr. Cane's publishers to find him to ensure they receive his new book. Trouble is, Mr. Cane's other books are already affecting some of his readers adversely, causing violent, even murderous behavior.

Trent suspects that Cane is hiding out in the supposedly fictional town of Hobb's End. He is sent with Cane's editor, Ms. Stiles, to find the town. Soon, reality is blending with fiction as it appears Cane's book, with all its monstrous images, is coming to life. Can Trent stop Cane from finishing his book and unleashing his nightmarish creations on the world?

This was a great movie. I love these kind of what-if movies. I mean, what if what we read was real or somehow the line between fiction and reality was blurred? What if reality was just what everyone agreed upon? What is reality, anywho? All these questions are raised in the film.

In the Mouth of Madness is a great film by Carpenter, one that actually impressed me. When it touched on Cane's books' influence on readers, I was eerily reminded of Carpenter's Masters of Horror entry, Cigarette Burns (reviewed here).

If you have been denied this movie's charms (by charms I mean thrills and chills, of course), check it out. I actually bought this movie before I'd even seen it, and it was very worthwhile. It has its jump scares, but the real fright comes long after you've watched it, as you start to question your own reality.

Order it on Amazon!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Return of the Living Dead (1985)

I watched this movie for the first time last night, expecting a horrible, throw-away movie that I would never watch again. Wow was I surprised! I loved this movie!

Freddy is learning the ropes at his new job at a medical supply store. His supervisor, Frank, shows him where they keep the human skeletons, the fresh corpses, the dissected-in-half dogs and all sorts of other weird and creepy stuff. Frank tells Freddy that the movie Night of the Living Dead was based on true events. He tells Freddy that the government was in possession of a chemical that re-animates dead corpses. One such outbreak occurred at a hospital, and somehow those re-animated corpses were shipped to their medical supply store and reside in the basement. Frank and Freddy head down there to have a looksie, but Frank accidentally releases the chemical gas.

Meanwhile, Freddy's punk (and new wave and goth and preppy) friends are waiting to pick him up from work. They have a few hours to kill so they decide to go to the Resurrection (nyuck nyuck) Cemetery across the street from the medical supply store to get the party started. Freddy has a very diverse group of friends - preppy Tina, punks Spider, Casey and Scuz, goth-like punks Trash and Suicide and new-waver Chuck.

Back at the medical supply store, Freddy and Frank wake up to find dead things are coming back to life. They quickly call the owner, Ernie, and after the three of them chop up a re-animated corpse and it still won't die, they decide to go to the mortuary by the cemetery and cremate the remains.

Burt is the mortician and after Ernie explains what is happening, Burt agrees to let them cremate the still-moving body parts. After they burn the body, the smoke drifts up into the atmosphere, but soon comes back down to earth as it starts to rain heavily. The chemicals rain down on the punks, who run for cover after they notice this rain burns! Soon, corpses are digging their way out of their graves and going after the punks.

Back at the mortuary, Frank and Ernie aren't doing too well - the paramedics come and tell them that technically, they are dead. They have no heart beat, no blood pressure, no temperature, and yet they are talking and coherent. Hmmmm...imagine that!

Soon, the remaining punks join those in the mortuary as they try and escape from the zombie hordes who just want braiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnsssss...more braiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnns!

Wow, this movie was completely enjoyable! It was funny, it paid homage to Romero, it had its gory moments and a well developed (yet simple) story. The acting was kinda over the top or just plain bad at times, but this worked with the overall campy and fun tone of the movie. The shock at the end is great too - they finally call an emergency number for the government, thinking they will get help, but...KABLOOEY!!

If you haven't seen this movie, watch it - this is one that DOES deserve its cult status!

Order it on Amazon!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Prom Night (1980)

I caught Scream on TV last weekend and was inspired to watch some classic slashers that I had never seen before.

One of these is Prom Night, an 80s slasher flick that stars Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis. It begins with four kids bullying a young girl in an abandoned building until she falls to her death. The four children vow to never speak of the incident again and just walk away...only, someone saw them do it and is out for revenge.

Fast forward six years, and those same kids are all seniors in high school. Jude, Nick, Wendy and Kelly are joined by Kim (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Alex, who are the siblings of Robin, the girl that was killed. Nick and Kim are to be Prom King and Queen, while Jude and Kelly are Kim's friends. Wendy is the queen bitch of the school and is trying to woo Nick back.

The date of the prom coincides with Robin's death. That morning, Jude, Nick, Wendy and Kelly all receive creepy phone calls asking them to "come out and play." None of them take it seriously, but we see the shadowy killer sitting by the phone, crossing off each of their names after each call. We learn from the police that the man that was arrested for Robin's death has escaped from a mental institution. He was a child molester and the #1 suspect in Robin's case. When the police attempted to arrest him, he led them on a chase that resulted in a fiery crash. He was horribly disfigured and spent the next six years in a mental hospital.

Now it appears he is out for revenge on the four kids he blames for his incarceration and disfigurement...and the killer is planning to strike on prom night!

Kim and Alex's father (played by Leslie Nielsen!) is the principal of their high school, and it seems like he and their mother have never really recovered from Robin's death. The mother appears highly unstable, misplacing items, lingering a long time at her daughter's grave, getting overly excited...could she be the creepy caller?

At school, it seems Kim has issues with sleazeball loser Lou. He keeps harassing her, even attacking Kim in the cafeteria while wearing a ski mask. Alex steps in to defend his sister and does a pretty good job against Lou's goons and Lou himself. Alex is a pretty scrawny kid, so it's a bit unsettling to watch him take out three guys much bigger than himself. Lou is suspended because of his disgracefulness, but that doesn't stop Wendy from hatching a plan with him to ruin the prom.

Wendy is really pissed at Kim, who is the coolest girl in school. Wendy confronts her while Kim works on her sweet disco moves in the prom-decorated gym. Wendy tells Kim that after prom, it's over for her and Nick and that everything will go back to normal. Notice this exchange between the two:

Kim: You seem a little anxious, Wendy. By the way, who are you going with tonight?
Wendy: It's not who you go with, honey. It's who takes you home.


It turns out Wendy does have a date, with none other than our dear sweet Lou who shows up in his rusty car, alcoholic beverage in hand and two of his goons in the backseat. Kim and Nick are already boogeying the night away with Jude and her "It's Pat!" lookalike date and Kelly and her overly-libidous boyfriend.

Kelly and date sneak off to a supply closet, as she's decided to lose her virginity. She discovers it's simply not that easy and stops her date. He storms off to find someone else to get jiggy with it, and she's left all alone...well, not quite. The killer joins her and slits her throat. The killer then finds Jude with her date, who I like to call Pat. Pat and Jude are parked in his van on the edge of the bluffs. Jude is killed first, while Pat is just with the wrong girl at the wrong time. He tries to drive away, but the killer causes him to drive right off the cliffs.

Soon after, Wendy is attacked by the ski mask wearing killer. She manages to escape and runs all through the school, finding more and more locked doors...she gets farther and farther from the dance and finally gets put out of her stupidity with an axe.

Back at the dance, Kim and Nick await their crowning as Prom King and Queen. Wendy is missing, but Lou tells his goons to go ahead with the plan to ruin prom. When Nick and Kim are backstage, the goons attack them and tie them up. Lou stands in for Nick as Prom King. While he waits for the curtains to open, the killer, thinking Lou is Nick, sneaks up on him with his head! Lou's head rolls out into the spotlight and the prom-goers panic. Kim rushes over to Nick to help him, but as they both try to escape the killer blocks their path. A scuffle occurs, as cheesy disco music plays in the background. Kim finally hits the killer in the head with his own axe, only to realize that the killer is...well, you'll just have to watch to find out!

This movie was made in 1980, and looks like it could have been made for TV. It doesn't show any gore and the film quality is pretty poor. There is a good close-up shot of the phone the killer uses to place the first calls, but the rest of the shots are pretty rudimentary, as if from a first-time filmmaker.

Beside the poor quality, it was an ok slasher. It's one redeeming quality was Jamie Lee Curtis, who (as usual) gives a great performance. She's the carefree, popular and independent girl everyone wishes they were in high school. I loved her character, especially when she had to confront Wendy over and over again.

Prom Night didn't leave me too impressed, but it's worth a looksie for its cult status and cheesiness.

Order it on Amazon!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Silent Hill (2006)

So, I lied.

I promised a Silent Hill review and have yet to write it. Actually, I started to write it but it got so long and so detailed that I just gave up.

Instead, I am just going to tell you it's awesome and well worth it to go see it in theaters (if it's still in theaters...gosh, how long ago did I see it?!).

I have never played the games, and though I've heard reports that some people who haven't played couldn't quite follow the story, I call that rubbish and those people stupid. The story may get a bit convoluted at times, but it is not hard to follow.

The visuals are amazing, as are some of the creepy creatures in Silent Hill. The movie kept me on the edge of my seat up until the last 20 minutes, which I didn't like as much. It is still a very well done movie though, one worth seeing on the big screen.

Check it out on Amazon!

Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971)

Tombs of the Blind Dead is a 1970s Spanish (or Portuguese) horror movie. Hundreds of years ago the Templar knights sacrificed virgins to drink their blood. The Church finally stopped their satanic rites by hanging all the knights and letting the birds peck their eyeballs out. The church didn't know how heavily into the occult the Templars were, though, because the Templars found a way to come back from the dead!

Hundreds of years later, Virginia and Roger are on vacation in Portugal where they run into Virginia's old school chum, Betty. All three decide to go camping together. On the way, Roger and Betty get awfully flirty, which upsets Virginia who jumps off the train to get away. She walks through the empty landscape to a large fortress that appears to have been abandoned hundreds of years ago. Virginia calls out, but the place is empty and she gets no response. After exploring a bit and finding nothing but an old graveyard, Virginia sets up camp for the night. As she settles into the silence, the Templars begin rising from the graveyard. The dread builds with the slow and ominous way the Templars rise, accompanied by low chanting that gradually gets louder and louder...

I don't have to tell you that Virginia ends up as the Templars' midnight snack (oops, I think I just did!). Meanwhile, Roger and Betty are sipping sangria back at the hotel. Hmmmm, they think, Virginia didn't come back to the hotel, so where could she be? Roger, ever the gracious boyfriend, decides that, hey! maybe I should go look for her! So off he and Betty go, on horseback, to the region that Virginia jumped off the train. When they arrive, they find la policia already there...Virginia, they are told, is dead. She's not the first one either. There has been a string of brutal murders in the area and la policia suspect a gang of smugglers. Roger decides to go give them a talking to and meets Pedro, the head of the gang. To solve the mystery of Virginia's death and to clear the gang's name of the murders, they all decide to have a sleepover at the Templar's fortress to find out what's really going on.

Plenty of hanky panky goes on when they arrive at the castle...that is, until the Templars arise to seek the blood of the living! Turns out the Templars can't see you (hence the name, Tombs of the Blind Dead) but they can hear your heartbeat! The last twenty minutes of the movie is full of nail-biting terror! The end will leave you shocked and giddy! This was an excellent film from director Amando de Ossorio. The Templars' skeletal remains, draped with tattered old robes were terrifying...then even had spooky old horses to ride! Awesome, just plain awesome...

By the way, I watched the American version, which supposedly has many gory scenes cut from it (shucks!), so try and find the Spanish version with English subtitles if you can!

Check it out on Amazon!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers (1988)

Oh Angela, you silly mop-headed girl!

She's a camp counselor! Angela (Pamela Springsteen replacing Felissa Rose from the original) has spent some quality time at a mental hospital, where she has undergone much therapy and has had a sex change operation! She's all girl now! Unfortunately, she still has murderous tendencies toward naughty campers.

We know Angela is the killer from the beginning, as she kills a girl for hanging out with the boys alone, at night, and for telling them the story of Camp Arawak's Angel of Death. After the girl's death, Angela berates her for being such a bad camper. Tsk tsk...hanging out with boys after dark and telling stories are soooo inappropriate!

The next morning, Angela explains to the other campers that she had to send the girl packing because she had done some naughty things with the boys. The other girls are pretty miffed at Angela's strict adherence to the rules and make fun of her behind her back, calling her a "dyke." The only camper who befriends Angela is Molly, the good girl.

Everyone else seems to piss Angela off, whether they talk back to her, drink, cuss or "fornicate," as Angela is fond of calling sex. The deaths are pretty favorite was the Shyte sisters' death of being burned alive with their own alcohol stash. Another favorite is when the queen bitch of the camp is stabbed in the back and then tossed into an outhouse that is infested with leeches while Angela jabs at her with a stick. Oooooh ooooooh...not to mention the homages to Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre!

I usually like more serious-minded horror movies, but for some reason, I love Sleepaway Camp 1 & 2. This movie is not scary at all and has pretty horrible acting, but it's so gosh darn comedic and spunky that I just love it. Pure campy (hehe), cheezy fun! LOVE IT!!

Order it on Amazon!

Sunday, May 7, 2006

The House on Sorority Row (1983)

The wonderful Jason and Hunter of The Terror Trap highly recommend The House on Sorority Row and liken it to a favorite movie of mine, Black Christmas. While I still like Black Christmas better, The House on Sorority Row is an effective slasher flick with a pretty strong story and performances.

The senior sorority sisters have graduated, and now they are packing up and leaving the college and their strict housemother behind. It seems their housemother, Mrs. Slater, has been quite the pain in their bum these past four years. So, even though the prospect of leaving her forever is tantalizing, the seniors decide to stay a few extra days to throw one last party and irk Mrs. Slater one last time.

Mrs. Slater is peeved to the max when she finds the girls celebrating with champagne...she wants them out at once! Every year she kicks everyone out by June 19th and this year she definitely wants everyone out. She talks with her doctor, who wants her under medical care...seems something is a little off-kilter with Mrs. Slater.

Later that night, one of the girls, Vicki, decides to break in her new graduation present (a waterbed) with her boyfriend. Mrs. Slater is up in the attic at the time, amongst toys and children's things, but she still hears them. She rips into the waterbed with her cane, puncturing it and getting Vicki steaming mad. Vicki threatens to get back at her, and oh boy does she ever...

The next morning, the girls plot to pull a prank on Mrs. Slater. Planning and decorating for their killer party also continues. Meanwhile, Mrs. Slater's doctor looks at her x-rays, stating that the trauma she suffered giving childbirth (the first scene that implies she has lost her child) might cause her to snap at any time.

The day of the party, the girls coax Mrs. Slater out by the murky pool and draw a supposedly empty gun on her. She is mistakenly shot, and the girls panic and decide to dump her in the pool.

Needless to say, the girls get killed one by one, all getting stabbed by someone with Mrs. Slater's cane.

I liked how the movie didn't use stereotypical sorority sisters but instead went for variety. The girls were all pretty average looking and each had their own personality. I also liked the changes of scenery. While the sorority house is the main location, the movie uses various other locations as well. The killer's identity, while suspected, is hidden pretty effectively from the audience. At various times, I thought the killer was Mrs. Slater, the blind date of one of the girls, Mrs. Slater's doctor or Mrs. Slater's son. I could not have definitively decided who the killer was before the credits rolled. That was another thing, the beautifully abrupt ending. The audience sees the killer is still alive (unknown to our heroine) but then the credits roll. I loooove those kind of endings! The tension throughout the flick built up pretty well. Ok, ok, not to mention the BAND that plays at the sorority party...oh man what a way to relieve tension!! See it, they are hilarious.

See it cuz I don't want to write anymore -- all I need to say is DECAPITATED HEAD IN A TOILET...

Order it on Amazon!

Friday, May 5, 2006

Deranged (1974)

Deranged is based on the exploits of serial killer Ed Gein, who also inspired The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Psycho, and countless other films. The lead character this time is named Ezra Cobb. Ezra is a dedicated son, caring for his mother well into his 40s on their small farm. When his mother becomes ill, he spends all of his time caring for her until the day she dies in their home. On her deathbed, Mama tells Ezra not to trust any other women because they are all "sluts" who will "use their bodies" to get to his money.

After Ezra buries his mother, he stops farming and takes a handyman position with the neighbors, the Kootz's. He becomes extremely lonely and isolated, visiting his mother's grave up to five times a week. He misses his mother so much he begins talking with her and mimics her responses in her voice. After a year, he digs her body up and brings her home. On the way home, he is pulled over by a cop for speeding. The cop notices the foul smell of the rotting corpse in the truck. Ezra explains that the smell is coming from a slaughtered hog he forgot to clean out of the truck. The cop lets him go, and Ezra heads home with his mother. He sets her up in her old bedroom, which he has kept clean and warm for her return.

Ezra notices that Mama isn't looking too well (well, she is a rotting corpse) and decides to fix her up. He researches taxidermy and body preservation extensively, trying all sorts of different skins on Mama. Yet, none of them look like human skin. Ezra finds out about the obituary section in the local newspaper, telling him when people are freshly buried. He starts digging up bodies to use to patch up his mother's rotting skin. Soon after, he uses the bodies as "friends" for his mother, placing them around her room.

As he slips deeper and deeper into madness, he visits an old friend of his Mama's. She tries to seduce him, but the only thing he can think about in bed is his mother warning him of women. Soon, he begins a gruesome killing spree to find companions for his deceased mother...

This film was made in 1974 and it is still effectively creepy. Ezra's mannerisms alone are unnatural and frightening. The organ music that plays throughout sets the eerie atmosphere. I also like the realism that was used; a certain grittiness that almost made it seem like a documentary. The film does employ a narrator, which hinders the story a bit but didn't bother me too much. I was pleasantly surprised by this film, and recommend that if you like stories about serial killers filmed in gritty 70s style to check it out.

Check it out on Amazon!

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Hostel (2005)

I had avoided Hostel it in theaters because it was touted as a torture flick, which seemed so boring to me! After a few people recommended it, though, I decided to Netflix it.

It begins with two Americans, Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson) backpacking through Europe with their newfound Icelandic friend Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson). At the start of the movie they are in Amsterdam, enjoying the primo weed and trying to get laid. Josh is the more responsible one, while Paxton and Oli are all about letting loose. The boys treat Europe like their own personal playground, where the right amount of money can buy them anything. They visit a brothel in the red light district where for the right amount of money, they can pay to do anything to a prostitute in a locked room. Hmmm...foreshadowing much? In this instance they are much like their torturers, paying for flesh to use to their own devices.

After a night of debauchery, they find themselves locked out of their hostel, having not made curfew. The locals lambast these "stupid Americans" and start hurling bottles at them. A kindly local named Alex lets them into his apartment, but the boys are a little shocked to find Alex's roommate having sex with his girlfriend in plain view. Alex says not to mind them, as they are too high to notice anything else. This inclusion of the couple reinforces the boys idea that "anything goes" in Europe. Josh and Paxton soon relax, barely noticing the couple (they are desensitized and embrace the idea of "anything goes") while Oli enjoys watching the couple. After hearing the boys are looking for girls, Alex tells them of a hostel in Slovakia that boasts the most gorgeous women that are just waiting for a piece of American tail. At first, the boys aren't really interested, but Alex shows them some pictures from his last trip there and they are soon sold on the idea.

They take the train where they meet a strange Dutch businessman who enjoys the visceral feeling of eating food without utensils. He makes a move on Josh who freaks out while Oli and Paxton laugh at him. Josh is the more cautious, sensitive, and likable character. He is trying to get over a girl back home, and Paxton seems to think lots and lots of sex with European women will cure his melancholy. Paxton is just trying to have as much fun as possible before he enters med school and Josh begins his Master's program.

They finally arrive in picturesque Bratislava, Slovakia and head to their hostel. Unlike most hostels, the one in Bratislava is like a nice hotel. The boys still have to share a room with other roommates, but they perk up when they find out their roommates are two gorgeous women. They join them in the spa (which is an added luxury at a hostel) where all manner of flesh is displayed. This naked body smorgasbord gets you thinking about what will happen to all that flesh once the torture begins.

Later that night, they join their roommates Natalya (Barbara Nedeljakova) and Svetlana (Jana Kaderabkova) to party at a local bar. Oli shows up with the hostel's front desk girl and they all dance and drink the night away. Josh has an encounter with the local child gang, who demand some kind of payment from him. The kids, all holding pipes or some other kind of weapon, are surprisingly creepy and threatening. Back at the hostel, Josh hooks up with Natalya while Paxton hooks up with Svetlana. Since they all share a room at the hostel, we see the girls giving each other knowing looks during sex with the boys...we know now that they are up to no good.

What follows is a grisly and gruesome cautionary tale...

This movie was pretty good. I enjoyed the set-up, the plot, the characterization and the social commentary employed by this movie. It wasn't the gore-fest many people touted it to be, but I was okay with still had its moments. The tension in the movie was terrific; it really had me on the edge of my seat! It's terrifying to think that horrible things can happen to you while you're so far from home.

I believe that Eli Roth, the director, was commenting on the ugliness of the world with this movie. Specifically that we live in a world where if you have enough money, you can do anything. At the beginning of the film, when the protagonists visit the brothel, they comment on how if they pay enough money, they can do anything they want to a prostitute. This idea grows within the movie to if someone has enough money, they can pay to kill or torture someone. Roth points out that money comes first and human beings come second. Also, Roth tackles how we are desensitized to many experiences. One of the torturers speaks to Paxton and explains that he's been all over the world, done everything (and everyone), and that basically this is the only thing left that will give him a thrill. The nudity and brutality of the movie are there to test the audience, to see how much is too much. Are we as desensitized as the torturers in the film? Are we looking to put money before humanity? Roth cleverly weaves these questions and commentaries into the narrative.

First and foremost, though, this is a horror wants to entertain you. Oh and will you be entertained! Just don't expect excessive amounts of torture (even with the uncut version - I think all they added was more boobs). Either as a social commentary or as a blood 'n' guts movie (or a mix of the two!) this film is very well done.

Order it on Amazon!

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Sleepaway Camp (1983)

I recently ordered this movie from Amazon on the cheap and it arrived a few days ago. Though I had never seen Sleepaway Camp before, I had heard plenty about it.

The movie begins with the a young Peter and Angela enjoying a day at the lake with their dad. A couple of stupid teens from across the lake aren't really paying attention to the motor boat they are driving until...BUMP BUMP...they run over the dad and kids. Out of the three, only Angela survives and is sent to live with her cousin Ricky and wacky Aunt Martha. Eight years later, Aunt Martha sends Angela (Felissa Rose) to Camp Arawak with Ricky, telling him to take care of her sweet angel.

Angela is pretty shy, not speaking for a looooong while in the movie. She's kinda weird, staring far too long at people. Her camp counselor is fed up with her, as she won't socialize with the other girls or eat anything. The head counselor takes her back to the kitchen one day, to ask the head chef to make her something she would like. Well, turns out the head chef is also a child molester and just as he is about to whip it out to Angela, Ricky comes and rescues her. Later that day, the chef is boiling water in a huge 5 foot tall pot. We see someone approach him and knock him into the pot, spilling boiling water all over him. Burns bubble up on the chef's face as he screams and screams. He is still screaming when he is carted off by the ambulance. The camp owner, Mel, wants to keep things quiet and doesn't want the campers to know there's been an accident.

Angela is still pretty silent, and she gets teased endlessly by Judy, the camp ho-bag. Ricky is the only one who protects her, until Angela is befriended by his friend Paul. When Paul first speaks to her, Angela speaks for the first time. After that, they begin a bit of a romantic relationship (as much of a relationship as 13 year olds can have). Angela becomes more talkative to others, but still won't participate in most camp activities, prefering just to watch from the sidelines.

The killings continue, some looking like accidents but others looking like murder. The killer drowns someone, puts a beehive in a bathroom so a boy is stung to death, stabs someone in the back (from their neck all the way down to their lower back), inserts a hot curling iron in a very uncomfortable place, decapitates someone, etc. etc. All the people that die have teased or wronged Angela in some way.

Is Angela the killer, getting her revenge? Is Ricky going so far as to kill people to protect his cousin? Did Aunt Martha snap? Is someone else doing the killing?

Well, I had heard so much about this movie that of course I knew who the killer was. Yet, the way the killer is revealed is still pretty shocking and disturbing. The rest of the film was pretty fun. It reminded me of Meatballs with a slasher twist. Many people complain that the film is too similar to Friday the 13th, but I disagree. The settings are the same, but the tone is very different. Sleepaway Camp deals with young kids who are 13 or so years old, which makes it a helluva lot more disturbing.

Don't let the Friday the 13th rip-off claims deter you from watching this movie. It actually takes the time to flesh out some of the characters and takes us back to idyllic summer days. Of course, neither you nor I probably had to deal with a pissed off psycho killer at camp...

Order it on Amazon!

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

On a whim, I decided to watch Alexandre Aja's remake of The Hills Have Eyes. I hadn't planned on seeing it, partly because I disliked the original and partly because most remakes suck. I wasn't overly impressed, but I was pretty content with Aja's direction and there are some pretty brutal scenes.

The plot, as if you didn't already know: An All-American family traveling through the desert is terrorized by a family of mutants, deformed from years of radiation from nuclear bomb tests by the U.S. government.

All in all, this was a pretty honest, straight remake. I didn't find overly preachy, as claimed by many a critic. I like my horror to have some social commentary, to not be just blood and guts gore. The movie tries to make the U.S. government "the bad guy" by stating that it displaced people from their homes and when people refused to leave, still tested nuclear weapons in the area causing severe deformations. This almost made it seem like the mutant family deserved their revenge on the All-American family. For a split second, I almost felt sorry for them...that is, until they sliced one of the family's dogs right down the middle. The brutality they force upon the family far outweighs the actions the government ever took against them. The government gave them a choice to leave, but the mutants give no such choice to the stranded family.

I found myself cringing in many parts of the film, as it took a pretty unflinching look at the terror the family goes through. The rape scene with both sisters in the trailer was quite disturbing, as was the one with the father being burned alive (these scenes occur simultaneously). When the remaining members of the All-American family take their revenge, I was cheering them on.

Aja did a great job of cutting the hokey scenes in the original, such as the mutants running and running and oh more running (in broad daylight) towards the family's encampment while heightening the tension. I was definitely more frightened this time around, especially watching it all alone.

I appreciated how Aja stuck close to the original film, almost scene for scene. While this may seem like it would make the film predictable for those who have seen the original, I wasn't bored at all. I still felt a great deal of tension despite the fact that I knew what would happen next.

Aja's version of The Hills Have Eyes isn't anything new, but it is an improved version of the original with more brutality, honesty and scares.

Order it on Amazon!
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