Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

From me and my new best friend.

Also, my Halloween weapon.

Which, in case you're confused, uneducated, or a terrible person unacquainted with Labyrinth, is a key ingredient in this:

May the spirit of candy corn be strong with you all.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Reader Recommendation: The Wolf Man

"Fuck Remakes. The original Wolfman is a classic for a reason! It really is THAT good. Lon Chaney Jr. is so charming and sympathetic. The atmosphere is flawless. A true representation of Classic Monsters and Classic Horror."--Eric

Let’s do this.

Quick Plot: Prodigal son Larry (Lon Chaney, Jr.) returns home after the death of his brother. With nothing else on his agenda, he takes a liking to his pretty next door neighbor Gwen, who looks especially good in the not-at-all-creepy view of Larry’s suggestively aimed telescope.
But putting inappropriate stalkeriness aside, Larry is a charming enough man who takes Gwen out on a romantic walk through the woods. Along the way, the pair encounter a spooked tribe of Gypsy fortune tellers with ominous warnings.
Silly Gypsies. Like they ever matter.

Oh. Right.

Before you can say Spider Baby, Larry is wrestling with a puppet werewolf and doging Gypsy murder accusations. The next day, he’s baffled to find no scars to prove his fateful evening, though he does discover his feet furrying up during the next full moon.

I did not grow up with The Wolf Man, which is something of a shame. What terrified my mother on basic cable showings never really had the chance to trouble my mind, especially considering my general aversion to werwolf cinema is only mildly stronger than my disconnect with giallo.
And yet, I heartily enjoyed The Wolf Man in all its black and white soundstage glory. Universal Horror has undeniable charm that simply works, seventy years old or not. 
High Points
Sure, it’s occasionally strained and overdramatic, but the instrumental score is also glorious and grand

There’s something quite refreshing about a horror movie not relying on a token bad guy. While the Wolfman is of course the villain of the tale, he’s also a figure of sympathy. Similarly, despite place for it, the film doesn’t cast any of the hunters in annoyingly Gaston-like roles as a plot convenience
Low Points
For a fairly short film, there seems to be an awful lot of downtime in The Wolf Man that makes it feel so much longer than its 70 minute running time
Lessons Learned
The best way to beat a wolf puppet is by using a wolf cane
Not all peeping toms are necessarily bad people, but that doesn’t really make them any less creepy 
Listen to the Gypsies. Always, with no exceptions whatsoever, listen to the Gypsies

Fans of classic Universal horrors will be happy to own the deluxe DVD, which includes special features AND three bonus films. Casual fans who prefer their lycanthropes dripping in crimson blood may be slightly bored, but everyone owes it to themselves to at least pay tribute to one of the classics with a watch, preferably when the moon is full.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reader Recommendation: Street Trash

"Street Trash is one of those rare films that has you laughing at all the wrong moments, as well as giving you utterly sickening pits in your stomach for some of the vile filth contained within the film. It is a downright ugly film, full of gore, sleezeball humor, a simple but well-executed plot, and some of the most memorable lines of dialogue one will ever find in a movie. Does anyone with a big name star in this film? NO! In fact, I can only remember one actor ever being in another decent film (by my standards, anyways!) and that is James Lorinz (Frankenhooker), whom did a phenomenal job in the film and really stole the show along with the main bum in the film. This film is funny as hell, filled with ultra-gory scenes of melting and dripping bodies oozing all over, reaches my quota for nudity and bush (me loves bush!), and was a film I watched incessantly growing up as a young boy disturbingly interested in horror films. Street Trash reminds me of a Troma film, but with far superior ORGANIC gore effects (no crappy CGI here, dear!), well developed characters and dialogue that is funny without all that potty humor thrown in (but there is some of that, too!), and something that one can watch over and over and over again. It is always a treat for me to watch this film with a virgin to it, for I get as much satisfaction out of their reactions to the film as I do to the film itself. It always has gotten a great reaction from folks. Throw this film to the top of the list of films needed to be seen ASAP! You definitely will have wished you had seen this film far earlier than now." 


Quick Plot: Or ten. Because for a low budget film not made with grand ambitions, Street Trash has an awful lot going on. To break down by character:
-Bill the Cop, a true Brooklynite trying to solve the murder of an unlucky motorist and the girlfriend of a maybe mobster

-The maybe mobster, who spends his time running a questionable restaurant, seeking his own justice, and antagonizing a punky doorman

-Wendy, a kind-hearted secretary with a weakness for underage homeless boys, who works for a junkyard owner and spends most of her on the clock hours trying to avoid being raped

-A pair of hobo brothers who have several zany adventures. They also have a friend with a talent for calling old women honky bitches and stealing groceries from the local C-Town

-Bronson, a crazed burly Vietnam vet who enjoys flashbacks and killing random people in entertaining (for us) ways

-Ed, the local liquor store owner with a killer bargain bin, who finds a box of incredibly old wine and decides to sell it for a buck a piece. Herein begins the cycle of melting

I won’t even bother trying to tie all these threads together. The film doesn’t, and that’s just fine.
Street Trash is rightly infamous for its gritty charms and wacky humor, and while 85% of movies made are probably better, this one is a darn good time that never quite backs down. There is, as you may have heard, an extended keep away scene with a hobo and his penis. There are, as the cover shows, plenty of rainbow hued body melts and stomach explosions executed with impressive expertise. Sure, we also get gang rape, ethnic slurs and necrophilia, but none of it feels particularly mean-spirited, misogynist or racist. You might even call it an equal opportunity offender.

High Points
Sure, the story is a mess and the acting more than patchy, but it’s hard to deny how well shot Street Trash is. Jim Muro has more cinematography and camera credits than anything else (this was the only film he directed) and clearly, he knows how to handle making movies
Tone isn’t always easy in low budget horror comedy, but Street Trash finds its voice immediately and holds up strong. A lot of movies like these--trashy and cheap gorefests--go for easy sight gags, dumb one-liners and ridiculous characterizations tossed in for surface entertainment. The world of Street Trash, however, is almost perfectly pitched. It’s sort of the wrong the side of Sesame Street, a self-contained community filled with real, albeit insane residents that are only slightly more than mildly surprised to find their favorite new alcohol causes bodies to ooze into brightly colored candle wax

The song that plays over the credits is an original, lounge style ditty performed by Tony Darrow (aka Nick the Dick). It is awesome
Low Points
Considering the deluxe DVD treatment this movie got (two discs!), would it have taken that much more work to add some subtitles? Especially when the script is actually funny but so much of the dialog is lost to the wind
Lessons Learned
The Witness Protection Program is a tad more complicated than you probably think

It’s nearly impossible to take a man seriously when he’s proudly sporting a Mickey Mouse t-shirt
In the 1980s, some hookers preferred to dress like high school majorettes
When your boss makes a morning habit of attempting to rape you, the logical step when you’ve had enough is to call the Better Business Bureau

When fleeing a fire, always grab your most prized possession, whether that be a stuffed animal, your Mets keychain or a plain house lamp
As much as I want to say this is the ‘duh’ lesson of the film, personal experience with a 90 cent bottle of Korean alcohol proves me guilty of not following this rule: never, really never, buy the hard stuff if it’s priced under a dollar

I borrowed my 2-disc special edition from my treasured public library, since Netflix currently lists Street Trash as a Save only. Is it buyable? Certainly, providing you have a soft spot for Basket Case-like tones and 1980s bargain horror. Street Trash is funny, tasteless, and a pretty ridiculous blast, even if the twenty three subplots don’t all find any resolution. Seek it out with a bottle of your favorite malt liquor on hand...just check the expiration date first.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

There's an Extracurricular Activity for Everyone

Yup, another found footage horror, that’s what we have here. Take your dramamine and hop in the shaky camero!

Quick Plot: Three dark-spirited college students decide that the only way to be significant is to murder someone on camera. I’ve only been out of college six years, but did it take that short a time to finally kill off mock trials and a cappella groups?

Ringleader Travis (Connor Thorp) is a sadistic young man eager to start, while creepily emotionless Stephanie (Michelle Roe) offers monotoned support. Cameraman Ryan (Michael Downey) is the wild card, a quiet and lonely student who just may have a conscience. Together, they decide the best victim is their age and should be buried alive on camera with a microphone nearby to converse with the filmmakers during the shoot.

Stephanie pinpoints their target, a friendly music major named Kayla. Ryan is charged with cracking into her deepest fears by interviewing her on camera as part of a mysterious school project. Open but a little hesitant, Kayla admits she’s afraid of spiders and dying alone. Notes are taken.

Meadowoods is something of a miserable experience, but unlike a film like Broken, it ultimately feels as if it were made with a purpose. Much like Deadgirl, it follows unlikable young people doing despicable things to an innocent girl. In this case, there’s nothing sexual about the violence. Stephanie simply feels nothing for people and wants something to do, while Travis is all too easily excited by the power he feels deciding someone’s life. The film wants to do more with Ryan, the timid voice of reason, but perhaps due to the limits of its found footage style, Meadowoods never really expresses what it could. It's a little frustrating and ultimately keeps the film from being something truly memorable or lasting, but those who enjoyed something like Gus Van Sant's Elephant may still find it to be an effective use of 90 minutes.

High Points
As with 
Deadgirl, I found the performances and characterizations quite strong, a difficult feat considering how unlikable most of these people are. In particular, Michelle Roe sends out a chillingly restrained sociopathic stare that makes her incredibly unnerving

Low Points
I get that the ending is fitting for this kind of found footage film, but it ultimately feels so empty and brief considering the buildup, especially since it's not even crystal clear what actually happens to whom

There’s no reason to turn on the soundtrack at the film’s most intense sequence. The character's reaction to the situation is scary enough and gets buried under the artifice of scoring when in fact, this is presented as found footage anyway

Lessons Learned
Everyone remembers murderers

When being asked what you're most afraid of by a stranger making you uncomfortable, it's best to simply lie and say something appealing, like peanut butter, bulldog puppies and coconut

A great way to get discounts at your local hardware store? Always claim purchases for a school project

Meadowoods is a pretty miserable film-watching experience, but it’s written, directed, and acted quite well. Fans of nihilistic horror will probably find it enjoyable, and those who appreciate effective low budget filmmaking will admire what Meadowoods accomplishes with so little. Since it’s currently streaming on Instant Watch, consider queing it up if (and only if) this kind of hard, quiet horror suits your style. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Monster (Mish)Mash

You might not guess it from the terrible job of decorating I’ve done around here, but it’s still October, which means it’s still the greatest time of the year, which means I should be spreading way more happiness. 
I will do that now.
Pod Pleasures

Obviously, your ears would be delighted to hear the sounds of me blathering on about Glee (via the GleeKast) or random classic/foreign/ridiculous cinema on the bi-monthly(ish) GirlsOnFilm Radio Podcast, but you already know that. Allow me to force some new Halloween pleasure inside your pretty little heads, starting with the ShowShow’s Annual Spooktacular. During October, this 180+ episode podcast takes on a challenge that costs them their sanity (but rewards their listeners with joyous and wrong laughter): watching and discussing a horror movie every day.

You might think ‘eh, that’s nothing, I watch NINE movies EVERY DAY because I’m GREAT,’ but what that probably means is you watch nine movies every day because you’re empty inside. How to fill that emotional void? Download some ShowShow. Hear Miles, Katie, and a few other wacky Californians get loopy talking about such classic fare as Eyes Without a Face, Dolls, Mummy Theme Park (which sounds absolutely amazing) and much, much much, much (and much) more, including 1988’s The Lady In White (and also, much more...much).

Speaking of The Lady In White, a more PG-rated approach can be found over at Family Movie Night, another fine podcast run by Dr. J and one of the youngest (yet quite reliable) film critics out there, his 10-year-old daughter KK. Since watching this movie a few weeks ago, I continue to be fascinated to hear other opinions on its odd tonal shifts, and who better to discuss it than a member of its intended age bracket?
Both shows can be found at iTunes, with forum pages over at For even more timely Halloween happenings, I recommend checking out Outside the Cinema’s 2nd Annual Halloween Throwdown, where host Bill(ByForce) will be showing a few nearly-impossible-to-find horror movies from groovy obscurity. The films will be streaming live starting at 12 EST on Saturday, All Hallows Eve’s Eve. Head to any time for that plus 12 hours and enjoy.

Magazine Mania
Remember those really thin books you used to get in the mail and occasionally cut scraps out of when doing school projects or sending ransom notes? They’re back, at least when it comes to covering genre films!

That’s right kiddos: there’s a new issue of Paracinema floating around the world and I’m going to now say anything I want because you should no longer be reading this but rather buying your copy or perusing its pages as we speak, so here goes: I didn’t like Tenebrae and I erased a stray mark on a closed section of my ACTs 11 years ago after time had been called. Whew. Felt good to say that. You can start reading again.

So. Paracinema Issue 10! Incredible articles on Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Possession, Robert Downey SENIOR, and Victor Salva’s Clownhouse, the last of which was written by none other than yours truly. Order your copy today and thank me later.
Happy yet?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Reader Recommendation: Alone In the Dark

Alone in the Dark (2005) five words... "Tara Reid plays an anthropologist." That is all.”--Lis
Why would I NOT watch this movie?

Quick Plot: What feels like a 20 minute voiceover laid out in exciting scrolling text tells us something about the ancient Abkani people’s toying with alternate dimensions and orphan children used for experimentzzzzzzz

Oh. Excuse me. How embarrassing. I don’t normally fall asleep 90 seconds into a movie.
Okay. So. Christian Slater is Ed Canby, a former orphan/paranormal investigator forever confused by a lapse in memory from something bad that happened once. I care about orphans, really, I do. I just can’t pay attention to their plight when I’m bored during their introduction.
Anyway. Canby. Slater. Tank top and used Heathers duster. Back on track this review shall be.

So. Canby is transporting an artifact (looks like a lizard skull but is only ever referred to as “the artifact,” so I’m going with that) to his ex-girlfriend/archaeologist girlfriend Tara Reid. I’m sure her character had a name, but since, for the entire 90 minutes of this film, we only ever think of her as Tara Reid, that’s really all I shall call her.
If you need further proof, allow me to explain:
-Tara Reid wears lipgloss so pink, even Barbie finds it a bit much
-Tara Reid’s mouth hangs open in every scene. Maybe she was congested and just couldn’t breathe through her nose
-Tara Reid naturally wears glasses and a bun when in archaeologist mode, going so far as to wind her hair back into a bun after a roll in the sack when reading from a computer. Blonds can, if you didn’t know, only read when wearing buns. And glasses.

-Tara Reid, playing a “promising archaeologist” (although her boss and mentor only calls her “Miss,” leading us to wonder what the educational credentials of a professional working at an elite museum actually are), mentions a few locations, including, I kid you not, New-found-land.

New. Found. Land. 
Those are the sounds that come out of her glossy pink mouth.
But wait, what was the movie about?
In all honesty, Alone In the Dark isn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting. Keep in mind, the person that just wrote those words has survived the following:
It’s Alive!, starring “grad student” Bijou Philips
The first 2/3rds of The Twilight Saga
Sunburst, aka Slashed Dreams

(in which this was the big special effect)
and a whole lot more that cannot BE contained on a Mill Creek pack
But seriously, it’s not THAT bad. Not Godzilla 2000 or The Happening bad. It is, however, incredibly boring.
Take, for example, the two most action-filled sequences. An early fight between commandos (led by the always needs-a-punch-in-the-face Steven Dorff) and zombified former orphans (I just like that angle) is...okay. I guess. It’s darkly lit and annoyingly scored. But you know...stuff happens. Similarly, a big gunfight with CGI monsters has just about no weight whatsoever. We don’t know a single character that dies. We barely see how they die. They just die. And we don’t care.

Much like the rest of the movie.
High Points
A love scene between Slater and Tara Reid is hilariously scored to cheesy Cinemax style sexy music. That amused me.
Low Points
Gah. I can’t just say Tara Reid, because thought she’s the worst thing onscreen, she’s also the most fun to make fun of

Lessons Learned
Kepler’s first law of fruit stands in film: they will be run over by cars during exciting high speed chases

Commandos entrusted to fix generators are slow-working and incredibly sensitive
If you want to make your characters seem like smart and educated people, be sure to have them say a lot of big words, like “photons,” “luminescent,” and (giggles giggles giggles) New Found Land
Getting electrocuted as a child is a life experience that can occasionally be extremely useful

Screenwriters, take note: never name a character “Marko” if a) he will be called for repeatedly and b) you don’t want your probably drunk/bored audience to retort “Polo!”
Alone In the Dark comes nowhere near being the worst studio film ever made, but that actually makes it much less interesting to recommend. Yes, true bad movie fans owe it to themselves to see Tara Reid look confused in every single one of her scenes, but at the same time, this just isn’t as much bad fun as something worthier of beer, like The Room or Showgirls (which is actually a masterpiece, but nevermind). Anyway, the DVD does have a few featurettes and a Uwe Boll commentary, so--

Oh. Shit.
I mean, Alone In the Dark is a delightful romp into terrifying and dark territory, the likes of which have rarely seen the screen with such pristine intensity. I love everything about it, particularly its directing and producing.