03 November, 2009

Horror Movies For Halloween

So, um, I totally didn't get the idea to write this from a post on Exfanding. I swear.

October 31st wasn't any different from the rest of the days in October for me, but for me, Halloween isn't a day, it's a month. And that month is Shocktober. In addition to playing a vaguely horror-related game - Pathologic - for the entire month (and I still haven't finished it yet), I spent the whole month watching horror movies, as is my custom. So now I'm going to list all the horror movies I've watched over the past month, and maybe say a brief word or two (or three hundred - cuz, you know, it's me we're talking about here) about each one:

Cannibal Holocaust

The goriest movie I've ever seen. Do not recommend it to animal lovers. If you can get past the gross-out factor, though (and while it is over the top, it does serve a purpose to the story), it does have some redeeming factors - including a commentary on journalistic exploitation (which some would argue is ironically weakened by the film's own exploitative nature). This is the ultimate "jungle savages" flick.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Good movie. For its reputation, it's surprisingly chaste compared to modern gorror standards, and yet, it still manages to be genuinely frightening. The bone room is terrifying, the final girl's ordeal at the dinner table is excruciating, and Leatherface's chain saw dance in front of the setting sun at the end of the movie is CLASSIC.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

I actually saw the 2006 remake of this film while it was running in theaters. I think both versions are good, and pretty creepy - the newer perhaps a bit more intense, though. I remember the rape scene being more disturbing in the newer version. Still, I like the older version and it stands on its own. "We'll be french fries - human french fries!"

Day of the Woman (a.k.a. I Spit On Your Grave)

A writer-ess from the city gets raped by a gang of country bumpkins and exacts murderous revenge against them. Although ostensibly a feminist's wet dream, the exploitative nature of the film arguably demeans that (what is it with everybody being against exploitation, anyway?). The lead actress in this flick is not only stunningly gorgeous, but actually quite naked for a significant portion of the film, including crawling around in the forest. You might think I'm sick for saying that, what with all the brutal rape going on, but it wasn't the rape I was admiring. It's just unfortunate that, with public morals the way they are, the only way I can get my desired dose of flesh is packaged with either hardcore sex, or violence. Best line: "suck it, bitch" (the second time you hear it ;).

The Last House on the Left (1972)

My experience of this movie was poisoned by a later realization that I probably viewed a censored version of the film. I read comments about it being incredibly intense, but I found it rather tame (likely due to the lack of cut scenes). Still, compared to the later version, it was a cakewalk. It still had its moments, though - like when they actually made the girls strip in the woods. Great 70's feel to it. "My parents work in the iron and steel industry - my mom irons and my dad steals."

The Last House on the Left (2009)

Because of the tameness of the vintage version, I decided to give the brand new remake a watch. The actress in the lead role was totally gorgeous, which made the rape scene all the more disappointing. Because they hardly even stripped her. :-( And, believe it or not, the articles of clothing they did take off had a tendency to magically reappear in the next shot. >:O Anyway, it was pretty intense, the worst parts being not the brutal murders, but the impromptu medical procedures (the dad character is a doctor). Yeah, the medical stuff always gets to me. For some reason, sewing a nose back on is a lot more disturbing to me than slicing it off in the first place...

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Great film. It's very unassuming, and not like your typical serial killer suspense thriller. It's like a behind the scenes look at the life of a serial killer - absent any kind of overbearing moral agenda (in either direction). It just presents you with this killer - who could actually be a decent guy if it weren't for his bloodlust - doing what he does. "Well, I guess I love you too..."

My Bloody Valentine (2009)

Modern remake of an older film about a miner slash serial killer who wields a mean pick axe. The movie itself didn't jump out at me, but I made a point to see this version for one specific reason - the much hyped nude scene. One of the characters is fully nude for like a whole 5 minutes. Verdict? The actress was very "porno chic" (and I say that in the nicest way - though it just isn't my style), but other than that, I give the scene two thumbs up - that includes the actress for doing the scene (I read that it was actually her idea to do it completely nude), as well as the guys behind the cameras for going along with it (not because they wouldn't want to - I mean, come on - but because most people would be too much of a pussy to stand up against the censors for a scene like that). I just hope (against hope) that scenes like these become more common place in a wider variety of films. The only thing that bugged me was what the trucker said after his naked "date" followed him out of the motel room and into the parking lot - "put some clothes on before some kid sees you." *facepalm*

The Brood

Brought to my attention by some guy I forgot, The Brood is a David Cronenberg film - if that doesn't mean anything to you, then forget it. Admittedly, the actual film experience was far tamer than I was expecting based on the hype, but it was still a good movie. About some brood of murderous children incarnated into flesh by a fringe psych practice ("psychoplasmics", I believe). The birthing scene is pretty icky, but most of the rest of the creepiness factor comes from the juxtaposition of children and murderous violence.

The Fly (1986)

Thinking of David Cronenberg got me remembering that I had never seen (or at least not within memory) his remake of The Fly. I'd seen the old Vincent Price version, and the remake's sequel, but not the remake itself, which is highly (and rightly) acclaimed. Very good, and really got me thinking about the (admittedly fictional) logistics of teleportation (as well as its risks). "I'm saying, I'll hurt you if you stay..."

The Evil Dead

The extent of my familiarity with this cult classic (regarding it and its sequels as one) has been a few recycled quips (to great effect) in Duke Nukem, and a couple minutes watching a scene from Army of Darkness before switching the channel in disgust (at the slapstick, not the gore). I had read that the first movie was more serious (which indeed it is), so I decided to watch it. I liked it. It manages to be pretty scary, and the over the top gore fx are impressive.

Evil Dead II

I had read that Evil Dead's sequel was sort of an overlap to the original movie, with some stuff added in, and having watched the first one, I couldn't withhold my curiosity about the inevitable comparisons, so I watched the sequel. It was a lot campier, to my disappointment, but it still had some redeeming qualities, such as some of the fx, and certain aspects of Bruce's - er, I mean Ash's - growing caricaturization; that is, the parts that managed to be cool instead of just plain silly.

Army of Darkness

And, having come this far, I couldn't resist watching Army of Darkness, just to round the experience out. The slapstick still bothered me, but it was slightly more tolerable in the context of the whole film. Interestingly, I remembered some of the plot points, as well certain quotes, from an Army of Darkness Doom mod I've played. I have to admit, though, that the immortal quotes (such as, "hail to the king, baby") were more entertaining in Duke Nukem, when they had already become legendary (and were spoken in such a manner), rather than here in this movie when they're still nothing more than cheesy dialogue. :p I was also surprised to find out that this movie was an inspiration for Peter Jackson's later filming of the Battle At Helm's Deep in his silver screen Lord of the Rings adaptation(s) - but the similarities are blatantly obvious, even down to some of the orc - er, skeleton - yells. It's just weird for me to draw such a connection between a silly movie like this and a serious movie like LotR...

Dead Alive (a.k.a. Braindead)

Speaking of Peter Jackson, he also did this film, which is notable for its ridiculous - no, make that ludicrous - overabundance of gore. The film itself was kind of so-so for me, and some of it was just grossness for the sake of gross-out. But I cannot deny the sheer brilliance of, for example, the lawnmower scene. Just watch it. Words are not necessary.

Shaun of the Dead

I had been told this was a really good movie, and supposedly one of the best zombie movies ever. And despite it being a comedic parody of the zombie genre, I decided to watch it anyway. It was indeed entertaining, and a very well accomplished film. I can see why so many people love it. I still prefer serious zombie flicks, though, despite my ensuing decision to go on a zomcom binge:

The Return of the Living Dead

Since having seen Night of the Living Dead, and reading about the split between the "Dead" and the "Return" sequels, I've been curious about both. The Return titles take themselves far less seriously, but they (well, some of them, at least) do have some things going for them. Return of the Living Dead is funny and entertaining without becoming too silly, and the style/approach of the zombies is very iconic - foggy graveyards, hands reaching out of the ground, etc. The soundtrack to this film is also great, with a lot of rocking tracks. It's very much an 80's movie, but I say that in a good way. I liked the assorted cast of stereotypically punk kids - especially Trash, the girl with an erotic obsession with death, who does not hesitate a second to strip naked and dance on top of a tomb. "Do you ever fantasize about being killed?"

Also, Tarman, the first zombie that comes out of the canister, is by far one of the coolest looking (and sounding, and moving) zombies I've seen, from a stylish (rather than strictly scary) perspective.

Return of the Living Dead Part II

Part II has that late 80's, cusp-of-the-90's feel to it, with younger kids in one or two of the lead roles, and more of a neighborhood-wide setting compared to the more claustrophobic first. Also, some elements from the first movie are recycled here, including two of the characters (played by the same actors), who are reinvented (rather than continued) to lesser effect. It was okay, but not as good as the first - although the foggy grave-rising effect remained in top form.

Return of the Living Dead III

III is not only atrociously submerged in 90'sism, but it also tries to take itself far too seriously - and that's coming from me - trying to be some kind of dramatic love story where one of the lovers happens to turn into a brain-feasting zombie (although she fights her urges, very hard). Riverman was an interesting character, but ultimately I'd call this one a flop - even the "kickass" sadomasochistic garb the zombie girl dons managed to miss the mark for me...

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Night's true sequel. I have utmost respect for Romero's original zombie trilogy - now that I've actually seen it. The best part is the sense of the advance of the zombie apocalypse from one film to the next. As everybody knows (right?), in Dawn, our heroes hole themselves up inside a large indoor shopping mall. I guess it's supposed to be a social commentary about consumerism (which I sympathize with), but still, I can't help thinking that if I was in their situation, with an entire shopping mall (and all it's included goods) at my fingertips, that would be a pretty sweet way to live.

Day of the Dead

I think I liked Day even more than Dawn. Reminds me most, of the three, of 28 Days Later. The early scene in the abandoned city is great. The military guy is a real jerk, but as a character, he's great fun. Dr. "Frankenstein" and his tamed zombie Bub are excellent - the concept of tamed zombies has a strong tendency to misfire (from a serious, rather than a comedic, perspective), but here it's achieved perfectly.

Land of the Dead

Good concept, entertaining movie, but ultimately disappointing as a Romero film. It turns out I have a hard time taking a film starring John Leguizamo seriously. :shrugs: Also, I know the film hinges on blurring the line between the living and the walking dead, but I don't think the zombies were "zomby" enough. Especially the lead one, who learns faster than the others - as has been noted elsewhere, he looked more like a modern movie vampire (the monster kind, not the emo kind), than a zombie. Ah well.


Interestingly, I had seen Suspiria's sequel Inferno the same time I first saw Night of the Living Dead (I had picked it up on a whim), so I thought it an appropriate match to watch this after having caught up on the Romero series. Suspiria is a Dario Argento classic which makes full use of the audio and visual aspects of the film medium. Lights, colors, great spooky music, and a creepy story about a witches' coven that runs a dance school. This movie has a fantastic atmosphere, and is the kind you can just put on on Halloween and it'll set the mood perfectly.

Profondo Rosso (a.k.a. Deep Red)

Since I liked Suspiria so much, I decided to pick up another Dario Argento classic. Deep Red wasn't as visually stunning for me, and it drags on a bit long, but it's a good classic murder mystery, with some surprising turns, and the use of music in the suspenseful pre-murder scenes is just plain kickass.

Paranormal Activity

Zombie Strippers

Going from the title and description, I was expecting this movie to be terrible - and it pretty much was - but, it was a lot more watchable, and had a lot more redeeming qualities, than I was expecting. Okay, I find the concept of a movie that takes place in a strip club intriguing. Don't judge me. Of course, I don't find decaying flesh to be attractive (I swear), but there's a certain novelty value to the idea of stripping zombies. "That chick is cold as the dead flesh of a stripping zombie." The goth chick was pretty hot, until she began to rot. Low point: the V-Cannon...


More of a Hollywood action-adventure thriller (have you seen the cast list?) than a horror, per se, but there's undoubtedly a horror element to a good deadly virus outbreak plot. Plus, it relates to the theme of that game I mentioned that I'm still playing, so it's relevant to my current preoccupations. I enjoyed the movie, and it was actually quite intense at parts, like the very end.

And nobody said this was the end. ;)

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