Sunday, October 31, 2010

The First Ever FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #13: 28 Days Later

My apologies, but this is going to be a candy-ass review.  While I love 28 Days Later with all my heart, my heart really wasn't in it when I watched it yesterday, partly because I've seen it a couple of times before and partly because it was the sanitized AMC Fear Fest version and thus just not the same as the real deal.

Nutshell synopsis: some well-intentioned but misguided animal rights activists attempt to liberate some chimpanzees from a lab somewhere in England.  Unfortunately, these chimps have been infected with "rage," a virus that causes uncontrollable aggression and bloodthirstiness and is spread - at record speed, like you'll show symptoms in 15-20 seconds once infected - by blood.  An activist is bitten by an infected chimpanzee during the liberation attempt ... and twenty-eight days later, all of England has been decimated by this infection.  Our hero, Jim (a hauntingly skinny Cillian Murphy) wakes up in a London hospital after a month-long coma, only to find his world now post-apocalyptic.  He meets up with several other survivors and they make their way to a miliary outpost, battling the infected, screaming, blood-spewing lunatics all the way, only to discover that the soldiers have become monsters even more than the infected are.  The infected can't help themselves, of course, but the soldiers, led by the insane yet charismatic Christopher Eccleston, have succumbed to their fear and despair and in doing so, have given up their humanity.

This is a fantastic movie.  It's not technically a zombie flick since the infected aren't dead people, but they act like zombies - sprinting, shrieking zombies - in that all they want to do is chew on uninfected people.  It's well-acted and well-plotted and beautifully shot, and if you haven't seen it yet and have any inclination towards zombie films, you need to.

Next: I know today is Hallowe'en and tomorrow is November, but the next two movies in my queue are The Crazies (new version) and Event Horizon.  Perhaps I'll continue the Scarelicious Movie Series through those two, just for the heck of it.  Or maybe not, since we have visitors coming.  Guess you'll just have to check back and see.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The First Ever FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #12: The Thing (1982)

Man oh man, is The Thing my kind of movie or what?  Science fiction/horror with nasty shapeshifting aliens and a very healthy dose of paranoia ... so much fun!

Set in an Antarctica research station - a location as alien and isolated as any space station or space ship - a group of American scientists are surprised when a Norwegian helicopter circles their camp, shooting at one of their sled dogs (Jed, a gorgeous wolf/dog hybrid) who's been out romping in the snow.  The Norwegians accidently get themselves killed before the Americans can ask them WTF, so our guys check out the Norwegian research station not too far away, and end up bringing back the partially-burned remains of ... something.  This thing that they've brought back is not from our planet and, worse, a live version has infiltrated the American research camp in the form of that gorgeous dog.  You see, the alien absorbs other life forms and assumes their shapes so you really have no idea whether you're with the real deal or the Thing.

The Americans, being scientists, figure this all out very quickly - watching the faux dog split open to reveal the grotesque and ravenous creature within brings them all right up to speed - and realize that any one (or more) of them could be infected.  No one trusts anyone.  And when one of the Americans sabotages all the vehicles and the radio equipment, effectively stranding them in the station until spring so that the Thing can't escape to infect the rest of the planet, then tension and paranoia are palpable.

What a great flick.  The Thing has an awesome cast, led by Kurt Russell (fresh off Escape from New York), and including Wilford Brimley, Keith David and Richard Masur.  With so many characters all dressed in parkas, it would have been easy for everyone to blend together, but the actors do a great job of differentiating themselves.  The setting is frightening even before the alien shows up: isolated, cold, snowbound - you can believe that it would have been a tense and slightly paranoid environment even without some extraterrestrial monster munching on people.  And the creatures are FANTASTIC, sprung from the crazy imagination of Rob Bottin (also responsible for special effects on The Howling, which I am eager to see).  Watching the dog Thing peel open and the tentacles come flying out was amazing, but my favorites were the upside-down head spider Thing; and the man Thing trying to devour the scientist head-first left me slack-jawed.  Awesome.

The Thing is a great, great creature-feature, and one that holds up well 20+ years on.  Check it out if you haven't seen it - you'll be glad you did.

Next: ...?  I'm in between DVDs so I'll have to check the DVR and see what AMC has left me.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The First Ever FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #11: Dead Snow

Dead Snow marks the second horror film with subtitles seen here at the 2010 FEFMSSOMS: first was Spanish-speaking virus-zombies in the excellent [REC], and now Norwegian-speaking frostbitten Nazi zombies.  We are nothing if not multicultural!  However, if I were to say to you, "Norwegian-speaking frostbitten Nazi zombies," your initial thought would not be *zzzzzzzsnoozezzzzzzzzz*.  But it should be, unfortunately - the first hour of this 91 minute movie is s  l  o  o  o w. 

Seven Norwegian medical students - four guys and three girls - head off to the snowy hills deep in fjord-country to stay for a weekend at an eighth medical student's family cabin.  That girl never meets up with her friends though because whilst she is cross-country skiing through the rolling hills, a bunch of Nazi zombies eat her up.  (Technically she's running through the rolling hills, having lost her skis trying to escape.)  Then the Nazi zombies make their way to the cabin to eat people up there too.

Finally, for the last half hour, all hell breaks loose and it is non-stop, gooey, gory, blood-soaked zombie-kills and zombie-killing carnage - fun if you've managed to stay awake until then.  These are not your typical flesh-eating shamblers: these are organized, higher-functioning zombies who use weapons and take direction from their leader, the zombie kommandant or some such (he's got a fancy hat is what makes him the leader).  If I'm ever in a zombie apocalypse, I do not want to be up against these guys - they are just too smart and motivated.

I had a couple issues with Dead Snow.  The subtitles weren't a factor, although they did sort of disappear during scenes where everyone was talking at once.  I didn't worry about missing any scintillating dialogue though - there wasn't any that I noticed.  The fact that the characters were all paper-thin and/or caricatures wasn't a problem either as I've overlooked that in other movies that had enough going on to make up for it.  But this movie just didn't have enough going on for two-thirds of its running time.  For a Nazi zombie movie, there should be more scenes with Nazi zombies.  If the movie is weak, you have to make up for it with lots and lots of zombies throughout the movie, not just the last half hour.  Just sayin'.

Dead Snow also doesn't really know what it wants to be.  At times it was channeling Scream, with characters discussing their favorite horror movies and then breaking Scream's rules by having sex in the outhouse and them promptly getting eaten up.  (By the way: sex in an outhouse = NASTY.)  At other times it could have been a serious zombie movie: the zombies looked great, especially since they'd been hanging around in those hills since the villagers chased them out of the village in WWII, and the zombie vs. human violence, once it kicked into gear, was outstanding.  And then sometimes it seemed like it wanted to be a horror-comedy: one kill had a zombie ripping a med student's head in half the long way (super-fake but in a funny way), with the newly liberated very fake brain flopping with a splat onto the floor.

A little more focus, a little more even pacing and a little more depth of character would have boosted Dead Snow out of mediocrity and into exemplary Nazi zombie movie territory.  It's too bad - it should have been awesome.

Next: back to the classics with The Thing!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The First Ever FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #10: Friday the 13th Part 2

The rules for horror movies, according to the Scream franchise, anyway, are: you get killed if you have sex, you get killed if you drink and the killer is not who you think it is; for sequels, there's going to be a higher body count and more elaborate kills.  I'm finding it very entertaining to watch the classic slashers like F13th and Halloween after having watched the Scream movies - now I better understand where they're coming from.  For my money, Scream was paying attention because Friday the 13th Part 2 pretty much follows the rules.

This second installment in the series, Friday the 13th Part 2, is a return to Crystal Lake, but next door to "Camp Blood," as the site of Jason's initial rampage is now known in town. After the cold open dispatching of the first movie's final girl (oops - SPOILER), a bunch of taut-bodied young folk assemble at a camp counselor training camp where for the next couple of weeks, they'll learn how to be better camp counselors.

At first, everything is fun under the sun: hiking in the shortest shorts imaginable, swimming, arm-wrestling, jogging in tube tops. But then, as half the gang heads to town for beers and dancing, Jason, wearing a stylish burlap sack over his head, makes his move, swiftly dispatching the six left behind (plus the town lunatic who's peeping in the girls' cabin windows). When Final Girl Ginny and her boyfriend Paul get back from the in-town boozing, it's time for the big battle with Bag-head Jason. And in the aftermath, as they joyfully greet a lost little dog, thinking that the bad guy has been defeated, Jason - sans burlap sack - crashes through the cabin window, dragging Ginny off to her (presumable) doom.  I admit it: even though I totally knew it was coming, I jumped about three feet when he came in through the window.

Side note: how friggin' lucky were you if you were one of the camp counselors who stayed in town for after-hours partying when Ginny and Paul went back to the lake? Seriously - like five or six kids totally dodged a bullet there - or machete, to be more precise - by not going back early. There's a lesson to be learned from that, I think.

While Friday the 13th Part 2 was enjoyable enough (I did watch it on AMC so there were no actual nekkid boobs or graphic on-screen violence; I don't know how the cable television cut compares to the original), I think I'm done with this series. I just don't like slashers. I find them boring. Everyone who isn't the Final Girl or the Slasher is just uninteresting, time-wasting fodder. The plots are bare-bones, with everyone just wandering around waiting to get picked off. And I confess that I prefer the zingy and imaginative tauntings of Freddy Kreuger to the mute, monolithic monomania of Jason Voorhees (and also Michael Myers). I am given to understand that in later iterations, fans tend to cheer for the increasingly over-the-top ways in which Jason dispatches his victims ... while I can see the charm (??) in that, I got other things to watch.

Like Nazi zombies on skis - next: Dead Snow.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The First Ever FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #9: [REC]

Did I say Splinter was scary?  Well, in hindsight, yes, it's still scary ... but not nearly as scary as [REC].  Holy friggin' moly: [REC] is terrifying.  Awesome, but terrifying.

A cute little television reporter (Angela) and her cameraman (Pablo), shooting a puff-piece on Barcelona's firemen, tag along with two of said firemen on a call to help an elderly woman trapped in her apartment.  When they get to the apartment building, the other tenants are milling about in the lobby, disturbed by the screaming coming from the old woman's flat.  Two policemen take the firemen and the t.v. crew up to the third-floor apartment and when they break the door down, all hell breaks loose.  The old lady, fat, nuts and wearing nothing but a blood-covered slip, attacks the rescue party, chewing a hole in one policeman's neck.  Leaving one of the firemen behind to deal with the now-restrained old lady, the rest of them drag the wounded police officer down to the lobby, only to find out that the Barcelona health department has sealed the building, allowing no-one out for any reason.  Then the formerly upstairs firefighter plummets down the stairwell with a splat, face nearly chewed off. 

And now the screaming starts.  The virus/sickness/demon-possession spreads quickly, picking off the trapped people one by one.  There is a lot of screaming - things get very tense very quickly.  This is all shown as a real time POV movie, filmed on Pablo's camera and narrated by Angela as they first hope to bring word to the world of what is happening in the building; later, when the power is shut off to the building, the filming is incidental as Angela and Pablo make use of the camera's light, and then night vision scope when the light is broken.  This is used to excellent effect towards the end, when the only things we see are what little is illuminated by the light, and then the night vision.  There are very bad things lurking just out of our vision - Angela knows it, Pablo knows it, and we know it.

Of all the horror movies I've watched, [REC] is one of the very few that has really frightened me.  My heart rate was elevated for the last ten minutes of the moive and was positively POUNDING by the end of it.  Both Mr. Mouse and the dog had gone to bed, and I was the only one awake in the whole dark house - I had to watch the Weather Channel to calm down for a few minutes before I dared leave the t.v. room.

The fact that [REC] is in Spanish with English subtitles should dissuade no-one from watching this movie; I didn't think it lessened the fright factor one bit (and I have a crappy t.v. on which subtitles are a little fuzzy).  I'm going to watch the American remake, Quarantine, too but I will be surprised if it is as good as the original.  [REC] is one hell of a horror movie - I'm so glad I saw it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The First Ever FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #8: Splinter

Tight little (82 minute) lower budget horror flick taking place in one claustrophobic set?  Check. Non-annoying characters exhibiting at least some growth and played by decent actors?  Check.  Hideous fungus/parasite beastie that zombifies its prey in really awful ways?  Check.  Equal amounts gory grossness and things that jump out causing me to watch a large portion of this movie through my fingers?  Check.  Dear Reader[s], I give you Splinter.

One young couple, heading home from a failed camping trip in the wilds of Oklahoma, is taken hostage by another couple, a violent ex-con and his tweaked-out girlfriend.  Experiencing car trouble, they stop at a rural gas station, only to be trapped by zombies animated by the freaky, mindless Splinter-fungus-parasite.  This beastie, displaying nasty black quills like a porcupine from Hell, infects living creatures, ripping them apart from the inside with the quills, and reanimating their broken bodies as it ceaselessly searches for more food.  Our heroes are forced to use every resource available to them - and there's not much - to fight for their lives.

This movie is super-fun in a quite scary way.  There's nothing extraneous - at no time did I wish for things to just move along.  None of the four main characters are annoying (quite a feat for lowish budget horror movies) and both the men had arcs; the women were less well-developed character-wise, but as the acting and the dialogue was decent, I can live with that.  The characters' actions and reactions to what was occurring around them were reasonable too - nothing to take you out of the movie with a "WTF?"  The zombie/creatures are horrific: really, really freaky (all excellent practical effects - no CGI), and moving in extremely unsettling ways.  There's plenty of blood and goo, but not too much, and multiple mobile amputations.  And all sorts of things jump and twitch and flap, which I find the scariest.  Great stuff, all told.

I remember seeing ads for this movie when it came out back in 2008 and thinking that while it looked good, there was no way I was going to see it in the theater because I didn't want to pay for a movie ticket and end up peeking through my fingers for most of the movie.  My instincts were right on:  Splinter is good, and I bet it's even better if you watch the entire screen for the whole movie.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The First Ever FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #7: Re-Animator

It's back to the classics for this series's #7: H.P. Lovecraft's Re-Animator, a jewel of a horror-comedy.  There's plenty to giggle about here - from the cheery, tinkling score, to the animatronic zombie cat, to the pratfalls and lobotomized walking dead - but there is also plenty of gore and nasty bits, starting with the pre-credit exploding eyeballs.

It's been a while since I read Lovecraft's original short story, "Herbert West: Reanimator," and I can't tell you how much the 1985 movie differs from the 1922 original without referring to Wikipedia (apparently a lot).  In the movie, however, our hero, handsome young medical student Dan Cain, befriends the brilliant-yet-demented Herbert West, recently dismissed from a Swiss graduate school for his ghoulish experiments.  West has developed a "re-agent" which, when injected into dead tissue, reanimates it.  West and Cain soon move from experiments on dead cats (the aforementioned animatronic zombie feline) to the corpses in their medical school's morgue: they find that the fresher the body, the better the zombie.  As you might imagine, things get out of hand very quickly, West and Cain finding themselves overrun with zombies, including the med school's Dean (and father of Cain's girlfriend) and their neurology professor, Dr. Hill, whom West killed when Hill tried to steal the reagent potion.

I had a feeling going into this one that it was going to be heavy on the gross and gory and, oh my, yes:  zombies in varying stages of decomposition, limbs being torn asunder, talking decapitated heads floating in tubs of blood, death by strangulation by zombie intestines.  Re-Animator is close to being on a par with The Evil Dead and Dead Alive (although I did like both of those movies better, being just that much more crazier) - it should certainly be counted in the same horror/comedy category.

Next: [REC]

Monday, October 18, 2010

The First Ever FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #6: The Burrowers

In the 1879 of The Burrowers, in the badlands of South Dakota, a family of settlers are attacked and abducted.  The folks investigating, including Ethan Rom from Lost (William Mapother), Brother Justin Crowe from Carnivale (Clancy Brown) and Eugene Tooms from The X-Files (Doug Hutchison - also on Lost), think the attackers must have been Indians, despite the bizarre and bloodless wounds on the dead bodies left behind.  The rescue party heads out and in short order - the movie is only 96 minutes long - learn that they are up against giant, fleshy cicadas with bloodworm-type mouths - the eponymous burrowers.  These critters tend to sneak up on you at nighttime, stab you with a claw and then vomit a paralysing goo into the wound, incapacitating the victim.  Then the burrowers drag them off and bury them alive, waiting for the innards to liquefy into a tasty snack.  They are nigh impossible to kill too - bullets don't even faze them.

This movie rather felt like an extended X-Files episode - but without Mulder and Scully and you know, set in the Old West.  It was fairly suspenseful (I jumped several times and peeked through my fingers once), gritty with washed-out colors.  The filmmakers smartly didn't let us get a good look at the burrowers until the end; I preferred the practical effects to the CGI, which were well-enough done, but just didn't have the immediacy that practical effects do.  It was medium gory, with people and horses getting shot, amputation (from a distance) and lots of squishy noises.

The horror western is an under-appreciated genre, in my opinion. While certainly are plenty of options should you so choose to explore the "Weird West," (lists of films found here and here), most people just don't think of combining the two. Is the thinking that in westerns you already have tough, scrappy people struggling to survive - and to add slashing maniacs or horrific beasties to the mix is just too much? I don't know - but I do know that The Burrowers (2008) is a solid little B-movie and a nummy treat for those of us who think that horror films and westerns are two tastes that taste pretty good together.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The First Ever FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #5: Wolfen

Of all the classic horror flicks I’ve watched thus far in the FEFMSSOMS (and by “classic” I mean “came out when I was a preteen/teen”), Wolfen (1981) is my least favorite. Therefore, there will be SPOILERS as I really don’t recommend this movie.  Movie poster/DVD cover's cool, tho'.

As I’ve mentioned ad nauseam, I like monster movies, and there’s something in particular about werewolves that I really like – moreso even than vampires (sorry, Buffy). It’s not a Team Edward vs. Team Jacob thing – as I steadfastly refuse to either read those books or see those movies – it’s because werewolves represent such a primal experience, the animal hidden in all of us. Vampires are self-aware but werewolves revert to pure instinct more often than not.

Wolfen is not a werewolf movie. Wolfen is an avenging wolf-spirit movie, written with a political bent (pro-environment/conservation – and I actually kind of teared up at the actual footage of helicopter wolf hunts) and dripping with clichés (especially the Mystical Native Informs the Ignorant White Man trope). When grisly – but mostly offscreen – murders start happening in NYC, at first they seem unconnected: socialites in the Battery and homeless junkies in the Bronx. But renegade detective Albert Finney (rockin’ some serious 70s hair) and his hottie sidekick Diane Venora soon learn that the rich guy who had his throat ripped out was about to develop the derelict neighborhood in which the homeless junkies had their throats ripped out. After consulting with some local Native Americans, and several additional corpses later, Finney discovers that the Wolfen are spirits, the amalgamation of wolves and native peoples, driven out of their homes by the whites and now subsisting on the dregs of humanity. They are killing to protect their territory.

Wolfen is slow and long (120 minutes!) and I soon tired of the Wolf-O-Vision effect. The special effects are pretty weak Рsuper-fake dismembered hands Рand, as I mentioned, most of the attack action happens offscreen. The story is just not that interesting and the characters are either flat or near-caricatures Рalthough I found nothing clich̩ about a young, nearly-handsome and totally buck nekkid Edward James Olmos chewing peyote and channeling his inner wolf on a midnight beach. Seriously the best part of the movie. They did use real wolves (or dogs that looked like wolves) for the Wolfen but still, Wolfen is a pretty weak entry in the genre.

Next: Wild West horror with The Burrowers

Friday, October 15, 2010

Book review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

When I reviewed the first three books of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, I said that I had very high hopes for Clockwork Angel, the first in The Infernal Devices series, "prequels," if you will, to the first set of books.  I think I should have let a little more time pass before picking up Clockwork Angel.  It's not that I didn't like it - I did - but it's pretty much more of the same, only set in 1878 London instead of 2008 New York City.

Pretty, orphaned, teenaged Tessa moves to London from the United States, having been sent for by her older brother Nate who went overseas for work some time prior.  But Nate is missing and Tessa is captured by evil warlocks who force her to realize her full potential: she is a shapeshifter, not exactly human.  Luckily, Tessa is rescued by the local Shadowhunters, angry young Will Herondale (a carbon copy of Jace from the first series, except that Will has black hair) and sensitive young James Carstairs.  Blah blah blah falling in love (but Victorian love, so quite repressed), blah blah blah vampires, blah blah blah everyone's got a secret, blah blah blah big evil poised to harness demon energies and take over the world, blah blah blah Tessa is very powerful and has to learn to use her abilities as well as figure out how she fits into the world.  Oh, and Magnus Bane - the out and proud, glitterglam warlock from the first series is here too, not quite so flamboyant and apparently bisexual - one hopes he'll get to spread his wings a little in the next volumes.

So, Clockwork Angel is fine.  The characters are, once again, complicated and compelling; the story is sound, setting up successive volumes - I liked it just fine.  But the themes are far too familiar, coming so close on the heels of City of Bones, City of Ashes and City of Glass.  I'm going to have to read a few other authors before picking up another one of these.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The First Ever FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #4: Alien

I am in no way objective about Alien.  I love this movie - I love everything about this movie.  I love the movie's tagline: "In space, no one can hear you scream."  If this movie came over for dinner, I would serve it lobster and champagne - stuff that costs more than $7/bottle.  I will watch this movie every chance I get and I never stop jumping at the jumpy parts.  Alien is awesome.

But this is established, right?  I don't need to be objective because it is a fact that Alien is a great movie.  It's dark, moody, atmospheric, gorgeously shot.  The cast is fabulous, every one of them going on to have solid movie/television careers: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto and Ian Holm.  And the alien!  The alien is magnificent, sleek and brutal, Oscar-winning (for visual effects), and never fully glimpsed, which just adds to its menace. 

While the pace may seem to drag at times with the long, slow interior and exterior shots of the spaceship, this is done to reinforce the sense of isolation of these characters.  The story itself is taut: the small crew of a commercial spaceship follows an emergency beacon to a seemingly uninhabited planet where, upon investigation, they come into contact with a horrific alien species.  From the very start, suspence starts to build.  Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphet Kotto's characters have a great rapport, giving the audience a break from time to time to laugh.  But after each of those brief moments, everything else (and Veronica Cartwright in particular - twitchy and bug-eyed and complaining and worried) brings the tension right back to where it was, and twists it a little tighter.  Until the jumps start jumping and the blood starts flowing.

Alien is pretty close to what I would consider a perfect horror movie: dark and tense, with strong, sympathetic characters you are sorry to see die, and pockets of viciousness and blood that punctuate the mood, not drown it.  Brilliant.

Next: Wolfen.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The First Ever FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #3: Friday the 13th (1980)

Awwwww!  The original Friday the 13th is so cute!  It's like a fluffy little black kitten who hisses and bites and scratches and tries to be tough and nasty, but really is just adorable.

I know.  I know:  such blasphemy about the beginning of one of the most iconic horror movie franchises of all time.  But really, when the director tells the writer that the whole point is to rip off the uber-successful Halloween, and the writer tells this to the whole world on the DVD extras, it's not like they're claiming much originality.  Plus, dog's honest truth - I've never seen F13 until today.  In high school we watched the Nightmare on Elm Street series, and got old-school with The Exorcist.  But then I really didn't watch any fright flicks again until my mid-thirties, and then my tendencies were towards monsters or aliens or zombies or ghosties, with the occasional near-art house J-horror.  So after you've seen The Descent and 28 Days Later and Pontypool and Il Orfanato and Let the Right One In, little Friday the 13th just seems ... quaint.

But I can see how it would have been scary back in the day:  bunch of camp counselors isolated at Camp Crystal Lake, getting ready to reopen the summer camp, and getting picked off one by one by SPOILER (AS IF I WEREN'T THE LAST PERSON ON EARTH TO SEE THIS) the psychotic mother of a boy who drowned a couple decades earlier while the horny camp counselors who were supposed to be watching him got it on instead.  [Quibble: in the flashback to "1958," in no way do those camp counselors have the clothing and/or hairstyles of the late 1950s ... Seventies all the way, baby.]

The kills are solid: slicings and dicings, Kevin Bacon's arrow through the throat through the bottom bunk, big ol' axe to the head, and Mrs. V's beheading = sweet!  I was unimpressed with Alice the Final Girl, however, until the very end when she and Mrs. V go mano a mano on the beach; up 'til then, I found her whiny and rather dim.  And even tho' I'd seen that last scene where Jason rears up out of the lake to grab Alice, I still jumped a little - so, kudos there.

I'm still not a slasher fan.  The genre is too close to the "it might be possible" realm, what with crazy knife (or other sharp implement)-wielding people and all.  This is why I prefer monsters in my movies, as I'm almost certain that no zombies or werewolves or acid-drooling aliens are going to get me.  But I feel it behooves me to see the classics, and Friday the 13th certainly qualifies.  Now, tell me: is it worth seeing any of the sequels?

Next up:  Wolfen, or maybe Alien on AMC.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The First Ever FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #2: Night of the Creeps

"Zombies, exploding heads and creepy-crawlies ..." - Detective Ray Cameron 

If you need any more than that to convince you that cult-fave Night of the Creeps (1986) is worth seeing, then you ae no horror fan, my friend.  This little B-movie is a gem: a delightful little horror-comedy with decent acting, a fairly solid script and a pretty good story.  Plus: zombies, exploding heads and creepy-crawlies!

Night of the Creeps begins with a black and white flashback to the late 1950s, where a couple of college students are killed while at Inspiration Point.  The girl gets hacked to pieces (off-screen) by an axe-wielding escaped mental patient; the guy gets a space slug up his brain.  Fast-forward to 1986 where a college prank gone wrong results in the inadvertent release of the space slugs from the cryogenically-preserved body of 1950s College Guy.  Once released, the space slug infestation spreads like crazy throughout the campus.

The space slugs - speedy little suckers who like to dive down people's throats - infest both living and dead bodies with equanimity.  If you're alive, you won't be for long and then you walk around as a zombie until the space slug eggs mature in your brain.  If you're already dead, you just skip ahead to the zombie-ing around.  Once the space slug eggs are ready to hatch, they pop out of your skull, exploding your head.

A couple of nerdy freshmen and a pretty sorority girl enlist the help of a hard-drinkin', haunted-by-his-past detective, played by horror icon Tom Atkins.  His character adds a layer to the mash-up of genres NotC embraces: slow zombies + creature feature + science fiction + 1980s college geeks + love story + hardboiled detective noir = really a lot of fun.  The violence and ick factor are at a minimum, especially when compared to modern movies; the special effects are goofy, but are clearly meant to be.  Adding to the fun is how horrifically 80s this movie is: the music, the clothes, the giant eyeglasses, the gigantic hair!  It's all rather more scary than the horror bits, actually.

Clearly a progenitor of Slither (another creepy-crawlie favorite of mine), Night of the Creeps is a hoot, amust-see for anyone claiming to be a horror classicistic.

Next up, despite my not really liking slashers:  the original Friday the 13th.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Night of the Running Dead

If you'll be in SLC this weekend, there's a fundraising 5K over at This is the Place Heritage Park (2601 E. Sunnyside Ave.) on Saturday, Oct. 9th, at 2 p.m.  All runners have to register as either an "infected" (a/k/a zombies) or a "survivor" ... and if you're a Survivor, you get a one minute head start on the Zombies.  No physical contact or actual eating of brains is allowed.  Costumes are allowed and, in fact, encouraged for the 1 mi. "Creep and Crawl."  There will be a family party before the 5 K run, featuring music, makeup artists and prizes, and the Park itself is all decked out for Hallowe'en with haunted cemetaries, old buildings and "surprises."  

The fundraising beneficiary is the Huntsman Cancer Center - a very worthwhile organization - so if you're in the mood to run for your lives (or tasty brains), shamble on over to the Night of the Running Dead

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The First Ever FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series - Movie #1: Phantasm

For some reason - perhaps as a kneejerk response to Mr. Mouse's insistence on filling the DVR with Modern Marvel episodes like "Dirt" and "Crashes" and "Soda" - I have been in the mood for horror movies.  Luckily, since this is the Hallowe'en month, I can purvey this whim into a theme: the first ever (not the "first annual" because who knows if I'll even want to do this again) Friend Mouse Speaks Scarelicious October Movie Series whereby I watch as many scary movies as I can before the witching hour.  First up, we're going old-school with 1979's Phantasm, a low-budget classic that, despite the terrible acting and bare-bones story, manages to be a good little flick. 

Two brothers discover that the creepy and unusually strong mortician at a local funeral home is stealing (or making) fresh corpses, transforming them into Jawa-like dwarves and giving them into slavery in a hell dimension.  Said brothers are not about to stand for this and, since they fortunately have a small arsenal in the family home, not to mention a buddy who drives an ice cream truck, they set out to stop the Tall Man.  The movie jumps around and makes numerous leaps in [il]logic but since this movie is as much sci-fi/fantasy as it is horror, the surrealness somehow seems to fit.

The acting is appallingly bad, supplemented by the terrible script.  The older brother is one of the dumbest characters I've seen in a long time, with the actor taking an awfully long time to respond to his cues more often than not.  The younger brother character is supposed to be thirteen, yet drives a car and swigs beer when he's stressed.  The Lady in Lavender ... well, let's say that the best thing about her are her nekkid boobs - and those belonged to her body double.  The Tall Man is a fun villain, however: menacing, looming, unfathomable and, yes, tall.

But I liked this flick.  The eerie synthesizer music is iconic, reminscent of Halloween's simple yet effective score.  The special effects, while weak, do not detract from the movie; the violence is quite tame compared to today's standards and the gore nearly nonexistent.  Much of Phantasm is beautifully shot - the DP had a nice eye for framing.  And there were enough tense little moments leading to jump scares that I managed to watch a fair bit of the movie through my fingers.  (Jump scares always get me more than anything else.)

I am an FM-come-lately to the world of horror films and I am enjoying catching up on the classics, Phantasm included.  I like stuff that is a little bit scary and just weird enough to be interesting - and as it clocks in at 90 minutes, the movie doesn't overstay its welcome.

Next on the docket:  Night of the Creeps!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Book(s) review: The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare

Mr. Mouse can roll his eyes at my reading material of late all he wants to. I stand firm in saying that The Mortal Instruments series - at this point consisting of City of Bones, City of Ashes and City of Glass - a YA urban fantasy series by Cassandra Clare, is fantastic: smart, funny, sexy and scary. These books have with complex characters, most of whom develop from the first page of Book 1 (CoB) through to the last page of Book 3 (CoG), and a well-paced plot, both in the individual volumes and over the course of the series’s arc. One of the book jacket blurbs promises that BtVS fans will enjoy this series – this BtVS fan says it’s true.

One night at an all-ages nightclub in NYC with her best friend Simon, sixteen-year-old Clary witnesses a murder. Except that the victim is a demon, not a boy, and the murderers are teenaged Shadowhunters (think: Vampire Slayers with support and funding), siblings Alec and Isabelle, and their foster brother Jace. All three are beautiful, strong and deadly, their powers enhanced with rune tattoos, but it is the arrogant, sarcastic and impatient Jace to whom Clary is drawn (to poor Simon’s dismay).

Clary is suddenly thrown headlong into a world she never knew existed, filled with werewolves, vampires, faeries, warlocks and demons. Her apartment is trashed and her mother kidnapped by a rogue Shadowhunter and sunk into a mystical coma. On the run, as she seeks to save her mother, she grows closer and closer to Jace and the other Shadowhunters. In City of Bones, they attempt to keep the Mortal Cup from the hands of Valentine, the rogue Shadowhunter, who seeks to use its powers to compel demons to his bidding. In the second book, City of Ashes, Clary and her compatriots fight Valentine for the Mortal Sword which, if drenched in the blood of Downworlder children – one werewolf, one warlock, one faerie and one vampire – will allow Valentine to summon demons to earth. In City of Glass, the third volume, Clary travels to the Shadowhunters’ homeland, Idris, to continue the battle against Valentine – and to continue the battle against her feelings for Jace, which are more complicated than I would spoil for you here.

Cassandra Clare does a really nice job with these books. Along creating a whole new fantasy world, she peoples it with great characters, all of whom are complicated and heart-breaking and experience character growth throughout the series (with the exception of Isabelle who gets short shrift compared to everyone else) – everyone has relationship issues and parentage issues, and it’s all imminently relatable, werewolves and faeries notwithstanding. The dialogue is – for the most part – snappy, clever and age-appropriate, perhaps a little too Buffy-esque in places but I took that just to be overly familiar and not a bad thing. The battle scenes are eloquent and don’t drag on forever; the love scenes are hot without ever getting to be more than PG-13.

I borrowed these books from a coworker whose love of YA urban fantasy far exceeds mine. Since the next volume in the series, City of Fallen Angels (apparently told from Simon’s point of view – which gets QUITE interesting as of CoA), doesn’t come out until spring 2011, I’ve borrowed Clockwork Angel from her now, a new prequel series by Clare, The Infernal Devices. I’ll let you know how that one goes … I’ve got terribly high hopes for it, based on how much I enjoyed the first three Mortal Instruments.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Why The Road Warrior is the best movie ever for watching at the gym

  1. You don't need to have the sound on.  I've seen this movie so many times, I almost know it by heart, and what little dialogue there is doesn't really add a whole lot to what's going on on-screen.
  2. The action scenes are so fast-paced/frenzied/exciting that it encourages you to pick up your pace subliminally.
  3. All the suburban Utah housewives on the other treadmills give you plenty of space because they're appalled at the movie's violence, outfits and teeth.