11.01.2011

Horrorthon '11 Extro: Exit Wounds

Another October, another set of reviews. I'm satisfied, though it might have been nice to encounter another surprise or two. This month really snuck up on me - I feel like it was just a few weeks ago I was Kevin Baconing "The Angry Red Planet" to the Three Stooges for the first "All the Colours of a Blood-Soaked Screen" event. Of course it doesn't help that I kept putting off the most interesting-looking films on my radar this season - Andrzej Żuławski's "Diabel" and Phillipe Grandrieux' "Sombre" - in favor of utter dreck like "Bloodlust Zombies". Not that there isn't next October... or, y'know, any of the other 11 months between.

On top of the fully reviewed titles (here listed in descending order of preference) "Red State", "Poltergeist II: The Other Side", "TrollHunter" (viewed twice), "Strangeland", "Pet Sematary" and "Scream 4" (along with another season premiere review of AMC's "The Walking Dead"), I viewed a decent handful of other horror (or at least films that can be justified as such), only that handful (of 10, to be exact) failed to evoke the formulated verbosity seen in, say, the "Strangeland" review where I go all tangential about the misadventures of my 16-year-old self's internet chat room persona.

Collected here for posterity's sake are the "My Week in Movies" capsule reviews for these less reaction-inspiring (for better or for worse) titles, in descending order of... well, you get it by now.


Deep Red - Dario Argento, 1975 (REWATCH)
As if I hadn't noted it on my previous two viewings, "Deep Red" is gorgeous! What a load of good-looking fun.

Poltergeist III - Gary Sherman, 1988 (REWATCH)
Don't mind me... just checking... and... yep, I wasn't crazy in my youth; "Poltergeist III" is actually quite good (or maybe I've just never stopped being crazy... but seriously, I think people are unfair to this third outing just for the fact that its tone deviates from the more overt special effects onslaughts that are its predecessors). The unique, intricately mirrored skyrise setting is a spooky pleasure to wander through for 90+ minutes, guided by human and otherworldly voices incessantly calling, "Carol Anne!" Craig T. Nelson is missed, but Tom Skerritt fills the paternal shoes nicely (not as the same character, of course), and Lara Flynn Boyle... man, her late teens were good to her... she is Hotcakes von Hottenstein without a doubt. It's nice to see the credited call-out for Julian Beck and the dedication to Heather O'Rourke, whose untimely death spurred a reworking of the film's ending, which depicted her as temporarily lifeless (this original ending can be read about and viewed in as much detail as possible via set photos at www.PoltergeistIII.com). Regarding the resulting ambiguous ending for the Scott character, my guess is that the actor simply couldn't make it to the reshoot. We are left to wonder whether the Scott that was ejected from the frozen pool and deposited in his own apartment following a questioning is in fact the real Scott as he seemed to be, or if the evil, cheek-tearing "reflection" is all that made it out.

Paranormal Activity 3 - Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman, 2011 (1ST + REWATCH)
Judging from the first two films (the priorly viewed second of which is mused over several titles below), I determined the best way to view "Paranormal Activity 3" would be, well, drunk. I cruised to the nearest convenience store, snagged two BOGOs of Mike's Harder Lemonade and went to town. Man, was I ever right. This third entry - and second prequel - in the franchise that took down "Saw" feels like the composed best we've yet seen from the growing collection of "home video" "found footage". It is the most rounded and satisfying cinematic experience of the standing trio and offers new forms of tension via panning surveillance and children's impressionable imaginations (along with new, deliciously retro set design). It's like examining the most active paranormal footage any "Ghost Hunter" could hope to find, which is silly fun enough to finally get this naysayer on the side of "Team PA" (and if that wasn't a thing, I just made it one). The biggest advantage the series has going for it is that so little story is divulged in each entry; we hang on every score-free, semi-realist moment in hopes of gleaning the newest plot point in the continual backlog (which, upon some skeptical double-checking, does in fact reference past disturbances in its chronologically later predecessors... though there are plenty of unanswered questions for a fourth entry to take care of). This is the sort of movie you actually want people in your audience screaming over and commenting on throughout. Step aside, "Shaun of the Dead", there's a new horror comedy in town... and, incidentally, only maybe 5% of the theatrical trailer footage is in the knowingly "Poltergeist"-esque final cut.

Tales of Terror - Roger Corman, 1962
In the realm of immediate physical reactions to film, "Morella" runs the gamut - you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll cower with heebie-jeebies. The "Cask of the Armontillado" portions of the anthology's second chapter amuse greatly, while its odd amalgam with "The Black Cat" leaves me wishing I'd simply watched a different version of "The Black Cat". Finally, "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" intrigues the mind and chills the bone. These three breezily accessible and simply effective "Tales of Terror" are a "Pricey" treat for any fan of classic horror and Edgar Allan Poe (is that redundant?).

Paranormal Activity 2 - Tod Williams, 2010
Better than the dully grating original if only because every other scene isn't that girl saying, "We should get out of here!" over and over. I can respect these movies' minimalism, the chimeric authenticity of which generates the feel of inglorious home video... I even found fair entertainment value in this sequel once its third act settled in... but I think my interest in programs like "Ghost Hunters" and "Paranormal State" has disintegrated my potential to truly enjoy them (note: read thoughts on "Paranormal Activity 3" above to see where I was wrong to think as much).

Zombies Anonymous - Marc Fratto, 2006
AKA "Last Rites of the Dead". This entertaining, apparently shoestring outing brings freshness to decaying corpses, becoming almost frustrating when it is considered that all its good ideas were used in such a just-one-level-above-student effort.

Dracula - Tod Browning, 1931
Here's another major point of procrastination checked off. After owning the American version of Universal's 1931 "Dracula" production on VHS for over a decade, I finally popped the palatably iconic rendering of Bram Stoker's story on via the convenience of Netflix Instant. This antediluvian Drac is ultra-clunky and drastically abated, but fun nevertheless. Unessential but for its legacy, one so engrained in popular culture most aren't so much as merely conscious of its source.

Slither - James Gunn, 2006
It's... actually pretty feeble, albeit with some disgustingly fun sexual themes I only wish more had been done with, along similar lines as those of "Species" and, to an extent, "Splice". "Slither" does get by, however, on the fact that it really goes for its own gusto. That's not to say there aren't pulled punches (especially noticeable ones when taking in to account Gunn's more recent "Super"), but it's not exactly the kind of movie you're going to want to look away from for want not to miss whatever insane gross-out stunt is next in store. If anything, Michael Rooker.

Bloodlust Zombies - Dan Lantz, 2011
It's exactly what you'd expect - a probably-fun-to-make technical disaster only one step above being softcore pornography, using a porn star's name on the box cover despite that star only being involved for maybe 10 minutes of total screen time (at least half of which is spent in a goofy sex scene). I think what I'm trying to say here is... great movie, you should watch it!

The Ward - John Carpenter, 2010
The atmosphere of John Carpenter's return to feature length directing after nearly a decade is very, well, Carpentery, but possesses little to reinforce the shallow eeriness of its institutional corridors a la the suburbian Haddonfield streets of "Halloween" or the bowels of the arctic station from "The Thing".

Saw: The Final Chapter - Kevin Greutert, 2010
Having only seen the pre-Roman numeral "Saw" when "Saw" was still just the little independent horror movie that could as opposed to the relentless Halloween mainstay of the aughts, with nothing but morbid curiosity I come in to the ineptitude of "The Final Chapter" (an oft-implemented title horror for once used in what would appear to be truth) knowingly missing the wagon regarding much of the fan-tailored proceedings. I can't imagine, though, that there's much more to any of this than watching obvious immorality forced to gruesomely dismember itself for the sake of salvation. Judging from this conclusive piece the series has devolved in to a hasty slapdash collage of "traps", all of which detrimentally lack the cringe-inducing, drawn-out simplicity of the original, which wasn't even quite the cat's bananas to begin with.


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