Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Safety First for a Spooktacular Halloween Video Daily Double!

 Greetings, guys and ghouls! Today is Halloween, and your Cap'n is all too aware that many kids and kids at heart will be spilling out into the streets next Monday in search of treats, tricks, and mayhem. Thankfully, the Cap'n has an few very helpful educational films from the 70s and 80s in order to maximize your spooktacular spoils of tricking and treating.

 Watch and learn, my little ghosts, witches, vampires, and werewolves!


Our first film (in two parts), Halloween Safety, gives you a series of Do's and Don't's for a danger free October 31st.

Our second film (also in two parts), is also called Halloween Safety, and is also from Centron films, but updates the tips and techniques for the 1980s.

 Best of luck to you all! The Cap'n will be waiting...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Horror Fest Special: The Saw Series (Second Cycle)

(editor's note: for the "First Cycle" of Saw films, click here.)

 Did I say "later this week"? My mistake, gang. The Cap'n has been on a bit of a travel schedule as of late, and it's made keeping pieces up to speed a little more difficult. I won't bore you with the details, and instead will dive right into the post-John Kramer as Jigsaw entries into the Saw films.

 It would seem that with the on-screen demise of Kramer (Tobin Bell), not to mention his assistant Amanda (Shawnee Smith), that we would have reached a logical conclusion to the series. However, as Lionsgate realized they had an emerging franchise on their hands ("If it's Halloween, it's Saw") the decision was made to continue the films without the direct involvement of creators Leigh Whannel and James Wan (who moved from screenwriters to Executive Producers and in the interim created Dead Silence and Death Sentence). Saw IV introduced the writing pair of Patrick Melton and Marcus Duston (Feast), who concocted a grand, overarching meta-narrative, for better or for worse.

 When I say "for better or for worse,"  it's worth noting that their intentions were probably good. Whannel did introduce Kramer's wife, Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell, who I always associate with Cheerleader Camp) and it seemed like Jigsaw's work would extend beyond his death, but the lingering question seemed to be "how?" Or maybe "why?" Remember, the concept behind Jigsaw was that Kramer was giving people who took advantage of their own lives the opportunity to face true horror and reassess what life meant to them, as John Kramer had when diagnosed with cancer.

 So why would someone in a different situation feel the compulsion to finish Kramer's work (especially, as it turned out, when it was more about settling grudges than actually teaching strangers lessons). Enter Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), a forensic investigator in Saw III who is promoted to lieutenant for the remainder of the series. Hoffman is both what works and what's wrong with the Dunstan / Melton run of the Saw films (the second and for the time being final cycle), although we don't actually know why until Saw V.

 Unless you watched them in the wrong order, like the Cap'n did. In which case, you would have already seen Saw VII and knew that Hoffman took over as Jigsaw when Kramer died, and worked with (and against) Jill Tuck to "complete" the legacy of the original Jigsaw Killer. He also spiraled out of control and killed most of the police he worked with, including Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson), who was tracking Hoffman as a suspect, Strahm's partner Agent Lindsey Perez (Athena Karkanis), who survived an attack in Saw IV to return in Saw VI, and Erickson (Mark Rolston), the liaison between the agents and the unnamed city's Police Department. Oh, he also kills a bunch of other people, and like Amanda, doesn't seem deeply concerned with whether they played by Jigsaw's rules or not.

 Oh, SPOILER for that whole last paragraph. Right, I forgot, Saw IV. Well, there's Kramer's autopsy, where Hoffman and Strahm find a tape in the stomach and play it, and Jigsaw of course promises that the games are only beginning, etc. His target in Saw IV is SWAT team Lt. Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bent, who appeared in Saw II and III), and Jigsaw merely wants Rigg to play by the rules in order to free Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg), as well as the recently captured Hoffman.

 Now, knowing what I knew going in, I honestly didn't see how you could NOT know Hoffman was the new Jigsaw. In fact, there's a shot where he's sitting at a desk and the camera pans up to show us the Jigsaw "pig" mask. In the context of the film, I suppose that's to suggest he's about to be captured, but to me it looked like he was just transparent about his real intentions. But anyway, once we get past the hysterical overacting and the histrionic dialogue, I guess knowing one of the twists wasn't so bad.

 And since every Saw since the second one has relied on two twists, it's worth noting that the second one, a play on Saw II's "chronology" expectations, is pretty dumb if you're still watching the series out of order (as I was). Saw IV takes place during the same time span as Saw III, so the end of the film essentially picks up with Strahm finding the aftermath of Kramer and Amanda's death, being locked in the room by an unseen Hoffman, and the flashforward back to Hoffman listening to Kramer's tape. So how does the beginning of Saw III, where Matthews escapes, factor into this? Well, that's not really important, you see.

 In the interest of some credit where it's due, I guess not knowing that Hoffman was the new Jigsaw might have improved the experience for Saw fans, but the "it's happening at the SAME TIME" is a pretty lame gimmick. Even a year later, audiences might not remember every character being thrown at them, so with all of the new people coming in I guess it'd be possible to lose track of who's who by the end of the film, where two simultaneous traps are being run and neither party has the slightest idea the other one is there until the very end. It's high concept, I guess, but doesn't stick the landing at all.

 Which brings us to Saw V, where the bad part of the Dunstan / Melton "meta-narrative" begins to rear its ugly head. So we need to explain how Jigsaw had not one, but two (well, actually four, but we'll get to that) assistants and whether they knew each other or not, or whether I'd really care by the end of it all.

 There are two sides of this argument, although I'm inclined to lean more heavily on one than on the other. The first is that, as the Saw films continued, rational human beings who somehow continued watching the series for which the term "torture porn" was coined would begin to wonder how John Kramer could design all of the traps for his victims, capture his victims, and then carry out the "game." After all, he can barely move in Saw II, and these are rather elaborate traps. In fact, it's strongly implied that Kramer was directly involved in all of the traps in all seven films, which is absurd if you think about it.

 The solution, of course, was to invent assistants. First we had Amanda, which was a nice twist because hey, Amanda survived his game and looked up to him. But Amanda would also have some difficulty with the sheer number of traps and people involved in the "games," not to mention being the ringer in Saw II, so Dunstan and Melton took a minor character from Saw III (Hoffman) and elevated him to assistant / new Jigsaw.

 That answers the one side of the argument (kind of), but the other side is "who cares?" Not to be demeaning to its fanbase, but I never once heard any die-hard Saw fan complain that it "didn't make sense" that someone dying of cancer could pull off a workload that would impress six movie crews (hmmm...). As long as the gore kept coming and the traps kept a-killing, they were on board with no concern for logical inconsistencies.

 But since we had to go with the first choice, I can understand why Saw fans hate the fifth movie. Saw V and VI go to absurd lengths to insert Hoffman into the first three films, largely by creating "flashbacks" where Kramer is relying on Hoffman's assistance to capture his prey and set up the "games" (in particular the barbed wire trap from the first film and the centerpiece "game" from Saw II). Why? Because Hoffman decided to copy Jigsaw to settle a score, and Kramer found out, so instead of killing him, he recruits him. Amanda doesn't like Hoffman, and vice versa, but they form an uneasy alliance in order to help the dying man enact his revenge lessons on the guilty.

 Meanwhile, Saw V introduces us to a handful of characters we don't care about and Saw VI the insurance company that refused to cover Kramer's experimental therapy. For good measure, I'll go ahead and throw in Saw VII, which uses a fake Jigsaw "survivor" who Kramer takes umbrage with and accordingly designs an unwinnable game. So, you know, he'll learn a lesson about lying by losing everybody and also tear out his pectoral muscles. Oh, SPOILER.

 From this point forward the films alternate between traps we don't care about with characters we hate, scenes of Hoffman trying not to get caught, and Jill Tuck's mysterious correspondence with an unseen other apprentice, along with more flashbacks so we understand that just because he didn't enter the picture until film three, Hoffman was there the entire time. The gore is plentiful, if tiresome, the plot twists are half-assed (two characters theoretically survive the game in Saw V but we never see them again), and everything seems to be building towards a loop connecting film seven to film one.

 Which brings us to Dr. Lawrence Gordon, who cut his own foot off at the end of Saw and was bleeding and hysterical as Adam was bleeding to death from a gunshot wound. At the beginning of Saw VII, we see that Dr. Gordon managed to open the door, drag himself along the floors, and cauterize his wound with a hot pipe. And then, at the end of the film, we find out that Kramer found him (no Hoffman or Amanda this time), nursed him back to health, got him a job back at the hospital in a secret room, and had Jill communicate with him in secret. Why? Well, Jill was John's fail-safe, and in his guilt over her losing a child or something (it's a large subplot in Saw IV, V, and VI that honestly didn't seem to go anywhere), so when Hoffman goes rogue and tries to kill everybody (including Jill, who slaps Amanda's trap on his head at the end of Saw VI), she can activate their sleeper cell.

 Dr. Gordon, in the meantime, is also making the rounds holding support groups for survivors of Jigsaw's games, which is how we're reintroduced to him in the present. His path crosses with Bobby (Sean Patrick Flannery), the aforementioned faker, who decides to show up at one of these meetings as a publicity stunt. We also see Simone, played by VH1's Scream Queens winner Tanedra Howard, who cut her own arm off in Saw VI, but not Julie Benz, who "won" at the end of Saw V, presumably because she realized that unless you become Jigsaw's accomplice, there's no real point in coming back for another Saw sequel. It's kind of the opposite of most horror franchises - instead of dying at the beginning of the next movie, you disappear for a while and then get to be the killer's mysterious "other" sidekick.

 Luckily for us, Dr. Gordon is just that accomplice, complete with his own heretofore unseen flashbacks that happened concurrently with the Amanda, Jill, and Hoffman John Kramer flashbacks. His purpose, it turns out, is to take out Hoffman once everybody else is dead, and then chain him to the floor of the bathroom facade from Saw, say "game over" and close the door. Dunstan and Melton have blown our collective minds with how the series came full circle... but wait...

 As I mentioned when I reviewed Saw VII, because the end of the film is essentially the same as the ending of Saw II, where Amanda is revealed to be the accomplice and locks Eric Matthews in the same room with the same chain, then we already know that Hoffman can easily escape by breaking his ankle. He's not trapped at all, and I'll give him enough credit to suggest that Hoffman is smarter than Matthews, so there's a good chance he could escape and not be captured by Gordon (the only remaining Jigsaw).

 Wait... hold on. I think I mentioned this in the last piece, but all of Jigsaws games are situated in one of two locations: in the house (where Saw and Saw II take place, and where the bathroom is) or the warehouse where III, IV, V, and VI take place. The police know about the house, and it's safe to say that they might eventually find the warehouse that Hoffman operated out of, but how did Dr. Gordon get into the house to lock anybody up in the bathroom when it's at least a reasonably safe guess that it's under some form of surveillance? After all, it's a known hideout of the Jigsaw Killer, who is still on the loose, and Gordon snuck in Mark Hoffman without anybody so much as noticing?

What's that, you say? "Who cares," you say? Oh, right. Well, that's the Saw series in a nutshell. If it seems like I tend to skip over large parts of the last film in each portion of this special series, it's because I have a difficult time staying invested in giving you recaps and analysis, and let's be honest, they kind of bleed together (no pun intended). I watched Saw IV, V, and VI in one weekend, and they're pretty much all one giant ret-con of the first three films, with the final serving in VII that, if you managed to stick around for, you could see coming a mile away. Also, if you hate Linkin Park, I guess there's something to like in Saw VII - lead singer Chester Bennington has to rip his own back off. Now that's classy.

 For now, that ends our Saw coverage; Whannel and Wan have indicated publicly that they'd like a shot at "ending the series" their own way, and I have the feeling that Lionsgate will probably give them the opportunity, as the fans will line up to see it. Maybe next time I'll look at Dunstan and Melton's The Collector (which began its cinematic life as a proposed Saw sequel) and its forthcoming sequel, The Collection. I mean, if they're anywhere as well thought out as the second cycle of Saw films (or the Feast sequels), then how could I not be a winner?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Trailer Sunday Presents the Halloween Series


Halloween II

Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers

Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers

Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers

Halloween H20

Halloween Resurrection

Halloween (2007)

Halloween 2 (2009)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Darkness Approaches in Another Spooktacular Video Daily Double!

 Welcome back to another edition of Cap'n Howdy's Video Daily Double, this month devoted to horror short subjects. This week I'm going to share two films I saw at the Nevermore Film Festival, and I think you'll find them sufficiently unnerving.

 Proceed with caution!


 Our first short film, Enter the Dark, is probably one of the better takes on the "found footage" subgenre (Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project) I've seen in a while. It starts out a little slow, but when things get rolling, damn does it keep you on edge. Watch it with the lights out.

 Our second short film, Incubator, doesn't mess around. That's all I'm going to say.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Horror Fest 7 Presents The Universal Classic Monsters



The Mummy

The Invisible Man

Bride of Frankenstein

The Wolf Man

Creature from the Black Lagoon

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Another Double Dose of Horror Shorts for Your Video Daily Double

 Welcome back, horror fans! Cap'n Howdy returns for another double dose of frights and chills for the Video Daily Double. Today we'll move a little forward and take a look at some short subjects designed to give you the creeps. Are you ready???

 Are you???


 Our first short, a 1953 adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, narrated by James Mason. It's not merely the story, but also the nightmarish visuals that help deliver the unsettling sensation caused while watching this film.

Our second short, The Dummy, was created for HBO and USA's Saturday Nightmares, and it certainly fits that category.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Horror Fest Special: The Saw Series (First Cycle)

 As some of you know, the Cap'n has never been what you would call the biggest fan on the Saw films. In fact, I aggressively avoided most of the sequels when they played in theatres and, for quite a while, when they hit DVD / Blu-Ray. I watched the first film, which was bloody but not very good, and then the second film, which was just not very good, and called it a day. I'd read the spoilers for the subsequent films and listen to friends cackle at how ridiculous the series' mythology became, but like the Paranormal Activity movies, I didn't feel and overwhelming desire to watch them myself.

 Then, because I was working on "What the Hell" week, designed to see movies I'd never otherwise watch, Saw VII landed in my lap. I thought it might be fun to watch the "last" movie in the saga completely out of context, and it turned out that I didn't really need to be up to date to follow what turns out to be a fairly generic concept in sequel production. While I don't necessarily regret having seen it, I did realize that Saw as a franchise didn't have much going for it.

 Still, it made the Cap'n wonder how the degree of absurd retconning to the story of Jigsaw happened, where the hell Mark Hoffman came from, and what other stupid plot twists I missed in the intervening chapters, so I watched Saw III, IV, V, and VI (the latter three in the span of two days), and I thought I'd share my findings with you.

 Today we'll start with the "first cycle" of Saw films, the ones where Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is the direct antagonist, and later this week we'll take a look at the "second cycle" where the original Jigsaw is replaced by Lt. Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) and the films become increasingly erratic in their attempts to bridge the characters together.

 Let's begin with Saw, which seems to be a generic Seven rip-off with the added benefit of having two victims trying to escape one of Jigsaw's traps. The film begins with what would become a trademark of the series - a cold open introducing us to someone who wakes up in a seemingly inescapable "trap." A video with a puppet plays, prompting the victim to "live or die, make your choice" and in this instance a man must crawl through razor / barbed wire in order to escape. He bleeds to death halfway through, so we meet Detective David Tapp (Danny Glover), a man obsessed with catching the Jigsaw Killer. Along with his partner, Detective Steven Sing (Danny Leung), Tapp is moving in closer to the elusive killer, who never actually murders his victims, but forces them to do horrible things to themselves (or others) in order to survive, like Amanda (Shawnee Smith), who cut a man open to find the key to remove a contraption that would otherwise rip her jaw off.

 To be honest, in retrospect, Saw isn't that great of a movie, but it masks its low budget and bad acting by keeping the clock ticking as Tapp and Sing try to find Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and Adam Faulkner-Sandheight (Leigh Whannel), who we are simultaneously following as they make sense of their situation. Chained in a dilapidated bathroom with a pair of saws and two tape recorders, and a bloodied body between them, Lawrence and Adam don't necessarily understand why they have to play Jigsaw's game. Through selective reveals of information, the audience is unaware of the connection between the two, or how either one of them might be involved with John Kramer (who we discover at the end of the film is not only the Jigsaw killer, but is also the "body" lying between Gordon and Faulkner when he stands up and leaves them for dead. SPOILER.)

 Most of the film we're led to believe that Zep (Lost's Michael Emerson) is Jigsaw, until we discover he too has a tape from the real mastermind and is also following directions. What we don't know is how reliant the Saw films are going to be on scenes of screaming victims who waste most of their time yelling and not trying to stay alive or paying attention, but we'll find out soon enough...

 Anyway, knowing what I know now about how the rest of the series copies the worst parts of the first film (the "twist" with flashbacks, the hysterical overacting, the over-reliance on gore to cover up for lack of story logic, and persistent misdirection), I guess that Saw does the best job of it, in that we don't immediately know what's going to happen when the film starts, unlike Saw II.

 Speaking of Saw II, we meet Jigsaw as he's been captured and interrogated by Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg, replacing the definitely dead from part I Ken Leung and the probably dead or just wouldn't come back Danny Glover), a shrill, idiotic blowhard just begging to be part of Jigsaw's game. Luckily for him (and unluckily for us?), Jigsaw allowed himself to be arrested in order to teach detective Matthews a lesson. See, the cancer stricken Jigsaw took Daniel, Eric's son, and placed him in a "game" with other lowlifes, including previous game survivor Amanda. If Matthews is willing to sit and watch the video feed from the house, then he will discover that Daniel is "quite safe," but since the films almost immediately drop off in quality, you can guess where this is going.

 I will give Saw II credit for having a twist built around our expectations of the same parallel story-telling from the first film - the twist that the "game" isn't happening live, but is instead recorded footage, isn't as good as "the killer was in the room the whole time," but it does at least provide a better "bait and switch" than later chapters can offer. Tobin Bell is front and center as Kramer / Jigsaw, and he helps temper the grating performance by Wahlberg, who is so one-dimensionally stupid that I'm honestly amazed he has the good sense to do what Dr. Gordon didn't think of at the beginning of Saw III. Speaking of which, I guess the revelation that the "game" is happening in the same building where the first film took place is an okay idea, but now that the police are aware that it exists I find it really hard to believe Saw VII can end the way it does.

 The victims are mostly one dimensional, behave like morons, and die accordingly. I can't honestly say that I would behave in a wholly rational way if I found myself in their situation, but the persistently idiotic behavior, even after they've clearly had time to digest their dilemma, smacks of lazy writing. Instead of "how would they react knowing what they know" the general behavior of every character in one of Jigsaw's traps is to "forget everything you just witnessed and immediately do the dumbest possible thing before being killed."

 Oh, then there's the other "twist," which helps explain how a guy with cancer can set up such elaborate traps: Amanda is Jigsaw's accomplice (well, one of them. Let's just say that it doesn't explain it well enough, necessitating Hoffman's ridiculous involvement over the last four films). Eric Matthews is knocked out after dragging Kramer to the house (the last one on the left), and he awakens to find Amanda locking him in the same bathroom from the first film. Cue credits.

 This brings us to Saw III, which brings back Matthews, who has the good sense NOT to cut his foot off (like Dr. Gordon did), but instead to smash his ankle so that he can escape being chained to the wall, although that's the last time we'll see him in this film. The first Saw cycle ends as Jigsaw is on his (as it turns out, literal) death bed. After killing off Detective Allison Kerry (Dina Meyer), the only cop to appear in all three films, Jigsaw and Amanda set their sights on Lynn (Bahar Soomekh), a doctor who might be able to keep John Kramer alive. In fact, she MUST keep him alive, or the explosive collar around her throat will detonate.

 Meanwhile, Jeff (Angus McFayden) is playing one of Jigsaw's games, the one that Lynn must keep John alive for, and as usual there are twists about how the two protagonists are connected, and there's perfunctory gore with a victim opening the film and someone drowns in pig guts. At the end, Lynn dies, but not before killing Amanda and Jigsaw, and then something really stupid happens. Oh wait, that's the first example of how the series begins to desperately connect the post-Tobin Bell as Jigsaw with the Mark Hoffman as Jigsaw eras, which brings us to the second cycle, which we'll deal with next time...

 For the Second Cycle, click here.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Trailer Sunday Presents the Films of George A. Romero (Part Two)



Day of the Dead

Monkey Shines

Two Evil Eyes

The Dark Half


Land of the Dead

Diary of the Dead

Survival of the Dead

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Spooking Things Up with the Video Daily Double!

 Greeting, shrieks and freaks! The Cap'n is putting away the educational films of yesteryear for the rest of October (sorry, Educationeers) to bring you a double dose of horror shorts every week for the spookiest month of the year.  Today's Video Daily Double is going in the wayback machine, but not to ironically appreciate the quaint social engineering of days gone by. Today we're going to look at two vintage short horror-related subjects!



 Our first film is Thomas Edison's adaptation of Frankenstein, from 1910. It's the first filmed adaptation of the novel, even if it's a "liberal" version of the story. Enjoy!

 Our second film, Boo!, is from 1932, after Universal hit it big with Dracula and Frankenstein. It's a little snarkier in tone, but does include Nosferatu.

Monday, October 8, 2012

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

 Forget December, the month of October has and likely will always be Cap'n Howdy's favorite time of the year. After all, you don't give yourself a bastardized moniker from The Exorcist without being into horror movies, and the season of Samhain / Devil's Night / Halloween is exactly the time for a good scare.

 As many of you know, the Cap'n also holds my annual festival of shocks this time of year, and Horror Fest VII will be a-happening, albeit probably later than usual for reasons I'll get into when the official announcement is made. In the meantime, I like to stack October with reviews for horror films, so while I will continue to watch movies like Looper and The Campaign, the focus from here on out will be on thrills and chills, with the occasional horror documentary thrown in for good measure.

 However, as the Cap'n finds himself at work more often than he isn't, I haven't had the time I normally have to seek out horror movies I haven't seen. That makes it harder to share them with all of you, so I'm opening up the comments for solicitations, recommendations, and any ideas of "theme" reviews (like looking at a series of films or one particular actor/actress's body of work).

  Below, I'm going to try to list as many horror films as I can remember having seen so you don't have to deal with Cap'n Buzzkill saying "seen that" over and over. In all honesty, while I have seen many horror films, there are a LOT I haven't and even more I haven't heard of that I'm sure would be cool to see. Just a note: I have tried and failed to enjoy Syfy Channel Original Movies, and don't see that changing.

 Alternately, you can use the below list to construct your own October movie playlist. This way, we both win!


 The Universal Classic Monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera, Son of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Ghost of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Revenge of the Creature, The Creature Walks Among Us, Werewolf of London.

 The Classics: Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, M, The Old Dark House, The Haunting, Night of the Living Dead, The Exorcist, Halloween, Rosemary's Baby, The Omen, The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, Carrie, Godzilla, Island of Lost Souls, Vampyr, Blood Feast (?), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Alien, Suspiria, The Shining, Psycho.

 Hammer Horror: The Horror of Dracula, Taste the Blood of Dracula, Dracula has Risen from the Grave, The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula A.D. 1972, Plague of the Zombies, Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, The Woman in Black.

 Werewolves: An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, Ginger Snaps, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, Ginger Snaps Back, Dog Soldiers, Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory, The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman, Silver Bullet, Bad Moon, Waxwork (?).

 Vampires: Mark of the Vampire, Return of the Vampire, Martin, The Lost Boys, Let the Right One In, Curse of the Undead, Fright Night, Fright Night II, From Dusk Till Dawn, From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, Slaughter of the Vampires, Vampire's Kiss, Shadow of the Vampire, Innocent Blood, Daybreakers, The Hunger, Thirst, Near Dark, The Lost Boys: The Tribe, Dracula 2000, Bram Stoker's Dracula, I Am Legend, The Omega Man, The Last Man on Earth, 30 Days of Night, 30 Days of Night: Dark Days, Cronos, Sleepwalkers, Salem's Lot, Vampire Hunter D, Rabid.

 Ghosts: The Lady in White, The Orphanage, The Devil's Backbone, Hillbillys in a Haunted House, The Entity, House on Haunted Hill, Thirteen Ghosts, The Asphyx, The Others, The Frighteners, The House by the Cemetery.

 Zombies / Infected / Fake Zombies: Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, Survival of the Dead, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, The Crazies, The Signal, Pontypool, Zombi 2, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, Dead Snow, Cemetery Man, Dead & Buried, Planet Terror, Fido, [REC]3: Genesis, Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, The Dead, Dead Alive / Braindead, Bong of the Dead, Zombies on Broadway, Zombie Strippers, Tombs of the Blind Dead, The Dead Hate the Living.

 Evil Houses / Hotels / Etc.: Hausu, The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist, The Inkeepers, 1408, The Legend of Hell House, Silent Hill.

 Creature Features: The Giant Claw, The Boogens, ThanksKilling, Rise of the Animals, Ghoulies, Ghoulies 2, Troll, Troll 2, Alligator People, Them!, Feast, Feast II: Sloppy Seconds, Feast III: The Happy Ending, Black Sheep, C.H.U.D., Night of the Lepus, Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, Weasels Rip My Flesh, Kingdom of the Spiders, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, Matango, Piranha, Jeepers Creepers, Jeepers Creepers 2, Phenomena, Monsturd, Attack of the Crab Monsters, Little Shop of Horrors, The Gingerdead Man.

 Killbillies: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Wrong Turn, Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2, The Devil's Rejects, House of 1000 Corpses, I Spit On Your Grave.

 Killbots: Chopping Mall

 Killer Trees: The Happening, From Hell It Came, The Navy vs. the Night Monster.

 Found Footage: [REC], [REC]2, CloverfieldThe Blair Witch Project.

 Aliens / Invaders / Etc.: Invaders from Mars, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Fiend without a Face, Flesh Eaters from Outer Space, A Taste for Flesh and Blood 2, Galaxy of Terror, The Blob, Beware! The Blob, Forbidden World, The Deadly Spawn, Plan 9 from Outer Space, The Whisperer in Darkness, The Call of Cthulhu, Alien Apocalypse, Terminal Invasion, Attack the Block, Terrorvision, The Stuff, The Galaxy Invader, Bad Taste, The Faculty, The Thing from Another World.

 Satan / Demons / Pagans / Witches / Etc.: Night of the Demons, The House of the Devil, Incubus, Demons, Demons 2, The Church, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, The Wicker Man, From Beyond, The Gate, Inferno, The Mother of Tears, Satan's Little Helper, The Rest of the Exorcist movies, Season of the Witch, Equinox, Lisa and the Devil, Manos: The Hands of Fate.

 Killer Santas: Silent Night, Deadly Night, Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2, Saint, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, Santa's Slay, Christmas Evil.

 The John Carpenter Section: In the Mouth of Madness, The Fog, Prince of Darkness, The Ward, Ghosts of Mars (?), Vampires, The Thing.

 Anthologies / Amicus: Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, The House That Dripped Blood, Doctor Terror's House of Horrors, From Beyond the Grave, Tales That Witness Madness, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, Trick 'r Treat, Creepshow, Creepshow 2, House of Frankenstein, Trilogy of Terror, Cat's Eye, Black Sunday, Chillers, Spirits of the Dead, Tales of Terror, Two Evil Eyes, Twilight Zone: The Movie.

 Blaxploitation: Blacula, Blackenstein, Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde, Scream Blacula Scream, Abby, Tales from the Hood.

 Slasher Flicks / Giallo: Black Christmas, The House on Sorority Row, Slumber Party Massacre (1-3), Sleepaway Camp, The Burning, The Prowler, Uncle Sam, Splatter University, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Maniac Cop, The Stepfather, Maniac, The Driller Killer, The Stepfather 2, See No Evil, Cheerleader Camp, A Night to Dismember, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Sorority Babes at the Slime Ball Bowl-o-Rama, Mortuary, Evil Laugh, Visiting Hours, April Fool's Day, The New York Ripper, The Tool Box Murders, Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye, Cat in the Brain, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Deep Red, Blood and Black Lace, Pieces, Blood Runs Cold, Sisters, Dressed to Kill.

 Horror Series: Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, Halloween, The Evil Dead, Child's Play, Leprechaun, Re-Animator, Phantasm, Return of the Living Dead, Saw, Resident Evil, Scream, Wishmaster, Hostel, Underworld, Blade.

 Remakes: Quarantine, Quarantine 2: Terminal, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, John Carpenter's The Thing, The Fly, The Crazies, Shit Coffin, Shit Coffin 2, Fright Night, Piranha 3D, Piranha 3DD, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, The Hills Have Eyes, House on Haunted Hill, Th13een Ghosts, The Wicker Man, Night of the Living Dead, My Bloody Valentine 3D, The Wizard of Gore, The Thing (remake/prequel), The Ring, The Ring 2, Willard, Night of the Living Dead 3D, The Wolfman, The Blob, Bodysnatchers, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Haunting.

 Horror Documentaries: Fangoria Weekend of Horrors, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Revisited: A Family Portrait, Halloween: 25 Years of Terror, His Name was Jason, More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead, Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, Val Lewton : The Man in the Shadows, Screaming in High Heels: The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era, Best Worst Movie, Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, American Scary.

 Horror Comedies / Parodies / Etc.: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Shaun of the Dead, Student Bodies, Return to Horror High, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Scary Movie, Scary Movie 2, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Beetlejuice (?), Ghostbusters (?), House, House II: The Second Story, Drag Me to Hell, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, 2001 Maniacs, Basket Case, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, It's Alive, Night of the Comet, Night of the Creeps, Cabin Fever, I Sell the Dead, Some Guy Who Kills People, Slither, The Monster Squad, Dead Heat, Zombieland, The Puppet Monster Massacre, Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, My Name is Bruce, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dark Shadows, Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight, The House of Long Shadows, Tales from the Crypt Presents Bordello of Blood.

 Meta Horror: The Cabin in the Woods, Behind the Mask; The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Rubber, Funny Games.

 Things That Don't Exactly Fall Into Those Categories: The Descent, Absentia, The Descent Part 2, Blood Car, Teeth, The Mist, The Ruins, Death Bed: The Bed That Eats, The Toxic Avenger, Frankenhooker, Street Trash, High Tension, Martyrs, House of Wax, The Raven (1932), The Black Cat, May, Roman, Sleepy Hollow, Faces of Death, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Godsend, Village of the Damned, The Bad Seed, Maximum Overdrive.

 Okay, so this isn't everything, but I have to stop for now. As I remember more, I'll update more, but please let me know if there's something I NEED to see or would really enjoy or if there's something you really want me to review.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Trailer Sunday Presents the Films of George A. Romero (Part One)

Night of the Living Dead

There's Always Vanilla

Season of the Witch

The Crazies


Dawn of the Dead

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Your Guess is as Good as Mind (A Very Special Video Daily Double)

 Howdy, Educationeers! Before we head into "spooky" October territory, I thought I'd share to short educational films that, well, I can't quite wrap my head around. This is a Video Daily Double where we can all clearly learn something... I'm just not sure what. But guess what? You get to help me! So we all win!!!



 Our first film, Jay Can Do It, is about Jay. He can do it. What can he do, you say? Well, all sorts of things, I think.

 Our second film, Skippy Learns a Lesson, is about a racist dog. Yep... that's right. But he learns a lesson about how not to be racist, so that's good, right?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Retro Review: The Terminal

 Today's Retro Review is a special request from Blogorium regular Cranpire, who asked me to write about "anything with Chi McBride." Specifically, he asked for Let's Go to Prison, but it's hard to write a movie where I look back at something I never saw the first time around. He also mentioned Baby Mama, which I did see, but that doesn't appear to have Chi McBride in it.

 So while refreshing my memory about what Chi McBride movies I have seen (answer: not many) on IMDB*, I remembered he was in The Frighteners, and as it's October that makes sense to take a look back at. But instead I'm going to write about Steven Spielberg's The Terminal.

 I don't remember much about The Terminal because I saw it on DVD seven or eight years ago and while it was pleasant I would not consider it to be of a "higher quality" Steven Spielberg joint. It's like mid-level Spielberg, somewhere between Hook and Always. Not as bad as 1941 but not in the same league as the much better movie he made before this, Catch Me If You Can. It's definitely not a movie that anybody's going to mention in Spielberg or Tom Hanks' obituary. Chi McBride's, maybe.

 So Chi McBride plays Mulroy, who if I remember correctly is one of the guys who works in the baggage claim / behind the scenes mechanic stuff with Diego Luna (Cas de Mi Padre) and who befriends Viktor Navorski (Hanks), the foreign guy trapped in the airport because the fictional country he comes from no longer exists and he therefore cannot leave the terminal and go to America or be sent home. Why this was a movie and not a sitcom, I'm not sure, but now that I've mentioned this fact we can look forward to it on ABC next fall.

 And yes, it's based on a true story about an Iranian who lived in a French airport for 17 years because somebody stole his passport, but that's not going to stop sitcom shenanigans. Tom Hanks is clearly playing eastern European in the movie, and people love eastern European stereotypes (see: Perfect Strangers).

 Honestly I can't remember what Chi McBride's story arc is, so I'm just going to assume he's involved in helping Viktor to woo Enrique (Luna)'s love interest, Dolores Torres (Zoe Saldana) by appealing to her love of Star Trek. I wonder if JJ Abrams saw The Terminal and thought "Huh. Well, that was okay, but I think I found my new Uhura for the Star Trek remake I'll direct in five years!" Stranger things have happened (see: The Terminal sitcom next fall on ABC). They are successful, or at least more successful than Viktor is at wooing Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), which if I remember correctly doesn't pan out. Sometimes it's too much to ask for a stewardess (pardon me, flight attendant) to fall in love with a Krakozhian.

 Even back then I wondered why this movie needed to be two hours long, and as impressive as the terminal is (and it's a set) and the actors being fine and all, the script by Andrew Niccol (In Time) just doesn't need to be this long. I forgot I was supposed to care about the box of photos of jazz musicians that Viktor is carrying around (is that right? I'm just going to pretend it is and somebody can correct me in the comments) and it just felt like one of those contrivances to keep this movie from seeming as trivial and formulaic as it is.

 And it's not like I hated The Terminal, I just didn't think it was all that impressive. Catch Me If You Can, which has an as arguably gimmicky "true story" premise, manages to pack in more genuine emotion and unexpected twists and turns and while I didn't like Minority Report it looked like a different movie than Spielberg usually makes. Mind you, Munich pretty much removed any questions about whether the director was taking it easy during the mid-2000s, so The Terminal is just kind of there. It's a movie people don't mention much, but I bet Chi McBride doesn't mind putting it on his filmography. I mean, he's worked with Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg. I mean, no offense Dominic Sena**, but their track records are a little better.


 * He was also in I, Robot, Undercover Brother, and a bunch of movies I never saw because they were Mercury Rising, Waiting..., Still Waiting..., Cradle 2 The Grave, Roll Bounce, Annapolis, and Revenge of the Nerds Part III.
** But in all seriousness, Mr. Sena, I did like Kalifornia a lot when I saw it in high school. Haven't seen it since but I bet it's still pretty good.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Blogorium Review: Looper

 I'm not even sure I should be allowed to review Rian Johnson's Looper without having seen it a second time. I mean, the moment the credits rolled I regretted going to see the 10pm showing and not the one before so that I could slink down low, bide my time, and then watch the movie again immediately.  Like Primer, another time travel film that the writer / director took the time to "get it right," by the time you see the last image in Looper, it's hard not to want to start the movie over and watch it to find things you didn't know to look for. I don't normally have the strong desire to see something a second time so quickly, so hopefully this gives you some idea of how strongly I'm recommending Looper.

 Why get that out of the way in the first paragraph? Well, if you are on the fence about Looper, just know you should go see it now. I'd love to write a spoiler free review, or to try to give you a Cabin in the Woods-esque "the less you know, the better" review, but if I do that then describing Looper is nothing more than a plot synopsis of the first quarter of the film, and you can find that anywhere. So stop reading this review right now, go see Looper, and the Cap'n will be waiting when you get back.

  In the mean time, if you really need a plot synopsis: Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a "looper," an assassin hired to kill people sent from the future (2074-ish) to the past (2044-ish) by criminal organizations. As he explains in the opening narration, "time travel hasn't been invented yet, but one day it will be. It is immediately outlawed and only used by the most powerful criminal organizations." The crime syndicates use time travel to dispose of people - they send them back in time, a looper kills them and disposes of the body. No evidence of a murder because the person didn't technically exist, no crime in the future, it's all clean for the crooks.

 Joe isn't exactly a good guy - he uses drugs and liaisons with stripper / prostitute (Piper Perabo), drives his fancy car around the city, nearly running down the destitute masses that make up this near future. His fellow loopers are all "closing their loops," the moment when they kill themselves from the future, receive a significant payoff and are free to enjoy the next thirty years of their lives, but a mistake on the part of Joe's friend Seth (Paul Dano) raises the ire of their boss, Abe (Jeff Daniels). Abe is from the future and stays in the past to make sure that loops are closed and that everything goes smoothly, so when Seth fails to kill his older self, a serious problem arises.

 It's just not quite as serious as when Joe's future self (Bruce Willis) comes back with a plan of his own...

 Reading any further goes into spoiler territory. I've recapped everything you learn from the trailers, minus the significance of Emily Blunt's character Sara. I'll deal with that below the break, so if you haven't seen Looper yet, I highly recommend you do so. Cap'n Howdy is very patient.


 So you're back? Good. Did you like it? I'm guessing that if you bothered to come back to continue reading this that you did, because if you had "a lot of problems" with it then I'm not sure I'll be able to change your mind. But I guess we'll see, right?

 The reason I'm putting everything that happens after Young Joe makes it to Sara's farm is because the second half of Looper (or, basically, the "Cid / Rainmaker" part of the film) is where the movie goes from just being a really well made time travel film and transitions into "wow" territory. Rian Johnson introduces all sorts of concepts about the inevitability of changing the past (whether it's actually possible or not) and the ramifications of making those changes by mostly avoiding paradoxes. I say "almost" because I'm still on the fence about the way that Young Joe closes his loop and ultimately prevents the Rainmaker from ever being, but we'll get to that later. First, I want to throw out one (probably erroneous) reading of the last scene in the film.

 Like Shane Carruth did with Primer*, Johnson constructs Looper in such a way that no detail, however minor, is insignificant. From the seemingly incidental "TK" mutation that 10% of the population has in the future to the range of a looper's blunderbuss compared to a pistol, there's nothing mentioned in the film that doesn't resonate somewhere later in the picture. Johnson's screenplay is one of a series of loops, all of which close in on themselves somewhere to one degree or the other.

 So then what are we to make of the scene where Young Joe is visiting Suzie (Perabo) after Seth dies? In the scene, Joe mentions that one of the few things he remembers about his mother is the way she ran her fingers through his hair, one that Suzie tries to replicate. It's exactly the same way that Sara runs her fingers through Joe's hair after he shoots himself with the blunderbuss, preventing Old Joe from killing Sara and, in effect, creating the Rainmaker (the 12 Monkeys "inevitability of fate" narrative trick, appropriate considering Bruce Willis' role in both films).

 I can't quite rationalize in my mind that Sara is the mother that Joe doesn't remember or, to go beyond that, there's a possibility that Cid grows up to be Joe, although there are some details in the film that might loosely support it. For one thing, she does seem to behave differently towards Joe after he sacrifices himself, although one could argue she knew who he was all along. Let's look at a couple of concepts in the film that led me to this theory:

 If Young Joe kills himself to prevent Old Joe from ever being, is he closing that loop, or is he closing another loop?

 1) It's established that when a loop is closed, the Looper receives a large sum of money and has thirty years to do whatever they choose. So when Joe dies, Sara discovers the car full of money, and Young Joe is roughly thirty years older than Cid.

 2) The final images in the film cut back and forth from Sara with Young Joe to Sara putting Cid in bed, and there's a visual bridge made between the two that seems to go beyond the fact that he prevented the Rainmaker from ever being. That Johnson cuts from Sara running her fingers through Joe's hair to Cid lying in bed with a bandage over his face (I really want to look to see if Levitt or Willis has a scar on their cheek) seems to me to be more important than just "time can be changed for the better."

 3) When Young Joe meets Old Joe in the cafe, Old Joe explains that his memories get fuzzy when he's in the past. He can only remember things that happened to Young Joe as they happen, and he struggles to remember his wife from the future's face. This might explain why Young Joe can't remember much about his mother - it's possible that at some point between the end of the film and when he's older that Cid / Joe is sent back in time and that his memory is a construct designed to prevent him from knowing Sara when he meets her.

 But I can't get past the fact that means Joe slept with his own mother, or the fact that Cid has advanced "TK" abilities and Joe doesn't, so how could Cid grow up to be Joe? One could make an even crazier argument that Joe pulls a Futurama "Roswell That Ends Well" and that he's his own father, so Sara gives birth to Young Joe, sends him back in time, and "sells" him to criminals so that Abe finds him and hires him to be a looper, but that's pushing it, even for me.

 Still, there's something about those final images, about the way Sara holds Joe and the intercutting between Joe and Cid that seems like more than just a poignant way of closing the proverbial "loop" on the film. There's something deliberate about echoing the detail about Joe's mother going on at the end of Looper, and I'm really going to need to watch it again to see what else is happening in the various loops introduced during the film.

 Any theories are welcome, because I'm sure that mine is a pretty out there one, and while there's some information to support it I can't convince myself it's enough. Not with one viewing, anyway. But damn is that a well constructed film.

 Oh? The paradox? Well, while Looper is careful to avoid getting bogged down in (as Old Joe calls it) "Time Travel shit," one could argue that if Young Joe prevents Old Joe from ever being, there's no reason he would even be at Sara's farm in the first place, so she and Cid wouldn't know who he was or what he was doing in the first place because they never meet. Looper does introduce the concept that the future can be affected by changing the present while still allowing people in the present to remember things that change (also the "memories of possibilities" speech by Old Joe) but you could argue that Young Joe killing himself undoes the necessity for Young Joe to ever be there in the first place, which is a paradox.

 Anyway, go see the damn movie. See it again. I plan to. I didn't even mention the technical details or the relationship between Abe and Kid Blue (Noah Segan) or the visual style or the fantastic way Johnson demonstrates how Young Joe becomes Old Joe and why Willis comes back in the first place. I could probably write about Looper all day if I wanted to.

 * It's worth noting that while he appears in the credits under "special thanks," Carruth served as the "Time Travel" adviser for Looper.