October 21

Surely there was a time when Charles Band didn’t just make shitty puppet horror movies?

Or maybe there wasn’t.

Well, I am being unfair- Empire International Pictures (his early company) produced gems like Re-animator (as well as a number of non-gems.

But man, at some point he really got into shitty puppets and never looked back. Ghoulies might have been that turning point, as it preceeded all of Band’s Full Moon Entertainment schlock. (The Puppet Master series, Subspecies series- which didn’t even need the little monsters Band apparently insisted on inserting).

Ghoulies is remarkable if only for the catchy tagline, the cutesy-gross poster, and the early appearence by Mariska Hargitay. Man, Lisa Pelikan’s skin looks uber-porcelein in the trailer, doesn’t it? Scott Thomson shows up for comic relief- actually, more than half the cast is there for comic relief.

Ghoulies is a weird one, it feels like an Italian horror pic at times, with occultism and hints of a killer mannequin and… a lot of party sequences and friends standing around looking wealthy and bored. There is a sub-genre of 80s horror that seems to consist of the idle wealthy youths being picked off one by one- maybe to counter the grubbier slashers? Who can say. Who cares? Not the Ghoulies.

They’ll get you… in the end.

October 20

Ben Wheatley is a director to watch. His first film, Down Terrace was a darkly funny, family crime drama with a great cast. The trailer for his Sightseers was a horror-trailer of the day earlier this month- it looks to be funny, morbid, love story about thrill killers.

His Kill List also has a dark humor, but it takes a back-seat to one of the most gut-wrenching movies I have seen.

Kill List is basically an exercise in unbearable tension. With a slow-burn start about low-key domestic strife burbling beneath the surface to it’s increasingly macabre and brutal events- like a New Wave melange of… of Grosse Point Blank with The Wicker Man, plus a hearty dash of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

And as weird a pitch as that is, the trailer seems to touch at it, hint at it, all while showing the eerie, methodical vision of a masterful storytelling doing some of the best early work of what will hopefully be a long, long career.

I cannot recommend Kill List to all. But those who can anticipate enjoying the existential dread of Refn’s Valhalla Rising mixed with the immediate pain of Andrea Arnold’s Red Road… well, then check it out.

And it isn’t a joyless, sour film either- it has Michael Smiley in it, and he’s always terribly funny, even when he’s terribly frightened. MyAnna Burning gives a remarkable performance- playing a wife that could easily be skewed shrewish, but giving her depth and pain and hope (and love). Comedian and comedy writer Emma Fryer has a chilling turn in this. And Neil Maskell, the lead, is outstanding.

I know I’ve been focusing on the trailers themselves- and like I said, I think this trailer properly gets across the slow-mounting full body cringe that Kill List placed on me.

October 19

“We’re not psychos! We’re small business operators!”

Superficially reminisce of 2010’s Tucker and Dale vs. Evil this outing from down under looks fun.

Where T&DvE had the charm of it’s two leads and some inventive set pieces, the movie was (I thought) ultimately bogged down by a mediocre (and overly predictable due to an actor’s intense over-emoting) “twist”, and an over-loaded (though fun) front-half that left the back-end feeling a bit wheel-spinny.

Go ahead. Make sense of that sentence.

100 Bloody Acres– i like the trailer, and I love Reg’s plaintive wail at the end. Will the movie itself hold up beyond entertaining a fan of horror-comedy? I have my doubts, but it may well prove a fun diversion.

October 18

I very much approve of the use of Mark Lanegan’s cover of Nick Lowe’s The Beast in Me.

That is about all I approve of. And this is not from a purist POV- I am very happy everytime they announce a new attempt at slipping on the patchwork flesh mask of Leatherface. I love the original film, but it is not a golden idol that cannot be touched. By all means- remake, reimagine and sequelize The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for ever and ever!

Just don’t make any more like Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation.

All that baggage out of the way- this trailer, for 2013’s Texas Chainsaw 3D gets points for the above-mentioned song usage… and that is about it. God, could the pacing be any worse? Those long, sloooow multi-second fades to black… are they supposed to ratchet tension? Because they made me wonder if the video was lagging.

I guess the lack of clear shots of Leatherface could be argued as an artistic choice, to avoid fully revealing the maniac- but why bother? Instead it gives me the impression that it isn’t a very impressive/terrifying/iconic mask.

Quick! Hide in the coffin! Surely the homicidal maniac won’t think to look for you there! 3 seconds of black. Whoops! I really, really hate the editing choices in this trailer. Just godawful.

The movie looks pretty dreadful, though I will still watch it if I ever trip across it. The small group of teens, the ludicrous “Oh, I inherited a remote farmhouse from my grammy I never knew..” plotline that will surely play out in a genealogical surprise…

Oh nature vs. nurture- you could be an interesting plot point if you weren’t always used in such a fucking heavy-handed way that defies understanding of human behavior.

October 17

This is, frankly, a pretty awful trailer. But by the standards of many, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things isn’t a very good movie.

Great title aside, what do we have here? For one thing, this is a 3 minute trailer. A 3 minute trailer with a terrible sound mix. Amateurish actors- sure, sure.

But there is also something… there a certain… weirdness that is kind of enticing, no?

As weak as the central premise is (a group of method actors go to a remote island where their driven/demanding/dickish director insists they dig up a corpse and chant a magic spell at it so…well, for whatever reason) the trailer does display a strangely loose-limbed comedic (and even self-aware) bend… before the undead show up. And hell, once the screaming starts- it is all fun and games then, isn’t it?

One of Bob Clark’s earliest movies- yes, the same Bob Clark who later directed A Christmas Story as well as Deathdream and Black Christmas.

October 16

Happy Anniversery, to my lovely wife.

I’m glad that I didn’t watch the trailer to Drew Goddard’s The Cabin In The Woods prior to seeing it. I managed to mostly avoid spoiling myself- I knew the basic gist, but not the (literal) depths which the story would plumb.

That said- it is a powerful, tight trailer. For fans of the film, it gives enough away without giving too much away.

If I wasn’t aware of the Whedon/Goddard pedigree, the last few shots of the film would have me thinking it would be an existential dread-dredge like Martyrs, as the trailer shows little of the humor that keeps the film buoyant even during its darkest passages.

Which raises an important question- why are there some horror fans who insist that this isn’t a horror movie? The same fans presumably also say Scream isn’t a “real” slasher/horror film.

Is it because of the humor? Can’t horror movies BE funny, or do we need to separate movies like Shaun of the Dead, Gremlins, Waxwork and even An American Werewolf in London from the horror section and put them in the comedy section? Because those are some funny fucking movies, that are absolutely also horror films.

But horror pedantics aside (eh, fuck them guys), The Cabin in the Woods is a good trailer- it highlights the “classic” setup… and then lets the viewer know that this isn’t a random slasher attack. More than that, you need to buy the ticket to get the full story, but that is part of the fun. While I am glad I missed out on the trailer prior to seeing it, I am glad that the images of the two blood-splattered survivors going down is in the trailer- it really does heighten a sense of dread, of “shit, what next?” and that final desperate scream…

Make no mistake. Hilarious as it is, as intelligent a deconstruction of the “torture porn” sub-genre as it is (while also referencing 1980s slasher films as well as the horror audiences own culpability in viewing horror films), The Cabin in the Woods is a fucking horror movie. And a damn great one.

October 15

Now THIS is a fun trailer.

Right?

Here is the thing- the first 40 or so seconds- it looks like some hicksploitation man vs snake flick, right?

Strother Martin: cobra charmer!
Redneck truck cab – snake attack!
Happy shower guy – snake attack!
Writhing zookeeper – snake attack!
Random shot of guy grabbing at his face and screaming from the mirror!
Peeping tom – snake attack!

Then, all of a sudden, there is Dirk Benedict all: “Something… something is happening to me!!” and we see shots of scales growing and his skin shedding and…

Well shit, Sssssss, I didn’t know we were going there! PLUS this movie offers Mongoose vs. Cobra action. Is it a cobra… or is it Dirk Benedict?

The trailer does leave questions- like, are all of the other snake attacks part of the main plot? Does Heather Menzies always keep a venomous snake on her nightstand in case of prowlers? Why was the guy in the shower so damn happy anyways? And why was there an A Clockwork Orange cosplayer giggling outside Dirk Benedict’s window?

I like any trailer that switches gears and messes with expectations- therefore; I like the trailer for 1973’s Sssssss.

October 14

Whaaaaaa?

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaa???

Low budget, practical effect, psychotronic- The Demon’s Rook played at LA Screamfest this past weekend.

I’m kind of sorry I missed out on it- I hope it gets a good home-viewing release!

October 13

“A village in Nineteenth Century Europe is at first relieved when a strange traveling circus breaks through the quarantine to take the local’s minds off the plague.”

Yes, that certainly sounds like it will end well, doesn’t it?

The 70s were a weird time for Hammer Films. Their meat and potatoes had long been horror (arguably even the great science-fiction Quatermass movies had one foot firmly set in the realm of horror)- with reinterpretations of Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy turning out excellent box office from 1957 onward.

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee both shot to stardom in the gothic horror films Hammer was producing. A young Oliver Reed starred in 1961’s The Curse of the Werewolf, effectively launched his leading man status.

But by the 70s, gothic castles and remote 19th century villages and strange curses had begun to fall out of vogue. Some attempts were made to update the horrors to the tail-end of the swinging 60s- while there is a certain campy enjoyment in watching poor Christopher Lee’s Dracula standing amidst a colorful musical sequence that would fit well in an Austin Powers movie, these “update” horrors aren’t my bag. In short, Dracula AD 1972 hasn’t aged particularly well

Though they didn’t do very well at the time- critically or commercially- a number of the 70s entries that remained firmly in a fictional past have aged just fine- the awesome swashbuckler Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter is a hoot.

And then there is Vampire Circus. The trailer certainly exhibits a stylish visual flair- if a bit stage-bound by budgetary matters. If you are a fan of the sub-genre (as I am) of monstrous creatures haunting the backlot 19th century European villages… well, Vampire Circus looks to deliver.

But what does it deliver? A “gypsy” turning into a panther! The seductive (?) dance of the tiger woman (which looks like a sequence that could well have inspired Clive Barker’s direction in Nightbreed), the lurid colors and the haunting circus imagery…

Yeah. I mean, I was already sold. If Hammer produced it, I might not love it, but my time will rarely be wasted.

October 12

I have pointed out that we have been seeing a glut of tenement/council housing urban horror in the past ten years. Outcast with James Nesbitt, Kate Dickie and James Cosmo. Citadel (also with James Cosmo!) and the comedy-sci-fi-horror Attack the Block. Plus movies that could be argued as “horror”, that don’t fall into the genre- like Red Road (Kate Dickie and Tony Curran), and even Harry Brown with Michael Caine and Liam Cunningham.

From Indonesia there is the amazing kinetic Serbuan Maut (The Deadly Raid) released in the US as The Raid: Redemption, which was very similar to the sci-fi shooter with Karl Urban as the titular Dredd.

I had forgotten about one of the French additions to the sub-genre, La Horde

A particularly grim and nihilistic entry to the infected-zombie movie ranks, The Horde isn’t for everyone.

Gorehounds will relish in the over-the-top and brutal kills (a moment of it is in the trailer, when a particularly brutal thug takes on the zombies/infected with nothing but a pair of brass knuckles).

Basically- and I think the trailer shows it- The Horde is a violent siege movie wherein the two groups (rogue cops and immoral crooks) formerly at each other’s throats have to form an uneasy alliance against the common enemy. Which- if you want that, with a certain disdain for likable characters, is heartily delivered with a heaping side of burnt cordite and crushed bone, splattered blood and “Oh-merde look out behind you!”.