October 23 – Halloween Countdown

I sort of wish this trailer opened with: “Let’s go do some crime!”

Ah, New Zealand. Must be something in the water, because they do make the most entertaining horror-comedies.

Housebound is spooky, silly, and by the finale pure slapstick. A terrific cast, great lead character, and set pieces both hilarious and horrifying (leaning more towards the former than the latter).

I can strongly recommend Housebound to my widest audience, so that includes my wife and sister-in-law.

But the trailer! It is silly, focuses on the absurdly inept crime, and then BAM, house arrest, at mum’s (that must be awful, especially for our lead- you know she doesn’t want to go home because she wears lots of black eyeliner), which might be… haunted? Hijinks.

October 22 – Halloween Countdown

Ah, to be in love and in Paris.

And, you know, maybe a cannibal?

Or Vincent Gallo. *shudder*

Claire Denis is not an easy filmmaker to love- I mean, for one thing she is French (which is an old and unfunny joke, I do not hate the French any more than anyone else). Her movies are very, very European- or at least non-American. And in that, they are seldom easily digested. It is easier to love entertainment that is easy to digest, I find, than something that sits a long while. But I enjoyed Chocolat (the 1988 movie about French Colonialism in Africa, not the crazy-ass 2008 Thai martial arts film about the Autistic girl) and I really liked Beau Travail. Her time working with Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch shows in her use of actors- she is a really inventive director. And I adore her insistence on using location over studio, eschewing what she feels is the artifice of the set.

So why do I balk at her doing an erotic horror movie? Albeit an Existentialist horror movie? Maybe I am just leery of “erotic horror” after sitting numbly through too many Jess Franco movies in my youth.

This is an interesting trailer, a lot of good imagery, strong visuals and moments that make me go: “I wonder what that is about!” which is kind of the point of trailers.
But it doesn’t give me any zing, and zip, it doesn’t keep me enthralled or make me seek out more.

Maybe it is just Vincent Gallo.

October 21 – Halloween Countdown

Trailers are funny.

I mean, most of the ones we’re watching decidedly aren’t funny, but. You know.

A synopsis can actually ruin a trailer- or change your perception of it entirely.

Sometimes the trailer gives away too damn much. Like- okay, so I see the entire setup and part of the pay-off, thanks, movie people.

And sometimes there isn’t much to go on.

For example this synopsis isn’t much to get me interested in something:

“A young man in a personal tailspin flees the US to Italy, where he sparks up a romance with a woman harboring a dark, primordial secret. As the two grow closer, the secret is revealed.”

Thhhppppthb. Whatever.

But, see, the trailer.

That is a trailer for a better movie than the synopsis. Or whoever wrote the synopsis doesn’t like their movie very much. Or shit, maybe the movie is utter crap but the person editing it is an artist.

I don’t know! And that is why I really love horror trailers. I like not knowing, and wondering. In the night. In the dark.

October 20 – Halloween Countdown

This might be one of the more unique trailers from the year.

It says so little, while also setting tone.

I guess it is more of a teaser, but still.

Small town imagery flashing by, discordant sound, jumpy scratchy edits- flashes of action, a pile of clothes (a body?) in water, a man crying? Praying? A girl whispering “They’re coming” followed by a male voice intoning “It’s Time”. All we’re missing is a “It has Begun” for the horror trifecta of portentous doom.

Then a brief, evocative scene. If this was a short film, I’d love it. As a trailer- I like it a lot.

October 19 – Halloween Countdown

Shot for 6 thousand dollars.

The Battery is a pretty promising trailer. Just how boring and repetitive would a zombie apocalypse actually become? We’ve seen runs in this direction before, but usually with bigger budgets, and diminished returns.

The trick is, can the low-budget indie-darling deliver and stick the ending?

I don’t know, but I’d be willing to find out.

October 18 – Halloween Countdown

“Your face will be on a poster! The poster on a wall – the wall in a lobby – the lobby in a movie theater, the theater with a marquee-” it is like Goodnight Room affirmations for a special kind of actor.

Not just any actor. No. Not any actor- not the ones who want to help make magic. Not the actor who does it for the art, or for the joy- but the actors who deeply desire- no, who know it is their destiny… to be a star.

For those actors with Starry Eyes

I LOVE THIS MOVIE. A psychological horror film that morphs into body horror with hearty helpings of cult fear, satanic panic, and steadily mounting dread… it was partially funded by a Kickstarter, so that apparently can really happen for movies that deserve it, as well as Zach Braff. (sorry/not sorry)

I try not to gush about the movies, we are here to look at the trailers aren’t we?

Very well then- I LOVE THIS TRAILER.

It starts off so chipper! So Sundance, “a day in the life of a struggling actor”! And then.

And then. INTENSITY. Be careful what you wish for, you might not get it. And if you do? What then?

Great trailer, spooky, atmospheric, haunting, jarring. Good stuff.

Great movie! Currently streaming on Netflix- check it out, seriously. Alex Essoe is simply amazing in the lead role- just wonderful. Terrific supporting perfs (Maria Olsen! Pat Healy! Noah Segan! Fabianne Therese!) and a generally excellent combination of production design, sound and visual effects are top-notch.

So you want to be a star, hmm? How badly? Starry Eyes

October 17 – Halloween Round-Up

We’re half-way through the dark backwards to Halloween, and I’ve been watching a lot of horror.

Not just the trailers we share, but also some movies. So far:

1. The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)- two-thirds of a very good update. The original (1976, a true drive-in exploitation pic) serves as a jumping off place- in a world where the true murders truly happened, and the 1976 film cashed in on their notoriety, and now the murders begin again. Great cast (including Veronica Cartwright, Anthony Anderson, Gary Cole, Denis O’Hare, Ed Lauter) and smart direction couldn’t stick the ending where everything fizzled.

2. The Babadook (2014) Jennifer Kent’s directorial debut (she also scripted) is a masterpiece in ratcheting tension. The “horror stigma” seems to have kept Kent, and star Essie Davis, from vastly deserved award nominations. Essie Davis gives a performance that has to be seen to be believed- especially if you are used to her flipping her bangs and being sensual and charming as Phryne Fisher- where her character is put through an emotional ringer and Davis fearlessly shows us the ugly side of parenthood. I do mean to use fearless in this case- it isn’t like “oh, she played a disabled woman!” which would be bullshit. But Davis plays a complex, real woman who sometimes hates being a mother, hates her circumstances, and can be a pretty dreadful person while still holding my sympathy. Also the creature itself is a brilliant design. Just excellent.

3. Byzantium (2012) Neil Jordan returns to the well of lush gothic vampirism, with much better results than he did with Interview With A Vampire– matching some of the dreamlike visuals of The Company of Wolves with a flowing tale of two women. Great performances from Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton. Beautiful, romantic movie.

4. V/H/S (2012) found footage horror anthology with a dreadful wraparound story. Disappointing entries from Adam Wingard (his features You’re Next and The Guest are both fantastic) and Ti West (whose feature House of the Devil is great) and a whole bunch of other dude-bros. This movie was pretty much crap for me, though David Bruckner’s segment, “Amateur Night” seemed to be highlighting (and giving a nasty comeuppance to) typical “bro-dude” fratty behavior.

5. V/H/S 2 (2013) a big step up from the first, this is also a found footage horror anthology with an equally Meh framing story. The overall episodes are a bit more creative, less repetitive. But the shining moment is Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw (The Raid: Redemption Evans entry “Safe Haven”. This segment is SO GOOD that I forgot about the rest of them entirely and even now don’t give a shit because I half-want to rewatch Safe Haven and half want to forget I ever saw it. IT WAS REALLY GOOD AND SCARY YOU GUYS. Also creative, gory and smart. And a little funny.

6. Psycho (1960) Annika and I watched this together- neither of us had seen it since we were teenagers. Goddamn, it really is a good movie. Anthony Perkins just oozes charisma of a dangerous kind. Bernard Herrmann’s score is SO great.

7. Dracula’s Daughter (1936) fun direct sequel from Universal to the 1931 Tod Browning/Bela Lugosi joint. Gloria Holden is terrific in the title role. The movie doesn’t answer my question as to what happens to Dracula’s Brides- the 3 weird sisters he left in Transylvania in the first film. Sidequel!?

8. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) should really be called Doctor Pretorius: Gods and Monsters. A classic for a reason.

9. The Wolfman (2010) a troubled film, with original director Mark Romanek dropping out and being replaced by Joe Johnston. Terrific score from Danny Elfman, terrific production design. It doesn’t quite work- but it isn’t a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, unless you are horrified by big Victorian houses and facial hair.

10. Nymph (2014, also released as Killer Mermaid) a well-lensed, awkwardly acted Serbian horror film with a good setting and Franco Nero. Not really my thing.

11. Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) while the “Monster Rally” pics had become mainstay for Universal after 1944, this was the first outright comedy. The kids were UP for this one. A lot of fun.

12. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is currently uploaded on Youtube by Paramount. I watched it at lunch, and it is still so, so funny and smart and WEIRD. Just a wonderfully off-kilter movie- great gonzo performances. I first saw this when I was thirteen and fell in love with Caroline Williams so much. I might have developed my predilection for ladies with bangs based on her. Tobe Hooper’s 2nd installation is much funnier than the original- intentionally so, as well as more splattery- but with Dennis Hopper and Bill Moseley chewing up the scenery (and WHAT scenery!) the dark comedy jumps far out and stays there from the beginning to the end.

13. The American Scream (2012) a charming documentary from Best Worst Movie director Michael Stephenson about three families preparing for their annual backyard halloween haunts. Funny, sweet, a little sad- I love this movie, I watch it every year. It puts me in the spirit. The kids were impressed with the love and care that went into the builds. So am I.

14. Starry Eyes partially funded through a Kickstarter campaign, written and directed by Kevin K├Âlsch and Dennis Widmyer, this movie is kind of amazing. Shot in 18 days, it successfully blends psychological Repulsion style mounting dread, Cronenburg body horror, Cult horror, and all-out splatter. Lead actress Alex Essoe is AMAZING in it. Having supporting turns from Pat Healy and Noah Segan doesn’t hurt either.

I also watched the 1st four seasons of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s American Horror Story. I’ll get into that later, because it is a rant in and of itself…

What about you? What madcap horror escapades have you made this month?

October 16 – Halloween Countdown

I love October. I love Halloween- and October is a month of Halloween, or pre-Halloween. It is the Season of the Reason, if the reason is pleasin’ with spooky shit. I dig the spooky shit.

My wife, who I love very much, and I got married on this day eleven years ago.
Eleven fucking years. Goddamn.

That means? That means we’ve been together for about… eighteen? No, that can’t be right. I love getting old with you, Annika. And I love celebrating Halloween all month long with you and our kids.

We’ve watched a LOT of Scooby-Doo with Sam and Grace, and this year they are both on board with the joy of the Universal Monsters (at least when teamed up against Abbot & Costello).

Maybe next year we’ll show them one of OUR first horror movies…

Happy Anniversary!

October 15 – Halloween Countdown

You guys, I can’t tell any more when they are Real Teens, and when they are in their 20s or 30s. I think I’m getting old.

The Wicked

Apparently presented- no joke- in part by Pete’s Wicked Ale.

Witch, scuttling, freight hook, knife slash, black mist, scared “teens”, sex, spooky legend, old house, fake-out safety… good ingredients.

But then, Pete’s Wicked Ale probably had good ingredients too. Moo-hoo-hwa-ha!

October 14 – Halloween Countdown

The Last House on the Left

The Hills Have Eyes

The Serpent And The Rainbow

The People Under The Stairs

Shocker

Scream

Any two of those movies on a director’s biography would would warrant them a “Master of Horror”. But there is one legacy with which the late Wes Craven cemented his place in horror’s upper tier, and that is Freddy Krueger and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

But the nightmare didn’t end there, and while numerous sequels (after the disastrous part 2, Freddy’s Revenge a uniquely homoerotic spin on the source material) had a smart and well-defined set of “rules” established by New Line producer Mike De Luca, most didn’t have the same punch as the original. Part 3 is pretty good. Regardless, they made money, and the studio was happy to keep churning them out.

Eventually though, the zeitgeist seemed to fade, and Freddy became less popular, less hip. And then Craven unearthed his grand creation for one last, meta-textual, dance.

Having Heather Langenkamp (star of the first and third Nightmare movies) playing herself with Craven and Robert Englund, Bob Shaye and John Saxon all playing “themselves” is fucking brilliant. Because Freddy really did became a huge deal, a Macy’s Parade, “Make a Wish” foundation level mega-star. And pumping the horror back into that idea, after years of soda commercial’s, and Fresh Prince videos, and late night talk show appearances- Freddy needed to be a threat again.

The trailer sets it up, well, and that last moment of the film burning? Excellent.