Sunday, June 25, 2017

Day 237: The Blair Witch Project

I saw this one in the theaters several times. It came out while I was in college and I remember it being immediately divisive.

The Blair Witch Project follows three film students as they journey into the wilderness of Maryland to film a documentary about a local legend called the Blair Witch. They begin easily enough, with footage of locals giving all the colorful exposition about the various child murders and witchcraft that took place in the area. When they venture out into the woods alone, things start going wrong. Their maps are meaningless, their compass seems to lead them in circles and someone is leaving little stick figure markers outside their tents as they sleep. As paranoia and fear ratchet up, the little group turns on each other and their tattered wills are finally put to the ultimate test when one of them vanishes.

This was not the first found footage movie, however it was the found footage movie that kicked off a generation of lesser found footage movies. The simplicity of the execution is pretty genius. This movie made the audience aware of how limited the information was they were getting from a first person perspective. You scan every inch of every frame looking for monsters or you stare into the black spaces on screen waiting for something to emerge. This is a movie that helps you scare the crap out of yourself. I feel like the people who don't like it (besides the poor motion sickness afflicted) are those who have a hard time putting themselves into the story.

The ending, which I won't spoil, is kind of at the heart of the argument against the movie but I think, if you were paying attention the whole time and get invested in the backstory of the movie, there is nothing scarier we could have seen at the end.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Day 236: Plus One

This is a sci-fi chiller that I caught thanks to Ain't It Cool News and Netflix.

David has just made a major mistake when going to visit his girlfriend and is hoping to reconcile with her at a big party being thrown that night. Thanks to a mysterious meteor crash, duplicates of every one at the party are appearing, but lagged ten minutes behind the originals. As the dupes disappear and reappear, each time closer in time to the originals, the party becomes a fight for survival against the dupes. Will David make up with Jill before the night is through? Will he or any of his friends survive?

I have to give this movie points for originality. The premise is somewhere between Can't Hardly Wait and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. When it seems like time is looping, things start to go dark quickly but, until then, you have a normal teenagers at a big party story. By the end, the action gets pretty intense and not all the storylines turn out with happy endings.

This is a fun little movie that won't blow your mind but will entertain you. Enjoy!


Friday, June 23, 2017

Day 235: The Blackcoat's Daughter

This is available on Amazon Prime for no added cost, which is nice. This is the first movie from Oz Perkins, son of Tony "Psycho" Perkins but the second to be released (Netflix beat it with I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House).

This movie opens with a young girl at a boarding school having a nightmare about her parents getting in a car accident. It is the last day of class before a winter break and Katherine knows her parents won't be there to pick her up. Two matronly caretakers and Rose, an older student who believes she is pregnant, are the only three other people at the school. As we follow the events at the school, another young lady named Joan (Emma Roberts) has shown up at the bus station not far from the school and is picked up by a nice couple (James Remar and Lauren Holly). Something evil is happening to young Kat and how all this plays out is dark fun of the movie.

Really, the plot is secondary to the mood of the movie. Elvis Perkins provides an ambient, ominous score that puts you off immediately. The space between lines lingers just a little too long to be comfortable and all the negative space in the shots is certainly disturbing. The editing plays a big part, too, in that events are skipped and doubled back to see later. Little flashes give clues to character motivations and help make sense of the chronology. This is a pretty well-constructed movie even if one climactic line did make me unintentionally giggle.

The ending is surprisingly emotional as you figure out what the whole movie is about in the last five minutes. What else can you do when you miss your loved ones?


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Day 234: The Exorcist

Another classic of American horror, I know. I don't think I ever saw it all the way through until the theatrical release of "The Version You've Never Seen"- which in my case was literal.

The Exorcist, for those who don't know, is about a little girl named Regan who gets possessed by a demonic entity. After scientists fail to find a problem with her, a young priest in the midst of his own crisis of faith and an older priest who has dealt with the demon before must team up to save the little girl. The story is fairly straight forward but the horror comes from little touches.

In the "Version I had Never Seen" or whatever, they superimposed demonic faces in negative spaces on screen before the possession to show the coming of the evil. Like the subliminal Brad Pitts showing up in Fight Club, the demonic stalking of the mother and daughter made some good scares downright disturbing. Besides the subliminal faces, there is plenty in plain sight to freak you out. The dinner party scene where little Regan tells an astronaut, "You're going to die up there" is freaky. Seeing the poor girl get a spinal tap for no reason is horrific. And once the demon shows up, the girl starts doing and saying the most perverse things to shake the faith of the exorcists.

Sure, there is lots of green pea soup vomit, but it looks pretty fake. Worse is when it is dried and crusted on the people in the room. Besides bodily fluids like pee and blood, there is not a lot of gore in the movie. One scene with a crucifix being used in a rough manner is kind of hard to watch. But really, this is a movie of unsettling actions and disturbing words coming from the face of innocence.

Expertly directed and filled with good scares, this is a classic for a reason.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Day 233: The Collection

Again, out of order with these reviews but that's the way the God of Random decrees.

The Collector movies have tricked me into watching them twice with premises I can't say no to. For the first movie it was a Master Thief gets stuck in a house with a Serial Killer and the two go after each other. I was not a fan of the first one. The second one is all about A Team of Highly Trained Mercenaries invading the lair of a Serial Killer. How can I say "no" to that?

This movie starts with a blood bath on a dance floor as an illicit rave has been booby trapped by the Collector (the killer of the series). After murdering all but one teenager, he captures the survivor and puts her in his collection. Her parents aren't having any of this so when the master thief from the first movie escapes the collection, they hire him to lead a team back into the Collector's base to free their daughter. Of course, the Collector's home base is filled with deadly traps...fun ensues.

And this actually was a better movie than the first one. The house of horrors idea is not played out yet. Also, the tables get turned on the Collector repeatedly, making this not so much a one-sided horror stories like most modern movies portray. There is even a kind of spooky, satisfying ending to the whole thing even after you think the movie should be over.

Is this a good movie? No, not really. It is entertaining for a couple of hours but doesn't add anything new to the genre. It does live up to its premise, which is rare.




Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Day 232: Paranormal Activity 3

Doing this out of order again, but that's what I get for having random topics.

Paranormal Activity 1 and 2 dealt with a modern family (two sisters) dealing with some form of demonic entity possessing one of the sisters and stealing the baby of the other. The third movie takes us back to when both sisters were little and living with their mom and her boyfriend in California. When one of the girls gets an imaginary friend named Toby, weird things start happening around the house. This prompts the boyfriend to set up cameras all over the house and see if he can find anything strange. The paranormal activity of the title starts to ramp up and the family looks for answers from the grandparents. Bad things happen.

This is the first narrative movie by the makers of the documentary Catfish. By placing the movie in the late 80s, there is a limit to the camera action they can have. This leads to some creative setups like a camera being set on an oscillating fan base so that it scans the kitchen. The slow, steady rhythm of the scene when something happens in the kitchen is probably my favorite moment from the whole series. You get a little bit of the Die Hard problem here (how does the same family keep thinking to document all this weird shit but do nothing about it) but it mostly works due to some strong performances.

I wouldn't start with this one but I almost would say you can end with it. Although it leaves earlier plotlines unresolved, they don't get resolved any better in the next few movies. This probably should have stopped as a trilogy.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Day 231: The House of Leaves

Another non-movie post, this is all about the book that most disturbed by life when I was reading it.

The House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is a difficult book to explain to those who haven't read it. It was written to be very interactive and you can't help but get sucked into the story. There is a frame story about a guy in L.A. finding a manuscript within the possessions of an elderly neighbor who vanishes one day. The manuscript seems to be a well-researched and sourced tale of a true incident that happened in Virginia some years earlier. Even with the second-hand removal from the reality of the story, the main narrative can still grip you.

A family moves into an old house and soon find that, when they measure it, it is consistently larger on the inside than the outside. This leads to a discovery of a hallway that is all black. The more the family investigates the hall, the more doors appear and the deeper it becomes. Soon, expeditions are being mounted to explore the seemingly endless labyrinth that has appeared in their house.

The actual story is pretty original and twisty. The way in which the book is written is the real key to how it sucks you in. It starts with footnotes in the frame story that run for pages at a time. You have to keep track of where you left off to regain your place in the story. By the time you are inside the main narrative, the words twist around the page, sometimes appearing only one word at a time to make you flip breathlessly through to see what happens. Other times, the words are different colors or can only be read in mirrors. You have to work very hard to read this book but it takes you into the story like no other book I've read. While I was reading this book, I was very depressed and felt the existential dread of the characters as they wandered the black maze of the house. I won't spoil anything about the ending but let's just say Danielewski recognizes he has you in his power and doesn't abuse it by leaving you forlorn.

If you like horror and books, I recommend The House of Leaves.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Day 230: Halloween

That's right, my random topic generator finally got me around to the original movie that sort of inspired this whole blog.

For those who don't know, Halloween is about Michael Myers, a disturbed young man who escapes from a mental institution on the day before Halloween and makes his way back to his hometown. Pursued by his doctor (played by Donald Pleasence) he begins stalking a single high school girl named Laurie Strode. On the night of Halloween itself, he goes on a murder spree with his sights set on Laurie being his final victim of the night.

Of course, this is an all-time classic horror movie. Even though it kicked off a genre of masked maniacs stabbing people after sex (or the Slasher genre if you prefer brevity), it remains good because of all the other thought put into it. There are shots in this movie that are genuinely frightening. My favorites include the inmates at an asylum wandering in dark through a rain storm like zombies, Myers appearing and disappearing at will as Laurie goes about her day and one of the final shots of his white mask appearing from the deep shadows of a hallway as he attacks. The look of the movie is chilling and that, combined with dozens of smaller choices by the actors and John Carpenter, add up to a superior horror film.

If you don't like this one, you and I probably have tastes too dissimilar for me to be of further help to you.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Day 229: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Two years before Nosferatu slinked his way across cinema screens, Robert Wiene brought us one of the first (and still best) horror movies.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is about a traveling Doctor who keeps a man named Cesare locked in a cabinet. Cesare is pretty much Caligari's hypnotic slave who carries out murders and attacks at his masters command. Francis and Alan are both after a girl named Jane and when the three visit Caligari at his sideshow, Cesare predicts that Alan will be dead by dawn. When the prediction comes true, the police and Francis start investigating Caligari. Bad things happen.

The beauty of this movie is in the expressionism of the sets. The town and the carnival are twisted and amplified to nightmarish proportions, making everything seem not quite real. The other reason to stick around for this movie (besides the awesome Conrad Veidt as Cesare) is the honest to God twist ending that makes the entire story different and better.

If you have the patience to watch silent films, I would highly recommend this one as a great example of old school horror done right.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Day 228: The House on Haunted Hill

I happened to do a mini-theme of 1999 horror remakes today. Interesting.

The remake of The House on Haunted Hill revolves around Geoffrey Rush as Steven Price, an eccentric millionaire who offers a million dollars to anyone who spends the night in the house and lives. There are five mysterious guests that no one seems to have invited, Chris Kattan as the owner of the house and Famke Janssen as Price's scheming wife. The house they are staying in is a former mental institution that was shuttered for abuses. Even though Price has the place rigged with tricks and traps, something else begins taking over the proceedings.

I liked this one much more than the follow-up remake of 13 Ghosts. Rush does a fine job with his Vincent Price imitation. Taye Diggs and Ali Larter make strong heroic leads in a house full of psychos and weirdos. As the identities of the guests are revealed and their motivations become clear, the movie stays busy keeping you entertained. There are twists and reveals and fake reveals, pretty much a breathless race to the end of the movie. I have some serious issues with the ending but, besides that, this is a nice, average haunted house thriller.


Day 227: The Mummy

Since Universal is releasing a new Mummy movie, I figured I would look back at the last successful one.

The Mummy was a pretty bold re-imagining of the original pokey horror from the 1930s. Brendan Fraser starred as the Indiana Jones style hero who agrees to take an archaeologist on a search for ancient Egyptian artifacts. Of course, they stir the wrath of a mummy who is imbued with magic powers that replicate the plagues of Egypt. There is an ancient sect devoted to keeping the secrets of the graves that keeps interfering, a cowardly stooge for the mummy who keeps betraying the good guys and, of course, an army of flesh eating beetles.

As horror, there are a few scenes that work. As a grand adventure in the Indiana Jones vein, almost the whole movie works. The movie is packed with cool characters so that the deaths feel earned rather than cheap. The CGI holds up pretty well (much better than in the sequel that was rushed out). Imhotep, the mummy, takes a page from the Karloff original and only stays mummified a short time. The rest of the movie, he is a normal looking person with magic powers.

As an homage to the originals and an expansion of the myths, this movie works rather well. Is it art? Goodness no, but it is very fun. I would recommend it if you have an afternoon to kill.

 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Day 226: An American Terror

I watched this on Netflix from a recommendation of Ain't It Cool News and their top 31 horror movies since last October.

I remember seeing the "cover" to this and thinking it would be just another Hostel ripoff. I was wrong, oh so wrong. This is one of those indie horrors that doesn't even have a wikipedia page. The basic premise is that three bullied kids decide they are going to go full Columbine and attack their school. The only problem is, they want more weapons. So, they break into the trailer of a redneck in hopes of finding his guns...only they find something much worse.

I was surprised at how this movie made the school attackers look small and petty when compared to the darker terror lurking in the shadows of America. It is bold to make your protagonists violent misanthropes but placing them against a real horror show, which is also a fake horror show if you know what I mean, muddies the waters of the movie's message. It reframes the trauma these kids suffer from the emotional abuse at school to life or death at the hands of a psychopath but kids actually experience bullying every day and rarely, if ever, run into psychos. Still, if it got me thinking this much there must be something to it.

As a horror movie, this is about average. The political, social ambitions knock it up to pretty good.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Day 225: Sun Choke

This was on the Ain't It Cool News list of best horror for last year, I just now got around to watching it on Netflix.

Sun Choke is one of those indie movies where a lot is implied but few things are spelled out. A young woman (Margo...or Janie?) is basically the prisoner of an older woman who has promised Margo's father she would take care of her. The older woman makes her do meditation, take pills, color in pictures of flowers and occasionally punishes her by hitting a tuning fork and saying "Sun Choke" which seems to send Margo into convulsions. When Margo is allowed to leave the house, she almost immediately latches onto another young woman named Savannah and begins stalking her. The halfway point of the movie is the moment where that stalking turns into something else altogether.

This is a hard to watch movie. There are scenes where Margo has infiltrated Savannah's house and is still inside when Savannah gets home where the tension is almost unbearable. There is graphic violence and very non-sexy nudity. When things begin to escalate for our protagonist, I had no idea where the movie was going to go. Where it ends up is kind of ho-hum for the amount of tension and build up that go into it but it is a full narrative. The main question that is never answered is a weird scene that is flashed to once with Margo surrounded by people while she freaks out and I am pretty sure her father is there. We never know the extent of her trauma but trust me, this is one messed up chick.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Day 224: Edgar Allen Poe

This is one of those columns where I take a break from movies and talk about other aspects of horror that I like.

It is hard to discuss the history of horror without invoking Edgar Allen Poe somewhere. Love him or hate him (his Gothic approach to storytelling can lead to some obscure and flowery phrasing, to be sure) you can't deny he helped shape the genre. It still baffles me that the Poe awards are for mystery stories rather than horror, I mean I know why but still...

His one novel was kind of a washout so his real legacy is in his poems and short stories. Here are a few I like:

The Cask of Amontillado- By far, my favorite Poe story, this is about a narrator who takes advantage of a frenemy's weakness for booze and a festival atmosphere to lure the man to a miserable end.

Hop-Frog- This story of a dwarf and a cripple (same guy, two afflictions) made to perform for a king and his court. When the king gets abusive towards a dwarf girl that Hop-Frog loves, he plans an elaborate and gruesome revenge.

The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether- A young man visits an insane asylum to see a new method of caring for the inmates. He is treated to a fancy dinner party with the staff of the asylum, who all seem rather odd and eccentric. You can see the ending coming from miles away but it doesn't make it any less darkly funny.

These are just a few beyond all the classics like Tell-Tale Heart, Fall of the House of Usher and The Black Cat. If you haven't read any since school, you should check some out today.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Day 223: Planet Terror

One of the best times I've had in a movie theater with all my clothes on, I saw Planet Terror as part of Grindhouse in an empty theater with two of my friends. We were able to react loudly and rudely, which is kind of what the movie demands.

Planet Terror was Robert Rodriguez's contribution to Grindhouse (a double movie with Quentin Tarantino and a bunch of talented directors contributing trailers). It is about an experimental gas that turns people into melting zombies. The fun is in watching the big cast get narrowed down. Jeff Fahey, Michael Parks, Josh Brolin, Bruce Willis, and especially Rose McGowan chew up their lines and spit them out like juicy tobacco. Parks plays his cop character from several Rodriguez/Tarantino movies (like From Dusk til Dawn and Kill Bill) trying to survive as his family turns to zombies. Josh Brolin is a murderous doctor trying to keep his wife from leaving. The show is stolen by McGowan as the stripper who loses her leg and replaces it with a machine gun.

The tone is goofy but gory throughout. With characters like the crazy babysitter twins, you aren't watching high art. Naveen Andrews (from Lost) plays a guy who cuts off people's testicles and keeps them. There are lots of "aw, hell no" moments where you see things you wish you didn't but it is all in good fun. A few moments threaten to cross into straight up awesome (Freddy Rodriguez doing a knife fight in a hospital is one) but it mostly stays true to the grindhouse premise of b-movie fun.

If you aren't shy about bodily fluids, needles, gore and ooze, and you enjoy a solid fun movie, check it out.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Day 222: Saturday the 14th

This one is another HBO staple from my childhood. Even though it was a comedy, it freaked me out a little.

Richard Benjamin and his family inherit a creepy old house from his uncle. Inside, is a book of evil that the son flips through, unleashing a ton of monsters on the premises. The father is oblivious to all the evil going on even as his family has to deal with monsters in the bathtub and eating sandwiches and generally being a nuisance. They eventually hire Van Helsing to clean up the house but he has to work around a housewarming party they are throwing. Such problems!

The tone of this movie was kind of dark (as is the lighting). While the monsters are mostly mischievous, they turn deadly by the end, killing off party-goers in weird ways. I remember a severed head and an oven or something? The memory is unclear but it used to freak me out. Apparently, Jeffrey Tambor was in this as a vampire, I had no idea who he was at the time but it makes sense now.

To a kid, the comedy was pitched at perfectly goofy. To an adult, it may be intolerable. I can't imagine anyone grown getting scared of this movie but it could happen. I cannot recommend this even as an oddity.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Day 221: Maximum Overdrive

Not a "good" movie by any stretch of the imagination but certainly one of the purest expressions of Stephen King's creativity.

King himself directed this movie where any objects that run on electricity or gas turn on humans after a comet passes too close to the Earth. Emilio Estevez is a survivor who flees a baseball game gone wrong and makes it to a diner where a small group is being penned in by trucks. Human error and greed lead to most of the deaths after the initial turning of the objects. Most of the movie takes place in the diner as the dwindling group tries to figure out what the trucks want and how to survive it.

This movie is pretty much pure cheese but it is easy to pull for Estevez. It is also weird to remember a time when he was way more famous than his brother, Charlie. We get one of the few film performances of Yeardley "Lisa Simpson" Smith in this, as well. As a kid obsessed with Spider-Man, I was fascinated by the Green Goblin truck but there is really no comic book connection beyond that.

If you want a slice of pure 80s cheese, this is the movie for you. Or if you are a Stephen King completist.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Day 220: The Canal

The Canal is sort of an Irish Shining and I saw it on Netflix.

David is a film archivist who believes his wife is having an affair. One night, he follows her by the canal that runs past their house and sees her having sex with one of her clients from work. He chickens out before hurting her and runs into a purportedly haunted bathroom to be sick. There, he sees a ghostly figure murder his wife. On top of all this, he has reason to believe his house is haunted or at least tied into a string of killings that happened at the turn of the century. As the police investigate his wife's disappearance, David investigates the house itself. Things go badly.

This was a cool little mystery/horror that keeps bouncing you between believing there are evil spirits at work and David just going insane. Did he have anything to do with his wife's disappearance? Is there a ghost stalking his son and the nanny? Will David ever find proof of the haunting? The fun is in finding out all these answers.

I believe this was named the number one horror movie of 2015 by Ain't It Cool News and it is certainly strong. I would recommend it, for sure.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Day 219: Creepshow

Two anthologies in a row. Of all the horror anthologies I have seen, I have watched Creepshow the most. A collaboration between Stephen King and George Romero, it was meant to mimic the beats of an old EC horror comic like Tales From the Crypt.

There are five proper stories in this movie.

1) Father's Day- This is about a horrible family who had the patriarch killed some years earlier. Now, they gather to celebrate. Unfortunately, the Father is back and looking for his Father's Day cake he never got.

2) The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill- Stephen King himself plays a yokel who comes into contact with a fallen meteor. Bad things happen as a result.

3) Something to Tide You Over- Ted Danson is a tennis pro having an affair with a married woman. When he goes to meet her one day, he instead finds her husband, Leslie Nielson, who has created a deathtrap for them both.

4) The Crate- A couple of college employees (including Hal Holbrook) discover an old crate under some stairs at their university. Upon opening it, they find a horrible discovery.

5) They're Creeping Up On You- A rich man has designed his apartment to be state of the art and clean. When a blackout threatens to drop his defenses, the man's fear of roaches becomes overpowering. Very gross things happen.

This was always a fun movie that captured the feel of those old comics perfectly. If you want a fun anthology, check it out.



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Day 218: Tales From the Crypt, The Movie

Well before the TV series, Ralph Richardson played the Crypt Keeper in this 1970s adaptation of the horror-comic anthology. A group of tourists in a crypt get separated from the main group and run into the Keeper, who proceeds to tell them all how they will die.

There are five stories in the movie.

1) ...And All Through the House. This was also famously adapted in one of the first Tales from the Crypt TV shows. Joan Collins plays a woman who murders her husband on Christmas Eve only to find out there is an escaped maniac dressed like Santa to deal with.

2) Reflection of Death. When a man leaves his wife and kids for his mistress, he almost immediately gets into a terrible car accident. The aftermath of the accident is what makes up most of this story.

3) Poetic Justice- Peter Cushing has to deal with a pair of shitty neighbors who resent his giving, caring lifestyle. The neighbors get his beloved pets taken away and get him accused of child molestation but things don't get really bad until Valentine's Day.

4) Wish You Were Here. This one is darkly comedic as a woman gains the ability to get three wishes granted. Unfortunately, her husband pays the price for all of them.

5) Blind Alleys- After much abuse at a home for blind men, the boarders take it upon themselves to get revenge on the owner. Some Saw type stuff goes down.

There is even a twist to the frame story but you will have guessed it far before you need to. This is a pretty solid horror anthology and the relative cheapness of the production value gives everything a grimy, authentic feel. Collins and Cushing are the standouts here but you will recognize a bunch of these Brit actors. I would give this a B.


Monday, June 5, 2017

Day 217: Hitcher

C. Thomas Howell will always be the racist star of Soul Man to me. But, in second place, he is the put upon star of the Hitcher.

The Hitcher is about C Thomas Howell picking up Rutger Hauer, who subsequently tries to kill Howell and fails. After this confrontation, Hauer sets about stalking and framing Howell for his crimes. Jennifer Jason Leigh is a young woman trying to help Howell clear his name.

This movie reminds me most of Road Games that I reviewed not too long ago. Hauer is great as the stone cold killer who keeps getting Howell deeper and deeper into trouble with the law. Unlike Road Games, the framing action is really clear and dread-inducing. Along with Howell, you get the feeling that nothing will ever be right again.

If you enjoy a good cat and mouse thriller that isn't afraid to get messy, you should check out the Hitcher. Warning: there is a barfing scene...not a fan of those myself so I feel the need to warn others.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Day 216: My Haunted U.S. Tour

Back in 2009, I believe was the year, I decided to get a woman out of my head by doing something I had threatened for a long time, a driving tour of America. Since I would be going in October, I decided to try and make the theme all about haunted locations. So, I picked a stop in every contiguous state that was supposedly haunted or connected to horror in some way (like Poe's grave in Baltimore).

Over the course of 6 days, I drove from Asheville, NC back to Greenville, SC the long way. I was by myself except for meeting up with some friends in Utah and Massachusetts. About 30% of my attempts to find haunted locations ended in failures because the location was on private property or a cemetery was locked up or I had just shown up at the wrong time (there is a fort in Ohio that is only closed on Tuesdays, what the hell?). Of those places I did get to see, most were in the daylight but I took lots of pictures. Some came out with orbs in them like at Forepaugh's Restaurant in Minnesota or this haunted graveyard in Kentucky where an angel is supposed to assault you if you are there at midnight. The creepiest place I went was an old prison museum in Montana where I could hear footsteps above me despite being totally alone in the building.

I never got to see a ghost or a witch but I did get to see lots of the U.S. I had never seen before. Some places made it feel like I was being watched, like an abandoned train station in California or the Dead Presidents Bar in Delaware. Some places were just perfectly nice. I saw a lot of cool graveyards. I listened to horror books on CD in the car and watched horror movies at night in my hotels. The whole thing was exhausting but worth it. I would do it again with slightly better preparation if I had the time and money.

Go and plan a scary vacation of your own. Go have an adventure. Life is short.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Day 215: Three...Extremes

Apparently, this was a follow-up to a different anthology movie called Three. This time, though, they picked bigger name Asian directors.

This is a disturbing little anthology made by three of Asian Horror's best directors. First is Fruit Chan with Dumplings. An aging actress goes to a mysterious woman who claims to be ancient in order to gain some of her famous dumplings that will restore your youth and vitality. The secret as to what is in the dumplings is disgusting and the sound effects alone may turn your stomach. This was later expanded into a full movie, somehow. It is, however, my favorite of the three.

Park Chan-wook, who made the awesome vampire movie Thirst, did a gory little slice called Cut. A director is captured by a deranged extra who wants the director to strangle a stranger or else have his wife's fingers chopped off one by one. The conclusion is pure dark comedy and the editing makes the whole segment very surreal.

Finally, Takashi Miike (of Audition, Over Your Dead Body, etc fame) tells the story of a woman who grew up as a twin and was always competing with her sibling for the approval of their mentor. Things went very wrong one day when they were young and the surviving sibling must face the repercussions years later. This one almost feels like a dream with the way the scenes connect (or don't) and the narrative is a tangle of flashbacks, daydreams and fantasies.

If you like Asian Horror, you might want to check this out. It is entertaining as a curio if nothing else. Just be ready for some gore.


Friday, June 2, 2017

Day 214: The Gate

This one is a blast from HBO past. I watched this as a kid probably more than I should have. Beware those rock n roll albums!

The Gate is about two childhood friends who (Glen, played by Stephen Dorff and Terry, some guy) unearth a strange rock in their backyard and accidentally bleed on it. Terry figures out, too late, that they have unearthed a portal to a dark dimension. When the dead family dog is thrown into the hole in the backyard, the dark powers take it as a sacrifice and decide to invade our world. I remember the kids having to read incantations from heavy metal albums to try and stop the evil. I remember little demon things that could multiply if split in half. And I remember a scene where Glen grows an eyeball out of his palm and has to stab it out with a shard of glass...ouch.

I recall the visuals freaking me out. The effects have probably aged poorly but they were cutting edge at the time. I also recall a sense of doom and hopelessness pervading the movie, like there was no way to beat back the evil. I honestly can't recall how the movie ends but it seems like it has a positive conclusion.

I have no idea how this movie would play to adults but I assume it would not be nearly as enthralling as it was to 11 year old Josh. If you want some nostalgia, maybe check this out? Otherwise, probably best left as a relic of the 80s.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Day 213: Spider Baby

Well, this is a weird one. Another movie I saw as part of last October's 31 horror movies, I watched this one with some friends.

This movie is about the Merrye family and the rare genetic disorder among them that makes them regress to cannibalistic cave dwelling predators the older they get. Lon Chaney Jr. is Bruno, the caretaker for the three "children" who use their sexuality and seeming innocence to their advantage. One is the Spider Baby of the title as she keeps a nest of ropes over her window to catch anyone climbing in and then she stabs them with butcher knives that she calls stingers. We see a poor delivery man fall to this fate early on. Distant relatives arrive at the house to see about inheriting the property and Bruno is forced to leave the kids unsupervised in a house full of normals. Some bad things, like rape and murder, then happen.

The subject matter is pretty bold and risque for the 1960s. I was surprised with how much this movie got away with. It is hard to find a likable character. The visiting Uncle, Peter, is very patient and kind with the "kids" but after seeing how they behave, Peter may just be a moron. Even the normal people in the house are depraved in various ways so there isn't much empathy when one gets killed. Also, stay for Sid Haig's wild performance as the eldest son of the Merrye clan.

All in all, this is a fun (if sick) exploitation film that is never not entertaining. Certainly not an essential watch but I don't think you'll regret it if you stumble upon it.