Friday, October 24, 2014
Netflix This Movie! Vol. 100
Satan's Little Helper (2004, dir. Jeff Lieberman) Because I like it more than Halloween (1978). I'm not saying it's a better movie though. And yes, I am high.
Sorority House Massacre II (1990, dir. Jim Wynorski) A few weeks ago someone commented on my post about American Ninja claiming that the poster is every stereotype of 1980s action movie. Well, I think they wrapped up the '80s and decided to put together every stereotype of '80s horror in 1990’s Sorority House Massacre II. Let me just set it up: a group of girls move into a new house to start a sorority, and after walking around topless for no particular reason (because apparently that’s the type of shit they do in sorority houses) the girls find out the house was once a part of a murder. Well, what better idea to have at this point than to break out the Oujia board?Needless to say a whole bunch of shit goes down. I would have liked to see better kills, but I have to admit I found the movie fun.
The Last Days on Mars (2013, dir. Ruairi Robinson) Is this a bad movie (as many critics would have you believe), or is it just a disappointing movie? That's a weird way to begin a recommendation, but HEAR ME OUT. I was excited when I featured the trailer for The Last Days on Mars in September 2013, because I love movies that take place in space. Also, ZOMBIES! The director, Ruairi Robinson, is a promising up-and-comer, and the cast consists of solid middleweights Liev Schreiber, Elias Koteas and Olivia Williams. So why doesn't it completely work? For one thing, it takes itself way too seriously, even when the undead start to comically screech and claw and cough up blood. Likewise, it can't seem to find the right balance between moody sci-fi thriller and shocking B-movie camp. The beautiful cinematography and atypical score can't compensate for what is, essentially, a standard zombie flick. But it's not all bad -- there are some compelling performances, unique tech design (which, granted, is borrowed from a dozen other sci-fi movies) and a lot of AMBITION. Finally, it's better than Prometheus, so it's got that going for it. Watch it and tell me what you think.
Shadow of the Vampire (2000, dir. E. Elias Merhige) Like Hugo with fangs, this alternate history suggests that the star of F.W. Murnau's horror classic Nosferatu was a real vampire hired by the director to add authenticity to the film at the expense of his actors. John Malkovich brings an intensity to Murnau that outstrips his ability to pull off a German accent. Willem Dafoe is the star attraction as Max Schreck, aka. Count Orlok, aka. what his Green Goblin should have looked like. He's a dead (undead?) ringer for the silent actor, giving the re-creation of scenes from Nosferatu a documentary feeling that elevates the terror, while giving us movie types a peek into a long-dead filmmaking process.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920, dir. John S. Robertson) We're now one week away from Halloween and this is when I save the best stuff to watch. I'll be closing out #SMM with Universal Monsters, Vincent Price, and films like this 1920 silent version of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson story. John Barrymore is fantastic in his role as the fated doctor, performing most of the transformation from Jekyll to Hyde in one single shot without the aid of any special effects; it's all in the facial expressions, his body language, and the way he uses the light to his advantage. Later in the film prosthetics and makeup would be added, but the single shot transformation is one of the great moments in horror cinema. I've come to value these pre-Hays Code films for how raw and dark they often were, and this is a classic example of great silent horror.
The Fly (1958; dir: Kurt Neumann) While David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of The Fly is one of my favorite horror films of all time, and an improvement on the original, I still really dig The Fly (1958). Its at once silly and creepy, and always a lot of fun. Like Halloween, The Exorcist or The Wolf Man, I find myself watching The Fly every October. Also, it makes me think of Lucas, which is never a bad thing.
Dead Silence (2007, dir. James Wan) It took me a few viewings to warm up to this one. James Wan's follow-up to Saw represented a huge departure for him at the time, switching up his debut movie's grisly, grimy aesthetic for something much more classical and gothic. It still doesn't all work -- the performances are generally weak, the "twist" is transparent and stupid and the moments of gore are at odds with the movie's overall tone -- but a lot of it does. There's creepy atmosphere, some amazing sets and more than one scary ass puppet, which is pretty much the foundation of the entire film. It's a movie that looks better now that Wan has gone on to make The Conjuring and the two Insidious films; we can see that he's always had an interest in making that kind of horror film and trace the evolution of his style. I recently heard (I think it was on -- and I promise it's the last time I'll mention it this week -- Killer POV) that the movie plays much better if you change the settings on your TV and watch it in black and white. I'd be willing to try.