Archive for September, 2014

Well, we are only two weeks away from Freak Show and I am as excited as ever. The last week I have been rewatching the first two seasons (which I have the DVDs for) and waiting for the third to be released (it comes out Oct 7th by the way.)

In anticipation for the new season I thought it’d be cool to look back on the past seasons and pick out the “bests” from each. So this week I’m going to [try] and post a new part over the next few days. Part one is best protagonists, part two will be best antagonists/villains, part three will be best character archs, and part four will deviate slightly and I’m going to list the top F’ed up scenes in AHS we’ve had thus far. For each part I’ll try and limit it to at least three characters, otherwise you guys would be here for a while!

So let us begin! Oh and, uh, spoilers.

BEST AHS PROTAGONISTS

3.) Vivian Harmon

First up on my list is Vivian from season one of AHS. Where to begin. Before the season even starts she loses a baby. Then she has to deal with a cheating husband, a troubled teenage daughter, and moving to a new house. Oh, and that new house? It’s a literal hell on earth. She gets raped there, almost murdered, tormented by the ghosts and demons of the house, finds out her husband cheated to her again, basically starts to lose her mind or believes she is starting to, and finally gives birth to twins- one of them probably being the anti-Christ and subsequently dies. Did I miss anything?

Jeeze, this poor woman goes through EVERYTHING in this season. Now, she doesn’t always handle these bad situations the best or the most logical… I don’t believe most people ever could. Through all of it she tried to remain strong and level headed but towards the end of the season it all just kind of caught up with her. It wore away at her. But the entire season we saw a woman who, for a while, was trying to salvage her marriage and forgive her husband. We wanted her to get better and make it through this. But in AHS fashion… she did not.

2.) Kit Walker

Switching teams to the good side in season two of AHS, Evan Peters brings us Kit- who is a down to earth (heh…) blue collar guy trying to battle the tide of the times, and the a-holes who flow with it when all of a sudden- BAM, he’s abducted by aliens and experimented on. When he comes back to earth he’s accused of not only murdering his wife (who has been apparently skinned alive) but also being the notorious Bloody Face murderer. He is then sent to Briarcliff asylum, where he has to endure the torment and brutality of Sister Jude and the other staff members of the facility. From then on it is a fight to prove his innocence, escape and stay alive as the season pans out.

Peters brought us a truly hateable character the first season, and in AHS: Asylum he does exactly the opposite. He brings us a character that is sincere and enduring and kind. One that we are constantly hoping will make it out of the hellish situation(s) he is finding himself in the entire season. And even after he DOES finally escape the asylum, and we think all will be well his world is flipped again with Alma killing Grace and subsequently ending up in Briarcliff herself. But Kit continues to be a good hearted guy by not only doing a great job of raising his kids by himself but also taking in a tormented Sister Jude and helping her find herself again. After all of it; after everything he went through… the killer that got him was cancer.

Kit was a great character that we all sympathized with and rallied behind because he was such a great character- not because we could relate in any way. He had a real soul to him and truly was one of the “good” characters of any season of AHS thus far.

1.) Lana Winters

THIS WOMAN. Okay, now she isn’t always the BEST character- in fact she has many many selfish moments in the season. But MAN is she strong, and you are a lying lie face if you say you never once wanted her to make it out alive. I wish Vivian would have been as strong as Lana is because if she was it would have been, like, one of the best female characters ever created.  And Sarah Paulson is just perfect as this character and really brings Lana to life. The drive and emotion is always there with her in every scene and it’s wonderful to see.

This character has grit. She goes through nearly the same amount of torment as Kit, except exchange the experimenting and probing by aliens to torture and rape by a psychopathic murderer.

Throughout it all though she maintains that tough composure, with the end goal to unmask Bloody Face as well as blow the lid off of the corruption and evils of Briancliff Asylum. And she does. She does it all, and still has one more battle in her as she comes face to face with her now murderous son who is also the son of Bloody Face. And what does she do? She shoots him in the face. BAM. That took major stones.
Lana is a wonderful character that is well rounded and enjoyable. She’s witty, smart, and brutal when she needs to be. She’s the type of heroine I love to see in horror shows and movies. While I LOVE the Walking Dead (which also begins again in two weeks, and I’m probably going to be doing blog posts for also) they can REALLY take a note from AHS page on how to write female characters. Just base them off of Lana. All of them. Kay? Please? Thanks.

NEXT- BEST VILLAINS!

Horror Movie Review #2: Tusk

Posted: September 21, 2014 in Horror Blog
Tags: , , , ,

MAJOR SPOILERS.

You are either going to love this movie, or hate it. Period. I loved it; I loved ever single second of it. It was dark and hilarious. And the best part was that I didn’t have to hide my laughter. I was sitting in a theatre filled with people who not only understood, but enjoyed the humor of the film. Tusk is a rare film for me. It’s one of the only films to come out in recent memory (that I can recall) that made me laugh out loud but also grossed out at the same time. The Evil Dead reboot/remake and You’re Next are probably the only movies recently I can remember that made me feel that way. And out of all of them… I think the one that deals with the sick, gross out, tongue in cheek humor the best is Tusk. 

The story follows Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) who is going to Canada to interview a new YouTube sensation- a kid who cuts off his own leg with a katana. But when he gets there he arrives to meet a grieving family; the kid actually killed himself by cutting off the leg. So, stuck in Canada, Wallace has to find a new person to interview otherwise his trip was for nothing. You see him and his friend Teddy (Haley Joel Osment) are hosts of a comedic podcast entitled The Not-See Party. In the podcast they fill their time making fun of people in some pretty harsh ways. Mainly it’s Wallace who does the making fun of, and he does it in his stand up act as well.

At a bar though Wallace finds a notice, pinned up on a wall. It reads that this Howard Howe (Michael Parks) used to be a seaman and has many stories he wishes to share with someone else. Enticed, Wallace seeks this Mr. Howe out hoping to hear these stories. But once he finds the old man, he soon wishes he never had. Well… he wishes he hadn’t the next day, when he wakes up after being drugged and one of his legs has been hacked off.

Teddy and Wallace’s girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriquez (who is cheating on Wallace with Teddy but only because Wallace is cheating on her with, like, ALL the “fangirls” of the podcast)) quickly mount up to Canada to search for their missing loved one only to find out from a detective Guy Lapointe (played by Guy Lapointe… not really, but that is how the credit reads. If you can guess or figure out who it ACTUALLY IS without having to IMDB it before hand GOOD JOB. Because… Jesus… man, I love this actor. I almost didn’t realize who it was. Between the makeup and his acting… just, wow) that Wallace was actually probably abducted by this madman he has been hunting for years who seems to be creating some kind of monster. And that is EXACTLY what Howe is doing. Turning Wallace into a monster… WALRUS.

MAN, I wish I was seeing this movie again.

Okay. I hope that anybody who is actually seeing this movie knows, and understands Kevin Smith’s style of directing. At least his new style, which is very much “I really don’t give a single s**t about what anybody thinks.” I loved Red State. It was this same kind of dark humor, but Tusk just perfects it. It brings it to a whole new level and is just like “whoop, there it is.” Unflinching, crass, and in some instances… very truthful. I understand that the humor and this film could be difficult to grasp or enjoy, which I’m not blaming anybody for. I’m not saying I’m better than you because I understood and liked all of the dark humor and jokes. If you don’t like this movie, that’s fine. It WONT be everyone’s cup of tea and I actually think that is part of what makes this film so great. It feels like it’s an inside joke between the viewer, who enjoys it, and the director. And really that is all this film is- is an inside joke. I mean, Kevin Smith wrote it based off an idea they had on his podcast one time!

The fact that they also used many practical effects and makeups in this film is a HUUUGE plus in my book. Seriously… that Mr. Tusk suit is genius. It’s basically a full body Walrus suit  that looks like it was designed by Leatherface. You know, at the bar, when Wallace took the page- at the bottom there are those little tabs that say Call:insertrandom#here. There were several taken. I was wondering if they were going to address what happened to them. Well they did. Big time. And actually before Guy Lapointe even gets any screen time to give his big reveal about how many  Howes is supposedly killed. The faces, and bodies sewn together are done so perfectly and full of detail on this makeup, it makes my heart soar. But do note that it’s graphic. For those who have a weak stomach, just… be prepared.

I am going to take a short timeout here to talk about Michael Parks. Now, this is an ensemble piece I feel. And really every character shines in some way shape or form. But Howard… Howard is one of the best on screen villains I have ever seen. Parks plays him with such a sincere form of psychotics that it genuinely gave me chills watching it. And he seemed to savor it as well. You can tell he really sunk his teeth in to the role, and refused to let go. It was so enthralling to watch him on screen; so captivating, like Howe’s stories. Seriously, if for no other reason… watch this movie for Park’s performance. It’s a thing of beauty.

There are many awkward shots and scenes that seem to drag on just a little too long, for seemingly unneeded reasons and I feel like that is my only real gripe with this film. It tries to have a balance between long, drawn out TENSE scenes and long drawn out humorous scenes. The problem is no viewer really invests themselves in the funny scenes as much as they do the soon-to-be terrifying/uncomfortable/unhinged. The actors do though, which do make these scenes watchable, don’t get me wrong. The actors are in them, no matter the scene, all the way (maybe save for the last few minutes of the film, when I actually felt that the actors were trying really desperately not to start laughing at how ludicrous this all is.) But I digress.

The long funny scenes didn’t need to be that long. For instance, the flashback of Guy Lapointe of how he met Howe before but didn’t realize it. It is like a five to ten minute scene. It went past being funny, to uncomfortable funny, to boring really fast. The jokes became repetitive, and that is probably the only low part for me in the whole film. When you start to have to repeat the same joke three times in your movie you’ve gone in to a somewhat “lazy writing” state I feel. The scene in general is okay, and I’m not saying it’s lazy. It just got old. The audience understood what was going on and what happened and was ready to move on before the scene was. It just seemed to mess with the pacing, and that is my only issue with the whole movie.

The rest of the movie flows and moves along at a good speed and it offers just enough terror to counterbalance the off beat humor. The acting is solid, and most of it is well scripted. It’s a joke of a film. Seriously, it’s supposed to be fun. The plot is ridiculous. A crazy old man wants to turn people in to walrus’. If you go in wanting to watch it in all seriousness you will be one of the people who hate this movie. But that’s generally most Kevin Smith films.

Tusk is a humor I enjoy and welcome. You’ll go from laughing yourself to tears to saying “Oh, that’s effed up” and cringing in a matter of seconds. It’s wonderful. And supposedly this is just the start of a trilogy of dark humor films Kevin Smith has planned. I really hope that is true, cause I want more of this!

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I’ve been on a real classic monsters kick with Augustana College (the college I graduated from) producing The Passion for Dracula this year, as well as with my own personal research since I am trying to develop a play centered around the three traditional classic monsters (Dracula, the Frankenstein creature, and the wolfman.) So I’ve been going back, rereading the stories, plays, and obviously watching films. Which leads me to this week’s review- 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

 

Sigh.

This movie.  There are things about this movie that I love and are just unbelievably amazing and iconic. Like Gary Oldman’s performance, the art direction and sets, the cinematography, Gary Oldman’s performance, the score, the costumes, the makeup, and… oh yeah, Gary Oldman’s performance.

Then for every good aspect that makes me love this movie there is something glaring back at me, making this movie a bore and, at times, kind of a chore to watch.

Now, this film is actually a rather good adaptation of the original novel.  And some of the issues in the movie are issues in the book as well. But others are purely directorial and acting choices that just flash out at you.

By now everyone knows the story, or generally knows the story of Dracula. John Harker, played by Keanu Reeves, travels to Transylvania to visit this Count Dracula who has recently been buying up a lot of estates in England.  Johnathan’s job is to close the account with Dracula, successfully. But once he arrives he becomes witness to… “many strange things.” There is something off about this count, and his castle. Dracula (Gary Oldman) becomes obsessed with Mina (played by Winona Ryder,) Harker’s fiancé- who looks a lot like his love from centuries before who killed herself- Elisabeta. While leaving Harker for his “brides/the sisters” to feast on Dracula travels to England to pursue Mina.

I actually don’t know what else to say about the plot. I mean, obviously, it is more in depth than that. Lucy (Sadie Frost,) Mina’s best friend, is seduced and becomes a vampire. There is Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins) coming on to the scene as the main hero of the tale, deducing what and who Dracula really is, and it all leads to Harker coming home and “God’s madmen” hunting down the count before he can eternally damn Mina’s soul.

While this isn’t the first Drac picture to play on the whole “love story” deal (even the original 1931 promoted the film as ‘The story of the strangest passion the world has ever known!’) this is the first one I can think of off the top of my head to have come out that actually uses and explains the bond between the count and Mina as a pivotal plot point other than just using the “the vampire has mystical powers that can overtake me,” cliché. And part of that, I feel, has to deal with the fact that this is actually the first time in film or… really any work that an “origin story” for the count has ever really been addressed. Sure NOW a days we throw out the name Vlad the Impaler and most people who know anything about vampire mythology or Dracula know exactly who you are referring too. Vlad III Dracul.  But before 1992 it was never really addressed as being in relation to the fictional nosferatu. The opening of the film which addresses the origin of how Dracula became the damned, immortal soul is one of my most favorite moments in the film. It’s so visually stunning, and just sets the stage for the entire film therein. The stabbing of the cross, and the drinking of the pouring blood… every time I see that I get chills. And Oldman just sells it perfectly as a grieving man who is wholly pissed off at God and the church; a man who feels betrayed. It helps us identify with Dracula from the get go, and his subsequent motivations.

Now, I’ll admit- there are moments where Oldman’s performance seems a tad over the top at some points, but the count is an eccentric character to begin within his own way. I believe that what the problem really is, is that the rest of the cast almost seems to match his level of intensity for the film (at least the main cast that is.) If anybody is to be as equally as eccentric as the count it is Van Helsing, and… well he defiantly is, but it’s almost distracting at point. Hopkins is an amazing character, and is known for his more “subdued” and quiet moments on film- especially just coming off of an Oscar win for Silence of the Lambs. But it seems like Francis Ford Coppola just told him to go crazy in this role, as if he wanted him to become like Capt. Ahab in the final chapters of Moby Dick. If that is what they are aiming for then they got it, but man I would have liked for a continuous more calculating version of Van Helsing instead of a condescending, creeper of an old man who seems to be taking some of Dr. Sweard’s morphine mixed with something else.

Mina and Harker are the only other two main characters and they have just as many scenes where they over act or act out of character or are “not in the scene.” Some people say that this is just Reeves acting style. While I actually have no major qualms with him as an actor, I will admit that I agree that he was not the best choice for the character of John Harker and that his English accent is quite bad. But, people, he wasn’t the only one. I feel like people get really hung up on his performance in this film and they forget that the movie was actually filled with some not-so-great moments from other cast members.

The secondary cast of characters, Quincy, Seward, Lucy, Holmwood are actually really well done. They don’t over act, or pull unneeded attention to themselves and act fairly realistically in most of the circumstances.  So… good job guys.

The film, visually, is a treat for the most part. As I said before the sets are beautiful and the style that the film was shot was great. The costumes and makeup just really bring it all together. There is a reason this film won Oscars for sets, makeup, and costume. It also won a fourth for sound editing, and it does have some really fantastic sounds going on.

The only thing I’ll harp on a little bit are the visual effects. This is 1992 now. CGI is around at this point in time. T2: Judgement Day came out a year before in ’91 and Jurassic Park is released the next year in ’93. There are computer effects, but instead Coppola goes with nearly all practical effects, filming, and staging techniques and while I am generally a BIG supporter of “if you can do it practically, do it” it doesn’t always work here. Now, the makeup, yes- it does work. No need for CGI. I love Drac’s different vampyric states, especially his giant demon bat. But moments like the super imposed eyes, and maps, and fog effects… don’t really hold up to today’s standards, and don’t really seem like they even look right in ’92. It probably would have worked if it was one or two, and they were using them to give it more of a classic monster film feel… but here is just feels cheap. They are trying to do so much new with this story and film, yet it feels dated and these effects aren’t just “been there and done that-” they are clichés. Still there are some shining moments with the effects, such as when we first meet count Dracula with Harker. The count’s shadow is very much its own creature, moving opposite the count or delayed… it’s creepy, and effective. That would be an effect I SO WISH I could see on stage.

The music is another highlight for the film. It successfully captures the feeling of something new, while calling back to some of the more melodramatic classic horror films. It’s become iconic, I feel, with the Dracula character as well. When it popped up in season one of American Horror Story I flipped. The main theme is ominous and troubled yet has a layer of sympathy to it- everything that is Dracula.

In the end, yes- I like this movie. It has flaws and it’s not my “go-to” Dracula film, but as a film that is representing a character that has been used in almost 50+ films by this time it does a real good job of keeping it fresh and interesting for the viewers. It also is one of the best, if not the best (in my opinion,) adaptations of the original source material that we have in film. It also is partially responsible for not only many our 21st century depictions and interpretations of Dracula, but of vampires in general.

My passion for film has been… well, it’s been a part of me since I can remember. Recently friends on Facebook (Jack and Andy, looking at you guys) took part in a challenge to list the ten films that mean the most/have affected them in some way and in turn I was challenged by them to do the same. So I posted my list on FB, but on here I am going to explain each one-

1.) Jurassic Park (1993)

No duh. Anybody who knows me knows that this movie is THE movie that has had the biggest role in shaping my life and passions. Seeing it at 2 1/2 years old was probably the best thing that ever could have happened to me. I love and hold JP as close to me as Trekies do the Star Trek franchise. I could go on and on about it but I won’t. Simply my passion for everything dinosaurs and paleontology, art, film, music all stemmed from this one film. It’s a cornerstone in my life.
2.) The Dark Knight (2008)

Kind of the same deal here. I have been a Batman fan nearly as long as a dinosaur nut, and I’ll get to that later. But TDK was a game changer. Batman Begins rekindled my passion for the caped crusader, but TDK came out at a time that I was trying to discover who I was as a person (cause, well ya know being a junior in high school totally does that for you :P.) But seriously, I was exploring different interests and hobbies in my life, especially with college around the corner and TDK inspired my to get in to acting.
3.) Schindler’s List (1993)

The storytelling, and cinematography of this work helped inspire my love for film as an art form. But the actual story itself shaped my interest in history as well as inspiring me to want to teach others about the Holocaust. It, like TDK, also came at a time where I was getting in to acting. It’s an amazing film, and one that I hold as, to this day, the greatest film I have ever seen.


4.) The Departed (2006)

This movie. THIS FREAKING MOVIE man. It got me excited about movies. Every time I watch this movie I think “YEAH, THIS IS WHY I WANT TO MAKE MOVIES!” It’s so cleverly constructed, EXTREMELY well acted by all parts, and just a big bag of fun all wrapped up in one giant Irish bow. I think I put Boondock Saints in the same boat as The Departed but even though I have hug love for Saints, The Departed just can’t be beat here. It’s just an amazing film.


5.) Halloween 2 (1981)

This is the first horror film I ever remember actually watching, and while it may not be my favorite horror film or the best one (although… let’s face it, it’s pretty dang good!!) it’s still my first one. It’s the one that really kindled my love for horror. That iconic last scene after Michael Myers gets shot in the eyes, and blood pours out of his sockets, but he STILL keeps coming… I remember seeing that at six years old. I remember being scared and anxious all at the same time. AMC Fear Fest baby!


6.)The Passion of the Christ (2004)

I identify as a saved christian. Many will question this, I’m sure, and I realize that I’m not a shining example but I am. An I feel that this movie has a major part of as to why. I saw it in 2004, and as soon as I stepped out of the movie theatre I just started sobbing. The story I knew, and had been told a million times since I was young suddenly became real for me. I needed to change my heart then and there.


7.) Frankenstein (1931)/ The Wolf Man (1941)

These are some of those “better” horror films I mentioned, and while people may quickly point out that a lot of the stuff in these movies (as well as many/most of the “classic” horror films) don’t “hold up” to today’s standards… I don’t care. Most of these classic movies are inspirational, even today, as an actor and they are the basis for EVERY horror to follow. And Frankenstein and The Wolf Man have always been my favorites. To me the are the most well made, and well acted. Sometimes I flip flop between Frankenstein and Bride, but today it’s the original. The makeup effects back then were top notch and set the stage for years of makeup evolution to come. Modern day “tropes” of the genre started and were usually perfected here. I can’t help it, these are some of the best.


8.) Alien (1979)

Like flip flopping between Frankenstein and Bride, I flop flop between this film and the original Halloween. But today Alien wins.  This film, even today, has moments that chill my bones. This is another one of those “perfect” films that holds up even by today’s standard. The shocks still shock, and the horror it still horrifying. The art design, acting, direction, and writing are just so perfect. The creature, and just the concept in general just gets under your skin…or chest I guess. It starts off as a slow burn, and quickly becomes one of the most terrifying films that will continue to haunt your dreams. 


9.) Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

This is the movie that began my passion for the caped crusader. And actually, even though it’s an animated film, it’s one of the best Batman films ever made. In fact, a LOT of animated films will be the best films you ever see. People need to get over the idea that animated = kids, because they don’t. Watch this movie, or Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1-2, Batman: Under the Red HoodJustice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, or Batman: Assault on Arkham.  Animated, shaminated. These films are some of the most adult, violent, well acted, well written movies you will ever see. And they typically get looked over by people. True, superhero films may not be everyone’s cup of tea- and sometimes animated films are a gamble. But I highly suggest going back and renting a few of these. You may be surpised.

10.) The Lion King (1994)/ The Prince of Egypt (1998)

Not a lot to say about these two really. I don’t exactly know how to explain how they shaped my interest in film- but they did, Lion King was the first film that my dad ever took me to as a “father and son day”… yeah. Think about that. Both films are very emotionally involving, and breathtaking visually. Every time I see them I’m just in awe at how amazing every aspect is of them. The scores, which was actually composed by Hans Zimmer for both of them, is awesome and the animation is very stunning.

That is my list. I could easily name ten more films that have helped shape my into the person and artist I am today, but I wont.

I’m sure as time goes on this list will change. Heck, it may even change tomorrow for all I know. But all I know for certain is that M=movies have been, and always will be an important part of my life.

They are NEVER “Asking For It”

Posted: September 12, 2014 in Blog
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One of the best things about working at a Spirit Halloween store is having groups of people come in, not knowing what they want. Because then I get to have fun, tossing costume bits at them and giving them advice about what they should wear and what looks good and what does not. Seriously, it’s so much fun! But what disheartens me is when I have girls trying on outfits, and then one of them tells their friend “you are so getting raped in that.”

Yeah, that has happened. And recently too. As in last night.

When people say things like that, be it a guy or a girl it not only makes me sad but it really angers me. Nobody (no matter what gender you identify with) should ever have to worry about being assaulted or raped for any reason, let along just because of what you are wearing. That statement alone we as a society have heard over a million times and yet it never seems to register with most people. Just because someone is dressed a certain way does NOT give anybody the right to assault them. That person is not “asking for it.” You know, a lot of people who slut shame and are perpetrators of rape culture say things like “What are we animals?” “She’s looks like a rabbit in heat!” or other analogous phrases comparing individuals who think it’s fine for people to go out dressed in revealing clothes to animals. Actually feminism, and thinking it is okay to be yourself and dress in whatever way makes you feel comfortable, is more “human” than what those people are saying. By allowing rape culture to exist you yourself are saying we are no better than animals. You are saying that “hey that is a piece of meat, and I want it.” You are saying that you yourself are just an animal and not a human being.

I’m also equally as heartbroken whenever I have heavier set people come in looking for costumes and thinking that nothing will look good on them. Be proud of your body! It’s yours, and nobody can take that away from you. I will say that a lot of our packaging at Spirit appeals to a certain body type, which is unfortunate, but please don’t let that deter you from at least trying something on!

All of that being said, people (and I hate to single out a gender but it is mostly females)- do not dress in what you think someone else wants you to dress in. Dress to please yourself. Wear what makes you feel happy in. If that means wearing skin tight spandex firefighter lady suit, so be it. If that means wearing a zombie prom queen outfit, that’s fine too! Whatever you want! Don’t feel like you have to wear something just to please another person. Be yourself. That’s the great thing about Halloween, you can be yourself- screw everyone else. I wish every day was like Halloween.

I know this was a tad jumbled and a bit rambly at parts- but I mean every bit of it. Grow up people, and move past the whole “well, she’s asking for it,” because NO. NO, NO, NO, NO. NO SHE/HE/THEY ARE NOT NOW, NOT EVER. NO. No matter what they is wearing, no matter how they is acting! Nobody ever is asking to be assaulted like that. And as a friend, you shouldn’t tell someone you love that they’re asking for it either.

I love Halloween, and I want everyone to enjoy it as much as I do.  So don’t ruin it for someone else; don’t be a perpetrator of a crime, like assault. Stop, and think about your actions. They have consequences.

Spoilers.

I’m actually surprised with myself that for my first throwback I’m not doing a “classic.” But I just picked this film up the other day and watched it and was reminded of how much I loved it. I believe this film flew under the radar for a lot of people, probably due to the fact that it had an unfortunate direct to DVD release, and that to me is sad because it is honestly a really solid addition to the series.

Curse of Chucky came out after a nearly ten year absence of the foul mouthed little terror. And the absence was most likely due to how had had been handled in Bride and Seed. I can let BoC slide, okay? I can watch it and have fun with it because I admit that there are some fairly enjoyable moments in it. But Seed is almost unforgivable in my eyes. It does to the Chuck what Batman & Robin did to the caped crusaders. The original Batman films (1989-90’s) are a great parallel to the Child’s Play franchise. The first two are awesome, third one still okay but not as great, and the fourth one just plummets to Hell. SoC took Chucky, the horror icon that really messed me up as a child and caused me to have pediophobia for most of my life, and turns him into nothing but a joke.  When a movie fails so badly though it causes the people in charge to start from scratch. Burn it all to the ground, burn it with fire, and chop it up in to little bits and build it anew. That’s exactly what Curse of Chucky does. It pulls a Chris Nolan and says “hey, let’s press that restart button.” Except instead of remaking Child’s Play, which had been a rumor for a number of years (they even discuss it on the 20th anniversary DVD,) they take the pieces that were left that were (remarkably) salvageable and bring the franchise back to life.

The film starts off with Sarah and Nica, Sarah’s daughter, (Nica is actually played by Fiona Dourif, Brad Dourif’s daughter. And if you don’t know who Brad Dourif is, and you’re reading this, shame on you) alone together in their excessively large house in the middle of BUFU. Nica is wheelchair bound and Sarah is… well, screwed up. We don’t know why, but all she does is spend her days painting sunflowers and apparently ordering crap off TV.  Then one day they get a large package in the mail, and inside is a classic late 80’s Good Guy doll. They think it odd, but keep the doll.

Later that night though Sarah seemingly commits suicide by throwing herself off of the balcony.  Nica’s sister Barb, brother in law Ian, and niece Alice come for the funeral. They are also accompanied  by Father Frank, and Alice’s nanny Jill. Nica gives the Good Guy doll to Alice as a gift, and we finally hear the doll state (in all of its classic glory (IE in the voice from Child’s Play 1-3)) “Hi, I’m Chucky. Wanna’ play?”

The movie actually kind of drags out at this point, really trying to flesh out the characters. I say trying because in the end many of them still feel like some typical character archetypes we’ve seen for decades now, but at least the filmmakers and writers were willing to try and make them more. There is a lot of going back and forth between Barb and Nica, where you can see just how strained their relationship as sisters are. Barb insists that Nica goes into an assisted living home and leaves sells the giant house her and their mother lived in. We also get some not so subtle foreboding lines from a few of the characters, like “It’s a doll. What’s the worst that can happen?” Nica eventually makes dinner with the assistance of Alice who also insists that Chucky be around to help (oh kids. They’re so innocent and sweet with their pretend things….) They make dinner and once they leave the kitchen we see a small plastic hand dump some rat poison into one of the dinner bowls. What follows is a tense scene unfortunately filled with one too many “fake outs” but in the end pays off as we see that Father Frank all of a sudden isn’t feeling good. He leaves, and moments later end up in a car crash where he is decapitated.

Soon after it’s revealed to us that Chucky is indeed alive, and he really begins his murderous spree. As the bodies start piling up we actually get some background on Chucky before he was a doll- that’s right, a back story to Charles Lee Ray (which I’ll get too more, later on.) It all leads up to the conclusion where we thing Nica has finally defeated Chucky but alas the cops come and think that Nica has snapped and killed everyone. So they send her away to a mental institution and Alice now lives with her other grandma. And one day they get a large brown package….

While this film is actually the longest Child’s Play film in the franchise, it is actually fairly basic in plot. Looking back on some of the other films I feel like this one was way more grounded in keeping things simple rather than going over the top and having too many opportunities for loose ends.  It keeps thing contained, which is both a blessing and… a curse (yeah, I said it.) The pacing of the film isn’t bad, per se, but it does drag on in a few spots especially when it’s just treading on territory that we’ve been on before. I’m not saying to delay the appearance of Chucky as a living being but I don’t think it was wise playing the “is he real or not game” with the audience because… well, we all know the answer to that question. This is the fifth film in the series about a supernaturally possessed doll; he’s alive. No mystery. It could have opened it up for a few more chances at one liners from Chucky.

That being said though the moment and time of Chucky’s reveal is perfect, and the line… oh sweet lord, the line is amazing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bM0J3KxOdJA

God, Brad Dourif rocks. Seriously, I think it’s the second best reveal to Chucky being alive since the first film. It sent chills down my spine, while at the same time had me giggling with glee- which is exactly what a Chucky film should do in my eyes.

The whole backstory to Charles Lee Ray subplot was odd. I understand they needed to have a reason for him to have murdered Sarah… but that’s exactly what it felt like. A forced reason for him to come after this family in particular. The story is he was once in love with Sarah, although she seemingly did not reciprocate. I’m actually rather confused as to if we are supposed to think Chucky is Nica’s dad or not (since, well… the whole father/daughter acting thing) but that wasn’t set up at all in the film. So I’m inclined to believe that he’s not. And he also is the reason for Nica being born disabled, having apparently stabbed Sarah while she was pregnant. The MAIN question though that I have was… is Charles just a huge player? Because Tiffany is in this film, and he references the Tilly family- so obviously the other films happened, at least in some capacity.  In BoC Tiff says that they were going to be married, and then he was murdered. But in this film he was totes head over heels in love with Sarah until she betrayed him. So did he have two girls? Or are we picking and choosing which parts of the old canon are still applying to this one? It’s a bit muddled, but I’m sure that is something only major fans of the franchise/horror aficionados would think about, and not the general public.

The deaths in this movie are graphic enough to feel new, but classic at the same time. They are a perfect blend, which once again- has kind of been what Chucky has always been about. A nod to slashers before him while at the same time making it his own. Chucky’s lines are amazing and quippy as ever.

The effects rock for the most part. The only time I was disappointed was there is a scene in which Chucky is coming down from the attic and you can fairly easily tell it’s a CG Chucky doll instead of the real puppet.

In general there is some fairly good acting, I mean as good as it can be I assume. Fiona shines in the film as the lead. There isn’t much to say. It’s not knock your socks off fantastic, but you can tell that the actors at least gave thought to their characters and wanted to try and bring dimension to them and a thought process behind their actions unlike most horror films being released.

All in all, I highly recommend this film, especially if you are already a fan of the character. If you are just looking for a quick horror film to watch on a weekend evening I still recommend it. It’s a lot better than most of the other stuff being released I feel, and I’m still really shocked that Universal didn’t try and release it in theatres (especially since they’d release such trash like As Above/So Below in theatres.) It’s a creepy, witty film with plenty of scares and gore to please. Just, if you’re a fan of the original four, try to get past the confusion of “where and how does this fit in the timeline?”

Also, if you’re a fan of the original films (at least the first three) stay after the credits for a nice little wink…

hhn-logo

 

Tonight was/is Halloween Horror Nights Orlando’s Media Preview night and next Friday is HHN Hollywood’s annual Eyegore Awards. After seeing the numerous images and videos already, all I can say is wow, this year looks amazing and I am totally jelly that I won’t be able to attend this year. I keep staying up late at night number crunching to see if I can swing it, but alas, it won’t happen. I just need to face the facts. The one year that collects some of my favorite horror franchises, as well as some really cool original content I won’t be able to experience. Oh, WOE IS ME!

But seriously, this year looks like it is gonna’ kick some major tail. Halloween alone is worth going in book. But The AVP house along with The Purge scarezone, and a Walking Dead house larger than any other house in history at HHN just clenches it. This year will rock, period. Plus houses like Dollhouse of the Damned, and Roanoke provide the potential to go into some pretty dark places HHN hasn’t fully ventured in recent years. I loved HHN last year when I went, don’t get me wrong. But things felt a little restrained somewhat. This year, based off what I have seen, it looks like HHN creative has just thrown everything they can at the event as a whole this year. This Purge scarezone is MASSIVE, and rightfully so. I am so glad to see the return of scarezones this year. I love Walking Dead as much as the next person, and the streets last year were amazing, but it was just all too much last year. Besides, unique scarezones are just a part of HHN’s blood. And Purge is one of those IP’s that screams potential for HHN zones. In my interview last year with Universal Hollywood’s John Murdy (director of HHN Hollywood) I exchanged words at how impressive their scarezone dedicated to the Purge looked. In fact I told him the opening scaremonies, which used the Purge’s now mildly iconic sirens and “broadcast announcing the annual commencement,” for the event sent literal chills down my spine. And that was only through videos I saw on YouTube, since I did not attend HHN Hollywood last year. I can only imagine what it is like to go through the streets with characters trying to purge.  Universal will do the property proud at the event… dare I say probably more so than the movies actually do.

When doing my research for my SI project, which I even now am still working on (I’ve since graduated) I would constantly go back to HHN and compare other houses and events to them. Universal does it the best. Through the years, yes you can see ebb and flow of interests and creativity, but no matter what Universal has always done it the best and always will. Horror is in their blood and they take pride in their work. My main critique this year is the lack of marketing and the website. Maybe it’s because fans such as myself have been so spoiled in the past with in depth characters, stories, and what not that were released over a period of months leading up to the full reveal. Last year we even got the LT game, as well as the mysterious PS giving vlog updates along the way which helped reveal houses. This year it was just house reveals via twitter and FB and the website, for Orlando at least, it just a typical scrolling site with info on it. But that is my only complaint, and it probably has more to do with the fact that since in the past when I couldn’t go I could at least always rely on the website for HHN to offer some fun and entertainment for me. This year not so much. So, once again, woe.

But really, I think this has got to be the year that I am the most saddened that I cannot go. Because marketing flaws or not, the event will rock. I want to come face to face with Michael Myers and xenomorphs dang it!

Sigh.

I’m going to continue watching the event though, hoping that some good videos pop up so that I can experience it vicariously through them! And I’ll also be trying to get in contact with people again, for more interviews for my paper/book.

Universal parks do it best due to their scope and quality. And I’m sure it’ll only get better year after year.

“The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…”

― Stephen King

 

Spoilers.

 

Man, my girlfriend is going to have a major eye role when she sees that I did a review on this book. Probably because I seriously haven’t shut upped about it since I finished it nearly a month ago. And… not in a good way. I feel a tad grimy for having two negative reviews in a row, but alas it is the hand that I’ve been dealt (and subsequently so have you if you read these!)

 

As a horror fan I am constantly looking for “those” stories. I don’t know how else to describe them. They surpass typical horror/suspense and go beyond. It’s like a mesh of what King describes as horror and terror. Like… if those two got together for a wild night and made a baby. Yeah, that’s what I want. Several films that I have seen fall on this list, but only a few books have ever entered this realm- so I’m always looking for more to add to that list. Books that keep me up at night and I pause, wondering if I dare continue.

Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ was a novel that, according to most of the reviews I had read, fell into the category. It’s a novel, inspired by the actual Sylvia Likens murder (like Jack Ketchem’s The Girl Next Door, which I have also not read but have seen the movie adaptation to.) People were saying it was one of the most terrifying and messed up novels they had ever read. I tried originally searching for it a year ago, but the book has since gone out of print and amazon and book sellers are selling it rather expensively (which may have added to my whole “Hm… well, it must be good!” mindset.) Finally I found a library who had it .

 

What follows is seriously all you need to know about Let’s Go Play.

The plot focuses on Barbra and the Adams children, who she is babysitting. Barb is a college student, with a real bright future. The problem is the “Freedom Five” (the two Adams kids, and their three friends) have different plans for her. While the adults are away, the kids want to play. So the Adams kids chloroform her and tie her to the bed. What Barbara is in for is a week worth of torture, humiliation, and rape before the kids form an extremely elaborate plan to frame a Mexican field worker, and kill Barbra by stabbing her with a red hot poker.

 

There, I summed up a 300+ page book in one paragraph for you. The book was author Mendal Johnson’s only novel published, and that is probably a good thing. His writing style is very choppy and super repetitive. His details are good, but you are constantly reminded of them over and over again. It reads a lot like this:

‘That porch? Yeah, the back one. The one in the back of the house. The houses back porch. Yeah. It’s made of wood. The back one is. And when people walk on it, it creaks. And Billy thinks someone is outside, because it creaked- the back porch that is. The one connected to the house. And the kids are alone, save for the ONE adult they have tied upstairs naked. The one person who can help them. Barbra. She could help them, but she won’t. She can’t. Because she’s tied up, and naked. And beaten. ’

Get the picture? That’s what the whole book is like. And I understand that Johnson was probably trying to go for a childlike mindset when he wrote the book, since your main characters are children and you need to understand their thoughts, but it doesn’t work. Not when he has a nine year old girl think of words like ‘tumultuous’ and ‘troglodyte.’  And it goes through radical transitions on the drop of a dime between Barbra’s thought process and time spent on events in her room takes place that overlap with events taking place with the kids and their thought process. It gets muddled vary fast, and hard to follow without stopping, going back and rereading the entire page once you figure out what the heck you just read.

You also, straight up, never feel for the characters. The author doesn’t write children well. It seems like when he wrote it he was like “Oh, here is a real life story of kids being evil. I don’t know why they’d do such a thing, but that’s not important! I’ll write a story about it.” It plays off very much like how Michael Myer’s is explained as pure evil in Halloween. Except you actually buy that story. Here you can see that these kids know that they are doing wrong here, and on multiple occasions they talk about how they just need to end it, how the “game” isn’t fun anymore, how it’s boring, and how they will get in trouble. All of them think that at some point (except Paul, because he’s messed up majorly (which I’ll get to later)) but yet they continue to just go on beating, raping, and eventually killing this poor girl.

Now Barbra does get some good characterization, I’ll give the book that. But there are points where she does, says, or thinks things that are so out of place and feel forced. The last time she is raped, she decides to enjoy it and actually orgasms. It’s a three page Stockholm syndrome fest, and it is so unrequired and actually (I feel) demeaning to Barbra’s character. It makes her seem like she has to have a man there in some way, even if it’s John, and how she should have accepted men earlier. I don’t know. It just felt wrong.

Then there are moments in the book that are funny and they are in no way supposed to be. Going back to Paul, the author tries so hard to shove down our throats that Paul is messed up and psychotic. And the first time he messes around with a knife it gets a tad creepy. But after that it’s like Johnson was like “Let’s give him ALL the clichés!” Paul is so atypical that the fact that nobody but his sister Dianne can see it is ludicrous. But he does, at one point, throw a fit because he thinks he can’t kill Barbra and runs head first into a wall trying to kill himself. Yes. You read that right. And it read in the book about a stupid as it sounds here. I literally laughed out loud, when I read that passage, to near tears. It was ridiculous. That along with this super, insanely elaborate plan to frame and kill this field worker along with Barba made me almost want to stop reading it. It didn’t make sense. And it all happens, and nobody is ever punished that we know of. It ends on a mild cliffhanger, with the author asking the questions for you about the remaining character’s futures (since, I’ll be honest; I didn’t really care at the end what happened to the children anyway.) Not only do I not believe that none of the kids would ever say anything, I cannot believe that they could get away with it in the first place. There were too many holes in their story.

 

There was one, single, mildly redeeming thing about this book though and it was the beginning of the epilogue. It talks about how the death of Barbra affected those who were close to her, and I will say that the author handled that feeling of loss and heartbreak really well- especially with Barba’s college roommate/best friend. It was beautiful.

 

But all and all this was a ludicrous, poorly written mess. There was no point, and was just violent garbage for sake of being violent. It wasn’t scary; it was just stupid and gratuitous. Hardly any of the characters were either relatable or believable and the ending just pisses you off. I was so let down by this book. I haven’t been this upset at a book since I read Johnny Got His Gun. The film version of The Girl Next Door while super hard to watch for the most part (I have it on my “probably will never watch again, but was good” movie list) was well done. You felt for the characters and there were some terrifying portions. Not a film soon to be forgotten; it leaves a residue. So does this Let’s Go Play at the Adams’, but not for the same reasons.

I’m not really sure why it’s taken me two days to collect my thoughts on what I think of As Above/So Below because I KNOW what I think of it- it’s garbage. Plain and simple, right out there in the open for you. I guess I’ve been spending more time kind of narrowing down what I didn’t like though, which is the challenge.

I’ll warn you that, unlike my typical review style this one ends up being pretty jumbled. Be it because it’s been a few days since I’ve seen the film or because my thoughts on the film itself are messy… or both. So if I keep going back and forth on topics, and reiterating things I apologize.

Also… spoilers. Duh.

 

 

When I saw the trailer for the film my initial reaction was “Hmm, looks like a found footage version of The Descent. I don’t think I’ll waste my time or money.” Well, I had a free movie ticket so really the only thing wasted was my time.  But really I should have heeded my own warning, because all this movie was a rehash of topical found footage tropes and scares as well as scenes taken directly from The Descent. Here, let me show you.

4

The Descent

1

As Above/So Below

Character getting stuck and then causing a cave in? Check.

3

The Descent

2

As Above/ So Below

Lead dropped into a pool of blood? Check.

“The dark plays tricks on you!” quote? Check.

Creatures in the dark? Check.

The list goes on.

 

The thing that really attracted me to this film was the potential, like so many recent horror films I feel. When was the last time we had a good horror film that involved traveling into the underworld itself? And they way the publicized it in the commercials was awesome. Each member of the team essentially experiencing their own Hell. What is torturous to one of them may not be for the others. Hell adapts. I really thought that there was a chance that we’d get a really brutal horror film about this group of young researchers experiencing a Hell on a Clive Barker level of dark.

After the first ten minutes I realized that my hopes were too high. Way too high. Instead this was an hour and a half film about a selfish doctor, who is looking for the philosopher’s stone. When that crucial plot point was revealed I was at least hoping to see Fluffy at some point in the film. Alas, that didn’t happen either.

To tell you the truth I don’t remember a lot about the plot. They go down into the famous catacombs of Paris looking for the stone, and literally all Hell is released upon them. But… the time line in which things occur is all kinds of screwed up. Evil things start happening before we even get to the catacombs, but nobody ever seems to care. And then they talk about it all as if it is myth, even though they’ve seen the apparitions and what not. When they finally go down the catacombs only one entrance is supposed to be evil, but when they go in the normal way it turns them around mysteriously. Are you lost? Good, so was I. Nothing is ever explained, so you have to just go with it real fast otherwise you’ll be stuck wondering why in the first five minutes the lead seeing her dead father hanging doesn’t cause her any alarm, for the rest of the hour and a half.

 

Now, I’ll go back to something I said earlier. I feel like AA/SB suffers from something a good majority of horror films today do- good idea, bad follow through. The creators had a really decent idea on their hands. The problem was it lacked direction, focus, and originality of substance that made up the actual film. There were so many ways this film could have gone other than reusing the same old found footage scare tactics over, and OVER again. Seriously. Anybody who DIDN’T see the scares coming from a mile away must be in a major Antonio Bay like fog of some kind.

The filmmakers didn’t even utilize the title correctly. Now, to many this may seem nit picky, but to me it’s something major. The phrase “as above, so below” is actually a part of Satanic scripture in which it talks about how the world above will be made just like how it is below. Essentially the world as we know it, under the rule of Lucifer, will become a living Hell. Instead this film actually says the opposite- about how life on earth will one day be like it is in heaven, or something along those lines.

Another missed opportunity was when one of the actors exclaims that they have go deeper down in order to escape. What a great opportunity to examine the deeper circles of Hell! But nope. Just another skimmed over plot point, that doesn’t matter at all in the grand scheme of things.

 

I could keep going on about my thoughts and what I would do differently, but I’m going to end it here. Really, in general I feel like the found footage movement in horror reached it’s peek about four or five years ago. They aren’t scary anymore. They are all the same. You could probably take all of the recent found footage films and watch them back to back and literally pick out which scenes and lines line up exactly with the other films.

There are ways to take tropes and still make them scary and fresh.  The Strangers? The Conjuring? You’re Next? Cabin in the Woods? Seriously.

 

So do yourself a favor, skip this movie and go see Guardians of the Galaxy for a fifth time.

 

What to Expect

Posted: September 4, 2014 in Blog

You need to realize something about me. I’m a horror nut. Well, in general I am a self proclaimed cinephile and theatre nut in general. But, man, I love my horror. Watching it, writing and creating it- all aspects I adore. In general this blog will be dedicated to two things. 

1.) Horror, and my journey with it. 

To elaborate, I plan on reviewing things in the horror world. From films, games, to theatrical productions and haunted houses. I’m going to try my best to make these consistent as far as release times go. Many of these reviews I am planning on going hand in hand with vlogs I wish to start on my YouTube channel. 

I’ll also be discussing what it is like to be a writer, aspiring makeup artist, and actor of horror. I have worked haunted houses for ten years this season. This year (2014) I’ll be working Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare in Villa Park, IL. I also have an ongoing project that I started as my senior thesis in college on the evolution of horror as a theatrical art form, that I someday hope to publish as a book. I will blog about the process of that as well.

And who knows, I may even write a short story from time to time. 

 

2.)Blogs about me personally. My hopes and dreams, as well as what I am doing to achieve them and sometimes just random thoughts and what-not because WHY not. 

I’ll probably review other films, and works I see as well from time to time. 

 

 

Those two things are mainly what you are in store for when you visit this blog. At least ,that is my initial intention at the moment. 

There are a few other things you should probably know about me off the bat- that you’d probably find out anyway. Along with film, horror, and literature I also have a huge passion for Mesozoic life- namely dinosaurs. I am also a big comic book fan, specifically a Batman fan. 

 

That’s really it for now. My first review will be on the latest horror film to hit theatres- As Above/So Below. So be sure to check back soon.