Thursday, November 3, 2011


David Hasselhoff, a pregnant Linda Blair, an obnoxious child, the worst actress of all time, and some old people end up stranded at a mysterious house on a small, secluded island, and suffer the wrath of a vengeful witch who can make them travel into some sort of evil witchery dimension or something.

The whole month can be summed up with a deceptively simple question: Witchery, or Faceless? Actually, no it can't, those are just two shitty horror movies that Andy procured for me that happened to start and close out the month. I never intended to end this year's festivities with Witchery; in fact, Andy and I tried to watch it the first weekend of October. But we watched it late at night and got kinda tired the first time and turned it off after a confusing half hour. Then we tried again a few weeks later... and the DVD turned out to be broken, and the last half hour wouldn't play. So I finally tracked down another copy and watched the rest of it on Halloween.

And that story is a lot more interesting than Witchery itself, although unlike some of the other unfortunate crap I watched this month, it's a pretty funny bad horror movie. It has an incoherent plot about haunted houses and witches and mysterious lights and alternate dimensions, a lot of elaborate but shitty looking and poorly staged make up effects (that one woman sure takes getting her mouth stitched shut well), a really hilarious bad recurring effect where shots of the actors waving their arms and moaning are superimposed over some poorman's 2001-style swirling void. And I swear the film ends with the world's worst actress, in a monotone voice I assume was meant to convey horror, saying "A baby?" and then looking directly into the camera:

If I didn't know better, I'd think the filmmakers were actually trying to make a comedy. Although it still wouldn't have been a very good comedy.

Grade: D++

I do these marathons every year in the hopes that I'll find some forgotten classic or unknown gems. Although I had no trouble discovering a lot of okay to really good movies this year, I didn't really find anything I hadn't seen before that really blew me away. I worry sometimes that I've already seen all the great horror movies that have already been made, but that's not going to stop me from searching. And to show you how positive I still feel about all this, here is a list of the movies I saw for the first time this month that I enthusiastically recommend, even if none of them were quite great:

(in no particular order)

The Abandoned
Vanishing on 7th Street
A Horrible Way to Die
Make-Out With Violence
A Chinese Ghost Story 2
I Bury the Living
The Baby

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


A ruthless serial killer is captured and put on trial. The liberal prosecutor is given a tough assignment: to get the jury to go for the death penalty.

My final William Friedkin film for YVIAHMMAOIHTNQ, Rampage is a little less of a horror movie than The Guardian was, instead it's sort of a legal thriller with some horror movie elements. What it does have that The Guardian lacked is that spooky Friedkin brand of ambiguity. The film is actually an interesting and sometimes provocative probing of an interesting idea, which is how do we legally define insanity, and how much can an insane person be held accountable for their actions? For clearly this man is nuts; no sane person would commit these crimes. And yet, he shows forethought, planning, a sense that he knows what he did was wrong...

I thought for a while that this movie might be taking a more conservative stance on this issue, but in classic Friedkin fashion, you're actually less sure about how to feel about everything by the end. The killer remains not only mysterious but unknowable. He is left both unexplained and, unlike so many other serial killers in film, unglamorized. Is he remorseless, or simply un-self-aware? He expresses a desire to change, but is he for real, or is it an act? Rampage reminded me a little of The Ugly, another serial killer film I watched this month. But where that film sought to explore and explain, Rampage is all the more chilling and effective because it refuses to explain, and rather takes a hard look at the uncomprehandle nature of the mind of a killer.

Grade: B


I believe this is officially the laziest setup for an anthology film ever: two guys steal a couple of horror movies from the video store and watch them over at a friends house. In the movies they watch: the enemies of a bullied puppeteer are brutally murdered by a mysterious killer; a woman has strange visions of a killer roaming around her new home; a young man plans to rob the old ladies he works for, and then, um, something about haunted lawn gnomes I guess.

The poor quality of the Netflix streaming video didn't help, I'm sure, but I found Screamtime to be near unwatchable. It's a British anthology film (though the wraparound story is American, for some reason), but lacking in any of the style, class, wit, or budget that distinguished the classics like Tales From the Crypt or Vault of Horror. It's a dull, awkward looking film with overlong stories that build to obvious endings. It may not quite be the worst movie I saw this October, but it may have been the dullest.

Grade: D


Astronauts, space monsters, let's do Alien on a budget, you know the drill.

Notable things about Creature:

1) Klaus Kinski having fun overacting in an extended cameo.

2) A slightly campy tone, sort of a throw back to old 50's sci fi movies.

Otherwise, this is just like every other sci fi/horror movie to come out after Alien.

Grade: C

Case 39

A social worker saves a little girl from her strange, murderous parents. She is granted custody of the child, but soon discovers that maybe the parents weren't the dangerous ones after all.

Case 39 takes a while to get going, and for a little while it seemed like it was a perfect example of everything I hate about the studio horror films of the last decade or two: heavy-handed screenplay, choppy direction lacking in finesse, bombastic music, name actors floundering in underwritten roles. But when the other shoe finally drops, and Case 39 finally starts to turn towards its real story, it becomes a surprising amount of expertly manipulative, if silly, fun. It reminded me a bit of another recent evil-child movie, Orphan, although not quite as awesome.

The plot grows increasingly crazy (in good ways), the major set pieces (especially the one where a bunch of hornets crawl out of a dude's mouth, ears and eyes) are solid, and the child actor has that amazing Dakota-Fanning-like ability to seem far too mature and intelligent for her age. I'm not sure if this movie was intended in total seriousness, and if it was then it's probably something of a failure. But as a piece of absurd, far-fetched fun, it had me mostly delighted.

Grade: B-

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Legend of Hell House

A group of paranormal experts and psychics are hired to investigate an infamous, supposedly haunted house.

The Legend of Hell House is a throw back to classic haunted house movies like The Haunting and House on Haunted Hill, with a little bit of sex and violence thrown in to update it for the 70's. Like those films, it tries to play up a central mystery as to whether or not something supernatural is going on, or if there is a rational explanation for the strange events. I think the main reason I was mostly indifferent to this one, despite some solid technical credentials, is that it goes about this the wrong way. The problem is that the events are clearly supernatural, and the only mystery is whether or not it is being caused by a ghost, or by the psychic powers of some of the main characters. The tension in this type of story is supposed to be between the real and the fantastical, but here it's between one ludicrous supernatural explanation and another equally ludicrous supernatural explanation. Whatever "rationality vs faith" (or however you want to term it) debate there is raised by the story is immediately made moot, and I spent most of the movie wondering why they even bothered making it a mystery at all. The film's frequent stabs at trying to seem authoritative and plausible just make it all the more silly. It opens up with a disclaimer that though the film is work of fiction, it's based on stuff that, like, could totally possibly happen or something. Which is some pretty hilarious bullshit.

On the other hand, the film does star Roddy McDowell, which counts for a lot.

Grade: C