Archive for the HORROR MOVIES Category

Countdown to Halloween – The Horror of Sherlock Holmes

Posted in halloween, halloween countdown, halloween movies, HAMMER FILMS, hammer horror, HORROR MOVIES on 10/15/2012 by vincentstark

Hammer’s Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

So suitable for the British horror studio was Conan Doyle’s, The Hound of the Baskervilles that it could have been written with Hammer Films in mind. Indeed following their success with revamping the Dracula and Frankenstein franchises Hammer turned to the most famous fictional detective of them all, Sherlock Holmes for this movie which was intended to be the first in a new series with Peter Cushing in the title role. Alas the movie didn’t perform as well at the box office as expected and plans for the series were scrapped while Hammer concentrated on more gothic material. Pity really – I would have loved to have seen Hammer tackle The Giant Rat of Sumatra.

The film looks like a Hammer movie – the colour is excellent, garish in places with all that over saturated red and the gothic elements that the studio did so well, are brought out in Doyle’s story like never before. Of course they were always there, even in the original story but Hammer emphasise these parts of the storyline without really altering the original. There are some differences to the original story – Stapleton’s webbed hands for one thing, the tarantula attack for another but these work well within the story and indeed the  webbed hands carried by one line of the Baskerville clan is inspired and is a nice little macabre touch.

Peter Cushing here gives an excellent performance as Sherlock Holmes – the actor was a Sherlockian himself and he brings his knowledge of the character to the role. Andre Morell is a more than suitable Watson. It is also nice to see Christopher Lee playing a romantic lead role and one wonders what would have happened had he played more such roles. He is certainly convincing here. All in all this is a great Sherlock Holmes movie and under the direction of Terence Fisher the ponderous middle section so obvious in most productions of this story moves along at a great pace.

Why wasn’t it a big box office hit then? Well the blame for this lies with Hammer themselves. They promoted the movie as a big horror flick in the style of their successful Dracula and Frankenstein movies, with hardly any mention that this was in fact a Sherlock Holmes movie. The advertising posters suggested a kind of werewolf but when we see the hound on screen it is nothing more than an over sized Great Dane. Movie fans back in the day may have been disappointed – after all, they were going to see a film starring Hammer’s two biggest horror icons with a large slavering hound in the advertising posters and what they got  Sherlock Holmes adventure. A damn thrilling one nonetheless but word of mouth could have harmed the movie after its strong opening weekend.  SEE THE ORIGINAL CINEMA TRAILER EMBEDDED BELOW TO SEE HOW THE FILM WAS MARKETED.

Still the movie’s stood the test of time and this is a great version of the much filmed story – it’s also nice to see the current DVD version showing such an impressive looking cut of the movie. The colours are vibrant and the sound booming. It is only a pity that it is a full frame 4.3 version on the UK release when I believe the American market get a true widescreen version.

Peter Cushing would of course go onto play Holmes for the BBC, but his performance as the detective here is perhaps his definitive stab at the part. Christopher Lee also got a stab at playing both Watson and Holmes in future Holmes movies but the less said about them the better.

Halloween Countdown – The Cabin in the Woods

Posted in halloween, halloween countdown, horror, HORROR MOVIES, the cabin in the woods, Uncategorized on 10/15/2012 by vincentstark

This film was held in limbo due to  MGM’s financial problems – those same problems that also kept the latest James Bond movie, Red Dawn  and The Hobbit from the big screen.It was actually made way back in 2009 but only saw the inside of a cinema in 2012.

It was written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard with Goddard also taking the  directorial duties, and offers, believe it or not, a fresh take on the teens in the cabin in the wood scenario. Now there are major spoilers in this post so if you’ve not seen the film then do not read on, but the plot and that clever twist is given away elsewhere on the web and most horror fans would have seen the movie by now. We get the same kind of set up we’ve seen in countless other slasher movies – group of teens made up of the jock, the slut,the fool, the studious one and the virgin camping in a remote cabin in the woods and then they are picked off one by one in ever more inventive ways. So far so familiar but there’s something else going on here and every now and then we get a scene of a group of office workers watching our teens  on monitor screens and taking bets on how they will die and in which order. There is also an invisible force field around the woods which makes escape impossible – are we in some kind of reality TV show? Is this a slasher Big Brother?

I must admit that by the half way point I had decided that the film would reveal that we were in fact watching a reality TV show and I was going with that – you’ve got to give it up for the humour in the movie, as well as the knowing nods to countless other horror movies, but when the twist comes we discover that this is not a reality TV show but that the teens are to be sacrificed to the old Gods, and that similar sacrifices are being carried out all over the world The rules are that all of the teens, with the exception of the virgin must die otherwise the Gods will be displeased and the world will end. It’s a clever concept and seems to suggest that all those other horror movies – the Friday 13th’s, the Evil Dead and so on were actually ritualistic sacrifices to the Gods.

This time though, thanks to the survival abilities of stoner, Marty the world really is doomed and then movie ends with a sudden cut to nothing but blackness. Getting there however is great fun with some excellent entertainment – the massive monster rampage in which every monster imaginable goes berserk in mission control is absolutely awesome. You’ve got to give it up for that alone.

Nuff said – I loved this movie.

COUNTDOWN TO HALLOWEEN -HITCHCOCK IS FOR HORROR

Posted in halloween countdown, HORROR MOVIES on 10/05/2012 by vincentstark

Alfred Hitchcock did not make horror movies, not really, and yet his 1960 telling of Robert Bloch’s novel, Psycho is often in amongst best ever horror film lists, and it does have some claim to being the first ever slasher movie. In fact though Hitchcock did work several times in the horror genre most notably with Birds (1963)  and the brutal Frenzy (1972). Indeed many directors, well known for their work in the horror genre, have named Hitch as a major influence on shaping their works – John Carpenter’s Halloween for instance is very Hitchcockian, and virtually every Brain De Palma movie is a riff on good old Hitch.

 

Alfred Hitchcock was born August 13, 1899 in  London, the second son and youngest of the three children of William Hitchcock, a greengrocer, and his wife, Emma Jane Whelan. He was educated at various Catholic boarding schools in London, and always spoke of his childhood as lonely and protected. The director claimed that as a boy he escaped into the fantasy world of his imagination to relieve the boredom of life on the working class London streets, and the brutality of his Catholic schooling.

Back to Psycho though – the movie starts out as a crime melodrama but then about half way through turns into an out and out horror cum slasher picture. It was a bold move and an unusual way to tell a story – Hitch started off with a story of a woman who steals a lot of money, and then after spending most of the screen time concentrating on the woman before killing her, losing the money and starting up a whole new story. And in this new story we are introduced to Norman Bates,a never better Anthony Perkins, as he gets rid of the woman’s body and unknowingly the money. The movie is now a very different beast indeed as the woman’s sister turns up with a private investigator and starts looking into the strange goings on at Bates Motel, which leads us to one of the most shocking climaxes in movie history.

 

The Birds (1963) kicked off a sting of ecological horror stories,but none did it with quite the panache of Hitch’s little tale – based on the short story by Daphne Du Maurier, the movie is slow moving but builds suspense through suggestion so that by the time the remarkably filmed bird attacks begin, the viewers are wound up like a spring. Another nice touch is that there is absolutely no music in the story with natural sounds used to fill in those silent moments – watch the movie on a good set up and this lack of a musical score is very effective.

 

Frenzy (1972) whilst not up to the high standards of many of Hitch’s classics, it is the nastiest picture the director ever produced and shares some similarities with his Lodger (1927), which was itself a telling of the Jack the Ripper story. Though this is the early Seventies and the rapes and murder are shown on the screen in  a way that was not possible in earlier decades. The hero himself is a rather un-likeable character which makes the film all the more real, and often difficult to watch. The killings in this movie are not the blood soaked stylistic murders favoured by Hollywood, but rather realistic and truly unsettling scenes of psychopathic cruelty.

Of course when Hitch’s entire canon is taken into account it would be absurd to call him a horror director, but the director understood suspense and was not averse to using a sudden shock moment or a gross out scene, which is something all horror directors have learned for. In the evolution of screen horror Alfred Hitchcock stands tall.

 

 

 

 

 

Modern Classics – Christine

Posted in christine, HORROR MOVIES, HORROR WRITERS, modern classics, STEPHEN KING on 09/08/2012 by vincentstark

I think I’d only ever seen this movie once before, and that would have been on VHS back in the 80’s when I was watching pretty much ever horror movie, good, bad or indifferent, that I could get my hands on. During this period the levels of gore that could be gotten convincingly on the screen had improved leaps and bounds – gone were the days when a splash of vivid red blood could get the viewer’s stomach churning and now with the relaxation of censorship rules and improvement in special effects horror was booming. Christine is not heavy on gore, in fact it’s fairly tame in those terms, but it was based on a book written by Stephen King and for a teenage horror fan King was the dogs bollocks.

My memory of the movie was that I don’t think I liked it that much, maybe I thought it was too slow and maybe I was disappointed with the lack of the gruesome stuff – hey, remember that yucky stuff matters when the viewer at a certain age. And so when I saw the film on a budget DVD, I thought I’d like to see it again. After all, I’d loved the original novel and these days, as an older film viewer, I find that story, acting and all those other little things matter to me far more than a few splatters of gore.

And you know what – I enjoyed the movie a heck of a lot more this time around.

The rock and roll soundtrack for one thing is excellent and the nuances of the movie are far clearer to me now that I watch films in a more mature way. Take Keith Gordon for a start – although the film is set in the Eighties, he transforms from a nerd into a super cool dude when he gets ownership of Christine – the cherry red Plymouth Fury that looks sleeker than any car – and when he becomes this super cool dude there is something of a Fifties vibe to the style he adopts. It’s not obvious and in your face but is a subtle hint of his possession by the car named Christine. It is also apparent now how timeless the 50’s period was – the kids dressed in the 80’s styles look incredibly dated but there is something contemporary, even now, of the way Arnie dresses and looks. The music was much better too – I’d much rather hear Chuck Berry than another 80’s power ballad.

And what a performance from Keith Gordon – Ok maybe the transformation from hopeless nerd to super cat happens a little too quickly, but when he turns nasty, being all of nine stone soaking wet, he really pulls it off and not for a moment do we doubt him. It’s an incredible performance and although the supporting cast are decent, he steals the entire show. Some of the more touching character scenes come when Arnie is alone with Christine and, although touching, these are incredibly creepy.

Director, John Carpenter really understands suspense – think of his original Halloween or Thing re-make – and he moves the movie forward at pace, dropping hints as he goes along but never allowing the viewer to get the whole picture until the end, and even then we don’t have the full picture. One thing I did miss was the ghost of Christine’s former owner – Carpenter ejects this character from the movie. The character was such an important element of the book, but when watching the movie I found myself sucked in and nothing mattered other than the story itself.

Christine then is a pretty good horror thriller – it riffs on the teenage love affair with cars and for anyone who has ever projected a personality onto a car, Christine is one sexy but scary bitch. Stephen King’s nostalgia for the 50’s which often shows up in his books, is running through the DNA of this movie, and  it’s all the better for it. The way Christine’s period radio always seems to tune to a rock and roll station really works in the framework of this picture and enhances the feel of the piece – as Christine knows, the devil’s got all the best tunes.

If you’ve never seen Christine then take her for a spin, and if you’ve seen it before then it’s maybe time for another ride.

Creature Features – Eight Legged Freaks

Posted in creature features, crossover horror, HORROR MOVIES, Uncategorized on 08/14/2012 by vincentstark

OK it’s stupid, it’s derivative, the CGI clunks in  places,  and it runs out of speed towards the climax, but  if you can get into the right frame of mind then this homage  to all those 1950’s giant bug movies is great fun. I recently watched it on DVD after not seeing the movie since its original release and I must admit I  enjoyed it in a goofy kind of way. The plot  is simple – spiders are mutated by toxic waste and  go on the rampage in small town  America. That’s it  – well apart  from a sub plot in which David Arquette is in love with the town’s hot female sheriff, but we don’t really care about that and  it  is the giant spiders  we’ve come to see.

The first thirty minutes or so contain some inventive touches – the fight between the cat and the spider within the cavity of a wall is brilliantly done, as is the scene where the spider gets the Parrot who recites the most famous line from The Sixth Sense, “I see dead people”, but as we get further into the film the spider attacks become far less subtle and far more in your face. The CGI spiders are impressive in places but more often look false and as if they have been layered over a scene. One section in which the creatures are taking down a team of motocross riders is ruined in places by the ropey effects.
It’s not a bad movie, though and when it works it really works. Maybe not as a terror filled horror movie, but certainly as a fun-filled nod to the B movies of old. I think if I’d been watching this as a young kid the it would have terrified me, – hey  if the spiders in Doctor Who gave me the willies then this would have seriously freaked me.  Sill as an adult I can appreciate the humour – Jay Arlen Jones is excellent as the paranoid shock jock who spends his life spouting out various conspiracy theories on his local radio show. He sees the spiders as aliens and proof  that he has been right all along and that they do indeed walk among us.
‘Anal probe – that’s just wrong. What are they expecting to find up there?’

The climax takes place in a shopping mall – the logic of the movie suffers here and we are expected to believe that you can get from the basement of the shopping mall into a methane filled gold mine. Accepting the spiders is no problem but this little detail seems a step too far. The fact that the mines are filled with the explosive gas is highlighted several times in the movie so it’s no surprise when the spiders are lured into the mines and then blown to bits and pieces.

Still it’s all in good fun and well worth a watch.

Rogue River

Posted in after dark, horror, HORROR MOVIES, rogue river on 06/19/2012 by vincentstark

I’m not exactly sure what I just watched, but apart from having no real idea what had just happened, and what it all meant, everything was fine and dandy. Rogue River, another straight to DVD horror movie from the After Dark label maybe just what your looking for if mindless torture with no real discernible plot is your thing. The only good thing about the movie is that it was mostly well acted and looked absolutely superb, but there were so many missed chances to turn out something special, and by half of the way through I had completely lost the thread of the plot as well as the will to live. The shock reveal at the very end was also lame. And you know what, I can really be bothered to write anything more about this film because there’s really nothing much to say. Well apart from Crap that is.

Trollhunter

Posted in HORROR MOVIES, modern classics, Uncategorized on 06/04/2012 by vincentstark

After this movie no one will be able to take one of those footage found in the woods type movies seriously again.

Trollhunter takes its silly premise, a tape found in the woods that depicts a hunt for Trolls in the Norwegian wilderness, and plays it dead straight and surprisingly it turns out to be both funny and genuinely scary. In fact it’s probably my favorite movie after Blair Witch in the found tape genre. One thing is certain  –  it’s a heck of a lot better than the Paranormal Activity series.

Of course the days of Blair Witch are long gone and so the viewer does not for one minute believe this movie is actually found footage, but the film presents itself in such an original and vibrant way that this is soon forgotten, and we are sucked into the movie. The first time we see a Troll is a thrilling moment, and the filmmakers have employed clever effects of night vision and shaky cameras to hide the cheapness of the limited CGI. The scene where our students are trapped in a Troll lair with maybe a dozen Trolls is truly blood chilling, which is an achievement when the sleeping Trolls look like over sized Muppets. The storyline itself is absurd and we are told that the government knows about the trolls and that there is a shadowy Troll Task Force that covers up Troll sightings. Into this mix comes fairy tale elements as we see a Troll turn to stone, while another explodes. We are given a talking head scientific answer for this when the students interview a local veterinarian.

It’s a silly movie when you analyze it but that doesn’t matter, because it understands how to tell a damn good story, – Part horror movie, part social satire, and bursting with Norway’s stunning landscapes the film is a classic of its kind.