Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Saw 2 (2005)

After spending last night at the Edgar Allan Poe reenactment, I decided that I wanted some violent horror for my Halloween night. Thinking back over the past month, I couldn’t believe that I had never reviewed half of the Saw franchise and figured that I would start that undertaking by revisiting Saw 2 from 2005.

Plot/ A detective and his team must rescue eight people trapped in a factory by the twisted serial killer known as Jigsaw.

The original Saw was one of the best horror/thrillers I had seen. It was atmospheric, dark, and the storyline was tremendous. Creating a sequel to a movie such as that is almost an impossible task. Yet, now after revisiting Saw 2, it is clear that Darren Lynn Bousman did just that with a tightly woven storyline that differs from the original but captures the essence of the classic perfectly. I remember when this one first came out and the clear differences between the two made it an uneven watch for me. However, today, that feeling is completely different. The change with having multiple players in Jigsaws game was the perfect step for the franchise and added layers to the legend of Jigsaw that would pay many dividends throughout the rest of the series. The cast is tremendous, the performances are solid, the dialog, scripting, and storyline were fantastic (the twists made it even more worthwhile), and the gore, traps, and special effects were amazing. Sure, the pit of needles was blah (and honestly still a letdown) and some of the arguments and decisions made by the participants were annoying, but those are only minor flaws. In the end, I am glad that I decided to revisit this one tonight on Halloween; it was so much better than I remembered and a movie that fans like me could have easily overlooked as it was sandwiched between the two best movies made in the franchise (and possibly the genre). If you haven’t seen it or revisited it in a while, I think you should. This is an outstanding movie and one that is perfect for the Halloween season.

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Night with Edgar Allan Poe

With tomorrow being Halloween, it was nice to see the rain from the weekend clear and allow us to get out. Not knowing what tomorrow will hold, i was able to get tickets to see to something different: ANight with Edgar Allan Poe.

Tonight I had a chance to sit back and watch a tremendous performance by literary historian Rob Velella. During this hour and a half show at Fort Necessity Nation Battlefield, he was able to channel his energy and take us into the life and words of Edgar Allan Poe with a combination of well-known and lesser-known works including Shadow A Parable, The Oblong Box and of course, The Raven

This special evening program was held at the Visitor Center at Fort Necessity National Battlefield and the amazing performance drew a packed house. For me, as a huge Poe fan it was nice to see such such a diverse group on hand to learn about the works of one of the greatest authors of all time. Especially in a performance that was both entertaining and informative. 

Velella, who is an independent literary historian and playwright specializing in American literature of the 19th century, created the perfect character and seemed to flow through the material effortlessly. I would highly recommend checking out a performance if you get a chance.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Having returned from a wet but amazing trip to Haunted Hills Estates, it was time to cocoon myself in a blanket and review the movie I decided on after watching Jigsaw last night. That movie was the 1981 classic An American Werewolf in London.  

Plot/ Two American college students on a walking tour of Britain are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will admit exists.

Even after all these years, this movie remains one of the best werewolf films ever made. Complete with a great mixture of comedy, drama, gore, and horror, everything seems to fall perfectly into place. The storyline is both entertaining and interesting, the performances are outstanding, the dialog and scripting work and the special effects are tremendous, as they still run circles around much of the subpar work that is seen in films today. Most importantly, between the soundtrack and the masterful work of director John Landis, everything works to create a dark but uplifting atmosphere in a film that is an easy watch and one that has more than stood the test of time. Sure, there are some predictable elements and the movie feels a touch short, but those are very small flaws within a movie that is a must-see for all horror fans. In the end, this is a classic take on the werewolf genre and a movie that should continue to be the standard that all others in the genus should strive to achieve. If you have not seen it, you are missing out. Find it and check it out.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Jigsaw (2017)

The weather outside today is absolutely miserable and I have until tomorrow for my trip to Haunted Hills Estates. While I could have sat and watched some type of horror flick, instead, I decided to head out to the theater to see the next entry in the Saw franchise, 2017s Jigsaw.

Plot/ Bodies are turning up around the city, each having met a uniquely gruesome demise. As the investigation proceeds, evidence points to one suspect: John Kramer, the man known as Jigsaw, who has been dead for ten years.

I was fun being back in the theater for one of my favorite franchises. For me, it has been too long, with the last time being for the Halloween re-release of the original a few years ago. While this one did not quite reach the level of the originals, there were many facets that left me again wanting more. The pacing was perfect, with the layered storyline continually moving forward instead of wavering during the non-action sequences, the storyline was interesting and tied into the series in a perfect way, the characters again were diverse and amazing, and the way the layers of the storyline worked together to create a subtle mystery was again refreshing. In fact, for me, those layered aspects of the story have always been one of the strong points of the series and often go unnoticed or are underappreciated by those that are watching the series. While all of those aspects worked, the performances were a touch uneven with the delivery of some of the well-placed humor in the script falling short, the graphic elements that made many entries of the original series were lacking by comparison, and the overall tension seemed a bit flat (which again falls on the uneven performances). In the end, while this one does not rise to the original Saw or Saw 3, it does do a great job at bringing the storyline back to life and hopefully, allow for more entries in this series. Is it perfect? No, but it was much better than many of the recent horror flicks I have seen over the past few years and a great way to bring some blood back to the Halloween season. Plus, it wasn’t PG-13, a fact alone that should make horror fans happy.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Metamorphosis (1990)

With Halloween around the corner, it is nice to finally see the weather changing. In fact, the chill has been a refreshing change from the heat we had a few weeks ago. It is also a great excuse to watch horror movies of some type every night. My next selection is the 1990 entry Metamorphosis.

Plot/ Dr. Peter Houseman is a brilliant geneticist who is working on a serum, which will stop human aging, but his colleagues don't believe in his work. When his skeptical benefactors threaten his university funding, the doctor takes a desperate measure to justify his work. He administers the serum to himself, but the results are unexpected and horrendous.

This is one that I had no recollection of from my formidable years in the late 1980s, so I expected some low budget cheese. Guess what, that is exactly what I found with this one, and therefore, it may not have been quite as disappointing as many other viewers will say. While this is nowhere near a good movie, it isn’t terrible either. Sure, the production values may not be the best with the movie feeling like it was produced a decade earlier, but it still was not that bad. The performances were decent, the storyline (while predictable) was interesting, and there were a few moments where everything seemed to come together. Unfortunately, the pacing was terrible, which drug the movie down tremendously, the special effects were bad, and the overall feel of the movie was uneven. In the end, there was potential in this one, but they never came close to being achieved. Yes, the movie isn’t terrible, but I wouldn’t recommend watching it more than once (if you decide you want to give it a shot).

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Found Footage 3D (2016)

After spending so much time lost in the classics, I figured it was time to return to the present for my next review. That film is the 2016 entry Found Footage 3D that I found on Shudder.

Plot/ A group of filmmakers sets out to make the first 3D found footage horror movie, but find themselves IN a found footage horror movie when the evil entity from their film escapes into their behind-the-scenes footage.

This is one that I had never heard of and knew nothing about going into it. Unfortunately, I wish that I had an idea of what was in store. I have to admit that I enjoyed it more than most found footage films, although it does (in an attempted non-serious way) fall into many of the same traps that plague the subgenre. The storyline and premise are interesting (albeit almost predictable), as the attempt to spoof the found footage genre is somewhat original. The characterizations, dialog, and some of the gore does make it a better watch than most. Unfortunately, the satire only goes so far before the movie falls into the same issues that they are making fun. While I am sure that was intentional, it could have subtly gone that route instead of falling headfirst back into them. Couple that with some uneven pacing and the unnecessary use of 3D and you have a movie that never quite reaches its full potential. In the end, the idea and set-up were there with this one; it just misses the mark and falls into the jumbled subgenre with many other found footage entries that suffer from the same flaws. Sure, it isn’t terrible, but it could have been something that was a much more memorable experience.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

It has been a slow evening as I mentally prepare myself for the Halloween parade tomorrow and with that, I decided to finally venture into Riverdale. Before I got to that point tonight, I decided to watch the 1956 sci-fi/horror classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Plot/ A small-town doctor learns that the population of his community is being replaced by emotionless alien duplicates.

There many great sci-fi movies from the 1950s, most of which built on the paranoia of the era and created horrific narratives that resonated with the population of the day. In many ways, it is those elements that allow this somewhat simple storyline to develop into something much darker and memorable. This movie is a tremendous watch featuring solid performances, a claustrophobic dark atmosphere, perfect pacing, and a soundtrack that allowed everything to build a tense mood. Of course, the realism of the aliens being human added a depth that was often misplaced by the creatures in the rubber suits that made up the majority of the sci-fi films of the era. Yes, there may be some plot holes and littered inside the storyline and some of the effects may not totally hold up across the decades, but those are but small flaws in this classic film. In the end, while others have attempted to recreate this movie in different eras and still this version is by far the best. If fact, in many ways it is arguably the best sci-fi flick of the 1950s and a movie that must be seen.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Over the past few days as I continue my countdown toward Halloween, I have enjoyed my trip back into the world of classic Universal Studios monsters. Today, I decided that it was time to venture into that world once again with the 1935 entry Bride of Frankenstein

Plot/ Mary Shelley reveals the main characters of her novel survived: Dr. Frankenstein, goaded by an even madder scientist, builds his monster a mate.

Sequels to movies can be a mixed bag with only a handful living up to the baseline set by the original. In this case, that could not be further from the truth, as it not only meets but also surpasses the original in almost every way. There is so much to like with this one, as it builds upon an idea mentioned in the Mary Shelly classic novel. The cast is wonderful with solid performances littered throughout including the returning stalwarts Colin Clive and Boris Karloff repeating their roles from the original, the setting and atmosphere work really well, the storyline is layered and complex, and the visual effects, cinematography, and production elements surpass those of the original. Truly, everything is tremendously done and honestly, it should be held in a higher regard than the original Frankenstein. Yes, it does have a short run time and it leaves the viewer wanting more, but that is something that to me does not hurt the film in any way. In the end, it is always a great debate on which early Frankenstein film is the best. For me, it is the Bride of Frankenstein hands down because it shows that if a sequel is done right, it can be a powerful entry into a franchise. If you have never watched this one, you are missing out. Head to Shudder and check it out!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Dracula (1931)

After spending most of my night last night working on my video for the Poe Arts Festival Poetry contest, I decided to jump back into the classics today. My next selection from Shudder was the one that started it all, Dracula from 1931.

Plot/ The ancient vampire Count Dracula arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina.

For me, this was one of my first horror films that I watched back in my younger days and one that still resonates with me today. While I do love the classic silent unauthorized adaptation Nosferatu, there is something with the adaptation that takes the Bran Stoker story to an all-new level especially when you remember that the movie was made in 1931. Whether it was the amazing performance by Bela Lugosi or the technical vision and work of Tod Browning, this film creates one of the most iconic and memorable films of the history of cinema. Of course, there are other factors that help make this one great. All of the performances are solid and work within the storyline; the setting and cinematography create something dark and atmospheric, and as the first in the run of Universal Monsters the movie allows the rest of the universe grow by laying a tremendous foundation everything that would follow. Yes, the ending is a bit mellow and there are some head-scratching moments, but those do not really hold the movie back in any way. In the end, this movie remains a must see (along with Nosferatu) for fans of the vampire genre and one that stands tall in horror history. If you have not seen it, you are missing out.

Poe Arts Festival Entry - Darkest Night

As a huge fan of the works of Edgar Allan Poe there are times when I draw on him for inspiration. That was the case with this piece that was done for the POEtry Contest for the Poe Arts Festival. Please check out the video that was made for this contest (just remember, I am a writer not an actor)! #ShowUsYouPoe

Darkest Night

Help me please; protect me, as these shadows close,
Oh, what have I done, cleanse my darkest darkened heart.

The eyes! Stop…no! The eyes!
Staring deep within the bounds of my soul,
Why me, why now, why?
The screams grow louder as the howling winds grow,
Swallow me whole, silence my cries,
Bury me alive, inside these walls; entomb me by your side.

Midnight nears, hear the echoes of bells?
Fetid flesh binds every move; every quiver,
Scarlet tears, sips of blood, the oceans swell,
Your whispers call, heartbeats shiver,
Something is coming, something from the well,
Save me, do not allow me to die alone!

The aging stones hide the illicit deeds,
Your soul removed, impaled by love and despair,
Truths turn to rust; bosoms turn shallow, pale eyes bleed,
For in your lair, scents of lust fill the air,
And empty hearts and dying embers calm my needs,
Hear my pleas, forgive me, and make me whole again.

Years have passed; your pulse has faded,
Memories remain, visions so pure,
The blade upon your neck, an empty sacrifice, long I have waited,
For this day, and every day, for you to open the door,
Sins of flesh, Satan’s touch, and two lives sated,
Together at last, my tomb awaits, finally you call.

At last I hope, my deeds are forgiven,
And you will embrace my darkened soul.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Invisible Man (1933)

With Halloween being right around the corner, it is fun to sit back and enjoy the classics from Universal Studios. Last night it was The Mummy, and tonight, I followed that one with the classic The Invisible Man from 1933.

Plot/ A scientist finds a way of becoming invisible, but in doing so, he becomes murderously insane.

Being in a classics mood, this adaptation of the H.G. Wells sci-fi classic may be one of the best movies of the golden era of the Universal Monsters. Complete with some of the best special effects of all time, this movie boasts tremendous creativity, cinematography, and technical aspects. The performances, especially Claude Rains, are outstanding, the storyline is interesting, and as I mentioned already the effects are tremendous especially considering that this movie was shot decades before the first computer was ever thought of. Yes, it does lack the scenery that made the other Universal Monster movies so memorable and the overall story lacks the layered depths of the other films from the studio, but those elements do not hurt the movie in any way. In the end, like the other classic monster movies of the early 1930s, this movie is a must see. Sure, it often overlooked in comparison to the other timeless entries from Universal Studios, but from a cinematic and technical perspective, it should sit near the top of the chart and it remains one of the most memorable sci-fi films ever made. Go to Shudder and check it out.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Mummy (1932)

After watching an entire series last night in Lore, I decided that I wanted to go back to the roots of horror for my next movie and review. My viewing choice for the evening is the 1932 Universal Studios classic The Mummy.

Plot/ In 1921 a field expedition in Egypt discovers the mummy of ancient Egyptian prince Im-Ho-Tep, who was condemned and buried alive for sacrilege. Also found in the tomb is the Scroll of Thoth, which can bring the dead back to life. One night a young member of the expedition reads the Scroll aloud, and then goes insane, realizing that he has brought Im-Ho-Tep back to life. Ten years later, disguised as a modern Egyptian, the mummy attempts to reunite with his lost love, an ancient princess who has been reincarnated into a beautiful young woman.

People who suffered through the latest reboot of The Mummy should definitely head over to Shudder and revisit the 1932 Universal Studios classic to burn the modern monstrosity out of their minds. While this is not a straight horror film with it actually feeling more like a gothic romance/drama only in a different location, it does have all the elements needed to make it an entertaining and memorable trip into darkness. This movie screams atmosphere and creates a dreamlike state that takes the viewer to a different place. The performances are outstanding, especially horror icon Boris Karloff in one of his most memorable characters, what little make-up effects that are used are tremendous, and the cinematography, setting, and the set pieces are remarkable. Of course, many viewers that watch this will not like the slower pace and lack of action, but those elements just help bring the story to life in a way that ties the entire movie together. In the end, this may be one of the most subdued horror films from that early 1930s Universal catalog, but it is still an amazing watch. If you have not seen it, there is no way you can call yourself a true horror fan. Head over to Shudder and watch it. It is a must see.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Lore (2017)

I know that I have been in a retro mood lately, but I decided to change things up as we creep closer to Halloween. With that in mind, I decided to marathon the Amazon Prime series Lore.

Plot/ This anthology series brings to life Aaron Mahnke's "Lore" podcast and uncovers the real-life events that spawned our darkest nightmares. Blending dramatic scenes, animation, archive, and narration, Lore reveals how our horror legends - such as vampires, werewolves, and body snatchers - are rooted in truth.

This was a series that I was actually looking forward to seeing. As a huge fan of folklore and the supernatural, this seemed right up my alley. Now that I have watched all six episodes, I can tell that this will be one of those series that falls into the love/hate category and there will be little middle ground. For me, I thoroughly enjoyed the series and found it both entertaining and informative. Yes, it was not perfect, but the positives definitely outweighed the negatives. The subject matter was awesome and there were some interesting elements sprinkled in, the combination of narration and reenactments provided a nice blend of storytelling techniques, and the production values were solid. Yes, the pacing felt uneven, the performances seemed a bit flat and subdued, and there were times, where the episodes jumped in odd ways, but those elements did not deter my viewing experience. I felt that the best episodes were They Made a Tonic and Black Stockings, while my least favorite was Passing Notes, which seemed to drag on a bit and try to pack way too much information into the allotted time. In the end, I found this series a worthwhile watch. Sure, it has some flaws during the transition from podcast to show, but that is to be expected. It is definitely a series that has potential and they should be able to build upon and fix the flaws as they move forward.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973)

Last night I decided to continue venturing down that retro path and turned to Shudder to find something interesting. After some debate, I decided on the 1973 gothic ghost story And Now the Screaming Starts!

Plot/ England, 1795: the young Catherine has just married Charles Fengriffen and moves into his castle. She becomes the victim of an old curse that lays on the family. On her wedding night, she is raped by a ghost and gets pregnant.

This was a different film than I expected and I was actually quite entertained by the odd elements that were added in. From Amicus Studios, this gothic ghost story offers an interesting (albeit somewhat clich├ęd) storyline that was brought to life by an outstanding cast led by Peter Cushing. The performances were solid, the cinematography and setting were captivating, the atmosphere was heavy, and the visuals and color pallet used was amazing. Yes, the special effects were lacking in quality and the end game was a bit drawn out, but those are small flaws in what is definitely an underrated film in the studios' catalog. In the end, while there were some contradictory moments in the storyline and some of the low budget flaws rise up, for the most part, this one delivers. Yes, it is not perfect, but it is an entertaining movie and one that can be found on Shudder for free if you are in the mood for a classic gothic ghost story.