Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Vampire Bat

--Reviewed by Patrick

Plotline: The small (German?) village of Klineschloss is experiencing a rash of mysterious murders. The victims are found with two puncture holes on their necks and completely drained of blood! Soon, the word "vampire" is brought up and villagers believe the bat-loving local mental case, Herman, is at the source of the killings. Despite the protestations from the local scientific community of two, mob rule ensues and the hunt for Herman begins!

Scariness factor: Simply, none.

Originality: Certainly a vampire tale in a small town is nothing new, but I was pleasantly suprised to see how this one panned out. There was a strong underscore of "superstition vs. technology" with the old beliefs of the villagers coming into conflict with the men of science, within the village. There's also a twist, at the end, that I won't reveal, which leads the viewer to believe that it's now the old creatures of the night we should be afraid of, but that we, ourselves, have become worse than the monsters.

Other High Points: Dwight Frye as Herman. If the name doesn't catch, his biggest role was of Renfield in Dracula (as well as Fritz in Frankenstein, a few years later), The man knows how to play insanity and he does so very well, here.

Other Complaints: Except for Mr. Frye, the acting in 'The Vampire Bat' is decidedly awful. Even Faye Wray seems to be phoning in her performance. It doesn't seem that many people in the movie really want to be there (and the people that do, like the actors who play the villagers, almost too much so). The print quality is also pretty bad.

Overall: Certainly not the worst movie I've ever seen, but definitely not the best. Herman electrifies every scene he's in, but he's only in half of them and the ones without him seem dull and lifeless. Good for a midnight movie watch or to kill an hour and a half.

Grade: B


Monday, April 25, 2005

Santo vs. Frankenstein's Daughter

--Reviewed by Patrick

Plotline: The daughter of the infamous Dr. Frankenstein is alive and well, living in rural Mexico. There, she has invented a serum, which restores the youth of whomever is injected with it. The only problem is that its effects on her are diminishing. In order to make the serum more potent, she needs to the superhuman blood of famed Mexican wrestler Santo! So, she sends her henchmen out to kidnap his girlfriend and lure Santo into her clutches. Much fighting and wrestling ensues!

Scariness factor: Umm..I'll repeat..it stars Santo, a Mexican wrestler, so unless that fact scares you, there are no actual scares in this film.

Originality: Santo has been the main character in over 50 films and, except for this one; I've seen none of them. I'm willing to bet that most follow the same formula: someone gets kidnapped; Santo must come to their aid and wrestle a lot of folks. Though the kitschy Batman like costumes and props were fun, I'm sure even those were borrowed from other flicks.

Other High Points: As I mentioned, the movie is high in 60's kitsch value. Watching a guy walk around always wearing a wrestler mask is funny, as well, for about 15 minutes.

Other Complaints: Personally, I found this movie boring as hell. I know Santo has a big following, especially among the B-movie crowd. Maybe I just don't "get it." But, I found the fight scenes, numerous as they were, stilted and boring and the plotline just seems like a mishmash of various ideas. You can almost imagine the brainstorming session:

Writer 1: We need Santo to fight someone!
Writer 2: How about Frankenstein's daughter!
Writer 3: Brilliant! And how about she also creates a Frankenstein monster he must fight?
Writer 1: Brilliant! What if he fights a half-man/half-beast creature, as well? We can even get the same actor to play both monsters!
All: Brilliant!

Overall: It's amazing how far a silly mask and a few headlocks can carry a franchise (I'm even told that this movie has less wrestling scenes than a normal Santo film). After hearing about the Santo phenomenon for so long, I was really looking forward to finally seeing one of his films for myself. But, the whole movie seems like nothing but filler and plot devices that serve nothing more than to lead to more fighting. Not recommended.

Grade: F


The Fly

--Reviewed by Patrick

Plotline: Scientist Seth Brundle invents a teleportation device, which he tests on himself. Unfortunately, a fly was in the chamber with him and the end result is one of the most gory, hideous monsters in horror movie history.

Scariness factor: I don't know how much 'the Fly' would count as "scary". Unless, of course, the reader intents to transport himself in his own homemade telepod. But, the film ranks very high on the creepy scale. 10+

Originality: Okay, technically this film is based on the 1958 movie of the same name. Though I've not seen the original all the way through, I can say with confidence that, other than the basic premise (scientist uses a transporter and accidentally gets merged with a fly), they're two very different movies. This version is *very* Cronenberg, building up the "gross factor", throughout the film, until it's almost unbearable. In fact, those who do not enjoy David Cronenberg's work ('Naked Lunch', 'Crash', etc.) might do well to avoid 'The Fly'. It's definitely one of most stomach churning works I've ever seen. But, if you are a fan of his work, this movie is unlike anything you've ever seen or will again.

Other High Points: Possibly the longest "transformation scene" in movie history. Basically, the whole film follows Seth Brundle's transformation into the fly, on both a physical and psychological level. In the end, you don't feel like you're watching some guy in a fly costume, but instead a horrible diseased inhuman being. Related to that, the special FX in this movie are top notch. I would be greatly saddened to see this film redone today, where computer FX would most definitely ruin it. Instead, we get some of the most masterful (and disgusting) FX I've ever seen.

Other Complaints: Freggin' Jeff Goldblum. This guy cannot complete a sentence without his trademark odd pauses and inflections, even when his face is half falling off. It's a style of speech that I had to become acclimated to, throughout the film, as at the beginning, it's impossibly annoying. Geena Davis also looks terribly 80's, with her padded shoulders and overdone makeup.

Overall: This viewing marked probably the sixth or seventh time I've seen 'The Fly' and it still creeps me out just as much as the first time. Definitely worth a viewing. Avoid the sequel though.

Grade: A


Monday, April 18, 2005

Donnie Darko

(The Director's Cut)

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Originally it had never really dawned on me that Donnie Darko could be considered a horror movie. Then I rented the director's cut this weekend...

Plotline: Donnie Darko, your average angsty and confused high school student, is suffering from "delusions" revolving around a large and terrifying bunny named Frank who urges him to burn houses down and flood schools. The movie takes place in the time leading up to the alleged "end of the world" as Donnie's demons unleash themselves and he struggles to figure out who he is, who Frank is, and what's going on in the universe.

Director's Cut vs. The Original: I still am a sucker for the original, but the Director's Cut was definitely not disappointing. (Read about the differences between the original and the director's cut here). The reason I am a sucker for the original is that it was so mysterious and there was no map of understanding laid out in front of you for you to make sense of it all--the first time I saw this movie, I spent about 2 hours with my boyfriend, diagramming and rediagramming the jet engine moments and trying to make sense of what was going on in the universe of Donnie Darko. We were feverish and entranced in our intensity to make sense of it all. We were smitten with the movie. The director's cut gives much more guidance in understanding what Richard Kelly was trying to do--he sections the movie up with chapters from the Roberta Sparrow book which guide the viewer as to a) what is going on in these particular scenes and b) what is going on in the movie overall. A lot less is left up to the imagination. There are also more moments of discussion about the time/space continuum and time travel.

Now, as I stated earlier, I had never really thought of Donnie Darko as a horror movie. For some reason, this had never even crossed my mind. Perhaps because the characters are actually three-dimensional and not just the punching bag for evil beings. Perhaps because anyone who actually went to high school can easily relate to Donnie Darko. Perhaps because it is intelligent, complicated, spills over into philosophical realms and is psychologically taut. However, the director's cut is much more sober than the original--since it is longer, the funny moments are kind of overtaken by the darker instances. This is what made it suddenly dawn on me that, hell, this sorta is a horror movie. I mean, you have nods to other horror movies (Evil Dead) and other 80's movies as well (Back to the Future, E.T.). And more importantly, you have this creepy-ass demonic-like bunny that looks like it crawled out of hell guiding Donnie onto a path towards destruction and death. Definitely has the components of a horror movie. And yet it's complicated. And it's good. And it's meaty and intelligent.

Scariness factor: The creepiness factor is high on this--there are no real jump-in-your-seat moments, but the bunny creature Frank (shown above) is enough to make it difficult for anyone to fall asleep. Plus, all the talk of tangent universes and the end of the world will no doubt leave you unsettled and squeamish. This movie is scary the way thinking about death and the end of it all and infinity is scary.

Originality: Ridiculously, jaw-gapingly original in its delving into time travel and the nature of the universe. Looks at the complexity of teenage brains and ties that into the terrifyingness of mental health and madness and the complexity of the nature of the universe. I mean, what more can you ask for?

Other Complaints: None. I love this movie.

Other High Points: Fantastic soundtrack and score--fantastic timing of scenes in relation to soundtrack and score. Damn freaky bunny costume that will give you nightmares.

Overall: Totally worth renting. Will stretch your brain and make your skin crawl at the same time.

Grade: A


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A Horror Movie Lull

I'm the worst horror movie mistress EVER!

I haven't posted in a while, mostly because I haven't watched a horror movie recently. And Patrick's been sucking even worse. (That's right, Patrick! I said it! You have time to dine at fancy shmancy restaurants but apparently you don't have time to watch people die horrific deaths. How lame is that? ; )

But I DID get this month's copy of FANGORIA, so here's my two cents on upcoming horror flicks.

House of Wax is coming out May 6. I saw the previews for this yesterday, and gar. It has Paris Hilton in it, for chrissake. Some sorta plotline revolving around a murdering duo of sibs who is into turning people into wax figures for their wax museum as revenge or something like that. Am I just too jaded and skeptical, or does this just sound lame to the rest of you as well?

The remake of Amityville Horror comes out this Friday. Now, I never liked the original Amityville Horror all that much anyways. So this is part of the reason I actually thought a remake of that movie might be useful. But after seeing the previews, I think we have another The Haunting-esque monstrosity of a remake on our hands. I took the time to read about it though, and it sounds like it COULD be interesting and that the previews are misleading. But then again, it's made by the fella who decided to remake The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which in horror movie land is like rewriting the fricking bible in my opinion. I still refuse to see that bastardization. So I'm not expecting much.

That new television series about the apocalypse is starting sometime soon. It's called Revelations and now that the pope's died, it seems like they're really overhyping the damn thing, because (as we all know) we gotsta get a pope otherwise all worldly evil will break lose. Anyways, this series (like any television series trying to be scary) looks more lame than anything. I mean, it's got Bill fricking Pullman in it, for god's sake. However, I do have to admit, I found out yesterday that it's created by David Seltzer, the guy who wrote The Omen which rocks my world, so I may have to give it a chance after all.

(*Sidenote: did you know that the made a PLAY out of REEFER MADNESS?? I just saw an ad for it--how weird is that?)

I also read an article on the new Rob Zombie flick, The Devil's Rejects. I still have yet to see his other one, House of 1000 Corpses or whatever the hell it's called, but I do admit, the preview for this new one looked intriguing. It's much grittier looking than your typical horror flick (just visually, not action-wise; it's kinda grainy and has that 1970's filming quality of some of the oldie but goodie horror flicks). BUT I do have to say that this is where the whole horror movie concept gets a bit gray for me--I don't know if I consider cracked out movies about depraved serial killers to be horror necessarily. But we'll see. It is really damn funny reading articles with people (actors/directors) waxing intellectual about bloody explosive murder scenes and decapitations and the likes though, I have to say.

And finally, I must pause to chuckle:

As I was reading FANGORIA yesterday, I realized that in their UPCOMING DVD HORROR RELEASES section, they had Enduring Love listed. Now, I know some of us have done a bit of fist-fighting (and/or philosophical pondering) over the question of "What makes a horror movie a horror movie", but even if I was blind and limbless and deaf and suffering from a bad bout of athlete's foot, I'd STILL recognize from a mile away that Enduring Love ain't a fricking horror movie. The only thing horrifying about it is that it's titled "Enduring Love" (*cue the Backstreet Boys*). So what the hell is up with that, Fangoria?

Weird thing to note: I think Terry Gilliam may be coming out with a new flick called THE BROTHERS GRIMM. Intriguing. Good day.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Halloween II

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: Initially I was intrigued because this sequel actually is the chronological extension of the first Halloween (which I'd never realized)--the movie begins with the end of the previous movie and continues on from there, with Laurie Strode being taken to the hospital and the continuing search for Mike Myers who, despite being shot half a dozen times, has vanished and is on the loose.

Scariness factor: Gah. I jumped once, but nothing worth writing home about. See the first one if you're looking for some scariness.

Originality: It's a sequel--are they EVER original? No. All this is is a rip-off of the first one--no real plotline other than Mike Myers killing some more in new and gruesome ways.

Other Complaints: So I sit through an hour and a half of this lame-ass sequel, head-bobbing in slight dozes once or twice because I was sleepy but willing myself, FORCING myself to get through it. Then I get to the huge climactic scene--Mike Myers, Dr. Loomis, and Laurie trapped together in a room, Mike Myers half-blinded. And the dvd glitches, skipping to the final scene of Laurie being driven away in a cop car. I freak of course as I've wasted what I consider to be a fairly valuable 90 minutes of my time trudging through this lame sequel. I hit rewind. Again, it skips to the final chapter. End result--I only loosely know what happens to Mike Myers in the end. I caught a slight glimpse of him possibly catching fire (or the room being exploded by gases being lit on fire) while rewinding the dvd, but I have no clue as to whether he supposedly dies FOR REAL at the end of this one and what happens to Dr. Loomis. Feel free to fill me in so that I don't lose sleep over this. *Snork*

Other High Points: Boobs. That was the only real highpoint of this movie. Some nice boobage. Other than that, it was just a lame sequel.

Overall: Rent the first one. If you've seen it before, rerent it because it'd still be scarier than the sequel and a lot more original.

Grade: D