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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Man Ray. Le Retour A La Raison (The Return to Reason), 1923

THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972)



Posted: 19 Oct 2015 11:01 PM PDT

Directed By: Wes Craven

Starring: Sandra Peabody, Lucy Grantham, David Hess



Tag line: "Mari, 17, is dying. Even for her the worst is yet to come"

Trivia: This movie was banned for over 32 years in Australia. It was finally commercially available through DVD in 2004






Back in 2006, when I was working as a buyer for a meat-packing plant, a co-worker of mine, a middle-aged woman named Bea, asked me what I thought was the scariest movie I'd ever seen. "The Exorcist" was my immediate reply (though I also told her about my love for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and John Carpenter's The Thing). Naturally, I posed the same question to her, and while she didn't remember the film's name, I knew from her description of it (2 teens are kidnapped by rapists / killers and dragged into the woods) that it was Wes Craven's directorial debut, 1972's The Last House on the Left (which borrowed heavily from Ingmar Bergman's 1960 classic The Virgin Spring). Bea was a teenager, around the same age as the film's doomed young lead, when she and a few of her friends saw this in the theater, and the experience was almost too much for her. A brutal, unflinching motion picture, The Last House on the Left undoubtedly had this same effect on thousands of girls the world over.

Mari Collingwood (Sandra Cassel) is about to turn 17. As her parents, John (Richard Towers) and Estelle (Cynthia Carr), prepare for her upcoming party, Mari and her slightly wild friend Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) head to New York to attend a concert. Once in the city, Phyllis tries to score them some grass, and approaches Junior (Marc Sheffler) on the street, asking if he knows where they can get some. Promising to hook them up, Junior leads Phyllis and Mari back to his apartment, where, instead of marijuana, they find three escaped criminals: Krug (David Hess), Sadie (Jeramie Rain), and Weasel (Fred Lincoln), who immediately take the naïve young girls as their prisoners.

The next morning, Krug and the others throw their two hostages into the trunk of a car and head out into the country, where, quite ironically, they break down on the very road that Mari and her parents live on. Once the gang has "finished" with Phyllis and Mari, they head to the nearest house, which happens to belong to the Collingwoods! Despite being worried that their daughter hasn't returned home yet, John and Estelle invite the group to stay in their home. But it isn't long before the distraught parents discover the truth, leading to a showdown that's sure to end in more bloodshed.

"Certainly the deepest horror", Wes Craven once said, "is what happens to your body at your own hands and others". And what happens to Mari and Phyllis in The Last House on the Left at the hands of Krug and his cronies is about as horrific as it gets. Once the actions shifts to the woods near Mari's house, the two girls are humiliated beyond belief (aside from being forced to have sex with one another, Phyllis is made to urinate in her own pants) before being tortured, and much worse. What makes it even more chilling is that Craven allows his camera to linger, focusing quite intently on these disturbing events (he doesn't show us everything, thankfully, but we definitely see enough). I'd watched the movie once or twice before, yet a foreknowledge of what's to come doesn't help much. In fact, the film's middle sequence always has the same effect on me: by the time the evil Krug (Hess is absolutely terrifying in the role) and his cohorts have finished with Mari and Phyllis, I'm shocked, disgusted, and mentally drained.

I do have some issues with The Last House on the Left, primarily the characters of the bumbling sheriff (Marshall Anker) and his deputy (Martin Kove), whose scenes would be more at home in a Laurel and Hardy comedy short (while on their way to investigate the abandoned car in front of the Collingwoods, their own vehicle breaks down, forcing them to hitch a ride with a passing chicken farmer). I realize Craven was trying to lighten the mood with some comedy, but to throw these antics in after what is easily the film's most alarming scene was a mistake (I'm fairly certain nobody was in a laughing mood at that moment). That said, this movie has definitely left its mark on the genre, and as tough as it is to sit through, horror fans should make a point of doing so at least once.







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FRIGHT NIGHT

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Date: Oct 21, 2015 4:39 PM
Subject: Dave's 2,500 Movies Challenge
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Dave's 2,500 Movies Challenge


Posted: 20 Oct 2015 09:21 PM PDT

Directed By: Tom Holland

Starring: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse




Tag line: "If you love being scared, it'll be the night of your life"

Trivia: Charlie Sheen auditioned for the role of Charlie Brewster, but the director decided his looks weren't right for the character






Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) believes in vampires. His favorite television program is the Fright Night movie show hosted by Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), a former film star whose most popular role was that of a vampire hunter, and what's more, when he sees some movers hauling a coffin into the basement of the house next door, the sometimes excitable teen becomes convinced that his new neighbor, handsome bachelor Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon), is himself a Prince of the Undead. So obsessed is Charley with the notion of living beside a vampire that he even misses his opportunity to have sex (for the first time ever, mind you) with his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse), who storms out when Charley refuses to take his binoculars off the Dandridge house.

As it turns out, Charley's suspicions are spot-on. One night, while up late studying, he hears a girl's scream, which seems to have come from next door. Sure enough, the following morning, the news reports tell of the discovery of a murdered girl, who just so happens to resemble the pretty blonde he saw walk into Jerry Dandridge's house the night before. Then, while spying on his neighbor, Charley sees Dandridge's assistant, Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark), load what looks like a dead body into the back of a car. Of course, nobody believes Charley when he tells them a vampire has moved into the neighborhood; not his mother (Dorothy Fielding) or Amy, or his strange friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys). Even the police laugh at him when he tries to have Dandridge arrested for murder. Feeling he has nowhere else to turn, Charley visits his idol, Peter Vincent, in the hopes he'll know what to do. While the aging actor initially thinks his new young friend has lost his mind, he soon sees for himself that vampires are very real, and that Charley isn't a lunatic after all.

One of the things I love about writer / director Tom Holland's Fright Night is the way it depicts the dual nature of its lead monster. Early in the film, Jerry Dandridge is portrayed as a suave ladies' man, much like Bela Lugosi in 1931's Dracula; one night, while looking out his window, Charley spots Dandridge with a beautiful woman who has obviously succumbed to his charms, and later in the movie, the urbane bloodsucker even manages to seduce Amy on a crowded dance floor. But if you piss this vampire off, you get something else entirely, as Charley learns when Dandridge, hoping to scare the teen enough to stop him from snooping around, pays a nighttime visit to Charley's bedroom. When Charley instead fights back, an enraged Dandridge transforms into a hideous monster right before our eyes, a creature uglier even than Murnau's Nosferatu. Sarandon handles both of the character's extremes wonderfully, and is just as convincing as a debonair predator as he is a feral creature of the night.

Equally as good is Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent, the former star who has fallen on hard times (moments before Charley paid him a visit at the TV station, Vincent was informed his show had been cancelled). But as bad as things may seem at the start, it's nothing compared to the terror that awaits Vincent once he agrees to "help" Charley. Watching him evolve from a passive onlooker to a frightened participant is an absolute treat, and in the hands of a seasoned pro like McDowall, Peter Vincent quickly becomes the movie's most sympathetic character.

When it comes to memorable sidekicks, however, it's hard to top Stephen Geoffreys' Evil Ed, who, with his bizarre mannerisms and near-insane cackle, generates many of the film's laughs on his own (while most definitely a comedy, Fright Night is not a satire. The guffaws come courtesy of the situations these characters find themselves in). Yet as goofy as Ed can be, he also experiences an intense change of his own during the course of the film, and his final scene is undoubtedly the most poignant moment in the entire movie.

With characters you can really get behind, some awesome (practical) special effects, and a truly terrifying monster, 1985's Fright Night is more than a great '80s vampire flick; it's a horror classic, and if you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor and watch it immediately.







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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Evil Dead II (1987)

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Date: Oct 14, 2015 4:10 PM
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Dave's 2,500 Movies Challenge


#1,884. Evil Dead II (1987)

Posted: 13 Oct 2015 10:18 PM PDT


Directed By: Sam Raimi

Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks



Tag line: "Kiss Your Nerves Good-Bye!"

Trivia: Most of the film was shot on a set built inside the gymnasium of the JR Faison Junior High School in Wadesboro, North Carolina








Not so much a sequel as it is a reworking of 1981's The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II takes the story of Ash (Bruce Campbell) and the "Deadites" in a different direction. Instead of straight-up horror, Sam Raimi and company opted to toss a generous helping of comedy into the mix, resulting in a brilliant bit of insanity that has captured the hearts of genre fans the world over.

As our story begins, Ash and his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler) are heading to a remote cabin for a romantic weekend getaway. Shortly after they arrive, Ash finds a reel-to-reel tape recorder sitting on a desk, and decides to give it a listen. The voice on the tape belongs to the cabin's owner, Professor Knowby (John Peakes), who reads aloud from the Necronomicon, or "Book of the Dead", which he uncovered during one of his recent archaeological excursions. But as he recites the passages, it awakens an evil spirit that bursts into the cabin and takes control of Linda's body. Feeling he has no alternative, Ash kills Linda and buries her in the forest. But as he'll soon learn, his problems are far from over… 

As this is going on, Professor Knowby's daughter Anne (Sarah Berry), who, like her father, dabbles in archaeology, is returning from an overseas dig, where she found several more pages from the Book of the Dead. Joined by her boyfriend / research partner Ed Getley (Richard Domeier), Anne drives to the cabin to share this amazing discovery with her father. Unfortunately, the bridge that leads to the cabin has been inexplicably destroyed. Hoping to find another way in, Anne hires Jake (Dan Hicks) and his girlfriend Bobby Joe (Kassie Wesley DePaiva) to guide them through the forest. Of course, once they arrive at their destination, the four weary travelers find themselves caught in the middle of a very frightening situation.

Having already established the particulars in The Evil Dead (i.e. – malevolent spirits in the woods, demonic possession, etc), Evil Dead II doesn't waste time setting things up; mere minutes after the opening credits have ended, Ash is listening to the tape and summoning the ancient evil that possesses his girlfriend. And from there on out, the movie doesn't stop to take a breath. Most of the lunacy comes courtesy of Bruce Campbell, whose over-the-top performance as Ash is one of the film's strong suits (the entire first act consists of Campbell's Ash battling the supernatural entities that have come to destroy him), and it's to the actor's credit that he succeeds at making us laugh and jump at the same time.

Equally as flamboyant is director Sam Raimi, who, throughout the entire film, lets his imagination run wild. Along with his frequent use of the "forest cam", where we're looking through the eyes of the evil spirits as they rush through the woods towards the cabin, we're treated to some stop-motion animation (Even though Ash buried her, Linda 's headless corpse, as well as her decapitated head, spring from out of the ground and do a little dance) and more jump scares than you can shake a stick at (no matter how often I watch this movie, a few of these jump scares still manage to surprise me). Yet, despite all its bells and whistles, Evil Dead II has its moments of genuine terror, making it that rare horror / comedy that offers just as many scares as it does laughs.

Like 1986's Aliens, James Cameron's follow-up to Ridley Scott's classic 1979 masterpiece Alien, many horror fans rank Evil Dead II above the original Evil Dead, which, seeing as the sequel is as much a comedy as it is a supernatural fright pic, is something of a surprise (Likewise, Aliens was more of an action-packed shoot-'em-up than a straight-on sci-fi / horror film). In the case of both franchises, my opinion is exactly the same: I prefer the originals (Alien and The Evil Dead), but that doesn't prevent me from loving the hell out of the sequels!







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Sunday, October 11, 2015

"EATERS, Man!" (2015)

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Date: Oct 11, 2015 4:14 PM
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Dave's 2,500 Movies Challenge


#1,881. Eaters (2015)

Posted: 10 Oct 2015 08:31 PM PDT


Directed By: Johnny Tabor

Starring: Marcelle Bowman, Robert Dean, Tristan Parrish Moore




Tag line: "Prepare to meet a new breed of killers"

Trivia: The working title for this film was Folklore








It had been nearly a year since I checked out the video section at my local Wal-Mart, and longer still since I'd actually found anything there worth purchasing. Along with the newest releases (which are always cheaper on-line), it usually offered a slew of titles I already owned, and others I couldn't care less about (they were always heavy on rom-coms). Then, about 2 months ago, while I was in the store picking something else up, I swung by the DVD section. To my surprise, I noticed a single rack dedicated to the newest indie releases, a number of which were horror movies. What's even better is that the titles I've bought thus far have been good horror movies, including Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead and Containment. I now check back regularly to see what other hidden gems they might be offering, and my most recent trip introduced me to 2015's Eaters.

June, 1974. Five friends: Nolan (Tristan Parrish Moore) and Jill (Hannah Risinger); the newly-engaged Dillon (Jonathan Haltiwanger) and Alice (Marcelle Bowman); and Jude (Robert Dean), who just returned home from a tour of Duty in Vietnam, are traveling cross-country. Their adventure quickly takes a wrong turn, however, when, during a brief layover at a New Mexico rest stop, Jill goes missing. At first, Nolan and the others think she may have been kidnapped by a gang of bikers led by a guy named Mickey (Algernon D'Ammassa), who pulled away moments before they realized Jill was gone. Anxious to get her back, the group catches up to the bikers, resulting in a dangerous showdown on a remote desert road. But, to their surprise, Jill isn't with them, and to make matters worse, when they pull into a seemingly-deserted town looking for gas, the friends find themselves smack dab in the middle of a nightmare from which they cannot escape.

Written and directed by Johnny Tabor, Eaters owes more than a little to another indie film, 1974's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Aside from its story taking place in 1974 (the year Chainsaw was released), its tale of five twentysomethings piled into a car is reminiscent of the opening moments of Tobe Hooper's horror classic (there are other similarities as well, but seeing as they're minor spoilers, I won't go into them). Like the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Eaters is also a bit rough around the edges, but while Chainsaw benefitted from the grittiness of its film stock and Hooper's guerrilla-style approach to the material, Eaters feels a little sloppy (there's at least one noticeably jarring cut, and the pacing suffers in several scenes). Adding to Eaters' problems are the sub-par performances, some of which are so bad that they're a distraction.

That said, Eaters isn't a total loss. At times, it's genuinely stylish, and the movie's central mysteries (which, before long, amount to much more than just Jill's disappearance) are interesting enough to keep you watching. I also liked how the director tied several different subplots together (the bikers do make their way back into the story, leading to some of the film's best sequences), and while there isn't a lot of blood, the few scenes of gore that are featured are pretty darn shocking.

I can't say I was blown away by Eaters; along with the above problems, the film's climax (or lack thereof) left me scratching my head (though the stinger at the end of the credits did make me smile). But Johnny Tabor is clearly a skilled filmmaker, and at the very least, Eaters has me interested in seeing what he comes up with next.







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