thirty one days of horror part 4

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October 10: Train to Busan. 

SHOULD I? Status: Please, Definitely, Do Watch

Listen up, people. This movie is so good it deserved its own post.

This Korean-language film provides a fresh take on zombies, I mean a fresh take like no other. I hadn’t necessarily considered zombie films played out before, but I certainly didn’t see their appeal. My sister’s the zombie girl; I’m more of a haunted house sort of person. Zombie movies just never really introduced anything new to me; they seemed rather limited in their scope of the supernatural problem.

Train to Busan revolutionized zombies for me. Here, for once, we have a zombie film with equal parts gore and heart; in this film it feels like there’s something truly at stake, and the outcome isn’t clear from the start. In fact, the outcome still isn’t clear 10 minutes from the film’s ending. I loved it. My sister and I have been recommending it to friends heavily.

Please, please watch Train to Busan – you might even thank me for it.

– 2016; Netflix

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thirty one days of horror part 3

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October 7: The Craft: This is a classic that’s worth revisiting every couple of years or six. I bit my teeth on 90s-witchy-magic films and series like this (see Charmed, Angel, Buffy, anyone?) and so it feels like home. That being said, there isn’t that much which is terribly original or terribly finely done here. – 1996; Netflix


October 8: Raw: Now, Raw was more of an interesting kind of movie. It’s a French language film, which made my viewing partner happy (as we are watching through several languages now which makes us very multi-cultural). This film was different enough that I did a fair bit of research online about its critical reception and interpretation. I would say there is a fair amount of jump/body/gore horror, which I am not a fan of. However, as a whole, the film is interesting and worth watching. I’m not sure how great it hangs together, as either a whole or a whole horror movie, but it’s certainly decent enough. This is sort of a zombie film. – 2016; French language; Netflix


October 9: The Rezort: This was a re-watch for me. It remained OK. It wasn’t terrible, it was a relatively different way to approach zombies, except the movie really is “Jurassic Park but with zombies, not dinosaurs” – most heavily in the first half but the impact is felt even through the score. – 2015; Netflix


 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BLOG: 1-YEAR RECAP STATS

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SHOULD I? STATUS: Nerds Only

Available Right Here, Right Now -Fresh As You Can Get It

Stats No One Not Writing This Blog Cares About

THE QUICK & DIRTY DEETS

  • 21 movies reviewed
  • 10 Bechdel Passes (Approx)
  • Introduction of Blackdel
  • No jump scares, CGI or gore!

THOTS

Well, it’s official – this little blog’s been chugging out posts intermittently for a full year, now. (Fine – almost.) In honor of this unanticipated occasion, here are some lists and some awards. Everyone likes awards, don’t they?

In preface: “Best Of” categories are divided into two. The “Recent” category is reserved for films released in 2016 only. “All Time” refers to movies released in 2015 or before.

Hooked On Horror: Official, Very-Official 1st Annual Best Of Film Winners: 2016 Edition

BEST ALL TIME MOVIE REVIEWED: Murder Party

BEST RECENT MOVIE REVIEWED: Holidays

runner up/close second: HUSH

WORST RECENT MOVIE: Don’t Breathe

BEST MOVIE I MEANT TO REVIEW ALL YEAR BUT NEVER DID: Session 9


Now Some Blog Stats

MOST VIEWS (DAILY): 14 – December 11th – Probably just me from a different IP

MOST VIEWS (MONTHLY): 30 – December 2016

runner up/second place: November

MOST POSTS/REVIEWS (MONTHLY): 4 (a mul-tie)


That’s all I got for ya, folks. I guess I could be a little more imaginative and churn out some more categories for you, but I have this super-long list to tack on to the end of this post, so I think it’ll plenty long enough as it is, or will be. First, a serious moment. What’s going to change here for 2017?

I’ve got three commitments I’m willing to make, Best Beloved. Hear me out.

First, I promise not to post any less frequently.

For the second, I have a sizable reading project on my plate for 2017 – to bring my reading up-to-date with Stephen King’s current catalog. I cut my teeth on King novels (no surprise, probably?) and at one point used to brag I’d read everything he’d even written, with a few categorical omissions for joint projects, so on. There is simply no stopping the man, however, and I’ve fallen behind. In 2017, I want to catch up. And what that means is I’m going to broaden the scope of this blog a little bit; I’ll be publishing intermittent reviews of other means of horror consumption, most prominently the novel. I refuse to establish any limits to this purview, for the time being

As my third, I’m going to introduce a new post format – side-by-side breakdowns of original films and their remakes. Again, this’ll be an occasional change, nothing more, but it is an idea I’ve wanted to pursue for some time.

On a related note, perhaps my 3(b), I’d like to one day be brave enough to share my honest opinions of the 1959 and 1999 House on Haunted Hill films. For now, let us say Ebert, IMDB, and Rotten Tomatoes have shamed my taste to silence.

I am looking forward to a bone-tingling 2017 with you, O Beloved. I wish you the best.


HORROR MOVIES I WASN’T TOO LAZY TO WATCH IN 2016 BUT WAS TOO LAZY TO REVIEW: A LIST (PARTIAL)

Session 9
The Darkness
Ghost Team
From Dusk til Dawn
The Legend of Hell House
AHS: Lady Gaga
The Taking of Deborah Logan
The Houses October Built
Stranger Things
Ava’s Possessions
Oculus
The Diabolical
The Haunting
Bates Motel: Creepy 3
Stonehearst Asylum
The Seasoning House
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
The Faculty
The Burbs
13 Ghosts
Jessabelle
Hocus Pocus
Hellraiser 1-3
The Reef
Splinter
The Mist
A Lonely Place to Die
Sun Choke
Behind The Mask
Perfect Host
American Mary
Tucker & Dale Vs Evil
Cabin In the Woods
Jugg Face
The Pact
Shutter
The Theatre Bizarre
Patrick
Stitches
Rest Stop

DEAD SET

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SHOULD I? Status: Would Watch

Availability: On Netflix

Zombies + Big Brother. British accents, a collection of cads. Who’ll be killed off next?

THE QUICK & DIRTY DEETS

  • No CGI, moderate jump scares
  • Zombie genre, NOT found footage, surprisingly
  • Zombie Deets: moderate speed, not daylight sensitive, drawn to ?? energy??, life??, not sound-oriented
  • Black humor

Bechdel? NOT SURE Blackdel? YES

THOTS

I really liked the concept of Dead Set; it’s about what happens on the Big Brother set when a zombie outbreak infects England. When I saw that, I started the miniseries immediately. That’s right – Dead Set isn’t a movie but a 5-part miniseries. Don’t let Netflix fool you with its “1 season” garbage. The series was released in 2005 and besides, Episode 5 doesn’t leave much room for hope.

Overall, I think Dead Set is a success. There’s a wide variety of personalities across the characters, who are complex while also believable. The unfolding zombie drama is interspersed with enough short flashes of comedy to lighten the tone, at times, somewhat. That’s a needful thing in this grim scenario, where nearly all our surviving characters are trapped on a set with no outside world contact and no knowledge or hope that anyone else is alive out there.

Because the characters have such strong personalities, the audience gets a nice glimpse into several possible reactions and different characters’ attempts to come to grips with their new situation. This is pretty satisfying, as it provides multiple options for any internal “What would I do?” which might be happening.

However, Dead Set isn’t a total home run. The major problem is, simply, time. Over the series’ first two hours(4 episodes), a lot of care is given to characterization, development, and connecting with the audience. This is successful; the first four episodes are genuinely interesting, build on each other, and increase their hold on our attention. Unfortunately, that leaves 30 minutes to deliver the whole of a satisfying conclusion, and that just doesn’t happen here. It’s a tall order, to be sure. Instead, the 5th episode devolves into shrieks and conflict noises so quickly as to become shrill, and the dialogue devolves until you might as well spare your ears and turn the volume down. Watch it if you’re want to, if you’re really really curious, but I found it a total turn-off.

If you like Big Brother, you’ll get a kick out of Dead Set.

A CHRISTMAS HORROR ANTHOLOGY

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SHOULD I? STATUS: Would Watch

Available on Netflix

Watch William Shatner return to his roots in this surprising holiday anthology.

THE QUICK & DIRTY DEETS

  • Moderate jump scares, moderate-high CGI
  • Surprisingly large cast in this expansive, multi-genre collection
  • Blackdel: Y / Bechdel: N

THOTS

Join William Shatner as the appealing “Dangerous Dan,” a local radio station DJ, as he broadcasts his way through Christmas in annual tradition. While Dan drinks, opines, and keeps those classics coming, A Christmas Horror Anthology cycles through four concurrent small-town tales. Basically, the film provides a peep into several lives, as their stories progress over 12 hours or so from Christmas Eve into Christmas. Admittedly, it doesn’t help to consider this construct too hard: it’s difficult to believe anyone with a kid would wait until Christmas Eve to obtain a tree; maybe less so, yet still specious, imagining that 3 teenagers would use the day to finish a school project. Surely, they’re on holiday. But I speak this on removal. In the movie universe, small errors such as these are easy to gloss over. They don’t impair the film.

Many of the horror anthologies I’ve seen have stories which are barely, if at all, interrelated: V/H/S, V/H/S 2, The ABCs of Death 1 (and 2?), Holidays, and The Theatre Bizarre are all evidence. Sometimes there’s a frame narrative to explain this; sometimes there isn’t. When there is, the strength of that narrative tends to vary. A Christmas Anthology provides a pleasant variance from these traits. Including the frame, the movie presents five related narratives using a small-town, everyone-knows-everyone herringbone weave. It gives the collection a very “jes’ folks” feel I enjoyed.

It’s always fun with anthologies to try to kind of crunch some numbers and see if there are any common themes or genres or sort of general bents among the stories. In this film’s established universe, everyone is deeply flawed. Even happy endings have a cost. This seems to imply that, when bad things happen to people, they tend to deserve it – except for the frame tale, which ponders the randomness of fate’s pain. It’s fun to look a little too deep like this. Just keep a little skepticism about planning and intent.

If you’re going to watch a holiday horror movie, A Christmas Horror Anthology’s a pleasant use of your time.

KRAMPUS

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SHOULD I? STATUS: Would Watch

Available for Comcast or Verizon OnDemand Rental (Verizon’s cheaper)

This moral tale’s more like Black Christmas than the Nightmare Before, despite its apparent family-friendly vibe.

I guess I may be a little late to the game on this one; Krampus came out for the holiday season last year. I remember my little sister was positively amped for its theatrical release. I’d been intrigued by the trailers as well. However, we neither managed to watch it until this last week, spurred on by Thanksgiving and the fresh set of winter holidays. 

Krampus turned out pleasantly worth the watch.

Here’s an “I’ll be honest:” I expected a more lighthearted affair. Indeed, Krampus’ first 30 minutes strongly echo the bumbling, comedic feel one can find in seasonal classics like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, maybe a little The Grinch minus its Whoville trappings – you know, that sort of innocent evil story-for-all-ages vibe. The multifold family members which constitute the film’s cast effectively elicit its audience’s empathy and rueful chagrin in addition to a healthy dusting of chuckles. And boy, what an intelligent approach this is to these despicable twelve, Krampus’ consanguineous dirty dozen: here’s a bunch of humans with spades of conflict between them, plus enough off-putting personality traits to count on both hands (and none may need share), but the director still needs to make us, the audience, like them. We need to root for these petty savages. They win us over in two equal parts; with the relatable aggravations that dog all mid-size families, colored in just-broad-enough cartoonish strokes. Paint strife funny and no one will scapegoat anyone for it too much.

Once we get to know everybody, and kind of like ‘em even if we hate ‘em, Krampus reveals it has gloves on beneath the cheer. With one hard hook, this film gets its shit real real, real quick.

Turns out this isn’t National Lampoon after all: no one’s lives are at stake in that holiday comedy. Same with The Grinch and sure, Nightmare Before Christmas, even – since both of these deal in fairy tales, the mind begs to compare and equate Krampus with such fluff. I was frankly shocked at the film’s first character death/disappearance. “I didn’t think this was that sort of movie,” I commented to a friend. “I didn’t think, you know, they’d actually kill anyone.”

From that point, Krampus doesn’t let up. While the serious horror treatment was a surprise, initially, and maybe just to me (maybe I forgot the tone of the trailers, or something), I have to applaud it. I didn’t expect Krampus to put anything real at stake. After all, it was a horror movie, but it was a Christmas movie, too. In my experience horror-Christmas movies tend to 15% horror, 85% gingerbread, tinsel, and loads of at-the-end, good-feels. Not so, Krampus, and it’s both the surprising of my expectation and the serious-ness of its scare which, at the end of the day, have won me over. I have no reservations. I recommend Krampus to you utterly.

If you feel in need of an antidote to angels, cherubs, carolers with rosy cheeks and Auld Lang Syne anytime in the next six weeks, then I say cue Krampus right on up.

THE CONJURING 2

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SHOULD I? STATUS: Meeehhhhh-commend

Available on American Airlines Flights (I know, right? Super bougie)

Based on a true hoax story

THE QUICK & DIRTY DEETS

  • Mod-to-high jump scares
  • Haunted house/family genre
  • Dat Vera Farmiga

THOTS

I admit that maybe I’m approaching this franchise from the wrong end, having not actually seen either The Conjuring or Annabelle (look, they make horror movies about living dolls for a reason, they’re fucking creepy), but you know what? It wasn’t so painful coming up the ass. Sorry, am I being crude? I didn’t realize horror fans were so sensitive.

Taken as it was, I have to say, The Conjuring 2 offers a solid specimen from the “haunted house” genre, although I would honestly argue this fits more into the “haunted person” arena as opposed to an actual “haunted house.” It’s typical poltergeist sort of fare, based on a “true story” from when “true poltergeist stories” were all the fashion – the early ‘70s. Any movie that can claim to be based on a true story does elicit just that extra inch or so more of thrill.

If you’re a fan of Poltergeist or similar, The Conjuring 2 will appeal to you because that’s what the story really is, though the film’s justification for its events is about as thick as the first early December sheet of ice overlaying some given neighborhood’s decorative, man-made pond. That is to say, there is an explanation and it holds just so long as no one steps on it, or tries to challenge it with the throw of a few fist-sized rocks. The film gives its audience just enough rationale for why this haunting? now? that probably no one walked out of the theater complaining of plot holes. However, like an appetizer may stave off true hunger, it doesn’t fully satisfy. It just puts off, enough.

While we’re talking about small-to-moderate flaws, while there’s an extensive cast of characters, if the film passes Bechdel, it does so narrowly. Mom’s acting starts off poor and, ultimately, hits only uneven success. Several short scenes feel auxiliary and maybe needless in retrospective examination. If a director’s ability is truly demonstrated by unbroken shots, The Conjuring 2 doesn’t say anything favorable about its dude-behind-the-cameras-in-charge. But does it have to?

The Conjuring 2 is one of those films with good enough star power and decent funding which ultimately delivers exactly what it promises but not one whit past that. It won’t enrage you or leave you disappointed. Neither will it excite you or make you think. Sometimes, with horror movies (as with most things in life), even I admit – mindless entertainment can be all you want or need.