Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Picks - The Descent (2005) and Young Frankenstein (1974)

Well, here are the two last movie picks for Halloween 2008. It hasn't been easy to narrow down all the movies I wanted to recommend to this little list, so I might just keep recommending horror movies every once in a while - after all, Halloween is like Christmas, you can have it everyday.
1. The Descent (2005)

I consider The Descent to be one of the best horror movies of the last years, and I'm sure time will make it a classic.

Directed by Neil Marshall, The Descent tells us the story of a group of 6 women who go spelunking 1 year after Sarah, a member of the group, lost her daughter and husband on a car accident. Juno, Sarah's best friend, leads the group further and further into a previously unexplored cave, and it soon becomes apparent that they won't all make it out of the cave... if anyone will at all. Revealing more would be a little sinful.

The plot is tight, and the characters are very well fleshed out, making it very interesting to see their relationships change, tear and fall apart. The suspense keeps building from the beginning, and when the action unfolds it's truly like a rollercoaster ride. The cave and the tension make this movie crazy claustrophobic, and if you're anything like me, you'll feel like you're out of breath inside that dark, ominous cave along with the 6 characters. There's a constant feeling of dread and foreboding. The Descebt will make you uncomfortable, and it will scare you, which is not something a lot of horror movies successfully pull off. If you're looking for more than a couple empty jumps, for Halloween, go with this one.

2. Young Frankenstein (1974)

Ok, so, this is not horror. It's a comedy movie - but it's a parody of some of Universal's earliest and biggest classics (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and so on), and it's definitely worth a mention. And, more than 30 years after its making, it stands as one of my favorite comedies of all time.

Young Frankenstein gives us the tale of Dr. Frederik Frankenstein (ir's pronounced Fronk-en-steen!), a somewhat crazy college professor who happens to be the grandson of famous mad scientist Victor Frankenstein. His grandfather passed away and left Frederik his castle in Transylvania. He travels to Transyvalnia to claim his inheritance and stumbles upon a book detailing his grandfather's earlier projects of trying to create life from dead body parts. Despite deeming his grandfather insane in the earlier parts of the movie, he decides to give Frankenstein senior's projects a try. Along with him for the ride are the iconic hunchback lab assistant, Igor (pronounced Eye-gore); a young nurse named Inga, and the castle's scary caretaker, Frau Blucher.

Mel Brooks has made some of the funniest comedies ever (notably Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men in Tights), and Young Frankenstein ranks high on my laugh-a-palooza list. Once the laughter starts, it's hard to stop it, not only because of a great script, but thanks to the brilliant acting by the cast, particularly Gene Wilder, who is perfect as Frederik Frankenstein, and Marty Feldman, who delivers a truly hilarious performance as the hunchbacked Igor. Shot in black and white and using a lot of the same props made for 1931's Frankenstein, the movie successfully reflects the style of the Universal classic, while at the same time being side-splitting hilarious. It's one of the best spoof movies ever made, and I guarantee it'll make for a really fun Halloween night.

Well, these were my suggestions. Let me know if you choose any of these movies to keep you company tonight, and have a kick ass Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Picks - Re-Animator (1985) and The Faculty (1998)

Once again, as promised, here are a couple of fun suggestions for your Halloween Night.

1. Re-Animator (1985)

As you can see on the poster, Re-Animator is the adaptation of one of H. P. Lovecraft's tales. I am a big fan of Lovecraft's horror writings, but I never got to read Re-Animator, so I'm not in a position to judge its faithfulness to the source material - although I would risk saying it detours from it a whole lot. Lovecraft's writing is not exactly filled with the kind of gore and nonsense you find in this movie.

Directed by Stuart Gordon (a man who directed at least two other feature film adptations of Lovecraft's tales, plus two episodes of Masters of Horror, also Lovecraftian stuff), Re-Animator tells us the story of Herbert West, your token mad scientist, who found out a way of re-animating dead tissue, and is itching to try it on humans, instead of on little lab animals. Brilliant as he is, he's not very modest or personable, and after he lands on Miskatonic Medical University, he immediately makes an enemy in Dr. Carl Hill, when they disagree on the subject of brain death. Herbert ends up moving to the Dean's daughter house, that she shares with her boyfriend Dan, and uses their basement to further his research. In need of a helper, he takes a chance when Dan's cat dies, and re-animates it in hopes of bringing Dan to aid him in his quest. Hill ends up stumbling on West's experiments and finds them an excellent way to put pressure on the genius: he threatens to blackmail him if he doesn't hand over the secret of his re-animating serum. And the rest is history.

The movie is pretty twisted, perverted, and gory, but everything is so over-the-top and cartoonish that it gets really funny. The script is great, and so is the directing and the pace of the film (that by the way, at under 90 minutes in length, is pretty short). Jeffrey Combs performance as Doctor West is brilliant, he has to be one of my favorite mad scientists to ever grace the screen, and the rest of the cast is pretty solid as well.

It's so difficult to find a movie nowadays that makes you cringe and laugh at the same time, but Re-Animator successfully does so, without dumbing the viewer down. Give it a chance, or you'll be missing out.

2. The Faculty (1998)

When the teen horror genre resurfaced in the nighties, some movies were lost amidst the Scream and I know What You Did Last Summer franchises. The Faculty was one of those movies, and while I don't consider it to be "all that" when it comes to horror movies, I'm picking it mostly for nostalgia-based reasons. See, I was a wee teen when this movie came out, and I have to tell you that the possibility of my teachers beings aliens was something that lightly crossed my mind at times. Since that is the premise of this movie, we shared a bit of a kindred spirit.

Directed by the "too cool for school" Robert Rodriguez, The Faculty whirls around an unlikely group of students that come together to fight an alien invasion taking place in their high school. As the alien's posess more and more teachers, it's up to them to find the origin of the infection and stop it, before it overruns their whole town and, eventually, the world.

Think Breakfast Club meets Invasion of the Body Snatcher's - kinda cool, huh?

The movie doesn't get too extreme, gore and scare-wise. In my opinion, the lack of scares can be because an high school isn't exactly the most terrifying setup you can think of for an alien invasion - although it does offer a nice, palpable sense of paranoia. It's also a very stylish movie, and that's what appealed most to the young crowd: the cast is made of clean cut, pretty-face actors, who face the everyday problems of high school... plus aliens; and they actually make a good job. The script is solid enough (penned by Kevin Williamson), with nice dialogue, a pronounced sense of humor and various references to sci-fi material that inspired this movie.

As a horror movie, it doesn't do too much. But as a teen horror movie, it's a few notches above most of the stuff that came out recently, and it's worth at least one viewing. So if you feel nostalgic of simpler times and are looking for a thrill or two, look into The Faculty and it may just be the kick you need.

Stay tuned for the two final recommendations tomorrow! Oh man, I wish it was Halloween every week.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween Picks - Hatchet (2006) and Tesis (1996)

I had fun yesterday thinking about these Halloween picks, so why not be a little generous and sugest two movies a day instead of just one? I know, I know, I'm too cool, so here go the TWO-for-one picks of today.
Keep in mind that I'm trying to think about movies that aren't tool well known, and that's why I'm not refering the classics - I don't think anyone needs to recommend The Exorcist, The Shining or Shaun of the Dead, because everyone already knows they're brilliant. Read on!

1. Hatchet (2006)

You know, the tagline pretty much says it all. Hatchet is a movie that takes you right back to the 80's american slashers: it has a deformed, inbred gigantic and inhumanly strong killer; it has
the same teenage characters we've seen in these movies over and over again (poor sap dumped by his girlfriend and trying to forget her, drunk jocks, token black guy, slutty cheeleader types, and the one girl who knows too much) and the plot is entirely forgettable. So why am I suggesting this, you ask?

Because it actually WORKS. Hatchet knows what it is, and makes fun of itself at all times. It doesn't take itself seriously, the director knows this is not the next big thing in horror, but he wants people to have a good time watching it, and Hatchet delivers.

The plot, forgettable as it is, revolves around a group of people that go on a tour of a supposedly haunted swamp in New Orleans. That's where things go awry, after their boat crashes and they find themselves stuck in the swamps with the unwanted company of a mutant serial killer.

The cast gets picked off one by one, in a lot of different, violent, gory ways - we're talking impalement, dismemberment, blood squirting in impossible amounts, the whole deal. Interestingly enough, Hatchet features cameos by famous stars of horror movies, like Robert Englund (Nightmare in Elm Street), Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th) and Tony Todd (Candyman), providing little Easter Eggs for horror fans.
I can't say anything about this flick is fresh or original, but in my opinion, that was the whole point: poking loving fun at the slasher genre while keeping things interesting with splatter comedy and mayhem. It's a B-movie and it knows it, and it works very well as both an homage and a parody. Best watched with a group of friends you can laugh along with.

It's been successful enough to warrant a sequel: Hatchet 2 is supposed to hit screens next year.

2. Tesis (1996)

Moving on from a goofy movie to a more serious one, Tesis is my second pick of the day. Despite being more of a thriller than straight up horror, it's a great movie and deserves to be better known.

I am a big fan of spanish horror movies (the best horror movie I've seen this year was [REC], and it's spanish, as I'm sure you know), so I was pretty curious when I heard of this earlier work of Alejandro Amenábar, who more recently directed The Others - one of the best and most chilling supernatural horrors I've seen. Tesis was Amenábar's debut movie, written while he was still in college. And what a debut it was.

Tesis tells us the story of Ángela, a college student who is writing a thesis about violence in film and in the media. Helping her is Chema, a classmate who because of his obsession about horror movies and extreme films, has a massive collection of said material, that Ángela uses on her research. Meanwhile, Ángela's thesis advisor, Prof. Figueroa, discovers a snuff film where a girl is beaten and brutally murdered on camera, and he dies while watching this film. Ángela and Chema get their hands on the movie, and Chema recognizes the dead girl as a former student of their university. Together, they set out to find out about the snuff underworld and who is murdering people on camera to satisfy a sick fascination with violence.

The movie is very suspenseful and successfully keeps a mood of building tension, without resorting to extreme gore and violence (like some of the earlier picks I made). Intense directing, great cinematograpy and solid performances from the cast are a couple other reaons that make this movie stand out, in my opinion, and definitely worthy of a recommendation. Go get it.
Keep enjoying Halloween's week, and don't forget to check back tomorrow, when 2 new suggestions will be up.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween Picks - Braindead (1992) and Dead End (2003)

As you may have noticed, I've been a little absent from the blogging world lately, and while that has happened before for reasons connected to my rampant lazyness, this time it's nothing like that: my computer had to go to the PC Doctor a couple of weeks ago, and I still haven't got it back, and that's pretty much a pain in the ass (it's delaying about half a dozen works I should have ready by now).

So I've been computerless, but this is HALLOWEEN week, and I had to find a way to post on this baby and give you guys some movie recommendations for your Halloween night. Hopefully you'll find some movies you haven't heard of here, and have a good scare at their expense.
I'll post two today, because I meant to have started the list yesterday and keep it up at one suggestion a day until Halloween.
1. Peter Jackson's Braindead (1992) (also known as Dead Alive in the USA).

That's right. Before Peter Jackson gave us the best epic fantasy movie trilogy ever, he made movies with far less elves, and much more zombies. Braindead was his 3rd movie. It became a cult favorite, and gained fame as the goriest movie ever made, and to this day, it holds its own as one of the funniest splatter-fests of all time.

Braindead tells us the story of young man Lionel, who lives with his smothering, controlling mother. In his attempt to have something that resembled a normal life, Lionel starts dating Paquita, much to the grief of his mother. When he takes Paquita out for a walk in the local zoo, his mother decides to follow them, and gets bit by a strange creature called the Sumatran Rat Monkey. The bite causes her to start falling apart and, eventually, die, but that's not the last we see of her, as she comes back to life as controlling and obnoxious as always, but this time with a taste for human flesh. It's up to Lionel to try and stop his mother from spreading the undead infection, while maintaining a normal household as much as possible - unfortunatelly he doesn't really succeed, and next thing we now, that little kiwi town is overrun with blood thirsty zombies, and the fun starts!

The gore in this movie is something I guarantee you've never seen before. Literally gallons of bloods and guts of all sort keep flying around the screen, and the corpses decompose in a miriad of disgusting ways. In the final scene of the movie, over 300 liters of fake blood were used. 300 liters. That is a shitload of blood, and if that's not awesome, I don't know what is.

It borrows a lot of the splastick seen on movies like Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn and exagerates it even further, to levels I never thought possible. Zombie sex, zombie babies, a nazi veterinarian, a kung-fu priest and body parts with a mind of their own are only a few of the things you can expect to see in this crazy, over-the-top gorefest. It's hilarious, it's bloody, it's violent, it blew my mind away when I first watched it and it continues to do so. I couldn't recommend it more.

2. Dead End (2003)

Directed by unknowns Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa, Dead End is a pretty straightforward movie about a family on their way to a Christmas dinner at their grandmother's house. There's a little tension going on, and the dad, anxious to shorten the drive there, takes a shortcut, something he had never done in 20 years. We soon learn he would have done better to keep with the traditional road, because the new shortcut is apparently never ending, and filled with unexplainable forces, out to cause the family harm.

The set-up is pretty simple, and I think that's why it ends up working so well, since it helps to keep the focus on the characters and the situation. The atmosphere of the movie is great, very dark, very bleak and eerie, and as the movie develops, you get the feeling of hopelessness of that family, as they realize they won't make it out of the shortcut. That was my favorite thing about Dead End, because scarewise I can't say it scared my pants off or anything (most of the times, when something happened, you could see it coming a few minutes in advance), but there was such a dark mood that I was unsettled for most of the movie, even getting a few old-fashioned chills, the kind that make the hairs on your arms stand up. Don't expect much gore, because most of the horror is actually unseen - being, in my opinion, all the more effective. It really lets you use your imagination and doesn't spoon-feed your brain.
There are some moments of deep weirdness and even humor, as the family turns out to be a little more dysfunctional then you thought they would be, with the humor actually providing a welcome balance, at times. The cast works very well here, and the dialogue is witty and above average for a horror movie. I have to say the ending failed to captivate me, but I definitely enjoyed the ride and I forgive the less than perfect ending.
I confess: after seeing this movie, I was creeped out when I saw a black car on the road at night, and if you give this a try, I think you might be too.
These are the suggestions for today, stay tuned for a brand new one tomorrow!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Michael Bay is a genius

No, I did not bang my head on a wall or something, but I had to share one of the funniest things I stumbled upon the web lately.
Some (genius) guy set up a Twitter account as Michael Bay and posts some funny tidbits about his thought process, his dreams with Megan Fox and Shia LaBeou'fs tantrums on the set of Transformers 2. Go check it out here, I promise it's funny.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Dragon Ball Teaser Trailer

I must really hate myself to keep posting stuff about this train wreck of a movie, but anyway. The teaser trailer for Dragon Ball leaked online earlier this week, but it was bootlegged, and it looked like it was filmed from a man's ass, and even I have a too much self respect to post that here. But today, the good quality teaser hit the web, and if I suffered watching it, you must all suffer with me.

I seriously don't know what to say. This looks mind-blowingly bad. I keep expecting it's all a big joke, but it gets worse everytime. Oh well...