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.

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