Shocktober Day 6 – Gremlins

gremlinstitle

Gremlins (1984). Dir. Joe Dante. Starring Hoyt Axton, Phoebe Cates, Zach Galligan, and Corey Feldman.

A Christmas movie for Halloween time. The implications alone are horrifying. Gremlins is the tale of a struggling inventor who stumbles upon a mysterious shop in Chinatown. Inside he obtains a small, strange creature known as a Mogwai. The rules of ownership of the Mogwai are simple: 1. Keep it out of any type of bright light. Sunlight outright kills the Mogwai. 2. Don’t get the Mogwai Wet. Keep it away from water. 3. No matter what, don’t feed the Mogwai after midnight. Of course – the inventor and his family manage to bumblefuck everything up in record time.

http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Gremlins-Original-Poster-Reveals-An-Awesome-Amblin-Easter-Egg-43621.html

Gizmo gets wet. (Image credit CinemaBlend)

What follows is chaos. Turns out when Mogwai get wet, the multiply. So now there are a myriad of Mogwai – all of them lacking the “cute and cuddly” nature of their progenitor, Gizmo. The new generation of creatures immediately begin to show signs of a rebellious nature and the leader of the bunch, Stripe, eventually leads to the breaking of the “No food past midnight” rule. The Gremlins transform and begin wreaking havoc on townsfolk, murdering people, and playing poker.

Abe Vigoda as Stripe.

Abe Vigoda as Stripe.

All of this – in a Christmas movie. It boggles the mind. I had never actually seen Gremlins in it’s entirety, so I went in expecting “OMG THE GREATEST MOVIE EVAR. I GREW UP ON GREMLINS AND IT’S THE GRAEATTSET”. It was alright. I didn’t love it, it didn’t scare me, it didn’t make me jump for joy at the triumphant ending – it was just alright. Not bad, not amazing, certainly not scary – Alright. Acceptable even.

The David Johansen Singers.

The David Johansen Singers.

Gremlins

Story: 3/5

Effects: 3/5

Scare Factor: 1/5

Trench-Coated Gremlin Flasher:  Why?

Overall: 3/5

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Shocktober Day 5 – Alice (Něco z Alenky)

alicetitle

Něco z Alenky (Alice) (1989). Dir. Jan Švankmajer. Starring Kristýna Kohoutová.

I’m sure you’re familiar with Alice in Wonderland. Even if you’ve never read Lewis’ novel, you’re probably heard of the animated Disney movie, Tim Burton’s 2010 rendition, American McGee’s dark and twisted version, or a myriad of slutty “Wonderful” Alice costumes at Halloween (which are now available in children’s sizes because people are disgusting.) Whichever version you’re familiar with, the same story is more or less present throughout; Alice’s descent into complete and utter batshittery. There are some dark elements in all these versions, sure, but for the most part it’s nothing too disturbing. Jan Švankmajer’s Něco z Alenky (lit. “Something from Alice”), takes a slightly different approach.

Namely. Nightmare Fuel.

Namely, nightmare fuel.

I’ve been informed that this film doesn’t actually classify as “Horror”, and that it is technically “Fantasy”. I ask – have you seen this film? Look at those eyes. The teeth. My mind immediately screamed “WHAT THE, HORSE? DOG? HORSEDOG?!” as my jaws clenched and my vision began to fade. Nope – that’s the caterpillar. Sure it is, Jan, sure it is. I can only imagine the levels of psilocybin in Švankmajer’s system while he’s was thinking up this one.  Oh, and remember the part where Alice becomes a giant doll and you can still see her eyes behind her new dead and unfeeling face?

It's like a Pennywise and Michael Myers had a daughter.

It’s like Elle Driver and Michael Myers had a daughter.

And let’s not forget the White Rabbit. Everybody remembers the White Rabbit – always in a hurry, so worries about being late, but is logical and usually without malice. Even Tim Burton, who is fond of putting his twist on classic characters, kept the rabbit pretty true to his roots. Surely, Švanky wouldn’t fiddle with such an iconic character.

Welp.

Welp.

Of course. More nightmare fuel. A sawdust filled rabbit comes to life and leads Alice into madness. Also, it more than willingly participates in the Red Queen’s beheading-happy antics. And the teeth chattering. Dear god, the teeth chattering.

In all seriousness – Něco z Alenky is not the scariest film I’ve ever seen. And truthfully, it’s not that scary at all. But goddamn is it uncomfortable. Švankmajer uses stop motion excellently to portray a classic story in a very different way. Alice is the only human in the entire movie (unless you count her mothers legs at the very beginning of the film). The interactions with the surroundings and the other characters are really quite interesting, and Alice’s narration throughout is both unnerving and strangely calming – really helping out the dreaminess of the story. At 84 minutes, it’s not too long – but beware, this movie might not be for everyone. If you like weird movies and have Netflix instant, give it a watch.

Něco z Alenky

Story: 4/5

Effects: 4/5

Scare Factor: 1/5

Lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes: Innumerable

Overall: 4/5

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Shocktober Day 4 – Perfect Blue

PBcover

Perfect Blue (1997). Dir. Satoshi Kon. Starring (Enlgish Cast) Ruby Marlowe, Wendee Lee, Barry Stigler, and Bob Marx.

Perfect Blue tells the story of a young starlet, Mima, who decides to leave behind her promising career as a pop-idol in order to become an established actor. Along the way to this goal, people surrounding her are dropping dead, every waking moment of her life is being reported on some new fangled thing called the “Internet”, and Mima is losing her mind.

Mr. Me-Mania - Mima's number one fan.

The Sloth Mr. Me-Mania – Mima’s number one fan.

I. Love. This. Movie.

Apparently so does Darren Aronofsky. He bought the rights to the damned film. And it shows in two other excellent films: Black Swan, which seems almost the live action version of Perfect Blue and Requiem for a Dream, which actually uses the bathtub scene more or less shot for shot.

Mima/Jennifer Connelly

Mima/Jennifer Connelly

Some of the scenes in this film are actually pretty uncomfortable. There are several rape scenes and the violence in the film is actually pretty gruesome for an animated film. Perfect Blue doesn’t play on jump out shocks for cheap scares, it genuinely plays with your mind making you question exactly what is real in Mima’s rapidly deteriorating world. Perfect Blue keeps you guessing until the very end and at 81 minutes (85 for the unrated cut), it moves quickly and engages throughout. Give it a watch.

Perfect Blue

Story: 4/5

Effects: 3/5

Scare Factor: 2/5

Spike and Faye in the Same Movie: 1/1

Overall: 4/5

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Shocktober Day 3 – Cube

Cube (1997) – Vincenzo Natali. Starring Maurice Dean Wint, David Hewlett, Nicole de Boer, and Andrew Miller.

A few years ago, I watched “Cube 2: Hypercube”. I was amazed by the sheer level of schlock. I had heard of the Cube, but never actually watched the original. I assumed that the first entry in the series had to be at least half-way decent enough to garner a sequel and, as is so often the case, the followup film suffered from shitty-sequel disease. The acting excruciatingly  subpar, the story was ridiculous, and the characters were so paper thin they were practically transparent. But surely, that first movie had to at least have been marginally better.

Surely.

Surely.

15 Minutes into Cube, I’m left wondering why this movie wasn’t called The Eye. Quentin, played by Maurice Dean Wint, is constantly mugging for the camera; always wide-eyed, always gruff. He comes across as a complete psychopath – but for the completely wrong reasons. No human who has ever lived talks like Quentin. The emphasis, the bulge-out-of-your-skull eyes, all of it. The primary protagonist (spoiler: or is he?) just looks like a hate-able ass mere moments after his introduction.

Ladies and gentlemen, your...hero?

Ladies and gentlemen, your…hero?

The remainder of the cast is painfully cliche – The nerdy teenage student, the conspiracy theorist, the con, the apathetic one, and the kid with aspergers. This motley crew must work together in order to escape from inside what is essentially a giant Rubik’s cube. Of course each room is laden with traps (or not – nice and random that bit), though the actual death by trap count is surprisingly low.

At 90 painful minutes, this film movies at just slightly above a slugs pace. Do yourself a favor, watch any of the Saw movies – they do the whole trap thing better while actually supplying a story that at least passes for interesting.

Someone made a doodie.

Shock? Anger? Constipation?

Cube

Story – 1/5

Effects – 2/5

Scare Factor – 1/5

Bug Eyes – 2

Overall – 1/5

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Shocktober Day 2 – The Eye

theeyetitle

The Eye (2002) – Dir. The Pang Brothers. Starring Angelica Lee, Lawrence Chou, Edmund Chen, Yut Lai So.

Who doesn’t see dead people anymore? Haley Joel Osment, Jessica Alba, funeral directors – this list goes on and stops abruptly. The Eye , not to be confused with the movie of the same name starring #1 on the Ranker.com list of ” Stars who (probably) have Herpes” ( I wish I was making that up but people really are that fucking banal) – is a Singaporean film directed by the Pang brothers (of Bangkok Dangerous and The Eye 2 and 10 fame). The premise is simple enough – blind girl is given cornea transplant, blind girl begins seeing specters and the dead in general. While this might seem like a tired idea, the cinematography and special effects are what make this film so damned creepy.

The eerie nature of the film kicks in almost immediately. The opening credits slow down, seem to melt away, slow to a flash – creepy stuff. It only ramps up from there, jumping out at you when you least expect it.

GIMME A HUG.

GIMME A HUG.

The only part of the movie that is really out of place is the awful music. There are numerous moments where some decently heavy stuff is going down, only for the gentle sounds of a flute, or piano to pop up – seemingly out of nowhere. Most of the time the music fits the mood really well – but when it doesn’t, it’s painfully apparent.

If you’ve never seen this or the American remake – pass on Ms. Alba and go with this one. You can even find it, in it’s entirety, on Youtube (as of 10/2). Give it a watch.

The Eye (Gin Gwai)

Story – 3/5

Effects – 4/5

Scare Factor – 3/5

“Meat-Licking”: Awkward

Overall: 4/5

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Shocktober 2014 – Another year of this drivel

Look at that. I made a logo.

Look at that. I made a logo.

Another October. Another 31 movies. I actually did it last year. But if you were to read this page (yeah, I know – i’m the only one), you wouldn’t know it. I got lazy and began simply posting brief snippets on the FaceSpace. But I did it, damn it. And I aim to plan on maybe doing it again.

Freaks (1932) – Dir. Tod Browning. Starring Harry Earles, Olga Baclanova, Leila Hyams, and Henry Victor.

Honestly, I don’t know exactly where to begin describing this movie. With a title like Freaks, what exactly would one expect to see? The movie stars actual circus performers, many of whom are deformed or otherwise more than a bit different. When the movie was first released in 1932, people were horrified. People looked at it as a film exploiting the so called “freaks” that filled the cast. The film was banned in the United Kingdom because the films “deformed cast was shocking to film goers at the time”.

The United Kingdom: Producers of Beauty.

It wouldn’t be until years later that people actually took another look and saw  the movie for what it was, a movie that actually celebrated the performers deformities.

Freaks focuses on a travelling circus inhabited by many “Freakshow” standards, as well as a few “normies” and shows how the real monsters are not who you’d expect. Though, it’s fairly obvious that the evil ones are going to be the normies. Cleopatra, played by Olga Baclanova, is hate-able from the moment she appears on the screen. The character has zero redeeming qualities, and her comeuppance can’t come soon enough.

Freaks is a short movie, clocking in at 64 minutes (in the edited cut  which I watched, because : reasons) and 90 minutes in the un-edited version. The film was drastically cut down to take out more of the “shocking” parts, and because of uptight twits, those scenes are now considered lost. This is especially sad because Browning is a great director. I mean, for shit’s sake, he directed Lugosi in Dracula and worked with Lon Chaney. While not the creepiest movie, it has a certain feeling to it that really ramps up in the last 15 minutes. Worth a watch.

Hell, the whole movie is worth it just for this guy.

Hell, the whole movie is worth it just for this guy.

Freaks

Story: 3/5

Effects: 1/5

Scare Factor: 1/5

“Can A Full Grown Woman Truly Love A Midget ?”: Nope

Overall: 3/5

Oh yeah – It’s also in the public domain. Enjoy.

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Shocktober Day 14 – Dawn of the Dead (1978)

dotdDawn-of-the-Dead-1978 Dawn of the Dead (1978) – Dir. George Romero. Starring David Emge, Scott H. Reiniger, Gaylen Ross.

No, I didn’t skip 11, 12, and 13. I just didn’t feel like writing about them. I watched:

Friday – Frankenstein Created Woman – Interesting movie, if not really..really bad.
Saturday- Frankenstein Must be Destroyed – While I complained that previous sequels made Frankenstein less dark and crazed, this one turned him into a damned rapist. A little too far, I think. Not horrible, but not great.
Sunday – Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell – David Prowse and Peter Cushing, years before Star Wars! Still, a strange movie and a poor end to the Hammer Frankenstein franchise.

There, now that that’s done.

George Romero pretty much kicked off the zombie genre with Night of the Living Dead. It was gritty, it was dark, and damn was it violent for the time, like super violent. Then came Dawn of the Dead, Romero’s greatest film – as far as I’m concerned. The film starts simply enough, if you’ve never seen Night of the Living dead, you might not know what the hell is going on. Hell, even if you have seen it, shit’s a little weird. At first, I thought I might have been watching another Lionel Ritchie vehicle by mistake

Oh, what a feeling.

Oh, what a feeling.

But after listening a few seconds you realize that the dead are, in fact, rising and attacking the living – devouring the flesh and what not. The movie starts with two groups of characters, a helicopter pilot and his television producer girlfriend and two police officers. Apparently the pilot and white guy officer are friends and are going to escape with producer girlfriend and new cop buddy.

Quite the motley crew

Quite the motley crew

The group manages to take off and fly for some time before deciding to land at a zombie infested mall and set up shop, so to speak. Hijinks ensue and many a social commentary are made regarding the nature of man, consumerism, and food fights with zombies.

Also, Jim Rash was there.

Also, Jim Rash was there.

 

The makeup is cheesy, the blood is ridiculously fake looking (which effects master Tom Savini supposedly hated, but Romero wanted it to add to the “comic book” feel of the movie), and the acting is incredibly flat at times, but the movie is really quite good. The sound track is excellent and would be sampled by both Gorillaz and Robot Chicken (The intro off of Demon Days and “The Gonk” respectively). A little on the long side, but absolutely worth a watch.

Dawn of the Dead

Story: 4/5

Effects: 3/5

Scare Factor: 3/5

Greatest Line: “We got this, We got this by the ass!”

Overall: 4/5

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Shocktober Day 10 – The Evil of Frankenstein

eviloffrankensteinTHE-EVIL-OF-FRANKENSTEIN-landscape

The Evil of Frankenstein – 1964. Dir. Freddie Francis. Starring Peter Cushing, Peter Woodthorpe, Duncan Lamont, and Sandor Elès.

How do you make a good sequel? You take what made the last one great and make it better? How do you make a bad sequel? You take what made the last one great, completely disregard all of it, add in weak plots and loads of exposition and apparently give it a director with an assonant name. Guess what type of sequel The Evil of Frankenstein is.

Yeah. That kind.

Yeah. That kind.

With a fresh new deal with Universal, Hammer Films completely forgot the excellent Curse of Frankenstein and the fair sequel Revenge of Frankenstein and instead rewrote the entire story. Now only loosely based on even the original subject matter (there’s a man named Frankenstein, he makes a monster), The Evil of Frankenstein looked at the Universal classic version and said “Yeah, lets just do that shit again”. At least with the original two they took great pains to avoid being TOO similar. The “Monster” was the “Creature”, Curse‘s creature looked NOTHING like the very recognizable Universal monster (while Revenge didn’t even have a monster, really), and the story was incredibly dark; Frankenstein was an evil obsessed bastard as opposed to just an extremely determined , yet somewhat still moral scientist. Then comes this one, the “Revenge of the Sith” of the Hammer Frankenstein franchise (I hope, I still have Frankenstein Created Woman…though I don’t hold much hope for it).

The story in this film is pretty basic. Frankenstein creates a being but can’t figure out a strong enough energy source to give it life. Oh look, a convenient lightening storm! Creature is “born”, won’t behave, kills farm animals, is thought killed by towns people and Frankenstein is exiled. So, a few years later Frankenstein is forced to return to his home town -with some random ass hat assistant.

Nope. Too easy.

Nope. Too easy.

 

Gone is Dr. Hans Kleve, the “Dr. Franck” angle, all of it. Instead, none of it ever happened. Apparently Terrence Fisher was the only thing holding the franchise together (he’d return for a few other Cushing “Frankenstein” films, so maybe there is hope for FCW). The creature is laughable. It’s clear that once they got the go ahead from Universal they decided to borrow heavily not only from set design but also the monster design. But the thing is, you can’t try to simply recreate such an original and well known character like that. Only bad can come from it.

.

The Evil of Frankenstein

Story: 1/5

Effects: 1/5

Scare Factor: 1/5

“Why won’t they leave me alone?”: Good question Vic, good question

Overall: 1/5

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Shocktober Day 8/9 – The Hammer Frankenstein Films

hfrankposters

The Curse of Frankenstein – 1957. Dir. Terrence Fisher. Starring Peter Cushing, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart, and Christopher Lee.

Frankenstein’s Revenge – 1958. Dir. Terrence Fisher. Starring Peter Cushing, Eunice Gayson, Francis Matthews, Michael Gwynn

 

Let me start off by state I absolutely love the whole Frankenstein thing. One of the first books I purchased at the school book fair and read when I was in 2nd grade was Frankenstein. There was always something about that mad scientist and his dark experiments that always captivated me. The creation of life from inimate flesh. That’s some serious sci-fi shit right there. Anyone has read some of my previous reviews probably noticed that I absolutely love the Hammer horror films. Taking cues from the Universal classic Monster movies of the 40’s, Hammer took great pains in trying to reproduce the same innovation that Universal and made something all their own – Different direction, generally darker, and always more violent.

Kicking off the Hammer Frankenstein franchise was 1957’s “The Curse of Frankenstein” starring Peter Cushing (who it should become rapidly obvious is one of my favorite horror actors) as Baron Victor Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as “the Creature”. Hammer seems careful to avoid making the movie too similar to the Universal “monster”, giving it a different look and making the actual character a much smaller part of the movie. Victor is born in the wealthy Frankenstein family and loses his parents at a young age. He enlists the aid of a tutor named “Paul” (Urquhart) with whom he forms a strong bond as the two study a wide variety of topics.

Yep. Totally normal teacher student activities.

Yep. Totally normal teacher student activities.

After years of study they began to probe deeper into the mysteries of science including the reanimation of life. Early in the movie Peter and Frankenstein resurrect corpse of a dog. A quite adorable dog mind you. However, not satisfied with simply restoring life an adorable puppy, Frankenstein begins imagining  ways to create life where it never existed before, to create a living being part by part. Frankenstein begins “acquiring” limbs and  spare parts in order to piece together his masterpiece

And stops for a lite bite to eat.

And stops for a lite bite to eat.

Over a period of time, Paul becomes very aware of Frankenstein’s demented obsession and that’s where shit gets interesting. Thrown into the mix is Frankenstein’s wife to be Elizabeth and his mistress / maid.  When the maid threatens to go to the police about the Frankenstein’s “experiment”, Cushing shows his ability to play a truly evil bastard.

The “Creature” in the film is played by Christopher Lee, and quite well. Though he has no speaking lines (unless you count a scream in the last 5 minutes of the movie) he does a great job as always of being the monster. The reveal where you finally see the creature is absolutely fantastic.

reveal

Morning, sunshine.

 

The Curse of Frankenstein doesn’t quite follow the books or the Universal story as it focuses more on the doctor rather than the monster itself. Uou really get a feel for how obsessed with his invention Frankenstein is going so far as to commit murder in order to create his perfect creature and keep it a secret. He. Is. Ruthless.

The film’s ending set up perfectly for a sequel. Which is exactly what they did! Just a year later, The Revenge of Frankenstein was released. Pushing returned as Dr “Victor Stein”, having managed to escape his fate at the end of the previous film, we find  Frankenstein now living under an assumed name far away from his hometown having opened a practice.  When the local medical council approaches him, demanding that he join their ranks, one of the doctors recognizes him for who he really is and later visits him in private, wishing to become his apprentice – perfectly logical. It’s not long before Frankenstein is back up to his old tricks, but this time with a slightly more altruistic reason. Stein plans to transfer the living brain from another of his assistants, “Carl”, to help cure his partial paralysis. Also, he keeps an extra “shell” around, you know, just for kicks.

Reminds me of Lee, sans the whimsy.

Reminds me of Lee, sans the whimsy.

Having learned from his previous mistakes, the operation is initially a resounding success. Invariably however, things can never go so smoothly and Dr. Stein is soon found out by the village and things quickly go south culminating in the poor-house patients he had been caring for turning on him and “tearing him to shreds”…or…did they?

Hi I'm Dr. Franck. I'm not even kidding.

Hi I’m Dr. Franck. I’m not even kidding.

Over all, I prefer The Curse of Frankenstein over it’s sequel. Victor is so much darker in the original and is down right vicious at times. He just generally seems more menacing while as in the second, he’s toned down quite a bit – just sort of doing his thing and not terribly fucking anybody over (the monster in this one does all the damage this time around). Both movies are good but if you want to see some excellent villainy with a top notch designed monster (look at that stitching on Lee), stick with The Curse. Oh, but wait…there’s…another sequel? Tomorrow.

The Curse of Frankenstein

Story 5/5

Effects 3/5

Scare Factor: 1/5

Cushing Throttling: 1/1

Overall 4/5

The Revenge  of Frankenstein

Story: 3/5

Effects 3/5

Scare Factor 1/5

70’s Bruce Banner Effect – Cheesy

Overall 3/5

 

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Shocktober Day 7 -Frankenstein (1910)

fsteinfrankenstein

 

Frankenstein – 1910. Dir. J. Searle Dowley. Starring Augustus Phillips, Mary Fuller, and Charles Ogle.

That I can even watch this movie is nothing short of a miracle. Originally thought to be lost, the 1910 production of Frankenstein is the first film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic novel. When the movie first came out, the cast wasn’t even billed. The only reason I’m able to put it is because the version I found on Youtube did all of the homework for me and actually added in the “Players” and the director. This telling of Frankenstein is quite a bit different than the novel. For starters, Frankenstein doesn’t gather pieces of corpses to create the monster. Instead, he sort of cooks him in a giant furnace. The stop motion here is pretty amazing for the time and for some reason, is actually a little creepy to watch; something like someone melting in reverse. Also, when the creature first see’s Frankenstein, there’s no real sign of hate or revulsion from the monster (that would become the staple of future incarnations). It’s put pretty simply that Frankenstein reviled the creature he had created. Additionally, the film seems more to make the creature out to be a doppelganger of Frankenstein, rather than an actual physical being. There’s a pretty neat mirror scene that demonstrates this effect pretty nicely. At 12 minutes, it tells an extremely abridged version of the story, and is worth checking out (below!) and having been made in 1910, makes it the second oldest “Motion Picture” with an actual store I’ve ever scene (after the 1904 movie A Trip to the Moon by Georges Méliès).  All in all, there’s not much in this movie I can even riff on.

Aside from Uncle Fester here.

Aside from Uncle Fester here.

 

Frankenstein

Story: 3/5

Effects: 3/5

Scare Factor: 1/5

Number of Living Actors: 0/3

Overall : 3/5

Enjoy!

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