Saturday, October 18, 2014

Horror Thoughts ‘14—Black Sunday (1960) ***½

UR, 87 min.
Director: Mario Bava
Writers: Ennio de Concini, Mario Serandrei, Nikolaj Gogol (short story)
Starring: Barbara Steel, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi, Ivo Garrani, Arturo Dominici, Enrico Olivieri, Antonio Pierfederici

I think I prefer the original title of “Black Sunday”. “The Mask of Satan” has much more to do with the movie. I don’t think the day of the week is ever even mentioned in the film. And does it really matter what day it is? I suppose in 1960, it would’ve been difficult to get U.S. audiences of any kind to go see a movie that even mentioned Satan in its title. Hell, today’s Hollywood would be just as scared to release a film under such a title, but people would go to see it. People who will never see it would also lambast it in the media.

Friday, October 17, 2014

ZAM Review—Birth of the Living Dead (2013) ***

This review was original written for and published by Zombie Apocalypse Monthly.

NR, 76 min.
Director: Rob Kuhns
Featuring: George A. Romero, Larry Fessenden, Mark Harris, S. William Hinzman, Gale Anne Hurd, Elvis Mitchell, Jason Zinoman, Samuel D. Pollard, Chiz Schultz

Film critic Gene Siskel had an idiom about the success of a film that stated that the best measure of a film was to imagine if a documentary with the same actors having lunch would be more entertaining. Of course, when it comes to zombie films, that is what you’re watching—the zombies having lunch. The man responsible for realizing this vision was George A. Romero, who rewrote the rules of zombies into our modern notion of what a zombie is—a dead person who has been reanimated and desires only to dine on brains (and the rest of your flesh) while the only way to stop one is by destroying their brain. This is basically what Romero came up with in his first film, 1968’s “Night of the Living Dead”—originally titled “Night of the Flesh Eaters”. Watching this documentary, which includes a great deal of footage of Romero just talking by himself, you’ll find he’s as entertaining as his movie.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Horror Thoughts ‘14—The Sacrament (2014) ***

R, 95 min.
Director/Writer: Ti West
Starring: AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, Kentucker Audley, Kate Lyn Sheil, Gene Jones

It’s true. Since “The Blair Witch Project” popularized the found footage horror subgenre, it has been done to death. And that’s putting it lightly considering the past few years. Found footage has even found its way into family films, like this past summer’s “Earth to Echo”.  I can’t for the life of me figure out why an already established and quite impressive horror director like Ti West would be inspired to make a found footage movie, but with his latest, “The Sacrament”, he puts in his bid on the horse-beaten gimmick.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Horror Thoughts ‘14—Only Lovers Left Alive (2014) ***

R, 123 min.
Director/Writer: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Anton Yelchin, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, Jeffrey Wright, Slimane Dazi

What Jim Jarmusch did for the spy genre with “The Limits of Control”, he now does for the vampire flick with “Only Lovers Left Alive”… for a little while anyway. I think if he’d stuck on his minimalist line with this one, he would’ve lost me; but the second half of the movie gets a little more conventional. In doing so, it finds its purpose.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Annabelle / ** (R)

Mia Gordon: Annabelle Wallis
John Gordon: Ward Horton
Father Perez: Tony Amendola
Evelyn: Alfre Woodard

New Line Cinema presents a film directed by John R. Leonetti. Written by Gary Dauberman. Running time: 90 min. Rated R (for intense sequences of disturbing violence and terror).

I suppose most of us have a deep-rooted fear of dolls coming to life in some way or another. Whether it’s like the clown under the bed in “Poltergeist” or just the kid’s plaything-come-to-life ala Chucky in “Child’s Play”, Hollywood is no stranger to this fact. So, when last year’s sleeper hit “The Conjuring” featured a very creepy looking doll that had supposedly been the worst case the ghost hunters in that film had ever seen, it was inevitable that we’d learn more about it in another movie.

Now, we get “Annabelle”, titled after the doll featured in “The Conjuring”. The same people who made “The Conjuring” produced this move, which makes sense. The same producers are also responsible for the two “Insidious” movies. The feel and themes of both series make their way into this prequel of sorts. It has a similar period setting as “The Conjuring”, but its horror is more deeply rooted in the sinister machinations of the “Insidious” movies. It has some very scary moments indeed, but it never quite gels together as well as those previous films, and what’s left is creepy, but messy.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Horror Thoughts ‘14—The Strain, season 1 (2014) ***

TV-MA, 13 45-min. episodes
Creators: Chuck Hogan, Guillermo del Toro

Directors: Peter Weller, David Semel, Charlotte Sieling, Phil Abraham, John Dahl, Guillermo del Toro, Guy Ferland, Keith Gordon, Deran Sarafian

Writers: Chuck Hogan, Guillermo del Toro, Justin Britt-Gibson, Regina Corrado, Carlton Cuse, Gennifer Hutchison, Bradley Thompson, David Weddle

Starring: Corey Stoll, David Bradley, Mía Maestro, Kevin Durand, Jonathan Hyde, Richard Sammel, Jack Kesy, Natalie Brown, Miguel Gómez, Ben Hyland, Robin Atkins Downes, Sean Astin, Roger C. Cross, Robert Maillot, Anne Betancourt, Ruta Gedmintas

Guest starring: Daniel Kash, Drew Nelson, Nikolai Witschl, Inga Cadranel, Adrianna Barraza, Francis Capra, Leslie Hope, Jim Watson, Pedro Miguel Arce, Stephen McHattie, Regina King, Alex Paxton-Beesley

I wanted “The Strain” to be like a “Breaking Bad” for the vampire mythos. I think many people had similar expectations for the television adaptation of Chuck Hogan and Guillermo de Toro’s novel series. When it didn’t quite blow the doors off the vampire mythology, there seemed to be a good deal of disappointment. I never read the book, so I don’t know if it achieved that sort of effect for the vampire myth, but I can certainly see where any disappointment might come from.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Horror Thoughts ‘14—Dark Mountain (2014) **

NR, 80 min.
Director: Tara Anaïse
Writers: Tara Anaïse, Tamara Blaich
Starring: Sage Howard, Andrew Simpson, Shelby Stehlin

Can we all agree by now that going out into the wilderness with cameras to make a visual record of a ghost story is a bad idea? Not only does this movie reference “The Blair Witch Project” in concept and exact plot, but also it actually mentions it by name in one of its lines. It tries to add some new elements, like aliens and time travel, but never really takes them anywhere.