Posts Tagged ‘horror’

My Horror Movie Quandary

Posted: September 21, 2014 in Article
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As we close in on October, it becomes that time of year to pull out all the old horror movies and get involved in Scary Movie Month. This is where I face my annual challenge. See, a lot of people watch scary movies to get scared… of movies. Which is something I don’t really understand. Not the desire, I’ve been in and around the BDSM community long enough to understand pleasure gained from discomfort, so I get that part. No I just don’t get the being scared part.

You see, I have never been scared by a movie. I’m not sure I’ve ever really been scared of anything, but certainly not a movie. I have been disturbed, or been shown things I don’t necessarily want to see, but never actually scared. It just never happens, nothing ever gets to me that way. I’m also bad company in a haunted house because I tend to look at the ghouls as they come out of the walls and judge them on their make-up choices. I know I’m perfectly safe, this is all for entertainment, and even if someone gets stupid I know I’m at least six times meaner than a sporadically employed actor is prepared to deal with on an average Tuesday night.

I’m not particularly fussed when safety is questionable either. I’m wary, because the person who is unaware of their surroundings is a victim waiting to happen, but I’m never afraid. Partially, again, I’m not the sort of person who just walks into an unknown alley and even if I have to for whatever reason I know that I’m at least four times meaner than most muggers are prepared to deal with on an average Sunday night.

This issue became such an issue for me, that I eventually had to come up with a formula so I could separate fantasy from horror. I don’t think many people would argue that fantasy and horror share a common wall, and sometimes the smells from one can seep into the room of the other. In trying to decide where to place things, or how other people might place them, I eventually came up with this idea.

If the powers of good can easily and readily assist the hero, then it’s fantasy. If the powers of good are helpless, or non-existent, then it’s horror. Gandalf can always show up on the back of an eagle, but The Turtle cannot help you. Now with something like the Elric series, you simply adjust your definition of “Good” to mean “On Elric’s side” and you’ve more or less got the idea. It’s not perfect, because by that logic Labyrinth is a horror movie, but if there weren’t exceptions, how else would we prove the rules?

This is actually a huge reason why I’m sort of uninterested in large swaths of horror. Gore flicks tend to bore the shit out of me. Oh, you’ve got sprays of blood? Bitch, I watch samurai movies, come back when it’s a geyser. You’ve got arms and legs hacked off? Second verse, same as the first! Pig parts loaded into a latex body mold don’t do much for me either. Any movie that relies on guts and gore over story or invention is going to bore me rigid.

I look at all horror as I would any fantasy or thriller. I get the same feeling watching Saw as I do watching Kiss the Girls, a deep and profound sense of loss for Carey Elwes ability to act. Seriously, he is TERRIBLE in both of those movies. What the hell happened? He was almost okay in Cat’s Meow. Seriously. But then, that movie had Eddie Izzard pretending to be Charlie Chaplin and if ever an actor was miscast…

What was I saying?

This is why I often can be found at the fun said of the horror aisle, with my copy of Creepshow and Corman’s Poe Cycle. If I go in for a serious horror movie I at least go for the really good ones. I need something interesting to watch, a story that can unfold, not just a treasure chest of jump scares and people screaming. The Blair Witch Project for example, I must have turned off four or five times while it ran on cable because it just didn’t work for me in the slightest. Watching annoying people bicker might be a horror movie to you, for me it’s Thanksgiving. Actually, I’ll admit on that on that it’s the found footage thing. Found footage can eat a dick. I mean, if I’m going to complain about bickering, what else is Night of the Living Dead, other than watching people bicker? Watching interesting people bicker about interesting things other than sticks tied up with string and where did the map go, comes the answer.

I know most of us here are grown ups, and most people aren’t really scared when they go to see a scary movie, but I have heard a fair amount of “these used to scare me and I watched them to conquer them and became them and now I’m not scared anymore.” and I hear a good deal of “these are literal fears, they’re metaphorical.” The example being no one is really afraid of the wolfman (or rather becoming the wolfman), they’re afraid of becoming something they can’t control. No one fears Pinhead, the cenobites just represent people who are more into BDSM than you are, and they want to show you all the fun. Only, somehow that’s supposed to be scary? I think? Help me out on this. Are the cenobites scary, sexy, or a monastic tradition that stresses community life? Even then though, I’m not particularly fussed by these things, so I don’t get the same effect. Not even the idea of kinky sexy monks can get my heart racing.

So in conclusion I would just like to say that Falco deserved way better than he got from the world.

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“Manos” The Hands of Fate (1966/ Dir. Harold P. Warren) MST3K Episode 24, Season 4, January 30, 1993

When I do reviews of movies that were on MST3K, I get a copy of the movie on its own. No bots, no mads, not a single luxury. Now, I do that for a couple of reasons, the first of which is that I want to watch the movie on its own dubious merits. Once you watch the movie with the bots, you’re watching an episode of the TV show. Second, if you watch a TV broadcast, things may have to be cut for TV standards. Movies can be cut for both time and content, meaning that you might not get the whole movie on the show. Even if you have the whole movie, you’re still breaking up the flow for the commercial breaks and host segments. So I don’t review the episodes, I review the movie clean, or as clean as the DVDs I get will allow. I mention all of this because this movie is down right infamous, there are people who can’t even watch the MST3K episode, so this is heroic in the eyes of some.

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Let’s be perfectly honest, this is not the best anthology series in the history of ever. I’m not going to do the run down of Stephen King’s career, or chronicle the ups and downs of his work here. Lately, I’ve found that no two people can really agree when exactly it was that they stopped loving the man’s work or when exactly things just plain stopped working for them. My particular view is that King has always been sort of lopsided and uneven. There are moments of brilliance and moments that don’t work and it’s up to each person to pick and choose what does and doesn’t work for them. However, for the most part, Nightmares & Dreamscapes didn’t much work for me. One problem was that it was greatly shot in Australia, but it’s trying to look like America (Or in one case, London) and it just doesn’t. That’s less of a problem here, as part of the show was shot in San Francisco (or someplace trying to look like it mixed with stock footage and matte shots) and the other part was just on a soundstage. None of that is very important though, the only really important question is “Does it work?” or possibly “Is it entertaining?” since I’ve admitted things that are complete train wrecks can be entertaining.

Well, the answer is “Yes.” A further answer might be, “It’s not the best Stephen King adaptation that’s ever been made, but it’s certainly the most fun.”

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TV Review: Tales from the Darkside “Seasons of Belief”

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Tales from the Darkside: Seasons of Belief (Season 3, Episode 11; First Broadcast December 29, 1986; Laurel Productions; Dir. Michael Mc Dowell)

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What say we get this VEWPRF season started off right? What better way to get a season started than with an episode of my favorite TV show? That’s right, I’ve got a holiday episode of Tales from the Darkside and I’m not afraid to review it! Like so many other Darkside episodes, this one is based on a short story. This time it’s based on a short story by Michael Bishop a Locus and Nebula Award winning writer. The screen play was written by Michael McDowell who also directed the episode. McDowell is also the man who created Beetlejuice as well as wrote some two dozen books. So what I’m saying is, in this episode, we’re in good hands. Unlike some holiday episodes, this will be a joy to watch. And with that, I just guaranteed you won’t even read past the opening paragraph, didn’t I? Look, I like some things, okay? I try to review things I think I’ll enjoy. Of course, since my program is being handed to me by forces I don’t really understand, it might be crap. I can’t see that happening since at worst a Darkside episode is just dull, but it might. C’mon! Read on and see what happens!

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Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983 Warner Bros. Dir. John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante & George Miller)

Hey! An anthology without AIP, Vincent Price or Stephen King’s writing! It’s not even based or inspired by EC comics! Woo! Something different. This time it’s the movie based on the Twilight Zone TV show, which probably was only made after everyone saw how well Creepshow did. Far as I can tell, Steven Spielberg & John Landis put this joint together with Frank Marshall as the Executive Producer. Sort of like how after Tales from the Darkside did so well, Spielberg made Amazing Stories. That’s not to say that this is bad or anything, just saying that it’s a copycat production made after Romero proved that it could be done. I will say however that this sort of a crystallization of these directors in that time period. Everything you want to know about Landis, Spielberg, Dante and Miller in the early 1980s, you can learn by watching this movie. They pretty much bring all their early 80s tropes with them to this production. Is that good? Is it bad? We’ll have to see…

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Creepshow 2 (1987 New World Pictures Dir. Michael Gornick)

How do you follow the success of one of the most popular horror anthology movies ever? You make Tales from the Darkside for TV of course. What if you’re knee deep in that program and someone reminds you that Creepshow was a theatrical release and that they’d like to have another movie? Well, if you make a sort of halfhearted sequel that’s under funded and as a result fails to capture quite the spirit of the original. I place no blame at the feet of director Michael Gornick. I’ve listened to his commentary and it sounds like he made the best product he could with the tools he was given to work with. The problem was that New World Pictures was trying to make the movie on less than half what the first movie cost, which I can’t help but wonder if that frustrated Romero, which caused him to pass on directing duties. As I understand it, Romero was going to write and direct, and then decided to pass the directing duties to Tom Savini, who either because of time or not wanting to deal with what was becoming a cost cutting adventure passed it on to Gornick. Additionally, because of some production problems, the bonding company ended up placing extra pressure on the company asking them to speed up the production. So, there was some frustration in production, and that caused the end product to be less than stellar. It’s not even that this is bad, or not an enjoyable ride. It’s good, it’s fun, it’s just not as good or as fun as the original. It’s worth watching though, so let’s dive in and check it out.

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Twice-Told Tales (1963 United Artists Dir. Sidney Salkow

Hey, how about that? An anthology horror movie that isn’t based on Stephen King stories or was made by the good people at American International (a name that frankly confounds me) for a change. It still has Vincent Price in it though, so we’re not totally out to sea without a familiar landmark. We got Vinnie, we’re good. After Tales of Terror did so well, one assumes United Artists wanted to get in on the horror anthology game. Since AIP had a lock on Edgar Allan Poe’s work, UA went for three stories from Nathaniel Hawthorne. Or, maybe they never even heard about Tales of Horror and it was just chance that they got AIP’s biggest star to be in a horror movie for them. Sure, that’s probably it… chance. Probably just chance that it looks like a Corman Poe movie too.

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