Bereavement Vs. Chained

Creepiest scarecrow, EVER. Nice job, Bereavement.

Moving on from the Craven madness, here are #16 and 17 of my 31 Days of Horror Films (which I may or may not have to extend into November): Bereavement and Chained. 

I picked up a few new’ish horror released lately at my favorite video store: Chained, which is Jennifer Lynch’s latest, and Bereavement, which I didn’t know is a prequel to Malevolence (as yet unseen by me).

Both have a similar premise: a serial killer kidnaps a boy and tries to teach him how to be a serial killer; however, while Bereavement kicks some serious splatter ass, Chained has so many problems I don’t even know where to begin. (more…)

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The People Under the Stairs


Another Wes Craven entry for 31 Horror films this October: The People Under the Stairs

Here’s the thing about The People Under the Stairs: when I first saw it in the theater, I was so disappointed because I thought it was TERRIBLE. But since then, I’ve recognized that it actually swings right past terrible into “so bad it’s good” territory. Everything is hilariously over the top, to the point where you can’t actually believe Craven wrote and directed this ridiculousness.

After his parents get evicted from their apartment, “Fool” enlists the help of Leroy to break into the landlord’s house and steal their giant pile of gold coins. Wait. What. Anyway! Things go awry and Fool gets trapped inside, discovering that the house is actually a house of horrors—“Mommy” and “Daddy” (Wendy Robie and Everett McGill, who played Nadine and Ed Hurley in Twin Peaks!!!), a pair of brother/sister/man/wife serial killers, have a habit of adopting kids and then torturing and mutilating them when they don’t behave as expected. (more…)

The Serpent and the Rainbow


Ah, The Serpent and the Rainbow. This + The Believers kicked off a teenage obsession with all things voodoo and magic … which I guess would explain why I’ve watched it at least 20 times. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that my beloved Bill Pullman is the star.

Serpent is chock-full of insane drug-infused nightmares, visions, and of course the famous torture sequence, which left every male audience member shivering in fear.

Ethnobotanist/anthropologist Dennis Alan is employed by THE MAN to go to Haiti and track down a rumored potion that renders people unable to move or speak—and even gives them the appearance of death, though they can still think and feel. The end result, if the people survive this ordeal and manage to rip themselves out of their graves, is a sort of crazed zombie state.

All of this is actually based on a book by a real ethnobotanist, Wade Davis (who apparently HATED this adaptation), which I actually read and was fascinated by—well, after I got past most of the scientific talk. But this is a horror film, not a science report. So even though the potion and one of the “zombies” are routed in a (possibly) true story, Craven adds his own spin, which involves railroad spike torture, blood-filled coffins, mummies that shoot snakes out of their mouths, and a power-mad paramilitary leader obsessed with owning as many souls as he can.

So, anyway, Alan arrives in Haiti, and in the process of trying to track down a guy who will make the potion for him, falls for a beautiful doctor named Marielle and grabs the attention of Commander Dargent Peytraud, who is a very evil man.

SPOILERS AHEAD (more…)

The Hills Have Eyes


It’s been awhile since I watched Wes Craven’s mutant cannibal family terrorize their unsuspecting victims in the dessert, so I wasn’t sure it would hold up. Having seen the remake more recently, I was thinking that the original version wasn’t quite as disturbing—but I was wrong.

While The Hills Have Eyes suffers from some of the same dated problems that I mentioned The Last House on the Left having, by the time it gets to the killing, you kind of forget about the bell bottoms and super groovy hair.

While traveling on vacation, the Carter family ends up on some seriously crazy back roads (supposedly because they’re “searching for a silver mine”… what.). After stopping at a gas station to fill-up and getting warned by the owner Fred to head back to the main highway, they stranded when their car and trailer tires run over a booby trap (Craven sure likes these!) set by the cannibals.

So let’s see: three women, three men, a baby, and two dogs are stranded in the middle of nowhere, and it’s getting dark, fast. Naturally the smartest thing to do is for the men to split up, and leave them women behind.

SPOILERS AHEAD (more…)

A Wes Craven Retrospective: The Last House on The Left

This year I thought it would be fun to focus on a few horror directors, so I’m staring with Wes Craven. I’m most familiar with his 80s films, which I saw over and over and over and over—even though I knew some of them were completely terrible. But since I’m a fan of A Nightmare on Elm Street from way back, I have seen most of his catalog.*

Starting with The Last House on the Left (1972), which I tracked down sometime in the mid-80s after I’d (FINALLY) seen Elm Street—mostly due to all the “banned” talk around it, and the promise of some pretty unbearable graphic violence.

The thing about Craven’s debut is that it’s TERRIBLY dated, and because of that, people watching it now are going to have a really hard time taking it seriously. Poor film quality, some not-so-great acting, and some really strange music choices all make it more awful than good, but it’s still entertaining if you can look past all the ridiculous 70s clothes, hair, makeup, and lingo. Ohmygod, the lingo.

SPOILERS AHEAD (more…)

Crawl

ooh. Crawl looks like it’ll be pretty interesting. Nice job on the trailer — doesn’t give much away, but builds the suspense and shows us some excellent splatter.

Bitter Feast

Bitter Feast caught my interest via its trailer, mostly because it stars indie actor Joshua Leonard and sensitive ponytail man from Singles (aka: James LeGros).

Due to a scathingly bad review by JT Franks (Leonard) on his blog, Gastropunks (ha.hahaha), Chef Peter Grey is booted from his restaurant and loses his TV show. It’s hinted that Grey has a lot of other mental issues – like being militantly sustainable, uh, if that’s an issue, I guess – but the gist is, he kidnaps the blogger and forces him to endure weeks of food-related torture, as well as a lot of merciless beatings. 

This film takes awhile to ramp up, but when it gets there, it’s worth it. There’s some incredible suspense going on, even when you *know* what’s going to happen. Not a ton of splatter, but some decent “aaaugggghh” moments, and most importantly, they didn’t fuck up the ending. It’s appropriately bleak.

All in all, this was much better than I was expecting. There is a ton of foreshadowing, but even though I saw some stuff coming, it still managed to surprise me. Recommended for indie horror fans – it’s available on DVD and streaming Netflix!

Funny Games 2.0

I just finished watching the 2007 remake of Funny Games, which is apparently a shot-for-shot faithful retelling of the original foreign film – which makes sense, because it’s done by the same director (wait, what?). It’s probably been about 10 years since I’ve seen the first one, and I remember liking it – but what I didn’t remember is that it at times breaks the fourth wall, and employs one really super dumb use of it.

SPOILERS COMING IN 3…2…1 (more…)

Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil

I love a good splatter-flick that’s also a lot of fun, and Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil did not disappoint.

Best friends Tucker (Dear Wash Alan Tudyk, I ❤ you!) and Dale (who happen to be PBR-drinking hillbillies) are headed up to their “summer home” – a newly purchased cabin in the middle of the woods where they can drink, hunt, and fish in quiet and solitude.

On the way there, they run into a group of snotty college kids who immediately brand them creepy…so later then they’re seen pulling one of the girls (Alison, played by Katrina Bowden from 30 Rock) from the water and throwing her in their boat, the college kids assume T&D are backwoods serial killers, bent on torturing and murdering their friend.

What follows is a series of unfortunate misunderstandings, which leads to bloodier and bloodier mishaps, ramping up the body count and getting Tucker and Dale into more and more trouble.

There’s splatter everywhere in this one, and it’s great, but everything is also all done with a touch of humor – and a clever nod to classic slasher film history. I don’t know if I’ve ever branded a horror film “cute” before, but if any film deserves it, it’s this one. Also, I don’t want to give anything away, but the chainsaw bit is definitely my favorite part.

Definitely recommended!

Hostel

Spoiler warning! 

When I first saw Hostel I honestly wasn’t a fan. It takes a looong time to get to any kind of gore (we’re 33 minutes in before the first severed head is revealed – and then it’s another 20 minutes before the real gory stuff starts), and the main characters are all completely unlikable douche-bags.

But, I’ve since come around. Why? Because Eli Roth has a masterful way of telling a story, and mygod, that man knows his gore. A recent re-watch made me realize that there’s actually a surprisingly little amount of blood and guts on screen. I tallied it up, and all the bloody stuff adds up to roughly 20 minutes.  (more…)