horror movies

GUEST MOVIE REVIEW: The Shining (1980)

Guest review by Holen MaGroin

Welcome back to Halloween Wednesday!  Here’s guest writer HOLEN MaGROIN with the next in his series of Halloween themed reviews.  He’s got a scarrry one today. 

Oct 3:  Soundgarden – Screaming Life/Fopp EPs
Oct 10:  Batman / Batman Returns movie reviews
Oct 17:  Fastway – Trick or Treat Original Music Score 

THE SHINING (1980 Warner Bros.)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is one of the rare instances where the film greatly surpasses the animal hedge madness of Stephen King’s novel. King reportedly hated the film because it changed the details of his book so dramatically, but all of the changes made to the film serve to not only translate it better to a visual medium, but also to create a deeper and more compelling story with a much more satisfying ending.* Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is quite possibly the greatest horror movie ever made. It’s a deeply visceral thrill that deals with the supernatural and the psychological, while managing to include enough slasher elements to satisfy those types of horror fans. There’s really something for everyone in this movie, except Stephen King.

Everyone knows the story by now. Jack Torrance procures a job as winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel and takes his wife and young son to stay with him, alone in the mountains. Jack is a struggling writer looking for a place to concentrate on his work. One day his wife decides to make seafood, and accidentally under-cooks the crabs. Jack’s intestines are sent into an uproar. Unfortunately for him, someone has locked the bathroom door. He doesn’t want to run to another bathroom and risk more leakage, so he axes down the door. This leads to the iconic image of his face sticking through the bathroom door that has been used as the cover for all recent home video editions. If you look closely, you can see that Jack Nicholson accurately portrays a man that has liquid shit running down his leg into his shoe, a man about to have an anal geyser. It’s an absolutely brilliant performance of such raw ass… I mean raw emotion that has stood as one of the defining performances in any horror movie ever. Is there a greater horror than realizing you’ve just soiled yourself?

Unfortunately for our heroes, all the food in the Overlook Hotel has been stricken with Salmonella, leaving their butts so raw that they are shining, hence the title. The only one immune to the bacteria is Danny, as he has supernatural abilities to digest anything. That’s where the paranormal aspects of the film come in. Danny talks to some ghosts that try to help him save his parents from the torment of toilet time. Danny sends a telepathic message to the old Overlook cook, and he immediately moves hell and earth to get over to the Overlook hotel.

Once the cook arrives he brings new food to last them through the winter, and decides to stay and celebrate the holidays with the Torrance family. They all laugh and dance around the Christmas tree as Jack Nicholson does his Tonight Show impression.

“Here’s Johnny!”

The whole family laughs in wholesome unison as Jack professes his unconditional love for both his wife and child. It’s a tender moment, as the whole family embraces cook Dick Hallorann as the newest addition to the Torrance gang. Dick has secretly bought Danny the new fire truck he’d been wanting before he made his way up to the hotel. On Christmas morning, Danny’s eyes light up as he had not been expecting to get it. The four get together in a loving embrace and their hearts fill with jubilant joy. My God, I’m tearing up just thinking about it!

The horror has been evaded, or so they think. Everything turns around when they receive a package in the mail, despite no one being able to get up to the hotel. Who could have left this package? They open up the package, and find a VHS copy of Bobcat Goldthwait’s debut standup HBO special, Share the Warmth. What’s odd about this movie is that the standup special was not taped until 1987, and this film takes place in 1980. To film the movie, Kubrick actually was able to send the cast and crew into the future to 2012 in order to make it even more eerie by predicting actual world events.** Rather than predicting natural disasters, or sports scores or anything like that, Kubrick became highly intrigued by this Bobcat character, and decided to abandon the novel to make his own piece of art. This is ultimately why King was not satisfied by the movie, and didn’t understand it when it came out in 1980 given that Bobcat had not reached a world stage yet. When the family finds the movie, everything goes off the rails. After watching the VHS together, Danny learns a whole lot of naughty words that should never be used by such young children. They also all immediately become big fans of the man with such Kaufman style talents and his penchant for social commentary. Bobcat’s earliest fans!

As the weeks go by, the family is pleased to find another VHS of a film called Shakes the Clown in the mail. It’s a lot different than his standup special, and exceptionally strange, but they ultimately enjoy the ride, even if it was not nearly as strong as his standup special. The next week, the family receives the holiday Bill Murray film Scrooged that features Goldthwait as the fired assistant. They determine that the movie ultimately sucks hard, but they love the parts containing Bobcat as the holiday liberator. That’s when the spirits sending the tapes stop being so kind to the family. Next they receive Police Academy 2Police Academy 2 is easily the shittiest of an incredibly shitty franchise (only speaking for the first three, as that’s when I checked out forever), a series of films Bobcat himself would later call Police Lobotomy. The family is distraught over the wasted talents of Bobcat. Another week goes by and they find instalments 3 and 4 in the mail, and are just as horrified at the glaring examples of shit personified in Police Academy fashion. This is a franchise so shitty that the best joke involving them was actually in Wayne’s World. At this point in the film, Danny and Dick begin to have psychic visions. They can’t make out exactly what’s going to happen the next week, but they begin to have visions of a horse, and Bobcat. The horse seems to be talking. Their worst fears are realized the next week when a fresh copy of Hot to Trot is sent to the house.

The family is so horrified by the turn Bobcat’s career has taken that they all suffer terminal illness, an eerie omen of the five Razzie Awards nominations that this piece of shit would be nominated for. The next week, the critically acclaimed Bobcat film World’s Greatest Dad shows up, proving to be a chilling end to the Torrance family. If they had just hung in one more week, they would have been saved by seeing the great movie.

Years later in the early 1990s, Bobcat shows up at the Overlook Hotel to perform for the guests. He’s greeted by a bell boy, and tells him that it’s nice to perform at the hotel for the first time. The bell boy cryptically replies by saying, “I’m sorry to differ with you sir, but you are the comedian here. You’ve always been the comedian.” Bobcat looks puzzled, and spots a peculiar picture on the wall. He looks at it further and sees the picture on the wall from 1980 of the Torrance family all crying holding Hot to Trot in their hands. Bobcat lets out one of his trademark screams, and the credits role.

Kubrick knows to end the film on such a disturbing note, because he knows how to play his audience. That’s why this film is considered to be one of the most classic examples of modern horror cinema released today. The feelings that you experience watching this movie moves you in such a way that you feel afraid to ever travel to a hotel, or watch one of Bobcat’s many shitty movie decisions from the 1980s. This is the greatest horror movie ever made, and there’s simply nothing else to say.***

5/5 Pumpkins

* LeBrain agrees wholeheartedly and is jealous he hasn’t written this one up yet.  But he will.  The soundtrack including music by Wendy Carlos is genius too.

** Not to mention the NASA conspiracies.

*** That sure was something!  I hope readers get it.

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#674: Bad Moon Rising

GETTING MORE TALE #674: Bad Moon Rising

A sequel to Getting More Tale #455:  How to Make a Music Video (The Old-Fashioned Way)

Best buddy Bob and I shot and edited a successful music video for Poison’s “Nothin’ But a Good Time” in the 11th grade.  We were sent to the local Charlie awards, representing our school in a film competition.  We didn’t win one (audio sync issues caused by the unreliable cassette format) but by summer holidays, I was back to the drawing board.

I called up a couple friends:  Danesh and Anand.  They came over and we hashed out an outline for a horror movie.  The truth is, I just wanted an excuse to do another music video but I needed a different concept this time.  It had to be a step up.  That summer, I was enthused about Leatherwolf’s second album, and their cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising”.  I thought it was the perfect track for a cheesy horror movie.  Any 80s horror film needed a heavy metal theme song.  Leatherwolf’s “Bad Moon Rising” struck me as perfectly fitting.  “I hope you got your things together, I hope you are quite prepared to die.”  So I had the idea of a double feature:  a horror movie with a heavy metal music video accompanying.  The other guys were into it.

Over a fun afternoon in the basement, we came up with our little movie.  Bob was no longer available.  He would be in college the next year.  It was my first film project without him.  As the film’s lead actor, we chose David Kidd, who was the “drummer” in my Poison video.  He was a drama geek.  His nickname was “Emperor Kiddspeare”.  He’d be perfect.

At the start of grade 12, we approached the Film Education teacher about our new project.  She was not enthused and objected to the music video.  “Why don’t you just use the original song?” she asked about “Bad Moon Rising”, when I explained the concept of the heavy metal tie-in music video.  She just didn’t get it.  The video was the whole seed of the idea!  Maybe she was completely unaware of the metal/horror relationship, based on past movies such as Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm St.  We proceeded with the project anyway.  Trying to make your own horror movie is like a rite of passage.  Hasn’t every school kid tried?

We only shot one scene.  It was a hospital scene where the lead character played by David moved a chair with his mind.  It looked great although we were already short on footage.  We had to loop a couple shots to edit together the full scene.  So we did, and it was a start.

But I had just started my first part time job, at Zehrs at the mall.  This cut into my after school hours and the film project dissolved.  I don’t have the scene we shot; it is lost for good.  So is our script.

For a project of that size, I really needed a partner with the dedication and creativity of Bob, but he was off in college doing his own thing.  We couldn’t get it done in grade 12 without him.  Grade 13 was also hopeless for a film project.*  Everybody was far too busy trying to get into University.  Everybody except Emperor Kiddspeare.  He seemed to go off the rails a bit when he started smoking.  First, he burned a “lucky horseshoe” into his hand with a cigarette lighter.  Then he just stopped showing up for school.  Danesh and I used to (jokingly) calculate the odds that he was dead during Algebra class.  Every once in a while, he would actually show up, throwing all our “calculations” to the wind.  Either way, I didn’t have Bob, and Dave was a write-off.  There would be no more highschool film projects.  Bad Moon Rising was dead in the water.

Emperor Kiddspeare ended up becoming a goth, and is very popular in the local industrial music scene.  The last time I saw him, a decade ago on a sweltering hot July day, he was wearing a full length leather trenchcoat.  Good on him.

* Partially.  One weekend, Bob and I rented a camera and we shot a video for our long-distance girlfriends.  It was called Mike & Bob’s Cross-Kitchener Adventure.  I still have that but it’s not particularly watchable.

#496: The Horror

 THE HORROR

GETTING MORE TALE #496: The Horror

It was a rite of passage:  When the youth began renting restricted horror movies!

In the mid-80’s, my best friend Bob was obsessed with horror movies.  He found them funny.  He liked pausing and going slow-mo any time a rubber prosthetic was being hacked off a victim by the killer.  We enjoyed laughing at the ridiculous situations.  Don’t go into the woods at night, for god’s sake, and don’t trip over every twig and branch when you’re running away from the bad guy!

Of course, there were always rock and roll connections.  Via the soundtracks, you’d get exposed to a few cool rock tracks.  The first horror movie Bob and I watched together was a perfect example of this:  John Carpenter’s adaptation of Stephen King’s classic Christine.  We’ll circle back to the music.  But the language!  Oh my.  We had never heard swearing woven into such intricate dialogue before!  King truly is the master of the art of profanity.  We learned new ways to swear from that movie.  Some favourites:

Yeah try it you little bald fuck, and I’ll knock you through the wall! FUCK!”  – Buddy Repperton

“OK, that’s the last time you run that mechanical asshole in here without an exhaust hose!” – Will Darnell

“I knew a guy had a car like that once. Fuckin’ bastard killed himself in it. Son of a bitch was so mean, you could’ve poured boiling water down his throat and he would’ve pissed ice cubes.” – Will Darnell

We watched Christine, rewound the tape, and watched it again, twice in a row.  I still love that movie today.  It’s not my favourite horror of all time (that would be The Shining, also based on Stephen King) but it does come in second.  My dad and uncle didn’t mind me watching it, because the car involved in the film was a 1958 Plymouth Fury.  Such things seemed to matter to adults.

I always preferred comedy to horror, but Bob and I were a team, so we compromised and usually rented two or three movies at a time.  Strangely enough, it’s really only the horror films I remember today.  I couldn’t tell you what comedies we rented, but I remember Friday the 13th, do I ever!

We would ride our bikes up to Steve’s TV on Frederick Street.  It’s still there, too, in the same spot but stocked with the latest and greatest tech.  In the 80’s, it was a growing business and had the largest collection of videos for sale and rent that I’d ever seen.  Bob and I would discuss and pick out a couple horror films and a comedy.  We’d bring them back by bike and rent more.  The first time we did this, Steve’s TV asked for a note from our parents to rent an R rated movie.  Minor delay!  We’d just have to make another trip on our bikes.

We rented the first Friday the 13th, and the second.  I somehow missed the third and fourth (I am pretty sure I was at the cottage on vacation those weekends) and jumped right onto the poor fifth movie (A New Beginning), which didn’t even have Jason in it.  As I started highschool, Jason finally returned in Part VI (Jason Lives) and our movie renting continued.  When the Friday the 13th movies were done, we did the Freddie movies, and the Halloween films.  We even did the third Halloween, the one that had nothing to do with the rest of the series.

We rented so many that eventually Steve’s TV had nothing left we hadn’t seen.  We started checking out a new store, Jumbo Video.  They had a cool horror section that looked like a haunted castle.  We rented everything there, too.  Jeff Goldblum’s remake of The Fly was one.  I remember a really terrible movie called Madman Marz, but there were many more that I can’t remember at all.  As highschool went on, we ran out of horror movies to rent at Jumbo.   We temporarily began renting ninja movies (Bob was taking Karate at the time) but it was horror that we really liked.

An automated video rental place opened up.  It was a small room full of vending machines that dispensed videos!  They had a small selection of horror, so Bob and I began to eat those up too.  The Fly II was one of the first we rented from that automated store, and it was just awful.  Clearly, we were exhausting the horror movie stock in Kitchener Ontario.  There was nothing left for us to rent.

The rock and roll connections with a lot of these films were really interesting to us, since we were both exploring hard rock at the same time.  Christine, our first horror experience, had an incredible soundtrack of oldies:  Little Richard’s “Keep-A-Knockin’”,  “Not Fade Away” by Buddy Holly, and of course the newbie “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood.  As much as we were obsessed with the movie, we obsessed over that song.  Playing it over, and over, and over again.  A bit later on, Alice Cooper appeared in a couple films, also providing music for Prince of Darkness and Friday the 13th Part VI.  Horror went hand in hand with our rock obsession, but in the long run, “there could be only one”.  For me, rock won out.  Horror films still bring a chuckle, but the days of obsessively trying to watch them all are long gone.  Do they even make good horror movies anymore?  I don’t even know.  They do still make great rock and roll, that’s for sure.

DVD REVIEW: The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

Welcome back to the Week of Rockin’ Movies.  Each movie we take a look at this week will have a significant connection to rock music.  If you missed Monday’s installment, click below.

MONDAY:  House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005 Lionsgate)

Directed by Rob Zombie

As stated yesterday, I’m generally not a horror movie guy.  I grew up on all the classics (good or bad) in the 80’s, but I thought I just outgrew the genre. Then I saw Rob Zombie’s House Of 1000 Corpses, and its sequel The Devil’s Rejects.

Picking up several months after the end of Corpses, the cops are closing in on the murderous Firefly family. The house is surrounded, and a surprisingly cool gun battle ensues.  It is only the first of many surprises in this cool conclusion. It may be a sequel, but its stark realistic texture is completely different from the bizarre original film. Set mostly outdoors in the deep south, the titular Rejects are soon on the run. But not all of them.

Mama Firefly (recast from Karen Black to Leslie Easterbrook) has been arrested.  Rufus is dead, and the giant Tiny has escaped. Hitting the road, Baby & Otis meet up with Captain Spaulding, who is revealed to be Baby’s daddy!  The three are on the run from a cop out to even a personal score. Like something out of a Sergio Leone film, music and scenery complement each other to take you on a trip that will shock and disgust.  There are no heroes, only victims and killers.  This is not for everyone.

There are buckets full of blood, lots of parts removed from the body to which they were originally attached, and lots of deeds beyond evil. I must stress again: This is not for everyone. The images contained herein will disturb. You may question why they even need to exist.  I suppose Rob Zombie would be the guy to ask, I don’t know.  All I know is, sometimes I can go for a good horror movie, and The Devil’s Rejects scratches the itch.

Much like the original, there is humour to break up the carnage.  Cranked up a tad, Captain Spaulding portrayed by Sid Haig always has a foul line to elicit a reluctant chuckle.   I enjoyed that, but I also enjoyed the sudden change of gears that is the epic ending.  Going out in a blaze of glory, I will never hear Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” again without seeing the three faces of the Devil’s Rejects.

As seen here, I own this movie with House of 1000 Corpses in a great DVD 3-pack.  The disc has plenty of special features on its own, including a tribute to the late actor Matthew McGrory (Tiny).  Also look for a cool deleted scene with Rosario Dawson and Dr. Satan that ties the two films together.  Included on the bonus third disc is a feature called 30 Days in Hell, which is the making of The Devil’s Rejects.  I enjoyed seeing Zombie work on the finer details; for example finding a specific T-shirt (Cheap Trick) for Brian Posehn’s roadie character.

4/5 stars, and 1 blood-splattered face.

Sid Haig as Johnny Lee Johns
Bill Moseley as Otis Driftwood
Sheri Moon Zombie as Vera-Ellen Firefly
William Forsythe as Sheriff John Quincey Wydell
Ken Foree as Charlie Altamont
Matthew McGrory as Tiny Firefly
Leslie Easterbrook as Gloria Firefly
Danny Trejo as Rondo
Diamond Dallas Page as Billy Ray Snapper
Brian Posehn as Jimmy
Tom Towles as George Wydell
Tyler Mane as Rufus “RJ” Firefly Jr

DVD REVIEW: House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

Hey! Welcome to another week-long series at mikeladano.com!  This time, the theme is Rockin’ Movies.  Each movie we take a look at this week will have a significant connection to rock music.  Enjoy!

HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2003 Universal)

Directed by Rob Zombie

I’m generally not a horror movie guy, although I grew up on all the cheesy classics in the 1980’s. I thought I just outgrew the genre. Then my buddy Thuss implored me to see Rob Zombie’s House Of 1,000 Corpses.

Anchored by Zombie’s uncommon visual stylings and eclectic tastes, this House is rocking, don’t bother knocking. The setup:  An ill-fated foursome of young men and ladies are travelling cross country. They stop for gas and chicken at Captain Spaulding’s “Museum of Monsters & Madmen” (as played by the near-legendary Sid Haig). Spaulding is the best character written by Rob Zombie, both hilariously funny and mildly disturbing at the same time. Well, he’s a creepy clown. If you have a clown phobia, Spaulding’s the creepiest I’ve ever seen, but I can’t help but laugh every time he opens his sizable mouth.

Spaulding tips the kids (Rainn Wilson is the only “name” here) off to the creepy legend of “Dr. Satan”.  They then decide it’s a good idea to go hunting for Dr. Satan’s hanging tree in the middle of the night. In the rain. It is then that they meet the beautifully disordered Baby Firefly (Sherri Moon Zombie)…and get a flat tire. Things only go downhill for the young ones from there, as I’m sure you can imagine. Baby invites our young travelers to her family’s farm, where her brother can surely fix their flat tire.

Special mention must go to out to Bill Mosely who is terrifyingly unstable as the most amoral member of the Firefly family, Otis B. Driftwood. He only gets more interesting as a character in the sequel, The Devil’s Rejects…but that is another review.

Some horror purists can’t get into Zombie’s style. Indeed, he has a unique vision as any fan of his will know. If you like oddly proportioned monsters and robots, just go see him in concert. Zombie also likes to populate his films with 70’s southern stereotypes. Indeed, one would argue that the movie has no actual characters, just character types. That’s the kind of horror movie that I remember growing up with, and I believe his films pay homage to that very well. He also had a practical reason for setting his movies in the 1970’s.  No cellphones.  No-one to call for help.  No GPS. No way to call AAA and get a tire changed.  Isolation.

House of 1,000 Corpses is a visually disturbing film, and that’s one reason I can’t stop watching it. Other horror films are simply cheese-fests. Not this one. There are gallons of blood, body parts, and a couple monsters too, but all presented in a surreal nightmare setting that might have you avoiding country roads at night. Zombie went in a completely different direction in the next movie, so House of 1000 Corpses remains the “weird” chapter in this series.

Will there be justice on the Fireflys? Tune in tomorrow for my review of The Devil’s Rejects.

4/5 stars and 2 severed hands.

Sid Haig as Captain Spaulding
Bill Moseley as Otis B. Driftwood
Sheri Moon Zombie as Baby Firefly
Karen Black as Mother Firefly
Rainn Wilson as Bill Hudley
Tom Towles as Lieutenant George Wydell
Matthew McGrory as Tiny Firefly
Robert Mukes as Rufus “RJ” Firefly Jr
Dennis Fimple as Grampa Hugo Firefly