Archive for the Movies Category

‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’

Posted in Halloween Horror Movie Marathon, Movies, Slasher on September 12, 2015 by Justin T.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

“Morality sucks…”

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) — Directed by Wes Craven. Starring Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, John Saxon, Johnny Depp, Amanda Wyss, Ronee Blakely, Nick Corri, Lin Shaye. 

We lost one of the great ones recently. On August 30th Wes Craven, age 76, succumbed to brain cancer. Director of landmark horror films such The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have EyesScream, and A Nightmare on Elm Street he is probably one of a handful of directors whose name might even be familiar to those who don’t pay attention to the genre.  Folks, let’s pour one out for Wes…

RoxieTo commemorate his passing San Francisco’s Roxie Theatre ran A Nightmare on Elm Street each night over the Labor Day weekend. A buddy and I headed to the Mission District to eat some grub, drink some brews, and watch Elm Street on the big screen. …if you can get away with calling the screen at the Roxie “big”. I wondered if there might be a big crowd of enthusiastic fans dressed up as Freddy Kreuger but there was not a clawed glove to be found. There was a noisy guy a few rows behind us who spouted random film-related comments (“I’m a Dapper Dan man! This theater’s a geographical oddity… two weeks from everywhere!”) but he quieted down when the movie started.

Obligatory plot synopsis: High school student Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and her friends are all experiencing the same dream of being chased in a boiler room by a crazed, snarky killer with burned flesh. The teenagers get together for a sleepover to comfort Tina (Amanda Wyss), who is the first to share her dream with the small group. But she is brutally murdered in her bed by an unseen presence while her boyfriend, Rod (Nick Corri), watches in horror. Soon Nancy learns that the evil presence terrorizing their dreams is Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), a child murderer who evaded the justice system of Springwood, Ohio and then subsequently killed by a vengeful mob of angry parents, burned to death in the same boiler room where the dreams are taking place. But he’s back and seeking to return revenge on his killers by invading the dreams of their children. After a week of no sleep Nancy vows to defeat Freddy and the battle is on to bring the fight into the real world.

Continue reading

The Sixth Annual Halloween Horror Movie Marathon Begins!

Posted in Halloween Horror Movie Marathon, Movies on September 3, 2015 by Justin T.

I hear a faint, desperate howling on the wind, accompanied by a persistent piano melody… Is that a mask outside the window, its hollow eyes gazing into mine? Is that a Shape lurking among the shadows in the dark corner of my room? As a chill raises goose bumps across the back of my neck I begin to comprehend the horror creeping along fringes of my mind… it is the ghost of the Halloween Horror Movie Marathon 2014 returned to haunt me. The 2014 marathon wrap up that never was bears a year long grudge against me…. But what was I, father to a demon child, to do? I’m now caught between the ferocious claws of a beast and the ghost of Michael Myers…

Yes, I failed to produce a wrap up post… oh well… last year’s fall was a busy one, with a one year old terrorizing the home while a close family member stayed in the hospital waiting for surgery. The good news is that the family member is now well and continuing on with their daily routine almost as if nothing happened while the younger of my two demons is at least somewhat easier to maintain these days. His spells and sacrifices involve me and his mother less often. He now focuses his diabolical energy on his older demon brother. The satanic siblings are still a force to be reckoned with as their battles are epic. But at least they sleep more often than they used to, perhaps weary from the energy spent attempting to destroy each other.

I reread last year’s reviews and if I were to give a quick, single paragraph wrap-up of last year, as best as my memory will allow, it might be this: Of all of the Halloween films, the original is the best. The most brutal kill was of the nurse played by Octavia Spencer in Zombie’s second Halloween film. The worst Halloween film was, predictably, Halloween III, although Resurrection came pretty close. The worst film from last year overall was Annabelle. Yeah, hard to believe it could be worse than III, I know… Favorite campy performance was by Donald Pleasance as Doctor Loomis. Scariest performance by Nick Castle as Michael Myers in the first film. Special shout-out goes to The Corridor, which was about as unique a horror film as I’d seen in a while.

But now we’re back to horror movie season 2015 and it’s time to get things started. I’ve already got one movie under my belt and that is…

The Black Sleep (poster)

The Black Sleep (1956) — Directed by Reginald Le Borg. Starring Basil Rathbone, Herbert Rudley, Akim Tamiroff, Patricia Blake, Phyllis Stanley, Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr., Tor Johnson, George Sawaya, Sally Yarnell.

The Halloween Horror Movie Marathon tradition is to kick things off with an older film. This year I picked The Black Sleep because I was intrigued by its large cast of classic horror film actors and… well, it was one of the few older horror movies I could find while perusing the catalog on Netflix.

Basil Rathbone is Sir Joel Cadman, an esteemed neurosurgeon of the late 19th century who helps former student, and wrongfully accused, Dr. Gordon Ramsay escape death row. To accomplish this he fakes Ramsay’s demise by feeding him an East Indian drug that simulates the death of whoever ingests it, a state Cadman refers to as the eponymous Black Sleep.

Dr. Ramsay, his “body” brought to Cadman’s estate via the machinations of Udu the Gypsy (Akim Tamiroff) and revived by Cadman, becomes an assistant to his mentor. Through operations performed on human bodies, they set out to map the human brain. Of course Dr. Ramsay will soon learn that nothing is as it first seems and he’ll soon be wishing he became an angry chef instead of a gullible surgeon.

As with any mad scientist, Cadman cannot be trusted with this powerful substance. He has tricked poor Gordon into operating on living subjects, not the expected cadavers. His home is filled with subjects of his failed experiments, including Mungo (Lon Chaney Jr.), Casimir (Bela Lugosi), “Bohemund” (John Carradine), and Curry (Tor Johnson). They’ve all been induced with the Black Sleep and then operated on, resulting in either their madness, disability, or deformity. Although Cadman haughtily huffs and puffs about tossing aside common morals for the sake of scientific progress, it is all done as a lead up to operating on his comatose wife who suffers from a brain tumor. It appears that even a cold, callous man of science can be swayed by tender matters of the heart.

The Black Sleep is a run of the mill mad scientist tale that isn’t quite campy enough to merit ironic viewing, nor does it contain any of the tension or compelling drama of the films it is a tribute to. Basil Rathbone, ten years after his final turn as Sherlock Holmes, is fine. Although he’s not very menacing, his slick stiffness manages to convey some sense of evil in the well-worn role of the mad scientist who eschews morals for the sake of progress. You know, how most films of this era tend to portray scientists. Or of just about any era, come to think of it.

Although it is novel to see all of these classic actors together in one film, they’re under-utilized. I love Chaney so much in The Wolf Man that every time I see him I feel like I’m revisiting an old favorite uncle. Here his talents are wasted. With no lines, he grunts, lurches about, and attacks random characters. Bela Lugosi has some amusing facial expressions but, his character being mute, he has no dialogue either.

It’s not all so disheartening. Akim Tamiroff provides some comic relief as Udu the Gypsy and John Carradine is fun for the scant minutes he’s around. There’s also a brain operation with effects convincing enough that they might induce some squirms and queasiness. But overall The Black Sleep might be more interesting as a historical horror curiosity.

Here’s a post on the film with a lot of cool promo stills.  And, if you have the time, another review that is quite well written.

If you don’t have a Netflix account, you can watch The Black Sleep here on Dailymotion, along with many other old horror films. Don’t expect high definition quality on any of them…

I couldn’t post this without mention of the passing of horror legend Wes Craven. It’s fitting that I should revisit some of his classic films this year. I’ll be starting with a special showing on Friday night of what is perhaps his most famous film.

Halloween Horror Movie Marathon: Recap and Awards

Posted in Halloween Horror Movie Marathon, Movies with tags on November 7, 2011 by Justin T.

Ghost Girl

Another Halloween, another twenty or so movies come and gone. Time to wrap up the Halloween Horror Movie Marathon!

Haunted houses. One shape-shifting alien. One ancient Mayan pyramid home to living, man-eating plants. Organ harvesting. Monster from the deep. Slaughter on a raft. Achilles tendon severing. Leg amputation. A hand mangled in a lawnmower. A building made of wax. Fear. Despair. Loneliness. Tragedy. Continue reading

Halloween Horror Movie Marathon: ‘The Ward’

Posted in Halloween Horror Movie Marathon, Movies with tags on November 2, 2011 by Justin T.

The WardThe Ward (2010) Directed by John Carpenter. Starring Amber Heard, Jared Harris, Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, Laura-Leigh, Lyndsy Fonseca, Dan Anderson, Susanna Burney, Mika Boorem.

Here it is, the final film for the marathon! Too bad we had to go out on such a turd directed by one of horror’s greats.

The Ward takes place during 1966 in the ward of a psychiatric hospital. Kristen (Amber Heard) is a new arrival at North Bend. She’s been brought in after burning down a farm house but she has no memory of why she’s done so. There are four other girls with her in this special ward run by Dr. Stringer (Jarred Harris). And it wouldn’t be a mental hospital film if he weren’t using some cutting-edge, controversial treatment on the girls. And it wouldn’t be a horror movie if the ward wasn’t haunted by a former patient who’s started killing the girls. Continue reading

Halloween Horror Movie Marathon: ‘The Curse of Frankenstein’

Posted in Halloween Horror Movie Marathon, Movies with tags on October 31, 2011 by Justin T.

The Curse of FrankensteinThe Curse of Frankenstein (1957) Directed by Terence Fisher. Starring Peter Cushing, Robert Urquhart, Hazel Court, Cristopher Lee, Valerie Gaunt.

I have some serious catching up to do when it comes to horror films produced by Hammer Films. Might as well get caught up by watching the film that started Hammer’s legendary run of films throughout the ’50s and ’60s, The Curse of Frankenstein.

I’ll keep this short: it is superb, of course. The Gothic sets are fantastic, Peter Cushing is great as the arrogant Victor Frankenstein, and Christopher Lee shambles through a physically intimidating performance that only hints at the sorrow of the creature demonstrated in the 1931 film. I also appreciated the “twist” at the end that is revealed in the film’s framing device, though I suppose the ensuing sequels reveal the answer to the question raised.

Well, sorry to cut this one short but let’s see if I can squeeze in one more film before I prepare for an evening of trick or treating with my son.

Halloween Horror Movie Marathon: ‘Kairo (Pulse)’

Posted in Halloween Horror Movie Marathon, Movies with tags on October 31, 2011 by Justin T.

KairoKairo (Pulse) (2001) Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Starring Haruhiko Katô, Kumiko Aso, Koyuki, Masatoshi Matsuo, Kurume Arisaka, Kenji Mizuhashi.

Boy, this one’s a downer. Kairo is a slow moving film from Japan about ghosts using computers to reach into the real world and drag the living into loneliness and despair.

It took me a while to fall into the crawling pace early on, probably because I was still reeling from the action of the previous film. Had I known, I might have chosen to watch this one first.

I can’t get into the details of this one right now; it affected me far too much. It’s themes of loneliness and isolation as a result of technology got to me, particularly considering I watched the movie alone… on a computer…

That said there’s an inherent irony anytime someone uses technology to relay an anti-technology message that makes me take the whole affair with a grain of salt. At least upon reflection. Not that the point Kairo makes is necessarily less relevant because of the chosen medium.

I am curious, though, what the the director, who also wrote the film, thinks about the state of technology today and the proliferation of social interaction on the Internet today– Facebook, IM, texting, blogging… He might have it wrong; the Internet is not called a ‘network’ for nothing! … but while I was here, alone, watching Kairo on a computer… the dark tone of isolation the film strives for struck me hard.

All right, time to move on…

Halloween Horror Movie Marathon: ‘[REC2]’

Posted in Halloween Horror Movie Marathon, Movies with tags on October 31, 2011 by Justin T.

[REC2][REC2] (2009) Directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza. Starring Jonathan Mellor, Óscar Sanchez Zafra, Ariel Casas, Alejandro Casaseca, Pablo Rosso, Andrea Ros, Àlex Batllori, Pau Poch, Manuela Velasco.

Starting Halloween off with a bang! on this roller-coaster ride of a movie. [REC2] is the sequel to one of my favorite flicks from last year’s marathon, [REC]. That one started off slow, in a good way, and ended with pure insanity. The sequel picks up right where the last one ended and maintains the same intensity throughout with just enough lulls to allow us to catch our breath.

This time we follow a Grupo Especial de Operaciones (GEO) team, the Spanish version of SWAT, into the quarantined building.  They are led by Owen (Jonathan Mellor), a member of the Ministry of Health who has a mission and just happens to be the team’s only way out once they’re inside. Cameras are brought along to record important information, and to, you know, give the audience a movie to watch.

I’ve said before, I’m a sucker for the “found footage” genre; when it’s done well, it can be pretty effective. No problems here. The plot may have its obvious contrivances to keep the characters in the claustrophobic setting, but I can forgive the film that minor issue. The pacing is exciting, the effects are great overall, this one’s a winner. It’s every bit as awesome as the last film. One of my favorites of the marathon so far.

Forging ahead!