Scream Saturdays: Scream 3 (2000)

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Wes Craven’s Scream, so each Saturday in October, myself and a cadre of like-minded individuals will be re-watching the franchise one movie at a time. Is the series influential -- and if so, positively or negatively? How does each installment reflect the time in which it appeared? What does the series’ reboot as an MTV television program indicate about the state of horror today? We’ll answer all of these questions and explore whether or not the franchise holds up as we go along. scream-3-poster SCREAM 3 Dimension Films, 2000 Nick Spacek is a writer and podcaster based in Lawrence, Kansas. He runs this website (obvs), as well as the From & Inspired By soundtrack podcast, in addition to writing for Cinepunx, Modern Vinyl, the Pitch, and the UK's Starburst Magazine. He can be found spewing nonsense on Twitter @nuthousepunks. It seems like the opening gave Scream 3 an opportunity to really be something different. Cotton Weary being a douchebag on a cell phone notwithstanding -- which is evidently a way to set this in Hollywood even more than the sight of the iconic sign would have otherwise -- using the Ghostface voice-changer in a new way, as well as killing off a franchise character is definitely new. Unfortunately, from the moment they kick in with a Creed song, Scream 3 shows itself to be the tertiary film in every way: far too many character actors? Check. Unnecessary pop culture references? Check. Character actors making cameos and thus becoming living, breathing pop culture references? Check and fucking check. Thanks, Jay and Silent Bob. I mean, fuck: they even manage to bring back a popular dead character with a video. scream-3-jay-and-silent-bob Still, we do get the likes of Emily Mortimer in an early role, and Parker Posey being weird and funny is always a delight, to say nothing of a deadpan Patrick Warburton. All that can’t possibly make up for a plot which is even more self-referential than absolutely necessary. Not only do we have Stab 3, the film within a film, but we have the set of the movie being the set from the original Scream, thus making all the discussions of film and pop culture and cinematic violence ever so much more meta. Downside to Scream 3 is that, unlike so many other sequels this point in a series, doesn’t ramp up the violence. I think that’s my big problem with Scream: for a slasher series, the kills peaked early. By this point, it’s all jump cuts and aftershots. This movie sleepwalks through its plot, which is so much a rip-off of Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, it’s basically a fucking remake. God. This makes Jason Takes Manhattan look like Shakespeare in the Park. scream-3-carrie-fisher That Carrie Fisher cameo is fucking amazing, though. God, she’s amazing. It’s so wonderful to see a strong, take-no-shit woman who doesn’t get killed or beat the fuck up or punished in some way. The treatment of women in these films at the hands of abusive guys is pretty horrid overall, but Roman’s opinions and the story of Maureen Prescott is absolutely gross. So, yeah -- thanks for being dope as hell, Carrie Fisher. Liam O’Donnell is co-host and co-creator of the Cinepunx podcast as well as Editor in Chief of Cinepunx.com. He also co-hosts Horror Business and Eric Roberts is The Fucking Man. When not hosting, editing, or promoting so many damn podcasts, Liam works in higher education in diversity and equity programming and education, and lends his promotion and event planning skills to This Is Hardcore Fest and the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Fest. Find him talking all kinds of crazy shit on twitter at @liamrulz. I cannot muster much to say about this movie that Nick did not already cover. It really is a painful exercise to watch it. The first film rubs me raw with the constant barrage of meta commentary and jokes, but shit at least it takes wit and insight to write that stuff. This film is lazy, boring, and offensively cliche. The worst part for me may be the arch to somehow “deepen” or “complexify” the story with some sort of pre-origin scenario for this mess. scream-3-jennifer-and-gale First, I have watched a LOT of trilogies and I cannot even name how many third installments rely on this trope, but let's take it as a given. The idea of adding some layer of narrative to this series is actually exciting. I would love for hidden layers to be revealed. Of course, the narrative would have to have the sort of ambiguity to support that, and Scream doesn't. I guess that is why the final reveal is such a frustrating shit show. No, having some secret brother, and a rape narrative that somehow explains someone's sexual identity, is not what I was looking for. Shit, this feels like some kind of grimey sex anxiety Giallo plot but without the charm, style, or sexiness for that matter. If anything, this is somehow the LEAST sexy of these films, which is saying a lot. scream-3-ghostface I could similarly rail about how uninspired the kills are, how the cameos other than Carrie Fisher are awful. Scream 3 is every sequel stereotype you can imagine, a warehouse of bad ideas that only greed and drugs can justify. Is it the worst sequel I have ever seen? No, of course not. Come on: this horror. It is though a reminder that, though they are better than this, the entire series seems a little ill-conceived at this point. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYi-rmHfrP8

Scream Saturdays: Scream 2 (1997)

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Wes Craven’s Scream, so each Saturday in October, myself and a cadre of like-minded individuals will be re-watching the franchise one movie at a time. Is the series influential -- and if so, positively or negatively? How does each installment reflect the time in which it appeared? What does the series’ reboot as an MTV television program indicate about the state of horror today? We’ll answer all of these questions and explore whether or not the franchise holds up as we go along. scream-2-poster SCREAM 2 Dimension Films, 1997 Craig Mann is a writer and artist based in San Diego, CA.  His work, including where to go in Tokyo to watch professional wrestling, can be seen at BadArtGoodLove and on Twitter @BadArtGoodLove. “Ain’t nobody gonna spend $7.50 to see some Sandra Bullock shit unless she’s naked in it.” Scream 2 had potential to be a great sequel. The introduction, set at the premiere of a film about the original Scream (Stab), was remarkable. When Stab is released it is viewed as an ultra-quick exploitation of the deaths of teenagers in a small town and seemingly creates a crazed copy-cat killer. The theater killer was able to disembowel two victims in plain sight amongst hundreds of fanatical masked movie go’ers, setting a terrifying tone early on. This was the perfect opportunity for Scream 2 to shed the unsustainable fourth-wall shattering horror-satire premise established in the first film and move on as an original thrasher franchise.  Stab, released nationally, with mass-produced props as part of a large scale Hollywood marketing campaign, places the potential for masked Stab killers everywhere. But the killings aren’t everywhere. The killings are isolated and despite establishing the potential for widespread pandemonium, they’re all connected to the teenage victims of the Woodsboro killings, whom were able to kind’ve sort’ve move on despite them all attending the same University. Jamie Kennedy is back as Randy, the lovable loser with encyclopedic knowledge of horror movies. Like in the original Scream, Randy is used to poke fun at horror movie tropes while establishing rules for the one we’re watching.  While in a class discussing the responsibility of the Stab film for the actions of the new murders, Randy is able to break the fourth wall early enough in the movie for the writers to abandon any real plot development while casually mocking viewers who placed their faith they might be in store for an entertaining sequel.  Spoilers alert, this sequel isn’t safe from Randy’s rule. Later on, in another plot-buster, Randy defines a great sequel as one with a higher body count and bloodier murders. Scream 2 made bold promises but yet again the first ten minutes are the most well executed and most dramatic of the film. I can’t say that the murders were any bloodier. If they were more plentiful, I didn’t notice as they were meaningless. The writers failed to give the new characters any depth and although sex and sexuality is alluded to in both films as critical criteria for slasher films, nudity in The Scream franchise through Scream 2 is non-existent. scream-2-ending The plot twist in the final moments of the film was so poorly executed and so remarkably anti-climatic I was still expecting the real twist when the movie ended. The mastermind of the murders revealed as one of the original killer’s Mother was exactly the type of predictably poor plot twist that the first film was so vigilantly opposed. Whereas Scream went out of the way to break the mold of the individual killer and established two characters as one villainous entity, Scream 2 chose to simply replicate the process while putting forth zero effort in establishing the killer’s’ motive throughout the film. Scream 2 opted instead to focus on the least likely suspect ad nauseum, insinuating that the wrongfully convicted, one dimensional, eternally awkward Cotton Weary was the masked killer until the last minute twist revelation of the Mother fueled by revenge and a barely present, entirely forgettable, friend of the boyfriend attention seeker. If one were to write twenty movies around the copy-cat killing in the first ten minutes of Scream 2, you’re bound to end up with twenty better movies. The door to creativity was slammed shut after the opening credits. What’s left is 90 minutes of teen-drama star cameos and slashings void of the drama, tension, or wit that established Scream as a blockbuster success. I’m looking forward to Scream 3. With the easy Friday the 13th/Mother plot twist out of the way and Jamie Kennedy’s character killed, the third iteration of the masked killer is bound to have a few original ideas. Nick Spacek is a writer and podcaster based in Lawrence, Kansas. He runs this website (obvs), as well as the From & Inspired By soundtrack podcast, in addition to writing for Cinepunx, Modern Vinyl, the Pitch, and the UK's Starburst Magazine. He can be found spewing nonsense on Twitter @nuthousepunks. When I first considered this series, I had a concept wherein all the films were best examined through the lenses of the movies on which they were commenting. Scream is the slasher film, Scream 2 is the sequel, Scream 3 is the conclusion of the trilogy, and Scream 4 is the reboot. When looking at each film through these lenses, then you get a more accurate glimpse at the films: considering Scream 2 as a sequel means you get more out of it when you look at the tropes which it’s aping. It kind of works, I suppose: Scream 2 returns some characters, introduces new ones, and shit gets really crazy and stupid really quickly. The vast majority of the film -- and it’s kind of reinforced by the plot summary on Wikipedia -- is pretty much a rehash of the original, until you get to the end, much as Craig opined. So, I guess, it basically is a take on sequels: you repeat what worked from the original, and then you use the ending as a way to go absolutely nuts, introducing characters whom you’ve never met, then upping the kill count. scream-2-gale-weathers   And, yes, again, the opening ten minutes are the best part of the film, especially considering the meta take of characters in a movie commenting on the movie which is based on the events of the first film in the series. Then, you double the meta commentary by killing someone during the screening of a film which is so filled with promotion that the killing itself is considered to be just another way to sell the film on screen. It aches with film nerdery, and for the second time, the remaining 80 minutes can’t possibly live up. Treble the meta-ness, actually, given the fact that there’s actually a discussion of whether sequels can be better than the original in the first twenty minutes of this one, making one wonder if it’s possible to get any more meta? The soundtrack even backs this up, using Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand” again -- referencing the original Scream -- but also kicking in two covers, making this so ridiculously referential that the third will have a high bar of “hey, look at this!” to clear. Liam O’Donnell is co-host and co-creator of the Cinepunx podcast as well as Editor in Chief of Cinepunx.com. He also co-hosts Horror Business and Eric Roberts is The Fucking Man. When not hosting, editing, or promoting so many damn podcasts, Liam works in higher education in diversity and equity programming and education, and lends his promotion and event planning skills to This Is Hardcore Fest and the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Fest. Find him talking all kinds of crazy shit on twitter at @liamrulz. Let me be the first to say the thing that I am sure everyone thought when watching this film but is just awkward to acknowledge: Scream 2 tries to be less white. The original is so incredibly lacking in any acknowledgement or engagement with race, at a time when it seems like those questions were infiltrating popular culture more. Yet the world that Scream inhabits is blindingly white, in a way that is hard not to notice. I assume SOMEONE must have noticed at the studio, because Scream 2 conspicuously starts not just with African American characters, but recognizable actors! Granted, you immediately know this is not going to go well. The set up is brilliant, as folks have already pointed out, but it is also predictably doomed. The set up needs this first kill, the first sacrifice to begin the stroll down meta narrative lane. Yet, why Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett, two immediately recognizable characters? Perhaps to seal their fate, that as the most obvious cameos in the beginning of the film, much like Drew Barrymore in the first film, you are prepared to watch them die? Of course, this choice, to being the film with two African American actors, who themselves begin talking about race in film, is somehow both meta AND tone deaf, and maybe that is the issue with Scream 2 perfectly encapsulated. It is not just our first couple, with their film school level discourse of White and Black relationships to horror. Apparently, Woodsboro might be the whitest town in America, but the university has a smattering of diversity. It becomes so rote, that each crowd moment and classroom sequence must have at least one POC in the shot, and sometimes two. There are a few actual characters, as well, like Neve’s friend Hallie or the camera guy Joel. Yet, these roles are lightly written at best, caricatures at worst. scream-2-jada-pinkett It is during the ‘90s that tokenization was perhaps at it’s worst, when concerns about political correctness first raised their complicated head. Scream 2 is perhaps better because it injects some small amount of diversity, of a world not so rich and white and isolated. Yet, does it ever go past the surface, allowing the presence of a few of these faces shape the story or events, let alone have them be full and realized characters? Granted, few folks would look to this film for any sort of insight in how it deals with something as complicated and nuanced as race and representation. However, for me this reflects, in a small part, my overall issue with the film. It is, in many ways, a better experience for me than the first film. Yes, they ratchet up the mata factor to such a navel gazing self congratulatory degree it could possibly have ruined postmodernism for me as a concept entirely. However, the ideas animating the story, including the issue of sequels as an organizing concept for the movie is surprisingly effective. In fact, it is maybe the strength of these ideas that point to problem. On paper, Scream 2 is maybe a best case scenario, really building on the ideas of the first one while adding some tension, some dynamism, and some character development. As I consider the film, in abstract, it is almost a better film that the first. Watching it, however, nothing quite works as it should. Much like the sudden addition of diversity into the film, it is a good idea, and yet somehow executed in the worst possible way. This is maybe reflected in most dramatic relief in the aforementioned Black cinema discussion at the beginning of the film. How stereotypical of this time, when the nation had started to grow weary of identity and representational politics to have such a strangely self referential discussion. Maureen (Pinkett) points out that horror, as a whole, is a very white genre and the experiences and expressions therein have been dominated by white faces and norms. This seems, to me, to not be the ranting of some millitant person outside reason, but a valid and accurate critique. Phil (Epps) immediately mocks this perspective, not just for being inaccurate, which maybe it is and I am wrong as well. No, Phil mocks it for being so BLACK! This perhaps felt fun and self aware at the time, but for me, now, it was telling. Too often, when the stitching is showing in Scream 2, that is when the meta voice comes out. Much too often, the film has an interesting idea, or a realization of its own absurdity, and it responds in a way that just doesn’t work. It should, but it rarely does. Alan Miller is a writer, musician and record store clerk based in Bowling Green, KY. You can find his ramblings on Twitter @meeler_time and his writing at Modern Vinyl. Scream 2 was the first “Scream” film I saw in the theater, and I remember loving the shit out of it. Now, some 21 years later, I can safely say that 13 year old me was an idiot. I don’t even know where to begin so let me start with the good. I actually enjoyed the theater bit at the beginning, warts and all. It’s ridiculous, but it’s so over the top that it can still be fun. The use of “Red Right Hand” was unfortunate, as it has zero power during such a campy scene; not to worry though, it comes back AGAIN later in the film at a random scene that has nothing to do with the opening. scream-2-randy So yeah, I pretty much hated the rest of it. The classroom film class was too hip for its own good, the Pepsi product placement was over the top, and instead of a few Jamie Kennedy scenes we get lots of Jamie Kennedy scenes. Even the random DMB song couldn’t save it for me. One other redeeming factor; I liked the Friends joke that Courtney Cox made about Jennifer Anniston. Sometimes I miss the 90’s. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-KSPVGLia4

Scream Saturdays: Scream (1996)

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Wes Craven’s Scream, so each Saturday in October, myself and a cadre of like-minded individuals will be re-watching the franchise one movie at a time. Is the series influential -- and if so, positively or negatively? How does each installment reflect the time in which it appeared? What does the series’ reboot as an MTV television program indicate about the state of horror today? We’ll answer all of these questions and explore whether or not the franchise holds up as we go along. scream-logo SCREAM Dimension Films, 1996 Nick Spacek is a writer and podcaster based in Lawrence, Kansas. He runs this website (obvs), as well as the From & Inspired By soundtrack podcast, in addition to writing for Cinepunx, Modern Vinyl, the Pitch, and the UK's Starburst Magazine. He can be found spewing nonsense on Twitter @nuthousepunks. The first ten minutes of Scream are near-perfect, right? It’s perfectly balanced: funny, then nervous, then eerie, then absolutely taut before getting gory and gross. Casey’s basically the most likable character in the whole movie, and they ax her before the credits even roll. For real: the rest of the characters in this movie are fucking terrible. I’d never noticed it when I first saw it -- probably because I was a contemporary of the characters when it was first released -- but, man, every single dude in this movie needs a swift kicking. “You know what you do to me?” Billy asks Sidney, when we first meet him. I’m glad she pushes him off after he’s such a pushy dick, but then she flashes him and he calls her “such a tease.” Goddammit. Like, I understand that they’re in high school and you do dumb shit when you’re in high school, but Billy’s whole speech about wanting to take thing to an NC-17 relationship is fucking gross. Also gross: the slowed-down, acoustic version of “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Gus is, I think, the first use of the trope before Gary Jules’ “Mad World” six years later in Donnie Darko. So, let’s blame Scream for starting this whole irritating thing -- although, I guess the real question I’m finally getting around to asking is if Scream is to blame for making horror movies winking and self-aware or, like AMC posited in 2009, is it to blame for the slew of PG-13 horror which followed in its wake? scream-drew-barrymore-gif Craig Mann is a writer and artist based in San Diego, CA.  His work, including where to go in Tokyo to watch professional wrestling, can be seen at BadArtGoodLove and on Twitter @BadArtGoodLove. It baffles me as much now as it did then. I can’t help but wonder the motives behind casting Drew Barrymore in the most significant scene, and ultimately one of the most iconic scenes of the 1990s. Scream was primarily promoted around the name and reputation of shockmaster Wes Craven.  The cast composed of Hollywood unknowns and family-friendly television actors, known more for their respected shows than their individual contributions (Friends, Party of Five). For years, Drew Barrymore had been an afterthought in film. A former child star, born into the Barrymore dynasty, stole the hearts of America as the adorable younger sister in Steven Spielberg’s E.T. She would become a notorious party animal and drug addict before reaching maturity. While looking for some of the promotional appearances of the cast for the film’s release in 1996, I found a gem of Drew Barrymore and Courtney Love on the red carpet for Primal Fear, released eight months prior to Scream1. Barrymore, not yet cast back into legitimate celebrity status is nonchalant and trying her hardest to act in a manner befitting the company of her infamous celebrity “punk” date for the evening. Barrymore quips at the host when asked about her problems with drugs and alcohol, “Who gives a shit?  Get over it!” Scream was released only a year after Barrymore’s attempted re-emergence as “Hollywood’s Wild Child,” with a stint as cover model in Playboy magazine and a year removed from a scripted “impromptu” topless birthday celebration prancing atop David Letterman’s desk. The entertainment gossip media went bonkers but few were jumping to make Barrymore a star.  Barrymore seemed more interested in eking out small paydays in insignificant parts (Wayne’s World, Batman Forever) where her legacy namesake would allow it and beefing up her “wild child” image than becoming Hollywood’s next break-out star. Barrymore’s attitude and reputation quickly changed after the mega-success of this film. For all of the effort put into making Neve Campbell a star, she accomplished very little and is known primarily for four Scream movies, while Barrymore, in under ten minutes, became one of the biggest box office draws of the following ten years. scream-neve-campbell Liam O’Donnell is co-host and co-creator of the Cinepunx podcast as well as Editor in Chief of Cinepunx.com. He also co-hosts Horror Business and Eric Roberts is The Fucking Man. When not hosting, editing, or promoting so many damn podcasts, Liam works in higher education in diversity and equity programming and education, and lends his promotion and event planning skills to This Is Hardcore Fest and the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Fest. Find him talking all kinds of crazy shit on twitter at @liamrulz. You two have really covered a LOT of my initial thoughts on this, but I can’t help but wonder if my ... frustration let's say, with Scream now may be that the entire meta effort now seems played out? Yes, part of my issue is the dialogue. When I was a kid, watching something I thought may never exist, that is a NEW Wes Craven film in a THEATER, I was entranced by all this snappy witticism. They talk so fast and they have so many snappy, and snarky, things to say. Shit, did I try to talk like this after seeing this film. Guys, I think I tried to talk like this after seeing Scream. Fuck me. Regardless, now this dialogue hurts me. It seems forced, and hard to even keep up with. I can’t care about these people, but I am not sure I need to empathize to enjoy this film. I would rather not hate everyone though, if I can choose. Yet, most of the time when people are talking in this film, I want them to die. Who are these snarky inhuman creatures, and how do I erase them from this world? That is neither here nor there, though. I don’t need Shakespeare from Craven, despite the grand heights of writing he managed in Shocker (omg burn!). The very idea itself, though -- so smart and interesting at the time -- has lost all charm for me. Scream has some effective scares, and some really taut directing. Yet, most of the film operates on this meta criticism level, winking and poking the audience in the ribs. The film keeps loudly whispering to you, “DO YOU GET IT?” and I can’t decide if I am amazed at how fucking charming I found that at the time, or if I am amazed at how frustrating I find it now. Is it simply that Scream, which is actually rather intelligent in how it does this work, inspired any number of rip-offs which simply lacked its insight? Do I hate Scream because it birthed I Know What You Did Last Summer? No, I don’t hate it. I still love it in so many ways. Yet, it no longer charms, and I am not sure which of us has changed and moved on. It hurts though, it hurts not being in love with Scream anymore. The beginning really is brilliant, though. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWm_mkbdpCA
1. “Dennis Pennis Interviews Courtney Love and Drew Barrymore (1996)" https://youtu.be/DVrGgmIpD4g

Halloween Horror Marathon: Cooties

poster - cooties 01 Each week, Halloween Horror Marathon does some themed posts. We go back to work on Mondays with a recent release. We call it New Movie Mondays. This week, we look at zombie comedy Cooties. Much like Hell Town, Cooties is a really great idea hampered in the exceution. In this case, the acting's pretty solid, but it's really hard to develop much an appreciation for the characters. After a fantastic opening title sequence, with amazing music by composer Kreng, the movie settles in. Elijah Wood's ostensibly the main character, but once his character, Clint Hadson, makes it to Ft. Chicken Elementary, it basically becomes an ensemble piece. It's an ensemble piece with characters which are over-the-top parodies. The overly-macho gym coach, the closeted homesexual, the man-hating feminist -- they're all there, and none of them are really interesting. As per usual, by failing to develop the characters beyond the surface, you end up with a cast where you not only don't care if they survive, but begin wishing they'd just fucking die, already. cooties The best characters are actually the ones who would seem to be the most absurd. Jorge Garcia's security guard, Rick, does mushrooms and trips in his van for the majority of Cooties' running time, and presents some of the film's funniest moments. Leigh Whannell as Doug is the absolute highlight of the film. To explain why and how would ruin several of the best moments, but suffice it to say, just pay attention whenever Whannel's in a scene, as he will steal it. Other than that, though -- you never really care about the characters, the jokes not made by anyone other than Whannel and Garcia fall flat, and Rainn Wilson's shtick as the gym teacher is irritating and pointless, at best. I'm sure he's meant to be absurd, and thus inspire all kinds of hilarity, but it just ends up falling flat. Wood's character features an undeveloped personality who's just a collection of irritating quirks, masquerading as a person. If you have an hour and a half, it has its moments -- almost all of which involve Whannel's Doug -- and it's always impressive when a director is willing to harm a child. By making each and every one of the creatures barely into double digits, directors Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott are committing to violating a pretty strong cultural taboo, and frankly, that's fucking amazing. Good on them. You can watch Cooties via Amazon On-Demand right now. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_he1HiLy0A[/embed]

Halloween Horror Marathon: Zombiethon

zombiethon header Each week, Halloween Horror Marathon does some themed posts. We sleep in on Sundays, then watch a zombie flick. We call it Resurrection Sundays. This week, we look at the compilation film Zombiethon What are the best parts of any horror film, for any teenager? The violence and the nudity. Here's a Wizard Video collection that functions as a highlight reel of any number of classic zombie flicks from the '70s and '80s. The films themselves, if you've actually seen them, are almost universally terrible. With the exception of Fulci's Zombie, all the movies presented here benefit greatly from being truncated and edited. Oasis of the Zombies actually seems interesting and fun (it is not), for example. I mean, if you reduce the absurdity of The Invisible Dead to a collection of scenes with naked Caroline Munro, it's obviously going to be something more intriguing than it actually is. The best part of the edited / reduced films is the way A Virgin Among the Living Dead is, essentially, just the added footage Jean Rollin shot for the film's re-release in 1981, meaning that this is literally nothing like the original picture in any way, shape, or form. zombiethon It all peters out at the end, with quite a short blasts from the oldest film here, Astro-Zombies. The flick's charmingly awful, but after a solid hour of breasts and blood, the cheesy cheapness of this "classic" feels anticlimactic. The interstitial wrap-around bits are quite fun, pretty funny, and even (in the case of the first one) shot fairly well. You could easily pull these bits and make your own highlight reel -- perhaps with stronger films. I'd love to see 10-minute cuts of Bud the Chud and Return of the Living Dead mixed up with Mutant and Messiah Evil. This is considerably more good-natured than the other Wizard compilation, Filmgore. Even the inclusion of wrap-around segments from Elvira can't keep that from seeming just a little bit nasty. This, though, is basically a perfect thing to throw on in the background of your Halloween party. Throw on some creepy film scores or funky disco -- either way, you can delight in the nakeys and zombies. You can snag this from Full Moon Features as a three-pack that also features Filmgore and Savage Island. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kVyEqHtS1s[/embed]

Halloween Horror Marathon: Hell Town

hell town logo On Friday nights, we hit the movie theater to see a film, and tell you all about it the next day. We call it Cinema Saturdays. This week, we went to see Hell Town. Steve Balderson's Hell Town is a cool idea that seems more like a rough draft than a final product. Three episodes in the middle of the second season of a lost soap opera, with a murderer on the loose, seems like a solid idea, right? The concept -- that people binge-watch TV all the time and to recreate that experience, but theatrically -- is pretty cool, until you consider the fact that this has been done before, and most of the results (The Master Ninja, Time of the Apes) ended up being skewered on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Hell Town is not a good movie, but it is a pretty fun movie built on a solid concept that just needs a little work. Were that everyone understood that soap operas don't have f-bombs, nor is there a need to be playing to the back of the room, community theater style. Plus, nobody on even the most outré soap would use the phrase "69 position." It plays less like a trio of lost episodes and more like one of Charles Busch's scripts, only sans the whimsy. hell town 01 The acting is decent, with a couple of performances in which the actors which seem like they know what's supposed to be going on. A clever conceit is swapping the actress playing Laura Gable after the first episode, which actually results in a better performance. Beckijo Neill establishes the character, but Jennifer Grace fucking kills it. This woman knows soap opera. You play that shit straight, not with deadpan irony or overly arch winking at what's being done. Grace sells director Balderson's script like nobody's business, and every single one of her scenes is an absolute delight. If the rest of the cast were willing to commit to the premise, the film would've generated more outright laughter than light titters. Ben Whindholz as Butch plays his role like he'd studied Jake Gyllenhall's work in The Good Girl and amped it up with the ridiculousness of Bubble Boy. Funnily enough, what really hamstrings the production is that Hell Town just doesn't look like a soap opera. This movie actually looks too good to be mistaken for the real thing. The funny thing is, to make Hell Town look more like a soap opera would've cost more. To get the proper atmosphere, this should've been shot entirely on a sound stage, with far fewer locations and nearly no exterior shots. hell town All-in-all, it's not bad. As a slasher, it works fairly well. There are solid kills, with the deaths looking absolutely authentic. The attention paid them made the rest of this look better by association. Hell Town might not be the sort of movie I'd recommend catching, but it's certainly not something you should avoid. Upcoming screening information can be found here. [embed]https://vimeo.com/114389986[/embed]

Halloween Horror Marathon: The Living Dead Girl

living dead girl header Each week, Halloween Horror Marathon does some themed posts. We sleep in on Sundays, then watch a zombie flick. We call it Resurrection Sundays. This week, we look at the French "zombie" film The Living Dead Girl. Rob Zombie associations aside, this French zombie film is worth watching simply to experience how horror can mean different things to different cultures. Jean Rollin's film has certain things with which I'm readily familiar, like the slow pace of Italian films and the hazy hallucinatory aspects of Spanish cinema, but at its heart, this is really a love story. A love story with gouts and gouts of blood, and a living dead girl who's a thirst for it, granted, but a love story nonetheless. It's one of two excellently-acted horror roles by Marina Pierro, coming fast on the heels of her role in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Miss Osbourne the year before. Much like Miss Osbourne in that film, Pierro's role of Helene sees Pierro going to great lengths to accommodate the object of her love. In both cases, killing and sexual desire find themselves intertwined. When Catherine tears a woman apart, her cries of agony and last gasps sound very near to the passionate responses of the realtor and her lover earlier in the film. Given the alternate views of gore and skin -- and, regularly, blood-soaked nude women -- it's difficult to see where Rollin's blurry line of desire changes from lust to hunger. The repeated switching between French and English requires an attentive viewer, unless said viewer is bilingual. It's worth your undivided attention, however, as this is an absolutely gorgeous film, both visually, and in terms of the strength of how love can triumph in spite of death. The Living Dead Girl can be had on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Films, which features an interview with the director. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucXKFAbFM9A[/embed]

Halloween Horror Marathon: Zombie

poster - zombie flesh eaters Each week, Halloween Horror Marathon does some themed posts. We wrap up the work week with the films of Lucio Fulci. We call them Fulci Fridays, and for those, we team up with Liam O’Donnell of Cinepunx. This week, we look at Zombie, aka Zombi 2, aka Zombie Flesh Eaters. Nick: This was the first Fulci film I ever saw, and it’s still my favorite. There’s quite a few reasons why: its fantastic music by Fabio Frizzi, which includes the piece “Sequence 8,” featuring the ominous mellotron to which the composer would return for so many other Fulci scores like A Cat in the Brain and The Beyond. Additionally, the pace at which this movie unravels is something with which modern audiences ought to have an issue, but personally, I love. The heat of the island can be felt in the fact that Zombie moves at a sedate pace. However, the way it’s punctuated is almost metronomic -- it kicks off with two back-to-back situations that give the viewer a glimpse into what’s happening, but raises more questions than it answers. There’s then a long, mood-setting bit of expositional plot which seems to be going nowhere but some gratuitous nudity, until said nudity also leads into A FIGHT BETWEEN A ZOMBIE AND A SHARK. After that, Fulci’s film starts to pick up steam -- again, slowly, but with a purpose that starts stacking shocking horror upon shocking horror. zombie vs shark Liam: The pace is part of the magic. No, really. From the opening sequence, as messed up now as it was when I was 17, to the utterly depressing finale. Zombi 2 somehow manages to vacillate from entirely atmospheric to over the top gross without losing any steam. This film defined Fulci for me until I had really dug into the man’s output. Sure, it is an Italian rip off film, maybe lacking in certain unique qualities. Yet it also sets up so many of its own ideas. The aforementioned zombie vs shark is a brilliant if also insane move. The idea that SOME form of magic or voodoo is definitely to blame really adds a white guilt element missing from some of the other famous zombie films. The gore is some next level stuff. The infamous “eye scene” really established not only the point at which fun and stomach churning meet for me, but also made me watch for eyes n every other Fulci film and realize how much eye close-ups are a technique of his. Beyond all that, the cast are all scenery chewers in their own way. None plays it subtle, and none should. This film demands they respond to every aspect of it as if it were happening on some hyper plane of reality. I wonder though, do you think Zombi 2 became the new standard of undead gore over the Romero film of which it is an unlicensed sequel? Would a completely naive modern audience make it through the long stretches of inaction to get at the brief but wonderful moments of ultra gore? You can snag Zombie as an excellent Blu-ray from Blue Underground, and Death Waltz Records has remastered and reissued the Fabio Frizzi score on vinyl. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UYvhyzugtA[/embed]

Halloween Horror Marathon: Slither

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters After nearly a decade, I finally sat down and watched the directorial debut of James Gunn, Slither. How James Gunn didn't get the pants sued off him for Slither blows the mind*. It's Night of the Creeps meets ... well, every other '50s sci-fi alien invasion movie ran through a Troma filter. Well, a Troma language and gore filter. It's surprisingly chaste, but the rather impressive number of animal mutilations, people infestations, and rampant disgusting imagery are pure Tromatic bliss. Big props to Gunn for shouting out Troma with a brief snippet of The Toxic Avenger and a Lloyd Kaufmann cameo, too. Dierector Gunn's approach to movie-making has really turned into a sort of formula at this point, but it's a good one: take a wackadoo script (in this case, an alien worm invasion in a small town turns people into zombie-like creatures), combine with a collection of fine character actors, soundtrack with fine soft rock classics, and let 'er rip with some impressive special effects. slither screencap The best part is that Gunn just lets his actors do what they do, rather than casting against type. These folks play exactly the parts you expect, and that's why Slither is so fun. Cases in point include, but aren't limited to:
Michael Rooker is abrasive and an asshole. Elizabeth Banks is cute and a little weird. Nathan Fillion is charming and awkward. Gregg Henry is arrogant and dickish.
It's most similar in casting to Tremors: no big names to speak of, weird tentacle-y things, and a really fun tone despite the impending sense of doom. And, much like Tremors, I waited a goddamn decade to watch it. It's loaded with quips, quips, quips, ridiculous creatures, and it's fun as hell. Double shame on me for waiting damn near a decade to put my peepers upon it. I'd go into further details, but really, I agree with the cats behind Two Cents over at Cinapse: "The best way to go into seeing Slither is not reading anything about it. Stop reading this." * Yes, I am aware of the Bloody Disgusting refutation of the Night of the Creeps / Slither debate. There's sadly no good American Blu-ray available, but you can snag a cheap widescreen DVD for like, $6 from Amazon. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-f8wU6Fpeo[/embed]

Halloween Horror Marathon: Night of the Demons

night of the demons header Because Kevin Tenney's Night of the Demons score just received a luscious vinyl reissue from Lunaris Records, we figure it was worth bumping Witchboard for another Tenney film, but with more gore and nudity. We figured you all'd be okay with that. Goddamn, Night of the Demons is a stupid movie. It's delightfully fun, of course, but good lord, the acting is atrocious. The introduction of the characters is a painful exercise in looped dialogue and wooden intonation. Add in the fact that most background information is basically provided via Max's expositional speeches, and this is a movie that's essentially just trying to get to the good stuff. And yet, at that, it absolutely fails. It takes a solid 50 minutes before there's anything aside from a glimpse of a demon. That's a long wait for somebody to die, especially when this many people deserve it. What's the appeal here, aside from a brief shot of a couple female characters' underwear? Creepy goth girls getting possessed by demons and dancing to Bauhaus? I think that may be a big part of Night of the Demons' lengthy appeal, along with the ever-adorable Linnea Quigley, who always seems to be a manic pixie, even when turning into a murderous little nightmare. night of the demons screencap Granted, once the killing starts, it's really worth the wait. Shit gets supremely weird rather quickly, be it the disappearing lipstick, Angela warming her hands by the fire, or "STOP LOOKING AT ME!" For realsies: Night of the Demons' first half is a cringe-worthy slog, but the latter is a gloriously violent and disturbingly twisted ride worth sticking around for. Those violent deaths are something that ties into an issue which keeps popping up as I watch movies of this vintage: dudes who are supposed to be "slobs" now seem to be more "abusive jerk." Stooge needed to die first. He not only repeatedly verbally abuses Helen, but threatens to smack her? For real, that's like eight different kinds of bullshit. Same goes for Jay's behavior toward Judy, which is also supremely shitty. On a positive note, the really awful people get the worst deaths, so it's pretty rewarding when they finally snuff it. Another question: Is there a reason all the jokes in '80s horror seem to be written by borscht belt comics circa 1955? It's the most hackneyed collection of one-liners outside of a Henny Youngman set. Were it not for the fact that Night of the Demons balances out the wooden acting, bad jokes, and slow build with an excellent second half, I wouldn't have bothered to revisit this nearly 30 year-old piece of crudeness. Like we said in the intro, Lunaris Records recently reissued the album on vinyl. It's a double LP, cassette, and CD, depending on your preference, and all of those formats -- along with a dope art print and / or t-shirt of the Devin Whitehead art -- can be snagged from the Lunaris Records store. It's also available as a fantastic DVD / Blu-ray combo pack from Scream Factory. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKzuj2eavtU[/embed]