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Thursday, April 20, 2017

CANDYMAN


     For the most part, horror films in the 1990's pretty much sucked. Oh there were exceptions, of course- THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, SCREAM, MISERY, and CANDYMAN. I've always liked the movie, but upon recent viewing, I'd say I have a newfound respect for it and it's held up amazingly well.


     You know the story by now. Chicago student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) decides to write a big, juicy thesis on local urban legends and folklore. She sets her sights on the notorious Cabrini Green projects. She soon learns of the legend of the Candyman (Tony Todd), who apparently terrorized the housing project with a string of murders years before. Now, the legend says the Candyman will appear if you look into a mirror and say his name five times- in a wonderful play on the Bloody Mary urban legend.


     Based on the vivid imagination of horror icon Clive Barker, CANDYMAN is a beautiful and brutal horror film that's completely in a class of its own. It's not your typical slasher film, nor does it pander to the teen demographic. CANDYMAN is intelligent, artistic, intriguing, and frightening- and has truly aged well, I must say. The film looks better than ever today and seems fresh and relevant, with the abandoned projects of Cabrini Green bring a tense, racial vibe to the film that's handled thoughtfully and without getting bogged down by it. It also gives the film a dark sense of foreboding and helplessness.


       Everything about this film works- the taut direction by Bernard Rose, the chilling score by Philip Glass, the amazing performances by Tony Todd, Virginia Madsen, and pretty much every bit of acting in the film- it all came across as convincing to me.Tony Todd is downright terrifying as the Candyman, and why Virginia Madsen isn't used more is a crying shame. She's fantastic. It's just a very well-made film and it's hard to find something wrong with it, to be perfectly honest. CANDYMAN introduced a truly iconic figure of horror that was instantly placed alongside Michael Myers, Leatherface, Jason Voorhees, Pinhead, and Freddy Krueger and is easily in the top ten best horror films of the 90's.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOnN4M9wB0s

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The 20 Most Memorable Performances by a Female in a Horror Film (The 80's)


     Out of all the great horror films from the 1980's, I've racked my brain to come up with what I believe are the Top 20 most memorable performances by an actress. Every one of these actresses and performances made some sort of an impact on me and millions of other young, impressionable kids renting these films from your local video store or catching them in theaters. (These are in no particular order as to me they are all incredible in their own right...)

POSSIBLE SPOILERS!!!

01.  Shelley Duvall- THE SHINING, 1980


     Shelley Duvall delivers a downright excellent performance in Kubrick's masterpiece. The scene where she discovers what Jack has been typing while he was supposed to be writing his novel, and how she reacts to it without saying a word alone puts her on this list.

02.  Betsy Palmer- FRIDAY THE 13TH, 1980


     Betsy Palmer downright kills it (no pun intended...) as the demented Pamela Voorhees out for revenge in FRIDAY THE 13TH- all the while creating not only but two iconic characters and jump-starting one of the most successful franchises in horror film history. Enough said.

03.  Jobeth Williams- POLTERGEIST, 182


    The entire cast of the 1982 smash hit POLTERGEIST were extremely likable, but Jobeth Williams as Diane Freeling really helped seal the deal if you ask me. She came across as 150% believable as a terrified mother desperately trying to save her daghter from the terrors of the superatural, and plus she reminded me very much of my own mother.

04.  Adrienne Barbeau- THE FOG 1980


     As the husky-voiced DJ Stevie Wayne at KAB, Antonio Bay, California in THE FOG, Adrienne Barbeau won the hearts of millions of movie-goers in John Carpenter's ghostly follow-up to HALLOWEEN. You simply can't take your eyes off Barbeau when she's on screen and I can't imagine anyone else bringing Stevie Wayne to life like she did. Plus her delicious cameo in CREEPSHOW helps matters a lot...

05.  Heather Langenkamp- A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, 1984


    Yes, Freddy Krueger became a sensation in Wes Craven's 1984 shocker- but an iconic movie murderer is only as good as the final girl who battles him, and Heather Langenkamp's Nancy was a formidable foe to Freddy in his first outing. Their chemistry and interaction are to me what made the movie. I simply can't imagine A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET with any other final girl than Nancy.

06.  Angie Dickinson, DRESSED TO KILL, 1980


        A well-known star in the 60's and 70's, Angie Dickinson gave the performance of her career in Brian DePalma's slasher DRESSED TO KILL. Angie plays a bored, lonely housewife who finds trouble while cruising a museum, while giving the role her all. She's utterly fantastic.

07.  Adrienne King, FRIDAY THE 13TH, 1980
   

     Adrienne King's Alice was the first final girl to survive the horrors of Camp Crystal Lake, and there was something instantly familiar and genuine about her portrayal. Alice in her canoe at the end of the original FRIDAY THE 13TH is one of the most famous and iconic scenes in horror movie history, kids. Adrienne proudly carries on the FRIDAY THE 13TH tradition in conventions around the world and is as much a part of the phenomenon as Jason Voorhees and the hockey mask.

08.  Alice Krige, GHOST STORY, 1981


     For the many faults the film version of Peter Straub's terrifying book GHOST STORY has, I still love the movie, and mainly it's because of how frightening Alice Krige is. Her performance as Eva Galli/Alma Mobley completely gets under your skin, and it's the stuff of nightmares. And she gave me plenty as a ten year old seeing this on HBO one dark, stormy night.

09.  Lesleh Donaldson, CURTAINS, 1983


     Although Lesleh Donaldson didn't have a huge part in the infamous slasher CURTAINS, her chilling scene on ice skates being chased by a scythe-wielding murderer in a hag mask is a part of horror history. Lesleh is one of the top 80's Scream Queens, appearing in such fun flicks as FUNERAL HOME, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, and DEADLY EYES- easily earning her title as Scream Queen.

10. Amy Steel, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, 1981


     Tough and resourceful Ginny was wonderfully brought to life by Amy Steel in the first sequel to the mega-smash FRIDAY THE 13TH. In PART 2, Ginny battles Baghead Jason back to avenge the death of his mother Pamela, and Ginny simply doesn't take any of his shit. She kicked ass in this role, and won many fans for it in the process. (She's just as good in APRIL FOOL'S DAY, by the way...)

11.  Dee Wallace, CUJO, 1983


     Dee Wallace is an excellent dramatic actress who won the hearts of millions as the mom in E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL in 1982. However, she delivered a completely underrated yet amazing performance in the 1983 adaption of Stephen King's CUJO. Dee delivers one of the greatest performances I've ever seen in a horror film here, and why she wasn't nominated for an Oscar as Donna Trenton is simply beyond me. A fantastic job by a fantastic actress, and she's almost as good in Joe Dante's werewolf masterpiece THE HOWLING as well.

12.  Catherine Deneuve, THE HUNGER, 1983


    Glamourous Catherine Deneuve is excellent as the icy and immortal vampire Miriam in the 1983 vampire flick THE HUNGER with David Bowie. Miriam doesn't even speak that much in this film,yet truly makes an impact. Her erotic love scene with Susan Sarandon made waves as well. She's completely hypnotic when she's on screen in this stylish vampire tale.

13.  Barbara Hershey, THE ENTITY, 1983


     Barbara Hershey delivers one of the most brave and frightening acting performances in horror as the tormented Carla Moran, a single mother being attacked and raped by an invisible force in the harrowing film THE ENTITY. Based on actual events, it's a disturbing supernatural shocker with a lead role many actresses couldn't handle, but Barbara winningly brings Carla to life.

14.  Deborah Foreman, APRIL FOOL'S DAY, 1986

     
     Deborah Foreman's Muffy is the performance that keeps on giving. Being one of my all-time favorite slashers, I've watched this film a thousand and one times, and I get something different from her each time I view it. She has so many unique and unusual quirks and odd patterns in her speech, facial expressions, and even just her walking that make her performance the marvel that she is. Deborah is truly spell-binding on screen as Muffy St. John and has developed a strong cult following for her role in APRIL FOOL'S DAY.

15.  Jill Schoelen, THE STEPFATHER, 1987


     Terry O'Quinn and Jill Schoelen are what makes 1987's THE STEPFATHER so damn enjoyable- no offense to Shelley Hack! Jill would prove herself to be a bona-fide Scream Queen of the late 80's and early 90's, but it's her performance in THE STEPFATHER that I remember her the most in. Jill effortlessly portrays troubled teen Stephanie who knows something just isn't right with Mom's new husband.

16.  Susan Tyrell- BUTCHER, BAKER, NIGHTMARE MAKER aka NIGHT WARNING, 1982.


    Putting Susan Tyrell's deliriously demented performance as Aunt Cheryl in BUTCHER, BAKER, NIGHTMARE MAKER aka NIGHT WARNING on this list was a no-brainer. Words just can't do her performance or the film itself justice- one just needs to experience it all on their own. It's a doozy, kids.

17.  Karen Fields- SLEEPAWAY CAMP, 1983


     Any self-respecting horror fan of the 1980's can quote any of Judy's lines from the infamous summer camp shocker SLEEPAWAY CAMP. As resident bad girl of Camp Arawak, Judy viciously mocks, connives, and snubs pretty much everybody around her with a sort of glee that make her irresistible. Karen Fields became a part of pop culture with her wonderfully bitchy Judy and her performance is the gift that keeps on giving.

18.  Rutanya Alda, AMITYVILLE 2: THE POSSESSION


     Panned upon its release, 1982's AMITYVILLE 2: THE POSSESSION has now achieved a rather large cult following, much like leading actress Rutanya Alda has on her own. I've always loved the film, finding it every bit as good if not a bit more polished than the original. Rutanya delivers one of her strongest performances here, in my opinion. And if you don't have the original trilogy on blu-ray yet, shame on you.

19.  Clare Higgins- HELLRAISER, 1987


     Clare Higgins' Julia is ruthless, heartless, conniving,manipulating, violent, and cold- and does it all so well we love her for it. Her performance in HELLRAISER could have come across as flat or hokey, but Clare does it just right. She's often under-looked in this role and it's a cryin' shame.

20.  Nancy Allen- DRESSED TO KILL, 1980


     Nancy Allen's hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Liz Blake is delightful as a call girl who witnesses a brutal murder in an elevator. The police suspect her instead, and it's up to her to find the true identity of the mysterious killer wielding a straight razor. Nancy actually carries the film to its brutally suspenseful climax after lead star Angie Dickinson's character is killed off early on in the film.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

IT Trailer (2017)

     I had doubts at first, but I have to say I'm pretty fucking stoked about this film.



















Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS


     A young teenage girl is haunted by terrible dreams of Freddy Krueger, which leads her to a psychiatric ward chock full of troubled kids- all of whom are being haunted by the evil madman...
   

       A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS is almost universally known as one of the best and most-loved of the ELM STREET films- yet I've honestly never been a huge fan of this one, or any that followed, for that matter. I hadn't watched DREAM WARRIORS in ages and was recently in a mood for itso I dug out my copy the other day and gave it a whirl for old time's sakes. The film is fun... but it's just kinda lame to me now. The magic of the original is long gone, if you ask me.



     When the original A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET was released in '84, it truly did breath new life into the horror genre. I immediately loved it and it quickly became a Friday night staple alongside such time-honored slashers as HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH. I owned the original film on VHS twice, with numerous DVD versions throughout the years as well. I even enjoyed the strangely homoerotic sequel, with all its faults. Which brings us to part 3.


      I remember in high school when DREAM WARRIORS came out and people went absolutely nuts over it- but I was just sitting there all quietly underwhelmed, to be perfectly honest. I liked the film... but I wasn't blown away from it, like I was the original and even the sequel. This one left me feeling kinda blah. As a horror film, that is. (Now as a wonderfully wacky time capsule of 1987 with that extra-helping of late 80's cheese that you know exactly what I'm talking about- it excels. As a comedy, it works great- especially since the film makers decided to inexplicably turn Freddy Krueger into a wise-cracking comedian tossing out one-liners and jokes for days.) I just never found it remotely scary, that's all. Silly, yes. Scary, no.



     By all accounts, I should love DREAM WARRIORS, and I occasionally find myself in the mood to watch it... so I do, and find myself cringing way too much. Let's be real here- many horror films from the latter half of the 80's haven't aged well when viewed today, and DREAM WARRIORS is a perfect example of this. It's downright hokey at times, and some of the effects and scenes come across as rather silly. For whatever reason, horror films from the first part of the decade have a certain dark, grainy charm that holds up today, but was lost in the bright lights and garish color schemes that permeated so many of the scary movies from say, 1986 and on.


     Now there's some great touches in DREAM WARRIORS. For one, Nancy Langenkamp makes a welcome return as Nancy and is every bit as likable as she was in the original. She's now a psychiatrist who specializes in dreams,and immediately takes Kirsten under her wing to battle the return of Freddy Krueger. 80's cult actor Craig Wasson plays Dr. Neil Goldman at the psychiatric ward and devours any scenery in a ten foot radius as always. There's some fun cameos this time around, such as Zsa Zsa Gabor and Dick Cavett, but at the end of the day they're unnecessary and distracting. They also let you know that Freddy Krueger was very much a huge mainstream icon by the time this film was released- whereas the very first ELM STREET felt much more like a low-budget, independent film. Because it was, and that somehow made it much scarier.


     One cannot deny that Chuck Russell does a pretty good job directing the shenanigans on Elm Street this time around, and the dream sequences were huge hits with audiences in 1987. I just didn't love this one, popular opinion be damned. Go read the comments on this film on any given site and you'll see breathless reviews raving at how terrifying and awesome and close to the original the third installment is, and I disagree with all of that. Sure it's a well-made film and I'm not trying to purposely hate on it- I don't hate the film at all. I just don't find it the least bit frightening and the overall tone of the film is nothing like the original- to me, FREDDY'S REVENGE was far more like the original than part 3, in terms of overall atmosphere. The original film and the sequel still treated Freddy as truly evil with no sense of humor whatsoever- and kept him mostly in the dark to keep him mysterious. Not in this one. Freddy is front and center with a newfound treasure trove of sarcastic one-liners that's honestly just irritating and saps the film of any real impact. This one is just too corny and many of the special effects are just too over-the-top at times for it to be taken fully seriously. But to each his own I suppose.


     To me, DREAM WARRIORS is more of a camp classic than an outright horror film, with far more humor to be found in it than horror. And I think making Freddy a sassy slasher with quippy zingers only adds to the lightened mood and in turn takes it away from the darker tones and mood of the first two films. Which is a bummer to me. Here, he's just not scary anymore. Fun, to be sure... but this was when I started losing interest in the ELM STREET films. Around '87 and '88 I was much more interested in seeing FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 7: A NEW BLOOD and HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS. To me, the magic was over. 3 can be lots of fun to go back and laugh at, hell even 2 can be a hoot and a half at times- especially with the right crowd and party favors. The first film was always the only truly scary one of the franchise anyways, and you all know it.

 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Jason on the Lam


    Okay, so the change in Jason's look in each FRIDAY THE 13TH film has always bothered me, particularly the transition from PART 2 to PART 3. The second sequel is supposed to take place immediately after 2 ends, as Ginny is wheeled away in an ambulance in the very last scene of that first sequel. I recently watched PART 2 again on blu-ray, and I noticed something I'd never noticed before. Right before the opening credits of PART 3, we see Jason still lying on the floor of his lair, pulling out the machete Ginny struck him with. Jason is still dressed in the plaid shirt and overalls he sported in PART 2, right?


     But then after the funky opening credits, we see Jason immediately creeping the general store. But what I had never realized watching the film a thousand times before on dreary VHS was that Jason is standing by the clothesline behind the general store right after the opening credits of 3 still in his outfit from PART 2- except he's now bald again.



      I had always assumed he was already wearing the green jacket and khaki pants, but he was obviously at the general store to get a change of clothes, as we see him standing at the clothes line. Was Jason eluding the authorities by changing clothes? Is that why he shaved his head? Would Jason even have the mental capacity to know to run from the law? This all sort of blew my mind as it was so obvious to me suddenly. I've literally watched this movie a million and one times and never did I once think of this.


     Now remember in PART 2, Ginny had never actually seen Jason until the very end when she and Paul pull the bag back to see his face. WE the audience never see his face, until he jumps through the window and grabs Ginny back at the camp. When we finally do see Jason, he's sporting a rather shocking head of long, red hair. Now when Jason drowns as a child in the original, we see him bald. So is the hairy Jason who bursts through that window just a figment of Ginny's imagination? He would have to be, as we plainly see Jason at the beginning of PART 3 still back in his lair in the woods pulling the machete out of him. Or is it though?


     The ending of the first two FRIDAY THE 13TH sequels both have a dreamlike, ambiguous feel to them, much like the ending of the original. Did Jason really jump out of the lake at the end of the first movie and drag Alice down into Camp Crystal Lake, or was it all just a dream? Did Jason really crash through that window and grab Ginny at the end of PART 2? Where is Paul when they whisk Ginny away- did he become a victim of Jason? We see Paul leave Jason's shack with Ginny, but Ginny is deliriously asking "Where's Paul?" on the stretcher, so it's all somewhat confusing. Was Paul killed in Jason's shack or back at the cabin?  We may never know, kids.


Monday, January 9, 2017

THE NESTING


    Remember back in the 1980's when you'd go into your local video store,  looking for that perfect horror movie to rent on a Friday night?  I sure do, and there was always a particular VHS that stood out, taunting me with its lurid and catchy cover art. That film was THE NESTING, and for some reason I never rented it, or even caught it on HBO. I have no idea why I never saw this film. Well kids, I finally broke down and watched it recently- and you know what?  I actually loved it. Largely ignored and dismissed upon its initial release in 1981 due to the slasher craze going on at the time, THE NESTING is actually a solid and very entertaining ghost story that offers up a plucky-yet-unstable heroine, a kinky back story, and some stylish directing.


     THE NESTING  tells the tale of big city thriller novelist Lauren Cochran (Robin Groves) who suffers from anxiety attacks and is diagnosed with agoraphobia. Lauren decides a country retreat to finish working on her new novel is just what the doctor ordered, and begins house hunting. She mysteriously finds herself drawn to a house identical to the one she's currently writing about in her new novel "The Nesting", a strange, octagonal mansion that used to be a brothel and was the site of a horrible bloodbath years ago. How does plucky author Lauren Cochran know this?  Well see, she immediately begins having dreams and visions of the house- and being a horror movie, everyone around her starts dying mysterious and horrible deaths, of course. What does the house want with her? Will she escape the evil clutches of the house, or become a permanent and ghostly fixture there?


     While watching THE NESTING, several other films immediately sprung to mind, as it's basically a mish-mash of THE SENTINEL, THE CHANGELING,and THE HAUNTING OF JULIA. And that's what makes it so much fun to watch.  The film has acquired a rather negative reputation over the years, and I'm gonna chalk most of that up to the downright dreadful VHS transfer we were all stuck with in the 80's and 90's- dark, muddy, cropped, and distorted, very much like the original VHS transfers of  HUMOUNGOUS, THE FINAL TERROR and CURTAINS where you truly couldn't tell what was going on in half the movie. THE NESTING looks sensational on blu-ray, kids.


    It's somewhat bumpy in parts,but overall it's a solid little shocker from 1981, and surprisingly holds up rather well today. I really enjoyed the kinetic and somewhat-unhinged musical score, and genre favorites John Carradine and Gloria Grahame pop up in memorable cameos.  Robin Groves is a very likeable heroine, the house itself is genuinely creepy, and the whole thing has a deliciously lurid context to it, as the film was directed by adult filmmaker Armand Weston.  Contrived and familiar? Sure. But still a lot of fun to watch.


   THE NESTING was part of that whole supernatural shocker craze permeating the late 70's and early 80's, especially after the success of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR in 1979.  I'm glad I finally gave in and watched it, and really enjoyed this one for what it was, and although I wouldn't go as far to say I discovered a lost classic here, I've seen far worse and I'll definitely be adding this blu-ray to my collection. Indeed.


THIS IS MY SHRINE TO ALL THINGS SCARY- MOVIES, BOOKS, MADE FOR TV, SOUNDTRACKS- I LOVE IT ALL.
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