Total Pageviews

Sunday, October 30, 2011

SCARY SOUNDS- Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch

     Once again, John Carpenter teamed up with Alan Howarth and created yet another awesome and eerie score for the vastly underrated "Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch".  It irritates the hell out of me that so many can't seem to let themselves enjoy all "Halloween 3" has to offer, and the same certainly goes for the score.  It's a perfect example of 80s-synth horror and how it could be so effective when done right.  Once again, like the previous two, there is no symphonic score whatsoever.  It's a great piece, and probably besides the first two, definitely one of the most interesting of the "Halloween" scores.  Regardless of how you feel about the film, the score evokes a great October/Halloween mood.  This is a damn good soundtrack to a very underrated movie.  Check it out.  It's well worth a purchase.

The Twilight Zone- Night Call

     You just cannot beat "The Twilight Zone" for sheer creepiness.  As a whole, many episodes were uneven at best- but when "The Twilight Zone" was on target, oh boy, was it.  Case in point- "Night Call".  "Night Call" is the story of invalid Elva Keene, who's crippled and lonely and miserable- until suddenly and mysteriously she starts getting strange phone calls late at night. There's nothing on the line but sounds of an older man groaning, which greatly disturbs her after the second and third calls.  Nobody seems to believe her, and soon she and the viewer start to question her sanity. Or is it all real?  It's based on the sensational story by the legendary Richard Matheson- the man responsible for such writing such gems as "Trilogy Of Terror", "Die! Die! My Darling!", "Duel", "Kolchak: The Night Stalker", "The Devil Rides Out", "The Incredible Shrinking Man", "The Legend Of Hell House", and "Stir Of Echoes", just to name a few.  I know, right? 

     On top of all that, it's directed by legendary horror director Jacques Tournier, who makes this story rich with possibilities and drenches it in extraordinarily unnerving atmosphere.  This episode packs a punch of gutteral terror.  It's disorienting and scary to be awoken in the middle of the night by a phone call anyway, because it's usually bad news.  But to hear nothing but silence, then a low, unearthly moaning coming from the other line, time after time... is terrifying.  

     It's  a masterpiece of suspenseful storytelling, and one of the best "Twilight Zone" episodes of all time. "Night Call" is simple and terrifying.  As viewers, we feel old Elva's fear- and feel every bit as alone as frightened as she does.  Each ring of the phone sends chills down your spine as she becomes more and more helpless to the situation.  It's fantastic.  This was extremely scary stuff back as a child, and it's just as spooky today.  The ending is classic "Twilight Zone", and still packs a wallop.  It's sad that there hasn't been anything this smart on tv since "The Twilight Zone".  I doubt there ever will be.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Paranormal Activity 3

     As you may know by now, I'm a huge fan of the "Paranormal Activity" movies.  I think they are brilliant, and I love it that they are made so cheap, yet make so much money.  These movies are, at least to me anyway, far more entertaining than your usual, big-budget horror movie.  So as everybody knows by now, the third installment of the hugely successful "Paranormal" franchise is upon us, just in time for our Halloween viewing.  Last night, we attended a 7:20 screening, and like the last one, it was pretty much packed.  The crowd was super psyched, and the movie delivered 100% on what it was supposed to do.  Scare the living shit out of every damn person in the place.

         This time we venture even further back into the mysterious past of sisters Katie and Kristi.  Set in 1988, this installment tells of how the young girls meet Toby, an entity living in their California home.  It opens with a scene of Katie and Kristi as adult sisters from the sequel, and Katie is dropping some boxes off at Kristie's new home.  The boxes contain a lot of Grandma's stuff, including lots of VHS tapes.  We then get to dive right into the tapes, which is footage of the girls' parents, trying to figure out the mysterious things happening in their home back in the 80s.  The mother of young Katie and Kristi, Julie, has a new man, Dennis, who just happens to specialize in filming weddings and video equipment.  Disturbed by the strange disturbances, and with Kristi suddenly talking to "Toby" and insisting he's real, Dennis decides to have three cameras going non-stop at night, determined to catch some evidence of what he thinks is going on in the house.

     This movie rocked, and most definitely lived up to my expectations.  I honestly think they keep getting better, and it's usually the other way around.  This one was a perfect movie to watch this time of the year.  It's got clever and scary homages to "Halloween" and "Poltergeist" sprinkled thoughout, and the brilliant introduction of witchcraft to the series was most definitely an inspired touch.  This was supremely scary stuff.  I know these movies are usually classified as one of those films that simply scaring you by jumping out and shrieking BOO! loudly.  And to be fair, the entire audience jumped quite a few times last night.  But what some don't understand about the "Paranormal" movies is that they slowly and surely builds up the tension and suspense, and then stretches them out almost to the point of being unbearable.  So those loud "jumps" are almost necessary, because they're simply a relief from the tension.  You sit on the edge of your seat, jump, scream, and laugh.  And then suddenly the tension sets in again and you repeat the process.  Yes, these movies are cheaply done, but they don't rely on cheap scares, if you know what I mean.  I'm not exaggerating here.  This movie was definitely scary.  And those last ten minutes were extremely frightening.  I still get chills thinking about it- when you see it, you'll know what I mean.

     I think these films work simply because every single one of us at some time or another have been lying  in our beds shivering and terrified- afraid of the dark, afraid of what's outside our window, in our closet or under our beds.  We've all been spooked by noises in the night, or the feeling of being watched.  We can all relate to the "Paranormal" movies, as simple as they are.  We relate to them on a purely subconscious level.  They take us back to childhood.  That's what I love about them.  They're like the modern day "Halloween" or "Friday the 13th"- tales to be told around a campfire under the stars, or in a tent in the backyard with a flashlight held up under our faces.  It doesn't matter that they are simple or cheaply made.  They simply exist to scare, and do so beautifully.

     "Paranormal Activity 3" has already opened to strong box-office numbers, and of course, they left it open for another sequel.  Normally, I would be groaning at the discovery of a seemingly endless string of anemic sequels that tarnish the good name of the original. "Halloween" again, anyone?  But like I said, these movies are different, as they actually keep getting better instead of worse, and more inventive each time as well.  And watching the third last night only made me want to go back and watch the first two all over again.  It's a love/hate kind of movie, a lot like "The Blair Witch Project", which we can either thank or curse for these kinds of movies now. Although my audience last night loved every damn minute of this film.  In fact, we were all a group as one, completely immersed in the experience, and laughing and giggling at each other for being so freaked out.  It was awesome!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave

     I find it was just as true back then as it is today- you just can't keep a good monster down.  Christopher Lee was a bona fide star by this point in time, and his third outing as Count Dracula came in 1968's "Dracula Has Risen From the Grave".  Fans either love or hate this installment, as both director Terence Fisher and Peter Cushing did not return for this entry.  No worries though- Christopher Lee as Dracula is as riveting as ever.  The plot really doesn't matter at this point, we don't watch Dracula or Frankenstein movies for new plotlines- we watch them because we love the original story. But here's the jist anyway.  A monsignor is trying to rid the castle of evil after the mysterious death of a local village girl, found hanging inside the bell of the local church.  In a very dramatic scene, the monsignor and the priest of the church where the young girl was found are attempting an exorcism on Dracula's castle.  There's a monstrous thunderstorm going on, and the priest falls on some rocks.  In a bit of a stretch, some of his blood just happens to trickle down to the frozen ice below, where if you remember, Dracula was last seen frozen under the ice in the climax of "Dracula, Prince of Darkness".  The blood of the priest awakens Dracula from his frozen slumber, and he rises again from the un-dead to wreak more havoc on the village still living in fear of his evil doings.

     Lee has some especially eerie scenes in this installment, and I found myself at this point marvelling at his take on Dracula- I think in his own way (and no disrespect to Bela Lugosi here at all...) he is every bit as good as Lugosi in the role.  "Dracula Has Risen From the Grave" is quintessential Hammer, and even brings an interesting subplot of atheism into the mix.  There are some genuinely well-done scenes of creepiness and horror, one being the pursuit and stalking of the barmaid through those eerie, sun-dappled forests.  It's quite effective.  Many scenes look as if they were filmed through some sort of color filter, and the effect works.  The film also boasts a spectacular climax as Count Dracula is impaled on a cross by the sexy Barry Andrews, crying tears of blood as he dies.  I had a rollicking good time with this Hammer film.  Despite the lack of director Terence Fisher or Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, "Dracula Has Risen From the Grave" is still mondo fun.  If there is one shining example of a Hammer film in all it's Gothic glory, then "Dracula Has Risen From the Grave" just might be the one.  Not because it's a great film, mind you. It's not as terrible as some make it out to be, but it's no masterpiece either.  But despite all the film's shortcoming, it offers some spectacular set pieces and scenes- it somehow manages to gleefully squeeze nearly all of the classic Hammer and horror cliches into one dizzying and satisfying flick.

      If you can leave your thinking cap off, and just lose yourself in the wonderfully weird world of Hammer horror, I promise you will have a great time.  Director Freddie Francis creates a great and morbid atmosphere here, and the film offers up some of the greatest Gothic horror sets I've ever seen in any Dracula film.  Seriously.  Peter Cushing is sorely missed here, and Lee could have been given more screen time (his fee was huge at this point...), but it's impossible not to enjoy this entry.  Christopher Lee is at his menacing best here- those eyes are still haunting, even today. I could watch these all day long.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

SCARY SOUNDS- Halloween 2

     "Halloween 2" is one of my all-time favorite, yet underrated slashers- and I find the score just as underrated as the film itself.  Of course everybody is familiar with John Carpenter's infamous "Halloween" score.  This time around, for "Halloween 2", Carpenter and Alan Howarth truly created, in my opinion, the most original and moody score of all the "Halloween" films.  I'm not saying it's better or worse than the original score- I'm saying that it's different and unique and rewarding in its own right.  I honestly find Carpenter's 1978 score to be slightly repetitive- it kind of just re-cycles the same pieces of music over and over again.  It's a classic score- don't get me wrong here.  But "Halloween 2" offers up much more original pieces of music, and as far as atmosphere goes, I find the second score offering much more.  Abandoning the piano here for much more heavy synth and gothic organ, it's a bit off-putting at first, but I promise you- in the dark, "Halloween 2" comes across as much more polished and darker than the previous score.

     Obviously, Carpenter and friends had more money this time around, and it shows.  They didn't try to change the "Halloween" theme- no real modifications were made to the iconic theme here.  It's all just played in different synthesizer tones, and the use of the organ here works great in creating a wonderfuly dark sense of doom and dread.  And just about every piece of music used in the film shows up on the soundtrack, which is kind of rare for film scores.  I find "Halloween 2" to be a superb horror score- it truly creates a strong and chilling atmosphere.  I honestly find this to be the best interpretation of Carpenter's "Halloween" theme, and the score is a must for any serious fan of horror scores.  It's wonderfully spooky and rich, and sounds superb, especially loud.  You cannot go wrong with this soundtrack- I promise you, play this on Halloween night, and people will love it.  I constantly get asked what cd I'm playing, and people are always surprised when I tell them it's "Halloween 2".  Even if you don't even like the "Halloween" films, you cannot go wrong with this cd! Yes, I love it that much!  I do recommend the 30th Anniversary Edition of "Halloween 2"- packed full of shocks and scares!  Here are just some of the chilling selections from "Halloween 2", which just might be the best horror score of all time...  Turn out the lights and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Twilight Zone- Living Doll

      For some downright weird and chilling terror, sometimes you just cannot beat "The Twilight Zone".  I distinctly remember many Friday nights staying up late and getting the crap scared right out of me by an old "Twilight Zone" episode.  I've been going back and re-discovering some old episodes- and I must say, wow.  This was a great and inventive show that many times ventured into outright horror, and I'm going to start highlighting some of the scariest and most chilling episodes ever filmed.  I think I'll start with one of the best and most well-known.

     "Living Doll" tells the story of little Christie, who desperately wants the new "TalkyTina" doll.  Her mother, Annabelle, buys it for her, much to the displeasure of her ogre of a husband, Erich- played by Kojak himself, Telly Savales.  Apparently, he's a total douchebag, and the doll, who normally says "My name is Talky Tina, and I love you very much!", instead tells Telly "My name is Talky Tina and I don't think I like you".  The doll actually seems to be telling Erich that she senses that he doesn't like her, so in turn she doesn't like him.  Erich, in a fit of rage, simply thinks that because he's the new stepfather, mother and daughter are playing a trick on him.  He soon comes to realize though that mother and daughter are not involved- and that's there's something supernatural going on here.

     "Living Doll" actually pre-dates "Trilogy Of Terror" and "Child's Play"( both of which obviously were inspired by this tv classic...)-long before Chucky became a household name in the late 80s, there was Talky Tina.  Many people have a deep, dark fear of dolls, and this episode plays off those fears quite well.  It's a thoroughly entertaining and chilling little exercise in imagination and fear, and one of the best "Twilight Zone" episodes ever. Guaranteed to give you a grand case of the creeps, this is one of the best killer doll stories ever done, besides "Trilogy Of Terror".  I'll take Tina over Chucky anyday- I personally find "Child's Play" one of the cheesiest and most stupid horror films of all time.  This is done much better, I think.  Besides, the great Bernard Herrmann creates a sinister score for the episode, and his presence is always a plus.  The doll used to play Talky Tina is actually Brikette, made by the Vogue Doll Company.  Brikette doesn't actually talk, but the doll was inspired by Chatty Cathy, which was made by Mattel.  June Foray supplied the voice for both Tina and Cathy, and you may recognize the voice, as it's the same one for Granny and almost all of the female characters on "Looney Tunes" and "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show".  Talky Tina made such an impact on pop culture, you can now buy an exact replica of Tina, done in a talking, resin bobble head.  Great, spooky stuff!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Many Faces of Michael Myers

     Maybe it's me, but I just don't find Michael Myers in any of the latter HALLOWEEN sequels to be frightening, and it's definitely the mask that ruins it all. Why? Because they obviously don't use the same one, kittens.Does nobody else notice this? It was the mask that made the original so creepy in the first place. Just finding some cheap, white mask that somewhat resembles the original just doesn't cut it for me. I don't care what anybody says- it's just not the same.  The original, Shatner mask is so much more frightening.  So I've rounded up shots from each HALLOWEEN film to compare. What do you think?

     The mask that launched a million nightmares... John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN. Simple. Iconic, Terrifying.

 Michael still looked like Michael in HALLOWEEN 2, and was still pretty damn scary.  

     Okay, in HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS, this is where they lost me. What is this? This looks like a $5 knockoff you get at Wal-Mart. And it kinda resembles the lead singer from Sugar Ray. No.

     So I really hate this next one.  It looks like Tim Allen for crying out loud.  And HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS is just a terrible movie period.

Okay, in HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS, it's closer to the original Shatner mask, but still not quite right.  But even if they had used the original mask, this movie would still suck donkey balls.

Again, close to the original, but not quite...HALLOWEEN: H20...

HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION... lol enough said...

           I'm not even commenting on these...  Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN.

Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN 2.

So there you have it.  I can honestly only take the first two seriously. After that, the films are far too corny to take seriously, and the mask only makes them all the more humorous. Just me though.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

SCARY SOUNDS- Friday The 13th

     I find it amazing that in this day and age, it's still extremely difficult to find a good copy of the classic "Friday The 13th" score on cd.  It's available on LP, and you can find bootleg versions here and there, but no official, quality release yet- at least, not to my knowledge. (I do have bootleg scores of Parts 1,2, and 3...) You can purchase the scores for all the latter films (Part 5 and up) and the dreadful remake, but not the original four films...  WTF!  Harry Manfredini's iconic score rivals that of "Halloween" as some of the scariest and most recognizable horror music ever, and deserves a proper cd release yesterday already!

Dracula, Prince Of Darkness

     Despite the huge success of the first Hammer Dracula film in 1958, it took an astonishing 8 years to convince Christopher Lee to reprise his role as the evil Count Dracula.  Fortunately for us, he did, and the 1966 Hammer classic "Dracula: Prince of Darkness", is an uneven, but nonetheless awesome Hammer film, and one of the spookiest. Taking place ten years after "Horror Of Dracula", this second installment finds Count Dracula dead and gone, and two proper British couples vacationing in the Carpathian mountains. As they find themselves abandoned by their coach, a mysterious buggy arrives with no driver, and promptly whisks them away to Castle Dracula.  Upon arriving, they chillingly find a table set for four, as if they were somehow expected.  They also find that the castle is being cared for by Dracula's creepy manservant, Klove.  He proceeds to tell the bewildered group that Dracula's wish was for the castle to remain open to visitors.  They decide to stay overnight, and that's where the story takes a rather horrific turn. Later that night, one of the men are slaughtered by Klove, and his blood is mixed with the ashes of Dracula, which resurrects him.  It's a shocking scene.

     Before we know it, Dracula is back and thirsty for blood, and soon the three remaining vacationers find themselves fighting for their lives from the recently resurrected Count.  There is something undeniably spooky about Christopher Lee as Dracula- I can't quite put my finger on what it is... but it's something for sure.  Anyway, you cannot take your eyes off him whenever he's onscreen, which I'll be honest- as much as I love this movie, Dracula could have been featured a bit more prominently in the film.  But hey, at least he's in this one, right?  Lee never utters a single word in this sequel, but he doesn't need to.  He says it all with his unnerving, bloodshot stare. Rumor has it that Lee was not happy about the dialogue written for him, so he simply refused to speak it. Whether or not it's true, it does not affect the film at all. The standard Hammer use of lavish colors and foreboding grays abound- really, the visuals are quite impressive here.

      "Dracula: Prince of Darkness" has an unsettling, evil atmosphere about it- it really is in my opinion quite a remarkable Hammer film.  If I had to come up with complaints about this installment, it's that we could have used more of Dracula himself, like I said.  We are treated to Klove, the servant, more than Dracula- and although Klove comes across as quite menacing in his own right, give us more Lee already! And sadly, Peter Cushing is nowhere to be found in this sequel, either.  The script isn't the greatest, but Terence Howard delivers such a visually rich production that it doesn't really matter. It's still a classic and fan favorite, and I'm very partial to this one.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Race With The Devil

     I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  There are plenty of scary movies that could or should be remade, instead of such beloved classics as PSYCHO, HALLOWEEN, and FRIDAY THE 13TH.  A perfect example of a movie that if done right could be downright terrifying, is the schlocky but effective 1975 thriller RACE WITH THE DEVIL.  Full of car chases and devil worshippers, it stars Peter Fonda and Warren Oates as buddies out on a camping trip in an RV with the wives, (Lara Parker and Hot Lips herself, Loretta Swit).  After their first day of driving, they find a deserted spot in the Texas countryside to pull over for the night. One of the wives and her little dog both have a funny feeling about their surroundings.  Apparently, they were right, because as the men take a little walk, they just happen to witness a Satanic ritual in progress.  Of course, they get the hell out of dodge, and from there on out, it truly becomes a race with the devil as the satanic cult follows and terrorizes the foursome over endless miles of hot, dusty Texas highways.

     RACE WITH THE DEVIL is a surprisingly solid and effective little drive-in chiller.  It's hardly a classic, but there are still some overall moments of unease and tension, and for a grindhouse b-movie, it has a wonderfully creepy sense of paranoia and conspiracy running throughout.

     RACE WITH THE DEVIL is pure 70s gold.  The actors are hell-bent on giving it all they've got, and the action never stops once it gets going.  The direction is solid and tight, and it's an awesome hybrid of 70s road movie and supernatural shocker.  RWTD is an obvious influence on such titles as THE HILLS HAVE EYES, FROM DUSK TIL DAWN, and THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, and both Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino have expressed their admiration for this movie.  As low budget films go, it's actually aged pretty well over the years.  It's a perfect late night movie for October.  I personally enjoyed every minute of RWTD, and I highly recommend it.  This is a forgotten gem full of foreboding atmosphere and a chilling climax.

I in no way claim ownership of any image or video used on this blog.