Posts Tagged ‘Halloween’

Ezra’s Spooktober 2014

Posted 29 Oct 2014 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Candyman is one of the all-time great horror films, partly because of its unique atmosphere. If I had to pick a favorite month, it would most likely be October. The weather is perfect and I have all the excuse I need to watch practically nothing but horror movies for a month. This year I watched or revisited 25 films of varying quality, and I’m passing along the recommendations to you. I’ve broken them down into three basic categories, with a fourth “Other” category for those that don’t fit any of the big three. The Undead includes zombies, vampires, Frankensteins, and of course the immortal curse of the Candyman; Mutants & Monsters covers genetic freaks, giant animals and other Things That Should Not Be; Werewolves is pretty self-explanatory. All films are ranked from highest recommendation to lowest, ***** being the highest rating and * being the lowest. Happy viewing!  Read More

10 Sequels That Are (Arguably) Better Than The Original

Posted 27 Nov 2013 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Bride of Frankenstein is not only better than the original Frankenstein, but also the best of all Universal monster movies.We’re used to movie franchises being victim to diminishing returns, with the sequels to classic films generally lackluster at best (Ghostbusters II, Halloween II), and at worst, utter travesties that threaten to tarnish the legacy of the original (the Matrix sequels, The Godfather: Part III). On rare occasions, though, the second film in a trilogy or franchise (which I consider to be any series with more than three movies) actually surpasses the original in some way. Here are ten sequels that are, in some circles at least, considered better than the films that spawned them, and my thoughts on each.

10 Sequels That Are (Arguably) Better Than The Original1. THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) – this is the one that got me thinking about the topic in the first place, and it’s also the oldest of the films discussed herein. James Whale’s follow-up to his 1931 hit, Frankenstein, ties up the loose end of Victor Frankenstein (Colin Clive) promising his monster (Boris Karloff) a bride to quell his loneliness. It also features most of the iconic images and dialogue associated with Universal Studios’ most famous monster, including Frank learning to smoke in the hut of the blind man he befriends (which was cemented in the public consciousness by Mel Brooks’ spoof of it in 1974’s Young Frankenstein). Bride’s expert blend of humor and pathos, as well as truly chilling moments such as Frank’s hollow, soulless intonation of the classic line, “I love dead,” make it not only better than the original Frankenstein, but also the best of all Universal monster movies. Read More

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

Posted 31 Oct 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, USA / Germany, 2009

Directed by Werner Herzog

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, as the title suggests, is an extremely odd film. Completing a triptych of unconventional horror films by directors not known for making this type of film, I have decided to make Werner Herzog’s My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done the subject of my final entry in my self-imposed Halloween Movie Month experiment. It’s an odd choice on which to go out, but that is fitting, as My Son is an extremely odd film, even for Herzog. To be honest, it’s kind of surprising that it’s taken me this long to see and write about the film, since it is the result of a dream collaboration between to of the weirdest filmmakers alive: co-writer/director Herzog and producer David Lynch. It is definitely not a horror movie in any traditional sense, though Herzog describes it on his official website as “a horror film without the blood, chainsaws and gore, but with a strange, anonymous fear creeping up in you.” Personally, I didn’t find it particularly frightening at all, but it is a rather fascinating portrait of increasing madness centered around a typically intense performance by the wild-eyed and always captivating Michael Shannon. Read More

Monkey Shines

Posted 17 Oct 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Monkey Shines, USA, 1988

Written and Directed by George A. Romero

Based on the Novel Monkey Shines by Michael Stewart

Monkey Shines is quality entertainment from director George A. Romero. Much like famous rappers, great horror directors often do their best (or at least most well-received) work right out of the gate, only to spend decades laboring over increasingly diminished returns. Often this critical and/or commercial appraisal is unfair, but it is arguably true that, for example, Nas never again put out an album as good as his debut, Illmatic, or that John Carpenter has never equaled or exceeded his early work of the 1970s and ’80s, though his late-period Masters of Horror film, Cigarette Burns (2005), showed the kind of genius not seen in his films for about a decade up to that point. Tobe Hooper is another filmmaker who never quite lived up to the promise of his brilliant breakthrough feature, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), despite doing some pretty quality follow-up work such as Salem’s Lot (1979) and Poltergeist (1982), though of course producer Steven Spielberg is commonly recognized as the real creative force behind the latter.

George A. Romero is generally considered to be one of these unlucky filmmakers as well, and while it is true that he never topped his chilling debut feature, Night of the Living Dead (1968), there is a worthwhile body of work to examine in later decades, and his 1988 film Monkey Shines is among his best work, along with films like Martin (1976), Creepshow (1982) and, of course, the original Dead trilogy (I haven’t seen his latest, 2009’s Survival of the Dead, but based on the previous two – 2005’s Land of the Dead and 2007’s Diary of the Dead – I feel relatively comfortable relegating the new Dead trilogy to the same scorn-pile as the new Star Wars trilogy). Read More

John Carpenter’s The Thing

Posted 07 Oct 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

John Carpenter’s The Thing, USA, 1982

Directed by John Carpenter

John Carpenter's The Thing is perhaps the scariest film of the 1980s. Continuing with my Month Of Halloween Movies (MOHM? Think of it more as a modified yoga chant and less as me crying out for my Mommy), it’s time now to revisit one of my perennial favorites, one that first traumatized me as an impressionable seven-or-eight-year-old when I saw it on a dubbed VHS tape, which is probably the best way to be introduced to any horror film from the 1970s or ’80s. John Carpenter’s vastly different, and I would argue superior, updating of the Howard Hawks produced, Christian Nyby directed classic The Thing from Another World (1951) is undoubtedly one of the nastiest, darkest horror films ever to make it to mainstream movie screens, a spiritual descendant of Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) and a predecessor of David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986). Don’t get me wrong – the original is absolutely one of the very best of the 1950s UFO-paranoia movies, with only Robert Wise’s The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) really equaling or exceeding it. It’s just that Carpenter’s relentlessly dark vision and the supremely grotesque special effects created by Rob Bottin easily trump even the best of the ’50s for sheer terror and awesomeness. Also, Kurt Russell’s iconic turn as the anti-hero of the story, R.J. MacReady, is one of the quintessential performances of ’80s machismo. Let’s look at the three main things that make this movie so great, beginning with Russell. Read More

Deep Blue Sea – A Gruesome Death Delivery System

Posted 03 Oct 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Deep Blue Sea, USA / Australia, 1999

Directed by Renny Harlin

Deep Blue Sea is little more than a delivery system for gruesome death scenes, but at that it succeeds tremendously. I traditionally spend the entire month of October watching as many “scary movies” as possible, whether they be truly frightening psychological thrillers, big campy monster movies or anything with a flair for the occult. You know, Halloween-type movies. With that tradition firmly in place this year (since, unlike this time last year, I have what can be called a permanent address), I’ve decided to devote this month to actually writing about some of these films, whether new discoveries or old favorites I’ve decided to revisit, perhaps for the sake of finally writing about them. I will not, of course, cover every single movie I watch, but rest assured that for the rest of this month, you will see no reviews of stark, sober dramas or films with undeniably redeeming social value. It’s all chills, thrills, blood, guts and campy dark humor from here on out. My first entry is really more of an action movie, truth be told, but it does feature giant, super-intelligent sharks eating people, so I think it fits right in.

This is what could be called a guilty pleasure movie, from a director who knows how to make them. While he is not consistently as much fun as my personal favorite guilty pleasure director, Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Patriot, 2012), who seems to be intent on destroying the world in nearly every film he makes, Harlin has managed to crank out at least a few enjoyable entertainments, such as Cliffhanger (1993) and The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996). His 1999 film Deep Blue Sea, like the slasher movies it emulates by way of films like Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) and John McTiernan’s Predator (1987), is less a compelling narrative than it is a sort of delivery system for gruesome death scenes. And that’s fine; when a film realizes its goal, however high or low that goal may be, it succeeds. It is in that spirit, then, that I present my loose, irreverent, spoiler-heavy review, in which we shall look at this film in the way it seems to demand: by examining its death scenes. Read More

The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

Posted 02 Aug 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Scott Martin

The Human Centipede (First Sequence), Netherlands, 2009  The Human Centipede tells the story of a German doctor who kidnaps three tourists and joins them surgically, mouth to anus, forming a "human centipede".

Directed by Tom Six

You know that series of movies that Lionsgate puts out, the “8 Films to Die For,” or its off-shoot “After Dark Films” series? This midnight movie wannabe sits comfortably in that zone of quality, and having seen a large handful of those films, I genuinely enjoyed two. I wish I had genuinely enjoyed this, but the lack of joy (even for his own craft) that director Tom Six (apparently that’s his actual name) injects into this experiment makes it absolutely unwatchable. I’ve no qualms with the darker side of independent horror; in fact, I consider it some of the best cinema around. It’s the creation of neo-grindhouse art that I so greatly appreciate, but at least that has some joy in it. It isn’t made solely to piss on its audience, nor is it made to make a point. Six, who seems to be channeling pre-Rampage Uwe Boll, takes what could have been a modern grindhouse masterpiece and turns it into a shock-theater piece of the worst kind: banal.

Six has stated that he loves making movies that push boundaries and that pay no mind to political correctness, so, disregarding the film’s World War II allegory, we’ll take him at his word. Here, he has crafted a film so vile, and yet so uninteresting, that he seems to not only be disregarding political correctness, but also his own mission statement to push boundaries and do something original that hasn’t been done before. The Human Centipede (First Sequence) can be down to this: two teens get tortured by a crazy man. Even more boiled down, it’s Saw (2004), but with a pinch of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie (1984, with a remake on the horizon in 2012). Read More