Posts Tagged ‘John Carpenter’

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

Gorgeous Camp, Campy Gore – Three Films By Dario Argento

Posted 14 Oct 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Phantom of the Opera is a film Dario Argento was born to make. The Phantom of the Opera, Italy, 1998

Jenifer, USA, 2005

Pelts, Canada / USA, 2006

Directed by Dario Argento

Italian filmmaker Dario Argento is widely known among horror fans as a distinctive, sadistic auteur, a director who has found beauty in terror and mutilation with films such as Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980) and Opera (1987). It is often forgotten that he also helped write one of the greatest Westerns of all time, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), but that makes sense, as he has devoted his career as a director to the creepily atmospheric and macabre, delighting in tales of the supernatural and visions of brutal but creative murder. Suspiria is generally considered to be his masterpiece (and it is certainly one of the prettiest horror films I’ve ever seen) and I actually like Opera even more in many ways, but this entry in my ongoing Halloween Movie Month (HMM … yeah, I like that acronym better) series will focus on three newer films with which I recently caught up, including his two contributions to Mick Garris’s always intriguing Masters of Horror series. 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

Friday The 13th (1980) – Everybody Looking Forward To The Weekend

Posted 03 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Friday the 13th, USA, 1980

Directed by Sean S. Cunningham

Friday the 13th - a film that delivers what it promises. Alfred Hitchcock created the genre: the “slasher” picture. It was 1960, and the film was Psycho. If we wanted to stretch that fact, we can claim that the original slasher film was a small, yet admittedly scary, film called Peeping Tom, directed by Michael Powell. It was released only a few months before Psycho, but didn’t have nearly the same impact on audiences, or critics. Psycho soared to the top, and Peeping Tom was left to be later rediscovered and revered. Hitchcock, without intention, birthed a new era of horror film that wouldn’t come into its prime until 1974 with the release of Bob Clark’s Black Christmas.

Black Christmas redefined what Hitchcock had started, and set the rules in stone: a mentally unhinged masked killer stalks attractive teens and picks them off, one by one, in creative ways. After Black Christmas, then came John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), which cemented the popularity of the genre. After Halloween was a critical and financial success, studios ran with the idea that they could make money selling “dead teenager movies” (a term coined by Roger Ebert) to live teenagers. They were right, and in 1980, the first studio-backed slasher film was released. It was May 9th, and it was Friday the 13th. Read More

Buried – A One Man Show

Posted 25 Jun 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Buried, Spain / USA / France, 2010 Much of the film Buried's success is owed to Ryan Reynolds, who puts on a one man show with more gusto than he's shown on film before.

Directed by Rodrigo Cortes

I’m always more interested in suspense films or horror films that tap into universal fears and the things that could actually happen to us, rather than the supernatural. For instance, films like John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) or Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976), while excellent films in their own right, are more escapist nightmares than things right outside your door. It’s films like Buried, however, that recharge my faith in modern horror/thriller cinema. Director Rodrigo Cortes takes one of our most common fears and puts it to extraordinarily effective use. There’s a political message, a bit of a love story, family stories, a thriller, and a horror movie, all stuffed into a box. And just a box. For 90 minutes. Read More

Insidious

Posted 13 May 2011 — by Nicole P
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott MartinInsidious Film Poster

Insidious, USA, 2010

Directed by James Wan

There’s a sense of familiarity in a movie like Insidious. Horror movies these days are a dime a dozen, but Insidious‘s familiarity comes from a deeper place; it comes from true classics like Poltergeist (1982) or even Paranormal Activity (2007), whose producers helped get this film done. Those films work because they have a handle on their atmosphere, something every good horror film has. If you can’t control the tone of your film, how can you hope to control the tone of your audience? The answer to that seems easy – that’s why films like John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980) get remade, and films like Boogeyman (2005) are conceived every day. Tell some audiences to be afraid, and naturally they will be. An example of making your audience afraid, rather than simply suggesting their fear, is a Japanese film called Ju-on (2002), later remade in 2004 as The Grudge to, arguably, the same effect. An even better example is Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960).

Screenwriter Leigh Whannell is similar to a magician pulling a rabbit out of his hat; the effect comes from left field and the audience was probably told not to expect a rabbit in the first place. I remember watching the first Saw film (2004) and being blind-sided by the ending. After rewatching the film, I remember being blind-sided by the conditions under which the ending works. Twist endings, by nature, aren’t organic, but they can feel that way even if they are dependent on the rest of the film and a bit of smoke and mirrors. There is a twist here that some might see coming. The trickiest part to pulling off a twist ending is to get the audience too wrapped up in what’s going on to even remember that there’s an end. Good horror films with big finishes can do that; most of those get ruined with a sequel or a remake. Read More

I Saw The Devil

Posted 19 Mar 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Ezra Stead

I Saw the Devil, South Korea, 2010

Directed by Jee-woon Kim

I Saw the Devil is very impressive as a work of gonzo cinema, but disappointing as a story.

I wanted to like this movie a lot more than I ultimately did. Throughout its two hour and twenty minute running time, much of which seems intentionally designed to feel like an endurance test, I observed the multitude of things on display to recommend the film: great acting, superb direction, beautiful cinematography, not to mention a visceral intensity that has made it the talk of gore-hounds everywhere since its U.S. release, which is still very limited. There is a lot to like about Jee-woon Kim’s blood-soaked revenge saga, especially for fans of South Korea’s recent wave of such films, among whom I feel I can count myself as one, at least to a point. Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy (2003) is one of my absolute favorite films of the past decade, a brilliant work of art that only gets better upon subsequent viewings; I also really like his other films that I’ve seen – Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Lady Vengeance (2005), Thirst (2009) and his short for 2003’s Three … Extremes, “Cut” – as well as Kim’s earlier film, A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), a strange but intriguing and frequently frightening psychological horror story.

So what went wrong with this one, a film that boasts a visual style on par with Park’s best and even shares one of its stars, the always compelling Min-sik Choi? I guess what it comes down to is that simplest but most important flaw that kills so many otherwise excellent films – the script, by Hoon-jung Park, just doesn’t work. It will be impossible to delve into my mixed feelings about this fascinating but fatally flawed film without a multitude of spoilers, so the interested reader is hereby advised to stop reading now unless he or she has already seen the film; despite my overall disappointment, this is absolutely required viewing for all lovers of extreme cinema. Read More