My Favorite Newer Horror Discoveries Of 2017

I watch a lot of horror movies, as you probably know. I stumble upon some of them on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime, while others I’m given by friends or hear about on the fantastic Shock Waves podcast. In 2017, I also had the pleasure of writing for Blumhouse.com which lead to plenty of great viewings for fun and profit.

Continue reading My Favorite Newer Horror Discoveries Of 2017

Halloween Scene: Scream 4 (2011)

Let’s see, I’ve blogged about my history with the Scream franchise a bit when revisiting the first and third installments recently, so you can head over there for a little more backstory. Basically, much like the Mission: Impossible franchise, this one was huge when I was growing up and really getting to understand and love movies. You couldn’t be a teenager and avoid them and I was cool with that because they were right in my horror wheelhouse. When I heard that Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson were re-teaming for another sequel, I was curious but not intensely so. I tend not to get as excited about these things as I used to.

That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them, though. I actually had a great time watching this movie even if I had to break into three parts and only watch when the kid was sleeping. Craven and Williamson did a great job of using elements from the first film, commenting on them in this one and switching things up. In other words, it’s not a beat for beat remake along the lines of Hangover 2, but instead done in the same spirit and universe as the original.

This time around, the walking catnip for nutjobs Sidney Prescott returns home on a book tour only to find that a new person(s) running around killing people as Ghost Face. In this reality the Stab movies are almost up to double digit sequels and so people are very well versed in horror both real and fictional. Dewey and Gale, now married, are also involved though there’s trouble in their domestic paradise.

Things move along at a good clip with SPOILER a series of false openings starring pairs of stars talking about horror movies, usually before one kills the other. The kills were on par with what I wanted to see in something like this and I thought the cast, including all the younger kids brought in for the new generation, were really fun to watch. I like the kid that was supposed to be the new Randy, Emma Roberts did well and a friend and I both agree that Hayden Panettiere is mesmerizing. I was most surprised by how brutal some of the pre-kill fight scenes were. I didn’t watch a movie for Friday Fisticuffs last week, but I think this movie has plenty of good ones. I’d check and see if one in particular towards the end was on YouTube, but it’s a huge spoiler, so I’ll skip it.

I did have one problem with the film, but it’s not really the movie’s fault. I think I’m losing my taste for fiction that involves people going nuts for stupid reasons. I know it happens, but with the proliferation of procedurals, horror movies and real life news stories, it can be a little difficult to take so many reasons to kill. I had a hard time buying Stu’s motives in the original film and had equally hard time accepting that the killer this time was doing it just to be famous. Again, this stuff happens, people can be broken and damaged and do incredibly awful things to one another for no good reason, but seeing so many of these explanations gets a little tiring. The straw that really broke the camel’s back for me was an episode of Bones I caught recently where the killer did her thing because someone messed with her bushes. Seriously? While these things might make sense in their own little worlds, being a consumer of pop culture and being inundated with them can be a bit taxing.

However, I still liked this film and possibly more than the original. Scream is held up as this huge milestone in horror, the movie that not only made the genre’s films more self aware (whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen and lies in the eye of the beholder) but also gave my generation a horror movie that had a big budget and was also just plain good. On the other hand, I’m not sure how good it is on repeated viewings. I’m the type of person who definitely holds things in esteem because I was familiar with them when I was younger. So, I almost feel a little bad for not liking parts of Scream, but don’t have that connection with the newest one. That sounds like a bad thing, but it’s not. It’s an easier watch, it’s got a cast that’s equal to or better than the original and I think the creators really found a sweet spot in both of their crafts.

Halloween Scene: Demons (1985), Halloween (1978), The Ring (2002), The Substitute (2007) & My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)

Even though the weather went from very Halloween to ridiculously sunny today, I frontloaded my week so that I could give myself a horror movie marathon day. Today I watched Demons, Halloween (the original of course), The Ring (US remake), The Substitute (dubbed, poorly I might add) and My Bloody Valentine 3D in 3D for the first time. So, let’s tackle these bad boys in order.

I actually watched Demons late last night, which is still technically today. I was catching up on emails and some links I wanted to read, so I wasn’t paying 100% attention and I don’t really understand what was happening. Considering this is an Italian horror movie, I’m not sure if I would understand even if I was sitting in a room by myself with just this movie to draw my attention. Far as I can tell, some people are in a movie theater and somehow the movie turns the viewers into demons. Once the demons are loose, they somehow create more demons, which kind of makes them zombies with a different look (glowing eyes, big claws).

Even though I don’t really know what was going on, I do know that the effects and kills in the movie were both awesome and cringe-worthy. You’ve got claws popping through a woman’s finger tips, a woman being scalped by a demon and razors near nipples among plenty of other things.

Aside from not making perfect sense (or at least being interesting enough to draw my attention away from the computer to pay attention which is obviously less of a sin than actually not making sense, but still not good), the movie also spends a lot of time with some cocaine-loving punks who (I think) only serve to show up at the movie theater later to become demons. It’s a weird choice, but I guess one that’s somewhat common when it comes to Italian horror (I’m not very well schooled in this subgenre). But, any movie that ends with a dude riding a dirtbike through a movie theater swinging a samurai sword to kill demons right before a helicopter falls through the roof is worth watching. It’s not a good movie, but it’s a fun story to watch.

Halloween‘s still my favorite slasher movie of all time. I reviewed the flick a few years ago, which you can read here. The sitting-up scene still gives me a charge. I don’t know if I’ve noticed this before, but I have no idea why Laurie’s friends with Annie. She’s SUCH a bitch. Man, what a jerk. Anyway, I love how Loomis’ decent into madness can be seen even in this first installment. Love that guy.

This was only the second time I’ve seen The Ring, but it’s still one of my favorite horror movies. The first time I saw it was in college at a date event my fraternity threw. We rented out a small room at the tiny theater in town called The Strand, everyone brought a date and we all sat there in the dark watching the movie. It’s my all-time favorite horror experience in a theater because, knowing everyone there allowed a lot of us to cut loose a little, so there was all kinds of screaming. You tend to hold that back when you’re in a theater with strangers, but this was a room full of friends. It was awesome. The only problem with the experience is that the missus swore off horror movies after watching the flick with me. Even worse, some of my fraternity brothers tried to scare us when we came back to my room later that night. Their plan was to have a tape sticking out of my VCR, the channel set to static and someone behind the couch to turn the TV on when we walked in. We stopped off to get some food, so we took longer to get back than everyone else which is good because, had they pulled the prank off, I don’t think the missus would have slept ever again. Or killed someone. By the time we got back to my room, some dudes were walking out, saw us and told us their aborted plan.

I had a wonderful time watching this movie again. I was worried that it would have lost a lot of its punch with me as I watched it by myself and during the day, but instead I was struck by how well put together the flick was. Gore Verbinksi did a great job with the visuals and mood of the movie. I also like that the Noah character seems to say the things that critics of the movie might say “It’s very student film” and “must have been scarier at night.” Those little bits give the script some self-awareness that I like without it being too in your face. Ring’s another slow burn type of movie, which I think I’m starting to appreciate more and I also like that there’s a mystery to the film. You think you get the answer and then that answer turns out to be completely wrong. I love when that happens in movies. You’re just trying to put the pieces together along with the Naomi Watts, but just because you’ve got a series of facts doesn’t mean you know the full story.

I was also struck by how many now-famous people are in small roles in the movie. Sara Rue (who was on BBT and those Jenny Craig commercials), Adam Brody, Amber Tamblyn and Pauley Perrette (the goth chick from NCIS) all have small parts. Plus, Samara is played by Daveigh Chase who voiced Lilo from Lilo & Stitch, which is kind of funny because the missus loves Lilo & Stitch and HATES The Ring.

In case you’re wondering, yes I’ve seen the original Ringu movies, but didn’t like them as much. I bought bootleg versions of them at a comic convention after seeing the movie in 2002, which was funny because, at the same time, the missus had bought me the legit versions for me for Christmas (the previous Christmas the same thing happened, but with the Jay and Silent Bob action figures). I don’t remember specifically why I didn’t like Ringu as much, but I would imagine it boils down to Americans not having the same weird cultural fears and hangups that Japanese folks do. Verbinski did a good job with the water and the kids, but those things don’t normally because I’m a grown man who can swim. I also remember having a problem with the subtitles which were white on often white backgrounds. I left these DVDs back home when I moved out here, so it’s been a while and I should definitely give them another watch.

Speaking of more watches, I watched The Substitute again and I think it’s the best Ghost House Underground movie of the bunch. It still reminds me of The Goonies but with an alien broad who can shrink people and control minds instead of the Fratellis and pirates. My only problem with the movie is that the dubbing is awful. Is it really so hard to get some actual kids to record voices instead of people who usually do cartoons? Seriously, pull a group of 16 year olds off the street and give them the script and it’d be way better than this. Just saying.

I finished things out by watching the copy of My Bloody Valentine 3D I picked up from Blockbuster and the pink and green 3D glasses I bought online. I’m not sure what to think about the experience of watching a 3D movie at home. This was the first time I ever did that and the first time I’ve used these kinds of 3D glasses. When I first put them on everything looked to be washed in those hues, but after a little while your eyes get used to it. As I’ve said, I tend to work on more than one thing at once which means every time I looked away from the screen or took the glasses off, it would take all that long to get back into the swing of things again. The other problem I had was that I couldn’t find a good angle to watch the movie. My usual seat isn’t directly in front of the TV but off to the side, so the 3D effects didn’t always hit me in the right way. Maybe I was too close or too far away. I tried some different angles, but never got a great view of things. There were a few things tossed at the screen that did make me flinch, but I missed the eye gag in the beginning because I was looking at email. I’m lame. The movie itself was the same as it was last time, though I remembered the twist this time around. I guess it still works and is a fun enough slasher flick to buy for $5.

Halloween Scene: Jennifer’s Body (2009)

I was pretty excited for Jennifer’s Body, but it had nothing to do with plot or acting or story or the fact that it was written by Juno’s Diablo Cody (I thought Juno was mostly boring and kind of ridiculous when it came to dialogue), but because I’ve always had a thing for Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox is crazy hot. Oddly enough, it’s the leads’ star power that kind of derails the movie’s sleaze (just to let you guys know ahead of time, there is sex in the movie, but no nudity, which kind of deflates it a bit).

Anyway, the story’s about Fox (Jennifer) getting turned into a succubus by a band with Adam Brody in it. They’re trying to make a sacrifice to become gigantic rock stars, but it turned out that Jennifer wasn’t actually a virgin when they sacrificed her so she turned into the succubus (which kind of eats human life/blood to stay hot and healthy looking). Her best friend Seyfried sticks by her, but turns into the story’s hero as she figures things out.

I can’t really place my finger on it, but this movie just seemed kind of whatever. Maybe it’s because a lot of the gore was shown off camera (what’s the point if you’ve already got an R?). Maybe because of unbelievable/sketchy plot points like Seyfried learning all about succubi from the local library (does Giles run it?) or even the fact that Seyfried and Fox are friends. She says its because they’ve known each other forever, but I just didn’t buy it. Why would the ultra hot and popular Jennifer want to hang out with the nerdy girl? Why would the nerdy girl put up with her abuse? Maybe it’s because I don’t still have friends from when I was very young anymore, but that “well, we’ve known each other forever” thing doesn’t hold water with me once you hit high school.

I will say that there are some good lines. I liked the dialogue in this one way better than Juno because it didn’t seem as in your face or mile a minute or all over the place. I also liked Johnny Simmons as Seyfried’s boyfriend, JK Simmons as a hook handed teacher (I didn’t notice it at first and unfortunately it has NO pay off throughout the film) and Amy Sedaris as Seyfried’s alcoholic (I think) mother. It was cool seeing her especially play outside her normal wheelhouse.

All in all, it wasn’t a terrible movie, but it didn’t really do much for me as a story, which is too bad because there’s such a dearth of original non-remake, non-sequel horror movies coming out. This one clearly got made on the strength of Cody’s name and a solid cast, but I think it’s wobbliness says more about why the movie didn’t do super well than why new horror movies shouldn’t get made. There have got to be better horror scripts floating around just waiting for some new studio looking to make some bucks can put some money behind. Hell, I’ve got a nice little slasher script I bet could be made for short money if anyone’s interested.