It’s All Connected: Blow Out (1981)

Even though I found my previous Brian De Palma film, Dressed To Kill, wildly problematic, I decided to watch one more of his flicks as part of It’s All Connected 2020: Blow Out. Of all the De Palma films from this era, this was the one that I’d been wanting to see the longest. I even tried giving it a look one time, but the volume was weird and loud, so I had to turn it off, not wanting to wake up my wife and kids. I’m glad I finally got around to it on Amazon Video because Blow Out became my favorite of this particular bunch!

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It’s All Connected: Dressed To Kill (1980)

Once I decided to dive into Brian De Palma’s films as part of It’s All Connected 2020, I had to figure out which ones leaned towards horror and which of those happened to be streaming right now. That got me to 1980’s Dressed To Kill which is currently on Amazon Prime. Now, compared to Phantom Of The Paradise, Carrie and The Fury, this film might just barely qualify as horror (most would probably go with the “thriller” label), but it certainly got me thinking, so here goes!

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It’s All Connected: The Fury (1978)

I was pretty excited when I realized that my previous It’s All Connected 2020 selection, Phantom Of The Paradise,  was directed by Brian De Palma. As I mentioned in that post, I’ve seen a few of his movies, but none of his horror pictures, aside from Carrie. As it happened, I was able to find many of his films from the 70s and 80s streaming, so I went through parts of his filmography in chronological order for a bit, moving into 1978’s The Fury after Paradise.

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It’s All Connected: Phantom Of The Paradise (1974)

So far, I’ve spent the most time trying to figure out where to go from TerrorVision during It’s All Connected 2020. I’d love to watch Ted Nicolau’s Subspecies, but couldn’t find a reasonable way to get my hands on it. With that, I began falling down IMDb rabbit holes. I could have gone with another Mary Woronov picture, but then I opened up Gerrit Graham’s page and one film jumped out at me like a cat in the ubiquitous slasher fake-out scene: Phantom Of The Paradise! It just so happened that I picked that film up on Blu-ray from Scream Factory in the past few years, so I had easy access!

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My Favorite Older Horror Film Discoveries Of 2018

In addition to making my way through a lot of films in the Great Chronological Slasher Franchise Project (which I will post an update on shortly), I also dug into a nice mix of purchased Blu-rays, gifted DVDs and streaming offerings in 2018! To my surprise and delight, I actually came across some movies that have become favorites easily making their way into my collection. You gotta hit that jump to find out what they are, though!

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I Watch A Lot Of TV & Movies: Nic Cage, Downton Abbey, Stand-Up & More

I’m trying out a new format for these I Watch A Lot Of ____  posts. The problem with using the posters is that I feel like I need to fill in all the space on the right hand side, but I don’t always have that much to say. So, I’m going to go with showing a trailer and then giving my thoughts. Hope it works out. Let me know if one format works better than another for you.

Snake Eyes (1998)

On the Nic Cage scale of craziness, Brian De Palma’s Snake Eyes lands in a nice sweet spot. He’s playing an eccentric cop who’s trying to figure out who shot a government official while attending a boxing match in Atlantic City. He’s also trying to help his pal Gary Sinese and the bodacious looking Carla Gugino, but this is the type of movie where no one is what they seem and everyone has ulterior motives. The story itself is the kind of thing you wouldn’t be surprised to see as an episode of your favorite procedural show, but De Palma does some fun stuff, putting his own spin on it by playing with perspective, showing scenes from different angles and even doing some nice camera work like showing an entire scene from a boxer’s perspective and then moving out of it to reveal him in a mirror. Where’d the camera go?! Those tricks plus the performances make it worth a watch.

Return To Horror High (1987)

To be completely honest, I was doing some work while watching Return To Horror High, so I missed a lot of details. At first I thought it was a legit sequel to a movie called Horror High thanks to the title and the premise that posits a film crew is making a movie at the exact location that an actual slasher struck. But that’s all in the fiction of the movie. By the way, I thought of this while watching Scream 3, I’m actually surprised the Hollywood version of Hollywood is more callous than actual Hollywood when it comes to these kinds of things. I mean, it’s not like there’s been a fictional Columbine movie shot in the school. Anyway, the film is super confusing because it bounced between the movie we’re watching and the movie they’re making. And then there’s an ending that I missed the set up to but completely bewildered me. SPOILER Was the whole thing a setup? Why? You might have heard of this movie for being an early appearance of George Clooney who plays an actor wanting to go off and get super famous (but everyone laughs at him, which is funny) as well as an appearance by Maureen McCormick of Brady Bunch fame. She’s way over the top, but is still cute and adorable.

Janeane Garofalo: If You Will (2010)

Janeane Garofalo is one of those stand-ups that I feel like I’ve known about as long as I’ve known about stand-up comedy. She was very popular in the early days of Comedy Central and I’ve fallowed her career to some extent since then, though I wouldn’t say I’m a super fan because I don’t necessarily actively seek out her stuff. A week or two back I listened to an episode of WTF with her and then noticed that this stand-up special was on the NetBox (lots of good stand-up on Instant) and gave it a watch. I assumed it was going to be much more political than it actually was because of how passionate she was on certain issues when talking to Marc Maron. She definitely gets into some of that stuff, but she makes sure to keep it funny and joke based, which made this a really enjoyable hour of stand-up. Even if you don’t think you like her comedy, give this one a look.

Norm MacDonald: Me Doing Stand-Up (2011)

I loved Norm MacDonald on Saturday Night Live and that love easily transferred over to his movie Dirty Work, but not much past that. So, I was excited to watch this stand-up and it was another solid hour. It starts off pretty dark with his thoughts on death, but they’re both honest and funny, so you can’t go wrong there in book. Gets a little filthy (okay, a lot filthy) at the end, but it made for great background while I was working. This is a great way of listening to stand-up without having to buy records.

Skyline (2010)

I added Skyline to my NetBox queue when I first saw it on there, but I moved it to the top after listening to the How Did This Get Made? episode focusing on it. I actually expected it to be a lot worse than it turned out to be. Yeah, there are problems with the script and editing, but I didn’t find it nearly as ridiculous as those guys did, though maybe I was primed for a lot more than anything could have lived up to. I actually give the filmmakers a lot of credit for putting together such a good looking movie by basically shooting in one guy’s apartment and doing a few set pieces. All that being said, I don’t think it’s a great movie by any means. A good effort with great effects, but it certainly has its problems.

Downton Abbey Season One (2010)

There is no reason on paper that I should like Downton Abbey. It’s based in an era and place (1920s England) that I’m not super duper interested in. It’s based on a class structure that enrages the part of me still susceptible to rage. And, it’s packed with the kind of scheming you only usually find in soap operas (I assume). However, this show is so amazingly well written and the characters are so well put together that I can’t help but get absorbed. The key, I think, is that, the writers give almost every main character an interesting bit of business, but without shoehorning them in. Plus, how can you not love Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess? By the way, I still have no idea what it means to be a count or an earl and yet it has not impeded me whatsoever. All you need to know is that it’s very important to Robert Crawley who might be the best, most awesome dude in the history of television. How long until the second season hits NetBox?

Trespass (2011)

Trespass is not only another Nic Cage movie, but also one that I watched because it was going to be covered on How Did This Get Made? so it’s double related! This is the first HDTGM? movie that I actually watched in preparation for the podcast and it worked out a lot better than my experience with Skyline. It helped that the movie starts off as one thing and keeps changing with every lie and nearly everything that every character says is a lie. It’s ridiculous on so many levels that it’s almost hard to keep track. Cage looks bonkers with his hair and glasses, the pace keeps changing (first they have 20 minutes to get in and out then they spend hours there) and nearly all of the robbers are idiotic drug addicts or psychos making them one of the worst possible crews around to pull of a diamond heist. Even with how bad the movie is, I’m shocked it wasn’t in theaters. Between the big stars and director Joel Schumacher who must have some cred left, right? Maybe not. That’s a lot of supposed star power with very little faith from the studio. In fact, this movie holds the record for least amount of time between it’s opening release (on only 10 screens) and coming out on DVD. Also, it only made $16,816 in its short time in theaters. Wow.

Revisiting Mission: Impossible (1996)

What a difference fifteen years can make. When Mission: Impossible came out in 1996 I was 13, Tom Cruise was still a viable actor and Emilio Estevez was still in movies. Okay, that last one wasn’t very nice and I might be completely wrong about the second one, but I know I’ve been leery about watching Cruise flicks ever since his Oprah freakout and learning more about the weirdness that is Scientology.

I think I saw this movie in the theater with friends when it came out, but can’t be certain. I remember really liking it at the time, not knowing anything about Brian De Palma (I think this was the first of his movies I ever saw) and probably not having as much experience with the kind of plot featured in the flick. Since then, I’ve seen the whole “It’s not what you think!” thing done better and worse, but even if this wasn’t the first example I saw, it was highly influential.

Watching it again was a lot of fun because I haven’t seen it very many times since it came out. I had forgotten that Estevez was in the flick, then after a few moments remembered and then remembered why I didn’t remember. Ouch. About 10 or 15 minutes in, I remembered the whole plot and was along for the ride. On the negative side of things, this is not a Usual Suspects-type fake out movie where it’s actually more interesting watching after knowing the secret. In fact, it actually felt a little silly at times, knowing the truth as the heroes slog through things. On the other hand, I was able to look at the movie with a new eye thanks to having studied film a bit and watching a ton of movies. De Palma uses all kinds of actual director’s tricks to help convey mood and emotion without slamming you in the face with it. When Cruise’s Ethan Hunt first realizes he’s not in a good spot and returns to the safe house, the director uses all kinds of high angles making Hunt look small and worries. I’m sure there’s lots more, but that’s the one that really stuck out.

Aside from that, though, it’s still a pretty solid movie. Sure, some of the special effects don’t hold up so well (the helicopter at the end), but overall I was jazzed to watch the movie again. Of course I was looking forward to the big scenes I remembered, but was also surprised by the ones I had forgotten. I knew the “hanging-from-the-ceiling” bit was coming, but had forgotten about the exploding fish tank. Oh man, that is such a cool looking scene! I’ve got the next two flicks queued up from Netflix and am excited to revisit them. This is such an interesting film series to me because it not only spans a fairly long period of time in Hollywood, but also has a diverse and impressive line up of directors: De Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird doing Ghost Protocol, which I probably won’t get to see until it comes out on DVD.

Halloween Scene: Carrie (1976)

I am ridiculously embarrasses to admit that I have never seen Carrie all the way through, unrated up until this point. I swear, I THOUGHT I had. It was even crossed off in my copy of Creature Features, but, after deciding to watching something classic on the NetBox and choosing Carrie, I quickly realized I had never seen this movie. You know how I knew I’d never seen it? The tampon scene. I’ve heard about it and remembered hearing about a little too late and was completely horrified. Not by the menstruation itself, but by how utterly horrible that would be if it happened to you in public and, instead of people being like “Oh hey, we all do that and don’t die, no worries” they laugh and throw tampons. Even the fat, ugly girl with glasses. What does she have to laugh at!!!

Sorry, I got heated up watching this flick (is that a pun?). I had three overwhelming emotions the whole time: dread, anger and hope. See, we all know about the pig’s blood at the prom and that carnage quickly ensues. But I was still gritting my teeth the entire time Carrie was getting ready for the Greatest American Hero to take her to prom. I kept wondering if he and his maybe girlfriend (the survivor) were in on it, or if they really were just being nice. I wanted him to be a nice guy because he really seemed like one, unlike that pig-killing mook Travolta. Anyway, once the craziness actually started (and boy, does director Brian De Palma play these scenes up to all their nerve-wracking potential) that’s when the rage kicks in. It’s weird because I don’t usually get this emotional when watching a movie, but the dread I felt reminded me of the first time I saw Dark Knight. I had a visceral, in-my-gut reaction to Heath Ledger’s Joker. I was scared of the screen whenever he was on. I had the same feeling leading up to the prom scene. That’s a hell of a thing to get a jaded film fan like me to feel.

Think about it. The dumb villain girl was SO angry at someone else for HER OWN MISTAKE that she set into motion a fairly complicated plan with a lot of working parts that went off without a hitch, all for the sole purpose of humiliating the initial victim of her jerkiness AGAIN. If she had survived, the CIA should have picked her up to plan assassinations, cause she’s cold blooded.

Also, wow, I did not see the teacher’s death coming. That was nutzocrazytown. Bisected even. You gotta reign that in Carrie, at least to have one witness who can blame the dumb girl with the red hat for everything even though she’s dead (sup PJ Soles).

This far into the review, I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I’ve never read Stephen King’s novel that this was based on, so I have no idea how much of the movie was in the book and vice versa or how “accurate” it was, but it works perfectly on the screen. One of the most impressive story elements is the layers of danger. You’ve obviously got Carrie with her crazy power and the evilness of teenage girls, but also Carrie’s mom. You NEVER know what she’s gonna do. Damn. I wonder of JK Rowling got the closet idea from Carrie. If so, she should have put a scene in the movies where Harry burns their stupid house to the ground, because you NEED that kind of catharsis after a movie like this. And, even as much as I wanted Carrie to survive this whole mess, move to another town and start over, maybe raise a child of her own who isn’t crazy, she had to pay for what she did.

Finally, the final bit. Unlike the prom scene, there was zero dread for the final “hand out of the ground” scare. Part of the reason is that my memory was refreshed of the scene while watching Going To Pieces, when Sean Cunningham and Tom Savini are talking about the ending of Friday the 13th. They talk about having just seen Carrie and wanting to do something like that, hence the burnt kid out of the water. Another factor that kind of took me out of the moment comes from the survivor’s mom. She’s talking to her friend on the phone and says something along the lines of “The doctor says that she’s young and she’ll forget.” Haha, what?! She’s 17 or 18 and she’s going to forget the night her entire class was decimated by Hellfire and a house fell into the earth? The night her maybe-boyfriend died? Wow, good doctoring there. The final reason why it wasn’t very scary is that it’s very obviously a dream, She’s all glowy and whatnot, plus the hand comes out kind of slow and sloppily. I guess it would have been pretty scary the first time you saw it, but I guess I’ve seen too many movies that ripped the idea of that last minute scare like F13 and The Strangers.