Halloween Scene: The Evil Dead (1981)

the evil dead While flipping through Netflix’s instant horror offerings the other day, I came across The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2. I found myself hovering over the poster images trying to decide whether I wanted to watch these movies again. I couldn’t quite put my figure on why I wouldn’t want to watch these films. When I was a teenager, these were two of the movies very high on my list of need-to-watch horror flicks. Heck, I even owned both of them on VHS, but for whatever reason, they never became the kinds of movies that I watched over and over again like I did/do Halloween and some other favorites.

Well, I did sit down and re-watch this film that I haven’t seen all the way through since college. And you know what? I really liked it. Like a lot. I also think I figured out a few of the reasons my mind told me I didn’t want to watch this film, but I’ll get to those a bit later.  Continue reading Halloween Scene: The Evil Dead (1981)

Quick Movie Review: Congo (1995)

congo_ver1As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of How Did This Get Made, the Earwolf podcast where hosts Paul Scheer, June Diane Rapahel, Jason Mantzoukas and a special guest all watch a movie and then pose the title question, usually in awe of its badness. When I saw that this week’s film, Congo, also happened to be on Netflix Instant, I figured I’d give it a watch ahead of time so I could be in on the gag a bit more.

The plot as presented in the film is pretty complicated, with lots of motivations, but the basic idea is that various people are all going to one place in the Congo and wind up working together. Laura Linney’s going to see if her former fiance/explorer is still alive (and also see if communications-enhancing diamonds really exist there). Meanwhile Dylan Walsh is a scientist bringing gorilla Amy back to her home after teacher her sign language (which gets interpreted to voices thanks to a contraption). You’ve also got Tim Curry looking for Solomon’s Mines and Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson along as their guide plus a few others.

Most of the film is actually about the group traveling by various forms of transportation to where they want to go, Once they get there, it turns out there’s a small army of super-aggressive white apes guarding the actual mine. Oh and it’s also on a volcano, so there’s your ticking clock.

For about 2/3 of this movie I was thinking to myself, “Sure, there’s a lot of travel and Amy the gorilla is clearly a person in a suit, but I don’t know if this is up there with other HDTGM fodder.” And then the ending happens. Guys, it’s bonkers. There’s lazer guns and fire and monkeys killing people and people killing monkeys (lots of that actually) and terrible CGI and an air balloon.

At the end of the day, I don’t regret watching the film. I actually enjoyed the adventures parts and even got to enjoy some of the characters — Hudson is SUPER charismatic in this — plus, it’s always fun to actually watch these movies before listening to the podcast. I still enjoy the episodes referring to movies I haven’t seen, but like I said above, it’s more fun to be in on the gag. Still, it’s not exactly what you’d call a good movie. In fact, there is a good movie in here and it’s the one featuring Bruce Campbell as a jungle explorer, but he doesn’t make it past the first few minutes. Oh, SPOILER warning, I guess.

Halloween Scene: Intruder (1989)

Don’t be fooled by the crappy DVD box art to the right. Spider-Man is spelled with a dash. Oh, also, Bruce Campbell’s in this slasher flick for about five minutes at the end and Sam Raimi did not direct the movie, but plays a worker in the grocery store besieged by a slasher. Intruder is actually directed by Raimi’s friend and Evil Dead Fake Shemp Scott Spiegel. I haven’t done any research on the movie aside from reading the IMDb Trivia page, but I got the feeling that Raimi and Campbell were helping a friend make his first movie.

And it’s a mostly successful, though sometimes goofy, effort, but what more would you expect from a late-80s slasher? The movie is set in a grocery store, so it’s kind of like a longer version of that scene from My Bloody Valentine 3D (and I assume the original, but it’s been way too long since I’ve seen it to remember for sure). The presumed killer is one of the two girls’ ex boyfriend who just got out of prison. The staff is in the store late this night because they’re repricing everything as the store is being sold. I’m not actually sure how those two things go together, but it’s possible I missed one of the finer details.

Anyway, it’s fun seeing Sam Raimi act and his brother playing the clueless stock boy/fruit chopper, but they’re joined by some good fellow actors and a pair of actresses you might recognize from Night Of The Creeps and Sleepaway Camp 2. I’m not great at recognizing actors, but I knew those two ladies looked familiar.

Without getting into spoilers, there’s a twist ending that I didn’t see coming, but possibly because I wasn’t paying that much attention. After that there’s a really interesting end that I’m surprised more horror movies haven’t tried to pull off. All in all, Intruder was a good effort packed with familiar faces, some okay kills and an environment you don’t see a lot in horror flicks. Not a lost classic, but fun enough to watch.

Kids Movie Double Feature: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) & Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs (2009)

Hope everyone had a good Memorial Day Weekend, I sure did. Though we didn’t do a whole lot, the missus and I did check out a few movies, two of which were decidedly kid-based. I liked both of them, but one definitely more than there other. Let’s begin!

Last night we watched Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson’s stop motion rendition of Roald Dahl’s book of the same name. I’m a big Dahl fan, though I’ve never read FMF. On the other hand, I’m not a huge Anderson fan, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the movie. In the end, I liked it but the movie never really grabbed me. I loved the stop motion and thought it look amazing, especially when they did the moments where the characters move into the background but the camera stays where it is. It looks like a side scrolling video game in that respect and I kind of dug it. Aside from that, though, the movie looks like exactly what it is: a stop motion movie directed by Wes Anderson. Not being a huge fan of the man, it’s not a huge draw for me, but it looked good enough.

The plot is where the movie lost me. It’s not a bad one, but I feel like the movie might move a little too quickly and not allow the emotions of the plot to sink in. Or maybe I just wasn’t all that invested. I’m not sure what it is, but I didn’t particularly care about what was going on. I did like the voice work by George Clooney, Merryl Streep and the rest, but all they did was make me think that this was like a solo animal-filled Danny Ocean movie with the caper theme. Ah well, it wasn’t a bad movie and I’m glad I watched it because it looked rad, but I won’t be watching it again. I would imagine that Anderson fans will and did dig it though.

On the other hand, I really liked the CGI Cloudy With A Chance Of Meat Balls, based on the children’s book by Judi and Ron Barrett with characters voiced by Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, Anna Faris, Mr. T (!), Bruce Campbell and a slew of others. I know that I read the book as a kid, but don’t remember it too much. The plot of the movie is that Hader’s character builds a machine that converts water into food. The machine accidentally gets launched into the sky where it starts raining food down on the town. There’s a lot of other stuff going on involving him and his dad and him trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to woo the visiting weather girl played by Faris.

The movie got me early on by starting off with young Hader wanting to be a scientist. I love that sense of inventing for invention sake and experimentation that you can only really get in cartoons and kids movies (it’s the big reason I love Meet The Robinsons). Personally, I get bogged down with actual science (not that I’m an expert by any means) and forget that wonder that comes from the youthful idea that you can invent anything you dream up.

In addition, the plot was fun and fast enough to not really let you get bored and it sucked me in right off the bat. The only problem was that the visual quality of the Netflix Instant went in and out, so the amazing CGI (I’d like to see this in 3D) went from being really crisp to being pixelated.

If you’ve got to watch a movie with some kids, I recommend this one!

Halloween Scene: Maniac Cop 2 (1990)

I liked the first Maniac Cop flick because it mixed actors I love with a fairly interesting concept. This sequel was enjoyable for a whole other reason: it’s completely insane. Not only are our heroes from the first movie killed off, but the guy from The Profiler (Robert Davi) takes their place trying to find out what the deal with the maniac cop is.

In this installment, MC’s pretty focused on hurting the good guys and victims and helping the bad guys (to an extent). There’s a whole section of the movie where he actually befriends a serial killer. And it’s not just a simple team-up, MC goes to his crib, they hang out, MC has a flashback to how he was killed and MC even speaks. There’s a lot else going on but it’s not really that interesting.

Seeing as how this is the sequel, the ante is upped as far as kills and effects (now, whether they’re good or not is up to the viewer). Good or bad we see MC’s not-so-pretty face a lot more. He also sports a billy club that hides a knife. I think it’s only used once and I have no idea where he got it (he was last scene crashing into a lake or river or something). Also where does he keep getting clean policeman’s uniforms?

Like I said, it’s not a GOOD movie, but it’s fun enough and I can’t recommend a better slasher to check out so early in October. And it’s on NetBox, so you can just queue it up and check it out. I’ll probably be finishing out the trilogy this week.

OH. I almost forgot because I watched this a few weeks back actually, but MC2 has something else to offer fans of the weird: an end credits rap that is completely 1990 it’s absolutely worth a listen.


Halloween Scene: Maniac Cop & Zombie

Every now and then I get a day to myself at the house. And, as you might expect, when I do, I try and watch as many horror movies as possible. Last Saturday happened to be one of those days and I was able to watch two classic horror movies I’d never seen before, Maniac Cop (1988) and Lucio Fulci’s Zombie (1979). I definitely liked one more than the other, but you might be surprised by which one!

First of all, I actually thought that I had seen Maniac Cop as it was crossed off in my Creature Features book. I think I kinda sorta half watched it or one of the sequels one time when visiting Em back when we were dating in college. Her parents had on demand and I tried watching it but probably fell asleep. Anyway, just watching the credits was a surprise. Tom Atkits , Bruce Campbell and Richard Roundtree (Shaft!!!) all in one movie? Plus the bad ass dude who fights Eastwood for like 15 minutes at the end of Any Which Way You Can (William Smith, though he looks completely different than in that movie), sold. I could have given this movie the thumbs up just based on the credits!

But, it really is a fun movie, a great one to stumble on thanks to NetBox (that’s what I call Netflix & Xbox) as there are plenty of kills, a great killer with a pretty interesting origin and such great actors. The plot revolves around a crazy cop killing people out on the streets which, as you’d expect, makes people weary of the cops (one lady even caps one who’s trying to help her). Atkins is investigating and is one of the only people to believe Campbell when he says he didn’t do it after his wife gets iced by the killer cop. Campbell’s girlfriend/mistress, who’s also a cop, forms the third point in this triangle of awesome.

In addition to the basic level of coolness that Atkins brings to all of his horror roles, I really like seeing Campbell playing a straight part. Sure he’s a badass in the Evil Dead flicks, but he’s a winking-at-the-camera kind of a bad ass. Here he’s a regular guy trying to make sense of what turns out to be a potentially supernatural occurrence (an unkillable cop back from the dead?). Oh, also, for those who this might be an incentive for, there’s a naked prison shower fight flashback scene. Hey, I call out boobs, why not a little man nudity?

Anyway, after MC, I almost watched the sequel, but didn’t want to get too burned out on the series (though, in an unusual twist, the Creature Features guy gave all three movies three stars, you almost never see that kind of consistency). So, I was flipping and flipping and flipping until I discovered that Fulci’s Zombie, the supposed semi-sequel to the original Dawn of the Dead I’ve heard so much about, got put on NetBox. I’ve also been hearing about the infamous Zombie vs. Shark and eye gouging scenes for years, so I figured it would be a great candidate for my mini horror fest.

And I gotta say, it’s kind of boring. My experience with Italian horror doesn’t stretch beyond Dario Argento’s Suspiria and Mother of Tears. If you’re looking for a train wreck of a blog post, please check out that Suspiria link, the only blog post I’ve considered deleting. Anyway, maybe I just don’t get the sensibilities of Italian horror, or maybe I just haven’t seen the really good ones or maybe they’re just batshit crazy and that’s why people like them. I’m definitely not against batshit craziness, so it’s not like I’m cutting myself off from further Fulci or Argento flicks, they’re just not incredibly hight on my list.

The problem with Zombie is that it’s kind of slow and boring. There’s a lot of people talking and sailing on boats, but when it does get to the zombie goodness it is definitely good stuff. I just wish there was more of it. The other problem with Zombie (which isn’t the film’s fault), is that it’s reached this legendary status because of the aforementioned scenes that every horror fan talks about it. It’s been on every horror list I’ve ever seen, so all the good parts were basically ruined. And, with the exception of the final shot of zombies running around NYC, you’ve probably seen those two amazing scenes online or a on a clip show before.

I don’t usually like adding to the SPOILER-ness of horror movies, but here’s clips of those two scenes (I recommend watching just them or reading a trade while half-watching Zombie). First the shark fight:

Holy crap this is crazy. It really does look like a zombie fighting a shark and neither one really wins. It’s an amazing piece of film that I would sit through a hundred hours of boring to see, seriously, it’s worth it and I can only imagine how much better it would look on DVD or Blu-ray (the Netflix file wasn’t of the best quality and YouTube doesn’t REALLY do it justice).

And here’s the eye gouge (not for the squeamish):

Again, this moment is worth the price of admission as it’s one of the most real-looking effects I’ve seen (though I was able to see how they did it and it’s kind of beautiful in it’s simplicity).

One last thing I want to comment on is the “sequel” aspect of the movie in relation to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (one of my top three favorite horror movies). Very simply, it’s not. At all. It was finished before DOTD and the name was just changed. Luckily, my enjoyment didn’t hinge on it’s relation to DOTD.

So, in the end, I had a great time watching some classic horror movies, even though Zombie might have been a little boring aside from the tent pole scenes, but seeing two rad NYC-based movies (I didn’t see anything I recognized, though things have changed quite a bit even since 1988) was a great way to spend part of my Saturday.