As anyone who was paying attention to UM in the fall will know, I plunged deeply into the world of horror for most of September and October. By the time I finished up the epic undertaking of It’s All Connected 2020, I took a break from watching a lot of horror movies throughout most of November, but kept on making my way through my daunting To Read boxes. To that end, I pulled out an old paperback I scored from the library’s free table several years ago as well as the next Paperbacks From Hell reprint from my favorite publisher Valancourt!
I might be a longtime horror fan, but that doesn’t mean I’m fearless when it comes to this stuff. I shy away from plenty of subjects and subgenres that make me uncomfortable. For a while, Cliver Barker’s work has fit into that category. I’ve seen Hellraiser and Nigthbreed and maybe a few other adaptations of his work, but the sheet hopeless darkness of them just didn’t fit with what I wanted to see at the time.
And then a few of his books popped up on the free table at my local library and I figured it was time to embrace my fear and dive in. I decided to start with the short story book The Inhuman Condition which was published in 1987. I was blown away by this book, initially thinking it wasn’t as dark as I assumed it would be and then realizing Barker saved the harshest story for last. Continue reading Halloween Scene: The Inhuman Condition by Clive Barker (1987)
I have a pretty great story about how I saw Candyman 2: Farewell To The Flesh when I was in 8th grade, but I’m going to hold off on that one until I review that flick. It was the first real horror movie I saw all the way through so a few years later when I really got into the genre, I checked out the original and remember not liking. I don’t remember specifically why, but it does not hold a special place in my memory.
Having watching it again now some 13 or so years later, I understand why I didn’t like this film. I wasn’t as much a fan of the slow burn horror film back then. Now, I can appreciate such things, but back then I wanted to see the kills and the violence and then move on to the next one. Turning it on, I immediately thought it might have been a Clive Barker film I didn’t know much about only to discover it was based on a Barker story and he produced it, but a guy named Bernard Rose directed.
That being said, I’m not sure if this is such a great example of the slow burn horror movie. The more time this film gave me, the more I got to thinking about how it all worked and I wound up with a LOT of questions. Are the police really incapable of telling the difference between hook and knife wounds? Does Candyman make you think he’s killing people, but really you are? I assumed he was kind of a Freddy Krueger-type character, but if that’s the case, why does Virgina Madsen find him sleeping?
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s see how much of the story I can remember. Madsen plays a woman researching urban legends. She and her partner come across the one about Candyman, which says if you say his name five times in a mirror, he’ll appear, much like the Bloody Mary one. Because I’m the perfect age for this movie, I actually grew up knowing as much about the Candyman legend as I did the Bloody Mary one because some other kids had seen this movie (or their older siblings told them about it) when I was in grade school, so it instantly entered my local sphere of urban legend.
Anyway, the deeper she digs into the reality of Candyman, the more Madsen gets entangled in wild, supernatural events that she can’t really explain, like the deaths of people around her. It’s all part of some ellaborate plan of Candyman’s apparently, to make her look crazy so he can trick her into…running into a bonfire to save a baby. Yeah, I don’t know how much sense it makes and I just finished watching it, though I admittedly watched it over a few sittings and while doing other things, so I’m probably not the best judge.
So, while I’m not sure how effective the film is as a narrative that’s easily understandable, it is effective as a spooky horror flick. There were definitely a few moments where I got spooked by the scares in the flick. I also liked the basic way the film was shot with the cameras seemingly placed an appropriate distance away from the actors and them doing their thing. Sometimes with horror movies, the directors or editors get so wrapped up in quick, crazy cuts that it’s just disorienting. The simple style of the film also added a weird dimension to the proceedings that I noticed that’s almost entirely based on the weirdness of early 90s style. The movie takes itself seriously (not too seriously, but it’s definitely not a comedy) and then you see some really severe haircuts or the incredibly bright purple neon jackets worn by some of the hoods, some of whom were actual gang members. Today, these looks might seem like distinct choices meant to make the audience laugh or look at the character sidewise (like just about everything in Napoleon Dynamite), but it’s just an honest depiction of the reality at that time, funny as that may sound.
Okay, enough deep-ness. Do I recommend checking out Candyman? Nah, not really. I think Tony Todd makes for an awesome bad guy as Candyman, but overall, I don’t think the idea was handled all that well. If anyone reading this is a huge Candyman fan, drop me a comment and let me know why, am I missing something?
I watch a lot of movies, you guys. By this time of the week I’ve seen all the Bravo and VH1 reruns I’m interested in, so I turn on the NetBox and just look around. A lot of times these movies just turn into background noise, something to have on while I work on freelance or hunt for jobs online. The ones that capture my attention turn into Halloween Scene posts (unless it was the only thing I watched, then it’ll get a haphazard review at best). Over the past few days I’ve watched three horror movies that were just kinda eh: the 2008 Prom Night remake, Sleepwalkers, a Stephen King werewolf script, and Jack-O, a lame riff on Pumpkinhead. None of these movies really deserve their own full-on review, so I figured I would just put them all here in one quickie roundup.
Prom Night wasn’t a great movie to begin with. I’ve only seen it once and it was with Rickey. We were kinda drunk and had rented a crappy VHS copy from the Dollar Video down the street from our place. I think the reason we both liked the movie at the end was because the crappiness of the tape offered a lot of atmosphere to the movie. I don’t remember a whole lot about the original and, I’ll be honest, I don’t remember a lot of the remake. I know there was a killer there during prom and I think I have a crush on Brittany Snow. A girl I knew in high school who did the musicals with me ended up as a background dancer on her old TV show American Dreams (that’s what I heard at least, I never actually saw it after the first few episodes). So yeah, this is a pretty lame review of two movies I don’t remember, but I guess that says more about the movies than it does me (I hope).
Sleepwalkers is a movie I definitely remember from the video store. I remember that weird pink and purple cover with the floating eyes staring back at me. I didn’t even realize it was on my NetBox queue, but when I saw it I turned it right on. It’s a Stephen King script that’s based on an unpublished short story and it’s a whole ball of weirdness. There’s ALL kinds of incest you guys. Like tons. And that’s just between the two sleepwalkers, which are kind of like werecats who can turn things invisible and make a car look like a different car. It’s a pretty lame movie, on the real. The werecat effects look pretty good as do the special effects when the cars go invisible, but overall the story’s just strange. Oh, plus, you know, lots of incest. There’s also the matter that these werecats, who look like regular people most of the time, get their true nature revealed anytime they cross in front of a mirror. And they’re afraid of cats. And yeah, Milo likes the idea of cats saving the day at the end of the movie (especially after seeing so many dead kitties hanging from a tree in the very beginning), but as a human I wasn’t too interested. And that can be said about most of the movie actually.
Here’s a good way to tell if you’re dealing with a crappy movie. When you try and find a posted image that’s 269×400 and 110X150 is the best you can find. That means the internet barely cares about Jack-O and honestly, neither should you. Like I said above, it’s like Pumpkinhead, but if the kid was the hero, Pumpkinhead had an actual pumpkin for a head and the kid hero looked like my friend Randy did when we were kids. There’s some other additions like the ridiculously right wing neighbors, the slutty neighbors (different ones) and…a haunted house that the parents put on in the garage. It’s funny that I just re-read the Trick r Treat review over at HMAD today because BC mentions how well TrT builds the atmosphere of Halloween. Well, this movies fails completely. It seems like any other day except for the constant mention of the haunted garage for charity. Please don’t watch this movie, it has no redeeming qualities.
Hey gang, hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving break. My apologies again for my lack of updates these past few weeks. Whatever staying-up-late stamina I had must have been completely spent in October. But, over the Thanksgiving break, Rickey, Em and I went to visit her parents in New Hampshire where they have FearNet and movies on demand so Rickey and I spent every evening watching as many horror movies as we could. Hopefully this long post with reviews will make up for some of my lack of posting.
So, after working most of the day, waiting for Rickey to come up (traffic was pretty bad between him and us) and the four hour drive from our place to Em’s parent’s house, we were understandably tired. But that didn’t stop Rickey and I from attempting to watch our first horror movie of the weekend and boy did we choose a doozy. Waxwork is about a bunch of kids who decide it’s a good idea to go to a wax museum that pops up in their neighborhood one day. Actually, there’s a pretty funny scene where two of their group decide it’s a bad idea and bounce. I loved that scene. It reminded me of what I would do in that situation. “You want to go into a stranger’s wax museum even though we have no idea who he is or whether the wax figures will come to life and kill us? No thanks, I’m good.”
In actuality the movie is a bit more creative than that as the kids get sucked into whatever kind of scene the wax figures represent. So, when the girl approaches the vampire set, she’s transported to a creepy castle where she’s forced to eat what looks like cranberry surprise. And then…
Okay, we didn’t get any further than this scene. We were both tired and bored by this point and I’m pretty sure we both fell asleep while watching it. The only other interesting piece of info is that Zach Galligan, of Gremlins fame, stars as a spoiled rich kid. The funny thing is is that Rickey and I are both avid readers of Horror Movie a Day and it turns out that he watched the movie too, though he actually finished it. Sounds like it actually got kind of cool towards the end. Oh well, the on demand stuff saves your progress in the film for 24 hours, but by then we were watching…
CHRISTMAS EVIL (a.k.a. You Better Watch Out, a.k.a. Terror in Toyland) (1980)
And boy, what a stinker. After a long day of being terrorized, uh, I mean spending Thanksgiving with Em’s family, we came back and everyone eventually went to bed so we decided to get ready for Christmas by watching a movie about a dude dressed as Santa killing people. According to my beloved Creature Features, this is the first incident of such a film and it is not a good one. The whole plot revolves around this dude who saw his parents not really doing anything sexual (they were barely touching and fully clothed while pops was dressed as Santa) who now sleeps in Santa PJs, works in a toy factory and keeps tabs on the neighborhood kids to see who’s naughty and nice. That’s a big chunk of the movie.
I think we both fell asleep at about the same time Thursday night. The next evening we figured we didn’t have too much time left and put the boring flick back on. It’s actually kind of interesting in the last 15 minutes. If you feel compelled to watch this movie, do so from that point on and you’ll get the gist of it. Once the killings finally start happening (on the steps of a church with the jerkiest, most apathetic clergy I’ve ever seen), the movie doesn’t really pick up as our killer finds himself back at his company Christmas party celebrating with the people who were earlier making fun of him. It really doesn’t make any sense. Oh, there’s also a scene where Santa scares a kid by hiding in the bushes in his bright red suit. In true horror movie fashion, the kid’s mom doesn’t investigate her son’s accusations of a man in the bushes and just gives them a quizzical look before driving off.
But the best part of the movie is the very end where Santa runs into some kids who he then uses as human shields once the parents get a look at him. By this point, we’ve already seen some Santas in a line-up, so you know the police are on the case. The problem is, how do these people know this Santa is the killer? One dude is so convinced that he pulls a switchblade on Santa. Santa gets away which leads to a Frankenstein-like mob with torches and everything chasing Santa through the street. He just barely escapes into his chimo van with a sleigh and reindeer painted on it (how the cops weren’t able to track this down after the church murders while it was just sitting outside the office party, I’ll never know). He heads over to his brothers house, where his brother almost chokes him to death, but he gets up and hops back into the chimo van just in time for the torch-carrying mob to catch up, causing him to swerve off of a bridge and…fly off into the sky Grease-style. I guess there’s some discussion about whether he survives or not, seeing as how you can hear a car crash sound at the same time as the van flies away. I don’t really care either way because this movie’s not good, but the image of that van flying away is just great. Rickey took a picture with his iPhone and it’s awesome. So, after finishing Christmas Evil on Thursday we watched an actual good movie called…
MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (2008)
Which I had thought was a Clive Barker movie ever since I first heard about it, but it turns out it’s based on one of his stories. Anyway, some of you who are more into the goings on of the horror industry know that Lionsgate kind of buried this movie by giving it a limited release in cheap theaters only, which I’ve never actually heard of before. I was really surprised when I first heard this and still thought it was a Clive Barker movie, but I was still surprised after watching it because the cast is fairly well known, though less in the star power vein and more in the “hey, it’s that guy from that thing” way. You’ve got Bradley Cooper who will always hold a special place in my heart for his involvement in Wedding Crashes, Vinnie Jones who’s just awesome, Brooke Shields (?!), Ted Raimi and Leslie Bibb who played the reported who tried to corner Tony Stark in Iron Man (and then slept with him). With the right advertising and one of those annoying “from the creator of Hellraiser/Nightbreed/Lord of Illusion/half my nightmares” things, I don’t see why MMT couldn’t have had a fairly successful run in theaters. I understand the whole concept of studios wanting to make money on valid properties, but how the heck did Saw become a valid property? Someone needs to give another new franchise a chance. Gimme Trick r Treat already!
Anyway, I didn’t fall in love with MMT, but I did really like it. Cooper plays a photographer who’s trying to capture the real, raw underbelly of late night New York. While doing this he comes across a man (Jones) who he thinks killed a model he photographed the night before. As he slips further and further into obsession (following Jones at all hours of the night and showing up at his job as a butcher), Cooper’s girlfriend, Bibb, gets more and more concerned for him. From here on out, I’ll be in SPOILER territory.
So, as you can imagine this being a work based on Clive Barker, this movie doesn’t just lie in the real world, though there are plenty of real world scares. Jones is pretty terrifying as the killer. He’s already a huge dude, but by making him a huge silent guy in a crisp suit with a meat hook and a huge metal meat mallet, man, he’s just creepy. As Rickey pointed out, he doesn’t even need a mask like your typical slasher. And Cooper as the obsessed photographer really kills it, especially because it turns out that he’s right, but no one will listen to him. That’s one of my big fears in life, to know what’s really going on but not having anyone listen to you. Plus, there’s some real nail biters with Cooper getting way too close to Jones.
Like I said, the ending comes with some unearthly elements as it turns out that Jones isn’t exactly what he seems to be (even though he does murder people, remove their clothes and leave them hanging naked in a car of the subway. I don’t want to ruin it all, but it’s definitely worth checking out for fans of any of the above actors (though Shields only appears as a photo critic), Barker or horror.
Uncharacteristically, Rickey and I weren’t done with horror movies so we moved on to…
I’d actually watched Pumpkinhead before at Em’s parents’ place so I wasn’t really paying attention. Lance Henriksen stars in this Stan Winston-directed flick in which SPOILER WARNING Henriksen’s son gets killed by a dude on a dirt bike (it’s okay to laugh, it’s kind of silly) and then finds a witch who brings a vengeance monster called Pumpkinhead to life so it can kill the killer and his friends. That brief summary doesn’t really do the movie, which is actually pretty interesting, justice. There’s a lot more to this whole thing than just a revenge plot, as Henriksen grows to regret his decision and tries to actually stop Pumpkinhead. There’s really a lot going on and Winston did a great job with the movie, it’s too bad he didn’t direct more movies. And, of course, you can’t talk about a Stan Winston movie without talking about the creature effects. Pumpkinhead does look an awful lot like an alien, but it’s a really cool design, though I’m not really sure why they bother calling him Pumpkinhead (he looks nothing like a Pumpkin, though his grave is surrounded by pumpkins. Like I said I wasn’t paying a lot of attention, but the movie doesn’t really end like you might expect and is definitely a fun one to check out.
Okay, that’s enough for today. Check back tomorrow for the second and final part!