King Cohen: Hell Up In Harlem (1973) & Special Effects (1984)

I love that feeling when you just click with a director’s work. You see a film or two and then find yourself obsessed with tracking down all of their flicks (preferably on pristine Blu-rays chockablock full of features) and putting them in your eyeballs. I’ve had that with Larry Cohen, but it took a bit longer to reach full-on “gotta watch them all” mode. It turns out that Original Gangstas (his last feature) was the first one I saw back in 2009. A few years later, I checked out The Stuff and really liked it, but it was Q that hooked me! Since then, I’ve been slowly keeping an eye out for his films from the various boutique Blu-ray companies. Recently, I was able to pick up two from Olive Films through a DeepDiscount sale which were both rad in their own ways.

Continue reading King Cohen: Hell Up In Harlem (1973) & Special Effects (1984)

Halloween Scene: Don’t Go In The Woods (2010)

I knew absolutely nothing about Don’t Go In The Woods aside from the brief description given on Netflix: “A group of indie rockers seek solitude deep in the woods. But they soon realize they aren’t alone when a sledgehammer-brandishing intruder arrives.” As I’m a fan of rock-based horror movies like Rock N Roll Nightmare and Black Roses I figured I’d give it a shot, not even knowing until I started the movie on Netflix that Vincent D’Onofrio directed it. I had absolutely no idea that it was a musical, which explains a few of my bewildered tweets last night.

And when I say musical, I don’t mean a bunch of dudes sitting around with their instruments trying to write songs, but full-on, singing-at-the-camera moments as well. The odd thing about the movie, though, is that it reveals itself so slowly that it’s hard to actually figure out what’s going on. For quite a while, it is just the dudes in the band playing, so you think it’s that kind of movie. Then the singing-at-the-camera stuff starts, but we’re well into the movie at this point.

The horror elements also take quite a while to get going. Aside from a bloody woman seen in the beginning of the film, there isn’t another kill or scary moment for the next half hour or so. I will give the movie credit for being so off balance that I was never sure when something bad was going to happen. We get those long, wide shots of people walking around in the woods and since I’ve seen a million horror movies, I’m trained to think something bad’s going to happen. They’re creepy and unnerving even if nothing happens.

Now that I think about it, off balance is a really appropriate descriptor for this movie. Some of the performances are as wooden as the trees surrounding the band and the small army of female fans that show up to hang out. On the other hand, some are really solid. You’ve also got the beauty of the setting set off by the gruesome acts taking place. And, on the same note, some really great music sung by various band members. I would actually buy this movie’s soundtrack if it’s available anywhere (I haven’t seen it, but it might exist somewhere).

There’s also the matter of the ending, which I won’t get into too specifically. I didn’t see the twist coming at first, but it did hit me before the actual reveal, which made me feel smart and stupid at the same time in a head-slapping kind of way. I’m still not exactly sure what happened or how it all worked, but I liked how it was presented, especially the classic slasher homages in there. I also dug the look of the killer which was a masked guy in a black hat and long coat, simple but off putting.

While there weren’t any real scares or jolts for me in the watching of the film, I did find myself a little unnerved and that hasn’t happened in a while. There was just something about this movie, it was slippery and fluid, I couldn’t grab hold of it, but in a good way. I can’t say I liked the movie every moment I watched it, but having seen it, I’m glad I did and am still thinking it over.