Halloween Scene: New Movie Roundup

p9523329_p_v8_aaAs I mentioned in my first post in what felt like forever, I was awful busy looking at Halloween related material for work throughout September and October, which resulted in a lack of posts here on the site, a first if I’m not mistaken. Sure, Halloween season is technically over, but I wanted to write a bit more about a few of the newer movies I saw on Netflix in preparation for two Spinoff lists: 5 Recent Indie Supernatural Horror Movies Worth Watching and 5 Recent Slasher Flicks to Take a Stab at For Halloween.

First off a little background that I mentioned in those posts, but didn’t get fully into. While looking around for horror movies on Netflix Instant back in September, I realized that a lot of movies I’d heard good things about on Killer POV (my favorite horror podcast) were on there. I tend to avoid new horror movies out of a kind of fear, not necessarily a fear of being frightened by them, but a fear of being subjected to awful depravity. Let’s face it, that was the subgenre du jour for a while there. It seemed like every new movie I watched was just filled with torture. Not my bag.

john dies at the endBut after hearing about so many quality movies that had come out — many of which don’t work for everyone, which is fine my me — I decided to focus my viewing efforts this season on new movies from this decade. With only four years to choose from, I was a little worried about slim pickings, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and happy with the results. In fact, I think I enjoyed everything I watched (at least on some level).

Alright, let’s start with the Supernatural list. I covered them pretty well, but to take things a few steps further Don Coscarelli’s John Diest At The End and Resolution are two of my favorite scary movies in a long time. I loved The Innkeepers. Like I said in the review, between the on-screen scares and my anticipation of scares based on lesser films, I was pretty wiped by the end of that viewing experience. I thought about watching Ti West’s Sacrament, but wussed out.

rites of springI’d seen Odd Thomas on Netflix several times, wasn’t sure about it, but finally watched it and really enjoyed it. It kind of reminded me of Brick, but with less melodrama and more death-monsters. I liked it so much, I’m actually reading Dean Koontz’s Odd Hours from the library. It has the same feel as the movie. I’d like to see Anton Yelchin star in a series of films or, better yet, a TV show based on the character. I still can’t tell if All Cheerleader’s Die is a super clever film or I’m just reading too far into it, but it was definitely worth the watch.

Over to the slashers, this was another pleasantly surprising batch of films. I was especially surprised by how much I enjoyed Curse Of Chucky as that’s not exactly a series I’m in love with. I also wasn’t sure if Maniac would be my bag because I’ve never seen the original or its fellow real-killer-in-NYC ilk, but I found it chilling and Elijah Wood captivating in the lead role. I actually felt super creepy walking anywhere near a woman when I was going from the hotel to the bar during NYCC because of that viewing experience. Stage Fright was so much fun, but that might be solely because of my experience in high school musical theater. It’s goofy and weird, but I’m okay with that.

The-Innkeepers-PosterI’ll be honest, I didn’t actually watch Hatchet II again, but those films are still some of the best slasher flicks I’ve ever laid eyes on from any decade. I didn’t really think about it until I wrote that list, but it’s difficult to think of any other series with that much consecutive quality. Finally, I really liked the look and mash-up feel of Rites Of Spring. It’s on the shortlist of movies I watched this year that had a distinct color pallet and style. I found myself wondering if the Stranger was actually satiating a kind of crop god or just a crazy person throwing blood down on a man in a weird mask for decades. It would have been nice to get some of those answers, but I didn’t think they were necessary.

I also watched American Mary. I’ve got a blog post written that I’ll throw up this week. Here’s a preview, I thought it was pretty damn unique, but I’ll probably never watch it again. I still really dig the You’re Next viewing experience and do think I’ll return to that one at some point. Speaking of repeated viewings, that was the focus of my late-October horror movie schedule which will make up another post!

Halloween Scene: Hatchet II (2010)

I wish I had watched the first Hatchet before watching Hatchet II. I’ve seen the movie once before and I know I liked it, but considering the sequel picks up right from the last scene of the previous movie, it would have been nice to do a kind of mini-marathon. Thanks to a fair amount of recap, I remembered what was caught up to speed (really, all you need to know is that Danielle Harris and a group of tourists got attacked by a slasher named Victor Crowley in the swamp, she was there because he killer her family members). As things pick back up, Harris is joined by voodoo practitioner Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd) and a group of hunters to go into the woods and cap Crowley thanks to a bounty offered up by the good rev.

The story picks up pretty quickly, which I like, but not too quickly. We get enough bits and pieces about the different characters, none of whom are particularly awful and then they reach the location of their ultimate demise. And man, do these people get taken out in some creative and gruesome ways. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much damage done to the human head in a horror flick. Smashed, chopped, sliced, sawed, split, this one’s got them all and they all look good, which is impressive because a human head/face is one of the hardest things to replicate and make authentic-looking.

The story’s interesting and character’s fleshed out enough, but the two keys to this movie for me are the practical effects and the ways it plays with the conventions of slasher movies. I’ve already discussed the effects which might be some of the best I’ve ever seen, but the flipped tropes are also worth talking about. Without giving too much away, Victor doesn’t pick everyone off one by one until only the final girl is left. In fact, not only are the victims this time armed and hunting him (a change from the usual), but they also come upon him in a group and try to attack him at once. It doesn’t work out super well, but it happens. They also throw a character up against Victor who actually seems like he or she can do some real damage. And that ending! Did not see that coming.

I really don’t want to go into too much detail, but I think this is my most recommended movie this October. All the slasher conventions are there, though they’re also played with. The acting’s great, though not overly deep. The kill scenes are phenomenally well done with more blood that I think I’ve ever seen on screen. If you thought the slasher movie was dead and gone with acid washed jeans and Bon Jovi, think again. Adam Green’s the real deal, folks!

Halloween Scene: Hatchet (2006)

It’s funny how elements beyond your control can come together to enhance a movie-watching experience. Saturday night I was flipping through my online Netflix queue looking for something to watch and decided on Hatchet, which I think I’ve heard good things about. I say “I think” because, like any other horror fan, I was bombarded with ads for this movie online and in print a while back. Anyway, it was probably around midnight when I pushed play and about 15 minutes in, I started seeing flashes of lightning through the trees (my TV is right in front of our living room windows). As the film went on and things got bad for the characters on screen, nature added ever closer lightning along with some nice pouring rain to match the movie. I can’t think of a cooler viewing experience I’ve had. Oh, and the movie was pretty great too.

Like I mentioned above, I saw a TON of advertising for this movie, but I think it was all in print and online, so it didn’t really hint at the plot aside from the image of the hatchet itself. This is the art that was on Netflix and I’m pretty sure also adorned most of the ads:

I actually prefer this poster, which hints at the humor that goes along with the horror in the movie:

I was actually starting to think the movie might turn down the Scary Movie route when the cast started revealing itself. Our hero is Joel Moore, who you may remember as the nerdy guy in Dodge Ball, the nerdy jerk in Grandma’s Boy and the dude in Katy Perry’s Waking Up In Vegas video. He’s accompanied by Deon Richmond who I recognize most as the Token Black Guy from Not Another Teen Movie. They’re at Mardi Gras (pre-Katrina obviously) looking for a zombie boat cruise which brings on a pretty funny cameo by Candyman himself Tony Todd (we also get treated to a Robert Englund (Freddy) role in the beginning and Kane Hodder plays the killer). So, I wasn’t so sure what to think.

Until Hatchet Face (aka Victor Crowley) shows up and starts wrecking shop on a small group of boat tour patrons and their guides. In the group you’ve got an older couple (the man being played by Office Space’s Richard Riehle), a Girls Gone Wild-ish guy with two girls who keep taking their tops off (the guys was in the first two seasons of Mad Men and one of the girls played Harmony in Buffy), the tour guide with a bevy of fake accents, our two guys and a mysterious young woman. Wow, that’s a long sentence. Anyway, the characters are just interesting enough that you feel bad when they get offed. I also really liked seeing Deon in a larger part, sure he got a little annoying at times, but overall he kept the mood light even during some incredibly gory scenes.

So, the story was cool, the characters solid and the gore rad. All in all I had a great time watching Hatchet and was really impressed with Moore’s transition from nerd to bad ass. He should really do more stuff. Plus, he wears a Newbury Comics shirt throughout the movie, a comic/DVD/CD store I’ve been to a few times when visiting Em’s parents in New England. And, super double extra points for an ending that I saw coming but was still surprised by the execution of. I think there’s a pun in there, but you’ll have to figure it out for yourself.