Friday, May 25, 2018

39 Years Ago Today We Learned In Space No One Can Hear You Scream

Alien (1979)

Dir- Ridley Scott
The idea of an alien monster killing spacemen is far from original, but what was always missing was the genuine terror and intense special effects. The idea for Alien was tossed around a couple of times by Dan O'Bannon. Originally titled They Bite and then Star Beast, and after changing directors one time we had the venerable Ridley Scott take the helm. With the backing of 20th Century Fox, Scott knew this movie had to be unique; he hired artist HR Giger to develop the artwork and creature design. With a collection of talented actors and some pretty tight spaces, we would get what has to be the best Sci-Fi/Horror movie ever made. The commercial space freighter Nostromo exits hyperspace when its computer detects a beacon is emanating from an unknown planet. The crew is revived and sent down to investigate, what they discover is an unknown alien vessel with some truly organic looking artifacts. The team encounters some mysterious eggs, and one is attacked. Later the same crewman births a hideous creature that soon grows and infects the ship, killing the crew one at a time until the confrontation with a then little-known and half-naked Sigourney Weaver. With excellent special effects, great claustrophobic setting and top-notch acting, we get a movie that relies heavily on suspense and little on direct gore. The real star is, of course, the alien, a product of Giger's unique biomechanical artistry.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Don't Let a Bro See it Alone

Dude Bro Party Massacre III (2015)

Dir- Tomm Jacobsen, Michael Rousselet, and Jon Salmon
With so many slasher movies dominating the 1980's it is a wonder that we have not seen more slasher spoofs outside of the Scary Movie franchise that capitalized on the success of the 1990's Scream franchise. Playing off the gimmick of an imaginary horror franchise, the comedy troupe 5 Second Films created this horror spoof that pulls a gender swap on the usual girls in distress trope often found in slasher films. A group of frat brothers survives not one, but two massacres by a series of serial killers going by the name Motherface who seeks revenge on the Delta Bi frat for a prank that ended with some dead sorority girls. This time around the twin brother of the previous sprees dead hero joins the frat to seek out the killer. The guys take a trip to the abandoned house of a sorority to find they are yet again being stalked by the pesky Motherface. The movie is deliberately bad and utilizes many of the cliches that populated 80's horror films and amps the blood and gore to almost cartoon levels. The video is put together like a lost videotape that was recently found and includes some made up commercials that are a specialty of the comedy troupe Five Second Films. The film was crowdsourced and features some cameos that include Patton Oswalt, Greg Sestero, and Nina Hartley. Dude Bro Party Massacre III is an insane film filled with absurd dialogue, cheesy yet practical special effects and enough creative touches to make it an instant cult hit. Going into this film with low expectations will only enhance the experience as this will no doubt be one of the most stupid and dumbest movies you will genuinely enjoy watching if you are a fan of slasher films and 80's horror films.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Friends Who Slay Together, Stay Together

Tragedy Girls (2017)

Dir- Tyler MacIntyre
We are seeing an influx of media savvy teens looking to make their name on social media and two young friends named Sadie and McKayla are obsessed with death after they discover a serial killer may be in their town. When they don't get the "likes" on their crime blog, the two decide that maybe they need to commit a few murders to get the attention they crave and become famous. This film by Tyler MacIntyre captures the craze in social media and how often the desire for popularity is pursued without any thought about the social responsibility or ethics involved in the pursuit of fame. X-Men alumni Alexandra Shipp and Brianna Hildebrand display a natural friendship that carries the film most impressively given how dark the subject matter is. Tragedy Girls is a very dark comedic movie that like Heathers follows the usual teen tropes of popularity, social class and being a mean girl without pushing the film outside its satiric nature into some disturbing territory.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Mother and Daughter Vampire Story

Byzantium (2012)

Dir- Neil Jordan 

In this somewhat non-traditional vampire tale, we see two women of mysterious background seeking an escape from their current situation after an encounter with an unknown man. The elder vampire Clara (Gemma Arterton) uses her body to earn money and provide for her daughter while protecting her from a mysterious group that seeks to destroy them. The younger Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) seeks to escape her mothers ever watchful eye and live a life that does not involve running away. Their conflicts begin to drive a wedge in their relationship as Eleanor falls for a young man who she feels the need to share her secret. Byzantium arrived in the wake of glittery vampire movies and defied the usual tropes by telling a story that focuses less on fangs and more on the struggle to survive and live life while in hiding. The coastal setting and old hotel add significantly to the atmosphere of this film giving it a gothic feel that is reminiscent of Neil Jordans Interview With A Vampire. What helps Byzantium stand out from other vampire films is the focus on Clara and Eleanor's bond and how their journey together has created a tension that will play out as the younger vampire defies her mother and seeks a human relationship. Saoirse Ronan had a breakthrough performance in 2017's Lady Bird, and this early role shows her considerable talent as the teenage looking vampire Eleanor. While not as high profile a film as Interview With a Vampire, Byzantium will not disappoint fans looking for something original and different in a genre that has pretty much worn itself out.

Monday, May 14, 2018

RIP Margot Kidder

Margot Kidder (1948-2018)

I grew up knowing Margot Kidder as Lois Lane and she is still the perfect match for Superman. Yet Ms. Kidder had a great body of work that covered drama, thrillers, and horror. Most notable was the 1974 slasher forerunner Black Christmas but the biggest impact she made in horror was playing Kathy Lutz in 1979 The Amityville Horror. In later years she would follow up the success of these films with a number of Superman sequels but her career took a decline with less than notable roles and a nervous breakdown. In recent years Ms. Kidder would make a comeback doing television roles, stage work and even appearing in Smallville. She would have a small role in Rob Zombie's Halloween II and would win an Emmy for her work on RL Stine's The Haunting Hour. A beautiful actress who will be missed greatly.

A Violent Descent Into Madness

Darling (2015)

Dir- Mickey Keating
Owing much to Roman Polanski's early films, Darling is a psychological thriller about a young woman's slow descent into madness as she takes on a job as the caretaker of an old mansion in Manhattan. Shot in black and white and utilizing little dialogue, Darling uses subliminal edits and unsettling music to tell a story that is shown in a series of chapters leading to an inevitable tragic outcome. Lauren Ashley Carter excels in a role that is not the usual scream queen fare, displaying a wide range of emotions that include isolation, detachment from reality as well as paranoia. Darling is certainly not original, but Ms. Carter does not disappoint in this indie thriller that she also co-produced.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

13 Horror Movie Mother's From Hell

For Mother's Day, I have put together a list of some bad mothers from some notable horror movies, some of these mothers are merely protective of their children while others have different motivations. This is a fun list to highlight some of the reason for the bad mother's behavior as well as a reminder of how much need to show some love to dear old mom.

Massive Spoiler Alert!

Pamela Voorhees (Friday the 13th)
Betsy Palmer (1979), Nana Vistor (2009)

Mrs. Voohees was an employee of Camp Crystal Lake where she worked as the cook; this took away time to care for her deformed son Jason, so she depended on the counselors to look out for him. After he drowned due to their neglect, she swore vengeance on those she found responsible and murdered a number of them. She would then sabotage efforts to reopen the camp. Mrs. Voorhees was a revenge-driven killer who used surprise to take out her victims as they often trusted her and did not suspect her motives. 

Norma Bates (Psycho)
Olivia Hussey (Psycho IV), Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel)

A widow who raised her son Norman in a strict yet loving manner that may have made him too dependent on her affection. Mother was often mentioned by Norman but never seen in the first movie. The strict tone of her voice was heard and would be revealed to be that of Norman.  A later sequel showed her to be a woman who loved her son but would often punish him for his reaction to her over affectionate manner. Norman always listened to her, and when she found a potential suitor, he made sure that she would never leave him for anyone. The TV show Bates Motel does feature Mrs. Bates when she was alive with her younger son and acts as a prequel to the first movie. Norma Bates is manipulative, controlling and emotionally abusive to her son and may have driven him to his murderous tendencies.

Margaret White (Carrie)
Piper Laurie (1976), Patricia Clarkson (2002), Julianne Moore (2013)

A devoutly religious single mother of high school student Carrie White, Margaret is a strict and pious woman who kept her daughter sheltered from the world until she was forced to allow Carrie to attend public school. A seamstress by trade, Margaret often punished Carrie by locking her in a closet for sins that were often nothing more than her daughter asking questions. She hides the dark secret of her own mother's telepathic skills and sees it as a curse of the devil that she hopes to keep away from her daughter. Margaret White may suffer some mental illness if not paranoid fantasies.

Mother (Mothers Day 1980)
Rose Ross

A kindly old lady in a neck brace lures a couple to her remote cabin to then have her two dim-witted, but aggressive sons attack and rape while she cheers them on. Mother is shown to be abusive, foul-mouthed and enables her sons by encouraging them in acts of violence, brutal rapes and ultimately murder. She displays bouts of paranoia and is criminally insane.

Debbie Loomis (Scream 2)
Laurie Metcalf

Mrs. Loomis appears in the first sequel to Scream and is the mother of Billy Loomis who was revealed to be one of the two killers in the first film. She hides her real identity and pretends to be a reporter in the hope of exacting revenge on Gale Weathers and Sidney Prescott. Mrs. Loomis is revenge-driven and proves to be capable of hiding her true identity as she plots her murders. 

Natalie Koffin (Mothers Day 2010)
Rebecca De Mornay

In this loose remake of the 1980 slasher classic Natalie Koffin plays a sociopathic mother who is called upon by her criminal sons to fix the mess they created after a botched bank robbery leads them into their old house with a new family being taken, hostage. While she seems perfectly sane and rational Mrs. Koffin is the real leader of this gang, mercilessly torturing the family and their guests looking for money that is hidden in the home. It is revealed that Mrs. Koffin may not be the birth mother of her kids and she seems to have no problem pitting them against each other if it leads to her goal of getting the money she is demanding. 

Beverly Sutphin (Serial Mom)
Kathleen Turner

Mrs. Sutphin is a seemingly perfect mother and housewife who is willing to do anything to protect her family. Despite her wholesome appearance Mrs. Sutphin displays a level of anger that drives her to seek revenge and murder those who she feels have harmed her family or committed some minor offense that requires severe punishment. Mrs. Sutphin is a pure sociopath who is effective as a serial killer and is convincing enough to trick a jury into proving she is innocent.

Mrs. Mott aka Peyton Flanders 
(The Hand that the Rocks the Cradle)
Rebecca De Mornay

Finding the best nanny is always a tough task, and when the perfect one arrives, you don't want to let them go. The Bartel family hire Peyton, and she seems to be a perfect match as she bonds well with the kids and seems like a member of the family. Little do they know that Peyton is the widowed wife of the disgraced doctor that Mrs. Bartel had filed a complaint on during her pregnancy. His suicide left her penniless, homeless and she would lose her child after a miscarriage. Peyton's plan to ruin Mrs. Bartel's life starts with winning over the kids, the husband and then murdering the wife in a manner that would drive her husband into her arms. Peyton threatens a handyman, kills a family friend and almost succeeds in killing Mrs. Bartel but is stopped with the help of her handyman. Although Peyton wasn't a mother her desire for revenge on the woman she blames for all of her problems makes her scary enough to include.

Ruth Chandler (The Girl Next Door)
Blanche Baker 

Although not the mother of Meg and Susan Loughlin, Mrs. Chandler is their aunt and takes them in after the two girls lose their parents in an auto accident. Meg soon becomes the target of her Aunt's abuse and is treated horribly by her along with her sister. Often being accused of being a prostitute and slut, Meg is tied up in the basement and forced to endure torture and sexual abuse, first from her aunt then by her cousins and some neighborhood kids. Mrs. Chandler would ultimately harm Meg to the extent that her death was a welcome reprieve from her inhuman abuse. What makes Ruth Chandler even scarier is that she is based on a real person and the events of the movie happened as they were presented in the shocking novel by Jack Ketchum. What motivated Ruth Chandler to harm her nieces is not certain but she may have shown jealousy to the young girl's beauty and having to care for her along with own kids may have pushed over the edge. She is easily one of the most sadistic villains on this list and without question the evilest.

Corrine Dollanganger (Flowers in the Attic)
Victoria Tennant (1987), Heather Graham (2014)

After losing her husband in an accident, Corrine Dollanganger takes her four young kids back to her parents home where she has been estranged from them since her marriage. The kids meet their grandmother and are put in a hidden room where Corrine intends to wipe the slate clean and let them die like mice in the attic. For a once loving and devoted mother to abandon her children for her selfish desires makes Ms. Dollanganger one of the worst offenders on the list. Unlike most others on this list, she fully intends to kill off her children and pretends they didn't even exist for the sake of reinventing herself with the desire to gain her inheritance that had a provision that she had to have been childless. 

Nola Carveth (The Brood)
Samantha Eggar

If you are looking for a director that you most would not want to see a family movie from it is undoubtedly David Cronenberg. Nola Carveth is a patient who is undergoing a form of psychotherapy that allows her to manifest her rage in the form of childlike homunculi that go after the targets of her anger. She controls these killer minions like a queen bee with the big shocker being how she births them. Even after almost 30 years, this movie villain remains one Cronenberg's most controversial, and she is undoubtedly one you won't forget.

Vera Cosgrove (Dead Alive)
Elizabeth Moody

If ever there is an award for the most guilt-inducing and overbearing mother it certainly is Vera Cosgrove. Her adult son Lionel is timid and easily controlled by her overdramatic antics and is most upset when she finds out he might have a girlfriend. Her attempt to spy on their date has her bitten by a weird Rat Monkey that turns her into a zombie that is even more of a pain in the ass than when she was alive. Lionels inability to contain her results in the town being infected by her and he has to face off with an army of zombies alongside his new girlfriend. Mrs. Cosgrove puts Lionel into her womb to ensure that his girlfriend can't have him and his escape it one of the most bloody and over the top moments in a film that is already pretty crazy. 

Mommy Robeson (People Under the Stairs)
Wendy Robie

Along with her brother/husband, Mrs. Robeson was a landlady who ran a collection of slums that brought them plenty of money due to the racist way they treated their renters. She also strictly cared for her children keeping them compliant and abusing those who were disobedient. Mrs. Robeson was psychotic and paranoid, and it is revealed that she kidnapped most of the children in her care and pretended to be their mother. The disobedient children would often be thrown into the cellar to become the feral monster that the young boy named Fool called the People Under the Stairs.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Stars aren't the only things that can fall from the sky

Imitation Girl (2017) 

Dir- Natasha Kermani

You don't often see too many sci-fi films directed and centered around women; Imitation Girl is an independent sci-fi drama that explores two separate yet interwoven narratives with both roles played by the delightful indie star Lauren Ashley Carter. The film opens with a mysterious black goo falling to earth and taking the form of a young porn actress named Julianna Fox from a magazine. The Imitation wanders the desert until she is found by a young Persian man who takes her in and helps her thinking she has memory problems. Meanwhile, in New York, the real Julianna is shown to be a troubled young actress who does not enjoy her work and longs for something more meaningful in her life. As Imitation learns to explore her body and the world around her as she bonds with her new friends Julianna is suffering a crisis as her destructive lifestyle is making her feel lost and hopeless. Often compared to Beneath the Skin, Imitation Girl shares more in common with the 1984 sci-fi classic Starman as it is more a drama and has no horror elements to it. Ms. Carter who has appeared in some recent indie horror films is outstanding in both roles that are very different despite their outward appearance. Director Natasha Kermani skillfully blends both characters with Ms. Carter doing a fantastic job making the viewer feel like we are watching two different actresses. Unlike most Sci-Fi films you won't get a lot of high tech special effects or an action drive plot. Instead, you have a thoughtful study on the human condition with the alien finding what it means to be a woman by helping her host find true fulfillment in her life.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Worst Prom Night Ever

Carrie and Prom Night are the two most popular horror movie franchises that feature the prom, these two film franchises have nine titles between them but aren't the only movies that include the big dance. Here is a collection of horror movies and black comedies that include proms as part of their plot. I have ranked from the worst to first

8. Prom Ride (2015)

A group of friends taking a limo ride to their prom finds they are being held hostage by someone who is all too aware of their dark secrets. Unlike most other prom horror movies this one takes place in a limo pretty much-echoing elements of "Saw" and "Would You Rather" to spin an inconsistent film that starts off as a bad imitation of High School Musical before getting to the meat of the story. It is then that we get an unscary collection of arguments as the secrets turn these friends on one another. The concept was promising, but maybe a conventional storyline would have helped this film.

7. Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (2009

This sequel to the 2002 body horror film picks up soon after the events of the first film with a group of high schoolers falling victim to the bacteria-tainted water that is served during the prom. As the prom attendees begin to puke, melt and go crazy the school is put on lockdown by armed soldiers who are using deadly force to contain the outbreak. As with the first Cabin Fever, we get an insane amount of blood, guts and full-blown body horror. We also see a poor script, terrible acting and extremely gory deaths sequences that will make many turn off the movie.

6. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994) 

The plot is not too original; it pretty much follows the original in most details except instead of a bunch of hippies you have a group of prom-goers getting lost. They soon meet up with a weird tow truck driver with a mechanical leg who turns on the group. From there you have poor wallflower Renee Zellweger getting terrorized by the cannibal clan that includes Matthew McConaughey as the crazy tow truck driver, a weird cattle prod armed brother who spouts bizarre quotes and of course Leatherface who now is in full drag. I kid you not, the chainsaw villain of the first film is wearing a wig, dress, and makeup.

5. Jawbreaker (1999)  

While pulling a prank, three popular mean girls accidentally kill their best friend and must find a way to keep it secret, even if it means taking in a shy wallflower and making her one of them. While trying to cover their tracks, they instead create another problem when the wallflower threatens the social order with her new found popularity as prom approaches. This black comedy follows a group of girls similar to ones found in Heathers, they are beautiful, fashionable and pretty much run the school through fear and intimidation even within their circle. When it was released in 1999 Jawbreaker received terrible reviews yet in recent years has become a cult classic for its excellent cast, slick dialogue and mean girl tropes that would inspire later teen films. 

4. Jennifers Body (2009)        

Needy and Jennifer have been friends most of their life and remain close despite being in different social circles. One night the two go to a seedy bar to listen to a band with Jennifer leaving the bar with them afterward. When she returns after suffering a physical assault, she becomes a possessed killer who turns on men leaving Needy wondering what happened to her friend. Stopping her becomes Needy's goal even if it means hurting her best friend. This supernatural black comedy seems like another silly teen horror film yet it is instead a film that explores the role friendship plays between two young women and how events can change their dynamic. Jennifers Body did not fare well at the box office but has become popular since its release on video becoming a cult classic. Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried work well together, and that helps to carry a film that otherwise would be passed off as a horror-themed chick flick. 

3. Dance of the Dead (2008)   

Prom night is in the air but not for the sci-fi geeks, burnouts and other outsiders who are avoiding the big dance. When toxic chemicals turn many in the school and town into zombies, it is these same losers that take charge to fight off the army of the dead and win over some of the pretty ladies. This independent horror film is no different from the many other zombie films but like Return of the Living Dead adds humor, crazy action and plenty of creative ways to handle zombies. The cast is mostly unknown yet seemingly age-appropriate, so their roles are convincing, and it is no problem cheering for them. Instead of reinventing the genre Dance of the Dead takes the best that classic zombie movies offer and delivers a surprisingly fun and entertaining film that is a real treat to those who enjoy zombie comedies.  

2. Night of the Creeps (1986) 

An alien parasite lands on Earth and infects people by turning them into killer zombies; the first outbreak was contained through the actions of a rookie cop only to find that the corpse he hid 27 years before has been found and releases its parasite on a new set of victims. Now a group of college buddies faceoff against these creatures as the big dance approaches threatening the students and faculty. Night of the Creeps is an excellent throwback to the B-Movies of the 1950's. Skillfully mixing sci-fi, horror, and comedy with plenty of creature effects, Night of the Creeps became an instant cult classic that despite its poor box office remains one of the best creature features of the 80's. Director Fred Dekker would also direct the classic Monster Squad. 

1. The Loved Ones (2009)         

Robin McLeavy stars in this twisted tale of revenge that shows just how far a girl and her father will go to make her special night one that her date will never forget. The Loved Ones is an Australian horror film that mixes a little bit of Misery with Prom Night in this 2009 import. The movie is quite graphic and does qualify as torture porn yet the director does an effective job hiding the most brutal of events while still giving the viewer enough to make you cringe. Despite the violence, the film does offer some humor with the interaction of Lola and her father, they are well cast and play off each other in a most sadistic yet endearing way.