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 Thief's Monthly Film Challenge 2018 
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Any suggestions as to what's the best print available for Häxan? whether it's on YouTube or not sure if it's on Prime.

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Tue Oct 16, 2018 7:56 am
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Thief wrote:
Any suggestions as to what's the best print available for Häxan? whether it's on YouTube or not sure if it's on Prime.

https://youtu.be/CkXlXc0lA9c
This print looks pretty clean .

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Tue Oct 16, 2018 8:07 am
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Thief wrote:

Those are some nice points you make.

What you said about Candyman dying in the bonfire because the residents believe they are killing him actually makes some sense against the same quote I posted ("Without these things, I am nothing.")

As for her rescuing the child, I think I'm looking at it more from a realistic point of view than an allegorical/film point of view, which makes it harder for me to accept that the residents would just accept that brief moment of "redemption" in the midst of chaos over everything that they saw at Anne-Marie's apartment or heard on the news. But maybe you're right about them always thinking that Candyman was behind everything. After all, they've been living with this legend for a long time.


I think that from the point of view of the residents, the only thing that Helen has done is take the baby. But they know that it's shady. I mean, I don't think they'd associate some rich white lady with butchering a dog and stealing a kid. All of the other mayhem happens away from Cabrini Green. Plus there's the fact that they knew she was looking for Candyman and stirring stuff up.

Helen dies saving the baby and I think that goes a long way. I think that when they see her emerge from the bonfire they don't look suspicious.


Thief wrote:
Any suggestions as to what's the best print available for Häxan? whether it's on YouTube or not sure if it's on Prime.


Yeah, go for a good looking print on YouTube. The one I watched initially was so bad that I actually totally misunderstood the last 15 minutes, and only when I came on here to rant did I realize I'd missed some key titles and sequences.


Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:23 am
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A horror film with a character's name as the title: Simon, King of the Witches (1971)

This is one of those movies whose titles I've seen for years but have never actually heard much about. It was not what I was expecting, but overall I enjoyed it.

It begins with the main character addressing the viewer straight to camera. "Hi, I'm Simon. I live in a drain pipe!"

We go on to learn that Simon (living in a contemporary town/city) is a male witch (he refers to himself as a magician). After being harassed by the police, he ends up befriending a young man, Turk, in his jail cell. Simon magically bonds Turk to himself, and the young man takes him to a party where he gets to rub elbows with some of the city's more powerful citizens.

Most plot summaries focus on the fact that Simon uses magic to avenge himself on a rich dude who cheats him with a bad check, but the bigger story of the film is that Simon is working on a ritual that will allow him to take "a trip" and make contact with/infiltrate what he calls "the powers"--the strong forces that rule the universe. These powers are aware of Simon's plans, and throw wrenches into his plans by means of accidents and influencing the behaviors of people around him. Things are further complicated by a relationship Simon develops with Linda, the daughter of a local police official.

Generally I did like this one. The film has moments of comedy (mostly intentional), but also takes itself seriously enough to generate some decent atmosphere. The scenes of Simon doing magic are intentionally low key, and the film's goal to make the magic seems more "real" are mostly successful. Andrew Prine is pretty good in the lead role, and Brenda Scott (his then wife and OMG! They were married and divorced THREE TIMES!) is good in the more thinly written role of Linda.

The only real problem I had with this film was a borderline mean-spirited scene in which Simon and Turk sacrifice (maybe? I found the end of the scene a bit confusing) a very stereotypical older gay man, who believes he's come home with them for sex. The scene contradicts Simon's general behavior of not harming those who don't offend or hurt him, and it's just uncomfortable to watch, especially with Turk's blatant homophobia driving the action.

As a different take on witches/warlocks, I quite liked the way that this was written. It's internally consistent with its ideas about how the magic works, and it has a decently trippy scene where Simon attempts to take his "journey" through a mirror into the "powers".


Tue Oct 16, 2018 6:12 pm
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Trying to get back on a film-review-writing rhythm, I expanded a bit on my initial write-up...

A horror film under 90 minutes long
A horror film from the 1930s



The Ghoul (1933)

Quote:
"We all know that dead men don't come back."


Unless you're on a film, that is. And that's exactly the premise of this British horror film starring from director T. Hayes Hunter and starring Boris Karloff. Karloff plays eccentric Egyptologist Henry Morlant, who on his deathbed threatens to come back from the dead if he isn't buried with a mysterious jewel. Unbeknownst to him, his servant (Ernest Thesiger) steals the jewel after he dies and, surprise! he does come back. The plot is rounded out by a group of visitors that come to Morlant's house for the reading of his will, until he starts terrorizing them while looking for his treasure.

The Ghoul's premise doesn't bring a lot of innovation to the table; the story feels more like a mish-mash of The Mummy, Golems, and other similar stories, including Karloff's Frankenstein. Fortunately, he plays the role well and manages to command every scene he's in. Unfortunately, he's missing for most of the second act, which is the lapse of his character's death and his return from the dead. It is precisely that act the one that drags for too long with uninteresting characters and uneventful scenes. None of the supposed lead characters has enough charisma or gravitas to carry the film, which ends up feeling, well, dead for most of its duration. There are also some attempts at comic relief with two of the characters which end up feeling awkward and/or not that funny.

It isn't until the last 20-25 minutes that Karloff comes back, and even though he's good in the role, his "rampage" is a bit disappointing and the conclusion feels lackluster. Aside from Karloff's performance and some mildly effective visual atmosphere, there's little of relevance here. He is, after all, the jewel of the film, and when he's not in it, it's as lifeless as the ghoul itself.

Grade: C

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Wed Oct 17, 2018 2:36 am
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Ok, last night I "watched" Häxan, but I'll hold off any thoughts on it cause I dozed off for pretty much most of the middle act. Missed about 30 minutes or maybe more, I guess. Not a fault on the film, but rather what's becoming the norm for my movie-watching nights, sadly.

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Wed Oct 17, 2018 5:00 am
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A horror film considered a box-office bomb or one of the worst ever made: Track of the Moon Beast (1976)

I know this title as one of the more infamous MST3K episodes, though I've never seen the film or the MST3K treatment of it. This one has a current rating of 2.2 on the IMDb.

First of all, I think that 2.2 is a bit harsh. The acting from the lead isn't awful, and I imagine that people like scoring this one low more because of its reputation.

But on the flip side, the film does have some wonderfully awful elements, namely the writing (one character in particular), and some instant-classic special effects work.

A young man, Paul, is hit in the head by a sliver of meteor during a meteor storm out in the desert, and the embedded material causes him to transform into a monster the likes of which had been seen many years ago by an Indian tribe living in the same area. The drama comes mostly from Paul and his friend Johnny's attempts to stop what is happening to him.

I can see why this would make a great MST3K episode. The writing in particular delivers some real bombs ("Moon rocks? Oh, wow!"), and the secondary characters tend to deliver their lines in a slow, ponderous fashion that only adds to the absurdity.

My other favorite "bad" element was the acting/mannerisms of the actress playing Kathy, Paul's love interest. I think that the highlight for me was when Paul has been feeling sick (unbeknownst to him, he spent the night out killing people). Kathy goes to his home and, finding her sick lover in bed gently climbs up next to him and VIGOROUSLY SHAKES HIM YELLING "WAKE UP! WAKE UP!".

Adding to the effect of the film itself is the fact that I have an injury on my foot that was hurting so bad that I got up around 4:30am to soak it. I figured I might as well put on something horror while I was just sitting there, and the early early morning hour only added to the bizarre impact.

I find a lot of "so bad it's good" films to actually be pretty boring, but this one kept me entertained the whole way through. Highly "recommended".


Wed Oct 17, 2018 5:46 am
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I am fond of the Witchcraft Through The Ages cut of Haxan, which is considerably shorter and untinted but includes a very complementary voice over from William S. Burroughs (an old crone in essence) and an avant-jazz soundtrack from Jean-Luc Ponty. Not to have to choose between them, but if one is considering a rewatch, I'd suggest giving the alternate a shake.

What I'm saying is go ahead and buy the Criterion already (which has both).


Wed Oct 17, 2018 6:40 am
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A horror film with a child protagonist: Invaders from Mars (1986)

So this one had me, then lost me, then had me again, then lost me again.

The plot follows a little boy, David, who spots a UFO landing in a hill behind his home. Soon his father, mother, and several other adults in the community begin to behave strangely. With the help of a sympathetic school nurse, Linda, and a sympathetic army general, David tries to stop the alien invasion.

To me this was a pretty good example of the kind of "horror" that would be good for an 8-12 year old just trying to get into horror. The alien creatures are fun, and the frustration of a child being ignored by adults is very relatable. I liked the bright colors of the film and the general sense of adventure and exploration.

Hunter Carson, who played the little boy, was a bit uneven. He seemed pretty good in some scenes, and too exaggerated in others. Karen Black as Linda was good, as were the actors playing the army general and his assistant. Louise Fletcher did a nice job in her role as David's teacher, who isn't that nice even before having alien hardware implanted in her head.

My only real issues with the film were that the aliens' motives were kept too unclear and then I thought that the end was kind of a mess and didn't make any sense. It's too bad, because up until then the movie was pretty fun.


Thu Oct 18, 2018 5:32 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
A horror film with a child protagonist: Invaders from Mars (1986)

So this one had me, then lost me, then had me again, then lost me again.

The plot follows a little boy, David, who spots a UFO landing in a hill behind his home. Soon his father, mother, and several other adults in the community begin to behave strangely. With the help of a sympathetic school nurse, Linda, and a sympathetic army general, David tries to stop the alien invasion.

To me this was a pretty good example of the kind of "horror" that would be good for an 8-12 year old just trying to get into horror. The alien creatures are fun, and the frustration of a child being ignored by adults is very relatable. I liked the bright colors of the film and the general sense of adventure and exploration.

Hunter Carson, who played the little boy, was a bit uneven. He seemed pretty good in some scenes, and too exaggerated in others. Karen Black as Linda was good, as were the actors playing the army general and his assistant. Louise Fletcher did a nice job in her role as David's teacher, who isn't that nice even before having alien hardware implanted in her head.

My only real issues with the film were that the aliens' motives were kept too unclear and then I thought that the end was kind of a mess and didn't make any sense. It's too bad, because up until then the movie was pretty fun.

"I'll stay after school every day if you'd just shut up." Ugh.

Still pretty decent though.

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Thu Oct 18, 2018 5:44 am
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A horror film featuring a non-human lead character: Child’s Play (1988)

This is probably one of the more famous "big name" horrors that I'd never seen before. It's obviously got a huge cultural legacy and it was fun to check out for the first time.

I'm pretty sure everyone knows the basic plot: a cornered and mortally wounded killer uses dark magic to put himself inside a large doll, using his new body to seek revenge on those who wronged him and generally make life miserable for the little boy who ends up owning him.

I mean, yeah. This was a solid horror flick with memorable kills and some nice moments of comedy. Alex Vincent, who plays Andy, does a nice job in a role that could have easily been shrill. Chris Sarandon as the homicide detective working the killings and Catherine Hicks as Andy's mother are also pretty good.

The thing I probably appreciated the most was the effects. I liked the animation of the doll's face and body, which I felt was the right mix of stiffness and flexibility. The burned Chucky head later in the film was also wonderfully gruesome. Obviously there are times that a small person is being used to show the whole doll moving, and I felt like the transitions between the doll prop and the doll costume were a lot less obvious than in most films like this.


Thu Oct 18, 2018 6:48 am
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Child's Play traumatized me as a child. My parents would watch it all the time. Revisited it a few years ago and had a time.

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Thu Oct 18, 2018 10:55 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
A horror film with a child protagonist: Invaders from Mars (1986)

So this one had me, then lost me, then had me again, then lost me again.

The plot follows a little boy, David, who spots a UFO landing in a hill behind his home. Soon his father, mother, and several other adults in the community begin to behave strangely. With the help of a sympathetic school nurse, Linda, and a sympathetic army general, David tries to stop the alien invasion.

To me this was a pretty good example of the kind of "horror" that would be good for an 8-12 year old just trying to get into horror. The alien creatures are fun, and the frustration of a child being ignored by adults is very relatable. I liked the bright colors of the film and the general sense of adventure and exploration.

Hunter Carson, who played the little boy, was a bit uneven. He seemed pretty good in some scenes, and too exaggerated in others. Karen Black as Linda was good, as were the actors playing the army general and his assistant. Louise Fletcher did a nice job in her role as David's teacher, who isn't that nice even before having alien hardware implanted in her head.

My only real issues with the film were that the aliens' motives were kept too unclear and then I thought that the end was kind of a mess and didn't make any sense. It's too bad, because up until then the movie was pretty fun.

I ultimately ended up liking this movie a lot more than I thought I would, which is to say that I thought I would dislike it. I thought it was fun enough and held together acceptably. I would watch it again.


Fri Oct 19, 2018 8:00 am
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A documentary about horror or horror films
A horror film in a foreign language
A horror film from the 1920s



Häxan (1922)

Found this to be more interesting than it was entertaining. Director and writer Benjamin Christensen takes a quasi-documentary approach to look at the story behind medieval witch-hunts as well as other spiritual superstitions. The film is divided in multiple segments, each of which focuses on a particular part of its narrative; from a visual illustration of common beliefs of space and religion in medieval times, to the story of a woman accused of being a witch. The narrative is loosely told and frequently interrupted by the more scholarly moments of the film, which tends to break the momentum, but it's still intriguing. The real strenght, like someone else said in another thread, lies on Christensen's visuals and production values which are haunting, eerie, and damn good.

Grade: B

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Fri Oct 19, 2018 8:32 am
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Wooley wrote:
I ultimately ended up liking this movie a lot more than I thought I would, which is to say that I thought I would dislike it. I thought it was fun enough and held together acceptably. I would watch it again.


I thought I'd remembered someone singing the praises of this one (as a nostalgia thing), but maybe not. I thought it was okay, but the ending really was kind of a mess. I also didn't love that the film failed to explain what was going on with the "possessed" adults.


Fri Oct 19, 2018 8:33 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

I thought I'd remembered someone singing the praises of this one (as a nostalgia thing), but maybe not. I thought it was okay, but the ending really was kind of a mess. I also didn't love that the film failed to explain what was going on with the "possessed" adults.

If I sang its praises in the past, which is possible, it was more as a "somewhat to significantly defied low expectations" thing than nostalgia, as I didn't see it til I was at least 37 or 38 years old. I remember that I liked it, genuinely, but more as a "wow, there was some legit work in this, from imagination to execution, despite the fact that it was absolutely not made to appeal to ME."


Fri Oct 19, 2018 2:17 pm
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A horror film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990
A horror film with less than five major characters
A horror film from the 2010s



A Ghost Story (2017)

A surprisingly good little film. Not particularly horror, but it's a ghost story, so I think it fits. Without giving too much away, the film follows a young couple (Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara) trying to decide whether to move or not out of their little house. When tragedy strikes, both of them have to learn to deal with the loss and the threat of being forgotten. Despite what might seem like a silly premise (a ghost wearing white sheets), A Ghost Story is a surprisingly deep and moving story about learning to cope with grief and forcing oneself to move on, while bringing up many profound existential struggles that some of us have. As someone who's precisely going through a sort of existential, mid-life crisis, this film struck me hard. The kind of film that pushes all the right buttons in someone's brain, to the point that I just can't shake it off. 100% recommended.

Grade: A+

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Fri Oct 19, 2018 10:54 pm
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I was really interested in Ghost Story, but that'll have to wait until I can look at Casey Affleck without just being totally grossed out.

A horror film directed by a woman: Dolly Dearest (1991)

It might be fitting that I followed Child's Play with a film that seems like it was designed to cash in on the killer doll story. Dolly Dearest follows a family (Denise Crosby plays the mom) that moves down to Mexico because the father of the family has purchased a factory there. The factory used to make Dolly Dearest dolls, and the father gives one of the dolls to his daughter. Little does he know that the tomb of an extinct race of devil worshipers called the Sanzi whose "Devil child" spirit has escaped the tomb and possessed all of the dolls (and then the family's daughter).

The first half of the film follows Jessica's slow possession by the doll, which mainly turns her into a bitchy teenage girl. Jessica's mother is very concerned about the changes in her daughter, but her father (who is never home) seems to think it's all in the mother's head. Meanwhile, the precocious son becomes fascinated with the archaeological dig and begins to research the Sanzi.

This film seems like it would be terrible, but it's actually merely serviceable. Some of the behaviors of the daughter are, um, actually pretty accurate to how children with behavior disorders will act. It is frustrating watching the mother basically be a doormat for the first hour of the film (that doll should have been in the trash heap way sooner). The scenes of doll-driven murderous mayhem are pretty good, though the film is actually really low on scares/kills. The film seems like it has a half-hearted notion that there might be some colonialization/racial elements at play (for example in the way that child Jessica is pretty horrible to the family's Mexican housekeeper), but it's not really explored in any meaningful way. The Mexican characters in the film are pretty stereotyped, consisting mainly of a super-religious housekeeper, her uber-religious sister, and a weird Mexican worker who makes "funny" sexual/sexist advances on the dolls before they explode his heart. The character of the son is really annoying, but that's really down to the writing, which just uses him as a plot device and one-liner machine.

Not good, but not awful.


Sat Oct 20, 2018 3:10 am
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Thief wrote:
A horror film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990
A horror film with less than five major characters
A horror film from the 2010s



A Ghost Story (2017)

A surprisingly good little film. Not particularly horror, but it's a ghost story, so I think it fits. Without giving too much away, the film follows a young couple (Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara) trying to decide whether to move or not out of their little house. When tragedy strikes, both of them have to learn to deal with the loss and the threat of being forgotten. Despite what might seem like a silly premise (a ghost wearing white sheets), A Ghost Story is a surprisingly deep and moving story about learning to cope with grief and forcing oneself to move on, while bringing up many profound existential struggles that some of us have. As someone who's precisely going through a sort of existential, mid-life crisis, this film struck me hard. The kind of film that pushes all the right buttons in someone's brain, to the point that I just can't shake it off. 100% recommended.

Grade: A+

I love that one. Such a powerful and deep story. Glad you also loved it.

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Sat Oct 20, 2018 3:25 am
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Is it true that
Rooney Mara eats an entire pie in real-time
?

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Sat Oct 20, 2018 10:19 am
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Rock wrote:
Is it true that
Rooney Mara eats an entire pie in real-time
?

Yes, and that's also one of the best scenes in the film.

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Sat Oct 20, 2018 10:34 am
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:heart:

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Sat Oct 20, 2018 10:40 am
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Popcorn Reviews wrote:
Yes, and that's also one of the best scenes in the film.

Agree.

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Sat Oct 20, 2018 11:38 am
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A horror film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990: The Grave (1996)

This film has a promising 5.9/10 rating on IMDb. It stars people like Josh Charles, Donal Logue, Gabrielle Anwar, Kieth David, and Giovanni Ribisi. I thought I was in for an under-the-radar gem.

Ha. Nope.

This film is listed as a horror-comedy, and yet I would argue that it is neither funny nor scary. Sure it offers up a few theoretically horrifying moments (a man being handed a freshly severed rabbit's foot, a man being accidentally buried alive), but none of them are played quite right and end up feeling more confusing than frightening. The film's idea of humor is, for example, a man telling another man to "slow down and buy a vowel", or any number of "country-isms" like "he was as nervous as a cat in a room full of ricking chairs." Donal Logue probably fares the best at actually making his character enjoyable to watch, but the writing here is just so bad that it pretty much sinks the rest of the cast (Kieth David and Giovanni Ribisi are each in the movie for like three minutes, so they don't have to struggle through quite as much).

The film's plot follows two convicts who are given a tip about a fortune buried in a cemetery. (Why doesn't the person who gives them the tip juts go get the money himself? Good question! The movie does not care!) They end up intersecting with a trio of old friends, a crooked deputy, and one ex-girlfriend, as the large sum of money begins to bring out the worst in everyone involved. This is one of those movies where the plot feels like a 5-minute urban-legend story stretched painfully into feature length and the strain shows.

The IMDb trivia section on this film is just clearly the same person trying to explain the answer of the film, which also makes very little sense.

Unless you're a huge fan of someone involved, skip.


Sat Oct 20, 2018 12:23 pm
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A horror film starring someone you dislike: Bottom Feeder (2007)

As discussed before, the only actors I actually dislike are those who are sexual abusers or otherwise gross people. And I've really not been in the mood to look at any of those people.

I pulled up a list on IMDb of horror films from the 2000s, and kept an eye out for anyone I don't like that much but is also not someone I'd just be totally annoyed by having to watch. Hello, Tom Sizemore.

Look, I don't know what the deal is with Sizemore. I know nothing about his personal life (and don't really want to), but I get bad vibes off of him. He seems like someone you wouldn't want to run into in a parking lot. If he was your friend's dad, you wouldn't want to have a sleepover there. If your friend started dating him, you'd low-key be considering an intervention. Yes, that's super judgmental, but it's just the instinctive reaction I have to seeing him.

So the film.

It's garbage.

A rich man with severe burns has hired a top-tier geneticist to help him recover his former self. The geneticist creates a serum that can revitalize cells, though at the cost of a ravenous hunger. Also, you will turn into what you eat because . . . why not? Because this movie is trash, the rich man decides to test the serum by having the geneticist brutally beaten and shot and dumped in a tunnel and then being injected with the serum. But they don't give him the food he needs, so he eat an unfortunate rat and becomes a sort of rat-human hybrid.

Enter Tom Sizemore! And his "charming" group of maintenance workers, who end up getting trapped in the tunnels where the rat-man and the rich man's security forces are playing hide and seek.

The film just doesn't have much going for it. It's hard to like any of the characters. The monster is intentionally kept off-screen most of the time. One character (a homeless man) speaks in a horrible fake Jamaican accent.

I will give a shout-out to one memorably gruesome scene in which a character's jaw is ripped off by the monster, but aside from that there just isn't much to enjoy.


Sun Oct 21, 2018 5:32 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
A horror film starring someone you dislike: Bottom Feeder (2007)
Hello, Tom Sizemore.

Look, I don't know what the deal is with Sizemore. I know nothing about his personal life (and don't really want to), but I get bad vibes off of him. He seems like someone you wouldn't want to run into in a parking lot. If he was your friend's dad, you wouldn't want to have a sleepover there. If your friend started dating him, you'd low-key be considering an intervention. Yes, that's super judgmental, but it's just the instinctive reaction I have to seeing him.

Yup.
Don't know what it is, I think some of it is his style of acting and some of it is just his face, but I can't really pinpoint anything, I just don't like him.


Sun Oct 21, 2018 6:21 am
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They have a Nightmare on Elm Street marathon on Paramount Nework today, and I half-watched the first three while I did some chores. Not gonna count them cause they weren't proper watches, but I have some thoughts on each...

Part 1 is truly iconic and the one with the best moments, but man, that last act is a mess. Not only the whole booby-trap thing, which I've complained about frequently here, but also the whole resolution, the thing with Nancy's parents, and the "I-take-all-your-power" thing just didn't make a lot of sense. Plus, the epilogue felt a bit like Craven wanting to have his cake and eating it too.

Part 2, I hadn't seen since I was a kid/teen, which made all the frequent allusions people made on the Internet to its homoerotic subtext feel strange for me (at the time I saw it, those things went way above my head apparently). I rewatched it about 2 years ago and, man, did that subtext resonate or what? Same today. It's so in your face that I don't know how I didn't get it back in the day.

Part 3 might be the second best of the series, or maybe even tied for first. I think the pace flows a bit better, but it also has several last act issues, most notably the silliness of the whole teens dreams (the wizard, the strong man, the razor girl). Plus, I'm sure that any student of psychology would probably have a fit with the way they treat psychology as a whole :D

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Sun Oct 21, 2018 7:00 am
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Thief wrote:
Part 3 might be the second best of the series, or maybe even tied for first. I think the pace flows a bit better, but it also has several last act issues, most notably the silliness of the whole teens dreams (the wizard, the strong man, the razor girl). Plus, I'm sure that any student of psychology would probably have a fit with the way they treat psychology as a whole :D


Definitely my favourite of the bunch.

As someone who has never found the original frightening, or particularly well made as a whole (yes, the ending is garbage), I've always preferred the wise cracking Freddy to the one I am supposed to take seriously.

That said, the original is a good movie. Just not one that I am ever particularly eager to champion as being particularly great.

A considerably better series than either of its main competitor though (F13).


Sun Oct 21, 2018 7:07 am
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Part 3 also has the edge of giving us this :D


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Sun Oct 21, 2018 7:41 am
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A documentary about horror or horror films: Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue (2009)

I have mixed feelings about the handful of specials/documentaries I've seen about horror. My main reservation (especially about a film like this one which is more of a cursory overview of the history of American horror) is that these films feel like they'd be more suited to someone who is a horror novice, and yet they give away the endings to dozens and dozens of films.

There were some fun insights from the directors and writers interviewed. I always like listening to George Romero talk horror (his or the films of others). John Carpenter also had some interesting things to say about the intersection of real events and what ends up being portrayed in film.

This documentary begins pretty strongly. It shows interesting parallels between events like WW1 and the types of stories that made it onto film. They discuss anxiety over nuclear testing and some of the films that came from those fears.

But as the film gets into the 80s and later, it gets a little murkier. It becomes more of a list. "And then there were serial killers." And because the documentary only focuses on a handful of titles from each year, there are times that it feels a little cherry-picked.

It's also worth noting that this documentary will not be winning any awards for diversity. There are literally no women or people of color. At all. AT ALL! It's so weird. I understand that the main American filmmakers of note from the last 30 years have been white guys, fine. But this documentary also features the contributions of pop culture writers--and I can't believe that they couldn't find a single female or minority voice to be a part of it. As they all slobber praise on the rape scenes from Last House on the Left or wax nostalgic about sex scenes over a lengthy montage of breasts, butts, and classic "woman on top riding unseen male character" sex scenes, it starts to feel like an icky peek inside a boys' club.

I liked some parts of this film, but I feel like it's kind of stranded in a middle ground. I think that it's way, way too spoilery to recommend to someone just starting out learning about horror films, and at the same time there's not enough new information or depth to it that a more seasoned horror viewer would get all that much out of it. In the whole film there were about five to ten minutes of stuff I never knew or a different angle on a film that I'd not heard before.


Sun Oct 21, 2018 1:41 pm
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Thief wrote:
They have a Nightmare on Elm Street marathon on Paramount Nework today, and I half-watched the first three while I did some chores. Not gonna count them cause they weren't proper watches, but I have some thoughts on each...

Part 3 might be the second best of the series, or maybe even tied for first. I think the pace flows a bit better, but it also has several last act issues, most notably the silliness of the whole teens dreams (the wizard, the strong man, the razor girl). Plus, I'm sure that any student of psychology would probably have a fit with the way they treat psychology as a whole :D

I can go with you on second-best, but I think it's a mile below the original. It utterly lacks the simply sinister nature of the first, the viciousness that Krueger has is diminished or lost in the first stages of the move toward camp.


Sun Oct 21, 2018 2:18 pm
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Thief wrote:
Part 3 also has the edge of giving us this :D


But yes it does have this.


Sun Oct 21, 2018 2:18 pm
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Takoma1 wrote:
A documentary about horror or horror films: Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue (2009)

I have mixed feelings about the handful of specials/documentaries I've seen about horror. My main reservation (especially about a film like this one which is more of a cursory overview of the history of American horror) is that these films feel like they'd be more suited to someone who is a horror novice, and yet they give away the endings to dozens and dozens of films.

There were some fun insights from the directors and writers interviewed. I always like listening to George Romero talk horror (his or the films of others). John Carpenter also had some interesting things to say about the intersection of real events and what ends up being portrayed in film.

This documentary begins pretty strongly. It shows interesting parallels between events like WW1 and the types of stories that made it onto film. They discuss anxiety over nuclear testing and some of the films that came from those fears.

But as the film gets into the 80s and later, it gets a little murkier. It becomes more of a list. "And then there were serial killers." And because the documentary only focuses on a handful of titles from each year, there are times that it feels a little cherry-picked.

It's also worth noting that this documentary will not be winning any awards for diversity. There are literally no women or people of color. At all. AT ALL! It's so weird. I understand that the main American filmmakers of note from the last 30 years have been white guys, fine. But this documentary also features the contributions of pop culture writers--and I can't believe that they couldn't find a single female or minority voice to be a part of it. As they all slobber praise on the rape scenes from Last House on the Left or wax nostalgic about sex scenes over a lengthy montage of breasts, butts, and classic "woman on top riding unseen male character" sex scenes, it starts to feel like an icky peek inside a boys' club.

I liked some parts of this film, but I feel like it's kind of stranded in a middle ground. I think that it's way, way too spoilery to recommend to someone just starting out learning about horror films, and at the same time there's not enough new information or depth to it that a more seasoned horror viewer would get all that much out of it. In the whole film there were about five to ten minutes of stuff I never knew or a different angle on a film that I'd not heard before.

Should have gone with Terror In The Aisles.


Sun Oct 21, 2018 2:21 pm
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Wooley wrote:
Should have gone with Terror In The Aisles.



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Sun Oct 21, 2018 9:19 pm
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Wooley wrote:
Should have gone with Terror In The Aisles.


Yeah, I'm a bit restricted by what's on Netflix or Amazon, but I'll keep an eye out for it.

A horror film about an animal: Backcountry (2014)

A couple, Alex and Jenn, goes on a hike together in a national park. Determined to create the perfect proposal, Alex leads them up a trail that is supposed to be closed for the season. Relying on his memory to guide them (he used to hike in the park when he was younger), Alex accidentally leads the couple astray where they draw the attention of an aggressive bear.

This is one of those movies that had a lot of positive things going for it, but a few glaring negatives. To begin with, the most frequent complaint I've seen online is that people don't like that there's a character of a creepy hiker (played by Eric Balfour) who vaguely menaces the couple in the first act and then basically disappears from most of the rest of the film. I actually didn't mind this. I think that it was actually a good example of how something can suddenly make you feel very vulnerable, and then you carry that in your mind. I live in the woods, and a few months ago a man came into my yard and said some things I did not appreciate about how isolated I was and how "no one would hear you" and crap like that. It was very scary and even though I haven't seen him since, that encounter stuck with me. I also think that the scene with the hiker captures the way that an encounter can be scary without being explicitly threatening.

I thought that the acting was pretty good and the relationship dynamics between Alex and Jenn were believable. When things with the bear get intense, I thought that those scenes were really well-shot and there's some pretty memorable and gross gore. The stunts and violence are all very solid. The setting is also beautiful.

In terms of the negatives, it kind of comes down to just too many character choices that I didn't vibe with. I've never been in that situation, or course, but a lot of things just didn't make sense, even for people who are panicking. To start with, even before there's the threat of the bear, Alex refuses to take a map of the park. Why? This makes zero sense, even as a sort of "male ego" moment. A map of a terrain is a must-have, especially for being able to see where trails connect or where emergency buildings are. I found it hard to believe that Alex refused the map and even harder to believe that Jenn didn't either insist that he take it or just grab one on her own. Later, when we actually get to the bear attacking, the couple has bear spray but doesn't use it until the bear has actually injured one of them. Again, this makes zero sense. The time to spray a bear is when it's charging, not after you've let it hurt you and realize you're delicious.

Overall I liked this film. The peril feels very real, and the setting is both gorgeous and deadly. I wish that some of the character choices had been slightly different so that parts of the plot had felt less contrived.


Sun Oct 21, 2018 11:59 pm
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A horror film with either a RT score above 95% or from the IMDb Top 250: Shelley (2016)

A Danish couple living a rustic, off-grid life employ a Romanian housekeeper, Elena. The couple has a history of failed pregnancies (due to the wife Louise being unable to carry a baby to term), and eventually ask Elena to carry a baby for them. Elena, with a child of her own back home and desperate for money, agrees. But as the pregnancy develops, it's clear that something is not right.

I'll just say right off the bat that this is one of those films with a lot of ambiguity. When done poorly, I think that such films are incredibly frustrating because you more get the feeling that the filmmaker just wanted to show some cool images but didn't bother to come up with an explanation for them.

In this case, though, I thought that the film did a great job of creating realistic, relatable characters so that the lack of total clarity is more than made up for by our investment in how the different events affect them.

There are some really powerful themes in this film, even setting aside the supernatural elements. To begin with, the idea that Elena's body is being used by a wealthier couple--her reproductive system essentially being rented. This is not to knock surrogacy, but the idea of having to go to such lengths just to provide your child with a place to live is kind of awful. As the film goes on, the couple only mildly hesitates to use their power to prevent Elena from contacting her family, afraid that they would take Elena and the baby back to Romania.

Then there's the potent body horror of pregnancy. I happen to belong to an extended group of acquaintances who have shared in detail their experiences with pregnancies (and some heartbreaking stories of miscarriages or post-birth deaths). There's something really awful about Elena's insistence that something is wrong (headaches, unbearable itching, etc) in the face of everyone else telling her that what she is experiencing is normal. To have your own knowledge of your body discounted is a horrible feeling, and there's nothing she can do in the face of such stubborn authority.

I thought that this was a really interesting film with some unexpected developments. It also features one of the best pregnancy prosthetics I've ever seen--I kept looking for trivia to see if the actress actually was pregnant during filming.


Mon Oct 22, 2018 1:27 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
It's also worth noting that this documentary will not be winning any awards for diversity. There are literally no women or people of color. At all. AT ALL! It's so weird.

It is such a glaring oversight. On the latter point, I don't see how the context of civil rights unrest of circa 1968 can be divorced from Night of the Living Dead, which is only one of the fundamental horror films of its time. There's a straight line to Candyman from there. (And that's not to even broach the issue of the long history of Asian horror.)

Since sexuality in so integral to horror (going back to Carmilla and Dracula), it's beyond baffling that they would fail to involve a women's perspective on the genre. I've seen some rather superficial documentaries that will have an obligatory appearance by a Mary Harron or a Karen Walton. It doesn't seem too difficult to accomplish. The emergence of strong female leads (Laurie Stroud, Ripley, Clarice Starling) should maybe be the first indication that horror has matured beyond providing taboo arousal to virgin boys.


Mon Oct 22, 2018 4:28 am
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Jinnistan wrote:
It is such a glaring oversight. On the latter point, I don't see how the context of civil rights unrest of circa 1968 can be divorced from Night of the Living Dead, which is only one of the fundamental horror films of its time. There's a straight line to Candyman from there. (And that's not to even broach the issue of the long history of Asian horror.)

Since sexuality in so integral to horror (going back to Carmilla and Dracula), it's beyond baffling that they would fail to involve a women's perspective on the genre. I've seen some rather superficial documentaries that will have an obligatory appearance by a Mary Harron or a Karen Walton. It doesn't seem too difficult to accomplish. The emergence of strong female leads (Laurie Stroud, Ripley, Clarice Starling) should maybe be the first indication that horror has matured beyond providing taboo arousal to virgin boys.


At one point there's a pretty tone deaf statement in the vein of "Seeing a black lead in Night of the Living Dead was something out of the ordinary back then. Not like today."

And from the gender standpoint, they never address the issue of sexual exploitation in horror. The guys talking about the films don't even really concede a possible female audience as they say things like "There was a new monster to be afraid of--and he didn't just want to kill you--he wanted to attack your wife."

And, again, I get that the main creators at the time were white men. But there are obviously women or people of color who saw those films and had a reaction to them.


Mon Oct 22, 2018 4:52 am
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Takoma1 wrote:

At one point there's a pretty tone deaf statement in the vein of "Seeing a black lead in Night of the Living Dead was something out of the ordinary back then. Not like today."

And from the gender standpoint, they never address the issue of sexual exploitation in horror. The guys talking about the films don't even really concede a possible female audience as they say things like "There was a new monster to be afraid of--and he didn't just want to kill you--he wanted to attack your wife."

Clang. Clunk.


Mon Oct 22, 2018 4:56 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
And from the gender standpoint, they never address the issue of sexual exploitation in horror.

Well, that's absurd. Not only are the gothic classics I mentioned above based on a variety of sexual taboos, but this aspect carries through then entire film genre.

Not an American film, but an importantly influential one, Powell's Peeping Tom speaks directly to the intersection of sexual voyeurism and violence, and because it was such a stark portrayal of this dynamic, it's considered one of the most important horror films of all time. The idea that someone could have even the most superficial analysis of, specifically, American slashers (or the preceding Italian giallos) without taking this aspect into account shows either a stunning stupidity or a willful ignorance.

This is somewhat concurrent to the talk in Horrorcram, but the use of sexual titillation as audience bait is one of the most basic elements of the horror film. I don't see how this could go unmentioned in a horror discussion, and I've never seen or read an examination of the genre (again, going back to its literary predecessor) that failed to note it.


Mon Oct 22, 2018 5:18 am
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Jinnistan wrote:
This is somewhat concurrent to the talk in Horrorcram, but the use of sexual titillation as audience bait is one of the most basic elements of the horror film. I don't see how this could go unmentioned in a horror discussion, and I've never seen or read an examination of the genre (again, going back to its literary predecessor) that failed to note it.


They address it in an incredibly superficial manner. Literally at one point there is a montage of nudity/sex scenes. The commentators frequently mention sex, but never really elaborate on it. They will say something about how part of the horror of Alien is this being that hijacks the human reproductive system. Okay, cool. But they never connect that to the fears that women might have about pregnancy. Or the way that men might have experienced anxiety at seeing a male character experience what is essentially a forced impregnation.

I think that the main problems with the documentary are (1) that the discussions are incredibly superficial and (2) that no one is willing to say a single bad word about any of the films featured, and hence there is no discussion about the sexual violence in Last House on the Left, just two dudes talking about how amazing the film is and then on to the next thing.

Romero and Carpenter come out looking the best, because they seem the most thoughtful about what they did with their films and specifically what they were reacting to culturally.

I also really, really did not approve of how many of their clips were literally the "big moment" from the end of the films.


Mon Oct 22, 2018 5:28 am
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A horror film famous for its twist/ending: Dance of the Spider Woman (2018)/The Executioners (2018)

I was having a hard time finding a free film that had a twist from 2018, so I watched the short Dance of the Spider Woman. "Twist" isn't quite right, and it was a goofy little film. It's free on YouTube and only 7 minutes long. Thus I was reduced to paying for a film.

Now, The Executioners.

For the first 20 or so minutes, I was building up my excitement. I really thought that I'd discovered an unseen gem.

The film opens with four friends taking a trip to the childhood home of Belle. Belle has a history of depression and suicide attempt following the death of her father (who died saving her from drowning). A short while after they arrive, an intrusive, creepy guy named David comes to the house. That night more strange things begin to happen and the girls get freaked out.

Okay, pause. This is the first 20 or so minutes of the film and I LOVED them. Belle's history is interesting. The relationship between the girls is fun. But most of all I loved the way that the women react. As soon as weird stuff starts going down, one of them is like "We're leaving." YES! When they discover that their tires have been slashed, the choose the safest room in the house and hunker down with weapons and barricade the doors. Again, YES! One of the characters says something like "Do you think they're getting off just knowing we're scared?" and the other replies, "I think you're being optimistic." This first act really evokes how scary it is to not know if someone is just enjoying intimidating you, or if they actually intend harm.

And . . . then it all goes downhill in spectacular fashion.

A trio of men, their faces painted, break into the house. And thus begins a long, unpleasant slog of physical abuse and sexual assault. I give the film the tiniest bit of credit for the rape scenes happening mainly off-screen, but there's still a solid 20 of the girls being alternately groped, choked, undressed, raped, strangled, or threatened. Related to the other discussions about sexual exploitation, the angles that the director uses to shoot the victimization of the women are pretty gross, like the framing of one woman's butt as she is being forced to strip as a prelude to being raped. It is icky.

After a while the girls get the upper hand on their tormentors, and there was a brief moment where I thought the film might find its legs again as three of the girls want to kill their attackers while one of them argues that hurting the men is wrong even if the men did victimize them.

Sigh. Instead there's then a role-reversal thing where the women are torturing and sexually assaulting the men. I guess at some primal level there is something satisfying about watching a rape victim shoot off her attacker's penis. But whatever glimmer of positive emotion can come out of a moment like that, it's overwhelmed by just how unpleasant it all is.

In the last 40 minutes another character comes into play. One of the rapists sort of ends up teaming up with the women, and that whole dynamic is just confusing. In the last 10 minutes we experience two different twists, and both of them are kind of infuriating. I will spoil them below, because, c'mon.

So first we find out that the whole film has been
a manuscript written by one of the girls. In a weird bit of meta self-loathing, the agent reading the script is like "Yeah, it's not that good."


But THEN we find out that
actually the events did happen and the writer hired the men to rape and murder her friends! It's implied that Belle was framed for all of it, which makes ZERO sense. Like, are you really saying that this woman was smart enough to plan and execute a double mass murder (because the original wave of assailants were actually meant to be killed themselves once they'd done their "job"), but not smart enough to write a novel? The idea is that she has the whole thing filmed on a GoPro so that she can transcribe all of the events and WHAT?!?!?!? It's literally one of the dumbest plot twists I've ever seen.


Also, several of the actors are from different countries and their American accents frequently slip, most notably the character of Kay whose strong Ukranian accent pops through often.

The first 20 minutes of this film were so promising. But I agree with an IMDb user, who wrote that this is a poor man's sexpoitation film hiding behind the guide of a "female empowerment" story. It's a shame, because some really great groundwork had been laid in the first act. Then it all goes down the toilet. They had a good group of actresses here, and they deserved more than spending such a huge chunk of the running time standing around in their underwear and being manhandled.


Mon Oct 22, 2018 6:13 am
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An animated horror film: Existence on Earth (2018)

This is a series of animated shorts, some of which are available on YouTube. I liked them and think that they show promise if this animator was given more advanced tools to work with.

The premise of each short is pretty straightforward: a jealous man going after a woman's lover; a hitchhiker suddenly becoming violent toward the couple that picked him up. I liked some of the shots and the use of perspective.

While searching for an animated film from 2018 I came across a title called La Casa Lobo, which looks really interesting, but unfortunately I couldn't find it anywhere (not even to pay to rent). I think it's one to keep an eye out for.


Mon Oct 22, 2018 7:18 am
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Takoma1 wrote:
A documentary about horror or horror films: Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue (2009)

I haven't seen this one specifically, but I find I have some of the same gripes with a lot of film documentaries, particularly ones that try to cover a broader scope. Usually interviews with directors (particularly ones that are thoughtful or candid about their work like Romero or Carpenter) tend to be reliable sources of insight or good stories, but I find a lot are packed with "fans" who tend to heap on the praise without having much interesting to say.

That being said, on Romero specifically, there was one called Birth of the Living Dead I watched a few years ago that I'd recommend. It went into a lot of detail about both the production and the cultural significance of Night of the Living Dead. I think the more limited scope made that one more effective, but I also remember the talking heads being much better selected than usual.

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Mon Oct 22, 2018 9:57 am
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Rock wrote:
I haven't seen this one specifically, but I find I have some of the same gripes with a lot of film documentaries, particularly ones that try to cover a broader scope. Usually interviews with directors (particularly ones that are thoughtful or candid about their work like Romero or Carpenter) tend to be reliable sources of insight or good stories, but I find a lot are packed with "fans" who tend to heap on the praise without having much interesting to say.

That being said, on Romero specifically, there was one called Birth of the Living Dead I watched a few years ago that I'd recommend. It went into a lot of detail about both the production and the cultural significance of Night of the Living Dead. I think the more limited scope made that one more effective, but I also remember the talking heads being much better selected than usual.


Noted. I think that film documentaries do a lot better when they are more narrow in scope, especially because it's much more likely that the person watching the documentary has actually seen the film that is going to be royally spoiled.

In general, like you, I haven't been that impressed with most film documentaries. Maybe it's because I tend to read a lot about films that I like, and thus there's very little new information to be gleaned.

Also, yes about the fans. Sometimes I'm okay with it if a person has a great personal story about a connection to a film, but other times I'm like, "Why did you get this random blogger to talk about this movie like it's the best thing ever, and who never addresses elements of the film that are flawed or problematic?".


Mon Oct 22, 2018 10:17 am
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I've liked a number of film biography docs (recent ones on Altman, Welles and Milius especially), but except for a couple of basically textbook docs (Cousins' Story of Cinema, Scorsese's Personal Journey), I find most film docs completely at home as DVD extras. And they should stay there.


Mon Oct 22, 2018 10:27 am
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Yes, short featurettes or director/writer/actor commentary is how I prefer to dive deeper into a film. Not in a one minute blurb.


Mon Oct 22, 2018 10:34 am
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Today's double-header!

A horror film with a child protagonist
A horror film with a number in its title (not a sequel number)
A horror sequel
A horror film from the 1980s


Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984, rewatch)

I hadn't seen this in a while, but I've usually held it as one of the best of the franchise, or at least that's how I remembered it. Today's rewatch sorta confirmed that, but that's more of a result of the franchise being mostly trash than this being anything memorable. Starting up immediately after Part 3, for some reason, it also starts with a brief recap of what has happened in the first three parts. After Jason's body is taken to the morgue, he comes back to life and finds his way into Crystal Lake again. There he terrorizes a family and a group of teenagers that are spending the weekend next door. Not much else to it, as the teens are disposed of randomly. There are a couple of cool and gory kills, though. The family probably presents the most empathic characters starting with young Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman). There is a lot of nonsense close to the ending, but I think it feels more focused than the atrocious Part 3 or the lackluster Part 1.

Grade: B-


A horror film made for under $5,000,000 made after 1990
A horror film under 90 minutes long
A horror film with less than five major characters
A horror science-fiction film
A horror film from the 1990s



Cube (1997, rewatch)

Another film I had seen a long time ago, but I didn't remember much. Cube follows a group of strangers that find themselves trapped into a maze in the shape of a cube. The thing is that a lot of the rooms they enter have lethal booby-traps. As the group tries to find their way out, their true nature comes out as well as their will to survive. The film's main weakness is in its performances, but more than makes up for it with a really cool premise, neatly executed. I also liked how the film flips the table in the way it treats its characters.

Grade: B+

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Mon Oct 22, 2018 12:32 pm
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Cube is really good.

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Mon Oct 22, 2018 8:06 pm
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Popcorn Reviews wrote:
Cube is really good.


Yes, it is. It's really cool how the director takes a somewhat simple setting and premise and makes something really interesting out of it.

Anybody knows if any of the sequels are worth my time?

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