August 30, 2012

The Evil Dead (1981)

"Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons."

The trouble with rewatching a lot of the movies from "The Vault" is that they have lost all their shock value. Because I've seen them so many times, the effect is like some gruesome looking wallpaper, and never more so than in the case of "The Evil Dead".

It's not that I don't like "The Evil Dead". It was a serious horror movie with some nicely done gore if you take into account the low-budget and time it was made. It just doesn't hold up too well under closer scrutiny today. There are a lot of people dreading the remake, sequel, or whatever it will turn out to be, but I'm quite looking forward to an update which doesn't involve so much stop-motion animation and plasticine.

Allegedly, "The Evil Dead" was made for $375,000 which was actually quite a large sum of money to put into a horror movie back in 1981. All those filmmakers that use "The Evil Dead" as the inspiration for their own backyard epics with their budgets of less than $2000 really need to stop being so delusional, quit relying on Kickstarter e-begging, and take out some loans just like Sam Raimi did if they want any real credibility.

Even with the huge budget that "The Evil Dead" had, it still comes across as very amateur compared to the more comedic sequel/remake "Evil Dead II" (1987). The acting is atrocious and the dialogue, sparse though it is, isn't exactly a strong point. Any scene involving Scott (Hal Delrich) where he's being an asshole or starts laughing really makes me cringe.

I can't even say that Bruce Campbell as Ash doesn't rub me up the wrong way nowadays either. Given that he's the unlikeliest of heroes anyway, he doesn't have very much charisma in "The Evil Dead". Although it looks as if he's trying to act occasionally, more often than not he's just going through the motions or mugging at the camera.

As for the girls, I don't have anything good to say about them. Cheryl, the one with the big nose who shows her left breast and gets raped by a tree for all of ten seconds, is very annoying otherwise, and Linda (Betsy Baker) looks a lot better when she's in the "scary doll" make-up. Shelly does a little bit better possibly because she was clearly the oldest there, but she hardly stands out even as one of the Dead. Since they were all replaced by "Fake Shemp" people for much of the movie anyway, it's impossible to tell who put the most (or any) effort in at all.

I know a lot of people really like the "groundbreaking" POV camerawork, but it has always irritated me. Yes, it was clever, but it had no effect on me other than causing dizziness. Couple that with all the overly loud music, banging, screaming and shouting, and "The Evil Dead" becomes something designed to cause a headache rather than scare the crap out of you.

Having said all that, you probably wonder why I still consider "The Evil Dead" to be one of the best horror movies ever made. It's simple really. Although the "The Evil Dead" wasn't the first "cabin in the woods horror", it was the first and most supernatural "cabin in the woods horror" that I remember.

Back in the day, I had to watch a bootleg version of "The Evil Dead" after it got banned as a video nasty which made it seem even more special than it really was. Of course, it got re-released with cuts to the "tree rape" and "pencil in the foot" scenes, and those scenes became something of a legend before the internet came along and forced the "uncut" version to get half a dozen different releases.

As you can see, my present copy of "The Evil Dead" came free with a British newspaper. I don't have any of the "Book of the Dead" editions, steelbooks, or however many other versions are currently in circulation because, basically, I don't get anything out of rewatching the copy I do have.

"The Evil Dead" had its time. Although it was supposed to be serious, it was good for a "bit of a laugh" with friends. Now it's just one of those "must have" cult movies that everybody has in their collection and will probably never watch again.

I won't be at the top of the Blog-Train for much longer... because of a cheat!

It's been a nice long run, but, owing to a cheat with a pretty pink DIY crafting blog who only appeared two days ago and has racked up nearly as many points in that short time as I did over the last month, I probably won't be at the top of the Blog-Train by the end of today.

My blog is to the left. I've blurred out the cheat.

When I last looked at the scores, I was on 25688 points and the cheat was on 24651. They are only 1000 points behind me now when, just before I went to bed, they were over 3000 points behind. I only got that lead because I started building up my points just after the scores were reset so there's no way that anybody should have been able to catch up to me.

I have no idea how they did it. I found that there were no more blogs to click on and accumulate points from quite a while ago. Other than clicking on the "Take the next train" link every 10 minutes, or posting a voting link on Facebook, Twitter or message boards (which I have, but I can see that they have not done!), there's no legitimate way of getting any more points. Their number of GFC followers may be more than mine but that really counts for nothing when internet people are as apathetic as they are. I've ruled out the voting by mailing list option.

Thus, they've either been clicking on the "Take the next train" link in two time zones 24/7 or they have something automated going on. Somehow I just can't see the pretty German lady whose face is all over that blog sitting in front of her computer like Desmond in "Lost" watching the countdown to click a button every 10 minutes. Just so you know, yes, I have been pathetic enough to sit here doing that very thing myself while watching movies at the same time.

As the point of their blog is to sell a load of overpriced knickers and drawstring bags made out of garish curtain material via Etsy, I suspect that they have the help of a friend or family member in another time zone. The blog picture only changes if you log out of the site and back in again, and I've seen their blog picture change three times now. I wouldn't put it past them to be using online web proxies either. If it's the latter, there's no way of proving it.

I've reported the situation, but I don't expect the Blog-Train site owners even care as long as a few people are still stupid enough to keep paying to be "First Class Passengers" for $10 a month.

Honestly, people who cheat like this make me sick. The whole Blog-Train thing is just a free bit of fun for most people anyway, but they just had to go and spoil it for everybody.

Since I've had none of the page hits or huge amounts of new followers which were promised by the Blog-Train, I will never be returning to it. My Stats show that I've had only 9 referrals from the Blog-Train overall. What a waste of time!

August 29, 2012

Willard (1971)

"A social misfit, Willard is made fun of by his co-workers, and squeezed out of the company started by his deceased father by his boss. His only friends are a couple of rats he raised at home, Ben and Socrates."

"Willard" isn't part of my "50 Horror Movies Challenge". I only watched it on YouTube because I was interested in comparing it to the remake.

I don't really have a lot to say about it other than I wasn't very impressed by any of it. It was cheap-looking, obviously low-budget, and, apart from Ernest Borgnine as Willard's boss, I didn't think any of the acting was very good either.

The worst aspects about "Willard" were the scenes which felt truncated such as when Willard was going round trying to get money to pay his taxes. There was one in particular where the fat woman just walked away from him without saying anything. Maybe she was just being ignorant, but it felt weird.

I was actually bored with 90% of the the movie and couldn't wait for it to be over so that I could get on with doing something more interesting. It was so badly dated that I'm not surprised that it isn't available on DVD. I highly doubt that there would be anyone willing to buy it even if it came as a double-feature with the sequel, "Ben" (1972), which I haven't ever seen.

I'm not a big fan of rats. I used to have one of my own called "Boris" (named after the rat in Gene Kemp's "The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler" which, in turn, was named in honour of Karloff), but the poor little bugger froze to death in my parent's garden shed during a freak winter. I've always been more into cats.

Fortunately, there was a cat in "Willard" and nothing bad happened to her unlike in the remake. It was also interesting to see Sondra Locke, who gave Willard the cat, before she had really grown into her looks or could act.

Bruce Davison, who played Willard, did some horrendously bad acting in a style which even made Crispin Glover look restrained. I didn't like his character, didn't care about anyone else in the movie either, and the rat sequences were just stupid. Who the hell is scared of rats? Seriously? They are only big mice.

As a curiosity from the '70s, I suppose "Willard" is worth watching, but I don't recommend it. The original story, "Ratman's Notebooks", might have been a lot more interesting, but I've never read it.

The Mist (2007)

"A freak storm unleashes a species of bloodthirsty creatures on a small town, where a small band of citizens hole up in a supermarket and fight for their lives."

Those of you who, unlike me, are still fans of "The Walking Dead" already know that at least three of its regular cast members also appeared in Frank Darabont's adaptation of Stephen King's "The Mist". In fact, if you just replace the zombies with weird creatures in a fog, the whole group of bickering people in this film is almost identical to everyone in "The Walking Dead" anyway.

Having now managed to take my quick swipes at the nepotism and lack of originality in "The Walking Dead", I'll hasten to add that I had a great time rewatching "The Mist" even though I didn't like it when it first came out. Call me old-fashioned, but I actually enjoyed Stephen King's novella when I first read it way back in "Dark Forces" from 1980 but less so when I found myself reading it again in "Skeleton Crew" five years later. By the time the movie appeared, I was very familiar with story, had imagined how all the characters would look, and was very disappointed. I suppose that's always the problem with watching any movie adaptation of a book.

I'll just mention that the version I have of "The Mist" is the standard R-rated single disc edition and not the super-duper "Two-Disc Collector's Edition" with a black and white version of the movie on the second disc. If I wanted to watch "The Mist" in black and white, I'd either have to adjust the colour controls on my computer or buy an old black and white television from a yard sale. I can't really be bothered to do either. I really don't like black and white movies that much and it would be pointless now that I've already seen the normal version of the movie at least three times.

Anyway, before I say why I enjoyed "The Mist", let me point out that it wasn't just because of Laurie Holden. That would be too predictable so allow let me make you feel worried by saying that the hottest actress in the movie for me was Marcia Gay Harden who played Mrs. Carmody. Sometimes batshit crazy is sexier.

Honestly, the stand-out performance in "The Mist" belongs entirely to Marcia Gay Harden. Even though she's the woman you love to hate, there is nobody more memorable. "The Mist" really is a "by the numbers" straight-to-DVD movie as far as the other acting performances go. Just because it had a budget big enough to turn it into a theatrical release instead doesn't change my assessment there. It looks like a SyFy channel movie for the most part too.

If you don't believe me, just look at the CGI creatures. They are actually pretty great on the small screen but not so effective in a cinema where they mostly look like something out of a computer game. The slight fuzziness of a DVD when played, in particular, on a CRT television evens the effects out quite nicely and makes everything feel more claustrophobic. Playing the DVD on my massive HDTV doesn't work quite so well, but it's less jarring than I expect the Blu-ray would be. If you have the Blu-ray, please let me know how it looks.

The biggest difference between the novella and the movie is, of course, the ending. Both are quite bleak, but Frank Darabont really went for the final shock and twist rather than the faint hope that Stephen King imagined. I'm not sure which I prefer although I was annoyed with the written version for not wrapping things up so neatly after God knows how many hundreds of pages I read.

I'm going to recommend "The Mist" primarily to Stephen King fans and even to H.P. Lovecraft fans (since the influence is obvious). For the average horror fan, I'd say it would be quite entertaining too. It's not the scariest movie ever, but, personally, because I hate bugs and spidery things, it works for me.

Satan's Triangle (1975)

"The female survivor of a shipwreck and two Coast Guard helicopter pilots sent to rescue her find themselves trapped in a mysterious part of the ocean known as Satan's Triangle."

I often gets asked which horror films have truly frightened me so I thought I'd better start providing you all with some answers. Although the majority of the really scary ones only worked when I was a child, there are some such as "Satan's Triangle" which not only bring back those memories but are still as terrifying today as they ever were.

In case you haven't ever seen "Satan's Triangle", since it's not available on VHS or DVD, I have embedded the full movie from YouTube above so now you have no excuse. There are several versions floating around, but I chose this one because it still contains ABC's "The Movie of the Week" introduction which I never knew about. I'm English so I saw "Satan's Triangle" on ITV. I don't remember what year that was, but it was certainly a lot later than when it was first shown in America.

I don't think it's possible to recall the shock I had from seeing Doug McClure, the star of such action movies as "Terror in the Sky" (1971) and "The Land That Time Forgot" (also from 1975), in something like this. All references to "The Simpsons" parody aside, he really was in just about everything at the time, but I think this was his first "horror" rather than "horrible" movie. Of course, as a child, I thought he was a great actor and loved his movies so when "Satan's Triangle" changed from a Coastguard rescue mission into something a lot darker, it really caught me unawares.

As for Kim Novak, I vaguely knew that she was supposed to be famous, but I had never seen her in anything else, and, lamentably, I still haven't watched any of her other films. It almost goes without saying that she was absolutely gorgeous in her prime (if you don't look too closely at her teeth) and she's still a very good reason for watching "Satan's Triangle" even if you aren't into horror. Her relationship with Doug McClure in this movie was a little bit forced since he had the looks and charisma of a boiled potato, but such were the '70s TV movies where even the homely guys got the hot chicks as long as they could do something reassuringly heroic, and, of course, there was a big twist anyway which I'm not going to spoil for you.

While the bulk of "Satan's Triangle" was all about Eva (Kim Novak) recounting the events of the storm which came out of nowhere and killed all the ship's crew, and highlighting what an easy lay she was, the creepiness came from a combination of the claustrophobic setting and Alejandro Rey playing a shipwrecked Catholic priest.

With a very short running time of only 67 minutes, the big scares may have only occurred in the final 5 minutes, but there wasn't too long to wait for them. After Doug McClure's character, Haig, had done his best to logically dismiss anything which seemed remotely supernatural, the shocking ending was even more powerful and has stayed in my mind ever since.

I've skimmed over the details so that you can all enjoy this movie for yourself, but you can probably tell that "Satan's Triangle" was something quite special considering it was made for TV. It certainly deserves a lot more discussion than my brief review so, after you've watched it again, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

August 28, 2012

The Collector (1965)

"Freddie, a socially withdrawn bank clerk and butterfly collector, decides to expand to collecting human specimens. That's where art student Miranda Grey comes in. Miranda matches wits with Freddie the icy psychopath."

Ignore the DVD sleeve as this movie had nothing to do with Buffalo Bill from "The Silence of the Lambs". Even though there is a very slight possibility that "The Collector" may have influenced Thomas Harris (either as a movie or in the form of the original novel by John Fowles), the story is a lot different and the motivation of the kidnapper is even more bizarre than wanting to fatten girls up to make a costume out of their skins.

In this 1965 thriller by William Wyler, Terence Stamp plays a butterfly collector named Freddie who, after winning the football pools, buys a house and then decides that the easiest way to get companionship is by kidnapping girls. All he wants is someone to love him, but he's obviously as nutty as a fruitcake with it.

For the purpose of this story, Freddie kidnaps Miranda who is apparently an art student of some kind. It's been so long since I last watched this movie that I can't remember what she was studying, but it probably isn't important. I'm doing this review from memory because I'm too lazy to rewatch the movie, and I doubt that anyone will read this anyway.

Samantha Eggar plays Miranda. If you don't know who she is then you really need to check out "The Uncanny" (1977), "The Brood" (1979) or "Curtains" (1983). She was never primarily a horror actress, but she was certainly in a few of them which are easily available to buy on DVD. I honestly thought she had died a couple of years ago, but it seems that she is still very much alive and doing a lot of television (and even computer game voices) rather than movies now.

Anyway, I suppose you want to know if "The Collector" is a good horror movie or not? Well, it's not really a horror movie if you are expecting scares, blood and guts, or anything else which you wouldn't find in a very '60s thriller. Even though I used to really love this as a movie rather than a part of the horror genre, I'll be the first to admit that it's a bit slow and all very stagey.

I know for a fact that the youth of today would not make it through "The Collector" without a lot of complaining since it's two hours long with hardly any action. I first saw "The Collector" when I was a child and far too young to appreciate what was going on in it too, but I remembered enough of it to want to track it down on VHS many years later.

A lot of things were different to how I remembered them. I thought that Freddie really did love Miranda even though the whole set-up indicated that it wasn't really a good kind of love. It's more about control and hatred of everything which she stood for. His desire to be accepted by someone of her middle class now that he'd changed from working class to nouveau riche seemed to have a lot to do with his psychosis too.

I also mistakenly thought that Miranda eventually did fall in love with Freddie. Clearly, that's not the case as she tries everything in the book to escape from him. Give or take a bit of "Stockholm Syndrome" (or traumatic bonding), there isn't a lot to indicate that Freddie's experiment is anything other than a failure.

Not to spoil it for you, but the plot is reused in a more perverted form by "Grotesque" (2009), an extreme Japanese horror movie which has notoriously been banned in the UK. Allegedly, if the censors had paid attention to the end of "The Collector" in 1965, it would never have seen the light of day either.

If you have the attention span of a gnat then I don't recommend "The Collector" to you at all. If you like more psychological thrillers involving only two characters doing lots of talking then you'll probably love it.

Jeepers Creepers (2001)

"A brother and sister driving home for spring break encounter a flesh-eating creature in the isolated countryside that is on the last day of its ritualistic eating spree."

Can you believe that "Jeepers Creepers" is 11 years old now? I still think of it as one of the newer horror movies and, just to compound my error, I've always considered it to be a teen movie when, on closer inspection, it really wasn't.

I'm not the only one who thought that the lead characters were supposed to be teenagers. With over 900 reviews of "Jeepers Creepers" on the IMDb which (as far as I could tell by skimming them) all seem to copy each other, not one of them pointed out some of the things which I'm going to tell you now.

To start with, the older sister, Trish, who occasionally looked like an even hotter version of Brooke Shields, was way closer to thirty than she was to her teens. In fact, Gina Philips was slightly over thirty when she played the part not that it really showed or mattered that much. She still had incredibly sexy arms. Justin Long, as Darry, was about the right age for being a student, but even then he was still too old for the part in spite of his boyish looks. So, basically, people can all stop calling "Jeepers Creepers" a "teen horror movie" now.

One thing everyone agrees on is that the beginning of the film looked a lot like Steven Spielberg's "Duel" (1971). If you listen to the commentary on the DVD, you'll discover that it was intentional. Victor Salva liked Spielberg's early TV movie and decided to create an homage in his own. There's nothing wrong with that at all when done correctly. I don't see any problem with the lack of originality in those scenes especially as the rest of "Jeepers Creepers" was vastly different to anything Spielberg ever came up with.

There were some nice touches even in the first ten minutes with the playfully squabbling siblings actually coming across like a real brother and sister in spite of not really looking very much like each other. I'm not entirely sure, but I think Darry was supposed to be gay. That facet of his character was surprisingly underplayed considering Victor Salva's sexual preferences.

I'm not going to get into the Victor Salva bashing which so many other reviewers dwell on. If you don't know about his past, just look it up. I will just say that no matter what anyone has done, if they've served their time, it's over. None of it should negate the good things they've done before or after. If people hate "Jeepers Creepers" because Victor Salva directed it, it's their loss. Similarly, I'm not even going to despise "Leader of the Gang" just because of Gary Glitter, and I'd be an idiot to write any of Roman Polanski's films off. I may, of course, change my mind about this later.

With that slight digression out of the way, the only truly weak point in "Jeepers Creepers" was the stupid decision 14 minutes in which was completely unrealistic. Without it, there wouldn't have been any more movie, but it could have been handled better.

After that, things settled down nicely to a slightly contrived and somewhat action-packed "cat and mouse" adventure. I wouldn't say that it was the scariest or goriest movie that I've ever seen, but it had quite high production values, some impressive stunts, and came across as a very well thought out piece of work. Since it had a budget of $10,000,000, there was a good reason for all that too although I must say that the "Creeper" (played by Jonathan Breck) could have looked better. There was too much of a resemblance to the Djinn from Wes Craven's "Wishmaster" (1997) and, in some scenes, it just looked like a guy in a rubber mask (which of course it was).

I think the intention was to make an very iconic and unstoppable creature which would appeal to the same fanbase that enjoyed Freddy and Jason. Maybe that aspect of "Jeepers Creepers" was too ambitious especially as the sequel was pretty horrible overall.

Where "Jeepers Creepers" fell down a bit for me was by including a psychic to give some exposition. Patricia Belcher, who is better known now for playing the judge in the "Bones" TV series, didn't seem believable as Jezelle the psychic. She didn't play the part very well and had the weakest character in the whole movie. If you edited all of her scenes out, you wouldn't be missing anything. It's a pity that her character hadn't been conflated with the crazy old cat-lady played by Eileen Brennan since she rocked!

"Jeepers Creepers" might have been an even stronger movie if it had ended at the one hour mark without giving any more explanation. I've seen a lot of reviews which say that the first half of the movie was better than the second, but, clearly, the reviewers weren't timing things properly. In movie terms, it's only the final reel which wasn't as good as the rest. Anyone who had seen "Salem's Lot" would have known that the last place you could be safe was in a County police station so it was a tad predictable. The final ten minute (or less) epilogue was also unnecessary.

All things considered, "Jeepers Creepers" was easily the best horror movie from 2001 although, to be blunt, it didn't have very much competition.

August 27, 2012

The Haunting (1963)

"Dr. Markway, doing research to prove the existence of ghosts, investigates Hill House, a large, eerie mansion with a lurid history of violent death and insanity."

Based on the novel, "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson, this Robert Wise film is still the quintessential ghost story. With its atmospheric black and white cinematography, it has all the elements you need to make a ghostie film scary apart from one thing - there are no onscreen ghosts! Everything is done with camera angles and noises plus a lot of tension.

I first heard about "The Haunting" when the horror author James Herbert gave it as his favourite movie during a BBC documentary in the early '90s. It had never been shown on television, wasn't available on video cassette, and had pretty much been forgotten about. Suffice it to say that the demand for the movie increased enormously once James Herbert talked about it, but it was still a few years before it did finally appear on VHS in the UK.

I'm not sure what year it was when I saw "The Haunting" for the first time but I would guess that it was close to the end of the '90s. I already knew what it was about by then, but I wasn't disappointed. I found it to be very character driven and got caught up in the story even though the dialogue was very dated and often embarrassing to listen to.

The worst culprit was Russ Tamblyn's character who, as a former musical star of some kind, came across as a little bit too "hip" and didn't seem to be acting at all for most of his role. Nearly every word he spoke made me cringe. Maybe he was meant to since, in fairness, every character was intentionally a stereotype anyway.

The four stereotypes presented, from sceptical professor to frustrated psychic spinster, have been used over and over in every "team investigates a haunted house" film ever since. With hindsight, that alone should have made "The Haunting" a classic. Their reactions to the various supernatural phenomena absolutely guaranteed it.

There are very few movies which actually scare me and, unfortunately, "The Haunting" was more of a curiosity (like old "Twilight Zone" episodes) rather than something which I could truly call terrifying. I've tried watching it alone, in the dark, with the wind and rain rattling the windows, but I've never been able to conjure up the magic that must have been there for the original theatrical audiences. If you haven't seen a lot of horror movies, however, it may still work for you.

I've recommended "The Haunting" before to people who have children who they want to initiate into the horror genre since it has nothing gory in it or anything too adult which would need a lot of embarrassing explanation. Apart from Claire Bloom's character, Theo, having very mildly hinted-at lesbian tendencies (which I'm still not entirely sure about), I would still say that "The Haunting" was suitable for all ages. There's nothing sexual, no swear words, no violence, no big scary monsters; in fact, it barely qualifies as a horror movie at all when compared to what we have today.

If you find it scary, "The Haunting" may be all the proof that you'll ever need to win an argument that a horror movie doesn't need to have buckets of blood or people being tortured to have an emotional effect on you. "The Haunting" was a success because it was all about what you couldn't see. It's a shame that most of us no longer have the imagination to appreciate it.

King Kong (1933)

"A film crew goes to a tropical island for an exotic location shoot and discovers a colossal giant gorilla who takes a shine to their female blonde star."

Although "King Kong" hardly counts as a horror movie and is more of an adventure story, it was groundbreaking at the time, and is still one of the greatest monster movies ever made. I've already reviewed it on one of my other blogs (which I have now abandoned), so I'm just going to repeat the bulk of that post again with a few changes.

I have always enjoyed this version of "King Kong" more than any of the lacklustre sequels, clones, or modern remakes. I'm not sure what it is about the stop-motion animation or the improbability of any of it which appeals to me so much, but maybe it's because I first saw it on television when I was a child. It brings back cosy memories of random things like making toast in front of an open fire while the wind whistled outside, cuddling my first cat, collecting comics, and looking forward to a future which turned out to be not so great.

Even without the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia, I still appreciate everything which the then uncredited directors did with "King Kong" as they made a timeless story which has enthralled generations ever since in whatever format they've watched it on.

As an adult with the luxury of DVD, I've noticed a few things which a lot of people might not pick up on, although not the alleged "nipple shot" of Fay Wray as she gets out of the water at one point. I was stupid enough to fall for that hoax and spent some time fast-forwarding, rewinding and freeze-framing the DVD, but all I got was a pixellated blur at best. To be honest, I don't really need to see Fay Wray's nipple to enjoy the movie, especially as I most certainly saw Jessica Lange's in the 1976 remake.

No, what I noticed most was how incredibly flawless Fay Wray looked in every scene. This really was the time of beautiful film stars, not ones covered up with so many layers of make-up that they don't even look real anymore.

Of course, the other outstanding thing from the movie was Kong himself. I have very little knowledge of exactly how much work went into his scenes but, without even looking it up, I could tell that it was a lot. Yes, I know that's kind of a redundant sentence, but I would estimate that many thousands of hours were put into animating Kong using one tiny movement at a time.

"Jurassic Park" may have had more bells and whistles, not to mention a plot which borrowed heavily from "King Kong", but nothing is more amazing than seeing a giant ape fighting dinosaurs from back in the 1930s. Even watching "Metropolis" again fairly recently, although obviously not quite the same thing, really highlighted the artistic skills which have been lost in this age of computer generated images.

I'm going to wrap this post up with the biggest message that I got from the whole thing. Basically, back in the '30s, Americans must have thought it was their God-given right to invade other cultures and steal their monkeys. You would have thought that a film like this would have at least given them a good warning to stop, but alas, it still goes on and the whole country has more entitlement issues than ever before. Even in the midst of now being a third-world country itself and suffering from the worst economic crisis since the time "King Kong" was made, still nobody seems to have learned their lesson. Just replace giant monkeys with oil and you've got a great political allegory here.

But I've digressed. I'm all about the movies not politics even though there are socio-political implications to so many films which we all take for granted.

Having said that, isn't it strange that Kong climbs the Empire State Building with his beloved or that the Twin Towers replaced that symbol of capitalism in the 1976 remake? Obviously, it was intentional in both cases.

I'm giving "King Kong" a huge 9 out of 10 for being as enjoyable today as it was when it was made. I wish I could say the same for Peter Jackson's remake. but that one is best forgotten about.

Ghost Story (1981)

"Four successful elderly gentlemen, members of the Chowder Society, share a gruesome, 50-year old secret. When one of Edward Wanderley's twin sons dies in a bizarre accident, the group begins to see a pattern of frightening events developing."

Okay, you lucky people, since I've neglected "The Vault" part of my blog in favour of some absolutely terrible movies which have made me even grumpier than usual, I have now set myself a "50 Horror Movies Challenge" of only watching good horror movies until the balance is restored.

There won't be any particular order to how I review these movies other than just pulling them off my shelves randomly and rewatching them. All you really need to know is that whatever I choose will be something which you should definitely watch yourself. With only 65 days left until Hallowe'en, it should work out well and provide you with a few recommendations for the big night.

Due to watching a lot of ghostie films lately, I'll begin with "Ghost Story" from 1981.

What can I possibly say about "Ghost Story" which you don't already know or can't find out by looking it up on the IMDb? Probably nothing except that I'm going to say it slightly differently.

I bet you didn't know that every time I watch the film, I can almost smell the mothballs and nasty old man odour of the ancient actors who really shouldn't have got involved in this project at all. I have zero respect for any of them since it was obviously just a chance to them to grab a paycheck by cashing in on their names. Apart from Fred Astaire, all they did was turn up and look a bit worried, but, then again, what would anyone do with such a badly hacked screenplay anyway?

Oh, but there I go being all cynical again which I shouldn't be about an otherwise nicely done film. I'm certainly not going to discredit the entire careers of the veterans based on their performances in "Ghost Story", but the younger actors (which include anyone under the age of 70 in this) and the scenes set in the 1920s were simply far more interesting to me.

I know nothing about the 1920s outside of a few "Sin Cities" documentaries which led me to believe that they weren't quite so "straight" or puritanical as I used to think. Morals were apparently a lot more like today without the threat of AIDS but still with the chance of dying from "the clap", drug taking and alcoholism were rampant, and women had more equality in all these shenanigans than ever before. All this brings me to the character of Eva as played by Alice Krige.

Having never read the original novel by Peter Straub. I have no idea if Eva ever had more to her backstory, but what a fascinating story it would have been. What series of events led her to be the way she was, give her such spirit or the will to come back from the dead to get revenge on the men responsible for her demise? Well, the answer to the latter is contained in the film itself, but the feminist essay writers could still have a field day with this one.

The fact that Alice Krige was incredibly beautiful back in 1981 was a big plus for me since I thought she was absolutely vile in whatever "Star Trek" thing she starred in as a Borg. She was kind of sexy in "Sleepwalkers", for sure, but not so pretty. Couple that beauty with her acting and her final "Pinhead from Hellraiser"-style lines and you have the best reasons to buy yourself a copy of "Ghost Story" right now. As usual, I've found the full movie on YouTube and embedded it above so you don't really have to do that. I don't watch any of these older movies to promote them like a cheap salesman, as you know. If you want that, I can recommend quite a few other blogs for you to read instead of mine.

As I said, the scenes in the 1920s and the actors involved in them were a lot more interesting than their present day counterparts. You can blame all the characters' actions on their youth if you wish, but I found them to be a rather hateful gang of over-privileged wasters with hardly any redeeming qualities. I'm sure they were supposed to be teenagers, but really the actors were older and couldn't quite get away with that.

They weren't matched up looks-wise to the old guys all that well either, so even with the flashbacks, "Ghost Story" often felt like two separate movies edited together. It wasn't badly edited, but the continuity occasionally left a lot to be desired, the characters were inconsistent, a lot of questions were left unanswered, and the resulting plot holes were large enough to drive a snowplow through.

Even the beginning with John Houseman tactlessly telling what appeared to be Edgar Allan Poe's "Premature Burial" story was the kind of thing which should have brought back a lot more memories to the "Chowder Society" who didn't say anything obvious about it. Surely, the similarities to their own shared secret would have prompted some discussion of the past at that point, but the mystery remained until much later in the film. I found this unrealistic, but it was the kind of thing which would have gone unnoticed theatrically for most viewers with no ability to rewind. With no VHS available until much later, I doubt that the original audience would have wanted to pay to sit through this movie again either.

Don't get me wrong, "Ghost Story" isn't a bad movie at all, but like most supernatural mysteries, it's something you should only watch once. Going back over it revealed far too many faults in the screenplay and highlighted how formulaic the majority of it was. With a running time of an hour and fifty minutes, there was a lot of lag and even some padding which was odd considering that there must have been a lot of conflation going on too. The ending came across both as rushed and as a whimper.

I'm still going to leave 'Ghost Story" in "The Vault" even though I would certainly only rate it as average if I was younger and had only watched it for the very first time. The effects have become very dated and the scares which relied on them for their shock value just don't work anymore.

August 26, 2012

Dark Places (1973)

"A scheming couple plot to conceal a hidden cache of stolen money from its rightful owner. The only problem is that the house they plan to hide it in is haunted."
(Please note that this IMDb synopsis is completely wrong.)

Directed by the late Don Sharp who, apart from having a host of TV credits under his belt, also made some very enjoyable non-horror movies such as "Callan" (1974) and "Rasputin: The Mad Monk" (1966), "Dark Places" was a very overlooked British horror from the '70s.

In fact, it was so overlooked that I hadn't ever seen it myself until I found it on YouTube earlier. Although seeing Christopher Lee's name attached to it was an instant attraction, he made some absolutely horrendous movies in his career and turned out to be horribly miscast in this too.

"I smell poopie!"

The first time Christopher Lee appeared fully on screen, the look on his face was as if he could smell a tray full of rotting cat excrement. Maybe he knew something I didn't about this film and was warning me, but I brushed it off as just being his standard, surly look.

I was even more intrigued with the idea of Robert Hardy playing a possibly romantic leading man in a horror movie. With the other big names being Joan Collins and Herbert Lom, there were only two ways this could go. Either "Dark Places" was going to be extremely good or extremely bad with no middle ground possible. I still tried hard to give it a chance to impress me though and was prepared to overlook the scenery-munching as far as possible.

Bombastic Robert Hardy was a bit shouty, but I could see that he was trying to rein himself in most of the time. I'm not a big fan of his work outside of "All Creatures Great and Small" although I watched nearly everything that he made when I was much younger (due to my mum once being an extra in an early film he made with John Schlesinger). He wasn't too bad really given that he was really playing two roles and his descent into madness was almost up there with anything Jack Nicholson could do.

"Here's Johnny!"

One scene where Robert Hardy was tapping the panelled walls with a coin and listening for something hollow amused me not only due to it going on for far too long, but also because, in reality, all wooden panelling has a gap behind it.

Hilarity ensued when he smashed through a wall and a load of rubber bats on wires came flying out. I wasn't expecting something that amateur to be in this movie at all, and I really did laugh out loud.

Christopher Lee turned in his usual routine performance with even less time on screen than Herbert Lom. Even Jean Marsh and the lovely Jean Birkin had little more than cameos. All four did really well and stayed serious, but I would have liked to have seen more from them.

Joan Collins stood out the most in a highly slutty and slightly bitchy role which, of course, she was typecast in throughout her later career. I thought she looked beautiful though and even made Jean Birkin look plain in comparison.

"After the pleasure, the pain, lover!"

Something which came across as quite original was the use of quasi-possessions instead of the more usual flashbacks to recount the story of the mostly bloodless murders in the house and tie them into the present. I can't say that every time it happened wasn't confusing, but it was inventive.

With no actual scares, absolutely no atmosphere, and a plot which wasn't much different to a least a dozen previous ghostie movies including its twist and the downbeat ending, I would say that "Dark Places" was entertaining but not particularly memorable. It pulled its punches on at least four occasions where it should have been great, but, given the time it was made, I will mark it up for even daring to suggest the things it did.

August 25, 2012

It's Caturday! Willow and Suzi forever!

I think I've been spending too much time online lately. My cats think so too and took the appropriate action to remind me exactly who owns who.

"None Shall Pass!"

This was what greeted me when I went to use my laptop. Not even the tastiest of cat treats could shift the incredible bulk.

Since the internet was out of bounds, Suzi joined in the fun by proving that she is just as entertaining as Maru. If only I had a camera which could record video and take more than three pictures without the focus corrupting or the batteries dying, I could make a fortune.

"Stop watching Maru and pay attention to me!"

Having finally got back online, this is a lazy Saturday post, but the only thing I have to offer is my hatred of eco-cases. Who invented them? Who thought it would be a good idea to create DVD cases which end up damaging the artwork when you press too hard on them? Oh God, I hate eco-cases!

Why do these exist?

In other news, last night, I was part of yet another "Friday Night Geekfight" podcast over at "Better Geek Than Never". I'm sure you'll enjoy it a lot more than "The Bloody Podcast" which has been on hold for nearly two weeks now due to a combination of lack of focus and not being able to think of anything to talk about which would be in any way entertaining apart from bitching about everything.

I do have something funny to tell you all, but I think it'll work better as a podcast once my uber sexy partner in crime gets herself a working microphone. Yes, guys, I actually know a real life girl who I'm still trying to persuade to join "The Bloody Podcast". If you cross my hairy palms with silver, I might even get her to say hello to you on Twitter so you can boast about it to all your other pretend friends. I'll set a reserve on the bidding at $10,000 since we both need new computer equipment and we're too lazy to get real jobs to pay for it. Nor, given our huge talent as entertainers, should we even have to.

But, seriously, as you know, I've been quite negative about a lot things far too much lately even to the point that I'm starting to piss myself off. If you have any suggestions for a subject for me to talk about on "The Bloody Podcast", please leave them as a comment below. Hopefully, I will have a new podcast for you tomorrow.

August 24, 2012

This House Possessed (1981)

"After having a nervous breakdown, a rock singer has to spend some time in hospital. A private nurse is hired, and with her he buys a new house, a fantastic house in the country. The nurse, Sheila, can't remember the first years of her life, but this house seems strangely familiar to her."

I really have to stop watching crappy made-for-TV horror movies early in the morning when I'm overtired and my brain is already mush because I somehow managed to dumb myself down enough to quite enjoy this one.

Even though I could recognise that it was horribly dated, "Hardy Boy" Parker Stevenson sang some terrible songs, and seeing the once ridiculously beautiful Joan Bennett as a crazy old cat-lady was quite upsetting, the story itself actually entertained me in more good ways than I want to admit to myself.

I've always loved the American made-for-TV movies from the '70s which were pretty much a staple of late night television in England when I was growing-up (not that I've ever truly become an adult in my own mind), and, just because this was a couple of years beyond their heyday, it was still up to the same standard.

"This House Possessed" wasn't in any way scary and. of course, the effects such as a bulging, exploding mirror (which was also used again on a brick wall) were really cheap looking and laughable compared to even the most generic offerings from the same year, but, I managed to get quite engrossed in it all and found the characters interesting. I even enjoyed everyone's favourite cowboy, Slim Pickens, as a kindly, father-figure/pop manager since it wasn't his usual type of role.

Parker Stevenson didn't come across as a very credible musician other than, surprisingly, really being able to sing. The songs weren't good and I couldn't imagine anybody getting rich enough from them to buy a pot noodle let alone a house, but such is life in the movies. Call me cynical and bitter, but I think the same about most modern pop stars anyway so my opinion of the music is probably invalid.

In spite of Parker Stephenson's character, Gary Straihorn, being a little bit inconsistent and not quite so nice sometimes as the "goody two shoes" image which he was supposed to personify, I can't blame his acting, and think it just wasn't a very well written part. To coin a phrase which I learned last night, he came across as a little bit "rapey" on at least two occasions.

The object of both Gary Straiborn's and the possessed house's affections was an attractive nurse, Sheila Moore, as played by Lisa Eilbacher. She was also inconsistent and didn't seem very nurse-like, but, to be fair, this was hardly the most realistic of movies anyway.

For some reason, I think I'm supposed to know who Lisa Eilbacher was. I know she was in a few episodes of "The Hardy Boys" (shared agents or studio contracts presumably being how she ended up in this alongside Parker Stevenson) but I swear I don't remember her from "An Officer and a Gentleman" (1982) which the IMDb gives as her main claim to fame. She was so very pretty that I completely forgot about how Joan Bennett had aged since "Scarlet Street" (1945) and "The Woman in the Window" (1944). It's hard to believe that Lisa Eilbacher is 56 years old now. Such thoughts make me feel very sad sometimes.

As far as the story to "This House Possessed" went, it was actually a pretty basic demon-possessed or computer-controlled house set-up which was. of course. done better in more well-known theatrical movies. Some of it was very formulaic, but it wasn't quite as predictable as I thought it was going to be.

The director, William Wiard, worked on so many classic TV series that I'm not going to make myself look foolish by blaming him or any of the actors involved for the inadequacies of the script. There were a lot of things to pick holes in, and I've already covered most of them, but by far the worst was not really ever getting an explanation for why or how the house had a life of its own and was so obsessed with Sheila. I suppose I could make up my own backstory if I had the patience as there were a few clues.

Maybe in my weakened state of exhaustion, I finally discovered the true meaning of the "so bad, it's good" expression when deciding on a final rating for "This House Possessed". I'd prefer to think that the few moments of brilliance and my nostalgia for movies of this kind had more to do with my appreciation of it though.

"This House Possessed" was below average for a made-for-TV movie and, ordinarily, you know that I would cast something like this into "The Dungeon". It had a little bit more charm than the other rubbish in there though so I'm giving it a few more points for that.

August 22, 2012

Pitch Black (2000)

"A group of marooned space travelers struggle for survival on a seemingly lifeless sun-scorched world."

Since I had nothing better to do, I decided to rewatch "Pitch Black" for only the second time in nearly 12 years. I remembered really liking it when I first saw it, but I hated the sequel and never returned to it.

I'm not entirely sure, but I think that it was the first movie with David Twohy as a director that I ever watched. I know he wrote the screenplays for quite a few other movies, but without going through his IMDb credits, I couldn't possibly tell you what they all were. Since they probably weren't horror, I don't expect any of you even care anyway.

Anyway, having recently picked this up on DVD for $2 from the County Fair, of all places, I was feeling quite pleased with my bargain. The euphoria didn't last for more than 5 minutes past my initial purchase though and certainly didn't continue into the movie itself.

Honestly, what was I thinking? This wasn't my kind of thing or a particularly good film at all. If I'd wanted a poor man's "Aliens" clone with often shaky camerawork, at least one expletive carefully timed to be uttered every 10 minutes, and a lot of unintelligible mumbling then I probably could have watched "Alien 3" and hated it even more.

Of course, Vin Diesel as Riddick made up for a lot of the flaws by being uber cool. This was his big break in the movies, and both the sci-fi and action nerds went crazy for more of him at the time. I have to admit that the Riddick of this movie was worth every bit of the hype as well. He really did come across as dangerous yet fairly heroic with it.

It's no big surprise that as a former fan of "Farscape", I really liked Claudia Black, so she was the main attraction for watching "Pitch Black" again. I was, however, disappointed by not seeing very much of her. Whatever happened to "Farscape" anyway? It just sort of ended in mid-season as far as I remember. I also liked the grey and blue girl (not the plant one), but I'll be damned if I can remember her name now.

Just like "Farscape", there are a lot of Australians in "Pitch Black". I would guess that the movie was either filmed in Australia or had a lot of Australian funding. I didn't sit through the end credits to find out so you'll have to look those details up for yourself if you feel like it.

I can't place Radha Mitchell who played Carolyn, but I know I've seen her in something else. It's kind of sinful to ever forget somebody as sexy and beautiful as her. I'm writing this review while very tired and so will deeply regret not editing it to appear cleverer tomorrow.

The major problem I had with "Pitch Black" was that it took so long to really get started without the excuse of any character development. I couldn't tell who was who or what their roles were for at least half an hour. When I did find out, I didn't particularly care about any of the characters either.

At the 45 minute mark, the action eventually kicked-off, and the reptillian, Hammer-headed, vampire bat-like aliens were kind of great considering that they were computer generated. Then it turned into a load of much needed character development, some unnecessarily boring sci-fi nonsense, and everything slowed down yet again.

As much as I would like to blame my old TV, the lack of colour and yellow hue when everyone was out on the planet's surface was intentional, but it got really annoying. I was very pleased when night came, even though then the film suffered from being too dark and SyFy-channelly. Too many shots of bad actors looking worried at each other or arguing also got old pretty fast.

I did enjoy the creature attacks, and there was, surprisingly, some nice use of suspense, bu, with a running time of nearly two hours, "Pitch Black" was quite badly paced and overlong for what it was. The whole thing could have been done in half that time and been a lot more exciting.

The ending, which set things up for the continuation of "The Chronicles of Riddick", felt very mistimed especially after a downbeat moment delivered its punchline too early. A big bang of some kind was needed to make the movie memorable.

I'm going to rate "Pitch Black" as average even though it was slightly below. I didn't completely hate it, but unfortunately, it hasn't aged well and I didn't love it either.

August 20, 2012

How to be a successful horror blogger

Having done this for a quite a while now without ever having achieved the coveted "Blog of Note" pat on the back from Google, any kind of fame, and, apparently, no financial reward, you would think that I would be the last person who would offer advice on how to be a successful horror blogger.

Au contraire, just because I've been kicked to the kerb more times than I've been acknowledged doesn't mean that I haven't seen others appear out of nowhere over the years and become almost overnight celebrities in the horror blogging game. I've scrutinized every aspect of exactly how they did it too.

I'm not jealous of any of them. Every dog has his day, "to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose" (to quote something far more profound out of context), and fame is fleeting. "When you get a number one, the only way is down," as Adam Ant once sang. As soon as you get any kind of success, you get haters who want to destroy you, so I'm kind of happy just doing what I'm doing as a hobby.

Anyway, based on my observations, the following are the steps necessary to becoming a successful horror blogger.

1. Never disagree or have a strong opinion about anything unless it's the most politically correct cause at the time.

The key to this is being completely wishy-washy. Some would call it running with the foxes and hunting with the hounds, but you can't even be that hypocritical. You genuinely have to believe (or at least convince others that you genuinely believe) that every horror movie is a valid work of art and not just some product designed to make a quick buck from a stupid audience.

If you want to really impress your readers, swear undying love for all things Troma and the "so bad it's good" style of backyard epics. Use the words "indie horror filmmaker" a lot. Nobody will know if any of the movies you talk about even exist, but they will still think you are uber cool for standing against the horrible "Hollywood" machine which stifles creativity, or some such happy horseshit. Never say anything bad about Hollywood yourself.

2. You have to love the remakes.

Of course, this only really works if you are under 25 years old and have only ever watched horror movies from the mid '90s onwards. If you have any knowledge of the original movies other than just their titles, just refer to them all as "Classics" whether you have actually seen those movies or not. A typical sentence will be, "Having just watched the awesome remake of the fantastic classic horror [insert name here], I was absolutely blown away by the incredible attention to detail and respect given to the original source material."

While those in the know will see through this bullshit immediately, the movie companies will love you and want to quote your generic praise on their DVD artwork, thus creating lots of traffic to your horror blog.

3. Have an awesome blog layout.

You don't have to rely on content when you can hire a professional artist to add all kinds of cartoons and Flash animations to make your blog look trendy. Who cares if your reviews are only one paragraph as long as you have a moving picture at the top of them? It makes your site look "live" and appeals to the tweenagers with ADD who will be clicking all your "Like" and "Thumbs Up" buttons like mad things.

If you can do all this yourself, you can save a ton of money, but don't take too long about it because if you are over thirty, nobody will give a damn about you anyway. Spend large amounts of cash to make up for the skills which you will never have and can't be bothered to learn so that you can reap the rewards as quickly as possible.

4. Pay for promotion on search engines, Facebook and Twitter.

Yes, even if you have the crappiest site and the worst reviews possible, you too can be top of the horror blogger food chain by paying for traffic. It costs a fortune, but, hey, now you can have a Kickstarter project, beg for money for something else, and use that income to promote your blog instead.

Don't even bother to question the moral implications of such dishonesty. You do want to be a top horror blogger and earn millions of dollars, right?

5. Be a girl.

There are far too many men blogging about horror, so even if you aren't a girl, pretend to be one. Hire a model to dress up in something slutty, gothic and sexy, take some pictures, and use her image (with permission) all over your blog.

If you are a girl and can make yourself up to be half-way attractive, create some quirky images of yourself maybe holding a horror DVD and winking. Even better, create a logo of yourself reclining on a bed of horror DVDs. The nerds will go crazy for you although be prepared to be told off by many of them for incorrectly storing those precious Blu-rays.

6. Have a gimmick.

To be a huge horror blogging success, you need to have a gimmick which you will be remembered for. Obviously, dressing up as Elvira won't help you unless you are male, but we've already established that you are going to pretend to be female anyway. Oh, and remember that you always have to refer to men as "male" and women as "female" because it's more politically correct to do so.

Suggestions for your gimmick include: being a vegan, believing in UFOs, liking Nascar, wrestling, or cosplay. In fact, just about anything which the majority of the world thinks sucks could be your quirk as long as you promote it to the hilt in every review you write. For example, "When the jump scare happened, it was such a shock that I almost choked on my tofu burger and ended up being rushed to the hospital in my Stormtrooper outfit. Oh, how embarrassing!" You get two for one there plus points for being inoffensively self-deprecating.

7. Be self-deprecating.

The worst thing about being a horror blogger is having too much knowledge. It alienates your audience who all think that they are the supreme "Horror Aficionado" in the horror universe themselves. To keep your readers coming back for more, you have to dumb yourself down, make obvious mistakes, and poke fun at yourself for being so stupid as much as possible.

Although it's really difficult to pull this off unless you are actually dumb-as-a-crate-full-of-stupid, you can still achieve the same effect by getting the names of movie characters wrong. For example, "I loved how Jason killed everybody in the classic Friday the 13th from the '70s". When corrected on all three counts, just laugh it off in your comments section by saying you meant the remake but you're a girl.

Ask lots of questions at the end of every post you write to increase the illusion that you know nothing at all about the subject you've been writing about. People love that!

8. Be vulgar.

Everybody swears, but this is where you can be at your most creative. Only use traditional curse words, but put them in every other sentence. It's not as if you even know what you are talking about anyway, and your subscribers can barely read, so just throw the expletives randomly into your text and hope for the best if all else fails. Remember not to offend anybody by changing the last "g" to an apostrophe because that missing letter makes all the difference.

Never write the word "shit" in relation to any movie or actor's performance, and you will go far. You can, however, talk about the DVD case as being "sh*t" (remember the asterisk!) unless your gimmick is being an eco-case supporter.

If you are either pretending to be a girl or you are really a girl, you can also gain more readers by announcing your faux-lesbian attraction to the hot actresses in the latest horror movie. Nerds and pubescent schoolboys love this. Just confuse matters slightly by claiming to have a very temporary but committed boyfriend who thought the same, and then describe in inoffensive detail how hot you were together later. Watch your pageviews rocket!

9. Build a forum.

Although the comments sections may provide a huge amount of social networking, having a forum allows people to feel a very tribal sense of belonging. Make the forum really exclusive, and provide content on it such as videos of yourself smothered in indie horror DVDs or seductively eating tofu.

Don't spend too much time on that forum yourself though as you can rely on the internal popularity contests and cliques which form to provide you with lots of free content. Only endorse the opinions which agree with your own, harvest the latest news or gossip from the threads, and maybe offer a completely worthless prize such as a little crown on their avatar for whoever posts the most.

Occasionally, provide the masses with a trailer to a horror movie or a link to your latest one paragraph review with lots of pictures and you will be worshipped like a living god.

10. Watch at least three (but no more than six) horror movies.

Again, working on the fact that you are more likely to be promoted for being stupid than for having any knowledge, ironically, there have to be some horror movies which you know inside out and can refer to in every post. The more obscure these movies are the better although one must be easily recognisable. For example, "I just watched [insert movie name] and it was awesome even though [insert movie actor name] was playing the same role as [he/she] did in [insert specialist knowledge movie name]." Preface everything with, "In my humble opinion..." just so you never appear objective or able to recognise formulas, tropes or clichés. Remember, you have to love everything no matter how unoriginal it is.

Suggestions for known movies include the "Halloween", "Friday the 13th" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchises because there are so many sequels to dip into that nobody will remember if you are right or wrong anyway.

If you are thinking of becoming a successful horror blogger, I hope these pointers will help you on your way. Also please remember to be nice to those on the way up because you don't know who will be writing sarcastic blogs about you on your way down.

August 19, 2012

I just made a few changes to the blog

I haven't done much today due to a slight illness (basically, I ate more peanuts than any human being should ever eat in one go and suffered the consequences), so I took things fairly easy, didn't do my scheduled podcast, and just played around with my blogger layout instead.

The result was that I have now not only ditched Disqus (and started afresh with the comments), but I have also temporarily removed LinkWithin (which has been annoying me for quite some time by forcing me to add pictures when I really didn't want to and showing posts which I've deleted), the "Most Popular Posts" (which haven't changed in over a year), and the completely useless "Blog Archive" (which just took up space and nobody used anyway). If you need to find something, I recommend the page links on the navigation bar under the logo, and, of course, you can use the search box.

I also deleted a lot of the monetising mainly because I'm not making anything from any of the adverts. Unfortunately, I'm not a pretty girl blogger who you all want to fall over yourselves agreeing with or supporting with donations just because you think you'll get something in return. Reality check, people, that isn't going to happen on those mediocre blogs by pretty girls who use the angles for their one good profile picture either.

More Changes

I am no longer pandering to the popularity contests (not that I ever did much) so I'm not going to play the number of GFC followers game. I'll follow who I want to if they interest me or not follow others if they don't. I'm lazy with it though so the chances are that if I'm already following your blog, I'll stay following it unless you give up writing.

As tempting as it was to remove the GFC gadget, it's there for your benefit not mine. If you have a Blogger account then it will always be the easiest way to subscribe. Of course, the RSS feed itself, Twitter and my Facebook page for this blog are just as useful for keeping up with my latest posts.

Having said all that, I have cleared a lot of dead blogs from "The Bloody Blogroll" earlier - the current total is 80 - mainly because at least 200 horror bloggers have given up. It's very sad, but there just aren't that many of us left now.

Time for a Reboot

My blog, although still definitely geared towards the horror genre, is changing to be about whatever I damn well feel like posting or reviewing whether it's an old movie from the 1940s or the latest remake. I can't compete with the teams of reviewers on the bigger sites and, truth be told, I don't really want to either. If I find something interesting then perhaps you will too.

I've written approximately 1000 horror movie reviews so far. Most of them are as crappy as the movies themselves, some are longer and more informative than others, but they are all 100% honest. I may go back and rewrite a few of them one day even though it would be more work than necessary, but I'm not going to change my mind about anything which I've already said.

Anyway, hopefully, at the very least, my blog will load a bit faster now, and I can concentrate on writing rather than trying to satisfy the requirements of the less than helpful widgets.

August 18, 2012

My Top Ten Sexiest Vampires

Since I've been watching a lot of vampire movies this week, what better way to end it than with a list of my sexiest vampire girls?

I know this is a bit of a cheat since there are far more than ten sexy vampires below, but I'm sure you'll appreciate the extras anyway.

1. Dracula's Bride (Monica Belucci) from "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (1992)

It's hard to choose between Florina Kendrick, Monica Bellucci and Michaela Bercu, but Monica is definitely the sexiest for me.

2. Solina (Jennifer Esposito) from "Dracula 2000" (2000)

Lucy Westerman (Colleen Fitzpatrick) is very sweet, Valerie Sharpe (Jeri Ryan) knows how to work her figure, but the hottest here is Solina who exudes sexiness throughout the whole movie.

3. Aleera (Elena Anaya) from "Van Helsing" (2004)

Again, it's almost impossible to choose between Marishka (Josie Maran), Verona (Silvia Colloca), and Aleera (Elena Anaya). I like them all, but the Spanish lady takes the prize for being the best part of this terrible film.

4. Carmilla Karnstein (Yutte Stensgaard) from "Lust for a Vampire" (1971)

Whether she's Mircalla or Carmilla doesn't matter, Yutte Stensgaard was one of the most beautiful Hammer actresses, especially when she was playing a vampire. Her victim in this picture, Amanda, was played by Judy Matheson who went on to become a TV presenter.

5. Frieda Gellhorn (Madeleine Collinson) from "Twins of Evil" (1971)

I know what you're thinking, but I can tell the difference between them, and I pick the bad twin. Mary and Madeleine Collinson played Maria and Frieda respectively, in case you wonder which is which.

6. Lilith (Angie Everhart) from "Bordello of Blood" (1996)

Not the most flattering picture of this former model, but she's still sexy. I still can't understand how Rafe Guttman managed to resist her.

7. Vamp Willow (Alyson Hannigan) from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1999)

Although Willow was only a vampire in two episodes of the series, "The Wish" and "Doppelgangland" (both from Season 3), she was pretty memorable. She was only ever hotter when she became an evil witch, but that's another story.

8. Mae (Jenny Wright) from "Near Dark' (1987)

Is she really only the second blonde on this list? I can't think why that is except that the lovely Mae is also the only vampire who is actually nice to her victims before sucking them dry.

9. Marie (Anne Parillaud) from "Innocent Blood" (1992)

Just for being naked as many times as she kept her clothes on, I have to include Anne Parillaud. She's a little bit too boyish to rate any higher, but she's still gorgeous.

10. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) from "Underworld" (2003)

Okay, Kate Beckinsale doesn't actually do anything sexy in the "Underworld" movies, so it's all about the way she looks. She looked even lovelier in "Van Helsing" but, unfortunately, she wasn't a vampire in that.

Bonus: Bella Cullen (Kristen Stewart) from "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2" (2012)

I always thought Alice Cullen (Ashley Greene) was the best looking vampire in the "Twilight" movies, but that was before Bella changed. Now it's "Team Bella" again all the way to the end of the Saga.

Runners up include any other Hammer vampiress (especially Ingrid Pitt), Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek) in "From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996), and Darla (Julie Benz) from the "Angel" TV series.

These are the hottest vampires I can think of. Who are your favourites?

August 17, 2012

Dracula III: Legacy (2005)

"In the near future, Uffizi and Luke travel to the remote reaches of war torn Romania to rescue Elizabeth and finish the vampire once and for all. Along the way, they encounter TV news journalists and a corps of rebels trying to fight the vampire uprising which plagues their country."

As much as it's silly to even hope for the second sequel in a trilogy to be worthwhile, I was still expecting "Dracula III: Legacy" to be entertaining. I know that I should have learned my lesson way back when "Return of the Jedi" turned out to be a steaming pile of crap. I even saw the pattern forming with "The Godfather: Part III". Unfortunately, I have remained overly optimistic up to and past the recent awfulness of "The Dark Knight Rises". One day, I'm sure someone will be able to make a trilogy with a decent final third. Ah, but what do I care about non-horror movies anyway?

With all the positivity that a true horror fan could muster, I loaded my "Dracula III: Legacy" DVD into the player, and was thanked with one of the most boring and insulting pieces of lousy filmmaking that I have ever seen in my life. What a shame!

Even a day later, I still feel emotionally drained by the whole horrid experience, but not in the cathartic way that leads to a comfy sleep wrapped up in cats. No, in this case, I was drained of anything good that I could possibly say about "Dracula III: Legacy". As a vampire movie, it certainly did its job in sucking the joy right out of me.

Just look at the picture above. Do these guys look like vampire-hunters to you? Doesn't it look like a scene from some really bad comedy about a homeless guy and his mentally challenged friend? I'll let you decide which is which. Honestly, I think Patrick Lussier may have even intended for this movie to be the one which I jokingly just described because whatever he created here was certainly nothing like "Dracula II: Ascension".

While it may have had the same characters, promoting the wrong two of them to lead status was a schoolboy error. From the ending of the previous movie, I wanted to see more of Diane Neal and Stephen Billington bringing a reign of terror to the world as the new vampiric royal couple. I did not want to see any more of Jason Scott Lee's character who was supposed to be left for dead with an arrow through his heart, and I certainly didn't want a lowly morgue orderly to become a hamfisted and ham-acted hero.

Although their travels through war-torn Romania were interesting in a completely anachronistic and xenophobic way, it was pretty obvious that the filming was only done there because it was cheap. I know that "Dracula II: Ascension" was filmed in Romania too (at the same time as this in 2002), but the former had the right pace, imagination, and, I would make a guess, used up the bulk of the available budget. This third part was nothing but leftovers or sloppy seconds.

What happened to Dracula and his lovely bride? Replacing the most attractive female with Alexandra Westcourt as a reporter covering the war didn't make up for it. As pretty as she was, she was hardly a sexy vampiress.

Dracula didn't even make an appearance until the end and had only about as much on screen time as the combined (and rather pointless) cameos by Roy Scheider in both films. To make matters worse, Stephen Billington was replaced by Rutger Hauer! What the hell? Hello? Did nobody notice how awful he was at playing the vampire Lothos in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1992)? That was such a cringeworthy Rutger Hauer role that it is now the stuff of legend.

I can forgive whoever cast Rutger Hauer as Dracula for not realising that his inability to play a vampire would also be apparent to anyone who saw him suck as Kurt Barlow in the "Salem's Lot" remake since, although that was made in 2004 and "Dracula III: Legacy" was released in 2005, chronologically, this movie was made first. I wonder why Stephen Billington didn't continue in the part? Was he written out to give Rutger Hauer a job or just to add a recognisable cult name to the cast? Continuity had been thrown out of the window with the first sequel so I'm sure nobody even questioned the decision.

At least the gorgeous Elizabeth returned for a few minutes near the end, and the fight between Dracula and Father Uffizi provided some much needed action in any otherwise almost completely actionless borefest. It again made no difference that the Dracula who could never be killed created a huge plothole in the twist ending. Or did it? I'm still not entirely convinced that something other than the obvious hadn't been set up for yet another lacklustre sequel.

What a total disappointment. I now have one of Patrick Lussier's "Dracula" movies rated as very good, one as average, and there's only one place that this can go. With great regret, I now consign "Dracula III: Legacy" to The Dungeon. May it rot in peace.

Dracula II: Ascension (2003)

"The burned corpse of Dracula (Stephen Billington) is revived by a wheelchair-bound scientist, Lowell (Craig Sheffer), and his devoted students in an effort to cure Lowell of a fatal disease."

Would you believe that a direct-to-video sequel could actually be good? No? I'm still not sure if it's any better than "Dracula 2000" technically, but I have to say that I had a thoroughly enjoyable experience watching "Dracula II: Ascension" for the very first time.

As I said in a previous post, I had no idea that any sequels to "Dracula 2000" even existed until I recently bought the DVD pack of all of them. Either my local Blockbuster in England didn't bother to get them, or I was interested in other things at the time. I know it's hard to believe, but, really, I do have other hobbies.

Anyway, "Dracula II: Ascension" was apparently filmed back-to-back with the second sequel, "Dracula III: Legacy" (which didn't get released until 2005 for some reason), and so is really the first half of a completely different story rather than continuing with the same cast of characters from "Dracula 2000". Thus, there's no sign of Gerard Butler, Jonny Lee Miller or even Justine Waddell. The absence of the latter two pleased me greatly.

Apart from the director, Patrick Lussier, being the same, and the title having "Dracula" in it, there's only the slightest link possible with the original film. The burned corpse of Dracula, which was apparently left to the local authorities to cut down from the illuminated Jesus sign, provide the vampire body which is the centre of all the shenanigans which follow. Strangely, he's never once referred to as "Dracula" during the whole movie, and he's blond like Lestat, so make of that what you will.

Of course, "Dracula II: Ascension" owes more to "Blade" than it does to anything by Anne Rice. Jason Scott Lee plays a laconic, half-vampire, Catholic priest to the best of his ability, but the "Blade" influence overshadows his ethnicity. I'm not entirely certain, but I think the comic book version of "Blade" was supposed to be English. Maybe I'm confusing him with someone else since it's been years since I read a comic. The point is, it doesn't matter if a vampire-hunter is black, white, yellow or purple because "Captain Kronos" was the first anyway. You thought I was going to say "Blade" again then, didn't you?

Now that I've brought "Captain Kronos" up, I'm sure he was the first character I remember who was bitten by a vampire and survived. Other than the mythology about destroying the head vampire to release the victims as invented by Bram Stoker, there wasn't any attempt to change that prior to Hammer. In the Wes Craven/Patrick Lussier "Dracula 2000" story, Dracula cannot be killed, so obviously they had to do something new which was actually done before slightly differently. Thus, you have Father Uffizi (Jason Scott Lee) having to very painfully burn the vampire infection out of himself in sunlight every morning. Presumably any other victim would have to do the same thing or turn into a vampire.

Obviously, at least one person wants to become a vampire in "Dracula II: Ascension" otherwise there wouldn't have been any need to steal Dracula's body from a morgue, chain it up under spotlights in a drained indoor swimming pool, or conduct cruel experiments on it. It isn't exactly "torture porn" by any stretch of the imagination though. If you've seen "Blade" then it isn't very original either. I'm tempted to throw in "Day of the Dead" as an influence too, but really any movie where a monster was captured and experimented on could have inspired this.

Usually I like to run through the cast at this point in a review and say what I thought of them, but I honestly didn't recognise any of the actors apart from Jason Scott Lee. I've probably seen them all in different things over the years, but I don't know their names without looking them up on the IMDb.

The disabled Professor (who is a big character in this) is played by Craig Sheffer. I thought he was channelling Gary Busey for most of his role so finding out that he wasn't a Busey was a surprise. John Light plays an English guy named Eric and there's nobody who was more shocked than me to find out that he was married to Neve Campbell.

As for the rest of the cast, who cares? The pretty girl, Diane Neal, who plays Elizabeth is very lovely and, of course, her wannabe boyfriend, Luke, I now know was played by Jason London. Are they famous on American TV or something? To me, they were unknowns.

It's only from the synopsis that I even knew that Dracula is played by Stephen Billington. At one point I thought he looked just like a younger version of Rutger Hauer. I only realised the irony of that thought after I'd watched "Dracula III: Legacy" later.

It doesn't matter if I'd never heard of any of the actors in this before anyway since they all do a really good job. I didn't notice any particularly weak links among them or even anything too horrible about the dialogue. There were a few smartass one-liners, but nothing stupidly comedic.

The effects are really good with lots of blood everywhere although only half a dozen moments could really be described as "gory". One of those involves a dead cat which I'd rather forget about, but I suppose it was necessary to that part of the story. As ever, I can't say that anything is scary in this unless you overthink it all.

I learned a couple of things about vampires from "Dracula II: Ascension" which I probably knew before but had forgotten. I'm not going to tell you what they were because I'm going to recommend that you watch this movie for yourself. You've probably already spotted that I've embedded the full movie from YouTube at the top of this review so you don't even have to go to Wal-mart or Kmart to grab a barebones copy from the $5 bargain DVD bins.

I enjoyed "Dracula II: Ascension" so much that I'm going to put it into "The Vault". It wasn't a new film, but it was new to me, and it was way above what I expected.