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April 29, 2010

Midnight Movie of the Week #17 - The Descent

Over the past five years, Neil Marshall's The Descent has quickly become one of the most misspelled horror titles on internet message boards. That's a shame, because the film's much more than Decent. (Yeah, I know, that title card doesn't do it justice either, but if you enlarge it you can make out the whole title that the light is sweeping across.)

Sandwiched between the two ultra-macho flicks (Dog Soldiers and Doomsday) Marshall has made, The Descent is a girl's-night-out of terror in which a group of adventure-seeking outdoorswomen head into a dark and ominous series of caves, hoping to retreat from their problems, which includes the fact that one of the women, Sarah (Shauna McDonald), lost her husband and daughter in an accident a year earlier during another adventure. Leading the charge is the competitive Juno (Natalie Mendoza) and her "protegee" Holly (Nora-Jane Noone), who've secretly tricked Sarah and their friends into an unexplored series of caverns that they want to "discover" and name, of course.(Curiosity kills me here...How exactly does one choose a name for a series of caverns? Are there rules for it? If you had to name a series of caverns, what would you go with? Let me know in the comments, please! BTW, my choice is totally "The Overlook Caverns", because it's ironic and Shining-y.)

(On an unrelated note, if you're tired of this review right now, head over to Z for Zombies and check out Zach S.'s post on our latest Midnight Warriors topic, in which he lauds Clive Barker's Nightbreed. Then come back, please. So ends this commercial break.)

Meanwhile, things slowly get difficult for the group after a cave-in leaves them struggling to find their way back to daylight. And Sarah, still having trouble with some memories of her lost daughter, slowly becomes sure that the group is not alone. She's right, and the movie takes off down the survive-at-any-cost road from there.It's clear throughout the film that Marshall adores John Carpenter's 1982 classic The Thing, as The Descent even borrows from that film's musical score at some of its most tense moments. Like Carpenter did then, Marshall takes a lot of time to set up a network of realistic characters to face the terrors he has planned out. In both films the characters aren't extremely interesting - at least compared to what we're used to from genre cinema, where everyone has a back-story and a specialty" - which allows uncertainty to run wild in the viewer's mind. Any of these women are at risk at any moment in the film, and the fact that we have trouble identifying with each of them at times just adds to our concern that they might be the next to face a terrible fate.

It is also extremely significant that all the characters who enter the cave are women. When Carpenter made The Thing with an all-male cast, it was expected that the group would act off of their need to present a "strong" male image to each other. By utilizing women and allowing them to be strong-willed and independent - traits generally reserved for "survivor girls" in horror films - Marshall fights against the stream. This again builds tension by making us believe that any of these characters are their own entity within the film, and not just a stereotype that's about to become a statistic on some gorehound's death-toll list.
When the fundamental dose of claustrophobia that comes with the setting syncs up with the tension these realistic characters bring to the plot, The Descent is capable of anything. Watching the film for my second time this evening, I found myself shocked more than once, and even had a good jump at one excellent reveal. And when the ending rolls around (By the way, if you saw this in an American theater or on TV and found the ending lacking, you NEED to check the Unrated version out...the ending that was originally intended exists only through it), The Descent will hopefully leave you feeling the same slew of emotions I received - primarily an excitement about seeing a rare film that really does pack a psychological and emotional punch.

Though I may find myself gravitating toward Marshall's two popcorn films more often (which isn't a knock, Dog Soldiers and Doomsday are two entirely different kinds of beasts) than this one, The Descent is a reminder of exactly how a filmmaker can simplify terror by creating simple human characters and placing them in a dark place with a threat. In this case the result is one of the most intense chillers in recent memory; which doubles as the rare horror film that doesn't treat women like they belong in a kitchen. Bravo, Mr. Marshall.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

April 27, 2010

A Tribute to MGM's Midnite Movies on DVD!

(Hey peeps, I retired from a week-long mini-vacation from work today (read as: got off my fat ass for once!), so I'm not feeling too much serious writing in my system. However, I wanted to give y'all something simple to admire in the meantime. Happy viewings!)

Once upon a time, when I decided to start up this meager blog of justice, I was inspired by many films I'd loved throughout the years. However, there is one group of films that inspired me directly toward this site's purpose - the "Midnite Movies" collection of films (like the above Mars Needs Women, complete with the strategically placed rocket on the cover) released on VHS/DVD by MGM (and, later, Fox). The collection, which consists mostly of films made or released by the great American International Pictures label, has offered me plenty of great viewing experiences and plenty of titles I love to ponder.

What will follow here is a collection of some of the releases in this collection, and my comments on each. These comments will not necessarily be related to each movie's quality - as there are many I've yet to see - but to the idea that these movies exist and come in these extra cool packages. With no further ado, I dive in....
First up we have Count Yorga, Vampire and its sequel, The Return of Count Yorga. I've seen most of the original Yorga, which is an oddly interesting, if not snail-paced, vampire tale - but mostly I wanted to list them here simply for the name "Yorga". It's fun. Say it with me now..."YOR-ga! YOR-ga! YOR-ga!" It's better than Rudy.
Next, we have the dual force of War Gods of the Deep and At The Earth's Core (with the tagline: "They're in it DEEP now!"). Like many of the films in this collection one stars Vincent Price, and the other stars Peter Cushing. Plus, my favorite dreamboat to randomly namedrop, Tab Hunter (i.e. - You think that guy's hot? He's not exactly Tab Hunter!), stars in War Gods of the Deep. That's cool.
If they told you that two heads are better than one, they had the duo of The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant and The Thing With Two Heads in mind. If you can't read the latter's tagline, it's "They share the same body...but hate each other's guts!" That's a winner.
Looking for a psychotropic time with Jack Nicholson or Peter Fonda or Dennis Hopper that's not all motorcycles? Then the double dip of Psych-Out and The Trip, each starring mega-babe Susan Strasberg, might be what you need.
Having trouble choosing a femalien destructor? Do some research with Invasion of the Star Creatures and Invasion of the Bee Girls! THEY'LL LOVE YOU TO DEATH! is definitely a tagline that stings! (And what's with the eyes falling out of the dude staring at the Star Creatures? Yikes.)
Only time for one movie? How about the Copenhagen based Reptilicus? It's a TAIL of terror! Get it? (Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that there are multiple Reptilici in this movie...but I hope I'm wrong.)
Ah! Not only two movies I've seen, but two movies I LOVE! Panic in Year Zero, an apocalyptic tale from star/director/Oscar-Winner Ray Milland, and The Last Man on Earth, which is Vincent Price in an adaptation of Richard Matheson's amazing I AM LEGEND! This set was in most Wal-Mart $5 bins for a long, long time, and I hope for your sake you grabbed it up. Not only is it two fine films, it's the best Last Man on Earth has ever looked on DVD, after a slew of poor transfers via bargain companies. Seriously, seek it out!
Ok, I have to mention the Morons from Outer Space/Alien from L.A. two-pack for a couple of reasons. 1) Morons from Outer Space, which I've yet to see, comes from the director of Flash Gordon. (So it must rule.) 2) Alien from L.A. might be THE worst movie I've ever seen. Kathy Ireland might have been the most attractive person of all-time in my mind when I was 12, but this It's a freaking travesty. Oh well, can't win 'em all.
I haven't seen Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow, so I'm done talking about it despite the cool title. Here's the thing - The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini is a movie that I 1000%, with no hint of sarcasm, LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE. I know it's the tail end of the "monster beach movie" cycle, but to me it is to that genre what Touch of Evil is to Film Noir. Seriously, one of the most fun movies I've ever seen. (If you're wondering, yes, the bikini is invisible, but that doesn't mean the chick's boobs are visible. So it's not because of that.) But for reals, I love you The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini!
Hey, more Bikinis! (But again, no nudity. You know you're troubled when you own multiple movies with "bikini" in the title that DON'T have nudity in them.) Anyway, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine stars Vincent Price, and if you look closely at the cover he appears to a) be dressed as the Wizard of Oz; and b) be wielding a lightsaber. So that's nice. Fun movie, and Mario Bava directed its sequel.
I have to mention Wild in the Streets and Gas-s-s-s -Or- It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It, due to the latter. I know some who applaud it as an all-time great sci-fi film, but I didn't like it one bit. However, it's notable for once holding the record for using the letter "s" consecutively in a title, up until 1973's Sssssss, starring The A-Team's Dirk Benedict, came along. True story.
Last but not least, I offer The Monster that Challenged the World and It! The Terror From Beyond Space. I'm terribly fond of the former, or at least my idea of what the former is - a film in which a monster, shunned by the world, cuts a mean promo challenging the world to a steel cage match.

"You know somethin', World dude! I thought we could work together, I thought you could change your ways, I thought you were someone I could learn to trust! But when you brought that steel chair crashing down on my head...when you broke the trust of all my crossed the line, brother! But now, two weeks from today, at Earthamania, it's just gonna be you and me, World dude! And when they close that door, and the unforgiving steel surrounds us...whatcha gonna do, World dude...when the 24 foot tentacles and all the power of Monstermania runs wild on YOU!!!!"

(Oh, and allegedly It! was ripped off by no less than ALIEN. Yeah, they said it, not!)

April 26, 2010

More Midnight Warriors Stand Tall!

OK, so last week the invitation was made, and tonight the party is finalized (for now, at least)! Several have already responded, and I gave my pick - which is pictured above - too. Now, more readers and bloggers have answered the question:

You've been given the opportunity to host a midnight showing of any genre/cult film you want, and are sure to have a great crowd of like-minded fans who will join in. What's the one movie you're going to pick, and why?

Everyone caught up? Cool beans.

First up is Brandon Sites of Big Daddy Horror Reviews which is not, despite Kick-Ass, a Nic Cage fansite. That's OK, because Brandon knows his stuff. Like so:

If I was to pick one film to show at a midnight screening I would pick Night Warning, aka Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker. I think my review of the film perfectly sums up exactly why I love the film, but I would also choose the film to show at a midnight screening because of how relevant the film is to what is going on now in current events (the film was so far ahead of it's time) and plus because it would definitely get people talking and pondering over the film.

Next, we have my good friend R.D. Penning from over at Dead-End Drive In, the only Iowan who's seen more horror movies than I have! He has this to say:

If I were about to host a midnight showing of any movie with like-minded people, I would probably choose Cutting Class from 1989. It is one of my favorite underrated slasher/whodunit flicks, and I think it would just be fun to watch it with a large crowd, with people cheering and clapping whenever someone is killed. It's always fun watching Brad Pitt in only his second feature film ever; not to mention that the movie is just as scary as his current facial hair! I just think it might not be a movie that alot of people have seen, and I think they would enjoy it. You did say like-minded, so I'd want to pick one a little under the radar and not exactly the most known cult hit! I think it would be amazing!

Carl Manes, of I Like Horror Movies and Horror Blogger Alliance fame is our next warrior, and he's picked a film that goes straight for my heart - through the ribcage, of course!

THE BLOB (1988): What better popcorn movie could there possibly be for a crowd full of cheering fans? THE BLOB is quintessential 1980s horror viewing, and a film that all fans should be intimately acquainted with. It is also a film that can be enjoyed even if the guy behind you is laughing too loud, if half of the audience is quoting the lines, or if you have to make the obligatory run to the bathroom after your third soda. With enough laughs, chills, and incredible make-up and special FX, there isn't a horror fan among us that wouldn't have a blast. And while everyone is there, why not put on a theater run-out recreation of the famous scene from the classic 50s original like they have been doing for years over at Blobfest? THE BLOB is just an all-around good time for all age groups, and gets my solid vote!

(Ahhh, this post can now get my elusive "AWESOME BLOBNESS" label...good work, Carl!)

Our final emailed response comes from JBourgeois, who lists no site or affiliation. Though we don't know her at FMWL yet, we're happy to meet her!

Evil Dead 2 - No other choice there. In my post-high school, "pre-real life" times, my roommate and I would watch this movie daily. Any guy who we dated was immediately made to watch this movie, and if he didn't get it-he didn't get it (wink). Bruce Campbell is a superstar and this film has the best mounted deer head laughing at you scene ever!

Also offering up answers in posts at their own blogs are:

The always cool Joe O'Connor of OductionProduction's Midnight Time Warp (if you're going there, start with a jump to the left) has chosen George Romero's classic sequel, Dawn of the Dead!

And, last but not least, The Groundskeeper over at In the Garden of the Death Orchids, has offered up a fantastic tribute to Roger Vadim's Blood and Roses!

Once again, a huge thank you to all of you who've contributed to this first round of Midnight Warrior posts! Without you, I'd be talking about something boring like Twilight. (OK, not that.)

Look out for future Midnight Warrior queries in the future, and in the meantime keep your eyes to the skies! There just might be a Midnight Warrior watching over YOU!

The One I Might Have Saved, via Arbogast on Film (Spoilers Within)

(WARNING! This post contains spoilers regarding 1986's The Hitcher, 1975's The Stepford Wives, and 1960's Peeping Tom. Go see them, then come back and read it. Pronto!)

The mysterious Ar-bo-GAST over at Arbogast on Film (which is seriously one of the most genius blog title ideas ever, and his stuff is usually up to that standard, too) has recently posed a fine query to blogland. The quest, should we choose to accept it, is to write on the one character who suffered a grisly demise in a horror film that we've always felt the desire to go back and save. Never one to back away from a chance to ponder horrors past, I've decided I must put on my Hasselhoff outfit* and save a life...but where do I start? A few options immediately hit my head, and I narrowed it down to three types of victims I could possibly try to save.
The first category of victim, which I've decided to immortalize via Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hitcher, is the victim who's helpless and trapped. Leigh's character, Nash, ends up in a particularly brutal predicament, and it's no stretch (har har!) to say that she probably wasn't deserving of this fate. And realistically, her predicament wouldn't have been hard to stop...Rutger Hauer's Ryder rarely takes his eyes off of C. Thomas Howell's Jim Halsey during their truck cab confrontation, it would be easy to slip up the driver side of the trailer and cut the rope holding her to said cab. But is it worth my one save? She was barely in the movie, and I've always kinda liked Rutger's style. Thus, saving her gets the thumbs down.The second group are the doomed who know their fate, like Katherine Ross' Joanna Eberhart in the original classic The Stepford Wives. A character like hers is definitely worthy of saving, considering the insurmountable forces that surround her and push her toward her doom. But there's a key word in their...insurmountable. If there's an entire society of men and robo-babes out to get her, there's not much a lone vigilante/faux-Hasselhoff can I'll pass on the save, and visit to enjoy her robo-cooking later.

Lastly, there's a third group, and it's best to sum them up via this monologue from the film I've settled on doing some saving in....

"Imagine... someone coming towards you... who wants to kill you... regardless of the consequences."

"A madman?"

"Yes. But he knows it - and you don't. And just to kill you...isn't enough for him."
That exchange, which could double as a philosophical explanation of the slasher genre, comes from Michael Powell's 1960 sleaze session Peeping Tom, an unsettling British made cousin to Hitchcock's Psycho. The scene in question occurs near the midpoint of the film, like Psycho's infamous scene, but is set up quite differently than most horror film murders of the era. Unlike Hitchcock's film, in which we assume there is something amiss but are surprised with an abrupt bit of brutality, Peeping Tom makes it extremely clear to the audience that its victim, portrayed with gleeful vitality by Moira Shearer, is about to face a horrible fate...that she doesn't notice at all.

It's easy to look at a myriad of horror films that have victims that are surprised by an instant fate or have victims that are certain fate is coming for them, and feel sorry for the brutally departed. But Shearer's Vivian, an aspiring actress who's just a bubbly girl that was available to a sadistic cameraman, is a different type of damned soul. She's willingly entered a situation from which there is no escape and we know it. I'm not saying we know it like that moment in a goofy slasher movie when we think we "know" that those kids who walk down a dark hallway are about to get cashed out, in this case we are entirely aware that she's put herself in the worst spot possible and is with someone whose wrath we understand. And she has no idea about it - she's content, she's happy, and she's flailing about like a marionette - without a care in the world.Of course, she soon finds out what's in store for her, but it's not a quick reveal. Granted, she starts to understand her killer's intentions about 100 seconds before the fade to black that is her death - which isn't much time - but it definitely feels like a long stretch to the viewer, and I'd imagine feels like an eternity to the victim. In that time, she's affected by terrifying words and an intimidating weapon, and I'm sure that every second of the day that led up to this moment has to be rushing through her head, reminding her of the different choices she could have made to avoid this completely unexpected fatal encounter. Vivian's demise, as realized by Shearer, is difficult to watch because we know that she had no idea it was coming when she stepped into it - or more accurately, volunteered for it. She put herself in a bad spot, and learned about it far too late.

Thus, I'm throwing a rope of hope out to poor Vivian, whose willingness to go behind closed doors with someone she thought she could trust ended in her death. The killer's only defense was a red light outside an unlocked door, so he's just asking to be stopped anyway. And once I've saved the naive young woman, I hope she'd show off some more of those dance moves for me - in a private setting, of course. In regard to Ms. Shearer's character, this 'Hoff refuses to stand in the darkness, afraid to step into the light.

(And again, if you want to save your own horror victim, head over to Arbogast on Film and check out more who have been saved!)

(* = No Hasselhoff outfit was harmed (or worn) in the making of this blog post.)

April 25, 2010

All the cool kids are doing it? Then I'm a Midnight Warrior too!

What, y'all thought I wouldn't join my own barbecue?

For those finding this for the first time, or who haven't been reading this week, here's what's going on. I, The Mike, have offered the opportunity for anyone out there to contribute to FMWL by answering a simple(ish) question. Many have responded, and more responses will be posted after the deadline to respond, which is tomorrow, 4/26/10 @ 7pm CST. And what better way to issue a reminder than for me to offer my own answer to the question at hand?

You've been given the opportunity to host a midnight showing of any
genre/cult film you want, and are sure to have a great crowd of like-minded fans who will join in. What's the one movie you're going to pick, and why?

First of all, whoever thought of this question is cruel. And, considering the topic my blog aims to cover, it's kind of the million dollar question for me. Despite the fact I offer up a favorite Midnight Movie of the Week each week, I decided early in my process of searching for an answer that I probably hadn't listed the one movie I'd choose yet.

The first two movies that came to my mind while considering this were my favorite horror film, Halloween, and my personal monster-movie love, The Blob. But, soon after I started considering them, I changed my mind on both.In regard to Halloween, I've seen the movie on the big screen already. Plus, I wouldn't think it's the type of midnight showing that would rile up an audience, nor would I really want it too. This isn't a Friday the 13th type crappy slasher movie where you can just yell at the screen and not think, it's gosh darn Halloween. So I left that one behind.

The Blob, on the other hand, is something I'd love love love seeing, but that's Blobfest's thing. I'll leave that awesome to them, and join in one of these days.

I then went through several other loves, both serious (Psycho, The Shining, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and ridiculous (Flash Gordon, C.H.U.D (because screaming BOSCH at the screen sounds like a blast), The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini). I considered Karloff (Frankenstein or Targets), Chaney, Jr. (Spider Baby), Chaney, Sr. (The Phantom of the Opera), and Price (Ummmm...anything...but if we're in dreamland I'll say a fully restored print of The Last Man on Earth). But my mind kept floating back to John Carpenter's films, which I've watched more than any director not named Hitchcock's. I was thisclose to naming Carpenter's super-cool quasi-remake of Rio Bravo, Assault on Precinct 13 my choice, but then I thought I needed something a little more in the horror/sci-fi vein, and remembered the movie I've usually called "the coolest movie ever made". Just like that, the image of a poster popped into my mind.Escape from New York. It's got an iconic antihero in Snake Plissken, and one of the most badass supporting casts of all-time. It's got a midnight feeling that's established by the night time setting of the film, and it's full of unique action scenes that would keep the audience fist-pumping and fist-bumping. I mean, who doesn't want to see Ox Baker vs. Kurt Russell on the big screen? Who doesn't want to join Donald Pleasence in proclaiming "You are the Duke of New York, A-Number One!"? I know I do.

From the moment Jamie Lee Curtis' opening narration begins to one of Carpenter's best gut punch endings, Escape from New York is the movie I'd most like to offer a late night tribute to. It may not be Carpenter's best film, but it's as cool as a sci-fi action movie, if not movie, can be. Plus, have you seen how low-cut Adrienne Barbeau's top is?

So, it's with great pleasure that I introduce myself as a Midnight Warrior, thanks to the badassery of John Carpenter, Snake Plissken, and everyone else involved in Escape from New York. If you want to join the Midnight Warrior party, it's not too late! Just answer the question above and email Until next time, happy viewings!

April 24, 2010

Midnight Movie of the Week #16 - Mr. Majestyk

"All I want is to get my melons in."

That quote, as odd as it sounds, is the central theme of Mr. Majestyk, an action/crime film that's one of the most refreshing and cool bits of cinema of the early '70s. Though I generally tend to stick with horror and sci-fi (and more horror) when picking a Midnight Movie of the Week, I couldn't resist using this week to laud one of my favorite films from ultimate butt-kicker Charles Bronson. (Which also has to be one of the very best character-named titles of all-time.)

Directed by veteran Richard Fleischer (The Narrow Margin, Fantastic Voyage, Soylent Green) and written by legendary crime author Elmore Leonard (3:10 to Yuma, Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, Out of Sight), Mr. Majestyk is the tale of Vince Majestyk (Bronson), a watermelon farmer whose only goal in life is "to get his melons in" from his Colorado fields. This sounds like a simple, yearly task, but when your name is Majestyk, you're destined for great battles. This begins when local punk Bobby Koppas (Paul Koslo) tries to replace his force of migrant workers with less qualified local people. Majestyk doesn't appreciate his help, and after he whacks Bobby in a sensitive area with the butt of a shotgun he ends up in the county jail on an assault charge. Majestyk doesn't care much about the charge because he's got bigger concerns - like getting his melons in.But, luck is not on Majestyk's side, as his incarceration leads to him meeting a mentally unstable Mafia killer named Frank Renda (played by Al Lettieri of The Godfather), who has orchestrated a violent escape attempt during a routine prison transport. (Off-topic question: Have you ever seen a prison transport go by the "routine" in a film? I don't think it's humanly possible.) This leaves Majestyk needing to get past Renda if he ever wants to see his melons again, and a battle of wits follows.

Lettieri, with his disheveled hair and fantastic mustache, fills the role of the hitman perfectly. It's the kind of role Dennis Farina would have filled in a Leonard adaptation 20 years later, with a psychotic, over-the-top twist. Lettieri does a great job of creating a dangerous and interesting villain here, and we quickly buy in to his obsession with revenge. Majestyk is under his skin, and he passes on bolting the country because he wants to get back at the melon picker who made his escape difficult. This leads to a lot of brutality toward people and - you guessed it - melons.In my eyes, this film represents the middle of a triple shot of toughness from Bronson, being released between my other two favorite films from his lead career, Death Wish and Walter Hill's underseen Hard Times. And while the plot seems silly, I can relate. I grew up on a small hog farm, and all it took to bankrupt my family and force us out of the family home we'd kept for 100 years was a generation of pigs being affected by a fatal disease. While perseverance and sacrifice by my parents helped us get out of the situation safely (and gave me the chance to learn about the internet and go to college, too!) there's no guarantee Majestyk can survive without that melon crop. (Plus, Renda could shoot him, which is also not good. I'm glad my family didn't have to face that.)

Mr. Majestyk, as I mentioned in the intro, is as cool an action film as is possible. With a fresh plot, a groovy musical score by Charles Bernstein, and a slew of quirky side characters led by Lettieri and Koslo, the film never has a dull moment. And with Bronson doing his thing in the lead, we want to see those melons get in, and even get a bit affected when the prized crop is targeted by Renda. In the end, all I want is to see Majestyk defend his melons with extreme prejudice, and Fleischer's film doesn't disappoint.

And how often do you get to watch a film entirely about melons? That's alone is enough to make Mr. Majestyk (Can I type that more? I sure as heck hope so!) a fine addition to the Midnight Movie of the Week collection.
HorrorBlips: vote it up!

April 22, 2010

The First Midnight Warriors Have Risen!

I asked, and you responded! I know I said I'd planned to post the responses to my first question on Monday, but thanks to a few early entries, I thought I'd give everyone out there a look at the first brave souls to join the Midnight Warrior cause.

For those who can't click the link above, in fear of missing this awesomeness, the first question I've posed is:
You've been given the opportunity to host a midnight showing of any genre/cult film you want, and are sure to have a great crowd of like-minded fans who will join in. What's the one movie you're going to pick, and why?

To start the festivities, here's what Autumnforest of the fascinating blog Ghost Hunting Theories had to say:
Tourist Trap - This 1979 horror movie stars Chuck Connors and Tanya Roberts (a short-lived Charlie's Angel). The premise is some guys and gals on a road trip that break down near an abandoned museum only to find a lonely man controlling all the mannequins within. I'd pick this movie because I know that no one's probably seen it and also because it is both campy and retro and very creepy! Mannequins are a universal fear and this one really provides some chills. After a time, you wonder if the museum keeper is demented or can really control the mannequins that he treats like the living. It's truly unsettling and I'd choose this one mostly to watch people jump and shriek and get creeped out. If I played it right, I'd hide a mannequin behind them when the movie was playing and at one point scream out "what's that behind you!"

Next up is Rick Axtothefacenheimer (is that Dutch?) from the blood-soaked Dr. Goreman's Nightmare Emporium:
My choice would have to be a 2009 independent horror film called The Trek. It comes to us by Tom Devlin and Lola Wallace from Plan 10 Pictures and is about young newlyweds on their honeymoon out in the wilderness. They happen to stumble upon a couple of cave people and things go downhill fast from there. I chose this film mainly because the story is very original, The Trek isn't well known, and it is one of the most brutal and savage movies I have ever seen. The last 30 minutes are very graphic and not for the squeamish, I never have to look away during movies but I actually had to in one part. I would love to present it to a group of people who at the start may expect one type of film, but by the end, receive something very different.

The third choice comes from Morgan over at the groovy '80s themed blog The Kid in the Hall:
If I was given the opportunity to host a midnight showing of any genre/cult film to a crowd of like-minded fans, I would pick Night of the Creeps. The reason why I would do a midnight showing of this film in particular is that it is an entertaining film. I would want my audience to have a great time when they entered the theater, whether it be fans high fiving other fans whenever Detective Cameron would say "Thrill me!" or even recommending the audience to dress up in prom dresses/tuxedos covered in blood or as zombies, so many things in this film to please an audience member. Night of the Creeps has everything any horror fan would want in a film; zombies, aliens, and maniacs! It's all of the horror genres mixed into one excellent film. I could just see the audience leaving the theater with either a huge smile on their faces or quoting lines from the film. Night of the Creeps would be the film to give me the satisfaction that I needed, if I were to present a midnight showing!

Also offering up opinions, but choosing to post via their own blogs, which is totally cool too, are the following:

Jinx, of the wicked cool blog Totally Jinxed, who offers up her choice - Die You Zombie Bastards!

Enbrethiliel, from the delicious literary blog Shredded Cheddar, who's chosen Wes Craven's The People Under the Stairs!

And, Nicki Nix, of the always awesome Hey! Look Behind You!, who proclaims her love for Tod Browning's Freaks!

A big thanks to all who have offered their opinions thus far. I've not seen half of these choices yet, so if nothing else they're going to provide me with some stuff to watch. I'm hoping that anyone else out there will check out these loved flicks and the blogs of the cool people who have chose them!

If you're out there reading, and are still interested in offering up an answer while becoming a Midnight Warrior, drop me a line at by 7PM CST on Monday 4/26. I look forward to hearing more great midnight movie picks from the warriors who love genre film as much as I do!

In Defense Of.... Halloween III: SotW (Audio Commentary!)

A few weeks ago, I mentioned my desire to host horror showings, or at the least do some commentary tracks. Since I'm off work for a while, and feeling lucky, I've recently recorded my first commentary track. The film I chose for this dubious honor? None less than Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

Now, I know what you're thinking - "Hey, The Mike, Halloween III sucks, you really expect us to watch it AGAIN?". And you have a an extent. I picked Halloween III for a couple of reasons. First, I know the Halloween series better than I know most any films; and second, because I've always felt the third film gets a bad rap based on not being a Michael Myers movie.

Thus, I've recorded the following audio commentary as a sort of "test run" for myself. There are a few lulls (I didn't really think you want to hear me for every second of the movie), and I made a horrible mistake in the final minutes, saying Nightmare on Elm Street when I meant to say Friday the 13th. It was late, my bad.

I also found myself having a hard time defending the movie in many scenes, so consider this a poorly conceived In Defense Of.... post. However, I do still think Halloween III is worth further thought, and if you want to know who has off-screen cameos in the film and which "Master of Horror" was originally slated to direct it, you can find out in this commentary!

OK, all that's said. If you want it, go here. You can listen to it streaming, or download it and cherish it for ever. Or not.

Any comments from those brave enough to give it a go are more than welcome. This is my first attempt at a commentary, so I'm definitely looking to use it as a learning experience as I go forward.

Happy viewings, and sorry for singing.

April 20, 2010

They're All Gonna Laugh At You...ON BROADWAY!

While I was toiling away at my midday haunt (a.k.a. - "work") today, I came across a copy of Stephen King's famed novel Carrie...with a rather odd exclamation above the title that reminded me of something I once heard the great Joe Bob Briggs talk about on MonsterVision.That's right boys and ghouls...circa 1984, someone out there thought it would be a good idea to turn the coming-of-age-puberty-meets-religion-horror-tale into a full-fledged MUSICAL. How does that work? I'm glad you asked, because I've done a little research.

In the mid-'80s, Lawrence Cohen, who wrote the film adaptation, and the horrorly-named Michael Gore (Note to self: cross that one off of my alias list!) came up with the idea of producing a musical based on King's novel. I'm assuming they got permission somehow, but really...who thought this was a good idea? The writers themselves apparently didn't, as another writer was brought on later, and the production was said to go through "numerous rewrites" even before it made it to Broadway.

When the play did get there, it went through a 4-week preview run, in which numerous songs were added and removed from the production. At the end of that, the actress portraying Carrie's fervent mother was replaced by Betty Buckley...who had played Miss Collins in the 1976 film.

The show made its official Broadway debut, with Buckley and Linzi Hately as the leads, on May 12, 1988. At this point, about 8 MILLION DOLLARS had been put into the production, a pretty large sum for a) Broadway and b) the late '80s. There were some mixed reviews in previews, but things went sour quickly after the official opening, thanks to bad reviews and continuing problems like the fact that pouring fake blood on someone who's supposed to be singing into a microphone kinda messes up the process. How quickly did things go sour? The show lost its backing and closed on May 15, 1988. I'm not a crack mathematician, but that makes it seem like the show only played for FOUR DAYS.

In later years, there have been revivals of the play, off Broadway, of course. Today, there's even a Facebook Page devoted to it! (OMG!) Still, I have a feeling that there aren't many books being printed with the above caption today.

But really, why am I still talking about this? I haven't seen the play, and I don't even know if they managed to turn "I can see your dirty pillows!" into a lyric. Thank golly for YouTube, my dear readers!

So.....that happened. *blink*

April 19, 2010

FMWL WANTS YOU! Join The Midnight Warriors!

Greetings all,

I love telling you all about movies I love, but it gets dull sometimes. I mean, I don't want to act like some professor lecturing away at the masses, I want those of you who read my ramblings to be a part of FMWL too. So, I've come up with a new feature that I hope will break the norms of this site. I'm not talking this time....I want you to tell me what's good.

Thus, I humbly offer up the opportunity for anyone out there who's reading this to join From Midnight, With Love's band of contributors, The Midnight Warriors. What's that mean, you ask? Good question.

Every so often (if anyone cares to participate), I'm going to offer up a randomly conceived question about YOUR preferences/opinions on Midnight and Cult cinema. Anyone who wants to participate, whether they have their own site or just like to read, is welcome to email me and offer their opinion, and I will then compile the responses in a comprehensive post that will have the potential to blow minds.

Now that we've established the rules, let's get to the first question I've got for you all!

You've been given the opportunity to host a midnight showing of any
genre/cult film you want, and are sure to have a great crowd of like-minded fans who will join in. What's the one movie you're going to pick, and why?

Feel free to write up a couple of sentences or paragraphs with your answer, and email it to me at If you're a blogger and want to write a full post on it, feel free, just email me a link and I'll link it in said post. All (appropriate) responses will be posted, so make sure to give a name and/or link to your site for our readers.

And if you're really excited about being a Midnight Warrior, feel free to take one of these icons to show your pride! Or not, it's your barbecue.I'll let this run through next Monday, and post the responses I've received then! Thanks for reading everyone, and I hope to hear about your dream midnight movie soon!

April 18, 2010


2010, Dir. by Matthew Vaughn.

Over the past half-decade, March and April have become the go to months for studios to dump R-rated films full of brutal comic action - a trend that at least goes back to 2004 and Kill Bill Vol. 2. If you're looking for graphic films from graphic sources, you then could look back to 2005's release of Sin City, 2006's V for Vendetta, 2007's 300, and 2009's Watchmen. The 2007 release of Rodriguez & Tarantino's Grindhouse, while not a comic adaptation, fits this mold too, and one could work to trace the trend back to 1999 and the ground-breaking phenomenon that was The Matrix.

Now we're deep into April 2010, and Marvel Comics' newest sensation, Kick-Ass, is the next contender to step into the ring. While Kick-Ass has garnered a lot of shock and awe from people, mostly due to its name and the fact that it features young people committing violent acts, I'd argue that Kick-Ass is a relatively tame film next to most of this breed.

The plot of Kick-Ass is a simple send up of the superhero tales you've become used to over the past decade. A youngster with little supervision decides he wants to change things, puts on a costume, and hits the streets in search of justice. This self-proclaimed hero, Kick-Ass (played by Aaron Johnson), gets noticed by the local crime kingpin (Sherlock Holmes' Mark Strong) via the media, which leads to further violence. This begins to make things difficult for previously established costumed avenger Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his well-trained daughter Mindy, aka Hit-Girl.

Hit-Girl, played by then 12-year-old Chloe Grace Moretz, is the focal point of the film to both the fanboys and detractors that it has spawned, and understandably so. Moretz is asked to portray the kind of foul-mouthed and brutally violent young woman that hasn't been seen since The Exorcist, and this time there's no supernatural force at work that drives the character. Hit-Girl, at the behest of her dear old wrongly-convicted parolee daddy, simply offers up brutality because she is trained to. It could be a scary character, if the movie weren't so clearly a comic adventure designed for the masses.

As for the on-screen violence, Director Matthew Vaughn appears to go to lengths to avoid directly showing Hit-Girl dealing out justice most of the time. Scenes involving her are often filmed in a frantic manner Vaughn surely honed while working with Guy Ritchie in his early career, and he often resorts to a dark shot or knives flying from off screen to convey her effect. I'm sure a lot of this had to do with pleasing the MPAA, but I'd also assume that it's partially to save the strain on Ms. Moretz, who appears to show no emotional scarring due to the character's violence in her recent media tour.

Hit-Girl and Big Daddy are the most interesting parts of the film, by far. Cage gives a perfectly silly performance as the affection father/Adam West-impersonator, and the casting of someone who has such an interest in comic heroes adds credibility to the proceedings. On the other hand, Johnson isn't an extremely talented actor in the lead and Strong and Superbad's Christopher Mintz-Plasse (as the villain's son) seem to have been asked to fit the roles they've been typecast into over recent years. None of the other supporting characters are given any depth aside from some "The father is distant!", "The girl is sexual!", or "The teacher has boobs!" moments that define them.

Kick-Ass is a blast while it's on-screen, but it seems to teeter too closely to becoming the average comic film for my taste. There's little in plot or style that distinguishes it from the comic films that have filled the last decade, aside from the characters' ages. Most of this comes from the character Kick-Ass, who's little more than a kid who wants to fight back against something, but is never really developed enough for the viewer to care about him completely.

This might be a case of me having seen too many ridiculous and violent movies and being a bit desensitized, but Kick-Ass rarely struck me as something that was firing on all cylinders when anyone but Moretz and/or Cage were onscreen. The film works, thanks to them and the indifference to comic violence that Vaughn installs in it, but is definitely a flawed piece of comic cinema with a few dud characters and no deeper meaning beneath the surface. I might have expected something more socially relevant than what I got, but that shouldn't deter anyone from seeing Kick-Ass if they're looking for a violent distraction with a couple of standout performances.

April 16, 2010

Midnight Movie of the Week #15 - The House of the Devil

After yesterday's tragic mishap regarding what I thought would be this week's Midnight Movie of the Week, and with the pressure of a busy weekend staring me in the face, I've scrambled to come up with a movie that I can review off the top of my head, and settled on last year's indie horror, The House of the Devil. It's a movie I've mentioned repeatedly on this site, particularly when looking back at recent midnight movies and when giving director Ti West's previous film The Roost a Midnight Movie of the Week spot a while back. I've given West a lot of credit as a daring, yet subtle filmmaker who has risen quickly in the ranks of horror cinema...and yet still haven't fully discussed the movie that got me to fall in love with the cut of his jib.

The House of the Devil is undoubtedly a film made by someone who watched a ton of horrors from the '70s and '80s on VHS growing up. Filmed to be intentionally grainy, West sets his horror tale deep in the 1980s, complete with a Walkman and a couple of totally rad tunes; while maintaining the feeling of the previous decades horror films and their focus on the presence of evil forces in our world.

Jocelin Donahue, a scrawny newcomer with a smoky voice, stars as a college student desperate to make money to pay for her new apartment (leased to her by horror veteran Dee Wallace) who is the focal point of the film. A no-frills ad on a bulletin board leads her to a babysitting job in a dark old house for an older couple played by the great Tom Noonan and the great Mary Woronov, who explain that the job isn't exactly babysitting. Despite the warnings of her best friend (played by Greta Gerwig, now of Greenberg), Donahue's Samantha takes on the job and the evening in the creaky and secluded house, and the suspense begins to boil.I mentioned that Donahue is the focal point of the film, and that's no exaggeration. Aside from a couple of location shots, she's on screen for almost the entire film. And when she's not, Gerwig's Megan probably is. The film makes a point to make us feel like these young women are trapped in the situation that is unfolding through a fine musical score and the dark and grainy imagery, but the girls never respond to the tension the viewer feels. This is not a self-aware horror like we've become used to in recent years, evidenced by some great scenes where the impending doom is broken by an impromptu dose of music that overtakes the characters' focus.

West and company do a fantastic job of building fear in the viewer while avoiding tipping a hand to the characters until their fate is set. This pacing becomes incredibly tense for those of us sitting at home, because we've seen those VHS horror movies too. We know inside that these girls are stuck in a situation that's going to terrify and change them, but the film maintains a focus on their upbeat nature until the moment is right for terror. It would be easy to say that The House of the Devil is pretty cliche, and even could be called a bit of a tease due to its pacing and willingness to drag on with little occurring to evoke extreme fear reactions. I think the characteristics that could bring those complaints are the same ones that make me want to place the film next to the likes of Rosemary's Baby as a perfect example of how to build suspense and make one feel for the characters at risk at the same time. Donahue, by acting naturally how we may expect a young woman in the situation to, doesn't have to stretch to give a great performance. The film works at its own pace around her, and the director's patience involves us in the character right up to the point when the big reveal finally happens. And when the film does hit its apex and reveals the details of what Samantha has fallen into, things move quickly to a satisfying conclusion.

The House of the Devil is a horror film that hit me deeply by simply setting a tone of unease and holding that tone until the last possible moment. In essence, the characters are standing in front of a firing squad for the entire film...and we're just waiting for the triggers to be pulled. Not enough horror movies are willing to keep such a simple view of fear these days, which makes The House of the Devil a breath of fresh air in the bombastic post-Saw horror scene. That's more than enough to make it one of my favorite horrors of recent memory, and a fine pinch-hitter to step in as Midnight Movie of the Week.
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