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May 31, 2010

Random Horror Throwdown - Plan 9 From Outer Space vs. The Last House on the Left (2009)

When I promised "random" in these throwdowns of horror film justice, I meant it. I can't think of a sillier matchup to feature than this one, but the more I looked at the screen I began to wonder if there was something deeper to this odd pairing of films that were released a half century apart. Thus, I put on my thinking britches. It's time to investigate.


The Movies:

Plan 9 From Outer Space
(1959, Dir. by Ed Wood.)
Starring: Bela Lugosi (kinda?), Vampira, Tor Johnson.
IMDB Synopsis: Evil aliens attack Earth and set their terrible "Plan 9" in action. As the aliens resurrect the dead of the Earth to destroy the living, our stupid minds are in danger. (Note from The Mike: This is seriously the best IMDB Synopsis I've ever read. No where else in the world could you write "our stupid minds are in danger" and have it be this bloody brilliant. Well done, IMDB user called "Qrrbirbel"!)

The Last House on the Left (2009, Dir. by Dennis Iliadis.)
Starring: Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, Garrett Dillahunt, Sara Paxton.
IMDB Synopsis: After kidnapping and brutally assaulting two young women, a gang led by a prison escapee unknowingly finds refuge at a vacation home belonging the parents of one of the victims -- a mother and father who devise an increasingly gruesome series of revenge tactics. (Note from The Mike: Seriously, try to fit "our stupid minds are in danger" into THAT synopsis. Maybe it could fit after "two young women", but I don't think it works.)

The Plots:
Plan 9, as the fabulous synopsis (I wonder if I can get Qrrbirbel to guest post here?!?!) says has aliens, zombies vampires, and Solaranite bombs. If you can make sense of the plot, you might think it has something to do with humanity and its destructive capabilities, but the movie never really forms a coherent enough statement to say that. The Last House on the Left, as the not-as-great synopsis states, is a rape and revenge flick.

And here's where I start to ponder. On one hand we have a horror based on the spectacular and unknown (and yes, I probably should mention that I'm listing Plan 9 as horror in the loosest possible way) and a horror based on the incredibly real and brutal. Do I want to see more rape movies, or more vampire/alien/zombie movies? I think the answer to that has to be the latter, which means I have to give a point to Plan 9 From Outer Space, right? (1-0, Plan 9 leads.)

The Directors:
If you know anything about Ed Wood as a director, you know the reputation. And if you haven't seen Tim Burton's fantastic biopic of the director, do yourself a favor and FIND IT IMMEDIATELY. Probably one of my 25 favorite films of any genre.

Dennis Iliadis is pretty much the prototype for modern horror flash-in-the-pan directors. He got a relatively big chance to make a horror remake, and now is attached to another one - an update of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. He showed competence in Last House, which is more than can ever be said about Wood, so this point goes to The Last House on the Left by default. (1-1)

The Casts:
OK, I'm not counting Bela. Yes, he appears, but I don't think it's right to count him in this one. And, though I love Vampira and Tor Johnson, they weren't exactly members of the Guild. Last House, like its director, offers a lot of competency in its cast, with career character actors Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter alongside one of my favorite current "That Guy!"s, Garrett Dillahunt. He's cool, so another vote heads to the Left. (2-1, Last House on the Left leads.)

My Experience With The Films:
Like the plot category, this one ruffles my brow. I've only seen The Last House remake once, and it wasn't pleasant. I could see myself revisiting it in the future, but it's hard to come up with a good reason why I'd do that. Flipping the tables, I've had ten good years of "enjoying" Plan 9 From Outer Space - if you can call making fun of the silliness of it all "enjoyment", that is. So, I'm giving it a point. (2-2)

Normally I Throw A Silly Comedy Question Into These Things...But Really, How Do I Pick This One?:
Is it better to be mediocre and vengeful or terrible and silly? If I had to watch one of these movies with a film professor, which would be the choice? How about if I had to watch one with my Masha? Do I shred every bit of credibility I've ever amassed as a horror fan if I pick what is generally considered the worst movie of all-time over a middling modern remake?

I....I just don't know. Is Last House on the Left a better film in structure? Absolutely. Is Plan 9 From Outer Space a movie I've watched several times with people and had fun with? Yep, it is. Should I just take the easy way out and call it a truce? No way.This Choice is Like:
You play video games, right? It used to be that in video games you had a set path where you had to do things one way, or you had to try again. But nowadays, things open up to you as a player. And along the way in these games, you can occasionally choose to do really ridiculous things that don't make any sense with your character's heroic purpose....but sometimes you do it anyway, just because it's fun to run over a digital old lady with a car when there are no repercussions.

So About That Final Point?:
Well, The Last House on the Left remake....I just don't care about you. You don't matter, and in a few years the only time I'll remember you is when I go "Oh hey, remember when they made that Last House on the Left remake?" Plan 9 From Outer're awful, but you're kinda homey. I like having you around once in a while. So, you win my heart (or at least this final point). (3-2, Plan 9 From Outer Space wins!)

(Note from The Mike: This ranking has Plan 9 somewhere above the 50th percentile of my rankings? Maybe my stupid mind is in danger!)

May 29, 2010

Chuck Norris Ate Bruce Lee? Not Exactly, But He Could Have!

For starters, I should warn you that this will be, without a doubt, the hairiest post in the history of From Midnight With Love. I'd also like to point out what you should be able to gather via the picture right next to the word next that you just read...that this post is part of the Chuck Norris ate my Blog Blogathon/Contest over at the always amazing Chuck Norris Ate My Baby blog.

One of the greatest cinematic sins I've committed in my young life is not being more acquainted with the films of the deadliest man on the planet, Sir Chuck Norris. I've got a copy of Missing in Action I've been meaning to watch somewhere in one of my DVD piles, but other than that it's pretty much Walker Texas Ranger and Dodgeball for me. Of course, despite this, I know the legends of Chuck, as a picture of Chuck is worth way more than 1000 words.

The only other time I've experienced Chuck - to the extent one can experience Chuck without getting a boot in the face - is through his first billed movie role. In 1972, (it's so hard not to type "a crack commando unit was sent to military prison for a crime they did not commit" right now, but I digress) Chuck portrayed Colt, the alpha villain in the Bruce Lee film The Way of the Dragon (or, The Return of the Dragon if you're American). And that's when this (which is kinda a spoiler for the entire movie, but is awesome) happened.

Now there are a few things I'm obliged to say about this battle:
  • That has to be the most intense kitten of all-time. It even gets the zoom-in/zoom-out shot that signals blood in the water!
  • Chuck dominates the early part of the fight, but the chest hair pull really seems to take some momentum away. Plus, like an XBox Live user with a bad connection, Bruce seems to hit an untouchable-and-moving-in-slow-motion stage right after that. This clearly turns the tide against CNAMB's eponymous hero.
  • At the 4:25 mark, Chuck goes from in the zone to confused with only one quick leg kick by Mr. Lee. This boggles my mind. I mean, we know Chuck wasn't entirely in control here (I suppose he has to work with the filmmakers and screenwriters), but who would really believe such a shift in Chuck that quickly?
  • While he's being knocked about between the 6:00 mark and 6:35 mark, you can clearly see Chuck using all of his Herculean power to not turn into some sort of hybrid manbeast, ala The Wolf Man. I mean, his chest and back hair seem to grow by the second throughout the video, and we all know how powerful the man really is, so it wouldn't have been a stretch if he'd just transformed, ripped off Bruce's head, and then destroyed the cameraman. It'd be like Cloverfield, only hairier.
Now, what did we learn from this battle? GROW A BEARD! It's safe to say that bearded Chuck Norris could have easily handled Bruce Lee's attacks. It's clear that the environment in which the battle occurs is quite dirty and dusty, and you can see the smudging of Chuck's face as Lee continues to fling those filthy feet in his direction. I assume the growing of said beard was a direct response to this unfortunate demise. (Considering Bruce's appearance throughout the battle, I can only assume that dirt - like the rest of us - fears the feet of Chuck Norris. None of it appears on Mr. Lee despite him getting kicked in the face repeatedly.)

Were Mr. Lee around a little longer, I imagine we'd have seen many more battles between the inventor of "the style of no style" and the former middleweight karate champion. And, by the powers of the beard (which I've heard may have been the location of the island from Lost?) Chuck surely would have dominated many of those battles.

Alas, it was not to be. But even Bruce Lee knew that he had crossed the line at the end of the battle. No one can run from Chuck Norris, for he is a part of you, and will always know where you are hiding. Lee knew this all too well, thanks to The Way of the Dragon.

(Want more Chuck content? Head over the the previously mentioned Chuck Norris Ate My Baby in the next few days to see what other great blogs, like Enter The Man Cave or The Quest to Watch Every Movie Ever have to add to this Chuck-a-palooza! In the meantime, beardless Chuck smiles upon you!)

May 28, 2010

Help save The Commune!

I'm not usually one for plugs, but this is one of those times where what I'm plugging matters to me and this site. So please, read my plea.

Some of you may remember me reviewing an independent horror film called The Commune a couple of months ago. If not, here's my review of what I feel is a fine horror film that represents most of the good things that are missing from the horrors in today's multiplexes. To be fair, I did have some problems with the film, and am not telling you "this film will change horror forever!" (I'm only one dude, I don't have that authority). But I've been thinking about this film a lot since that viewing, and after having had a chance to learn more about the film and the fabulous director Elisabeth Fies via the joys of blogs and podcasts and social networking sites, I badly want to see this movie get a chance to get out there.

That's where YOU come in. What I'm asking is that any of you who use Netflix save the film to your queue. That's it. If a certain number of people save the film to their queue, Netflix will carry the film, and it will at least receive a fighting chance to make an impact on horror fans across the U.S.

This isn't one of those "Yeah right, if they need blokes like me to vote there's no chance" situations. The film is very, VERY close to hitting the mark which will get Netflix to pick it up. YOU can make a difference by adding it to your queue. It won't cost you anything you're not already paying, and it will afford the world a chance to see the film.

Horror fans spend so much time talking about how bad most of the horror films out there are - and this is an honest-to-goodness chance for us to use our voice and make a difference, even if it's only for one film. I strongly believe that The Commune is a film which should not simply disappear, and I urge anyone out there who cares about cinema - whether their focus is on horror, indies, or whatver Michael Bay has coming out next - to take one simple step to help this film out.

If you want to know more, or if you don't believe crazy ol' me, hit up the facebook page related to this cause and see what Elisabeth Fies herself has to say about the film's chances. You can also find more info on The Commune at its official website, and if you're really interested in the film and don't have Netflix, there are purchasing links there too.

I beg of each of you, the readers who have made a difference to my blog and I, please take a moment to make a difference for this film and its filmmakers. It just might make you proud someday.

May 27, 2010

Midnight Movie of the Week #21 - Clownhouse

The twenty-seventh of May is the birthday of two of the all-time greatest stars in the history of horror cinema. To me, they're two of the greatest stars in the history of cinema, period. They are men who need no introduction - Vincent Price and Christopher Lee. And what I'm about to say may shock and befuddle you.

Neither of them are the most awesome person celebrating a birthday in The Mike's world today. That honor goes to the one-and-only sister to my one-and-only The Mike, who hates it when I call her Mamada. Thus, I will refer to her by that name for the rest of this writing.

Mamada and I have very different personalities. Though I am exactly 50 weeks older than her, everyone outside our immediate family has assumed she's older than me since our childhood. I'm assuming this started around the time my grandmother noted that 4 year old Mamada would often end a conversation with her older brother by proclaiming "If I say so, I say so!" She's always been the more aggressive child - when I was the one trying out the insulting new "bastard" word I heard on TV at age 8, she was the one wielding a baseball bat with a fiery rage in her eyes.

As we got older she focused on her grades and her social life, while I embraced nerdhood. In high school I remember many Saturday nights where I was quietly in bed watching Tales from the Crypt reruns while keeping an eye out the window to see if she'd beat her curfew home. If not, there'd be a war between her and The Masha in the morning, while I'd be checking out what movies were on TV this week via the Sunday paper. She was always a bigger fan of gory movies than me too...which makes sense now that she's a bad-ass criminalist of justice who carries a gun and scopes out crime scenes. (Note to Mamada: Please avoid cases involving dudes named Jigsaw!)

But there was one thing that Mamada and I always had in common...a love for horror movies. She may have even had me beat in that department at times, as I do recall her picking out A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 at the video store while I was in the Schwarzenegger section settling on Raw Deal. (We were probably 13 and 14 at the time, so a big thanks goes out to Aunt Karrie and Uncle Steve for looking out for us that weekend.) There were a lot of horror flicks we agreed on - I have plenty of fond memories of The People Under the Stairs and The Shining; and Scream was a huge hit in our household later - but nothing ever touched Clownhouse in our eyes. It was without a doubt, our movie.I've talked about Clownhouse and how it came to us a few times before, so I'll sum this up briefly. Due to sexual abuse charges (which add terror to the film now that I'm an adult), the film has not been in print since its brief VHS release in 1990. Luckily for us, a local video store carried the film and somehow - I honestly don't remember when or how - it caught our eye. I am a little surprised that I don't remember the first time we viewed it, but that's probably because we watched it so often that it all runs together in my mind nearly 20 years later. We usually rented the thing a couple of times a month (and maybe weekly at first), and any time either of us had a friend over the question "Ooooh, have you seen Clownhouse?" would happen. A rental run would always follow.At that age, and with that number of viewings under my belt, Clownhouse became the archetype that all "modern" horror films were measured to me. Now I look at it as a cookie cutter film with little originality, but back then I saw it as the representation of how a horror movie could create scares simply by dark hallways and killers appearing and disappearing at random. I also remember it being one of the first times I ever thought "this movie really isn't good, but I darn tootin' love it!" (Yeah, I used darn tootin' as a kid. We lived on a farm, ok? There were hundreds of pigs surrounding us and the internet hadn't happened yet! Stop yelling at me!!!)

Most importantly, this stupid movie was often the unobtanium that kept Mamada and I from killing each other. If all else failed, The Masha would head to town and rent Clownhouse, and peace would always ride home with her. It was the great equalizer that kept our sibling rivalry at bay, that taught me about the benefits of cheesy horror, and that became a legend in our household. I know I've barely talked about the actual movie here, and I definitely could break Clownhouse down in depth for you all, but in the long run the movie's technical merits and performances (though it does feature a young Sam Rockwell as the mean older brother!) and awful script and lack of boobs (which makes sense after I learned about Victor Salva when I was 22...don't worry, I didn't learn personally!) don't matter one bit to me in comparison to what it meant to us ridiculous children.
Clownhouse is still unavailable publicly 20 years later in America, though a few MGM produced DVDs were made before a planned release was pulled back in 2003. We each have a copy of that disc now, of course. Most importantly, we own that beaten VHS tape that we must have spent hundreds of dollars on. If my apartment were to catch fire randomly, I know exactly where it is, and it would be one of the first things I'd go for. If I didn't, I'm sure Mamada would have that baseball bat in her hands again.

It is with great pleasure that I bid a happy birthday to Mamada today, and do so by remembering the joy that Clownhouse brought to our younger selves. Price and Lee? They can go pick some other day to be honored on. I say it's Mamada Day - and if I say so, I say so!

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

May 25, 2010

25 Amazing Women in Horror Films

Jamie Lee Curtis - Halloween

Quinn O'Hara - The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini

Jessica Harper - Suspiria

Barbara Steele - The Pit and the Pendulum

Sigourney Weaver - Alien

Shelley Duvall - The Shining

Melissa Stribling - Horror of Dracula

Ashley Bank - The Monster Squad

Myrna Loy (Yes, THE Myrna Loy!) - The Mask of Fu Manchu

Marilyn Eastman - Night of the Living Dead

Jocelin Donahue & Greta Gerwig - The House of the Devil

Deborah Kerr - The Innocents

Phoebe Cates - Gremlins

Ellen Burstyn & Linda Blair - The Exorcist

Betsy Baker, Ellen Sandweiss, & Theresa Tilly - The Evil Dead

Evelyn Ankers - The Ghost of Frankenstein

Fay Wray - Doctor X

Mae Clarke - Frankenstein

Britt Ekland - The Wicker Man

Aneta Corseaut - The Blob

Gaylen Ross - Dawn of the Dead

This post is dedicated to all women who fight for the horror genre, most of whom are just as amazing as these 25 women. You rule, ladies, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

May 24, 2010

Random Horror Throwdown: Creepshow vs. Night of the Creeps - Creepy, huh?

Yeah, this matchup seems about as random as Oprah Winfrey eating canned ham, but it surely did happen to me. Flickchart is my witness. So, in my second installment of the Random Horror Throwdown, things are gonna get creepy....but if you just let it roll over you, it'll be alright.

(Speaking of creeps, do you know what horror classic that's amazing and pretty much fantastic and OMG AMAZING carried the working title "The Night of the Creeping Dead"? Check out the tags at the end of this post, and you should be able to figure out the answer. Now let's battle.)


The Movies:

Creepshow (1982, Dir. by George A. Romero.)
Starring: Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson, Stephen King, E.G. Marshall, Ed Freakin' Harris!
IMDB Synopsis: Five tales of terror are presented. The first deals with a demented old man returning from the grave to get the Father's Day cake his murdering daughter never gave him. The second is about a not-too-bright farmer discovering a meteor that turns everything into plant-life. The third is about a vengeful husband burying his wife and her lover up to their necks on the beach. The fourth is about a creature that resides in a crate under the steps of a college. The final story is about an ultra-rich businessman who gets his comeuppance from cockroaches. (Note from The Mike: This reads like a kindergartner (who somehow learned "comeuppance") relaying his day to a parent! I love it, but I soooo wish it ended with "And then Robert Loggia came by!" Like that orange juice commercial.)

Night of the Creeps (1986, Dir. by Fred Dekker.)
Starring: Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, Tom Atkins
IMDB Synopsis: Alien brain parasites, entering humans through the mouth, turn their host into a killing zombie. Some teenagers start to fight against them. (Note from The Mike: This kinda makes sense. But needs more Loggia.)

The Directors:
I'll get this one out of the way quickly. I mean, I love The Monster Squad dearly, and RoboCop 3 has some moments that aren't terrible. Fred Dekker, I imagine you're a cool dude. But...he's George Romero.

You know, he's the guy from George Romero. One point Creepshow. (1-0, Creepshow leads.)

The Monsters:
Night of the Creeps has aliens, zombies, and slugs, sometimes features a zed-dog, and even shows off a zomified David Paymer. Creepshow, on the other hand, has a hairy crate beast, assimilating plants, zombies, Leslie Nielsen and/or Ted Danson (depending on where you stand on the adultery/true love continuum), and Adrienne Barbeau. Oh, and a cartoon version of death. And bugs.

It looks like Creepshow has the edge, but you can never underestimate slugs. I'll call this one a draw, no point awarded. (1-0, Creepshow leads.)

My Experience With the Films:
This point will be entirely decided by the crappy people who held up distribution of Night of the Creeps on DVD. Maybe if things had been a little better for Night of the Creeps, I'd have spent as much time with it as Creepshow. Curses!

On the other hand, Creepshow has a special place to me. During my college years a roommate and I attended a midnight showing of John Carpenter's Christine at which a horror trivia challenge was held and, naturally, we won (we being me knowing the answers and giving them to he, of course). Anyway, he got a DVD of Creepshow out of the deal (I already had it) and I got a DVD of Dark City - which is also awesome. I know what you're thinking: You were with a dude who won a copy and that constitutes a "special place?" You're a doofus, The Mike!

To which I say: Good point. But it's still my blog, so the point goes to Creepshow. (2-0, Creepshow leads.)Which film would benefit more from the addition of Sybil Danning's breasts?
I initially had this question written as "Which film would benefit from the addition of Sybil Danning's breasts?" - but we all know the answer to that is ALL FILMS. Heck, if Citizen Kane had replaced every shot of windows with her merry mounds, it'd be widely considered the greatestest film of all-time instead of just the greatest film of all-time. If someone came up to me tomorrow and said "Dude, they're replacing Mount Rushmore with Sybil Danning's breasts!", I'd be like "Whoa, South Dakota's not big enough for the both of 'em!"

But I digress. Creepshow has a comic feel and really is centered around a little kid...and we all know it's OK to show kids violence and monsters; but it's NOT OK to show kids boobs, especially Sybil Danning's (Presumably because they might shatter the child's dreams of ever amounting to anything worthy of seeing Sybil Danning's boobs).

On the other hand, Night of the Creeps has that dream sequence with Tom Atkins on the beach. Add some Danning cannons there, and you've sent the scene to 11. The point goes to Night of the Creeps! (2-1, Creepshow leads.)

The Casts:
I love Tom Atkins. I want to give Night of the Creeps this point based solely on Tom Atkins. But then I remember...Creepshow ALSO had Tom Atkins, if only briefly.

And then I consider that it had Holbrook (a personal fave of mine); plus Barbeau, Nielsen, King, Harris, Marshall, a Tom Savini cameo....and it's got to be Creepshow. I just can't go against that cast. (3-1, Creepshow leads.)

(And really, can you imagine what could have happened if Romero ALWAYS had casts like this???? It would have shattered the horror universe as we know it! It'd be nearly as great as Sybil Danning's breasts!)
This Choice is Like:
That scene in Animal House when the dude realizes Karen Allen left him for Donald Sutherland. I mean, the dude was great, but it's Donald Sutherland, whose loins produced Jack Bauer AND who can sport that haircut. Too much to beat, methinks.

I do love Night of the Creeps dearly, but Creepshow is just so....Creepshow. With that cast added to the Romero factor (by the way, it's totally Romero Week over at Freddy in Space, check it out), there's no other choice I can make. Both movies should just be glad they weren't up against The Night of the Creeping Dead, because I'd drop them like Karen Allen.

May 23, 2010

City of the Living Dead - Stop the Teleporting Zombie Madness, I Want to Get Off!

1980, Dir. by Lucio Fulci.

If you've ever wanted to see someone regurgitate their innards - or at least some regurgitating of sheep innards that are meant to represent their innards - look no further than the work of Lucio Fulci. Case in point: City of the Living Dead (aka: The Gates of Hell, aka: Paura nella citta dei morti viventi, aka: Ein Zombie hing am Glockenseil), the multi-titled, multi-dimensional, zombie-ish film chosen as this month's Final Girl Film Club selection over at the entirely fabulous Final Girl horror film blog of justice.*

(* - Actual blog title may vary.)

City of the Living Dead is a film that has long perplexed me. I'd seen parts of it, but never got in a full viewing until last night. I always expected something similar to Fulci's Zombi 2 (aka Zombie, aka Island of the Living Dead, aka Nueva York bajo el terror de los zombi), but it turned out the films are about as far apart as two zombie films can be.

With a plot that follows a priest's suicide, a seance that opens the (partially) titular Gates of Hell, and a large dose of undead that appear outside windows or atop fences, City of the Living Dead is not your traditional zombie film. In fact, if the horror nerd world of today existed in the early '80s, I'd imagine the same sticklers that complain about 28 Days Later and [Rec] being listed as zombie films would have ripped at this one. I mean, if zombies have to be dead and can't run to be zombies (a train of thought which only considers one of the dictionary definitions of the zed word), where does the ability materialize out of thin air fit on the spectrum of zombie disqualification? That's a whole other cart of apples, so let's move on.

City of the Living Dead's biggest successes come when it seems to blur the line between the differing subgenres we've come to expect from horror, and particularly the Italian horror scene of this era. City of the Living Dead has zombie imagery that reminds of Zombie, but also spends a lot of time on dark streets where smoky fog is free to billow as needed. As mentioned above, this isn't a film in which the undead shamble around in search of brains; we instead are dealing with supernatural spirits who appear and disappear wherever they please. They're seemingly fronted by the priest who hung himself in the opening scenes, played with a Christopher Lee-esque intensity by Fabrizio Jovine. Jovine's sporadic appearances are among the highlights of the film, particularly his role in the famous regurgitation scene.

The film offers a very surreal quality, which is mostly due to the foggy streets, the blank-eyed villains, and a strong musical score from Fabio Frizzi. This helps make up for both the silly teleportation special effects and the simplicity of the story. It's most certainly a case of style-over-substance, but there are some unfortunate problems with that style that keep me from really loving the film.

Though the film only runs 93 minutes, there are times when it seems to stall entirely. It's bad when the plot stalls, but worse when the film seems to be taking a timeout. For example, there are a few scenes in which the camera shifts to a location to establish setting...and then lingers. And lingers. And lingers. And after about 25 seconds of just showing us this house's exterior, it finally moves into the room the characters are...and lingers more. At this point, I wonder how much he really has to let it linger, and get a little frustrated by the fact that I expected the film to remind me of a different song by The Cranberries.

While I prefer the approach Fulci took with Zombie - a more simple and even film - The City of the Living Dead is an ambitious and original horror that takes on a few more layers than I expected. I can appreciate that, even if I didn't find myself fully enthralled by the final product. (And I didn't even mention the Christopher George factor, which makes this fine material for a triple feature with Graduation Day and Pieces!)

So, if you're interested in City of the Living Dead, or in awesome blogs, I recommend heading over to Final Girl around May 24th of 2010, and checking out a myriad of posts on the film from some of the best blogs in the world (you can also get a more loving analysis of the film over at The Vault of Horror). I'll definitely be revisiting it in the future to spend more time trying to figure out Fulci's ridiculous zombie world, where the inventive gore and visual panache keep the dreamlike film afloat.

May 20, 2010

Midnight Movie of the Week #20 - The Incredible Shrinking Man

The Incredible Shrinking Man, made by the masterful Jack Arnold in 1957, is something of a miracle in the Sci-Fi/B-Movie world. Under the guise of a drive-in feature, Richard Matheson's adaptation of his own book exists still as one of the most fascinating tales of survival ever put on the screen.

The film's opening is similar to many films from its era in which a strange event affects the characters and brings doubt into a seemingly perfect world. That world probably bordered on the one inhabited by Leave it to Beaver before this event, but it will surely never be primetime TV in the wake of such a catastrophe. In this case the "event" is the presence of a radioactive cloud that is encountered by a man named Scott Carey (played by Grant Williams). Though most would say Scott is a victim of circumstance, some might say that this all happens because he was too lazy to go get his own damn beer...were he any kind of a gentleman, we'd be talking about The Amazing Shrinking Woman and Randy Stuart (which I just learned is a) the name of the woman who played Scott's wife, Louise; and b) a woman) would be our lead.
As time passes in the wake of this event, Scott realizes he's getting smaller. At first it's just a couple of inches and a few pounds, but things continue to accelerate and Scott loses his job and becomes an outcast. It isn't long before Scott's story makes him a three-foot tall celebrity, but he's the kind of celebrity who hates himself for what he is. He becomes mad at the world and only finds happiness when he meets a female dwarf who convinces him that life is OK for the small. This only lasts to the point when Scott becomes a few inches shorter than her, and his rage returns. Scott then ends up living in a dollhouse on an end table (that's really too small for a dollhouse, by the way), cursing life further.

Throughout the first half of the film, Scott Carey is a sad individual that represents many of the problems that have plagued humanity's brief existence. He grieves his appearance and becomes impatient with others, because they can't possibly understand the issues he is dealing with. This instills a hostile attitude toward others - who are at the same time going out of their way to help him - and believes that he cannot be a functional part of the world due to his disability. I posed the issue of his laziness saving his wife the same fate as a joke earlier, but I really am concerned about this version of Scott. If he were the one caring for her as she suffered this fate, would he have dealt with things with any grace or sympathy, or would he have cut and run as soon as he had the chance? His behaviors lead me to believe the latter.
Fate doesn't smile on Scott, and a run in with the family cat - which now dwarfs his 2-3 inch length - leaves Louise assuming Scott is dead and eaten. Scott actually has been forced down into the cellar, where he struggles to survive by fashioning weapons out of pins, sleeping in a matchbox, and stealing cheese from a mousetrap.

It is in this purgatory that Scott begins to change his thinking. Surviving an encounter with the resident spider becomes a far bigger concern than any of his previous earthly desires, and - with no way to get back up the stairs and Louise moving out to avoid her memories - the prospect of this being a permanent hell becomes far too real to Scott. As he realizes the challenges that face him, he grows more and more accepting of his place in the great big world. This might be due to the sense of accomplishment that comes with surviving what is essentially a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but it might also mean that Scott is believing in something bigger than himself and the challenges around him.

As the short film (har har!) barrels to an anticlimax (given an extra dose of theology by a tacked on inner monologue by Arnold that fits with the pulp sci-fi films of the '50s) the viewer begins to care deeply for Scott in his quest to survive. His misplaced desires and poor choices fade away as we witness him work to survive, and his willingness to tread forward and face his limitations is infectious. The tentacles of the spider and a surprise flood suddenly become effective to the viewer, because we've seen Scott's past faults break apart with our own eyes.I'm waxing pretty deeply about a film that features a tiny man battling cats and spiders, but that's the beauty of The Incredible Shrinking Man. At its core the film is a commentary on the human condition, and while the final moments may journey a little too closely to religion for some viewers, the point the film makes serves no specific doctrine. The Incredible Shrinking Man is a simple reminder that everything we have built up can be taken from us by any combination of time and/or the elements; and that only those who are willing to adapt to life will find peace in it.

Anyone who says otherwise is telling a tall tale. (Har har!)
HorrorBlips: vote it up!

I'm not trying to neglect you all...

...but I have written a post for another blog. In fact, I've written a post for Flickchart: The Blog, after being invited to guest post there after the other day's Random Horror Throwdown.

So, if you want to read my thoughts on the difficulties of being a cinephile AND a genre fan, or if you just want to see how many titles I could name drop in seven paragraphs, click on this writing right here and go check it out.

In the meantime, I'll be back tonight with the 20th(!) Midnight Movie of the Week. If that's not exciting enough, here's what You Tube calls the "best fight scene of all time".

Have a good one, folks!

May 17, 2010

Random Horror Throwdown: Alone in the Dark vs. Fright Night Part 2 - Wait, what?

Anyone who writes a blog will surely tell you that one of the most difficult things an author faces is finding new topics to cover. Sure, I could write about The Blob every day, but that might get silly after a while. (The operative word in that sentence is certainly "might", because I'm pretty sure a blog that covered The Blob every day would be the greatest website ever invented.) That's a moot point, however, because the other day - while I was perusing the awesome corner of the interweb known as Flickchart - I had what can only be described as a moment of supreme clarity.

If the question is "How do I vary the movies I cover and keep challenging myself to come up with something different?"; the answer is "Let a random generator pick movies for me and debate which is superior in The Mike's mind!". So that's exactly what I'm going to do in this first installment of the Random Horror Throwdown.


The Movies:

Alone in the Dark (2005, Dir. by Uwe Boll.)
Starring: Christian Slater
, Tara Reid, Stephen Dorff.
IMDB Synopsis:
Based on the video game, Alone in the Dark focuses on Edward Carnby, a detective of the paranormal, who slowly unravels a mysterious events with deadly results. (Note from The Mike: Yes, he unravels "a mysterious events." This movie's so bad, it defies quantity.)

Fright Night Part 2 (1988, Dir. by Tommy Lee Wallace.)
Starring: Roddy McDowell, William Ragsdale, Julie Carmen.
IMDB Synopsis: Charlie Brewster and Peter Vincent from the original Fright Night must face more vampires out for revenge. (Note from The Mike: Was Jerry Dandridge really "out for revenge"? I declare shenanigans.)

Now, the only way that it's humanly possible to pick between two movies, of course, is to break them down and compare them in a series of categories. (Well, actually I think that's kind of a silly way to do it....but it's exactly what I'm going to do now anyway.)

The Casts:
For starters, I've always liked Christian Slater. He flamed out trying to make the transition from heartthrob to leading man, but has consistently offered up solid performances throughout his career (Heathers, True Romance, and He Was a Quiet Man stand out). Stephen Dorff was the star of The Gate, so I have to give him some credit. Tara Reid....well, she's Tara Reid, with her goofiness and weird boobs. On the vampire side, we've got Roddy McDowell and William Ragsdale again, but they're given far less interesting material; and Julie Carmen (of In the Mouth of Madness) as the vampire seductress.

The easy choice here would be Fright Night Part 2 based on McDowell, whose performance in Fright Night might be my favorite horror performance of all time. But considering the complete fall from the first film, and my like for Slater (not to mention the fact that I honestly think Carmen in FNP2 is worse than Reid in AitD)....I'm going to give the surprise advantage in this category to Alone in the Dark. (1-0, Alone in the Dark leads.)

The Plots:
Alone in the Dark focuses on some kind of demons inside a hole under an orphanage that could take over the world, and the battle against them. Fright Night Part 2 has vampires seducing college kids and a Hammer-esque hero cashing in a paycheck. Both handle their plots with the grace of a monkey humping a football, but at least the latter is relatable and kind of coherent. Advantage goes to Fright Night Part 2. (1-1)

Which film's villains would fare best against The Blob?:
This is a pretty easy decision, from what I remember. The Dark's creatures come from underground, which I'd assume is warm since it's close to hell. The Blob loves warm things. The vampires are dead, and thus their body temperature is low, and thus they would possess the The Blob's kryptonite - cold. The Blob runs wild on Uwe's sheep-like creatures, so Fright Night Part 2 gets the advantage (2-1, Fright Night Part 2 leads.)

My experience with the films:
I've always said (for at least five years, that is) that Alone in the Dark is Uwe Boll's worst movie. That said...I kinda enjoy watching this in an Ed Wood manner, even if Wood is a far better director. I saw it in theater (in fact, I think I was the only person in said theater) when it came out, and laughed my face off like Nic Cage.

Fright Night Part 2, on the other hand, is a movie that makes me angry. I would rank Fright Night among my favorite horror films, and I'd rank this among the worst sequels ever made. I was so mad after blind buying it years ago that I sold the DVD back to a local store immediately - and I don't even regret it now that the disc is OOP and worth a pretty penny more than I got for it. In a battle between one of the worst movies I've ever seen and one of the worst sequels I've ever seen...I'll take the one that isn't a sequel. Give the advantage to Alone in the Dark on this one. (2-2)

The Directors:
Remember that one time when I said Ed Wood was a far better director than Uwe Boll? (If you don't, it was two paragraphs ago.) And I like Tommy Lee Wallace, even if this is a terrible film. So Fright Night Part 2 gets the advantage. (3-2)
This choice is like:
Any choice between these films would be akin to the choice made by the fellow in the above still from Indiana Jones 3.

But, the numbers don't lie. Based on Uwe Boll's awfulness and the fact that vampires mix with Blobs better than...whatever it was that Boll had in his movie...Fright Night Part 2 gets the win via count-out while Boll heads into the crowd to beat down an intelligent soul that dislikes his movies. Congrats to Wallace and the rest of the people involved in Fright Night Part 2...your film sucks less than something!

(Note from The Mike: I seriously hope I've only rated 1029 movies.....)