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November 30, 2013

Midnight Movie of the Week #204 - Se7en

"If we catch John Doe and he turns out to be the devil, I mean if he's Satan himself, that might live up to our expectations, but he's not the devil. He's just a man."
Starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey.
Directed by David Fincher.
Rated R for some seriously sick stuff, including creepy fat corpse, nearly dead dude with no tongue, knife rape, and Brad Pitt saying the F word a lot.

Seven in Six Words:
Serial killer makes world seem doomed.
Why You'll Love It:
Less than twenty years after its release, Seven (I can only type that number in place of the V so many times before I go crazy) is one of the more well known serial killer films ever made. It spawned a sea of imitators, in both plot and style, but none of them matched the bleak outlook of Fincher's film or its vivid message about society's evils. Most impressive to me is how the director turns an unnamed metropolis (it feels like New York, but the script intentionally avoids labeling it as such) into a kind of purgatory, with Freeman's character often summing up the despair that lives in this place perfectly. 

The Highlights:
  • It's probably not too soon to reveal the plot's surprises, but for the sake of anyone who might not have seen it I'll tread lightly. But it's safe to say that the reveal of the killer and the final step in his plan is what gives this film its initial power over the viewer.
  • After the film's been seen and the surprise has been revealed, the film takes on added meaning upon repeat viewings. References to literature about hell and the deadly sins that provide the killer's gimmick are obvious clues to the filmmaker's intentions, and for me they've seemed to improve with age.
  • Pitt was dismissed by many as the average "hot" young star around the time of release, but his performance here deserves more praise than it has received. There are moments where he's in tune with his Oscar nominated performance from 12 Monkeys during the same year, and his character's chaotic mindset is perfect opposite those who accept the fate that surrounds them in this bleak setting. 
Also Worth Knowing:
  • Pitt only got the part in the film after Denzel Washington turned the role down, saying the film was "dark and evil." He regretted his decision after he saw the film, which may be why he starred in Seven imitator Fallen shortly after.
  • As noted earlier, the location of the film is intentionally not revealed. Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker has noted that he was inspired by his time in New York City, but did not want to saddle the film with any specific location that would mute the setting's power.
  • Dreamers, take note: Walker was relatively unknown at the time of production and had written his script while working at a Tower Records store.
Seven is for fans of...
A-list stars doing dark things, serial killer mind games on film, surprise cameos, religious allegories, Morgan Freeman's soothing vocal patterns, and rain.

If You Like This, You Might Also Like...
Theatre of Blood (1973)
Taxi Driver (1976)
Copycat (1995)
Primal Fear (1996)
Arlington Road (1999)
Mr. Brooks (2007)

November 21, 2013

Midnight Movie of the Week #203 - Grabbers

"I need a photograph of it for National Geographic. And Facebook." 
Starring: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey, Lalor Roddy.
Directed by Jon Wright.
Not Rated. Includes tentacle overload, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive silly behavior due to excessive alcohol consumption, and angry Irish vocal tones with foul language.
Grabbers in Six Words:
Sea things attack! And also beer.
Why You'll Love It:
Good old fashioned monster comedy turns a small Irish island into the site of an infestation, as giant-squid like invaders plague a seaside town. Two mismatched police officers - one an uptight young female from the city, the other a homemade man with a taste for beer - have to figure out what's going on and how to keep the town safe, while the grabby creatures close in on the shrinking population.  Like Tremors did in 1990, Grabbers keeps a light-hearted tone while providing some entertaining monster action - complete with great special effects - and adds a nice comedic twist to the battle against the creatures before the final showdown.
The Highlights:
  • I'm not usually the sappy guy, but the budding relationship between the two police officers - played charmingly by Richard Coyle and Ruth Bradley - is cute and effective. Their differences create some good banter back and forth, but they're perfectly compatible when the film needs them to be.
  • That said, there's nothing cute about the monsters at hand. When the film gets to the full sized grabbers in the final act there are plenty of slimy and impressive visuals.
  • Without being too tongue in cheek and/or losing it's originality, the film manages a couple of nice throwbacks to films like Shaun of the Dead and Aliens without seeming too desperate. 
Also Worth Knowing:
  • Needing to make sure the actors knew how to act drunk for some crucial scenes, director Jon Wright took his leads out drinking before filming - and filmed their real world drunkenness. That's method acting at its finest!
Grabbers is for Fans of...
Less intense horror movies, deep sea creatures, Irish accents, Irish accents on women who look kind of like Anna Kendrick, beer, and those quaint looking pubs that are all over European movies.

If You Like This, You Might Also Like...
Piranha (1978)
Night of the Creeps (1986)
Lake Placid (1999)
Trollhunter (2010)
Cockneys vs. Zombies (2012)

November 14, 2013

Midnight Movie of the Week #202 - Invasion of the Body Snatchers

"In an hour... you won't want them to. In an hour, you'll be one of us." 
Starring: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Virginia Cartwright, Jeff Goldblum.
Directed by Philip Kaufman.
Rated PG for not-quite-nudity, gooey huge fetuses, Veronica Cartwright's tears, rat turds, and lots of screaming.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers in Six Words:
Pod People seduce '70s San Francisco.
Why You'll Love It:
I doubt any film has had two better remakes (this one and Abel Ferrara's Body Snatchers) than Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The original film still packs a punch despite some heavy-handed politics, but Philip Kaufman's 1978 remake stands on its own as a thoughtful and dramatic retelling of the original story. Kaufman's film is dark and serious, with only a few nods to the original's tone (like the cameo by original star Kevin McCarthy). It's a rather intense tale of lost identity that adapts well to its new setting, with a great cast led by Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy offering excellent performances.
The Highlights:
  • Any scene featuring a young Jeff Goldblum, who reacts in a perfectly cynical manner to the idea of pod people. He's only a small part of this film, but it's easy to see how he became a star through this performance.
  • Going along with that point, a mid film scene in which the female leads discuss the possible infestation and its floral roots with a skeptical Goldblum starts to bring the film together as it prepares for a high paced finish.
  • I've never been entirely fond of the film's final ten or fifteen minutes - I think I want more from the story than this rushed finish - but most will tell you the final scene is one of the most iconic moments in modern sci-fi/horror.
  • Also there's the human faced dog. Yeah, you gotta see it.
Also Worth Knowing:
  • Donald Sutherland was hit by a Volkswagen beetle while performing his own stunts for the film. Who wants to be the guy who hits Donald Sutherland with their car? Not this guy.
  • As noted earlier, this is the first remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Ferrara's Body Snatchers was released in 1993, and the forgettable The Invasion, starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, and a returning Veronica Cartwright, was released in 2007. So we can probably bet on another version by 2019.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is for Fans of...
Spock, curly haired Sutherlands, paranoia, San Francisco based cinema (Has any city had more great movies set in it? I say NO.), cynical sci-fi, and human faced dogs.

If You Like This, You Might Also Like...
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1955) (Obviously.)
Village of the Damned (1960)
The Mephisto Waltz (1971)
Magic (1978)

About the future of this little horror/genre movie blog...

I hate that I'm sitting here writing this, but I've been putting it off for too long. Part of me doesn't even think it's necessary, but on the off chance that people are still interested in what's going on here at FMWL I wanted to be up front about some things with those who have been fantastic toward me and this little site over the last nearly five years.

If you are a dedicated reader - and if you are, God bless ya - you've probably noticed that the last year or year and a half has been a little slower here at the site. From Midnight, With Love is still my baby, and it's one of the things in life I'm most proud of. Being able to share my love of horror and cult flicks with the void and occasionally get feedback on said love makes me feel like a part of one big crazy happy universe and I get a delicious kick out of that. But, unfortunately, I haven't been able to keep up with it like I want to.

Now would be a good moment to point out that I'm not saying I'm leaving!  That is not where this conversation is going. So don't freak on me.

However, I do have to put FMWL on the back burner of my life for a little while. I've already started this process with less posts, refusals of some screeners and press releases I've gotten (and boy, that part bugs me the most. I miss my indie horror community, and I'm sorry I can't be there for them like I used to), and other cutbacks.  The real world has slowed me down considerably, and I can't continue to focus on the blog the same way I have in the past.

But that's not what's pushing me to pump the brakes.

The truth of the matter is that I've got a pretty big dream right now. I've been working on this site for a long time and I want to try something a little different. I'm not gonna talk about what it is here - I'm afraid of jinxes and I'm afraid I'll make myself look stupid if I fail - but there are three or four people I trust who know about it and are supporting me and I'm realizing that if I want to get this dream done I have to really focus on it. Which means less focus on FMWL, which is sad for now. But, if I get this dream out there I think it will make the kind of people who read sites like this very happy and will make all the people who love horror and want to share their love the way I do very proud.  And I want that more than anything right now.

What does this all mean for you? Two things.

  • FMWL will still be here. I'm keeping the Midnight Movie of the Week going, but I'm going to work on a truncated format that will take me less time and hopefully still be interesting.  I reserve the right to post reviews and or commentaries from time to time, but I can't promise they'll be frequent.

  • Secondly, I'm thinking about taking on a co-writer or two if anyone's interested. FMWL has a decent readership built in and I get a lot of review proposals and press releases that I'd be happy to share with another genre lover who can write a thing or two. I want to keep promoting great horror and other stuff and the best way to do this is to open the forum up a little bit.

If you're interested in joining the FMWL team and getting your own love of horror and genre entertainment out there, you can email me at There are no expectations from me, other than a) being a stand up person who will review things they accept for review and b) being able to write complete sentences and string thoughts together.  So if you always wanted to write about stuff or see independent horror flicks or just have a place to share your thoughts on this stuff, email me and we'll talk.  If not, no worries.

That's what I know. Like I said, I'm not leaving. I'll still be here as much as I can, you can still find me on all the Facebooks/Twitters/Instagrams I generally haunt, and I'm still gonna be loving genre flicks like a madman. So stay in touch, and I'll do the same, and hopefully someday soon I'll have my dream come true and we'll all have a victorious party.

Now that that's all said, this week's Midnight Movie of the Week post will be coming soon. Be well, Midnight Warriors.

November 9, 2013

Midnight Movie of the Week #201 - Fortress

The prevailing message of most Australian horror films - or at least most of the ones I've seen - is that you're pretty much screwed if you're not safely in a big city. Many Aussie flicks, like '70s masterpieces Walkabout and Wake in Fright (a rather obscure little gem that y'all should find in its new blu-ray format), former Midnight Movie of the Week Roadgames, and modern torture flick Wolf Creek, warn us about traveling in less populous areas of that island continent, while others like Dead Calm and Rogue focus on watery dangers around the terrain. I'm not sure what it is about Australia that makes people so afraid of traveling around or being in rural areas, but there's definitely something there that they want people to be afraid of.
A newly found entry into the "dangers of Australia" subgenre is Fortress, in which a teacher (Rachel Ward of the Phil Collins-flavored '80s drama Against All Odds) and her students are abducted from a one-room school house by a group of men in masks who throw them in a cave and ask for a ransom. Naturally, the kids don't like this, but their teacher gets them pumped up and a little bit of a war for survival follows.
Fortress was originally released on HBO in late 1985, as the network put up half of the budget in exchange for debut rights. But no punches were pulled for the TV broadcast, and the result is a survival thriller that still feels as sleazy and violent as theatrical productions of the era. The film tiptoes around some of the violence due to the cast of young characters, but still offers a few surprisingly vicious moments, like a well placed severed head in the middle of the film.
More tension comes from the trio of kidnappers, whose appearance in various masks - one a duck, one a cat, and one as Santa Claus (or, to these Aussie kids, Father Christmas) - reminded me of the aggressors in recent horror favorite You're Next. The kidnappers are large men (one of them is played by the well-known Vernon Wells, who co-starred in The Road Warrior and Commando, and also appeared in Stuart Gordon's unrelated 1992 sci-fi film Fortress) who look even bigger next to the young children and their feminine teacher. There's a definite statement about male domination of women and children being made here, and director Arch Nicholson does a good job of building up the difference in size and strength between the kidnappers and their victims.
But the film gets most interesting when it puts power back in the hands of our teacher and her students, who adapt to their surroundings in attempts to first survive and later fight back.  Ward gives a solid performance in the lead, but all of the children around her do a fine job of keeping the film moving. By the time the teacher and her students are ready to take a stand the film has already created a large amount of empathy for the characters, which leads to a final act that wraps the film up in a manner that is both satisfying and chilling. And the end result leaves Fortress as a great piece of survival cinema and one more example of why you appear to be safer if you never go to less populous parts of Australia.

November 1, 2013

Midnight Movie of the Week #200 - Halloween

Not gonna go in depth on this one, you all know what Halloween is. I've spent 200 weeks writing these columns now, and as we roll toward the end of the horror family's favorite holiday I just want to say how much I love being able to share my love for horror with you all. When I started this list almost four years ago I was trying to convince myself that I could keep this thing going on a weekly basis, and - despite some real world hurdles and plenty of good old-fashioned lack of motivation, we made it to another Halloween together.
If you need to know why you should watch Halloween - just like I once did as a teenager who thought horror movies were just fun and stupid and not on par with really great movies in other genres - I'll tell you that I believe nothing about any movie more than I believe that Halloween is a movie about man (or woman, in the case of Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode) vs. nature, not man (or woman) vs. man. People get it wrong and see this as just another slasher movie, or even worse they get it wrong and think of Michael Myers as an inhuman monster going on motor function and killing for the sake of killing.
I know that stuff about fate and evil that is peppered into John Carpenter's script feels like fluff, but if you buy into it it really pushes Halloween to a new level of fear. That might sound similar to asking an atheist to believe in the Bible, and I've wasted more time than I'd like to admit over the years trying to convince people of this when they don't want to see Halloween the way I do.
People come to horror for many reasons. My reason for loving horror, for being moved by horror, and for continuing to seek out horror all the time is because I'm looking for movies that dare me to feel that there is evil in this world that I might have to feel with. And I believe Halloween does this as well as any other movie. I'd compare it's conflict between humanity and the nature of evil to that presented in The Exorcist, which sits next to it as my second favorite horror film. That film approaches evil more directly than John Carpenter does, but both films create the same underlying fear in me.
In short, Halloween is the movie that made horror a cinematic power in my mind. I'd always loved horror, and there are probably a dozen other movies that I love now that I could have seen when I was young and that could have inspired me to feel the way I do about horror movies. Thanks to fate, Halloween was that movie that hit me and made me believe horror cinema could be great cinema. And I'm still indebted to it. Without it there might never have been one Midnight Movie of the Week, let alone two-hundred. It inspired me, and I hope that anyone out there who might be trying to love horror can find a movie that makes them feel as excited about their pursuit as Halloween makes me feel.