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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pontypool - Review (2009)

Premise:  A talk radio host receives calls about bizarre goings on in the small town of Pontypool.  Is it a hoax or is the town suddenly going berserk.

Review:   This film was a nice surprise.  I had little clue what I was going to see since the title (which refers to small town in Ontario, Canada) reveals nothing.  Set in a radio station whose current on-air personality seems to have a pretty big chip on his shoulder the story is slowly revealed through the calls he takes.  Each phone provides new information as to just what the hell is going on in Pontypool.  Like the War of the Worlds radio play we learn of the events by word of mouth, the only connection to it all are the phone calls.

The film was reminiscent of the best parts of a Stephen King novel, small town characters with a lot to say, strange scenarios that may or may not be real, a great build up.  The small feel of the films helps to provide and eerie feel of isolation as the small radio station crew sit inside as reports of madness come in.  I loved that aspect.

When more info is revealed the film loses what made it stand out from the crowd.  And although it does lose some of its creepier than creepy feel, it remains worth watching.

Scariness:                3.5 out of 5   Like a good ghost story told around the campfire, it is often just the words that scare you most.

Violence/ Gore:       3 out of 5     Some very bloody scenes.

Story:                       4 out of 5     A nice creepy Stephen King/ Twilight Zone-esque story to start.  The more that is revealed, the l


Overall rating (as a film, not just a horror film):  7.5 out of 10

Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here. 



Thursday, October 25, 2012

Audition - Review (1999) 31 Days of Horror # 19

Premise:  A widower decides to try to find a new love to fill the hole in his life in a unique way.


Review:   There is one thing I hate to find in a review, it's spoilers.  When I compose my reviews I do so with the intention to allow reader to read my review before or after seeing the film without spoiling the film, but at the same time providing them with some valuable insight.  I want you to take something away from my write up.  If you are reading the review before seeing the film, my intention is to provide direction - to see or not to see.  When reading a review before the film you should not fear being cheated of the same joy of discovery the writer had because of inconsiderate writing.  There is absolutely no reason a writer should reveal cameos, surprises or plot twists, when even referencing the existence of them can hurt experience.  I know, I sound a bit over the top about this, but when it comes to film I want you to have the same raw experience I did, not one affected by my revelations.  Selling a film to a reader by saying. "You won't believe the surprise twist," or "just wait until you see who shows up in this film," totally alters the way the film will be watched by you the poor schmuck that just came for your advice.  That is all they wanted, not for you to ruin the film for them.  This may explain why M. Night Shyamalan's film have lost favor with most audiences.  Viewers that know his work come in anticipating the standard M. Knight film and therefore spend the entire film trying to figure out the twist before it is revealed.  Not the best way to watch a film.

With that said, read no further - it will say nothing to enhance your experience.  I will say I enjoyed the film.  There I said it, now move on.  Come back and write in the comments section (where spoilers are allowed) if you want to discuss it.  This film does not lend itself to being reviewed, at least not in the fashion I am comfortable with.  The tale will surely polarize viewers and rightfully so, it does not follow the formulaic pacing of your standard horror film.  It is part art house, part disturbing horror film.   It is a unique film which uses its editing to the fullest, making the bizarre tale a bit more convoluted, creating some uncertainty that complements the story.  How this fill affected me is similar to being burned by a flame - at first you may not notice the heat, then there is agonizing intensity, followed by the duller sensation that lingers with you.

DO NOT READ BELOW IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM.


Scariness:           3.0 out of 5    It is scary in a slow, deliberate way- nothing jumping out at you.

Gore/Violence:   5.0 out of 5    Realistic violence will have you wanting to close your eyes.

Story:                  4.5 out of 5    Dealing in real human emotions and psyche, there is more here than you may first take away from it.

Overall rating (as a film, not just a horror film):  7.5 out of 10

Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here. 


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Evil Dead 2 - Review (1987) 31 Days of Horror #18

Premise:  A trip up to a cabin for some romance becomes a date with death as the undead rise.


Review:  This is one of the tougher films to review because of it really separates itself from any one genre.  Just about every scene contains some slapstick humor, but at the same time it is full of gore and carnival haunted house scares.  The acting is purposely bad whicj makes it fitting for the film - anything else would be out of place.  Everything in the film is so outrageously over the top it plays like one part live action Looney Tunes one part Dawn of the Dead.  It is a one of a kind film.

If you are ready to have a good time, this is the film for you.  It never takes itself serious, providing a break from the slew of horror films that want to be mentioned in the same breath as "Casablanca," but are a better fit along side "Suburban Commando."  I highly recommend you play it in the background at your next Halloween party, it never slows down & with the sound on or off it works. 




Scariness:             3.0 out of 5    Humor comedy cuts through the scares like a chainsaw on flesh.

Gore/Violence:     4.5 out of 5    Lots of blood and body parts.

Story:                    3.0 out of 5    Mostly a series of attacks with some mythology mixed in.

Overall rating (as a film, not just a horror film):  8 out of 10

Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here. 




I Know What You Did Last Summer - Review (1997) 31 Days of Horror #17

Premise:  After a group of partying kids coverup they start receiving threatening notes from a witness.


Review:  The film starts off on the right foot, an accidental death, a cover-up and then the threatening hand written notes stating - I KNOW.  Not only did someone witness their heinous act, they also want revenge.  Then the film goes into autopilot and reaches the point of earning unintentional laughs.  We are treated with some awkward scenes - a random hair cutting, a car attack, a random murder because we need a murder.  It is chock full of lazy writing.  Why would someone set on revenge cut a girl's hair that he intended to kill?  Why not finish the job?  What the hell is Leonard from The Big Bang Theory doing working at a fishing dock?

Then there is the laughable villain, the Gorton's fisherman.  Not only is he a man chasing teenagers in full fishing garb in the middle of summer, he must have magic powers or a teleporter (be careful with that thing) giving him the ability be in all places at once and achieve the impossible.  He can also load up a trunk of a car with a dead body and a few dozen live crabs then quickly empty it all in a matter of seconds so when the group returns to the car it is empty.  Not just empty, all remnants of the previous cargo have been removed, completely bare - it even had new car scent.  If fishing does not work out for him he should work in car detailing.

It is one of those films that gets worse with additional viewing.  The first time I saw it I found it intense and satisfying.   The more I watch it, the more obvious that this film was quickly produced to capture the same audience that made Scream a hit.  There are just so many things that make no sense.

Still it is fun to watch.  It has some startling moments, usage of just about every easy scare tactic and Jennifer Love Hewitt has some pipes - she can scream like nobody's business.  If you want some brainless entertainment watch it, if you want to think go elsewhere.


Scariness:             2.0 out of 5    More cheap scares and intense chases than scares.

Gore/Violence:     1.5 out of 5    Some stabbings, dead bodies - not much blood.

Story:                    2.5 out of 5    Great premise followed by paint by numbers horror.

Overall rating (as a film, not just a horror film):  5 out of 10

Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here. 


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Poltergeist - review (1982) 31 Days of Horror #16

Premise:  When their youngest daughter starts talking to the static on the television set it is just the beginning of a slew of menacing events.

Review:  From the moment the little girl (Heather Rourke) turns and says, "they're heeeerrre." I am sucked in.  In my not so humble opinion, this is the quintessential haunted house film.  It is full of classic scenes, great performances, a story that doesn't grow old and plenty of horrifying moments.  The reason it works so well is it takes aim at so many of the nightmares we all shared.  For kids there are spooky toys, that ominous tree outside the bedroom window and that closet that just isn't right.  For adults there is the violation of your personal space, feeling powerless and the fear of losing your children.  We can identify with these things, they hit familiar nerves.  Then you add some old school special effects, an interesting story, a likeable family and you have a horror film that just works.

This is the rare occasion that I think tinkering with the film would be beneficial.  It does not need any cgi effects, just some modifications to some scenes... namely they face peeling scene.  Effects that may have been state of the art thirty years ago are now the only parts of the film that detract from a real good time.  Still, I can look past them and fear if someone did try to redo some effects they would go overboard and ruin the film. Like when you tell the barber to just clean it up and by the time he is finished your Samson like locks are on the floor and you look like Pee Wee Herman.

If you have never seen this film, do so.  It is a ton of fun and scary.  If you do not see it for the reasons above, then just so you can be cast under the spell of Craig T Nelson.


Scariness:             4.0 out of 5    Dark, scary environments, but bad choices downgrade Freddie to a generic horror villain.

Gore/Violence:     2.0 out of 5    The gory special effect doesn't work, but it still does exist.

Story:                    4.0 out of 5    A family in danger and parents that won't give up.  Classic.

Overall rating (as a film, not just a horror film):  9 out of 10

Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here. 

Iron Man 3 Trailer

Looks better than the second Iron Man film, but then again that's not too tough to do. Hopefully they remember character development and plot along with these amazing effects.

A Nightmare on Elm Street - Review (2010) 31 Days of Horror #15

Premise:  High school friends are haunted by the same nightmares of a man with a burned face and knife fingers.  Even worse, what he does in your dreams happens to you in real life. 

Review:  Freddie Krueger of the 80's and 90's is an iconic screen character that became a household name not only because of his unusual looks and taste for revenge, but also because he was mysterious and in an odd way charming.  His personality and whit are what drew audiences to the theater for countless sequels (even as it evolved from horror to camp.) 

Too bad no one told this to the producers of the re-boot of The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.  They must have had the "Nightmare" cliff notes, forgetting to look deeper than what was on the surface at what the true draw of the series was.  They did a better job, in certain ways, than Rob Zombie did with his take on "Halloween" to stay true to the original story, but they did so in an unimaginative way.

Freddie (portrayed by Jakie Earle Haley) is still here with his signature glove and the burned face, the problem is his makeup does not allow for any expression.  Sure, the burns on his face look more realistic, but remember this is a movie that mainly takes place in dreams, realism is not a top priority.  On top of the poor makeup decision, the character is often draped in shadows making his expressionless face even less functional.

Then there is the writing.  Freddie was know for his (often corny) one-liners - not any more.  There may have been a single one-liner setting up a kill.  When it is finally delivered, it is so out of place in this film that is falls flat. They purposely de-clawed Freddie of what audiences came to see.  He has absolutely no appeal as a villain or as a anti-hero.

It gets worse (medium spoiler alert) they decided to make Freddie the victim of the film - how are you supposed to feel about a killer that is seeking revenge for an injustice?  It is a bit conflicting and surely does not work.  

The film does have a couple of memorable moments, good acting and nice sets - too bad the pacing issues, script problems and de-clawing of Freddie outweigh anything done right in the film.
 
As a Nightmare on Elm Street film the films stinks, as a sequel to "Little Children" it is awesome.

Scariness:             2.0 out of 5    Dark, scary environments, but bad choices downgrade Freddie to a generic horror villain.

Gore/Violence:     4 out of 5       Blood, stabbings & slashings... the best is saved until last.

Story:                    2.5 out of 5    Same cool premise that gets mixed up along the way.

Overall rating (as a film, not just a horror film):  5 out of 10

Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here. 


The Amityville Horror - review (1979) 31 Days of Horror #14

Premise:  After getting a great deal on their dream home, the Lutz's start to wonder if it is a dream home or a nightmare.

Review:  Horror films with a religious focus often affect me because of the way I was raised.  This is another film on the list of films I watched at too young of an age.  It scared me or maybe it scarred me... I avoided going into most basements on my own if at all possible.  After viewing it again, decades later, it did not have the same effect.

This is your standard haunted haunted house film - There are many elements of this film, the performances are serviceable,  the score is wonderfully old school creepy and some of the ongoings in the house are flat out creepy - dogs barking at basement walls, flies multiplying on the windows, visitors becoming violently ill, unknown voices, etc.  

Much of it works, it could just be ems a little dated for today's audiences.   There are some glaring inconsistencies that make the scares less effective and a finale that is anti-climatic and at times almost laughable (boy can that guy clean up quickly.)   It is not a bad film, but it could use the efforts of a more skilled filmmaker to rework some of the scenes.  And please, for your own sake do not waste your time on the recent remake, it was terrible.

I think the reason this film did as well as it did when it was first released was due to the popularity of Margot Kidder (my old crush was restored) coming off of the Christopher Reeves "Superman" film and the "Based on a true story" tagline that used to go a long way.


Scariness:             2.5 out of 5    Some great creepy moments, ruined by some not so creepy.

Gore/Violence:     1.5 out of 5   Blood that sometimes looks like Hershey's syrup may scare the kids or make them hungry.

Story:                    2.5 out of 5   Standard haunted house fare that could have risen above with a better script.

Overall rating (as a film, not just a horror film):  6 out of 10

Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Blair Witch Project - Review (1999) 31 Days of Horror #13

Premise:  A documentary film crew decides to investigate the legend of the Blair Witch... good things happen.

Review:  Let me tell you the story of a strong, intelligent, handsome and brave young man who decided to see a movie that was creating a great deal of buzz as being one of the scariest movies in years.  Being a man that does not scare easy, the handsome fellow decided to buy tickets to the opening night midnight screening.

All was going well, the perfect seat - 4 rows back, dead center.  The necessary contraband snacks and beverages, lining his waistline like a drug smuggler making his way across the border.  After much anticipation and a slew of trailers the movie finally started.  He was surprised by the unorthodox film style, it was amateurish at best.  The shots were shaky, the stars were average looking people, not perfect celebrities, the shot design and editing looked to be handled by a first timer.  As the film moved along he was concerned this movie would not be about a witch at all, but rather a film about a map.  Did I mention he was handsome?

At one time, our hero was a Boy Scout and also had taken family camping trips as a kid.  As the film continued the man found himself becoming more engrossed with the familiar events taking place on screen.  The piles of rocks, sticks, sounds in the night and whispers transformed into things of nightmares past; fears he had during his days camping as a child were brought back to the surface.  The film did a tremendous job of creating that isolated in the unknown, no one can here me scream feeling he had as a kid.  But, this was not like other films - it felt real, the scares were visceral.  By the time the film ended the man was frightened.  Just how frightened he was he would not know until later that evening.

As he made his way to his car he watched his back, every person leaving the theater was a psychopath, every car that had its headlights crossed across his body a potential mechanical murder machine.  Then he got to his car and hopped in quickly to avoid anyone underneath from grabbing his feet.  THEN he started his the foolish routine done by so many that enter their cars in fear after a scary movie.   It is called the "I Am Too Old and Smart To Do This, But I Better Just In Case Test" - the IDIOT Test for short.  The first step: you must sit down and make an unsuspicious glance into the rear view mirror to look for the Blair Witch (or other creatures of the night) that may be rising up over his seat, ready to pounce.  There is a very specific way you have to handle this, if you are too obvious the person hiding would quickly spring out and grab you.  So, it is not only important, but a difference between life and death that you be cool about it.  Glance in the rear view mirror as if you are just a very careful driver going through your pre-drive routine,    pretend that you have to check if something in your eye or that you need to check your hair.  All of these are acceptable and will not trigger a response from the back seat baddie.  Whew, no one there.   If you the rear view mirror test turns out negative move onto the next step.  The ultra-quick, no-look karate chop to the back seat.  Not only will this give you instant notification as to if someone is lurking in your back seat, the karate chop may just do enough damage to allow for an escape.  Hiii-YAh!  If your karate chop make a direct blow to something hairy, slimy or scruffy, consider yourself one of the lucky ones.  Only one more step to safety.  Direct Eye Contact.  After you finish your karate motion, swing your head back to confirm your findings are correct.  Hopefully, you will find an empty seat.  The unlucky few have the unwanted revelation that the baddie was able to avoid the karate chop and cram itself in the tight spot directly behind one seat.  If this is the situation I fear it is over for you... the creature will be annoyed with your insultingly bad mirror uses and the attempt to use martial arts and quickly make minced meat or a meal of you.  On the other hand, if the back seat is empty, feel free to drive home safely.  Just make sure you go directly home, you do not want to have to repeat all these steps again.

His drive took him to an empty house that was not all that familiar to him.  You see, this was his first weekend of temporary living with his brother during his move to Florida.  He was certain everything would be fine, it was a safe neighborhood, he had his brother's fairly relaxed dog to keep him company and really, when you think about it, what happened that night, he just saw a scary movie.  Did his fear somehow tip off the world that this intelligent, overly handsome man was alone and for some reason scared and should be messed with that evening?  Of course not!  That is until he brushed his teeth (after checking the shower curtain... little known fact, killers loves standing in your shower) and went to bed.  He was barely able to close his eyes before that relaxed dog I mentioned did something he had never seen before, the dog was running around the house barking up a storm.  Not only barking, but focusing the barking on the back sliding door (which he never checked to ensure it was locked.)  The dog was running back and forth, jumping at the door, barking, whining... something was out there.  Unfortunately for me, he was supposed to be the only person on the property since my brother was out of town.  This dog that barely moved to get out of my way when he entered the house was suddenly the dog from The Omen.  The barking lasted about 10 minutes.  The damage was done though, he was not more scared than an adult should be.  He tried to get to sleep, usually not an problem.  That night he was an insomniac, waking every few minutes to check the clock to see how long until morning... the clock never seems to move.  It felt like 3:15 am for about 4 hours.  Finally, he was able to get to sleep.

The sun glaring in through the windows woke him up nice and early.  Thank God, he was alive.  He walked out of the room thinking how foolish he had been.  Ha!  A grown man scaring himself like that.  That's when he tumbled to the ground, slipping in a puddle on the floor, landing flat on his stomach face to face with his the corpse of his brother's dog - beheaded.  Slipping with every step, he was finally able to get to his feet, slipping on the rancid puddle of dog blood.  Leaving a trial behind him, he worked his way to the phone to call the police, his brother, anyone to help him.  When he lifted the receiver there was no dial tone.  That is when he noticed the line was cut!  He grabbed his keys, ran out the front and got into his car.  As he started it up he remembered.  I FORGOT TO CHECK THE BACK SEAT!  That is when someone or something jumped out of the back seat and sliced him ear to ear.

OK, I made that last paragraph up.  Sorry.

Years later, the same man was in the middle of a horror film festival he named the FilmSnork 31 Days of Horror - 31 days, viewing a different horror film every day.  One of the films he decided on watching was no other than The Blair Witch Project.  He would prove to himself that no movie would scare him like that again.  He started a campfire in his back yard, poured himself a Scotch, lit a nice cigar and popped his noise blocking headphones on.  At first it was simple.  Then, the pile of rocks part of the film started up.  He found himself looking over his shoulder, taking off his headphones, peering back at the house just to make sure nothing could scare him again.  He was not going to be affected by this poorly shot, film again.  That is when the scene with the voices started up.  he through his cigar in the fire, grabbed his Scotch and finished the film in the house.  Because that is where I that is where he wanted to watch it, no other reason.  The end.

Scariness:        5 out of 5   It is simple. No special effects. No makeup. No CGI.  Just you and your fears.

Gore/Violence:   1 out of 5   I do not recall anything other than some creepy stories about the witch.

Story:                 3.5 out of 5  Simple story that's very effective if you allow yourself to get wrapped up in it.

Overall rating (as a film, not just a horror film):  8 out of 10

Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Descent - Review (2005) 31 Days of Horror #12

Premise:  Some friends' cave-dwelling trip takes a bad turn when their way out is blocked after a cave in.

Review:  I rented this film when it first came out on DVD with the expectations I would typically reserve for a low-budget horror film I never heard of.  What I got was a fantastic surprise; a claustrophobia-inducing trip starting with smiles and ending with the stuff that nightmares are made.  One of the best horror films of its decade.  The film delivers some real scares as well as very good performances and a story with a much more depth than usually found in the genre.

The story begins with a group of friends heading out on their annual adventure trip which after one of them suffers a loss in her family.  Shortly after they make their way down into the underground cavern there is a collapse leaving them stranded with few supplies and no way out... from there it goes down hill.  There are many aspects of the film that make it work so well, for one the underground cavern setting makes for the most claustrophobic environments you can find.  It allows you to regress back to your childhood fear - it is dark, there is no way out and you are confused.  Are your fears legitimate or just the the workings of your imagination?  Having a cast of unknowns that can actually act also keeps you involved, there is no distracting star power here to give your brain the easy escape from the madness of the film.  Being that cast is almost entirely made up of normal women, the type you may actually know, the violence tends to resonate more.  The main reason the film works so well is that once you think you have it all figured out it changes, evolving into a different film than you originally thought you were watching.  It is offers more than just scares and gore, it proposes uncomfortable questions as to what you would do to survive.
 
Scariness:                   4 out of 5     Stuck in a cave with no supplies and way out, that's a scary start. 

Gore/Violence:           4 out of 5     No shortage of violence and blood here.

Story:                          4 out of 5     There are real characters here, not just lambs headed to slaughter.

Overall rating (as a movie, not just as a horror movie):  8.0 out of 10
               

Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here.

Bride of Chucky - Review (1998) 31 Days of Horror #11

Premise:  The killer doll is back and along with his female doll counterpart (Jennifer Tilly) they are on quest to obtain an amulet that will allow them to regain human form.

Review:  Let's start by saying that this film is not for everyone.  If you come in hating you will probably leave hating.  If you come in trying to have a good time you most likely will.  After having a poor experience watching The Ring (a film I thought I loved) I was very concerned revisiting this Chucky sequel would be another letdown.  Thankfully the ugly red-headed doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer did not disappoint.

This film separates itself from previous entries, it is a continuation of the story that now crosses over to horror-comedy.  It is at times grotesque and seconds later there is a possessed doll reading "Voodoo for Dummies."  I know, it sounds terrible.... it's not.  The great thing about this film is the more you think about it, the more ludicrous and enjoyable it becomes.  Like that last sentence or the premise I typed above - the film never takes itself too serious.  Chucky is constantly throwing out one liners; many are painfully bad, many work in a so-bad-its-good way.  It sets the right tone combing cynicism, shock, laughs and plenty of self-awareness.  Most films would not be let off the hook with what this film throws up on the screen: a one of a kind love scene, outrageous death scenes and hit-or-really-really-miss jokes are not only not frowned upon here, they are welcome.  I found myself being disappointed they would go for such an easy gag and at the same time being glad they did. 

Then there are the performances.  Jennifer Tilly plays the trashy girlfriend with a pitch perfect performance, a high whiny pitch, but still perfect.  Brad Douriff, (the voice of Chucky) I am not even sure if I know what the guy really looks like, but provides Chucky with a smooth set of pipes.  Then there are the humans. Who can dislike John Ritter?  He does not get much to do here, but just seeing him again is plus.  The female, human lead is a face you will recognize more now, but probably would not when the film was released, Katherine Heigl.  There is no doubt about it, this is Katherine Heigl's best film.  Okay, maybe that's not saying much. 

The movie is a lot of fun.  Clever at times, horribly predictable at others.  One of my true guilty pleasures.  
 
Scariness:                     1 out of 5    Who can be scared while you are so busy smiling?

Gore/Violence:          3.5 out of 5     There are plenty of blood and guts, handled in a semi-comic fashion.



Story:                            3 out of 5     A silly but satisfying story the fits the subject matter.


Overall rating (as a movie, not just as a horror movie):  7.5 out of 10
               
Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Ring (2002) 31 Days of Horror #10

Premise:  There is a videotape that if you watch it you will die in 7 days. 

Review:  It happens.  There are films you fall out of love with.  Sadly, this may be one of them.  When I first saw the film in the theater 10 years ago it scared me.  I praised it and told friends to go see it.  Upon watching it this week I did not have the same response.  The film does have a killer opening scene which leads us into a creepy opening 30 minutes.  After that 30 minutes though it is all downhill.  This was not the response I had when I saw it years ago.   What has changed?

There are still some horrifying sequences - perhaps some of top scary moments in years, but there is a major problem, surrounding these scary moments is a mystery.  For me, at least this time around, the revelations of The Ring is what ruins it.  The less you know about the mysterious videotape the more effective the film is.  Once the reveals occurred I became more and more disconnected from the film.  Not only was I not scared by much of The Ring this time around, I was actually bored.  A very bad sign.

If this film was made today, would they 

Scariness:                   4 out of 10 - The opening scene & the contents of the tape are quite jarring - other scenes do not hold up as well.
Gore/Violence:          1.5 out of 10  - Some shocking images, little blood.

Story:                         2.5 out of 5    I love the premise... one of my favorites.  I hate that is transforms into a Scooby-Doo mystery.



Overall Rating (as a film, not just as a horror film):  5.5 out of 10

Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Review (2003) 31 Days of Horror #8


Premise:  Stupid kids, make stupid decisions that lead to a run-in with a chainsaw, literally.


Review:  I have seen many films in my lifetime.  Quite frankly, I have seen many films this month.  I do not claim to be a film expert.  I cannot quote films line for line - most films I cannot even remember the characters' names are without repeat viewings.  What I can do is tell you what I like and why.  I took some heat for including the remake of this film in my FS31DoH instead of the original.  When I sat down to watch it I feared that maybe I was wrong, perhaps this film had nothing to offer and the original was the only way to go.  Problem is, I am not very familiar with the original.  Some of you will see this as a sign of sacrilege, but I have only seen the original once, as a teenager, on an old 13 TV set.  For that I am happy, because it leaves me unaffected and able to have a more objective view than I was able to with other films that have gone through the remake process.

After sitting down and watching the 2003 version again, I stand behind my choice - it is a good horror film and one of the better remakes out there.   What you get here is a solid B-style-film in a shiny new package.  It is the shiny new package takes away from the film.  Things are over-produced, planned to the point of coming across as just that.  The original felt raw, as if it were the filming of actual events.  Here they attempt to create the feel of a found footage mixed with a standard horror film with one glaring issue, your star - Jessica Biel.  How is anyone supposed to get wrapped up in the movie when the filmmakers are glorifying the starlet with perfect lighting and camera angles.  It really becomes laughable at times.  The camera angles were not there to tell the story,  just to highlight Biel's body of work.  If she walks past the camera one of her most marketable assets are displayed prominently.  Funny thing, the same camera angles were not used for any of the other performers.  They should have just called it Biel-Cam.  As a man, I don't have a single problem with this.   As a film reviewer I don't have a... I mean, this just does not work.   A better decision for this, and all horror films, would have been to go with unknown faces.

Besides the casting of and how they chose to film the star, the filmmakers spent too much time making the film as gross as possible while losing focus on things like reality and lighting continuity.  The film is so grungy, it is almost as if we shot on another planet.  Every possible surface is dirty, greasy, muck-filled and slimy.  I have witnessed some disgusting things on "Hoarders," but this is is just ridiculous.  Not only is every surface so disgusting that even the least germaphobic person would be hunting for the closest bottle of Purell, but at one point an actor purposely dips his fingers in to investigate the pink slime in a bowl he is passing as if it were a pot of his Grandma's spaghetti sauce.  Who does that?  Another person chooses to open and investigate the inside of a fridge IN A POORLY LIT ROOM FULL OF BODY PARTS AND SHARP OBJECTS.  What was he expecting to find, a delicious looking sandwich he could bite into before anyone notices?  There are numerous elements that just don't make sense.  Then there is the lighting, from day to night, night to day, foggy to clear.  Sure looks cool--- makes no sense.

Then again, this is a horror film.  We did not come for a lesson in common sense, we came to be scared and this film does a good job delivering some scare.  The setup to most horror films put a bunch of dumb people into incredibly, uncomfortable experiences in isolated or unfamiliar surroundings.  Nothing new here, after making the standard poor choices of picking up a disoriented, bloody hitchhiker while hunting for drugs the crew encounters a psycho cop, a oddball family and of course a beast of a man wearing a mask made of human leather and yielding a chainsaw while yielding a chainsaw.  Although none of the group is all that likable you should be rooting for the as they are picked off one at a time - the scenes are intense and decision making of the characters is excruciating (in a good way.)  Many of the horror cliches are here and turned into a fairly satisfying, uncomfortable 90 minutes.  If you are looking for a tribute to the original film you MAY be disappointed.  If you just want to see a entertaining film from this genre, you could do much, much worse.  You will never be bored and always anticipating the next roar of the chainsaw.

For the naysayers, I will be watching the original 1976 version during next year's 31DoH... it better be THAT good.


SCARINESS                  3.0 out of 5  Would have been more effective if they cast unknowns, otherwise you have to wonder how the hell all this happened to Jessica Biel and no one had ever known. 


GORE/VIOLENCE       4.5 out of 5   Some pretty disgusting imagery - body parts, chainsawed torsos, Harry Knowles.


STORY                           2.0 out of 5   Standard sex and drugs lead to death and death storyline.


Overall Rating (as a film, not just as a horror film):  6.5 out of 10

Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Shining - Review (1980) 31 Days of Horror #9

Synopsis:  An author with writer's block and his family head to an isolated hotel for the winter to work on a new novel... not a bad gig unless some turns psychotic.


Review:  As I have been writing these reviews I realized just how many whacked out films I watched as a kid.  The Shining was just one of the films I ingested at a similar age to that of the boy playing Danny in the film.  I recall how exciting it was to get to school the next day to discuss some of the more shocking moments that were intended for a much older audience.  It's the perfect film to scar your children for life.  Although I do not feel as I suffered any ill effects from my young viewing I am surprised that what was effective back then holds up well today.

Like Jaws, Alien and so many other terrifying films the isolated location is the perfect setting to prey upon your fears.  The place is isolated as it is, add a massive winter storm and some terrify visions and all there is left are you and your nightmares with nowhere to run.  What exactly is at play here, a man losing his mind, some sort of supernatural experience or both?  Whatever it is, it escalate into madness.

The glue that holds this film together is the over-the-top performance of Jack Nicholson.  He lays is all out there and sells crazy in a somewhat entertaining and disturbing way.  The contrast of his performance with Shelly DuVall's gee-golly-this-is-good-rhubarb-pie delivery makes for some messed up scenes.  You might feel the urge to laugh until you remember most of what he is saying has something to do with abusing his wife or worse.  Still, Jack is irresistible - elevating bad to good and good to great.

I better wrap this up, my finger is thirsty.  Isn't it a bit early in the day for rum, red or any other color?


SCARINESS                4.0 out of 5     Red Rum, the twins, the bath tub, the voice  - Creepsville

GORE/VIOLENCE     2.5 out of 5     Some violent scenes, lighter on gore than most.


STORY                         4.0 out of  5     Much shallower than the novel but still effective.




Overall Rating (just as a film, not a horror film):  8 out of 10

Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Omen - Review (1976) 31 Days of Horror #7

Synopsis:  After a tragedy during the birth of his first child, U.S. diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) is offered a second chance to be a father.  A father to what is the question.

Review:  Scaring people is not an easy thing to do.  There is one shortcut to success for a portion of the audience, throw religion into the mix.  The Omen not only adds religion to the mix it incorporates verses from the Bible specifically from the Book of Revelations - the portion of the Bible that discusses the end of days, the end of the world.  The writings reveal that the Devil's son will come to earth and rise to power, forcing Jesus to return to pass judgement between the living and the dead - Judgement Day.  Scary shit.

This film takes the bible passages, combines them with some good acting and one hell of a score (pun was intended, even though I prefer to pretend otherwise) to create a truly haunting film.  The score for this film is the epitome of horror film music.  Just listening to it feels like an invitation to the Devil to take your soul and send you to an eternity of watching Grown Ups.  When added behind even the most mundane things they are transformed into tools of the devil.  And then there is the kid, Damien... what a creepy little dude.  I cannot imagine his parents having an easy time finding a babysitter.

I am not sure how those not raised in religious families will respond to this, but those who have should be thoroughly freaked out.


SCARINESS              4.5 out of 5  If you were taught in a Catholic school, this film should shake you like an angry nun.


GORE/VIOLENCE       2 out of 5  A couple of  shocking images.  Nothing to lose your head over.


STORY                       4 out of  5   Fairly simple story that has some real weight.


Overall Rating (just as a film, not as a horror film):  7.5 out of 10

Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here.

Jaws - Review (1975) 31 Days of Horror #6

Synopsis:  When a small beach town's most profitably holiday week is put at risk due to a couple shark attacks it is up to the water-fearing police chief (Roy Scheider) and a couple of misfits (Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss) to save the day.  (Okay, maybe they are not your standard misfits, but wouldn't  Shaw and Dreyfuss be wonderful as a live action Yukon Cornelius and Hermey?)


Review:  You know you have a good film on your hands when you have seen it a dozen times and still find it just as thrilling and fun to watch as the first.  Sure, I know what is coming, and yet, I still watch it with the same anticipation as a little kid waiting for Christmas morning.  Every time I hear, "you're gonna need a bigger boat," is liked opening the big gift.  The combination of the premise, the rich characters, the acting, the score, the cinematography, the editing allows Spielberg to cook up a near perfect thriller.

If they made Jaws today it would be saturated with shots of a CGI shark that performing outrageous stunts and over-the-top bloody kills, all while boring the audience.  Spielberg did not have that option and thank goodness that is the case.  It is well-known Hollywood legend that Shirley, the mechanical shark, was malfunctioning - forcing Spielberg to find a creative approach to telling the tale of a shark attacking a beach town, quite often without a shark to shoot.  No special effects to use as a crutch, just skilled filmmaking.    This forced exercise in creativity possibly made him a better director and set the path for who he is today.

The water scenes where viewers are anticipating another swimmer to be transformed into another bloody stain on the water are intense.  Anyone that has a fear of the water or of what swims within it probably holding their breath waiting to return to the safety of dry land while Spielberg masterfully plays puppeteer to the fear that lies within us.  These scenes are exceptionally done.  What also amazes me what Spielberg does between the shark scenes - the simpler scenes that are used to develop characters and their relationships and their fears.  Unlike some films, where the dialogue is just the boring part between the action, this film makes great use of every scene. 


SCARINESS              3 out of 5   If you have a fear of water you will be more affected, but this is intense either way.

GORE/VIOLENCE       2 out of 5   Some quick shots of the leftovers of a shark attack - nothing too graphic.


STORY                       4 out of  5  You get pulled in pretty quickly.

Overall Rating (as a film, not only as a horror film):  9.5 out of 10

Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Stake Land - Review (2010) 31 Days of Horror #5

Synopsis:  As the population of earth humans dwindles after a vampire pandemic, the remaining few band together and head for a safe haven.

Review:  This film provides another take on a post-apocalyptic America, this time with vamps taking over the landscape and wiping out the human population.  The center of this tale are Mister and Martin (Nick Damici and Connor Paolo,) a vampire-hunter and a teenager out on his own that trek across the country picking up the few remaining humans as they head to the "New Eden." 

There is not a great deal of action helping to keep the film focused more on substance than filler.   It is not vampire battle after battle, instead there is time to breath with some long quiet scenes used to establish just how bleak of time it is for humanity.  Some story lines do feel underdeveloped storylines, like that of the the vampire worshiping cult - maybe they are being saved for a sequel.

The tone and plot are similar to that of The Road, yet, it comes across as a much bigger film than it should.  With a budget under a million dollars, they really made the most with it.  Nice simple, realistic sets that don't suffer from looking like the over-produced ones that so often sinks so many films in the genre.  Even the vampires have a satisfactory style to them - unique, without looking too low budget.  The mostly nameless cast works at keeping the film believable, the only time you are pulled out of the story with a known face is with that of Kelly McGillis (of Top Gun fame) who is barely recognizable anyway.  It is nice see Danielle Harris make an appearance (horror fans will recognize her as Jamie, Michael Meyer's niece in Halloween 4 and 5.)

This little know film is work the look.  If you check it out you may want to bring along a friend for company.



SCARINESS              2.0 out of 5   Sticks more in the dark and interesting than the scary.


GORE/VIOLENCE       3.0 out of 5  Plenty of vampire staking and vampire leftovers, usually in darkened environments that hide the details.



STORY                       3.0 out of  5  The father-son dynamic adds to a tale we have seen before. 

Overall Rating (just as a film, not a horror film):  7.0 out of 10


Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here.

A Film You May Want To See: DUST UP


A friend of the site has a film coming to iTunes today.  If you like over-the-top, crazy, fun films this is the perfect fit for a night's viewing.  Reviewers have compared it to the good old days in of seeing movies at the drive-in in the 1970's.  Instead of taking part in worthless activities like watching reality TV, reading a book or talking to your kids, download this film on iTunes.   This may not be for everyone, but it may be for you.  Help a friend out and check it out.

Here is the plot.
A one-eyed vigilante with a dark past has vowed to change his ways, trading his machine gun for a yoga mat. But when he encounters a beautiful young mother (Amber Benson - Tyra from Buffy) in deep trouble with a cannibalistic drug lord and his evil goons, he realizes that justice must be served. Teamed up with his smooth-talking Native American hipster sidekick, our hero rides into the badass brawl of the century.

Shaun of the Dead - Review (2004) 31 Days of Horror #4

Synopsis:  Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost) go through a daily routine of sitting on the couch, playing video games, going to a dead end job and topping it off with a trip to their favorite pub, The Winchester.  That is until the world is under a full-on zombie attack, then they just need to find a way to The Winchester.


Review:  Shaun of the Dead is one of those films that gets better each time you watch it.  It is perfectly balanced horror comedy providing both some scares and a great deal of laughs.  The filmmakers obviously know and love the genre and it shows with this spot on parody.  They mash together so many different genres - horror, parody, satire, romance, bromance, family drama - with varying success.  It is a rare horror treat for a relatively wide audience.  One reason it can work with so many demographics is the horror tends to be delivered with a dash of humor - they violence is often over the top and often funny.

The bromance (not a term I use often, but it fits) between Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, which is more interesting than Pegg's romance with the ex-girlfriend, is the second biggest draw only to the smart social satire.  We are represented as mindless zombies with short attention spans that are stuck following their daily routine - and that is BEFORE the zombie outbreak.  The film is clever.

SCARINESS              2 out of 5       The scares are cut with humor.  A few startling moments.  But, it is safe to say, you won't have nightmares from this. 


GORE/VIOLENCE       2.5 out of 5      There is a good amount of gore, but it most often part of a joke.  Unless you are a complete lightweight you won't be covering your eyes.



STORY                       4.5 out of  5      One of the best balanced horror comedy with a great bromance mixed in.


 
Overall Rating (as a film, not just as a horror film):  8 out of 10

Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Psycho - Review (1960) 31 Days of Horror #3

Synopsis:  Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) takes her romance into  her own hands when she steals $40K from her boss to run away with her lover.  Unfortunately for her a suspicious officer is on her tail so decides to hide out in a little place known as the Bates Motel, run by the almost too-friendly Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins.)


Review: 
As far as Hitchcock films go, this one may be the most well known which is a problem for those watching it.  Unfortunately, if you know anything about film you will most likely already know the major twists and shocking moments before they occur.


While Psycho is a classic Hitchcock film, but as a horror film it just does not compare in the level of terror expected by modern viewing audiences.  It plays upon our fears and build's audience anticipation to create a tense scenes and the subject matter in general - a young lady on the run taking refuge in a creepy motel run by a creepier caretaker with mother issues - provides for an entertaining film.


Hitchcock tells the story in a way that the audience becomes invested in the main character before we learn what the film is really about.  From the forbidden romance that turns a young lady to theft, to the family run motel that has some convenient peepholes.  The surface show normalcy, while the secrets lie just below the surface.  Its these secrets that draw in the audience and prepare us for a film that was the first of a kind for its era.   The unforgettable score, is one of the best - heightening the intensity of each moment.   And Perkins turned Norman Bates into a film icon - not easy to do.  You may not be scared by this film, but the themes remain as effective as ever.  They tried a shot for shot remake this in 1998 with poor results - avoid it.
 
Scariness:                 2     It is tense and creepy, but few scares.  I am sure it scared the shellack out of audiences in the 60's, but tor today this is tame.


Gore/Violence:          1      Even an episode of CSI makes this look makes this look like a kid's film.


Story:                     4.0       It is a good yarn that will keep horror fans interested while the scares are lacking.


Overall rating (as a film, not just a horror film):  8 out of 10

Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Good Day to Die Hard Trailer

John McClane is back. Terrorists lose. Audiences win.
Some people thought the series would die at two films, then the fun third and fourth films came out. Bring on number five.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Fly - Review (1986) 31 Days of Horror #2

Synopsis:  Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is a scientist that thinks he has figured out the secret to teleportation.  Everything, including his new romance seem to be coming up roses... except for the itsy, tiny little fly that happens to join him in the tele
portation pod.

Review:   The film works because you can identify with Jeff Goldblum (who does a tremendous job playing odd,) someone on the brink of greatness that just can't get there.   His mad scientist bit a less psychotic and more geek chic.

There are some moments in the film that I remember from the last time I saw it (probably about 15 years ago) as if it was yesterday.  Although it does not deliver a lot of scares, it succeeds at being wacked out creepy, gross and thought provoking.  What starts as a romance (with the beautiful, underused Geena Davis) evolves into a cautionary tale.  This is one of Cronenberg's best.


SCARINESS              2.0 out of 5  
This is not a very scary film, but it sure is creepyand gross.

GORE/VIOLENCE       4 out of 5
It does not sport a huge body count, it does sport some disgusting images that will stick with you as you watch other things detach.

STORY                       4 out of  5
A simple story of a man that risks everything to obtain some godlike power and loses everything... literally.


Overall Rating (just as a film, not a horror film):  7.5 out of 10

Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Let Me In - Review (2010) - 31 Days of Horror #1

Synopsis:  The story of a bullied 12-year-old boy that becomes friend with a girl that looks to be his age.  The relationship turns out to be much more unique than expected.

Review:  One thing that makes this a standout film (not just a standout horror film) is that fact that this is more than a one dimensional horror story and more a story about loneliness and friendship.  This may sound odd, but it is probably the sweetest horror story I can remember seeing.  Instead of focusing on creating scares it allows the viewer to get wrapped up in the relationship of two outcasts.  It is slow, subtle and deliberate.  The story of the friendship creates a great contrast to the horror that lies within.  The horror is unique in that it is never played for scares, it is just scary as hell.  Instead of all the horror cliches, a quiet scene suddenly breaks out in terror because that is where the story leads it.  There is a long periods of silence and between them are some terrifying moments.   Don't expect any things popping to get that cheap jolt or scream, instead expect images and concepts that will stick with you for a long time. 

This is a rare remake that keeps intact all that made the original so noteworthy.  Which begs the question, why make it then?  I guess Americans REALLY hate reading (or Swedish.)

SCARINESS              4.0 out of 5  
The scares creep up on you.  It is not death after death like some films so when they occur it is more effective.

GORE/VIOLENCE       4 out of 5
Not a ton of gore, but the images presented will resonate.

STORY                       5 out of  5
If you removed the horror aspect of this film it could play like a coming of age drama - it is not just a horror film.  That is rare and works in its favor.

Overall Rating (just as a film, not a horror film):  9 out of 10

Check out the rest of the reviews for FilmSnork's 31 Days of Horror here.