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Thursday, May 31, 2012

HOUR OF THE WOLF

Okay, folks. First I'd like to get the big Nordic elephant out of the way: Oscar-nominated Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann is basically Chris Colfer's face-twin. It was a little distracting.
                  
            
Alright. On with the review…
              
                      
I had never seen an Ingmar Bergman movie before Hour of the Wolf. Everything I knew about Ingmar Bergman I learned from Simpsons references and Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey. I knew that he was a Scandinavian director who did a bunch of artsy black-and-white movies and that Woody Allen loved him. I also knew, almost without a shadow of a doubt, that his movies were not my style. I pictured long, murky parables about war and death. I pictured beautiful cinematography and absolute boredom. I didn’t picture horror movies. And yet, here I am, writing about an Ingmar Bergman movie in my horror blog.
                
Hour of the Wolf, from what I could tell, is about a pregnant woman and her older husband who live on an island. The husband is slowly getting crazier and crazier because of his interactions with the island's other residents, a castle full of wack-jobs, including a woman that he fooled around with before knocking up his current wife. This guy is pushed to the edge by the surrounding characters, and his wife is becoming increasingly afraid that she’s starting to share her husband’s psychosis. I’m not going to continue explaining the plot, because it isn’t exactly linear, so let’s instead talk about how I might interpret some of the events of this story.
               
               
ONE: The husband is a crazy artist who has retreated to this isolated island to be alone. He lashes out at everyone he meets (including the little boy on the beach) because of some intense distrust of the outside world. He has his pregnant wife to cling to, but when he finally lashes out at her (he shoots her), that’s the final straw and he cracks, disappearing forever into himself.
                
TWO: None of the characters are real except for the husband and wife. The husband has elaborate delusions about the strange people he meets. Slowly, his wife begins to see them too. When one of these delusions gives him the gun he uses to shoot his wife, then his psychosis has finally crossed into a level where he can no longer be cured. At the end of the movie, his wife talks about a scar that the bullets left on her, thus implying that not only is she now damaged by her husband’s psychosis, but now she’s fully succumbed to it, too.
              
            
I could go on discussing about a dozen theories that try to tie together all the loose ends and abrupt moments of violence (and cross-dressing). In fact, that’s probably what Bergman wanted. But I’m of the mindset that reviews aren’t about interpretations, they’re about recommendations. Did I enjoy this movie? Was I intrigued instead of confused? Would I recommend this? I think I’d say yes to all three questions.
            
This is a difficult movie, one with characters that don’t really behave like real people and situations that don’t quite gel. Intellectually, I’m frustrated. Emotionally, I’m highly pleased. This movie kept me surprised, tense, and weirdly curious. The dinner scene at the castle… the violent outburst with the little kid… the laughing ex-girlfriend corpse lady… these were moments that will probably stick with me for a while. As a whole, I prefer my movies to be a little more straight-forward than this, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating how unsettling everything comes across.
                
Is this a horror movie? Sure. I have a fairly inclusive definition of horror. Everything from Jaws to Rosemary’s Baby to Silence of the Lambs fits under the umbrella. This is psychological. It’s a lot like 2010’s Antichrist without all that squicky gore. Is it wall-to-wall scary? Nope. But I think this one will linger with me.
           
            
I just don’t think it completely works as a narrative film. It’s like watching a hallucination, which is a pretty powerful experience. Sure. But once you realize it’s just a hallucination, it’s hard to really care about what happens.

FOR MORE HOUR OF THE WOLF FUN, CHECK OUT THESE OTHER, MUCH BETTER REVIEWS:

Moon Is a Dead World
Lerner International
United Provinces of Ivanlandia
The Lightning Bug’s Lair




Wednesday, May 23, 2012

DEADLY BLESSING

    
STATS:
Deadly Blessing
Directed by Wes Craven
      
WHA’ HAPPENED?
You thought Amish people were bad. (Wait. Did you?) Just wait till you meet the Hittites, these crazy farmers that get caught up in a slow-moving horror mystery involving tractors, snakes, and someone dropping a live tarantula into Sharon Stone's mouth.
     
FAVORITE QUOTE:
A poor manchild has been killed.
     
ISN’T THAT SPECIAL?
Why did I watch this movie? Well, it was directly by Wes Craven. And I’m a completist. I was sure it couldn’t be worse than My Soul to Take. But the fact that this is mostly known as the movie where Sharon Stone got a live tarantula in her mouth tells me that it wasn’t exactly one of Craven's top tier movies.
          
SHIRTS AND SKINS:
Some PG female nudity. Including a bathtub scene with an overly curious snake. Similar to Nancy’s bathtub scene in the first Nightmare on Elm Street. If Mr. Craven has to rip off other movies, they might as well be his own.
    
BLOOD AND GUTS:
Nothing particularly memorably. Most deaths occur in shadowy barns and whatnot, so there isn’t a lot to see. Apparently, Amish country isn’t very well-lit. Who knew! But that guy from The Hills Have Eyes gets probably the longest death scene. So there’s that.
    
PLOT HOLES AND CRAZINESS:
The reveal of the killer is sudden and kind of dumb, but holy crap does the film have an awesome ending. Think Drag Me to Hell, but completely unearned. Like, if Freddy Krueger showed up at the end of Scream. It makes no damn sense, but it is probably the only thing I will remember about this movie in a month. That and the scene where Sharon Stone gets a tarantula in her mouth. Now that’s the stuff that dreams are made of.
           
FINAL THOUGHTS:
Ernest Borgnine was born to play a crazy Hittite farmer. Forget his Oscar-winning role in Marty. THIS is his legacy. Aside from him, though, everyone else is pretty much sleeping through this film, especially Martha, the main girl, who goes from constipated to dizzy without ever registering terror. All-in-all, a forgetting slog of a film, even for its short run-time, but be sure to stay for that cuckoo-bananas ending. You will not regret it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

AMITYVILLE DOLLHOUSE

     
Amityville Dollhouse
1996
  
Tagline: The biggest name in horror comes home. (What?)
    
Starring Kalabar from Disney’s Halloweentown. That’s about it. And it took me literally the entire movie to figure out where I knew him from.
    
     
WHA’ HAPPENED?
Basically the same nonsense from all the Amityville sequels: supporting characters die but the family is more-or-less safe. Everyone thinks the dad is going crazy. The house blows up at the end.
      
The difference here is that the magic dollhouse of the title is to blame, and it can summon demons, giant rats, and previously dead relatives. Also, the family’s younger son is a creepy little whiner whose only friend is a pet rat. Remember when I said that no one in the core family gets murdered? Well, sometimes that’s not a good thing.
   
ISN’T THAT SPECIAL?
The mid-90s was a wonderland of random direct-to-video sequels to semi-popular horror films. Some were fun (Leprechaun 2, 3, and 4), some were painful (Children of the Corn 5), and some involved an evil dollhouse that summoned dead people.
    
SHIRTS AND SKINS:
The older son has a shirtless make-out session with his girlfriend. It’s fairly steamy, until the girlfriend basically gets eaten by the fireplace. It’s kind of a mood-killer.
     
BLOOD AND GUTS:
The zombie dad was pretty great, in a Pet Semetary 2 kind of way, and the burn victim girlfriend was effective. (Seriously, do NOT date someone who lives in a haunted house.) But the coolest scene is when the teen son gets an earful of mosquito. It was like that scene in Wrath of Khan, but with a more realistic fake ear. Gloopy goodness.
        
FINAL THOUGHTS:
After watching Amityville 1992: It’s About Time (which is a slightly lamer title than Dollhouse), I’ve decided that this sequel is just as bad, if slightly less inconsequential. As always, there are plenty of dry patches, and the climax is a little rushed (Look! A demon! Okay, let’s leave.) But it’s charming in a bone-headed way, and the scene with the giant rat was adorable.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I DISMEMBER MAMA

Welcome to VHS Tuesday, where I dig up one of my old, awful horror videos and share its delightfully stupid packaging. When horror videos first started flooding the market, the marketing geniuses really went to town thinking up the best taglines and the most hilariously literal summaries. Today we have I Dismember Mama, an awful, awful video nasty that I never want to see again. But its packaging: pure genius.
   
This is the cover. Look! It’s Roy Scheider playing a washed-up magician.
   

   
Note the tagline: May she rest… in pieces. Damn. Gets me every time.
     
And the summary:
        
POOR ALBERT IS JUST CRAZY ABOUT WOMEN.
     
Albert (Zooey Hall) is a mentally disturbed young man incarcerated in a rest home run by Dr. Burton (Frank Whiteman).
    
A nurse’s reprimand (Elaine Partnow) causes him to lock her in his room, strip off her clothes and attempt to murder her. Then an attendant (James Tartan) is brutally murdered and Albert escapes. And so starts a killing spree more brutal than any ever seen in the annals of filmmaking. First his mothers servant goes, then a call girl in a series of chilling murders culminating in a terrifying Hitchcockian climax that will leave you breathless time and time again!
      
Not only do we know exactly who dies (and in what order!) but we also know that this is the most brutal, Hitchcockian story ever put to film. God bless whatever minimum wage copy-writer wrote this description. You almost make me want to see this movie again. Almost.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

PIECES

      
No words can describe how awesome and derivative this movie is. Oh wait. Words totally can do that! And here they are:
       
PIECES… It’s exactly what you think it is!
   
The year is 1941! A young boy is assembling a jigsaw puzzle of a nude woman, when his mother enters in a rage and tells him to throw the puzzle out. Instead he returns with an ax and hacks his mother to death, tricking the police into believing a maniac had killed her.
   
Forty years later at a Boston college, the terror really begins. A chainsaw-weilding madman is roaming the campus collecting pieces of beautiful co-eds for a ghastly human puzzle he is assembling—and the police haven’t a clue to the crazed killer's identity.
    
CHRISTOPHER GEORGE (MORTUARY) stars in this horrifying adventure into madness, hysteria and bone-chilling brutality.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Rainbow Brite

                        
Rainbow Brite was a Japanimation series from the 1980s. Nuff said. That sentence alone will tell you whether you want to watch it or not. I am not much of a fan of that style of animation, and this particular show seemed aimed entirely at females who love bright colors and horses. Fun fact: I have a legitimate phobia of horses. I am afraid that they’ll kick me in the face.
           
Despite the fact that this show is obviously not for me, for some reason Netflix kept recommending the Rainbow Brite TV movie about star-stealers or something. Anyway, I buckled and decided to check it out.
                 
          
Then, for the next hour and a half, I half-watched this movie. The entire thing. I wasn’t doing anything else. I was just watching it. And I must have been inside some kind of rainbow-triggered trance, because I don’t remember a single thing that happened. Five minutes after the movie ended, I didn’t remember anything. Sure, I had little snippets here and there, like the bitchy evil princess talking to herself and the Boobah-looking creatures. But other than that, nothing.
 
Seriously, some things are just not meant for me. This is one of them.
                     

Thursday, May 3, 2012

WARLOCK III

       
WHA’ HAPPENED?
The WARLOCK is back, and this time hes played by some random guy who isn’t Julian Sands. He lures a bunch of lusty college students to an old house and kills them off. The only girl who stands a chance is Kirsty from Hellraiser, because seriously, she survived Pinhead and this guy is just some Eurotrash poser.
   
ISN’T THAT SPECIAL?
Coming a decade-plus after the original and its surprisingly enjoyable sequel, this installment always seemed to have that late-90s, early-2000s horror vibe: a little younger, a little sexier, a little more Scream-inspired. At least, that’s what the cover reminded me of. A demon-shadow (one of the all-time great horror posters) has been replaced by a bunch of pretty young people looking blankly at us.
    
SHIRTS AND SKINS:
Yup. There was basically nothing in the first two movies to satisfy the T and A quotient, but this one has that in spades. Basically, that main girl can have sexual chemistry with a toaster. She really brought it for this movie, especially considering how haunted she has to behave and how lame her family-drama-backstory truly is.
           
                         
BLOOD AND GUTS:
Yeah, but the director made the regrettable decision of ratcheting up the tension by cutting everything like a music video, complete with random flashes of light. It’s a horror movie aesthetic that has thankfully died down a little in the last few years, but holy crap is it intrusive.
          
PLOT HOLES AND CRAZINESS:
Something about a doll and a magic knife. Fun fact: I pretty much ignored the attempts at story here. Everything just felt a little low-rent for me, and not in an awesome look-it’s-a-warlock-adjusting-to-life-in-the-80s kind of way.
           
RANDOM THOUGHTS:
Whatever happened to Julian Sands? And does he still keep Sherrilyn Fenn in a box?


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Truth Or Dare?

   
Happy Tuesday! Here's another awful VHS summary. This comes from the 1986 slasher Truth Or Dare?, one of the most notorious video nasties I have had the pleasure of sitting through. Here is what the video box says:
     
It’s Time To Play TRUTH OR DARE? A Critical Madness
    
(The question mark makes everything seem less scary, somehow.)
   
Meet Mike Strauber. He plays a deadly game. He plays Truth or Dare with everyone…even himself.
    
Truth Or Dare, a child’s game turned into a psychotic, twisted game of self-destruction. This non-stop psycho-thriller packed with action will assault you personally. Mike Strauber, played brilliantly by John Brace, formerly of the Burt Reynolds Playhouse, brings you to the edge of your seat with passionate understanding coupled with unbridled hatred. If anyone ever asks you to play Truth Or Dare… tell them you’ve seen the movie.