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31st-Oct-2014 08:48 pm - 31 Days of Halloween: Home Stretch!
This is as far as I made it this year. Still, not too shabby!

Day 22) We Are What We Are
Oh man, this movie. If you can't tell, towards the end it got harder and harder to track down the stuff on my actual list (this happens every year), so I just grabbed whatever I could carry, and this was a great find. I'm told it's a remake of a Mexican movie (or based on the same screenplay, anyway), but the basic premise is: cannibal family in the American South. No, not that kind. It's actually very understated and gothic in feel; it builds the premise slowly and realistically, and by the halfway mark you start to realize the cannibalism is the starting point--not the main hook. Instead, this movie uses a stock horror situation to tell a very personal, emotionally wrenching story about family, love, and hope. Also, the ending scene has the savory kick-in-the-teeth intensity of old classics like Psycho and Night of the Living Dead, the kind where you can kinda guess what's coming but the tension winds so tight that when it breaks, you feel both revulsion at what you're watching and relief that the wait is finally over. If you can find it, definitely pick it up.

Day 23) The Fog (2005)
John Carpenter's original is quite possibly my favorite Carpenter film after The Thing (given I haven't seen them all yet). And the reason is the tone. The original The Fog has that slow creep that seeps into your bones and makes you cold before anything creepy even happens. Also, it has one of the best opening sequences I've ever seen, and that's what sets the tone. This remake has a pretty decent opening sequence--Pirate Ship On Fire! Well, okay, it's not technically a pirate ship, but it is pirate-ish looking, and it is on fire, and that's all good fun. It too sets the tone of the film that follows, but in this case we very clearly have less of a slow creep going on, and more of what I've come to expect from contemporary high-budget stuff: one death scene after another (actually, mostly near-death scenes in this case--hardly anyone dies in this movie, it's weird) with lots of screaming. It's better than I was expecting, and makes up in character what it lacks in atmosphere. I liked Maggie Grace's character a lot, which really surprised me, but I'm a sucker for reincarnation/retribution story arcs, so there's that. OH, speaking of Maggie Grace, shall we play the Multi-Fandom Plot Summary game? Because this cast is asking for it: Superman and Tanya of the Alaska Coven (whose Vampire Power is flashback visions, apparently) team up with Liz Sherman from Hellboy to fight Zombie Pirates!! (Yeah yeah, I know they're not pirates--shut up.) It's not as awesome as I'm making it sound, but it's on the less shabby end of the remake scale.

Day 24) Dracula Has Risen From The Grave
I mentioned this elseweb, but this particular marathon made me realize something: I prefer Dracula stories in which we don't follow the actual story from Bram Stoker's novel. There are so many more possibilities out there, and this is one of them. I loved everyone in the ensemble cast--everyone. They aren't dumb, they aren't obnoxious, and they aren't evil. And on the occasion they disagree (Atheist Suitor vs Priest Uncle) they're at least civil to each other, which is a nice change of pace from everyone just being mad at each other all the time. Also, damn, I keep forgetting what great presence Christopher Lee has, especially as Dracula. He can be standing in the corner of the room doing nothing, and he'd still be the most interesting thing in the scene. I'm not clear on exactly what his goal was here: "revenge" in a very vague sense? I don't know. It's light on plot, but strong on character, and that made it easy to watch.

Day 25) The Innkeepers
Speaking of strong on character, I might be a little in love with Sara Paxton right now. The premise here is both an homage to and a mockery of every "Ghosthunters" episode you've ever seen: this old hotel is going out of business, and on the last weekend, the sole two employees left decide to have themselves a ghost hunt and try to capture something on camera. There's not much motivation behind it--the hotel is closing either way, and they aren't particularly sorry to see it go; Pat Healy's character has a ghost-themed website and is sorta trying to get something to post on it; but mostly, they're just bored and killing time while the last hours of their employment whiddle away. It's so simply rendered, so ordinary in the lighting, framing, and prop work, that it really shouldn't work as well as it does. The only reason it works at all is because of Healy and Paxton's breezy, believable dialogue and casual intimacy. In a matter of seconds, I felt like I'd known these two forever, and kinda wanted to hang out with them and tell scary stories around a flashlight in the lobby. Also, it's funny--not all the way through, but again, the casual tone and realistic atmosphere brings in a sense of self-conscious silliness, neither taking itself too seriously, nor entirely writing off the phenomena that occur as faked or coincidental. Along with We Are What We Are, this is the kind of low-budget, character-focused storytelling that's been popularized by the success of Blumhouse movies. I wouldn't give them full credit for starting a trend just yet--I'll have to put myself through an entirely different marathon to reach that conclusion--but if this is what we have to look forward to in horror movies yet to come, I am all for it.

Happy Halloween!!
29th-Oct-2014 11:15 pm - The Awakening (2011)
 photo awakening3.png

This BBC film starts off creepy right off the bat. Florence Cathcart (very hard name to catch, I kept thinking it was something different each time I heard it!) is an Edwardian mythbuster, specializing in ghosts. She's utterly consumed with a desire to bring truth to light, and so truth and fear are the paramount themes from beginning to end. This works surprisingly well, making the movie a pretty even toss-up between horror and mystery.

More this way . . .Collapse )
23rd-Oct-2014 09:52 am - 31 Days of Halloween: Days 18 thru 21
Day 18) The Possession
This the second movie I've seen with a Dybbuk, the other being The Unborn. A Dybbuk, by the way, is essentially Hebrew for "Demon." It's also the name of about three different heavy metal bands in three different countries, because of course it is. Here, the central family is going through a divorce and the younger daughter, Emily, takes a shine to this mysterious box at a yard sale, and very quickly begins acting . . . strange. From there on, the Idiot Ball is passed generously from character to character depending on who needs to overlook something obvious at any given time. I kept waiting for someone to notice the gigantic creepy ring Emily starts wearing about twenty minutes in, and they never did. No--never. Never! Casting Matisyahu as the Orthodox Jew who helps them with the exorcism was an inspired choice though--there's a school of thought that advocates for casting POCs and LGBT actors in parts that call for them, rather than rewriting them or giving straight white folks major awards for pretending to be them, which has been the trend up until, oh, now-ish. So yeah, as casting decisions go, it's definitely not a bad one. The acting is bland, the plot is predictable, and the writing is weak, but honestly I might've been able to overlook that if not for one thing: the divorce plot. The second I heard the word "divorce," I immediately went, "Oh Christ, is this one of those stories where the parents are separating and the kids want them back together and this monster thing they have to deal with makes them realize What's Really Important and their relationship is magically better by the end of the movie? I sure hope not, because that shit never works out in real life." Believe me, I know. Five minutes, and that was my prediction. (I was right.) This only happens in two genres: Horror and made-for-TV Christmas Specials, only for the latter swap out "monster thing" with "leukemia" or something equally glurgy. I would be QUITE happy never to see this plotline again. NEXT!

Day 19) Martha Marcy May Marlene
I believe it was Captain Awkward who described this as a "horror movie about PTSD," and that's pretty apt, so I'm gonna stick with it. The titular character (played by Elizabeth Olsen) has been in a cult-like commune for about two years, and escapes to her sister's vacation house at the beginning of the movie. To explain the title: her given name is "Martha," the cult leader decides to rename her "Marcy May," and the female members of the cult are instructed to answer the phone as "Marlene" to preserve anonymity. What she calls herself is unclear, but I think that's deliberate because her displaced sense of identity is kind of a theme here. From the cleverly edited flashbacks that make it difficult to separate M's past from her present, to her wildly inappropriate reactions to seemingly "normal" situations after she escapes, to Olsen's disarmingly understated performance, this is excellently well made. But it is very, VERY hard to watch, and disturbing for all the right reasons. So I find myself in a sticky position of wanting to tell people what a great movie this is, but hesitating to recommend it to anyone with triggers for things like rape, manipulation, and abuse. I will say this: in the world of fiction, there are several stories that attempt to visit all those ugly places in order to make some kind of point or reveal the truth about what life is like after surviving an ordeal like what M endures here. But this is the first one I've seen that tackles its subject matter with honesty and sensitivity without flinching away from a very real type of horror. The ambiguous ending frustrated me at first, and I've seen that reaction elsewhere, but I also think it's fitting considering the reality here: whether she manages to escape her past in a tangible sense doesn't matter. Those experiences are going to be part of her life forever, and that's the point.

Day 20) Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Okay, Public Service Announcement time. Might as well get out my megaphone. *tap tap* {{{{MY FELLOW HORROR FANS. FROM NOW ON, I AM TRUSTING MY OWN INSTINCTS. IF I SEE A TRAILER AND I THINK THE RESULTING MOVIE IS GOING TO BE SHIT, I WILL NOT WATCH IT EVEN IF THE REVIEWS & RECOMMENDATIONS FROM PEOPLE WHOSE OPINIONS I NORMALLY TRUST AND RESPECT ARE BOTH AMAZING. IF I PERSONALLY THINK IT MIGHT BE SHIT, I WILL IGNORE YOU.}}}} Not making that mistake again. I said it looked like a cheaper, more anachronistic version of Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm and that's exactly what it is, down to the Action Girl eventually needing to be rescued. Shame, shame on ALL of you who told me to give this monstrosity the time of day. Another thing I noticed after the fact is that every single female character turns out to be a witch. Every single one. And all but one of them (the one who ends up needing to be rescued) dies. That said--I need to see Gemma Arterton in more things, if only to listen to her voice. I don't know what it is, but I could listen to her read the dictionary. Yeah, that's all I have to say here. NEXT!

Day 21) The Raven
Was this in 3D originally? The way some of the shots are framed makes me wonder. That's the thing about gimmicky visual stuff like that--if it's noticeable when the gimmick isn't accessible, it becomes a distraction. Anyway, I snatched this up because I needed another Luke Evans fix before The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies comes out, and he's in Victorian garb here (Yay!), so at least I was satisfied on that front. John Cusack plays Edgar Allen Poe during his last days in Baltimore, when a killer turns up staging his crimes like the scenes in Poe's stories. Evans is the main police inspector trying to solve the case, and snags Poe as a consultant, so there's a bit of a Sherlock Holmes vibe going on as well. It's neither fabulous nor terrible, lots of cool nods to Poe's work, the first victim with an actual speaking role yells, "Please, don't, I'm just a critic!" (HA!), and of course the costumes are delicious, especially in the "Masque of the Red Death" scene. I think this wanted to be another Sleepy Hollow, but it's a shade too boisterous and takes itself a smidge too seriously to pull off the campy magic of Tim Burton's last great film. Still, it's good, gorey fun if you have a couple hours to kill, and don't mind the script portraying Poe as this rude, uncivilized, arrogant drunkard--a presumption that's largely been written off as slander by his more envious contemporaries. I guess the lesson here is when you run out of "good" movies to throw in the queue, let the Fangirl decide.
This batch is the last of my Halloween challenge movies of this year. It consists of a pair of films which have been kicking around for years so I'm almost embarrassed to admit to not having seen them sooner:

30. Surf Nazi's Must Die: This is a low budget, post apocalyptic gang feature from the vaults of Troma. Following a devastating earthquake the gangs of LA (at least the ones who hang out near the beaches and like to surf) have united under the terrible banner of the Surf Nazis, with crime and terror the order of the day. There isnt much that is horrific in this movie apart from its exploitation. The mother of a black man killed by the Surf Nazis tools up, quits her nursing home and hunts for revenge. Its all pretty silly - including the invention of 'Switch boards' - a combination of flick knife and surf board which would be potentially lethal to anyone who happened to be immediately in front of a surfing nazi. It's just silly, which is fine if you like this sort of thing.

31. Meet The Feebles. Imagine if there was a muppet version of Requiem For A Dream. Meet The Feebles is pretty much just that. Peter Jackson (before he gave us The Lord Of The Rings movies) took a look backstage at a muppet-like variety show and saw every depraved drug, sex and sleazy degraded puppet action you can imagine plus a few he thrown in for free. Its very scatalogical, sometimes funny and (if you are in any way delicate) fairly frequently disturbing. I wonder what genius looked at Peter Jackson's C.V. and decided that he would be perfect for Lord Of The Rings. It's a fun movie but has not managed to displace Brain Dead as my favourite Peter Jackson 'being gross and silly' movie.
I am one double-feature away from being back on schedule. Knocking out some Dracula this time--four in a row!

Day 14) Dracula II: Ascension
The first of two direct-to-video sequels of Wes Craven's Dracula 2000. I found the whole trilogy in a cheap boxed set this week and went, "What the hell?" This one was refreshingly meta. Our med-student protagonists are aware of vampire mythology and ask all the questions you'd probably ask when dealing with a dead body that might possibly be a vampire--check the teeth, spread some seeds around so he'll have to count them (this is a more obscure facet of the mythos, but a good one), keep those UV lights turned on so we can keep control, etc. And hey, let's take some tissue samples and try and learn the secret of eternal life! This does a surprisingly good slow buildup of seeing the vampire (here played by Stephen Billington) restored, restrained, and getting stronger as the movie goes on. There's also a sub-plot of one of the students who pricked her finger on one of the fangs while examining him, and there's a web of dark veins starting to spread up her arm as a result. The threat is lurking in the background the whole time, but it takes right up to the last ten minutes to actually reach out and cause damage. Also, the absurdly over-the-top performance of one Chris Hunter, who's basically a poor man's Benedict Cumberbatch. He plays our suave, cool, collected vampire hunter who's got everything so very under control--or would like us to think so, but when presented with an actual threat he flips out and runs away. Basically he's a combination Bill Paxton's character from Aliens and Spike from Buffy--wants to be a badass, succeeds at being a punchline. It's not the smartest vampire movie I've seen, but it is one of the more original, and consistently entertaining.

Day 15) Dracula III: Legacy
By contrast, the final entry in the trilogy is barely watchable. Offensively, grievously, deeply B-A-D, and pretty much what I've come to expect from direct-to-video horror. The first problem is our titular vampire is barely in it, and when he does show up in the end, he's both less interesting and more cliche than the last movie, even though this time he's played by Rutger Hauer of all people. By the way, they get around the fact of Dracula being played by three different actors in the same continuity by saying he "changes faces with every regeneration," which obviously had me asking, "So, Dracula is a Time Lord, is what you're telling me?" Unfortunately, this just raises too many questions: Has he been killed off again between the last movie and this one? When did that happen? If someone managed to kill him who wasn't actively looking for him like our heroes from last time, then what's taking them so long? Aren't they trained for this sort of thing, especially the half-vampire priest guy with all the weapons? They also mention that no one really knows exactly what Dracula's origins are, and it's possible even he forgot them, which is demonstrably NOT true because we found out those origins in the FIRST movie, and it was brought up again in the second. This is sloppy, a chore to watch at less than 90 minutes, and instantly forgettable.

Day 16) Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula
I thought this was a documentary for some reason, but nope--it's a made-for-TV narrative feature starring Rudolf Martin, and yes that's the same Rudolf Martin who played Dracula in that one episode of Buffy. Roughly a week after this aired, actually, which must have been hilarious to anyone watching it live. This is probably the story most naysayers were expecting when they heard about Dracula Untold, and it is a great story: lots of pathos, drama, family conflict and political intrigue/conspiracy not unlike Game of Thrones. It's good stuff. Would've made a sweet theatrical feature if they'd wrangled the backing for it. The only setback for me is the lead, who while he looks the part more convincingly than some, and certainly carries this air of, "I am up to no good, always, do not trust me," mostly because of his eyebrows, his performance isn't nearly nuanced enough to carry the thing. This guy has one speed, and it's Gloomy. It works most of the way through, because while his methods are the ultimate example of Disproportionate Retribution, he has good reasons for being pissed off at pretty much the whole world. I should also add that this works better in a short, one-off appearance where the surrounding characters are our main focus, and he's relegated to Monster of the Week status. I'm not complaining exactly--Dracula should be a villain protagonist if you actually go and make him the protagonist--but he should still be a character, rather than a one-note caricature. I didn't buy his relationship with his wife, is what I'm trying to say, and that's a problem. One thing all incarnations of Dracula have in common is that he truly, deeply loved his wife, and I wasn't feeling it here. This was a good one though--I was surprised by how fast it went by, even though "true story" is still stretching things kind of a lot. Now, if only we could merge the relentless evil of Martin's character with the conflicted guilt and devotion of Luke Evans', we might have something closer to the real thing.

Day 17) The Monster Squad
I first heard about this movie thanks to James Rolfe's (aka the Angry Videogame Nerd) yearly Monster Madness countdown. There's this group of school kids obsessed with movie monsters the way some kids are obsessed with comic books. One night, Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, Frankenstein's monster, and "Gill-Man" which is what we're calling the Creature from the Black Lagoon, show up in town with plans to Take Over The World!! Rather, that's Dracula's plan, and eventually the rest of them get bored of him telling them what to do and decide to warn the kids instead. (At least, the ones who can talk do that.) This is fun, campy, and silly on the surface, and there's plenty to enjoy, but it unfortunately falls in that realm of kids' movies where the child actors think YELLING ALL THEIR LINES REALLY LOUD counts as "drama." It gets annoying after a while. Also, I was disappointed to see the A Man Is Not A Virgin trope played completely straight--they need a virgin to read this incantation to save the world, and it doesn't even occur to them to try to read it themselves, since they're, y'know, like ten years old. They just find the nearest girl and make her do it. I can see why people like this movie nostalgically, but I can also see why it never achieved the legendary cult status of movies like Lost Boys, Fright Night, The Gate or even Hocus Pocus.

Honorable Mention: Urban Gothic, "Vampirology"
Not counting this towards the marathon since it's a single TV episode, but I wanted to mention it all the same because this is possibly the single greatest vampire performance I've ever seen on-screen in my life. I heard about Urban Gothic, a British horror series that lasted two seasons, thanks to Diamanda Hagan, and her unflagging praise for this particular episode made me especially curious. The setup is simple: Rex, played by Keith-Lee Castle, is a vampire, and has agreed to let a documentary film crew follow him around for one night. And that's it--that's the whole plot. It is brilliant. The documentary style--shot completely at night during a London bar crawl, for obvious reasons--heightens both the realism and the immediacy of the danger. Most of it is conversation: Rex shows them his apartment, talks about his life as a vampire, introduces the crew to his "friends" if that's even the right word for them, and cracks jokes about sucking people's life blood through a McDonald's straw. His delivery is right on that edge between casual boredom and ticking time bomb, and as the night wears on and he can't find anyone to eat, you start to fear for the life of the film crew. Also, since it's edited chronologically out of order, you see shots of him back in his apartment, covered in blood, but not until the very end do you see the kill he made to get that way. This is excellent and well worth tracking down--by the end, you could easily believe vampires do exist, and that Keith-Lee Castle is one of them.
More zombies in this batch - these with a comedy spin:

27. Kill Zombie!: A Dutch zombie film? Who Knew? Overall the film is fun to watch but the humour is a little broad for my tastes. Many of the central cast of characters are total idiots so the general vibe is something like the three stooges or Mr Bean (with added zombies). I've got nothing against idiots - they are often a great source of fun but it is slightly over played here. There are some nice touches and over all the film isn't bad - but a smarter writer with better jokes would have been welcome.
Having said that I wouldn't mind seeing a Three Stooges zombie film if it was done right. I could even tolerate Mr Bean meets the zombies as long as he died horribly early on.

28. Dead Sushi: They don't come much sillier than this. A disgruntled pharmaceutical worker injects a chemical into sushi that is about to be fed to his former boss. The sushi then re-animates, grows teeth and flies (!) off to attack. Imagine something between 'Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes' and 'Piranha 3-D' and you wont be far off the mark. To be fair the movie is probably more of a creature feature than a zombie film but as the killer sushi is re-animated dead fish and the sushi victims also re-animate to join the fray I'm going to claim in in the name of zombie films - albeit one from the willfully weird section of Japanese cinema.
The film's climax sees the heroine (a karate trained daughter of a master sushi chef) fighting in a duel with the pharmaceutical worker (who transformed himself into a killer tuna fish) using sushi nun-chucks and aided by a heroic piece of acid breathing egg-sushi. Once again the comedy is broad but the outright silliness of the concept will win it many friends.

29. Harold's Going Stiff: This is a British indie and may be a contender for the best film I've seen in this challenge - it is certainly the best in this batch. 'Harold' is the 'patient zero' of a world where a new disease is making men (and only men) become stiff-limbed and eventually degrade to zombie like conditions. Very much grounded in reality we see isolated widower Harold struggle with his increasing arthritic stiffness and his growing friendship with the community nurse who comes to help him. This is juxtaposed with footage of the local vigilantes who 'volunteer' to hunt down and kill the zombified men who roam the Barnsley countryside if not properly contained. The medical profession want Harold for tests to help identify and cure the disease. The vigilantes want Harold for the kudos is will bring them for taking him down.
There is plenty of Human drama as we see Harold struggle both with his deteriorating condition (and the effect on those around him) based in large part on the writer's own experiences of losing a family member to advanced dementia. The tender relationship that grows between him and his nurse is particularly touching and well portrayed. The comedy comes mostly from the footage of the slack-jawed vigilantes but at the end of the film the comedy eventually gives way as Harold's condition becomes stark.
This film makes a big impression. It is touching and compassionate and often funny. The writer and director Keith Wright deserve a lot of credit as do the whole cast who do a fantastic job of making this such a great movie.
So what could be better than three back-to-back zombie films? Four back-to-back zombie films, obviously! Here is the latest batch:

23. Remains: Based on a comic by Stephen Niles, author of 30 Days Of Night, Remains is sadly a standard issue zombie flick (unlike the fantastic 30 Days). The distinctive feature of this film is that the survivors of this zombie apocalypse come from the slightly seedy, twilight world of a casino/hotel in Reno. Other than that the film is competent and watchable but largely similar to any number of other zombie movies. Under any other circumstances I would usually be quite happy to find a zombie film this good but from the pen of Stephen Niles I might have expected something much better.

24. Zombie Transfusion: This film has been appearing in my Amazon recommends list for a while but I have been dragging my feet a little because I was put off by the stupid sounding title. Having watched the film now (and on reflection I don't actually remember there being any transfusions at all) I still think the title is stupid but the film isn't bad at all. Like 'Remains' this is a decent by the numbers zombie film that doesn't really excel but is a pretty decent watch. The back drop to the zombie apocalypse this time is a high school so we get to see the characters play against the usual teen dramas before the zombies show up and chow down.

25. Knight Of The Dead: The title might have been just a bad pun but the film hold up surprisingly well. Knight Of The Dead is unusual as it is set in Britain during the dark ages with the bubonic plague rampant, contains actual armour clad knights and a sub plot involving the holy grail! The film has been graded so as to be almost bleached of colour so all the landscapes look so grim and full of death that the would not have looked out of place in The Seventh Seal. There were any number of places where this film (on its no doubt minimal budget) could have gone quite silly, but the dark tone is carefully handled throughout making for am unexpectedly satisfying film.

26. Dead Girl: This film was darker and more well written that I had imagined.Two teenage boys find a woman abandoned and imprisoned in a disused mental hospital and quickly discover that she cannot die. The boys fall out over what to do with her as one wants to go to the authorities but the stronger of the pair wants to keep her, basically as a sex slave. Clearly this cannot end well! The 'zombie' in this film is the girl who appears to be dead when she is found and cannot be killed thereafter. (Anyone she bites soon lapses into a similar condition). In this film though the zombie is far from the biggest monster. We see high school boys willing to objectify and abuse women to an extreme degree without any thought to the consequences. We see the friends divide over the issue but even the 'good guy' is largely ineffectual as he struggles with his own collusion. Eventually there is a climactic show down as events escalate. This film is excellent.
15th-Oct-2014 08:18 pm - 31 Days of Halloween: Days 11 thru 13
I'm a little behind, but I'm hoping that won't last long.

11) Repomen
Sooo, I put this on the list because I thought it was a mainstream, non-musical remake of Repo! The Genetic Opera. And I guess it kind of is, because the basic setting is similar: we're twenty minutes into the future and organ failure is a huge problem, but so is the economy, so this Big Corporation makes it possible for people to get organ transplants and pay in installments. If they can't make their payments on time, the Repoman comes and eviscerates them. That's a very specific set of similarities, but it's also the only thing the two movies have in common. The ONLY thing. The style and tone are more Black Comedy Sci-Fi Thriller than Goresploitation Cult Horror (With Songs!), and the story structure and POV have more in common with Logan's Run than anything else. Our main character, played by Jude Law, is one of the titular Repomen who, after a freak "accident" with a faulty defibrillator, finds himself with a heart transplant and an expiration date. It's very action-heavy, very gory, and has this recurring Schroedinger's Cat motif that I think we're supposed to take as a metaphor for Jude Law's current situation: he's both alive and dead at the same time, because he has a working heart right at this moment, but he's also on the run from people trying to kill him. I think? The Schroedinger's Cat thing is a little weird--I had trouble following it to be honest. It's more focused on action and gore, this movie. It's also hilarious. No, really. I had to stuff both fists in my mouth to stop from waking up the house laughing at this thing, pretty much from start to finish, and I wasn't quite prepared for that. Part of that is Jude Law's performance--he does Affable Psychopath so very well, popping his headphones on and humming while he dissects people. Really loves his job, this guy. The only problem I have here is that the setting stretches my suspension of disbelief just a bit too far. The Purge brought me right up to the edge of extreme plausibility with a dark twist--this puts me over that edge a smidge. Not entirely. It's just this, "Hey, I think killing people for being poor is maybe a bad thing?" moral awakening Jude Law goes through when he's forced to see things from the other side is a little . . . obvious? Like, the audience doesn't need to be told that. Not in this context. We know. But oh, it is fun to watch.

12) Dracula Untold
You know how the Frank Langella movie is basically Dracula: The Harlequin Romance? Well, this is the Dracula: The Dungeons and Dragons Campaign. With a dash of fanfic thrown in, because if there's one thing fanficcers are known for, it's taking an unrepentant villain and rewriting him as a tortured, misunderstood good guy who just needs to be loved. And . . . somehow, it works. Sorry, Gary Oldman, I love you, but Luke Evans is my new favorite on-screen Dracula. This is supposed to be the story of how Vlad Dracul, aka Vlad the Impaler, went from bloodthirsty warrior to bloodthirsty vampire. Supposed to be. There's very little historical accuracy--it's more an origin story for the Dracula in Bram Stoker's novel, with a new twist on the classical mythos. Except not really, because it's never explained why vampires have this aversion to silver and sunlight, so whatever. Here, Vlad is a tortured but basically good guy who did some awful things for the sake of his One True Love and his Family and his People, and really it's all the fault of those nasty Turks who turned him into a hardened battle-ready death machine by snatching him from his family at age ten, and also REVENGE! The actual, historical Vlad the Impaler was a terrible, terrible human who should still be burning in Hell right now if it exists. This guy is a misunderstood, lovable anti-hero who became a monster for the people he loves. It's fluff, it's silly, it's a heavy metal album cover playing extremely loose with both history and literature, and lord-a-mercy it is wonderful and I loved every ridiculous, action-packed minute. Also, Charles Dance shows up as Caligula, which is brilliant. (DRINK!) Technically, the credits say he's the "Master Vampire," but no, he is Caligula. The ending leaves things wide open for a sequel, but in the present day, which means we'll be skipping the Carfax Abbey episode entirely. I'm kinda sad about that, but sign me up right now, because I want MORE.

13) The Amityville Horror (2005)
Snore. I can usually find something to love about any given horror movie, no matter how dopey or tropey, but this is the first one so far (this year anyway) that utterly wasted my time. I guess when you hire Michael Bay as your producer, you get what you paid for. (Seriously, Michael Bay. Who the hell thought that was a good idea?) This is the third and final Chloe Moretz movie on my list, and by far the worst movie I've seen her in. Keep in mind that includes the Tim Burton version of Dark Shadows. Okay, so the reason I put this on my list in the first place is there's a new book out right now called Amity by Micol Ostow, a teen horror reimagining of the Amityville legend. And it is excellent. Because so many of the tropes and imagery we associate with haunted houses come either from this story, or from Stephen King's The Shining, it can be a real challenge to make it seem fresh, new, exciting, and scary again. Ostow's book does it beautifully, ramps up the tension and dread to the breaking point, and builds to a satisfactorily grisly conclusion. Seriously, the new book is awesome--check it out if you can. This, though? This is paint-by-numbers. If they'd held back on the Significant Close Ups a bit, or the jump scares, or the awful dialogue, it might not have been so bad, because it's not aggressively terrible. It if were more obviously terrible, that would almost be better, because at least you could make a drinking game out of it or something. This is just . . . boring. Unscary, unengaging, waste of my time. Funny thing is, apart from popping in an Evil Mirror instead of an Evil House, this is pretty much the same movie as Oculus. Only that one did it right. Really drives home what a huge difference it makes when the filmmakers know how to edit properly. That is how you do an age-old scary story and make it fresh again. This is not.
A pair of movies from the same series in this batch:

21 & 22. Troll & Troll 2: Part monster movie, part modern fairy tales but sadly lacking the wit, charisma or charm to properly pull of either. The first film sees a 'Troll' try to take over a modern day apartment building using a magic ring. A kid called 'Harry Potter' (apparently no relation) stands in his way. Harry Potter's sister is the kid from the original 'V' tv mini-series. There's also a witch. The closest film I can compare this to is probably Labyrinth but it lacks the humour, script, talent and quality Henson puppets (not to mention David Bowie).
The second film is not even half as good as the first. The trolls in this film are referred to as Goblins throughout, the hero kids family often manage to be creepier than the Goblins and I'm not sure that is by design. There also seems to be some underlying message that vegetarianism is somehow inherently bad/dangerous, which is probably the movie's only saving grace.
As tough as I have been on these films I can actually imagine having a fairly fun Halloween with them. If you are not looking for any kind of scare or gore and are prepared to watch a pair of films that are a bit rubbish (I guess if you are looking for something maybe a bit childish) these might fit the bill - but I would struggle to call them horror in the strict sense.
A Zombie triple bill in this batch:

18. Autumn: There was an interesting idea at the heart of this film starring Dexter Fletcher - start the zombies off as total undead morons and watch as they gradually get smarter and more dangerous. So the movie starts with the vast majority of the human population being suddenly and unexpectedly wiped out by an airborne virus. While the few survivors begin to huddle and work out what to do next those who were killed by the disease suddenly start wandering around again seemingly clueless to the point where they just walk into walls etc. The survivors begin to argue among themselves and ultimately separate while the zombies/infected begin to get smarter. So far so good but the plot moves at such a soporific pace that the film eventually ends just at the point where the zombies are only marginally smarter than the were in Romero's Night Of The Living Dead. Arguably this gives us a chance to see some of the characters strugle to come to  terms with isated lives after civilsation uultimately the film struggles to get off the ground.

19. Before Dawn: A genuinely excellent British zombie film directed by and starring Dominic Brunt - a man best known for appearing in Emmerdale (a terrible tv soap) but who organises the Leeds Zombie film festival in his spare time. The film follows a married couple who are taking a weekend in the country to try to resolve their marriage issues - just as the zombie apocalypse kicks off. The first third of the film is more or less straight relationship drama with a few foreshadowing hints - then it all kicks off. There is a decent balance of tension and action, some great effects and because of the time we spent with the relationship drama we never lose sight of the characters either. This may be the best British zombie film I've seen in a while and I think would pass the litmus test of being acceptable to people who aren't already fans of the genre.

20. The Dead Undead: From its title onwards this film is unrelentingly stupid. Some spoiled annoying teenagers arrive at 'the lake' and shortly afterwards zombies attack. People with guns show up to kill the zombies. We then find out (**Beware spoilers**) that the zombies aren't just zombies they are some kind of zombie/vampire hybrid which makes them hard to kill, but vulnerable to sunlight. (Nobody knows or cares why). The 'people with guns' turn out to be mostly vampires who are dedicated to hunting these hybrids. Some were Vikings, one was a Vietnam vet, one was from the old west. (Nobody cares, its hardly relevant. The main thing is the Vampires for whatever reason are trying to stop the hybrids from breaking out of whatever valley they are in to stop them spreading globally. How they got in the valley isn't ever explained either and there are far too many shots of crowds of hybrids rushing towards the vampires only to be shot down with automatic weapons. This happens a lot and not much else does - and it gets old pretty quickly. There are more holes than plot, no effort on script, story or characters and even the title is crap. What a pointless film.
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