Thursday, December 22, 2011

Freddy vs. Jason: One More Time

As a kid I had always been obsessed with Freddy Krueger and to me he was the definitive serial killer because he had a face and he wasn’t just an unstoppable physical force but rather a “demon” that kills you when you at your most vulnerable. Jason, on the other hand, was nothing special but I enjoyed the first three of his movies. Later, I would see his movie again and I came to the conclusion that I was never a big Jason or Friday the 13th fan because it was all about body count and not the characters. Surprisingly, I saw more character development in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies then any other slasher. Perhaps I am missing the point but that’s one of my main arguments as to why I love the Elm Street movies.

When I first saw the previews for Freddy vs. Jason, I loved every minute of it because my favorite horror movie villain was going to be up against my least favorite horror movie villain. I was on Team Freddy from the very get go. I never saw it in theaters so I had to wait for it to come out on DVD and so I rented it from the library when it was released to home video. Upon my first viewing of Freddy vs. Jason, I hated it. There were only a few things that I liked but that didn’t outweigh the bad and so since 2003 I had never picked it up again. When asked by my friends why I hated it, I gave a number of reasons why and I feel as though I should try to summarize them and restrain myself from ranting and breaking off into a tangent.

The biggest problem I had was that I didn’t like any of the “human” characters. They were dry, stale, cardboard cutouts of typical Hollywood teenagers, they were nothing but slasher fodder and very expendable. I didn’t care about their problems and I wanted to see all of them dead because they were pests. I always commended Nightmare on Elm Street for giving me characters that I can relate to or characters that I feel sorry for but to see unlikeable characters on Elm Street seemed out of place and stupid. They felt like they would be more at home in Crystal Lake then Elm Street. I didn’t like the stoner and I didn’t like seeing Freddy take the form of a pot-smoking caterpillar. I felt like it was insulting him and I felt the same way when he became a witch or a comic book villain. I especially hated the fact that Freddy was afraid of fire and Jason was afraid of the water because if I remember correctly, Freddy used fire in many of his nightmares and never was afraid of it then. Also, I remember Jason being fine with water and never shying away from it. Additionally, I felt like the ending was a cop out because I thought they would end both franchises simultaneously but instead they show Jason walking away with a winking dismembered Freddy head. I felt like it was the last corny nail on the cheese coffin.

With all that said, I decided to see the movie again because most people I talk to say it wasn’t bad and for a “versus” movie, it’s pretty decent. I thought about it for a while and I realized that it’s going back to the old “meets” movies that Universal would produce. The movie Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man came up as being the first mainstream movie that pits two horror icons together. So, I buckled down and decided to give Freddy vs. Jason another go… this time looking at it from a fresh new standpoint since I hardly remember what happens. Now, after analyzing horror movies and broadening my horror taste, I felt like I was prepared for this movie. I’m older and not nearly as bias as I once was. My general consensus of Freddy vs. Jason after seeing it for the first time: I liked it. It wasn’t bad, pretty decent, and it has some charms that nod the original franchises.

Since I’m not a big fan of the Friday the 13th movies and since there isn’t really anything to them other than a body count and Jason, I think I should talk about the Nightmare on Street portion of the movie as there is more to them. One of the biggest things I was dreading was that they wouldn’t properly transition from the real world to the dream world; the original Elm Street movie seamlessly brought you into the dream without you knowing. As for this movie, specifically the scene where the group was thinking about sacrificing the main heroine, half the time I couldn’t differentiate between the real world and the dream world. The dreams, although surreal like they should be, doesn’t offer booby traps within the “real” home. What I mean is this: in the first movie Nancy is running up the stairs when suddenly the stairs turn into goopy liquid or when the basement slowly turns into the boiler room. Much of that is missing but that does not mean it’s bad. I’m real glad they kept the boiler room.

What I liked more than anything, and this is what made me hate the film originally, was that the movie dived into the characters of Jason and Freddy. I understand why Freddy is afraid of fire because he was burned from it and Jason drowned so he’s afraid of water. I like this aspect despite the fact that both villains encountered each element before in their own respectable franchises. I feel like giving the villains a fear of something de-mystifies them and brings them down to a mortal level; it makes them more human, which is something that really turns the tables on things but it goes deeper into that. When Freddy encircles Jason with water we see Jason backing up, Freddy smiles, then we see a trembling, half-naked boy on the floor with a hokey mask. It’s such a good yet sad scene because it shows us that inside the undead, hulking exterior of Jason lays a frightened little boy who was emotionally and mentally scarred. Freddy, in almost a childish bully sort of way, goes on to mock Jason saying that his face is something only a mother could love. Then, we flash back to Camp Crystal Lake where Jason was picked on. It shows you that Jason was once a normal person and could have led a somewhat normal life despite his deformity, but it’s because of the severe bullying that he becomes the murderous psycho that he is. But this also shows just how merciless and cruel Freddy is and that he was born a monster, whereas Jason was made into a monster.

Then there are the battles between Freddy and Jason, which were pretty damn good. There are some wonderful massacre scenes, particularly Jason breaking somebody’s back by squishing them in half by the bed. There’s also a fantastic scene where Freddy controls one of the characters by making him doze off from smoking pot. It’s a fantastic scene because, for one, I thought it was pretty cool seeing somebody attack Jason wielding two syringes of sedatives. Also, for me at least, it was the most memorable scene where Freddy controls somebody since Nightmare on Elm Street 2. I don’t really count Dream Warriors because it was too campy, whereas Elm Street 2 was sort of playing on a “duel personality” level.

I should start wrapping this up before I trial off like I so often do. I’ll admit that for a while I was acting stubborn but I think Freddy vs. Jason is growing on me because it’s not a bad slasher and I really like the ‘versus’ plot. I’m glad that Robert Englund was in it and that earned it extra points in my book, it was gory, it had some great dream sequences and Freddy seemed to be a badass. I know I am really fixated on the Nightmare on Elm Street portions but that’s because those were the scenes I was worried about the most. It was fun seeing Jason hack and slash again and it was fun seeing Freddy take advantage of his traumatizing childhood because it added personality to Jason. Seeing Freddy, and Jason, afraid of fire and water elements brought them down to our mortal level and that’s something that was risky but played off perfectly. I think now I have a new take on this movie and it holds up. Then again, this wasn’t the first time I hated a movie at first but grew to like it. Hell, just ask Jack Frost or Uncle Sam. They’ll tell you.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Preserving the Thing

About a week or so ago I received an email by one of my Twitter buddies concerning The Thing prequel. Apparently the comment he wanted to leave on my review was too long, thus forcing him to email me it instead. He commented on why he doesn’t want to see the prequel and why the prequel might ruin the magic and mysteriousness of the Carpenter movie. While I liked the prequel and while it doesn’t ruin the magic for me, I thought this was a very interesting piece that I could not help but share.

I'm actually quite surprised you liked this at all, based on reading your review and knowing your love for the '82 film. I would say the ''82 film is in my top five favorite movies of all time, maybe the number 1 spot.

I have not seen this prequel and never will. Let me get that out of the way now, because I get heat from people saying I can't complain about something I haven't seen. I however say I CAN and WILL.

MacReady: "Now I'm gonna show you what I already know."

The idea of showing what happened at the Norwegian camp seems utter ridiculous to me now, as it was when I heard the film was going into production. The filmmakers stance of "we'll show you what happened, why the axe is in the door" cracked me up. Was there a huge number of '82 Thing fans looking for those answers, I have to believe that is not the case and I'll tell you why. When you watch Carpenter's movie the American's discovery at the Norwegian camp/station is foreshadowing of what they will soon encounter. We are offered small glimpses of information regarding the thing, how people reacted to it and where it came from. Seeing the burnt out camp, dead people, yes axes in doors (sweet Satan!) and the burned remains of a Thing mid-transform. This info also provides elements of mystery that are crucial to the story and tone of the film.

As the '82 film progresses, the Thing begins it's attack and paranoia set in and eventual battle up until the closing scene with MacReady and Childs. We can infer that what we just saw the Americans go through is essentially what the Norwegians went through without the requirement of a prequel film to fill in the blanks. Your own creative mind can fill in those blanks and I'd imagine do it in a much better fashion than this prequel does. Carpenter could have just as easily done the film from the stand point that the Americans discovered the alien, but he didn't and I don't think that was to lay any kind of groundwork for a prequel. All the information is there, all that is needed is in the '82 film.

Now, let me ask this. How can there be even a shred, a sliver of mystery or suspense to this prequel, when '82 fans know all the people from the Norwegian camp die and the Thing escapes? I can't get my head around that huge problem with this prequel.

Another huge issue I have with the prequel is what limited CGI I saw in the trailer. It looked atrocious, I laughed when I saw the thing come out of the block of ice. You said there are some practical effects in there, which is great, it sounds like the CGI is way overused and fake looking. That cast sounds utterly forgettable from what you said and that is a very very weak leg to this film I'd imagine. The '82 film had a fantastic cast that I know you love. If you didn't love the cast and their performances, this wouldn't be your favorite movie, bottom line. Your section about nitpicking the movie is also of grave interest to me and another warning sign to stay away from this film. If they are intent on showing every detail (because people wanted it for some ungodly reason) then why didn't it hone EXACTLY to the '82 film? It should be dead on.

I found the final minutes of the 2011 film on YouTube to see how the transitioned their film into the '82 film. Nice from the standpoint that they led right up to that films beginning, but I must ask. If someone is new to the Thing and watches this film first and then the '82 film after what many magical and fantastic things are killed for a moviegoer. For those people I feel truly sad. This prequel tries to bill itself with providing answers to questions it's actually killing for those new to The Thing…

This bit of dialogue is from one of my favorite scenes from the '82 film and the reason for me adding it to the end here is because this conversation for me kills an reason for the prequel.

MacReady: "I don't know, thousands of years ago it crashes, and this thing, gets thrown out or crawls out and it ends up freezing in the ice."

Garry: "The Norwegians get a hold of this, and they dig it out of the ice…"

MacReady: "Yes, Garry. They dig it up. They cart it back. It gets thawed out, it wakes up, probably not the best of moods. I don't know, I wasn't there!"

Childs: "How could this motherf@*ker wake up after thousands of years in the ice?"

George Bennings: "And how can it look like a dog?"

MacReady: "I don't know how. Because it's different then us, see. Because it's from outer space. What do you want from me? Ask him!"

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Music Box Massacre 7

I’m rather late on reporting this but this past weekend (October 15 till the 16th) was the yearly Music Box Massacre at Chicago’s own Music Box Theater. This year, unlike the past two years that I went, was different for me because I slept through half of the 24-hour marathon. I have no idea why I was suddenly tired all of a sudden but I missed out on some movies that I’ve wanted to see for a long time. Regardless, I was fortunate to experience three films on 35mm print one of which is a must for the Halloween season. So, without further ado, I’ll give you a short rundown and musings of the films I was able to catch.

The marathon started off with the silent film…

Waxworks (1924)

This fantasy film is considered horror but I’m not sure why. I feel it’s more action adventure than anything although I guess it’s because there are some elements of horror that must have been shocking for people back when it was first released. Personally, I felt it was a little boring but what I have to applaud was the live organ player who had to sit there the entire time.

Burn Witch Burn (1962)

After his wife confesses to being a witch, a college professor must find out whether or not she was telling the truth but time is running out because dark forces are descending upon him and the only way to stop them is by sacrifice. Also known as Night of the Eagle for some reason. This was a fun movie and a perfect candidate for MST3K or any other type of Riffing. Hammy acting, sexist dialogue and some really cheap but strangely effective special effects laden this film. I personally loved the part when you hear something howling, screaming and bellowing outside the door but never end up seeing it.

Hour of the Wolf (1968)

I slept through this movie.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

I loved this movie but calling it horror is a bit much even if the final revealing of Phibes is shocking, then again I guess it could be considered a Slasher movie. Oh whatever, either way I liked it a lot. Price plays yet another interesting, stylish and charismatic killer that sort of reminded me of Theater of Blood. This time he plays Dr. Phibes, a doctor of music, who seeks murderous revenge on all the doctors who were unable to save his wife from a tragic accident. Dark British humor and the 12 plagues of Egypt make this movie work seeing and it’s even funnier watching it with a live audience.

Wizard of Gore

With special guest Herschell Gordon Lewis

I broke away for dinner.

Halloween (1978)

No party that takes place during October is complete without a 35mm screening of Carpenter’s infamous slasher movie. The print we saw was reddening, scratch and dust filled with horrendous jump cuts… everything I wanted to see to give me that authentic “grindhouse” feel. This time around, because I saw the movie so damn much, I began to notice the small things that gave away the film’s actual location of California. Not just the ridiculous foothills but also the palm trees in the background and the cactus looking plants in some people’s yard. If only Illinois had palm trees.

Poltergeist (1982)

Upon watching this for the first time in years, I was suddenly reminded just how much I love this film. It’s such a touching and sad story of how the parents of a little girl are willing to travel to another plane of existence to save their daughter. Unfortunately, in reality, Heather O’Rourke died young and went towards the bright light anyway. The subtle humor, the nods to childhood fears and the chilling yet uplifting score by the famous Jerry Goldsmith gave me this warm feeling as I sat in those uncomfortable chairs.

Pumpkinhead (1988)

After releasing an ancient demon to seek revenge on the youths that accidentally killed his little boy, a farmer must stop what he unleashed before it ends up killing him as well. I saw this movie only once before and I hated it. Upon watching it again, I enjoyed it and I loved the special effects (of course I would because it was directed by Stan Winston) but I feel that it was a little unjustified to release such a horrid monster after the teens apologized for the fatal accident. The climax is anticlimactic but then again we are talking about the 80’s.

Gates of Hell

I broke away to grab a quick snack.

The Vampire Lovers

I fell asleep to.

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things

I drifted in and out of sleep to. I was awoken by the excruciatingly loud ending.

The Sentinel (1977)

“What do you do for a living?” “We fondle each other.” Indeed, The Sentinel is one of those 70’s movies too fucked up to describe but very simple when you get right down to it. Basically it’s about a haunted apartment complex that’s being investigated by one of the new tenants who claims to have been invited to an birthday party by the tenants. However, there are no tenants in the apartment except for a reclusive priest. Now the young woman must find out why the apartment is being haunted, why is she being plagued with unsettling visions and what is the priest guarding on the third floor. Naked fat women eating people’s brains, a cat in a hat, loud noises, non sequitur scenes and an ending that’s reminiscent of Browning’s Freaks makes this film a worthwhile acid trip.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

What a perfect movie to end a noon-to-noon, 24-hour horror marathon. I’ve always loved this movie and it’s a roller-coaster ride to see it with sleep deprived horror fanatics. Whoever thought that vampires would evolve from charismatic, caped villains (Lugosi) to ancient Mexican strippers (Hayek)?

The Massacre survivors (12:00pm)

Try and spot me in this picture. Here’s a clue: I’m the one who is holding the brown pillow. Also, I was smart to bring a pillow and blanket to this.

Thus concludes yet another Music Box Massacre and although I didn’t meet anybody there like I would have, probably because this year seemed more packed then usual, I had a blast with all the films. I will close out this piece with one of my favorite quotes of the night (aside from Sentinel).

“Psychos do not explode when sunlight hits them! I don’t give a fuck how crazy they are!”

Pictures courtesy of WGON Helicopter, Kindertrauma, The Vault of Horror and Hey! Look Behind You.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review - The Thing (2011)

Many of you know because of my Thing Week that The Thing (1982) is my favorite horror movie of all time for many reasons including one that trails back to my childhood. It was best home video experience I ever had and The Thing became a part of my life like no other horror movie. When I heard that The Thing was going to be remade, I shuttered to think how the CGI would replace the brilliant practical effects that Bottin had worked on. Then, it was released that it would be a prequel rather then a remake but even that made me cringe because I never wanted to know what happened to the Norwegian outpost. Most of the ominous mood and fright comes from not knowing what happened, leaving only your imagination to fill in the blanks. I isolated myself from this movie and when I saw the trailer I had a lot of doubts but it also made me curious to see what they could do. So, I patiently waited for it’s release and I sat in the middle of the theater waiting to be wowed by an unnecessary “premake.” So, what is my verdict on a prequel to a personally beloved horror movie… well, after I mulled over it that night I came to the conclusion that I enjoyed it. Yeah, I really liked it but I feel as though I must nitpick it here and there.

The story is much like Carpenter’s film. A group of Norwegians locate a crashed alien saucer that has been buried under the ice for thousands of years. They enlist the help of two American scientists to help them figure out what crawled out of the ship and froze beneath all the ice. In the midst of their celebration, the alien entity thaws out of the ice and begins killing and replicated anybody that comes in its way. Now, the outpost residents must find a way to stop the alien before it reaches a populated area but how do they know who is human and who is a thing? Paranoia settles in and the storm outside is getting worse and worse.

So what exactly did Matthijs van Heiningen, the director, do that made me like this movie. Well, understand that I am not praising this movie and although I liked it… I don’t think it was flawless or brilliantly directed. However, what I really loved was all the little nods to Carpenter’s film that were scattered throughout the movie. These are little things that would go overlooked in some people’s book and would provoke some people to say that this film was more of a remake then a prequel. They explain why there was an axe stuck in the door, they explain what that two-headed thing was and what it was like when it was alive and in that respect there was a wonderful tribute to Norris’ death (think spider legs, upside down heads and open chests). There is a wonderful nod to the cinematography from the Carpenter film; the scene where the camera trucks forward to reveal the big block of ice that held the alien. This shot was so small and minute that not many people would even realize it was from Carpenter’s film. There’s many more throughout the film that made me pleased.

Now, what about the characters? Are they as good as Carpenter’s cast and does our new heroine resemble MacReady and his sarcastic and tired frame of attitude? The cast is great but I feel as though they are mostly forgettable except for one person who I think was the best character. As for our heroine, Kate Lloyd, although she does have that survivor woman persona she doesn’t really stand out to me as being unique. MacReady, to me, was unique because he was sort of an anti-hero; he drank, he had a temper, he was tired, worn out and on the edge of going crazy. Lloyd is any typical survivor girl from any given horror movie but I still liked her. She took things into her own hands and understood what the thing was. There are two Americans that look and occasionally act like Childs and MacReady and the person who lives to the end (and where the Carpenter movie begins), he was a badass and it’s tragic to see what would inevitably happen to him.

And now for the meat of the movie: the special effects and how the creature looks. As much as I wanted it to have practical effects I had to abandon that hope a while ago and I accepted that this movie would heavily use CGI. The film does use CGI but it also uses a good variety of practical effects but before I get into that I want to comment on my love/hate relationship with the CGI of this film. I hate the CGI because, like in most horror movies that use it, it looks a little unpolished and cheesy at times. It felt like a video game, ironically because the director stated that he never based anything off the video game adaptation. Some of the CGI made me laugh and say, “Oh man, really?” However, I love the CGI because for the first time I saw the Thing almost exactly how I wanted to see it for a long time. I saw somebody’s chest open up with red tendrils wrapping around somebody. I saw the two-headed thing crab-walking and attacking people and I saw a one-on-one battle with somebody and the Thing. It was a pleasure but too bad it was done with some iffy CGI. As for the practical effects, they were good and they looked painful and slimy just as they did back in ’82. I feel as though, at times, they used CGI when it involved the Thing attacking and running around but for the most part they used practical effects as much as they could. I respect that.

So now lets get into some fan nitpicking here. One of the biggest errors or problems that I found, choose your poison, was the discovery of the alien craft. In Carpenter’s film, the Americans were looking over the tapes they took from the Norwegian camp. The tape clearly shows the Norwegians forming a circle around the craft and then blowing open the layers of ice that buried it. Similarly, this was done in the Howard Hawks adaptation in the 50’s. However, in the prequel, we never see the Norwegians forming the circle and it isn’t until the end where they finally blow open the ice encasing and it wasn’t even by dynamite. When the ship was activated, the engines blew open the ice above it as if they tired to create their own version of how the ship was exposed. Another thing, maybe I didn’t see it the right way or maybe I’m right, but in Carpenter’s film… they find a body with a slit throat. The person obviously cuts his throat with a straight razor but in this prequel the man cuts himself (I think) with a hacksaw. It’s really nitpicky of me to bring this up but as a fan of the original it’s my duty to do so. Personally, for me, the biggest problem was seeing them discover the shape of the craft and blowing it up… it’s like a staple scene in the entire franchise and it was never committed to the final version.

The other big problem that I had with this film that the Carpenter film had was the mood. In Carpenter’s film, the colors were ranging on heavy blues and oranges in order to simulate hot and cold temperatures. By doing this he made me feel like I was trapped in a cold and dark place where my only salvation was gravitating to somewhere warm and… orange. Plus, the entire film is a dark piece, not just figuratively but it’s a very dark place with a lot of shadows and some dim lights. While the prequel gives me that cold feeling with it’s use of blues and light blue coloring, it doesn’t at all give me a sense of darkness and seclusion. This problem was expected and it’s very difficult to replicate so I won’t knock the movie for it but it’s something that I would have like to have seen done.

I need to cut this review short but as I stated before, I liked this movie and I thought it was a fantastic prequel to Carpenter’s film as well as a tribute to Campbell’s novella and Hawks’ film. The ending, which trails into to where Carpenter’s film picks up, was one of the very few moments where I got chills of nostalgia. The score, the cinematography and the “cut to black” ending made me smile like never before. It’s even more tragic when you find out what character ends up making it through till the end only to know that he eventually gets shot and killed. With all this being said, I still won’t consider this to be as perfect as the ’82 classic and when I refer to The Thing, I will always be referring to Carpenter’s film. If I ever expose people to The Thing, I’ll only expose them to the Carpenter’s film unless they are really interested. I feel as though this movie is like the black sheep but a black sheep that I have some respect towards. It was an unnecessary prequel that still diminishes the horror and imagination that was in Carpenter’s film but at least they did a fine job of adapting it. If anything, it gives me even more respect to Carpenter’s Thing.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Cowboys & Mutants

When you think of Westerns you might think of films like High Noon, Once Upon A Time in the West, The Dollars Trilogy or perhaps Unforgiven. I’m sure most people would never consider a remake like The Hills Have Eyes to be a Western and for good reason… it’s not. However, upon closer look at the color and the cinematography of when Doug enters the test village, I couldn’t help but get feelings to when I watched High Noon for the first time. It’s strange how many Western tributes there are in this film but at the same time it feels right.

All the scenes that take place in that test village strike an eerie chord with the American Dream; a broken down dream corrupted by the government and/or the criminals that had taken over. Many of these ideas have been put forth into Westerns. The coloring is saturated with yellows and browns that only enhance the sweltering heat of the desert, as our lone hero walks down the middle of the town. I mentioned High Noon and this is exactly what this scene resembles; when Doug first enters the town he realizes that nobody is there must like Gary Cooper’s character walking down the road stunned to find nobody is at his side. In The Hills Have Eyes, the only companion that Doug has is his dog Beauty.

Tombstone established that Wyatt Earp would be the Lone Rider (or Pale Rider) in which Death followed behind him that The Cowboys were warned about. After the murder of his youngest brother, the injury of his older brother and the attempted assassination of himself he pursued The Cowboys in a relentless and violent manner. I can’t help but think that this bears striking resemblance to Doug and his bloody justified revenge. The clan of mutants raped his sister-in-law, burned his father-in-law, murdered his mother-in-law, killed his wife and stole his baby. You can argue that Doug literally became the Lone/Pale Rider that Death followed as he not only recovered his baby but he brutally murdered almost every mutant he saw. I think it’s also interesting that Doug wore a white “pale” shirt.

In probably one of the best confrontations in a modern horror movie, Doug, after getting beaten nearly to death, thrown, kicked, punched and dragged, grabs a screwdriver and holds it up to Pluto who is wielding an axe. There is silence. The shot shows a weak and scared hero holding a peashooter pistol to the ugly homicidal criminal who is aiming a shotgun directly into his face. They both stand their ground and look at each other for a minute while the mutant outlaw laughs at our hero’s ill-fated attempt at defending himself. It’s a standoff and the odds are not in favor for the good. Our hero begs for the outlaw not to kill him and the outlaw merely laughs at his pain and insignificance, but our hero is smart and uses this as a distraction to drive the screwdriver into his foot rendering him defenseless. Like the American hero that is the Cowboy or local sheriff, our hero grabs an American flag and drives it into the throat of the outlaw. Seeing as how he was responsible for the death of his soon-to-be family, he takes the very weapon he used to hurt him (the axe) and thrusts it directly into his skull, killing him.

Thus ends one of the grittiest and bloodiest Westerns of recent time.

Even though that scene wasn’t the end or the final confrontation, it still bears the most resemblance to any Western standoff. Going off tangent, it’s not just the cinematography, coloring or the way things are played out that remind me of a Western but also the costuming. Lizard resembles a Mexican bandito, wearing a brown vest, torn cotton pants and a spike-strip that looks like a full metal jacket. Goggle, though he is mostly in shadow or silhouette, wears a bowler hat. Papa Jupiter, aside from not having the typical cowboy hat, already looks like a bandit. He dresses in all black and has a long down-filled coat. The only person who doesn’t resemble an outlaw is Pluto because he seems to be dressed in a black suit minus the tie. He may, however, be more akin to the elegant outlaw rather than the rugged dirty outlaw.

There is still so much to talk about comparing Hills Have Eyes with Westerns and I’m sure the original has even more similarities but since I haven’t seen it in a long time, I can’t contrast the two films. I haven’t even talked about the relationship between the mutants the gas station attendant. I never really noticed the similarities till I began watching a string of Westerns recently. Although, now I wonder how the movie would play out if somebody like John Wayne, Cline Eastwood or Tom Mix were in Doug’s shoes… as if the film wasn’t already surreal and messed up.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Top 10 Scenes from Fright Night

One of my favorite vampire movies of all time is Fright Night because it was edgy, funny and pretty gory. There are so many memorable scenes in the film from when Peter burns a cross into Evil’s head or Charlie sees Jerry for the first time. However, for my taste there are a few scenes and key moments within the film that have always stood out to me. These moments are my favorite because they’re either well written, visually stunning or expand on the vampire mythology but no matter what… they’ll always be memorable. Now, before I get to the list it must be stated that these scenes, if on a scale of 1 to 10, are within mere decimals from each other. My second favorite scene is ranked at 9.99 instead of a perfect 10. My third favorite scene is ranked at 9.98 and so on. Essentially, they’re all winners in my book.

CAUTION: There are spoilers here.

10) Jerry dances with Amy

As a kid, I always thought this scene was a little out of place but that’s probably because at the time I was more preoccupied with the vampires than with dancing. As time moved on I grew to like this scene because it reminded me of a more modern interpretation of a masquerade ball; the smooth ballroom dancing and the look on Amy’s face when she realizes that Jerry doesn’t cast a reflection in the mirror. Besides, I’ve come to really enjoy “Give It Up” by Evelyn King.

9) Amy and Evil Ed visit Charley

There is no real profound reason why I love this scene. It’s just a quirky yet sad scene where Charley, with a frightened but determined look on his face, is sitting on his bed sharpening a stake. The way Ragsdale handles the role makes me believe that he is hell-bent on defeating Jerry even if it means killing himself and looks on Amy and Evil Ed’s faces are priceless. It’s clear that they think Charley has completely gone overboard but it’s one of those moments where, as the audience, we know what’s really happening and we feel sympathetic for Charley.

8) Billy Cole melts

This is sort of on par with the previous scene but as a kid, and even now, I always admired the special effects Fright Night had, particularly this exceptionally gory melting sequence. Fresh from seeing The Blob (1988), seeing somebody’s skin melt and peel down their bones was one of the most satisfying things I could ever hope for in a horror movie. There’s green goop, sand and slimy bones and it begs the question: what in the hell was Billy Cole and why did he melt?

7) Jerry dies

There was a gap between the ages of 13 and 17 where I didn’t watch Fright Night so when I saw it for the first time in 4 years, I thought the scene where Jerry’s “skeleton” bursts into flames at the end was digitally enhanced with computers. It wasn’t until later I found out that Fright Night was made in ’85 meaning that was all practical effects. I couldn’t believe how amazing it looked and it will forever stand out to me as being one of the best examples of practical effects done right. Additionally, I love this scene because of that painful/remorseful “AMY!” that Jerry lets out as he’s being fried. It’s such a sad moment because you can tell, in his last dying moments, that Jerry really loved her.

6) Amy shows her teeth

For the longest time I was grown up on old-school vampire mythologies; the white fanged teeth, the pale face and the hypnotizing eyes. You can understand that when I saw Jerry for the first time, it was a shock but that moment when Amy looks up towards the camera to reveal her monstrous form… it was “what the fuck!” moment for me. I loved that scene because it showed just how far vampires have progressed since the Bela Lugosi era; now they are seen as literally demons in human form. The way Amy’s mouth peels back into a harlequin smile, a mouth full of swollen gum and crooked, jagged teeth screamed Joker meets Dracula. I should have known by the poster that it would be coming but you know how posters get sometimes… they lie to sell the movie. In this case, what you see on the poster happens.

5) “Welcome to Fright Night… for real.”

Way before I even went to a midnight screening of this film, I use to cheer every time Jerry walked into the screen and mockingly uttered that infamous line. It was at that moment, the second after he leaned up against the banister and crossed his arms, that I Knew that shit was about to get real. I had chills because everything from this point on was real and not TV. It was that ominous mark that would start the epic confrontation between good and evil and it was an indicator to my friends and family that from that point on, I’d be completely transfixed with the movie.

4) Jerry seduces Amy

I was always fond of this scene, especially now, because it brings back that time-honored tradition of sexuality and vampirism. For a majority of the modern horror era, vampires were scene as emotionless monsters who only kill and drink blood. But this scene stands for something; it shows that a modern vampire movie can still retains that trademark but at the same time compromise to cater to modern generations. Otherwise, the scene is very passionate but yet very ominous. The photography highlights Amy’s curvatious body and Jerry’s soft gentle touch only further proving that he isn’t just drinking her blood for the hell of it but rather because he’s in love with her. Complete with Fiedel’s exotic and electric score, this scene stands out as being one of the more hypnotic scenes in the entire film.

3) Peter kills Evil Ed

For the longest time, and even now, the transformation scene in American Werewolf in London is regarded as being one of the greatest and most painful werewolf scenes in the history of cinema. While there is no doubt that it’s true, I believe the scene where Peter kills Evil Ed (who changed into a wolf) was probably one of the saddest scenes in horror history. I was always plagued by seeing the half wolf half man leaned up against the wall trying in vain to pull the stake out of it’s chest. The way it howls in agony as it stumbles to the ground and Peter’s teary face once he realizes that the wolf is slowly reverting back into a human. The face Ed gives Peter in his final moments is that of a tortured and cursed young man on his dying breaths. When he finally reverts back he’s left naked, exposed, vulnerable but dead. It’s such a sad scenes for such a cheesy movie.

2) Jerry comforts Evil Ed

There was always this eerie sense of comfort that attracted me to this scene and I think I can attribute that to many different things. The way that Jerry’s silhouette walks down smoky ally reminds me of the old black and white noir films of the 40’s. The cold and foreboding tone that accompanies the scene and the inevitable jump presence of Jerry. However, I think I like this scene because it shows a bond between Jerry and Evil Ed, a bond that goes beyond than just blood-sucking. Jerry is considered an outcast and was probably shunned in his time for being a vampire. Evil Ed is considered different from most norms of society so you can also argue that he’s an outcast like Jerry. The dialogue between Jerry and Evil Ed explains a bulk of it but it’s that realization in both of their eyes that they were meant to cross paths with each other. I also like the fact that it shows vampires as just not demons that chase women but also interact between men as well.

1) Jerry confronts Charley

This scene is considered my favorite of all the scenes because of what happens. Of course it was the first time in my life where a vampire wasn’t just a guy with fake fangs in his mouth and it was one of the scenes that made me jump back in my chair when I first saw it. The real reason why I love it is because Jerry is shown as a sympathetic character and not just an unstoppable monster that wants to kill Charley for discovering his secret. Instead, Jerry tamely asks Charley to leave what he saw at the door and just forget about the whole thing. He does this peacefully but when Charley gets stubborn, he grabs him by the throat and tells him that he’s giving him a choice, which was something he never had. This scene feels like a continuation of where Stoker’s Dracula left off. It further sets up the fact that Jerry is a tortured person who lived a cursed life and doesn’t want any trouble. It’s one of the more unique twists on the vampire mythology that I never saw before and I love it for that.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hollywood Video Memories: Uncle Sam (1997)

One of the biggest things that influenced me when it came to choosing what horror movie I would watch next was the box covers. There were two movies in particular that had cover art that immediately grabbed my attention. Uncle Sam and Jack Frost were different than most because they were the only two horror movies that had holographic covers, more specifically I was drawn to Uncle Sam because it had a menacing face of a decaying dead Uncle Sam on the cover. To me, Jack Frost would be saved for another time. At the time, I was about 12 years old and I could hardly care less about what the plot of the movie was. All I cared about were the kills, how much it scared me and whether it lived up to its awesome VHS cover art and from what I remember… I was displeased. To me it was boring and the kills, aside from one, were pretty generic. I thought the mask the “killer” wore was silly looking and I didn’t understand what Kuwait was. The only thing memorable to me was the scene where somebody gets strapped to a wooden display and dies after erupted into a gorgeous array of red, white and blue fireworks. This was my impression of the film for years and until recently I came across it on Netflix and decided to give it another watch.

When I was younger, I always thought the film was about some kind of demonic force that takes the identity of Uncle Sam and I wasn’t that far from what the movie truly is about. Sam Harper, a decorated soldier and Purple Heart winner, was shot down in Kuwait from friendly fire. His young Nephew, Jody (yes, he’s a boy), becomes distraught over his uncle’s death. However, through some mysterious connection between nephew and uncle, Sam is brought back to life on the eve of July 4th. Now, as the entire town celebrates the birth of America, Sam dawns the outfit of Uncle Sam and goes on a killing spree to those who dare disrespect the U.S. of A. But there is more to Sam’s past then just being soldier who enlisted purely for the fun of killing. The only real notable actor in the movie is Isaac Hayes who plays Sam’s former army buddy Jed Crowley and he gives a hammy performance as always. William Lustig, the brain behind Maniac and Maniac Cop, directs this wonderful gem of direct-to-video goodness.

As I already stated, the reason why I didn’t like this movie is because it was slow, boring and drawn out. I didn’t care for any of this “exposition” when I was younger but as I grew older I began to look at things through a different light. Uncle Sam is horror but half of the movie is a drama and the other half is a slasher so it felt lopsided and that’s what turned me away from it in the first place. The first half of the film is a young boy’s struggle to cope with his uncle’s death; an uncle who, in his eyes, set out to accomplish something and died for the good of our country. The second half has that very same uncle rise from his coffin and go on a murderous rampage of draft-dodgers and corrupt politicians. But as I look closer at the first half, it’s not that bad of a story and like myself, this half turned a lot of horror fans away from the movie but I’ve come to accept it. It’s actually a very ominous drama that keeps alluding to Sam’s horrible past but we never know it because we’re meant to see the story through Jody’s eyes.

The movie tackles some pretty interesting topics involving patriotism, what defines and hero and the quandary of war. One of the issues that are brought into the light is the dilemma soldiers have to face in war. Jody’s teacher, a draft-dodger, questioned the reason why we ever got into Vietnam and whether it was right to fight into a war they didn’t believe in. If the U.S. says you must fight for our country despite what you believe in, do you answer the call or do you avoid it? In a very unsettling scene, the movie also asks the question: in war, what defines a hero? Jeb (Isaac Hayes) believes there are no heroes in war, only people crazy enough to try something stupid and get lucky. He believes that those willing to take out an entire company with their bare hands are sick-minded but they’re decorated as heroes. Those willing to throw themselves on a bomb are crazy too but they’re viewed as heroes. For a movie that’s about a zombie soldier dressed like Uncle Sam and seeking his revenge from friendly fire, there are a lot of deep questions that it tries to provoke.

As much as it seems like I’m praising this movie, I’m not because it’s not a great movie but rather an okay movie. It’s not a B-movie because there are a lot of great special effects, explosions and fireworks that invoke a very dark and cynical July 4th. There are still problems the movie suffers, problems that I never really paid attention to when I was younger, problems that I just now noticed as an adult. Just to name a few: Sam’s motivations are quite clear in the beginning; he kills those who do not live by the perceived American ideals, therefore he kills people who defile or deface what America is all about. However, near the end of movie he simply kills just for the pleasure of killing (then again, that’s apparently what he did before he became a zombie). This unique motivation keeps flip-flopping back and forth. The kid in the wheelchair at the end of the movie literally comes out of nowhere and almost acts like a second main character. Who is he? Where did he come from? Why wasn’t he referenced before the very end and most importantly, why is he suddenly telepathic? I also think it’s funny that Jeb, a full grown adult, casually takes orders from him. There are also a lot of small things that are wrong with it but I won’t dive into those because I don’t want to nitpick.

Uncle Sam is a strange one out of the holiday-themed slasher movies because it’s part serial killer and part zombie flick but in the overall plot, it’s part drama and part horror. It’s certainly not an awful movie but it’s also not great… it’s just okay. I’ve gotten past some of the minor things and saw what appeared to be a movie trying real hard to be solemn and political. Part of me is still in 12-year-old mode where I just want to see somebody dressed as Uncle Sam fillet somebody on an American Flag staff. The way I see it, if somebody ever asks me about it (not like they would), I can give them an honest opinion instead of saying something like, “It’s a shitty movie with shitty acting and it’s too boring!” Now I can say, “It’s an okay movie with okay acting but it drags on in the first half.”

Side note: Every time I saw Robert Forster in a movie I would say, "Oh my god it's Max Cherry!" obviously from Jackie Brown. Now when I see him I'll probably laugh and say that I got to see him explode in a celebration of fireworks.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Review - Fright Night (2011)

I have always adored the original Fright Night because of how it combines traditional vampire elements with modern interpretations. I don’t consider it a childhood movie because when I saw it, I was about 13 and rented it in conjunction with Waxwork and Head of the Family. When I heard there was a remake, I couldn’t believe it because I knew they would make it flashy and action-packed so that modern audiences wouldn’t be bored by it. The trailer only reassured me of this. So, I went to see it and I wasn’t wowed by it but I didn’t think it was terrible either. The story, this time around, is different from the original storyline. When Charlie’s friend disappears, his other buddy Ed tries to convince him that his neighbor, who happens to be a vampire, killed him. Charlie, at first, doesn’t believe him but soon discovers that he is right and that he now must protect his girlfriend and his mother from a bloodsucking monster who has survived for 400 years. He can’t do it alone, so he enlists the help of a famed Las Vegas entertainer Peter Vincent, who claims to have encountered a vampire in his childhood. I partially enjoyed the remake because it kept in the small things that made the original so good but it ignored some of the fundamentals of what made the original Fright Night a “compromise” flick.

I’m going to dive right into the small things that I liked about this remake. I always liked that smirk that the original Jerry Dandrige gives Charlie when he realizes that he just embarrassed himself in front of Peter Vincent. Colin Farrell is the perfect modern day candidate to deliver that snarky smirk followed by him taking a big bite out of a green apple. I loved it. It was one of my favorite moments in the original Fright Night and they kept it. I’m glad they kept in the famous lines, “you’re so cool Brewster” and “Welcome to Fright Night,” and although I hated the delivery of the first line, I think Colin did a great job delivering the second line. Although it was partially ruined by CGI, just like the blood in this movie, I am still glad they gave Charlie’s girlfriend a crooked, harlequin like smile when she becomes a vampire. It was something I was dreading from the moment I saw the trailer. They improved on something that the original barely touched base with and that’s the notion that a vampire needs to be invited into your house. I loved it because it’s going back to the old school rules of vampire mythology, something that modern day vampire movies always seem to forget. There is even a small almost unrecognizable cameo from the original Jerry Dandrige that I enjoyed. I think I was the only person to have clapped when I saw him on the screen.

One of the major concerns I had about the remake was the casting decisions and surprisingly, none of them applied to Peter Vincent or Jerry but rather Charlie and Evil Ed. I liked Colin Farrell as Jerry because he has a sort of modern charisma and snarky looks that can really be creepy. I have never seen one Dr. Who episode let along the ones with David Tennant but outside of the Dr. Who franchise, I’m a big fan of his work. I think he was a great cast for Peter Vincent and although, at first, I hated what they did to Peter Vincent I slowly warmed up to him as this cocky stage performer. However, for the first half of the movie, he was annoying and I had flashbacks to Dr. Loomis in the remake of Halloween 2. When he finally got his shit together and assisted Charlie in trying to take down Jerry, that’s when I smiled and said, “This will be good.” Anton Yelchin was actually pretty good as the nerdy Charlie Brewster and had that nervous stutter the original actor had but some scenes were really showing Anton’s age. Not that it matters but you could tell he is definitely too old to be in high school. As for Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Evil Ed, like with Peter Vincent, he was really annoying and not sympathetic as the original character was. I was okay with the casting but it was the way they played Evil Ed off. When he becomes a vampire, he looks more like a werewolf than a vampire, which is good… I guess, but I don’t think it was their intention.

There were lots of fundamentals that they decided to skip out on and in return they enhanced the action to keep modern day audiences more attentive. The original Fright Night is a slow movie and I liked that, in this remake, they get right to the point and they pepper it with house explosions, car chases and a gun & stake fight in Peter Vincent’s apartment. One major fundamental that they got rid of was the uncanny resemblance the original Fright Night had with Rear Window in that there are several scenes where Charlie is spying on his neighbor with binoculars. It was a wonderful aspect that they hardly even touched base upon with this remake. Another fundamental was the romance. I’m all for the cold-emotionless vampires of today but I always prefer my vampire to be romantic, and the original had a very complicated romance between Jerry and Amy. In Jerry’s long past, he was a romancer helplessly in love with a girl but because of his curse, he ended up leaving her. In the climax, when Amy is held down by Charlie, Jerry, as he’s being burned alive, screams out, “AMY!” It was really sad because I believe Jerry really loved her as she reminded him of when he was younger and not cursed. None of this romance and forgotten love is even in the remake. I hated it. It was the perfect chance to infuse traditional vampire mythology with modern day vampire mythos.

Speaking of relationships, there is no relationship between Jerry Dandrige and Charlie Brewster aside from Charlie being frightened by him. The original had such a great confrontation in Charlie’s bedroom and that scene wasn’t even put in the remake. The way I see Jerry, he’s supposed to be sympathetic and not a cold heartless bastard that the remake makes him out to be. In the bedroom, Jerry gives Charlie “a choice,” which is something he never had. This idea of Jerry protecting Charlie was always something that I loved because maybe Jerry sees Charlie as a young him. Jerry is missing a father figure and Jerry, or even Peter Vincent, is that father figure protecting him from something he can’t fully understand. This fundamental is completely absent from the remake and it looses any emotional impact they were going with. Also, there is so confrontation between Peter Vincent and Evil Ed, which I really loved from the remake. The agonizing pain that Ed goes through as he transforms from wolf to teenager was something that not only made Peter Vincent cry but it made me sad as well. Instead, they try to differ it up with the remake and it doesn’t have the impact that the original had; partially because they didn’t use practical and sound effects to create a truly agonizing scene on par with American Werewolf in London.

I try not to be nitpicky but these were fundamentals that I loved from the original. It’s so hard to compare the two films and the characters because the remake is so different from the original but because it bares the same name and basic plot, I feel as though I must compare the two. This is my entire argument, really. Things have been omitted, changed and flopped around to the point where if they changed a few more things, it could have been a great original story that pays tribute to Fright Night. Look at films like Disturbia. Disturbia, at it’s basic premise is exactly like Rear Window but they changed it up a bit, slapped another name on it and I loved it. Look at the movie Rat Race; same basic premise as It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, but different execution and name. This movie didn’t need to be a remake but rather it’s own thing and I think if they did it that way, I would have loved it a lot more. Since it bares the name Fright Night, my mind will always be in conflict trying to compare an apple to an orange when it reality, they aren’t comparable. Fright Night, though I didn’t hate it, could have been something more original but instead they had to bank off of the name and make a remake. In the end, it makes me want to watch the original even more.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Review - Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)

I was never really excited for Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark but I was curious to see how they would be able to improve on an already cheesy 70’s TV show. When I saw the trailer for it, I thought it looked amazing but at the time I didn’t know it was a remake. As time passed I forgot about the movie until my friend watched the original TV show and said it was really cheesy. So, on the eve of its premiere, I was beginning to show a little excitement. This was a chance for the filmmaker and Guillermo (as the producer) to construct an homage to 70’s horror where the music and the mood are the scariest pieces. In the end, I walked out of the theater with a feeling of “eh.” It certainly isn’t bad but it wasn’t great either. It was okay. The film centers on a father, his young daughter and a stepmother who is NOT evil like any other horror movie. The young daughter, Sally, begin hearing voices coming from an old gated up hole in the basement. The voices say they want to be her friend but she quickly learns they want to attack her. Thinking that his daughter is crazy, the dad believes all the attacks are staged by Sally to get attention. Sally’s dislike for his new wife may have been the cause of that, however, the “no so evil” stepmother does a little sleuthing and finds out that little creatures that eat the teeth of young children inhabit the house.

One of the biggest problems that I had with the film, and it doesn’t tarnish the entire movie, was the willingness to show the creatures in extreme detail. Don’t get me wrong, I’m okay with a movie that feels like a demonic version of The Borrowers but I didn’t need to see all the details. By doing a Google search on Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, it seems as though the original did the same thing. The beginning of the movie has a man, named Blackwood, who chiseled his teeth and his maid’s teeth out and offered them to the creatures in exchange for his son. While in the process of sticking his head through that hole in the wall, something grabs him, we hear screams and then his entire body gets sucked into it. That was creepier than anything else in the movie. By showing your monster too much, you lessen the scare value and it reveals just how funny the creature or creatures are. I think if we saw small movement, or even a silhouette running in the shadows, it would have built up a better mood. If they had to show you what the creatures looked like, I think the best part to do so would be when Sally is lifting up her bed sheets and one of them pops out. It’s fast, it shows you it’s face and it’s a great teaser.

Perhaps Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark was marketed for horror fans that are within the R-rating. I can’t help but think of Insidious when I talk about it because they both seem to rely heavily on the same scare techniques of the 70’s, loud abrupt orchestral pieces and a very definitive mood. As a side note, I wonder why Insidious got a PG-13 and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark got an R? There wasn’t any swearing any either of them from what I remember. However, in the case of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, it wasn’t so much moody as it was loud noises. I’m fine with that because a lot of horror flicks use the loud noises to scare it’s audience but what made Insidious so good was the mood and it’s willingness to use silence as a means of scaring the audience. For younger horror fans, loud noises and foreboding music works and it’s a staple in the horror genre, I just wish they did something a little more different.

With all that said, and this goes for Insidious too, I love that Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark isn’t just your typical haunted house movie but rather something much more with a creature that is very reminiscent of old world demonology. The tooth-snagging creatures could be interpreted as teeth fairies seeing as how they steal your teeth and leave a piece of silver in it’s place. They almost seem like they drew inspiration from Medieval and Colonial takes on fairies where they were seen as monsters or demons that attacked children. I love that idea that there are things that live within the walls of my home, which is why that line, “Are you feeding that thing that lives in the wall again?” from People Under the Stairs freaked me out. I know this is a remake and I’m sure all this more appropriately applies to the original but I haven’t seen it yet, so I am basing all my assumption on the remake.

All in all, it wasn’t a near-flawless movie but it was still entertaining at times. I guess what separates me from a majority of the new horror fans is that I like it when the monster is left to your imagination. On the way back from the theater, my friend leaned over to me and told me that it would have been far creepier if they only revealed the creatures in the forms of the drawings. I couldn’t agree more. Otherwise, the acting is what you’d expect from a horror movie but the little girl was fantastic. It always seems to be the case. The mansion was creepy and I felt like it owned something to The Haunting remake. I also really enjoyed the bitter ending; I didn’t expect it and it was pretty cold. I won’t spoil it but it’s pretty sad. I wouldn’t rush out to see it but it’s a good movie to watch if you have surround sound and have nothing better to do on a dark stormy night.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Children of the… Grendel?

It’s not very often that you get a chance to see a horror flick where the children are the enemy. It’s not very often you get a chance to see the children being possessed by a renegade kid who speaks of some mystical deity. It’s also not very often that you see children worshiping a false god while living in a secluded section of their town contemplating on killing their parents. I am of course not talking about Children of the Corn, but rather a cult classic from Troma Entertainment called Beware! Children at Play. It would be easy to get the two confused since their premise is pretty similar although if anything, Troma’s movie acts as sort of a prequel to what would be Children of the Corn. Renegade children being led by somebody who is clearly out of his mind, although there doesn’t seem to be any real hint of supernaturalism in Troma’s movie. But the similarities between the two movies are uncanny and I think that Troma did a somewhat good job of parodying King’s story.

Children of the Corn takes place somewhere in Nebraska and Beware! Children at Play takes place somewhere in the rural South. People who have a strong belief in Christianity apparently populate both towns but it’s never directly seen in Children of the Corn… only stated. Each town is secluded from any type of large populated area and people that stumble into it have that city quality to them. In Children of the Corn, the couple that ends up getting involved with everything seems to have that city quality to them considering they are on their way to Seattle. In Beware! Children at Play, though I don’t think the protagonist family ever states where they are from I think they scream “suburbia” in just the way they dress. While most of the town’s men dress in plaid flannel shirts, t-shirts, overalls or work coats, the father of the family is wearing a nice blue polo shirt. I think these are all just really over-analyzed observations that I am making, but the real similarities are when comparing the two groups of brainwashed children.

See, both groups of kids are seriously screwed up and believe in their leaders insane rambling, however it makes more sense in Children of the Corn because there is actually a supernatural creature that lives in the corn. Further investigation states that the monster is actually one of King’s great villains known as Randall Flagg who appears as the main antagonist in The Stand. In Beware! Children at Play, there doesn’t really appear to be any type of supernatural force. Some kid, 10 years prior to the film’s current setting, decides to become a cannibal after eating his literature-teaching father who was caught in a bear trap for survival. Now that somehow gave this kid incentive to kidnap the rest of the town’s kids to brainwash them by reciting Beowulf lines. It makes no sense but I guess in this world, young rural children are easily persuaded into killing and eating their parents by simply reading Beowulf. Their base of operations looks like a kid-friendly reenactment of a Native American village with teepees and bonfire pits. I get it, it probably looks makeshift because the movie is very indie and honestly I can’t complain about it.

But what about the leaders of both groups? Well, before I get into that lets talk about their “martyr” so to speak. The children in the corn worship a god named “He Who Walks Behind the Rows,” and their sub-god (I guess) is the Blue Man who happens to be the rotting corpse of a mailman. It’s creepy and very disturbing. Now, the children of Grendel worship their leader named Glen Randall (bad pun) and their “sub-god” appears to be the rotting corpse of Glen’s dad, the one who got his foot caught in the bear trap. It’s not disturbing so much as it makes you say, “Oh you kids and your crazy fads.” The similarities between The Blue Man and Glen’s dad is pretty uncanny because they are both rotting corpses who are being hunt on crosses that oversee the entire camp. Now the leader of the children of the corn is Isaac, who happens to be one of the creepiest ominous kids in the horror genre. His right-hand man is Malachi, the long red-haired teen who swings his machete around screaming, “Outlander!” The children of Grendel’s leader is also some long-haired teen who doesn’t seem to pose any type of threat and doesn’t, in any way, look scary or ominous. Other than using kids to kidnap women to rape, his motivations aren’t as creepy as Isaac’s or Malachi’s. They even go as far as to shout the same infamous quote, “Outlander!”

I don’t think I also mentioned that both cults are set up in a relatively secluded area of the town; a cornfield and the woods. But you know what Children of the Corn was missing that Beware! Children at Play had? That’s right, a montage of pointless child homicide. Yep, the townsfolk are convinced that God has turned their kids against them as a test to see if they will kill them in his name… they are that deluded over the bible. I think they even recite a story in the bible, the story of Abraham who killed his son to prove his allegiance to God. So the townsfolk gather their things, invade the camp and begin shooting, maiming, stabbing and cutting their children in one of the most hilariously bad massacres I’ve ever seen. I’m kidding; Children of the Corn didn’t need that because it was actually good. As much as this movie is really bad, I found myself enjoying it at times because it has that distinct 80’s low-budget feel that makes me feel all nostalgic.