Category Archives: HorrorAthon

Reviews from our first ever HorrorAthon!

Movie Review: Halloween (1978) HORRORATHON

oct-teaser

Reviewed by: Phantomhour (Brendan Graham)

Halloween wouldn’t be complete without mentioning John Carpenter’s Magnum Opus of the slasher film genre, so it’s naturally a good fit to review this sucker on Halloween. It’s been 35 Years since Michael Myers was released upon the public, and since then the horror genre has changed around quite a bit. Does the original still bring the fear today? In this reviewer’s opinion, it still does.

If you don’t know the story by now, you’ve been living under a rock, and since it’s a slasher film, I’d rather leave the story a surprise.

Suburbia has never been so frightening.
Suburbia has never been so frightening.

What Works: Where to start with this classic gem, how about the performances? They are not cookie cutter, cut and paste horror characters who only exist to have sex and get murdered. These characters feel real, because they act real. One of the biggest pluses for this film is Jamie Lee Curtis, the scream queen, and for good reason. Her role as Laurie Strode is a pivotal turning point, she’s intelligent, quick thinking, and began to define what we’d see later in the horror movie world as a survival girl. She’s not a drinker, or a smoker, she doesn’t have premarital sex, and she fights like hell. She has to, because Michael Myers is one of the scariest movie villains. He walks around, yet he alway keeps up, you can’t see his eyes, you can shoot him or stab him, and the man (if you can still call him a man) comes back for more. He’s relentless, and thus relentlessly scary.

The sound effects of the film are also a character of their own, and the stalking theme from Michael Myers is legendary. As soon as you hear the music, you know things are about to get crazy. The scares are also top notch, cheap tricks are quite limited, every execution here is top notch, especially with the sudden appearances of the boogeyman Myers.

He literally appears out of nowhere, and it keeps you on your toes.
He literally appears out of nowhere, and it keeps you on your toes.

What Doesn’t Work: One of my only huge complaints about Halloween, is Dr. Loomis’ character. He’s supposed to be a psychologist, and yet most psychologists would never call their patients a monster, and his actions throughout the film go completely against moral psychology for a patient. Sure, Myers is a monster, because he’s portrayed this way, but in a logical world, Dr. Loomis isn’t acting professional and that can take a bit away from the impact of the occurrences in the film.

Slasher aficionados may not like this film because of it’s lack of gore. Which I don’t count as a negative, because gore isn’t necessary, but it may detract from your enjoyment if you’re a gore hound.

Final Score:

LegendaryThis film is still a knockout today, and there’s a good reason why people still talk about the film, and why many modern horror film directors adore it. You can try to impersonate it, but John Carpenter’s work stands the test of time, and should be worthy of your Halloween viewing. 9 out of 10. 

 

Movie Review: The Revenant (2009) HORRORATHON

This is yet another film in our HorrorAthon series that saw a much delayed release, though not quite as bad as All The Boys Love Mandy Lane.  This film only suffered a 3 year delay from the end of production to widespread release, being finished in 2009 and officially being put out on DVD and BluRay last year. And thank all that is good (pizza, steak, beer, etc…) this film is nowhere near as awful as that in quality either. Truth be told, I was on the hype train for this film since about the first announcement hit the interwebz, and I’m really happy to share a review on what I probably consider my favorite cult film.

The Revenant is about one Bart Gregory, played by David Anders, who, while on a military tour in Afghanistan, gets ambushed and killed. Three weeks later, after his family, best friend, and girlfriend have all grieved and tried to move on, Bart wakes up in his coffin (luckily unburied), and gets up and tries to figure out what’s going on. Of course, the first place he heads is his best friend Joey’s house… Needless to say, Joey’s a little freaked out by his decomposing best friend arriving at his doorstep at 3 AM, and tries to get him a little medical help. This doesn’t work out well at all, so the two are forced to retreat back to Joey’s place until they can get some answers. Luckily, they have a Wiccan friend who reveals that Bart is certainly undead, and will need human blood on a regular basis to stay alive(ish), and she insists Joey decapitate Bart to prevent any further misery to anyone. Of course, Joey can’t do that, so they have to look for alternatives… This leads first to a hilarious blood bank robbery gone wrong, followed by Joey’s proposal that they take advantage of this curse and “get rid of the dregs of society”. After they nearly get mugged, and Bart gets shot about 6 times, they realize what they have to do: become Vigilante Gunslingers, taking out injustice however/whenever they see fit.

Let’s get all Boondock Saints up in here!

What Works:

Hand’s down, this film’s strongest feature is the dynamic between Chris Wylde’s Joey and Anders’ Bart. They have an onscreen bromantic chemistry that I personally think has only been topped by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. Though to be fair, those two have had many movies and a few TV shows to work on that, while these guys have had just one. There’s a fantastic give-and-take between the two of them, showing all the facets of a best-friendship, the juvenility, the love, and the knock-down-drag-out brawls that can happen.

Contrary to popular belief, becoming undead does not turn you into Robert Pattinson…

Aside from the bromantic relationship between the two, the film also has some fantastic makeup FX, really witty dialogue, and solid cinematography. Bart suffers a ton of injuries throughout, and he appears at various points of decomposition, and still looks pretty great for this not being a mainstream Hollywood affair. The dialogue, though pretty crass at times, is still a lot of fun to listen to, especially in the first third of the film while Joey and Bart are trying to figure out Bart’s strengths and weaknesses. The gore is pretty prominent and effective, definitely making this a splatterhouse affair, so if that’s not your thing, I wouldn’t recommend this film.

What Doesn’t:

As was mentioned earlier, this film contains a lot of juvenile humor and language. Normally, I’m not one to bash these two, but wow, it’s prominent in this. This seems to blow both District 9 and the average Tarantino film out of the water. As for my earlier mention of the dialogue being pretty good, I’ll still stand by that, but the script as a whole seems a little disjointed. The film runs just a little under 2 hours, (110 minutes) and you can really feel that drag on in the final two acts, which is never a plus, especially in a horror comedy, where things are expected to be nice and quick and breezy. Also, there’s some confusing political commentary at the end, something I never really have enjoyed in my zambie movies.

Final Score:

Good

Don’t get me wrong, I still like this film a lot. It creates a solid reinvention of classic horror mythos, but in the end, the final two-thirds of the film are sort of lackluster. Buy it if you love gore and horror comedies like Shaun of the Dead. Otherwise, rent it somewhere. It’s still worth a single watch, especially when you know about all the love and hard work that got put into the production, like I did. 7.5/10 severed heads.

Movie Review: [REC] (2007) HORRORATHON

rec1

Reviewed by: Phantomhour (Brendan Graham)

Some of the heaviest hitters of the horror genre today come from overseas. Films like Audition and Oldboy (both from Asia) are some of the ones that come to mind. But now we look to Europe, more precisely Spain for the next breakout scare fest, and one that should be on everyone’s Halloween viewing list.

[REC] follows the story of Angela Vidal, a late night reporter who follows different groups of workers and sees what their nightly routines are like. This particular evening, she is following the fire department around, seeing how they live, what their schedules look like. When a call comes in for an apartment complex situation, she gets to ride along to record them in action. When they arrive and all hell breaks loose, herself, the cameraman and everyone else in the apartment complex get locked inside until the outbreak is contained completely.

Don't go! You're actually a likable character!
Don’t go! You’re actually a likable character!

What Works: This film works on so many levels, I don’t know where to start! The characters and acting are fantastic, everyone feels believable, and Angela Vidal is a wonderful protagonist; she’s strong, energetic and her performance is incredibly emotional that you’d have a hard time not wanting for her to survive. That rarely happens in Found-Footage films; most of the time, the characters are incredibly obnoxious.

Speaking of the found footage element here, its not a distraction, it’s an enhancement, which you don’t normally get to say about these types of films. The movie is incredibly tense and scary. Yes, I said scary, and I don’t call movies scary very often. It has a great balance of jump and atmospheric scares, and they are all done in an effective and necessary way. I was on edge the entire time we’re in the apartment complex, and don’t get me started about the ending, that is the stuff nightmares are made of.

The infected take batshit crazy up a new level.
The infected take batshit crazy up a new level.

The zombies, infected, whatever you want to call them, are absolutely terrifying; they’re fast, strong, and unpredictable, which is a recipe for success. Especially trapped in such a confined building, as the infected numbers grow, the film just keeps getting more and more intense, and it’s wonderful.

What Didn’t Work: A few characters, some of the other apartment residences, are a little too over the top at times, but not as bad as most recent George Romero flicks. Also, this is found footage, so at times the camera shakes quite a bit as the cameraman is running, it gets dropped, kicked around, blood spattered, and if you have a hard time dealing with your motion sickness with these kinds of films, this one may need to be avoided.

You probably know by now that there is a remake of this film called Quarantine  starring Jennifer Carpenter, and while it’s pretty much a shot for shot remake, it did one thing better: a lot of the scenes are much darker in composition, which made it slightly more effective in that aspect.

Horror films need to go big or go home, and this one is colossal in execution.
Horror films need to go big or go home, and this one is colossal in execution.

Final Score:

Great

With fantastic characters, realistic acting, and with intense and frightening execution, [REC] is a gem, it’s one hell of a thrill ride that you’ll want to revisit many times, and every time I’ve viewed the film, it has still managed to grab me and throttle my nerves. 8.5 out of 10.

Movie Review: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006) HORRORATHON

When you were in high school, did you ever know someone that seemed too attractive to be true, but when you took five minutes to actually try to get to know them, they turned out to be something you didn’t expect? As it turns out that’s both a perfect descriptor and a perfect metaphor for All The Boys Love Mandy Lane. The film features a rather bare-bones and generic plot, even for a horror film; basically a trope in itself: a group of teens goes out into the country to drink, party, and have sex, then most die. Normally I’d say spoilers or something, but this film is pretty obvious by about 10 minutes in, so I’ll skip the formalities. What should be mentioned, however, is the fact that this film was made about 8 years ago, yet only received a theatrical release stateside earlier this month. This leads one to think the film would be a cool cult film, like The Revenant or something, right? Right?…

Wrong-oh. This film was a mess. In all actuality, I was half tempted to put only a What Works and then tell you “everything else”, but out of respect for all you readers, and the director, who recently released the very enjoyable Warm Bodies, I’ll give you the full package.

What Works:

Looking at this film from the perspective of a gorehound, it’s decent. Ish. The kills, while not super creative, look okay. Unfortunately they’re not super memorable, much like the cast. Everyone, including the eponymous Mandy Lane (played by Amber Heard) isn’t given much to do. Luckily there is one exception to this rule: Anson Mount’s Garth, or Garf, as some characters frequently called him for the first half of the film. He’s the ranch hand supposedly taking care of the land one of the teen’s trying to get into Mandy’s pants parents own. He’s also pretty much the only character with even mild backstory, character development, or even the slightest bit of audience sympathy. So, by comparison to the others, he’s friggin’ awesome. Oh, and the soundtrack is okay, or at least the few tracks I can remember.

What Doesn’t:

Amber Heard is trying to escape from this film being on her resume…

So much… Oh goodness, so so much. The plot is a trope in and of itself, taking next to no license towards creativity or fun. The characters don’t even get that lucky, they’re more assigned basic roles before they’re killed rather than personalities even. Like obnoxious redneck, spoiled rich kid, and girl who’ll jump on anything that could possibly be contrived as available to her. Even Mandy, who this whole film is named for, seems to have no traits besides “hot” and “mysterious”. And that’s not because of acting or a good script, it’s because Amber Heard is a very attractive woman, and because she’s given essentially a handful of useful lines in the film, whereas the rest are essentially throwaways.

Even the camerawork, something I can usually look at to say something somewhat positive about a film, is shoddy and extremely overexposed in the final third. Now, some have said that is because the director was aiming for an homage to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and I Spit on Your Grave, but I don’t accept that. You know why those films were overexposed? Because the technology in the film cameras of those days weren’t that great compared to our modern, customizable digital ones that are industry standard now. So badly set up shots are no excuse in my opinion. If I, as a film student, get huge deductions for one shot in a short being over exposed, you, as a professional film-maker should not get a pat on the back for having roughly 20 minutes be that way…

Final Score:

.

With very few positives, and a metric crap ton of negatives, I can not personally recommend this film, and I’m definitely going to sympathize with anyone else who had to pay to get a hold of a copy. The acting’s bad, the camera’s bad, the writing’s bad, it’s all bad. Thank goodness the director learned from their mistakes and improved, as well as Amber Heard eventually getting better acting roles. 2.5 out of 10

Movie Review: Alien (1979) Horrorathon

alien

Reviewed by: Freekz80 (Blake Mickatavage)

So you’ve undoubtedly heard of Ripley Scott’s sci-fi horror film that spawned an incredibly popular franchise with films and games still in production today, right? But have you ever sat down and experienced just WHY Alien has been praised so much over the years? Let me give you some advice; if you haven’t, you better change that!

Alien begins with an introduction quite similar to that of Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) in that the audience is shown a large ship, using sneaky cinematography to give you a sense of its’ immensity. It is the Nostromo, a commercial towing ship on a journey back to Earth after mining millions of tons of mineral ore. The crew, seven total, are suddenly awakened out of cyrostasis by the ship’s artificial intelligence “Mother” when a transmission is intercepted from a nearby planetoid. The origin of the transmission is unknown, so the crew approaches to check it out. Upon landing, Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) stays aboard the Nostromo with Brett (Harry Dean Stanton), the Engineer, Ash (Ian Holm), the Science Officer, and Parker (Yaphet Kotto). The rest of the crew, including Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Navigator Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), and Executive Officer Kane (John Hurt) suit up and hit the planet’s surface to find the source of the transmission. The search party encounters some pretty strange things out there, including alien architecture, an unidentified corpse with a gaping hole in its’ chest, and most importantly, eggs like none of them have ever seen. When Kane begins to observe one of the eggs, it opens to reveal a scorpion-like monstrosity that immediately clings to his face, incapacitating him. When Kane is brought back to the ship, Ripley refuses to let the party on board due to quarantine procedures. We soon discover that the crew members certainly have their differences, and the lives of each one of them could rest on the decision of whether or not to let Kane on board.

Alien (1979)
Step a little closer to the Alien.. uh… ballsack. See what happens.

What works:

Alien probably isn’t the most traditional horror film. The spaceships and extraterrestrials would remind one more of Star Wars than The Thing. That being said, it does a lot of things really well, and shows that a geeky subculture of sci-fi can be blended with horror aspects for a great mix. For one, I’d like to compliment Sigourney Weaver’s performance as Warrant Officer Ripley. This was her first lead role in a film, and not only did she wear the big hairdo pretty well, but she was by far the most believable (and seemingly the only remotely level headed) of the characters. Tom Skerritt also played Captain Dallas pretty well, and I admired the stoic, honorable nature of his character. Branching away from specific performances, the ambiance in the film is incredibly well done. I loved the environments inside and outside the Nostromo, especially the nooks and crannies in the ship that unintentionally gave the Xenomorph great places to ambush the crew and terrify the audience. The subtle musical cues that bad shit is about to go down may sound a bit cliche, but nonetheless worked very well in Alien.

Alien (1979)
Surprise, motha fucka!

What doesn’t:

There are a few problems I have with Alien. For starters, as I mentioned above, Weaver’s character seems to be the only rational mind on board the Nostromo . The rest of the crew just likes to bicker and accomplish just about jack shit. For a small crew on a pretty expensive/important mining mission, you’d expect that they could at the very least have the cooperation skills to agree on something other than the fact that their space food tastes like ass. Captain Dallas also seems to contradict himself in that he obeys corporate orders by having the crew investigate an unknown transmission, but completely disregards them when insisting Ripley disobey quarantine procedures. To add to this, there were a couple of plot holes I noticed: First, what the hell happened to the laser pistols?! Considering the threat the crew was dealing with and that there weren’t enough flamethrowers to equip each crew member, you’d expect the unarmed to at least get some damn laser pistols! We see the search party carry them off the ship, but they suddenly disappear when they come back on board. What gives!? Next, sometime during the beginning of the film it is mentioned by the crew that the ship is roughly 10 months from Earth (we aren’t given a rate at which the Nostromo travels) but near the end of the film, Weaver mentions that her shuttle is only 6 weeks away. The disparity between spacecraft speeds can’t be THAT much! Finally, my last problem with Alien is Jones. That god damn cat. I’m really not sure what his purpose was except getting people killed. I don’t think I’d ever expect even a pseudo-professional mining crew to not only bring a cat on board, but allow it to run around and do whatever the hell it wants. I don’t recall ever seeing the thing in cryostasis either, so it probably should have been dead by the time the Nostromo completed its’ mining tasks. 

This may seem like a lot, but keep in mind that it probably won’t kill the experience for you (I’m just being a bit observant) and despite these few discrepancies, Alien is still quite the intense and horrifying experience.

Alien13
“Here lies Brett. While chasing pussy, his fate he met.”

Final Verdict:

Good

Alien is a classic sci-fi horror that any enthusiast should add to their collection. A bit cheesy at times and not without its’ fair share of inconsistencies, it still remains a chilling film that is loads of fun to watch. In my book, Alien deserves a solid 7/10.