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Peggy just might be the last innocent girl left in a post-apocalyptic world. Nine years earlier, Peggy watched as a rain of toxic chemicals maimed, scarred and/or killed her friends at her seventh birthday party. It is a memory which haunts her still, along with the deaths of her father and older sister Anna. Sheltered by her overprotective mother, the pretty sixteen year old Peggy works in the family diner in a town which has all but dried up and blown away. When a group of dangerous punks wanders into the diner one day, Peggy is immediately attracted to the leader, Jak, a tough but nice guy. It is love at first sight, but Peggy's hate- filled mother kicks the foursome out. It's too late though. Jak has already arranged to meet Peggy at midnight, and Peggy slips away with Jak and his friends to the forbidden and dangerous town of Muskeet, where the diseased and the dying go to party. Peggy is taken to the Doom Room, a scummy nightclub run by a sleazy Emcee (Robert Englund) who literally deals in blood. The toxic rainfall of 9 years earlier left many of its victims in a state of undeath, but when injected with fresh blood, the zombies are briefly reanimated. Hauled out onto the grimy stage of the Doom Room, the zombies are poked with cattle prods, twitching and contorting for the amusement of the customers. This is the Dance of the Dead, and Peggy will learn more about it in one night than she ever wanted to know.
I was really impressed with this third entry in the Masters of Horror series. This is Tobe Hooper's first foray into the zombie genre and it's a unique take. These aren't flesh-eating ghouls out for blood, just pathetic cadavers who have become entertainment in a world without cable reality TV shows.
The camera work is dizzying, the music is hard, cold and nihilistic and the performances are great, particularly by Englund whose Emcee is a thousand times scummier, sleazier and nastier than Freddy Krueger could ever hope to be. Jonathan Tucker as Jak is an extremely likable character, despite the fact that he's a thief and a drug addict - he's also chivalrous and heroic, an odd combination that Tucker miraculously makes work. Jessica Lowndes as the innocent Peggy is perfect, going from scared kid to world weary woman within an hour.
Suitably disgusting and abysmally bleak, Dance of the Dead is fun to watch and difficult to look away from, kind of like a particularly bloody car accident. I would (and will) watch this one over and over again.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
Thoughtful, Intelligent and Spooky
If you're hoping for a good, gory, gross-out horror movie with lots of scares, blood and hideous demons running around...well, look elsewhere. However, if you want a quiet, thoughtful, intelligent examination of good, evil and the power of faith, then this movie just might be for you.
Based on the true story of Annelise Michel, a young German girl who died during an exorcism in the 1970s, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a courtroom drama first and a horror movie second. 19 year old Emily Rose is dead, and Father Moore is on trial, accused of having denied the possibly epileptic and psychotic Emily proper medical care in favor of an exorcism. Erin Bruner, an ambitious young lawyer, agrees to defend the Father in exchange for a full partnership in her firm. But as the trial progresses, Erin gets a glimpse into a world of darkness and evil and a glimpse is all it takes to rattle her cage. The story of Emily Rose unfolds in flashback as witnesses for both the prosecution and the defense recall the devout Emily's short and tormented life. Was she indeed an epileptic whom medicine could have saved? Or was Emily touched by god and possessed by demons, destined for sainthood?
There is no projectile pea-soup vomiting in this movie, no swiveling heads and no gore whatsoever. And yet, the atmosphere of this movie is genuinely creepy, filled with a quiet, nerve shattering dread. The performance of Jennifer Carpenter as Emily is outstanding; her bodily contortions and wicked facial expressions are quite disturbing in the few scenes where she is allowed to explode with wrath and violence. But it's the silence in this movie that freaked me out the most: the heavy silences in dark rooms where you know something is moving around with ill intent but you never quite get to see what it is. A few quick glimpses of a black hooded Something are subtle and spooky without being cheesy. Tom Wilkinson as Father Moore is excellent as he always is, playing the priest with a quiet dignity and giving us a very human character who only wants to tell Emily's story and accept his own fate with grace, no matter what it may be. Laura Linney as Erin Bruner does a great job as a focused, no-nonsense business woman who nevertheless learns that she can still be scared of the dark.
All in all, I was really impressed with this quiet, thoughtful tale. Cheap splatter and lame BOO! techniques are cast aside in favor of a serious look at our beliefs and our disbeliefs, and in the end you are left to make up your own mind about Emily. This film still manages to be quite scary in places, but it's a nice, Adult kind of Scary that you don't see too often anymore. This film will probably bore horror fans who are used to splattering guts and screams, but it just may impress those of you who appreciate a plot with a brain.
Very good. And sadly underrated.
Silent Hill (2006)
I don't play video games, so I went into this film with no pre-conceived notions or expectations. I came away pretty impressed and a little disturbed.
Rose and Chris Da Silva are worried about their adopted daughter, Sharon. Little Sharon has been sleepwalking and speaking, while still asleep, of a place called Silent Hill. When Sharon nearly falls to her death during her latest sleepwalk, Rose decides to confront the issue head-on. She packs Sharon into the SUV and heads for Silent Hill, West Virginia. But Silent Hill is a ghost town that the locals don't like to speak of and which is contaminated by an ever burning coal fire deep in the bowels of the earth. After a freak car accident knocks Rose out, she awakens to find Sharon gone and a rain of ash falling from the sky. Silent Hill is indeed a ghost town, populated by demonic mutants and the ghosts of the damned. Rose is led by grisly clues deeper into the tragic history of the town and a terrible secret which involves her adopted daughter. Aided by police officer Cybil Bennet, Rose must face the dark demons of Hell and prevent history from repeating itself if she is to save Sharon.
This is quite a freaky film, though surprisingly not as gory as I had thought it would be. After a somewhat slow first 20 minutes or so, the film descends into rotting horror as air- raid sirens warn of The Darkness, deformed creatures lurch out of the shadows and the patina of normalcy literally melts away with the approach of evil. Standout characters include the sorrowful Dahlia, played by Deborah Kara Unger, who looks like the worlds oldest and saddest Goth woman, and the hideous creature known only as Pyramid Head, who stomps into view with a horde of cockroaches at his command. Radha Mitchell does a great job as Rose, playing her as a realistically frightened woman, but also as a determined mother who will stop at nothing to save her daughter. Jodelle Ferland is great in her double role of Sharon/ Alessa, a sweet, haunted little girl one moment; a creepy, frightening little monster the next. Sean Bean as the hopelessly lost Chris Da Silva is perfect; you can feel his frustration and panic. Alice Krige too is unnervingly chilling as Christabella.
The atmosphere of this movie is great - ash covered cemeteries, drippy basements, abandoned schoolrooms - all very creepy and menacing in their utter stillness. The violence, when it comes, is quite brutal. Skin is ripped off, bodies are roasted, limbs ripped away by barbed wire. Pretty gruesome, but not overly so. The demons are the real attraction here: besides Pyramid Head, there are also twisted torsos spewing black acid, deformed beings in nurse uniforms wielding scalpels and, in the scene which freaked me out the most, a man with his body bent double and his feet over his head crawling across a bathroom floor.
I've never played the video game so I really can't tell you if this was a faithful adaptation or not. But I can say that it is very original, quite spooky, satisfyingly bloody and even rather disturbing in several parts...and I don't scare easily. All in all, a very good horror movie.
I rarely get scared or creeped out by horror movies anymore...but this one hour "Masters Of Horror" installment by John Carpenter really got under my skin and stayed there.
Mr. Ballinger, played by an ice-cold Udo Kier, is a collector of the rare, priceless and profane. He hires the financially and emotionally troubled Kirby Sweetman (Norman Reedus of Boondock Saints fame) to track down a copy of a rare and notorious film called "La Fin Absolue Du Monde" - The Absolute End of the World. The film was reportedly destroyed after its one and only premiere, during which the audience went mad and a bloody, murderous riot resulted. Kirby, badly in debt and haunted by his own bloody ghost of the past, goes on the hunt for the obscure film and encounters evil not only in those who have been touched and corrupted by the film but within himself as well, for the unholy "La Fin Absolue Du Monde" does not simply drive its viewers mad but destroys them completely, turning their fears and sins against them.
The tone of this movie is genuinely disturbing throughout and the performances are intensely convincing, particularly by Udo Kier and Norman Reedus. Standout scenes include a vicious execution via machete and an upsettingly heartbreaking scene featuring a frail, angelic creature being tormented by Ballinger. A horrific climax involving Ballinger, a knife and a film projector was extremely flinch-worthy. The few clips we are shown of the fictional "La Fin Absolue Du Monde" are riveting and creepy and one wishes that it could be made into an actual feature length film.
Thank you John Carpenter for managing to deeply disturb me with this short film! Very impressive!
A really fun homage to the first movie
20 years have passed since Michael Meyers went on his bloody killing spree in Haddonfield, Illinois. Laurie Strode, the only survivor of the massacre, has since faked her own death in an auto accident, changed her name to Keri Tate and has gone into hiding with her son, John. Now a headmistress at a prestigious private school, Laurie has become a paranoid and emotionally damaged woman with too many prescriptions and a liquor cabinet that never runs dry. She also cannot let John out of her sight, virtually imprisoning him within the locked gates of the school. But John has finally begun to rebel. Sick of his mother's neurosis, he skips the school trip and retreats with his girlfriend and two others to the storage rooms for an all night party. It is Halloween night, 1998, and Laurie realizes that John, who has just turned seventeen, is now the same age that she was when her brother came looking for her. Her sense of foreboding proves to be not without merit: Michael Meyers is alive, he has found his way to the school and he is looking for John, Laurie and anyone who gets in his way.
This 7th installment in the Halloween series skips over parts 3, 4, 5 and 6 and serves as a direct sequel to part 2, making the series into a trilogy for those who might prefer it that way. It's also a really fun homage to the first two films and to the genre at large. Numerous references and in-jokes pop up constantly throughout the film, cleverly worked into the story instead of taking away from it. Jamie Lee Curtis makes her triumphant return as Laurie and brings her character full circle, from frightened screaming victim to ass-kicking woman who has finally Had Enough. The kids are surprisingly quite likable as well; they're not vacuous, empty-headed, one dimensional idiots served up like cattle for the slaughter, but rather well drawn characters that you are allowed to identify with and care about. Josh Hartnett and Michelle Williams, who later went on to bigger films and incredible fame, really shine here as the teenage leads. Adam Arkin as Laurie's boyfriend Will is such a sweet, genuinely nice character that you will be very sorry to see him go.
Chris Durand as Michael Meyers is really great, perhaps the most threatening, PO'd boogeyman since Kane Hodder put on the hockey mask. He really gives Michael life in this movie, making him a violent, quite scary and very angry killer. The scene in which he is hunting Laurie in the dining room, throwing tables aside easily but with furious force, is really tense.
This sequel should satisfy many fans of the original. But there are some who may be bored as well. The gore is minimal, there is no gratuitous sex and a lot of time is spent with character development and the building of suspense. I thought it was one of the more intelligent sequels to follow the original, and a lot of fun to boot. Die-hard fans of the first movie should not miss this one.
Demon Hunter (2005)
Worth watching for Billy Drago's performance alone
Jake Greyman is a demon hunter, a sort of supernatural cleaner, the guy who takes over when the exorcism fails. The film starts out with Jake cleaning up after yet another exorcism gone wrong, the third within a matter of weeks. All of the victims have been young and attractive girls and both Jake and the church are suspicious. There seems to be a new demon at work, one with a definite schedule. Jake teams up with the unorthodox sister Sara and the two learn that the Demon of Lust, Asmodeus, is doing his horny best to impregnate as many hot young girls as he can in order to produce a race of half breed beings who will destroy us all.
This is a blatant and watered down rip off of Constantine, but hey, at least Keanu Reeves isn't in it. Sean Patrick Flannery, quite a good actor, does his best here with a corny script and a limp storyline. Angelina Jolie lookalike Colleen Porch isn't too shabby either as the sister with a secret. Tania Deighton as the Succubus is really hot and slinky and she expertly manages not to look embarrassed by her phony looking horns. Billy Drago as Asmodeus really steals the film though. Drago, a great but seriously underrated actor who almost always plays scummy bad guys, is excellent as the fanged and sleazy demon, surrounded by half naked girls and smiling like an alligator. His scenes are the best and most fun, particularly one in which he enthusiastically nails a lovely Asian lady in a crypt. Wow! Seriously sexy hot stuff! The fight scene between Drago and Flannery is well choreographed and is a lot of fun to watch.
The special effects are rather lame and the soundtrack is bloody awful, sounding like a bad 80s hair band reunion, but there are enough good and energetic performances in this film to make it halfway decent and raise it slightly above the level of most other direct-to-video crap. Worth seeing at least once, especially if you're a fan of either Flannery or Drago.
Thir13en Ghosts (2001)
Eccentric gazillionaire Cyrus Kriticos dies in a violent pre-credit sequence and leaves his fortune to his nephew Arthur. Arthur, who lost his wife in a tragic house fire 6 months earlier, is now a bitter, heartbroken mess of a man, living with his two children and a sassy au pair in a small apartment. The family is ecstatic when they are informed by a creepy lawyer that they have inherited Cyrus's grandiose estate and immediately make the several hour drive out into the remote countryside to see their new home. The house, made entirely of sound and shatterproof glass, seems like a dream come true...at least until Dennis Rafkin, a tweaky psychic filled with dire warnings, shows up and passionately advises Arthur to get out and take his family with him. But it's too late. The house is actually a giant machine designed by Satan and built by Cyrus for the sole purpose of opening the "Eye Of Hell" and it seals itself shut, trapping everyone inside and releasing the 13 ghosts imprisoned in the basement from their enspelled holding cells. The ghosts are now onthe hunt, determined to kill anyone who crosses their path.
First, the good points, few though they may be. The ghosts are pretty cool looking. The Jackal in particular is impressive with his steel cage headgear and his rabid temper. The girl ghost too was sufficiently freaky looking. The house itself is a cool set, filled with some really nifty looking mechanisms. And that's where the cool stuff ends.
The performances in this film are excruciatingly bad, and the script is so abysmally idiotic that it hurt. Matthew Lillard is by far the only character I gave a damn about; his twitchy, geeky psychic was oddly likable. And poor F. Murray Abraham...he really deserves better roles than this. The rest of the family is so freaking annoying that I was looking forward to seeing them all get killed in many painful and horrible ways. After five full minutes of listening to the cast scream: "Bobby!" over and over, I developed a pounding migraine. The gore is minimal but halfway decent when it appears, i.e. the "split" scene. But the film gets really tedious really fast as characters spend much of their time running down glass corridors, screaming their heads off and stupidly pausing to look through their spectral welding glasses at the ghosts, who are given ample time to close the distance between themselves and their brain dead victims.
A very bad, stupid, lifeless movie.
The Devil's Rejects (2005)
This sequel to Zombie's debut film House Of 1000 Corpses picks up where that film left off, continuing the story of the deranged Firefly clan. Weeks or perhaps months have passed since the events of 1000 Corpses, and the police raid the Firefly ranch, engaging the dangerous family in a full blown gunfight. Otis Driftwood and his sister Baby escape the carnage and are on the run. Mother Firefly is arrested and taken into custody by Sheriff John Quincy Wydell, the brother of Lieutenant George Wydell who was brutally murdered in the first film by the Firefly's. Otis and Baby alert Baby's father, the sadistic clown Captain Spaulding, of the raid and the three fugitives team up, leaving a bloody trail of murder and destruction behind them as they flee across Texas. But Wydell is right behind them and with the help of a couple of bounty hunters, he corners the threesome in a whorehouse run by Spaulding's brother Charlie. But Wydell has gone over the edge. He no longer wants justice, he wants revenge.
This is an amazing and beautiful film, so different from its predecessor that it seems like an entirely different story with a brand new director. Ditching the day-glo, psychedelic splatter of 1000 Corpses, Zombie goes in for a gritty Western feel; part Tarantino-ish gangster/road movie and with some Peckinpah inspired violence, Rejects never lets up, not for one second. It's harsh, sadistic, sickeningly brutal and funny as hell. Everyone in the film turns in an amazing performance and the cast reads like a cult film roll call: Michael Berryman, Steve Railsback, Danny Trejo, PJ Soles, Daniel Roebuck, Priscilla Barnes, Deborah Van Valkenburg and EG Daily all turn up in small but important roles and each delivers an outstanding and memorable performance. Likewise the leads, Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, Sid Haig and William Forsythe are absolutely amazing and totally convincing, truly inhabiting their characters. Leslie Easterbrook is a jaw-dropper as the psychotic Mother Firefly, taking over the role from Karen Black and making it her own. She is unforgettable. The ensemble cast never once threatens to overpower the film - they become the film and make you forget for two hours that they're actors.
The violence is vicious and plentiful and is not for everyone. Consider yourselves warned. In particular, the scene between Otis and Priscilla Barnes is almost impossible to watch without cringing; it is deeply disturbing. Beautifully photographed and boasting a killer soundtrack to boot, The Devils Rejects is a triumphant sequel to House of 1000 Corpses and is a huge improvement as well. Zombie proves himself to be a filmmaker to watch with this impressive effort.
Very highly recommended, not only to fans of Zombie but to anyone who appreciates the action films of the 70s such as Straw Dogs, The Wild Bunch and Bonnie & Clyde. This is a great homage to those films, but it also stands all on its own, defying categorization.
Just see it.
The Uninvited (1944)
A Lovely, Old Fashioned Ghost Story
Roderick and his sister Pamela are vacationing along the English seaside when they discover a beautiful old house with which they fall immediately in love. They purchase the home from Commander Beech, an elderly man whose daughter and son-in-law once lived in the house. Almost as soon as Roderick and Pamela move in, the disturbances begin. A woman can be heard sobbing in the early morning hours and the smell of mimosa perfume is everywhere. Soon, Roderick takes a liking to the Commander's granddaughter, a very pretty but solemn and haunted looking girl named Stella. When Stella enters the house, the disturbances increase alarmingly, threatening her life and driving her perilously close to the sea cliffs. The Commander forbids her to set foot in the house, for he knows of the terrible tragedy that occurred there 20 years earlier. But the guilty secret he's been keeping all these years, a secret that involves Stella and her heritage, will not stay secret anymore and Roderick must face a vengeful ghost if he wishes to save the woman he loves.
This is a really great ghost story, a true classic of the genre. Everyone involved turns in a brilliant performance, especially Ray Milland as Roderick the sweet and likable composer and Ruth Massey as his spunky sister. Gail Russell as Stella is perfectly cast, always appearing shaken and fragile. The effects are terrific too! The crying ghost in particular will give you shivers as it echoes down the halls of the dark house and disappears with the dawn breeze. Light and shadow are used to maximum effect and despite the fact that this film was made in 1944, it never feels dated and it's lost none of its power to unsettle, disturb and even downright terrify.
Perfect viewing for a dark and stormy night. This is a flawless ghost story. Highly recommended.
The Haunted (1991)
A good, effective ghost story
Jack and Janet Smurl move with their four daughters into one half of a duplex, and Jack's parents move into the other half. Almost immediately, the two families are plagued by disturbances. Janet hears voices in the basement, and both she and Mary see a black, cyclone-like apparition moving through the walls. The men at first are disinclined to believe their wives, so Janet goes looking for answers on her own. She discovers that their neighborhood was built atop a collapsed mineshaft and that evidence of Satanic activity was unearthed as well. When Jack is violently attacked by a female demon, the family seeks help within the church and then from the Warren's, a husband and wife parapsychologist team.
Based on the true story of the Smurl family, The Haunted is a better-than- average made for TV ghost movie, perhaps one of the best I've yet seen. The performances are truly terrific, particularly from Jeffrey DeMunn as Jack, a man who is alternatively skeptical and terrified but always devoted to his family. Sally Kirkland is perfect as the harassed and strung out Janet who is desperately trying to hold her family and her sanity together. There's no gore or cheap scares to be found here; this is a story of a frightened family trying to find help and ultimately realizing that the only way to battle the ghostly invaders is to remain a close and loving family.
Despite the fact that this is made for TV, it's pretty damn spooky. The black cyclone is creepy as hell and the ghosts, when they appear, are all the more frightening because they look so normal. This film never falls back on cheap scare tactics or rotting boogeymen in closets; it looks real and seems very possible, which is what makes it so scary. I remember seeing this on TV when it premiered in 1991 and it gave me nightmares for several nights afterward.
Definitely worth seeing.