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Cat People (1942)
Great idea of sexual animalism
While at the Central Park Zoo, mysterious Serbian fashionista Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) catches the eye of Oliver Reed. She tells them of the legend of King John who freed the people from the Mameluks. John found some had been corrupted to worship Satan. He killed them all except for the ones who escaped into the mountains. Later, Irena and Oliver get married but her belief comes between them. She believes that an ancient family curse turns her into a panther when she gets aroused. Oliver sends her to psychiatrist Dr. Louis Judd.
This movie burns a little too slowly. The acting is pretty stiff. The movie uses shadows and sounds to do most of the horror. There are some very effective scenes. The swimming pool is the highlight of the movie. The movie has a great idea of sexual animalism but it's an idea that really can't be filmed at that time. It's about the denial of the sexual instincts. This movie probably pushed the boundaries a little bit. It's a movie of its time.
Harold and Kumar get a little serious and a lot of stupid hilarity
The guys have gone their separate ways years ago. Harold (John Cho) is a wall street suit married to Maria (Paula Garcés). Her father (Danny Trejo) insists on a real Christmas tree. Kumar (Kal Penn) is still a weed-smoking slacker. Vanessa (Danneel Ackles) drops by to inform him that she's pregnant with his child. Then Kumar receives a package addressed to Harold. It's a giant joint which Kumar lights but Harold refuses. The Christmas tree burns down and everybody goes on a quest to replace it before Harold's father in-law returns. Harold has his uptight friend Todd (Thomas Lennon) and Kumar has his loser friend Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld).
The guys still have great chemistry. That's why I want them to reunite earlier. I get the constant joke early on of them joining people other than each other. At some point, I don't care about that joke and I rather have the reunion. The under-current of the movie is about babies and family. There is nothing funnier than a coked up baby. I laughed every time. Blumenfeld is a little too whiny and annoying. On the other hand, Lennon is hilarious. In the end, it's about Harold and Kumar, and they're great together. And of course, there is the one and only great NPH.
American Horror Story (2011)
Love the first season
It's a weird series from Ryan Murphy. The first season centers on a family in the present. Vivien (Connie Britton) and Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) and their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga) buy an old house in L.A. Vivien had a miscarriage and Ben had an affair. Ben is a psychiatrist using the house as his office. He has a patient named Tate (Evan Peters). There are ghosts and creepy neighbor Constance (Jessica Lange) and her daughter Adelaide. Vivien hires housekeeper Moira (Frances Conroy/Alexandra Breckenridge). The second season centers on the insane asylum Briarcliff Manor. The third season is about witches in 1834 New Orleans. The forth season is about a troupe of freaks in 1951 Jupiter, Florida.
I absolutely love the first season. It is one of the most creepy intense TV horror series. It's weird and creepy. McDermott's intensity really fits the tone of the show. Each successively year is a great idea that a story is build around. After year one, there are great individual scenes. I don't find those plots to be quite as compelling. That's my main complaint. I love the freaks in season four but there is a lack of a compelling narrative. After the introduction to the characters, I don't find myself pulled in by the story. I usually abandon the show after a few episodes in each season.
House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
fascinating mess of craziness
Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) is a foul-mouthed clown owner of the "Museum of Monsters and Madmen" and "Fried Chicken and Gasoline". On October 30, 1977, Spaulding shoots a bunch of holdup guys. Jerry Goldsmith (Chris Hardwick), Bill Hudley (Rainn Wilson), Mary Knowles (Jennifer Jostyn), and Denise Willis (Erin Daniels) are traveling the country investigating weirdness. Spaulding shows the group his roadside show and tells them about Dr. Satan. They go in search of the hanging tree where they hanged Dr. Satan. They pick up hitchhiker Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie). Their tires get popped and they end up with Baby's family.
I like directer Rob Zombie's weird outsider style. It's over-stylized Grindhouse. I just think that writer Rob Zombie needs help pulling all the craziness together into a coherent compelling plot. He needs to figure out rooting interest, and how to create tension. This is a bit of a mess but it's a fascinating mess.
The Border (1982)
nice try at the dusty border town drama
Maria (Elpidia Carrillo) leaves her earthquake ravaged homeland with her children. Charlie Smith (Jack Nicholson) is a world-weary US Bureau of Naturalization and Immmigration agent in L.A. living with his wife Marcy (Valerie Perrine) in a run-down trailer. Then he gets a new job in the border patrol in Texas with a nice house to please his wife. He and his partner Cat (Harvey Keitel) catch a group of illegals including Maria. Cat tries to pull him into his corruption which causes a major rift.
I like the dusty ugly border world. Nicholson does a good job but this is not an exciting movie. It doesn't have good cinematic style. This is more at a TV movie level. I think Charlie Smith would be more compelling if he is a naive newbie.
provocative but problematic logic
There is a contagious blindness disease. The optometrist (Mark Ruffalo) who treats the first case also gets it. The authorities round up the sick under quarantine. The doctor's wife (Julianne Moore) doesn't get the blindness but she stays by his side. Soon the sick are left on their own and the strong starts taking advantage of the weak. Doctor's wife keeps her sight a secret as the prison descend into hell.
The start is pretty slow and I don't think it's necessary. My main problem is that there are a few unbelievable things in this movie. A minor problem is how quickly the quarantine is imposed. For such a weird sickness, the authorities seem unusually brilliant. The main problem is the unwillingness of the wife to use her sight. The plot seems to be bending over backwards to get to its points. There is a very provocative plot here. I wish it could be done more naturally.
Casualties of War (1989)
Compelling story but need grittier visual style
Max Eriksson (Michael J. Fox) is a Vietnam vet haunted by an incident during the war. Sgt. Tony Meserve (Sean Penn) leads a squad of five soldiers. He's hard-nosed and then his longtime friend gets hit. Eriksson is still considered cherry. PFC Diaz (John Leguizamo) is the new replacement. Along with Cpl. Clark (Don Harvey) and PFC Hatcher (John C. Reilly), the group kidnaps a village girl and rapes her.
I have some problems with the realism of the look. It's the way director Brian De Palma shoots some of the action. At least twice, he uses the background to show action while in the foreground a character looks forward. It's a very manufactured look and takes away from the realism that this movie desperately needs. MJF does the ethical naive jittery newbie but something about him strikes me unrealistic. He's not up to the drama. It's not gritty enough. I feel it would be more intense if he kept more quiet. The character needs to have some more internal conflict. On the other, Sean Penn nails it as the disturbed leader of the squad. But that just emphasized the lack of drama acting coming from MJF.
The Others (2001)
Kidman terrific in great moody atmosphere
It's 1945 Jersey, the Channel Islands. Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) is staying at a mansion with her two kids waiting for her husband. Mrs. Bertha Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), Edmund Tuttle (Eric Sykes) and Lydia (Elaine Cassidy) come for work after the previous servants vanished. The children are photosensitive and can't be in direct sunlight. Grace is religious and over-protective with numerous strange rules. Then Grace hears strange noises and voices which her girl Anne says it's a boy named Victor and his family.
This is a terrific moody ghost story. The twist is very nicely done. If there is any problem, it's that this movie is released two years after the best ghost movie with a twist. Nevertheless, Kidman is great and the creepy mood is worthy of the best of the old fashion ghost stories.
Swamp Thing (1982)
Fun upgraded B-movie
Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) is brought in to a research lab in the depths of the swamps. Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise) is developing a new species combining plants and animals. They develop a new formula that regrows old cells. Alec's sister Linda drops some on the wooden floor and new branches start to grow. Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan) is obsessed with immortality and tries to steal the formula. He attacks the camp. In the process, Linda is killed and Alec is set on fire by the formula as he jumps into the swamp. The creature rescues Alice as they try to drown her in the swamp.
Swamp Thing remains a B-movie despite being dressed up by Wes Craven. It's a well made thing but it doesn't becomes more than that. It couldn't escape the fact that this is a monster movie with a guy in a rubber suit. The action is slightly better than most 80s B-movie. This is fun with some explosions and some gunplay. Barbeau is definitely memorable as Alice although she's probably a little old to play the damsel in distress. Louis Jourdan is terrific as a creepy villain. His creepiness really sells this movie.
strictly B-movie horror
Jonathan Harker is hired by Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) to be the new librarian. Only Harker intends to end Dracula's rein of terror. Dracula manages to win the fight with Harker. Dr. van Helsing (Peter Cushing) arrives in search for his friend Harker. Dracula haunts Harker's fiancée Lucy. After her death, she rises again as a vampire to threaten her brother Arthur and his family. They are saved by Van Helsing.
I'm not a fan of watching somebody write in his journal. This movie needs to squeeze some of those slower moments out. There are far too many nothing scenes. I've seen a few of these Hammer Films and this is pretty much with the same style and caliber. As far as B-movie horror, this could be counted as a classic. The acting is good even if it's old fashion. The story is changed a little bit which is fine by me. There is some good blood but I wouldn't call this movie gory. It was probably gory for its time to see blood in color. Driving the stake is done very effectively. Those are the high points of the movie.