Friday, May 22, 2015

Poltergeist (2015): Review

The haunted house sub-genre is my favorite kind of horror and 1982’s Poltergeist is one of my favorite films. I approached the remake with the absolute skepticism of a diehard fan who believes someone has trampled on sacred ground. (And seriously, who in their right mind would attempt to remake a Steven Spielberg film? Sure, Tobe Hooper was given the director credit but it was widely known that Spielberg was on set every day calling the shots.) The new Poltergeist maintains much of the storyline, has a terrific cast, and is an entertaining update that surprisingly does not totally suck – but also never truly soars.

There are two major elements missing in this film. The first was the ability to connect to universal terrors and the dreadful feeling of innocence lost. Yes there’s the creepy tree, the sinister clown, and the portal to the other side that abducts a child but none of it truly resonates on a deeper level. Perhaps its the almost instant acceptance of the weird events by the family and the lack of gravitas which points to an issue of tone (fun vs. frightening). I’ve seen more terror in a mother who looses a child at a mall than this family who lost their daughter to something bizarre in a closet. To it’s credit, the movie genuinely captures the disaffected modern family more prone to outbursts about lost phones and jobs than missing children. Perhaps it’s nostalgia but I miss the Amblin years of tight-knit Spielbergian families who loved each other on screen and then faced a threat together.

The second missing element was the absence of a strong antagonist so clearly defined in the original. In horror movies, there are good guys and bad guys, and you can root for only one of them but the stakes have to be clearly laid out. There was no face for the antagonist in the original but you felt it’s presence nonetheless. Here it was much more ambiguous, and the directer opts to keep the action moving swiftly along without lingering to much on anything. The threat is just not clear, and the focus on the ghostly shenanigans shortchanges any emotional payoff.

The film was directed by Gil Kenan who also directed the scarier and more emotionally engaging Monster House, and he is clearly aiming for a tamer PG-13 crowd. I’m not sure Poltergeist was the right film to make safer given that the original’s reputation for being one of the scariest films ever. I’ll give him credit for the smart updates (the ghost hunter with the reality show, the flying drone, the twist at the end when you think everyone is safe). The cast work well together and Sam Rockwell is solid as always. The effects are seamless and really add to the overall spectacle but the movie was much too short (that tacked on epilogue shows they were trying desperately to get to the 90-minute mark). It’s fun popcorn movie that adds little to canon of haunted house movies and like most remakes, is thoroughly superfluous. It’s certainly entertaining, but ultimately it’s just not as scary as it should be.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Scream Queens

Glee + Scream + American Horror Story = the fall's guiltiest pleasure: SCREAM QUEENS. I'm already obsessed with this show and the trailer below proves that Ryan Murphy knows his way around high school kids, horror, and schtick. The tone of the trailer has been off-putting to much of the hardcore horror community, but come on – it all can't be doom and gloom. Although I do share the concern that this is on FOX (rather than FX) so it's full glory (gory?) will not be on display. There's always the unrated DVD set, I suppose. Visit the official site for hysterical GIFs and more,, and tune in this September to see if Jamie Lee Curtis still has it. Spoiler alert: She does!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Penny Dreadful, Season 2

After a somewhat uneven first season, Penny Dreadful, Season 2 premieres this Sunday, May 2nd with an extended 10 episode run. The show merges the stories of Dorian Gray, Van Helsing, Dracula, The Werewolf, and Frankenstein into a lurid and grim 19th-century British-set narrative. It sounds like a lot of fun and often it is, but it's tone is brutally stark and somber. The second season is rumored to be "more engaging for a broader audience". I often felt like I needed a viewer's guide and thankfully a literary-minded friend was able to lend some background to the original books. It's definitely the thinking person's American Horror Story.

Don't have cable? Get a taste online 
with a free episode on Showtime

And for girls who love scorpions on their dresses, check out Hot Topic's limited edition Penny Dreadful collection. It's everything a gothic girl could want:

You Tube link

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Halfway to Halloween

Only 185 days (or so – I'm terrible at math) until Halloween! If you listen closely, you can hear a chilling moan in the air from home haunters across the country stressing about being behind schedule! 

I haven't even posted pictures from 2014. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Let's Do the Time Warp – Again!

Sacré bleu! First Halloween, then Evil Dead, and now Poltergeist – is no horror classic safe from the reckless carnage of what I call The Age of Regurgitation? Entertainment Weekly reported on Friday that FOX is developing a remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the 1975 cult classic about the sweet transvestite who enjoys doing the time warp with a blond, scantily-clad hunk. Thankfully it will not be one of those torturous "live" events, and while it will be sticking to the original play it will get a modern-day setting. The big question is casting – who could they possibly hire to adequately fill Tim Curry's glam heels? The point of remakes is give old stories new perspectives and glossy technical makeovers but will the performances measure up (down?) to the classic camp of the original? Hardcore fans know every single nuance of the 1975's cast infamous performance down to Curry's pregnant pauses (an-ti-ci...pation!), Susan Sarandon's wooden line readings, and the knowing glances between Riff Raff (Richard O'Brien), Magenta (Patricia Quinn) and Columbia (Nell Campbell). Let's hope it will succeed at being entertaining, and perhaps the producers will "get" what makes Rocky Horror so iconic.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Blood Moon #3 of 4

In case you missed this morning's Blood Moon, here's a time lapse video. I love the way the moon is slowly devoured by the darkness and then suddenly lights up in red.

If you are a mystical person who enjoys a good apocalypse theory, this third blood moon of four in 18 months signals the end of times according to Pastor John Hagee. Doomsdayers should visit for an ominous scare.

The idea of a "blood moon" serving as an omen of the coming of the end times comes from the Book of Joel, where it is written "the sun will turn into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes." (Wikipedia)

Of course science has clearly explained that blood moons happen when the moon travels into the Earth's shadow and the current tetrad of events just happens to be lucky "season". The current century of 2001 to 2100 will have eight tetrads of blood moons. The first occurred in 2003, the second is underway in 2014-2015. The final in the tetrad of blood moons occurs on September 28, 2015 and also happens to a giant super moon (when the moon is closest to the Earth). Mark your calendars now and rent a zoom lens for your DLSR. (See the Blood Moon on the Rise post from April 14, 2014 for a video from ABC news.)

Why no one has made a movie about the blood moon to capitalize on the fear mongering is beyond me! Maybe the upcoming disaster flick SAN ANDREAS will market the blood moon angle.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

iZombie Premieres Tonight

Do you LOVE zombie shows but can’t stand all that gratuitous gore or depressing drama – and miss Veronica Mars? Then the CW’s new show iZombie is inexplicably perfect for you. It's based loosely on a short-lived comic book of the same name, but gone are the comic's quirkier elements like a 1960s ghost pal and a were-terrier friend.

In the TV show, the main character eats the brains of the recently deceased, gains their memories and uses them to solve crimes. While the original source material sounds more fun, I suppose TV land needs one more crime procedural – this time with a teen cast. The reviews have been generally favorable and cite Rose McIver's performance as the pilot's bright spot but I would brush up on your millennial speak: teeds, yaaas for sure, but mabs ur fomo should myw.  :: /

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Insidious Chapter 3's Teaser Poster

The once promising INSIDIOUS franchise is unleashing Chapter 3 this May and to build suspense, we get this poster with hard-to-read red lettering saying something Important Loudly – and a vent. A VENT! Look at the way it just sits there on that grimy, grey wall... all flat and stuff... with its two stupid screws. So SINISTER!!!

I've made my own movie poster and I think it's just as good.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Boo-Boos Bandages

If you are the kind of person who likes display open flesh wounds for fun – and who doesn’t? – this is for you! A brilliant mad scientist (engineer, actually) from Oakland, CA named $hërwøõd Förlêé has a Kickstarter campaign for Boo-Boos Bandages. While it sounds cute, the adhesive bandages are sure to turn any stomach with seriously grotesque and highly graphic bandages to cover up those pesky paper cuts and dull knife kitchen stabbings that happen when making nachos. So why would anyone wear these?
If you don't mind a bit of attention, like having fun, and/or your real boo-boo smarts to such a degree you wish to convey that pain in a conceivable visual manner, then Boo-Boos are suitable for you!
Below is a sampling of 2 of the 5 sickening designs. This is a limited run available only through this project and there's 25 days left to go.

One of Forlee’s other noteable projects include the Anti-Theft Lunch Bag sure to keep those communal fridge fiends at bay. Sadly these are forever out-of-stock on his website, where you can also check out some of his other inventive projects, novelties, and hilarious concepts.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Salem Season 2 Posters

The posters for Salem, Season 2 are sinister, eerie, and downright breathtaking. Having been raised Catholic, upside down crosses always make me uneasy, but the poster with the upside down village is practically nauseating. Salem, Season 1 was uneven but still one of the best genre shows on tv – and it was actually scary not depressing (ahem, American Horror Story). Looking forward to more witchy horror on April 5th on WGN.