Sunday, June 28, 2015

10 Notable LGBT Scary Movies

End the landmark week with a notable LGBT horror movie. As usual, my scary movie recommendations range a broad spectrum of sub-genres, some freaky, some cheeky, some new, some old, and some downright foreign. Let's also agree that while LGBT depictions in scary movies historically have been less than favorable, some films do manage to steer clear of mean-spirited offensiveness. It's understood that you can't please everyone. Here's a quick list of notable LGBT Scary Movies:

10. Stage Fright
This campy film is probably the first gay horror musical. Set in a summer theater camp, a blood-thirsty killer is picking off anyone involved in the big musical production. It's way over the top, ridiculous, and hilariously entertaining.

9. Hellbent
Marketed as the first gay horror flick, this slasher film gives equal opportunity to ditzy males eager to show their P&A (pecs & ass). It never quite escapes its low budget thriller status, but it's moody, bloody, and set during a never-ending Halloween party that seems like a great time.

8. Dracula’s Daughter
This direct sequel to the 1931 classic finds Dracula's daughter in London grappling with her own curse. The lesbian-tinged scenes are both subtle, due to the Hays Code which prohibited taboo subjects in film, and omnipresent throughout the film. The film is chastised by some for presenting homosexuality in a negative, predatory light. But vampires are still monsters, right?

7. Stranger by the Lake
This French drama-thriller has won over the critics, earned 8 Cesar Award nominations in 2014, and has been called "the sexiest and most elegant thriller in years." Set in a cruisey lakeside, a man named Franck falls for a mysterious man who might be a murder.

6. The Hunger
Growing up I always remembered it as the lesbian vampire movie. It features the beautiful Catherine Deneuve, the fiery Susan Sarandon, and an always cool David Bowie in a I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-Ridley-Scott totally 80's movie (actually directed by his brother Tony Scott).

5. Chuecatown
This little known farce from Spain features the DNA of Pedro Almodovar in a darkly humored look at gentrification. An up-and-coming district in Madrid is slowly becoming the "it" neighborhood for wealthy gays but old, die-hard tenants stand in the way of progress and profitability. Presumably, murder of the elderly ensues.

4. Nine Dead Gay Guys
This cartoonish farce from the UK pits two down on their luck Irish lads who become rent boys to make a living, Unfortunately, they're not very good at it, and leave of trail of accidental death in their wake and a carful of bodies to deal with.

3. Deathtrap
Ira Levin's film adaptation of his Broadway murder mystery features Michael Caine as a washed up playwright, Christopher Reeve as the up-and-coming ingenue, and Dyan Cannon as the witless wife between them and a successful union.

2. Rope
Alfred Hitchcock's controversial psychological thriller deals with two implicitly gay friends who chose to commit the "perfect crime" as an intellectual exercise. At the time, the notorious Hays Code prohibited depiction of "immoral subjects" in film so the character's orientation was not directly addressed. It was however based on true events that were widely reported, and subsequently many theaters chose to ban it completely.

1. Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
One of the biggest horror camp classics of all time is chockfull of gay subtext, and apparently this went completely unnoticed by the director and studio. In the documentary Never Sleep Again, the screenwriter admitted the homosexual subtext was all intended and the even the now-out actor who played the protagonist also knew what was going on. (Visit the Decider site for a fully illustrated breakdown of the film's gay attributes.) It wasn't a great film but it did take an unusual direction that retrospectively was pretty cool for a major motion picture.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Insidious: Chapter 3: Review

The Insidious franchise has always felt a little old-fashioned: from the practical effects, to the unhurried pace, to the utmost reliance on atmosphere, lighting and sound effects. Insidious: Chapter 3 is a new story built as a prequel to the first two installments with previous director James Wan stepping down and actor Leigh Whannell (one of the Spectral Sightings goofballs) taking over the reigns. The heart and soul of the franchise remains mostly intact, but the first time director struggles with a plodding and clumsy execution. Gone are the clever shots and shocks milked to maximum effect, and instead beats last a little too long, the reveals are often mistimed, and the uneven script is left rather exposed.

But then the most wonderful thing happens: actress Lin Shaye shows up and saves the film with a harrowing and resonant performance. Shaye plays Elise Rainier who is a psychic force to be reckoned with in the subsequent films, but here we see her brittle and defeated start in this ghost busting business. She is an incredible character actor who brings gravitas to proceedings and elevates everyone around her. The marketing may not reveal it, but this is her story – not the young girl featured on the poster and trailer.

Ultimately, this movie will not win over many new viewers and definitely geared to the hardcore fans of the franchise and only marginally recommended. As sequels go, it does take some risks in the storytelling, reveals more about the character that holds this franchise together, has some unexpected humor, and sets up what could be a very unorthodox fourth chapter.

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.