Thursday, June 22, 2017

Annabelle: Creation

Annabelle: Creation looks absolutely terrifying. It's from the director of Lights Out and is a prequel to The Conjuring's spinoff, Annabelle. I can barely keep it straight. Could period prequel sequels be horror's next obsession? Ouija: Origin of Evil was leagues better than the first one.

https://youtu.be/EjZkJa6Z-SY

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Void ~ Review

If you get down to the nitty gritty, there's two things I love in a horror movie: wild ideas and a respectable execution, with extra credit if it attempts a 70s or 80s pastiche. The Void is unhinged, unabashedly weird, and audaciously retro. While it's not a screaming success across the board, there's so much great stuff here that fans of John Carpenter's early work, Stephen King, and H.P. Lovecraft should run to find this. It's easily one of the best horror films this year.

For starters, understand The Void is an indie with no-name actors (unfortunately only one or two notable performances) and while it's a low-budget film, it makes the most of every aspect. Every dollar of it's budget ends up on the screen. This is a hardcore 80s throwback with a deliberate slow pace, solemn tone, and epic cosmic horror that echo classic films like The Thing, From Beyond, and Hellraiser. It is also a messy, gory film with horrific monsters done with practical effects (almost unheard of in the digital age) that evoke Lovecraft's minions.

The film starts in the lazy outskirts of a small town, then escalates quickly with some monstrous action in a nearly abandoned hospital, then shifts again into an unraveling mystery that seems familiar yet the dread keeps building, and then there's just utter madness in the third act. Ultimately, this movie is all about the trip and not the destination, and like much of Lovecraft's work, is more about the feelings the movie evokes and the big ideas at the periphery. It won't please everyone, but given the right frame of mind, this is one will move you. Where it moves you is beyond explanation.






Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Now THIS is the spirit of Halloween!

A young boy with a terrible disease got a birthday to remember when his family and neighborhood celebrated his favorite holiday five months early. Thank you to the Castaic, CA community for making sure this boy didn’t miss Halloween! (Read more at ABC News)




Sunday, May 21, 2017

Alien: Covenant ~ Review

The Alien universe continues to confound. I was on the side of loving the big ideas of Prometheus and its last minute reveal that puts it firmly in the canon. However, I'm not really sure what to make of Alien: Covenant. It's much less ambitious and more of a middling effort that adds little to the lore... but is more gory and has more monsters (yay)... but has little story or character development (ney). I wish I had cared more about these characters and felt greater sympathy for their truly chilling screaming death fits. It's more of a plodding horror film (like Alien) that has some fleeting terrifying moments, when it's not backsliding into being overtly contemplative or slow moving (like Prometheus). Looking at it plainly, Covenant is more of a "spin-off" with a cast of unknowns and its own story than a true sequel or prequel. And finally, if you're going to have a "twist ending" make sure the audience doesn't see it coming an hour before the reveal. I was entertained and temporarily satiated, but this diehard Alien fan wanted either more significance, more substance, OR more horror. I dare not ask for all three at this point.




Side Notes:

1. There's a fully produced short-film called The Crossing and that reveals what happened to Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and the synthetic David (Michael Fassbender) immediately after the events of Prometheus. It bridges the two films and is much better opening that what we got in the Covenant film.


2. Director Ridley Scott revealed in an interview that the next film is called Alien: Awakening and it takes place between Prometheus and Covenant. Oh, boy. Here we go again with what might be the first ever prequel sequel prequel.







Sunday, April 30, 2017

Halfway to Halloween!

We're halfway there! Time to start thinking about your yard haunting, eerie parties, costume builds and all the wicked wonders that will behold Halloween 2017!



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Helen Mirren in WINCHESTER

People has posted the first look at Helen Mirren as Sarah Winchester, the haunted woman who built a sprawling, crazed mansion in San Jose. The movie WINCHESTER is filming now in Australia and moves on site to the actual Winchester Mystery House in May (where I will be sneaking onto the set). The movie opens in spring 2018.



http://people.com/movies/helen-mirren-winchester-movie-first-look/

A Goodbye to Bates Motel



Bates Motel has closed up shop with a killer Season Five that focused on the strongest element of the series: Norman and his mother. This season brought with it the greatest shadow of Hitchcock as the series intersected with the classic movie. They dared to tackle Hitchcock's infamous shower scene with Marion Crane and recreated an almost shot-for-shot remake, yet framed it around a somewhat different story. And it worked! Then we moved past the end of the classic movie to find a fitting and surprisingly emotional end to the Bates Motel.

Across the board, performances from Freddie Highmore as the deranged Norman and Vera Farmiga bolstered the series. After the shocking end of season four, Norma spent most of this season dead in a freezer(!) and yet Vera Farmiga gave the most delightful and offbeat performance as Norman's Norma, as he envisioned her in his mind. Her character had been so emotionally grim and desperate over the previous seasons so it was a relief to see such a carefree and funny Norma. Thank you for unravelling Norman and allowing this unexpected and surprising turn.

Season Five is easily the best, most nuanced, and ultimately tragic season of the entire run and cemented this as a must-watch. It was clever and inspired, and though I never fully appreciated it, I will miss Bates Motel.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Haunting of Hill House Series Coming to Netflix

I try not to post anything that overly premature but this has got me very excited. On April 10, 2017, Variety reported the following:

Netflix is in the early stages of developing a series based on the Shirley Jackson horror novel “The Haunting of Hill House,” Variety has learned. 
The series is described as a modern re-imagining of Jackson’s novel. The novel, which has been praised as one of the best horror stories of the 20th century, follows four people as they spend a summer in a rented mansion. They soon begin to experience a wide range of supernatural phenomena. It was previously adapted into a feature film in both 1963 and 1999. 
The planned 10-episode series come from writer-director Mike Flanagan, who is no stranger to the horror genre. His previous credits include horror films “Hush,” “Oculus,” and the sequel “Ouija: Origin of Evil.” Flanagan will executive produce along with Trevor Macy, Justin Falvey, and Darryl Frank. Amblin TV and Paramount TV will produce.

Director Mike Flanagan knows exactly how to build dread and atmosphere as demonstrated in Oculus, which happens to be one of my favorites. My sense is that the series will play out like a really long movie (much like Stranger Things) rather than episodic arcs, and the source material begs for a modern makeover. The most recent theatrical adaptation, 1999's The Haunting, starred Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones and a terrifying shape shifting house. No word yet on when the series may hit Netflix.

Art by Paul Buckley


Friday, March 31, 2017

The Year of Stephen King

Maybe every year is a Stephen King year but 2017 is bringing two major adaptions previously stuck in development hell: IT and THE DARK TOWER. The trailer for IT was released this week and it's absolutely terrifying (and also set a record for most online views in a single day). Perhaps I was too quick to judge that antediluvian clown costume? Even the teaser poster is terrifying (Need help finding the child-eating clown? Look in the balloon.) The movie, like the book, is divided into two parts, although the sequel has not been officially confirmed. Part one hits theaters on September 8 (why not in October?).

https://youtu.be/QnUwUCbwJy4




Over in Mid-World, THE DARK TOWER adaption keeps getting pushed back (now being released on August 4, 2017) but it's mostly in the can and starring Iris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. Early reports say it's both an amalgamation of series (there are 8 books in total), a complete departure, and a sequel to them. Oh boy. The clever poster features the dark tower itself in the white space (squint when looking at the poster below).




Over on the television, CASTLE ROCK, a 10-episode series co-produced by J.J. Abrams is coming to Hulu and said to be a psychological-thriller weaving various beloved stories from the King canon. Based on the teaser trailer, I'm thinking it's going for that Penny Dreadful smorgasbord approach? Hmm.


https://youtu.be/UGHupqE1LCI


THE MIST is getting a 10-episode series on Spike TV debuting on June 22. Although the short novella was excellently adapted to the big screen in 2007, we're headed back to the small town enshrouded in a creepy fog filled with grotesque monsters. The initial reports about the reworking of the classic material is a bit troubling.




MR. MERCEDES is headed towards a 10-episode run on the Audience Network (DirectTV/AT&T U-verse) and no one will get to watch it until it gets onto a more available platform.

GERALD'S GAME has been adapted as a film for Netflix, directed by Mike Flanagan (who directed last year's Ouija: Origin of Evil and Hush). An innocent game leaves a woman handcuffed to a bed after her husband suffers a heart attack leaving her to deal with the demons in her head and a rabid dog outside their remote cabin.


Autumn wouldn't be the same without a terrifying Stephen King book, and September 26 brings the new book SLEEPING BEAUTIES co-written with his son Owen King (not be confused with his other son Joe Hill, also a writer (of the fantastic books NOS4A2 and THE FIREMAN). The book is about strange plague that covers all women in cocoons – except one – leaving the men behind to figure it out (now that IS scary).





Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Devil's Candy ~ Review

It's been 7 years since director Sean Byrne's polarizing debut feature film, The Loved Ones and he's come back with another winner. The Devil's Candy is a disturbing trip into heavy metal, art and mental illness or possibly satanic possession.

Jesse Hellman (get the pun?) is a painter who just moved his family into an affordable house in rural Texas. The catch is that an older couple recently died in the house, and their estranged son (a standout Pruitt Taylor Vince) just can't stay away, mostly because demonic voices are constantly murmuring in his ear. To solve this problem he plays loud licks on his amplified guitar! Then Jesse starts hearing the murmuring himself and his painting goes from butterflies to screaming children engulfed in flames. Yikes.

The rest is admittedly underdeveloped and adds little to the sub-genre of demonic serial thrillers, BUT it is well acted (including an unrecognizable Ethan Embry, and Kiara Glasco as his angsty but authentic daughter) and incredibly stylish. You don't expect this kind of polish for horror movies but it's clear the director cares about the art of filmmaking. Every splash of light, color, and sound are purposeful and creates an atmosphere of dread, unease, and unpredictability (which is ideal for horror movies). Ultimately, this is a story of the father-daughter bond, a rumination on the artistic soul, and the truest nature of evil. It also has a deep emotional depth that many movies never quite seem to capture. Overall it's a very satisfying yet disturbing film.




The boring US streaming artwork
The festival circuit poster
that seems too Deathgasm.



The German version of
the poster is easily the best.
The more interesting
but satanic US poster

Friday, March 17, 2017

Pixar's COCO

The first teaser trailer and poster for Pixar's COCO has been released and it is DAZZLING! It's based on the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, rumored to be Pixar's first "musical", and directed by Academy Award Winner Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3). Opening in theaters (in 3D) on November 22 (Thanksgiving weekend).


https://youtu.be/zNCz4mQzfEI


Happy Saint Patrick's Day!




Tuesday, March 14, 2017

National Spider Day

Celebrate National Spider Day (March 14) with this chilling video of abject horror!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Is FEUD American Horror Story, Season 6.5?

One of my favorite horror films of all time is 1962's Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, a cult classic starring two iconic Hollywood legends, Betty Davis as a deranged former child star, and Joan Crawford as her wheelchair-bound sister. The film is filled with dark humor (what's for dinner Blanche?), psychologically tense, over-the-top crazy, and features one great villain. It went on to get five Academy Award nominations including one win for Best Costume Design.

55 years later Ryan Murphy creator of American Horror Story and Scream Queens has unleashed his latest series: FEUD: Bette and Joan, a fictionalized story chronicling the real-life feud between the two stars during the filming of Baby Jane.  The 8-episode series explores the issues of sexism, ageism and misogyny in Hollywood. Bette Davis is played by Susan Sarandon and Joan Crawford is played by AHS alum, Jessica Lange – both of whom are at the top of their game (just give them the Emmy already).

The show is not a horror per se, but as a long time fan of the powerhouse cast (which also features Alfred Molina, Stanley Tucci, Judy Davis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Sarah Paulson, Jackie Hoffman, Kathy Bates, on and on), this is one incredible and fascinating series. This is thankfully not as campy as the advertising (below) would have you believe and surprisingly shares the DNA of American Horror Story. At the very least, I have a feeling it will be better than most of Freak Show, and seriously only a few tweaks would be needed to make this an actual AHS season. Maybe shoot it a little darker and out of sequence, add a black demonic figure manipulating the two stars, and figure out how to splash more blood around the set – the physical stunts did result in actual injuries including Bette almost rolling Joan down a flight of stairs!




Thursday, March 2, 2017

Colossal

You can sometimes just tell by a trailer when a movie is going to be epic. The trailer for COLOSSAL if giving me the vibe of greatness – but of course we've all been led astray by the trailer demons. It stars Anne Hathaway, Jason Sedeikis and Dan Stevens and is being released on April 7.

P.S. I'm hearing that the Alien: Covenant trailer is also rocking the horror world but I'm refusing to see any trailers for it until after I see the movie, which opens on May 19. This one is definitely too special to ruin with trailers.



Monday, February 27, 2017

Handmurder Helper

Like many of you, I grew on Hamburger Helper (cheeseburger macaroni anyone?) and Friday the 13th movies. Today's tee from TeeVillain made me chuckle with nostalgia and acid reflux.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Most Famous Haunted Places of the World

Some places are just ripe with paranormal activity and instantly make believers out of skeptics. Some of these locations are more famous than others due to televised documentaries and ghost hunting reality shows. Here are five of these well-known locations that you more than likely heard of at some point.


The Tower of England
London, England

Photo: Haunted Island UK
Who hasn’t heard of the Tower of England? With a 900-year history of imprisonment, torture, and execution, how can this place not be haunted? The landmark was built in 1078 and occupied by William the Conqueror. One of the most famous ghosts that reside in the tower is none other than Anne Boleyn, the wife of King Henry VIII. She was convicted of treason and beheaded. Just as eerie is the sightings of two children ghosts, believed to be the spirits of two princes that were murdered after being deemed illegitimate by Parliament.


Luxor Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada


Luxor Hotel is massive with nearly 4,500 rooms spread over 30 floors. It’s the epicenter of the Las Vegas nightlife, especially with its extensive casino history. During its construction in the early 1990s, at least three construction workers were killed. Two guests also took their own lives by leaping off the elevator walkway onto the casino ground floor. In 2007, there was also an explosion caused by a homemade bomb that claimed the life of one guest. Floors 12 and 14 are especially said to be ripe with paranormal activity, including a female apparition sighting.


Fort George
Nova Scotia, Canada 

Photo: Visit Scotland
Fort George is often said to be Canada’s most haunted location. The star-shaped fort was built in 1749, and numerous ghost sightings have been reported over the generations. This includes the apparition of a soldier who is seen wandering in several of the rooms that was previously a prison area. Another apparition is an old lady who is only seen in the reflection of mirrors. Visitors have also routinely seen the ghost of a small girl that sometimes accompanies guests during group tours.


Lawang Sewu
Semarang, Indonesia 

Lawang Sewu was built in 1917 as the primary headquarters for the Dutch East Indies Railway Company. The facility was occupied by Japanese forces during World War II where it was used as a prison. Many inmates were reportedly harshly interrogated and some executed. Numerous more soldiers were killed when the place was retaken by Dutch forces, causing an ensuing battle. Finally, there have been numerous reports of a female apparition, believed to be that of a woman who took her own life. Her suicide was captured on tape during the filming of a television program.


Poveglia Island
Italy

Photo: Daily Mail
The Poveglia Island served as a quarantine center during the Bubonic Plague outbreak in the 14th-century and again in the 1600s when the Black Plague ravaged Venice. Men, women, and children who exhibited symptoms of the disease were ferried to the island to spend their final moments on Earth. The island and the accompanying facility has been closed since 1975, and many locals dare not step foot on the island due to fears of roaming apparitions and a curse. Local fisherman also dare not fish in the area.


These famous haunted sites continue to draw the interest of anyone fascinated with thrills and chills. These people hope for an experience that would convince them that ghosts truly roam the world of the living.




Ashley Williamson is an architecture student from the U.K. and a lover of the supernatural, who always loves to explore places with spooky histories.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Ring vs. The Grudge!?

What started as an April fool’s joke is now – and inexplicably – a real movie. Straight from Japan is SADAKO VS. KAYAKO where the malevolent ghosts from THE RING and the THE GRUDGE face off for the soul of an unfortunate victim. Sounds incredible, right? Find out tonight during its U.S. premiere, exclusively on Shudder.com.


https://youtu.be/PCwfbzY75vQ



Monday, January 23, 2017

Beware the Slenderman

Premiering tonight on HBO is the documentary BEWARE THE SLENDERMAN about two girls who attempted to murder a friend as an offering the fictional monster. Set the DVR to creepy.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Celebrate Edgar Allan Poe's Birthday

To celebrate Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday this week, I recommend watching Extraordinary Tales, an animated anthology of five stories featuring the voice work of Christopher Lee, Guillermo del Toro, Julian Sands, Roger Corman, and the one and only Bella Lugosi (via a 1940s recording of the story complete with scratches). The drawing style (computer generated, hand drawn, etc.) varies from segment to segment, and was affectionately directed by Raul Garcia, an animator at Disney who worked on The Lion King, Aladdin, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The film was released in 2013 abroad and made it's U.S. debut in October 2015.

Poe’s work is as resonant as ever and animation frees it to capture the dark tones and dreadful atmosphere in a way a live movie would find challenging. Do note this is not an animated story for the kiddies. Beyond the dark and deadly material, one segment fleetingly features nudity and bacchanalia. (Streaming on Netflix.)



Edgar Allan Poe
January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849




Friday, January 20, 2017

Favorite Scary Movies of 2016

Any seasoned horror fan knows exactly what to expect from a horror movie. From the run and stumble to the bathroom cabinet mirror gag to the suddenly malfunctioning flashlight when descending into the basement. Been there, done that. It's so refreshing when horror movies come along that eschew the standard tropes. We are in a horror renaissance, and 2016 brought a slew of movies that feature unique voices, distinct visions, and new cultures to explore. Below are my Favorite Scary Movies of 2016:


Art by Matt Robot
1. The Witch
Nothing this year comes close to the raw, diabolical experience of this film. From the period details to the undecipherable English to the slow, bleak tone, the director makes some seriously bold choices. And just when you think the film has reached a crescendo, there is one of the most chilling and deeply disturbing finales I've seen.

2. Train to Busan
The overdone zombie genre gets a shot in the heart from South Korea. An estranged father and daughter trip is suddenly thrown into chaos when a zombie plague erupts inside a high-speed train. The action is impeccably orchestrated, the characters are fully realized, and most surprising of all, the core of the film is unapologetically and deeply emotional.

3. Under The Shadow
This Iranian film starts like a family drama in a war-torn Tehran but subtly turns a corner into full blow horror. For American audiences the foreign setting and culture will be unfamiliar and fascinating. The dread mounts steadily as the ghostly shenanigans increasingly torment a doubting mother and daughter. The film is bolstered by an intense performance by Narges Rashidi.

Art by Kino Maniac
4. The Conjuring 2
James Wan revisits familiar creepy territory, nifty camera work, impeccable direction, and the genres most beloved couple, The Warrens (the very charismatic Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). As mainstream films go, Wan continues to forge his own path and delivers nightmare-inducing visuals including an evil nun and what appears to be a retro stop-motion Crooked Man. Most interesting is a break right in the middle with a spot-on Elvis Presley sing-a-long.

5. Don’t Breathe
From the director of the Evil Dead reboot comes this masterful work in suspense, dread and terror with a home invasion gone terribly awry. The twists are surprising (as long as you haven’t seen the previews), performances are spot on, and turkey basters once again reclaim infamous notoriety.

6. 10 Cloverfield Lane
The follow-up the the monster-on-the-loose film reveals a much different monster-in-confinement. John Goodman is so terrific in this you almost don’t mind that most of the running time is spent in an underground bunker. The end does not disappoint and leaves the story open to more installments. Yes, please.

Art by Harry Movie Art
7. Green Room
As one of Anton Yelchin’s final performances, this ode to punk rock and skinheads boils with angst, sweat and the cruelty. With intelligent, brisk, and solid writing one wonders why this didn’t get a wider release. Patrick Stewart in ruthless role makes the proceedings even more wicked.

8. Eyes of My Mother
Out in the quiet, remote country lies a depraved beauty. This is a mesmerizing film shot entirely in black and white with artfully framed shots. It lulls you with a muted, unrelenting dread that you almost don’t notice the horror happening out in the barn. The effect is hypnotic and doleful, and yet it's one of the most elegant horror films.

9. The Monster
There are bad mothers and there are monsters. In this story a young girl must learn the difference and face a grueling night of survival. Soaked in rain and enshrouded in darkness, the film succeeds in atmosphere and harrowing action, but at the core is a story of sorrow and loss. It also features one of the best performances by a young actress, Ella Ballentine.

10. Lights Out
What began as a frightening internet short has expanded to feature-length film under the mentorship of James Wan. The result is a thrilling concept film that is equally scary and dare I say it, original.

Art by Matt Chinn
11. The Neon Demon
Obtuse and undecipherable but always dazzling, this film from the director of Drive pits a naive girl against narcissists in the fashion world. It’s incredibly divisive but if you give yourself over to the pulsing rhythms and color soaked imagery, the ultimate horror of a dog-eat-dog world becomes clear.

12. Rats
Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) has created a nauseating documentary about rodents, edited to feel, sound and look like a horror movie. It’s a brilliant concept and no matter how squeamish, you just can’t turn away. Documentaries are supposed to educate the viewer about a subject and I have now been overeducated about rats. Success!

13. 31
The most surprising thing about Rob Zombie's latest film is how much I didn't completely hate it. It's one of his most accessible and entertaining films (with nods to The Running Man and Hunger Games) albeit super grisly and bloody.  The cast makes this far better than it should be, including a breakout performance by Richard Brake as a great new villain called Doom-Head. Although there's no argument that Zombie should stop casting his wife in lead roles.


Honorable Mentions:

The Autopsy of Jane Doe - A visceral spin on a dead girl with a great reveal.
Baskin - A French fever dream that ends in hell – literally.
Ghostbusters - These ladies are funny and deserved better from fans.
Hush - A clever home invasion yarn pitting assailant versus a deaf woman.
The Invitation - Is it just a weird dinner party or is it a cult?
Midnight Special - This is like a long-lost Stephen King and John Carpenter collaboration.
Ouija: Origin of Evil - It improves upon the original with spooky visuals and solid performances.
The Shallows - The best shark movie since Jaws? Sure.
They Look Like People - A disturbing head trip into psychosis – or alien abduction.
The Wailing - A very long but interesting South Korean ghost fable.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Department 56's Nightmare Before Christmas Village

Fans of Halloween villages or Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas take note: Introduced today are three buildings and figures from Department 56. This is now the third edition of this village (following Disney's retired village and Bradford Exchange's odd blacklight village) but coming from Dpeartment 56, the quality is sure to be superior. Each set of one figure and building is priced at $119 and will be available June 25, 2017. Order early since these kinds of products sell out well ahead of Halloween. Happy Friday the 13th!!




Monday, January 9, 2017

Under The Shadow: Now on Netflix!

One of the best movies of 2016, UNDER THE SHADOW is now available on Netflix streaming – a must watch!




Also on Netflix, Morgan Spurlock's disturbing and "horrified" documentary, RATS – definitely not for the squeamish.