Monday, June 18, 2018

Scary Movie Previews

The first half on 2018 has been on fire with some great scary movies (A Quite Place, Hereditary, and for a select few Winchester). Here are the big releases to expect for the second (dark?) half of the year.

The Nun (opens September 7)
We finally get to know the origins of that creepy nun from The Conjuring 2 in this prequel set at the Carta Monastery in southern Transylvania (Romania). It stars Taissa Farmiga (younger sister of Vera Farmiga who plays Lorraine Warren in the Conjuring Universe films).





Suspiria (opens November 2)
This remake of the beloved Dario Argento classic had a tumultuous road (gaining and losing a director and cast) but has now been completed with a new cast that includes Dakato Jasckson, Tilda Swinton and Chloe Grace Moretz. The story revolves around an American joining a dance academy with a sinister history.


https://youtu.be/3uGIEY7tdg8


Down a Dark Hall (opens August 17, limited/VOD)
Based on a YA novel, this film adaptation pits the troubled girls at the Blackwood Boarding School against the paranormal. The trailer features the enchanting Uma Thurman in her gothic finery, and is directed by Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes who's has an interesting body of work (Buried, Red Lights, Grand Piano).


https://youtu.be/TwHoY2dVZLE


The House With A Clock In Its Walls (opens Septmeber 21)
This adaptation of the 1973 children's book, described as an American gothic fantasy horror film is directed by Eli Roth (uh-oh, sorry kids) and written by Eric Kripke (who created the tv show Supernatural).


https://youtu.be/oQGA42-U0Ro


The Little Stranger (opens August 31)
Set in the 1940s this adaptation of the 2009 gothic novel involves a family who holds terrible secrets in a dilapidated mansion in Warwickshire, England.


https://youtu.be/ASR04zW4K8w


The First Purge (opens July 4)
The fourth sequel in the Purge franchise takes us way back to the beginning to show us how the night of unpunished killing started.


https://youtu.be/UL29y0ah92w


The Meg (opens August 10)
Jason Statham faces off a giant prehistoric shark in this perfectly timed Jaws update. Take that Shark Week!


https://youtu.be/bsLk0NPRFAc

Anna and the Apocalypse (Dec 7 limited release)
Okay sit down for this one: A Christmas Zombie Musical! I know.!!! It sounds utterly unique, crazy, and likely the best gift we'll get this year.

https://youtu.be/LmxNBDrvBLk

Also coming soon are:

Halloween (open October 19) - See my post here. YES!!

Slender Man (tentatively August 24) – Looks like the internet will win this one. A few reports suggest that distribution of the film is in limbo after many on the internet, including me, have called "too soon" for capitalizing on the real tragic event on which the movie is based.

Overlord (opens October 26) - This J.J. Abrams produced D-Day war movie may or may not have anything to do with Cloverfield saga. So far there's no real trailers, artwork or much else for the secretive project.

Goosebumps: Haunted Halloween (October 12) – Slappy the psychotic dummy will be leading this story for this sequel to the big-budget 2015 film. Jack Back is coming back, sort of, as the voice of Slappy. They must be working around the clock on the CGI for this one since there's no trailers yet.

The Predator (opens September 14, maybe) - This reboot/sequel seems to getting trashed online and it hasn't even been seen. The reschedule shuffle for the film (first opening in March, then February, then August and now September) doesn't bode well and it's creators have been pretty defensive on Twitter. Yikes.

Unfriended: Dark Web (July 20) – This found footage followup to 2014's shockingly not terrible film has surprised us all with an unnecessary sequel.


Friday, June 15, 2018

Mid-Year Scary Movie Report 2018

We’re at the halfway mark of 2018 and I'm catching up with horror films. There's already been some great and entertaining movies this year with A Quiet PlaceHereditary, Winchester, and Ghost Stories but there's so many other films released via video-on-demand and streaming services. Here's my thoughts on a few of those.


Mom and Dad
Nicolas Cage's over-the-top lunacy is finally utilized appropriately in Mom and Dad and even gives this film a chaotic charm. The unspeakable concept that parents want to kill their kids is unique and shamefully entertaining, but it quickly runs out of steam. With no third act, it feels like the filmmakers couldn’t or didn’t care to figure out an ending, ultimately making this a real disappointment. D



The Ritual
A group of men go into the woods to rekindle their bond after a tragedy separated them. Unfortunately stumble into a surreal nightmare to test them as humans. The dread builds and the moody atmosphere and darkness swallows the scenes in near darkness. But if monsters are real, can they ever be escaped? As Netflix acquisitions go, this is one of the years best for the genre. A



The Cloverfield Paradox
The follow-up to the brilliant 10 Cloverfield Lane is entertaining with some crazy metaphysical horror but an ultimately overwrought entry into the series. It’s a bit of a brain twister as it acts as both a distant sequel and prequel to the first Cloverfield. Unfortunately, it was revealed that the movie was initially called The God Particle and had nothing to do with the series until a few scenes were added in. So that’s why everything feels disjointed! D



Pyewacket
This coming of age film deals with a young girl mad at the world. After a break up, her mother moves them to a remote cabin home deep in the woods, to be as far away from their old lives as possible. In a moment of desperation, the teenager does a dumb thing and thus starts a frightening descent into darkness. The film is shot with almost documentary feel and the horrors that await in the woods are well-staged. It’s a good film that deserves to be watched. B



VerĂ³nica
This coming of age yarn from Spain has a teen raising her three siblings while her mother works round the clock. During an eclipse, a ouija board session goes awry and thus the demonic shenanigans ensue. There’s some effectively staged horror scenes, a creepy blind nun, and a committed cast of children. While not revolutionary, it’s a solid and scary film that gives the audience exactly what it wants. The bonus during the credits drives this home in a very real way. B



Killing of a Sacred Deer
The apparent domestic bliss of Dr. Murphy (Colin Farrell) and his wife (Nicole Kidman) is tested when a young man, the son of a patient who died under the doctor’s care becomes a nuisance in their lives. The unsettling film appears aimless but slowly reveals a perplexing scenario that builds into abject horror. The viewer is forced to interpret much of what happens which can be infuriating but it leaves a lasting impression. B-



Insidious: The Last Key
In this immediate prequel to the first Insidious film, Elise (Lin Shaye) travels back to her childhood home to confront the demon that set her on her path to ghost busting. This one has a lot of jump scares and a so-so story that all feels to insignificant and repetitive (once more into the further!) but the marvelous Lin Shaye, who deserves better, makes it worth the time. C




Annihilation
This sci-fi mind bender spent a couple weeks in theaters and then vanished. It's a fantastic, colorful sci-fi film, falling somewhere between Arrival and Under the Skin. A group of scientists headed by a somber Natalie Portman head into an mysterious anomaly occurring on the far west coast of Florida. It's a terrifying trip with definite horror beats that reminded me of Alien but on Earth. The last third of the movie is so mind boggling that it can only be experienced and not necessarily understood. A



Marrowbone
From the screenwriter of The Orphanage comes this very artful family drama about four siblings to hide their mother’s passing to stay together as a family. It’s almost a fascinating character piece thats long on the drama and very short on the horror with an excellent cast led by George MacKay and Anya Taylor-Joy. But it’s also very underdeveloped while being tediously long, making the central mystery not as effective as it could have been. C



Black Hollow Cage
With an interesting premise, stylish cinematography, and modern setting, this futuristic  film about a father and daughter and mysterious cube that can bend time sounds great on paper. Unfortunately the script is absolutely atrocious, the acting amateurish, the pace is languid, and the cinematic style is a Lars von Trier knockoff (the film is even divided into chapters). It’s a thoroughly pretentious, silly bore. The Spanish movie Timecrimes did this so much better. F



The Cleanse
Imagine if you could drink four glasses of murky juice and purge all your negativity down the drain. The Cleanse is an icky-whimsical horror dramedy starring Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory) and the incomparable Anjelica Huston. The concept is strong but fails to follow through with a supportive narrative or significant character development. However I did appreciate the extensive practical effects and the bittersweet tone that serves as a cautionary fairy tale: be careful of the monsters you try to confront. B




Still/Born
Having a baby can be brutal and this movie makes sure to give all first-time mothers serious jitters. While I found the story uninspired, the execution at times rises above it's B-movie schlock thanks to some better than usual performances and solid production. However holding it all together is a rather murky paranormal through-line that never quite gels to be truly scary. I thought of a several different ways it go but always followed the expected path. Just one surprise would have been great. C–



Still on my 2018 mid-year horror queue are The Endless, Upgrade, Ravenous, Terrifier, Wildling, Unsane, Caught, Us and Them, The Lodgers, and Demon House.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

"Hereditary" Is a Modern Classic

I’ve been thinking – no, obsessing – about Hereditary to no end. It's a transgressive experience that echoes the best horror of all time, and defiantly proceeds at changing or rather eliminating the formula. Yes, it’s overworked at times and the pacing makes it feel like a film from another generation, but there has not been a film so deeply disturbing, unsettling, or effective at breaking down the mechanics of fear on both conscious and subconscious levels. This is a horror movie for thinking adults that doesn't pander to the audience, demands investment, and defies conventions.

At face value, Hereditary is a melancholy drama that primarily deals with grief of a disconnected family that can’t escape tragedy. The mother (a sensational performance by Toni Collette) is a detached artist who works on creepy miniature replicas of her house and family. The son is emotionally battered and floundering. The younger daughter appears to have has some some developmental challenges and some dark interests. And the father walks around like a ghost trying to hold everyone together.

For the first hour, we delve deeply into their emotional family issues that are instantly relatable and yet in the periphery is something much more sinister at work. Scene by scene you wonder where and when this thing will suddenly explode.  But it doesn’t. The immensely smart narrative does not follow the beats of a conventional horror movie (build up, release, repeat). What it creates is long, sustained dread and tension along with a subtle persistent aural soundtrack that affect the viewer with impending doom. And then the giant walloping begins.

I sat breathlessly and at a complete loss when it does proceed into wickedness. Scene by scene follow chaotically in discordant quiet intervals, adding bits and pieces of information, never letting anything settle and the battering continues. This arthouse film delivers on its promise and nothing remains ambiguous, for better or worse.  The visuals it creates are unnerving and remain seared into your brain. The artful cinematography makes it impossible to look away as scenes transition with effortless, lyrical ease into non sequitur edits that heighten the anxiety. The film forces your eye away from the focus, a character in the bed for example, and makes you look deeply in the dark corners of the frame. Even when those things don’t register immediately, your mind certainly sees them. It’s impossible to explain how it works on the level that it does.

Just to be clear, there are no cheap scares here. Audiences looking for a traditional horror may be disappointed by the pace, but those who embrace the experience will find it absolutely chilling. To say any more would be to ruin the experience and I recommend going into this without studying trailers too closely. This is arthouse horror at it’s absolute best with nods to everything from Rosemary’s Baby to The Shinning to The Exorcist. In other words, Hereditary is a modern classic.




Friday, June 8, 2018

The Halloween Trailer is Here!

The Halloween (2018) trailer has premiered today after much teasing on social media. It looks absolutely fun and may finally wash out the rancid taste of Rob Zombie's reimagining. It stars Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role as Laurie Store and Nick Castle as Michael as a direct sequel to the first two films (ignoring all the sequels that came after). Director Davis Gordon Green and writer Danny McBride met with John Carpenter prior to film being greenlit, got his approval on the script, and Carpenter even agreed to score the movie. Here's the official site and the movie opens October 19.

YouTube





Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Monster Horns

Memorial Day marks the start of my Halloween build and I'm happy to report that my work is coming along. As I've mentioned before, this year's theme – Monster House – is a completely new build in a scale that I'm not used to working it. It'll be HUGE so basically taking over the entire garage. I started with the horns that will be sitting on the roof. After some measuring and feedback, I decided these horns will be about 45" tall and about 85" in circumference to be just noticeable on the house. They'll stand out in the darkness with a little fluorescent paint and complementary lighting.

THE PLAN
The horns will sit on a gabled roof but we often have very high winds. So I engineered a sectional wood frame (easier to carry in sections to the roof) that would use gravity, a non-skid backing, a few bricks and some rope to stay put on the roof. Plus horns have a rather aerodynamic shape.

To build, I used chicken wire frame along with PVC pipe to support the shape. I covered the whole thing with a crosshatch of masking tape (to help attach the plaster medium) and then laid a plaster cloth as a based instead of my usual paper mache. The process went much faster and easier and resulted in a rather stiff shape with only 1 coating.



RIGID WRAP
The Active brand plaster cloth (available on Amazon for about $16) is new to me but I would highly recommend it. The cloth is embedded with plaster and comes in a giant roll. You easily trim it to any size or shape, dip it in water, and immediately lay it onto your shape. You can them smooth it out, shape it, or give it texture. It sets quickly so you have to work fairly fast. It takes paint very well.





HORNS IN PROGRESS
So here is where I am now. I still need to add a few more layers, add the finishing texture, paint them, and then seal them with spar urethane to ensure they stand up to weather (which for us in Northern CA is just light to medium rain in October). I'm not sure where I will store these for next year but that's a November problem.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

"Ghost Stories" is a (Mostly) Fun Romp

The mind sees what it wants to see. This is the premise of the UK film Ghost Stories, a highly anticipated and classically-minded horror film. With a structure that resembles an anthology, three short tales strung together, the film’s focus is really its substantial wrap around story that forms its main narrative.  In it, Professor Goodman (played nimbly by Andy Nyman) makes it his life’s work to debunk ghost-obsessed charlatans via a reality show.  Three cases however lead him down a rabbit hole that push the boundaries of what he accepts to be truth.

It’s a classic spook show that touches on all the tropes of the genre: a night watchman in an abandoned asylum, a careless youngster on a joy ride through desolate woods, and a haunted stranger with an unimaginable secret. For fans of the ghost genre this will be an absolutely fun romp with a straightforward approach that is somehow refreshing. The production values show the care that went into making the film and there’s so much attention to detail with the elaborate sets, the moody theatrical lighting, and strong performances from a spooked Paul Whitehouse, a deranged Alex Lawther, and Martin Freeman at his serious-wacky best. Yes this is a man’s movie with nary a (living) female in sight, which is unusual for a horror movie. Where is the final girl or the scream queen?

However, the final destination may be a sticking point for many viewers. The source material is a stage play and sorrowful endings are all too common in theatre. The movie is a gleeful, frightful fun for most of  its running time and the abrupt tonal shift is jarring and unnecessary. It harkens to the obnoxious twists found in M.  Night Shyamalan’s movies and this too, lands with dud. It’s not enough to ruin the movie but still brings the fun to a halt.










Sunday, May 13, 2018

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Happy Halfway to Halloween



April 30 is the official kick off for Halloween enthusiasts, Halloween purveyors, and yard haunters to start getting their wicked wheels turning on their 2018 season.

I have my plans ready to go and now it's all about execution! My challenge this year seems easy but I'm working on a very large scale which I've never done. It even involves roof work. EEK! I'm eager to head to the garage and start making giant 2 foot teeth! Inspired by both the movie and Christine McConnell's brilliant work, my theme this year is Monster House. The last piece of the puzzle fell into place last year (thanks AtmosFX) so I'm ready to do this!




Saturday, April 14, 2018

Rotten Tomatoes Lists the Best Horror Movies

Rotten Tomatoes, the movie review aggregate site you either love or hate, compiled it's list of the 100 Best Reviewed Horror Films. This is based on what they call an "Adjusted Score" on eligible titles which stipulates at least 40 reviews and the number of reviews skewing the list (using some statistics thing called a Bayesian formula). Some of these are my favorite films of all times (#2, 17, 18, 23, 34, 41, 45, 58, 73, 90) and others I'm surprised to see on this list (#32, 44-really?, 51, 71), and some I'd never heard of (#72, 84, 93, 94). Anyhoo, my spring/summer project is to watch the remaining 23 films (marked in dead skin blue) on this list that I haven't seen.

1 Get Out (2017)
2 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
3 Psycho (1960)
4 Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (1922)
5 King Kong (1933)
6 Repulsion (1965)
7 The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
8 The Babadook (2014)
9 Rosemary's Baby (1968)
10 Frankenstein (1931)
11 It Follows (2015)
12 Let the Right One In (2008)
13 Aliens (1986)
14 Freaks (1932)
15 Night of the Living Dead (1968)
16 Eyes Without a Face (1962)
17 Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
18 Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)
19 The Witch (2016)
20 The Birds (1963)
21 Gojira (1956)
22 The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
23 The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
24 Don't Look Now (1973)
25 The Vanishing (1988)
26 The Innocents (1961)
27 A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
28 Drag Me to Hell (2009)
29 The Evil Dead (1981)
30 Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
31 Carrie (1976)
32 The Loved Ones (2012)
33 Young Frankenstein (1974)
34 Halloween (1978)
35 Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)
36 Room 237 (2013)
37 Re-Animator (1985)
38 Train to Busan (2016)
39 A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
40 The Host (2007)
41 Shaun of the Dead (2004)
42 Dracula (1931)
43 Zombieland (2009)
44 It Comes At Night (2017)
45 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
46 Suspiria (1977)
47 Eraserhead (1977)
48 The Fly (1986)
49 Dawn of the Dead (1979)
50 Phantom Of The Opera (1925)
51 We Are Still Here (2015)
52 Don't Breathe (2016)
53 The Wicker Man (1973)
54 Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
55 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
56 Frankenweenie (2012)
57 The Blair Witch Project (1999)
58 The Shining (1980)
59 The Exorcist (1973)
60 An American Werewolf in London (1981)
61 The Conjuring (2013)
62 The Dead Zone (1983)
63 Misery (1990)
64 Let Me In (2010)
65 Cronos (1994)
66 Gerald's Game (2017)
67 Bone Tomahawk (2015)
68 The Orphanage (2007)
69 28 Days Later (2003)
70 Near Dark (1987)
71 Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
72 Russian Ark (2002)
73 Poltergeist (1982)
74 Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut (2004)
75 The Devil's Candy (2017)
76 Chronicle (2012)
77 Goodnight Mommy (2015)
78 The Descent (2006)
79 The Omen (1976)
80 Slither (2006)
81 Ginger Snaps (2001)
82 This Is the End (2013)
83 Altered States (1980)
84 A Field in England (2014)
85 Spring (2015)
86 The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
87 Gremlins (1984)
88 Backcountry (2015)
89 Paranormal Activity (2009)
90 The Thing (1982)
91 We Are What We Are (2013)
92 The House of the Devil (2009)
93 Save the Green Planet (2004)
94 Dracula: Pages From a Virgin's Diary (2003)
95 Dressed to Kill (1980)
96 The Others (2001)
97 The Conjuring 2 (2016)
98 Santa Sangre (1989)
99 Willow Creek (2014)
100 Split (2017)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Quite the Quiet Place

John Krasinski's directorial debut A Quiet Place is truly terrifying, tense and terrific. It's a creature feature that makes the genre feel fresh again, not by its plot contrivance (be quiet or be killed) but by the solid nearly wordless script, a cast that includes the ever-versatile Emily Blunt and the astounding work of Millicent Simmonds as her deaf daughter, and the pitch perfect direction that builds dread, releases havoc and reloads. There are no cheap startle scares. And it's also a smart, staying just ahead of the audience, and then a surprisingly moving film. The world we are dropped into has no clear explication and yet feels full realized, completed with lush swooping hills of the family's otherwise idyllic farm. The most mesmerizing thing about watching this film in a packed theater is how silent and attentive the audience was – no candy wrappers, no cell phones. I've never seen anything like it. This will likely be the year's best horror film and a must-see for movie lovers of all walks.




ADDENDUM: By now most horror fans have heard the news that A Quiet Place is breaking box office records with a huge $50 million opening weekend. And it's holding a steady at 95% on the Rotten Tomato aggregate. So naturally, Film School Rejects reports that the screenwriters are hopeful for a sequel and have some great ideas of where to take the story. Please note there are spoilers, so don't read the article if you haven't seen the film!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Yes, But Is It "Prestige Horror"?

The horror genre is back in a big way and with the recent attention and wins of The Shape of Water and Get Out, there's no doubt prestige horror will be making a huge comeback in the year(s) to come. But what is prestige horror? Basically, it's a serious, dramatic film with a high pedigree that dips into genre themes, such as the supernatural, unnatural monsters, or serial killers. These movies are usually not blockbusters (like The Conjuring or IT) but tend to be indies or lower budget films that get quite a bit of love on the festival circuit and lots of praise from critics (although their marketing campaigns are usually very misleading). Below is my litmus test to determine whether a horror movie is a prestige horror film.


Friday, March 16, 2018

Department 56 Adds to "Nightmare" Village

Department 56's has added a few pieces to their Nightmare Before Christmas line (available June 25). So far this series has replicated what's been available through Disney and Bradford Exchange although with much better detail, larger size, and much better quality. This year we get Lock, Shock & Barrel's Treehouse, the Town Square Fountain, and Zero's doghouse. I hope they keep going and give us some more odd buildings like the round monster building, the witch hat buildings, the cat building, the octopus tower, or maybe even the spiral hill.

Town Square Fountain, #6001202, $40

Lock, Shock & Barrel Treehouse, #6001201, $130

Zero And His Dog House, #6001203, $20


Elsewhere, Department 56's Halloween Village series adds another interesting witch building (Emeralda's Shoe Shop) and a few less inspired buildings that don't scream out to me. I'm not sure what happened since Enesco bought the company but it feels like Halloween has veered towards the dull and stodgy (and enough with the train cars!). Perhaps they've realigned to their target demo (which skews older based on the the village organizations I've met with) and they want to be inoffensive as possible? 

Esmeralda's Shoe Shop, #6000660, $115

The Bone Grinder Mill, #6000663, $140

The Black Cat Flat, #6000661, $160


Last Laugh Asylum, #6000659, $155

Monster Mash Party House, #6000659, $160

But all is not lost when I saw two accessories: Tree of Terror and Row of Skulls. Both of these are actually pretty scary and maybe even disturbing. I wish they would bring this kind of sinister feel to a couple buildings. Where is black and sinister gothic mansion/monster house like the one from Stephen King's IT? Department 56, please create a focus group with a few of us younger village collectors and let us be your Halloween consultants!

Row of Skulls Curved, #6001747, $18.50

Tree of Terror, #6001754, $30


All photos in this post are from Department56.com.



Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Happy National (Pet A) Spider Day!


March 14 is National Save a Spider day and it's a perfect day to start eradicating some of that arachnophobia. Spiders save us from being overrun by other bugs such as mosquitoes, flies, ants, and aphids. Spiders only bite humans in self-defense and while all have venom, few are dangerous. Scientists are studying the use of some spiders' venoms as a more natural pesticide, as well as treatments for Alzheimer's disease, strokes, and other diseases. So go out and pet a spider! Actually, on second thought, don't. They may interpret your love pat as an attack.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

"Valdemar Legacy" Conjures Up Lovecraft

Some films fly by without a blip, especially if they are foreign horror films. While browsing on Amazon Prime Video I came across La Herencia Valdemar (The Valdemar Legacy). This gothic yarn from Spain was released waaaaay back in 2010 and never really got a U.S. release, other than being unceremoniously dumped onto Amazon. It's remotely inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft and while not a great film, is definitely an interesting trip into Necronomicon territory.

The movie starts as a modern day haunted house film and then abruptly shifts to the 19th century when the rise of spiritualism led to many charlatans. The elegant melodrama revolves around a childless couple who run an orphanage outside a remote village. The husband gains an interest in the occult and soon the couple is holding seances (for guests like Bram Stoker and Lizzie Borden!) as a means to finance their selfless work. But things take a dark turn. The plot circles back to modern day but ends on a cliffhanger because – TWIST - there's a second movie!

Unfortunately neither Amazon or any other streaming service (or DVD seller) has La Sombra Prohibida (The Forbidden Shadow). Thankfully, the interwebs easily revealed a (legal?) source to stream (not download) the entire movie. Part 2 picks up right where we left off with the heroine way back from the first 10 minutes of the first film. A bunch of often nonsensical chaos ensues (including a cameo from Howard Phillips himself!) and its Lovecraftian themes emerge clearly. Part 2 is not as successful as the moderately successful first movie, but it does bring the entire story to a resounding close.

While Valdermar I & II don't feature the best effects or production values, especially the action heavy second part, I admire the ambitious storytelling, grand cosmic themes, and the many strong performances that draw you into the tangled plot. Few films swing for the fences like this and I'm surprised there isn't a cult following for this saga. Perhaps there is in Spain? Here in America, mainstream audiences hate subtitled films, even though some of the best horror films are coming from abroad. Fans of H.P. Lovecraft may be disappointed that this isn't an adaptation of any specific stories but nonetheless, this is an entertaining supernatural saga that's worth checking out.

Part 1   Part 2

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Shape of Oscar

A creature feature, horror comedy and family film about skeletons won Oscars!!! Congratulations to Best Picture THE SHAPE OF WATER, with Guillermo del Toro, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay GET OUT, and Best Animated Film, COCO. It's so rare when genre films get serious recognition and today we celebrate!

Poster artwork by James Jean

Thursday, February 22, 2018

SyFy's Channel Zero Scores 10s Across the Board

I'm not sure where my head was in October 2016, but my eyeballs completely missed SyFy's horror anthology show called Channel Zero. With thousands of streaming options on top of pay cable, it's easy to miss great shows. I'm so happy I stumbled across this show after seeing previews for the third season which started earlier this month.

Each season is based on a popular story from the Creepy Pasta site that I can't seem to shut up about. Season 1: Candle Cove, is full of dread, taut tension, and bizarre visuals that I can't seem to shake even now. At six episodes, the show is easily bingeable over the weekend, and probably better watched this way. The story and plot systematically unfold with almost no exposition. Characters jump right into the weirdness in the first episode, and immediately we're introduced to a creepy puppet tv show that only kids can see – and it's influencing them to do terrible things! It's surreal nature means that the show follows no real "horror rules" making the proceedings quite tense. You just don't know what to expect (like all that damn tooth horror). The production is lean but well filmed and the effects modest, but the fine actors really stand out and make this a stellar show (Paul Schneider and Fiona Shaw looking at you).

Comparisons to American Horror Story are inevitable but I don't think they're in the same league. AHS is brash, pulpy, gory, glam trash held together by a top notch cast and an extensive marketing budget. Channel Zero is just so damn better. The stories, characters, and the direction all work together to create a true sense of horror that AHS lost after it's second season. Perhaps I've overlooked SyFy for horror/weirdness but that's two great series (along with Happy!) I'm retroactively gagging about.

Don't believe me? The first two seasons (Season 1: Candle CoveSeason 2: No-End House) are available to stream in their entirety through March 21 on SyFy.com, and the SyFy app. And watch the new cycle, Season 3: Butcher's Block, Wednesdays at 10/9C. I'm looking forward to Season 3 although I might wait to binge on it all at once (not what the network likes to hear but it's the truth). I recommend that you do so as well.