Sunday, December 1, 2013

Rest In Peace, Mr. Walker.

I was sorry to read of Paul Walker's passing.

I never knew the man, and looking through the list of his credits revealed how unfamiliar I was with his work.  But I am still saddened by the sudden loss of someone so clearly in the prime of life, even more so in the thought that his final moments were filled with shock and horror -- as they must often be for those who are just not prepared, or even remotely willing, to go.

Mr. Walker's passing was certainly not the only death of the day, nor did it stand alone in the tragic category, as I woke to news of eight people killed when a helicopter crashed into a pub in Glasgow.

As I read further through various news websites, I discovered that there were a number of other deaths, both the expected and unexpected -- and there are undoubtedly countless more that did not grace the headlines, nor even merit (not sure according to whom, as who would conceivably or arrogantly have the right to determine that one person's death is more significant than another's) a brief mention on the bottom of page six.

But nonetheless, the news of Mr. Walker's death made me pause; not simply because of the spectacle of it (and certainly not lacking in a morbidly serendipitous sense of irony, as he is perhaps best remembered for his performances in the Fast and the Furious series), but because he certainly seemed to be one so full of life.

I do not mean to imply that his life was somehow more noteworthy than those who also died today -- but the fact (at least for me) is that his celebrity made him a familiar face; and while he is no less a stranger to me than the others, his life was more…documented in our popular culture, even if was sometimes seen only as a fictitious portrayal on the big screen.

And maybe his passing seems all the more significant to me as it occurred just a couple days after...

I planned on writing a blog piece on Thanksgiving, about Thanksgiving.

I think it's a holiday that gets the shaft, falling in between Halloween and Christmas like a quarter slipping down between the couch cushions.  Hell, it's not even mid-October, not even Halloween, before all the stores have the Christmas gear on display -- so why should Thanksgiving get a fair shake.

In fact, Thanksgiving has become all about Christmas, with Black Friday Holiday Shopping Fucktaculars.  And why wait for Friday?  Stores now open on Thursday, on fucking Thanksgiving, just so people can shop.

Now, if you're friends with me on Facebook, you're probably well aware of how much I loathe Black Friday.  I think people who camp out in front of Best Buy and Walmart are losers of such immeasurable magnitude.  I think the whole event is nothing more than based on greed; and when I see videos of people trampled or knocked down or punched or tazered while scrambling for whatever shit they seem to think they can't live without, I don't feel even the least bit of sympathy for them.  Would you feel sorry for someone gored while participating in the Running of the Bulls?  Probably not.  Because as the saying goes, when you mess with the bull, you get the fucking horns.

But I really hate Black Friday because of what it does to Thanksgiving.  It takes a holiday that is meant to celebrate and recognize gratitude for what you have, and turns it into craving stuff you don't have.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1998.  I left family and friends behind in Chicago, while I set out to make my future in Hollywood.  For the first few years I was out here, I was only able to make the trip home for Christmas, so Thanksgivings were held "orphan-style".  That means a bunch of us (friends and coworkers) got together, and had a potluck Thanksgiving.

And while I enjoyed those occasions immensely, it made the holiday all the more significant for me, as I was truly, truly grateful for the family at home in Chaicago I was unable to celebrate Thanksgiving with.

After my sister got married, and started having kids of her own, it became a priority for me to make it home not only for Christmas, but for Thanksgiving as well -- as well as every opportunity I possibly could

And I realize how fortunate I am.  At forty-three years of age, I still have both my parents, while I know many people who have lost one if not both of their parents.  I am so grateful that my parents are still with us, but of course there is no shortage of concern, or many a sleepless night, about how much time I have left.

But I know that I am missing moments -- the crucial, everyday moments, that we file away into memories that will last until we die.  And I am missing these moments for no other reason than my own selfish ambition.

But I also don't know what I would do; and there's one thing that I do believe in: you only get one shot at life.

There is a sentiment among some people that life is merely some kind of…well, just a long, long doctor's waiting room or DMV line, and when we die that's when we start really living, in some glorious and eternal afterlife.

It is a theory I don't subscribe to.

I don't believe in heaven.  I don't believe in hell.  I don't believe in an afterlife.  I simply believe that when we die, the life in us winks out like the light in a burned-out bulb, and that's it.  We cease to be.

I don't judge those who think otherwise, as we are all entitled to our beliefs.  Even I must admit that the idea of life after death is a tantalizing one, and understandably a source of great comfort for those who have lost loved ones.  We never want to believe that it is the end; that those who were with us, who brought us joy and love, will never be seen again.

Life after death offers the promise of reunion, as if death was not a conclusion, but a kind of walk around the block -- that there are no goodbyes, but merely a see you later.

But I believe that the only semblance of eternal life is our continuation in the memories of those we have left behind; that we somehow live on in the stories and anecdotes, and perhaps even by our absence in the places and events we were so familiar, even if it is merely by association, as with a song or holiday.

Mr. Walker died at forty years of age.  He was in the midst of shooting a movie, of living his life, and I'm sure that he had plans to do so much more.

But plans don't always work out.

We have no guarantees that we will live a long life.  We have no idea if today is the last day, not only for us, but for those we hold dear.

We live in a world of somedays.  Someday I'll see the Eiffel Tower.  Someday I'll write a book.

But someday can often just be a synonym, as in I'll call my sister tomorrow.  I'll talk to mom and dad tomorrow.

But the only someday, the only tomorrow (be it the literal one in the next twenty-four hours, or the figurative one of weeks, months, or years that pass by with ever-increasing speed as we get older) that is guaranteed us, is that we will die.

But we rarely ever address that; to speak it aloud, to say:

Someday, I will die.

Tomorrow, I will die.

But it's true.

Now, I'm now saying that plans are futile, that setting a goal or a future objective is a wasted endeavor.

Not so.

Make a plan.  Have a goal.

But start doing it today.

I'm simply saying: don't wait.  Don't put it off until tomorrow.

I would love to say that I live by example, but I don't.  I am all too well-versed in procrastination, in putting things off, in saying that tomorrow will be a better day to start.

I know this because of where I am in life.  And it is not where I thought I would be.

And I wonder how much more will I have to lose before it sinks in, before it's too late.

Before my tomorrow is suddenly today.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

11 to 1 Day Until Halloween -- The Rest of the Bunch

It hurts my heart to do this.

The same kind of heartache I experience when I see Christmas decorations before November.

But the time is short, and sadly (at least for me), my goal of writing about one film per day proved to be an exercise in futility.  A failed experiment.  A horror show of my own design.

Oh, well.

So I'm going to blast through the rest of them here -- in one piece.  All the courses rolled into one.  Like a more horrific than usual KFC Bowl.

Here we go…

11 - The Haunting

I'm not going to even dignify the dreadful remake by clarifying which one I'm taking about, like they unfortunately need to do now with Halloween.  Now you can't talk bout the film with specifically talking about Carpenter's classic, or Zombie's…whateverthefuckyoucallit.

I didn't see Robert Wise's The Haunting until I was in my thirties, and it scared the crap out of me.  A master class of horror -- showing that true dread is inflicted by what is heard and implied, rather than shown outright.

10 - The Sixth Sense

I'm not a Shyamalan hater.  I know it's a popular position to take, but hey, I was never popular.

Yes, Lady in the Water and The Happening are just huge, epic misfires -- made by a filmmaker who fell too in love with his own hype; but Unbreakable is amazing, an entire film that tells the traditional first act of a superhero movie; Signs is a brilliant alien invasion movie told solely from the viewpoint of a single family's experiences, just as any of us would experience an event like that.  Now yes, "Swing away", and the whole water as a weapon is just…odd, but I still think it's great.

And yes, I am a staunch The Village defender.  I think the critical prejudice about his twist endings just made too many people want to hate it before they even saw it.  If it was anyone else's film, it would have been better received.

But The Sixth Sense is his masterpiece.  A chilling ghost story.

9 - The Fog

As long as we're talking ghosts, I have to include Carpenter's film (and not the fucking awful remake).  The movie probably features Carpenter's best score, and with Cundey behind the camera again, all the right pieces were in place.  A small town.  A secret.  A curse.  And ghosts back for revenge.  So much goddamn fun.

8 - Three Extremes 2

A Japanese anthology film.  All three are good, but Takashi Miike's story, The Box, is the one that stands out (and really the one that compels me to recommend it).  I have to admit, I'm not a Miike fan.  I'm not one of those fans who lost their shit over Audition.  I don't like it.  I just think it's mean and unpleasant.  But The Box is absolutely one of the most beautiful and haunting horror films I've ever seen.  His choice to shoot it in Japan in winter gives it such a bleak and cold feel.  It is really amazing.

7 - Ringu

Again, the original, and not the remake.  Not that The Ring is bad.  It isn't.  It's one of the better adaptations of J-Horror, navigating the vast cultural differences, and making the story work as an American tale.

Much like my experiences with The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, this was another home viewing.  Because Dreamworks had locked down the rights for the remake, they essentially blocked distribution of the original in America.  So off to Ebay I went, prompted by the incredible word of mouth about the film, and ordered a copy.

The whole thing felt like I ha gotten one of the dreaded videotapes of the story.  The package arrived in the mail, I popped it in the DVD player, and hit play.

I think Ringu is truly scary.  It was one of the only films I remember watching where I had to turn it off a couple of times, and turns the lights on in the apartment, just to give myself a break.

And the ending…

There's lots of horror films that have the villain pop out of the grave or lurch out of the dark for one more appearance, but it's always meant to just be one last scare.  In Ringu, the protagonists have done all they were supposed to do to lift the curse, but Sadako just doesn't fucking care.  That scene where she crawls out of the television?  I alms ran out of my apartment.

6 - Phantasm

A horror film filled with cemeteries, undead Jawas, a classic Cuda, and a Tall Man with deadly flying spheres.

What more can you ask for?

When I worked on Alias, Angus Scrimm, the Tall Man himself, was a guest star on the pilot.  When he was wrapped on the show, one of the costumers said, "Come on, please say it for us just once."

Mr. Scrimm, absolutely one of the kindest people I have ever met (someday I'll tell you about the hand-written letter he sent me -- he one I had framed), stepped to the door of his trailer, and paused a moment.  Then he looked out at us, cocked one eyebrow, and said "BOYYYYYYYYY!!!"  I shit myself right on the spot.  It was awesome.

5 - The Thing

Sure it's Sci-Fi, but it's also terrifying -- the ultimate cinematic template for paranoia and isolation, it may be John Carpenter's finest film.  I personally think that it is the greatest special effects movie of all time.

4 - Ju-On

I'm sure there's an English subtitled trailer somewhere, but I'm showing you this one because it's the exact same one I first saw.  I had no idea what the fuck anyone was saying, but the hair stood up on the back of my neck.

Even though the American remakes have the same director as the originals, the Japanese films are better.

Interesting side note: Director Takashi Shimizu made the two Japanese feature films, but even before that, he directed two television movies about the material as well.  How do I know this?  Well, ubergeek that I am, one with a multi-region DVD player, I was able to buy them online.  When you watch the two television movies, and then the two Japanese features, you realize that the American remakes are really just a greatest hits of all four source materials, picking a scene from this one, and another from that.

3 - Halloween III: Season of the Witch

The greatest sequel that..never should have been a sequel.

I think we can all agree what a colossal mistake it was to call it Halloween III -- fans of the first two films showed up to see Michael continue his murder streak, only to see a movie about a billionaire Irish mask-maker who conspired to play the biggest Halloween trick of them all.

Strangely enough, of the original Halloween trilogy, Season of the Witch feels the most seasonal in the spirit of Halloween.  The first two films took place on Halloween, but that was really just a selling point.  Michael could very easily have taken Friday the 13th or Mother's Day as his day to kill.

But Season of the Witch's plot is utterly dependent on Halloween, and the entire story is rich with the history and mythology of the holiday.

I wish the concept the filmmakers were trying here, to release a different Halloween-themed film each October, had worked out.  It would have been great to spend every October with Carpenter and his crew, especially in the 80's golden era of horror.

2 - Halloween and Halloween II

There's really nothing I can say about the original Halloween that hasn't been said before -- the film stands as an all-time classic.

Halloween II borrowed a page from Bride of Frankenstein by starting the sequel literally moments after the conclusion of the first film, making it More of the night HE came home.

They are a perfect pairing.  Does the sequel have problems?  Of course -- but I can never watch one without the other.

And the end of II offers a fitting conclusion to the series…if only it had been.  But fans (admittedly, even myself) wanted more.  Sadly, the subsequent films absolutely personify the warning of be careful what you wish for.

1 - Trick R Treat

My original plan was to make 3, 2, and 1 correspond to the Halloween films of the same number -- but when I remembered Trick R Treat I had to change the batting order.

Trick R Treat is a love letter to the holiday of Halloween.

It is literally a crime how the film got fucked over by Warner Bros.  When you see some of the films that get a theatrical release, it's inexplicable to me how Trick R Treat got put on a shelf, and only reluctantly released to home video.  But I guess these things can happen when one branch of leadership green lights a film, and the next wave of executives kick anything to the curb that didn't involve them.

It's basically the A Christmas Story of Halloween.

Thankfully, the film has found a devoted  following, giving it a great, back-from-the-dead second life.

And just last week, the sequel was announced!!  I, for one, can't…fucking…WAIT!!!

Happy Halloween to all, and to all a scary night!!!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

12 Days Until Halloween - REC & REC2

"But I don't like reading subtitles."

Shut up, you're being an asshole.

Worse, you're being a typical American asshole.  You're like the crew members who are being paid to go to Italy and shoot a movie, who with utter indignation seriously ask "Why doesn't any one speak English?"

Um, maybe because we're not in America, motherfucker.  And actually, a bunch of them do speak English.  And even those who don't have a better grasp of it than you do of Italian.

Oh, and another thing.  When you're in Rome, one of the meccas for fine cuisine, and you're eating at McDonald's because, as you claim, you "don't have three hours to spend on a meal", you're a Special Edition Double-Douchebag Asshole.  Does the phrase "When in Rome" mean nothing to you?


What was I talking about?

Oh, yeah -- REC & REC2!!

REC and REC2 are the most successful examples of the recent horror film explosion coming out of Spain.  Written and directed by Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero, REC and REC2 knock the found-footage genre right on its ass.

While they are two separate films, I'm joining them as one because the sequel starts immediately after the first one ends.  In truth, the two films overlap -- the beginning of the sequel starts while the first film is in mid-stride, albeit with a different set of characters on the other side of events.

There is no slow-burn here (as much as I love slow-burn horror).  The first film opens with a news crew for a segment called "While You Were Sleeping".  They are shadowing the overnight shift of the local firehouse -- and it isn't long before the company responds to a call.  It seems like an easy in-and-out trip -- a woman has fallen and hurt herself.

But soon after they arrive, they realize that the situation is much worse.  The injured woman appears almost rabid, and she attacks two of the policemen at the scene, and would have injured more if another officer hadn't gunned her down.

Racing the wounded out to their truck, the firemen (and the news crew) discover that the doors are barricaded.  An amplified voice tells everyone to be calm, because the building has been quarantined.

From this point on, REC  doesn't stop.

No one knows what is going on, but a locked apartment all the way at the top of the building may have answers.

But not the ones they're looking for.

In fact, there's little in the apartment that anyone in their right mind would go looking for -- it is a residence full of the occult and locked-away horrors never meant to see the light of day.

REC & REC2 are a perfect scary movie double feature.

13 Days Until Halloween - Something Wicked This Way Comes

Let's get the important facts out of the way right up front -- Ray Bradbury IS Halloween.

He is.  Without question.

While The Halloween Tree may be the most spot on for Halloween of his work,  Something Wicked This Way Comes is a close second -- with Halloway and Nightshade respective birthdays occurring just moments apart, one born at 11:59pm on October 30, and the other at 12:01am on the 31st.

And the 1983 film adaptation…

Well, it's a fine film.


And if you asked someone how they enjoyed their meal, and they said, "fine", what would you think?

They didn't hate it, no.  But they also didn't love it.

I feel the same way about the movie.

The biggest problem?  That it's a Disney film.

Because while we can talk at length about the darker side of the creations of the Mouse House (shall we do a count of how many of their beloved animated films involve youth-scarring renditions of parental death?  Bambi, anyone?), those darker emotional shades were often reserved for the palette of their animated films.

Their willingness to go dark and nasty with the flesh and blood creations has never been their strong suit.

Despite the film's screenplay being written by Bradbury himself, the film feels toned down.  Hell, maybe that's even because of Bradbury -- penning the screenplay with more of a autumn-shaded nostalgic view of his boyhood home of Waukegan, Illinois, than with the more sanguineous tones of children's' fears -- furthering my opinion that sometimes a novelist isn't always the best one to adapt his own work for film.

Maybe the experience for me was diminished knowing that the town square was nestled not amid the rural plains of the Midwest, but on the Disney backlot; literally twenty yards from bustling Alameda Avenue.  I know that I shouldn't let it cloud my eyes.  After all, I know that the great Universal Monster movies were primarily Universal backlot tenants.  But the shadows and contrast of black and white somehow mute and restrain the Southern California sunshine that color film lets in with a flourish.

I, for one, would love to see it remade.

How about -- A Guillermo Del Toro Production of a Frank Darabont Film?

Come on, you know I'm right.  That film would be amazing!

14 Days Until Halloween - Dark Night of the Scarecrow

So I'm breaking precedence here a bit.

Not straying from the path, but merely stepping into the other wheel rut that winds down this dark and scary road -- exploring not a theatrical movie, but a television one.

I owe a lot about this one to my Aunt Gerry.

When The Dark Night of the Scarecrow first aired on CBS in 1981, I was a eleven.  Now, my parents were, by what would be considered by today's standards, strict.  At the time, that certainly felt like the word -- but all these years later, I only consider my parents to be ones who were invested in what their children were watching and reading.  We weren't just plopped down in front of the TV -- they were absolutely aware of what we were watching.

So maybe my parents thought that The Dark Night of the Scarecrow was going to be a bit too much for me, despite my obvious love of horror.

But that was okay -- because my Aunt Gerry saw it.

I remember she and my Grandmother were over for Sunday dinner (which, at our house, was somehow held at two or three in the afternoon.  I'm not sure why that was the case -- but today I call that a late lunch).  I don't know how it came up, for all I know I mentioned it, because I had wanted to see the damn thing -- but Aunt Gerry told us all about the movie.

And the great thing about that?  It was like a ghost story around a campfire.  I saw it in my head, and it was damn scary.

Side note: I had the same experience with Halloween.

I remember my sister and I were staying over at our Uncle Phil and Aunt Laina's, having a sleepover with our cousins Alida and Beth.

We (and by "we", I mean the kids) were upstairs, in bed, and supposed to be asleep.  Maybe Erin and my cousins were, but I wasn't.

Downstairs, my Uncle Phil was watching the network broadcast premiere of Halloween.

I will never, ever forget it.  I couldn't see it, but I could hear it.  And even today I remember what part it was -- Laurie running from house to house, screaming for help, as Michael Myers almost casually crossed the street to get her.  Jamie Lee Curtis screaming her lungs out, as Carpenter's music played on and on.  Holy shit.


Dark Night of the Scarecrow stayed with me for years.  Since it was a television movie, it wasn't readily available.

I searched Ebay, but the only ones they had were VHS copies that were hundreds of dollars.

But about ten years ago, I finally found a copy.  It was basically a ripped copy of a Hong Kong copy.  So, yes, I'd have to deal with some crazy subtitles -- but I didn't care!

I shelled out my bucks, and weeks later, it arrived!

As expected (or should have been), it was not a great copy.  It was actually pretty bad.  So bad, that the last five minutes wouldn't play.  The image just froze.

So I had been able to watch most of the film, only to be fucking denied the final moments!


Thankfully, the film finally was released in 2010.  And it was so worth the wait.  It is a perfect movie for Halloween.

15 Days Until Halloween - The Blair Witch Project & Paranormal Activity

I remember when I first saw The Blair Witch Project.

I was working at Walt Disney Studios, and a guy I worked with had gotten a copy.  I have no idea how he came by it, a grainy copy of a copy of a copy of the film that had made a tremendous impact at Sundance.

The film was not due to hit theaters for months, but here it was, my own personal copy in hand (which made it an extra grainy copy of a copy of a copy of a copy).

I remember first seeing the trailer at The Nuart Theater.  I don't even remember what the movie was that I was going to see, but I remember the trailer.

And I remember the listing for the website at the end, something that I had never seen on a trailer before.

The Blair Witch Project was really the first film to use viral marketing on a grand scale, and the now infamous website depicted the MISSING poster for the three protagonists, with a summary of how the footage was unearthed.

I got together with a bunch of friends, and we watched the film.  I said then, and I still hold by it today, that it was one of the most frightening experiences I've ever had watching a movie.

I still think it's a great film, but you have to consider something: when I first saw it, it was months from a theatrical release.  The movie was not on the cover of Newsweek.  Heather, Mike, and Josh were not yet on The Tonight Show.

Specifically, the backlash had not yet begun.  The one instigated by moviegoers who felt "duped".  The movie wasn't real, as advertised, but fake.

Yes, the movie was a phenomenal success -- but all the acclaim couldn't subdue the cultural attitude that followed.  The film was mocked, the actors ridiculed (most of whom never really worked again).  The "found-footage"format was tirelessly assailed as cheap and amateur.

So I'm glad I got to see it well beforehand, while the movie, and all involved were still a complete mystery to me.

But the thing about that format -- was that it couldn't be duplicated without being seen as an obvious rip-off.  After Halloween, a series of imitators sprang up.  You know them well, all the slashers inspired by Carpenter's film, that managed to completely ignore all the things that made Halloween work so well; instead opting to go to Blood & Tits route.  But even though the rip-offs were exactly that, they had the execution of the traditional narrative to conceal their theft.  Friday the 13th looked and sounded just like Halloween, as well as every other movie that preceded them.

If you tried to rip-off The Blair Witch Project, by way of another found-footage story, you couldn't even try to pretend you were doing anything other than cashing in on its success.  While The Blair Witch Project was not the first film to use a mockumentary style, it had been quite a while since it had been used, let alone in a film that had such mainstream exposure.

Ten years later…

…I'm working on Star Trek, when the production company gets a hold of a film that Paramount had just acquired.  The folks in the office knew that I was a horror fan, and suggested I take a look at it.

So I did.

And again, months and months before it hit theaters, I popped a copy of Paranormal Activity into my DVD player.

And again, I had the shit scared out of me.

But an interesting thing happened.

In the ten years since The Blair Witch Project, and undoubtedly aware of the aftermath of the film's release, the powers that be made a crucial decision.  Yes, Paranormal Activity would be billed as found-footage, but they were going to right upfront about the fact that it was fake.  Hell, they were going to take it one further -- by explaining how Oren Peli had crafted a damn scary movie for a mere few thousand bucks.

And like The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity was a huge success.

But unlike The Blair Witch Project, there were soon a spawn of imitators.  For reasons I don't completely understand, the found-footage format took off, a style that has practically consumed the genre -- so much so that now a traditional narrative horror film is seen as somewhat "bucking the trend".

I think both films are great.

The Blair Witch Project made me scared to go into the woods ever again.  I grew up across the street from a nature preserve that had once been a tuberculosis sanitarium (true fucking story).  The buildings (haunted, no doubt) were surrounded by an expanse of woods.  This wasn't the suburbs.  It was right there in the city of Chicago, and I realized early on when exploring it as a kid, that it was highly possible to get lost for good in a space surrounded on all sides by major city streets.

Paranormal Activity did something even more inventive.  It brought the terror into your own home -- right into your bedroom.

I've talked about what I think are the two types of horror -- Lost in the Dark Forest, and the Invasion of the Home.

The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity are literally a defining example of each one, and I think are two of the most frightening films ever imagined.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

16 Days Until Halloween - Alien Zone/House of the Dead/Last Stop on 13th Street

Okay, so today's pick is a bad movie.

No, seriously, it is.  Not like the rest of my choices.

Oh really, Sean?  The rest are actually good?  Shall we discuss your preference for the remake of A Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

Shut up.  I liked it, so deal with it.  Besides, today's pick is seriously bad.

I first saw this movie on television when I was a kid.  It might have been one of Svengoolie's Saturday Afternoon Horror shows, but I can't say for sure.

Side note: If you don't know who Svengoolie is, you are missing out.  He has been a Chicago icon since the 70's -- an old school horror host.  These characters used to be in ample supply, hosting late-night horror movies on local television all over the country.  But as cable and a zillion channels took over, these characters went the way of the dinosaur.

But Sven has persevered, and continues to be on the air in Chicago.

His most famous presentation was this:

Everyone I know watched Revenge of the Creature in 3-D!  We had our 3-D glasses from 7-11, and we sat in front of our televisions (at least, theses of us that had color TV.  Yes, kids -- when grandpa Sean was your age, we had black and white television.  And we liiiiiiked it!) and watched it all crawl out of the screen at us.

Okay, not really -- it didn't work all that well, and I can only remember the ocean fish seeming to swim around our basement.

But still...

Anyway, back to the film.  And the reason I'm simply calling it The Film is because I don't know what to call it.  IMDB says it's Alien Zone, but the DVD I have calls it Last Stop on 13th Street, and it's also been called House of the Dead.

When I saw it on television a thousand years ago, the film had a HUGE impact on me.  Honestly, I think it was my first introduction to the anthology film, a feature film made up of a series of small stories, ala Creepshow or Vault of Horror.

I love anthology movies.  I try and watch every one I come across.

The Film basically started with this guy seeing his mistress, and then heading back to his hotel in the rain.  But the cab driver drops him off on the wrong street, and he seeks shelter from the downpour in a doorway.

Then -- there's a hand on his shoulder!  He turns to see an older man, who tells him to come in out of the rain.

The building is actually a funeral home, and the gentleman is the mortician.

What follows is the mortician telling the stories of each of the bodies in these five caskets on display.

Oddly, this plot device appeared years later in 1995's Tales From The Hood.  I have no idea if anyone was consciously or unconsciously ripping the idea off from The Film, but that's really not important.

Of the four stories that are told, two of them stuck with me for years!

One was about a teacher who hated children (which made it an odd career choice for her, but it's just a movie).  She goes home, and finds the neighborhood oddly deserted.  As she goes about making dinner, taking a shower -- her radio keeps turning on and off.  She's in a state of terror, knowing that someone is in the house...

Eventually, a door opens -- and out come these kids, wearing Halloween masks.  But as she screams at them (remember, she hates kids), they pull off their masks to reveal monstrous faces with long, tusk-like teeth.

And the hordes of children descend upon her...

The other story I remember is the third one (the second and fourth apparently made no impression on my impressionable mind), about an uptight, judgmental, douchebag businessman who, while out on his lunch break, is accosted by a homeless man in a dirty and torn business suit.

When he runs into a building to get away from him, he finds that the building is empty, and he can't get out.

After falls down an elevator shaft, he experiences a series of tortures, the most striking of which is a wall of nails that slowly pushes in on him, threatening to impale him.  But the wall only tears his clothing and draws a bit of blood before retreating.

Hungry and thirsty (presumably after being trapped in this underground room for days, a small slot in the wall opens up...and a bottle of scotch rolls out.

He drinks, gets drunk and, apparently driven mad from the experience, a door suddenly opens out onto the street.

He staggers into the sunlight, filthy and stinking from booze, and goes to the nearest person for help...

...who happens to be another businessman who, tells him to get a job, and ducks into the exact same door the lead character of the story entered -- starting the cycle all over.

Again, this movie is really, really bad -- but fun.

After years and years of looking, I only found out what the movie was when Fangoria Magazine wrote a piece about it.  I remember reading it off the shelf and Barnes & Noble, seeing the article, recognizing the movie, and exclaiming "HOLY SHIT!" a tad too loudly.

It turns out the whole thing was filmed in Oklahoma of all places, and odd backdrop that gives it this cold Midwest-like light (it looks like it was primarily shot in autumn and winter).

It is not available for rental or download.  I bought a copy on Amazon -- and it's from one of those companies that burns a copy of the movie only when you order it.  The picture is fucking awful, so dark you can barely see things sometimes.

But I don't care.

I finally figured out what the movie was, and it's so's good!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

17 Days Until Halloween - In The Mouth Of Madness

"Do you read Sutter Cane?"

In the Mouth of Madness is John Carpenter's last great film.

That is, barring any Clint Eastwood-esque latter years of life creative peak of directing, John Carpenter's 1995 film will be his last great achievement.

Not Village of the Damned.

Not Escape from L.A.

Not Vampires (although it could have been.  Carpenter back in the Western mold, with vampires thrown in.  The film has the distinction of creating one of the most iconic vampire is film with Thomas Ian Griffith as Valek; and cutting the film off at the knees by casting James Woods as the hero.  Now I have nothing against James Woods.  He's a great actor -- but tough guy hero he's not.  There's a scene where he beats a priest with a telephone to get information out of him.  All I could think of while watching it was You hit me with a phone, and the next time you see it will be on your pelvic x-ray).

Not Ghosts of Mars.

And certainly not The Ward.

In the Mouth of Madness is Carpenter's last great stand.

I don't say that with criticism or condemnation.  I say it with a bit of sadness -- because it reinforces my belief that one of my favorite (and all-time greatest) filmmakers just stayed a bit too long.

He's been very vocal about his being "retired" over the past few years; but the truth is that he began to check out long ago.

Every great fighter knows when to hang it up.  And John Carpenter has taken his share of punches -- battles with studios, evisceration at the hands of critics, box office flops.  All of it has taken its toll.

But what a career it has been.

Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, The Fog, The Thing, Christine (absolutely one of my favorites -- and one of the greatest car movies ever), Starman, Prince of Darkness.

And even though he didn't direct them, he produced Halloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch, two of the best (but often and unfairly maligned) sequels and essential 80' horror films.

And I could spend hours just talking about his legendary scores (perhaps another time).

His stamp, not just on the genre, but on all of filmmaking, should be without question.

Here's a great article that says it much better than I can:

Although Halloween was an immediate classic, a good number of his films (daresay all) have simply been ahead of their time.

The Thing is the most obvious, a film that had the misfortune to debut in the summer of E.T., and the public and critics, who had consumed gallons of the Spielberg Jesus-parable punch, ignored/condemned/eviscerated the film.

Now?  The Thing is regarded not only as one of Carpenter's best, but of all time.

Similar ahead-of-its-time complications may have affected In the Mouth of Madness, as the film failed to find an audience, just barely recouping its production budget.

But still, upon modern reflection, I think it is Carpenter's last great hurrah.

It's John Carpenter meets H.P. Lovecraft, with Sam Neil playing John Trent, an insurance investigator who's been hired to track down the whereabouts of Sutter Cane, a hugely popular horror novelist whose work has what can only be called an unsettling effect on some of his readers.  The author has disappeared just days before he was due to hand in his most recent novel, In the Mouth of Madness.

Crafting a mysterious map from the cover artwork of Cane's novels, Trent and Cane's editor, Linda Styles, head off to Hobb's End, the marked spot in the middle of New Hampshire.

They find the town -- but it's safe to say it doesn't exist on any map.

The town is populated by a number of Cane's characters, and what Trent initially believes to be an elaborate publicity stunt develops into a place where Cane's monsters are exceedingly real.

Any H.P. Lovecraft fan is aware of his mythology of the "great, old ones", slimy tentacled beasts who ruled the world before man, and are due to return.

Cane is essentially Lovecraft, and it turns out he is less author than conduit, a device through which the beasts of beyond have crafted their return.

Trent is able to escape back to our world, only to discover that reality, and Trent for that matter, are not what they seem.

As always (at least, according to my list here), the film does not have a happy ending.  In fact, Carpenter considers the film to be part of his "end of the world trilogy" -- tied to The Thing and Prince of Darkness.

Even though John Carpenter's work with cinematographer Dean Cundey (with whom he seemingly had a falling out with after Big Trouble in Little China) will never be equalled, with their collaboration forging my own personal love of the widescreen aspect ratio, Gary B. Kibbe's (one of Cundey's camera operators) work on In the Mouth of Madness still feels like a strong part of Carpenter's visual palette.

And Carpenter's score (with the association of Jim Lang) is eerie and all-together classic Carpenter (I think Carpenter's strength as a composer has always been that he uses the synthesizer as as synthesizer, instead of using it to mimic an orchestra).

The special effects are the early work of K.N.B., and they are a huge part of bringing the Lovecraftian creatures to life.

In the Mouth of Madness is definitely one of The Master's best works, albeit his last.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

18 Days Until Halloween - Dead Birds

"I opened a door."

Alex Turner's Dead Birds has everything going against it.  A slow-burn horror film, set during The Civil War.

So not only does it not have the frantic pace best consumed by mass audiences, but it's a bit of a history lesson as well.

But it's a great horror film.

I found Dead Birds on the New Releases shelf at Hollywood Video.  Yes, I actually left my apartment, got in my car, drove to an actual building that had DVDs on shelves, searched said shelves, picked up the movie, went to the checkout, rented the movie, got back in my car, drove back to my apartment, put the DVD in the DVD player, and watched the movie.

I know, very quaint.

Now, it is very common for movies to be released directly to home video, eschewing the expensive process of releasing a film theatrically.  Any number of trailers on iTunes states that the movie is available for download about a month before it hits theaters.

But back in 2005, if a movie went the direct-to-video route, it usually meant that the film was just fucking awful.  So bad, in fact, that it was unable to secure theatrical distribution.

So with that in mind, I watched Dead Birds.  

Working from a debut feature screenplay by Simon Barrett (who has since gone on to be one of the more prolific artists working in horror today, with contributions to V/H/S, A Horrible Way To Die, You're Next, The ABCs of Death, and V/H/S/2), Dead Birds follows a mixed gang of confederate and union soldiers, deserters one and all, who pull off a bloody heist at a small town bank.

The plan is to escape to Mexico, but first they will lay low in an abandoned farmhouse set in the middle of a vast cornfield.

But the house has a history.

The former owner was a farmer who, with his wife and two children, set to build a comfortable life in the sprawling farmhouse.

But when his wife died, he tried to bring her back through a series of black magic rituals involving the slaughter of all his slaves.  He even murdered his own children, after they became "demons", before being strung up (of sorts -- meaning he was lashed to a giant wooden cross, almost like a scarecrow, and left to die) by the terrified townsfolk.

But his, and all the other malevolent spirits, remain.

The cast is a great character actor assembly, the least-recognizable face (at least in 2004) belonging to Michael Shannon -- who has now eclipsed them all with his turns in Boardwalk Empire and  Man Of Steel.

One by one, the house divides them and reduces their number in horrifying ways.

It's a wonder to me that director Alex Turner wasn't able to capitalize further in his career.  There are a couple more credits to his name, but nothing that meets the expectations that a film like Dead Birds seems to predict.

The cinematography by Steve Yedlin is amazing.  The film is dark and spooky, with deep shadows halved only by pockets of candlelight.  Yedlin has gone on to be Rian Johnson's cinematographer of choice, and recently lensed the Carrie remake.

One of the most startling contributions is the score by Peter Lopez.  Deeply evocative of The Shining, and the works of contemporary classical composers Gyorgy Ligeti, Krzystof Penderecki and Bela Bartok, it is a horror score masterpiece.  I was so inspired to find a copy that I actually contacted Lopez himself.  He was nice enough to send me a copy.  But he has become a bit of a mystery -- with Dead Birds being his last credit.  It's an absolute mystery to me how he has completely dropped off the map.

Dead Birds is just another film on this list that deserves so much more recognition than it has received.

Check it out.

Monday, October 21, 2013

19 Days Until Halloween - Session 9

"I live in the weak and the wounded..."

In 2001, Brad Anderson made his first foray into the horror genre, after directing the romantic comedies Next Stop Wonderland and Happy Accidents.  Regardless if it was a conscious or unconscious choice to explore the darker side of film, it proved to be a fortuitous one, as he achieved great notoriety and success with films like The Machinist and Transsiberian -- and made a further mark for himself in television, directing episodes of Fear Itself and Fringe, on which he also served as producer.

Shot on the cheap, Session 9 nonetheless features a strong cast of Peter Mullen, David Caruso, Josh Lucas, Stephen Gevedon, and Brendan Sexton III.

But the true star of the film is the location -- the condemned Danvers State Hospital, which closed its doors in 1985, after a century of operation.

The film is the kindred-cousin, but polar opposite of 1999's The Haunting remake.  While that film also features a stellar cast, clearly the majority of focus on the part of director Jan De Bont and his crew fell to the creation of the elaborate sets and special effects.  The film is almost an endless proclamation of "Look what we can do!", dedicating an exorbitant amount of time on what is seen, in terms of set design and special effects, rather than learning the lesson that the 1963 original film taught so well -- that terror is often best executed by what is unseen.

That is not to say that Session 9 doesn't make the most of its location, but Anderson let the story be inspired by the real-life location, rather than letting the location be the story.

Peter Mullen plays Gordon Fleming, the owner of an asbestos removal company.  Clearly in dire financial straits, and with a wife and new baby daughter to support, he is so desperate to secure the job bid that he guarantees that the colossal amount of work to be done can be completed in one week.

He and his additional crew of four get to work, motivated by the hefty bonus guaranteed if they can complete the work on time.

But it isn't long before the team fractures, as the asylum seems to exploit the deep-seated fears of each member.

Law school dropout Mike makes a curious and unsettling discovery -- a box detailing the case of patient Mary Hobbes, including a collection of reel-to-reel audiotapes that are the recorded sessions of her treatment.  The sessions are explorations of Hobbes' multiple personalities, two of which are the relatively harmless "Princess" and "Billy".  But as Mike works his way through the tapes, he eventually makes his way to the session of the film's title, the one that reveals the elusive but malevolent "Simon".

Session 9 is a slow, slow burn -- taking its time to build to a blood-soaked finale.  The film is clearly inspired by Kubrick's The Shining, full of long takes, and slow tracking shots through the decaying interior of the hospital.

The ending is just as ambiguous as The Shining's Jack Torrance in a sixty-year old photograph conclusion, and leaves it up to the viewer to decide if Simon's influence is relegated only to the past.

One interesting thing of note about Session 9 is that it was one of the first features to be shot digitally.  Unfortunately, the digital technology of 2001 is a far cry from the current medium's genuine threat to the future of shooting on film, and there are moments where the image calls attention to itself as a less-than-worthy adversary to film stock.

But overall, I really dig the film.  Well-written, well-cast, well-scored (with an eerie composition by Climax Golden Twins), and well-directed by the creatively burgeoning Brad Anderson, Session 9 is a get under your skin descent into madness.

Friday, October 18, 2013

20 Days Until Halloween - An American Werewolf In London

Stay on the road.  Keep clear of the moors.  Beware the moon.

1981 was the year of the werewolf, with An American Werewolf In London and The Howling using ground-breaking, spectacular effects to transform the subgenre forever.  Rick Baker and Ron Bottin each worked their respective magics to advance the werewolf transformation in leaps and bounds from the techniques that had preceded them.  No longer did a character flop down into a chair and remain motionless while a series of static shot dissolves changed them from average man to snarling beast.

Now there was a vibrancy long missing from the werewolf film, as bones broke and elongated, skin stretched like taffy, and tooth and nail became rending tools to accommodate the lupine shift of persona.

While the debate could be endless over which transformation was more effective, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented Rick Baker with the very first Outstanding Achievement In Makeup for his work in An American Werewolf In London.

And while I enjoy both films, I definitely have a preference for An American Werewolf In London.

First of all, that is one of the GREATEST teaser trailers of all time.  I've always loved trailers which are original pieces of work, instead of assembled footage of the final film -- and this one is perfect -- creepy and iconic.

Because of its special effects, An American Werewolf In London will always be remembered for its place as the starting line of modern special effects (not that The Howling's Rob Bottin should be considered the loser in the two man race.  Only a year later, his stunning work on John Carpenter's The Thing broke even more new ground -- and I consider the film to be the greatest special effects movie of all time), but the film is a great one because of the invention of its director, John Landis.

While Landis is always referred to as a Master Of Horror, only 8 of his 41 listed credits as director on IMDB fall into the category of horror.  The rest are primarily comedies, with films like Animal House, The Blues Brothers, and Trading Places featuring prominently on his resume.  And despite AAWIL's place as a classic (Empire Magazine named it the 107th greatest film of all time in 2008), the film initially had trouble securing financing because of Landis' comedic skills -- as executive considered it simultaneously too funny for a horror film, and too scary for a comedy.  It wasn't until after the releases of Animal House and The Blues Brothers that his box office success earned the film a green light.

Ironically, it is the comedy present in the film that makes AAWIL such a terrifying experience.

David Naughton's character of David Kessler is absolutely likable, his upbeat demeanor (even in the aftermath of his nightly killing sprees) a far cry from Lon Chaney Jr.'s morose Larry Talbot.

From the opening scene, we immediately like David and Jack, two Americans backpacking it across Europe.  It's immediately evident that it's a much colder and dreary experience than the two of them anticipated, but they keep in good spirits with the ball-busting banter of good friends.

Following an awkward encounter in a local pub, cheerily named The Slaughtered Lamb, the two are quite literally thrown to the wolves, as the locals cast them back out into the night, well aware that something is prowling about on the moors.

And only fourteen minutes into the film, Jack is ripped to pieces.  Only a few seconds before, he and David (as us as well) share a laugh as David trips and goes sprawling on his ass.  And as Jack reaches out to help him up...

I'm a big fan of movie scores.  Just ask my love, Amanda -- who will happily tell you that all I listen to are movie scores and Black Sabbath and 50's Rock and Roll.  I would love to tell you she's exaggerating...but she isn't.

And I mention this only because, even with the great Elmer Bernstein at his disposal, Landis chose to present that scene sans score.  There are only two sounds of great note -- one is the iconic cry of the werewolf, unlike anything heard before or since; and the other is Jack's bloodcurdling screams.  There's no need to accentuate anything with score (although the film has it's share of Bernstein's genius -- one that has been criminally devoid of an official release.  Come on, La-La Land Records, I'm looking at you again).  In lesser hands, the lead-up to Jack's demise would have been punctuated by musical hand-holding, with a score telling us to get ready...something scary is about to happen.

But without that prompting, while the scene has its more than fair share of suspense (after all, it has two guys out alone on the moors, while an unseen, snarling thing circles closer and closer), when the thing suddenly knocks Jack to the ground and starts mauling him, the initial reaction is one of absolute shock.

One of the things that AAWIL is famous for is the following dream sequence --

You think it's over...and then it's not.

Landis does the same thing much earlier on, with the death of Jack.  David falls down.  Ha-ha, nothing to worry about, then...WHAM -- and Jack has one of the most visceral, gun-punching deaths in all of horror.

But the good that it's not the end of Jack --

"Can I have a piece of toast?"

Holy shit.

Jack is back, and (with the equally brilliant, but less heralded work of Rick Baker) is a fucking mess.

Now, I'm not going to get into a debate over wether Jack is real or a figment of David's guilt-ridden imagination (I'll let the Film School Did Alfred Really See Bruce Wayne At The End Of The Dark Knight Rises Circle Jerk handle that one).  I think he's really there for David to see, but ultimately, who cares?

The key is that the banter continues.  Jack is literally gallows humor in the flesh -- a flesh that will continue to be in a state of further putrification each time we see him.

So David thinks he may be a werewolf.  Who's he going to talk to about it?  And who's going to believe him?  Dr. Hirsch?  Alex Price?  (who, for those of you keeping score, was played by the stunning Jenny Agutter.  I first saw the film on home video, probably around 1982 or 1983, and for a thirteen year old boy whose body was just dipping its toes into the pond of hormonal change, a transition that equals if not betters any lycanthropic transformation, Jenny Agutter was a HOLY GODDAMN epiphany)

Dr. Hirsch slowly comes around to it, after his own expedition to The Slaughtered Lamb.  But Alex likes David too much to think that he could be anything else other than the charming man she's smitten with.

But Jack is a big fucking believer.  David is certainly preaching to the converted, so to speak.

So Jack is gallows humorist/confidant/sponsor, as he spells it all out for David.  We don't need an Abraham Van Helsing of Dracula, nor a Maleva of The Wolfman to grimly explain the nitty-gritty dressed up in science and superstition.  David has his best friend to do it for him.

Well, he has Jack and the ever-expanding members of the David's Killings Bloodline Club to do it --

In the end, the end the bloodline option is out of David's hands.  After his final transformation, David goes on the prowl right through the heart of Picadilly Circus, a rampage that starts with an awesome beheading of werewolf of the douchebag police inspector -- one of the only characters that we really don't like.

The creature is cornered in a dead end, with an army of armed police waiting to gun him down.  But Alex breaks through their barricade, and confronts the beast, who she now knows is David.

She implores him to let her help him, and tells him that she loves him.

The beast's fearsome expression softens.  Perhaps she has gotten through to the man inside, and there is a way to--

And the creature, snarling, leaps at her...

The cul de sac is filled with the thunder of gunfire, and the beast falls, once again David -- and before we can absorb this, to get over the shock, to perhaps mourn the loss as we look on the stricken Alex...

As the Marcels launch into Blue Moon -- credits...

Landis has knocked us right out of our fucking chair, hit us in the face with a pie, sprayed it off with a blast of seltzer water, and as we stare up at him in horror, he exclaims --

"Come on, that was fucking hilarious!"

Monday, October 14, 2013

21 Days Until Halloween - Sinister

In the past couple of years, there has been a welcome wave of what I like to call "adult horror" -- films that eschew the "teens in peril" model that had dominated the genre for so long.  While horror films have always had teenage protagonists, with the success of 1996's Scream, Hollywood propelled high schoolers attracting/inflicting/receiving murder onto the big screen at every possible chance, relegating adults to mere side characters, a good number of which are crafted simply as buffoons who have no chance whatsoever of assisting the heroes -- and more often than that are simply fodder to up the body count.

But recently, adult characters and themes have made a return to horror with films like The Possession, The Woman In Black,  MamaInsidious, and The Conjuring.  And while most, if not all of these films do feature children in jeopardy, their peril is purely at the expense of exploiting a parent's worst nightmare -- that of the loss or potential loss of their children.

Among the horror films with a more mature sensibility, I think Sinister is the best.

One quick thing to mention -- the film makes the interesting choice to combine the found footage medium medium so popular today, with a traditional narrative.  The found footage element is exactly that -- a box of super 8 films literally found in the attic of the home.  It's a shrewd move on the part of co-writers C. Robert Cargill and Scott Derrickson (who also directs) -- to find a niche in the popular current trend of the found footage film, by using it as a film within a film format.

Sinister is hands down the most frightening experience I've had with a modern horror film.  While not director Scott Derrickson's first foray into the horror genre, it is unquestionably his most accomplished.

Ethan Hawke and Juliet Rylance, as husband and wife Ellison and Tracy Oswalt, make the characters incredibly real and sympathetic, which is the real bread and butter of a horror film.  If you don't care about the characters, nothing that happens to them will be even remotely frightening.

And Christopher Young, arguably the genre's most prolific and masterful composer, crafts a score that, paired with a selection of eerie tracks by artists like Accurst, Ulver, Aghast Manor, and Sunn O)))), is a terrifying experience unto itself.

And as with nearly all my selections -- the film ends in dread, with one of the darkest endings in recent memory.

One of the other adult themed horror films of late is The Conjuring, and while I enjoyed the film immensely, I found the third act problematic.  At first I couldn't quite put my finger on why that is -- but then I gave it some further thought, after going over Sinister in my mind.

The Conjuring tries to wrap it all up with a shiny bow.  After two acts of sheer terror (deftly crafted by director James Wan), the film goes the traditional of good over evil.  And for some reason, when it comes to the paranormal, I always have a problem buying that.  Because how exactly does one overcome the intangible?  How does a person or group of persons defeat something that cannot be seen or touched?

Yes, I suppose the Warrens were there to even the playing field -- but after it all, as scary as the experiences were for the members of the family, they all walked away from it (except the dog -- okay, you got me there).

Sinister has no such optimism, building on a foundation that soundly defies on of cinema's golden rules: No Harm Shall Come To A Child.

Sinister is full of dead children.  I'm not saying that dead children should be celebrated.  I'm just saying that the film tells you right up front that there are no sacred cows here, and that anyone and everyone is in danger.

And unlike The Conjuring, when it takes you to the edge, it doesn't pull you back to safety -- it pushes you right over.

22 Days Until Halloween - Ghostwatch

Okay, so today's pick is going to be a tad more remote than the little-seen ones I've already discussed.

If you didn't already know, I'm a geek.  I am.

You doubt me?

How about this?  I own a multi-region Blu-ray player.

What exactly is that? you ask.  Well, a multi-region player allows you to play DVDs and Blu-rays from all over the world.  A geek like me has one because there are some movies and some versions of movies that are only available in other countries.

Case in point -- I'm a huge John Carpenter fan, and until the kind folks at Scream Factory came along, a good number of his films released in the US were just absurd bare bones versions.  No commentary.  No making of features.  Nothing.

But...if you had the German edition of Prince of Darkness, or the UK edition of Starman, you could watch the films with director and cast commentary, and cool behind the scenes stuff.  Hell, you could even watch the UK release of Howard Hawk's version of The Thing From Another World that also has commentary by Carpeneter.  Kind of a master class experience, as Carpenter walks us through the greatness of one of his favorite films.

I have ALL of them.  So cease your debate about my geekness, as incontrovertible proof has now been provided.

One of the DVDs I own is one that I watch every Halloween season.  However, this time it's not a theatrical film, but a television show.  More accurately, it was a television event that was a big deal in the UK.

On October 31, 1992, BBC1 presented a "live psychic investigation", featuring a number of well known BBC television reporters/personalities in the UK.

The program was called Ghostwatch, and the UK was about to experience its very own Wellesian War of the Worlds panic.

The program featured a live, on-air investigation of a reputed haunted house in Northolt, Greater London.  By the time the ninety-minute program had concluded, one or more of the reporters at the site were possibly dead, and the lone man standing in the poltergeist-decimated studio seemed to be possessed by the entity haunting the home.

However, the show was a complete fiction.  The "live" program had been filmed weeks earlier, and of course, no one had been hurt or killed.

But the show set off a panic, and in the days after the program aired, there was one confirmed suicide, and numerous other cases, most of which involved young children, of what could only be described as PTSD.

The BBC the besieged with calls from angry viewers, and the network had to make a formal apology.

Now, as an American unfamiliar with the personalities on the show, the show can seem cheesy and fake -- but I imagine that if those on the show had been, say, the entire news team on the WGN Morning News, faces and personalities that were familiar and associated with genuine television journalism, it would have been quite a different experience.

Believe me, I'm not bashing the show -- I think it's brilliant television.

Sadly, while it was once on Youtube, it's gone for now.  If you're able to see it in any way, check it out.  It's one of hte greatest Halloween pranks of all time.

23 Days Until Halloween - Event Horizon

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh fuck.

Okay -- so my initial plan of writing about a film every day, counting down until the glorious day of Halloween, was derailed by the penultimate perfect storm of preoccupation, procrastination, and any number of my litany of bullshit rationalizations and excuses.

So, for now, in an attempt to get the train back on the tracks, a number of these are going to be quick and dirty.  I would say less prolific, but seriously, who am I kidding?  I mean, when was I ever, EVER, fucking prolific?

Okay, yes, if there was a Twelve Step Program for serial Facebook posters, there's no reason I shouldn't be at a meeting right fucking now.  I'm really just some deranged online steam of bile filled consciousness version of the unfiltered cigarette -- just dumping all my second hand rage and untethered to reality opinion into the atmosphere with nary a single mental checklist in place that would give a more sane and rational person pause at the notion of putting such drivel into the eternal and unerasable permanent record of the internet.

See that?  Any wonder why I'm medicated?

So, with 23 Days Until Halloween (although, as of today, it's 17 Days Until Halloween, so maybe I should just shut the fuck up and get on with it)...

I don't give a flying lost in space for seven years fuck what Rotten Tomatoes has to say, I think Event Horizon is great.  It's The Shining in space, with a heavy dose of Clive Barker thrown in to give it that extra bit of Hell as S&M fantasy gone awry.

It's a great premise: long distance ship with new prototype gravity drive disappears for seven years after its maiden voyage...and now it's back.

But where has it been?

That is the question the crew of the Lewis and Clark hope to find answers for.  With the EH's designer in tow, the deep space salvage crew boards the derelict ship, and slowly discover that the ship has been farther than everyone ever dreamed it could.  And in the process, it has taken on a malevolent, malignant life of its own -- specifically the ability to manifest the individual fears of the crew in terrifying and fatal ways.

Laurence Fishburne's Captain Miller eventually decides enough is fucking enough, and pulls the plug on the salvage mission, taking a page from Ellen Ripley's playbook and opting for the take off and nuke the entire thing from space option.

But Sam Neil's Dr. Weir has plans of his own, which involve returning the ship back to the hell from which it came, and taking the crew of the L&C along with it.

Eventually, Miller makes the necessary sacrifice to save what remains of his crew, and goes down (to hell) with the ship, unlikely to ever return.

Of course it has its silly bits, with a completely unnecessary performance by Richard T. Jones as Cooper.  And I'm not giving Jones shit about it.  The fault lies in the creation of the character as shoehorned in comedic relief, and not from Jones' performance.  He does the best with what he has.

But Fishburne and Neil are great as opposing "Captains", and when Weir goes over to the dark side, he goes waaaaaaaaaaaaaay over.

If you haven't seen Event Horizon, don't judge it based on the rest of director W.S. Anderson's work.  I'm not trying to debase him, but the promise he showed on Event Horizon proved to be more of the broken promises variety on the films that followed.