Murder Party Review

Murder party

A fairly pathetic parking ticket hander-outer has nothing to do on Halloween but watch bad horror movies on VHS with his cat. He finds a random invitation to a Halloween “murder party” on the street, cobbles together a bad costume out of cardboard, and heads out to a crummy warehouse downtown. There he finds hipsterdom gone violently awry…

Murder Party is the debut of one Jeremy Saulnier – a director that after only three features (the others being Blue Ruin and Green Room, both excellent) is already becoming one of the most talked about new talents in the biz. While Blue Ruin and Green Room have similar stark, deliberate, non-glamorous tones, Murder Party is much more playful. It’s a horror comedy, and one of the few that manages to be equally effective at both.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on May 21st, 2016 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | No Comments -

The Witch Review

the-witch

2016 already has its runaway success Spring horror movie! Or, so it seems… I’ve been anticipating the release of The Witch since the first reviews started coming out of Sundance 2015, just about an entire year ago. For its budget, marketing, and release scale, it seems to be doing very well so far, one weekend into its wide theatrical window. How general audiences are responding is another story though, and I’ll get into that soon.

If you pay attention to the buzz, you may hear people describe The Witch as “a slow burn”, “subtle”, “unsettling”, and “not for everyone”. I would strongly urge you – horror fan or not – to heed all these descriptions rigorously, especially the last one. Even among the horror crowd, this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s a fact that’s oddly getting lost among the effusive praise critics have been showering upon this film for the past year. You can read any number of reviews that will tell you what The Witch “is”, that will describe the plot, the setting, and the characters and give a sense of the overall tone. My review, I’m hoping, will help you establish the proper expectations, because in a movie like this expectations are everything.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on February 22nd, 2016 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | No Comments -

Blowing Out the Jack O Lanterns

I feel weird.

Halloween’s over, and the mixture of emotions I’m feeling is, to say the least, strange. I bounce between the thrill of how well everything turned out this year, to the melancholy of knowing it’s over, to the vague sense of displacement not knowing what I’ll do with my time anymore. All the dense layers of decorations in and around my house – the tattered fabric, skeletons, pumpkins – it suddenly fails to make me feel anything other than dread at having to take it all down and pack it away. But the memories they represent are going to be some of my fondest, I can already tell.

I no longer have a default soundtrack to play (Halloween music) when it’s quiet. I no longer have a slew of movies (horror) that are guaranteed to pair perfectly with my mood each and every night. I don’t have any huge events to plan and execute. No stores to drop in on just to look at their seasonal aisle. The rest of the holidays are on their way, which is fortunate, because believe it or not as soon as all the Halloween decorations are packed away, I find it pretty easy to get excited for Thanksgiving and even Christmas. I’m a sucker for all the holidays I guess.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on November 1st, 2015 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

An Endless Halloween

Trick_or_treat_by_Radojavor

There’s one big difference between the celebration of holidays as a kid and as an adult. As a kid, anticipation was something you suffered with before you got to the good stuff. As an adult, the anticipation IS the good stuff. The actual holiday is about a day, but the lead up can be weeks or even months long (with me and Halloween, it’s months). Journey, not destination, all that crap.

This year I found myself telling people that my idea of heaven is to live in a perpetual state of late September/early October. With Halloween creeping up all around you, building more each day, haunted houses starting to open, pumpkin beers lining the shelves of grocery stores… all moving ever closer to a Halloween that will never come. Never end. But that’s not to take anything away from today – THE DAY – because without this day, nothing of these last two months would exist. And besides, there can be no such heaven as I’ve described. The cycle – the build up, the big bang, and the subsequent wait for next year – ARE what creates the joy of Halloween and any good holiday.

And for all the kids who will take to the streets tonight resplendent in their costumes and pumpkin pails and pillow cases, today is purely and simply the only Halloween. Maybe some will grow up to be fanatics like me, some will tire of the concept completely, but many will create enough memories in this one night to make that year long wait for next Halloween so beautifully agonizing. Without trying to sound grandiose, I feel like my purpose tonight and for the past couple months is to create as many of those memories for other people as I can.

This was a good year for memory creation. You’d think that with everything I cram into the Halloween season it would fly right by in a blink. But actually, this Halloween felt like it lasted a year. It’s amazing. I take stock of the things we did – the memories we created – and it’s too much to keep in my head. 60 some-odd horror movies, new and old. 5 or 6 parties. Building the haunted house. Going to haunted houses. Finding more corners of the house to stuff decorations. The thousands of empty calories worth of pumpkin products consumed. These things may seem trivial or even banal, but to me they’re meaningful. As I’ve said in the past, this is all about celebrating life through the mirror of death.

I don’t know what everyone has planned for tonight, but if you’re reading this on the day it’s published I sincerely hope you’ll make this Halloween your own. If you have legitimate cause to go out among the trick or treaters, I envy you. If you don’t, the options are even more wide open. We’re never more than a few remote clicks away from great horror movies these days – pick something you love. Carve a pumpkin. Hand out candy. Or, you know, come to my haunted house…

Bonfires burning bright, pumpkin faces in the night…

Ghosted by Jon on October 31st, 2015 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -

The Nightmare (Netflix Mini Review)

Nightmare

If you’ve ever known anyone who’s experienced sleep paralysis and heard them describe what it’s like, you know the subject is pretty terrifying. You wake up in bed, fully conscious, but you can’t move a single muscle. You start to feel like you’re suffocating, and you panic. If you’re unlucky, you may begin to hallucinate; see menacing shadowy figures approaching you while you still lack the power to move or even cry out. It’s chilling stuff.

What are the mechanisms of sleep paralysis? How much of the populace is affected? Are there ways to prevent or deal with it? The Nightmare gives you none of these answers. Instead, the entire 90 minute runtime is devoted to a parade of unrelated people describing their first hand experiences with sleep paralysis, and dramatized re-enactments of their tales. For 20 or 30 minutes, this works really well. The dramatized footage paired with the first hand accounts are very well done and truly terrifying, if a little heavy on jump scares. But soon, you start to crave more substance as a viewer. On one hand, the eerie similarity of the people’s stories (the descriptions of the “shadow people” hallucinations especially) is frightfully intriguing. But this makes you crave more information from objective sources. Having just one doctor on hand to explain the theories or causes of this phenomenon would have been extremely welcome, not just to flesh out our own knowledge but the break up the monotony.

Like the director’s own Room 237, The Nightmare has a stellar concept but is simply too laser focused and bare-bones to achieve greatness. It’s shockingly redundant at times – with some of the talking heads describing identical experiences more than once in the same movie. As a 30 minute short, or a broader feature, this could have been brilliant. If you yourself have ever experienced sleep paralysis though, it’s probably worth watching just for added context and camaraderie.

 

Ghosted by Jon on October 29th, 2015 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | No Comments -

My Top Ten Halloween Movies

Of the many Halloween season rituals I have, one of the most essential has always been watching horror movies. While I occasionally watch horror during the off-season, easily 99% of all the horror films I see in a given year are watched in September and October.

However, there’s a difference between a horror movie and a “Halloween” movie. Some horror movies don’t make great Halloween movies, and some Halloween movies aren’t horror. While this list is comprised by and large of movies in the horror genre, it’s more about the kind of films that just feel right to watch with some kettle corn and a pumpkin beer while candles and orange lights shine dimly in the room. It is NOT just a list of the best horror films I’ve seen, or the order and contents would be quite different.

Honorable Mentions

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch – This entry in the venerable Halloween series gets a lot of flack as the black sheep due almost entirely to the lack of Michael Myers. The only evidence of the brief flirtation with turning Halloween into a series of unrelated stories (which would have been awesome, by the way), Halloween 3 is a weird, fun, very 80’s horror movie with tons of great classic Halloween imagery. The montage of trick or treaters starting out their night in various cities across America is delightful.

Bride of Frankenstein – Black and white photography, crumbling castles, moonlit graveyards, fog, uncanny science equipment, and of course, man-made monsters. Bride of Frankenstein is actually more Halloweeny and more Frankenstein-y than the original. It manages to be both funnier and more poignant. It barely misses the top ten only because modern audiences might take issues with the slow 1930’s pace and moments of silliness.

Tales of Halloween – Who knows? A couple of years from now, this movie might earn a stop in the top ten, and maybe even a high spot. It’s just too new to make the call. But as a great companion piece to trick or treat and a unique experience of its own, I could see Tales of Halloween becoming part of the annual rotation very easily. Read my review.

More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 27th, 2015 | Filed Under Lists | No Comments -

Another Word on It Follows

It Follows

Without a doubt, It Follows was the “It” horror movie of 2015, and possibly even the “It” horror movie of the decade to date. For what was planned as a limited release, small indie horror flick, it garnered tons of early festival praise, leading to much more mainstream exposure and ultimately, hype. In my review, I lauded the original concept, the excellent retro soundtrack, and the overall Carpenter-esque vibe, among other things.

Well, it seems internet culture has done what it does best with regard to It Follows: Backlash. The hype inevitably led to audiences expecting the Second Coming from the movie. The film that would take horror to the next echelon. But there’s a curious way this particular backlash has manifested, or at least a curiously specific opinion associated with it: It Follows is a good movie, but should have been better.

It all started, I think, with Quentin Tarantino’s infamous interview in which the interviewer asked him what recent films (not horror films, but all films) he had seen that made him really excited. It Follows was the first one he named, and his take on it was (paraphrasing) “it was so good I’m frustrated it wasn’t better”. It’s such an odd opinion to have about a small, original horror movie by an unknown director. With almost no expectations in place, how could a film be great, and still somehow disappointing?

It doesn’t stop with Tarantino either. After reading his interview, it suddenly seemed like everywhere I looked people were poking holes in It Follows. Even my beloved Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness jumped in on the nitpicking. So, in light of all this, I felt it necessary to kind of jump to the defense of the movie for the sake of anybody thinking it may not be worth their time this Halloween.

SPOILERS FOR THE ENDING OF IT FOLLOWS… FOLLOW.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 26th, 2015 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | No Comments -

Nightmare Before Christmas is OFFICIALLY a Halloween Movie!

I love this.

At the Telluride Horror Show in Colorado, they hosted a screening of The Nightmare Before Christmas with the director of the film, Henry Sellick, sticking around for a Q&A. A little girl in the audience asked point blank the number one most common (and really, most pointless) debate-sparking question about the movie: Is it a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie?

Straight from the horse’s mouth: “It’s a Halloween movie.”

The Nightmare Before Christmas has always been a September 1st viewing tradition for me – at least since it was re-released on DVD and Blu-Ray a few years ago. I’ve seen the theatrical re-release in 3D – during October. And at a coffee shop I used to work at the movie played on a loop around Halloween time to set the mood. “Christmas” may be in the title, and serves as the crucial plot point, but I’ve personally never bought into the whole “you can watch it for Halloween AND Christmas!” logic. Apart from the single musical sequence set in Christmas Town, this feels like a Halloween movie. It revolves around Jack Skellington – the Pumpkin King – and his Halloween Town cronies making a mockery of Christmas. I simply can’t emotionally associate this movie with Christmas.

So, not that it really matters, but the director of the movie agrees.

Source: Birth.Movies.Death

Ghosted by Jon on October 19th, 2015 | Filed Under Musings | 1 Comment -

Tales of Halloween Review

Tales of Halloween

Ahh, October. The one month of the year Halloween fanatics can indulge in all the horror and the macabre they want without being branded weirdos by the straight public. It’s a wonderful time of year.

Full disclosure: Among my circle of friends, I am “the Halloween guy,” to say the absolute least about the matter. I also love anthology horror films. So I go into this review of Tales of Halloween with a heavy bias. You’ve been warned.

The 10 (well, 11) directors that teamed up for Tales of Halloween have dubbed themselves The October Society, and they’ve crafted a Halloween tribute that wears their love of the spooky holiday on its tattered, bloody sleeve. Each and every one of the 10 tales in this movie are soaked in Halloween’s spirit, tropes, and color palette. You would think that with 10 cooks in this kitchen, the overall film would feel somewhat disjointed, with different directorial styles competing. But remarkably, the film’s visual style is quite consistent even as its content varies in tone…

Read the rest of this review on CutPrintFilm.com!

Ghosted by Jon on October 15th, 2015 | Filed Under Movie Reviews, Reviews | No Comments -

A Plea for a Better Class of Haunted House

As someone dipping his toes into the world of haunted attractions, people are always telling me about so-called “extreme” haunted houses they heard about on the news/social media. The most notorious of these is McKamey Manor in San Diego (and the one I hear about the most often), but there are others. They all have a few things in common: You have to sign a waiver beforehand and reserve your entry time, there’s usually a minimum age limit, and the actors are allowed to touch you and force you to do things against your will. If you look at any of the videos for McKamey Manor or BlackOut Haunted House in New York, they look like a trailer for a found footage movie directed by Rob Zombie. The actors are always screaming in your face, you get fake blood and other fluids thrown all over you, and you’re otherwise forced into close and uncomfortable encounters with strangers, shoved into cages, coffins and the like. Typically there’s a lot of twisted sexual imagery involved.

And if you’ll forgive me for saying so, what about that experience seems fun? Unpleasant, sure, and deeply uncomfortable, but certainly not fun. And by my definition, not all that scary either.

Big disclaimer: I obviously haven’t attended any of these “extreme” haunts. I have no desire to. And it’s not out of fear really – what tiny bit of intrigue I have is mere curiosity, and the desire to speak authoritatively on the matter – but it doesn’t sound like something I’d ever spend money to experience. If you read articles about McKamey, BlackOut, or many of the others of the same vein, you often see boastful claims about how many people fail to make it to the end of experience, calling out the designated safe word to end it all. This is all meant to entice those seeking a truly cutting edge fright experience, but think about it: If you’re willfully cutting the experience short, it’s because you’re not having a good time.  More brains…

Ghosted by Jon on October 13th, 2015 | Filed Under Musings | No Comments -
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