I’m not sure what I just watched. Once again, I was taken aback by and actual FIRST movie being listed on Hulu (as opposed to seeing “Puppet Master VXII, The Cult of the Sock Puppet” or something) so I dove at the opportunity.
Puppet Master 1989, Paramount Films
This film put the “whack” in wacky. It’s like if Doctor Phibes and Jack the Giant Killer had a slow-paced poorly written hate baby. We have minimal characters without a lot of motivation, five psychics who are trying to uncover the mysteries of the Puppet Master’s puppets (which we know hardly anything about, getting no background on who the Puppet Master was, why he did what he did, and what his motivation for it was). So looking for puppets, find dead friend. They stay the night, and the rest of the movie is them getting picked off in HILLLLLAAAAAARIOUS fashions by weird little “celebrity death match” puppets.
“We’re just as God made us, Ma’am.” (image property of Universal Studios)
We get a monologue at the end by the big bad but yeah… not much else going on.
I think this is probably best enjoyed with a lot of friends and a lot of beer. I mentioned Doctor Phibes, and that’s really the attraction of the movie, to see how each puppet utilizes their special “skill” for mayhem. It’s delightfully cartoonish. Just be prepared to wonder, “Wait, who was that guy? Why is he/she here/doing that/want that?” a lot. I’d love to watch this again with some smart-ass loudmouths like me.
Today, I look at another Horror Movie Icon. For the longest time I thought I’d seen the first Chucky movie, but I guess that was number 2 or 3, because I have no memory of Child’s Play. This is back when they were still calling it “Child’s Play” and not “The ____ of Chucky,” because, let’s face it. It’s all about this freaky little doll, possessed with the spirit of a Chicago Serial Strangler.
Childhood fears are a subject I embrace with tender love, but this movie is the only one to encapsulate the TERROR which I lived with as a child: FREAKY UNCANNY VALLEY TOYS OF THE 80’S. Seriously. ALL of these guys could have been possessed by dead serial killers. Just look at them!
Killers. All these guys.
WHAT…. I DON’T EVEN….
BURN IT WITH FIRE!!!
So yeah, I was among the millions of kids who saw the “Good Guys” doll in commericals (a cute nod to the “My Buddy” doll for boys of that era) and immediately cottoned on to the idea that it was evil. But still not as evil as the HuggaBunch movie.
The rest was your typical Talky Tina plotline, except this doll isn’t protective of its owner and has a vendetta of his own to kill the guys who pursued him in life and—HOLY CRAP, IS THAT GRIMA WORMTONGUE?
Brad Dourif, image property of MGM/UA
So, I guess this guy is just good at being the evil little voice in people’s ears.
“Chucky says she was a rotten bitch and got what she deserved!” (image property of Newline Cinema)
It was pretty fun, and Charles Sarandon was pretty fun as the detective, but it might have been fun to hint at a little romance between him and the mom. And for all Chucky being possessed by a serial strangler, he actually did very little strangling. Mostly stabbing, but when your body weight is reduced to a measly five pounds, you don’t really have that power behind it.
Final thoughts? This movie wins the award for the most fake-out endings ever probably. Chucky is now available to stream on Xfinity OnDemand for a limited time. Also Netflix just posted the The Cult of Chucky for streaming. I might take a peek later this month just to see how weirdly this concept deviates from its source.
Sweet Screams, everyone!
This was a hard one, guys. I’d seen plenty of visuals and references to Cape Fear, most noticeably on The Simpsons. I expected this to be a straight forward movie about a criminal getting vindictive revenge on a lawyer. I didn’t expect this to be a very realistic thriller about obsession, violence against women, paedophilia, and how rape is the worst crime against women, but the victims are always punished more heavily than the perpetrator. I could go on, but it’s all there in the movie. Gregory Peck as a helpless, petrified father is heart-breaking. Robert Mitchum is transformed from his usual goofy, charming-asshole-with-a-heart-of-gold character into a sleazy, greasy, creepy predator that was truly terrifying to watch. I’m not sure I can watch Sabrina for a while after this.
Holy shit, are you scary, Bobby.
Yesterday I touched on how the theme of child-loss is such a strong, true fear to stain a gore-streaked horror movie with. This is the other one. Mitchum’s character, Max Cady is a very REAL sort of fellow. There’s hundreds like him all over the world, maybe thousands, and the film reminds us, that for the most part, society won’t help us against them until it’s too late. Maybe not even then. So, yeah. This is probably one of the scariest movies I’ve seen for Carpe Scream. This totally counts as Horror.
This is streaming on TCM On Demand for a short time only. I feel the need to state: Trigger Warning: rape, abuse of women, child rape,
IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN FOLKS! Welcome to this year’s Carpe Scream!
What is Carpe Scream? Carpe Scream is a self-inflicted movie challenge in which I watch one horror movie for every day in October and post my thoughts on it on my blog. That’s 31 movies in all.
Why are you doing this?In 2014, I had a strange revelation: I write and draw for a horror comic, but I hate horror movies. I had at that point only seen a few horror movies, and most of those were of the cheesey B-movie genre that weren’t very scary. That year, ever since, I’ve pushed myself to explore more deeply the artform that is the horror movie. I’ve seen about 100 horror movies (some repeats), some good, some bad, some now in my yearly favorites, and I think it’s helped me appreciate the craft and the genius behind GOOD horror.
Any Changes this year? This year, I’m going to try to post where I viewed the movie so that others can check them out with me. I’m also going to include links to wikipedia pages for people who (like me) might want to know more about the making of the films. As always, please feel free to post in the comments.
You get a two-fer for today, since yesterday was Sunday, here we go!
At last! At last! Pumpkin-head was on streaming this year! It’s so rare that I get to see the first movie in a series listed. This guy was on Amazon Prime Streaming, so I dove in while the getting was good.
Pumpkinhead is the directorial Debut of Special Effects wizard Stan Winston (the guy behind Edward Scissorhands, Batman 1&2, Predator, and Terminator2). I was already a huge fan, having followed the Stan Winston School on Facebook and drooling at all the courses I wish I could take. And, I mean, you can tell. Just check that monster out: GORGEOUS.
This movie deals with a theme, which is very much a REAL fear of mine, which is the loss of a child. That’s one that always punches me in the gut, as a parent, and is ten times more terrifying than zombies or werewolves. Pet Sematary is on my list for that reason too. (shudder).
And just look at this little Lipnicky-lookin’ guy! (photo property of MGM/UA)
So the whole thing kicks off when Big Daddy Ed loses his little guy, only reminder of his wife, etc. Who’s to blame? GEN-EXERS. So death to them. He seeks out the help of a witch named Haggis. I’M NOT KIDDING.
“They Call me Haggis because I was MISS HAGGIS of the Glasgow Sheep Festival in ’23!” (photo property of United Artists/MGM
Haggis helps him summon the demon of vengeance named “Pumpkinhead” to kill everyone who was within spitting distance of his son when ONE GUY ran him over on a dirt bike. Yeah, I’d be that mad too. Anyway, things go about as you’d expect. Overall it was a lovely bit of dark fantasy, with a familiar ring of the old fairytales of dark magic and evil servants whose help comes with a price. I was blown away by Winston’s special effects and makeup. Nothing like a Monster they actually SHOW you in glorious detail so you can marvel at the sculpt every time he’s on screen. Just wow.
From one special effects wizard to another, this one is the special effects playground of my secret idol, Rick Baker! his teamup with comedy legend John Landis makes this whole movie a delight.
PLUS RICK BAKER
I’ll be honest, it took me a while to work up my nerve for this one. I remember as a kid trying several times to watch this film (BECAUSE RICK BAKER) and failing. The gore makeup on Griffin Dunne (seen above) was incredibly realistic and it’s only taken over 100 movies for me to innoculate myself against squicking out and shutting off the telly.
This film follows your classic werewolf story, and even pays homage to the Lon Chaney Jr’s film. but with the added fun of the werewolf being haunted by his victims urging him to kill himself. Dark dark stuff, but with a peppy, iconic moon-related soundtrack, and Landis’ golden touch of irreverence and comedy.
But all of that takes a backseat to one of the most fantastic transformation sequences ever choreographed. I held my breath the whole time, marveling at how seamless and truly magical this sequence was. This was practical effects, by the way. All of this was painstakingly painted latex, and bladders, and rigs, and hair application.
TRULY ASTOUNDING. This movie won an Oscar for best makeup, by the way.
Rick Baker, (image via @TheRickBaker on Twitter)
Rick Baker is currently a judge on SyFy’s Face Off spin-off, “Game Face” on at 9pm EST on SyFy. I was in no way paid to say that, I’m just a huge fan. An America Werewolf is now streaming on Hulu.
So that’s today’s post and the first Carpe Scream. Also stay tuned this month for my Inktober posts, where I post a new ink drawing every day. Hope you enjoy getting spooky with me this month. Ta!
So okay! This is the last day of my Carpe Scream blog marathon! I hope you’ve enjoyed my write-ups of these 31 Halloween Movies. Some were scary, some were not, some were old favorites, some were new favorites, some were shameful new discoveries to be hidden forever and never spoken of again.
I’m closing out this first year’s marathon with the movie that taught me to love Halloween, back when I was a little chicken scaredy-pants who was afraid of everything ghosty and ghoulie and three-leggy-beasty: Tim Burton’s Masterpiece featuring the music of Danny Elfman: The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Time Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993, Touchstone Pictures
This is a great transition from Halloween to the upcoming holiday season. I’m going to disappear for a while, getting back to writing and tuning up old pieces as I start a new journey to getting published again. Hopefully I’ll devise something fun for Christmas like last year’s Advent Calendar for you all (but perhaps less ambitious).
I hope you all have a fantastic Halloween, a good NaNoWriMo, and I’ll see you all around on the vast and glorious internet jungle.
Today I watch a horror movie classic, in that it’s been widely lauded as one of the worst Science Fiction movies of all time: Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Plan 9 From Outer Space, 1959, Valiant Pictures
This movie has been a classic because of all the bad movies out there, it’s one of the most highly watchable bad films. It goes through bad and out the other end to where it’s ridiculously funny. Cheap sets, bad costumes and frankly weird directorial decisions and a nonsensical plot (space people raise 3 zombies for… reasons) line make this a drunken elementary school pageant of a production. Highlights include:
“My God, I’m SHINY!”
Gun Safety Poster Boy
Tor “Time For Go To Bed Now” Johnson
This is a great movie to watch with friends and a couple of beers. And for added fun, follow it up with The Lost Skeleton of Cadavera, which is a brilliantly funny parody movie that borrows all Ed Woodliness of this movie and hangs a lampshade on it.
Okay, I was putting off this movie, honestly because my friends all warned me it was intense, but today I watched The Babadook.
The Babadook, 2014, Causeway Films
Quick premise: a widowed mother of a (possibly special needs) little boy is haunted by an entity named “Mr. Babadook” after reading a sinister pop-up book that mysteriously appears in her boy’s bookshelf.
First off this book needs some major awards for the prop-master who made that pop-up book. I remember seeing some vague sillouettes in the movie promotions (like above) which all reminded me of the Hatbox Ghost from the Haunted Mansion
“‘Sup, dawg” (property of Walt Disney Company)
Instead, when I watch the movie, I get THIS nightmare fuel.
I think it sees us.
And reading up on it, I discovered that MOST of the money in the movie’s budget (which was raised via kickstarter btw!) went to the amazing artists who made this book. There was also a backer level where you could get one of 200 identical books with EXTRA pages (sadly no longer available). In addition, the set design, the Tim Burton-y interiors and very stylized color palettes bring a phenomenal level of heart to the film.
Okay, I’m done gushing over the artwork. Now I’m going to gush over Essie Davis. I recently became aware of Davis through the Miss Fisher Mysteries by ABC (AUS) and I absolutely loved her in it. She impressed me no less as Amelia in Babadook. And she made a great character for the audience to follow.
The movie makes no bones about it’s theme, which is about how grief, stress, and isolation can wreak havoc on our lives, and tarnish our souls until we’re staring in the face of madness and oblivion. Essie is a very real vessel for all of that emotion as she deals with her son’s violent and hysterical outbursts, as her friends and family start to cut her off, and she even starts to cut herself off from life by not going to work.
Anyone who’s dealt with loss, depression and/or parenthood will tap into all of these immediately, and at times the movie was a little too real, especially when the viewer is forced to confront dark truths and the voices we all keep pent up in the back of our minds.
I won’t spoil the ending, but I will go so far as to say I loved it, and I agree with others that it was actually really cathartic. Unlike a recent online article, I don’t think it’s fatalist or a sign of how hopeless our world has become. I think it’s quite the opposite.
I’ll close with a fun fact, the Director of this film, Jennifer Kent, based the design of the Babadook off of a character played by the tragic Lon Chaney Sr. in “London After Midnight.” I’ll post it down here so you can watch if you like.
Today’s another kids’ movie night so I’m reviewing “Monster House.”
Monster House, 2006, Sony Pictures
First off, I have to confess that kids’ movie or not there were elements of this that were pretty dang scary, not least of which is that the movie’s story, execution, and even film and color palette, are very reminiscent of old 80’s slasher movies. The movie is obviously set in the early 80’s and with a touch of Spielberg and Zemeckis (co-producers) over the whole, this has a very Halloween meets Goonies meets E.T. feel to it.
There’s a visceral grittiness to the characters and dialogue that feels unscripted and anxious which makes it scarier and more grimdark than your usual fluffy kiddy fare, and that’s very much on purpose. That’s solely for the purpose of making the viewers of ALL ages feel like the kid protagonists. We are transported back in time to when parents wouldn’t believe us, our hormones were turned against us, and when we were slowly becoming aware that real evil existed in the world, and not just in our books and movies. It’s a very helpless feeling and this movie cashes in on making the viewer feel vulnerable and alone.
No punches are pulled either. The evil’s origin story is as dark as you can get for a kids’ movie. This is not a movie for the real young’uns. This one is for the kids who think, “maybe I’m too old to dress up this year.”
Today’s movie is a double feature: both the stage production and the Tim Burton film of Sweeney Todd. First up, is the filmed production of the Broadway Version with George Hearn and Angela Lansbury.
Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 1982, Turner Home Entertainment
This is really the bible of this show as far as precedent and how to beat it. Hearn and Lansbury are superior as the demonic and impish Todd and Lovett. Hearn’s deep basso and terrifying expressions really make him a fantastic tragic villain.
“At last, my arm is complete again!”
I’m only sorry that Angie’s comedy chops aren’t as good in this as they’ve been in other things I’ve seen her in. She’s a little too over the top and her stiff-legged waddle and monkey-faces aren’t as funny as if she’d played it more straight. Yes, it’s stage. Yes that’s how 70’s theatre was, I get it. I think I was spoiled by seeing Emma Thompson do it in the staged concert on PBS. She is my favorite Lovett.
Dat hair tho.
All in all, this version is a bloody good time and worth watching.
And then there’s this:
Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Demon, 2007, Warner Bros. Pictures
I’m pretty sure the creation of this was Helena prancing around Tim in a sexy lingerie and singing “Do it! Do it! Film it! Film the musical, baby! Come on!” and him eventually saying yes. It’s clear that Tim had no desire to make a musical. Half of the numbers were cut out, all of the crowd’s lines were cut (so you can sing it yourself at home!) But for that, it’s not a terrible version, if you look at it as bringing demension to the story that you can’t on the stage, the quick cuts, the crowd shots, the action, and the blood. SO MUCH BLOOD. LITERALLY BUCKETS OF BLOOD.
“Do I got a little something on my face?”
That’s really the fun part. In the stage show, the producers have to be conservative with blood in the show, so the actors aren’t slipping in giant wet lakes of it during the production. In the movie we get to see graphic portrayals of real blood, bugs, meat and other delicious closeups and subtle winks and nods that we’d never get to see on a far away stage.
“I’d gander at that.”
Where it falls short is, sadly, the lack of experienced singers in the major roles. They managed to find great performers and singers for the secondary players, but Depp’s gritty constipated grunts, and Helena’s flat whistles utterly fail to enchant, and are perhaps the bigger reason Burton cut out more musical numbers. So this makes a great sing-along and it’s visually exciting. And for all the weak singing, Depp summons a wonder pathos for Todd and Helena brings the subtle quirky funny no problem. Of course, this is the REAL reason we went to go see this when it came out.
Feeling sick today, so this will be a quick one. Today I watched The Brothers Grimm.
The Brothers Grimm, MGM Pictures, 2005
This movie has the rare distinction of being a completed Terry Gilliam movie. And right from the get-go it’s told to us in no uncertain terms, that this movie is a fairytale, a gothic, beautiful, funny fairytale. So don’t ask why this guy is cartoonishly evil, don’t ask how we have all these anochronistic inventions, don’t ask how a kiss can cure multiple puncture wounds. No. That’s not what this movie is for. This is for Matt Damon and Jude Law playing a Croby/Hope comedy team next to a swanning evil Johnathon Pryce.
My only annoyance was that there was (yet again) another shoehorned love interest with no real chemistry or reason to like either of the main characters and whose sole purpose was to be a hostage in need of rescuing or a kamikaze in need of talking down. At least they twisted the ending a bit concerning her. Anyways. Great movie. Great fun. I’m going to bed now.