Tag Archives: challenge

Carpe Scream Day 29



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.

Carpe Scream Day 27



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.

Carpe Scream Day 26



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.

Carpe Scream Day 25



We’re in the final week of Carpe Scream and today’s movie is a great one to watch after 24 days of horror movies: Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil

Tucker and Dale VS. Evil, Magnet Releasing, 2010

I’ve wanted to watch this one for a while, but it required a brew and a bunch of Friends. Well the stars finally aligned and I was treated to a hilarious, fun, bloody, treat. Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine, and Katrina Bowden had fantastic chemistry, timing, and some great comic acting chops to boot. This movie takes horror movie tropes, hangs a lampshade on them, whacks them with a hammer, and then invites them to have a cup of tea and talk about their feelings.

“I notice your collar is up. Do you want to talk about that?”

The premise is: two unassuming hillbillies are having a vacation weekend in their new cabin when suddenly a group of college students start freaking out around them and subsequently dropping dead.

A comedy of errors worthy of Abbot and Costello ensues, with over-the-top violence, hilarious one-liners and huggable characters you just want to invite over for a cookout and PBR.

I highly recommend it to all horror fans: it’s great for hard-core enthusiasts who can spot all the references or for light horror fans looking for a good time that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Check out the trailer, if your curious. It’s currently streaming on Amazon and Netflix.

Carpe Scream Day 23



Today I watch a cult classic that sort of missed me in its heyday: Monster Squad

The Monster Squad, 1987, TriStar Pictures

To be fair this is back when Hollywood was specifically making Rated R movies specifically designed for kids who sneak into R-rated movies or have oblivious parents rent R-rated movies for them regularly. And I think I have the same problem with this as I do with most “boys movies” of the 80’s, in that there doesn’t seem to be any real consistent tone. Kids are yelling shit and making jokes about sex and virgins and “the gays” (Boy, the 80’s was different, wasn’t it?) and yet we have a sweet little-girl Frankenstein friendship-is-magic, a sweet German refugee who makes them pie, and a little boy whose crayon letter to the army is answered.

I love this movie. I laughed so hard at the jokes (I finally get why kids in elementary school were yelling “Wolfman’s got NARDS!”

I loved the sweet “Creepy German Guy” and all the clues they gave us about him. I cried at the “Don’t Go Frankenstein!” moment and cheered for the little sister.


I’m just REALLY pissed off that I can’t show ANY of this good stuff to my kids. Maybe in a few years, yeah, but if just a few things were cut out, this would have made a GREAT family film for Halloween. For now, though, it’s going to have to sit on the shelf along with Goonies, and E.T. What the crap, 80’s?

Carpe Scream Day 20



Real quick today, because I got a date with the Mythgard institute tonight. Today I watched a brilliant horror pick based on a short story by Stephen King: Children of the Corn

Children of the Corn, 1984, New World Pictures

This was a movie I was always consciously aware of when I was a kid. I knew a few kids who had seen it, and more than a few grown-ups had used the phrase “children of the corn” to describe my generation. I only saw this film for the first time last year. Mostly I could never make it past the scene with the deli-slicer at the beginning, but thankfully, that was really the most graphic part of the film. The rest of the movie makes it’s bank on delicious world-building and story-telling of a town of Satan worshiping children led by the charismatic mystery-child Isaac.

“Slap-bracelets and Dunk-a-roos for all!”

(Fun fact: the actor playing Isaac, John Franklin, was 25 at the time. He suffers from growth hormone deficiency, which casting agents felt added to the “otherworldly” feel of Isaac’s character and helped him to sound more “grown-up.”)

The rest is your typical formula of two outsiders stumbling on this towns secrets and trying to get away, but the characterization and the awesome execution make this a goose-pimply ride. Also surprising that this guy is still considered one of the most terrifying of movie villains:

I blame this movie for the current rash of anti-ginger sentiment.

Carpe Scream Day 19



Today I watch a great remake of a classic film: The Mummy

The Mummy, 1999 Universal Pictures

The 90’s is when Hollywood looked at the classic monster movies and over the course of a decade, tried to revamp them all (they also liked to slap the author’s name over the title despite the fact that the 90’s versions are all the LEAST faithful adaptations of the books—excluding The Mummy and the Wolf Man which were movies first) . I think The Mummy was their most successful endeavor because, in part, it had WAY more fun and is actually more entertaining than the Karloff original which is slow-paced and very disjointed. The Mummy is more of a classic 30’s-style screwball adventure in the vein of Indiana Jones. I think Sommers looked at the old Karloff movie, said, “You know Universal was just making stuff up about Egyptian history and mythology. Let’s just make no bones about the fact that we’re making crap up and just tell a nutty story people can enjoy.”

In fact, the characters are so funny and lovable that my research nut that’s screaming, “Why would they MUMMIFY someone they wanted to be cursed? Mummification wasn’t a punishment it was a privilege to ensure immortality! They would have tossed him on the sand to “rot” and be condemned to wander the earth as a ghost!” is actually pretty happy.

We’re condemning a murderer to have his body prepared free of charge and a large beautiful coffin to ensure his spirit will have a place to rest for all eternity. Take that, Jerkface!

So apart from the whole “white people saving the day” trope that gets a little flinchy in places, this is a pretty cool horror/fantasy flick with an awesome baddy. My only complaints are that a) Brendan Fraser is just too Canadian to be a bad-boy we’re supposed to believe he is. His face always looks like he’s about to say “sorry,” after every nasty line.

“Um, I’m uncomfortable with the amount of times I say ‘damn’?”

b) Rachel Weiss was not in the 3rd movie in this franchise. I still get mad about that.

She was having her baby! You couldn’t WAIT??

Carpe Scream Day 18



Today I watch a brilliant horror movie from the 80’s, Warlock

Warlock, 1989 New World Pictures

First of all, this movie wins all the kudos for how much research went into this. Everything from the thumb pillories to the use of salt, the hex symbols of the barns, holy churchyard. All of these little touches made my nerd heart squeal with delight. I could go on, but that’d just spoil the magic. It’s freaking magic.

Oh and Julian Sands.

Y’all ready fer some Footbaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall?

He pretty much steals the show from Richard E. Grant and the rest of the supporting cast. BEST horrific wizard villian ever. This guy was Luscious Malfoy before there WAS a Luscious Malfoy.

“That’s LUCIUS!”

So, yeah. If you’re craving Harry Potter fantasy with more tongues being bitten out and no Harry set in 1986 USA, this is the gore-flick for you.

Carpe Scream Day 16



Okay I tried to watch this movie a few days ago and couldn’t even get through it. Today I finished it and I got to say, I don’t have a lot of love to spend on Oculus.

Oculus, 2014, WWE Studios

I mean, I think the trailer and the posters are actually 10 times scarier than the actual movie. The keyword for this movie is DISCOMFORT. The characters are uncomfortable, the pacing is uncomfortable, the soundtrack/ambient noise sounds like the score to a panic attack, and I get the feeling that even the actors are uncomfortable that they have this snoozer of a script to follow. Either they’re saying really dumb contradictory crap, or they’re Sam the Explaining the hell out of everything to the point where I stop caring. It’s almost all Karen Gillan and she’s always making THIS FACE while talking too fast.

“It’s plot exposition! It has to go somewhere!”

I was hoping for over-the-top demon-fighting with a mirror that eats people and dogs. What I get is people tearing off fingernails and eating lightbulbs. That’s not scary. It’s just gross. This psychological thriller would have done better if there was actually more thriller and less psychology (which mostly sounds like it was ripped off wikipedia and shoehorned in to over-explain things). But hey, from the minds behind the “paranormal activity” franchise, I probably shouldn’t expect too much. The worse sin being, that because we keep spastically jumping from past to present and crossing our pasts and maybe-pasts and perceived present, we don’t have an anchor, it’s really confusing, and it turns real peril into just a mishmash of “stuff happening.”

Apparently I’m not alone in my hatred of this movie because this guy,cinemasins nailed down about everything I hated about this movie.


Carpe Scream Day 15



Today I watched the German Film, “Die Fabre” based on H.P. Lovecraft’s The Color Out of Space.

Die Fabre, 2010, Stuttgart

In this version, a young American man goes to Germany to find his father who’d mysteriously run away, wondering if his panic might have something to do with his dad’s experiences during World War II. He meets an old man who remembers seeing his father as an American Medic during the war. He then tells a long tale about his neighbors that lived in the blasted valley beyond his farm house, and how they dwindled and died after a mysterious meteor fell to earth.

It’s filmed in a classic stark noir, with the only color coming from the strange meteor. The acting is great as is the camera shots, but they broke a cardinal rule of movie-making which is: if you can’t nail the effects, don’t show it.

The scenery is a hodgepodge of photoplasty and special effects whose execution ranks somewhere between Xena and Birdemic (they couldn’t even put real boards up over windows?) When we finally see a genuine monster, we suddenly go from “high-suspense” to mild bemusement. They could have done far more with shadows, body contortion and creative camera angles, then to try and scare us with this.


Actually, one of the more frightening scenes was when we’re only shown a hand creeping along the floor coated in a dark jelly. That was far more visceral and interesting than the doctored photos and bad CG.

The adaptation was a little clunky as well as we’re treated to 2 separate flashback stories that really don’t seem to mesh at all. They could have set it in World War II and have Armin tell the story to the American GI’s and spared us a lot of wasted story that didn’t seem to go anywhere.

It’s a good yarn, and a must-see for Lovecraft fans. Just go get a coffee when the monsters start writhing and imagine the contorted Mrs. Gartener. It will be way more scary than what’s on screen.