Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Short and Sweet: Drop Dead Famous (2015)

There are a lot of different kinds of zom-coms out there, and this short, "Drop Dead Famous," takes a nice to a subgenre that has really been beaten into the ground by this point. In this short, there's obviously been a zombie apocalypse, and two girls happen upon one of the undead who is one of the girls' celebrity crush. It was presented to me as mostly a comedy, but I think this one has a lot more heart to it - but it's still kinda funny with the serious approach. Did that make sense? No? Watch the short and tell me what you think.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Movie Review: Poltergeist (2015)

 
Let me start off by saying that this was by far the least painful theater-going experience that I've had in a while. Normally for me when there are other people in the theater (and sadly that's pretty much always the case considering we're out in public and all) some douchebag has got to ruin it for me by either making noises or just being in my general vicinity. I realize that makes me sound douchey as well, but seriously. People cannot keep quiet in a movie theater sometimes. But thankfully there were no (big) problems this time so I could relax a bit more. And I can't believe I'm saying this, but I really liked the movie.

But, Michele! Isn't Poltergeist your FAVORITE horror movie ever? Yes, it is. Well, that and Child's Play, of course. I've been having a really hard time not calling that one my favorite too lately so I think I'm just going to have two favorites. ANYWAY. I did not want to be judgmental going into the remake of Poltergeist at all. So I haven't even watched the original in a few months, and I only watched one of the trailers once and avoided all others and all TV spots after that. And overall, though I could tell it was Poltergeist and though some things were obviously changed around and different, I truly think that this remake was very successful and is quite possibly one of the better ones out there. I came out of the theater feeling really good, and that is always a good sign.

At first I was weary. One thing I've always liked about the original film is that it was not like almost all other haunted house movies where it starts off with a family moving into a new house. They were already established in the house and the neighborhood before anything started. Also, the family was well established. The Freelings were just normal people that were suddenly hit out of nowhere with all this crazy supernatural stuff. The new movie has a new family, the Bowens - Eric and Amy, and their three children that mirror the children in the original - Kendra, Griffin, and Maddy. Sadly, no E. Buzz, but there was a line about how they should get a dog. It's not enough that they are moving into a new house, but they also had to give the family some problems, like the dad being laid off recently. However, this ends up being completely unnecessary because you don't need that plot point to sympathize with the family.

Which brings me to one of my favorite elements of the remake, and frankly, the thing that I was most worried about before going to see it. I've always loved that Poltergeist was like your family-friendly ghost movie, and that it was funny and that there was a wonderful family dynamic. Would this new family be just as wonderful as the laid-back, funny, pot-smoking Freelings? Indeed they are! There is no pot-smoking, but Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt are perfect as the parents, as they are so light-hearted, relatable, and absolutely lovable. The new Carol Anne is really amazing, and I loved that she had the same hairstyle, just a different color. Griffin is a bit of a dork like Robbie was but is again played by a wonderful little actor. Sassy Kendra is the annoying teen who thinks a new iPhone is the most important thing in the world - however, when things get bad, she shows a genuine love for her younger siblings. The only place where the remake falters on the family element is at the end when they switch around Maddy's rescuer from the Other Side. Though I get what they were trying to do with the Griffin character, I missed the complete motherly devotion and sacrifice of Diane Freeling that the original gave us.

The new paranormal investigative team is headed up by Dr. Brooke Powell, played by the underrated Jane Adams, and her two assistants that I don't think I ever got the names of. Instead of Tangina, we have Carrigan Burke, a sort of Peter Vincent character, if you will. He's played with a wonderful amount of snark and playboyish charm by Jared Harris, whom I freaking love. It was so refreshing and wonderful to see that these side characters were not forgotten in development, and that I was able to love them just as much as the family members they were trying to save. I was so afraid that this remake was going to shortchange the characters in favor of flashy special effects and jump scares. And I was so elated to find out that this was not the case.

Speaking of the special effects, I was really impressed with those as well. There are a few things that don't work out as well - like the comic book stacking and that weird sequence with the drill - but overall, the remake did enough to honor the original film while still throwing in a lot of its own new stuff. Of course the clown sequence probably got the most attention in the marketing (like I said, I didn't watch any of it but that big clown face on one of the posters was a giveaway) and it was handled really well. There was actually more than one clown doll, if you need me to frighten you more. I really liked the toned-down version of the tree sequence, and the addition of one very cool little scene where all the lights come out of the lightbulbs in Maddy's room and go into the closet. Reminded me of the part in the original where they see all the different spirits on the staircase.

Though in this fan's eyes, the remake was a little bit unnecessary, it certainly was not pointless. They treated the classic story with respect, making totally appropriate changes where they felt it was needed and did a good job at it. I still got the same vibe that I love so much about the original Poltergeist from this remake and, honestly, that's all I was really hoping for.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Movie Review: Hellraiser (1987)

 
That's right, guys. IT HAS BEGUN. Welcome to the beginning of my journey through all nine of the Hellraiser movies! I do have vague memories of some of the sequels, but I haven't watched any of them in a long, long time, so a lot of this will be like a first-time viewing for me. The original film, however, is still one of my favorite horror films of all time. And I have never really talked about it much on here, so I'm excited to get the chance. AND Clive Barker's new book about Pinhead, The Scarlet Gospels, comes out in a few days so it's perfect timing. Shameless plug: Be sure to look for my review of The Scarlet Gospels on Wicked Horror.com!

As most of you already know, Hellraiser is based on Barker's short novel, The Hellbound Heart, and Barker both wrote and directed the film adaptation. I don't think it's wrong to assume that that is one of the reasons why the film is so good, and why it has stood the test of time. Anyway, you all hopefully know the plot of Hellraiser so we'll forgo that. Let's just say that there's a box, there's a skinless guy, there're Cenobites, there's a chick saying "GO TO HELL!" Basically, it's awesomeness personified.

Hellraiser is a unique film for me because it is one of two films that I absolutely love and have seen a million times, but that also completely grosses me out still. Cronenberg's The Fly is the other one. That whole sequence of Frank growing out of the floor is fucking disgusting, you guys, and his evolution after that really doesn't get any better. I guess it's because both of those films showed me that humans really are nothing more than meat and bones, really, and that kinda sucks. That's what horror films do well. In Hellraiser, there is beauty in the horror, and logic in the fantastical, and intrigue in the deceit.

I hardly know what to say about Hellraiser because there is so much to say. Let's just go with some of the reasons why I love the movie so much. One of those reasons is Clive Barker's story. I admittedly have not read much Barker (which I will remedy eventually - I bought a bunch of his books recently) honestly because I didn't ever think that I could follow his stories because they are so out there and fantastical. But I get Hellraiser. Pushing the limits of human endurance with pleasure and pain, getting more than what you asked for, relationships fueled by lust and desire, a daughter trying to save her father - Hellraiser could be a hundred different movies with these same themes. It just happens to be gory good horror story with rad characters, created by one of the most imaginative minds of our time.

Another reason I love Hellraiser is the gore and special effects, which go hand-in-hand with Barker's filming style. That sounds like three reasons rolled into one but I don't care. Some of the effects are fairly rudimentary - most notably, the closeup shots of the hooks impaling Frank's skin - but overall, the practicality of the effects makes them so much more effective and wonderful. The aforementioned sequence of Frank's body growing and rebuilding itself out of the floor is my favorite/least favorite part (it's SO GROSS) but there's also Julia's death, Frank's death, and all the demons. Pinhead is just awesome, there's no need to go on for too long about him; the Female Cenobite is graceful and elegant despite her odd appearance; the Chatterer is deceptively amusing and I love the design of him (I have never understood the fingers in Kirsty's mouth - was that just to be a freak or what?); and Butterball always reminded me of one of those fat Italian guys in Mafia movies so I have a hard time taking him seriously. The Engineer (the monster that chases Kirsty down the hallway) is also a great design, and looks like one of those monsters that would come out of a child's imagination.

Another credit to the film is the great casting. Andrew Robinson as Larry is great at first as a typical dad, but then makes a wonderfully creepy turn as Frank when he takes his skin. Clare Higgins has a gorgeous face and a grace to carry it (damn those 80s fashion choices, though), and she gives Julia all the traits that actually make her a fairly complex character who just ends up making the wrong decisions and giving in to lust. Sean Chapman is Frank, the douchebag that started all this, and though I don't understand the physical attraction, he is the movie's representation of pure lust and desire, the idea of the wants of the human mind overtaking what someone knows they shouldn't do. And of course, Ashley Laurence breaks the mold as a pretty awesome heroine who doesn't take shit, and not only stands up to the Cenobites, but also cleverly figures out a way to work with them in order to spare herself. And when they still try to take her at the end, she again figures out how to save herself and send them back to Hell. Kirsty is foul-mouthed and fierce and I love her.

Although it does freak me out a bit when I read The Hellbound Heart because there she's just a family friend who has a crush on Larry, and in the movie she's Larry's daughter.

Hellraiser is a film that will probably forever remain on the list of my top horror films no matter how much any of the others change as the years go on. It is a timeless story, really, with characters and themes that will always be relevant, and villains that will always be icons in the genre. And now, be prepared to join me on the possibly treacherous journey through the sequels!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Short and Sweet: No Way Out (2012)

Admittedly I'm on a bit of an AJ Bowen kick right now. So while I was desperately searching the Internet for this movie of his (an anthology directed by Adam Wingard and written by him, Simon Barrett and E.L. Katz so I REALLY have to find it), I came across this short film he did called "No Way Out." Holy crap. Give me a bit more time to think about the meaning behind it and all that, but right now just watch and be amazed. Or bored, I don't care. I think it's awesome.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Movie Review: The Ladies of the House (2014)

 
Big thanks from The Girl Who Loves Horror to filmmaker John Wildman for contacting me about his film, The Ladies of the House. I wished I would have gotten to it sooner to help support its VOD release on May 1, but this is definitely a case of better late than never! TLOTH is a thoughtful, yet entertaining film that calls itself a "feminist grindhouse-thriller," but even that intriguing premise is selling the film too short because it is a really great movie experience.

Two brothers, Jacob and Kai, go out with their friend Derek to a strip club to celebrate Kai's birthday. They're all trying to have a good time, when the boys make the grave mistake of following one of the strippers - Ginger - home to party. When the party goes sour, they make an even worse mistake, and find themselves trapped in the house with Ginger's three roommates. And these girls have a taste for revenge... and male flesh!

Okay, maybe that description made the movie sound kind of hokey, and I apologize for that because it is not at all. I was actually expecting the film to be a lot more comedic, and therefore I really appreciated the (mostly) serious approach it took to the topics it was trying to explore. TLOTH is very close to being, but not quite, a rape-revenge film and it definitely has some grindhouse and/or exploitation influences. But the film is also able to find its own path within the subgenre and create something unique for itself.

After the stuff at the strip club at the beginning of the film, everything else takes place at Ginger's house, which she shares with fellow strippers Crystal, Lin, and Getty. There's a constant feeling that something sinister is going to happen while Ginger is reluctantly boozing and smoking with the guys, and it's a bit of a surprise just who ends up being involved. The location, coloring, and costumes will also throw you off a bit. The house is a normal, nondescript one that could be located anywhere in the country. Inside, the set design is very lively and colorful in some places, like the kitchen and Crystal's room. The 40s costuming is interesting and beautiful, with Getty looking very much like Rosie the Riveter and therefore taking on the more masculine and tough role, and Lin looking like a typical, poised, midcentury housewife. Crystal and her pigtails therefore make her the child of these two. Their family is a bit dysfunctional - probably because they kill and eat men for food - but there is also genuine care and concern among them all.

There are some really great characters here, even if all of them have something about them that makes them really unlikable to the audience. Kai is a bit slow in the head, and becomes very creepy and grotesque during one scene, so we're happy to see him go. The filmmakers really seem to want to point out Derek as being the worst of the bunch, giving him lines like "A stripper will go home with anyone if you ask her right!" Yeah, he better not last long. Jacob is supposed to be that one nice guy, but I couldn't fully sympathize with him either. When Ginger is shot, he is the one voice of reason, but that's as far as he gets. He never actually does anything to try to help her, and doesn't really seem to believe that she was defending herself from Kai's rape attempt. And though this is a feminist film where we are supposed to be rooting for the women, they are each also given flaws in their characters (aside from the cannibalization) so that the movie is never completely on the side of either gender.

One thing I especially appreciated was the portrayal of the lesbian relationship between Lin and Getty. I'm not a lesbian myself, but I still get angry for them when their relationships are treated as novelties in films. Though these two women are very beautiful, and they do have a short, naked sex scene and a shower scene, it never felt exploitative. Their relationship is very real, natural, and tender and was never just about seeing two hot chicks kissing each other.

The blood and gore is really impressive, and I only wish there had been more of it. I wasn't too sold on the effects at the beginning when the gunshot wounds that two characters receive just look like some red corn syrup on the actors' shirts. I immediately took those feelings back during a scene of Lin making dinner out of Kai. The literal guts in this scene are beautiful and had me completely falling in love with this movie. There is actually a nice balance in the movie with the odd and horrific stuff that happens, and the really touching and loving stuff.

Thank you once again to Mr. Wildman for sending me his film to watch! Male and female viewers alike should enjoy this flick though there is a definite woman power tone and idea behind it. The Ladies of the House has an exploitation-type story and setup, and delivers far beyond any expectations you may have about it. The actors are brilliant and committed to each role, and the gore and action is fantastic. Definitely recommend this one for sure!


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2015: Day Three

 
 
Boo, Sunday! The most depressing and sad day of the convention, obviously because it is the last. I still managed to have a good time, though, because I still had four people to meet and a ton of swag to buy. I figured I better pick out my swag first so I could get what I wanted so I headed straight for my favorite vendor tables!
 
Actually I did pick up one t-shirt the day before, and it was a good thing I did because it seemed like it sold out really fast. I really wanted to find a good Child's Play shirt this year and this is what I got:
 
 
Also at Pallbearer Press, I got this sweet Hellraiser shirt that I've been wanting all year, and a really cool Bride of Frankenstein/Frankensten one.
 

 
For all my fellow females out there, I also picked out an awesome skull rhinestone studded purse, a Scream bracelet, an Alfred Hitchcock necklace, Frankenstein's monster earrings, and a skull leather wristband (the other one came in my VIP bag).
 

 
I also love buttons.
 
 
And great DVD deals.
 
 
Victoria Price was back again on Sunday, so I decided to embarrass myself a little bit and tell her how her presentation about her father the day before made me cry some happy tears. I'm not sure how that came off to her, but she was still a lovely lady and really seemed to appreciate all the kind words everyone had for her about her father. She had these great pictures of him that she was signing so I snagged one.
 
 
 
I kept forgetting to get Skeet Ulrich on Saturday, but I definitely couldn't forget today! He was very nice and chatty, and talked about how much fun he was having at Frightmare when I asked him (because this was his first con). I told him he needs to come back obvs because Frightmare is the best! Sweet guy, gave me a nice hug. A lot taller than I thought he was! Oh, how I love Scream! This was so cool for me, you have no idea.
 
 
 
Next up was a Q&A panel with Kim Coates. I wanted to hear some cool stories from Sons of Anarchy, but he actually mostly talked about his other movies - that I stupidly did not even realize he was in. He had great things to say about his experiences on Waterworld and Battlefield Earth, and also Black Hawk Down and Pearl Harbor. Crap, now I have to go back and watch all of those movies for him! Kim was such a great talker, very funny, and kept us all entertained and intrigued through the whole panel. Loved this!

 





If I can figure out how to upload the videos I took with my phone during this panel, I'll add them on later.
 
Only two autographs left on my list. Another guest at the con who was never without a line all weekend was the awesome and amazing Sid Haig. He was so wonderful to his fans, hanging around as long as he needed to make sure that he got through everyone in his line. I even heard later that he stayed after hours on Sunday to give free autographs and pictures to the TFW volunteers. Classy dude, definitely. I told Sid how bummed I was that I missed the Spiderbaby screening that they had Thursday night, and just gave him overall praise for being a cool dude. I asked him what his favorite movie of his was, and he said that he doesn't really have a favorite, that they are all his "babies." Great quote and great guy! Tutti fuckin' frutti.
 
 

 
My last meet was with Cassandra Peterson, better known as Elvira, but she wasn't at her table at this time. And since she was right across from where AJ Bowen was signing at the Fangoria table, I thought Hey! Why don't I go talk to AJ again while I'm waiting? AJ has worked with Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard on A Horrible Way to Die and You're Next, and both of those films were shot in Simon's hometown of Columbia, Missouri, which is about 30 minutes from where I was born and raised and still live. We talked about COMO and the house from You're Next, and then I asked for another picture which he was cool with. Then because I was being a shameless fangirl the whole weekend, I asked if I could give him a kiss on the cheek.
 
Seriously, though, I don't just have a schoolgirl crush on him. He's really my favorite actor right now because I'm just so impressed and awed by how natural and real he is in all of his roles. He never looks like he's acting, but the choices he's made have created some really great characters, especially Garrick Turrell from A Horrible Way to Die.
 
I'm a little perturbed that both of these pictures are blurry, but whatevs. He also has on the same "Stephen King Rules" shirt that I have, so more cool points to him.
 

 
Elvira time! She was only going to be at her table until a certain time today, so our meeting was little rushed so she could get to everybody in her line, but I still got a great picture of her signed and a great picture with her! I asked her how long it takes to get ready as Elvira - almost two hours! - and what all that hair feels like - hot! Very cool last meeting for the con!
 
 
 
After this, I was pretty well done with the con. The day was winding down, guests had to catch flights back home and vendors were packing up. To end my epic Frightmare posts, here are some great cosplays that I got pictures of!
 
Dream Warriors, man! Probably the most creative cosplay of the weekend.

This guy had such a freaky resemblance to Ryan Hurst as Opie on Sons of Anarchy.

Viddy well, droogs!

A female Chucky! Love it.

This Sam even had the sucker!

Yes! Blade and Six Shooter!!!

Okay, really loved this Frank from Hellraiser. Great idea!

American Mary, nice!

Of course these guys were back!

No way! Great Beetlejuice costumes!

This kid was awesome.

KISS rocks!

What a cute little Gizmo.

Otis and Baby! She's even got the pose down.

I sent this picture to a friend who is a big Manson fan and she thought it was really him at first. Another cosplayer with a freaky resemblance to their character!
 
Well, that's all she wrote, folks. Another fantastic weekend that gave me so many great memories and made so many of my dreams come true! Can I really wait a whole 'nother year to do this all again? Thank you once again to Texas Frightmare Weekend, Loyd Cryer, and all of the guests, vendors, volunteers, and my fellow attendees! I can't talk enough about how much I love this show and how much I look forward to it every year. Each trip has been significantly different from the previous shows, but it has always been the most wonderful time with the most wonderful people.
 
Congratulations, Frightmare, on TEN YEARS of being the best horror convention around! See you next year!
 
 
My DAY ONE recap is right here...
... here is my DAY TWO recap!