Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Horror Movie Locations I'd Like to Visit

Last November, I took a fantastical trip to New York City, where about 9 million movies have been shot. Only being there for a few days, I made it to just one famous filming location...

... the firehouse in Tribeca that served as the exterior location for the Ghostbusters firehouse. I also saw The Dakota, the apartment building made (in)famous for being not only the location of the murder of John Lennon, but also was yet another exterior location for the apartment building in Rosemary's Baby (didn't get a picture though... dangit).

Anyway, it turns out that there are a bunch of cool places in the US and abroad that horror fans can visit and relive some of the classic scenes from their favorite films. Here are some places that I personally would like to go to - even though I'll probably never get to see any of them!

The Night of the Living Dead Cemetery
(Evans City Cemetery, Evans City, Pennsylvania)

Thanks to Christine from Fascination with Fear, whose picture of her next to that monument in the middle got me thinking about this post to begin with! On the outside, I'm sure this cemetery is not that much different than many others, but to this zombie film fan, going to the place where modern zombie movies were born would be like going to heaven.

The Poltergeist House
(4267 Roxbury Street, Simi Valley, California)

Well, duh! Of course I want to go here! And how weird is it that the house looks kinda exactly the same as it did in 1982? 

The Orphanage House
(Llanes, Asturias, Spain)

This is just a still from the movie but here's a link to Flickr where a guy took a picture of the actual house: I don't know how to describe this house other than a monstrosity of beauty. It immediately got my attention when I first saw the movie and has stayed in my future-home-owner dreams ever since. It's in Spain, though, so that sucks.

The House on Haunted Hill
(a.k.a Ennis House, Los Angeles, California)

Okay, not only was this house (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) used as the exterior for the famous House on Haunted Hill in the Vincent Price B-movie of the same name, it was also used for the exteriors of the mansion in which Angel, Spike, and Drusilla dwelled in the second season of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Poof! Two awesome locations for the price of one!

The Omen Church
(All Saints Church, Fulham, London, England)

Oh, the fun I would have taking pictures here. I would gladly go out and find my own metal spike or lightening rod to reenact the spectacular death of Father Brennan in The Omen. I'm pretty sure they would just kick me out and tell me that I'm going to hell or something.

The Amityville House
(112 Ocean Avenue, Long Island, New York)

Yes, I know the owners are probably sick of people gawking over their house, but they should have known what they were signing up for. And while I'm not the biggest fan of the original movie, I guess I can't deny that this is one of the most famous movie locations in the US. 

The Stanley Hotel
(Estes Park, Colorado)

Though not the actual hotel that is in the movie The Shining (that's the Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood, Oregon), this is the place where Stephen King stayed way back in '73 and which inspired him to write the famous novel. While briefly living in Colorado two years ago, I seriously thought out taking a trip to see it, but Estes Park was way too far away and I never had time.

The Exorcist Steps
(M street, Georgetown, Washington, D.C.)

So I didn't even know that this very steep set of stairs that Father Karras fell down was a famous location to visit until I watched a feature on the Hot Fuzz DVD where Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost go there and play around for a while. Forget the Washington Monument or the White House - if I'm ever in DC, The  Exorcist steps will be the first thing I want to do!

I know that some of these are kind of obvious ones, but whatever! That's all I got for now. So what say you? Any horror movie locations on your radar?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cockneys vs. Zombies Trailer and Opening Credit Sequence

Got an email today from somebody behind the upcoming British zom-com film Cockneys vs. Zombies and I feel like I totally need to share it. I'd heard the title of the movie floating around the Internet for a while but never felt the need to look more into it because... well, I don't really know why. But now that I have, I am stoked for this movie, as I adore zombie movies and British comedy. So here's the official Redband trailer for the movie and the amazing looking opening titles (which was what was emailed to me). Enjoy!

Cockneys vs. Zombies hits UK theaters this Friday, August 31!

Oh my gosh, the part where the old guy is getting away from the zombies with his walker fucking KILLED me.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Another Look at Pet Sematary

I've always loved both the book and film versions of Pet Sematary, as any awesome horror fan should, but just recently I reread the book and then watched the movie again. And it's weird, but it wasn't until this last trip to Ludlow, Maine with the Creeds that I finally realized what Pet Sematary is.

On the back of my terribly tattered older copy of the book is a quote from a Publishers Weekly review that states that Pet Sematary (keep your pants on, spellcheck... the misspelling is intended) is "the most frightening book Stephen King has ever written." Truthfully, I've never agreed with this hyperbole before. I was always, like, 'What's the biggie? It's just about bringing pets and people back to life via an Indian burial ground! There's scarier shit out there than that.' But now I know - no, there's not. This book is absolutely horrific and I can't believe it's taken this long for it to really hit me. And my revelation is probably not news to anybody else who has also read the book, but I think I had to look at it in a different context than I had before to really get it.

Pet Sematary is so frightening because it is about the complete destruction of an innocent family. Duh, right? But I think now that that is a really important fact to keep in mind when you're thinking about what's happening on screen or while you're reading the book. It's about a family being completely annihilated by horrific violence and evil. King's stories usually include ordinary people in extraordinary situations, but this is a family.

And what really sunk this thought into my head was comparing the Creeds to my sister's family. She has two boys - one is eight years old and one is just about to turn two, the same age as Gage Creed. Having no children of my own, they're the ones I think about when I have to deal with this kind of stuff in movies or books, and thinking about the events in Pet Sematary happening to them chills me to the bone. It terrifies and horrifies me to no fucking end. Imagining my little nephew, cute as a button, running into the road, laughing his adorable laugh, not seeing a huge tanker truck barreling toward him about to end his short life? Imagining how inconsolable my sister and brother-in-law would be? Gah, I can't even think about it now.

Though the novel ends rather ambiguously with Rachel coming back to Louis from the dead, I'm not assuming any kind of happy ending here. I think it's safe to say that Rachel either killed Louis, or Louis killed her and then himself. Little Ellie is the only one left alive, but I'd say she probably lives out the rest of her days in a padded room, rocking back and forth with foam coming out of her mouth, muttering things about the Pet Sematary and Oz the Gweat and Tewwible.

King has said that many of his story ideas come from asking the question what if? And the idea behind Gage's death came from the almost exact incident happening to King when his son was a child. The boy was playing with a kite and started running off toward the road, which had trucks constantly blazing past their house. King ran after him, hearing a truck coming not far away. His son thankfully did not get hit, but that what if? question stayed with him. I'd always known this story and the fact that it's one of the reasons King always felt that he had "gone too far" with Pet Sematary - even he has said that the novel is the most frightening one he has ever written because the story hit too close to home.

I understand now, Stephen, I truly do. These macabre and unspeakable things are not things that you ever want to come near the people you love - the people you love more than yourself - and I'm not just talking about the gruesome idea of turning a two-year-old into a murderous zombie. No one should have to bury a child, or even a beloved pet, so far before their time. The grief that Louis Rachel, and Ellie have when Gage dies is powerful, as is the guilt that Jud Crandall has for setting all this in motion.

"The most frightening book Stephen King has ever written." I  don't think it means frightening in a "Boo!" way at all, but more like an idea that scares you to the core and hits you where it hurts the most. I may have scoffed at this simple review of Pet Sematary before, but bringing this story closer to my heart, with the image of my sweet little nephew in mind, I have to say that I completely agree with the statement now.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Project Terrible: Butchered (2010)

Phew, I made it, folks. Last Project Terrible review! Sure, it's about three weeks late and I think my PT buds gave up on me a long time ago anyway, but I always try to finish what I start. Craig Edwards of the wittily titled blog Let's Get Out of Here! decided to make all of his movie choices be those that were filmed in his home state of North Carolina and so I was the lucky one to get Butchered.

On their last weekend together before splitting off to go to college, a group of friends head to a nearby uninhabited island for some fun. At the same time, an escaped serial killer known as The Butcher is cutting his way through town - and his last stop is the friends' supposedly private island.

With some fairly decent acting and a really short run time, Butchered didn't really bother me as much as it should have. And actually, the lack of feature-lengthness (the movie is only about 70 minutes long) is kind of a shame because the movie had some things going for it - mainly the aforementioned acting. These random people whose names I do not know were not as horrible to watch on screen as other low-budget performers so that helped the movie a lot. Okay, not a lot but some. It definitely needed some help in other areas.

The first ten minutes of the movie are not only dull and uninteresting, but also completely unnecessary. There's a girl in one of those Janet Leigh/Drew Barrymore roles where we're led to believe that she's going to be the star of the movie - and then she just gets killed. This scenario worked for other movies, not so much for this one. You forget about it as soon as the scene is over. So then after a slightly awesome yet totally misleading credit sequence, we have to take the time to meet the people who will actually be the stars of the movie and suffer their boring set up.

After a long ass seven minute party scene and some boring exposition, the kids finally head to the island. They plan to stay there for three days but it didn't look to me like anybody brought even a change of clothes. Anyway. They talk, they party, they contemplate their futures, they deal with the requisite douchebag guy who they are supposedly friends with but nobody seems to like. At about the 40 minute mark, I had to pause the Netflix to see how much time was left. Holy crap! Only 30 minutes to go?! The Butcher has just shown up and they only have 30 minutes left to split all the friends up, kill them one by one, make silly escape plans, and possibly kill the Butcher? How's all this going to happen in that short amount of time?

Surprisingly, they get it done, but not in any kind of unique or memorable way. One girl gets chased for a while by the killer after storming away in a huff; which is a great plot point to get the other kids to split up to go look for her. How convenient. Two people start getting it on in the sand, so they're goners. The rest just keep deciding that being apart will make them easier targets than if they were together until we're left with the two people that you knew would survive the whole movie from the beginning. No surprises at all.

I thought I had seen a lot of stupid people making stupid mistakes in horror movies before, but I got a new one with Butchered. While the token black guy and his girlfriend are wandering around at night, looking for the aforementioned girl who stormed away in a huff, the Butcher suddenly appears in front of them (silhouetted in a beautiful swirl of fog, might I add). Token black guy actually tells his girlfriend to run away while he stays to fight the maniac with an axe. Loser must have had a death wish or something. Needless to say, he dies.

Though I still say that the acting is okay, everything else about Butchered is flat. No scares, no gore, lame killer, unsatisfying ending. It's only 70 minutes long if you really want to give it a shot but there's really no need. There's nothing here that you haven't seen a thousand times over.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Project Terrible: Don't Look in the Cellar (2010)

Whatever you do... DON'T look on Netflix for this ridiculously inept attempt at a horror movie. My fourth movie for Project Terrible is so far the very worst, so kudos to Thomas at Cinema Gonzo for picking out the "perfect" PT movie for me to waste my time on watch.

For extra credit in their history class, a group of college classmates decide to spend Halloween night in an abandoned mental asylum to find out the truth about what really happened there ten years ago. Little do they know that a couple of the inmates have never left the asylum, and one by one the students encounter Wendell and his sidekick Smiley, who kills anyone who comes into their "home."

Though the story is really cliched, it very well could have made for a good horror film. And I do applaud the script writers for including a bit more to the story than just what is on the surface. One of the students, Melissa, is very shy and doesn't have any friends. She has been raised by her older sister for the past ten years after their mother died and as the movie goes on, you learn more about what their connection to the asylum is. I couldn't believe that I actually found myself interested in this backstory and wanted to find out what happened. The girls playing Melissa and her sister are the best in the bunch and, dare I say it, they might actually have a chance at real careers if they never work with these guys who made this movie again.

The other actors/characters are a major fail. We have a douchebag who continuously comes on to other girls right in front of his girlfriend, two hot lesbians (their Halloween costume is one girl dressed like a dominatrix with the other girl on a leash), a slut who freely admits to prostituting herself to make money for college during a game of Truth or Dare, and two girls who used to be popular in high school and still act like they are in high school. And one of them is as dumb as a box of rocks. "Oh my god, everyone knows he totally has the hots for Angela!" Say that line in your best Valley Girl impersonation and you'll get what one of these actors was like to watch on screen.

One of my favorite bad things about Don't Look in the Cellar is that they make almost no attempt to have their setting look like an actual asylum. They literally filmed the movie in somebody's house and did not change any of the furnishings or decor. Why yes, I totally believe that we are in a crazyhouse that has been abandoned for ten years, with only two crazy people taking care of it the whole time. Well, either the filmmakers couldn't change their location or crazy people are really good at housekeeping, because the "asylum" is extremely tidy and clean. The crazy people even seem to have updated one of the kitchens with nice stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. Pfft. The filmmakers do decorate one room of the house to look like an infamous padded room - but that doesn't really help their case. Lazy work, set decorators, lazy.

The kill scenes are really bad. Smiley likes to use a machete mostly to dispose of the college idiots, but I guess no effects person could found anywhere so the kills are beyond amateur. Put a little blood on the machete, have the actor conveniently double over so the camera can't see the entry point of the machete, and spray some blood on the actor's face. Bingo! That'll look great, right?! There is a hand chopped off and a head chopped off, but both happen so quick that you don't see much of anything.

One thing that really bothers me about movies like this is when they jump so abruptly to new scenes and characters with no transitions or establishing shots to show us where we are - especially when the scenes are just stupid throwaways. One minute we're watching two girls talking in their house, and then the very next shot is some random crazy or drunk guy walking into the cellar of the asylum and getting killed by Smiley. Don't Look in the Cellar does something like several times and it really peeved me off. Actually, pretty much everything about this movie peeved me off, so that's not really saying much, is it?

All in all, it's a pretty terrible, terrible movie. I don't know how the whole Netflix-buying-movies-to-put-on-streaming thing works, but if this were my movie, I certainly would not have taken the opportunity to have my pathetic attempt at filmmaking be made available for people the world over to ridicule. I only hope these filmmakers have a backup plan for when their careers don't work out. Shoe salesmen, perhaps.