#291 -- Phantasm (1979)

Director: Don Coscarelli
Rating: 4 / 5

I've heard things about Phantasm all my life. I knew that it has a pretty good cult following, and that a lot of people really dig it. Heck, one of my favorite bands mentions it in one of their biggest songs. So I knew that, at some point, I'd have to see it. I didn't know anything about it before - nothing at all - and I still don't know anything, really. I'm not really sure what to think of it, but I feel like that was kind of the point.

It follows a young boy named Michael. I'm not sure how old he was; he looked twelve, but he acted much older (and he drove a motorcycle), so I'm assuming he was somewhere in his teen years. His parents were dead, leaving him and his older brother, Jody, all alone. Instead of having his big bro take care of him, it seemed like Michael wanted nothing but to look after Jody. It was kind of annoying at first, because Michael followed Jody around wherever he went. It was like he was obsessed with him or something. To be fair, though, Michael said that Jody was leaving (to go where, I have no clue), so I guess he just wanted to make sure that he didn't lose him as well. And he ended up saving his life more than once because of this, so it becomes less annoying as the movie goes on. Anyways, Jody was at a funeral for someone who I assume was a friend, or maybe a cousin. This guy was killed by a woman (the same woman that almost killed Jody, if it hadn't been for Michael spying on them), but I think his death went in the books as suicide. Jody didn't want Michael at the funeral, since apparently their parents' funeral gave him nightmares. But, of course, Michael couldn't stay away from his big brother. He went to the funeral anyway, hid in some bushes, and watched everything through a pair of binoculars. While he was spying on the funeral, Michael saw something very strange: a tall, creepy man who could lift coffins all by himself. He took their friend/cousin's coffin away, to do things with his body that you'll learn later on. This Tall Man, after that, begins to follow Michael around for reasons unknown. I don't have a clue why he was so drawn to him, or exactly what his deal was, but it caused Michael and Jody a good bit of trouble. The Tall Man was a weird dude, for sure. Not only was he creepy looking, but he apparently felt no pain, bled yellow, and had fingers that turned into weird little langolier-like monsters when they were severed. That, and he had little munchkin slaves (dead bodies cut down to half their size and forced to do his bidding) that hid out in the funeral home and scared people away when need be. So, Michael, Jody, and their ice-cream-man friend Reggie set out to figure out just what the deal is, and to get rid of The Tall Man for good. Eventually, they end up in a back room of the funeral home, where the portal to The Tall Man's planet is. Yep, that's right, aliens.
The Tall Man!

I actually tried to watch this many years ago, and wasn't able to for whatever reason. This time wasn't very easy for me, either. This time, I watched it right after I got home from work at six in the morning. I kept falling asleep, then waking up and having to rewind it. This made the whole thing kind of hard to follow for me. I think a second viewing, later on when I'm not sleepy, would help me to understand things better. Maybe. No, I didn't really get it, but I think that's the point. I'm not supposed to get it. And that's kind of what I like about it. I know that there's this tall alien man who wanted to kill Michael and his brother. He had his little minions, and he did his thing, and who cares why he did it? I don't, not really. The movie was very fast-paced, with plenty of action sequences with exploding hearses, overturned ice cream trucks, and three foot zombies being all vicious. There was also a weird ball that could chase people around, and it had knife and drills and things attached to it, so it could do some pretty nasty things. I'm looking forward to seeing some of the sequels, to see just what the ball can do, because it didn't do very much at all here. There was really only one death scene and, even though it was pretty grisly, it left something to be desired. If these things could do such things to people, why the hell didn't they do them more often? Maybe the movie wanted to focus more on The Tall Man and his pursuit of Michael and Jody. Phantasm is definitely one weird movie, but hey, I like 'em that way. There were a couple of quirky moments that made it that much more likable too, like a rockin' guitar session with Jody and Reggie, and a very odd scene where Michael visits a grandmother/granddaughter fortune-telling duo. In reality, the scene was horrible. The girl couldn't act her way out of a box, and I seriously thought the grandmother was dead, until she started laughing when Michael left. It was an odd scene, but what happened in it later helped Michael out. And it was quirky, like I said. It didn't seem altogether necessary, but it worked with the rest of the story.

Did I understand everything that was happening all the time? No. Do I care? Sure don't. The entire movie felt like sort of a mythical tale, which means that, like I said, we're not meant to understand everything. In the end it raises the question of whether or not these things were actually happening, or whether they were all another nightmare brought on by Michael's witnessing a funeral. To me, the fact that it might have been a dream only cements the notion that I wasn't supposed to "get" it. Or maybe I'm just trying to justify the fact that I didn't get it all the time. I don't know, I don't care. What I do know, now, is why Phantasm has received such a healthy following. It's a weird, quirky movie with characters you'll like and a story you won't ever forget.


#290 -- Quicksilver Highway (1997)

Director: Mick Garris
Rating: 3 / 5

I know you're looking at that poster, and all the names that are plastered on it, and I know what you're thinking. But stop right now, because Quicksilver Highway isn't at all what you're thinking it is. I saw it years ago, without having known anything about it or the people behind it, and I thought it was just okay. Now that I do know, I'm a little bit shocked by it.

Christopher Lloyd plays Aaron Quicksilver, a travelling  man who collects odd stories and things. He likes to tell these stories to whoever he meets on his travels, whether they want to hear them or not. The first person he meets is a new bride having some car troubles. Her new husband has gone for help, leaving her all alone. Mr. Quicksilver shows up to keep her company, invites her into his luxurious camper, and tells her one very strange story, indeed. He then meets a pickpocket at a local carnival, when he dips into Quicksilver's oddities tent, and he tells him yet another weird story. The stories that he tells seem to have no point or moral, but he assures his audience that there's always a moral to be found if you're willing to look for it.

Quicksilver's first story was about a travelling salesman named Bill. Trying to make his way home through a terrible storm, Bill stopped at a little roadside store for gas and snacks. He picked up a pair of chattery teeth to give his son for his birthday, and he also picked up a hitchhiker named Bryan. Bryan seemed okay to begin with, even though you can be almost certain that his name wasn't Bryan at all. After a little while, though, Bryan pulled a knife on Bill and tried to steal his van. Instead of letting Bryan get away with it, Bill decided to crash the van. The teeth then killed Bryan and chewed Bill out of his seat-belt  so that he could get out of the overturned van. The teeth also disposed of Bryan's body.

The second story was about a plastic surgeon, Dr. Charles George. Being in a profession that relies greatly on his hands, it would be a horrible thing if anything were to happen to them. Well, one day, Charlie's hands developed a mind of their own. They began to make him do things that were out of his control - like causing him to drive into oncoming traffic. The hands would talk to each other while Charlie was asleep, planning their freedom, and also planning to raise an army and start a revolution. So, they picked a night, killed Charlie's wife, and one of them freed the other by chopping it off with a butcher knife. Charlie was admitted to the hospital, where his severed hand followed him and convinced all the other hands to join the revolution.

There are a lot of great people involved with this movie. First of all, it was directed by Mick Garris, who was a part of the Masters of Horror, and has also directed quite a few Stephen King adaptations. The two stories Quicksilver had to tell were based on short stories written by Stephen King and Clive Barker. These are three guys who are masters in the art of horror. Add to that the actors bringing life to the characters. Christopher Lloyd was great, as usual. Silas Mitchell played "Bryan" the killer hitchhiker. Raphael Sbarge was Bill the travelling salesman, and Matt Frewer played Dr. George, a performance that seriously reminded me of Jim Carrey. With all the people involved in this movie, mostly the first three I mentioned, I feel like it should have been a lot better than it was. It could have been everything horror is meant to be. But it just wasn't. Honestly, to me, it felt...weird. I am extremely familiar with the work of Mr. King, and slightly familiar with Clive Barker, and I know that they are able to bring life to stories where others would fail miserably. I haven't read the stories on which these shorts were based, but I feel certain that they are stories that can only be told by those who told them originally. Chattery Teeth looked silly, and Body Politic (the killer hands) was absolutely comical. I'm not sure if this was the point entirely. It wasn't altogether bad, but again, it just felt weird. These stories felt like things that this crazy guy, Quicksilver, made up to freak some people out, rather than things that actually happened. Chattery Teeth, the one written by Stephen King, was taken from his book Nightmares and Dreamscapes. I've got the book sitting next to me as I write this, ready to read and compare, but I'm certain that it will be nothing short of amazing.

Quicksilver Highway is a strange movie that was possibly meant to frighten, but it was most likely meant to simply entertain, as it comes across more comical than anything.


#289 -- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Director: Tobe Hooper
Rating: 4 / 5

Everyone knows Leatherface, his family, and what they're all about. Some are old-timers, who know everything based on the originals. Some are youngsters and know more about the more recent string of movies. But me? I didn't know anything. I'd seen that one remake in 2003, but I didn't know much about it, and didn't remember much after I watched it. This is the first time - yes, that's right - that I have seen where Leatherface began. The most I've ever known about him and these movies is about Ed Gein, the man on which he was based. He was very loosely based on Gein, and the real man was a much more terrifying thing. But I can see now how they drew inspiration from him to create this piece of cinematic history. I've always felt like such a bad horror fan, being that I'd never seen this movie which receives such high praise. Now I feel...strange, because I feel like I should have enjoyed it a lot more than I did. Not saying I didn't like it; just saying, it's not as great as I'd hoped it would be. I feel like it would have been better had I watched this as a child, with absolutely no knowledge of it, what it was based on, and with nothing to base my experience on. If that had been the case, I think I would have enjoyed it much more. But as it is, I found it to be an okay movie that I respect...but wasn't blown away by.

It was about a group of friends making their way to an old house. It centers on Sally and her brother Franklin. After hearing about a string of grave robberies at the cemetery where their grandfather was buried, they decided to go have a look and make sure his grave wasn't among the ones that had been dug up. After making sure that he wasn't, they went to the house where they spent many days as children. On the way, the picked up a strange hitchhiker who seemed more than a little bit insane. He told them all about his family that ran the slaughterhouse, cut his own hand open, and then sliced into Franklin as well. They kicked him out of their van, of course, but they - mostly Franklin - became worried that the man was angry and might follow them. Little did they know, that man wasn't all they needed to worry about. A string of events led them to a farmhouse that wasn't far from their own, and they met up with a family of cannibalistic redneck crazies. There was the hitchhiker, his brother (Leatherface), a man who I assume was their father, and their grandfather who looked to have one foot already in the grave. There was no group slaying, or anything of that nature, as by the time Sally realized what she'd gotten herself into, her friends were already dead and stuffed in Leatherface's freezer. She ended up having to face this family all on her own.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre did not have much of a budget to work with, and it shows. But there were some interesting things going on here. I particularly liked the summery feel of things. It was bright, hot, and the sun flares on the camera made me feel like it could have been a vacation video. The way things looked, in that area, made it feel like there should be happy and fun things going on, which is always an interesting thing in horror movies. The contradictory tones - in the way things look, and the events taking place- immediately make the viewer feel uncomfortable. Leatherface was not hidden in shadows for the majority of the movie; he was drenched in sunlight. There was also something about how everything seemed so natural. You're not being forced into being scared here. Again, there's nothing hidden in shadows, nothing jumping out at you at opportune moments. It feels almost like a relaying of information. Like, here, this is what happened, no tricks, no gimmicks. Everything going on felt like a natural series of events, like these things were supposed to happen. The movie was very subtle in that way, also. The viewer isn't slapped in the face with any of its so-called "scary" things, but we're left to simply feel them.

Texas Chainsaw isn't a blood-drenched horror movie, as some (like I did) might expect. It's not filled with gore and shocking murder scenes. What makes it scary is the mere knowledge of what is happening. Everyone outside of the group of friends was in on it. Everyone they met during their travels had something to do with that house and that family. That is where the terror lies: that no matter where you go, no matter who you meet, and no matter who you feel might help you...you're never truly safe. At the end, it can be assumed that Sally gets away. But there is no real resolution. She doesn't overcome the killers and get revenge on them for killing her friends. And that, too, is where the terror lies...in the fact that evil never truly dies.

Though all of this is well and good, and that subtle terror is something that many people love, I still feel as though things are not as I expected them to be. I had gone through my life knowing that the movies and the character are things that people in the horror community absolutely love and adore. I went all these years believing that I was missing out on something completely wonderful. But now that I've seen it, I feel like it was all hype. Though I can see where the brilliance in the movie lies, I wasn't as blown away by it as I figured I would be. I'm disappointed that it wasn't 100% amazing, as I'd expected. But even if I didn't enjoy it as much as I'd hoped, I still respect it for what it is, and I understand why it's so beloved by my peers. Maybe as I continue on, watch the other movies in the series, and get to know these characters better, I'll be able to fully understand why everyone finds it so amazing. I look forward to delving deeper into this world that Tobe Hooper created.


#288 -- Mirrors (2008)

Director: Alexandre Aja
Rating: 3.5 / 5

First of all, I want to say that I liked this movie. But I'm pissed. After watching it, I did a little digging - as I often do - and realized that it has happened to me again. I have watched (and enjoyed) a movie that I had not realized was a remake. Ugh. But I don't know why I'm acting so shocked, since the reason I even did a little digging in the first place was because I had a feeling it might be. Pretty much everything is these days, but still! Mirrors is a remake of a 2003 Korean movie called Into the Mirror.  I've looked on Netflix and Blockbuster and wasn't able to find it, so it looks like I'm going to have to do some serious digging if I'm to watch the original. One day I will, and we'll see how this one stands up when that day comes. But until then, let's take a look at how it stands on its own.

Kiefer Sutherland stars as Ben Carson, an ex police officer trying to get back on his feet and hold his family together. He takes a job as a night watchmen at a burned down, abandoned old department store in order to make ends meet for the time being. Why an abandoned building that's no longer in use even needs a security guard, I'm not sure. Regardless, Ben shows up to take the place of the old watchmen who is now dead. When he arrives, the man who works the shift before him says something about not looking at the mirrors, and that the other guy was obsessed with cleaning them constantly. So we know immediately (as if the title wasn't enough to clue us in) that these mirrors are not normal. Pretty soon, Ben starts to see some strange things in the mirrors; like, when he moves, his reflection doesn't, or vice versa. He also sees charred bodies in the mirror that are not actually there. He gets good and scared, and he finally realizes that it's not just the mirrors in the building; that whatever this is, whatever is trapped inside, can travel between any mirror that it wants to. It can follow him home. It can torture and kill his family if he doesn't do what it wants him to. And what it wants him to do is find a person who the whole world believes is dead. Many before him have tried, but none have succeeded. Will Ben be able to find this person and save his family from what's trapped inside the mirrors?

The story behind the mirrors was pretty interesting, though it's a little bit weird. None of that really mattered, though, because what I was interested in was the alternate dimension aspect of the movie. The fact that Ben could see things in the mirrors that he couldn't see normally was very intriguing. That and the fact that these spirits, or demons, or whatever they were, could travel to his home was also interesting. Oh, and not only could they travel through mirrors, but they could make themselves visible in windows, and water - anything that could make a reflection. Nowhere was safe. Ben and his wife painted all the mirrors and put newspaper over all the windows and photos, but they forgot about the doorknobs and the bathtub. So even though they went to all these measures to make sure they'd be safe, they still weren't. Ben still had to go find this mysterious person who wasn't extremely willing to help him. It was a race against the clock when it came right down to it, and it almost cost his family their lives.

Amy Smart gets a face lift.

I thought pretty much everything about the movie was good. The effects were great, and there were some pretty grisly murders going on here. Amy Smart played Ben's sister, Angie, and her death was the most gruesome and fantastic. It was absolutely phenomenal. The spirits inside the mirrors looked pretty wicked as well. The ending was sad, and not at all what I'd hoped for. But it was good, and I can understand it, so I can't really fault it for going in a direction that I didn't quite agree with. It's only because I'd hoped for a happy ending, and I didn't really get it. But oh well, shit happens. I wasn't disappointed with the ending; just sad.

Even though it is a remake, and probably mainly because I didn't know that at first, Mirrors is definitely not a bad movie. I have to fault it a little bit for not being original, but other than that...I dug it.


#287 -- May (2002)

Director: Lucky McKee
Rating: 3.5 / 5

Let's get one thing straight, first and foremost: May is not a movie for everyone. It's sad, disturbing, uncomfortable, and might leave some people feeling...strange. Whether you love it or hate it, one thing is for sure: you've never seen anything else like it.

It is a modern day Frankenstein story, centered around a young May Canady. Even as a child, she had a lot of trouble making friends, due to a lazy eye and a pirate patch. Realizing that her daughter may never make any friends, her mother gave her a doll named Suzy, and she told her, "If you can't find a friend, make one." May grew up with Suzy still as her best and only friend. She spent her days working at a veterinary hospital, talking to Suzy and sewing clothes. To call her socially awkward would be an understatement. It gets to the point where you're forced to wonder if May has ever actually been outside her apartment before. She has absolutely no idea how to act around people, and she is so awkward, in fact, that it's hard to watch at times. You don't know whether to feel sorry for her, feel embarrassed for her, or just be annoyed by her. At first it seems like she's just a lonely woman in need of a friend, but as the movie goes on, it becomes apparent that her issues run much deeper than that. When May gets contacts to help with her lazy eye, she gains the confidence to talk to Adam, a mechanic she had been watching for some time. At one point, she even followed him to a coffee shop, waited until he fell asleep across his magazine, and started rubbing his hands on her face. When he woke up and saw her, instead of calling the police or running away, he felt compelled by her. They started up a very awkward relationship that left me wondering exactly why he even liked her at all. He said that he liked weird, but once he realized just how weird she was, he did what any person would do: he ran away.

After having her heart broken by Adam, she develops somewhat of a crush on her co-worker, Polly. Polly showed her some affection, told her she was beautiful, and made her feel somewhat of a connection. I don't think May was a lesbian, or even bisexual. I think she was just so desperate for human contact, and to have some sort of relationship with someone, that gender didn't matter. But when Polly started up a relationship with another woman, May's mind began to unravel even more. She took her mother's old words to heart, and decided that, since she couldn't find a good friend, she would just make one--out of all the body parts that she liked from different people.

Some parts are kind of gruesome, like when May killed her cat with a ceramic ashtray and then kept it in the freezer, and when she was cutting up all the body parts to make her new "friend." Again, it's not a movie for everyone, but I think a lot of people will enjoy it. It really is a sad story about a lonely, desperate woman going to extreme measures to fill a void in her life. What's really sad is that there were people in her life who cared for her, and tried to be kind to her; but her mind and heart were so fragile that the slightest little thing would turn her against them. What I find interesting is that, one May stopped trying to make friends, and had decided to just kill them, she stopped being awkward altogether. She exhibited a kind of confidence that we had not seen from her before. The story of May is definitely an interesting and unique one, but its main problem lies in its pacing. It takes a long time for any real action to take place. I feel that this was so that we could get a good look into May's twisted psyche, but it may distract some people. Though it is slow, it does have some definite good qualities to look out for. The movie is a sort of mix between drama, romance, and horror. The actors do a wonderful job in their roles - the awkward role of May is played by Angela Bettis; Adam is played by Jeremy Sisto; and Polly, May's almost lesbian lover, is played by Ana Faris. There are definitely some good folks at work here, in front of and behind the camera. It is an independent film, with a small budget, and the crew did a wonderful job. The cinematography is great, with some effects that are both beautiful and sinister. But with "master of horror" Lucky McKee in the director's chair, all of this is to be expected.

Once again, it's not for everyone. But if you're brave enough, definitely give May a go.


#286 -- The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Director: Lucio Fulci
Rating: 2 / 5

I'm thinking that, maybe, it wasn't such a good idea for me to watch this movie. You see, even though I know nothing about him or his movies, I know that Lucio Fulci is pretty beloved in the horror community. I've heard some great things about the movies he's made, but I've never seen any of them. Until now, that is. This my first introduction to him, and I think we started off on the wrong food. I have a pretty bad first impression of him, and apparently I'm not the only one who finds House by the Cemetery to be a bad movie.

The Boyle family moves from New York to Boston so that dad/husband Norman can research the death of a colleague, and continue on with the research that said colleague was undergoing. They rent this house, and immediately realize that some strange things are happening. The house once belonged to a family called Freudstein. The man of that family was a surgeon who liked to delve into illegal and inhumane procedures and was disgraced by the public. Norman came to believe that, maybe, whatever his colleague found drove him mad--mad enough to murder his mistress and then take his own life. But the truth was something far worse, because there is something living in the boarded-up cellar, something that is not quite human.

The basic story of it is interesting enough, even though it's not something we've never heard before. But when  you get into the details of the movie, it just doesn't make sense. There are scenes that seem like there's something there, but then they just fall flat and leave the viewer confused. There is a little girl throughout the movie that we can assume is a ghost. At the beginning, she is seen in a photo, and the Boyles' son, Bob, tells his mother that the little girl is warning him to stay away from the house. Once they arrive, though, the little girl doesn't do much of anything. She becomes Bob's new "girlfriend," as he likes to call her, and she plays with him in the woods and never tries to help him get out of the house at all. She never warns him anymore, never tells him anything that might give him a clue as to why she was ever warning him in the first place. At one point, the little girl sees a mannequin in a shop window that she's transfixed by. The mannequin's head then falls off and starts squirting blood. Later on, we meet Bob's new "babysitter," who looks exactly like that mannequin. She is creepy, vague, and really seems like she might not be quite human, and that maybe she's got something to do with the house. But then she is killed by the thing in the cellar, so those theories are completely squashed. That raises the question: what was the deal with the mannequin? Was it just foreshadowing? And if so, why do we require foreshadowing of the death of such a minor character? I can't really be sure why, but these two things really bothered me. They felt like they could have really gone places with these two ideas, but they just let them die. Also, the killer was living in the cellar, which was boarded up almost the entire time that the Boyle family was there. So, how was he getting out to kill all these people?

Besides that, I feel like the movie wasn't sure what it wanted to be. The scenes that show the killer's hands as he is slitting throats, cutting off heads, piercing hearts, etc. make it feel like a slasher movie, for sure. All the blood and guts and heads rolling down stairways only cemented this notion. But once the story started to unfold about the Freudsteins, it started to feel like it might be a ghost story. Maybe the spirits of the Freudstein family never left the house, and they're angry about something that we'll discover later (we don't, by the way...). It never expands on the story of that family, though, so we never get to learn anything about them other than the fact that the man of the family was a mad scientist. When we finally get to see Dr. Freudstein down in the cellar, the movie takes a turn and feels like a zombie movie, because the doctor is completely rotted with absolutely no face. And he's apparently been keeping himself alive by killing people and using their live cells to recreate his dead ones. The movie's biggest failure is that its story is all over the place. It's a jumble that leaves the viewer unable to figure out just what kind of movie they're watching. It was hard for me to follow, and it got confusing the more it went on. Add in the terrible acting and the cheesy effects, and I've found the movie that I should not have let introduce me to Fulci's work. I'm not giving up on him, though, because I know how so many people adore him. I only hope that I'll enjoy his other works much, much more than this.


#285 -- Ju-On (2002)

Director: Takashi Shimizu
Rating: 4 / 5

Usually, my stand on originals vs. remakes is pretty simple. Very rarely to I enjoy a remake better than the original, and I stand very firmly by those originals. But here, I'm really not sure where I stand  in the battle.

By now, I think it's safe to say that everyone's familiar with the story, but here's the quote from the beginning just in case you're not. "The curse of one who dies in the grip of a powerful rage. It gathers and takes effect in the places that person was alive. Those who encounter it die, and a new curse is born." At the very core of it, that's what Ju-On is all about. It centers around a certain house in Tokyo where a family died, and now everyone who enters the house meet their ends as well. Here, the main character is a girl named Rika who works at the Social Welfare Center, and is sent to the house to look after the elderly woman living there. Her son and daughter in law are who-knows-where, and she seems to be gripped by a terrible fear of something that only she can see...for now. The "grudge" will kill anyone who enters that house, and if they happen to escape with their lives, it will follow them. So, really, there's no way to escape this curse.

I am a fan of Asian horror, everyone knows that. I love the atmosphere of them, and I think they're some of the scariest movies ever made. Even though most of them do share the same basic ideas, they always have something new to offer, and I almost always love them. The problem that I have, most of the time, with the remakes, is that they lack that atmosphere that I love. Asian horror movies have that way of making us feel suspense, building up to a certain moment, and then slapping us in the face with some long-haired woman that will surely fill our nightmares for days to come. There's definitely something unique and special about them; something that most remakes just don't have. Here, though, both original and remake were directed by the same man, and even starred the same actors as Kayako and Toshio, the two ghosts in the house. So, really, they're essentially the same, aside from the fact that the remake caters to Americans. I think this one might be confusing to some of us, simply due to the cultural differences. That, and if you look away from the subtitles for two seconds, you'll be completely lost. There were some parts here that I didn't understand, but I'm just going to go ahead and say that's only because I'm not Japanese.

Even though the two are pretty much the same, there are a few differences. In Ju-On, the story of Kayako and her husband wasn't explained quite as much as in the remake. It tells us that she apparently had been cheating, and that her husband, outraged, killed her, their son, and their cat, before killing himself. But we didn't get all that mumbo jumbo about Bill Pullman and how she was a stalker. It also didn't stop once the main character's story was finished; it continued on about some teenagers going into the house for some dangerous fun, and then an entirely new curse was born (with a new set of angry spirits). This is the part that really threw me off to begin with. But I figure that the curse (or the grudge) doesn't have to involve the same set of people all the time. It simply states that it involves people who die in the grip of a powerful rage. See, those teenagers were abandoned by one of their friends, and they were left in the house to get killed by Kayako. This made them very angry, so they followed their friend home and tormented her until her mind unraveled.

Again, the two movies are essentially the same, so I'm not sure how I feel about each of them in the original vs. remake battle. They're both very good movies and, no matter how you look at them, Kayako's death rattle is absolutely terrifying in any language. So I think I'm going to call it a draw.


#284 -- Mum and Dad (2008)

Director: Steven Sheil
Rating: 3 / 5

Before I tell you anything of real importance about this movie, let's talk about that poster. I think it alone tells you just about everything you need to know. Those two people pictured are, of course, Mum and Dad. See how they look like the average every day couple. Mum's standing behind Dad, where he probably believes she belongs. Dad looks kind of sullen and angry, like everyone says every husband feels. It's safe to say that they appear to be a very normal married couple. But in the background there, you can see a severed head on a shelf, so I guess they're actually not quite normal. The tagline is "They're dying to have you over," which I think is kind of incorrect. They're not dying at all, but you will if you don't follow their rules. To me, at the very core of their relationship, Mum and Dad seem like the stereotypical 1950s couple. Dad's the bread winner, and Mum is the one who keeps the house in order. He wants to make sure she's happy, and she's there to calm him down whenever he gets a little bit too angry. They seem like they're in love, and I'm sure it would have been impossible for either of them to find someone else to satiate their needs, so they're actually quite a perfect couple. Aside from the craziness, of course.

The story centers on Lena, a young Polish girl working as a cleaner at an airport in London. She's new, and she makes it clear that she doesn't really have anyone that she can count on. She says that she and her parents don't get along, and she is distant from her siblings. I'm not even sure that her family lives nearby, so it's safe to say that no one would miss her if she disappeared. She's a sweet and smart girl, and she's pretty, so of course everyone should want her. She meets two other employees at the airport, Birdie and her brother Elbie. Birdie seems cheery and nice, even though she's quick to steal things she finds lying around. Elbie doesn't speak at all, but he never seems weird. He's just a shy guy (maybe...), and it's obvious to me that he has a good heart. After a night of working together, Birdie invites Lena over for drinks, but Lena declines stating that she has some things she has to do and that she'll try to go the next day. Birdie obviously isn't happy about this. Not long after that, a few things happen that cause Lena to miss her bus home. It isn't anything major; Birdie says that she forgot her phone and asks Lena to go back inside and help her look for it. I had the feeling, though, that Birdie had her phone all along, and that she only wanted to make Lena miss the bus. So when the bus does, indeed, leave without her, Birdie invites Lena to come stay with them for the night, so she'll at least have somewhere to sleep. Left with no other options, she accepts. Once she arrives at their home, it becomes clear pretty quickly that something isn't right. Birdie and Elbie disappear immediately, leaving Lena all alone in the kitchen. She's conked on the  head, knocked out, given a drug that leaves her unable to speak, and tied up in a dirty room.

Mum and Dad only have one child of their own, an apparently mentally retarded girl they keep tied up in an upstairs bedroom. The rest of their "children" are people they abducted. Birdie and Elbie are among those, but they were able to become "a part of the family." Dad often tells Lena that if she follows the rules, she will be okay, so we can assume that's what Birdie and Elbie did: they went through unspeakable amounts of torture and never misbehaved. And now, they help Mum and Dad capture new children, and they're free to come and go as they please. Lena is tied up and has designs cut into her skin. Once, she is locked into a suitcase and beaten with a wooden mallet. But these are not the acts of both parents' lust for blood. Mum is the one who enjoys torture, and she simply calls it "playing with her children." Dad doesn't even like them, it seems, and he only tolerates them for Mum's sake. But when they misbehave, he is there to deal out the punishment. Dad's the disciplinary figure, while Mum is the caring maternal figure who takes care of the family.

For the most part, they're a normal family. The have family dinners around the table, all the children have their own set of chores to do, and they even celebrate Christmas (with gifts like knives and naughty magazines). But instead of the traditional Christmas decorations, they've got bodies nailed to the walls. And instead of traditional family television, they watch porn while they're having their family meals. Oh, and sex is not kept a secret from the children, as they are invited to watch as Dad fucks a chunk of raw meat that most certainly belonged to a former "child."

Lena learns very quickly that she'll have to suck it up and take whatever they throw at her if she wants to survive; because if she misbehaves too much, she'll end up like the other chopped-up body parts that Elbie is seen incinerating in the back yard. She does an okay job of it at first, but there's only so much torture a person can take, and she soon starts fighting back. It becomes clear that if she doesn't escape soon, she'll be dead meat.

Mum and Dad definitely isn't a movie for everyone. Some would call it disgusting and disturbing, which it is. But as a horror fan, it's definitely not the worst case of abuse/torture that I've seen. I think the real torture is having to be stuck in that house with them, rather than the actual things that are being done to Lena; it is the knowledge that she'll either have to escape or die, and dying certainly seemed easier. There was one scene that I found particularly disturbing, but other than that, it's really not all that bad. It is fairly easy to enjoy, with characters that are easy to relate to, hate, and root for. It will keep you engaged through most of it, and it'll keep you wondering what they'll do next. I really enjoyed it up until the end, which I found was too abrupt and not very difficult. It spent the entire movie establishing the difficulty of escape, but then turned around and made the escape easy. There wasn't enough struggle or consequence; there wasn't enough fighting back or injury for me to really believe that Lena had a tough go of it. It left me wondering why she wasn't able to do it sooner. But other than the quick ending, I'd say it's definitely a movie that's worth seeing. It's not boring, it doesn't feel rushed or forced, and most importantly...the story isn't completely stupid.


#283 -- A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

Director: Jee-woon Kim
Rating: 3.5 / 5

I had been waiting to see this ever since the last time that I watched The Uninvited, which is its American remake. It took me longer than it should have to link the two movies together, but once I did, I knew I had to see this one. I knew that it was going to be very different than its American counterpart, but I never imagined just how different it would be. It actually shocked me at first, and I wan't sure what to think of it. I'm still not entirely sure what to take away from this movie, but you can be sure that it's different.

A Tale of Two Sisters is about a family that is seemingly full of mentally unstable people. The first of the move shows us the two sisters, Su-Yeon and Su-Mi, returning home from a mental hospital. We only ever saw Su-Mi at the hospital, so it's safe to assume that Su-Yeon was simply accompanying their father to pick her sister up, and that she was never admitted into the hospital herself. She, in fact, seems to be the most mentally stable of the bunch. Their father seems a bit reclusive and isn't seen very much; their stepmother seems a bit overbearing and quick with punishments, and Su-Mi seems quick to anger and slow to trust. Su-Yeon is a shy girl who only seems to deal with her relatives' issues. She follows her sister everywhere and does what she says, she cowers before her stepmother, and I can't remember her ever even interacting with her father.

It is quickly made obvious just how little Su-Mi trusts her stepmother. There are several arguments between the two which seem a bit trivial at first, but make a little sense once you realize what's going on in Su-Mi's head. When she discovers some marks on Su-Yeon, she is certain that their stepmother is to blame. She confronts the woman, and she admits to punishin Su-Yeon, by locking her away in a wardrobe in her bedroom. This seems bad enough to begin with, but by the end of the movie it is expanded upon in a scene that is extremely cruel and disturbing.

Meanwhile, Su-Mi is plagued by nightmarish figures appearing before her, and it seems that there could possibly be some sort of spirit lurking in their house, and that it might be that of the girls' dead mother.

There are a couple of ways that this one differs from most Asian horror movies; or the ones I've seen, at least. It does rely on atmosphere, as most do, but it doesn't rely as much on spookiness. There are no creepy ladies with long black hair crawling around on ceilings here. What could make this movie scary to some is the idea of what might be. It isn't nearly as in-your-face as the American remake. It doesn't give you every detail of the story, which might turn some people away. It definitely shocked and confused me. Most of the details are left up to the imagination, and you have to interpret the things you'r seeing in order to figure it out. Sometimes I like movies like this, since there's never just one clear meaning. The movie is what you make it out to be. I went into this having already seen the remake, and I thought that maybe the two would play out a little similarly. They didn't. That was where I went wrong; that's why the movie confused me so much: because it went in a different direction than the one I was sure it was going to take. It was somewhat similar to the remake, but again, it wasn't quite as up front about it.

[spoilers ahead]

My interpretation comes from a line said by the girls' stepmother. "You want to forget something. Totally wipe it out of your mind. But you never can. It can't go away, you see. It follows you around like a ghost." There were hints throughout the movie that there might be a spirit in their house, but I think the only ghost present was the ghost of regret. In the end, it is revealed that Su-Yeon had been dead all along, and it is plain to see that Su-Mi is not in her right state of mind, and that she might have (most likely did) killed her sister. It is not completely clear to me, but I believe she locked her away in that wardrobe to starve to death while trying to claw her way out. The things that she was seeing, the assumptions she was making about her stepmother: they were all ways that her mind was trying to erase the evil thing she had done. She still saw her sister every day, everywhere she went, and her mind created this situation in which she was not the guilty one. She placed the blame on her stepmother, an outsider, rather than feel the weight on her own shoulders.

[end of spoilers]

A Tale of Two Sisters is not a movie for everyone. The pacing is quite slow, and there aren't any real scares here. The scares are entirely in the viewers' minds, as we imagine the evil things taking place. If you're a fan of those creepy movies like Ringu and Ju-On, with those creepy long-haired women on ceilings, you're not going to find that here. If you enjoy the creepy atmosphere of those same movies, you won't find that here either. It is full of bright colors, a wonderful summertime setting, and the music was very soothing to me. The things taking place and the way we see them are totally contradictory. You feel like things should be happy there, but they're not. That's what makes the atmosphere creepy. It's a subtle sort of terror, unlike what most horror movies strive for. Again, it's not for everyone. Some, like me, might be a bit confused at first. Director Jee-woon Kim gives a lot of credit to his audience, and he lets us figure things out for ourselves rather than slapping us in the face with facts. You really have to think about this one if you're to completely understand it. I still don't completely understand it, but I've got my own ideas and interpretations. That's exactly what you'll have to take away from the movie as well.


#282 -- Cannibal! The Musical (1993)

Director: Trey Parker
Rating: 5 / 5

I honestly cannot believe that I have not yet reviewed this movie, since it's actually one of my favorites. Some might argue that this can't possibly be considered a horror movie, but I really don't care. I, personally, classify it as horror-comedy, as it contains elements of both genres. And it was released by Troma, which is known for its horror-comedy. Sure, it might lean more toward the comedy side of things, but it still has that tiny little element of horror.

Cannibal! The Musical is actually based on a true story. Yeah, I know what you're thinking: yeah right! I thought the same thing the first time I watched it and I saw that in the opening credits. I thought there was no way something so silly was based on truth. But do some research, and you'll find that it's true. It's the story of Alferd Packer, a man who was convicted of cannibalism in Colorado back in the 1800s. So, yes, it is based on fact; though I highly doubt the real Packer and his men ran around singing and dancing. That's just what makes the movie so much fun!

In this version of the story, Alferd Packer was a miner. He and all the other miners were having trouble finding anything, and they had heard about a place where the gold was plentiful. So they set out to Breckenridge to mine for gold and become rich...or die trying. The group of men enlisted Packer as their guide, since he said that he had been there before. But, unfortunately, he didn't know quite as much as he led on, and the group got lost. They remained lost for a long time, forced to live out in the snow with no way out and nothing to eat. When one of the party was killed (shot in the head for singing a song about a snowman one too many times), they figured they could eat him to last at least a little bit longer. But before the end, one of the party went crazy and decided to try to eat everyone else. Since Packer was the only survivor of the group, he was prosecuted for the murders, and he was almost hanged. If not for a pretty young reporter who had a soft spot for Packer, he might have been dead meat.

Trey and Matt; or Alferd and Humphrey

So that's the basic run-down of the movie, but there's so much more to it than that. The group--which consists of Alfred Packer (Trey Parker), James Humphrey (Matt Stone), George Noon (Dian Bachar), Shannon Bell (Ian Hardin), Isreal Swan (Jon Hegel), and Frank Miller (Jason McHugh)--meets some very interesting characters on their way to Breckenridge. They met a cyclops, which was a big 'ol man with a missing eye that squirted some icky juice at them. They met a group of trappers who were real assholes. They met a tribe of Japanese Indians (complete with Teepees), and a weird prophet sort of guy like Crazy Ralph in Friday the 13th ("You're all doomed!") The miners themselves were a colorful bunch. Alferd was kind of weird, and you could tell he wasn't the brightest crayon in the box. Humphrey was even duller than Alferd, but he was hilarious. Whenever someone made him mad, his best comeback was, "Nice hat!" Swan was the annoyingly optimistic one of the bunch, which I guess is why he got his brains splattered all over the snow. Miller was the pessimist of the group and liked to sulk the entire time, and Bell was a preacher who seemed fairly normal most of the time.

The songs in Cannibal! The Musical are witty and catchy as hell. "Let's Build a Snowman" is the song that Swan sings, which encourages the others to look past the awful situation they're in and try to have some fun. "When I Was on Top of You" is a sad song about Packer's lost horse Liane. The song sounds awfully perverted, though you know it's about a horse...which just makes it even funnier. The Trappers' song is awful from a vegetarian's point of view, but even I have to admit that it's funny. "Shpadoinkle" is a song about how wonderful, beautiful, and "shpadoinkle" the day is...before they get lost and almost starve to death, that is.

The first time I saw it, I was kind of skeptical. I wasn't really sure what it was all about, or just how stupid it would be. Believe me, it's pretty silly, but it's so amazing you won't even believe it. And it's not even wonderful in that "so bad it's good" sort of way. Yeah, it's silly, but it's meant to be. These guys knew exactly what they were doing, and they know a thing or two about being funny. At the end of the day, you might think it's stupid. But really it's just a genuinely funny movie that succeeds on all levels. When I first saw it, I loved it. It instantly became one of my favorite movies, but there are some other reasons why I absolutely love this movie--not because of what kind of movie it is, or how good it is, but for what it did for me and the other things it introduced me to.

Alferd chowing down on Bell's throat in a scene that represents what everyone thought happened on those mountains.

1 - This is the first Troma movie I ever saw. I don't even remember how I came across it, but up until that point, I'd never even heard of Troma before. Once I saw this, I decided to check out what else the company had to offer, and it also introduced me to quite a few of my other favorite movies. I wouldn't know a thing about Toxie if not for Cannibal! And for that, I give it my sincerest thanks.

2 - It introduced me to South Park. If you're good with names, you'll realize that Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the biggest players in Cannibal!) are also the wonderfully weird and creative minds behind one of the greatest comedy shows ever made. I knew about South Park before I saw this movie, but I'd never watched it. Once I saw Cannibal! and realized who these guys were, I figured it deserved a chance. It became one of my favorite TV shows. You can even see glimpses of South Park throughout the movie, like Matt Stone doing Kyle's voice sometimes, and Trey sounding an awful lot like Cartman. There's even a scene where Humphrey takes his hat off, and there's this giant red afro underneath. It looks a lot like Kyle's picture day episode, where he too reveals his giant red jew-fro.

3 - It introduced me to the comedic genius of Trey and Matt. Again, I knew nothing of these guys up until this point. They made this movie while they were in college, so this was pretty much the beginning for them, and it only got better from there. Aside from South Park and the several Troma movies I grew to love after this, it also introduced me to some others, like BASEketball and Orgazmo, two of the greatest comedy movies ever, in my opinion.

4 - It's fucking awesome. That's the bottom line, and that's all you need to know. If you're a fan of seriously weird shit, you'll love it. It's kind of got the same basic feel of Poultrygeist (also from Troma, and also one of my favorite movies). It puts some comedy in something that's usually not funny at all, adds some fun songs and dance numbers, and creates one hell of a funny movie. Chickens, zombies, and musicals. That's what drew me to Poultrygeist. Cannibals and musicals...that's what drew me here. I was intrigued, though hesitant, and I'm so freaking glad that I gave it a chance. You should too. Even if you don't think it's extremely hilarious and awesome, you'll get something out of it. If you're a fan of Troma, you know where I'm coming from. Lloyd Kaufman, Trey Parker, and Matt Stone. That is a comedy team that could beat out all the rest.


#281 -- Asylum Blackout (2011)

Director: Alexandre Courtes
Rating: 2.5 / 5

Ugh. That is all I can say. I hate when movies have potential, succeed in ways, and then completely destroy themselves by the end. The idea of Asylum Blackout is an interesting one. It's pretty much the same as Medium Raw, a movie I reviewed not too long ago.

It's about a group of musicians working as cooks in an asylum for the criminally insane. One night, all the lights went out and the inmates escaped from their rooms and started a riot. It's a pretty simple story that could be downright terrifying if it was done properly. Sadly, it wasn't done properly here. The main issue I have with the movie is that it's confusing. At the end, I was left with more questions than answers, which is always disappointing. If I'm to be completely honest, though, I was left with all questions and no answers. The ending made absolutely no sense whatsoever, and the viewer is left with only theories to explain away what happened.

There were a couple of occurrences that hinted at what would happen in the end, but none of them panned out. First, there was George, the main character. At the first of the movie, as he was cutting some meat, he badly cut his finger and bled all over the raw steak. I thought, "Oh, something's going to happen with his blood in that meat." Later on, George had to go to work early in order to receive a shipment of meat, and the meat was kind of weird. They were shocked and confused when they realized that the chickens still had their heads attached, and the delivery man just said, "Oh, that's how they do it now." Also, I noticed that the boxes the meat was held in was dripping. It might have been blood, though I'm not sure. It was just something else to leave me confused.

There was on particular prisoner, Harry, that seemed sort of weird in the way that he was oddly drawn to George. At one point, George saw him convince another inmate to spit out his medication, and it can be assumed that he did this with several other (or all...) inmates. Throughout the movie, George was absolutely certain that Harry was the one behind all the riots and everything, and I was pretty quick to go along with him. There were scenes with Harry overseeing acts of torture and murder, and scenes where he was personally torturing George. But then there was a scene that implied George had been dead the entire time.

And then there's the ending...There's practically nothing to it, or at least it seemed that way to me. It was jumbled, weird, and made no sense. Maybe the director had some sort of artistic vision that just didn't transfer to the screen. I'm not sure what it was supposed to mean, and it seems like no one else is either. There's a thread on IMDB dedicated to discussing the confusing ending, which is where I got the few theories that I have. Before reading that, I was absolutely stumped. I had no clue. It seems to me that they were going for a sort of Shutter Island type of deal. That maybe George had been crazy all along, and was simply imagining everything. Maybe he was Harry, and he simply created this alter ego in order to take the blame off himself. But again, I honestly have no clue. I will admit that I was also confused by Shutter Island (both the book and the movie), but those were confusing in an intriguing and amazing sort of way. Not a "what a waste of time" sort of way. Shutter Island will make you think. Asylum Blackout will leave you feeling nothing.

I applaud the director for attempting to create an artistic movie that's different and unique. But it failed to relay its message to the viewer. It left me feeling confused and angry for wasting my time with it. But I watched in on my VOD, so I really didn't expect it to be anything but mediocre.

Plus side for the ladies: you'll get to see the hot guy naked.


#280 -- The People Under the Stairs (1991)

Director: Wes Craven
Rating: 4 / 5

I caught this movie on television years ago, but I only caught the tail end of it. I could tell instantly that it was something I definitely wanted to see. I caught it on TV again some time later, a bit earlier but still not at the beginning. Then, I got the jist of what was going on, but not completely. This time around is the first time I've actually watched the entire movie. So now I know the whole story, and I can tell you...I dig it. It seems like it's one of those movies that can go any way. Some people love it, some people don't, and some just don't care. I'm sort of in the middle. I really liked it, but I didn't quite love it. Still, it's a good movie.

It's about a young boy named Fool (I think his name was actually Poindexter; I think I'd prefer Fool too). He'd just turned thirteen, and he'd been through more than probably all of us have in our lives. He was poor, living in the ghetto with a cancer-ridden mother, a sister with some babies, and no money to pay for anything. On top of all that, their landlords were trying to evict them so that they could tear the building down and build something bigger and better. In order to get some money, a man offered Fool a job: to rob their landlords, who supposedly had a house full of gold. So along with two men, Fool set out to do just that. But little did they all know, their landlords were fucking crazy.

One of the men was killed pretty much as soon as he walked in the door. The other took some time, but it didn't take long for Fool to realize that he wasn't messing around with your average every day rich folks. They had a daughter who was terrified of them and suffered horrible abuse, and there was a guy living in the walls. The daughter, Alice, called him Roach (haha!) and he was a pretty cool dude, though he looked like he could be Steve Buscemi's son. There were some other people living in the cellar who kind of looked like zombies (probably because they were fed body parts of people that were killed). Roach had escaped into the walls, and remained there in hiding. Anyways, Fool became trapped in the house once his older accomplices were killed, and Roach and Alice helped him stay safe. He eventually escaped with a couple of gold coins and took them back home to help with his mother's operations and such. He then returned to the house to save Alice, because...well, someone had to do it.

It turned out that "Mommy" and "Daddy" were actually siblings, and Alice wasn't their daughter at all. They abducted children, trying to find the perfect child. Everyone knows, though, that there's no such thing. Once they found something wrong with one of them, they'd cut it out (Roach had his tongue cut out for trying to call for help) and throw them in the basement. Those were the people under the stairs. Daddy was really crazy, and he wore some kind of dominatrix costume while he was shooting at people in the walls. It was easy to tell, though, that Mommy was actually the brains and master of the operation. That was one evil bitch.

I think all the components of the movie were really well done. The actors were good, the story was well written and interesting, and it definitely succeeds in holding the viewer's attention. It goes at a steady pace that's neither rushed nor slow, and the effects (though there wasn't all that much gore) were good. Word around the internet is that there's a remake in the works, though I don't really see the point. It's a good movie, but it's hardly great enough to be considered a classic. It doesn't really have a cult following, and it's not old enough to need a revisit. It's just more evidence that people are completely unable to come up with their own ideas, and simply feed off the ideas of great minds like Wes Craven.

You should give The People Under the Stairs a go, though. It's an entertaining movie with an interesting and original story.


#279 -- Satan's Little Helper (2004)

Director: Jeff Lieberman
Rating: 2.5 / 5

Okay, so I think I saw this movie many years ago, but I'm not sure. I think I remember one of the characters, but again, not sure. I think that alone should tell you all that you need to know about Satan's Little Helper: that it's completely forgettable. This is one of those tricky ones, meaning that it tries to trick you into thinking that it's awesome. Mainly what will draw you in is that poster. It looks pretty damn wicked, right? Well, the real thing isn't wicked at all.

It was about a little boy named Dougie. He was a weird kid, that much was 100 % obvious. First, he was obsessed with a video game that shares the movie's title. I think it's safe to say that the majority of Americans participate in some kind of religion, and I don't know why in the hell someone would buy this game for their kids. I'm not religious at all, so I wouldn't really mind all that much, especially considering that it's not all that violent. But in the game, you play as, of course, Satan's helper, and you run around terrorizing innocent people. Many might find that extremely offensive, even though it consists mostly of dropping people down manholes, throwing basketballs at dogs, and snapping guys' leotards. Yeah, what the fuck is right. Even though the game is extremely shitty and stupid, I still don't understand why these people would buy it for their child. Dougie's mom kind of hints at the fact that she doesn't believe in Satan and all that, but I'm not sure. Anyways, they really shouldn't have bought the game for him, because everything that happens in the movie is his fault.

The second reason I think Dougie is a weird kid is because he wants to marry his older sister, Jenna. Sure, he's only like, nine or ten, but isn't that old enough to know that you can't marry your own sister? I would think so. Maybe his parents failed to teach him that that sort of thing is just not right. Or maybe they thought it was cute. Who knows. Anyways, when Jenna came home to spend Halloween with them, she brought along her new boyfriend, Alex. Naturally, Dougie was not happy about this at all. So he set out to find Satan so that he could help him get rid of Alex. He stumbles upon a man in a devil costume who just happens to be a serial killer. He watches him kill a few people, and then place their bodies around the yard like Halloween decorations. He forms a very odd little friendship with the man, hides him in his basement, and then helps him commit murders that he's certain are fake. So, basically...Dougie is the stupidest kid ever. Maybe if he was five it would make sense. But he's in the third grade, which is surely old enough to know the difference. My stepson is nine years old, and I know damn well that he's smart enough to not let something like this happen.

Anyways, after he meets "Satan" and brings him home and whatnot, Alex reveals that he plans to dress like Satan for Halloween, in order to get on Dougie's good side. They go to the costume store together (Dougie only goes so that "Satan" can follow and kill Alex). "Satan" beats the crap out of Alex, sets him up at a house thinking he's dead, and then he and Dougie return home. Jenna and their mother assume that the guy in the devil mask is Alex, Jenna gets a little frisky with him, and they have no idea that there's a psycho in their house. Until it's a little bit too late, that is.

The characters were pretty easy to like. I especially liked Alex, because he genuinely seemed like a good guy. That and he had a really sorry father and came with a sob story that made me feel bad for him. The acting was so-so, and the gore was...well, it was cheesy, but everyone knows I like that sort of thing. The problem was that I didn't believe a bit of it. Yeah, I know horror movies aren't real. But the good ones are able to make me feel like they are, at least for about an hour and a half. This one couldn't do that at all. In fact, all it did was annoy me. I liked a little bit of it, but Dougie seriously annoyed the shit out of me. I mean, how could he be so fucking stupid? The killer even kept changing costumes, making Dougie think he was someone else, and Dougie kept letting him back in the house. I mean, shouldn't he be a little suspicious once he figured out that their little "game" was for real? You'd think so, but no. The killer dressed like Jesus, right after Dougie started praying and apologizing for helping Satan. So Dougie thought that Jesus had come to save them. Eventually he realized that Jesus was really Satan in disguise. So then the killer came back, dressed as a cop. I mean, really? You'd think that Jenna and their mother, supposedly responsible adults, would be suspicious enough to tell him not to let anyone in the house until they inspected them a little bit. I know people in horror movies are supposed to be stupid; that's kind of the point. But they're supposed to be running up the stairs instead of out the front door kind of stupid. This is a whole other level of stupid that I just couldn't handle.

So, in short...Satan's Little Helper is stupid. I almost liked it, but the fact that every action was unbelievable and made everyone look retarded ruined it for me. Don't be fooled by the cool looking poster. This movie is not cool.


#278 -- V/H/S (2012)

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, David Bruckner, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Chad Villella, Ti West, Adam Wingard

Rating: 3 / 5

Okay, so I'd wanted to see this for quite some time. I'd heard some good things about it, and what I knew about it seemed interesting. What I heard was something about a killer who only showed up on tape, or something like that, but that wasn't even right. Maybe I was mistaken. What it is, really, is a found footage anthology. See, I didn't know that. If I had, I probably wouldn't have jumped on it so quickly. But at the same time, I'm kind of glad that I didn't know, because I'm happy that I watched it. I've never been a fan of found footage movies. They really get on my nerves. I've only seen a couple, and that's because the idea of it is so entirely shitty to me. I absolutely hate Blair Witch; Quarantine was okay. And then there's V/H/S. Out  of the three that I have now seen, I'd say this one is the best, even though it makes the least amount of sense. I get that it's an anthology (even though it took me a minute to figure that out), and that means that naturally, there's not just one solid story; there's a bunch of them. That's cool. I like anthologies. The problem is that I like my anthologies to make a little sense, and for the wraparound story (if there is one) to at least mean something.

So let me break this down for you. The movie starts off showing us a group of guys who like to tape crimes that they commit. They mug girls and take their clothes off, and they break into abandoned houses to destroy them. Really immature stuff, but still pretty bad. Apparently one of them knows someone who can give them a lot of money to go to some guy's house and steal a video tape. They jump on the opportunity, and of course, they have to tape their adventures. When they arrive at the house, the old man who lives there is dead, and they have no idea what they're looking for. They do find a shitload of VHS tapes, but they're not sure which one it is that this mysterious guy wants. So they start watching them. This is where the other stories come in. They're all horrible and weird things that people have video taped over the years, and they're  honestly pretty wicked.

One is about some guys with some video recorder glasses who decide to make a porno. They pick up a couple girls at a bar and take them back to a hotel room for some drunken fun. The girls, of course, don't know that they're being recorded. The first girl, who was hot and skanky and really drunk, passed out. So they went on to the second girl, who was really weird. She really liked the camera man, though, because that's pretty much all she said the entire time. "I like you." She was genuinely creepy to begin with, but once she started eating people and turned into some kind of winged demon, shit got intense.

There are stories about ghosts, demons, and just plain 'ol killers. And, of course, the one about the mysterious killer who either only shows up on tape or can't be recorded. I couldn't really tell which way they were trying to go with it. But it looked cool.

Then there's the wraparound story. I get that these guys were looking for some tape. They were told that they'd know which one it was when they saw it, so I get that they had to watch all of them to figure it out. All that makes sense. But I don't get the dead old guy in the chair that was sitting behind them while they were watching them. I don't get why only one of them could watch a tape at a time, or why they each disappeared after they watched something. It never clarified on that part. Then the old guy disappeared from the chair and ended up chasing one of them around the house. I didn't get that either, and that's where it ended. No explanation, no resolution. Just, BAM! He wasn't dead after all (or maybe he was?), and now he wants to kill you. But why? That's where my problem started, and I'm just glad it waited until the very end to disappoint me. There's no point to the entire movie. Sure, everything's cool and creepy, and some parts of it kind of freaked me out. But at the end, there was just no point to any of it. The wraparound story was pointless, since it didn't bring the separate stories together like it should, and it didn't have a proper ending.

"I like you..."

I will say, though, that V/H/S succeeded at what all found footage films set out to do: to make things more believable. I was completely engaged throughout the entire movie, even though I was kind of confused at times. Things definitely did seem natural to me, and some of the segments were pretty scary. The actors did a good job at looking like they weren't acting at all, and the gore, where present, was pretty amazing. Overall, it's a pretty great movie, considering it uses a method that I despise. But in the end, it's severely disappointing in its failure to have an ending. I didn't feel like I wasted my time completely, but it did feel like sort of a waste. They had so much potential, they built up this great story and let it die out in the end. I expected something like The Ring. You know,watch the video and die. But it never offered any explanation to anything, which made the movie fall flat for me.

Even though I was disappointed by it, I would still definitely recommend it. Don't go into it expecting a fully structured story, because you're not going to get it. I would recommend it based only on the separate segments. They were interesting and spooky, sometimes downright scary, and they're definitely worth it. You'll be disappointed when the ending (or lack thereof) completely sneaks up on you, but you'll like the rest. I did, at least.


#277 -- Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader (2012)

Director: Kevin O'Neill
Rating: 3 / 5

If you go into a movie like this expecting it to actually be scary, you sir (or madam), are dumb. The title, the poster--everything about it screams "don't take me seriously!" and that's exactly what you have to do to be able to enjoy it. I knew it was going to be silly, which is exactly why I wanted to see it.

It was about a young girl named Cassie, who was a freshman in college. Her mother was head cheerleader, and a member of a prestigious sorority, back in her day. Cassie's only goal for college was to live up to her mother's expectations; but Cassie was a scientist, nerdy and somewhat homely, so that wasn't as easy as she'd hoped. Everyone made fun of her, no one took her cheerleading or sorority goals seriously, and she was down in the dumps. But luckily, she and her lab partner, Kyle (Ryan Merriman) were working on a drug that could make ugly animals cute. It was kind of like a plastic surgery injection. They weren't really sure if it could work on humans, but Cassie was desperate. She injected some of the stuff (which was a bright bubble-gum pink fluid) into her arm. It did, indeed, make her beautiful. After that, everyone did start taking her more seriously. She made the cheerleading squad, she was being accepted by the people in the sorority, and all the guys couldn't get enough of her. But there was just one little side effect. Okay, maybe one giant side effect: it made Cassie grow really tall really fast. It also made her a little bit more aggressive than she usually was.

Once she got to a certain size, Kyle and their professor (Ted Raimi!) started working on an antidote. Meanwhile, some guys who were hoping to buy the drug for use on humans, discovered Cassie and tried to abduct her (they didn't want her going to a rival company and giving up the drug). Also, across campus, one of the cheerleader bitches accidentally got injected with the stuff. It didn't really make her look any different, since she was "beautiful" to begin with, but it did make her grow too. Since she was already a bitch, it turned her into a super giant bitch with even more of an attitude. And the only one who could stop her was Cassie, of course. The action culminated on the football field, with one gigantic women's wrestling match.

So, I liked the idea, obviously. It was just silly enough to pique my interest. It was done pretty well, and it featured two actors that I always enjoy (Merriman and Raimi). Some of the other actors weren't all that great, including Cassie (Jena Sims) at times. But I could overlook that due to the overly silly nature of the movie. I think it adequately depicted the stereotypical movie-college life, and it had some interesting points. I loved the ending, though it was 100% predictable. I knew exactly what was going to happen, but I was glad that it did. Cassie eventually learned that the life she'd yearned for wasn't all that it was cracked up to be, and she learned to be happy with who she really was. So it's got a good message for all the girls out there: you don't have to be super hot to get a super hot, smart guy to love you. Yeah, there's hope for all of us.

The scenes with the two giant cheerleaders were done pretty well. There were times where you could tell that there was a green screen involved, and other times where it looked natural. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it was good.


Cinematography - 7 points. Like I said, it wasn't perfect. But it did look good most of the time.

Characters - 9 points. All the characters had something to offer. Whether you love or hate them, they'll all get some kind of reaction out of you. Though this is true, not all of the actors were great.

Gore - 7 points. There wasn't any gore at all, but I don't think there was supposed to be. The effects were pretty good, which I'm glad for given the material. I'd hate to see a movie about a giant cheerleader that had terrible effects!

Comedy - 8 points. Since it wasn't meant to be scary, I'm omitting the "scariness" category and substituting it for comedy. It was definitely meant as a comedy, and it mostly succeeded. The material itself was comedic, and it did have some pretty funny moments. However, it wasn't as silly and funny as I'd hoped it would be. It could have done a lot better in that department.

Storyline - 10 points. I really liked it. The idea of anything giant is always intriguing to me, especially if it's a person (or a sea monster!). The idea of the plastic surgery injection thing was cool, I liked the little love story it had going on, and I loved how the movie ended on such a good note.

Overall score - 41 / 50


#276 -- Hard Ride to Hell (2010)

Director: Penelope Buitenhuis
Rating: 2 / 5

I guess if you read the synopsis of Hard Ride to Hell, it sounds pretty interesting. Sort of. But the main thing for me was Katharine Isabelle. I've always loved her, and I love seeing her in whatever I can. It's an okay story, with okay characters and actors. It's safe to say that everything about it was just so-so. It wasn't all that bad, and it did keep me intrigued, but somehow it failed to completely impress me.

It starts off as any typical horror movie does: a group of friends taking a camping trip in their RV. They're on their way to do something for Habitat for Humanity, though it's never really clear exactly what it is. A couple of them have a little sob story going for them, making it kind of easy for us to care about them. They stop at some campground (which is actually just an open field with a sign that says "campground.") to have some rest before the rest of their journey. When one of them gets drunk, can't wait for his girlfriend to get out of the bathroom and decides to go take a piss in the woods, things turn sour. He meets up with a snake, almost pisses himself again and starts running for his life. He, of course, gets lost. He ends up finding a group of bikers in the midst of some sacrificial ritual. He starts recording it on his phone, and then his worried friends try to contact him via the walkie talkie he forgot he had. The bikers hear it, and they go after them. From there, their little camping trip turns into a nightmare.

It turns out that the leader of this biker gang is an immortal satanist who used to be a priest. He's been going at it for at least seventy years, we know, maybe longer. He's trying to find a woman who can carry his child, which is conceived by fire or something. That baby will also be the anti-christ. When he meets Tessa, the woman who recently had a miscarriage and will do anything to have a child, he thinks that she might be the one. He impregnates her, and like, three hours later, the anti-christ is born.

The movie consists mostly of people getting bitten (because the satanic bikers are also cannibals; that's apparently what you've got to do in order to become immortal by way of satanism), a bunch of knife fights, and some mumbo jumbo that no one understands. Most of the characters were impossible to care about (including Katharine Isabelle, I'm sad to say), and the part of Tessa was played by Laura Mennell. I've only seen her in Hell's Gate: 11:11, but I didn't really enjoy her all that much. Or that movie. Her part here was pretty much the same: dull, dull, dull. That was until she became impregnated by a demon seed. She turned a little creepy, and I liked that bit. But the knife fights were kind of weird, and there really wasn't all that much to it. I have to give it some props, though, because it didn't bore me at all. I was interested the entire time, but I honestly can't tell you why. In the end, I wasn't entirely impressed by the movie. The material was good, and I think it could have made a wonderful movie if it was gone about in the right way. I think they should have went the comical route, because that at least would have given it a more lasting impression.


Storyline - 7 points. It was okay, though not completely original. The introduction of the cannibal bikers made it into something I'd never seen, so I'll give it some points for that. But overall, it failed to leave a mark.

Characters - 4 points. I liked the two main characters, mostly because I felt bad for their situation. But they hardly ever even interacted with one another, so it was difficult to feel any love between them. And the other characters were only filler. I was disappointed, since they had one of my favorite actresses available, but they did nothing with her. Oh, and the bikers. Their leader, Jefe, was okay. But the rest were far too comical for a movie that was otherwise not comical at all. They looked like they belonged in a Troma movie, which didn't fit here.

Gore - 5 points. There were plenty of knife fights and cannibals biting chunks out of people, but there really wasn't all that much blood present. Shame.

Scariness - 1 point. The scenes after Tessa was impregnated and possessed might scare small children. Might. 

Cinematography - 5 points. It looked like someone had at least a little idea of what they were doing. It didn't look like a home movie, but it wasn't mind-blowing either. So-so, like everything else here.

Overall score - 22 / 50