Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dressed to Kill

Year: 1980
Director: Brian De Palma
Writer: Brian De Palma
Genre: Thriller, Slasher

In a weird way I both highly enjoyed this movie and felt let down by it. No, I didn't go into Dressed to Kill with high expectations or any at all. I watched a few seconds of the trailer before feeling that it would reveal too much so I closed it. This was probably for the best, although I have a sneaking suspicion that the trailer wouldn't have actually revealed much of the content either.

It's kind of hard to write about the film without spoiling a major plot point as well, although I figure that probably most people were long since aware of it. I'm just really out of the circle of De Palma. As such, I'm going to discuss everything.

For the introductory part of the film we're set with our keen eyes on a seductress who is also a mother. She seems to navigate both these planes rather well, although her personal marriage suffers. She speaks to her therapist about such things before going off on another man hunt. Unfortunately for her, after her rendezvous she is killed by a woman in an elevator. It's not immediately at the start of the film and pulls the rug out from right under you. If you were ever surprised by the switch in Psycho, that's how I felt here.

It was all going very well too until the manner of the killer came to the table. The killer was a "transsexual" to use the terminology of the film. I say it this way because the term has mostly gone out of vogue to describe such conditions of body dysphoria. Either way, the transwoman character, Bobbi, is fingered as the one who committed the murder. As it goes on you do find this to be true.

At first I thought that it was going to be some sort of flip flop situation where the trans patient was actually the hero of the story. No such luck. However, there was still an interesting twist tot he matter which was that Bobbi was actually the alternate personality of the therapist himself. Or rather, whenever his masculine self was brought forth, Bobbi would come out to shove it back away. That was interesting enough but it didn't matter because it still disappointed me.

I'm tired of seeing movies where the killer is trans. While I think this was a bit more intersting use of the whole thing, it still reeked of the idea that transpeople are so mentally unstable that they just become psychotic killers. Of course, this is no more true of this segment of the population than anyone else out there. I'm sure a more clever killer could have been devised, and this was at least an attempt at something different. I also enjoyed that near the end the characters discuss some trans facts without getting all grossed out. Although, it was a shame to see that they still assumed that every person with this condition must undergo surgeries to feel complete. But this was the 80s so I'll cut them all some slack.

As a film, it was wholly watchable and captivating. I was a little disappointed overall with the murderer but really if you can get past that then this seems like another De Palma classic.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Dentist 2

Year: 1998
Director: Brian Yuzna
Writer: Stuart Gordon, Charles Finch
Genre: Horror

The Dentist was an interesting experience for me when I watched it nearly a year ago now. I was only more recently made aware of the sequel. Once I heard of it though, I knew it was something that would need some viewing. After having watched the sequel I can now say that it's still a pretty nice film all by itself but pales in comparison to the original. It's still worth watching if you liked the first though.

So what is The Dentist 2 (sometimes subtitled "Brace Yourself") about? You've got the doctor of the first film who is getting psychiatric care. At least, it seems like he is until he weasels a needle he'd been hiding under his skin out during a session to escape. He flees from Los Angeles to a podunk little city named Paradise. Once there, he attempts to suppress his homicidal urges but they can't help but surface once again.

In regards to storytelling this movie is somehow even more campy that the first. It's got a huge air of impossibility around it but it still almost works since each of the characters is willfully ignorant of everything occurring. The doctor develops more of a personality in this film, although it's still not especially interesting. At least it gives you a taste of a character who isn't purely mindless.

What managed to impress me most about the first film, and this one as well, is certainly not the story though. It was the fact that the torture scenes in both hit close to home. I've never stayed in a hostel, or even moved into a dorm so all those types of stories are far away from my experiences. However, I have gone to the dentist and I do so regularly. I know what it's like to be stuck in the chair and have someone poking and prodding around in your mouth, sometimes hurting you. This film takes that familiar space and twists the person with the position of power into something menacing.

I've never had a problem with dentists, but even so The Dentist 2 manages to make me squirm. Aside from the reasons I just stated, it's also rare to see scenes of mouth/tooth torture in movies. Even though I don't mind dentists, I still wouldn't want to go see one right after checking out this movie. Overall it was a middling movie but still entertaining and plenty gross.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Silent Scream

Year: 1980
Director: Denny Harris
Writer: Ken Wheat, Jim Wheat
Genre: Horror: Slasher

With a name like Silent Scream, it's hard for a film to stand out. Although it feels more like a retro title than most, it also doesn't do much to distinguish itself. Either way, I've come to realize that name means absolutely nothing when going into a movie. All it does is possible make me go in expecting nothing and then come out with a positive opinion.

So what's the film all about? It starts us off with a college-aged gal who is looking for a place to rent out. Everywhere she looks doesn't work out though for one reason or another. SO when she finally comes across a nice house by the beach she snaps it up immediately. Of course her choice is probably the worst she could choose as there's some really messed up characters lurking in the home.

What follows is a pretty standard slasher in regards to young people, sex, and death. However, I found myself enjoying the whole movie quite a lot. It had a bit of intelligence with scares, and helped to build them up until there was finally a death. I like this method more than movies which will just do a brief build up and have the tension release immediately with a quick kill.

Something else that really stood out about this movie was simply the characters themselves. They're not particularly likeable, but they're good enough. They all seem to be real enough and have natural-sounding conversations and reactions to the events around them. I definitely always appreciate when characters don't sound like they're forced into a situation and seem removed from reality.

If you're a slasher film this seems like a simple classic with a lot of charm. It doesn't really go to any extremes and aside from a few elements is down to earth. I'd suggest watching it back to back with other under-appreciated slashers such as The House on Sorority Row.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Anime: Another

Year: 2012
Director: Mizushima Tsutomu
Writer: Ayatsuji Yukito
Genre: Horror: Thriller

Another is a 12 episode anime series which I decided to watch due to someone noting that the first death scene was horrendous. Without knowing a thing about the show I dove in and found it to be a horror anime, yes, but nothing much beyond average.

The basic premise is that this new kid comes into school and tries to befriend a classmate. However, everyone else in the class doesn't even acknowledge her presence. It's not bullying. It's almost as if she's a ghost. From then on, people start dying and a mystery as to why this all is happening is slowly unraveled.

As far as plot goes, I was a little annoyed that it was focused on ghost stories. For whatever reason, the few horror anime series' that I have seen are all ghost stories. Of course, the same is often true of Japanese film. The culture seems to have a huge interest in ghosts and ghost stories. I was looking for something a bit different. Perhaps it was because I came into it hoping for a slasher.... In a way it even is a slasher because a lot of deaths occur but the overall setup is different.

Anyway, again, the story didn't really attempt to do anything new. The visuals of death may have been "sickening" but that doesn't make the story itself incredible. For the most part the deaths weren't all that notable either, minus a few that were quite implausibly set up but neat all the same. It felt more like your average mystery but with some gore dumped on to make it feel more mature.

A lot of people enjoy Another but for me it's just another average horror show.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Unborn II

Year: 1994
Director: Rick Jacobson
Writer: Rob Kerchner, Daniella Purcell
Genre: Horror: Sci-Fi, Evil Children

The Unborn was a movie that I feel is entirely unrated. It received a remake in 2009, which I knew of, but also a sequel. The sequel was something which caught me completely by surprise. Although I didn't remember the end of the first film, it didn't seem like something that would lead into a new movie. Now I can understand what angle they took with it although there didn't really need to be a sequel to begin with.

So the story starts us off with a woman moving into a new neighborhood. Her overly cheery (and pesky) neighbors butt into her life almost immediately, pointing out the baby gear she has in tow. We knows he has a child but for some reason isn't bursting to pull out photos to show everyone. Something is wrong... but what?

We're also shown a woman who puts on some heavy sunglasses before marching up to a child on the playground and shooting him square in the face. WHAT? It's really this scene (the first in the film) which sets the tone for everything else that comes. The idea behind the story may be serious - that experimental artificial insemination might be going wrong - but beyond that it's a hilarious little film. Who really just wanders around in broad daylight shooting children between the eyes? Even if they are cannibalistic monsters it just feels incredibly hokey.

Because it does feel so ridiculous I was able to enjoy it a lot. It's a very dumb film and the twist doesn't even make sense if you really think about it. It was just put there to give you something else to worry about besides a bloodthirsty infant. But why would you even need anything else when you have that? The Unborn II made me think about a few things though despite how silly it was. For one, who are these movies about pregnancies gone wrong made for? Are they made for women to prey on their very personal fears? Or are they made for the same audiences as everything else?

Anyway, it was a truly goofy experience and would probably be good to watch with friends. The basic plot does keep in line with the original movie, so if you've seen it, you might as well give it a shot too. However, don't expect them to feel at all the same. If anything, it really feels more like It's Alive.

PS: The Unborn II's soundtrack has nothing on the first film's awesome score by Gary Numan and Michael R. Smith.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Year: 1976
Director: George A. Romero
Writer: George A. Romero
Genre: Horror: Vampire

Martin seems like the kind of movie that I would enjoy. It is George A. Romero's take on vampires which is not in a way you would have been likely to see from anyone else. Martin may or may not actually be a vampire, but whatever he is he is far from a magical being. He never transforms into a bat, isn't repelled by the cross or garlic, and can go out in the day just fine. He's your typical guy except for the fact that he is compelled to the blood of humans.

The movie definitely deserves credit for moving beyond the Dracula archetypes. It's nothing liek them and feels much more like Ginger Snaps than Nosferatu. Still, I didn't enjoy it much at all. Overall, the film really doesn't explain itself well and it leaves you hanging in a lot of ways. Beyond that, it doesn't feel entirely cohesive. It feels more like snapshots of various times in Martin's youth, all probably very close together, but just events that occurred... Nothing is necessarily connected.

Many people seem to really enjoy Martin but it wasn't for me. His method of victim-grabbing is rather interesting though when it works (or perhaps more interesting when it fails). The idea behind the movie also seems to be some sort of coming of age thing, which works, but it missed the mark.

Although I didn't like it, Martin still seems like the kind of film that gets called a classic in certain circles. No doubt it's a very interesting take on vampire films and I wouldn't mind watching something else like it in the future.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Year: 2007
Director: Franck Khalfoun
Writer: Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur
Genre: Horror

P2 is a film which betrays nothing with a title. Unlike more descriptive, if banal, titles such as Slumber Party Massacre and Cheerleader Massacre the movie P2 is an enigma. What is the P about? Is it a sequel? Somehow, despite even seeing the cover of the film (and reading nothing of it) I had no idea what it meant. This may be the best way to go into the film but I would have probably still enjoyed it if I knew the creative location.

P2 takes place almost entirely in an underground parking garage. So, of course, P2 is one of the floors of the place. In my mind, it seemed like it would be difficult to keep a story interesting and scary when you've got such a small, and mostly empty area to make use of. Of course, other horror films have taken on much more claustrophobic sets so why not a parking garage?

If you're expecting a massively horrific film then you probably won't find it. There's still some creepy stuff going on, yeah, but nothing incredible. Part of that comes from the fact that the antagonist is goofier than he is creepy. He was obviously meant to be a crazed guy but despite the horrible acts he does... it mostly seems like he's still a goofball. In a way this makes the movie more enjoyable though as it turns into a sort of black comedy.

There's some truly unexpected gore and creative situations but beyond that the film's location really is the only stand out piece about it. I enjoyed it but it certainly wasn't a revelation. Some people have definitely gotten more out of it than me though so who knows how it'll affect you. Checking this film out with friends is recommended because of it's meta-goofiness going on and may make you at least a little bit nervous about walking through parking lots.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Blob (Remake)

Year: 1988
Director: Chuck Russell
Writer: Theodore Simpson, Kay Linaker
Genre: Horror: Sci-fi

The Blob has always seemed like something that just isn't appealing to me. Despite never seeing the original or any of either film, they both just seemed super cornball. I mean, come on, you've got a big glob of slime terrorizing a town. What is meant to be truly scary about that? It just seems too funny. Although there's nothing wrong with funny horror based on weird living/non-living entities I just wasn't ready to watch.

Grabbing The Blob I wasn't sure what version I had but popped it in and started watching. As it turned out it was the remake and while it was excellent it may have forever tainted my future opinion of the original. I say this because the remake is so fun and has great effects that the original may just seem completely dull in comparison, which is really too bad. I guess I'll find out when giving it a watch.

Anyway, The Blob is a great, goofy film. It starts out with a meteor crashing in the forest. Aliens don't pop out or anything, but instead we see some weird pink goo bubbling in the rock. A homeless man pokes at it, gets it stuck on his hand, and is rushed to the hospital by the lead teens. Everyone watching the movie knows how bad this is, but the film lets it build up for a little bit... making you wonder just when something will happen. Once it does, though, boy it lets it out.

Like I mentioned earlier, the effects are fantastic. They are so perfect and if there is another remake in the future they will probably be ruined with computer graphics. What we see from this late 80s film is pure artistic skill of putting skeletal people inside a pink blob, which is somewhat translucent. It's super effective to watch a face slide into the front of the blob, or see the remains of people terrorized by it.

As far as acting and storytelling goes it was well done too. It all helped progress the ridiculous story forward and get you into the world. The way the organism was depicted made it seem actually fearsome as well, instead of as just some funny-looking goo. I wouldn't say it was actually menacing, but there were parts that were slightly nerve-wracking. Overall, it was a tremendously enjoyable film.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Year: 2010
Director: Adam Green
Writer: Adam Green
Genre: Drama, Thriller

Frozen is not a movie I've been dying to see for a long time. In fact, it was something that only recently came across my radar. Apparently I missed out on it completely around it's arrival in 2010. Basically, the film is about a group of three twenty something young adults who are having a day out on a snowy mountain. Between two men and one women, the men are best friends, while one of the men is dating the woman.

So, they all spend an awkward day together skiing and snowboarding then are finally ready to come on home. When they do, they somehow manage to get stuck on the chair lift back down the mountain. They came on a Sunday and the mountain won't be open again until Friday....

That's all 30 minutes in or so. For basically the rest of the movie they are stuck in a very small location. I worried that the film wouldn't be able to carry itself just on character interaction. However, it managed to showcase these three real-seeming characters who I cared at least a little bit for. Their reactions to the situation they found themselves in was the most important thing though. It's what kept me interested. If people were in this situation you might expect them to react in some of these ways.

Of course, everything goes wrong at every turn. Although it wasn't overall a gory movie there were some really intense scenes. For the first time in a while, at one point I found myself having to only half watch a certain scene. It just got into me (probably because the situation was realistic enough). I was a bit annoyed by some of the stupidity of the characters but after watching hundreds of slashers it shouldn't be surprising.

Overall, I think Frozen shared a strong experience. It's not the best film ever, or even all that great, but it makes you wonder about what could happen in all our lives. If you're someone who regularly plays around in the mountains though I would suggest you stay far away as it would probably be an especially tough film to watch.
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