Thursday, September 27, 2012

Blood Diner

Year: 1987
Director: Jackie Kong
Writer: Michael Sonye
Genre: Horror: Slasher, Comedy

Whenever I find a new worthwhile horror-comedy it is an amazing moment. I just watched Blood Diner and with one simple watching it has raced to a spot on my list of favorite horror films. It only ever takes one viewing for a film to cement itself there... Just one watch and I know that they'll be something I'll be happy to watch time and time again. So, how did Blood Diner manage to be such a success?

First, the plot is completely ridiculous. The story is of two brothers who have spent their lives preparing to resurrect their mad, cult-obsessed uncle. They dig up his body, scoop out his brain and eyes, and take him back to their vegetarian diner to have him lead them in their pursuit of cultish goals. Their goal is to summon an ancient Egyptian god. To do this, they work to create the god's vessel out of murdered bits and serve the leftovers to their customers.

For all the fun that the plot seems it doesn't even discuss the characters who really make the movie pop. The aforementioned brain/eyes combo uncle is hardly the star in comparison. There are two cops on the trail of these murders and of course they're dysfunctional. Instead of a buddy cop thing they're a perverted cop and serious cop. Their dealings with one another are impossible to believe and always entertaining. Then of course there are the two brothers. Though both are inept, one is more ridiculous than the other. Regardless, they work together well as goofballs who see nothing wrong with murdering people left and right.

Then there is the way that everything in the film plays out. Things are just too funny when, for example, a woman finds her best friend dead and being disemboweled. This freaks her right out and she scrambles for a way out of her situation. She grabs her purse, and everything spills out. Instead of reacting like a normal person who would just keep on running, she rushes back to hurriedly stash her cigarettes and makeup back in her bag. There are so many instances where utterly ridiculous things happen that it's almost impossible to believe. But Blood Diner does it and it all works well to be a huge laugh.

I really enjoyed Blood Diner and hope more people will give it a look. It's probably too silly for some horror fans, but for those who can take a joke it's great. This might even be a film that non-horror movie watchers would enjoy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Psycho II

Year: 1983
Director: Richard Franklin
Writer: Tom Holland, Robert Bloch
Genre: Horror: Thriller, Slasher

I don't know the history behind the making of Psycho II but I have a feeling it wasn't pleasant. The original Psycho is without a doubt a thriller classic to most movie fans. With such a well-known title it was probably the case that this sequel drew a lot of ire. Sure, modern movies get a lot of hate for remaking the old stuff, but to attempt to continue the story of Psycho must have taken guts. That, or a ton of greed.

Anyway, the film itself still has all the setpieces that made the classic - Bates Motel, home, "mother", etc. Despite all the effort to make it feel like the original though it doesn't make it. The movie seems to take cues from what the modern audience might have liked to see, instead of what made it good to begin with. It at points wants to maintain a mysterious and creepy atmosphere but then goes overboard.

For example, there is one scene that is obviously meant to play off the original. Someone is by the stairs and you know they're going to fall. I was wondering if they would attempt to replicate the creative camerawork of the original where the man fell down the stairs. However, judging that we would know this is coming, instead the character topples off the side of the railing and plummets straight down. The film is much harsher, and in fact, a bit too focused on getting the "kill shot".

This is why it feels like they were trying to appeal to modern moviegoers. At the same time though it also tries to play a straight mystery tale which may be too much for that same audience to bear. Where Psycho II finds itself is in a spot that is both appealing and unappealing to most audiences. There are parts for them to like but then others which will ruin the experience. I thought the film was fine but not worth the name Psycho.

PS: I did find Norman Bates' struggle in the film intriguing, until the film decides to take the easy road out with him. Such a shame to put all that effort to waste in the end.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

Year: 1984
Director: Joseph Zito
Writer: Victor Miller, Ron Kurz
Genre: Horror: Slasher

I'll readily admit that I don't know much about the Friday the 13th world. As such, I can't offer up any explanation as to why this film (the 4th in the series) is called The Final Chapter. I highly doubt that they were hurting for money at the time the movie was put together, so why even give it such a name? Perhaps it was the last piece intended to be put together by the old crew? I'll look into it sometime...

I'm glad that this film exists because it turns out it's my favorite of them all so far. What makes it so different is that there seems to be more focus than ever on the story. There are some college kids heading out to have a blast in some cabin, yes, but they're not the only people in the story. There happens to be a family nearby and a camper who is also in the area. With these stories (equally as important) alongside the youthful travelers it helps make a much neater experience.

It's the attention paid to making the characters all real and likable in some way that helped the movie immensely. Because I cared and could recall who each character was it made their deaths all the more troubling. There were a few deaths that confused me because they never really had a "pay off" scene. Although, now that I think about it, it was probably due to the nature of these characters that it might have been viewed as upsetting to give them a fleshed out death scene.

Strangely, this also ended up being the first Friday the 13th film that made me nervous. I wasn't completely scared but it was all shot in ways that helped amp up the tension. For once I was actually hoping characters wouldn't die and was screaming internally for characters to just run or do anything to save themselves. It was great fun, a bit scary, and overall a good movie. Now I can only hope that there are a few more gems in the Friday the 13th series before all the goofy stuff happened.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Friday the 13th Part III

Year: 1982
Director: Steve Miner
Writer: Martin Kitrosser, Carol Watson
Genre: Horror: Slasher

So, at some point I managed to watch the 2nd film in the Friday the 13th series and managed to completely forget it. Strangely, I recall formulating the post in my head but apparently that never came to be. Either way, the second film was fairly nice but I don't remember enough of it anymore. Regardless, I'm going to truck through the rest of the series...

The third film started off with a bang, mostly because I was digging the funky opening music. Apparently Friday the 13th Part 3 is also a 3D film, although I certainly didn't get to benefit from that. There were a whole bunch of funny obvious 3D segments, such as someone holding out some pot to smoke directly at the camera. It's fair to say that no other film would probably use that scene as a time to make use of the 3D effect.

Beyond that the story isn't the most exciting thing out there but it serves its purpose. It manages to get some teenagers to visit the camp. Everyone is separated, of course, and slowly killed off one by one. This is the slasher formula perfected as much as it ever will be and probably is the case for all the films. The only problem with it is that you never really see anything new. Still, for those who like a standard film this works quite well.

To be honest, I have never really loved Friday the 13th. It must be due to not growing up with it or something because I know it's a classic. Regardless, this just felt like another film and so far nothing that creative has sprung from the series. I'm hoping that later films may change my opinion.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Eyes of a Stranger

Year: 1981
Director: Ken Weiderhorn
Writer: Eric L. Bloom, Ron Kurz
Genre: Horror: Slasher

Eyes of a Stranger is one of those films that came out during the slasher craze but still managed to be something better than a simple body count flick. The story focuses around a woman and her sister who are living together... The local news is rife with stories of women getting sexually assaulted and then murdered. This would be scary enough for anyone living in the area, but it hits the main character especially hard as her sister was left blind and deaf after a similar attack.

Although this is easily considered a slasher the film doesn't focus on the ephemeral killer. Yes, there are some grisly kills in it (thanks to Tom Savini) but the main brunt of the film is much more focused on the struggle of the lead to find the killer. She doesn't want him around anymore and can't stand what he is doing to other women, in part because it is reminiscent of her sister's horrible experience.

When it comes right down to it, if it weren't for the fancy kills it would be a much more highbrow drama. I don't mean that as a slight against the film. What I'm saying is that if they were removed than snobbish film types would probably be really into this movie. It almost feels like something from Brian De Palma and is a great story. The lead character in particular really jived with me. I loved seeing her so driven to stop the evil she saw in her life.

If you're a slasher fan then maybe Eyes of a Stranger may feel a bit foreign, but it is a great movie all the same. It doesn't follow the same predictable patterns or focus on teens but that's hardly an issue here. I totally recommend the movie and if you're looking for more underrated slashers you should also check out The House on Sorority Row.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Murder Party

Year: 2007
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Writer: Jeremy Saulnier
Genre: Horror: Slasher, Comedy

If you were to see Murder Party on the horror movie shelf I would understand if you skipped right past it. The name isn't inspired... many horror films fall into this category. What is a reason to watch yet another slasher unless you're a slasher fan? For both fans of the genre and people who are involved in the art scene (yes, seriously) I think this film is worth a watch.

The movie begins by focusing on a very homely, geekish man. He is going about his day when he picks up a party invitation which was blowing around. It says little aside from announcing a "murder party". Since he would have nothing to do other than watch a horror movie with his cat, he decides to go to the event. Once he gets there though he realizes he should not have taken the chance as everyone there is going to kill him - for artistic expression.

Does it sound weird? Yes, it is pretty odd, but that's what the point seems to be here. These up and coming artists want nothing more than to get grants and become famous, and so they think that this is really going to impress the art world. Why aren't they worried about cops? It's probably the delusions of grandeur clouding their heads. Maybe drugs too. Either way, the film plays out as a cruel commentary on the current art scene itself. It's often a hugely funny romp despite some dark stuff that goes on.

That's why I suggest people participating in that world check it out. I'm sure that they would be able to understand and laugh at these portrayals the best. Even without really being a part of that world it was easy for me to see what was being made fun of and criticized. I'm also surprised simply by how long it took for most of hte killings to go on. Despite that, it didn't feel like the movie dragged much so that's pretty skillful on the part of the director. Murder Party is an indie film which feels just as fun as many other slashers out there.
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