Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Tonight I saw a screening of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" at the Aero Theater with live commentary by director, Wes Craven.  It was a great experience from a great director in the horror field.

Robert Englund plays Freddy Krueger, a man who has been killed by a lynch mob for his criminal acts against young children.  Freddy is back for revenge by murdering the offspring of the people that killed him.  The twist is that he kills people in their dreams.

I think the movie is very well done and it holds up today.  Freddy is still just as frightening as he was 25 years ago.  Some of the effects are still amazing, such as the scenes with people being killed on the ceiling.  Others are not so great such as the last kill in the film.  But it still works.

I thought Wes Craven did a great job on this film, not only with his script, but his direction.  He really knows how to frighten an audience through tension and suspense.  Even though there are some ridiculously gory scenes, the film is not very graphic or realistic.  It is very dream like.  That is the way it was intended to be.  

One scene that I think is particularly scary is when the main character, Nancy, is visited by the corpse of her best friend.  The body is dragged down to the boiler room.  A blood trail is left.  Nancy follows it.  It leads her right into the hands of Freddy.  That entire sequence is really well done.  During the screening, Craven said he got the idea of the blood trail by the slime trails that snails left in his backyard. 

Since its release in 1984, Freddy Krueger has become one of the most popular and recognizable monsters of all time.  With seven sequels and a remake in the works, it seems as though Freddy will never die.

B+  I recommend it.

By the way...  After the screening of the film, I drove by the house it was filmed at.  It looks pretty much the same.  While I was out that way, I also drove by the houses that were used in the filming of "Halloween".  It was very exciting for me to see these famous film locations in person.  I'm glad I live so close to all of these great places.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pineapple Express (2008)

Ever since "The 40-Year Old Virgin", Judd Apatow has been the biggest producer of comedies.  I have seen just about every Apatow film and each movie gets worse and worse.  I loved his television show "Freaks and Geeks", but that's it.  I think all of his movies are extremely boring.  "Pineapple Express" is the worst out of all of them.

Seth Rogen and James Franco play best friends who smoke weed together.  Rogen witnesses a murder and the rest of the film is them on the run.

I have never seen a comedy that is so boring and unfunny.  I really wanted to turn it off 20 minutes into it, but I also wanted to give the film a chance.  I couldn't believe how bad it was.

In the beginning of the film, Rogen and Franco are watching "Krull" on TV.  That was the only thing that was good about the movie.

Apatow needs to stop producing these God-awful films.  I hated it.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Birds (1963)

"The Birds" is a very good horror picture from suspense master Alfred Hitchcock.  For no apparent reason, birds are attacking everyone in a small town on the California coast line.  

The movie is very good.  The suspense really works well and it is actually quite scary.  The scariest scenes are of those that take place after an attack from the birds.  Images of bodies with their eyes pecked out and a body lying at the foot of the front porch are some of the truly terrifying scenes this movie displays.

I thought the performances were very good in this film.  Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren seem to have real chemistry.  I liked how Hedren's confidence slowly deteriorates as the film progresses.  The best performance from "The Birds" is from Jessica Tandy as Rod Taylor's mother.  I thought she was very convincing in showing her terror.

I also thought the effects were quite good.  It really seemed like people were being attacked by birds, when in reality, they were animated.  A lot of the special effects were done by Ub Iwerks.  Iwerks is actually the first animator Walt Disney hired for his studio back in 1919.

I really enjoyed the use of sound in this film.  One of the best examples of its use is when the main characters are trapped in their house and they hear the birds outside.  It is so scary just hearing the birds, but not actually seeing them.  Another way Hitchcock uses sound so well is when Taylor's little sister's teacher dies.  Taylor decides to bring the teacher's body back into her house, but the audience does not see this.  Instead the camera focuses on Hedren consoling the little girl.  The audience only hears the sound of the body being dragged.

While this is not Hitchcock's best work, "The Birds" does remain to be a true classic of suspense.

B+  I recommend it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Of Mice and Men (1939)

"Of Mice and Men" is one movie I have been waiting a long time to see.  I am a huge fan of Lon Chaney, Jr. and this was considered one of his best performances.

I loved the movie.  Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney are cousins traveling to find work.  They dream of one day having a ranch to themselves where they can be their own boss.  In the meantime, they have to do hard labor to get the funds to buy the place.  Lon Chaney plays the huge, hulking character of Lennie.  Lennie is mentally challenged and he does not know his own strength.  Because of this, he is prone to get into trouble.  Fortunately, he has his best friend George (Burgess Meredith) to guide him along.

Lon Chaney's performance is really amazing.  My favorite role of Lon Chaney's is as Lawrence Talbot in "The Wolf Man", but this role is his best performance.  It really shows that he did have the talent to become a great actor.

Burgess Meredith did a great job as well and went on to be in some of my favorite things.  He played Mickey in "Rocky" and he appeared in some of my favorite episodes of "The Twilight Zone".  

The film is shot wonderfully and the music is some of the best any film has ever produced.

There are several scenes from this movie that are remarkable.  Lennie playing with his dog, the 'trouble' that Lennie gets into, and perhaps the best known scene is the fight that Lennie is forced into with a local hot head.  

I don't want to say what happens exactly in the film, but it is one of the saddest movies I have ever seen.

A  I recommend it. 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

I have seen this film before and I wasn't crazy about it.  After a second viewing, I have realized that it is actually quite good.

The film, directed by Rob Zombie, is about four people driving across country to find bizarre road side attractions.  After they hear the tale about a Dr. Satan, they decide to search for his burial site.  They end up being attacked by a crazed family and they are tortured in every way possible.

I have always liked the beginning of the film and I still think it's great.  A clown named Captain Spaulding runs a monsters and madmen museum.  The museum is full of neat artifacts and the tour he gives is really fun.

During the film, Zombie cuts to footage of other old monster movies such as "House of Frankenstein", "The Wolf Man", and "The Old Dark House".  I love how Zombie shows "The Old Dark House" to parallel the story going on this film.  

Look for Rainn Wilson from "The Office" as one of the main characters.  Something very strange happens to him that is reminiscent of the film "Freaks".  There are some very good performances in the film by Sid Haig, Bill Mosely, and Sheri Moon.  They all really seem like they could kill you in an instant.  Job well done.

In closing, the film is actually quite a good horror movie and if you can stomach some pretty intense scenes, you should see it.

B  I recommend it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)

I thought this movie had a great concept, but it was not fulfilled.  The concept is a world in the future where ailing people get organ transplants.  If they can not afford their payments on their transplants, The Repo Man comes and takes the organs back.  This sounded like a great horror story, but this film just had too much going on in it.

The Repo Man has a daughter named Shilo who has a blood disease.  There is this whole back story on how the guy who runs the organ donor company was in love with Shilo's mother, but then she fell in love with the Repo Man.  Then this guy who runs the company has three kids who want to run the company...  There is really no point in continuing a synopsis of the film.  It was all a bit confusing and complicated.  There were way too many characters to follow and too many subplots.  If they just focused on The Repo Man and his daughter, it would have made a much better film.

I originally wanted to see the movie because it stars Anthony Stewart Head from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer".  It was interesting to see him in this role and I liked his story line, but that was it.  The rest of the movie was just plain boring.

I can see how this can become a cult hit, but it just didn't work for me.  Great concept, bad execution.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Last House on the Left (2009)

This is a remake of the 1972 version directed by Wes Craven.  The original was just an ok movie and so was this one.

After attempting to murder a young girl named Mary, three felons take shelter in the house of Mary's parents.

The first half of this movie deals with Mary and her friend being tortured by these felons.  Some of the violence is very graphic and very real.  There is a rape scene that is very realistic, but that does not mean it is good.  It was very uncomfortable to watch.   

The second half of the movie deals with what Mary's parents do to take revenge on these people that tortured and tried to kill their daughter.  The movie does get better here.  The first half is so realistic that you just want these people to die.  When the parents start to get revenge, you can't help but feel great that these horrible people are getting what they deserve. But again, the violence is very graphic.  It's good for shock value, but to make a really good horror film, you do not need to see it.  

Overall, the movie is not great and it is not terrible.  It's just average like the original.  I would put it in the "Torture" film genre.  I am a huge fan of horror, but I just never really got into these torture movies.  


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The African Queen (1951)

I have always heard good things about "The African Queen".  People say it is one of the best films ever made and after viewing it for the first time, I have to agree.

Katherine Hepburn plays a missionary in Africa during World War I.  Germany has invaded her camp and destroys it.  All of the villagers are taken as slaves, but the Germans leave Hepburn and her ailing brother behind.  After her brother dies from his wounds, Hepburn decides to leave the camp with Humphrey Bogart, who plays the captain of a small boat called The African Queen.  The two come up with a plan to use gas tanks on board as torpedos to bomb a nearby German ship responsible for the invasion.  During their journey, Bogart and Hepburn fall for each other and they decide if it is worth their lives to attack the German ship.

There is one scene that I really liked in particular.  During their journey, they enter an area of heavy brush.  The only way to get the boat through is for Bogart to get in the river and actually pull it.  After a long while of pulling, they realize that there is nowhere to go.  They give up.  Hepburn then makes a very emotional prayer to God asking Him to welcome her and Bogart into Heaven.  During the night, it starts to rain heavily and the rains create a new flow in the river leading them to their destination.  Divine Intervention indeed... 

Bogart and Hepburn both do fantastic jobs in their roles.  Bogart won Best Actor in 1951 for this role.  It is his only Oscar and boy did he deserve it.  He sort of reminded me as a version of Quint from "Jaws".  

By the way, this movie inspired Walt Disney to create The Jungle Cruise at Disneyland.

A  I recommend it.

Pinocchio (1940)

The animation is amazing...  The music is beautiful...  The acting is brilliant...  These are only some of the many reasons why "Pinocchio" is the best animated film ever made.  

"Pinocchio" is the story of an old wood carver named Gepetto.  Gepetto has built a marionette for himself which he named Pinocchio.  Being childless and alone, Gepetto wishes for his "little wooden head" to come to life.  Later that night, The Blue Fairy makes his wish come true.  Pinocchio is alive, but he will only become a real boy if he proves himself worthy, kind, and unselfish.  With temptation at every corner, it is a difficult task to achieve.

Each frame of this film is beautiful.  The colors and amount of detail is something to really be appreciated.  Anyone who is interested in animation must see this.   

The characters are some of the best Disney has ever produced.  Jiminy Cricket is perhaps the best Disney character ever created and Stromboli is one of the best Disney villains ever produced.

The music from the film is nothing short of brilliant.  The score and songs are beautiful.  It won two Oscars in 1940 for Best Score and Best Song ("When You Wish Upon A Star").  

One more thing to note is the horror in the film.  Whether it is Lampwick morphing into a donkey or The Coachman with his hideous grin, "Pinocchio" has some truly terrorizing moments.

I don't want to take up any more space, but just know, I could write an entire blog on how great this film is.

A+  I recommend it.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Mummy (1999)

When a mummy is brought back to life, an ancient curse is upon the people that opened his tomb.  Looking to bring his bride back to life, the Mummy finds the soul of his lost love reincarnated in the body of a young modern girl named Evelyn.  It is up to Evelyn's friends to save her from the wrath of the Mummy.

Boris Karloff starred in the original and it is one of my favorite films of all time.  Many remakes are not very good, but this one I like.

The film is more like an Indiana Jones movie than a horror movie, but that does not hurt it.  I think it is a very exciting movie with great action, good story, and some good acting.  Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz both do great jobs in this film.  You really get to like their characters.

There are only a few things I do not like about the movie.  The effects are not that great.  It would have been much better and scarier if the mummy was a live human in bandages.  But what can you do...  
The other thing that bugs me is the comic relief.  Some of the comedic lines are just too over the top.  

But overall, I think "The Mummy" is a great action film.  I think it is very underrated.  

B+  I recommend it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Children of the Damned (1963)

Sequel to "Village of the Damned".  

It has become known that children with "special abilities" are scattered throughout the world.  A group of psychologists decide to bring them all together to study them.  When their power is learned and their lives are threatened, the children seek refuge in an abandoned church.  The rest of the film is figuring out what these "monsters" are and how to deal with them.

This film does not live up to the original.  It focuses more on the science fiction aspect of the story and not enough on pure suspense and horror.  The picture is way too talky.  

The children in this film are not nearly as frightening as the first film as well.  The children in the first film had much more character.  These children rarely speak and they do not look creepy.  They do have the eerie glowing eyes effect, but it is only used a few times in the film.  

The film is really a message about the atom bomb scare at the time.  I get that it is important to have these parallels to real life and to get a message out, but at the same time the film should be entertaining and subtile about its messages.  This film does not quite live up to that.  


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Village of the Damned (1960)

This is a great, eerie horror film.  Something has made everyone in the village pass out and when they awake, all the women are pregnant.  When their children are born, they have powers of controlling your mind and reading your thoughts.  Are these children from outer space?  Are they a government experiment?  No one knows.  But soon the children take control of the actions of everyone in the village.

The children look very creepy.  They are all dressed in their "Sunday best", have golden blonde hair, and have strange glowing eyes.  The children are a classic image of horror.  You will recognize them.

There is a scene of a man who is looking to kill the children for revenge of his brother's death.  This is a very intense scene and, I imagine, shocking for the time.

B+  I recommend it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

This film, directed by Brian De Palma, is terrific in every way.  It combines elements of horror, comedy, and musical.  It is a sort of remake of "The Phantom of the Opera" (one of my favorite films).  It also has elements of "The Picture of Dorian Gray".

The film is shot wonderfully with crazy angles and insane wide lenses.  The acting is very good with performances by William Finley, Jessica Harper, and Paul Williams.  Paul Williams also wrote the music for the film.  The music is fantastic.

Look for an opening narration by Rod Serling.  He mentions Disneyland!

B+  I recommend it.