Category: Horror Films


Insidious may not be the best horror movie ever, but for my money it is the best horror film of 2011 and probably the last 5 years.  Considering we’ve had some really great films come out in those years, that’s saying a lot, I know.  But I’ve got some hella good reasons for making such a grandiose statement. So even though I’m a bit late in reporting on this film, in this case later is definitely better than never.

I don’t want to get into too many details because — as I’ve said before — it is better to know as little about movies like this prior watching them and this is definitely a flick that proves my theory.  Knowing too much, even if the film is great, is kind of like sneaking into your parents bedroom and finding your biggest Christmas present in their closet on Christmas Eve.  You still get the gift, but the fun of unwrapping the unknown is sucked right out of the whole damn thing.  Such is the case with Insidious.

The premise of the film is straightforward:  a nice, young couple (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) thinks their house is haunted.  In fact, they are indeed being haunted — just not by a house.  It takes a little trial and error to figure this out, not to mention a little outside help from Barbara Hershey as well as a paranormal research crew led by Lin Shaye (who has been in numerous horror films, perhaps most notably A Nightmare on Elm Street – 1984).  But not to worry, they do eventually figure out what’s happening — or maybe, that is exactly why they should worry.

There are so many reasons why I loved this movie so much, but the biggest reason is because the film is smart.  In a world where remakes are a dime a dozen and generally seem to almost try to mangle the original, this film instead takes elements from other great films (The Shining and Poltergeist), adds some original ideas of its own and creates a great body of work.

Some critics have said that Insidious has bastardized Poltergeist because of the striking similarities between the two films.  I completely disagree.  Whereas the two films are indeed very similar, Insidious feels more like a modern extension of Poltergeist as opposed to a bad copy.  To put it simply, if you loved Poltergeist, chances are you will also love Insidious, because the film makers paid serious homage to Poltergeist instead of whoring it out.

As I mentioned, the film also adds some color of its own that shouldn’t go unappreciated.  For instance, one of the things they did (that you rarely see), is they actually show you the monsters.  All too often, film makers take the very good idea of showing very little of the monster in order to make it more frightening by letting your imagination do all of the work and somehow manage to ruin the entire concept.  Instead of using it as a tool to highlight a monster, they use it as the monster, and that just cheats the audience and screws up a potentially good film.  If I only wanted to use my imagination to conjure up monsters, I wouldn’t bother to watch movies.

That being said, some younger viewers (under 25) may not have the same level of appreciation for this film that I did.  First, they may have never even seen Poltergeist and therefore have no way to recognize the delicate tribute Insidious gives it.  Also, the film is only rated PG-13, which in itself is enough to turn off some young viewers.  They may not love Insidious as much as older viewers, but even they can get some enjoyment out of this solid, original flick.

IMDb RATING:  Once again, I find myself in disagreement with IMDb’s rating system.  They give Insidious a 6.9 rating, which is higher than most horror films usually receive.  However, it is my belief that it deserved at least an 8.  I know it’s nitpicking, but this film deserves it.

The Devil’s Rock, 2011

Set during WWII, The Devil’s Rock tells the story of two men (Craig Hall and Matthew Sunderland) trapped on an island on the eve of the Normandy Invasion.  The movie wouldn’t be very interesting from that aspect except one of the men is a Nazi and the other is an Allied soldier.  It also just so happens (or maybe not) that on the island with them is a demon, in this case a succubus.  As you know, I don’t give a lot of spoilers so as far as details go, this is all you get.  However, even though I refuse to tell you the whole story, I can tell you it is much better than you would think.

This film received 4.8 starts on IMDb, which I can only surmise came from people who are either not fans of the genre or turned it off before giving it a chance.  Why anyone would turn it off without giving it some time I don’t get because the opening scenery is fantastic.  That alone is what made me keep watching until things got interesting.

While the film is a tad short for my taste at 83 minutes, it still earns a solid 7 in my book.  I disagree with IMDb’s rating for several reasons, but the biggest is that this movie is quite simply one of the best horror films I have seen in a while.  The acting was great, the story was interesting (it kept me guessing) and the special effects were top-notch.  There was only one small scene where I balked at the special effects, and once you see the film you will know what I am talking about.  But that scene was still a good one.

This is one of those films that will no doubt get overlooked by many horror fans because they see a bad review or most likely, have never even heard of it.  So if you are a fan of great characters and the horror genre, do yourself a favor:  rent the movie, make some popcorn, relax and just enjoy this solid horror film.  I promise you won’t regret it.

ALSO WORTH NOTING:  Craig Hall, who some of you may remember as “Wilson” from 30 Days of Night, is an actor to watch — the man can act.  He is a refreshing change of pace from those pretty boy A-list actors that can’t act their way out of a paper bag.  I am looking forward to seeing more of him.  Also, don’t believe the cover art which says “Saw with a swastika.”  It’s not anything like Saw –but it’s still a great flick.

Alright, if you have not seen the movie Cowboys & Aliens and are planning to do so, be aware —  here there be spoilers.  As always though, I will do my best to keep them to a minimum.

Before you even walk into a movie with the title Cowboys & Aliens, you automatically know (or you should anyway) that there is going to be a pretty significant amount of disregarding reality you will need to do to enjoy the film.  While that is true with almost all films, a movie with this title demands it.  So, let’s set aside the obvious ridiculousness of the premise:  the idea that people in the wild west could possibly stand a snowball’s chance in hell of defeating aliens who came to Earth from outer space with technology and weapons that we in the 21st century don’t even have.  You will also have to really take a leap and believe that Harrison Ford is actually a nice person (at least for a portion of the movie).  Still with me so far?  Okay, good.

Our protagonist, Jake (played by Daniel Craig of James Bond fame) wakes up with amnesia (shocka!) in the middle of nowhere USA with some sort of wound in his side and a fancy bracelet attached to his wrist, which he cannot get off.  He is then  approached by some cowboys who threaten to kill him for no discernible reason that I could find, other than to give Jake a reason to kill them and take their horses, clothes and their dog.  He somehow manages to find his way into town, where he meets a preacher, the towns richest-man’s-obligatory-spoiled-and-annoying-son, Percy (Paul Dano) and a woman named Ella (Olivia Wilde, widely known as “13” from House).

Yada, yada, yada, the aliens come in ships and start taking townsfolk from above using what looked to me like an electrified version of the claw game we all play at the beach and never win — which just goes to show that apparently aliens are much better at that game than any human I’ve ever met, but I digress.  Turns out, they are taking humans to “study our weaknesses” (do I even need to insert a snarky comment here?) and the people taken may or may not still be alive.

Jake has flashbacks that he was abducted by aliens along with his girlfriend (although throughout the film she was really only referred to as “whore” and “prostitute” as if that had any bearing on the film, which by the way, it didn’t) which becomes his motivation for finding the aliens and kicking some alien ass.  Harrison Ford’s (Woodrow) son Percy was also taken (naturally), which is his motivation.  Along the way Jake realizes the thingamajig on his arm is a weapon and can blast the hell out of whatever he wants.

Lots of dull things happen between the abductions and the next interesting part of the movie, so let’s just skip to the end shall we?  The cowboys team up with the Indians, and some robbers that Jake apparently was involved with pre-abduction join in as well.  Turns out Ella isn’t quite who everyone thought she was, and there is some sort of weird Jake and Ella attraction plot which made no sense really, except they were of roughly the same age and the two most attractive people in the movie.  Earthlings and aliens fight, Earthlings win.  Hopefully, that part wasn’t too much of a spoiler for ya.

Summarizing this movie is simple:  it didn’t totally suck, but it wasn’t all that good either.  I found myself looking for a way to root for the Earth people for a reason other than just that they were, well, Earth people — but I couldn’t find one.  The film gives you no reason whatsoever to give a shit about anybody in this movie except the little boy (Emmett, played by Noah Ringer) and the dog (named “Dog” for crying out loud).  You just can’t discount the innocence factor of a boy and his dog no matter what the movie, except maybe Cujo.

I didn’t even hate the aliens all that much.  They weren’t scary (the CGI aliens from Signs were scarier, to give you a hint) and all they really wanted  was our gold.  Since I am trying not to give everything away, just trust me on this one, the aliens blew.  Aside from some hands coming out of their chests (we never find out why they do that BTW) they were unoriginal, mainly humanoid and felt like you had seen them a million times before.  Oh, how this movie makes you long for the aliens in Independence Day.

Bottom line:  I felt like this film was forced.  It came across as more of a vehicle to give Olivia Wilde some screen cred and to suck up to Harrison Ford (the signs are subtle, but there).  The things that  should have been important in this film were cast aside — there was no character development (other than Ford turning from total ass to mostly-not-an-ass by the end), there was only a slight motivation for the audience to care about the outcome and the aliens stunk.

The story line listed on IMDb was more interesting than the actual film, which is sad because the movie had a lot of great actors; but even great acting cannot overcome a bad script.  I’m not saying don’t go see it, just don’t expect it to live up to 1/10th the hype that has been generated for it.  Set your expectation meter to very low and you just may enjoy it.  Otherwise, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

From my brain to yours — peace out.

QUICK NOTE:  I usually mostly agree with IMDb’s movie ratings, but don’t here.  This film did not deserve a 6.8.  Using their 10 star rating system, I would give it a 4, maybe 5 at best — and either one is being kind.

First off, there is a lot of debate about what makes a great zombie flick.  I realize this, but that is not what this post is about.  This post is about my favorite zombie movies and it is worth noting that I have left off some of the old trail blazers that probably will make some hard core enthusiasts want to smack me.  That’s okay.  I understand, I really do.  Take for instance my feelings about Black Swan — I loathed this film, and for some horror fans to include it in some of their “best of” lists makes me want to puke.  So, yeah I get it, but nonetheless, here you go:

Return of the Living Dead

10.  Return of the Living Dead 2, 1988

Not a masterpiece by any stretch, but still a lot of 80’s fun to be had here.   Important note:  take the time to watch the first film before this one or you simply won’t get the full, intended enjoyment factor.

9.    28 Days Later, 2002

A foray into stupid-fast zombies, a poor guy who has no clue that the world has gone to shit while he took a nap and whacked out  military dudes.  Good clean flesh-eating fun for all!

8.   Dawn of the Dead, 1978

I shouldn’t have to say much here, but of course I do anyway.  You really don’t get any more scary than being stuck in a mall with zombies, bikers and hari krishnas.  (PS.  I hate malls)

7.  Day of the Dead, 1985

This film really never got the props it deserved.  What zombie fan (real zombie fan) doesn’t love the idea of being stuck in an underground bunker with a whacked out military, a completely nuts scientist and a loveable imp named “Bub”?  It is also worth watching just for the evisceration-by-zombie scene alone.  Rumor has it those were real entrails (pig, iirc) that were left out between shootings and were rank with a capital “R”.  Kudos to the actors for not adding puke to the special effects.

6.  Night of the Living Dead, 1968

Okay, this film started it all, but that’s not why it’s on my list.  I actually considered leaving it off entirely, but two things stopped me.  One, the scene in the basement with the little girl and her mother was classic filmmaking at its best.  She hacked her mother to death, right?  Shot in a very “Psycho” shower scene way, you never actually see the trowel hit her mother, yet you know it does.  Awesome.  Second, there is actually a moral here and is probably the only of Mr. Romero’s zombie films to ever make its point so damn well.  If you don’t know what the moral is, you need to go watch this flick again — right now.

5.  [Rec] 2, 2009

This is the second installment of the [Rec] franchise (a third one is already in the works) and boy is it awesome.  It is a new spin on the zombie idea (well, sorta) in that there is no “virus” (like say, rabies, ugh) that is causing all of the mayhem.  I won’t spoil it for you and encourage you to see the first one before watching this one, but it’s not totally necessary.  Either way, do not miss it.

4.  Return of the Living Dead, 1985

Classic and way ahead of its time.  One of those rare gems that manages to make you laugh and cringe at the same time.  Sheer perfection.

3.  Resident Evil, 2002

I understand that some gamers were not too thrilled with the Resident Evil movie franchise, and perhaps rightfully so, but I don’t give a rip.  For those of us who had never even heard of the game when we saw this, it was a thing of beauty.

2.  Dawn of the Dead, 2004

There are a lot of good reasons for criticism of remakes out there, but this ain’t one of them.  Same basic recipe as the original, but with it’s own meat and potatoes.  Again, another great one liner I love “You better get that shit right out your head.”   But then, I liked Andre, even if he did go batshit crazy in the end.  Did I mention I hate malls?

1.  Shaun of the Dead, 2004

As you can probably tell by now, I am a huge fan of the art that is blending horror with comedy.  I love it so much because — get this — it’s really fucking hard!  To do it this well, you have to be able to scare me and make me laugh at the same time, and that my friends, is what I call a slice of fried gold.

YOU PROBABLY DON’T CARE, BUT:  I did not include [Rec], the obvious precursor to [Rec] 2,  on this list but would have if it were a top 11 list, but alas, it was not meant to be.  Anyhoo, if you have not seen any of the films listed here, do not delay — you have a great zombie flick to watch!!

UPDATE 7/26/11:  After this writing, I discussed this list with my husband.  He feels that I am not being true to the genre by making Shaun of the Dead my number one zombie film.  I thoughtfully considered his input and decided that he has no idea what he is talking about.

UPDATE 7/30/11:  I thought about this list a bit, and decided to give Zombieland an honorable mention.  However, it will never be in my top 10 list based on the fact that I don’t really consider this a “real” zombie film.  Don’t get me wrong — it was a fun movie, had a great cast and had some zombies running around, but if we are to be honest with ourselves, it was really a road trip flick with some zombies tossed in.  Some of you will vehemently disagree with me here, and that’s cool, but I maintain that you just can’t put “zombie” in the title and magically make it a zombie movie.

Okay, here’s the deal.  While at lunch with a friend the other day, the topic of the movie “The Exorcist” happened to come up (these things tend to occur around me).  I explained to him that this remains the one horror film I cannot bring myself to view alone (or with other people for that matter) without getting a major case of the heebie-jeebies.  Watching it at all virtually ensures a few nights of a possessed Reagan’s nasty-ass face popping into my head at will as I make a feeble attempt at slumber.  So, yes I have seen it, and yes, that staircase crab-walk scene is fucking freaky.  Moving on…

Original Cover

Being older and wiser, he suggested I read the book and indicated that (as with pretty much all books) you get more insight into the characters and therefore the book freaked him out more than the movie.  Well, since the movie is my mental kryptonite, and if the book was somehow worse (better?  whatever) than the film, I had to read it post-haste.  Nasty pea-soup dribbled, sleep depriving face be damned!  I went home and pulled up my Amazon account, which is where our story begins.

As of today, simply typing in “The Exorcist” in Amazon’s search engine under the Kindle category, brings up many books but the first and only “Exorcist” book (by William Peter Blatty) is the upcoming 40th Edition, due out September 27th of this year and is therefore not available yet.  I thought, okay, well where is the regular, non-40th Edition that has been out since it was published in 1971?  After a few searches, I found the page for the regular version, but instead of the “buy with one click” option I usually have, it read only “add to cart”.  WTF?  So, I scrolled down and clicked on the “Kindle Edition” under Formats and was — what the hell?– redirected to the page for the 40th Anniversary Edition!  Gah!!!

Anyway, I have sent an e-mail to Amazon about this issue and to their credit I did receive a timely response and they are looking into it.  I sincerely hope that this is not what it looks like — a blatant attempt to force people to purchase the 40th Edition.  It does not make sense to do that, since both versions cost the same ($9.99) but you just never know these days.

I still don’t have the book and if I have to wait until September to get it, there is a slight chance (okay, a 100% chance) that I will forget about my quest and not order either version.  Damn.

UPDATE 7/30/11:  Well, I received a response from Amazon and it was within the window of time (5-7 days) they promised.  However, after deciphering the e-mail it turns out the old version for Kindle has been completely replaced by the 40th Anniversary Edition which, again, is not available until September.  I can still order the old version in paperback, and I probably will, but only because my husband talked me into it.  Well, that’s my story anyway.

For your viewing pleasure, here is the e-mail I received from Amazon, verbatim:   

Hello,

This is a follow up to the previous response regarding the kindle edition “The Exorcist”.

I’ve heard from the Kindle technical team and confirm that the link for the Kindle edition is correct.

“The Exorcist: 40th Anniversary Edition” is kindle version for the physical book (hard copy) “The Exorcist”.

Please be informed that only the 40eth anniversary edition of this title is available in a kindle edition. The older version of the title published in February 1994 is available only in Mass Market Paperback version.

For additional support:

www.amazon.com/kindlesupport

I hope this helps. We look forward to see you again soon.

%d bloggers like this: