Category: Inside Horror

31 Days of the Best Halloween Movies — Countdown Day 2

Ahh.  Hopefully, you watched House of Wax and really got a feel for the hot, melting feel of Halloween.  Okay, maybe you didn’t but Phyllis Kirk certainly did.  Mwuahhahhha!  Ahem, moving on.

Our next installment of “get you in the mood” Halloween flicks is none other than:

Jeepers Creepers, 2001

This is one of those movies that you really aren’t sure how to categorize because it is so just — out there.  However, in this original installment we have two siblings (Gina Philips and Justin Long), traveling alone in a car only to have their innocence disrupted by a devilish fiend come out of nowhere and try to eat them.  The acting is fantastic, as are the plot and visuals as the monster is one of the creepiest things I have seen in a long time.  Keep in mind that you may not want to remember those visuals after all… or the song Jeepers Creepers.  Trust me on this, after seeing this movie that song will forever remind you of this gruesome flick — and that dude with the teeth.

31 Days of The Best Halloween Movies — Countdown:  Day 1

In order to really get into the Halloween spirit, I always find myself wanting — scratch that — needing to watch movies that put me in the mood for all kind of ghouls, goblins, ghosts, zombies, and whatever else makes we wake up shaking in the middle of the night.  So this year, for every day in the month of October, I will post a film that is in my top 31 of the scariest of all time, starting with the least scary right down to what really makes me need a nightlight.  However, be warned — they are the 31 scariest of ALL horror movies ever made so none will be an easy viewing experience.  Keep in mind that I;  A) Am not including any films with any sort of funny aspect to them and B) Some younger viewers may not be able to fully appreciate the older films no matter how aweseomely awesome they are.

So, without further ado, the first film you should watch to get thyself in the Halloween mood is:

House of Wax, 1953

First of all, it’s Vincent Price people.  Vincent Price!  However, the story is fantastic as well as the special effects.  For those of you who grew up with no idea what these guys had to go through before CGI and color films — educate thyself.  This movie is a classic that every horror fan should have in their repertoire.  The rest of you who do have an idea just how wonderful this film is — do yourself a favor, rent or download and enjoy!

Dark Matters

I recently became aware of the show Dark Matters on the Science Channel, hosted by none other than our favorite mad scientist John Noble  (of Fringe fame and wow, what an old photo, but I digress).  I noticed the show simply because ads for the show have recently been appearing everywhere (I am pretty sure I saw one during a repeat of Frasier) but if you haven’t looked into what the show is about or actually seen it, you should.

If you are a horror and science fan, such as myself, this is a show you will become addicted to, and for good reason.  It has elements of the macabre, but also makes you really think about some of the scientific discoveries we have come to think of as commonplace today.

For instance, they have had episodes ranging from Alien Hand Syndrome to the Cold War — all of it factual and scientific, no matter now bizarre or strange (one episode acutally made my husband leave the room).

Believe me, this is NOT a show you want to miss.  The only thing I regret about this posting is that I did not let you know earlier.  I even love the tag phrase of the show:  “Question Everything” as I hope all of my readers take to heart and do so themselves.

House of Dead Trees — By Rod Redux

For those of you who have read my previous entry about Mr. Redux, this review really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.  But, just in case you missed it (or just don’t want to click the link above and read it now) it is this readers opinion that Mr. Redux is going to be the next Stephen King.

First, for all of you King fans out there know this:  I love Stephen King.  I always hesitate to say that I’m his Number One Fan for (hopefully) obvious reasons, but damn if it hasn’t felt that way for a very long time.  In fact, I can say with all honesty (and experience) that he is the only “star” I would ever probably get arrested over if I saw him in real life.  His writing, even the books I didn’t like (and yes, there were a few) took me to places and fired up my imagination in ways I will never be able to fully express to someone else — or for that matter, repay Mr. King.

Second, I am NOT writing this review in a positive light just because Mr. Redux commented on my review of the movie The Thing.  Although I do freely admit to a moment of childish glee and indecision as to how to react (including whether I should even mention it here), I would never write a review that wasn’t true to my feelings about the subject matter.

Okay, so now that that is out of the way, on to the review…

The story centers around a group of paranormal investigators who get the chance of their lives (for their TV show “Ghost Scouts”) to investigate one the country’s most haunted houses — The Forester House.  Now, if you are anything like me, the idea of investigating a haunted house sounds fabulous, but when work, family life and geography get in the way, a show or book about someone else doing it will do just fine.  Such is the case with House of Dead Trees.

However, what this book does in addition to a haunted house tale, is give the book a backstory that in itself could be published as a short story or small novella.  In fact, since the book starts out with the backstory, I was so enthralled with it that I didn’t want that part to end.  Obviously it did, and we are then led into an entirely different story, with the backstory interwoven into it.  That, my reading friends, is what I call a great book.

The biggest thing I fear whenever I write a review that is so glowing that you are let down once you crack the pages or press play.  Although I went in expecting a lot from Mr. Redux , I was not disappointed one iota.  But as you know, all stories, movies, and tall tales affect each of us differently.  So please go in simply with  the idea that this is supposed to be a pretty darn good book, and let your imagination do the rest.

PS — I do apologize for not updating here more regularly, but alas, real life does occasionally interfere and such is the case with yours truly.  My promise to you is that I will update as often as possible and as long as my fingers still remember asdfjkl;.

Movie Review: The Thing 2011

First thing you should know before deciding upon if you should view this movie is that it did its damnedest to stay true to the 1982 version — which was the smart thing to do.  Clearly, they were well aware of the fan following of Mr. Carpenter’s version and knew not to screw with the fans who know everything — including every line to the 1982 film.  So, rule number one of sequels (this is still technically a sequel) was not broken:  do not, no matter how much you might want to, forget why the first one was successful and commence to mess it up.  However, you also don’t want to simply copy the first one and throw in CGI and a female lead — which is pretty much what happened.

It all starts with that dang block of ice doesn’t it?  Yes, even though The Thing 2011 is a prequel to John Carpenter’s version in 1982 (which was a pseudo remake of the 1951 version titled “The Thing from Another World“), the concept of opening up Pandora’s box — or in this case, a slab of ice — never ends well.

In this version we have our heroine Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, of Final Destination 3 fame) who is reluctantly sent to Antarctica to assist in a Norwegian dig of a spaceship and an unknown life form frozen in a block of ice.  Her nemesis, Dr. Halvorson however, informs her pretty quickly that she is only there to assist in digging up the specimen and “not to think”.  Nice.  What bugs me about this is that younger people (specifically this movies screen writers) seem to think that 1982 was horrific in terms of women’s rights.  Well, they weren’t perfect then and they aren’t now, but how about you learn a little history — starting with say, 60 years ago and keep going back — then let’s talk, shall we?  But once again, I digress.

As much as I love John Carpenter’s version, I was quite surprised that I only found two things to bitch about in this one — but they are important.

The first flaw in this adaptation is the number of people at the Norwegian station.  There are so many characters that you lose the intimacy that John Carpenter’s version captured so perfectly.  There are no moments of normalcy in their rooms watching TV and smoking weed or tooling around on roller skates.  Instead, all you have is a lot of people shooting pool and drinking like fish in a common room.  Another  problem with this many characters is that during the chaos you also tend lose track of who dies and how, but hey, maybe that was just me.

The second flaw is how Kate figures out what is going on — i.e. what The Thing is and what it does.  I cannot for the life of me understand how a group of scientists who claim to want to rely only on science to solve the puzzle of The Thing completely dismiss what was seen under a microscope.  Worse, didn’t even think to look again.  Without giving too much away, suffice it to say that Kate’s discovery of how The Thing operates is a novice and intelligence insulting attempt to not copy the 1982 version of discovery.  Well, at least they tried.

Anyway, if you are a fan of the 1982 film of course you are going to watch this one.  Just understand that although the creature effects are good (as they damn well should be) the movie really isn’t a whole lot more than a re-do of the 1982 version while at the same time trying to keep symmetry with the fact that it’s a prequel.  I do give them mad props on taking the pains to make sure every little detail leading up to the 1982 version was spot on and that they at least tried to make a good movie, even though they had some really big hype to live up to.

Hellraiser:  Revelations

My initial instinct after watching this movie is to tell you to run far, far away and not to look back.  However, I realize that nothing I can say or write  is going to stop a true Hellraiser fan from watching this flick, even if it’s out of pure curiosity.  Nope, the best I can do is give you a glimpse of the plot in order to keep your expectations managably low.

So, our story centers around two pals, Nico and Steven who take a road trip to Mexico to do what teenage boys do best in Mexico — get drunk and have sex with hookers.  Well, okay have sex with and then kill hookers, but same difference really.  Just kidding, only Nico kills a hooker.  Anyway, after that Nico and Steven are somehow still in the same bar where Nico committed murder when they are approached by a very bad version of the derelict who offers them a puzzlebox.  Nico, being the total whackjob that he is, accepts the box and forces Steven to videotape him opening it.

At this point we jump forward (well, the movie jumps back and forth, but for ease of understanding just go with me here) to Nico and Steven’s parents, along with Steven’s little sister (also Nico’s girlfriend) as they lament (ha, ha) the loss of Nico and Steven who have gone missing apparently some time ago.  Steven’s little sister (Emma) finds the Lament Configuration (puzzle box) in Steven’s room and starts to try to open it, seemingly causing Steven to show back up.

The parents are all agog at Steven’s return and begin to question him about Nico’s whereabouts.  Steven tells a story (hence the jumping back and forth mentioned earlier) about the box and the cenobites, and expresses fear that the cenobites are coming back.  Lots of things happen after this, but to tell you would ruin the whole damn movie and frankly, if you’ve invested this much time it seems best to just let the movie do that for you.

Now for the overview.  While the movie is filmed in that low-budget direct to DVD style that I loath (you know it when you see it), I did get used to it pretty quick and promptly forgot to obsess about it.  This is mostly due to the fact that the acting in Revelations is actually pretty good.  Also, although I had an idea where the plot was going, the jumping back and forth did manage to take a mediocre story and force you to follow and therefore be interested in the goings-on.  I even understood the pseudo-pinhead character (not to be confused with the not-Doug Bradley Pinhead) and I believe his presence in the film was to explain (sort of) this new pinhead since Doug Bradley did not reprise his iconic role in this installment.

In a nutshell, Revelations is nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it is also not even close in caliber to the original films (especially I and II).  I know, I am biased because any Hellraiser just doesn’t feel right without Doug Bradley.  However, I did keep thinking that (minus a few hokey pinhead lines) if Doug Bradley had signed on and the budget were bigger, this could have been a pretty decent installment.  Yes, it’s pretty much a bad re-do of the original Hellraiser plot, but if you can get past that, you probably won’t want to kill yourself for investing an hour and a half of your time watching it.  Probably.

The Exorcist, 40th Anniversary Edition by William Peter Blatty

For those of you who read my earlier post about the 40th Anniversary version of the 1971 novel The Exorcist, you have probably guessed by now that I crumbled like a cookie and bought the book.  Yes, I caved but it should be mentioned that I did at least wait until it came out on Kindle, so that’s something I suppose.

If you didn’t read my earlier post, a few months ago I was in a bit of a tizzy over the fact that I could not get the original Exorcist book on Kindle, but the 40th Anniversary Edition was available for pre-order and I’m no fan of pre-ordering anything.  So, I bitched and moaned about it, but in the end, once the damn thing was available I paid $9.99 for a book that I had seen the “based on the book” movie of at least 25 times and the directors cut at least 5 (seriously, after so many viewings I lose track of exact numbers).

First, if you have seen the director’s cut of the Exorcist movie, you have pretty much read the 40th Anniversary Edition book with a few (at least one notable) changes.  There is the addition of a new character, who in this readers opinion was a positive change.  It’s not that the story depended on this new character in any real way (because it didn’t), but it’s still an interesting and atmospheric change that definitely adds to the creepy factor, which is a good thing.

One change that really stood out for me, was the Regan crab-walk scene, not seen in the original but is definitely a standout in the director’s cut.  In the director’s cut, Regan crab-walks upside down/backwards down a flight of stairs.  Honestly, it’s one of the freakiest moments in movie history — ever.  The idea it could possibly be even more disturbing truly seemed impossible to me, until I read the 40th Anniversary Edition.  Now, based on the fact that this scene was in the movie I can only assume it was also in the original book (which I didn’t read).  However, either way the scene in the movie — as awesome as it is — pales in comparison to the scene in the book.

The biggest difference for me, however, was Regan’s mother, Chris MacNeil .  In the movie, although you could probably argue casting, her character was just not very sympathetic to me.  I was clearly aghast at what was happening around her, but she came off as snarky and well, sort of a self-involved bitch.  Her character in the book is much more of a real person and therefore, more relatable.  So, the film portrayal notwithstanding, I actually gave a damn about her.

Anyway, if you are one of the myriad of people who has seen the movie but has never taken the time to read the book, now is your chance and I recommend you seize it.  You really do find not only some gems of details you simply can’t get out of a movie, but you also get the benefit of a newfound appreciation for one of the greatest horror stories ever told.  Mr. Blatty may disagree with my overall opinion of the differences and that’s okay.  Regardless, I still must say thank you Mr. Blatty, thank you very, very much for keeping me awake too many nights to count.

The Walking Dead, Season 2 Premier 9pm EST


DON’T FORGET!!  Only 5 hours left until The Walking Dead Season 2 Premier!!!  To get in the mood, why not check out the all-day marathon running right now on AMC?


Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, 2010

Any fan of Guillermo del Toro can’t help but anxiously await for the release of his new films and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is no exception.  If del Toro somehow missed your notice (I don’t know, perhaps you live under a rock) he is well known for such visual masterpieces as Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade II and the two Hellboy films.  It also doesn’t hurt that he has been nominated for an Oscar and won a slew of other awards.  For this fan, however, it is del Toro’s stunning landscapes and intricate imagery that usually has me salivating in anticipation of his next flick.

So yes, the imagery in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is beautiful.  The old mansion in which most of the film takes place, along with its grounds, is something you are more likely to see in your imagination than in real life.  Also, as is his style, the use of contrasting color and interwoven collages always have your eyes noticing things in the background that otherwise would be just another prop.  To sum it up, although del Toro didn’t direct this movie — he wrote and produced it — he has once again done his job and done it well.

The plot centers around Alex (Guy Pearce, Memento), Kim, Alex’s girlfriend (Katie Holmes Cruise) and Alex’s 8 year old daughter, Sally (Bailee Madison).  As Alex and Kim are restoring an old mansion, little Sally comes to live with them in the mansion as the renovation is under way.  As kids are wont to do, Sally investigates the grounds and finds a basement not yet unearthed by Alex and Kim.  It is in this basement that bad things originate and soon Sally has a very real reason to fear for her life, but naturally dad and Kim aren’t so believing of Sally’s tales.  For all of its beauty and wonder by way of the scenery, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is little more than  a dark twist on the tooth fairy; think the tooth fairy meets Gremlins and there you have it.

First let me say that this is a good movie.  However,  (you knew it was coming, right?) I believe the biggest downfall of this film is how it was marketed.  I only saw references to it here and there before viewing, but nowhere did I see that it was a children’s horror movie.  It’s a really good children’s horror movie, but your average adult will find little to make them jump and certainly isn’t going to make them leave any lights on.  That being said, I can see this movie scaring the crap out of the 7-12 year-old range of kids and most likely, ruining the tooth fairy for them for quite a while.  If I had children I would love to sit and give them their first taste of a horror movie with this flick.  But since I don’t and was expecting an adult horror movie, the movie fell short for me.  Nonetheless, I still recommend giving a watch, and breaking my rule of not knowing anything about a movie before viewing.  In this case, if you want to enjoy this movie, it’s definitely a good idea to keep in mind what you are in for before hand and make sure you take the time to enjoy del Toro’s outstanding visuals.

SCIENTOLOGY ALERT:  We all know that Katie Holmes is the poor child who got herself married to Scientolo… er, Tom Cruise, and it does rear its ugly head in this movie.  However, it is only a very small (and unnecessary really) part of the film, and happens to be the one area I agree with the Cult, I mean “Church” of Scientology — doping our kids up with drugs is not the best decision in the world.  I’m not a cult member, so I do believe that in some cases it is necessary, but let’s be real — we do tend to over medicate our kids these days.  Anyway, like I said, the anti-drug message is in there, but it’s pretty small and if you don’t loath Scientology like I do, you probably wouldn’t even make the connection had I not done it here.  I only mention it because I like to make sure we are all aware when a real monster tries to insidiously enter the picture.

**Also, in case you weren’t aware this film is a re-make (of sorts) of the 1973 movie of the same name Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.

Grave Encounters 2011

This film should not be confused with the reality television shows Ghost Adventures or Ghost Hunters.  Although, if you only caught the first 30 or so minutes, you would be hard pressed to know the difference since Grave Encounters follows the crew of a pretend TV show (of the same name)  as they investigate a defunct, yet supposedly haunted joint named Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital.

First off, we all know that movies that have X people trapped in X closed and creepy psychiatric hospital have been done to death (ha ha!).  But really, it is to the point where if you have seen one, yes, you have seen them all.  The only thing these movies usually have going for them is the fact that closed psychiatric hospitals are by their very nature creepy as hell, thus usually making it the star of the movie regardless of who the actors may be.  While this is no doubt true for Grave Encounters, it is also true that this particular film is actually pretty damn good.  Confusing and at times mind-bendingly stupid, but I still had fun watching it.

After setting up their cameras and whatnot for their evening locked in the hospital, bad things start to happen pretty quickly (yay!), but you do have to stick with it for a slow 30+ minutes beforehand.  The crew — lead investigator “Lance,” (Sean Rogerson), tech guy “Matt” (Juan Riedinger), camera man “T.C.” (Merwin Mondesir), just-to-have-a-girl-in-it “Sasha” (Ashleigh Gryzko) and fake psychic “Houston” (Mackenzie Gray) —  expecting another boring night, find themselves actually dealing with true paranormal activities.  Lance wants to continue investigating, finally getting something real on tape but the rest of the crew isn’t so keen on the idea.  However, the arguing becomes moot when they realize that they are in fact trapped inside the hospital with only God knows what.

This introduction really doesn’t do the film justice, but in order to do that I would have to give away a lot of what makes the film unique and more importantly, fun, which I refuse to do.  Grave Encounters will never be voted best horror film of anything, but it is a really nice twist on a very over done idea and surprisingly, I only found a few things to bitch about and they were minor in the overall scope of the film.

Normally, I would list here the things I didn’t like about the film, but I’m feeling generous today so instead here’s 5 things they did right:

  1. The black guy isn’t the first person to die.  I find the fact that this still happens to be insulting especially since far too many horror movies still only cast one token black person in the first place.  If the setting dictates it, fine.  But otherwise — seriously?  It’s 2011 people, not 1911.  Just sayin.
  2. The characters are actually smart (mostly).  Praise is deserved for whoever decided to give the characters a chance to use their brains and think through situations as opposed to making one stupid decision after another.
  3. It keeps you guessing.  You are never really shown or given a nice tidy reason why everything is happening.  This works because you are just as lost as they are in trying to figure out the situation.
  4. Poking a bit of fun at the current reality ghost-themed TV shows.  Lance will no doubt remind you of Zak Bagans from Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, and had to be intentional.  Mackenzie Gray as Houston, the fake psychic, is pretty funny too.
  5. It’s not afraid to go dark.  Although most of the movie is just a fun treat, it does go a bit dark in the end.  I did not see this coming and have to say I was very happy to see it.

So, don’t go into this expecting award winning material here, but do expect a few jumps, a smart film and a main character (the hospital) that as always deserves more credit than it gets.

Forest Haven Asylum

REAL ASYLUM INFORMATION:  In the film, the fictional Collingwood hospital is located in Maryland.  Whereas there is no such hospital in Maryland, there is at least one that the locals love to trespass on — little known Forest Haven Psychiatric Hospital.  If you really want to get in the mood for Grave Encounters, do a bit of research on Forest Haven first and you won’t be disappointed (these links should help).  If you are near Maryland and thinking about visiting, be aware:  Someone takes trespassing there very seriously — but who and why, I don’t know.  I only know that I tried to get on the grounds myself about 2 years ago and was turned away by some very shady characters (no uniforms) and this seems to be common amongst would-be visitors to the site.  Anyway, enjoy!

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