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Posts Tagged ‘Halloween’

  
There’s always a well of playful joy that courses through my body anytime Evil Dead comes up. Whether it’s rewatching the original films or watching previews for the upcoming show (Ash vs Evil Dead!!), a part of me regresses to a fifteen year old, all giddy with excitement. Even the subpar video games were playable because of this.

  
And it was with this excitement that I sat in an old, uncomfortable seat in Renton, Washington for Evil Dead the Musical.
For a musical I’ve seen four times, I was still able to easily find enjoyment in the production. While it wasn’t the best production I’ve seen, it did manage to surprise me with some creative dialog, and even adding a character. 
The vocal performances were not great, however. Cues were hit and the dialog was funny but with the exception of one or two performers, the singing was average at best. The actors could hit all their notes but the harmonizing was off, perhaps because of the changing of ranges needed to accommodate the differing styles of the actors. The acting was decent and silly when it needed to be and serious for the few moments of poignancy. The performers and crowd seemed to be feeding off of each other, the latter of which loved it. This was perhaps due to the subject and knowledge of the source material rather than the performances. Or perhaps it was the copious amounts of fake blood that was unabashedly thrown and splattered onto the pre-warned crowd. Squirt bottles, small balloons, and even a hose were used within the “splatter zone” (roughly the front half of the theater). The end was especially messy. There was so little pretense that the actors, supposedly in the midst of a climatic battle, would bring out buckets full of red liquid and dump it over the heads of select audience members. Not the most verisimilitude for a show but the crowd couldn’t care less.
This musical has become almost a tradition for me. Whenever it’s playing at a theater in town, I try to see it. I’ve never regretted that decision. I had a great time, as did my wife who, never having seen the movies, found the experience a good one. I just need get her into the splatter zone next time šŸ˜‰

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I had a great time writing up all those reviews last month and as a follow up, I went to the EMP today and checked out their horror exhibit. Although it was small, there were plenty of videos, telling the history and interesting facts of some of the scariest movies there are. The videos were interesting to watch and hearing the opinions of people in the business like Hostel’s Eli Roth about Evil Dead 2 was a great thing for any fan of the genre.

Since the exhibit was small, it might not be worth the $20 entry fee. But any member should check it out and the horror can will find some cool things there. Check out the pics and see for yourself.

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This has been a Halloween season of putting things to rest for me. Films I’d been deathly afraid of have been tame upon watching. I’ve built these films up too much in my head that they can’t possibly match my fears. I’ve also seen a lot of films at this point, films that have built upon and improved what the older films started to the point where it’s difficult to tell where some concepts began.

 

Jacob’s Ladder was a film that had me freaked out growing up. From the scenes I’d seen flashes and parts of, I thought it would be a nonstop nightmare of demons and hellish beings. While it isn’t that, there are some creepy scenes and startling jump scares that are effective scare points in a tense and multi-layered story. The more hellish aspects of this are great and an obvious inspiration for my favorite horror game seriesĀ Silent Hill. From the start, the film creates a creepy vibe the sets the groundwork for the journey Jacob Singer must take as he deals with the happenings around him. The early scene in which Jacob makes his way home through the vacant subway is dark and creepy and replicated to great effect in theĀ Silent Hill games. I’ve written about this before, how common areas bereft of other people makes for an uncanny feeling in the brain. It’s a primal feeling we all experience when something we expect doesn’t match what we see. It’s the commonality of all horror and it’s created to great effect here.

Tim Robbins is good here in the title role and a friend of mine who normally doesn’t like him, thought his performance was one of his best. That being said, I didn’t find him terribly different than his other roles and he lived in this role as a Vietnam vet quite nicely. There are also a few other fun cameos that may not have been as noticeable back in 1990 but now they stand out. They don’t undermine the story though, likeĀ The Ring 2‘s cameo which was a laugh out loud moment that shouldn’t have been in a movie like that.

Anyway, I’m glad I finally saw this and put my fears to rest. I wanted more out of it but overall it was an effective story worth seeing. If you like your horror stories told in a mind bending kind of way, check this one out.

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Before I had ever seen this movie, my friends and I used a clip of this for our German class video project. It was one of the most disgusting things I had seen at that point; a still living man held up by chains and hooks through his face, his arms, his legs then getting pulled apart, his blood and guts spraying everywhere. Having seen the entire movie since, it’s debatable if that was the most disgusting thing in that movie.

Hellraiser is the story about an unfaithful woman whose back-from-the-dead lover has her bring him people so he can suck the life out of them. By returning, the lover has broken rules which brings the cenobites, a group of hellish beings with the goal of bringing him back to hell.

It’s a fun romp.

I enjoy most movies that has a travel between worlds aspect to it. In this film, that world is hell. Though we only see a glimpse of it, the idea that it is an actually place one can travel to is frightening but interesting all the same. It makes for true fear because it’s just as easy going to hell as it is going to Norway. Well, maybe it’s a LITTLE more difficult but it feels like you could get dragged there at any time. The movieĀ Event Horizon had a similar aspect, as well as theĀ Doom video games. All of these feature Hell as an actually travel destination that, under the right circumstances, you can walk around in. That is horrifying.

For those that don’t know, this is Clive Barker’s first foray into directing. He has gone on to create some strange and disturbing things but this may be his most enduring creation. Part of the reason is the genesis of the creepy Cenobites, masochist demons who hunt down escaped souls. The leader of them is Pinhead, a demon that is so unique that he has entered the public lexicon of scary monsters. There’s even a reference to him inĀ The Cabin in the Woods, a movie released only last year. That’s some pretty good staying power from a horror film that was made in 1987.

The weak of stomach will probably want to miss this one but those looking for a great horror experience, some old but gross-out effects, and some truly unique and crazy characters will find the movie to be deserving of it’s classic status.

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Counting this as a scary film might be stretching it but there is enough here that elicits its inclusion by instilling the same feelings of dread and tension of other films like SawĀ orĀ The Silence of the Lambs.

LikeĀ Saw,Ā Cube is a limited storytelling tale about a group of people who somehow find themselves in a cube. Each door on all six sides leads to another cube. Some are safe but others contain booby traps designed for killing in the sickest of ways. The ragtag group must somehow find their way out of the puzzle before they die of thirst so the clock is ticking.

I’ve mentioned several times now how much I enjoy these types of stories, where characters are locked in one place and for whatever reason, don’t leave. Here, they can’t leave but each new revelation is completely satisfying as they slowly put together what’s going on. I can’t give away too much since that’s most of the fun of these movies, but the intensity builds to a slow boil so that when one new thing is discovered, it totally works. You feel like you’re solving the mystery along with the characters and you share in their excitement. It’s also fun to learn more about the characters themselves. When we, the audience, is introduced to these strangers, we know nothing about them. Over the course of their journey, we learn their strengths and possible reasons why they’ve been included in the cube. I do have to warn you that the ending may not be completely satisfying to some (my girlfriend HATED it) but there are two more movies in the series that explain things a little bit.

I also have to warn you about one thing that keeps this movie from being truly incredible – the acting. It’s horrible. It makes the entire film feel like a student project. The overacting puts anything Nic Cage has ever done to shame, and either this was most of the actors first acting roles or they were brought in directly from broadway where they have to act for the back of the room. It’s cringeworthy but it does add to the B-movie aesthetic that some will find endearing.

If you can get past the bad acting and constant environment of the cube, I would give this one a try. It’s an interesting concept film that stays strong to the end.

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I read this book in college. Even though it’s a horror novella, it transcended the pomposity of the intellectual community because it’s just so good. It’s also a great example of the unreliable narrator, a literary device that shrouds the events of the story in a layer of cellophane that makes the reader doubt or question what they are reading.

Originally published in 1898, the characters and dialogue show their years but the setting and plot still feel real. Henry James creates a subtle and surreal world that makes the reader feel uneasy throughout. He does this in big part to the ambiguity of the language he uses and the unreliable narrator. The beginning of the novel sees a group of friends telling ghost stories around a fire. One of them, Douglas, produces a manuscript ‘written’ by a friend of his, known as the Governess, and he begins reading her tale. The way this story begins, we are unsure if Douglas is being truthful or embellishing for the sake of upping the story-telling ante. We are also unsure if the Governess is accurately describing the events she witnesses, if the strange things she sees are actually happening or are figments of her imagination. We are never sure and this creates that sense of unease and dread the reader feels.

It’s one of my favorite novels. It’s simple enough to get through in a few hours but complex enough that you’ll think about it long after you put it down. It’s a great mystery that omits the scene that yanks the mask off the the bad guy. We don’t get that resolution here and the novel is all the better for it. Modern day movies can learn a lot from this technique as most things are spelled out for ease of understanding. But this ghost story has stood the test of time because it doesn’t placate it’s readers. It allows the reader to make up their own mind about it. They can brush it off, or they can become swallowed by the fogginess it creates.

BTW, there was also a movie based on this calledĀ The Innocents back in 1961, that is just as creepy and just as ambiguous. Check it out also.

Ā 

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There were a few years (from 2004-2010) when each Halloween was accompanied by a new SawĀ film. While I didn’t see all of them in the theater, I looked forward to each one with a gleeful excitement that I couldn’t quite explain. I’m not into ‘torture porn’ like theĀ Hostel films or some of the newer horror remakes out there. The only thing interesting in films like that for me is finding out how they accomplished the effects and nowadays, they’re mostly digital so it makes things even less interesting. On the surface, theĀ Saw movies are like that and to many people, they are that.

But I’ve always been intrigued with the moral dilemmas the characters find themselves in and the way the films interlock with each other like puzzle pieces. This is always fun for me; when one film references another, either with similar characters or events. I think that’s a common conscious or subconscious thought with people. That’s why sequels are usually met with such fervor by fans of the original. They want the story to continue. This series meets that expectation very well.

The originalĀ SawĀ set the path for the rest of the series: a good mystery, tough moral decisions, brutal torture traps, and a gritty tone that made me feel like anything could happen. What I really like about the first one is that the main story is set in a bathroom. Two men are chained to either side of it with a body in the middle and they have to figure out why they’re there and how to escape. It’s quiet and slow in a great and horrific way and as they slowly figure out what’s going on, it’s like giving one more turn to the vise around your heart. The other films in the series are great in different ways but none match the balance of suspense, intelligence, and tone like this one does.

If you’re going to give this series a try, start here. It’s likeĀ Lost in that sense. It’ll be a hard time getting the full story by just jumping in. Unless you’re just into the the gore. Then you can jump in anywhere. There is a particular one with a fishhook I still get queasy about. <shudders>

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