Sunday, December 31, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Pumpkinhead (1988)

A few thoughts: When I first watched this movie last year I didn't think I would feel like watching it again anytime soon. I seem to remember even writing that. But as Halloween approached yet again I found myself thinking back on how much I loved how this movie captured a particular mood that I associate with the holiday. At times it feels like an outdoor haunted attraction, but with the crazy awesome lighting and cinematography, and the badass creature design (which I'm still bummed about not looking at all like a pumpkin but still has great effects), I'm willing to forgive it for not being the most genuinely terrifying movie out there. I love how the daylight scenes look so warm and comfortable, but as night approaches and Lance Henriksen's (strong performance, by the way) story takes a darker turn, the colors begin to sharpen and take away all that warmth. It's a well-paced movie that establishes its characters, their motivation, and gives the monster just the right amount of time on-screen. I wasn't a big fan of it at first, but I can see myself putting this one on fairly regularly when the fall season comes by.

Friday, December 29, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Amityville Horror (1979)

A few thoughts: How do you make a horror movie where the house is the villain without it coming across as corny or weird? Well, on one end you have 'Monster House', designed for younger audiences which treats the house as a very active living entity, and on the other end you have this, which takes a much more subtle and occasionally creepy approach. One thing that struck me about this on my second time through was how much bits and pieces of it remind me of 'The Shining', but ultimately much less effective. The acting is solid, and there's a decent amount of atmospheric tension, but when it comes to the based on real-life but still totally made up events that take place in this movie, it's hard for it to break free from the source material and offer up some great scares. There's only ever a vaguely threatening air of menace, and at roughly 2 hours, the running time does become a problem because of this. Still, this is a solid haunted house movie, I just wish they'd ratcheted up the tension a little bit better before the goofy over-the-top ending.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Kill Baby Kill (1966)

A few thoughts: One of many beautifully shot and lit Mario Bava films that doesn't seem to put a whole ton of emphasis on things like pacing. While it's great to look at, after the midway point I found myself fading away, not terribly interested in the outcome, just waiting for the ending to come along so I could say I finished it. That being said, in spite of my own misgivings and a few issues with pacing in the middle of the film, it does come to a satisfying conclusion, so I don't want people reading this to walk away thinking I disliked it by any means. Quite the contrary, it's a fun, atmospheric, and (again, I really want to emphasize this) really awesome looking in a lot of ways. The only "flaw" with the cinematography is the weirdly overused zooms that seemed to be thrown in a lot of the time just for the hell of it. As far as Bava films go, this isn't right at the top of the list for me, but it was still pretty solid and not totally devoid of any non-superficial traits. It's very much what I have come to expect from Italian horror.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Don't Kill It (2017)

A few thoughts: Sometimes it's fun to just plug in a brainless actiony horror movie that you can laugh with and forget all about by the time it's over. This is exactly that kind of movie, and I regret nothing. Dolph Lundgren plays a demon hunter who's spent a good chunk of his life tracking down a demon that moves from host to host by being killed, making it very hard to stop. It's sort of like 'Fallen', but with way more blood. I know this isn't a good movie in a lot of ways, bit so did the people who made it, which allowed them to have fun with the concept and approach it in a very similar way as something like 'Wolfcop'. It's super violent, has a few really great moments that define it, and has a surprisingly entertaining lead performance from Lundgren, who seemed to be enjoying himself a great deal here. It's got a few solid jokes, some really cool visuals (I particularly love the lighting), and a whole bunch of creative kills and over-the-top gore and action. What else could you really expect from a Lundgren action/horror movie?

Monday, December 25, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Knights Of Badassdom (2014)

A few thoughts: Every now and then you come across a movie that's so blatantly designed to appeal to one miniscule demographic and totally nails it in every way. This is one of those movies. I can't say I'm quite in the category, but as an overweight 20-something who loves genre films and has a passing interest in LARP, it's still pretty close. I can picture the exact person this movie is aimed towards, and every time I've recommended it to someone they've been a fan. This is a nerdy guy movie, and there's not much else to say about it. You've got a LARP session turning into real-life horrors, magic spells, popular nerd actors (Peter Dinklage, Danny Pudi), hot ladies making out, and all sorts of other aspects that will make all the nerds squeal in delight. It's never hilarious, but funny enough. The action/adventure aspects are suitably heroic, the fantasy and horror stuff work into the story perfectly, and pretty much everything falls into place from there. It's not mindblowing, but for what it is and who it's meant for, it can't really be improved.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Puppet Master (1989)

A few thoughts: A lightweight slasher/horror in the vein of 'Leprechaun' that came out during that awkward time when slasher movies stopped being scary at all and started to get really dumb and (often) more intentionally silly. Now, this is definitely the kind of movie I might expect a small child to find terrifying, but as an adult I can't see anything to be scared of here. And yet again, that R-rating makes it hard to gauge just who this movie is trying to appeal to. It pretty much sums up Full Moon as a production company, relying on lame effects, corny visuals, and a really dorky premise to get by. A good deal of this movie makes little to no sense at all, the story tries to offer up twists, but they're pretty much pointless. The only real appeal here comes in the form of the puppets (stop motion!), and watching some of the ridiculous and creative death scenes. The acting is weak and there's nothing particularly special about the visuals, but I enjoy the music and the light atmosphere. It's a pretty harmless, ineffective horror film that's frothy enough to sit down to anytime without it bothering you.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Leprechaun (1993)

A few thoughts: A totally harmless and mildly amusing sort-of slasher centered around Warwick Davis as an evil leprechaun bent on getting back his gold. Yes, it's a pretty terrible movie in a lot of ways, but it has no problem letting itself be intentionally silly and fun. It isn't really a parody, as it does try to be somewhat serious with the scary scenes (somehow), so it plays a lot like some of the cornier Stephen King films, like 'Pet Sematary'. I'm not sure who the target audience was, as it's too childish and goofy for most adults, but it's rated R, making it hard for kids to even watch it. Regardless, it may have been a misfire in a lot of ways, but I find it to be entertaining enough. Jennifer Aniston started here, so it's fun to see her back before even Friends, and of course Warwick Davis steals the show. He isn't particularly creepy nor is he gut-bustingly funny, but he brings so much wacky charm to this role, it's hard not to just love having him on-screen. This isn't a classic or anything, but it's (sadly) one of the more fun '90s horror movies.

Friday, December 22, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Phantom Of The Opera (1943)

A few thoughts: One of many adaptations of the classic romance/horror/tragedy, and while it isn't the worst around, it is far from the best thanks to several crucial flaws. For one, there are far too many long, drawn out opera scenes. It's fine to a degree, but then it becomes exhausting filler that gives me a headache after more than a few minutes. At 90~ minutes, they could have easily cut out 15 just from opera scenes and it would have still had plenty to spare. Second, while I enjoy their take on the Phantom's motivation and Rains' performance, the makeup work on his face is severely lacking. If this were more of an actual horror movie that would be a bigger problem, but the fact it wasn't really a horror movie at all becomes it's own issue. As for the production, it looks beautiful. It's a wonderfully photographed film with great looking sets and costumes, and the dialogue between the two men in the central love triangle is entertaining. I still much prefer the 1925 and 1962 versions, but this was still solid enough.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Slither (2006)

A few thoughts: A kind-of knock-off of the 1986 horror-comedy 'Night Of The Creeps', this is a CG and practical effects-ridden body horror alien insect zombie movie that delivers gore and comedy in satisfying quantities. Filled with funny and talented actors (most notably Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillion, and Elizabeth Banks), this James Gunn-directed bit of mayhem only suffers from a little too much CG, even if the practical effects make up for that particular flaw. This is more of a horror movie than it is a comedy, which is a good thing, as the humor comes in very small doses -- even if it is funny, it's spread out too much to be a total comedy. I've seen it about 3 or 4 times at this point, and while I used to enjoy it a ton, I have to admit I've grown a little cold on it over the past several years since I first saw it. It isn't super original, but that doesn't matter a lot to me. The execution is mostly on point, and there are a lot of great moments and funny lines. It also has a very weirdly satisfying ending that's somewhat unexpected. Icky fun.

200 Items Or Less: Jacob's Ladder (1990)

A few thoughts: A trippy and nightmarish sort of horror movie that tries its hardest to defy that simple classification, but ultimately can't be described as anything but just that. Hearing that this movie inspired the Silent Hill video games should come as a shock to no one who has heard of them, as the creepy atmosphere and grubby brownish visuals are pretty much staples of the series. Led by a strong lead performance from Tim Robbins, the entire cast does a pretty outstanding job, helping add to the general air of unease and weird tension throughout the film. I know I rarely mention much about plot in these little write-ups, but this is one instance where talking about the story would take away a lot of the effect of the film as a whole, so I would definitely recommend going into this one with as little prior knowledge about the story as possible. The crazy turns it takes make for an interesting experience. It's not a straight-up horror movie, but more of the Lynch/Cronenberg variety that gets under your skin in an unsettling sort of way.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Mummy (1959)

A few thoughts: Among the first wave of Hammer's reimaginings of the classic Universal monster movies, this stands as one of their better efforts, and partially due to the fact it never tries to duplicate the 1932 version -- in fact, this is more of a remake of the Universal Mummy sequels (The Mummy's Hand, The Mummy's Ghost, etc.), which feature Kharis instead of Imhotep. As could be expected of any Hammer film starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, the main hero and monster pairing are great, and under the smooth direction of Terence Fisher, the story flies along at a brisk pace and results in a very satisfyingly abrupt finale. Why stick around for a drawn out ending when the story is obviously done being told? Just end it when it's finished. I like that. The lighting and visuals are pretty awesome here, and I love the makeup on the mummy, which goes from a muddied look to more dry and crispy as the film progresses. This might not be at the very top of the list when it comes to Hammer horror, but if not, it's still pretty close.

Monday, December 18, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Starry Eyes (2014)

A few thoughts: This is basically the film 'The Neon Demon' wishes it was in every way apart from the shiny visuals. A trippy Hollywood nightmare story about a struggling actress obsessed with landing a lead role in a mysterious upcoming project, this isn't the kind of horror movie you just sit down and enjoy. There's nothing particularly pleasant about this experience, which starts off slow and bizarre, transforming into a violent and downright icky bloodbath by the final third. A body horror of sorts, anchored by a pretty impressive lead performance that takes her character through all the emotional and physical changes of Brundlefly. While I wouldn't consider this among the very top horror performances of all-time, I might find room for it in a top 100. This is a pretty miserable, punishing movie, and your patience is rewarded with a satisfying arc and a whole ton of nasty violence. If you enjoy dour, unpleasant horror with very little hope or levity, this should be considered next time you want to depress yourself with a solid movie.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Exorcist (1973)

A few thoughts: It feels pretty pointless for me to even bother writing about this movie, but just in case there were lingering thoughts that my opinion might have strayed from the norm on this one, well, I'm here to tell you that they don't. I consider this not only one of the most effective horror films of all-time, but one of the most impressively constructed, well-acted, and truly disturbing movies ever made. Filled with subliminal messages and imagery, this movie has the reputation of being one of the most extreme horror films of its time (which it is), but is actually surprisingly slow-paced, letting that wonderful dread seep into your pores before freezing you out. Some of the scary scenes catch you off-guard with their abruptness, but the movie never over plays that. It's shocking, beautifully-shot (which is weird to say about a movie so grotesque), and gives Max Von Sydow one of his greatest and most memorable roles. And Linda Blair. And Ellen Burstyn. And Jason Miller. My god, this movie is fantastic.

Friday, December 15, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Hatchet (2006)

A few thoughts: I always enjoy slasher movies with a decent sense of humor, and this one handles the balance of comedy and horror pretty well. Victor Crowley is a great blend of 'The Hills Have Eyes'-style mutated killer with the unstoppable hulking Jason Voorhees type. He may not be a classic slasher villain yet, but hopefully within the next few years people will be able to look back on this as the beginning of a horror legend. Now, as fun as I found the movie, it suffers from a weird issue that usually only plagues action movies: the music is too damn loud. It drowns out the dialogue, and in a movie like this where the dialogue is pretty funny, that is a big problem. Sadly, this movie throws out Tony Todd and Robert Englund just for tiny cameos, both of which I was hoping might be used a bit more, but they are just cameos after all. Oh well. I love the practical effects, and the moments involving Victor Crowley ripping limbs off of bodies, twisting people's heads off, etc. It's pretty self-aware, funny when it needs to be, and super gory. I had fun.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Witch (2016)

A few thoughts: It's hard for me to try to talk about this movie in less than 200 words, as I recently spent about an hour having a conversation about it and still felt certain aspects were left mostly unmentioned. So, I'm just gonna cover a few points. One, the set, costume design, and dialogue is very period appropriate. Nothing stood out to me as false in this department at all. Two, the acting, while decidedly stiff and ye olde, was all-round pretty fantastic. Three, the music is haunting and perfectly punctuates actions, as well as helping add to the overarching sense of dread. And four, they do a fantastic job with the characters at establishing motivation, making every action hold up as perfectly understandable and justified within the context of the film. This isn't some sort of non-stop thrill ride, it's an atmospheric horror film that puts a great deal of emphasis on characters, setting, and a feeling of dread instead of being all about things popping out at the screen and giving the audience the spooks. It's far, far better than that.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Vampire's Kiss (1988)

A few thoughts: One of the most bizarrely entertaining movies of the 1980s, 'Vampire's Kiss' walks that fine line between intentional and unintentional humor, flips off that line, calls it some filthy names, and then pees all over it. My point is, by the time it's done, you won't be sure what was intended at any point throughout the entire film, but you'll almost certainly never be able to forget it. I like to try my hardest to get in the mindset of the director, writer, producers, or virtually anyone else involved in making this film, but I have the distinct feeling I'd have to experiment with cocaine in order to achieve the desired enlightenment, and that's just too expensive and dangerous for 'lil old me. To adequately sum this movie up, I'll have to reference an episode of the TV series 'Community' that poses the question: "is Nicolas Cage good or evil?" The answer to this question sadly cannot be found here, but this performance is a prime example of how a question like that could be asked of an actor's entire career. Prepare for an unforgettable, hilarious experience.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Black Sheep (2006)

A few thoughts: This is a movie that knows exactly what it is and what it wants to be. Tonally, this film could have easily been a mess, never taking itself seriously enough to work as a horror film in any capacity, or funny enough to live up to its absurd subject matter. Instead, it does a remarkable job at balancing both, offering up an inspired 'Shaun Of The Dead'-like film that is funny enough to be a comedy, and bizarrely grotesque enough to work as some variety of body horror. No, it never hits the highs of that particular example, but I don't think bringing them up in the same conversation is by any means an insult. The characters are well-handled, the gore effects are almost shockingly good, and the movie knows better than to make a complete mockery of itself, even when it sometimes wants to do just that. It lets the absurdity speak for itself and allows the characters to be rightfully afraid -- in spite of how dumb it all is. In no other movie could you watch a guy get humped by a sheep in a field while wearing a wool blanket and have that somehow work.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Theatre Of Blood (1973)

A few thoughts: When talking about a movie like this, it's virtually impossible to even attempt separating it from the film's main star, Vincent Price. And why would you want to? Not only was the screenplay clearly tailored specifically for him, but as one of the greatest horror film stars of all time, he would be hard to ignore either way. A comedic and dramatic film, centered around a niche actor known for his hammy and overwrought performances, who decides in the twilight of his years to take revenge on the critics who so long denied him his precious accolades. Like I said before, this film was clearly built around him. And what it also does is provide him ample opportunities for costume changes and sinister character moments, allowing him to display all the range he ever needed. I see it as a giant middle finger to snobby film critics everywhere, and I love it. It's big, dramatic, tons of fun, and gives an older Vincent Price some career-best material to work with. Sometimes all an actor needs is to be himself.

200 Items Or Less: Bad Taste (1987)

A few thoughts: The feature film debut of acclaimed director Peter Jackson, who later went on to make some of the biggest epics of the 2000s with the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and King Kong. And honestly, as much as I love the crap out of his Lord Of The Rings, I wish he'd continued making films like this bit of trash for a while longer, because he had an eye for the absurd and knew how to handle practical effects in the most ludicrously entertaining ways possible. Largely lacking in dialogue and actual performances in the traditional sense, most of the appeal with this film comes from the slapstick moments and exaggerated gore. Jackson pulls double duty as not only director (and writer, along with other stuff like that), but two of the main characters as well. So, I guess, more like quintuple duty. Either way it's fairly evident from his hilarious performances that he not only knew the tone he was going for, but was pretty much the sole contributor from a creative perspective. I love it, therefore you should love it, too.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Cube (1997)

A few thoughts: Visually interesting but somewhat lacking as far as story goes, this bottle horror drama has some intriguing set-ups and one particularly dark character arc. I'll just come out and say now that I really wish this movie had sprung for some better actors, as there are more than a handful of moments that are completely impaired by the weak cast, with the aforementioned character (which was handled really well otherwise) played by probably the weakest actor in the bunch. I sort of enjoyed the Kafkaesque nature of the non-story in certain ways, but I have to admit I was pretty disappointed by the revelation of what purpose the Cube actually served. It could have easily become 'Saw' (it still left an evident mark on that future franchise), but instead took a less direct path, and I have to appreciate the film for that. It felt lacking, but never cheap or ham-handedly over-the-top with any contrived messages. It just puts characters in a place and watches them slowly fail. Pretty cool.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Paranormal Activity (2009)

A few thoughts: The first in a series that would rapidly go downhill after the first sequel, this movie was a genre-shaking film that would shape the horror landscape for years to come. The premise and execution are simple, the characters are relatable and believable, and the presentation (found footage) was stripped down and worked perfectly for the subject matter. Not only is this an excellent horror movie with some truly terrifying moments, but it does this with subtlety and a whole ton of character development. The main relationship is dropped in a frying pan, and the resulting sizzle is both deeply saddening and dramatically effective. It starts out slow, methodically ramping up the tension as it progresses, giving our two leads plenty to work with and a whole ton to react to. Whether or not this movie had a positive impact on the genre is difficult to say, but its influence alone is enough to earn it some points. I consider it a modern horror classic, and a relentlessly creepy, intriguing, and effective little film.

Five Favorite Performances: Marlon Brando

I found a list of the 300 greatest actors of all time, so I've decided to go down that list and make top fives for all the actors I like -- or, at least, have seen enough things by to make into a top 5.

Their top pick was no surprise.

Marlon Brando

200 Items Or Less: Night Of The Living Dead (1990)

A few thoughts: Remaking such a groundbreaking, genre defining classic is no easy task, so I can't hold it against Tom Savini for failing to live up to the material, but with this unnecessary adaptation come a few distinct improvements and character overhauls that work pretty well. While several characters remain basically unchanged, the main improvement comes with a total change for the female lead, here portrayed by Patricia Tallman. In the original, Barbara is one of the most useless, catatonic characters in horror history, but here she has a lot more to do, and her behavior is aggressive and self-reliant while still believably frazzled. Tony Todd does well, too, and Cooper is injected with an even more villainous streak, which sadly takes away from the urgency of defending the home against zombies. With Savini directing, it seemed like more emphasis would be placed on the gore and makeup effects, but that's not so. Not heartbreaking, but I wanted to see him nasty the film up a bit. It's solid, overall, but lacking in atmosphere and thrills.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Hour Of The Wolf (1968)

A few thoughts: It's definitely a bit of a stretch to call this a horror movie, but when it comes to all of Bergman's filmography, this one fits the title the best, as the trippy nightmarish sequences near the end are pretty disturbing and very creepy. As could be expected of virtually any Bergman film, the visuals and moral/intellectual themes are prevalent in pretty much every scene, and with a cast led by Max Von Sydow and Liv Ullman, you have to know that the acting is top tier. There's an air of mystery surrounding a good deal of this story, which leads to some interesting revelations by the final act, even if a few of these things could be foreseen. What I want to talk about now is atmosphere and tone. Visually, this movie isn't far from his previous work, but instead of using the stark nihilism and close-ups for solely dramatic purposes, this one flips it and uses these aspects to not only investigate a broken relationship, but the living nighitmares that will be haunting them both. Unconventional, but effective and very well-constructed.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Pet Sematary (1989)

A few thoughts: Quite simple one of the most baffling awful and still somehow popular horror movies of its time, this Stephen King story is full of dumb characters behaving almost aggressively stupid, filled with "scary" scenes I wouldn't expect to be shocking to a 9-year-old. And it's rated R. So it fits into that weird space where a lot of King's more mediocre films fit into, where the intended audience seems to be an imaginary number that's older than 16, but younger than 16 at the same time. Fred Gwynn is absolutely hysterical in this, delivering one of the most classic/awful horror performances in a popular movie. His accent, vocal inflections, and tendencies to mention "roads" and/or "burial grounds" in virtually every sentence make him something to behold. The other actors aren't any better, so st least he was memorable. The scenes with the little kid turned evil are laughable as well. It's just a confusingly off-target mess with no real positives apart from the unintentional humor that can be easily squeezed from it.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979)

A few thoughts: The question that almost has to be asked whenever a remake of a classic comes around is whether or not it even should exist in the first place. Well, I don't think this is by any means a "necessary" film, but it is a very good one. Something is lost with the inclusion of sound, but that doesn't mean this movie doesn't still have lots of atmosphere. As a horror image/symbol, Max Schreck from the original can't be beat, but the breathy and almost twitchy performance by Klaus Kinski here comes close enough at emulating the original while still adding plenty in its own way to work well as both a recreation and a unique beast. There are definitely some slow patches here and there, but the way it strays from the source material and focuses on different aspects of the story, fleshing out the background, keeps it from ever feeling like a straight imitation. It's not as great as the original, but it didn't need to be. It tells its story well and the ending is not only unexpected, but unforgettably great.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

200 Items Or Less: A Page Of Madness (1926)

A few thoughts: A bizarre and ultimately pointless look through the eyes of the mentally deranged, this early Japanese horror film suffers from a total lack of narrative focus while offering up surreal imagery. I can sometimes really enjoy films like this, that put little effort into the story, but in this case I feel it would have served them well to do more with the film than just flash distorted images of people dancing. I didn't get it. I didn't get the point at all. While there were a few creepy images, it never made me feel totally uncomfortable, and at roughly an hour without any text cards, I felt like I needed a break. A movie that short should not require a break. Still, even though I didn't get hardly anything out of this, I found myself intrigued and impressed by the speed of the editing, and the experimental nature of the cinematography and presentation. Pointless as it may be, this is still a very unique experience that I'm no T likely to forget anytime soon. I didn't like it much, but it has flashes of genius to it.

Friday, December 1, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Masque Of The Red Death (1964)

A few thoughts: Easily my pick for the best-looking Corman/Poe film adaptation, and quite possibly the best performance Price gave in the whole bunch as well. A dark and gloomy, yet bright and well-lit film, fully capturing the vibrancy of colors (red in particular, of course, really pops in this one) while still blending in a gloomier look when the story requires it. Watching Price play such a smug and overly evil man is always entertaining, and this Devil worshipping egotistical madman is definitely a shining role in his career. While many of the supporting characters take up a decent amount of screen time and never feel fully fleshed out, the entire look and atmosphere more than make up for any flaws or weak spots it maybe have in the script and charzcterization, with these scenes ultimately serving as padding and even an almost unnecessary but slightly interesting juxtaposition (I already hate myself for using that word) with the villainous castle dwellers/aristocrats. Underrated, beautiful, and very cool.

Top 10 David Warner performances

Who is David Warner, you might ask? Well, odds are you've seen his face or heard his voice before, so now you can see his face and we can settle that question.
Among the most overlooked British actors of the past 50 years, David Warner is mostly known for his villainous performances in horror and science fiction movies and TV. A very charming actor with a distinctive voice, Warner has been acting for over 50 years with few gaps in his filmography. So, because I enjoy making my top tens so much, I'll give this man his time in the spotlight. I'm sure he'd be thrilled. These are my top 10 favorite David Warner performances.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Blade Runner (1982)

A few thoughts: What can really be said about Blade Runner that wouldn't have already been said 1000 times? Funny enough, that statement has probably been said 1000 times itself when it comes to this movie. It's pretty much a perfect blend of sci-fi and noir, a moody and atmospheric film filled with incredible visuals (the effects and the lighting/cinematography), haunting sound design, and enough moral ambiguity to choke 6 goats and a mule. Don't ask me what that means. While the visuals, story, setting, and every other technical aspect is pretty much flawless, the real highlight of this movie for me is Rutger Hauer's intense performance as Roy Batty. That man has presence out the wazoo. While the rest of the cast perform admirably, this is Hauer's chance to kick ass as one of the most memorable villains of the ', screw it, of all-time. Again, I can't add anything to the discussion here. It's one of the best movies of the 1980s by most people's standards, and a masterpiece of science fiction.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Raven (1935)

A few thoughts: One of several Lugosi/Karloff team-ups, this being the sole film of the bunch where Lugosi legitimately one-ups Karloff both in terms of being a more interesting character and a better performance. "Suggested" by Poe's famed poem, this movie is all about an evil doctor who saves a woman's life and jealously wants to keep her to himself. Riddled with fun over-the-top moments, pretty passable effects and set design, and a whole heap of nonsensical plotting issues, I can't say this is their [Karloff and Lugosi] best ever shared film, but is still clearly higher up on that list than the likes of 'Black Friday' and 'The Invisible Ray'. Whether you care for Lugosi or not, he is the highlight here, giving an exaggerate and deliciously evil performance that really affords him the opportunity to go all-out. Pretty much everything else is either forgettable, passable, or just not worth noting. Don't watch this alongside 'The Black Cat' -- it pales by comparison.

200 Items Or Less: The Haunted Castle (1897)

A few thoughts: Considered by many to be the first ever horror film, and this being its 120th anniversary, now seemed like an appropriate time to watch this one again. At only 3 minutes long, a whole tons of craziness happens here, objects and characters appearing and disappearing, sometimes in a puff of smoke. Thanks to Georges Melies' technical wizardry, the single frame setting never feels empty or boring, with action of all sorts taking up the screen with little hesitation. While it's definitely difficult to rank this alongside most other horror films (or films of any kind, for that matter), the strange impact this as well as many other Melies films has had on horror and film as a whole is hard to ignore. The effects, while rudimentary and crude by today's standards were undoubtedly pure magic at the time, and the imagination and effort put into something like this is clear as day. Maybe people won't look at this as some masterful film, but for what it is and how fun it still is to watch, I can't say I'd ever tell anyone to ignore it.

Monday, November 27, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Day Of The Dead (1985)

A few thoughts: The third film in George A. Romero's Dead series, and one of several truly great zombie movies of 1985. With some truly incredible practical effects work and a decidedly dreary tone, this movie manages to establish itself as a unique and tonally individual film in the series, mostly abandoning the more comedic nature of its predecessor 'Dawn Of The Dead' in favor of something very dark and intense. Showing the characters in constant conflict with one another, it follows in the tradition of letting the zombies fill out the background of even greater internal struggles amongst the main cast. Bub, the zombie, gets to steal the spotlight near the end as one of the greatest film zombies of all-time. The way they allow zombies to slowly start learning is a cool touch, and how they handled Bub is terrific. Yes, this is one of the most unpleasant zombie movies around, but the effects by Tom Savini are so disgustingly great, and the characters are so believable, I can't help but to appreciate it. The last great film in the series.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Don't Torture A Duckling (1972)

A few thoughts: One of Lucio Fulci's most memorable films, in spite of the fact that few people are familiar with it. My girlfriend, being the Italian horror junkie that she is, had me watch this one, and while I definitely have some problems with the dubbing, weird cinematography, and inconsistent tone, this is easily one of Fulci's more watchable efforts that I've seen. Sadly, this movie didn't allow for him to show off much of the practical effects work he's known for, the story and mystery surrounding the killings more than make up for the relatively subdued gore. It's still a very violent and occasionally shocking film, but it doesn't get gratuitous with it very often, making it a lot more easy to sit through than something like 'Zombie' or 'The New York Ripper', both of which have some very...difficult moments. This isn't a genius film but it's well-constructed, rounded, and has some solid character development (in spite of the weak acting) for a film of this genre. It's not one of the absolute best giallos out there, but it's still worth watching.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Embodiment Of Evil (2008)

A few thoughts: The third (kinda) and final (?) Coffin Joe film, set 40 years after the events of the previous entry, we find Joe released prematurely from a hospital for the criminally insane, only to go right back to his old ways. The problem, though, is that unlike the other films, he seems to be indiscriminately torturing people now without much purpose. You can tell after moving up from black and white to color after all this time, Marins was excited to get to have some really grisly torture and mutilation, and in focusing so heavily on that particular aspect, totally forgot that the story and characters should always come first. The result is a decidedly unpleasant experience full of creative but ultimately just disgusting torture scenes surrounded by a relatively non-existent plot and virtually zero characterization. I was impressed to start, but after a (very short) while I found myself incredible fatigued by it. This is torture porn, and unashamedly so. Zero atmosphere, zero thrills. A disappointing letdown.

200 Items Or Less: The Mangler (1995)

A few thoughts: Wow, what a surprise. I bought this for a few bucks because I wanted to see some more Robert Englund movies fully expecting it to be pretty lousy (as most critics call it) but, well, I really enjoyed this. Everything about the whole visual style is terrific, from the crazy lighting and cinematography to the grubby setting. It's a weird combination, having the movie look so pretty and so ugly at the same time. As for the story, well, you can definitely tell it's based on a Stephen King short. It is pretty ridiculous, but not letting the giant washing machine(!!!) be the only villain was a good choice, as it gave plenty of opportunity for Englund to evil it up. He's such a cartoonist villain, it's impossible not to enjoy him. Ted Levine is solid as the lead, a character who very much feels lived in and imperfect. It works out really well. Maybe it's not a mindblowing horror movie, but it's one of my more favorite Hooper films, and the sense of humor really sells it during the less gory moments.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

200 Items Or Less: A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

A few thoughts: I've already written about the first 6 of these movies (in a manner), and it should go without saying that I really, really like it, but here's the obligatory write-up anyway. In spite of the fact that I wasn't a huge fan of this movie the first time I saw it, over time I have come to appreciate the crap out of it and find it consistently enjoyable to watch. Robert Englund started out in this series mostly serious, which sort of works here since the tone was considerably less over-the-top and funny as it was later on, but he's so iconic and perfect for the role, I can't see anyone complaining. A lot of the effects still look pretty great, and the ones that don't hold up are still fun to look at. There's a whole heap of atmosphere (love the lighting!), the music is great, and a perfect blend of fantasy and horror elements that really helped define the genre. I wouldn't call this a perfect movie, but it's one I always enjoy and find myself coming back to again and again. It's worth it even if just for the blood gushing from the bed scene. Classic.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Old Dark House (1932)

A few thoughts: One of the defining "old dark house" films (shocking, I know), and one of only 4 horror movies ever directed by James Whale -- the others being Frankenstein, Bride Of Frankenstein, and The Invisible Man. While it clearly doesn't hold up to those other three, this is still one of the more entertaining films of the early '30s. With a massive cast of strange and/or creepy characters, the movie rarely feels dull or unengaging while introducing us to these weirdos. Sadly, even at only 72~ minutes, there are moments near the film's midway point (after most of the film's characters have already shown up) where things begin to stagnate. Luckily, a few decisions are made near the end that help rack up the tension, and the whole thing comes together nicely surrounding the wholly unsettling performance by Brember Wills. The setting and overall look of the movie is great, the cast does a wonderful job, and though it drags a little in the middle, it's still a great way to spend 70 minutes.

200 Items Or Less: The Hitcher (1986)

A few thoughts: Held back by one of the most insanely stupid lead characters in the history of the horror genre (which is saying something), but elevated by some of Rutger Hauer's best work, this is a cat and mouse slasher road movie with plenty of action, blood, and a wonderful western setting. While it's super easy to criticize the main character and all of his decidedly dumb choices from beginning to end, this movie can be forgiven for the fact that in critical situations, people do tend to behave strangely. But this aside, there really is a lot to love about this movie -- and I'm not just talking about the wonderfully creepy and quietly intense villain. The desolate open roads and western crime atmosphere set it far apart from most other slasher/stalker films, and the unexpected nature of many of the kills lead to a few genuinely surprising moments. Finding the balance between horror and action, this movie succeeds as both even when the writing puts the characters in unlikely and ridiculous scenarios. This is Hauer's show.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Bloody Pit Of Horror (1965)

A few thoughts: Luckily I knew what I was getting into before I started this one, otherwise we very well might have an 'F' on our hands. As it stands, this is merely a pretty lousy movie with some unintentional humor and a good deal of delightfully over-the-top torture devices that are never believable enough to be even remotely scary. Storywise, I wouldn't even be able to tell you what this was about because it honestly stopped being interesting to me pretty fast. Bad acting and writing took over immediately, but I was reinvigorated during the second half, where bloody torture started to occur. While the movie does take its time to get here, some of the goofiness found in the latter half makes it worth sitting through to an extent, but only because of how stupid it all is. There's a particularly bizarre device that involves a giant fake spider, a web, and a bunch of arrows. It makes very little sense, but it's sort of fun to watch. It's too slow and dumb for its own good, sucks as a horror movie, but is campy enough to be mildly amusing.

Monday, November 20, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Lost Boys (1987)

A few thoughts: After rewatching 'Near Dark', it was only natural for this to be one of the next movies for me to see. Easily one of the most entertaining vampire movies ever made, riddled with all the campiness and hilarious one could expect from Schumacher in his prime. Everything about this movie is calculated greatness, from the crazy hair and fashion, to the vamp faces and flashy action scenes. Though I find it hard to call this a horror movie, if the label fits I would have to consider it one of my favorites of the 1980s. The sort-of theme by Gerard McMann (cryyyyy little sistahh!) is one of my favorite movie songs, too, so the movie succeeds in that way as well. I'm not going to pretend this is a perfect movie by any means, but I've seen it a dozen times and it's never less than entertaining. I enjoy the cast, the levity, the setting, the's one of many great cult films of the 1980s, and for me it's easy to see why. It's never boring, it's well-paced, and just overall a lot of fun.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Haxan (1922)

A few thoughts: A thoroughly unique experience, this psuedo-documentary about witchcraft tackles various scenarios with actors playing them out, many of which involving witches (of course), witch hunts, and the Devil himself. It's a visual masterpiece with some of the most incredible sets, costumes, and overall production I've ever seen in a silent film, rivaled only by 'Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari' and other similarly striking movies. Though the film doesn't have an overarching narrative, the way the film is laid out gives it plenty of opportunity to tell stories while also handling larger themes -- sort of like an anthologized 'Reefer Madness'...but good. While it's definitely a hard movie to sit through at times, the experience is incredibly memorable, and anyone with any interest in witchcraft from a historical perspective should consider this essential viewing. As far as silent horror goes, it's in a category of its own. This film is dripping in atmosphere and can't be compared to nearly anything else, past or present.

200 Items Or Less: Creepshow (1982)

A few thoughts: A horror anthology with 5 short stories and an overarching one, all of which written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero. Normally I wouldn't feel the need to point out the fact that a movie has only one writer and director, but with an anthology, this is definitely something I see value in. Though not all 5 of these stories are equal in terms of quality, the production of each are fairly equivalent. There's a childlike nature to most of these segments, even though the film is rated R, which is very much a Stephen King-like thing. I love the lighting found throughout this movie, utilizing very Italian style visuals reminiscent of Bava, and the cinematography is pretty wonderful as well. With especially memorable performances by Hal Holbrook and a particularly sinister Leslie Nielsen. It's uncommon seeing Nielsen playing a non-comedic role like this, and he does it remarkably well. It's overall a pretty silly movie, but a good deal of fun, even if tonally it is a bit strange.

Friday, November 17, 2017

200 Items Or Less: The Pit And The Pendulum (1961)

A few thoughts: One of the first of the wonderful Corman/Price Poe adaptations, and also one of the best. Sort of a midway point for Price's performances in 'House Of Usher' and 'The Masque Of The Red Death', this time getting to play both the nebbish "victim" as well as a deranged killer, which is a good blend for him, even if I prefer when he goes full evil. Just like the rest of this unofficial series of films, the visuals (set and costume design, cinematography, all that fun stuff) are terrific and make up a good part of the appeal. Storywise, I don't really think this is an actual adaptation of the Poe story, but who really cares? As far as Corman goes, this is right near the top of the list, several steps above most of the pulpy trash he made at the time. This is a pretty big and impressive production, a well-lit and beautiful looking gothic castle serving as the setting throughout. Though it's not as sinister as 'Masque' or as haunting as 'Usher', there's still a lot to love here, and as far as '60s horror goes, it is among my favorites.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Time After Time (1979)

A few thoughts: Being a fan of sci/fi, fantasy, and horror, I knew upon reading the plot description of this movie that it was one I was going to have to see. H.G. Wells has to chase Jack The Ripper through time (on his time machine, of course) in order to stop him from killing in the future? Well that's a just the kind of craziness I prefer! Sadly, after the initial buzz wears off, there isn't much left of this movie to keep it afloat. Despite Malcolm McDowell and David Warner's best efforts, their characters never quite take off, and the relatively generic paths the story takes by the third act keep it from ever hitting its stride and rising to meet its potential. While I have to say I was slightly letdown, there is still a lot of fun to be had with this movie, and like I said before, those two actors really do make the most of what they're given. It uses a few too many fish-out-of-water jokes and seems endlessly concerned with complaining about how evil people are, but it was still entertaining enough.

Five Favorite Films of 1952

My weak point of the 1950s, these are all still good movies, but not all of them feel like "me" movies (e.g., not enough horror and sci-fi). Oh well, they're all still very much goodly. Have fun perusing.

5. Forbidden Games

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

200 Items Or Less: Near Dark (1987)

A few thoughts: One of several super cool horror movies of 1987 (it was an awesome year), this Kathryn Bigelow-directed vampire thriller is maybe not the horror classic some consider it to be, but has more than enough going for it for me to consider it distinctly above average. Not only do I like the western setting, but I find the whole atmosphere and visual style quite excellent. Maybe I wouldn't put this on par with 'The Lost Boys' as far as family-of-vampires movies are concerned (that one is just too entertaining), but they feel like they might be related to one another -- 'Near Dark' being the more serious of the two. I particularly enjoy Lance Henriksen here, though that should come as just about no surprise at all, seeing as how he's one of the best things about virtually everything I've seen him in. Bill Paxton is an overacting bore. Most of the rest of the cast are fairly average, but it's really the way they all work together that sells this movie. It isn't "scary", but it's very much entertaining as a sort of road thriller with a horror edge.

200 Items Or Less: House On Haunted Hill (1999)

A few thoughts: Okay, so I knew going in that this was going to be nowhere near as good or fun as the original (William Castle & Vincent Price are a difficult director/actor combo to beat), but the level to which this movie sucked did catch me slightly off-guard. While Geoffrey Rush did his best with what little he was given, he couldn't carry this one on his own and virtually no one else seemed to be too interested in helping things along. A disgustingly underused Jeffrey Combs sits in the background while the spooky scary CG and fast edits take up a majority of the screentime. Just when I thought the movie was getting good, it turns off its brain and throws more thrills at you by making loud noises and having things pop out, screwing up what little it had going for it by abandoning any sense of logic or decent storytelling. It's hard to go into detail on what doesn't work about this movie without taking up more time than this, but I think that says enough. It's a garbage remake that totally misses the mark.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Five Favorite Films of 1951

Definitely a tricky year to make a top 5 of, but here we are! As always, these are my personal favorites. Take a look if you so desire.

5. Death Of A Salesman

200 Items Or Less: Lust Of The Vampire (1957)

A few thoughts: Not at all what I expected it to be, this early Bava (he only *kinda* directed it) film was neither a horror movie nor the vampire movie I expected it to be. How this gets labeled as horror is beyond me, considering how much of a crime/police investigation story it is. So right off the bat, it sort of lost me. But what really bothered me was in how dull the story itself was. I lost interest pretty quick, and with nonstop dialogue and nothing to grab ahold of you, my eyes started to glaze over. Without thrills, a strong story, and only decent visuals, I find myself already running low on things to say about it. With Bava working as co-director and the cinematographer, I can say the look of the film is the highlight, but without complete control, you can definitely tell he was held back and not given enough opportunities to get creative with it. There are a few aspects that work pretty well, but when all is said and done, this is a miscategorized movie that doesn't hold up as particularly good within any assigned genre.