Saturday, July 23, 2016

Blair Witch Is Coming!!!!

Picture it..... Charleston, WV 1999.  A young, gay boy coming to terms with himself and his charming boyfriend arrive at the new multiplex at the Southridge Centre shopping complex.  The two young men had no particular movie in mind, they had no agenda....just looking to pass the time.  They see a peculiar looking poster for a movie with half of a girl's face on it and some trees called The Blair Witch Project.  Not knowing much about it they decide to go ahead and check it out.  Little did they know they would spend the next 90 minutes in sheer and utter terror.  That young gay boy was me....and the other was...Pablo Picasso.  Ok, ok The Golden Girls made up that last part.

The Blair Witch Project has had its fair share of hate over the years.  "Nothing happens!", "It's BORING",  "You don't even see a witch!"  For me though that is what made it terrifying...and I was terrified.  You see my imagination is far scarier than anything you could put on celluloid.  I was transfixed on these characters.  Not only did I truly care about each of them, I felt like I was with them in the woods.  The fear of isolation is palpable in this film as it never really lets up.  They get more lost....and more lost....and more lost, all the while experiencing strange and often horrifying occurences throughout the night and mornings.  The sense of dread is ridiculously present and you never really know what is lurking around and tree, a bush, or in the creek....and as we now know yiu never really get to find out.  I left the theatre with 100 scenarios of what could have happened to these poor characters.  Was it a drug addict?  Was it the one who disappeared first?  Was it actually the spirit of a witch?  These possibilities are what kept me up at night.....well that and checking behind my shower curtain because I knew Miss Thing was in there ready to tear me apart.   The film truly stayed with me and continues to hold up today....which leads me to our next chapter!!!

A few months back I caught a trailer online for a found footage movie called "The Woods."  It looked really good and after researching it I found out it was to be released in September and is directed by the glorious Adam Wingard, director of the grossly underrated "You're Next."  Needless to say I was very excited but months went by with really no more news or updates....then THIS WEEKEND HAPPENED. 

At Comic Con in San Diego there was a screening of "The Woods." and as the audience sat comfortably in their seats it was revealed in the credits....simply.... BLAIR WITCH.  The crowd went wild and everyone sat back and saddled up for their surprise!  What they experienced is what some reviewers are calling "One of the scariest films in years." and "The sequel we have been waiting for!" (There was once a wretched sequel but I'm not going there....although that goth girl was the tits.)  The internet world of horror has been abuzz for a few days since the news that Miss Ellie would be back to terrify us.  I, for one welcome her with open arms and can't wait to see what this sequel has to offer!

Happy Slashing Little gay boys and Little gay girls!

Brent 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Original Scream Queen - Marilyn Burns 1949-2014

In this blog I am going to explore one performance.  A performance that in my mind is the greatest scream queen performance of all time.  A performance by an unknown actress with very little experience.  One without clear direction.  One without pretension.  One that would forever be imitated.  This self abasing performance would go down in the annals of horror history as one of its most blood curdling and gut wrenching.  This is the performance of Marilyn Burn as Sally Hardesty in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  As reported earlier this week Miss Burns was found dead at her home in Houston, Texas.  She was 65 years old.  This blog is for her.


Those eyes!  How they are engrained in my memory.  The most ingenious shots of Tobe Hooper's 1974 film are the ones in which he simply focuses on the eyes of Sally Hardesty, our terrified victim.  The camera flutters around them at obscene angles and close ups pulling the viewer into the fear.  It wasn't enough to experience the terror that led to this level of panic...oh no...Mr. Hooper decides to visually rape you and submerge you in her hysteria.  This fete could not have been accomplished without the performance this young actress gave.

Marilyn Burns was a Texas native and graduate of the University of Texas when Tobe Hooper and his crew were casting the low budget horror film that would become the classic it is today.  With very little money they knew they would have to cast unknown actors so they of course went with locals.  Who knew they were about to stumble upon an actress who would forever redefine the genre and single-handedly create the concept of "the final girl?"  

Sweltering heat and uncontrollably miserable conditions plagued the cast and crew.  During the legendary dinner scene the temperatures rose to over 110 degrees on set causing some of the culinary props and set dressings to rot.  The actors were working 16 hours a day.  Their costuming had remained on for weeks unwashed and mania had begun setting in.  Miss Burns' costume was covered in stage blood that had dried and stiffened.  Gunner Hanson who played Leatherface was notorious for remaining in character throughout the shoot having researched his role in a facility to mentally retarded people.  Yes....conditions in the farmhouse were deplorable indeed.

As the camera cruelly and shamelessly draws us into Sally's deranged screams the viewer is supposed to feel a sense of anxiety along with her.  This poor girl....look at what they have put her through and the enjoyment they are getting out of it.  She brilliantly portrays the fear and as the time comes for her to be killed she really lets the emotion loose.  She is knelt over a bucket for the old decrepit character of grandpa to kill.  Her extreme panic and adrenaline shoots into overdrive and she somehow breaks loose of the assailants jumping through a window leading to the front of the house.  It is here that I find Miss Burns at her most brilliant.  She pauses on the ground, still pleading for her life...yet suddenly notices it is daylight.  There is an extremely brief moment of hope and it is clearly painted through the brushstrokes of her intricate performance.  That doesn't stop our girl from getting the hell out of there.  She runs off the property being chased and slashed by the brothers before flagging down a truck and narrowly escaping.  

Many people have debated the final few shots and what her motivation is.  As the truck drives away Miss Burns begins to laugh.  Some say she is so profoundly relieved that she laughs.  Some say she has gone insane.  Others think she is giving a final "fuck you!" to Leatherface and his family as to say "I beat you!"  My personal opinion is that all 3 of these things are occurring.  This poor woman has been through hell at this point.  She is so mentally and physically exhausted that her only defense is to laugh.  It is a laugh of victory and one of impending psychological problems she will surely endure.  



 Horror fans have lost an icon this week.  She created the way we look at the "final girl" concept and still 40 years later we are copying it.  For that she deserves a big place in the horror hall of fame.  Rest in peace dear Marilyn, the original scream queen.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

REVIEW: THE CONJURING



Directed by James Wan
Produced by Tony DeRosa-Grund
Peter Safran
Rob Cowan
Written by Chad Hayes
Carey Hayes
Starring Patrick Wilson
Vera Farmiga
Ron Livingston
Lili Taylor


SYNOPSIS

Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are paranormal investigators who have been helping cleanse houses afflicted by ghostly and demonic possessions for a number of years.   Their tales have been heralded and refuted by experts and eyewitnesses alike for decades.  The Conjuring, released in 2013 is a supposedly true account of just one of many of these investigations.

Here we are introduced to a traditional, cookie cutter family, the Perrons who claim there is an entity in their home terrorizing their 5 daughters.  Mother and Father (the amazing Lily Taylor and weren't you the guy from Office Space Ron Livingston) track down our ghost hunters and desperately beg them to their home.  Although hesitant, The Warrens agree to visit the home and check things out.  Upon their arrival Lorraine is overwhelmed with the darkness pervading the walls of the house.  Something is definitely there and wants this family dead.  SO, they rally their team of investigators who set up shop in the Perron home and havoc ensues....terrifying havoc.

MY THOUGHTS

Walking into these types of films I am always a little leery.  Us horror fans have seen it all and admittedly it takes a lot to creep us out.  How many times can you see a ghost floating across a room (I'm looking at you The Uninvited) before you reach for the remote and turn on the Food Network (shut up!  Guy Fieri is at a Greek Restaurant!)?  This film is different.  Director James Wan, most widely known as the director of Saw does a wonderful job setting up tension.  The scares in this film are real.  They are primal.  They are relatable.  For instance, there is a sequence with the daughter of the Warrens that raised major chills and certainly got me thinking why the Warrens would ever take trinkets from the houses they cleanse.  

This film, unlike many others these days utilizes very little gore and very little special effects to attain it's goal of scaring the shit out of you.  A number of times in this film we do see CGI but it is never OVER used and is ALWAYS effective and necessary.  There are sequences in this film that will chill you and stay with you long after the credits roll due to the fact that the effects team went old school.  Toward the end of the picture a sheet is used to absolute terrifying effect.  Putting a sheet over your head hasn't looked this scary since Halloween.  Kudos.

The pacing is also a concern in these types of films.  Normally we sit through 30-45 minutes of setup before some stuff goes down.  NOT THIS MOVIE.  It cranks from the get go and never really lets up.  The scares are nearly constant.  The breaks you do receive are completely necessary and are gladly supportive of character development, which also gravely lacks from modern horror. 
 The acting in this film is top notch, particularly from Lili Taylor (who single handedly carried the horrendous remake of The Haunting) who lets it RIP.  Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga do a great job portraying the toll cleansing houses takes on their own psyche and Ron Livingston is very adequate as the long suffering father who is rendered completely helpless in defending his family.

The cinematography and lighting in this film are key to its pathos.  The lighting in particular contributes to about 75% of the scares here.  It is what you don't see that is far more unsettling.  For example a shot on the stairs of the cellar in which a match keeps going out made me jump to the ceiling of my apartment.  The inevitable climax is enhanced by awesome overhead and off centered shots that slightly disorient the viewer and heighten their anticipation.

OVERALL

Horror fans united on this movie and that should tell you something.  For us jaded horror geeks to find something interesting is definitely an accomplishment in and of itself.  We are the hardest market to please and we were definitely pleased by this film.  It is scary, well acted and written, and is one that will become part of my library VERY soon.  Check this one out.  Best horror film of 2013.

I will give this 3 OH GIRLS and 1 NO SHE DIDN'T!

Until next time....Happy Slashing!
Brent Fabian

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: Session 9




SESSION 9
Directed by: Brad Anderson
Written by: Brad Anderson and Stephen Gevedon
Starring: David Caruso, Peter Mullan, Josh Lucas


 "What are you doing here?"

Today I am going to review a movie that just plain ol' got under my skin.  I will do my best not to ruin the plot for you, but it will be difficult to review without some minor spoiler so heads up for the warnings in bold.

Plot:
A group of Asbestos removal workers are hired at the now closed Danvers State Hospital to do a massive clean up.  The leader of the group, Gordon is a quiet and subdued blue collar type who has just been separated from his wife and baby.  He puts in a bid on the job that requires the men to clean up the building in lightning fast fashion.  Gordon's team consists of 4 men:  a partner who has been with the company for years, a smart ass former law school dropout, a womanizing a-hole, and a newbie nephew who happens to be terrified of the dark.  As the men explore the dilapidated halls, the creaky floors and the filth ridden cellars their fears are brought to a head when one man doesn't show up for work.  Is someone in the building?  Is it haunted?  What the hell is going on in this once glorious, towering institution?




Characterizations: 
When I first saw this film some years ago I was immediately taken by its characters.  Each character is carefully thought out.  Although none of these characters are particularly likeable (with the exception of dear Gordon) the material itself does the unthinkable by luring the viewer willingly into their world.  You begin to care for each character.  A true example of this is when our young nephew finally faces his fear of the dark.  You truly don't want him to have to go there, but he does and he takes you along.  The tensions between each character add to the suspense of the piece by creating suspicion in the viewer.  There are brilliant performances here as well.  Truly a work of horror art.

Direction:
This film does not, I repeat DOES NOT utilize many of the horror cliches we have come to know and love.  There are no cats jumping out...there are no big tittied bimbos breaking their ankles.  Not once do you hear the words "C'mon guys....this isn't funny."  There are only long, often agonizing shots that are quite clever and slick.  The hues used here only add to the dreadful atmosphere.  This film doesn't need a lot of extravagant lighting or effects....it simply takes the camera road trip route and takes the viewer on a journey.  Mr. Anderson knows how to coax fear from his viewer.

Writing:
This is some of the most clever, yet simple stuff in modern horror.  Too often our horror writers go for shock....here the viewer is forced to follow, create, and piece together what is one hell of a payoff.  You will truly shiver at the outcome.  This is more of a thinking man's film, whereas a lot of horror today is fluff.  This will make you think.

Scares:
The scares in this film are slow to come, but that's ok.  The tension builds are the men explore the facility and halfway through the picture you are looking at your watch wondering where the time went.  It is certainly engrossing.  These are the types of scares that not only stay with you but make you not want to blink.  MINOR SPOILER
For instance, one man finds some old case files in the basement and begins to listen to audio recordings of "Sessions" from a former patient with multiple personality disorder.  We are treated to each session via audio tape until we reach Session 9 which will CHILL YOU.
END SPOILER
This is definitely a high brow film in the horror cannon so go in expecting a slow burner...not flying body parts.


Overall:
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  This film is scary stuff.  It has divided horror fans due to its slow nature, but as we know people tend to love their horror in very particular fashions.  I can respect each kind if done well and trust me, this film is done quite well.  Check it out.

8 out of 10





HAPPY SLASHING Big Gay Horror Nerds!
Brent

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

THE SLEEPAWAY CAMP SERIES!

The 1980's were a special time for horror.  Halloween had set the tone in the 70's and a little publicized low budgeter you may have heard of called Friday the 13th came on the scene and the 80's slasher was born.  After the success of F13 a number of copycat summer camp slashers were pumped out by studios looking to cash in on the craze.  One of those films was a little different than the rest and caused quite a stir among horror fans due to its campy style and bizarre subject matter.  That film was called Sleepaway Camp.  The film spawned a number of sequels (a few of which I will not mention in this blog due to the fact they have nothing to do with the original trilogy.)  So.....let's get started!

I saw the the original trilogy when I was in high school in the 90's.  During one of my many local Blockbuster raids I noticed the above posted cover art.  Next to it were two sequels....so I thought "What the hell!" and got all 3.  Little did I know I would spend the next few hours in true horror camp heaven and would never be the same.  I started with the original.

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
The movie opens with a father on a trip with his young son and daughter.  They are at a lake boating when an accident kills the son (Peter) and the father.  The terribly introverted and obviously traumatized daughter (Angela) is left orphaned and sent to live with her eccentric Aunt Martha.  Aunt Martha has a son named Ricky who is roughly Angela's age.  Ricky is fiercely protective of his cousin Angela and they become very close.

Aunt Martha sends Angela and Ricky to Camp Arawack where Angela is terribly bullied and Ricky is constantly saving her, often getting himself into trouble with the camp counselors for his wicked, raging anger.  Calm the hell down bro.  Yes, I said "bro"....eat it.  ANYWAYS, Angela is tormented so terribly by the other campers that she rarely even speaks.  The only kid to earn her trust is Paul....a charming, handsome blonde boy who I am sure grew up to be a killer bottom in gay porn.

SUDDENLY, kids begin to die.  The killer is never revealed but the killings are done in a routine, by the numbers fashion.  One by one the evil tormenters are killed leaving the viewer to assume it is either Angela or Ricky behind the killings.  Toward the end of the film Angela invites her beau Paul for a swim and they head to the lake at night.  As the camp counselors find more and more bodies they frantically arrive at the beach where Angela is found humming and holding Paul (who is apparently sleeping) in her lap.  FLASHBACK TO AUNT MARTHA......it is revealed at the end that Aunt Martha brought Angela in and is very excited to have "the girl I have always wanted."  Trouble is....Angela isn't Angela.....but PETER....yes folks, PETER LIVED and the original Angela was killed.  Aunt Martha raised our poor young Peter as a girl.  FLASH FORWARD.....Angela on the beach turns around and jumps up revealing she has 3 things....Paul's head, a knife.....and a dick.  THE END.



I love this movie because it sticks to the normal 80's whodunit formula but takes this CRAZY left turn at the end.  It is truly the definition of a camp classic.  Terrible acting, decent effects, and a crazy plot twist.  Check it out for sure.

Onto part 2

This film opens with a group of kids around a campfire listening to camper Phoebe tell the story of the now legendary Camp Arawack killings.  When the story is finished Phoebe, who has snuck away from her own camp to hang out with the boys is found out by a female counselor.  The counselor orders Phoebe back to camp and off they go into the woods.  After Phoebe becomes a little mouthy in the secluded woods she is hit over the head with a piece of wood and her tongue is cut out.  YEP, our pissed off camp counselor is none other than Angela from the previous film.  This time around Angela (played by Pamela ImBruce'sSister Springsteen) is on a mission.....a mission to commit a genocide of assholes.  She quietly and hilariously wipes out the ENTIRE CAMP including her coworkers throughout the course of the film.

The selling point of this sequel is its ability to have a sense of humor.  Not only does Angela spew out wity one liners upon each murder but she does so in a fun and unique fashion.  Here we get a beheading, 2 slutty sisters who are torched, a girl drilled in the face, a stabbing, a guitar string strangling, a chainsaw death, a slit throat, and my personal favorite...death by leeches in the outhouse.  Yes, this movie goes there and does so brilliantly.  Whereas the original film aimed to scare you, this one aims to make you pee your pants and I almost did a number of times.  THIS is my favorite in the series.

PS: a fun piece of trivia: All the campers and counselors are named after Brat Packers....including the head of the camp "Uncle John" after John Hughes.  TOO MUCH FUN.

                               MISS ANGELA AIN'T KIDDIN' AROUND......

Now onto PART 3

This movie was made directly after the sequel was made and finds our lovely Angela as a disguised camper at a retreat type camp for troubled kids.  This camp is designed to intermingle street kids with rich kids and is run by two old coots who have way too much fun in this movie.  Angela murders a girl at the beginning of the film, puts her in a trash compactor, assumes her identity, and is carted off to Camp New Horizons to begin another bloodbath.  At this point we think we have seen it all from Angela....but this is not so.  Here we have a firecracker in someone's nose, a beheading with an axe, a lawnmower ran over someone's head who is buried in the dirt, a girl tied to a flagpole and dropped, among other fun deaths.  This film also has a quite comedic tone as it was directed and produced by the same man who did the sequel.  I find this one a little less entertaining simply because it becomes a little redundant after a while.

Ps: More Trivia: In this flick the rich kids are named after the Brady Bunch and the poor kids are named after characters from West Side Story.  The owners of the camp are Herman and Lily.....haha. HILARIOUS and subtle.

*Note* There is an unfinished and unrelated sequel that can be found in the Sleepaway Camp Survivor Kit Box Set and also a sequel made in the 2000's that was so bad I can't even go there.

SO......

DEFINITELY pick a night, order some pizzas and get a group of friends together because THESE FILMS ARE FUN and are meant to be viewed by a group of drunks.  You will laugh....you will cringe....and you will enjoy yourselves.

Until Next Time!  Keep on choppin!

Brent

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

RANDOM REVIEW: 28 WEEKS LATER

Welcome to my first in a series on my blog called "Random Reviews" in which I pick a film at random, eyes closed from my collection to review it.....I have everything from amazing to REALLY bad, so this is going to be interesting!

FIRST UP I chose.............






28 WEEKS LATER (2007)
Directed by: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (say that 3 times fast)
Written by: A whole bunch of people I am too lazy to list.
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne, and Jeremy Renner

NOW....anyone that knows me knows that I like my horror straight forward, with little to no genre bending.  I like em' serious.  I like em' dark.  And I like em' scary.  This film delivers the goods.  It's a gory, fun ride that is almost too intense to handle in places.  It's sort of a zombie film (more on that in a bit)...but mostly just a kick ass survival story. 

This film is a sequel to the 2002 film 28 Days Later, which I am sort of ashamed to admit I was not a huge fan of.  I thought it played too heavily on the military subplot and failed to deliver what I expected would revitalize the zombie genre....although it sort of did.  The "zombies" in these films are not zombies at all, yet normal, everyday folks who are inflicted with a "Rage" virus that turns them into monsters.  Once infected they are maniacal, fast, and hunt alone and in packs.  This virus is passed through bites, saliva, etc.  In the original film a man wakes up from a coma to find the city of London deserted in a sort of post apocalyptic haze.  Upon investigation he is soon attacked by raving maniacs and must fend them off with other survivors in a remote house....a la Night of the Living Dead.

In the sequel we learn that 28 weeks after the original events London has been virtually wiped out by quarantining the rage virus to the main island.  The infected have officially starved and are all dead.  The island is proclaimed safe yet still quarantined.  Survivors are now herded back to London but are forbidden by the military to cross into the quarantined zones, even if they lived there.  They are to find new homes and rebuild. 



A father who escaped a farmhouse after a major attack is reunited with his 2 children (a younger brother and teenage sister) during their return to London.  Upon their reunion he tells them the events which eventually led to the death of their mother.  The children, devastated decide to sneak out of the safe zone and into the quarantined zone to retrieve a picture of their late mother at their home.  Upon arriving they find their mother alive and disoriented.  Turns out she is infected with the virus but has a special immunity.  Scientists take her in to study her in hopes of finding a cure.  During her stay her husband is made aware she is alive and sneaks in to see her, whereupon he kisses her....and turns into this......

aaaaaaaaaand all hell breaks loose....again! The rage  virus spreads like wild fire and the entire city of London is once again completely overrun with fast as lightning, intelligent zombies.

The coolest part of this story is the humanity.  The lengths at which the sister will go to protect her brother, along with a female scientist who must also protect the brother due to his hereditary immunity of the virus is really the heart of the film.  There is also a soldier who goes against orders to protect the family.  These human stories tie very nicely into the action which is itself unrelenting.



There are sequences of violence in this film that made me entirely uncomfortable....especially the untimely fate of the mother.  This sucker NEVER lets up and before you know it body parts are a' flyin'.  The gore quotient is rather high here as well, but not overdone.  This ultra-violent universe is created almost perfectly by the director and writers.

I definitely recommend this movie even if you weren't a fan of the original.  I give it 3 "ooooh girls" and 4 "no she betta don'ts."

Stay tuned for more Random Reviews!!!!

Big, gay bear hugs!