Wednesday, July 23, 2014

THE STORE IS OPEN!


Hi everyone. Sorry that I haven't been on here for a while. Got lots of things going on (I started a local horror club which I need to post pictures on here of our monthly meetings) and I know that I've been neglecting this blog...which I'm so sorry for.


I also opened a store on ioffer.com as I've had lots of emails and messages regarding my collection so I've decided to share the love. Come visit my store and spread the word...I've got some rare titles up for grabs so I hope you will come by and visit!



 
 

 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Curse Of Chucky (2013)


Just with the title of this entry, I can already hear some of you asking, what’s the deal with Linus not reviewing anything out of the 80’s lately? It’s not that I’ve stayed away and given up the whole reason why this blog exists, it’s just that I’ve been branching out myself a taking in some new styles and trying out new things. Though my eighties collection is very extensive, I’ve been talking to some horror fans within recent months and I’ve been exchanging stories with them about movies we love and one of them had some nice things to say about this blog. But the one thing that surprised me was that he told me that I needed to learn to experience more modern films – which everyone knows how I feel about that – and to sit through titles I would not normally take a gander at on my own. Needless to say, I took the chance and walked away from my comfort zone for a little while and I have to admit that I’ve been rather disappointed at some of the drivel I’ve been subjecting myself to so I stopped altogether.

So when I heard the news that there was going to be a new entry in the beloved Child’s Play series, without even thinking, I immediately dismissed the idea. Though I loved the original and its immediate sequel, I am not a fan of either Bride Of or Seed of Chucky for reasons we won’t get into right now. They just weren’t my style, plain and simple. So I did some research on this new entry and read that it was going to revert to the stylings of the first film and be more straight-forward horror than the dark humor that its two predecessors were known for. And even though that was enough to spark an interest in me, I’ve been very disillusioned with the recent trend of endless remakes and reboots that have been coming out of the Hollywood anus with none of them satisfying me in any way, shape, or form so why would this film tied to a beloved 80’s franchise be any different? (Evil Dead, anyone?)

Now if you grew up in the Regan era and can remember when the first Child’s Play was released you probably can recall the controversy it caused when it came out in theaters. If I remember correctly, I was a lad in the eighth grade and in the area I was living at the time, the film became an instant hit. I remember a teacher in our school going on about the movie stating that she was afraid that it was going to have kids ‘glamorize violence’ and that ‘it was sad that Hollywood was taking the childhoods of many with this film’. Of course, in my house there was no way that I was going to be able to go to the theater to see it, though many of my friends did as it was the talk of the playground for at least a month. There was the whole talk about the soon-to-be-iconic antagonist Chucky being a rip-off of the My Buddy dolls of that era and how many kids who owned one suddenly didn’t want them anymore and that Child’s Play was the sole reason the My Buddy (and Kid Sister) dolls faded into obscurity. Was that true? Probably not, but it was enough to keep the film on the tongues of everyone during the fall of 1988.

About a week before this new installment was released, I did some research on it and was happy to read that Don Mancini had written it (who’d done every single sequel to date) and that Brad Dourif would be reprising role as the titular character and that Dourif’s daughter Fiona would be starring as Nica, the main character. The more I read about the film, the more curious I became, especially since this one was staying away from the plots and styles of the previous two films. But the thing that was ultimately piquing my curiosity was that this chapter was going to be released direct-to-video. Now, with the huge success the franchise has had up to this point and the loyal cult following that it’s had since its inception, why would this not be allowed to have a theatrical run, especially with Dourif as Chucky? Clearly all of the installments of the franchise have gone on to be highly successful so why not let this one have that same chance?
 

I then went ahead and contacted a friend of mine who was able to send me an advance copy of the film as the curiosity was starting to really kill me. I had already seen the artwork for the film’s poster and loved the idea that the producers had taken Chucky and returned him to a more ‘toned-down’ and old-school look. I immediately fell in love with the cover and became even more excited. Which is why when I got it in the mail about a week before it’s official DVD release (it had already been released VOD) I took aside a huge part of the evening and sat down in front of it as I knew I was going to be watching something really good. At least, I was hoping that it would be. I popped into the DVD player and sat down with my popcorn, hoping for the best. (Beware, major spoilers follow. So if you haven’t seen this yet…)

The film opens up with a package being delivered to the home of the Pierce family and Nica, a paraplegic girl, signing for it. When she opens it up, she discovers a Good Guy doll to which she shows to her mother, Sarah. That night, Sarah is unexplainably killed and her death ruled a suicide. Nica’s older sister, Barb, husband Ian, their daughter Alice and Jill, the live-in nanny all come to the house for the funeral as with a priest named Father Frank. Immediately upon seeing the doll, Alice claims the doll as her own and keeps him. The first thing that I notice about the film is that it is being told in a linear fashion and is a bit darker and moodier than I’d expected. When Nica makes a chili dinner for everyone, Chucky sneaks into the kitchen and poisons one of the bowls. When Father Frank ingests the chili, he dismisses himself from the group and is then involved in a fatal car crash (with a great decapitation scene!). Back at the house, the group is sitting in front of some home movies and here we see Sarah at a young age (pregnant with Nica, in fact) and their now-deceased father. We find out here that Nica and Barb’s father drowned shortly after the film they are watching was taken and in the distance stands a long-haired man wearing sunglasses. When Nica questions who he is, Barb simply replies, “Probably an old neighbor from Chicago”. Alice comes into the room as she’s lost Chucky and can’t find him. As her mother and Jill begin looking for the doll, they both go into the kitchen and we are suddenly given a gratuitous shot of the two ladies kissing and discover that they are secret lovers with Ian being clueless to their relationship. Now, I’m going to stop here and utter the following because it’s got to be said: Did we really need that? Not that I have anything against that sort of thing but that part of the plot felt a bit tacked on as the rest of the story could have been told without it. But that’s just me. So when we return to Nica going back into the living room, we see that Chucky is now seated next to a sleeping Ian. When he grabs the doll, Nica asks him if he remembered the dolls in particular to which he cleverly utters, “We’re the 80’s great?”
 
 

Determined to find out exactly where the doll came from, Nica goes onto the internet and does some research only to discover that the doll is linked to murderer Charles Lee Ray and a slew of unsolved Chucky murders. While this is going on, a storm is rumbling outside as Barb puts Alice to bed. As Jill comes into the girl’s room a little later to sleep with her (here we get a ridiculous scene of Jill taking her clothes off and opening her laptop to give Barb a peep show while she’s in the next room), Chucky kills Jill, knocking over a bucket of rainwater that’s leaked from the ceiling onto the power outlets on the floor. Was I impressed with this? Of course not, as I predicted that would happen as soon as I saw the bucket. So this basically messes up the entire house and as Barb gets up to see what’s going on in the next room, a pissed off Ian confronts her about her affair with the nanny and threatens to have Alice taken away from her. Here, he dons some earplugs and puts them on in an attempt to drown out a now pissed off Barb and she storms out. As she goes into the hallway, she sees Chucky sitting at the foot of the stairs leading to the attic. Thinking Alice may be up there, she grabs the doll and climbs the stairs. As she looks for her daughter, Nica know knows that something is amiss with Chucky and tries to warn her sister to leave the doll alone. Barb comes out of the attic and the two sisters begin to fight and Barb becomes furious as Nica begins to tell her about the connection of Chucky to the unsolved murders yet Barb is thinking Nica knew about the cam conversation between her and Jill and she storms back upstairs to look for Alice. With the storm having knocked out the elevator, she climbs out of her wheelchair and pushes her way up the stairs in hopes of getting to Barb before something terrible happens. It is here where Barb discovers a knife by Chucky and foolishly puts him and the knife down as she continues to look for her daughter. When she turns around, she finds Chucky on a shelf behind her, but something is different. His face! She walks toward him slowly and reaches for a piece of loose plastic that’s coming off his lip. With this, the scars on his face are revealed (an obvious reference to Child’s Play 3) and when she goes back to put her finger in his mouth, he goes for it and kills Barb, stabbing her in the eye and gouging it out. As Nica struggles to make it to the top of the stairs, she hears a noise and looks up and watches as Barb’s eye comes bouncing down the staircase (If you ask me, this was a complete homage to The Changeling as it was done in almost the exact same manner). Barb emerges from the attic and collapses, dead.
 
 

Nica manages to grab the spare wheelchair in the closet and rushes to wake the sleeping Ian to let him know what’s happened. They rush to the garage to hide and as he leaves Nica to go and search for Alice, Chucky climbs into the parked car and turns it on in an attempt to kill her by means of carbon monoxide poisoning. Here is where Ian returns, and now after having seen the carnage upstairs, he is convinced that Nica is the murderer. As he confronts her, she begins to have what appears to be a heart attack and passes out, waking up later, her hands bound to her wheelchair as she pleads with Ian that the culprit is, indeed, Chucky himself. Claiming that he could prove it was her with the nanny-cam he’d planted on the doll earlier to capture the affair between Barb and Jill, he begins to watch the recorded footage only to see that Nica was telling the truth! Quickly switching to the ‘live footage’ option, he sees that Chucky has not only come into the room with them, but he is standing right behind Nica. He pushes the wheelchair onto Ian, knocking him to the floor. With one swift move, the doll takes the axe that was left in the garage and gets Ian right in the jaw, taking it right off. Nica and Chucky begin to struggle and taking the axe, he get Nica right in the knee and she slaps the shit out of him, knocking him off her. She pulls the blade out of her knee and gives the doll and good whack, knocking his head off his body. But, of course, you’d be silly to think that it’s all over, right? And you’d be even sillier to think that Chucky wouldn’t re-attach his own head back to his body, right? With that said, he takes his own head, attaches it back to his body and grabs the wheelchair, pushing it out the door and knocking her over the side of the stairs to the main floor below.
 
 

Now, this is where the film takes an interesting turn.

As Chucky meets her downstairs, the film takes a great twist. It is revealed here that Charles Lee Ray was a friend of the Pierce’s and we see that he was the stranger in the home movies that the girls had been watching at the beginning of the film. He confesses that he was in love with Sarah but since she was married and pregnant, he couldn’t have her. Taking it upon himself to drown and kill their father, he kidnaps Sarah a little while after the funeral and keeps her hostage secluded away from everyone. During a great flashback scene we see Charles Lee Ray hovering over Sarah, telling her he is about to go pick up Barb from school. As she resists, the two get into an argument and he threatens to kill her, pulling out a red knife with a white stripe! The knife from the very first film! We then find out that Sarah called the police and as they approach his hiding place, he stabs Sarah in the stomach injuring the unborn Nica, causing her to become born paraplegic. Now here’s what made me smile: As the cops come to take him into custody, Charles Lee Ray flees only to end up at the toy shop from the first film (using clips from the original Child’s Play) therefore having the entire franchise come full circle.  We get treated to a little reminder of how everything got its start. I loved how the backstory was seamlessly interwoven into the plot of the current film, technically setting off the chain of events that would begin the entire franchise! Very well done!


So then comes the final confrontation between Chucky and Nica that begins with a terrifying struggle and ending with a knife being plunged into Chucky’s back. But, to her own horror, she goes to look at the wound to only find fluff and she pulls it out of him…which means he’s still alive! As this is going on, the cop who was around when Father Frank was killed appears at the Pierce house and busts inside, looking around and seeing blood everywhere and Barb’s body atop the stairs. And to make matters worse, not only is Nica still holding the knife she ‘killed’ Chucky with, but the doll himself is perched once again in the chair he was in at the beginning of the film, leaving all the fingers pointing to poor Nica. She is taken into custody and declared insane in court as she’s tried for the murders of Ian, Barb and Jill and as she’s wheeled away, Chucky himself is Exhibit D and she chastises him, telling him that even though everything has happened and as hard as he tried to dispose of her, she is still alive. As she’s being wheeled away, we see the same cop who discovered the scene at the Pierce home staring at the doll perched on the table in front of him. Cut to the parking garage outside the courthouse, we see that he’s stolen the doll and placed it in an evidence bag and takes it out to his car. He pulls out his cell and makes a call, leaving a voice message from someone that he has the doll and ‘not to forget his money’. As he hangs up, he looks over at the bad and sees that something inside is breathing! And just as he tries to figure out what is going on, someone emerges from the back seat and violently slits his throat with what appears to be a nail file. It’s Tiffany (Bride of/Seed of Chucky)!  What the fuck?! We then see her asking Chucky (as she’s boxing him up), “Who’s next?”

Cut to Tiffany walking into a shipping/postal office with a boxed up Chucky ready to be sent. It is here we can deduce that she’s forgiven Chucky for the events that happened toward the end of Seed of Chucky. We then cut to an apartment and see that Alice is alive and well and living with her grandmother. We see an open package on the kitchen counter and when Alice comes in to the room she beams with delight as she sees the doll. “You found me, Chucky!” she exclaims. When she asks for the whereabouts of her grandmother, he tells her she’s in the cellar. Chucky then tells Alice that he wants to play “Hide the Soul” and begins to recite the chant that first transferred his soul into the Good Guy doll at the start of the first film. We then see the camera pan off and see Alice’s grandmother emerge from the bottom of the screen, plastic bag over her head…still alive.

Bottom line, I loved this film. I was so pissed off that this wasn’t given the chance to run in theaters as I think it would have done really, really well. The story was well-told (though I’ll admit that it was a bit slow at first) and there was simplicity to the way everything was set up that allowed the film to flow freely and without confusion. Maybe it was a bit too simple now that I think about it, but I think if it would have been even a little more complex than it was, it would have not had the same effect. The mood was set up well, the house the Pierce’s lived in was very gothic in some ways and I do like how all of the events in the film took place within the house itself. That allowed the viewer to be focused on the story without being distracted by change in locales. Brad Dourif’s performance as Chucky was superb as it always has been but this time I liked that his performance was more reminiscent of the first two films. I honestly ended up liking it more than I thought I would (being that as of this writing I’ve seen it four times) and I thought it was a brilliant and actually acceptable entry in the franchise. It’s a shame that this couldn’t be shown on the big screen as I think it would have done great box-office, especially with all the shit that has been released in recent memory.

But…everything that I’ve mentioned here couldn’t compare to what followed the end credits. Now, I do need to clear up here that the DVD version that I got does not have what I’m about to reveal here as it’s a shame as this was the best part of the entire film. Whether or not it’s included on the Unrated version isn’t known by me as I think I have the standard version. The only reason that I was even made aware of it was thank to Wikipedia as I was quickly re-reading the plot as preparation for this entry and read this tacked on at the very end. So, here goes: Apparently, as soon as the final credits end, we are treated to a wonderful post-credit sequence with a delivery truck at an apartment making a delivery to Andy Barclay, protagonist of the first film. He opens the door and signs for it and he takes it, putting it on the table as he answers a phone call. It’s his mother and from what we can derive, it’s Andy’s birthday. As he tells her not to make a fuss, or buy him anything (!!), we see a knife come out the top of the box as something slowly slices its way out. Chucky has come to finally get Andy!…or so we think. So as Chucky sits up in the box and looks around for his first owner, he gasps as he sees Andy holding a shotgun to his face! And as Andy wonderfully delivers the line, “Play with this!”, he pulls the trigger and the screen goes black implying that once and for all, Andy has finally done away with his arch-nemesis.
 
 

This was a fantastic attempt at a reboot and I hate to say, but some of the production companies who have made similar attempts in the past with no luck should take notes as this is how it should be done. Bring in new characters, yes, but place them in a story that can immediately remind us of the films that you’re trying to re-capture. These companies that are trying to market 80’s remakes to a brand new generation should think again and market them to us 40-somethings who were around when the original films were released as we would be the ones go see them versus these kids who wouldn’t know the first think about a horror film, much less one made during the time their parents were in grade school. This is one to sit in front of at least once, but take it from me having sat in front of it for the fourth time that it’s worth getting into your collection. You can quote me on this if you’d like but Linus says this is the first reboot in the form of a sequel that I stand behind all the way. I’m actually hoping that another will follow this one – even though that post credit sequence has possibly put a damper on that – and believe me, if it’s even remotely done in the same manner and fashion, I’ll be standing in line for it. Welcome back, Chucky! We missed ya!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)



So, my best friend Matt and I were texting back and forth the other night discussing the films we love – which is something we do on a regular basis. We were talking about the creature films of the 80’s and reminiscing about titles like Critters, Munchies and the beloved Ghoulies. As we talked about them he mentioned to me how fond he was of those films and I happened to mention to him how much I loved Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. And just to be on the safe side, I made it a point to make it clear that I was talking about the 1973 film that was released on ABC. He completely blew me away when the text that followed read: There’s an original?  

I immediately began to tell him the story of how I came to see the film for the first time when I was about 10 years old. Just after the traumatic experience I had with the original Friday the 13th, I stayed away from even the notion of sitting in front of a horror film for a while and actually had the plans of never doing it again. Just with what happened, it scarred me and I have my father to blame for that. As a small kid in rural California, my mother had purchased a small portable black and white television set to have around the house. She would use it in the kitchen mostly but at times we kids were allowed to use it in case there was something we wanted to watch when my father was occupying the color set in the living room. One night, I took the small set to my room as I wanted to watch something that was on prime time that evening (I’m thinking something along the lines of The Dukes of Hazzard, which I was really into at the time) and the set stayed with me in my bedroom as I went to bed. I ended up waking up later on that night to use the bathroom and as everyone was asleep, I decided to turn the television set on and see what was on, just remembering to keep the volume down so I wouldn’t get into trouble.

When I turned to KFSN-TV Channel 30, I was immediately creeped out by the stations logo ID at the top of the hour and the announcer’s spooky deep voice asking It’s 11o’clock. Do you know where your children are? (Something that still runs chills down my spine to date). Then, to my own horror – no pun intended – the Late Late Creature Feature program comes on. Now, this was something I’d never done. It was something completely new. And was I terrified? You bet it was. But something kept me glued to the set as the opening of the film commenced. That was something I never forgot. The soft chilling whispers over a shot of a large house at night with the moon hovering over it made my heart race as I had no idea what I was getting myself into.   But there I was, stuck to it and ready for what was coming.
 

If you haven’t seen this film (in its original form), you must find it someway, somehow and sit in front of it at least once. As Matt and I were talking about it, I dug up the DVD I own and popped it into my laptop. Honestly, I haven’t seen it in a matter of years so it was nice to be able to revisit it. Every die-hard horror fan my age knows the premise of the film: Sally Farnham and her husband Alex inherit her recently deceased grandmother’s home. As the couple move in, Sally finds a bricked up fireplace in the basement that she wants to use as her study. As she becomes curious about having the fireplace re-opened, she is given a warning by the caretaker, Mr. Harris, to leave the fireplace the way it is as that’s how Sally’s grandfather wanted it. Of course, she doesn’t heed his words and she manages to opens the side door where ashes could be removed and there, the film begins. I don’t want to give much of the plot away, as I sometimes do in these posts, because every horror fan should see this at least once. There is an atmosphere presented in the film right from the beginning that grips you and takes you into Sally’s mind, as slowly, but surely she begins to lose it. Granted, it isn’t presented on the level of let’s say, Repulsion, but once Sally herself (brilliantly played by Kim Darby, whom all of us 80’s know as Mrs. Myer from Better Off Dead) begins to hear voices calling her name, she is convinced that not only is something in the house with her, but it’s after her.

There are some very effective scenes in the film that even know as an adult will cause a chill to run down your spine. And for having been a made-for-television movie, there are hordes of horror fans like myself who hold it in high regard. For one, it plays well on the psychological level as we slowly see Sally herself descend into madness as not only is she hearing voices calling her name, but she sees things that nobody else does. She sees little people. Little people who invade her daily space. Little people who are out to make her one of them. Her husband (the very handsome Jim Hutton) begins to lose patience with her, as he feels everything she sees is a figment of her overactive imagination. Is it the house itself causing her to become delusional? Or is just Sally losing her grip with reality? Her friend Joan (Barbara Anderson) comes into the picture and slowly begins to realize that there is really something wrong with Sally and comes to stay with her while Alex is away in San Francisco on a business trip. It is here where the film becomes positively frightening. The goblins are determined to get Sally. They have managed to lure Joan outside as they take poor Sally, who’s been giving sleeping pills by her doctor, is now unable to defend herself as she is taken hostage and slowly dragged downstairs into the basement before anyone can reach her. But the most terrifying part is the film’s close, where the voices that were present during the opening of the film, return. This time they are not alone. They whisper back and forth will Sally now a part of them, patiently now awaiting their next victim to move into the house. She is now one of them.


All I can remember as a kid is lying motionless in my bed, the covers over me, and the sound of the music playing over the credits as the film ended, terrified for having watched it. I could head the goblin’s whispers in my mind as I turned the television off and I could see them there with me in my bedroom. I was startled with every single noise, turning restlessly in my bed with the fear of one of the goblins coming out of the closet or under my bed to grab me as punishment for watching it. I remember staying up most of the night, even afraid to turn the television back on to keep my company, and prayed to have the night pass quickly. My first encounter with a horror film was my father’s doing. This one was something I would have to take complete responsibility for.

I didn’t come across this film again until just a few years ago when I met a trader online who sent it to me. The funny thing is when it came in the mail, I waited until that night to sit in front of it again. And I watched it just as I did that very first time back in the early eighties: all the lights off and wrapped in a blanket. It was nice to relive that night all over again. But watching it the other night, I had completely forgotten the simplicity of the plot and how effective the atmosphere was. For its time, and for having it been shown on network television, many (as myself) consider it a part of horror history. There are those key scenes that still make me jump and put my hands over my mouth. And until the other night, I guess I hadn’t realized how much of an emotional attachment I have to this little film.

Which is why I was furious with Benicio del Toro’s remake! I went to watch it and was immediately put off with how the main character is not a grown woman, but a little girl. It just wasn’t the same for me. Possibly because I have this peeve of remakes having the plots of its predecessors re-tooled or tinkered with (as I experienced with The Last House on the Left, Evil Dead and so on...). I don’t even want to get into that as there are many fans that I’ve spoken to who consider the remake to be brilliant. I will only agree on some level because Del Toro’s name is attached to it as I consider him a horror visionary and I’ve read that he is as fond of the original film as I am. It’s a travesty that the very hard to find readily available on home media be it on original VHS form or in DVD. Aside from it being available made-to-order from the Warner Archive website, you cannot get your hands on this at any local store. It’s too bad that this film isn’t readily available for the long time die-hard fan of the film much less a new budding horror fan to get his hands on and experience it first-hand. It really is a shame as this one deserves to have its place in every horror fan’s collection. Maybe one day one of the current popular media distributors can grab hold of the rights (even temporary) just to get this one out to a larger market. It honestly should be more popular and more respected than just being a cult film among us older fans. But, maybe that’s best as those of us who hold it near and dear to our hearts will treasure it for many more years to come and pass it on to the younger up and comers who have the desire to be exposed to the classics…and only the classics.

Linus Meets Danny Trejo! 11/12/13



So I know I haven’t written in this thing in a while, but today I have good reason to. This post actually should have been put up several days ago when it happened, but I’ve been so busy that this is the first time I’ve actually had a free moment.

So, if you’ve read the headline for this post you’ve figured out that I had the pleasure of meeting Danny Trejo this past week. What’s funny, though, is how random the meeting was and honestly, that was the best part. So here’s now my Tuesday night went:

I came into work as normal and was going about my business when a small group of gentleman came in from the outside convention center doors. As I was talking on the phone with a guest staying at the hotel, I noticed from afar there was a gentleman that had walked in and approached the little candy dish that’s located at the front desk. I don’t admit this to many, but I’m farsighted so he appeared to look like just another man in his late fifties to early sixties. As I stayed focused on him, I noticed his features more and more and before I knew it, my brain was telling me, Damn, this guy looks just like Danny Trejo. I guess I wasn’t really at my sharpest that afternoon because for a few moments I was staring at him in a daze telling myself over and over again how much this guy looked like Machete himself until my lazy eyes finally looked up at the cap he was wearing and how in plain bright crimson the words Machete Kills were emblazoned across it. It was Danny Trejo! What the bloody hell was he doing in Visalia?

So I walked over to him and immediately, he flashed me a smile. Nervously, I asked him if he was Mr. Trejo himself and he laughed and confirmed his identity. He offered me his hand and shook it enthusiastically and I was instantly star struck. I, of course, gushed and confessed to how big of a fan I was of him (I mean who isn’t?) but more so of how random it all was. He then proceeded to tell me about having to get ready for an event he was attending next door in the convention center but that he would be happy to come back and talk to me and take pictures with me before the event. I was ecstatic. So what does Linus do? I immediately went online and managed to find a replica of the poster for Machete and printed three out (one for me, for my best friend, and one for my co-worker) in hopes that he would be kind enough to sign them.

So a few hours pass and soon enough, Danny emerged from the elevator all dressed in a black suit and donning cool silver jewelry and came to the desk as he’d promised. We carried on a short conversation about his movies and how big of a fan I am of his (I even made him laugh when he asked me what my favorite film with him in it is and I answered Blood In, Blood Out). I then asked him if he could sign the Machete posters I’d printed out and not only did he say ‘yes’, he signed them with a flourish and said to me, “There’s nothing I love more than obliging a true horror fan.” which absolutely thrilled me. He stayed a while with me at the desk and had a small quick conversation before he went off to speak at the Tulare Country Drug Court graduation ceremony where he was honored with a stainless steel machete adorned with the film’s logo and his name for his involvement with the organization.

I was told that the next morning he posed for pictures with some of the restaurant and hotel staff which does say a lot about celebrities of his caliber as some of the ones I’ve encountered during my lengthy hotel career didn’t have the decency to even give me the time of day. But it was in the stars as it worked out and now I have the privilege of having a replica of the one-sheet for Machete with Danny’s signature and a photo with him adorning my office, right next to the likes of John Saxon, Felissa Rose and Ari Lehman. Thank you, Danny, for recognizing your fans and treating them like real people and reminding us why we are dedicated horror fans. Fantastic!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

You're Next (2013)

So everyone knows that I’m not much of an auteur of modern horror. I’ve got my opinions and views on the ‘new age’ of films that have been coming out since the new century began since I’m more attached to the classics of yesteryear. When I first saw the trailer to “You’re Next” I thought to myself, this looks pretty darn good though I’m always a bit leery when it comes to anything modern. Probably it’s because I’ve noticed that this generation’s films rely too much on the CGI and semi-faux effects instead of relying on atmosphere and storyline. Now, every then I will come across a gem like The Strangers or Inside, but that’s been few and far between. A few months ago I sat in front a little independent film called V/H/S that introduced me to a new wave of directors that are leaning toward the old-style of filmmaking including Adam Wingard, who directed this film, and two other directors from that film who actually starred in this one.

Now, I don’t want to go and go scene by scene because I think different people could form different opinions about this one. There are many horror fans who take things at the visceral level: what I see, is what I get. There are other horror fans who go a little deeper: There’s more to this film that what I’m seeing. Then, there are fans like me who were raised old-school:Let’s see if this film rips any others off [or attempts to] and see how well [or how awful] they do it. Because let’s face it, most of these modern film borrow something from previous films, no matter how much or how little. I’m one of those fans that, while paying close attention to the storyline [if it’s got me in its jaws enough], I look around to see if there’s anything I’ve seen before, if there’s any nods to any of the grand classics (The basement scene in The Cabin in the Woods, anyone?), and just how many touches these directors leave in my mind. This one wasn’t an exception whatsoever.


So before I begin, let me give you the honest reasons why I decided to see this film. 1. It’s a slasher film. With most of the films in recent day that have been released have to do with the supernatural aspects of horror, my heart and soul will forever belong to the stalk and slash genre of these films. Get ten or twelve people and have them knocked off one by one and you’ve pretty much got me sold. The formula for me has always been a definite winner in whatever type of form you present it to me (giallo!) even though we all have sat through those films that have left us groaning in agony on how terrible they are (The PreyDon’t Go In the Woods). 2. Not only was it directed by Adam Wingard, who directed the V/H/S segment “10.31.98”, but it stars Joe Swanberg, who starred in the segment “Second Honeymoon” and directed the segment “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” but it also starred Ti West, who directed the V/H/S segment “Second Honeymoon” and directed two films I love, The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers. 3. I read somewhere in the horror grapevine that it was a homage and total throwback to the heydays of the 80’s slasher. So just with that, you know I was going to be in line. Sadly, I wasn’t able to see it on opening weekend but finally made some time this past Monday to get into the theater and see it.



I really don't want to give much of the plot away (as I sometimes do in these reviews) but the premise revolves around the gathering of the children of the Davison family at their parent's remote Missouri home as they are are celebrating the 35th wedding anniversary of their parents. Little to they know that their neighbors have been brutally murdered. As one by one the siblings arrive, they all come around with their partners and eventually sit around to a nice family dinner to celebrate the occasion. I know that sounds pretty basic, but to my surprise, that was the first forty minutes of the film. Funny as this will sound, the obligatory opening murder sequence didn't take as long as the rest of the film leading up to the dinner. I have to be honest that I was tempted to walk out of the theater as introduction of the rest of the characters took a little more time than I expected. But, since I'd seen the trailer for this several times, I already knew that I had to be patient for the dinner scene is where all the action would begin. The siblings consist of Crispian (A J Bowen), Drake (Joe Swanberg) and Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and their sisters and respective romantic partners whom all are meeting for the first time on this trip. We do get some strong characters, though, in particular Crispian's girlfriend Erin (amazingly played by Sharni Vinson). She's a little bit of a bad-ass which immediately sets her apart from everyone else. So as the family sits down to dinner, the mood is suddenly overturned by big brother Drake's (did I mention Joe Swanson is in this film? Dammit, I love this man!) need to point out to the family that Crispian's girlfriend, Erin, is a former student and suddenly the two of them go at it in such a hilarious manner that it honestly reminded me of my family. Oh, and did I mention that younger sister Aimee's boyfriend Tariq (Ti West) is a filmmaker? (Great tongue in cheek nod there, guys). So Drake lays it on thick sarcastically on both of these guys and as the entire family (predictably) boils over and each starts throwing their own two sense into the now-explosive argument, Tariq stand up and walks toward the window overlooking the driveway as he's seen something (or someone) out in the distance. This is where it all begins. 




(Spoiler alert! If you haven't seen the movie and plan to, I don't suggest going any further, as most of what's in the trailer I've pointed out above.)

What ensues during the next few minutes is nothing short of a hot mess of events, each more tragic than the last. And by "hot mess" I mean that in a good way. Tariq is shot with a crossbow arrow in the forehead and Drake is shot in the back with another. Chaos dominates and you immediately are placed in the family's shoes as you try to figure out just what the hell has happened and try to sort everything out with every second that follows. I sat there and watched as more than half of the clan is killed off within the next twenty minutes with only a few of them surviving. So who is stalking them and why are they wearing animal masks? Are they just a bunch of random assailants who chose the family to have some fun and pick them off one by one? How did they know the entire family would be together on this one particular night and place? So this is where Erin comes in and starts organizing the family's defense and starts making a plan to safeguard the house. Let me tell you, she's a feisty little bitch, and I loved every minute she was on-screen (She will later reveal that she grew up in a survivalist compound as a child in Australia).  She gets the rest of family to try and be strong and to get themselves together to try and prevent any of the attackers from getting into them. She even takes it upon herself to send a text message to Emergency Services in hopes to get someone to come out to their aid. Crispian then volunteers to go for help, assuring everyone that he can get to his car and go for help. While this is going on, upstairs the matriarch of the family is murdered and dad discovers her dead body in her bed with a machete in her head (nice!). As he breaks down in total sadness, the audience is then shocked to watch him being slain in front of his son Felix and his girlfriend. But here is where the film takes an unforgettable turn! As you watch dad die before you eyes, you notice there there is not one bit of emotion on Felix as his father has just brutally been slaughtered. And just as you're trying to process that and mouthing "what the fuck?", one of the masked killers appears in the hallway. They're next! Or at least, that's what you're expecting. But as the killer stands there before them and you're just waiting for what you think is going to be a fantastic double-slaying, Felix utters the words, Did you have to do that in front of us?




That's when I shot up my seat and burst out into joyous laughter and the same time thinking What the hell just happened? The first thing I immediately thought after that (unexpected) revelation was, Bay of Blood! Inheritance money! Apparently, I was right as we find out that Felix hired a trio of hitmen to off the family in order to get his hands on hundreds of thousands of dollars. I thought it was a nice twist as I wasn't sure how the killers and their motive(s) would be explained.


So now that that out in the open, now we're suddenly concerned about the rest of the family. Those who are left, at least. But wait, where's Crispian? So the next part of the film is Erin fending off the killers without a clue that the bigger dangers are Felix and his girlfriend. While she is off defending the house, Felix and the now lucid Drake (he'd passed out from his wound earlier in the film) go down into the basement to see what kind of weapons they can find to use as an arsenal against the assailants. Since the killers had been unsuccessful in disposing of his brother, Felix takes upon himself to do away with Drake, stabbing him with multiple screwdrivers. He then whispers to him, why won't you die? It's a pretty chilling and very effective scene and is one of the highlights of the film and it's a great lead into the final act. After being attacked upstairs, Erin jumps through a window and impales herself with a shard of glass. Being the scruffy little resilient woman she is, she pulls the piece of glass after finding a safe spot outside and makes it back into the house after being attacked yet again outside. Once inside, she is attacked again and does away with son of a bitch, taking his axe and planting a booby trap with it at the front door. But not before hiding in a part of the house that allows her to overhear a conversation between Felix, Zee and two of the killers that reveals their entire plan. And here is where we finally see that Emergency Services has received Erin's call. Yes! Help is on the way. 


Again, Where is Crispian?




And here we begin the final act with Erin attempting to hide in the basement and does something I've never seen before. She uses a digital camera set to automatic flash to distract and confuse one of the killers. The effect is fantastic on screen with flashes lighting up the entire theater every few seconds as she watches him walk around searching for her. When she finally reveals herself and disposes of him, we reach the film's climax with Erin facing off in the kitchen with both Felix and Zee. She manages to kill them both (with a great death-by-blender scene) and as she sits on the floor next to Felix, we are treated to a nice little second twist: The cell phone in his pocket rings...and when she answers it, It's Crispian on the other line! Thinking his brother is on the other end of the line, he says, Is it over? it's then revealed to the audience that he was part of it all the whole time! He begins to apologize to what he thinks is a silent Felix for fleeing the house and never returning. So when he comes back into the house to find Erin holding his brother's cell phone, he begins to explain to her that she was never to have been harmed, that she was supposed to survive to be a witness to the what happened that night so they could inherit the family formula. He starts to promise her the world, that the money could be used to pay off her school debts and that she'd finally be able to study full time as she'd always wanted. Since she's never had any sort of criminal record and her story would be believed by anyone, she was to have been the only survivor of the onslaught. Not falling for his bullshit, she immediately stabs him in the neck and then the eye, completely foiling the entire plan. Now, remember when I mentioned Bay of Blood? At that film's ending, the final two survivors think they're getting off scott free walk happily into the proverbial sunset when they are shot to death by their little children, making them the sole inheritors. So I told myself, this film is going to end with a gunshot somewhere. And sure enough! A police officer arrives at the house and discovers Erin hovering over Crispian's dead body and when he sees the carnage that's spread all over the room, he takes his gun out and shoots Erin, knocking her to the floor. Yes! But, that's not the best part. In one of the best endings I've seen in recent horror history, the cop goes out to his patrol car and radios for help, still flabbergasted by what he found inside the house. When he comes back to the scene, you suddenly remember about the axe booby trap Erin set earlier! Despite her warnings to not come through the door, the cop walks in and sets off the trap and we watch the hatchet fly toward his face. With a loud ecstatic and enthusiastic scream coming from yours truly, the film smash cuts to a title card reading "You're Next" written in deep red blood. 




Now let me tell you why I enjoyed this movie more than I expected. First of all, the mood that's set is fantastic but only thanks to the house the Davison's had gathered in. From the outside, though a gorgeous piece of property, it screams horror film in every single way. The colors that were used on the exterior along with the backdrop colors of it's surroundings made it absolutely chilling. The house is mammoth, with so many rooms and closets spread across it that it made the entire film believable. The set pieces and props inside the house were fantastic with antiques and vintage furniture lining every inch of the home. Secondly, the music! Mads Heldtberg's score was a complete homage to the horror films of the 70's and 80's. I was completely reminded of the impact a lone strategically placed synthesizer and one drum sound can make! In the final act, I was fooled for a few seconds into thinking that I'd been watching an European giallo! I actually got chills and my heart started beating rapidly. The wonderful and clever use of "Looking for the Magic" by the Dwight Twilley band was a highlight of this film. You will never be able to hear that song and not see the image of the stereo display at the neighbor's house going back to 00:00. And lastly, and I know I may get a lot of shit for this, but Sharni Vinson as Erin has got to be one of the BEST final girl performances in recent memory. She seriously rivals Amy Steel's Ginny in Friday the 13th - part 2, which I've always considered the best final girl performance ever. Erin had her shit together - not only did she know what to do, but she knew how to do it. And she did it with such an ease, as if it wasn't her first rodeo (she did grow up a tough gal, though, remember?). She had charisma, she was beautiful, she had panache and she knew how to kick ass.  She put the boys to shame, let me tell you. You couldn't resist in cheering her on and rooting for her. That's how you play a final girl.



With some of the crap that's been released theatrically within the last few years and with the more recent horror films being released are either watered-down remakes of classics or having to do with the supernatural, this was a great breath of fresh air and a great and unexpected treat. I will more than likely be watching this one again soon, but will make sure to walk into the theater just as the dinner scene is commencing. Maybe it's because I had the entire theater to myself, but I would have been mad at myself if I'd walked out during this scene like I'd originally planned for I would have robbed myself of a good time. Go see this! 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Spanish Poster & Lobby Card Fever!



When I was younger and living in southern Texas – from about the fifth grade until I graduated from high school – my parents would take my siblings and I into Mexico every weekend to visit and check on my grandparents. Sometimes we’d spend complete Christmas vacations and Spring Breaks there and the more we spent time there, the more I absorbed things from food, culture, television shows, and movies. Surprisingly, there was a lot of the American influence down there. I mean, I could watch every Hanna-Barbera cartoon known to man in Spanish. I could watch Garfield and Friends and Who’s The Boss? in Spanish. So why could I watch horror films in Spanish? Oh yeah, right. I wasn’t old enough to get into a horror film at the cinema, much less be allowed to walk into a cinema back in those days. One thing I used to remember doing – rather vividly – is thumbing endlessly though Monterrey’s local newspaper El Norte and staring longingly at the full page of ads for all of the little cinemas and grindhouses of the city. And back then there were ads ranging from American films to Italian films to Adult XXX films sprawled in black in white across that one page. So where am I going with this? Well, it so happens that as I was on the night shift tonight at work and looking through some horror articles online, I came across an a random one regarding Mexican/Spanish lobby cards and posters for American/European horror films and I was immediately taken back to the 80’s, lying on my grandmother’s bed and looking through the newspapers, trying to see how many horror ads I could point out. Here are a couple of them that I remember looking at as a kid and another reason why I long for the days when 80’s horror ruled!
 
Lobby card for Lucio Fluci's Zombie (title on this card is The Living Dead).  I remember this title but I remember seeing the ad that was a dupe of the now-infamous U.S. one-sheet.
 
 
One for Graduation Day. The title on this one reads Infernal School. The caption reads "Graduating wasn't just an obstacle, it was a killer!"

 


One for Creature. The tagline reads "For 2000 years it has been sleeping peacefully on Saturn's moons and now it's just awakened!"




One for All The Colors of the Dark. I think there's a typo in the title as the Spanish word for "darkness" or "the dark" is actually Oscuridad. The "B" here changes the definition to "Obscurity". So this actually says "The Colors of Obscurity"... which is quite funny. The inner caption reads "A Labyrinth of Terror, of Madness, Witchcraft and Death!"


 
 
 
Demonoid: Messenger of Death! Tagline reads "The hand from another world that comes to grab hold of you!" The title here is literally translated as Macabre: The Devil's Hand.
 
 
 
 

 
 
One for the classic Bay of Blood (Twitch of the Death Nerve). Here the title is actually Bay of Blood. Note the non-corresponding art on the top right. If you know your 70's/80's horror (Of course you do, why else would you be here?) you will note that art belongs to The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave. The tagline reads "The true essence of horror and panic will penetrate your mind!"
 
 
 
 
A really nice one for The Dark. Top caption reads "After the sunshine and the fog comes The Dark." Bottom caption reads "Beyond the terror, beyond the panic you will find...THE DARK."
 
 


 
 
One for Squirm or better known on this poster as The Infernal Worms.
 
 
 
 
One for the awesomeness that is the original Nightmare On Elm Street known in Mexico on some of the original promotional items/posters as Nightmare on Hell Street (Pesadilla En La Calle del Infierno) (which I personally prefer). The tagline on top is the exact one on the U.S. one sheet. The bottom caption reads "A camera films, finally, the inside of a nightmare."
 
 
 
 
These is for some of my all time favorites Friday the 13th Part 2 and Friday the 13th part V: A New Beginning. I like the slight differences in the taglines and titles. Here Part 2 reads "Just like a nightmare, the body count continues."  Later titles such as Part VI have the title as Tuesday the 13th as in Mexico that is considered the one "unlucky day". I added a few lobby cards, too. (I'd wanted to include some I found for Jason Lives but they wouldn't upload properly.)
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
And lastly, the Spanish lobby card for my all time favorite horror film Suspiria. The literal Spanish translation of the title, though, would be Scream.
 
 
 
 
 
There are several  that stick out the most in my head from those years (which I sadly, could not locate): The one for Madman known across the border as La Hacha Asesina (The Killer Axe), No Entres Al Bosque...Solo! (Don't Go In The Woods...Alone!), Supersticion (Superstition/The Witch) and Pesadilla known better to us as Nightmare or Nightmares In a Damaged Brain. As strange as this is going to sound, these bring back some of the best memories of my childhood as I did spend a lot of time looking through newspaper after newspaper just to see what I could find. As a horror fan, I would love to have some of these in my collection as now that I think about it, I don't have anything in Spanish in my vast arsenal. I hope that you enjoy these as much as I did. If you know of any websites where I can see more of these, feel free to comment!
 
Thanks for reading!

 
 
 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Linus Meets John Saxon! (17 Aug 2013)




When I was nine years old, my father was into two things: M*A*S*H and martial arts films. I can remember vividly that he loved USA’s Kung Fu Theater (click here for the memorable intro) and he watched it as much as he could. One day, he brought over the videocassette for this little movie called Enter the Dragon that starred Bruce Lee. In that film, there was a man who from the moment I laid eyes on him was one of the most beautiful men in the entire world (Yes, I know what you’re thinking: You had those thoughts at nine years old?) and I was immediately fascinated by a gentleman going by the name of John Saxon. I didn’t know his name back then and I wouldn’t see him again in another film until I would sit down in front of Nightmare on Elm Street for the first time many years later. I remembered his eyes, his voice….that physique and instantly became a fan. Over time (especially once after I’d become the budding horror fan during my formative years), I found out that though he’d been a mainstream success in Enter the Dragon, he was a huge horror/B-film name and I started watching all his films one-by-one beginning with Blood Beach and sitting though Black Christmas, Zombie Death House and his small but fantastic role in Dario Argento’s Tenebre. Little by little I was falling for the man (in a cinematic sense, of course) and as I was watching him one day (in Blood Beach nonetheless), I knew one day I would welcome the opportunity to meet him.
About a year and a half ago (ish), it was announced that he would be appearing at the Time Tunnel Toy Show in San Jose, California to meet, greet and sign autographs. I usually frequent that show so I was immediately dead-set on attending. I mean, I wasn't going to miss out on the chance to finally meet SeƱor Saxon face to face. As the day drew nearer, I was disappointed to find out that because of work and other circumstances way beyond my control, I wasn’t going to be able to attend the show, thus meeting him was now forever out of my reach. I was very overjoyed to hear through the grapevine later on that he ended up not being able to attend due to professional commitments and had plans to reschedule. What?! I was thrilled to hear that I hadn’t missed my chance after all and that he’d be coming back to make up for his absence. Several shows passed (as they happen at or about every three months or so) and no news had surfaced about him coming back. So, I slowly gave up hope and let the fantasy go.

 

Then, to my surprise, a postcard came in the mail announcing the show that took place this past Saturday, August 18 and I was psyched to see that John Saxon himself was returning! Immediately, I cleared my schedule for that date and made sure there’d be nothing to keep me from going. Before I knew it, the date came and my cousin and I were on our way to the San Jose Fairgrounds to check this off my bucket list.

He ended up appearing after 11am, once the early bird period was over and I was overwhelmed when I saw him sitting at his table smiling. It was actually going to happen! When I approached him and when he threw me that smile of his, I was charmed. I shook his hand and uttered to him that I’d been waiting to meet him since I was nine years old, when my father first brought home Enter the Dragon. His response? How old are you now?  I chuckled and answered, I’ll be forty years old next year, sir to which he immediately replied, Oh geez! And yes, folks, that was how my meeting with Mr. John Saxon began.





I had brought my laserdisc of the original Nightmare on Elm Street for him to sign and he made a point to tell me that everyone else at the toy show had come to see him for his portrayal of Roper from Enter the Dragon and here I was coming to see Lt. Don Thompson. Duh! He was very handsome in person and he was very nice and cordial and was happy to sign my laserdisc and a photo of him as Thompson in NOES. Oh yes, and by the way, this appearance was officially his last as it was announced on the show’s website so I was very relieved and very happy that I was able to see him before retiring from the convention circuit. It was one of the people on my bucket list that I hoped to meet before either of us passed, and I was thrilled to have been able to meet him face to face. Hats off to you, Mr. Saxon. You will forever be amazing.