Sunday, September 29, 2013
On November 13, 1974, at his residence of 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, NY, Ronald “Butch” DeFeo strode from room to room and methodically shotgunned his parents and four brothers and sisters to death in their beds. He later claimed during his trial that he was instructed to carry out these murders at the behest of disembodied voices. 13 months later, the Lutz family moved into the vacated house, only to flee 28 days later claiming to have been besieged by paranormal phenomena. The Lutz’s story was turned into Jay Anson’s “true-account” haunted house bestseller in 1977, which was subsequently adapted into a feature film in 1979. The film was critically savaged, but enormously successful with moviegoers, eventually grossing over $86 million. With the sequel-happy ’80s just around the corner, it was a no-brainer that follow-ups would ensue…and did they ever. As of this writing, there are 11 separate Amityville films, including the not-bad Ryan Reynolds/Susan George remake of 2005, the first three of which have been recently given the Blu-ray treatment by the superb folks at Shout! Factory.
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Adam Chaplin: Violent Avenger (2011) d. De Santi, Emanuele (Italy)
Remember when the Italians were the masters of splatter? The ’80s heyday of Fulci, Argento, Lenzi and Deodato is long behind us, but there’s a new fellow in town named Emanuele De Santi who invites happy comparisons to these past masters of the red sauce. One catches a glimpse of the man’s work ethic in his chiseled abs and bulging biceps (he stars as well as writing and directing), but this is clearly no empty-headed Chippendale dancer. Santi unloads a double helping of stylish gore and gory style in his debut feature, a jaw-dropping (and jaw shattering) extravaganza that evokes an especially bloodsoaked manga, complete with stark, panel-ready imagery.
Bunny Game, The (2010) d. Rehmeier, Adam (USA)
A down-on-her-luck prostitute’s (Rodleen Getsic) painful existence takes a serious left turn into hell when she is abducted by a psychotic trucker (Jeff F. Renfro) who chains her in the back of his 18-wheeler to do with as he pleases. It’s an 71-minute assault on the senses and the soul, one that packs moments of such incredible intensity and honesty into its opening act that I had already cleared a spot for it on my list of “most impressive releases of the year” before it had reached the 30-minute mark.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Prince of Darkness (1987) d. Carpenter, John (USA)
With a story centering on a 7-million-year old canister in the basement of a Los Angeles church, kept secret by the Catholics for millennia, this heady brew of quantum mechanics, Christianity, occult legend and science fiction transmissions from the future left critics and audiences puzzled and dissatisfied upon its release in 1987. Over the years, however, it has slowly gained traction among the horror faithful. While I’m still no card-carrying convert and I’ve yet to drink the “unsung classic” Kool-Aid, I’m more willing a couple decades later to give it the benefit of the doubt. Not sure if this says more about the movie or my ever-slipping quality standards, but where I used to find it poorly performed and irretrievably cheap and convoluted, I now find it slightly less offensive in all departments. Damnation by faint praise? Maybe, but it’s a decided step up from the vitriol I was doling out before.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
One of horror history’s most recognizable icons is given the star treatment in a brand new 6.5 hour (!) documentary, Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (based on the bestselling book by Peter M. Bracke). Writer/director Daniel Farrands and producer Thommy Hutson, who previously teamed up for 2010’s award-winning Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, have assembled interviews on their four-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack (two of each) with approximately 150 cast and crew members from all twelve Friday the 13th films. (When purchased through the Crystal Lake Memories site, buyers will also receive a bonus DVD with nearly 4 hours of extended interview material.)
Monday, September 9, 2013
Another long patch of time with not as many flicks, but the Doc’s hands have not been idle, I promise. The journey toward the completion of the new book, HIDDEN HORROR, continues to move inexorably forward, which required much of my focus over the past few weeks. But the good news is that things are shaping up nicely and we should have a lovely new addition to your bookshelf sooner than later. Keep you posted!
That said, it was a pretty good stretch of flicks and we’ve done our best to give them all their moment in the sun. I’m not going to give much ink to Edgar Wright’s The World’s End because, well, frankly you can read up on it elsewhere and I’m not feeling all that inspired about or by it. (Sorry, Simon. Being loud and muggy and obnoxious does not necessarily equal laughs. Hell, I liked you more in the Star Trek sequel that I didn’t really like.)
As always, feel free to leave us your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.
Battery, The (2012) d. Gardner, Jeremy (USA)
Every so often I encounter an independent venture that makes me want to stand up and cheer. And then there are the ones that make me want to devote myself entirely to making sure everyone else sees it.
Writer/star Gardner’s directorial debut is one of those films.
Forget the zombie trappings. Forget that it was made for $6K. Forget that it contains no major stars or studio backing or that you've never heard of it before now. Just watch and revel in the breathtaking creativity, intelligence, resilience and filmmaking savvy on display. The Battery is this year’s must-see horror effort, providing as much offscreen inspiration as it does onscreen entertainment. Go. Find. Watch. NOW. (streaming link available at the bottom of the page)
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Day of the Dead (1985) d. Romero, George A. (USA)
Following one of the biggest worldwide horror sensations was no easy feat for writer/director George A. Romero. When his sequel to Night of the Living Dead turned out to be as successful and arguably just as influential, one would think that finding backing for a third installment would be easy as falling off the proverbial log. But, lest we forget, Dawn of the Dead nearly didn’t find its way to the screening room, at least not without the threat of studio interference, until Italian horror icon Dario Argento and sibling Claudio stepped up with the bankroll. Long looked upon as the poor relation of the original trilogy, time and context (i.e. the even more divisive sequels that followed) have been kind to Day of the Dead, which has now earned its rightful place of respect and honor among its undead brethren.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Lords of Salem, The (2012) (2nd viewing) d. Zombie, Rob (USA)
Rob Zombie’s sixth feature generated a strong outburst of mixed emotions during its highly anticipated midnight screening at SXSW earlier this year, which I dutifully chronicled HERE. I admired the man for so wholeheartedly embracing his own artistic ideals, but bemoaned that we were subjected to a movie that jangled pell mell down the narrative hill, crumbling and dissipating in dramatic power as it went. In spite of my frustrations, I was eager to revisit the film – something I have yet to cajole myself into doing with his Halloween reboots – to see if it yielded more sustenance with expectations allayed (and a few more hours of sleep under one’s belt).
Psycho III (1986) d. Perkins, Anthony (USA)
After the critical and commercial slamdunk of Psycho II and with sequel fever in full swing, it came as no surprise when word arose that the Bates Motel would be re-opening for business. Having engendered a generous portion of goodwill, the prevailing spirit was one of optimism, especially when it was revealed that Anthony Perkins would not only be reprising his signature role, but assuming the director’s chair for the first time in his illustrious career. If anyone knew Norman, it was Tony...or so we thought.