Saturday, December 25, 2010


If that doesn't give you the warm fuzzies then God help you, I don't know what will. But is this season of festivity and giving really about love and kindness? Have we forgotten the true meaning of Christmas? And by true meaning, I am, of course, referring to;


For the love of God and all that is holy, HAVE WE FORGOTTEN ABOUT KRAMPUS?!?!.

Sure, when most people think of Christmas the first image that comes to mind is kindly old Saint Nick breaking and entering into our households in the name of tasty, tasty commercialism. But the real ringleader in this circus is his friend, the demon Krampus. Let's face it, there are things, much, much, much worse than getting friggin' COAL for being naughty.

Good 'ol Krampus likes to beat Naughty Children with Rusty chains and then stuff them in his sack. I don't know where Krampus takes the little Hell spawns, and quite frankly, I don't want to.

So ladies and gentlemen, as you sit down to your happy Christmas activities this year, just take a moment and remember the sage advice of our good friend Stephen Colbert.

Krampus knows when you've been naughty, knows when you've been nice,


Happy Christmas Dears and Darlings!

Spooky Pie

Monday, December 20, 2010

Haunted (novel) - 2005

Some of you may, or may not, know that I basically heart Chuck Palahniuk more than what probably lies in the realm of human decency.

Sure, sometimes I have a hard time remembering how to spell his last name, and yes there is the matter of that pesky little restraining order (I kid, I kid). But in short, I pretty much devour every book of his as soon as I can get my mitts on it.

However, I was somewhat resistant to reading Haunted for awhile. This is largely because instead of being just one large storyline, it breaks off into sub stories told by each of the characters. And, generally speaking, I don't usually go for 'anthology' type books, mostly because I like to have the entire novel to get to know the characters, get a feel for them. When it's a bunch of short stories I usually feel like the individual tale ends before I have gotten anywhere in the neighborhood of giving a good, and honest, damn about the characters.

Well, a pox on me for being such a ridiculous ninny! Why I thought good 'ol Chuck would fail me this time, when he never has in the past, I don't know. I'm a silly bitch.

So the essential idea of Haunted is this;
Seventeen people sign up for a three month Writer's Retreat. They are to be completely cut off from the outside world during that time, and are told that this will be the time to write the masterpiece of their career.

No real names are allowed, and everyone is allowed only one suitcase. In theory, none of the participants are in any real danger, the only real trouble is that no one is allowed to leave before the three months is up, and the retreat is below ground and remote enough that escape is highly unlikely.

The real trouble comes from the seventeen writer's realization that rather then create their own master works, they are going to gain a fortune telling their story to the outside world. Of how they were held captive, tortured, forced to survive without heat or food.

None of this is actually inflicted on the writers by the people organizing the retreat. It's the writers themselves who become their own villains, even though, for the sake of the story, they have painted the organizer and his assistant as their villains and captors. So it really isn't that surprising when the writers begin to die off one by one, and with each one who bites the dust the others don't mourn; they just discuss how they will have to split the royalties in fewer directions.

On the side of the core narrative of the goings on in the retreat, as told by an unnamed narrator. Each character has a side story, and each story has to deal with what dark secret drew them to hideout in the retreat.

As the title would suggest, each of the writers is, in fact, Haunted.

Throughout the course of the book comparisons keep being drawn between this little group of writers, shut off from the outside world, and the Villa Dioda. For those of you not in the know, this is where Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and John Pollidori holed up; this resulted in the writings of both Frankenstein and The Vampyre. And it's an easy enough comparison to draw, and, more than likely, since it is Palahniuk who gives us this parallel, that this was in fact what inspired him to write Haunted.

However, this is really not the comparison that most came to mind for me whilst I was reading this novel. Throughout the whole thing I could not help but be reminded of Jean-Paul Sarte's No Exit, and it's chilling, most infamous line:

Hell is other people.

For those of you unfamiliar with Sarte's work, No Exit is about three completely unrelated people who die and end up locked in a room together. After a bit they realize that they are in Hell and each one speculates on who is the torturer and what torment they will receive. It soon becomes evident that there isn't a torturer, it's just the three of them, locked in a room together, for all of eternity. The only torment stems from the way they treat each other. Which leads to the one character's realization that "Hell is other people".

And, considering that all the harm that comes to the players of Haunted comes from themselves, is it any wonder that No Exit was the first thing that came to mind? I didn't think so.

Do I recommend Haunted, yes, but NOT IF YOU HAVE A WEAK STOMACH. This novel is really quite grisly at points, considering one of the short stories called Guts, Palahniuk read aloud and reportedly has had multiple faint from listening to it. Also it was a story controversial enough that it got a Highschool teacher sacked for having his students read it.

So really, bare that in mind, and I don't even think that it's the most disturbing part of the book. HOWEVER if that is something that you can get past it's a GREAT book, not my favorite of his works, but still pretty damn amazing in this girl's opinion.

Okay, so there you have it.

Kisses and hugs.

Spooky Pie

Monday, December 6, 2010

Peeping Tom (1960)

Well, ladies and jelly-spoons, today's offering is a bit of an oldie, but it's like what they say about re-runs; "If you haven't seen it before, then it's new to you".

So, I will grudgingly admit that this girl didn't even know of this film's existence until about a year and a half ago, but I guess that shouldn't be so surprising, considering the sort of reception 'Peeping Tom' got when it was released caused it to get relocated to the status of 'cult film'.

Sure, by today's standards, 'Peeping Tom' is about as disturbing as moldy pudding, but this was England in 1960, stiff upper lip and what have you, through that lense its understandable that at the time it was considered pretty much the filthiest thing ever.

I'm not going to say that there aren't themes in 'Peeping Tom' that even by today's standards aren't a bit risque, but in our modern age of films like 'Hostel', 'The Hills have eyes', and Hell, even 'Silence of the Lambs', this film is shot in such a tasteful fashion that you almost can forget that there are some deeply warped psychological themes at work here. Almost.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Much to my disappointment, the lead of this film is not, actually, named Tom. I guess that would have been to kitsch, but whatever. His name is Mark Lewis (I still think that is should have been Tom), he works as a 'scene puller' for a movie studio. I don't know tons about making movies, but as far as I could tell its got to do with setting the optimal scene up so all the camera man has to do is press the button. Mark also works part time taking erotic pictures for small newspaper store.

A little odd, but meh.

Anyway, Mark is a pretty quiet unassuming kind of a guy. Except for the fact that he likes to murder prostitutes with his tripod, whilst filming their expressions as they bite it.

But, you know, who doesn't ...

He also spends almost every night in his little home theater re-watching his snuff films. This is pretty much the extent of his social interaction until one night when he comes home from a long night of staking prosies and runs into his downstairs neighbor Helen.

She's having a party for his 21st (yeah, right, 21st) birthday. She tries to get him to come join the party, but, being the socially awkward thing he is, Mark declines and scurries upstairs to his apartment.

Now too long after this Helen traipses upstairs with a slice of cake and wiggles her way into his apartment, and his home theater. Once inside she pretty well browbeats Mark into showing her one of his little films. A bit pushy, but hey, some people like forthright broads.

Mark has enough common sense to not show her one of his 'stabby-stabby' productions, and instead pulls out a reel that introduces us to the undercurrent of the film that is possibly even more disturbing then the obvious one of Voyeurism.

The film that Mark shows Helen is one of him as a little boy that his father took. Apparently, Daddy was a psychiatrist, and a pretty warped one at that. His main focus was studying the effect of fear on people, specifically children. So he experimented on his own son, and filmed the results. We aren't shown what, exactly, the old man did to young Mark, but leaving it to the viewer's imagination lets us assume the worst possible.

And so lays our groundwork for Mark as a serial killer; his fascination with viewing everything through the lens of a camera, and his further fixation on fear. The only thing not surprising about this whole thing is that Mark doesn't have Daddy's bones under the floorboards or something.

Despite the fact that any sane person would have taken their fashionable taffeta party dress and ran like hell, this actually sparks a sort of romantic relationship between Helen and Mark.

Go figure.

Their little romance is pushed a long by the fact that Helen is writing a Children's book about a child with a magical camera, and she wants Mark to collaborate with he for the pictures of the book. He agrees, giddily, even.

While on one hand he is having a sort of sweet, childish, romance with Helen, he is still making his snuff films on the side. Adorable, right?

Early on in their courtship, Helen's blind mother's "spidey senses" go off about Mark, and despite her warning her daughter against him, Helen goes along merrily with her beloved serial killer.

But when one of Mark's victims for the sake of cinema is high profile enough that it gets a full on investigation going, Mark starts to lose his cool a bit, and enter into a downward spiral, eventually leading to the film's conclusion.

Okay, the plot is a little simple, but if you are able to get beyond that, 'Peeping Tom' is a psychological goldmine.

Voyeurism is definitely the prevailing theme in this film, and its done quite cleverly if you're willing to give it a good look.

The opening of the film is shown entirely as though you are looking through the lens of Mark's camera. This makes the viewer, the audience, into the predator. Stalking the first victim from the street, up to her loft, and closing in on her face as she is killed in a way that makes you feel like you're even hovering over this woman, and delivering the final blow yourself.

In this sense its a commentary on society and its desire to look at the grisly/uncomfortable. 'Peeping Tom' is just an analysis on mankind's need to stop and stare at car wrecks. Ironically, the same public that loudly denounced 'Peeping Tom' as "nauseating" and "vile", are the same people who slow down to look at a freeway accident, with no intention of helping the people involved.

Mark is just one person made into an analogy for the majority of mankind.

And another thing is, beyond the fact that, yes, Mark is totally a cold-blooded serial killer, he is still a character that you feel sympathetic towards. The way he acts with Helen is so charming its ridiculous, he becomes a little boy around her. Especially when you take into account that this was a guy who didn't really get to have a childhood thanks to dear old dad.

I will admit, that at first I had trouble with Mark as a lead. Mainly because through all of it I felt like I was watching Graham Norton's deranged uncle.

tell me you don't see it

But once I got past that, he was kind of endearing. But then again, I've been known to sympathize with the protagonist anti-hero in these types of things.

Right, so, should probably wrap this up because I'm running out of things to say that won't be just long rambling nonsense. So let's tie this up here.

Is 'Peeping Tom' worth watching? I think so. I can see how it is considered a classic, and I also see how it can be seen as a compliment to Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho'. No, I don't think it's for everyone, and I'm pretty sure that by today's standards it's too slow moving for a lot of people. And it's not a gore fest by any stretch of the imagination, in fact the murders are very subtle. At the heart of it, 'Peeping Tom' as actually a quite sensitive movie, and I think that if most of the critics who slammed it took a closer look at it, they would see that it actually a quiet, repressed, almost heartbreaking portrait of a psychologically damaged little boy trapped in the guise of a grown man.

So until next time my darlings,
Love and kisses!

Spooky Pie

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Dead Set (Television) - 2008/2010

Oh Britain and your zombies, what am I going to do about you?

I feel like I'm the only person in the horror circuit who didn't fall head over heels for the British five part mini-series "The Dead Set", that aired on IFC Halloween night. I'm not saying that I hated it or anything, I'm just saying that I don't really feel the need to move to a quaint little house in the country and pick out lacy curtains either.

Now here's where I'm going to get a little more un-popular. I am not the hugest fan of zombies. I KNOW I KNOW. What sort of self respecting horror blogger am I if I'm not all:


If that was the sort of talk you were expecting out of me, well, then now is your time to disown and turn your back on me. Because that just isn't the case. I'll understand if you do this, I really will, but I was hoping that we could at least still be friends...

But before you hold this all together against me, let me explain to you my side of the story.

Some of you might already know this about me, but I really don't scare. My friends, and especially my roommate, think that I am overly desensitized to horror, and who knows, maybe they're right. However, one of the only things that can get to me is cannibalism. I can't help it, the idea of being eaten while you're still alive is, in my opinion, that absolute worst way to die. Seriously, I can't even deal with it.

This is why I generally give movies like 'The Hills Have Eyes' and 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' a wide berth. So, obviously, this is a statement that extends to Zombie films. It's only been the past couple of years that I've really been able to make myself sit down and watch zombie films without getting nauseous and generally a bit freaky.

It's really only on account of films like Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, and Fido that this girl was able to ease into the zombie genre.

Now that I've rambled about me, as I am like to do, Let's actually talk about The Dead Set.

The premise of The Dead Set revolves around the ever-popular British Reality Series Big Brother. Which, for those of you not in the know about this sort of thing, Big Brother is a show where a group of people are kept in a house together, secluded from all contact with the outside world. There are cameras installed everywhere within the house, so that the inhabitants are constantly being recorded, and there's also a "diary room" where people sit and talk into a private camera, generally about who in the house that they hate.

Every so often certain inhabitants are nominated to be "evicted" from the house, and the British public gets to vote for who they want out. Whichever housemate lasts through the series without being evicted gets a cash prize. In a creepy George Orwell-ian tribute, there is a giant glowing eye in the house through which a voice reminds the inhabitants that 'Big brother is watching you'.

I don't get it, but hey, my only real experience with the Big Brother franchise before this was an episode of Doctor Who.

So the heart of The Dead Set revolves around the fictitious group of current housemates, and the people who work behind the scenes producing and what have you.

The heroine of the series is arguably Kelly, who begins the story as a 'runner' on the show. Kelly and her boyfriend are in a bit of a tiff, which shouldn't be anything we care about, except that the boyfriend, Riq, is to become the window into the world outside the studio... so it's a little bit relevant.

It's eviction night, so tempers and what have you are up, everyone is stressed, inside and outside of the house. But the people in the studio are too caught up in the night of Big Brother that they entirely ignore the impending Zombie Apocalypse.

There is even a monitor that the backstage crew is watching, that has the news, showing what is happening outside in all its gores detail. Yet, the main concern is that 'Big Brother might be getting bumped for the news. Oh noes.

So, of course, no one knows/cares that there is a herd of zombies headed towards the crowd of Big Brother fans clustered outside the studio. So as the crowd is turned into flesh eating monsters, the zombie army quadruples, and really at that point it doesn't take much work at all for them to blunder, flailing, into the studio.

There aren't a lot places to run, hide, or make quick getaways to within that building, so the crew starts to drop like flies.

Kelly, in a feat of admirable Bad-ass-ery, manages to fight her way through the waves upon waves of former friends and coworkers, armed with only a large pair of scissors, until she makes it into the 'Big Brother' house.

To more or less set the majority of the case up to not be missed as they start dropping like flies, the housemates are pretty much idiots when Kelly comes stumbling into their house covered in blood and whispering about "the things outside".

In a fit of being a complete asshole, the one contestant not only starts to call Kelly, essentially, a dumb bitch, but then goes on to start impersonating the brother from the beginning of 'Night of the Living Dead' ; Lurching towards her with his arms out and saying "THEY'RE COMING TO GET YOU BARBRA!"

Because in that film, being a complete douchebag and saying that sort of thing ended so well for him.

People are dumb.


After mocking Kelly incessantly, that same douchebag decides to open the door that empties into the studio, letting a zombie into their former safe haven.

Smooth move Exlax.

I'm sure you can guess that it all goes even further to Hell in a hand basket past that point.

One thing that 'The Dead Set' tackled pretty well in its storytelling was the look at the human psyche, and what people are willing to do or act like during a crisis.

Prime examples come in the form of when the housemates finally realize that Kelly told the truth, as they look out at the flood of zombies behind their wall, and one of them says

"Does this mean that we aren't on telly anymore?"

Then there's Riq, and struggle to make his way to the studio, and to Kelly. Furthermore is the woman he teams up with along the way, who tells him that he hasn't had to do anything to survive, and how she had to shoot her best friend in the face in order to stay alive.

And there's always Kelly's boss, Patrick, who is more than willing to damn all the other survivors if it gives him the remotest chance of getting out of the compound alive.

So it could be argued that theme of 'The Dead Set', is that humanity is being destroyed by its own vanity. Which would make sense, given that zombie films have, in the past, often been means of conveying social commentary through the horror medium. And it's not as though there weren't many homages to George A. Romero throughout the mini-series anyway.

Unlike the Romero zombie franchise, however, the zombies of The Dead Set seem slightly more akin to those in 28 Days Later, in the sense that they can seriously run like hell.

While not a huge zombie fan, I take issue with this. In 28 Days Later it made sense, because it was more of a virus film than a zombie one, and it was virus that made you essentially rabid. These aren't rabid humans though, these are your run of the mill zombies, and anything that is pretty much hunks of un-refrigerated dead meat should not be impersonating Flo Jo.

I mean, because really, they are these rotting, festering things. Shouldn't they be too busy decomposing and taking on the traits of rigor mortis to be doing a 5k jog? I could be wrong, but it just doesn't make sense to me.

Also, I was amazed that Britain, which usually shies away from graphic violence, went so all-out with the gore of this thing. Really now, it was the sort of thing I would expect from Eli Roth or Rob Zombie, not my good friends across the pond.

There was a scene where a man is ripped apart and eaten, and the whole time he is bellowing at the zombies. And oh yes, the camera shows you everything in gut-wrenching detail. I was overjoyed. That was sarcasm.

So here's the thing kids; I think that if you were a dyed in the wool zombie fanatic, this just might be your cup of tea. If you're squeamish, you should probably just shuffle away as fast as your little legs can carry you.

Okay, so I don't want you to go away from this thinking that The Dead Set is merit-less. There are some definite good things about it.

For one, it has absolutely stunning cinematography. Once you get past the gore factor involved here, they framing and coloration of each scene is done in such perfection that the arty film nerd in me wanted to kiss the camera man and the editor of this thing.

There are also some EXTREMELY funny moments inside this. Sure, some of them are jokes that you feel like an eight year old boy for laughing at, but they are laughs all the same.

And there are a few characters, mainly Kelly and Riq, who you genuinely like and have sympathy for. You really want those kids to make it through the nightmare. And truly, a production is nothing without a hero or heroine that you can get behind.

I also have to give props to 'The Dead Set' for its realistic non-Disney ending.

In closing, let me just say, that 'The Dead Set' is only for the zombie enthusiast or those with extremely strong stomachs. If you had to shut your eyes during either Saw or Hostel, you'll really want to skip it all together. And if you don't, well, you were warned so don't come crying to me when you upheave your dinner.

So that's that I guess my darlings.

Until I get around to another of the 45165484798 reviews I'm behind on writing I'll just say:

Love and kisses

Spooky Pie

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Funhouse (1981)

So, a little while back I saw over at The Final Girl Film Club that the new movie to review was Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse. And I thought "Well, heck, that's in my netflix queue anyway." So, to the top of the queue it went. I will admit that I had more than a little bit of trepidation in watching this one. I know that I am in the horror fan minority here, but I'm really not the biggest fan of Mr. Hooper.

With the exception of Poltergeist, which only sort of counts since it was largely Spielberg's baby, I haven't really liked anything he did. I know, I know, everyone will swear up and down that Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a milestone in the horror genre, and that it has such iconic scenes associated with it.

Sorry guys. I just don't like it. I will be honest, however, and tell you that I pretty much automatically dislike anything that has cannibals associated with it. I can't help it you guys, everybody has their thing, mine is cannibals.

But we're getting SO far off topic now. Enough about Tobe Hooper's other productions, we're here to talk about The Funhouse right now. Which, I'm going to go out on a limb here by saying, is my favorite of Hooper's works. Excluding Poltergeist, but we already covered that.

The Funhouse is essentially a Brother's Grimm-esque coming of age tale, modernized, and hidden under the guise of being a typical slasher film. Like the titular funhouse itself, the film is all about what goes on as far as the surface, and then the gritty things happenings that are hidden beneath that.

At first glance, The Funhouse is almost formulaic.

Step 1: Get a group of teenagers together.

Step 2: Introduce some sex and drugs into the mix (with the exception of the mandatory virgin)

Step 3: Teenagers come upon some sort of danger/madman/hillbillies/undead killing machine

Step 4: Said danger will then pick off teenagers one by one

Step 5: Token Virgin goes up against the Big Bad, with some sort of blunt instrument.

Step 6: The virgin escapes alive, older, wiser, and in need of about thirty some-odd years of intense therapy.

Throw in some insane carnies, a weird-ass dark ride (if you don't remember what a dark ride is, shame on you, and go back and refresh your memory), tons of jiggling boobs, and you have the outer shell of The Funhouse's infrastructure.

I'm not saying that escaping terrifying, potentially inbred, carnies is not a key factor to the film. It is. And if you don't really want to have a long think about things and watch the violence, that is potentially enough. However, there is so much more to this film than simply running through plywood sets whilst dodging the Elephantman's ugly cousin.

You just have to know where to look.

To fully understand the heart of the film, you have to understand the film's heroine. Meet Amy Harper.

Amy is in that frightening state of her teenager years in which she is uncomfortably sandwiched between her need to "grow up" like her "cool adult friends", and the crippling fear of what dangers will befall her as soon as she shirks the mantle of childhood in exchange for that of a grown woman.

As much as she wants to be a woman, so much that goes along with it essentially scares the crap out of her. But our little Amy is willing to put on a brave face and stride forward into the great unknown, despite the urge to puke from sheer terror at any moment.

The subtle workings of an after-school special are at work here as well. In the opening, as we see Amy primping for her date, in the background her father tells her how he "doesn't want her going to that damn carnival". Her mother, on the other hand, is busy voicing her disapproval of 'Buzz', the boy who will be taking Amy out.

Basically, Amy's parents tell her "SEX WILL KIIIIIILL YOU"

It was a lot like the Sex Ed bit from Mean Girls

Amy more or less tells her parents that they are full of it and flounces out of the house in her nifty wedge heels. We can wag our fingers and tell her that she should've listened to her Daddy until the cows come home, but if she did then we really wouldn't have a movie.

The aforementioned boy, Buzz, is picking Amy up so they can meet their friends Richie and Liz for a double date at the ominous carnival. I'm not really sure how Buzz fits into this group, because he looks like he's in his late twenties. But whatever. Liz, who I believe is Amy's best friend, is in an established, sexually active relationship with Ritchie. It's fairly evident that Amy not only looks up to Liz, but that Liz's opinion holds a fair amount of sway. I.e. if Liz is doing something, Amy wants to as well.

It's obvious how uncomfortable and inexperienced Amy is where sex is concerned. She shrinks away from Buzz when he starts to come on too strong in the car and is fairly rigid when he attempts to charm her while the four teenagers travel through the carnival. However, after a discussion of her virginity and "saving herself" in one of the Carnival's derelict bathrooms with Liz, Amy seems almost determined to loose her virginity. Even though it's not so much that Amy wants to because she genuinely likes this Buzz fellow, but because it's something that would make her more like Liz.

Sex scares Amy, but she's going to give it the old College Try. So she becomes progressively chummier with Buzz, even thought there are numerous moments where you can still see that she is a timid little girl in her facial expressions. Much like the other instances of Amy's susceptibility to peer pressure, when Ritchie makes the ludicrously moronic genius suggestion that they spend the night in the funhouse ride, Amy foes along with it. Despite the fact that it's, you know, a really really bad idea.

Especially since it becomes apparent that the only reason Ritchie wants them to stay the night in the funhouse is that it seems like freaky place to, well, get your freak on. So to the funhouse they go, and our happy couples are in the process of getting down to the nitty gritty there is a general disturbance from beneath the floorboards. Our merry band groups together and peers through the floor boards where they witness probably the creepiest part of the entire movie.

One of the carnies, dressed in a Frankenstein mask is propositioning the less than fresh fortune teller by means of grunting and waving money at her. It's a short lived encounter, as our boy Franky is not exactly a sexual dynamo, but the woman is still planning on keeping the hundred dollars she, pardon the pun, squeezed out of him. This makes hulk mad, and he murders the dumb broad to get back said cash.

Further proving to dear, sweet Amy that, oh yeah, SEX KILLS.

Needless to say, our band of heroes goes from "Hey look! It's Live Freak Porn!!" to "HOLY CRAP! THERE'S A KILLER TROLL ON THE LOOSE!". Except with way less panic then that, because they only make a fairly half-assed attempt at escape, despite having just witnessed a murder and knowing that there is just no way that this is going to end well.

So after some unenthusiastic shuffling around wiggling door handles, they decide that the best plan of action is to go back to the scene of the crime and sit on their asses doing nothing. Because that is OBVIOUSLY the best decision. After some time Frankenstein boy comes back with his angry hillbilly daddy in tow.

His daddy is pretty "hey man whatever" about the fact that his satanic offspring has offed a woman until he realizes who she is. And then he goes a bit apeshit because she's a fellow carnie. If she'd just been a local girl then, you know, who cares. But since she's part of the freakshow THIS IS WAY BAD LIKE WHOA.

Ritchie, being the fine specimen of humanity that he is, of course, manages to give the chillun's location away. Because he's awesome, and so, of course Hillbilly and son know that the only way to handle this situation is to eliminate all witnesses. Which, of course, leads to our intrepid heroes flailing around the freakish insides of the ride whilst being chased, and picked off by some of the most bizarre characters to grace the slasher genre.

But here's where The Funhouse deviates from the general slasher film. Because Amy manages to not be our general slasher film heroine.

Generally speaking, the Final Girl of any horror film's general arc is that she makes the progression from the victim to the empowered hero. Notice I used the term hero and not heroine. That is because, as nearly any text book on horror will tell you, the Final Girl's genesis has a tendency to stem from her taking on more masculine traits and leaving behind being a scared little girl. That is not the case in what happens with Amy. And that is a big part of why I don't consider Amy in the usual class of Final Girl.

If you will recall, at the very beginning of this entry I said that I viewed The Funhouse as "essentially a Brother's Grimm-esque coming of age tale". This is largely because Amy is more of a Grimm's Fairytale Heroine then a Final Girl.

For my money, Amy is an almost perfect parallel to Snow White.

She is essentially innocent, and despite the frequent opportunities that arise to sully her innocence, she escapes the tale with it intact. And like Snow White, the temptations to corrupt Amy's innocence are also potential threats to her life just as much as to her vulnerability.

In the original tale of Snow White, the Queen tempts her with more than just the apple. First there is a corset - meant to give her an adult womanly figure- or suffocate her, as it turns out. Then the poisoned comb to make her look pretty an appealing to the opposite sex. Things that are supposed to make Snow White appear as an adult woman, further more, Snow White is being pressured to appear as such. These trials we can almost think of as being embodied by Liz and Ritchie, Amy's pressures to lose her innocence.

Whereas, the poison apple can be the analogy for Amy's pressure to lose her virginity to Buzz - and in a more biblical sense, to the apple of knowledge that Eve ate - to gain the knowledge of adulthood.

Also, like Snow White, Amy must deal with the abandonment of her parents in the face of grave danger. After Snow White's mother dies, for the rest of the tail her father pretty much checks out, and no point even tries to help his daughter. And in one scene in The Funhouse, Amy's parents actually arrive at the Carnival to collect her younger brother. Amy sees them through a fan vent in the side of the funhouse and calls out to her parents. While her little brother appears to see her, the adults don't even glance in her direction. Like Snow White, Amy is on her own, no adult is going to help her.

Like is the case in most Grimm fairy tales, Snow White is not self rescuing. She does not take up a sword, march on the castle, and have a showdown with her Wicked Stepmother to reclaim her rightful thrown. In turn, Amy does not have the usual Final Girl moment of heroism, where she finds a large blunt object and stamps determinedly towards the villain to bash his brains in and save the day.

In this respect, Amy is not only like Snow White, but, honestly, like many of us would really act thrown into this situation. Your first instinct is not always to go into "Badass" mode. Most of use would behave just like Amy. We would run into the night, screaming like a banshee. Furthermore Amy doesn't, really defeat the villain, it's more dumb luck than anything else that saves Amy. Which, really, is more relate-able. That's normal, that's human

And while further delving into the symbolism that we can link to Snow White, Amy's suitor, Buzz, can almost be cast as the role of the Huntsmen. Buzz is, initially, a danger to Amy, he is older and more mature than her. Further linking the theme of sex and death, The Huntsmen initial role is to kill Snow White, and initially Buzz's role is to defile Amy.

Neither of these men perform their initial function. The Huntsmen cannot kill Snow White, and Buzz does not taint Amy's innocence. Both, however, essentially put their necks on the chopping block so that the innocent girl is given a chance to escape her would-be killer. Buzz takes on the Hillbilly brigade single-handedly so that Amy can make a break for it, in a scene that is almost direct remake of the forest scene in Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

The biggest difference, for Amy, is that at the end of this tale there is no prince to rescue her. There is no glass casket, or seven dwarfs. However, whereas in Snow White, her death-like sleep and awakening is the symbolism of her coming into herself as an adult, Amy's voyage through the funhouse can be scene as such.

Also unlike Snow White, there is no Happily Ever After storybook ending for Amy. Nor riding off on a white horse into the sunset. Amy's "happy ending" is that she gets to limp out into harsh light of the morning after, clothes torn, and on the verge of nervous collapse.

But not everybody can get that Disney ending right?


So, fairy tale allegories aside, The Funhouse is not perfect, though enjoyable. The special effects makeup is a little wanting, our lead villain is ... interesting looking, but by no means something realistic. Also on the subject of the villain, you don't really understand enough about him to feel anything towards him, empathy or otherwise, and to have a truly good villain, you have to actually like them a little bit.

There are points in which the characters actions make less than no sense, but that's a common trait in slasher. As is the fact that they really are not all that fleshed out. But still, I like to care a little bit about someone, you know, so I can be at least a little disappointed when they kick the bucket. I like to root for people even when I know that they're going to drop like flies.

On the other hand, Tobe Hooper artistically outdid himself in this one. It's beautiful to look at. The colors are rich, and there are some scenes that are shot so well it is almost jaw-dropping. So, really Mister Hooper, good job there. I may be alone in this, but I feel like The Funhouse kicks Texas Chainsaw Massacre's ass and takes its lunch money.

So that's what I got babies, even if you don't want to sit down and look at the film in an academic sense, it's good to just look at. Basically, it's a decent night in.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

John Dies at the End (novel) -2001/2007/2009

Okay, I admit that I put this review off for awhile, but that's mainly because I was having trouble putting into words the sheer, overwhelming, adoration that I have for this novel.

Also, this is probably the weirdest book I have ever read ... ever. Period. And that's saying something, because I read some pretty weird shit, believe you me. I mean, Chuck Palahniuk is one of my favorite authors, and I think he would find this book strange.

So also, I had no idea how I was going to describe it to y'all, because I got the feeling it would be a lot like when you witness something strange and hilarious, and then you are later trying to tell your friends about it, and they're all looking at you like "Shit son, you've gone completely sideways."
So you end up huffily telling them "Well, I guess you HAD to BE there."

It's kind of like that. Although I suppose in this case it's more of a "you had to READ it"... or something... anyway, I'll give the obligatory summary a shot. But I make no promises that you aren't going to read it and think I've lost my fool head.

Okay Dears,Darlings, and fellow Spooky Dos, basically, the story of this charming little book is about two guys, David and John. These are not their real names. If they used their real names then they could be tracked down. Also the town where the whole story takes place is referred to as [Undisclosed] because we couldn't let you know about that either.

Dave and John are a couple of college drop-outs in un-fulfilling minimum wage jobs in an extremely boring town. But after a seeming normal concert by John's band "Three arm Sally", wherein David encounters a drug peddling fake Jamaican thing get kind of loopey.

The drug in question is referred to as "soy sauce", due to it being roughly the constancy of. When you take it you can apparently see into the future, and around sound waves, and just generally know shit you shouldn't. But people who take it have a tendency to explode, and it also seems that the soy sauce has to do with a strange group of "shadow-like" beings that are trying to overthrow humanity.

Mixed into this story for good measure are helpings of demonic possession, floating dogs, paranormal conventions in Las Vegas, and some unpleasantness involving bratwurst.

The whole thing is narrated by David, as he meets with a reporter who is going to "tell his story". And honestly, it's a GREAT voice that the story is told in , like really, I feel sort of hosed that this is the only book this man has put out.

The novel itself is the most scrumptious blend of hilarity, creepiness, and "Oh my God what the HELL just happened" that I wanted to start reading it again as soon as it was done.

Y'all don't even know. I finished the book and pretty much did this for like an hour:

Seriously, seriously, weirdest thing I ever read. One second I was snorting with laughter (how sexy is that?) and the next I was literally getting the chills.


On top of which, this little, well, maybe not really so little, book is one of the most amazing "Little Engine that Could" type things around.

I mean, it started out a web-serial over at , which a few years later got turned into a book. The book did not sell, like, at all, but this story developed such an avid cult following that fan outcry finally got in re-released in brand-spanking-new paperback form in 2009.

I for one was overjoyed, I came into knowledge of this book in-between the first an second printings. I don't even remember how, but I somehow ended up at the author's website, reading all the absolutely AMAZING madness on, and when I saw that there was a BOOK I absolutely *HAD* to read it. Except, you know, at that point it was no longer in print.

The author talked about how there was a good chance it was getting re-released. But it hadn't happened yet, and the first edition copies were selling on Amazon for around $100. I'm not kidding. I'm also not kidding when I say that I was seriously considering paying that for it.

But then one day in the not too distant past I was driving my roommate to the airport. She had a pretty long wait there and hadn't remembered to bring a book. Being the combination of caring roommate and freakish bookworm that I am, a produced the book that I kept in my purse, that I hadn't even gotten a chance to read yet, and let her borrow it. I think found myself not too long afterwords on my university campus before class with suddenly NOTHING TO READ. Which, by the way, NEVER happens to me.

So I wandered into the campus bookstore (which actually has a stupidly good selection of books), and there, on a table of new releases, was John dies at the End. The clouds parted, angels sang, I was nearly weeping as I handed my money over to the cashier, and not just because books really cost way more than they should. Especially when you buy as many as I do.

It was love, you don't even know. It's not a short book, seriously, it's about the size of the bible. I was done with it in under a week. Complete and utter madness, I tell you what.

And then about a week or so ago, I found this.

Filming has officially begun on the movie adaptation of John dies at the End. And it's being directed by none other than Don Coscarelli. Who, by the way, was the director of the Phantasm franchise, in case you didn't know.
And this girl sure does love her some Phantasm.
Sure, I would be a little more jazzed if Sam Raimi or Edgar Wright had gotten the rites to it, because in my book, they are the KINGS of Horror Comedies. But let's face it, it's probably going to be totally awesome.

I know that this girl, at least, will be following the film's progress with damn-near rabidness. And you had better believe that she will also be at the first showing she can't get herself to as soon as its released.

Now, my darlings, go read it, like ten hours ago.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Parasomnia (2008)

Okay Parasomnia, I don't know if it's that I set my sights to high with you or what. But Son, your father and I are very disappointed in your behavior. I mean, really now, your trailer looked so FREAKING AWESOME. I guess I really should have known better, it was, after all, it is a William Malone movie. And, while I will admit to a very guilty love of Fear Dot Com, he also did the extremely shameful House on Haunted Hill remake.

Alas! Alack!

Apparently, my relationship with William Malone's films, is very similar to Lewis Black's relationship with Candy Corn. Every single time I go "Oh boy! This film is going to rock!.... SON OF A BITCH!".

I have no one to blame but myself. Curses. I don't want to blame me, so I'll blame Bono.

Okay, wow, really short attention span, I got COMPLETELY off topic there. So Let's look at the meat and bones of the plot here before I get heavily into the opinion part.

Our little tale starts out with Danny.

Danny is a sad sad boy who has just been dumped by his girlfriend. Who didn't just dump him, but also threw out his couch while he was at work.

Danny "works" in a record store, and I use the word "work" very loosely here, as all he seems to do is stand around talking about obscure 1960's Brit-Pop with a fellow co-worker.

When Danny isn't "working", or lamenting the loss of his living room furniture, he likes to visit his friend the crackhead at the local mental research facility. Whilst visiting his friendly neighborhood speed freak, Danny discovers that just down the Hall is a psychopathic serial killer named Byron Volpe. Volpe is in a single cell room tethered to the walls, with a bag over his head.

Apparently eye contact alone can make you fall under Volpe's influence. He has supposedly convinced his girlfriend/wife/trained monkey to jump off a building and the judge at this first court appearance to park on railroad tracks.

The Doctors and our friend the crack head all spend a good amount of effort telling Danny DOOOOOOOOOON'T LOOOOK IIIIIIIIIIIIIN TO HIS EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEYES! All he has to do is look at you and you apparently become a gibbering idiot completely under his sway.

As far as I can understand it, Volpe is, essentially, Hypnotoad.

Let's compare shall we?

But more on Hypnotoad Volpe later, We've more pressing matters to discuss. I suppose, like, you know, the rest of the "plot".

Whilst young Danny is staring at the freak show on display in Volpe's room, he notices the room next door and its catatonic occupant. And, like any man whose lost his girlfriend and his living room set in 24 hours, he naturally decides that this girl is the woman for him. Apparently, they met once when they were little kids for about five minutes, and that's all the introduction he needs ... weirdo.

The attending physician comes in and explains that this is Laura and she suffers from a medical condition known as Parasomnia or "Sleeping Beauty Syndrome". (The science of this part is completely off, but I'll get into that later.) Laura's condition causes her to spend more time asleep than awake, waking up for intervals of anything from two minutes to half an hour before conking back out for another week or so.

So far this doesn't seem so bad to me. Sleeping 80% of your life is somewhat ideal as far as I'm concerned, for the most part dreams are way better than reality.

However, once we are shown what Laura's dreams look like, well, I think it would be time to start loving mass quantities of caffeine, because the inside of this girl's head is downright unpleasant.

But everybody loves a sleeping broad, so Danny diligently visits her all-the-time, until one day when he learns that she is going to moved to a different facility so her condition can be studied by a doctor who specializes in sleep disorders. Although, apparently, he kind of sucks, since he's been involved in quite a few malpractice suits and a couple of his patients have gone belly up under the watch of the good doctor.

In Danny-land this is UNACCEPTABLE LIKE WHOA and he devises a "cunning", and by cunning I mean overused and kind of crap, plan to "spring her out", by which I mean kidnap her.

Because, you know, nothing says successful relationship quite like Stockholm Syndrome.

Once he gets her home it quickly becomes apparent that the amount of time she has spent asleep and not interacting with the waking world has given her basically the mentality of a seven year old. And so Danny does a lot of bathing her while she's unconscious and feeding her, and what have you.... which is, you know, not weird, or creepy, or anything. (I won't lie, this was probably the aspect of the movie that gave me the heebie jeebies more than anything else).

But moving right along... it turns out that Danny was not the only person who was freakishly obsessed with Laura. Our good friend Volpe apparently digs catatonic women as well.

Despite the fact this girl is virtually never awake, Volpe seems to feel that they have a deep personal connection. Whatever dude.

Apparently Volpe has found away inside Laura's head and her dreams, so on the subconscious plain he has more interactions with her than anyone. On account of this, he also has a fair amount of control over Laura - to the extent that he can get her to carry out his murdering sprees for him while he's still in the clink.

Naturally, Volpe manages to escape and all Hell breaks loose, and him and Danny have to have a big testosterone filled showdown over who gets to have Narcolepsy girl.

Okay, so the plot, pretty damn minimal.

It's like; "Let's take Sleeping Beauty and The Phantom of the Opera and mash them together which a bunch of faulty science and people who can't act their way out of a paper sack."

Patrick Kilpatrick (wow, what a name), who plays Volpe, plays his role competently. However, our good friend Danny, played by Dylan Purcell, could easily have been replaced with a plank of wood that had a face drawn on it and we would have gotten a pretty similar result.

I don't feel that I can really analyze Cherilyn Wilson's performance, considering she spends the whole movie either lying around asleep or running around yelling "DANNY!" at the top of her lungs.

For all I know given a different role she might be a superb actress, or she could be better off in roles with virtually no lines. Who knows? Not me.

Acting aside, here's the part where I rip the movie open and poke at its insides, in order to tell you what did and didn't work.

I have mentioned the incorrect science/psychology of the movie multiple times, so that probably would be a good place for us to start.

First and foremost, there is no singular condition known as "parasomnia". Parasomnia is a classification for a fairly diverse group of sleep disorders; somnambulism, night terrors, teeth grinding, confusion arousals, and restless leg syndrome. Not a singular condition that entails that the patient spends more time asleep than awake.

And parasomnias are in no way connected to "Sleeping Beauty syndrome", which, while a legitimate condition, is also unrelated to what Laura suffers from in the film.

In truth, Sleeping Beauty Syndrome, or Kleine-Levin syndrome, is more about being excessively lethargic and hallucinating.

So, as someone who knows at least a little bit about abnormal psychology, I was pretty confused as to why Malone felt the need to essentially name drop existing conditions, but then completely fabricate the science behind them. At the point it would have made more sense to just invent a condition all together, because anyone who knows anything about these things will immediatly start going:

"AAAH! AHH! YOU'RE WRONG! THAT'S NOT HOW IT WORKS!" while pointing animatedly at their Television set.

It's a pet peeve of mine, I know a lot people would probably be able to watch without knowing or caring that the science is made up. I know, I should be able to just suspend disbelief or something while I'm watching this movie. But, Goddamit, if you're going to try and pull semblances of reality into this fantasy AT LEAST DO SOME FREAKING FACT CHECKING OKAY???

Wow... sorry about that... where was I?

Oh yeah...

Danny and Laura's relationship.

It's creepy.

I mean creepy LIKE WHOA. Danny knows nothing about Laura when he shanghais her, other than that she's 'real purdy', and due to being asleep all the time, probably won't be able to throw his living room furniture out the window.

But after he saves/kidnaps her, and actually has something resembling a conversation with her, it's pretty obvious that she's basically a little kid in a fully developed woman's body. Even if her outsides are all grown-up THIS IS JUST PLAIN WRONG.

Sure, Volpe has a thing for her too... but he's a psychopath, so I don't really question his motives. Danny, however, is supposed to be our lovable hero with a heart of gold. But essentially, this whole thing makes him look like a pedophile.

The only scenes in the whole film that legitimately gave me the willies were once based around Danny and Laura's interactions. In one he takes her out for ice cream, she's never had ice cream in her life and has no idea how to eat it.

After it falls off the cone she proceeds to eat it with her hands, getting ice cream all over her face. Danny, without any semblance of humor, tells her how he just finished getting her cleaned up and GOD now he's going to have to bathe her again. While Laura spends a lot of the movie not seeming to know what is happening around her, at that point even SHE is looking at Danny like "Ew... there is something wrong with you."

In another scene Danny comes home from work to find Laura dressed in a cheerleader outfit. She's happy to see him and does one of those "give me (insert letter of choice here)" cheer. But, like I mentioned before, she's pretty much a kid, so it's just a mess of letters with no correlation to each other. She tells him that it spells "home", however, and rushes to hug him to show him how glad she is that he is back. Danny, on the other hand, just snaps at her that it "doesn't spell anything".

Generally, he treats her like a moron. He's like a more judging, whiny, version of Humbert Humbert, from Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. But we're supposed to like him, he's supposed to be the knight in shining armor with a moral compass that always points to north. In truth, I found him creepier than Volpe.

So, that alone, made it a little difficult, at points, to watch this movie.

I am not going to tell you that there is absolutely no reason to watch this film. Or that it had no merits whatsoever. Because the only redeeming quality in this movie, is exactly the one that makes me keep, like an Alzheimer patient, watching William Malone's films.


Parasomnia is much like most modern pop music. Ignore the words and just enjoy the catchy beat, and you will probably like it. That's pretty much the case here.

While the plot and the script are really quite wanting, I think that if you watched Parasomnia on mute, with some Chopin or something on in the background, it would be a fairly enjoyable experience.

I know that modern horror movies have gotten a certain amount of flack for their tendency to saturate shots with colors in order to enhance mood. I think that's just stupid, color saturation can turn a ho-hum shot into something mysterious if done right. And in Parasomnia, it was done COMPLETELY RIGHT.

The touches of blue permeating throughout the film give it not only a moody, but utterly surreal visual quality. It makes the film look like you are observing a dream that someone else is having. It's gorgeous, it's one of Malone's tricks that, for me, saved his earlier film Fear dot com.

Furthermore, the dreamscapes inside Laura's head are basically amazing. They're like if you took MirrorMask and The Labyrinth, mooshed them together, and then ran them through the filter of Gore Verbinski's interpretation of The Ring (which, in my opinion, was one of the only somewhat successful US remakes of a foreign horror film).

I feel pretty confident in my feeling that had the whole movie had the look and feel of the last fifteen minutes, I would probably have loved it. Seriously you guys, its beautiful.

The problem is, the last fifteen minutes or so, are basically a completely different movie. It goes from being a character study of Danny and his interactions with Laura to being a portrait of Volpe and the inner workings of his brain, and how he translates these things into visual representations via art and music.

It truly would have been better on all grounds, including more interesting, if Volpe had been the center focus for the whole film, instead of a fringe character only brought in a few times to move along the plot - until the end.

Dears, Darlings, Spooky Do's .... I just don't know what to tell you kids. On the one hand I want to tell you to run as far and as fast from this movie as you can, because it is going to be 103 minutes of your life that you will NEVER GET BACK.

On the other hand, some of the visuals almost make up for that...

I don't know guys. I just don't know.

Parasomnia's flaws far outweigh its strengths ... but in the end its up to you to do the right thing, you know, like Smokey the bear would tell you... or something.

But if you do watch it, and you hate it, this girl will give you no sympathy. No, no my dear, all you will get is a disapproving look and a wag of the finger.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Trick R Treat (2007/2009)

Oh Trick R Treat, you have filled me with such glee that this girl just doesn't know what to do with her self. See, Dears, Darlings, and Fellow Spooky-Dos, Halloween is just around the corner. The air is starting to cool in anticipation of Autumn, and the approaching holiday has almost constantly been on my mind. Whether its been on account of Target getting in its lovely ladies Halloween shirts, or because I've been diligently planning my costume I am in a constant state of anticipation these days.

And let me tell you, this movie was really the best way to kick off the most wonderful time of year that I could possibly ask for.

Which of course, thrills me to no end, especially since I had been looking forward to this film for quite sometime. But first its 2007 theatrical release got pushed back, and then it got further debunked in 2009 as a direct to DVD that I only recently managed to get my hands on. Trust me my lovelies, I have been kicking myself for not going to the screening of it at Comic Con a couple years back a LOT.

You would think with that level of anticipation that this film would fall flat, because, let's be fair, what ever truly lives up to the hype that we assign something in our minds? With the exception of the Dairy Queen Pumpkin Pie blizzard and Disneyland's seasonal "Nightmare before Christmas" revamp of the Haunted mansion, pretty much nothing ever does.

But I have a third thing to add to that list now kids, and that is Trick R Treat.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, before I just completely lose myself in babbling about how much I loved this movie I should give you a bit of an idea about what its about.

This movie had me hooked from the get-go, the title sequence is one of the most awesome I have seen in a movie in years. Seriously if it doesn't make you bounce in your seat with excitement than.... well, you just have no love of the world. I mean for Goddsake, its presented in comic format, introducing you briefly to the charecters you will meet, the rules of Halloween, and generally sets you up for the lore of the film exquisitely.

What follows is four different stories that are interwoven into one all encompassing ones. I've seen this done in movies before, and usually it requires that the movie be broken into chapters, with titles announcing the name of each of these chapters. Trick R Treat, however, overlaps and blends all of them in such an intricate and seamless fashion that I am absolutely dumbfounded that this work of art was Michael Dougherty's directorial debut, because he handles it better than many veterans.

At the center of these stories is the character "Sam", cleverly named after Samhain, or the Pagan Halloween celebration. He appears in each tale and is the embodiment not only of the holiday, but of the danger and fear associated with it, that lead to many of the practices we still use today. The use of Jack 'o lanterns, the dressing in costumes, etc. He's also adorable, in a really, weird, disquieting way. And not just because he reminds me a bit of a demented Sack Person from Little Big Planet.

The first of the stories that we are introduced to, revolves around Principal Steven Wilkins (played by Dylan Baker of Fido and Hide and Seek) who plays a thoroughly disgruntled man who firmly believes in upholding the age-old traditions of Halloween, as well as a few dark ones of his own. Although, like most of the characters, he makes appearances in the other stories as well. He's throughly creepy, but in a fun way, because he's also intensely awkward and neurotic, and there was one instance in the movie I had a definite "YEAH! ALL RIGHT!" moment for him.

Next we're introduced to a group of trick or treaters, headed by Macy (Britt McKillip, who I know and love as Reggie Lass in Dead like me). They are gathering Jack 'O Lanterns in a grocery cart en route to a rock quarry. Along the way they stop at the house of Rhonda, who Macy introduces as "The Idiot Savant". I warmed immediately to Rhonda; she's completely awkward, obsessed with Halloween, artistic, oh, and she made her cute little Witch costume herself.

I won't lie, I saw a little bit of a Young Spooky Pie in her, and felt instantly protective. We then learn that the pumpkins have been gathered as an "offering to the dead". Macy relays the tale of how a group of children were killed when a bus crashed into the lake nestled in ravine. And then tells the other children that that are going down to place the pumpkins at the water's edge, one for each child who was killed in the accident. As to be expected, this is when things go wrong.

Our next tale introduces us to Laurie (a nod, perhaps, to another great heroine of this holiday?), who, by the way, is played by Anna Paquin. Which, I won't lie, was one of the driving forces to see this film to begin with. I'll let you in on a secret my lovelies, but I do have the teeniest bit of a girl crush on Miss Paquin, largely because of her portrayal of True Blood's Sookie Stackhouse.


Laurie is out with her sister and friends, who are all dressed as over-sexed version of fairy tale characters. With the exception of Laurie, who appears practically demure in her Red Riding Hood costume, WHICH I WANT, by the way. There is, apparently, a tradition every year with these girls. They all go out to a big bonfire party in the woods, and each one has to find herself a date to bring to said party.

The other girls tease Laurie about her sexual innocence, her sister claiming that she has "22 year old virgin" carved on her forehead. Laurie is further ostracized as the other girls find boys and pair off with relative ease. They leave Laurie to fend for herself, and head off to the party with their respective dates with a patronizing pat on her cheek and an instruction to come meet them once she finds a man.

After she is abandoned, Laurie is left wandering through the woods on her own, directly paralleling the Fairy Tale she is dressed as. With the viewer just waiting for the inevitable Big Bad Wolf to spring at her from the shadows.

The last of the stories tells the tale of a grumpy old shut in, called Mr. Kreeg. He hates Halloween, he has his TV and his dog, the rest of the world can go to Hell for all he cares. He is also, quite cleverly, the neighbor of Principal Wilkins, and we see him briefly in the first story, bellowing through the fence at the slightly weaselly Principal.

Okay, okay, I felt a little biased going into this tale. I automatically love grouchy old men; especially when they have a small dog and watch the television with a rifle. They remind me of my own, dear, Grandpappy Pie. And Spooky loves her Grandpappy.

Sorry, got a bit side-tracked there, I'd tell you that it won't happen again but I respect you too much to lie to you like that.

Anyway, the other key player in this last tale of woe is dear little Sam, the sack boy who could. He is, apparently, intent on punishing Mr. Kreeg for his unwillingness to give Halloween the respect it deserves. To be fair, when Principal Wilkins wished him a Happy Halloween earlier in the film, Kreeg responded with "SCREW YOU" (and with that, he won my heart). This little story further establishes Sam as the spirit of Halloween, or at least the one responsible for enforcing the rules of Halloween.

Through that, and the rather poetic concluding scene we are re-affirmed with the fear that we all grew up with. On one hand, Halloween is the exciting, fun time of year when we all get to dress up and be given heaping bagfuls of diabetes. On the other hand, as a child, you always could feel that there was something just a bit dark lurking around corners, the sort of thing that could only be possible on that one night of the year.

And that leads us to one of the major reasons I have fallen so head over heels in love with Trick R Treat. It so perfectly encompasses the feeling of Halloween I had as a child, a feeling that you don't quite get any more as an adult. When you lose some of the fear associated with the holiday, you lose some of the fun too. So Trick R Treat reminding you that the fire in the Jack 'O Lantern will keep you safe so long as it stays lit, and that you wear the costumes to blend in with the spirits who they won't get you, even to check your candy for razor blades; well, it just filled me with nostalgia.

The storytelling is largely responsible for this, the conversations and people seem real. When they have conversations you don't sit there saying "What? Nobody talks like that!". And while you don't like all the characters, and you aren't supposed to, you find at least a few that you latch onto and care about. Much like the title sequence set you up for, it reads like a comic. Which is AWESOME.

Now, I've talked about the storytelling and the general feeling, so I feel it only fair to now talk about the final element that made this movie so wonderful. The Cinematography is utterly breath taking. Putting aside that this is a horror film, it is absolutely beautiful to look at. The color pallet, the editing, the subtle way certain shots are framed. My goodness, it damn near gave me the vapors.

So, Essentially, if the holiday were a film, it would, hands down, be Trick R Treat; fun and creepy, with an undercurrent of candy-like sweetness to pull it all together. If you want to watch something to get you in the mood for some good old Halloweening, Trick R Treat is the cure for what ails you kiddies.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

[Rec] (2007)

Well y'all, this girl actually has a bit of time before her in which she is going to be watching TONS of horror movies. In fact,as soon as I am done writing this here review I'm gonna go watch another one! Wooooooo!

Yes darlings, that's what this girl does when she has the apartment to herself for a week. She doesn't throw parties, or rearrange furniture, she sits in her arm chair and does her damnedest to overdose on horror films. So how happy was lil 'ol me when I turned on the TV and FearNet on demand was running [Rec], which I've been meaning to watch, but other things kept demanding to be at the top of my netflix queue, and you know how that is.

How exciting! And you know what, I wasn't disappointed. And that's kind of rare for me. That's not to say that [Rec] is perfect,because it isn't, but for what it is, it's quite good. And is furthering my opinion that these days Spain is churning out some pretty amazing horror.

So here's the basic rundown of what [Rec] is about:

The film opens with no sort of credits, no title card telling you that what you are about to experience is 100% REAL YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW, it starts like it would if you were watching lost footage. Young, adorable reporter Angela Vidal, is doing a piece for her show "While you're asleep". She is covering the job of local Firefighters, shadowing the firefighters on one of their "typical nights".

The beginning is actually really cute. Angela is sweet and flirtatious with the Firefighters, who seem more than happy to have her around, letting her try on their hats and showing her around the firehouse. I won't lie, two minutes into the movie and I already liked Angela and was secretly routing for her to take the coveted title of 'Final Girl', but that is neither here nor there.

For awhile there's a lot of Angela swinging her arms and telling the cameraman, Pablo, how nothing is happening and how she is getting bored. But then, oh joy of joys, the Firehouse alarm goes off, and the boys are called out. A resident is apparently trapped in their apartment, and of course, firemen Alex and Manu are more than happy to let Angela and Pablo ride along with them.

Once they arrive at the apartment they are greeted by a group of police and a lobby full of nervous apartment occupants. Apparently, the resident in question is an old woman who lives upstairs, no one has been able to get into the apartment; but they sure heard an awful lot of bangin' and screamin' up there. Manu assures the nervous tenants that everything will be fine, they have tools, they'll have the apartment open in a jiffy.

So, up the stairs they go, the firefighters, a couple of sanctimonious police officers whose names I can't remember because they were kind of douchebags, and Angela and her cameraman. Once the door to the apartment is cracked and our intrepid heroes venture inside, it is obvious to even the bluntest tool in the shed that there is something gravely amiss here. The old woman is standing in a corner soaked in blood and looking crazy as a shit house rat. Apparently, this isn't concerning anyone though, and the authority figures of the group schlep on over to Granny Batshit with lot's of "hey, everything's fine. You're fine, I'm fine, the suns out, ain't life dandy"? speak.

To the surprise of NO ONE, the crazy bitch launches at one of the policeman; because her stomach was making the rumblies that only human throats would satisfy. The firefighters manage to wrestle the lunch meat man away from the old woman and more or less subdue her. Manu instructs Alex to stay up here with the woman and not let her do any more crazy shit, whilst he and the other, more sanctimonious police officer, drag the shrieking, blood squirting man down to the lobby.

This does nothing to help the level of hysteria amongst the residents. Because, let's be fair, nothing ruins a decent night like a bleeding man squealing like a stuck pig in your lobby. Minor chaos erupts as the residents begin to be increasingly more shrill in their demands to know 'just WHAT in the name of God's ass is going on here'. This is, of course, when Alex takes the swan dive from the top of the stairwell and splats on the lobby floor.

Things go from bad to worse, because this about the time that the electricity in the building gets shut off, and the apartment is flooded with bright lights from outside, whilst a voice informs them via bullhorn, that "The health authorities have sealed off the building for health reasons". And because of something called a BNC threat, which we later learn translates to biological, nuclear, or chemical threat.

This, dear readers, is when all Hell breaks loose. The building is entirely sealed off, complete with plastic dropped from helicopters, and armed men in biohazard suits outside of the complex. But this is also the point when Angela turns to the camera, and in a deadly serious voice tells him:

"Fuck what they say, we have to tape this, people need to know what happened".

Generally this is the sort of thing that would make me put my hands up and shout "DONE!" in regards to the character. Because, generally, this is the sort of thing done out of sheer narcissism, but there is something in the earnest way that Angela handles herself and the situation that I couldn't help but find it endearing.

And remember that police officer who got attacked, and the poor fireman who was hefted down the stairs by the crazy old lady? Oh yeah, they're starting to act just like the woman, because, you know, they got bitten.

Fortunately it doesn't take long for our little troupe to figure out that getting bitten makes you into grey faced, blood thirsty, assholes. UNfortunately, the grey faced, blood thirsty, assholes, are not the George A. Romero shambling variety. You know, the kind that if they manage to catch you, you probably deserve to die because they travel about a centimeter every two hours? Nope, these guys barrel at you for all they're worth.

Fast zombies, or not zombies, whatever they are ... are harder to stay away from. So the residents of the condemned apartment complex fall one by one, the slowest, and most useless go first.

Okay, so this movie is more or less the mutant offspring of "28 Days later" and "The Blair Witch Project", if it were raised by George A. Romero's "The Crazies". And if you have a problem with "the shakey hand-held cam" business, you'll want to give this one a wide birth. HOWEVER, what thoroughly endeared [Rec] to me, and set it apart from others in this genre (namely, Paranormal Activity and The Blair With Project) is how intensely character driven it is.

There is a tight grouping of central characters and you actually care about them. You like them, you want them to come out swinging, and not become one of the rage filled bumbling hoard. Angela and Pablo's relationship is touching, even though you never see Pablo, but instead see the events through him. But even as shit hits the fan, Angela always looks first to Pablo, and he, in turn, is quick to take a hold of her hand and comfort her as it gets tenser.

Generally the faux-documentary type of movie doesn't do it for me. But the tight, almost claustrophobic, way it is filmed via hand held camera gives the viewer a sense of the tense urgency of the film. You feel involved, you're in the thick of it with them.

There is no "happily ever after" wherein everything is tied up in a neat little bundle, but the ending had a twist to it that I actually found surprising, which is rare. Usually reveals in this type of film are contrite, or so obvious you feel beaten over the head with it. But this leaves more questions than it answers, along with a deep unsettled feeling in the stomach.

Yes, there are flaws. Yes, there were multiple times during the film that I found myself shouting "YOU HAVE A GUN! JUST SHOOT THEM!", and I won't lie, a few of the characters you are fairly pleased to see get it. Nonetheless, I was fairly impressed with [Rec]. So really kids, see it, it kicks Paranormal Activity's ass and takes its lunch money.