Thursday, October 22, 2015


The timing of the release of crimson CRIMSON PEAK could not have been more prefect. This October I've been watching a lot of Mario Bava. A good chuck of his films are available to stream right now on Netflix and Amazon. It's interesting to see the roots of Italian horror.

CRIMSON PEAK is not a Italian horror film. It's just that Guillermo Del Toro's use of color reminded me a lot of Bava's work. Funny, when I discovered Italian horror I hated it. Back then I just didn't "get it" and sometimes I still don't, but lately I have developed a strong appreciation for it. Thanks in large part to a friend of mine who is going through a similar revival.

CRIMSON PEAK is also not a horror movie. Which is surprisingly turning off a lot of theater goers. Which I can understand the frustration. Apparently the trailers for the film we're misleading. Audiences were wanting horror when instead they got Gothic romance.

So what's the deal? Were there not enough jump scares? A character opens up the film by saying this isn't a ghost story but rather a story with ghosts in it. But that was at the very beginning of the movie, you don't need to pay attention to that. You were probably on your smartphone ordering your McDonald's Double Cheeseburger. Because you like the same old crap every single time!

Okay, rant over.

While not scary, the Gothic romance genre is atmospheric and can be a lot of the times spooky. Appropriate for certain horror movie marathons/movie nights. CRIMSON PEAK is a film where you let the atmosphere wash over you. For me, following the plot was secondary and my viewing experience was more visual.

The plot of CRIMSON PEAK does seem pretty basic. In the aftermath of a family tragedy, a young woman's heart is is stolen by a seductive stranger. Edith Cushing is swept away to a house atop a mountain of blood red clay, a place that will haunt her forever. Between desire and darkness, between mystery and and madness, lies the truth behind Crimson Peak. Beware of Crimson Peak!

Mia Wasikowska plays Edith, an aspiring author who falls in love with Thomas Sharpe, the seductive aristocrat and inventor. The two of them fall in love but Edith's father disapproves. After his untimely death they get married and shack up Allerdale Hall where Thomas and his sister Lucille live.

Strange things begin to happen and Edith starts seeing ghosts. And the mystery of the Sharpe's and Crimson Peak start to unravel.

I truly believe CRIMSON PEAK is Guillermo Del Toro's homage to Hammer films, Mario Bava, and Alfred Hitchcock. With ghosts being part of the story, it's hard not to think about the film Rebecca. But the Hitchcock film I kept thinking of during some key suspensful moments was NOTORIOUS.

All of the cast did a great job. Jessica Chastain who played Lucille was my favorite performance in the film. From the get go you know this lady is up to no good, and Chastain did a wonderful job of letting her madness come to a rolling boil.

As I was watching the film on IMAX I knew the film was performing poorly at the box office. There were less than 10 people in the showing I attended. So this thing may only be in theaters another week? So as I was watching the film thinking it was getting judged unfairly, I began thinking of Grindhouse's and exploitation movies.

If this was the 70's, CRIMSON PEAK would be pulled from the theater and repackaged for later. The studio or distribution would make some edits making it more scary and give the film a new title, something like BARONESS OF BLOOD. With the changes and new title it'd probably make a killing at a Drive-In or Grindhouse. Of course nothing about CRIMSON PEAK needs to be changed. It's just another crazy idea that my movie geek mind came up with.

I highly recommend CRIMSON PEAK. It's one of the year's best!

Sunday, October 18, 2015


LA CASA III (a.k.a. GHOSTHOUSE) is a 1988 Italian horror film directed by Umberto Lenzi. Oops sorry, I mean Humphrey Humbert? Yep, that's a fake. I've never been sure on the reason for American aliases in Italian horror. Maybe it was a distribution thing to trick American audiences? Or it might be similar to an Alan Smithee sort of deal? Whatever the case, LA CASA III is pretty bad with hints of awesomeness.

You're probably wondering what the heck is a La Casa? Well from what I have gathered, EVIL DEAD and it's sequel EVIL DEAD II were released in Italy as LA CASA I & II. So in Italian exploitation fashion, they make a horror movie and advertise it as a LA CASA sequel to assure asses in seats. But here in the States you couldn't get away with something like that, so in America the film is titled GHOSTHOUSE. There, now you've learned something useless today!

Doing some minor research before watching the movie, I found out that Riff Tracks did an edit of the movie. So that at least gave me a heads up of what I was getting myself into.

The film starts off pretty good. We have a somewhat spooky house, which reminded me of the one from HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY. Oddly enough according to IMDB's trivia page, both films used the same set. Which if true is kinda cool.

The master of the house hears what sounds like cat dying. So he goes down to the basement to investigate. Sure enough, what he finds is the family cat with it's throat cut. Ewe! We then hear this creepy music and find his daughter holding the murder weapon, a pair of scissors. Her punishment is to sit alone in the dark and think about what she has done.

Henrietta and her favorite clown doll don't like the sound of that so the house goes all haunted and her dad gets an ax to the head and a shattered mirror blows up in the face of the mother. The story then cuts to New York City, where we meet our main characters Martha and Paul. Martha loves chili and Paul loves his computer. And by computer he means his high-tech ham radio.

One afternoon Paul picks up some strange sounds. Someone asking for help followed by some creepy music/song. Similar to what we heard when Henrietta and her clown doll was on screen earlier. Paul finds out where the radio signal is coming from, and the two of them drive to the house and investigate.

When Paul and Martha show up there is already a group of teenagers at the house. And one of them has a ham radio as well.

Spooky stuff starts to happen. Exploding lamps, exploding bulbs, ghost dogs, and a bunch of other crazy stuff. And people get gruesomely killed. They eventually learn about Henrietta and learn that her tomb must be destroyed.

By this point the films plot kinda goes out the window, and like I said crazy stuff happens. The atmosphere and look of the film is cool, but the acting is bad. Laughably bad. Watching the film became highly entertaining at how bad it was but at the same time how surprisingly good the gore turned out to be.

I'm glad I watched it, but for as obscure as the film is, GHOSTHOUSE is nothing special. And like I suspected, LA CASA (a.k.a. GHOSTHOUSE) had nothing to do with the Evil Dead films.

I only recommend GHOSTHOUSE if you're a connoisseur of Italian horror. Or enjoy the occasional pizza and beer movie night. Perfect for friends to come over and have a good laugh. Other than that, don't waste your time.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


Before I begin there is some issues I have to get off my chest. I like going to the movies. Nay. I love going to the movies! If there is a movie that I really really want to see, going to the theater is my preferred choice. Last week two films came out that I've been dying to see, KNOCK KNOCK and THE FINAL GIRLS. Neither movie is playing in town. Why? Because studios don't take risks anymore. Smaller films are going straight to On Demand and it sucks.

A big movie buff like myself was all excited to have a double feature at the local multiplex. Both movies even have some of the same actors. Take Aaron Burns for instance who appears in both. He's the student activist that get's it the worst in THE GREEN INFERNO. So when you see him show up in KNOCK KNOCK you kinda feel sorry for him and glad he is alive! Long story short, these two films would play great back to back.

When it comes to the films of Eli Roth you pretty much know what to expect. Gore, torture, sheer terror, and laughs. And his new move KNOCK KNOCK is no exception. Except maybe the gore? Yes, for what the film lacks in blood and guts Roth makes up for it with terror and suspense. I have thought Eli has always been a talented filmmaker but since his films are known for their gore, the rest of his talents don't get the proper attention (HOSTEL: PART II is an amazing film).

In the film Keanu Reeves plays Evan, a loving husband and father of two. He's an architect and his wife does sculptures. It's Fathers Day but Evan is really busy on a project, so the wife and kids go away for the weekend without him. During a rainy evening he gets a knock on the door and it's two lovely girls that are soaking wet and lost. Turns out they got bad directions to a party they are supposed to be at.

The girls ask if they can come inside from the pouring rain. From this point on you can see Evan's reluctance, and Keanu really sells it. So he let's the girls in and they get warm and dry off. Small talk ensues and Evan is always smart and keeps his distance. But no matter how hard he tries Genesis and Bel persistently stay close to him. A Uber driver is called to pick them up, but when it arrives it's too late. Evan has been overtaken by the girls.

In the morning Evan wakes up thinking it was all a nightmare and that the girls have left. But no, turns out this wasn't just a night of casual sex. These bitches be crazy! He wakes up to find them having breakfast in the kitchen raising all sorts of hell. What has Evan gotten into! He asks them repeatedly to leave. Finally the waking nightmare seems to end when Evan drives them to anywhere but his home.

So far this has been a weekend that Evan would like to forget. After cleaning up the mess he goes back to his project. But is interrupted by a noise and gets knocked out. Genesis and Bel have returned and proceed to rape, torture, and terrorize Evan.

I love KNOCK KNOCK! With this being a Eli Roth film I was worried the movie was just going to be torture leftovers from his 'Hostel' films. Thankfully that is not the case. Here Roth trades in his knack for gore with surprisingly good suspense. Watching the girls' get closer and closer to Evan was a delight, and probably the best scenes in the film.

It's during the third act of KNOCK KNOCK that I noticed the film loosing a lot of it's steam. The motives of the girls' start to be unclear. Clearly they are crazy! There is no doubt, but why they are doing this to Evan (and apparently other married men) never seemed clear to me. I may have missed that part? It's probably just some of the juvenile hysterics that Roth is known for getting in the way. And I don't have a problem with that at all!

I highly recommend KNOCK KNOCK to horror fans, especially those on the fence about director Eli Roth. This is something different from him with the exception of his sense of humor. That hasn't changed. So if you're not a fan of that then you should probably pass.

And if you watch this movie with your wife or girlfriend expect to have a pretty big conversation when the movie is over!

Friday, October 9, 2015


Next year SCREAM will be 20 years old. Has it really been that long? Gosh, I'm getting old. It's been a few years since I've watched director Wes Craven's second most popular horror film. Watching it last night felt fresh, the movie I am happy to say still holds up! Some of the dialogue feels dated and forced, the pop culture references don't sound naturally to me now like they used to? The horror genre was having a hard time in the 90's. They killed off Freddy, everybody thought JASON GOES TO HELL sucked, and Hollywood tried to make us scared of Leprechauns. Thankfully there was some good ones like CANDYMAN and ARMY OF DARKNESS. But the slasher flick was pretty much dead.

With the death of Freddy and Jason being sent to hell, audiences for the most part we're fine with it. But for me, I was just getting started. I loved horror and couldn't get enough. The year that I started college was when I rented and watched all the mainstream (Freddy, Jason, and Michael) horror slashers. I had now seen every film in the Elm Street series and HALLOWEEN had become my favorite horror movie.

The first time I saw SCREAM was on a Friday afternoon after class. I still remember that it was me and about ten other people. Which back then was odd, even for a matinee? The movie floored me! Leaving the theater I thought I'd just witnessed the greatest horror movie ever made.

The next day at work I was telling all my co workers about it. When I got home I called my friends and dragged some of them to see it. For the rest of the 90's SCREAM and SCREAM 2 were probably my favorite films.

It was a slow start but word of mouth made SCREAM a box office smash. The slasher genre was popular once again. The 'Dead Teenager' horror film dominated the late 90's. And while I did in fact enjoy the return, one of these things wasn't quite like the other? These slasher flicks were lacking in the gore department.

SCREAM did good delivering the goods, but the copycats kept becoming more and more blood less. Thanks a lot MPAA and focus groups!

Besides the issues with gore and violence, it turns out that the movies themselves were just not that good. Every character spewing hip self referential dialogue and being to smart to be in a horror movie situation got old really fast. Thank goodness for the J-horror (Japanese) remake craze. But that too got stale.

I'm glad to say that SCREAM holds up! It holds up extremely well. Unlike, say I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. I loved that movie when it came out! But I kinda cringe thinking about it now. Heck, I was worried SCREAM was going to suffer the same fate!

I will consider A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET to always be Wes Craven's most notable and popular film. Fans forever will be split between it and SCREAM. But as much as I love SCREAM, it is not my favorite of the series. That my friends, is SCREAM 2!

Sunday, October 4, 2015


Remakes these days seem like a dime a dozen. And if you're a fan of my blog you should know that I typically hate remakes. I am not the biggest fan of the shot for shot remake. I think a remake should try something different. A movie like John Carpenter's THE THING can make you think that Howard Hawks' original film doesn't exist.

Once in awhile a remake that is shot for shot will come along and be better than the original. The 2006 remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES directed by Alexandre Aja is a perfect example. Talk about a remake that improves on almost aspect of the 1977 original. Watching the original nowadays the only thing going for it I'd say is the look of it. Shot on 16mm like every good horror movie should be.

I do not particularly care for the original movie. Hearing about the movie and reading the back of the VHS box makes the film sound a lot better than it really is. A lot of it has to do with the killers. These guys are supposed to be mutant cannibals but instead they come across as backwoods hippies. And the acting wasn't very good. The cheep budget and bad acting seemed to work for me with LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, but here I just found it really distracting.

Maybe I am so tough on horror remakes is because THE HILLS HAVE EYES set the standard. This film is easily one of the best horror movies of the aughts! Alexandre Aja is one of the best horror directors and producers working today. I love how he has turned exploitation into high art!

So if you didn't know, THE HILLS HAVE EYES is about the Carter's who are taking a trip through the great American southwest. But a detour on the trip takes a turn for the worse when the family car breaks down. What looks like car trouble turns out to possibly be a trap! A trap set up by some mutant cannibals living near an abandoned nuclear test site. The Carter family are in the fight of their lives when the strange inhabitants start the gruesome massacre.

For fans of the original, yeah there is nothing new here. The rape scene in the original is still shocking, but nothing can compare or prepare you for how Aja cranks up the tension in the remake. Spoiler alert! I remember people walking out of the theater, and you know a horror film is doing something right whenever this happens. I almost did the same thing! The scene I am referring to involves a loaded gun to a baby's head. The baby lives (you think the film is going 'there' but thankfully does not); but still, that is some deep dark territory.

But the real improvement for me is when the mutant family takes center stage. Notice how I said mutant family and not hippie commune. I'm sure if I saw the original at the time of release I would have thought Pluto and the rest of the gang were scary. But by today's standards the look silly.

In the new film some of the mutants are just painful to look at. I remember one guy who was confined to a chair and his neck could not support the weight of his head. It was creepy and I felt sorry for the guy and thought his brothers or sons should do him a favor and put the guy out of his misery.

I haven't seen the remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES for almost 10 years and wonder if it still holds up? I bet it does. So if you're like me and wanting to honor the memory of Wes Craven by watching a lot of his films this October, give this remake he produced a try.

Happy October!


This year for the month of October I am going to blog about the films of Wes Craven. Not all them, but as many as I can.* Let's start things off with his “first” film LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. It wasn't until the late eighties that I knew who Wes Craven was. And I only knew him as the guy who made A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. By the time I got to Jr. High, he was already considered the master of horror. And you were considered an amateur if you had only seen his Freddy Kruger movie. According to the heavy metal kids the Wes Craven film THE HILLS HAVE EYES was where it's at.

I had seen A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS on television and liked it enough that I wanted to see more. But I was still too much of a wuss to rent the horror recommendations at the video store. Especially THE HILLS HAVE EYES. Still to this day Michael Berryman still creeps me out on that box cover. But there was one movie at the video store that I hadn't heard about. And that movie was LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. I knew it was a Wes Craven film because the box cover mentioned something like “Before the nightmare on elm street there was the last house on the left”. Or some crap like that?

I ended up not renting LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT that night, nor any other night for that matter. It wouldn't be until several years later that I'd finally watch the grindhouse exploitation “classic”. And LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT really didn't do anything for me. I understand the films significance in the history of modern horror with it's rape and brutal violence. But there is an element to LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT that hurts the film greatly in my opinion. And that element is the bumbling sheriff and his deputy. I get what the director was trying to accomplish but it just does not work.

Two teenage girls go to the city for a rock concert. While trying to score some weed, Mari and Phyllis get kidnapped by a gang of psychotic convicts. The gang, lead by the nasty Krug takes the girls out to the middle of nowhere and rapes and murders them.

The psycho killers find a place to stay in the rural area. The homeowners welcome them but soon find out their guests are the ones who murdered their daughter. Enraged, the parents take on the gang and get bloody satisfaction doing it!

If you can get past the silly cops I think the film is great. For a exploitation film to stick with you well after you've seen it is saying a lot for most grindhouse pictures.

The highlight of the film for me is the character Krug, played to perfection by David Hess. When you turn your own son into a junkie just to control him, that's some twisted stuff let me tell you!

If you are a fan of Wes Craven but have never seen his early work, then LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT might be worth checking out.

If you're a fan of horror exploitation, then I'd say the film is highly recommended. But whatever you do, please don't watch the 2009 remake. The last thing the original needs is a sleek looking update. Age (besides the awful soundtrack...and idiotic cops) is the best thing going for LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.

*It won't just all be Wes Craven films this month. Amazon Prime has a lot of stuff I want to talk about so some of the horror blogs may spill over into November.