[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] The Final Girl: Ranking the Best and Worst of the Month

Hey everyone, we are a few days removed from October, and as we look toward the next holiday and the rest of the year, I thought it would be fun to look back at the 5 worst films of this year’s 31 Days of Horror as well as picking the Top 5 from the month as well. It’s a grab bag of randomness, so don’t take any of this all that seriously, but it’ll be fun nonetheless.

Let’s get started.

 

Worst 5 Films of the Month:

5) Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation

  • This was probably the worst film of the franchise so far (I still haven’t caught part 5), and it’s too bad that it really doesn’t embrace that Christmas flavor. I have no fault if anthology is the direction this franchise took, but this film has virtually nothing to do with the holiday. It doesn’t even really feel like it’s set during the holidays outside of one scene. All that aside, the film is kind of boring and not well-acted or well-written. Outside of a few cool effects sequences, this one is a real dud.

4) Schizoid

  • I really wanted to like Schizoid, and there are moments that feel like the story is about to head somewhere really cool, but it never quite realizes that dream. I genuinely felt interested in the whodunnit of it all because just about every character seemed potentially off-putting enough to be responsible for the killings depicted in the film. It’s just that it’s tonally boring and not enough really happens to keep my interest in this film. Klaus Kinski is a scene-chewer and it was cool to see Christopher Lloyd doing some smarmy work here, but Schizoid‘s just a loss overall.

3) The Field Guide to Evil

  • The Field Guide to Evil looks great, but it’s more like a really pretty shell that’s hollow. I didn’t think any of the shorts had a good ending, the film just feels like wasted talent all around. As the film progressed, I was just hoping it would be done soon. I feel most disappointed by The Field Guide to Evil because it just felt like a winner and ended up being a loser.

2) Father’s Day

  • This month started out with a real dud of a film in Father’s Day, the sendup to grindhouse exploitation films that thought it was better than it was. I liked the aged appeal of the film but the story was obnoxious and just not very enjoyable. Father’s Day just could’ve been so much more, and I’ve seen better work from many involved.

1) Seventh Moon

  • Seventh Moon is the absolute bottom of the barrel here. There’s not a single merit I can give this film, and that’s a real problem. The cast is terrible, the shaky-cam found-footage-that-isn’t-supposed-to-be-found-footage approach to the film is awful, jarring, and unpleasant, and the story, which seems like it could be good initially, is completely wasted here. This is an absolute skip in every way.

 

So there you have it. The worst 5 films of the last month. Let’s move on to the good stuff.

Top 5 Best Films of the Month:

5) The Autopsy of Jane Doe

  • The Autopsy of Jane Doe feels like it could be perfect for quite a good portion of the film. Where is faults itself is that’s overall mystery isn’t all that meaningful and the ending is a bit messy. Outside of that, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is anchored by an excellent tone from its director and two powerhouse performances from Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch as a father and son who are dealing with horror in the workplace.

4) House

  • House is a classic in my home. I watch it every year around Halloween, and I absolutely love it. I think it’s perfect (it’s not) to me, and I just enjoy the hell out of it. Maybe it’s that I saw it when I was a kid and didn’t see the humor, so now as an adult, I’m focused on the creatures and horror of the film. I like Roger Cobb as a character, and I wish we got more appearances from him in a franchise, but this series just did not work as well as its first film. House, though, is damn incredible, and probably my favorite haunted house movie.

3) Zombieland

  • I rediscovered Zombieland this year in anticipation of Double Tap, and this is a tight 80-minute movie that fires on all cylinders and packs so much content into the film. Zombieland is built by four strong lead performers and a lot of cool set pieces. This is the epitome of the “fun apocalypse” film, and it likely led to the craze of people talking about how they would survive a zombie apocalypse (you wouldn’t) situation. Don’t blame Zombieland for that. This is a flavorful action/horror/comedy that works amazing well, even 10 years later.

2) The Fog

  • You all know I love John Carpenter. The Fog is probably in my Top 5 Carpenter films, and I believe he has made several perfect films. The Fog is one of those films. Honestly, I was back and forth about whether this film deserved the top spot of the year of second place, and there was just a more-perfect film that I saw this year. For The Fog, though, it’s impressive to see how Carpenter turned a B-movie into an A-movie. There are giant Jawas going around town killing and haunting, and it should be stupid-looking, but it’s just so incredibly effective.

1) Young Frankenstein

  • Young Frankenstein is the best film I watched this past month. It’s a comedy that embraces the horror elements of the films it is lampooning. It always remembers that it’s making fun of the Frankenstein mythos. Gene Wilder is a perfect Dr. Frankenstein, and Mel Brooks shot enough footage that he was able to be picky as to what scenes he would include in the finished product. Young Frankenstein just works in every way and it’s a benchmark of satire and parody.

So there you have it. These are the best films from 31 Days of Horror this month. I had a lot of fun recounting these things, and I hope you found some new gems to add to your Halloween rotation. See you next year.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 31 – Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

Director: Joe Chappelle

Cast: Donald Pleasence, Paul Rudd, Marianne Hagan, Mitchell Ryan

Screenplay: Daniel Farrands

87 mins. Rated R for strong horror violence, and some sexuality.

 

Well, it’s the end of October, and we find ourselves at the end of 31 Days of Horror. I’ve enjoyed it very much, and I hope you have as well. Like any October ending, we find ourselves at Halloween, and today we’ll be talking about The Curse of Michael Myers, the sixth and arguably most controversial in the series. Let’s get started.

It’s been six years since Jamie Lloyd, Michael Myers, and the Man in Black disappeared from Haddonfield, and Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence, The Great Escape, Fatal Frames) has very much retired, but his old friend from Smith’s Grove, Dr. Wynn (Mitchell Ryan, Gross Pointe Blank, TV’s Dharma & Greg), informs him that he has suggested Loomis as a replacement, and now the body of Jamie Lloyd has been found, and Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd, Ant-Man, Between Two Ferns: The Movie), survivor of Michael’s killings from back in 1978, has discovered that Jamie had been pregnant and given birth, and MIchael’s after the baby, being the last-known family he has. Loomis, Tommy, and the baby must now contend with the dangerous Michael and the insidious Man in Black who both want the baby.

If you read that synopsis and you’re asking yourself, “Wait! Isn’t this supposed to be a Halloween movie?” then don’t worry. You are in the right place. Much like Jason Goes to Hell, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers was made to expand the mythology of Michael Myers by connecting all the previous films (minus Season of the Witch) and answer the questions that the previous film asked while forging a path for future sequels. Well, that’s a tall order, and it’s the most likely reason why this movie turned into such a bonkers disaster.

The screenplay, Frankensteined together but credited to just one writer, Daniel Farrands (The Amityville Murders, The Haunting of Sharon Tate), tried to give a good answer to the mysterious ending to Halloween 5, one that the writers of that film weren’t even sure of, and so the Cult of Thorn was established, a wacko group that protects Michael and helps him accomplish his task of murdering his family members. That’s probably the least-strange new element to the film. The mystery of the Man in Black is given here too, but you probably won’t care about the answer, and then there’s the whole maybe-possible-incest thing in the script that’s not just strange and gross but also really stupid, but hey, in the age of Game of Thrones, maybe this subplot works. Probably not.

Donald Pleasence does solid Loomis work again on his last film appearance as the character, and Paul Rudd’s debut performance is weird enough to fit the crazy plotline of this entry (though he’s still a bit much), but there isn’t much of what I’d call acting in the film. I can’t say I blame a lot of the actors, though, because they signed on for one movie and ended up making another, using a script that was referred to as incomprehensible.

There is a Producer’s Cut of the film that fixes some of the narrative problems but not all, compiled from footage that was shot and cut after a bad test screening, and it’s not a better version, just a different one. It also introduces more subplots that aren’t ever tied up. Safe to say that, no matter which version you see, it’s a mess of a film.

I cannot defend Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. As a child, it actually scared the hell out of me. It’s a more cruel version of Michael Myers, and for that, it affected me a lot as a kid, so I will say that part of me prefers this one to the fifth film, but they are both among the bottom of the barrel of the Halloween franchise. It’s sequels like this one that make that whole retcon thing that Halloween 2018 did make sense.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of John Carpenter’s Halloween, click here.

For my review of Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II, click here.

For my review of Tommy Lee Wallace’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch, click here.

For my review of Dwight H. Little’s Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, click here.

For my review of Dominique Othenin-Girard’s Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 29 – [Happy 20th Birthday!] House on Haunted Hill (1999)

Director: William Malone

Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs, Ali Larter, Bridgette Wilson, Peter Gallagher, Chris Kattan

Screenplay: Dick Beebe

93 mins. Rated R for horror violence and gore, sexual images and language.

 

I heard that House on Haunted Hill is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and I absolutely had to rewatch this film. The last time I interacted with this property was when I watched the sequel, Return to House on Haunted Hill, many years ago, so this was a perfect opportunity to revisit this 90s horror film.

Stephen Price (Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech, Final Portrait) is throwing his wife a hell of a birthday party by inviting some guests to the Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute for the Criminally Insane, a now-closed former asylum where the patients revolted and murdered most of the staff sixty years earlier. The invites have gone out, and guests have started to arrive. There’s only one problem. All of the guests who arrive are people that neither Stephen nor his wife Evelyn (Famke Janssen, X-Men: The Last Stand, Asher) had invited. Stephen and Evelyn each suspect each other of a murder plot, but Stephen’s not going to let his plan go south, and he offers each of the guests a million dollars for staying the night in the house. Evelyn has plans of her own for the night, but the House on Haunted Hill has plans for all of them tonight.

Let me preface everything I’m about to say here. This is not a good movie. In fact, it’s a bad movie. Like many of Dark Castle’s films from the late 90s/early 00s, House on Haunted Hill is super-cheesy and super-silly and super-dumb. There’s a whole lot of bad surrounding this film including an upping-the-ante from the original film’s over-the-top premise. The Stephen-Evelyn dynamic is so excessive throughout. House on Haunted Hill is batshit.

It’s also so-bad-it’s-good in a lot of ways. It’s a bad movie that is so much fun to watch for some of its elements. Let’s talk about the bad stuff that surprisingly works. I love Stephen and Evelyn upon a rewatch. Seeing them both suspect each other of murder while also plotting the very same thing is a lot of fun. I believe that Geoffrey Rush knows exactly what kind of movie he’s in and he plays to it well. This is the strength of getting an actor like Rush to do horror. He gets the movie.

Chris Kattan (A Night at the Roxbury, TV’s Bunnicula) also kills it as Pritchard, the guy that is an exposition-machine/comic-relief for the film. He mixes his unhinged performance into the exposition and comedy and it’s just so crazy. He is perfectly cast in this film and becomes an equal to Rush’s Stephen Price.

I also like the idea of an all-consuming evil inhabiting the house is really cool. Some of the CG near the end of the film hasn’t aged well enough to work, but as a plot element, it’s still very fun. Many of the effects in the film still look pretty cool, especially how Dr. Vannacutt’s ghost doing that shaky-shaky effect, but the darkness effect is pretty bad.

So what doesn’t work in the film? Most of the remaining cast. Outside of Rush, Kattan, and Peter Gallagher (American Beauty, TV’s Grace and Frankie), no one in the film really know what film they’re in. We spend just as much time as possible with many of the other party guests, and the scenes they appear in go absolutely nowhere.

House on Haunted Hill is a movie that works despite all the bad things in the movie. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a good movie, but it’s bad works pretty well if you see it from a certain point of view. I would suggest it as a solid 90s B-horror film.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 28 – Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)

Director: Brian Gibson

Cast: Jobeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O’Rourke, Oliver Robins, Julian Beck, Zelda Rubinstein, Will Sampson, Geraldine Fitzgerald

Screenplay: Mark Victor, Michael Grais

91 mins. Rated PG-13.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Effects, Visual Effects

 

Poltergeist is now considered a classic American horror film, so it seems only natural that there would be a sequel, but it still surprises me whenever I talk to someone about the Poltergeist sequels, many of them do not know of their existence, but there is a strong cult following for them. It’s been some time since I visited the series, and now seemed a perfect time for it.

It’s been a year since the Freelings experienced powerful poltergeist activity at their home in Cuesta Verde, and they’ve moved on to a new home and life has returned, as much as it can, to normal, but when Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein, Southland Tales, Sixteen Candles) discovers that the evil at the old Freeling home is still present, she sends a friend, Taylor (Will Sampson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Outlaw Josey Wales) to meet with the Freelings and help them. At the same time, a mysterious preacher named Kane (Julian Beck, The Cotton Club, 9 1/2 Weeks) shows up with an interest in Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke, Around the Bend, Surviving).

The performances are all very fine in the film. It feels like the Freelings have evolved in the year since the first film. They are both distraught that the spirit is still wreaking havoc on the film, but it also feels like their prepared for it this time. Jobeth Williams (The Big Chill, Alex & the List) runs the house again as Diane. She wears the pants in the family and husband Steve (Craig T. Nelson, The Incredibles, Book Club) is just along for the ride. The two have great chemistry together.

Screenwriters Mark Victor and Michael Grais (Cool World, Secrets of the Unknown) did a great job of evolving and progressing the mythology of the first film. It’s one of my favorite elements of the sequel. The mythology around The Beast in this film is really cool. The big problem with their scary movie, though, is that it isn’t scary. There’s very little actual poltergeist activity for most of the film, and a lot of it is been there, done that. There’s only one moment that’s very memorable, and it involves a sequence beginning with tequila that I won’t ruin for you. It’s a great sequence in an otherwise unscary movie.

The Poltergeist Curse lived long through this film. There’s something very chilling about the real-life horrors surrounding this franchise. Actress Dominique Dunn, who played Dana, the eldest Freeling, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend just after the first film was released.Apparently, the plan was to send her to college in the sequel, but of course these scenes could not be filmed.  I respect that they didn’t recast or work around it because it lets her character find some peace. Then there’s issue of Julian Beck dying of stomach cancer before this film’s release. He wasn’t able to complete post-production work as Kane. I know it doesn’t mean anything to the merit of the film, but it’s interesting and disturbing the amount of real-world death that is connected to this film.

Poltergeist II: The Other Side is a lesser film to its predecessor, but there’s some interesting world-building to this sequel, world-building that doesn’t take away from the creep factor of its central specter. The flaw though is that the film isn’t as creepy or scary as the first and it’s noticeably devoid of anything scary for at least the first hour of the movie. Things start to heat up near the end, but it took me out of the movie by that point and I was really just watching for the story, which is engaging. Still, though, fans of the first film may find some enjoyment out of this second film. I found a bit.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 27 – [Happy 30th Birthday!] Shocker (1989)

Director: Wes Craven

Cast: Michael Murphy, Peter Berg, Cami Cooper, Mitch Pileggi

Screenplay: Wes Craven

109 mins. Rated R.

 

From 1987 to 1989, four horror films were released featuring killers who come back after dying in the electric chair. This was the last.

Brutal serial killer Horace Pinker (Basic Instinct, TV’s The X-Files) has been apprehended and is sentenced to death via electrocution, but on the fateful day, electrical issues and strange rituals combine to produce a hell of an accident, though Pinker still fries. Now, Jonathan Parker (Peter Berg, Very Bad Things, Mile 22), a young man who was able to assist in the capture of Pinker, discovers the murderer to be very much still active, living on as an electrical current able to inhabit other humans and use their bodies for vengeance. The only skill Jonathan has is in the form of strange visions accompanied by the ghostly visage of his dead girlfriend. Now, Jonathan will have to man up and stop Pinker from continuing his murderous rampage, or it’s lights out for him…

I’ve spoken about this before, but I firmly believe that Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream) was a great director. That’s not exactly a hot take or anything, so here’s one: I don’t think he was a very good writer. Sure, he wrote some amazing work. He was great with ideas in the same way that George Lucas is. I just don’t think he really was able to get those ideas to work on the page. That’s not a slight or anything, but look at a film like Shocker, which has some really cool ideas but the story is a bit of a mess. There’s all these random things happening in the screenplay that are never followed up on. Why does Jonathan have visions of Horace? How exactly do they work? Why do all of his friends and his coach immediately believe his batshit theory? Why does his dead girlfriend keep coming back to help him? What exactly did Horace do to come back from the dead? He’s seen performing some sort of ritual, but we never hear about it afterward.

Beyond all that, the film is far too similar to A Nightmare on Elm Street. There are elements of dreaming and nightmares and dreamscapes in the film that feel a little too familiar. For the most part, these elements just made me wish I was watching Nightmare instead. Both Nightmare and Shocker have similar opening titles, disbelieving fathers, and power through dreams.

Mitch Pileggi is batshit as Horace Pinker. He’s all the parts of Freddy Krueger that became more prominent in the later sequels, especially the attempts at humor. I like how visceral he is, how brutish, but he just didn’t work in the way I hoped he would.

Speaking of batshit crazy, let’s talk about the television scene. It’s near to the end of the film, where Jonathan and Horace end up in a television set and are fighting across the different channels. It sounds cooler than the finished product, but it kind of fails where the fight sequence in They Live succeeds.

So there you have it. There are better Wes Craven films, but I have the feeling that some people will love how terrible this movie is. It just didn’t work for me. There’s too much all-over-the-place in this movie and I couldn’t connect with any of it. Just didn’t work for me, dog.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, click here.

For my review of Wes Craven’s Vampire in Brooklyn, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 24 – Diary of the Dead (2007)

Director: George A. Romero

Cast: Michelle Morgan, Josh Close, Shawn Roberts, Amy Lalonde, Joe Diicol, Scott Wentworth, Philip Riccio, Chris Violette, Tatiana Maslany

Screenplay: George A. Romero

95 mins. Rated R for strong horror violence and gore, and pervasive language.

 

I got into the Living Dead series when around the time that Land of the Dead was released, and I was fairly certain it would be the last time George A. Romero (Monkey Shines, Bruiser) returned to his world of zombies. It just felt like Land of the Dead ended in the right place, but only a few short years later, Romero decided to pick up his camera and make a movie about the first night when the dead rose, this time present in found-footage.

A team of film students making a horror film in the woods are shocked to hear the news reports claiming that the dead are rising and feeding on the flesh of the living. Director Jason (Josh Close, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Anthem of a Teenage Prophet) and several of the others go looking for Debra (Michelle Morgan, Deep Space, TV’s Heartland), Jason’s girlfriend, and then, the group heads out in search of safe refuge, along the way learning the hardness of life in the apocalypse, while Jason follows along, camera in hand, ready to capture as much of the carnage as possible.

I was extremely excited for Diary of the Dead, and I brought a copy of it home to host a watch party, and while the film is overall fine enough, it was clearly the least-impressive film of the five release at that point. I get the feeling Romero was disconnected from both the youth of 2007 but also the medium of found-footage filmmaking, and there’s several breaks in logic that become noticeable. The film works still but his writing kind of creates flat archetypal characters that are not easy to connect with. It’s more the journey of the film that’s so interesting. So much of Romero’s Living Dead series is confined to a single location. It’s fun to revisit the beginning of the zombie apocalypse in this way.

The performance Michelle Morgan is fine as the lead, but I connected more to Shawn Roberts (Resident Evil: Afterlife, Undercover Angel) as Tony, the brutish foil to Jason, and Tatiana Maslany (Stronger, Destroyer) as Mary, a member of the film crew clearly struggling to understand the situation.

None of the Living Dead films are truly connected, and their timeline is always murky. For example, in Day of the Dead, we see a Stephen King book onscreen, but if the apocalypse started in 1968, Stephen King would probably not be writing. Each film can be placed on a zombie progression timeline but exists on its own. So yes, this film is intended to be set during the events of Night of the Living Dead, but also during 2007, so don’t take it too intentionally, as this has always been the case.

Diary of the Dead is fine overall, but upon release it never was able to reach the level of Night, Dawn, Day, or even Land. It’s okay for fans and creates some interesting narrative around technology and social media sharing, and the cameos are really fun to try and catch (just try to guess the major voices behind the many news recordings), but it isn’t for new fans of Romero.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, click here.

For my review of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, click here.

For my review of George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead, click here.

For my review of George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead, click here.

For my review of George A. Romero’s Monkey Shines, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 23 – The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Director: Tobe Hooper

Cast: Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, Gunnar Hansen

Screenplay: Kim Henkel, Tobe Hooper

83 mins. Rated R.

 

Finally, we come to the day we talk about the iconic horror film that was Based on a True Story: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Except, here’s the thing, it’s not based on a true story. In fact, anyone can say that any movie is based on a true story and just roll with it. All you have to do is tangentially connect it to actual events. In the case of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, it’s based somewhat obscurely on Ed Gein. There you go.

Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns, Helter Skelter, Sacrament) and her friends are on a road trip to see her grandfather’s grave and visit the homestead in Texas when they come across several strange people, most notably a hitchhiker (Edwin Neal, Future-Kill, Kill or Be Killed). When they get to the homestead, they separate, and two of the find a house they believe to be abandoned. They are wrong, and they’ve just stepped onto the land of the Sawyer family, and now the entire group is headed on a path with only one destination: death.

I personally don’t enjoy watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It isn’t remotely a fun experience to me. I don’t like any of the characters, and I think it pervades a nauseating feeling. This is partly due to the tone of the film and the score, which is made of slaughterhouse noises. I don’t find joy in the movie, and that’s not entirely a fault on the film. That’s what it’s trying to be.

The funny thing about this film is that it’s assumed that it’s a very bloody, gory experience. Really, the terror is the imagined and the emotional distress that lives within its frames. There’s very little actual blood or gore, but because of the editing and pacing of the film, there’s an assumed level of terror and bloodshed that strictly isn’t there, and it’s one of the reasons that the film earned an X rating the first several times it was submitted.

There are no truly great performances in the film, only iconic ones, particularly with Gunnar Hansen (Campfire Tales, Death House) as Leatherface. He doesn’t get much to do, and the only real acting he does in the film is the final shot. I would also throw some attention to the incredible opening narration by John Larroquette (who claims he was paid for his efforts with a joint), who sets the tone nicely for the film. Everyone else is just screaming and yelling and fighting the whole time.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is more myth than perfection. It’s an iconic horror film, but not a particularly great one. It’s good, no doubt, and it sets the precedent for much to follow, and it’s one of the better Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist, Spontaneous Combustion) efforts, so I’ll give it that. But not really the greatest horror film ever made like it’s been noted by some.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Salem’s Lot, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter’s Body Bags, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s The Mangler, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 22 – [Happy 15th Birthday!] The Grudge (2004)

Director: Takashi Shimizu

Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, KaDee Strickland, Clea DuVall, Bill Pullman

Screenplay: Stephen Susco

91 mins. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, disturbing images/terror/violence, and some sensuality.

 

The Grudge is 15 today! Not the original one. The English one. Is that a problem?

Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Cruel Intentions, TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is living in Tokyo with her boyfriend Doug (Jason Behr, Dragon Wars: D-War, TV’s Roswell) and working as a care worker. When one of her coworkers doesn’t show up, she is assigned to care for Emma Williams, an older woman suffering from lethargy and dementia. While attending to Emma, Karen discovers something strange happening in the house. She hears noises and is seeing people that aren’t supposed to be there. She begins to unravel a strange mystery involving death, pain, grief, and a grudge upon the house, one that will not leave her alone.

I didn’t like The Grudge the first several times I elected to view it, but, being that it was coming up on the 15th anniversary and the upcoming sequel, I figured it was only right to try it one more time. So what’s changed this time, if anything? Well, I will say this: the first few times I watched the film, I didn’t find a whole lot to like, but this time, I actually found the mystery and story of the film quite engaging, but all that being said, it’s still not scary whatsoever. I still find the ghosts to be almost laughable and the sound design, while being important to the story, doesn’t work. The ASMR mouth sounds and the cat sounds being uttered by the ghosts is really not scary in the slightest.

Sarah Michelle Gellar is not doing anything special, and I really wish I’d gotten to see something better from her. I’m far more interested in the police officer character who gets involved in the story, but none of the main cast is given a lot to do. Jason Behr gives a mostly monotone reading of his dialogue. Truly, just about any part of the nonlinear story structure is better than Karen’s.

The Grudge may be fine for some, but I still didn’t think it provided enough of the thrills and excitement I was hoping for. I really want to like it, and I think that the story, the mystery, and especially the mythology is very strong in the film. The problem is that I’m just not feeling the central character arc of the film. I have to judge the film for what it is and what it wants to be. It’s just not scary, even with the same director as the original film. Go watch the original.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 21 – Young Frankenstein (1974)

Director: Mel Brooks

Cast: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars, Madeline Khan

Screenplay: Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks

106 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted from Other Materials
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound

 

Tonight, I need a laugh, so I did what any smart person would do in the middle of October looking for a spooky-good laugh: I took out my copy of Young Frankenstein.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, The Producers) is struggling to escape his family’s horrible legacy. Supposedly, his grandfather notoriously created life from dead tissue, and all his life, Frederick has never been able to get out from under the family shadow, but when he is personally invited to Transylvania to his grandfather’s castle, he discovers that maybe his family wasn’t so crazy after all, or maybe they were…

Young Frankenstein is absolutely brilliant, a perfect movie experience built around a career-best performance from Gene Wilder. Wilder also co-wrote the script with director Mel Brooks (Spaceballs, Dracula: Dead and Loving It), so it very much is his baby. His portrayal of Frederick flip-flops between nuance and over-the-top insanity. He also has perfect comedic timing. Scenes that shouldn’t work end up brilliant. This is a comedy genius at the height of his power.

The entire supporting cast is amazing as well, from Marty Feldman (In God We Trust (or Gimme That Prime Time Religion), The Last Remake of Beau Geste) as the eccentric and odd Igor to Cloris Leachman (The Last Picture Show, The Croods) as Frau Blucher, the housekeeper of the castle. Both characters would be iconic enough as stars of the film, but both combined with Wilder’s Frankenstein make for a unique and original comedic gem.

Mel Brooks apparently had a rough cut approximately twice the finished run time, and he went through the film, removing the least funny scenes as he came to them. It’s a great idea and good info for practicing comedy directors. Shoot a shit-ton of footage and then just cut out the worst stuff. He was even able to get the original Universal Frankenstein props from a prop designer who worked on the 1931 film to create that authenticity.

Mel Brooks once said that in order to parody something well, you have to love it. That love is especially apparent for both Brooks and Wilder in Young Frankenstein. Two master storytellers combining their efforts to create something truly special. This is a rarity of a film, one that I think is absolutely perfect and only gets better with time. See it. See it now, again and again.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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