[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 14 – House (1986)

Director: Steve Miner

Cast: William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll, Kay Lenz

Screenplay: Ethan Wiley

93 mins. Rated R.

 

I caught House on the Sci-Fi channel as a child and was swept up in it. I taped it and watched it again and again and again. I figured that, today, I would take a look back at this movie to see if it’s worth my love or if it’s just a guilty pleasure. Both are fine with me.

Roger Cobb (The Man from Earth, The Other Side of the Wind) has just inherited his aunt’s house after her passing, and he’s taken the opportunity to move in and work on his next book. He has bad memories of the house; his son went missing several before and the house was the last place Roger saw him. The resulting marital problems left him divorced from wife Sandy (Kay Lenz, Breezy, The Secret Lives of Dorks). He’s also suffering from PTSD from his time in Vietnam. Roger has a lot of demons, and he’s about to discover that the house isn’t a normal one. It’s a conduit of evil, and Roger’s about to face his worst fears within its walls.

I might have given myself up too quick on this one at the beginning, but I fucking love House. It’s easily in my top ten favorite horror films of all time. There are faults to the film that are more apparent watching it as an adult, but I don’t even care because all the great parts of House outweigh the bad ten times over.

Let’s start with the incredible William Katt, an actor who never got the full-on recognition he deserves. He’s been steadily working for decades, but he kills it as Roger Cobb. I may be harboring a man-crush for Katt because I grew up watching him in Carrie and Greatest American Hero, but I just find him to be such a charismatic neighborly presence onscreen and his portrayal of Cobb as a sympathetic tortured but sweet individual is really strong.

The supporting cast is small but mighty. Though Kay Lenz doesn’t get much to do, George Wendt (Grand-Daddy Day Care, TV’s Cheers) gets a lot of the heavy lifting as new neighbor Harold. Wendt provides the straight-man comic relief to the many horrors of the house, and he really hits that perfect level of smarmy but friendly and truly caring about his neighbor. He’s not always the most-loyal, but I was taken by the realism that a standard comic relief character was able to be conveyed.

The real stars of the film, though, are the creatures. House contains some of the coolest and creepiest creature designs I’ve ever seen, and it’s all for the sake of twisting and turning Roger’s life upside-down. I don’t even want to pick a favorite one because they’re all so great. Hell, there’s even a bunch of sentient tools from the work shed that come to life and try to kill Roger, and it somehow works for the exact tone that director Steve Miner (Warlock, Day of the Dead) is going for.

House is an absolute blast that can be repeat-viewed over and over again. It’s a shame that this franchise never really kept to the quality of the original because I love the idea of the house being something different to each of its occupants. William Katt kicks ass as the lead and the film boasts some truly spectacular creature effects. Seek this one out immediately!

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part III, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 18 – Carrie (2013)

Director: Kimberly Peirce

Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Portia Doubleday, Alex Russell, Gabriella Wilde

Screenplay: Lawrence D. Cohen, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

100 mins. Rated R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content.

 

Many people know the love I have for the novel Carrie. There have been three adaptations of the classic novel (the original film even had a sequel), most recently in 2013, directed by Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry, Stop-Loss). That’s the one we are talking about today.

Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz, Let Me In, November Criminals) is a troubled girl with a difficult life at home. Her mother Margaret (Julianne Moore, The Hours, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) is a religious fanatic who believes the very birth of her daughter to be one of the most sinful acts in her life. At school, Carrie is not popular. When she experiences her first period, she is tortured and ridiculed by her female classmates, led by Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday, Youth in Revolt, TV’s Mr. Robot). Many of the girls later feel terrible about their actions, including Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde, The Three Musketeers, TV’s Poldark), who devises a plan to make things right with Carrie. Chris, though, devises a plan of her own, that will push Carrie to the breaking point. What the girls don’t know is that Carrie White has an amazing gift, one that she cannot control. This gift has incredible and horrifying potential that will forever alter all their lives.

This is a film that brings to life a classic argument among film criticism. The crew, including director Peirce, claim that this incarnation of Carrie is a re-imaging of the classic Stephen King novel. Unfortunately, this film is very little more than a scene-by-scene remake of the original film. It even uses the original screenplay by Lawrence D. Cohen with added updates and a few tweaks by Riverdale creator Robert Aguirre-Sacasa. It just feels hollowly made. It’s difficult to blame the studio for interfering (the film was notoriously heavily re-edited after poor test screenings, cutting somewhere around 45 minutes from the finished product) because of just how much the movie feels like a retread of the original.

Moretz and Moore are terrifically cast as daughter and mother White. Peirce fills the rest of her cast with the hottest young stars of 2013, including Ansel Elgort in his first film roll as Tommy Ross, Sue Snell’s boyfriend. Elgort does a pretty nice job as Ross as well.

The film is well shot and features some truly impressive camerawork. What muddles the final product is the atrocious CGI (it didn’t look very good in 2013 either). Some of it is truly cheap-looking. The movie didn’t need some of the more stylish CGI, so I don’t understand the need to use it, especially in the last third of the film.

Carrie is fine, but it beckons to be compared to Brian De Palma’s superior film from decades back. It features some fine performance work but there are some technical issues with marr the film’s watchability. It’s too bad, because there are shades of incredible here, but it just feels too similar, and in that way, unnecessary.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 18 – The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999)

Director: Katt Shea

Cast: Emily Bergl, Jason London, Dylan Bruno, J. Smith-Cameron, Amy Irving

Screenplay: Rafael Moreu

104 mins. Rated R for strong graphic horror violence and gore, brief strong sexuality and language.

 

Well, that was just…bad.

The Rage: Carrie 2 is the Carrie sequel that is more like a bad Carrie remake that shoehorns in a Carrie connection but is sadly a very bland ripoff of Carrie. Did I cover all the bases?

In The Rage: Carrie 2, we are introduced to Rachel (Emily Bergl, Blue Jasmine, TV’s Shameless), a teenager who is growing up in foster care years after mother Barbara (J. Smith-Cameron, Man on a Ledge, Christine) went batshit. Now, Rachel not a part of the cool kids and is picked on for being strange and a little emo before emo was really a thing. When Jesse (Jason London, Dazed and Confused, As Far as the Eye Can See) asks her out, Rachel doesn’t know what to think. He’s a nice guy, but he doesn’t even know her, and what if it’s a trick? But what Jesse and the other kids don’t know is that Rachel is very special…and very dangerous.

The Rage is just terrible. It feels almost disrespectful to the original film to put such little effort into the sequel. Even bringing back Sue Snell (Amy Irving, Hide and Seek, Adam) from the original Carrie does nothing as she is introduced and then serves virtually no purpose. The background characters are flat, Rachel is not nearly as interesting as Carrie White was, and every mention of Carrie feels like you should just be watching the original, and that’s true.

This sequel is bad and not worth your time. Sure, it features a lot of stars of the 1990s teen fame like Eddie Kaye Thomas and Mena Suvari, but I’m guessing they all signed on to a Carrie sequel without actually reading a script. Screenwriter Rafael Moreu (Hackers) turns in a crummy little script that doesn’t even work as a ripoff. Yuck, it’s garbage. Stay away from Carrie 2.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Brian de Palma’s Carrie, click here.

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Early Review] Split (2016)

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Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Betty Buckley

Screenplay: M. Night Shyamalan

117 mins. Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and behavior, violence and some language.

 

Good, I needed to wash disappointment of The Bye Bye Man away…

In Split, the newest horror film from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, The Visit), three girls are kidnapped leaving a birthday party and awaken in a strange and unknown room. Their kidnapper is Dennis (James McAvoy, X-Men: First Class, Victor Frankenstein), a creepy and unstable man with an interest in watching girls dance naked. But it gets worse, because Dennis is also Patricia, a woman who strives for perfection and has a dark plan for the girls. Patricia is also Barry, who loves fashion and shows his sketches to his doctor, Karen Fletcher (TV’s Eight is Enough, The Happening). Dennis, Patricia, and Barry are just three of the twenty-three identities within one man, Kevin. As Dennis and Patricia put a plan into action to have the girls killed for a higher purpose, one of them, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch, Barry) uses her wits in an attempt to free herself and the others before a 24th personality, known only as The Beast, is unleashed upon them.

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I didn’t see The Visit. The last film from Shyamalan that I partook in was The Last Airbender, so as I recall, the breakup was pretty rough. Well, I’m glad to say that, with Split, M. Night is back and at his most loony. Split is a fun, taut thriller that plays like something out of the annals of Tales from the Crypt. It begins with an interesting idea, slightly unhinged, with excellent and engrossing characters, and a twist that works so well and only adds to the fun of the film rather than take away like The Village did.

McAvoy is at the top of his game here as he is given the ultimate acting showcase, switching between identities at will without dropping a note. And each identity is given so much character and charisma that it’s easy to see who is in charge of Kevin at any given moment. That’s the real win with his performance. I look at films like Transformers (wait, hear me out) and it often becomes difficult to ascertain which character is which when all the robots are fighting because they all look so similar, but in Split, it is perfectly clear at all times, even when Kevin is having a disagreement with himself.

Supporting players Anya Taylor-Joy and Betty Buckley are also notably great. Taylor-Joy is really quickly rising up the fame ladder, appearing in 3 films of merit last year and The Witch the year before. She is impressively smart and skilled as Casey. Buckley has been a mainstay of film and television for some time stemming back to her first role in Brian DePalma’s Carrie. The level of gravitas only seeks to make the film more believable especially when it hits the height of its lunacy.

The film is not without its detractors. My fiancé, for example, who has a background in the medical field, found that the suspension of disbelief was too much for the central plot to work. I disagreed with her, but I do understand how someone more aware of Dissociative Identity Disorder might not buy in. For me personally, with my background and understanding of Shyamalan’s inspirations, it worked very well.

I didn’t enjoy having the 23 identities always tossed around when we really only get to meet 6 or 7 of them. I was disappointed that we didn’t get to at least glimpse the others at some point as it was an expectation I had due the constant reference to so many personalities. But I think 23 personalities sells better than 6 or 7.

I also wasn’t too keen on the ending, and I don’t mean the twist, which I enjoyed, but the ending itself. I felt like Casey’s flashbacks didn’t go far to add much to the plot, and I feel like it was really supposed to mean something, but it didn’t. The reason why the twist worked so well is because if you don’t get it, and trust me, not everyone will, but if you don’t get it, it doesn’t take anything away from the film. For attentive viewers, the payoff is worth it.

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Split was so much fun, and I really enjoyed that all the characters, including but not limited to the ones on McAvoy’s head, were so vivid and real and helped to ground the unreal story and keep the momentum. My frustrations didn’t ruin the experience for me at all, and in fact, I rather enjoyed the film and can’t wait to see it again.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen Split? What did you think? Let me know/Comment below!

[Stephen King Day] Carrie (1976)

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Director: Brian DePalma
Cast: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, John Travolta
Screenplay: Lawrence D. Cohen
98 mins. Rated R.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actress in a Leading Role [Sissy Spacek]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actress in a Supporting Role [Piper Laurie]

 

Because today is Stephen King’s Birthday today, I thought we would pick at King’s film adaptations today in an attempt to find the ones worthy of his stamp.

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Upon finishing the unpublished manuscript that would become Carrie, Stephen King promptly threw it away. It was his wife who pulled it from the wastebasket, read it, and pushed him to finish it, and its a good thing she did. Stephen King may not have had the type of following he has today without the breakout novel Carrie, and director Brian DePalma (Scarface, Passion), who put the book to film along with screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen (It, The Tommyknockers), can also thank the book for pushing his career even further. So how does it stack up 40 years later?

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek, TV’s Bloodline, The Straight Story) is just about the most unpopular girl in high school, due in no small part to her awkwardness and her mother’s religious fanatascism. When Carrie gets her first period, the other girls mock and torture her, reducing her to a shaken puddle of fear. Sue Snell (Amy Irving, Hide and Seek, Tuck Everlasting) wants to make it up to Carrie and give her the prom she never would have gotten. Chris Hargensen, however, has other plans in mind for Carrie White, but nobody expects what will happen next.

I’m going to reiterate what the Academy believed: Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie (The Hustler, Hesher) deserved recognition for their work here. Firstly, Spacek’s in-depth portrayal of Carrie White, a girl suffering from the tyranny of her mother’s delusions, a girl perhaps not as pretty as the other girls in school, is incredible. Spacek went full method actress in the role, and memorized passages of the Bible while keeping her distance from the other actresses. She took the opportunity to do all her own stunts as often as possible (the few stunts there were). Laurie, too, initally believed the film to be a dark comedy and, upon learning otherwise, kept the same over-the-top approach to Margaret White, dealing an unbelievably complex and troubled woman protecting her daughter from the sins of the world.

Brian DePalma’s tone for the film rides of the line of teen drama and suspense while exuding horrific moments of shock that ratchet the tension up with each passing display of Carrie’s unique power. His decision to play with multiple angles for the film’s climactic sequences was brilliant, displaying an unnerving eruption of death and destruction. The screenplay from Cohen assists in always keeping the audience guessing, though it does spend a lot more time than it needs to in Act 2 building the story.

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It is due to the fact that everyone involved was at the top of their game that make this horror film what it is: an undeniable masterpiece of terror. With King at the source, DePalma behind the camera, and the amazing cast in front that elevates Carrie above the average genre piece.

4.5/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Brian DePalma’s Mission: Impossible, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 31 – Halloween (1978)

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Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles, Nancy Loomis

Screenplay: John Carpenter, Debra Hill

91 mins. Rated R.

 

Well, here it is. I promised you would make it to Halloween with me, and you did. Congrats!

 

I think I knew that this would be the movie for today. I didn’t plan for it until I got down to the last couple days. It just so happens that John Carpenter’s Halloween is my favorite horror film, and I am excited to share it with you today. Enjoy and then go have some tricks and treats, whatever they may be, and thank you for a great month.

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Halloween opens with an absolutely amazing shot (okay, it looks like a single shot but is actually three, I think) of Halloween night some years ago. Young Michael Myers is supposed to be watched by his older sister Judith but instead she chooses to have her boyfriend over and she ignores Michael as her and her fella proceed to have sex upstairs before he leaves for the night. Michael, in a seemingly unbelievable act, grabs a kitchen knife and his clown costume, goes upstairs and kills his older sister in a gruesome and merciless way. He then goes downstairs to greet his parents as they come home and discover his grisly act. Flash forward several years to modern day 1978 Haddonfield. Michael Myers has escaped from Smith’s Grove Penitentiary and made his way home, now stalking several teenagers on Halloween night.

The film might seem very simple for younger audiences, but it was one of the very first slasher films of its time, and certainly the odd that created all the elements that would later be overused into mediocrity. The plot, though, isn’t about the normal stalker chasing down woman. This isn’t just Michael Myers we are talking about. The credits perhaps say it best, calling him The Shape. He is being pursued by the incredible versatile Donald Pleasance (The Great Escape, Escape from New York) as Dr. Sam Loomis (see the Psycho reference?). Pleasance is at the top of his game here, and it equally matched by the commanding performance of then-newcomer Jamie Lee Curtis (True Lies, Veronica Mars) as Laurie Strode, a normal girl who just wants to finish her babysitting gig and get home alone, a task not always as simple as she would assume. Laurie is a girl plagued by real-world big problems like the question of whether or not Ben Tramer like-likes her. Her fellow friends Lynda (P.J. Soles, Carrie, The Devil’s Rejects) and Annie (Nancy Loomis, The Fog, Assault on Precinct 13) are also on The Shape’s radar tonight, and both are ably performed characters that do nothing special but also do not deter us from our fears.

It is difficult to talk about the cinematography of a low-budget horror film. Many contain nothing of merit. Halloween is not one of these regulars. John Carpenter (Escape from L.A., The Ward) has always been known for his handling of the camera. His shots are sweeping and focused and always purposeful. When the camera doesn’t move, it haunts. From there, the film is perfectly plotted and edited into a tight package of fear.

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There are times when I try to come up with something bad about this movie as a fun little game, and I usually lose. I find John Carpenter’s Halloween to be a perfect film in every way. There isn’t a single thing I would change about it. I have been watching it since I was four years old and I will keep watching it multiple times throughout the October holiday. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I advise it. Not only is it a working film school of guerilla movie-making, but it is still scary today. Enjoy it. It is Halloween after all, and everyone is entitled to one good scare.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For the rest of the 31 Days of Horror, click here.

Non-Stop (2014)

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Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, Jason Butler Harner, Anson Mount, Lupita Nyong’o

Screenplay: John W. Richardson, Chris Roach, Ryan Eagle

106 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references.

 

Liam Neeson gets on a plane…

I watched Non-Stop with the expectation to see Taken again. What I got was more like a rip-off of Taken 2. I found the film to be a bit of a bore, unlike normal Neeson fare. The movie tells the story of Bill Marks (Bryan Mills?), an alcoholic federal air marshal who hates planes. Perhaps this is the first indicator that you picked the wrong career. Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, A Million Ways to Die in the West) portrays Marks as he boards a flight and discovers that a killer is on the plane, but who is it? This is essentially the plot at its most intricate. Julianne Moore (Magnolia, last year’s Carrie remake) is Jen, a passenger on the plane who might want to bone the air marshal. The rest of the somewhat first-class cast are given coach roles and little wiggle room to stand out.

I’d like to point out that I don’t know how many flights allow vigorous make-out sessions and dry humping during flight, but maybe I need to switch airlines.

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I have very little to say that is good about this movie. It all comes down to a weak antagonist (literally a pop-up bubble text message that is sent to Bill throughout the film but does very little to convey menace), characters we don’t care about (live or die, who cares?), and a motive that is so over the top that it makes one laugh out loud at real tragedy and just downright pissed me off. I didn’t like this movie. For my money, I’ll hold out for Taken 3.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Jaume Collet-Serra’s Non-Stop? Did Liam Neeson save you on this film, or would you like a pillow for this flight?

Endless Love (2014)

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Director: Shana Feste

Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Gabriella Wilde, Bruce Greenwood, Joely Richardson, Robert Patrick

Screenplay: Shana Feste, Joshua Safran

104 mins. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, brief partial nudity, some language and teen partying.

 

The Academy needs to create an award for Most Clichés Fired Off in a Single Film. If they do, I would be able to see the filmmakers behind this year’s Endless Love, a bad movie, would have a chance of winning awards this upcoming season. This is a bad movie. It is a remake of a 1981 film and also an adaptation of a novel of the same name. This film deserves the lowest possible score based on the fact that they tried to deploy the Token Black Man. When I saw that, I shockingly gasped. I digress, though…there is a plot in there somewhere.

Endless Love tells the story of Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde, last year’s Carrie, The Three Musketeers), a privileged youth ready to jump-start her life, and her romantic entanglement with David Elliot (Alex Pettyfer, I am Number Four, The Butler), a mechanic’s son and all-around sexy man. Jade’s mother (Joely Richardson, The Patriot, Vampire Academy) loves her daughter’s new infatuation, but her father (Bruce Greenwood, Star Trek, Flight) sees something different in David, something not great. David’s father (Robert Patrick, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Identity Thief) is the rock to David, the man who inspires him to always be striving for better, and David tries to show Jade’s family what he is really capable of. Now, enjoy a game with me. Remove all these character names and actor information. Then, pick another generic romance film and fill in the blanks. Now, does the plot still sync up? Of course it does!

There is virtually nothing enjoyable about this film except for the drinking game I started working on while watching it. That, and the performance by Bruce Greenwood, which isn’t too bad, but I feel when I watch scenes with him that he is acting to a cardboard cutout of other attractive people. Maybe he actually is.

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So, don’t see this movie without booze. Do you have a great drinking game for something this terrible? Have you seen Shana Feste’s Endless Love? What do you think?

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe


Endless Love (2014) on IMDb

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