[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 5 – Schizoid (1980)

Director: David Paulsen

Cast: Klaus Kinski, Donna Wilkes, Marianna Hill, Craig Wasson, Christopher Lloyd, Flo Gerrish, Joe Regalbuto, Richard Herd

Screenplay: David Paulsen

89 mins. Rated R.

 

Writer/director David Paulsen (Savage Weekend) was told to have a have a screenplay ready within a month that could use Klaus Kinski (Nosferatu the Vampyre, Aguirre, the Wrath of God) and be done for under a million dollars. After having seen it, this perfectly sums up Schizoid.

Advice columnist Julie (Marianna Hill, High Plains Drifter, Coma Girl: The State of Grace) has been receiving creepy notes from a stalker while members of her therapy group are being picked off one by one. As the bodies pile up, Julie begins to see cracks in everyone around her, so who is the assailant, and is she next?

Schizoid is terribly uninteresting. When you have a film featuring Klaus Kinski, one thing it shouldn’t be is uninteresting. Kinski is batshit crazy, so the film should be so much wilder than expected. In fact, the only real win of the film is that Paulsen succeeds pretty well at making everyone suspect in the film. Then there’s the main issue that no one in the film is written likable enough, including Julie, to make me root for any of them.

I would say that there are no truly strong performances in the film outside of an interesting early and somewhat unseen appearance from Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future, Boundaries). Kinski just seems bored and working for the paycheck (he was contracted to do the film, and it’s obvious he’s not feeling it).

Sadly, Schizoid just doesn’t work. There’s not much to really appreciate about the film, but most of the film is mostly forgettable. Just having seen it a few days back, I can’t really cling to anything strong. This is one to absolutely skip. You can do better.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 13 – Piranha (2010)

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Director: Alexandre Aja

Cast: Elisabeth Shue, Jerry O’Connell, Richard Dreyfuss, Adam Scott, Ving Rhames, Jessica Szohr, Steven R. Queen, Christopher Lloyd

Screenplay: Pete Goldfinger, Josh Stolberg

88 mins. Rated R for sequences of strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use.

 

We’ve discussed remakes many times before, so I feel like you don’t need to know my thoughts. Essentially, you have to make a film that adds something to the story that you didn’t get before. Piranha, the 2010 remake of the Joe Dante film, sets out to be a great B-horror film, and the crazy thing, it actually succeeds.

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Sheriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue, TV’s CSI, Back to the Future Part II) is determined to keep Lake Victoria safe during Spring Break as she has every year. This year, however, she has one more dangerous obstacle in the way of her mission: an underwater tremor looses thousands of bloodthirsty piranha upon the lake and the surrounding area. As she assists an group of seismologists in determining the cause and full effect of the fissure, her son Jake (Steven R. McQueen, TV’s The Vampire Diaries, Minutemen) is out on the water with amateur voyeur and professional pornographer Derrick Jones (Jerry O’Connell, Stand By Me, Justice League vs. Teen Titans), right in the path of the deadly prehistoric fish.

People don’t seem to get my enthusiasm and real belief when it comes to Piranha: this movie is perfect. Now, does that mean Oscar-worthy? Not so, but I mean that this movie knows what it wants to be, and it perfectly embodies its goal: to be a fun and bloody homage of horror/comedies like the movie it is remaking. I’ve told many people that Piranha is one of the best horror movies of the 1980s and it came out twenty years too late.

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Director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, The 9th Life of Louis Drax) just figured this movie out. His use of great actors and amazing cameos from legends like Christopher Lloyd (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I am Not a Serial Killer) and Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws, Madoff). Dreyfuss’s role even sends up his character from Jaws (and he puts forth a solid albeit small performance even though he didn’t really want to be in the movie). And if you pay close attention, you can even see horror director Eli Roth cameo as a wet T-shirt contest host. He even tried to include Joe Dante and James Cameron (director of Piranha II: The Spawning) as boat captains giving safety lessons, but the idea ultimately fell through.

Every plot thread of the film is fun and interesting. Shue’s work as the Sheriff helping to uncover the secret behind the piranha is great, and she has terrific chemistry with Novak, played by Adam Scott (TV’s Parks and Recreation, Krampus) and her Deputy, played by Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation). Unfortunately for them, nothing beats Jake’s story, as nobody beats Jerry O’Connell, who chews his scenes up and steals every moment onscreen.

The visual effects from Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger are top notch, which only furthers the technical prowess of Piranha. In fact, just about everything technical in the movie works, from the visual flow of the cinematography matched with the perfectly-paced editing, to the musical score and Aja’s directing at the helm.

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It’s a shame that Piranha was not screened for critics. It may have given the film the necessary buzz to bring in more viewers. Sadly, the gains that Aja’s film received were only able to garner it a really shitty sequel instead of the franchise we fans deserved. Either way, Piranha is perfect for what it wants to be. It doesn’t want to make friends. It wants to show a lot of Booze, Babes and Blood, and if that isn’t for you, then this movie isn’t for you. However, for those of you looking for a fun cheese-fest of a horror film that satirizes and pays homage to what came before, Piranha will not disappoint.

 

5/5  (I’m Serious)

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 22 – Clue (1985)

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Director: Jonathan Lynn

Cast: Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren

Screenplay: Jonathan Lynn

94 mins. Rated PG for violence.

 

Everyone out there is discussing the possible upcoming video game boom. I’m just over here thinking about the board game boom.

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Clue is the story of six people, a butler, a maid, a cook and a man named Boddy. Mr. Boddy has gathered Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan, The Sting, Murder by Death), Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles), Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd, Back to the Future, A Million Ways to Die in the West), Mr. Green (Michael McKean, TV’s Better Call Saul, This is Spinal Tap), Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull, TV’s Dads, Mrs. Doubtfire), and Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren, Secretary, Jobs) together to discuss something. Before he gets the chance to do so, he is murdered by one of the attendees in the room. Now, these conveniently placed people, each with a motive for murdering Mr. Boddy, each with a weapon of choice, have to discover who is the killer? Was it Professor Plum in the billiard room with the revolver? Was is Miss Scarlet with the rope in the kitchen? And what about Wadsworth (Tim Curry, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Burke and Hare), the butler? Is he involved?

My favorite aspect of this film is that writer/director Jonathan Lynn (Nuns on the Run) found interesting  yet convoluted ways to make the board game adaptation actually work. Things like the corny names and the motives, the general campiness of the game/plot, all of it really works well. He even found a way to work in multiple endings (depending on your home video release, you may have a version with all three endings sewn together or one that randomly picks an ending; both are great options).

Now, the decision to cast comic actors who can handle drama seals the deal here. What a terrific cast! Mel Brooks could have directed this film, that’s how impressive our players are. Add to that an impressive direction from Lynn and you have the reason why Clue is such a masterfully beloved cult classic.

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Clue is a classic, even if you present me with a less-than-stellar Rotten Tomatoes score. It’s a classic and I don’t care what you say. See this film and then, hell, play the game. It makes for a fun evening.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

[Happy 30th Birthday!] [Top 250 Friday] #51: Back to the Future (1985)

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Director: Robert Zemeckis

Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover

Screenplay: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale

116 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Song “The Power of Love”

iMDB Top 250: #44 (as of 03/04/2016)

 

Director Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away, Flight) is one of my all-time favorite directors. Back to the Future is one of my all-time favorite films. I could watch it as well as both sequels over and over again until the end of time, but when I was really young, it was just the third film that I was addicted to. I must’ve watched our old VHS tape a thousand times. I ruined that tape. It wasn’t until my teen years that I understood and fell in love with the original film.

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox, TV’s Family Ties, Annie) is a slacker, a young man addicted to a dream of musical stardom. Those around him attribute his failings on his strange friendship with Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), an equally floundering individual who has potential but hasn’t invented anything of significance. But when Doc invited Marty to see his ultimate new experiment, a time machine in the body of a DeLorean, Marty ends up on an adventure through time as he tries to avoid creating a paradox while also trying to get back to the future!

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Zemeckis turned an incredible screenplay with Bob Gale into an incredibly crafted film about more than just time travel. The true path of the film centers on Marty’s inability to connect to his parents, Lorraine (Lea Thompson, TV’s Caroline in the City, Left Behind) and George (Crispin Glover, Alice in Wonderland, Open Season 3), until he meets them as teenagers in 1955. His completed film is perfect in every way, but it took some time to actually get there.

Michael J. Fox so well embodies a 1980s teenage like Marty McFly that it’s almost impossible to see the character played by anyone. His performance is perfect casting, but his hiring didn’t happen smoothly. Fox had to pass on the role due to his heightened role on Family Ties, so Zemeckis hired actor Eric Stoltz. Stoltz was a method actor and did his best with the role, but he just wasn’t working out actor several weeks of trying. By that time, Fox’s commitment to Family Ties had been able to free him up, so he replaced Stoltz and the rest is history. Apparently, other future big names like Johnny Depp also tested for the role, but he wasn’t very memorable.

There were other problems with the cast. Crispin Glover hadn’t been as infamous a performer as he was later known for. The actor, who famously went…how do I put it…batshit as his career derailed into minutiae, got so nervous while performing some lines that he had to mouth the lines and fix them in post-production. His performance as George McFly, a loser who doesn’t think himself worthy of his future wife’s love.

The rest of the cast worked perfectly. Christopher Lloyd gives the best performance of his career as Doc, Lea Thompson as Marty’s mother who unknowingly has the hots for him in 1955, and of course Thomas F. Wilson as the legendary bully Biff, who improvised many of his most famous lines like “make like a tree and get out of here.”

Perhaps the most well-known character in the film is the time machine itself. It is so wonderfully 80s that it helped define an entire generation of moviegoers. They used three DeLoreans in production (ironically more DeLoreans than were actually sold).

The set design in the film is very important. The production needed to find dual sets that displayed how things change between 1955 and 1985, yet also how things stay the same. In fact, they used actual set pieces from the 1959 original pilot for The Twilight Zone to emulate 1955 Hill Valley.

The score from Alan Silvestri is so grandiose and well-complementing with Huey Lewis and the News’ Oscar-nominated songs that it turns what could be construed as a relatively simple coming-of-age story into a cosmic cool tale of sci-fi that raises the stakes of the adventure. Huey Lewis himself cameos early in the film as the judge of Marty’s band. In fact, music plays such a big part in placing scenes within a particular time period as well as the characters. In fact, when Marty is performing “Johnny B. Goode” later in the film, he emulates the best current musicians like The Who (kicking over the speaker), AC/DC (playing on his back on the floor), Chuck Berry (hopping on one leg across the stage), and Jimi Hendrix/Eddie Van Halen (with the emphasized guitar solo).

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Back to the Future is a classic film that has ages so perfectly. The film is virtually flawless and each time I watch it, I discover something new (it took me so long to catch the Twin Pines Mall reference that Marty butterfly-effects after traveling to 1955). It helped launch one of the most recognizable and beloved franchises in film history and remains a film that other filmmakers only aspire to reach. I recommend it to teens today who haven’t seen it as a part of popular culture. Hell, I recommend it to everyone.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

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Director: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Jaime King, Christopher Lloyd, Jamie Chung, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Meloni, Juno Temple

Screenplay: Frank Miller

102 mins. Rated R for strong brutal stylized violence throughout, sexual content, nudity, and brief drug use.

 

Sin City is back and at it again with four new tales of brutality and violence.

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In “Just Another Saturday Night”, Marv (Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler, Immortals) wakes up with little memory of last night’s events and tries to piece it all back together. In “The Long Bad Night”, Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Inception, The Wind Rises), a gambler on a winning streak, attempts to win it all from Senator Roark (TV’s Nashville, The Avengers), at any cost. In “A Dame to Kill For”, Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin, W., Inherent Vice) gets involved with former flame Ava (Eva Green, TV’s Penny Dreadful, Casino Royale) who is in deep with the wrong people. Finally, in “Nancy’s Last Dance”, Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba, Fantastic Four, Stretch) is still reeling from the loss of her beloved Hartigan (Bruce Willis, The Sixth Sense, Vice) and wants revenge of the men who caused his death.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For isn’t as good as the original film. The story selection here is a lot of similar fare. Still, it is a gorgeous looking piece of noir cinema. “Just Another Saturday Night” is a great, albeit short, character piece that brings back fan favorite Marv, who appears a lot in this collection. “The Long Bad Night” is mostly entertaining even if it doesn’t really go anywhere, but I don’t agree with the decision to cut the story in two halves which appear separately in the film. “A Dame to Kill For” isn’t the least worthy piece in the film, but it doesn’t have the strength it should and doesn’t make the connection to the original film it should. Finally, “Nancy’s Last Dance” feels like it is missing something. All in all, these stories  are mostly entertaining, but they don’t weave like they should.

The performances are mostly awesome, with notable exceptions being Jamie Chung (Big Hero 6, 7500) taking over as Miho and Jeremy Piven (TV’s Entourage, The Pirates! Band of Misfits) as Bob. Both characters were previously played by Devon Aoki and Michael Madsen, and the originals were much better. Dennis Haysbert (TV’s 24, Dead Rising: Watchtower), on the other hand, takes over for deceased Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute and does well at giving the character something new while not forgetting the work put in by his predecessor.

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For looks great and feels good, and while not being as powerful as the original film, it is still a ton of fun.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City, click here.

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