[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 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

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 20 [Happy 40th Birthday!] Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978)

Director: John DeBello

Cast: David Miller, George Wilson, Sharon Taylor, Costa Dillon

Screenplay: John DeBello, Costa Dillon, Stephen Peace

83 mins. Rated PG.

 

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! Yeah, I can’t get the theme song out of my head.

Randomly, and seemingly without consequence, tomatoes have come to life and are attacking humans everywhere. They make screechy attack sounds as they group up to take humans down once and for all. The President has put together a team to combat the tomato menace led by Mason Dixon (David Miller, That Was Then…This is Now, Speak of the Devil). As the tomatoes and the humans mount for an all-out war, it’s up to Mason and his team to stop them by any means necessary.

I tried to nail down the best description of this film, but it is a rather loose plot. The paper-thin story is an excuse to zany and wacky jokes. From the pop song “Puberty Love” that plays throughout to a discussion of between generals about getting a medal in a three-legged sack race, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a more ridiculous precursor to better satires to come like Airplane! and The Naked Gun. Some of the jokes land, some do not, and director John DeBello (Black Dawn, Happy Hour) appears to be just throwing goofs at the wall to see what sticks. I think he finds more success than expected simply by the sheer amount of jokes used.

Outside of the downright wacky, nothing in this film really works. The acting is absolutely atrocious, the writing is bland, and the lack of anything real for story just bored me to death. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes seems on the surface to be ripe for weird, comedic, and horrific action set pieces. And then, there aren’t any good action scenes. Nothing really works. That’s the cardinal difference between this and better satires. Films like Airplane! and Young Frankenstein have good stories and likable characters. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is missing key storytelling elements.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is, thankfully, short enough to get one good viewing out of. Get some friends and beers and you might just get a laugh or two. Lower your expectations…significantly, and you may just find some fun in there.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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

clue1985b

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.

clue1985a

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.

clue1985d.jpg

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.

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