Horror films

The Ring

Year: 2002
Directed By: Gore Verbinski
Witten By: Ehren Kruger (screenplay) Koji Suzuki (Novel)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I was young when this movie came out and remember watching it with Amber while we were dating. Despite all my fearless pride I had to admit after seeing it that it had scared me. This is an effective movie and that is the impression it has always left on me. I was disappointed to find out it was a remake of a Japanese film because even in 2002 I was disappointed with the lack of quality horror films being released. Here was a good one and it wasn’t even original but simply an Americanized version of a foreign film that was probably better. That’s all beside the point because as I sit down to watch this again now I find myself jumping at the intended moments. This movie may have not been an original idea from Hollywood but it is a scary and effective movie nonetheless and I like that about it.

Another thing I have always found distinctly impressive about this film was that I had a preconceived idea about it before watching it that was overcome by the fact that the film was so good. This movie is rated PG-13 and at the age of 18 I couldn’t imagine that a horror movie suitable enough for a 13 year old could be scary at all. I went in with my newly acquired graduation from high school and unrealistic sense of adulthood thinking I was above such a movie. I learned something about myself when I realized I was wrong. This movie did scare me, and it wasn’t even rated R!!!! This movie didn’t need excessive profanity, or nudity, or gore to be scary. While I tend to enjoy all those things in horror films I admire this one all the more for not needing it.

This movie is interesting to see now as it features a technology we have passed over entirely today. Back in 2002 casette tapes were just beginning to start fading out and at that time most people still had VCRs. Something I love to do these days is ask, “what’s a V..C..R..??” whenever the opportunity arises. It is such a quickly forgotten technology that some of the younger kids I work with are actually entirely unaware of it’s existence. It’s interesting to a see a movie like this made only 13 years ago that reminds me it wasn’t that long ago that things were so different.

I always had my eye on up and coming directors in 2002 and I remember noting the name Gore Verbinski after seeing this film. I expected big things from him and really enjoyed another one of his films, The Weather Man, a couple of years later. Unfortunately in all the years since he was seemingly gobbled up by Disney and responsible for many Johnny Depp make-up fests at their behest. I am referring to the Pirate films as well as The Lone Ranger and I was never a fan. Of course I haven’t seen the later but the tales of the eye-liner swashbuckler made me develop a severe dislike for an actor I was once very fond of. Nevertheless I still think what he did with this film was very impressive and I enjoy it.

The climax in this film is very scary as it brings us into the resolution of the mystery. It explains what happens to the evil girl if not exactly what makes the evil girl evil. A little bit of mystery left over for us to puzzle out isn’t a bad thing however. The best part about this movie is that when you find yourself fulfilled with understanding and think it is all said and done you are sorely mistaken. The most fearful scene in the movie is left for last and it sends you walking away thoroughly shaken. As is exactly what a good horror film should do.

One thing that occurred to me while I was watching this movie struck me as kind of silly. As scary as the notion of being thrown in a well and left to die may be I find myself wondering how practical that is. Granted you kill and dispose of the demon in one motion but wouldn’t this just soil the fresh water in which they probably rely on living on an island? I have been drinking quite a bit of coffee as I finish this movie this morning and caffeine can spark odd thoughts in my head. It may be foolish to leave your murdered demon spawn to decay in the well of drinking water you rely on to live, but The Ring turning out to be the Sun’s outline on a closed well is still really cool and scary. The ring is the last thing the little demon girl saw before she died, and it’s the last thing you will see before you die too!

I think this movie is worth your time and I think that even with a PG-13 rating it is capable of scaring anyone. If you are looking for a scary movie this Halloween then you can’t go wrong with this one. Despite that I don’t really feel like this movie is right for the season. I jumped ahead and the alphabetical order on the rack to do it during the Halloween season but it doesn’t have the holiday vibe to it at all. The coloring is a bluish gray which is great for the tone of the film but far from the orange and black of All Hallow’s Eve. The whole point of the horror film festivals of the season though is to find something scary and in that case this one qualifies. If you haven’t seen it then you have missed out on something scary.

 

Misery

Year: 1990
Directed By: Rob Reiner
Written By: Stephen King (novel) William Goldman (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

Has there ever been a scarier movie? These days when I asked people if they’ve seen it; if they say no I just give them a look. I shake my head and explain to them that they just don’t know. If you’ve haven’t seen this movie then you really just don’t know anything about horror. Some might categorize this as a thriller as opposed to horror but I disagree. This movie is one of the most terrifying films you can come across and if you haven’t seen it then this is the perfect time to see it.

This movie almost starts off like a feel good story but takes such a dramatic twist so soon. Kathy Bates in the role of the Florence Nightingale-like Annie Wilkes is one of the most terrifying characters I have ever seen. I have never found another guy who has seen this movie when asked “have you seen Misery?” didn’t have that look of understanding on his face. This is a terrifying movie and it scares men most of all because deep down we, as men, are all afraid of women. Especially the kind of woman who seems so nice at first then gets so crazy, and like all women she has all the power.

To be at the mercy of an Annie Wilkes is the thing that all men fear more than anything. She’s a woman and she’s mad, it doesn’t matter if you did it or not because she is looking at you with that look! Under the scenario we see in this movie she is  not only giving you that look but she has complete control over you. Kathy Bates, with her gentle attitude peppered in the persona of a violent and aggressive woman is just terrifying in a way words cannot describe. She has such an innocent appearance with her turtlenecks and he cross hanging around her neck, but if you look into her eyes you can see the steel. She is as ruthless as she is unpredictable; turn your back on her and there is no telling what’s in store for you.

Something I find really interesting is the fact that Kathy Bates won an Academy Award for this film. I cannot recall any other actor or actress every being nominated for a horror film, much less a low budget Stephen King adaptation. The Green Mile got nominated sure but that was a Tom Hanks movie in the 90s which changes everything. For Kathy Bates to win with this role is a true accomplishment and I think she stands head and shoulders above her peers as an actress.

I’ll never forget how terrified I was the first time I saw this movie when Paul first got out of his room and into Annie Wilkes’ house. I was like 11 maybe and I was so scared of what would happen if he was caught. Annie Wilkes was scarier than Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, and Freddy Kruger all rolled into one. When she starts flipping out on him, casually splashes him with gasoline, and then later throws that paper on his broken legs she trumps all fearsome others. Those guys, I could see even at 11, were just make believe but Annie Wilkes was real. I had seen that look she gets in her eyes in the eyes of my own mother a time or two and was thus predestined to fear it. What would Annie Wilkes possibly do when she found out he was out and about in her home? I was watching this with a group of older guys who were friends of my brother and I remember yelling out during that scene for him to “get back!” One of my brother’s friends turned and gave me a chuckle but no one else moved or made a sound. When I looked at the chuckler I could see in his eyes that he was just as afraid as I was and merely looking for an escape from it.

Kathy Bates had scared him too and to this day we still talk and I occasionally remind him of it. In this film Kathy Bates not only put herself on the map but she defied expectations in every conceivable way. I admire Bates as an actress so much because she is a true talent. Too often in the business of Hollywood a pretty face is chosen over real talent for the sake of making money. I think this is a mistake that not only gives girls an unrealistic idea of what they should be but takes away from the potential of any film. Over time Kathy Bates has proven to be more than simply a woman who can be scary as hell but a true bonafide actress with art and capability to do anything.

James Caan is so easily overshadowed in this movie by his co-star but he is just as good in the movie if truth be told. He fits the part perfectly and carries the role well. I have always been a fan of the man who brought Sonny Corleone to life and I always enjoy a chance to see him on screen. I am vaguely familiar with an unfortunate turn of events in his personal life and that is a shame. I think he is a terrific actor and would much prefer to always see him on top as a successful man in his sunset years.

As I mentioned in the intro, this movie is classified as a thriller by some but I challenge anybody to sit through this movie and back that up. If you sit through this movie and at the end claim to be thrilled as opposed to horrified I will call you a liar. This movie is scary plain and simple and it takes place in a scenario that could so easily really happen to someone. This book was written by Stephen King specifically after his prior book was criticized for being too away from his own genre. King is capable of writing anything but people know him most for horror. This movie is a horror film and I won’t accept any other genre because a movie so scary can only be classified in one way.

I bought this movie specifically for this month of horror that we do on the blog and I chose it specifically to be the first of the movies to be published because it sets the tone right. This is a scary movie with performances that are worth seeing. If you are looking for something this Halloween that will keep you on the edge of your seat and make you fear the nice looking person you pass on the street but don’t really know then this is the one to see. I think it is a great movie and undoubtedly a scary horror film.

Halloween

Year: 1978
Directed By: John Carpenter
Written By: John Carpenter and Debra Hill

RYAN’S REVIEW

I didn’t intend to review this film when we started this horror themed month for October but I got caught up in the spirit.  We have watched and reviewed several horror films this month but none quite as iconic as this one. Barring The Exorcist (which I refuse to see again) this is the big enchilada when it comes to the genre.  An iconic film that set the tone for the decades that would follow.  It was not the first slasher film but far and away this is the one that all the others would take the lead from.  Everything from who the victims were and what they were doing to setting the tone with music to who would win in the end was all in the blueprint for this film.  Seeing everything that comes after almost makes it redundant.

I was born in 1984, and by that time this franchise had already risen to the top and fallen from grace due to a horrible third film. The franchise would come roaring back with it’s fourth film in 1988 but it wasn’t so much a roar as it was a weep that kept it going for another 15 years.  When I was growing up it was Friday the 13th that was all the rage.  As a kid I specifically remember the hockey mask of Jason Voorhees being the thing to wear and while I didn’t know what it was I thought it was really cool.  My mom would never let me go as the bloody machete wielding villain though opting for more traditional and cute costumes that never impressed my friends. Nevertheless I was introduced to Jason long before I even knew anything about Michael Myers.  One of the first horror movies I ever saw was one of the Jason movies, no clue which one, and it scared the hell out of me. I remember going into dark rooms as a child and fearing Jason would be standing over me when I turned the light on.  Darkness is always scarier when the idea of a slasher who is there to kill you for no reason is introduced.  To a preteen child such irrational things seem possible when you are all alone.

By the time I actually saw this film I was in my later teens.  I watched it because I knew it was a legendary film, but having already seen so many movies just like it the film had little effect on me. I had seen it all before and in much more violent and bloody fashion.  Not only that, but Michael Myers’ white mask (a William Shatner mask turned inside out) had nothing on the hockey mask worn by Jason Voorhees.  Even Jason’s weapon was scarier than Michael’s because Jason used a machete while Michael simply used a kitchen butcher’s knife. When I finished this movie for the first time I found it not scary at all and anticlimactic as well.  I know now how wrong my initial perceptions were.

I may not have been impressed as a teenager but I was too young to really appreciate classic stories then.  At that age I was always looking for more blood, more explosions, and more boobs.  Some movies had been built up too much in my mind based on what I had already seen and I couldn’t look past something less to appreciate the fact that it was what started it all.  The Jason movies only seemed more frightening to me because with each new film it was both trying to one-up this movie as well as all the other slasher films that preceded it.  Jason would have never existed without this film and its success.  This movie was made on a really low budget and raked in tons of profit.  It became the blueprint for what many franchises would build their foundation on.  A killer who kills kids for no real reason, victims that are engaging in promiscuous behavior, and a musical score that would set the tone for the film.

It’s not until the sequel to this movie that you get any motive as to why Michael Myers has targeted these teens for killing.  I suppose the pointless killing adds an extra level of fear to the whole thing but this always bothered me, and I’ll admit it bothered me while I was watching it last night.  Don’t get me wrong, I think this is an awesome movie, but there is little point to it other than the guilty pleasure of watching violence.  The popular slasher film that came out when I was in high school was Scream which made a lot of the “slasher victim formula.” The formula being that the kids engaging in drinking, drugs, and sex were the ones to fall prey to the stalking killer.  This is the lead that the others followed because it’s the way it appears in this movie but I don’t see it this way.  John Carpenter has dismissed the notion before and I think it’s simply because he wrote the teenagers to act like teenagers.  What generation of teenagers don’t engage in drinking, drugs, and sex when the parents aren’t around? I think the fact that the victims in this movie were doing such is merely happenstance. Laurie Strode appears to be the angel of the group because she is the more innocent of the three girls terrorized by Michael Myers but she was getting high at one point in the movie.  According to the formula proposed by Scream this would have put her on Michael’s chopping block but it didn’t happen because that formula never really existed in this film. They were just kids being kids, coincidentally doing what kids do when the slasher came to kill them.

I think the greatest thing about this movie is the musical score.  That tune on the piano which has become legendary now is such an eerie and dramatic sound.  It sets the tone for the movie and moves it along at the right pace.  John Carpenter also did a lot of interesting things behind camera that added to the effect the movie had when it came out and was imitated by the filmmakers that would follow.  Shooting from the point of view of the killer was a new idea at the time and it allowed the viewer to fear for the unsuspecting victim as their death crept up on them. Both of the qualities, the musical score and the view from the killer were things specifically copied for the Friday the 13th franchise.

This was the first film Jamie Lee Curtis appeared in and was the beginning of what would eventually give her the title of “scream queen.” Curtis came by it naturally because her mother probably would have had that title had it been around twenty years earlier.  Her mother, Janet Leigh, was made famous for screaming in the shower scene in the original Psycho film.  I have always been a big fan of Curtis because of her role in True/Lies in 1994, and because I saw her boobs in Trading Places as a kid.  I was young when I saw that movie and instantly fell in love with her, her role in True/Lies only served to re-enforce that infatuation.  This infatuation has proven to be very troubling as I have heard many times over the last ten years that she was born as a hermaphrodite, meaning that she was born with both male and female reproductive organs.  I do not know if this is true or simply a popular myth but I don’t like it and find it really hard to believe. Curtis has fallen out of the limelight as far as films go these days but remains active in many notable causes.  I think she had many terrific roles throughout her career and it all started with this movie.

Aside from Curtis the most notable actor to be involved in this franchise on a regular basis was Donald Pleasence playing the part of Michael Myers’ doctor Dr. Loomis.  I have never really cared for the character because he always comes off as so annoying.  In every one of the Halloween movies he appears in he is always the guy running around trying to warn everybody but nobody will listen.  If he wasn’t such a whiney know-it-all maybe people would have listened to him.  He is specifically preachy in this movie and honestly, most of what he says doesn’t make any sense.  He says that he knows Michael Myers better than anyone but what can you really know about a person that hasn’t communicated in any capacity in fifteen years? His analogy that behind Myers’ black eyes is nothing but pure evil serves as nothing more than making the villain more ghoulish and threatening.  That is the point I suppose but this guy couldn’t have died soon enough in my opinion.  I haven’t seen the sequels in quite a while but if I remember right Loomis blows himself up at the end of the second film in order to kill Myers.  If anybody knows how he managed to come back to the franchise let me know because I have always wondered.

This movie may come across as boring to younger generations that have seen it all before, just as it did to me when I was younger, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.  There is a lot to be said about a film that sets the bar and leads the way for so many that will follow.  It doesn’t matter what film may have out done it later because it was merely trying to copy what was already achieved by this one.  I didn’t love this movie when I saw it the first time but I have grown to appreciate it for what it is worth and what it has done for the genre and industry.  This movie is one of the greatest horror films of all time and was a great way to spend Halloween night after the kids were done trick or treating and safely tucked into bed.  It goes without saying that this movie is worth your time to see.

 AMBER’S REVIEW

Classic. That’s really all that can be said about this movie. So classic in fact they made many, many, too many more. It’s a really cool horror movie that isn’t as scary as it probably was back in its prime, but I think it still holds it own. And nothing is more Halloween iconic than the theme song. I made it my ringtone this year.

Halloween PosterI am going to say here that I feel kind of bad for the designer. They didn’t know what an iconic movie this would become. I am not a fan of this at all. I don’t like the illustration, the typography is just plain bad, and the copy-writing is worse. “The Night HE came back.” Who, Jesus? I actually want to recreate this one. I think it could be a lot of fun.

Halloween Season

We are going to take a break from the norm this month in recognition of our favorite holiday season.  This year we are going to put our journey through the DVD rack on hold for the month of October to focus specifically on Horror films.  This is the season more than any other that really relates to one specific genre of film and we have a few films we’ve saved specifically for this time of the year.  So as the rest of the month progresses we will be publishing reviews for new horror movies we have added into the collection and probably republishing some of our older reviews for horror movies we have already done.

We started last night by watching Child’s Play and will have a review published for it soon.  Also coming this month with be Stephen King’s It, Candyman, Event Horizon, Arachnophobia, and possibly others as the month progresses.  We will be revisiting some great films we have already reviewed such as House of 1,000 Corpses, Alien, Dawn of the Dead (the original version), and In the Mouth of Madness. We won’t be watching all the horror films we have done over the past two years so be sure to check out our Horror section for other movies that set the tone for the season.

Halloween is out favorite holiday because of all the holidays it is the most fun and stress free.  We are looking forward to the line up of films we are going to watch this month and if you have any scary movies you want to suggest please let us know your favorites.  Also this month we have the return of both The Walking Dead and American Horror Story and we are both really excited about both of those. Kathy Bates has joined the cast of American Horror Story this year and that is going to be awesome.  There isn’t another actress out there with the acting talent and the ability to invoke fear like she can.  Come to think of it, Misery should really be added to our list.  Kathy Bates is absolutely terrifying in that film.