Posts Tagged ‘Stomping Around in the Dark 08’

There are no monsters in The Signal. There’s just us.

As zombies have come back into vogue, it’s become standard in movies to develop a new angle (“What if zombies were fast?”, etc.). When The Signal started off by infecting an entire city via a bizarre transmission through the TV, radio, and telephones, I thought, “OK, cute twist, being made zombies by our own technology.”

Then, ten minutes later I found myself quite proud of the movie for not using this as an explanation for zombies, but rather for a violent mass psychosis. This is different. As one character explains it:

“People going crazy in their head all over. At first, it’s just murder. The crazy, you know, kill anybody, everybody, each other, indiscriminate. It looks like chaos. But then I realize they’re thinking. Then I get really scared because it’s rational. They know what they’re doing. I mean, they think it makes sense, but it doesn’t make any sense. It’s different for everybody. Let me tell you, they are going to fucking murder the world.”

Suddenly we realize we’re not watching a “survive against monsters” movie. We’re watching what happens when everyone goes mad at the same time.

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A young couple is staying at a secluded family cabin after a wedding – and after a rebuffed proposal by the boyfriend. So things are…tense. They are made decidedly more tense when a silent, masked trio targets them for a terror campaign. They spend the entire night meticulously working the couple’s nerves with a series of physical and psychological attacks, until morning brings the inevitable confrontation.

“This isn’t a horror film,” says director Bryan Bertino of his movie, “It’s a terror film.” And he is absolutely right. The Strangers is a film entirely concerned with terrifying its audience, and in that sense, it’s very effective.

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Jaime had suggested Dolls, a horror movie that scared her when she was young. And the premise – killer porcelain dolls – is one that easily gives me the willies.

(There was this show when I was little, “Tales from the Dark Side.” It was so scary to me, as a four-year-old, that the credits alone gave me nightmares. In particular was this quick-zoom up to the face of a porcelain doll, who opened her eyes right as the music vamped up. Scared the crap out of me.)

So I had a good feeling that Dolls would push those irrational-fear buttons I look for in horror movies.

It took me ten minutes to realize it was a comedy. It took me 20 (and IMDB) to realize it was horror-comedy by the guy who directed Re-Animator. And only after learning that did I decide to soldier on through another hour of vaudevillian acting, silly special effects, and a plot that went for cutesy fun (something about finding your inner child…or else!) when it had the potential for real scary moments.
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A week after watching, and I’m still trying to figure out just what didn’t work with John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness.

It’s a great idea for a story: an author, equal parts Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft, has somehow managed to inflict his horrific imagination upon the world at large. Or maybe it’s all his publisher’s grand hoax. It’s up to insurance investigator Sam Neill to figure out the truth and its consequences.

The problems start with Sam Neill as the cynical investigator. I spent too much of the movie distracted by his occasionally disappearing accent. Sometimes he sounds like his own Australian self, sometimes he sounds like he’s putting on a crap Brooklyn accent, and sometimes it falls in the middle.

It’s a weird distraction not at all helped by his co-star Julie Carmen, who chose exactly the moment my girlfriend woke up from a nap to watch the rest of the movie with me to start acting…well, like a shitty actress who didn’t know what she was doing.
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What separates “The Blob” from the 200-odd movies featured on “Mystery Science Theater”? In two words…quality control.

It’s not a scary movie, it doesn’t have an awesome budget, and in its first half-hour, it tends to meander a bit before getting back to the plot.

The Plot, such as it is: blob attacks old man in the woods, then the doctor who’s treating him, then disappears for a long stretch of movie, while Steve McQueen and the gang go looking for it. Then all of Phoenixville tries their best to kill it, proclaiming the situation hopeless after each attempt.

I always think back to something MST3K’s Tom Servo said regarding movies like this: “To be fair, the producers weren’t really expecting anyone to be watching the movie by this point – everyone was supposed to be making out by now.”
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The Day the Earth Stood Still is generally regarded as a “hippie” sci-fi film. And on the face of it, that’s true. But there’s a darker agenda under the surface.

The story is about an alien who shows up in the middle of Washington, D.C. and says, “I need you humans to come together and listen to my important message of universal peace,” only to have the designated government official respond, “Hoo-boy, did YOU not get the memo about how we handle things on this planet.”

As the alien Klaatu, Michael Rennie’s response is an expression of beatific condescension, a look that says, “You stupid apes just aren’t picking up what I’m laying down here, are you?”
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After watching 80 excruciating minutes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I harbored the unrealistic hope that my expectations were low enough that even if Midnight Meat Train sucked out loud, I’d still find it enjoyable in comparison.

No such stinking rotten luck.

The gist: Photographer starts following a mysterious butcher linked to a number of subway murders. When photographer finds the butcher has been…uh…butchering, and dismembering late-night passengers, his investigation becomes an obsession.
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(Holland here. Every October, I take the opportunity to make up for the fact that as a kid, due to concerned parenting and a lack of cable in my household, I missed the vast majority of scary movies.)

I was actually most excited this year about “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” a horror classic I would’ve caught over the last two Octobers, if everyone on Netflix hadn’t had the same idea each year. I was also most worried. I’m not a gore-fan, and that seemed to be this movie’s claim to fame – it’s legendarily gory, right?
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