Re: General Movie Discussion Part II
And the last of the Halloween films I've watched in the last two months.
Happy Halloween Everybody!!!
The Shining (1980)
This film largely hinges on Jack Nicholson's wild & crazy performance. He looks like a psychopath anyway, so this isn't much of a stretch for him here. To watch him slowly decend into madness and ultimately become an ax murderer at the end of the movie is just great. Very creepy overall. This story does possess some problems and typical Stephen King cliches, but the story under Kubrick's directing has a very dark tone and is creepy all throughout. The film also takes great advantage of its setting. The large hotel grounds covered in snow makes for a great setting for spooky happenings and great chase sequences. The hedge maze was particularly impressive. Overall, this is a classic. Plain and simple.
The Watcher in the Woods (1980)
This is a weird one made by Disney. I remember seeing commercials for the video when I was a kid and being creeped out by it. I couldn't really gather what the story was all about. All I saw was a blindfolded girl creepily saying "Help Me" and Bette Davis was a scary looking old woman that I assumed was a witch. I never saw the film in my youth, but the commercials stuck with me and this year I said "Fuck it, I am going to check this out". I noticed that the film was only PG (though this was before the creation of the PG 13 rating) and it was Disney so it couldn't be that scary. Going in, I asusmed it would be like a long episode of "Are you Afraid of the Dark" and, you know what? I was pretty darn close. It isn't scary if you are above the age of 8, the performances are pretty weak, and parts of it left me confused. That said, it sticks out so much from other Disney films and is probably akin to The Blakc Cauldron in that it is an obvious attempt from Disney to try something different and failing. I recommend checking it out just to see something truly different from Disney and forming your own opinion from it. Personally, I think this COULD have been good as it does have some interesting ideas and a great spooky setting. In better hands, this probably could have been a classic.
The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter praises the original fikm "The Thing from Another World" as one of his favorites, so not only did he apporach the remake respectfully, but he makes it different so that it can stand on its own rather than be remembered as a cheap remake. He succeeds in spades and I would even say it is better than the original sci fi classic (though I still like the original quite a bit). This movie is just great, not only for its massive acheivements in special effects, but also in the paranoia and tension between its characters. The Thing in this movie is easily one of the greatest movie monsters ever with its unique and ever changing look and by the fact that it can take the form of the characters and play all sides against each other. It is a great mystery film as well as the monster movie aspect to it as it constantly keeps the audience guessing on who is the Thing or even if the characters themselves are aware they have become the Thing. It is a fantastic ride and perfect for the season!
If you have never seen Ghostbusters, I feel sorry for you. This is one of the most entertaining films of all time. No question. We have great comedic chemistry between the leads as they play the lovable and bumbling Ghostbusters that have to save the world from the apocalypse. We have great horror movie moments, great music, great laughs, awesome characters, and one of the most quotable movies ever brought to the screen. Seriously, barely a day goes by where I haven't quoted Ghostbusters. It is awesome.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Freddy Kruegar is my favorite slasher villain ever. It isn't even a contest really. He has the best look, the best weapon, and because he can actually speak, he is the most quotable. Also, making his place of dominance the world of dreams, there really are no rules or restrictions on him. Whatever messed up imagery you can think up or method of killing, you can do with Freddy. Even the weakest Nightmare films had something creative about them, but the original obviously stands very high as both a classic and a favorite of mine. Not only is Kruegar a memorable presence all throughout, but I really liked Nancy as well. She makes a great strong opponent for the master of fear and displays determination and intelligence all throughout. Throughout the story, we also get a great amount of scares and visual goodies and maximizes the potential of the premise. It isn't the greatest slasher film ever (Halloween still gets that nod) but it is very good in its own right.
The Fly (1986)
Another remake of a classic that was very good. Once again, I should point out that I do appreciate the original Fly movie a lot and I do recommend it be viewed. However, it isn't really a horror film but rather a cautionary tale about science gone wrong. This movie has that same message, but definitely plays up the horror aspects more and, like The Thing, is different enough to have its own identity. The creature effects used to bring The Brundle-Fly to life, along with Jeff Goldblum's great performance, allows for a great gradual transformation and some grotesque visuals. The drama and tragedy of the situation also makes a nice driving force for the story. It is a very good film and you will never forget once you've seen it.
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
This is a very interesting entry into the myriad of Dracula films to be made. It is certain the most visually interesting and best made of the modern cinematic Draculas. There are parts of the film that are visually stunning and other parts that capture elements of the novel that had never been done before in any previous Dracula film. Also, I love Gary Oldman in the role of Dracula. However, the movie does have its flaws. In some ways, it is too much like the book, namely in how they handle a lot of exposition through journal entries, much like how the book is structured. It doesn't translate as well to the screen. Some of the acting outside of Oldman is pretty bad too, namely Keanu Reeves in a horrible casting decision. Anthony Hopkins delivers a very hammy & odd Van Helsing that is more off putting than engaging. There are also moments that go by so quickly that I don't even know what was going on. Taking it all in, this film has its flaws, but is the most extreme Dracula film to date with modern special effects & cinematic techniques, violence, & sex, so it has its place.
Army of Darkness (1992)
The conclusion to Sam Raimi's Evil Dead Trilogy yields its wackiest and silliest entry in the series. The first film was a very grotesque horror film, while the second followed suit, but with a little bit more of a comedic edge to it. Army of Darkness goes full on silly and stupid (deliberately so) to make for a fun viewing experience. Bruce Campell once again plays Ash and is a lot of fun as his jerky and unapologetic self while all the wild action is taking place. It doesn't have the extreme violence of the first two films, but it is different enough to stand on its own and is so much fun and so quotable that it is impossible not to enjoy watching all these strange things happen to Ash.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
In the remake of the classic, director Zack Snyder is able to deliver a zombie film that goes balls to the walls and fully lives up to its premise. Basically, it is just a bad ass movie with great characters to follow and using the situation of being sheltered in a mall to hide from the zombie apocalypse to its full advantage. The film never lets up in being exciting, dramatic, or just simply entertaining. The characters interacting with each other is fun and I genuinely felt for them as they were going through the ordeal and felt bad whenever one of them would die. There are so many great parts in this movie ranging from action sequences to simple moments with the characters just enjoying themselves as best they can. Zack Snyder did wonders with this film and hopefully this level of competence can be showcased in his new Superman movie.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
This is a fantastic horror comedy. What makes it work so well is that it is actually a good zombie movie on its own with all the gore, cliches, and drama that we expect out of the zombie subgenre. However what makes it work so well as a comedy is the fact that the main characters, namely Shaun & Ed, are complete fuck ups. We get to see a bunch of numbskulls try to survive the Zombie uprising with a really stupid plan and little to no idea of what they are doing. The most telling scene is when it takes a handful of them to operate a single gun. The characters are likeable, especially Shaun, and it is fun to follow his journey through this series of events, and it is actually cool to see him stand up and be the leader, but it is also hilarious to watch him utterly fail almost every step of the way. This is a really funny & charming gem and an early indicator of Edgar Wright's brilliance that he would expand on with a better film in Hot Fuzz.