Friday, March 27, 2009

Review: The Hitcher II: I've Been Waiting

Starring Kari Wuhrer, Jake Busey, and C. Thomas Howell. Directed by Louis Morneau.


The Hitcher was one of the most shocking suspense movies ever made (see my review for more on that). Apparently, this was the best they could do to honor it. The Hitcher II: I've Been Waiting is a 2003 (that's seventeen years, folks), straight-to-video follow up to the 1986 classic. What we have here is essentially a re-hash of the original, without any of the substance that made the original great. There aren't characters we can cheer for, there's no one to root for. Probably the only thing keeping this from a 1/10 is the fact that C. Thomas Howell had the balls to reprise his original role.

All these years after the original, Jim Halsey (Howell) is still haunted by what he went through. He's now a cop, with a bad habit of shooting the bad guys before an arrest can even be attempted. Howell is hollow this time around, and no doubt meant to be, but whatever lure his character had is now gone, leaving no room for us to connect with him. After a clever and inventive opening scene, the whole film trumbles unmercifully downhill. Kari Wuhrer plays Jim's girlfriend, Maggie, who is convinced he needs a break from his work. So, the two plan a visit to Captain Esterige, the sheriff who helped Jim near the climax of the original film (different actor, and they don't try to hide it). So, of all the places to vacation, Jim decides it's time to put the past behind him and drive down that same stretch of road from the original film. Oops.

While her character doesn't suck at times, one can't help but think Maggie was added to the roster just so the writers could say "see! It's not exactly the same!" Anyway, the film REALLY starts to dive when we are introduced to Jack, our hitcher. The writers make no attempt to explain who Jack is or where he came from, and not in a good way. He clearly knows who Jim is, but explains nothing. The only thing that's hinted at is the possibility that he is the reincarnation (uh-huh) of the original's John Ryder, and that would be the biggest insult the first film could receive.

If you check my review of the original, I note more than once that Rutger Hauer in the original Hitcher is one of the most brutal, unforgiving and incredible madmen ever to appear on film. So this time, the hitcher is played by Jake Busey.... and yes, that would be Gary Busey's son. Busey's hitcher is written to emulate the original, but whereas Ryder was cold and determined, this hitcher is hammy and lame. Jake Busey is so over-the-top that one can't even begin to fear him, or even be mildly intimidated. He attempts to frame them in a shallow mockery of the original's plot, with an ending that (by being essentially the same) slaps the original's in the face.

The only real originality comes with Maggie. Jim is (mercifully) shot early in the film, making his girl the madman's target. It is she who must overcome all odds to beat the guy, who has no reason for doing this, and there's barely room for her character to grow, as she's kind of been a bitch the whole time. Almost embarassingly, the basis of this plot was borrowed for the 2007 remake of The Hitcher.

Just like the acting father-son duo of Gary & Jake, avoid this film at all costs. Curiosity drove me to check it out because the original was a masterpiece, but let me assure you, the only horror you'll find here is Busey, trumbling between normal Busey-crazy, and acting hitcher-crazy.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Review: Return of the Living Dead 3

Starring Melinda Clarke, J. Trevor Edmund, and Sarah Douglas. Directed by Brian Yuzna.


Generally, the only way "difference" comes across in the zombie genre is the speed at which the monsters move. It's hard to craft a zombie movie that's different. And this movie, believe it or not, is one of the few to succeed. What does it have to do with the original Return of the Living Dead? Absolutely nothing, but neither did the second one (save for a short Tar-Man appearance). Despite it's title, the film certainly stands well enough on its own.

Director Brian Yuzna is no stranger to zombies. He produced one of the best, most original zombie movies (and horror comedies, for that matter) ever with Re-Animator, and he directed both its sequels. All three were tongue-in-cheek, humorous attempts, and it was reasonable to expect the same here, as Return of the Living Dead may be the ultimate horror comedy.

Instead, Yuzna delivered Return of the Living Dead 3: a serious, emotionally driven dark love story. While the film is plagued in early '90's low budget feel, it makes up for it with an intriguing story and surprisingly decent acting, not to mention the well-crafted effects.

As for the story. Kurt (Edmund) is the son of a military officer, which calls for them to move around a lot, but for once he's perfectly happy in the arms of his punk-goth girlfriend Julie (Clarke). He has no idea what his dad is doing for actual work, and doesn't care. Because for once, he's happy, fitting right at home in the "wrong crowd".

Well, it turns out what dad is doing is trying to control and produce zombies for the military. Obviously, indestructible undead soldiers would be the best kind to have on the battlefield. But his plans fall through (causing three casualties) and the father is taken off the project. When he informs Kurt they'll be moving yet again, the boy will hear none of it, and he and Julie take off. Now, there's the perfect opportunity here to turn both father and son into cliches, but the film surprisingly avoids the cliche at nearly every turn. Kurt's dad actually does only want him to be happy, and Kurt does momentarily find himself torn between the girl he loves and the father he respects.

The story picks up in full when the two lovers get in a motorcycle accident that breaks Julie's neck, killing her. Kurt sneaks into the military compound (as the two have done before) and resurrects Julie, foolishly thinking that everything is going to be okay. Of course, it isn't. This becomes obvious with each passing second, but both Kurt and Julie try to tell themselves that nothing has changed, and that everything is going to be just like it was. But Julie's cravings for flesh can't be ignored forever, and she's changing with each passing second.

The two come toe-to-toe with a gang and Julie gets her first taste of human meat, while Kurt has to begin to own up to the decision it could mean. As Julie learns that pain can provide release for the hunger, she shapes herself more and more into a sadomasochistic, Hellraiser-esque creature as the film progresses. The action does not make up most of the movie, but when it comes it does deliver. The acting, especially between Julie and Kurt, is convincing, and the "River Man" must be seen to be believed. The humor is sly, dark and much more subtle than previous entries. Overall, this is a well-crafted, almost touching zombie flick and probably one of the most original to come out of the genre, no small feat for a low budget '90's horror sequel.

Review: The Hitcher (1986)

Starring C. Thomas Howell, Rutger Hauer, Jennifer Jason Leigh. Directed by Robert Harmon.


"I want you to say four words. 'I. Want. To. Die.'"

Thus begins the horror in one of the most shocking and intense thrillers ever filmed. Jim Halsey(C. Thomas Howell) is an innocent, naive young man, but we barely take a moment to get to know him before he is (and we are) thrusted into the horror that only builds and builds with every scene until the film's end.

Mere minutes into the film, Halsey drives past a wrecked car with a man standing in the rain beside it. He stops, opens the door for the stranger and jokes, "my mother told me never to do this." It is at this point that we are introduced to John Ryder (Rutger Hauer), easily one of the most cold, calculated and chilling madmen in film history.

The two start chatting uneasily, but all attempts to make friends ends quickly as Ryder makes his motives clear. Halsey asks if he saw a man in the car, to which the answer is yes, and if the man would be alright. Ryder takes this opportunity to explain, "I cut off his legs. And his arms. And his head. And I'm going to do the same to you." This triggers a brief fight between the two as Halsey forces Ryder out of the car, and we begin to think we're safe.

But it is only a short time later that Halsey is passed by a family in a station wagon, happy, and he smiles too until he sees Ryder smiling back at him from the car's back seat. Despite Halsey's attempts to warn them, the family pushes on, and he later finds them dead. It becomes evident that Ryder is framing Halsey for his murders, but what's happening here is more than that. Ryder does not want to kill Halsey, he wants to make him into a killer.

Halsey soon meets up with a waitress named Nash (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who happens to think he is innocent, but even when things seem safe, the Hitcher is lurking in the background. Every time our hero sees an ounce of hope, Ryder comes out of nowhere to smash that hope, each time more brutally than the next. The film builds like this, perfectly, each scene more suspenseful than the last, until we reach our jaw-droppingly brutal, and almost beautiful, conclusion.

Well-written and directed, the acting and effects are top-notch, but what pushes this from being a great thriller to one of the best of all time is Rutger Hauer as the unforgivingly psychotic John Ryder.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"I'm not an asshole, I'm an actor": Best Horror Movie Victims

10. Stooge (Night of the Demons)- So annoying, so obnoxious, so "oh, god when will he just die" that you just had to admire the pig-nosed bastard. He's so annoying that it's somewhere past annoying, in his own little world of douchebaggery. With such lines as "eat a bowl of fuck, I am here to party!" Stooge has found a special place (1988) in our hearts.

9. Jimbo and Ted (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter)- An 80's comedy duo second only to Bill and Ted. They were like characters stripped from the best of teen comedies and dropped into a Friday the 13th. They gave the film a charm it needed, as well as a heart, even if all they ever really did was bitch about how they never got laid, or if Ted's best advice to Jimbo (played by Crispin Glover, for the record) was telling him that his failed relationships were probably due to impotence. But it's not his fault. The computer don't lie.

8. Trash (Return of the Living Dead)- The beautiful Linnea Quigley in one of her most famous roles. An eerie goth obsessed with death, she dreams of being eaten alive and gets her ultimate wish not too long after we get ours.

7. Tina (Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers)- Is this a noteworthy film? Not exactly. But there has never been a character that screamed "kill me" more than this little wench. She is perhaps THE most annoying victim out of any horror film. Ever. and a result, one of the most worthy and relieving deaths ever.

6. Casey Becker (Scream)- Drew Barrymore appears in the opening scene of your movie, you expect her to be there for awhile. Well, that becomes a little less likely with each ring of the phone, but throughout the whole powerful opening scene she puts up one hell of a fight, and we almost think maybe she's made it. But instead, her parents find her body hanging from a tree, and the screaming begins.

5. Shelley (Friday the 13th Part 3)- One of the most relatable horror film characters for any horror fan. He can't get the girls, he doesn't have too many friends, his love of horror isn't shared by anyone close to him, he can't really stand up for himself, so he hides behind props, gags and make-up effects. He's the ultimate stereotypical fanboy, at least circa 1983, so it's only fitting that he is the one character to put the final puzzle piece together for one of cinema's most iconic monsters, as he is the one to give Jason Voorhees his iconic hockey mask.

4. Evil Ed (Fright Night)- See the "best screen vampires" list for the full description on this fan turned fang.

3. Meg Loughlin (The Girl Next Door)- Jaw-dropping, brutal, shocking, and more-or-less true. This is real American horror. Meg is one of our main protagonists, but she is tortured throughout the film by her own dispicable aunt, who later lets the neighborhood boys join in on the torment (including rape) that eventually leads to this twelve year old girl's death. A scene with a blowtorch is most disturbing.

2. Marion Crane (Psycho)- A beautiful, compelling protagonist, Marion has our undivided attention right down to the moment she is sliced to ribbons in the shower of room number 1 at the Bates Motel. The movie is classic, the scene is an eternal icon.

1. Lucy Westenra (Dracula)- No matter which adaption, even in the most loosely based, Lucy is the ultimate horror victim. She is a free-spirited, compelling character, and the "illness" that leads to her death sets up about half of the plot. She is the catalyst to bring in Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, Dracula's now-classic nemesis. She is a symbol of innocence, as all true victims are, and this makes her later transformation so much more terrifying. The story would not exist without her, or wouldn't have happened remotely the same, and very few horror victims (if any) can say the same.

Review: Alice, Sweet Alice

Starring Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula Sheppard. Directed by Albert Sole.


Okay, so Alice, Sweet Alice has a kind of infamous history in the horror circuit. It started out as Communion, which it initially was screened as until the distributor dropped it and it was picked up by another and renamed. Then, it was re-cut and redistributed again, this time as Holy Terror. But Alice, Sweet Alice is the definitive title and version of this little known classic shocker. The film has garnered a bit of fame for its background, its subject matter, and for being Brooke Shields' first movie.

The film, shot in the summer of 1975 (long before the slasher genre took off with John Carpenter's masterpiece, Halloween), follows the sisters Alice and Karen (the young Brooke Shields). Karen is an angel in everyone's eyes, and can do no wrong, if only because her sister is vicious and vindictive. Alice teases her, abuses her communion veil and locks her in a building just to scare her.

On the day of her first communion, Karen is brutally murdered and all fingers are reasonably pointed to her sister, after Alice is found wearing Karen's veil to the alter. Everyone assumes the killer is Alice as the tension builds, and it keeps you guessing until the very end. The acting is impressive and the horror is well-paced. Originally, the film was reviled for being an apparent attack on the Catholic church, though director Albert Sole has said since that the church was merely the backdrop he wished to set his horror against. While it was initially met with mediocre praise, it has garnered more deserved respect in the decades since.

As many shocks as Psycho, as much religious commentary as The Exorcist, with as much atmosphere as The Haunting, there's no reason why this well-written, acted and directed genre masterpiece shouldn't be listed as a classic right beside all of the aforementioned.

Bear With Me Here: Best Dressed Horror Movie Monsters

Okay, now Captain Cadaver isn't to keen on the fashion scene, but why not give it a look now? If you think this list is spawned out of awkward boredom, you are quite right. In fact, best not to say too much about this before we get rolling.

10. Blade (Puppet Master)- yeah, Wesley Snipes has quite a get-up too... but this psychotic little bastard is the face of Full Moon pictures, and an iconic horror in his own right. All the puppets are memorable, but Blade with his death-like face, in his fedora and trench coat is both the most menacing and stylish of the bunch.

9. Asami (Audition)- This asian shocker from brilliant director Takashi Miike is brutal, one of the best horrors out there, and this little lady is a huge reason why. She's cute, and innocent, and so kind... you know, right up until the point where she isn't. When we realize what our little lady is really like... our jaw is on the floor until the end of the movie. The straight dark hair, white dress, with the black leather apron over it. A powerful, powerful (not to mention haunting) image.

8. Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)- I'm talking the original here, if it needed saying. Something is just so perfect about the getup he wears here. There's the mask made of human skin, first of all. Then, there's the tucked in shirt and nice dark trousers. And the leather butcher's apron. And to top it all off? What, you say, is the cherry on top of this very original horror getup. For Captain Cadaver, it is the tie. He may be a mentally challenged cannibalistic butcher, but there's something so classy and humble about a man in a tie that you just have to tip your hat to him.

7. Chucky (Child's Play)- Doesn't he look fun? rainbow colored shirt, pasty blue overalls and shoulder-length ginger hair and he's NOT supposed to be creepy until we find out he's alive. Yeah.... Don Mancini, you may have wanted to rethink that one. That little demon is not only the face of the killer toy genre, he is also the reason red-headed stepchildren are given a bad name.

6. Leprechaun- The stripy white and green socks, the dark green jacket, tophat, the black shoes with the little gold buckles and the vengeful, undying stereotype. This little Irish monster may have lost his scare factor after the original, but the look is iconic in its own right. Somehow film makers decided that this was an outfit that could fit in anywhere, so the Lep was taken to Vegas, the Hood, Los Angeles, and space.

5. The Monster (Frankenstein)- The slick black hair, the dark suit, the bolts on the neck, the ridicilous platform shoes... it all has nothing to do with Mary Shelley's novel. But, it is the image of Frankenstein's monster that has been embraced for over seventy years, kept intact through numerous films, so it's appeal cannot be argued with. Boris Karloff made the role his own in James Whale's classic Frankenstein and the phenomenal Bride of Frankenstein. He is a classic monster and every time one watches this performance, they are fully aware of witnessing a true classic.

4. Pinhead (Hellraiser)- His garb is saintly in a Hellish way, demonically ceremonial, and totally original. He is an image that could only have come from the mind of horror master Clive Barker. Pinhead has one of the darkest, most imposing presences out of any movie monster and so much of that is due to his frighteningly intruiging appearance. Everything about his scarred form (from the gridded pins to the hooks) screams order and precision. And this sense of order makes him one of the most authoritative monsters out there.

3. Count Dracula- while not entirely novel-accurate, this look of the Count in his dark suit, cape and widow's peak has become a cultural icon. It rivals Ronald MacDonald. The Count is elegant, but evil, and the combination is too intruiging to ever fade away. The outfit won't fit in everywhere, yet remains somehow timeless, so fitting for a character that is so immortal.

2. Carrie- How could anyone but our blood-stained beauty of a prom queen come in at number two? The image of her in formal wear, stained in blood, going mad in an instant... it's absolutely classic. This is one film that spends every scene building to it's ending. We've established Carrie as our tortured protagonist, but the girl can only take so much. Carrie snapping at her own prom, what was supposed to be a dream come true, turns into a horrific nightmare as she lays waste to her graduating class and gives us one of the best scenes in all of horror cinema.

1. Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street)- Can you name one monster whose appearance is as classic as he is? eight movies and his image never changed. Every single bit of Freddy went to make up this character, one of the absolute most monstrous villains in film history. From the sarcastically evil personality, to the sweater, the hat, the stained jeans and work boots, and the glove to top it all off. Freddy is an intimidating, interesting, and eternally iconic image. He is one of the biggest archetypes in horror, and as such he will always remain.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Top 10 Horror Movies that Should Never Be Remade

First off, I'm by no means anti-remake. But I just think there's gotta be a place where we draw the line.

Note: This list should, in all seriousness, start with Psycho. But alas, I'm ten years too late on that one. So let's get rolling.

Double note: That also goes for The Haunting.

10. Killer Klowns from Outer Space- This '80's cult classic is the kind that comes about once in a generation. It's charm is, well, a little unexpected, and it's amazing this movie's been as successful as it's been, but it is a spectacle of film making. I'm pretty sure that on this one, lightning wouldn't strike twice. So leave it be, Hollywood, before the klowns are cast as Will Ferrell and Steve Carrell.

9. Return of the Living Dead- This movie WAS the 1980's. It ulilized everything the decade had to offer and rolled it into one movie. The clothes (the main cast of characters seem to be a gaggle of every kind of 80's kid, from punk to prep), the special effects (corn syrup and latex, the way God intended), even the charming campiness (okay, there are still plenty of campy movies today, but few are charming). This movie can't exist outside of it's decade, so unless it's a period piece, it would be a disaster to try.

8. Sleepaway Camp- Okay, this is dangerous territory, because this is probably going to happen at some point. But, well, it can't. See, this movie almost feels like it wasn't supposed to happen, it was yet another ripoff '80's slasher film, it shouldn't have had the impact it did. But there's a certain lure of this film series that's hard to explain. And if it's hard to explain, it's impossible to recapture. The gender-confused heroine was taboo in the early '80's, she was shocking, whereas today she'd just be one more little twist that doesn't make sense, or people would walk away thinking they ripped off the Crying Game. Not to mention the fact that we finally received a new sequel (Return to Sleepaway Camp) just this year, after the 20 years since Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland. If anything, let the series get back on it's feet, straight to video, but don't force a remake on us now.

7. The Lost Boys- Again, we just got a sequel, and if you've seen the sequel, you have realized that anything Lost Boys related should have stayed in the 80's where it belongs. This vampire cult-classic would be butchered if re-imagined now, especially since Corey Feldman would no doubt beg to be involved. Not only would it be impossible for a remake to recapture the charm and feel of the original, but the original would likely lose credibility as well. Kids would just laugh at the "stupid" outfits (okay, yeah, sometimes I laugh myself) or "cheesy" special effects (which were, by the way, absolutely badass for their day). So let the Lost Boys sleep... of course, having said that, I'll take this time to mention that Lost Boys 3 is in production. And yes, Corey Feldman will be returning.

6. Creepshow- So far, in my mind, George Romero remakes have been 2/3. Night of the Living Dead turned out okay. Tony Todd turned in a pretty decent performance and the make-up was astounding. Zack Snyder's 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead has numerous, well-deserved fans. But Day of the Dead was bad enough so that there should be a law saying no Romero property should ever be remade again. Not to mention that Creepshow was one of the best anthology horror movies ever. The whole thing was an homage to the E.C. horror comics of the 1950's, and who remembers those now? Is there anyone who would tell you Tales from the Crypt was a comic forty years before it was a TV show? The five stories here were dead-on perfect recapturings of the E.C. feel. It's probably the best thing that Stephen King ever wrote for screen. Each story takes one certain type of E.C. story and they work so well together. There's no doubt in mind that what a remake would offer would be 5 totally new stories without any of the original context, just another random anthology horror with nothing in common with the original, save for the title.

5. I Spit on Your Grave- I've already got a visual of what this film would be. It would look pretty much exactly like High Tension, and it would be 1/3 as good. I Spit on Your Grave is the epitome of gritty, '70's grindhouse horror revenge cinema. And, unfortunately, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino have taught us first-hand that if there's one thing the general audience wants to see, grindhouse isn't it. But with Last House on the Left being remade, I so see this happening in the future, and that's not good. This film was shocking when first released, it was brutal and the height of exploitation cinema. That would be totally lost today, when we go to the movies, and see everything.

4. Poltergeist- Now, this entry is different, kids. Because this remake is currently in production, and it will happen. Soon. But there are still reasons why it shouldn't. According to your friend, Captain Cadaver, Poltergiest is the ultimate haunted house movie. It's one of those things that just happened to turn out perfect. Not to mention the fact that all revisitings to the source material have turned out lovely so far. Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Poltergeist III were kind of atrocious. The makers of the remake would see that the '82 classic was heavy on the special effects, so this aspect would be incorporated and overdone. Poltergeist was a haunted house movie, but it was also a statement on the American family. The kind of family that just doesn't really exist today. We wouldn't see the parents smoking dope after tucking their kids away, or explaining death to their five year old daughter in a touchingly realistic way, or see the father calming the son down during a thunder storm. A new director could bring interesting camera angles to a new feature, but I guarantee the substance would be lost.

3. Cannibal Holocaust- This is the most brutally violent and shocking horror movie ever made. Obviously, a remake would be made with one thing in mind: "We gotta overdo it." And in basing the film on that view, it would be made ignoring all of the intelligence, emotion, and therefore all of the horror that made the original the classic it is today. The scenes of violence in this film stick with you for days, it is crafted to be an unforgettable movie. All of that would be lost in a remake that would do nothing but make you want to throw up. Okay, the original did this too, but it was scary and disturbing as hell, it wasn't about the gag-scares that would be the basis of a potential remake.

2. Rosemary's Baby- Well, this remake was in production for a good long while. But as of yesterday, Rosemary's Baby is officially NOT being remade and maybe Hollywood has finally realized when to say when. See, Rosemary's Baby is just too involved of a story, there's just too much at work in this movie to let anything be lost in a remake. It's probably the only case in history where the book and movie are just as good. The film is great, powerful, the story is scary and the acting is prime (sorry folks, but there's only one Mia Farrow), not to mention some of the best directing Roman Polanski ever did during his impressive career.

1. The Exorcist- As if it needed saying. This is arguably the greatest horror movie ever made, it's still talked about endlessly to this day, and that's not something that's gonna happen twice. And that's before we even consider the sequels we've been subjected to over the years, with the exception of Exorcist III (which is actually very, very good). Linda Blair gives one of the best performances ever (yes, ever) in her transition from innocent Regan to possessed, pea-soup vomiting, crucifix-masturbating Regan. Ellen Burstyn, as well as pretty much the whole damn cast, actually, is phenomenal too. As far as horror goes, this is pretty much close to perfection, and that's just not gonna happen again. So, let this one go, leave this classic to be a classic. There are plenty of other demonic possession films out there, and a good many of them could use remakes anyway.

Except for the Sexxxorcist, which should stay dead and buried.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Retrospective: 20 Years of Full Moon Pictures

After Charles Band's Empire Pictures went bankrupt in the late '80's, he put it to rest and moved on from his once great horror company (Empire was the company that gave us such memorable films as Re-Animator, Troll, From Beyond, Ghoulies, Dungeonmaster, Dolls and um... Troll 2) and decided to start a new. The result would be the now classic (at least sub-classic) genre company Full Moon Pictures, which remains more or less active today.

Since it's debut with Puppet Master in 1989, Full Moon has offered the frightening, the quirky, the campy, the kinda slutty, the WTF, and the downright bizarre. So I would kindly wish to take this time to share this magic with you all. So, let's take a gander at some of this eclectic company's most... interesting and noteworthy features.

Puppet Master- This series has become Full Moon's bread and butter. The first three were fairly solid horror hits, the fourth and fifth were interesting and campy sci-fi romps, and the series kind of trumbled on from there. But the puppets themselves proved very memorable, even spawning a highly successful action figure series. And your dear Captain is anxiously waiting the series' latest installment, whenever it decides to arrive.

Dollman- So, there's this cop. Brick Bardo to be exact. But he's a space cop, you see? And he's the meanest space cop around. When his nemesis (a floating head, because that's all Brick left) escapes in a space pod, Brick takes after him in his space-cop ship. But things go awry, and they crashland on earth. But wait! There's a catch! On earth, he's only 12 inches tall. Hence the title, Dollman. So, he has an awkward romance with a latina girl and her son who thinks he's an action figure, and he saves them from drug lords. I think.

Castle Freak- The title does explain things a bit, but this film is very unlike much of Charlie's movies in that it's actually a fairly decent, fairly gruesome horror outing. A man and his wife (who hates him) and their blind daughter inherit a Spanish castle where a freakish subhuman creature lurks. For decades, it was beaten and kept in a dungeon by a bitchy old woman, but now she's dead. And now the freak is loose, and it seems to take a liking to their daughter... There are so many shocking scenes here, such as when the freak eats a cat, or when it bites off its own thumb to escape its shackles. Very different from the quirky, campy humor one is so used to with Charlie Band.

Blood Dolls- Words cannot describe this film. So yes, this is Band's upteenth "killer toy" film. And apparently he decided that, dammit, his movies just weren't weird enough. So, we have Blood Dolls. Here, a greedy business tycoon (who wears a mask all the time because his head is actually the size of my fist. He also has this machine that can turn his enemies into dolls (personified by three vicious little stereotypes: a pimp, an oriental doll, and a skinhead). Also, he has five hot girls living in a cage (his "house band") and makes a midget with an eyepatch cattle prod them to get them to play. Oh, and his right hand man and business partner (Mr. Mascaro) compliments his business suit with clown make-up throughout the entirety of the film. I know it sounds like I'm making it up. But just trust me on this one.

Subspecies- The first vampire film to be shot in modern day Transylvania, this is actually one of Full Moon's better films. It's slow paced, rythmic, very in tune with Hammer horror and the vampire Radu is easily one of the most underrated of horror movie villains. Even after four films, each one jumbling the plot just a little more, Anders Hove's astoundingly evil Radu never got old.

The Creeps- Okay, a list just isn't complete without this truly, truly original film. And I mean that whole heartedly. The Creeps is not a film just anyone could have come up with. So, in this film, we have an evil professor who wants to bring the classic monsters out of literature and into reality. Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, The Wolf Man, and The Mummy, all made flesh. And so he does, but there's always that lovely Charlie Band catch. The monsters have returned to form, but they are not "complete". As in: they're midgets. All four villains are played by little actors, each one clearly very pissed about their current condition as they seek out a way to restore them to normal size.

The Pit and the Pendelum- in terms of actual quality of film making, this adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's short story is probably the best film that Full Moon Pictures ever made. Lance Henriksen (of Aliens, Terminator, Pumpkinhead, Near Dark, and too many others to name) gives an absolutely breathtaking and bone-chilling turn as Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor. The story is a love story that doesn't overdo itself, the elements of humor are very light and more in tune with classic films. In fact, everything feels very old fashioned until we reach the gore, which is frightening in the reality of the situation, and as the film builds to the title scene, we feel the tension mount with each second.

The Gingerdead Man- One of Full Moon's most recent films, and already a cult classic. Here, having tired from the killer toy formula, Band has respectfully settled on a killer cookie. The Gingerdead Man is a mean, mean, insane little bastard of a dessert, mostly due to the fact that he's voiced by Gary Busey. Oh, yes. Now, the poor workers at a little diner are in for a treat (eh, too much, Cap) as the night goes on and the cookie closes in. I really just said that. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we love Charlie Band.

Oh, and while Busey didn't return... Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust, is also worth a look, as if I even needed to say it.

Review: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Starring Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, and Robert Englund. Directed by Scott Glosserman.


So, I finally got around to seeing this film after wanting to for a long, long time... and I'm so glad I did. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is beyond a doubt one of the most intelligent and entertaining horror films in recent years. The film submerses itself in the genre, it is bathed in a knowledge of horror and easily the most brilliantly tongue-in-cheek horror movie since Wes Craven's Scream.

The first 2/3 of the film are shot documentary style, as we follow along with a camera crew who wish to make a film about apparent serial killer Leslie Vernon as he prepares to make his debut as a slasher and rank besides his idols (he lists Jason, Freddy and Michael Myers). We follow along as they meet the instantly likeable Leslie (Nathan Baesel) who explains to Taylor (Angela Goethal) and her crew the tricks of the trade of being a horror movie slasher. He goes through all the cliches, poking great fun at slasher films, subtly setting one up at the same time. Leslie explains how hard he has to work out to look like he's walking after people and still somehow catch up. He explains the concept of the "final girl", that would be the one girl he chooses to survive his ordeal, and what that entails (shy, homely, virgin). And he especially explains the concept of the "Ahab" that would be the one character who sees Leslie for what he really is and vows to stop him, in this case Doc Halloran (Robert Englund).

Almost instantly, the crew comes to share his enthusiasm for the project as he meticulously sets up his own horror film which he obviously plans to act out. They continue on like this until Leslie's big night, the night of his planned massacre, when their consciences catch up with them. Leslie himself is one of the most brilliantly self aware horror villains ever, and soon tells them to leave because they have that "we can't stand here and let this happen" look in their eye.

This is when the film shifts from first to third person, as the film crew snaps back to reality and realize that there is a killer about to take out an entire house full of teens, and they are the only ones with any idea how to stop him. The humor subsides as the tension mounts, reaching a brilliant and suspenseful conclusion.

The budget on this one may be low, but this is one film that isn't set back by that in the least. The acting is great (the teens in the house essentially play stereotypes, but they're supposed to), the scares and humor walk dangerously close at hand. This is one modern horror that, like its star, could easily become a classic.

The Fang Gang: Greatest On-Screen Vampires

10. Carmilla (Ingrid Pitt) in The Vampire Lovers- Pitt's seductive portrayal of the classic vampire was mesmerizing, and became one of the greatest female vampires ever to grace the silver screen. She was powerful, beautiful, and deadly- a woman you would drool over, but then check under your bed to make sure she wasn't actually there. Carmilla here is a classic, elegant monster and represents all that was great about Hammer Studios in one of its best films.

9. Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) in Fright Night- Not one of the more well known, and not actually the film's main vampire, but Evil Ed was a character any horror fan could relate to. He couldn't talk to girls, didn't have many friends, nor much of a life outside of monster movies. And when his best friend claims his neighbor is a vampire, Evil refuses to believe right up until he's bitten himself. And he becomes what we all secretly dread: the fanboy unleashed. The vampire fan becomes the vampire, and even though his screen time is limited, Stephen Geoffreys gives a classic horror performance as the ghoulishly entertaining Evil Ed.

8. David (Kiefer Sutherland) in The Lost Boys- The Lost Boys (much like Fright Night before it) brought the traditional vampire myth out of the dark ages and into the mullet-headed, strobe-lit 1980's. David is the leader of a pack of punkish vampires trying to lure in Michael, a newcomer to the town of Santa Carla (the apparent murder capitol of the world). The seductive edge of Dracula is gone and we have a more tough, intimidating vampire, Sutherland's scariest performance since his bully in Stand By Me. David and his vampires are so tough, in fact, that it takes BOTH Coreys (Haim and Feldman) to help put them down.

7. Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) in Interview With the Vampire- The film is, in my opinion, more than a little superior to the novel on which it is based. The cast works well together, Neil Jordan is the perfect director for the material, and Anne Rice's script doesn't subject us to her prose. The scariest and most intriguing part of the novel is also luckily adapted almost intact. That would be Dunst's child-vampire Claudia. A woman eternally trapped in a child's body, Claudia's inner conflict is fascinating and she is chilling to watch through every moment of her screen time.

6. Count Dracula (Frank Langella) in Dracula (1979)- This is, to me, classic Dracula and one of the best films ever based on the character. Langella's performance here is intimidating, seductive, he provides monsters with an idol. He is powerful and gets any woman he desires. The women want him, and the men want to be him, because here in this film, he's essentially the James Bond of vampires. No widow's peak, nor accent, Langella steps in and makes the role entirely his own.

5. Severin (Bill Paxton) in Near Dark- Sorry, folks. But this list wouldn't be complete without a throwback to my personal favorite vampire film. Here, the vampires are a family, out west, almost empathetic until Paxton's big scene. They walk into a bar and the charismatic Severin starts fucking with the bartender, obviously picking a fight. He walks on the bar, crushing everyone's drinks under his heel, and when the bartender decides to make a move, Severin slits his throat with a swift kick (as there is a blade attatched to the heel of his boot). The character is a dick, but he's memorable, and plays well as the id of the family.

4. Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) in Dracula (1931)- Sure, the film and this character bear little resemblance to the novel on which it's based. But when people think of Dracula, the biggest name in horror, Lugosi's face is the first that comes to mind. Even if he's not entirely Stoker's Count, he plays the role with an elegance and a spooky charm that has become classic. There's barely a single visual effect throughout the film, Lugosi relies entirely on his acting to convey the horror, and for the most part it works.

3. Spike (James Marsters) in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1998-2003)- Arguably one of the most well-written TV dramas ever, Buffy had many memorable characters. But none of them, when it came down to it, were quite as entertaining on a weekly basis (nor did any of them under go such a remarkable transformation from season to season) as this punk British vampire. Spike was one of the most perceptive, charming, tough and humorous characters in the show's history, and played off of every single character in a way none of the others cast members could. Pity plans for a spin-off fell through, because if there's one character who could likely never stop developing, Spike is certainly it.

2. Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) in Horror of Dracula (1958)- Many people will tell you that Sean Connery IS James Bond. Many will tell you Michael Keaton (or, sigh, Adam West) IS Batman. More than a few will say Boris Karloff IS Frankenstein ('cause they can't name anyone else). And that is why I'm here to tell you that Christopher Lee IS Dracula. He's imposing, menacing, with one of the most powerful presences in film history. There's a charm, but it's dangerous. He is an elegant monster, and a frightening personification of the id at the same time. When he wants something, he will let nothing stand in the way of his getting it. The image of Lee with blazing red eyes and blood running from his mouth, a look like a rabid animal, is one of the most haunting images in horror history and it remains chilling to this day.

1. Count Orlock (Max Schreck) in Nosferatu (1922)- Sometimes the first is the best. While there were vampire films (a few) before Nosferatu, it was truly the first of its kind. It began the age of film vampires, something that has only continued to grow into today. Schreck's demonic Count is still a haunting image after close to a century, and that is the statement of a powerful character. Even today, this silent shocker still haunts, and that is all due to Max Schreck as the looming, rat-like Count Orlock. He's one of the most famous visuals in film history, the most frightening vampire ever to appear on film, and after all this time, it's likely that he will remain such for generations to come.

Retrospective: Ladies of Horror

There have been many fine women to grace the screen in the history of the horror film, so today we're gonna look back on them. Ladies of horror, past and present.

Linnea Quigley- A child of the '80's (well, mostly '90's. Still) I deemed her the best place to start. Linnea's, um, assets were pasted all over the screen throughout the entirety of the 1980's. She starred in such classics as Night of the Demons, Return of the Living Dead, Jack-O, Graduation Day, Silent Night Deadly Night, Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings... the list goes on and on. As far as scream queens go, she ranks amongst the top, just for the quantity of work alone if nothing else.
Memorable Film: Return of the Living Dead. Yeah, Linnea was generally sought out for a movie if there was a skin scene to be had, but in this classic she went all out. Linnea takes her clothes off randomly in about her third scene, and remains that way for the duration of the film (even past death).

Jamie Lee Curtis- Would this shindig really be complete without her? Jamie is arguably the original scream queen, and one of the few to move on to a massive career outside the genre. After her phenomenal breakout performance in Halloween, Curtis went on to star in a plethora of other genre hits (Prom Night, The Fog, Terror Train, Halloween II) before moving on to a bigger career. Then, because she's a class act, Curtis (unlike most actors) was well aware of her roots in horror, enough to make Halloween: H20 twenty years after the original. Halloween: Resurrection is another story...
Memorable Film: Is it even open to debate? Her debut as the innocent yet powerful Laurie Strode in Halloween set the bar for horror actresses everywhere.

Elsa Lanchaster- Her two minute performance in The Bride of Frankenstein will be always be remembered. If that doesn't say something about her screen presence, I don't know what can. When the doctors prepare to remove the bride's bandages, we're expecting an unsightly horror. Instead, we see a creature that is awkwardly beautiful, somehow fractured. She's like a helpless, frightened animal, so unlike the creature she was born to love.
Memorable Film: Obviously, The Bride of Frankenstein.

Angela Bettis- Angela burst onto the scene at the dawn of the millenium and pretty much headlined a new generation of scream queens. Since her debut, she has starred in Bless the Child, May, Carrie, Masters of Horror: Sick Girl, The Woods, and others. Her characters are generally very socially awkward and she is not conventionally attractive, but there is a definite lure to her that cannot be argued.
Memorable Film: Definitely May, for her frighteningly stunning and darkly humorous portrayal of a very disturbed young girl fighting to connect with the people around her.

Janet Leigh- Mother of the aforementioned Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh (like Elsa Lanchaster) had a lengthy and impressive career, but will always be remembered for one scene. That would be the infamous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's classic Psycho. She's built up as our heroine, and despite making the wrong choices from the very beginning of the film, we connect with her and even fall for her. It's therefore a shock when her character is stabbed to death in the shower, only about twenty minutes into the film. In this time, however, she's a treat for the eyes and if sex appeal actually had a sound, her voice would be it. She catches the eye of Norman Bates, too, and his mother is none to happy about that. The shower scene was the closest horror came in 1961 to the nude sex scenes that have today become a genre staple.
Memorable Film: Psycho.

Ingrid Pitt- The luscious star of so many Hammer horror films of the '60's. They just don't make scream queens like they used to, and Pitt was one of the best in history, starring in such Hammer classics like Countess Dracula, The Vampire Lovers (in which she played classic literary vampire Carmilla), The House That Dripped Blood and The Wicker Man, amongst others. She had an elegance, a look, and class that is just lost on so many of today's actresses.
Memorable Film: The Vampire Lovers. Of the few adaptions of Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla, this is the best, for Pitt's fiendishly sexy performance if nothing else.

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark- Could one talk about the female icons of horror without talking about Cassandra Peterson's sassy, ridiculously busty late-night horror host. She starred in her own show, Elvira's Movie Macabre before getting her own film in 1988. Her name is known the world over, and few horror hosts can say the same.
Memorable Film: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

Danielle Harris- Okay, bear with me here. She first appeared as the young star of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. But now, she's returned to the franchise with Rob Zombie's Halloween remake, and boy has she grown up. Harris carries herself through many a low budget horror movie these days, perfectly comfortable with where she is, offering every new movie a perkiness and a spunkiness that is undeniably sexy and undeniably all her own.

Christina Ricci- Another child star who grew up well. Maybe she hasn't done too much horror, and maybe Cursed isn't too much to brag about, but she has roots in the genre and certainly makes the occasional return. Returns to the genre that are generally much better than Hilary Swank's. Christina was the best (okay, mostly the only watchable) thing about Wes Craven's Cursed, and she was a very soft, Hammer-esque beauty in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, which she starred in opposite Johnny Depp. She was the perfect combination of strong and vulnerable in that film, and one cannot doubt that her next genre hit is likely right around the corner.
Memorable Film: Sleepy Hollow, for all the above reasons, and cleavage.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Review: Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf

Starring Christopher Lee (sadface), Reb Brown and Sybil Danning.


So, take The Howling, which is in my mind tied for best werewolf movie ever made alongside An American Werewolf in London. It was a classic. This sequel is, apparently, the best way to respect it they can think of.

Apparently, our story truly begins when author Gary Brandner went to see his novel, The Howling, adapted to film. He was very bitter, because the film strayed from his book so much (it was better, by a lot, though the book was enjoyable). The names were different, the werewolves stood upright, and there was NO anal sex! OUTRAGE!!!! How dare they bastardize his literary masterpiece? So, Gary Brandner vowed that he would win the option to write the sequel, and he did.

On that note, let's talk Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf. First of all, you already know the film won't be astounding, so we don't have to tiptoe around that. Then there's the fact that the film is trying to insult you before you even pick it up. What do you say to that? "Nuh-uh, YOUR sister is a werewolf." Then again, it is descriptive.

We open the film with the funeral for Karen White (the protagonist of The Howling), and meet her brother Ben. Ben is approached by a creepy old man, Stefan Crosscoe (Christopher Lee, and even he couldn't save this movie) who informs Ben that his sister is a werewolf. Here, we pinpoint the exact moment where this film stops having anything to do with it's predecessor.

There's an interlude with a horrible '80's band whose 1 songs seems to make up the entirety of the soundtrack. We see a "vicious killing" that at least lets us down easy and lets us know there's no need to wait for the special effects to show up. See, the only time we see an actual werewolf is when they play the same shot of a werewolf mask against a black screen, over and over again.

We follow Crosscoe, Ben and Jenny Templeton (a love interest, because Lee just wouldn't cut it) to Transylvania (......) where the "action" heats up. Crosscoe seems a Van Helsing of sorts, ready to do battle with Stirba, queen of the werewolves. Stirba, the Werewolf Bitch (this is, by the way, the film's alternative title) is played by the once luscious Sybil Danning. We reach the point of the movie when Stirba strips out of her bondage gear for no apparent reason in her first scene. We move through a movie with neither werewolves, nor special effects (minus the werewolf threesome with three actors covered in fake fur. All "hairy situation" jokes are lost by the vomit that tries to force its way out of your mouth). Then, Stirba is finally laid to rest, and when we finally think we've reached the sweet, sweet bliss of the credits, we are treated to a montage of the movie's best moments. Played over that same fucking song.

Stirba's booby scene is played over six times during this montage, and apparently watching this in theaters made star Sybil Danning cry. Can't say as I blame her.

Splatter Chatter

Okay, folks. Let's count down the best kill scenes in horror history.



10. Puppet Master (Dana Hadley)- I don't really know what it is about this scene, or these movies, but I love it. Here we have the amazingly long, drawn out death of a bitchy middle aged alcoholic woman. First, the burly puppet Pinhead breaks her ankle, forcing her to crawl away. She puts up a hell of a fight when Blade (skull-faced, fedora, trench coat, knife for one hand, hook for the other) jumps in on the action. Dana thinks she's escaped via elevator, only to see Blade leap down from above and slit her throat. For a film so bloodless and quirky, the scene is surprisingly brutal, especially when Blade stares fascinated at his knife after the kill.

9. Zombie (the eye kill)- It's a classic. People who don't even know this movie know this kill. So, generally zombies are after our brains. Well, this guy was apparently pissed about something, and decided to take it out on this poor woman's eye. The scene is painfully slow. The zombie breaks through the door, splintering it, leaving one long protruding piece. He reaches in, grabs her by the head, and slowly brings her eye in toward the piece of wood. Like most horror movies, we expect the camera to turn away. This time, it doesn't.

8. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (those two douchebag guys)- So, the movie starts by planting us firmly in the 1980's. We got two of the most obnoxious characters ever to grace horror films (what in the HELL kind of glasses is that guy wearing??). Anyway, from the first time we see them, we're begging for these guys to die. And boy, do they. They die over the radio, too, for the world to hear, and it's just an added bonus that their deaths set up the plot of the film. They see a truck, and it's a Leatherface truck. Leatherface has apparently gotten into puppetry since the original, as he starts off by giving them a puppet show with a rotting corpse on the back of the truck (you know, that old routine...). Then, whereas we never saw any blood in the original, the driver here takes a chainsaw through the head, and we can't feel an ounce of sorry.

7. The Toxic Avenger (that poor, poor kid)- So this scene is kind of infamous. It's brutal in that it shows a group of teens who can't just prove their dicks by being bullies, they also have to run down old ladies and little kids in their sports car. Here, they play a game where they rack up points for the people they hit, and apparently a kid on a bike is worth a lot (Oh, and in case I actually need to say it, DON'T try this at home). But, here's the catch. Even if you hit 'em, you don't get the points if they live. So they back up and run over the kid AGAIN. We see quite a close up of the kid's head getting crushed, and it looks suspiciously like a melon with a wig on it.

6. Critters 2: The Main Course (The Easter Bunny)- Yes, I said Critters 2. And yes, I said the Easter Bunny. So, at some point in time, the God of movies (Mick Garris, apparently) decided that if there was one movie that needed a sequel, it was Critters. Also, there weren't enough horror movies set on Easter. So here, the Easter Bunny is getting ready to surprise a bunch of kids at the church, but after taking a piss, his zipper won't zip. The crafty Critters see this as an opportunity, so they leap in his big fluffy trousers and gobble his junk. Our Bunny pal is eaten alive inside his costume, then tossed through the window of the church during service. An inconveniance for the people, a childhood trauma for the kids, or a wet dream for Elmer Fudd? You decide.

5. Friday the 13th Part 2 (double impalement)- It took me awhile just to get over the fact that Jason kills a helpless wheelchair-bound kid in this movie, but this scene is actually worse. Also, if there's one scene that could sum up the Friday series, this would be it. So, the couple have just had sex. And they're enjoying each other, looking totally comfortable in each others' embrace. Then poor Sandra looks up and sees Jason, and doesn't have time to scream or scramble before he swing his spear down through the bed, impaling them both.

4. American Psycho (Paul Allen)- Words cannot sum up the amazingness of this movie. And it's not like Jared Leto doesn't deserve it. So, Patrick Bateman, our humble narrator, invites Paul back to his home, discusses the glory of '80's music, slips on a clear rain coat, grabs a VERY shiny ax, and hacks Paul Allen to pieces. Now who's got the better looking business card, bitch? Yeah, this scene is both traumatizing and hilarious, and the joy of having both at once is something so few horror films carry.

3. The Shining (Dick Halloran)- So, we built up his character in the beginning. He's got a bond with young Danny, our true protagonist of the film. He says for the little Doc to call him (in a psychic way) if he ever needs anything. When Jack Torrance goes a little mental at the end and decides it's about time to cut his wife and child to ribbons, we know only Dick Halloran can save us. Already, we've been subjected to one of the most frightening ghost stories ever filmed, it's a sigh of relief to have hope. So Halloran arrives at the hotel, ready to help in any way he can, he walks through the door... and takes an ax to the gut. Jack's just going crazier, poor Wendy and Danny are stuck in here with him, and the terror just mounts and mounts.

2. Halloween (Bob)- Halloween itself is a masterpiece of a movie, but it's not about the kills and doesn't pretend to be. There's not a lot of blood, but it lays the ground for all slasher films to come after it. Here we have a classic, oft copied scene where the boyfriend has just finished his sex (which, btw, he kinda sucked at) and goes to get a beer for the lady. He hears something in the pantry downstairs, and thinking by some miracle of physics that it's his girlfriend, asks them politely to come out of there. Michael Myers emerges, a spectre in the shadows, and pins him to the wall with his butcher knife. The scariest part is the way Michael just looks at the body, almost curiously, as it hangs there limp after death.

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (Tina Gray)- Nightmare was made at the height of the slasher film craze, and most people went in expecting the same old things (because let's face it, most slasher movies were the same old thing) that they were becoming so used to seeing. Slash after slash, audiences were getting used to the shocks. Well, with this Wes Craven classic, they knew things were going to be VERY different from the first death in the film. Tina is safe in bed with her boyfriend when she hears a noise outside, except she's dreaming. Rod wakes up as she screams his name, struggling against some invisible force. He tries to help, but he can't wake her up. We're then subjected to a jaw-dropping, horrific scene. We see four slashes appear on her chest, Tina is dragged up the wall, onto the ceiling, then dropped back down to the bed, into a pool of her own blood. It established one of the biggest maniacs in horror history, and it's a scare that remains absolutely timeless.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Good Friday

So, I might as well get going with my first real post. I've had about a month to come down from the hype of the new Friday the 13th film, and I wanted to start off the blog with an icon, so why not a retrospective on the exploits of Mr. Jason Voorhees? (I'd call him "Sir", but I'm still holding out serious hope that he'll be knighted someday).

Now. Let's get Jasoning. Here's my list of the Friday the 13th series from best to worst.

1. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter- to me, this is the epitome of everything the series was ever supposed to be. It plays like an actual '80's teen comedy, for the most part. The teenagers in these films have always been written to serve their purpose, the whole thing has been formulatic from the beginning, but here the formula is perfected. We laugh, we cry (oh, come on, he killed the kid's mom AND his dog), we watch them die. And Jason is just a mean old bastard, here he's at his most intense (mostly due to the fact that actor Ted White actually HATED doing the film). Some of the best kills in the whole series come from this film too (Crispin Glover's corkscrew/cleaver, banana girl, and Axel all stand out).

2. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives- an attempt to inject (intentional) humor into the series, while still keeping the classic feel, and it pretty much works on all accounts. Jason becomes pretty much a zombie in this film and ensures his status among the classics via a Frankenstein-like resurrection scene. This is the only film in the series without nudity, but it's also the only film in the series that ACTUALLY has kids attending CAMP CRYSTAL LAKE. So, you gotta give it points for that.

3. Friday the 13th (2009)- Yes. The new film ranks this high. I followed production closely, I got excited at every promise they made about what the new film would be. It would be a return to the roots of the series, and it was. Was it the best film ever made? Nope. And neither were the eleven films before it. It was formulatic, entertaining, and vicious. And boobies. That's right, it was boobies. Seriously, though, Jason has never been scarier or meaner than in this outing.

4. Friday the 13th Part 3: 3-D- To be honest, this film used to rank a couple spots lower, but now that I've seen it in its original 3-D format, the way it was meant to be seen, I gotta say I get it a lot better. The gimmicks seem less hokey when they ACTUALLY pop out at you. Also, the characters here were kinda fun, even if they got on your nerves. I don't know if there's a single horror fan out there who couldn't relate to poor, misunderstood Shelley. And to top it all off, this is the film where Jason gets his hockey mask that has become just as iconic as he has.

5. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood- This is first film where Jason was played by stuntman Kane Hodder, who ended up playing him four times. The idea for this film sounds hokey, and it is, but it works better than one would think. Jason this time goes toe to toe with Tina, one of the series' best protagonists, is telekinetic. She is at the lake trying to get over her father's death as well as control her abilities, all under the guidance of Dr. Crews (award winner- biggest dick in the whole series). Anywho, she accidentally unleashes Jason from his watery grave, and no one blames her for being the cause of all the murders, because this is the 1980's. Jason is an unstoppable force of nature here, and the makeup work is astounding. Also, the showdown between Jason and Tina is surprisingly badass.

6. Friday the 13th Part 2- So, this film is our introduction to Jason. And I'll admit, it's amongst my least watched in the series because it just doesn't feel like classic Jason to me. Hockey mask Jason always pops in my head before Potato Sack Jason. But the film does establish the character, his obsession with his mother (his shrine to his mother is a brilliant concept) and really is a good slasher flick with some of the best kills in the series. Double impalement, anyone?

7. Friday the 13th- One may ask why the original ranks so low on my list. Well, 7 out of 12 isn't too too low, but it's far from my favorite in the series. Despite being the first in the series, there were sequels with more originality, and were more artfully made. Screenwriter Victor Miller has fully admitted to ripping off Halloween as much as he could, but this film does stand ok on it's own. It is neither the best or the worst horror film of the '80's, and the kills are fantastic, but more often than not, the series is watched for Jason. Despite the fact that Betsy Palmer is quite charming as the wonderful Mrs. Voorhees. Also, this does have to its credit the wonderful Kevin Bacon death scene and one of the best endings in horror history.

8. Freddy vs. Jason- Maybe this film wasn't everything it was supposed to be, but believe you me it could have been a lot worse. Monster mash-ups are a long-standing tradition in horror films. It dates back to Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, to King Kong vs. Godzilla, and countless others. It's two horror greats going head-to-head, and it works in that respect. Robert Englund is still at the top of his game as Freddy in his apparent last performance as the character. The film is also very stylized, which is both good and bad at times. The screen looks great when focused on the two monsters, but everything else....

9. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning- I'll admit, this film is starting to grow on me. It's kind of mean spirited, the whole thing turns out to be pointless (the killer ain't Jason, and they don't bother to tell you until he's dead). And "Roy the paramedic" just isn't as intimidating as Mr. Voorhees. But it slashes, and it slashes well.

10. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday- well, yes and no. Jason does go to hell, which is apparently where the muppets ended up too, judging by the gaggle of creatures that reach up through the earth and drag him down. The concept is interesting, and new, which is hard for this series, so it gets points for effort. Here we find out that Jason has the ability to body hop from person to person when his own body is destroyed. And to get his own body back, he must enter the body of a member of his bloodline (giggidy, oh wait- that's actually what happens). Yes, the film has an intriguing start. Then there's a scene where Jason ties down a man and shaves off all his body hair, and doesn't kill him. Then we see his "true form" which is some sort of mangled demon baby. Then, in our climactic finish, he is reborn by crawling into his sister's vag. But, the last 30 seconds of film make the whole move almost worth it with the promise that Freddy vs Jason will finally come.

11. Jason X- When I started to realize this film was growing on me, I vowed never to watch it again. But, anyway, in this romp of a film, Jason goes to space (see Leprechaun 4, Critters 4, and Hellraiser: Bloodline) for notes on how well that works. Anyway, 500 years in the future, earth is a hell-hole because we suck. And after salvaging two bodies, the students (I don't know what the hell class they were taking, but it wasn't space-science, or space-acting) decide to bring Jason back into space because they suck, the professor decides to keep Jason around because he sucks, Jason kills everyone but then gets a cyber-makeover because, in the future, he sucks too. A hologram scene at Crystal Lake is noteworhty, however.

12. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan- Jason Takes Vancouver, Jason Takes a Cruise Ship, Jason Takes Your Money, or Jason Takes a Steamy Crap on His Own Franchise would all have been more acceptable and appropriate titles. Paramount Pictures held out through some pretty big box office ups and downs over the previous seven movies, but sold the franchise to New Line after this one, and I can't say as I blame them. There's about fifteen minutes of the movie that are actually set in Manhattan, and about fourteen of them are filmed in Canada. Jason spends the rest of the movie haunting a cruise ship, picking off a senior class one by one, as well as screwing up his own continuity every time he appears to our heroine. Let's just say that where before Jason had killed Crispin Glover, survived a hatchet to the face, drowning (x2), having a house dropped on him and being set on fire, here he dies screaming and vomiting in a flood of toxic waste. To top it all off, toxic waste seems to turn him into a twelve year old... brilliant, guys.

So, there you have it. Friday the 13th in all its glory. Stay tuned next time for whatever happens next time.

I bid you welcome

Welcome, friends, to Captain Cadaver's Happy Horror Blog. We're in for a treat, kids. Here, you and your old pal Captain Cadaver will be discussing, criticizing and reminiscing about all things horror. I'll be following along with recent genre news, reminiscing about classics past, and hopefully introducing folks to some lovely gems they may have missed.

I'll try to look at things from as fair a view as I can, but it is my blog, and I can get caught up in the moment sometimes when discussing things I might.... disagree with, things that sometimes go by the name of Stephanie Meyer. Either way, I'll try to never be as big a dick as the ending of Sleepaway Camp (mega points to those who get the reference).

So come on in folks, the storm's really picking up out there, and you might need somewhere to stay for the night. I'll fix a pot of tea, we'll put on a fire, and maybe even toss in a movie or two...