Halloween Countdown

Day One: Resident Evil 5

Happy Halloween Countdown Day One

Action adventure films are not normally my cup of tea.  I detest Arnold Schwartzenegger, I’m not fond that Rambo guy, or that other guy with the beard and . . . oh, I don’t like the fat one with the pony tail.  So why, oh, why do I love the Resident Evil films so much?  There is really not much difference between Resident Evil and the action flicks of the 1980’s.  Instead of a white, macho shithead brutally gunning down minorities and foreigners we get the lovely Milla Jovovich brutally gunning down monsters and zombies.  Nevermind. I’ve answered my own question. Moving on . . .

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Halloween Countdown 2012

Happy Halloween Countdown

Every year since high school, I have done the Silver Shamrock Happy Halloween Countdown. In the last few years it has become a sort of challenge. I watch and give a very short review of a monster movie every day in October, leading up the final film on Halloween Night.  Enjoy!

Happy Halloween!

Day Thirty One of the 2010 Silver Shamrock Happy Halloween Countdown!

Happy Halloween Countdown Day Thirty One

Trick r Treat
A lot of people watch Halloween on Halloween as their holiday tradition.  I’ve never been one of those.  Trick r Treat, a movie I totally love (because it’s awesome, Frank!) has become my film for this holiday.  You can read the full review here.  When I’m done with Trick r Treat, I’m gonna scarf some candy and settle in for the first episode of The Walking Dead on AMC.

And now, the Silver Shamrock Happy Halloween Song!
Happy, happy Halloween, Halloween.
Happy, happy Halloween, Halloween – Silver Shamrock!

It’s almost time, kids. The clock is ticking. Be in front of your TV sets for the Horrorthon, followed by the Big Giveaway. Don’t miss it. And don’t forget to wear your masks. The clock is ticking. It’s almost time.

The Changeling

Day Thirty of the 2010 Silver Shamrock Happy Halloween Countdown!

Happy Halloween Countdown Day Thirty

The Changeling
I remember when this had its theatrical run.  The ad in the newspaper, back when movies took out big ads in the newspaper, for The Changeling featured an old style wheelchair covered with cobwebs.  I have no idea why, but I found that image rather compelling.  I was maybe ten-years-old when The Changeling came out, so Mom and Dad where not going to take me to see it.  I’d have to wait a year or so before watching it on HBO when nobody was paying attention.  HBO, accessory to my juvenile crimes, how I loved you so.

George C. Scott plays, John Russell, a music teacher whose wife and kid were killed in an auto accident, to be specific, crushed by a salt truck that slid off the icy road while Russell, stuck in a phone booth looked on.  Ouch!  That’s gonna scar you for life.  After milling around for four months, Russell decides to take a teaching job at a college in Seattle.  Instead of renting an apartment, he rents a house through the local historical society –  a lovely three story mansion which boasts a music room, complete with a grand piano.  The house has other amenities including a groundskeeper, good natural lighting and a ghost who desperately wants Russell’s attention.  Perhaps it’s the ghost of the soldier he slapped, looking for revenge?  If you’re thinking, “WTF?” check out Patton.  You’ll see why I couldn’t help myself.

The Changeling is a slower paced haunted house movie that picks up momentum ever so slowly as it moves along – like a drunken me walking down a steep sidewalk.  It’s not a movie about blood oozing from the walls and chains rattling in the dead of night for the fun of it.  Instead of trying to drive him screaming from the house, like a ten-year-old me with clothes pins on my nipples,  the ghost pokes Russell into investigating the history of the house in order to get him to solve the mystery of a crime kept hidden for nearly seventy years.  The solving and resolving of a historical mystery with supernatural events occurring here and there along the way is how most of the movie breaks down.

The story is engrossing and the acting is top flight; it’s just about what you’d expect from a film with George C. Scott and Melvyn Douglas in staring roles.  There are some unnerving and creepy scenes but this is definitely not Poltergeist or The Ring; there are no girls with long black hair hanging in their faces appearing before a big jump scare nor are there major special effects.

For bonus points, spot actor John Colicos before you see his face.  When he first appears in this movie, you see the back of his head and part an ear and one of his sideburns.  If you watched the original Battlestar Galactica, you’ll be able to play with confidence.

Ginger Snaps

Day Twenty Nine of the 2010 Silver Shamrock Happy Halloween Countdown!

Happy Halloween Countdown Day Twenty Nine

Ginger Snaps
Can you believe it? This movie is ten years old as I write this and I only just watched it last night. I’d not even heard of it until maybe two years ago.  Granted, until I hit my mid-life crisis, which transformed me from a mild-mannered newspaper reporter into Captain Midnight (imagine that I said Captain Midnight in a loud, deep echoing voice. Dramatic!), I wasn’t all that plugged into the horror community.

I stopped reading Fangoria when I was about twelve-years-old.  It didn’t help that my only means of seeing new movies was either at the local mega-plex or Blockbuster, both of which are limited to largely wide release big budget studio films. Excuse me just one moment, will you?  I want to have a quick word with Blockbuster.

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Dead of Night

Day Twenty Eight of the 2010 Silver Shamrock Happy Halloween Countdown!

Happy Halloween Countdown Day Twenty Eight

Dead of Night
Dead of Night was a tough one to write about.  What can I say about a film that is so self evidently awesome?  A hugely influential and thoroughly entertaining film, Dead of Night, is itself is less well  known than its progeny.   You’ll see what I mean in a moment.  Though portmanteau films, that is, films where a number of short films are put under the umbrella of a larger encapsulating story arc or theme, have been around nearly as long as the film industry itself, the idea came somewhat late to the horror genre.  Initially the format was used to showcase vaudeville style acts and the like.  Later, Amicus Productions, inspired in large part by Dead of Night, would produce a string of portmanteau films.  Dead of Night was also an influence on the TV show The Twilight Zone.

The container story revolves around Walter Craig, an architect , who has bee invited to a manor house in Kent to draw up plans for some additions that the owner, Mr. Foley, wants to make.  When Craig arrives, he finds the place eerily familiar.  Having arrived at tea, Mr Foley introduces him to Mrs. Foley and the other guests.   Craig is stunned, telling the party that he has seen them before, in a reoccurring dream.  This sparks a conversation about weird and supernatural events; a number of the guests, who in the course of the conversation, each tell of their own brush with the uncanny.

The stories range in tone from nightmarish to whimsical and all stops in between.  Dead of Night is probably best know for the segment about a hard pressed ventriloquist who is being tormented into madness by his dummy, Hugo. This segment is still, after sixty years, unnerving, mostly due to a terrific performance by Michael Redgrave, though it helps that the dummy is uber-creepy.  The ventriloquist segment and the conclusion of the encapsulating story  have a very modern feel that should still scare contemporary audiences. In the name of science I did a little experiment, showing the climax of the ventriloquist segment to K and the Housecat. K ran from the room (she’s my age) and the Housecat screamed.

The other segments are more subtle in their creepiness, much like The Twilight Zone or some of the classic horror comics.  The segment about a haunted mirror is straight forward as far as its plot goes, but the execution is done so well, that it’s easy to forgive its predictability.  The same holds true with the Christmas party story, the horror of which isn’t revealed until after it’s passed.  You know that I mean?  The sort of thing that, when you think about it after the fact, sends you into the dance of heebie-jeebies .

Dead of Night gets a big recommendation, especially for those who grew up reading classic horror comic books or watching the original The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits.

Night Watch

Day Twenty Seven of the 2010 Silver Shamrock Happy Halloween Countdown!

Happy Halloween Countdown Day Twenty Seven

Night Watch

Based on the 1972 play  by Lucille Fletcher of the same name, Night Watch is one of those movies that I saw as a child, of which I carried only vague and horrible impressions and not much else.  Still, it stuck with me over the years, like some half remembered nightmares that won’t entirely go away once the sun is up; the creepiness amplified due to the fact that I couldn’t remember the title ( did I really see it?) and that the movie itself faded into obscurity.  All I remembered were ill-defined nightmarish images of a hospital and that the movie featured a woman who, looking through her window across the garden into the window of the abandoned house next door, saw something that scared her badly.  It’s not much to work with . . .  the occasional attempt to hunt it down using Google or IMDB always ended in failure.

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Terrorvision

Day Twenty Six of the 2010 Silver Shamrock Happy Halloween Countdown!

Happy Halloween Countdown Day Twenty Six

Terrorvision

Before he founded Full Moon, Charles Band had a little production company based in Rome called Empire Pictures (Empire in Rome? Ha!).  Empire Pictures made the sort of films that we’ve come expect from Band, who has spent a career making horror and fantasy films on the cheap, not that there is anything wrong with that.   The horror genre has a rich and honorable history of low budget productions.   Horror maybe the only genre where a filmmaker can make a career of making  good bad movies.

Consider Roger Corman –  prior to the movies he made with Vincent Price for AIP in the 1960’s, Corman’s films could only be described as bad movies.  By the time he hit AIP, not  only had Corman become an experienced filmmaker, he has access to talented actors, writers and crew, most of whom where either winding down their careers (Boris Karloff and Vincent Price) or just starting out (Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper).  Corman was a no nonsense guy who made the most of that he had –  under no illusion that he was doing anything but cranking out B pictures – he made the best films that he could.

Roger Corman is the godfather of the good bad movie.  Corman’s string of loose Edgar Allen Poe adaptations, with screenplays written by guys like the prolific  Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, starring Vincent Price and other stars who either slid off of, or never quite made it to the “A List,” are the best of the good bad movies.  When you have a good bad movie and add time to the equation you get one of two things: a classic horror film (The Raven, Masque of the Red Death) or a cult classic (Night of the Living Dead, Phantasm).  Charles Band didn’t aspire to be another Orson Wells.  He aspired to be another Roger Corman.  That’s not, from my point of view an ignoble goal at all.  There are certainly worse things you could do with your life than making quality low budget movies that are highly entertaining.

Today’s film, Terrorvision, is one of Band’s Empire Pictures earlier efforts.  It’s been one of my favorite movies since I saw it back in 1986.   Written and directed by  Ted Nicolaou (who also gave us Subspecies), Terrorvision loving skewers the horror, sci-fi and exploitation films of the postwar and Cold War eras.

An interstellar waste disposal station accidentally fires off an energy signal containing a ravenous hunger beast which gets picked up by the Putterman family’s new satellite dish.  The beast is able to change form and absorb everything it feeds upon, much like the monster from John Carpenter’s The Thing.  The Putterman family is headed by Stanley and  Raquel, who enjoy swinging, and pornographic art; there is also Grandpa, who is a paranoid survivalist; Suzy, the daughter, who looks like she’s entered a Cyndi Lauper look-a-like contest; Sherman, the son, who spends a lot of time shooting things with Grandpa, and OD, Suzy’s heavy metal crazed boyfriend.  The entire cast is made up of actors that you will recognize, but not remember where you’ve seen them before.

The effects, dialogue and production values are all wonderfully bad in that nothing about the world of Terrorvision is natural and “real.” This is not to say that Terrorvision looks hodgepodged together.  It’s a good bad movie made by people who clearly know what they are doing. Terrorvision is a lot of fun and richly deserves to be considered a classic 1980’s good bad movie.  Fans of Larry Blamire should really check this one out.

The Ring

Day Twenty Five of the 2010 Silver Shamrock Happy Halloween Countdown!

Happy Halloween Countdown Day Twenty Five

The Ring
I’d not originally planned to include The Ring because it isn’t exactly something that you think of as being overlooked and it’s of fairly recent vintage. The Ring was well received and widely seen, taking in a cool three hundred million dollars world wide; it’s a movie that hasn’t exactly been glossed over. Or has it? The Housecat and Dramagirl had never seen it, which I found mildly surprising, given that they are representative of one half of horror fandom — typical teens with a taste for splattery fast paced horror films.  Then there is the other half of horror fandom, the more serious horror fans who give The Ring a skip or dismiss it almost entirely over the Japanese original, Ringu.   Between these two core groups of horror film consumers, maybe The Ring has been passed over and forgotten somewhat. The former group being too young to have seen it during it’s initial run and the later group passing it over in favor of the film from which The Ring was remade.

I did a little experiment and watched The Ring with the Housecat and Dramagirl to see how they’d react. Dramagirl nearly few out her chair a few times and kept yelling at the movie. “Don’t put that tape in the player!” and “Oh, my God! That horse is freaking out! Leave it alone!” For those who have seen the movie, do you remember The Scene (as I call it) near the end when the TV does that thing in that guy’s apartment . . . you know the part I’m talking about, both Housecat and Dramagirl were all silence and eyes wide like pie pans. The Ring got a good scare out two girls who saw The Hills Have Eyes II at their father’s place a couple of years ago (WTF was he thinking?).

I’d not seen The Ring is in probably five or six years.  It was better than I remembered it. Yeah, the weirdo clips in the cursed VHS tape are still uber creepy, and there is The Scene, but what struck me is the shot composition and cuts in several scenes. They’re really clever. For example, at the beginning of the film Director Gore Verbinski and cinematographer Bojan Bazell set up several shots in such a way that both veteran horror fans and more casual fans will get drawn in; veterans looking for the scare that must . . . be . . . right. . . . behind that . . . .door! Nope. At the other end, a casual horror fan, like Dramagirl, who hadn’t planned to watch The Ring, (who got sucked in as she was passing by the TV), gets hooked in like a fish by same scene, taking it in at face value.  For all The Ring not being as “good as Ringu” it’s still an effective and entertaining horror film.

The Swarm

Day Twenty Four of the 2010 Silver Shamrock Happy Halloween Countdown!

Happy Halloween Day Twenty Four

The Swarm
The 1970’s was more than the decade of big cars, big sideburns and high heeled boots for men, it was also the golden age of the “nature gets revenge” film.   It usually squared up like his: an ensemble cast gets caught in a disaster of epic proportions in which, one by one, they are killed, usually in gruesome ways.  This disaster could come in a variety of ways: a rogue wave flips over a cruise liner (The Poseidon Adventure), ants run amok (Phase 4), giant rabbits run amok (Night of the Lepus), heck I even saw one film about a fish that ate a boat and killed some guys (Jaws).  These movies were always great fun.  My mom and I would make a game of trying to figure out who was going to die and how.  “The fat guy isn’t going to fit through the emergency door.  I bet he drowns” or “The whiner with the loud sport coat is going to try to save himself by taking the last parachute and jumping for it, but the ravenous parakeets with get him anyway.”  Good fun. . .  Good fun.  It’s in that spirit that I bring you tonight’s Silver Shamrock Happy Halloween selection: Irwin Allen’s The Swarm!

What’s The Swarm about?  It’s about the silliest movie I’ve ever seen.  I remember this movie being a bit of an eye roller for me back in the day and I was only nine or ten years old when I saw it.  The movie opens with a 1970’s made-for-TV quality special forces unit doing their made-for-TV special forces attack on an underground missile silo.  They find most of the airmen stationed there are dead.  They also find Michael Caine.  What’s Michael Caine doing in a missile silo?  That’s a good question; not only do you and I want the answer, so does General Richard Widmark.  Michael Caine explains that he was looking for Killer Bees and that he thought that some might have come by and killed everyone in the silo.  General Richard Widmark is having none of this, so he and Michael Caine shout at each other while we meet the rest of the cast.

Near the silo is the town of Marysville, Texas, whose chief economic activities are growing flowers and getting stung to death by Killer Bees.   Here we’ll find most of the cast getting ready for the big Marysville Flower Show.  It’s quite the tourist attraction, and little do they know, this year’s show is going to play host to a billion tourists from South America.    Not to Bee-labor the point, let’s get to the cast, we have: School Superintendent Olivia de Havilland, Mayor Fred MacMurray, Old Coot Ben Johnson, Pregnant Waitress Patty Duke, Swarthy Young Doctor Jose Ferrer, Old Coot Slim Pickens, and Annoying Child Christian Juttner.  Nice!  Who is going to get it first?

Back at the silo, General Richard Widmark is bummed because Michael Caine, despite being a limey, has friends at the White House who put him in charge of Operation Bee-Gone.  Now it’s Michael Caine, and Michael Caine alone, who is going to do the yelling around here.  General Richard Widmark now has to accommodate Michael Caine’s list of demands which include: a Henry Fonda, a Richard Chamberlain, a Katherine Ross, an assortment of snug turtleneck sweaters with matching sport coats and cough drops for his throat – the yelling takes a lot out of him.

Yes, there are plenty of Killer Bee attacks, so don’t you worry about that.  In fact, after having their lunch handed to them repeatedly by the Killer Bees, the Army under the command of General Richard Widmark breaks out the flame throwers and has a Killer Bee vs. Soldiers with Flamethrowers fight which burns down half of Houston. If you wonder while watching The Swarm, whether or not it’s worth sitting through until the end, it is; you don’t want to miss the flamethrower fight or the incredibly fun finale.