Archive for September, 2011

Wheee!!  There are only a few days left in September, then…October!!  I mentioned last post that I’ll be trying to watch a mind-boggling amount of horror movies next month, and I’ll be posting one or two mini-reviews every day of some of the films I watch.

As if that weren’t enough to keep you coming back regularly next month, I’ve got ANOTHER incredibly cool thing going on here and around the web.  It’s called the “Halloween Countdown,” and it involves over 100 blogs.  Here’s the skinny from John Rozum, one of the founders of the event:

“The Halloween Countdown is something of a virtual neighborhood to go trick or treating in. Imagine a neighborhood where all of the neighbors really got into the spirit of the holiday and went all out with decorating their yards and homes and on top of that also handed out the coolest treats whenever some kid in a costume rang their doorbell. Well, you are that kid in a costume, and the participants in the countdown are the neighbors with the cool houses and candy. When you visit their blogs, you will essentially be ringing their doorbell and shouting “Trick or treat.” rewarded by a solid thunk at the bottom of your plastic Halloween bucket which is their post for the day. In a way that’s even better than the actual Halloween (no way! I hear you saying) you get to ring their doorbell and trick or treat every single day throughout October. Not only that, but there is bound to be over 100 houses for you to visit each day as well.”

The Halloween Countdown sounded FAR too cool to not be a part of, so I’m one of the affiliated blogs this year.  And to prove it, here’s a neato torpedo Participant Badge, featuring Vincent Price as Dr. Anton Phibes:

I do love me some Dr. Phibes, and this year marks what would have been Vincent Price’s 100th birthday (a.k.a. the Vincentennial).

So here’s what I suggest that you do:

1.  Swing by here every day or two in October to get your mini-review fix.

2.  After checking out my review(s) of the day, click on the “Countdown to Halloween” button in the day’s post (you can even try it now, if you’re so inclined) to take you to countdowntohalloween.com so that you can visit some of the other sites participating.  Just look to the right and you’ll see a list of “Cryptkeepers” for 2011.  If you try out five or six sites a day and bookmark the ones that you want to revisit, you can have yourself an absolute blast every day of October!

3.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Make sure to stop back by starting this weekend !!!  Wheee!!!!

October is just around the corner, which means it’s almost time for me to indulge in a little ritual that I started last year: watching as many horror movies as I can for thirty-one days straight.

I’ve always watched horror movies in October; the two go together like peas and carrots, as Forrest Gump would say.  Still, I used to do the majority of my watching in the last week of the month, once it really began to feel autumnal.  That changed last year when I decided to participate in the October Horror Movie Challenge at the DVD Talk website (www.dvdtalk.com).

At its most basic level, the goal of the challenge is to try to watch 100 horror films during the month of October and to give some sort of critical assessment of each one that you finish.  Even those guidelines are not enforced, however; the main goal of the challenge is to have fun.  If you want to, you can watch a predetermined film every day and discuss it in a forum; you can watch a film relating to a “theme of the day”; you can watch tv shows, or cartoons, or documentaries.  The only thing that the Challenge really asks of you is to keep track of every film you watch in a post in a forum and give it SOME sort of rating–thumbs up, three stars, two jack o’lanterns, a mini-review, whatever.

Last year, I made it through 68 horror films in 30 days.  I was so burnt out on scary movies that I crashed and burned with only one day to go.  To be perfectly frank, it was the movie Mad Monster Party that did me in.  I just couldn’t make myself finish it.  So I gave up.

Once November rolled around, I promised myself that I wouldn’t EVER put myself through that again.  But the new year came around, and then it got closer and closer to the end of summer, and…my thoughts turned back to the Challenge.  And I caved.

This year, I’m going to try to beat my numbers from last year.  I’m shooting for  75 films this year (I still don’t think I could ever hit 100), and I’d like for at least 45 of those to be movies that I’ve never seen before.

If this sounds interesting to you, and you think that you’d like to give the Challenge a go, here’s a link to the main post in the DVD Talk forum:  The 7th Annual “October Horror Movie Challenge.

Now, as I mentioned above, one of the conditions of the Challenge is that once you’ve watched a movie, you post some sort of critical assessment.  Last year, I decided to post mini-reviews after each viewing.  I don’t go much for star ratings; I like to at least tell WHY I did or didn’t like a film.  (It doesn’t hurt that I could have a conversation with a bag of cement.)  So, last year I posted 68 mini reviews.  Some were only one sentence long; some were considerably longer.

This year, I’m doing mini-reviews again, and I’ll post one or two here every day during the month of October.  So, for a month at least, this blog is going to turn into a movie review site.  I hope that you’ll check back often, and maybe, if you like horror movies like I like horror movies, you’ll read my thoughts on a film and decide to check it out for yourself.

So….  To get your (and to some extent, my) appetite whetted for some mini movie reviews, I thought that I’d post some of the ones that I wrote for the Challenge last year.  They’re in the order that I viewed the films (and wrote the reviews); they’re not listed alphabetically or by how much I liked them.  If you enjoy them and want more, the new reviews will be posted daily starting this weekend.

And now, some of last year’s reviews.

___________________________________________

From Beyond (1986)

Stuart Gordon’s follow-up to Re-Animator just doesn’t do it for me. I didn’t particularly like it the first time I saw it (on Vestron’s VHS tape when it first came out in the mid-80s), and I liked it even less this time around. While the special effects work is effectively icky, the film’s lack of a narrative thrust makes it eventually sink under its own weight. The second half of the film reminds me somewhat of shampoo directions: lather, rinse, repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Turn on Resonator, see yucky things, get in danger, get out of danger with injuries. Turn on Resonator, see yucky things, get in danger, get out of danger with injuries. And again. And again. Blow up Resonator. Fade to credits. (And, by the way, where’d Barbara Crampton’s character get the bomb?)

Satan’s Children (1975)

Now THIS one is more like it. A guy (whose stepfather and stepsister make his life awful) leaves home, only to be gang-raped by a biker and his friends and left for dead by the side of the road. As if that weren’t bad enough, he’s found by a group of Satanists and has the misfortune to fall in love with one of them. Florida-made film is rather astonishing in its own lowbrow way, and serves once again to prove Michael Weldon’s assertion in The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film that Florida is “an unheralded center of grade Z filmmaking.” Strangely compelling.

Dead Alive (1992)

The film that finally got Peter Jackson noticed Stateside. Dead Alive still holds the record as the wettest horror film ever made, and it has the most varied assortment of zombie mayhem ever committed to celluloid. My favorite zombie: the light bulb girl. I could have done with a lot less of the zombie baby, but that’s nitpicking. A hoot from start to finish.

The Monster of Camp Sunshine (1964)

Seventy-four minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. If you must know, it’s about a nudist colony gardener who drinks some stream water contaminated with a violence-inducing drug and in turn, for lack of an appropriate word, terrorizes a few nekkid women. An antivirus serum is then brought by a parachuting doctor while stock footage from various war films is cut in. Most of the cast and crew wisely hide behind pseudonyms (one of which, “Natalie Drest,” is pretty funny). Obviously shot without audio, the whole film is poorly post-synched, and it even resorts to using intertitle cards, just like silent movies. At least those were amusing–my favorite said something to the effect of “Alas! He is defeated by the very violence which he engendered.” Hope I didn’t spoil anything for you, folks! Ugh.

The Cat and the Canary (1927)

The Cat and the Canary is my favorite silent horror film for many reasons, including the genuinely creepy mood set in the first shots of the film and the animated intertitles. I’m also terribly fond of the character of Mammy Pleasant, whose name is diametrically opposed to her demeanor. Too bad director Paul Leni died only two years after making this film, as I’m sure he would have been a major player in the horror boom of the 1930s. As it stands, this is still one of the top early horror films. It’s no wonder it’s been remade several times.

Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight (1995)

Fun horror film with religious overtones and a WAAAAAY over-the-top performance by Billy Zane. Astounding cast for such a trifle, directed by Spike Lee’s early cameraman of choice Ernest Dickerson. Not a film that’s going to leap to the top of your favorite movie list, but a solidly entertaining 92 minutes filled with lively camerawork and some impressive special effects. Worth a look.

Dead Snow (2009)

I’ll admit it–I went into this one with quite a bit of trepidation. The DVD cover art made Dead Snow look like it was a direct-to-video title shot by troglodytes with cameras. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Dead Snow is an engaging, gory, and frequently funny Norwegian take on the zombie genre, made by folks well-steeped in the genre. The camerawork is quite exceptional; at times the filmmakers actually out-Raimi Sam Raimi. Although you might be put off by all the drooling the fanboys have done over this film (as I was), this time they’re actually pretty close to being right. On a side note, the Netflix streaming of this title looked absolutely great. I really, honestly, couldn’t tell the difference between it and a DVD. I’m growing to love the streaming experience more and more.

Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977)

Also known by its original Italian title of Emanuelle e Gli Ultimi Cannibali and its American grindhouse moniker, Trap Them and Kill Them, this weird hybrid of sex and cannibalism is about as stupid as they come. That doesn’t necessarily detract from its entertainment value, however. The dubbing is absolutely atrocious, with the voiceover “artists” (and I use that term VERY loosely) trying to match the mouth movements of the onscreen actors by pausing at inappropriate times. If it were transcribed, it would look something like this: “We’ve got to…(long pause)…try to follow them and maybe we…(longer pause)…we can save Maggie.” The first half of the film is pretty much devoted to softcore sex scenes between Laura Gemser and everybody she comes across. The second half of the film concentrates on the gore. As I think that Laura Gemser is one of the most beautiful women ever to be in front of a camera, I tended to like the first half of the film better than the second. The gore is sporadic, but fairly effective. Featuring a smoking monkey and the least-convincing Irish nun ever.

Crawlspace (1972)

This made-for-TV movie from 1972 scratched an itch that I didn’t realize needed scratching, and that itch was to see a 1970s TV movie. There’s something about made-for-TV movies from the early 70s that really resonates with me. It may be the fact that I saw so many of them on their original airdates, and promos for them leading up to the airing really ratcheted up my anticipation for them. Crawlspace is one that I missed way back when, and I’ve only just now caught up to it. The cast is wonderful, with Arthur Kennedy taking a pretty big step downward from the likes of Lawrence of Arabia and Cheyenne Autumn to slum in a TV movie, but he’s pitch-perfect in his part. It’s always great to see Teresa Wright in anything, and Eugene Roche as the sheriff has a face familiar to anyone who grew up watching 70s-era television. Well-directed by John Newland (One Step Beyond) and sporting a memorable score by Jerry Goldsmith, Crawlspace definitely has that 70s TV movie vibe. It really hit the spot on this chilly October evening.

Calvaire (2004)

I’ve had Calvaire in my collection for a few months now, but this was the first time that I’ve watched it. After viewing it, I feel that it really could have stayed unwatched for several years and my life would not have been the poorer for it. I’m not saying that it’s a particularly bad film; there’s much to admire here. But what was the purpose of the whole thing? I didn’t come away from the film enlightened, informed, persuaded, or even particularly entertained. It’s as if The Texas Chain Saw Massacre had been scripted by Lars von Trier, directed by David Lynch and shot in Belgium. But that makes it sound better than it actually is. While the performances are good, Calvaire just piles strangeness upon strangeness, and after a while it just becomes ridiculous. But maybe that was the point. I don’t know.

Rattlers (1976)

Generally speaking, whenever a movie starts with the Boxoffice International logo, I know that I can safely write it off immediately as being sub-par drive-in fodder. Rattlers was released by Boxoffice International, so I was resigned to slogging through a poorly-made nature-on-the-rampage tale. And…I’ve got to admit that Rattlers wasn’t the stinkbomb that I thought it would be. If a film about mass rattlesnake attacks can possibly be called pleasant, then Rattlers is quite pleasant. It’s very much a product of its time, with a whole lot of dialogue devoted to discussing equal workplace rights for women, and fashions and set dressings so ugly that they’ll probably be in vogue again soon (check out the wallpaper at the nurse’s station at the hospital!). Since Rattlers has the feel of a made-for-TV movie, but with no recognizable name actors, it was destined for the drive-ins. That’s too bad, because this little film deserves to be better known. It’s not perfect, but as far as snake movies go, this one unexpectedly lands at the top of the pile.

Black Rainbow (1989)

Rosanna Arquette stars as a medium who can supposedly see and speak to the dead, Jason Robards plays her alcoholic father/manager, and Tim Hulce is the newspaper reporter who takes an interest in her abilities once she begins foretelling people’s deaths. Film starts off confusingly, and there are plot threads that end up going nowhere. The central conceit of the film is interesting, however, and because of this, Black Rainbow only really comes alive when Arquette is onstage doing her medium thing. I tried very hard to like this movie, but the variable performances by the leads, the excrutiatingly awful score, the muddled storyline, and some wonky 11th hour happenings all combined for a mostly unimpressive viewing experience.

City of the Living Dead (aka The Gates of Hell) (1980)

Lucio Fulci’s first horror film after the international success of Zombie (or Zombi 2, if you prefer) continues on the same path, with zombies lurking around the city of Dunwich. Thanks to the suicide of a priest, the doors of Hell have been opened in Dunwich, and it’s up to a psychic, a newspaper reporter, and a psychiatrist to get them closed again. Although the film has great atmosphere, it falls pretty short in the logic department…and I have absolutely no idea what the ending of the film means. It’s worth a look, especially if you’re a fan of Italian gorefests, but Fulci’s The Beyond, which elaborates on many of this film’s themes, is a much more satisfying film.

The Blob (1988)

Chuck Russell’s Thing-like take on the moldy oldie is an interesting update, but it’s let down in the second half due to the very 80s insistence that the monster is a biological creation of the government and its reliance on action instead of horror. The first half of the film works beautifully, though. I remember seeing it when it first came out and not really liking it (but I didn’t really hate it, either). I liked it a little better this time around, but it still doesn’t exactly work for me. It certainly makes me miss the pre-CGI days, however. I was surprised to see that Frank Darabont co-scripted; perhaps he named Kevin Dillon’s character Flagg after Randall Flagg in The Stand. I also suspect that the cook that gets sucked down the sink drain was inspired by a character in King’s “The Raft” that met a similar fate. All in all, The Blob is worth a look on a slow night, but it probably won’t land on anyone’s top-ten list.

The House of the Devil (2009)

I’ve heard nothing but praise for this film that seemed to come out of nowhere, so naturally I approached it warily indeed. Because of this, I was very pleasantly surprised that the film was as good as it is (which is very good indeed). If you were to look up the term “slow buildup” in the dictionary, it should say at the end of the definition “see The House of the Devil.” The pleasure in this film is not where you as a viewer end up, but instead it’s the journey that you take to get there. The first 75 minutes or so of the film are methodically paced, and instead of boring the viewer, it works to rachet up the tension quite nicely. There’s something to be said for horror films that take their time to build to shock scenes instead of throwing blood around willy-nilly. This buildup of tension in The House of the Devil reminded me of other films that take their time to set a mood…The Uninvited, The Woman in Black, Ghostwatch. The retro late 70s/early 80s horror film feel is an added plus. I defy any real fan of exploitation horror cinema not to smile when the title card appears on screen. I’m very much looking forward to Ti West’s next film, The Innkeepers.

Sheitan (2006)

Wow. Just wow. This film was nothing like I was expecting, and the second time this challenge that I’ve been completely bowled over by a film. First Dead Snow, and now Sheitan. I can only think of one person that I know that I can recommend this to; if I were to recommend it to ANYONE else they’d probably never trust my judgment again. So be it. As Sheitan is set in the French countryside, it reminded me a (very) little of High Tension–but the films are two very different birds altogether. If you haven’t seen this one (and you’re up for something completely different, as Monty Python would say), don’t read anything about it beforehand. Just get on for a sensationally wonky ride. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

Pretty useless sequel to Hellraiser is more of the same, but not nearly as much fun. So off we go, back to the land of the Cenobites, for more flesh-ripping and blood-letting. Even with all the blood and gore, pretty much a snooze-fest.

The Children (2008)

Okay British horror film takes place at Christmas, when the kids at an extended family get-together come down with what at first appears to be a stomach virus…but it’s a stomach virus with a body count. I guess because I spend most of my day around large numbers of children (as a public school district employee), I usually don’t find killer kids movies to be too scary. I mean, kids are small, and they don’t have sharp fangs or claws like dangerous animals. So even if dozens of children suddenly turned rabid, I don’t think that it’d be that difficult to defend yourself against them or escape. In killer kids movies like this one, you usually have an adult who, instead of just running away, backs into a corner and sits. This would be somewhat akin to a victim in a slasher movie taking a marker and drawing dotted lines on his abdomen, showing the killer exactly where to cut. In the end, even though this movie has garnered some praise from certain circles, I found it to be pretty average. It’s not bad, but it’s nothing special, either.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

I enjoyed this immensely when it first came out, but this is the first time since then that I’ve watched it in its entirety. This time around, it felt horribly draggy in the middle third (once Stretch literally drops in on the Sawyer family). It starts out great, and picks back up for the final act, but the middle feels like it’s marking time. I was perturbed at some of the odd plot devices as well. I’ve worked at three different radio stations as an on-air personality, and never ONCE did I have to wait for a caller to hang up before I could end the call. I don’t even know how that would work. So Stretch’s pleading with the idiots who ended up being the film’s first victims to hang up their phone bugs me to no end. Also, I certainly never HAD to record all calls to fulfill some sort of FCC regulations. In fact, the only time I ever recorded phone calls was when I had giveaways, and I only recorded those so that they could be played when I could find a good time to fit them in. We never put live listener calls on the air–there was too much of a chance of the caller using foul language and causing the station to be fined. But I digress–the good outweighs the bad in TCM2. Here are a few things I love about this movie: Bill Moseley’s exaltant cry of “Humble Pie!” when raiding the record vault; Jim Siedow’s very creative cursing; and, most especially, the scene when Stretch finds L.G. in the Sawyer family’s underground lair. To me, that scene DEFINES “over the top.” TCM2 turned out to be not quite as good as I remembered it, but it’s still pretty unique, with amazing set design and some very choice moments.

Night of the Creeps (1986)

Fun film about alien slugs that wreak havoc on Earth by reanimating the dead. Tom Atkins is great, Plan 9 from Outer Space is showing on a television, and there are a zombie cat and dog. This was another film that I didn’t particularly care for when it first came out; now, I think that it’s a hoot from start to (almost) finish. It really has that 80s vibe in spades. While watching it this time around, I didn’t remember the film ending as it did. Turns out that Fred Dekker stuck a new ending on the film! (And I later found the original ending in the special features section, so I didn’t get upset or think that I had lost my mind.)

Uzumaki (2000)

Utterly bizarre J-horror film details a town’s battle with spirals. Yup, spirals. Uzumaki reminded me a bit of Kairo (Pulse), another terminally weird Japanese horror movie that also didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I did end up liking Uzumaki better. It’s certainly never boring, and the lead actress is pretty cute, but I doubt that it’ll get much replay action here at Casa Marron.

Smash Cut (2009)

Homage to the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis (and The Gore-Gore Girls in particular) is quite possibly the worst film I’ve seen in several years. In fact, I don’t recall hating a film this much since I saw my least favorite film of all time, Rob Zombie’s desecration of Halloween. It was such a grueling experience that I had to turn the TV off for the night after viewing it, afraid that the ill will that the film engendered in me would rub off on any film that followed it. That the director was able to coerce H. G. (and Michael Berryman and Ray Sager and David Hess) into being in the film can only speak of the need for money that these thespians so obviously had. By the looks of the film, they couldn’t have walked away with very much cash after debasing themselves so badly. At first, Smash Cut elicited in me neither fright nor laughs, but by the end of the film I was feeling a definite sense of anger. It’s one of those films that makes me think that the filmmakers were having a better time making the film than any audience could ever have watching the final product. I can’t come up with any adjectives to accurately describe the film, so these will have to do: stupid and loathsome.

Fright Night (1985)

For some reason, I’ve never really warmed to Fright Night, and I can’t really put my finger on why. It hits all the expected notes that a vampire film should, but maybe it just seems too…calculated to me. Watching it this time out, I was really struck by the sheer 80s-ness of the film, especially in the club scene, where Chris Sarandon and Amanda Bearse strut their stuff on the dance floor. Ending leaves room for a sequel, which eventually appeared–although it didn’t take the second film in the direction that was hinted at in the first film. Fright Night isn’t a bad film, but it’s no classic, either.

Below (2002)

Effective haunted submarine story really leaves it up to the viewer to decide whether the paranormal happenings are real or not. Great cast, good action sequences, incredible set design, and a mystery central to the plot all add up to make a good, solid film. Never as scary as I wanted it to be, Below is still an entertaining ride.

Demons (1985)

What happens when Italian filmmakers decide to throw The Evil Dead, The Terminator, and American Ninja into a big pot and stir? Why, this film, of course! There’s not an original idea to be seen in Demons (it also takes cues from Black Sunday and Dawn of the Dead), but it’s still a rip-roaring good time. Lots of blood and pus are on display as the Italian makeup guys finally learn about latex appliances. The bizarrely eclectic soundtrack features Accept, Motley Crue, and…Go West. Go figure. As the SNL beer parody jingle for Spud says, “Just put your brain on hold” and you’ll have an excellent time.

Ginger Snaps (2000)

Clever movie about two oddball sisters, one of whom gets bitten by a werewolf. When I first saw this eight or so years ago, I was rather underwhelmed; however, I now find it to be a fine addition to the werewolf canon. Both leads are superb, the script is witty and poignant, and there are enough twists on the traditional werewolf mythos that I at times felt like I was seeing a werewolf film for the first time. Shares the same theme as The Company of Wolves, but, unlike that film, Ginger Snaps doesn’t try to drench everything in symbolism to the point of obtuseness. The only letdowns, and they’re minor ones, are that the film feels somewhat overlong and the creature design isn’t up to snuff. Other than that, I’d rank it as the best werewolf film of the last twenty-five years.

Revenge of the Living Dead Girls (1987)

Wonky French film has three girls drinking milk contaminated with a poison from a local pesticide factory, dying, and coming back from the grave to kill everyone who had anything to do with their deaths (even including those unfortunate enough to be even related to those who were more directly responsible). The makeup jobs on the three vengeful zombies are pretty obviously masks, and the film’s narrative is somewhat elliptical, to be kind. However, there’s an alternate ending that, while it doesn’t make a lot of sense, changes the audience’s perceptions of what had gone on before. If you’ve got an hour and a half to burn and aren’t too picky about logic or quality makeup effects, you might find this film interesting.

The Omen (2006)

Perfunctory remake of the 1976 film adds nothing of substance to the original. There are a couple of new dream sequences designed solely to jolt the audience awake, the death sequences have been slightly altered, and there’s a lot more rain, but other than these minor changes, this film is essentially the same as the first. This remake even includes whole swatches of the original’s screenplay with no changes whatsoever, and many of the shots are set up identically between the two films. It’s not awful, but there are no real surprises if you’ve seen the first one. If you haven’t seen the first one, I’m sure that you’ll like this one just fine. Gregory Peck is sorely missed, but at least the remake sounds great in DTS.

Flowers in the Attic (1987)

What was up with this?!? Four children get locked in an upstairs room at “the grandmother”‘s house after their father (who was also their great-uncle) dies. Their mother has a downstairs room in the house, and she checks in on them for a while, until she realizes that she’d be better off without them. She does, however, show the kids a hidden staircase that leads to the attic, where they spend a lot of time wondering why she never comes to visit them anymore. Strange, strange film that never really builds up to any kind of tension, even when (SPOILER ALERT!!) one of the kids dies from poisoned cookies that have been left for them. Veiled references to incest abound, but they remain veiled due to the film’s PG-13 rating. Best line: “Eat the cookie!” High camp value makes this more fun than it has any right to be.

The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

Beautifully-shot ghost story from Guillermo del Toro won me over in its first few shots, when we’re introduced to the new kid at the school, Carlos. The actor that plays Carlos has one of those faces that I immediately related to; he didn’t seem like a kid acting in a movie, he seemed REAL. I guess because I related to the character so quickly, I was all in from the get-go. For me, the most interesting thing in the movie was how the ghost was shown. I was fascinated by the blood that kept flowing out of his wound into the air around him, but it looked like what (I imagine) blood flowing from an underwater wound would look like. It sort of floated out and dispersed into thin air. The film’s villain was completely despicable, which made it doubly satisfying when he got his comeuppance. A good, solid film that builds its scares around the living, not the dead.

The Orphanage (2007)

I enjoyed this one even more than The Devil’s Backbone. I knew pretty much nothing about this film going into it, which made its surprises effective. The end came dangerously close to becoming too saccharine for my tastes, but the very last shot of the film redeemed it completely. I jumped several times, and got some SERIOUS gooseflesh twice–and I can’t ask for more than that from a horror film. The second game of “Knock on the Wall” almost had me watching through my fingers, something I haven’t done since, oh, junior high school. The Orphanage has zoomed onto my “favorite horror films” list. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

Splinter (2008)

A surprisingly effective little thriller, Splinter is one of those films that I would never have watched without some prodding. After all, at first glance it looks like every other movie on SyFy (and what’s up with that idiotic new spelling, anyway?  What exactly does “SyFy” MEAN?) and/or Chiller. Luckily, it has a lot more going for it than I had supposed. Like with  The Devil’s Backbone, I was immediately hooked by an actor; only in this case, it was by ALL of the cast. And I think that’s what sets this film apart from others of its ilk–exceptionally fine acting from everyone involved. I’ll be checking this one out again real soon.

Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)

One of the better made-for-network TV fright films, from the waning days of the cycle. (Think about it…how long has it been since one of the networks aired an original movie? Even theatrical films are obscenely scarce during prime-time on the networks.) Four men murder a mentally-challenged man whom they think has killed a young girl. As it turns out (and as the audience already knows), the man was trying to SAVE the girl, as she was his only friend, and she didn’t actually die, either. After a hearing where they are acquitted of murder, the four start dying in ways that make their deaths look accidental. We, the audience, know that the deaths are not accidental, but what we don’t know is who is actually doing the killing. I’ll admit that I was surprised (and pleased) to find out who the killer actually was. Perfect fare for this time of year.

Whispering Corridors (1998)

A lot of people seem to dearly love this film, but (as much as I LOVE Asian horror) it didn’t quite resonate with me as I had hoped that it would. It’s certainly not a bad film, but it is a little restrained and parts of it are pretty confusing. Still, it has some great atmosphere and an interesting premise. I’ll have to watch it again soon to see if I can fill in some gaps in my understanding of the events of the film. Spawned a handful of sequels of which I’ve only seen one (Wishing Stairs, which I enjoyed more than this one).

The Monster Squad (1987)

Fairly fun film is sort of like The Goonies crossed with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. It’s enjoyable, but it’s certainly not as good as I had hoped it would be. I don’t know why I don’t like it more, but the complete lack of depth to the characters may be one reason. I really like how the Wolfman reassembles himself after he’s been blown up, however. It’s an okay Saturday afternoon kind of film.

Universal Horror (1998)

This made-for-television documentary detailing Universal’s so-called “Golden Age of Horror” was put together by Kevin Brownlow, a personal hero of mine for his reconstruction of Abel Gance’s Napoleon and his essential multi-part documentary about silent cinema, Hollywood. Even though it’s called Universal Horror, it does a pretty good job of covering MOST horror films of the 20s and 30s. Although he seems like a nice guy, a little David J. Skal goes a long way, and there’s more than a little of him in this documentary. But there’s also a good many of the actors who were in these classics (Gloria Stuart, Fay Wray, Rose Hobart) on hand, and it’s a joy to see them talking about the making of these seminal films.

Child’s Play (1988)

Okay, I’ll confess…I find this movie to be a lot of fun. So sue me. I didn’t use to like it very much, but then I saw Bride of Chucky and…well, something clicked. I don’t think that it’s a classic or anything, but it’s an enjoyable 87 minutes that doesn’t feel padded at all.

Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

So-so sequel to the first film. I didn’t get anywhere near the sense of dread from this one that I did from its predecessor, although I did visibly jump at least twice. I found it quite clever in its way of linking up to the first film, however. If you liked the first one, you’ll probably like this one at least a little; if you didn’t find the first one scary, you’ll be bored for ninety minutes.

So, again in lieu of a new post, I’d like to direct your attention to some comments made about my Frank Ochieng post.

Apparently, Tam thinks that I was wrong in my evaluation of Frank Ochieng’s film criticism.  To see what Tam wrote and how I replied, check out the comments section for the Frank Ochieng post, or click HERE.

Does anybody remember Ray Conniff?  When I was growing up, he was a favorite of just about every mother and grandmother that I knew.  Ray (and his singers) produced easy-listening albums chock full of covers of hits of the day, done in a very imitable style.  Most of Ray’s album covers were as bland as his music.  Here are a few to prove my point:

 

 Once, though, Ray outdid himself on the creepy front.  Take a gander at THIS album cover:

 

Nightmarish, no?

I think that Ray fulfilled a need in moms and grandmoms to feel hip, even though they never listened to the radio anymore.  So, they’d buy his latest LP of Conniffized tunes and be able to honestly say, “Why of COURSE I’ve heard ‘Brand New Key’!”

Ray sometimes ended his songs with a fade out, and occasionally he’d just hold a note until he stopped it.  I say that Ray’s style was imitable, though, because after hearing hour upon hour of Ray’s music growing up, I had noticed that most of his songs had the same sort of ending, one in which Ray would have the chorus hold a note and have his drummer put in a fill that ended the song.  After hearing it SO MANY TIMES, this method for ending a song began to amuse me, and I started imitating it.  Sometimes, during conversations with my high-school pals, I would randomly say “Ray Conniff ending!” and do my best imitation of it, which, transcribed, went something like this: “Ahhhhhhhhh………….chiggity-bomp.”  It began to be an inside joke between me and my friends.  One of them would say, out of the blue, “Ray Conniff ending!” and I’d go, on cue, “Ahhhhh………chiggity-bomp.”

Ray had a few variations on this ending, the most frequently-used of which went a little something like this:   “Ahhhhhhh…..chiggy-bomp.”  Note the difference between CHIGGY-bomp and CHIGGITY-bomp.  It’s a subtle difference, but it’s there.

What all this is leading up to, I suppose, is that I found myself thinking about Mr. Conniff today, and, being trapped in the house by inclement weather, I took a few minutes to listen to some of Ray’s music.  Again, I got tickled by the patented Ray Conniff Ending ™, and I felt that it would be fun to make a compilation of some of these endings.

So, without further ado, and until somebody makes me take it down, here’s a sampling of thirty-one of Ray’s greatest song endings.  I hope you enjoy it.

The Ray Conniff Ending

Everyone’s a Critic

Posted: September 5, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

…and that’s a good thing.

In lieu of an actual post, I’ve got a link today to a comment that one of my readers has posted to this blog.  I started to leave it buried in the comments section, but I thought that it raised some interesting points, even if I don’t personally subscribe to them.  Click here to read the comment (and my follow-up comment).

What do you think?  Does Thomas have a valid point?  Have I been overly cruel to the artists that I’ve discussed here?  Let me (and Thomas) know by commenting on this post–come back here after reading the comments and click on the little dialogue balloon at the top right to post your thoughts.

Also, since we’re talking about critics, you need to see this if you haven’t already:  it’s Mel Brooks’s first film, a short called…”The Critic.”