Archive for October, 2010


Posted in Uncategorized on October 29, 2010 by knifefighter

It’s our favorite time of year, and we hope you enjoy it, too.

From all of us here at CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT to all of our readers..wishing you a very HAPPY HALLOWEEN!


Monstrous Question of the Month—Response # 5—OCTOBER 2010

Posted in 2010, Classic Films, Monstrous Question of the Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2010 by knifefighter

(Questions Provided by Michael Arruda)


You know how movie stations load up on horror movies on Halloween night?  If you were in charge of one of these channels, and if it was up to you to choose a triple feature of horror films showing on Halloween night, which three movies would you choose and why?


My first thought goes to George A. Romero’s classic first zombie trilogy, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) and DAY OF THE DEAD (1985). All exceptional films that together remain my all-time favorite trilogy. Even though zombies have reached a saturation point lately, these movies stand the test of time and are true classics. And they’re scary flicks!

Another possibility would be Dario Argento’s Three Mothers trilogy, which was recently completed with MOTHER OF TEARS. This would include SUSPIRIA (1977), which remains Argento’s masterpiece, the incredibly surreal INFERNO (1980) and MOTHER OF TEARS (2007), one of the most fun movies I’ve seen in a long time. I just think it would be cool to show all three movies together, to compare them and see how Argento’s style has changed over time.

But I think the triple feature I’d like to see most is based on a classic drive-in movie poster called ORGY OF THE LIVING DEAD. I never got to see the original movies when they were playing together, but it would be cool to recreate it for one night. This would include: REVENGE OF THE LIVING DEAD (which I think was really CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS from 1973), Mario Bava’s CURSE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1966, better known as KILL, BABY, KILL!) and FANGS OF THE LIVING DEAD (from 1969, with Anita Ekberg). I’ve even included the original movie poster above. This was a mix of zombie and vampire flicks from the late 60s and early 70s.

As an Honorable Mention, I have to mention THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974), only because it’s my all-time favorite horror film, and I’m surprised no one else mentioned it as perfect Halloween viewing.


~L.L. Soares, October 2010

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES

Posted in 2010, Grindhouse, Horror DVDs, Italian Horror, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, Zombie Movies with tags , , , , , on October 28, 2010 by knifefighter

by Nick Cato

On a frosty winter night in 1984, NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES opened in the NY metropolitan area.  Besides the title, the thing that caught my attention on its newspaper ad was the director’s name: Vincent Dawn.  I mean, NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES directed by Vincent DAWN?  (Remember, at this time there was no Internet to Google the name and discover this was an alias for Italian Fulci-wannabe Bruno Mattei).  With DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) fresh in our young minds from a 1983 re-release, my crew and I hit the Rae Twin Cinema (another long-defunct suburban grindhouse here on lovely Staten Island) and we were surprised to find the place was packed: SOLD OUT, in fact.

The opening sequence had the theater in hysterics: A leak at a chemical plant somewhere in Papua, New Guinea, turns a mouse into a flesh-eating monster.  The newly carnivorous critter manages to eat its way inside one of the plant worker’s over-sized, CRAZIES-like white hazmat suit, turning him into a zombie and quickly starting a snowball-effect of living dead.

But the Romero-ness didn’t end there.  What happened next ALMOST made me leave the theater: we’re introduced to a four-man team, sent in to contain the zombie outbreak.  Each one is dressed in S.W.A.T. attire, making a theater full of (mostly) DAWN fans groan out loud.

And then the film does something seldom seen outside of a National Geographic special.  Apparently added to fill up a respectable running time, there are countless scenes of our squad walking through the New Guinea jungle, looking to their right and left for the undead.  But the editor(s) of this masterpiece took the opportunity to stick in stock footage of animals in their natural habitats; birds, hippos, lizards, cattle…every time these poor, exploited creatures showed up I nearly wet myself laughing, wondering if we had paid to see a zombie film or a lost episode of WILD KINGDOM.

But despite all the silly stock footage and blunt DAWN-rip offness, NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES features plenty of head-shots and gore, which is good considering their isn’t much of a story going on here, so the film at least gives fans of the undead some grue to keep their interest.

Yet to add insult to injury, the producers also swiped Goblin’s soundtrack from DAWN OF THE DEAD and felt at liberty to use it…no idea if anyone was ever sued.  And in an attempt to truly make a Romero-esque picture, the underlying theme (about trying to feed overpopulated countries) is so obscured by the poor overdubbing and silly stock footage, Mattei’s (OOPS—I mean Vincent Dawn’s) attempt at some social commentary is utterly lost in the shuffle.

I’m pretty sure it was at this screening when I realized just how popular DAWN OF THE DEAD was, and how much horror fans loved and respected it.  Constant yells of “What a rip off!” and “I want my money back!” (and even one “Sue these bastards!”) continually filled the theater to my giggling friends and my own delight.

Besides the celluloid thievery, my biggest complaint as a zombie fan was how most of the zombies looked; while a few were genuinely eerie, most were just people covered in mud and grime: I’m thinking the effects crew must’ve saved on latex to buy some New Guinea home-grown and had the zombie extras pelt each other with mud pies.  Either way, most of the undead looked painfully silly (see pic at end of article).

Despite being told the only way to kill these zombies is to shoot them in the head, COUNTLESS ROUNDS of ammo are still wasted putting holes in the recently risen dead.  Apparently rip-off SWAT teams don’t take directions as well as those stationed in Pittsburgh.

Originally titled VIRUS in Italy, then NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES for its U.S. release, the film is more commonly known worldwide as HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD (the title given to its latest DVD release from Starz/Anchor Bay video).

If you’re in the mood to see George Romero and Lucio Fulci get ripped off (the ending is a “nod” to Fulci’s ZOMBIE from 1979), then by all means see this flick.  If you’re in the mood to hear a theater full of DAWN fans go ape, try to get a screening of this in your local theater.  At least Bruno Mattei sort-of redeemed himself in 1989 when he finished ZOMBIE 3 (1980), after Fulci passed away during the shoot.  But that’s another story.

If you see this, just remember to watch out for the mice…

Dirt and Grime: not the best choice for realistic zombie make-up effects

© Copyright 2010 by Nick Cato

Monstrous Question of the Month—Response # 4—OCTOBER 2010

Posted in 2010, Classic Films, Horror, Monstrous Question of the Month with tags , , , , , on October 27, 2010 by knifefighter

(Questions Provided by Michael Arruda)


You know how movie stations load up on horror movies on Halloween night?  If you were in charge of one of these channels, and if it was up to you to choose a triple feature of horror films showing on Halloween night, which three movies would you choose and why?


I’d say, and I’m sure a lot of others might pick these as well:

PSYCHO (1960)


and of course HALLOWEEN (1978)

These are all a bit different theme-wise, of course, but aside from all being brilliant films on a lot of levels, the most common thing between them is atmosphere. All take their subjects seriously, no goofy camp or overabundance of humor thrown in.

Really good horror—when it’s good, mind you—has such an impact when the audience isn’t pulled from the illusion of the film with a joke or a sly wink. You can still have these, in moderation, but… these films have a constant sense of dread, but aren’t so oppressive you feel like you’ve spent an hour and a half trapped underground in a coffin.

Take HALLOWEEN for example. Constant outdoor shots, normal neighborhood, breeze blowing leaves down the street. These shots keep the setting real and blow air into the lungs of your imagination, before pulling you back into the house for a good screech.

It’s the same with PSYCHO. Wide overcast skies between the motel and house, give a sense of openness, before you’re pulled in. OK, waxing a little poetic here. But these movies are so well done, from direction to acting (granted, the acting in HALLOWEEN doesn’t compete much with the other two), to overall atmosphere, that they only add to the overall joy of Halloween.

Note, you might substitute the original THE OMEN (1976) with THE EXORCIST, if you so choose. I’m not picky. THE EXORCIST would be my first choice, though. But I would save HALLOWEEN for last. It has more action and overall hoot-ness to end the holiday with a bang. Or a scream.


~Dan Keohane, October 2010

Monstrous Question of the Month—Response # 3—OCTOBER 2010

Posted in 2010, Classic Films, Horror, Monstrous Question of the Month with tags , , , , , on October 26, 2010 by knifefighter

(Questions Provided by Michael Arruda)


You know how movie stations load up on horror movies on Halloween night?  If you were in charge of one of these channels, and if it was up to you to choose a triple feature of horror films showing on Halloween night, which three movies would you choose and why?


I’m a man of tradition.  Every Halloween there are two films I manage to watch, and (of course) they are NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) and HALLOWEEN (1978).

One film that I also watch is HELL NIGHT [1981] (which, ironically, I just wrote about in last week’s installment of my bi-weekly column, Suburban Grindhouse Memories, on this fine site).  Linda Blair and a bunch of college kids–in costume–have to spend the night in a mansion with a dark history.  The film relies more on scares and atmosphere than gore, and it works great.  The whole feel and tone of the film screams “HALLOWEEN TIME!”

It’d be nice if the film found a new audience.  It’s one of those rare gems that looks great on the TV behind you while you’re handing out candy to the neighborhood beggars…errr…kids.


~Nick Cato, October 2010


Posted in 2010, Cinema Knife Fights, Demons, Haunted Houses, Paranormal, Prequels, Sequels with tags , , , , on October 25, 2010 by knifefighter

by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(SCENE 1: We see the outside of a house. The words “NIGHT # 1, October 23, 2010, 2:45am” appear on the screen)

(SCENE 2: Inside that same suburban house. All the lights are out, and MICHAEL ARRUDA and L.L. SOARES are sitting at the kitchen table, in the dark)

MA: Did I tell you the one about the priest, the rabbi, the minister, and the talking baby sitting at a bar?
LS: Shh! You’ll scare the ghosts away.

MA: I thought you said we were waiting for demons?

LS: Ghosts, demons. Same difference.

MA: Aah, not according to the movie we’re reviewing tonight, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2. It makes a distinction between ghosts and demons that I found interesting, that ghosts are the spirits of people, but demons are evil entities.

LS: The folks who made this film have obviously never met Hellboy!

(There is a huge BELCH, and both LS and MA jump. The light goes on and HELLBOY enters.)

HELLBOY: Pay no attention to me, boys. I’ll be out of here in a jiffy. (opens refrigerator and pulls out a couple of beers). Abe Sapien’s having a bad night. I’m cheering him up. And for the record, (addresses camera), I’m a demon, but I’m not evil. (Burps, and house shakes again.) Exits and shuts off light.

MA: I can’t see a damn thing. Ow! Who just hit me?

LS: I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count.

This week we’re reviewing the movie PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2, the sequel to the 2008 hit, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, which I reviewed on this very site not long after we launched it. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY was one of these small horror flicks that became a big success mostly due to word of mouth.

The first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY was about a couple, Katie (Katie Featherstone) and Micah (Micah Sloat), who move in together in a new home that appears to be haunted. Lots of very bizarre things start happening, so Micah gets a video camera to tape the goings-on. And things just get continually weirder and more dangerous from there. At one point, a medium comes to their house to communicate with the ghosts, but he leaves soon afterwards. He tells them what is haunting the place is not a ghost. It’s a demon.

MA: Which would be bad, since demons are evil.

(HELLBOY’S voice off-camera): I heard that!

LS: As the camera films them, especially in their bedroom while they think they’re sleeping, the scares get spookier and spookier, culminating in an effective shock ending.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 confused me at first, because I thought it was a sequel. It really isn’t. It’s a prequel. It takes place 60 days before the first movie and focuses on Katie’s sister, Kristi Rey (Sprague Grayden), and her family. When Kristi and her husband Dan (Brian Boland) bring home their new baby boy, Hunter, things start getting very strange in the house. There are weird noises, frying pans move and crash to the floor, cabinets open by themselves. Unlike Katie in the first movie, Kristi doesn’t get an expert to diagnose the house, but Dan does have motion-sensitive cameras put in every room after they come home one day to find the house trashed (and assume there was a break-in), so we can observe what is going on.

Like the first movie, PA2 is totally told from the point of view of cameras, just like the movie that obviously inspired both of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films – THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999).

(SCENE 3: We see the outside of a house. The words “NIGHT # 2, October 23, 2010, 10:12pm” appear on the screen)

(SCENE 4: Inside the house and back in the kitchen)

LS: What the hell happened? I was right in the middle of talking and it suddenly skipped like 17 hours, according to my watch!

MA: It’s the way things work in this movie. Might as well go on with the review.

LS: Freaky….

Anyway, the way you know PA2 is a prequel is that early on, Katie and Micah from the first movie come over for a visit, and, as people who saw the first movie know, Micah is no longer among the living.

At first, Dan thinks Kristi is a little loopy when she starts telling him about weird happenings. And she’s not the only one. Their nanny, Martine, is constantly praying to herself and lighting incense to spread around the house (to ward off evil spirits), so Dan gets fed up and fires her.

It’s teenage Ali (Molly Efraim), Dan’s daughter from a previous marriage, who starts putting things together, by doing research on the Internet. Once Ali starts to believe her, Kristi doesn’t feel so nuts, but Dan still refuses to believe either of them, even when confronted with evidence (mostly filmed by the cameras in the house). He just continues to state that he doesn’t believe in this stuff, like that is going to protect him from the wrath of household demons.

Whatever the demon is, it seems to be very interested in young Hunter.

The interesting thing about the movie is that it actually does explain how the demons got from their house to Katie and Michah’s. The last part of the new movie also gives us a legitimate sequel to the first film – as it suddenly jumps to the day after the end of Part 1.

I really liked the first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. Somehow, despite having no budget, no name stars, and just doing tricks with sounds and simple effects, the first film was very effective, and actually had some good scares. PA2 carries on in this tradition. Even though it’s a sequel, it’s a satisfying return to the territory of the first film, giving us some interesting answers along the way—before and after the events of the first one.

MA: I liked this one too, but not as much as you. I enjoyed the story, and I liked the characters. I thought the family members were likeable enough, especially the dad, as his sense of humor was pretty funny. He gets a little annoying later on in the movie, as he continues to refuse to believe in what’s going on, at one point making the ridiculous decision to leave his teenage daughter alone in the house with his infant son and “comatose” wife, (she won’t get out of bed)—the night after they’re all shaken up by the weird occurrence of their family dog being injured—because he has a meeting he can’t miss. Thanks, Dad!

I also enjoyed the teenage daughter a lot. She acted liked a teenager without being too angst-ridden, a trait we’ve seen a lot in recent years in characterizations of teenage daughters. She’s also in one of the funnier moments of the film, when she and her boyfriend play with a Ouija board. Even better, this very funny moment is quickly followed by a very creepy moment.

LS: The teenager daughter, Ali, is my favorite character in the film. She also seemed to be the smartest one (no surprise there). I liked her scenes the best. Plus she had great taste in music, with posters of The Misfits and The Ramones on her wall.

MA: Most of all I enjoyed being scared by this movie. The film does a good job making you feel uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable throughout most of this movie, and the audience I saw it with also seemed to enjoy being scared. There was lots of nervous laughter, and even a couple of screams. So, if you like being scared, for this reason alone, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 is worth your while.

LS: Considering how many recent horror films don’t have scares at all (MY SOUL TO TAKE comes instantly to mind), the fact that PA2 is so good at generating scares and thrills is a big deal. Especially since it had a fraction of the big Hollywood movies’ budgets.

MA: The problem I have with PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 is that its scares work because they prey on our universal fear of being alone at night in a house. As anyone who has spent time in a house (which means pretty much all of us, folks!) knows, being alone at night can be daunting. Houses make noise, lots of noise. Floors creak, furnaces and hot water heaters go on and off, windows rattle, wood beams shift, you name it. It’s very easy to let your imagination run wild. Throw in a family dog, which has far better hearing than you do, and which may start barking or whining in the middle of the night, and that’s creepy, too. And having to walk through your dark house at 3:00 in the morning to attend to your crying baby, which those of us who have kids have all had to do, that’s scary, too.

(Tiny footsteps are heard padding through the kitchen. The refrigerator door opens, and the light of the fridge reveals a BABY standing there in pajamas looking inside. He turns to MA and LS.)

BABY: Don’t mind me, guys. I can help myself. I can’t sleep. My laptop’s charging up, so I figured I’d come down here for a cold one. (Pulls out a baby bottle.)

MA: What the hell are you?

BABY: What does it look like? I’m a friggin baby! Can’t you see that?

LS: We know that, but—you’re talking!

MA: And walking!

BABY: So? In my family we walk and talk right out of the womb. Haven’t you ever seen those E-trade commercials? That’s my big brother.

Sheesh! What a couple of dopes. (EXITS).

MA: That was weird.

Anyway, my point is that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 takes full advantage of these fears, and so its scares are based on these common experiences, rather than simply by what’s going on in the movie. These things are scary in and of themselves. They don’t need a supernatural element to make them frightening. So, I’m not sure the film succeeds in scaring me at that level. Sure, it was scary because a demon might be involved, but for the majority of this movie, we don’t see any demon, and we’re frightened because we’re in the silent dark with these characters waiting for that unexpected loud noise to scare us, which it does.

And for a movie that had lots of slight scares throughout, it really is lacking that one major jolt to put it over the top.

I also thought that early on, a lot of the nighttime shots labeled “Night #2,” “Night #3,” etc. grew repetitive, as not much happens during these scenes. Frankly, I was sick of seeing the same shots of the swimming pool and the front door over and over again.

(SCENE 5: Outside of the house. The words “NIGHT # 3, October 24, 2010, 11:22pm” appear on the screen)

(SCENE 6: Back in the kitchen)

LS: What the ….

MA: Time jump again. This is getting tiresome.

LS: You’re telling me. I want to finish this review before I get too old. Get back to what you were saying.

MA: I wasn’t entirely satisfied by the film’s resolution, either, because I didn’t necessarily buy the supernatural explanation. Without giving the story away, a person doesn’t have to be possessed to do crazy things. I wasn’t convinced by the events in this movie that a demon was responsible.

I also wanted some outside perspective. For instance, did anyone else ever watch the video footage of the mother being dragged through the house by an invisible person? If so, this would go a long way in convincing me that bad old Mr. Demon was responsible

LS: Would it be “outside perspective” if someone else in the family saw it? And anyone outside the family wouldn’t have access – except for us. And WE SAW THE FOOTAGE.

MA: The police would have access. I just wanted a scene where someone else saw that scene, to verify what we saw.

The fact that we saw the “footage” means nothing to me. What are we supposed to be watching anyway? Discovered footage of the family’s security tapes? A documentary of these events made by a filmmaker? I don’t think so, because any filmmaker is conspicuously absent. The film doesn’t do a good job giving us perspective outside the family’s cameras, and as a result, doesn’t really deliver a well-rounded story.

LS: I don’t know.  It worked just fine for me.

MA: Another problem I had is when bad scary stuff starts happening—would you grab a camera and start filming? That would be the last thing on my mind. I buy using the night vision so you could see in the pitch black darkness, but in one scene the daughter hears a noise in the house at night, and she grabs her camera to record it. I wouldn’t want to be walking through darkened hallways after hearing loud noises in my house holding a camera in front of my face.

LS: Most of the movie is captured on cameras installed in the house that have motion sensors. So that makes sense (I guess). As for Ali going through the house with a video camera in that scene—hell, I just thought she was a brave kid.

MA: I guess. She’s braver than I would have been!

LS: One thing I was wondering is why was this movie rated R? There’s no gore, no nudity, and what violence there is doesn’t seem that excessive. The first movie got a PG-13. Why didn’t this one? And the theater I went to was actually enforcing it for once – making sure no one under 17 got in. And there was no reason to. We’re not talking CALIGULA here.

MA: I agree. It wasn’t excessive at all.

LS: In some scenes, very simple things happen, like pots and pans suddenly moving, cabinet doors opening, doors opening and closing, and yet they generate real scares and had the audience on edge (every once in awhile, you’d hear someone scream).

MA: Yep. And I liked this, as it was creepy, scary, and fun, but again, I thought the next step was clearly missing, that being the jump from simple scares to a big-time, memorable fright.

LS: I suppose I agree. Some people in the audience reacted to the ending pretty strongly, but I didn’t find it all that scary. There was no big, powerful “GOTCHA” scene here. But there were enough smaller ones that really worked—and a consistent sense of tension throughout —so I think people felt satisfied.

MA: I think a really big fright would have made this a better movie, especially towards the end. I mean, there’s a lot of build up, but no major pay-off.

LS: There is a scene in the commercial for PA2 that takes place in Hunter’s room. Their dog, Abbie, is barking at the bathroom door, and suddenly we see a woman standing there. It’s an effective scene, but it is not in the final film.

MA: I would have to say, this was my biggest disappointment with this film, because I liked that scene, and I was looking forward to it in the movie. Shame on you, moviemakers! I hate it when scenes appear in trailers and then they’re nowhere to be found in the final film. Rip-off!

But taken as a whole, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 is not a rip-off. It’s actually a very scary way to spend 90 minutes. Just don’t expect anything classic or riveting to the point where you’ll be telling all your friends about it. It might make you leave a light on before you go to bed the night after seeing it, but don’t expect any lifelong nightmares.

LS: Oh, I totally disagree about the “telling your friends” part. The first movie became a hit because of word of mouth – and a very effective viral marketing campaign. I think the second movie is just as strong, and works on the same level. You and I might not have found it as scary as it could have been – but most of the people in the audience seemed genuinely scared by the goings on. And believe me, they’ll tell their friends. This one will be as big a hit as the first one.

MA: Perhaps. And if people want to tell their friends to go see this movie because it’s scary, all the power to them, but I don’t think there’s that much to talk about.

LS: And yeah, I don’t see any nightmares in my future. And I won’t be leaving any lights on. It was effective while I was watching it, but I don’t think it will really stay with me on any level.

But I have to admit, I really liked this one for what it was. I give it three knives. How about you, Michael?

MA: I liked it, too, but just a little less than you. I give it two and a half knives.

(The lights suddenly come on, to show an attractive woman standing in the doorway of the kitchen. She’s dressed only in a sheer nightgown and appears to be in a trance, and is growling)

LS: Sweet! Talk about hospitality!

MA: I don’t think she’s here to make us feel at home. She looks possessed.

LS: Sorry we drank all your beer, lady.

(The woman lunges at them and the lights go out, followed by screaming)


© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Micheal Arruda gives PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 Two and a half knives!

L.L. Soares gives PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 – Three knives!

Monstrous Question of the Month Response #2—OCTOBER 2010

Posted in 2010, Classic Films, Giant Monsters, Monstrous Question of the Month with tags , , , , , on October 22, 2010 by knifefighter

(Questions Provided by Michael Arruda)


You know how movie stations load up on horror movies on Halloween night?  If you were in charge of one of these channels, and if it was up to you to choose a triple feature of horror films showing on Halloween night, which three movies would you choose and why?


There are so many movie marathons to choose from, for me to pick one in particular would really come down to my frame of mind on that day.  So, today I’m thinking big.  That’s right, big bad-ass monsters destroying everything in their sight, which means today my triple feature would be:

I’d lead off with the ultimate giant monster movie of all time, KING KONG (1933). It still amazes me how well this movie holds up today.  The scenes on Skull Island are as intense today as they were in 1933.  Incidentally, Skull Island is not named in the movie.  That’s right. No one in the film refers to the island as “Skull Island,” even though that’s how fans of the movie have come to know Kong’s home.

You’ve got a great cast with Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot, Frank Reicher, and of course King Kong himself, who really comes off as a living, breathing creature, even though in reality he was an 18-inch animated model.  There’s a brilliant music score by Max Steiner, and direction that was ahead of its time by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack.

The special effects remain remarkable.  Willis O’Brien and his crew were amazing.  If you ever get a chance to read accounts of how the special effects for KING KONG were done, do it.  You’ll be in for a treat.  It’s an amazing story.  My favorite anecdote is how the effect of Kong’s fur actually moving, such a minute detail, was all a mistake.  When the special effects team watched the early rushes of their work, they were horrified to see impressions from their hands appearing on Kong’s fur, a result of their using their hands to move the Kong model in the stop-motion technique.  They thought they were ruined, until someone came in, saw the film and said, “Hey, neat!  Kong’s fur moves!”  They realized then they were saved.

After KING KONG, I would move on to GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS! (1954). Japan’s first Godzilla movie is actually quite scary.  Godzilla’s rampage through Tokyo still gives me the chills.  The original Japanese version is superior to the American release with scenes of Raymond Burr inserted into the action, but even that version is excellent.

I would conclude with the best giant monster movie of the 21st century so far, CLOVERFIELD (2008). While this movie was far more effective on the big screen than at home on DVD, mostly because its frantic hand-held camerawork was easier to follow on the big screen, it’s still an exciting thrill ride.  Very few modern horror movies are about giant monsters.  Fewer still are actually scary.  CLOVERFIELD is very scary.  I can’t wait for the sequel.

That’s my triple feature.

Happy Halloween!

~Michael Arruda, October 2010