Archive for April, 2011

MONSTROUS QUESTION: WHAT’S WRONG WITH WEREWOLVES? (ANSWER #4)

Posted in 2011, Michael Arruda Reviews, Monstrous Question, Philisophical Discussions, Werewolf Movies, Werewolves on April 29, 2011 by knifefighter

MONSTROUS QUESTION- WHAT’S WRONG WITH WEREWOLVES? – ANSWER # 4 – MICHAEL ARRUDA

(MONSROUS QUESTIONS provided by Michael Arruda)

What’s wrong with the werewolf as a movie monster?  Why hasn’t he ever been as popular as other monsters, such as vampires and zombies?

****

FROM MICHAEL ARRUDA:

I wish there wasn’t anything wrong with the werewolf as a movie monster, because I’ve always found them to be the scariest of the classic monsters, scarier than Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, the Mummy and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, for instance.

So, what’s the problem?  Why aren’t werewolves the smashing success its monster cousins are?

I think there are multiple reasons here as to why werewolves aren’t as popular.  Let’s seek out these reasons by looking at what makes the other monsters popular.

Take vampires, for instance, probably the most popular movie monster in history.  They’re popular for many reasons, but the one I seem to hear the most, is that vampires— for whatever reason— are sexy.  They’re sexy because they’re sensual.  They attack by biting victims on the neck, and most of the time before the bite on the neck there’s some kissing involved, and since kissing is sensual, so are vampires.

Werewolves are not sensual.  They kill by tearing out the throats of their victims and ripping them apart.  Yep, I can see how that would be less appealing than making out with a handsome or voluptuous vampire.

Vampires in the movies also tend to be good looking.  Women loved Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee as Dracula, and today, as much as I hate to mention his name, girls do go ga-ga over Edward in the TWILIGHT movies.

Werewolves are not good looking.  They’re furry with very sharp teeth.  They’re frightening as hell to look at.

Movie vampires also tend to be evil.  For some reason, people love evil characters in the movies.  It’s why villains are so popular.  We don’t want “evil” for a neighbor, but we love him on the big screen.

Werewolves aren’t evil.  They’re just ferocious, like the vicious dog down the street that’s going to bite your ass off if he gets out of that fenced in yard.

Let’s move on to the Frankenstein Monster.  Usually, the Frankenstein Monster is sympathetic. You feel bad for him.  It’s not his fault he’s a monster. It’s Dr. Frankenstein’s fault for stitching his body together from other bodies and then giving him life.  As scary as the Monster is, we feel bad for him.

Werewolves are sympathetic too.  Who doesn’t feel bad for Larry Talbot?  So, mark this down as a plus for werewolves.

But the Frankenstein Monster is also unstoppable.  He can’t be killed, which certainly makes him incredibly scary.

Werewolves are not unstoppable.  You only have to shoot them with a silver bullet.

But what about zombies?  They’re not evil, nor sensuous, and they’re certainly not good-looking.  They’re also neither sympathetic nor unstoppable.  You only have to put a bullet in their heads, yet they’re much more popular than werewolves. Aah, but zombies attack in immense numbers.  They’re an infestation like roaches, and when they appear, it’s an epidemic as entire armies of zombies cover the countryside.

Werewolves don’t attack in immense numbers.  They’re usually just one or two per movie, not counting the shirtless buff boys from TWILIGHT.

So, what’s wrong with werewolves?

They don’t resonate with audiences because they’re not sensual, they’re not evil, they’re not unstoppable, and they’re not terrorizing the countryside in massive numbers.  Yes, they’re frightening, and they’re sympathetic, but sympathy isn’t always the best trait to have when you’re trying to be a successful movie monster.

If I had to choose a main reason why werewolves aren’t as popular, I’d have to say, it’s the “evil” factor.  Werewolves just aren’t that evil.  I think it’s time we had an evil movie werewolf.   I want to see a werewolf that everybody loves to hate, a real genuine evil bastard, a villain for the ages, the antithesis of likable Larry Talbot.  In short, the scariest creature you can imagine, and when he comes out at night, he’s going to do some awful things to people, things we’re not likely to forget.

Anyway, here’s hoping that there are plenty of werewolf movies in our future, and that the best are still ahead.

—END—

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MONSTROUS QUESTION: WHAT’S WRONG WITH WEREWOLVES? (ANSWER #3)

Posted in 2011, Colleen Wanglund Reviews, Monstrous Question, Philisophical Discussions, Werewolf Movies with tags , , , , on April 28, 2011 by knifefighter

MONSTROUS QUESTION: ANSWER #3 – COLLEEN WANGLUND

 (Monstrous Questions provided by Michael Arruda)

 

What’s wrong with the werewolf as a movie monster?  Why hasn’t he ever been as popular as other monsters, such as vampires and zombies?

 *****

FROM COLLEEN WANGLUND:

I think overall the werewolf has done well as a movie monster.  I love the original THE WOLF MAN (1941) with Lon Chaney Jr., more for sentimental reasons than anything else—spending Saturday nights watching the Universal monster movies with my dad when I was a kid.  My first taste of werewolves.

And as far as I’m concerned no one has as yet matched the special effects magic of John Landis’s AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981).  I’m still amazed every time I see Jack appear with his throat ripped out and decaying more and more; and I have yet to see as beautiful and grotesque a transformation as David goes through without the use of CGI.  I can almost feel his pain.

Since 1913 there have been over 130 movies from varying countries either about werewolves or having a werewolf character, including the HARRY POTTER series with the character Lupin, THE HOWLING series, Stephen King’s SILVER BULLET (1985), WEREWOLF OF LONDON (1935), and I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957).  Of course there have been bad movies as well as good ones….it’s the same no matter the sub-genre.

One of the best and most imaginative werewolf movies in my opinion is THE COMPANY OF WOLVES (1984) directed by Neil Jordan which is a take on the original Grimm’s Brother’s tale with the underlying theme of sex and rape.  Another great werewolf movie is GINGER SNAPS (2000) about a girl who is attacked by a werewolf and begins the slow transformation into the beast.  While also having the underlying theme of sex and rape, GINGER SNAPS adds a twist as the antagonist is a female.  She is both victim and sexual aggressor.

On a side note I have always had the idea that Robert Louis Stevenson’s character Mr. Hyde was, in fact a werewolf or shape shifter.  I think it is more apparent in the book than in any of the movies, but for me it seems to work whether on a physical level or a psychological one.  It also plays well with the theme of rape and violence against women.

Anyway, I think the werewolf is alive and well and doing just fine in the movies.  I also think, when done properly there has been quite a bit of depth to the monster in many movies, whether it’s Hammer Studios or the HOMBRE LOBO series from Spain.

—END—

MONSTROUS QUESTION: WHAT’S WRONG WITH WEREWOLVES? (ANSWER #2)

Posted in 2011, LL Soares Reviews, Monstrous Question, Philisophical Discussions, Werewolf Movies with tags , , , , , , on April 27, 2011 by knifefighter

MONSTROUS QUESTION – ANSWER # 2 – L.L. SOARES

(Monstrous Questions provided by Michael Arruda)

 

 

What’s wrong with the werewolf as a movie monster?  Why hasn’t he ever been as popular as other monsters, such as vampires and zombies?

 ******

FROM L.L. SOARES:

I think werewolves have been a bit more popular than you give them credit for. As you said, in the 80s, there was AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, THE HOWLING (and its sequels), and stuff off the beaten track like WOLFEN (all three of those movies came out in 1981). So they have had times where they were pretty popular. Around that same time was the remake of CAT PEOPLE (1982) too, which isn’t a werewolf movie, but it had shape shifters of another, similar sort. The Stephen King adaptation, SILVER BULLET, also came out in the 80s (1985).

In the early 00s, we had another mini-wave set off by GINGER SNAPS in 2000, as well as a prequel (GINGER SNAPS: THE BEGINNING) and a sequel (GINGER SNAPS: UNLEASHED), both from 2004. The GINGER SNAPS movies centered on two sisters in high school, one of whom becomes a werewolf, and the first movie, especially, is very good. Of course, the horrible werewolf flick CURSED (by Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson), also came out this decade (in 2005), and might just be the worst werewolf movie ever made.

Werewolf movies do seem to come in bunches. But you’re right, that they’ve never rivaled the popularity of vampires or, more recently, zombies, which just seem to be everywhere. Personally, the werewolf concept always intrigued me as a writer, because it’s an exploration of the animals within us – our past selves before we became civilized, and the potential to revert back to that state at a moment’s notice – and I think that is just as relevant and powerful as our reactions to death and immortality. I always felt DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, another favorite creature of mine, explored similar territory.

Werewolves always have cycles where they become popular (like the cycles of the moon), but they just don’t have the kinds of rabid fans that vampires and zombies have. Vampires, especially, never seem to go out of style.

More recently, of course, there are the werewolves in the TWILIGHT movies, and they’re almost as popular as the vampires. Although, the way they’re portrayed  – as giant CGI wolves – is just lame.

—END—

MONSTROUS QUESTION: WHAT’S WRONG WITH WEREWOLVES? (ANSWER # 1)

Posted in 2011, Monstrous Question, Nick Cato Reviews, Philisophical Discussions, Werewolf Movies, Werewolves with tags , , , , , on April 26, 2011 by knifefighter

MONSTROUS QUESTION: WHAT’S WRONG WITH WEREWOLVES? – ANSWER # 1 – NICK CATO

(Monstrous Question provided by Michael Arruda)

We’re going to get deep and philosophical on tonight’s MONSTROUS QUESTION.  Ready?

While watching the recent RED RIDING HOOD (2011), a movie about a werewolf, it got me to thinking:  why is it that werewolves just haven’t made it big in the movies?

Sure, we’ve had the classics like THE WOLF MAN (1941) starring Lon Chaney Jr., followed by Chaney’s numerous appearances as Larry Talbot aka the Wolf Man in the Universal sequels, but what else have we had?

Hammer Films made only one werewolf movie THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (1961). We saw AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and THE HOWLING series in the 1980s, and recently we had the well-received remake of THE WOLFMAN (2010), but compared to vampires, and now zombies, werewolves just haven’t taken off.  Why?

That’s tonight’s MONSTROUS QUESTION:  What’s wrong with the werewolf as a movie monster?  Why hasn’t he ever been as popular as other monsters, such as vampires and zombies?

***

FROM NICK CATO:

 I think people identify more easily with vampires than with werewolves.  With vampires, who wouldn’t want the power to seduce your prey and have super-human strength?  And when the night’s over, you don’t have to worry about waking up naked in the middle of the woods with your clothes torn to shreds.  Vampires are also usually cool and in control, something werewolves are not.

And while I doubt anyone would want to be a zombie, zombies are a nightmarish version of what may be waiting beyond the grave, and despite the goofiness of most zombie films, the whole concept is terrifying (whether we want to admit it or not).  They are us in a new, permanent, decaying state.  Whereas vampires are the creatures horror fans fantasize about being, zombies are the things we fear becoming.  They’re the ultimately loved and ultimately feared creatures.

Werewolves are somewhere in the middle of this: while it’d be cool to be able to transform at will, traditional werewolves are at the mercy of a full moon (almost like being the employee of an annoying boss), and as mentioned, have very little control over their situation.   Perhaps werewolves have never received the love vamps and zombies have due to our own control issues.

—END—

THE BLEEDING HOUSE (2011)

Posted in 2011, Cinema Knife Fights, Indie Horror, Psycho killer with tags , , , , , , on April 25, 2011 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE BLEEDING HOUSE (2011)
By L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: an old house in the middle of nowhere. L.L. SOARES is waiting outside, checking his watch)

LS: Well, it looks like Michael Arruda isn’t going to be showing up today. Looks like I’m going to have to review this one on my own. I have to admit, I wasn’t really sure what I should review for this week. Nothing genre-related came out in theaters, and so I went looking on cable OnDemand for recent horror films. I came across this one called THE BLEEDING HOUSE (2011) and knew nothing about it, so I figured I would check it out.

(A giant purple Easter Bunny runs by, carrying a basket of colored eggs.)

EASTER BUNNY: I’m late, I’m late. I’m late for an important date.

LS: Hey! What do you think you’re doing? Stop for a minute.

(EASTER BUNNY stops and looks into the camera, and we realize he actually looks an awful lot like the rabbit from DONNIE DARKO (2001). Ominous music plays as he runs out into the woods)

LS: Well, that was spooky. And that definitely wasn’t Michael. He’s not that tall.

Oh well, back to the review.

THE BLEEDING HOUSE begins with our introduction to the Smith family, who live in a house much like this one (motions to the house behind him), in the middle of nowhere. Right off the bat, we know there’s something wrong with them. The mother, Marilyn (Betsy Aidem), seems very tense and cuts up everyone’s food into tiny pieces before she serves them dinner. The dad, Matt (Richard Bekins), seems very upset about something all the time, and their daughter, Gloria (Alexandra Chando) is a very strange teenage girl. Not only does she have insects pinned to the wall, like some kind of entomologist’s lair, but she won’t respond when people call her Gloria, and they have to call her Blackbird instead.

There’s also Gloria’s older brother, Quentin (Charlie Hewson), who seems like the most normal of the group. I guess he’s sort of like Marilyn on THE MUNSTERS. He looks to be in early 20s, but he still lives at home (in the basement), even though his girlfriend, Lynne (Nina Lisandrello) tries to talk him to leaving and starting fresh somewhere else.

It’s clear that this family has some serious issues, and they’re living out in the sticks on purpose, to escape a tragedy from the past that involves fire and a house burning down.

Then a stranger happens by. He’s dressed in a white suit and carries what looks like a doctor’s bag, and goes by the name of Nick (Patrick Breen). Nick’s car broke down, and since there aren’t many houses out this way, and temperatures are supposed to drop down below freezing that night, he asks if he can stay with the Smiths until morning, when he can get his car fixed. At first, Matt is leery and doesn’t want to help the stranger, but the more they talk, the more he feels at ease with the stranger. Marilyn says no immediately to letting the man stay overnight, but soon changes her mind after she listens in on him and her husband talking outside. So they offer Nick shelter for the night.

Nick is as strange as the Smith family. He has a Southern accent and is polite, but talks in an antiquated kind of way. In fact, there’s a lot about him that recalls an older time. He’s a quirky kind of gent who immediately starts having long conversations with the family members, the mother in particular, and they seem to want to open up around him. Except for Gloria, who doesn’t trust anybody, and who breaks the neck of a bird in front of Nick when one gets into her room and her mother tells her to get rid of it. Nick asks Marilyn why Gloria is such a “strange little girl.” But Nick is hiding a secret of his own, that involves a desire to save souls, and he is drawn to this broken family.

It’s not long before he’s acting out in violent ways, and we slowly learn what’s going on. What happened to the Smith family to make them so sad and jittery, and what Nick has in store for them?

(A MAN in a white suit comes out of the woods)

MAN: My car broke down. Could you give a traveler a place to stay for the night?

LS: I don’t live here, fella. I’m just finishing up a movie review.

MAN: Do you happen to know who does live here?

LS: No clue. I just thought this was an atmospheric kind of place to do my review. But you’re welcome to knock on the door and find out.

MAN: Thank you kindly.

(MAN goes past LS and knocks on the front door of the house)

LS: THE BLEEDING HOUSE is one of those quirky little hybrids that combine a low-budget independent film sensibility with a horror movie. This has kind of become a genre unto itself, especially in the work of indie director Larry Fessenden (HABIT (1995) and WENDIGO (2001)) and other recent films like Ti West’s HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009). Because it doesn’t follow the regular tropes of Hollywood horror films, it’s kind of offbeat, but this adds to the melancholy tone of the proceedings. First time director Philip Gelatt does a fine job in his debut feature.

The acting is pretty good here, too. The family is suitably morose, and Breen — the real stand-out here — takes the character of Nick, who could be awkward with his odd way speaking and his overly mannered ways, and makes him believable. Even Alexandra Chando, as the very strange Gloria/Blackbird, becomes a sympathetic character as the movie goes on, and there are moments when you’re not quite sure how she is going to react to what is going on around her. Is she as dangerous as Nick is? Or is she simply misunderstood and even heroic in the face of real evil? Well, you’ll have to see THE BLEEDING HOUSE if you want the answer to that one.

All in all, a satisfying little movie about terrible secrets, misplaced morality, and the merits of putting blood in jars for safe keeping.

It’s interesting to check out a movie you never heard of before, sometimes. I wasn’t blown away by THE BLEEDING HOUSE, but it worked for what it was and was enjoyable enough. I give it three knives.

Well, I guess that’s it for me. See you next time.

(In the background, the front door of the house opens and a giant snake’s head darts out and snaps the MAN in its jaws. Then pulls him inside. LS doesn’t notice and walks away).

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares

L.L. Soares gives THE BLEEDING HOUSE3 knives!

NOTE: Before coming to cable TV, THE BLEEDING HOUSE was featured the Tribeca Film Festival.

QUICK CUTS: Haunted House Movies

Posted in 2011, Ghost Movies, Haunted Houses, Quick Cuts with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2011 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS:  Best Haunted House Movies
With: Michael Arruda, Nick Cato, L.L. Soares and Colleen Wanglund

With the release of INSIDIOUS (2011), a new haunted house movie, we asked our panel of experts, what’s your favorite haunted house movie(s) of all time?

Here’s what they had to say:

NICK CATO:

1) THE HAUNTING (1963)–Arguably the BEST haunted house film of all time
2) THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973)–scared me as a kid and still works today.
3) THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979)–both the film and Jay Anson’s novel work well in their own ways.  The film has (what I believe to be) one of the creepiest soundtracks ever.

***

Colleen Wanglund:

BURNT OFFERINGS (1976) is probably my favorite haunted house movie.  It stars Karen Black, Oliver Reed and Bette Davis….what’s not to love?  It’s just one of those really creepy movies where you find yourself trying to tell the characters not to do something that you know they’ll do anyway.

JU-ON (2000) written and directed by Takashi Shimizu is a great haunted house movie.  Whoever comes into contact with the house (or the ghosts within) end up carrying the curse wherever they go and passes it on to whomever they meet.  That’s pretty damn scary.  Interestingly, this movie and its sequel were originally only released to DVD.  Word of mouth made them huge in Japan.

***

L.L. SOARES

I’d have to agree with Nick on this one. My all-time favorite haunted house flick has got to be THE HAUNTING (1963), the classic film based on Shirley Jackson’s THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, which in turn is easily in my top five of best horror novels of all time.

By the way, THE HAUNTING was directed by Robert Wise, the director who also gave us the original THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951), THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN (1971) and STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (1979). Strangely enough, he also directed the musicals WEST SIDE STORY (1965) and THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1961), in his long and varied career. I still think THE HAUNTING was his best film.

I’m also a big fan of THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973), based on Richard Matheson’s novel and starring Roddy McDowell.

A couple of films no one mentioned that I also like a lot are:

THE ORPHANGE (2007)– a great Spanish film about a haunted orphanage (naturally), during the Spanish Civil War, directed by Juan  Antonio Bayona.

HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981) – Okay, I’m not sure if Dr. Freudstein counts as a ghost or as a member of the walking dead, but he does live in the basement and he does haunt the title house in this cult classic by the great Lucio Fulci.

***

Michael Arruda:

THE UNINVITED (1944) – love the atmosphere, eerie, spooky, and a mysterious.

HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1958) – no one has more fun scaring people in a haunted house than Vincent Price!

Okay, folks, you’ve heard from us.  How about you?  What are your favorite haunted house movies of all time?

—END—

Suburban Grindhouse Memories: JUST BEFORE DAWN

Posted in 2011, 80s Horror, Grindhouse, Nick Cato Reviews, Psychos, Serial Killer flicks, Slasher Movies, Suburban Grindhouse Memories with tags , , , , , , , on April 21, 2011 by knifefighter

SUBURBAN GRINDHOUSE MEMORIES
Two Machetes are Better than One!
By Nick Cato

On a brisk Friday afternoon in early 1982, an ad for a film titled JUST BEFORE DAWN caught my eye in the local newspaper. But what caused major interest in me was who the director was: Jeff Lieberman, who had directed the killer-worm epic, SQUIRM (1976), which I must’ve seen twenty-five times on TV during my childhood (and years later I finally found a DVD of his seldom-seen 1978 acid-slasher epic, BLUE SUNSHINE). I was geeked-out happy when I arrived at the (now defunct!) Fox Twin Cinema to see this new film by the director of that wonderful worm epic that helped me waste so many hours of my youth in front of the boob tube.

The legendary George Kennedy stars as a park ranger who warns a group of five future-victims not to go camping in the direction they’re headed (yes, I hear you yawning, but remember this was 1982 and every-other horror film released during this time had the same plot). As they get closer to the mountain they plan to camp on, they’re warned a second time by a crazed old man that there’s demons running around the hills (yet another staple of 80s slasher films). One of the campers is there to look over some property he has inherited, so the warnings mean nothing to him (can you say “mis-take?”).

When their RV can go no further, our victims—err—campers decide to hike the rest of the way up the mountain (I don’t know about you, but if I inherited land this remote I’d just give it to the locals). Before long our friends start getting picked off one by one, and unlike many slasher films of the time, Lieberman’s direction works: once camp is set, there’s (nearly) non-stop suspense and a sense of impending doom that has seldom been seen in a B-movie outside of the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974). Like HELL NIGHT (1981), DAWN relies more on scares than gore, and it works quite well.

Perhaps the best thing about JUST BEFORE DAWN are the killers: they’re backwoods, inbred-psycho hillbilly twin brothers (!), each one over-sized and truly menacing (one of them giggles each time he kills, yet unlike the wise-cracking post-Freddy slashers to come, his evil laugh actually adds to the tension). And let’s face it: the reason we go to see slasher films are for the kill/gore scenes, and while DAWN isn’t overly graphic, it’s still as brutal as they come: there’s a machete to the groin, one poor guy gets a fist shoved down his throat (part of a truly unique ending kill-technique), and one sequence where a female camper tries to hide atop a tree as one of the killers chops it down.

Despite taking half its running time for the goodness to begin, JUST BEFORE DAWN then kicks into high gear and never lets up. Lieberman doesn’t let his budget hinder the cinematography, which fans of the film agree looks much more professional than most slasher films (although much of the acting is nothing to write home about).

Like a cross between DELIVERANCE (1972) and THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977), JUST BEFORE DAWN is a gem of a backwoods horror flick that’s much more entertaining than the recent WRONG TURN films. Many of the night scenes are shot a bit TOO dark for my taste, but it’s worth squinting through for the great pay-off ending (that oddly horror fans have been split on since the films’ release).

As much of a “survival” film as a horror film, JUST BEFORE DAWN was a real treat, even during these early years of the slasher film uprising. There are a couple of DVD editions available today, one from the always reliable folks at Shriek Show.

It must’ve been a blast seeing it in a redneck theater…

© Copyright 2011 by Nick Cato

REASON ONE why it's never wise to skinny-dip in a slasher film...