Happy Halloween from all your friends at CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT!
Scroll down and read the three brand-new articles we posted just for Halloween!
REPO! The Genetic Opera (2008)
A Review By Peter N. Dudar
This review has been a long time coming…
I first read about REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA (2008) in an issue of Rue Morgue Magazine. I paid particular attention to it as the movie featured actor Bill Moseley (Chop Top from TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE II, 1986, and more recently, Otis from Rob Zombie’s HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, 2003, and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, 2005) who happens to be one of my big-screen favorites, but the film came and went here in Maine pretty quickly and I never got to see it. I hadn’t heard much fanfare about it from friends online, so I let it slip quietly past my radar.
Jump-cut to much earlier this year, when my wife finally talked me into signing up for Netflix streaming video. It was a cold, late-winter night when I saw the title REPO! on the queue, and finally gave it a chance. I’m very glad I did. This film is beautifully fun and grotesque!
I know what you’re thinking…a rock opera? It immediately brings forth visions of late 70s Andrew Lloyd Weber schlock like JESUS CHRIST, SUPERSTAR or HAIR. Or perhaps you’re familiar with REPO! already and thinking about the cult blockbuster THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. But the fact is that this really does pass for an opera, and one deep-rooted in gore, violence, and the macabre.
REPO! opens in comic book box-panels (a nifty visual narrator for the film), informing us of the dystopian world we are about to enter, where GeneCo has saved the world from an epidemic of organ failures. Only, GeneCo’s founder, Rottissimo “Rotti” Largo (Paul Sorvino, GOODFELLAS, 1990) has developed a terrible clause in his business ventures that those who fail to make payments on their transplants are subject to having those transplants repossessed. This notion creates a moralistic fiber that doesn’t seem all that far-fetched in our own world, where cars, homes, and personal belongings are stripped away without hesitation in our dwindling economy. We’re also introduced to the character of Grave-Robber (Terrance Zdunich, who served as writer, composer, producer, and assistant director on this project, over a ten-year labor of love to bring REPO! to life), who aids in setting the stage for the story we are about to witness.
REPO! concerns seventeen-year-old Shilo Wallace (Alexa Vega, THE DEVIL’S CARNIVAL, 2012)—who suffers a rare blood disease handed down from her late mother—and her father, Nathan Wallace (Anthony Head, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 1997), the Repo Man, who works directly for Rotti Largo to repossess the organs and parts of those who cannot pay their bills. Nathan is in a precarious situation…he doesn’t want his daughter to know of the terrible, murderous acts he’s responsible for, all the while doing everything he possibly can to protect his sick daughter and keep her safe. Through song and dialogue, their conflicted relationship is brought out, and the sadness for both characters is extremely palpable. It feels like the terrible deeds Nathan is doing are totally justified, and that is a very important element to the story.
Meanwhile, Rotti Largo is dying, and his offspring are fighting over who is to take control of GeneCo once the old man is gone. Luigi Largo (Bill Moseley…see above) believes HE should be the one to take control. Luigi is a homicidally violent psychopath who feels very strongly that he is the glue that will hold the Largo family together after Rotti passes. His brother Pavi (Nivek Ogre of the industrial band Skinny Puppy, and actor in movies such as THE DEVIL’S CARNIVAL, 2012), an absolute freak who finds fashion in wearing the skins of other people to conceal his own face, believes that HE should take over GeneCo, as he understands the fashion of the day is the latest surgical trend. Their sister Amber Sweet, (an unrecognizable Paris Hilton, HOUSE OF WAX, 2005), IS addicted to plastic surgery, and is caught in the middle of this power struggle. The problem is that Rotti already knows that he cannot leave the future of GeneCo in the hands of his progeny.
As REPO! progresses, we see that young Shilo is being torn apart by her ill-fated blood disease and the life of seclusion her father is forcing upon her. So she ventures out to visit her mother’s grave to find comfort, and instead learns of the terrible secret of the Grave-Robber. Apparently, the Grave-Robber is digging up past GeneCo subjects and extracting a chemical called Zydrate from their brains. Zydrate is a euphoric chemical that dulls the senses so that those who are addicted to surgery can have a drug to take the edge off. And, of course, Amber Sweet is addicted to surgery, and happens to be one of the Grave-Digger’s best customers. This part of the film happens to be one of my favorites, as Grave-Digger encapsulates in song the terrible pathos of Amber Sweet and those others that keep him busy in his morbid business.
Through more of the comic book-panel box narrative, we learn about what actually happened to Shilo’s mother…how she was originally in love with Rotti Largo, and how Nathan Wallace won her love away from him. We see just how much the dying Rotti Largo is still in control over Nathan, and how all the while he is scheming to turn Shilo against her dad by offering a cure for her disease, so that one day she might take control of the empire he has built with GeneCo. And we see the conflict that is going to create among Rotti’s insane children.
We’re also introduced to Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman, a world-renowned soprano who has performed for millions worldwide), who is under contract with GeneCo after they fitted her with a new pair of eyes. Blind Mag was friends with Shilo’s mother, and was unaware that Shilo made it through childbirth. As Rotti’s plan to lure Shilo away from her father unfolds, Blind Mag pays a visit to her and Nathan, and tries to stop the inevitable tragedy that is currently shaping up.
At the heart of REPO! is the tragedy that is constantly evolving for poor Shilo. We have a young girl that wants to live disease-free, and is being torn apart by her love for her father and her desire to be healthy and normal. And we’re constantly at the mercy of a film with first-rate storytelling, beautifully memorable music, and the empathy we feel for the relationship between father and daughter.
REPO! never falters in delivering some grueling scenes of violence and gore, but it also delivers some first-rate performances (particularly from Sorvino, Brightman, and believe-it-or-not, Paris Hilton), breathtaking cinematography, and an absolutely brilliant soundtrack from writers Zdunich and Darren Smith—all beautifully directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. As a fan of horror films and lover of musicals, I have to give REPO! The Genetic Opera four knives. I highly recommend this film, and hope you will add it to your Halloween movie marathon.
© Copyright 2012 by Peter N. Dudar
Peter Dudar gives REPO! The Genetic Opera ~four knives.
QUICK CUTS: Halloween Movies
With Michael Arruda, L. L. Soares, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, Paul McMahon, and Mark Onspaugh
What are you watching this Halloween night?
Specifically, if you could line up a triple feature this Halloween, which movies would you be watching?
This Halloween, I would highly recommend a trio from Hammer Films. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the over-the-top camp of Hammer productions.
I would start out my Halloween triple feature with a viewing of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1962). Herbert Lom, who played the Phantom in this exceptional version of the Gaston Leroux novel, died earlier this year. This makes the film even more poignant to me. Andrew Lloyd Webber this is not. Lom’s phantom is genuinely frightening, a menacing killer. The film gives us an added bonus with Michael Gough, who went on to play Alfred Pennyworth in Tim Burton’s BATMAN (1989), playing a truly nasty fellow.
PARANOIAC (1963) would be the meat in my Hammer sandwich. This film is a solid example of British psychological horror. Call it Hitchcock Light. Oliver Reed portrays a drunken, bitter aristocrat with ease. It’s the role he was born to play. If you’re looking for a gripping break from creature features, this one will satisfy.
I would round it all out with THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957). I’m a huge fan of Peter Cushing. I do love his heroic roles, but it’s nice to see him play a villain. In this case, he portrays Baron Victor Frankenstein, a cold, obsessed scientist who will stop at nothing to bring a creature comprised of the best parts from corpses back to life. The plan goes horribly wrong when the brain he intended to use is damaged, and the monster escapes. Christopher Lee plays a chilling, disturbing monster, a true original even for those who have seen Universal’s FRANKENSTEIN (1931).
My Halloween triple-feature is a feast of monster movies from the “S” column.
First is SLUGS (1988) based on the Shaun Hutson novel.
I’m following that up with 2006’s SLITHER, directed by James Gunn.
Closing things out will be the creepily unusual SPLINTER (2008) directed by Toby Wilkins.
I’d like to cheat a little bit and offer two classics as an appetizer—THE WASP WOMAN (1959) by Roger Corman and William Castle’s THE TINGLER (1959) — if had to choose just one, I’d keep THE TINGLER because you’ve got to have Vincent Price on Halloween.
I LOVE all the Universal monsters, but they’re more like old friends at this point and I want to feel uneasy—So next up would either be Cronenberg’s THE BROOD (1979) or (if that weren’t available) THE CHILDREN, that 1980 oddity where kids exposed to a toxic cloud get black nails and a lethal touch—and people cut their hands off! Dang!
Finally, BURNT OFFERINGS (1976), because it still creeps me out.
Happy Halloween, ev’rybody!
Well, first off, I’d choose Roman Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968). Why? Because it just got a special release from The Criterion Collection on DVD and Blu-Ray. No matter what you think of Polanski, ROSEMARY is a movie all horror fans should see at least once, because it’s an amazingly well-made flick, with a great cast, very strong atmosphere, and even some scares. In it, an innocent woman (Mia Farrow) learns she may be carrying the child of the devil. You won’t soon forget this one. Check out the brand new edition(s) with tons of the usual Criterion extras.
Keeping with the theme of horrific children, I’d continue with Larry Cohen’s mutant baby classic, IT’S ALIVE (1974). This time a woman gives birth to a man-eating monstrosity. I remember the TV commercial for this one being even scarier than the movie (back in the 70s, they knew how to make movie trailers that scared the hell out of you). You can even get this one on a “Triple-feature DVD” with its sequels IT LIVES AGAIN (1978) and IT’S ALIVE III: ISLAND OF THE ALIVE (1987). And if you get that DVD set, then you’d already have a Halloween triple feature in one box.
And you can top the night off with the Spanish classic, WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (1976) where a couple find themselves on an island full of homicidal children. Can they bring themselves to fight back? This one will send shivers through your spine.
And, of course, any of these are interchangeable with William Friedkin’s mega-classic THE EXORCIST (1973), with Linda Blair as the ultimate child possessed by the devil, or David Cronenberg’s monster-kid masterpiece, THE BROOD (1979).
This year I’m in the mood for some 80s horror. So, my triple feature would kick off with HELLRAISER (1987), written and directed by Clive Barker.
Next up, David Croneberg’s THE FLY (1986), one of those rare instances where the remake is better than the original. Featuring Jeff Goldblum’s finest performance.
And to finish things off, I’d go with CREEPSHOW (1982), directed by George Romero, written by Stephen King, and with Leslie Nielson in the cast, good for some laughs as well as some chills.
Happy Halloween, Everyone, from all of us here at Cinema Knife Fight!
© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, Paul McMahon and Mark Onspaugh
Meals for Monsters: ZOLTAN, THE HOUND OF DRACULA (AKA DRACULA’S DOG)
Movie Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel
Dracula has a long and glorious history in filmdom. He’s been a hideous, long-nailed ghoul. He’s been a gorgeous, sexy beast. Hell, he’s even been a woman. You may think you know everything there is to know about that creature of the night. But, did you know he had a dog?
ZOLTAN, THE HOUND OF DRACULA (1978) opens with Russian soldiers detonating a field. In doing so, they unearth a crypt. One of the tombs inside is marked “Dracula”. A curious soldier, careful not to disturb that one, decides to explore the one next to it. Inside is a corpse wrapped in cloth and a wooden stake sticking out. Now, if you unearthed something buried next to Dracula with a stake in it, what would be the wisest course of action? Removing the stake isn’t the best choice, but it was what that soldier did. Zoltan, Dracula’s hound (actually, it was a Doberman, but that’s one of the many details conveniently ignored in this flick) springs to life and kills said soldier. Then he opens another tomb, awakening Veidt, Dracula’s servant, and the two set out on a quest to find a new master. That master? Dracula’s last surviving heir, Michael Drake. Drake is off camping with his family, their two dogs and litter of puppies. Will Zoltan and Veidt be able to transform Drake into a vampire, and thus have their master back? Or will Drake and his family survive their lineage?
The best way to approach ZOLTAN is to not think too hard. If you do, you’ll wonder how Drake can be the last of the line if he has two kids. You’ll wonder why they thought it was a good idea to take a box full of newborn puppies out into the woods. You’ll wonder why Zoltan and Veidt travelled halfway across the world from Russia to California for a master when they could have just opened Dracula’s tomb. There’s a lot to ZOLTAN that doesn’t make sense. But it is a fun, almost silly vampire flick with plenty of Karo syrup gore. And it has vampire puppies! Puppies! Horror has never been so cute.
ZOLTAN is truly a movie for the masses. Fans of cheesy monster flicks have plenty to enjoy, and people not into horror have cute puppies to look at. Sure, they’re bloodsucking and evil, but they’re puppies.
In honor of the first victim, that poor (albeit dumb) Russian soldier, I designed this cocktail:
When dealing with hellish canines, hot dogs is a pun so obvious that, as much as I tried, I couldn’t resist. So, to enjoy with your movie you can nosh on:
DEVIL DOGS (serves three)
6 hot dogs
1 jalapeno pepper (or three Serrano chilies, if you want something spicier)
6 slices of regular cut bacon (avoid the thick cut, tasty as it is)
Buns and your favorite condiments
Preheat the oven to 450. Slice the chile pepper into long strips, removing the seeds and white membranes. Slice the hot dogs lengthwise, only cutting halfway in. Insert strips of the peppers from end to end. Wrap a piece of bacon around the dog, securing with a toothpick at each end. Bake on top of a rack for 30 minutes, turning halfway through. It should go without saying, but remove the toothpicks before consuming. Place the dogs in the buns, topped with your preferred condiment, and serve with French fries, onion rings, or the souls of your enemies.
Wooden stakes are convenient to have when dealing with vampires. Unfortunately, they’re not very tasty. For dessert, have a plate of these cookies on the table, and maybe it’ll be enough to fake out the vampires (as long as you’re dealing with gullible ones):
Mix the butter and sugar and vanilla together until blended. Add flour, and mix slowly (as to not send flour shooting out across the kitchen). Wrap in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a cookie sheet. Remove dough from fridge and plastic wrap. Roll out to about ¼ inch thick. Slice into long wedges. Bake for 8 minutes, or just until the edges start to brown. Cool on wire rack.
ZOLTAN was directed by the great Albert Band, the auteur behind I BURY THE LIVING (1958) and GHOULIES II (1988). He knows how to give the audience a good time. And it’s hard not to have a good time while watching vampire puppies. So sit back, relax with a tasty meal, and watch your pets go nuts every time the dogs start barking on screen.
© Copyright 2012 by Jenny Orosel
Cinema Knife Fight: SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
(THE SCENE: A strange ghost town, where ashes fall from the sky like snow. L.L. SOARES is standing in the middle of the street with an umbrella, when MICHAEL ARRUDA approaches)
MA: Nice weather we’re having.
LS: Yeah, I checked the Weather Channel. Partly cloudy with a chance of ashes, followed by ash showers off and on all day.
MA: I’m surprised you have an umbrella. I figured you’d be roughing it.
LS: Just looking out for my health.
(The MARLBORO MAN rides by on a horse)
MARLBORO MAN: Holy Onions! This place looks like a giant ashtray!
(He coughs as he continues riding away)
MA: Hey, do you have another umbrella?
LS: Sure. Do you have twenty dollars?
MA: Twenty dollars? That’s a rip off! What are you trying to do, cheat me out of my money?
LS: Yep. I guess I have something in common with SILENT HILL: REVELATION after all.
MA: Ain’t that the truth! This is the second time in two days I’ve been cheated out of some cash!
(MA hands LS a twenty-dollar bill, and LS gives him an umbrella)
LS: Well, I guess the sooner we start, the sooner we can get out of this awful place.
SILENT HILL: REVELATION is a sequel to the 2006 movie SILENT HILL, and I’m surprised it took so long for them to make a sequel. Both movies are based on the video game, also called SILENT HILL.
MA: A movie based on a video game. That’s a bad sign right off the bat.
LS: Do you think?
Let’s go for a walk.
(The two of them stroll down the empty street)
LS: When SILENT HILL: REVELATION begins, teenage girl Sharon (played by Jodelle Ferland in the first movie, and now played by Adelaide Clemens) is having horrible dreams about a strange town called Silent Hill. To add to the confusion, Sharon is now going by the name of Heather, as she and her father Harry (played by Sean Bean, whose name was Christopher in the first movie) are constantly moving around and taking on new identities. Harry has told Heather/Sharon that they constantly move because he’s wanted by the police. But in reality, they’re trying to stay one step ahead of some weird cult that is hunting them down.
Heather goes to her first day in a new school, which is pretty horrible since she’s always the new kid and never has a chance to make any friends. Although this time around, there’s another new kid named Vincent (Kit Harrington), who clearly wants to bond with her. She keeps putting him off, but eventually, a friendship will develop
On her way to school that morning, Heather was approached by a strange man named Douglas Cartland, who appears to be stalking her. He later shows up at her school when she’s leaving later in the day, which seems to confirm her suspicions. She calls her father to warn him and arrange a place to meet (she doesn’t want to lead the guy back to her house). At one point, Cartland corners her and tells her he is a private detective working for some people he no longer trusts, and that he has told them of her whereabouts (something he now regrets). Soon afterwards, he is killed by a monster that looks like a psychotic clown.
MA: I liked that clown. And if you were blinking just now, you might have just missed the only time in this review where I say that I liked something about this movie!
LS: When Heather gets back home, her father is gone, and there’s a note written in blood in big letters on their living room wall that says, “Come to Silent Hill.”
Heather does not remember the events of the first SILENT HILL movie—.
MA: Neither do I! Blocked it all out.
LS:— when she had gone to the town of Silent Hill as a child. She has since been told that her mother, Rose (Radha Mitchell from the first film, who has a brief appearance in this one as well) had died in a car crash (when in reality she had stayed behind in Silent Hill in order to get her daughter to safety).
It’s at this time that Vincent reveals his secret agenda, as well, and he agrees to take her back to Silent Hill to save her father.
It’s never really clear if Silent Hill is a real town, or if it is in another, Hell-like dimension. My impression is that it’s both.
MA: I would agree with that impression. It seems to be both, but imagine if writer Michael J. Bassett actually fleshed out the story, we might know more about this bizarre demonic town!
LS: There’s some kind of eternal fire going on beneath the earth in some coal mines, resulting in the sky raining ash in the town continuously. The residents of the town are also quite odd, looking like a collection of zombies and other monsters.
While she tries to find and save her father, Heather must deal with Leonard and Claudia Wolf (Malcolm McDowell and Carrie-Anne Moss, respectively), the leaders of the strange cult who want to use Heather as a vessel for the rebirth of their god, and they kidnapped her father and brought him to the town to lure her there.
MA: And that’s probably the reason Bassett didn’t flesh out the story. As soon as people start talking about what’s going on, it gets laughable real quick. A vessel for the rebirth of their god? Really? It’s all so forced and contrived. The problem I have with it is if you’re going to write a fantasy, you’d best convince your audience that it’s real, and the folks behind this movie just aren’t interested in doing that. And that’s because this is based on a video game, and if it looks like a video game, and the same characters from the game are featured in the movie, then that’s good enough for the target audience.
But you know what folks? It really isn’t good enough. This is a movie, not a video game, and it needs to be treated as such.
LS: There is also the demonic Alessa (also played by Adelaide Clemens), who is kind of like Heather’s dark side. Alessa lives in Silent Hill and is the one who keeps the cult members confined there (some of them can leave, but only for short periods of time). Alessa is not happy to see Heather again, since she knows the cultists have plans for her that would end their torment under Alessa’s rule. Instead of tormenting the annoying cult members, I wish Alessa had just wiped them out. Hell, I wish all of them would have wiped each other out, and spared us having to sit through this movie.
Along the way, we also encounter various strange monsters, some of which are directly from the Silent Hill video games. One is the ogre-like “Pyramid Head” (Roberto Campanella) who looks like a big, muscular guy who carries an oversized sword and has the head of giant pyramid. He is actually Heather’s guardian in this strange dimension, and he defends her against other beasts.
I had a mixed reaction to the first SILENT HILL movie. I’m not a big fan of movies based on video games, but I thought SILENT HILL was one of the better ones. That said, the plot was confusing and kind of annoying (even though it was written by Roger Avary who also co-wrote at least part of the scripts of Quentin Tarantino’s early films). But the imagery was very interesting. The first film was directed by Christopher Gans.
SILENT HILL: REVELATION is written and directed by Michael J. Bassett, who also directed DEATHWATCH (2002) and the recent film version of Robert E. Howard’s SOLOMON KANE (made in 2009, but only get limited theatrical release this year). Despite the different writer and director, the new movie has much of the same strengths and weaknesses as the first one. In REVELATION, I found the plotline aggravating and pretty boring at times, but the monster effects were kind of fascinating. This series at least has unusual visuals. I find the creature “Pyramid Head” to be especially fascinating (he’s in both films, as well as the games).
MA: I agree that the visuals in this movie were creative, and for a while there, I thought the cool visuals might be enough to carry this movie, but it turned out not to be the case.
I was hoping that perhaps this would be one of those bizarre movies where the visuals were so wild and intriguing, that you could look past the weak story and still like the movie.
Not so. And why not? Because these images were mostly eye candy. Director Bassett didn’t really do much with them. This movie isn’t suspenseful and it’s not scary, and so you’re watching these scenes of weird monsters, but they’re doing things that aren’t so weird. Had this movie pushed the envelope more, really got into the audience’s face, and created some chilling, memorable scenes, then we’d be talking about a pretty cool movie.
Instead, and I’ve said this many times now about movies based on video games, it’s like watching someone else play a video game. And that gets boring real fast.
(A teenager walks by playing a hand held video game.)
TEEN: Come on! It’s fun to watch people play these games!
MA: Really? Do you like watching other people read, too?
TEEN: That’s stupid. The games are fun to watch.
MA: Well, maybe so, but the movies based on these games aren’t.
(TEEN walks on, suddenly surrounded by other teens watching him play, cheering him on.)
MA: It’s strange new world. Remember the games we used to play?
LS: Tie the helpless virgin to the stake and sacrifice her? Ah, the good old days!
MA: I was actually thinking of kick ball.
LS: Is that anything like “kick the severed head into the sewer?”
MA: Er, let’s just get back to the review.
LS: Okay. The acting is pretty underwhelming. While I think Sean Bean has been terrific in things like the first season of GAME OF THRONES (2011) where he played Ned Stark, I found his performance here very disappointing.
MA: And did you notice that sometimes Bean had an accent, and other times he didn’t? I thought it was one of his more disappointing performances. I mean, he’s usually very good. Not so here.
LS: Yeah, I hate to say it, but he’s awful here. And other good actors like Malcolm McDowell and Carrie-Anne Moss are pretty much wasted here. It was actually painful seeing McDowell in this movie. What a waste of his talent.
MA: They probably had to be wasted to say their awful lines!
LS: Kit Harrington (another actor from GAME OF THRONES, where he plays Jon Snow) is okay as Vincent. I did like Adelaide Clemens as Heather/Sharon/Alessa, however. She actually reminded me a lot of a young Michelle Williams, and while her role was underwritten, I thought she was one of the better things about REVELATION.
MA: Clemens was okay, but I think you nailed it when you said the role was underwritten. Like the rest of the movie, I didn’t find her character Heather all that real. She’s pretty one-dimensional, and in terms of acting performances, I thought Kathryn Newton made more of an impression last week in the lead role in PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4.
LS: Definitely. Newton was much more believable as a real teen. If you make a comparison like that, REVELATION is going to come up short! Hell, seeing a movie like this makes me realize how maybe PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 wasn’t all that bad, compared to the other crap we’re forced to see.
The special effects by Brendan Carmody and his crew, and the visual effects by “Mr. X Inc.” are quite good. And I thought the film’s music, by Jeff Danna and Akira Yamaoka was effective as well. But the weak link here is Michael J. Bassett’s script, which starts out okay, but then journeys into the cliché (everything from bad use of occult symbols to demon-possessed people with way too much makeup on) and the downright incomprehensible.
As for the action, I found most of it a yawn. There’s actually one fight scene that I liked, toward the end, where Pyramid Head fights this demon woman who has buzz-saws imbedded in her head. She looks like one of the cenobites from the HELLRAISER movies (so much so, that I started wondering about the originality of the visuals in the SILENT HILL series that I found so interesting). But that big battle lasted all of about two minutes! What a rip-off!
MA: Yeah, I would agree that it started off okay. I found myself actually enjoying the beginning of this movie, before they get to Silent Hill. There was enough initial intrigue to almost hook me in, but then strangely, once they get to Silent Hill, it all goes downhill, and that’s because once there, Bassett felt a storyline was no longer needed.
LS: The 3D effects in this one were okay, but hardly worth the extra money (the movie ticket I bought for the 3D version cost me $16, and I definitely felt cheated). There are some scenes where things come jumping out at you, and the ashes falling from the sky once we get to Silent Hill look pretty good. But it still doesn’t justify the higher ticket price.
MA: The 3D effect ran hot and cold for me in this one. For most of the time, I thought it looked pretty bad, and I remember sitting there thinking, this is some of the worst 3D I’ve seen in a while! And then all of a sudden, the film would make fun use of it, like there’d be a severed body part floating in the air towards the audience, but there weren’t enough of these moments.
All in all, as is the case with most 3D movies I see—and pay more for— these days, I wish it had been in 2D.
LS: Me, too. I would have preferred it.
(They pass a pile of ashes and LS takes out a top hat and puts it on top of the pile. Suddenly, the ashes come to life and look an awful lot look FROSTY THE SNOWMAN)
FROSTY (blinking his eyes): Happy Birthday!
MA: It’s not my birthday.
LS: He always says that when he first comes to life.
MA: But this isn’t snow. He’s Frosty the Ash Man.
FROSTY: Buddy, I’ll take what I can get.
MA: So tell us, Frosty. Now that you’re suddenly alive, do you have anything interesting to tell us?
FROSTY: Are you kidding? I just want to find me a frosty beer before the wind blows this hat away and I turn back to a heap of ashes.
LS: Ah, an ash man after my own heart.
(FROSTY runs ahead of them, looking for a bar)
MA: Well that was disappointing.
LS: Kind of like the movie we’re reviewing, don’t you think?
For its visual sense of style alone, I give SILENT HILL: REVELATION just one knife. But that’s about it. Otherwise, because of the lame script, this movie was pretty forgettable.
MA: I can’t forget about it fast enough.
You know, I’m really starting to hate movies based on video games, and they’re starting to be as painful as all those TWILIGHT movies we’ve suffered through.
LS: Starting to? Where have you been?
MA: I guess I haven’t been paying attention, but after the latest RESIDENT EVIL movie, and now this movie, well, these video game movie-wannabes have my attention now. And that’s what they are: movie wannabes. They’re video games using real actors in their scenes, and they’re not telling stories the way movies do. What bothers me is there are probably people out there who think movies like this without stories are real movies that are worth the price of admission. That’s sad.
You should feel cheated, people!
LS: I think you nailed it with this one. It’s a matter of perspective. People who make movies based on video games seem to think that if the movie looks like a video game, with the same kind of pacing, it’s a good thing. But it’s not. Movies are a completely different medium. How about taking the characters and themes from the video game and beefing them up? Giving them a decent story and motivations that surpass the limitations of a video game? How about giving us a story that actually has some meat to it? Every single one of these movies seems like a missed opportunity. You could take the original concept and use it as a jumping-off point to give us something a lot better. Instead, of using the ingredients to whip up a fantastic entrée, they seem satisfied to give us the same old soup. It’s called lack of ambition.
MA: This movie wouldn’t know a story if it fell from the sky and hit the writer in the head!
So, Heather has to enter an alternate reality world called Silent Hill in order to save her father. How very nice! You know what would make this even nicer? How about some details? Where did this alternate reality come from? Why does it exist? Just who are these strange people living there anyway? And why is Heather the only one their god needs? The world is full of people. Couldn’t someone else do? Why is Heather so important? What makes her so special?
Where did all these creatures come from? What is their purpose?
(A SPIDERY CREATURE pops out of building behind them.)
CREATURE: Our purpose is to kill! To maim! To scare people!
MA: How come you didn’t do any of that in this movie?
CREATURE: I did so!
MA: To a main character in this movie who we actually cared about?
LS: There were no characters in this movie we actually cared about!
CREATURE: You guys are mean! Don’t I look creepy?
MA: Sure, but so does the old lady who lives down the street from me. Big flippin deal!
(CREATURE runs away sobbing.)
MA: If the creative minds behind this movie had given this project even just a little thought, they might have had a real movie here. Instead, they shower us with mindless visuals for 90 minutes, and the end result is about as fascinating as sitting in front of a tropical fish tank. I like looking at fish tanks like the next guy, but not for 90 minutes!
For example, I liked the look of the carnival sequences in this movie. I sat there taking in this amusement park setting, and I thought, “cool!” Now let’s do something with it. Make me feel like I’m inside this place. Give me events in the story which take place here that will really make me remember this setting. Get me to say, “Oooh, the carnival sequence! That’s the scene where the demonic clown terrorized the two girls. That scene scared the crap out of me”!
Instead, we have a cool-looking carnival where a bunch of unimportant things happen quickly to unimportant characters, and nothing that happens in this place resonates with me as an audience member. As a result, by next week, I won’t even remember these images.
And how about just a little bit of suspense, please? A scare here and there? Something that I can sink my teeth into?
Nope. Nada! Nil!
(They pass FROSTY THE ASH MAN, who is blowing the head of foam off a big mug of beer)
LS: Now that’s what I call a frosty one.
(FROSTY goes to drink it, when the wind blows his hat off, and he turns to a pile of ashes again. The beer spills to the ground)
FROSTY’S VOICE: Dammit!
LS: What a waste of beer!
MA: SILENT HILL: REVELATION bored me to tears. I’m giving it one and a half knives. I wouldn’t say that I liked it better than you, because I didn’t like it, but I did enjoy the visuals, even though they got no support from the weak story, uninspired acting, and ridiculous dialogue that pretty much ruined the rest of the movie.
Don’t see this movie, people. Keep video games out of the movie theaters! And I hear people chatting that they want this to become a movie franchise? Come on!
LS: It’s a losing battle, because these movies make money.
MA: And that’s why people shouldn’t see them! Heck, I love baseball, but that doesn’t mean I like all movies about baseball, or even that I want to see movies about baseball. When I’m in the mood for baseball, I watch a baseball game! Why do video games have to become movies? Just play the games!
(Suddenly, giant chunks of ash begin to pour down upon them. MA’s umbrella crumples under the pressure of the ash storm.)
MA: What kind of a cheap umbrella did you sell me?
LS: The kind that doesn’t last. (Pulls out another umbrella) Here, you can have this one for just ten bucks.
MA: Ten bucks? What do you take me for, a fool?
MA (looks at camera): Ask a stupid question—. I’ll just take my chances. (Pulls his shirt over his head.) Okay folks, we’re done here. Thanks for joining us and we’ll see you again next week. Gotta run! (Exits quickly.)
LS: Yep, we’ll see you all again next week. (Exits at his leisure with his sturdy umbrella).
(Behind him, a coughing MARLBORO MAN falls off his horse into a pile of ash).
© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
Michael Arruda gives SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D ~ one and a half knives!
LL Soares gives SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D ~one knife.
FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS: PSYCHO (1960) vs. HALLOWEEN (1978)
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Pete Dudar, Dan Keohane, and Paul McMahon
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Welcome back folks, to the conclusion of this month’s FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS. This installment will decide the winner of the battle of the iconic horror movies. It’s PSYCHO (1960) vs. HALLOWEEN (1978).
So, which one of these two is the better movie? That’s what our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters assembled here tonight plan to find out. So far, HALLOWEEN leads 3 to 2. But this time, anything can happen.
Okay, it’s Round 6. “Which director does a better job at the helm? Alfred Hitchcock, or John Carpenter?”
NICK CATO: Can I say that this is a stupid question?
MICHAEL ARRUDA: You can say whatever you want.
L.L. SOARES: Someone has to say it. It’s about time it’s someone other than me!
NICK CATO: Okay, then. STUPID question!
It’s Hitchcock. No one had created that type of suspense before he unleashed Bates on the world. Carpenter doesn’t come close.
DAN KEOHANE: I think it depends on what you want out of the movie.
L.L.SOARES: What is this, a psychology class? Pick a director!
DAN KEOHANE: Easier said than done. This is one question I can’t honestly answer one way or the other.
L.L. SOARES: What—did you change your last name to Dudar?
PETE DUDAR: Hey, stop giving me a hard time!
DAN KEOHANE: Hitchcock is a master at the subtle, without getting boring doing it. Sure, the first third of THE BIRDS (1963) is pretty dull before it rockets up to its intense level, but that’s the exception.
L.L. SOARES: Hey, I love THE BIRDS! There’s not a dull moment in that movie. It’s called “building a story.”
MICHAEL ARRUDA: THE BIRDS is overrated.
(L.L. SOARES punches a wall in disgust)
DAN KEOHANE: Carpenter is just having a ball, and it shows in this film (and most of them). He’s got the fast-paced thrill ride down, without ever having to rely on over-the-top gore to cover his blemishes.
L.L SOARES: So, you’re going with Carpenter?
DAN KEOHANE: Nope. I can’t decide.
(L.L. SOARES screams loudly)
MICHAEL ARRUDA: We are really having a hard time making up our minds today.
PETE DUDAR: I told you this thing was impossible!
MICHAEL ARRUDA: I have to admit, this is a very tough question. Which director does a better job at the helm? I don’t know.
L.L. SOARES: Not you, too!
MICHAEL ARRUDA: This one needs examining.
Let’s start with Alfred Hitchcock. In 1960, he’d been making successful movies since the 1930s, and really had just come off an amazing decade, the 1950s, where he became one of the most celebrated and popular movie directors of his time. Needless to say, when he made PSYCHO, he was at the top of his game. And with PSYCHO, Hitchcock doesn’t disappoint. It’s one of his best efforts.
He does nearly everything right in PSYCHO. You’ve got the infamous shower scene, the most famous sequence from the movie, but there’s so much more. I love the sequence after the shower scene, when Norman Bates cleans up after his “mother’s” crime. The end sequence where Vera Miles and John Gavin arrive at the motel is also memorable.
But you can make the argument that John Carpenter did an even better job at the helm of HALLOWEEN. For starters, HALLOWEEN doesn’t have the same strong story PSYCHO has, and yet, it’s an incredibly scary movie, and most of the credit for this belongs to Carpenter. The opening murder scene is a gem, shot from the point of view of the killer looking through a Halloween mask. The whole sequence is superb, from the actual murder to the revelation that the killer is a little boy.
The scene near the end, where we believe Jamie Lee Curtis has killed Michael Myers, and he’s lying down “dead,” and Curtis is sitting in the foreground, exhausted, and it’s silent, and in this silence, Myers sits up, turns his head, and the music blasts, and we’re on our way again. It’s a phenomenal scene.
And there are so many neat scenes where Myers appears like a phantom in and out of the shadows. One second he’s there, the next, he’s not. It’s a masterful job by John Carpenter.
You can’t take away what Hitchcock did with PSYCHO, but I’ve seen him better (NORTH BY NORTHWEST, 1959, Hitchcock’s previous film and arguably his most ambitious, includes many more of Hitchcock signature touches). I know some people don’t consider HALLOWEEN to be Carpenter’s best work, but it’s up there.
L.L. SOARES: Of course it’s up there! Who doesn’t consider HALLOWEEN one of Carpenter’s best movies? That’s a ludicrous statement! HALLOWEEN is the movie that put Carpenter on the map and made him a household name.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Yes, I know that, and you know that, but there are some people who feel otherwise. I know people who think THE THING is Carpenter’s best film, for instance.
L.L. SOARES: Hell, I think THE THING is his best film. But that doesn’t mean HALLOWEEN isn’t great, too. In many ways, HALLOWEEN is more iconic and important to horror movie history.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: PSYCHO has such a strong story, that even with a lesser director, the film may have been a hit. I don’t think you can say the same for HALLOWEEN. Without John Carpenter at the helm of HALLOWEEN, that movie just isn’t the same, and I doubt it would have been the classic it is today.
L.L. SOARES: You’re selling Hitchcock short! The story is so good it would have still turned out well without him?? But HITCHCOCK did make PSYCHO and nobody could have done it better. Why dismiss the guy because he did a great job? What kind of logic is that?
MICHAEL ARRUDA: I’m not dismissing him. He did a terrific job. I’m saying the story itself is so good, a lesser director could have made a decent film out of it, on the strength of its story. Terence Fisher, for example, Hammer Film’s best director—no Alfred Hitchcock, mind you, but a talented director all the same—could have made a very good film out of PSYCHO.
L.L. SOARES: Yeah, I’m sure he could have. But it wouldn’t be the same.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: So, after some thought, I’m going with John Carpenter on HALLOWEEN.
PAUL MCMAHON: Sorry, Michael, but I just don’t see it that way. I’m going with Hitchcock.
Hitchcock is regularly listed among the best directors of all time, while Carpenter is listed among the best “horror” directors.
As innovative and groundbreaking as HALLOWEEN was, it wasn’t Carpenter’s best work. He doesn’t really break with conventional filming techniques or storytelling rules. Hitchcock made tons more unorthodox and unexpected decisions in PSYCHO.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: I don’t know about that. I’m not taking anything away from Hitchcock’s work on PSYCHO, but I think Carpenter does break with conventional filming techniques in HALLOWEEN. There are so many cool scenes in HALLOWEEN thanks to Carpenter’s direction, like Michael Myer’s mask appearing in the darkness where you see only the mask, or the aforementioned opening murder scene.
PAUL MCMAHON: Good scenes, but Hitchcock’s work on PSYCHO is better.
L.L. SOARES: Look, this one is a no brainer. I love HALLOWEEN and I think it is among Carpenter’s best films. It is powerful, it triggers a great response, and it’s a director at the height of his powers. I am not going to say anything bad about Carpenter in this context. He did an amazing job.
But Alfred Hitchcock was one of the top five directors in the history of cinema. I just watched PSYCHO again recently, and it holds up very well. It’s atmospheric, powerful, and strongly acted. Hitchcock is just in another league when it comes to directors. He was an artist.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Okay, after six rounds it’s HALLOWEEN – 3, PSYCHO -3. We’re now neck and neck.
PETE DUDAR:This is getting exciting.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: On to Round 7. “Which film has done more for the genre?”
I’ll start by asking where would the genre be without PSYCHO? While it’s technically not a horror film…
L.L. SOARES: Says, who? It’s a goddamn horror film. A horror classic.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Well, it is scary, and did an awful lot to make horror movies more mainstream. It made them more adult. Alfred Hitchcock was not a kid-friendly director. Kids didn’t flock to see his films. Adults did. When he directed PSYCHO, he expanded horror’s audience. In other words, a lot of the folks who went to see PSYCHO were not the same folks who would have gone to see FRANKENSTEIN or KING KONG.
L.L. SOARES: I complete disagree. People who love great movies would have gone to see all three of those.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: He also reinvented the conventions of the movies. His lead actress is killed midway through the movie. What’s up with that? The “hero” Norman Bates, turns out to be the killer. What’s up with that?
Where would the genre be without HALLOWEEN? We wouldn’t have had to suffer through all those awful slasher movies had HALLOWEEN not been so successful. So, maybe it’s hurt the genre! Actually, I’m kidding. It helped the genre because it made a ton of money, and it led to John Carpenter getting a lot of financing so he could make a lot of other cool movies!
I think they’ve both helped the genre, since they both established franchises and iconic characters, Norman Bates and Michael Myers. Today, I think you hear more about HALLOWEEN than you do PSYCHO. I think HALLOWEEN has done more for the horror genre directly because it’s a horror movie, pure and simple. PSYCHO is really a mystery that has a lot of horror elements.
L.L. SOARES: Horror elements? That means it’s a damn HORROR MOVIE!
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Ever so slightly, I give the edge to HALLOWEEN.
DAN KEOHANE: They both exploded the genre, but in their own respective decades.
Both were unique when they came out, and both got a somewhat apathetic audience’s pulse revved up, opening the door to more films and books.
Both of them equally helped the genre.
PAUL MCMAHON: There was a very slow build of slasher movies after PSYCHO‘s release in 1960.
When HALLOWEEN came out in 1978 the slasher sub-genre really took off. PSYCHO may have kicked things off, but HALLOWEEN got them going.
L.L. SOARES: You people are high!
Without PSYCHO, there would be NO HALLOWEEN! While Michael Myers does have a supernatural component, he also started out as a little boy with psychological problems. No matter what he became, he began as a psychopath. Just because a movie is older doesn’t mean it’s less relevant. To be honest, the opposite is probably more true. PSYCHO was the pioneer, the trailblazer. It made the word “psycho” a part of our language. It made the serial killer film a mainstream genre.
HALLOWEEN is more the little engine that could. It was a small, low-budget movie that overcame its humble beginnings. I remember it was in theaters for over a year when it first came out. It seemed to stick around forever. It was a smash hit, as commercially important to the horror genre in its way as PSYCHO was.
But Michael is right in one respect. HALLOWEEN spawned as many horrible rip-offs as it did worthwhile horror descendants. It worked because Carpenter did it, but way too many bad directors proved that it wasn’t easily replicated.
They’re both great movies with different strengths, and I am still pissed off that you’re making us choose between them, because they’re both just as vital to the horror genre. But which one has done more for horror? The fact that there’s any debate baffles me. It’s PSYCHO. Period.
NICK CATO: While HALLOWEEN paved the way for countless imitators in the 1980s slasher film uprising, PSYCHO (1960) was the model and is STILL imitated to this day.
I disagree with Michael and Paul, and I say PSYCHO has done more the genre.
L.L. SOARES: Now there’s a smart man!
MICHAEL ARRUDA: That means this round is a tie. Wow, this is going to be interesting.
It’s now time for the eighth and final round, and if one film should win this round unanimously, then that film scores a knockout and wins the entire bout, regardless of the score up until now.
And the final question is: in your humble opinion, if you had to choose, which film, PSYCHO or HALLOWEEN, is the better movie?
PAUL MCMAHON: PSYCHO.
Constructed better, stronger and with so many twists and turns that even today people viewing it for the first time are surprised by how it develops. I’m going with PSYCHO.
PETE DUDAR: PSYCHO was a groundbreaking masterpiece. Filmed in 1960, Hitchcock’s black-and-white adaptation of Robert Bloch’s novel reminded post-war America and the baby-boom generation that crazy people were, in fact, our neighbors.
HALLOWEEN, on the other hand, is a whole other candy-apple. PSYCHO is loosely based on real-life killer Ed Gein. HALLOWEEN is the logical progression of an urban myth, one about the ‘babysitter killer.’
As I said earlier, in terms of story and characterization, PSYCHO wins, but in terms of longevity and ability to still deliver sheer terror, my vote goes to HALLOWEEN.
NICK CATO: I’m not sure which film Pete just voted for.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Join the club.
NICK CATO: Technically PSYCHO is the better film, but again, HALLOWEEN holds up better to repeated viewings and to me isn’t as slow moving. If I had a butcher knife pointed at my head I’d go with HALLOWEEN.
PETE DUDAR: So, it would take a butcher knife to your head for you to make a decision, and you guys are giving me grief!
L.L. SOARES: At least he’d be able to make a decision if forced to. If someone put a butcher knife to your head, it would just let out all the confetti and sawdust.
PETER DUDAR: No it wouldn’t (sticks out tongue)
L.L. SOARES: I happen to have a butcher’s knife handy if you need help making a decision, Pete!
DAN KEOHANE: No butcher’s knives needed here, although an axe might come in handy.
L.L. SOARES: I have one of those too. Right here under my seat.
DAN KEOHANE: I’m sure you do.
Anyway, overall, for me, it’s PSYCHO.
But HALLOWEEN is a close second. (smiles)
NICK CATO: If anyone needs help making a decision, it’s Pete.
PETE DUDAR: I stand by my answers.
L.L. SOARES: What answers? (Laughter)
MICHAEL ARRUDA: I love both movies, but if I have to pick which one is better, without an axe to my head, I have to go with— PSYCHO.
PSYCHO has the stronger story— it has an amazing story, while HALLOWEEN has just an average plot. It has one of the best all-time performances in a genre film: Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. Bates is a much more interesting villain than Michael Myers. It has a stronger cast. While I like Jamie Lee Curtis a lot in HALLOWEEN, no one else in the cast really delivers a strong performance.
Sure, I think John Carpenter’s directing effort is second to none in HALLOWEEN, but Hitchcock is strong throughout. Carpenter put HALLOWEEN on his back and carried it to the finish line. Hitchcock didn’t need to carry the film all by his lonesome.
True, I prefer Carpenter’s music score over Bernard Herrmann’s score, but by percentage points.
I prefer HALLOWEEN on a lot of points, actually, but taken as a whole, especially because of its incredibly strong story, I find PSYCHO to be the better movie.
HALLOWEEN shows off John Carpenter’s directing talents, his music score, and a fine performance by Jamie Lee Curtis.
PSYCHO shows off Alfred Hitchock’s directing talents, Bernard Hermann’s music score, Anthony Perkins’ powerhouse performance as Norman Bates, strong performances by Janet Leigh and, in a supporting role, Martin Balsam, and a deep, resonating script by Joseph Stefano based upon a novel by Robert Bloch, a story credit that HALLOWEEN just doesn’t have.
The numbers favor PSYCHO, and so I’m going with PSYCHO.
L.L. SOARES: Look, I already made my case. HALLOWEEN is above-average for a slasher film. It thrust John Carpenter into the public eye, and rightly so. It’s a classic of its kind. And I hate having to compare it, and I hate having to saying anything negative about it, because I do think it’s one of the best horror films ever made.
But it’s a no-brainer, folks. PSYCHO is the better movie. It’s close to being a perfect movie.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Well, that’s it for Round 8, and PSYCHO has won the round. I can’t say that it won unanimously, due to a couple of obscure answers, but that’s no matter. The two movies were tied 3 ½ – 3 ½ going into the final round, and so the final tally is PSYCHO – 4 ½, HALLOWEEN – 3 ½.
The winner of tonight’s bout is PSYCHO!
But that certainly was a close one! I really had no idea what would happen until the last round. Which made this one a real nail-biter.
Thanks to everyone who participated. Thanks for making this FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHT a good one!
Good night everybody!
© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Peter N. Dudar, Daniel G. Keohane and Paul McMahon