Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Ceti Eel

I think that this is quite possibly the creepiest thing that I've seen in an hour.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

30 Days of Night - Terrifying New Vampire Vision

I think that humanity as a whole has goten far too comfortable with vampires. Think about Anne Rice's Louis and Lesat. Joss Whedon's Angel. Coppola's vision of Dracula. The new CBS show Moonlight. The vampires of the past 20 years embody raw, passionate, beautifully dangerous human sexuality; heterosexuality, homosexuality, virtiginous androgeny - the penetration and imbibing of fluids creating new sexual meaning. Sure, they have their pair of pointy mincers, but that's about it. It's interesting how vampires have anthropomorphized since Murnau's grotesque and iconic Graf Orlock in his 1922 film, Nosferatu. Now we have sympathetic visions of the vampire, poor creatures riddled with inner tumoil over their human/subhuman struggle, far removed from their animalistic primal origin.

But 30 Days of Night puts the monster back in the monster. The vampires in 30 Days of Night are quite possibly the most horrifying visions of the vampire that I have every seen.

The 30 Days of Night threat go far beyond the mere two sharpened canines. The vampires in this movie have a whole set of sharpened points lurking behind carnal sneers, their smooth sloping angular faces reminiscent more of sharks than of man. When they claim their victims, there are no clean bitemarks. Their victims are totally and utterly masacred. Unlike the our modern trend of vampires, who somehow manage to drain their victims of blood as cleanly and meticulously as a surgeon, their clothes and skin spotless, the vampires in 30 Days of Night unabashedly dig their teeth in, proudly wearing their victims' blood as a badge. As the movie progresses, the snow begins to fall over Alaska, white caresses the air, and blood red shines on the chins and bibs of the horrible night-stalkers. The direction is incredible and definitely creates visions of a terrorized paranoid town. The vampires created in this movie are monsters; there is no humanity left within them.

30 Days of Night is an adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name by Steve Niles. The concept is that a Family of Vampires target an Alaskan town that every year has an entire month of night. Director David Slade definitely creates an intense seige movie, emphasizing paranoia, fear, and claustrophobia. Josh Hartnett plays the believably altruistic hero and Melissa George the love interest. David Slade creates an ambiance so intense that I actually found myself holding my breath, feeling the quiet as the survivors huddled in fear and hiding.

I was definitely impressed with this movie. I went in with high expectations, and the movie held up ok (yes, only ok). The "only ok" rating comes from impending yet ultimately unsatisfying showdown (vaguely inferred so as to avoid spoilers).

But it's not that bad. I give it * * * *. Definitely a must-see for blood-thirsty vampire fans.

Dark Ride - Slasher Goes Amusement

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Yet another film of 2006's 8 Films to Die For (I've seen 4 so far), Dark Ride pairs an amusement park ride with a maniacal asylum-escaped killer.

Which amusement park ride?

Well, a dark ride, of course. I didn't even know that those archaic mechanical horror perambulators found at the corners and outskirts of every county fair and portable amusement center even had names!

I love dark rides! The last one that I had been lucky enough to take advantage of was at the Champlain Valley fair in Essex Junction, Vermont. My boyfriend at the time and I barely fit into that precariously rickety vehicle, and the only horror that passed through us was the unadulterated fear that we would be cast overboard around one of the tight turns... And not be able to scramble out of the wooden car of doom as the subsequent cars pile up and pile up and pile up...

Those rides aren't for adults, folks. Leave them to the skinny kids.

But I digress.

In this film, five teenagers have the presence of mind to spend the night in a Dark Ride, which ALSO happens to be the home of an escaped mental patient.

Obviously, it all goes downhill from here.

The Dark Ride itself is actually pretty creepy. The concept of being lost in a haunted house is certainly not novel, but is definitely interesting. Most of the scares come from the counterfeit apparitions that occupy the ride's every nook and corner. The killer himself uses a boy mannequin's face to hide his own, a visage that should be enough to send shivers down the audience's collective spine... But, yet, it's lacking.

I definitely have a penchant for not only all things horror, but all thing slasher as well, so movies like Dark Ride definitely catch my interest and hold a special place in my heart, even before it commences. But that's all it has going for it. It has formulaicly bad dialogue, formulaic bad acting, and formulaicly bad characters.

I'd kill them myself if I had a chance.

It gets * * . 5... But only because I love the slasher.

Save yourself the trouble; Halloween should still be available on DVD.

Penny Dreadful - Indie Take on Old Tale

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Penny Dreadful was one of the 8 Films to Die For 2006. It takes a fairly familiar story: The Hitchhiker. Two women pick up a hitchhiker. Car breaks down. Hitchhiker terrorizes women. Oh, and according to locals there has been a recent onslaught of gruesome murders. Oh, and apparently a woman has escaped from a local mental institution.


My pulp senses are metaphorically tingling with veritable delight.


"Penny Dreadful" by definition is a term for a specific type of British pulp novels sold to readers for, well, a penny. Strategically using this phrase as the title for this horror film definitely sets an initial tone of expected pulp (using the theme and set up of the hitchhiker; a theme that is not novel) as well as a certain sense of homage. The beginning of the movie, in fact, has a cameo of Michael Berryman of the original Hills Have Eyes fame, giving a well-done nod to seige-based isolated victim horror movies that have come before (not to mention a theme-based foreshadowing of what is yet to come). So it's clear, even at the beginning of the film, that director Richard Brandes was meticulous and attentive when putting this indie film together.

So we have a nice set-up for a cliched horror movie, but yet Brandes selects a script that does a new take on the hitchhiker urban legend mythos. In this version of the tale, Penny has an mortal fear of cars (being a survivor of a car crash when she was little), so she is already on edge at the start of the movie. Couple that with a killer who imprisons her in the car, and what you have is the typical stalker tale, but with an added sense of claustrophobia. Brandes definitely captures the car as an encasing prison with Penny as its victim.

The scares are good (definitely had me clenching my fists), the mood is certainly creepy (wonderful suspenseful build-up), and while the blood certainly does flow, it does not flow in an obscene sense.

Kudos to you, Brandes; fantastic new take of the classic urban legend.

I give it * * * *. REALLY liked it.