Ah, the good ol’ years between 1998 and 2002 were positively majestic for the Disney Channel original movie business, with Disney just absolutely crushing it with treasured cinematic classics like Brink, Cadet Kelly, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, Johnny Tsunami, Alley Cats Strike, Emmy Award winning The Color of Friendship, and tonight’s feature, Halloweentown (I know you are total fangirling right now!) Halloweentown stars the FABULOUS Academy Award winner Debbie Reynolds (The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Carrie Fisher’s mom, your fantasy grandmother) as Aggie Cromwell, Judith Hoag (April from TMNT) as Gwen Cromwell Piper and Kimberly J. Brown (Bringing Down the House, a couple episodes of Two of a Kind) as Marnie Piper – three generations of Cromwell women who are – GASP – witches and find themselves battling to save Halloweentown from the evil Mayor Kalabar – MWAHAHAH! The cutesy characters in the quaint little village of Halloweentown, the horrible acting, predictable story, great costumes, and festive sets really make Halloweentown a fun, family watch (AND I LOVE IT SO BACK OFF) – this one is definitely pumpkin carving party approved.
I went to Redbox after work to see if I could rent The Purge for $1.20 because I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be that great, but it wasn’t available via Redbox yet so I drove home and ordered it from on-demand (can Blockbuster make a comeback, please?) Well, I wish I would’ve waited until it was available for only $1.20 because The Purge is a victim of having a fantastic concept (future America has a booming economy and 1% unemployment because the government allows murder to be legal for one night per year, aka”the purge”) but lackluster writing (kind of like this blog) and almost-but-not-quite-there performances. I’m a big fan of Ethan Hawke and the home invasion sub-genre, but this one left me saying “meh”.
Blessed be the new Founding Fathers, let us purge,
Take a cue from Britney Spears and “go call the Guvanah” because the Walking Dead is back, y’all! The once dreary prison is now a bonafide farm/school/apparent brothel cause everyone in the whole damn place is shackin’ up together and there are a whole lot of new characters to get to know. Judging from the end of this episode, I’m guessing there’s a swine flu storm a-comin’ except this swine flu turns you into a zombie – totally jazzed for this season!
There’s so much I love about Rob Zombie’s best movie to-date, The Devil’s Rejects, and I proudly consider myself a dedicated member of its cult following. Sid Haig reprises his role as Captain Spaulding; a psychotic, vulgar clown and patriarch of the Firefly family, and the movie focuses on the Firefly’s cat-and-mouse game with the ruthless local police department (meanwhile they run amok in a murderous rampage). The Devil’s Rejects is equal parts grindhouse, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the Manson family – nonsensical violence mixed with campy humor and lots of gore – and I’ll always wonder how Rob Zombie ended up marrying someone as pretty as Sherri Moon Zombie.
31 Nights of Horror, Night 10: American Horror Story Coven, Episode 1, Bitchcraft
Three sentence review:
I love that American Horror Story is an anthology television series and was excited to close the door on AHS: Asylum and start fresh with a brand new story in AHS: Coven – especially since Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett joined the already stellar cast (also, witches are totally in right now – zombies, whaaaa?) The first episode, the aptly named “Bitchcraft,” felt refreshingly stylish and modern (a stark contrast from the dark and antiquated feel of the first two seasons) and I nearly passed out from excitement watching Kathy Bates play the insanely evil Madame Delphine LaLaurie – murderous socialite from 19th century New Orleans . The young witches, Zoe, Madison, Queenie, and Nan played respectively by Taissa Farmiga, Emma Roberts, Gabourey Sibide, and Jamie Brewer are fun to watch (Zoe’s “power” made me slightly uncomfortable) and I’m ridiculously excited to see how New Orlean’s Voodoo history ties in – this season seems to have big potential!
31 Nights of Horror, Night 9: The Conjuring (releasing on blu-ray October 22!)
Three sentence review:
Supernatural horror is one of my favorite sub-genres, and I’d argue that James Wan’sThe Conjuring is the best addition to this category in the last two decades – I mean, it’s Rated R just for scares alone (no gore, just lots of suspense and tension!) Ed and Lorraine Warren, real life paranormal experts previously best known for investigating the Amityville Horror House, finally have their incredible life stories put into the spotlight by the supremely talented Vera Farmigia and surprising horror regular, Patrick Wilson. Supporting actors Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston are excellent as the Perron’s, a husband and wife who move their entire family into a farmhouse with a gruesome past, and the movie clearly (and successfully) draws influence from retro horror gold like Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror, and the Exorcist.
31 Nights of Horror, Night 7: V/H/S 2 (Originally titled S-VHS)
WARNING: This film is for seasoned horror fans and I do not recommend casually watching this or popping it in for your Halloween pumpkin carving party.
Three (run-on) sentence review:
Just when I thought mainstream horror couldn’t get any more disturbing, more innovative, or shocking; that films like “The Conjuring” and “Cabin in the Woods” were the answer to modern horror’s lack of fresh, scary material, and just when I thought I had seen it all and could never ever possibly feel genuinely scared again, I watch V/H/S 2 and its four short films: Clinical Trials, A Ride in the Park, Safe Haven, and Slumber Party Alien Abduction. V/H/S 2 completely blows the first installment (which I reviewed last year and consider my favorite watch of 2012) out of the water and manages to pack four completely new and frightening short films into the same anthology/wrap-around narrative format we saw in the first V/H/S. The overarching story of the movie is about two investigators searching for a missing college student who stumble upon his weird collection of VHS tapes – the found-footage/POV camera style of all of the shorts are unnerving, and while all of the four installments are incredibly solid and frightening, “Safe Haven”, the third and best phase of V/H/S 2, left my jaw nearly dragging on the floor and I’m finding it hard to shake off some of the visuals and adrenaline rush it produced even an hour after the credits rolled.
“Clinical Trials” is about a man who agrees to test out a bionic eye with ghostly side effects.
Ils, a French title also known as “Them”, is the European inspiration behind the 2008 American horror movie, The Strangers. The films’ premises are nearly exact – an attractive couple find themselves terrorized by anonymous intruders in their secluded home during the wee hours of the night – but I much prefer Ils reliance on suspense, darkness, and sound over The Strangers’ “come and go” villains who depend on cheap scares and often seem to be professional disappearing acts. At just 77 minutes, the film wastes no time with unnecessary back stories or plot building, but excels in delivering a tense “life or death” experience with solid opening and ending scenes.
31 Nights of Horror, Night 5: The Last House on the Left (1972)
Three sentence review:
Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left is one of those rare movies where the remake is worth watching (Craven did his own remake, so that helps) but I really recommend checking out the older version first. A pair of friends, Mari and Phyllis, try to score some pot when they meet up with a crew of rapists, child molesters, sadists, and serial killers and are consequently tortured; but their family takes revenge into their own hands. The primary difference between the original and remake is that the 70s version of Krug, Sadie, Weasel and Junior are so much more deranged and terrifying than the 2009 remake, but the reboot has better (but not by much) revenge scenes – both are disturbing.
31 Nights of Horror, Night 4: Night of the Demons (1988).
(please forgive the sparse post, I’m currently in Columbia, SC and typing on my phone!)
Three sentence review: I always love re-watching this one…If you’ve never seen Night of the Demons and you love campy, 80s slasher flicks involving a group of high schoolers, this one is for you! There’s an amazing token prankster named Stooge, lots of obligatory nudity (and a weird scene involving lipstick that’s not very Molly Ringwald), and some BADASS creature make-up effects that far surpasses the 2009 remake (skip that one). As many 80s horror jaunts go, a group of friends are invited to a Halloween party at a house that just so happens to be infested with demonic spirits – it definitely covers all of the horror movie rules and parameters listed in “Scream” – and I definitely recommend this one if you can find it.