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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Monster of Phantom Lake (2007)


When I'm feeling down, I enjoy popping either an animated film, or a B-movie into the machine and watch it while nibbling on popcorn or cheesy poofs.  I was in that sort of mood when I sat down to watch, "The Monster of Phantom Lake"...

Professor Jackson, and his assistant Stephanie are studying the local ecosystem of Phantom Lake, when they come across a new species of algae- algae that seems to have somehow combined with human DNA.  While they struggle to find the cause, a group of teens are having a campout nearby... only to be attacked by a plant-like humanoid figure.  Is THIS the source of the strange algae... and who will it kill next?

"The Monster of Phantom Lake" is not intended to be a scary movie.  It is a humourous tribute to the classic, cheesy B-movies of the 1950's- and does it quite well.

Like most of the B-movies of the 1950's, the camera work isn't complex- though there are some decent shots.  The editing was good at creating a decent pace to the story- which helped make up for any lack of "originality" in the camera angles.

If you're looking for "serious" acting- don't watch this film.  The acting is silly and exaggerated in parts- just as it was meant to be.  I often found myself smiling and chuckling at the rather hokey way lines were delivered, and the satirical way the hero would pose once in awhile.  The characters are likable, and the actors did a great job bringing their silliness to life.  Josh Craig as Professor Jackson was quite enjoyable to watch- as was Leigha Horton as Stephanie (I have to admit, she was nice to look at too). I also felt that Deanne McDonald- who played Elizabeth was great in the role.  Loved the glasses she wore. LOL  Another great pair of actors were Michael Cook and M. Scott Taulman as Gustav and Sven- the canoe riding park rangers.  All together, the cast really made this film one to chuckle over as I remembered some of the other great B-movies I'd seen over the years.

The costumes were simple, yet effective.  The best example of costuming was actually worn by McDonald in her role of Elizabeth.  I could honestly see her as a teenage girl back in the 1950's.  I think hers was the most complex of the "period clothes" worn by the cast.  The monster's custome was laughable- but in a good way.  It made me think of a lot of the monster type costumes I thought of creating for Halloween- as well as a few I've seen in the low budget movie industry.  I couldn't help but snort with amusement when I saw the monster.  I loved it!

The story is- like most of the movies from the era it's paying tribute to, was simple, yet provided plenty of room for the shenanigans on the screen.  The premise suited this movie perfectly, though they could've had more with the monster in it.

Before I give my verdict on "The Monster of Phantom Lake," I want to give a big "Thank you!" to Christopher R. Mihm for not only directing/producing this lovely piece of humour, but for sending me this- and a couple other of his films for viewing and reveiwing on "The Corner of Terror".  If readers want to learn more about him, and his films, check out his website!

If you want a silly and enjoyable break from the rather dreary flood of remakes/reboots, and unoriginal horror films out on the market, I would recommend watching, "The Monster of Phantom Lake"- especially with friends.  I'm placing this movie in 'The Good".  It helped to make a dreary night more enjoyable for me.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Scare It Forward! (Tale Two) Chapters 11 & 12

Well, the final two chapters of William Castle's second 2011 "Scare It Forward!" tale have been posted... and I'm here with the final summary of this tale!


The story so far:
Rod "Hot Rod" McIntosh, is a guitarist with a taste for cocaine, liquor, and fast bikes.  During his band's performance one night, a mysterious woman gives him a note and a kiss.  Soon, Rod is faced with a growing horror as the woman stakes a claim on his soul.  Is this hellish nightmare a bad trip... or a fast trip to Hell?
A night of passion turns into a nightmarish vision of shadowy death and and an creepy mystery for Rod after he meets, "Mindy".  Kisses land like feathers, and blood flows like wine in the fog of his memories from that night.  Who IS this mysterious woman... and what does she want with him?
 Seeking answers to the fragmented questions about the strange night with "Mindy," Rod is on a journey to find her and discover the truth behind the secret hiding under her seductive allure.  He soon finds himself on the road to the Ranford Ranch... but is that road also the road to Hell?
Having reached the Ranford Ranch, Rod is greeted by the haunting beauty of "Mindy", and her... "friends".  They're having a party- and Rod is the star performer.  Rod quickly finds himself in the intoxicating grip of pain and pleasure- and then left to crave the terrifying rush of losing his soul to the music.
Like an addict, Rod is caught in the steel grip of a hungry need to feel the music inside him... a need so great that he'd willingly suffer the terror that "Mindy" and her friends inflict on him.  His need may bring him greater horrors now that he's met "Malina"... their queen...
Inspiration flows like blood inside of Rod as the dark queen and her trinity of maidens pull him deeper into their court of terror.  Lyrics seep like life from him as he writes for the dark queen and her trinity of maidens.  Words drop on the page like tears as he sees a way to escape the obscurity that follows him and his band.  Fame and glory lay before him like a body on the floor as he loses himself to the music...  Will he become the court minstrel... or the fool?
Some musicians are blessed by the music they create, while others are cursed by it.  Some control their music, while others are controlled by it.  Sinking deeper into his addiction to the music he plays for "Malina" and her trio of maidens, Rod encounters three strange men and learns the horrid truth behind the music.  They offer him a chance at reclaiming his life and his soul... but only a slim chance.  Too bad the dark queen isn't likely to make it easy for him...
Sometimes, we're trapped in a fantasy we wish would end, while other times we're trapped in a reality we wish would end.  For Rod, reality has taken a darker turn into grim fantasy that he can't escape.  He needs to break the hold of the horror that grips his life now... but is confronted with the possibility that the life he had may have been just as a nightmare as what he's facing now...
We all have to face our fears at one point or another in our lives.  We also have to face our secrets at some point too.  Rod is about to face both as he steps into a final showdown with the dark queen "Malina," and her ladies in waiting.  Will Rod's real secret be enough to win this battle... or will he join the evil court of the witches as their most recent slave?

Brian James Lane brings us Chapter Eleven, while the final chapter is written by Bill J White.  The two of them set things up, and knock them down with a fantastic little surprise.

Check out the complete story at William Castle's blog.  And if you haven't already, I recommend reading the first of the 2011 stories, "Scare It Forward!: Undertow" and last year's tale, "Scare It Forward!: Angel Island".

Also, get ready, because the THIRD "Scare It Forward!" story will be starting, and I'll be bringing you weekly summaries of that one as well.  I definately recommend reading the upcoming story, since I'll be writing one of the chapters myself!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bloodsucking Babes From Burbank (2006)

I am a fan of low budget horror movies.  I'm also af an of B-movies.  I also really enjoy some humour mixed with my horror.  When a movie combines these three things, I can be often found to sit, contented like a kitty cat with some catnip.  Unfortunately, not all of the horror movies that try to fit these three categories manages to do it effectively...

Gary is helping his girlfriend Samantha with an archeology excursion to find a jewel box that was supposed to have been the property of a real life witch.  He finds the jewel box, and offers it to one of Samantha's rivals when Samantha refuses to show him the "proper appreciation" for it. Soon, however, Gary is on the run as women throughout Burbank start turning on men and eating them.  It's up to Gary, Samantha, a drifter and his girlfriend to retrieve the box and stop the carnage from spreading.

This is actually going to be a pretty short review, since there isn't much to say about "Bloodsucking Babes From Burbank".

The premise is a bit shaky, but still offers a skeleton for a decent story, and interesting characters.  Unfortunately, rather than actually trying for something with a bit of depth to it, this movie settles for being rather shallow and cheap- and not just in terms of the budget.  I really didn't care for any of the characters- including the heros.  Gary was a douche, Samantha was an uptight bitch, Zack the drifter was angsty and emo, while his girlfriend, Felicity was... well, I really don't remember much about her character- sorry.  I know this was meant to be a humourous B-movie, but the acting was just not effective in my opinion.

I found the camera work to be pretty boring too- though there ARE one or two decent shots... but that could be due to the copious amounts of breasts and butts bouncing around.

As I said, this movie is supposed to be humourous, but I found it rather sleazy.  In perfect honesty, this movie relied more on scantily clad women nomming on guys than it did on wit and depth.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy T&A in my horror movies... but when that's the main appeal of the movie, it's hard to accept.

I will admit though that there was one thing the did impress me- and that was the special effects for the eys.  It was simple, but effective.  When the women had those large, black hole eyes, I was un-nerved... especially when the sweet, loving grandmother has them...

As much as I love funny, low budget B-movies, I didn't really like this one.  It felt cheap and sleazy to me.  I'm feeding this piece to "The Ugly"...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Shadows of the Dead (2004)

Over the past decade, Vampires and Werewolves have been given a "humanized" treatment in movies and TV.  Rather than being the cold, sinister blood thirsty creatures of the night they used to be, they are now more human.  They have feelings, and a culture now- so much so that they're almost soap operatic in nature... and not as scary as they used to be when Mom would warn us about the vampire in the attic...

One creature of the night that has pretty much stayed the same has been the zombie... except for one film that I found that looks at the zombie in a whole different light...

John and Jennifer are a young couple hoping to enjoy a weekend away at their cabin.  After getting lost in the woods, they are attacked by a stranger who bites John.  Managing to escape, they reach their cabin and safety.  Unfortunately, they soon realize that some changes are taking place in their lives...

This movie presents us with an intellegent, and even thought provoking look at the zombie.  We all know that zombies are brainless, shambling corpses with only one thought: EAT THE LIVING!  But what few zombie movies explore is what it would be like to experience the change from living to undead... and remain concious throughout the whole thing.  "Shadows of the Dead" does this brilliantly.

The movie is more drama than pure horror, so is pretty slow.  Because of the slow pace however, you come to care about these two as they go through their changes- and are drawn into the story of how it affects their relationship as well.  There is some blood- it IS a horror movie after all, but it's used sparingly and effectively to move the story forward... it's not there just because it's fun to splash blood all over the set.  The dialogue can seem a bit stiff and bland at times... but no more than you'd find in most soap operas or dramas.

Despite the occaisonally blandness of the dialogue, I felt the acting was pretty good for a movie of such a low budget.  I really came to feel for both John (played by Jonathan Flanigan), and Jennifer (played by Beverly Hynds).  Jason Schwartz- as the pizza guy was funny to watch- I enjoyed his scene.  I also enjoyed Paul Kessler as the doctor that tries to find John's heartbeat... and fails.  The acting isn't Academy Award level, but suitably good for this purpose of this film.

The use of the single cabin (pretty much just one or two rooms of it actually) was very well done.  The director, Carl Lindbergh kept things interesting with lighting and camera angles.  There are some great shots where the cabin looks smokey with the light playing in it.  Really added to the mood and feel of the movie- as did the use of greys, blacks, browns and oranges for the sets, costumes, etc.  "Shadows of the Dead" really had a nice tone to it.

The zombie make-up for Jennifer wasn't great, but was still effective enough to give the impression of her muscles and skin shrinking on her face, giving her a pretty good skull look to her head.  With the use of bandages, contact lenses, fake blood smears, and a bit of make-up peeking through the bandages, the look they gave John was excellent in my opinion.  Seeing him look out through the window at the camera with the grey eyes and bloody bandages was creepy and made me wonder just how much of his face was really left.

While many horror fans will get bored with this film because of its slower pace, and minimal kills, those that enjoy interesting and creative looks at the creatures that scare us will probably enjoy this.  I'm going to place this movie in "The Good"

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Scare It Forward!" (Tale Two) Chapter 10


Well, gang- Monday has rolled around... another long start to a long week.  Fortunately, we have my weekly summary of William Castle's second "Scare It Forward!" tale to make the day go a little bit easier!

The story so far:
Rod "Hot Rod" McIntosh, is a guitarist with a taste for cocaine, liquor, and fast bikes.  During his band's performance one night, a mysterious woman gives him a note and a kiss.  Soon, Rod is faced with a growing horror as the woman stakes a claim on his soul.  Is this hellish nightmare a bad trip... or a fast trip to Hell?
A night of passion turns into a nightmarish vision of shadowy death and and an creepy mystery for Rod after he meets, "Mindy".  Kisses land like feathers, and blood flows like wine in the fog of his memories from that night.  Who IS this mysterious woman... and what does she want with him?
 Seeking answers to the fragmented questions about the strange night with "Mindy," Rod is on a journey to find her and discover the truth behind the secret hiding under her seductive allure.  He soon finds himself on the road to the Ranford Ranch... but is that road also the road to Hell?
Having reached the Ranford Ranch, Rod is greeted by the haunting beauty of "Mindy", and her... "friends".  They're having a party- and Rod is the star performer.  Rod quickly finds himself in the intoxicating grip of pain and pleasure- and then left to crave the terrifying rush of losing his soul to the music.
Like an addict, Rod is caught in the steel grip of a hungry need to feel the music inside him... a need so great that he'd willingly suffer the terror that "Mindy" and her friends inflict on him.  His need may bring him greater horrors now that he's met "Malina"... their queen...
Inspiration flows like blood inside of Rod as the dark queen and her trinity of maidens pull him deeper into their court of terror.  Lyrics seep like life from him as he writes for the dark queen and her trinity of maidens.  Words drop on the page like tears as he sees a way to escape the obscurity that follows him and his band.  Fame and glory lay before him like a body on the floor as he loses himself to the music...  Will he become the court minstrel... or the fool?
Some musicians are blessed by the music they create, while others are cursed by it.  Some control their music, while others are controlled by it.  Sinking deeper into his addiction to the music he plays for "Malina" and her trio of maidens, Rod encounters three strange men and learns the horrid truth behind the music.  They offer him a chance at reclaiming his life and his soul... but only a slim chance.  Too bad the dark queen isn't likely to make it easy for him...
Sometimes, we're trapped in a fantasy we wish would end, while other times we're trapped in a reality we wish would end.  For Rod, reality has taken a darker turn into grim fantasy that he can't escape.  He needs to break the hold of the horror that grips his life now... but is confronted with the possibility that the life he had may have been just as a nightmare as what he's facing now...

Chapter Ten is brought to you this week by Richie Weird.  All I have to say is, "Wow..."  He definately brings a bit of a shocker to the story.  If you don't believe me, check it out the full story at William Castle's blog!  There are three chapters remaining in this story, and I'm really curious how it'll end.

While you're visiting his site, check out the first tale of terror for 2011- "Scare It Forward: Undertow," as well as last years errie tale, "Scare It Forward: Angel Island".

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Red Riding Hood (2003)

Fairy tales have often provided inspiration for horror movies- being rather horrific when you read the original, un-Disneyfied versions (I can't forgive Disney for butchering the classic "Hunchback of Notre Dame").  Sometimes, the influence is very direct, and other times a little more obsure.

Jenny is a young girl left to her own devices in Rome after her father is killed, and step-mother leaves for whatever reason meets her fancy at the time.  She sees this as the perfect opportunity to bring Rome a bit of street level justice with the help of her canine friend, "George".  Unfortunately, a crush on her tutor, and her meddling grandmother are in the way of her dispensing her special kinda of justice...

At first glance, you would expect the title to refer to a more direct adaptation of the story of Little Red Riding Hood... but you'd be wrong.  There are references to the story, but they aren't a major part of the story.  There is a grandmother, and Jenny does wear a hood- though it's black with red gloves and rubber boats, and there is a "big bad wolf" in the form of "George".  Beyond that, the story is nothing similar to the familiar fairy tale.

This Italian horror movie is actually quite enjoyable.  Starting with the acting, Susanna Satta as Jenny showed talent.  It was interesting to watch her character go from a nice, innocent look one moment to one of petulance and rage the next.  She gave the character charm and poise, making the character in some ways more mature than her age would make you think.  She also brought a calm, detached malice to the character as well.  I would like to see what other films she's been in to see how her acting grows with experience.  Rose, the grandmother whose played by Kathleen Archebald was also great as well.  She expressed the sort of exasperation that older people have with young people excellently.  You could also feel the anguish and horror her character felt as Jenny's actions take her to a dark hole in life.  Just marvellous.  I also have to say that Robert Purvis did well as Tom- Jenny's tutor.  Even though he really didn't get much in the way of screen time, he helped greatly in the scenes that brought out the girlish side of Jenny... and he takes a hit to the head pretty good too.  Now, one character that didn't get any lines at all- but still served an important role, was that of "George".  Without saying a word, Fabio Sonnino and Simone Dipascasio brought this character to sinister, silent life beautifully.  I was really impressed by them.  In some ways, it reminded me of how Nick Castle was able to give Michael Meyers in "Halloween" that silent, deadly aura without saying anything.  Great!

Of course, "George" was assisted by the great costume used.  It was simple, but worked artistically.  Black hooded raincoat, red gloves, and red rubber boots with a stylized wolf mask.  I loved it.  In fact, if I could find or make the same sort of mask, I would dress as "George" for Halloween.  Heck, I may just have to start a hunt for a reproduction of the mask...

There is some really good camera work in this movie too.  The director, Giacomo Cimini, mixes in close-ups of the rubber boots, and gloves with wider shots of the victim with skill and creativity.  There aren't a lot of unique angles used, but with the mixture of close-ups and wider shots, he didn't need to use a lot of weird angles to build the mood and pace of the story.  The composition of the scenes are well thought out and artistic as well.  There are some shots that I would love to take still frames from and use as posters on my wall.

"Red Riding Hood" also has a decent story as well- fairly unique and interesting.  It was well written and paced.  You came to like the characters- especially Jenny and George, and I found myself thinking about how she might mete justice on the next law breaker.  It's not super deep, but entertaining.  My only complaint with the movie is how it ends.  The end is a bit jarring as it veers off into an entirely different sub-genre of horror and tone, leaving me with my head tilted in puzzlement going, "What the...?"

I would certainly watch this film again, but because of the ending, I'm forced to place "Red Riding Hood" in "The Bad".

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Identity (2003)


Every now and then, I find a suspenseful thriller that keeps you interested and leaves you blinking with surprise at the end.

Eleven travellors become trapped at a lonely roadside motel during stormy night.  Soon, one by one, they are murdered by an unknown person.  Is the killer one of them... or something much darker than they'd ever suspect?

"Identity" is one of those films that not only kept me interested throughout the entire thing- but actually made me raise my eyebrows in surprise at the twist.  The story is well written, and paced beautifully.  The characters were unique and interesting- and likeable.

The acting, as far as I'm concerned, as great.  I've always enjoyed John Cusack's performances, and he didn't disappoint as Ed Dakota.  The character had depth- I wanted to learn more about him as a person.  Another great performance was given by Ray Liotta- who's work I also enjoy greatly.  He gives a good, strong performance in the role of Samuel Rhodes- exuding both strength and malice at the same time... just excellent.  I have to mention John Hawkes as Larry Washington as well- I really enjoyed his portrayal of the motel owner.  Even though the character was flawed- and somewhat shady, he was still able to make you like the character and feel that at heart Larry was actually a good person.  The rest of the cast was great too.  They all worked well together in their scenes, and drew you into the story.

While, in some instances, the camera work used a basic sort of layout, it was still quite effective at building the suspense and mood.  There are some great shots too, and the editing really helped the set a good pace for the story.

For me, this film almost echos some of the best of Alfred Hitchcock's work in terms of suspense, mood, characters, and enjoyment.  I'm giving "Identity" a firm place in "The Good"

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Scare It Forward! (Tale Two) Chapters 8 & 9


For those of you wondering where my weekly update of William Castle's second 2011 "Scare It Forward!" tale was yesterday, I'm sorry.  Sometimes life gets in the way of things.  Having said that, allow me to present my sumary of Chapters Eight and Nine!

The story so far:
Rod "Hot Rod" McIntosh, is a guitarist with a taste for cocaine, liquor, and fast bikes.  During his band's performance one night, a mysterious woman gives him a note and a kiss.  Soon, Rod is faced with a growing horror as the woman stakes a claim on his soul.  Is this hellish nightmare a bad trip... or a fast trip to Hell?
A night of passion turns into a nightmarish vision of shadowy death and and an creepy mystery for Rod after he meets, "Mindy".  Kisses land like feathers, and blood flows like wine in the fog of his memories from that night.  Who IS this mysterious woman... and what does she want with him?
 Seeking answers to the fragmented questions about the strange night with "Mindy," Rod is on a journey to find her and discover the truth behind the secret hiding under her seductive allure.  He soon finds himself on the road to the Ranford Ranch... but is that road also the road to Hell?
Having reached the Ranford Ranch, Rod is greeted by the haunting beauty of "Mindy", and her... "friends".  They're having a party- and Rod is the star performer.  Rod quickly finds himself in the intoxicating grip of pain and pleasure- and then left to crave the terrifying rush of losing his soul to the music.
Like an addict, Rod is caught in the steel grip of a hungry need to feel the music inside him... a need so great that he'd willingly suffer the terror that "Mindy" and her friends inflict on him.  His need may bring him greater horrors now that he's met "Malina"... their queen...
Inspiration flows like blood inside of Rod as the dark queen and her trinity of maidens pull him deeper into their court of terror.  Lyrics seep like life from him as he writes for the dark queen and her trinity of maidens.  Words drop on the page like tears as he sees a way to escape the obscurity that follows him and his band.  Fame and glory lay before him like a body on the floor as he loses himself to the music...  Will he become the court minstrel... or the fool?
Some musicians are blessed by the music they create, while others are cursed by it.  Some control their music, while others are controlled by it.  Sinking deeper into his addiction to the music he plays for "Malina" and her trio of maidens, Rod encounters three strange men and learns the horrid truth behind the music.  They offer him a chance at reclaiming his life and his soul... but only a slim chance.  Too bad the dark queen isn't likely to make it easy for him...

Chapter Eight was written by Bob Beideman- and I have to say the twist he brought the story this week was certainly interesting and enjoyable.  Mike Bacon is the writer of Chapter Nine, and did an excellent job of following up on Beideman's contribution!  There are four chapters left in this tale, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it all ends!

As always- I definately recommend reading the full story at William Castle's blog!  And if you enjoy this story so far, read "Scare It Forward: Undertow"- the first tale done this year, and check out last year's story, "Scare It Forward: Angel Island"!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Strange Things Happen at Sundown (2003)

Vampire movies have gotten a bit boring over the past few years, relying on either the vampire being either moody and angsty or in a rivalry with a werewolf.  But rest assured that there ARE some that step out of the usual vampire mold and are quite entertaining.

Marcel and Amy, two vampires have stolen $100,000.00 from vampire mobster Jimmy "Fangs" Petrucci, and are on the run.  A mysterious vampire hitman has been hired to hunt them down to get the money back.  While waiting for his money to be returned, "Fangs" has to deal with a strange female vampire who is killing his gang on her path to the vampire that created her.

"Strange Things Happen at Sundown" is a fun little vampire film that is witty and intellegent.  In 2003, it won the Audience Choice Award at the New York City Horror Film Festival.

The story is well crafted and smart.  It uses much of the vampire mythology with minor changes to bring a fresh feeling to the vampire genre.  Unused since Bram Stoker originally wrote "Dracula" is the concept that vampires CAN walk around during the day, but are stronger at night.  Since the main characters are all vampires, this certainly allows the director to present the story with a quicker pace by doing both day and night scenes.  Also taken from classic vampire mythology is the concept of the vampire created "ghoul".  If a normal human consumes vampire blood, they become the vampire's servant and a ghoul- often eating human flesh.  In this film, the ghouls tend to have a more zombie-like nature.  These and other vampire concepts are played with quite nicely in the movie- adding a pleasant depth to the characters and world they reside in.

While the acting isn't top notch, it is still quite enjoyable and you come to be interested in the characters.  My favorite character was the vampire hitman, "The Reaper" who cowers before nobody... except his wife- who just may be able to rip his soul out.

For a low budget film, there are some excellent pieces of camera work in this movie.  Interesting angles, lighting and editing combine to create an almost surreal atmosphere during the feeding and flashback scenes. Those moments compensate for most of the more bland camera set-ups.

And what would a vampire movie be without blood?  There is certainly copious amounts of blood and gore- especially when the vampires are feasting on their vicims entrails.  The grue is done quite well, I felt too- though there is one scene where it just seemed unneccesary.  It's the scene where Marcel goes to this house to talk to the vampire money launderer, Smooth.  It borders on the verge of "torture porn" and is a bit disturbing- which I'm sure was the point.  It was interesting and effective... but didn't really seem to fit in with the rest of the movie, and felt like it was added to kill time and simply unnerve the viewer.

Because of the gatuitous gore scene, and the less than professional acting, I'm going to have to place "Strange Things Happen at Sundown" in "The Bad"

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

I think I'm safe in saying that pretty much EVERYONE, at one point or another has seen Disney's animated version of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow".  Well, if you're looking for a review of it today, you'd be wrong.  Today, I'm going to cover Tim Burton's reimagining of the classic tale...

New York City police constable, Ichabod Crane is assigned a mysterious murder case in the small hamlet of Sleepy Hollow.  Upon arrival, he is informed by the local dignitaries that the deaths are the work of the Headless Horseman... who is possibly taking the heads to replace his missing head.  While investigating, Ichabod becomes involved in the intrigue and mystery surrounding the Headless Horseman... a mystery that may just involve the woman he's attracted to...

Going into this review, I'm going to be very honest and plain about a few facts:

  • I've always enjoyed Tim Burton's films;
  • I've always enjoyed Johnny Depp's work;
  • I've always enjoyed Christina Ricci's work; and
  • I think Christopher Walken is an acting god.
What that said, I'll say that I really enjoyed "Sleepy Hollow".  The story is a nice, fresh look at the classic tale.  It retains many of the elements of the original, while taking it in a new direction.  Ichabod's slightly awkwardness, his faith in intellect- while still being a bit afraid of the supernatural, and humour are still very much present.  The humour, suspense, errieness, and fun of the original story are very much alive in this movie.  There is even a tip of the hat to the Disney version in the scene where Brock tosses the flaming pumpkin at Ichabod.

The cast was great as well.  Johnny Depp is well known for playing quirky characters, and was well suited from this role.  I came to like the character of Ichabod Crane, and quietly cheered him on throughout the movie.  I also enjoyed Christina Ricci as Katrina.  She looked beautiful- her face has an almost innocent look to it, while hinting at the maturity underneath.  The chemistry between her and Depp was great.

Many will know Ian McDiarmid from the "Harry Potter" movies, as Uncle Vernon.  In "Sleepy Hollow", he gives a great performance as Dr. Lancaster.  It's not a huge role, but one that's still enjoyable.  Michael Gough- who many will remember as Alfred from Tim Burton's "Batman" films plays Notary Hardenbrook, and does a wonderful job with another small role.  Also of note was Marc Pickering's role as Young Masbeth.  I quite like his character and the subtle humour he brought to the role.  Even with just a cameo at the beginning, Christopher Lee manages to own the scene he's in- his skill towering over us the way his character towered over Ichabod Crane.

And then there's Christopher Walken.  What can we say about him?  Just fantastic.  He's not in it much, but each scene is a joy watching him gnaw on the scenery- gnashing his teeth, snarling as his crazy hair rings his head like some demented electrical storm.  He doesn't say a word... but then he doesn't have to.

As is typical of a Tim Burton production, the colours are subdued and moody, allowing whatever blood that's shown to add the colour to a scene.  The sets and scenere all very much like a gothic storybook and almost dream like.  The costumes were phenomenal- showing off the personality and physical traits of the character wonderfully.  The special effects are simple but effective.  They helped to enhance the story without consuming it- and excellent example of old school film making using new technology.  The camera work was excellent too, with the editing creating an interesting and well paced story.

Sometimes, it's hard for me to find films that I'd want to watch more than once.  "Sleepy Hollow" is one of those films that I would watch repeatedly while munching on popcorn in a darkened room.  I have no problems sliding "Sleepy Hollow" into "The Good".

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Last Broadcast (1998)

In 1999, the world was presente with with one of the first "found footage" style films, "The Blair Witch Project".  The year before, however, there was a lesser known one released... "The Last Broadcast".

While filming a documentary about the "Fact or Fiction" murders, David Leigh receives a box with the mangled remains of a video cassette.  Believing that this tape holds the evidence needed to solve the grisly murders of the TV show hosts- Steven Avkast, Locus Wheeler and Rein Clackin, he enlists the aid of data retrieval expert, Michelle.  Was it the Jersey Devil- the creature the "Fact or Fiction" crew was hoping to catch on video... or something far darker than any of them would believe?

For a low budget film, this one was done quite well.  I liked the documentary style of storytelling they used.  Even though the characters aren't developed much, you do come to like the hosts of "Fact or Fiction".  The acting was pretty good, though to be honest, I wouldn't normally be inclined to watch some like David Beard as a talking head in such a film.  The best performances were definately given by Stefan Avalos- who played Avkast, and Lance Weiler as Locus.  There was some good chemistry between the actors and they were entertaining to watch.

One problem I had with "The Blair Witch Project" was the amount of shaky camera work in it- gave me a bit of a headache watching it.  "The Last Broadcast" balanced out the slightly unbalanced nature of a hand held camera with the steady studio style used for the interviews.

My only serious problem with this film was the ending.  Plotwise, it was good and effective- and was a twist I wasn't expecting.  The problem lies in how it jumps from being a documentary style film to a third person perspective.  I would've preferred that they had stayed in documentary mode until the end.

In my final analysis, I'm going to have to put "The Last Broadcast" into "The Bad"

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Scare It Forward!" (Tale Two) Chapter 7

I enjoy starting my week by catching up on the lastest chapters of William Castle's 2011 "Scare It Forward!"  This week, I help you by giving you a summary of the story up to Chapter Seven...

The story so far:
Rod "Hot Rod" McIntosh, is a guitarist with a taste for cocaine, liquor, and fast bikes.  During his band's performance one night, a mysterious woman gives him a note and a kiss.  Soon, Rod is faced with a growing horror as the woman stakes a claim on his soul.  Is this hellish nightmare a bad trip... or a fast trip to Hell?
A night of passion turns into a nightmarish vision of shadowy death and and an creepy mystery for Rod after he meets, "Mindy".  Kisses land like feathers, and blood flows like wine in the fog of his memories from that night.  Who IS this mysterious woman... and what does she want with him?
 Seeking answers to the fragmented questions about the strange night with "Mindy," Rod is on a journey to find her and discover the truth behind the secret hiding under her seductive allure.  He soon finds himself on the road to the Ranford Ranch... but is that road also the road to Hell?
Having reached the Ranford Ranch, Rod is greeted by the haunting beauty of "Mindy", and her... "friends".  They're having a party- and Rod is the star performer.  Rod quickly finds himself in the intoxicating grip of pain and pleasure- and then left to crave the terrifying rush of losing his soul to the music.
Like an addict, Rod is caught in the steel grip of a hungry need to feel the music inside him... a need so great that he'd willingly suffer the terror that "Mindy" and her friends inflict on him.  His need may bring him greater horrors now that he's met "Malina"... their queen...
Inspiration flows like blood inside of Rod as the dark queen and her trinity of maidens pull him deeper into their court of terror.  Lyrics seep like life from him as he writes for the dark queen and her trinity of maidens.  Words drop on the page like tears as he sees a way to escape the obscurity that follows him and his band.  Fame and glory lay before him like a body on the floor as he loses himself to the music...  Will he become the court minstrel... or the fool?
 Like the slow, dark seduction of "Malina" and her maidens, this story is slowly revealing the horrors to come... and I for one am looking forward to what the last six chapters bring us!

Chapter Seven was written by Rich Orth, and adds to the seductive allure of fulfilling one man's deepest needs and desires.  Check out the full story one William Castle's blog.  While you're there, you should check out the first of the 2011 "Scare It Forward!" tales- "Undertow", as well as the 2010 tale, "Angel Island"

Thursday, September 1, 2011

William Castle Wants YOU to Scream For Your Life!

William Castle has teamed up with Fangoria Magazine to bring the world another dose of his famous showmanship.  This time, YOU'RE the star of this wonderful piece of entertainment.

The two have joined forces to bring us the "Scream For Your Life" contest!  It's simple, really.  Just grab your camcorder, cell phone, or web cam, and  film yourself screaming your best Hollywood horror movie scream!  Once you've filmed it, send you MPEG to chris@fangoria.com.  Once you've done that, the great, late William Castle and his daughter, Terry will have a look at them.  Near the end of September, the two will choose the best three to receive a signed copy of William Castle's book, "From the Grave: The Prayer"- which I've read, reviewed, and loved.  In addition, the lucky winners will get another piece of William Castle memorabilia from his secret stash.

So, get your scream on and enter now!

I took the liberty of making my own entry to the contest as well.  Unfortunately, Hotmail wouldn't let me send the WHOLE video I did, so I sent in just the scream.  Just below, you'll find the "Director's Cut" of the video... exclusively on "The Corner of Terror!"