Tag: horror

MOVIE REVIEW | ***B&D SUNDAY FLASHBACK*** The Wicker Man (2006)

wicker man 2006

To say Nicolas Cage seems bat shit insane is an understatement and kind of redundant, as his name is basically synonymous with bat shittery these days.  But it wasn’t always that way.  He was the interesting actor who gave a certain edge to the otherwise forgettable teen romance, Valley Girl.  He was legitimately hilarious, while somehow making a kidnapping endearingly sweet in Raising Arizona.  He won an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas and was nominated for one a decade ago for Adaptation.


But back in the 90s, he took a weird turn and started rabidly chewing scenery with big, dumb (but fun and seemingly self aware) roles in disposable action like Face/Off, Con Air and Gone in 60 Seconds.  Then he went right over the edge with inexplicable crap like Ghostrider, Bangkok Dangerous and Drive Angry.  I’m not judging anything, after all, those European castles and vintage Superman comics aren’t going to pay for themselves.  But now I think I know the tipping point, when Cage went from silly fun, to outright craptastic and insane…  The year, 2006.  The movie,

Extremely faithful to the 1973 original in a lot of ways, confusingly and pointlessly different in others, this is the story of Edward Malus (Cage), a California cop, lured to a remote island called Summersisle, in search of a missing young girl.  When he arrives, he finds an insular, cult like community of weirdos who seem determined to hinder his investigations at every turn.

The first seemingly pointless diversion from the original is the decision to make the missing girl Malus’ daughter.  The product of a decade old fling, the girl’s mother is a dedicated follower of the island’s leader, Ellen Byrstyn as Sister Summersisle.  I guess the paternal connection was supposed be a believable motivation for Cage’s character, but it never seemed as organic as the weird, religious dedication that lead Edward Woodward’s Sergeant Howie to be so doggedly dedicated in the 1973 version.

The other major change is not only making the island’s leader a woman, but making the majority of the island’s inhabitants women.  This seems like the setup for some sort of interesting comment on gender power and politics, but it never really leads anywhere.  Almost like director and writer Neil Labute thought, “You know what be really cool, making the baddie a chick and most of her followers chicks.  Then it’s like a scathing commentary on…  Something…  I guess”.

The Wicker Man update also suffers from a very American, very 21st century lack of subtly and an abundance of audience hand holding.  The odd twins in this version are trying so hard to be creepy, that it just seems like actors trying really hard to be creepy.  In 1973, the lengths the island folk were all going to in their attempts to look so normal were so obvious, that they only made them even more creepily disconcerting.


While this version of The Wicker Man is totally inessential as a remake and does absolutely nothing to improve on the original, that came as no shock.  I had no doubt that the movie would be a bit crap, but the notoriety of Cage’s performance made me at least a little curious to see just how much of nut bag he can be.  Unfortunately, even that was kind of underwhelming.  There are a couple of so-bad-it’s-good moments, but not nearly enough to make the rest of the movie worth your time.

(Original review posted March 25, 2014)

The Wicker Man
Directed By – Neil LaBute
Written By – Neil LaBute

MOVIE REVIEW | ***B&D FLASHBACK SATURDAY*** The Wicker Man (1973)

wicker man 1973
Sometimes, the best thing can happen to a cult classic or almost forgotten gem, is to have a really shitty remake made.  Before the 2006 Nicholas Cage version of The Wicker Man became the butt of a million jokes, I had no idea there was an earlier version.  But in the years since, I’ve heard 1973’s The Wicker Man talked about more and more, and always with a lot of affection.


Edward Woodward is Sergeant Howie, a Scottish policeman who receives an anonymous letter about a missing girl on the small, mysterious island of Summerisle.  That same day, he flies to the island and begins an investigation.  It’s immediately obvious that the locals don’t take too kindly to strangers ‘round them parts, and Howie quickly takes an antagonistic stance against the Summerisle natives, including the buxom pub landlord’s daughter (the boobs akimbo Britt Ekland) and Christopher Lee as Lord Summersle.

Howie soon suspects that the entire population of the island, is in some way complicit in the girl’s disappearance, or possible death.  Following a religion that Howie condemns as a heathen cult, he is disgusted by the residents of Summerisle and their views on sex, sexuality and the spiritual beyond.

Sure, there’s the story of occult, there’s the cast of creepy characters, there’s the ever present feeling of death and deception.  But the constant feeling of unease, dread and terror comes from the music.  The Wicker Man is filled with creepy ass characters singing creepy ass songs.  All of them infused with a traditional Scottish / Gaelic feel that gives them the added weight of centuries of history and tradition.  The feeling that these songs have been sung by these nut jobs’ ancestors for centuries makes them all the more scary.


Yet, as off putting and skin crawling as they can be in places, the songs also have a strange hypnotic effect, that made me check iTunes for a soundtrack as soon as the movie was over.  The songs are a so trance like, you’d almost understand if Howie become a devout cult member five minutes after landing.

While watching The Wicker Man, I thought Howie’s religious views really dated the movie and its makers.  At one stage, soon after his arrival on Summerisle, he accuses a local of following a ‘fake’ religion, while he asserts his own belief in Christianity.  That really struck me as ignorant, since all religions, regardless of craziness, are basically as fake or as legit as each other.  But now I realise the movie is a lot smarter than I was giving it credit for.

The character of Howie and his religious rigidity are a comment on the narrow mindedness of popular religion.  His own beliefs, while more socially acceptable, are just as blind (and blinding) as the Summerisle nut bags.

Now that I’ve seen this movie, I have to think the notorious Nicolas Cage remake is entitled to some of the credit for the recent increase in the original’s reputation.  Maybe the fans of the original were always out there, and just felt no need it sing its praises until the 2006 shit bomb, but that version has definitely played a part in the renewed interest into the 1973 outing.

(Original review posted March 25, 2014)

The Wicker Man
Directed By – Robin Hardy
Written By – Anthony Shaffer

MOVIE REVIEW | Shaun of the Dead (2004)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Pegg and Wright might have delivered one of the all time great slacker comedies, but it’s their obvious hard work and attention to every single last detail that makes it such a breeze to watch.”

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“How’s that for a slice of fried gold?”

These days, Simon Pegg is an actor and writer with a fervent cult following, as well as ever growing roles in two massive cinematic franchises with the Mission Impossible and rebooted Star Trek series.  These days, Edgar Wright is the kind of director who can put together a cast including Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey and Jon Hamm for some throwback, action, genre fun.  But back in 2004, they were just two dudes who’d made a couple of series of a mildly successful sitcom with a small but rabid fan base, with virtually no notoriety outside of their native UK.  Not only was the transformation to international A-listers immediate, it was also totally justified, by Shaun of the Dead.

At his local pub the Winchester, Shaun (Pegg) is questioned by his girlfriend (Kate Ashfield as Liz) about his aimless life, consisting of his lazy best friend Ed (Nick Frost), his reluctance to introduce Liz to his mother (Penelope Wilton as Barbara) and is overall avoidance of growing up, generally achieved by hanging out with Ed at the Winchester.  When an attempt to celebrate their anniversary is botched by Shaun’s slacker uselessness, Liz’s threats become a reality and Shaun’s world comes crashing down. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Rob Zombie – The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Dispenser (2016)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Another addition to the ever expanding world he’s been building all these years through his songs and movies.”
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Now well into middle age, Rob Zombie has made a decades long career in music and film out of the horror and slasher obsessions usually left behind with pimples and multi sided dice once a person is old enough to buy booze. His complete commitment to that aesthetic continues with The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Dispenser.

READ FULL REVIEW

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MOVIE REVIEW | ***FOREIGN LANGUAGE WEEKEND*** High Tension (2003)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “The immediate, visceral thrill of High Tension did grab my attention and hold it in a way that few movies do.”

The main reason I started this blog was to make me watch more movies, and to vary the kinds of movies I watched. The first part of that has been well and truly accomplished with me watching hundreds of movies for the first time, instead of falling back on old favourites over and over again.   But l’m not sure if I’ve varied my selections enough. I still watch mainly American movies, with directors, writers and actors that make them a pretty safe bet. So this year, I’m forcing myself to seek out more international movies. With Foreign Language Weekends, every weekend(ish) during 2016, I’ll review two(ish) non-English language movies.
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“You drive a woman crazy. You little slut.”

In general, I’m not fan of horror and slasher movies.  I don’t get a thrill from thrillers, I just feel anxious in the worst way.  Despite that, it have dedicated annual weeks to the genre around Halloween.  Even when I find movies I really enjoy, I still don’t find myself seeking out more.  But today, ladies and gentlemen. I was tricked into watching one.  I have a lot of movies that I don’t remember why I bought them, but for some reason I did.  Recommendations from critics I like, or overall rave reviews, plus $5 price tags, make me buy a lot of random shit.  One of those random purchases I finally watched today, tricking me into indulging in a bit of the ol’ horror, slasher deal, with High Tension.


Alexia (Maiwenn) and Marie (Cecile De France) are two young women, heading to the country house of Alexia’s family for a break from the big city.  Waking from a slasher nightmare mid journey, Marie arrives at the idealic country location ready for some fresh air and relaxation.  Even though it’s the middle of the night, Alexia’s father and young brother have waited up for them, setting the perfect country life scene. (more…)

***2015 RECAP*** MOVIE REVIEW | Bone Tomahawk (2015)

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“In civilised towns, you look a man direct in the face when you talk to him.”

There’s nothing wrong with B grade, exploitation cinema when it’s done right and it’s genuine. I have a problem with B grade, exploitation cinema done ironically. I like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rogriguez, but I think their Grindhouse project is nothing more than a self indulgent wank.   If you have the talent and resources to make something well and high end, intentionally making it look shitty is kind of pissing in the faces of legit B grade film makers who are simply making the most of what they’ve got. The upside to things like Grindhouse is, I’m more aware of the concept of B grade, exploitation cinema than I once was. Which means I’m more aware of movies like Bone Tomahawk.


In post Civil War old west, bandit Purvis (David Arquett) and his partner rob and murder someone in the desert. When their getaway takes them through an Indian burial ground, it leads to spooky shit and the partner being killed. Cut to the peaceful frontier town that Sherriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell) is determined to keep peaceful. Purvis arrives and starts a ruckus at the local saloon. A ruckus that Hunt supresses with a bullet to Purvis’ leg and a night in a jail cell. Calling local doctor Samantha O’Dwyer (Lili Simmons) to heal the gunshot wound, Hunt leaves her and the convalescing Purvis under the watch of Deputy Nick (Evan Jonigkeit). (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Bone Tomahawk (2015)

Bone 1

“In civilised towns, you look a man direct in the face when you talk to him.”

There’s nothing wrong with B grade, exploitation cinema when it’s done right and it’s genuine. I have a problem with B grade, exploitation cinema done ironically. I like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rogriguez, but I think their Grindhouse project is nothing more than a self indulgent wank.   If you have the talent and resources to make something well and high end, intentionally making it look shitty is kind of pissing in the faces of legit B grade film makers who are simply making the most of what they’ve got. The upside to things like Grindhouse is, I’m more aware of the concept of B grade, exploitation cinema than I once was. Which means I’m more aware of movies like Bone Tomahawk.


In post Civil War old west, bandit Purvis (David Arquett) and his partner rob and murder someone in the desert. When their getaway takes them through an Indian burial ground, it leads to spooky shit and the partner being killed. Cut to the peaceful frontier town that Sherriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell) is determined to keep peaceful. Purvis arrives and starts a ruckus at the local saloon. A ruckus that Hunt supresses with a bullet to Purvis’ leg and a night in a jail cell. Calling local doctor Samantha O’Dwyer (Lili Simmons) to heal the gunshot wound, Hunt leaves her and the convalescing Purvis under the watch of Deputy Nick (Evan Jonigkeit). (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***HALLOWEEN WEEK*** The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

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“Yeah, uh, I had to dismember that guy with a trowel. What have you been up to?”

Joss Whedon is a guy so good at what he does, I kind of resent it and keep expecting to hate what he does. No one praised this much, especially by genre nerds, can get away with not eventually being seen as over rated. I held off on Buffy the Vampire Slayer until it only had a season or two left in its run, then immediately had to go back and watch it all from the beginning. Twice now, he’s defied my expectations with The Avengers and turned what should have been bloated, studio mandated formula into great fun. I even liked his Shakespeare adaptation that I was convinced was going to be way too self aware and smarmy for its own good. And today, he made me enjoy horror, a genre I usually don’t care for, more than I thought I ever would, with The Cabin in the Woods.


Four college students prepare for a weekend in a secluded cabin located in, you guessed it, the woods. There’s the studly jock, Curt (Chris Hemsworth), the hot slut, Jules (Anna Hutchinson), the smart, sensible dude, Truman (Brian White), the goofy stoner, Marty (Fran Kranz) and the virginal good girl, Dana (Kristen Connolly). It’s OK to reduce them to these broad, lazy labels, because the movie calls them that too, constantly. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***HALLOWEEN WEEK*** Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Rosemary 1
“We’re your friends, Rosemary. There’s nothing to be scared about. Honest and truly there isn’t!”

Things don’t get much more of the time in hip film making, than the late 60s, Roman Polanksi, Mia Farrow and John Cassvetes. Polanksi was a European wunderekind making his first American movie. Farrow was married to Frank Sinatra. And Cassavetes was a bad ass indie film maker who was the epitome of an artist. So when they all got together to make Rosemary’s Baby, it’s no wonder the end result was one of the most highly regarded horror movies of all time.


It’s hip and happening New York City in the 60s, and hip and happening young couple Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy (John Cassavetes) move into a new apartment. Vacant after the death of its last tenant, the apartment offers a few small oddities, but nothing that can’t be covered by new wall paper and rugs. After hearing their neighbours through the paper thin walls, Rosemary and Guy soon meet them in person. Minnie (Ruth Gordon) and Roman (Sidney Blackmer) are a couple of sweet oldies who are more than happy to help the young couple in any way they can. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***HALLOWEEN WEEK*** The Lost Boys (1987)

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“My own brother, a goddamn, shit-sucking vampire. You wait ’till mom finds out, buddy!”

The older a movie gets, the more inclined it is to fall into one of two categories. The great ones, the classics, become timeless. Things like fashions, technology and cultural attitudes only make it more charming, while its story and themes were so on the money and insightful back then, they still hold up years later. The not so great and not so classic movies become dated. Character’s costumes and figures of speech get more and more laughable with each passing year. The movie’s attitudes become more cringe worthy or unintentionally funny. Very few movies become immensely dated, while remaining completely timeless. Very few movies are The Lost Boys.


After her husband leaves, struggling single mother Lucy (Dianne Wiest) moves from Phoenix to live with her father, the grizzled, old crank Grandpa (Bernard Hughes) in the small beach town of Santa Carla. While Lucy is keen to start a new life, her two sons are not so on board. Leaving their friends and lives behind, late teen dreamboat Michael (Jason Patric) and young teen brat Sam (Corey Haim) find it hard to find any upside to their new situation (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***HALLOWEEN WEEK*** You’re Next (2011)

You're Next 1
“Whoa wait, don’t do that! You don’t want your DNA in here man!”

When I wrote about The Guest, I said it was, “the kind of movie that may get criticised for being all style, no substance. But I think it’s the kind of movie where the style is the substance. It keeps so much concealed and close to the vest for so long, that when all hell breaks loose in the third act, it’s the kind of ludicrously, over the top absurdity, that it transcends that to become so much more.” As more time has passed since watching it I think all of that is an understatement. Because The Guest is a movie I find myself thinking about a lot. Enough that I had to see what else director Adam Wingard had made. Which lead me to You’re Next.


In classic horror movie tradition, the movie opens with a sex scene before the copulators are brutally murdered. Cut to sometime later when Erin (Sharni Vincon) and Crispian (AJ Bowen) are on their way to Crispian’s parents’ holiday house where Erin will meet his super rich family for the first time. Before they arrive, Crispian’s mother (Barbara Crampton) is freaked out by some strange sounds in the house. But an inspection by her husband (Rob Moran) proves that the noises were simply the kinds of dummies and fake outs used in the early scenes of most horror movies. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***HALLOWEEN WEEK*** It Follows (2015)

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“Just sleep with someone else and tell him to do the same thing. Maybe it will never come back.”

As a movie genre, horror ebbs and flows in its popularity, but it’s never gone away. People who love horror, really love horror, and that audience will always be there. But every few years, there’s a horror movie that breaks through its cult fan base and makes its way into the mainstream. This year, I’ve heard so many people bang on about It Follows, that even as someone who doesn’t particularly like horror, I had to check it out.


A girls stands in the middle of a suburban street and is obviously petrified of something unseen. Refusing help from the people around her, she gets in a car and speeds away. Later, on a lonely beach at night, she calls her father to let him know she loves him and her mother. The next morning, her mutilated corpse is left laying on that beach. Cut to Jay (Maika Monroe), on a date at the movies with Hugh (Jake Weary). As they wait in the lobby, Hugh sees a creepy woman walk in. Jay cannot see the creepy woman, and they leave. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***HALLOWEEN WEEK*** The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Texas 1
“You could have dinner with us… my brother makes good head cheese! You like head cheese?”

I don’t trend to watch much horror. As a genre, it’s never really appealed to me. I had a brief phase in my early teens where Freddy Krueger seemed kind of entertaining and I watched a few Steven King adaptations here and there. It was a short flirtation that was over pretty much before it began. Then I spent the next decade or two assuming horror was cheap and nasty. But as I get older, I can appreciate that good film making is good filmmaking, regardless of genre. So every now and again, I’ll realise that while the vast majority of the genre does nothing for me, there are horror classics that I should see if I’m gonna call myself a movie nerd. Horror classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.


Sally (Marilyn Burns) and her paraplegic brother Franklin (Paul A Partain) are road tripping through backwoods Texas to visit the grave of their grandfather that has apparently been vandalised. Along for the ride in their groovy van are three friends, Jerry (Allen Danziger), Kirk (William Vail) and Pam (Teri McMinn). They pick up a hitchhiker (Edwin Neal) who immediately proves to be a nut job. When he cuts himself and Franklin with pocket knife, they kick him out of the van and keep going. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | The Babadook (2014)

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“You can bring me the boy. You can bring me the boy. You can bring me the boy.”

Horror isn’t a genre of movie that I seek out all that much. Every now and again there’ll be a classic, or in the case horror, more of a cult classic, that I feel like I should see as movie nerd homework. But new horror is something that’s just not on my radar. In the last few months however, I haven’t been able to get away from The Babadook. Every pop culture website I visit, every movie related podcast I listen to, they all seem to be pushing The Babadook barrow over the last few months.


Out of nowhere, it was everywhere. Except, in Australia. I haven’t heard or read any Australian praise for this movie. Which is weird, since it’s Australian made. Once I found that out, it was the thing that finally pushed me over the edge and made me decide I needed to see The Babadook. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***HALLOWEEN WEEK*** The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

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For any movie to be remembered eight decades after release is a huge success.   For a sequel to be remembered that long after the fact, it’s almost a miracle. The vast majority of sequels are pale imitations of their predecessors and usually quickly forgotten. Or worse, remembered for all the wrong reasons. In 1931, actor Boris Karloff and director James Whale teamed up to make Frankenstein, a movie that helped define what a horror movie was, with an influence still felt today.


Four years later, after a lot of begging from the studio, they were back. And somehow, they managed to make lightning strike twice, bringing to life another character that’s been almost as enduring as the original, The Bride of Frankenstein. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***FRIEDKIN WEEK*** The Exorcist (1973)

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I try not to dismiss entire genres of movie.  It’s easy to look down on an entire category like the rom com, but then I see something like When Harry Met Sally, or There’s Something About Mary, or Enough Said, and I realise I don’t hate rom coms, I just hate bad rom coms.  When made with a genuinely unique perspective and fully realised characters, they can be just as entertaining as any genre with more movie snob cache.  And even though I know that about certain categories of movie, I’ve never applied it to horror.  As a genre, I’ve probably seen less horror movies than any other, and I can’t think of many that I’ve actually enjoyed.  So when it was time to finally make conscious effort to broaden my horror knowledge, I decided to start with one of the genre’s biggest financial and critical successes, The Exorcist.


Working on a movie in Washington DC, Chris (Ellen Burstyn) splits her time between the movie set and raising her 12 year old daughter, Regan (Linda Blair).  When Regan starts acting strangely, lying, getting a little blue and fruity with her language and seemingly hallucinating, Chris takes her to a series of doctors, starting with medical, moving on to psychiatric,  But none of them can get to the bottom of Regan’s ailment.

Also in Washington is Father Karras (Jason Miller), a priest and psychologist, suffering a crisis of faith after the death of his mother.  When all scientific approaches fail, and under the shadow of the suspicious death of her movie’s director, Chris starts to believe Regan may be possessed by a demon.  She enlists the help of Father Karras, who in turn calls on one of the few priests left in modern times with exorcism experience, Max Von Sydow’s  Father Merrin.

Here’s the thing with The Exorcist, even if you’ve never seen it, you probably feel like you know all there is to know about it.  The turning head, the spider walk, the projectile vomit, the demonic voice, the climax ex-crucifixa…  I knew about all that stuff, and it was this supposed familiarity that kept me from watching The Exorcist for so many years.  Why watch a horror movie if you know all the shocks before they can be shocking?

And here’s where I learnt an important lesson about horror movies, the shocks aren’t what make it scary or effective.  It’s everything around the shocks that make it scary and effective.  The little signs of Regan’s growing possession in the early moments are almost as creepy as the big, overblown moments that have become horror parody favourites ever since The Exorcist came out four decades ago.  A spinning head is creepy, but a little fanciful and over the top.  Regan’s performance on the rug in front of her mother’s party guests is outright disturbing.

This might sound weird in relation to a movie like this, but The Exorcists also has a certain level of reality and believability to it.  I don’t believe in God, the devil or possession, but I do totally and utterly believe that these characters do.  In a movie when the threat is as fantastical as a vampire or fire breathing demon, I see an immediate detachment between the world of the movie and the world I live in.  But Chris, Regan, Father Karras and everyone who surrounds them is so real, so normal, so grounded in the real world, that when the craziness starts to go down and these regular, recognisable characters start to believe in the supernatural, it just carried more dramatic weight for me.

Watching The Exorcists made me realise something.  I don’t dislike horror movies, I just dislike bad horror movies.  And it turns that, for the most part, they’re the kinds I’ve seen in the past.  The Exorcist is possibly the only time I’ve seen actual merit in the genre and understood the appeal of a movie that scares.  Freddy Kruger, Michael Myers, dozens of incarnations of vampires, werewolves, zombies and other monsters…  None of them have ever really scared me.  But worse, none of them have ever really entertained me all that much either.

Even when they have, in shows like Buffy and The Walking Dead, or movies like Sean of the Dead, the monsters have always had very little to do with it.  They entertain me because the real people have always been the centre of the story, the heart, the realistic characters I can relate to.  With The Exorcist, I got the compelling, relatable characters, but I also got possibly the most convincing, terrifying, unnerving movie monsters I’ve ever seen.  Maybe there’s something to this whole horror thing after all.

The Exorcist
Directed By – William Friedkin
Written By – William Peter Blatty

MOVIE REVIEW | Dracula (1931)

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There are so many classic movies and characters who I only know as references.  Even if I don’t know where those references come from, there  are clichéd lines of dialogue, mannerisms and ways of speaking that weren’t always a cliché.  Because they had to start somewhere, as a character or movie that, for whatever reason, took hold of the zeitgeist at that moment, and you can still see the effects today.  One of those is Bela Lugosi as the title character in Dracula.


If you’ve seen The Count on Sesame Street, you’ve seen Bela Lugosi’s take on Dracula.  If you’ve seen any black and white spoof of the character, you’ve seen Bela Lugosi’s take on Dracula.  Because Bela Lugosi’s take on Dracula is the quintessential, ‘I vant to suck your blooood’ take on Dracula that has been the basis of pretty much every version of the character in the more than seventy years since.

A solicitor named Renfield (Dwight Frye) arrives bright eyed and oblivious in Transylvania to help the local Count move.  Despite the obvious scared reactions of every local every time he mentions the Count’s name, Renfield goes to the castle anyway and his soon attacked by the resident Count, Dracula that is (Bela Lugosi).  Now nuttier than squirrel shit, Renfield accompanies Dracula to London by ship.  When the ship arrives, Dracula is gone, the entire crew is dead and Renfield, the only survivor, is taken to a sanitarium where he ends up under the care of Dr Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan).

The thing I noticed most about Dracula is its pace.  Or, more precisely, it’s complete lack of pace.  I don’t mind a movie taking it’s time, but this one is absolutely ridiculous in places.  It’s almost as if the film makers were told it had to reach 85 minutes or else they wouldn’t get paid.  Then when they started to shoot, they realised they only had half an hour worth of script.  But instead of writing more scenes, dialogue or action, they just told all the actors to move slower, pause longer and draw out every reaction.

Another thing that really stood out, and probably didn’t help the feeling of dragging on, was the complete lack of musical score.  I don’t know if the technology didn’t exist to include music in 1931, if no one had thought to do it yet, or if it was a conscious choice by directors Tod Browning and Karl Freund not to include any, but the long moments of inaction are only highlighted even more by the complete lack of music.

I’ll tell you one thing this movie really got right though, rubber bats bouncing up and down on fishing line.  There’s a heap of them, and each looks a little more ridiculous than the last.  They really are a sight to behold.

But even with the slow pacing, the hokey effects and the deafening silences, I still did kind of enjoy Dracula.  And I think that pretty much all comes down to Lugosi’s performance.  There’s something kind of cool about seeing the beginnings of such an influential and enduring character.  Even in another seventy years, I assume this vampire cliché will still be more iconic and recognisable than anything from Buffy, Twilight or True Blood.

Dracula
Directed By – Tod Browning, Karl Freund
Written By – Hamilton Deane, John L Balderston

MOVIE REVIEW | Frankenstein (1931)

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Classic monster movies have reached that level of cultural infiltration that generations of people know all the tropes without ever having actually seen a single original movie.  In a way, parodies and rip offs of these movies and characters are just as relevant now as the originals.  This can make it hard to watch, when what was once new and exciting has lost all its surprise due to the homages, piss takes and references.  But while the shocks may not be all that shocking, and the flare now nothing more than cliché, seeing where it all started still holds a certain charm.  Which is why it’s still entertaining when I watch something like 1931’s Frankenstein.


Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is getting ready to marry Elizabeth (Mae Clarke).  The only problem is, he’s a little preoccupied by trying to bring the dead back to life with his assistant Fritz (Dwight Fry).  He’s done animal experiments and moved on to knocking off various body parts from various places to flick the switch on a human version.

Flick the switch he does, and Frankenstein’s monster is born.  7 feet of shoddily sewn together man meat, controlled by a dead criminal’s brain.  Friends, family and colleagues all object, and all are ignored while Henry lets his monster learn and develop in his lab.  Until he breaks out on Henry’s wedding day and everything unravels quicker than the stitches on the monster’s forehead.

Colin Clive’s Dr Frankenstein is all unchecked ego.  At one stage he even brags about how it feels to have the power of God.  Almost every single character warns him against his experiments almost every single minute of the movie, but he’s so impressed with his own genius, he never even really hears their protests, let alone considers them.  Until it’s too late…  Of course.

As the monster, Boris Karloff the actor is almost as iconic as the character he plays.  It’s a testament to his performance that his version of Frankenstein’s monster is still the go to look, sound, and movement basis for pretty much any incarnation since.  Sure, people attempt to reinvent it every few years, but Karloff’s is still the one that’s first to mind for most people, whether they’ve heard his name before or not.

Of all the classic monsters, Frankenstein’s really is the best suited to the film making technology available in the 30s.  There’s no transformation from man to wolf, or man to bat.  No flying, no super natural powers.  Sure, he’s hideous, but it’s all through a massive exaggeration and ugliness of basically human features.  No fangs, fur or non-humanoid weirdness.  Which all goes to make this version of Frankenstein’s monster as terrifying as any newer version I’ve seen (which admittedly, is very few).

I love it when a classic, or an icon, or just something with real cultural impact holds up long after it’s initial shock value has diminished.  The movie Frankenstein and the character of Frankenstein’s monster as played by Boris Karloff are perfect examples.  And it lead to one of Mel Brooks’ best movies.  So it has that going for it too.

Frankenstein
Directed By – James Whale
Written By – John L Balderston

MOVIE REVIEW | The Wicker Man (2006)

wicker man 2006

To say Nicolas Cage seems bat shit insane is an understatement and kind of redundant, as his name is basically synonymous with bat shittery these days.  But it wasn’t always that way.  He was the interesting actor who gave a certain edge to the otherwise forgettable teen romance, Valley Girl.  He was legitimately hilarious, while somehow making a kidnapping endearingly sweet in Raising Arizona.  He won an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas and was nominated for one a decade ago for Adaptation.


But back in the 90s, he took a weird turn and started rabidly chewing scenery with big, dumb (but fun and seemingly self aware) roles in disposable action like Face/Off, Con Air and Gone in 60 Seconds.  Then he went right over the edge with inexplicable crap like Ghostrider, Bangkok Dangerous and Drive Angry.  I’m not judging anything, after all, those European castles and vintage Superman comics aren’t going to pay for themselves.  But now I think I know the tipping point, when Cage went from silly fun, to outright craptastic and insane…  The year, 2006.  The movie,

Extremely faithful to the 1973 original in a lot of ways, confusingly and pointlessly different in others, this is the story of Edward Malus (Cage), a California cop, lured to a remote island called Summersisle, in search of a missing young girl.  When he arrives, he finds an insular, cult like community of weirdos who seem determined to hinder his investigations at every turn.

The first seemingly pointless diversion from the original is the decision to make the missing girl Malus’ daughter.  The product of a decade old fling, the girl’s mother is a dedicated follower of the island’s leader, Ellen Byrstyn as Sister Summersisle.  I guess the paternal connection was supposed be a believable motivation for Cage’s character, but it never seemed as organic as the weird, religious dedication that lead Edward Woodward’s Sergeant Howie to be so doggedly dedicated in the 1973 version.

The other major change is not only making the island’s leader a woman, but making the majority of the island’s inhabitants women.  This seems like the setup for some sort of interesting comment on gender power and politics, but it never really leads anywhere.  Almost like director and writer Neil Labute thought, “You know what be really cool, making the baddie a chick and most of her followers chicks.  Then it’s like a scathing commentary on…  Something…  I guess”.

The Wicker Man update also suffers from a very American, very 21st century lack of subtly and an abundance of audience hand holding.  The odd twins in this version are trying so hard to be creepy, that it just seems like actors trying really hard to be creepy.  In 1973, the lengths the island folk were all going to in their attempts to look so normal were so obvious, that they only made them even more creepily disconcerting.


While this version of The Wicker Man is totally inessential as a remake and does absolutely nothing to improve on the original, that came as no shock.  I had no doubt that the movie would be a bit crap, but the notoriety of Cage’s performance made me at least a little curious to see just how much of nut bag he can be.  Unfortunately, even that was kind of underwhelming.  There are a couple of so-bad-it’s-good moments, but not nearly enough to make the rest of the movie worth your time.

The Wicker Man
Directed By – Neil LaBute
Written By – Neil LaBute

MOVIE REVIEW | The Wicker Man (1973)

wicker man 1973
Sometimes, the best thing can happen to a cult classic or almost forgotten gem, is to have a really shitty remake made.  Before the 2006 Nicholas Cage version of The Wicker Man became the butt of a million jokes, I had no idea there was an earlier version.  But in the years since, I’ve heard 1973’s The Wicker Man talked about more and more, and always with a lot of affection.


Edward Woodward is Sergeant Howie, a Scottish policeman who receives an anonymous letter about a missing girl on the small, mysterious island of Summerisle.  That same day, he flies to the island and begins an investigation.  It’s immediately obvious that the locals don’t take too kindly to strangers ‘round them parts, and Howie quickly takes an antagonistic stance against the Summerisle natives, including the buxom pub landlord’s daughter (the boobs akimbo Britt Ekland) and Christopher Lee as Lord Summersle.

Howie soon suspects that the entire population of the island, is in some way complicit in the girl’s disappearance, or possible death.  Following a religion that Howie condemns as a heathen cult, he is disgusted by the residents of Summerisle and their views on sex, sexuality and the spiritual beyond.

Sure, there’s the story of occult, there’s the cast of creepy characters, there’s the ever present feeling of death and deception.  But the constant feeling of unease, dread and terror comes from the music.  The Wicker Man is filled with creepy ass characters singing creepy ass songs.  All of them infused with a traditional Scottish / Gaelic feel that gives them the added weight of centuries of history and tradition.  The feeling that these songs have been sung by these nut jobs’ ancestors for centuries makes them all the more scary.


Yet, as off putting and skin crawling as they can be in places, the songs also have a strange hypnotic effect, that made me check iTunes for a soundtrack as soon as the movie was over.  The songs are a so trance like, you’d almost understand if Howie become a devout cult member five minutes after landing.

While watching The Wicker Man, I thought Howie’s religious views really dated the movie and its makers.  At one stage, soon after his arrival on Summerisle, he accuses a local of following a ‘fake’ religion, while he asserts his own belief in Christianity.  That really struck me as ignorant, since all religions, regardless of craziness, are basically as fake or as legit as each other.  But now I realise the movie is a lot smarter than I was giving it credit for.

The character of Howie and his religious rigidity are a comment on the narrow mindedness of popular religion.  His own beliefs, while more socially acceptable, are just as blind (and blinding) as the Summerisle nut bags.

Now that I’ve seen this movie, I have to think the notorious Nicolas Cage remake is entitled to some of the credit for the recent increase in the original’s reputation.  Maybe the fans of the original were always out there, and just felt no need it sing its praises until the 2006 shit bomb, but that version has definitely played a part in the renewed interest into the 1973 outing.

The Wicker Man
Directed By – Robin Hardy
Written By – Anthony Shaffer