Viy

Film, 1967

When I rented this movie I was told that it was a sort of proto-Tim Burton piece. There are definite Tim Burton flourishes, from the Gorey-esque imagery to the Danny Elfman sounding score, but I might be more inclined to describe it as a cross between Terry Gilliam and Evil Dead. The story revolves around a young seminarian who is forced to pray for three nights over the corpse of a young woman he accidentally beat to death. It’s pretty much just about the horror, but if a theme can be found it’s the dogged determination that people can have of denying their mistakes, and the consequences that can bring (namely, a bunch of herky-jerky monsters crawling out of the walls and pawing at you). I think Gilliam is a better contemporary for Viy because the production is so colorful and the mood is often so silly. Mostly as a result of it’s characters, a group of outrageously stereotypical Russians, magnificently mustachioed and drunk on Vodka. But while being a little goofy it also presents no small number of genuinely odd images. And that’s where Evil Dead comes in; the creatures twitch, convulse and relentlessly torment the protagonist much in the same way that nasties in Evil Dead did fifteen years later. Not to mention the wild camera and sound work, which make the movie feel downright modern. There are problems, mostly the erratic lighting that jumps from looking like it’s early morning to mid-afternoon from shot to shot, but overall Viy proves to be a fantastic movie to wallow in the weirdness of. 4


Alien

Film, 1979

Alien is a great film. It’s mostly due to the design of the alien creature itself, with a believable intrinsic mythology written all over it’s face that make it both fantastic and horrifyingly real. This overpowering element is cemented by the detailed, working class space ship set design and even further grounded by some very raw performances. The pace is slow and maybe not as absorbing as it attempts to be, but I don’t think anyone who is not just looking for a cheap thrill could claim to be bored. 4/5 stars


An American Werewolf In London


Film, 1981

American Werewolf in London only has a couple of deficiencies, it drags a bit and has some really weak scares, but it more than makes up for them with some wonderfully disturbing imagery, a fresh concept and most of all with relateble and solid lead performances and writing, the key to the film’s great success. 4/5 stars


Hellraiser

Film, 1987

One of the great ’80s horror films, Hellraiser features a number of truly disturbing and weird images and sequences. The writing and acting are fine and suit the work well, and some mind bending practical (i.e. made by hand) special effects make the film really special. 4/5 stars


Trick ‘r Treat


Film, 2008

Trick ‘r Treat doesn’t quite live up to it’s potential, what with having been mythologized for years while it was stuck in release purgatory and not being anything to special in the writing or scare departments, but it’s fun to watch and makes for charming seasonal viewing. One really embarrassingly awful montage is outweighed by a number of fun sequences and some fun acting. 3


The Lair of the White Worm

Film, 1988

The Lair of the White Worm, based on a novel by Bram Stoker and directed by Ken Russel of Altered States, is easy to dismiss but has a number of things going for it that make it worth a look. There are some laughable sequences, most notably the hallucination/ flashback scenes that end up looking like early green screen era art school nightmares, some ill advised attempts at broad comedy and a pace that, although of it’s era, will feel slow to a modern audience. What the film does have however, which is perhaps even bolstered by it’s failures, is a ethereal atmosphere that is capable of being genuinely creepy. This all adds up to a good time on two fronts; funny and weird. And that’s all I want out of a good eighties horror movie anyway. Most people will enjoy seeing Hugh Grant play the Bruce Campbell role here, although he’s upstaged in the last scene by a valiant bagpiper who saves the day. 3/5 stars



El orfanato


Film, 2007

The Orphanage was marketed completely appropriately; It’s a Guillermo del Toro film that’s not by Guillermo del Toro. It’s in the same vein, but not as good. Which isn’t to say that it isn’t good, or is completely devoid of it’s own personality, but it gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect. At best it has some very effective sequences, at worst it can be overwrought to the point of distracting sillyness. 3


Sundown, The Vampire in Retreat

Film, 1990

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a movie straddle the comedy/horror line so successfully. You’re aways laughing with Sundown, not at it. The secret to it’s success is it’s tone; it’s almost completely a comedy.And it makes great use of it’s cast. David Carradine, Bruce Campbell and M Emmet Walsh are all excellent character actors, and all of their strengths are played to brilliantly. The attention to detail is also unusual for a production of this type. All of the background characters are fully realized, individual characters from costume to performance. An unapologetically fun movie. 3.5


Dust Devil

Film, 1992

I think I understand what the filmmaker was going for here- a spiritual horror film that uses artfully paced storytelling to ramp up the terror- but it never came together for me. There are some very effective sequences and actors, but more often than not the opposite was true and a lot of the result seems silly. And I don’t know why, but I just get turned off by horror movies that incorporate any kind of real-world, “ethnic” spiritualism in their proceedings. I didn’t work for me in The Serpent And the Rainbow, and it didn’t work for me here. 2.5


Drag Me to Hell

Film, 2009

Raimi’s command over the scare is even stronger than it was before, and you really get the sense that he’s deliriously happy to finally be home in the horror genre. Not scary in a cerebral way but really scary in a reflex way, Drag Me to Hell doesn’t need a good script to deliver it’s own brand of absurd thrills. The film is way too glossy to ever actually be threatening; the colorful lighting and crisp picture are far too sterile to get under your skin the way Raimi’s earlier films did. And it could have used a more charismatic lead, but Lohman does a fine job. It may not be a meal, but Drag Me To Hell is really great snack food. 3.5