mag·nif·i·cent/magˈnifəsənt/ (adj.)

1. Impressively beautiful, elaborate, or extravagant; striking.
2. Very good; excellent.

Synonyms: splendid - gorgeous - grand - superb - glorious

WARNING: Some spoilers may be bound but I try to keep them light.

Friday, October 31, 2014

V/H/S (2012)



       "He said I'd know which tape it was..."

V/H/S (2012) is the first in a new series of anthology horror film made up of five found footage stories all from different up and coming horror directors.

The framing story involves some very shady teens who are sneaking into a house to try and find a specific VHS tape, when they get inside what they find is a corpse and a whole collection of weird VHS tapes.

Over all I liked each of the stories in V/H/S, though they're filled with what I affectionately call "logic holes," they're all very enjoyable, and clever in their own right.

The bad thing about this film is most of the stories are trying so hard to be clever that they don't make sense if you step back and think about the story. This ties into the problem I have with most found footage films, that they don't make a lot of logical sense as far as why someone would record each instance. I think the second story "Second Honey" is a perfect example of this, there's no reason the girl would record any of the events of the story especially since (SPOILER FOLLOWS) she's the one doing all the weird stuff. And they try to make up for it with one line at the end, "did you erase the tape?" but that doesn't explain why she would record it in the first place. This is a fine example of what most of these stories do is put the clever twist above the actual story in the films.

And I really dislike the framing story, its simple sure but it's poorly shot (on purpose) it makes the mistakes mentioned above (suddenly switching to multiple camera's with no explanation?), it's uncomfortable (the amateur porn angle) and it's just kind of bland and super horror movie-esque, it's not creepy and it's not new or interesting. So it basically steps in all of the wholes the film was trying to avoid.

I absolutely love the first short. I'm sad it's the first one, cause then everything else seems downhill from there, but at least the whole thing starts with a bang. It's a new spin on horror, something you don't see hardly ever and it's sexy, it's scary and it's just really cool too!

Also throughout this whole film the effects are great, it's mostly old school (practical/don't show too much) with only the slightest amount of CG for little things and touch-ups.

V/H/S (2012), is a return to the anthology horror format. I like how it's success suddenly has more people talking about the older films, and while I don't exactly love this one, its really not bad at all!

3.5/5 Stars.

 Happy watching!

This is the last review of my 2014 run of 13 Nights of Macabre Movies! Be safe out there tonight, and see you next year!

Like this blog? You can support it by buying this film through these fine links:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The ABCs of Death (2012)


       "It's not my fault you got the letter 'Q.'"

The ABCs of Death (2012) is an international horror anthology film produced by The Alamo Drafthouse containing 26 separate segments from different directors all involving involving death and a letter of the alphabet.

I really like the concept of this film. It's a good idea, and it's an idea that make you go, "yeah that's cool, I think I'd like to check that out!" Unfortunately the end result isn't as good as it is on paper but It's still interesting, and I don't regret watching it at all.

There's no host or framing convention to this film, but instead at the end of each short they tell you the title of the film and the letter of the alphabet it represents. I thought this was a really clever way to present the films. And while I think some filmmakers used this better than others it gives the viewer something to focus on a look forward to as they're watching these strange, weird short films.

Some of the solidly good stories I liked include, H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion, K is for Klutz, L is for Libido, T is for Toilet and X is for XXL.

Sadly because all the films are so uneven as a result this film is uneven. I think the only way to fix that would be to filter the films or give the flimmakers more of a specific prompt, but I can understand why they wouldn't want to do that in order to keep the filmmakers' product very pure, so the film is uneven.

The thing I didn't like about this film most was as a result of all of the films being about "death" the majority ended up being either really gross or really weird (or both!) which aren't exactly the types of horror films I enjoy watching. I felt these films over all were lacking any real good narratives and characters. Most of them are either just very basic (person kills another person) or so freaking strange that I have no idea what the meaning was. And a couple of the films are so freaking dark I almost wish I hadn't watched them. But if you like watching people (and things) die, this is definitely the film for you.

The stories I didn't care for the most were: R is for Removed, P is for Pressure, W is for WTF!, Y is for Young Buck.

The thing with asking 26 directors to make films is you're bound to get a couple good ones out of it. So at least there's that.

And a good thing about the film is the mix of stories, no two in it are that incredibly similar. And most of them are vastly different from each other. The amount of creativity you will witness in two hours is really something to marvel at.

The stories I really liked best in this film are, J is for Jidai-geki, N is for Nupitals and S is for Speed.

The ABCs of Death (2012), is cool concept. But it's kind of a hard watch. I found it kind of feels like spending all day at a short film festival. The films are that all over the place, try watching it in parts if possible!

3/5 Stars.

  Happy watching!

This review is part of my 2014 run of 13 Nights of Macabre Movies! Tune in tomorrow as I review the final film of my series this season, V/H/S (2012).

Like this blog? You can support it by buying this film through these fine links:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Trick 'r Treat (2007)


       "You should be more careful, there are rules..."

Trick 'r Treat (2007) Canadian horror anthology film produced by Bryan Singer and directed by Michael Dougherty.

The film contains four stories all taking place on Halloween night in a small town in Ohio. The stories over lap and all have the common thread of a mysterious small trick or treater named Sam who is witnessing all of the events of the story.

The acting in this movie is really good across the board, its almost a perfect mix of lesser known but very capable actors and actors you've never seen in your life that are quite good. Even the actors I realized aren't doing anything too far out of their usual range, but they're used effectively and each is playing a slight variation on what I've seen them do before.

Honestly I don't think there's anything 'bad' about this movie, but this is the best spot to drop one observation I thought of during this film. The only problem with all of these stories taking place in the same small town blocks away from each other on the same night is that multiplied against the horror film trope that people die in every story (even if they're not always the people you think who are going to die!) but all I started to think about is how the police department the next morning is going to have so many victims and missing persons that it's ridiculous. I guess that speaks to how realistic a lot of the violence and terror is portrayed in the film, so much so that I'm thinking about the police phones ringing off the hook the next morning!

The cinematography and direction are really good in this film, everything is lit perfectly the camera work is so effective that I was holding my breath during certain scenes and sequences. I think I want to watch this movie like ten more times just to study it honestly, that's how good I think this movie is.

I love how this film is a refreshingly new take on something as old as the anthology horror film. This is the eleventh anthology film I've reviewed this season with movies spanning over 50 years and this film is such a breath of fresh air! I love the way the stories over lap, sometimes in a way that you're not actually sure what story you're following until the film turns down a path and yet every character who's introduced is then reintroduced in a new light and paid off in an effective way by the end of the film.

The script is super clever I love how this film is really effective at taking you down a route in each story and when you think you know what's coming next the film then turns in an interesting way and pays it off effectively so that the twists don't seem forced or gimmicky. I like how this film has a variety of stories, it has a clever new take on a vampire story, it involves a serial killer and it has elements like the school bus sequence that are so dark I really worry for the mind of writer/director Michael Dougherty.

The last thing I have to mention about this film that I love so much is Sam. The framing device/character. I love everything about Sam and the way the film used him! The origin of this story started when Michael Dougherty was an animation student and he came up with the realization that Halloween is one of the few holidays that doesn't have a main character to represent it. Thus Sam the strange trick or treater was born and honestly, the way he was used and how well this character was thought out, I actually believe now that Sam is the representing character for my favorite holiday. It's a bold undertaking to come up with something like that and I really think Michael Dougherty pulled it off. I love the way this film uses him though because not only is he the one element every story has in common but the final story is effectively his story and as they wrap up the film they effectively tell you about Sam (as much as I want to know anyways) and tie it all into the point and the main theme of the movie. That's what makes this an effective film.

Trick 'r Treat (2007), is a real treat of a film. It's everything I wanted in an anthology horror film. It uses the format, it does it well and it does it's own thing at the same time. Honestly I feel like I could talk about this film all day.

5/5 Stars.

 Happy watching!

This review is part of my 2014 run of 13 Nights of Macabre Movies! Tune in tomorrow as check out another different take on the standard anthology structure with The ABCs of Death (2012).

Like this blog? You can support it by buying this film through these fine links:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Peur(s) du noir (2007)


       "You have to see your dream through to the end, if you want to be cured."

Peur(s) du noir (2007) [Fear(s) of the Dark] is a French, animated, horror anthology film.

This film contains four animated stories all written and directed by noted comic book and graphic designers and presented in high contrast black and white.

One thing I like about this film is the stories are all very solid stories, each playing with the concept and representing different takes on fear. Even if you don't like one short the others are varied enough that you're bound to find something you like in this film.

I'm not sure I understand the layout and framework of this film, to be truthful. The true framing story is just an old woman talking about her fears, which kind of ties into the short that follows? But then there's a second framing story that is simple, it's just a man unleashing each of his dogs on different victims (not seeming to care much). But the weird thing is that both of these frame stories not only continue throughout the film, they interrupt the other three stories in the film for little or no reason? Honestly there might be a reason to it, but the way it seemed to me was the "walking the dog" story didn't have enough actual content on it's own so they decided to spread it out through out the rest of the film?

I also think too much of this film instead of trying to be scary just ends up trying to be as weird as possible. Not that this is a bad thing, but having worked with animators quite a bit I know this is actually just because animators are the weirdest people you will ever meet and more often than not, their shorts seem to reflect that. I would have preferred to see at least one short try to be as terrifying as possible.

And like most anthology films, despite this film's unique take on the concept, it still ends up being really uneven. Some stories actually have a really good story, while others are just a small concept and others are so bat-shit weird that they'll leave you scratching your head.

I think the most interesting thing about this film is the concept. I loved the idea of this film when I heard about it, and I think they pulled off the concept very well. I really love how the film uses a variety of different animation mediums with each film. It's a unique take on the anthology horror film, it just seems to fall victim to the problems with animated shorts and anthology films at the same time.

The best thing about this film over all is the design work in it. Even if you watch this film on mute you'll be blown away by how good the designs are. This film contains some of the best design work I've seen in a film (animated or otherwise) in years! It's really a thing to marvel at. These guys are graphic artists and they certainly can prove it.

I also really liked the 3rd story (or is it 4th?) directed byh Lorenzo Mattotti, about the mysterious beast mauling people in the French countryside. This short was my favorite by far. It's wonderfully animated, it has a very interesting story and it is very cinematic too.

Fear(s) of the Dark (2007), is a very interesting film, it's a mixed bag but you're bound to find something you like in it. And the design work through out makes the whole experience worth it.

4/5 Stars.

Happy watching!

This review is part of my 2014 run of 13 Nights of Macabre Movies! Tune in tomorrow as I review a Canadian anthology horror film from the same year, Trick 'r Treat (2007).

Like this blog? You can support it by buying this film through these fine links:

Monday, October 27, 2014

Hood of Horror (2006)


       "Man, go f*ck yourself. N*gga!"

Hood of Horror (2006), sometimes known as Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror, is an anthology horror film that is a cross between Tales of the Crypt (1972), Creepshow (1982) and  Tales from the Hood (1995

The story presents three "urban" African American-themed stories spun together with a framing story starring a fictional Snoop Dogg, in his new job as a "hound of hell." 

One thing I can say about this movie is that it is an interesting concept. This is why I was curious enough to check it out, and I can't say I was disappointment it was actually very interesting in the end.

I really didn't care for the stories presented here, but then again I'm not really the target audience so I'm not sure how much my opinion really matters at all truthfully. I liked the concept of the first story "Crossed Out," which was probably my favorite but I felt the morals trying to be presented were very muddy to say the least. I feel it could have been done a lot better. Likewise I felt the concept of "Rapsody Askew" was an interesting choice for the film, but there really wasn't a whole lot to it. One simple twist and then you're yawning through it. Most of the stories felt like there really just wasn't enough content to them. The movie is 88 minutes, but you factor in the added gore and sex, the long opening titles, the ten-minute rap music video they called credits and there's not much real content in the film.

The other reason the stories stunk was their gratuitous amounts of added gore and sex, they really seemed to go over board in these departments. And it weighs down the stories, feels unnecessary as they do it, and not to mention is highly unrealistic!

The framing story here is also down right terrible. I think(?) what they're trying to be clever and point out a parallel between the hood and purgatory? But it's all very heavy handed and not well pulled off. Why was the dwarf Satan? Because it'd be funny? Why was the dwarf vomiting all the time? Same reason.

The acting in this film is across the board terrible. I don't know who thought Snoop Dogg could act (probably Snoop?) But even the actors who can act like Jason Alexander and Billy Dee Williams end up in these very cartoony roles that are just plain silly.

Even though I don't listen to much Rap or Hip hop I must admit I thought the soundtrack to this film was quite good! Probably the worst song was Snoop's film tie-in but I'm willing to let that pass. I actually don't know why more films don't use Hip hop soundtracks, it can be very cinematic and definitely set a mood just as well as anything else.

I also really enjoyed the opening animated sequence, which was a collaboration by Madhouse and Titmouse, two of the best animation studios in the industry right now. I wish this was on a better film, but at least it improved the film, and gave a little more weight to Snoop's "acting."

Hood of Horror (2006), did not grab me at all. But I found it interesting to say the least.

2/5 Stars.

Happy watching!

This review is part of my 2014 run of 13 Nights of Macabre Movies! Tune in tomorrow as I review another different take on the anthology horror film, tomorrow I review the fully animated, French film Fear(s) of the Dark (2007).

Like this blog? You can support it by buying this film through these fine links:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)


       "Had to stop reading twice cause it got me so scared."

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), is an anthology horror film based on the popular Tales from the Darkside television series. Like the series, this film's stories are partially based off the works of famous authors, and even stars Deborah Harry, Christian Slater and William Hickey who all previously had appeared in episodes of the series.

This film is strongly connected to the Creepshow series of films. When the first Creepshow (1982) was a moderate success this led to the possibility of turning Creepshow into a series. The producers of the original film, Laurel Entertainment, decided to move ahead without Warner Brothers who owned aspects of Creepshow, and thus was born the popular series Tales from the Darkside. When the series was ended their was still demand so they began working on a film version and even included a story written by George A. Romero (and based off a Stephen King short story) that was written for Creepshow 2 (1987), but was cut for budgetary reasons. There happens to be an unofficial sequel to Creepshow 2 but Tom Savini has been quoted as saying that Tales from the Darkside: The Movie is "the real Creepshow 3."

The acting in this movie is really great, every story has a handful of some of the greatest actors working in the late 80s and this alone makes the film a lot stronger than the others I'm reviewing this season. When you're watching "Lot 249," you'll be blow away by all of the great actors in it.

I really like the stories chosen for this film. Much like Creepshow 2, the selection of three stories over five really helps give time for the film to develop the characters and give the viewer a chance to breathe in the world. My favorite story of the bunch is easily "Lot 249" adapted from a short story by Arthur Conan Doyle. This is easily one of the best mummy depictions I've ever seen on screen. This film also has a unique thing I'd never seen before and that is the story "Cat From Hell" is told as a framed story but it's also within the greater framed story of the film. Which if you think about it too long it may hurt your head, but regardless it's quite successful. Just pointing out my observation of how unique that is.

Sadly I didn't enjoy the third story, "Lover's Vow," as much as I did the others, which is really unfortunate because it's the final story of the film. It's really not a bad story at all, but it's a lot slower and really doesn't have a lot of "horror" in it. It takes forever to build to it's twist, then has the kind of twist that's not super satisfying in the end which just kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

I also have one gripe about the framing story. I wish the framing story connected better with the actual stories, if you think about these stories as if the young boy was telling them you will quickly realize that there's no way a ten-year-old boy would comprehend the complex themes and social connections of the characters within the stories, maybe this is just me being too picky but this is the kind of stuff that really takes me out of the movie.

Despite the stories not fitting the framing story as I mentioned, I must say that this film has one of the best framing stories that I have come across yet in an anthology horror film. A suburban witch has a young paper boy locked up and he is telling her stories to try to distract her. I love how simple this idea is, it's essentially an update of the Hansel & Gretel story, nothing fancy at all and yet it's dark as hell. It adds another layer to this movie that really makes this film stand out from the rest!

This film reminds me of Creepshow 2, the way it has a lot less makeup and special effects than many films I've reviewed this season, but when Darkside does use them they are absolutely amazing!! My absolute favorite effect is the second to last kill in the second story "Cat from Hell." It's so gruesome and unnecessary but it adds a level of morbid to the story that really makes the story fit the others in the film. This film could be a prime example of why practical effects trump CG almost every time.

And lastly I love the direction in this film. I don't know how it's possible that this film has better direction than the Creepshow films, but it totally does. This was director John Harrison's first film he directed and he apparently really knew what he was doing. The film's direction is really creepy, and really adds the "scare" to each story. I love the way he uses light and color, particularly in the story "Cat from Hell" but also throughout.

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1987), in many ways it surpasses the other Creepshow films, and is a great anthology horror film in its own right.

4/5 Stars.

 Happy watching!

This review is part of my 2014 run of 13 Nights of Macabre Movies! Tune in tomorrow as I review a much different take on the horror anthology with Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror (2006).

Like this blog? You can support it by buying this film through these fine links:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Creepshow 2 (1987)


       "Thanks for the ride, lady"

Creepshow 2 (1987) is an anthology horror film sequel to Creepshow (1982). Creepshow 2 is directed by Michael Gornick who was George A. Romero's cinematographer on the original Creepshow.

Creepshow 2 contains three stories written by George A. Romero and based on Stephen King short stories. It also has a strange mostly animated framing story that follows around a boy who reads the (fictional) Creepshow comic.

The makeup and special effects in this film are definately not as good as the original, but they're not at all bad either. I think my favorite thing was the lake monster, I have no idea how they did that and it looked amazing. I also love the way they did the makeup on people when it attacked so it looked like it was eating the flesh right off of them. Really awesome stuff!

The acting is good all across the board here (which seems kind of rare for an anthology film.) Every actor in the film seemed to have a good casual acting and then then also a good 'scared' acting too, which sounds weird to say but sadly I've noticed in a lot of horror films the actors are pretty bad at pretending they're freaked out.

The worst thing about the writing in this film is the dialogue. It's clunky, people say stuff no one would really say out loud and worst of all it throws off the otherwise capable actors.

I like the fact that this film has an animated framing story, I just have no idea what the point was! The animation itself is actually quite terrible, and the story just kind of meanders and follows this boy and doesn't really have a point to it.

My favorite thing about this movie are the stories. This film only has three stories and they're definitely quality over quantity. It helps to have three stories because they get a full thirty minutes each and nothing seems rushed, and you have plenty of time to get to know the characters. They all kind of fall into the horror movie stock ending of "and everybody died!" but at least its fun along the way getting there. I think my favorite story was The Raft but they're all very enjoyable. I think this is the first time since Tales from the Crypt (1972) that a movie on this list actually seemed to capture the same feeling as reading the old EC Comics stories that a bunch of these movies are tributes to, so in that regard this film is definitely more successful than the original Creepshow.

I'm in the minority that thinks that Creepshow 2 (1987) is far better than the original. I think I like the concept of the original Creepshow, but I think it was pulled off a lot more successfully in Creepshow 2.

3.5/5 Stars.

 Happy watching!

This review is part of my 2014 run of 13 Nights of Macabre Movies! Tune in tomorrow as I review the (widely accepted) unofficial sequel to this film Tales from the Darkside: The Movie .

Like this blog? You can support it by buying this film through these fine links:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)


       "Did you ever watch The Twilight Zone?"

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), is an anthology film produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis and is a theatrical version of the the long running Twilight Zone series.

The film contains four stories and a prologue, all the stories are based on episodes from the original series except the first and even that resembles a couple different old episodes. The stories are directed by John Landis, Stephen Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller.

One of the consistently good things about Twilight Zone: The Movie is its direction. This is the one way the stories consistently top their original television episodes. These are all good and well seasoned directors well along in their careers by the time they came together to make this and it shows.

These are fair adaptations of the original stories, I still have some preferences that go back to the original series episodes, but I think that comes from my personal attachment to the Rod Serling series (and I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way.)

The first story after the prologue, "Time Out" is the only original story of the lot and I feel like it shows. It's not really bad, but it's just clearly not as good as the others. It seems very surface level, I think what it's missing is a resolution with the main characters, I think if this was an original series episode we'd see the main character have a complete change on screen whether (its too late or not.) This one just seems super unsatisfying.

Meridith Burgess, who starred in four separate episodes of the original series, does most of the narration in the film filling the Rod Serling role of the series and I think she really nails it. She somehow does her own thing with it and still subtly suggests Rod Serling's voice over. Steven Speilberg or whoever made that decision really nailed it.

The other thing I really like about this film is that their selections of stories, and variety of tones really do feel like the perfect tribute to The Twilight Zone series!

Twlight Zone: The Movie (1983) is a bold undertaking that is largely successful. It's totally worth a watch.

3.5/5 Stars.

 Happy watching!

This review is part of my 2014 run of 13 Nights of Macabre Movies! Tune in tomorrow as I review another horror anthology sequel Creepshow 2 (1987).

Like this blog? You can support it by buying this film through these fine links: