Monday, September 28, 2009

The trailer for the Nightmare on Elm Street remake has arrived!

     If someone told me seven years ago that classic horror films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street were going to be remade, I would have told you that you were fucking insane!  "Re-imagining" movies like Dawn of the Dead, The Hills Have Eyes, and The Fog didn't seem too unthinkable, but the very idea that someone felt that Chainsaw, Halloween and Elm Street were in need of updates left me dumbfounded.  In my opinion, these films are ultimate examples of modern horror filmmaking at it's best.  What is the point in doing these films all over again?  Commerce, plain and simple.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Halloween.  A Nightmare on Elm Street.  They have become something other than movies; they have become brand names, like Coke or Hershey's.  So, it doesn't matter if these remakes are good or not.  If it turns a profit, the studios will keep making them.  It's sad that we, the horror fans, have to put up with mediocrity and assembly-line production just because the Hollywood suits appeal only to a simple-minded, blood-thirsty, Bush-era 18-35 demographic.

     No production company has made remakes their business more than Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes.  This label has already churned out updates of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th, and now A Nightmare on Elm Street is next in line.  I found the Texas Chainsaw remake pointless.  The original film worked because of it's low-rent production values and psuedo-doc film style.  The 2003 version, which was the directorial debut of music video maker, Marcus Nispel, looked too much like a movie and added nothing to what had come before.  This year's reboot of Friday the 13th was just as formulaic as every other follow-up to the 1980 original, however, it was cool to see Jason Voorhees as a crazy, forest-dwelling madman again. 

     Remaking A Nightmare on Elm Street is pure exploitation; the motivation behind this project is to make money off of the cultural icon that is Freddy Kruger.  So, I have no faith that any of the hero characters in the new film to be fully realized people like Nancy, her parents, or her friends in the original.  More than likely, they will be as one-dimensionally obnoxious as the characters in every other 21st Century redux.  Another example of Platinum Dunes' carelessness is assigning the task of re-imagining a force in horror like Nightmare to an untried director!  Samuel Bayer has had a two-decade long career conceiving and shooting- you guessed it- music videos!  A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 marks his debut as feature film maker.  Why would you entrust something as massive a film like Elm Street to someone how hasn't proven himself at all as a director?!  Of course, Platinum Dunes did the exact same thing with Chainsaw, and it still made money.  I guess if it ain't broke, then don't fix it.

     I'm sure Jackie Eaele Haley will be great stepping into the role Robert Englund made famous, making Freddy scary again, but from what I've seen in this trailer, the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street itself looks to fall in line with the rest of the neutered, CW-minded, and therefore pointless, nonsense.  However, it's your job to watch the trailer and judge for yourself, and it's both our jobs to sit and wait to see what happens.

~Doctor Splatter

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Star Trek Film Series Reviews: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984)
Directed by: Leonard Nimoy
Starring: William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koening, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Christopher Lloyd, Robin Curtis, and Leonard Nimoy
8 out of 10 Stars.

     It’s rare that a sequel can match, or exceed, the impact of the original, but history also shows that a three-peat is damn near impossible.  From Superman III to Spider-Man 3, it seems no one can make lightning strike a third time.  The Star Trek franchise, though, plays by its own rules.  The first film in the series was a rather lukewarm affair, while Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan went on to dazzle fans and critics.  It was inevitable that Paramount would quickly ask for a follow-up after that movie, out of nowhere, defied expectations.  There has been a long-standing belief among fans that the odd-numbered Star Trek films are the weakest entries.  However, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is the only case before the J.J. Abrams picture where that doesn’t apply, and that’s due to the efforts of its director, Mr. Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy.

     This chapter picks up where the last film left off, as the starship Enterprise and crew, led by Admiral Kirk (William Shatner), return to Earth after their epic battle with Khan and the creation of The Genesis Planet.  It’s an empty victory, as the crew are still dealing with the loss of their comrade, Mr. Spock (Nimoy).  They also discover upon their return that everyone is being re-assigned and that the Enterprise herself is heading to the scrap heap.  And then there’s Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), who’s been exhibiting unusually strange behavior since Spock’s demise.  A visit by Spock’s father, Sarek (Mark Lenard) reveals that McCoy is in fact harboring Spock’s soul, and that the doctor and Spock’s body must both be returned to the planet Vulcan.  However, Spock’s tomb is located on Genesis, and the Federation has put the planet in quarantine, save for a science team led by Lt. Saavik (now played by Robin Curtis) and Kirk‘s son/Genesis creator, David Marcus.  Nonetheless, Kirk, Scotty, Sulu, Checkov, and Uhura conspire to take McCoy, steal the Enterprise, and head to the forbidden planet to recover their fallen friend.  Christopher Lloyd joins the cast as Kruge, a commander for a race of aliens known as Klingons (the most well-known of Star Trek aliens other than Vulcans).  The Klingons are the sworn enemies of the Federation, and Kruge sees the conquer of the Genesis Planet as a major victory for his people.

     Appointing a cast member as the director of a Star Trek movie could have been a disaster or a brilliant idea, and in the case of The Search for Spock, it proves to be the latter.  Nimoy clearly shows he’s in command of filmmaking, and his imagination results in classic additions to the mythology.  The movie does feel like a brother picture to The Wrath of Khan (tightly-paced, exciting, tempered with moments of character) while at the same time building on the groundwork that that film laid.  The visual effects, courtesy of Industrial Light and Magic, are greatly improved this time, opening up the world of Star Trek without slowing the picture down.  In addition, Nimoy doesn’t sacrifice the theme, as the film offers an interesting take on the Frankenstein concept and offers an obvious allegory of the Cold War.  The Search for Spock though will be best remembered for re-introducing the Klingons, solidifying the characters as we know them today, and for introducing the coolest outer space warship ever: the Klingon Bird of Prey.

     The Search for Spock is not without some faults, preventing it from reaching the greatness of The Wrath of Khan.  Some of the movie’s concepts aren’t as fully realized as those presented in the last installment, the most neglected of which was McCoy’s dealing with his mind housing two different souls and I saw that as an opportunity of ideas passed by.  The cast as a whole is just fine this time around, with some performances shining more than others.  The original actors look like they have settled a little too well into their cinematic alter-egos, leaving no room for any surprises.  The loss of Kirstie Ally in the role of Saavik is too hard to ignore, as Robin Curtis feels more like a stand-in.  The real standout performance for me, and one that needs to be better remembered, is Christopher Lloyd as Kruge.  Lloyd delightfully creates a character so ruthless and cold that he proves a more deadly adversary than the passionate Khan!  It’s a portrayal that should prove once and for all that Christopher Lloyd is more than just Professor Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy.

     Star Trek III: The Search for Spock may not be as mythic or as cerebral as The Wrath of Khan, but that should not deter from the fact that it is still a very enjoyable journey into the 23rd Century.  Leonard Nimoy proves he’s an imaginative director, and The Search for Spock is a worthwhile test-run for what he has in store next.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Whoa, the Weinsteins must REALLY need the money!

     It's true, the 1990's were pretty much a dull decade for horror.  Fatigue and political-correctness set in, and the slasher film, the driving force of the genre for the whole of the 80's, was laid to waste.  It would be quickly replaced with the "psychological thriller" after the critical and financial success of The Silence of the Lambs.  Although that film was quite brutal, the funhouse mentality of horror, which had been there since the beginning of cinema, seemed to be gone.  However, one company did provide the 90's with a few classics (or faves): Dimension Films, a division of Miramax, started by brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein. 
     Dimension gave the world Scream, From Dusk 'til Dawn, and The Crow.  However, the company did also supply us with numerous unnecessary sequels to these flicks, a lot of them went straight to home video.  Scream 2 and 3 were pale, over-the-top imitations of the first film, all of the Crow follow-ups were piss poor, and I didn't even bother with the From Dusk 'til Dawn sequel and prequel.  In addition, the Weinsteins also gain the rights to properties such as Halloween and Hellraiser, dishing out more sub par sequels to those movies, including Halloween H20, which was made solely to capitalize on the success of Dimension's earlier hit, Scream.  The Weinsteins made a career out of the phrase, "If it works, run it into the ground."

     Harvey and Bob Weinstein left the Disney-owned Miramax in 2005 and took the Dimension label with them, but it hasn't been rosy for new Weinstein Company.  Since striking out on their own, they have had only modest successes with films like 1408, Clerks II, and Rambo, while Rob Zombie's 2007 remake of Halloween and Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds are their only big hits.  The Dimension Extreme DVD line hasn't helped enough to keep the brothers from experiencing financial troubles, either.  All of this prompted the Weinsteins to lay off workers and hire a restructuring firm this summer.  So, I guess out of desperation, Bob Weinstein told Variety that he's "going back to what I do best."  That is, he's going back to running his old properties even further into the ground.  I already passed on the news that Halloween III is a go for next summer, but there is also going to be more remakes and sequels to Hellraiser and Children of the Corn (which already has a remake debuting on SyFy this weekend!).  The biggest Weinstein revival, though, is a new Scream trilogy, reuniting the Arquettes, writer Kevin Williamson, and now Neve Campbell.  Even Wes Craven is in talks to come back to the director's chair.  Rest assured, if this works, Harvey and Bob will be dishing out remakes or sequels to From Dusk 'til Dawn, The Crow, and the brothers' most recent horror breakout, Feast, which has already spawned two direct-to-DVD follow-ups since it bowed in 2006!

     With the Weinsteins, it seems like the more things change the more they stay the same.  Again, read for yourself, decide what you think:

~Doctor Splatter


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Review of My Bloody Valentine 3D

My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)
Directed by: Patrick Lussier
Starring: Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith, Tom Atkins, Betsy Rue
7 out of 10 Stars

     My initial reaction to a remake of the 1981 Canadian slasher film, My Bloody Valentine, was not a positive one. Like every other horror fan I was convinced that the project was yet another unnecessary entry in the Horror Film Trend of the Decade- The Remake. Just like the slasher film craze of the 1980’s, to which My Bloody Valentine was a part of, there’s a formula: take a perfectly great (or marginally good, yet loved) horror film and turn it into slick, hip product. In this era, studios are relying on the general public’s recognition of horror’s most iconic films and characters for the singular purpose of grabbing all that cash. Almost none of these re-imaginings are any attempt whatsoever to improve on ideas laid down by the original versions. A lot of the filmmakers who take on these projects claim they want to bring something “fresh” to these movies, but instead the resulting remakes are arbitrarily cluttered with trendy visual styles, storytelling, music, and actors; stuff the suits think the kids want to see, regardless of whether or not they make for an effective horror film. In place of filmmaking, there’s now frantic music video editing. Wherever there was suspense and atmosphere, now there are action film set-pieces. Instead of real characters, we get hot celebrities reacting rather than acting.

     My Bloody Valentine was an extra-sensitive case for me; the original film was one of the first scary movies I saw as a kid. Obviously the image of “Harry Warden” in a miner’s mask and uniform made an impression on me, but over the years I’ve come to appreciate its merits of the film itself. Of all the imitators that came in the wake of perennial favorites, Halloween and Friday the 13th, My Bloody Valentine proved to be one that could stand up with the pictures that inspired it, and in turn it ended up as one of the most memorable of the early 80’s slasher boom. The 1981 flick (directed by George Mihalka) was not a happy joyride like Friday the 13th or its countless wannabes; it’s a pretty dark and bitter shocker. Or at least it was before the Motion Picture Association of America took a pick-axe to it- sorry, I had to- but more on that later. Valentine was also remembered for its gloomy, atmospheric locales and a bevy of characters who were adults with compelling drama, as opposed to teenagers who are just looking to get laid.

     Of course I’m not suggesting that Valentine is some great piece of cinema, but given the way studios and producers approach doing a remake of an old-school horror film, I thought the idea of Lionsgate wanting to utilize Mihalka’s film as a springboard to make a real scary movie was equally insane.

     Directed by Patrick Lussier and scripted by Todd Farmer and Zane Smith, My Bloody Valentine 3D, however, proved me dead wrong and pulled off one hell of a miracle by knowing exactly what kind of movie it wants to be: an extremely gory and genuinely scary flick. And it delivers!

     In the fictional town of Harmony, whipper-snapper Tom Hanniger (Supernatural’s Jensen Ackles) ignores experienced miner, Harry Warden, and decides to be a hot shot, inadvertently causing his family’s mine to collapse on a number of workers. Warden is the only one found alive, and he’s rushed unconscious to the hospital. He wakes up on Valentine’s Day really pissed off and slaughters everyone (and I mean everyone!), leaving the bodies with open chest cavities in full view of the audience! He then dons his old uniform and mask to extract his revenge on Hanniger, who’s partying with girlfriend Sarah (Jamie King) and friends down in the mine. More gory chaos ensues as Warden buries his trusty pick-axe into hapless partygoers before Sheriff Burke (Tom Atkins) and other cops arrive to put Harry down…supposedly. That’s just the first ten minutes! We then flash forward ten years later. Hanniger comes back to town on the anniversary of the Valentine’s Day Massacre to sell off the mine, much to the dismay of the town. He also finds his old girlfriend married to buddy Axel Palmer (Kerr Smith), who’s now sheriff. People find it strange that Tom comes back at this particular moment, especially when the bodies, as well as the hearts in heart-shaped boxes, start turning up. Yet some folks seem to think Harry Warden is still alive and isn’t done extracting his revenge. What follows are a lot more bloodshed and the possibility that someone else could be picking up where Harry left off.

     My Bloody Valentine 3D retains the gloomy, overcast settings, the claustrophobia, and the gore of the original film, but it is different in tone. It’s obvious that the filmmakers, in addition to paying their respects to the original, really wanted to recapture the no-holds-barred, grisly, seedy, and a bit sleazy spirit of the early ‘80’s slasher heyday and instead of replicating the bitterness of the ’81 film, MBV3D is unapologetically fun. It does have its humorous moments, but it never forgets that it's a horror film, so there's none of the ironic humor that permeates a lot of genre pictures in the post-Scream era. It’s a lot closer in tone to first couple of Friday the 13th sequels.

     Also, rather than just rehashing the plot of the original film, Lussier and the writers pay homage to the ’81 plot with the opening bloodbath, leaving the rest of the film to function as a would-be whodunit. It does retain the love triangle of the original- as Tom tries to convince Sarah to leave Axel (who’s clearly a borderline abusive jerk who got his mistress knocked up) - to this time serve the mystery aspect rather than make compelling drama. Even if you’ve seen the original film, the 2009 redux does do a good job of keeping the audience guessing until the end.

     Of course, audiences aren’t concerned with that as much as...the gore! The film’s violence is more unrelenting than in most mainstream horror flicks I’ve seen in this decade. However, unlike the brutality of Saw knock-offs, whose pseudo-documentary style reduces viewers to zoned-out voyeurs, Lussier (who worked as an editor on Wes Craven’s Scream) relies on building suspense to make the kills truly shocking as well as making the audience jump out of their seats. It’s true the build-ups were inspired by other scary movies (The Shining, Zombie, and the original My Bloody Valentine come to mind), but my God do the scares still work! Even the fake scares work! How many times have we seen in other movies where some idiot pops up out of nowhere to try to frighten the other characters? We roll our eyes, don’t we? Not so with this movie.

     The script doesn’t leave any room for the actors to really do anything but to merely function in the roles given to them. Ackles plays his part as sort of a slightly demented clone of his Dean Winchester character from Supernatural. Jamie King is a standard Scream Queen, but unlike in The Tripper, she participates. Kerr Smith handles his role okay, but still looks too young as a sheriff. He resembles too much like Dewey in Scream to be taken absolutely seriously. However, Julliard training isn’t required for a film like this, and at least the cast actually tries to resemble grown-up characters, which is more than I can say for most actors in movies like this. It was a great joy, for me at least, to see the return (to the genre) of Tom Atkins, best known for supporting roles in John Carpenter’s The Fog and Escape from New York, as well as playing the no-fun dad in Creepshow.

     There’s so much to love about My Bloody Valentine 3D, one can’t help but be disappointed by the film’s climax, which, after so much tension, leaves the viewer a bit cheated. I guess the ending the writers came up with not only prevented them rehashing the plot of the ’81 movie, but also served Lionsgate’s need for a sequel set-up.

     I know I haven’t spoken much about the 3D aspect of the remake, but it’s because I have no base of comparison. This was the first time I went to a 3D movie ever in my life, so how can I really judge that? It was fun to experience the film that way, but I’m still convinced the movie works without the gimmick. The reliance on creepy atmosphere as well as gross-out effects is what made this remake work as an effective scary movie. My Bloody Valentine 3D isn’t meant to replace the 1981 classic. It’s worthy enough to exist alongside it the same way John Carpenter’s The Thing does with the 1951 film, because unlike most horror remakes these days, and unlike Harry Warden’s victims, My Bloody Valentine 3D has heart.

I couldn't post the trailer from YouTube, so here's a link to it:

~Doctor Splatter

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hardware finally comes to DVD!

     There wasn't much to do in Coalinga during my teen years.  I know a lot of kids would say that about their hometown, but I, on the other hand, flatly refused to partake in the usual rural area antics: drinking, knocking up girls, tipping over cows.  Instead there was a lot of late weekend nights spent watching the telly.  In between Headbanger's Ball and Beavis & Butthead, I scoured the late-night cable circuit looking for good movies to watch, for there was some pretty wacky stuff back in the day.  Hardware was one title that stuck out.  Directed by Richard Stanley, Hardware was a combo of horror and sci-fi, centering on a homicidal robot in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.  The movie starred a pre-Practice Dylan McDermott and a smoking hot actress named Stacy Travis, as well as surprise cameos by Iggy Pop and Motorhead's Lemmy.  I don't remember if I ever saw an uncut version, but I do have vague memories of enjoying the low-budget surreal nature of it.  Thanks to and YouTube, I found out that Hardware is being released onto DVD on October 13th, courtesy of Severin Films.  Click on the link for details and a preview clip.  This is one lesser-known blending of genres that could use a second lease on life.

~Doctor Splatter   

Yes, there is going to be another Halloween, but there will be NO MORE ROB ZOMBIE!

     I might as well get this out of the way, but I am indeed one of those "haters" of Rob Zombie's Halloween.  The original 1978 film was definitely a work of art, and the 2007 remake, in comparison, was definitely not.  I'm not really that big on the franchise as a whole anyways, but I never imagined it would get as bad as it did with Zombie's.  I will examine both the original and the remake in a latter essay, but to put in in a simple statement, Rob Zombie's Halloween was so unbelievably obnoxious it was impossible to enjoy it.  After saying he would not come back for a sequel, the singer/director retracted and made Halloween II, which was released to little fanfare almost a month ago.  However, that does not seem to bother producer Malek Akkad (who inherited the Halloween franchise from his late father, Moustapha), because Halloween III is a go...for next summer!  In addition, it will also be presented in 3D (Halloween III in 3D, ha-ha.).  The good news is that Rob has left the series for good, as well as for the good of the series.  It has just been confirmed today by that Halloween 3D has a new director- Patrick Lussier, who directed the 3D remake of My Bloody Valentine earlier this year.  Despite the bad ending, I thought that movie was pretty good.  It wasn't as douchey as a lot of American horror films this decade, so I think, no matter the outcome, the next installment of Halloween is already an improvement over the last two.

     Remember, this my take, and my take only.  Click on the link, read the article, and decide for yourself.  This isn't Fox.

~Doctor Splatter

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Review of Pieces!

Pieces (1983)
Directed by: Juan Piquer Simon
Starring: Christopher George, Lynda Day George, Edward Purdom, Ian Sera, Jack Taylor, Paul L. Smith
8 out of 10 Stars

     Now, I consider myself a serious film fan, in that I see movies as more than just entertainment, more than just time spent in front of a screen simply zoning out for two hours. Yet I still have this fascination with movies that are "so-bad-it's-good", and I'm not above saying that I get a kick out of films that are so inept that I end up enjoying it because of it's sheer stupidity. Directed by Spanish filmmaker Juan Piquer Simon, Pieces is probably the most infamous low-budget slasher flick to ever come out of the subgenre's gory glory days of the early-1980's. It is also the ultimate “so-bad-it’s-good” horror film!
The movie's pre-credit sequence takes place in 1942 Boston, where a young boy hacks his mother to death after she catches him, and then demeans him, for playing with a jigsaw puzzle of a naked woman. After the credits, the story jumps ahead forty years, and we are at a university where a chainsaw-wielding maniac is dispatching female co-eds and taking severed parts with him. It seems the killer is making a human jigsaw puzzle using the parts of his numerous nubile victims. The cops, lead by Christopher George, are (naturally) clueless, so they decide to recruit a former tennis pro (played by George's wife, Linda Day) and a campus "Casanova" (played by Ian Sera) to go undercover to catch the sicko.

     If the premise alone sounds implausible and dumb, you have heard nothing yet! Pieces is a shamelessly repulsive, badly-written, badly-acted, clumsily-edited, politically-incorrect, degrading, dingy-looking movie. This movie is so bad, and so insulting, by all accounts it should be dumped in the garbage and set on fire. However, by some -I'd say hell spawn- miracle, Pieces manages to be highly enjoyable laugh-filled riot, in addition to actually living up to its massively gruesome hype.

     Pieces promises that "You don't have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre!" and that “It's exactly what you think it is!". Well, I can say that, despite the cheap effects, this is one of the most unapologetically brutal pictures in horror history. Simon takes pleasure in giving the audience exactly what they’ve paid to see, giving us graphic, and sometimes slow-motion, displays of: hackings, knifings, severed limbs and torsos, entrails, and a never-ending flow of fake blood! Those rather silly taglines and the film's notoriety are definitely not without merit!

     It goes without saying that you don't walk into a movie called Pieces expecting to find a deep, psychological thriller. I didn't, and I knew what I was in for. This movie was made long before the days of The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en. By the time those films were made, psychology was seen in the culture as a viable tool to catch a serial killer. Pieces was produced in a day and age when horror movies like these (as well as their hard-boiled cop characters) just snickered at such ideas. The serial killer was simply a shock tactic; a cheap way for filmmakers to put more blood and guts on the screen. But that's only the surface of its politically-incorrectness. All of the killer's victims are women, and are hacked in various stages of undress. This is one film that would justify the critics' view of the slasher genre as misogynistic. Also, the dean of the university refers to another character's homosexuality as an "affliction". And in one of the picture's many illogical moments, we get a few bad Asian stereotypes thrown in.

     But if Pieces is nothing but wanton extreme violence, produced in a time of ignorance, what could possibly make it worthwhile? The only thing more shocking than the gore in Pieces is that the film is so awfully constructed it's actually hysterical! When I say "many illogical moments", I mean it! There are a lot of scenes in the movie that leave you crying, "What the hell?!" and "Oh, come on!" while chuckling at the same time. What's really awful about the script is its complete and utter inability to build any real suspense and its laziness to develop Paul Smith or Jack Taylor as believable suspects. These two guys end up looking useless. The dialogue of the characters and the actors' delivery are so silly, if you close your eyes you'll think you're listening to an episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?! But believe it or not, it's the bad script, bad dialogue, and bad acting/dubbing that serve as blessings in disguise. What these shortcomings do is provide Pieces with a lot of unintentional, yet much-needed, humor to offset the extremely graphic and unsettling violence, and in turn, they separate the film from similar, yet oppressively dour and completely irresponsible slasher flicks such as I Spit On Your Grave and Don't Answer the Phone.

     There’s no doubt that serious film fans and critics will continue to bemoan the existence of Pieces for years to come, but the film wasn’t made for them. Pieces is a movie made specifically for the gore hounds; one that actually delivers on the promise of its famous taglines. However, the sacrifices made in order to give the audience what they want results in an unintentionally comedic and therefore surprisingly enjoyable experience for those horror fans that have yet to discover this absurd slasher classic.

NOTE: Grindhouse Releasing brought Pieces to DVD this past October, so if you remember this movie, or curious to check it out, then by all means pick it up!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Review of Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Directed by Quentin Taratino
Starring: Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender, Diane Kruger
10 out of 10 stars.

     I have a rule, one which I made for myself a long time ago as a general courtesy, but has become a more of a commandment in this day and age: never watch a remake of a film without first seeing the original. I refuse to be one of those moviegoers who narrowly assumes that a remake will be better than the previous version just because it‘s new. More often than not, remakes in this decade are made for the purpose of either milking dollars out of a recognizable name or an attempt to establish a new brand. Most of the films that have come out in recent years based on earlier pictures are empty, pale (and sometimes obnoxious) imitations that add nothing substantial to what has been done before. It’s become such a prevalent mode of business that even if I think the original film sucks, like the early Troma “classic” Mother’s Day (who’s remake is currently in production and is being directed by Darren Lynn “Saw” Bousman) I have zero confidence a new version will even be marginally better than the old one. I thought as I was walking into Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds that I was breaking my own rule. Unbelievably though, this was a case where the rules didn’t apply anywhere. Tarantino not only delivers a re-imagining that clearly stands proud on it’s own, but it’s also his most daring and outstanding work since Pulp Fiction.

     This movie is based on a 1978 Italian-made World War II adventure entitled The Inglorious Bastards. Directed by Enzo Castellari, the film (judging by it’s trailer) looks like a rip-off of The Dirty Dozen, as a group of American soldiers wanted by their own for desertion or worse end up volunteering for a mission by the French resistance to steal Nazi weapons. Remaking The Inglorious Bastards has been a dream project for Tarantino since before Kill Bill, long before reduxes were the norm. The way in which these films are produced now, you kind of ask yourself why someone like Tarantino would be interested in making a straight-up, linear narrative action piece. I should’ve known that few things are certain in Quentin’s movie-making mind. Inglourious Basterds is not a straight-up remake of Castellari’s movie, and it’s not your standard action film set during World War II, it’s something wildly unexpected: a movie that plays by it’s own rules.

     Inglourious Basterds centers around a group of eight Jewish Allied soldiers who are brought together by 1st Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) for “one thing and one thing only: killing Nazis.” We see Raine and his Basterds commit vile acts of murder and torture against German soldiers throughout occupied France, in the process building a fearful reputation. In addition we are introduced to Shosanna Dreyfus (played by French actress Melanie Laurent), a French Jew who witnessed her family massacred by the extremely charming, yet equally sinister Col. Hans Landa, AKA The Jew Hunter (Christoph Waltz). Years later, under an alias, she runs a cinema in Paris, and is pressured by a young Nazi war hero smitten with her into hosting the premiere of a new propaganda film. Everyone from Hitler to high-ranking officers to head of propaganda Joseph Goebbels to Col. Landa will be in attendance. Shosanna sees this as an opportunity to launch her own revenge plot against the Third Reich. The two storylines come together as the Basterds, in cahoots with a British officer and a German film-star-turned-Allies-spy, also plan to infiltrate the Nazi shindig.

     Let’s first take into account that this isn’t the kind of re-imagining we’ve become accustomed to these days. Tarantino’s version bears little resemblance to the synopsis of the original. The only constant is the concept of “men on a mission” (not to mention a cameo by The Inglorious Bastards co-star Bo Svenson). Even the misspelling of the title gives you another clue to his intention. What he’s done is taken the basic idea and let his imagination run wild. So what’s a WWII film from the mind of Quentin Tarantino like? I guarantee you it’s unlike any you’ve ever seen. Inglourious Basterds isn’t a yarn that simply takes place during Word War II, it’s Word War II in an alternate universe. Instead of honoring history, Quentin decides to let the characters of his world dictate the outcome of events, opening the door for plenty of surprises for the audience. That’s only the start of the unexpected delights Tarantino dishes out. The trademarks of any Quentin Tarantino film are present in Inglourious Basterds, but not since Pulp Fiction have they’ve felt fresh. In his previous two pictures it seemed those standards- the use of dialogue to drive the story, found music, pop-culture references, etc.- were used to construct the movie. With this film, those techniques are used to a much more interesting effect. If this had been an accurate portrayal of the Second World War seeing 70’s-tastic name cards or hearing David Bowie’s 1982 song “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” would be disconcerting. Quentin isn’t trying to be hip this time. He’s letting the audience know they’re watching a vision of the war separate from history, and more importantly, that it’s okay to have as much fun as you want with it. This is a groundbreaking example of re-imagining that other filmmakers should pay close attention to.

     Personally, I’m sick of the complaints I hear and read about Tarantino’s extensive use of dialogue in his last two films. To me, it seems the people who do gripe about that have never seen a Tarantino picture before or have blocked memories of his first three. Of course there’s talking in these movies! That’s what drives a Tarantino film. Each one is a exercise in putting potentially volatile people together to see what will happen. Inglourious Basterds is not a movie bookmarked by large action set-pieces. It’s about intrigue. This is the perfect vehicle for Tarantino’s style of storytelling, because nowhere before or since World War II have stakes been so high, and in no other Tarantino film has the tension between characters been so nail-biting.

     Some might find the liberal use of history similar to Zack Snyder’s 300, but unlike the cartoon-y macho fantasy of that film, Inglourious Basterds is a real world populated with flesh and blood characters. Every performance in the movie is nothing but the very best. Don’t be fooled by the marketing campaign for the movie; Brad Pitt is not the star, only one part of an incredibly well-played, expansive ensemble. Pitt does has a ball with the hillbilly Lt. Raine, but Melanie Laurent will also go down as the most memorable Tarantino actress outside Uma Thurman, and Austrian-born actor Christoph Waltz creates one of the decade’s greatest villains as Col. Landa. The biggest surprise performance, though, is Eli Roth, who plays Basterd Donny Donowitz, AKA The Bear Jew. I haven’t been that impressed with a lot of what Roth has done as a director or actor, but in this film Quentin has definitely brought a very fine performance out of him. This could be the start of great things for him.

     There is so much awesomeness found in Inglourious Basterds that it makes me want to continuously revisit it again and again. Especially since it all moves at such a brisk pace it feels nowhere near as long as it’s two-and-a-half-hour running time, and that is what is truly remarkable about the film. Quentin Tarantino seamlessly creates an epic that’s not only multi-layered, but also manages to be accessibly fast-paced entertainment. Whereas both Kill Bill and Death Proof were a bit masturbatory and inclusive, Inglourious Basterds proves Tarantino can still brilliantly bridge both sensibilities…and can still blow your fucking mind!

~Doctor Splatter

You HAD to see this coming: A Plan 9 From Outer Space remake!

     My girlfriend passed this bit of news onto me.  It's just so amusing, I had to share.

     As much as I like great movies, I love bad movies, as well.  They can't be the typical summer blockbuster goofballs, though.  I find those annoying, because with so much money invested in these pics Hollywood should know they have to have something to show for it.  What I'm talking about are the cheap, inept exploitation types, of which none stand taller (or is that lower?) than Ed Wood's infamous 1957 flick, Plan 9 From Outer Space.  Considering how much remakes have become the mode of business these days, it comes as no surprise that the king of all b-movies is getting a redux.

     However, I am interested in seeing what will come of this.  In order for this to work, it has to be just as incompetent as Wood's.  That's why I'm glad to see an indie outfit take this on.  If Hollywood got its hands on Plan 9, rest assured it would be blown up to the usual ponderous goofiness of summer-type fare.  But it looks like we maybe getting a new Plan 9 that looks as laughably bad as the original.  We'll see in 2010.

Here's the trailer:

Here's some info on the project, courtesy of The Internet Movie Database:

~Doctor Splatter

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Review of Lucio Fulci's Zombie!

     Well, it is the middle of September.  The weather is starting to cool, friends of mine have started decorating their places, and a slew of new and old scary movies are coming out on DVD and Blu-Ray.  It must be getting close to Halloween, my favorite time of the year!  So, in a way to kick things off, I decided to share with you one of the first movie reviews I ever wrote, and it's for Lucio Fulci's legendary 1980 shocker, Zombie.  This was written in May of last year.  Enjoy, and don't judge too harshly.  :-)

Zombie (1980)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Starring: Ian McCulloch, Tisa Farrow, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, Auretta Gay, Olga Karlatos

8 out of 10 Stars.

     An abandoned boat sails aimlessly into the New York harbor.  When the Harbor Patrol comes aboard, they are met with a hungry, and portly, undead creature.  A reporter (Ian McColloch) catches wind of the event, and then teams up with the daughter of the boat’s owner (who’s gone missing) to find out what happened to that owner and the crew.  Their investigation leads to a remote Caribbean island where they, along with a couple of vacationers, meet a seemingly mad scientist, who’s research into Voodoo has led to the dead coming back to life and feast on the living.

     That’s the premise of Italian director Lucio Fulci’s first full-blown stab at horror: Zombie.  This is one of those cult horror films that I’ve heard about and read about for years.  It was produced in Italy as Zombi 2 to exploit the success of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (which was released in that country as Zombi), is also known as Zombie Flesh Eaters and Voodoo in some parts of the world, and was labeled as a Video Nasty in the U.K. in the early 80’s.  Zombie has an underground legendary status as one of the most violent and bloody horror flicks ever made.  I was never able to watch the film without purchasing a copy.  What if it was an over-hyped disappointment?  Well, four months ago, thanks to Netflix, I finally got a chance to view it, and boy did I have a good time!  Zombie is my favorite old-school horror flick so far this year, and I immediately bought it online after seeing it.  Entertainment Weekly got it right on the nose when it described the film as “…both terrifying and hilarious.”  Zombie has an outrageous plethora of extreme gore, but it also has some unintentionally funny moments that keep it from being unbearable, like a lot of Italian stomach-turners that followed in it’s wake.

     I can’t really go into the gore bits much without spoiling the fun (just in the off-hand case you haven’t seen it yet), but what makes Zombie a truly creepy excursion is Fulci’s ability to make it so while setting most of the picture in the daylight.  Instead of the usual shadows and fog typically used in films like these, Fulci uses the tropical locales to his advantage, and relies on anticipation (the corpses slowly rising out of their graves, for example) to up that creep factor.

     The movie is no masterpiece of filmmaking, make no mistake.  The dialogue?  It’s pretty bad.  Plot?  Not much going on, and what’s present is nonsensical.  Who, or what, exactly is causing all the title characters to walk around and munch on our hapless heroes is never explained with satisfaction.  Fulci tries through the first half of the film to add a sense of mystery, but fails, as one frantic female character spoils that early on (“You won’t be happy until I’m one of your zombies!”).  Plus, I mentioned the doctor, played by Richard Johnson, is seemingly mad, because in actuality, he looks rather lost.  I don’t think Johnson himself knew why his character was on the island.  These things can (and usually do) hurt other movies.  However, in the case of Zombie, they provide the aforementioned hilarity that gives the film a quaint charm.  Other examples include the gratuitous nudity, women just standing around and/or screaming as the ghouls slowly saunter towards them, and, of course, the famous showdown between a zombie and a shark!

     Overall, Lucio Fulci’s Zombie delivers on it’s reputation as a no-holds-barred gorefest, and has the added bonus of being comedic.  Zombie’s flaws have actually done the movie some good over its 25-years-plus years, making it more enjoyable, and stand well above, all the imitators that it has spawned.


~Doctor Splatter

Monday, September 14, 2009

R.I.P. Patrick Swayze.

     It is with sadness to inform everyone that Patrick Swayze has died.  We all know that he had been battling pancreatic cancer for some time, but because of his strength and determination to, at the same time, beat this thing AND to keep working, this is a shock.  Swayze had just turned 57.

     Dirty Dancing has been one of my mother's favorite movies since it's release in 1987.  She would play the soundtrack cassette all the time.  All the ladies loved Patrick.  He was the quintessential leading man of the 80's and an excellent dancer.  He even had a hit single with the Dirty Dancing ballad, "She's Like the Wind".  Then there was of course Ghost, a movie that would forever cement his status as romantic-leading-man legend.

     However, we must not forget that the man was a really talented and versatile actor.  As a kid, Swayze wasn't just a dude who did chick flicks.  I also remember him as an action hero as well.  Who could forget movies like Point Break, Red Dawn, Next of Kin, the Mad Max-rip-off, Steel Dawn, and the end all and be all of man movies, Road House?  In addition, how could you deny the cajones this guy had to don a dress to play a drag queen in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar?  Plus, Swayze wasn't above making fun of his public image, as he proved on Saturday Night Live with that classic Chippendale's audition skit with Chris Farley.

     What truly showed Patrick Swayze's character as a person, though, was his optimism and his unwavering determination to overcome his illness.  Instead of letting his cancer slow him down, he continued to work, busting his ass on the cable drama, The Beast.  Although he lost his two-year battle with the disease, the example he set for himself is one we can all learn from.  It is a positive message in the most meaningful sense, though it won't deter from the fact that he will be sorely missed.

R.I.P. Patrick Swayze

~Doctor Splatter


Just in time for the DVD release tomorrow, here's a review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Directed by: Gavin Hood
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston,,  Ryan Reynolds, Dominic Monaghan

3 out of 10 Stars

     2000’s X-Men, Bryan Singer’s film based on the long-running Marvel comic-book, was a gloriously and sublimely rich movie that transcended the superhero genre to become one of the absolute best science fiction films of my lifetime.  Along with the equally impressive sequel, X2, Singer created a perfect allegory about tolerance, one which can find resonance with audiences in all eras.  More importantly, the X-Men saga is filled with characters who are memorable not just for their amazing powers, but for also having genuine emotions that give extraordinary weight to themes presented to the viewer.  Too bad you won’t find any of that in 20th Century Fox’s new prequel, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a ponderously redundant film that feels more like an X-Men History textbook than an engaging cinematic experience.

     As the title suggests, the film takes the most memorable character, AKA Logan (once again played by Hugh Jackman), and gives him his own adventure, shedding light on where he came from and what kicked off his journey to become an X-Man.  Up until now (on celluloid at least) Wolverine had been a mysterious loner, but at the start of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, we’re introduced to him in the year 1845 as young Canadian James Howlett.  In one night the teenage mutant discovers that the man he thought was his father isn’t, sees his real father murder the surrogate, discovers his mutation while extracting revenge, and finally running away with his older half-brother, the similarly animalistic Victor Creed.  That is followed by an opening credits sequence where we see the two serving the U.S. in The Civil War, World War I and II, and Vietnam (despite the fact they’re Canadian).  During their tour in Southeast Asia, both are recruited by Major William Stryker to be a part of a team of fellow mutants who conduct covert missions for the U.S.  The group includes familiar X-Men mutants such as Blob (Kevin Durand) and Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), who would later become Deadpool.  Creed gets out of control, forcing “Jimmy” to walk away from the team and retreat back to Canada, where he works as a lumberjack named Logan and has a romance with school-teacher, Kayla Silverfox.  Stryker comes calling six years later, asking Logan to come back to the fold after it’s learned that his former mutant teammates are being knocked off.  Logan, of course, refuses, but soon the assassin reveals himself as Victor and kills Kayla.  After the obligatory shouting to the sky, Logan agrees to take part in Stryker’s Weapon X project to take him down.  It’s there that Logan gains his indestructible metal skeleton and claws, as well as knowledge of Stryker’s true intensions.  Wolverine breaks loose and during the course of the rest of the film wages war on seemingly everyone, from Stryker to his former teammates (good and bad) to a suave poker-playing mutant named Gambit to Victor.

     Now, I’m a Wolverine fan as much as the next guy, but I expected more from a picture focusing on the crazy Canuck.  You would think someone like Gavin Hood, who directed dramas such as Tsotsi and Rendition, would be ideal to bring some credibility back to the franchise, after Fox pushed Bryan Singer aside to make the series conscious-free with X-Men: The Last Stand.  Alas, the studio might proved too powerful, as X-Men Origins: Wolverine winds up another step in the franchise’s downward slide into mediocrity.  The problem is that the movie is crammed with so much going, there is no time at all for the viewer to really care about what’s being shown, or for the characters.  X-Men Origins: Wolverine feels more like a succession of facts rather than drama.  What’s really sad is that even though the picture focuses so much more on superhero action, the visual effects look so cheesy there’s no sense of real danger, making the exhaustive effort worthless.  All of this culminates to a point where the viewer ultimately asks, “What’s the point of all of this?”

     After two monumental X-Men pictures, you get a sense in the minds of Fox that success of this series is guaranteed, and that they don’t need to challenge themselves or the audience with each film.  The X-Men are going down a path similar to that of the Superman and the first batch of Batman films, one in which high quality is distilled by commerce into high camp.  X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not the Batman and Robin of this franchise, but given it’s empty-headedness and cartoony visuals, it might well be a ominous omen of worse things to come.

~Doctor Splatter

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Review of Near Dark

     Vampires are all the rage at the moment.  The Season 2 finale of HBO's True Blood airs tomorrow night.  The sequel to Twilight, New Moon, opens this fall, and the CW's blatant Twilight rip-off, The Vampire Diaries, premiered this past Thursday.  With all the bloodsuckers and fang-bangers about, it's very easy to forget the sanguinary films and shows that have preceded the latest craze, especially when you have a more cutesy, fangless, family-friendly phenom like Twilight grabbing everyone's attention.  So, here's a review of an old-school vampire flick that's worthy of remembrance.

Near Dark (1987)
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, Tim Thomerson, Joshua John Miller.
9 out of 10 stars.

     Certainly I was one of those who vividly remembers the release of Warner Bros.’ The Lost Boys in 1987, but sadly I was only vaguely aware of another vampire movie which came out that same year.  It would be years before I got a chance to see the horror-western, Near Dark, and I wouldn’t be surprised if others share that same experience.  That’s a shame, because Near Dark is a film that took an even bolder step in re-imagining vampires, keeping them relevant and scary, but also adding greater degrees of pathos to the bloodsuckers and verisimilitude to the mythology.  That’s no easy feat, yet in addition to that, Near Dark also triumphs as a fluid blending of genres and a visually captivating, subtlety performed story about growing up.

     Set in the modern-day American Southwest, the film tells the tale of Caleb Colton (played by Adrian Pasdar), a directionless farm boy who falls in with a pretty drifter girl named Mae (Jenny Wright).  Their night of flirtation leads to a kiss…which leads to Mae biting Caleb on the neck.  Caleb tries to stumble home, nursing his wound, but is soon kidnapped by Mae and her companions: a band-of-gypsies-like “family” of vampires.  They intend to do away with him, but Mae protests, saying that he’s becoming one of them.  The patriarch of the clan, Jesse Hooker (genre legend Lance Henriksen), decides to give Caleb a week to prove he can kill to feed himself, or else!  Throughout the film the young man struggles with trying to assimilate with his new brethren while developing a deeper relationship with the woman who turned him.  Meanwhile, Caleb father, Loy, and little sister, Sarah, decide to track down Caleb after seeing him snatched up in front of their farm.  After a western-style shootout with cops, it seems that Caleb has been fully embraced by the group, but when his real family becomes their next target Caleb is forced to chose for the final time.

     What elevates Near Dark above most vampire movies, as well as a lot of hybrid films, is the way co-writer Eric Red and co-writer/director Kathryn Bigelow downplay both of the genres they work with.  There is no mention of the word “vampire” in the dialogue, and quite a few staples of vampire storytelling are left out.  You won’t find good guys in white or bad guys in black here.  Instead of a barroom brawl we get a barroom blood feast.  When the hero rides into town on a horse, he’s thrown off.  The screenwriters utilize only portions of conventions from both mythologies, rather than piecing together a hodgepodge of clichés, to create a unique whole.  At the helm, Bigelow uses those techniques, along with cinematographer Adam Greenburg and a rather unconventional score by Tangerine Dream, to come up with a realistic and yet other-worldly nighttime dimension where the characters live.  But fear not, because with all this experimentation, Near Dark still packs on as much gore as other modern vampire movies.

     All of that is well and good, but it would be nothing without the cast to carry it through.  The restrained use of dialogue in Near Dark’s script allows this group of newcomers and genre vets to concentrate on creating some really memorable characters.  Performance-wise, some are better than others.  Adrian Pasdar and Jenny Wright’s romance never truly feels real, although Pasdar does a better job at his transition from aimless adolescence to heroic maturity.  Wright is a sort of weak link, who beauty is more standout than her role.  Tim Thomerson, who portrays Caleb’s dad, on the other hand achieves a lot through his minimal dialogue.  Definitely a hoot are the actors who make up the group of vagabond bloodsuckers: Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Joshua Miller, and (especially) Bill Paxton.  Henriksen, Goldstein, and Paxton all appeared together in the 1986 film, Aliens, and it’s delightfully obvious that their previous collaboration greatly helped in their performances.  Henriksen excels as the world-weary Jesse Hooker; Jenette Goldstein is Diamondback, the surrogate mother to Miller’s Homer, an old vamp trapped in the body of a child; and Paxton has the time of his life as the fun-loving Severen.  The camaraderie between the Aliens alumni  reverberates throughout the whole cast, keeping the entire unit deftly solid despite individual flaws.

     Under Kathryn Bigelow’s vision and with the help of a fantastic ensemble, Near Dark is wild oddity and a benchmark of vampire storytelling that deserves to be remembered.  Even though it was crushed at the box-office by the studio might of The Lost Boys, I find it a relief that the movie has found a devoted following these 20-plus years.  I just hope that Near Dark doesn’t get buried again under the sugary fantasy of the Twilight phenomenon.  The film isn’t in the Museum of Modern Art for nothing; Near Dark is one vampire movie that hits the…Bull’s Eye!            

~Doctor Splatter

The Star Trek Film Series Reviews: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

" you know the old Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold?  It is very cold in space."

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Directed by: Nicholas Meyer
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, James Doohan, Walter Koening, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Kirstie Alley, Ricardo Montalban
10 out of 10 Stars.

     Released in 1982, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was such a miraculously vast improvement over the first film, it blew audiences and critics away.  Although there have been follow-ups in the past that have proved superior to their predecessors (Bride of Frankenstein, The Godfather II, and The Empire Strikes Back come to mind.), The Wrath of Khan has since become the standard by which all future sequels, Star Trek or otherwise, would be judged.  It has become such a geek Holy Grail unto itself considering the fact that numerous segments of the film have been parodied on Family Guy.  And you know when a movie has become an institution when a director like Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men) uses a term like “go Wrath of Khan on it” when he describes the intention for his own sequel.  Because the legend looms so large, critiquing this movie now would seem redundant, however, I’m not preaching to the converted.  This review is for those not familiar with the Star Trek films, and what that audience needs to know is that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is where this franchise really begins!

     Director Nicholas Meyer makes that quite clear with the words that grace the screen after the opening credits: “In the 23rd century…”.  The crew of the U.S.S Enterprise, under the command of Capt. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and new first officer, Lt. Saavik (Kirstie Alley in her first film role), are on a three-week mission to test a crop of new trainees.  Along for the ride are former captain, Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner), and Dr. McCoy (the late, great DeForest Kelley).  The combination of overseeing a new Enterprise and his birthday are making Kirk more reflective, and leaving the once-confident hero a bit melancholy.  Things are only about to get much, much worse.  Ricardo Montalban (in a legendary performance) returns as Khan, a role he first played on a Star Trek episode entitled “Space Seed”.  Khan and his brood of 21st Century genetically-engineered warriors were exiled by Kirk to a barren wasteland fifteen years earlier, and are accidentally stumbled upon by the crew of the U.S.S. Reliant.  Khan discovers that the starship is on a mission for a secret scientific experiment called Genesis, a project that could either bring universal change or “universal Armageddon“.  Hijacking the Reliant and the details of Project Genesis, Khan launches an Ahab-like quest for revenge against the man who banished him.

     For this installment, executive producer Harve Bennett takes the franchise under his wing and, with a lot of help from screenwriter Jack B. Sowards and director Nicholas Meyer, succeed in bringing Star Trek to the big-screen in areas Robert Wise failed.  The difference in quality between Star Trek II and Star Trek I is so astounding, it’s as if they were two separate, but unequal versions of the original show.  Whereas the first movie moved along at a snail’s pace, showing off (poorly-executed) special effects instead of the show’s memorable characters, The Wrath of Khan is a lean and mean,  thrilling, emotionally-driven space adventure, populated with a confident cast giving everything they’ve got.  In addition to being an action flick, there are multiple themes abound in the film, all of which are visually woven together by Meyer with ease.  Star Trek’s original actors have shrugged off the space-sickness of the first movie and are noticeably re-energized as they bring their iconic characters to life in a way not seen since the TV series went off the air.  Leonard Nimoy, who looked visibly apprehensive the first time around, best exemplifies this newfound confidence with a much more commanding portrayal of the stoic, logical Mr. Spock.

     Now, we all like to make fun of William Shatner these days, and I‘m no exception.  His commercials, excursions into “singing”, and acting (pause) style are the stuff of kitsch lore.  However, it is really easy for that to overshadow some great work he has done.  In recent years, Shatner has been nominated for and awarded Emmys, Golden Globes, and SAG honors for his work on the hit show, Boston Legal.  His performance as Kirk in Star Trek II should be equally acknowledged.  Facing retirement and with his past coming back to haunt him- Khan, an old girlfriend, and a son he barely knows- the cowboy swagger Capt. Kirk exhibited in the show has given away to a character more internal, humble, regretful, and at times angry.  Shatner excels in conveying those emotions and in bringing them all together as well as bringing back a little of the young, cocky Starfleet commander we know and love (“I don’t believe in a no-win scenario…I don’t like to lose.”).  Kirk is the heart of the movie, because Star Trek II transcends the television series by being more than simple, escapist, good vs. evil entertainment.  The film is a fable about life and death and how we deal with what’s behind us and what lies ahead.  That is what kept Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in the hearts of fans and movie-lovers for nearly three decades, and why it still lives long and prospers above the hype.

~Doctor Splatter

The Star Trek Film Series Reviews: Star Trek- The Motion Picture

     I’ve been a fan of Star Trek since I was a kid, but I was in no way a “Trekkie” (That was actually my youngest brother).  It’s only been in recent years that I’ve grown to better appreciate Gene Roddenberry’s venerable franchise, specifically The Original Series and it’s spin-off, Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Seeing J.J. Abrams’s fantastic Star Trek (the eleventh in the film series) this past May got me really interested in taking a look back at the previous ten movies.  Not only will this be fun work for me, but I hope to give newer fans (especially those who have only seen the new picture and decided then they like Star Trek) a guide to what they may have missed out on.

Star Trek- The Motion Picture (1979)
Directed by: Robert Wise
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koening, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Stephen Collins, Persis Khambatta
6 out of 10 stars.

         To say that NBC had no idea what they were sitting on when they cancelled Paramount Pictures’ science-fiction series, Star Trek, in 1969 would be an understatement, and as the 1970’s worn on, the popularity of the show created by Gene Roddenberry grew to  an unexpected fever pitch thanks to reruns on syndication.  Plans for new television adventures of Capt. Kirk, Dr. McCoy and the rest of the crew of the starship, Enterprise (sans Spock), were underway when the one-two punch of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind struck in the summer of 1977.  All of a sudden, sci-fi was really hot and Paramount decided to shoot for the moon and bring Star Trek to the big screen.  However, Star Trek’s transition from television sets to movie houses in 1979 was a clunky one at best, as Star Trek: The Motion Picture proves to be overblown, over-hyped, and only mildly entertaining, devoid of what made the original series fast-paced, cheeky, and overall fun.  Star Trek: The Motion Picture is like The Phantom Menace of the 1970’s.

     On paper, it sounds very much like an extended episode of the show. In the 23rd Century, a massive cloud harboring some kind of alien craft veers towards Earth, destroying everything in its path.  The newly re-designed U.S.S. Enterprise, its crew, and new captain Willard Decker (played by Stephen Collins) are assigned to launch into space to intercept the imposing threat, but not before Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) practically bullies his way back into command of his old ship.  All of the show’s main players have returned, as Shatner is reunited with Deforest Kelley (as Dr. McCoy), James Doohan (as Scotty), Walter Koening (as Checkov), Nichelle Nichols (as Uhura), George Takei (as Sulu), and, after some negotiations, Leonard Nimoy (as Mr. Spock).  The Enterprise is here in all its glory, while Collins and Indian actress Persis Khambatta provide new blood to the cast.  In reality, though, the film itself bears little resemblance to the show it’s based on, and the blame goes solely to director Robert Wise.

         The film was originally written by Alan Dean Foster and Harold Livingston as a pilot for a new show called Star Trek: Phase II, but when the decision was made to bring the series to cinemas, Paramount also decided to stick with the story the duo came up with.  However, Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still, West Side Story, and The Sound of Music) seemed to think just bringing Star Trek to the big screen wasn‘t enough for him, as if he was embarrassed to be making a movie based on a cheesy TV show.  Instead of relying on the iconic characters and sense of adventure of the series to pilot the movie, Wise uses the show to haughtily attempt another 2001: A Space Odyssey.  The Motion Picture lumbers along with an exhausting pace; there’s so much time spent getting the crew together that it’s almost an hour before the Enterprise meets up with its quarry.  Even as Kirk and company approach the mysterious vessel, the audience is subjected to a never-ending succession of over-long, expansive exterior shots of the alien spacecraft that, strewn together, feels like an acid trip that quickly wears out its welcome.  There’s nothing wrong with the story itself, and it’s conclusion is still rather satisfying.  But Robert Wise plagues the movie with too many unnecessary set-ups, undisciplined editing, and just plain showing off, he almost guarantees viewers’ loss of interest long before the end.  Wise’s pretentious effort to ape Kubrick proved even more for naught when you take the budget into account.  Over the course of production the budget rose to $46 million.  That’s a lot of money in 1979, but when you watch the film you’re left scratching your head wondering where all that cash went!  When compared to other sci-fi films of the day, the special effects of Star Trek: The Motion Picture look rather cheap.  Even cheaper is the costume design; the Starfleet uniforms look like pajamas!

     What keeps the picture from being an unmitigated disaster is the cast.  While there is some obvious uneasiness in the performance of the original members, who all seem not too sure of this transition from TV to film, they eventually grow into the roles that made them famous.  After awhile the old crew have their feet firmly planted, resulting in their classic alter-egos finally managing to grab some attention away from the visuals.  Seeing Shatner, Nimoy, and the other original cast members do so with an extraordinary amount of grace under such conditions is what makes the epic worth sticking around for.  Kudos have to be given to Stephen Collins and the late Persis Khambatta as well, as they both handle being newcomers to this franchise with an equal amount of poise.  Another highlight is Jerry Goldsmith’s rousing score, which is not only enjoyable on it’s own, but its main theme would later become more closely associated with Star Trek: The Next Generation.

     Big Trekkies, no doubt, will plow through this maiden cinematic voyage of the starship Enterprise, but I would not recommend it for the uninitiated, because it completely misses the mark of what makes Star Trek so popular.  Star Trek: The Motion Picture is really a vehicle for its director’s own ambitions, resulting in a pointless entry that adds nothing to the lore.  My advice for new fans is to simply skip ahead to Star Trek II.  There have been attempts to fix Star Trek: The Motion Picture: a Special Longer version, released to VHS in 1983, and a Lucas-esque 2001 Director’s Cut, but no matter which version you board, this ship runs aground.          

~Doctor Splatter

Now it's Yellow Submarine being remade?!

     Here's another item I picked up from today:  Disney and Robert Zemeckis are teaming up for a 3D-animated remake of the 1968 Beatles classic, Yellow Submarine. 

     I'm not a big fan of today's remakes.  Yeah, me and everybody else.  I wouldn't mind it so much if these movies were a genuine attempt to bring new ideas to older films, but let's be honest, most of them are not.  I hate to sound like an old fogey, but in the old days you needed a reason to want to remake a film.  In contrast, the majority of these "re-imaginings" that have come out in the last five years or so are solely motivated by money.  It's about taking a cult or classic film with a built-in fan base and turning it into a brand, reducing it to a name to sell video games, slurpies and underwear.

     The idea of Yellow Submarine getting the CGI update is cringe-inducing enough, but with Robert Zemeckis directing it, I feel much, much worse.  The Polar Express, Beowulf, and the upcoming A Christmas Carol are products of a guy who seems hell-bent now on replacing actors on screen with computerized puppets.  I don't even remember what was the last fully live-action movie he made.  I've seen the trailer for A Christmas Carol, and I'm positive the movie is going to be less about the story and more about wowing the audience with cool-looking effects and 3-D.  That's my biggest fear with a new Yellow Submarine: that every bit of the wondrous authenticity of the original will be sucked out in favor of just showing off.

     I'm all in favor of introducing younger people to the music of The Beatles.  It's been nearly forty years after they split up, but kids are still discovering and falling in love with The Beatles more than any other classic rock act.  This past Wednesday (September 9, 2009), The Beatles' back catalog was (finally!) re-mastered and re-issued, and Electronic Arts released a Beatles version of the phenomenal video game series, Rock Band.  These are awesome ways of passing the music of John, Paul, George, and Ringo to our youth, because that is what they are about: the music.  A 3D Yellow Submarine by Robert Zemeckis is sure to be more about software and licensing.

     Anyways, that's my take.  Read the link and decide for yourself.

~Doctor Splatter         

Review of Re-Animator

Re-Animator (1985)
Directed by:  Stuart Gordon
Starring: Bruce Abbott, Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, David Gale, Robert Sampson
10 out of 10 stars.

     The horror film has a long history of being a disgraceful genre, second only to porn.  More often than not, scary movies are mostly associated with exploitation than with any art credibility.  The problem starts with a lot of producers and filmmakers who see these pictures as mere funhouse rides instead of a way to tap into our fears and nightmares to find something meaningful about ourselves.  Not that there’s anything wrong with a simple fun ride, of course.  There have been plenty of exceptions throughout the century.  Frankenstein, Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, and The Silence of the Lambs are examples of those that try to transcend the genre.  Re-Animator, on the other hand, is a thoughtful film that also brazenly relishes in being completely disreputable, making it quite possibly the perfect horror movie.

     Loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft’s short story, “Herbert West, Re-Animator”, the movie follows medical student Daniel Cain (played by Bruce Abbott).  Cain attends Miskatonic University, is a very promising yet naïvely optimistic prodigy, and has the sweet bonus of dating the dean’s daughter, Megan Halsey (the lovely Barbara Crampton).  Looking for a new roommate, Cain falls into a brilliant, but quite mad fellow student named Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs).  West has secretly developed a serum that can re-animate dead animals, and when Cain stumbles onto his experiment with a dead cat, West lures Cain into his insane desire to move up to human cadavers.  What insanity it is, as the duo’s attempts to bring dead people back to life results in extremely bloody, and extremely funny, consequences.  Waiting in the shadows is Miskatonic’s resident brain surgeon and West’s nemesis, Dr. Carl Hill (the late David Gale), who wants the serum to attain his own fame, to take Megan from Cain,  and to make an example out of West.

     Rather than being completely faithful to Lovecraft’s tale, or content with being just a modern day, gross-out take on the Frankenstein mythos, Re-Animator excels at being all of that and more thanks to the brilliantly collaborative effort by everyone involved under the singular vision of first-time director Stuart Gordon.

     The writing of Dennis Paoli, William Norris, and Gordon is exceptional.  They use the original text as a springboard for a story that would work better for a film, but never fail to pay homage to it.  By making the narrator of Lovecraft’s story a more fleshed-out person (giving him the name Daniel Cain), these three create a character with whom the audience can identify.  Megan is also a creation of the writers, and serves as the lone figure of rationality and beauty in the mad world of Miskatonic.  In addition to the tried and true battle of rational vs. irrational in a story such as this, Re-Animator’s other major conflict is between the young and the old.  It’s a bitter war between the two factions, with Dean Halsey and Dr. Hill representing the establish order, and West, Cain, and Megan as the opposition.  Adding to that drama is that in each of those sects, there are those who are vying for control over others.

    Despite the depth of story and the skill in its presentation, the film isn’t afraid to be a horror movie.  Although Re-Animator is exceptionally well-written and well-shot (cheers to cinematographer Mac Ahlberg), Stuart Gordon doesn’t feel the need to justify his choice of genre.  Re-Animator goes for the throat, as special makeup effects artists Anthony Doublin, John Naulin, and John Carl Buechler all chip in to create- to this day- some of the goriest effects ever shot.  From realistic corpses and procedures to the most outrageous abominations against nature, the work of all three men blend together seamlessly to induce shock- or illness- in audiences.  What’s even more shocking is the slapstick nature of all the grotesqueness.  But that’s part of the greatest asset Gordon brings to the film.  Re-Animator is tempered by a subversively comedic tone, some of which is brought out by the cast.  Working closely with his ensemble, the actors deliver a straight-faced sense of melodrama that’s actually funny, not parody.  Even though the cast work well as a whole, it’s Jeffrey Combs as West who turns in the star performance that also perfectly embodies the spirit of the movie.  The humor, brisk pace, and exciting score by Richard Band (which deliberately screams Bernard Herrmann) are brought together by Gordon to make Re-Animator the fun ride it was meant to be, preventing it from being pretentious and oppressive.

     Perhaps the greatest accomplishment for Re-Animator is the fact that even after nearly a quarter of a century, the film is still as sickeningly fresh as ever.  Horror today remains a mostly exploitive genre, and the “important” films tend to be so serious they’re almost stifling.  Re-Animator is one modern horror movie that towers over all others for being both incredibly insightful and a gloriously depraved good time!

~Doctor Splatter

Review of The Beyond

The Beyond (1981)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Starring: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale, Antoine Saint-John, Veronica Lazar
9 out of 10 stars.

     Italian director Lucio Fulci, who passed away in March of 1996, had a career that spanned nearly forty years, and across many different genres of film.  Yet, the man is by far most famous for a series of over-the-top and extremely gory horror films in the late-70’s and early-80’s.  Fright fans have long lauded Fulci’s unrelenting, apocalyptic epics of eye-gouging, throat-ripping, and murderous rotting corpses, and 1981’s The Beyond is considered to be the filmmaker’s masterpiece.  However, The Beyond (as well as the other Fulci films of this period) have been universally lambasted by mainstream critics, who condemn the picture as completely laughable in its absence of story, plot, and character development.  So who is right and who is wrong?  While I believe both factions are rightfully entitled to their opinions, I have to tip the scale over to the side of the legions of the Fulci faithful by declaring The Beyond the ultimate gothic nightmare.

     The second in an unofficial trilogy (which started with City of the Living Dead and concluded with The House by the Cemetery) begins in the Seven Doors Hotel in 1927 Louisiana, where an angry mob comes to lynch a painter named Schwieck, who they suspect to be “ungodly warlock”.  Schwieck warns them that the hotel is located on one of the Seven Gateways to Hell, and that he‘s the only one who could help them. But in their blinded fear they drag him down to the basement.  Already, Fulci hits the ground running as the mob whip the flesh off his body with chains and crucify him to the wall with steel nails before dousing him with quicklime.  Cut to 1981, and New Yorker Liza (Fulci regular Catriona MacColl) has inherited the now dilapidated hotel, and is working diligently to repair it for re-opening.  In no time at all, strange things are afoot.  First, the housepainter mysteriously falls off a scaffold, prompting local doctor John McCabe (David Warbeck) to come and take him to the hospital.  Liza then runs into a blind woman named Emily (Sarah Keller), who begs her to leave the hotel.  Meanwhile, a plumber named Joe comes to examine the flooded labyrinthine basement, unwittingly re-discovers the portal after it had been walled over, and pays for it big time!  Even after all the accidents, her distrust in the employees who “came with the hotel”, and the constant visits and doom prophecies of Emily, Liza is still determined to stay.  But the occurrences get more frightening and the evisceration escalates to jaw-dropping levels, forcing Liza and the self-assured McCabe to try and uncover the truth about the hotel, or at least a version of it that will satisfy their sense of rationality.  The whole thing climaxes in a shoot-out with the undead in a deserted hospital, which leads to one of the more bizarre, not mention more subdued, endings in horror movies.

     The Beyond never got a proper theatrical release in the U.S. when it was produced.  Instead, it was relegated to home video in the States as (the heavily-censored) Seven Doors of Death in 1983.  It wasn’t until 1998 that Quentin Tarantino and Grindhouse Releasing (founded by Sage Stallone and film editor Bob Murawski) re-mastered the film and gave it a real American debut on the midnight movie circuit.  The critics who viewed The Beyond weren’t just dismissive of it, they were merciless.  A very famous critic from the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, “The plot involves … excuse me for a moment while I laugh uncontrollably at having written the words ’the plot involves’”.  One reviewer  called The Beyond’s plot “annoyingly threadbare”, while another from the San Francisco Chronicle writes, “Hell is worse than this?”   They were also universal in their disdain for the dialogue.  To be honest, they’re right; the plot is riddled with inconsistencies, making the story incoherent, and The Beyond is loaded with memorably bad lines like “The eyes!  The eyes!” and “You have carte blanche, but not a blank check, okay?!”  They do prove to be distractions at times.  However, what the mainstream critics failed to see- or rather chose to ignore- is the intention of The Beyond and, in turn more importantly, it’s execution.  Even though the story, plot, and characters have been short-changed, it’s everything else about the film, brought together by the gruesomely expert vision of Lucio Fulci, that makes it an absolute winner.

     This isn’t like most of the American slasher films that followed throughout the rest of the Eighties, whose sacrifice of storytelling in sole favor of gore is clearly out of laziness.  With The Beyond, Fulci wanted to make a purely visual gothic horror piece, and he successfully puts a tremendous amount of effort into it.  From the cinematography to the art direction to Fabio Frizzi’s score to the lighting, it’s a vision that never falters.  More than anything else, The Beyond, even after nearly thirty years, never fails to shock as it delivers some of the most spectacularly gory moments ever put on screen (courtesy of FX artist Giannetto De Rossi).  While a few shots are noticeably fake, the audacity- and maybe a little viciousness on Fulci’s part- behind the set pieces is why the film continues to pack a gross-out punch!  Gorehounds will not be disappointed!  While it’s not always successful, The Beyond walks a really weird line between a traditional narrative film and avant-garde cinema.  Whether or not popular film critics will ever give the movie kudos for trying- or even acknowledge such notion, period- doesn’t, or shouldn’t, matter.  Horror fans will savor and appreciate what Fulci delivers with this film.  The Beyond serves as a worthwhile ride into ultimate, surrealistic gore, and as the perfect introduction to Lucio Fulci and Italian horror cinema.

~Doctor Splatter

Yar! There be another Pirates of the Caribbean movie on the horizon!

     So, the biggest movie news in the last week is that the next installment of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has a title and a target release.  Yes, I enjoy the hell out of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  It also happens to be my favorite ride at Disneyland (the last time I went there I rode Pirates... three times!)  I really like the Pirates of the Caribbean films, because I have always wanted an old-fashioned swashbuckling pirate flick for my lifetime.  The closest I ever got was Steven Spielberg's Hook.  I never did see Roman Polanski's Pirates, but other than that, all I had was Nate & Hayes, Cutthroat Island, and (gulp) The Pirate Movie.  The fact that Disney has decided to resurrect it's most popular live-action series is no surprise, but it's certainly not unwelcomed in my book.

     So, if you're a fan like me, then rejoice.  Captain Jack will be back in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.  Here's where I read the news:

~Doctor Splatter

Doctor Splatter's Top 20 Favorite Horror Films

     Since I am a horror film fan I thought I would get this out of the way.  Now, I'm not labeling or ranking any of these as "The Best".  These are simply the pictures that had the biggest impact on me in my childhood, my adolescence, and in my twenties; the movies that shaped what I love and appreciate about the genre now.  I chose 20, because there were simply too many to narrow down to just 10.  Even now I'm thinking 20 may not be enough either, since a lot of these are pretty obvious, and quite a few movies I really, really love are not present.  Regardless, this is still a gruesomely awesome bunch:

1. Halloween (1978)
     I would have to say that John Carpenter's Halloween would be my absolute favourite horror movie.  It's one I still watch and enjoy over and over, but it's also a film I still think about and analyze more than any other.  I'll have plenty more to say about Halloween at a later time.

2. The Exorcist
     I saw The Exorcist when I was about 20-years-old.  It was absolutely terrifying even after nearly twenty-five years since it's release, and I have yet to work up the nerve to re-visit it.  That should give you a clue as to the power of this movie.

3. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
     I hate the fact that I have to add the date to the title, since it's the next horror classic getting the "re-imagining" treatment.  Nonetheless, Wes Craven's A Nightmare On Elm Street was one of the scariest movies I ever saw as a kid, and remains a nerve-wrecking shocker to this day, thanks to it's intelligence, Craven's imaginative direction, and Robert Englund's performance as the most twisted bogeyman of all time, Freddy Krueger.

4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
     The first time I was allowed to watch this, I didn't like it.  For most of my childhood, Tobe Hooper's breakthrough film had a rep for being the most bloody and violent picture ever made.  When I viewed it for the first time, I thought I was going to be emotionally thrashed- only to find myself barely touched by the end.  I was confused and utterly disappointed.  For reasons unknown to me now, I watched it again and again.   Soon, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre really started to crawl under my skin!  Hooper's direction and "score", Daniel Pearl's cinematography, the art direction, and the commitment of the cast created a genuinely creepy, verite-like journey into the dark side of America's heartland, one that also serves as the final nail in the coffin of the naive optimism of '60's Flower Power.

5. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

6. Dawn of the Dead (1979)

     George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead was an early example of my enjoyment of watching a movie being hampered by poor video quality.  It was hard for me to fully appreciate this film for awhile because of the rather cheap cassette copies, thanks to the it being in public domain (meaning anyone could make a tape or DVD of the picture and sell it).  However, it was the characters and the visual style that kept me coming back for more.  There's only a very select few sequels that are considered as good (and in fewer cases, better than) the original film.  Romero's 1979 sequel to Night..., Dawn of the Dead, is one of those examples.  I saw this movie when I was at the tail end of my teens, and I was never exposed to such carnage before in my life!  My jaw was on the floor after only the first 10 minutes!  The gore might have been extreme, but it was the apocalyptic nature of the film that really terrified me.  The biggest shock, though, was also how much of a compelling drama Dawn of the Dead turned out to be. 

7. The Horror of Dracula (1958)
     Bela Lugosi's performance as the Count in Universal's 1931 picture is iconic, but 1958's The Horror of Dracula is actually my favorite movie based on the Bram Stoker novel.   The film (produced by England's Hammer Studios) is marvelous to look at, Christopher Lee (as Dracula) is chilling, and Peter Cushing is simply bad-ass as Professor Van Helsing!

8. The Evil Dead

9. Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn

10. Army of Darkness

     I actually watched the Evil Dead trilogy in reverse order.  The first film was another one of those movies I didn't enjoy the first time around because of awful VHS quality.  At the time, I thought it looked dark, humorless, and plodding compared to the sequels.  I had a poor opinion of Sam Raimi's debut film until Anchor Bay re-released it in 1998.  Thanks to their efforts to restore the picture, I was able to really fully savor Raimi's inventive camera work, as well as how much of a fun, ooey, gooey shocker it is!  From that point on, it only got better with each viewing.  However, out of all the films in the trilogy,  Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn is, in my opinion, the best!  It's the goriest, most hilarious, and most fun of the series, striking a great balance between the pure exploitation-esque flair of the first picture and the polished, Harryhausen-inspired adventurism of Army of Darkness.  The third and final (?) installment was my introduction to the series, and I guess not having the other two films in my thinking at that time allowed me to be blown away by Army of Darkness on it's own merits.  It might be seen by some as less horror, but to me it's a hell of a fun, old-fashioned monster movie!

11. Re-Animator
     I have vague memories of watching Re-Animator when I was about 8-years-old, or maybe it was the promos on numerous videotapes that stayed with me.  At any rate, I re-discovered Stuart Gordon's directorial debut seven years ago, and it quickly became one of my very favorites!  Loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft's short story, "Herbert West: Re-Animator", it's a hilariously gruesome and subversive flick, populated by one of the best ensemble casts in horror filmdom.  Highly recommended!

12. Fright Night

13. The Lost Boys
     Looking back, I don't think vampires truly existed for me before Fright Night and The Lost Boys.  All I could remember before these two movies were photos of Bela Lugosi, kids dressed up as Dracula on Halloween, and Count Chocula.  As humorous as both films were, they were still really frightening and exhilarating, loaded with all the evil and eroticism of vampirism.   Fright Night was one of my favourite monster movies growing up, and it's still every bit as scary, funny, and damn sexy as it was back in '85!  What's amazing is that after over twenty years, 1987's The Lost Boys also still stands as one of the most enjoyable vampire flicks ever, thanks to Joel Shumacher - of all people!- delivering an absolutely perfect balance between humour and horror.  There's also an extra amount of sentimental value for me, since I once lived in (and attended university at) The Lost Boys' filming location of Santa Cruz, California.

14. The Silence of the Lambs
     This movie came out a few months before I turned 14 and it was a growing-up for not only the horror genre in general, but for also me as a viewer as well.  The skill director Jonathan Demme brought to The Silence of the Lambs resulted in one of the most nightmarish films I ever saw.  Jodie Foster's Clarice Starling is the genre's greatest heroine, period.

15. The Crow
     Some might not see this as a true genre-piece, but I do!  It's a dark, yet touching, urban ghost story, and the movie itself is an experience.  The Crow is one of the few pre-X-Men films based on a comic book that truly captures the spirit of the source material, while working on it's own as a movie.  And unlike the Resident Evil and Underworld series, the film's blending of action and supernatural elements isn't forced.  Brandon Lee was superb in his final role, and the soundtrack album (featuring tracks from Stone Temple Pilots, Nine Inch Nails, The Cure, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and others) is all killer from beginning to end.

16. Hellraiser
     Clive Barker not only proved himself a great writer, but he's also a good filmmaker, and it's a shame he doesn't make more.  1987's Hellraiser was my introduction to the author, and it was Barker's imaginative visuals that initially drew me in.  To this day it remains a highlight for me, being more appreciative in how Clive Barker makes gruesome imagery so poetic, as well as the highly sexual subtext.

17. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
     Normally I look down on movies that stray from the original source, but in the case of Universal's 1930 take on Mary Shelly's novel, I have to set that aside.  Frankenstein was glorious. Boris Karloff succeed at his portrayal of the mute creation underneath Jack Pierce's iconic make-up, and director James Whale created a classically gothic masterpiece.  Unbelievably, Whale was just getting started.  The Bride of Frankenstein took all that was great about the first movie and revved it up.  The pace, visual style, the incorporation of a musical score, and the new territory Karloff explores with the monster makes The Bride of Frankenstein not only superior to the first, but also makes it the pinnacle of horror filmmaking for decades.     

18. Creepshow
     This was my first George A. Romero film, and this collaboration with Stephen King (paying homage to the horror comic books of their youth) was a delight for me as a six-year-old comic-book fan, who watched this alongside Superman the Movie and Flash Gordon (1980).  It was also really scary, and it still packs a punch 25 years later.

19. Poltergeist
     Poltergeist scared the bejesus out of me as a child, because the movie brought so many childhood fears to the screen.  As an adult, I typically don't view most ghost stories as believable due to what we know at this moment about spirits.  To me, a lot of these supernatural movies (especially the PG-13 ones) that came out in the wake of The Sixth Sense don't work for me because there's no sense of any mortal danger.  However, I recently watched the film on Turner Classic Movies, and it is still just as frightening as it was growing up.  I'm now starting to re-evaluate movies concerning ghosts, but more importantly, I learned that as long as Poltergeist exists, we will never forget those things we were afraid of as kids, no matter how old we get or how tough we think we get. 

20. Zombi 2 (AKA Zombie Flesh Eaters, Zombie)
     Okay, here's the history lesson for the uninitiated:  Dawn of the Dead was released in Italy under the title Zombi.  Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci was already underway on a zombie film, and the producers called it Zombi 2 to capitalize on the success of Romero's movie.  Fulci's film goes by the name Zombie here in the States, and it's the most recent entry to my list.  Zombi 2 was a movie I've wanted to see for years, but couldn't find a rental copy to save my life.  I didn't want to buy it out of a fear that it would completely suck, as a former roommate and several reviewers have stated.  Netflix came to my rescue, and I instantly fell in love with it when I watched it.  I bought the 25th Anniversary DVD on-line later that night, and two days later Lucio Fulci's extremely gory and gloriously absurd classic became part of my library.

Forever the sickest,
~Doctor Splatter