Frailty

     Frailty –Are we gonna go get us a demon, Dad?”  A creepy, slow horror film from 2002, but it always stuck with me as an excellent movie.  In this modern day of religious fanaticism, this film can touch you regardless of your beliefs.  Get a view from their side and what they believe.  Bill Paxton stars & directs this thought provoking and twisted tale.  It’s the pacing of the film and the tension of the characters that keeps you engaged and unable to look away.  Rated 74% at Rotten Tomatoes and 4 stars at Amazon.com, this film is a tense evening in the making.  Some horror buffs, rate it as high as the 11th best horror film.  I don’t give it that level of praise, but you will stay on the edge of your seat.

Plot – A man (Matthew McConaughey) goes to the FBI office and wishes to speak to Agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe) regarding the God’s Hand Killer case.  He introduces himself as Fenton and says that his brother Adam is the killer.  Skeptical, Doyle demands proof and Fenton says he can show him where the bodies are and that he’s coming forward because his brother committed suicide.  Doyle wants to see where the bodies are as proof.  On the way, Fenton tells the story through flashback of how his father had a vision that an angel told him he had to kill “demons” that are among us.  The final war between “Good” & “Evil” is happening now and that this is “God’s work”.  The angel tells him that will reveal who the demons are.  Fenton doesn’t believe, but Adam does.  Through divine knowledge, he is given the tools to slay the demons…an axe named “Otis” and work gloves.  His father gets the first victim and forces the boys to watch.  When he lays his hands on them, he can see their sins.  Fenton still doesn’t believe and his father works him severely building a celler to get him to believe, but he resists.  After killing a couple more demons, Fenton runs to the sherriff who brings him home and reveals his unbelief.  The sherriff inspects the shed and his father kills the sherriff to protect their mission.  He imprisons Fenton in the celler until he has seen God and now believes.  Now, he’s ready.  Getting another demon, Fenton is given the chance, but he kills another demon instead.  Back to the present, Fenton & Doyle arrive at the cementary where the victims lay, but there’s one more “demon” on the list…

Commentary – This is an excellent film that makes you think and that is why is resonates with me as a great film.  It’s not a shock film and the gore is kept to a minimum.  The “vision” scene could have been done better, but the remainder is very well done.  The angles and lights of the filming add to its creepiness and mood.  Matthew McConaughey keeps it low key and the chemistry with Powers Boothe maintains the tension throughout the film.  And, the story is well told and reveals important parts over time.  The scare is in the demons that you’re dealing with and you don’t know who is or who is not.  The twist at the end will leave you wondering…..maybe you’ll even look at your wife or husband a little differently.

Trivia – Bill Paxton uses the same beer can throughout the film because it was the only one they could find that looked like it came from the 70’s.  Director’s James Cameron, Sam Raimi, and Stephen King all praised the film.  Finally, with the film set in Texas, it was only natural that 3 Texans, Paxton, McConaughey, and Boothe, would be the primary stars.

*** Just click the images to check out “Frailty” at Amazon.com ***


Dracula (1931)

     Dracula (1931) – “Listen to them.  Children of the night.  What music they make.”  The iconic Dracula and the greatest American monster.  There have been many vampire films and remakes throughout the last 80 years, but there is only 1 true Dracula.  You ask anyone, even today, who Dracula is and they’ll describe Legosi’s version.  Bela Legosi’s portrayal of Bram Stoker’s literary creation has defined this character forever.  The aristocratic dress, the mannerisms, the speech style, and his movements are nothing short of legendary.   Surprisingly and considering this film was made in 1931, the special effects are very good.  Granted, compared to the CGI movies of today, the effects will not hold up, but you will not miss them in this film.  Rated 93% at Rotten Tomatoes and 4.5 stars at Amazon.com, the greatness of this film is not lost throughout time.

Plot – Renfeild (Dwight Frey), a British solicitor, is traveling to Dracula’s castle by stagecoach.  At one of the stops, the villagers inform him of the vampires, but he dimisses it.  He travels on meeting another coach and the ride has some strange occurances.  Arriving at the castle, he enters and Dracula (Bela Legosi) decends to greet him.  He has purchased Carfax Abbey in London and Renfield brings the papers.  Dracula provides a knock out drink and then bites Renfield making him Dracula’s helper.  They get on a boat to London, which arrives with only Renfield as the survivor and who is now a raving lunatic slave to Dracula.  He is taken to Sewards Sanitarium.  Dracula meets Dr. Seward, daughter Mina, Mina’s fiance John Harker, and family friend Lucy at the theatre.  Later, Dracula enters Lucy’s room and bites her and she later becomes a vampire.  At the sanitarium, Renfield is noticed eating spiders and flies.  Dr. Van Helsing tests his blood and describes vampires to the other doctors, who don’t believe him.  Dracula now enters Mina’s room and attacks her.  She awakes and tells of nightmares of the experience.  Dracula enters and Van Helsing sees that Dracula doesn’t reflect in the mirror.  Showing this in a cigarette case, Dracula acts violently, gathers his composure, and says that Van Helsing will explain as he exits.  Meanwhile, Mina leaves her room and meets Dracula for another bite.  Harker, her fiance, wants to take Mina away, but Van Helsing says no and decorates with wolfsbane to protect her.  Dracula enters and challenges Van Helsing, but his cross saves him.  He tells Van Helsing that he has already fused his blood with Mina and she is his.  Dracula hypnotizes the nurse to let him in and takes Mina.  Renfield is now escaped and Harker & Van Helsing follow him to Dracula’s lair.  Dracula and Mina decend the stairscase heading to the coffins as morning approaches.  Renfield sees Dracula and offers his service, but Harker shouts to Mina.  Dracula thinks Renfield led them there and strangles Renfield.  He rushes below trying to seal themselves in.  Van Helsing and Harker are able to break in and find them.  Van Helsing sends Harker to find Mina.  As he searches, Van Helsing handles Dracula.  Harker finds Mina and as Dracula is killed, she returns to normal.

Commentary – Dracula is one of the best known monsters of all time and the character is personified by Bela Legosi.  The movie is well written and structured.  The character of Renfield is essential to the story and Frey’s insanity acting is excellent.  You can’t go wrong with Dracula.  It is a classic for anyone who is a fan of horror films.  It’s not very frightening due to the desensitization of later films, but it is the film that truly started it all.  Don’t miss this iconic film.

Trivia – The film was originally to star Lon Cheney Sr., but he passed away in 1930 allowing the role to go to Bela Legosi.  Being an immigrant, it was rumored that Legosi could not speak English and learned his lines phonetically, but reality is that Legosi was able to speak English as well as he ever would for the film.  As iconic as his character is, he only reprised his role once in the comedy film Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein; even though he played in numerous other horror films.  Throughout the film, you never see Dracula blink.  In addition, Dracula never displays fangs and the only indication are the “two little holes” that the doctors keep referring.

** Just click the images to check out the original “Dracula” at Amazon.com **


Halloween II (1981)

   Halloween II (1981) – “Why won’t he die?”  The second best Halloween movie of all-time is the sequel to Halloween in Halloween II.  Ok, maybe that’s a bit over the top.  Halloween II is not as good as the original, but sequels rarely are.  However, Holloween II takes the story from where the original left off and completes it with eerily creepy scenes and some that will make your skin crawl.  By bringing back the main characters and some new kids to kill, the story is completed.  The “scare factor” is a little less, but if you watch it directly after the original, you’ll enjoy it much more.  The movie doesn’t do well on its own.  It’s hard for the movie to stand alone when the opening sequence is the end of the original.  Rotten Tomatoes only has it at 29%, but the fans gave it a 67% and it is rated 4 stars at Amazon.com showing that critics can be too hard on a film that the regular viewer would enjoy.

Plot – At the end of the original, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is saved by Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance).  Michael Myers escapes though.  Laurie is sent to the hospital and Dr. Loomis gets with the police to continue their search.  At the hospital, the paramedic, Jimmy, tells Laurie that the escaped mental patient Michael Myers was after her.  Michael makes his way to the hospital cutting the phone lines and taking care of members of the staff.  Laurie, semi-concious from sedation, tries to elude Michael through the hospital.  After a tense chase, Laurie gets out and hides in a car.  In the meantime, Dr. Loomis is found by his nurse assistant and US Marshall and is ordered back.  She reveals to him a missing file revealing Michael’s intention for Laurie (I’ll not spoil it).  He pulls his gun and forces the Marshall to go to the hospital.  After arriving, no one can be found.  Laurie gets out and tries to get to the door, but Michael now has found her.  They let Laurie in and Loomis shoots Michael.  Believing he’s dead, the Marshall gets close and Michael does what Michael does best.  Now, he’s after Laurie and Loomis until he corners them in a surgical room….You’ll have to see the spectacular ending.

Commentary –  For a sequel, this one is excellent continuing the original’s storyline.  It is not a perfect movie and has more gore, cursing, and nudity, but it completes the story in dramatic fashion.  Jamie Lee Curtis really excelled in her acting from half-concious to terror to bravery.  And, having survived the attacks of the original, you expect her to react as she did.  Also, having the actors from the original Halloween, including the Sherriff and murdered daughter Annie, added to the continuity of the film keeping you in the original’s theme.  One important note….NEVER, EVER watch Halloween III which may be the worst movie in history.

Trivia – Dana Carvey, of Saturday Night Live fame, made his movie debut in this film as an assistant to the blond reporter.  Originally, the sequel was to be that Michael followed Laurie to a high rise apartment building years later, but it was switched to the hospital right after the original events….honestly, that would have been disasterous.  Finally, to get the role of Michael, Dick Warlock put on Michael’s mask and walked into the director’s office and stared at him.  The director asked him who he was and what he wanted, but Dick refused to respond.  Then he took off the mask and asked if he could play the role.  Creativity sometimes works.

**  Just click the images to see “Halloween II” at Amazon.com **


Halloween (1978)

     Halloween (1978) – “You must be ready for him….If you don’t, it’s your funeral.”  We’re finally in October and I continue the spooky film list with my all-time favorite Halloween horror film – the 1978 horror classic, Halloween.  I’m not sensitive to movies and this is the only horror film that ever gave me a nightmare.  I watch this film twice a year, if not 3 times, during the Halloween season.  This film is truly scary because at times you see through the killer.  My wife hates this film because the killer is actually somewhat real or plausible.  While the film isn’t very bloody or gorey, this film is the grandfather of the horror/slasher films so popular in the 1980’s such as the numerous Halloween sequels,  Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th movies.  Rated 4.5 stars at Amazon.com and given a 93% at Rotten Tomatoes, this is truly a horror classic for the ages.  In 2006, this film was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress National Film Registry.

Plot – In 1963, young Michael Myers murders his 15 year old sister in Haddonfield, IL and is sent to the state sanitarium under the care of Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance).  In Oct 30, 1978, Dr. Loomis is on his way to the sanitarium to take Michael to a hearing when Michael escapes and steals a car.  Knowing Michael as he does, Dr. Loomis knows he is headed home…Haddonfield.  The next day, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) meets up with Tommy Doyle, a kid she is to babysit later, and then her friends, Annie and Lynda.  Throughout the day, she keeps briefly noticing Michael giving her the creeps, but dismisses it.  Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis meets up with Annie’s father, the town sheriff, to search for Michael.  That night, Laurie arrives at Tommy’s house.  Annie’s babysitting Lindsey across the street.  Annie dumps Lindsey onto Laurie so that she can be alone with her boyfriend Paul, but she meets Michael Myers first instead.  Lynda and her boyfriend arrive at Lindsey’s house thinking they are alone, but Michael spoils their lusty fun as well.  Laurie suspects something strange and investigates.  Bad idea….Michael is now after her.  Laurie escapes and rushes back to Tommy’s house.  As she fights off Michael’s attacks, she sends the kids for help catching the eye of Dr. Loomis.  Michael attacks again, but Laurie is saved by Dr. Loomis.  But, when he looks for Michael…..He’s not there…..

Commentary – This is one outstanding horror film.  To me, it’s the best ever.  When it is dark outside, turn off the lights, and watch this movie.  I guaranty that you will check your doors twice to make sure they locked tight before going to bed.  The film was very low budget, but masterfully utilized techniques such as first person filming through the eyes of the killer, sound effects such as the breathing, and the music.  No horror film makes better use of music to create a scary and tense mood than Halloween.  Having seen it many times, I still get goose bumps when the Halloween music plays.  It is simply the best horror film to watch during the Halloween season.

Trivia – One bit of trivia that is not much of a secret any longer is that Michael Myers’s mask is that of William Shatner, of Star Trek fame.  With the budget so tight, they got a cheap Shatner mask, spray painted it white, and teased the hair.  It is now an iconic horror mask.  Shatner even stated that he had no idea the mask was of him, but was honored that it was his.  Due to the low budget, several actors refused roles due to the low pay.  While made for only $325,000, the movie has grossed more than $47 million making it the most profitable independent film of all-time.  One of those actors, Christopher Lee, has said that turning down the role was his biggest career mistakes.  Finally, the film was actually made in the Spring.  The crew had quite a time getting pumpkins.  And, due to the low budget, they had to get paper leaves from a decorator and paint them Autumn colors.  After the scene was shot, they gathered them up to use again later.  They stretched that budget as far as possible to create the best horror film.

** Just click the images to check out “Halloween” at Amazon.com **


The Wolf Man (1941)

     The Wolf Man (1941) – “Even a man that’s pure of heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the Autumn moon is bright.”  The original Wolf Man….a classic monster movie and should be revered by all horror fans and kids today.  Sure, this one’s pretty tame compared to the CGI graphics and young hunks that portray werewolves today.  But, this is the one that started it all and the ones most of us think of for the classic monster.  It is also a very good movie.  Loaded with the A-list talent of Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Raines, Bela Lugosi, Evelyn Ankers, & Maria Ouspenskaya, it has great acting and the story holds up even to this day.  Definitely a movie to be watched each year as Halloween approaches or really can be enjoyed anytime.  Rated 94% at Rotten Tomatoes & 4 stars at Amazon.com, you know its good.

Plot – Learning of the death of his older brother, Larry Talbot (Lon Cheney Jr) goes home to Llanwelly, Wales to reconcile with his estranged father, Sir John Talbot (Claude Raines).  While there, he falls for Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers), who runs an antique shop.  He introduces himself at the shop and asks her out.  Reluctantly, she accepts and Larry buys a cane with a silver wolf’s head.  Gwen tells him it represents the werewolf and quotes the rhyme, which is laughed off as superstition.  That night, Gwen is there with a friend named Jenny, as a chaperone.  They go to visit a gypsy fortune teller, Bela (Bela Lugosi).  Bela sees Jenny first, but begins acting strange and scares her off.  Suddenly, we hear her screaming.  Larry rushes to save Jenny and kills the wolf-like creature attacking her, but is bitten during the struggle.  Bela’s mother, Meleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), tells him the creature was her son, Bela, and that Larry is now a werewolf.  At night, he starts changing and the killing begins in the village.  Larry has vague memories and his father believes he is losing his mind.  Ultimately, John Talbot & the villagers set a trap for the creature.  As the creature attacks Evelyn, John Talbot arrives to save her.   Unfortunately, he ends up killing his own son in the form of the wolf….ironically with the same cane.

Commentary – The classic monsters from the 30’s and 40’s should be appreciated for their impact on film and society.  These monsters are the corner stones for all horror films and traditions of Halloween all the way to the present day.  In addition, the movies are very good.  It’s a shame that they are remaking these movies and robbing the younger generations of the real origins of these monsters.  Sorry, I’m a traditionalist and the Wolf Man is not a 17 year old hunk as portrayed in the remakes.  The Wolf Man will forever be Lon Cheney Jr, who played the role in all sequels.  He protected the monster’s legacy for generations.  We should not let those traditions go.  They are signature monsters because they were the best.

Trivia – The Wolf Man is an iconic movie.  Bela, the fortune teller and original werewolf, is played by Bela Lugosi…the original Dracula.  Maria Ouspenskaya plays Bela’s mother, Meleva, was actually only 6 years older than Bela Lugosi.  And, that famous rhyme that is repeated throughout the film was completely made up by the script writer, even though many have tried to tie it back to old gypsy legends.  Interestingly, the transition to werewolf doesn’t focus on the full moon in the original film.  The rhyme was actually modified in later films to incorporate the full moon as being a trigger for the transformation.  Finally, the original rhyme makes reference to the period when the wolfsbane blooms.  Well ladies, that time is from July-November.  So, watch out for those guys out there.  They may be acting strangely after dark.

** Just click the images to check out “The Wolf Man” at Amazon.com **


Nightmare on Elm Street

     Nightmare on Elm Street – Come to Freddy!!!  In the 80’s, one of the best horror franchises was launched.  It was different than other horror movies.  The killer was actually likeable and the way he killed was fun.  Lets face it, Freddy Krueger was COOL!!!  Other horror movies have the killer as deranged, psychotic, or in a rage for some reason.  Freddy killed because that’s what he liked to do and enjoy it.  You do learn through the movies that Freddy is after the Elm Street kids because the parents burned him alive, but he also wants more and more.  But, when Freddy killed, he did it with style and maximum freight factor…and a little bit of sarcastic comedy makes him one of the best ever.  Rated 95% at Rotten Tomatoes and 4.5 stars at Amazon.com, even the critics liked it.  Personally, I recommend the 4 movie sets or the collection over the individual discs to get the best value.

Plot – Tina (Amanda Wyss) & Nancy (Heather Lagenkamp) are friends and realize they are having nightmares about the same disfigured & creepy guy.  Tina’s scared and that night, Nancy & her boyfriend Glen (a young Johnny Depp), come to spend the night.  Her boyfriend, Rod (Nick Corri), crashes as well.  During the night, Krueger arrives in dramatic style and brutally kills her.  Rod is scared and runs, but is caught the next day.  Nancy visits him and he mentions he too had a nightmare about a guy with knives for fingers.  Freddy visits him that night…2 down.  Nancy is having nightmares and not sleeping.  Her mother takes her to a sleep clinic.  The nightmare occurs and Nancy is awakened with a cut, but she was able to bring the killer’s hat with her.  The name in the hat is revealed as Fred Krueger.  After an argument, her mother reveals Krueger as the evil child killer that the parents murdered because he got off on a technicality.  But, her mother doesn’t believe he’s killing because he’s dead and she installs security on the windows and doors.  Nancy, sets up plan to bring Freddy into the real world and booby traps the house.  Unfortunately, Freddy gets to Glen first in a horrific scene across the street.  Then, Nancy calls to her father (a cop) who is there that she will get Freddy.  She drags him into the real world and he chases through out the house.  She sets him on fire and locks him in the basement.  She finally gets her father’s attention, but Freddy’s escaped and after mom.  Ultimately, it’s Freddy & Nancy….She robs Freddy of his power and brings everyone back.  The next day, all seems fine…..or is it?

Commentary – As stated before, Freddy was so popular because he was cool & funny when he killed them, but yet, you still feared him.  He was so popular, people in theatres cheered for him.  After killing Nancy’s boyfriend, he calls her to say, “I’m your boyfriend now, Nancy.”  Then, the famous tongue through the phone scene.  While all of the movies aren’t great, the comedy and killing gags had this series at the top of horror in the 80’s.  The original, Nightmare 3:Dream Warriors, and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare were good.  Nightmare 2 Freddy’s Revenge was horrible, as was Freddy’s Dead.  Nightmare 4: Dream Master was ok, but a weak ending.  But, even if a few were bad movies, they were enjoyable just to watch Freddy perform.

Trivia – Some interesting tidbits about Freddy was that the first time Robert Englund put on Freddy’s knife glove….he cut himself.  The color of Freddy’s red & green sweater is due to a study that Craven read stating these two colors are the most contrasting to the human retina.  The inspiration for the character was a real life, chilhood bully of Wes Craven…named Fred Krueger.  Johnny Depp makes his movie acting debut in the movie and one of the main reasons that he was chosen was because the producer’s daughter that he was “dreamy”.  And finally, New Line Cinema was nearly bankrupt and was financially saved by the success of the film…The company is now jokingly referred to as the “House that Freddy built.”

** Just click the images to check out “Nightmare on Elm Street” at Amazon.com **


Psycho

     Psycho“A boys best friend is his mother.”  Whoa, creepy statement on several levels.  Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic is an iconic film and a must see for everyone.  It is rated 99% at Rotten Tomatoes, 4.5 stars at Amazon.com, and ranked at #14 on AFI’s top movie list of all time.  Famed for the infamous shower scene that has been replayed and parodied countless times, the horror/suspense in the film isn’t overwhelming visually.  The horror and creepiness comes from the under-tone of the story and dialogue.  The few critics of the film are typically those looking for the same horror techniques that didn’t come out until the 70’s & 80’s with heavy amounts of blood & gore.  However, Psycho was one of the predecessors of those techniques.  The script is excellent and builds tension from start to finish.  The acting keeps you on edge the entire time.  And, the ending makes you look at those around you and wonder…could they really be “normal”?  I still give my wife that questioned look sometimes.

Plot – Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is having a discreet romance with Sam Loomis (John Gavin).  They want to marry, but can not due to Sam being in heavy debt.  Desperate, she steals $40,000 from her office and heads to Sam, who lives far away.   Along the way, her suspicious behavior draws the attention of highway police.  She exchanges cars and continues on stopping at the Bates Motel off the main road.  She meets Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and checks in.  He invites her to dinner at the house, but she over hears an argument between Norman & his mother.  Instead, they eat in the hotel office where Norman tells her that his mother can not care for herself so he stays with her despite the abuse.  After eating, Marion goes to her room to take a shower.  A shadowy figure appears and stabs Marion to death.  Norman finds the body and hides it, assuming his mother did it.  A few days later, Marion’s sister, Lila, and private investigator, Arborgast, track down Sam and question him, but he hasn’t seen her.  Arbogast tracks Marion to the Bates Motel and questions Norman.  His answers were not convincing.  Arbogast thinks Norman’s mother may know something, so he heads to the house over Norman’s refusal.  As he climbs the stairs, he’s attacked and killed by a female figure.  When Arbogast disappears, Sam & Lila head to the Bates Motel to search.  Norman hides his mother in the cellar to keep her from being found.  Sam questions Norman intensely while Lila heads to the house.  Norman figures it out, hits Sam over the head, and goes after her.  Lila sees him coming and hides in the cellar, finding Norman’s mother.  The female figure enters brandishing the knife, but Sam catches her from behind revealing the real killer.  The ending is the cops revealing what’s behind the killing.

Commentary –  Again, the film is a classic and considered one of the best all time.  The story is strong and will keep you engaged throughout.  Of course, the shower scene is legendary in film history.  While on the lighter side of the horror genre, you will still get that classic creepiness that only Alfred Hitchcock can deliver.

Trivia – There are several notable facts about the film that is fun.  For instance, Marion wears a white bra and carries a white purse originally because Hitchcock wanted to portray her as “angelic”, but once she steals the money, she has a black purse and wears a black bra indicating that she had done something wrong.   Ironically, the $40,000 that Marion steals is the same amount reportedly paid to Anthony Perkins for his role in the movie.  And, that famous shower scene can’t be left without something interesting about it.  It was very impactful.  Although Janet Leigh had no problems filming this iconic scene, once she saw it on screen, she realized how vulnerable a woman was in the shower and preferred to take baths from that day forward.

**  Just click the images to check out “Psycho” at Amazon.com **