In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Red on White, In Blu.

The story is simple enough. A clan of vampires descend on an Alaskan town during the time of year when there is no sun for 30 days. A few survivors led by the local sheriff (Josh Hartnett) try to survive the month against a wild and vicious foe.

First, some thoughts about the film. Up to this point, Sam Raimi’s production company Ghost House Pictures has a track record that is rather dubious. Boogeyman was utter dreck, The Grudge was an empty rehash and the only reason Rise: Blood Hunter was even watchable (to me at least) was because Lucy Liu is a rocket. However, Raimi and company have fully redeemed themselves with 30 Days Of Night.

I adore the look of this film. The unique style of the comic is brilliantly captured here and feral design of the vampires is picture perfect. God bless the filmmakers for playing the subject matter completely straight and going for the hard R*. The make-up effects in 30 Days Of Night are top notch, including a gruesome ‘money shot’, which took my breath away and likely will yours too. It EARNS its rating with a combo of grisly gore and dour tone.

30 Days Of Night does have some flaws. A good chunk of the action sequences aren’t shot very well. Now, this could be an attempt to recreate the muddy panelling of the comic book, but I would wager that it was director David Slade’s inexperience in this area. Let’s not forget that his debut effort Hard Candy, though absolutely stellar, WAS largely just two people in a room. Also, there is a large logic leap in the last act that was more clearly defined in the comic. However, none of my nitpicks really take away from the film as a whole.

The vampire genre has been floundering for quite a while with lacklustre entries like the aforementioned Rise and the Underworld flicks, but 30 Days Of Night is an invigorating breath of acrid air. Hopefully, Ghost House can take this momentum and run with it. Sam Raimi’s next directorial project Drag Me To Hell sounds promising, but other tepid Ghost House projects like Rise 2 and Grudge 3 suggest a trip back down Mediocrity Lane. Sam! Help me out here! There are so many more interesting projects you could be concentrating on. How about the oft-rumoured American Gothic movie? What about following up 30 with Dark Days?

Now, onto the Blu-ray release for which I had the perfect venue. My buddy Phil has constructed a home theatre paradise in his basement and every few weeks we check out a new release. For anyone who has seen the film, you recall the fantastic overhead tracking shot of the main street chaos? Here’s what it looks like projected onto a 109” screen.

There’s no doubt about it, 30 Days Of Night is absolutely gorgeous in Hi-Def.

Watching the film a second time, I was even more aware of how grim and totally humourless it is. You rarely see that in films these days – or at least North American ones. The special features on this disc are excellent and extremely informative. There is a commentary, eight featurettes and a Blu-ray exclusive comic-to-film slideshow entitled “30 Images Of Night”.

The featurettes are extremely meticulous and reminded me of the exhaustive diaries on the Lord Of The Rings discs, which is a coincidence considering because 30 was shot in New Zealand, as well. The amount of visual effects (provided my WETA) is astounding too. WETA enhanced every part of the production right down to the dirt on people’s faces. Mainly though, these featurettes just reiterate how much time and effort went into the look of the film. I also learned that Bob Tapert was the one running the show at Ghost House (at least on 30), while Sam Raimi’s role seems more that of a figurehead. Tapert appears on the commentary track with leads Josh Hartnett and Melissa George. It’s a good track with lots of tidbits. Hartnett is very articulate and affable, taking time out on several occasions to make fun of his fake beard. The really cool thing on the Blu-ray disc is the slideshow though. For those who are not familiar with the source material, here are a few samples to give you an idea of Ben Templesmith’s distinctive style.

I highly recommend picking this disc up. Not only is it a great vampire movie, it is also a solid package.

*In Canada, R is the same as the American NC-17. 18A is our equivalent for the American rating of R. It works pretty much the same and filmmakers usually make cuts to avoid the loss in box office that accompanies the harshest rating.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Something's Fishy

Perusing through ‘Net news last week, I came across this unbelievable story. Take a look at this little beast. It’s called the ‘giant snakehead’ and it is causing chaos in British waters recently. These things devastate any water system they inhabit and are even known to attack humans. Here's a link to the story.

The most frightening part of the article is this…

“The giant snakehead will eat absolutely everything in a body of water then CRAWL OVER LAND TO THE NEXT POND OR LAKE."


In keeping with all this aquatic mayhem, I present this week’s Coverbox Wednesday!

You recall my little rant last week about recurring poster themes? Well, looks like it existed back in the days of yore, too. At least they changed the colour of her bikini.

That’s it for now. I’ll leave you with this...

Fear is funny sometimes. I KNOW that thing in the picture is a malfunctioning animatronic named Bruce, but the more I stare at it, the more it chills my bones.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Omen 666: Mark of the Lame.

During my recent bout of sickness I was able to spend some ‘quality’ time in front of my idiot box. While channelsurfing (something I hadn’t done in ages mind you, DVR’s are wonderful devices, aren’t they?) I saw the 2006 Omen remake was coming on TMN-HD. Now, as you know, I usually steer clear of remakes and the only reason I flicked it on was because a friend – whose opinion I hold in high regard – told me it was decent. Well, I must get ahold of the crack he was smoking that day because it’s NOT decent. Not even close.

The movie follows the same path as the 1976 original, with only a few deviations in a half hearted attempt to update the subject matter. Gotta work the Twin Towers in there somehow! Oohh, aren’t we clever? The worst move though is to make Damien aware that he is the spawn of Satan. Bad move. And it doesn’t help that the kid is fucking terrible. Hey Seamus! Here’s a little tip. Pouting and staring isn’t acting. The rest of the cast is serviceable. Mia Farrow is good as the crazy nanny, but she doesn’t really add anything to the part. However, I did think that Liev Shrieber was a real standout and the scenes between him and David Thewlis (who played the reporter Keith Jennings to Shreiber’s Robert Thorn) was when the film was at its best.

And where is the score? There’s none to speak of in this movie. It’s completely ridiculous. What would Jaws be without the music? Halloween without the synth? If the makers of Omen 666 were trying to maintain that their version could speak for itself, well, good luck with that. I mean sure, there are a few good jumpers and the deaths have a more Final Destination quality to them, but you going to have to do a helluva lot more than that if you want to reinvent one of The Fearsome Fifteen.

My first instinct to avoid this was bang on. There is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON to see this over the tried and true original version. This is just another in a long list of redos that should have never happened.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Lost

One day while camping Ray Pye decides to murder two women. With the help of his friends, he covers up the crime, but several years later, he appears dangerously close to snapping once again.
I have to start by saying that I have never read a Jack Ketchum novel, so I have no insight on how this movie portrayed the original subject matter.
Because, in short, I did not like this movie.
When The Lost started, things were looking up when cutie Erin Brown (aka Misty Mundae) showed up in the buff thirty seconds in. That, unfortunately, was the best things got.
Ray Pye (played frenetically by Marc Senter) was a cross between Crispin Glover and a Tasmanian devil. It was uncomfortable to watch at times. Even more irksome was the fact that every hot girl in town, save one, seemed to view Ray as anything other than what he was – a total douchebag. The actions of the Katherine (Robin Sydney) character - when I realized there was no ulterior motive – were especially ridiculous. Michael Bowen, who you’ll recall as Buck from Kill Bill, was great as the small town detective. You know what, fuck it, the performances all around were actually pretty solid.
Every time I thought I had a handle on where the story was going, it would one eighty. River’s Edge? No. Blue Velvet? Nah. Hard Candy? Nope. I understand the erratic nature of the film was deliberate – and it wasn’t just Ray’s behaviour, the editing was equally off putting. Even the time period was odd. At some points, it seemed like it was the sixties, in others, the eighties. This could have all worked, but the narrative was way too out of place for a true crime story, which is what I took this film to be. However, I am still conflicted. There are a lot of individual reasons why I should have liked - or at least appreciated – The Lost. And then…
The last twenty minutes is where it goes in the shitter. It had been teetering on the brink towards the end and the ensuing craziness just pushed it over the edge. It seemed that it just went out of its way to be vile and tasteless. I’ll never forget the collective sigh of disgust the audience I saw it with let out at the conclusion – as if to say... “Really guys? You went there?”
I don’t know. I’m guess I’m just not the nihilist I used to be.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Deja Vu?

Well, I guess there's nothing to be done bearing yesterday's Suspect Video tragedy, except move on.

On that note, I was surfing The Movie Blog, as I do regularly, and I came across the new one sheet for the upcoming horror flick The Ruins. I immediately noticed an uncanny resemblance to another movie poster involving spelunking. Is it just my imagination? Or am I onto something here. You decide.

You know? Sometimes it seems like the people who design horror posters just have a couple of templates lying around and they just re-tweak them in Photoshop every time the phone rings. Kind of like the horror genre en masse it would seem sometimes.

Okay, jaded rant over. Just making an observation.

One last note about the Queen Street fire. You can visit Colin Geddes' RIP Suspect Video facebook page, by clicking here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Dark Day.

Hey. Sorry for the lack of posts of late. I've been under the weather since the weekend. I first heard about the Queen Street fire while driving to work this morning. Knowing that it was in the vicinity of Suspect and Queen Video, I was immediately worried.

Checking the web, my worst fear was confirmed.

This one really stings. With Toronto's cinephile hotspots dwindling over the last few years with the closure of The York and The Uptown, this is an especially bitter pill to swallow. Suspect was THE place for all things obscure.

Fortunately, the Suspect name still lives on through its Markham St location, but hopefully someday in the future, they will reappear on Queen St.

Click here for a recent CityTV news item on indie video stores and see Suspect in all its former glory. For more info on this incredibly unfortunate blaze, click here.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Things We Do For Love

Once again, that “Hallmark holiday that shall not be named” is upon us. Love is usually the domain of the romantic comedy or hoity-toity period drama, but every once and a while the horror genre steps up and highlights some of the more ugly aspects of humankind’s strongest emotion. Here are some of my faves from back in the day.

^That one's for the grape haters out there^

Those last two. Mindy Clarke and Kelly Preston. Ahhh… memories. Anyway, whatever you crazy kids decide to do tomorrow, enjoy yourselves. If you need to find me, just follow the trail of empty liquor bottles.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Roy Scheider Dead at 75.

Actor Roy Scheider, best known for his role as Sheriff Brody in the classic film Jaws, died Sunday afternoon in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was 75. Scheider's career spanned over fourty years and dozens of roles in film and television. This was sad news for me to wake up to on a dreary Monday morning. Another horror icon has gone to that great shark hunt in the sky. Rest in peace, Mr. Scheider.

Read the New York Times article by clicking here.

Friday, February 8, 2008


Hong Mi-ju (Hyeon-a Seong), a music professor, is starting to see some very strange things. Her situation only gets worse when the new housekeeper arrives. But is she the cause of Mi-ju’s waning sanity or is it something more… supernatural?

That’s the best synopsis I can come up with because Cello is all over the place at times. Though the middle act seemed like it was following the same structure as The Omen, it often took off in many other weird and ultimately irrelevant directions. Seriously, this movie switched gears more than a NASCAR driver. That’s not to say movies can’t do that and be successful, but it really doesn’t help your cause when you have absurd exchanges like the following -

“The housekeeper is creepy. Can’t we let her go?”
“Nah. It’s a favour for a friend. Her whole family was killed.”
“Yes, and then she tried to commit suicide.”
“Oh, is that why she doesn’t talk?”
“That, and she also drank acid.”
“I see. I feel much better now about her watching our kids.”

Okay, I made that last line up, but I shit you not, the rest is true. Maybe it loses something in the translation. There is another large logic leap just before the climax, but in a movie where the help swills down sulphuric cocktails, I guess I’m just supposed to roll with it. Though the narrative made for some very unsettling moments and one superb jump scare, it became irritating early on because you could never really get your bearings. Again, I have no problem with this technique as long as the conclusion justifies it, but Cello’s doesn’t. It’s pretty lame and probably would have been a better film if it ended ten minutes earlier.

The sound design however, is excellent. It elevates, what should have been a mediocre effort, up a notch. The classical music, with of course, strings heavily implemented, serves the film well.

Cello is strange and off-putting, but overall, terribly uneven.

So, to recap...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

King. Adapted.

Hundreds of stories have sprung from the mind of Stephen King over the last fourty plus years and many have subsequently been made into movies. Here is a sample of some of the adapted that adourned the shelves at ye olde video store.

I know that last one was technically a TV movie, but I had it in my collection so I figured, what the hell. The above barely scratches the surface of his adapted works, so you can look forward to many more installments of King in the future.