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.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Blame The Plumber!

I haven’t taken part in the Final Girl Film Club for a while, but when I saw The Beyond was this month’s title, I just HAD to get in on the action. I’ll never miss an opportunity to take a trip down memory lane. Since I have not sprung for the DVD as of yet, I had to dig into my archives and pull out my old VHS copy sandwiched in between The New York Ripper and I Spit On Your Grave. And why do I love The Beyond? Simply put, I LIVE for this shit!

I discovered Lucio Fulci fairly late in life mainly because his films just weren’t available to me until I started frequenting the crusty video archives of The Big Smoke. And even then, they were usually ancient VHS bootlegs, often complete with Asian subtitles. Ah, the primitive era before the likes of Blue Underground and Media Blasters. Fulci has a lot of fantastical titles in his catalogue, but he is perhaps best known for two in particular – Zombi 2 (known domestically as Zombie) and The Beyond.

The Beyond works because of its balls-out atmosphere. Fulci, like most of his Italian contemporaries would sometimes forego the baser things like, oh I don’t know, a story, logic and a coherent narrative, but that never seemed to matter when he was hitting me with wondrous set pieces, music and gore. And that brings me to the main draw of a Fulci film and the reason he is known as the Godfather Of Gore. Fulci often worked with a man named Giannetto De Rossi. Neither of these two guys were known for their restraint. If make-up effects were fine art – and I happen to believe they are – then ol’ Gio would be the Rembrandt. No one does throat rips as spectacularly as this man does. And again, I can forgive the sometimes clumsy setups – just why are killer tarantulas hanging out in a library? – because the payoffs are so memorable. Although we lost Lucio in 1996, De Rossi still continues to splash around the red stuff, most notably in the modern staple High Tension in ‘03.

I know the word ‘classic’ is thrown around a lot these days, but there is no denying that if you get a bunch of horrorphiles together in a room – at least ones that grew up in that aforementioned VHS era – they will tell you that Lucio Fulci is royalty and all will have a fond memory of the first time they saw The Beyond. For people looking for more Fulci, you should check out his pair of gialli. Don’t Torture A Duckling and A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin are both worth your time and are now thankfully readily available due to excellent DVD reissues.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Don't Kill The Messenger XI

Best Worst Kills At South By.

Well, looks like the Troll 2 doc Best Worst Movie was a big hit at SXSW this year. The TRS guys sure liked it anyway. And the coolest thing is that footage for Best Worst was shot at the Troll 2 screening at my home theatre The Bloor last May.

I couldn't attend unfortunately, but I know a slew of people who did, so it will be awesome to see it when it finally comes out our way.

A New Scenario?

I saw some sad news at Twitch this week as it seems that Worst Case Scenario (that wicked Dutch nazi zombie project I posted about here) is officially dead in the water. This sucks because a lot of people have been patiently waiting for this since those first promos surfaced in 2006. However, all is not lost. It appears that WCS mastermind Richard Raaphorst has been working on a new idea recently. Behold, Army Of Frankenstein!!!

Indulge Me.

I know this isn't horror, but I was so taken by the new trailer for Where The Wild Things Are that I just had to post it here. If this movie is as good as the trailer and Spike Jonze was really allowed to make the film he wanted to make, this will be MAGIC, people.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Counting My Blessings.

For this month’s Non-Horror Selection, I have chosen the appropriately titled Thirteen. This is a modified version of a review I originally wrote in 2003, during the theatrical release of the film.

Leaving the theater after seeing this equally compelling and disturbing film, it made me thankful that I am not a parent. I am glad I’m not the one responsible for the whirling dervish that is the teenage girl. When one goes to see a downward spiral drug film – which is what I was expecting from this film, but to my relief not what I got – you have the comfort of knowing that most of it was cooked up in a Hollywood boardroom. Thirteen however, was co-written by teenager Nikki Reid (who also stars as Evie) so you can assume that at least some of it was rooted in truth. And that’s scary. Very scary. Although the two main characters come from homes that are far from ideal, it’s a sweeping generalization to say that all thirteen-year-olds are climbing out their bedroom windows at night to go get high, yet it is also ignorant to think that it never happens either. I think the main issue here is that these days girls are growing up too fast. I suspect this is due, in part, to the fact that the media has started to target this previously untapped demographic. Take the music industry for example. In the mid-nineties, girls five ten years of age were suddenly deluged with images of The Spice Girls and Britney Spears. I’m obviously showing my age here, but I can tell you that when I was in middle school, none of my female classmates dressed like Christina Aguilera.

Every mother should see Thirteen, just for the fact that I believe there are a surprising number who don’t have the slightest idea what their daughters are doing when their backs are turned. There were several older women in the audience at the show I attended and heard many outcries of awe, surprise and disgust during it. The following instance of naiveté supports my point. Early on, Tracy (the protagonist played by Evan Rachel Wood) lights up a cigarette to which one of the ladies behind me gasped, “She’s smoking!?” I found that puzzling as just a few scenes before, Tracy and Evie were breathing fumes from aerosol cans and punching each other in the face because they were numb to the pain. Yet the smoking is what put up a red flag for this woman? Thirteen also boasts a great adult cast featuring Holly Hunter, Deborah Kara Unger and Jeremy Sisto as the shaky role models for the uncontrollable adolescents. The well-crafted performances by Reid and especially Wood are what really stay with you, though. Some of the stuff that came out of these girls’ mouths just made me wince. It wasn’t just WHAT they said either, as it shamefully reminded me of lipping off to my parents when I was that age, for no other reason than I was in a sour mood.

If this film accomplishes anything, it’ll be to encourage parents to talk to their kids and make sure that their lives never become as intense as the ones contained within Thirteen. Again, I remain thankful.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Greetings From Norway

How’s this for fate? For weeks I’d been thinking ‘I really want to check out that Norwegian flick Cold Prey’ and then last weekend, what do you know? I won the DVD in a raffle. It’s been a few weeks since my last On The Shelf, so I guess it was meant to be.

Five friends travel to an isolated mountain to do some snowboarding. When one of them breaks a leg, they seek refuge in a nearby abandoned hotel. It doesn’t take them long to figure out that they are sharing the accommodations with someone who doesn’t like visitors.

You know I really shouldn’t feel anything for these extreme sports junkies in horror films. If you are going to participate in an activity where you are just asking to shatter a limb, then you should expect these worst-case scenario situations. I’m a sucker for a slasher though, so I’ll always end up rooting for the final girl.

Cold Prey was released in 2006, yet it just came out on DVD this past January. What gives? True, this movie does not reinvent the genre, but it certainly didn’t deserve to be buried all this time either. Cold Prey’s simplicity is what works for it I think. Five people trapped in a location with a killer. It doesn’t get more uncomplicated than that. I’m not going to pretend that I know anything about the filmmaking climate in Oslo, but the production value was lot higher than I was expecting. If you watch the special features, you can see they employed tons of mostly undetectable CG in post to gussie up the final product. I think the high quality may have been the reason I forgave this movie for being a slasher with almost no gore in it. In the end, it didn’t seem necessary, as all the other components – including good acting and a great score by Magnus Beite that reminded me of Ils – came together fine without it.

I started On The Shelf to make sure that you never leave a video store with a lemon and although Cold Prey won’t win any awards, it is a solid example of the genre. Here’s to finding safer pastimes. How about knitting?

Ok, maybe not.

If you'd like a second opinion on Cold Prey, Mermaid Heather also covered it recently. See what she thought by clicking here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Score One For The Good Guys... Sort Of.

Well, it looks like there was some positive movement on this Let The Right One In subtitles thing. After an explosion of angry press within the Internet film community over the last few days, it looks like Magnet stepped up and is going to rectify the situation. Here's some copy from their response to an inquiry made by Digital Bits.

"We've been made aware that there are several fans that don't like the version of the subtitles on the DVD/BR. We had an alternate translation that we went with. Obviously a lot of fans thought we should have stuck with the original theatrical version. We are listening to the fans feedback, and going forward we will be manufacturing the discs with the subtitles from the theatrical version."

Sounds good right? At least they're making an effort. Well, unfortunately here's the rub.

"There are no exchanges. We are going to make an alternate version available however. For those that wish to purchase a version with the theatrical subtitles, it will be called out in the tech specs box at the back/bottom of the package where it will list SUBTITLES: ENGLISH (Theatrical), SPANISH."

So, basically if you are one of those people who ran out to buy it (likely the film's biggest supporters), you are fucked. That's not such a good deal. Hopefully, this puts out a message to Magnet - and any other film distributor for that matter - that films deserve to be released in their ORIGINAL format.

Thanks to everyone who emailed me about the update.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Man, That Sucks.

I got some really upsetting news via Icons Of Fright (thanks Nash for the heads up) today. It appears that the subtitles on the US DVD and Blu-ray release for Let The Right One In are not the original ones. And what is worse is they have been replaced a vastly inferior track. This is a big fucking deal folks. Nothing ruins a good foreign film more than bad subtitling. I mean, it's even worse than watching a dubbed version. If you want to see visual examples of this treachery, click here to go to the main article.

This is a travesty. Let The Right One In was my favourite horror film of 2008 and I'd been eagerly awaiting an opportunity to watch the Blu-ray. I'm now beginning to think destiny played a role in my not acquiring it yet. I'd many chances to, but for some reason or another I hadn't. I have many people I want to show this movie to and I'm not going to do them or it an injustice by screening it with shitty subtitles. This is a real inconvenience, but there must be somewhere I can get an original copy. Let the search begin.

Shame on whoever is responsible for this. SHAME!!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Don't Kill The Messenger X

I'm still under the weather, but here's what I got.

More Imperiled Sorority Girls Ahead.

A trailer has surfaced for Sorority Row, the newest remake on the block. Check it below.

Now, I never saw the original 1983 version, but I'm pretty sure a 4-way tire iron with blades fused to it wasn't the killer's weapon of choice. Is it just me, or are they getting a little ridiculous with these slasher weapons? I mean, what's next? A toilet brush with barbed wire wrapped around it? A waffle iron with an extra long extension cord? Sheesh. Even though the trailer makes it look fairly pedestrian, I believe I will check this one out, if only for this comment on Imdb.

"The movie was originally intended to be R-rated, but after the success of 2008's Prom Night remake, Summit Entertainment planned to trim it to a PG-13 rating. However, they changed their mind, and decided to keep the movie as a solid R-rated movie"

Well done, boys. Well done.

Toddler Trauma

I wish I spoke Japanese, so I could fully appreciate this clip below.

I hope all their zombipocalypse training is worth all those therapy bills later in life.

Golf. The Most Dangerous Game.

Again, YouTube serves up the weird.

Thanks, AOTS.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I Loved It To Pieces

Despite my current lack of wellness, I ventured down to The Bloor for a special screening of the 1982 gore flick Pieces last night.

After some live theatre featuring a planted audience member (I’m pretty sure it was the same chick that was sticking stuff to herself with a staple gun at the TAD party last October) being eviscerated onstage and then strangled with her own intestines – do you think I could really make this shit up people? – and two perfectly selected trailers (They’re Coming To Get You featuring the uber-lovely Edwige Fenech and the ‘psychosexual’ jaunt Torso) I was transported to the land of awesome.

Fourty years after a little boy chops up his mother with an ax, nubile young college girls begin falling under a maniac’s chainsaw on campus. The list of suspects is long, but time is short. Who will be left in one piece?

No one is surprised more than me that I’ve never seen Pieces before now. I know that old coverbox like the back of my hand from the days of it staring back at me from video store shelves, but in terms of viewage, it was just one that slipped through the cracks. To compound that, I knew nothing of what it was actually about. I always thought it was a cheesy eighties low-budget slasher, but in reality it’s a lot closer to the pictures coming out of Italy at the time, than the sequel heavy stuff being cranked out on our shores. Pieces shares so much in common with Sergio Martino’s Torso – made the following year – they could be blood soaked sisters.

In a word, Pieces is FUCKING HILARIOUS. I had no idea this movie was a comedy. Whether or not that was intentional is irrelevant at this point, isn’t it? The more I think about it, the more likely it seems to me that the filmmakers must have been in on the joke. Holy crap, the dialogue is priceless! And the characters?! First, there’s the grizzled detective Bracken (played by genre stalwart Christopher George in one of his last films) who always talks through an unlit cigar. Then there’s the bombshell undercover cop/tennis pro Mary (Linda Day) who for some reason needs to be protected by horny college student Kendall (Ian Sera). Then there’s groundskeeper Willard played by Paul Smith. Considering Smith was in Sam Raimi’s sophomore flick Crimewave as one of the exterminators, it didn’t take me long to recognize him – besides I’d know that leery glower anywhere. And I damn near lost my shit when the kung fu professor showed up. That was a true ‘WTF? Moment’ for the ages; right up there with Nic Cage in a bear suit. I was so busy laughing during this movie, I almost missed all the great camerawork. Taking another cue from the giallo genre, the movie has some great little set pieces. Which brings me to the gore. Pieces does not skimp. The water bed, elevator and finale sequences are highly memorable and the reason why this movie hasn’t disappeared into obscurity. I guess the message of Pieces – and this is for all those parents out there – is NEVER take away your child’s pornography.

Pieces is as good as a case of lollipops, wait no, it’s more like trying on shirts with no labels to see which ones fit, errr… To put it simply, I walked out of the theatre last night almost wishing that I had seen this movie twenty times already. Then it dawned on me. No, this was probably the best way I could have ever experienced this movie; in a theatre surrounded by like minded individuals. What a fantastic evening!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bring Back The Anthology!

After watching Fear(s) of the Dark last week, a question dawned on me. How come nobody makes horror anthologies anymore? In the eighties and early nineties they were abundant, but nowadays they are almost non-existent. Sure, Asian cinema is keeping the trend alive with the 3 Extremes flicks and last year’s 4bia, but over here? Not so much. I would imagine bankability has something to do with it. Creepshow 3 dropped silently on DVD in 2007 with a lot less fan fare than you would expect and Trapped Ashes (an anthology featuring notable genre directors Sean Cunningham, Joe Dante and Ken Russell) pretty much disappeared after it premiered here at Midnight Madness in 2006.

For this week’s Coverbox Wednesday, I celebrate the horror anthology.

I believe that George Romero has a new Deadtime Stories on the go, so hopefully that will kick start things for a new generation of horror fans. Until then, I guess we’ll have to keep dipping into the archives for bite-sized morsels of terror.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Seeing Green

Happy St. Patrick's Day Everyone!!!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Don't Kill The Messenger IX

On The Fence

I saw the trailer for Sam Raimi's new horror flick Drag Me To Hell in front of Last House on Friday. I didn't figure out what I was watching until half-way through, which is a rarity these days. I have to say that it looks pretty medicore and that's not the reaction I was hoping for. I don't know. From what I saw, it looked like a mish-mash of stuff we've seen before... the J-horror that Raimi loves so much, Platinum Dunes' recent dud The Unborn, the nineties King adaptation Thinner. I remain cautiously optimistic because Sam is my boy, and I know he can pull this off. This is it though. Todd at Twitch told me yesterday that the suits stayed out of Sam and Greg's (Nicotero of KNB EFX) way while they were making this - as they should; Sam's only made a bazillion dollars for Sony over the last seven years - so if Hell blows, there will be no excuses. This is the return to horror that his fans have been waiting for and I pray he doesn't disappoint. See the trailer for yourself below.

Listed Brit

Over the past few months, as part of a series called Twitch Video Salute, Twitch has been inviting genre filmmakers to submit articles about films that they love and were inspired by. Past contributors have been Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice) and Fabrice du Welz (Calvaire, Vinyan). This week, outspoken Brit Adam Mason (The Devil's Chair, Blood River) wrote a little something about his favourite horror films. Mason, and his partner-in-crime Simon Boyes are regular fixtures on the site, as their intermittent podcasts (featuring the musings of two English filmmakers trying to make it in LA) can be found there. I respect their brutal honesty. They cow-tow to no one, which sometimes sees whole episodes disappear for 'legal reasons'. And even though I only agree with Mason about fifty percent of the time, there can be no denying that his TVS list is solid. Click here to check it out.

Laid To Rest

I just wanted to finish up with another trailer. In 2005, I saw this cool little coming-of-age indie about a teenage horror fan growing up in a small town. The writer/director Rob Hall was there and his passion for the genre was immediately apparent. That film was Lightning Bug. Now, his new film Laid To Rest is being released by Anchor Bay. It looks like a straight-up slasher and has enough in the trailer to make me interested. See for yourself below.

Okay, that's it for now. Resident Evil 5 beckons.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Wheels Turnin' Anew

I checked out The Last House On The Left remake yesterday. If you are wondering why this one got a pass from my boycott list, I’ll give you two reasons. The first is that Michael Bay is not involved and the second is that vintage Wes Craven has proven itself adaptable before with 2006’s above-average survival flick The Hills Have Eyes redo. Anyway, moving on…

A group of criminals brutally assault two teenage girls, while on the run from the cops. During a storm, the gang seeks refuge in a house owned by the parents of one of the girls. When the parents discover what their guests have done, they decide to exact revenge.

Last House ’09 is decent fare. It certainly doesn’t go as far as the original, but I don’t think that old ‘never cut away’ mentality they had back then is possible nowadays. Even Craven has said himself that he and his crew didn’t realize how extreme their product really was until they were shooting it. However, I don’t want to sugarcoat things here. Watching the fate of the two girls (played by Sara Paxton and Martha MacIsaac) this time around isn’t a pleasant affair either, but comparatively, they get off slightly easier than their 1972 counterparts. In some cases, what the remake leaves out works in its favour. Gone are the bumbling cops from Craven’s version. I understand the purpose the cops – as well as David Hess’ guitar blues score – served, but the 2009 version is a different beast. And with that, I’d say that director Dennis Iliadis succeeds on making the subject matter his own. Last House ’09 has that gritty seventies feel, but strangely also feels unquestionably modern. The acting in this movie is tops all around, but I want to make special mention of Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter. I thought they did an exceptional job of portraying the parents of one of the victims. When they came to the realization of what had been done to their daughter and who was responsible, you really see it come over them. Something I found distracting was how dark a lot of the interior sequences were. I understand these events happen at night, but I AM the viewer here, and should be able to SEE what’s going on. All I’m saying is a little more light would have been nice. There’s a bit at the end that seems excessive (anybody who has seen the trailer can guess what that might be) and out of place, but I’m sure it was one of those ‘oh, we have to put THAT in’ ideas from early on that no one ever thought to question.

Last House On The Left ’09 is a serviceable remake and a good film. It’s not going to knock your socks off, but it is a well-told tale with fine performances. Oh, and the Death In Vegas song that plays out the movie was an excellent choice, as well.

Friday, March 13, 2009

F13 Update

It's deja vu all over again! Happy Friday the 13th everyone! I'm happy to report that my Friday remake boycott remains intact. I think it was easier this time because I wasn't urged by any of my friends to actually check it out. The consensus among my flock seems to be that Platinum Dunes’ latest atrocity is conspicuously mediocre. In fact, I was hard pressed to find someone who had an overly positive comment that wasn't prefaced by the term "for what it was..." Even my buddy Mikey, who I think secretly wants to bear Michael Bay's children, thought it was dull and uninspired. Schwartz went so far as to say the new Friday was absolutely awful, citing even Rob Zombie's Halloween was better. I find THAT hard to believe, but then again I haven't seen F13... or have I? Hearing about it over the past few weeks, I kind of feel like I have. Good film or not, this is all irrelevant, isn’t it? It made money and more Platinum droppings are on the way. As for Friday’s failure to impress, I have got to say I’m actually a little shocked. If there was one movie that you think they could get right, it would be the mold-making template slasher Friday the 13th. If you can’t even pull that off, I’m afraid I have to echo Richie Cusack and exclaim;

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Resident Retrospective

Resident Evil 5 comes out tomorrow! Oh joy, oh bliss! has been running an awesome retrospective the last few weeks and I've posted it below if you haven't been watching. It's a wonderful and bloody trip down memory lane and the perfect preamble to the new installment's release. Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Now that you're all caught up, get out there and start playing!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Nightmares In Black & White.

I managed to squeeze in a screening of the animated anthology Fear(s) of the Dark last night at The Royal. I’m glad to report that Fear(s) was worth the stiff back I am suffering from today. I often forget how punishing those old seats can be. How did I ever manage to get through Inland Empire in ’07 without serious injury? But I digress. It is difficult to describe Fear(s) as the stories within are not named and are fragmented between a pair of wraparound devices. It was put together by a group of contemporary graphic artists and the narrative led me to believe Fear(s) is meant as a single tapestry rather than an anthology, but you can take it as either.

During the first full story (from Charles Burns) about a shy bookworm in a relationship for which the term ‘unhealthy’ was invented, I was immediately struck by the familiar art style. After racking my brain, it finally came to me that Burns was the guy who wrote Black Hole, a graphic novel that’s been staring at me from my bookshelf since last year, yet still remains unread. His Fear(s) story was cool, in an Outer Limits kind of way. The second story (by Marie Caillou) that focuses on a young Japanese girl stuck in a bad dream is pretty effed up. Caillou’s work is known for its strong Japanese influence and it is evident here as many themes I see often in films from the Far East are revisited here. They are a strange bunch; and that’s why I love them so. The third story (by Lorenzo Mattotti) about a small village besieged by an unknown creature is probably the most straightforward of the group. It had an old school sketchbook style that made it standout from the rest. The last and my favourite of the bunch (by Richard McGuire) follows a lone traveller taking refuge from a snowstorm in a creaky old house. It excellently uses shadow and light, rather than words, to tell the story and I was into it the whole way. The graphic style was similar to that of the 2006 sci-fi flick Renaissance. The sound design – which is fabulous throughout all of Fear(s) – really excels here. Pierre Disciullo and Blutch orchestrated the two wraparound bits of the movie. I wasn’t too struck on Disciullo’s voice-over philosophizing, but Blutch’s piece featuring the old man terrorizing the countryside with his pack of dogs had an interesting look to it, kind of like those old Mystery! intros.

What happened next was... unexpected.

I think my only criticism of Fear(s) is that it seemed somehow unfinished, as both Caillou and McGuire’s installments end rather abruptly and without resolution. I guess it’s good that I wanted more, but I couldn’t help feeling they were missing an ending. Fear(s) is a scant eighty-two minutes, so I would have loved another ten or fifteen to wrap things up. Even though its individual parts work better singularly than they do as a whole, Fear(s) of the Dark is still a cool little oddity that showcases the many different phobias that plague us as a species.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Don't Kill The Messenger VIII

There's not a lot of news this week, but there are a few things I'd like to get to, so let's dive in.

File Under F, for FINALLY!

A trailer for Doghouse finally surfaced this week. I'm loving this. I think it's going to be a riot. Since Jake West is Midnight Madness alumni (Evil Aliens played here in '05), there is a good chance it will screen here in September. First in line, baby! I'm still having problems embedding video from Twitch, so to see the trailer, click here. And for my past coverage, click here.

Event Horizon 2?

You know, people shit on Paul W.S. Anderson, but I've always found his movies to be quite entertaining. A poster and trailer appeared this week for his new project Pandorum starring Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster. It looks like somewhat of a spiritual successor to Event Horizon, which is arguably his best film (although I know there are some Shopping fans out there) and it's pretty damn cool. Check it out below.

One By One.

I saw a commercial for this little television experiment while watching Dollhouse (yes, I'm still clinging on) this week. It's called Harper's Island and has been described as "Scream meets Ten Little Indians". It is a nine-episode murder mystery that begins April 9th and goes through until July 2nd. Although the trailer doesn't really do it any favours, I applaud CBS for trying something different with this. I saw some familiar faces like Bill Pullman and Cameron Richardson there, so it does have some cred to it. It's been a while since Primetime has had a Twin Peaks-style mystery for us to mull over and I hope that it, at least, makes for some engaging television. Click here for the promo.

Oh, and one last thing, a new English trailer dropped for Blood: The Last Vampire.

On further inspection, TLV looks like it's going to be more Chanbara than Hero... but I'm okay with that :)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ants In Your Pants

After another trip down that lonely alleyway, I was once again in the colourful depths of Trash Palace. This week’s feature was the 1974 super-ant sci-fi flick Phase IV. They really trot out the oddities here at the Palace. I don’t think I’ve seen this one anywhere since it was collecting dust on my shelf at the ol’ video store and it’s been even longer since I’ve actually watched the damn thing.

Two scientists (Michael Murphy & Nigel Davenport) at a desert research facility suddenly find themselves besieged by a hive of super-intelligent ants.

Phase IV was directed by Saul Bass. Yes, THAT Saul Bass. For those not up on their film history, Bass spent the better part of his career working with many great directors, including Alfred Hitchcock. You know those unique title sequences that appear in a lot of Hitchcock’s movies? Well, Saul Bass designed those. And you know the iconic shower scene in Psycho? It was Bass who envisioned the way that played out. The man had an eye for cinema the way few do. Phase IV lives up to those expectations by serving up a visual treat. It is stunning, including lots of macro photography on the film’s real stars – the ants. There is a LOT of this stuff, but strangely it never feels like you are watching a nature documentary. This could likely be due to the accompanying score that ominously permeates the piece.

Back up, gentlemen. Back the fuck up.

Apart from the great cinematography though, the film is fairly light in every other aspect. The story is pretty rudimentary and plods along at points. Again, is often the case when revisiting old movies, I was surprised by how much I’d forgotten. I'd held onto mere pieces really, but the ending was still puzzling. The film stars instantly recognizable character actor Murphy and the stunning Lynne Frederick, who coincidentally also starred in my last Trash Palace flick Schizo. Frederick doesn’t have much to do in Phase IV, except walk around in a daze, but dayam, she is fine. It’s really too bad what happened to her in real life. If Phase IV wasn’t so adeptly shot, it may have been a loss, but I was completely hypnotized (which could also be because I was in the front row – about eight feet from the screen – this time) for its duration. What another great trip down memory lane!

Trash Palace also announced its Spring/Summer lineup! There are some good ones coming up. 13 Frightened Girls! Smashup On Interstate 5! Scream and Scream Again! Silent Partner! Oh boy, things are looking up.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

They're Creeping Up On You

I’m heading off to Trash Palace again this Friday to take in a flick I haven’t seen in a dog’s age. Stacey Case and his partners in crime are screening the 1974 killer-ant movie Phase IV. While mulling over a theme for this week’s Coverbox Wednesday, it occurred to me just how many horror films have creepy crawlies in them. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising. When surveys are done about phobias, insects, arachnids and snakes are always at or near the top. It’s a logical fear. They outnumber us ten thousand to one (if not more), so we should bloody well PRAY there isn’t an uprising. Anyway, on with the show.

Shatner vs. killer tarantulas = Cinematic gold!

Then there are the titles that just had certain scenes with things with more than two legs. They remain with me for all time.

Helen Shaver should have really got that thing checked out.

You know what I’m talking about.

Sharon Stone has a paralyzing encounter with a spider.

A dark cellar and a lot of beetles. You figure it out.

“I have a message for you, and I don’t think you are going to like it!”