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.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

That's One Pissed Off Granny!

I awaited Sam Raimi's new movie Drag Me To Hell with a combination of excitement and trepidation. I wanted to be good and up to Raimi's high standards, but most of all I think I just didn't want to be disappointed. I was afraid that perhaps Raimi had been rubbing elbows in Hollywood for so long, that perhaps he had lost touch with the genre that put him on the map. When the trailer was released a few months back, it did nothing to assail my fears. It looked like a combination of homogenized big budget fare of late, like The Unborn and Asian horror remakes (The Grudge was coincidentally imported by Raimi's own production company Ghosthouse Pictures), but I wasn't going to pass judgment just based on a trailer. On Thursday night, I headed into town to catch the midnight screening of Drag Me To Hell and now as I'm typing this review I feel ashamed. I'm ashamed because I never should have doubted that crazy fucker.

After a young loan officer (Alison Lohman) is cursed by an elderly gypsy, she has only three days to reverse the hex before the evil demon Lamia comes to collect her soul and carry her off to the burning fires of hell!

Drag Me To Hell is soooo much fun and a total blast to watch. What will knock you flat almost immediately is the amazing sound design. Drag Me To Hell is cranked to eleven. The film is packed with jump scares, but they come from so many different angles that they never get monotonous. There were times where I was sitting there giggling like a schoolgirl in anticipation of the next spike. It was a little stressful, I don't mind telling you. A good stress, however; the kind only the best can bring out of you. The trailer does the movie a disservice. It gives you no indication as to the craziness that ensues within. You clearly get the feeling that Raimi and Greg Nicotero (of KNB EFX) were just going balls-out and having fun with this. I can almost picture the two of them spit balling ideas for ways to torture the protagonist, all the while with huge grins on their faces. Speaking of Alison Lohman, I have to give her credit. She was a real trooper. Raimi subjects her to as many bumps, bruises and ooey-gooey indignities that he could pack into ninety-nine minutes. I wonder if Bruce Campbell gave her any pointers.

Ellen Page is a wuss.

Sadly, Bruce does not make an appearance in Drag Me To Hell, but Raimi's old Classic 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 gets a lot of screen time, probably the most its had since the Evil Dead films. It's still looking good. I'd say the only negative for me was Drag Me To Hell's reliance on CGI. It wasn't that they were necessarily bad quality, I was just always aware of them. I don't know why they went this route – I would imagine it was more to do with the PG-13 rating than lack of funds – but it made me long for the days of KNB's practical effects. However, supernatural subject matter is a lot easier to pass by the censors, than the stuff we see in slashers and zombie flicks, so I don't think it really hurts it that much. Probably most important, is that Raimi never forgets that we are here to be entertained. There are so few directors out there that can do what he does successfully. I mean the majority of movies I see, I'm just observing them, but with Drag Me To Hell I was IN IT. Last week, I linked to an interview with Sam talking about what he set out to do with this picture;

“I felt that in some really good horror films, like when I saw John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN for the first time, the whole audience was electrified with fear. They were all as one, all terrified and amplifying their fears one on to the next.”

I felt that. By the vibrations on the rail I had my foot on and the kicks to the back of my seat, I could tell that we were all one, and just enjoying the ride. If you're not into this movie after the parking garage scene, then I don't know want to tell you. It was then that I realized that this movie was going to be more Evil Dead 2, than Evil Dead, and I was fine with that. By the time the climax rolls around, it seems like you are almost watching the precursor to a fourth installment. I know Sam Raimi didn't intend it that way, but all the hallmarks were there. I won't spoil them here, but your jaw will open, you will laugh and you will join us. I implore anyone whose even a little bit interested in checking this out to please do so, as Drag Me To Hell is best viewed in a theatre with an audience.

Lastly, all I would like to say is welcome back to horror, Mr. Raimi. We missed you.

Friday, May 29, 2009

I, Raimifan.

Hey folks. Just a quick note to let you know that a guest article I wrote over for Mermaid Heather got posted today. It's a tribute to my boy Sam Raimi. Take a look by clicking here. Thanks be to Heather for asking me to do a tribute post because walking down memory lane was an absolute blast.

Also, check back tomorrow for my review of his new film, Drag Me To Hell.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Screaming For More.

I've nailed down my ticket for tomorrow's midnight show of Drag Me To Hell, so now I'm just watching the clock.

This wallpaper has been staring back at me from my desktop for a few weeks now and the frozen scream of Alison Lohman got me thinking. The screaming victim is a popular theme of coverbox art. And why not? It IS almost exclusive to the genre and probably the most important of a Scream Queen's assets - besides the obvious of course heh heh. Wes Craven even named his nineties slasher franchise after it for crying out loud! So, for this very special Coverbox Wednesday, I tracked some vintage screams for you all to enjoy.

That one's the most famous of all, wouldn't you say? Ol' Alfred sure had a thing for screaming starlets, didn't he?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Riviera Wrap-Up

Another Cannes Film Festival has come and gone and here are some of the tasty genre treats that I'm sure will be coming our way soon.

Park Chan-wook, the man who brought us the deliciously disturbing Vengeance Trilogy, has taken on the horror genre - more specifically the vampire oeuvre - in his newest film Thirst. You can be sure this film will be visually stunning and have some sort of crazy twist hidden up its sleeve somewhere. Thirst came away with the coveted Jury Prize at Cannes this year.

AntiChrist, Lars Von Trier's newest film also played at Cannes last week. Unfortunately, this film was immediately compared to another movie - which I won't reveal here - and in doing so, kind of inadvertently gave away the ending. It would be like if somebody compared a movie to the old Twilight Zone staple 'Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge'. You would naturally surmise that said movie was a moment of death daydream of the main character. Then again, someone told me before I saw Martyrs that the last half was a woman being beaten, and it didn't hurt my viewing experience... didn't HELP it either, but it didn't hurt. Regardless, I'll see AntiChrist of course, because I'm interested in the style glimpsed in the trailer. Plus, as you are probably aware by now, I am a glutton of punishment.

The French film Ne Te Retourne Pas has been given an English title. The Monica Bellucci/Sophie Marceau thriller will henceforth be called Don't Look Back. I'll never tire of seeing Bellucci onscreen. There is no English trailer yet, but those of you who speak French can view it here.

Then, there is Gaspar Noe's new film Enter The Void. This film scares me a little. Okay, a lot. And it's not even a horror film. At least, I don't think it is. I know it comes from the mind of the man who brought us Irreversible, so it will at least be horrifying. I mean, what is the crazy fucker going to do to top the soul destroying depravity of his last film? Well, indication number one was that at the premiere, word came out that Gaspar personally shooed away some kid actors that meant to attend the screening. Indication number two was Colin Geddes' (the programmer of TIFF's Midnight Madness) first tweet after emerging from the theatre began with quintuple expletives. I expect this to be here come September and God help me if I buy a ticket.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Don't Kill The Messenger XIX

Wow, my brain is overflowing with all the news that came out of Cannes this week, but more on that later. For now, here's what caught my eye this week.

Damn, That's Hot!

Some more promo posters for the second season of True Blood appeared online recently. Below, is Miss Paquin steamin' it up. Click here for the rest of the stills, courtesy of Icons Of Fright. The new season begins June 14th on HBO.

Raimi On The Red Carpet.

Just a few more days to go before Sam Raimi's Drag Me To Hell is unleashed on us all. This is an important one for the horror genre folks, and I await it with a mix of excitement, nervousness and anticipation. Wait, are all those the same thing? Oh well, you get the idea. THIS IS A BIG DEAL! Anyway, Bloody Disgusting caught up with Sam at the red carpet premiere this week and here is what he had to say about his return to horror.

"It did remind me of how much I love horror movies. I love building horror suspense sequences. I love the craft as a storyteller of trying to be aware of where the audience is and what they’re expecting – sometimes giving it to them, sometimes giving them something else. I really enjoy playing that game with them…”

To see the whole interview, click here.

More Horrors From The French.

So, in addition to The Horde and The Pack, it looks like we have one more promising French horror flick coming this year. The trailer for Vertige aka High Lane appeared this week. There are no subtitles at this point, but I think you can get the jist. Vertige has been described as a cross between The Descent and Deliverance, so that alone makes me take notice. Well, that and it's French. Check it out below.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Beware Of Crazy Cougars!

I went to a screening of a little eighties horror movie called Night Warning last weekend. As I mentioned previously, I was familiar with the coverbox, but had never seen the actual movie until now.

When Billy’s (Jimmy McNichol) parents are killed in a car crash, his Aunt Cheryl (Susan Tyrell) raises him like he was her own. Only Aunt Cheryl’s feelings for Billy go a bit deeper than parental love and she is willing to do anything to keep him by her side.

Night Warning is a crazy little film. I have to say that I was slack-jawed for some of this movie. I just found the subject matter really… whats-the-word – GROSS! I give full props to Susan Tyrell for inciting this emotion. Her leering glances and escalating psychosis served to make me uncomfortable often. Blood and guts are one thing, but a scenario where a mother feels ‘that way’ about her son is just… ICK! The movie actually gets quite bloody towards the end. It reminded me of Inside a little bit. Obviously, there is nowhere near as much red stuff as that French nerve-shredder, but the similar parade of unfortunates crossing the path of an unstable matriarch recalled it to me. Again, it is Susan Tyrell that keeps this movie on the rails in parts where it could have been a train wreck. I mean sure, there is some camp to be had, but the subject matter kept it from being overly comical – at least to me.

You know what the funny thing is? The biggest villain of the movie isn’t the mother, it’s the investigating cop. She’s the one running around killing people, yet Detective Carlson’s (Bo Svenson) seething hatred of gays – which he believes Billy to be – is the thing that really took me by surprise. I don’t think I’ve seen a bigger homophobe onscreen before. His behaviour becomes outrageous towards the end as the way he carries himself just isn’t acceptable behaviour in this or any age – or at least I hope not. Maybe that shit still goes on down there, I don’t know. After watching the movie, I had a discussion with a few friends about the title. Why is it called Night Warning? It doesn’t really have anything to do with the movie. I mentioned that sometimes different markets retitle movies for whatever reason, but none of the other titles were much better. See for yourself…

-Mrs. Lynch (ok I guess)
-Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (wtf?)
-The Evil Protégé (what protégé?)
-Momma’s Boy (I guess this would be the best one of the bunch)
-Thrilled To Death (huh?)

Lastly, a young Bill Paxton shows up in the movie as one of Billy’s school rivals and Britt Leach appears as the asshole cop’s partner. That means that Night Warning scores a TWO on the scale of people-that-were-in-Weird-Science. That’s reason enough to see it right there!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rise Of The Machines.

All right, so Terminator Salvation blasts into the theatres this week. However, killer machines are not just native to science-fiction. They have on many occasions crossed over into the realm of horror. And why not? The more and more reliant we become on technology, isn't it always in the back of our minds that we would be completely and utterly pooched if one day they decided they weren't going to take it anymore. It was certainly on Jim Cameron's mind when he first created The Terminator twenty-five years ago. This Coverbox Wednesday, I showcase those movies that play with that scenario in some way or another. Whether they be under the control of aliens, demons, a comet or an amorous computer, these machines are going to require more than a visit from the Maytag man to put down. I, for one, welcome our robot overlords.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rethinking My Strategy.

I finished Max Brooks' World War Z this week. A friend of mine lent me the book over a month ago. Darryl had this look in his eye while he was handing it over, as if to say, 'I can't believe you haven't read this yet'. Now I know why, but more on that later. In fact, I never actually READ it. I wanted to, but there it sat indefinitely being pushed back for some movie, event, TV show or video game. I mentioned this to Schwartz at some point and he was kind enough to lend me the audio book. For that I am eternally grateful because not only was I able to get through it at a ravenous pace (mostly during trips to and from Toronto), but the presentation of this was really something special.

So, first off, I now share that look of surprise I'd never read this until now. I mean, sure I knew of World War Z, but I didn't really understand WHAT it was. I thought it was a diary of some guy holed up in a cabin, or maybe a group of survivors ala The Walking Dead. I had no idea that the story was so GLOBAL. It covers every detail of how a zombie apocalypse would play out. I tell you it was chilling. Every single angle, whether it be political, social, economical or militarist, is considered along with every class and creed. As a person who daydreams often about this scenario, it was quite an eye-opener. Max Brooks totally destroyed my theory of heading North and staking claim to a bit of land in Northern Ontario. It never occurred to me that EVERYBODY else would have that idea and that sparse and uninhabited wasteland would become Woodstock pretty quickly. I appreciate the heads-up Maxwell, but man, way to take the fun out of the end of the world! Another impressive thing about the audio re-telling is the stellar voice cast they assembled. Stand-out stories include those told by Mark Hamill (for those who think he has disappeared after Star Wars, rest assured he is making a decent living doing voice-over work – and with good reason), Henry Rollins, Alan Alda, Eamonn Walker, Rob Reiner and Michelle Kholos. I'm actually glad that I first experienced the book this way, because it's so much more effective to hear the different voices, rather than just my own.

This book is spectacular, but you want to know what the icing in the cake is? The vernacular. The way in which the people in these stories speak. They use terms and abbreviations that don't exist in our reality, like referring to the infected as 'Zack', 'Zedheads' and 'Gs' and names for other dangers outside the living dead, like 'quislings' and 'ferrals'. Even references to past events like 'the brushfire wars' serve to add an extra layer of authenticity to the proceedings. I guess the only negative to listening to the book was the abridgment. There are a few bits that were cut for the audio version, but it is a small price to pay I think. I'll give the editors the benefit of the doubt on that one.

I'm definitely going to check out Max Brooks' other work The Zombie Survival Guide now. If it is as definitive as World War Z was, I might just have to keep it under my pillow. Because you just never know.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Yep, Another Bloody List.

This meme of listing your favourite horror films by year has been rattling around the Interwebs for a while now, but this is the first opportunity that I’ve had to squeeze it in. This took some work, as the more rings around the middle you have, the more years you have to account for. For the sake of not dating myself too badly, I began at 1980, for that’s the year I really started watching horror with any regularity. Although anything involving ninjas or Jedis would have likely been tops for me during the early eighties, horror was clearly the genre I most gravitated towards in those formative years.

The rules are pretty loose here. Some of my picks were due to frequency of viewings around that time, some were ones I consider to be the best film-wise and some have special relevance to me. I’ve been a bit liberal with the term ‘horror’ in some parts, as well. A few could technically be considered thrillers, but hey, it’s MY list! There are a few titles that I didn’t see until much later, but put in them in their respective year anyway. You see what I mean? This thing was a lot more complicated than I originally thought. Anyhoo, let’s get this party started.


This is kind of a no-brainer. You will likely see all The Fearsome Fifteen (those that fall into the right time bracket at least) on here, at some point.


Again, this is pretty obvious. If you’ve spent anytime here at The Horror Section, you’ll know that I’m quite fond of this movie. And anything else The Renaissance Boys have birthed for that matter.
Honourable Mention: An American Werewolf In London


If only the whole list was this easy. The Thing is probably one of the (if not THE) greatest remakes of all time. Even twenty-five years plus later, the film still holds up beautifully.


This one is a bit of a shocker I would imagine. However, considering what else was out there and just how MANY times I watched this fucker, it deserved to be here. The funny thing was I didn’t actually see the 3-D version until I was well in my twenties. It was like watching it again for the first time!
Honourable Mention: Videodrome


Once again, this is a pretty easy call. Freddy Krueger was a badass back in the day. The first installment had plenty of imagery to keep you awake at night.


The bleakest of Romero’s zombie flicks and also the one with the most ambitious and difficult gore set pieces. It may be the weakest of the Dead trilogy, but in 1985, it ruled supreme.


Cronenberg comes out on top this year. This is another example that remakes aren’t all bad. Those were some crazy ass creature designs. Brundlefly vomiting on poor John Getz at the end was probably the closest I’ve come to upchucking myself during a flick – well, that and the porridge scene in Bad Taste.


The movie that made Bruce Campbell a legend! I still remember the first time I heard of it. We got a Buffalo TV station up here and the commercial started running during my pre-bedtime ritual of Benny Hill and Bizarre. I didn’t know what it was (I knew nothing of the original Evil Dead at that time), but I knew I wanted to see it. When it finally appeared in my local video store, it was a regular rent for me.
Honourable Mention: Hellraiser


The first Halloween movie I saw in the theatre. My brother took me and we had a blast. When Michael gets wheeled out of the asylum while the amped-up Halloween theme is booming, I was in freakin’ heaven. Unfortunately for the series, it was almost all downhill from here.


This is the first year pickings were a little slim. It’s not that there weren’t movies I liked released this year; it was just that none rose out of the pack. I went with Dead Calm mainly because this is where my love of Nicole Kidman began.
Honourable Mentions: Pet Sematary, Exorcist III


Jacob’s Ladder was a mind fuck that really encapsulated the beginning of the nineties. This was some dark shit. Many similar movies have diluted its effect over the years, but I messed up many a customer with this recommendation back at the video store.
Honourable Mention: Nightbreed


My second favourite movie of all time and one of only three films in history to sweep all major categories at the Oscars. This is a flawless piece of cinema. I got snuck into the Drive-In by my brother and his future wife to see this that year and it was magic.


Candyman made an impact in ’92. Combining the Bloody Mary myth (which had been scaring people for decades) with the imposing presence of Tony Todd made this actually scary. I couldn’t say it five times in the mirror and I had friends who couldn’t sleep after watching it. That poster is one of my favourites, as well.
Honourable Mention: Braindead aka Dead Alive


I LOOOVE this movie. The Julie zombie design – personified by the lovely Mindy Clarke – is one of my favourites in all of horror. Funny thing that I never realized I was watching the rated version until just a few years ago. The extra gore made it all that much better. Did I mention Mindy Clarke is a hottie? Killer tongue and all. Oh wait, that’s a different movie.
Honourable Mention: The Vanishing


I didn’t see Cemetery Man aka Dellamorte Dellamore until much later, but it’s definitely the best movie that came out that year. You will likely find this on most zombiephiles’ top ten lists. It combines the hilarious sensibilities of Jackson & Raimi’s early films with Italian art-house style.
Honourable Mention: Mute Witness


John Carpenter’s love letter to H.P. Lovecraft came out on top for what was frankly a pretty bad year. There were a few watchable flicks, but a LOT of shite, as well. This is probably why next year’s favourite was such a revelation.


Wes Craven & Kevin Williamson gave horror a much-needed shot in the arm in ’96. The genre was stale and Scream changed all that. Sure, it began a new era of self-aware copycats, but it was a small price to pay. The only way to revitalize the slasher was to break it down and build it back up again.
Honourable Mentions: From Dusk Till Dawn, The Frighteners


Event Horizon is a fantastic fusion of science fiction and horror with a great cast and production design. Paul W.S. Anderson has never been able to top this film, but here’s hoping his upcoming similar themed Pandorum will be a return to form.
Honourable Mention: Funny Games


I still remember the first time I watched Ringu. It was 2001 and I was really caught up in the Internet buzz circulating around it. After much searching, I bought a VHS bootleg off Ebay (along with the H6 Producer’s Cut). It was a shitty copy with sound that would cut in and out, but it didn’t diminish the power of it in the least. A friend happened to call me right at ‘that moment’ and I jumped five feet in the air. The Asian horror craze had begun.
Honourable Mention: Halloween H20


Wow, what a huge event this was for the horror genre. It also marked the first time the Internet was REALLY harnessed as a marketing tool. It was ridonkulous how many people thought this was real at the time. It is hard to believe it has been TEN years since I first saw this in the theatre.
Honourable Mention: The Sixth Sense


This was another year that was kind of a dud. Ginger Snaps was near and dear to me because it was Canadian. Not an American film shot in Canada, but an actual Canadian production SET in Canada. It also helped that it was the best tongue-in-cheek werewolf tale to come around since An American Werewolf In London.


This one was a real sleeper that found new life – as many horror flicks do these days – on DVD. If a movie has David Caruso in it and it STILL rocks, then you know it must be good.
Honourable Mentions: The Devil’s Backbone, The Others


This is probably my favourite Asian horror film. The scare set pieces are just so well executed and the narrative is so much more fluent than a lot of its contemporaries.
Honourable Mentions: 28 Days Later, Cabin Fever


For me, this film just gets better and better with age. I know a lot of people bitch about the ending, but I never had a problem with it. This was the beginning of the French new wave explosion that is still with us six years later. I love everything about this movie.
Honourable Mention: Ju-on: The Grudge


This was a tough year to rate because there were a lot of good ones, but nothing really head and shoulders above the rest. I picked Shaun Of The Dead because its self-proclaimed zom-rom-com format tried to do many things and Edgar Wright & company succeeded in pretty much delivering all of them.
Honourable Mention: Open Water


Likely the best horror film of the aughts, this was another that grew from word of mouth. People familiar with director Neil Marshall’s debut Dog Soldiers were looking forward to his sophomore effort, but NOBODY could have expected this intense tour-de-force. This film had seasoned horror fans watching through the cracks of their fingers.
Honourable Mention: Hostel


I was sold on this movie by the brilliant one-sheet alone that completely captures the cat-and-mouse-back-and-forth tone of the film. I could not believe how engaging this dialogue driven, two-character thriller was. It was abundantly clear that firecracker Ellen Page was on the fast track to stardom.
Honourable Mentions: Behind The Mask, The Hills Have Eyes


This one was probably the toughest to call. ’07 was an exceptional year for horror. I went with [REC] because it is just so tight, intense and infinitely watchable. Even though Quarantine (the American remake) is a good watch, I feel it isn't as technically adept as its predecessor.
Just As Good: The Orphanage, Ils, Alone


This Swedish vampire tale was miles above everything else last year. Even with all the hype that came with it, this movie still blew me away with its style and sincerity. I still haven’t been able to rewatch yet it on Blu-ray because of that whole subtitling debacle, but here’s hoping that gets rectified soon.

2009 (so far)

Even though I hope that it is Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell sitting here when all is said and done, the title so far must go to Tom Shankland’s The Children. I guess this is technically a 2008 film, but it hasn’t actually come to our shores from the UK yet, so I’m putting it here. The Children is slick, nasty and really gives the French a run for their money in terms of gore-soaked intensity.

Wow, that was a quite a trip. Now, I better post this sucker, before I change my mind and start shifting things around.