Return to House on Haunted Hill: Not a Movie Review

I rented Return to House on Haunted Hill with the intent of reviewing it on the site. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to finish the movie yet. This is not only because I'm busy, but also because I can't bring myself to spend the time to finish it. If you saw the original remake and thought the direct to video sequel might be a fun time, let me be the first to tell you it isn't. It's really not worth the rental, although it might be passable if you happen to catch it on cable. Either way, I'm not sure if a full review is coming or not. I may move on to a more deserving movie instead of bitching more about this one. Shrug. We'll have to see how the week finishes up.
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Diary of the Dead: Movie Preview

So, apparently, the next George A. Romero zombie flick, Diary of the Dead, is getting a wide theatrical release this Friday, February 15th, 2008. I'm a bit surprised because I normally have a pretty good idea of upcoming genre films and this one completely flew under the radar. I have no idea how this could have happened, especially because I'd consider myself a big, longtime fan of Romero's Dead series (Yes, including Land of the Dead. Charlie was awesome).

The only reasons I could come up with for this oversight are thus:
  • I've been really busy.
  • I haven't been watching any TV pretty much since the Writer's Strike started (although that's officially over now- yay!)
  • The advertising budget for this film must be about nil.
It's sad that the next film from one of the genre's greats is being set up to pass by relatively unnoticed by the general movie going crowd. Given the amount of buzz I've been hearing (again, about nil), if this movie breaks the Top 5 for Box Office this weekend, I'll be stoked. I certainly hope it does better business than that though, because I'd like Mr. Romero to keep making movies until he dies (and even after, if Zombie Romero can still hold a camera).

I also kind of feel like any casual movie-goer is going to dismiss Diary as a cheap Cloverfield knockoff, given the closeness in release dates and similarities in camera-style. I'd like to think that the first person film format was given a boost in the arm by Cloverfield, but so many detractors have voiced their opinions that I can't help but suspect this negative rub will mean bad things for a smaller film like Diary. I suppose the good news is that the movie was shot on a real small budget so any business at all should guarantee the film churns a profit.

If you're a horror fan, you should go see this film. I haven't seen it yet, so I can't comment on the quality of the film, but horror, real horror, needs a boost right now. Hollywood needs to be shown that old school horror is still profitable. Financial persuasion is the only way we won't be watching bad remakes of J-horror starring no-talent actresses for the next 3 years (I'm looking at you, The Eye).

And, hey, it's George Romero, so even if it sucks you know there's going to be a few good shots of zombie gore.
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The Burning: Movie Review

Today we mark our first foray into the wide wilderness that is old school horror. On the chopping block is the oft whispered about slasher flick, The Burning. There is a lot of history tied to this film, and was one of many films banned by the British Board of Film Classification in the mid-1980's. It was the first film produced by Harvey Weinstein whom would go on to create Miramax and The Weinstein Company. It starred then unknown talent Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens, and Holly Hunter. The special effects were done by industry great Tom Savini, just following his work on the original Friday the 13th.

The film has garnered a bit of notoriety over the years, thanks to an especially brutal raft massacre scene that takes place in broad daylight. The notoriety has no doubt doubled for the simple reason that the movie has long been out of print, rarely even playing on late night TV horror fests. As such, although I've heard great things about this film, I'd never been able to view it for myself. However, thanks to Anchor Bay and the glorious technological advances afforded us by DVD, The Burning is available for consumption once more.

The film takes place at a common 80's slasher setting, a summer camp in the middle of the woods. We meet a group of young boys that wish to seek revenge against the crusty old camp caretaker, Cropsy. Okay, so the caretaker isn't that old or crusty, but I like the ring of it. At any rate, the revenge prank goes severely south and old Cropsy ends up severely burned, hence the title of the flick.

Cut to 5 years later and the horribly disfigured, shadow dwelling, trench coat wearing Cropsy is released from the hospital. We're not exactly sure why the hospital is releasing this particular patient as there appear to be some unresolved psychotic tendencies. In fact, the doctors can clearly be heard saying via voice-over "We know you still resent those kids for what happened, but try not to think about tracking them down one by one and murdering the little bastards." Okay, so that's not the line word for word, but it might as well be. At any rate, Cropsy gets out of the hospital and kills a hooker. Not exactly sure why, but hey, that's show business for ya.

Next we jump to the summer camp and get acquainted with a new group of kids, one of which is Jason Alexander (with HAIR!). Also, one of the kids responsible for burning the caretaker five years before is now a counselor at the camp. More importantly, the camp is apparently now co-ed because there is a lot of old fashioned 80's T&A on display. Cropsy quickly find his way to the camp and gets with the dispatching of these wicked, sex crazed young folk. The first set of boobs (Not the prostitute's. Go figure) make their entrance around twenty minutes into the film, concurring with the film's first red herring.

From there, we have approximatey forty more red herrings in a row. Seriously. The first death (not counting the prostitute) occurs about 45 minutes in. In this scene, we're treated to several sequences of full frontal nudity as teenage girl wanders the forest looking for her clothes which were stolen while she was skinny dipping. Whew. Do not try such long and convoluted sentences at home, kids. This sequence deserves some recognition as it contains more nudity than most other films from this era. Props.

The next thing of interest that occurs is the aforementioned raft massacre scene. A group of 6 or so kids attempting to escape via raft are cut to ribbons by the shear-wielding maniac. Again, some recognition is deserved as no other 80's slasher with a scene containing this level of unflinching brutality comes to mind. Also, the fact that this attack happens in broad daylight, with a group of character that hasn't done something stupid like split up, shows smart, inventive writing on the part of the screenwriter.

The third defining moment of this film is the climax, which consists of a fairly boring, overly-prolonged chase sequence. The reason this is a defining moment is because the character is peril is not your slasher standard teenage girl. No, there are two characters in peril and they are both male. I'm not sure if the writer was consciously avoiding genre cliches or not, as I'm not sure a strong genre formula had been established at the time this film was made. Either way, again, props.

That's not to say the movie is above criticism. The film takes too long to get to the killing. There's an abundance of day-for-night shots so you can never tell what time of day it's supposed to be in the film. Some of the kills could be call repetitive (not by me though). None of the characters are particularly likable. You only see the horribly burned caretaker for a grand total of 30 seconds. The climactic chase is boring. Etc.

All that said, if you're a gore hound or a slasher junkie, it's worth checking out. There's a lot of history, some real smart scripting, and the raft scene is something no horror fan should go without seeing (although, in retrospect, it's not all that gory). Anchor Bay has done good in resurrecting this film. I can only hope some other wayside fallen gems can get the same treatment in the future.

The Bottomline: If you're a genre fan, consider this film mandatory viewing. For casuals, you might be better served rewatching Friday the 13th. Either way, recommended. 3 Bruces.

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The Tripper: Movie Review

The Tripper is the directorial debut of David Arquette, husband of Courtney Cox, star of several fun horror b-movies movies including the Scream Trilogy and Eight Legged Freaks, and former WCW Heavy Weight Champion (really). Considering his involvement in the independent film scene I figured he'd have a good handle on how to make a fun, low budget slasher flick.

Boy was I wrong.

The movie is pretty much a train wreck from start to finish. The biggest problem turns out to be Arquette himself. I don't have many complaints about his direction. Arquette seems to do a passable job, keeping the camera moving and composing interesting shots and angles. My biggest issue is the writing.

The story surely sounds interesting. A young boy, Gus, growing up in the late 1960's has the Reagan pro-war rhetoric bombarded into his little brain until an incident involving a pack of (literally) tree hugging hippies ends with bloodshed. Cut to 40 years later and a group of drugged up hippies are heading out into the middle of nowhere to attend a Woodstock-like music festival. The young boy has grown into mentally disturbed man and the presence of all these hippies drives him over the egde. Donning a nice, pressed suit and casting a striking resemblance to the late former President, Gus takes to the woods to make those hippy bastards pay, spouting clever Reagan-esque quips along the way.

Like I said, it sounds good. I, for one, love a little socio-politcal commentary in my horror flicks from time to time. George Romero was a genius at this game. David Arquette, not so much. The first problem? None of the characters are likable. The drugged up hippies are one dimensional stereotypes in the worst possible way. They literally have no purpose in the film other than show up, do drugs, and die. All of the non-hippy characters are portrayed as deep south red neck hicks who do nothing but make life miserable for the hippies. Even the sheriff assigned to provide protection at the event doesn't believe the hippies when the shit hits the fan because he dismisses them as drugged up idiots. Simply put, there isn't a single intelligent, likable character in the movie.

The other problem I have is that the killer's motives just don't make any sense. He's clearly supposed to be a caricature of Ronald Reagan. This being the case, you would expect the character to carry some heavy ideological ideals. You know, kill with a purpose. Myself, I expected that the killer would focus on killing hippies and he'd make a point of leaving the conservatives alone. Not so. The killer is surrounded by the liberal hippies and the conservative red necks and kills each indiscriminately. In fact, he kills a rather large number of red necks around the midpoint of the film, without any rhyme or reason. Later in the film, the sheriff is asked "What do you think [the killer] is after?" The reply, delivered with what I suppose was supposed to be stylized action bravado, is, "Hippies." Apparently David Arquette didn't watch the movie he was writing because, for this line to make any sense, the killer would have to of followed a basic rule set up to this point in the movie, which he hasn't.

So as not to sound all negative, the movie does have a pretty massive massacre scene towards the end where old Reagan goes postal on a huge crowd of hippies. The body count throughout the entire movie is pretty high too, although almost all are dispatched via an ax. The massacre would be more impressive if the special effects weren't so plain jane. I've seen better gore in movies shot by a bunch of teenagers on 16mm celluloid.

Tie all of this together and you're left with a real yawner of a film. The kills are repetitive, there's no suspense, and the characters are all annoying. To top it all off, despite the premise, there's not even a cohesive socio-political message delivered by the film other than "Reagan was the bad." Sorry Dave, you're just going to have to try harder next time.

The Bottomline: David Arquette has crafted a pretty average slasher flick. The sheer novelty of watching a Ronald Reagan look-alike dispatch hippies is all it's got going for it. The Tripper isn't unwatchable, it's just not very good. 1 Bruce.

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The Eye 2: Gastrointestinal Fortitude - Sequel Spoof

"Former concert violinist and receiver of a double corneal transplant Sydney Wells (Jessica Alba) has seen death and survived. Now, after a horrible hot dog eating accident, she will feel death. In her bowels. After a partial intestine replacement surgery, Sydney begins to feel dark and mysterious hunger pangs and stomach rumblings unlike any she's ever experienced before. Forced to constantly gorge herself with Twinkies and Double Cheeseburgers to satiate these unholy urges, she gains pound after pound. The weight quickly overcomes the girl's small frame and her mobility becomes restricted to that of a wheelbarrow pushed by small person actor Verne Troyer. Now its become a race against the clock to receive gastric bypass surgery before the additional weight causes her rib cage to collapse! All this exciting action and more can be seen in the terrifying sequel to the 2008 smashhit! The Eye 2: Gastrointestinal Fortitude"

Coming Soon - 2010
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Today's post is not today's post

There is a new post today, but I didn't want to have it at the top of the main page as it contains an image of the Cloverfield Monster, so Spoiler Warning! The post can be found by clicking on the following link,: CAUTION! CLOVERFIELD SPOILER AHEAD

It's a cool piece of imagery, taken directly from the Cloverfield poster. Turns out, after months and months of speculation, the monster is actually on the poster, in plain view. Take a look if you want, but don't say I didn't warn you about the spoilers.

Also, I'm cleaning up the main page a bit by having less old posts display on it. You can still view older posts using the Archive Navigation Links (Under the heading "Previous Musings") on the right side of the page. 'Tis all for now.
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