Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wake Wood (2011) Review

Wake Wood opens with a happy family that is celebrating their daughter's birthday. Her father gives her a Gerbil for her birthday and she is so happy. She stops by her father's veterinary clinic to say hello and runs into a rabid dog. The poor little girl doesn't even have a chance to get away, the dog brutally attacks the girl and leaves the couple childless. Patrick and Louise decide to move to the small hamlet of Wake Wood to escape the pain of losing their only child. Wake Wood is dreary, cold, and damp and has some strange locals. The young couple settle in easily enough though. Patrick is the town Veterinarian and Louise opens her own Pharmacy.

While out for a drive late one night, Patrick's car breaks down and they end up walking to a local farm to look for help, where Louise unfortunately witnesses a Pagan ritual by the locals. You see, the town is secretly full of practicing Pagans. The Pagans have an ancient ritual that they use to bring back the recently deceased. Because they like the couple and want them to stay, they offer to bring back their little girl for them. However, there are some very important rules to the ceremony that must be followed exactly. First, they must agree to never leave Wake Wood. Second, the child must have died less than 12 months ago. Third, they only have 3 days and 3 days only to enjoy their daughter's company and say goodbye properly, before they have to bury her again.

There were quite a few moments that reminded me of Pet Sematary so I kept expecting the little girl to turn into a Zombie at any moment, but the character evolved into something even more evil than a simple Zombie. Sort of a cross between Pet Sematary and The Omen, the child came back evil and possessed. It reminded me more of an anthology from 1977 called Dead of Night where a woman uses an ancient ceremony to bring her son back from the dead. Instead of her son, she gets a demon who kills her and laughs while doing it.

Being a Mother myself, I found this movie heart wrenching. Watching an innocent little girl get attacked by a vicious dog and die was only the beginning. I couldn't help but feel sympathy for the couple watching them go through their grieving process. What lengths would any parent go to to bring back a small child that died a tragic and horrific death? Wake Wood has loads of atmosphere and slowly builds the suspense until there is a nice surprise twist at the end of the movie. It's a nice addition to the Hammer library of films, and worth a watch or two.

The Innkeepers (2011) Review

Claire and Luke work at The Yankee Pedlar Inn for the summer, the hotel is believed by many in the area to be one of the most haunted hotels in all of New England. It is the last weekend the Inn will be open for business, so Claire and Luke are the only two employees left to take care of the guests. They are convinced the Inn is haunted by Madeline O'Malley, a bride that hung herself in the hotel after her groom abandoned her, and are determined to get some sort of proof of the ghost on audio or video tape before the Inn closes it's doors for good. Luke has set up a website with pictures and video tape of the Pedlar Inn, but he needs some audio recordings to finish the site. He convinces Claire to do some audio recordings, and she thinks she has made contact with Madeline O'Malley during the night.

Most of the film is filled with dialogue between Luke and Claire, who seem to have great chemistry together. I can remember a few jobs like this one...bored to tears but I enjoyed the company of who I worked with any way. Luke seems to be deeply in love with Claire, even though she doesn't even seem to notice him. Claire is very innocent but determined and brave. Claire even seems more focused on capturing proof of the ghost than Luke does, even though the website was his idea.

The Innkeepers is a Slow-Burn style of movie with lots of time and care given to the characters. Building great characters can lead to building great scares, if the audience cares what is happening to the characters. It can make the movie much more shocking and heartfelt if something tragic happens to them that is unexpected. That is why older films like The Changeling, The Sentinel, and Ghost Story were so effective in the scares, they took their time in building the suspense and the characters. Ti West is attempting to recapture that style of storytelling but in a modern way. The movie is not very scary, there are just a few jump scares, so if you are looking for scary or gory scenes you may not like The Innkeepers. Ti West seems to be one of the few up and coming directors that feels that horror films can take their time building a believable story and likeable characters. I just hope the next film he does packs more of a punch at the end.

What truly makes InnKeepers special is the performances by Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, and Kelly McGillis. The Dvd and BluRay will be released on April 24th and contains Commentary and Behind the scenes special features. InnKeepers is directed by Ti West, who also directed House of the Devil and Cabin Fever 2The Innkeepers will make an excellent addition to your Horror Dvd collection.

The House of the Devil (2009) Review

Samantha is a good girl and probably gets good grades at College. Her roommate at College dorm is lazy, messy, and snores too loud. Samantha desperately wants to get a place to call her own; she finds an apartment that would be perfect for her. All she has to do is come up with $300 for a down payment by Monday and the place is hers. There is only one problem, Samantha only has $84 in her account. She finds a babysitter wanted flyer on Campus and calls for the job. Mr. Ulman calls her back immediately and she accepts the job, she then talks her friend, Megan, into driving her out to the secluded Victorian country home. When Samantha and Megan arrive, Mr. Ulman informs her that he lied on the phone and she will not be babysitting a child, but his elderly Mom instead. He offers her $400 to stay and watch his Mother for four hours. Because she needs the money desperately, she accepts the job and stays against her better judgment. However, Samantha should have listened to her friend, who warned her against staying, because Mr. Ulman is hiding some very big secrets.

The first time I watched House of the Devil, I could have sworn I was watching a movie from the late 70s or early 80s. Every detail is accurate to the 80s...the hair, fashion, the sets, and the music brought me right back to the 80s, as if it were yesterday. Even the way Samantha dances around the house is so typically 80s. The fact that it is about Devil worshipping or Satanism is very 80s also.  Horror movies from the late 70s and early 80s are my favorites of the Horror genre. They tend to have the best stories, suspense, and atmosphere. That Era must also be Ti West's favorite, because he nails the look and feel of the 80s exactly.

This movie is what some might call a slow burn type of Horror Movie, meaning it takes it's time building the characters and the suspense slowly. Unfortunately, most newer genre fans aren't used to this style of Horror Movie, so they may not appreciate the deliberately slow pace.  There are no obvious jump scares or a huge body count.  But there is a fantastic pay off at the end of House of the Devil. It doesn't disappoint with the scares or blood and has a nice twist at the end. The lead actress, Joceline Donahue gives a great performance and there is a cameo by Scream Queen Dee Wallace also.

During the filming of House of the Devil , the cast and crew stayed at the Pedlar Inn, which you might recognize as the hotel in which The Innkeepers was filmed. House of the Devil was Directed by Ti West and stars Joceline Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, and Dee Wallace and is available in Dvd or Bluray.

Terror of Dracula (2012) Review

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a tale of Terror and Horror.  The original Vampire, Count Dracula, was neither sparkly, romantic, nor even erotic in any way.  Dracula was a true Monster in every sense of the word.  He fed on the blood, or life force of his victims.  He crept into the bedrooms of his victims, not to merely watch them sleep, but to drain them of blood.  He would entrance them in a spell so that they were unable to break free of his hold.  Like any supernatural Monster, he is extremely difficult to kill and must be staked through the heart and then be-headed.

Most of us know the story of Dracula very well, Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania to secure a real estate deal for his law firm.  He arrives at Dracula's Castle and has a meal with Dracula that night.  Harker ends up being seduced and almost killed by Dracula's Brides, before escaping and ending up in a Hospital.  Count Dracula hires a ship to take him to Englund, but when the ship arrives it has no one still alive on board.  Dracula then entrances and turns Lucy into a vampire and then turns his attention towards Mina, Jonathan Harker's fiance.  Dr. Van Helsing is called in to save Mina from the clutches of the Vampire, Count Dracula.

Independent Canadian Filmmaker and Actor Anthony D.P. Mann grew up watching and appreciating the classic Gothic Films from Hammer Studios and Jess Franco Films from the 60s and 70s.  After filming Sherlock Holmes and the Shadow Watchers,  Mann was presented with an opportunity to make the movie he has always wanted to make…Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  Being a lifelong fan of the productions from Hammer, he wanted to recreate the look and feel of a Dracula film from that time period.
Terror of Dracula accurately tells the story from Bram Stoker’s novel in loving detail.  Any parts of the story that were left out, were done so because of budgetary constraints.  There are no CGI special FX or even exceptional practical FX or Make-up to be found in Terror of Dracula.  It was filmed on a very small budget of less than $20,000  in Kingston, Ontario.  Most of the sets and backdrops are of the historic Fort Henry in Kingston, Ontario.  Which is a large military fortress built in 1832 to protect Canada from the threat of invasion by the United States after the War of 1812.    Fort Henry made a very nice version of Dracula's castle with it's stone walls and large Gothic doors.   Terror of Dracula made it's world premiere at Shock Stock in London Ontario.   What makes the film stand out are the exceptional performances by the cast.   Anthony Mann stars as the Prince of Darkness himself, Count Dracula and the lovely Denise Wedge as Mina.

Being a fan of the Classic Gothic Horror films from the 60s and 70s myself, I can really appreciate the way Anthony Mann tried to reproduce the look and feel of Hammer on his limited budget.  I think he succeeded in creating a great film that honours the original films.  Terror of Dracula has the makings to become a cult film in the future.  I am looking forward to seeing what he does next…Perhaps Frankenstein or the Phantom of the Opera would be great choices.

Dark Shadows (2012) Review

Dark Shadows was a daily soap opera written in the tradition of a Gothic novel that ran from 1966 to 1971 starring Jonathan Frid as Barnabus Collins. There were over 1200 episodes and the motion picture, House of Dark Shadows, was released in 1970. There was an attempt to revive the series in prime time during the 90s but it only lasted for 12 episodes before the Gulf War pre-empted it.
The Superstar Duo, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, team up yet again in the newest version of Dark shadows, this time adding the look and style of Tim Burton to the Dark Shadows world. Johnny Depp stars as Barnabus Collins along side Michelle Pfieffer, Eva Green, and Helena Bonham Carter. Dark Shadows is wonderfully Gothic and stylish with lush sets and beautiful scenery.

The movie starts off with telling the back story of Barnabus Collins and how he came to be a vampire. He moved with his parents to the new world to establish a shipping business which made the family very wealthy. Barnabus had a brief affair with Angelique, the chamber maid, when he was young. He ended the affair when he found his true love, Josette Dupres.  They were very happy together and were planning to be married. Angelique was secretly a witch, however, and cast a spell on Josette, promptly sending her toppling over the cliff to her death. Barnabus was so heartbroken that he followed her over the Cliff but instead of dying, he turned into a vampire. Angelique had cursed him to live all eternity as a vampire as payback for breaking her heart. Angelique then convinced the village that he was a monster and they trapped him in a coffin wrapped in chains and buried him deep in the woods.  He lay there undiscovered for 196 years, until a construction crew accidentally uncovered him.  He is set free and returns to the Collins family home only to discover it is now 1972, and Barnabus has to catch up on the last 200 years.

Dark Shadows is the typical Tim Burton movie filled with Gothic sets, lush costumes, and fantastic character actors.  I really enjoyed the movie up until about halfway through, then it seems to lose its way. It's as if there are too many characters to introduce and not enough time to do it.  Basically it is all style and no substance with too much comedy.  That being said, there are some real highlights in the movie, also.  There is one scene with Johnny Depp, Christopher Lee, and Jackie Earle Haley all sitting at a table together.  The Horror Geek in me started having a nerdgasm.  I was thinking,  ok so....Dracula, Edward Scissorhands, and Freddy Krueger all walk into a bar together...   The other part of the film I really enjoyed, besides Johnny Depp's performance, was the music from the 70s.  There was music from The Moody Blues, Black Sabbath, Iggy Pop, Donovan, and even a performance by Alice Cooper.

So, if you want to see a fun, light-hearted version of Dark Shadows, you will enjoy the new movie.   But, I highly recommend checking out the the 1970 movie version, House of Dark Shadows, featuring Jonathan Frid as Barnabus Collins, if you haven't seen it.  Also, the 90s TV version is available on Netflix instant stream right now and features Scream Queen, Barbara Steele as Dr. Julia Hoffman.

Cabin in the Woods (2012) Review

As a long time Horror fan I am very familiar with some of the cliche plot lines of the Horror Genre. many of us recognize this plot?... Five College kids including a Jock, a Stoner, a Slut, a Brainy Guy, and a Sweet Virgin all climb into an old RV and decide to go stay at relative's secluded cabin in the woods by a serene lake. They drive a long time to get to the remote cabin and only find one gas station on the way, where the creepy old owner warns them not to go to the cabin? The truth is the Horror Genre is full of cliche plots like this, but as fans we ignore the obvious and inevitable tired storyline, just hoping for some witty dialogue and creative death scenes. Don't worry Cabin in the Woods is filled with plenty of witty dialogue and thrills any Horror fan will love.

Cabin in the Woods is written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, who worked together before on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Whedon and Goddard know the Horror Genre well and pay tribute to it with several references to the films we all know and love. It would be easy and really fun to name off all the film references found in Cabin, but then I would be ruining all the fun for you. Whedon and Goddard are able to poke fun at Horror cliches and at the same time explain why the characters in our favorite movies always seem to do the most stupid things over and over again. I haven't seen a film so obviously poke fun at the Horror Genre since Wes Craven's Scream came out. This movie is not just a simple parody like Scream, but has a whole lot more to offer. Cabin doesn't just make fun of the cliches, but actually explains why they are there in the first place. My best advice is to avoid any kind of spoilers before going to see Cabin in the Woods, even the Trailer gives away too much information in my opinion.

The main thing I loved about Cabin in the Woods was just how Whedonesque it was. It was like Joss Whedon thought "What sort of film can I make for my fans that they will love?" and then proceeds to put in everything his fans loved about all his previous TV shows and movies into the film. I have been a huge fan of Joss Whedon since the very first Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie came out starring Donald Sutherland. I have watched all his TV shows and movies faithfully when they were on, so I was thrilled with all the references to Buffy and Angel and the familiar faces from the TV shows. Make sure to do your homework by watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse before going to see Cabin, so you enjoy all the subtle references about them. Even if you haven't seen all of Joss Whedon's previous work you will love all the Horror movie easter eggs and the layers that were added to the typical slasher plot.

This movie is pretty much a love letter to the Horror fan. Cabin is so clever that you will probably never watch a Horror film the same way again. It somehow adds a whole new layer to the entire Genre. In a Genre, that is filled with Found Footage and Torture Porn lately, this movie was a breath of fresh air and I really hope up and coming filmmakers will take notice. Maybe Cabin will start a whole new subgenre of smart, witty, and creative films that will bring Horror back to the fun filled days of the 80s films? I know, I know, I am just wishing and dreaming...but it could happen, right?

Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971) Review

Some very wealthy and beautiful women are being murdered in Rome.  The Rubber gloved killer wears a Black Trench Coat and a Black Fedora to hide their identity while murdering their victims.  The killer also has a very unique way of killing the victims.  First, they are stuck in the back of the neck with a hat pin that has poison on it, which paralyzes them.  The paralyzed victim then is helpless as the Killer disembowels them.  They are fully awake and aware of what is being done to them, but they can not move to escape.

Inspector Tellini is in charge of the murder investigation and goes to see a scientist about how the women are being drugged.  He shows him a Wasp and a Tarantula fighting and explains that the Wasp will win every fight because it injects the Tarantula with a paralyzing venom and then rips open it's stomach, much like the Fedora wearing Killer.

After consulting with and arresting the Scientist on a unrelated charge,  he turns his attention to a Spa that caters to wealthy women.  It seems all of the victims were being black mailed before they died.  He decides to interview all the employees to try and find a suspect, but no real leads come to him.

At one of the victim's crime scene, an unexpected tape shows up that leads Tellini to believe the killer has turned his attention toward his own family.  He feels his wife is in real danger from the Killer, and tries to protect her by leaving the police force.

This Giallo was written by a woman, Lucille Laks, and has much more depth to the characters than the usual Giallo.  Tellini, the detective, comes across a very loving husband who is just trying to save the lives of the victims.  The Killer is one of the most sadistic in the Giallo genre, but it doesn't rely on gore to portray this.  My only real complaint about Black Belly of the Tarantula is that it was far too easy to guess who the Killer was.  Like most Giallos, there is plenty of nudity and sex scenes.  The opening scene alone is very sexy.  And there are 3, count them, 3 Bond Girls (Barbara Bouchet, Barbara Bach, and Claudine Auger) in this film!  What more could you ask for in a Giallo?


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Blood and Black Lace (1964) Review

The Models are dying sudden violent and gruesome  deaths at the Fashion House of Christian. There is a fashion show scheduled on a stormy night and one of the models arrives late.   On her way in, Isabella, is attacked by a masked Killer who wears a Black Trench Coat and Black Gloves.  Isabella is found bloody and very dead shortly later in a closet by the owner of the Fashion House, Madame Como.  She phones the police and an investigation into the murder is started.

 One of Isabella's friends and Fellow Models finds her diary and tries to take it home, but it is stolen before she can read it,  she is followed and attacked by our masked friend again.  The stolen diary is then taken home by another Model and she tries to burn the diary in whole to hide the terrible secrets written about her.  She is unfortunately followed by the black gloved killer and meets a very grisly death also.

 Soon, the police start rounding up the usual suspects in order to stop the murders.  But the bodies keep piling up because there is more to this mystery than it seems.  Fashion Models start disappearing left and right with no trace and it's all because Isabella's diary has gone missing.

 Blood and Black Lace is full of gory and shocking death scenes.  The bathtub scene and hot stove scene in particular are quite grisly to watch, especially for the 60s.  It must have seemed quite shocking at the time.  The film is directed by Mario Bava, who is well known for the classic horror films Black Sunday, The Whip and the Body, Black Sabbath,  and Twitch of the Death Nerve.

 Blood and Black Lace is one of the earliest Giallos, an Italian murder mystery film, and one that certainly influenced later films like it.  It almost plays out like a modern Slasher with a very high body count and uses the killers point of view throughout the murders.  Blood and Black lace is one of the most stylish, entertaining, and beautiful Giallos from a masterful director in his prime.  The 60s French Fashion World is a nice and surprising visual contrast to the violent gory death scenes.  The Models are all stunning and very en-vogue in their 60s Fashion and there is a good mystery to solve as well, making this film such a pleasure to watch all the way through.

Welcome to My New Horror Blog!

I love watching Horror Movies and have decided to commit to watching a Horror Movie A Day.  I know that sounds crazy huh?  But Horror Movies have always been a guilty pleasure of mine so it's not that hard to do.  I love all that the Genre has to offer...From Psychological Thrillers and  Monster Movies to Cheesy 80s movies. My favourites are the Hammer Films from the 50s to 70s starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.  As I watch movies daily I will post my ratings and thoughts here as well as on Twitter.

Just to warn anyone who might follow my blog, I am a bonafide  Horror Freak, meaning that I pretty much only watch and blog about that genre.  Occasionally I will watch Action and SciFi also, but  I pretty much stick the Horror Genre.

My goal is to start writing more Movie Reviews as I watch as well.  You can see most of my Reviews posted on    I also put together Top Tens for HM as well, but I am new to the blogging world.  So here goes nothing, this should be fun...