Sunday, January 27, 2013

Monster Mary's Top 15 Halloween Horror Movies

Fall is by far my favourite season of the year.  Here are just a few of the reasons why...Walking my dog is much more enjoyable with colourful fall leaves fluttering all around, I can wear cozy sweaters and boots once again, I can get away with wearing my little bat necklace and nobody thinks I'm weird (well...they still kind of do), I can talk about Horror movies and my Non-Horror friends join in the conversation, Toronto Zombie Walk  is right around the corner, Starbucks is serving their Pumpkin Spice Lattes again (Yummy!),  and Halloween decorations fill all my favourite stores and take over every square inch of my house.

However the absolute best part about October is watching all my favourite Horror movies with friends leading up to Halloween night.  Long evenings spent with a glass of red wine and scary movies fill my weekends.  Not all of these films are truly Horror but I do have a special place in my heart for all of them.   I don't necessarily have an order in which to enjoy these films, I just try to squeeze them all in every October as best I can.

15- Halloween Tree (1993)-  
I have a love affair going on with Ray Bradbury right now.  I just finished watching his anthology TV show The Ray Bradbury Theatre a few weeks ago, if you haven't seen it yet I highly recommend it!  All his stories are fantastic, a nice  Scifi and Horror mix to the series.    Halloween Tree was a made for TV animated special that is narrated by Bradbury and stars Leonard Nimoy.  I love how the origins of Halloween are explained by the characters.

14- Satan's Little Helper (2004)- 
A low budget black comedy about a serial killer wearing a mask that befriends a small boy obsessed with a video game called Satan's Little Helper.  The boy thinks that his favourite character has come to life and that all the murders are make believe.  It takes him a while to realize that Satan is actually killing people, but by then it is too late to stop him.

13- Night of the Demons (1988)-
Late on All Hallow's Eve, a group of rowdy teenagers get together for an all night party at the local abandoned funeral parlour.  However during the course of the evening all the girls start to turn into Demons.  This 80s movie is best known for the scene involving Linnea Quigley and a tube of lipstick.  However my favourite scene is the one where Angela is dancing in front of the fireplace.

12- Ginger Snaps (2000)- 
A very unique take on the Werewolf tale about two outcast teenage Gothy Girls going through puberty.  The two girls have a morbid fascination with all things death including artsy photography depicting their own violent demise.  Ginger is accidentally bitten by a Werewolf on the night of her first period that coincides with the Full Moon.   She soon starts to slowly evolve into a terrifying Werewolf that is bloodthirsty for Human flesh.  The movie ends with a Halloween dance at the High School.

11- Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)-
A mentally challenged man named Bubba  is wrongly accused of a small girl's death.  Hiding from the angry small town mob, he dresses as a scarecrow in the field to avoid them but the lynch mob finds him finds and kills him anyway.   Realizing too late that  Bubba was actually trying to save the girl, the mob try to cover up his death.  That isn't the end of this tragic tale because his spirit returns to seek revenge on those who wronged him.  Dark Night of the Scarecrow is one of the better made for TV Horror movies of the 80s.

10- Pumpkinhead (1988)- 
Pumpkinhead stars Lance Henriksen as a grieving Father, Ed Harley, that wants revenge for the death of his young son.  Ed Harley's need for Revenge sends him to consult a Witch that can conjure up a Demon that will kill anyone who had a part in his son's death.  However, Ed soon realizes he has made a terrible mistake conjuring Pumpkinhead and now he will pay for his mistake dearly.  Pumpkinhead is a very dark and Gothic tale, but what makes this Revenge Slasher stand out from other movies of the time is the excellent performance by Lance Henriksen as a grieving father and the amazing Creature design by Stan Winston.

9- May (2002)- 
May is a shy and introspective girl that had a tragic childhood because of her over bearing and suffocating Mother.   May has grown into a very strange woman who is extremely lonely and seeking the perfect companion.  Every person that she meets never quite lives up to her expectations, even though she finds at least one thing special about them.  In the end, May is determined to find a perfect friend even if she has to make one for herself!

8- The Crow (1994)- 
On Devil's Night Eric Draven, played by Brandon Lee to perfection, and his fiancĂ© are celebrating their upcoming wedding when they are viciously attacked and killed by a local gang.  One year later a Crow taps on Draven's tombstone and he is awakened to exact his revenge on the men that killed him and his fiancĂ©.   Deliciously Gothic and beautiful to watch, The Crow is one of my go to favourites for the Halloween season.

7- The Lady in White (1988)-
On Halloween night a young boy witnesses a murder of a young girl that happened many years before.  The Girl's Ghost and the boy become fast friends while he helps her search for her long lost mother.  The Lady in White is filled with tragedy and is a classic Ghost story filled loads of atmosphere.  It seems like a simple children's film at first but there is so much more to it than that.

6- Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)-
Ray Bradbury's classic tale of  an evil man named Mr. Dark and his Carnival that can make your fondest wishes come true but usually with a terrible price attached to it.  Disney might have thought they were making a children's film, However Something Wicked This Way Comes is decidedly dark and filled with the usual Bradbury symbolism and allegory.  I read somewhere that Bradbury had wanted Mr. Dark to be played by Christopher Lee, but Disney rejected the idea because of budget concerns.  No offense to Jonathan Pryce, but oh how I would have loved Lee in that role!

5- Sleepy Hollow (1999)-
Tim Burton's version of the classic tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.  I love everything about this film... It's Gothic scenery and fashion, The typical cast of Burton characters, How terrifying it is when the Horseman is chasing someone, and of course the way Johnny Depp portrays the timid and often frightened Ichabod Crane.  If you are not a Burton fan like I am, you might also appreciate the Disney version...The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949)

4- Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982)-  
The third movie in the Halloween franchise is very unique in that there is no sign of Michael Myers in it.  Instead, it is actually a thriller about a Halloween Mask factory that is secretely run by an evil male Witch that wishes to kill all the children he can.  Why does this movie get such a bad rap?  So what if Michael Myers is not in it?  it is still an excellent 80s thriller starring Tom Atkins in one of his best roles! (I loved him Night of the Creeps also).  And it even has it's own catchy little theme song!

3- Trick R Treat (2007)-  
A fantastic anthology of Halloween related stories all set on the same Halloween night in a small town.  I love how well all the stories are woven together with only Sam being the common denominator.   It is the perfect Horror movie to watch on Halloween, and then I dare you to go take down your decorations on Halloween night after watching it...  My only wish is that they would make a sequel and turn Sam into a Horror Icon!

2-  Dracula (1931)-
"Listen to them, Children of the Night...What Music they make"   Dracula is directed by Tod Browning and stars the iconic Bela Lugosi as Dracula.  What better way to spend a Halloween night than with Dracula?  Hmm.... maybe follow it with Frankenstein?  No other film is as classically Gothic and true Horror than Dracula.  Before Lugosi, Vampires were fiendishly scary monsters (Max Schreck in Nosferatu).  He was the first gentleman Vampire that made the ladies swoon in fear and lust.  However Lugosi is not my favourite actor to portray Dracula, that place is held for Christopher Lee in Horror of Dracula.

1- Halloween (1978)-
What Halloween night would be complete without a viewing of this classic Horror film while handing out candy to the Trick or Treaters!  John Carpenter's Halloween is about Michael Myers, a Psychotic killer, that is institutionalized at the age of six on Halloween night for killing his older sister.  At the age of 23, he escapes the Mental Hospital and returns to the hometown where he killed his family long ago.  Donald Pleasance plays Michael's Psychiatrist that is trying frantically to save any innocent people he can from Michael and his knife.   Halloween is full of suspense and has one of the most iconic Horror characters of all time.

I should also mention a few Fall favorites that are not Horror movies but I always watch them this time of year none the less...Practical Magic, Beetlejuice,  Hocus Pocus, and Nightmare Before Christmas are always a must watch in the Fall!

Monster Mary's Top Ten Christmas Horror Movies

To most people Christmas is about spending time with friends and family, shopping for that perfect gift for a loved one, or perhaps making the perfect Christmas Dinner for special guests.  That all sounds like a lot of fun, but if you are a Horror fan it is also about sitting down to watch a few serial killing Santa Clauses, little green cackling Gremlins, and maybe even a homicidal Snowman.
Check out my Top Ten Christmas movies to get you into the Christmas spirit...

10. Jack Frost (1996)

On the way to his execution, Serial Killer Jack Frost is killed when his transportation truck crashes.  Jack is resurrected and turned into a Snowman by a chemical spill.   Let's face it Jack Frost is a really terrible movie, but it is also pretty funny.  The deaths are really creative and over the top especially the bathtub scene with Shannon Elizabeth.  Besides what says Holiday Cheer more than a homicidal serial killing Snowman!

9.  Dead End (2003)

On Christmas Eve a dysfunctional family decide to take a short cut in order to get to their relatives house a little faster.  Instead they end up living the nightmare before Christmas on an endless road to nowhere.  A Lady in White appears and slowly the family is killed one by one.  Then a mysterious driver in a large black antique car takes them away.  Dead End is very creepy and effective Thriller.  Dead End is a low-budget film that is well written with a fantastic cast including Lyn Shaye.

8.  Santa's Slay (2005)

A not so jolly Old Saint Nick is out for revenge against an angel that beat him in a curling contest long ago so he slays everyone and anyone he comes in contact with.  It is a rare and magical thing to find a movie that is so bad that it is actually good.  I am not saying that it is a great movie by any means, but it is a good bad movie!  There are many flaws but a movie where Santa burns and drowns Fran Drescher can't be all that bad!

7.  Don't Open 'till Christmas (1984)

Who doesn't love a good cheesy slasher from the 80s?  Don't Open 'Till Christmas has all the typical 80s slasher components...bad 80s hair and fashion, an 80s synth score, nudity, and bad acting.   From the makers of Pieces, Don't Open 'Till Christmas won't let slasher fans down.  It is filled with lots of good gory deaths...14 in fact, including a Santa Claus castration!

6.  Christmas Evil (1980)

Christmas Evil AKA You Better Watch Out is about a young boy that gets traumatized by seeing santa Claus and his mother sharing more than just a kiss on Christmas eve.  For whatever reason this triggers him to become obsessed with all things Christmas.  He even keeps a Naughty and a Nice list of the neighborhood kids.  Harry eventually goes off the deep end and leaves a bloody trail behind him on his Christmas rampage.  Yet, somehow you still feel a little sorry for Harry, because he just wants everyone to be as crazy about Christmas as he is!

5.  Tales From the Crypt (1972)

Joan Collins plays the disgruntled housewife that kills her husband in cold blood on Christmas Eve.  Little does she know that an escaped homicidal maniac in a santa suit is on the loose!   Amicus anthology movies are always enjoyable and Tales From the Crypt does not disappoint.  All through the House is the first story in the anthology.  Also Tales From the Crypt TV Series did a gorier and more comedic remake.  Both versions are just right for the Christmas Season!

4.  Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

An archeological dig turns up the long-lost "real" Santa.  This isn't the Jolly Old Elf in a red suit but the darker and more sinister Krampus that kidnaps naughty little children and eats them.  Rare Exports is a very dark Comedy set in Finland that is definitely not intended for the kiddies.   It is definitely one of my new holiday favourites!

3.  Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Next up is another Evil Santa that was traumatized by what he saw as a small child.  He witnesses his family being brutally slaughtered by a madman dressed as Santa Claus.  When Billy grows up he goes crazy and kills people with his axe at Christmas time.  Silent Night Deadly Night was blasted by the media when it came out in 1984.
The Parent Teacher Association condemned it and outraged parents protested the movie because it depicted Santa killing people even though Christmas Evil did the same thing.  Check out the famous review of SNDN from siskel and Ebert...

2.  Gremlins (1984)
So anyone that has seen Gremlins knows the 3 rules for keeping a Mogwai as a pet:  don’t expose them to sunlight, don’t get them wet, and whatever you do don’t feed them after midnight!  of course rules were meant to be broken and the consequences are Gremlins wreaking havoc all over town.  Gremlins has become a christmas tradition in our house.  I even have Gremlins as decorations at christmas.  Who can resist Gizmo when he makes the pouty face?

1.  Black Christmas (1974)

Black Christmas is by far the scariest movie on this list.   A group of  Sorority Sisters are being harassed by a series of strange phone calls over the Christmas Season.  After most of the girls go home for the holidays, the remaining girls are picked of one by one by a heavy breathing Maniac named Billy.  Black Christmas was the first in a long string of 70s and 80s slashers, Halloween followed 4 years later and became the most famous of them.  Black Christmas is full of suspense and genuinely creepy.  The remake from 2006 was gorier but had none of the charm of the older version and the addition of a back story for Billy ruined it for me.

So...  with a list of Christmas movies like this, how can you not feel in the mood for a little eggnog and roasted chestnuts?     Have a Very Merry Scary Little Christmas!

If A Tree Falls Review

Four friends (Siblings Brad and Lisa and friends Vanessa and Will) head out on a road trip to a family reunion in Eastern Canada.  They stop along the way to camp for the night at a beach side campground, but they have no idea they have been followed the entire time by a mysterious gang called the Nylon Heads.
After a fun night of drinking too much, the group settles down and goes to sleep.  The girls are soon awoken by strange noises outside their tent.   In a scene straight out of Blair Witch, the girls are terrified, crying, and clinging to each other as someone shakes their tent from the outside.  They muster up enough courage to make a run for it.

The Nylon Heads eventually show themselves and proceed to torture and kill the campers one by one.  I was left wondering who are these Nylon Heads and why did they follow and attack this group of people?  Unfortunately the film never answers that question.  Much like in the higher budget film, The Strangers, the reasons behind the violence is never fully explained.  It seemed as if this was intentionally done by the writer to create a mystery surrounding these characters.

The best scenes in If a Tree Falls were the ones in which the violence seemed real. The scene where Brad is being slapped and tortured seemed very real and uncomfortable to watch as well as a shot where Will is being held over a fire that genuinely made me flinch.    If anything I think the film could have gone even further with the violence by pushing the limits with more disturbing scenes like those evoked by older exploitation films.

I enjoyed all the Grindhouse references like the 70s style credits and the gritty and scratched look of opening scenes (as if they were old and well used film reels).  The 70s style score and soundtrack added to the exploitation feel and was a nice touch.   The cinematography was very well done with beautiful shots through the trees in the woods and an interesting 70s psychedelic look to it.   The acting is some the best I have ever seen in such a small budget film, which helps the audience to feel more sympathy for the character's plight.

If a Tree Falls is meant to be a homage to the exploitation/ Grindhouse genre of the 70s.  Films like I Spit on Your Grave, Last House on the Left, The House on the Edge of the Park, Deliverance,  and Thriller, a Cruel Picture are all examples of some of the best the exploitation genre had to offer in the past.  The violence and cruelty was over the top in all of those films and yet they are memorable because the characters were very well developed and interesting.  Also all of those films had a reason for the violence at the end which usually included some sort of revenge.   Personally, I would have loved an ending like that in If a Tree Falls as well.  If there was some sort of revenge ending by the character that survives it would have been a much more satisfying ending for me.

If a Tree Falls is a film that brings you to the edge but doesn't quite toss you over.  Considering this film had a budget that was in the hundreds not thousands, I think it was very well done and worth a watch for any exploitation fan.

Monster Mary's Best Horror Movies of 2012

It's that time of year again, the time when all us Horror Geeks make up our best and worst lists of the previous year's films.  So when I started to think back on what I watched this past year, there weren't very many mainstream Horror films that came to mind.  But that doesn't mean there weren't plenty of good films to add to my list.  I am realizing more and more that Indie films are always the best that the Horror genre has to offer these days.   The biggest problem with Indie films though is that they sometimes take a long time to be distributed, that is if they even get a distribution deal at all (Poughkeepsie Tapes has still not been released on DVD).  Sometimes it takes years to be able to see them for various reasons.  That's why I go out of my way to attend film festivals every year.  So, yes I am including some older films in this list because for whatever reason, I wasn't able to see them until this past year.

Another year has come and gone and what do I have to show for it?  A lot actually!  This past year I decided to challenge myself and watch a Horror Movie a day.  I know that sounds crazy, but actually I usually watch Horror and Sci-Fi exclusively anyways so I really didn't find it too much of a challenge believe it or not.  I saw a lot of rare or obscure films that I probably wouldn't have seen otherwise.   I also made it to a few film festivals this year including Toronto International Film Festival and After Dark Film Festival.  I saw some fantastic films this year and some truly ridiculously awful ones.  The common thread running through my favourites this year is that most of them are thrillers.  They are mostly what I would call slow-burn movies.   There are a few comedies mixed in as well.    So here are my favourite movies I saw this year in no particular order...

The Lords of Salem (2012)

Rob Zombie made something really special with his latest film.  It is an occult Movie loosely based on the Salem Witch Trials.  The film focuses on a local DJ that is followed and then attacked by a coven of witches from the 17th century.  I know a lot of you Rob Zombie fans are eagerly awaiting this film.  And I am curious to see what the reviews will be like because I think this film will divide Horror fans right down the middle.  Much like Cabin in the Woods, I think fans are either going to really hate this one or really love it.  I fall into the latter group.   I thought it was RZ's best film to date with interesting cinematography and Sherri Moon Zombie did her finest acting yet as the lead.  That being said, it was completely different from any of Rob Zombie's previous films.  It was a little slower and felt like a throwback to the psychedelic satanic Horror Movies from the 70s.

Sinister (2012)

Sinister was the film that surprised me the most this year.  I was expecting the typical big budget Horror Film...Big name actors and a high budget but usually a dull and disappointing storyline.  There were actually a few scary moments in Sinister and I was drawn into the storyline as well.  Yes, it was still a little predictable at times but the characters were good and the story draws you in.  It also introduces a very scary new Villain... Mr. Boogie.  Although it is not what I would consider gory by any means,  it does have a decent payoff at the end.

Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Cabin in the Woods was by far my favourite comedy this year.  It started out like a typical slasher and then became something completely different all together.  There were tons of references to older Horror Films throughout which made it just fun to watch.  Opinions on Cabin in the Woods were really varied with fans.  Some fans really loved it and others really hated it and said that Joss Whedon was poking fun at Horror fans instead of the Genre itself.  I didn't see that at all, in fact I think Whedon and Goddard are really big fans of the genre and wanted to give us something a little  different.  I think most fans were disappointed because it was advertised as a straight slasher when actually it was a comedy.

The Pact (2012)
The Pact is about a girl who goes back to her home town to care of her Mother's funeral arrangements after her Sister mysteriously disappears.  She stays in her Mother's house while waiting for the Funeral.  Strange things start to happen in the creepy house and she wonders if the house is haunted.   The Pact is full of suspense and then ends with a really good twist ending that I was not expecting at all.

Excision (2012)
Pauline is a teenage girl who is not very attractive, has no friends, and has very bizarre sexual fantasies.  She goes out of her way to annoy her parents, peers, and teachers by saying and doing things that are repulsive.  It is hard to believe the actress that plays Pauline, AnnaLynne McCord, is actually very pretty in real life.  The makeup artists did a good job of erasing any sign of her true self, instead giving her bad skin, greasy hair, and a slouchy posture.  The only person that Pauline is nice to, is her terminally ill sister.  Pauline wants to become a surgeon so she can help her little sister live longer.  Excision has some really bizarre imagery in the dream sequences and the ending was pretty shocking.

V/H/S (2012)
Like most Anthologies, VHS had some segments that were better than others.  The segments that stood out the best for me were Amateur Night, Second Honeymoon, and The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger.  VHS was shot primarily in the found-footage style and was definitely one the better movies this year from that sub-genre.  I have never been a big fan of the found-footage style of movie.  They usually don't have a good storyline, dialogue seems to be ad-libbed, and the acting is sub par most of the time, but I did enjoy VHS.

John Dies at the End (2012)
John Dies at the End is certainly a strange movie.  It starts out with a giant Monster made of cold cuts and meat and goes from there.  The story follows David and John as they fight various evil Monsters from a different dimension.  I hadn't read the book before I watched the movie, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  But I have read it since seeing the movie because I enjoyed the film so much.  The book was a popular web series by David Wong before it became a novel and now it has a second book called This Book Is Full of Spiders.    I was lucky enough to see John Dies at the End at TIFF with a Q&A by Don Coscarelli after the screening.  Coscarelli said that he tried to follow the book as closely as he could but some changes were necessary due to a smaller budget.  He also mentioned that he was offered a much larger budget if he was willing to make John Dies at the End with a PG 13 rating.  He refused the larger offer in order  to make the film the way he wanted to make it.  The only part of the film that looked low budget to me was the animated battle scene, but it was kinda cool that way too.

The Woman in Black (2012)
Hammer Films returned to classic Gothic Horror with a ghostly tale of revenge and regret.   The film is based on a book by Susan Hill written in 1983 about a ghost that only appears just before a child will die.  The movie is really creepy with lots of jump scares.  The audience was screaming like crazy throughout.  If you can get past seeing Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter,  there is a lot to enjoy about The Woman in Black.  The most common complaint I heard about the film is that it doesn't do the book justice.  But honestly how many films actually live up to their books?  I would also recommend checking out the 80s version of Woman in Black as well.

Innkeepers (2011)
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. The main thing I loved about the Innkeepers was the dialogue between the two lead actors Sara Paxton and Pat Heely.  I know most fans were disappointed in the ending,  but I wasn't.   Not every Horror film has to be filled with blood and guts, sometimes being restrained is more unsettling. 

The Awakening (2011)
The Awakening is an old-fashioned Ghost story much like The Others, The Orphanage, and The Changeling.  There were lots of suspense filled moments but it still had a good shocker of an ending.  It did have its flaws though, the ending doesn't make a whole lot of sense and seems to come from left field and there were some major plot holes.  But it still was one of my favourites this year because I love a good Ghost Story with a twist ending.

Lovely Molly (2011)
Lovely Molly was a strange Movie to follow.  Was it a Movie about a girl slowly going insane or was it a movie about a girl being possessed by a Demon in her house?  It never really fully explains what is going on.  But that didn't really matter that much to me because I was drawn into the character of Molly.  Gretchen Lodge is very convincing in her role and you start to really feel bad for her.  I wanted to scream at her to get out of the house!   Lovely Molly has no real jump scares, but instead is more creepy than terrifying.

The Loved Ones (2009)
The Loved Ones is a strange mix between an 80s Romantic Teen Comedy and a Torture Porn movie.  This unusual combination makes for an extremely unique and different kind of  Horror Movie.   It was quite beautiful to look at with pink dresses, glitter, and a disco ball during the Dance scene.   But don’t be fooled into thinking The Loved Ones is all pretty girl stuff though,  there are some real cringe worthy horrific moments to be had as well.  The pretty prom scene is in very sharp contrast to the brutal torture that Brent has to endure from Lola.

Theatre Bizarre (2011)
Theatre Bizarre is the second Anthology on my list, this one delivers more bang for your buck than VHS did.  But strangely hardly anyone is talking about this one.  Again some segments were better than others.  The best segment for me was the one starring legendary Scream Queen Debbie Rochon and Tom Savini.  The whole Movie was over the top in storyline and gory as all get out.  Savini was at his gruesome best with the special FX.

Some Guy Who Kills People (2011)
Some guy is killing off all the people who bullied Ken when he was younger.  Ken is a mild-mannered Ice Cream Guy that just returned home from a long stay in a mental hospital.  His long-lost daughter shows up and he tries to get to know her while all these killings are going on.  Some Guy Who Kills People is not a typical slasher.  Even though there are plenty of blood and guts in it, the Movie plays more like a black comedy than a Slasher.

Midnight Son (2011)
Jacob works as night security at the local hospital.   He has a rare skin condition that prevents him from going out in the sun because he has an allergic reaction to it.  He starts to crave fresh blood from the butcher until he discovers that Human blood satisfies his cravings much more effectively.   When his girlfriend gets a nosebleed, he is unable to maintain his composure and seeks more Human blood.  Midnight Son is a romance, but a modern one.  There are no sparkly Vampires or Vampires in satin lined capes to be found here.

Snowtown Murders (2011)
Snowtown Murders tells the tale of Australia's most notorious Serial Killer, John Bunting.  Bunting moves in with a single mother and her three sons.   He is charismatic and persuades a group of people to kill those who finds distasteful, like accused Pedophiles or Homosexuals.  Most of the people who were killed and tortured knew Bunting before he turned on them.  What makes this movie special is that it doesn't get bogged down in the details of the crimes or gloss over the violence like most true-crime movies.  Instead it is more of a character study with intense performances by the actors.

Those are my favourite Movies for 2012.  There are some movies I just didn't get a chance to see yet but I am looking forward to in the next year.

Mama Review

Mama tells the sad tale of two pretty little girls, Victoria and Lily, that are left all alone in a secluded forest cabin by their Father.  It seems their Father has just killed several people including their Mother.  In the aftermath of his crimes, which are never actually explained,  he kidnaps his two young daughters and drives them to this deserted cabin on a snowy mountain pass.   The girls are left to their own devices and soon become feral.  They are discovered five years later living in filth, scampering around on all fours, and barely able to speak a word.  The only reason the girls were able to survive as long as they did is because they were never actually alone.  Even as their Father was walking up to the Cabin, little Victoria kept saying that there was someone else was there with them.   A spirit, the girls call Mama, has been feeding them cherries and moths while looking after them the whole time they were lost.

After the girls are found, they spend a short time in a mental hospital before they go to live with their Uncle Lucas.  Lucas never gave up looking for the girls after they went missing.  He spends all of his money and spare time trying to find his nieces.   Luke and his girlfriend, Annabel,  move to the suburbs to give the girls a better home.  Annabel was very happy not to have children of her own, but when the girls show up she takes on her role as caregiver very seriously.  She gives up everything she had including her band in order to raise the girls.  In fact, that is one of my favourite parts in Mama is watching how Annabel evolves from a punky rocker chick into a caring and fiercely protective  "Mother" at the end of the film.

The story goes that Guillermo Del Toro was so impressed with the 2008 short film Mama by Andy Muschietti that he signed on to become executive producer and turned it into a full length feature film.  Guillermo said the short was essentially one of the scariest littlest scenes he had ever seen.

Even though there were some major plot holes and I suspect a deleted scene or two, I thought the story was pretty straight forward with no big surprises to be found.  The girls were exceptionally creepy when they keep appearing out of no where.  However, there were far too many jump scares and not enough real horror to be found to make Mama a great Ghost story.  It is one of those movies that was interesting to watch but completely forgettable also.   We see the CGI-laden Ghost far too often to make the movie truly scary. Perhaps the power of suggestion would have been better in a ghost story?

Where the movie really stumbles and falls is the ending.  It just didn't make much sense to me.  I understand the trend lately is for an unhappy ending or an unexpected twist, but there never was a WTF? moment.  Instead it was a bit of a let down.  Mama was a nice slow build up of a classic ghost story up until the last ten minutes of the film.

If you like creepy little kids that scurry around like feral little monsters popping up unexpectedly or overprotective ghosts seeking closure, you just might enjoy Mama.  It comes across as an effective and creepy thriller.