Saturday, 21 October 2017

31 Days of Horror: Alien (1979)

Welcome back to Wondra's World and 31 Days of Classic Horror. Today, we're going to be discussing Alien (1979). If you live in a cave and somehow haven't heard of/seen Alien, it's about the crew of a commercial salvage ship that are awoke early from cryostasis because of a strange signal that they investigate with, of course, disastrous consequences.

Although Jay and I agree that Aliens is the best film in the series, Alien is here because it did it first. It was groundbreaking and cemented the franchise firmly in the horror genre.

Let's see what Jay thinks...

'Alien' was one of the first videos my father ever rented when I was a kid. We watched Alien together as a family. I was bored for the first half. It was kind of slow until the alien makes an appearance. That chestburster scene is still one of the most iconic scenes in sci-fi horror, just look at 'Spaceballs'.

The beginning of the film is very interesting, for me. It's such an eerie start, with the silent ship and that sudden, shrill, computerised whine. It creates tension effortlessly and doesn't rush. I can see how you might see that as slow, though.

Well, it is beautifully filmed and very creative. 

It really is. The use of wide shots create vastness. This is a film that captures the bleakness of space.  There's a slight blue-grey tinge that makes it feel cold, which builds that feeling of space.

You mentioned before that the sequel is the better film but it's more sci-fi action than a sci-fi horror, which is why it's not here. This was Ridley Scott's first real break-through movie. Funny how Sigourney Weaver was the unknown when this came out. It launched her into super-stardom. 

'Alien' really has a helluva cast. Everyone one has had a stellar career since being part of this one. I love that Veronica Cartwright, from 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers', is in 'Alien'. It's a really nice touch. 

You can't argue with how awesome Ripley is. And a strong, female hero, which is important. I'll tell ya, I didn't like Ian Holm's Ash, though! He's so suspicious, from the beginning. By the time he opens the shuttle doors, you have a serious mistrust of him. It's an interesting commentary on human/computer interactions.

The thing that I love about 'Alien' is that you're stuck in a tin can, a million miles from home, without any real weapons and this thing that's a super-hunter is after you. The Xenomorph isn't just a hunter, it's an intelligent hunter. You're fucked. 

Not to mention it's one cool alien. It's sleek and ribbed and just so freaking cyber-goth that it hurts. I love that it doesn't have eyes that you can see. Makes it more sinister somehow.

It helps hat you only see flashes of the Xenomorph until the end.

True. There's a good combination of POV camera-work, where you're moving along with the characters and listening to their breathing and really there. But, at the same time. You get images from their helmets broadcast back to the Nostromo that are grainy and disjointed. When you see those images, so scattered and confusing, you know what they must have been feeling.

You mentioned before about being stuck in 'a tin can' in space. The Nostromo is effective in that way. Lots of sci-fi is so white and sterile but the Nostromo feels like a dingy old ship (with the exception of the medical labs.) Like a place where work happens. It keeps the film from ageing because it's an industrial salvage ship. You'd expect it to be old and out-of-date.

'Alien' really kicks off when the facehugger attaches to Hurt - that's where it changes from a sci-fi movie to sci-fi horror. It becomes such an atmospheric, nerve-wracking film. My favourite part, though, features the Nostromo, kind of. It's right after Ripley's blown up the Nostromo. she doesn't realise the Alien is in the shuttle with her. What a great jump. Now, she's in an even smaller tin can with the bloody thing.

There really are some terrific jumps in Alien. My favourite is when you first get a glimpse of the facehugger. When the egg opens and you see the thing inside pulsing, you almost want to lean in closer to see. Then, it launches at his face. Great jump.

You can't argue with how well-made Alien is. The noises are either creeping through the background or in-your-face cacophony. Or, worse. There's this long stretch where it goes really quiet. That always gets me. There's also brilliant use of light and steam and shadow, like their helmet lights against the dark mist of the planetoid.

'Alien' is still so very still relevant. I can't think of a horror film set in a space craft before this. You know, I watched it two nights ago and it hasn't aged at all. Superb film. There's gotta be something there; it spawned three sequels and two prequels.

And we're still talking about it, almost forty years later. What do you think of Alien, dear readers? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Friday, 20 October 2017

31 Days of Horror: Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)

Welcome to Day 20 of our 31 Days of Classic Horror countdown. Today, we're going to be discussing Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979).
Zombie Flesh Eaters (aka: Zombi 2) is a Fulci film in which a young woman (Tisa Farrow's Anne Bowles) goes looking for her missing father and ends up on a tropical island full of zombies. Since it's one of Jay's favourite movies, I'm going to let him get us started.

In 1981, we had just joined the very first video store in the area. The first two videos my father brought home were 'Alien' and 'Zombie Flesh Eaters'. 'Alien' was okay but 'Zombie Flesh Eaters' was immense. I'd seen 'Dawn of the 'Dead', 'Night of the Living Dead', 'Plague of the Zombies', and 'I Walked With a Zombie' so I knew zombie films. This was something different.

As a youngster, watching 'Zombie Flesh Eaters' on Saturday night, it was the first time I realised how much zombies actually frightened me. It kick-started my love of zombies in a big way. You have to remember that the British version of the Romero movies were cut by about thirty minutes, which made them very tame.

I can't believe the government had so much control over what you were allowed to watch here. The UK censors aren't so bad now but it sound like they were a real piece of work back then.

Yes, 'Zombie Flesh Eaters' was one of the original video nasties - and I understand why. It was visceral, with maggots crawling out of eyes, flesh falling off, and the noise they made as they struggled to breathe. 

The gore effects were outstanding. Savini had shocked in 'Dawn of the Dead' but nothing to what Fulci did - especially with the eyes. The bit where Mrs. Menard has a shard of wood driven through her eye was brutal. It was one of the most outrageous scenes in any  in zombie film, when Susan gets attacked by shark, then attacked by zombie, then zombie gets attacked by zombie. Stupid, but brilliant.

That boat scene was not kind to poor Ian McCulloch, who had a really bad comb-over that just didn't stay put.

The production company wanted him to look young. At that time, you just couldn't have a dashing hero without any hair. The comb-over wasn't good. 

One of the other things that bothered me about the movie was the fact that it was dubbed when it really didn't need to be.

Yes, it was dubbed in parts. A lot of the cast was Italian so, even though they could speak some English, the accents were very heavy. The girls, though, spoke very little English so it was even more necessary for them.

The acting was very good, with the exception of Tisa Farrow. She only did a couple of films, which was wise. The girl had two expressions, misty-eyed and stoned. Basically, she was living off her sister's name.

I heard that Fulci hated women. Is that true?

He was a bully with women. He would shout at them and call them stupid. McCulloch admitted that, although Fulci was never that way with him, he could be a nightmare. 

'Zombie Flesh Eaters' was Fulci's masterpiece - even better than 'The Beyond'. None of the 'Zombie Flesh Eaters' sequels even came close.

They did a lot of guerrilla filming. They were only allowed into the country on the proviso that they didn't work. The police officers that you see are actual off-duty police officers. The news office where he's working is actually one of Rupert Murdoch's offices and a janitor had gotten them in. They were very good at working with what they had. Or, rather, could get.

The one thing they never skimped on was the makeup. It's hard to believe these Italian makeup artists were better than Savini's zombies but they were. The Romero zombies at this point weren't that scary but Fulci's were terrifying. Yes, they were still slow but the make-up was so much better.

'Zombie Flesh Eaters' is still one of the top 10 zombie films of all time. 'Dawn of the Dead' and 'Zombie Flesh Eater's were the template for everything to come.

I find both Dawn and Zombie awfully dated, from the fashion to the film quality. That being said, both are still very good to watch.

That's all for today. Come back tomorrow for more!

Thursday, 19 October 2017

31 Days of Horror: Pumpkinhead (1988)

Hard to believe we're already on day 19 of our 31 Days of Classic Horror! Yet, here we are, ready to talk about Pumpkinhead (1988).

"Keep away from Pumpkinhead,
Unless you're tired of living, 
His enemies are mostly dead, 
He's mean and unforgiving, 
Laugh at him and you're undone,
But in some dreadful fashion, 
Vengeance, he considers fun, 
And plans it with a passion, 
Time will not erase or blot, 
A plot that he has brewing, 
It's when you think that he's forgot,
He'll conjure your undoing, 
Bolted doors and windows barred,
Guard dogs prowling in the yard, 
Won't protect you in your bed, 
Nothing will, from Pumpkinhead."

Pumpkinhead is about a man whose son is killed by reckless college kids. Lance Henriksen plays Ed Harley, who summons a demon, Pumpkinhead, to avenge his son's death - only to regret the horror that he's wrought upon them.

Let's go over to Jay to see what he thinks of Pumpkinhead.

I bought 'Pumpkinhead' on video at a market back in the early Nineties. I didn't know anything about it but it was an 18 so I decided to give it a go. I was always on the lookout for horror movies that I hadn't seen. Nothing has changed. 

When you pick up random movies like that, you're going to get a lot of garbage but, everyone now and then, you're going to find a real gem. That was 'Pumpkinhead'. 

Pumpkinhead was one of those creature-features that I wasn't expecting to like. It joins movies like Frankenfish and Monster Man on my list of Movies That Shouldn't Work But Do.

Absolutely. A bit like 'Rawhead Rex'. You don't expect much when you watch it but you come away thinking, 'Wow! What a film!' It's a surprise film. 

I knew Lance Henrikson from movies like 'Terminator' and knew he was a good actor so I was pretty confident about his performance, if nothing else. 'Pumpkinhead' was okay when it started but then... the monster. What an awesome creation. I think, if I remember correctly, that it was part puppet and part guy-in-a-suit but it was cool.

Whatever it was, it was very convincing. I never got the Pumpkinhead bit, though... I mean... He doesn't have a pumpkin head, right?

It's because you have to dig him up in the pumpkin patch. And, his head was kind of pumpkinish.

Huh. I guess I always thought it as a graveyard...

Nope. A pumpkin patch in Razorback Holler. 

'Pumpkinhead' is a clever creature-feature. As a kid, Ed Harley was hunted by the time he saw the Pumpkinhead. When his own child is killed, he wants that vengeance. Of course, he comes to regret it. 

Haggis warns him but does he listen? She warns him of the price that must be paid. Did he think it would be easy? But a man overcome with grief doesn't think about the consequences. 

The witch is amazing. The makeup job on her was fantastic. A tremendously well played character. Haggis was never played by the same person again, which let the rest of the sequels down. 

I'll be honest, I didn't really care for the sequels much. They just weren't as good as Pumpkinhead.

The sequels are pale in comparison. They're okay, but not as good. The monster is never as good again. 

I think this was Lance's best role. The bit where the kid asks if there's anything they can do to help... the look Lance gives him is pure hatred. And did you notice a very young Mayim Bialik? 

I didn't, until you pointed it out! You just totally dismiss her as a scruffy hillbilly.

The fact that they're way out in the middle of nowhere is important. You can feel the isolation. It feels like nothing has changed in Hicktown, America for ages. It's a poor area so these rich kids that come in can do what they want.

Or so they think. 

I love the revelation at the end - that Ed Harley becomes the Pumpkinhead. That he stopped it this time but, the next time Pumpkinhead is called, it will be him doling out the vengeance. Great.

Anything else before I wrap this up?

Just a couple of things. First, I can't say often enough how good the Pumpkinhead is. The creature is so sadistic. It delights in your pain - and I love that. Also, It's extremely well lit for a horror movie. You're never struggling to see what's going on, even in the dark woods. 

All in all, a great film.

Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to come back tomorrow. See you then!

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

10 Easy Ways to Add a Touch of Fall to Your Home

I am a total autumn baby. I'm always looking for ways of making my home feel a bit more like the season I love so much - but I'm also broke as hell most of the time so spending loads of money on fancy decorations isn't an option. Luckily for me (and you), Pinterest is full of great ideas for adding a touch of fall to your home, without breaking the bank. Let's check them out.

1. Pumpkins
Want your house to feel more like autumn? Put a pumpkin just about anywhere. It doesn't even have to be a real pumpkin. There are so many great ways to you can make pumpkin decorations and most of them are uber cheap. Upcycle cans, crates, pallets, and more for touch of fall.

2. Leaves
Nothing says "Autumn is here!" like colourful leaves. You can use fake leaves, of course, or go on a hunt to find the perfect leaves for your projects - just remember to preserve them so they last.

3. Apples
The smell, sight, and taste of crisp apples will definitely make you think of fall. Unfortunately, decorating with fresh apples isn't exactly the best way to go, since they won't last but there are so many apple-themed crafts out there to try that it'd be a shame not to try one or two (or twelve) of them.

4. Indian Corn
Colourful stalks of Indian Corn are perfect for the period leading from Halloween to Thanksgiving and make great centrepieces and wreathes.

5. Sunflowers
Sunflowers always remind me of the end of summer and harvest festivals. They're bright and cheery and will definitely make your house feel more like fall. How about making your own sunflower art that you can bring out every year?

6. Plaid
Plaid is so fall. I love wearing plaid in the autumn - and your house does too! Think about adding a plaid fleece or throw pillows to your couch for a cosy touch of fall.

7. Mason Jars
I don't think there's any season or holiday that can't be improved with the addition of a mason jar or two. Paint them, fill them flowers, or even turn them into happy little scarecrows.

8. Wheat
You might not think of wheat when you think of decorating for fall but it is harvest time and wheat makes a superb natural decoration. A few sheaves of wheat will make any house feel ore autumnal.

9. Nuts
We're lucky to live in a place where chestnuts and hazelnuts can be heard falling as you walk by. I can never resist snatching them up. But what to do with them? How about an ornament? Or even a wreath? (Don't forget pine cones make great decorations too!)

10. Mums
Mums are the flower of fall, especially in orange and yellow tones. You can pair them with pumpkins, too, to make your home feel even more like fall.

The projects/images you see here come from other talented crafters and bloggers. Visit my Pinterest board, Fall Home, for links to their boards as well as more great ideas.

31 Days of Horror: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Today is going to be a bit of a strange one for those of you who have been following our 31 Days of Classic Horror special here on Wondra's World. Why? Because you've grown used to comments from both Jay and myself - which won't be the way it happens today.

I had to fight tooth and, er, claw to keep A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) on this list. Jay didn't want it to be included but I insisted you can't get an accurate history of horror without it. So, he pouted and said he wouldn't contribute. I, of course, badgered the hell out of him until he said something. I'll include his comments at the end.

One, two, Freddy's coming for you.
Three, four, better lock your door.
Five, six, grab your crucifix.
Seven, eight, gonna stay up late.
Nine, ten, never sleep again.

From the beginning of the movie, when you see Freddy shaping his "finger-knives" (as Nancy calls them), you get the sense that you're in for something unusual. I love that they start the movie by giving your a glimpse of how Freddy became what he became but don't rush to explain why he became it. It builds tension.

As the movie starts, with Tina running from Freddy, I was struck by how absolutely ridiculous it was. Watch Freddy run. He's like a clown. It would be comical if it weren't so damned scary. That sets the tone for the rest of the movie; Freddy laughs, and jokes, and does some really stupid stuff - but is still absolutely terrifying. If anything, the way that Freddy japes around makes him more frightening than if he were dead sombre the whole way through. He's just having a good time. You're running for your life but he's just amusing himself. Yeah, that's scary as shit.

In fact, it's so scary that A Nightmare on Elm Street gave me nightmares for years as a child. Now, I get to fall asleep with a poster of A Nightmare on Elm Street looming over my bed. (My husband's poster, I might add, even though he thought the movie was "overrated".) And, yes, Freddy still makes the odd guest appearance in my nightmares.

Next up, we get an introduction to the rest of the main cast. Heather Langenkamp's Nancy is your typical good girl, while Jsu Garcia's Rod is your typical bad boy. The leather jacket and greased-back hair have been used all through cinematic history to say, "This kid, he's no good." Which is, of course, what everyone thinks when his girlfriend, Amanda Wyss's Tina, dies. It's an old trope but one that always works.

And, of course, there's Johnny Depp. (Cue longing sigh.) A Nightmare on Elm Street was Depp's first role - a role he owes, if the rumours are true, to his friend, Nicolas Cage. It's crazy now to see Johnny Depp in Nightmare. He's just... so... young. I feel like we should called him Fetus Depp for the purposes of this blog post. But, if I start talking about Johnny "Fetus" Depp now, we're never going to make it to the good stuff. So...

When Tina is attacked during the illicit sleepover scene, you see Freddy with her under the blankets but, when they're ripped away, all you see is her flesh being torn open before she's picked up by an invisible hand and thrown around the room. Those are really wild effects. You can practically feel Rod's disbelief. Would you believe it if you saw that happen before your eyes? I know I wouldn't. And that's another thing that makes Freddy so scary; his victims can see him but no one else can, which leads to all kinds of questioning your/their sanity and a general sense of wtf.

Let's take a moment to appreciate John Saxon as Nancy's father, Lt. Thompson. Saxon is a brilliant actor, with a massive acting pedigree. It has to be said that Saxon's performance as police officer/daddy/saviour is so well acted that it helps, um, buoy some of the, er, less well acted performances from his younger co-stars. (Okay, so what I'm trying to say is that, at the time, Heather Lagenkamp couldn't act her way out of the proverbial paper bag.)

Speaking of brilliant actors, did you notice who Nancy's teacher is? Yes! None other than Insidious's Lin Shaye. I may have given a little squeal of delight when I re-watched the movie recently and realised who it was. Lin Shaye has done so well in later life that I wonder, if you put them side-by-side, who would be more recognised today, Heather Langenkamp or Lin Shaye? Just a random thought...

A Nightmare on Elm Street, in true dreamlike fashion, transforms seamlessly from waking to sleep. The scene in the classroom becomes surreal as Nancy looks up to find her friend, Tina, in a bloody body bag calling out to her. The student's reading takes on a sinister whisper and Nancy rises to follow her dead friend down the hall. The great part about this scene isn't the hall monitor in Freddy's signature sweater, or the pile of leaves blowing behind Nancy; it's the foreshadowing.

As Nancy moves into the school's basement - and really, whose school ever had a basement? - you see the flames from the furnace. The audience doesn't know why that's important yet so that's a really great piece of foreshadowing. A Nightmare on Elm Street has really good pace, which too many horror movies lack.

We've already had a couple of real gross-out moments this far into the film. First, there was the moment when Tina reached out to grab Freddy's face, only to have the twisted, burnt flesh peel away and reveal the muscle and bone underneath. (Ew.) Then, there's the moment in the school basement when Freddy gashes his own stomach to release green ooze and maggots. (Double Ew.) I never really think of A Nightmare on Elm Street as being a gross-out film but there certainly are those elements.

When Nancy goes to visit Rod in prison, she's desperate to convince herself that what she saw, what he saw, wasn't real. She already believes but she doesn't want to believe. This goes back to that feeling of, 'Can I trust what I saw?" If you can make someone doubt themselves, you can isolate them from the people around them and that makes for a sense of hopelessness. Not to mention great horror.

I almost don't want to talk about the bathtub scene because it scarred me so badly as a child. It's also the reason I'm terrified of falling asleep in the tub now and can't use bubble bath without having a panic attack. Thanks, Freddy.

There are some really out there moments in A Nightmare on Elm Street. In any other movie, you'd be like, 'Omg. That would never happen,' but that doesn't apply in the Nightmare films because you're talking about dreams and anything can happen in a dream. Nancy gets sucked under the bathwater and is suddenly in a whole new world. Okay. I mean, I've had weirder dreams, right? It's the fact those dreams can hurt you - can kill you - that makes the Nightmare films work. Our dreams, or nightmares, are still safe, no matter how scary they might be, because we can always wake up from them. Nightmare makes us doubt the reality of that.

As Nancy struggles not to fall asleep after her bath, you'll notice a nod to Evil Dead, which is playing on the television. This is something that happens quite a lot in Craven and Raimi films. Read this for more on that.

"Oh, God. I look twenty-years-old."

Wes Craven's Scream is another movie that I wanted on this list but got vetoed by Jay. I suppose this is a good time to mention it, though, since Glen is sneaking in through Nancy's window. If you missed how much Screams Billy Loomis looks like Nightmare's Glen Lantz, you haven't been paying attention.

Scream pays homage to A Nightmare on Elm Street in so many fabulous ways, from straight-up mentioning the movie, to the way Billy climbs through the window, to the Janitor in Freddy gear (who, by the way, was Wes Craven himself.) For those of us who grew up on the Nightmare films, it was a real treat so see it honoured that way. 

In the scene where Nancy goes to the jail in her dream (and Glen proves himself to be the most useless boyfriend ever), there's a lot happening. First of all, you get that creepy ass grin from Freddy (Robert Englund has some crazy eyes), you get the bugs crawling out of Tina's mouth (Eww), and the only-in-dreamland quicksand stairs. You've also got something else happening, too, something you don't want to miss.

Freddy tells Nancy who he is. Yeah, bitch, I'm the boogeyman all the local kids are afraid of and I'm real. Oh, and by the way, I'm gonna kill you. There have been hints all along that the baddie is Freddy but to have him confirm it moves the story along. Now, we can find out the baddie's origin story. (And, of course, to name something is to give it power)

But, before we get to Freddy's origins, we've gotta say farewell to Bad Boy Rod. He's been in that cell by himself for ages. Freddy could've slashed him to bits at any time - but he didn't. Why? Why make it look like an accident? Isolation. Never underestimate the power of isolation. It makes the remaining victims doubt their own sanity and adds to the cat-and-mouse game Freddy's got going.

"I don't know who he is, but he's burned 
and he wears a weird hat 
and a red and green sweater, really dirty. 
And he uses these knives, like giant fingernails..."

I mentioned before about the way Freddy made his victims doubt their sanity. This is where Nancy's parents start doing the same. Nancy's mother takes her for tests, desperate to convince herself that he's really gone. And when Nancy pulls Freddy's hat out of the dream, her mother's worst nightmares (pardon the pun) come true.

The truth comes out. Fred Krueger was a "filthy child murderer who killed at least 20 kids" and Nancy's parents helped kill him. Vigilante justice for the win! That's the part of the movie that really gets me. Freddy should have died. It was right that they killed him. (In my opinion.) So why does he get the chance to come back and avenge himself upon their children? He was in the wrong to start with! He doesn't get a second chance! Except, of course, that he does.

Apparently death isn't any more fair than life.

Hey, Glen, you know how you screwed up before when I was counting on you but it's okay because I love you? I'm going to give you another chance to not screw up. Silly Nancy... And cue another childhood fear. I still get nervous around beds that are a little too soft, a little too comfortable. The blood spraying all over the room was a little hard to stomach (that difference between what can happen in dreams and what can happen in real life) but the whole being sucked into the bed thing... for some reason, that seemed all too possible to Young Wondra.

It's a wonder I sleep at all, really.

Nancy's off looking for Freddy so I'm going to take a moment to appreciate the soundtrack to A Nightmare on Elm Street. It's brooding and sinister, without being over-the-top. It's an accent, rather than a statement. When you get that soundtrack, with the voices of Freddy's victims overlaying it, it becomes even creepier.

There are a couple of things I haven't touched on yet but I want to. First of all, it's a sign of the time it was made that Nancy's parents are divorced but they don't make a big deal out of it. My friends and I grew up during this time and half of us had parents who were divorced, so it was nice that Nightmare made being a child of divorce so normal. It's little touches like that that really make a film either stay relevant or become dated. A Nightmare on Elm Street is still relevant today (and should never, ever, ever have been remade.)

The other thing I wanted to mention takes us right up to the end. No matter how different Nancy wants to believe she is from her mother, they're both coping with the reality of Freddy's existence in similar, if different, ways. Nancy's mother locks the house up tight, with bars on the windows. Nancy learns how to booby trap the fuck out of the house. Mamma goes for defence, while Nancy goes on the offence - which highlights the generation gap pretty well.

You have got to love the ending to A Nightmare on Elm Street. There's this moment where you think all that positive-thinking crap has won... then, NOPE. The roof comes down on the car (complete with iconic Freddy stripes) and Freddy comes through the window to grab Nancy's mother. What a great way to end a movie that's all about doubting reality. It leaves you hanging, wondering what really happened. Perfect.

We'd be here all day if I started talking about the sequels, so I won't. All I will say is that A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is my favourite but I thought they were all good fun. Okay, now, I'm going to pass it over to Jay to finish up.

I went to see 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' because I was killing time. It didn't frighten me but, then, I never rated Wes Craven. I understand why people rave about his stuff but he was never one of my favourite directors. 

It made Robert Englund a household name, turned him from a supporting actor to a mainstream actor and an icon of horror. You can't make that many sequels without there being something there. 

I knew tons of people 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' frightened the shit out of, but not me. I understand the merits of the film but it wasn't for me. The imagery was good and the lighting was good but that's all I can really say.

That's all for today, folks. Check back tomorrow for another classic horror movie. 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

31 Days of Horror: Final Destination (2000)

Finally - a movie that is so my generation! Welcome to day 17 of our 31 Days of Classic Horror and Final Destination (2000).

I love, love, love this film franchise! Unlike a lot of franchises, the Final Destination movies stay strong, right to the end - with the exception of maybe The Final Destination, but only because I didn't like the 3D effects. If it hadn't had those, though, it would have been just as good as any of the others.

I can just tell I'm not going to get a word in edgewise today.

Sorry, Jay. Go ahead.

Gee, thanks. You're absolutely right about it being a good franchise. There aren't any of the films that I disliked. They're all different, all gruesome. And, though they're all different, they always find a way to hearken back to the first one.

Sometimes, in very subtle ways. I especially like that, in the second one, they find out that they're the people that would have died if Alex hadn't interfered in the first one. I like that feeling of dawning realisation; you can really see it in their faces. It's very effective.

Except we're really supposed to be talking about Final Destination, not its sequels, right? 

Right. Sorry.

'Final Destination' is a stylish movie. It had a big budget - but then, it had to be because of the effects. 

And, even though FX have come a long way in the last 17 years, the ones we see in Final Destination are still very convincing and extremely gruesome.


Sorry. Continue.

'Final Destination' reminds me of that film where the pilot is missed by Death, with um, David Niven. What was that called? 

A Matter of Life and Death?

Right. Except that in 'A Matter of Life and Death', David Niven's character gets another chance. The only one getting a second chance in 'Final Destination' is Death. 'Final Destination' had such a clever ending. Loved it. You can't escape Death. It's really not a nice ending. I prefer that sometimes, movies that make you feel comfortable, then pull away the blanket. 

The great thing about Final Destination is that there's no real baddie, just Death. A baddie, you can overcome or outwit but, no matter how clever you are, Death will eventually get you. Death always wins.

It's funny that you should mention A Matter of Life and Death because both that movie and Final Destination are about people who were missed by death, and both involve air planes. I don't think that's a coincidence. People were never meant to fly but here we are, doing it everyday. If I were a god and my creations started doing this thing I told them I didn't want them to do, I'd be pissed off. I might even punish them.

Flying is a pretty universal fear - not for me, obviously, because I love it - but a lot of people are terrified of flying. 'Final Destination' plays on your fears of flying. Even the terminology puts you off. "Terminal". "Departure". You see that, in the scene where Alex is checking in. The board clicks over to these words and the camera focuses on them. They start poking at that fear before you really know why you should be afraid. Clever. 

Good foreshadowing. Also, I'm pretty sure this movie is exactly why I have a fear of flying. They did the plane explosion just a little too well for my tastes.

The deaths certainly are brutal. They're so outrageous, too. Real banana-skin deaths - but they're so outrageous that they're believable. 

It plays on those silly things that you're afraid of, even though  you know the chances of them happening are something like a million to one. But, hey, so's the lottery, right? And people win that. If people can win the lottery, you can have your head lobbed off with a piece of a car that's been smooshed by a train.

There's no way it could happen but... it could happen.

Exactly. Like Alex, you become so paranoid that you're afraid of everything. 

Which is just so much fun when you're rocking Anxiety and mild OCD.

Hah. Well, it's fun for those of us who get to watch you. 

Anyway, 'Final Destination' has a good cast too. Cast that grew into itself, rather than being huge at the time. The humour comes from Seann William Scott, of course, but my favourite has to be Tony Todd's cameo - although I like his cameo in 'Final Destination 2' better. I love that moment when they ask him who he is and he just smiles and looks at the camera like, 'Is this bitch for real'? 

It really is a great cast. I always had a major crush on Devon Sawa as a kid so of course I was going to love this movie. And don't forget Ali Larter, who is a brilliant actress. Huh. I never thought of her being a scream queen before, but I guess she is.

I watched 'Final Destination' as an adult. It's really a teenage movie but still enjoyable. It's one of those movies you just can't copycat. Where would you go with it? 

Exactly. It's so unique that anyone trying to do it again would so obviously be making a rip-off. It cements Final Destination's place as a modern classic.

What are your thoughts on Final Destination? Drop us a comment and let us know.

Monday, 16 October 2017

31 Days of Horror: An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Jay and I have spent a lot of time talking about the movies on our 31 Days of Classic Horror list over the past month or so. When we came back to An American Werewolf in London (1981), we almost changed our minds. For about the fifth time.

The problem that we had - that we're still discussing, actually, is whether An American Werewolf in London or An American Werewolf in Paris deserves to be here more. It's almost impossible to decide.

Well, to be honest, I thought 'An American Werewolf in Paris' was made in the 2000s, which would have put it past our cut-off date, which was one of the main reasons we picked 'London' over 'Paris'.

We knew that we would choose one of the American films over all the other werewolf films that made it to our shortlist. There weren't as many as you'd expect, strangely. Wolf came pretty close to making the list but, as good as it was, it fell just short of being a classic.

The thing that made 'American Werewolf in London' stand out so much was the transformation scene. It was only about a year before 'The Howling', which also had an amazing transformation scene - but they were very different, one American and one British. Both very good films, of course, for different reasons but 'American Werewolf in London' was the better of the two. 

I love the transformation scene! There's something kind of ironic about the juxtaposition of the cheesy romance song playing over David's anguish that made the moment even more enjoyable. Man, that looked like a painful transition.

It certainly was a groundbreaking transformation. But you don't see the werewolf itself much; they leave it to your own imagination, which is where horror lives. That moment you do see the wolf, in the Underground, is well worth the wait.

That's a great scene. I like it for the camera angle, though. It really makes you feel like you're running with that poor schmuck...

There was a huge gap between runs of werewolf films. 'American Werewolf in London' came in the glut that followed. My friends watched it on video in about 1982. Luckily, no one paid much attention to the ratings on videos in those days...

Seems like there was so much more horror coming out in the Eighties. Or, maybe it was just more mainstream at the time? Of course, it could just be that all the best horror movies were made in the Eighties, while their remakes are being made now and totally stinking up the genre.

Well, there is that. Not that it applies to 'An American Werewolf in Paris', which was an excellent film in its own right. 

It's not really a remake, I think. I wouldn't call it a reboot, either though. I think it's more of a... continuation. Same world, different characters. If An American Werewolf in Moscow came out tomorrow, I'd be there to see it.

Back to London, though...

It's kind of surreal and strange, isn't it? Especially when his friend is talking to him.

And the Nazi zombies. Don't forget the Nazi zombies...

Yes, and them. Very strange.

An American Werewolf in Paris does a better job of explaining that. London just lets the weird shit happen and expects you to understand why. In Paris, they tell you that it's part of the change, which makes the movie flow better.

One of the things that both movies have in common, which is pretty uncommon as far as werewolf films go, is the whole undead victims thing. It's so clever that the victims of werewolf killings can't pass on until the last werewolf in the line dies. I don't remember ever seeing or reading that anywhere else.

'An American Werewolf in London' is so quintessentially British. British people will even recognise some of the locations in the movie, which is always a plus. Then, there's the cameo from Alan Ford as taxi driver. So typically British. Oh, and the porn theatre, where some of the funniest bits take place. You don't see those anymore. Never went myself, of course. 

Of course.

I do love the casual way that the werewolves victims introduce themselves to David. How surreal (which is probably the best way to describe the movie.) I think my favourite comedic bit, though, is when he wakes up in the wolf enclosure. You don't want to think too much about that one!

Definitely my favourite part. It's hilarious that he has to find his way home, stark bollock naked. And snatching the kid's balloons...

That's one of the really great things about An American Werewolf in London, the comedy. It's absolutely laugh out loud stuff. But, it's also really sad. I'd forgotten what happened to David at the end until I watched it again the other day. The feels.

When I was talking about the cameo earlier, I forgot to mention my favourite cameo in the movie, Rik Mayall. Did you notice him at The Slaughtered Lamb? 

You get those weird locals in horror a lot. But you know... when you go into the villages, they are a little strange. A little off. They don't mean to be, they just don't live like the rest of us. It's creepy but also very familiar. 

You say "them" like you've never entered a weird ass pub in the valleys and heard, "Where you from, butt?"

Different kind of creepy. 

Finally, did you know that 'An American Werewolf in London' lead to Michael Jackson's "Thriller", which remains one of the most recognisable music videos ever? 

You can totally see that, too. There are definitely hints of the transformation scene evident in the music video.

Thanks for stopping by, folks. Come back tomorrow for another great movie. See you then.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

31 Days of Horror: The Evil Dead (1981)

Day 15 of our 31 Days of Classic Horror feature belongs to The Evil Dead (1981).

It's hard to imagine anyone who hasn't seen The Evil Dead - and even harder to describe it to those people in a way that would make them want to watch it. I'll give it a try, though.

A group of friends fight for their lives when they accidentally unleash a horde of demons.

That description really doesn't do The Evil Dead justice. I'll let Jay try.

Some kids read a book they find in a cabin and accidentally summon a demon. 

Yeah... The Evil Dead is so, so much crazier than it sounds.

It really is. Stephen King described 'The Evil Dead' as the most ferociously original horror film. From about twenty minutes in, it's an assault on the senses. There are, seriously, gallons of blood. 

But, as gory as it is, The Evil Dead doesn't feel like a gorefest. It's... I dunno... more fun? Maybe that's just its age or maybe that's just Raimi's style?

'The Evil Dead' is a student project that literally revolutionised the horror genre. I had never seen horror like that. It's an incredibly visceral film. When Cheryl changes and drops to the floor and you see her hand moving... You can imagine it, you can feel it. You know what it's like to accidentally jab yourself so to have a pencil buried in your flesh.It's horrific. 

I guess it's a different kind of gore. Or, a different age of gore? Gore in 1981 was definitely different than it is today. I'll take The Evil Dead gore over Saw gore, any day. We have better effects now and, in general, a better knowledge of the human body so it's only natural that gore has evolved too. Of course, that doesn't make The Evil Dead any less effective.

'The Evil Dead' was a strange film because it came out on video before it came out in the cinemas. That should give you an indication of how popular it was. 

It was down to word of mouth. People in school were talking about this film they'd seen called 'The Evil Dead' and it scared the shit out of them. When they finally had it at our local video store, we had to book it because it was much in demand. I think we finally got it on a Wednesday or Thursday afternoon and piled down to my friend's house to watch it. 

The room was full of eight teenage boys so you know we were buggering about and generally being assholes. You always knew that a film was good if the room went quite and we started watching. For the first ten minutes or so of 'The Evil Dead', we were pretty rowdy. But, once they get to the cabin, we really started paying attention.

It really grabs your attention, doesn't it? It's such a simple technique but when that swing stops on its own, all the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Bad shit's about to go down.

You knew it was bad because a couple of the boys went home. Funny how they could hear their mums calling them home for their tea...

Hah. It certainly has jumpy bits.

But Raimi is a bastard for not going for the obvious jump. You expect the scare to come from one place but it always comes from another. 

The bit that always gets me is when Linda starts singing. I'd never seen anything like it. She's sitting there with these white eyes, telling you that she's going to kill you. That's scary shit.

That bit always got me too! It's really creepy, that sing-song voice combined with pure homicidal malice. Terrifying. The other part that bothered me, especially as a kid, was the bit with the tree...

Absolutely. I played a lot in the forest so the idea of the trees grabbing a hold of you was terrifying. Raimi was clever there because he didn't show the creature. Instead, it showed the demon's point of view instead.

It was worse than that for me, being a girl. I was too young, really, to understand the concept of rape when I first watched it so seeing a girl being invaded - and by nature at that - was beyond words. It still bothers me, actually. But, anyway...

Because The Evil Dead was a student film, took a long time to finish. Three years, I think.

That's right. And they couldn't always get the same actresses so sometimes you see a random woman they picked up at the bar in a really bad wig. 

But you don't really notice because the movie is so good. I never noticed, anyway, until it was pointed out to me.

You know, it's really not that well acted. The effects, by today's standards - even eighties standards, actually - are hokey but it didn't detract from the effectiveness, the tension, the sheer fucking terror of the film. 

So, it had everything working against it but still ended up being a masterpiece of the horror genre?


'The Evil Dead' was one of the movies banned in the UK. The whole video nasty thing was a joke anyway; just the government trying to find another way of controlling you. There were worse films out there but this one went mainstream, which made it more threatening to the government. 

The Evil Dead 2 fixed that, I guess. It was basically the exact same movie, with all the horror removed. How pointless.

Don't even talk to me about that movie. I hate, hate, hated it. The series, 'Ash vs the Evil Dead', which is still gory but has that humorous element that comes from 'The Evil Dead 2' and Ra'mi's determination never to make anything as scary as The Evil Dead again. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

'Army of Darkness' (Or, 'Medieval Dead' - which I thought was the better title.) Again, you've got comedy with scares. I didn't realise that there were different endings. For awhile, I only ever saw the one ending. Then, when I finally did see the other ending, that was the only one I saw for ages. I prefer the ending where he's overslept. I guess that's the nihilist in me. Or, because it's just that it's the one I saw first. 

The ending where Ash oversleeps is the first one I saw too. I think that's my favourite.

Can we both agree that the recent remake of The Evil Dead sucks balls?

Yes, yes we can. Don't bother is about the best thing I can say. 

That's enough from us for the day. See you tomorrow? Don't forget to leave a comment before you go.