Jack Frost (1996)

Guess who's back?

Michael Cooney

Scott MacDonald - Jack Frost
Chris Allport - Sheriff Sam Tiler
Stephen Mandel - Agent Manners
Shannon Elizabeth - Jill Metzner
F. William Parker - Paul Davrow
Eileen Seeley - Anne Tiler
Chip Heller - Joe Foster
Marsha Clark - Marla

Genre - Horror/Slasher/X-Mas

Running Time - 89 Minutes

Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4

Am I the only one who feels like Christmas 2009 doesn't feel like Christmas? With the bad economy, lack of Christmas spirit from the people I'm surrounded by, and my current recovery of the very stressful Fall Semester, these holidays don't feel as happy as they should be. Not even the recent blizzard helped. So I did what I haven't done in a couple of months to try and get into the mood of things: watch a holiday-themed horror movie. And yes, I sat and watched JACK FROST.


For the fifth time.

Don't look at me like that! Watching a snowman wet hump Shannon Elizabeth to death is the highlight of any winter! Hey, it beats watching that horrible Michael Keaton version. Yeesh, I rather drink anti-freeze before watching that drivel again. Snowmen should be killing people, not bonding with their kids. Happiness - Bah Humbug!

A serial killer named Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald) is being transferred to be executed for his crimes. Too bad this is interrupted when the prison van he's riding in crashes into another vehicle carrying untested chemicals. Jack attempts his escape but he winds up touching the chemicals, which melt him and fuse him with the snowy environment around him, turning him into a shape-shifting snowman.

In a nearby small town, Sheriff Sam Tiler (Chris Allport) becomes concerned when Frost ends up missing due to the accident, having apprehended him and knowing how dangerous he is. His feeling of worry increases when people in the town end up getting killed Christmas-style. Realizing that Jack is now a snowman seeking revenge, Tiler must act quickly to save his friends and family from Jack's frosty terror.

gets a lot of flack from many horror fans over the years, but I don't get why that is. Yeah, it's a really dumb, silly piece of horror fluff. But it never takes itself seriously and just wants to entertain with its B-movie magic. Who wouldn't be amused by a killer snowman spouting really cheesy one-liners while he kills stupid people?

The story really isn't important in a movie like this. It's your standard sci-fi horror/supernatural revenge flick where the villain dies, transforms into something that makes him pretty much immortal, and then uses his new abilities to get revenge on those he or she feels did them wrong. It's been done before and it'll continue for generations to come. What makes JACK FROST stand out are the outlandish scenerios we're subjected to in order for the film to move along. The Shannon Elizabeth "rape" scene, which I mentioned earlier, is one of these hilarious over-the-top scenes. We also get scenes where Frost wraps people in Christmas lights, cuts their heads off with sleds, and impales people with icicle projectiles. We also get a scene where Frost gets inside a scientist's body just to escape being contained for future experiments! Plus how many other films do we see a hair dryer used as a weapon and children making poisonous oatmeal for their dad? It's so campy and so silly, but it's a lot of fun to watch. I don't need to see an Oscar-calibre screenplay every time I watch a movie. Sometimes I just want to escape and be entertained. And JACK FROST does that.

The dialogue in JACK FROST is really corny and cheesy as all hell. Frost's one-liners, in particular, either make you want to roll your eyes or just laugh at how dumb he sounds. Here are some examples:

"Well it ain't fuckin' Frosty!"

"Don't eat yellow snow."

"Look, Ma! I'm a Picasso!"

You can't take the dialogue seriously at all. It's like watching the later NOES films, or even CHILD'S PLAY sequels, but cheesier. I want to hate the dialogue but that smile creeps up on my face and I want to hear more. It's great.

The characters in the film are pretty stupid, but then again, they're supposed to be. They're totally clueless to the situation and it makes the scenes where they get killed that more amusing. What also helps that Cooney actually gives these characters a bit of development really quickly, making them a notch above stereotypes. We know who each character is supposed to be and we actually like watching them. That's more than one would expect in a movie like this but I'm glad to see it. Although I do question the family who's son had just been murdered. They didn't even seem to give a crap the kid was dead! I guess we all deal with death differently.

The special effects in JACK FROST are really low-budget, but I think they give the film charm. I know a lot of people complain about how much Jack Frost looks like a puppet made from styrofoam. And yes, that's true. But I think that's what makes the character appealing and fun to watch. And the gore is pretty bad, but it's supposed to be. I think the icicle death was the best one, and the bloodiest. The film knows what it is and does it well. If this film looked like an expensive CGI masterpiece, JACK FROST wouldn't be as enjoyable as it is now.

The direction by Michael Cooney is pretty good. While he doesn't use a lot of stylistic techniques to make the visuals pop out. I did like the shot of a dead woman's point of view as we see the three main cops looking at her. That was pretty effective. Cooney knows how to maintain the tone throughout the film. His goal was to make a cheesy movie and he succeeds in doing that.

The acting is surprisingly not bad at all. Scott MacDonald is great as Jack Frost. He has a great look for a villain when he's in human form, and then brings the menace with his voice-work after the transformation. He reminded me of a mixture of both Robert Englund and Brad Dourif in his voice. I liked it. Chris Allport was also very good as the protagonist, Sheriff Tiler. He knows how to handle scenes well and has a nice presence whenever he's on screen. I read somewhere that he passed away a year ago in an anvalanche. If that's not ironic, I don't know what is. Marsha Clark was cool as Marla, the police dispatcher. And Shannon Elizabeth, in her first movie role, is very memorable as the very hot Jill. Her snow-rape scene is probably the funniest and most memorable sequence in the entire film. She should be proud of this moment. It definitely beats starring in that awful remake of THIR13EN GHOSTS.


- Don't tell kids "happy" horror stories that are too descriptive of the events that occurred. It'll probably turn them into serial killers. Or into the next Ann Coulter. Neither one is pleasant.

- Never deny a psychotic serial killer a smoke when you're having one. Lung cancer will be the last thing to kill you.

- The town of Snomonton has an annual snowman competition. Unfortunately, Amy Winehouse and Courtney love will be extremely disappointed when they learn the snow used is not the recreational kind. Bummer.

- Don't sled in the driveway of the town sheriff where a killer snowman is hiding out. Your cold heart will melt when that snowman takes you ahead in life. Literally.

- Jill won't get down unless her man puts a log on the fire and brings her a glass of wine. What a cocktease, but I'd probably obey just to have a taste of her AMERICAN PIE.

- Don't stab a pissed off snowman. He'll just impale you to death with his icicles. Just be lucky you weren't penetrated by his carrot nose. That's just embarrassing, although it'll probably improve your vision.

- Jack Frost humped Jill to death. If anyone can make women wet, it's a snowman.

isn't a masterpiece, but it's a fun piece of 90 minute fluff that will put a smile on your face. It's a very entertaining B-movie if you happen to go in with low expectations and get the joke. A definitely guilty pleasure and worthy of an annual viewing during the Christmas season. Merry Christmas everyone!


Temporary Hiatus

For those wondering why I haven't reviewed on here in the past few weeks, it's because I've been really busy with other projects and haven't had time to write reviews or even watch that many movies. I didn't die. Aliens didn't abduct me. I didn't have a sex change and talked about it on live TV. College has got me swamped and time isn't a friend these days. I will say that I will be back in December and you'll get reviews and stuff. Thanks for being patient.

- Fred


Salvage [Gruesome] (2006)

Joshua & Jeffrey Crook

Lauren Currie Lewis - Claire
Cody Darbe - Jimmy
Chris Ferry - Duke Desmond
Maureen Olander - Claire's Mother
John P. Miller - Detective Miller
Jessica DeLong - Jen

Genre - Horror/Psychological Thriller

Running Time - 79 Minutes

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4

PLOT - Claire (Lauren Currie Lewis) is a cute convenience store clerk who gets picked up after one of her work shifts by some creepy guy named Duke Desmond (Chris Ferry). Duke claims that he works with Claire's boyfriend, Jimmy (Cody Darbe), in the salvage yard and that Jimmy sent him to pick her up. After an uncomfortable trip home due to a conversation that involved "bitch" and the "c-word" aimed at Claire, Duke decides to break into Claire's house, beat the crap out of her, and then kill her by peeling her face off.

The funny this is that this seems to be Claire's nightmare of sorts - that happens in real life. Over and over and over and over again, like GROUNDHOG DAY. Everytime Claire tries to change her routine or find information about Duke, the result remains the same with Claire having to relive this nightmare again. Is Claire going nuts? Or is there something more twisted at work here?


STORY - SALVAGE is an interesting low-budget, independent thriller [although it claims to be a slasher but I disagree with that] that's pretty much the same narrative repeated multiple times, just with slight changes each time to lead into a really weird twist at the end. At times, the film is a bit repetitive and boring because while the scenes change each time, they don't really get to the point fast enough. However, the slight changes within the repetition do offer up clues to what is really going on between Claire and Duke, so they're not in vain at all.

To really go deep into the narrative itself would be spoiling the entire film. I will say that the characters are pretty well written, as well as the dialogue. There really isn't alot of it, which helps limit exposition that's not needed. The dialogue actually creates character and offers information that's crucial to the ending of the film. As for the ending, it'll probably take more than one watch to really get it. I had to watch it like three times to understand what the real deal was. It's actually quite clever in a way and I never really saw it coming. I don't think everyone will love the twist, and I'm not sure if I do either. But it was an interesting take on the meaning of Claire's nightmares.

DIRECTION - The Crook Brothers do a really nice job with the low budget they had to work with. There were some nice moments of tension and suspense. The face peeling scene, while not entirely graphic as a gorehound would probably like, did make me cringe since it was more implied than anything. The pacing could have been better though, but other than that, The Crook Brothers used what they had to work with really well.

VIOLENCE/SEX/LANGUAGE [aka THE GOOD STUFF] - There's a bit of sensuality in the film but nothing is shown. The most you get is a butt crack in a foggy shower. The language is pretty heavy, especially since the c-word is thrown out there. And there's a decent amount of gore, with the highlight being a head exploding after receiving the bad end of a shotgun blast. Not for the kiddies.

ACTING - The acting was probably the best part of SALVAGE. Lauren Currie Lewis, looking like a younger version of Alicia Silverstone, does really well as the lead girl, Claire. I really bought Lewis' expressions of confusion and fear throughout the film. Lewis has a nice presence and appeal that most young actresses don't have in my opinion. She was perfect in the role and would like to see more of her. Chris Ferry was also great as Duke Desmond, the deranged serial killer haunting Claire. He was a pretty creepy and intimidating dude, just from the way he talked to especially these smirks and grins that would make me avoid the guy period. The only other main character of note was Cody Darbe as Jimmy. He brought the comic relief to the film and I enjoyed watching him.

MUSIC - Evan Wilson's score is pretty good for the tone of the film. However, most of the soundtrack involves this indie nu-metal band called Devola. They sounded like a bad ripoff of Evanescence and Lacuna Coil and their songs were used in really crucial scenes, especially towards the end. Just very generic and the songs annoyed me a bit. It ruined the mood of these important scenes. These songs added nothing to the film.

is a cool flick if you're willing to take a chance on it. If you like stories about deja-vu, this movie is for you. It won't appeal to everyone but I think it's worth at least a single look. It has fantastic acting and a narrative which has a twist worth waiting for because it actually makes you use your brain. Shocking, I know. If you have 80 minutes to spare, SALVAGE would make a more than decent time filler.


The Hills Run Red (2009)

Dave Parker

Sophie Monk - Alexa Concannon
William Sadler - Wilson Wyler Concannon
Tad Hilgenbrink - Tyler
Janet Montgomery - Serina
Alex Windham - Lalo
Raicho Vasiley - Babyface

Genre - Horror/Slasher

Running Time - 81 Minutes

Score - 2.5 Howls Outta 4

PLOT - In THE HILLS RUN RED, a young director named Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrink) becomes obsessed with a rarely seen trailer to a film called "The Hills Run Red", deciding to make a documentary about his search to hunt down the film and see it. Apparently, this rare horror flick was directed by Wilson Wyler Concannon (William Sadler) was banned for disturbing content due to its goal to be the most violent and brutal slasher film ever produced. No actor admitted to being in the film. Even Concannon has disappeared. With the help of Concannon's daughter, Alexa (Sophie Monk), Tyler, his girlfriend (Janet Montgomery), and best friend (Alex Windham) go to the location of where the film was shot. Unfortunately, the filming hasn't ended after all these years - and Tyler & gang are the new victims.


STORY - THE HILLS RUN RED arrived with a ton of hype behind it, with many claiming it was going to bring back the good ol' days of the 80s slasher film era. Social networking sites and horror websites promoted the hell out of this independent feature, getting horror fans excited with its cool trailer and premise. Unfortunately like with most films with a huge hype machine, THE HILLS RUN RED doesn't exactly match it.

That's not to say the film is horrible. As a matter of fact, THE HILLS RUN RED is a decent film that does the "film within a film" premise pretty well for the most part. It also takes cliches, like phones never working in the woods, and totally throws them out the window due to the fact that the movie is well aware of other horror films and itself. The self-awareness that sets up THE HILLS RUN RED is the most interesting part of the film, as it makes the film feel fresher than it has any right to be. With tongue-in-cheek dialogue and a genuine feel for the love of horror, the first half of the film works really well.

But once the killer, Babyface [not the R&B singer, though that would be pretty cool too] appears and starts stalking and slaughtering people, THE HILLS RUN RED becomes your standard slasher flick where the characters then fall for the cliches that they apparently threw out of the window minutes before. You get the yokels. You get the usual predictable mistakes by the characters. You get the masked killer who never speaks. The characters who were once interesting become annoyingly stereotypical. You get blood. You get nudity. It's your standard slasher flick when the first half tried not to be that. So it feels a bit disjointed and almost like two different films at times. Not to say I wasn't entertained, because I was until the really uber-predictable ending that sets up the inevitable sequel. It just seemed that the film fell into the trap that it was trying to avoid for 40 minutes and it turns an interesting movie into a generic one by the end. It could have taken a bigger chance, but THE HILLS RUN RED decides to play it safe instead. Oh well.

DIRECTION - Dave Parker does a decent job with the film. It's nothing new from the standard modern slasher fare, meaning it's your typical "point-and-shoot" affair. There is some nice tension and suspense at times, though, and the cinematography does look nice for a low budget film. I also think the best bit of directing was for the trailer of "The Hills Run Red" trailer that's used in the film. It looks like a legit grindhouse-type of trailer and I enjoyed the hell out of it. I kind of wish the entire film had that sort of feel so it would stand out a bit. But Parker does a nice job and it's obvious he's a horror fan giving horror fans what they want visually.

VIOLENCE/SEX/LANGUAGE [aka THE GOOD STUFF] - The language is pretty tame compared to the violence and sex. There is a sex scene in the film, implied sexuality in other scenes, and Sophie Monk and Janet Montgomery show off their boobs [whoohoo!]. And the film is pretty violent, with bodies ripping in half, people getting impaled, and a ton of blood splatter. If you like your characters bleeding and getting tortured, this film is for you.

ACTING - The acting for THE HILLS RUN RED isn't all that bad really. In fact, none of the acting was horrible. Tad Hilgenbrink, who's best known for AMERICAN PIE: BAND CAMP and LOST BOYS 2: THE TRIBE, does really well as the male lead. I think the best performance that I've seen him give in any film so far, so good for him. Sophie Monk does really well Alexa. She gave a multi-layered performance and I dug it. I also dug looking at her. What a babe! Janet Montgomery and Alex Wyndham do well as Serina and Lalo. William Sadler is awesome as Wilson Wyler Concannon, seemingly enjoying playing the villain role. And Raicho Vasiley does nicely as Babyface, even though the villain didn't have much of an effect on me compared to some other horror icons out there. But Vasiley was game and had great presence on film.

MUSIC - Typical soundtrack for a slasher film. I don't remember it honestly but I didn't hate it and it fit the film well.

While it doesn't live up to the hype, THE HILLS RUN RED is a decent horror film that gives fans what they're looking for. It brings nothing new like the first act had tried to promise before going into generic slasher mode, but the film is quite entertaining even while trying to figure out the twists and turns. I think it would be a solid buy if it were edgier in its narrative and visuals [and if that crapola ending was better], but I wouldn't be opposed to say this is a great rental for a horror movie night with your friends. I think every horror fan should take a trip to these HILLS at least once.


Deep Red [Profondo Rosso] (1975)

Dario Argento

David Hemmings - Marcus Daly
Daria Nicolodi - Gianna Brezzi
Eros Pagni - Calcabrini
Gabriele Lavia - Carlo
Clara Calamai - Martha
Macha Meril - Helga Ulmann
Giuliana Calandra - Amanda Righetti

Genre - Horror/Giallo

Running Time - 126 Minutes

Score - 4 Howls Outta 4

Having reviewed many a slasher film in the past 3 years, it's surprising that I have yet to review its Italian counterpart, the giallo film. From their long murder sequences, to their stylish camerawork, to really uneven mystery narratives, and their bizarre musical scores, you'd think I would have reviewed some films from this sub-genre already. Honestly, I don't know why it's taken me so long to really talk about the giallo. Maybe it's because my tastes for European horror hasn't fully kicked in until recently, probably due to American horror being so lame these days. But I'm on an Argento high at the moment and I figured that I would ride it out and see where it takes me.

As some of you know, I'm currently taking a Horror Films course at the college that I attend, where every week details a certain sub-genre of horror in chronological order. This week was, you guessed it, giallo week and the main attraction was Dario Argento's 1975 PROFONDO ROSSO, or as many of you know it - DEEP RED. It was my first time watching it, as I've heard so many great things about the film and was always curious about it. Some even told me that it was Argento's finest feature, even more so than 1977's SUSPIRIA. So after watching it, I have to say that while DEEP RED is an interesting and bizarre ditty of a movie, it's first impression hit me a lot harder than SUSPIRIA's - meaning that DEEP RED is definitely Argento's best film that I've seen so far [and I've seen some of them]. Let's see why you should go crimson over this giallo.

In Rome, a parapsychology conference is taking place. A powerful telepathic psychic named Helga Ulman (Macha Meril) starts having really twisted thoughts coming from one of the audience members, sensing the person's thoughts of murder and promising that this person has killed before and will do it again. That very night, this audience member invades Helga's home and murders her with a hatchet and by shattering her face through her apartment window. While this occurs, an English jazz painist named Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) is walking home with his drunk friend Carlo (Gabriele Lavia). Both men hear Helga's screams, but only Marcus watches Helga get murdered. Marcus runs to Helga's apartment in vain, only watching the killer leave the scene.

Since Marcus lived upstairs from Helga and was the only person alive at the scene of the crime, he is considered a possible witness and suspect. A spunky [and desperate] reporter named Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi) pops in to take photographs for a story, connecting with Marcus right away. Marcus tries to collect his thoughts about what he saw that night, noticing that he may have seen something in the apartment but doesn't quite remember exactly what it was. With the help of Gianna, Marcus befriends Giordani (Glauco Mauri), a psychology professor who worked with Helga, hoping he can help in figuring out the case. Soon enough, Marcus believes that a missing painting in Helga's apartment will lead to the identity of the killer. But the killer is one step ahead of him, killing those who could help solve the crime. Now Marcus and Gianna must unravel the mystery before they become the next victims of this killing spree.

I was entertained immensely by DEEP RED. It's just so bizarre in its storytelling that just thinking about it puts a smile on my face. The mystery narrative really makes no sense most of the time, the score by Goblin doesn't really seem to fit with much of the film, and the death sequences are so over the top that they're brilliant. DEEP RED was more like an experience than an actual movie and I enjoyed that. DEEP RED is a film, like SUSPIRIA, where "style over susbstance" works in its favor rather than against it.

The highlights of DEEP RED are obviously the murders that take place. They're just beautifully shot and beautifully choregraphed. They're not just your simple "stalk-stab-kill" sequences. These scenes are really long and they really build up to visuals that you won't be forgetting for a long while. Helga's death scene, for example, is a study of how beautiful gore in horror can be. She gets a hatchet slammed down into her flesh multiple times and then gets her face smashed into a window until shards of broken glass impale her jugular. Amanda Righetti's [not the hot actress from The O.C. and the remake of FRIDAY THE 13TH] death was also quite a spectacle that started with her killing a suicidal bird with a knitting needle, getting knocked loopy because of that distraction, and then drowning in a hot tub [HALLOWEEN II (1981), you aren't so original, are you?]. But my favorites have to be the last two deaths. One involves the victim getting dragged literally through the streets of Rome, having his head banged into the sidewalk, and then getting that said head run down by an on-coming car. The other involves a necklace getting caught in an elevator shaft that's moving down, leading to a really sweet decapitation scene. And what was up with that walking dummy? That's some scary shit! These gory death scenes are really what people remember the most about DEEP RED and now I understand why. Dario Argento and special effect artists Germano Natali and Carlo Rambaldi did an impressive job with these sequences.

Speaking of Argento, the direction of DEEP RED is right up there with the direction for SUSPIRIA. From subjective point of view shots, to close ups of the gory stuff and clues that belong to the identity of the killer, and just the direction of the death sequences show a man at the top of his game. Odd angles, dialogue that overlaps with each other, and focused framing and composition create some nice tension and suspense in a world that's chaotically beautiful to look at. DEEP RED is a visionary film and Argento shows his skill as an interesting and fantastic artist by making it work so damn well.

Also interesting about DEEP RED - the soundtrack by Goblin. The music for DEEP RED is really bizarre at times, and appropriate at others. During the murder sequences or investigation scenes, Goblin would play this really upbeat funky soundtrack that really doesn't go with the scenes at all. Instead of being creeped out by these scenes, I was actually tapping my feet and bouncing my head to the groove and the beat. Even with the mismatch, it still worked extremely well for me and truly made DEEP RED memorable and very cool. Of course, we have the children's song that plays as the killer's theme, which is creepy as hell and is the most effective song in the film. It's a great soundtrack that sets more of a mood and atmosphere to an already moody and atmospherically visual film.

As for the narrative of DEEP RED, there's no real point in going into much depth about it. Giallos are known for their implausible mysteries, red herrings, and dialogue that will make some eyes roll. Watching DEEP RED, I have no idea who the killer was. I had my suspects, but none of them were the culprit. The identity of the killer doesn't really make sense in context of the rest of the film, but it's an interesting twist nonetheless. I enjoy unpredictable things like this, so while it did throw me off a bit, I didn't hate the revelation. Also, the characters aren't really all that developed but we know enough to get a sense of who they are. Did I sympathize with any of them? No. But I don't think I was really supposed to. The focus was more on the mystery than on the characters investigating it anyway. And there's an actual gay sub-plot in this film - from 1975. I'm sure European audiences were more accepting of this than American audiences at the time, but that was some bold stuff to put a film 34 years ago. It honestly had nothing to really do with the rest of the film, but I found it interesting that it was even brought up. Still, DEEP RED is about the mystery and it really isn't coherent at all. But since the narrative to these films play second fiddle to the visuals and audio, it's to be expected and accepted for what it is.

The acting for DEEP RED is actually quite good. David Hemmings played the role of Marcus in a charming way. I liked the guy and he had some great scenes with the other actors in the film. Hemmings is the perfect lead for a giallo. Daria Nicolodi [who was dating Argento at the time and is the mother of Asia Argento] was probably my favorite actor in the film as Gianna. She's serious at one moment and then really kooky and desperate at the other. She had great chemistry with Hemmings, as they played off of each other very naturally. I really enjoyed watching her. Gabriele Lavia was good as the drunk Carlo. Clara Calamai had me cracking me up as Carlo's mom, Martha. What an interesting character she was. And Macha Meril was laughingly fun as Helga, the overacting psychic. Apparently subtlety is not in her future.


- Marcus believes that jazz music should be sleazy, not clean. I believe that women should be sleazy AND clean. That's not the kind of itch that needs scratching, let me tell ya!

- The killer created a voodoo doll out of yarn. Not only is that creepy, but really ghetto!

- The killer murdered a psychic pretty easier. I bet she didn't see that coming! Oh wait...

- "You know, sometimes what you actually see and what you imagine... get mixed up in your memory like a cocktail." If Tom Cruise is your bartender, the only thing that'll get mixed up is his penis in your ass while he jumps on your couch. ALLEGEDLY.

- Marcus lost an armwrestling contest to Gianna. Maybe if he wasn't in the bathroom for that long period of time doing "forearm exercises", he would have had a chance.

- Amanda Righetti got murdered in a hot tub. That's weird. It usually led to sex on Blind Date...

- Marcus found a skeleton behind a wall. I heard about skeletons in the closet, but behind walls? That's just a bit much, don't you think?

This is Dario Argento at his best. PROFONDO ROSSO, or DEEP RED, is probably the finest giallo any horror fan could watch. It's beautifully gory, wonderfully directed, and is so darn bizarre that it has to be seen to be experienced and appreciated. Definitely seek out the uncut version of DEEP RED as it's the only way to go. I seem to be on an Argento kick these days. Let's see how long it will ride out.


Lady In White (1988)

Frank LaLoggia

Lukas Haas - Frankie Scarlatti
Alex Rocco - Angelo Scarlatti
Jason Presson - Geno Scarlatti
Len Cariou - Uncle Phil
Katherine Helmond - Amanda Harper
Joelle Jacoby - Melissa Ann Montgomery
Henry Harris - Harold Williams
Karen Powell - The Lady In White

Genre - Horror/Mystery/Supernatural

Running Time - 117 Minutes

Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4

PLOT - LADY IN WHITE mostly takes place in the town of Willowbank Falls in 1962. Frankie Scarlatti (Lukas Haas) is locked in the cloakroom of his 4th grade class on Halloween night by two bullies. Forcing himself to sleep and having bad dreams about his mother's funeral, Frankie is awakened by the presence of a ghost named Melissa (Joelle Jacoby), who seems to know Frankie is watching her and decides to reenact her death in front of him [which happened inside that very cloakroom]. As Frankie watches in terror, he understands that the killer dropped something in a heating duct. Moments later, the real killer appears and attempts to open up the duct inside the cloakroom to find the missing object, knowing that a new school boiler will be installed and the evidence could lead to his arrest. The killer realizes that Frankie is watching him, putting Frankie in danger as the killer strangles him. Losing his life, Frankie has an out of body experience where he meets Melissa, who tells him that she won't rest in peace until he finds her mother, The Lady In White, for her. Frankie somehow survives and realizes he must find this Lady In White to save not only Melissa's soul, but his very own life.


STORY - It's hard to write about this film without spoiling anything. I will say that LADY IN WHITE is a ghost story/mystery/melodrama all rolled up into one. It works really well due to the fact that the main character is a child and its perspective is also very child-like and innocent. It's a film that doesn't try and spook you for the sake that it wants to scare the viewers. It actually tells a pretty deep and serious story about murderous pedophiles, ghosts, struggles of the Civil Rights movement, and just all around family life through the eyes of a child.

We're never lost on our way to unravelling the mystery. While it's pretty easy to pinpoint the pedophile in the film, the build up to it is pretty interesting and we care enough to let the predictability slide due to a strong foundation of characters, who are fleshed out and very sympathetic to side with. In fact, the Scarlatti family are a pretty entertaining bunch, written and directed in almost a slapstick style that only makes this Italian family the more endearing. They act and talk like a real family, which is refreshing in the horror genre. And the journey towards learning about the Lady In White and the revelation of the killer's identity is never boring. In fact for a two hour movie, it felt a lot shorter than that. You're just caught up in the story and that's some good screenwriting for you.

My only beef with the narrative is that it's told as a flashback. This isn't a bad thing at all because it's told really well. However, the film begins with an adult Frankie (played by Frank LaLoggia himself) telling a cab driver the moment he decided to be really serious as a horror writer, which leads into the Lady In White story. Then there are also times where LaLoggia does voiceovers during the story, which are sort of annoying since he tells us exactly what we're seeing on screen. If I can see it, why do I want to hear what I'm seeing at the same time? Those are the worst kind of voiceovers. Also, the film ends when the mystery is solved and the killer is brought to justice. We never go back to adult Frankie after that. What's the point in having Frankie as an adult if you're never gonna follow that sub-plot after the main story is over? It just made the ending feel a bit abrupt and a bit odd. But other than that, the story was well written and well told.

DIRECTION - Frank LaLoggia does a nice job giving LADY IN WHITE an almost surreal feel at times while balancing out the real life events. The film, taking place in the Fall and early Winter of 1962 and 1963, definitely feels like a Fall and early Winter type of movie. It created a nice mood and atmosphere to the film, as the setting was believable and totally matched the story. There was also nice editing and beautiful composition at times, creating tension and suspense - especially towards the end of the film. LaLoggia also knows how to handle the lighter comedic moments without trying, creating a nice balance and some good pacing that never felt off. The special effects, which are really superimposed images acting like ghosts, do look a bit cheesy and corny 21 years after the fact. But it was the 80s and it was a low budget flick. I've seen worse CGI now than I did here, so I'm willing to let it slide. I'm a nostalgic fool, what can I say?

VIOLENCE/SEX/LANGUAGE [aka THE GOOD STUFF] - LADY IN WHITE is a very tame film, meant for families rather than adults. I believe there was no foul language at all in this film. There is a bit of implied sex when it came to the killer, who was a pedophile. We never see anything or even hear stories about what he did. But there's a moment where the killer caresses Frankie in a way that it's a bit uncomfortable. And there is a decent amount of violence, especially towards the end and when someone gets shot in the second act. But other than that, it shouldn't be too horrible to show children.

ACTING - Lukas Haas does a fantastic job as Frankie, creating a real genuine and fleshed out character that we can all root for. Jason Presson, as Gino, was also genuine and quite funny. I actually wanted to see more of his character in the film. Alex Rocco plays the sensitive and caring father perfectly. Renata Vanni and Angelo Bertolini, as the grandparents, were a riot with their sparring. And Katherine Helmond, who is best known as Mona on Who's The Boss?, doesn't do all that much but looks quite scary as the older Lady In White. All that slutting around on that show really aged the hell out of her!

MUSIC - Typical ghost/supernatural score. It worked perfectly with the film.

LADY IN WHITE is an underrated and probably overlooked 80s horror film that has a lot of depth and endearing qualities that make it stand out among horror around that time. It's not an exciting movie or all that suspenseful until the end, but its atmosphere and the characters that keep the story moving really make this one worth a watch. I don't think everyone will enjoy LADY IN WHITE, but I think it's a very good film that deserves some attention.


Suspiria (1977)

Dario Argento

Jessica Harper - Susy Banyon
Stefania Cassini - Sara
Alida Valli - Miss Tanner
Joan Bennett - Madame Blank
Udo Kier - Frank Marshall
Flavio Bucci - Daniel

Genre - Horrror/Supernatural/Witchcraft

Running Time - 98 Minutes

Score - 4 Howls Outta 4

When I was younger and in my 'I want to be a delusional actor who will end killing himself practicing auto-erotic asphyxiation in his hotel room' phase, my mom had considered sending me to a school to hone my skills. While I never did get to learn lessons on the right ways to meet drug dealers, buy hookers, and the proper tools on how to get laid successfully on a casting couch, I'm kind of glad I went to regular schools like normal people. If this acting academy was anything like the academy in Dario Argento's 1977 Italian horror masterpiece, SUSPIRIA, then I'd probably would have been turned off from the entertainment field for life. And if that happened, I wouldn't be doing these reviews. And without these reviews, your life would truly suck wouldn't it?

Wait...you wouldn't care if my reviews didn't exist?

You hear that Goblin score, right?

Did you see those evil yellow cat eyes staring at you from outside your window? I know you did.

Your denial has pissed off the Three Mothers [Mater Suspiriorum - Mother of Sighs, Mater Lachrymarum - Mother of Tears, and Mater Tenebrarum - Mother of Darkness] and you don't want to make these chicks angry. So sit down, relax, and read my review for SUSPIRIA. Maybe they'll forgive you. Or maybe they'll stab you in the heart and hang you from a glass ceiling in a very beautiful way. The Three Mothers are very unpredictably witchy.

Loosely based on Thomas De Quincey's essay, "Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow" from Suspiria de Profundis, SUSPIRIA is about a American dance student named Susy Banyon (Jessica Harper) who comes to Germany to study dance at the Tanzakademie. The night she arrives, there's a bad rainstorm as she heads towards the academy. When she gets there, she sees a distraught student from the academy run from the building while mumbling about some sort of secret about an iris. Susy tries to get into the academy, but she's turned away until the next morning.

When Susy returns the next morning, she finds the local authorities questioning the headmistress of the school, Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett). Apparently the girl who fled from the building, along with another woman, were murdered in her hotel room by an unknown assailant. Susy is a bit perturbed by this but ends up attending class anyway and rooming with Sara (Stefania Casini), who takes Susy under her wing.

Things start getting weird for Susy soon after though. She starts to get sick and has to spend much of the next few days in bedrest while eating a special diet that consists of wine. She also experiences a swarm of maggots infesting the entire school, as well as nightly footsteps that sound like the faculty leaving the school. Sara tells Susy that she believes that witches may be involved with the surreal occurences in the academy, but Susy is too weak to really care. However, Sara soon ends up missing - causing Susy to gain her strength to investigate these footsteps and unravel the mystery of Tanzakademie.

I first saw SUSPIRIA I believe in 2005 with friends who hadn't seen the film, after I heard and read so many people praising what they called Dario Argento's masterpiece. While always digging Italian horror but always eager to watch more, I decided to take a look at SUSPIRIA. And to be quite honest, I hated the damn thing. I didn't get the whole appeal. I thought the story was lame, the acting cheesy, and the dubbing to be campy as hell. I honestly didn't get it and didn't understand what the big deal was about. It also could have been that I wasn't completely sober watching it, which didn't help the experience.

I soon realized that I wasn't looking at SUSPIRIA the right away. Italian horror is totally different from American horror and I wasn't really giving it a fair chance. So I watched it again in 2006 [this time alone AND sober] and guess what? I ended up loving this film! It's great to look at. The score is awesome. And the narrative, with the right frame of mind, is actually pretty interesting for the most part. SUSPIRIA is a really cool film if you look at it in the way that you're supposed to.

Usually I start with discussing the film's story, but the story in SUSPIRIA isn't the focus here. The highlight of the film and why people cherish it so much is really for the impressive visuals and direction by Dario Argento and cinematographer Luciano Tavoli. SUSPIRIA is stunning to look at. The use of colors, especially the neon reds, greens, and yellows, really create a level of surrealism for any viewer. This is true when they especially reflect Susy's mood, especially towards the end of the film. It looks like an art project one would dream up while sleeping or during a really freaky LSD trip. SUSPIRIA was the last film to be shot in Technicolor and I kind of wish more films were shot with it because the movie is really interesting to the eye. It's like a fairy tale come to life with subliminal images that really stick with you long after the film is over.

The set pieces are also quite elaborate and very memorable. The beginning and final sequences, in particular, really take advantage of the space within which the film is shot. The setting is part of Argento's way of creating tension, suspense, and a really trippy atmosphere that lingers with you. The environment is really a separate character in itself and it definitely makes its haunted presence known in SUSPIRIA.

Speaking of more visuals, the death sequences are choregraphed beautifully. They're done in such an artsy way that they totally stand out from all other death sequences in the history of film. While watching women freak out over maggots or watch another squirm in a pit full of barb wire, those scenes are NOTHING compared to the first death of the film. It's been talked about alot. Many consider it one of the best movie scenes of all time. And I honestly can't blame people for thinking this way. I mean from the moment those yellow eyes appear from the window, to the face smashing into the glass, to the knife through the heart in an opened chest, to falling through a stained glass ceiling not only causing the victim to hang herself, but killing someone else below her out of the blue is just a beautiful cinematic moment. Dario Argento really is a master at creating visual style that leaves a lasting impressing impression on the audience.

Also where SUSPIRIA excels - the soundtrack of the film. Done by the famous Goblin, SUSPIRIA hosts a really weird and memorable score that's highlighted by angry drums, interesting instrumental work, and strange whispers that creep up on you throughout. It sounds as beautiful as the film looks. Like John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN score released a year after, SUSPIRIA's score really creates another level of atmosphere that the visuals are unable to achieve.

Now like I wrote above, the narrative for SUSPIRIA isn't really the focus. A lot of viewers complain that because of this, the film suffers. Yeah, it's not the greatest told story in the history of film. You have to suspend disbelief every once in a while. The dialogue isn't fantastic and the exposition can be a bit corny. But the film does have a mystery going for it and you're caught up in what will happen to the characters. And so what if things don't make a total amount of sense the first time around? SUSPIRIA is presented like a really weird dream. Do most dreams make sense when you first think about them? Absolutely not. Argento doesn't hide that the film is more about style than substance. When that is a director's intention, can we really say it's wrong? So yeah, the story could be stronger and it isn't perfect. But that really isn't the point with SUSPIRIA anyway, so why bitch about it?

The acting is a bit weird because the voices are dubbed. So it's really hard to judge this category. I will say that Jessica Harper as Susy is a gorgeous lady and she does really well as the lead of the film. Her vulnerability and confusion and conveyed perfectly throughout and I even bought her slow transformation into a courageous woman who wants to know what's going on at this academy. Stephani Casini was good as Sara, Susy's friend. Joan Bennet as Madame Blanc gave a classy and cold performance as the headmistress of the school. Alida Valli as Miss Tanner played the butchy dance instructor well. She reminded me of Ms. Mann from SCARY MOVIE for some reason. And a young Udo Kier did alright in his expository cameo talking about witchcraft. Not a bad cast and even the dubbing wasn't horrible. So I can't complain.


- If you see a pretty woman stranded in the rain looking for a ride, pick her up. It may be the only time you'll see a woman wet up close.

- If you're about to enter an establishment while watching someone run out in fear, you may want to reconsider. It's like that time I saw Tom Cruise run out embarassed from The Tool Box nightclub. I had to think LONG and HARD about ever going there again.

- "Susy. Sarah. I once read that names with the letter 'S' are names of SNAKES!" No wonder there are no names under that letter in Indiana Jones' black book.

- Some lady was rubbing and shining up her sword in front of Susy. I would rub and shine up my sword in front of Susy too. She's pretty hot! And I'm pretty perverted!

- Susy got a nose and mouth bleed after a dance rehearsal. I suffered the same thing while watching an episode of So You Think You Can Dance. Coincidence? I think not!

- Wine helps build up blood. Wine also helps me forget that weird time with the touchy-feely neighborhood who always offered me a lollipop to suck on. See, wine does a lot of things!

- The Academy was infested with maggots. That's the last time Paris Hilton will ever be allowed to visit there without wearing underwear!

- If you're blind, beware of your seeing-eye dog. The only thing it wants to see is you... as a midnight snack!

Oh by the way, if you're blind and you're reading this - THEN YOU ARE NOT BLIND!!!

- Sara accidentally landed in barb wire while escaping whatever's haunting the Academy, screaming in torture. I accidentally landed on a channel playing BARB WIRE with Pamela Anderson while escaping an episode of Tool Academy 2, screaming in torture. Landing on it and watching a movie named after it seems to leave you with the same experience.

won't be everyone's cup of horror tea, but it certainly is mine. The film was way ahead of its time with its visuals and audio elements that heighten the film into turning it into a sensory experience. It's too bad the film is being remade and directed by David Gordon Green. He's a great director but I don't think any reimagining will match the 1977 masterpiece that is Dario Argento's SUSPIRIA. If you haven't seen this horror classic for some reason, take a chance on it and watch it more than once. It's the only way you'll appreciate this work of cinematic art.




Sorority Row (2009)

Stewart Hendler

Briana Evigan - Cassidy Tappan
Leah Pipes - Jessica Pierson
Rumer Willis - Ellie Grayson
Jamie Chung - Claire Freeman
Margo Harshman - Charlene 'Chugs' Cross
Audrina Patridge - Megan Blair
Julian Morris - Andy James
Carrie Fisher - Mrs. Crenshaw
Matt O'Leary - Garrett Cross

Genre - Horror/Slasher/Remake

Running Time - 101 Minutes

Score - 2.5 Howls Outta 4

In 1983, a slasher film called HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW was released. It's a slasher that not many people talk about or even bring up in most horror circles. Hell, I didn't even know about it until the slasher film documentary GOING TO PIECES: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE SLASHER FILM showed bits of the film in 2006. It's kind of sad that not many people haven't seen HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW. I believe it's very underrated and one of the better slashers out there.

Luckily, someone decided that a remake was in order and hence - we have SORORITY ROW 26 years later. Here's an instance where a remake actually does something positive for the original because now people know it finally exists and will be curious to see how it stacks up to the remake. Personally, HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW tops SORORITY ROW, no doubt about it. But SORORITY ROW, a film I wasn't all that eager to watch anyway, happens to be a silly, fun slasher that doesn't do anything new. Let's see why Theta Pie Must Die!

The sisters of the Theta Pi sorority (Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis, Jamie Chung, and Margo Harshman) are beginning their senior year like any wholesome sorority would - with booze, drugs, and lots of sex. But since this sorority consists of vindictive overachievers, they decide to pull a prank on the very mentally and emotionally fragile Garrett (Matt O'Leary) to make him believe that his ex-girlfriend and fellow Theta Pi sister Megan (Audrina Patridge) died due to Garrett adding roofies to her drink. They travel near an empty part of town with a well to "dispose the body", knowing the prank is getting to Garrett. Yeah, it gets to the guy so damn much that he takes a tire iron and stabs Megan with it to dismember her body. Unfortunately, Megan was really alive and now the group has a real murder in their hands. After a large discussion and conflict, the girls and Garrett decide to dump Megan's body in the well and make a pact where none of the girls would ever bring up what happened that night ever again.

Eight months pass and it's graduation time. On the outside, the girls of Theta Pi seem to be on the top of the world. But most of them are still heavily effected by the prank. Unknowing to them, someone else knows about what happened that night and decides to send them text messages revealing images and video of the murder. This person also happens to be wrapped in a graduation cloak and killing people in vicious ways with a tire iron. Is Megan back from the dead to get her revenge? It is another sorority prank? Why am I expecting Jennifer Love Hewitt and her huge breasts to suddenly pop out and yell, "What are you waiting for, huh? WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?"

Sue me, but I liked SORORITY ROW. Maybe it's because I've been in a downward spiral emotionally lately for reasons too long to explain here. But SORORITY ROW cheered me up and I had a fun time with this remake. It's hardly original and doesn't change the face of the slasher film, but it does decently with what it can work with.

SORORITY ROW, while similar in some aspects to HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, is pretty much a remake in name only. SORORITY ROW feels more like a homage to I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER than the film it's based upon. After all, the main characters cause an accidental death that they all promise to cover up and never speak about. They all become distant and start dealing with the horrible experience by living in denial about it. Then some mysterious figure wearing a costume and using a unique weapon has information about the death and decides to take revenge on the characters one by one. I mean, it's pretty much the same exact formula but with different characters. Do I have anything against I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER? Absolutely not. I actually like that film for the most part. But SORORITY ROW pretty much copies it to a tee, which makes it more dated and predictable than it should be.

Even the revelation of the killer's identity is pretty generic and easy to figure out right away if you've seen these types of films on more than one occasion. I mean, the red herrings were really obvious and lazy. It was as if all the side characters had to appear threatening or knowledgable about Theta Pi, as if they could be the killer. I mean, really? It took away from the mystery of the film! And that revelation...yeah, I just thought it was really silly. While I do see the hints leading up to it now that I think back on the film and it's kind of cliche and predictable, I think the screenwriters could have done a better job in making it more plausible. I just thought this certain person really had no believable motive in doing what he/she did. Just seemed far-fetched, as if the screenwriters pulled a character's name out of a hat and made that choice the villain. Wasn't really satisfying, I thought. It's possible this sub-plot was a lot bigger on paper than what it was made out to be on film. But what we do see doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I thought the ending was pretty weak.

The characterization of the girls was pretty non-existent. They were pretty much all one-dimensional catty bitches with dialogue and action that gave me no choice but to laugh at what I was watching and hearing from them. Especially Leah Pipes as Jessica, who was Queen B.I.T.C.H. and made me hate her to the point where I kept hoping she'd die a horrible death - but in a good way. It was like watching an old episode of Melrose Place and watching Heather Locklear throw down on some poor soul with mean and laughable dialogue. So the lack of depth to these girls or any of the characters actually ELEVATED the film for me, turning SORORITY ROW from a mediocre slasher to a guilty pleasure. What can I say... I love me some bitchy chicks! Never wrong in my book.

The gore in SORORITY ROW was actually more than I had expected it to be. I mean, it was some really brutal and in-your-face stuff. And I found it interesting that most of the murders involved things going into the girls' mouths. It's as if the male screenwriters are trying to convey some sort of message. Hmmm...I wonder what this oral fixation is implying? I just can't seem to put my dick, I mean finger, on it...

And for an R-rated slasher flick, where was my T & A? Sure, that girl with the "perfect" breasts displayed them proudly [and my penis thanks you for that, sweetheart]. And we did get a couple of ass shots. But it was really tame and it seemed like that tire iron got more sexual action than any of these characters. But some T & A is better than none, so I'm okay with it. Just a bit disappointed, that's all.

The direction by Stewart Hendler was pretty decent. It had a lot of style and used the composition well. Hendler brings a lot of energy to the film with great pacing and slick camera movements and shots. I also thought the cinematography was great as well. It really is a nice looking film and Hendler doesn't cut away from the gore. Hendler knew exactly what kind of film he was making here and seems to be having fun doing it, making us have fun along with him.

The acting wasn't really Oscar-worthy but it is a lot of fun to watch. Briana Evigan was very good as Cassidy, giving us a "good girl" character to sympathize with. Plus she's very easy to look at, which is a plus. Leah Pipes was my favorite as the uber-bitchy Jessica. I hated her from beginning to end and wanted to screw her brains out at the same time. Hot bitchy women do that to me. Rumer Willis kind of annoyed me at times with her constant crying and screaming, but it was in her character to do that and Willis did it well. Unfortunately I didn't buy to complete character change at the end but it's not her fault. Jamie Chung is hot and cute and could scream on cue. Great job. Margo Harshman as Chugs was okay. I really had no idea what her deal was honestly. Maxx Hennard cracked me up as the player, Mickey. And Carrie Fisher, in her cameo, rocked it as the housemother. I would like to see an EVIL DEAD 4 with her and Bruce Campbell grabbing a pair of boomsticks and just blasting mofos. Good times.


- Sorority girls enjoy having pillow fights in their bras and panties. I enjoy fighting with girls' pillows myself. My motorboat technique is always fun.

- Making out with Audrina Patridge is like making out with a corpse. Well it matches her "acting" on The Hills, so I'm not surprised.

- Rumer Willis was traumatized by the girls' prank going fatally wrong. Her step-father Ashton is really going to the next level with his Punk'd ideas.

- Dr. Rosenberg got killed by a flying tire iron to the skull. Gee, what a headcase.

- Cassidy went inside the pit to see if Megan's body was still there. She's lucky she didn't enter Paris Hilton's pit. The itch never goes away, let me tell you!

- Sorority sisters like to fuck each other's boyfriends. And is there any wonder why syphillis is making a comeback? I'm sure Maury Povich approves of this.

doesn't reinvent the wheel and would be totally average if it wasn't for the colorful characters that actually raise the entertainment value of this remake. But the mystery is weak and the reveal is even weaker. And if you didn't like the style of I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, you won't like SORORITY ROW either. Still, it's a lot better than I was expecting it to be and the film is worth a rental when it's released on DVD. Definitely a beer and popcorn type of film to watch with friends.


The Last House On The Left (2009)

Dennis Iliadis

Monica Potter - Emma Collingwood
Tony Goldwyn - John Collingwood
Sara Paxton - Mari Collingwood
Garret Dillahunt - Krug
Aaron Paul - Francis
Riki Lindhome - Sadie
Spencer Treat Clark - Justin
Martha MacIssac - Paige

Genre - Horror/Revenge

Running Time - 114 Minutes

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4

I can pretty much say at this point that while I can accept and tolerate them, I still dislike the recent remake trend that's going on in Hollywood. I mean, I get it. Filmmakers and the studios they work for want to update classic horror films for a newer generation who may not appreciate the older stuff because they're "ancient" or because they can't relate with the eras that they're from. Of course, there's the busine$$ aspect of the whole thing that you can't ignore. But when I see films I love like FRIDAY THE 13TH, HALLOWEEN [really HALLOWEEN II], DAY OF THE DEAD, THE HITCHER, and countless others being turned into crap because of modern Hollywood, I begin to get annoyed by the trend.

However, there are some horror films that don't really bother me when they're remade. Honestly, I think some of these movies could use a reimagining and a new vision for a modern era because they're either really dated or because they have flaws that could be improved on with a remake. THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, 1972's directorial debut by Wes Craven, is one of these films for me. I like THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and its effectiveness with its brutality and a classic performance by David Hess, which can't be matched. But those deputy characters and the revenge by the parents in the film are more comical today than they should be, leading me to believe that the film hasn't dated all that well. Times change and how we perceive things evolve because of it. The original still holds a place as classic horror and exploitation, but the idea of the remake earlier this year didn't disturb me because I knew at the right hands, it could be made into a more serious film. And after watching it last week, I have to say that THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT surprised me and I believe it's one of the better remakes that Hollywood has released in the past few years.

The remake's story is pretty much similar to the original's. The Collingwood family - father and doctor John (Tony Goldwyn), mom Emma (Monica Potter), and teenage daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) - head into the country for a family trip that ends up being bittersweet since teenage son Ben has passed away and it's the Collingwoods' first trip without him. Unfortunately, the Collingwoods have no idea that a group of killers is on the loose. Leader Krug (Garret Dillahunt) has escaped from police custody with the help of his sadistic and perverted brother Francis (Aaron Paul) and Krug's girlfriend Sadie (Riki Lindhome). Through Krug's teenage son Justin (Spencer Treat Clark), the group meets up with Mari and her friend Paige (Martha MacIssac), who hang with Justin for some sweet pot although Mari is hesitant about the whole deal. Just as the girls get ready to leave, Krug and the others take them as hostages. When they don't cooperate like good hostages, the group murders Paige, rape Mari, and then leave Mari to die in a lake during a thunderstorm.

Needing a place to stay for the night, Krug's group make it to the Collingwoods country home, not knowing who each other are. When the truth is revealed, the Collingwood parents take justice in their own hands, making sure Krug and his family never forget about the last house on the left.

This remake really surprised the hell out of me. The previews made this film look so generic. Plus the reputation of horror remakes these days tend to lean more on the negative side, so I really wasn't expecting a remake to an exploitation film like THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT to really meet my low expectations. But not only was this remake better than the previews had led me to believe, but it's also one of the better horror remakes that Hollywood has made since the trend started.

The story/narrative is pretty much the same as the original. However the way the same story is told in each version is very different. In the 1972 version, the story was a product of social commentary at the time relating to feminism, Vietnam, and the disillusion of the government. It truly reflected each of these issues, creating a story that was not only gritty, but effectively brutal. In the 2009 version, these issues don't exist anymore. Instead, the screenwriters went for a simple revenge flick formula where the parents get revenge on those who have raped and almost murdered their daughter. Yes, we've seen films like this quite frequently. But when they're written well and do enough to make you feel for the protagonists to the point where you want them to get revenge on these evil people, then why would anyone want to complain? Unlike the original, you never really question if the parents were justified in what they do to Krug and his gang. You know it's an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. It works and you're captivated from beginning to end.

I do think the characterization of the villains could have been stronger. While Krug, Sadie, and Francis are horrible, dispicable people, they don't seem as sadistic as they should be. In the original, the villains were really the scum of the earth and you really got a sense that these people were horrible and had no sense of morality at all. In this remake, they seem very generic. Krug's character could be interchangable with many other similar villains in any revenge film. Plus Sadie, who was a really dispicable bitch in the original, seems to be more sorry and almost questions her actions judging by her body language and facial expressions. Only Francis seems to really be similar to his original counterpart, Weasel, not hiding the fact that he's a pervert and doesn't mind getting his hands dirty to get what he wants. While I like the protagonist characters in the remake more, the villains in the original are still tops for me.

I also thought some sub-plots weren't really necessary. Obviously the main one was the teasing of the Collingwood's disinegrating marriage. You can tell there was more to it than what the narrative or the film allows, but nothing really comes from it. So really, it could have been left out. Also Sadie's lesbian tendencies are displayed quite frequently and she seems like a sexual deviant. But that part of her personality quickly disappears. And then there's the final scene involving a microwave. Yeah. The less said about that, the better.

The gore and brutality in the remake isn't as much as the original. We do get some stabbings and bullets hitting flesh. Plus there's that surgery scene and a head blowing up. Let's not forget the hand in the garbage disposal. And the rape sequence went further than I thought it would, especially in more PC times. Nothing to really write home about but it does it job.

The direction by Dennis Iliadis is really good. I thought the composition shots and cinematography was absolutely beautiful. Iliadis really made the silence in the film more deafening than the louder moments, making the more brutal moments in the film more so. And there was definitely a nice use of creating momentum and tension. The visuals were very pleasant and I have no complaints at all about the directorial work.

The acting was quite good too. Monica Potter played the part of overprotective and vulnerable wife and mother really well. I sympathetized with the character and found her reactions to what was going on really believable. Nice job. Tony Goldwyn held his own too as the husband and father. But I don't think the role was beefy enough to really mean much. His action scenes with the killers were cool but there wasn't really all that much to the character. Sara Paxton played the "nice girl" role perfectly. Aaron Paul was great as the perverted Francis. He totally convinced me in the way he used his body and his face. Riki Lindhome did okay as Sadie, but her character should have been given more to do. Spencer Treat Clark played the kid who was caught up in a messed up situation really well. And Garret Dillahunt is no David Hess, but he was alright as Krug. It was more subtle than I was expecting and I honestly can't picture anyone but Hess in the role. But his performance was good.


- Never refuse a criminal his right to pee. It's better to be pissed on than to piss him off. Your life depends on it.

- Don't get too excited when two hot girls give you a makeover if you're a dude. They're not trying to get with you. You've just become their new gay friend. Congrats.

- "Memories are important." I agree. Like the time me and my frat buddy had too much to drink and we both woke up with our asses in unexplainable pain.

...Correction - Memories are overrated. Screw 'em!

- It's good to have a doctor for a dad. He'll stitch your broken nose. He'll stop the bleeding and put a tube inside so you can breathe. And he's a pro with the anal thermometer. No wonder every woman wants to marry a doctor.

- Don't go after a married woman. You'll receive a sharp pain in your chest after she rejects you. Or after she stabs you with a large butcher knife. Whichever comes first.

- Emma shot Sadie right in the eye, killing her. Damn, she wouldn't last long in the porn industry, would she?

THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is a surprisingly good remake that kept me entertained from beginning to end. It's not as brutal or as memorable as the original, but it takes the story a bit more seriously and I thought the revenge motif came off better here than it did in the original. So I think they both balance each other out and are both worth watching for different reasons. All in all, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT '09 is a highlight of a lackluster year and will probably be on my Best Of '09 list by the end of December.


H2: Halloween II (2009)

** Shout out to Reverend Phantom of Midnight Confessions and Continental Film Reviews for the new banner. This also happens to be my 300th review. Thanks to all the readers who got me here! **

Rob Zombie

Scout Taylor-Compton - Laurie Strode/Angel Myers
Tyler Mane - Michael Myers
Brad Dourif - Sheriff Leigh Brackett
Danielle Harris - Annie Brackett
Sheri Moon Zombie - Deborah Myers
Chase Wright Vanek - Young Michael Myers
Brea Grant - Mya
Angela Trimbur - Harley

Genre - Horror/Slasher

Running Time - 101 Minutes

Score - 1.5 Howls Outta 4

I think it's suffice to say that you, my friends and fellow readers, know how much I love John Carpenter's 1978 horror classic, HALLOWEEN. It's my favorite movie of all time and it's the only film I can watch any day of the week and never get bored or tired of. Yeah, the franchise had its ups-and-downs [more downs than ups] but I enjoy watching Michael Myers butcher people with his big knife. Sue me.

I even enjoyed Rob Zombie's 2007 remake for HALLOWEEN while a lot of people didn't, understandably. I thought he did a better job with it than probably anyone else would have, creating a more realistic and brutal twist to the franchise. I think the guy had balls to tackling a project like this, knowing that fans would take no time is pointing out flaws and comparing it to the much superior original. Yet, Zombie held his ground by creating buzz to a franchise that was long considered D.O.A., leaving fans anticipating another installment of "The Night He Came Home".

So here we are, 2 years later, with the second version of HALLOWEEN II [which isn't a remake of the 1981 sequel to the original]. There was a time where Zombie refused to work on this sequel, leaving the installment up for grabs and even having a variety of horror directors trying to take their crack at a story that would continue right after the remake. Something changed obviously [$$$] and Zombie came back to the project to "complete HIS vision". He wanted to focus more on the psychological aspect of the Myers siblings, especially when it came to Laurie Strode, and take the franchise into a direction it had never dared to in the past. And I gotta say, Mr. Zombie sure did that. Unfortunately, that's not a good thing.

HALLOWEEN II did a number on me, folks. I saw it in a theater on Saturday afternoon, after hearing and reading all the negative comments concerning this film. I try not to let those things get to me, but the trailers and previews had already brought out the negative in me so these comments just added to it. Also, I was seated next to a group of obnoxious assholes who whispered throughout the entire film and laughed at anything and everything. It was a scene taken out from SCARY MOVIE where Brenda is watching SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE and talking so loud on her phone that people in the theater stabbed her to death so she could shut up. If I had a knife on me, I would have remade that very scene. But I did manage to focus somewhat on HALLOWEEN II and ended up hating it. I couldn't believe what Zombie came up here. Michael's mom motivating him to kill? Laurie screaming and whining the entire time? Dr. Loomis as a self-obsessed prick? Is this my HALLOWEEN? What the fuck did Zombie do? I even went on Facebook and ranted about it. HALLOWEEN II ruined my Saturday!

Then something strange happened. I ended up chatting with people about it and realized that I didn't watch HALLOWEEN II with an open mind. It doesn't help when you're distracted by loudmouths next to you saying "Oh Jesus! Oh Jesus!". I went through the five stages of the Kubler-Ross model that Saturday night before going to bed. Waking up that Sunday, I knew I couldn't review this film fairly. I needed to watch it again and make sure my previous hatred was justified. So I saw it again Sunday night. And guess what? I didn't hate it! As a matter of fact, the ideas Zombie presented in the sequel were actually quite interesting. Unfortunately, HALLOWEEN II still disappointed the hell out of me the second time. It's not a great film. It's not even a good film. It barely even makes it to mediocre. HALLOWEEN II is a sequel that's truly a slap in the face to fans because not only does it move away from what makes HALLOWEEN films "HALLOWEEN films" to begin with, but the ideas that are so good on paper fail to translate successfully on screen. Blow the candle out in that jack-o-lantern because HALLOWEEN II is one big ambitious mess that should have been better.

HALLOWEEN II begins with a flashback of a younger Michael Myers (Chase Wright Vanek replacing Daeg Faerch) at Smith's Grove Sanitarium being visited by his mom Deborah (Sheri Moon Zombie). She gives him a small figure of a white horse, at which Michael tells her relates to a dream he previously had where he saw her taking him home on a similar white horse. They both laugh it off, not knowing how important this would be later.

We head back fifteen years later right after the events of Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) shooting Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) and screaming her head off. After walking aimlessly in the street traumatized by the events, Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) finds her and helps to the nearest hospital. Michael Myers is considered dead and body bagged, loaded into a morgue truck that drives away towards the hospital. As the two EMT workers discuss the pleasures of necrophilia, the truck hits a cow and crashes. The crash apparently wakes up Michael and he makes his escape. The escape is strange as he sees Deborah, dressed completely in white leading a white horse and a younger version of himself around. They both tell Michael that it's time to bring Laurie "home". He heads towards the hospital to find Laurie, killing everyone in his way. Once Michael makes it to Laurie and has her in his grasp, Laurie wakes up and realizes the whole hospital thing was a dream.

It's a year later and Laurie is now living with her best friend Annie (Danielle Harris) and Sheriff Brackett, creating a new family for her. While Laurie rebels to deal with her trauma, she works at a coffee shop sort of deal with Mya (Brea Grant) and the slutty Harley (Angela Trimbur). It doesn't help her have any sort of normalcy in her life since she has continuous nightmares about what happened to her and even about stranger things, like visions of Deborah, a younger Michael, and a white horse.

Things get worse for Laurie due to Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), who seems to be dealing with what happened with Michael Myers by proclaiming Michael dead [his body was never found after the morgue truck crash] and by doing a book tour and becoming a prima donna. The book reveals Laurie's true relation to Michael [they being siblings], traumatizing Laurie even more. All this comes to a head when Michael reveals himself in Haddonfield again on Halloween night, listening to his mother's advice to save Laurie and reunite their long-separated family...one dead body at a time.

isn't a HALLOWEEN film. It's a Rob Zombie film. We have the dirtiest and nastiest white trash people who use the word "fuck" like it's the only word worth saying. We have strippers. We have slutty chicks who like wolves [call me!]. We have surreal dream sequences that wouldn't be out of place in a David Lynch film. If it wasn't for the big guy wearing the white mask and the butcher knife, you would never know this film was a sequel to HALLOWEEN (2007). This is both a hit and a miss because while I appreciate Zombie taking the franchise in a new direction that's totally his own, he also turns his back on what made these films what they are. Plus his ideas don't resonate much at the end because they're so vague. Here's a film that has a message and a vision that's dying to be expressed, yet doesn't know how to do it in a logical sense.

The weakest part of HALLOWEEN II is Zombie's script. I love Zombie as a director but his screenwriting was always iffy for me. HALLOWEEN II falls in the negative category. There's just so much going on in the story that there's not enough time to resolve all the sub-plots that infiltrate this sequel.

Let me state the positives right now. The opening act of HALLOWEEN II is great. It's Zombie's homage to the original HALLOWEEN II with the hospital setting and Michael chasing Laurie inside the dark, empty halls of Haddonfield Hospital. It's gritty. It's brutal. I think it's actually better paced than the final scene of the original HALLOWEEN II. It's a great start to a film that loses steam really quickly. Not that I want Zombie to remake HALLOWEEN II (1981). That's the last thing I want. But the fact that the homage was better than his actual new vision is pretty sad in lots of way.

I also liked the ideas Zombie presented in his new vision. The whole "white horse" thing turned people off, but even watching it the first time, I thought the meaning behind the animal was quite poignant. The white horse represents pestilence, or the act of dominating something or something. It's a symbol of repressed anger. Michael obviously holds a lot of anger inside, judging by how he murdered his victims, so it makes sense. I know a lot of people were turned off by it, but I liked it. I also liked the use of dreams and hallucinations as well to set the tone of how surreal the situation is. I think alot of people wanted to know what these dreams were supposed to represent, but do we really understand most of our dreams? So why should be understand these? So again, not a bother in my eyes.

I also thought Zombie developed the main characters a lot better than he did in the original remake. Annie Brackett was a lot more likeable and relatable this time around. She's now a recluse in her own neighborhood after almost dying at the hands of Michael Myers, yet doesn't express her fear to anyone. Sheriff Brackett is more heroic and father-like due to the events of what happened in the remake and seems to know that bad things will happen again since Michael's body was never found. Even Laurie Strode, who was pretty much a twit in the remake, seems to be given a dramatic makeover physical and mental wise. It's obvious she's suffering and deteriorating in front of the Brackett's eyes. She's drinking. She's cursing up a storm. She seems to be obsessed with pentagrams, Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, and Charles Manson [???]. She tries to attempt a normal life but just seems to be going as crazy as her serial killer brother. Even Dr. Loomis, who I know a lot of people HATED in this film, had a believable change in character. Yeah, it's hard watching such a heroic character in previous films turn into a money-grubbing, egotistical, self-absorbed prick. But someone had to capitalize on what Michael Myers did. It's something I would expect from anyone in this day and age. Besides, it was his way of coping with the trauma he was experiencing as well. It was obvious he felt guilty and responsible to what happened in Haddonfield when Michael came home and believed putting a wall up would protect him in his denial. So I believe the characters were all going through a theme of coping with what happened and living double lives in a way - all hiding behind masks just like Michael [who went through most of the film without wearing one - go figure - maybe he accepted who and what he was, huh?].

Unfortunately while these ideas were either great or interesting, Zombie just didn't know how to execute them properly. The major issue had to be Laurie seeing the same exact visions and feeling the same exact feelings as Michael. It's obvious that Zombie was doing a homage to the Jamie Lloyd-Michael Myers storyline from HALLOWEEN 4 through 6, where the two shared some sort of a psychic link with one another. But it was too vague and should have been explained in some way or form. The fact that Laurie even saw these visions all of sudden without any sort of buildup strikes me as odd and as lazy screenwriting. It really bugged the hell out of me.

Also, what was up with the supporting characters? Mya seemed okay but she added NOTHING to the movie other than being a victim. And that Harley girl was just annoying as the slut of the film, almost bordering on HALLOWEEN 5 Tina levels. She didn't die quick enough for me. And then there's the rest of Haddonfield - this was Haddonfield right? I wasn't sure because it was like I stepped in foot of white trash country. All these people were dispicable and I know they're supposed to be cannon fodder but at least make them sort of likeable. These characters did nothing for me and just dragged the story and film down for different reasons.

And I gotta say, the usage of the word "fuck" grated me. Now I love that word. Hell, I use it every day. But having an EMT worker utter it 20 times in a row makes the word lose all meaning and emphasis on the pain he was going through. And then that strip club scene where the fatass Frankenstein dude and his "Golly Green Giant" was just pointless. I understand why it was added: Michael wanted to get revenge on the job that took his mother away from him. But it just felt out of place. I think Zombie just wanted to add a naked chick in the film somewhere. She wasn't all that hot, sorry dude.

And the Dr. Loomis sub-plot, while I dug the character change, could have been left out of the film and it wouldn't have changed much. The book signing tour scenes were just really bad and felt really silly with the rest of the movie. The scenes made H2 feel very disjointed on a whole, since his arc had nothing to do with Haddonfield other than the book being released on October 31st.

I also thought the climax of the film was pretty lame until the actual final scene. The final scene worked for me and made sense, but the scene leading to it just seemed a bit farfetched.

H2 isn't really gory but it's more brutal than the remake. Michael is so angry in this one that he stabs his victims - for longer than one probably deserves. I swear, these stabbing scenes were like 90 seconds long. We get it, Rob Zombie! Michael Myers is pissed off and frustrated! But having him stab people for too long or bashing their head against a mirror for TWO STRAIGHT MINUTES lessens the impact of the scene. And it happened with EVERY victim. And it got really annoying. I did love the head stomping scene though and Michael eating a dog for dinner though.

When it came to the soundtrack, Zombie blew it BIG TIME. "Nights In White Satin" is a cool tune, but did I really need to hear it three times? I also dug the psychobilly band of Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures. But where in the hell was my HALLOWEEN theme music? It shouldn't have been played just at the end of the film. Zombie said there were no other opportunities to use it. Um, what about during the beginning when Michael was chasing Laurie through the hospital and out? What about when Laurie is attacked at the Brackett house and she escapes into the woods? You're telling me that it wouldn't have worked there? Zombie is a liar. He just didn't want to use the damn classic scene because it would have made his film more of a HALLOWEEN film than he wanted it to be. There's a problem with that: THIS IS A HALLOWEEN FILM! Zombie could have kept his vision and yet maintain elements that make a HALLOWEEN film a HALLOWEEN film. But he didn't do that and it takes away what made these films so special to begin with. It was depressing.

Zombie did a decent job as director, although I believe this is his worst work since he started making horror movies. Let me just say that the cinematography was beautiful. It was dark, gritty, and dirty - matching the story well and creating quite a mood and atmosphere. I know people complained that the film was too dark, but I liked it for some reason. Especially when Michael wasn't wearing his mask. The shadows created another mask for him. And those dream sequences and whenever Deborah and the white horse would show up - stunning. I loved looking at them, as they looked like a really surreal music video. The part where Laurie was in that coffin was extremely shot and edited well I thought. But the rest of the film was paced badly and the parallel action edits were really off. A lot of times, he would have two scenes that really didn't go together happening at the same time. It was just odd and it almost seemed as Zombie didn't care what he was doing anymore. I didn't hate the visuals of the film. I just didn't love them.

The acting was a bit better than the remake. Scout Taylor-Compton still is no Jamie Lee Curtis and she cried and whined a bit more for my tastes. But I thought she handled herself well regardless and gave a convincing performance of a girl who's unable to cope with the fact that her own brother wanted her dead. Tyler Mane was awesome as Michael Myers though, really making the villain in-your-face and brutal as hell. I've never seen Michael Myers this angry in any film and it was actually quite believable. This is not a dude you want to mess with.

Brad Dourif stole the show as Sheriff Brackett, this time being given more to do and actually create a character with what's given to him. I don't know why this guy remains so underrated. He was great in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST. He made Chucky the horror icon that he is. This guy is awesome! He really made a character I didn't give two shits about in the remake into someone I wanted to watch and root for. Danielle Harris also does a great job as Annie. I liked her in the remake, even if her character was sort of annoying. But she gives a more subtle, subdued, mature performance this time around. I could watch this woman in anything and I probably have. Ms. Harris is the unsung hero of this franchise in my opinion. Malcolm McDowell is actually good as the new Dr. Samuel Loomis, seeming to be having more fun with the role this time. Too bad the plot he was in sucked.

Chase Wright Vanek, replacing Daeg Faerch as the young Michael Myers, was horrible though. This kid would make a convincing zombie but not a convincing Michael Myers. Bland, monotone, and just boring to watch. He wasn't even a child actor that annoyed me. He was just there. Faerch was far more charismatic in the role. Too bad he had that growth spurt. And of course, we have Sheri Moon Zombie returning as Deborah Myers in ghost form. I thought her acting wasn't terrible and at times, she did a great job. But at other times, she seemed very off. I also thought there was TOO much of her in this film. But when you're married to the director, you get to have certain perks other actors in your film don't.

We also get cameos by Caroline "Stretch" Williams, Margot Kidder, Chris Hardwick, "Weird" Al Yankovik, and countless others.


- Laurie kept telling Sheriff Brackett, "I killed him!" over and over again. I see Laurie is playing the role of Rob Zombie and the Weinstein Brothers for the next 101 minutes. The bastards...

- The EMT guys had a deep discussion about the hotness of a dead girl, wondering what necrophilia would feel like with someone as F-I-N-E as her. I don't see why people were so disgusted by this. Don't we all want to be with a woman who doesn't talk back?

- The coroner truck crashed when it hit a large cow. Who let Rosie O'Donnell on the set? Damn you Rob Zombie and your endless cameos!

- Laurie was befriended by a security guard named Buddy. I knew a guy named Buddy once. He was really sweet to me and gave me candy. I hear he's in federal prison now. Hmmm, I wonder what he did wrong?

- Margot Kidder is Laurie's psychiatrist. Man, no wonder Laurie is so fucked up mentally. Anyone who starred in SUPERMAN III or SUPERMAN IV should not be giving anyone advice on anything!

- Michael Myers killed and ate a dog. If that doesn't make him an honorary Asian, then nothing will.

- Michael slammed some stripper's face into a mirror repeatedly. Not only does Michael like it rough, but it's obvious he doesn't understand the meaning of "giving head".

- Laurie got drunk when he found out that she was really Angel Myers, Michael's younger sister. I got drunk when I found out how much this film blew. Who said alcohol doesn't solve any problems?

HALLOWEEN II (Version 2.0) disappointed me big time. It doesn't feel like a HALLOWEEN film. The narrative is all over the place. The direction is disjointed. It's sad because this could have been a very cool sequel with interesting ideas if Zombie just knew how to execute them properly. At least Zombie made the film his own and tried to steer away from the slasher formula to focus more on the psychological aspect of the story. So I can't lose any respect for him over that. Still, H2 is a lost opportunity. Definitely an interesting failure that I hope gets improved upon somewhat on DVD in the form of a Director's Cut.

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