Horror mini-reviews (part 5)

Tomorrow is Halloween! For the final horror post this month, let's look at some recent horror films, and also a selection from past decades. As always, my ratings are what I think the films should be rated on IMDb.

The Orphanage (2007)
Spanish horror film. Cool opening titles with the wall paper getting ripped away to reveal names.
A film to see at night time, I liked the visual style. Beautiful house, the location, the light house, and with characters I cared about.
There are scenes that take you back to childhood wonder, when things were less complicated.
It has an eeriness, which runs throughout the film, which I liked. We are never 100% sure what is going on, and what to believe.
Rating 7.8

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)
Horror/comedy. It does rely on stupidity a couple of times, and the number of “accidents” in the movie are excessive and unrealistic, but you tolerate that, because it’s so entertaining and funny. Also it has characters you actually root for, which for me lifts the film above average.
One of my favorite discoveries during the marathon, thanks for the recommendation Jaina and Eric(in comment thread)
Rating 8.0

Kill List (2011)
From what I can tell, regarded as Ben Wheatley’s best film. The story was more cohesive than Wheatley’s A Field In England (which I reviewed here)
You don’t know where Kill List is going, especially the first half.
The scary thing is we are not given any explanation for the violence. The middle part of the film felt a bit repetitive, but it does go in an unexpected direction near the end.
Most of the praise for me goes to the sound effects, which are unlike any I’ve heard of late, and add to the creepy atmosphere, especially in that last section.
Rating 7.2

May (2002)
Watching the trailer kind of spoiled the movie for me, which is a shame.
It does raise interesting questions, do you lose it because you are disturbed, or because of others neglect? If you are lonely, how far will you go to find companions. What are you willing to do in order to be accepted?
At first, May isn’t that weird, but the people who she meets encourage her to act weird. I guess everyone has a breaking point, and unfortunately hers came with a cost. A film that lingers in the mind. You sympathize with someone who does cruel things.
Thanks to The Vern for the recommendation.
Rating 7.5

Man Bites Dog (1992)
Belgian satire. A film you could write a long review about.
The main character’s serial killer tendencies and racist remarks are despicable. But he isn’t stupid, and has a point about relationships, that you can’t always tell if you’ve reached the right time for a baby, or if you should get the hell out of the relationship. I found myself agreeing with him on the ugly architecture, and low quality brick work, yet also hating how offensive he is towards groups of people.
The mood of the film is odd, both humorous and violent, which will divide audiences. It kind of reminded me of controversial American Psycho or Clockwork Orange.
Who is he really? Is it an act for the mockumentary? The film is lifted by the performance of Benoît Poelvoorde, who looks like Robert de Niro’s brother.
There’s a murder in a bathroom, where he admits to the inspiration of a kill from a movie, which perhaps shows the movie is condemning his actions, rather than merely revealing them.
To me, the aim is to make us feel uncomfortable about enjoying violent movies. Although I'm sure people have different interpretations.
Rating 8.0

Dead Ringers (1988)
Directed by David Cronenberg. A drama with a few body horror elements. The story is still quite radical, even today. It was moderately entertaining, and I wondered how it would all end, but it didn’t have me glued to the screen. Not as great as I thought it would be. The two twins played by Jeremy Irons are convincing, and many thought he should have won the oscar that year. Irons did win Best Acor Academy Award for Reversal of Fortune (1990)
Rating 7.0

Pet Sematary (1989)
Made back in the day when Stephen King was perhaps at the height of his popularity, and lots of adaptations of his work were getting produced. Scanning down a list, it’s remarkable how many King stories have been translated for TV and cinema.
Pet Sematary had promise early on, but what derailed it for me is the bad acting, which makes it unintentionally funny, and took me out of the moment. It feels like a tv-movie, which is a pity, because there are several scares, and a decent story by Stephen King.
With an $11,5 million budget, you would think filmmakers could afford a better actor for the husband in the lead role, his acting was dreadful.
Maybe it works when you are a kid.
Rating 6.0

Dead Calm (1989)
Not exactly a horror film, more of a horror thriller. It managed to hold my attention all the way through. Stars Sam Neil and Nicole Kidman, who deliver typically assured performances. Billy Zane plays the character they meet at sea.
The beginning I was expecting to tie up with the ending, but that wasn’t the case. I liked how hesitant the story is to give up its mysteries.
If you enjoy thrillers, this is worth seeing.
Rating 7.8

The Hitcher (1986)
Maybe I should start watching more thrillers, because this is another horror thriller that had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.
Rutger Hauer is the creepy villain with no apparent motive, he doesn’t have much screen time, but when he does turn up, he’s very menacing.
Has enough twists and turns to keep it entertaining. The only stupid thing about the story is that the cops don’t shoot out the tires of the car they are chasing.
Rating 7.8

The Cremator (1969)
A horror /drama from the Czech New Wave.
I loved the pre-credits scene at the zoo, the extreme close-ups and eerie soundtrack immediately made me feel uneasy. The opening credits are also really interesting, and cast a spell on you, so that you want to get to the bottom of all this. The first 5 minutes I would give 10/10. The rest of the film is pretty good too. Several stand-out scenes, when he’s showing the new guy the ropes at the crematory was creepy, as was the “puppet” show, and of course the ending, which I won't reveal.
Superb performance by Rudolf Hrusinsky, as the cremator, his voice is remarkably chilling. Even his wife is scared of him, so I kind of felt sorry for the poor guy, because it seems he was creepy all the time. Then there was a twist I wasn't expecting, which changed my perception of the characters.
As Bonjour Tristesse wrote in his review: “someone you are compelled to watch, but would never want to be alone in a room with.”
Favorite quote: “I am sure you love music, Mr. Strauss. Sensitive people do. The poor pitiful souls, who die without knowing Schubert, Liszt.”
Rating 7.6

Hour of the Wolf (1968)
Not a traditional horror. Bergman’s film could be about many things. For me is about social phobia and insomnia, the horror of social interactions for an introvert.
If you like Bergman, you will get what you expect. The melancholic style is similar to his other work, with slight differences. Many of the same actors return who have starred in his other films.
The creepiest moment could be the sex scene, when they stand around and laugh.
It seemed random characters turned up out of thin air, the flirtatious blonde woman when he is painting by the sea, and the little boy whom he has a fight with while he’s fishing. Both times Max von Sydow character is alone, so perhaps they are dreams, or he is haunted by demons from his past.
Everything is not what it seems, as a man at one point walks up a wall onto the ceiling, someone pulls his face off and his eyes are placed in a glass of water. Also a man suddenly has wings.
The ending was an interesting twist of events.
Rating 7.5

The Body Snatcher (1945)
I was quite skeptical, because Robert Wise also directed The Haunting (1963), which I was underwhelmed by.
What The Body Snatcher has going for it is the material, based on a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Also, perhaps Boris Karloff’s finest performance I've seen(outside of Frankenstein), as the sinister Cabman John Gray.
I prefer it over The Haunting.
Rating 8.0

Dracula (1931)
A decent adaptation of Bram Stoker’s story, but a bit tame and rather dull, compared to the 1992 film. The characters talk about red mist and thousands of rats, but it isn’t showed(watch 1979's Nosferatu the Vampyre for that).
What stayed with me was Bela Lugosi’s intense stare, but not as interesting as Todd Browning’s other film Freaks (1932).
Favorite quote: “The strength of the vampire is, that people will not believe in him”
Rating 7.0

The Unknown (1927)
Silent horror from Todd Browning, the man who brought us Freaks (1932).
At an hour, it’s quite short, but still, I got into the story quickly, and cared about the characters. Isn’t aiming for scary, Browning is going for an unsettled feeling. Great performances too.
The Man Who Laughs (1928) played on the scenario of a blind woman who loves a man with a constant grin.
The Unknown (1927) plays out the sensitive-to-touch female (Joan Crawford), who loves a circus man without arms.
Of the two films, I prefer The Unknown, which I found more entertaining and emotionally involving.
Rating 8.0

Faust (1926)
Atmospheric, visually stunning retelling of, directed by F.W. Murnau. Faust is Goethe's most famous work, and considered to be one of the greatest works of German literature.
Faust is a character who preaches good and is tempted by evil.
The village with a giant man turning the sky black with his dark cloak was an amazing visual. I was especially impressed by the visuals during the first hour.
Emil Jannings who plays the messenger of the devil delivers an incredibly creepy performance. The second half of the film is not quite as brilliant, but still pretty good.
I haven’t read the book, but it has encouraged me to look up Goethe. Maybe I’ll go with The Sorrows of Young Werther, recommended by Mette at Lime Reviews, which is only 96 pages.
I’ve heard in this review by Lisa Thatcher that Sokurov’s 2011 adaptation of Faust (in colour) is worth seeing.
Rating 8.0

A ranking of all the horror I've watched January-October (link)

Agree or disagree? Have you watched any of these? Which horror films did you see this October? I think I've watched enough horror to last me until Halloween next year :)

Book review: Ender's Game (1985)

Orson Scott Card on the title:
“I wrote the word Ender’s Game, because of endgame from chess. Ok, the kids name is Ender.”

Spoilers occur. Review is intended for those who have already seen the movie or read the book.

The story is set in the future. The world is at war against aliens (buggers). The main character Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin is 6-year-old at the beginning of the novel. Ender is clever for his age, and it is noticed he could stand up for himself in a fight, and settle his own problems.
Ender has the choice to join Battle School and not see family until he is 12 years old. The company are connected to the brains of the children, monitoring them. Parents feel uneasy about third child (Ender). This interferes with parents efforts of assimilation into complying society. Ender’s parents vowed never to have more than two children, as only first two kids get a free education. Petra becomes friends with Ender, Petra is an outcast among older boys, and called “crazy as a loon”. A denunciation of population limitation law is published, people should be allowed as many children as they want, surplus population should be sent to other worlds to spread mankind.
Peter is Ender’s older brother, and likes to tease and torment Ender. There is also a sister, Valentine, whom Ender prefers. Peter is jealous that Ender is rated better, and that Peter didn’t pan out as well.
Peter can always see what other people hate about themselves, and bully them, yet he is also ambitious and wants to save the world from self-destruction. On the other hand, Valentine could always see what people liked about themselves, and flatter them.
On the journey to Battle School, Ender breaks Bernard’s arm by accident, Bernard holds a grudge and with other boys gang up on Ender. Ender is praised, and the other boys don’t like he is favorised. Ender does however make friends with Alai. Bonzo is in command of salamander group. Ender is promoted.
Ender gets into a fight in shower with Bonzo, Bonzo is accidentally killed, and as a cover up Battle School pretend Bonzo graduated, to protect Ender, who is their most promising soldier.
Ender goes on leave, he doesn’t want to continue with Battle School, because he feels he is controlled as a puppet. Ender: We may be young, but we’re not powerless”
Ender visits Valentine, who convinces him to return to the Battle School. Valentine page 237: “We play by their rules long enough, and it becomes our game”
As Steve Aldersley wrote in his review, everyone in the school is a genius, but Ender is a good leader because he gains the trust, loyalty, and even love of his followers.
Late in the novel, the mysterious bugger enemy is elaborated on. Page 238: “There was no evidence from their bodies that smelling, tasting, or hearing were particularly important to them.”. Page 249: “Their communication, however they do it, is instantaneous. Lightspeed is no barrier”
Page 252-53: Why are we fighting the buggers, asks Ender
“I’ve heard all kinds of reasons, said Graff. Because they have an overcrowded system and they’ve got to colonize. Because they can’t stand the thought of other intelligent life in the universe. Because they don’t think we are intelligent life. Because they have some weird religion. Because they watched our old video broadcasts and decided we were hopelessly violent. All kinds of reasons.” (…) We used every means we could think of to communicate with them, but they don’t even have the machinery to know we’re signaling. And maybe they’re trying to think to us, and they can’t understand why we don’t respond. So the whole war is because we can’t talk to each other. If the other fellow can’t tell you his story, you can never be sure he isn’t trying to kill you”
Page 268: Buggers: “All their thoughts are present, together, at once”
Towards the end, the battles are real, no games, but Ender is not told.
Ender has problem with being the killer of all the buggers and bugger queens, and doesn’t perceive himself as a killer. His teacher Mazer takes responsibility.
Plans to colonize the bugger colony, as buggers are now dead. Then the thirds and fourths and fifths will get on starships and head out for worlds known and unknown.
Valentine convinces Ender to travel to the dead bugger colony and start over. Ender becomes Governor. Ender wants to learn from the buggers past, some things that humans could use.

Thoughts on the novel: I empathized with the young Ender, despite violence towards other boys, as it feels like self-defense, and Ender doesn’t appear to know his own strength.
The battles are not especially frequent, which surprised me considering the book artwork. The scenes between the battles are entertaining to read and take up most of the book, presumably because the author is most comfortable writing about this.
The boys are remarkably mature for six-year-olds, though it must be said they are very bright kids.
The joy of a normal family upbringing has been robbed from the young boys in Battle School, so obviously this adds to the reader’s sympathy for them.
The fake war comparisons to our own time are quite striking. About a system maintaining power by making people on earth afraid.
For me, the weakest and most implausible part of the story is when a boy as bright as Ender can’t see the big picture, and needs convincing by sister Valentine why he is an important fighter, with clichés like “trying and failing is better than never trying at all.”
The story in print feels ideal for cinema. Interested to see how filmmakers handle the Giant, the wolf-children, cliff at the ledge of the world, the castle tower with the snake and mirror.

Favorite quote, p265: “They studied bugger tactics and strategies from many angles. For the first time in his life, a teacher was pointing out things that Ender had not already seen for himself. For the first time, Ender had found a living mind he could admire.”

From Ender´s Game introduction, by the author Orson Scott Card:

”The novelet Ender’s Game was my first published science fiction. It was based on an idea – the Battle Room – that came to me when I was sixteen-years-old. I had just read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, which was (more or less) an extrapolation of the ideas in Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, applied to a galaxy-wide empire in some far future time.
The novel set me, not to dreaming, but to thinking, which is Asimov’s most extraordinary ability as a fiction writer. What would the future be like? How would things change? What would remain the same?

“To me, though, the military didn’t mean the Vietnam War, which was then nearing its peak of American involvement. I had no experience of that, except for Bill’s (brother) stories of the miserable life in basic training, the humiliation of officer’s candidate school, and his lonely but in many ways successful life as a noncom in Korea. Far more deeply rooted in my mind was my experience, five or six years earlier, of reading Bruce Catton’s three-volume Army of the Potomac.”

“It wasn’t the soldier’s who changed. It was the leader. And even though I could not then have articulated what I understood of military leadership, I knew that I did understand it. I understood, at levels deeper than speech, how a great military leader imposes his will on his enemy, and makes his own army a willing extension of himself”

“Soldier’s and commanders would have to think very differently in space, because the old ideas of up and down simply wouldn’t apply anymore. I had read in Nordhoff‘s and Hall’s history of World War I flying that it was very hard at first for new pilots to learn to look above and below them rather than merely to the right and left”

On why the soldiers are so young:
“Maybe it was because of the children in the car on the way up that I decided that the trainees in the Battle Room were so young. Maybe it was because I, barely an adolescent myself, understood only childhood well enough to write about it. Or maybe it was because of something that impressed me in Catton’s Army of the Potomac: that the soldiers were all so young and innocent. That they shot and bayoneted the enemy, and then slipped, and then slipped across the neutral ground between armies to trade tobacco, jokes, liquor, and food. Even though it was a deadly game, and the suffering and fear were terrible and real, it was still a game”

“I designed Ender’s Game to be as clear and accessible as any story of mine could possibly be. My goal was that the reader wouldn’t have to be trained in literature or even in science fiction to receive the tale in its simplest, purest form. And, since a great many writers and critics have based their entire careers on the premise that anything that the general public can understand without meditation is worthless drivel, it is not surprising that they found my novel to be despicable. If everybody came to agree that stories should be told this clearly, the professors of literature would be out of a job, and the writers of obscure, encoded fiction would be, not honored, but pitied for their impenetrability“

“Because never in my entire childhood did I feel like a child. I felt like a person all along – the same person that I am today. I never felt that I spoke childishly. I never felt that my emotions and desires were somehow less real than adult emotions and desires. And in writing Ender’s Game, I forced the audience to experience the lives of these children from the perspective – the perspective in which their feelings and decisions are just as real and important as any adult’s.”

“Ender’s Game is a story about gifted children. It is also a story about soldier’s. Captain John F. Schmidt, the author of the Marine Corp’s Warfighting, the most brilliant concise book of military strategy ever written by an American (and a proponent of the kind of thinking that was at the heart of the Gulf War), found Ender’s Game to be a useful enough story about the nature of leadership to use it in courses he taught at the Marine University at Quantico.
Watauga College, the interdisciplinary studies program at Appalachian State University – as unmilitary a community as you could ever hope to find – uses Ender’s Game for completely different purposes – to talk about problem-solving and self-creation of the individual. A graduate student explored the political ideas in Ender’s Game. A writer and critic at Pepperdine has seen Ender’s Game as, in some ways, religious fiction.
All these uses are valid; all these readings of the book are “correct”. For all these readers have placed themselves inside this story, not as spectators, but as participants, and so have looked at the world of Ender’s Game, not with my eyes only, but also with their own”

As Tim Blackmore points out in his article, the story is on a thematic level about choice, individuality, and a mechanistic view of humans:
“At the core of the military paradigm is a mechanistic view of humans, who are to be shaped to the purposes of the machine. The military paradigm abides by a strict utilitarian philosophy in which ends overcome any and all means; human costs are unimportant. Physical and psychological pain are necessary if Ender is to be deformed for the machine's uses. The amount of pain indicates the degree of injustice the individual meets at the hands of the system. Card forces the reader to move between two viewpoints: that of the suspicious, manipulated child and that of the paranoid, utilitarian machine worker. The post of officer, or supreme commander, does not make Ender an individual; it simply gives him a higher function in the machine. Here is the paradox of one stripped of his individuality in order to protect the ideal of individuality. For a long time even Ender rejects himself: "[Ender] didn't like Peter's kind, the strong against the weak, and he didn't like his own kind either, the smart against the stupid" (21).
Source: Ender's Beginning: Battling the Military in Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game (1991), Tim Blackmore, Extrapolation 32, no. 2 (summer 1991): 124-42.

Film critic Mark Kermode in his film review thinks Ender's Game (2013) would work as a double feature with Starship Troopers (1997), in that both deal "with humans engaged in a battle with bugs, that in order to win, the humans have to behave in a way, which is frankly, inhuman"

The music of Camera Obscura (3 of 3)

Album: Let's Get Out Of This Country (2006)
The title track is my favorite, and also Country Mile, and Razzle Dazzle Rose.

Album: My Maudlin Career (2009)
Probably my equal favorite album by the group, along with their debut album.

Favorite tracks: Forests and Sounds, My Maudlin Career, Away With Murder,

Favorite lyric:
Now I've been wearing your feelings
Like they were worth protecting
They say I'm too kind and sentimental
Like you could catch affection

Album: Desire Lines (2013)

Favorite tracks:
Fifth In Line To The Throne, Cri du Coeur, Troublemaker, Break It To You Gently, Desire Lines.

Any thoughts on the albums? Share your opinions in the comments

Horror mini-reviews (part 4)

This week, let's look at three Asian horror films, Vincent Price horror from 1960s, and two of Peter Jackson's splatter movies

The Host (2006)
South Korean horror. The visual style of the film feels like a comic book, you could watch by following the images without reading the subtitles.
There’s also a bit of social commentary, the disregard for nature, the way America force its will on the rest of the globe, and the false front provided by governments declaring bogus "terror alerts".
Spoiler: I was confused by the ending, that the main characters are not affected by the agent yellow?
Rating 7.5

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
South Korean horror film. At first, I found it difficult to get into the movie, in fact the first half I was bored, because hardly anything happens. I found it difficult to figure out what the story is about? I agree with rotten tomatoes, that it is confusing.
I was interested in figuring out the mystery, and I liked the soundtrack score, but due to the languid pacing, it didn’t grab my attention as much as I had hoped. It seems I’m in the minority, since it has garnered heaps of praise.
It also didn’t really scare me. The twist was good, but I prefer I Saw the Devil (2010) from this director, which had faster pacing.
Rating 6.2

The Audition (1999)
Japanese horror. Not what I was expecting at all from the poster. A slow-paced character-driven drama.
I was okay with the pacing, because I wanted to learn more about the two main characters.
The horror elements don’t arrive until late in the film.
I don't want to spoil what happens, let's just say the last 30 minutes are memorable.
Rating 7.5

Dead Alive (1992)
Splatter Horror/Comedy. Also known as Braindead. Early directorial effort from Peter Jackson (Lord of The Rings Trilogy).
Very impressed by the special effects in this movie. Considered among the best in the gore genre. The bizarre mix of comedy and grossness somehow works. One of the supporting characters almost throws up, and that’s how the audience may feel as well. Highly entertaining, if you can stomach it. Looks like they had a lot of fun making the movie. They got a lot out of the reasonably small $3 million budget, because it has nearly every gore effect you can imagine. Definitely the most impressive “splatter” film I’ve ever seen. Just wow.
Rating 8.3

Bad Taste (1987)
Splatter Horror/Comedy. Can’t escape the look of a low budget film, which of course it is. Amusing to see Peter Jackson acting(dressed as a goofy Harry Potter) in what was the first feature he directed. The story is nothing special, though.
The gore effects are generally good(only missing the mark a couple of times, a fake human head, and fake seagull, look like props).
It has a few suspenseful chase scenes, on a cliff, and involving a car.
The stand-out scene could be when he regurgitates the green substance, followed by the gang eating it from a bowl, yuck!!!
Also, the ending is unexpected and feels iconic.
Rating 7.0

Horror of Dracula (1958)
Considered among the best of the low budget Hammer horror films. By today’s horror standards, this 1958 version is a bit tame, and I also found it slow. John Van Eyssen was a better casting choice as Jonathan Harker than Keanu Reeves. But I prefer Gary Oldman’s Count Dracula over Christopher Lee’s(even though I realize Count Dracula is Lee's signature role)
As with Coppola’s 1992 film, the script takes some liberties with Bram Stoker’s original story. I just personally prefer the 1992 adaptation, in terms of pacing, music, visuals, and atmosphere.
Rating 6.2

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
It does follow the usual horror formula of the hunter and the hunted, but it’s still pretty scary how uncivilized these savages are. Especially the blonde wife is good at behaving hysterical and helpless. The dog attack is very realistic.
Spoiler: The ending is surprising, in that it just stops, and feels unfinished. Maybe the sequel explains what happens to the characters?
Rating 7.0

Triangle (2009)
It seemed the female character was more interested in shooting her friends than in exploring the ship, I didn’t understand why. I read the explanation and it made sense.
If you like thought-provoking horror, give this a try.
Rating 7.5

Phantasm (1979)
Phantasm is an underappreciated horror, doesn’t get talked about a whole lot today. Deserves to be better known.
The "Tall Man" is creepy, and many bizarre, unpredictable things happen. Remarkable to read afterwards it only cost $300.000.
Rating 7.5

The House of Usher (1960)
Saw it because one of the clips from Nymphomaniac (2013) mentions the story. Based on a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. A man arrives and demands to see his beloved Madeline, only for her brother to refuse him. He claims both he and his sister suffer from a morbid acuteness to the senses, so the wrong food, clothes, light, noise, smell causes pain. Interestingly, the house is the villain. The film is boosted by a fine performance by Vincent Price.
Probably the best film I’ve seen directed by Roger Corman, who is known for his b-movie career.
Rating 7.6

Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
It’s pretty much acknowledged that the majority of the films directed by Roger Corman are low-brow b-movies, but there are a few highlights, and this is another of them. The Edgar Allen Poe short story is so brief, that they expanded the screenplay.
An atmospheric horror with a thrilling climax. My only complaint is how similar it feels to House of Usher (1960) the previous year, which also stars Vincent Price.
Rating 7.2

The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
Based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe. Visually the old castle looks really authentic, and Vincent Price is his usual sinister self. Among the better Roger Corman b-movies of the 1960s.
The knife game was uncomfortably real, did they really cut their arms for that scene? The scene with the ape costume was pretty horrifying.
Favorite quote: “You’re a madman! And yet I will live and you will die, where is your God in your hour of need?”
Rating 7.3

Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
The weirdest serial killer movie I saw for a while. Dr. Phibes sure has imaginative methods of disposing of his victims.
For all the beautiful set pieces, and inventive killings, the actual plot is rather repetitive.
Rating 6.5

Agree or disagree? Have you watched any of the above? Which horror films do you plan to watch this October?
Next week, for the final horror post this October, mini-reviews of 1920s horror, Cronenberg's Dead Ringers (1988), Bergman's Hour of the Wolf (1968), Kill List (2011), Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010), and The Orphanage (2007), stay tuned!

Monthly links from the blogosphere: October

Bill, Steven, and Ryan are doing horror marathons during October

SDG's horror mini-reviews

Eric's Box of Horror #1: Apollo 18, Insidious, V/H/S

3guys1movie take a look at Scariest Movie Scenes

Sati's 10 films to watch alongside American Horror Story: Coven

Robert's Favorite Horror Scene Friday! The Descent

Keith reviews Suspiria

Dan's Top 10 Horror Film Sequels

Michaël Parent reviews Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Shala's New York Film Festival (NYFF) 2013 Debriefed

Bonjour Tristesse's top 20 from the Vancouver International Film Festival

Ruth is covering Twin Cities Film Fest (TCFF), and asks, What’s your favorite film festival/event experience?

Oscars: Academy announces Best Foreign Language Film shortlist

Cristi B shares his 100 favorite films, and also Top 30 TV-shows

Jaina on THE NEW CROP OF 2013′S TV

Across the Universe Podcast discuss Blade Runner and 2001: A Space Odyssey

Alex Withrow shares his first short film: Full Circle

Andina ranks the films of Sofia Coppola

Josh shares music that inspires him, Top 10 College Songs. Alex does the same, only his band of choice is M83

Jack at Lights Camera Reaction reviewed Blue Jasmine

Pete Turner writes about the documentary The War Game (1965), which I now want to watch

Steven's 10 Reasons Why Lost in Translation is the Best Film Ever...

Chip completed the Entire 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die List...Again

Nostra's Monday Question: Practical effects in movies

Dan Heaton questions, What's the Cultural Future for Movies?

Ryan McNeil on Talking to People Who Aren’t Into Movies

Steve Aldersley on Big - The best Tom Hanks role from the 80s

The Vern's Random Thoughts of a Movie Insomniac # 8: Blogging = Pain & Joy.

David Bowie Shares List of 100 Favorite Books

DAFT PUNK’S “GET LUCKY” may have been stolen from Korean YouTube star.

Nick from The Cinematic Katzenjammer's Desert Island Films

flickfilosopher on what is your geek idiosyncrasy?

The music of Camera Obscura (2 of 3)

Album: Biggest Bluest Hi Fi - Camera Obscura [2001]
I like the approach to lyrics on their debut LP.


Eighties Fan
Is the opening a wink to the 80s classic Just Like Honey? I like how the ending of the track is open-ended, so you can fill in the blank yourself.

Happy New Year
“Did the ironing in a cowboy hat
felt as fresh as the paint in this new flat
I will never tell you what to do
have ambition simply to see things through”

Swimming Pool
”All my days inactive will be justified
awaken from a slumber to a rollercoaster ride”

I Don't Do Crowds
“I find it funny that you never even knew
all the times when I stole a look from you
oh what's in my mind
oh they're gonna put me away this time”

Album: Underachievers Please Try Harder [2004]
My experience is the lyrics are not quite as personal as their debut album. Perhaps the catchiest track on their sophomore album is “Teenager”. “Before You Cry” and “Knee Deep At The NPL” are favorites too.

The band are often compared to Belle & Sebastian, but “Your Picture” sounds like Leonard Cohen:

"She told me you'd given up drinking
To be with somebody you knew
You tried to get into the bible
but it never got into you
But you still got some loyal disciples
I supposed that I'm one of the few."

Agree or disagree? Taken a liking to any of these tracks? Any thoughts on the albums? Share your opinions in the comments.

Halloween Countdown: horror mini-reviews (part 3)

This week, let's look at a few 80s horror movies, and also a handful of 1930s horror classics. As always, my ratings are what I think the films should be rated on IMDb.

Child’s Play (1988)
Creepy little doll. A minor horror classic of the 80s. There is a risk of this scenario being silly and laughable, but that wasn’t the case for me. Was actually quite effective.
Rating 7.7

The Lost Boys (1987)
Rewatch. I didn't get what the big deal was, when I saw this 80s classic 2-3 years ago. So I gave it a second chance. It has atmosphere, and a cool soundtrack(Cry Little Sister is a highlight), but Joel Schumacher was never a great director.
Rating 7.0

Near Dark (1987)
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. The first 15 minutes are effective, but the rest didn’t engage me to the same degree. I thought the story was a bit weak. Just a group of vampires going around killing. The scene when vampires get burnt by the sun was well-done. But the whole kidnapping thing, why would the vampires risk their lives in daylight for that? Bill Paxton in maybe his best performance. I’m surprised Near Dark is considered among Kathryn Bigelow’s best films, to me it’s decent, yet overrated. Maybe I should rewatch it some day.
Enjoyed the score by Tangerine Dream.
Rating 6.5

The Fog (1980)
Not one of John Carpenter’s best, and honestly difficult to keep a straight face. The fog effects are pretty good, and does a fine job of concealing the evil. Useful when you have a small budget.
Rating 6.0

Day of the Dead (1985)
We get to see a doctor operating and conducting experiments on zombies, in order to alter their behavior.
The gore effects are very realistic, for example when a zombie gets a drill to the head, or a guy’s head is ripped off.
Not a bad zombie movie, but ultimately, I think this third entry in Romero’s trilogy is the weakest of the three.
Favorite quote: “It takes more energy to keep quiet, than it does to speak the mind. Go ahead, let go of what you’ve got now”
Loved the opening theme
Rating 6.7

Tremors (1990)
Rewatch. It has some cheesy, cliche dialogue, but the special effects are good. At first the attacks are scary, but after a while not so much. Maybe they got the idea from Return of the Jedi, the sand creature in the desert? What kept me watching is the enemy seems impossible to defeat. The ending is stupid, though, how do they know how many are left?
Rating 7.0

Sisters (1973)
Brian de Palma horror/thriller. Features a number of surprises. The split screen scenes may annoy, I felt that added to the suspense. The birthday cake scenes were memorable. The twist I managed to guess pretty early on, but a good movie. People have complained the Quebecois accent sounds Parisian, I guess only Canadians would be bothered by that. Another minor complaint is the blood is unrealistic and too red.
Rating 7.5

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1931)
Great acting, great screenplay, great visuals. Enjoyed this adaptation of the classic story by Robert Louis Stevenson. Especially the first half hour I was hooked. The rest is good too, and is all about the performance of Fredric March. It’s astonishing he played both roles, during the movie, I thought it was a different actor playing Mr Hyde.
I’m going to have to track down the other films by director Rouben Mamoulian, Queen Christina (1933), and The Mark of Zorro (1940).
Rating 7.7

The Old Dark House (1932)
Many of these 30s Universal horror films are only about 65-70 minutes long, so you get through them quickly. By director James Whale, who made the classic Frankenstein movies. This is regarded as among the best of his other films.
A group of travelers are caught in a storm. The residents of the old house are creepy, the butler (an unrecognizable Boris Karloff) speaking a language we can’t understand.
It isn’t scary by today’s standards, but is good for pacing. We are slowly introduced to the ensemble, and I wanted to know what happens to the characters. While it may not have any stand-out scenes, in some ways it’s a film about prejudice and openness, when you meet new people.
Favorite quote: “I could do with a drink. If people have to be soaked, they should be soaked inside, not out”
Here we are, six people, sitting around, and we’ve been talking now for nearly two hours. What do we know about each other? Not a thing.
Rating 7.2

The Invisible Man (1933)
Directed by James Whale. Tricky to review, because the special effects are amazing, and deserve 10/10. It's a pity the story is just ok.
The freedom of doing what you want when you're invisible is quite mind-blowing, but also a lonely place to be, because other people are scared of your appearance.
The story is simplified by having him insane. To me would have been more interesting, if he was sane.
On a side note, the innkeepers wife’s screaming is seriously annoying.
Rating 7.5

The Wolf Man (1941)
The story feels contrived, but on second thoughts, as with The Wicker Man (1973), I get the feeling events are pre-planned, that what happens was meant to be.
Most of the film is the build-up, once we see the werewolf, unfortunately the creature doesn’t really do that much. Bonus points for the cute girl.
Rating 7.2

Island of Lost Souls (1932)
Loved the opening credits, with the water splashing over the text. It draws you in with its atmosphere, especially the first half hour. But it kind of lost believability, when Dr Moreau talks of animals converted to human form, because they don’t look like that.
Favorite quote: “Say, what is all this mystery about Moreau and his island? I don’t know. If I did know, maybe I’d want to forget”
Rating 7.4

Agree or disagree? Have you watched any of the above? Which horror films do you plan to watch this October?
Next week, I'll blog about horror again, Japanese & South Korean, Vincent Price horror from 1960s, and a couple of Peter Jackson's splatter movies, stay tuned!


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