Shocktober 2010 Wrap-Up

Nothing much to report here, just calling an end to Shocktober, though I guess you could figure that out by looking at a calendar. Actually I’m already thinking about what to post next year, if there is a next year and I think I have an idea. Seeing that I finally saw Troll 2 recently, I’ve decided I’ll devote the next Shocktober to 31 terrible horror movies. It will be rough, but sometimes the hardest movies to watch are the most fun to talk about, that’s a long way off so I’ll have time to prepare mentally and physically.

Well that’s it, I hope everyone has a happy such and such and enjoys all the festivities. I’ll probably just be doing some studying, watch some movies and than catch the premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead, happy haunting.

Shocktober: Day 31

The Mist (2007)

Dir: Frank Darabont
Cast: Thomas Jane, Laurie Holden, Nathan Gamble, Toby Jones, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Andre Braugher

Well here it is, October 31st, All Hallows Eve! A time of the mischief and the macabre, oh yeah and candy. I decided to end this year with Frank Darabont’s The Mist for several reasons. 1. Tonight marks the premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead which Darabont developed for television 2. Despite positive reviews and a modest run at the box office, I think The Mist is an overlooked and underrated horror film and 3. It’s one of Stephen King’s favorite adaptations, that’s good enough for me.

So it’s the classic “A bunch of scared people trapped in a small place” premise (In this case a group trapped in a small grocery store) that I’ve always been a fan of. I find for these kind of stories to excel they often need some strong characters and an intriguing, ever building conflict to keep it interesting. The Mist checks out in both of those categories and then some. The cast is fairly large but every role here serves it’s purpose no matter how small, like the quote often attributed to Stanislavsky, “There are no small parts, just small actors.” I don’t know who to acknowledge first. You have Marcia Gay Harden as the crazed Bible nut, Toby Jones as the resourceful store clerk, Andre Braugher as the doubting neighbor, not to mention some of Frank Darabont’s skilled regulars William Sadler and Jeffery DeMunn, there’s a little something for everybody.

Really it’s more about the struggle inside than outside, though it is a blast to watch hordes of creepy crawlies come out of the mist and have their ways with the townsfolk. The death’s are grisly as it could get and it’s safe to say that this film earned it’s R-rating. Really the only downfall in mind (Though I’ll address an issue other viewers have had soon enough.) is the effects feel cheap. The CGI is some of the weakest CGI I can recall seeing in a mainstream movie in awhile, though it somehow finds it’s way around it. LIke I said it’s not really about the monsters, more about the townsfolk acting like monsters, you see what I’m getting at?

So what did i mean when I claimed there was a certain “problem” many have had with this film? Well it’s the ending and even I agree it’s a make it or break it ending. I thought it made perfect sense but many find it far too depressing of a finale. The way I see it is that if Stephen King is all about it, I’m all about. I’ve read the short story as well and really that didn’t even have an ending, so really what were they supposed to do? Well I’m not sure how much more I can write after doing these reviews 31 days straight, so happy haunting everyone, I’ll see you next year!

Shocktober: ZomBcon 2010

ZomBcon 2010! What a jewel of a convention… A shimmering, bloody, jewel. I’d never heard of it before this weekend and judging from the modest crowd I’m probably not the only one. I don’t even know if the convention has been held before, but what a blast my brother and I had at this orgy of blood splattered b-movie stars, novelists, artists and more.

We arrived at 10:00 outside Seattle Center. I nabbed a sweet parking spot, but as soon as we arrived we were just like… “Where is everybody?” There were no signs or anything, but eventually we found it was all being held in a convention hall next to SIFF theater. From there on we followed the zombies.

Naturally, there all sorts of ridiculous costumes upon entering. My favorites were the ones that didn’t make any sense like Indiana Jones and The Joker. Of course there was no shortage of great zombie costumes. My favorites were Zombie Marty McFly and Zombie Big Lebowski. Though I could have gawked at zombies all, my top priority was to get Bruce Campbell’s autograph. Opening the event, Bruce was esily the biggest draw. We probably waited in line for a good 90 minutes.
While I was waiting in line Paul snuck out to get a photograph/autograph with Terry Alexander (John from Day of the Dead.)

It took many full moons, but finally we met the man they call Bruce in a moment I’ll never forget. The amazing part is he actually talked to us! I mean like a real conversation, not just some sign and get out of here kind of thing. Bruce actually asked us about our interests and what not. We told him we were filmmakers, which immediately launched to words of wisdom, “You Know the movie A Simple Plan” to which I replied “Yeah I own that,” and then he told us to watch it with the sound off along watch Evil Dead II. He said both were great examples of visual storytelling. Not a bad tip.

Bruce signed my copy of If Chins Could Kill and Paul commented “You’re the only person I know who can make a SciFi Channel movie entertaining.” To which he chuckled and we were on our way. It was a great experience. Bruce may play up a macho persona on stage and screen, but in person he’s a sweet guy who cares about his fans and in no way acts like some priveleged celebrity.

(Bruce imparts us with words of wisdom below)

Afterwards I had a good chat with John Amplas, known best for playing the title role in the cult vampire film in Martin (Directed by George A. Romero). He was surprised to see younger people who had seen the movie and I talked about my appreciation for the film. I never knew he played the zombie dad in Creepshow. Nice guy.

A few minutes later Paul got an autograph from the soft spoen Scott Reiniger from Dawn of the Dead. Paul and Scott talked about DotD and he was impressed by our Bruce Campbell autograph, I didn’t know he was gonna be there, so it was a surprise. Jesus, Paul is tall.

Then we went to Dick’s Drive-In… Not much to say about that, except that it’s alway awesome. If you’re not familiar it’s a Seattle institution. Check it out.

Coming back we caught part of Bruce Campbell doing a Q&A, he always has the best wise ass answers. While everyone flocked around the stage, I noticed there was no line for who else but Malcolm McDowell. I got his autograph/photograph and told him I liked the episode of South Park he was on. Seems like it took him a minute to remember that was a thing. I’m still not sure if he ever remembered. But he was a blast. He has a very dry English humor that’s amusing. He had pictures basically from every movie/TV show he’d ever done. Yes, even Bolt.

We rounded out the day with an autograph and photo opportunity from who else but “The Grandfather of the Zombie” George A. Romero. Surprisingly, it only took us five minutes to meet him. We told him that we were “filmmakers” ourselves and found him to be a great inspiration. He was flattered and asked us about our film… So I got to talk to George A. Romero about McTrigger. It was great. For a man of such pop culture stature, Romero is surprisngly easy to talk to. It’s kind of like talking to an elderly art teacher (ponytail included) who’s always down to hang. What a memory.

ZomBcon is Seattle’s best kept little secret. Good guests with moderate crowds and great content. All the B-movie celebs were modest and the whole experience was very warm. I’m without a doubt going back next year, if there is a next year. Please don’t let this convention die and then forever walk the earth as a shambling corpse. Though that would be pretty cool.

Shocktober: Day 30

The Ring (2002)

Dir: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Brian Cox, Daveigh Chase

Basically this one follows the same plot as Scary Movie 3 except it’s not an abomination against god, but seriously The Ring has become one of the few horror highlights of the last decade with it’s disturbing images and mysterious franchise mascot Samara (Daveigh Chase.) Based off of the Japanese film, based off the novel by Koji Suzuki, The Ring is the ultimate moody thriller that when released felt fresh and unique in a genre that so often goes stale.

Set in and filmed around Washington state including such locations as; Seattle, Bellingham, Whidbey Island, Monroe, Port Townshend and even Stanhood (Stanwood) The Ring will always have a place in the hearts of Washingtonians like myself. I never realized how endlessly depressing and terrifying Washington looked, but it’s all there on screen.

For those who don’t know, the film concerns a video tape that when watched kills you seven days later. Naomi Watts is investigating the taboo ape when uh oh, her son watches it! So now she must break the curse and discover what these bizarre images mean. Who is this girl on the tape? What happened to her? It’s a thrilling mystery that’ll constantly keep you guessing and on the edge of your street.

The Ring would go on to popularize Japanese horror films or “J-Horror” is it’s sometimes referred to on Wikipedia and there’s been a whole slew of remakes since then; The Grudge, Dark Water, Pulse, One Missed Call. The only other one I’ve seen is The Grudge which sucked, although it did have Bill Pullman playing a guy named Peter Kirk (The same name of the founder of Kirkland, WA). The Ring had a sequel but it’s attempt to clarify more things in the series only made it less interesting. You always have to keep some of the mystery, keep em guessing even after it’s over.

Shocktober: Day 29

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Dir: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Ernest Liu, Cheech Marin. Salma Hayek, Tom Savini, Fred Williamson

Hot off of the success of Pulp Fiction what was Tarantino going to do? Another hard boiled pulp crime film? How about a gory a vampire fest? I don’t think anyone was expecting that to happen. Joining forces with Robert Rodriguez, Tarantino penned this supernatural thriller that’s half crime drama/monster movie and all kinds of awesome.

What’s really strange about From Dusk TIll Dawn is that it’s almost like it’s two movies. The first half involving the Gecko Brothers (George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino) kidnapping the Fuller family (Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis and Ernest Liu) lasts for quite awhile and it’s actually really engaging. Personally I think it’s even better than the purposefully off-the-wall second half, but that is what makes it a horror film and it’s undeniably entertaining. Basically I like to think of it has two half finished moves that got crammed together, it could’ve been more cohesive but it’s still fun for what it is.

Tarantino’s dialogue as usual is a delightful array of witty insights and well placed profanity that comes to life through the larger than life characters. You got Seth Gecko (Clooney) as the badass antihero, Harvey Keitel as the Preacher who’s lost faith, Fred Williamson as the hardened Vietnam vet, Tom Savini as the biker warrior… And they’re all up to their knees in blood, guts, and vampire strippers.

I have the screenplay to this one at home and constantly reference it to remember clever scenes and monologues. Reading a Tarantino screenplay is almost as good as watching an actual Tarantino movie. He would of course revisit horror to some extent teaming up with Rodriguez again to do Grindhouse, which although a little tiring was still entertaining. So will Tarantino ever do horror again? I don’t think he really needs to, he’s made his contributions and they won’t be forgotten.

T3: The Best of the Treehouse of Horror

I couldn’t go the whole Halloween season without at least one “Top Ten Thursday” list so I opted for one that I believe I’m knowledgable enough on. The Simpsons” “Treehouse of Horror”, what a treat it is every year to get this spooktacular special, at least it was back when The Simpsons was a quality show. In more recent years it really hasn’t been the same and it doesn’t help that it will usually falls on November these days, due to the World Series. Anyways, I can confidently say that the first 9 or 10 “Treehouse of Horror” specials were solid. As a matter of fact I’d be willing to say my top 5 are all basically in a five way tie for first place, tough decisions. Oh and to clarify things, I’m only doing individual segments, not entire specials, enjoy.

10. Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace
From: Treehouse of Horror VI (10/29/95)
Written by: Steve Tompkins
Premise: A deceased Groundskeeper Willie seeks vengeance on Springfield Elementary by killing students in their dreams a la Nightmare on Elm Street.
Why?: Willie seems to be a favorite for Halloween episodes and this may be his crowning Halloween moment. The scene where he burns to death during a PTA meeting is just hilarious and he can be pretty scary when he wants to be.
Memorable Dialogue:
Marge: It all started on the thirteenth hour, of the thirteenth day, of the thirteenth month. We were there to discuss the misprinted calendars the school had purchased.
Homer: [shivering, looking at the calendar] Oh, lousy Smarch weather.

9. Fly vs. Fly
From: Treehouse of Horror VIII (10/26/97)
Written by: David X. Cohen
Premise: The Simpsons acquire a transporter device from a yard sale and Bart transforms into a monster in this tribute to The Fly (1958)
Why?: Even though it’s a Bart segment, I think it’s the Homer moments that make this episode. His uninterested reactions to such fantastical things. “Emm… Two bucks… And… It only transports matter?… Um… Well ah… I’ll give you thirty five cents.”
Memorable Dialogue:
Homer: Man, how’d I ever live without this thing?
(puts arm into transporter one, arm comes out of matter transporter unit two which is in the kitchen by the refrigerator. He reaches inside and accidentally grabs a can of cat ear medicine.)
Homer: Euuuuaagh.. blewww.. ohhh.. oh, man that’s good.

8. Terror at 5 1/2 Feet
From: Treehouse of Horror IV (10/28/93)
Written by: Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein
Premise: A spoof of the The Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” Bart tries to warn the bus passengers of a gremlin on the side of the bus.
Why?: The Twilight Zone is always ripe for parody and no one can parody better than The Simpsons. I mean it’s so ridiculous that only Bart could see a Gremlin on a school bus. It’s fun to see a whole segment in just one location and what jokes can be made in that situation. I believe this was Uter’s first appearance as well, offering his bag of Marzipan Joy-Joys, Mit Iodine!
Memorable Dialogue:
Principal Skinner: Hello, Simpson. I’m riding the bus today because Mother hid my car keysto punish me for talking to a woman on the phone. She was right to do it.

7. The Nightmare Cafeteria
From: Treehouse of Horror V (10/30/94)
Written by: David X. Cohen
Premise: Overcrowding at Springfield Elementary causes the staff to resort murder and cannibalism.
Why?: Some great visual gags here with such sights as; the fattened faculty, the “free range” children and a book entitled “The Joy of Cooking Milhouse.”
Memorable Dialogue:
Lisa: Bart, does it strike you as odd that Uter disappeared and suddenly they’re serving us this mysterious food called “Uterbraten”?
Skinner: Oh, relax, kids, I’ve got a “gut” feeling Uter is around here somewhere. After all, isn’t there a little “Uter” in all of us? In fact, you might even say we just “ate” Uter and he’s in our “stomachs” right now! Ha, ha, Wait… scratch that one.

6. King Homer
From: Treehouse of Horror III (10/29/92)
Written by: Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky
Premise: A classic retelling of the 30s classic with Homer as the beast and Marge as the beauty.
Why?: A heartfelt ode to the original with some great nods to the 30s. My favorite gag being a newspaper with a headline that says “Dick Cavett Born!” With a picture of him as an adult.
Memorable Dialogue:
Carl: Hey, I heard we’re goin’ to Ape Island.
Lenny: Yeah, to capture a giant ape.
Carl: I wish we were going to Candy Apple Island.
Charlie: Candy Apple Island? What do they got there?
Carl: Apes. But they’re not so big.

5. Dial ‘Z’ for Zombies
From: Treehouse of Horror III (10/29/92)
Written by: Sam Simon, Jon Vitti
Premise: Bart tries to bring back Lisa’s dead cat using the Book of the dead but accidentally summons a hoard of brain hungry zombies.
Why?: Zombies are so malleable for comedies so in The Simpson’s hands it was sure to be a success. I’ll always love when Homer kills zombie flanders to which he responds, “He was a zombie?”
Memorable Dialogue:
Lisa: Dad, we did something very bad!
Homer: Did you wreck the car?
Bart: No!
Homer: Did you raise the dead?
Lisa: Yes!
Homer: But the car’s okay?
Kids: Uh-huh.
Homer: All right then.

4. Bart Simpson’s Dracula
From: Treehouse of Horror IV (10/28/93)
Written by: Bill Canterbury
Premise: The Simpsons are invited to Mr. Burns castle in “Pennsylvania!” where part is turned into a vampire.
Why?: It’s amazing how much they can do in like five minutes, it almost feels like a whole episode. It’s well paced with no shortage of jokes.
Memorable Dialogue:
Kent Brockman: Another local peasant has been found dead — drained of his blood with two teeth marks on his throat. This black cape was found on the scene.
[Cape has “DRACULA” written on it]
Kent Brockman: Police are baffled.
Chief Wiggum: We think we’re dealing with a supernatural being, most likely a mummy. As a precaution, I’ve ordered the Egyptian wing of the Springfield museum destroyed.

3. Clown Without Pity
From: Treehouse of Horror III (10/29/92)
Written by: Al Jean and Mike Reiss
Premise: Forgetting Bart’s birthday, Homer rushes out and buys him a doll… With dire consequences.
Why?: Homer is no stranger to pain, so seeing him beat up by a miniature Krusty only makes that pain so much sweeter.
Memorable Dialogue:
Homer: Marge, Marge the dolls trying to kill me and the toasters been laughing at me!

2. Time and Punishment
From: Treehouse of Horror V (10/30/94)
Written by: Greg Daniels and Dan McGrath
Premise: In an attempt to fix his toaster, Homer accidentally becomes the first non-Brazilian man to travel back in time.
Why?: Time travel can be a blast if approached humorously and who makes a better time traveler than Homer? His moronic observations are timeless, possibly making this the most quotable addition on this list. Traveling back to the jurassic era and commenting “I’ve travelled back to a time where dinosaurs weren’t just confined to zoos?” I mean he already acts confused enough in his own world, so this only made it more perfect.
Memorable Dialogue:
Homer: You know, Marge, I’ve had my share of troubles, but sitting here now with you and the kids in our cozy home in this beautiful free country…it just makes me feel that I’m really a lucky guy.
Lisa: Dad! Your hand is jammed in the toaster!

1. The Shinning
From: Treehouse of Horror V (10/30/94)
Written by: Bob Cushell
Premise: The Simpsons become the new caretakers of Mr. Burn’s winter lodge, but with no beer and TV, Homer begins to lose it.
Why?: ; I guess this solidifies Treehouse of Horror V as the best Simpson’s Halloween special in my eyes. So why did I pick this pitch perfect parody as number one? Maybe because it contains some of Homer’s best moments. Were talking about a Homer that’s completely insane and homicidal cause no beer and no TV make Homer go something, something.
Memorable Dialogue:
Mr. Burns: Oh, goody: the Sea Monkeys I ordered have arrived. Heh heh, heh, look at them cavort and caper.
Smithers: Sir, they’re the new winter caretakers for the lodge.
Mr. Burns: Yes…they work hard and they play hard.

Worst (So Far)

5. Heck House
From:Treehouse of Horror XVIII (11/4/07)
Written by: Marc Wilmore
Premise: Angered at the havoc created by mischievous trick-or-treaters, Flanders builds a spook house that is made powerful by the lord.
Why?: It feels so rushed and misguided, Flanders has strayed so far from his original goody two shoes image into a judgmental ultra conservative, for shame.

4. Dial ‘M’ for Murder or Press ‘#’ to Return to Main Menu
From: Treehouse of Horror XX (10/18/09)
Written by: Daniel Chun
Premise: Bart and Lisa become involved in a “criss-cross” murder situation where they each must murder the other’s teacher, but Lisa can’t do it.
Why?: I bet they felt real clever after coming up with that stupid title. Obviously this a Hitchcock parody but the setup is ridiculous and the jokes are nonexistent. All style and no substance.

3. Frinkenstein
From: Treehouse of Horror XIV (10/2/03)
Written by: John Swartzwelder
Premise: Professor Frink reanimates his dead father (played by Jerry Lewis) who goes on a maniacal spree, stealing body parts.
Why?: It’s just a bunch of gross imagery with a very underwhelming performance from Jerry Lewis.

2. Mr. & Mrs. Simpson
From: Treehouse of Horror XVIII (11/4/07)
Written by: Marc Wilmore
Premise: Homer and Marge try to get counseling after admitting to being assassins.
Why?: What does parodying Mr. and Mrs. Smith have to do with Halloween? It’s not like its even regarded that highly as a film, but worthy of a parody I guess. So Homer and Marge want to kill each other at one one point but the reasoning behind it is just plan lazy, this really doesn’t make any sense.

1. E.T., Go Home
From: Treehouse of Horror XVIII (11/4/07)
Written by: Marc Wilmore
Premise: Kodos is stranded on Earth and befriends Bart.
Why?: It seems like it would of been no problem spoofing E.T., especially with Kang and Kodos, but these alien invaders have just lost their touch. I mark one moment as being a perfect example of the show’s downfall and here it is; it has clearly been stated in the past that Kodos is Kang’s “Sister”. So why is there a line where he complains about being hit in the testicles? I’m not trying to be a nitpicking fanboy but it seems to me that you should at least know the show’s characters before you start writing for them. It’s another perfect example of how the current Simpson’s writers have lost touch with the characters and will do whatever they can to continue the series. Maybe someone should take a hint that if you have to continually distort the timeline and the continuity maybe you should just stop.

Sorry for that sad note but we should be thankful we had about the 10 or so good Simpsons’s halloween specials we got.

Shocktober: Day 28

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Dir: Jonathan Demme
Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Ted Levine, Scott Glenn, Anthony Heald

Out of all the film’s on this list none have as much gold to flaunt as this thriller, by which I mean “Oscar Gold.” Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, Best Picture… Damn, this is one helluva of a heavy hitter! I guess it’s the first horror film to ever win best picture but then I start to think “Is there a difference between the thriller and horror genre?” It’s one of those movies that kind of defies one definite genre. Horror, Thriller, Mystery, Crime Drama, whatever it may be I think we can all agree that this is one disturbing foray into some very dark places.

Based off of Thomas Harris’ bestselling novel, Silence of the Lambs is a story of murder, cannibalism, wearing people’s skin and all that good stuff. It’s definitely more subtle thriller than a violent “in your face” affair and uses it’s fascinating characters to suck you into the mayhem. Jodie Foster is fully absorbing as the heroine FBI agent Clarice Starling while Anthony Hopkins is even more engrossing in his most famous and possibly best role to date. What is there to say about Hannibal Lecter? He’s an excellently crafted portrait of a villainous mastermind and yet he’s behind bars. What a concept that is and even with a mere 16 minutes of screen time he steals the show. Really he’s just a supporting character and yet he’s the most memorable part of the movie, a marvelous performance.

Though you can’t count out Buffalo Bill’s (Ted Levine) portions of the film. The infamous dance to Q Lazzarus’ “Goodbye Horses” has to be one of the most striking sequences of the whole film. Not to mention that pit he’s got down there and his whole “lotion talk”. That reminds me of all the great quotes in this movie. Almost too much to talk about so I’m going to cut this short, I’m hungry.