Thursday, March 29, 2012

I'm a Bad, Bad Blogger

Hey there.
You might not remember me, but my name's Marvin the Macabre and I used to write a horror blog.
Yeah, it has been awhile.

The great gray beast February kicked off a season of sickness and depression here at Casa de Macabre, but things appear to be getting back to normal and regular posting should resume shortly. As for me, I've watched a metric shit-ton of horror movies, but haven't found the motivation to write about them until now. What follows is a brief rundown of what I've been watching.

Bitter Feast (2010 - dir. Joe Maggio)
Every time I visit my parents, I end up watching several hours of Food Network. I'm not a discerning foodie by any means, but I love food and love cooking, and came into this film stoked to see Mario Batalli, even if it is just a bit part. This movie seems uniquely suited to my tastes: A love for food, a perverted appetite for torture, and a disdain for critics. The plot is this: a series of scathing reviews for his restaurant ruins the career of a chef/cooking show host, so like any of us, he kidnaps the critic and makes him complete a series of culinary challenges that he punishes with starvation and/or violence should he fall short of perfection. In that way, the film itself is somewhat critic-proof.

Typically, I can't get into movies where the protagonist is as despicable as the killer, but this one kept me captivated throughout, as I found myself alternately identifying with both of them. Later in the film, the killer does extend his reign of terror to an innocent, the critic's wife, played by Amy Seimetz (who I adored in A Horrible Way to Die), to fully arouse our sympathy. While not even remotely scary and only mildly disturbing, Bitter Feast is a well-made film with a compelling story and solid performances. I dug it.

The Woods ( 2006 - dir. Lucky McKee)
Man, there aren't nearly enough movies about witches. Therefore I tend to love all of them (well, the ones that aren't just cheap T&A flicks). The Woods boasts a small dramatic role from Bruce Campbell and a major role for a very young Rachel Nichols. The standout of the bunch, though, is lead actress Agnes Bruckner, who really needs to be in more shit. Honestly though, I don't know if it's standout performance or if I just found her too adorable for words.

I loved the whole tone of this movie, from its creepy, ghost-story vibe to the atmosphere of the remote boarding school where vines from the woods penetrate into every window. The CGI at the end is mildly hokey, but didn't ruin anything for me. Once again, I dug it.

Home Sick (2002 - dir. Adam Wingard)
Followers of this blog know how stoked I was after watching Adam Wingard's A Horrible Way to Die. Imagine my shock when I hit play on Wingard's feature debut and found a film not only devoid of, but in direct opposition to all the things I loved about AHWTD. The slow build, the subtle performances, the focus on characters over sensationalism... nowhere to be found.  What I got instead was a cheap, gore-soaked exploitation flick featuring performances that alternated between a half mile over the top so downplayed that they were shrugging off disembowelments.

Mind you, I was kind of into it at first. It seemed like a bad movie made by and for lovers of bad movies, but by the end it was just so hair-pullingly stupid that I could hardly make it through. None of the characters ever behaved in ways a real human being would, and the scenes with Tom Towles get so goddamned silly that he might as well have been wearing clown make-up. There were some fun moments, some good kills, and genuine humor, but not nearly enough to save this sloppy mess of a film. I cannot dig it!

Dark Waters (1994 - dir. Some Italian Dude who's never made another feature)
I'm torn on this one. The tale reeks strongly of Lovecraft, which is always good. The cinematography and framing of the shots is absolutely gorgeous, and the whole look and feel of the film, right down to the acting, perfectly recreates Dario Argento in his prime. The story is simple, but good, and it burns so slow that I was tense in anticipation for a shocking, bloody climax. What I got instead was a girl in a horrible prosthetic and a goofy-looking rubber monster.

I loved the first 3 quarters of this movie so much that I can't help but want to give it a second chance. As a horror fan, particularly one who came up in the 80s, I've learned to forgive a lot of fake-looking special effects and feel the power of the underlying story, and hopefully with repeat viewings, I can do so with Dark Waters as well.

Friday the 13th (1980 - dir. Sean Cunnigham)
I'd seen this one before, of course, but having come into horror by the time it had 7 sequels, I just couldn't get over the fact that Jason wasn't the killer in the original. This time around, though, I enjoyed the hell out of it. Having more of  historical perspective on horror helps a lot, This is one of those films where you have to get your mind back to the time period it was created in. It must have been shocking.

With a bunch of pretty danged awesome kill sequences and likable teenagers for slaughter, the original Friday the 13th holds up surprisingly well. Add to that Mrs. Voorhees undeniably creepy back and forth dialogue with her dead son, and you've got a slasher that stands the test of time. Finally, after all these years, I dig it.

Happy Birthday to Me (1981 - J. Lee Thompson)
I had something of an unplanned 80s horror fest in March. I've been so focused on the new horror that has come out that I had been neglecting that decade so beloved to so many horror fans. I remember seeing TV commercials for this one, and my older sister telling me all about it, despite my not wanting anything to do with it. But even after embracing horror, I never got around to seeing it until over 30 years later.

I loved this movie. From the shocking first kill to all of the goofy ones that followed, Happy Birthday to Me was a delight from beginning to end. And what an ending it was. The Scooby-Doo style rubber mask reveal was jaw-droppingly stupid, but somehow so right. Triple dig plus a highly recommend.

Maniac (1980 - dir. William Lustig)
Knowing its reputation, I wasn't sure if I even wanted to see this one. But then my homies over at the If We Made It blog recorded an episode devoted to it, so I basically had to. Joe Spinell is one of the creepiest mofos ever committed to celluloid in this flick, and Tom Savini's self-kill completely lived up to its reputation. The only problem I had with Maniac is how Joe Spinell goes from being a frothing-at-the-mouth psychopath to a smooth criminal when he's wooing the photographer. And why a super-hottie like her would look twice at his ugly mug defies belief. And yet, it's also the best part of the movie. I won't go so far as to say that I dig it, but I appreciate it.

Prom Night (1980 - dir. Paul Lynch)
Did I get a DVD with a really horrible transfer, or did Prom Night always look and sound this shitty? Bad transfer aside, I really did not like this 80s horror staple. There were exactly 3 where I enjoyed this movie. First was the very beginning where the creepy kids voices were echoing "The killer is coming" through the abandoned building. Next was the Jamie Lee Curtis disco scene. Her hair was terrible, but girl had some moves. Lastly, the severed head on the runway scene was pretty cool. Other than that, the kills were tame, the tension wasn't, and I didn't really like any of the characters. No diggity.

The House by the Cemetery (1981 - dir. Lucio Fulci)
This one probably deserves its own post. I'll say off the bat that this movie was a frickin' mess that made no sense. But somehow it didn't matter. The logic of the movie was nightmare logic - it didn't have to make sense, it just had to bring the goods with the gore and the scares, and it had both in spades.

There was the nanny character who was so whacked out that you just knew she had a pivotal role in all the freaky goings-on, but then she get decapitated and discarded without any explanation as to why she was such a weirdo. Then there was the scene where said nanny was mopping up a foot-wide streak of blood spanning the kitchen floor, yet the mother doesn't seem to notice. Near the end, the father comes home from a less than fruitful investigative trip suddenly knowing exactly what is going on. No fucking sense whatsoever.

And again, it doesn't matter because Fulci brings it. Those sounds that freak the mother out when she's alone in the house. The scene where Dr. Fruedstein holds the son's head to the door that his father is trying to chop through. All the chopped up bits of bodies littering the basement. This was some hardcore shit in the 80s, and still brings the shocks. And after everything, I kind of love that it makes no sense. I'm beginning to think that it was the Italian national style back in the day.

So there you have it. I watched some other stuff too, but nothing to write home (or a blog post) about. But now the hour is late, and the small screen calls to me once again. I leave you with the assurance that this blogger is indeed back, and next time, I'm bringing some cartoons with me.

Peace Out.