In 50 Words…Last Shift (2014)

In 50 (or so) Words… a tiny review.

last-shift-posterLast Shift (2014)

Directed by: Anthony DiBlasi

Starring: Juliana Harkavy, Joshua Mikel

Sykra Entertainment

Rookie police officer Jessica Loren is assigned to guard, on her first shift, an old precinct during the building’s last night open. Informed that all she has to do is wait for a clean-up crew to arrive sometime during the night, her maiden shift should be a breeze. During the night, supernatural occurrences happen, which lead Loren to discover the real reason the precinct is being abandoned. Last Shift starts of fairly well, but quickly lost my attention. There are no real scares, some gross out effects, but a few creepy images. A pretty weak and predictable finish left me feeling that the film lost it’s identity. Decent acting from Juliana Harkavy (TV’s The Walking Dead) with the material she is given to work with. For me, Last Shift quickly became Lost Shift.

2/5 Bloody Moons

2/5 Bloody Moons

T.

In 50 Words… Bone Tomahawk (2015)

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

Directed by: S. Craig Zahler

Starring: Kurt Russel, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins

Caliber Media Company, RLJ Entertainment

Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Russell) and three other men set out on a rescue after people from their frontier town are abducted by cave-dwelling savages. As if pioneer life wasn’t hard enough! Bone Tomahawk is more western than horror, but does not lack brutal bloody violence. The cast is wonderful, and the story is simple and original. The cannibalistic kidnappers are almost Predator-like, and a formidable foe for all-round bad ass Kurt Russell. The western/horror genre is sorely under utilized, but this film is a great start. Bone Tomahawk is bound to become a cult favorite, and rightfully so. The film runs at one hundred and thirty two minutes, but does not lag, and kept my attention from start to finish. Awesome movie.

4.5 Bloody Moons / 5

In 50 Words… Circle (2015)

CIRCLE (2015)

Directed by: Aaron Hann, Mario Miscione

Starring: Julie Benz, Mercy Malik, Carter Jenkins

Taggart Productions, Votiv Films

A group of fifty strangers wake up in a dark chamber, unable to recall how they got there. One by one, they are executed by a bolt of electricity that emanates from a sphere in the center of the room. The victims are not chosen at random, but by the captives themselves through a strange voting system. Strategy and prejudice will determine a lone survivor. Circle is an interesting film and would make a great game show. The concept; How much do we value another persons life in comparison to our own? As the film progresses, it unfortunately becomes somewhat predictable. This is a dialogue driven film, which takes away from the suspense. A little action would have gone far. Pretty well written with some good acting. Tries to keep us guessing but falls a little short, but I do admire the concept.  3/5 Bloody Moons

T.

31 Days of Halloween Day 29 – The Changeling (1980)

31 Days of Halloween – Day 29

The Changeling (directed by Peter Medak, 1980) When I think of a haunted house, I do not think of skeletons crawling out of the basement, blood pouring out of the faucets, or ancient burial grounds. A Haunting is more effective when the occurrences are more subtle. Unexplained sounds, objects moving by themselves, and shadows are the things that fear are based on. The Changeling hits all the right classic ghostly spots. This is how a haunted house movie should be done. There are no over the top CGI, ridiculous looking specters, or bleeding walls. The film relies on good old fashion tension, a creepy mansion, and the theory that less is more. Grief stricken composer John Russell has recently lost his wife and daughter in a freak auto accident. Trying to piece his life back together, he takes a teaching job in Washington State, and subsequently takes residence in old mansion. Strange things begin to take place; taps turning on themselves, timed banging noises, and doors opening unaided. The discovery of a locked room in the attic has troubled the new tenant as well. After things begin to get worse, John has a medium come in the house. The results lead him to dig into the history of the house, and he discovers the eighty year old unsolved murder of a young boy. The ghost of the boy needs John to bring the secrets to light so his soul may rest, and the truth can be known. There are some really unsettling scenes in The Changeling. The murder of the boy, the medium making contact with the spirit, and the reappearing rubber ball are all haunting. If you have watched the film, you know exactly what I mean. George C. Scott provides a special performance, devastated by his loss, yet dedicated to solving the mystery of the mansion. He is a commanding screen presence. The mansion is vast and also gives a worthy performance as the vessel for the vengeful child spirit. I am not sure what age I was when I first watched The Changeling; maybe ten or twelve. But it took me a long time to watch it again. My greatest fear as a kid was ghosts, and this film scared the holy hell out of me. The effect has diminished, but it is still the measuring stick I use when comparing movies of the supernatural genre. Not a lot of films measure up to this classic haunted house story. Let this movie provide you with a worthy Halloween haunting.

Cool Fact: The Changeling won a handful of Genie Awards (the Canadian Oscars) including Best Picture, and Best Performance by a Foreign Actor (George C. Scott).

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Recap

  • Day 1 – The Conjuring
  • Day 2 – You’re Next
  • Day 3 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween
  • Day 4 – Dog Soldiers
  • Day 5 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  • Day 6 – Psycho (1960)
  • Day 7 – John Carpenter’s The Thing
  • Day 8 – The Prowler
  • Day 9 – Pet Sematary
  • Day 10 – The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Day 11 – Near Dark
  • Day 12 – The Lost Boys
  • Day 13 – Child’s Play
  • Day 14 – Sleepy Hollow
  • Day 15 – House of 1,000 Corpses
  • Day 16 – The Devil’s Rejects
  • Day 17 – Night of the Living Dead
  • Day 18 – Dawn of the Dead (’78)
  • Day 19 – Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
  • Day 20 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  • Day 21 – The Cabin In The Woods
  • Day 22 – A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
  • Day 23 – The Exorcist III
  • Day 24 – The Evil Dead (1981)
  • Day 25 – The Blair Witch Project
  • Day 26 – The Shining
  • Day 27 – Trick r Treat
  • Day 28 – An American Werewolf in London
  • Day 29 – The Changeling

T.

31 Days of Halloween Day 28 – An American Werewolf In London

31 Days of Halloween – Day 28

An American Werewolf in London (directed by John Landis, 1981) Every time I watch An American Werewolf in London, I enjoy, and appreciate it, more and more. As far as horror goes, it is top notch. Amazing special effects (courtesy of legendary make-up artist Rick Baker), truly bizarre dream sequences, and a strong story are all present, but what really makes this film for me is the dark comedy. This should come at no surprise as John Landis (Animal House, Blues Brothers) wrote and directed the movie. Landis has a great knack for making audiences laugh. American Werewolf is a fine blend of terror and laughter. Two American college students are traveling through the Scottish countryside. During a brief stop at The Slaughtered Lamb for a pint, they are warned by the locals to “stick to the road and stay off the moors”. After ignoring the advice, they are attacked by a savage animal that leaves one traveler dead, and the other wounded. David, the survivor, wakes up in the hospital. He begins having terrifying dreams, and eventually is visited by his friend Jack’s corpse. Jack explains to David that he was attacked by a werewolf, and because he survived, David would become one as well during the next full moon. Is David losing his mind, or is this a true warning that he is now a man-wolf? As the moon turns, David, and most of London discover that the warning was valid. The beast runs wild in the city, resulting in some violent attacks, as well as some humorous situations. A scene in which a naked David wakes up in the city zoo is worth the watch, as is the first transformation scene. Rick Baker and his team did a masterful job. The effects were much better in American Werewolf than movies of the same time. David Naughton is great as the cheeky traveler David, and Jenny Agutter is charming and lovely as his love interest nurse Alex. The character who steals the show is Jack. Played by Griffin Dunne, Jack is David’s dead best friend who returns from beyond the grave to warn, and subsequently annoy, David. The scenes and dialogue between the two is genuine and funny. An American Werewolf in London is much more than a typical horror movie, but as far as films about shape-shifters are concerned, it may be the best all-around presentation of the genre. This classic should slide nicely into your Halloween line-up. And oh yeah, beware the moon.

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Recap

  • Day 1 – The Conjuring
  • Day 2 – You’re Next
  • Day 3 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween
  • Day 4 – Dog Soldiers
  • Day 5 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  • Day 6 – Psycho (1960)
  • Day 7 – John Carpenter’s The Thing
  • Day 8 – The Prowler
  • Day 9 – Pet Sematary
  • Day 10 – The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Day 11 – Near Dark
  • Day 12 – The Lost Boys
  • Day 13 – Child’s Play
  • Day 14 – Sleepy Hollow
  • Day 15 – House of 1,000 Corpses
  • Day 16 – The Devil’s Rejects
  • Day 17 – Night of the Living Dead
  • Day 18 – Dawn of the Dead (’78)
  • Day 19 – Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
  • Day 20 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  • Day 21 – The Cabin In The Woods
  • Day 22 – A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
  • Day 23 – The Exorcist III
  • Day 24 – The Evil Dead (1981)
  • Day 25 – The Blair Witch Project
  • Day 26 – The Shining
  • Day 27 – Trick r Treat
  • Day 28 – An American Werewolf in London

T.

31 Days of Halloween Day 27 – Trick r Treat

31 Days of Halloween – Day 27

Trick r Treat (directed by Michael Dougherty, 2007) Since I was a young kid, I’ve always enjoyed horror anthologies. Blame it on my short attention span or not, whether it was Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye, Creepshow and Creepshow 2, or Twilight Zone the Movie, I like the fact that these films have four or five mini-films that make up the whole movie. Some of these movies have a continuous theme or element, such as a character or object; they connect each story to one another. This is the case with Trick r Treat. There are four interwoven stories that all take place in the same town on Halloween night; a school principal and his son who take jack-o-lantern carving to the next level, a “vampire” who gets more than he bargained for from a group of girls who turn out to be real party animals, a group of kids who enjoy playing mean pranks get the tables turned on them in haunted quarry, and an mean old man who gets to meet the true meaning of Halloween up close and personal. Each story has one common element; Sam. Sam (short for Samhain) is a demonic little pumpkin faced creature who is an enforcer of Halloween rules and traditions. Sam is always there when something goes bad. If you disrespect Halloween, he will find you. Sam has become somewhat of a new horror icon, a deservedly so. He is as cute as a button, and just has deadly. Each story is based on some sort of urban legend or twist on a fairy tale, and are well crafted and infused with some humor. My personal favorite story is the haunted quarry. Years earlier, a bus of mentally disabled and troubled kids is driven into a rock quarry and left to drown. Present time, some kids plan to play a mean trick on a girl. Their plans backfire when they are the ones that fall victim. Great eerie atmosphere and a spooky setting make it a great segment in Trick r Treat. The cast includes Dylan Baker (SpiderMan 3), Anna Paquin (TVs True Blood), Brian Cox (Manhunter), and Leslie Bibb (Talladega Nights). This film has become an annual Halloween watch for me. If you want to watch a charming little anthology with a little bit of everything, make sure to check out Trick r Treat.

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Recap

  • Day 1 – The Conjuring
  • Day 2 – You’re Next
  • Day 3 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween
  • Day 4 – Dog Soldiers
  • Day 5 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  • Day 6 – Psycho (1960)
  • Day 7 – John Carpenter’s The Thing
  • Day 8 – The Prowler
  • Day 9 – Pet Sematary
  • Day 10 – The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Day 11 – Near Dark
  • Day 12 – The Lost Boys
  • Day 13 – Child’s Play
  • Day 14 – Sleepy Hollow
  • Day 15 – House of 1,000 Corpses
  • Day 16 – The Devil’s Rejects
  • Day 17 – Night of the Living Dead
  • Day 18 – Dawn of the Dead (’78)
  • Day 19 – Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
  • Day 20 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  • Day 21 – The Cabin In The Woods
  • Day 22 – A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
  • Day 23 – The Exorcist III
  • Day 24 – The Evil Dead (1981)
  • Day 25 – The Blair Witch Project
  • Day 26 – The Shining
  • Day 27 – Trick r Treat

T.

31 Days of Halloween Day 26 – The Shining (1980)

31 Days of Halloween – Day 26

The Shining (directed by Stanley Kubrick, 1980) Jack Torrance, an out of work writer, along with his wife Wendy and son Danny, takes residence as the winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel. Jack has had his struggles with alcoholism, and looks at this as an opportunity to write the book in peace and quiet. Son Danny sees things differently. A gift he has developed allows Danny to for see the danger that awaits them at the Overlook. The hotel has a horrific secret, and Danny can feel it. Over the course of their stay, Jack slowly descends into madness. The spirits that inhabit the hotel have plans for Jack; they require him to kill his family, and eventually himself. Snowed in and without radio communication, Wendy and Danny must survive to escape the doom that awaits them at the hands of Jack. There are many theories of what Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is truly about, and frankly, too many to discuss here. Let us take it for what it is on the surface. It is a ghost story, on a few levels. First, Jack is harboring ghosts from his past, in the form of alcohol and abuse. Danny is trying to live with the ghosts that speak to him (figuratively), and Wendy is just trying to keep it all together. The spirits of the Overlook Hotel prey on the family’s fragile psyche. I will leave the discrepancies between the Stephen King novel and Kubrick’s movie aside, because there are many, and the film is much different. This is a brilliant film, plain and simple. Right from the opening scene, Kubrick creates and ominous tone, and fills us viewers with an impending sense of doom. The opening theme was a perfect piece of music to open the film. The Shining gives us a sense of disorientation, using the vast hotel and hedge maze to make us feel lost. The winter setting is isolating and makes the situation claustrophobic and desperate. Kubrick meticulously crafted this film to be ambiguous; this is why there are so many ideas floating around as to what his true message is. Regardless, it is perfect. The horror is not in the gore or the violence. The horror comes through the psychology the director places throughout the film; the long hallway shots, the oppressive nature of the hotel, the mystery of Room 237, and the malicious nature of Jacks temperament . Jack Nicholson plays Jack Torrance with such an arrogance and madness that makes him terrifying. Shelly Duvall is great as Wendy. She plays a needy, helpless, and simple character, until the life of her son is threatened. She then becomes fierce, and would do anything to protect Danny. Young Danny Lloyd played his role of tormented, spooky child very well. His “Tony” voice is quite good. Scatman Crothers has a small, but important role as the hotel’s cook, but more importantly, he shares the “shine” with Danny. He also paints the hotel as a place that can be very dangerous. There are many memorable scenes in The Shining; Jack and Wendy’s encounters in the main hall and the kitchen of the hotel, Danny wheeling around the hotel and discovering the “Twins”, and Jack busting through the door with “Here’s Johnny”. My favorite scene, perhaps of any film, is the bathroom encounter between Jack and Charles Grady, where Grady explains to Jack that he must “correct” his family. Chilling is one word to describe the exchange. As I am sure a lot of people share the same sentiment, The Shining is number one for horror in my books. Thirty-five years later, it still provides more questions than answers. If you are brave enough to see what is behind the door of Room 237, make The Shining part of your Halloween regiment. You know what they say; “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy”. We wouldn’t want Jack to get dull.

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Recap

  • Day 1 – The Conjuring
  • Day 2 – You’re Next
  • Day 3 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween
  • Day 4 – Dog Soldiers
  • Day 5 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  • Day 6 – Psycho (1960)
  • Day 7 – John Carpenter’s The Thing
  • Day 8 – The Prowler
  • Day 9 – Pet Sematary
  • Day 10 – The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Day 11 – Near Dark
  • Day 12 – The Lost Boys
  • Day 13 – Child’s Play
  • Day 14 – Sleepy Hollow
  • Day 15 – House of 1,000 Corpses
  • Day 16 – The Devil’s Rejects
  • Day 17 – Night of the Living Dead
  • Day 18 – Dawn of the Dead (’78)
  • Day 19 – Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
  • Day 20 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  • Day 21 – The Cabin In The Woods
  • Day 22 – A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
  • Day 23 – The Exorcist III
  • Day 24 – The Evil Dead (1981)
  • Day 25 – The Blair Witch Project
  • Day 26 – The Shining

In 50 Words…Tales of Halloween (2015) – A Tiny Review

Tales of Halloween (2015)

Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman and 9 others. Starring Lynn Shaye, Barry Bostwick, Adrianne Barbeau

Epic Pictures Group

A Halloween anthology, consisting of ten mini stories, all taking place in the same town. Creative, funny, and entertaining for the most part. A couple of the stories stand out, including The Night Billy Raised Hell and Trick. My only complaint is that the segment stories could have intertwined more. A solid Halloween movie in the vein of Creepshow and Trick r Treat. Definite chance to see this one turn into a franchise. Decent gore and special effects, with some good atmosphere. More treats than tricks. Twisted Halloween fun.     3.5 out of 5 Bloody Moons
T.

31 Days of Halloween Day 15 and 16 – HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS

31 Days of Halloween – Day 15

House of 1,000 Corpses (directed by Rob Zombie, 2003) Where do I start? Do I start with Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madmen? The sadistic Firefly family, who prey on travelers and cheerleaders? A physician who goes by the name of ‘Dr. Satan’, who performers experiments on unwilling participants all in the hopes of creating a race of super-humans? There are so many bizarre, yet memorable characters and insane situations in House of 1,000 Corpses that it is hard to keep track of. A group of young adults (including a then unknown Rainn Wilson from The Office) are on a cross country trip, in search of off-beat roadside attractions. The stumble upon the Museum of Monsters and Madmen, and become intrigued by the local legend of S. Quentin Quale, aka Dr. Satan. After receiving directions from the proprietor Captain Spaulding, the group head out in search of the “Satan Tree”. On the way, they pick up a hitchhiker who claims she can take them right to their destination. What they find instead is a house full of murder and mayhem, occupied by the Firefly family, and things do not go well here on out for the travelers. From top to bottom, this film is insane, and very entertaining. Taking inspiration from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, as well as 1970’s Grindhouse features, there is an abundance of gore, plenty of violence, and a lot of exploitation going on. Rob Zombie’s typical gang of actors, Sid Haig, Sheri Moon Zombie, and Bill Mosley are all present and are all disturbed. Zombie’s first feature will not be for everyone, but House of 1,000 Corpses certainly leaves an impression.

31 Days of Halloween – Day 16

The Devil’s Rejects (directed by Rob Zombie, 2005) The sequel to House of 1,000 Corpses continues the carnage but takes a different approach than its predecessor. The Devil’s Rejects continues the story of the Firefly family months after the events of House of 1,000 Corpses. The family is cornered in their house by the authorities, and are out numbered and out-gunned. Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) and Otis Driftwood (Bill Mosley) manage to escape and flee the standoff, and meet up with clown-faced Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig). The twisted family are on the run from hard-nosed and equally as terrifying Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe). Wydell seeks revenge upon the trio of killers for the murder of his brother who fell victim to the family. While on the lam, the murderous Firefly clan cannot subdue their thirst for violence, so they leave another trail of carnage in their wake. Think Bonnie and Clyde meet Natural Born Killers. Devil’s Rejects takes itself more serious than House of 1,000 Corpses, and it works. The tone is grittier and more intense. Zombie does a great job in creating a gang of anti-heroes out of characters that we should hate. The final scene in this film is beautifully done, complete with Lynard Skynard’s ‘Free Bird’ as the background song as our “heroes” make their last stand. This Halloween, give yourself a double dip of mayhem, and make it a back-to-back Rob Zombie night with House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devils Rejects.

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Recap

  • Day 1 – The Conjuring
  • Day 2 – You’re Next
  • Day 3 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween
  • Day 4 – Dog Soldiers
  • Day 5 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  • Day 6 – Psycho (1960)
  • Day 7 – John Carpenter’s The Thing
  • Day 8 – The Prowler
  • Day 9 – Pet Sematary
  • Day 10 – The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Day 11 – Near Dark
  • Day 12 – The Lost Boys
  • Day 13 – Child’s Play
  • Day 14 – Sleepy Hollow
  • Day 15 – House of 1,000 Corpses
  • Day 16 – The Devil’s Rejects

31 Days of Halloween- Day 14 -SLEEPY HOLLOW

31 Days of Halloween – Day 14

Sleepy Hollow (directed by Tim Burton, 1999) What would Halloween be without the tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman? I am sure most of us have seen the old Disney cartoon based upon Washington Irvine’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, in which Mr. Crane comes face to face with the ghoulish Headless Horseman. In 1999, Tim Burton took the legend, made a couple changes to the story (minor changes), and brought us his version, Sleepy Hollow. If anyone in Hollywood can take a classic American ghost story and make it great, Tim Burton (Batman, Edward Scissorhands) is that someone. After being labelled as eccentric by his peers, Constable Ichabod Crane is sent from New York to the village of Sleepy Hollow to investigate some mysterious and grisly murders. Someone is decapitating victims, and keeping the evidence. The town’s people are convinced that a local legend, a Headless Horseman is responsible, but Crane at first does not believe in their theory. Ichabod soon realizes that Sleepy Hollow is a place steeped in lies, deceit, and supernatural occurrence. He must now uncover the mystery of the Horseman and find away to send the Hessian back to hell. Like the vast majority of Tim Burton’s projects, the attention to detail is amazing. The turn of the eighteenth century costumes and sets are brilliant. The cast, led by Tim Burton mainstay Johnny Depp (Ichabod Crane), Christina Ricci (Katrina Van Tassel), and the great Christopher Walken as the Headless Horseman. Depp is great as the smart, yet often terrified Crane, and Walken is menacing as the antagonist. Sleepy Hollow is actually very violent and bloody, which is different from most of Tim Burton’s other more whimsical films. The color tone of the film is very grey and neutral that when the blood starts flying, it stands out that much more. As far as films go, you cannot find one that is more entrenched in Halloween lore than Sleepy Hollow. The Horseman even throws a flaming jack-o-lantern at Ichabod Crane’s head at one point, proving that everyone celebrates the eve of all Hallows in their own special way. If you are looking for a fun, spooky popcorn movie to watch tonight, Sleepy Hollow might just fit the bill.

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Recap

  • Day 1 – The Conjuring
  • Day 2 – You’re Next
  • Day 3 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween
  • Day 4 – Dog Soldiers
  • Day 5 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  • Day 6 – Psycho (1960)
  • Day 7 – John Carpenter’s The Thing
  • Day 8 – The Prowler
  • Day 9 – Pet Sematary
  • Day 10 – The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Day 11 – Near Dark
  • Day 12 – The Lost Boys
  • Day 13 – Child’s Play
  • Day 14 – Sleepy Hollow