ALWAYS KEEPING AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD!!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

JER'S TURN: THE BEST OF THE LESSER- KNOWN HORROR FILMS


JER: The month of October conjures up the ‘spirit’ (no pun intended) to watch the scary stuff more frequently than any other time of the year. In doing so, there are titles that are an annual must- see for the enthusiast. Anything with the slasher Michael Myers (HALLOWEEN) or the metal blades of Freddy Krueger (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET) or the Camp Crystal Lake stalker Jason Voorhees (FRIDAY THE 13th) might be the electives to begin with before getting into heavier themes like maybe HELLRAISER, THE EXORCIST or even SCREAM.

The thought to bear in mind is the fact that for every film that becomes the horror classic, there are a slew of unsung films that gather a small band of fans but just never see the light of the famous and the recognized. My topic involves bringing some of these titles out into the public’s eye and give them just a little of the recognition they rightfully deserve.

Please refer to last year’s blog topic, when CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT covered THE BEST AND WORST HORROR FILMS. Both JER and JOHNNY CHAZZ provided a Top 10 List and our individual 3 Worst Films as well. Click the link to take you there directly: http://cinemacounterpoint.blogspot.com/2011/10/jer-as-we-enter-my-favorite-month-of.html

Here is my Top 10 Best “Lesser- Known” Horror Films I, JER, recommend:

10- GRAVE ENCOUNTERS (2011): A very limited release with plenty of internet and “On Demand” cable exposure made this indie fright treat rise quickly to securing a small legion of fans. In the ‘realistic/ lost footage’ presentation aspect, like THE BLAIRWITCH PROJECT and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, GRAVE ENCOUNTERS focuses on a small group of paranormal investigators who, for their television show, lock themselves inside an abandoned mental hospital that is allegedly haunted. As the evening gets later, the team may find that the allegations might be true. Shot largely with a “night vision” setting on their digital cameras, The direction team of The Vicious Brothers keeps the pace very steady and play on many fears including darkness, deathly silence and the psychological uncomfortable feelings of shadows and abrupt and loud noises.A sequel, GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2, was recently released this year.
The frightening trailer for the indie favorite, GRAVE ENCOUNTERS!


9- PHANTASM (1979): This gem of a horror film was quite popular for its time but, alas, lost some of its popularity to the mass production likes of Freddy Kruger and Jason films. Still, there are people that still get the chills at the mere mention of PHANTASM and its harrowing villain with the icy cold stare and the growling voice only known as “The Tall Man” (played with evil and wicked delight by Angus Scrimm). The story plays with the creepiness of cemeteries, morgues and mausoleums as a young boy discovers a series of grave robberies tied- in with The Tall Man. What he discovers is an arsenal of bizarre weapons, including the infamous ‘sphere’ (a silver sphere that can switchblade knives of drills while flying towards its victims in high speed). An original story written and directed by Don Coscarelli (THE BEASTMASTER, BUBBA HO- TEP), who was also responsible in writing and directing three other chapters in the franchise.

8- INNOCENT BLOOD (1992): Though not in the same hemisphere as director John Landis’ other horror film, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, INNOCENT BLOOD still deserves more recognition than what it gets. Marie (Anne Parillaud LA FEMME NIKITA) is a vampire that only weeds out and feeds on the bad and the corrupted, until she gets involved with two different sides of a bad coin: a policeman (Anthony LaPaglia) who she actually begins to fall in love with and feeding on mob kingpin Sallie “The Shark” (Robert Loggia) and gets more than she bargained for. Masterful and gruesome special effects by Steve Johnson (SPIDERMAN 2, THE ABYSS) headline some never- before- seen transformations and death sequences that must be viewed to believe! 
John Landis' horror/ comedy: INNOCENT BLOOD


7- MANIAC: Although the title might be confused with the very recent ‘remake’ released in 2012 with Elijah Wood, I am clearly referring to the original 1980 midnight cult classic instead. So horrific and gory for its time, theatrical advertizing slapped an X rating to the film before lightening the rating to instead refer that no one under 18 would be admitted. The low- budget indie starred Joe Spinell (TAXI DRIVER, ROCKY) as a mentally disturbed man who had been abused as a child roaming the streets of New York. His violent outlet is to murder young women and collect their scalps to try to appease his haunting past. The film basically plays with the audience’s stamina… can one sit through the entire film without being disgusted or revolted? Better yet, can one enjoy the classical make- up effects by Mr. Tom Savini (FRIDAY THE 13th, CREEPSHOW) including a very graphic scalping sequence? That would be the audience’s decision to make! Check out Savini's cameo as the driver who gets his head blown off by the MANIAC!

6- THE FOG (1980): When the name of director John Carpenter comes up, it is more likely that fans will pair him off with his masterful indie classic HALLOWEEN. Carpenter’s sophomore film, THE FOG, is probably more synonymous with the dreadful attempt of a remake made in 2005… but let’s focus, again, on the better ‘original’ as my recommendation instead! THE FOG is just a bonafied classic in every sense of the word. Directed by the one and only Carpenter, he brought in the elements to create a true ghost story with no expenses overlooked. Classic and respected actors (Janet Leigh, John Houseman, Hal Holbrook) combined with then- contemporary actors (Jamie Lee Curtis, Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Akins) all brought forth a variety of different talents in fleshing out the characters and their interaction with each other. The story takes place on the small seaside Northern Californian town of Antonio Bay as it is about to celebrate its 100th anniversary. As the day draws nearer, the townsfolk soon realize that something evil and wrong occurred a century ago and those that were wronged are coming back for what is rightfully theirs. Along with directing, Carpenter co- wrote the screenplay, the soundtrack and even makes a cameo in the beginning!
The original 1980 trailer to John Carpenter's THE FOG


5- JEEPERS CREEPERS (2001): There is a certain unstable feeling that an audience gets on the first ride through JEEPERS CREEPERS. It is considerably original, given that it was made within a world of Freddys, Jasons and Pinheads… and yet, it still delivers chills and excitement along the way. A brother and sister are driving home to visit family during Spring break, along driving down the backroads, they encounter a being that may or may not be human. A deathly game of cat-and-mouse ensues as the siblings seek shelter while pursued by the flesh- eating creature. Handsomely written and directed by Victor Salva, another film (JEEPERS CREEPERS 2) continues the tale with a third installment, JEEPERS CREEPERS 3: CATHEDRAL, is in production for a possible 2013 release date.

4- CURSED (2005): Alas, director Wes Craven has seen his days of hits (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, SCREAM) and misses (VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN, MY SOULD TO TAKE) yet, Craven continues to re-invent the wheel, or ‘genre’, in this case. Consider CURSED as Exhibit A. Written by Kevin Williamson (SCREAM, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER), the story takes place in my favorite city: Hollywood, CA! A werewolf is loose along the winding roads of Mulholland Drive, when a brother and sister are driving home on a late evening. One thing leads to another and the brother is mauled by the hairy beast. Like all good fables, the search for the beast has to take place before the next full moon! The theatrical “young adult” friendly PG-13 version was too light for thrill seekers, so the studio released a more satisfying “unrated” version onto DVD and blu- ray! This is the version to watch with all the lights off!  
Check out the werewolf horror film by Wes Craven- CURSED


3- STAY ALIVE (2006): Ok, let me get this straight…a horror film that involves a video game that kills people? And… we are supposed to take it seriously? The storyline and premise got bunked in its original release, again, suffering the friendly PG-13 rating theatrically. The unrated DVD release is far more intense and creepier than its predecessor. A mysterious underground online computer video game causes the unanswered death of a friend that leaves a group of gamers to solve the mystery themselves. They soon discover that the game in question is based on the true story of an ancient noblewoman known as the Blood Countess, who was buried alive in the grounds of her estate and seeks revenge on anyone who meddles with her. Minor humor lightens the theme, but does not damage the intensity of the plot as the creep factor is played to its fullest! 
Enjoy the very creepy trailer for 2006's STAY ALIVE


2- THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012): Admittedly, I was very skeptical upon its original theatrical release…I didn’t want to know too much of the story, so as not to ruin it for me, yet there wasn’t enough to make me want to go see it in theaters in the first place. The general plot centers on five friends that take a break and head out to a secluded cabin out in the middle of nowhere. Upon arrival, they find that it is quite isolated without any means of communicating with the outside world. In the midst of getting their weekend started, the cellar door mysteriously flings open…almost inviting the group to climb down the stairs to investigate…but maybe that is what it was intending to do! No spoilers here from my end, but I can tell you that I was immediately pulled in with plenty of frights and scares to keep me riveted to my seat. Having spent much of his career as a writer of television for episodes of ALIAS and LOST, first time director Drew Goddard also wrote CLOVERFIELD as well as co- writing this very original thriller.

1- THE DECENT (2005): Now we get to my #1! I have dropped much recognition to the way of THE DECENT for many, many reasons! It is bold and very original; the cast is primarily made up of strong (and not- so strong) women and the tension starts off intensely high and only gets higher as the film develops further! To help one of their friends get over a tragic event in her life, a group of extreme thrill seeking women take a self- guiding cave exploration trip. As they ‘descend’ into the unknown dwellings, they find that they may not be alone! Claustrophobic, paranoia and fear quickly takes over with only the strong left to survive. It is, literally, a decent into the audience’s fears as well. Expertly written and directed by Neil Marshall, the film is one that I try to recommend to horror and thrill fans alike as often as possible. It is a New Zealand production that didn’t quite get the respect it deserved during a very limited theatrical run. Now available in a special unrated version on both DVD and blu- ray, the American audience has finally embraced this contemporary find. Warning: a very awful sequel was made in 2009 (THE DECENT: PART 2) with an even lesser theatrical run with the intensions of striking gold on the video store shelves instead. An even bigger warning was the fact that Marshall didn’t have any participation in this production whatsoever! You are better off not renting, buying or stealing this abysmal second chapter and just relish in the original tale as he director/ writer intended! 
The 2005 trailer for the suspenseful and scary THE DECENT!


There you have it, fans, my list of thrillers and chillers that deserve a little time in the spotlight. Possible, I also hoped to have reset the buttons in your heads to gear towards the lesser- known this Hallow’s Eve season with taking a fresher look at what else might go bump in the night!


JOHNNY CHAZZ: With Halloween rapidly approaching, JER turns us to his annual look at creep show films - specifically those of the horror genre that are not "household" names per se. I, admittedly, am not as versed in the horror genre, as my "counterpart" JER. To simply this as best as I can, I came up with a condensed list of only 5, with hopes that it may stir some interests as the elected 10 already mentioned. Here are my thoughts this week:

1. "Suspiria" (1977): I continue to promote this as one of the top horror films of all time coming from the 70's decade. An Italian / foreign film per se, but one that most people have not seen and are not familiar with. The sets, the performances, the lighting as well as the elements of climactic terror and suspense make this a true classic and a horror film that should be examined by students interested in the genre.

2. "May" (2002): A dark yet fairly sad and desperate film with our protagonist named "May". The film is, in most senses a character-study which is something rarely seen in this genre. May only desires to connect with people and the world around her, but it eventually leads to a heartbreaking moment where she basically goes over the edge.


Enjoy the very bizarre trailer for MAY
                       
 
3. "Trick 'r Treat" (2007): Set on Halloween night there is a real "creepshow" factor going on in this flick as well. This movie offers a series of frightening stories focusing on Halloween night in a small town, but each story finds its path leading into another. The casting is actually fairly decent and the movie is actually worth the price of admission and / or rental.

4. "Orphan" (2009): A nightmarish and tragic story about a couple and their unborn child. The film is actually a throw-back to some of the flavors and styles offered by Hitchcock in the sense of camera angles, script and limited but carefully crafted and pertinent scenes of horror and fear.

5. "Audition" (1999): Simply stated, the mannerisms throughout this film of actress Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina) make this thing work at a pretty solid level. Her apartment; the interview scene; her sullenness as well as the final scene of the film are all elements that create tension and are frankly, disturbing on all levels. The film actually offers a degree of emotional depth and intrigue into the lives of the limited, yet solid cast. The final act of this 3-Act film is truly one of the best kept secrets in the world of "chillers and thrillers" as stated by Jer this week. 
Here is the original Japanese trailer for AUDITION

JER: As you can see, the horror genre has many different avenues to get lost on...there are indies, foreign... classic and contemporary... and the great and the appalling! The way the season is spent will be up to you! Which will you choose?

So, we ask our readers...are there some horror films that are your "go- to's" around Halloween time? Do any of our recommendations sound like films you might check out for yoursef? Are there any other films you would like to share or bring forth into the light from your end? We value and reply back to all your submitted comments and we always look forward to hearing from you!

Make sure you check back with us on Wednesday November 7th, 2012 when JOHNNY CHAZZ takes control of a brand new blog topic form to discuss... you know I, JER, will be ready to shoot back my replies and thoughts!!! 

To all of you fright fans, guys and ghouls alike, we at CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT wish you a very Haunting and Fright-filled                                    HAPPY HALLOWEEN!