Tuesday, October 21, 2014

ABCs of Death 2 is now on-demand

It's October. Time to talk horror. I'll focus on horror-related posts until Halloween comes and goes.

If you read my post about the original ABCs of Death, you'll know A) I'm a sucker for anthology films and B) whether or not the movie will be up your alley. Just to be clear: if you've ever been morally offended by any movie ever, you will not like these films. In summary, the original ABCs of Death was certainly sick and twisted, not to mention a helluva ride.

The sequel is almost as twisted, but there just isn't as much momentum. I think most of the films in the sequel look better than the films in the previous collection, but I just didn't laugh as much. Then again, that's probably a problem for horror sequels in general: you just can't be as fresh as you were the first time. There are some bits here that are wonderfully out of control (I will never forget the awesome insanity of the last film no matter how long I live) and the special effects are usually a lot better, but I think the first collection had far more memorable shorts. Dogfight, the masturbation contest, Fart,  the claymation stuff... I really do remember more from the first film even though I just saw the newer film last night.

That's the thing, though. If you liked the first one, it's only a little better than this one. It's probably safe to say this one is worth the $12.

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Fangoria's Blood & Guts is back... sort of. Now it's called Scott Ian's Bloodworks, but it's just as good as it's ever been. I love Scott Ian's gleeful passion for cinematic gore. Here's the first episode of the return, but be sure to check out the newer episode, too.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Horns is available on-demand before it hits theaters

It's October. Time to talk horror. I'll focus on horror-related posts until Halloween comes and goes.

A movie adaptation shouldn't be judged by the quality of its source material. It's impossible to avoid, though, especially when the material is so admirable. The adaptation of Joe Hill's legitimately insane Horns suffers in the typical three-act screenplay form. Whereas the novel opens with a guy who wakes up with devil horns, the film gives us a typical movie opening, putting off the horns for just a little too long. And the reason he gets the horns in the first place—the violent desecration of a memorial, if my memory serves me correctly—hardly appears in the film version at all. My girlfriend asked me, "Why does he have horns?" Then I realized the movie is a better companion to the book than a standalone feature. Maybe judging it by the book is excusable in this case.

That's the bad. The rest is quite good actually, at least when it's not trying to play it too safe. Sometimes it feels the filmmakers pussyfoot around the demonic aspects of the story, which kind of misses the point. Otherwise, there is plenty of snake-charming, plenty of startling confessions from seemingly normal people. To call this horror is misleading. Dark urban fantasy is a better label.

The plot: Ig Perrish is a twenty-something whose childhood girlfriend has been murdered. Everyone thinks he's the killer, including his parents. One day after a hard night of drinking, he wakes up to find devil horns have sprouted from his temples. The horns have an effect on people. Nobody seems to think the horns are out of the ordinary and they feel compelled to tell Ig their darkest secrets. Heather Graham's character, a waitress, confesses she's telling the cops lies because she wants to be on TV. A bartender tells Ig he wants to burn his establishment down for the insurance money and Ig tells him to do it. He does, laughing hysterically. The confessions are the funniest parts of the movie.

I'm happy to report Daniel Radcliffe doesn't suffer from the same fate as most former child actors. Whenever I look at Fred Savage or Elijah Wood, I still see them as children. But when I see Daniel Radcliff, I see an adult, which is good. He makes a good Ig Perrish. The rest of the cast is just as good. I particularly liked Juno Temple (I usually do) as his girlfriend, Heather Graham, David Morse, and the casting of Ig's parents: James Remar and Kathleen Quinlan, two generally underused actors.

It's a good picture, just a little rough in spots. Also, I'm not sure it's quite worth $10.99, but I hope it does well when it hits theaters.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What the hell happened in The Walking Dead Season 5 premiere?

It's October. Time to talk horror. I'll focus on horror-related posts until Halloween comes and goes.   


Even though I've had a few days to think it over, I'm still wondering what the hell I just saw on Sunday.

When The Walking Dead's fourth season concluded, I was psyched. (This stands in sharp contrast to the previous season finale which spent too much time building up to one of the most anti-climatic "battles" I've ever seen.) Here were the Season 4 highlights for me:
  • The blonde finally went missing (she'll be back, of course, but in the meantime we don't have to hear her stupid singing).
  • Carol didn't hesitate to shoot a little girl who totally had to go. This is much cooler when you think about all the whining Rick would have done for 3+ episodes before finally arriving at the same decision.
  • The Governor was in danger of becoming sympathetic, which I thought was unnecessary, but then he was all like, "Nah, lol, fuck you" and killed a bunch of people, further rising in the annals of TV villainy.
  • The people at Terminus turned out to be cannibals.
  • And the high point of the entire series: the introduction of Eugene Porter, a redneck scientist with a mullet and an affinity for video games. I don't know why, but I like the three new characters more than any of the existing ones. I really don't give a shit who they kill as long as they don't kill Eugene and friends.
So here's what we knew up until last Sunday: we had zombies outside Terminus. We had cannibals inside. Nearly all the surviving heroes of the series were more or less fucked. It was shaping up to be a great big mind-fuck of a suspenseful season. But that's not what we got. What we got, instead, was pure action. Don't get me wrong. It was very satisfying action (that ridiculous bit with the pathetically aimed bottle rocket notwithstanding), but I can't help but feel some potential horror was wasted here.

First of all it's a horror show, not an action movie. While I appreciate the writers' attempt to give it some urgency (let's face it, the series drags sometimes), I had blown up what I thought was going to happen in my head. I certainly didn't want to see them spend an entire season in Terminus, but I thought that, at the very least, we were going to spend a few episodes wondering, "Who are the cannibals going to eat next?" Think about the potential for terror there! I kind of figured what we got Sunday wouldn't come along until the mid-season finale.

This is all to say that my expectations fucked me. The more I think about it, the more I realize the writers probably made the right decision. If they had done what I was expecting, I probably would have been complaining it was predictable.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Netflix October pick: The ABCs of Death

In the opening scene of The ABCs of Death, you're going to see a man's hand hacked nearly in half, which is quickly followed by a facial cleansing with boiling grease. Each director has a different short film, each short film chooses a word beginning with that letter for its subject. D, as it turns out, is for "Dogfight," F is for "Fart," and I don't even remember which letter provides us with a forced masturbation contest that awards the loser impalement. Of the twenty-six stories, that one's among the most memorable, not to mention one of the most twisted.

At this point you should already know if this movie's for you or not. If it is, keep reading. If it's not, skip it. Really. Do us both a favor. One of my friends proclaimed it was too extreme for him when he suggested it for me. I didn't think I'd like it, but you know what? I really did. More so than the first two V/H/S/ films. And if you're the type who thinks it's possible for cinema to go too far, avoid it like the plague. Taboo isn't just a recurring theme here, it's all-but celebrated.

I've had a love-hate relationship with the horror anthology film ever since Creepshow's "I can hold my breath for a loooong time!" became a popular movie quote. ("I want my Father's Day cake!" was just as household in my family.) The good thing about an anthology movie: you don't have to wait as long for a payoff when far too many horror movies take their sweet little time giving you one. The bad thing about an anthology movie: at least one of the stories will be a drag, which is true even of Two Evil Eyes, the Argento/Romero mash-up which features only two stories.

At more than two hours long, ABCs of Death has a lot more than one shitty story, but overall I found it way more entertaining than Sturgeon's Law suggests: we get twenty-six stories from twenty-six directors and far less than ninety percent of it is crap. Sometimes the word the filmmakers came up with is a stretch, sometimes the story works better in theory than in execution, sometimes they just plain fucking suck. But where else are you going to see a Japanese Dr. Strangelove and something as gratuitously offensive as a plane painted on one bare tit and the World Trade Centers painted on the other?

More often than not, the stories in ABCs of Death are at the very least well-made and, at the very best, a wild ride. This is the nature of the multi-authored anthology. With the exception of Dangerous Visions, I don't remember ever liking every single story in an anthology. Usually, it all can't be good. The ABCs of Death, however, pulls it off much better than V/H/S/ did, that's for sure.

Friday, October 10, 2014

D'Amour and Pinhead finally meet in The Scarlet Gospels

It's October. Time to talk horror. I'll focus on horror-related posts until Halloween comes and goes.  

There are few things that make me feel like a kid again. Here are some of them:

  • Sword fights in books and movies. 
  • The fact I'm going to see a proper Star Wars sequel (hopefully). 
  • Crossovers. 

I love that stuff. I'm absolutely tickled by the following news, and I loathe that phrase.

Clive Barker's paranormal detective, Harry D'Amour, is going head-to-head with Pinhead in The Scarlet Gospels, a 300+ page book coming out May 15th, 2015. That's... I mean... holy shit. I know they've already met in the comics, but I wasn't really a fan. I wanted to like 'em, but sometimes cups of tea just don't belong to you no matter how much you want them to. And if you really love a cup of tea, you should let it go... fuck, I'm mixing metaphors here because I'm on about two hours of sleep.

Speaking of D'Amour, Lord of Illusions is such a weird movie. It's got 90s CGI and some other distracting creative decisions, but I can't help but love it. Daniel von Bargen makes a strangely effective bad guy and Kevin J. O'Connor was one of the faces that helped feed my lifelong fascination with character actors. The movie may not be the most convincing in the world, but straight-up horror movies about adults, for adults, are such a rare thing, especially when they're this entertaining.

More about D'Amour and Pinhead's meeting can be found here on Barker's website.

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Damn it, I'm a Tom Cruise fan. I wasn't always a Tom Cruise fan. Something about his real life personality clashes with my own (I think the word I'm looking for is intense), but in the last twelve years he's starred in four science fiction movies, all of which were watchable and two of which were great.

Edge of Tomorrow is the second one I'm calling great. Hell, I liked Jack Reacher, Mission: Impossible 4, and a handful of his recent outings, too, but Edge of Tomorrow is seriously bad ass. As for big movie stars, he's the only one who was big when I was growing up who's still big now. Even Bruce Willis has slipped into the straight-to-video domain recently. I guess nowadays it's called "straight-to-on-demand," but that just doesn't have the same ring.

The movie's available for rent. You can do worse on a Friday night. For instance, I'm about to fire up Farm Simulator 2013. Don't laugh. I've always wanted to try my hand at agriculture.