Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Who Would Be Your Neighbor?

Today was the day that the big storm hit New England--and hit it it did. I was one of 4 lucky people in the city of Boston to actually have to go to work today. It was cruel and unusual, but it did give me the chance to do some serious reflecting. There's such an eerie quiet when you walk around during a snowstorm and thinking just happens to become clearer. As beautiful and peaceful as my walk to and from work may have been however, it was momentarily ruined every time someone got stuck in the snow, or a giant ice ball descended upon my head from the nearest tree.

One thing that a snowstorm like this does do however, is make me appreciate how people are so quick to help others in need. It's like we all develop this great sense of neighborly goodness. For example, my heart was so warmed when I saw a car stuck in the middle of a traffic light, and all the people in the other cars behind him helping to push and dig him out. It got me thinking of horror movies in the strangest way possible.

I couldn't help but wonder, if I was stuck in horror movie land (Horror movie land is that magical place where all characters in horror movies are real people, and I am taller) who would I want to be my neighbor? Who would I want to come and help me shovel my driveway? Who would be the best at helping me out in a time of snow emergency need?

Annie Wilkes would have to be my top choice.

You can't deny that the woman is a serious beast, especially a serious beast in the snow. How can you go wrong with someone who has a track record of rescuing people crashed in the snow, throwing them on her back and trekking them back to her home? IN THE BLIZZARD? I have a hard enough time carrying a pizza box through the snow, let alone a James Caan.

Annie would surely be the beast whoops, (I mean BEST) person for the job, she's relentless, familiar with the elements and strong. I wouldn't be surprised if in the summer time, Annie is a part of the Strong Man competition, as I can definitely see her hauling a truck or two in the off season. I also wouldn't be surprised to know that Miss. Trunchbull was related to her.

Of course one must be careful not to be too nice to Annie Wilkes. She might get overzealous and strap you to her bed and break your ankles.

Then again you can't deny the other powerhouse in the land of horror that is-- Jason Voorhees.

Here is a man whose stamina speaks for itself, a man who can work quietly and a man who has a decent amount of strength himself. I normally would question the problem of the small breathing holes in his hockey mask, or in more extreme cases, his burlap sack---but as we all know that has never stopped him before. Hooking him in is easy, just put on his dead mother's sweater.

You know who else wouldn't be such a bad neighbor? The Tall Man.

Apparently, it's "illegal" to drive around with a giant pile of snow on top of your car. Sorry people but I had no choice. How was I suppose to find a ladder and clean the top off of the giant blue van where I work? I thought so. The Tall Man however would be the perfect person to help me out--because he's tall! He can help me clean off the roof of the car and make sure I don't break any laws. As long as he leaves his scary metal Phantasm ball things at home, he would make an excellent snow shoveling neighbor.

Speaking of thinking outside of the box, how about using Candyman's assets to your advantage?

You know what one of the most irksome qualities of shoveling out your car is? Getting the ice off. Sure, a one handed man with a hook doesn't sound desirable in snow shoveling land, but his sharp and pointy hook would be excellent at scraping off that hard to break ice that glues itself so nicely to the windshield. His giant fur coat also ensures that he can work outside longer. All he needs is a delightful hat to match.

Or if submissive snow shoveler is your idea of a perfect snow helper, I would consider using Frankenstein's Monster,

or even Bub the Zombie from Day of the Dead.

All strong men, who say little and will do just about anything you tell them to. Occasionally they may rebel, but when in doubt, chain them to a tree and all will be fine.

Who would be the worst neighbor to help in a snowstorm? Here are some possibilities.

Definitely do NOT knock on the door of The Blob's house.

That thing hates the cold, and would shrivel up the moment it steps outside.

Although Freddy Krueger's charm is admirable, he would be a pretty bad worker.

I imagine he would just stand there and say dirty things to you involving sexual innuendos having to do with the snow.

The same can go for Billy from Black Christmas.

Every time you would turn around he'd be off hiding in some girl's closet and making prank phone calls.

And finally here are some choices from YOU. Answers from the Twitterverse and Facebook on who you would like as your snow shoveling neighbor.

Ste67 points out that the Humanoids From the Deep would be a huge help in the snow, thanks to their flippers hands being able to shovel away the snow effortlessly.

Hannah Neurotica agrees that Jason would be the best option, while Freddy would blab away and Michael would just kind of stand there. She also points out that Leatherface could probably hold his own as well although, we agreed--the snow might be a new experience for him and he could get nervous and frustrated....and we all know what happens next.

Both Angel Sierra and Nick Lazzaro shout out to the old man in Home Alone.

Not a horror movie sure, but who can deny that the man scared the crap out of you. Here is a guy so devoted to shoveling the snow that his hands are all bloody. He would shovel till the sun came up, that's for sure. He probably smells like a homeless guy though.

TVJunkieJason offers up Pumpkinhead as his neighbor of choice. He points out that his flappy, flailing arms would be great tools in shoving the snow away in volumes. Surely the demon would be helpful provided that you can keep him under your control and not Lance Henriksen's of course.

The Mike points out that Wilford Brimely a la The Thing would be an excellent choice judging by his speedy tunnel digging skills and random spaceship building skills. Plus, he does it all while battling the evil monster that is "Dia-beet-is".

And BONUS he would bring Quaker Oats.

timtetreault also picks a science station employee--this time the great bearded masterpiece that is R.J. MacReady who is MacReady to kick some snow ass. Okay sorry, that was bad but I couldn't resist.

Jeff Konopka has the perfect solution: Get a truck from Maximum Overdrive and slap a snow plow on its front. Problem solved!

Dod March would use one of the Graboids from Tremors--just as long as he could get out of its way in time.

Bstank00 suggests Donnie and his flamethrower from Don't Go In the House, providing that he stays away from any gas tanks.

Zachary Kelley agrees with the selection of The Tall Man who can wield a good shovel, have his dwarf things help out and keep you on track by saying "Boooooyyy!" Which I think would be terrifying but maybe that's just me.

Aunt John justifies the choice of Kathy Bates' character in Misery pointing out that she can dig out a car AND perform corrective leg surgery, all in one day. What a woman.

MattOfAllMedia wants Cherry Darling from Planet Terror to be his snow shoveling partner...although he admits she would mostly just add some fun to....playing in the snow.


And finally, Tom Kingsmill would take the easy way out and annihilate the snow and the rest of humanity as well probably, with The Cloverfield Monster!

Monday, October 24, 2011

This Just In: Little Closets Are the Worst

Seeing Paranormal Activity 3 on Friday afternoon made me realize several things. Like how I really need to brush up on my pretending not to be scared faces and also that Sprite is a really refreshing soft drink that I seldom choose when faced with the deciding factor of a Coke. My most startling revelation however was when I realized that little closets are the devil.

A film like Paranormal Activity 3 does something awesome which is, surprise you and also scare the shit out of you. When was the last time the third movie in a tired series made you do a victory dance? Oh, probably never. Yet, it is my belief that PA 3 has done it! Go see it if you have not already...it will be the most fun you've had in the theater all year. Trust me!

Anyways back to things that are the worst. We find out in PA3 that the menacing demon that torments both Kristi and Katie was actually Kristi's make believe friend growing up and that his name was/is Toby.

Toby is a terrible name because it reminds me of Toby from Degrassi who was gross but also Toby is just a really odd name for a demon. Toby is also supposed to be "old" and "tall" according to little Kristi, which makes me instantly picture Toby looking something like this.


So Toby lives in this little closet in Kristi and Katie's room. As soon as I saw that little closet it was like 25 years of a latent trauma bursting through my brain. My house growing up had 2 little closets.....well 3 I suppose if you count the double doors little closet that was in my big closet in my room. Here is something you should know about little closets.....they are mysteriously creepy. I'm no expert but I believe this is because A. Why is it so little? and B. Because it's so little this obviously means that only evil things can live in there.

Little closets always made me nervous because I was positive, absolutely positive that someone or something was going to come out of there. What makes them worse is that they make this little creaky noise when they open......I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it now.

So along comes PA 3 which utilizes the creeptastic nature of the little closet to its utmost potential. We're talking hearing that uber creepy creaky noise in the middle of the night. Katie getting pulled into the little closet. The little closet slamming its door shut violently. Demon drawings on the ceiling. It's all too horrible to imagine the world of little closets inhabited by evil demons named Toby.

Additionally this little closet reminded me of that scene in The Sixth Sense. Perhaps one of, if not the scariest scene in the entire film. Why do people think it's funny to torment us with little closets again? Oh yes, because people are cruel.

In closing, little closets are the worst and PA 3 proves this point. Please tell me I'm not alone in my little closet phobia. Anyone? Hello?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Red State: Bagels? Don't Trust Them.

Red State is weird. Like...bacon and chocolate weird or latex porno weird. In theory a good idea but ultimately it leaves you confused and unsure about the world and your body. What did I think of Red State? I DON'T KNOW. I think that there are a lot of guns. I think that religious people are scary (but we already knew that). I think I feel confused and betrayed about the fact that Senor Esteban Vihaio is not actually Mexican.

Not a Mexican


I think that John Goodman is suddenly really old. I think that Kevin Smith must have a girl crush on Breaking Bad. I think that a bagel is theoretically a good breakfast but when all is said and done, it's really just empty calories. In short---I am confused!

Don't be fooled

I don't know a lot about Kevin Smith movies. In fact I just did a quick tally of how many times I've been truly exposed to Kevin Smith and I'm pretty sure that total is 1. Well I guess 2 now, and if you count that time he starred on an episode of Degrassi--- that equals 2 and 1/4 instances of Kevin Smith exposure. Oh well, we can't have it all I guess. In truth, I've been a tad turned off by Kevin Smith as of late and all of his plots to charge people a million dollars* for a ticket to see his movie. Not everyone has a million dollars okay Kevin?

*Not really a million dollars, but it was enough to make me scoff.

Anyways, Red State was supposedly a completely different film for Kevin Smith. Not that I would know or anything but that's what they tell me. The good news is that I think my lack of insight into the work of Kevin Smith puts me at an advantage here. That's right no bias on this woman.

So. Red State. Based loosely on that wacko Fred Phelps, Red State is about a nutty religious group that blows things way out of proportion. They like to kidnap sinners and gay people and kill them and they also have an entire room full of machine guns--because we all know that ultra religious people are living and breathing hypocrisies. After a ritual kidnapping and slaying goes wrong however, all hell breaks loose and the shit really hits the fan.

Contrary to popular belief (my belief) Red State is not a film about religious zombies and/or a rampant free for all where the religious group takes over the entire town and everyone gets all sweaty and bloody. I blame the posters. Red State is however extremely gunny, which is a word I just made up and it means, that there are a lot of guns. A lot of gunfire, and a lot of crazy religious nut bags shooting at cops and calling them cock suckers. I really did not expect this to be so chaotic but I suppose it's all part of the appeal.

I will say that it's pretty obvious during Red State's running time that Kevin Smith has a strong opinion about both religion and government. There's not really a good side to anything here--and as much as we want to be on the "good guys" side, I think you'll find that it's tough to figure out who that is. Although I will say they don't call him John Goodman for nothing. HA. P.S. Why doesn't John Goodman feel that it's necessary to wear a helmet in times of religious skirmishes? He was really getting me worried.

So yes blah blah who is the good guy? Blah blah, innocent people are being killed either way. Blah. I guess I'm kind of over this whole message in a movie thing that happens sometimes with films like this. It's not like Red State is particularly enthralling either. To me it often times felt like it was coming to a standstill. I was also let down by how things played out there at the end. Things felt very sudden and rushed didn't they? In fact, a lot of the movie felt rushed. It felt like Kevin Smith had all these ideas and all these little inputs of commentary and irony but they didn't feel like they were fleshed out.

I may not know a whole lot about Kevin Smith as a filmmaker, but I can say that I think he's one of those directors that dwells more on underlying messages than he does on actual film making and the art of it. I guess I'm mostly just having a hard time accepting this extreme view point. It's like the movie was a decent critique on the hypocrisy of the Church but then it just morphed into this sudden bout of ridiculous diarrhea and guns. People like that I guess--but didn't anyone else feel like things got a little too unnecessary? Oh wait! That's what religion is...... suddenly and ridiculously unnecessary. I get it now!

Seriously though, I wasn't in love with this. I think it's pretty okay--but nothing great. It verges on this weird sub-dermal level of torture porn for a hot second that takes a nose dive into gunsville. There's some pretty awesome gun violence and I guess it can be funny at times but I'm just not jumping for joy about it. I think I'll go back to watching latex porn....I mean.....eating bagels.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Paranormal Activity 2: The Plot Thickens

I wouldn't say I loved Paranormal Activity. In fact, I kind of despised it. My wrath was more directed at the annoyingness of Micah Sloat however so I realize that perhaps I wasn't as fair to PA as I should have been. Sure, it's fantastic how such a low budget and simple concept can scare people out of their minds but at what cost? I have to sit through an hour and a half of Micah "Douchebag" Sloat to get scared? Pfffft.

Good news for all you Micah Sloat haters though. Paranormal Activity 2 contains minuscule amounts of the man (Although those small amounts did make me grind my teeth viciously) and to make matters so much better---characters are much, much, MUCH more sensible and less douchey and therefore my teeth feel better.

Another thing Paranormal Activity 2 has going for it that makes me appreciate both it and its predecessor, is that it's smart. It's smart because it's turning what could have easily been a one hit wonder into a mysterious and page turning movie experience. Yes page turning...which is something rarely RARELY seen with horror films and their sequels. Think of it. How often do we flock to the movie theater because we yearn to know what happens next? Oh I don't know...never! Paranormal Activity 2 however makes this happen and it does it rather intelligently.

Paranormal Activity's sequel takes place about 2 months before the events in the first film. We follow Katie's family who have recently added a new baby boy to the mix. It's not long before strange things keep happening. The same strange things that we saw before only now they seem more violent. It becomes very clear that the demon is coveting the baby and it will not stop until it gets what it wants.

I will mention here that the scares in Paranormal Activity 2 aren't as surprising as in the first film. Sure they're there but I felt like there was so much more creepy build up in the first film. So many more subtle things and noises that really worked for it. I suppose we're kind of assimilated to the demons shenanigans by now. We know his usual tricks....slowly opening doors, making things fall, but none of the usual coolness seems to happen here. Maybe it's because this new house has carpeted floors so we can't hear the demons thunderous footsteps on the stairs? Who knows. Whatever it was the activity here felt slightly less amplified.

That isn't to say Paranormal Activity 2 lacks any scares at all. On the contrary, Paranormal Activity 2 tends to almost heighten what the first film did not. The levels that the film goes to is still just as surprising as we could ever dream. People do get dragged and people get possessed. The baby even at one gets dragged! The demon is clearly not messing around.

And now for some SPOILER TERRITORY... I will say that it was kind of hilarious how they "solved" their problem. I know I had heard people mention this aspect of the film when it first came out but now seeing it for myself does tend to make it verge on ridiculous. Alright well I suppose it's a good solution in the short run but come on. Bad idea. And also----plot hole? I thought one of the creepier aspects of the first film was that this demon had been following Katie around all her life. This twist however makes you believe that it was really her sister that the demon had been after---due mostly to Katie's rehashing of their childhood. So that made me kind of sour.

Overall though, what an excellent way to deal with a prequel. I absolutely love when sequels are made with care to the original. Obviously this is done here...but as I said earlier it really takes the story to new levels. Yes its using its old tricks but it's developing the story as it does so therefore our interest gets peaked and the film becomes new and interesting. I'm not one for eating my words, but good work Paranormal Activity. I'm very impressed with you and how you are dealing and developing these sequels. Maybe there are other people out there that didn't love the first film but are now really nodding along enthusiastically for the second film--AND for the future. What will happen next?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What the FUCK Old Man/Kid on a Bicycle?

I know I may have mentioned this once or twice before but one more time won't hurt. Seriously what the fuck is up with the kid/old man on a bicycle scene in In The Mouth of Madness? Is that not one of the creepiest things you've ever seen in your life? Why aren't more people talking about this all of the time? Why aren't people standing around the "water cooler" (I drink from the tap but hey, no judgement) and being like "Seriously, what the fuck is up with that scene?". Why aren't more people tweeting things like WHAT THE FUCK OLD MAN/KID ON A BICYCLE. Because that's what goes through my head when I watch this scene.....pure and unadulterated fucked up-ness.

Let's walk through the set up shall we? John Trent and book editor Linda Styles are traveling to an unmarked and apparently fictional town out of Sutter Cane's novel. John has fallen asleep forcing Linda to drive aimlessly through the desolate and foggy nighttime roads of New England. Suddenly she comes upon a boy on his bicycle.

He's pedaling fast and looking like he's in some kind of terrible anguish.

The camera focuses on the playing cards in his spokes. Linda drives on by.

As she continues to drive we see a reflector up ahead, this time coming at us. Linda slows down a bit as the camera slowly brings into focus an old man riding a bicycle and wearing the same clothes as the boy!

Wait a minute---IT IS THE BOY.

Yeah. Fucked up is right. I've watched and studied this scene over and over again and it never loses its creep factor. It just may be the most gloriously creepy scene to ever have been invented, am I right? It's the perfect combination of an eerie and quiet road at night, flawless soundtrack delivery, and complete surprise. It's one of the more perfect instances of placing the audience directly into a nightmarish landscape. God bless you John Carpenter.

But seriously, what the fuck!!? Somebody should be this for Halloween. On second thought don't because then I'd have to punch you in the throat.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Perfect Movies for Halloween: The Others

You must forgive me Horror Digest readers---I've been a bit M.I.A as of late. The reasons behind this are simple. At precisely 8PM on Saturday I was possessed by a supernatural entity known as The Wonder Years. This supernatural force seduced me with all of its witty and poignant commentary on the state of the world in the 60s and the state of life as a 12 year old boy. I can't help it if Fred Savage is the cutest thing to ever be created right?

Of course, this possession doesn't explain away the fact that I've been posting about once a week lately. The only answer I can give there is that I'm lazy!

So anyways, at some point last week, I decided to embark on a little project called Perfect Halloween movies. These are movies that I've seen before but not in the comforts of the Autumn season. They are the epitome of spooky, of that crisp fall atmosphere and they're just begging for you to watch them as you curl up on your couch submersed in darkness.

The Others is now streaming on Netflix and as soon as I found that out, I had to watch it immediately. I like the Others because I tend to think that it does ghost stories AND psychological stories right. I also was curious to go back and view it with a fresh opinion on spooky and a minor in Psychology. Plus, I couldn't remember the last time I saw it the whole way through. WARNING: From now on I will be assuming you have seen this movie. If you have not, you may want to cease reading.

While many can find disappointment in The Others, I can find oodles of intriguing bits of psychological nerdy fun! Let me preface this by saying I love psychology. I love psychology so much, that I spend hours diagnosing my "friends" psychological symptoms as they appear on my newsfeed. Who knew that so many people with bi-polar disorder could all be found in one place?
Naturally my interest in Psychology has led this viewing of the Others in a more sad and lonesome territory than before.

For starters, The Others is like one gigantic PSA for the inherit dangers of being a woman. Sorry, I should say the inherit dangers of being a women, raising two children on her own in post World War II England, in a gigantic house in the middle of nowhere. There seem to be two very apparent things about Grace's mental state. Number one: she is probably suffering from SAD or Season Affective Disorder and two: she has a short fuse.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is primarily assigned to people that are mentally healthy except in the winter seasons where there is less light throughout the day. If you take this disorder and apply it to the fact that Grace must keep the curtains drawn at all times in her house then you get an extended period of Seasonal Affective Disorder OR major depression. Grace is not exposed to a lot of light therefore her moods tend to flow up and down as the days wear on. Put that on top of the fact that she has a short fuse, misses her husband dearly, and lives in the middle of nowhere---and you've got a problem.

You see, I've never really watched The Others with a sympathetic eye towards Grace Stewart. In the past, I've come to see her as an absolute loony who put far too much importance on God and far less importance on the well being of her children. There's also that whole thing about smothering her children with a pillow. On this viewing however I noticed that we are supposed to feel some pity for Grace after all. I say this, because even at the outset of the big reveal--her children and the house servants do not view Grace as any kind of enemy. The children immediately go into her arms as though nothing had ever happened between them. Grace holds them tightly and professes her love for them and the really scary thing is that we believe her.

How can this be? How can we feel sympathy towards a women that completely snaps and kills her children? Maybe it's because of the closeness we feel towards Grace. At times it's almost like we're intruding on some secretive emotional upheaval. Like we should look away to give her some privacy. We tend to feel her moments of complete and utter hopelessness. Her feelings of isolation, of sadness and of grief.

Her unwillingness to accept her husband's death and her powerlessness to stop the revelation at the film's conclusion.

Although on this viewing I concentrated more on the psychological implications, I still couldn't help but notice how insanely creepy several moments in this film are. For instance, I am still finding it difficult to find a horror movie released within the past decade that has a better creeptastic moment than when the scary old woman possesses the little girl. That is SO fucked up right? From the first glimpse that something is wrong---we see a pair of old and wrinkled hands playing with the marionettes, to the whites of the old woman's eyes underneath the first communion veil. And the real kicker that the old woman speaks in the little girl's voice. It still gives me the creeps.

Also fun and creepy---the whispers of the "intruders", when Grace is searching for someone in the room with all the sheets.

The shocking and surprising occurrence of a scary man's face behind Grace (which turns out to merely be a painting), flipping through the death album

---and my personal favorite---the drawing of the old woman.

If there's one thing that always tends to freak me out, it's crude drawings of scary old women. I'm not kidding either. There's something about a child's take on a witch or scary old woman that sends shivers down my spine. In looking at this drawing of the old woman, I'm reminded of that scene in Blair Witch where a drawing of what the Blair Witch supposedly looks like is shown. It's just the idea that something like that could exist, that really gets to me. Scary old ladies really get to me I guess.

Overall--I still find the Others to be one of the better ghost stories of all time. Many may not agree, but I find that there is a lot to admire here and plenty to give you goosebumps during the Halloween season.