Screen Junkies » Horror Films http://www.screenjunkies.com Movie Reviews & TV Show Reviews Wed, 26 Nov 2014 19:27:26 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.3.1 Ranking the Many, Many Deaths of Michael Myers By Improbability http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/ranking-the-many-many-deaths-of-michael-myers-according-to-improbability/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/ranking-the-many-many-deaths-of-michael-myers-according-to-improbability/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:57:50 +0000 Jared Jones http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=266797 It's as if the screenwriters of these movies didn't even take the time to do the proper research before putting pen to paper.

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By Jared Jones

You know, while getting blackout drunk on Evan Williams Apple Orchard Liquor and watching Halloween 4 last night, I noticed something: That Michael Myers feller is hard ta kill! Whether he was being shot, stabbed, run over, shot, stabbed, or shot, Myers never stayed down for long, and boy oh boy was he mad when he got to waking up, I tell you what!

But it was shortly after Halloween 4 ended and Halloween 5 began that the true revelation came: All of the Halloween moves — from the 1978 classic to that one with Busta Rhymes — are riddled with inaccuracies. Contradictions. Plot holes you could drag a corpse through. Whether the creators of franchise are or simply ignorant I do not know, but I do know that the films consistently take absolutely insane liberties when it comes to things like anatomy, Newton’s laws of motion, and the physical limitations of the human body.

How any film franchise as successful as Halloween could be rooted in fraudulent science simply boggles the mind, as does the fact that the film’s rather frequent missteps in logic have gone completely unnoticed by both moviegoing audiences and the so-called “critics” whose job it is to pick movies apart to the most minor detail. But more often than not, the factual inaccuracies of the Halloween series can be traced back to one man: Michael Myers.

Over the course of some seven movies*, Myers meets his maker no less than a couple dozen times, only to inexplicably rise again and seek the blood of some dumb skank who just tripped over a pinecone. It’s utterly confounding, and for the good of horror filmmakers everywhere, nay, humanity, join us as we give the many deaths of Michael Myers the logic beatdown they deserve.

*Remember, neither of Rob Zombie‘s Halloween incarnations ever actually happened and therefore cannot be included.

#10: Multiple Tranq Darts and 2×4 Bludgeoning — Halloween 5

If the independent research I’ve conducted on stray cats and dogs around my neighborhood is anything to go off, a lethal dosage of Telazol (the chemical compound found in most tranquilizer darts) is around 14 mg/kg. While the average human’s tolerance is somewhat higher than that, any animal being that is worth one’s salt can survive up to twice the safe dosage found in the average dart. The Halloween 5 filmmakers obviously researched this as much as I did, and were correct in their belief that having Loomis double-down on his darts would not in fact kill Michael Myers. The same can be said for the bludgeoning that followed, because let’s be honest, Loomis definitely seemed to be holding back on those 2×4 swings.

#9: Injected With Green Goo, Bludgeoned With a Pipe — Halloween 6

I may not know much about chemical compounds (other than those found in tranq darts), but I do know that if it’s a green liquid and it was found in a laboratory, it can probably kill you. The same goes for being repeatedly smashed in the face with a pipe. But not knowing the exact specifications of what green goo was injected into Myers, I can not in good conscience condemn Halloween 6 for failing to abide by good science.

Bonus points go to Rudd’s little angry drop of the pipe at the end there. That some good actorin’.

#8: Wire Hanger in the Eye, Knife in the Chest — Halloween

The average dum-dum’s reaction to this scene is probably something like, “Oh, that’s not so bad I guess. Plenty of people have been stabbed and lived before HURRR DURRR.” And dum-dum is right, people *have* lived through stabbings before. But I can guarantee you that in 99.9% of those cases, the stabbed person did not lie down, take a power nap, and then continue attacking the person who stabbed them. Myers not only loses an eye in this closet confrontation but takes a kitchen knife right in the sternum, and anyone who’s ever played racquetball before knows that breathing, let alone movement of any kind, is nearly impossible after taking a shot to the sternum.

Basically, if the science of this scene was represented by a woman’s photo on Instagram, I would declare it “Pointy elbows 2/10 WOULD NOT BANG.”

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Jump Scare Of the Day: ‘Sinister’ — The Lawnmower Scene http://www.screenjunkies.com/video/jump-scare-of-the-day-sinister-the-lawnmower-scene/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/video/jump-scare-of-the-day-sinister-the-lawnmower-scene/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 17:17:44 +0000 Jared Jones http://www.screenjunkies.com/?post_type=video&p=266752 A truly terrifying moment from one of 2012's best horror movies.

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By Jared Jones

The difference between your average run-of-the-mill jump scare and a truly great one is usually a question of what vs. when. Most jump scares (especially those found in mainstream, American horror movies of the modern era) too often rely on what or where the thing is that will reveal itself within a scene to frighten the characters, and by extension, the audience. Will it be a ghost’s reflection in the bathroom mirror, or the face of a killer outside the window? Will the demon child reveal himself from the attic or the basement?

The problem is, these kind of jump scares focus so much on creating that one frightening moment that they all but overlook those leading up to it — throw a scared teen in a dark room, have them yell “Hello?” a few times like no one in a similar situation would ever do, and yadda yadda it was just a startled cat!

A truly great jump scare, on the other hand, usually forgoes the what and where in favor of the when. It informs it’s audience exactly what is going to happen, then toys with our expectation of when the scare is coming to drive us insane. It’s like what Alfred Hitchcock always used to say about a bomb under the table; focusing on the when builds suspense because it allows the audience to participate in the scene.

“The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen,” said Hitchock, “You shouldn’t be talking about such trivial matters. There’s a bomb beneath you and it’s about to explode!”

The focus on when over where (or what) is exactly what makes the “lawnmower” scene from 2012′s Sinister so effective. By this point in the film, we are already aware of “Mr. Boogie” and the method in which his killings typically play out. From the moment the audience lays their eyes on that lawnmower, we know exactly what he’s going to use it for, but not when we will see the gruesome act carried out. That uncertainty, or inability to count the beats of the scene is what fuels our anxiety, and that the scene is shot on 8mm film and from the POV of the lawnmower only adds to the tension of what is already a positively nerve-racking scene. The same goes for the simple, pulsing score that plays beneath it.

If you have any suggestions for what a future entry should be, give us a shout over at @screenjunkies with the hashtag #jumpscare.

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Trailer for Iranian Vampire Flick “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” Is Pure Atmosphere http://www.screenjunkies.com/video/trailer-for-iranian-vampire-flick-a-girl-walks-home-alone-at-night-is-pure-atmosphere/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/video/trailer-for-iranian-vampire-flick-a-girl-walks-home-alone-at-night-is-pure-atmosphere/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 15:06:13 +0000 Jared Jones http://www.screenjunkies.com/?post_type=video&p=266702 If you happen to live in New York or Los Angeles, make sure to catch this flick during its limited theatrical debut on November 21

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By Jared Jones

Written and directed by first-timer Ana Lily Amirpour and produced by Elijah Wood,  ’A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ tells the story of a small Iranian town whose residence begin to fall victim to a vampire. While the plot sounds like your typical run-of-the-mill horror faire, the first trailer for the film proves that Amirpour’s debut will be anything but.

No, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ is already receiving all kinds of acclaim on the film festival circuit, being described as “a touching, genrebending allegory” whose black-and-white palette brings to mind such classics as Metropolis and Nosferatu. That’s high praise for a young director’s first film, so check out the trailer above, and if you happen to live in New York or Los Angeles, make sure to catch it during its limited theatrical debut on November 21.

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Jump Scare of the Day: Insidious — “Face of Fire” Scene http://www.screenjunkies.com/video/jump-scare-of-the-day-insidious-face-of-fire-scene/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/video/jump-scare-of-the-day-insidious-face-of-fire-scene/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 21:00:50 +0000 Jared Jones http://www.screenjunkies.com/?post_type=video&p=266410 Perhaps the scariest scene from a movie which has been dubbed, ""a goddamn Disneyland theme ride of machine-gun paced jump-scares."

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By Jared Jones

James Wan‘s Insidious is, to quote Pajiba’s review of the film, “a goddamn Disneyland theme ride of machine-gun paced jump-scares.” Chief among them might the scene above, in which Josh’s (Patrick Wilson) mother, Lorraine, recounts a dream she had the night before involving a demonic figure and Josh’s son, Dalton. Then this happens, and then you wonder why the room suddenly smells like someone took a fresh dook. Then you realize that you are the only person in the room.

If you have any suggestions for what a future entry should be, give us a shout over at @screenjunkies with the hashtag #jumpscare.

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Jump Scare of the Day: ‘The Sentinel’ Old Man Scene http://www.screenjunkies.com/video/jump-scare-of-the-day-the-sentinel-old-man-scene/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/video/jump-scare-of-the-day-the-sentinel-old-man-scene/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 17:00:12 +0000 Jared Jones http://www.screenjunkies.com/?post_type=video&p=266245 Alison is awakened in the middle of the night by a series of strange sounds and decides to go exploring. Because good things usually happen when you investigate a disturbance in a horror movie.

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By Jared Jones

Michael Winner’s The Sentinel is easily one of the most overlooked/underrated horror films to come out in the past 50 years — a cerebral, terrifying depiction of neurosis and atonement with a rather brilliant supernatural twist.

Telling the story of a beautiful model, Alison Parker, who moves into a Brooklyn apartment that actually serves as a gateway to Hell, this 1977 classic features a heap of former and future stars appearing in minor roles — from Christopher Walken to Ava Gardner to Jeff Goldblum — and has slowly been building a cult following over time. Arguably the most frightening moment in The Sentinel comes relatively early in the picture, when Alison is awakened in the middle of the night by a series of strange sounds and decides to go exploring. Because good things usually happen when you investigate a disturbance in a horror movie.

Anyways, the scene above rightfully earned a place on Bravo‘s 100 Scariest Movie Moments of all time, so give it a watch and let us know if you have any suggestions for future Jump Scare of the Day entries over at @screenjunkies with the hashtag #jumpscare.

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Jump Scare of the Day: Signs — The “Brazilian Birthday Party” Scene http://www.screenjunkies.com/video/jump-scare-of-the-day-signs-the-brazilian-birthday-party-scene/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/video/jump-scare-of-the-day-signs-the-brazilian-birthday-party-scene/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 14:49:31 +0000 Jared Jones http://www.screenjunkies.com/?post_type=video&p=265991 The only thing scarier than this scene is Mel Gibson.

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By Jared Jones

True story: I saw this movie in theaters when I was 15, and when this scene happened, I hid by my hands and cried. I cried like a TEN YEAR OLD GIRL!! (*throws baseball out window*)

If you have any suggestions for what a future entry should be, give us a shout over at @screenjunkies with the hashtag #jumpscare.

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Jump Scare of the Day: ‘The Exorcist III’ Nurse Scene http://www.screenjunkies.com/video/jump-scare-of-the-day-the-exorcist-iii/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/video/jump-scare-of-the-day-the-exorcist-iii/#comments Thu, 02 Oct 2014 21:50:34 +0000 Jared Jones http://www.screenjunkies.com/?post_type=video&p=265734 Introducing the Jump Scare of the Day™, a new recurring feature here at Screen Junkies designed to push you closer and closer to the brink of a nightmare-fueled insanity and/or incontinence.

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By Jared Jones

Introducing the Jump Scare of the Day™, a new recurring feature here at Screen Junkies that is most certainly *not* a blatant attempt to cash in on the horror-centric frightfest that October has become. So just throw that notion right out of your head.

For the next 30 days, we will be providing you Screen Junkards with a routine dose of heart-stopping terror from some of our favorite horror films both old and new, with the hope that each successive offering will push you closer and closer to the brink of a nightmare-fueled insanity and/or incontinence. First up, we give you the “nurse scene” from The Exorcist III (1990). Not to spoil it, but let’s just say that things does not end well for the titular nurse.

If you have any suggestions for what tomorrow’s scene should be, give us a shout over at @screenjunkies with the hashtag #jumpscare.

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Review: “Tusk” http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/review-tusk/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/review-tusk/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:17:15 +0000 Jared Jones http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=265127 Tusk stretches its wafer-thin premise far beyond its breaking point, and the result is an all too long inside joke that looks like a poor man's Wes Anderson directed a homeless man's Human Centipede.

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By Jared Jones

A little less than a year ago, Kevin Smith claimed that he would retire from filmmaking upon completion of Clerks III. It was only a few months before he amended that statement, claiming that “From now until I drop dead, I’m only ever gonna make a flick that only I would/could ever make,” citing several of his past works (Cop Out, Zack & Miri) as films that “anyone” could make.

That being the case, I’d sure as hell like to know what Smith finds so unique about his latest effort, Tusk, which contains neither the sardonic wit that punctuated his more cherished works nor adds anything even remotely innovative to the torture porn genre it is supposedly parodying. Tusk isn’t nearly as hilarious or fresh as it thinks it is, resulting in a final product that looks like a poor man’s Wes Anderson directed a homeless man’s Human CentipedeThanks Kevin, but I’d have much preferred something closer to “The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders.”

The wafer-thin premise of Tusk can be explained in less than a logline (“Lonely old man converts young douchebag into walrus”), likely because it was spawned during the recording of a podcast which itself was relaying an online classified Smith had randomly stumbled upon. That is not meant as a criticism, necessarily, as great ideas can and do often come from everyday inspiration. 2012′s Safety Not Guaranteed was similarly borne from a bizarre Gumtree ad and was one of the most memorable movies of the year because of (or perhaps, despite) it, but it is Smith’s inability to add anything to Tusk aside from its hook that truly drags it out of the “good-bad” territory it promises and into the “just bad” territory where it ends up.

But then again, perhaps I spoke too soon. I suppose Tusk *is* unique in its ability to overplay yet simultaneously undersell the few hands it tries to deal its audience over the course of its slow slog to the finish line. There isn’t a single “joke,” flashback, or cutaway in Tusk that doesn’t proceed to kill whatever momentum it builds up by overstaying its welcome, and each scene plays out with the kind of meandering carelessness that all but forces you to assume that Smith was making the whole thing up as he was going along. “Quirky” and “funny” are not interchangeable concepts, though Tusk seems to posit that they are, and the result is a 90-minute exercise in self-satisfaction that is too busy patting itself on the back for having the “balls” to commit to one inside joke that it never even bothers to attempt any others. The only thing missing from Tusk is an empty wine glass to fart in.

If Tusk fails as a comedy, it fails twice as badly as a horror movie. Justin Long, possibly in some sort of meta-commentary on his negative public perception, stars as Wallace Bryton, the most grating, unredeemable, and plain cliche horror movie protagonist ever written  Smodcasted. He insults locals and bashes their town, he says things like “Shut the front door” while speaking 20 decibels louder than those he is talking to, and he smugly brags about the money his podcast (HIS PODCAST!) generates in yearly ad revenue. He even cheats on his supermodel girlfriend with podcast groupies (PODCAST GROUPIES!!) because fuck it, why make him likeable in any way, shape, or form? Take every Friday the 13th, punk-ass teenager you’ve ever seen, add in a dose of hipster pretentiousness right down to the “throwback” pedostache, finish it off with a touch of Billy Zabka, and you’ve got Wallace Bryton.

Of course, it’s not like his girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriguez) is any more likeable. The scene in which she’s introduced, for instance, involves her giving Wallace what I can only assume would be a fantastic blowjob, then cutting him off halfway through it to talk about how he’s “changed.” He then belittles her for liking the old, nerdy Wallace, to which she nearly cries, shrugs, and then just goes right back to blowing him. WOMEN AND EMOTIONS AND STUFF, AMIRIGHT FELLAS? Oh, and have I mentioned that this movie wants you to believe that not only can a hot-shot podcaster with a pedostache score Genesis Rodriguez, but that Rodriguez would then cheat on him with present day Haley Joel Osment? A walrus suit made of human skin is one thing, but that is one liberty too many, Mr. Smith.

And I get it: Long’s character is supposed to be an asshole, and his ensuing torture is meant to serve as some sort of penance/punishment for the “monster” he’s become. What a profound and thrilling take on the horror genre, Mr. Smith! The only problem being that it replaces what empathy you should have for Wallace with apathy, especially when it comes to the relationship with his aforementioned smokeshow girlfriend, who is herself morally questionable at best, and the horrific torture he is put through.

Torture is usually a means through which absolution is achieved, otherwise it is just a means to the end that is sadism. While many a horror film have committed to the idea that we will identify and empathize with a character simply because they are in duress, Tusk reduces the idea of ”torture porn” to its most banal, which is really saying something. The story is actually constructed like a pornographic film, for one; there’s a scene of torture, then a scene of “plot,” then a scene of torture, and etcetera etcetera until the whole thing just kind of ends. And like a porno, the film grows increasingly tiresome after blowing its wad on the reveal of Long’s walrus suit, which happens approximately 45 minutes in. Add in some full penetration, and Tusk would have been the best movie that Dennis Reynolds never made. Even Haley Joel Osment is there to reprise his role as new Mac.

But more than everything else that’s wrong with this movie, Tusk commits the most painful offense of all in being a goddamn BORE to sit through. I could watch Michael Parks give salty-eyed recounts of his oceanic adventures with Ernest Hemingway all day, but between Tusk‘s lack of actual jokes and its constant slog between half committed attempts at establishing a tone, it makes an hour and a half feel like an eternity. Even when Tusk is flashing back to earlier moments from the film during its second and third acts, if you can call them that, whole lines of dialogue are added to those flashbacks to make up for the film’s inability to tell the most basic of stories. As such, the B-plot wherein Osment and Rodriguez attempt to track down Long unfolds like a Law and Order episode as written by a kid on the autism spectrum.

Like Smith’s previous effort, Red State, Tusk is simply too noncommittal and scatterbrained to ever reel us into what could be a compelling (albeit ridiculous) premise. After boring us to tears with an excruciatingly dull, every-horror-movie-you’ve-ever-seen setup, it simply throws a guy in a walrus suit at us and expects us to ooh and ahh because its all so wacky!! Is that Johnny Depp in a fake nose playing a private investigator with a French accent? Ooh la-la, this will never get old!

Lazy and incompetent storytelling does not equate to an original filmmaking style, and even if it did, Robert Rodriguez would have clearly claimed his place as the frontrunner of that movement. If Tusk is a movie that only Kevin Smith could make, then he might be better off selling his soul to write 20 million dollar buddy cop movies.

Grade: C-

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The Film Cult Presents: Shaun of the Dead http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/the-film-cult-presents-shaun-of-the-dead/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/the-film-cult-presents-shaun-of-the-dead/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 16:12:09 +0000 Philip Harris http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=261128 Warning! Spoiler Alert!   There’s a lot a competition for best zombie movie. Some might say the best was the racially tinged horror classic, Night of the Living Dead. They...

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Warning! Spoiler Alert!

 

There’s a lot a competition for best zombie movie. Some might say the best was the racially tinged horror classic, Night of the Living Dead. They wouldn’t be far off the mark. If you’re a sixteen-year-old girl you might say it’s Warm Bodies. If you’re a bro obsessed with Bill Murray, you might go with Zombieland as your fave. Mine, and frankly the best, is Shaun of the Dead. I love Simon Pegg. In his down time from acting in blockbuster behemoths he’s always crafting together a brilliant gem close to his, and our, nerdy heart. These gems are invariable entertaining: Hot Fuzz, The World’s End, Paul—all great, but none are as brilliant as Shaun of the Dead.

A hapless dote with a shite job and a lovable slob for a best friend realize they have to save their loved ones when the zombies attack. Such a simple premise. It’s those simple premises in the hands of brilliant writers that always turn out for the best. For instance, a newly wedded couple moves into the Dakota and gives birth to the Antichrist? Done and done, Rosemary’s Baby was a hit novel, a classic horror film, and even an upcoming miniseries staring Zoe Saldana. Simple premises lead to esteemed legacies. And Simon Pegg is on his way.

Zombie movies rise several times a year, always reminding us that the dead are never really gone and  that what our true natures are brutal and savage. It’s the vanquishing of the zombies, the chopping off of their heads or the burning of their rotting bodies, that reassures us that we may might just hold off the end times (that horrid moment when we devour each other) just a little longer. The human race demands an endgame, and zombie narratives (along with comets, disease epidemics, and natural disasters) are our favorite art form in which to experiment with the our own demise. And it’s the most personal. We can’t fight comets. We can try to fight aliens. We can’t see diseases, but just ask Brad Pitt what happens when the disease turns people into zombies. We can seek shelter when the tsunamis, earthquakes, and storms come, but look how well that went for the dinosaurs. A zombie apocalypse is personal because it’s us. How do we fight ourselves when we’ve suddenly become a danger to each other? I mean, besides with a cricket bat.

Taking this theme and concept to a British suburb, Shaun of the Dead is characteristic of many zombie narratives in that it uses the undead invasion as a prism in which to see Shaun’s closest, interpersonal relationships: the girlfriend he is doomed to disappoint, the loser friend he should have ditched years ago, and the mom and stepdad for whom he’ll never be good enough. While essentially a loser in the beginning of the film, he becomes the leader of his kith and kin’s survival party, showing us through humor and heart that it might just take the most dire of circumstances to reveal one’s heroic nature. This heroic nature is tester (spoiler alert) in the movie’s greatest moment in which his mother becomes a zombie and he must kill her. It’s a heart-wrenching moment tucked exquisitely among the action and humor.

And speaking of humor, we can’t forget that Shaun of the Dead is simply funny as hell. A feast for the observant nerd, the film is typical of other Simon Pegg vehicles in that subtle jokes are paid off hours later, delightfully telling details are thrown in for those watching close enough, and references to B-plots and other narratives are scattered among the bloody river of English Wit. It’s generally difficult to translate British humor into American lexicon, so I get it if some don’t find this movie as entertaining as I do. It might help to know that instead of saying a phone line is “busy” the Brits say “engaged.” It may help to also know that a common nickname for men called David is “Davs”, pronounced like “calves.” That said, most of the jokes work just fine, and what starts as a series of awkward situations slowly turns into hilarious, action-packed romp.

Actors to watch out for. Shaun’s mom? Yup, that’s Penelope Wilton, more commonly known as Mrs. Crawly, Mathew’s mother on Downton Abbey. When Shaun’s crew meets their counterparts in the alleyway? Yup, that’s Martin Freeman, before he became Dr. Watson and Bilbo Baggins, as Shaun’s doppelgänger. And be sure not to miss a sutble Bill Nighy as Shaun’s stepfather.

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The Film Cult Presents: Battle Royale http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/the-film-cult-presents-battle-royale/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/the-film-cult-presents-battle-royale/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 17:10:28 +0000 Philip Harris http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=260654 WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! Battle Royale got a lot of press when the first Hunger Games movie came out. Hipsters were up in arms with protestations of “Rip off!” and “It’s...

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WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!

Battle Royale got a lot of press when the first Hunger Games movie came out. Hipsters were up in arms with protestations of “Rip off!” and “It’s been done!” I like to give The Hunger Games the benefit of the doubt. It’s not exactly the same movie. Don’t get me wrong, the similarities are striking: both based on a novel about a bunch of kids thrown together and forced to kill each other. There the similarities end, though. I know; I know. Those are big similarities, practically the entire premise of both movies being identical. True. True. But, The Hunger Games is a YA movie about Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth looking really hot in melodramatic circumstances. Battle Royale isn’t about heartthrobs. The Hunger Games is also a meditation on the nature of reality television. Battle Royale is about discipline, about keeping children in order, which I’m all for. I wouldn’t say I’m all for letting them go at each other with automatic weaponry, but I’m all for keeping them in line.

But, back to melodrama for a moment. Both of these movies thrive on melodrama. Where The Hunger Games uses melodrama in the District Twelve—the gray tones, the glory of being a baker of stony bread—Battle Royale uses melodrama in flashbacks fit for a Lifetime movie. These flashbacks, however, are used to establish and deepen characters. Does it work? Hard to say. The flashbacks are shot with enough feathered filtering to make Robert De Niro look like Nicole Ritchie. It works in that we now know more about the characters, thus making us more invested than we were before. Could the flashbacks be better? Oh, sure. But, then again, this is Japanese horror we’re talking about. Character development is hardly a subtle venture.

I’d be remiss to discuss the violence in Battle Royale. Talk about melodrama! People are gettin’ sliced and shot all over this island. You’re definitely expecting it, but it’s still totally unnerving when they shoot the first kid in the briefing room. Once out in the wild of Okishima, the blood and flesh fly like a haircut by Edward Scissorhands. Operatic in its ubiquity, the violence of Battle Royale starts off unnerving, moves into being almost humorous with its schlocky goriness, and then, which I’m assuming was director Koushun Takami’s ultimate point, becomes everyday, natural.

In a recent Rolling Stone interview, Stellan Skarsgard discusses his latest controversial take as Seligman in Lars von Trier’s much-hyped Nymphomaniac films. Discussing the ubiquitous  body parts, he states,  “Showing body parts…eventually becomes as normal as eating porridge in the morning.” And so it is with the violence in Battle Royale. It’s exciting at first, disturbingly graphic, but by the end, you understand that these are the rules. This is the world. People kill each other, and they’ll do it to survive, and they’ll do it to love whom they want.

While a meditation on the discipline of children and a statement on the numbness we experience in the face of constant violence, Battle Royale is also about how children hold the passwords to the future. It’s a beautiful comment on the technological gap between the current first-world youth and the generation before them. In any school in the world, in any family, it’s the nerdy kid who has the power. He or she instinctively knows what their adults will never master when it comes to using modern-day technology. Have you ever tried to teach your father how to use Instagram? I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s the nerdy kids that will save the world. They’re the ones who will override the security system and beat the game developers at their own game.

Battle Royale hits all the notes The Hunger Games didn’t. There are no heartthrobs or politically disenfranchised hillbilly’s trying to scrape a life together coal mining and studying mushrooms in the Appalachia . Battle Royale is about uniformed children learning to fend for themselves on a deserted island, an island whose natural beauty is the perfect backdrop for the kinds of exquisite murders and suicides that are the meat and potatoes of any self-respecting Japanese fairy tale. Currently available on Netflix live, Battle Royale deserves a night of your attention. Just make sure you’ve already eaten.

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The Film Cult Presents: The Wicker Man http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/the-wicker-man/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/the-wicker-man/#comments Fri, 28 Feb 2014 19:12:46 +0000 Philip Harris http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=259753 Oh, to go back to the days when naked people sang songs in circles on the solstice.

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WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!

 

Let’s get the bad part out of the way. Nicolas Cage and the great Ellen Burstyn remade The Wicker Man in 2006 to devastating results. While the original holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the half-baked, pathetic remake maintains a strong 15% rating. If you ask me, that’s about fourteen percentages too generous. Let’s pretend it doesn’t exist. OK, great.

The Wicker Man is shrouded in mystery. Different versions of the film have floated around for years, the holy grail of which being an apparently 102-minute version that’s been lost for decades. A 99-minute director’s cut is the version upon which I base this review and the current standard. Perhaps one day we’ll all get to see the original 102-minute version. Then again, maybe one day we’ll all meet on Summerisle and have an orgy in the park. Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The plot is simple and like any great story can be summed up in one sentence: A virgin police officer named Sergeant Howie travels to an island called Summerisle, populated by pagans, to investigate the kidnapping of a girl called Rowan. Weird ish goes down from the jump-off, when first no one on the island claims to have heard of Rowan, yet she has a mom, an empty grave, and a desk at the schoolhouse. Then, after being offended by all kinds of awesomely debauched pagan stuff—the aforementioned orgy in the park, the girl who must put a frog in her mouth, the umbilical cord on the tree—Sergeant Howie discovers a ritual human sacrifice is set to take place on May Day in order to bring back the island’s failed crops. After he’s presumably left the island, he dons a customary costume for the big day and (surprise!) it’s actually he who will burn in the wicker man on May Day.

Pagan Parade - The Wicker Man

This movie works for several reasons. The first is that it’s so straightforward. The viewer wonders, “No, this can’t be happening. Wait a tick, it is happening!” And then it happens. Bam! Roll credits. Its natural progression comes from writer Anthony Schaffer using as his source material the 1890 anthropological study by James Frazer called The Golden Bough. The annotated 1922 edition is worth picking up on Amazon. Within its hundreds of pages, Mr. Frazer describes the pagan rituals of tribes and communities from all over the planet, making his seminal work a grab-bag for weird human behavior. The point is, the rituals in The Wicker Man are real. Much like The Godfather is a compendium of mafia lore and stories, The Wicker Man is a smorgasbord of pagan fun. Oh, to go back to the days when people sang songs in circles on the solstice.

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Evil Movie Clowns http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/genres-movies/horror-films/evil-movie-clowns/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/genres-movies/horror-films/evil-movie-clowns/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2011 14:15:45 +0000 Breakstudios http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=218953 Drought, famine, disease all pale compared to the scariest evil clowns from movies.

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Drought, famine, disease all pale compared to the scariest evil clowns from movies. These creatures walk the world freely without regulation, showing up at birthday parties and used car auctions and no one has risen up to stop this oncoming storm. Put your plans for the zombie apocalypse on hold and wake up to the very real threat of clown propaganda and infestation.

 

Pennywise

Easily one of the scariest evil clowns in fiction to this day, Pennywise wasn’t content to just kill children, he emanates fear and horror into others thereby stripping them of a normal life. Taking the horror up a notch, this clown also appeared as a giant spider that combined two phobias into one for the audience. Pennywise even affected the idea of drainage as many who have viewed the television movie It came to fear storm drains for a very long time if not still to this day. A clown that oozed menace and death with every word, Pennywise did more for clown loathing than any amount of balloon animals could wash away.

 

Captain Spaulding

Captain Spaulding smiling

Give Rob Zombie some serious dues as he created a clown and an environment in House of 1000 Corpses that feels real to anyone who has taken a long road trip through rural areas. Captain Spaulding takes any and all horrors as just another part of reality and then mixes in logic and a dark intelligence to the recipe of his personality. His delight in all atrocities magnifies the fear throughout the movie thus adding to the importance of his role.

 

Shakes the Clown

Shakes being restrained by clown

Bobcat Goldthwait is an alcoholic clown with serious depression in Shakes the Clown, and if that doesn’t terrify you then you have probably never needed a night light in your life. Sure he isn’t running around covered in blood, but a sad clown is twice as scary and evil as a happy clown. Add in a murder and the tribal mentality of performers like mimes and you have a movie that speaks of a hidden culture out beyond your door. The exact door you’re now thinking about buying new dead bolts for.

 

The Joker

The Joker holding the joker

A psychopath with a sense of humor, albeit a twisted sense of humor, just needs a clown visage to be truly terrifying and that’s what you get in The Dark Knight with the Joker. With a panache and talent for bloody mayhem that propels him into the category of  evil clowns, the Joker keeps his enemies and his allies on their toes as there is no understanding of what will set him off next. Heath Ledger took the Joker to new heights with his portrayal of the mania behind the unwavering smile and brought a new generation into the clown fearing fold.

 

Pogo the Clown

Pogo the Clown waving

With the large majority of evil clowns safely locked away behind the screen, Gacy shows that there’s plenty to fear from clowns in reality as well. A true beast in every sense of the world, Gacy’s penchant for performing as a clown makes for one of the scariest evil clowns that humanity has ever known. A solid lesson that it’s the man and not the makeup that hides the monster.

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Scare the Bra Off Of Them http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/genres-movies/horror-films/scare-the-bra-off-of-them/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/genres-movies/horror-films/scare-the-bra-off-of-them/#comments Wed, 06 Jul 2011 04:51:00 +0000 Breakstudios http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=218931 Choosing scary monster movies to watch with girls is not only the perfect Saturday night activity, it's also the perfect way to covertly put her in the mood.

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Choosing scary monster movies to watch with girls is not only the perfect Saturday night activity, it’s also the perfect way to covertly put her in the mood without having to soil your HD flat screen with some sort of sensitive thinking person’s movie.  If you’ve ever watched a scary movie with a girl in your life, you know you can expect your lady (or ladies) to inch closer and cling tighter as the fear builds. If you’re lucky, you’ll have her in your lap by the time the movie ends, while having seen some darn good effects in the process.

 

Cloverfield

Rob and Beth talking to the camcorder

A perfect blend of two parts monster madness and one part sappy romance, Cloverfield‘s plot revolves around a massive creature of unknown origin as it ravages downtown New York. Instead of evacuating, a young man goes to rescue an ex-girlfriend with the help of some friends. Being a hero at heart he goes back knowing full well the monster still lurks the area. A word of caution, the director went with the “shaky cam” style of filmmaking—one or both of you may end up puking, unless you have a stash of Dramamine on hand.

 

Alien

Alien stuck to crew member's face

A spacecraft lands on a distant, unexplored planet to answer a distress beacon after which an alien creature boards their ship. While some may consider this to be a little too “old-school”, it still delivers the chills even if you have already seen it a few times. The H.R. Giger-designed alien is frightening enough, but most of the scares are delivered through Ridley Scott‘s masterful use of mood and atmosphere. Even if it is the “oldest” film on this list, Alien set the bar so high when it was release in the late ’70s that horror flicks today, in all their CG glory, still struggle to match its quality.

 

28 Days Later

Zombie on fire chasing Cillian Murphy

Most think 28 Days Later is a zombie-type flick. The truth is, the “zombies” are actually still alive, having been transformed into monstrous, bloodthirsty savages by a strange virus. The creatures roam the streets of England hunting down the few survivors who remain in the country. 28 Days Later is so frightening and so disturbing that there is a strong possibility it will be you that ends up inching towards your girlfriend as you watch in fear.

 

The Mist

From the mind of Stephen King, The Mist features a plethora of monsters that all but guarantees to give you and your girlfriend some major goosebumps. A handful of civilians are trapped in a local grocery store as a strange mist engulfs their entire town. The mist not only clouds the area it covers, it is also home to an unknown number of fiendish monsters. You may have to watch this movie at least once before watching it with a lady friend just so you know what to expect. The last thing you want to do is scream like a little girl in front of her.

 

Dog Soldiers

Werewolf in the woods in Dog Soldier

Last but not least is the 2002 British release, Dog Soldiers. A squad of special forces are training in the Scottish Highlands when they find the remains of another group of soldiers who had trained in the area. The troops then go into battle mode only to find that their adversaries are not men but werewolves. The movie does start slow but by the 30 minute mark, you and your girlfriend will be clinging to each other in mutual fear…which will hopefully lead to some other mutual activities.

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