‘Dreams in the Witch House’ (2005)

Ezra Godden as Walter Gilman in the Stuart Gordon directed "Dreams in the Witch House".
Ezra Godden as Walter Gilman in the Stuart Gordon directed "Dreams in the Witch House".

from Showtime’s “Masters of Horror” series

Directed by: Stuart Gordon
Starring: Ezra Godden, Campbell Lane, Jay Brazeau, Chelah Horsdal

PLOT
Walter Gilman, a college student, rents a loft in a building in the New England town of Arkham. While studying inter dimensional string theory at college he is haunted by nightmares of a 17th-century witch and her rat with a human face. He must prevent the death of his neighbour’s baby at the hands of these forces while it’s possible he could become the murderer himself. (from tv.com)

Based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft
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‘Incident On and Off a Mountain Road’ (2005)

Ellen (Bree Turner) struggles against Moonface (John DeSantis) in Don Coscarelli's "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road"
Ellen (Bree Turner) struggles against Moonface (John De Santis) in Don Coscarelli's "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road"

Showtime’s Master of Horrors series was one of my favorite quick horror fixes when I didn’t have time to watch a whole movie. It ran for two seasons before the plug was pulled on it for a variety of reasons – depending on who you listen to. Some of it was really good. Some of it, not so much. Here are my opinions, but I recommend you grab some of these and check them out for yourself. I’m going to give some quickie reviews here – starting with season one, episode one.

Enjoy. Continue reading “‘Incident On and Off a Mountain Road’ (2005)”

OK, So I’m a Horror Writer

Hi, my name is Joe and I’m a horror writer.

I guess it’s taken me a while to get to the point where I can admit it in a straightforward fashion. It’s not, “I guess I’m a horror writer” or, “People tell me what I’m writing is horror” (which is not to be confused with people telling me my writing is horrible). Sometimes I sit and think it’s been a long twisting road to get here. The truth is, however, a case of life imitating art. It’s the act three twist that sets everything on its head: I didn’t go anywhere. I have always been here. Continue reading “OK, So I’m a Horror Writer”

REVIEW: ‘The Crazies’ (2010)

Timothy Olyphant leads a group of survivors through a more nightmarish-than-usual Iowa in "The Crazies".
Timothy Olyphant leads a group of survivors through a more nightmarish-than-usual Iowa in "The Crazies".

Even during the grayest days of winter, you can still picture it in your head: children playing under a flawless blue sky, a picnic spread out on a checkered blanket, and Old Glory fluttering lazily on the breeze. While we’re at it, go ahead and throw in that whole mental list of things that go along with this. It’s O.K., I already know you’re thinking about it.

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REVIEW: ‘Shutter Island’ (2010)

U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) navigates the psychological labyrinth of "Shutter Island".
U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) navigates the psychological labyrinth of "Shutter Island".

“Memories and possibilities are even more hideous than realities.” – H. P. Lovecraft

Reality.
Identity.
These are just a few of the things that philosophers, bards and other shiftless layabouts will drop gloves over for as long as there are philosophers, bards and shiftless layabouts. And not to throw myself into that endless fray, I would still like to offer this: who we are isn’t so much the sum of our experiences but rather how we perceive them.

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REVIEW: ‘The Wolfman’ (2010)

The wolf (Benecio Del Toro), the wolf, the wolf is on fire in the pretty, but empty remake of "The Wolfman".
The wolf (Benecio Del Toro), the wolf, the wolf is on fire in the pretty, but empty remake of "The Wolfman".

Lycanthropy.
It is monsterdom’s Jan Brady to vampirism’s Marsha.

While considered one of the “classic” monsters, the Wolfman has clearly lost the PR battle with dear old Drac. But face it, being a vampire is just flat out more appealing that being a werewolf. Vampires represent repressed sexuality while werewolves represent the destructive impulses of the id.

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REVIEW: ‘The Final’ (2010)

Dale (Marc Donato) takes group therapy to a whole new level in "The Final".
Dale (Marc Donato) takes group therapy to a whole new level in "The Final".

Directed by: Joey Stewart
Written by: Jason Kabolati
Starring: Marc Donato, Lindsey Seidel, Julin, Jascha Washington, Whitney Hoy, Justin Arnold
Running time: 92 minutes
Rated: R

High school and horror movies go together like… well, they just go together. The horrors of adolescence and its accompanying trauma has always been the perfect backdrop for any number of murderous monsters and maniacs. In general, though, the typical coupling of horror and high school means a set number of things: attractive but stupid youngsters who partake in drink and sex and are invariably dismembered or dispatched in gruesome ways. However, the truly horrifying part of this union is not the results but the staggeringly predictability that these events happen. That makes it quite refreshing, then, when something different comes along.

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REVIEW: ‘The Fourth Kind’

Sorry Milla, I don't believe in 'The Fourth Kind'.

Growing up, I can remember many a Saturday afternoon I spent plopped down in front of the TV waiting for one of my favorite shows to come on: “In Search of…” I was my little nugget of the weird and mysterious in an otherwise ordinary life. I watched wide-eyed as Leonard Nimoy added his sci-fi gravitas to topics like Bigfoot or the Bermuda Triangle or UFOs. I loved the UFO stories. I liked the idea of life out there. I even did my sixth grade science project on UFOs. So, I’m a big fan of the possibility of extraterrestrial life. However…

I am not a fan of overwrought “dramatizations.”
I am not a fan of stupid people.
I’m certainly not a fan of wasting an hour and a half of my life.
And therefore, I am not a fan of “The Fourth Kind”.

The film opens presenting its star, Milla Jovovich, in a particularly interesting way: as herself. She announces very solemnly that what we are about to see contains “rare archival footage” and that the decision as to whether or not this is a true story resides strictly with us, the audience. It segues into a split screen of Dr. Abigail Tyler (whose work this is “based” on) and Jovovich as Tyler. Apparently, politics isn’t the strangest thing going on in Alaska as we find that people who think they are just having sleeping disorders are really being abducted by aliens who disguise themselves as owls and speak Sumerian.

Really.

Admittedly, that’s somewhat of an oversimplification of some plot elements, but it’s still fairly accurate. It’s also fairly accurate to say that “the Fourth Kind” is not a very good movie. Why? Because my leg can only be pulled so far. OK, I can believe that a psychologist may have found people who, while under hypnosis, say that they’ve been abducted by aliens. OK, and said aliens put a mental image of a big white owl in their brains. Oh, and they speak Sumerian and there’s someone – in Alaska no less — who can actually recognize and interpret the spoken language even though it’s been dead for thousands of years. Uh huh… And even with film, tape and eyewitness accounts, no one believes it. One other thing… the main character may just be batshit crazy?

After all this, I think I may be, too.

Mostly, “the Fourth Kind” suffers from trying too hard to be simultaneously believable and unbelievable and only ends up being irritating. The characters, as portrayed in writer/director Olatunde Osunsanmi script, are maddeningly stupid. Ordinarily I could probably go with it – since when people are presented with something overwhelmingly bizarre, they sometimes refuse to acknowledge the evidence. But the movie seems to try to lead us down two conflicting paths – one saying “Yes, we want you to believe this,” and the other saying, “Hey, you can’t believe her! She’s crazy.” Even so, if that were the only problem with the movie, I might be able to forgive it, but they just keep piling it on, like the convoluted lies of a man caught with his penis somewhere it shouldn’t be (“I was just helping it over the fence.”). After so long, you just want it to stop.

All in all, it plays out like any number of cable dramatization shows and left me feeling like I’d experienced an alien abduction myself: One night in October, I was removed from my home, subjected to torture and found that I’d lost approximately an hour and a half of my life that I will never have back.

I think I would have preferred the anal probe.

REVIEW: ‘Saw VI’ (2009)

William Easton (Peter Outerbridge) finds there are worse things than government Health Care Reform in the series-revitalizing "Saw VI".
William Easton (Peter Outerbridge) finds there are worse things than government Health Care Reform in the series-revitalizing "Saw VI".

There are any number of clichés I could start this review with…

It’s Halloween, it must be Saw.
I would like to play a game.

But the one that would be most appropriate with this foundational Lionsgate franchise would be this: The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be. When we last left our intrepid killer (Costas Mandylor) had just squished his FBI counterpart at the end of what was likely the weakest movie of the series. By this point, Saw had devolved from John Kramer (Tobin Bell), or rather, Jigsaw’s extreme methods of getting people to appreciate the gift of life to being just another slasher film with elaborate set pieces. To me, it was the aspect that Jigsaw didn’t just want to kill the people in his traps, he wanted them to sacrifice, and through that, realize the errors of their ways. It was the loss of this focus that made Saws IV and V weaker than their three predecessors.

And then, along came “Saw VI.”

Continue reading “REVIEW: ‘Saw VI’ (2009)”

REVIEW: ‘Paranormal Activity’ (2009)

Yes, I wanted to punch Micah in the face too in "Paranormal Activity".
Yes, I wanted to punch Micah in the face too in "Paranormal Activity".

Years ago, I remember going to my friend’s apartment. He’d just rented this really cool game and I just had to come over and play. It was the first Resident Evil game. We played for hours before the need for sleeps started to creep in around the edges of our eyes. I left his apartment and walked out onto the breezeway. It was eerily still. Occasionally, crisp autumn leaves would whisper across the ground and a chill would grip my shoulders. I looked around, halfway expecting to see something shambling out of the shadows or leaping through a window. So, like any strong, rational man in his twenty-somethings, I ran like a scared little girl to my car, locked the door and drove home. It seemed more like a reflexive reaction than anything thought out.

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