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Friday, October 28, 2011

THE THING (2011) REVIEW



  How do you get around the hate for remakes? Your answer is probably stop making them right? Well, that isn’t the route Universal chose. They opted to make the latest version of “The Thing” a prequel. In reality, it is more like they disguise their remake with a prequel. It is an interesting route to take, but did it turn out to be an effective one?
  For those that have seen John Carpenter’s 1982 version, there is a Norwegian outpost that the Americans investigate. Well, this prequel takes the audience through exactly what happens on the outpost before the Americans get there. Norwegian scientists discover an alien ship, and an actually alien that has been frozen in the ice. They bring the block of ice with the alien in it back to their outpost in order to investigate it. Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), one of the researchers, thinks it is a bad idea when one of her fellow researchers decides to try to draw a blood sample from the alien. Unknown to them, the alien is still alive, and the experiment ultimately leads to its escape.
  Let me first expand on what I mean by them disguising this remake with a prequel. Yes, the movie clearly takes place before the events of the 1982 version, and ends right where that version begins. However, instead of the events of the movie being different, they are very similar to what happens in the 1982 version. What they have done here is basically slap on a beginning where the audience gets to see them discover the Thing, and then follow closely with what happens in the 1982 version. The Norwegians battle for their lives as the Thing tries to replicate itself, and escape.
  Is this a bad thing… not at all. I mean that is what The Thing is all about. I’m just pointing out the whole “prequel” thing, and why those that hate remakes weren’t fooled by it. It doesn’t really bother me because you know I typically like some back-story. This movie doesn’t add much, but it is good to see them make the discovery, and why the Thing attacked the Norwegians in the first place. The audience gets to meet Lars (Jorgen Langhelle), the Norwegian that gets off the chopper in the 1982 version, and sees how he knows to shoot at the dog.
  Ok, let me try to focus on this movie without too many more comparisons to the 1982 version. One of the important themes of the movie is the mystery of “who is the Thing.” They do a pretty good job of hiding that from the audience, as I never seemed to guess right. At one point, Kate figures out that the Thing can’t replicate anything artificial that humans put in their bodies such as, a person’s dental fillings, or a metal plate. This is a very interesting detail they added, which makes a lot of sense. This narrows down the possibilities, but the mystery is still there.
  As far as the Thing itself, it is enjoyable watching it shed the human body, and just become a crazy looking “thing.” The first couple of times they show the Thing the CGI didn’t seem to be that great, but it seems to get better as the movie goes on. I’m not a special effects expert, but sometimes it feels like CGI is in the eye of the beholder. Some will enjoy it, while others see it as being too fake. While the 1982 version did a great job with the effects, especially at its time, there are still moments when the audience can tell how fake it is. The CGI isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t ruin the experience.
  The best transformation and appearance of the Thing is when it merges two people together. It is truly disgusting, and awesome at the same time. It would have been nice to see it in this form causing chaos a little earlier. My only real question about the Thing in its alien form is: how exactly does it fly a spaceship? It would have been interesting to see how it accomplishes that.
  If nothing else, it appears that the ending of the movie has won over fans of “The Thing.” This movie concludes showing the audience the opening scene from the 1982 version. I’m kind of curious what fans’ opinion of the movie was right as they thought it was over, and if it kind of changed when they showed chopper come into the screen. It is a great tribute to the 1982 version, but also a last attempt to remind the audience that this is a prequel and not a remake.
  So Universal tried to hide their remake, and I tried to write a review with as little comparison to the 1982 version as possible. I’m not sure how successful either of us was, but it was worth a try. At the least, I don’t think this movie disgraced it’s predecessor like some of the other remakes have. So because Universal was somewhat successful in doing something different, I give this movie 3 pools of blood.

  HorrO

Thursday, October 20, 2011

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 REVIEW


***Spoiler Alert***


  I thought I would start off this review with a quick recap of my reviews of Paranormal Activity 1 and Paranormal Activity 2 . As far as part 1, I was buying what they were selling up until Micah started doing research, and found a woman who went through a similar experience as Katie. I was not happy that they introduced back-story, and created a “Hollywood” ending. As far as part 2, some of the scares actually got me, and my opinion of the back-story changed. Now it is time for the tiebreaker.
  This movie starts off briefly in 2005 where a pregnant Kristi (Sprague Grayden/Jessica Tyler Brown), and her husband are getting the house ready for a new baby. Of course Katie (Katie Featherston/Chloe Csengery) makes an appearance, as she is preparing to move in with Micah. She leaves some boxes that their grandmother left her in Kristi’s basement. One of the boxes holds some old family videos, and is the only thing that goes missing when Kristi’s house is apparently broken into. From there the audience gets to view exactly what happens to the sisters, their mother, Julie (Lauren Bittner), and her boyfriend, Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), on those video tapes.
  While you probably want me to start off telling you if the movie is scary or not, I will hold off on that for the moment. Instead, let me start off with a few thoughts on the franchise. Besides the focus on the scares, there are a couple of things that make Paranormal Activity unique. One is how the story goes backwards instead of forward. The audience starts off thinking that Paranormal Activity is just about some poor girl getting haunted, but it turns out that there is a whole history of events that lead to the reason why the demon is there. With each prequel the audience gets to learn something new about the sisters’ past. I questioned this move at first, but it seems to have worked for the most part, even after two prequels.
  The other interesting thing about this franchise is that while part 1 is all about Katie, the focus of everything turns to Kristi the further the story goes along. It turns out that Kristi is the more important sister because she is the one that has a baby boy. If you remember, Katie wouldn’t have even been haunted if Kristi’s husband didn’t point the demon in her direction. In this movie, the young Kristi plays a more important part than Katie mostly because she is the only one in the house that can see the demon, or as she calls it “Toby.”
  That brings me to the all-important back-story. As mentioned, I have gone from hating it to eagerly wanting all of my questions answered. My biggest questions going into this movie were: where does Katie take Hunter, and what does she have planned for him? Unfortunately, those questions are left unanswered. After the quick opening in 2005, this movie sticks to what happens to Kristi and Katie in 1988 to start all of this paranormal activity.
  The audience gets a more formal introduction to the demon that haunts them with the introduction of the aforementioned Toby. At first, Kristi appears to be just one of those kids that say they have an imaginary friend. The audience knows better, and the people around her soon find out there is nothing imaginary about Toby. As the movie goes on, she is repeatedly asked questions about Toby. The audience gets some clues about how it looks, and acts towards Kristi, but in the end there is still plenty of things to wonder about Toby.
  Besides Toby, the audience does find out some interesting things about their family. There is the introduction of their mother, but no father. As the movie begins, it appears that Dennis is the father, but it is soon revealed that he is just Julie’s boyfriend. There is a quick mention of their father, but only enough to keep you wondering what really happened to him. The biggest revelation and important piece of the back-story happens at the end of the movie, but I will leave that for you to see.
  Finally, let me talk about the scares. Yes, there are some similar techniques used in the previous movies most notably the cameras. Dennis is the one responsible for recording everything. He carries one camera with him, and sets up a few others in the house. Probably the most effective use of the camera scares is the one that he attaches to the base of an oscillating fan. It works similarly to the effect in part 2 of the constant skipping through camera views, except this time the view goes from one side of the room to the other. It does an excellent job of creating suspense as it pans back and forth from the front door, through the living room, and into the kitchen. It makes the audience stare at the room trying to figure out when, and if something has changed from a moment ago.
  Another thing that works well is how the sisters’ room is set up at the top of the stairs. Their room is basically the second floor of the house. The camera is set up to catch anyone that comes up the stairs along with a good view of the girls’ beds. It is an interesting added twist that Toby happens to like hanging out right behind where the camera is placed. And on a funnier note, remember the pool cleaner that is constantly shown in part 2. Well, this time there is a fish tank that has a treasure chest in it that blows bubbles every once in a while.
  There are also some new and different techniques used to try to scare the audience. My favorite and most effective one is how the demon has a physical presence. No, the audience never really gets to see it, but it is clearly there because of what happens to the girls. Lets just say it is like a bird that can’t tell there is a glass window in front of it. Another good thing about some of the scares are that they are not all produced by the demon. There are some created by people in the movie that serve as a form of tension breaker, and comic relief. In case you are wondering, I don’t think I ever jumped like when the kitchen exploded in part 2, but there is one scene that kind of gave me the chills.
  One of the reasons I didn’t like part 1 was the ending, but I thought they made up for it in part 2. I might have spoiled a few things for you, but I don’t want to spoil this ending. Again, it does answer some questions about what is going on, but sure as hell opens up plenty of new ones. And no, I didn’t have any major issues with how this movie ends.
  It is simple to say, but if part 1 and 2 scared you, then I see no reason this movie won’t be able to do it again. This prequel to the prequel doesn’t hurt what the previous movies accomplished. It answers some questions, but still leaves some unanswered ones, such as what ever happened to that fire Katie mentions. More importantly, if the tapes are supposedly stolen, who has apparently put them on for the audience to see? Honestly, I hoped this movie would close out this trilogy, but I can see room for another one. Yes, I said it, another one.  With that said, this movie breaks the tie, as I give it 3.5 pools of blood, and give the franchise my stamp of approval (for now).

  HorrO

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Spooky Empire 2011


  
  Not even the rain could keep people away from Spooky Empire 2011. People kept coming into the convention like zombies hungry for some brains. And why not with great guests like Doug Bradley, Gunnar Hansen, Malcolm McDowell, Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, and Clive Barker to name a few. I can’t forget to mention the terrific authors like Rob Fox, Scott Kenemore, Sean Hayden, and Kevin Ranson. Then there are the fabulous artists and merchandisers. Throw in the Freak Show Horror Film Festival, and Zombie Walk, and you have a can’t miss convention.



  As usual, I’m going to take you through my adventures at Spooky Empire to give you a taste of why you should attend next year’s show. Once again I failed to get there in time for the Zombie Walk, but I heard it was another great showing even though it tried to rain. I did see plenty of people dressed in some awesome zombie costumes as usual.


  The first event I got to attend was “Horror Blogs & Ghouls of Social Media.” Perfect for me right! Authors Scott Kenemore, Kevin A. Ransom, Doris Ross, L.J. Gastineau, Laura Reuther, and Christian Jensen hosted this. The panel was on point with everything they said. They made recommendations to post articles about current topics and movies, discussed why authors should have a blog, and to be sure to make the most out of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.


  After a tour around the convention, I made my way to the “Doug Bradley” Q & A. Doug was an absolute pleasure to listen to, and very entertaining. He wasted no time in addressing the new Hellraiser movie, and his opinion of remakes. I strongly suggest you check out this video to hear what he had to say. Also, after seeing the video, visit www.dougbradley.com to get one of the T-shirts he mentioned. 


 From there it was time for a quick dinner. I only mention it because I got to sit a few tables away from Sam Tramell, Kristin Bauer, and Mariana Klaveno of True Blood. It was funny watching people walk up to their table, and say how much they love them (yes I resisted). 


  Later on that night, it was time for the “Rocky Horror Picture Show-Shadowcast.” What a wild and crazy show this started out to be. There was a special appearance by Barry Bostwick (Brad Majors), who got a well-deserved standing ovation. After he spoke for a few moments, they had several members of the audience come to the stage for a game of spin the bottle. This was a special game because they would bring two people to the front of the stage. For every dollar they collected was a second the two had to kiss. In order to get the most money, they paired girls with girls, and guys with guys. Lets just say the guys got the most money, and were the most reluctant. After that exciting game, they finally got to the shadowcast, which was really well done.


  Day 2 saw rainfall all day long, but it did not stop people from coming to the event. My day kicked off with a Q & A by “Tony Todd.” It started a few minutes late because he apparently had a little too much fun at the pool party the previous night. It was funny when he first came out because he was really concerned about not shaving for some reason. Besides that, it was great to listen to some of his experience as Candyman, and in Final Destination. Also, he let us know that he will be in a movie called “Sushi Girl,” and will soon be directing a movie for the first time.


  From there I tried to see the discussion called “Zombie Outbreak: How to Survive,” but it was packed. The convention was definitely filled with zombie fans. So then it was onto the “Malcolm McDowell” Q & A. As I expected, he was very well spoken, and had plenty of great stories to tell. One of the funnier moments was when he engaged in a conversation with 7-year-old boy, who he eventually brought on stage.


  Next was yet another Q & A, this time “Leatherface- Saw is Family.” This was a terrific event because it featured the actors who played the first three Leatherfaces: Gunnar Hansen, Bill Johnson, and R.A. Mihailoff. When the three of them came on stage, it was easy to see one of the reasons they got the part was that they are all big men. It was interesting to hear how they all got the parts, and some of the things that went on behind the scenes.


  The final Q & A I attended was “Ghosthunters.” This was the third time I have heard Steve Gonzalves and Dave Tango speak at Spooky Empire. The two continue to play off of each other so well on stage. They have great stories to tell, and the audience always has some interesting questions to ask them. 


  After all the Q & A’s, it was finally time to take a walk through the autograph rooms. Last year I started on my quest to get some “Horror Icons” to sign my HorrO’s Gory Reviews official shirt “I’m a Horror Icon.” Robert Englund was the first to sign it, and this year I started with Gunnar. What an extremely nice guy he was. He was happy to sign the shirt, and an autograph picture. As the tradition has become, if you sign the shirt you get a shirt. Gunnar was excited to have a shirt, but my only regret was I didn’t have one in his size. He told me that his girlfriend would wear it. What was really awesome was that the next morning I saw him at breakfast, and he told me he had the shirt packed in his bags. I’m sure he was tipped off by the fact that I was wearing the shirt, but it was still nice that he mentioned the shirt to me.


  After that amazing experience, it was over to the exhibitor room to see what the merchandisers, and artists had to offer. As usual, the merchandisers had plenty of awesome items for sell such as, funny shirts, movie posters, and signed memorabilia. I got to meet Don from T-Shirt Bordello again, who was dressed up as a zombie. I was particularly impressed with some of the artwork. One of favorites was a table that had Care Bears, Hello Kitty’s, and a Homer turned into zombies.


  After making it through the rain again, and having breakfast with the stars, it was time to get a photo with Sam, Kristin, and Mariana. Seeing them around the convention, and then meeting them convinced me that they are really nice people. I never thought I would be taking a picture with anyone from True Blood. There were a couple of other pictures I wanted to take, but couldn’t squeeze them in.


  Now for the moment that truly made the weekend for me. I went to get an autograph from Doug Bradley, of course wearing my Horror Icon shirt. Even though I had passed him in the halls a couple of times, I guess he hadn’t noticed the shirt. When I gave him the shirt to sign I could tell he like it, and was pleased when I told him I had one for him. So pleased that he paused then proceeded to put on the shirt. I got him to sign my autographed shirt with him wearing a Horror Icon shirt, and took a picture with him as well. Then he gave me one of his shirts that he mentioned in the earlier video with him. To top everything off, he kept the shirt on for the rest of the afternoon taking pictures, and signing autographs. Thank you Doug Bradley!!!


  With an autograph from Freddy, Leatherface, and Pinhead, it was time to get one from Jason, or in this case Kane Hodder. He hadn’t arrived at his booth yet, so I stood in line waiting. Behind his booth were two doors that took you in the back rooms of the hotel. Two staff members were standing there talking when there was a sudden slam at the door. Go figure, 30 seconds later Kane opens the doors to see who he scared. Something told me he did that everyday.


  Keeping with the tradition, I gave him the shirt to sign along with one of his own. After almost getting choked out by him the last time I got an autograph from him, I was definitely a little nervous. I was very surprised that he thought it would be a little “presumptuous” for him to wear the shirt. For all that he has done for horror, I say no way, he deserved it. He also joked about scratching out some of the names on the shirt. Again, he almost killed me!


  From there it was onto another Q & A, this one being the “True Blood Panel.” This Q & A was absolutely packed. I made the sacrifice, and opted to sit up front on the floor to get some good pictures and videos. Sam, Kristin, and Mariana were a blast to listen to. They must have so much fun of the set. The audience did take advantage of them, as one girl asked if she could sit on stage with them because it was her birthday while another asked for an autograph because she was a poor college student who couldn’t pay for one at the table. The three True Blood stars were very nice to them, and of course said yes. How could they not with all of the cameras on them?


  While all of the things I mentioned were things that I chose to do, there were plenty of other things going on; some of which I wish I had time to do. One of those things would have been to meet, and get an autograph from Clive Barker. There was a line to meet him the entire time. Overall, I had another great time at Spooky Empire, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for Spooky Empire 2012!

  HorrO

*Be sure to check out the Spooky Empire 2011 page for more pics and videos: Spooky Empire 2011 Pictures and Videos

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

RED STATE REVIEW

***Spoiler Alert***

  When I sat down to watch this movie I had no idea it was going to tackle the issue of gay rights, religious freedom, and government interference. I was expecting to see a good old horror movie, but this movie has a message to send, and it barely holds back. The way the issues are presented made me think twice about even reviewing it. After thinking about it, a movie like this is made to get a conversation started, so here we go.
  Jarod (Kyle Gallner) has been in contact with an older woman online about having sex. He finally gets an invitation from her, but also gets the ok to bring along his two high school buddies, Travis (Michael Angarano), and Billy-Ray (Nicholas Braun). Still not sure exactly how they are all going to have sex with the same woman at the same time, they set off to meet her. However, the problem isn’t how to have sex with her, it is that she belongs to a local religious group that has other plans for them. 
  I’m not even sure where to begin, so I guess I will discuss how the issues are brought up in some of the more important scenes. Only a few minutes in, the anti-gay side of the story is presented. Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) leads a protest against gay people outside a funeral home, where there is a funeral for a local boy who is gay. There are some pretty powerful signs saying things such as, “Damnation for gays,” and “Anal penetration = eternal damnation.” It isn’t what I expected to see at the beginning of the movie, but certainly grabbed my attention.
  The protest causes Jarod to be late for class, and a discussion on what other than the 1st amendment. The students and teacher fill in the audience on a little history of the Cooper family, and their hatred as well. The protest signs followed by the 1st amendment talk immediately got me thinking. While the signs are hateful, they do have the right to protest, and have those feelings. Not only do they have the right to harbor such hate, the movie also points out that they have the right to arm that hatred with guns. While the movie isn’t necessarily a horror film, that is definitely a picture of horror.
  Then there are the three boys and their decision to attempt to sleep with a woman at the same time. Now the boys aren’t gay or against gays, but they make it clear they aren’t gay. That is something they think about before the decision to drive over to this woman’s place. Again, this situation makes you think, especially depending on your point of view. Are they gay for getting naked in front of each other in order to have sex with a woman? Surprisingly, Cooper points out that while that might not make them gay, their thoughts and actions make them sinners. The woman even mentions that their intentions are “the Devil’s business.”
  All of these things lead to the source of the problem, Abin Cooper. The audience gets an inside look at him, and his preaching inside a small church on his property. Right or wrong, freedom of speech and religion allows him to have these views, and spread them to his followers. As expected, a good portion of his speech is filled with hate for gays. He says things such as, homosexuals are Satan’s tools against God, “God doesn’t love you unless you fear him,” and that gays recruit because they can’t have kids. Agree or not, it is a very interesting speech, that to be honest, scares me to think people can take things to such extremes. Even scarier is that he has these people thinking that getting salvia on you from a gay person could turn you gay.
  Speaking of extreme, what these extremists do to gays is just horrible. They wrap them up in plastic to a cross, and put a bullet through their head. Of course, one of the reasons for the plastic is to protect themselves from the salvia. It really makes me think how some people can call themselves religious, and then do things like this in the name of God, or in the name of anyone. Sadly it happens in the real world every day.
  Despite disagreeing with his views, I found Cooper to be an intriguing character. It is so easy to hate him because of his views, and what he has put in these people’s heads. However, in his own crazy way, the audience can see some good in him. He loves his family, comforts his daughter when her husband dies, and appears to do well with the children.
  When he mentions that he comes from a family of preachers, it made me think of Cotton, the Reverend from “The Last Exorcism.” Both are born from a line of preachers, and have good and bad in them. Both are very good preachers, as they successfully convince their followers to believe whatever it is they are talking about. Cotton knew of his power over people, while Cooper never expresses it, but has to know it. You could argue just how much faith Cotton has in what he preached, but there is no lack of faith from Cooper. Obviously there is a big difference in what they preach about.
  Events in the movie eventually lead to a show down between Cooper’s religious group and government agents. To be fair, the religious group is shown to be extremists, and so is the government. Once things break out into an all out gunfight, agent Joseph Keenan  (John Goodman) is faced with a tough decision. His superior makes the call to have all the extremists killed. Joseph is uncomfortable with the call, and wants something in writing to protect him from the consequences of mass murder. Government bureaucracy at its finest! He then argues with one of the other agents about it, but they end up going ahead with the assault on the property. Even though this agent disagrees with the call, he goes all out to follow the orders. You could say he is an extremist for the other side.
  So now there is the government basically putting an end to these people’s right to freedom of expression, and to bare arms. Is it right to do that to them? Shouldn’t the government protect the law of the land, and its citizens instead of just killing them? What gives them the right? Well, the Patriot Act does of course. Another hot topic over the last 10 years is introduced just before the movie ends. Joseph is interrogated over his decision to break the chain of command, and not kill everyone. In the hearing, it is revealed that the Patriot Act allows the government to kill these type of people just by declaring them terrorist. The two Federal employees show that they could careless about killing these people, and clearly like abusing the power of the Act. Again, another scene that frightens me. I don’t agree with much of what Cooper said, but in this case, he might be making a point when he says “G for Godless, G for government.”
  While this movie didn’t really turn out to be a horror movie, it does a fantastic job of pointing out the horror in the real world. It raises plenty of questions, and gives the audience a lot to think about. It brings up issues that many people are faced with every day: the freedom of speech, right to bare arms, government interference, abuse of power, and gay rights. They do a great job of weaving all these issues together, even if some might think it is a bit extreme.  Besides the issues, the acting is good, particularly from Parks and Goodman, and there is some blood in the shootout. Even though the movie isn’t what I expected to see, I give it 3 pools of blood.

  HorrO


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