Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
R

I do not know if there is anyone out there who does not know the basic plot of A Nightmare on Elm Street.  But, just in case...A Nightmare on Elm Street is about a serial killer, Freddy Krueger, who tortures and murders teens through their dreams.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a horror classic from horror icon Wes Craven.  Good horror movies have always had the lasting impact of the viewers being too scared to sleep after seeing them.  Craven took this to the extreme by having a killer who actually killed his victims through their dreams.  It had a tremendous impact on the horror genre and has spawned numerous sequels, spin-offs, and homages.  The horrifying Freddy Krueger helped to launch Nightmare into its iconic status.  Even those who have never seen Nightmare know who Freddy is and why they should be scared of him (despite the fact that Freddy was only on screen for about 7 minutes total throughout the entire movie)!

All of that being said, I am about to say something that I realize might cause my horror credibility to be decreased in the eyes of some horror fans....I do not find A Nightmare on Elm Street to be as amazing as everyone says it is.  I think that it is a good movie.  I enjoy it.  And I get why it is so important and the impact that it had on the genre.  But, when I hear most people talk about how absolutely amazing it is, I see things in a slightly different light.

Wes Craven has definitely had an impact on the horror genre and Nightmare helped to establish, and put twists on, some of the tropes of horror.  But, part of the reason for my differing view is that I did not see Nightmare when I was young.  The first time that I saw it was about 5 years ago.  By that time, I had seen so many other horror movies and had been analyzing movies for a while.  So, rather than being terrified by the thought of something killing me in my sleep, I viewed it too analytically.  Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy the movie.  There were definitely some scenes that were creepy.  The underlying horror aspect of not being able to escape or defeat the monster chasing you is definitely terrifying.  And, again, I get why it was so important.  But, when it comes to the overall experience of the movie, it does not quite measure up to the decades of hype.

The musical score definitely had a lot of the characteristics that play on creepiness and uneasiness, setting the stage for haunting and terrifying scenes.  However, the music is a bit too pervasive.  Rather than setting the tone and then leaving you at the height of tension, it is almost like you get used to the music and forget that it is supposed to be creeping you out.  I know that a lot of horror movies in the 80s relied very heavily on the music (especially one musical theme) to set the stage.  But, having seen several movies recently where the horror of the music is more subtle, the score for Nightmare felt a little too constant.

There are the standard horror tropes:  the first girl who dies is the one who just had sex, hearing a strange noise and going outside to investigate it, going "here, kitty kitty" when investigating the noise, and so on.  However, what sets Nightmare aside is definitely the fact that Freddy is the embodiment of an inescapable fear.  The idea of something being able to kill you in your dreams is definitely horrifying.  How do you escape it?  How do you defeat it?  Just trying to avoid it is part of what makes your life hell.  If you go to sleep, you die.  But, if you don't go to sleep, you are in a constant state of exhausted fear.  Most people feel safe at home and safe when they sleep.  So, taking one of the times that you feel the most relaxed (and the most vulnerable) and turning it into where you die...that can definitely have some psychological impacts.  This is especially true for the scene in the bathtub.  That is one of the most terrifying scenes for me because the the character is the most vulnerable in the entire movie during that scene.  She is naked with nowhere to go.

While the idea behind Freddy is absolutely terrifying, sometimes the execution is lacking for me.  Part of the fun and the horror of Freddy is the cat and mouse game that he plays with his victims.  But, for most of the movie, I feel like there is too much mouse with not enough cat.  When you first see Freddy, the elongated arms are pretty creepy because it is subtle enough that you are not sure if it is just your mind playing tricks on you or if it is an unnatural ability.  But for the most part, it feels like there isn't enough of the terrifying cat, and then a sudden kill.  Rather than like most movies that have too much buildup with no real payoff, I feel like Nightmare doesn't have enough buildup.

Rating and Recommendation:  After watching it again, I still only would give A Nightmare on Elm Street 3.5/5.  I like it.  I understand why it is so important.  There are some things that are done very well.  But, it just does not blow me away.  I want to like it more than I do, I really do.  I want to think that it is more amazing than it is.  But, I just do not find it as amazing as other people do.  There are things about it that are definitely creepy.  The overall theme of not being safe in your own home or when asleep, and not being able to escape something chasing you, that is absolutely terrifying.  But, overall, I feel as though the conceptualization is much better than the execution.  Nightmare is a classic and an icon in the horror genre, so it is certainly a must see.  But, the legacy of the movie is better than the actual movie itself.

There is a lot more that I could say about Nightmare, and in greater depth, but I will either save that for other posts about specific aspects, or I will address it on The Monster Pod.


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: Curse of the Swamp Creatue

Curse of the Swamp Creature (1966)
not rated

Curse of the Swamp Creature is about a mad scientist performing experiments on people in an attempt to create a more evolved creature to do his bidding.  The doctor also has a swimming pool full of alligators where he disposes of the failed experimental creatures.

If the brief synopsis and cover picture are not telling enough, this is an absolutely terrible movie.  But, the question is "what kind of terrible is it?"  Is it the kind of terrible that is almost painful to watch?  Is it the kind of terrible that is so bad it's good?  Is it the kind of terrible that you have such low expectations that you actually end up being pleasantly surprised by it?

From the very beginning, Curse of the Swamp Creature is pretty fantastically terrible.  There is incredibly cheesy acting, poor video quality, minor voodoo subplot, loose plot, loose transitions, and skinny mad scientist with a deep "ominous" voice.  However, because all of this terribleness is captured in the mid 60s, there is something endearing about it.  Each decade has it's own brand of terrible movies, but there is just something about late 60s/early 70s terrible movies that just makes them so much more fun than recent terrible movies.

While there is the endearing aspect of 60s B-movies, that is not the final verdict.  This movie is called Curse of the Swamp Creature, but until the very end of the movie, you really only ever see the hand of the creature (with good reason...that costume is comically terrible).  Even the dead, rejected experiments are thrown into the gator pit wrapped in a white sheet so that you do not see them.  If there had been more cheesy horror, it might have been worth multiple viewings.  But, as it is, this movie feels like it is all set-up without any payoff.  There is a sense that this movie would be more on the horror side, as opposed to the sci-fi side of things, but there are still a lot of classic sci-fi aspects.  This movie is somewhere between horror and sci-fi, but without ever really fitting into either.  There are some movies that are able to walk that balance in a way that breaks down genre walls.  However, this is not one of those movies.  

Rating and Recommendation:  1.5/5.  Curse of the Swamp Creature started out with an abundance of (terrible) potential, but it never really went anywhere.  There is over an hour of act one and then about 15 minutes total of acts two through five.  For the general audience, this one is a definite pass.  However, there is a caveat.  I watched a lot of Mystery Science Theater 3000 growing up, so I have a fondness for terrible movies.  There is something that can be a lot of fun about terrible movies, especially when watching with friends with whom you can joke throughout the movie.  So, if you are like me and enjoy riffing movies, then this one is worth adding to a riff list.  Definitely not worth spending money on - but you can find the entire movie (at the time of this review, at least) on YouTube.


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: Proteus

Proteus (1995)
R

Proteus is about a group of drug smugglers who board an oil rig after their yacht explodes.  Once on the oil rig, they discover that it is a secret base of horrifying experiments.

Proteus is a terrible B-movie and that is made abundantly clear within the first 3 minutes.  Terrible acting.  Horrible sound mixing.  Plot holes.  Scenes jump around without segue or explanation.  Characters know how to do things without any logical explanation for their knowledge.  There are scenes that are obviously rip-offs of other movies (specifically, the mess-hall scene from Alien).  Inconsistent physics of when/how people get hurt.  Pretty much all of the things that you would expect from a crappy monster B-movie from the mid-90s.  The movie is so bad that it is almost funny enough on its own.  Almost.  But, it is primarily the kind of movie that you need to watch with friends so that you can riff it.

Outside of the ridiculous factor, it's actually not a completely horrible movie.  Obviously, there are so many things that make it atrocious.  However, at its core, it's a fun little monster movie on a remote island - in this case, the island just happens to be an oil rig.  It's just hard to get past all of the faults and truly enjoy it as a good movie.  All of that being said, if you can get past some of the initial things that make this movie hard to watch, it starts just being ridiculous in a fun way.  One of my favorite lines from the movie:  "maybe after you blew it up it crawled into the ventilation system and died."  My other favorite line:  "you're a f***ing fish with a drug habit!"

Rating and Recommendation:  2/5.  Taking everything into account, it actually ended up being a better B-movie, sci-fi, monster flick than what I initially expected.  You just have to get past the horrible (horrible) first half.  I think that it works best as riffing fodder, but there are times when it is enjoyable in it's own right.  Not worth buying.  Not especially worth seeking out.  But, if you are with friends and one of them suggests you watch it, it won't be the worst decision of your life.  Just make sure that they are ok with jokes being made during the movie.


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle

Friday, October 23, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: Darkroom

Darkroom (2013)
R
Netflix instant

Darkroom is about a young woman, Michelle (Kaylee DeFer), who takes a job that is referred to her by her counselor and is subsequently kidnapped and trapped in a mansion where a disturbed family "purges" her of her sins.

Darkroom feels like a pseudo-Saw meets House of Whipcord style movie.  It is a standard "torture young women for being evil," similar to the kind that were prevalent in the 70s and 80s.  While many movies of this type that came out in the 70s were notable due to their shock value, Darkroom did not live up to the standards of its inspiration.  You would think that a hyper-religious family torturing women for sexual impurity would have more scenes of gore or shock value.  However, for the vast majority of Darkroom, I was just bored.

It starts out with non-linear storytelling, but it feels more like scattered ramblings than intentional decisions.  There is a minor character that is introduced and killed almost instantly.  If the character had been kept around, hearing her tortured could have had a much stronger psychological impact on Michelle.  That character is not the only one that dies quickly.  If the family is killing off the women so quickly, rather than torturing them with the delusion of "purging" their sins, then why even bother kidnapping them and going through some of the ritual?

Darkroom has a very small cast, so there might have been limitations to what they thought they could do.  But, they could have done so much more with what they had available!  There was nothing about any of the characters that made them relatable or likeable.  There were times when I thought that the characters approached likeability, but then they quickly did something that made me say "nope...still don't care at all about what happens to them."

Rating and Recommendation:  1.5/5.  Pass.  There wasn't anything that I especially hated about Darkroom...I was just bored by it.  I think that there was potential for it to be pretty interesting, but they went in the wrong direction.  If the story had followed the family and the trauma that they experienced, then that could have been pretty interesting.  It also could have made at least one of the characters relatable.  The movie starts with the delusion of the youngest brother and it ends with old home footage of the family being happy and playing in the courtyard of the mansion.  If they had just focused on the youngest brother, they might have actually made him an interesting character.  As it is, everything jumped around and was too disjointed.  There was no heart anywhere in the movie to make me care about anything that was happening to any of them.


Be sure  to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Monster Pod - podcast

image by Sylent-Anpu-Phantom
Along with watching and reviewing horror movies on a (mostly) nightly basis, I also started working on a horror podcast called The Monster Pod with my friends Lucas (of New Monster Project) and Tim (of Mass Listeria).  We have our first episode posted (in which we talk about Halloween, what actually scares us, and some in-depth conversation about the differences between Carpenter's and Zombie's Halloween) and we have plans for plenty more!  If you've been enjoying my reviews, give The Monster Pod a listen.

Warning:  There is adult language in the podcast.  Of course, if you watch a lot of horror movies, you are probably ok with occasional swearing and adult content.


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month.  And be sure to check back on The Monster Pod at themonsterpod.blogspot.com for more in-depth conversations about horror.



- The Gargyle


Music by Bensound



Halloween Movie Month: Re-Animator

Re-Animator (1985)
unrated
Netflix instant

Re-Animator is about a medical student, Herbert West (played by Jeffrey Combs) who is fascinated (if not obsessed) with finding the scientific answer to re-animating dead tissue.  West believes that he has found the correct formula for a serum to bring the dead back to life, but there are still a few kinks to work out.

I hate to admit it, but this is the first time that I have ever seen Re-Animator.  Aside from knowing that it is a cult classic, the setting, tone, acting, etc. have a cult-classic feel right from the beginning.  It does not take long for there to be gore, mad scientists, and exploding body parts.  While the effects and acting were pretty cheesy, there is just something about movies from the 70s and 80s that feel so much more real.  Maybe "real" isn't the best word...but, at least more genuine.  Even when doing a schlocky comedy horror, the actors still portray the roles with conviction.

Re-Animator is one of those movies that knows the horror tropes, when to use them, when to give a new take on them, and how to do them appropriately.  For example, most horror movies have the "here kitty, kitty" bit where there is a strange noise and the characters go out in search of the source of the noise, hoping that it was just a cat in the alley.  In Re-Animator, there is still a "here kitty, kitty" scene, but it is when they are actually looking for the cat because they realize that they have not heard from it in a while.  It's just a nice little twist that a lack of noise is what prompted the scene, rather than a startling noise.

Another thing that I love about this movie is that it is a horror comedy that actually gets the horror aspect and the comedy aspects right.  The music, though repetitive, does well at setting the appropriately creepy mood.  There are plenty of gory, gruesome, creepy scenes.  But, amidst those scenes, there is very dry humor.  The humor is done well in that it gets me to laugh (at the very least, chuckle) without completely breaking away from the scene.  Too many horror comedies make the mistake of either focusing too much on one aspect while the other withers, or having the horror and comedy completely separate from each other.

The plot is not really anything new - bringing back the dead and the search for immortality.  While the general plot might be familiar, it is done very well and I actually care about the characters.  Also, the two main characters are actually complex.  Rather than just being straightforward "good guys," they each have their flaws and their moments of compassion.  This movie has a similar type of fright as a classic sci-fi mad scientist, but with the "horror" factor of mortality and what it means to actually be alive.  I especially appreciated the way in which people who were brought back from the dead were presented as being more animalistic monsters.  Is this because there is no soul to keep things in check?  Is it just the reanimation of the biological drives?  Or would bringing someone back from the dead bring their soul back too?  While watching Re-Animator, I found myself thinking about what it is to be human and what it means to be truly alive.  I pondered why the search for immortality leads to so many problems.  While it might not have necessarily been the intention of the movie bring up these questions, I think that there is great potential for very interesting conversations brought up by the movie (but outside of just talking about the film).

Rating and Recommendation:  4/5.  I absolutely loved this movie!!  I am not necessarily saying that the quality of the movie is better than other movies that I have seen, but I am saying that Re-Animator delivered in pretty much all of the ways that I wanted it to.  It is exactly what a cult classic should be!  It had its shortcomings, but overall it was incredibly enjoyable to watch.  This one is absolutely a must see!  It is currently available on Netflix instant, but I enjoyed it enough that I will still probably buy a copy to add to my personal library.  It should be noted that there is gore, swearing, nudity, and plenty of other things that make this movie exceedingly not suitable for kids.


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: Leprechaun

Leprechaun (1993)
R

Leprechaun is about a family that moves to a cabin in a small town in North Dakota.  While fixing up the cabin with some local help, they unwittingly release a leprechaun (played by Warwick Davis) trapped in the basement that goes on a murderous quest to get back his pot of gold.

There were so many things that made this movie so terrible.  The movie starts off with a portrayal of leprechauns that is so overly stereotyped that I halfway expected Warwick Davis to say "they'll never get me lucky charms!"  In fact, the movie has several bad Irish stereotypes.  I think that this is especially annoying because around St. Patty's day, I get sick of hearing everyone do horrible fake Irish accents all day.  There is no explanation to some of the things that happen and the characters all make so many terrible decisions.  Some of the deaths are just ridiculous (the leprechaun kills one person by jumping on them repeatedly with a pogo-stick).  The "romance" between the jock and the flirt all takes place in the span of about a day.  However, in re-watching it, there is something that I did not catch the first time I saw it...

Leprechaun was essentially a "cabin in the woods" movie.  I didn't realize it when I was younger because I had not seen that many horror movies at the time.  But, going back and re-watching it, I realized that it hits all the notes of a standard cabin in the woods.  First of all, the house that the family buys is a cabin that is, essentially, in the woods (not quite as remote as most cabin movies).  Secondly, the cast of characters includes the jock, the flirt, the virgin, and the stoner.  My favorite thing about the "stoner" character is that it is portrayed by a kid.  The kid does not actually do drugs, but his character is definitely that of the stoner.  Thirdly, the monster is released when someone finds something in the basement that summons the character and only something very specific can defeat the monster.

Rating and Recommendation:  In terms of quality, Leprechaun is pushing it to get a 2/5.  It's not quite to the point of being "so bad it's good," but it's almost there.  It is comically bad.  The type of movie that needs to be on Comedy Central during October (and probably March too).  But, it's not quite to the point of being so amazingly bad that it is an essential "must see" (like Troll 2).  There is no actual merit to the film in terms of acting, special effects, plot, or really any other aspect that is part of a good movie.  I think that it was intentionally supposed to be more on the comedic side of bad (at least, with some scenes, I hope that is what they were going for) - but, it's not like I was laughing out loud at any particular scene.  Despite all of that, it is still enjoyable to watch, especially when watching it with friends who can add to the humor by riffing it, or by watching it with people who love horror and can deconstruct the cabin in the woods aspect of Leprechaun.  


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: Twixt

Twixt (2011)
R
Netflix instant

Twixt is about a faltering author (Val Kilmer) who is stuck in a rut and looking for inspiration for his next book. While on a book tour promoting his current book, one of his stops is a small town where he becomes embroiled in a murder mystery and a sinister history of the town.

Twixt starts with shots of the town and narration giving some of the history that has the town enveloped in ghost stories - a serial killing, a haunted bell tower, devil-worshiping teenagers, a haunted hotel, and so on.  I really enjoyed the opening sequence because I think that the narration helped to give the story more of a classic horror feel.  Of course, it helped that the narrator was Tom Waits.

Following the opening sequence, I was mostly disappointed in the movie.  It is described on Netflix as a "gothic horror" directed by Francis Ford Coppola.  From that alone, the movie should have been amazing.  However, it failed to impress me.  There were a few scenes that I really enjoyed:  Val Kilmer drinking and writing in his hotel room was amusing, the use of color in the "dream" sequences was interesting, and there are a couple scenes that were genuinely creepy and extremely well executed.  But, outside of those scenes, the overall movie was underwhelming.

I think that one of the things that was most frustrating was that Coppola could have done so much more with it to make it a stand-out gothic horror in the midst of modern gore.  There were a lot of the right elements and it was being told in a way that was definitely unique, but I never really felt like those elements went anywhere or were fully actualized.  All that being said, that might have actually been part of the point.  The story is about an author that keeps writing the same type of story over and over again.  So, maybe the setting (and the horror tropes that were never fully actualized) was there to help solidify the tone of outplayed stereotypes??

I think that one of the biggest problems was that I went into Twixt under the impression that it was a horror movie.  Wanting (and expecting) horror, Twixt did not quite satisfy my needs.  It felt more like a slightly offbeat comedy that drew heavily from literary inspiration with a dash of horror.  If I was doing an Art House month, I think that I actually would have enjoyed it a lot more.  Overall, it was not a bad movie - it just was not an appropriate movie to help set the mood for Halloween.  After watching the movie, I did a little (admittedly, very little) research into it.  Having done so, I have more of an appreciation for some of the artistic decisions.  But that's just it...it's more of an artistic movie than a horror movie.  That is not to say that horror movies cannot be artistic or that artistic movies cannot be terrifying (The House of the Devil comes immediately to mind - check out my review to see why).  However, I feel as though Twixt stays too far on the artistic side to be a fully enjoyable horror movie.

Rating and Recommendation:  2/5.  For Halloween Movie Month, Twixt is a pass as it will fail to satisfy your horror needs.  However, if you are in the mood for an art house movie with just a dash of horror, Twixt is worth checking out.  It will not be the most amazing movie that you have ever seen, but there will be some aspects that will be enjoyable/analyzable for those of you who study film.  It's all about the expectations and what kind of movie you are in the mood to see.


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Campfire stories

Tonight was a pretty great night.  My wife and I got together with a few of our friends from New Monster Network and we sat around a fire, made s'mores, shared stories and laughter, and watched Rocky Horror Picture Show.  The weather today was absolutely amazing and it was a perfect night to sit around a fire and watch a movie with friends.  Rocky Horror Picture Show is practically a Halloween tradition for me and my wife and we always watch it at least once around Halloween.  But, it is definitely a movie that is more enjoyable when watching it with a group of friends.  I included it a few years ago in my list of countdown recommendations for movies to watch in the last few days leading up to Halloween, and I still think that it's a great one for a fun night in preparation for Halloween.  

Even though it is still almost two weeks until Halloween, tonight served as a snapshot of one of the reasons that I love Halloween so much.  Halloween started out as a night to honor the deceased and to celebrate the living.  Halloween has always been about fun and about connecting with others.  Yes, there are scary stories and costumes and candy.  But, when you think back on your favorite Halloweens, I am willing to bet that you always remember who you were with and not what sweets you had or even what costumes you wore.  And tonight, sitting around a fire, talking those who have passed and new lives that have entered our world, all while Tim Curry sings "Sweet Transvestite"...well, it just really captured a great Halloween night (just a couple weeks early).

So, for any of the movies that I have recommended, invite some friends over and watch it together!  Yes, enjoy the movie.  But, more importantly, enjoy the time with friends and family!  If the weather is nice, go outside and make some s'mores over a fire!  And, if you are able, watch a movie out there too.  It will be an enjoyable and memorable night.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: WolfCop

WolfCop (2014)
not rated
Netflix instant

WolfCop is about a deadbeat, alcoholic cop who is turned into a werewolf who goes up against the forces of evil.  Because, of course he does.

Looking at the cover of WolfCop, and the fact that the name of the freaking movie is WolfCop, I expected things to be absolutely ridiculous and fun all the way through.  With a name like WolfCop, how could there even be a thought of something serious??  When the werewolf cop finally takes on the persona of WolfCop and gets into the action, the movie was a lot of fun to watch!  Unfortunately, it takes about half the movie until it finally gets to a point where I'm having fun.

There were many shortcomings in WolfCop that kept it from being fun right from the start.  Rather than a smart wink and a not to stereotypes of sci-fi, action, supernatural, etc. movies, this feels more like it was written by someone who has never actually seen a movie with the stereotypes they are based on.  There is cursing at weird moments, feeling more like they are throwing it in just to have cursing.  The dialogue is absolutely terrible (that's not really a surprise though).  Any explanation at a plot is so blunt and straightforward without any nuance - it is just lazy writing.  There isn't really any character growth.  There are unexplained character changes, like the uptight brunette who always has her hair up and glasses on who all of a sudden is "cool" with her hair down and glasses off, but no real growth or development.  There were attempts to have twists and surprises, but there were no surprises or big reveals in the actual plot - it was all pretty much what you can guess in the first five minutes.

Of all of these shortcomings, the biggest one was that there was too much time spent on trying to develop a plot, but no real effort to actually develop it well.  A movie like this needs to be just all ridiculous action all the time.  If there is not going to be a well-developed story that makes me care about the characters, then don't slow down the ridiculous action with a pointless story.  They could have easily spent 10 minutes setting up the story and then the next hour with WolfCop doing crazy WolfCop things.

As much as I hated the first half of the movie, the second half was an absolute blast!  The dialogue went from annoyingly inane to enjoyably ridiculous.  The scenes of WolfCop taking out the bad guys did not hold much back or leave much to the imagination.  There is a sex scene while WolfCop is still Wolf..Cop.  The second half of the movie was everything that I expected the entire movie to be.

Rating and Recommendation:  3/5, primarily because of the second half of the movie.  Overall, WolfCop wasn't terrible.  In fact, it was a lot of fun once it got to the fun.  However, any attempt at a story was incredibly weak and the "story" was the biggest thing slowing down the fun.  It needed to either be all ridiculous, or actually well-developed.  The movie itself was just like the main character.  While there is an attempt at a story, it is disappointing and generally a chore to be around.  However, once it changes over to WolfCop, break out the liquor and the donuts, cause it's a party!  Overall, I enjoyed it enough to watch it again.  However, any repeated viewings will start about halfway through, when all of the fun starts.  And that's my recommendation.  Start the movie at 34:35.  That will give you enough explanation as to what has happened and what is going to happen in the movie.  If you just want to watch from when the fun starts, start at 39:46 (right before he changes into WolfCop).

Side note:  There is a store in the movie called "liquor donuts."  Only in Canada...


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: The Monkey's Paw

The Monkey's Paw (2013)
not rated
Netflix instant

The Monkey's Paw is based on a short story of the same name, in which the possessor of the monkey's paw is granted three wishes, but with dark and twisted consequences.  Specifically (spoilers), when Jake's friend Cobb dies in a car wreck, Jake wishes that Cobb was still alive.  Cobb does come back to life, but it is more of just a reanimated shell of a human as Cobb returns with no soul.

The Monkey's Paw is loosely based on the original story and is even referenced in the a story that is told to explain how a character came to be in possession of the cursed totem.  In the original story, a young man dies during war and the parents wish that their son was still alive.  The son does come back to life, but it is still the same broken, mangled body that was left after the damage of war.  The grotesque figure was no longer at rest, but in constant agony.  I remember seeing a stage production of The Monkey's Paw when I was in middle school.  At the time, I remember thinking that the story was terrifying!  The main reason that I found it so terrifying and intriguing was because they never actually showed the son's reanimated body.  There were sounds and shadows to help set the scene, but my mind had to fill in the blanks.  In this movie, Cobb returns mostly intact (at least, physically).  While he still returns as a monster, the film version has the monstrosity on the inside, rather than the outside.  Sometimes, this can work very well as it drums up more fears about the monster inside.  However, I think that it fell short in this movie.  Since I remembered what my mind created when I pictured the grotesque, disfigured body in the stage production, the movie failed to live up to my early imagination.

Another reason that I think having the monster on the inside did not quite work was because the protagonist of the film is Jake, a co-worker and friend of Cobb.  While there is nothing inherently wrong about a friend/co-worker relationship being the primary relationship, Jake was not exactly the most lovable character.  In fact, he was kind of a tool.  Since he did a few things early on that made him less likable, it was hard for me to root for him as the movie went on.  Cobb, on the other hand, showed complexity early on (albeit through very stereotypical plot devices).  Most of Cobb's actions (even after returning from the dead) were driven by a desire to have a closer relationship with his son.  If the movie had focused more on that angle and had the son wishing for his father to return, I think that the story could have gone in a much better direction.  Cobb works very well as the antagonist, but the rest of the acting fell very flat.

I remembered The Monkey's Paw being much more psychological, which is part of why I enjoy it.  The Monkey's Paw disregarded much of the psychological aspects that made the original story so fascinating and, instead, focused on more of a slasher theme.  That was the biggest downfall of this movie.  Rather than going in depth with the characters and the philosophical implications of being able to receive whatever you wish for, and the inability to ever receive what you think it is you will receive, this movie included too many aspects that felt like they were just there to fill up time in the movie.  Also, the ending of the film was neither surprising, nor satisfying.

Rating and Recommendation:  2/5.  Like so many movies that I have been watching lately, I really do think that this one had potential and could have easily been much better.  But, there were just too many pieces that fell too flat for me.  The Monkey's Paw was always about psychological and existential torture/consequences.  At times, this movie approached the psychological, but the potential was never actualized.  Stephen Lang's performance as Cobb was enjoyable and was one of the only things that made this movie worth watching.  However, outside of his performance, nothing about the movie was able to live up to my early experiences with the story.  If you do not have any experiences with the short story, then The Monkey's Paw is worth checking out, just to see Lang's portrayal of what would happen to someone if they no longer had a soul.  However, if you have a fondness for the original story, this is definitely a pass as it will most likely not meet your expectations.


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: Frogs

Frogs (1972)
PG

Frogs is about a freelance photographer (Sam Elliot) doing a photojournalism piece on pollution of a lake.  In the middle of the lake is the island estate of a disabled millionaire, who cares little for nature and is the source of most of the pollution.  In the days leading up to the millionaire's birthday celebration, the animals start taking revenge for the destruction of nature.

Aside from the overwhelmingly blunt message of "if you pollute, you are evil!!", this movie actually had a decent amount of heart.  Maybe it's because it was a small cast and just about everyone (except for Sam Elliot) was family.  Since it takes place in the day leading up to the millionaire's birthday, you get to see some of the family interactions, allowing for more of an opportunity to sympathize with (or just despise) them.

Even though seeing the family in a variety of situations allows you to form a closer connection with them, that also works against the movie.  I get that the family is using too much pesticides and has been killing too many animals (some through dumping of chemicals and some through hunting for sport), but the family is never really shown as being quite evil enough.  Things are shown too quickly, in terms of the actual plot of the animals taking revenge.  Rather than actually showing the family do some of the terrible things, the audience is just told about them.  The only reason that the audience knows that these people are the antagonists is because we are told that they have been too bad to the environment.  While most of the family "deserves" what they have coming to them (again, based primarily on the audience being told that the family deserves it, rather than showing their more heinous acts), there is one old woman who does not seem like she is doing any damage other than just enjoying catching butterflies - and she has probably the most torturous death of the entire movie.

While the family is an ambiguous and underdeveloped antagonist (yes, even though the millionaire grandfather is the primary antagonist, the entire family has played some part in the destruction of the environment), Sam Elliot is very clearly the protagonist and I think that he is a major factor in giving the movie heart.  Sam Elliot (probably most notably known for his role as Virgil Earp in Tombstone, though he has an extensive resume) plays the same good-hearted cowboy (though, this time without the hat) that he plays so well.  He was one of my favorite things about the movie and his acting kept the movie from straying too far into the horribly cheesy territory.  My biggest complaint about his performance is that he did not have a mustache.  This is the first time that I have ever seen him without a mustache, and it was weird.

Rating and Recommendation:  2/5.  Frogs was fairly standard cult, B-movie fare.  There was some good:  some things about it were endearingly tropey and/or cheesy, Sam Elliot proves that his cool, collected, cowboy persona were cultivated at an early age, and there is a message with heart (that is overwhelmingly hitting you over the head).  There was some bad:  we are told how we are supposed to feel about the characters rather than being shown actual evidence, too much footage is used setting the physical setting rather than the emotional tone, and even though the movie is called frogs, they are never actually shown doing any of the killing.  But there wasn't anything especially amazing about the good that makes it a must see, nor was there anything especially terrible that makes it an instant pass.  It was enjoyable enough and I would be willing to watch it again, but I also won't lose sleep at night if I was told that I would never be able to see it again.  If someone took the time to re-edit the movie and cut out a lot of the pointless B-roll of frogs and only show scenes that actually show us anything about the characters, I think that it would actually make a pretty interesting and enjoyable episode of something like Twilight Zone or Outer Limits.  But, as it is, Frogs falls short and lands itself in "pass" territory.


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle

Monday, October 12, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: Escape from Tomorrow

Escape from Tomorrow (2013)
not rated
Netflix instant

Escape from Tomorrow is about a family that takes their two young children to "the happiest place on Earth."  While on their vacation, the father finds out that he has lost his job, he becomes increasingly irritated at his wife, and he becomes entangled in his own fantasies about two girls/young women also at the theme park.  The "happiest place on Earth" starts to become the most paranoid place on Earth as the father loses his grip on reality.

The music and setting starts out feeling very much like the beginning of a Disney movie.  That feeling does not last long, as someone gets decapitated on a roller coaster.  It is not excessively gruesome, but you do see the head come off and it is definitely not expected!  I do not know how intentional it was, but I like the symbolism of the guy at the beginning of the movie representing how the main character "loses his head" at Disney.

Some of the things that happen while they are on rides start looking creepy to the dude and the film being in black and white adds to the creepy feel.  Some of the effects that are done are very simple, but they still work in setting the creepy tone.  Plus, the music does a good job of setting the appropriate tone throughout the film.

There is a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie saying that Disney had nothing to do with the making of the film.  I wonder how much of what they filmed was done with permission, how much of it was replicated, and how much of it was filmed illegally.  Some scenes are obviously filmed in front of a green screen, but there are other scenes that look like they were actually filmed at the park.  Even though the disclaimer at the beginning says that it is a work of fiction, the book that I use to teach my abnormal psychology course has a story about a guy who does go through a psychotic episode at Disney.

Along with the implications of the guy following the young women/girls and nudity, there is also a weird sex scene.  There isn't actually any nudity during the scene, but the woman is wearing a necklace and the necklace keeps hitting the guy in the face.  The sex scene takes place after there have been several scenes showing his declining grip on reality, so I do question whether or not the sex actually took place or if it was just in his head.

Rating and Recommendation:  2.5/5.  Worth checking out, but you won't be missing too much if you pass.  Escape from Tomorrow is ambitious and, at times, it works very well.  However, sometimes the ambition outweighs the execution, leaving the film feeling unfinished and not fully thought out.  I really like how things started out and I thought that it had a lot of potential to be a really cool indie movie about a guy slowly losing his mind.  But, towards the end of the film, they started throwing too much into it.  "He's crazy.  No, it's the flu.  No, it's a secret Disney plot.  No, she's a witch.  No, it's like the Shining..."  If they had just stuck with one thing, it could have been really awesome.  Or, if they had just made things a little more clear, it could have worked.  I did find it to have some very interesting aspects and I would be interested in watching it again with a group of friends so that we could have a more in-depth discussion about it afterwards.  But, I don't know if I necessarily see myself watching it on my own again anytime in the near future.  If just a few things had been different, I would say that this one is definitely worth checking out.  But, unfortunately this falls short of being a must see.


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: Ghoulies go to College

Ghoulies go to College (a.k.a. Ghoulies III) (1991)
R

The ancient toilet demons return, this time brought to life by a college dean.  Of course, the ghoulies are brought back during college prank week, so all of their shenanigans are believed to be the result of campus fraternities.

I have not seen the first two Ghoulies movies, so I have nothing to compare this one to.  However, I do know that it is about demonic creatures that come from the toilet, so I had a decent idea of what I was getting myself into.  However, just because I knew what I was getting into, that does not necessarily mean that I enjoyed it.

There really isn't much to say about Ghoulies go to College.  The entire movie is a schlocky, pun-filled, early 90s college movie with slapstick humor, sound effects that are worse than a cartoon, swearing, nudity, and cheesy acting.  The Ghoulies movies came out around the same time as Critters and Gremlins, with the sequels all coming out around the same time as well.  I really enjoy Critters  and Gremlins, so I was hoping that Ghoulies would be just as fun.  Instead, it feels like someone said "I want a Gremlins knock-off, but with none of the heart.  And poop jokes.  More poop jokes.  Nope...still more poop jokes."

Rating and Recommendation:  1.5/5.  Ghoulies go to College was pretty stupid, but with just enough bits to where I can see how some people would consider it a cult film.  Since I hadn't seen the first two Ghoulies movies, I did not have any sort of connection to, or fondness of, the characters.  Maybe if I had seen them when I was younger and all the "cool" jokes were poop jokes, I might have enjoyed it more.  As it is, I think that it could be a lot of fun for watching a really stupid movie with some friends, but other than that you can easily pass this one without really missing anything. 


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: Hellgate

Hellgate (1989)
R

Hellgate starts with a group of college students in a cabin outside of town (not quite a "cabin in the woods") who are telling ghost stories to each other.  One of the stories told is a local legend about a girl who was killed by a motorcycle gang.  The girl is the daughter of the owner of a ghost town tourist stop.  The grieving father comes to poses a magical crystal that can bring things back to life, the power of which also fuels his lust for vengeance.

Hellgate is a terrible movie, but it is the kind of terrible that is a lot of fun to watch.  There are ghost stories, a cabin in the woods, supernatural forces, the dead being raised, bikers, a demon fish created by the crystal, zombies, possessions.  It is like they took all of the possible horror movies and turned it into a game to see how many they could cram into one.  At times, all of the pieces actually almost work together.  At other times, it just feels like there are too many things going on at once without any focus.

Along with being a goulash of horror genres, there are also some very awkward sex scenes (and suggestive scenes).  Before the girl is killed by the biker gang, they are accosting her in a diner.  The cook comes out and shoots a shotgun to get them to leave, but does nothing to try to stop them from taking the girl.  Apparently he was fine with whatever they were going to do to her, he just didn't want them doing it in his diner.  A girl is smoking during sex, but her face (with the cigarette in it) is in the couch.  A girl is naked several times in front of her father.  There were a lot of topless scenes, and almost all of them were just super awkward.

The dialogue is cheesy.  The acting is cheesy.  There are a ton of plot holes and things that do not make sense.  At times there are too many things going on without any clear reason as to why/how they are happening.  But, overall, it was a fun movie.  There is some heart.  There is a slight amount of tension.  There are some gory scenes, including one of the best demon fish I have ever seen.  There is nothing to especially make it stand out or to become an iconic horror movie, but it was a fun little romp leading up to Halloween.  Hellgate hits a lot of the right horror notes (scary music, monsters, things jumping out of the shadows, nudity, etc.), but it doesn't hit any of them out of the park.  It is kind of like a casserole - it has a lot of things that I like and overall it is not horrible, but it could easily get lost among any number of similar items that do the same or similar thing better.

Rating and Recommendation:  2.5/5.  Enjoyable and worth seeing for free.  If you are able to add Hellgate to your queue or catch it somewhere like Hulu, I recommend doing so.  I would not actually spend money on it, but I enjoyed it enough that I would watch it again if given the opportunity.  Reminder - my current rating system is based on how much I enjoyed watching the movie and not necessarily a reflection of the quality of the movie.  The enjoyment level of Hellgate was much higher than the quality level.


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle


Friday, October 9, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: The House of the Devil

The House of the Devil (2009)
R
Netflix instant

The House of the Devil is a relatively simple story.  A college girl answers a babysitting add, but once she gets there, things are not exactly as they might seem.

After watching a few bad horror movies in a row, The House of the Devil was a refreshing change of pace.  The House of the Devil is set somewhere in the late 70s/early 80s, but unlike most current horror films that are set in the past, this one actually feels like it is from the past.  Even the timing, font, and color of the opening and closing credits are done in such a way that I feel like I'm actually watching a classic horror flick from the 80s.  The director (Ti West) is clearly paying homage to 70s/80s horror - and he is actually doing them justice!  West undoubtedly did his homework in film school.

One of the things I loved so much about this movie (and the thing that made it an incredibly horror movie) is the focus on tension, rather than startles and gore.  There is a very slow building tension throughout the movie and, to me, it works!  I have said in many of my previous reviews that part of what separates true horror from the rest is that true horror stays with you long after the movie.  The horror does not come from just a bunch of things jumping out at you from the shadows, but a deeper and much darker force that plays on real fears.  There might be things jumping out at you in a true horror movie, but it is the deeper tone that sets the fear, rather than just the startle.

That deeper fear primarily takes the shape of the fear of the unknown in The House of the Devil.  Having seen a lot of horror movies in the past, there are a plethora of little things that really set the tone.  The dialogue uses foreshadowing heavily.  The camera angles keep you from seeing too far from the characters.  Scenes that take place at night are almost pitch black outside of the immediate area.  There is very minimal use of "scary" music to let you know when to expect something.  There are a lot of subtle musical queues that raise the tension, but at times I did not realize how long the music had been building.  Even down to details like a lamp casting a shadow which looks like someone hanging, this movie is wrought with tension.

While I think that the tension and the attention to detail are part of what make The House of the Devil so amazing, they could also be the very reasons that some people might not enjoy it.  As I've said, this movie does justice to classic horror movies.  But, if someone has not seen many horror movies and does not know some of the tricks and techniques, it will not have the same impact.  Also, if this is a movie that you put on in the background and only somewhat pay attention to, it will not have nearly the same effect in regards to raising the tension.

Rating and Recommendation:  4/5.  This movie is definitely a must see!  If you are a fan of horror, the sense of suspense that builds throughout the film is almost palpable.  You know the Oscar Wilde quote "the suspense is terrible.  I hope it will last!"??  Well, I am going to modify it slightly to describe The House of the Devil - "the suspense is terrible, it's hard to sustain!!!...but in the most satisfying way possible."  Even if you disregard the horror aspect, I think that The House of the Devil is just an incredibly well done movie.  I feel as though West was clearly inspired by the likes of Kubrick and Carpenter, but without feeling like he was just sloppily rehashing their techniques.  The House of the Devil is only available on Netflix instant until 10/15, so be sure to watch it before it goes away!


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle




Thursday, October 8, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: Deadheads

Deadheads (2011)
not rated

Deadheads is about a zombie outbreak, but where two zombies retain most of their humanity...except for the whole being alive thing.  The two zombies team up and go on a road trip so that one of them can win back his love from when he was alive.

Deadheads was described as a horror comedy with romance.  Unfortunately, it failed to live up to any of those descriptions.  The biggest problem was that everything felt too forced.  There was an homage to Dawn of the Dead, but it was a little too on the nose (especially since the cop on the phone was actually talking about Dawn of the Dead).  The comedy was a bit too slapstick and too vulgar.  I certainly don't have anything against vulgar humor, when it is actually humorous.  But, a lot of the "humor" felt too much like "we are being vulgar...isn't that funny?!!?"

The "buddy comedy" angle was forced too quick.  The music was too "comedic" and too persistent. There was not enough to actually show the love story - it felt so empty.  Practically every aspect of the movie took me further out of it, rather than bringing me more into it.  Nothing is actually done to establish any real emotions.  The audience is told what they are supposed to feel, but there is nothing behind it to actually make the audience feel anything.  There was one scene that had some actual emotion, but even that felt too forced and too out of place.

Rating and Recommendation:  2/5.  Like too many of the movies that I have seen recently, it's not that this movie was necessarily horrible...it's just that there was too much potential that was left unfulfilled.  If they had just gone with a romantic comedy, it might have been ok.  As it is, they tried too hard to also make the zombie funny and I do not think that it worked at all.  If they had just spent a little more time on developing any of the various aspects of the movie, it could have been more enjoyable.  As it was, I didn't care about any of the characters.  I wasn't scared.  I didn't laugh.  Essentially, the "horror comedy with romance" was none of those things.  If you want a zombie comedy, just stick with Shaun of the Dead.  Then, watch Shaun of the Dead again.  Seriously, it's awesome.



Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: Dead Within

Dead Within (2014)
not rated
Netflix instant

Dead Within is about a young couple that is living in an isolated cabin after an outbreak (similar to the rage outbreak in 28 Days Later, but a bit more zombie).  There are flashback scenes of the couple prior to the outbreak, but the majority of the movie is focused on the slow descent into madness and paranoia as a result of extreme isolation and fear.

My biggest complaint with Dead Within is that I did not care about the characters.  In order to really care about what happens to the characters, you need to see more of the actual descent into madness.  However, this movie starts out already showing the two main characters as being desperate and crazy.  How do we know that they weren't terrible people to begin with?  How do we know that we should empathize/sympathize with their suffering?  There just wasn't anything that gave me any reason to care about what actually happened to them.  More than an hour into the movie (and it is only 91 minutes long), I still did not care at all about what happened.  The closest that the movie came to actually showing anything to make me care about the characters wasn't until the credits.  At that point, there was no reason to start caring about them.

There was one scene that was pretty creepy, but it was definitely just a startle.  The movie lacked the "horror" aspects of deeper scares that stay with you long after the movie ends.  Also, all of the "scary" scenes lacked originality.  They were the same tired scenes that you see in practically every horror movie.  The lack of originality extended until the very end of the movie.  The end of the movie was treated as a major reveal...except that there was nothing surprising or revealing about it.  The title of the movie (Dead Within), as well as the cover, give away the ending of the movie almost instantly.

Rating and Recommendation:  1.5/5.  This one is definitely a pass.  With such a small cast, this movie actually did have some good potential to draw you into an intimate setting where you care so deeply about the characters that anything that happens to them feels like it is happening to you.  If they had just shown some humanity at the beginning, then you would have been able to see the humanity get stripped away by their isolation and suffering.  They tried to show some of their humanity through flashbacks, but it was not enough to keep me caring about them through the movie.


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: Mr. Jones

Mr. Jones (2013)
Pg-13
Netflix instant

Mr. Jones is about a young couple who goes to the woods so that the husband (Scott) can work on creating a nature documentary.  As the documentary fails to live up to his own expectations, the couple stumbles across the art of a reclusive folk artist, known for his bizarre and somewhat disturbing pieces.  After their unexpected discovery, they start doing a documentary on the artwork, including interviews with others who have come into close contact with Mr. Jones's work and the disturbing impacts that it has had on their lives.

Mr. Jones is shot primarily as a found footage film, with a few scenes that do not really fit into the format of the other footage.  I have seen several found footage films over the last year, and none of them have really impressed me.  So, as soon as I saw that this was a found footage film, I found myself viewing it with a more critical, negative lens.  It is not that I hold found footage films to a higher standard (even though I think that it is more difficult to do a found footage film incredibly well) - it's that I tend to not enjoy found footage films as much, so they generally have to work a lot harder for me to enjoy them.

One of the things that I really do not enjoy about found footage films is why some of the stuff is recorded.  Why do they leave the camera on the entire time?  How are they able to have all of the battery and memory to be able to record as much as they do?  I understand that it is part of telling the story.  But, if I suspend disbelief and view the movie as if it really were actual found footage, then the logic behind things just doesn't make sense.  One of the other things that I really do not like about found footage films is when music is included.  Again, if I suspend disbelief and assume it is real, then who went back and added the music?  It just doesn't make sense!

Despite the general complaints about found footage films, this one actually did do some things right.  Since he was recording a nature documentary at first, it makes sense as to why the camera was just always running.  Some of the scenes add to the tension and the claustrophobia since you only see a few feet in front of the camera.  There were some scenes with good suspense and decent startles, but practically all of the scares in the movie are exactly what you would expect them to be.  However, for a Pg-13 movie, Mr. Jones actually does a good job of creating suspense.  There is no gore, no blood, no nudity (breasts can be seen through a white dress, but no full nudity).

Rating and Recommendation:  2/5.  Overall, there were some things that I liked about Mr. Jones.  There were definitely some major shortcomings and some aspects that could have been explained and/or set up better.  And there wasn't really anything about it that made it stand out as amazing.  But, it entertained me enough.  There were some "artistic" decisions that were made that could have really worked out well, but they ended up falling too short.  Aside from some swearing, a suggestive scene, and breasts that can be seen through a white dress, Mr. Jones is a relatively clean horror movie.  I think that it would be appropriate for a slightly younger crowd (not kids, obviously) or people who enjoy some of the aspects of supernatural thrillers without all of the gore and sex.  I didn't go into Mr. Jones with very high expectations, so it ended up being better than I expected...which means that I enjoyed it a little more than I initially thought I would.  I do not know if I would necessarily choose to watch it again on my own, but I would be willing to watch it again if someone else had it on.  I would also recommend it for someone who is just starting out with watching horror movies and enjoys suspense without excessive gore.  But, for someone looking for some major screams, this one is a pass.


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle

Monday, October 5, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: Scourge

Scourge (2008)
R

Scourge is about an evil parasite that had been imprisoned in a church until the destruction of the church allowed it to escape.  Once it escapes, the Scourge transfers from one host to the next, killing all that it encounters.

The basic premise of The Scourge does not feel that far off from Slither, but with an evil parasite rather than an alien parasite.  The cover of The Scourge even uses similar themes in its imagery as the cover of Slither.  I loved Slither, so I knew that it was going to be hard to measure up to it, but I was hoping that The Scourge was still going to be an enjoyable monster movie.  I was sadly disappointed.

It starts off feeling like a standard SyFy Saturday movie, with aspects such as cheesy acting and humor revolving around bodily functions (i.e. burping and over the top guttural noises).  I tend to enjoy SyFy Saturday movies because they do not take themselves too seriously and just have fun with it.  However, The Scourge forgot to have fun and it forgot to not take itself too seriously.  There are plot holes, unlikable and unrelatable characters, excessive explanation of minor aspects and a lack of explanation of key plot points, and so on.  Some of the visual effects are decent and when there are scenes of skin tearing, it definitely shows the potential of a good, gory monster movie.  But, it never quite lives up to its potential.  Not ridiculous enough to be a "so bad it's good" movie.  Not gory enough to be a Troma film.  Not funny enough to be a horror comedy.  Decent special effects, but nothing that makes it especially noteworthy.  There was a lot of potential for The Scourge to live up to any of the above areas, but it somehow fell short of all of them.

One of the things that took me out of the movie the most was the characters.  Not only did they make horrible decisions (even bad decisions by horror movie standards), but I really did not care about what happened to any of the characters.  If I do not care about any of the characters, I become much less invested in the movie.  Not only did I not care about the characters, I actually started rooting for the evil parasite to just kill everyone off.

Rating and Recommendation:  1.5/5.  This was not the worst movie that I have ever seen.  And there is some potential for fun if watching the movie with friends who like to riff movies.  However, riffing is basically the only reason that I would ever watch this movie again.  Definitely pass.  If you want to watch a parasite movie, just watch Slither instead.  If you want a ridiculous SyFy Saturday movie, go with Sharknado.  If you want a Troma film...well, just pick one at random and you will probably be fine.


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
not rated

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a German expressionist film about a hypnotist (Dr. Caligari) who visits a town fair and sets up his exhibit of a somnambulist (Cesare).  Dr. Caligari also uses Cesare as a tool for murder.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a masterpiece and I am ashamed to say that this is the first time that I have ever seen it.  I have known about the film and it's importance on cinema for quite some time, and I have known that it is almost literally the definition of mise en scene (seriously...look up the definition of "mise en scene" on Wikipedia and you will see a picture of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari).  However, unlike other movies that I have known about for too long without seeing, this one actually does hold up to its own reputation.

Since it is a silent movie, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari relies heavily on the use of music and scenery to set the stage.  Even without reading the dialogue, the music and the set do such an amazing job at setting the scene that you could probably understand everything that is happening.  The angles and the forced perspective of light and dark make the entire film feel like it is something between a stage production and a fantastical dream.  The distorted perspective in the set disorients as the music plays on themes that evoke strong emotions.  I love that a silent movie from the 1920s can still have a psychological impact on viewers today.  The film had such a far reaching impact that I can even see its influence in The Muppet Christmas Carol during scenes with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

Rating and Recommendation.  4.5/5.  There is no question that this film is absolutely a must see, especially for anyone with an interest in film.  There was no gore or any of the tricks used to startle audiences in modern horror, but the setting and the overall tone stay with you long after the film is over.  Like so many other classic horror films, it is the story, the setting, and the power of the mind that gives The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari such a powerful impact.


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle


Friday, October 2, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath (1963)
not rated

Black Sabbath is a collection of three horror stories.  The first story is about a nurse who is haunted after stealing the ring of one of her patients who had recently died.  The second story is about a young woman who receives threatening phone calls from a mysterious man who is watching every move she makes.  The third story is about a family in the 1800s that is being terrorized by a vampire roaming the countryside.

These three stories might not seem very scary from the outset, but each of them found a way to intensify my tension.  Since all three of the stories are relatively short, there isn't really enough time to pack in a lot of scary scenes.  And since one of the things that makes horror work is the anticipation and not knowing what will happen or when, I will not spoil the surprises.  However, I will tell you this:  the first story had a scene that sent shivers down my spine (which hasn't happened in a while), the second story made my wife run to the window and pull the curtain (even though the blinds were already down), and the third story would horrify any parent with a young child.

One of the reasons that I enjoyed Black Sabbath so much was because I love classic horror!  Maybe it's because it feels more like watching theater.  Maybe it's because it relies on more than just gore to be scary.  Maybe it's because it relies more on the use of imagination.  Maybe it's because the music gives it a classier feel.  Maybe it's because there tended to be a heavier emphasis on set pieces and the use of light and shadow.  But, I think that one of the main reasons that I love classic horror is because it takes me back to a time when there was still "the magic of cinema" - back to a time before people felt too jaded about things looking too fake in movies.

Rating and Recommendation:  3.5/5.  For anyone who likes classics and enjoys the history of horror, I definitely recommend Black Sabbath.  If you need blood and guts and nudity in order to enjoy a scary movie, then you might find this one a bit boring.  But, if blood and guts are what you need to enjoy a horror movie, then I think that you are missing the point a bit.  There are plenty of movies that can startle you.  But, what makes horror movies so fantastic is the ability for the movie to stay with you long after the startle.  There wasn't any gore (a little blood), but it still gave me the spooks for a bit.  The first story was more visually creepy.  The second story might have been the "scariest" in terms of not even being able to be safe in your own home.  The third story was more of a classic tale - it wasn't quite as creepy, but it certainly paid homage to Gothic horror that helped set the stage for modern horror.  The stories were all relatively simple.  However, I love that something seemingly so simple could still creep me out and send shivers down my spine.  Again, old movies just have something about them that makes them so much more interesting.  Maybe it's because older movies force you to fill in the gaps with the mind.  Maybe it's because I'm able to put myself in the mindset of someone watching 50 years ago and I watch it through the lens of the magical mystery or movies.  Or maybe it's because I'm not distracted by gore and can actually focus more on the story.  So, step away from the blood for a night and go enjoy a classic!!


Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!



- The Gargyle

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Halloween Movie Month 3: Season of the Reviews

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kimstovring/15486446999

It's that time again.  Time for changing leaves, a chill in the air, campfires, and (of course) Halloween!!  If you are anything like me, then you know that half of the celebration of a holiday is the preparation and anticipation leading up to it.  Everyone celebrates Halloween in their own way and one of the ways that I like to get in the spirit of things (see what I did there??) is with scary movies.  So, with Halloween only 30 short days away from now, it's time for me to kick the dust off of my movie-reviewin' shoes and get to work!  Since we all know that I probably will not actually post a review every single day, my goal for this year is just to watch and review as many Halloween themed movies as possible leading up to Halloween.  Once again, whether a movie is suspense, horror, schlocky, gore, comedy, sci-fi, action, or monster, I will let you know what movies are and are not worth your time as you prepare for Halloween.  So, sit back, grab some popcorn and some candy corn, and get ready for Halloween Movie Month!!

Some of the movies this year will include:
http://irenemartini.deviantart.com/art/Horror-movie-night-340920014

Sleepaway Camp II & III
Black Sabbath
Hellgate
Nightmare on Elm Street I & II
Leprechaun
Tucker and Dale versus Evil
Escape from Tomorrow
Wolf Cop
Re-Animator
Frogs
Mr. Jones
Dead Within
Ghoulies III:  Ghoulies go to College
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Darkroom
Deadheads
(and hopefully many more)



Let me know what movies you'd like me to review and check back often this month for this year's round of Halloween Movie Month.  In the meantime, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews) and look for #HMM (Halloween Movie Month).



- The Gargyle