Archive for Fangoria Movie Friday

AWESOME-tober-fest 2019: Fangoria Movie Friday: Christine

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, books, Fangoria, Genres, Halloween, holiday, horror, magazine, movies, pop culture, Stephen King with tags , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2019 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2019

Every year around Halloween I try to fill in the gaps in my Stephen King reading. I’d read a bunch of his books back in high school and in college, but then I lapsed for a while. So a few years ago I decided around Halloween each year I’d pick up a book I hadn’t read of his and read it for the spooky season. Over the last 10 years or so I’ve read the uncut The Stand, The Talisman, Salem’s Lot, The Shining and Needful Things. This year, I decided to finally read Christine. And since I’m reading the book, I thought I’d watch the movie as well, seeing as how I’d never seen it.

book movie

I was always fascinated by the idea of the story and was eager to dig in. I read the book first. And the book is actually a lot longer than I was expecting. The copy I read had over 500 pages. It’s typical early King, long on setup. But once you get past the halfway mark, things amp up considerably.  But don’t take that as a disparaging remark to the first half.  The fact that King takes the time to set up the concept and we get to live with the characters a little while, it makes the events in the end really affect the reader.  You know and care about the characters, so the horrific events at the end hit you hard. Since King is playing the long game we really get to know Arnie and when the changes start coming you can really see it.  Little events build up to bigger events until it all snowballs in the end to, honestly, catastrophic results.  And I like the motivations and explanations of Christine here in the novel.

I really enjoyed Christine as a horror novel and a King novel.  Is it my favorite?  No, but I’m glad I read it.  The next King book I’m going to tackle will probably be The Dark Half.

So after reading the book, I watched the movie.  Directed by John Carpenter, who was originally supposed to direct an adaptation of King’s Firestarter a few years earlier but it fell through.  After reading the book, I was a bit disappointed with the slightness of the movie.  I get it, it only has like 2 hours to do what King did in 500+ pages, I totally acknowledge that.  Carpenter’s directing is pretty great.  The movie is shot fantastically.  The car looks awesome.  I love the burning car sequence.  It’s just so relentless and horrific looking.  Honestly, I’m a bit disappointed with how the movie answers the motivations of Christine.  It’s different than the book and it just feels so…bleh.  It was evil from the day it was made?  Really?  Huh.  I didn’t love that, but I really liked the kids in the movie and overall I’m happy with how it turned out, but not surprisingly, I prefer the book.

Fangoria did cover Christine a few times.  With several articles.  The movie got a cover story in Fangoria #32 in 1984.

Fango 32 cover Fango 32 article

King’s novel would get a review in Fango’s Nightmare library a few issues earlier, Fangoria #30, in 1983.

Christine novel review 1 Christine novel review 2

It’s a positive review, for the most part, but the author uses so many metaphors it’s tough to really say for sure.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2019: Elvira’s Haunted Hills (2001) movie review

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, Halloween, holiday, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , on October 11, 2019 by Paxton

Fangoria Movie Friday

So, I’m finishing out the first two weeks of Elvira with a review of Elvira’s second movie, Elvira’s Haunted Hills from 2001.

Like Mistress of the Dark, I had never watched this one, so with the surprise of actually liking that first movie, I sat down to watch this one hoping to also like it.

And I didn’t.  It’s more of the same but not done as well.  Elvira is Elvira.  Double entendres abound.  It feels like it wants to be something like Young Frankenstein, or, to be more accurate, Haunted Honeymoon.  But the charisma of the cast (or lack thereof) can’t overcome the poor script and attempts at humor.  I know this was made on a shoestring budget, and it’s lampooning old Vincent Price Poe movies like The Pit and the Pendulum (the poster for which even had the giant swinging blade on it) and The Raven, which I honestly haven’t seen.  But it still didn’t land, meaning mainly the humor.

The sets for this movie were pretty great though.  The giant castle, as a set, worked very well and had lots of cool elements incorporated into the design including a small hidden door in the side of the giant fireplace (sidenote: I love giant stone fireplaces in castles).  And the overall story was actually not that bad, but this movie lives or dies on the humor and the humor just doesn’t work as well in this one as it did in the previous movie.  It was so MEH that I didn’t really have anything I wanted to talk about more in depth by pulling out screen grabs.  It’s just not as fun a movie as I wanted it to be.

I wish it wasn’t so, because I still love the character of Elvira.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2019: Elvira Mistress of the Dark (1988) movie review

Posted in Fangoria, Halloween, holiday, magazine, movies with tags , , , , , , on October 4, 2019 by Paxton

Fangoria Movie Friday

So this week has been all about Elvira.  You’ve seen articles and centerfolds.  Elvira has permeated pop culture especially during the Halloween season.  She has popped up in many random movies as a fun cameo. But there have been two Elvira specific movies released and I have watched neither of them.  So I thought now would be a good time to do that.

Today, for my very first time, I’m taking a look at the first Elvira movie; Elvira Mistress of the Dark from 1988.

movie poster

I can’t believe I’ve never watched this movie. It’s fun, it’s campy. It’s the perfect Elvira movie. Mostly comedy, with some spooky genre elements added in. I had a lot of fun with it.

Let’s take a look at a few highlights from the movie.


Title cards.

on the TV show set
The show opens up with Elvira on the set of her late night TV show. It’s a low budget local station so naturally she wants to get out of there and go to Vegas to become a showgirl.

Anchorwoman
This is an anchorwoman at Elvira’s TV station waiting to go on after Elvira finishes her show. She’s not very nice. She’s played by Tress MacNeille. Tress is sort of a legend in voice over animation work. She does voice work for Simpsons, Futurama, Animaniacs, and SO MANY other shows. Check out her IMDB. It’s insane. But, funnily enough, Tress would voice the character Booberella on The Simpsons which was a parody of Elvira.

A lot of this movie is what actors pop up from other genre pictures.

teens
Here are a few of the teens Elvira befriends in the movie. On the far left, is Ira Heiden, who played Will in Nightmare on Elm Street 3.  To the right of Ira is Kris Kamm who’s been in a ton of TV like Quantum Leap, 21 Jump Street, and Coach.

Kenicky!
Hey, it’s Kenicky! From Grease!

villain!
Here’s the villain, Vincent. He plays this up pretty well. He’s appropriately evil and English.  This guy has also been in a bunch of genre stuff like Star Trek VI: Undiscovered Country, the old Fox TV show Werewolf, the Max Headroom TV series, Needful Things and Michael Bay’s Transformers.

Apple Slice!
Edie McClurg! I love 80s movies for vintage product placement. We get a scene at a town picnic and in it we see a bunch of old soda cans like this Apple Slice as well as a few vintage Diet Pepsi cans.


Elvira finally gets to Vegas at the end and we get to see a whole overblown Vegas number. It’s campy but fun.

This was a fun movie to watch.  Yes, it was campy, but that’s Elvira’s whole shtick.  The movie was entertaining and I enjoyed it.  Glad I finally watched it.

So next week.  I had so much fun doing Elvira this week, that I think I’ll do it again.  So, expect to see another week of Elvira goodness.  I’ll look at more movie and TV appearances as well as a few other surprises.  Come back next week to see what I have in store.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: Cult Film Club Podcast – Trick or Treat (1986)

Posted in Genres, Halloween, holiday, horror, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest banner

That’s right, my friends, Cult Film Club is back. Today we are releasing episode 41 where we talk about the 1986 horror flick, Trick or Treat.

Trick or Treat

We’ve threatened to do this movie before and we thought this Halloween was the perfect time to do it.  The movie stars Family Ties’ Marc Price with cameos by Gene Simmons, Ozzy Ozbourne, and Showbiz Pizza’s Billy Bob (not even joking).  It’s a classic 80s horror movie that is better than you think it is with a rocking soundtrack.

Download the show on iTunes, Stitcher, Google or any of your usual podcasting places.  Or you can listen to it directly right here.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: The Others (2001)

Posted in Genres, ghosts, horror, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , on October 20, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

Today I want to talk about another favorite ghost movie of mine, The Others, from 2001.

It was directed by Alejandro Amenabar and starred Nicole Kidman.  The only other movie I know Amenabar from is Open Your Eyes from 1997 with Penelope Cruz.  It’s the movie Cameron Crowe and Tom Cruise remade into Vanilla Sky which would open the very same year as The Others.

I saw this movie in the theater based mostly on the spooky trailer and Nicole Kidman.  I had no preconceived notions going in on what to expect.

The movie takes place in 1945 in Jersey, a British dependency located in the Channel Islands.  Kidman lives in a remote country home with her two children; Anne and Nicholas.

The children have a rare condition that makes them allergic to sunlight and their father had left to fight in WWII but has not returned.

After three servants take up residence in the house strange things start occuring. The oldest daughter begins talking about seeing a small boy named Victor. Mysterious sounds are heard in abandoned rooms. Doors are left open. Typical ghostly haunted house stuff.

Kidman is not sure if the kids are causing the disturbances, the new servants or some ghostly intruder.  The suspense is really ratcheted up throughout the movie.  Lots of atmosphere.  And the old house is a great part of this whole thing.  It’s huge with all of these abandoned rooms.  You almost feel lost in the house while you are watching it.  There’s so much wood which causes lots of “house noises”.  Kidman’s character opens and closes every door of every room she enters and you get the requisite wood sounds every time.  The house looks and sounds great.  And the “ghostly” events are really spooky.

I’m not going to give away the ending.  I really want you to watch it.  But the atmosphere and tension are really amped up.  Kidman gives a great performance as the mom trapped in an ever increasingly bizarre set of circumstances.  The daughter, Anne, played by Alakina Mann, is pretty great as well.  She needed to work because she’s the one who goes against her mother for most of the movie as she’s the one who’s seen Victor and the “intruders”.  And she brings it 100%.  She’s really great in all her scenes with Kidman.

I rewatched this movie for this review and it still holds up.  Even knowing what the ultimate climax was going to be, I still very much enjoyed the journey the movie took me on to get to its “final resting place”.

Okay, so next week is the final FULL week of AWESOME-tober-fest.  I can’t believe it’s already nearly over.  Usually for this final week I’ll do what I call “Greatest Hits” where I revisit topics from previous AWESOME-tober-fests like vampires, werewolves or movie maniacs.  However, this year, for the 10th anniversary of this countdown, I’ve decided to do something a little different.  For the next week I’ll be doing ALL NEW topics.  Topics that I had planned for their own AWESOME-tober-fest at some point.  I’ll pick one article from five different topics I’ve never done before.  It should be a lot of fun.  I’ll even give you a preview of Monday’s topic.

Awesometoberfest 2017

I’ll see you back here on Monday.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: The Frighteners (1996)

Posted in Genres, ghosts, Halloween, holiday, horror, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

Today I finally get to talk about The Frighteners by Peter Jackson starring Michael J Fox.  I’m trying to remember how I first found out about/watched this movie.  I’m fairly certain I did not see it in the theater as I would have been still in college and this particular movie wouldn’t have got me or my friends into the theater.  Plus, I don’t actually remember it in the theater.

I’m pretty sure I found out about it later. The draw for me would have been Michael J Fox in a horror comedy. I’m also fairly certain this would have been my first exposure to Peter Jackson as well. I probably caught it on DVD sometime in 1998 or 1999.  And I loved it.

The movie is about Frank Bannister, played by Michael J Fox.  He can see ghosts. He uses this ability to fleece money from people as a “psychic investigator”.  However Frank stumbles upon a rash of recent killings that look to be linked to a murder that happened decades earlier and he’ll need to use all of his supernatural skills to solve the murder before he becomes the next victim.

That’s the basic synopsis.  Lots more is going on here.  Let’s take a look at the movie.


Opening title card.


This is the Bradley House. At one time it was Fairwater Hospital/Sanatorium.  It was the site of the Bartlett/Bradley murders.  Now it’s mostly closed and abandoned.  The only people living here are Patricia Bradley and her mother.


As I’ve already mentioned, I’m a big fan of this movie. I want you to know that upfront before I talk about the opening of the movie. The opening is a very exciting set piece within the Bradley house. We see Patricia being chased by a ghost that is materializing within the walls of the house. It’s a fast paced chase with some pretty great effects for 1996.  And Patricia, played by Dee Wallace Stone, seems pretty terrified.  Eventually the ghost materializes under the carpet on the stairs and grabs her just as her mother appears with a shotgun and blows away the part of the carpet where the ghost’s head would be.  It’s a nice, thrilling beginning to the movie.  However, once you get to the climax of the movie, it ultimately makes no sense.  At all.  Even Peter Jackson admits this opening is a cheat.  It’s ostensibly one of the bigger problems with the movie, but honestly it never really bothered me.


Easter Egg Alert!  We learn some backstory about Patricia and her boyfriend, Johnny Bartlett, in a sequence featuring a “real crime” video one of the main characters is watching. This is the cover of the video. The picture of the couple on the left is supposed to be a photo of Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey as their characters in Jackson’s previous movie, Heavenly Creatures.


Patricia’s mother the very next morning after the above opening sequence and she’s sporting a hairdo in what looks to be an unsubtle homage to Gary Oldman in Coppola’s Dracula which was only 4 years before this.


Michael J Fox plays Frank Bannister. A man that has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts.  As I mentioned he uses this ability to con people by working with ghosts to haunt houses so they have to hire him to “exorcise” the ghosts.  Fox is pretty great as the lead.


These are the ghosts that work with Frank; Cyrus and Stuart. Cyrus is a 70s disco gangster and he’s played by the great Chi McBride. Stuart is sort of a nerdy guy played by Jim Fyfe who, to me, is probably best known for hosting/producing those “Buy Me That!” series of PSAs about how commercials use camera trickery to make their products appear more attractive.


This is another ghost working with Frank, “The Judge”. Judge is an Old West gunslinger/sheriff played by John Astin.  He is sort of decrepit, his ectoplasm is drying up, and he has trouble keeping his jawbone in.


Frank starts seeing spectral numbers carved into people’s heads.  At first he thinks his ghost associates did it but we learn they didn’t.


Great cameo by R Lee Ermey as Sgt Hiles. He protects the cemetery and is essentially playing his character from Full Metal Jacket.


Here’s the ghost that Frank is up against. This ghost is killing people by appearing out of the walls and squeezing their hearts until they die.  The Judge calls him the Soul Collector.


Jeffrey Combs is excellent as Special Agent Dammers. Dammers is an expert in parapsychology. His work with cults has rendered him a bit…insane.


At one point The Judge humps a mummy.


“Dr Teeth” Jake Busey plays Johnny Bartlett with much scenery chewing.

Those are just some of the highlights.  Like I said, I quite adore this movie.  Fox is great.  I think, for the most part, the effects are great, especially for 1996.  And it’s got this fun horror-comedy vibe that I just dig.

The movie does pose several questions in the nature of it’s ghosts.  One of the biggest issues I’ve had for years is that the ghost that’s committing the murders is WAY more powerful than ghosts like Stuart and Cyrus.  As a matter of fact, Sgt Hiles also seems way more powerful than Stuart and Cyrus.  Why is there a difference?  Are there different classes of ghosts?  What are the rules?  The movie doesn’t really spell any of that out.  For the most part, this lack of clarity doesn’t really hurt the movie, but those of us that have watched it many times can’t help but wonder what’s up.

I acquired the movie novelization to The Frighteners which is written by Michael Jahn.  I was hoping it would address some of my concerns.  On Monday check out my review of said novelization on a brand new episode of I Read Movies where we’ll see if any of this ghost business is explained.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: Thirt13n Ghosts (2001)

Posted in Genres, ghosts, horror, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest banner

Thirteen Ghosts from 2001 was a remake of a 1960 William Castle movie by the same name.  The remake took the basic story by Robb White and “modernized” it.  It was directed by Steve Beck who only has one other directing credit to his name…Ghost Ship.  From the very next year.  Not a stellar resume, to be sure.

13 Ghosts poster

Back in 2001, I was actually excited to see Thirteen Ghosts (aka Thirt13n Ghosts).  It looked like a cool stylized modern horror movie.  It had an awesome glass walled clockwork house and Shannon Elizabeth.  I had (actually have) quite a crush on Ms Elizabeth.  In 2001, the run up of movies she was in before this included American Pie, Scary Movie, American Pie 2, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.  And she was…well, if not a great actress, she was likable enough.  And she is super attractive.

I remember kind of liking this movie when I saw it in the theater.  It wasn’t the greatest movie I’d ever seen but I remember liking the concept and the world the movie inhabited.

title card
As you can see this movie follows Se7en‘s lead of embedding numbers stylistically into the title.

Cyrus
F Murray Abraham plays Cyrus, a genius/psychotic ghost hunter obsessed with trapping ghosts.  He uses these glasses to actually “see” the ghosts which is a neat little inside joke to the original 13 Ghosts from 1960.  William Castle passed out glasses to audiences which allowed them to “see” ghosts in the theater.

Lillard 1 Lillard 2
Matthew Lillard and his favorite thick sweater (he loves those sweaters – see Scream, right) is in this movie as well playing a psychic that helps Cyrus trap the ghosts.  And also like in Scream, he loves to SHOUT ALL OF HIS LINES.  And yes, he says “Aw, man…” a few times.  Honestly, I’m poking fun at Matthew a bit, but I’m a fan of his.

house 2 house 1
At the center of this movie is Cyrus’ house. It’s designed to exacting specifications as seen in the book The Arcanum. The entire house’s purpose is to hold and store ghosts until it’s time to release them and start up “the machine” that exists in the middle of the house. All the construction materials and inscriptions in the glass are specifically to trap the ghosts inside.


This is Cyrus’ surviving family. Tony Shaloub is Cyrus’ brother-in-law, Shannon Elizabeth is Shaloub’s daughter and the chick on the left is the nanny for the little boy in the movie which I’m not showing you a picture.  They come to inherit the house when Cyrus dies capturing a ghost.

The Jackal ghost
There are 13 types of ghosts needed by Cyrus to pull off what he wants to do. They are referred to as The Black Zodiac.  This ghost is called “The Jackal”. It’s one of the more terrifying ghost designs.  Each of these ghosts were designed by the filmmakers and given complete backstories.  One of the things I love about this movie is how they really thought about the world this movie inhabits and really tried to flesh out some of the backstory even if that backstory would never be seen actually in the movie (see book pages below).  Wish they would have given this type of thought to the actual script.

arcanum page 2 arcanum page 3
Pages from The Arcanum.  It’s in The Arcanum that is described the 13 types of ghosts.  The one on the left is the most powerful ghost called “The Juggernaut”.  The middle one is “The Jackal”.  The ghost on the right is called “The Hammer”.


All 12 ghosts gathered around the device about to open a portal to Hell.

So, watching it again, I feel the same.  The movie isn’t exactly terrible.  There are certain aspects like the house, the ghosts, how the machine works, that I like.  But other things like the script and the majority of the actors are just not very good.  Normally you’d think Tony Shaloub would be great, but he’s not.  He’s not terrible either.  But he’s not good.  And Shannon Elizabeth is barely in the movie.  The ones that get to really chew some scenery are F Murray Abraham and Matthew Lillard.  They get to have all the fun here.  And there’s a great set piece in the opening of the movie where they capture a ghost.  It’s thrilling and action packed.  Wish the rest of the movie could have been the same way.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.