TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: HAPPY 35th ANNIVERSARY to JOHN CARPENTER’S THE FOG (1980)

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JOHN CARPENTER’S THE FOG (1980)

John Carpenter’s The Fog was released on February 8th 1980 and my butt was there in a theater to see it! So, in honor of the 35th anniversary of one of my all-time favorite horror flicks, I am re-posting this look back at Carpenter’s classic!

One of my all time favorite horrors and one of my favorite John Carpenter flicks, in fact, since I was too young to see Halloween when it came out, this was the first Carpenter film I saw in a theater and the flick that started me on my love of his movies.

The Fog tells the story of the 100 year anniversary of the small coastal California town of Antonio Bay and as the town prepares for it’s centennial celebration, a dark secret is revealed. Legend has it a leper colony paid the founders of Antonio Bay a lot of gold to let them settle nearby but, they were betrayed and murdered, as their ship was lured onto the rocks to crash and sink on a fog laden night. All were lost but, now a horde of vengeful spirits returns from the sea, wrapped in a surreal fog, to make the descendants of those who wronged them, pay with their lives.

The Fog focuses not on a main character but, a group of central characters whose individual experiences during this supernatural crisis bring them slowly all together for it’s tense and creepy final act set in the town church. A good cast, including Jamie Lee Curtis as hitchhiker Elizabeth, Tom Atkins as local fisherman Nick, Janet Leigh as centennial chairwoman Kathy Williams and Adrienne Barbeau as single mom and radio DJ Stevie Wayne, give life to this ensemble and make them characters we like and care about so, we fear for them when they are placed in harm’s way. Add to that Hal Holbrook as the town’s alcoholic priest and a host of Carpenter regulars…with even a cameo by Carpenter himself…and you have a film wonderfully filled with a variety of characters who are all potential victims for the marauding phantoms. As for those phantoms, lets not forget to mention the ghostly Captain Blake (FX man Rob Bottin) and his vengeful crew who are portrayed with in-camera practical FX. This makes them quite spooky and gives them a heavy dose of menace and a lot of effectiveness when they are on the attack. There is loads of atmosphere and some very solid scares and suspense created by Carpenter, along with some great cinematography from frequent Carpenter collaborator Dean Cundey, which makes this a good, solid, old-fashioned ghost story and a fun Halloween season treat. Carpenter again delivers a score which adds chills and foreboding to his tale of ghostly revenge, much like he did for Halloween and he starts the film off perfectly with a chillingly fun opening sequence featuring veteran John Houseman as a crusty sailor who likes to tell kids scary stories. It sets the mood for the thrills and chills yet to come. This classic was made back when there was no phoney CGI, just solid make-up effects from master Rob Bottin (who went on to do The Thing’s FX for Carpenter) and some very basic down to earth smoke and mirrors style visuals, that are as beautiful as they are scary. A great flick the likes of which they rarely make anymore and one of MonsterZero NJ’s must-watch flicks during the Halloween season!

The film is available, for the first time, on blu-ray from Scream Factory with all the extras from previous releases plus, an added new commentary track with Barbeau, Atkins and Tommy Lee Wallace and two really fun and informative interviews with Jamie Lee Curtis and Cinematographer Dean Cundey who also supervised the absolutely gorgeous new transfer!

4 spectral sailors!

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES FEBRUARY 6-8

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office!

1.  “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water” $56 Million

2. “American Sniper” $24.2 Million

3. “Jupiter Ascending” $19 Million

4. “Seventh Son” $7.1 Million

5. “Paddington” $5.4 Million

6. “Project Almanac” $5.3 Million

7. “The Imitation Game” $4.9 Million

8. “The Wedding Ringer” $4.8 Million

9. “Black Or White” $4.5 Million

10. “The Boy Next Door” $4.1 Million

source: Box Office Mojo

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10 PERFORMANCES THAT PROVE WOMEN RULED HORROR IN 2014!

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THE TOP 10  PERFORMANCES OF 2014

Woman have always played a role in horror. Whether it be fiendish femme fatales, the damsels of yesteryear or the final girls of the modern era, they have always played a part. As this is Women In Horror Month, I’ve decide to look back at the past year and some very strong roles/performances from the ladies. 2014 was an exemplary year for female horror roles, as there were a lot of very strong performances from actresses in the lead parts of some of the year’s best flicks…and some movies where the performances was the only thing worth watching for. Which to me is solid proof that the ladies ruled horror in 2014!…

(Just click on the banners to go to our reviews of these films!)

#1 Essie Davis in The Babadook

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#2 Karen Gillan in Oculus

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#3 Jill Larson in The Taking Of Deborah Logan

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#4 Alex Essoe in Starry Eyes

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#5 Rose Leslie in Honeymoon

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#6 Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive

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#7 Addison Timlin in The Town That Dreaded Sundown

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#8 Sarah Snook in Jessabelle

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#9 Danielle Harris in See No Evil 2

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#10 Perdita Weeks in As Above, So Below

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HONORABLE MENTION

Manuela Velasco in [REC] 4: Apocalypse

manuela Velasco

source: MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: JOHN WICK and SINBAD: THE FIFTH VOYAGE

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JOHN WICK (2014)

John Wick is just simply a good, solid, popcorn action flick with no other intentions than to blow away bad guys and entertain…and it does that just fine. Keanu Reeves is really good as former assassin and man-of-few-words, John Wick. He retired as one of the most lethal killers in the business and after the death of his wife (Bridget Moynahan), has resigned himself to a life of solitude. When a Russian mobster’s arrogant idiot of a son (Alfie Allen) makes the mistake of invading Wick’s home, stealing his Mustang muscle car and killing the puppy that was a final gift from his wife, Wick is back in business and the body count piles up quickly and bloodily. The action is solid and there is some stylish direction by Chad Stahelski from Derek Kolstad’s script. There are some really well-choreographed shoot-outs and fights and the film does what it sets out to do, nothing more. Sure, there are flaws. The whole John Wick problem would have been solved if one of these gangsters actually took a shot at Wick, instead of rushing in close enough for him to get a hold of their guns, but who cares? Reeves kicks ass and it’s fun to watch him do it. An entertaining and stylish action flick. Also stars, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Willem Dafoe as a fellow assassin/friend of Wick’s and sexy Adrianne Palicki as a female contract killer looking to collect the $2 Million bounty Russian mobster, Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyquist) puts on Wick’s head. Fun and action-packed!

3 star rating

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SINBAD: THE FIFTH VOYAGE (2014)

I’m a big fan of the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad films of yesteryear and so was looking forward to this homage from producer/director/co-writer and star, Shahin Sean Solimon. Despite being a one man production company and having numerous stop-motion animated critters, Solimon’s 90 minute fantasy is a mess of poor SPFX, bad writing, lame directing and awful editing. The barely cohesive story has Sinbad’s beloved Princess Parisa (Danielle Duvale) kidnaped for some sinister purpose by the evil sorcerer, The Deev (Said Faraj). Sinbad and crew set out to find her and after some pointless adventures that barely follow a structured storyline and equally pointless flashbacks, a plot convenience leads Sindad to his love for a final showdown with the sinister magician. There is very little purpose to anything that goes on here. The story creeps along at a dreadfully slow pace and the stop-motion critters are there just because past films have included them and none really support the story by appearing. The FX are awful, with the meager creature animation being barely adequate and the sets and acting are as bad as the over-used CGI. Despite good intentions, this is a tedious mess with only a few brief moments that actually amuse. I liked that Solimon resorted to old-fashioned stop-motion to keep tradition, but next time build an actual film around it. How Patrick Stewart got involved to narrate is anybody’s guess.

1 and 1-2 star rating

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POLTERGEIST REMAKE GETS A TRAILER AND LOOKS AS UNNECESSARY AS IT SOUNDS!

 

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I try to give thinks a fair shot but, now that we get a trailer for Gil Kenan’s remake of the classic Poltergeist, it just sadly looks as unnecessary and uninteresting as it sounded when the news first hit. We’ll see. It’s from the people who gave us the surprisingly good Evil Dead redo so, I’ll try to keep an open mind till it hits on 7/24/15.

source: Shock Till You Drop/Youtube

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: STARRY EYES (2014)

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STARRY EYES (2014)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Starry Eyes is a very disturbing and at times, gruesome horror flick that may be a metaphor for loosing one’s soul in the pursuit of fame and fortune…in this case, literally. The film tells the story of emotionally fragile, wannabe actress Sarah (Alex Essoe) who lives with a group of hipster acting hopefuls and works at a degrading Hooters-esque fast food restaurant. She answers an ad for a horror film to be made by Astraeus Pictures, a company renown for such films and gets a strange audition to say the least. The more auditions she goes on for the film, the more bizarre the auditions get till she meets the creepy producer (Louis Dezseran) and he wants something very inappropriate from her. At first Sarah refuses but, the more hopeless her quest for stardom appears, the more she may be willing to give in to his demands. Unbeknownst to Sarah, Astraeus is far more than just a film studio and wants something far more than simple casting couch behavior…and Sarah might sacrifice literally everything to get what she wants.

This movie is a very disturbing horror that evokes Rosemary’s Baby and the work of David Lynch at times, with it’s sinister cult, somewhat surreal approach and explosions of vicious and gruesome violence. It is an exaggerated telling of someone sacrificing their life and soul for a chance at Hollywood stardom and writers/directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer use the cult-like Astraeus Pictures to symbolize the inner circle of Hollywood fame that some might even kill to become part of. They place their already emotionally fragile Sarah into a situation where she is desperate enough to sacrifice everything for her dream, but, as this is a horror film, that ‘everything’ is literal as is the application of the word sacrifice. They skillfully and effectively follow Sarah’s transformation, as the person she was dies away and a new person evolves, one that will kill those she feels have wronged her or, are in her way. The results are chilling, especially when Sarah turns violent towards her one-time friends. It’s a very unsettling ride and even to a hardened horror movie fan, some of the violence is savage enough to evoke a strong response. Graphic violence aside, the film is just very creepy at times with the bizarre employees of the sinister studio and mysterious cloaked figures that seem to follow Sarah, as her physical and mental downward spiral continues toward whatever end is coming. Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer also have a simple yet effective visual style and their atmospheric film is aided by some nice shadowy cinematography by Adam Bricker and a John Carpenter-ish score by Jonathan Snipes.

As for the cast, it’s mostly Alex Essoe’s show and she is really strong here and helps make this work so well. She at first gives us a sweet but, somewhat damaged young woman who wants to give meaning to her mundane life by achieving the Hollywood fame she’s always dreamed of. Once she gives herself over to the strange people at the studio, the actress takes us on a startling and disturbing transformation that would be just as effective without the well-executed make-up effects. Essoe gives it her all and she is downright scary at times whereas moments before, she seemed unable to ‘hurt a fly’ as Norman Bates would say. A really good performance and she is supported by an effective cast of relative unknowns as her actor friends and cult members alike. Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer get good work out of their players and it helps make this film effective as it is.

I liked this movie, if ‘liked’ is a word that can be applied to a film that is creepy and sometimes absolutely vicious. It is a very effective horror and gives a very literal and sinister nature to the whole concept of sacrificing all to become one of Hollywood’s elite. It has an effective cast, including a knock-out performance from Alex Essoe as Sarah and some very gruesome gore and make-up FX. A very unnerving and sometimes savagely violent horror with a chilling atmosphere that lasts after it’s over. Also stars The Innkeepers’ Pat Healy as Sarah’s boss at The Big Taters fast food restaurant.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 wannabe actresses!

starry eyes rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SURVIVAL QUEST (1989)

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SURVIVAL QUEST (1989)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Survival Quest is an outdoor adventure/thriller from Phantasm series writer/director Don Coscarelli that may be a bit corny at times but, is also quite charming and has a lot of heart. The movie opens with a group of people converging for a month long survival course called Survival Quest, run by passive outdoorsman Hank (Lance Henriksen). Among the participants are ex-con, Gray (Dermot Mulroney), Olivia (Traci Lin), a rich girl trying to prove she can handle herself and Cheryl (Catherine Keener), a divorcee who wants to prove she can survive on her own. Unfortunately, they are in the same vicinity of a para-military survival group run by ex-mercenary Jake (Aliens’ Mark Rolston). Run-ins between the two groups become increasingly heated and when one of the jack-booted thugs proves to be mentally unstable, blood is spilled and it turns from a wilderness survival course into a fight to stay alive.

Both written and directed by Coscarelli, this is a fun little adventure movie that overcomes some stereotypical characters and situations by simply having it’s heart in the right place. It’s a basic wilderness adventure with a slight edge, whose scant few curse words, brief nudity from the vivacious Miss Lin and moderate bloodshed would probably not even earn it’s R-rating in today’s world. It’s a bit of a departure for Coscerelli, being even less violent and more light-hearted than his Beastmaster and is actually very entertaining for the simplicity of it’s story. That story being of some likable characters from different walks of life having to bond and trust each other to survive under dangerous circumstances. That is also what makes it work so well. Despite being stereotypical, the characters are very endearing and we like them a lot. We’ve seen this story before but, it is the characters that drive it and so Coscarelli gives us a bunch we want to see make it against the arrogant and unhinged para-military bad guys…and he doesn’t turn the group into vicious killers as most filmmakers would be tempted to do in a story like this. There is also some welcome humor, especially in the first half, before things get a bit darker and there is a nice nostalgia, at this point, of some familiar faces before they made a name for themselves.

As for those faces, Henriksen was already known to genre fans for Aliens and Terminator and he is really good here as the outdoorsman who can take care of himself and look out for his charges. Mark Rolston is effective as the tough guy instructor/mercenary and his character may surprise you a bit later on. Dermot Mulroney makes for a good “bad boy” hero as his Gray has a lot more integrity than he is given credit for. Traci Lin is charming and hot as Olivia. The character may be a cliché but, Lin’s portrayal is not, as she avoids the ‘rich bitch’ persona and gives us a young woman who wants more than the posh life. Keener is also strong as the meek divorcee who finds the strength she is looking for but, not in the way she figured and, of course, this wouldn’t be a Don Coscarelli movie without Reggie Bannister and he appears here as a pilot. A good cast that elevate their characters above the clichés they first appear as.

I am a fan of Coscarelli and I consider this one of his most underrated films. It’s not a classic but, it is far more enjoyable than it’s familiar story and characters have a right to be. It’s got a lot of heart and it’s charming cast elevates the characters above their stereotypical nature. It’s fast moving, yet, has a very laid back approach that is a bit refreshing when in-your-face intensity is not what you are looking for. The film actually reminded me a bit of the nature adventures they used to crank out in the 70s although with a touch of bloodshed and violence in the mix. A simple, simply told but, very entertaining movie from Don Coscarelli. Also features some nice cinematography from Daryn Okada and music from Phantasm series composers Fred Myrow and Christopher L. Stone.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 bullets.

ex2 rating

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MUSIC REVIEW: JOHN CARPENTER: JOHN CARPENTER’S LOST THEMES (2015)

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JOHN CARPENTER: JOHN CARPENTER’S LOST THEMES (2015)

As a huge John Carpenter fan, I have gotten used to the idea that 2010’s The Ward may be the last film we see from the semi-retired master director…which meant an even less likely chance of another classic Carpenter film score…or so we thought. Lost Themes is a fun collection of new tracks composed by Carpenter who hasn’t written any published music since the Ghosts Of Mars score back in 2001. It is a collection of nine original tracks and six remixes, of some of those tracks and if you’re a fan of Carpenter’s film scores, you’ll probably have a good time with these. They vary in style and tone and while few really come close to his most classic film music, they certainly do evoke his work and offer a bit of 80s electronic nostalgia, too. The closest the disc comes to his best film scores are the opening track “Vortex” and two later tracks “Abyss” and “Wraith”, those two reminding me of some of his later soundtracks. I don’t think Carpenter was out to reclaim lost glory, though, as much as, just have a creative good time and that comes through on most of the tunes. It’s more music from a man whose film scores are as beloved as many of his films and that’s good enough for me. There is variety and versatility here and while the disc didn’t blow me away like some of his soundtracks, I enjoyed hearing new Carpenter compositions in the master’s style and was quite pleased with it overall. Not a classic disc but, an entertaining one and certainly a heartfelt and nostalgic one. Let’s hope composing gives him the directing bug once more and maybe we will get yet another Carpenter classic to add to his canon. A must for fans of Carpenter’s scores and also of interest to fans of 80s electronic film music like Tangerine Dream and Vangelis.

Track Listing

1. “Vortex”  4:45

2. “Obsidian”  8:24

3. “Fallen”  4:44

4. “Domain”  6:34

5. “Mystery”  4:36

6. “Abyss”  6:07

7. “Wraith”  4:30

8. “Purgatory”  4:39

9. “Night”  3:38

10. “Night (Zola Jesus and Dean Hurley Remix)”  3:40

11. “Wraith (ohGr Remix)” 3:51

12. “Vortex (Silent Servant Remix)” 5:11

13. “Fallen (Blanck Mass Remix)” 6:29

14. “Abyss (JG Thirlwell Remix)” 5:29

15. “Fallen (Bill Kouligas Remix)” 6:15

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON (2006)

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BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON (2006)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Amusing and clever mockumentary has a film crew (Angela Goethals as Taylor, Ben Pace as Doug and Britain Spellings as Todd) documenting the efforts of a man who calls himself Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) and who plans to join Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers as one of the all time great killer icons. Leslie is said to have been killed by an angry mob of townsfolk, after he murdered his own parents, when he was a child. He has now returned to the small town of Glen Echo as an adult, like his iconic heroes, and plans his revenge. He has invited the film crew to follow him as he trains, gets advice from a retired serial killer (Walking Dead’s Scott Wilson), picks his virginal final girl, Kelly Curtis (Kate Lang Johnson), and plans to murder her friends and take her on at the old farmhouse where he was born. At first the crew is as enthusiastic as Leslie, till it becomes more and more apparent that he is very serious and they are practically on their way to being accessories to murder. When the big night arrives to slaughter the teens at the abandoned farmhouse, the film crew has a change of heart that, unfortunately, put’s them directly in the plot for this horror film come frighteningly to life.

This movie is a lot of fun, especially if you are a horror/slasher movie fan and know all the horror tropes that Leslie giddily lays out to the eager journalists. It’s very entertaining to see how methodically he plans this to mirror the type of horror films we all watch and love, down to the littlest detail. The movie let’s you in on the joke from the start and as Vernon explains the whole process from selecting his victims to planning their demise, the film slowly starts to become a slasher movie in itself, much to the dismay of the documentary crew members. At first they are in a state of denial, but soon they realize this guy is serious, people are going to die and they are in the middle of it. Directed by Scott Glosserman from his script with David J. Stieve, this is a very inventive and loving homage to the late 70s-80s slasher genre that not only has a real blast sending-up that genre, by presenting such a film from the killer’s point of view, but also gives us some very cool nods and homages to those films as well. We are treated to appearances by horror vets Kane Hodder, Zelda Rubenstein and Robert Englund, who plays the “Dr. Loomis” role of Doc Halloran…or the “Ahab” as Leslie calls it, in reference to Moby Dick’s obsessed pursuer. The rest of the cast all do a good job at playing their roles both in documentary form and then as participants in an actual horror movie. The best thing of all is that Glosserman and company slowly take this from ingenious send-up to an actual slasher and it works perfectly. What starts as an fun faux-documentary detailing Leslie’s meticulous preparation, becomes a very serious slasher in it’s last act and gives us some very clever twists worthy of one of the films it’s paying homage to. It’s a really fun ride and it’s sad this film never really got the attention it was due and Glosserman hasn’t been given a chance to show us more of his stuff. Adding to the effectiveness is a worthy horror score by Gordy Haab (Once it becomes an actually horror film) and some nice cinematography by Jaron Presant.

As a huge fan of the horror films of the era this film pays tribute, I had a blast of a good time with this. It’s a fun comedy/horror that shares it’s love of the slasher genre with it’s audience and is really smart about it. It gives us an affectionate send-up of how Michael, Freddy or Jason might have prepared for one of their bloodbaths and then gives us one such bloodbath in itself…although the actually bloodletting was a bit tamer than I would have expected. The way it goes from mockumentary to actual slasher is ingenious and clever and most of all, works perfectly and thus, so does the film as a whole. Add an engaging cast and this is a really good time and when all is said and done, a pretty good horror movie too…though one with a very twisted smile.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 wannabe horror icons!

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