MONSTERZERO NJ’S DIRECTORS WHOM IT WOULDN’T BE HALLOWEEN WITHOUT!

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Everyone has their own favorite filmmakers whose works they watch during this spooky time of year. For me, it just wouldn’t be Halloween without the films of these legendary directors…

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02/13/2013 - Sam Raimi - "OZ The Great And Powerful" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals - El Capitan Theatre - Hollywood, CA, USA - Keywords: Orientation: Portrait Face Count: 1 - False - Photo Credit: Glenn Harris / PR Photos - Contact (1-866-551-7827) - Portrait Face Count: 1

GEORGE ROMERO

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02/13/2013 - Sam Raimi - "OZ The Great And Powerful" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals - El Capitan Theatre - Hollywood, CA, USA - Keywords: Orientation: Portrait Face Count: 1 - False - Photo Credit: Glenn Harris / PR Photos - Contact (1-866-551-7827) - Portrait Face Count: 1

WES CRAVEN

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02/13/2013 - Sam Raimi - "OZ The Great And Powerful" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals - El Capitan Theatre - Hollywood, CA, USA - Keywords: Orientation: Portrait Face Count: 1 - False - Photo Credit: Glenn Harris / PR Photos - Contact (1-866-551-7827) - Portrait Face Count: 1

TOBE HOOPER

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02/13/2013 - Sam Raimi - "OZ The Great And Powerful" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals - El Capitan Theatre - Hollywood, CA, USA - Keywords: Orientation: Portrait Face Count: 1 - False - Photo Credit: Glenn Harris / PR Photos - Contact (1-866-551-7827) - Portrait Face Count: 1

JOHN CARPENTER

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02/13/2013 - Sam Raimi - "OZ The Great And Powerful" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals - El Capitan Theatre - Hollywood, CA, USA - Keywords: Orientation: Portrait Face Count: 1 - False - Photo Credit: Glenn Harris / PR Photos - Contact (1-866-551-7827) - Portrait Face Count: 1

SAM  RAIMI

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02/13/2013 - Sam Raimi - "OZ The Great And Powerful" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals - El Capitan Theatre - Hollywood, CA, USA - Keywords: Orientation: Portrait Face Count: 1 - False - Photo Credit: Glenn Harris / PR Photos - Contact (1-866-551-7827) - Portrait Face Count: 1

DON COSCARELLI

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-MonsterZero NJ

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 15 HORROR REMAKES THAT ARE WORTH WATCHING AT HALLOWEEN!

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Most of us hardcore horror fans cringe at the word “remake”, but there are some that are certainly worth a look and even a few that actually surpass the original. So, with the spooky season in full swing, here are 15 remakes to watch during the Halloween season!

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(Click on the titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews!)

 

Click on the titles here to go to the review page for the corresponding movie!

  1. THE THING 1982
  2. THE FLY 1986
  3. EVIL DEAD 2013
  4. MANIAC 2013
  5. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2003
  6. THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2006
  7. PIRANHA 3D 2010
  8. HALLOWEEN 2007
  9. FRIDAY THE 13TH 2009
  10. MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D 2009
  11. DAWN OF THE DEAD 2004
  12. THE RING 2002
  13. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 1990
  14. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS 1978
  15. THE BLOB 1988

Honorable Mention: THE AMITYVILLE  HORROR 2005

-MonsterZero NJbars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977)

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THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977)

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

Five years after The Last House On The Left, Wes Craven returned with this, his sophomore effort…and begat another cult classic. The film also continues his exploration of the theme of good people driven to violence in self-defense or revenge. Here, a vacationing family passing through the desert, takes a turn off the main road to do some sightseeing and encounters a clan of vicious, feral cannibals that target them for their next meal. As the savages, one by one, reduce the Carter family’s numbers, the surviving members must turn savage themselves in order to survive.

Once again Craven wrote and directed and with a somewhat larger budget, the film is less crude than Last House and the director is starting to show his visual style with the desolate desert setting. The film also has some brutal violence and an offbeat sense of humor, though here, Craven mixes the humor and violence much better than in Last House where the humorous bits stuck out. In Hills it’s mostly relegated to the oddball behavior of the feral clan and while it lessens their threat level a bit, it makes sense for those raised outside civilization. It also gives us a breather from the brutality, rape and violence that comes quite frequently. And there are some brutal moments and some suspenseful ones too and Craven shows definite growth as a filmmaker in both his style and his technique. It’s interesting to watch the wholesome Carter family revert to some of their own viciousness when faced with extermination. It’s an offbeat horror flick with a bit of a Chainsaw Massacre slant, but despite the story similarities, is quite it’s own movie and has become a cult classic in it’s own right.

The cast of mostly unknowns are all fine with only Dee Wallace and Michael Berryman having gone on to become genre favorites and horror icons. Wallace plays the older Carter daughter Lynne whose baby is abducted by the cannibal family during one of their raids on their RV. Berryman, of course, plays one of the mutant cannibals named Pluto and it is a role that started him on a cult icon career. He is certainly fitting in the role and provides much of the odd humor the film mixes with the more brutal moments. Some may recognize James Whitworth, who plays the clan patriarch Jupiter, from the cult classic monster movie Planet Of Dinosaurs. His Jupiter is fierce and threatening and far less ‘goofy’ than son Pluto. There is also prolific character actor John Steadman, who is the old gas station owner, Fred and father to clan leader Jupiter. The rest of the cast perform their roles as either Carter or clan family members appropriately, with standouts being Russ Grieve as ex-cop and family patriarch Bob Carter, pretty Susan Lanier as the younger Carter daughter Brenda, Janus Blythe as the sympathetic clan daughter Ruby and future filmmaker Robert Houston as Carter son Bobby.

Overall, this is both a mean and yet sometimes darkly funny flick. There are some very brutal moments offset by some oddball humor, especially from our villainous cannibals. It’s a cult classic and another example of Wes Craven’s versatility and the potential he would live up to with his future works. There was a remake (click here to see my review) in 2006 by Alexandre Aja, which is actually quite brutal and removes the oddball humor for a very intense take on Craven’s story.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 propane tanks…which come in handy battling cannibals.

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From Frights To Fun: The Evolution Of 80s Horror

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From Frights To Fun: The Evolution Of 80s Horror

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to my full reviews of the films referenced here!)

To me, the 80s is one of the best decades ever for horror flicks…with the 70s following right behind it. Sure, every decade since films started being made has it’s classics from 1922’s Nosfeatu to 2007’s Trick ‘r’ Treat, but in terms of sheer proliferation and the number of classics that came out of it, the 80s was an amazing time to be a horror movie fan and I am glad I was in my theater seat for it all the way. And as I have said before, it was a time where low-budget B horrors could still be seen in a theater, where they belong and a time I will always cherish. I will also admit there was a lot of garbage to sift through to get to the gold, but even those had their entertainment value, especially when you and your friends were sitting in your seats giving those lesser efforts the old MST3K treatment, years before that show even existed…and that classic show is also a product of the 80s, might I add. But the one thing I also find striking about 80s horror is a distinct tonal shift in the style of horror flicks as the decade wore on that can only be appreciated now as we look back in nostalgia. Darker and more somber slashers became flicks that were lighter in tone, more colorful and with far more of a sense of fun about themselves. Let’s take a look…

John Carpenter’s Halloween may not have been the first slasher, but it is the film whose success started the early 80s slasher trend as studios and indie filmmakers realized you could make a lot of money on a shoestring budget. The early 80s cinemas became filled with films that followed the slasher formula with the stories being set on or around a special event or time, such as the prom in Prom Night, or college hazing as in Hell Night, or a fateful day like Friday The 13th. And then, within that setting, having a group of young high school or college co-eds being stalked and cut down by a killer with a grudge, till one feisty young girl…or sometimes a couple…is left to fend off our killer. For the most part these films took themselves very seriously and had a somber mood and moderate pace with the violence level being anywhere from fairly tame, like in thrillers like Terror Train or over-the-top gory as in Willaim Lustig’s Maniac or Charles Kaufman’s Mother’s Day…though, let’s not forget that some of the gorier entries where a result of the success of George Romero’s ultra-violent Dawn Of The Dead which started it’s own trend of extremely violent horrors that predominately came out of Italy and was spearheaded by filmmakers like Lucio Fulci. There were some rare instances where a director had a more humorous approach like Joe Dante’s The Howling or An American Werewolf in London, but horror/comedy is nothing new and the early 80s horror films predominately followed a more serious direction at this point in time.

Monster movies like The Boogens or Without Warning or supernatural horrors like The Fog and  The Boogeyman also followed the slasher format with victims being isolated and killed off one by one, leaving a frightened heroine to fend for herself with the occasional surviving love interest to help her survive. And for the first two or three years of the decade, theaters where inundated with such horrors to the delight of screaming fans. And we got many a classic horror flick out of it. But like any trend, such as the 70s possession flick trend inspired by The Exorcist, these things run their course. But not only did 80s horror start to open up with more supernatural themed flicks like the A Nightmare On Elm Street films, that cleverly added an incorporeal villain and surreal elements to the slasher formula, but the films started to reflect the overall buoyant mood of the 80s with brighter cinematography, more humorous tones and even began to reference and acknowledge past films and filmmakers. The first ‘inside’ reference I can remember was Sam Raimi’s subtle shout-out to Wes Craven by having a The Hills Have Eyes poster displayed in the basement of the old cabin in 1981’s The Evil Dead…to which Craven responded by having Heather Langenkamp watching Evil Dead on TV in the first Elm St movie. In terms of the lighter tone, the first time I noticed it was back in 1982 with Friday The 13th Part 3. When I saw it at my beloved Oritani Theater, I was kind of taken back by it all. The film had a very colorful production design, had a lot more humor than the first two installments…including characters that seemed to be there just for comic relief…and seemed to almost be having fun with the fact that we’ve been through this twice before. Jason went from a creepy, deformed backwoodsman to a hulking comic-bookish monster complete with iconic hockey mask. The film’s trademark kills were a bit more elaborate and far-fetched, as if the filmmakers were getting a bit playful with Jason’s M.O. The tone shift seemed to be starting, but without knowing what was to come in following years, I was simply disappointed with the flick and had no idea the trend would continue.

And the shift did continue with the advent of Freddy Krueger who was creepy at first, but quickly became a wisecracking, demonic gremlin that pulled people into his dream world for elaborate and outrageously gimmick-laden fates. The movies were far more fun than scary, but these films at least were more creative and imaginative than the simple stalk and kill films that came before them, though I missed the intensity and the serious tone of films like The Prowler. Flicks also started to jokingly reference their inspirations, like 1986’s Night Of The Creeps which names every character after a horror film director of that era like “Chris Romero”, “Cynthia Cronenberg” and James Carpenter-Hooper”. We also got MTV inspired films like the music filled and music video styled Return Of The Living Dead, the classic The Lost Boys, as well as, the neon-lit Vamp. Those films were far more entertaining than they were frightening as The Lost Boys even has a touch of Spielberg in it’s over-all tone…reminding us of the stark example of what happened when Carpenter’s grim and gory extraterrestrial The Thing went up against Spielberg’s bug eyed visitor from E.T. in 1982No better an example of the start of audience change of taste in the 80s than was the beating Carpenter’s now classic sci-fi/horror got from critics and at the box office…though, I saw it at least three times in a theater!

The trend continued with even lighter and more humor-laced films as we headed toward the 90s with flicks such as Waxwork, Chopping Mall and Night Of The Demons which were loaded with as many laughs as they were scares and gore. The MTV generation was being fed films that were faster paced, brightly colored and took themselves far less seriously as the arrival of music video and the end of the Cold War had created an era that was a bit more overindulgent and the films of the day reflected this. Even somewhat more serious horror like 1988s Intruder and the 1985 classic The Re-Animator still openly had a good time with their premises and occasionally winked at the audience, which films now acknowledged were sitting there and were familiar with the type of flick they are seeing. Earlier 80s films rarely acknowledged that they were a movie and that there was a horror savvy audience watching, but the second half of the decade was filled with movies that referenced those earlier films and were quite aware of themselves and who their audience was. They played to that audience instead of simply telling their scary story. And at this point Freddy Krueger was turning girls into giant cockroaches and Jason was a zombie battling telekinetic teenagers. Even the old school boogiemen had traded in their scares for more outrageous and silly story lines with each installment, as almost every horror hit became a franchise. Michael Myers also returned in 1988 to now stalk his young niece…why not his second cousin too? Needless to say by the time 1990 rolled around, horror had become burnt out and silly until horror master Wes Craven would revive it as pop-culture-reference filled heavy nostalgia with a bite in Scream… but that is another story.

Another aspect of the shift that may not have been as noticeable to the average audience, but was very noticeable to film buffs was in how these films were now being made and how they looked. By 1985 the home video market was in full swing. I should know, I worked at a Palmer Video back then. Direct to VHS films were starting to appear due to the cost effectiveness of not having to produce film prints for theater showings. And a lot of the horror films of the later decade were being made with the home video market in mind. Even some of the ones that got theatrical releases lacked that theatrical look. Gone were the cinematic visuals and widescreen presentations. Flicks like Witchboard and Waxwork had the look and feel of a TV movie and were filmed in the more TV screen friendly 1:85 format. Only some of the big studio releases and films by veterans like Carpenter and Craven maintained that theatrical look in their visual styles and still looked like a movie made for theaters. A disappointment to those who find the film’s visuals as important as their story and content. And another example of how drastically movies changed from 1980 to 1990.

Whatever the course the horror films of the 80s took, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for these movies, good or bad. Whether it be the more serious chillers of the early years, or the reference heavy, lighter toned flicks that came later on, it was a decade when I came of age and was most influenced by movies and was still a time where a low budget flick like Galaxy Of Terror or Final Exam could see the inside of an audience filled theater. And not only was I proudly there to see it, but will never forget it. And now, decades later, many a night when my social calendar is empty, I can be found in a darkened living room, on the couch, with some of my favorite brews, reliving those days long gone, but never…ever…forgotten!

… and one of the reasons I now share my passion for those movies with all of you!

-MonsterZero NJ

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The Oritani Theater: 300 Main St. Hackensack N.J Photo from the Mitchell Dvoskin collection

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006)

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THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006)

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

The original The Hills Have Eyes (1977) is not among my favorite Wes Craven films, but it certainly is an enjoyable, and now a touch nostalgic, survivalist horror that pitted a vacationing family against a clan of mutant cannibals in the middle of the desert. This remake basically follows the same story, but with a larger budget and cranking the intensity and brutality up to 11 by handing the writing/directing reigns to Haute Tension writer/director Alexandre Aja.

The screenplay is credited to Aja and frequent collaborator Grégory Levasseur, but it follows Craven’s original film very closely except it focuses heavier on the vicious clan being the genetic mutation result of atomic testing decades earlier and obviously, cranks up the violence and intensity which is Aja’s style. The story still follows the family of ex-cop Bob Carter (Ted Levine) who is heading out to California with his wife Ethel (Kathleen Quinlan), daughters Lynn (Vinessa Shaw) and Brenda (Emilie de Ravin), son Bobby (Dan Byrd), Lynn’s meek husband Doug (Aaron Stanford) and their infant daughter (Maisie Camilleri Preziosi). They are led astray by a gas station attendant (Tom Bower) who, unbeknownst to them, is in league with a vicious clan of cannibalistic mutants led by patriarch Jupiter (Billy Drago). Soon they find themselves stranded and their car disabled and under attack by a hungry and brutal clan that wants them all for dinner. Will this family perish in the middle of nowhere, or will they find it within themselves to meet brutal violence with brutal violence?

We all know the answer to that question and Alexandre Aja has a gory, brutal blast not only putting this average American family through a vicious ringer, but administering payback with equally violent, blood-spattering efficiency. The film is far more intense than the moderately placed original and it’s larger budget enables it to really crank up the gruesome carnage which reaches a fever pitch in the blood soaked last act. The effects by K.N.B. Effects are very well executed and now the cannibalistic clan look far more like the mutant creatures they are than the original ‘dirty hobo’ look of the 1977 version. The Craven film had some violent moments, but Aja plays it very hard-core and his backwoods mutants are far more threatening and the carnage on both sides far more graphic and with more impact. This film is a really rough ride and has a far darker edge than the original, which was quite brutal in it’s own right back in it’s time, but also had some unsettling humorous moments as well. Aja’s visual eye combined with Maxime Alexandre cinematography give the film a gritty and grungy look that serves to make one uncomfortable even when nothing is going on and when you add in the pulse pounding score from Tomandandy and François-Eudes Chanfrault, you have one intense and brutal 106 minutes that expands and improves on an original that is, in itself, considered a cult classic.

The cast all do well and play their parts very effectively from Levine’s macho ex-cop to Stanford’s mild mannered yuppie phone salesman, who slowly transforms into a man who will do anything to protect his own. Ravin and Byrd also gives strong performances as the frightened teen siblings who find not only the will to survive, but the ability to kill to do so. Drago and company all give us some truly frightening and detestable villains though, none really stand out and make an impression like fan legend Michael Berryman did in the original film that made him a horror icon. Overall, a good cast with solid performances that help add to the film’s effectiveness.

I really like this movie, if ‘like’ is the proper word to use in reference to such a brutally intense blood-bath that Aja transforms Craven’s original film into. It’s got some nail-biting action, some really intense gore, and characters that we like enough to not want to see harmed…and some we want to see get it real good! It’s one of the few remakes that improves upon the original and stands on it’s own as a horror achievement. A really good and really brutally effective horror that honors the original film it’s based on, yet makes it’s own statement. A really good horror.

3 and 1/2 axes.

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