Tag Archives: Vampire

The 2000s: Horror’s Best Decade (Part 3: The Final Chapter) by Paul J. Williams

Please allow me one last time to preface this article with a warning and a statement: Beware! Dozens of movies are discussed and spoilers may exist, so please keep that in mind as you read.

And, I’m not a movie historian or expert; I’m just a cinephile, probably like you, who enjoys horror movies. I also like to reflect upon times and situations in our history and ask: Why? I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic as well.

NOTABLE DIRECTORS

As we entered the 2000s, one filmmaker seemed to lead the charge for a resurgence in the horror genre: M. Night Shyamalan. Coming off the monumental success of 1999’s The Sixth Sense, he dipped slightly with 2000’s Unbreakable, before reconnecting with audiences with 2002’s Signs, which unfortunately has not stood the test of time in terms of its plot or an ending that makes sense. After that, poor Night descended that proverbial slippery slide with one miscalculation after another. However, I’m happy to report that the past few years have been a rebound for Mr. Shyamalan with the success of The Visit in 2015 and Split in 2017. While Night might have slumped in the 2000s, several other filmmakers rose to prominence in the horror genre, aside from the aforementioned Eli Roth, Neil Marshall, et. al.

TI WEST started with a couple of independent features before directing the sequel to Cabin Fever, which he now disowns. Afterwards, though, he started the run he has become known for with The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers, The Sacrament, and segments on V/H/S and The ABCs of Death. His latest feature-length film was the 2016 non-horror, but critically acclaimed, In the Valley of Violence.

LUCKY McKEE brought us the now cult-classic May in 2002. Several years later, he returned with The Woods in 2006, followed by The Woman in 2011. His latest movie, Misfortune, is scheduled for release in 2017.

IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT: Post-Apocalypse

Another oldie but goodie subgenre that resurged in the 2000s was post-apocalyptic movies, with many in the zombie subgenre as well. Here are a few survivors, though admittedly, some are more drama than horror:

REIGN OF FIRE, starring the not-as-yet-popular Christian Bale and the always great Matthew McConaughey, in a 2002 UK movie where dragons emerge and destroy half the planet.

TIME OF THE WOLF is a 2003 Michael Haneke post-apocalyptic drama that nobody saw during its initial run, but has become appreciated years later.

WAR OF THE WORLDS is Steven Spielberg’s 2005 loosely-based adaptation of H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel about an alien invasion. Tom Cruise plays a longshoremen from Newark, NJ (remember, this is science-fiction) who must flee with his kids as the war-machines destroy everything in their path. With awesome set-pieces and special effects, the movie went on to receive positive reviews and hundreds of millions of dollars.

CHILDREN OF MEN is a 2006 UK movie set in a near-future where women, inexplicably, can no longer become pregnant. Alfonso Cuarón directs Clive Owen to a great performance as the man who may be able to help mankind. Surprisingly not a hit at the box-office, the movie earned critical acclaim and always pops up on “Best of” lists.

THE ROAD is the 2009 adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel about a father and son trekking along a post-apocalyptic landscape in search of that elusive safe-ground.

DAYBREAKERS is a 2009 vampire tale starring Ethan Hawke, who must love acting in these genre movies. Ultimately a fun ride, the film made double its budget.

STAKE LAND, from 2010, also sets us in a post-apocalyptic world overrun with vampires. A touching story executed on a low budget with some great scenes and a moving soundtrack.

“THE ORIGINAL WAS BETTER”…Yeah, No Shit…

Remakes, reboots, reimagining, whatever you call them, they were everywhere in the 2000s and the horror genre was the biggest victim. This was really the only low point, in my opinion, for the genre this decade.

Look, I like to think I’m not naïve or a prude; I get it, I really do. Hollywood is a business, and businesses’ goals are to earn profits. I’m an American trying to turn a buck as much as the next guy, so maybe if I were in these producers’ shoes I’d do the same, but they all reek of capitalism. There appears to be no artistic or creative goal to them at all… Okay, maybe I am a little naïve after all…

Anyway, let’s take a look at some of these:

THE FIRST: Announced in 2001 and realized in 2003, the first remake of an original horror classic in the 2000s was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Besides Jessica Biel running around in a skimpy white tank-top, the movie offers or adds nothing to the iconic 1974 original.

THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL: Touched upon in Part 2, after the relative successes of Rob Zombie’s early/mid 2000s horror-films, producers who owned the rights to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic, Halloween, tasked Zombie with remaking it in 2006. He would go on to write, produce, and direct it entirely in his own broad, bloody vision, abandoning what made the original so special. It didn’t stop Millennials and scores of others from rushing the theaters, and the movie went on to huge box-office grosses, which spawned the 2009 sequel. A feud of some sort, that might be total nonsense, between Carpenter and Zombie has emerged over the years, but the two seem to have made amends recently.

THE WORST: Hands down, unequivocally, without any doubt, 2006’s unintentional spoof-remake of the 1973 UK classic, The Wicker Man, takes the prize. Nicholas Cage leads the way in this turd, playing the detective searching for a missing girl on a remote island. An unmitigated disaster all the way around… “Not the bees!”…

THE VICTIMS: All of these tried and essentially failed at remaking their original classics: Willard (2003), The Amityville Horror (2005), The Fog (2005), House of Wax (2005), The Omen (2006), When A Stranger Calls (2006), Black Christmas (2006), The Invasion (2007), April Fool’s Day (2008), My Bloody Valentine (2009), Friday the 13th (2009), The Last House On the Left (2009), The Stepfather (2009), The Wolfman (2010), I Spit On Your Grave (2010), and last but not least, A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010). That list is way too long.

THE EXCEPTION: Let Me In is the 2010 American remake of the 2008 Swedish vampire drama, Let the Right One In. Perhaps why this was one of the very few remake successes in the 2000s is the ingredients of talented professionals that collaborated to make it: Written and directed by Matt Reeves and starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz, and the always great, Richard Jenkins, the movie received critical acclaim, though wasn’t the biggest hit at the box-office.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Before we finish, I’d like to mention other movies of note that prove this was one of the best decades for horror:

THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, a 2005 “young girl possessed” movie adds the unique aspect of also being a legal drama. That, along with great performances from both veteran and novice actors, separates this from other ubiquitous demonic possession stories.

HARD CANDY, a two-hander directed in 2005 by David Slade, stars Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page, a year before she would explode as Juno, in this disturbing revenge tale set in the modern, technological era.

BUG, a 2006 psychological horror from William Friedkin, who directs a sparse cast, made double its budget, and was well-received, despite many disappointed with its conclusion.

TRICK ‘R TREAT, technically a 2007 film, is a horror anthology directed by Michael Dougherty, set on Halloween, that was released straight-to-DVD in 2009. Of course, with hindsight being 20/20, not releasing this was a detrimental decision by Warner Brothers, as the movie was eventually received with critical acclaim and has gone on to develop a big cult following. It undoubtedly would have earned a significant profit at the box office.

THE MIST is a 2007 adaptation of Stephen King’s 1980 novella by director Frank Darabont, who seems to be one of the only filmmakers to successfully transfer King’s stories to movies. The film is faithful to the pages up until the ending, I’m sure most of you know by now, which is very different from the novella that had an ambiguous, yet hopeful finish. It’s a real kick in the balls.

THE ORPHANGE, in 2007, is a scary ghost story (with kids!) from Spain.

EDEN LAKE, a highly disturbing 2008 UK film, starring Kelly Reilly, a then little-known Michael Fassbender, and an unknown Jack O’Connell. A young couple are attempting to enjoy their vacation, but a gang of local hoods have other plans for them. Some scenes are hard to watch, for sure.

TRIANGLE, a UK release in 2009, is a mind-fuck of a movie that, despite Melissa George running around in short-shorts and heels, is a very cleverly structured film.

ANTICHRIST, a 2009 experimental horror from the mind of the infamous Lars von Trier, stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a grieving couple whose infant son dies in the prologue. No hyperbole: It’s some of the craziest shit you’ll ever see on screen.

GRACE, from 2009, stars Jordan Ladd as a grieving and pregnant widow, who may also lose her baby. Directed by Paul Solet, it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

DRAG ME TO HELL is the 2009 supernatural movie written and directed by the accomplished, Sam Raimi.

BLACK SWAN, though not 100% horror, is Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 companion-piece with 2008’s The Wrestler, about a performer’s obsession with their craft, ultimately leading to their demise. Natalie Portman’s performance would go on to earn her an Oscar for Best Actress. Creepy scenes, mild “gore,” and foreboding atmosphere allows me to list this as a horror.

MONSTERS is the 2010 feature-film debut of Gareth Edwards, who would go on direct Godzilla in 2014 and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in 2016. It’s not surprising that Edwards would be selected to helm these big budget movies, considering what he does with the visuals and effects in Monsters with only $500,000. The movie puts a great twist on the alien “invasion” subgenre and explores themes way more relevant today than in 2010. Dialogue was adlibbed a la Before Sunrise, however, the actors in that film were much more up to the challenge than the cast in Monsters.

Last, I’m embarrassed to admit I omitted in Part 1, the South Korean movie, A Tale of Two Sisters, from 2003. Unseen by me until some years later, the film is loosely based on an old Korean fairytale and has since been adapted several times.

2010: THE BUBBLE BURSTS

With a decade like the 2000s filling up with so many notable horror movies, the inevitable bubble would burst, which it did, right on cue in 2010 with two films: Human Centipede and A Serbian Film.

One rare thing these two movies have in common is that in this modern, digital, social-media age, each film had an old-fashioned word-of-mouth aspect to them. This was more so with Human Centipede, which I think more US viewers have seen or at least heard of. 2009’s Paranormal Activity was the last horror movie I remember having more of that pre-internet dialogue amongst folks.

HUMAN CENTIPEDE Technically, it’s The Human Centipede (First Sequence) and was written, produced, and directed by Dutch filmmaker, Tom Six (Oh, the Dutch!). Just from the movie poster, you know you’re in for it. The film starts out torture-porn-esque, with three tourists kidnapped in Germany by a deranged scientist, but devolves much lower than other movies of this ilk. If you haven’t watched it, I’ll just come out and say it: The victims are surgically attached to each other, mouth to anus, hence becoming his human centipede. Themes and inspirations in the film are evident and, of course, this received what you could call “mixed” reviews at best, but it has spawned two sequels which, admittedly, I’ve passed on.

Before we move on, I want to formally recognize three professionals. I’ve been on movie sets and have asked actors to reach down into some deep emotional and physical territory to accomplish a scene, but what is asked of the three actors in Human Centipede goes above and beyond. Here’s to Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, and Akihiro Kitamura for what they endured in this movie. It wasn’t for nothing.

A SERBIAN FILM Co-written, produced, and directed by Srđan Spasojević, A Serbian Film is an obvious indictment of the filmmaker’s country, Serbia, and its government. Also classified in the subgenre of “just when you thought you saw it all,” A Serbian Film tells the story of poor Milos, a financially strapped, retired porn actor called back to duty by the craziest fucker ever to live. Just how crazy? I’ll give you a hint: “Newborn porn” becomes a porn subcategory.

Somewhat surprisingly, the movie is photographed very nicely, and has way more of a professional look for a movie of this nature. A Serbian Film would ultimately become one of those movies defending itself against censorship in many countries, creating various edits. No matter which cut you’ve seen, or will see, the movie is like no other.

POST-MORTEM

So here comes the arbitrary part where I try to figure this all out. Why, in my assertion, was the 2000s a great decade for horror?

It could be because we became a global society and gained access to movies from around the world that we may have missed twenty years earlier. You’ll notice many, many of the films discussed did not originate in the United States.

It could be because cameras and equipment became much more affordable, opening up filmmaking to those who are truly independent and outside the Hollywood studio system. Everything went digital, as well. DSLR cameras shot HD and became an accepted norm. Expensive film-stock was no longer necessary. Editing software could be downloaded on a laptop. Creative, talented filmmakers were no longer on the outside looking in.

It could be because so many events of the 2000s were so painful, filmmakers thought they had to raise the bar in the movies they showed us. They didn’t want us to pause our movie to turn on CNN and watch something in the world more horrific.

It could be that filmmakers thought they could only explore themes with certain subgenres of horror. The zombie and post-apocalyptic movies jump to mind.

It could be just the ebb and flow of life. The 1980s were an important, prolific decade for the horror genre, which was then followed by a horror dearth in the 1990s.

But, enough of me blabbing. What do you think?

Before I go, I’d like to thank Billy Crash, proprietor of Crash Palace Productions and close friend, for hosting this series on 2000s Horror. I had a blast.

Until we meet again, everyone…

(Photo of Stake Land from Confessions of a Film Junkie.)

Crash Palace Support Team

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Paul J. Williams is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, and his short films have appeared in numerous festivals. Although Paul’s the man behind Rolling Dark Productions, he’s also a detective in Morris County, New Jersey. Paul’s a Medal of Honor recipient from the City of Newark for actions on December 14, 2002

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Interview with Kent Harper

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Kent Harper‘s no slouch: He has six features on the way, and besides acting, he’s also a writer, producer, and director. Thankfully, he was able to take a break from his day to talk about his approach to acting, film, and life in general, as well as his experiences on the set of Surveillance, which he co-wrote with Jennifer Lynch. Horror fans may often see Kent Harper as a formidable force on-screen, but he’s so much more than that. Learn about the mind behind the man, and what’s up with his forthcoming films: Villainous, Deterioration, and A Blast of Sunlight Explodes.

Follow Kent Harper on Twitter and Instagram and see everything he has going on with IMDb!

(Photo from Kent Harper.)

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Thespians of Terror: Bill Paxton

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A few weeks ago, we lost the wonderful Bill Paxton to complications from a stroke. The actor, director, musician, and family man, left behind a legacy of great films and cool performances from Near Dark to the incredible film, Frailty. Join us on a cinematic journey celebrating the work of the man who made “Game over!” one helluva catch phrase.

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS from Twitter: 

@lancehenriksen @IndieWire @jenettebras @RealJillyG @BonafideBlack @TTBOProductions @kevinbacon @Isaacrthorne @tomhanks @MelanieMcCurdie @theclinthoward @ChadSchimke @jeremysumpter @LGWhiteAuthor @RonGizmo @lorettamilan @RiverCityOtter @Scream_Factory @JimCameron @ScarecrowVideo @jamieleecurtis @GuyRicketts @FINALLEVEL @LoudGreenBird @Dolph_Lundgren @palkodesigns

Let us know about your favorite Bill Paxton memories!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 20th Anniversary by Billy Crash

 

Welcome to the Hellmouth

On March 10, 1997, creator, writer, and oftentimes director, Joss Whedon unleashed Buffy the Vampire Slayer upon the world in a television series that drew in fans from a multitude of demographics and a multitude of countries. The show featured Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, a high school student forced into accepting her fate as vampire slayer in mythical Sunnydale, California.

With a kickass theme from Nerd Herder, and her watcher Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), Buffy kept her “Scooby Gang” close (Nicholas Brendon as Xander, Allyson Hannigan as Willow, and someone just as reluctant as Buffy, the “better than you” Cordelia Chase, played by Charisma Carpenter), as she tackled, drop-kicked, and staked vampires, destroyed demons, and more in an effort to thwart the Hellmouth and save the world.

Each week, we’d find something different than the average show at the time, and for a dramatic comedy/horror/fantasy/action series, Buffy had more drama in one episode than a month’s worth of “ER” or “Chicago Hope.” Unlike other television shows that entertained and faded away by morning, people just didn’t talk about the show at the office, they incorporated the “lexicon of Buffy” in their speech, much like many of “Twin Peaks” fans who know that you can trust the Bookhouse Boys, but “The owls are not what they seem.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn’t just a television show people talked about, but an event that changed how they talked.

Prophecy Girl

Beyond words, we had a vampire slayer who fell in love with not just one vampire, but two, while still kicking ass and never turning her back on her friends, the world, and the woman she was becoming. Other than “Xena the Warrior Princess,” it’s hard to think of another show that presented woman as strong, powerful, and self-assured, and who wouldn’t give a man the satisfaction of seeing her fail. Where men rescued women at nearly every turn throughout television history, Buffy saved every man, woman, and child she ran into. And even if she told others to run for safety, Buffy didn’t stand tall to play martyr or find sympathy or become a legendary figure, she just wanted to fight and win every damn time.

And with strong females at the center of the show, Joss introduced the love of two young women without exploitation or apology, and once again, the show only became stronger, more multi-faceted, and more ahead of the curve in social consciousness. If anything, on this front, Buffy brought us some of the most depth-ridden romances ever to appear on the small screen regardless of gender.

As Buffy grew, so did her Scooby Gang: Cordelia became a woman who respected others instead of laughing at them, Xander developed a spine, and little Willow Rosenberg became a witch of epic proportions. Others came into the gang, from vampire lovers Angel (David Boreanaz) and Spike (James Marsters), as well as Tara (Amber Benson), Oz (Seth Green), Anya (Emma Caulfield), and baby sister Dawn Summers (Michelle Trachtenberg). Wait, Buffy had a sister?

New Moon Rising

I remember when Dawn appeared at the beginning of season five. Michelle Trachtenberg not only appeared in the opening credits as if she had been there forever, but Buffy and her mom (Kristine Sutherland) acted like she’d had a room in the house the whole damn time. A head scratcher for certain, and many of us didn’t know the key to this sudden introduction, but that’s what Joss Whedon always did: He kept the story fresh without jumping the shark, having a special wedding episode, or the worst damn thing imaginable, the birth of a child. Instead, we got Dawn, unexpected deaths, bad-grrl Faith (Eliza Dushku), Buffybot, a slew of evil adults from high school administrators to scientists at a secret base, and an endless flow of demonic forces with their own cruel agendas. Joss changed Buffy like a pro bono plastic surgeon: He improved the exterior but didn’t mess with the heart and soul.

At one point, Buffy stated, “My mother said my life is fruitless. No fruit for Buffy.” But the entire show bore fruit. “Angel” became one of the best spinoffs of all time, and people even gave the failed Buffy the Vampire Slayer film another chance, where Pee Wee Herman’s Paul Reubens crushed it as vampire kingpin, Amilyn, and Seth Green played a vampire – which makes him the only actor to appear in both the movie and the series. The stars went on to other projects on television or the silver screen, and twenty years later, Buffy continues to be recognized and appreciated by first generation fans to Millennials and Generation Z as if the season finale had taken place last week.

Once More, With Feeling

Some shows have survived the test of time: “The Twilight Zone,” “Twin Peaks,” “Seinfeld,” “The X-Files,” and “Firefly” because they were “big damn heroes,” and Buffy the Vampire Slayer continues in that off-the-beaten path vein of absolute coolness. Yet, at the end of the day, Buffy hasn’t held up for twenty years simply because it’s cool, but it had something to say about youth, exploration, love, bureaucracy, judgment, parenting, friendship, goals, desires, humanity, and ultimately sacrifice. Even so, at its heart, at its very core, Buffy wasn’t afraid to venture into the darkest regions of the brightest characters or find blinding light within the abyss of demons. If Whedon taught us anything, it’s that there’s good and bad in everyone, and we all need to do our part to not only help bring that greatness to the surface, but to forgive those who falter at times, and give them love, respect, and a second chance.

Because when it’s your turn to save the world, you never know who’ll be fighting by your side. So hush…

Billy Crash (aka William D. Prystauk) loves great in depth characters and storytelling in horror, and likes to see heads roll, but if you kill a dog on screen he’ll cry like a baby. Billy co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast on iTunes, and can also be found on TwitterLinkedInIMDbAmazon, and his professional website.

(Photo of Buffy from Buffy Wikia.)

Highways of Horror – Day I

If there was a storm coming right now, a big storm, from behind those mountains, would it matter? Would it change anything?

Arash – A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

In the rearview there’s nothing. No horizon. No distinction between the road and the sky. Nothing but black on black.

This can easily indicate that the past is dead and gone, and that turning back is a ludicrous option. Though not well lit, looking out the windshield certainly delivers a sense of future possibilities. But the most important – the now – me in the driver’s seat fighting fatigue, isn’t very promising.

The morning had started well enough. Up at 7:20 I rushed to get a few things ready on Wednesday, December 28 because this was the day I’d finally begin my excursion to the west coast to reconnect with my wife, Ally Bishop in Seattle, Washington – our new home. Although I had only gained five hours sleep, meeting the great Bill Hartin at Tracy’s Café in Easton was well worth waking up for. Bill had co-created FIFO (Fade In, Fade Out), a film consortium in the Lehigh Valley, and without him as executive producer, my short film, Tigers In the Soup never would have been made. We enjoyed a good breakfast and better conversation before heading back to the house Ally and I shared at 827 Wilbur Street in the “poor side” of the College Hill section. Soon, the truck that would carry forty plus boxes, a chest of drawers, Ally’s hand-painted file cabinet, and other assorted items arrived. With that, great souls materialized to help Bill and I load the freighter: Angela Mozeko and John McPoyle, from FIFO as well, and the man with a smile that never fades, Ryan Kramer. And man, did Ryan rock me with an ultra-cool Billy Crash T-shirt in a Misfits font no less! Damn!

This special gang of four really saved me. Since Ally left with Patricia Eddy and our puppies for the west coast on the day after Thanksgiving, the silence of our now old homestead became so loud it hurt. I was left with George, the Beta fighting fish, and we bonded as I cleaned, repaired, painted, and packed, as I sorted through belongings to sell on eBay, to Craig’s List, and to friends, and as I stuffed bag after bag with Goodwill donations, and sent tons of material for recycling or the landfill. The work finally caught up with me on Christmas. I woke up tired, visited my sister Elissa, brother-in-law Pete, and their nearly seventeen-year-old puppy, Max, for a few hours, and fell asleep for a bit. By the time I got home in the late afternoon, I was exhausted – but I knew sleep would have to wait. I cleaned the entire basement, and left a mountain of garbage and recycling items for the morning, and made a final run to the Goodwill donation boxes. During this time, I almost fell asleep on my feet, and lost my footing on the top steps of the basement stairs. Thankfully, I caught myself in time.

That isn’t to get a “poor Bill” out of anyone, but juggling so much for so long takes its toll as it would on any person. I hadn’t felt that exhausted since boot camp, where my entire body just wanted to quit. Angela, Bill, John, and Ryan, saved me from moving everything myself, which allowed me to store some energy for the first leg of the drive to Washington state.

After the load was secure, Angela and Ryan stayed a little longer to help me clean up the house. And once I picked up a few things for the trip, I finally hit the road at about 5:30 PM – three-and-half-hours behind schedule. To be honest, I was scared. Everything was a blur, and I doubted I could drive an hour, if at all. I then remembered a documentary of a scientific study where they showed that drowsy drivers may be far more dangerous than drunk ones.

Chocolate snapped me out of it, but a moonless night and starless sky thanks to black clouds didn’t help. I drove through an abyss so thick, only my headlights could make out the trees on occasion along Interstate 80. I had taken this trek many times from 1993 to 1994 when I attended Slippery Rock University to earn my masters in English. I had joked that one viewed the same tree over and over on the highway, but I would have welcomed the sight of any tree, or the curved edges of the worn Appalachians.

Blasting Ramone’s Mania compilation helped as I sang along with Joey, and the psychedelic folk rock of Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter kept my head bobbing. But this wasn’t the five-hour drive Ally had planned. Unbeknownst to her and me, this would be a six-hour and forty-minute venture to the center of Ohio.

I rebounded by cranking Sisters of Mercy, “A Slight Case of Overbombing” of their first greatest hits. Here, the iconic Goth god, Andrew Eldritch remixed the originals, and when it came to mundane songs from his ill-fated “Vision Thing” recording, he enticed Terri Nunn of Berlin fame to totally rock some of that albums tracks. The music filled the Chevy Malibu, and stunned some deer outside the merlot ride, and kept me awake as I entered the Buckeye State.

I thought of Drew Carey, Chrissie Hynde, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (where they supposedly keep an alien body from the Roswell incident, as well as the Kecksburg UFO), and my permanently snake-bitten Cleveland Browns. And then I saw the oddest thing, a truck with a light rack that sent out beams of green. What the Hell was that? Many know construction vehicles by their yellow flashing lights, but in Ohio, they mix it up with green and white.

Most important, and as I suspected, where I hadn’t noticed one Pennsylvania State Trooper from Easton to the border, Ohio’s finest was out in force. Just like the early 90s when I’d see suped up pursuit cruisers on the roadside. One even had “Interceptor” across the back trunk as if it had survived the original Mad Max film.

I did the speed limit as best I could, but with a half-hour remaining, I hit the gas a little harder even within a snow squall and amongst the pings of frozen rain. I passed two salt trucks, forgot about the Road Nazis, and watched the arrow on my Google Maps get closer to my destination.

When I got to La Quinta in Mansfield at roughly 1 AM, I contacted Ally to let her know I was safe, and walked across the street to a Steak and Shake and had dinner. My first meal since that breakfast with Bill. The waitress forgot to add my dark chocolate shake to the tab, and when I told her, she waved it off. Now, that’s one great Ohio welcome.

Back in my hotel room, the building weaved and bobbed as I stood in the shower. But it wasn’t an “erosion quake” as a lighter part of the Appalachian mountains rose a millimeter or two to meet the sky – it was me. I almost fell in the shower as brain and body begged for sleep. I stumbled to the bed and the last thing I remember is letting out an arena-sized sigh.

I awoke from a seven-hour slumber, far better than my normal five, ate a protein bar, and moved west towards Madison, Wisconsin before the next storm rolled in…

But in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Arash (Arash Marandi) knew. As he drove with the Girl (Sheila Vand) by his side in their attempt to escape Bad City, storms didn’t matter. No obstacle mattered. Whether the city represents purgatory or Hell in Lily Amirpour’s intriguing vampire horror, escaping such darkness is the point of the movie. However, the answer is simple: Of course they can. Where there is love, respect, admiration, and passion, as well as a desire to go beyond selfishness, what can’t be defeated? Both had paid their ways in full. The Girl, serving like one of Mother Nature’s wolves, cleaned the streets. However, she never preyed on the weak, the sick, or the wounded, but those who used and abused, and made life worse for others. Arash did what he could to rise above the apathy and negativity, and that desire was his ticket out of that colorless void.

I’d like to think Ally and I had earned the same right to pick up and move elsewhere. We just took separate cars.

Many thanks to Airworthy’s Don Riemer, a fellow member of the phenomenal New Jersey Screenwriter’s Group, for encouraging me to keep a travel blog, and for the incomparable Jonny Numb for exclaiming “Hell, yeah” when I asked if I should post it at Crash Palace.

(Billy Crash T-shirt photo from Billy Crash.)

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Macabre Milestone: THE HUNGER (UK/USA, 1983)

The Last Knock

A different kind of vampire film, THE HUNGER explores love, aging, egocentrism, and much more, with the late, great David Bowie. Directed by Tony Scott, Stephen Goldblatt brought us excellent light and shadow as cinematographer, while Denny Jaeger and Michel Rubini delivered a relentless score of pure horror. The movie also showcases the amazing Catherine Deneuve and the fantastic Susan Sarandon – with a Willem Dafoe cameo. Loaded with tension and a string of thematic undertones, horror fans are rediscovering the film after Bowie’s passing – but this is a cinematic treat that should have been cherished all along…

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS @sharkkteethsolo @REALsharkkteeth @RealJillyG @nine_oh @Tammysdragonfly @kidneythieves @dixiefairy @horrorandbrains @GTGMcast @MelanieMcCurdie @elizabethtraub @LianeMoonRaven @SiaraTyr @AmandaBergloff @Domiesangsty @alexcooper81 @LoudGreenBird @FriscoKidTX @ThisIsHorror @CriterionCast @petermurphyinfo @SusanSarandon

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Thespians of Terror: Christopher Lee

The Last KnockWe pay tribute to the man who not only put Hammer Films on the map and played the role of Dracula more than any other actor, but a man who brought style and coolness to the genre. Come with us as we take a look at his films, his partnerships with the great Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, and we’ll hear some of his amazing quotes about the industry in which he thrived.

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS: @machinemeannow @AFiendOnFilm @BleedingCritic @PromoteHorror @DarcWorks @TimothiousSmith @Annie_Acorn @aicforever @RealJillyG @Mel_McBoutin @Netflix @shoutfactory

 

Crash Analysis: Why I Love LIFEFORCE (UK/USA, 1985)

MovieRoom2I hadn’t planned on writing a review (of sorts) about a thirty-year-old horror that’s been much maligned, but Lawrence Roy Aiken compelled me to do so.

Like many horror fans, Lawrence thinks Lifeforce is “awful”, and I admitted that it’s a guilty pleasure of mine. Yes, that means I’m admitting that the movie isn’t necessarily spectacular, but for reasons I’ll share, I find the film compelling.

When I went to see Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce I almost walked out before the opening credits. As soon as I realized that it was a Cannon Films and Golan-Globus Productions movie, I knew I should bail. After all, both entities had developed and released a multitude of cheesy, B-movie bombs from Delta Force to Superman IV. (Both companies failed to survive the 1990s.)

Then I saw a couple of things that gave the movie merit: The film was co-written by Alien scribe Dan O’Bannon, with music from the respected Henry Mancini. Furthermore, the man who helped bring special effects to an entirely new level with the original Star Wars franchise, Jon Dykstra, was also the master of effects on this project. Finally, and originally the most important element to me at the time, the movie starred the under-appreciated character actor, Steve Railsback. Therefore, I stayed put and indulged.

Lifeforce is about a UK/USA crew on HMS Churchill, a shuttle following Haley’s Comet. As they approach, they see something gigantic in the comet – a space ship. Of course, they must investigate, and when they do, they unleash an alien presence that could consume the world, starting with the city of London. Based on “The Space Vampires” from Colin Wilson, O’Bannon and Don Jakoby adapted the work. However, Wilson’s book is a total bore. Other than the opening, the remainder of the novel is equivalent to a stage play of two talking heads discussing vampirism. The book had no bite, but at least Hooper and company were set to inject life into the narrative.

Although Lifeforce was a major expense for Cannon Films, and even though Railsback told me that this was the largest production he had ever worked on, the movie has a definite “B” feel. Unlike other movies of that type, John Graysmark was diligent with production design, along with the art department, in helping to create or enhance a multitude of settings: a British shuttle, an alien spacecraft, a church, several offices and other interiors, along with many outdoor shots. Bringing the visuals together is the late, great Alan Hume, who handled cinematography for The Legend of Hell House, The Legacy, and one-hundred more films. The movie also stars several renowned actors, from Frank Finlay and Colin Firth, to future Enterprise captain, Sir Patrick Stewart.

Why do so many people hate this thing? A couple of the visual effects could certainly be better, but for most who’ve discussed it with me, they didn’t care for much of the jumping around (there are many locations and an abundance of characters). Others think the story got out of hand and ultimately came off as silly.

No, I don’t like the film because Mathilda May is walking around naked almost the entire time (she had completely divorced herself from the movie, and from what I understand, you couldn’t even mention Lifeforce in her presence. However, she now seems to have a new appreciation for what became her introduction to feature film.) What I loved about the movie is that it was a fun horror full of action and intrigue. Yes, I immersed myself in the story and went along for the ride. I loved Dykstra’s emaciated vampires, Railsback and Firth made for a great buddy team, Finlay crushed it as Dr. Fallada, and I got to go on a whirlwind ride. Plus, I liked the story overall. Simply put, Lifeforce was an ol’ time matinee blast – a real popcorn movie.

Why should you see it? Because it’s fun, dammit. Plus, for Sir Patrick Stewart fans, you get to see him get his first on-screen kiss – at the lips of Steve Railsback. And if you love the vampire subgenre, the tale is certainly different from the typical fair, so feel free to engage in something far removed from the Transylvania legend.

About ten years ago, I purchased an original, mint condition movie poster of Lifeforce for a mere $15 (US). Sure, I felt like I had made out like a bandit, but then I realized that if the movie had been well received, the price might have been through the roof. Still, it hangs proudly in my dark purple living room in a custom frame that cost almost ten times as much…

4.5 out of 5 stars

(Photo from Billy Crash.)

Crash Discussion: Decade of Horror – The 80s

The Last KnockWe traipse through the decade with a bloody blade as the slasher reigned supreme, yet show how the 80s re-defined the vampire sub-genre. This ten-year block was built on the back of independent 70’s horror, but it also may have contributed to what many see as a drought in the 90s.

This week’s SCREAM OUTS to: @JossRadillo @1Unatrualsoul @SamesCarolyn @Theladyphantom @RealJillyG @EmilieFlory @RiversofGrue @aicforever @AnnThraxx @VicsMovieDen @TrashFilmGuru @HMPod @dixiefairy @flickmixx @HeatherOmen @Chris_Stuckmann @OwenMcCuenQuest @davidpbaker

Crash Analysis: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

GirlNightThroat

Without a doubt, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT is the most beautiful horror film ever made.            

Lyle Vincent is the cinematographer of note who helped bring Ana Lily Amirpour’s amazing film to light. Written and directed by, Amirpour, her Persian language horror was shot in Taft, California with actors of Iranian descent.

Every actor, from Sheila Vand and Arash Marandi, to Dominic Rains and Milad Eghbali, a young boy in his first film, delivered excellent performances. With the direction, cinematography, eclectic music, acting, and well-written dialogue, as well as the pace, this is the best horror film from 2014, as well as one of the greatest of all time.

Arash (Marandi) is a young man with a hot American car wandering the streets of “Bad City.” His father’s a junkie, the pimp wants his car, a street urchin wants his leftovers, and it’s clear Arash wants out. But a girl (Vand) walks through the neighborhood leaving bodies in her wake who may prevent Arash from breaking out on his own.

Right from the beginning, we know two things thanks to Amirpour’s storytelling and use of theme: This isn’t a normal place, and the choice of shooting in black-and-white isn’t simply to save money. Normalcy is thrown to the wayside when we see Arash walk over a bridge. Underneath is a ravine populated by many a dead body. He doesn’t care, and apparently no one else does either. The use of black-and-white not only captures the grayness, the starkness of what we only know as “Bad City”, but the compositions: Vincent’s exploitation of light, dark, and shadow, create not only a sensual noir feel, but like the characters, we are relegated to purgatory. A place where light cannot stand on its own and neither can its opposite. It’s a blatant Yin Yang world, and if one wants to tip the well-balanced scales, they can’t make it happen from within the city’s borders.

Each character is damaged and far from perfect, caught in the netherworld between good and evil. Atti (Mozhan Marnó) is a prostitute abused by her pimp (Rains) and the customers who desire her, yet she’s also quick to react negatively with strangers and her body language reeks of apathy, even though she’s looking for respect. Atti doesn’t enjoy her lifestyle, yet, like every other character in the film, she is trapped and cannot escape. In this case, the players are not physically prevented from leaving Bad City but their complacency keeps them where they struggle. Maybe they won’t leave because some other place could be worse, or because they may be tantalized by the wonderful things the dark may sometimes offer, or maybe they just don’t think they’re worth it. Either way, the presence of The Girl may prevent them from choosing.

Every frame of this film is a piece of art, and A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT should be shown in a gallery instead of a sterile, commercial theatre. The music is the perfect topping for every scene, whether it’s traditional Iranian or “Death” from White Lies. Amirpour has created a strong horror that has grit and beauty, and a feminine edge without placating to tropes, cliché, or expectation.

Oddly enough, Amirpour culled the most amazing performance from Musaka the cat, the greatest ever captured on film from a feline.

Watching A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT may have one thinking of early David Lynch, or even Marco Bellocchio’s drama FISTS IN THE POCKET, or a more grown up version of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. Regardless, Amirpour has delivered an intelligent, riveting, and existential experience that is not esoteric. It’s arthouse without the pretension or malaise. Her feature is smart, compelling, and conjures emotion, and maybe this is why Elijah Wood chose to help produce the feature.

In every shot there is a sense of danger, an element of foreboding that should capture the imagination of the most ardent horror fan, as well as those who care little for the genre.

A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT will linger in your mind, swim through your dreams, and will have you questioning why more horror films don’t come with so much substance and value.

4.5 stars out of 5

(Photo from Btchflcks.)