Friday, August 21, 2015

"There Will Be Blood": A Herschell Gordon Lewis Retrospective

Herschell Gordon Lewis made Horror history with 1963's BLOOD FEAST, widely considered to be the first "gore" film. In the years before the MPAA, filmmakers were only limited from showing excessive nudity on-screen. With no rules preventing anyone in the movie industry from depicting gratuitous violence or horrifying bodily dismemberment, H.G. Lewis and business partner David F. Friedman embarked on a series of films that exploited these loose regulations in an attempt to compete with the major studio releases in the drive-in circuit. The two did not ease in to this newly established genre with just a few missing limbs or a severed head, but (literally) covered the screen in blood and butchery from start to finish. This simply had never been done before, and even to this day, Blood Feast, and Lewis' two follow-ups entitled Two Thousand Maniacs and Color Me Blood Red continue to serve as the most shocking and gruesome films in the genre. Take a look back at Herschell Gordon Lewis' original Blood Trilogy in today's feature – There Will Be Blood: A Herschell Gordon Lewis Retrospective!

Blood Feast (1963)

Mrs. Fremont is throwing a dinner party for her daughter's engagement, so in order to impress her guests, she has hired the exotic caterer Fuad Ramses to put on an extravagant feast! What she doesn't know is that Fuad has worked up a special menu made from bits and pieces of the missing girls from around town, which he will be serving as the main course in an Egyptian blood feast to appease the goddess Ishtar!

PSYCHO, this is not; Lewis' listless direction shows all of the style and finesse of an early stag film (another genre with which he was fondly familiar). BLOOD FEAST tastefully implies nothing, and instead plasters the screen in one lurid image after another, using as few camera set-ups and shots as possible for the minimal amount of coverage provided. Lewis and Friedman would tap Playboy playmate Connie Mason to star as the beautiful young bride-to-be, who would also return for their follow-up 2000 MANIACS the next year. Mason, along with her fellow cast members, produce truly horrible performances, but the roles are so poorly acted and outrageously over-the-top that they give way to the highest level of camp. As if the subject matter was not forward enough, Lewis' editing clearly demonstrates his lack of concern with plotting or characterization, as the camera holds on the disfigured remains of Fuad's victims much longer than it ever does for any of the characters in the film.

Using gallons of red paint and nearly an entire butcher's shop of animal entrails, BLOOD FEAST offers everything from a beach full of splattered brains, to a torn out tongue, a hacked off leg, and more in eye-popping color film stock! While this may not seem like much, the method in which the murders are filmed and the absolutely absurd amount of bright-red blood make these moments as memorable as they are completely revolting.

Herschell Gordon Lewis, the "Godfather of Gore," has left behind a bloody trail of influence in the wake of this seminal shocker. BLOOD FEAST has had a profound effect on countless young filmmakers, and will continue to live on in the annals of Horror for many years to come.

Rating: 5/10.

Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)

A conveniently placed detour sign on a remote country road lands a group of Northern vacationers right smack dab in the middle of Pleasant Valley's Centennial celebration. The jovial Mayor Buckman invites the newcomers to participate in each of the town's festivities, but what the visitors don't know is that they are being lead to the slaughter as part of the locals' bloody revenge for a Civil War defeat! Herschell Gordon Lewis' drive-in classic TWO THOUSAND MANIACS is a vast improvement over his first gorefest, BLOOD FEAST, complete with a highly imaginative plot and several of the most memorable executions in shock cinema. Of the many carnival games the travelers 'participate' in, the bloodiest include a spiked barrel roll, a four-way horse race, and a smashing game of Hit the Target! The outrageously over-the-top acting and absurd dialog only add to the film's campy charm, but Lewis' no-budget approach to filmmaking produces the same flat results in terms of the actual production. Regardless, TWO THOUSAND MANIACS is the Godfather of Gore's greatest film, and an early milestone in the history of splatter pictures.

Rating: 6/10.

Color Me Blood Red (1965)

His third gore film in three years, COLOR ME BLOOD RED is the last of the three pictures that make up Herschell Gordon Lewis' original 'Blood Trilogy.' It is also the most sophisticated of any of his films, and one that is likely his most personal. It tells the tale of Adam Sorg, a struggling artist that only finds success after he begins painting in his victims' blood! The theme of the tortured artist is taken to absurd new heights (or lows, rather) in this gruesome black comedy. Lewis instills his frustrations with his own lack of critical acclaim through his preferred medium, while commenting on how his only means of receiving any recognition in film was to include more blood and gore. Surprisingly, COLOR is even more visceral than either of the other entries in the series, containing everything from the disemboweling of a model to a brain-splattering shotgun blast to the face. Gordon Oas-Heim also provides an intense performance as the lead, closing out the thrilling climax with a bang! While it rarely ranks as a favorite among fans, this truly is one of Lewis' better films.

Rating: 7/10. Read The Full Post HERE!

Horror in the Digital Age: Three Technological Nightmares

Saying that “everyone loves technology” is an understatement. Our life revolves around machines; from the time we wake up and look at our digital clocks to the moment we check on to our Facebook page right before going to sleep. While there’s nothing wrong with appreciating all the technological advancements we’re now enjoying, there’s something that all of us should look out for and that is the prophecy that the Terminator movies showed us: the takeover of technology and robots.

From shorted microwaves to haunted television sets, the silver screen never fails to remind us that someday, we might die from the simplest of home gadgets. So, without further ado, here are three horror movies that remind us that not every inanimate object we see is what it seems to be.

Demon Seed (1977)

Demon Seed is a film about Dr. Alex Harris, a computer genius who is the mad equivalent of Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates. You see, instead of creating a useful operating system that would benefit the rest of the world, Harris creates a system called Proteus IV, -- a computer program that contains organic parts – basically, living things. Of course, having the thoughts, abilities, and judgment of a human, Proteus IV escapes its terrible, terrible father/creator and takes over the computer programmer’s home-security system. This movie is so twisted and horrifying that it shames Japan with its affinity for all things weird. You see, Proteus IV is such a Casanova that it decided to “impregnate” Dr. Harris’ wife by genetically manipulating some of the cells that it stole from her. Can you imagine having a baby with Windows or the iOS? Yikes.

Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Stephen King is THE king of all things twisted, and Maximum Overdrive proves that fact. Based on one of his short stories, the movie tells us that whenever there’s an incoming comet, our scientists must do everything they can to blast it to smithereens. In Maximum Overdrive, EVERYTHING powered by electricity became self aware when a comet passed Earth by, from the most innocent oven toaster to the most terrifying lawnmower. If you think burning at the stake is the worst way to die, think about being cut to shreds slowly by your very own lawnmower. It’s not too late to be nice to your lawnmower from now on so it will remember your kindness when it becomes self aware.

One Missed Call (2004).

Smartphones are becoming more and more, you’ve guessed it, smarter. In the past, cellphones were predominantly used for texting stupid jokes to our friends or telling mom that we’d be late for dinner, however we now use our smartgadgets for practically everything. According to the brains behind Pocket Fruity, an entertainment site that might soon be self aware when a comet passes by Earth, mobile is one of the most successful ventures in the Internet landscape today, indicating that the world will have to be wary about apps that may soon kill humanity, just like in this movie called One Missed Call where mobile phones decided to kill their owners through disturbing messages.

One Missed Call follows a group of friends who became shrouded in horror when they received a mysterious voice message on their phones that actually came from their future selves. When they listened to their phones’ message, they heard themselves at the very moment of their gruesome death. Sick.

If there’s something that we can all learn from the aforementioned movies, it’s to never become too attached to technology. Don’t attach human parts to computers, and never call yourselves from the future. Also, don’t forget that comets are bad and should be destroyed instantly.
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Science Team (2014)

When a small town falls under attack by an evil alien menace, the fate of the universe is left in the hands of Earth's most elite intergalactic guardians: The Science Team! Can these sexy young scientists stop the mysterious being from infiltrating our minds and taking over the entire planet? Drew Buldoc bursts back onto the scene with SCIENCE TEAM, a veritable goregasm of bloody murder and mayhem from the director of THE TAINT! SCIENCE TEAM throws together all of the outrageous and over-the-top antics that we have come to expect from the Troma school of filmmaking, while reaching for the deeper social and psychological significance of Romero or Cohen. It's a wonder that star Vito Trigo wasn't arrested for his on-screen insanity as Chip, the grief-stricken son whose mother becomes the first victim in the alien invasion. Trigo's ravenous behavior is off-set by Richard Spencer's smug and slicked-back performance as Science Team leader Joey Tweed, who sneaks in many of the film's more clever and irreverent moments. Although the campy dialog and gruesome effects are enough to carry us from scene to scene, SCIENCE TEAM falters most in driving home a clearly discernible plot. Without ever having established the characters' underlying intentions or motivations, it is simply uncertain as to what the film is looking to achieve at any given time. It also finds difficulty in striking a balance between the light-hearted humor and any feigned seriousness in the plot. Still, SCIENCE TEAM shows several marked improvements in style and substance for Buldoc's sophomore outing, and comes as an enjoyable entry into the Sci-Fi/Horror genre.

Rating: 6/10.

Movies like SCIENCE TEAM:
THE CRAZIES, AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION, THE TAINT, THE BEING, BLUE SUNSHINE, THE SIGNAL.

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Torture Chamber (2013)

A family struggles to end the evil reign of their youngest son, Jimmy, who they believe to be possessed by the devil, but is Jimmy's condition a result of his oppressive religious upbringing, or something far more sinister? Cult director Dante Tomaselli returns with another ambitious and highly original approach to hallucinatory horror in TORTURE CHAMBER, his fourth and most recent film. As always, Tomaselli instills a personal approach to the writing and directing of this low-budget shocker, drawing once more from a deeply-religious background that seems to condemn the dogmatic practices of the Catholic church. We are the ones that are left to decide whether Jimmy's twisted appearance and demonic powers are a result of nature or nurture, or whether the events portrayed in the film are even real to begin with. Jimmy's fiery vengeance can just as easily be an expression of his inner anguish and psychological turmoil as it could be an outward expression of true horror. Tomaselli sets the mood with a stellar score, which draws us deep into the bowels of hell portrayed on screen. For all of its strengths, however, TORTURE CHAMBER may prove to be too challenging for most audiences. It is laid out through a series of flashbacks and hallucinations which defy linear structure. The result is a living, breathing nightmare that conforms solely to the director's unique vision of horror. Those fringe film fans that are seeking a breakaway from the standard conventions of the genre will find TORTURE CHAMBER to be a refreshing release.

Rating: 6/10.

Movies like TORTURE CHAMBER:
PURIFICATION, HORROR, THE ANTICHRIST, THE MANSON FAMILY.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Top Ten Reasons Why 'Jaws: The Revenge' Is the Best Movie Ever Made

1. This shark is out for REVENGE! Because, naturally, sharks are cognizant beings that seek revenge against their transgressors. This was a key factor that was missing from the previous films. Before, the sharks would just eat for food or out of boredom. Now, its motives are much more brooding and calculated.

2. The shark roars like a dinosaur. Another fact that was overlooked in each of the other sequels. Lead scientists in the field of underwater research have proven that the great white has an impressive vocal range that sounds very similar to several large species of dinosaur. This makes Jaws 4 the most accurate portrayal of the great white in film.

3. Lance Guest. Lance Guest's award-winning performance as Mike Brody is intense and sincere. It is the introspective moments in the film that truly define his character, where we find him staring at himself in the mirror, contemplating whether or not he should keep tagging sea snails for a living. He outshines even the great Roy Scheider in the series.

4. Banana Boat. Need I say more?? I'll be damned if I ever ride another banana boat in the Caribbean after seeing this movie. Honestly, what did you think was going to happen? The ratio between Women Riding Banana Boats in a Horror Film and Dying is 1:1. Want to save money before your next vacation? Show your kids the banana boat scene.

5. It built Michael Caine's house. And what a fine house it is! Michael Caine has been quoted as saying this about Jaws - The Revenge: "I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific."

6. They made a Nintendo game out it. Yeah, that's right. It may have just been called Jaws for brevity's sake, but we all know it was about Jaws - The Revenge. The fast-paced action and suspense has you assume the role of Mike Brody as you shoot helpless sea creatures with your monstrous harpoon gun. If you're lucky, Jaws will randomly show up and float aimlessly around the screen for a few minutes. And if you're REALLY lucky, you may accidentally be able to align the boat properly in the final showdown against the killer shark.

7. The tracking device. Who needs John Williams' tired old score when you have the electronic bleeping of a tracking device on hand to warn you when the shark is preparing to strike? Nothing strikes terror in the heart of men like modified fishing equipment.

8. The giant swing that overlooks the water. This is a parent's best friend. Before, you had to worry about your kid flying off of the swing and breaking a limb. Now, children are afforded the luxury of landing safely in a shark's mouth, or dying a horrible and tragic death after landing in the water and drowning while their irresponsible-ass parents are off drinking cool island cocktails. Kudos, giant swing that overlooks the water designer!

9. The shark is real. Budgeting constraints forced director Joseph Sargent to use real sharks in the filming of Jaws - The Revenge. This is clearly evidenced in one of the underwater scenes where Mike is attacked by the shark in his little yellow submarine. The giant metal arm that can be seen beneath the shark was a tethering device used to control these beautiful creatures in nature, providing for some of the most realistic-looking attack sequences in the series.

10. Random acts of Sharksplosion. Getting back to the science behind Jaws - The Revenge, another little know fact is that the great white naturally explodes when hit with even the slightest amount of force, as we have seen in the film's climactic ending.
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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Movie Monsters: Meridian (1990)

The elegant werewolf costume seen here may look familiar, as it was later used in Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula. Meridian is a stylish and atmospheric Gothic tale that director Charles Band had fashioned after the Harlequin novels of love and romance. Why is the beast from Meridian your favorite movie monster? Read The Full Post HERE!

Horror Quotes: Nosferatu (1922)

Graf Orlok: Is this your wife? What a lovely throat. Read The Full Post HERE!

Names in Horror: Amy Irving

Amy Irving's earliest contributions to the genre included Brian De Palma's two telekinetic Horror films, Carrie and The Fury. She would return as Sue Snell for The Rage: Carrie 2, and would appear in the suspense thriller, Hide and Seek, alongside Robert De Niro. Read The Full Post HERE!

The Awakening (2011)

Set in 1920s England, THE AWAKENING follows Florence Cathcart, a skeptic who has set out to disprove the existence of ghosts using modern scientific techniques. Florence is called upon to settle the rumors of a haunting that has been plaguing a local boarding school, but her beliefs are soon shaken by a number of unexplainable events. Director Nick Murphy delivers a great deal of supernatural suspense in his chilling ghost story, THE AWAKENING, from 2011. The film has been beautifully dressed to fit the period, with a cool color palette and somber mood that are used to reflect a grief-stricken England following the First World War. Rebecca Hall and each of her surrounding cast members are quite good in their respective roles. Hall brings a sharp wit and authoritative sense of control to the character of Florence, before fear and self-doubt begin to sink in towards the end. The same subtle approach that was taken in THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE and THE OTHERS is exhibited here once again, which gives way to sudden shocks that are rightfully earned due to the well-crafted suspense. It is a Modern Classic in a sense, drawing from more traditional frights from a bygone era.

Rating: 8/10.

Movies like THE AWAKENING:
THE ORPHANAGE, 23:59, DORM, THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE, THE OTHERS, THE INNOCENTS, THE WOMAN IN BLACK.

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Horror Posters: Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)

We are not given much information here for Wes Craven's New Nightmare, but there is something dark and evil that comes through in this poster that just seems fitting to the film. Do you prefer this over the more colorful posters from earlier in the series? Read The Full Post HERE!

Behind the Scenes: Metropolis (1927)

Brigitte Helm takes a moment to herself during the filming of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, in which she has several integral parts. The film is considered to be the forefather of the Science Fiction genre, and a masterpiece of the Silent Film Era. Read The Full Post HERE!

Great Moments: Peeping Tom (1960)

An intense moment from Michael Powell's classic thriller, Peeping Tom! Although the film was violently criticized at the time of its original release, it has since been hailed as one of the most daring and provocative thrillers of its time, and a film classic. What are your favorite moments from the film? Read The Full Post HERE!

Horror Haiku: Deep Red (1975)

Think. What did I miss?
Was a picture out of place?
I need to reflect.
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Villains of Horror: The Stepfather (1987)

Who am I? Jerry Blake moves in with his new wife in the hopes of finding the perfect family, but when things don't work out quite like he planned, he decides it's time to cut ties, and necks! Terry O'Quinn stars in 1987's terrifying suspense thriller, The Stepfather. Why is Jerry Blake your favorite Villain of Horror? Read The Full Post HERE!

Mama (2013)

Two feral children are discovered years after their father abandoned them in the woods, but they bring along an unexpected guest when they are taken in by their uncle in the supernatural thriller MAMA, from 2013. MAMA is a chilling and frightful ghost story whose most horrific moments come out of the children's eerie performances, rather than the sudden appearances of the spindly apparition. Victoria and Lilly have regressed in to an animal-like state, which causes them to run around on all fours and lash out aggressively. Their discovery within the dilapidated cabin makes for a truly unnerving experience. Director Andrés Muschietti drowns each scene with oppressive feelings of tension and dread, and creates a number of disturbing images along the way. Where he falters most is in the storytelling, itself. MAMA is a simple rehash of so many other similar tales of ghostly revenge, with a familiar structure that rarely deviates from the status quo. The film's subtler moments are infinitely more effective than the outright shocks, due to the heavy reliance on computerized imaging that dispels all feelings of suspended disbelief. If it were to be rated solely on atmosphere and mood, however, MAMA would surely top the charts.

Rating: 8/10.

Movies like MAMA:
THE WOMAN IN BLACK, DEAD SILENCE, DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, A HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT, THE ORPHANAGE, THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE.

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