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Glynn Avenue Massacre

Horror Movie Reviews

Month

July 2016

STRANGER THINGS (2016) (Netflix Original Series)

stranger-things-kids

Director: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Shawn Levy

Writer: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Jesse Nickson-Lopez, Justin Doble, Paul Dichter, Jessica Mecklenburg, Alison Tatlock

Music: Kyle Dixon, Michael Stein

Format: Streaming (Netflix)

Series Length: 8 episodes

Starring:

Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers

Matthew Modine as Dr. Martin Brenner

Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers

David Harbour as Jim Hopper

Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler

Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson

Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas Sinclair

Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler

Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven

Noah Schnapp as Will Byers

During my childhood, there were certain movies and television shows that I felt “got” me. Media that was specifically aimed at my demographic that seemed to understand what it meant to be a child that was a little different. I loved sports, but was never super athletic. I would rather grab a copy of Shocker on Shock Street or a collection of Alvin Schwartz stories than a baseball bat. My idea of a great time was a trip to the video store to rent A Nightmare on Elm Street III for the fourth weekend in a row. So when I was introduced to The Goonies, The Monster Squad, E.T., Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Goosebumps (TV series) and so on, I felt like it was cool to be uncool.

Now, it seems like young adults have a little taste of what I felt back in the yearly 90s. With shows like Gravity Falls and the new Scooby Doo mysteries (just to name a couple), there’s still a flow of media out there to reach the next generation of obsessed super fans. But these aren’t quite the same. They are missing that key element of nostalgia. Nostalgia for the 80s babies. That is, until this past weekend, when Netflix dropped a bomb of what it was like to grow up in a time before twitter and smart phones.

Stranger Things takes places in Illinois in 1983. A clan of 4 middle-schoolers (very reminiscent of my school yard chums) are gathered in a basement neck deep in an exciting game of Dungeons and Dragons. Mike (Wolfhard), Dustin (Matarazzo), Lucas (McLaughlin) and Will (Schnapp) wrap up their 10 hour session and the visiting boys are sent home. On the way, Will is frightened off the road and proceeds to be chased home. Seeking shelter in his tool shed, the being that chased him has caught up to him and Will mysteriously disappears.

Meanwhile, across town, a strange girl with a shaved head shows up at a local burger joint, sneaks into the kitchen and chows down on leftovers. Wearing a tattered hospital gown and an intense scowl, the girl soon reveals a secret to the audience; an ability to control things with her mind. The mystery of this girl all traces back to a secret government lab, protected by a large, barbed wire fence and checkpoint stands with soldiers, where testing is being done. Only, no one in town knows exactly what kind of testing goes on within its monstrous walls.

I really don’t want to give too much away here. The disappearance of Will turns the Byers family upside down. Convinced that her youngest son is still alive, Joyce (Ryder) will stop at nothing to find him. Will’s friends also believe that Will is still alive, only stuck in a place unseen by the human eye.

The Duffer Brothers (Matt and Ross) are magnificent in this series effort. Creating the series and directing most of the episodes, they encapsulated the very essence of the 80s child adventure. Pitting pre-teen kids up against almost impossible odds. Shawn Levy (director of This is Where I Leave You, The Internship, The Night at the Museum films and many others) adds his directing prowess in 2 episodes and a plethora of writers helped in creating this exciting universe where nothing is exactly what it seems. Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein add a jaw-dropping score to the adventure that accommodates the action while creeping you out.

As far as acting goes, Ryder, Modine, and Harbour give excellent performances. Truly believable roles delivered with the poise and grace that is expected from these experts of their craft. With that said, in my opinion, they play second fiddle to the kids. I was very impressed with the acting of Wolfhard, McLaughlin, Schnapp, Brown, Matarazzo, Heaton and Dyer. Their performances took me right back to childhood, battling monsters in my backyard with my neighborhood crew of ragamuffins. Be it great directing or just natural talent, these kids stole the show.

Let’s put a bow on this. I can’t say enough about the awesome power of this series. It’s funny, action-packed, frightening and all-around fantastic. If you haven’t caught the bug yet, jump on board! Still not sold? That’s cool. Check out this trailer and see how you feel afterwards.

I GOT 5 ON IT! Top 5 Directorial Debuts Since 2010

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A mark of a great director can always be seen in their early work. An original idea, no matter how simple the idea or what kind of budget they are working with, that leaves an impression with the audience will always keep consumers coming back. In fact, an in-your-face debut can define a director’s career. The film can give the director a lifetime pass even when he or she falls from grace in the latter part of their film making. Also, it can serve as a notice to cinephiles as to who has the chops to continue onto master status.

So far, this decade has seen a number of up and coming directors showing off their skills in a massive way. Especially in the horror genre. Maybe it’s just me, but I would rather see a low-budget slasher with passion than an attempt to put butts in theater seats that lacks soul. That brings us to our list. A list of my personal top 5 directorial debuts from 2010 until now.

I must note that my definition of debut here is a full length, credited movie. I’m leaving off short films, TV work or uncredited help. Now that the rules are in place, let’s get knee deep into it!

 

TOP 5 DIRECTORIAL DEBUTS SINCE 2010

evil dead

5. Fede Alvarez – Evil Dead (2013)

Remakes and reboots have a bad rep. Usually, when a remake is announced, my initial reaction is an exhausted gasp and subtle head shake. Especially when dealing with the remake of a genre classic. When I first heard about an Evil Dead remake, my jaw collapsed and my stomach churned. Why remake something that stands as a perfect slice of horror pie? I watched with reluctance and I’m happy to say that I was dead wrong about this one. What Fede Alvarez was able to accomplish should be the standard for directors remaking classic films; make the film your own and breathe new life into it. Alvarez didn’t just modernize the story beat for beat. He created new life in an already familiar universe. Because of this, Evil Dead has to be mentioned on this list.

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4. Drew Goddard – Cabin in the Woods (2012)

It’s not every day that a director can take all the tropes and rules of horror films and kick them out the window. Drew Goddard took a simple spin on the cabin in the woods (no pun) idea and made his audience squeal in delight. Regardless of what he’s doing now, Goddard will be remembered in the genre for years to come because of this triumph of bloody elation.

bone tomahawk

3. S. Craig Zahler – Bone Tomahawk (2015)

A western in appearance, but every part of an extreme horror film at heart, S. Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk delivers in the creep department. An all star cast mixed with a revenge story wrapped in sheer terror is unforgettable. The last act of the film has a the gritty feeling of a 70s mondo minus the documentary style. Picture Cannibal Holocaust without the film crew, with an ending that closes the story but only leaves you filled with dread.

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2. Ana Lily Amirpour – A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

The Iranian vampire western shot in black and white, the visually stunning A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night will leave you spellbound, overwhelmed and straight horrified. Artistic, passionate and mind-blowing, Amirpour’s first feature will resonate with you long after the final credits roll. Take a trip into Bad City and leave a little piece of you within its desolate streets.

the babadook

1. Jennifer Kent – The Babadook (2014)

All of the hype is real. There’s nothing to say that hasn’t been said before. The Babadook is an absolute masterpiece. I love that horror has taken a slight turn from huge, CGI monster-ish “things go boom” films to these little, independent gems of emphatic joy. The duel force of Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman on-screen is undeniable and Jennifer Kent’s directing and story is pulse pounding from the first second. For me, it’s one of those films that I will always remember where I was the first time I saw it.

Body Bags (1993)

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BODY BAGS (1993)

Director: John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper

Writer: Billy Brown, Dan Angel

Distributor: Republic Pictures

Music: John Carpenter, Jim Lang

Runtime: 91 min.

Format: VHS

Starring:

Alex Datcher as Anne (The Gas Station)

Robert Carradine as Bill (The Gas Station)

Stacy Keach as Richard Coberts (Hair)

David Warner as Dr. Lock (Hair)

Mark Hamill as Brent Matthews (Eye)

Twiggy as Cathy Matthews (Eye)

John Carpenter as The Coroner (The Morgue)

If you visit my site on a regular basis of any kind, you already know my crazed love affair with the horror anthology film. I devour all I find. When I discovered John Carpenter had an anthology of his own loaded with Hollywood big names and genre idols, I was like a kid locked in a candy store for an entire weekend. The gloves came off with utter excitement. Body Bags is a made for TV movie that aired late in the summer of 1993 on Showtime. Originally meant to be an anthology show for Showtime in the vein of The Twilight Zone or Tales From the Crypt, the idea was scrapped and the episodes that were filmed were thrown together for a movie. Not being privy to the awesome power of Showtime as a child, I wasn’t introduced to this film until later in my adolescence

I remember distinctly being creeped the F out by the site of a ghastly John Carpenter as the “host”, if you will, in the wrap around story and being flat out terrified by The Gas Station segment. I didn’t, however, remember a single thing about the other stories other than Mark Hamill. This brings us to 2013, when Scream Factory released the special edition blu ray of this demented scarefest. After seeing it was getting a release that could only be described as “nerd candy”, it reminded me of how long it had been since seeing the film. Naturally, I broke out my faded DC comics wallet, pulled out the debit card…and ordered a VHS copy for a few bucks.

My over-eager hands couldn’t get the package open fast enough when it appeared on my doorstep a few days later. Almost immediately, the doors were locked and the lights were off. I popped this piece into my super fresh VCR and prepared myself to engage in heart stopping horror. Man…I miss being a kid. Now that I have adult eyes and my brain has processed more of the “extreme” horror cinema, I have to say I was a little disappointed.

What I did remember about the film still held pretty true. Carpenter as The Coroner is still a frightening sight. Is it just me, or does seeing John dance around in full corpse coroner garb give you the willies? The wrap around works. A big part of an anthology film working is a delightful wrap around. Whether it be another story that ties everything together or, as in this case, a tour guide that interjects between each story and introduces the next.

The first story, The Gas Station, is best in show in my opinion. It’s a simple story that gets your skin crawling right away and doesn’t let up until Carpenter is back on screen. Anne (Alex Datcher) is a gas station attendant at a 24 hour fuel station. It’s her first night and gets dropped off by a friend. You can already feel the tension. She’s trapped, alone, all night with no car. Just her, the fluorescents, a cramped attendant stand, the smell of gas and the creeps that wonder around in the middle of nowhere at night. One thing that I did forget that was a pleasant surprise is all of the cameos that appear throughout the film. Wes Craven and Sam Raimi appear in this story (Craven as a weirdo that shows up for gas and Raimi as a body…without giving too much away). As the night progresses, the creepier the “customers” get and the more things go wrong. Anne’s nerves of starting a new job coupled with the horrific fear of the desolate location is felt by the audience. I was terrified for her and I was safely in my house. Out of nowhere, the spit hits the fan now Anne is trapped in a life or death situation with a madman. It’s a great little spooky story that serves it’s purpose by getting your blood pumping; a great way to start off an anthology.

It’s all downhill from there.

Our next story, after a little comic relief from John, is titled Hair. The mighty Stacy Keach stars as Richard Coberts, a wealthy man who has it all…except hair. After seeing men, women and dogs with long, flowing, full heads of hair, he decides to pay a visit to a doctor whose infomercial guarantees hair growth for anyone. Richard gets the hair transplant and is overjoyed with the results. Finally, the long mop top of his dreams was his…only, it won’t stop growing. Eventually, the hair takes over his body. Hair begins growing out of all the wrong places on his face. Looking like J. Fox’s stunt double from Teen Wolf, Richard tries cutting it off, but it only causes him pain. What’s weirder than that? He discovers that the hair he is able to cut off has teeth! All in all, this story is a little on the weak side for me. Stacy Keach delivers, but the meat and potatoes just aren’t filling enough.

The last segment, titled Eye, is the story directed by Tobe Hooper. Brent Matthews (Mark Hamill) is a baseball player on a hot streak and is about to make his move from the farm league to the big show, when a car crash leaves a piece of shrapnel buried in one of his eyes. Unwilling to give up his pro ball dreams, he has an eye transplant. Of course, there’s a downside. The eye belonged to a recently deceased serial killer and now Brent is having visions of mutilating women. The story comes to a head when he attempts to attack and murder his wife Cathy (Twiggy). Much like Hair, Eye falls a little short. It’s more enjoyable than the previous segment, but still doesn’t carry very much weight with this guy.

The movie ends with one last visit with The Coroner to discover just why Carpenter looks like a corpse and guzzling down formaldehyde martinis. A few last second cameos by Tom Arnold and Tobe Hooper himself completes this little package of fright.

In summation, Body Bags is the 1993 version of Nightmares from ten years earlier. A television show that ended up being jettisoned from their respected corporate aircraft and, in an effort to save face, put the filmed material together into an anthology film. Both had great opening stories and became stale from that point on. If I had to choose, I would pick Body Bags as a better movie in total. The stories are a little better and the acting is a step above its predecessor. Yet…it’s not that GREAT of a film. A fun little ditty to pass some time. I would recommend watching it for The Gas Station segment. It was under my skin and got it crawling.

Check It Out! July 2016

CREEPS! Welcome back to our little ghastly neck of the internet. As you already know, this is our look at some of my picks of what’s getting released to Blu/DVD this month. This month is chock full of great titles, so c’mon Roy….let’s get our hands dirty.

July 5:

holidays

Holidays (DVD)

Weird. I’m excited about an anthology film. I’ve been keeping up with this little nugget of cinema since it was announced and now it’s here! The stories are based on the macabre of our national holidays and features shorts by directors such as Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes), Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact, At the Devil’s Door), Sarah Adina Smith (The Midnight Swim), Scott Stewart (Dark Skies) and Kevin Smith (Red State, Tusk, Yoga Hosers). This title just got added to Netflix, so if you want to test the milk before buying the cow, go for it. You won’t be disappointed.

BLOOD_BLACK_LACE_2D_BD

Blood and Black Lace (2 Disc Special Edition Blu/DVD)

Many believe this to be Mario Bava’s masterpiece. And I can’t say that I would disagree with that statement. If you’re not very familiar with or looking for a good film to start building a foundation in Italian horror/giallo, look no further. Amazing camera work, visually stunning color design, a gut-wrenching “who will survive” story…Blood and Black Lace has it all.

July 10:

10_Cloverfield_Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane (Blu/DVD)

Because of my love of Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield (2008), I have read nothing about this film and just waiting to watch. I’m not saying it’s a sequel, because I’m not sure. But I will find out soon enough. I’m dying to see this. Plus, almost anything starring John Goodman is worth watching. Roseanne being a prime example. I have to give it up for whoever pieced together the trailer(s) and tv spots for this flick. They did an amazing job of filling me with wonder without giving away any of the mystery. I might just give this a watch after I’m done typing this.

July 12:

green room

The Green Room (Blu/DVD)

Another one of those films I’ve been patiently waiting for since hearing about it in December of last year. I was a big fan of Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin and have been anxious to see his next film. Considering what I’ve heard and read so far, this is Blue Ruin on steroids. A punk band finds out about a secret bar to play a show. When they arrive, they quickly discover that they may be in the wrong place in front of the wrong crowd. After some tension, the band begins to win over the crowd and the show ends well. Then the trouble starts.

just-desserts

Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow (Blu Ray)

One of the handful of films that started it all for me, Creepshow will go down as one of my favorite horror films of all time. In 2007, Michael Felsher heard my prayers and made a documentary on the making of, in my opinion, the greatest anthology ever made. Now, finally, I can own a copy. Thank you dear sweet nerd lord. This will be in my collection sooner than later.

July 19:

bad moon

Bad Moon (Blu/DVD)

The good folks over at Scream Factory continue to give forgotten gems a well-deserved release. This time, they’re back at it with the release of Bad Moon (1996). Eric Red’s werewolf film is one of the few werewolf movies I missed as a kid. Even better, I get to enjoy it as an adult. Practical effects are something that I miss from the golden age of horror, so anytime Scream Factory releases a film from pre-2000, I get excited.

July 26:

the boy who cried werewolf

The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (Blu Ray)

Speaking of Scream/Shout! Factory and werewolves, we get a double dose of werewolf fun as Shout! Factory is releasing the Blu Ray of The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973). Not to be confused with the 2010 movie of the same title (which appears to be a Nickelodeon TV movie), we’re talking about the 1973 fright flick directed by Nathan Juran (Attack of the 50 foot Woman, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad). Juran’s last directed movie, this would be a nice classic to add to the stash.

five miles to midnight

Five Miles to Midnight (Blu Ray)

We’ll wrap up this section of Check It Out with another suspense thriller I didn’t know existed until preparing to write this article. This is why I do this. For your sake and mine. Five Miles to Midnight is a 1962 film starring two screen legends, Sophia Loren and Anthony Perkins, as a couple who get in way over their head in a get-rich-quick scheme with dire consequences. Directed by Anatole Litvak (The Snake Pit).

Pick(s) of the Week(s): June – July 18

What’s up, Creeps? Man, it’s been awhile. It’s insane how quickly time can slip away on you. There have been many changes in my personal life (great changes), but I’m back to deliver you some great recommendations to sink your teeth into. Many of the titles I’m about to mention are available via streaming TV or fairly cheap for rental. So let’s get right in!

 

southbound

Southbound (2015)

A very cool, creepy, thrill ride of an anthology film, featuring shorts from up and coming horror directors Roxanne Benjamin (co-producer of Faults, The Devil’s Candy, V/H/S films), David Bruckner (The Signal, V/H/S films), Patrick Horvath (The Pact II) and Radio Silence (V/H/S). I love a good anthology with a nice wrap-around that ties the stories up with a nice, little bow. Plus, listening to the eerily soothing voice of Larry Fessenden is always a thumbs up.

 

deathgasm

Deathgasm (2015)

Black metal, satanists, demons, gore, comedy and corpse paint; this film has a little bit of everything. I’ve been meaning to check this film out for quite some time now. It’s a blend of my two favorite things period; death metal and gruesomeness. With this film and Housebound, New Zealand is leading the surge of horror comedies and I’m really excited to see what Jason Lei Howden (a very accomplished visual effects artist) does next.

 

hush

Hush (2016)

Directed by Mike Flanagan (Absentia, Oculus, Before I Wake), this film was a little bit of a festival darling early on and was released to Netflix last month. It tells the story of a deaf writer, escaping to a cabin in the woods to work and gets terrorized by a man with a crossbow. What separates this film from other slashers is the aspect of being hunted without the use of one of your senses. This allows for some really cool set pieces and guaranteed to leave you on the edge of your seat. Speaking of Mike Flanagan, he recently appeared on an episode of the Shock Waves podcast and delivered an astounding interview. Check it out if you’re into the podcast thing. Also, Flanagan announced earlier this year that he’s working on a film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Gerald’s Game, which should be pretty f’n interesting.

 

making-a-murderer

Making a Murderer (Netflix Series) (2015)

Not really “horror”, but can be horrific at times, this 10 part series blew the pants off of America when it was released. Of course, I waited for all of the fuss to die down before checking it out…and I’m really glad I watched this. It engages you and leaves you talking about it for the next two weeks. If you haven’t seen this, I highly recommend checking it out

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