Quick Horror Review: Wolfen (dir. by Michael Wadleigh)

Michael Wadleigh’s Wolfen (1981) remains one of my favorite stories with wolves, though there are no actual werewolves in the movie. It’s a great and underrated film, though I’m not quite sure if it really can be considered Horror. There’s bloodshed, yes, but not a lot when compared to the more superior The Howling, which came out in the same year.

The film in a nutshell is that you have the Bronx. Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, the Bronx was a warzone, and there were a number of films showcasing the decay of the area (Nighthawks and Fort Apache: The Bronx are two good ones). When a real estate mogul who’s developing buildings in the area and his wife are brutally murdered, Detective Dewey Wilson (Albert Finney) is partnered with a terrorism expert (Diane Venora) to solve the crime.

Through the film, Dewey discovers that the murders are being done not by people, but the spirits of ancient indians in the form of Wolves – or better to say that they were hunters from an older time. The Wolfen, as they’re called, are scavengers of the city’s decay, feeding off of those who won’t be missed – derelicts and the like.

While Finney and Venora carry the film, Gregory Hines has some fun lines as the local NYPD mortician and Tom Noonan’s Wolf Expert was interesting, though a little strange. The best person in the supporting cast (who doesn’t have as much time to work with) is Edward James Olmos, in a surprising turn as Eddie, who is believed to have something to do with the murders, but later helps put Dewey in the right direction.

Supposedly, the movie was a little heavy handed with all of the anti-terror angle they tried to use. From what I’ve read, it wasn’t a major part of Whitley Streiber’s novel of the same name and it tends to steer the audience away from the actual problem. I mean, the audience is seeing wolves do this (or at least are seeing something animalistic do it), so to bring in the notion that there’s a terrorist plot involved kind of went over my head. The movie would have been tighter without it, I believe anyway.

One of the cooler elements of the movie is that you are able to see things through the eyes of the Wolfen themselves in an infrared vision style. While this was done with movies after it like Predator, and films before it like Westworld, Wolfen was my first experience with the effect. That, coupled with James Horner’s score (a mixture of themes you’d later find in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Aliens), lend to some of the style. Unfortunately, Wolfen is a somewhat difficult film to find in terms of obtaining the DVD for it, but the film has been on Netflix. If you have a chance to catch it, it’s an interesting watch.

Horror Film Review: Plan 9 From Outer Space (dir. by Ed Wood, Jr.)

I guess it’s debatable whether or not Plan 9 From Outer Space can actually be called a horror film.  For one thing, it’s scary like not at all.  If you actually pay attention to the film, it’s obvious that director Ed Wood was actually trying to deliver a heartfelt plea for world peace (as well as finding use for a minute of footage featuring the late Bela Lugosi).  Of course, a lot of others claim that all Wood did was create the worst film ever made.

Now, at the risk of being branded a heretic, Plan 9 From Outer Space is hardly the worst film ever made.  First off, lead actor Gregory Walcott actually gives a pretty good performance as Jeff, the confused pilot who is accused of having a “stupid, stupid mind.”  And secondly … well, that’s really the only traditional praise that I can give the film.  Still, Plan 9 From Outer Space is way too much fun to be truly bad.  Yes, you may sit there and wonder, “How was this movie made?” but the fact of the matter is this: it was made and we’re all better off for it.  No, Plan 9 From Outer Space is not your standard “horror” film despite the presence of zombies and grave robbers from outer space.  However, in its own silly “Look we made a movie!” sort of way, it’s the perfect film for Halloween.

And luckily, it’s also in the public domain!  So, allow me to present you with the one and only Plan 9 From Outer Space!

Now, I’ve recently heard some talk about a Plan 9 From Outer Space remake.  What would that look like?  Well, here’s one possibility…

Horror Review: Dead City (by Joe McKinney)

Joe McKinney’s debut novel, Dead City, is quite an impressive piece of writing for a first-timer. It’s doubly impressive for taking the zombie tale and just making it unfold as one long nightmare with little or no prelude or wasted exposition about what led up to it. McKinney’s novel is not overlong or full of filler chapters that does nothing but try to extend the telling of the tale far longer than necessary.

Dead City is not too different from many of the zombie novels and stories that continues to see a renaissance of sorts these past couple years. McKinney takes a more novel approach in his setting by using the hurricane disasters which plagued the Gulf from Katrina and onwards. It is during the aftermath of a series of non-stop super hurricanes hitting the Texas Gulf Coast where we meet the main protagonist of this novel. Eddie Hudson is a police officer in the San Antonio Police Department who we see balancing the problems he’s having with his wife with that of the devastation left by the passing of the major hurricanes over San Antonio. The action and horror begins pretty quickly as Hudson and his partner for the night head off to a disturbance call in one of San Antonio’s neighborhoods. What they encounter at the scene is one they’ve not been trained for. Confusion and lack of relevant knowledge to combat the newly zombified citizens of San Antonio leads to disaster for Hudson and the rest of his police and emergency services brothers.

McKinney does a great job of showing the confusion and disbelief Hudson goes through as a real-life horror film comes to life in front of his very eyes. There’s the disbelief in seeing their attackers continue to move towards him and his partner with a focused determination despite being pepper sprayed at point-blank range, then hit by shotgun beanbags then to lethal gunshots to the body. It is only when shot cleanly through the head and thus destroying the brain do their crazed assailants finally stop for good. This revelation comes way too late from most of Hudson’s fellow police officers and he’s left to his own dwindling supplies of ammunition and a vow to get to his own family before the nightmare he’s seen reaches them. Along the way Hudson meets up with other survivors from undocumented workers, a high school teacher and amateur zombie researcher, to other fellow officers who have managed to survive the first few hours of the zombie outbreak.

Throughout Hudson’s attempts to get to his wife and six month-old son, more of the extent of the zombie outbreak makes itself know to Ernie and those who tags along with him as they travel the streets of a devastated San Antonio. McKinney gets high marks from this fan of the zombie genre for not shying away from describing the sort of damage these zombies can do to a human body. The gore quotient in Dead City is quite high and I think one that would satisfy any fan like myself. In fact, I will very much like to see how this novel will look like adapted into a film. The story is pretty simple and a horror road trip through a devastated city with the simple goal of a man trying to find his family amongst all the horror he has seen and still to see.

Dead City is by no means a perfect novel and at times it shows. Characters sometimes have a certain cookie-cutout feel to them. From the gung-ho and adrenaline junkie cop whose wisecracking attitude is suppose to balance out the near-desperation and panic Hudson seems to be in all the time. Then there’s the angry black man whose mistrust of the police makes him blind to the need for cooperation. Some characters seem to be there looking to become a major role in the making then quickly gone thirty pages later under the assault and tearing hands and teeth of the zombies. I think the size and length of the novel may be one reason why characterization on some of the people on the periphery got a bit shortchanged. It doesn’t bring down the overall quality of the story but it does show that this is indeed a debut novel. But with the amount of quality storytelling McKinney was able to put together I am more than confident that this writing style will improve with each successive book.

In the end, Joe McKinney’s Dead City is one roller-coaster ride of a debut horror novel which doesn’t pull its punches. The story never lets up for a moment to give our main protagonist a moment of respite from the dangers around him. Like Officer Ernie Hudson, the reader becomes bombarded with horrific images after horrific images and only until the end to we find the respite and time to relax. I hope McKinney has more tales of the undead ahead of him and that he shares it with those likeminded people who displa the same kind of interest in the black sheep of the monster genre. I very much recommend Dead City to those who enjoy a very good zombie yarn.

The Horror, The Horror — 6 More Trailers

It’s time for the latest installment of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation trailers and, continuing with October’s theme, they are once again all horror trailers.  This week, I set out to prove that Argento’s a master and everything’s scarier in German.  Let’s begin:

1) Friday the 13th (1980)

There’s no way I could possibly get through October without including at least one Friday the 13th trailer.  I went with this one in order to specifically prove that everything’s scarier in German.

2) Paganini Horror (1989)

The trailer for this Italian horror film is in German as well and I have to be honest that, despite being a fourth German, I speak the language like not at all.  Then again, considering that this is one of Luigi Cozzi’s films, it’s probably for the best that I can’t understand the trailer.  All I know is that the killer’s mask is creepy and who doesn’t love Venice?  Seriously, I went there the summer after I graduated high school and there’s no other place I’d more want to be stalked by Klaus Kinski.  One more piece of trivia (and don’t quote me on this), I think that Cozzi may have attempted to sell this film as a part of Dario Argento’s Three Mothers trilogy.

3) Suspiria (1977)

Speaking of Dario Argento’s Three Mothers trilogy, here’s the U.S. trailer for the film that started it all, Suspiria.  While you can probably guess that Suspiria is one of my favorite horror films, it’s also one of my favorite ballet movies as well.  In fact, the ballet aspect of Suspiria is largely responsible for me discovering my love of Italian horror because, if not for the fact that it took place at a cursed dance academy, I doubt I would have paid as much attention to the movie the first time I saw it.

4) Inferno (1980)

While Suspiria is definitely more fun, I still think that the second part of the trilogy — Inferno — is a better horror film.  Seriously, the underwater sequence at the start of this film still freaks me out.

5) Mother of Tears (2007)

Twenty-seven years after Inferno, Argento finally concluded the trilogy with Mother of Tears.  A lot of horror fans practically foam at the mouth going on and on about how much they hated this film.  I happened to have enjoyed it.  So there.

6) Dawn of The Dead (1978)

Continuing on the Argento theme, here’s a classic trailer for a classic film.  George Romero may have directed the American version of Dawn of the Dead but the European version (known as Zombi) was put together by Argento and guess which one is superior?  Anyway, this trailer is for the Romero version: