Horror Trailer: Citadel (by Ciaran Foy)

Continuing the month-long theme of horror and everything spooky I come bearing horror gifts with the trailer to a horror film that made the rounds at this year’s film festivals.

Ciaran Foy’s Citadel looks to be one of those siege films where we have one or two people under siege by a large group of unnamed marauders (who may or may not be human). It’s a story that’s been told many times and one that’s simple to pull off. It made Romero’s zombie films extremely popular and even made a star out of John Carpenter who’s own brand of under siege films became a homage to the old Westerns which followed the same template but with cowboys and Indians instead.

Some may think this is just another Euro-zombie film that seems to be coming out of the old country and making its way to the shores of the US. Whether the hoodlums stalking and attacking the hapless young father in this film are zombies, or demons or just some pissed off chavs the film looks to be scary and well-shot for a first-time director.

There’s no set release date for the Citadel in the US but I’m sure it’ll find it’s way either on cable On Demand services, but at least on DVD/Blu-Ray.


What Horror Lisa Marie Watched Last Night #53: Halloween II (directed by Rick Rosenthal)

Last night, I watched Halloween II.  No, I’m not referring to the rather disturbing Rob Zombie movie that came out in 2009.  Instead, this Halloween II was the original sequel to the original Halloween.  This version was written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill.  It was released in 1981 and I saw it in 2012, via Cinemax.

Why Was I Watching It?

Because it’s October, of course!  It’s horror month and Halloween is one of the great horror movies.  Would Halloween II turn out to be another great horror movie?  Well, to be honest, I figured it probably wouldn’t but I decided to watch it anyway.

What Was It About?

Halloween II picks up exactly from where the first Halloween ended.  The sole surviving babysitter, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), is being rushed to the hospital by two paramedics, one nice (Lance Guest) and one kinda crude and pervy (Leo Rossi).  Two guesses which one of our two paramedics eventually ends up dead.  Meanwhile, Michael Myers has apparently survived being shot six times and falling out of a second story window and he’s still wandering around Haddonfield, Indiana.  Best of all, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) is still running around all over the place, telling anyone who will listen that it wasn’t his idea to allow Michael to be released.  (In one of the film’s best running jokes, everyone responds to Loomis’ protestations by saying stuff like, “Damn you for letting him out!”  “Uhmm, I didn’t…” Dr. Loomis mutters at one point.)  It quickly becomes apparent that Michael’s rampage wasn’t quite as random as it seemed in the first film.  He’s after Laurie and, once he breaks into the local hospital, it seems like he might very well get her.  Why?  Because, for the most part, it appears that every single citizen of Haddonfield is a total and complete moron.

What Worked?

Halloween II is actually one the better of the slasher sequels of the early 80s.  While it can’t compare to the first Halloween, it’s still a fairly suspenseful little film and Michael Myers is just as frightening as ever.  However, what truly makes this film memorable, is Donald Pleasence’s unhinged performance as Dr. Loomis.  Whereas in the first film, Pleasence played Loomis as just being somewhat testy and annoyed, his performance here suggests that, in the minute or so between shooting Michael and then looking out the window at the end of the first film, Loomis has managed to totally lose his mind.  Pleasence gives one of the most mannered, over the top performances in film history in Halloween II and it works perfectly.  Whenever the film starts to drag, Pleasence shows up and injects a nice bit of crazy into the proceedings.  My favorite moment comes when Loomis suddenly yells at a policeman, “What is it you guys you usually do?  FIRE A WARNING SHOT!?”

Lance Guest, who plays the nice paramedic, was really quite likable.  I know there’s some debate as to the ultimate fate of his character but I chose to believe that he survived.

The Halloween theme music is still probably one of the most effective horror soundtracks to have not been composed by Goblin or Riz Ortolani.  When it came on the TV last night, our cat Doc actually got scared and ran out of the room.

What Didn’t Work?

It’s not the first Halloween.

While the film nominally stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Laurie spends most of the film catatonic and she never really gets to do much other than run from Michael.  Say what you will about how Laurie kept dropping her weapons at the end of the first Halloween, she still at least fought back.  In Halloween II, Laurie is reduced to being a stereotypical victim.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I have to admit that I kinda related to the three nurses who were on call at the hospital.  I related to Karen (Pamela Susan Shoop) because, like her, I have, in the past, shown a weakness for bad boys who insist on making out in a hot tub even while there’s a merciless serial killer wandering about.  I related to Jill (Tawny Moyer) because, like her, I tend to look at my nails whenever I get bored at work.  Most of all, I related to Janet (Ana Alicia), because she couldn’t figure out how to use a walkie talkie.  (And, seriously, what type of name is walkie-talkie anyway?  It sounds like a cutesy robot.)

So, as opposed to most other slasher films, I was able to find instant empathy with not one but three characters!  Unfortunately, all three of those nurses were dead by the end of the film so, seriously … agck!

Lessons Learned:

I would not survive a slasher film.

James Bond Film Review: Dr. No (dir. by Terrence Young)

Hi there!  As you may already know, in the days leading up to the release of Skyfall, we’re going to be looking at the previous films in the James Bond franchise.  Today, we take a quick look at the first of the “official” James Bond films — 1962’s Dr. No.

Dr. No is a film of many firsts.  It was the first film to be adapted from one of Ian Fleming’s original novels.  (Though it was not the first adaptation, that honor going to the 1954 made-for-tv version of Casino Royale). It was, of course, the first Bond film to be produced by the legendary team of Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli.  It featured the first true Bond girl, with Ursula Andress playing Honey Rider and spending the entire film in an iconic white bikini.  Dr. No featured the first appearance of both M and Miss Moneypenny (played, respectively, by Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell).  That iconic theme music made its first appearance in Dr. No as well.  However, most importantly, Dr. No featured the first appearance by Sean Connery in the role of James Bond.  Even more than Andress’ white bikini, Connery is the reason why Dr. No proved to be the rather unlikely launching pad for one of the most succesful film franchises in cinematic history.

Dr. No, in fact, is a film that contains so many historic firsts that, often, it seems like reviewers tend to neglect the film itself and, instead, chose to concentrate on the film’s legacy.  And indeed, 50 years after it was first released, it’s difficult to watch Dr. No without viewing everything about it in relation to what the James Bond franchise would eventually become.  Instead of evaluating the film on its own individual merits, the tendency is to watch Dr. No and to spend a lot of time thinking things like: That’s the first time the world ever heard Sean Connery say, “Bond, James Bond.”  We tend to forget that, when Connery and director Terrence Young actually made Dr. No, they had no way of knowing that 22 sequels would follow.  They didn’t know that they were making film history.

Dr. No begins with a shooting in Jamaica.  John Strangeways, the British Intelligence station chief, is ambushed and gunned down by three assassins.  Shortly afterward, in a surprisingly brutal scene, his secretary is also assassinated.  In response, James Bond is summoned to the offices of MI6.  When he receives the summons, Bond is busy gambling and seducing Sylvia Trench (Eunice Grayson).  Sylvia, incidentally, was originally meant to be a character who would pop up in all of the subsequent Bond films.  Basically, she would have functioned as Bond’s girlfriend, the loyal woman who waited at home while Bond went to exotic countries and slept with every other woman in the world.  Perhaps wisely, this idea was abandoned after just two movies but still, Bond’s initial meeting with Sylvia (and the audience) is such an iconic moment that words simply won’t do it justice.  Here it is, for your viewing pleasure:

This scene has to rank as one of the best intro scenes in film history.  In just a few brief minutes, this scene tells us everything that we need to know about both James Bond and, even more importantly, Sean Connery’s interpretation of the character.  In this scene, Connery’s Bond is the epitome of narcissistic charm, giving just a hint of the determined cruelty lurking right underneath the surface.  It’s especially interesting to compare Connery’s Bond here to Daniel Craig’s interpretation of the character.  Whereas Craig’s Bond often seems to be on the verge of having a nervous breakdown, Connery is established in his first scene as being a cool and calm professional.  Craig may be the ideal Bond for our troubled reality but Connery will always be the Bond of our dreams and fantasies.

Bond is sent to Jamaica, where he teams up with CIA agent Felix Leiter (played by Jack Lord).  Again, it’s interesting to compare this version of Felix Leiter with Jeffrey Wright’s more-recent interpretation of Felix.  Whereas Jack Lord’s Felix Leiter is a cool, calm professional (a bit like an asexual version of Connery’s Bond, to be honest), Jeffrey Wright’s Felix often seems to be mired in self-loathing.  Both interpretations are perfectly legitimate (and Felix is usually such a superfluous character that just about any interpretation will do).  Instead, they’re interesting largely because of the way that each one of them epitomizes the decade in which each film was made.

With the help of Leiter, Bond quickly figures out that Strangeways’ death is linked to the mysterious, Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman), who has his own private island near Jamaica.  The natives claim that a dragon guards the island but Bond, never one to let something like that stop him (especially when it’s always his allies — like the unfortunate Quarrel — who get killed in these films, as opposed to him) sneaks onto the island.  It’s here that he first spies Honey Rider (Ursula Andress) walking along the beach.  Again, Honey’s introduction is such an iconic scene that, rather than try to describe it, it’s better just to show it:

For all the talk of how the Bond girls were often sexist stereotypes, I would have loved to have been an old school Bond girl.  Seriously, they got to be all sexy, they got to make love to James Bond, and occasionally, they got to help save the world.  Seriously, what fun!

I’ve spent so much time talking about James Bond and Honey Rider that I haven’t left much room for Dr. No.  But that’s okay because, to be honest, Dr. No is not really that interesting of a villain.  As opposed to future Bond villains, Dr. No is something of a bland character.  Joseph Wiseman plays him with a lot of menace and he has a few over the top moments but it doesn’t matter because there’s really nothing to distinguish Dr. No from any other megalomaniac that’s ever shown up in a low budget spy movie.  He’s a perfectly acceptable villain but he’s not an extremely memorable one.  (Perhaps if Christopher Lee had accepted the role when it was offered to him, Dr. No would have been a bit more of an effective character.)  Rest assured that Dr. No does have an impressive secret headquarters and, that once he does capture Bond and Honey, he takes his time to explain all of his evil plans as opposed to doing something sensible like killing them.

So, how does Dr. No hold up 50 years after first being released?

Surprisingly well.

Despite having a weak villain, Dr. No is still a lot of fun.  As opposed to future Bond films, Dr. No was a low-budget affair and, at it’s best, it comes across as an appealing B-movie.  Ultimately, the film is best known for introducing audiences to Sean Connery in the role of James Bond and perhaps that is for the best because Connery truly is the best thing in Dr. No.  Five decades later, you can still see why the world was so intrigued with both the actor and the character.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at one of my personal favorite films of all time — From Russia With Love!

October Music Series: Kukulcan – Tlamictilia Quixtiani

There’s no good reason for pagan metal to be dormant in Central and South America. Hell, they have more to be pissed off about than anyone. As it stands though, Kukulcan is one of the only bands I have ever heard with a distinctly Aztec/Mayan theme. They come from Tlaxcala and Valle de Chalco, areas in the south of Mexico near the capital.

Apparently they have six demos and splits out now, but still no full-length cds. Tlamictilia Quixtiani is the opening track to Yaotlachinolli, their first demo, released in 2006. Here black metal serves as the backdrop for what sounds like a militant call to arms, amidst war horns, native drumming, and a woodwind that wavers between mourning and madness. That symbol in the four corners of the album cover is actually the Aztec swastika, which I couldn’t find much information on. But just in case such ambiguity fails to offend you, they made sure to plant a good old modern swastika in the middle of it. Ah, that must explain the Gothic font they used for their band logo. Such creative young lads…

But really, this demo is pretty great as pagan black metal goes. It’s an angry reassertion of pre-colonial heritage, noisily representing an indigenous American culture that gets largely ignored in the modern world.