Horror Film Review: Sinister (dir. by Scott Derrickson)

Sinister is the scariest film of 2012.

That’s not the way that I wanted to start this review because calling any film the best or the worst or the scariest reeks of hyperbole.  But, in the two weeks that since I first saw Sinister, I have not been able to get the film out of my head.  Sinister is not only a horror film.  It’s also a deeply disturbing experience that inspires you to keep an eye out for mysterious shadows while you’re leaving the theater.  As opposed to the similar Paranormal Activity films, Sinister remains scary even after the film itself has ended.  Sinister is like Insidious without that terrible ending.

In short, Sinister is the scariest film of 2012.

Sinister opens with a genuinely disturbing sequence, in which we see a family of four, standing next to a tree.  All of them are wearing bags over their heads, all of them are bound by tape, and all of them have a noose around their neck.  One of the tree’s limbs is sawed off by an unseen person, causing all four of our victims to be lifted up in the air and slowly strangled to death.  The grainy footage has the look of an old home movie and the whole scene has a sickeningly authentic feel to it.

Months later, Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) and his family move into the house where the murders previously occurred.  Ellison is a formerly succesful true crime writer who is desperately trying to come up with the bestseller that can revive his career.  He plans to write about the murders that occurred in the backyard of his new home but he neglects to tell his new family that they’re living in a murder house.

While exploring his new home, Ellison discovers a mysterious box in the attic.  The box contains a film projector and several reels of film.  Late at night, Ellison locks himself in his office and watches the films.  He discovers that each reel of film contains two scenes.  In the first scene, we see a happy family spending time together.  In the 2nd scene, we see that same family being brutally murdered in a way that provides a macabre comment on what they were previously seen doing.  For instance, a film entitled “Pool Party ’66,” starts with a family happily playing in a pool and ends with them being drowned.  “BBQ ’79” opens with a family barbecue and ends with that same family being burned alive in their car.

As Ellison investigates, he finds himself becoming more and more obsessed with the macabre home movies and it starts to become obvious that Ellison is a bit unstable himself.  Meanwhile, his son is having night terrors, his daughter is painting pictures of people hanging from a tree, and the local sheriff (played by Fred Thompson, the former presidential candidate) is encouraging Ellison to abandon his book and just leave town.

Oh, and little pasty-faced children are showing up in the house, standing in darkened corners and scowling at Ellison and his family…

There’s only so much that I can say about Sinister without giving away too much of the film’s plot.  Sinister may start out feeling like the 100th rip-off of Paranormal Activity but, much like last year’s Insidious, it eventually takes off in a direction of its own.  Hawke gives a memorably unhinged performance and, unlike so many other horror films, Sinister actually follows through on all of its dark potential.  Sinister ends with a twist that’s so disturbing and unnerving that I have yet to get out of my head.

If you’re looking for the scariest movie playing in theaters this Halloween, Sinister is it.

James Bond Review: Live and Let Die (dir. by Guy Hamilton)

One year and one day ago the very first James Bond film to star Sir Roger Moore, Live and Let Die, in the title role was reviewed by Lisa Marie, and now it’s time to revisit the eight official film in the series.

With the previous Bond entry, Diamonds Are Forever, we finally see Sean Connery run out of gas when it came to playing the title role of James Bond. Yet, despite the obvious boredom Connery was having in the film the producers of the series were still wanting him to come back for another Bond film. Maybe it was his experience during the production of Diamonds Are Forever or Connery finally decided it was truly time to go the series’ producers didn’t get their wish and were in a rush to find someone new to wear the mantle o Agent 007.

They finally found their new James Bond in the form of English-actor Roger Moore and production on Live and Let Die began soon after.

Roger Moore, for me, has always been the start of the less serious, but much more fun era of the James Bond franchise. His films still had the intrigue and action of the Connery-era, but the writers and producers of the series put in more one-liners and humor in the story. We begin to see the start of this in the previous Bond film (not handled as well and came off as awkward at times), but it was in Live and Let Die and in Roger Moore that this change in the series’ tone finally hit it’s stride.

The film dials back the global domination attempts by the series of villians both SPECTRE and not. This time around Bond must investigate the deaths of three MI6 agents who had been investigating one Dr. Kananga, the despot of the fictitious Caribbean island of San Monique. Kananga (played by Yaphet Kotto) also has an alter-ego in the form of Mr. Big who runs a series of soul food restaurants as a front for his drug business. Every Bond film always tries to out-elaborate the previous one with it’s villains plans. There’s no attempts by Kananga/Big to dominate the world. His plans are pretty capitalistic in a ruthless sort of way. He wants to corner the drug market in the US by flooding the illegal drug market with his own heroin which he plans to give away for free thus bankrupting the other crime lords and drug dealers.

This plan by Kananga actually looks to be very sound and it helps that he has the beautiful seer Solitaire (played by a young and beautiful Jane Seymour) to help him outwit ad stay ahead of his competitors and the law. His plan would’ve succeeded if not for the meddling of one British super-spy named James Bond.

Live and Let Die might not have been as serious about it’s story as the early Connery films, but it definitely had a much more faster pace with more action to distinguish Moore from Connery. One particular famous action sequence involves Bond escaping from Kananga’s drug farm in the Louisiana Bayou country being chased not just by Kananga’s henchmen but by the local police in the form of Sheriff J.W. Pepper who plays the role of fool and comedy relief in the film. Even the smaller action scenes in the film had more life and fun to them like Bond escaping a gator pit by timing a run across the backs of a line of gators to safety.

Where the previous bond film’s attempt at injecting humor and more action into the story were more failures than successes in this film Roger Moore Bond film they worked in due part to Moore’s playful delivery of the one-liners and bon mots the role has become known for of late. Any trepidation that audiences and producers might have had about  Moore taking on the role that had been made famous by Connery  soon went away as this film played out.

Live and Let Die still remains my favorite of all the Roger Moore Bond films and saw it as the highlight of his time playing the character. While the follow-up films were good in their own right it was this initial Moore entry in the series where the writers, Moore and veteran Bond filmmaker Guy Hamilton were able to find the perfect balance of thrilling action and humor that the rest of the Moore-era films couldn’t replicate.

Next up for James Bond…The Man with the Golden Gun.

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night #55 (Horror Edition): South Park S16E12 — A Nightmare On Face Time

Last night, like all good people, I turned over to Comedy and I caught the annual South Park Halloween episode.

Why Was I Watching It?

Because it was South Park, of course!

What Was It About?

It’s Halloween in South Park and Randy Marsh has just spent $10,000 to buy the deserted Blockbuster Video Store.  Randy drags his family down to their new store and puts them to work, sorting films left over from the late 90s and the early 21st Century.  Despite getting absolutely no costumers (and the fact that the theme from Kubrick’s The Shining keeps playing in the background), Randy remains convinced that DVD rental remains the way of the future.  Even though his family doubts him, Randy finds some comfort with the ghosts who live in the Blockbuster and who encourage him to go on a Jack Nicholsonesque rampage.

Meanwhile, Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman have come up with the perfect plan for Halloween.  Each one of them is going to dress up like a member of the Avengers and, as a group, win the town’s costume contest.  However, when Stan is forbidden to leave the Blockbuster by an increasingly insane Randy, Kyle is forced to use Face Time on his and Stan’s Ipads so that Stan can literally be in two places at once.   Cartman, meanwhile, has to deal with the fact that everyone in town thinks that he’s wearing a green Honey Boo Boo costume.

While out trick or treating, the boys come across a group of criminals who are robbing Redbox kiosks.  The criminals, already frustrated by the fact that nobody uses Redbox anymore, end up kidnapping Kyle’s Ipad and make plans to capture the rest of the kids at the South Park Monster Mash (which we are assured is a “graveyard smash.”)

What Worked?

Was this the best Halloween episode of South Park ever?  Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far but it was definitely one of the best.  From the minute that the familiar and ominous music from The Shining started up, I knew that I was going to love this episode.

Among my many favorite moments of this episode:

Randy watching Ted.

The cops talking about how the monster mash is a graveyard smash.

“I’m not Bruce Vilanch!”

“Kids, come look at the green Honey Boo Boo…”

What Did Not Work:

The episode itself was about as close to perfect as one could hope for.  Despite this, the hispster Toadsuckers at the A.V. Club still gave it a mixed review.  Perhaps if the episode had featured a reference or two to Arrested Development, the A.V. Club folks would have been kinder to it.

“OH MY GOD!  Just like me!” Moments

Unfortunately, nobody dressed up as The Black Widow for Halloween, which essentially prevented the entire episode from being a “OH MY GOD!  Just like me!” moment.

I was 12 years old when my family first moved back to Dallas and there was a Blockbuster Video located just a few blocks from our apartment.  A few months later, we moved to a house in the suburbs and, while it was quite different from living in an apartment in the ghetto, one thing remained the same — we still lived near a Blockbuster.  Seriously, it was so much fun going down there and looking at all the movies that were available and I can still remember how heated the discussions used to get between me and my sister Erin as we debated which R-rated movie we should try to talk our mom into renting for us.

(“Oh, mom,” I’d say, “they rate everything R nowadays, it doesn’t mean anything…”)

Perhaps that’s why, even in this time of Netflix and Hulu and streaming movies online and all the rest, I still love the idea of owning actual DVDs, Blu-rays, and even the occasional VHS tape.

I recently had a chance to drive by one of those old Blockbuster stores.  It’s a dollar store now and, while it sells a lot of stuff, there’s not a movie to be found. Boo hoo.

(Seriously, it was kinda depressing.)

Lessons Learned:

Things change.

October Music Series: Odroerir – Präludium

I said I’d make it weird for the last week leading up to Halloween. Here’s some true kvlt kazoo metal to kick things off.

I have no idea if that’s actually what Odroerir are playing (I mean, Finntroll did it) or if it’s some medieval woodwind similar to what Stary Olsa use in the Drygula song I recently featured, but either way the “wtf” factor was probably not lost on them. Odroerir are a folk metal band with medieval tendencies hailing from the Thuringia region of Germany. They formed in 1998, and Präludium is the opener to their 2001 debut full-length Laßt Euch Sagen Aus Alten Tagen. The band’s name is a German variant of Icelandic Óðrerir, the name of the chalice of mead imbued with the knowledge of wisdom and poetry in Norse mythology. I don’t know that much wisdom went into crafting this song, but you can bet plenty of mead was involved.

Artist Profile: Alex McVey

Considered by many to be the best artist currently working in the horror field, Texas-born Alex McVey is an award-winning illustrator whose work has ranged from album art to graphic design to book illustration.  He has illustrated the works of several horror writers, including Stephen King.


2000 and Beyond!


I wake up to a cold Thursday morning and what do I see but a classic Prince song staring up at me when I check the place. In order to segue from this Prince song into the new millennium of activity I thought it best to just say congratulations to everyone involved at this site for making it succeed beyond what I thought it would do when I first started it almost three years ago one bored December morning.

It doesn’t matter whether someone has posted just one thing or has been active since the start of their writing for me in the end they’ve been a major reason why I’m proud to say this site continues to be a unique place for people to visit. I’ve seen some criticize it for it’s chaotic nature. The site not having a clear and concise focus on just one subject matter. This place has always been a haven for those who want to write what they want and how they want without any sort of interference from me about content or style. I’m not the best writer in the world, but I know that I’ve grown in how I appreciate other people’s writing and passion for what they’ve been writing and posting at the site. I think this is what the place has become and that’s a place to exercise one’s passion for writing and discussion  about all things entertainment from high art to low brow entertainment. It’s a place to discuss, debate and disagree with a semblance of civility I find lacking in most places.

As my co-founder Lisa Marie would say this place is like a box of sleepy kittens and that is always a good thing.

So, time to celebrate the number that is the Prince song and move beyond the 2000th posting to the next 2000 and more.