Horror on TV: Tales From the Crypt 3.2 “Carrion Death” (dir by Steven E. de Souza)


Tonight’s excursion into televised horror is a pretty good one.  Carrion Death, which originally aired on June 15th, 1991, was the second episode of the third season of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt.

Kyle MacLachlan plays a serial killer named Earl Raymond Digs.  After Earl escapes from custody, he finds himself stuck in the middle of the desert, handcuffed to a corpse.  As Earl walks through the desert, dragging a corpse alongside him, he discovers that he’s being watched…

Carrion Death is a gory, little story that has an enjoyably nasty little ending.  Kyle MacLachlan does a surprisingly good job as the dangerous but none too bright Earl.  And, of course, there’s the bird.  That bird does a great job…

Enjoy!

The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Don’t Breathe (dir by Fede Alvarez)


stephen-lang-in-dont-breathe1

I’m currently on vacation but don’t worry!  I would never let a little thing like taking some time off get in the way of reviewing movies here on the Shattered Lens.  (Especially not when we’re in the middle of our annual Horrorthon!)

Before we left Dallas, Jeff and I finally saw Don’t Breathe.  It’s hard for me to explain why it took me so long to see Don’t Breathe.  Ever since I first saw the trailer this summer, I had been excited about eventually getting to watch it.  When the first few positive reviews started to come in, I got even more excited.  Everything I heard about Don’t Breathe made it sound like this was a film that was specifically made for enjoyment.

But then the film was actually released and it was just so damn popular.  It was number one at the box office.  It got great word of mouth.  People on twitter wouldn’t shut up about how scary it was and how much they loved it.  While I realize that this actually says a lot more about me than it does about the state of current American cinema, there was a part of me that started to think, “How good could it be if everyone else loves it?”  Traditionally, the best horror films have always struggled to find an audience.  Whenever the majority automatically embraces any work of art, that’s usually not a good sign.

And so, I put off seeing Don’t Breathe.  I decided to wait until it was a little less popular.  I didn’t want to have to watch this film surrounded by a bunch of people who didn’t know names like Argento, Fulci, and Rollin so I waited until the showings would be a little less packed.  Finally, last Tuesday, I saw Don’t Breathe.

Seriously — what was I thinking waiting so long?

Like almost all recent independent horror films, Don’t Breathe takes place in Detroit and the first few minutes of the film are dedicated to giving us a tour of a city in decline.  As we stare at the collapsing buildings, the potholed streets, and the desolate lots of overgrown weeds, we’re forced to consider whether any cinematic horrors could possibly match the horrors of real life.

Those establishing shots of Detroit are important for another reason.  They also provide all the motivation that our three protagonists need.  All we have to do is look at the landscape and we understand why they’re so desperate to find something better in life.  (And, of course, you can’t find something better unless you have the money to look…)  Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto) make their living breaking into houses and selling what they steal.  Money is their leader.  Alex’s father owns a home security company, which gives Alex access to everyone’s security code.  (Of course, Alex’s main motivation is that he’s in love with Rocky.)  As for Rocky, she’s just trying to raise enough money so that she and her younger sister can escape to California.

Money is given a tip about a blind army veteran (Stephan Lang) who apparently has $30,000 stored in his home.  (He won the money in a court settlement after his daughter was killed by a rich girl who was driving drunk.)  The veteran is the last remaining resident of an otherwise deserted neighborhood.  He spends all of his time in his large but dilapidated house, apparently living with only a viscous guard dog.  Money figures that all they have to do is drug the dog and then they can break into the house and steal everything that they need.  Money assures the hesitant Alex that it’ll be easy because the man’s blind and he really doesn’t need the cash anyway.

Of course, it doesn’t quite work out like that.  The three of them get into the house pretty easily but getting out proves to be much more difficult.  And when the man wakes up and hears his house being broken into, he turns out to be far more formidable and much more dangerous than any of them thought.

About halfway through Don’t Breathe, there’s a big twist that I didn’t care much for.  As played by Stephen Lang, the blind man was already intimidating enough without turning him into a Saw-style super villain.  But, even with that in mind, Don’t Breathe works.  It’s a relentless and well-directed thrill ride, with the camera freely roaming through that deserted house and the cast all giving good and believable performances.

Ultimately, the film is dominated by Stephen Lang.  Lang is one of those good actors who never seems to get the roles that he deserves.  (He was in Avatar but, in that film, he was 1) saddled with a bad accent, 2) had to recite some of the most melodramatic dialogue ever written, and 3) was stuck playing a character who was so thinly drawn that it’s a stretch to say he was even one-dimensional.)  When you first see the man, your natural instinct is to feel sorry for him.  He’s blind, he’s got a tragic backstory, and now he’s got three people trying to rob him.  That’s why it’s such a shock when you first discover just how dangerous and evil he actually is.  Lang transforms the man into one of the most memorable monsters of this very monstrous year.

So, if you haven’t seen Don’t Breathe, go see it.  Don’t let the fact that its popular scare you off.

db

Iron Fist Gives A Glimpse of The Living Weapon


iron-fist

Netflix and Marvel has had quite a couple years. It began in 2015 with the premiere of the first season of the Daredevil series. It was then followed up by the Jessica Jones series.

Here we are in 2016 and we get the second season of Daredevil to start the year and ending it with the just released Luke Cage series. What do Marvel and MCU fans have to look forward to in 2017.

Well, we have the upcoming Iron First series coming out this March 2017 to look forward to with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist teaming up to become the Defenders to end the year.

We finally get the first trailer for Iron Fist and it dropped during New York Comic-Con for attendees first, but it didn’t take Marvel and Netflix to release the trailer on-line for all the bear witness to the Living Weapon.

Halloween Havoc!: THE HAUNTING (MGM 1963)


cracked rear viewer

“No one will come in the night… in the dark!”

haunting1

There’s nothing like a good haunted house movie, and 1963’s THE HAUNTING is one of the best ever. Producer/director Robert Wise cut his filmic teeth on Val Lewton shockers like THE BODY SNATCHER  and noirs such as BORN TO KILL  before graduating to mainstream movies like I WANT TO LIVE! and WEST SIDE STORY. In THE HAUNTING he returns to his dark roots to create a nightmarish vision of Shirley Jackson’s eerie novel The Haunting of Hill House.

haunting2

“Scandal, murder, insanity, suicide” have plagued Hill House for close to 100 years. The cursed Crain family were its original inhabitants, designed by eccentric Hugh Crain. The house is a darkly foreboding Gothic structure with oddly tilted angles both inside and out. Dr. John Markham, a paranormal investigator, visits proper Bostonian matron Mrs. Sanderson, the house’s current owner, asking to take a lease…

View original post 834 more words

Horror Film Review: The Forest (dir by Jason Zada)


the_forest_poster

Why, as of late, have I been seeing so many movies about Aokigahara Forest?

Aokigarhara Forest is this location in Japan that’s right at the foot of Mt. Fiji and apparently, hundreds of people go there every year and commit suicide.  It happens so frequently that the location has been nicknamed “The Suicide Forest” and the problem has gotten so bad that the local authorities have even resorted to putting up signs that 1) ask people not to kill themselves and 2) reassure visitors that their problems will get better.

To me, that’s pretty depressing and not really something that should be glamorized or exploited.  I mean, this is an actual forest where real people — not fictional characters but real human beings — got to end their lives.  In fact, it’s been reported that local officials no longer publicly discuss the number of dead bodies that they find in the woods because they don’t want publicize Aokigahara’s reputation.

And yet, this year saw not one but two movies released about the Aokigahara Forest, both of which made a point of specifically saying that they were set in this very real location.  (Would I have been more comfortable with the films if they had been located in a fictional location where people go to commit suicide, even if that fictional location was obviously based on Aokigahara?  Probably.)  One was The Sea of Trees, a mawkish and sentimental mess from Gus Van Sant.  The other was The Forest.

Do you remember The Forest?  You might not because it came out in January and most of us were too busy trying to catch up on the Oscar nominees to waste much time with it.  Traditionally, the worst movies are released in January.  That’s especially true of horror movies.  I mean, let’s just be honest.  If a studio has a good horror movie, they’re going to release it in October and try to pick up on all the Halloween business.  When a studio has a bad horror movie, they’re going to dump it in January and hope that no one notices.

Anyway, The Forest came and went without a trace and now it’s making the rounds on HBO so you can watch it if you really want to.

The film stars Natalie Dormer as both Sara and her troubled sister, Jess.  Ever since their parents died in a mysterious car accident, Jess and Sara have had a strained relationship.  Jess witnessed their deaths but Sara did not.  By the film’s logic, this means that Jess starts dressing in black while Sara shakes her head in disapproval.  Anyway, Jess goes to Japan and disappears in the Aokigahara Forest.  Everyone tells Sara that Jess must be dead but Sara says that, since their twins, she can tell that her sister is still alive.

So, of course, Sara goes to Japan so that she can go search the forest for herself!  Now, since Sara is an American in Japan, we have to get at least one shot of her sitting in a taxi with all the lights of Tokyo reflected on the back windows.  Seriously, this shot appears in every single American movie made about Japan.

Sara goes to a bar and meets an American reporter.  His name is Aiden, he’s played by Taylor Kinney, and he’s not that interesting.  Aiden, Sara, and a guide (Yukiyoshi Ozawa) go into the woods and stuff happens.  I was tempted to say strange stuff happens but actually, none of it is that strange.  It’s pretty much exactly what you would expect to happen in a horror film set in the Suicide Forest.  By the time the mysterious schoolgirl showed up and started telling Sara not to trust anyone, I had pretty much lost interest.

I’m tempted to say that, at the very least, The Forest was atmospheric but … no.  I mean, there’s a lot of shots of shadowy trees and deserted tents and all of that but that’s all pretty much basic stuff.  That’s Horror 101.  I mean, even Grave Halloween, a 2013 SyFy film about the forest, managed to make the forest atmospheric.  So, no, I’m not having it.  There are too many good but underappreciated horror films out there for me to waste time making excuses for something like The Forest.

That’s The Forest.  It came out in January and, having watched it, I can see why.

John Wick: Chapter 2 Cordially Invites All to A Party In Rome


In 2015, a little film from Lionsgate came out during that time between the summer blockbuster and the awards seasons. It’s sort of the time of the cinematic year when a film is not good enough to be a blockbuster and not enough pedigree to be seen as awards-worthy.

This film was John Wick and it starred Keanu Reeves. It was also directed by two filmmakers more well-known for choreographing fights and action scenes than a full feature film.

John Wick had the last laugh as it surpassed everyone’s expectations to become one of the best action films of recent memory. It helped resurrect Keanu Reeves as a bonafide action star once again.

At this year’s New York Comic-Con the first teaser trailer for the second chapter of the John Wick story dropped to the howling delights of all attending.

We still have to wait until 2017 for John Wick: Chapter 2, but until then let’s stare in awe at John Wick doing what he does best.

4 Shots From Horror History: Dracula’s Daughter, Revolt of the Zombies, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Son of Frankenstein


This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 Shots From 4 Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we complete the 1930s.

4 Shots From 4 Films

Dracula's Daughter (1936, dir by Lambert Hillyer)

Dracula’s Daughter (1936, dir by Lambert Hillyer)

Revolt of the Zombies (1936, dir by Victor Halperin)

Revolt of the Zombies (1936, dir by Victor Halperin)

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936, dir by George King)

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936, dir by George King)

Son of Frankenstein (1939, dir by Rowland V. Lee)

Son of Frankenstein (1939, dir by Rowland V. Lee)