Horror Scenes I Love: The Dead Rise From The Ground In Poltergeist


This is from 1982’s Poltergeist.

I love Craig T. Nelson’s delivery of the headstones speech.  James Karen is staring at him the whole time like he’s thinking, “Is anyone going to say ‘cut?'”

Horror Scenes I Love: The Poltergeist Face Peeling Scene


This is from the original, 1982 version Poltergeist.

It’s just a ghost movie about a mother’s love, suburban conformity, and a guy’s face falling into the sink.  For whatever reasons, the ghosts just seemed to take a really intense dislike to this guy.

“The house is clean.”

Not bloody likely.

“You moved the headstone but you left the bodies!?  WHY!?  WHY!?”

Whoops, different scene.

Anyway, let’s watch Marty lose face:

4 Shots From 4 James Karen Horror Films: Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster, Poltergeist, Return of the Living Dead, Return of the Living Dead Part II


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Yesterday, we lost one of the great character actors, James Karen.  Over the course of his long career, Karen appeared work in almost genre imaginable, including horror.  Today, we pay tribute to him with….

4 Shots From 4 James Karen Horror Films

Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster (1965, dir by Robert Gaffney)

Poltergeist (1982, dir by Tobe Hooper)

Return of the Living Dead (1985, dir by Dan O’Bannon)

Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988, dir by Ken Wiederhorn)

4 Shots From 4 Haunted Films: The Haunting, Poltergeist, The Conjuring, Crimson Peak


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Today, the Shattered Lens gets a little bit spooky with….

4 Shots From 4 Haunted Films

The Haunting (1963, dir by Robert Wise)

Poltergeist (1982, dir by Tobe Hooper)

The Conjuring (2013, dir by James Wan)

Crimson Peak (2015, dir by Guillermo Del Toro)

4 Shots From Horror History: The Living Dead Girl, The Howling, Videodrome, A Nightmare on Elm Street


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 continue the 80s!

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Living Dead Girl (1982, dir by Jean Rollin)

The Living Dead Girl (1982, dir by Jean Rollin)

Poltergeist (1982, dir by Tobe Hooper)

Poltergeist (1982, dir by Tobe Hooper)

Videodrome (1983, dir by David Cronenberg)

Videodrome (1983, dir by David Cronenberg)

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, dir by Wes Craven)

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, dir by Wes Craven)

Playing Catch-Up With 6 Film Reviews: Avengers Grimm, Bad Asses On The Bayou, Hayride 2, Insurgent, Poltergeist, Tomorrowland


Here are 6 films that I saw during the first half of 2015.  Some of them are on Netflix and some of them were major studio releases.  Some of them are worth seeing.  Some of them most definitely are not.

Avengers_Grimm

Avengers Grimm (dir by Jeremy M. Inman)

Obviously made to capitalize on the popularity of Avengers: Age of UltronAvengers Grimm opens with a war in the world of fairy tales.  Evil Rumpelstiltskin (Casper Van Dien) uses Snow White’s (Laura Parkinson) magic mirror to cross over into our world and he takes Snow White with him!  It’s now up to Cinderella (Milynn Sharley), Sleeping Beauty (Marah Fairclough), and Rapunzel (Rileah Vanderbilt) to cross over into our world, save Snow White, and defeat Rumpelstiltskin.  Also sneaking over is rebellious Red Riding Hood (Elizabeth Petersen) who is determined to kill Rumpelstiltskin’s henchman, The Wolf (Kimo Leopoldo).  

Got all that?

Avengers Grimm is another enjoyably insane mockbuster from The Asylum.  The budget’s low, the performances are intentionally melodramatic, and it’s all lot of fun.  Casper Van Dien has a lot of fun playing evil, the women all get to kick ass, and Lou Ferrigno is well-cast as a labor leader named Iron John.

Avengers Grimm is currently available on Netflix.

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Bad Asses On The Bayou (dir by Craig Moss)

Apparently, this is the third film in which Danny Trejo and Danny Glover have respectively played Frank Vega and Bernie Pope, two old guys who kick ass in between worrying about their prostates.  I haven’t seen the previous two Bad Asses films but I imagine that it really doesn’t matter.

In this film, Trejo and Glover go to Louisiana to attend a friend’s wedding.  When she’s kidnapped, they have to rescue her and impart some important life lessons to her younger brother.  It’s all pretty predictable but then again, it’s also pretty good for a film called Bad Asses On The Bayou.  This is a film that promises two things: Danny Trejo kicking ass and lots of bayou action.  And it delivers on both counts.

In fact, I would say that Bad Asses On The Bayou is a better showcase for Danny Trejo’s unique style than the better known Machete films.  Danny Trejo is a surprisingly adept comedic actor and he gives a performance here that shows his talent goes beyond mere physical presence.

Bad Asses On The Bayou is currently available on Netflix.

hayride-2

Hayride 2 (dir by Terron R. Parsons)

I should admit up front that I haven’t seen the first Hayride film.  Luckily, Hayride 2 picks up directly from the end of the first film and is filled with so many flashbacks and so much conversation about what happened that it probably doesn’t matter.

Essentially, Pitchfork (Wayne Dean) is a murderous urban legend who turns out to be real.  He killed a lot of people in the first film and he stalks those that escaped throughout the 2nd film.  Like all good slasher villains, Pitchfork is a relentless killer.  He’s also an unrepentant racist, which leads to a genuinely unpleasant scene where he attacks a black detective (Corlandos Scott).  Say whatever else you will about the film, Hayride 2 deserves some credit for being on the side of the victims.  No attempt is made to turn Pitchfork into an anti-hero and the movie is relentlessly grim.

Hayride 2 is an odd film.  The film’s low-budget is obvious in every single scene.  The pacing is abysmal and the performances are amateurish.  And yet, when taken on its own meager terms, it has a dream-like intensity to it that I appreciated.  Then again, I always have had a weakness for low-budget, regional horror films.

Hayride 2 is available on Netflix.

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Insurgent (dir by Robert Schwentke)

Insurgent is both the sequel to Divergent and was also 2015’s first YA dystopia film.  Shailene Woodley is as good as ever and I guess it’s good that she has a commercially successful franchise, which will hopefully inspire audiences to track down better Shailene Woodley films like The Spectacular Now.  

All that said, Insurgent often felt even more pointless than Divergent.  For a two-hour film featuring performers like Woodley, Kate Winslet, Octavia Spencer, Ansel Elgort, and Miles Teller, Insurgent has no excuse for being as forgettable and boring as it actually was.  The next installment in The Hunger Games can not get here soon enough.

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Poltergeist (dir by Gil Kenan)

When a family (led by Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt) move into a new house, they discover that everything is not what it seems.  For one thing, they come across a bunch of creepy clown dolls.  They also hear a lot of scary sounds.  They discover that the house was built on an old cemetery.  Their youngest daughter vanishes.  And finally, someone says, “Isn’t this like that old movie that was on TCM last night?”

Okay, they don’t actually say that.  However, as everyone knows, the 2015 Poltergeist is a remake of the 1982 Poltergeist.  Since the 1982 Poltergeist still holds up fairly well, the 2015 Poltergeist feels incredibly unnecessary.  It has a few good jump scenes and it’s always good to see Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt in lead roles but ultimately, who cares?  It’s just all so pointless.

Watch the wall-dancing original.  Ignore the remake.

Tomorrowland_poster

Tomorrowland (dir by Brad Bird)

Welcome to the world of tomorrow!  Wow, is it ever boring!

Actually, I feel a little bit bad about just how much I disliked Tomorrowland because this is a film that really did have the best intentions.  Watching the film, you get the sinking feeling that the people involved actually did think that they were going to make the world a better place.  Unfortunately, their idea of a better world is boring and almost oppressively optimistic.  There is no room for cynicism in Tomorrowland.  Bleh.  What fun is that?

Anyway, the film basically steals its general idea from the Atlas Shrugged trilogy.  Tomorrowland is a secret place that is inhabited by inventors, dreamers, and iconoclasts.  Years ago, Frank (George Clooney) was banished from Tomorrowland because, after learning that the Earth was destined to end, he lost “hope” in mankind’s future.  Fortunately, he meets Casey (Britt Robertson), who is full of hope and through her, he gets to return.  They also get a chance to save the world and battle a cartoonish super villain played by Hugh Laurie.  (Why is he a villain?  Because he’s played by Hugh Laurie, of course!)

After all the hype and build-up, Tomorrowland turned out to be dull and predictable.  What a shame.  The Atlas Shrugged trilogy was at least fun because it annoyed the hipsters at the AV Club.  Tomorrowland is just forgettable.

Film Review: Insidious (dir. by James Wan)


I wasn’t expecting much from Insidious, the new horror film that’s recieved a surprising amount of critical acclaim over the past month.  After all, the film is the product of a collaboration between the makers of Saw and Parnormal Activity, two of the most overrated horror films ever.  Add to that, the movie is rated PG-13 and the lesson I took away from seeing The Roommate earlier this year was that PG-13 dooms horror.  Insidious might be the proverbial exception that proves the rule.

As with all good horror films, Insidious starts with a deceptively simple premise.  Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne play a married couple whose marriage is thrown into choas when their oldest son slips into what appears to be a coma.  After three months of being in the hosptial, their son is moved back into their house where he spends his days lying in bed, hooked up to ominous medical equipment. 

(Speaking for myself, there is no more disturbing sound than the sound of heart monitor, because for every beep, there’s that moment of deafening silence between beeps.  The film’s director James Wan knows this too because he makes brilliant use of sound in this film.)

While Wilson deals with things by finding excuses to stay late at work, Byrne is soon seeing shadowy figures running through the house and hearing voices coming from empty rooms.  Even as Wilson continues to insist that its just her imagination (that’s something all men seem to have in common — they never ask for direction and they always refuse to accept that the house is haunted), Byrne becomes more and more convinced that its not.  Eventually, with a help of an eccentric psychic (well-played by Lin Shaye), Wilson and Byrne are forced to confront the evil forces that have taken control of their lives.

Let’s get the most important thing out of the way first.

Insidious is one scary movie.  It’s scarier than any movie rated PG-13 has any right to be.  It scared me when I was sitting in the theater watching it and, even more importantly, it’s still scary a day later.

Let me set the scene for you.  As I sit here writing this, it is nearly 3 in the morning.  I live in a two-story house that is full of random cold spot and which, for some reason, never seems to be totally lit even with all the lights on.  My friends are with their families for Easter.  My sister Erin is currently in Arlington, visiting with our other sister, Melissa.  I’m in this house alone with only my overactive imagination keeping me company.  Oh, did I mention that, because of some foundation issues, this house tends to randomly creak?

About two hours ago, I had just taken a shower and I was sitting, wrapped in a towel and a blow dryer, on the edge of my bed.  I have this antique floor  mirror that sits a few feet in front of my bed and I was about to start drying my hair when it suddenly occured to me — what if I looked at the mirror and I suddenly saw a dark shadow — like the ones in Insidious — sitting on the bed directly behind me?

And yes, I knew that was a silly thought just like I know, despite what the Insidious might tell us, there’s no such thing as ghosts and demons.  I knew that if I rasied my head, I would not see anything but isolated, vulnerable little me reflected in the mirror.

But, God help me, I could not bring myself to look.  Because, even though I knew that there was 99.9% chance that nothing would be sitting behind me, I knew that there was 0.1.% chance that something would be.  I sat there, almost paralyzed with my heart pounding so hard I could almost hear it.  I realized I was starting to breathe faster, knowing that if there was something there, it was there with me at that exact moment, siting behind me, waiting to strike…

Finally, realizing that I was on the verge of giving myself a very real panic attack over a very unreal possibility, I forced myself to look up at the reflection in the mirror.

A dark shadow was sitting directly behind me.

And I screamed and jumped off that bed so quickly that I’m amazed I actually managed to stay on my feet.  I swung around, cluthing that blow dryer like a weapon, prepared to do whatever…

Nobody was sitting on the bed. 

Slowly, I creeped across the room.  Cautiously, I stuck a foot underneath my bed to feel if anything was hiding underneath it.  I opened the closests and pushed my clothes to the side to confirm that nobody was hiding behind them. 

Finally, after I somehow found the courage to sit back down on the bed, I realized that there had indeed been a shadow behind me and that shadow, because of the angle of the lights in my room, had been mine.

That’s the type of film Insidious is.  It’s the type of film that uses the simple things that scare us — the unexplainable noises, the things that you sometimes think you see out of the corner of your eye — to creates a truly macabre experience that sicks with you.  At its best, its a truly creepy film that works its way into your imagination through a perfect combination of atmosphere and paranoia.  One reason why the haunted house genre has remained such a dependable horror set up is because it perfectly reflects one of our most basic fears — the fear of having no control, of knowing that there is no place to hide, that the forces of chaos and evil can even get to us in the sanctuary of our own homes.  Especially during its first half, Insidious exploits this fear perfectly.  James Wan’s camera prowls through the otherwise unremarkable suburban home like a creature possessed and you find yourself spotting shadowy figures and sudden movements in every frame that flickers before your eyes.  Wan makes remarkably good use of sound here.  I realize that sound of silence may be an oxymoron but if silence can make a sound, then director Wan manages to capture it in Insidious.

A lot of critics and filmgoers have been rather critical of the film’s second half and it is true that the second half if remarkably different from the first.  If the first half finds Wan concentrating on atmopshere then the second half concentrates on shock and, as a result, it feels a lot more conventional. During the 2nd half of them, we learn just what exactly is happening and why and unfortunately, no possible solution could hope to compete with the sense of dread that the first part of the movie generated.  That doesn’t mean that the second half of the movie isn’t well-executed.  It is.  It’s just not as surprising as the first half.

(However, there is one scene in that 2nd half — a red-skinned demon cheerfully sharpening his finger nails — that is just so bizarre and disturbing that it borders on genius.)

Now, I will admit (POSSIBLE SPOILER COMING UP DEPENDING ON HOW ANAL YOU ARE) that I was not a huge fan of the film’s ending.  It’s not that the ending didn’t work or that it wasn’t well-exectued.  It’s just that it’s the same type of ending that we’ve come to expect from all horror films, the type of thing that used to be considered a twist but now is just a cliche.

Still, ending aside, Insidious is an effective, little horror film.  While it is true that the film rather liberally borrows from a lot of previous horror films (most blatantly from Poltergiest, Mario Bava’s Shock, an Australian film called Patrick, and an excellent Canadian shocker called The Changeling), Wan still takes all of those familiar elements and molds them into a genuinely scary experience.