Thursday, April 15, 2010
Cannibal Holocaust is the story of 4 documentary filmmakers who venture deep into the jungle to film cannibalistic tribes, but when they never return, anthropologist Harold Monroe embarks on a rescue mission.
The footage was promoted at actual footage of cannibals, and the graphic deaths of the filmmakers as real. The trailer even dares audiences to watch it all the way through. The graphic impalement scene, where a woman is skewered from end to end like a shish-kebob, stirs controversy to this day as to it's authenticity.
Under contract not to appear in public for a year after the film's release, the actors were thought to be murdered, and director Ruggero Deodata faced life imprisonment for the crime. Fortunately he was able to track down the actors and have them appear in court, and the charges were ultimately dropped.
All of this is fascinating, but how is the film?
That is difficult to answer - it is almost impossible to separate the film from it's historical context. And honestly, that is how it should be viewed, as an important piece of film history for it's ability to stir controversy. Still, I think most horror fans today would find it a little slow and not as engaging.
Supposedly banned in over 50 countries, at one point in time or another, Cannibal Holocaust is probably the first of the mocumentaries, incorporating a cinéma vérité technique that immersed audiences at the time. This film certainly defines late 70s, early 80's, exploitation, and is worth a viewing.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Inspired by a story in the LA Times about a guy in Taiwan who stayed awake for several days, then died in his sleep after experiencing horrific nightmares, Wes Craven introduced a whole new kind of fear to a generation. What Jaws did for the water, this film did for dreams.
We've all experience the moment when you wake up after a dream where you are not sure if what you were dreaming is real or not. I think this is what makes the concept so successful. The urban legend that if die in a dream, you die for real is a persistent one, and it brings the fear home on a personal level.
Freddy is a icon of horror, and his motivation for killing is one of the best ever... a despicable child molester taking revenge on the children of the parents who burned him alive... Pure genius. The fingers for knives... brilliant. Scene after scene, filled with fresh imagery... the bath tub scene with Freddy's hand... or how about the scene where Freddy's face pushes through the wall?
Lets not forget this was Johnny Depp's screen debut - which is almost a little distracting now, knowing he would later become Capt. Jack Sparrow. And though not Craven's first film, this certainly put him on the mainstream map. Is there a director who has created more consistent horror hits than Craven? Hills Have Eyes, Last House on the Left, Nightmare on Elm Street, and my personal fav, Scream!
A Nightmare on Elm Street is a rare and thought provoking treat, and the new Blu-Ray transfer is nothing short of stunning. Like Friday the 13th and Halloween, this classic helped define 80's horror and influenced a generation of filmmakers. This definitely belongs in anyone's collection.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
"Sex without fear & pain is like food without taste" ...a quote from the Marquis de Sade, made by a character in WaxWork. If only the rest of the movie were as interesting as that quote.
Starring Deborah Forman, from Valley Girl and April Fools Day, the film plays out in a series of vignettes - each character entering a different world. We meet warewolves, vampires, mummies, and zombies, among others, and the film draws heavily from multiple horror classics.
Though the film has somewhat of a cult following among horror enthusiasts, I can't say this one is my cup of tea. The latest Artisan release of the DVD includes a double feature with Waxwork II: Lost in Time. With a total running time of 3 hours 21 minutes for both films, I'm cutting my losses with just one.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Friday the 13th changed summer camp forever, and introduced a new word for horror into our vocabulary - Jason. Quick to cash in on success of John Carpenter's Halloween, Friday the 13th was another low budget horror film made in 1980 for about a half million, earning a cool $39 Million at the box office.
Nicknamed "Camp Blood" by the locals after the brutal murder of 2 teenagers in the 1950's, Camp Crystal Lake is now being revamped by Steve Christy with the help of a group of teenage counselors. It's not long before bad things start happening to these counselors - among them, Kevin Bacon before he was "Kevin Bacon."
Like Halloween before it, Friday the 13th has it's distinctive score that will forever echo in the woods of campgrounds. What Jaws did for the water, this film did for camping... and along with Halloween, established the rules that all slashers must follow - or at least acknowledge.
I don't want to delve into plot or give away spoilers for those who haven't seen it - but the script plays out like a murder mystery, and it's not until several films later that the iconic imagery that made series so successful emerges.
It's difficult to pinpoint the origin of the superstition surrounding the day of Friday the 13th - there are many different theories - but I don't associate bad luck with with a Friday that happens to fall on the 13th... instead, I view it as a mini-Halloween, and a great time to watch this classic. It's one of my favorites.
Monday, April 5, 2010
John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN is the quintessential 80's horror movie. From the opening title sequence to the final frame, Halloween defined the genre and set the standard for all to follow. The haunting score, now indelibly imprinted in our minds, weaves with the narrative in a way few films have ever achieved - The menacing simplicity is genius.
The film opens with a 6 year old Michael Meyers slicing and dicing his sister after she has had sex with her boyfriend (which apparently lasted all of 30 seconds - boy, did she ever get the short end of the stick). Michael is then locked away forever in an insane asylum - that is, until he manages to escape and return to Haddonfield to terrorize the residents.
In the 80's, this film was absolutely merciless and terrifying - by todays standards the pacing is slow and there is very limited actual gore. But I am of the mind that more gore does not make a film better - I actually believe that off screen gore and violence plays more on the viewer's imagination, creating a creepier effect. If any of you doubt the effectiveness of offscreen gore, just watch the scene in SCARFACE withe the chainsaw - they never show the chainsaw cutting off the leg, only Pacino's face and some splatter - to me that is one of the grizzliest scenes in film.
This is the movie that I watch every year on Halloween. It sets the mood, and takes me back to my youth when life was simple, and watching a scary movie alone in the house was the ultimate in terror. If you've only scene the remakes, do yourself a favor and watch the classic. It's amazing to me that there are so many new horror fans that don't even know who John Carpenter is. This is the film opened the door for the 80's slasher craze and set the bar for everything that followed. The original Halloween is a must own for any horror enthusiast!