Thursday, October 31, 2013

THE 13 BEST HORROR FILMS OF 2013

Curator's Note: Despite popular opinion I feel 2013 (even this summer!) has been an excellent year for film. As with every year in cinema it largely depends on how much of it you've seen and what you've seen to make it the best it could possibly be. It's been a big year for genre pictures, particularly sci-fi and horror. To celebrate Halloween I thought I'd offer up what I feel are the 13 best horror movies of 2013. And before you ask an obvious joking question, yes there have been more than just thirteen. One last note, I am only considering films that received a theatrical release (outside of festivals) in the United States during this calendar year.

13. The ABCs of Death



26 filmmakers bring you 26 bite-sized servings of extreme horror in The ABCs of Death. Half the fun is guessing what each letter stands for as revealed at the end of each 2-5 minute offering. I won't lie, most are unimpressive and half you'll wish you could forget, but there's some ripe picks in the patch... D, L, P, U, X, Y to start with my favorites. The film could have been called 26 Films To Not Watch With Your Mother. I'd only recommend the complete package to hardcore horror connoisseurs.

12. Mama



Speaking of mothers, Mama came out in January and remained on my mind all these months later. Two girls are discovered in the woods after five years of living on their own... or were they? Jessica Chastain is their aunt turned adoptive mother in a role like you've never seen from her before. The film has some admirable plot and camera tricks up its sleeve but the CGI mama will leave you feeling deceived.

11. Escape From Tomorrow



"Bad things happen everywhere." The best poster of the year is the one for Escape From Tomorrow with that quotation above a bloody hand that could only belong to Mickey Mouse. Haunted by an incident he witnessed whilst at an undisclosed theme park (*cough* Disneyland *cough*) as a kid, Jim's family vacation with his own wife and kids slowly becomes a surreal nightmare. The film is infamous for being filmed without permission at Disney parks. It's one of the strangest brews you'll drink all year.

10. The Borderlands


The Borderlands follows a group of Vatican investigators who check the validity of miracles instead of your typical "paranormal activity." The reasons for a countless cameras (including one attached to each character's head) is firmly established from the start so that the rest of the movie can focus on scaring our pants off one bump in the night (and even in the day!) after another. The British West Country is a nice change of scenery for a found footage horror film this side of TrollHunter.

9. Europa Report


Still trying to get the tast of Apollo 18 out of your mouth? Give Europa Report a sincere try. This time a group of international astronauts is headed to Jupiter's frozen moon in hopes to discover life beneath its surface. The performances aboard maintain the fidelity of the mission, making this the most realistic space movie of the year over Gravity. The fear of the unknown reigns supreme before the film goes just too far in the final minutes.

8. Antiviral



Brandon Cronenberg, son of David, proves that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree in Antiviral, a rather ingenious commentary on our celebrity-centered culture that is also one of the more disgusting films in recent memory. Caleb Landry Jones is mesmerizing and alarming in the lead role as a salesman for a company that injects customers with the virus harvested from their favorite celebrity. It takes celebrity-worship to all new twisted level. The most terrifying part is how much we are already on a path to this sterilized yet infected dystopia.

7. We Are What We Are



This is a plodding look at a reclusive and fanatical family that lives on the outskirts of a small mountain town. The rain begins to pour from the very beginning, literally unearthing their dark secrets for the more curious townsfolk, Doc Barrow (played by Michael Parks) is among them. Parks and all of the family members turn in some very fine performances, Bill Sage deserves a shout-out for his complicated patriarchal role. The film contains grisly material but its so beautifully made that it's an art-horror piece about your-not-so-typical American family. Traditions speak for the film's title and you may be (un)pleasantly surprised by where it goes.

6. Maniac



This is a modern retelling of the 1980 classic of the same name that also mixes the likes of Enter the Void and Drive, if you can imagine such a concoction. Maniac takes you inside the mind of a sick and schizophrenic serial killer, literally, through use of a consistent first-person perspective. The result is something incredibly challenging to sit through and simply awe-inspiring to filmmakers.

5. Frankenstein's Army



It's films like this that prove the found footage sub-genre is far from dead and has almost unlimited possibilities. What begins has a means of Soviet propaganda in the midst of WWII ends up like something right of the Wolfenstein video game series (on that topic, this movie often feels like watching an elaborate E3 demo of an upcoming survival horror game). The sheer amount and variety of atrocities that our war heroes meet in this outrageous exploration into human experimentation is impressive, not to mention being an unlikely period piece.

4. V/H/S/2



The sequel to last year's found-footage anthology upped the ante in almost every way. There's only four "tapes" this time around and 3/4 are worth your time, unfortunately the worst is saved for last. Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto's segment, Safe Haven, is an increasingly FUBAR investigation into an Indonesian cult and will surely go down in horror history. Eduardo Sánchez of The Blair Witch Project fame has an immensenley entertainging segment that found a way to put a GoPro on a zombie.

3. World War Z



Nobody is more surprised than me to see this movie this high on this list. After a troubled production and a trailer that did it in zero favors in my estimation, World War Z had a helluva time proving me wrong but it did so scene after scene. The CGI zombies are a plague but they do not have as much screen-time as you'd fear. The movie is completely redeemed by its corridor confined climax which had the guts to bring a worldwide epidemic's fate into an untraditional small yet increasingly thrilling space. I hope we see a sequel and after performing like gangbusters at the box office it seems likely we will.

2. A Field In England


Ben Wheatley's revisionist history lesson surrounding a group of deserters from the English Civil War is not a horror film on the surface. After wandering through the titular space they come across mushrooms, an Irish treasure hunter and visions of an impending doom. The most unnerving scene I've seen all year is when one of our lead characters exits the Irishman's tent in a slow-motion craze with a rope tied around his waist, all set to Jim William's electrifying score. The film reaches horror by throwing us into the unknown and pulling us under its trance-like state. A Field in England is destined to become a cult classic. They offered the audience shrooms at my screening. Trust me, you won't need them.
  
1. Beyond the Hills


Out of all the "horror" films on this list this one may receive the most grief for being under the genre's umbrella. It's true, the film is marketed and sold as a foreign drama (or as we should probably call it, a drama) but hidden inside this examination of an Orthodox convent in modern-day Romania is a terrifying story of mistreatment and misunderstanding that leads to some serious consequences. It's all the more scary when you learn it's based on a true story. Beyond the Hills may be the most realistic exorcism movie ever made. It comes to us from the director of the equally horrific 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days. Forget horror, this is one of the best films of 2013 period.

There you have it, the best 13 horror films of the year according to yours truly. Honorable mentions include American MaryThe Conjuring (if you see two James Wan films this year, see this one twice), Evil Dead and You're Next. In all honesty, the most horrific film I've seen in 2013 would have to be the documentary The Act of Killing, but that's stretching the genre's umbrella even further and deserves its own conversation. What are your favorite horror films of the year? Let me know in the comments below.

Updated 11/1/13

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

DRAG ME TO HELL - REVIEW (31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN #25)

In addition to my personal 31 Days of Horror (movie marathon) I am part of a 31 Days of Halloween (horror movie review series) with my job at MOVIECLIPS. Each day during the month of October we are going to post a two-man conversation/review of a different horror movie. Yours truly will be featured in a few of these. David and Ryan review Drag Me to Hell this time:



Somehow I still haven't seen Sam Raimi's recent return to horror (what put him on the map to begin with back with the original Evil Dead). With a name like that and apparently one FUBAR moment after another I've heard it's every bit as entertaining as it is scary. Note to self: Fix this oversight soon!


THE FACULTY - REVIEW (31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN #24)

In addition to my personal 31 Days of Horror (movie marathon) I am part of a 31 Days of Halloween (horror movie review series) with my job at MOVIECLIPS. Each day during the month of October we are going to post a two-man conversation/review of a different horror movie. Yours truly will be featured in a few of these. Here we have David and Zack reviewing The Faculty:


I've yet to see The Faculty. I was too young when it released and after that it has never been high on my watch-list. High school student suspecting their teachers are aliens feels like something we could all get onboard for, even if it sounds more like a Goosebumps after school special than quintessential horror cinema.

Monday, October 28, 2013

SAW - REVIEW (31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN #23)

In addition to my personal 31 Days of Horror (movie marathon) I am part of a 31 Days of Halloween (horror movie review series) with my job at MOVIECLIPS. Each day during the month of October we are going to post a two-man conversation/review of a different horror movie. Yours truly will be featured in a few of these. This time Jeff and Frasia review Saw:



(Curator's Note: On the horror reviews I did not sit in on I am going to be offering "My Take" if I have seen the film in question.)


My Take: Often attributed for starting the "torture porn" movement, Saw has received some backlash and generally bashing in the years since its release. One I first saw it I had never seen anything like it and was completely in suspense at the mystery to Jigsaw and his "little games." I found the film to be utterly inspiring, not in the uniqueness of deaths like say the Final Destination films, but in the methods of its serial killer and the drive he would expose and push in his victims. I'm long due for a look at the entire Saw series having only seen a couple of the sequels, but they are also what helped sour the genuinely novel original. This is to date my favorite James Wan film.

★★★★

Saturday, October 26, 2013

12 YEARS A SLAVE - REVIEW

12 Years a Slave
August 30, 2013 (Telluride Film Festival)
October 18, 2013 (United States)

134 min
United States (English)

Directed by Steve McQueen
Written by John Ridley


12 Years a Slave is another knockout effort by Steve McQueen and his equally talented comrades. It's singularity of one man's story, fully approached by Ejiofor, achieves a rare beauty in the darkest of places. Though it oppresses, it rewards and the purity at its core radiates.

Going into our screening of 12 Years a Slave I told my wife if I could only see one more film this year, it would be this film. It's quite a different thing to say coming out of it that I'd be okay if this is the last film I see this year. Or ever. Obviously I hope to see many, many more. After the critical and general response(s) coming out of Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals this rock of a production jutted out on the horizon as a destination to ride to and ride to fast. But more than anything it was seeing director Steve McQueen's first feature film, Hunger, earlier this month for the first time that garnered my anticipation. In terms of direction, preciseness and artful delivery of Hunger steamrolled over me. It won the Caméra d'Or at Cannes back in '08, the prize given to the best amongst first-time filmmakers. I've been racking my mind's archive if there was a stronger directorial debut than it even in the last decade.

12 Years a Slave bares the true story of Solomon Northup. He's played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, whose work I now wish I've consumed all of and who fully throws himself into Solomon's shoeless feet, baring his body and his soul during the lengthy titular ordeal. Solomon is a free black man living with his family in New York in 1841. He's then kidnapped during a brief violin tour in Washington, D.C.  and sold into slavery. Solomon's initial boat ride to the Antebellum South, which was essentially it's own county, or it's own world rather, is shown like a decent into the human condition. What happens in these Southlands to the men and women brought it on far bigger boats? What are the hearts of the men and women like who see fellow human beings as mere property? I often criticize films for depicting people as "evil" when I struggle to believe such exist. I found Joshua Oppenheimer's words before a screening of The Act of Killing most refreshing when he said there are no evil people, just human beings like you and me. That's saying something for a man who spent years amongst people with genocide fresh on their hands. 


But how then can we explain atrocities that occur, especially ones that effect an entire people, whether in Indonesia or the United States? McQueen showed me that men can be monsters who can still yet be men. We're so often blinded by circumstance, upbringing and our environment. I cannot be an apologist for terrible deeds like I can be for some terrible movies, but I can accept and realize that nothing has endangered our own species as much as our own species and that also nothing has helped our own species as much as our own species. Sitting below deck with two other kidnapped slaves, one of which just told Solomon the key to survival is to essentially keep his head low and to not speak, even of the truths that could set him free, Solomon expresses with all the anguish of a husband and father taken from what he cherishes most, "I don't want to survive, I want to live!" When he sees another slave stick up for a woman who's about to be taken up deck in the middle of the night, sees him murdered in front of his eyes, he realizes he must try to survive before he can live again. "12 years a slave," I reminded myself. This is only the beginning.

The film unfolds in a straightforward fashion with room for a few of Solomon's memories in its first half. Those all but disappear as the film moves along, surely not because Solomon's forgotten, but so we have something to remember ourselves in the harrowing scenes that follow. Upon arriving at one plantation, slave driver John Tibeats (played by Paul Dano, who I am convinced only accepts the slimiest roles he's offered) begins warning against runaway slaves. He gets his forced black audience to clap in unison while he sings, "Run Nigger, Run." I always knew that slaves had their sing-songs, I never knew their cruel overseers did. The song plays over a montage of manual labor that Solomon and his unfortunate company are bound to. Even during a brief sermon put on by Solomon's seemingly good-hearted Baptist slave owner, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, you can hear Tibeat's ever-present song.

I am in the dusk of a horror marathon this month, of which 12 Years was a much needed break from. It opened the window so to speak. That said, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more terrifying film currently in theaters. Like in his previous films, McQueen shows the details of his subject matter, from starvation (Hunger) to sex addiction (Shame) to physical abuse (12 Years). At times the only reminder that there is anything good left in the world is Hans Zimmer's beautiful theme of rising strings. It peeks through the beaten flesh and meager meals during these twelve years like a sentinel of hope, but it also punctuates the pain in what is one of the more graphic yet restrained portraits of punishment this side of Passion of the Christ. 

One sequence in particular where Solomon speaks and stands up against a slave driver is followed by a siren-like loop on the film's score, warning the repercussions about to follow. It's one of several moments in the film that use the long-take to force us to be bystanders to the matters at hand. "Shy away," does not appear to be part of McQueen's directorial vocabulary. Together with his collaborative cinematographer (Sean Bobbitt, who shot another of the year's very best, The Place Beyond the Pines) they demonstrate a careful consideration to horrific acts: We glimpse them almost always from the point of view of another, which can even change in the middle of a single take. It's exquisite, which can be said for practically every moment of blocking in the film, and it's clearly captured carefully.


Ejiofor's bold performance is both a glimpse into the steadfastness and fear of Solomon Northup. He makes his case when his fellow slaves have given into despair and yet he suffers and trembles to certain requests as any of us would. 12 Years, one of the biggest little films I've ever seen, would break on the back of other lead actors. Michael Fassbender plays Edwin Epps, another plantation owner Solomon comes to work for along his journey. He could be close friends with the fantastical Calvin Candie from Django Unchained. He's a product of the South, a man blindly driven to rule and at times mad and unruly. His favorite patsy is a slave girl called Patsey, this revelatory performance is brought to brutally honest life by Lupita Nyong'o. One crucial scene, though I'm inclined to say that about every scene in this film, has Solomon and Patsey having tea with a slave woman turned mistress. She climbed the rungs of the system and managed to get her tastes of "freedom" the hard way. For Patsey it seems to be the only path to follow. Only a film with this weight could overshadow stars like Paul Giamatti and Brad Pitt, who also appear herein even though I'd entirely forgotten about their involvement.

Expect to hear a lot about 12 Years in the fast-approaching Award season. Expect the film itself, director Steve McQueen, screenwriter John Ridley (who can add this to his resume and maybe erase Undercover Brother), cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, composer Hans Zimmer and editor Joe Walker to be in serious consideration for their respective categories of craft and achievement. Expect Ejiofor, Fassbender and Nyong'o to lead the races amongst their acting divisions. Expect to hear about 12 Years a Slave for the next twelve years and beyond. Expect me to bring it up if we ever discuss film long enough together. Expect me to encourage any to see it who have not yet and expect yourself to do the same.

12 Years a Slave is the type of film you do not get up from until the credits have disappeared and the screen is blank and house lights fade in. It's the type of film you'll want to discuss every scene of but words fall adequately short like they always do. It's the type of film you drive home thinking how most other movies are rather silly in comparison. And when you arrive home you won't want to watch or read or play anything else. You'll want to simply be with those you have and those you love more than anything else. You'll want to remember those you can't be with. I know of no better consequence of art than this. It's what always keeps me writing about film, from the beginning to where we are now. It's ultimately what makes me want to live and fills that life with gratitude for what I have.

"I don't want to survive, I want to live."
- Solomon Northup



★★★★★

CONTENT: strong bloody violence, male and female nudity, some sexual content and language

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

CLASSIC TRAILER ROUND-UP: THEM!

Curator's Note: As part of my job for MOVIECLIPS I help curate the Old Hollywood Trailers channel on YouTube. It's meant to be a source for trailers before the online HD video revolution of recent years. While there's still a load of 21st Century offerings there's a rich archive of earlier films which we only hope to further expand. Throughout the month of October I'm exclusively looking to upload trailers for horror movies new and old.



The trailer for Them! plays more like a newsreel than a movie preview, which is fitting for this widespread epidemic of the titular threat. It shows what they actually are, then again the posters we have today do so perhaps the posters then did. That's all this monster movie really has going for it. It's a commentary for the harmful effects of stateside nuclear testing and a fitting companion piece with Gojira from the Far East, but you'd be much better off seeing the whole movie - which you could have already gotten invested in with the time it would take to watch this 3-minute trailer.

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON - REVIEW (31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN #22)

In addition to my personal 31 Days of Horror (movie marathon) I am part of a 31 Days of Halloween (horror movie review series) with my job at MOVIECLIPS. Each day during the month of October we are going to post a two-man conversation/review of a different horror movie. Yours truly will be featured in a few of these. Today David and Zack are discussing John Landis' An American Werewolf in London:


(Curator's Note: On the horror reviews I did not sit in on I am going to be offering "My Take" if I have seen the film in question.)


My Take: Werewolf movies don't get much better than this. And if you contest that claim you really must fill me in on what hidden werewolf masterpiece you've seen that I don't know of. The transformation during "Blue Moon" is one of the quintessential showcases of movie effects. It's unforgettable, but what will likely leave the most lasting impression with you is the film's cold and abrasive finale - not unlike how it begins.

★★★★½

THE BAY - SHORT REVIEW (31 DAYS OF HORROR #3)

The Bay
November 2, 2012
84 min
United States (English)

Directed by Barry Levinson
Written by Michael Wallach


Barry Levinson's (?!) The Bay is only admirable in its sheer amount of found-footage fodder. How can so much amount to so little?

The Bay begins with a sober woman sharing her account of the events of July 4, 2004 with a filmmaker over Skype. She was to be reporting the annual festivities of the township on Chesapeake Bay when all hell broke loose on the waterfront. The faux-filmmakers behind this found-footage document are never seen, but we learn a WikiLeaks-esque site has gathered and released a multitude of video recordings from and leading up to that fateful day. It's an impressive collection. Production must've been a headache.

The findings of two oceanographers who discover what's being dumped (everything from nuclear waste to chicken waste) are cut in-between various denizens of this unfortunate Maryland suburb puking their guts out and losing their flesh. It takes itself too serious to have enough fun with yet it's too artificial to be invested on any reasonable emotional level. It's a strange film for Barry Levinson to add to his portfolio this late in his career. Good Morning VietnamThe NaturalRain Man and... The Bay. If you're not into found-footage films to begin with I'd pass on this. If you, like me, are a found-footage junkie, you should test the waters but don't expect to be impressed.

"I'm gonna show the world what happened here."




★★

CONTENT: disturbing and gory images, strong language

Monday, October 21, 2013

THE GOLEM - SHORT REVIEW (31 DAYS OF HORROR #2)

The Golem: How He Came Into the World
(Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam)

October 29, 1920
85 min
Germany (German/English)

Directed by Paul Wegener & Carl Boese
Written by Wegener & Henrik Galeen


The Golem is like a village elder among cinema: It's age is apparent, dissuading even, but what it has to offer is invaluable.

After a Rabbi reads impending doom amongst the stars for his Jewish community he molds a large humanoid out of clay. How He Came Into the World is the subtitle for Paul Wegener and Carl Boese's The Golem. Before this Wegener had directed two shorter films (even shorter than this one's brisk 85 minutes) featuring the Golem character which he himself plays underneath the makeup and costume. Unfortunately, those two films are lost today and we're left with this 1920 classic. Classic in every sense of the word, this also being one of the very first horror films known in existence (second only to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in Steven Jay Schneider's 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die.) 

To be entirely truthful I found The Golem to be a slough to tread through yet your patience will be rewarded with some early movie magic moments that impressed me despite being 90 years old. The sequence where Rabbi Loew summons the demon Astaroth in order to bring life to the clay humanoid is such a highlight and evidence for it's fitting into this genre. The Golem is intended to be a servant, capable of working on the Sabbath when the righteous Jews cannot, but Wegener's early production shows that meddling in such powers can quickly slip out of your control. This film is an example of what early practitioners could control as well as what areas the medium would benefit from adapting. For that it's invaluable to the art form, not just the horror genre.

"The hour is almost upon us. The alignment of the stars now favors the invocation of the spell."
- Rabbi Loew



★★★★

CONTENT: some violence and some sensuality

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2013: WEEK 4 LINE-UP


Tonight I entered my fourth week of the 31 Days of Horror with the Brian De Palma's Carrie before we go see the remake tomorrow night. Click here for more details regarding this young tradition and my preparation for this marathon month. You can see last week's line-up if you want to get caught up or are just interested in the proceedings thus far.

Here's what the week's schedule looks like (I've listed if/where the title is available to stream online):

October 21st - Carrie (Netflix Instant)
October 22nd - Carrie (2013)
October 23rd - The Changeling*
October 24th - The Haunting
October 25th - Don't Look Now* (Amazon Prime)
October 26th - Double Feature: Dog Soldiers* / Howling (2012) (Netflix Instant)
October 27th - Double Feature: Psycho II (Netflix Instant) / Halloween II**

(Curator's Note: This line-up and marathon is subject to change based on title availability or unforeseen circumstances.)

*Special thanks to The Film Tome contributor Bill Mullan for supplying the DVD.
**Special thanks to Jeff Chiarelli for supplying the DVD.

I'll fill you in on the final five days' line-up on Monday, October 28th. Until then, "Follow" me on Twitter or "Like" The Film Tome on Facebook to get daily updates on the marathon. Or, better yet, if all goes as planned you should be able to find reviews for each title the day after right here on The Film Tome.

Thanks for looking into the 31 Days of Horror. I invite you to play along, whether partially or fully. Also, it's not too late to suggest or recommend a horror film I should add to one of the line-up. Feel free to do so in the comments below.

Don't forget to turn off the lights.

CLASSIC TRAILER ROUND-UP: WOLF CREEK

Curator's Note: As part of my job for MOVIECLIPS I help curate the Old Hollywood Trailers channel on YouTube. It's meant to be a source for trailers before the online HD video revolution of recent years. While there's still a load of 21st Century offerings there's a rich archive of earlier films which we only hope to further expand. Throughout the month of October I'm exclusively looking to upload trailers for horror movies new and old.



The first half of the trailer for Wolf Creek suffers too much from title-card-syndrome (a plague that still effects previews to this day). It's basically the equivalent of PowerPoint slides in the middle of a trailer to help pitch the concept, more often than not in the corniest way possible. Things look up when John Jarratt enters the picture as what appears to be a Aussie native with not your traditional hospitality. He's not the Crocodile Hunter, he's the Misbehaving-Teenager Hunter! This trailer doesn't sell Wolf Creek half as much as simply telling someone it's a slasher set in the Outback. 

It's more than serendipitous (intentional actually) that I would share this 2005 trailer on the same day we lassoed the trailer for Wolf Creek 2.


THE RING - REVIEW (31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN #21)

In addition to my personal 31 Days of Horror (movie marathon) I am part of a 31 Days of Halloween (horror movie review series) with my job at MOVIECLIPS. Each day during the month of October we are going to post a two-man conversation/review of a different horror movie. Yours truly will be featured in a few of these. Today Zack and Emily reviewed The Ring:


Truth be told, I've never seen the The Ring (nor it's Japanese predecessor!) - at least not in an active viewing that I'd consider for The Film Tome's needs. It was on at a high school shin-dig at somebody's house, but boy, that's a terrible way to watch a movie when impressing the people you're sitting with is more important than what's onscreen. Uh, how did we get here? The tape in The Ring (this movie within a movie territory it charters) is something I have seen and salute. It's creepy stuff that Buñuel and Lynch would probably love to discuss over hors d'oeuvre. I'm a fan of Gore Verbinski, so I look forward to seeing this one after I have first seen Ringu.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

HORROR MARATHONS, 2013

The third week of my 31 Days of Horror is nearly complete meaning I'm nearly two-thirds done with this dark and dreary journey. The good news is I'm more than on track to meet my goal of a horror movie per day (31). The bad news is I can't sleep anymore. I'm kidding. I wanted to take a moment to highlight two other horror marathons that are going on in this wonderful cinema ciudad in which I live.



The first is Beyond Fest, which also accepts sci-fi and fantasy under its circus tent of terrors and the outlandish. It's being put on by the American Cinematheque and Amity, with showings at both the Egyptian and Aero Theaters. This week I took part in 6 films (3 double-features) for Beyond Fest over that Aero:



Onibaba / Kuroneko


A Field In England / The Borderlands


The Howling / The Wolf Man

It started on October 10th (with John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13) and runs through Halloween night (with F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu, complete with live piano accompaniment). Other highlights include the 8th Annual Dusk-to-Dawn Horrathon at the Aero, which I can't commit myself to attend -though maybe someday, and Goblin performing live to classic Argento films. You can check out the full schedule here.



The second marathon going on in Los Angeles is The United States of Horror over at The Cinefamily. It's a brilliant idea: taking horror films (often overlooked or cult classics) that were made in different states and screening them every midnight in October. Some States will obviously be left out (not Utah though, you better believe they included Troll 2), but it's a fitting tour through what one of the most prolific filmmaking countries in the world has given to the genre over the years. I haven't been out to this marathon yet, not sure if I will, but I'd have seen them all if it were easier/cheaper. See the entire U.S. of Horror line-up here.

In the meantime, lend your eyes to The Film Tome as we march through these last two weeks of October. Expect more updates from my 31 Days of Horror, additional coverage of MOVIECLIPS' 31 Days of Halloween and an occasional Classic Trailer Round-Up of a horror film. 

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2013: WEEK 3 LINE-UP


For the first two weeks I posted the line-up on Monday. I didn't get around to sharing this week's until now however, mainly because I was making it up as a I went along and didn't really know until I reached each day. I have a more substantial plan for Week 4 and you can look forward to that announcement tomorrow. Click here for more details regarding this young tradition and my preparation for this marathon month. You can see last week's line-up if you want to get caught up or are just interested in the proceedings thus far.

Check out what this week's line-up consisted of (I've listed if/where the title is available to stream online):


October 14th - Double Feature: Onibaba (Hulu Plus) / Kuroneko (Hulu Plus)
October 15th - [Rec]
October 16th - [Rec] 2
October 17th - [REC]³ Genesis (Netflix Instant)
October 18th - Double Feature: A Field In England / The Borderlands
October 19th - Double Feature: The Howling / The Wolf Man (Netflix Instant)
October 20th - The Innocents*

(Curator's Note: This line-up and marathon is subject to change based on title availability or unforeseen circumstances.)

*Special thanks to The Film Tome contributor Bill Mullan for supplying the DVD.

I'll fill you in on next week's line-up on Monday, October 21st. Until then, "Follow" me on Twitter or "Like" The Film Tome on Facebook to get daily updates on the marathon. Or, better yet, if all goes as planned you should be able to find reviews for each title the day after right here on The Film Tome.

Thanks for looking into the 31 Days of Horror. I invite you to play along, whether partially or fully. Also, it's not too late to suggest or recommend a horror film I should add to one of the line-up. Feel free to do so in the comments below.

Don't forget to turn off the lights.

TREMORS - REVIEW (31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN #20)

In addition to my personal 31 Days of Horror (movie marathon) I am part of a 31 Days of Halloween (horror movie review series) with my job at MOVIECLIPS. Each day during the month of October we are going to post a two-man conversation/review of a different horror movie. Yours truly will be featured in a few of these. Today Jess and Zack reviewed Tremors:


(Curator's Note: On the horror reviews I did not sit in on I am going to be offering "My Take" if I have seen the film in question.)


My Take: Tremors may be one of the most re-watchable movies ever made. Like Zack, I remember this thing always being on TV as a kid and each and every time it captivated me. In fact, it was partly Tremors and partly these unexplained ravines on the side of the I-15 that led my childhood self to conjure up my unfriendly imaginary friend, "Giant Worm." There's something about these serpentine monsters under the desert ground that's endlessly fascinating and terrifying to me. To this day Tremors is one of the top films I'd love to see a video game adaptation of. Boy, the right team could make that great. Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward are the on-screen definition of a bromance. Their partnership (and the rag-tag crew they bring along) are largely what make the absurdity of it all work on human-thinking level. Also, I can't help but love that Southwest setting, part of my heart, always. Tremors is a genre bender (horror, sci-fi, comedy, Western, romance, action) that keeps tunneling through my memory. Someday I'll have to do a marathon of that series, even if the first is the only one you should be bothered with.

★★★★½

DAWN OF THE DEAD - REVIEW (31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN #19)

In addition to my personal 31 Days of Horror (movie marathon) I am part of a 31 Days of Halloween (horror movie review series) with my job at MOVIECLIPS. Each day during the month of October we are going to post a two-man conversation/review of a different horror movie. Yours truly will be featured in a few of these. Yesterday Ryan and Zack discussed the remake of Dawn of the Dead


(Curator's Note: On the horror reviews I did not sit in on I am going to be offering "My Take" if I have seen the film in question.)


My Take: I really do love this film and it's still (easily) the best of Zack Snyder's films that I've seen, and his directorial debut at that. Hearing that they were going to remake the George A. Romero classic would sound like a bad, even heretic, idea to any who care about the horror genre, but Snyder and company brought the "zombie apocalypse survivors holed up in a mall" scenario to the 21st Century in a better way than we could have predicted. I've previously dissected the film's incredible opening credit sequence. That was the first sign we had a new sub-genre classic on our hands.

★★★★½

CLASSIC TRAILER ROUND-UP: HÄXAN: WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES



Curator's Note: As part of my job for MOVIECLIPS I help curate the Old Hollywood Trailers channel on YouTube. It's meant to be a source for trailers before the online HD video revolution of recent years. While there's still a load of 21st Century offerings there's a rich archive of earlier films which we only hope to further expand. Throughout the month of October I'm exclusively looking to upload trailers for horror movies new and old.


After you get over the shock that this is a film made over 90 years ago you can't help but lose your breath again at the imagery on display.  It's clearly a preview made after the fact (apologies, I do not know the origin of this "trailer") and the music fits more in the editing than it does to the overall tone of the content, but I couldn't more excited, scared and scarred to have this film be part of my 31 Days of Horror. The graphic and haunting images are all that's needed to hearken the horror fans and warn anyone else.

Friday, October 18, 2013

THE SHINING - REVIEW (31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN #18)


In addition to my personal 31 Days of Horror (movie marathon) I am part of a 31 Days of Halloween (horror movie review series) with my job at MOVIECLIPS. Each day during the month of October we are going to post a two-man conversation/review of a different horror movie. Yours truly will be featured in a few of these. Today Zack and I reviewed King Kubrick's The Shining:




CABIN FEVER - REVIEW (31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN #17)

In addition to my personal 31 Days of Horror (movie marathon) I am part of a 31 Days of Halloween (horror movie review series) with my job at MOVIECLIPS. Each day during the month of October we are going to post a two-man conversation/review of a different horror movie. Yours truly will be featured in a few of these. To start things off we have Andrew and Ryan discussing Eli Roth's breakthrough hit Hostel:



(Curator's Note: On the horror reviews I did not sit in on I am going to be offering "My Take" if I have seen the film in question.)


My Take: Eli Roth's Cabin Fever is the pure product of a cinephile's mind, someone who has clearly obsessed over the horror genre and has a twisted spin of his own to share. Predating Cabin in the Woods by nearly a decade, it's also an ode to teen slasher, both generic and inventive. It's offensive, bloody, sometimes funny and sometimes even scary. It helped establish Roth as a director but for me had very little to say. But hey, that can be okay.

★★★

Thursday, October 17, 2013

CLASSIC TRAILER ROUND-UP: GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH

Curator's Note: As part of my job for MOVIECLIPS I help curate the Old Hollywood Trailers channel on YouTube. It's meant to be a source for trailers before the online HD video revolution of recent years. While there's still a load of 21st Century offerings there's a rich archive of earlier films which we only hope to further expand. Throughout the month of October I'm exclusively looking to upload trailers for horror movies new and old.



This has to be one of the more fitting trailers for a sequel that I've seen, particular the opening which cuts between scenes from the first film (along with blasts of that obnoxious score) and a water-y motif which will reveal the title. "You didn't listen!" the narrator laments before diving into footage from The New Batch. Where the first trailer was careful to not show us any Gremlins this one goes all out, even showing us some of the more specially mutated versions. For audiences who liked what they got from Joe Dante's first film, this preview promises to win their favor again. 

CLASSIC TRAILER ROUND-UP: GREMLINS

Curator's Note: As part of my job for MOVIECLIPS I help curate the Old Hollywood Trailers channel on YouTube. It's meant to be a source for trailers before the online HD video revolution of recent years. While there's still a load of 21st Century offerings there's a rich archive of earlier films which we only hope to further expand. Throughout the month of October I'm exclusively looking to upload trailers for horror movies new and old.


The narrator seals the deal here with an introduction to Billy's life and, more importantly, an introduction (i.e. the guidelines) for Gremlin ownership. The most admirable thing about the trailer is that we never really see the Gremlins (before or after their transformation) aside from a brief shot at the end where they chase Billy and his girl, and even then we only see them from behind. "Gremlins, directed by Joe Dante, they'll be expecting you!"



CLASSIC TRAILER ROUND-UP: INSIDIOUS

Curator's Note: As part of my job for MOVIECLIPS I help curate the Old Hollywood Trailers channel on YouTube. It's meant to be a source for trailers before the online HD video revolution of recent years. While there's still a load of 21st Century offerings there's a rich archive of earlier films which we only hope to further expand. Throughout the month of October I'm exclusively looking to upload trailers for horror movies new and old.



I like the metronome ticking that begins the trailer for Insidious, even if showing us variations of the title and "is" got repetitive it's not an insult to our intelligence. This auditory track is visually replaced with a rocking horse (another nice touch) before its rapid-fire slideshow of scary images from throughout the film. Because of the speed they are thrown at audiences it is not likely anyone would remember most of them, but some in particular (including what was for me the film's #1 scare) can be spotted and recalled. Some plot details can been scavenged but at the least the narrative is mostly left uncharted. It sells the film well, which would go on to become one of the more profitable horror films of its time. 

Check out our review of Insidious here.

TRAILER ROUND-UP: MORMON MISSIONARY EDITION

Two very different films about Mormon missionaries have appeared on my radar recently (put there by my mother) and I thought it'd be fitting to tackle them together. First, The Saratov Approach:


Two missionaries are kidnapped and held for ransom while serving in Russia.

I seem to vaguely recall catching wind of this real-world event when it occurred (apparently back when Clinton was President, the only major clue the trailer gives as to what time this is taking place). My two gripes with this trailer is that the acting appears quite unbalanced and the musical score harms more than helps. Apparently there are better actors in Ukraine than in Salt Lake City, one of the missionary's mother completely derailed the performance train for me. That said, the Elders and their kidnappers feel real enough for what the narrative calls for. The soundtrack is fine, but not playing throughout the entire trailer. It's downright obtrusive. Unsurprisingly enough we appear to be given the entire plot as well, another tired and unproven trend in trailers from every corner of the Earth and every decade of cinema. These nitpicks aside I'm eager to see this and am keeping the outcome unknown to me if this trailer didn't already ruin the element of surprise. The Saratov Approach is currently playing in Utah theaters. Don't expect to catch it anywhere else, but keep an eye out for it next year on disc or digital.


Mormon Missionaries begin teaching two birdbrained members of the mafia who think the Elders are messengers from "The Boss" with a hidden message on the next hit.

It appears they have taken Mobsters and Mormons (an existing LDS-oriented comedy, not to be confused with From Mafia to Mormon) to the next level. Inspired Guns is Dumb and Dumber meets Analyze This. I don't know which duo is more dense, the sheltered missionaries or the dim-witted "tough guys." I'm definitely more interested in seeing Saratov, but this could (could) be fun. For who? That's the question. Will you be taking the gun and leaving the granola? (Mobsters and Mormons reference that I hope you don't get.) Inspired Guns gets its theatrical release in January, likely just in Utah.

I hope you dug this specially-themed edition of the Trailer Round-Up, I may be doing more of these in the future. Check out the Trailer Round-Up tab for more brief analysis on movie previews, including several "classic" horror trailers all this month. The original Trailer Round-Up Herds that you may remember will be starting up again next week, new and approved, so stay tuned for that. Thanks for flipping through the Tome.

Plot synopses courtesy of IMDb.