Friday, July 30, 2010

Legion (2010) Yeah, But Is It Horror?

Everyone knows I dig the apocalyptic horror movie, especially by taking something that most likely wouldn't happen and throwing it out there in a way that makes it look like it could happen. It speaks to a part of me that is both fascinated and terrified by the end of the world, whether it be by natural causes or by the living dead or by a mad demigod or by sickness (The Stand). It hits home, but is just on the outskirts of reason enough to be intriguing.

I tossed around the idea that while apocalyptic fiction can be horrifying, it doesn't always classify as horror. In fact, a great deal of it falls under science fiction. When I finished watching Legion, I had my doubts that it could be called horror or science fiction. Speculative fiction, yes, but that's a very broad term. In the end (no pun intended), I decided to jot down my thoughts on it for two reasons. One, the very name of this blog is derived from a classic apocalyptic movie (Dawn of the Dead), and two, it's my blog and I can write about the sandwich I ate earlier today if I felt like it.

Legion had a very promising premise: God has become disappointed with His children and decides to send another world-cleansing event to reboot Earth, much like the flood that Noah and his crew rode out. Only this time, he sends his vast army of powerful angels to lay waste to the human race through outright destruction and possession of bodies. That right there is scary. Not to mention the heavy religious undertones, which speak to the very core of nearly every person - you throw religion in the mix and you're treading on literally sacred ground and the very thought of blending it with thrills and chills is enough to excite, scare, and, in some cases, anger. Legion doesn't go all that deep, but just enough to give you a decent look into what the spiritual beings are thinking.

Basically, Michael (Paul Bettany) - a general-angel in Heaven's army - descends to Earth, cuts off his own wings, and gathers a butt-load of weapons. Not long after he arrives, he is forced to battle a possessed policeman, signaling that the end is indeed nigh. As he drives out of Los Angeles (the City of Angels, get it?), the lights go out block by block.

At the desolate Paradise Falls Diner, we meet a cast of various characters. There's good kid Jeep (Lucas Black), who has horrible nightmares about a coming disaster that involves the love of his life, Charlie (Adrianne Palicki), the pregnant (not by Jeep) waitress at the diner. Jeep's disillusioned dad Bob (Dennis Quaid) owns the diner and has as his cook, Percy Walker (Charles S. Dutton), a very devout Christian. Also present are the well-to-do but dysfunctional Anderson family: tired Howard (Jon Tenney), stressed Sandra (Kate Walsh), and tarty Audrey (Willa Holland), who are waiting for Jeep to fix their car. Joining them on his way to see his child is Kyle Williams (Tyrese Gibson), who may or may not be a shady character. With all the pieces in place, things begin to get a little weird. The diner's lone TV loses its weak signal for a while before blasting color bars and emergency tones. The phones go down. They're in the middle of the desert, so cell phones aren't exactly working.

Into all this confusion and doubt walks sweet Gladys Foster (Jeanette Miller):

She orders a steak extra bloody, makes friendly small talk with everyone, attracts flies, and ultimately tells Charlie that her "baby's gonna burn." Taking her for a religious fanatic, Charlie ignores her, but Gladys goes right on gleefully predicting everyone's grisly fate. When Howard objects, she gnaws a chunk out of his neck before climbing to the ceiling. She manhandles everyone who tries to restrain her before mocking Jeep and advancing on him before Kyle guns her down.

In trying to get Howard to the nearest town, the party is attacked by an enormous swarm of flies, forcing them to turn around and take refuge in the diner. About this time, Michael arrives and arms everyone, saying that "more like her" are on their way. They barricade the diner and prepare for an onslaught. Night falls and in the distance, gentle ice cream truck bells are heard, and a creepy, spider-like ice cream man with an monstrous unhinged jaw emerges...featured heavily in the trailer, if you recall.

This spidery fella attacks, and is soon joined by scores of possessed people. In the chaos, Howard is extracted from the diner, his screams echoing into the night. The seemingly last people on Earth count their blessings and their losses: Howard's gone and Sandra's mind is going fast.

In the downtime, Michael reveals why the world is ending. He also informs Charlie that her child is mankind's final hope. Mincing no words, Michael says that he is the one who was supposed to kill the child, but refused, trying to convince God that humanity was still good and that He still loved them. He tells Jeep that it's because of his unwavering faith in others, such as his father and Charlie, that inspired Michael to make a stand. The first wave of attackers, he says, was to "test our strength." The next will be to "test our weakness."

The next morning, Sandra awakes to the sound of agonized crying. Outside the diner is Howard, pinned horribly to an upside-down makeshift crucifix, boils covering his body. As she runs to him, he explodes with acid, but she is saved by Percy, who takes the brunt of it. Howard's obviously dead now, and Percy dies after making sure Sandra is back inside. Sandra's mind goes bye-bye right about then. That night, it appears that an innocent family is trying to fill their gas tank. When they're killed by the possessed, Kyle goes nuts when he sees a child falling victim to them. It's a trick, and Kyle is killed by the child and other possessed despite Audrey trying to play hero.

Charlie goes into labor and delivers this child she really doesn't want. At the instant of birth, celestial trumpets sound. Michael's friend and fellow general Gabriel (Kevin Durand) has arrived to do the job Michael refused. Sandra suddenly turns heel and tries to take the baby to Gabriel, only to be gunned down by Michael. Humans can't do much against Gabriel when he makes his entrance, and Bob is gravely wounded. Michael insists that the others take the baby and leave while he battles his friend. They do, untouched by the possessed, who now seem afraid and reverent of the baby.

The angel fight is pretty wicked. Michael's at a serious disadvantage since cutting off his wings and becoming more human, and it ends up being his downfall as Gabriel kills Michael. In a nice touch, Gabriel weeps for Michael - they are angels of God, after all, not evil beings - before preparing to carry out his orders. Bob has a last laugh by igniting the gas feed to his stove, leveling the diner and those outside.

Michael's tattoos show up on Jeep, signaling the once-angel's death. Gabriel attacks the getaway car, momentarily derailed by Audrey's painful sacrifice. In attempting to escape, Jeep tries to defend Charlie and the baby, but Gabriel nearly kills him before Michael suddenly returns, angelic powers restored. According to him, he "gave God what He needed, not what He wanted," which bodes well for humanity. Michael easily trounces Gabriel, but spares his life. The heroic rebel angel then appoints Jeep the baby's true protector and tells him to seek out prophets and learn to read the tattoos that have appeared on his body. Sequel, anyone?

I was a bit disappointed that we weren't treated to more scenes of worldwide destruction, but at the same time, letting your mind fill in the blanks is somewhat satisfying. The cast was quite good and the movie held my interest, even if it was just to see how the story played out.

Legion wasn't "fright-scary" or "jump-outta-your-seat-scary." The idea of God wiping out humanity like he did in Noah's time is pretty frightening. The helplessness of the human race before the sliver of hope that might remain. And there's your reason for good apocalyptic fiction: that somehow, some way, someone's going to find a way to survive and battle back, maybe even win.

There you have it. Legion is a good movie to pop in, watch maybe once, and settle back to think about the effects of apocalyptic fiction. Or it's good as background noise, which for me, is a sign that I at least liked it a little. I did like Legion, but I'm afraid it won't be joining my collection.

Until next time, my fellow survivors, be wary of overly sweet old ladies ordering steak cooked rare in desert diners.

P.S. The sandwich I had today was peanut butter and jelly, and it was tasty.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

First Ever "Billy Loves Stu" Survey for Horror Bloggers

Over at the fantastic blog Billy Loves Stu, Pax Romano put together a fun little meme for horror bloggers. You know, as a way for all of us to get to know ourselves even more. While, sadly, there are no questions related to food, the meme asks some snappy, well-structured questions that delve deep into the very soul of the horror blogger.

Plus, I can't resist a good meme, so without further ado:

The First Ever Billy Loves Stu Meme for Horror Bloggers

1: In Ten Words or Less, Describe Your Blog:

Good-natured thoughts and analysis on the horror genre.

2: During What Cinematic Era Where you Born?
A: The Classic Horror Era (late 30's to 40's)

B: The Atomic Monster/Nuclear Angst Era (the late 40's through 50's)

C: The Psycho Era ( Early 60's)

D: The Rosemary's Baby Era (Mid to Late 60's)

E: The Exorcism Era (Early to mid 70's)

F: The Halloween Era (Late 70's to Early 80's)
The Slasher Era (Mid to late 80's)
H: The Self Referential/Post Modern Era (1990 to 1999)

I was born in '67, so that plants me firmly in The Rosemary's Baby Era. Ohmygod, what have I done to my eyes?

3: The Carrie Compatibility Question:
(gay men and straight women - make your choice from section A)
A: Billy Nolan or Tommy Ross, who would you take to the prom?

(straight guys and lesbians - make your choice from section B)
B: Sue Snell or Chris Hargensen, who would you take to the prom?

In high school, I tended to gravitate towards the nice girls, even if the bad girls had that aura that could make me walk directly into a locker. So, I probably would've secretly lusted after Chris, but ultimately would've made the right choice and asked Sue. Then again, if I had asked Chris, the chaotic events of Carrie wouldn't have happened because I would've tripped over the blood bucket.

4: You have been given an ungodly amount of money, and total control of a major motion picture studio - what would your dream Horror project be?

The easy answer is a zombie apocalypse epic, but that might be addressed in AMC's The Walking Dead. I'd still want to do it my way, though. Hollywood, don't remake my idea, but I'd love to do a large-scale epic that has Lovecraftian horrors breaking through and taking over the modern world. Already working on the story.

5: What horror film "franchise" that others have embraced, left you cold?

I've had a hard time getting enthusiastic about the Saw movies since the first one. Some creative moments in the sequels, but I've really been lukewarm about seeing any more.

6: Is Michael Bay the Antichrist?

Want to scare me? I mean, really want to scare me? Say these words: "Hey, Michael Bay is remaking Dawn of the Dead!"

7: Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Frankenstein Monster - which one of these classic villains scares you, and why?

I'm going to have to go with The Wolf Man. He's entirely feral, a real berserker (intentional Clerks reference), and has a bite/scratch that is ten fingers and a set of teeth worth of supernatural doom. Yeah, Dracula has his faculties about him, but has an old world sense of honor. Frankenstein's Monster is an innocent at heart. Yeah, Wolf Man for me.

8: Tell me about a scene from a NON HORROR Film that scares the crap out of you:

When I was a little guy, maybe five or six years old - y'know, back when there were rotary phones and the Internet might have been something Batman used to snare a bad guy - I was scared for some odd reason of Jerry Lewis' transformation in the original version of The Nutty Professor. It was strangely chaotic and scary to see him choking and flailing around. Now I'm just scared of Jerry Lewis in Hardly Working.

9: Baby Jane Hudson invites you over to her house for lunch. What do you bring?

Rifftrax versions of her old movies. Maybe they'll change her focus a little.

10: So, between you and me, do you have any ulterior motives for blogging? Come, on you can tell me, it will be our little secret, I won't tell a soul.

I honestly started this just to share my thoughts to what I thought might end up being an empty room. Apparently, a few people read those thoughts, for which I'm very grateful. Maybe deep inside, I wanted to make some new friends along the way. I also wanted to keep in practice with my writing, so it's worked out nicely.

11: What would you have brought to Rosemary Woodhouse's baby shower?

*resists urge to say "Devil's food cake"* I don't know, fireproof diapers maybe? That kid was going to be a handful.

12: Godzilla vs The Cloverfield Monster, who wins?

As much as I loved Cloverfield, I'm old-school. Godzilla takes this one after a comeback and a few well-placed atomic breath blasts.

13: If you found out that Rob Zombie was reading your blog, what would you post in hopes that he read it?

Rob Zombie actually shops at the store where I work, and at first I told one of my friends who knows him to mention my blog. Then I reviewed Halloween 2 in a blog in which I tried to break the news gently that I didn't really care for the movie. Now I told my friend to wait until I review House of 1000 Corpses or Devil's Rejects before telling him about it.

14: What is your favorite NON HORROR FILM, and why?

Probably Big Trouble In Little China. It's got it all: John Carpenter directing, Kurt Russell as the slightly dim but badass hero, Victor Wong as a wizard, James "Seinfeld, four!" Hong as the villain, three of the coolest superpowered henchmen, and big swashbuckling fun. I never get tired of watching and quoting it.

15: If blogging technology did not exist, what would you be doing?

Calling my friends with good-natured thoughts on the horror genre on my rotary phone.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

1408 (2007) The Overlook Was Scarier

As my friend Rick over at The Paradise of Horror can attest, I am a very big Stephen King fan. I may have mentioned that I read The Shining in two days on summer vacation as an innocent, fresh-faced thirteen-year-old. The Stand changed my entire way of looking at writing and stoked my flames of love for apocalyptic fiction. King is my single biggest influence when it comes to creating stories. Sometimes movies based on his stories work (The Mist, The Green Mile, The Stand miniseries) and sometimes they don't (Maximum Overdrive, The Mangler). 1408 falls somewhere in the middle, with elements that really worked wrapped in a final product that just didn't stand out for me.

So you've got this guy, paranormal travel writer Mike Enslin (John Cusack), who really doesn't believe in ghosts, but wouldn't mind seeing one. He's the classic Stephen King "tortured writer," a character that indeed works because...well, King would know how rough it is to be a successful writer. He gets a line on an apparently very haunted hotel room in New York City's Dolphin Hotel, the titular room 1408. Of course, he has to check it out. This is curiosity I can appreciate.

The hotel manager, Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson), warns Enslin not to do it. Enslin takes advantage of a state statute that forces hotels to rent out any available room and, despite intense pleas and solid information from Olin, settles into the room. Tiny things begin to happen at first, but when the clock radio (constantly blaring The Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun" - shades of Christine) begins a countdown of sixty minutes, Enslin is really in for it.

He starts experiencing little things. Almost polite things. Mints are left on pillows. The toilet paper is folded neatly. The HORROR! Enslin is a little creeped out, but intrigued. Now he's experiencing something that's weird, but he thinks still explainable. When he starts seeing ghosts (that look oddly like weird TV transmissions) reenacting their suicides, that's when he realizes the game is afoot.

In one of my favorite creepy parts, he tries signaling in desperation to a gentleman across the street. The guy stands up in shadow and not only imitates Enslin's every moment, but mirrors them. When light settles on the fellow, we see it's Enslin himself. Hardly a moment to take it in, when a crazy-eyed Clint Howard-esque maniac swings a hammer at the "reflection." Enslin turns to see the maniac in his own room advancing on him before disappearing:

It wasn't Clint Howard, but rather in an odd little role, former super-badass martial artist Benny "The Jet" Urquidez. The Jet does a lot of stunt work and extra work now, but back in the day, he engaged in what was considered one of the greatest fight scenes ever caught on film, battling Jackie Chan in 1984's wonderful Kuai can che otherwise known as Wheels on Meals:

If Cusack and Urquidez had broken out into that kind of fight, this movie would've become my favorite movie of all time.

Enslin's visions get more and more intense, and more personal. He sees "footage" of he and his estranged wife Lily (Mary McCormack) and his daughter Katie (Jasmine Jessica Anthony), who died some time ago of an undisclosed disease. This life incident has caused Enslin to lose faith in everything, yet hold onto the notion of an afterlife. It becomes clear that the room seems to have it in for him, and is not going to let him leave. He tries going out the window onto the ledge, through ventilation shafts...nothing. The room forces him back every time.

Enslin manages to contact Lily via his computer, begging her to send help before his aforementioned escape attempt through the ducts. He manages to get her again after his failed attempt and discovery that Room 1408 is now my old hometown in winter. The room takes over his chat avatar and convinces Lily to join him in 1408, as the real Enslin screams in protest.

At one point, the room even convinces Enslin the whole thing was a dream during his surfing accident at the beginning of the film. But, like all evil rooms, it brought him right back to the madness. It even throws what might be a ghost of his daughter at him, before yanking the rug away on that, too.

Enslin discovers that 1408 won't outright kill him, but offers him the choice of reliving the hour of insanity over and over, or taking the "express checkout": suicide. Enslin, in a moment of clarity, fights back, lobbing a Molotov cocktail into the wall and setting fire to the room. At the last moment, he's rescued and reunited with Lily. Maybe the whole thing was a way for him to remember the good in his life and for unicorns to prance lovingly through the meadow in slow-motion. Maybe it was all in his head. Well, the last scene would probably dispel that.

1408 is clever in its own way. When the clock radio starts counting down from 60 minutes, it really is 60 minutes to the end of the movie. Lots of Easter eggs concerning the number 13. According to IMDB, the standard version's runtime is 104 minutes and eight seconds. But I found it relatively uncreepy. It wasn't a waste of time, but I didn't instantly add it to my Amazon wish list. It seemed to me to be a whole lot of bluster, but weak on the follow-through. Still, Cusack's acting is a real bright spot. He's given a chance to be in - for most of the movie - a one-man play, and he delivers. There could be a movie of Samuel L. Jackson standing there waving for 90 minutes, and I'd probably see it. He has a small role, but it meshes well with Cusack's. I wouldn't turn anyone away from it - it's not a bad one, just not as scary as I'd hoped.

Well, fellow zombie apocalypse survivors, if you find yourself at a hotel, make sure you stay off the ground floor to avoid the biters and out of room 1408, especially if you have a guilty complex.

"Stay scared." ~ Mike Enslin, 1408 (and also George A. Romero)

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Friday, July 9, 2010

The Crazies (2010) Not All Remakes Are Bad

The word "remake" sends chills down a horror fan's spine more than zombies, ghosts, and crazed holiday-themed killers. Lately, the horror genre has been on a remake binge, especially with foreign horror films like [REC] (as Quarantine), Let The Right One In (as Let Me In), and Martyrs. How they can dilute the magic of the originals can probably be answered with the phrase "cha-ching." It is really all about the Benjamins. But American horror classics haven't been excluded either, with reboots to Halloween, A Nightmare On Elm Street, and the very well-made remake of Dawn of the Dead to name a few. When I saw George Romero's 1973 cult classic The Crazies was on the remake list, that old familiar skepticism was the first feeling I had. But there is that "you never know" feeling. I come back to the Dawn of the Dead remake - a retelling that was done right: just enough of the original to pay respects, but creative enough to stand on its own. 2010's version does pay decent respect to its elders, but does have enough strength to stand on its own without being too "slick" or too "let's pander to the kids who hang out at the mall" for its own good.

Where the 1973 version was directed by Romero, Breck Eisner handles the chores this time around with quite the capable cast. The small town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa, is just about perfect. Small-town folks enjoying small-town activities like the opening day of high-school baseball. Everyone knows everyone. In fact, when one of the townsfolk shows up at the game with a shotgun, Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) assumes he's just drunk. Forced to react when the guy raises the gun, Dutton shoots him down, an action he immediately regrets.

But former drunk Rory wasn't the only one exhibiting strange behavior. Farmer Bill worries his wife by staring into space and repeating words and phrases. Sheriff Dutton's wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell) examines him and, finding nothing wrong on the surface, sends him home. Later that night, Bill methodically traps his family in the house and burns it down. He expresses no regret or even knowledge of what he's done as he's placed in a holding cell. Dutton and his trusty deputy Russell Clank (Joe Anderson) investigate first the body of a dead soldier attached to a parachute, then a downed plane in a nearby lake that feeds...that's right...into the town's water supply.

Bill begins suffering more marked symptoms of something pretty nasty. I mean, look at the above picture. This disease - later referred to as "Trixie" - doesn't just give you a light cough and send you on your way. Dutton wants to shut off the water supply, but the Mayor is having nothing of that as he swims in his oddly-placed swimming pool. There are crops to consider, after all. Dutton doesn't care, so he takes the illegal course of action and shuts it off anyway.

It might be too late at this point. Other residents are feeling the crazy, acting strangely and deserting the streets. Then they get violent. Sheriff Dutton convinces Judy they should leave, but they are captured by haz-mat-suited military guys and herded into a makeshift quarantine area at the local school. They're suddenly separated when Judy registers as having a fever, one of Trixie's symptoms. In reality, she's pregnant, but the military doesn't listen to David's pleading as they take her to a room and strap her down on a gurney in a room full of other patients on gurneys, most of which are sick with Trixie.

Some locals stage a coup and in the confusion, all the townspeople either escape or are gunned down. David makes it out and finds Russell, and together they set out to rescue Judy. Just in time, too, as the principal - now infected - is going from gurney to gurney, impaling random people with a pitchfork. Before he can kill Judy or Becca (Danielle Panabaker), David guns him down. The four make it out of town, barely avoiding some thrill-seeking hunters who may have been nuts before Trixie. They're now hunting people, infected or not. Arriving at Becca's boyfriend's farm, they plan to wait out the military invasion and the infection, or at least get out of town. Some military guys show up anyway and kill both Becca's boyfriend and his mother, seemingly without cause. David and Russell capture a soldier and find out more about what has happened before letting him go. Their only option becomes clear: get as far away as possible as Ogden Marsh is about to be wiped off the map.

The group returns to the Dutton home to retrieve an old sheriff's cruiser. After a struggle with Rory's infected wife and teenage son, who have come for twisted revenge against the man who shot their loved one at the beginning of the film, the four leave. It isn't long before a military helicopter chases them into a car wash, where they battle more infected, losing Becca and their transportation.

Exhausted, both physically and mentally, they come across Russell's car, which he had told them had been forced off the road. Seeing a vehicle approaching and sensing it belongs to the military, Russell throws out a strip, puncturing the tires and causing the car to crash. David's not happy; he wanted to interrogate the driver. The driver's alive, and reveals that Trixie is indeed a biological weapon, and that the whole area will have to be purged in order to contain it. Russell immediately places a bullet in the guy's head as the trusty deputy begins to show signs of Trixie. He even levels the gun at David and Judy as they continue walking.

David manages to wrestle the gun away later, and forces Russell to come to terms with his infection. They discover a roadblock and Russell sacrifices himself to ensure that David and Judy can get past and continue their escape. Russell Clank, like his 1973 predecessor, dies a heroic death, and even gets to say the best line in the movie to the anonymous military/science guys: "Fuck you for what you've done."

David and Judy find a truck stop, completely empty. The military has killed everyone they herded into trucks to "let go." Not only that, the insane hunters from earlier are there and make escape just a tad more difficult for our intrepid couple. David and Judy finally make their long-awaited getaway in a huge semi truck.

Using a stolen radio, they track the countdown until Ogden Marsh is destroyed and the bomb blast nearly kills them. They crawl from the wreckage and look back at the mushroom cloud burning over the town they loved. Continuing on to Cedar Rapids, they wearily move towards the big city.

The big city which is now seen from a satellite picture, containing those feared words: "initiate containment protocol."

For a remake, I really dug the 2010 version of The Crazies. It dove right into the action and didn't let up, only taking moments here and there to let the characters advance a little. The cast was very good and, most importantly, the movie didn't insult my intelligence. It wasn't a bunch of teens who could be cast on some network teen drama prancing around and looking beautiful while spouting nudge-nudge-wink-wink snarks at each other, or breaking the fourth wall for that matter. I've long been a fan of Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell, and they really didn't disappoint. Joe Anderson was extremely good as Clank, a role I really loved in the original.

There were some interesting differences between the original and the remake, none of which really took away from each other:

* Clank was a deputy sheriff instead of a fireman, and didn't have a thing for Judy.

* Judy and David were married, where in the original, they were boyfriend/girlfriend.

* Judy survives, where in the original, only David makes it out. Also, in the original, David is captured and thumbs his nose at the whole military/science complex when they lament they have no immune survivors to base an antidote on. David knows he's immune.

* Two important side stories were done away with: Dr. Watts trying to find the antidote, and the disturbing story of Artie and his daughter, Kathie. Although, I practically CHEERED when Lynn Lowry - who portrayed Kathie in the original - made a cameo as an infected resident riding a bike and singing in the middle of town.

* The infected are changed physically in the remake, where in the original, the changes were more psychological. I wished they had done a tribute to the Knitting Needle Granny from the 1973 movie, though.

Good movie, really. It isn't on the level of another George Romero remake, the Dawn of the Dead redo, in my opinion, but absolutely worth my time and money. Fine acting, great pacing, and a really good script. If you must do a remake, try and do it like this, if you can, Hollywood. Thank you.

Well, fellow survivors, it's back to the chopper to guide more people to the shelter. Careful with the water you drink. You don't want to catch Trixie.

Stay cool and see you next time...

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ten Moments That Give Me The Willies

So my good friend and sister-in-horror Andre over at the fantastic blog The Horror Digest named her top ten moments that give her the willies. Not only that, but she tossed out a friendly challenge for the horror blogging community to name our favorites. Well, I like making lists, and I like sharing what I enjoy about horror and things that go bump in the night. So I give to you, my dear fellow survivors, this list of ten moments across media that give me the willies a.k.a. the heebie-jeebies:

- the "wavy" ghost

While the Ringu and Ju-On films are the Japanese horror flicks most people know about, there's this little 2001 offering from Kiyoshi Kurosawa called Kairo. It was remade in the States as the largely forgettable Pulse, but the original - as is usually the case - contains more creeps and a more solid storyline. There are several moments in the film that could qualify as creepy, including a scene with an airplane crash landing into Tokyo that is somehow haunting instead of terrifying. However, this little scene with a ghost stalking one of our young heroes is downright chill-inducing:

The Stand miniseries - "eat chicken with me" guy

I got into writing because of Stephen King. I read The Shining in two days as a middle school kid one summer. 'Salem's Lot was - and still is - one of my measuring sticks for vampire fiction. And no, his vampires don't mope around and sparkle. The Stand marked my first modern epic as I read feverishly - no pun intended, maybe - about my first exposure - OK, maybe pun intended - to apocalyptic infection horror, a genre that I still hugely enjoy to this day. One line in the book that seemed so absurd, yet so skin-crawling, was uttered by a dying man Stu Redman runs into while escaping the research hospital. To my eternal joy, the book was made into a fine miniseries many years later, and King left that line of dialogue in the screenplay:

"Down In The Park" by Gary Numan

I'm going to switch forms of media here to music, and a piece of music from the early 80's by the amazing Gary Numan, who also performed the hit, "Cars." "Down In The Park" is a song about a bleak, dystopian future where machines do horrible things to humans, who can do nothing but watch the horror unfold. Sample lyrics include: Down in the park where the Machmen meet/the machines play kill by numbers/down in the park with a friend called Five or Come to Zom's, it's the place to be/like it was built in one day/you can watch the humans trying to run all set to a minimalist, creepy little backdrop of music and sung by Numan's almost android-like voice. Use your imagination to peek into the frightening future he conjures:

The Changeling (1980) - after the seance

1980's The Changeling featured one of the grand old men of grizzled, George C. Scott, in an atmospheric haunted house story as a man mourning the tragic death of his family while investigating the strange occurrences in his new home. He brings in a psychic to contact the ghost and the seance itself is pretty crazy, featuring automatic writing and things moving on their own. But it was after the seance that always gets the chills going down my spine as Scott listens to a reel-to-reel tape of the seance. The following video picks up right at that point:

Lake Mungo - cell phone footage

Lake Mungo has to be at the top of my list when it comes to not only faux documentaries, but creepy ghost movies overall. The ghost footage was enough to get me to turn on the all the lights, but it was what the dead girl's cell phone captured on video that made me screech...I mean, high-five myself. The following video is the trailer, which shows enough to get the willies going, but you need to see the scene in question within the movie:

The Silent Hill games

Kids today with their hula hoops and their Xboxes and whatnot. I'm not caught up on the gaming scene like many others. In fact, I still have and enjoy my PlayStation 2. Years ago, I recalled seeing a trailer for a scary-looking game called Silent Hill, so I just had to try it out. I now have the first four games, each having been played multiple times. In the dark. There are so many scenes that get me chilled, but in the original, there is a scene featuring a young nurse who helps the protagonist. She's a tragic figure as you'll see in the video, when she realizes what she is and how she struggles wordlessly to maintain her humanity (starts about a minute in):

[REC] - the final moments

Andre labeled this as one of hers as well, and who am I to disagree? The [REC] films are amazing, and my love for them is well-documented in this blog here and here. While I almost chose a quick scene towards the end where the camera peers down the long stairwell to capture a horde of infected faces staring back, I think the final moments of the movie are so incredibly intense and creepy, this part of the movie bears repeating on my list. The fear is so palpable and you are right in the thick of it:

Dawn of the Dead (1978) - the basement + the lights go out in Philly

It's also no secret that I love the original Dawn of the Dead. There are so many moments I could throw on this list from this movie alone, including the trailer, which was a "kindertrauma" in its own right from my childhood. I choose two scenes in one long clip, one rather in-your-face and one somewhat subtle, but both equally creepy to me. The first willy-inducing clip is the tenement basement scene. The people of the tenement have discarded their "dead" in the basement of the building. SWAT guys Peter (Ken Foree) and Roger (Scott H. Reiniger) see what has become of the once-living people, and that's when it hits home. The music by Goblin and the increasing disgust and sadness on Peter's face just makes this an incredible scene. The subtle clip of which I spoke is as the heroes of the movie leave the docks in - wait for it - the WGON HELICOPTER! Woo-hoo! As they ascend into the night sky, the lights in an office building go out a few at a time. It's symbolic of the lights going out everywhere and serves as a haunting reminder of the end of the world:

Twin Peaks series finale - The Black Lodge

Seriously. This is so disturbing. It aired on TV, and may go down as one of the scariest scenes ever broadcast on network television. Sheryl Lee was insanely fantastic as the dead Laura Palmer around which the surreal series centered. Here, in the series finale directed by David Lynch, FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) has entered the mystical Black Lodge to rescue Annie (Heather Graham) from his evil mentor, Windom Earle (Kenneth Walsh). In his quest, he meets Laura Palmer's doppelganger, who isn't exactly the best person to run into in the Lodge...or a dark alley...or your dreams:

Prince of Darkness - dream broadcasts

One of these days, I'm going to get around to doing a blog about one of my all-time favorite horror movies, John Carpenter's brilliant Prince of Darkness. A group of students are summoned by a physics professor and a scared priest to investigate a strange container that may hold the Devil himself. It is dark and heavy in atmosphere and an a street-level preview of the end of the world as one of Carpenter's "Apocalypse Trilogy" (The Thing and In the Mouth of Madness being the others). During the movie, several people experience "dreams" that turn out to be broadcasts from the future. I still get chills when I see them:

And so there you go, ten moments that give me the willies. Thanks, Andre, for putting out the challenge! It's always fun to not just share what I love about creepy movies and such, but to find out what others find scary in movies, music, TV, video games, and books.

Well, I've got to run, my fellow survivors. The undead outside the compound walls give me the willies, and I've got more movies to watch and talk about here on the Helicopter. Coming up next, I'll talk about the recent remake of 1973's The Crazies.

Until next time, stay safe and cool.

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