Friday, December 31, 2010

A Look Back At 2010 - In The Helicopter Bay Special Edition

"Special edition" - yeah, don't make a huge deal out of that. This is just going to be me reflecting back on the year here at The WGON Helicopter.

The first thing I want to do is thank everyone for reading. I check the stats of the blog every so often, and it's nice to know I've got people checking out my brain-flares now and then, and from all over the world. Welcome to the blog if you're new, thanks for staying if you're not.

I also wanted to thank members of the horror blogging community who have been supportive and just plain awesome people to read and with whom to share ideas. I'm going to add more blogs over there to the right in my blogroll because seriously, there are so many to recommend if you haven't checked them out. Maybe a new future feature for the Helicopter would be to pick one blog and give a big ol' thumbs-up to them every now and again. Hm...

Looking back, I see Sleepaway Camp was the film I began the year with, and I watched it before and after midnight on January 1, 2010, hence the "clever" title I gave that article. Sleepaway Camp was definitely big fun, but what would be my list for the top five movies I watched in 2010? I saw a lot of really good movies, a couple not-so-good, and a few in between. Now watch: I'll make a top five list, publish it, then remember I liked another movie that I should've included and facepalm myself. Ah, well. I'll make it a top SEVEN then. So there. Let's take a look:

My 7 Favorite Movies I Wrote About In 2010 That I Hadn't Seen Before (in no particular order):

The Monster Squad - I finally had a chance to see this movie from start to finish after watching it piecemeal over the course of 20 years. It's a true cult classic with snappy characters, menacing monsters, lines of dialogue that are quoted to this day, and the awesome Tom Noonan as Frankenstein's Monster. Movies that stir a reaction in me are ones I like to write about, and The Monster Squad evoked pure joy.

Triangle - The most-read article on the blog, this turn-your-mind-into-tapioca movie still has elements that haunt me to this day. The "what-if's" and the "what we don't sees" are effectively used as weapons to assault our tender brainpans in this intelligent, loopy thriller.

I Sell The Dead - I expected it to be fun, but not as much fun as I had watching this little gem. Full of lively, kinetic energy, this film features a fresh new take on the grave robber genre, a popular subsection of horror many years back. The movie crackles with motion and dialogue, but most especially wild ideas.

[REC]2 - In my opinion, the [REC] series is currently the most terrifying horror movie series going. It takes the first-person perspective (or gimmick, as some might say) and does it right, creating a frantic, horrifying atmosphere. I like where the series is going, and I hope the next in the sequence will top the first two in terms of sheer horror. It's a high bar that's been set.

Ink - Although not technically a horror movie, this independent beauty held me tight to the screen. I couldn't look away, the creativity and the emotional beats still resonate to me right now as I think of it. An example of what kind of film can be made without studio restrictions and, well, fear, Ink brings the use of the fable back to life.

Lake Mungo - I know I said "no particular order," but Lake Mungo is the number one on this list. Not since I was a child have I needed to turn on the lights during a movie. This one did that to me, and I love it for that. You don't need garish special effects, big-name or "pretty" stars direct from The CW, or a sly fourth-wall "wink" to the audience to make an effective, emotional horror movie. Like a passionate wrestling fan once said regarding his emotional fandom, "It's still real to me, dammit!"

(Honorable mentions: Inside, Inferno, The Children, The Crazies remake, and Sleepaway Camp)

2010 was also the year I started attending the Chiller Theatre Expo in Parsippany, New Jersey. Lost in throngs of fellow horror fans, it's a bit overwhelming. But I did get to meet David Crawford of Dawn of the Dead as well as the great Zacherley, once the host of the original Chiller Theater TV show. I plan on being there again in April (when it's far less crowded), ready to get some nice pictures and memorabilia.

This past year, my comic book and zombie thrills were made "flesh" when The Walking Dead finally hit the small screen, thanks to AMC. I've been reading the book for years (just got Volume 12 for Christmas) and to see Rick Grimes and all the great characters of Robert Kirkman's comic series come to life was truly something to see.

In 2010, I was also honored to join some fellow horror bloggers over at Cinema-Geek, writing about films out of the horror genre. Finally, I get to write an article about Woody Allen's Radio Days or Christopher Guest's A Mighty Wind (two I have planned for the coming year).

Oh, yeah, and The WGON Helicopter turned one year old in March (how fitting) of 2010!

I look ahead to 2011 and think about what I can do with the blog. I'm going to write more articles about non-film horror vehicles, such as books and games, plus I'll continue to write about things from my past that contributed to my love of the genre. Hey, I'll even do more lists.

That's it for now, my friends. 2010 ends - as of this writing - in about 10 1/2 hours. I wish a fantastic 2011 for all of you - stay safe, don't stray too far from the shelter, and keep limber.

But really, have a HAPPY New Year and I hope your festivities are wild and/or memorable for all the right reasons.

See you next year!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mother Of Tears (2007) I Want A Monkey Helper

I was really rooting for this movie. Honestly, I really was. Mother of Tears has a tremendous pedgiree: it's the final chapter in a trilogy that put director Dario Argento in the pantheon of legendary directors. It should been the climax of the trilogy that started with 1977's Suspiria and continued with 1980's Inferno. But it seemed like a modern shadow, a ghost dressed up in sparkly 21st century clothes. The previous two had something about them; an atmosphere or a "feeling." Mother of Tears left me feeling like I'd seen a pretty good modern movie about a powerful, evil witch, but didn't leave me feeling like I'd experienced it.

Sarah Mandy (Asia Argento) aids in the investigation of a strange box dug up in a graveyard in a small Italian villa. The box contains several items connected to a powerful witch known as Mater Lachrymarum or Mother of Tears. She is reputed to be the last survivor of a trio of witches called The Three Mothers. In Suspiria, we met Mater Suspiriorum and in Inferno, we met Mater Tenebrarum. If you've seen those movies, you know how those two panned out. Mater Lachrymarum, however, is the most powerful of the three. When the box is opened, demons and the Mother of Tears herself descend on the poor woman helping Sarah, and she dies a rather grotesque death. Sarah escapes the demons, the Mother, and the most adorable evil monkey ever thanks to the disembodied voice of what she later finds out is her own mother, a white witch of considerable power.

Much like the other films, from here on out, disaster follows Sarah wherever she goes. The son of her boyfriend is kidnapped and well...let's just say he doesn't make it. Rome falls into a state of chaos, with people randomly committing acts of mayhem and murder. Sarah is pursued by the police, who think she murdered her poor friend at the museum. Sarah's boyfriend - the one with the missing son - runs afoul of some of the young witches gathering in Rome to celebrate Mater Lachrymarum's rise.

Sarah takes a train to meet with an experienced exorcist (Udo Kier), but that trip is fraught with craziness. Several arriving witches and the police chase down Sarah, who is told by her mother's disembodied voice that she has the ability to turn invisible. Pulling a Harry Potter, Sarah escapes the police, but ends up brutally smashing a witches head in a bathroom door.

The priest tries to help, but the infection of insanity has spread to his door. His assistant goes on a mini-killing spree, taking out her own son and the priest before offing herself. Sarah and Marta, a visiting psychic who provides a lot of answers about Sarah's past, escape the compound, but just barely. Marta invites Sarah to stick around, but pretty soon the cute little monkey familiar shows up with magical wacko. Sarah runs outside and tries to call Marta and her lover, but they are dispatched with horrible gusto.

Sarah runs into her lover, Michael, but he's too far gone, having been killed and reanimated for the Mother's purposes. Sarah gets away, thanks to the Jedi apparition of her helpful mom. Sarah then seeks out the help of a powerful alchemist, who gives her a copy of the book, The Three Mothers. If you recall in Inferno, that book is trouble. But it does help Sarah uncover some of the clues as to where the Mother of Tears is hiding out: an old mansion in Rome designed for her by the alchemical architect Verelli, the man who designed the dance school in Suspiria and the apartment building in Inferno.

Sarah heads deep into the catacombs below the mansion - a running theme through the three movies, that the protagonists must face the evil in subterranean surroundings. With the help of the policeman in charge of her pursuit, Sarah confronts the Mother of Tears in a short battle that ends much like the first two movies. You could say it's a tried and true ending, but in keeping with the symbolism of the number 3, this Mater is taken out in a very similar way with very similar surroundings.

There were some good things about the movie, I can say. Asia Argento is easy on the eyes, so I'll get that out of the way first. Delving deeper, the connection to the previous two movies is made quite clear in such a way that you don't have to have seen the first movies (you should anyway) to get what's happening in this one. The heroine of Suspiria is mentioned by name, and the buildings where the first two witches lived are illustrated in The Three Mothers as a bit of nostalgia. A reason is also given for Mater Suspiriorum's relatively easy defeat as well, and her role in Sarah's life brings it full circle.

But what's missing are the things that made the first two movies so special to me. The color palette I loved so much isn't there. It looks good, but it doesn't have that emphasis on moody color - the stark and rich reds and blues - the first two movies have. And where's that crushing atmosphere? The one where, even in open spaces, there's a feeling of being trapped or crushed or boxed in. The heavy atmosphere that no matter what the hero did, you really weren't quite sure if they'd make it because hey, the evil they're facing is just so freakin' strong.

There weren't any cats in this movie - a good thing for cat lovers, given their role in this trilogy - but monkey fans will find their hearts stolen by this little guy:

You take a size 4 or 5, lady?

I really wanted to love this movie, but it gets a lukewarm "OK" from me. That's my opinion. Compared to a lot of modern attempts at artsy horror, it did hold up fairly well. In most circumstances, it's unfair to hold a film up to its predecessors, but the way I see it is that it's part of a high-profile trilogy by a hugely renowned director.

Nobody's perfect, though. And I still love Argento's work.

Until next time, fellow survivors, remember that a monkey helper is nice, but they might betray you to a powerful witch, so keep that in mind.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

In The Helicopter Bay 12-3-10

Just a real quick set of tidbits for the day:

-- I mentioned it at the end of my look at the film Ink (which I still love), but I wanted to bring it up again. Recently, I was honored to accept an invitation from Nate Yapp to write for a blog called Cinema-Geek, a collection of articles by horror bloggers...about non-horror movies. I'm in great company there, along with Nate: B-Sol of The Vault of Horror, Andre of The Horror Digest, Pax of Billy Loves Stu, and Ryne of The Moon Is A Dead World. Take a peek, and check out their individual blogs as well.

-- I was checking out the stats of my blog recently just for kicks and found some interesting nuggets o' trivia:

* The most popular blog entry is the one I wrote about Triangle: 2,707 views - almost 1,000 more than the one I wrote about Trilogy of Terror.

* Most of the traffic comes from Google, but some viewers have kindly jumped over after reading the fine blogs at The Horror Digest and Kindertrauma.

* Some interesting search terms led to my blog, including "divided by zero," "chiller theatre," "herb tarlek," and "corbin bernsen."

* Over 10,000 hits have come from the good ol' US of A. The United Kingdom had around 1,600, with Canada (1,150) not far behind. Sweden checked in with around 250 - I lived in that country for a year as an exchange student. I get some visitors from Greece, The Netherlands, Israel, and the Czech Republic. Welcome, everyone!

-- Take a gander at this indie vampire film with a twist, passed along to me by producer Matt Compton, called Midnight Son. Matt's one of the producers, along with writer/director Scott Leberecht, and executive producer Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project). The cast includes Zak Kilberg, Maya Parish, Jo D. Jonz, Arlen Escarpeta, Larry Cedar, and Tracey Walter.

According to Matt, Midnight Son "is the story of Jacob, a young man confined to a life of isolation, due to a rare skin disorder that prevents him from being exposed to sunlight. His world opens up when he meets Mary, a local bartender, and falls in love. Tragically, Jacob’s actions become increasingly bizarre as he struggles to cope with the effects of his worsening condition. Forced by the disease to drink human blood for sustenance, he must control his increasingly violent tendencies as local law enforcement narrow their focus on him as a suspect in a series of grisly murders."

Here's a link to the trailer: and one for the website:

Check it out - it looks very interesting!