19. The Frighteners was a big stepping stone for director Peter Jackson, as this was the first movie of his to feature extensive CG and visual effects work (courtesy of the then-expanding Weta Digital), which would ultimately lead him to his next big project, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s also one of Michael J. Fox’s last movies in a leading role, as he would soon semi-retire from movie making due to his struggle with Parkinson’s. This movie is so good in places that it’s easy to forgive its shortcomings. The CG effects still hold up reasonably well for something produced in the mid-’90s, and even the more cartoonish-looking effects seem appropriate, given the horror-comedy atmosphere of the plot. Michael J. Fox is also perfect for the role of Frank Bannister, a “psychic investigator” with the ability to interact with ghosts, who he then uses to scam people out of money. The movie isn’t flawless; it runs a bit long for something like this (especially the Director’s Cut, which adds a handful of extra scenes but hits the two-hour mark as a result), and though Fox’s ghost pals are clearly there for comic relief, they’re not quite as funny as they could have been. In addition, horror vet Jeffrey Combs shows up halfway through as a crazed FBI agent, but after a few amusing scenes he quickly becomes an annoyance. Still, The Frighteners is a blast if you can dig the idea of a supernatural thriller crossed with an offbeat, macabre and occasionally screwball comedy. As Leonard Maltin put it, “definitely not for all tastes but a wild time for those who get into it.” 3.5/5
Archive for October, 2010
13. I Spit On Your Grave When Roger Ebert gave this movie zero stars and declared it a “vile bag of garbage“, I wonder if he realized how much he was inadvertently promoting it. Easily the most offensive of the “rape-revenge” subgenre of horror movies (yes, that is an actual subgenre and yes, that is saying something), I Spit On Your Grave is about a young woman from the city, who drives out to a lake house in the countryside to write her first novel. She soon attracts the attention of four local scumbags, who stalk, terrorize and eventually rape her – not once, not twice, but three times (a ladyyy…). And just in case that’s not offensive enough, one of these guys is mentally retarded. Seriously. The final act of this wholesome film finds the woman exacting her revenge. Lucky for her, these guys are as stupid as they are savage, so when she lures each of them by method of seduction, they somehow believe that this woman they recently beat and raped wants them for real this time. Two of the kills are pretty standard fare (a hanging and an axe to the back) while the other two are a bit more inventive (a guy gets chopped up with a boat motor and the other – more infamously – is castrated in a bathtub). Pass the popcorn! On a side note, I found it hilarious that I had to sit through two lengthy Dolby Digital and THX logos before this piece of crap started. It warmed my heart to know that the series of gang rapes and murders I was about to watch were “digitally mastered for optimal audio and video performance”. 1.5/5
7. The Faculty is Invasion of the Body Snatchers for the post-Scream ’90s. It was even written by Scream screenwriter (screamwriter? sorry, couldn’t resist) Kevin Williamson, and like the way Scream’s characters made sure to name-check the various horror movies that inspired it (namely Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street), so does the quasi-goth girl in The Faculty, who makes sure to stop and acknowledge that the situation they’re in more than vaguely resembles Body Snatchers and The Puppet Masters. It’s still an enjoyable movie with a solid cast, from Robert “T-1000” Patrick hamming it up as the psychotic football coach to a then-unknown Josh Hartnett (pulling double-duty that year with Halloween H2O), as well as Elijah Wood before he put hairy feet on and went cavorting around Middle Earth. Brief appearances by Christopher “Shooter McGavin” McDonald and Jon “I’ve Since Sold My Soul To The Daily Show” Stewart sweeten the deal. The main characters are all from the Breakfast Club handbook, which states that if an unlikely group of students must band together in a time of crisis (in this case, aliens taking over the school), then said group of students must consist precisely of a jock, a pretty cheerleader, a nerd, a quasi-goth outcast, and a bad-boy rebel. Also, the group must defy expectations and stereotypes in the end, by the nerd hooking up with the cheerleader, the jock pairing off with the outcast, and so on. And though it’s directed by Robert Rodriguez, it’s perhaps the least Rodriguez-like movie of his career. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not, but it’s a fun flick. 4/5
The Halloween Horror Movie Challenge is simple: watch 31 horror movies over the month of October (averaging out to one per day, but of course it could be divvied up however you please). The only prerequisite for this challenge is that you don’t have a life.
I was able to hit the 31 mark in October of 2008, but I don’t recall even trying last year. This time I’m going for it again. Though there are some specific movies I plan on watching, there is no set list, so for the most part I’m making this up as I go (I don’t want to draw too heavily from my own DVDs, so a lot of it will depend on what’s available on demand or from Netflix).
Regardless of whether or not I’ve seen the movie before, I’ll be posting a mini review for each one I watch – probably a few at a clip like you’ll see after the jump. I can’t be bothered with taking the time to craft reviews that are free of spoilers, so if it’s something you haven’t seen before but plan on watching, you can either a) read at your own risk, or b) fuck off. Now, let’s get on with it! Continue reading