31 Days of Horror: “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” (2014) Review

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Many years after the killings in small town by a killer known as “The Phantom” resulted in the making of the 1976 film The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Texarkana is once again plagued by murders. Every Halloween, the town has a drive in screening of the original film depicting their own town. On this particular night, Jami (Addison Timlin) and her boyfriend Corey (Spencer Treat Clark) decide to bail on the film and go elsewhere. When they are attacked by an assailant dressed as The Phantom, Jami starts to suspect that history is about to repeat itself, and the new Phantom has certain plans for Jami and her small town.

It is difficult to say whether this version of The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a reboot or a sequel. But whatever it is, it works. The original film had its creepy moments, but this film has a lot more going for it. For starters, this definitely has more of a slasher film feel to it than the original. We are given a very creepy killer, plenty of great and spooky night time scenes with him, plenty of chase scenes, and excellent and bloody kills. Not to mention it is VERY well-filmed with a great atmosphere and nice splicing between this and the original film. It also keeps you guessing as to what exactly is going on. Our leading lady played by Addison Timlin, while definitely isn’t legendary as far as a Final Girl, but she’s likable enough for us to root for her. And she has very sweet scenes with her grandmother, played by Veronica Cartwright. The acting isn’t bad, but it’s not anything great either. Timlin does well with the lead role, and easily does give the best and only note-worthy performance of the film. The concept itself is very interesting in how it is trying to bring new life the original film, and bring in a new generation. However, the concept does have a few problems. It bares a very strong resemblance to Scream 4 in trying to re-create the events of a real story/film in the film’s world. In fact, there’s a few things that can be compared to with Scream in regards to this film. The twist is another one of its weak spots. When it’s revealed, it’s not so much shocking as it is that you don’t see much point to it.

Despite the film’s borrowing of ideas and strong resemblances to Scream/Scream 4 and the awkward twist, this reboot/sequel is ultimately a fun slasher film. Let’s face it, there haven’t been many good ones. So if you look for particular aspects in a slasher film like a creepy killer, chase scenes, a decent body count, and bloody kills, with a likable lead, you may just enjoy this. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, which makes it all the more fun.

–Cody Landman

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31 Days of Horror: Movies to Watch For Halloween

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As a horror fan I thought I would take some time to come up with a list of a few films that I would highly recommend for this time of year. Some mainstream classics, indie cult hits, and some unknown gems are in the mix for everyone. Here is my list of some of the horror films I would recommend to you.

Halloween
Ginger Snaps
Don’t Go To The Reunion
American Mary
The Exorcist
The Fog
The Thing
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Cabin Fever
Friday the 13th
Black Christmas
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Scream
Evil Dead
Slaughter High
Terror Train
Prom Night
Laid To Rest
Would You Rather
John Dies At The End
All Cheerleaders Die
Happy Birthday to Me
The Loved Ones
Wolf Creek
Hell Night
Rest Stop
Wrong Turn
The Slumber Party Massacre
Donnie Darko
Halloween 2007
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003
Idle Hands
The Craft
I Know What You Did Last Summer
The Faculty
Halloween 2 (1981)
Halloween H20

Well there you have it a list of some of my personal favorite Halloween Horror treats. Now if you are looking for films for a family audience here is a small list of a few classics.

Hocus Pocus
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Halloweentown
Casper
Hocus Pocus
Monster House
Scooby Doo
Gremlins
Paranorman

Well there you go everyone hope this list has helped you in deciding what to watch this October!

–Ross Wilcock

31 Days of Horror: “The Exorcist” (1973)

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This movie is one of the loves of my life. I sometimes go through phases (when my kids aren’t here, of course) when I watch it daily. When I watched it at 13 or 14- and let me just say, I could not IMAGINE my 13 year-old watching this movie- I didn’t sleep for three months. There are a handful of movies I had to sleep with the lights on after watching for a good amount of time, but I remember this movie having the longest effect on me, as far as that goes. I’m not going to get into the cast and their performances and plot, as I’m pretty sure that, even if there is someone here hasn’t seen it, you know enough about it, or will at some point.

I feel that the acting by all the cast in this movie is stunning and memorable. Makes me feel guilty not going on about each one, even the supporting cast, but I won’t do that to you guys. Just a side note I must mention, though: My favorite quote from this movie is by the detective, played by Lee J. Cobb as Lt. William Kinderman: “Burke Dennings, good Father, was found at the bottom of those steps leading to M Street with his head turned completely around, facing backwards.”

I love the way he says, compleeeetely around… I always thought that quote and how it was delivered epitomizes the degree of violence of the story. For me, this movie is scary, grotesque, perverse and creepy as hell even for this generation. I can’t imagine how people must have reacted in 1973.

–Catherine Kincannon

31 Days of Horror: “The Frighteners” (1996)

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This is definitely my favorite Peter Jackson, uh….special effects movie. Or however you would even say that. I would love to write a review based mostly of off quotes from the movie. The humor in this movie really works for me and it feels good to laugh and smile as much as I do while watching it.

Micheal J. Fox is perfect as Frank Banister, a guy who after a tragic accident has been able to communicate/see the dead. His ghost-partners in crime are gory and funny- beautifully done. They are non-malevolent spirits who are participating in scams with Frank to promote his fake ghost-busting business. He meets Ray and Lucy (played by the gentle and pretty Trini Alvarado), a married couple he tricks into believing their house is possessed by a poltergeist. Reluctantly, Ray agrees to allow Frank into the home to rid them of the apparent poltergeist (a great scene), and all scams aside, Frank sees something disturbing and unseen to the common eye- the number “37” burning into Ray’s forehead. Tragically (but not without comedy for us), Frank soon realizes these numbers stand for something sinister about to happen to the poor souls bearing them. Thus begins Frank and Lucy’s adventure to solve the mystery of and put a stop to the terrible spirit of a local sanatorium worker/deranged killer who has returned from the dead to claim more victims, a role Jake Busey was no doubt born to play.

Comprised of some off-beat humor, a couple of genuinely creepy and intense moments, as well as some silly warm-fuzzies (all these qualities accompanied by some pretty stunning Peter Jackson-esque effects), this movie is a really fun, clever, feel-good demented horror comedy.

–Catherine Kincannon

31 Days of Horror: “The Gremlin” (2007)

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“A group of sexy teens embark on one last outing together before going their separate ways. Little do they know that dwelling in the lush forest they have chosen to set up camp is a beast so foul and heinous that to speak his name is to utter fear itself. Now to escape they will have to beat him at his own game. Can they survive? Or will The Gremlin live to spook again?”

I don’t know if I can adequately describe how much I love this film. Absurd comedy meets cheesy 80’s style slasher with a dose of tongue-in-cheek humor. The soundtrack is fantastically entertaining and the cast is game. I’ve seen this movie nearly a dozen times and it is still great fun. Not for everyone but if you enjoy a good-bad horror movie, check it out!

No trailer but here’s the clip show! If you enjoy this, you’ll have a blast with the flick. If not, don’t even bother.

31 Days of Horror: “Coraline” (2009)

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I have always felt there are some pretty horrific elements to the original story of Coraline, written by Neil Gaiman (2002), that were worked into a spectacular stop motion animation by Henry Selick, The book wasn’t even published before Selick got his hands on it to make it into a movie.

With all due respect to the book, I love what they changed and added for the movie. Selick compares the book to the movie throughout the commentary. He has nothing but the utmost respect for it and all of his story tweaks were for the sake of the film and inspired by the book. I feel that he made some creative and effective decisions. This movie also has a haunting, beautiful soundtrack. The music is written by Bruno Coulais (except one song by They Might Be Giants, which is the other father’s song about Coraline).

The beginning opens with some sweet, eerie little tune, and over it, you can faintly hear a woman’s voice humming, and during this you see a rag doll being recreated by some sort of instrument (needle-like fingers, perhaps?)
It’s being torn apart, detailed, restuffed, etc. After seeing the movie or reading the book and watching this again, the hair stood on my arms, quite honestly, and why is does, I cannot reveal to you without giving too many creepy details of the story away.

Coraline Jones, voiced by Dakota Fanning (was there anything this kid couldn’t do?!) is a quick-witted, snarky, bored eleven year-old living the typical American kid lifestyle. Her parents, voiced by the talents of Terri Hatcher and John Hodgman, have just recently settled into a new place- a huge old house called Pink Palace, a name coined by Selick for the film. The house is made up of several apartments inhabited by some interesting characters. Coraline’s mom and dad are busy and stressed. They have deadlines to make and boring work to do with their adult-life stuff, and Coraline is bored.

She meets Wybie, whose grandmother has lived there for many, many years. She knows a thing or two about something strange that has happened there, but Wybie isn’t supposed to talk about it, which he makes clear to Coraline right away. Coraline promptly decides to act out as much animosity as she can toward this annoying boy and his stupid cat, who she calls a “wuss puss” while driving them away as quickly as she can. At some point in the beginning, after meeting Wybie, he gives her a doll he found that bears an odd resemblance to her. She thinks it’s a bit weird, but she is also quite pleased with it and keeps it close.

Coraline awakes one night to discover a secret door that was once blocked by a brick wall now opens into a magical tunnel that leads into a new world with another mother and another father- a mother who cooks delicious food and wants to play games, and wants nothing more than to give Coraline everything she;s ever wanted. The other mother is bright and cheery and lovely, and despite the weird button eyes on everyone, everything’s perfect. The other neighbors are living their dreams, the other Wybie can’t talk, and everything is beautiful and fun and interesting- a world built just for her. Coraline also meets who she thinks is the other cat (Keith David)- who surprises her by saying, “I’m not the other anything. I’m me.” Coraline finds that this cat can slip between her world and the other world as she can. Coraline soon realizes that this other world isn’t as great as she thought, creepy even, and as the other mother feels her slipping away, the other world soon begins to deteriorate, and along with the other mother, reveal itself for what it really is.

Coraline decides that she’ll take her boring parents and weird but well-meaning neighbors over this freak show any day, but the other mother isn’t willing to let her go. Again I’ll point out what an incredible performance Teri Hatcher gives, as really THREE separate characters for this film. She voices an exasperated mother and wife, who possesses similar emotional dimensions that many preoccupied parents can relate to, as there are genuine moments of sadness that her character portrays when trying to relate to her dissatisfied preteen- she does an excellent job of it. She also plays the very attentive, doting, and sweet “other mother,” and eventually a desperate and terrifying creature that is spiraling into despair.

If you haven’t watched the movie, I recommend it. If you haven’t read the book, I recommend that, too. Then watch the movie again, and then again, but with the commentary. Just a suggestion.

The last thing I’ll say about this movie is that it’s one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever seen, and each time I see it, there is something I notice that I hadn’t before, and something that makes me love it even more.

–Catherine Kincannon

31 Days of Horror: “Stir of Echoes” (1999)

Stir of Echoes (1999)

This movie came out a month after The Sixth Sense, and was largely overshadowed by it. I adore this movie. I’ve seen it a hundred times. I feel that the family is so likable, as a unit and individually. I’m a big Kevin Bacon fan. Always have been. And I love Kathryn Erbe as Tom’s wife, Maggie. It would have been so easy, as Kevin Sommerfield pointed out to me long ago while discussing the movie, for the creators of this movie (and possibly the author of the book I haven’t read) to portray her as the denier and the naysayer, but instead she’s supportive and sympathetic, and takes on the burden along with Tom and his son, an adorable little boy who is played by Zachary David Cope (one of two roles, one uncredited- what happened to this kid? He was great!).

The very practical and hard working Tom, who doesn’t believe in any spiritual nonsense, challenges Maggie’s sister Lisa (Illeana Douglas) to hypnotize him at a party. He then realizes that a missing girl in the neighborhood is making contact with him and his son. I think Kevin Bacon does a great job playing this role. Tom is shocked, scared, and exhausted. Very burdened, both morally and spiritually, he begins to seek the truth of this unsolved disappearance of the young lady, much to the dismay of certain people in the neighborhood who are hiding a terrible secret.

I love this movie. I love the acting, the atmosphere of their unique and fun Chicago neighborhood, the scares, the secret unfolded, and the ultimate justice. I can find a way to justify every moment of this movie, I swear to God. There are also some genuinely funny moments and a great sex scene between Tom and Maggie. I suppose I don’t have to share that opinion, but I’m gonna anyway. And also there are hot shirtless Kevin Bacon scenes apart from that. Guilty pleasure of mine that’s unrelated to the story….and he does a great Chicago accent, too.

–Catherine Kincannon

31 Days of Horror: Day 31: “Halloween” (2007)

In 2007, musician Rob Zombie decided to do the unthinkable. He was going to produce, write, and direct a remake of John Carpenter’s classic slasher film “Halloween”. Horror fans were in an uproar. How could he remake one of the greatest horror movies ever made? How could he turn Haddonfield into a town of white trash and disease? How DARE he give Michael Myers a back story? When the film opened on August 30, 2007, horror audiences were as ready as lynch mob to hang Zombie. The film grossed nearly $30 million opening weekend but somewhat poor word of mouth had the film top out at $57 million. So, looking back on the film four years later, is it the cinematic abortion that horror movie audiences proclaimed it to be? Not. At. All.

Rob Zombie’s Halloween is quite simply brilliant. I am one of the few horror fans out there that prefer Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” to John Carpenter’s “Halloween”. I know, it’s blasphemy and I will go down in horror hell for saying such a thing. But I personally love the back story that Zombie gave Michael and feel as though everything about the film (from the acting to the directing to use of music) is just about perfect. This is the rare remake that actually takes chances and dares its audience to actually FEEL something. For what it is worth, I’ll take this over the limp and uninspired “Friday the 13th” remake any day.

31 Days of Horror: Day 30: “Trick r Treat” (2007)

Anthology horror films seem to be a dying breed. Gone are the days of Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt and in are the days of supernatural horror and torture porn. Good anthology horror films are some of the hardest horror films to make. It is hard enough for a good filmmaker to come up with one captivating story let alone three or four, or, in the case of Creepshow, five stories. So it is with this in mind that I dig my teeth into Warner Brothers’ long delayed Halloween themed anthology horror flick Trick r Treat. Is it a delicious treat for slasher maniacs everywhere? Or is it an apple covered razor blade? Well…let’s see…

“Trick r Treat” begins on Halloween night in Warren Valley, Ohio, a young woman named Emma blows out a Jack-o-Lantern in front of her home despite a warning from her husband Henry. She has a tragic surprise for not obeying the Halloween rules. Next (or earlier, you really have to see the film to know what I mean), the virgin Laurie buys a Little Red Riding Hood costume with her sister and two girlfriends as they invite some guys for a party. Meanwhile, the glutton Charlie destroys many Jack-o-Lanterns on the street. When he arrives at the house of the high-school principal Steven, the boy discovers how much the disturbed man respects the dead and the traditions of Halloween. Meanwhile four teenagers invite the outcast Rhonda to join them in their journey to an abandoned rock quarry where a tragic accident with the school bus with eight troubled children happened thirty years ago. They play a prank with Rhonda but when the mean Marcy blows out the last Jack-o-Lantern in the spot, they need the support of Rhonda to escape from the damned place. Laurie sees a stalker that follows her; while walking through the woods to the party, she is attacked and she finally has her initiation. Earlier, the lonely Mr. Kreeg lives alone with his dog Spite and is visited by a scary trick-or-treating creature named Sam.

Wow..that was exhausting. If it sounds confusing or overly complicated, believe me that it’s all part of the fun. Trick r Treat is a delicious throwback to the comic book style anthology films of the 1960’s and 1970’s. For those of you who want their gore laid on thick with extra nudity, you are going to be disappointed. Those who want a good old fashioned horror movie with a lot of twists and turns are going to be much more impressed. From the acting (top notch in just about all the stories) to the spot on directing, to the breathtaking cinematography, just about everything in this movie works. It is the Halloween classic horror fans have been waiting years for.

To order Trick R Treat: Trick ‘r Treat [Blu-ray]

31 Days of Terror: Day 29: “Night of the Demons” (1988)

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If you are a Linnea Quigley fan, then chances are very good that you have seen and probably own Night of the Demons. Directed by Kevin S. Tenney, this 1988 horror flick is a must-see as we near Halloween. Angela is throwing a Halloween party and an old abandoned funeral home. Creepy to the max, this house may not be as deserted as they attendees think. With a fun and capable cast, Night of the Demons plays well anytime of year with an abundance of gore!

With a perfect 90 minute running time, Tenney is able to pace this film out with ease and success. The direction is well done and the characters are fun to watch and follow all the way up to their demise. Quigley is great in just about everything so not much is need to be said about her, but she is just one of the stars that helps lift this movie into 80’s hierarchy. One of my person favorite and lesser know actors is Hal Havins, the actor playing Stooge. Stooge is your classic big, beer loving asshole who can turn almost any of his lines into a laugh.

The house used in Demons is one out of any horror fans dreams. As indie filmmakers, Slasher Studios is well aware of the challenges of location scouting. Just finding the right place is hard enough, and that’s the easy part. Getting the permission needed and gaining the trust of the owners is an adventure in its own. So finding out the story behind this funeral home location would be interesting to say the least.

Be sure to check out the unrated version on DVD to see this film in all of its gory goodness. Steve Johnson was in charge of the effects and absolutely nailed it. The makeup and blood that can be found in this movie are to die for. Any horror filmmaker would be proud to display such a high level of creativity and quality in their films.