The Best 80’s Horror Movie Made In 2009: “House of the Devil” Review

On first viewing The House of the Devil, I thought it was wonderfully retro and one of the best of the recent horror films. After multiple viewings, I’ve decided that this is one of the best horror movies ever made. It just has everything that makes the horror genre wonderful. House of the Devil is not just a nostalgia piece for director Ti West, one of the best horror directors working today, this is how horror movies SHOULD be made.

The film deterioration and cinematography take this already great premise to a whole new level. Extra long takes are intercut so perfectly that you literally lose yourself in the picture. The acting also ties in very well to the very realistic yet surreal backdrop. These college girls actually talk and feel like college girls. They don’t have monologues prepared and “witty” banter that can last for twenty minutes straight. The whole creepy factor lies in the family, who are just way to volatile and bizarre. However, the chill factor lives in the real world, making it even more effective.

I think this brings up a very good point about babysitters that was never really touched on in the 80s or even today. Sure, Halloween made people realize that suburbia isn’t as safe as it pretends to be, but this makes it scary to trust anyone. I just can’t give Ti West more praise for doing what he’s done here. Clearly he knows the genre inside and out. Every aspect of film making is flawless. I can’t wait to see what Ti West comes up with next.


The Dangers of Perfection: “Black Swan” Review

Nina Sayers (Portman), a young dancer with a prestigious New York City ballet company, lives with her mother, Erica (Hershey), a former dancer. The company is preparing to open the season with Swan Lake. The director, Thomas Leroy (Cassel), has to cast a new principal dancer after forcing Beth Macintyre (Ryder) into retirement. Leroy wants the same ballerina to portray both the innocent, fragile White Swan and her dark, sensual twin, the Black Swan. Nina competes for the part. Although her audition goes badly, she asks Thomas to reconsider. He tells her she is ideal for the White Swan but lacks the passion necessary for the Black Swan. When he forcibly kisses her, she shows some spirit and bites him, and lands the part.

An intoxicated Beth angrily confronts Thomas and Nina. She is later hit by a car and seriously injured in what Thomas suspects was a suicide attempt.
Nina begins to witness strange happenings. Thomas, meanwhile, becomes increasingly critical of her “frigid” dancing and advises her to stop being a perfectionist and lose herself in the role. Thomas points to Lily (Kunis), another dancer in the company, whom he describes as lacking Nina’s flawless technique but possessing a sensual quality that Nina has not shown.

The relationship between the two dancers is cool because of Lily’s indiscretions, but Lily invites Nina to a night out. Nina is hesitant at first but decides to go against her mother’s wishes. At a nightclub, Lily offers Nina a capsule to help her loosen up. Though reassured its effects will only last a few hours, Nina turns it down. Lily later slips it into her drink while she is absent. When she returns home late, Nina has another fight with her mother, barricades herself in her room, and has sex with Lily.

Next morning, Nina wakes up alone and late for rehearsal. When she arrives at the studio, she finds Lily dancing as the Swan Queen. Furious, she confronts Lily and asks her why she did not wake her up that morning. After Lily tells her she spent the night with a man whom she met at the club, Nina realizes she imagined the encounter. Is Nina going crazy?

“Black Swan” is quite possibly one of the best films that I have seen from 2010. Black Swan is one of the strangest and quite frankly most eccentric film of the year. This film is superbly crafted, directed and acted. I have previously viewed Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler”, and thoroughly enjoyed it. “Black Swan” is a phenomenal follow up. When I think of this film, the first words that come to mind are that the film is tense, thrilling, suspenseful, horrifying and beautiful. Those are some of the words that can describe this film best.

Natalie Portman has come a long way since her early films, and she becomes even more talented with every film she makes. Her craft has matured to its fullest in her performance as Nina, the conflicted dancer who has been given the prestigious part of the Swan Queen in the classic ballet, Swan Lake. This film is a masterpiece and will be remembered as a classic of cinema in the years to come. Portman and the rest of the cast do a superb job of bringing this horrifying, dramatic and suspenseful story to life, “Black Swan” is a film that will stick with you days after you’ve seen it. This film has many moments that play on your Psych and it never seems exactly what it is. That’s why this film is so magnificent. Black Swan is a masterpiece.


Gore in the Woods: “Cabin Fever” Review

Eli Roth’s “Cabin Fever” starts as many hillbilly horror movies begin. A creepy redneck walking through the woods in a daze. While we watch this creepy man walking in the woods, we come upon a dog we believes to be sleeping. After poking it a few times, the man pulls the dog up and notices that its flesh is rotted, spurting blood on him in the process. We soon realize that this is NOT going to be like every other horror movie.

Five college friends, Jeff (Joey Kern), Marcy (Cerina Vincent), Paul (Rider Strong), Karen (Jordan Ladd) and Bert (James DeBello), have rented a cabin in the woods. While driving to it they stop at a local convenience store for food. Outside the store, Dennis (Matthew Helms), a mentally handicapped young boy, bites Paul on the hand. At the cabin, Jeff and Marcy have sex and Paul and Karen go swimming in the nearby lake. Bert goes hunting for squirrels in the woods with a BB gun, but accidentally shoots the man who discovered the rotting dog, mistaking him for a squirrel. The man’s face is badly rotted. Scared, Bert shoots at him again to repel him before running back to the cabin. Later, the friends hear a knocking at the door and discover it is the diseased man. Desperate for help, the hermit tries driving away in their car, but vomits blood inside it. After the man exits the car Paul sets the man on fire and he runs into the woods, dying in the lake.

A young deputy, Winston Olsen (a hilariously offensive Giuseppe Andrews), shows up at the cabin and tells Paul he will call a tow truck. Karen drinks a glass of water from the lake and begins feeling ill. That night she is quarantined in the tool shed once Paul discovers rotten spots on her thighs. Fearing that they will also become infected, the others argue about what they should do. The next day, Bert realizes that he is also infected with the virus, but does not tell the others. When Paul and Marcy insist on helping Karen, Jeff, wanting to avoid becoming infected, runs into the forest with the remaining beer, the only reliable untainted beverage available. Bert drives off to find a doctor. Is it too late for them?

“Cabin Fever” is a no-holds-bars white knuckle horror-comedy that is both scarier and funnier than 95% of the other crap out there. The setup is simple: Five teens decide to go camping out in the woods at an old cabin when, one-by-one, they begin to become the victims of a killer flesh eating virus. As one might expect, many characters are killed in an awesome over-the-top gory fashion and there is a solid amount of nudity for a 2003 horror flick. It can be argued that this movie is not for everyone but fans of 80’s gore films will be in gore heaven.

P.S. I’ve talked to many people who have said they didn’t care for this movie because it wasn’t scary. Sorry, wrong type of horror flick. Watch it expecting “Evil Dead” and you’ll be fine.


What Big Teeth You Have: “Cursed” Review

Going into Wes Craven’s new horror thriller “Cursed” I had very low expectations. First of all, the movie had been cut fairly severely from an R to a PG-13 and the movie had been retooled for the past two years (Thankfully the DVD is the unrated cut). Not only this but “Cursed” also wasn’t screened for critics. All signs point to “Terrible Movie.”

The film begins when two friends, Jenny Tate (Mýa) and Becky Morton (Shannon Elizabeth), are at a pier and decide to get their fortune told by Zela (Portia de Rossi). She foretells that they will suffer a horrible fate, but they don’t believe her and walk away laughing. A little while later, Becky realizes Jenny has disappeared and can’t find her on the pier; Becky was driving. One night, while in a car together, Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) and his sister Ellie (Christina Ricci) hit an animal and another car. They attempt to rescue the other driver, Becky Morton, but she is suddenly dragged and eaten by an unknown creature. Jimmy and Ellie are both slashed by the creature’s claws. Jimmy starts to believe that the creature was a werewolf, but no one will believe him. He and his sister start to exhibit wolfish tendencies (such as both of them eating raw bacon, Ellie catching a fly in her bare hand, and being attracted to the smell of blood) but Ellie denies it, apparently proving her point by touching a silver picture frame and not getting burned. Jimmy becomes much stronger, as exampled when a bully named Bo (Milo Ventimiglia) forces him to join the wrestling team. He easily defeats three wrestlers, including Bo.

Meanwhile, Jenny is torn apart in a parking garage by a wolf-like creature. Zela’s prediction for Jenny and Becky comes true. Eventually, Ellie starts to believe the werewolf idea, and Jimmy proves it when he holds a silver cake server and gets burned (he then discovers that the picture frame Ellie touched was actually stainless steel). He goes to warn Ellie with the help of Bo, who shows up at their house to say he’s gay and apparently likes Jimmy. Bo and Jimmy race to where Ellie is, and in the meantime she figures out that her boyfriend, Jake (Joshua Jackson), is a werewolf. He confirms that, but claims it wasn’t him that attacked her and Jimmy. Another werewolf attacks, seemingly proving his story. Bo and Jimmy try to help, but Bo is knocked out. But…..who is the werewolf?

Surprisingly, this movie ain’t half bad. In fact, it’s actually really quite good. What we have here is a fun little werewolf thriller about a brother and sister that get attacked by a mysterious creature and are forced to deal with what they have become. There are some good scares (gotta love the Mya scene in the parking lot) and some surprisingly solid laughs (I loved Christina Ricci’s bitchy coworker and the “gay” subplot involving the head of the wrestling team). Not everything works in the film–the ending is a bit overkill and some of the effects are a bit iffy–but overall, I’d say it’s definitely at least worth a rental. It isn’t a bad way to spend two hours of good, solid creature feature entertainment. Just don’t expect an Oscar worthy movie and you’ll be fine.


Wax? Paris Hilton? What’s the Difference? “House of Wax” Review

In 1974, a woman is making a wax head in the kitchen while her son eats cereal in his highchair. Her husband enters carrying a young boy who is shouting and kicking. The boy is forced into a highchair and strapped in place by his father. After being strapped and taped to his chair by his mother, he scratches her hand. She then slaps her child across the face.

In 2005, Carly (Elisha Cuthbert) and her boyfriend Wade (Jared Padalecki) with her friend Paige (Paris Hilton) and Paige’s boyfriend Blake (Robert Ri’chard) are on their way to a highly anticipated football game in Louisiana. Eventually, Carly’s delinquent twin brother, Nick (Chad Michael Murray) and his friend Dalton (Jon Abrahams) also join them. Night falls and the group decides to set up camp for the night. The campsite is later visited by a stranger in a pickup truck who shines his lights at the campsite, but refuses to leave or address them until Nick smashes a headlight with a bottle. The next morning, Carly and Paige go exploring, Carly falls down a cliff and lands in deer remains and sees a fake hand. Wade’s car’s fan belt is found to be damaged. The group meets a disheveled, rural man named Lester (Damon Herriman), who offers to drive Carly and Wade to the nearby town of Ambrose to get a new fan belt, while the rest of them go to the football game.

The two arrive at Ambrose, which is virtually a ghost town. Unable to find an attendant at the auto mechanics shop, they wander into the church, disrupting a funeral. There, they meet a mechanic named Bo (Brian Van Holt), who offers to sell them a fan belt after the funeral. While waiting for the services to end, Carly and Wade visit the wax museum, which itself is made of wax and is the central feature of the town. Afterward, they follow Bo to his house to find a proper fan belt. While there, Wade is crippled and stabbed by a long-haired man with a wax facemask named Vincent. Bo grabs Carly, super glues her lips shut and locks her in a cellar. Dalton and Nick arrive in Ambrose to look for Carly and Wade. Vincent meanwhile strips and shaves Wade, then puts him in a chair with a metal contraption on his head which pins his eyes open. Vincent pulls a couple of levers which showers the immobile Wade with hot wax.

Can Wade escape? Will Paris die? Are any of them safe? Oh please…House of Wax isn’t really big on plot. It’s got your normal set-up that deals with extremely attractive boys and girls ending up in a bad situation. Some live, some die. If you’ve seen a horror film in the last 30 years, you know how it goes. The movie is slow going and a bit choppy at the beginning but still with it. Even after watching countless horror films over the last few years, I’ve gotta admit that I’ve become jaded and can smell things coming a mile away.

So the production team decided to go with that idea and jack it up a notch and tell the audience, OK, you know what’s going to happen next, but we’re going to make it ugly so you’ll jump out of your seat. And casting Paris Hilton was a stroke of genius because for the first time that I can recall a hot female character that people still wanted to see die. And, she did a nice striptease down to her underwear before the bad stuff happened to her. When things get bad, it gets really bad in a hurry. In fact, all the death sequences were quite horrible to watch, yet I couldn’t help but feel that the horror movie geek inside of me was very, very satisfied.