31 in 31: Lon Chaney – Behind the Mask

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Story: A look at the life and work of horror actor extraordinaire, Lon Chaney.

Scares: If you’re old enough to remember Chaney’s films when they first came out? Maybe. And congratulations on finding the internets!

Splat factor: Zero. It’s a documentary about a silent film star. Even the clips are bloodless.

Closing scene “shocker”: Documentary. So nup, unless you count the short silent Western starring Lon after the end credits.

Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul): Original, though there are other Chaney retrospectives out there.

Trick or Treat: If you’re a true horror hound, you’ve seen a few of of Chaney’s pictures; Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and London After Midnight (what’s still available after all these years) are horror – and overall cinema – classics. And you definitely know about his expertise with makeup and costuming. So a movie covering his life and work should be catnip. It is.

There’s trivia along with the bio: the pain he endured creating his characters was blown out of proportion most of the time. “Vanity is a personal parasite” – Chaney’s views of the cult of celebrity was a rare public viewpoint from silent film stars (who were usually obligated to spend much of their life in the public eye), but here we get home movies and they show a warm, affable guy. And is that a young Creighton Chaney (aka Lon Chaney Jr.) in the background? A’yup. Kewl!

Also covered is his work with director Tod Browning, and how they “laid the foundation for the American horror film”.

Some may find this film a bit padded – there are tons of scenes showing Chaney’s performances – but they’d be wrong. Seeing these bits sheds light on the actor, and only had me admire his techniques all the more. Especially interesting are his non-horror roles with no FX makeup. It’s wonderful to see his ability to project emotions, and how he classes up the acting joint every time he’s in a scene.

A must view for any cinema buff, but 100% required for horror fans interested in the history of the genre

Score: wpid-pumpkin9.jpgwpid-pumpkin9.jpg wpid-pumpkin9.jpgwpid-pumpkin9.jpgwpid-pumpkin9.jpg
5 out of 5 pumpkins, for shedding light on an actor I’ve always admired, and doing a great job.

31 in 31: Ouija

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I decided to kill two birds with one horror movie this go-round; cross-posted at Geek for e, clicky the hyperlink for that post!

Movie review: Ouija

Keep thinking its just your friends pushing the game marker around...

It’s Hallow-Month!  So horror movies are naturally the way to go. Want to get to the nitty-gritty?  Here’s a little list I’ve borrowed from another source  that’ll help you get to what you’re looking for in a Halloween horror show.  Does Ouija measure up as Boo-tastic, or is it just a bomb?  Read on….

Story: Two little girls play around with an Ouija board.  Fast forward to high school, and one of those little girls hangs herself “under mysterious circumstances”.  Wanna guess how the other girl handles it?  If you said “by using the same Ouija board”, you should be a scriptwriter!

Scares: Even though this is cliché-central, there are a few Gotchas here, of the “jumped from the shadows” variety.

Splat factor: Not much blood, though there’s desiccated bodies, stitches where you wouldn’t want ‘em, and top-notch visual effects to signify possession.

Closing scene “shocker”?: Not if you know anything about horror movies.  But for the noobs, they could be shocked.  With this film, I expected a “leave room for a sequel” twist.

Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul)?: Though the usual tropes can be found in just about every single horror movie since 1979, this movie’s an original. And by original I mean the first in an inevitable series.

Trick or Treat?: Ouija is more of a drinking-game film than a serious horror film.  Why else would the characters be so incredibly stupid?  “Hey, my BFF just died after strange stuff was happening to her.  Let’s whip out the Ouija board just lying on her bed to see if we can talk to her!  What could happen?”  What really made my eyes roll were the lack of grown-ups.  (Y’know, beyond the twenty-somethings playing high school students.)  A group of kids start dying, and nobody’s parents are around?  Anywhere?  C’mon.

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31 in 31: Burke and Hare (2010)

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I missed a ’31 yesterday, so why not continue with grave robbing today?  Here goes, with Burke and Hare!

Story: Back in the early 1800s, medical colleges in Scotland had a shortage of bodies.  When there’s a market, there are…enrepreneurs!

Scares: A comedy that happens to have it’s basis in a creepy point in history, so no real scares.  Well, unless you’re squicked by dead bodies.

Splat factor: Dead bodies.  Murder.  Medical dissection.  You do the math.

Closing scene “shocker”?: Nup.  Though there’s a “what happened to ‘em” epilogue.  Who doesn’t love that?

Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul)?: Burke and Hare came out in 1971, so the 2010 film is a remake/homage.

Trick or Treat?: Like I Sell the Dead, Burke and Hare is a hilarious look at an ooky true history tidbit.  Grave robbing was indeed a thing, and Burke and Hare were indeed fellas that sold dead bodies to medical colleges…killing people when they ran out of “product”.

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31 in 31: I Sell the Dead

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i sell the deadStory: Arthur Blake is jailed for grave robbing and murder.  Before he’s beheaded, a monk comes in and asks him to confess.  Roll the backstory of how he came to do what he did, and all the strange and scary things he’s seen!

Scares: Though this is a horror comedy with an emphasis on black humor, there are a few groovy ghouls and just enough gore to keep horror hounds happy.

Splat Factor: See above.  There’s some blood, but mostly it’s dead bodies and ghouls that rule the day.  Or night.  For a low-budget flick, the FX are surprisingly good.

Closing scene “shocker”?: Yep.  But it’s fun rather than the usual drag.

Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul): Original.  Burke and Hare came along two years later, but though that’s also about grave robbers, it takes a different tack.

Trick or Treat?: Like old-time horror?  Body-snatchers?  Black humor?  Who doesn’t?  I Sell the Dead is a hoot; one of those films that I figured would be a crapfest that tries too hard, but ultimately is a delightfully dark horror comedy that throws in a few good scares for good measure.

I especially love the spin on Jolly Olde England.  No sepia, no grainy cinematography.  It’s all shiny, though the props, set design and costuming aren’t given short shrift.  Dominic Monaghan and Larry Fessenden as the dead sellers, along with Ron Perlman as Father Duffy all seem to enjoy the hell out of their roles, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for Phantasm’s own Angus Scrimm as the not-so-good Dr. Quint.  A modern day horror film that feels like a goofy homage to Hammer films.  No wonder it was a hit at Slamdance in 2009.  Seek it out.

Score: wpid-pumpkin9.jpg wpid-pumpkin9.jpgwpid-pumpkin9.jpgwpid-pumpkin9.jpg

4 out of 5 pumpkins.

Baltimore Screening Pass-palooza: Birdman

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Actually, the title is Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, just so you know.  But Michael Keaton as an actor who played a superhero!  Meta much?  Yeah, this sounds cool.

 BIRDMAN or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

TRAILER:

http://www.foxsearchlight.com/birdman/

BIRDMAN or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor (Michael Keaton) – famous for portraying an iconic superhero – as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself.

Directed by:
Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Cast:
Michael Keaton, Zach Galafinakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Lindsey Duncan, Merritt Wever, Jeremy Shamos, Bill Camp and Damian Young.

Want passes to the Baltimore screening?  Read on….

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31 in 31: Cockneys vs Zombies

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c vs zStory:  A group of pathetically stupid (but hilarious) bank robbers try a heist.  Meanwhile, zombies are popping up around the old folks home.  How are these two disparate groups gonna survive the apocalypse?

Scares: A few nice chills and Day of the Dead-like suspense bits, but mostly this is played for laughs.

Splat Factor: Zombie movie.  So, yeah.  There’s even a few splats onto the camera lens once or twice.

Closing scene “shocker”: Nope!  Yayz!

Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul): I know, I know; you’ve seen tons of zombie movies.  And yeah, this feels like a mashup of Grabbers  and Shaun of the Dead. (Note to self: review Shaun of the Dead.) But this one’s original.

Trick or Treat:  A definite treat y’all.  Ever wonder what would happen if the East End of London got overrun with zombies?  Well, while Shaun was taking care of things in King’s Cross, this gang of misfits and senior citizens have things covered for the Bow-bells.

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31 in 31: The Sacrament

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the-sacrament_612x907Story: Remember the Jonestown Massacre? Well, The Sacrament is Eli Roth’s weak attempt to make that tragedy into a horror movie.

Scares: Not a one. A decent sense of dread in the beginning, but then it all peters out.

Splat factor: A few drops of blood, but otherwise, it’s all death by Kool-aid. Yawn.

Closing scene “shocker”: Surprisingly, no.

Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul): Though this feels like a Jim Jones docudrama, this is an original.

Trick or Treat: Just like Jonestown Kool-aid, this bait and switch film is deadly disappointing.  The film starts out promising: moronic Williamsburg hipsters head outside of the USA and onto a compound full of of religious cultists, in search of the sister of one of the hipsters. Yet, these chuckleheads act like they’re entitled to be assholes, asking pompous questions and poking around even though there are armed guards around and things don’t seem kosher. They warm up to the compound though, but then a little girl passes them a note, “please help us”. That’s all you get as far as slow buildup and chills; the next morning? Hey, Kool-aid!

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