Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best of 2011

This is my first official Best-Of list and I was all pumped for it... but then I tried listing off the horror films I saw in theatres this year and they barely took up one hand of fingers. So instead of a typical run of the mill Best Of, I'm going to do some highlights of my year in horror for y'all

1. Movies that Made it into Theatres.

Um... like I said before there wasn't a hell of a lot to choose from so let's do the Corresponding Song Titles version

Scream 4: Mo' Money, Mo' Problems
Insidious: You Can't Always Get What You Want
The Rite: Highway to Hell
Paranormal Activity 3: Thriller
The Kill List: I Shot A Man In Reno
Melancholia: It's the End of the World as We Know It

I should also mention, I really want to see Take Shelter, The Innkeepers and The Woman as soon as possible. I really do hope they make the rep theatre circuit before too long. One of my favourite lists of this end-of-the-year orgy is Lianne Spiderbaby's which can be found ici.

2. Movies I finally got around to watching on DVD.

Never Sleep Again (2010) I think this is the best horror documentary ever made. See it. Love it. And revel in the honesty and joy of the Nightmare On Elm Street series.
The Children (2010) I had been wanting to see this movie for the longest time and it finally happened when it came onto Netflix Canada.  While it's not perfect, it's definitely a visceral, fun experience.
Some of the Saw Series (2004-2010) A pleasant surprise. I haven't seen all of them yet but for what they are these films are incredibly effective. If you're the tiniest bit curious and you haven't seen them, I'd say it's definitely worth your time.
Ravenous (1999) Weird but I can't believe I hadn't seen it. So glad I finally got to.
The Elephant Man (1980) So weird. So good. So sad.

3. Career Highlights

2011 was a big year for me horror-wise. I started writing for Planet Fury (nee Pretty Scary, nee nee FanGirlTastic) and electronically got to know the wonderful and inspiring Heidi Martinuzzi. I've gotten to interview Nancy herself, Heather Langenkamp, review a bunch of movies and go to FanExpo where I was able to meet and befriend the lovely Lianne Spiderbaby. These women are so flipping cool I can't really put it into words but they have inspired me to keep writing and keep doing this if only because I love it and I believe in what the genre can be.

I was also fortunate to have an article published in the Living section of the Toronto Star about Horror and Fashion. I still have multiple copies of it, if anyone wants one.

And finally a big, huge, gigantic thank you to everyone who reads this blog. I love doing this and have loved getting to know more of the horror community through it.

All the best and have a very happy 2012.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


In actual fact, I should have saved that title for a review of Hitchcock's brilliant film, Notorious. But nay, this is a review of a film that has been doing well on end-of-the-year-best-of-horror-lists, Insidious. Every time I thought, I must watch that Insidious movie, Duran Duran's immortal Notorious would get lodged somewhere in my frontal lobe. Come, join me in my own personal hell:

Now that we've all finished watching British men try to dance, on to James Wan and Leigh Whannell's Insidious. This is the same director/writer team behind Saw with the magical pixie dust of one Oren Peli (director/producer of Paranormal Activity) sprinkled on top. Insidious is also known for being 2011's most successful film in terms of cost-to-gross ratio. Neat, huh?

As for plot it's pretty standard. It's like a less wholesome Poltergeist (i.e. Poltergeist if Tobe Hooper had, in fact, directed that movie) with a dash of Paranormal Activity thrown in for good measure. Weird things start happening to a family, one of their sons falls into a non-coma and the weird stuff escalates. Believing their home to be haunted, they move only to discover that it's not the house that is haunted, but THEM!!!

Pretty standard stuff, right?

Let's talk cast. Rose Byrne is awesomesauce. I think she's fantastic in everything she's in and I genuinely enjoy watching her. As Renai (It's fucking Renee, I loathed to my core seeing it spelled "Renai" throughout the film) she makes the most out of Whannell's sub-par dialogue ("I just want things to be different in this house. I had such a bad day. I'm scared nothing's gonna change." is equal parts exposition, lazy and poorly phrased) and creates a normal but interesting character. The problems begin when the movie shifts away from her story to everything else in the movie about half way through.

Halfway through the movie it becomes about the father and "The Further" (every time they said "The Further" all I could think of was "The Rural Juror"). The Father, Josh (Patrick Wilson) is, to paraphrase an old Friends joke, pretty but dumb. No wait, that's pretty dumb. He's such a bland, lackluster character that I really began drifting during the second half of the film. I like that the film took us to The Further and spent some time there. The problem is, I didn't find it all that interesting. It looked like a Cirque Du Soleil number that got scrapped.

Now, there are some great scares. I can only imagine they were way more effective on the big screen but they still made me jump on my relatively small screen. The score is one of the best I've heard in a long time. It's both a throwback nod to other scores and completely unexpected.

I think my disappointment lies with what it could have been. All the ingredients were there but nothing really stuck a landing. By the time the ending happened, I just didn't care. There is an interesting pattern to this movie. Scary things happen, then characters sit around and discuss what happened. Do I care what astral projection is? No. Stop telling me.

That's not to say Insidious is a bad movie, it's quite a bit better than a lot of horror films that have come out recently but, as you can see by the amount of ellipses in this review, my attention kept waning. There were enough ideas in this film to churn out four individual movies. I give them credit for trying to make a film that could land somewhere between The Haunting  and Poltergeist while still appeasing the current trends but I would rather see what scares these filmmakers rather than a collage of what they think will scare the masses. (FYI - What scares the masses ain't astral projection)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Trailer Review: Dario Argento's "Dracula 3D"

Oh my gentle Jesus. What motherfuckery have we here? The basic answer is horror impressario Dario Argento's first 3D foray with Dracula.

The actual answer is something that vaguely resembles the plot of Bram Stoker's Dracula but Argento has finally figured out what we all missing from the story, a praying mantis.

Now, I love me some Suspiria and a lot of his other movies of that era. I love the Mothers trilogy that began with Suspiria but on the recommendation of several respected people, I've avoided Mother of Tears (2007) like the plague. Some have suggested that Argento may have lost it in the last little while. And based on this trailer, I can't say they're wrong.

There are a couple things I want to touch on in the trailer. Firstly, Rutger Hauer (everyone's second favourite Replicant after Darryl Hannah) as Van Helsing who appears to be doing an accent on par with Kate Beckinsale's from (go figure) Van Helsing. What. The. Fuck. What is he doing? In one scene he seems to have a very Eastern European accent and the next an incredibly bland North American accent.I don't know if this is symbolism about colonization but it's crazy distracting. Like, Tyra Banks distracting.

Secondly, I feel like this trailer is made up of people walking into shot, then walking across a room. It makes the whole thing look like a stage play. A really, really boring stage play. For a man that gave us this:

walking around on a set doesn't really hack it, you dig?

All in all, this looks like a spectacular failure. One for the books. Based on this trailer it can only get more crazy or, at worst, boring. And honestly, neither of those things makes me want to see this.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Micromanaging - Skip Shea's Microcinema (2011)

Skip Shea's Microcinema is a small glimpse into something much uglier and deeper than this 7 minute short film fully realizes.
This short film is a meditation on what we've all come to know as torture porn. Love it or hate it, it's become a sub-genre unto itself. Shea nicely realizes all the tropes of Torture Porn effectively and clearly then flips them nicely on their head. In a turn that resembles Saw meets Blair Witch Project meet The Wicker Man, Shea combines the genres in a one-two punch that that even the most seasoned horror fan won't see coming. The problem becomes that there is more story than time.

Tantalizing the audience with wide reaching themes of psychological terror, Microcinema leaves you wanting more. The film is brave and unrelenting. It is a breath of fresh air to a lot of the common horror tricks that are being trotted out time and again. As the saying goes, it's always better to be left wanting more than less.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Scare Tactic's First Year

That's right! Today is Scare Tactic's first birthday. I have to admit that this all started as a lark but I'm now deeply proud of this little blog. It's even on my resume.

Without too much dithering, I've been thinking about what posts I've missed. And I've missed the mother of all horror-blog-posts! Without further ado...

My Top 5 Favourite Horror Movies

5. Martyrs (2008)

Pascal Lauguier's existential nightmare is one of the most divisive movies I've ever come across. It's been the subject of debates at parties. (Okay, one party) Two girls are seeking revenge on the people who captured and tortured them as children. That journey of vengeance takes them on a twisted and surreal adventure, creating one of the most high-concept horror films around. I totally understand that it's not for everyone. But it's lovely to hear vital and impassioned debate about a new film in the horror community.

4. Black Christmas (1974)

This movie is so flipping awesome I can't stand it. It's my favourite slasher film. Granted it makes little to no sense; but it's weird, funny and hella creepy. It also has an incredibly strong female cast that includes Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder. It's a one of a kind that is forever being ripped-off. Where do you think Halloween got all those ideas?

3. Carrie (1976)

Brian DePalma's ode to womanhood. The pop cultural birth of the monstrous feminine. Throw whatever labels you want at Carrie, this is one badass horror movie. It's horror divrives from not only supernatural violence but personal violence. What viewer didn't perk up when the mean girls where sentenced to extra gym classes? DePalma helped the viewer feel like an outcast who just wanted to be left alone. It helps that it includes some of the best performances in film, let alone the genre. (Piper Laurie? Fuck yeah!) The final scare still gets me and is one of the most effective scares in any movie.

2. Rosemary's Baby (1968)

There isn't much to say that hasn't already been said about Roman Polanski's iconic Rosemary's Baby. Great performances, effective direction and some truly disturbing and troubling scenes. The film presents the audience with Rosemary's very real choice at the end. Who knows what happens after the final scene, but those closing moments caused me anxiety than any trap in Saw.

1. The Shining (1980)

If you've only ever glanced at Scare Tactic you'll know that I fucking love The Shining. It's brilliant. It's one of the best movies ever made. It's moody, evocative and impeccably shot. Like the other films on this list, The Shining deals in interpersonal horror, the horror we can inflict on each when we're in close quarters for even a brief period of time.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Trailer Review: Cabin In The Woods

Well, the film I had completely forgotten about is getting not only a poster but also a trailer! Yup, we will finally be able to see Drew Goddard and Josh Whedon's horror film to end all horror films The Cabin in the Woods. The film has been sitting on the shelf since 2009, first it had a release date then they wanted to convert it to 3D and then MGM/Spyglass went bankrupt. But now there's a tailer, a poster and a release date for April 2012.

 Before I start listing off concerns, let's just talk trailer. Yes, they're skirting around being an homage. With the initial shot of the cabin... well, it's the same shot from Evil Dead. Which isn't bad. At least they're acknowledging the ultimate cabin-in-the-woods movie. There was some nice punchy Whedon-esque dialogue. Then it goes cray-cray. And I have two feelings about that... One being, way to be ambitious! That's really exciting in a horror movie these days. It's not a remake, an homage potentially, but not a remake. And thank God for that. The overall look of the movie is clean and slick, perhaps a little CGI-heavy but not offensive in my mind.

What worries me? Well, I refer to "Cloverfield" as "Suckfield" and the writer of that monstrosity is not only the co-writer but the flipping director for this. "Cloverfield" could have been an awesome monster movie but the whiny characters overtook it and made it about their inability not to be jerks. And, y'know, I'm just not that big a fan of Whedon. I like his ideas but I feel like they fall apart under the weight of their own ambition. Based on this trailer I saw parts of Evil Dead, Friday the 13th, Dawn of the Dead, The Strangers and Resident Evil. I'm sure there are more in there.

Look, I'll probably shell out my hard earned coinage to see this bad boy in theatres because, like Fox Mulder, I want to believe. I want to believe there are horror movies coming out that aren't based on stupidity, regurgitation or the lowest common denominator. I'll leave this review on a note of hope and caution; to paraphrase, with great ambition comes great responsibility.

Friday, December 2, 2011

What I Saw

I realize I'm not only showing up late for the party, I'm showing up after the club has been shut down, torn down and condos built over top of the place where a party once happened.

But better late than never, right?

Um, maybe not...

In any event, I've talked about the Saw series several times before on this website. And it's an interesting beast. To be totally upfront, I've seen the first one, the second one and now the sixth one. Does this make me a Saw expert? Heavens no. But as it's one of the most successful horror franchises ever I wanted to bring up a few points about it because of my recent viewing of the sixth installment.

Firstly, why haven't I seen all of them? Well, it was a combination of broke and lazy which I like to call "brazy". The last one I saw in theatres was number 2. And what a number 2 it was. Boring, slow, and only ONE member of NKOTB. Then the rest of them rolled out over the next several Halloweens. And I couldn't really be bothered. But they kept coming and the people who loved it seemed to really love it and after doing some quick wiki searches, it seems like the makers actually tried to make an attempt to infuse the films with purpose, mystery and mythology. Maybe it wasn't always successful but hey, I haven't done any better.

One thing that jumped out to me while watching Saw VI was how good Tobin Bell is. The dialogue isn't great but it's fine. It become blatantly obvious how silly the dialogue can be when it's in the hands of less skilled actors but Bell makes it work. In VI you see his character as a man coming to terms with cancer and those scenes are down right impressive from his end.

As I seriously doubt that this franchise was supposed to run for as long as it did the filmmakers were placed in an interesting trap of their own, they were forced to create a mythology as they went. The characters whom the traps were inflicted on were never the real story, they were a means to an end to tell Jigsaw's story. Now, when you're character dies mid-way through the series, all the filmmakers can do is tell his story, through FLASHBACK! Now I tend to think of flashbacks (like voice overs) as a pretty lazy way to tell stories unless they are integral to the story (i.e. The Usual Suspects). Saw could have moved on to other story arcs but I guess the promise of the Jigsaw returning in new ways was too enticing. We're also now running into the problem of making the villain the hero of the franchise. Which again, is not the worst thing to ever happen to filmmaking, the producers etc just painted themselves into a corner.

What surprised me most, however, is that I didn't hate it. At all. Some of the traps had me hiding my eyes and were really visceral. There are some good actors in the series, and it's nice to see so many Canadian actors employed. Saw VI actually made me curious about the rest of the series more than I was before. Which is more than  I can say for the likes of Jason Takes Manhattan. At least Saw takes itself seriously, even if we don't.