Tag Archives: spooky

Alan Parker’s Angel Heart 


No other film has the seething elemental power of Alan Parker’s Angel Heart, a detective story propelled by a murder mystery, all the while cradled in the sweaty, unnerving blanket of a satanic horror story. Get the extended unrated cut if you can, as it cheerfully amps up both the queasy gore and kinky sex in spades. The time is postwar 1940’s, the setting New York, or at first anyways. Shabby private detective Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) is hired by sinister clandestine gentleman Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro) to find a missing lounge crooner named Johnny Favourite, for nasty reasons shrouded in thinly veiled threats. Harry is stalled at every turn, kept just out of the loop on every plot twist and soon seems to be a magnet for violence, troubling hallucinations and all the eerie hallmarks of a case he should have stayed far away from. The grisly clues lead him from Brooklyn to the smoky ghettos of Harlem, then south to voodoo soaked swamps of Louisiana and beyond, chasing illusory information and feeling more like the hunted than the hunter with each step. The film feels at times like a shrinking steel cage of unease and dread, a trap that closes in on both Harry and the viewer until the soul crushing revelations of the final act have been laid bare. This is hands down the best work Rourke has ever done, and it’s priceless listening to him try and to downplay it on the DVD commentary, classic ice cool Mickey. De Niro is the kind of quietly dangerous that leaves a deadly vacuum in the air of each scene, underplaying evil expertly and laying down more mystic mood by simply peeling a boiled egg than most actors could with a twenty page monologue. Ex Cosby Show darling Lisa Bonet sauces up her image here as a Bayou voodoo princess with ties to the mystery, and the steamy, no holds barred sex romp she has with Rourke has since become the stuff of legend, a feverish cascade of blood and other bodily fluid that almost gave the MPAA a coronary. The one area this film excels at most is atmosphere; there’s something intangibly wild about everything we see, hear and feel on Harry’s journey, from the supernatural tinged, noirish hues of Michael Seresin’s cinematography to the haunted, hollow tones of Trevor Jones’s baroque, restless original score, everything contributes to forging a world in which we feel enveloped in and can’t quite shake after, like a bad dream that creeps out into waking life for a while after the night. Angel Heart is a horror classic, a blood red gem amongst genre fare and one in an elite group of films that are pretty much as close to perfect as can be. 

-Nate Hill

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Christian Alvert’s Antibodies

Christian Alvert is a wicked sharp German director who has quietly been making terrific films for years that have somehow slipped past the nets of notoriety (his SciFi horror Pandorum is one of the most underrated films of the decade). If you haven’t seen his highly disturbing, Silence of the Lambs esque psycho shocker Antibodies, you’re in for a treat. Perverted, intelligent, psychological, skin crawlingly freaky, the story unwinds in uncomfortable revelations following a gruesome discovery in an apartment by a Berlin police officer, who curiously enough, is played by a silent Norman Reedus. This turns into a raid in which prolific serial killer Gabriel Engel (a bone chilling portrayal by André Hennicke) is finally captured. After sometime, top cop Michael Martens (Wotan Wilke Möhring) runs into a series of murders that bear similarity to Engel’s Crimes, and brings the killer into the fold in consultation capacity. From there it’s a devilish madhouse of deception, sickening mind games and one cracker of a suspenseful ending. I’ll warn you: this shit ain’t pretty. There’s a lot of seriously dark stuff, thematic matter that blasts through the western taboos we find in films over here, and buckets of clinical, shudder inducing gore. If you enjoy smart horror that piles on thought provoking notions in with the carnage and asks questions along the way, you’ll dig this. 

-Nate Hill

Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan 


Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan is kinda guilty of shitty false advertising, as well as just being an overall laughable effort in the franchise, which by that time had already run thin on new ideas. It was after Jason had run amok in the Camp Crystal Lake Woods, but before he got to go to hell, space or slap fisticuffs with Freddy Krueger, and kind of suffers in limbo at a juncture of the franchise that’s stuck in a quagmire of dumb ideas. Of all the evocative, atmospheric locales they could have switched his bloody tirades to, the big Apple just doesn’t seem like the ticket. That isn’t even the real problem anyways, as a good two and a half thirds of the film isn’t even set in NYC, but rather on a luxury cruise liner out on the coastline straights, bound for Manhattan and stuffed with more idiotic graduating high schoolers than you can shake a machete at. Lazy writing, nonexistent plotting and goofball acting are hallmarks in this terrain, but even more so with this flick, literally every non Jason character just being an insufferable ignoramus. The kills are passable but don’t even come halfway to topping the franchise charts, Kane Hodder shows up for his shift as the big lug in full gear, hockey mask and slimy mongoloid prosthetics included at no extra charge. When the boat does finally land on New York shores, it’s jarring to see Jason waltzing down fifth avenue looking like a homeless nut whose stairs don’t quite reach the attic, machete in hand in broad daylight as he pursues the few remaining partygoers through the crowded streets. Really, guys? Keep the big guy in his shrouded summer camp forests where he’s at home, and the feng-shui of his murders rings true. Or at least let him go to space where there’s still dark hallways and hidden alcoves. Probably the biggest misfire in the series.  

Hellraiser: Inferno 


Hellraiser: Inferno marks the first juncture in the franchise where ideas deviated beyond the formula set in place by the first borderline surreal, masochist piece.

Gone is the dreamy, sordid aesthetic used back then, the Cenobites who were front and centre are reduced to limited appearances and the story is less otherworldly and something decidedly more noirish and down to earth. Whether that’s accepted by franchise die-hards and horror hounds alike is subjective, but I didn’t mind it’s slow burn approach or sidewinding tone. Craig Sheffer, the closest thing you’ll get to Josh Brolin without breaking the bank, plays a crooked Detective who finds himself dragged down a rabbit hole of creepy, murderous goings-on when he’s assigned to hunt a serial killer known as ‘The Engineer’. Of course the murders always seem one step ahead of his grasp, and naturally dark secrets from his sketchy past are brought to light as he gradually begins to lose his mind. Doug Bradley does eventually return as the iconic Pinhead, with a few members of the Cenobite posse, but their presence is kept mostly on the back burner for quite a while. Taking antagonist duties for a while instead is Sheffer’s eerie psychiatrist, played with sinister charm and knowing charisma by James Remar, a dubious fellow with a few tricks up his own sleeve. This is the one entry that sticks out from the franchise in it’s diversion from the usual path of distinct, abstract psychosexual horror and mutes the whole icy nightmare down to rebuild a story in it’s own image. You’ll either appreciate the initiative, or you’ll miss the good ol’ freakshow of the original film. Up to you. 

-Nate Hill

Freddy’s Dead: The ‘Final’ Nightmare 


I’m not sure what they were going for with Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, but the summation of what they produced is simply… bizarre. Of course it’s not the final round, they never can resist churning out meta reworking, crossovers and remakes, rendering the ‘final’ titles hilariously redundant (the ‘final’ Friday The 13th chapter is only the fourth entry in a franchise that soared into double digits). It’s silly more than anything else, like the New Line Cinema boardroom passed around the laughing gas and spit-balled out this cartoonish, random, cameo stuffed looney bin of a flick. Actually, writing credit goes to director Rachel Talalay, who also helped the equally silly rumpus cult classic Tank Girl, which is lovable in it’s own right. Speaking of silly, Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger has never been more buffoonish than here, the culmination of every one line and quip throughout the franchise. He’s back, hunting down the last remaining Springwood teenager, as well as a woman (Lisa Zane) whose connection to his past could be dicy for him. There’s also a weird backstory angle involving dream demons that look like sentient tadpoles who apparently are responsible for Freddy’s initial resurrection and powers. Hmm. The cameos seem like they just made a celebrity collage on a dartboard, blindfolded each other and flung them all over. Alice Cooper shows up in flashbacks as Freddy’s sadistic stepfather, Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold are around, plus Breckin Meyer and Yaphet Kotto. The rule of randoms is excepting Johnny Depp of course, an Elm Street veteran who has a quick bit as a TV advertisement dude. The dream sequences are wild and wacky, but never really frightening or as atmospheric as they used to be, the one springing to mind being a video game themed thing where pixelated Freddy chases a victim Super Mario style, not exactly the most bone chilling setting, but oh well. This does mark the last of the initial franchise before they moved on to deluxe entries like the super meta New Nightmare and the gong show that was Freddy Vs. Jason. If you’re looking for the weirdest Elm Street flick, you’ve found it, and if you’re looking for a scary, coherent one then you’ll have to backtrack earlier in the franchise, or skip ahead to Wes Craven’s excellent next one. 

-Nate Hill

Marcus Nispel’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre 


In most cases, Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes label has made dismal attempts at horror remakes (see their Elm Street and Friday The 13th for cringe cases in point). However, the version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre they did was pretty damn good on my barometer, a brooding, darkly humorous and fiercely frightening piece that reworks the barebones, grainy vibe of Tobe Hooper’s original classic into something more dingy and atmospheric. It’s the 70’s, and rural Texas is as humid and inhospitable as ever, particularly so in Travis County, right in time for a Volkswagen bus full of nimrod partygoers to trundle through and get caught in the snare of the severely disturbed Hewitt clan, spearheaded by big ol’ Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski), a mute, disfigured monster with a penchant for taking a chainsaw to people’s vitals and wearing their skin over his own, inspired by the less imposing real life killer Ed Gein. Sexy Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Eric Balfour and Mike Vogel plays these ill fated kids, serving mainly as power tool sharpening blocks. I love the slow, eerie buildup of this one, as they begin to realize that the town isn’t just sleepy or hidden, it’s pretty much dead save for these last straggling residents who are clearly off their head. A huge asset for the film is R. Lee Ermey as the creepy, hostile county Sheriff, who let’s just say… isn’t really the Sheriff at all. He gets many chances to mean mug, terrorize and intimidate these kids and the old gunnery sergeant has a ball. The rest of the townsfolk are a creepy bunch of hayseed yokels without a brain or conscience between them, and serve as a luring posse to Leatherface. The killings are appropriately gory, and hats off to director Marcus Nispel for a striking opening shot that sees his camera pan through the still smoking head-wound of a poor girl who’s just blown her dome off with a giant revolver. Ew. The high praise I’m giving this one does not apply to the follow up prequel called The Beginning, which ditches all mood and pacing for an exercise in abrasive, unforgivable sadism and lazy plotting. Ermey goes full nutso in that one and still is having fun, but not even he can pull it out of the shit. I’d imagine same goes for the host of others that came after, including a new entry that’s slated for this year, if memory serves. This one got lucky because it played it’s cards right, and earned the position of a remake that does indeed hold a candle. 

-Nate Hill

Rob Zombie’s House Of 1000 Corpses

Rob Zombie’s House Of 1000 Corpses is a lot to sit through, and at times is a victim of its own overly zany ambition. Nevertheless, it’s the first stepping stone in the path of one of the most fascinating and talented directorial careers in the industry, and is a completely batshit mental curiosity in its own right. Zombie sprung onto the scene with this one and has since been a controversial, much talked about and frequently hated voice of horror. Let’s get one thing transparently clear: No one can be blamed for not enjoying his films, they’re incredibly niche and not everyone’s thing, but you are simply lying to yourself if you won’t concede what a hugely talented writer, director and all round filmmaker he is. I’ve had to get quite stern in conversations with people whose tunnel vision stubbornness supersedes their ability to logically analyze his work, and I simply won’t put up with it. Alright, scolding done, over to the film. I’ll be the first to admit that House is a splattered mess at times and goes about six light years over the top, but the sheer grungy scope of production design is really something to see. In deepest backwoods Americana, the murderous Firefly clan preys on, terrorizes and murders pretty much anyone who gets in their path. Bill Moseley is a Manson-esque dark angel as Otis Driftwood, renegade bad boy brother, Sheri Moon Zombie is like Harley Quinn on bath salts as Baby, who is definitely the scariest, while gargantuan Matthew McGrory, walking decrepitude grandpa (Dennis Fimple) and giggling slutwhore Mama (Karen Black doing her very best freaky Betty Boop rendition) round out the rest of the brood. They live in some cluttered rural dump right out of Hoarders™, luring unsuspecting travellers off the road and murdering them in really over elaborate, exhaustive looking ways. Oh and we see the birth of one of cinema’s most jovial and sleazy killer clowns, Sid Haig’s motor mouth Captain Spaulding, who bookends the film in uproariously raunchy comic relief. It’s a neon fever nightmare of relentless commotion, visual excess, metal music, retro Americana pop culture bliss and sadistic gore, Zombie going all out to solidify his storytelling aesthetic that would continue, in augmented, evolved ways, over the course of his brilliant career. This is certainly as obnoxious a film as you’ll find in his stable, and while it ranks in the southern end of my Zombie favourites list, there’s just no ignoring the raucous, depraved celebration of all things gross, gooey and grotesque that parades by. Not to mention the whip-smart, trashy and endlessly funny dialogue, writing being skill that the man excels in on another level. 

-Nate Hill