Tag Archives: Scary Movie

Scary Movie October: A review of Shaun of the Dead

“You’ve got red on you.”

A lot of people in this country really like zombies. I get it. They can be kind of funny. They make strange noises. They are really gross looking and while you can totally defeat one or two on your own, they always seem to travel in packs and that spells trouble. Zombies, the world’s favorite type of monster.

A bunch of my friends love and recommended that I watch Shaun of the Dead, but I was hesitant to watch it for a while. After reading the Walking Dead comics, I decided to watch the show and only made it through one season. I was zombied out. It was time to hang my hat and try something else. Between my general dislike of horror comedies and being tired of zombies, I actively avoided Shaun of the Dead.

It turns out, this movie is really amusing. Some of the gore is so hilariously over-the-top; at one point a character’s stomach is ripped out and his head and limbs are torn off but it’s FUNNY. I think maybe it’s the dry British humor that really sat well with me, but I was thoroughly entertained while watching Shaun of the Dead. The movie is a romantic comedy as well, and although I’m not big into romantic comedies, it works well with the horror aspect of the film.

Shaun of the Dead blends together great elements of a horror film and great elements of a comedy and makes some really super enjoyable. I definitely recommend that anyone who has a bit of a sick sense of humor watch this movie. It’ll definitely be in my regular Halloween movie rotation.

RIYL: British people, zombies, Queen, dive bars

Late to the Movies! celebrates National Hitchcock Day

So, let’s be real: almost everyone ignores this blog. Even me. But then the other day I got this sweet email about it being National Alfred Hitchcock Day on 3/12 and I had to immediately “WHAT GO TELL IT TO YOUR BLOG” on my blog. And here it is.

Hitch

I adore Hitchcock movies. The dude was a creep but he is just the ultimate. As you may know by now, I’m a big fan of old movies. I spent many weekend nights at home with my parents in high school (and even my freshman year of college) watching old movies, and many of them were Hitchcock films. I loved the suspense, I loved being a little bit scared and I loved spending time pointing out his cameos in every film. I love the costumes, I loved the stars, I especially loved the music. I love Hitchcock, and I get a little sad when someone tells me they’ve never watched one of his movies. It’s probably how other people feel when they find out that the only Bond movie I’ve ever seen was “Casino Royale.” Yeah, whatever.

So to celebrate Hitchcock Day, I’m going to post an article by author Stephen Rebello about the awesomeness of Alfred Hitchcock, and I’m also going to tell you to see one of his movies today. I recommend “North by Northwest,” “Vertigo” or “Rear Window” for starters. If you’ve seen a few of his more popular movies, celebrate with a less popular (but still awesome one) like “Family Plot,” “Torn Curtain” or my very first Hitchcock movie, “I Confess.”

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Great Reasons Why Hitchcock Is Still the Master of Suspense

by Stephen Rebello

Psycho. Vertigo. North by Northwest. The Birds. If Alfred Hitchcock had directed nothing more than that astonishing quartet, he’d still be considered the maestro of creating nail-biting suspense, romantic intrigue, and unforgettable thrills. But that incredible run of movies, released in theaters from 1958 to 1963, represents only a drop in the bloody bucket of Hitchcock’s masterworks, which stretch back to the 1920s and extend into the 1970s. If you need a reminder of why Hitchcock rules as the all-time master of suspense, and why he is considered the man who pretty much wrote the book on the genre, here’s your quick cheat sheet.

1) Hitchcock Made Us Scream in the Shower

From Boston to Bangkok, Hitchcock stunned 1960 audiences by doing the unheard-of in Psycho: brutally killing-off the film’s sympathetic heroine—and biggest star—less than half way through the action. Taking his cue from the source novel by Robert Bloch, Hitchcock blasted our notions of safety and privacy by staging the landmark murder scene in, of all places, the bathroom, that tight, white space where one feels most relaxed and vulnerable. Or, at least, used to. And not only did he film Psycho in black and white to help minimize all that blood-letting, but he and editor George Tomasini also employed then-revolutionary rapid-fire editing techniques that suggested nudity and violence. To put the whole thing over the top, he cranked up a shrieking all-strings musical score by Bernard Herrmann. Voila, Hitchcock, his star Janet Leigh, and his merry band of gifted collaborators set a standard for heart-stopping terror that has yet to be topped—but is endlessly imitated.

2) Hitchcock Brought Menace Out into the Open

Dark alleys? Shifty-eyed villains with twirling moustaches? Graveyards? Rain-slicked cobblestone streets? Haunted houses, rattling chains, and bats in the belfry? Hitchcock considered these clichés ripe for parody and, beginning with his British films of the 1920s, the director shone a bright light on terror and dark deeds. With Hitchcock, thrills can even erupt during a kid’s birthday party, as happens in Young and Innocent and The Birds. The sophisticated, stylish heroes and heroine of The 39 Steps and North by Northwest get chased by planes in broad daylight and open spaces; in those same films, and such other movies as Blackmail, Saboteur, and Hitchcock’s two versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much, dramatic action unfolds against the backdrop of tourist attractions and national monuments like the United Nations, Mount Rushmore, the British Museum, the Statue of Liberty, Radio City Music Hall, and the Royal Albert Hall. When violence erupts in and around shower stalls, ski runs, telephone booths, attics, and mountain roads, the lesson is simple: There is nowhere to hide. Chaos and terror will find you, personified by the charming, attractive, and seductive villains of such Hitchcock thrillers as Shadow of a Doubt, Notorious, Stage Fright, Strangers on a Train, Psycho, Topaz, and Family Plot. Other films, from Charade right up through the Batman and Mission: Impossible have been following Hitchcock’s lead ever since.

3) Hitchcock Made Us Walk a Mile in His Heroes’ Shoes

Hitchcock often bragged to the press about how his films grabbed audiences by “making the viewer sweat” and “really putting them through it.” One of the most groundbreaking ways he put us through it was his frequent use of traveling point-of-view shots—that is, moving the camera in a way that places the viewer in the same position as the character on-screen. It’s a technique that makes us uneasy right along with James Stewart when we walk with him down ominous London streets in The Man Who Knew Too Much or when he obsessively stalks Kim Novak up and down hilly San Francisco in Vertigo. We’re jittery when we move slowly up the hill with Vera Miles in Psycho or when we glide along with her toward old Mrs. Bates sitting in a chair under a naked light bulb in a basement. And how about when we walk down a dock with Tippi Hedren, expecting her to be pecked by the birds, or when we hover with her outside the closed door of a room in which she is about to be engulfed by our feathered fiends? Hitchcock isn’t content with merely making us spectators. We’re full-on participants. 

4) Hitchcock Tells His Audience More Than His Characters Know

Hitchcock and his screenwriters created some of the most dazzling moments in movie history by emphasizing agonizing suspense rather than simple, go-for-the-throat shock. The innocent little boy in Hitchcock’s ’30s thriller Sabotage thinks he’s carrying a harmless parcel through London; we know he’s carrying a bomb that is set to detonate at a certain time. In the Psycho shower scene, the audience is shown, through the opaque shower curtain, what Janet Leigh doesn’t see until it’s too late: the approaching shadow of a killer. Grace Kelly searches the empty apartment of a suspected wife killer in Rear Window while we, along with James Stewart, break into cold sweats watching the murderer make his way back home. The heroine of The Birds waits impatiently on a bench for a classroom of kids to be let out of school, unaware that flocks of malevolent birds are amassing slowly and silently behind her.

5) Hitchcock Kept Surprises As Surprises

It’s no exaggeration to credit Hitchcock with helping change the way we go to movies. Psycho was made back when the price of a movie ticket bought you a double feature, newsreel, short subjects, and trailers, and movie ticket-buyers tended to pop in and out of theaters whenever they pleased. With Psycho, Hitchcock wanted to create an event. So, he refused to hold any pre-release critics’ screenings, let alone a premiere. He forced movie-theater owners to sign contracts demanding zero tolerance of any moviegoer expecting to enter the theater once the film started. He launched the film’s release with a massive publicity campaign that stipulated in newspaper, radio, television ads, and posters in theater lobbies: “No one . . . but no one . . . will be admitted to the theater after the start of each performance of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.” He recorded announcements  to broadcast on radio and through loudspeakers at theaters warning Psycho audiences not to reveal the ending to their friends. The public ate it up. They formed lines around the block, kept the movie’s secrets to themselves, and turned Psycho into a worldwide phenomenon. Can you imagine any of this happening in our era of wall-to-wall social media, instant gratification, and gleeful spoilers? Neither can we. 

6) Hitchcock Revealed More by Showing Less

Hitchcock may be known best for cinematic suspense and thrills, but he was equally superb at finding suspense and thrills in eroticism. That long, long, long nuzzle and kiss between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in the ’40s spy thriller Notorious sizzles over six decades later. When gorgeous adventuress Grace Kelly slyly offers retired jewel thief Cary Grant his choice of leg or breast during a picnic above the French Riviera in To Catch a Thief, she’s offering a bit more than cold chicken. Sexy spy lady Eva Marie Saint seduces fugitive Cary Grant aboard a posh train, purring, “It’s going to be a long night . . . and I don’t particularly like the book I’ve started. You know what I mean?” Yeah, we do. And, without a bit of nudity or tawdry grappling, doesn’t Janet Leigh’s long lunch break tryst in a cheap hotel with boyfriend John Gavin in Psycho reek of backstreet eroticism? And the chilling spin Anthony Perkins as Psycho’s own Norman Bates puts on the line, “My mother and I were more than happy . . . ” tells you more than you need to know about that relationship.

Late to the Scary Movies! A review of The Last House on the Left

Cover of "The Last House on the Left (Unr...

Last House on the Left (1972)

[Editor’s note: since I like scary movies and I like October, I decided to continue on from Scary Movie October from last year. I haven’t had a ton of time to watch movies this month, but figured I’d review what I had time to review.]

Fred “Weasel” Podowski: I wonder what the meanest, foulest, rottenest, woodsiest sex crime ever was? Hey, Krug, what do you think the sex crime of the century was?

When asking for suggestions of scary movies to watch, I get this suggestion a lot. It’s written and directed by Wes Craven, and it’s from the 70s. Of course I’d love it, right?

This turned out to be quite a  weird movie, and I wouldn’t completely define it as horror. Yes, there is an awful rape scene in the woods. Yes, there are people who are murdered with knives and guns. But it didn’t feel particularly tense, like movies with similar plots. For instance, the first time I watched Funny Games, I was completely terrified. I could barely watch as these two fairly normal looking dudes (except for the shorts) tortured and killed a family for no reason. My favorite types of horror movies tend to be the movies where the plot is completely possible– “it could be you!”– which is one reason I was really looking forward to seeing this movie. Instead, Last House on the Left felt goofy, which is not really a feeling I want from a horror movie. It completely missed the mark.

The three criminals and their “druggy” sidekick reminded me of something straight out of the old Scooby Doo cartoons, maybe mixed with soft core porn. I read on the Internets that many of their lines were improvised, and maybe that’s the issue– they suck at improv? I can definitely say that the choose of music was very curious. As the criminals sneak two women out of their home and into a convertible (sidenote: if you were on the run from the cops, would you ride in an open top convertible with a lady in your lap? I wouldn’t, but maybe that’s just me), very upbeat, almost circus-like music, plays. Is this what it’s like to watch the Three Stooges? I wouldn’t really know, but it’s what I imagine it is like. I know that Wes Craven can get a little goofy with his characters– I love Nightmare on Elm Street and I feel like Freddy Krueger always has his little one liner before slashing someone from limb to limb. It just didn’t work for me here.

The scenes in the woods where they brutally beat and rape two female characters are pretty brutal. But because of the setup of the characters I wasn’t particularly fearful, or even interested in what was happening. While these scenes happen, you see little clips with these two strange cops who may or may not understand what’s going on but also provide some completely unnecessary comic relief. Finally the characters rape and murder the main character. They cackle throughout the entire scene, and suddenly after the girl is dead their demeanor changes. Maybe they feel remorse? Maybe they want a do-over? Maybe they feel shame? I wouldn’t really know, because they don’t get into it any further.

By the time the viewer reaches the most dramatic part of the movie as the parents find their daughter, there is maybe twenty minutes left in the movie. You see a short little Home Alone-style montage as the parents realize that they’ve allowed these murderers to stay in their home and set up traps so they can more easily kill the trio. Why the parents let these strangers stay with them in the first place, I’ll never know. But they’re there, and the parents obviously must kill them. Boom, bam. It’s over. And then the cops walk in. Okay.

I hear this movie is a classic movie, and maybe it’s just because I’m particularly grouchy these days but I simply don’t get it. The good news is that it’s relatively short, but meh. I still wouldn’t waste your time on it.