Archive for July, 2010

Remake/Remodel

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , on July 19, 2010 by roarvis

I guess it’s time for me to weigh in on the issue of remakes.

As you can probably guess, I’m not a huge fan. Remaking a film is probably the laziest thing a studio can do. It’s one notch up from stealing the idea altogether, but at least we can assume that the original writers are getting paid.

However, I’m not going to make a blanket statement like “all remakes suck,” because that’s asinine. First of all, not every movie that gets remade was that great to begin with. Second, some films can actually benefit from an updated version. The best example of a good remake will probably always be John Carpenter‘s The Thing (1982). I can’t imagine a better remake ever being made. Hopefully history will prove me wrong. Because Pazuzu knows, they ain’t gonna stop churning them out.

But The Thing was a rarity. The original film, The Thing from Another World (1951), was based on a short story by John W. Campbell called Who Goes There?. So even that film was an adaptation. The remake was, according to some accounts, closer to the original story than the first film. On top of that, by 1981 special effects and cinematography had evolved to the point that they were able to convey ideas and images that would have been impossible to achieve in the 50s. It also didn’t hurt that John Carpenter was a fairly original filmmaker on a hot streak, not some hack hired by the studios to perpetuate a stock franchise. As good as the first film was, Carpenter’s version was a revelation.

Nowadays, the well appears to have dried up considerably. While horror movies continue to be a huge box office draw, the studios seem disinclined to take chances on original material. Thus, we have the Saw franchise and its variants, remakes of Japanese ghost stories, and remakes of North American horror films from the 70s and 80s.

Not all of these remakes are terrible. Some are admirably fearless and true to the source (The Hills Have Eyes, 2006). Some are so pointless that I refuse to even watch them (sorry Wicker Man 2006, not gonna do it). Most are generic retreads that fail to even capitalize on the best ideas of their source material.

Since we were on an 80s slasher kick, we felt it made sense to check out some of the remakes of these films. So in the past week, we watched both My Bloody Valentine (2009) and Friday the 13th (2009).

Keep reading, if you value your life

Frightened

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2010 by roarvis

Every time I think I’ve sussed out the general infrastructure of the scary movie blog world, I stumble upon another interesting writer who has put their unique spin on things. Why is it that horror movies are so much fun to write about? Are there this many blogs dedicated to romantic comedies? I somehow doubt it.

Anyway, there are several memes going around on these blogs, and I’ve decided to throw my hat in the ring for one of them. The Horror Digest kicked it all off July 1st with their Top Ten Willy Inducing Moments, then invited the rest of the Internets to chime in.

As Horror Digest author Andre Dumas stated in her original post: “PLEASE NOTE these are willy inducing MOMENTS and not necessarily movies.” With that in mind, here is my personal list of movie scenes that scared the crap out of me. I left off childhood traumas, with the exception of a few scenes that still creep me out today (The Shining). Instead, I chose to focus on scenes that have frightened me fairly recently. I also did not include scenes that were simply gross or disturbing. Anyone can depict sadism or violence onscreen, but it takes something special to make a jaded viewer like myself jump or look away from the screen in sheer fright.

Most importantly, these scenes have all stuck in my subconscious, and come back to haunt me long after I was done watching the films in question.

I guess I’ll list them in chronological order. Most of these have appeared on other lists at this point, but hopefully I will have something unique to say about some of them.

A note about spoilers: I’ve tried not to include any. I also chose pictures that didn’t necessarily depict the scary scenes mentioned. If you want to look up the scenes yourself, there are plenty of pics and videos out there. But I suggest watching the entire films instead. At night. In the dark…

Without further ado:

Foggy Notion

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , on July 6, 2010 by roarvis

It’s a rainy, overcast day in Los Angeles. While there may or may not be actual fog, it feels foggy. On days like this, especially when they crop up unexpectedly in July, I always think of the fictional town of Antonio Bay from John Carpenter‘s classic 1980 film The Fog.

Antonio Bay was supposed to be located in Northern California, although the film was shot mainly in Altadena (near Los Angeles). Carpenter did a great job creating mood, and showing how the arrival of the fog itself physically changed the town. This sunny Californian location suddenly seemed like a chilly New England fishing village.

I’m always on the lookout for other horror films that drip with atmosphere, especially if it’s of the rainy, foggy variety. There are a lot of classic films that open with fantastic shots of old castles in the rain, but it’s harder to find movies that sustain that atmosphere for the entire film. I guess it would be impractical or impossible to have it rain throughout the entire shoot. Still, I know that such films exist, somewhere.

Perhaps you, the reader, have a favorite rainy day Gothic* horror you’d like to share?

I’d like to open this blog up to some interaction. I’ll list a few movies or scenes that capture the “vibe” I’m going for, and if anyone can chime in with further suggestions, that would be great. Feel free to de-lurk, un-stalk, or just plain show up for the first time. Even though this is a relatively tiny and obscure blog, I have been getting some traffic lately, so I know I’m not just howling into the void anymore. Let’s see if we can get at least five different people to add a film to this list.

Here’s mine:

1. The Fog (1980)
The undisputed champion of thick, wet atmosphere. Not even recent outings like The Mist come close (although I did like that one).

2. The Legend of Hell House (1973)
This film has one of the best opening scenes of all time, in my opinion. The arrival of the characters to the famously haunted house is brilliantly filmed, and features an old castle, a black cat, tons of fog, and Roddy McDowall! Sadly, it’s mostly downhill from there.

3. Suspiria (1977)
Another classic intro, as Jessica Harper travels to the Black Forest Academy for Girls (or whatever it’s called) amid torrents of pouring rain. This might be Dario Argento‘s best moment as a visual stylist, as neon lights refract through the sheets of rain and paint the screen in a glorious mockery of Christmas lights. Things go all barbed wire and maggots once she arrives, and I’ve personally always felt that the rest of the movie was a let down. Still, one of the best atmospheric openers to any horror film.

4. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
This is a film that I love from start to finish. But the opening scene on the Moors is almost like a perfect film in and of itself. The scene of David and Jack walking through the rain and fog as unearthly howls get louder and louder around them is both frightening and hilarious. Things get a bit more straightforward once David returns to London, but the opening scene (filmed in Wales) remains an effective example of Gothic horror atmosphere.

OK, there’s four. Let’s hear some more from the peanut gallery. They can be individual scenes or whole movies. I’m also willing to check out films that stray from my “comfort zone” of 1972 to 1982 (although that was the golden age of horror in my completely subjective opinion).

*Strictly speaking, The Fog may not qualify as Gothic in the traditional literary sense. Someone might need to invent a better word for this type of film. Perhaps “fogthic”?