Tuesday, September 29, 2009
1) The Haunting in Connecticut
This was a movie that was of particular interest to me for a handful of reasons:
a) I like ghost stories that are supposedly true.
b) I like ghost stories, period.
c) I lived in Connecticut for a couple years and can vouch for it being an atmospherically eerie place.
d) I saw a Discovery Channel documentary based on this same case, and it's one of the scariest shows I've seen to this day. I hoped the movie would be equally scary and shed additional light on the actual case.
Well, the movie was decent. Being casually familiar with this haunting case, it was clear to me when Hollywood stepped into the story and inserted manufactured plot and scares. None of this was necessary, and frankly they did a lot of it.
There was this whole subplot of a kid puking ectoplasm during seances and cadavers being buried within the walls of the house. This was not part of the 'actual' happenings, and it was all so implausible that it made the movie less scary.
What made the Discovery Channel documentary so eerie is that it all seemed like it could have happened. This movie version pulled a "Spinal Tap" and took it to 11. In my opinion, real scares are all about subtlety. (For a subtle, but totally creepy ghost story, see "The Innocents.")
Overall, "Connecticut Haunting" did supply enough creep factor and jumps to make the ride worth it. I'd recommend it for those who like scary movies, and not for those who don't. Anna seemed to barely get through it and only watched it because I wanted to see it.
My rating: 3.5 out of 5
Next up, I dived into a couple classics, both offerings from Hammer Film Productions. Hammer was a studio that went about producing horror films, including remaking a lot of the horror classics that Universal Studios had already canonized on film like Dracula and Frankenstein. What you got from the Hammer versions was simply an updated take on the stories. While most of Universal's monster films were made in the '30s, Hammer's glory days were mainly in the '60s and '70s. So, you have slightly better effects and Technicolor. Instead of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, you get Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.
2) Of the two Hammer films I watched, one was "The Mummy." I have to confess, my history with any mummy movies is spotty. I've seen the new offerings with Brenden Frasier, which I think are actually pretty good. I don't think I've seen any of Karloff's old Universal versions, though I've seen documentaries and clips from them.
So, I have only a little context for the generic Mummy story. Hammer's version stars Christopher Lee as the mummy, and he plays the role of some Egyptian priest (who becomes the mummy) in some flashback sequences. Peter Cushing plays one part of a trio of archeologists who are the target of the mummy's wrath.
The movie was pretty good. It was definitely dated, but the mummy himself was pretty cool looking. The movie dragged in some parts (no pun intended), but overall it was pretty entertaining. It is a good candidate for a 10-year-old's slumber party movie: scary, but not overly gory requiring parental supervision. If you're any sort of aficionado of horror or supernatural suspense, check this one out just for fun. If not, you probably would not enjoy it.
My rating: 3 out of 5
3) The second Hammer classic I checked out was "The Horror of Dracula." This was Hammer's first and official remake of Dracula. (There would be several sequels, including this campy classic.) So, it features the characters you expect from a classic Dracula tale: Count Dracula, Jonathan Harker, Mina, Lucy, Dr. Van Helsing. The Count is played by Christopher Lee and Van Helsing by Peter Cushing.
Stoker's original novel is one of my favorite books, so I find it annoying and yet hilarious when I see how different adaptations screw around with the roles of the main characters. This one was no different staging Jonathan Harker as a vampire hunter pretending to be a librarian who has offered his Dewey-Decimal skills to the Count. Harker is also Van Helsings partner in vamp hunting crime. There were other character twists as well, not worth going into.
What's missing from this movie, IMO, is the ambiance of other good Dracula movies. While Universal's Dracula has its flaws, its nothing if not macabre. The black & white, the true eastern-European accent of Lugosi, the creepy, barren castle, etc.
I wasn't buying Dracula's castle in this version: not creepy enough. The less Lee spoke, the better I liked him as Dracula. There was one scene where Lee had a lot of dialogue and it seemed strange and made it hard for me to believe this gabby gentleman was Dracula. In another scene he (quite mortally) jumps over a table, which again was hard to imagine Dracula doing; Dracula doesn't need to chase anyone. They run away while he calmly walks after them and somehow still catches up to them, or else he turns into a bat or wolf or something.
Otherwise, the movie was cool. If you're any kind of sentimental Dracula fan, this one is worth watching and you'll be modestly entertained.
My rating: 4 out of 5
Friday, September 25, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
This competition gives you a genre, object and location and you have 48 hours to write and submit a 1000-word story based on those characteristics. Here was my final assignment:
- Genre - fantasy
- Object to include - a kitten
- Location - a car wash
Win or lose, this was my final entry. The competition has been a blast. Best of luck to my fellow contestants!
The squealing of tires broke the serenity of the scorching summer night on the small, rural main street. A small blue sedan scraped the front of its bumper spraying a flash of sparks as it lunged into the parking lot from off the street. The car fishtailed, straightened out, then accelerated out of the darkness into the fluorescent glow of a self-serve stall in Squishy’s Car Wash.
The commotion had already caught the attention of the crowds hanging out across the street at Earl’s Shake Shack and the patrons gassing up next door.
Kyle threw open the door of his faded blue and rusted VW.
“Get out! Now!” he yelled at his passenger while fishing in his pockets for change.
He ran over to the self-serve console and plunked in a handful of pocket lint-laced coins. A young woman stepped out of the car and leaned against the damp slump-block wall inside the bay. In her slender, feeble fingers she held a ginger-striped tabby kitten.
As he deposited the last coin, the bay lurched to life as water filled the hose. Kyle grabbed the pistol-like nozzle and drew it from its metal holster riveted into the wall.
“Hold still!” he yelled as he took aim at the young woman holding the feline. Before he pulled the trigger the animal leapt from her hands and scampered out into the parking lot beyond the buzz of the lights.
“Forget about him!” Kyle commanded.
He pulled the trigger sending a burst of foam that covered the young woman, head to toe, dowsing her yellow sundress. She screamed in agony as the soap attacked her eyes.
Kyle cursed, ran back to the console, and switched the dial from Super Suds to Power Rinse.
“Look at me! Keep your eyes open!” he said, taking aim again, and blasting her with a stream of mist and jetted water.
Vapor filled the car bay making it glow warmly in the night. Up and down her body he sprayed the stream as the soap dissolved, diluted and ran down her legs, and off her bare toes.
Kyle’s voice broke as he screamed, “Turn around!”
Embarrassed and looking like a drowned rat, she turned around and put her delicate hands on the bumpy brick wall.
Kyle again pointed the nozzle at her.
THWAK! A fist struck Kyle’s jaw sending a shock of pain through each tooth and down his neck like white-hot wires digging into his nerves.
“What the hell are you doing!?” said a heavily-bearded man rubbing the knuckles of his right hand. His friends cheered and slapped him on the back of his sleeveless flannel shirt.
Kyle pushed himself off the wet concrete floor and got to one knee. “No… you don’t understand….”
A crowd had gathered outside the wash bay.
“I don’t, huh? I know a ‘Class A’ dill munch when I see one. I ought to break your neck!” the man said, wiping off his bald head with one hand and still clenching a fist with the other.
The young woman screamed and fell to the ground grabbing her feet. The crowd turned their attention from Kyle to her. She was curled in a ball rubbing her shins.
“What have you done to her?” said the bearded man turning back to Kyle, and burying his steal-toed boot into Kyle’s gut. The crowd reacted with a collective “Ohhhhhh.”
“Leave him alone,” said the young woman with a meek whisper.
Still curled in the fetal position, she winced and buried her head into her forearms.
“Oh my gosh, look!” someone from the crowd said pointing at the young woman.
The flesh on the insides of her legs had opened as if invisible claws had ripped the skin apart. Blood mixed with the soapy water and trickled underneath the car. Like a zipper slowly coming together, the open flesh from both legs fused from her thighs, past her knees and down her shins. Translucent scales painfully pierced her skin and grew in in tight layers. Where there were perfect feet just moments before, there was now a fish tail, displayed like a fan made of smooth, yellow carnival glass.
“Stand back,” said an onlooker.
Another shrieked, “She’s a monster!”
“Go away!” said Kyle, now standing, hunched over holding his abdomen with one hand and the spray nozzle in the other.
The crowd parted between Kyle and the mysterious girl. He resumed the spray of water on her frail body. Before their eyes, the fresh water began to hold back, then reverse, her transformation. One appendage transformed back to two, and scales began to melt away like ice on a hot sidewalk.
Suddenly, there came a chirping sound, then another. Kyle and the crowd looked behind them. The red digital numbers on the console flashed eight seconds left.
“Quick! Someone put in another quarter!” Kyle yelled.
The bearded man, who just a minute earlier had beaten Kyle to the edge of consciousness, dug in his pocket. The clock continued ticking.
With two seconds left, and the water pressure weakening, the bearded man shoved a quarter in. A full-force stream resumed.
For the next thirty seconds the group watched, speechless.
When the water supply finally ended, Kyle dropped the nozzle, walked over and pulled the young woman, now healthy and whole, up gently by the hand. Clearly in a weakened state, and drenched from head to toe, she tenderly stepped back into the passenger side with his help.
As the crowd still stood in awe, Kyle ran to the driver’s side, hopped in, started the car, hit the gas and peeled out into the night.
The crowd walked out from the bay and watched the taillights disappear down the road.
The bearded man felt something strange under his foot. He pulled it away and looked down.
At his feet was a sunfish, gasping for air in a pile of ginger tabby hair.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I was bumping around on Twitter a month or two ago and found this guy named @mumblyjoe. He has this Web site where he archives his photography. Over the years, he has shot this cool series of burning Jack 'o lanterns, like this:
Check out the rest of them here on geekus.org. Check out the different photos in the "Fire" section.
Friday, September 11, 2009
So I soaked in a trio of B-rated doosies.
First up was "I, Monster."
This film starred the always-regal Christopher Lee. The movie was a take on the classic Jeckyll & Hyde story. In fact, it was literally that story with the names simply changed. I've heard Lee say he's not too pleased with that movie, but I didn't think it was horrible. I've not read the book, but from what I've read about this movie, it's actually the closest adaptation of the book, even compared to movies that do bear the Jeckyll & Hyde name.
Movie rating: 4/10
Adjusted B-rating rank: 7/10
Next up was "Astro Zombies."
This movie was much more in the traditional B-film mold. To be honest, I don't even really know what it was about. It was sort of a police drama of detectives following the trail of a suspected serial killer. It turns out that the killer(s) are "space zombies," which is just reanimated dead folks whose brains are being controlled by others' minds or something to that effect. Either way, the show was pure camp. It was horrible but hilarious. I didn't realize until the end that the zombies were not supposed to look like they were wearing cheap alien skull masks. We were to believe that that is what they looked like. The movie also featured camp-film princess Tura Satana (yes, her real name).
Movie rating: 5/10
Adjusted B-rating rank: 8.5/10
Last up for this trifecta of terrible was "Psycho A Go-Go."
Once again, I'm not totally sure what this was about. In general, it was about a jewel heist that went bad and the leader of the gangster mob sent his henchmen after the family that accidentally ended up with the jewels in their possession. After the fact, I realized that one of the henchmen (who incidentally was abnormally crazy, even for a Hollywood henchman), was supposed to be some sort of war vet with emotional issues. I guess he was the 'psycho' part of the movie title. The 'go-go' part had to do with the female protagonist who was a singer in a classic 60's go-go club. The movie was like "The Shining" meets "Ocean's 11."
Move rating: 3/10
Adjusted B-rating rank: 6/10
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
His sentiments are my own as college football, and more specifically Utah Ute football starts...tonight!