Someone's in the house. He's watching. He's creeping round, only you can't see him. He's watching you from the walls. He's right behind you now. Looking over your shoulder. He wants the remote control. He's a bad boy. He wants to watch bad movies. Bad bad Ronald...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

POPCEREAL REVIEW: Home for the Holiday (1972 TV)

I've got your present for you. It's a pitchfork!! In your back!!!
The four Morgan sisters reunite, after nine years, as they visit their ailing father.  There is the youngest, Christine (played by a young Sally Fields, fresh off her run as The Flying Nun), an naive innocent college girl, who still depends on her big sisters; Jo (Jill Haworth) the feisty socialite, Fred (Jessica Walter, who was killer in Play Misty for Me, just a year earlier) along with her bottles of vodka, and Alex (Eleanor Parker) the older, mother-hen spinster.
Don't look at him, whatever you do

They've been summoned to their childhood ranch estate by their father (the ever enjoyable Walter Brennan), who is convinced that his new wife (the creepy Julie Harris) is trying to poison him.  Her first husband died under mysterious circumstances, and now the sisters are worried that she is targeting their father's money.  To make matters more difficult, there is a terrible December thunderstorm a-brewing.  Trapped in their secluded childhood home, the sisters keep an eye open for their suspicious stepmother, and open some scabbed over wounds from their own dysfunctional past.
Killer Graphic Tee

Oh... and let's not forget the maniacal killer, dressed in a yellow rain slicker and boots, and red rubber gloves, carrying a pitchfork!

Produced by the dream team of Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg, this TV Movie is already a must see. But then you throw in John Llewellyn Moxey -- the best TV Movie of the Week director ever(!), well, then you just have a hit on your hands.

Oh yeah, Michael Myers.  I got your number.

I can still remember the first time I watched this Yuletide creeper.  It's probably the first slasher flick I ever watched.  Sadly, though, in the pantheon on modern horror, there is no mention of this small screen gem.  Halloween has already been established as the original slasher flick, and has been widely credited for setting the standards and motifs.  Horror buffs will also look back a couple years previous to Black Christmas, and credit that film for establishing the guidelines for all others.  But, no one ever talks about Home for the Holidays.  Clearly, HFTH is well set in the Made for Television vein, with the old fashioned "ladies in distress" theme, and Gothic thriller overtones.  It doesn't compare to the youthful. angsty and lusty predecessors, with their shocks and sex.  But, check out the killer donned in the slasher style garb!

If we all know one thing about slasher flicks, it's that the killer is always masked, his/her identity hidden from the viewer.  HFTH has that motif down pat, and it predates Halloween by a half dozen years (Black Christmas by two years).

Actually, this argument is somewhat of a moot point, seeing that the Italian Giallo pictures had killers running around in rain slickers and gloves long before Spelling and Goldberg decided to make this film

Thursday, December 9, 2010

PEEPHOLE REVIEW: And Soon the Darkness (2010)

Odette Yustman fulfills her contractual agreement -- that of having her butt cheeks featured prominently in a bad movie.
Which way outa this movie?
Comparing this Hollywood remake to its original British predecessor would be like placing Dolly Parton next to a 5th Grader and asking the little school girl not to have a complex.  It's just plain not fair!  Not that the remake would fare any better, being critiqued on its own merits.  The original was brought to the screen by the creative team who behind the incredibly imaginative and unique 60s British TV spy series The Avengers.  the remake was brought to the screen by the creative team of... a pile of short films.

The two perky mod British girls, of the original, are replaced by two perky American college girls (played by Amber Heard and Odette Yustman), and the rural countryside that thy bicycle through has moved from France to Argentina (golly gee, tourists terrorized in the wilds of South America -- how original).  Like a cookie cutout, the remake follows the original plot lines:  the girls find themselves in a small village where other female travelers have gone missing, they run into a handsome stranger who appears to be following them, the girls have a tiff and separate. and help is found from the local law officer.  But, the comparisons stop there.  Clever character twists, nuanced direction and imaginative storytelling have all been traded in, like an American girl for white slavery, for standard college buddy horror fare. 
"Seriously, I am the poor man's Megan Fox.:
Heard and Yustman are asked to not much more than look good in their summer minis and bikini.  Their performances are about as standard as can be -- Heard is the "nice" girl who shyly bats her eyes at the cute American stranger, and Yustman is the flirty bad" girl, who plays up the frat boy hi-jinks with an embarrassingly modicum talent for humor.  Ironically, Heard is tagged as a producer on this movie, which makes me wonder why she didn't demand some better development for these characters. Why, upon hearing about the strange disappearances of other college age tourists, would these young ladies then strut into the local watering hole, inhabited by all locals, wearing their sexiest dresses, and then grind on the male patrons, while singing along to The Divinyls' "I Touch Myself?"  After this act of idiocy, it's hard to care what happens next to these brainless kids.

And what does happen next is straight out of every other Tourists Beware!! movie that's come out in the past few years.
What's my motivation?
I don't understand how some people can defend remakes, when movies like this are the common result.  The took the skeleton of a great, nuanced, witty and terrifying movie, and then boil off all the meat.  What many producers fail to realize is that it's not the story that makes a good film good, but the storytelling. The original 1970 production was a perfect gem of quiet suspense, built on good pacing and characters.  And Soon the Darkness 2010 is merely a pointless regurgitation of Saw and Hostel gimmicks.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I little bit ago, I dished out some free copies of Revolver's release of Shank.  I asked the winners if they would give a review of the flick, just for funtime sakes.  Here's Michal Zombie's review, from over at his My Zombie Life blog.

"So in the not too distant past I won a online contest run by I.m. BadRonald for a copy of the movie Shank. Its a British movie about a post apocalyptic London in the year 2015 where gangs run the streets and its a fight for survival. Cool, sounds like The Warriors or A Clockwork Orange so far. . . and that's about the only nice thing I'm going to say about the movie....:

That was a small taste.  Go read the rest here...