Another week, another horror fest. Since my husband was out of town, my mom and sister ventured to my home, a harrowing experience indeed. Between building a lovely tent for the munchkins (kids still love it, Brea) and leaving Mom alone with the pint-sized demons while Brea and I rented movies (kids already miss you, Nana), we had a great time. Mikey was psyched to watch a zombie flick, so we began our evening with the horror spoof, Dead and Breakfast. (And by the way, I only let my son watch the funny zombie movies, never the scary ones. He absolutely adores Shaun of the Dead.)
Dead and Breakfast
I’m really glad we began with this one. Since the kids were noisily eating their dinner, it would have been difficult to “get into” a serious horror film (not that we would have watched a really scary film with the kids around) and this movie is far from it. Rather, this film turns the whole idea of horror-spoofing on its ear.
Set in Texas (albeit a strange, Canadian type of Texas were everyone calls everyone else “friend;” remember, I’m from Texas so I should know what we call people), in a small town called Lovelock, six friends on their way to a wedding decide to stop at a Bed and Breakfast and rest up for the night. The hostel owner, played by David Carradine, ends up murdering the weird French chef in the night, played by Diedrich Bader. Then he dies of a heart attack. (The two biggest stars in the film dead in the first ten minutes. You’d think this spells disaster, but it really doesn’t. Sadly, I would’ve like to have seen more of Diedrich. He’s pretty darn funny.)
Now the six strangers are stuck in the town while the Sheriff “investigates the, uh, investigation.” Meanwhile a strange drifter shows up that the Sheriff decides to pin the chef’s murder on (but he still won’t allow the friends to head off to the wedding). The Drifter just happens to be chasing down a spirit the dead Bed and Breakfast owner had captured in a box.
The spirit, vicious and sarcastic like most spirits, is accidentally unleashed. Hilarity ensues, including a decapitated head used as a puppet, an entire town of zombie/possessed people, and a rip off Thriller dance number.
The best parts of the film are the brief musical interludes. Zach Selwyn captures the audience with his lyrics; pay close attention, there are some hilarious lines there.
Oz Perkins, son of the infamous Anthony Perkins (better remembered as Norman Bates in Psycho), plays Johnny, the geeky kid who ends up possessed by the violent, evil spirit. He does a great job of being outlandishly wicked, commanding his zombie troops and being an all-around weird villain.
The movie is ridiculously funny, flaunting standard horror movie stunts and pushing them to the extreme. It has a flat moment or two (but those were probably the effect of having 2 kids playing tag and hide & seek during the movie), but the rest of the movie more than makes up for them.
I’m giving it 4 stars, so if you like horror comedies, check it out now.
Wes Craven’s Summer of Fear
Now we’ve come to the old movie of the night.
It was made in 1978, first aired on television and originally titled “Stranger in Our House.” While I know there are a lot of people who hate Wes Craven (or just dislike his movies), I usually find something in any Craven movie that I can enjoy. Really this is out of a deep loyalty. I’ll call something he makes crap if I believe it to be so, but I still won’t hate watching the film. I mean, who doesn’t worship – if only a little bit – the director of the first horror movie they first remember seeing? (Or that sparked one of the worst nightmares of their life?)
The plot of this film is simple: A young girl’s aunt and uncle die, leaving her poor cousin all alone; she moves in with them, and the unthinkable happens. Everyone likes the cousin more than the girl! (Aaaaiiieee!!! How awful!) But everything, of course, is not as it seems.
While it’s definitely a classic 70’s film, and it’s always nice to watch and remember how easily shocked people were back then compared to now, I still don’t think the story itself is all that entertaining. Well, that’s not totally true. It was entertaining enough, providing plenty of fodder for me and my sister’s running commentary, but my mind would get distracted, wondering how I could better write this premise.
There’s only two name actresses in the entire film, Linda Blair and Fran Drescher. Both do a decent job, although Rachel’s (Blair) constant whining would drive a parent to smack their child. (Oops. Was that a spoiler? Maybe.) Fran has only a few minutes of screen time, but you’ll recognize her voice before you EVER see her face. (And proudly, I was the first one to spot her!)
I love the suggestive scenes between the cousin Julia (Lee Purcell) and Rachel’s father, Peter. They’re done tactfully, with nary a dirty word or nudity. Mostly there’s suggestive glances and a few lingering touches.
The best scene of the movie is the catfight between Rachel and Julia. A lot of hair pulling, some crying and eventually, Julia gets these freaky contacts and goes witchy on the other girl.
This is a far cry from classic, but if you’ve exhausted every other film on the horror rack and it’s this or Hostel 2, pick this.
I’m giving it 3 stars.
At first glance, I took this to be a cheap ripoff of Stephen King‘s recent novel, Cell. So I kept avoiding it at the rental store. Eventually I did a little looking up on it online here at wiki and decided to give it a try.
I was completely blown away. While as in most cases, the story could have used some work and there’s a few scenes where my sister and I were shouting advice and throwing … well.. cookies at the screen, the film as a whole is highly entertaining.
The movie takes an unusual path: 3 different directors film 3 different segments.
David Bruckner heads up the first “transmission,” entitled “Crazy in Love.” It begins when a woman must leave her lover’s apartment (though he begs her so sweetly to run away with him) to return home to a controlling, paranoid husband. This is where the trouble begins. A strange, psychedelic transmission has been flooding television, radios and phones everywhere. Some people go nuts, others don’t. At least, for a while. It seems that everyone is affected by “the signal,” though it requires more than just a moment or two of exposure. When the protagonist, Mya, first returns home her husband Lewis and his two friends had been exposed to the signal for a while–as long as it took for her to drive from her lover’s apartment. This act is straight forward horror, with a hint of romance. The viewer will be left with an urge for discussion.
The second transmission, “The Jealousy Monster,” is directed by Dan Bush and changes the tone of the film. Here there’s a strong sense of comedy pervading the horror going on in the background. (And believe me, you need to pay attention to the background.) I found this strangely satisfying. While the first act is terribly heart-thumping and brings to mind the horror inspired by media, this section gives the viewer a breath of fresh air. A few well-timed laughs and some seriously great one liners are sprinkled throughout. A lot of reviewers might think the abrupt change to comedy may well ruin the film, but I’d have to disagree. Through the use of comedy, the director(s) is(are) able to express some of the finer points of the film, by exposing exactly what is going on inside the mind of a “crazy” and how the transmission affects them. By using comedy in these usually ponderous, somber scenes, the director(s) have both gotten the main point across, but with a subtle truth: It’s still just fiction. They remind the viewer to have a light heart and not question the film to death. It’s just entertainment.
The final transmission, “Escape from Terminus,” the city they live in, returns to the somber, horror film of the first act. Directed by Jacob Gentry, it’s got just a few simple touches of humor. Mostly it’s filled with a lot of tense moments and serious on-the-edge-of-your-seat thrills. Again, there is no real explanation of the signal, but its effects on the people is examined closer. The ending is surreal, but will leave you and anyone else you watch it with an urge to discuss it. (At least, I hope so.)
This film is fairly cheaply made, filmed in Atlanta and one of the best independent films I’ve seen in a long time. So check it out. I’m giving it 4.5 stars for originality (they wrote their story before Cell), creativity and entertainment.
And as an interesting tidbit: There was a stabbing incident during a showing of the film in a movie theater in California. This February to be exact. Ironic, no?
I like leaving you with a picture, so here we go…