Kristin Dearborn's Blog
May 13, 2014
November 10, 2013
Every time horror-minded folks get together, someone sparks a discussion about whether zombies, vampires and werewolves are headed the way of the dodo. Are the familiar tropes too tired, too used up? We’re pretty saturated on these monsters, but I have to say, it’s for a good reason. When handled well, they are unstoppable.
Nikki Hopeman’s first novel, Habeas Corpse, has been described by Michael Arnzen as “DEXTER meets Deadite”. Theo Walker isn’t your normal zombie, and Habeas Corpse isn’t your normal zombie novel. As a general rule, I hate sentient zombies. I like my zombies to be mindless and hungry. Theo, though, is as close to a normal guy as you can get. He goes to work as a forensic technician, comes home where he lives with his folks, and plays Call of Duty in zombie mode to relax. The only catch is that he’s been dead for twelve years. A series of gruesome murders piques his attention, and he must use a rather…unusual…psychic skill to solve them.
The book touches on stereotypes and prejudice, and the troubles that any minority has to deal with. Hopeman’s attention to detail of all things forensic make Theo’s adventures seem very real. She explores, without being heavy handed, what it means to live your life. There are explorations on what makes someone human, and what humanity is worth. And the book has some perfect gross outs. One scene in particular turned my stomach in ways that make me want to give the author a high five.
If you’re maxed out on zombies, check this one out. It’s reminiscent of Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lingqvist going for a playful romp with CSI. Go on and meet Theo. He’s very excited to meet you.
October 31, 2013
To celebrate Halloween, I went to see Nosferatu at one of our local theaters. I have seen this one before, but I’d never seen it like this. A live band performed a new score for the film. It was fantastic! The Andrew Alden Ensemble performed the score, and it was way better than just catching the movie on DVD. Having musicians in the room infused the performance with emotion and a new kind of excitement. Apparently the original score was lost, and subsequent re-creations have all been reverse engineered from the 1922 film.
An iconic, creepy image from the film
I can appreciate this movie for what it is—groundbreaking, the first time audiences really saw vampires. The imagery is top notch, and it’s neat to see a movie that’s almost 100 years old. The point-of-view shots are great, some of the shadow play that they do with Count Orlock’s twisted figure is awesome. That said, the pacing really doesn’t work for me. I respect it, and I think everyone should check it out (preferably with the live music). But I don’t especially enjoy it, and I feel guilty about that.
He's a little goofy looking, but the way he moves makes it work in the movie.
Every instance you’ve ever seen about a vampire being killed by the sun hearkens back to this movie. In Dracula, the sun only weakens him. They made the change to death by sunlight so they could say their movie was different from Dracula. It makes you wonder about some of these legends we horror fans hold so dear. One little twist in one movie has altered vampire cannon. It becomes easy, when seen through that lens, to see how people with tuberculosis could have been thought of as vampires in early New England.
Even though I missed a movie (I was so good for so long) this film wraps up my 31 days of terror. Over the weekend I’ll throw together a list of my TOP 50 horror movies for everyone to pick apart and dissect. Thanks for hanging with me this October, and we’ll do this again next year! (Though the list of horror movies I haven’t seen and want to see gets smaller and smaller.) In the queue for next year: Dracula 1931, Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 5: The Return of Leatherface, and Prom Night.
October 30, 2013
I’m a day behind We may have a final movie on Friday to round out the 31 days of horror.
Creepy kids are always a good time!
Both Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB gave this one pretty low scores and I’m not entirely sure why. It wasn’t breathtaking or mind blowing, it wasn’t the scariest thing I’ve seen this month, but I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the film.
Obligatory scary bathtub scene. (Can't beat Nightmare on Elm St's)
The year is 1921 and England is reeling from the 1-2 punch of the Spanish flu and WWI. Florence has made a name for herself debunking hoaxes, and she is called to a boys’ school where a kiddo died—scared to death by a ghost. Is the school haunted? Is Flo going nuts? Is someone out to get her? Florence is an interesting character because she begins the movie so focused and so adamant in her beliefs. It’s fascinating to watch her beliefs change, and watch her cope with the changes. Also–Bran Stark is in it.
Lots of period ghost hunting apparatus. What fun.
The dramatic conclusion isn’t ground breaking or particularly unique, and it wasn’t as clean as one might like, but its heart is in the right place. This is a BBC film, and is handled with great dignity. The setting, the time and the place, reminded me of Alejandro Amenabar’s The Others and Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone. No matter what’s going on on screen, war is the real villain, and its weight is present in every scene.
I'm a sucker for Gothic horror stories set in places like this one. Filmed on location at the Manderston House. (Last night I dreamed I went to Manderly again.)
October 28, 2013
Spoilers, yo. In high school English, I learned about the three types of conflict. Man v. Man. Man v. Self. And Man v. Nature. Horror movies take a decidedly “green” turn when they pit man against the environment, usually in the form of many paying for the sins of pollution. These have been around since nuclear blasts woke Godzilla from his slumber in the Pacific, since genetically altered piranha took to the Lost River water park.
Maybe don't drink the water. Or go near the water.
The Bay is directed by Academy Award winner Barry Levinson. It’s a found footage film about how dumping agricultural waste into Chesapeake Bay has unforeseen consequences which come to a head on the 4th of July. Dread Central gave it 4/5 bloody knives, and Rotten Tomatoes has it at 77% on the tomatometer. Sadly, only 44% of audiences liked it. I was a part of that other 56%. We’re all burned out on found footage movies. This one is marginally clever—after the outbreak the cdc/military/whoever confiscated all the cameras, phones, and footage. There was a government leak, and a reporter who was there has cobbled them all together into this documentary. Here’s the thing. They always have some clever excuse to hang on to the cameras. I used to say I didn’t mind found footage, that I even liked it, but this month’s 3 found footage films didn’t crank my motor. I’m tired of it.
Ah, boils. We don't see enough of those these days.
This movie featured the sleazy mayor, the plucky girl reporter, the doctor bravely standing in the face of infection, the oceanologists, the pair of deputies, and the wealthy couple with a newborn. The infection starts with boils and gets much worse. Too often the characters tell us what’s scary and why, not giving us a chance to feel it with them. Found footage films are locked into a certain formula, and by now we know what that formula is. I wonder if I would feel different about this one if I hadn’t watched Rec 2 last night. Filmmakers took the environmentalist message and really beat viewers over the head with it. There was a lot of repetition of sound bites and images.
And finally, because I'm a jerk, meet the villain.
October 27, 2013
I really enjoyed both [Rec] and Quarantine, its Americanized remake. They were delightfully claustrophobic, and the reporter tagging along with the fire department gave the shaky-cam a good reason for being there. We had interesting characters, and a well-trodden but solid premise. [Rec]2picks up moments after [Rec]finishes. A GEO (Groupo Especial de Operaciones, AKA Spanish SWAT team) team, with cameras on helmets, escorts an official from the Ministry of Health into the quarantined apartment building. Surprise! The ministry of health official is really a priest, and the virus is demonic in origin. In order to cure the plague and create an antidote, they need blood from patient zero, Tristana Medieros. The rest of the movie is essentially spent running around screaming and shouting.
Both of these people are making very loud noises with their mouths.
There are many horror movies where the audience scoffs “that’s not realistic, no one would ever act like that” as heroes and heroines keep a cool head and off zombies with panache. [Rec]2is much more realistic in that pretty much everyone is screaming through the entire film. I can respect WHY they’re screaming, likely I would be too, but that doesn’t mean I want to watch it for an hour and a half. The characterization is nil, and there were some characters where I wasn’t actually sure what had happened to them. I read a summary, and all it says was they were locked in a room. Am I to infer they survived? Who knows.
The biggest plus for the film was bringing magic back to the zombies. If I got it right, the virus in the movie came from drawing the blood from Tristana Mederios while she was possessed. So it’s a virus, but it’s also demonic in nature. Bringing a little of the supernatural back to zombies. I thought that was pretty cool. Also, the final imagery of the movie, which I won’t spoil here, is something I find awesome and terrifying and have used in a few pieces of my own fiction. I didn’t feel that that balanced out the quasi video game feel (first person POV looking down the barrel of a gun) and the repetitive nature of the sets. That said…I’m still pretty curious to see what happens in [Rec]3 Genesis.
Ah, the intersection of science and religion.
October 26, 2013
I got behind again, but with this post I’ll be all caught up! Today was a cold, rainy, Vermont Saturday, and I managed to squeeze in a double header.
Just out for an evening stroll.
First up was Eduardo Sanchez’ Lovely Molly. I loved Blair Witch (much scarier in the theater than on home video) and I think Altered is one of the most underrated flicks out there. Lovely Molly was good. It had a lot of nice scares, it set the titular character up as an unreliable narrator, and it relied only passingly on her hand held video camera. It wasn’t a perfect movie, but the characters were good, the gross outs fucking nasty, and the scares were tight. Whenever I go into a horror movie, I go in with pretty low expectations. They tend to star strong, with scares and atmosphere, but then when you get into the what and the how they start to fall apart. I’m happy to report that this one stayed strong to the pleasantly vague ending.
Worst. Kiss. Ever.
Molly and Tim are newlyweds, and they move into Molly’s dead parents’ imposing stone house which sometimes seems like it’s in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes seems to have close neighbors. Tim is a truck driver, and is away frequently. Things go smoothly until one night when the couple’s alarm system is triggered. It seems like someone was in the house, but the police can find no evidence. Tim goes off on his next trip, and Molly is left alone. Spooky things start happening, and the movie chips away at Molly and her sister’s backstory. I thought the pacing was particularly tight as puzzle pieces fell together. A lot of the movie was left ambiguous, which I rather enjoy.
Someone maybe watched Bambi a few too many times.
Next up was Dead Snow. Nazi zombies. I could leave the blog post at that and not go into any further detail. But I won’t…
What more needs to be said? Nothing. We could end here.
This one has been in my Netflix queue for a very long time. A group of Norwegian medical students go for Easter vacation in the Norwegian alps. They get some beers, they have a nice secluded cabin…what could go wrong, am I right?
That's going to leave a mark.
You know what can, and did, go wrong. A character stumbles through to give some exposition on the Nazi presence in WWII, then leaves. Later that night, the zombies attack. There is nothing new here. Nothing clever or creative. The plot is almost painful in its incredulity. Who cares? Nazi zombies. If you show up to a Nazi zombie movie for the plot or the characters, you’re not going to have a good time. This movie was created as a loving homage to Dead Alive, Evil Dead, Shaun of the Dead and all the other zombie flicks that have come before it. Steve felt that it stumbled past homage to rip off in parts, but I thought it was done with reverence. This movie is a tremendous gore fest—lots of blood, lots of dismemberment, and lots and lots and lots of intestines. I mean, lots of intestines. This is a good flick for a time when you don’t want to think and you don’t want to care. Just sit back, put your feet up, and watch the blood spray. And because why not?, Dead Snow 2 is coming in 2014.
Yep. They're hanging from some intestines.
October 25, 2013
I’ve read the H.G. Wells novel, I’ve seen and read Memoirs of an Invisible Man (which it TOTALLY underrated), and I thought Hollow Man was pretty good, but I’d never seen this one before. This is my third James Whale film this month, and I have to say, I really dig him! Like Frankenstein, the character of the Invisible Man is so entrenched in pop culture it’s hard to objectively look at this film. For some reason, the darkness of this movie surprised me. Dr. Jack Griffin (the titular invisible man) descends delightfully into madness.
It's not easy being invisible.
The effects are fantastic, and not just for a movie that’s 80 years old. When Griffin is mostly naked, his remaining clothes were rigged up with wires, but when he’s partially dressed, Claude Rains was dressed in a black velvet suit and shot against a black velvet background.
Care for a smoke?
I love the way the weather plays almost a character in the movie, as an antagonist to Griffin. He must be naked to be invisible, and the cold temperatures make that hard for him. Also, snow shows off his footprints and lands on his head and his shoulders. (Though in the final scene, his foot prints in the snow are shoe prints, not bare feet!)
Rains was chosen for this role because he has a very clear speaking voice, very important for a n actor who’s not actually on screen for most of the film. Though his character is in almost every scene, we only get to see his face in the final moment of the film, as he passes away.
This is a great classic, and it’s worth the quick run time of 71 minutes to watch it!
October 23, 2013
No, not the ale. The 1988 horror movie. We all know that country folk and city folk don’t mix, and Pumpkinhead is just another example of why not. Lance Hendrickson and his son Billy are doing great with their beloved dog (who does NOT die!). Then some city people come to ride dirt bikes and hang out in a cabin. One mean dude’s been drinking and accidentally mortally wounds Billy with his dirt bike. Lance Hendrickson isn’t taking that shit lying down, so he brings Billy to a witch to have him brought back to life. Cause THAT never backfires. Witch can’t do that, but she can get revenge. She summons the titular Pumpkinhead, and wackiness ensues, just the kind you might imagine when teenagers are hanging out in a rural cabin.
This was…not one of the best films I’ve seen. The whole thing felt a little lifeless and mediocre. The kids had VERY little in terms of character development, and it wasn’t even particularly fun or rewarding to watch them die. I did like the design for Pumpkinhead—no surprise there, as Stan Winston directed. It resembles the Alien pretty strongly in the way it moves and how it’s all long and spindly. This was sort of how I pictured Rawhead Rex in the Clive Barker tale. I also enjoyed that Pumpkinhead liked picking people up by the head. I leave you with the Pumpkinhead poem, by Ed Justin:
Keep away from Pumpkinhead,
Unless you’re tired of living,
His enemies are mostly dead,
He’s mean and unforgiving,
Laugh at him and you’re undone,
But in some dreadful fashion,
Vengeance, he considers fun,
And plans it with a passion,
Time will not erase or blot,
A plot that he has brewing,
It’s when you think that he’s forgot,
He’ll conjure your undoing,
Bolted doors and windows barred,
Guard dogs prowling in the yard,
Won’t protect you in your bed,
Nothing will, from Pumpkinhead.
October 22, 2013
One time, many years ago, at a party, I saw the second half of Slither with the sound off. I always meant to get back to watching it, to see what the beginning was like, to see what the audio was like. I just never got around to it. Until today. I spent a good part of the film trying to remember what I’d recently seen Elizabeth Banks in (answer: 30 Rock. I also hadn’t realized she was Lindsey in Wet Hot American Summer.) Michael Rooker was in the film too, playing Merle from Walking Dead (who dressed a little like Walter White). Nathan Fillion played Nathan Fillion. This movie was just plain fun, created with tongue firmly in cheek. You could just tell that there were a million shots ruined by giggles. There are lots of shout-outs to famous horror flicks, and we got the creepiest bathtub scene since Nightmare on Elm Street. I like a movie with a hive mind bad guy—it’s such an alien concept that it’s often fun to explore.
Violet Beauregarde? Is that you?
That said, the film doesn’t have much substance behind its gory and curse-filled whimsy. It reminded me a lot of Tremors, but in a way that just makes me want to go watch Tremors. At times it’s a little much, and you kind of wish it would decide what kind of movie it wants to be. Also, I’ve been bitching about all the dogs dying? Lots of pets bite it in this one, though mercifully all offstage.
Full disclosure: I love slugs. I think they’re adorable. When I went to Oregon as a kid one of the highlights was playing with the banana slugs. I thought the little fellers cavorting around in this movie were pretty cute. The little squeaking noises only made them cuter.
Awww...look at the little cute-ums going for a tubby...