Movie Review: The EXORCIST

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EXORCISTWarner Bros. Pictures

“Your mother’s in here, Karras. Would you like to leave a message? I’ll see that she gets it.”

Little Regan is a sweet little 12-year-old girl. Little Regan foolishly decided to mess around with the forces of darkness. So now sweet little Regan is possessed by some spirit that calls himself ‘Captain Howdy’. Honestly, all this is still nothing compared to puberty. Anyway, Regan’s mom calls in the priests, and all sorts of wackiness ensues… .

I actually saw this movie when it first came out in the theaters in 1973. I was still in-utero then, mind you, but my mother assures me that I enjoyed the flick. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

It was only recently that I went and saw the Exorcist post-natal, and that was a DVD of the supposed ‘version no one ever saw’, with about 11 minutes added in. Since the last time I saw the movie I had a bunch of embryonic fluid blocking my view of the screen, I really had nothing to compare to the version I saw a few months ago. Doesn’t matter, as the film still holds up nicely for something made all those years ago.

I honestly don’t think this movie could be made in this day and age. Indeed, it hasn’t. Many have tried (compared to the slew of demon-possessed themed movies, The Exorcist still blows them away). It’s not so much that the formula can not be duplicated, it’s more like many make the wrong assumption that The Exorcist is nothing more than head-spinning and pea soup-spewing. Yes, these are the images that first pop up, but this film works because it’s character driven. You grow to care about these people. Outside of the incredible possession scenes (some of which made me cringe), there’s the issue of faith that’s a bit deeper than just “the power of Christ compels you!” Father Karras is a troubled man, struggling with his faith, and it’s this view of a flawed man of God as opposed to a spiritual superman that lends a very personable aspect to the struggle between good and evil.

The Exorcist is a classic. It’s not perfect, but it truly hit a rare nerve in the horror genre. A very smart film, not for everyone, but well worth checking out for a piece of horror history….

Movie Review: The EYE (Gin Gwai)

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EYE [2002]Applause Pictures

Just saw the Japanese flick THE EYE, with Nex. Here’s my assessment of said movie:


Okay, to expound further, just to give a bit of detail, here’s the rundown:

The plot centers around a young woman named Mun Mun (parents were apparently big fans of The Mikado) who’s been blind since she was two years old. She receives a second chance at sight after a successful cornea transplant. All is peachy until some rather interesting side effects begin to manifest- she starts seeing enough dead people to put Haley Joel Osment to shame (kind of makes you want to rethink the whole laser eye surgery thing, huh?). After briefly going insane, she comes to terms with her “condition” after learning that the cornea that was used came from a young lady who was plagued by visions of impending doom. She goes off with her way-too-young psychotherapist to lay to rest this mystery, and wackiness ensues.

Granted, while watching this, I couldn’t help but pick out the various other movie narratives used in this- BODY PARTS, for one, with the transplantation angle, obviously THE 6TH SENSE in the ghostly happenings, and even a key scene from THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES was used. But, to relay an age-old cooking adage: “It’s not the ingredients that makes the food, it’s the cook and how he uses the kitchen.” And I’ll be damned if this thing isn’t the tastiest ghost story I’ve ever lain eyes on (no pun intended). First off, the staging and the visual execution of the “apparition” scenes were beyond creepy (that guy in the elevator…GAH!!!). There was one scene where I was quite visibly shaken, which prodded some looks from Nex (who didn’t get quite as creeped out, let’s just say). We’re often put in Mun Mun’s shoes as we feel what she feels, sees what she sees, and it was deliciously nerve-racking. The subtle use of CGI and off-focus shots just added to the creepy atmosphere.

The overall scary stuff did vanish after an hour, which is fine, to make way for the solving of the mystery part. Solving it was a bit quick, but it was still involving. And, the proverbial icing on the cake, the way it made you think that it was going to be a fine, happy ending then BAM! Slapping you with an explosive finale that was quite satisfying.

There were a couple of things I had a problem with- mostly with a couple of scenes where the guy doing the music felt it necessary to use what sounded like a Casio keyboard. Yeesh. That and some of the scene transitions were a bit abrupt, and I’m sure those more medically inclined could pick out some inconsistencies with the hospital scenes

All said and done, though, THE EYE was one of those movies that made me feel like I was 11 again, sitting around the bonfire with my friends at a sleepover, listening to them tell ghost stories. Creepy. Well recommended…


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BloodypitofhorrorMill Creek Entertainment

“The man that said life is stranger than fiction made no mistake.”

At a remote castle, a group of models and a photographer are on location for a photo shot. What the group doesn’t realize is the castle is not abandoned as they were led to believe as a deranged and muscular madman has taken up residence in the castle. He believes himself to be the reincarnation of an executioner who was assigned to protect the castle against invaders and the photographer and models are his next victims.

What we have here is an Italian Gothic horror flick that was included on one of those 50 movie packs I keep purchasing for no real discernible reason. Not only is it a foreign B-movie that leans more towards Hammer Films than Giallo (look it up), but it’s been released here in America under two titles: The Red Hangman, and this much better title used for the Mill Creek multipack, Bloody Pit Of Horror.

After the opening alledged “quote” from the Marquis de Sade and the unintentionally snicker-inducing flashback scene, the fun really begins when a bunch of catty models, a photographer and a couple of other guys show up for this deranged former actor with a serious narcissistic streak to torture to death, while wearing a pair of short shorts and a cape and mask combo.

Oh, this movie was way more fun than it was supposed to be. From the rather bad American dialog dubbed over the actors, who were either kill fodder, eye candy (in that 1960s sort of way), or in the case of Mickey Hargitay, who plays the Crimson Executioner, an over-acting ham who chews up the scenery in each and every scene he’s in. Oh, it’s glorious, especially the final reel when he snaps completely and scampers gleefully in the torture chamber like a kid in a candy shop. Or some other cliché.

The main drawback is the rather tediously drawn-out suspense scenes, which go on for awkwardly longer than they should be (the whole “spider trap” scene being the best example), but are somewhat redeemed by becoming what you would call unintentionally hilarious.

Overall, I found Bloody Pit Of Horror to be rather enjoyable in a cheeseball kind of way. I believe this is in the public domain, so if you come across this title, check it out some time for some cheesy horror goodness.

Movie Review: LET ME IN

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let me inHammer Films

“Dear Owen, I am in the bathroom. Please do not come in. Do you want to hang out with me again tonight? I really like you. Love, Abby.”

Abby, a mysterious 12-year-old who moves next door to Owen, a social outcast who is viciously bullied at school. In his loneliness, Owen forms a profound bond with his new neighbor, but he can’t help noticing that Abby is like no one he has ever met before. As a string of grisly murders grips his wintery New Mexico town, Owen has to confront the reality that this seemingly innocent girl is actually a savage vampire.

Let The Right One In is one of my Top Ten favorite vampire movies. I would explain why, but to save time I’ll just direct you to the review I wrote about it. Needless to say, when I heard about an American remake, I was pretty much ambivalent about it, mainly due to the lowered expectations I have with the American remakes of foreign films.

Well, okay, technically Let Me In is a joint British/American remake of the Swedish original. And considering the track record of the outcomes of most Brit/’Merica team-ups–the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie and the Torchwood: Miracle Day miniseries, anyone?–it didn’t exactly fill me with interest in watching. But finally, more out of boredom than curiosity, I decided to check out the remake of one of the better vampire flicks I’ve seen this century.

For the most part, save for some tweaks here and thee, Let Me In is a rather faithful adaptation. Still set in 1983, this time the 12-year-old boy who befriends the vampire girl who moves into his apartment complex is located in Los Almos, New Mexico. Like the source movie, it’s the middle of winter…which is something I was unaware New Mexico had in extended periods. This is ue to my relative ignorance of that area of the Southwest, so if anyone reading this hails from that area and can drop some learnin’ on my ignorant Midwestern butt, feel free to do so.

Anyway, Let Me In succeeds in recapturing the same slow-burning sense of atmospheric tension of the source material, and for the most part avoids being “Hollywoodized” and dumbed down. The movie does start with a flashback, and there are a couple of instances of vampire effects used, but it fortunately doesn’t take place of the story itself.

Overall, Let Me In managed to exceed my expectations in that it didn’t suck. I would still urge a watching of the original Let The Right One In, but if you’re not into the whole subtitle reading, Let Me In would be a good alternate for taking in this fantastic urban fantasy.

We interrupt your regularly scheduled life to bring you this special message…

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grim reaper on tricycle with lollipopI just wanted everyone who reads this that, I’ll miss you all when I’m dead.

Not that I think or know that I’m going to be dead any time soon.  It’s just, you know, in case I suddenly find myself suffering from a sudden case of Not Living and didn’t have the time to actually say that before becoming Living Impaired.  Like, if I wasn’t paying attention crossing the street and got hit by a truck transporting cigarettes in a display of delicious irony, or something like that.

Nothing to worry about.  I’m not contemplating suicide, nor do I have some kind of sense of impending doom or anything.  It just…popped in my head while I was trying to fall asleep the other night.

I really need to lay off the generic chunky peanut butter before bed or something…


Musings On Journaling…

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Musings On Journaling...Why do we journal? Why do we feel compelled to jot down our thoughts, ideas, prose, general brain droppings (as I’ve come to refer to them as) is whatever scrap of paper we have lying around, notebook, computer word processor, actual journal, whatever. Do we think these will be read by someone in the future? Do we think we actually have something deep and relevant to say? Is it out of narcissism? Boredom? Or are we perhaps driven by some inexplicable urge to just write, either on paper or writing inside your head?

For me, it’s definitely the later explanation, with maybe a generous dollop of narcissism thrown in. Being a somewhat semi-serious writer, it just seems like a natural thing to do. As natural as always having a book or two in close proximity, or the slight anxiety I get when I realize I don’t have a notebook and writing utensil handy whenever the urge to jot down my brain droppings.

I don’t ever see myself not writing. I cannot fathom the day when I just lay down my pen, retire my word processor on the computer and whatnot, and say “well, I’m done.” If I lose my right hand, I will learn to write with my left. If I lose both hands, I will learn to write with my feet. If I find myself paralyzed from the neck down, stick the pen in my mouth. I will find away.

I started my first actual journal in High School, when I was required to keep one for my Sophomore English class. All year, I needed to maintain five pages per week. That teacher only counted the number of pages, and didn’t actually read them. So I got away with using wide-ruled paper, and copying the lyrics from my cassette tapes to fill them. My Senior year was different – the Creative Writing teacher actually read the required amount of pages, and jotted down suggestions and comments on them before he returned them. Still, I wasn’t all that serious about journaling then, despite having been bitten by the fiction writing bug at an earlier age. And while I kept a notebook journal off and on in the 1990s, I didn’t really get into it until a couple of years after the turn of the 21st Century. Specifically, when I started my first blog, on Live Journal.

I certainly don’t blog online as I once did when I started in 2004. This has to do most with only having a small amount of time with my computer after the work day is over. I find myself writing in my notebook journals before work and on Thursdays after work while sipping root beer at Sean O’Casey’s awaiting the arrival of the Exalted Geeks. And after all this time, I’m transcribing my scribblings and blog entries into a year-by-year collection on the word processor. Once in a while, I think or find inspiration to publish something on my current blog if I happen to believe it’s interesting enough to share with the entire world. Unfortunately, this has resulted in irregular updates and posts, which just looks lazy. It’s not, but the blog being public, and no one privy to my notebook journals, it doesn’t look as prolific as I really am. Not that I’m all that brilliant. Well, okay, maybe I am, but nobody really needs to know. For whatever reason.

Besides, I have a feeling my Master Journal will never truly be finished until I’ve breathed my last, and my body is found slumped over my computer, or more than likely my notebook.


Movie Review: The DARK CRYSTAL

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The_Dark_Crystal_Film_PosterUniversal Pictures

“Another Great Conjunction coming up! Anything could happen! Whole WORLD might burn up!”

1000 years ago the Dark Crystal was damaged by one of the Urskeks and an age of chaos began. Now the time of the great conjunction of the three suns is near. If the crystal is not healed now the control of the evil Skekses will last forever. Jen the last of the Gelflings nearly exterminated by monsters controlled by the Skekses starts his dangerous journey to find the missing shard of the crystal. Will he be able to heal the crystal and restore order on the planet?

I absolutely adore this movie. I remember the first time I saw this — it was on my Uncle Jerry’s Beta Max. I was 10. And this was the summer of 1984. I remember at first being kind of miffed that this was a Jim Henson movie, and yet Kermit and his plushy minions were nowhere to be found. I got over that whiny indignation soon enough, though, and got drawn into the dark fantasy world of the noble Mystics, the malevolent Skeksis, and the lone Gelfling on a quest to fulfill his destiny in a much larger purpose. Mind you, the story didn’t matter much to me then as did the visuals of the movie — dark and fascinating.

After acquiring the DVD of this movie as part of my Reclaiming My Squandered Childhood collection, and re-watching it a couple of times, it surprises me at how well The Dark Crystal held my attention after all these years. Considering that the summer of ’84 was the only time I watched the movie before now, that should say something.

Granted, compared to the crop of children-based fantasy adventure movies that have been coming out recently, the pacing may be really slow, and the effects somewhat primitive. There are flaws, yes, and personally I would have preferred a live child actor playing the part of the Gelfling, interacting with the creature creations, rather than being a Muppet as well* (seriously, the Muppet looked like Tom Cruise mated with one of the Fraggles from Fraggle Rock there). But, The Dark Crystal has a certain charm to it. The story is your standard quest theme, with the Last Of His Kind character searching for the Object Of Much Desire to Fulfill the Great Prophecy. What I find charming about The Dark Crystal is the use of Muppets as opposed to the CGI on the more modern child fantasy movies. Maybe it was the era I grew up in, but the fantasy world here seems much more tangible to me. And yes, I do prefer the Empire Strikes Back Yoda to the Prequel CGI Yoda.

The Dark Crystal was a failure at the box office when it was released, probably because, since most associate Jim Henson with The Muppet Show and the Muppet Movies, the public at large was expecting more light hearted fare with lovable characters to take their children to. Instead, they were treated to a dark fantasy tale, filled with scary and grotesque characters and very little by way of humor. I’m pretty sure being released the same year as E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial didn’t help much, either. I loved it, but then again I was a weird kid. I would say, if you love movies like Labyrinth and Willow, give The Dark Crystal a place in your collection. Recommended…

[* Technically, the creatures aren’t considered “Muppets” because, according to Wikipedia, they were made by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, and not by The Jim Henson Company…but, for lack of better words, I’m using “Muppets”…sue me… – Uncle NecRo]

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