HALLOWEEN’ING Day 15: He Dies At The End

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halloween'ing 2017
Sometimes, you don’t want a full-length movie to get your Halloween horror fright on. Sometimes, just sometimes, a bite-sized short will do the trick. And thus, I present to you He Dies At The End, a nice, brief short (only four and a half minutes long) that isn’t short on the suspense or the sense of dread and such.

Alone in an office, a man is taking part in a strange online quiz, to find out how he will die.

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HALLOWEEN’ING Day 14: Welcome To Night Vale

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halloween'ing 2017WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE
One of the Exalted Geeks introduced me to the twice-monthly podcast Welcome To Night Vale a couple of years ago. This was a fantastic find, as this half-hour long podcast manages to blend together both my love of horror and my twisted and dark sense of humor.

Presented as an NPR-style radio show broadcast in an unknown part of the American Southwest in the town of Night Vale. It’s pretty evident that this town isn’t quite normal, as Lovecraftian weirdness is reported on by one of the more pleasant sounding hosts you will ever come across.

WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE

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HALLOWEEN’ING Day 9: Ash Vs. Evil Dead

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ash vs. evil dead banner

When it comes to Halloween, most of the time you get maybe a special Halloween-themed episode from the “normal” television shows. Once in a while, though, there comes a show where Halloween is pretty much every day, or at least every episode. And thus I introduce you to Ash Vs. Evil Dead.

This is an official continuation of the original Evil Dead movie trilogy, with an aged Ash once again having to deal with the Deadites, demons and general evil that the pesky Necronomicon keeps bringing up. This time, though, he has two sidekicks with him as they hit the road.

There have been two seasons, and a third one is on its way. I consider the first season better than the second, but even at its worst, Ash Vs. Evil Dead is good, quality horror comedy gold.

SEASON 1
SEASON 2

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HALLOWEEN’ING Day 6: IT (2017)

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halloween'ing 2017IT bannerYeah, yeah, I realize this is more of a resent thing, having been released just last month, but…really, for a movie that would encompass everything you would expect for the Halloween season, this It hits all the right notes: Creepy clown, monsters, haunted house, unsettling use of balloons…It has it. Not to mention kids going up against a supernatural enemy; this is basically an R rated Monster Squad. It’s still in the theatrical run, so now would be a good time to go and give this a watch.

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Movie Review: CHOPPING MALL

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Movie Review CHOPPING MALLLionsgate Home Entertainment
1986
R

“I’m just not used to being chased around a mall in the middle of the night by killer robots.”

Some people will kill for a bargain…and at the Park Plaza Mall they do! Here, you can shop til you drop…dead! High tech robots equipped with state of the art security devices have been recruited as the new mechanical “night watchmen” for the Park Plaza Mall. When a jolting bolt of lightning short circuits the main computer control, the robots turn into “killbots”…on the loose after unsuspecting shoppers! Four couples are trying to make it after-hours in a mattress store. They make it all right…in the morgue! At Park Plaza, you can save on everything but your life!

Look at that DVD back-cover blurb up there. Just…gaze upon it. That, my fellow cinema fiends, is rampant abuse of the exclamation point right there. And to use them pared off with attempts to sound like Tales From The Crypt bon mots…they make me cringe. Also, this may be the first time I used “bon mot” in a sentence of any kind. But I digress.

Chopping Mall is a movie from the mid-1980s that poses the question: What if Short Circuit was a slasher horror flick, instead of a whimsical sci-fi family adventure? I mean, sure, you could argue that Chopping Mall came out a mere two months before Short Circuit and thus this would be a moot point, but let’s get real here. Chopping Mall is for those wishing Short Circuit had a body count and even goofier main characters. As a matter of fact, Chopping Mall was originally released under the title Killbots, which would have been far more on point with the plot of the movie, but was changed to the current name when it was re-released.

So, after a brief scene at a demonstration of the high-tech security bots, we’re introduced to the horny 20-somethings that work at various shops at the local mall. One of them is the son of the guy who owns the mattress store, and he and his buddies decide to bring in their respective girlfriends and have a product testing party after hours. This just also happens to be the same night that the fancy-schmancy security bots at the mall got shocked by a power surge due to an electrical storm outside, and they all surpass the Three Laws and begin killing all humans. So now, long after all the other smarter humans have left the mall and the kill bots have been deployed, the only live bodies left are those horny 20-somethings, and now it’s a matter of survival trying to get out of a mall that’s been put in lockdown, while being stalked by the three security robots. Things don’t go well.

First thing I really need to point out here, is that, for a movie titled Chopping Mall, there is absolutely zero actual chopping. Oh, there’s plenty of electrocuting, stabbing, choking and being shot at by lazer blasts (seriously), but absolutely no chopping whatsoever. I have to say, I am very disappointed, movie. You promise chopping, and then fail to deliver said chopping. I don’t care if it was the alternate title choice, the video cover promised chopping, I expect chopping. That said, Chopping Mall was a nice bit of cheesy 80s-tastic fun. The script itself oozed dated 80s pop culture, right down to the use of the words “bodacious” and “to the max”. The effects were delightfully low-budget, and things get so over-the-top you have to really check your brain in at the door and just sit back and enjoy the wackiness.

Misnomer title aside, Chopping Mall was a lot of unintentional fun to sit through. Easily making my list of So Bad It’s Good movies you need to watch and rip on with friends one night.

Movie Review: ELOISE

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Movie Review ELOISEVertical Entertainment
2017
R

Four friends break into Eloise, an abandoned insane asylum, in search of a death certificate which will grant one of them a large inheritance. Unbeknownst to these four trespassers, what begins as an in-and-out adventure will evolve into their darkest nightmare in a place haunted by evil doctors, tortured spirits and unspeakable memories.

Here we are with yet another Abandoned Haunted Medical Facility type movie, this one featuring the likes of Elza Dushku and Robert Patrick as actors. My track record with movies like this one is rather dismal, and I only end up watching them more out of morbid curiosity, almost daring the movie to do something different–some kind of creative twist to a tired movie trope–to make me like it even a little bit. Does Eloise manage to do this? In a word…nope.

So, the movie involves a young, 20-something blue collar man who just learns of the death of his father. While at the insurance office following up, he’s then made aware of a long-forgotten aunt who was interred at the Eloise insane asylum decades prior, and has bequeathed a large sum of money to him. Though she’s been presumed long dead, the kid (sorry, I’m in my 40s, so 20-somethings are looking like kids to me) needs to get the official death certificate to prove her to be dead-dead, so he can get the money awaiting him. And the certificate is located in one of the abandoned buildings of Eloise, naturally. So, he enlists the help of an old friend of his, a bartender he met the night prior, and the bartender’s brother, who happens to be a fount of information on Eloise, to break into the abandoned facility and try and find the death certificate. The inside of this place is creepy enough as it is, especially in the dead of night; but soon the standard set of supernatural shenanigans begin happening, progressing predictably to what you would expect in something labeled as a “horror movie”.

Well, now…this was an unsurprisingly boring movie to sit through. Most independently shot horror flicks involving haunted asylums or hospitals of some sort usually are, as they all seem to go the route story-wise. You know the drill: bunch of young adults break into the abandoned structure for whatever reason, said abandoned structure turns out to be haunted for realsies, wackiness ensues. Usually off screen. Nothing new to see here, folks. Move along, move along.

Mind you, there are several things going for the movie’s favor, like being shot on location at the defunct Eloise mental institution outside of Detroit, Michigan, and capitalizing well with the eerie atmosphere of the interiors of said building. The history behind the facility also lends to the atmosphere and amps up the dread when they’re inside the place. This being director Robert Legato’s first film–a guy who is better known as a long time VFX specialist for several well-known Hollywood directors, as well as helming a few Star Trek episodes in the 90s–he did a very good job shooing and editing the movie itself. And the story does start off with a promising premise. But, once they finally get inside the titular building, it goes the route every modern haunted asylum movie has gone before, and not very memorably I should hasten to add. The actors were all adequate in their respective rolls, with Eliza Dushku being the default standout of the bunch. The worst part is about two-thirds of the way in, when the movie introduces the dimensional time-shift aspect to the plot, in an attempt to answer the mystery behind the evil of the…

Ah, forget it. I give up trying to explain things about this movie. Eloise has flashes of good ideas, but ultimately falls flat. So far, the only good abandoned asylum movie in existence is Session 9, and you would do well to watch that one again instead.

Movie Review: IT (2017)

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itWarner Bros.
2017
R

“This isn’t real enough for you, Billy? I’m not real enough for you? It was real enough for Georgie.”

Seven young outcasts in Derry, Maine, are about to face their worst nightmare–an ancient, shape-shifting evil that emerges from the sewer every 27 years to prey on the town’s children. Banding together over the course of one horrifying summer the friends must overcome their own personal fears to battle the murderous, bloodthirsty clown known as Pennywise.

I’ve been sitting here now, for quite a bit of time, trying to figure out how I’m going to lead off this particular review of the new big-screen adaptation of one of Stephen Kings more notorious novels in his repertoire, It. There were several ways I could have approached this, really: talk a bit about the book; talk about the first adaptation, the TV miniseries from 1990; a bit from both columns maybe. But, the biggest thing that hit me the prior night, after watching the 2017 movie, was that the new It was released 27 years after the TV miniseries. I see what you did there, movie. Was that deliberate or mere coincidence? Probably coincidence. Unless it was deliberate. It’s enough to make me paranoid. Well, more so.

Anyway, at this point I should make the obligatory mention of me being a long-time fan of Stephen King, having read the book It in the late 1980s at the age of 15, and watching the original broadcasts of the TV miniseries adaptation and then renting the VHS releases more than once back in the day. And while I loved the miniseries adaptation (the first part was better than the second part, but that seems to be a universally held opinion on the whole), it still seemed to lack a certain bite that would have really made it a scary tour de force. I realize that there were limitations due to being shown on network television back in the very early 1990s, but still. Getting a proper big-screen movie adaptation was something that was announced every other year or so since the mid-1990s, but took quite a while to actually find ground and get made. Long enough for me to take a “I’ll believe it when I’m sitting in a theater and seeing it” kind of stance with any news report of one.

And now, here we are, with what is reportedly the first chapter in a two-part big screen adaptation of It. I saw it. I believed it. And, wow, let me tell you, the wait was definitely worth it.

There’s a couple of things I need to point out here before I forget: First, best use of an Anthrax song in a movie, ever. The other movie that I know of that utilizes Anthrax was Last Action Hero. At least, they had an Anthrax song on their soundtrack. I haven’t seen that movie yet, so I can’t verify if it’s in the movie itself. But, yeah, It cranks out “Antisocial” at a key point in the movie. Metal horns up. And on a side note, one of the antagonists wears metal shirts. Awesome. The other point I wanted to make, most importantly, is that, if you have an aversion to clowns–even if they just make you the least bit uncomfortable–this It is definitely not for you. Trust me on this one. Because the Pennywise here makes Tim Curry’s Pennywise from the miniseries look like he was a member of Clowns For Jesus.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. With something like this, it could have been very easy to skip past a lot of the source material and just focus on “there’s a creepy clown, BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA!” kind of narrative. This movie wisely takes the time to build up the main characters, to give them depth and make you care about them. The fear and terror here doesn’t stem from some supernatural harlequin; the actual terror is from each of the character’s real life, what they most fear. The clown–or, more to the point, the entity behind the clown itself, more on that in a bit–just happens to amplify those fears to get to them. But, what makes it so effective is that you’re given time to get to know everyone in the Loser’s Club, to care about their situations and home lives. Heck, even the main antagonist, one Henry Bowers, is given a scene that makes you sympathetic for how he came to become such a monster. Very good job picking out the right child actors to carry the story.

Now, a bit about Pennywise. For me, clowns are no problem. I have no fear of them. They don’t even make me uncomfortable…unless they invade my personal space, but that goes for everyone on this planet. Bill Skarsgård’s take on Pennywise is the first instance where I was genuinely creeped out by a clown in any media. This can be chalked up to two things: 1) Bill Skarsgård’s mannerisms and style he went for (he wisely chose to not just imitate Tim Curry’s iconic version), and 2) the effects that made Pennywise off-putting and unnatural, and not just when the fangs came out. I’ve read and heard complaints that Pennywise didn’t seem real…and I think that was the whole point. As I touched on, and for those of you familiar with the source material, Pennywise is just an avatar that It uses, and I would think that, to wring the maximum amount of fear from a child, an ancient entity of pure evil that may or may not be a Lovecraftian elder god would use that to great effect. And I found it used to great effect, here. Especially in the final confrontation.

Anyway, I’ve been gushing about this movie for far too long, now. I’m just going to leave off with this: While I do admit that there were times when the story seems a bit disjointed and unfocused, keep in mind the source material. To say there were some issues with pacing with the book would be to understate things considerably. Also, to that end, anyone who may be expecting a faithful word-by-word adaptation of the novel…nope. Not getting it here. The very fact that they set the year this takes place with 1988 and 1989 instead of 1957 and 1958 tips you right off the bat. And really, I am not only okay with the changes, but I think it makes the story better.

Overall, despite the gang of 11-year-old boys sitting behind me freaking out every five minutes over the littlest things (seriously, what was that father thinking?), I enjoyed this It immensely. Easily the second best film I’ve seen in theaters this year. I would highly recommend you seeing this as a matinee, with a bunch of friends and a goodly amount of popcorn at the ready. Red balloon optional.

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