30 November 2012

Maynard and Emma's ADDAMS FAMILY AWESOMENESS

Wahoo! Hello and welcome to the Horror Movie Diary's very first Double-Blog-Post!
For a very long time, I wanted to review the two 90s "Addams Family" flicks, but sadly I'm a massive non-expert on all things Addams-roots, and a simple review-post without any Addams-history... no, it would feel incomplete.
So I decided to team up with my blog buddy (and Halloween Buddy) EMMA, the mastermind behind the delightfully gorgeous blog "Little Gothic Horrors", who is a HUUUGE fan of all things Addams and knows best when it comes to oldschool Addams Family stuff.

So first, you get my reviews for the 90s flicks, and then you get a massive article from Emma about the original cartoons and the 60s TV series. Lean back and enjoy the Addams-Family-awesomeness!! :-)

THE ADDAMS FAMILY

German Title:
Die Addams Family

USA, 1991
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

9/10








Next to "The 'Burbs" and "Gremlins", one of the very first "horror"-themed comedies I've ever seen, and also one of my alltime favorites: Barry Sonnenfeld's directorial debut "The Addams Family", a delightfully entertaining and visually awesome update of the 60s TV series, which was based on Charles Addams' funny New Yorker cartoons.


With a wonderful script by Caroline Thompson ("Edward Scissorhands") and Larry Wilson ("Beetlejuice"), and an absolutely stellar cast, "Men In Black"-mastermind Sonnenfeld created a marvellous and super-witty movie that never fails to amuse me. Fun and diverting from beginning to end, and packed with the coolest set designs and most beautiful costumes outside of a Tim Burton film., all wonderfully captured by Owen Roizman's ("The Exorcist") great cinematography and accompanied with a playful score by Marc Shaiman ("Misery").

Every single character is just wonderful, every single actor delivers a top notch performance, most notably Raul Julia as hyper-hilarious Gomez Addams
("We danced the Mamushka while Nero fiddled, we danced the Mamushka at Waterloo, we danced the Mamushka for Jack the Ripper.")
,
Anjelica Huston as his stunningly beautiful wife Morticia
("Last night, you were unhinged. You were like some desperate howling demon. You frightened me. Do it again!"),
a fantastic Christopher Lloyd as Gomez' brother Fester ("Children, look! Great aunt Lavinia. She was beheaded by her own children!"),
the gorgeous Christina Ricci as grumpy daughter Wednesday ("I'm a homicidal maniac. They look just like everyone else.")
Carel Struycken as Lurch, Jimmy Workman as Pugsley and Judith Malina as Grandmama.



Other brilliant dialogue lines:
"It's Gomez I'm terribly worried about. He won't eat. He can't sleep. He keeps coughing up blood." - "He coughs up blood?" - "Well, not like he suded to..."
"Remember that fateful night?" - "You smoked your first cigar." - "What? Come on, old man! I've smoked since I was five. Mother insisted!"
"When we first met years ago, it was an evening much like this. Magic in the air. A boy." - "A girl." - "An open grave. It was my first funeral." - "You were so beautiful. Pale and mysterious. No one even looked at the corpse."

"The Addams Family" is undoubtedly one of the coolest movies of the 90s. A modern classic, I love it!

Wiki ~ Imdb



ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES

German Title:
Die Addams Family in verrückter Tradition

USA, 1993
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

8,5/10








"Addams Family Values" is one of the rare cases of a sequel that's almost as great as the original. Sonnenfeld delivers the goods and created a wonderfully hilarious follow-up, based on a script by Paul Rudnick ("In & Out"). The story may be a bit predictable, but who cares when everything else is just awesome?


Part 2 is really crammed with great ideas, superb plot points / twists and highly memorable scenes, such as Gomez and Morticia's amazing dance sequence, the outrageous Thanksgiving massacre or the electric-chair finale. Cinematographer Donald Peterman ("Planes, Trains & Automobiles") gives the movie a bright and epic look, while Marc Shaiman comes up with another excellently enjoyable soundtrack.

The cast is simply stunning (again!), at times even better than in the first one, especially Raul Julia ("My name is Gomez Addams and I have seen evil!"), Anjelica Huston ("You have placed Fester under some strange sexual spell. I respect that."), Christopher Lloyd ("When he was asleep, I opened his skull and removed his brains!") and Christina Ricci who delivers so many terrific one-liners, it's insane ("Hello Polly. I'll clean my room... in exchange for your immortal soul." / "I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground." / "Be afraid. Be very afraid!").
New to the cast: Joan Cusack as fantastic serial-killer-nanny, Peter MacNicol & Christine Baranski as super-annoying "Kumbaya My Lord"-singing summer-camp-owners, and Carol Kane (replacing Judith Malina) as Grandmama.


More brilliant dialogue:
"We don't hug." - "Oh, they're just shy." - "We're not shy. We're contagious."
"I dreamed that when I met him, that we would wait until our wedding night to give ourselves to one another, to make the ultimate sacrifice." - "A goat?"
"Wednesday's at that very special age when a girl has only one thing on her mind." - "Boys?" - "Homicide."
"Hi, I'm Debbie Jellinsky from the agency." - "The agency? But they claimed no one else was available. They suggested a Doberman."

"Addams Family Values" is everything a great sequel is supposed to be. Kudos to everyone involved!
Sad fact: Raúl Juliá died in 1994 after suffering a stroke, and with him died the hope of a possible third installment. Um... ok, there WAS another Addams-film in 1998, called "Addams Family Reunion", but we don't talk about it.


Wiki ~ Imdb





In 1933, at the age of 21, Charles Addams' first published work appeared in 'The New Yorker' magazine. He went on to become one of their major contributors for nearly 60 years, producing thousands of artworks, some of which included characters who would come to be known collectively as 'The Addams Family'. Prior to 1964, however, these characters were undeveloped, appearing in one-panel gag cartoons. It was only upon his collaboration with David Levy, after the producer approached him with the idea of using some of his cartoons as the basis of a television show, that Charles Addams set about creating names and backstories for the characters who would thereafter be known as Morticia, Gomez, Uncle Fester, Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandmama, Lurch, Thing and Cousin Itt.


The television series, which ran for two seasons on ABC from 1964 to 1966, starred Carolyn Jones as Morticia, John Astin as Gomez, Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester, Ted Cassidy as Lurch, Blossom Rock as Grandmama, Lisa Loring as Wednesday, Ken Weatherwax as Pugsley, and Felix Silla as Cousin Itt. It was not quite as dark or macabre as either the cartoons or the 1991/1993 films, but it was remarkable in its own way. As John Astin, who played Gomez Addams, put it, in his forward to 'The Addams Chronicles', by Stephen Cox, the show was:

"A celebration of the unconventional in a world of conformity."

Watching reruns of 'The Addams Family' television series is one of my fondest childhood memories. Back then, I was too young to understand the meaning of the word "irony", but I was still very aware that even though the family was strange, and did peculiar things, like Morticia cutting off the heads of roses and tossing them away, they were also loving, generous, polite and loyal. The show's so-called normal characters, on the other hand, were invariably rude, nasty and often out to swindle the family. Even psychologists and psychiatrists of the era took note of how functional the seemingly dysfunctional family was. As John Astin also wrote:

"They said we were, in fact, the healthiest family on the air." 


My father owned a few paperback collections of Charles Addams' cartoons, which he has since given to me, that I endlessly scrutinized as a small child. One of my favourite cartoons showed the Addams clan, standing on the roof of their home, about to pour boiling oil on Yuletide carollers below and I was so pleased when that made it into the opening scene of the 1991 film 'The Addams Family'. 

The television series also had examples of cartoons being directly translated to the screen, like the scene where Wednesday and Pugsley assiduously tend to the fireplace with a pair of bellows in order to insure that a trip down the chimney by Santa would be nice and toasty. 


One of the most significant differences between the cartoons and the TV series was the character of "Thing". In Charles Addams' cartoons, Thing was depicted as some sort of shy creature seen peeping behind objects in the background of the drawings. On television, and later in the movies, Thing became a disembodied hand who performed small everyday tasks for the family, like retrieving the mail.   

There were a few slight changes made to the family when they made the leap from the small screen to the movies too. In the television series, Uncle Fester is Morticia's uncle whereas in the movies he is portrayed as the older brother of Gomez, while  Grandmama was Gomez's mother on TV but became Morticia's mother in the feature films. 


In the sixties series, Morticia's mother, Granny Frump, was a recurring character played by Margaret Hamilton, who was famous for her portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 film 'The Wizard of Oz'. Another recurring character from the series, who did not appear in the two movies, was Ophelia Frump, Morticia's older sister. She was played by Carolyn Jones in a blonde wig. 

Charles Addams had originally suggested "Pubert" for the name of Gomez and Morticia's son, but it was rejected in favour of "Pugsley". "Pubert" eventually resurfaced however, in the form of the family's third child, a mustachioed baby, in the 1993 film, "Addams Family Values". 

I have to confess that I have an extra special place in my heart for the television series, but I also adore Charles Addams' original cartoons and I think the Raul Julia/Anjelica Huston movies are absolutely wonderful. I hate to compare the three separate manifestations of the clan because each is a fabulous art form in its own right and each has added a unique layer to the darkly delightful phenomenon that is 'The Addams Family'.

28 November 2012

December Horror Challenge

Here's my little contribution to Kevin Sommerfield's "Top Slasher Flicks - December Horror Challenge", over at SlasherStudios.com. Click the banner and check out my Top 3 slashers of all time!


ALL ABOUT EVIL [/SLASH Filmfestival 2012]

ALL ABOUT EVIL

USA, 2010
Director: Joshua Grannell (a.k.a. Peaches Christ)

8,5/10









Easily one of the festival's most impressive surprises: "All About Evil", the directorial debut of Joshua Grannell, better known as drag-queen/horror-hostess Peaches Christ. Considering my rather low expectations, this actually turned out to be a shockingly good and terrifically enjoyable gore/fun-fest about a mousy librarian who discovers her inner serial killer and decides to make short films of real murders that she shows at the movie theater she inherited from her father.

Grannell created a wild, stunningly original and marvellously entertaining love-letter to the horror of the 60s and 70s, full of nods and winks to the works of Herschell Gordon Lewis, Roger Corman or Freddie Francis, including a mindblowing opening-credits-sequence where we get to see an assload of
classic horror-movie posters.


The cast is absolutely tremendous and every single performances is simply brilliant: Natasha Lyonne ("American Pie 1, 2 & 4") as hilariously insane librarian-goes-maniac, Jack Donner ("Farmhouse") as highly sympathetic evening-host, Jade & Nikita Ramsey ("Laid To Rest 2") as The Gruesome Twosome, the scariest twins since "Shining", Noah Segan ("Deadgirl") as total lunatic, and a fabulous cameo of the wonderful Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson.

There's lots of fun and entertainment, lots of thrills and tension, gallons of beautiful blood and a few really awesome-looking kills (guillotined breasts, sewed mouth, various stabbings and axe slashings). The settings are a feast for the eye, especially the beautiful Victoria Theatre, Tom Richmond's ("Chopping Mall") camera work is brilliant and the score from
ambient musician Vinsantos is just cool.


A blast of a movie, strongly recommended to fans and aficionados of classic old-school horror, grindhouse and exploitation stuff
[I'm looking at you, Brian and Craig :)]

Wiki ~ Imdb

27 November 2012

ROOM 237

ROOM 237
(documentary)

USA, 2012
Director: Rodney Ascher

9/10










In October I took a visit to the Austrian Filmfestival VIENNALE to attend a fabulous double feature screening of Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" and Rodney Ascher's Shining-documentary "Room 237".
The "Shining" screening was a bit weird because we got to see a very old 35mm copy that looked pretty grainy and bleached - though it had no effect on the awesomeness of the movie. However, the screening of "Room 237" was much more satisfying because (apart from the pitch-perfect picture quality) this documentary is one of a kind.


No, it's not about the making of "The Shining" or its impact on cinema history, it's about a few people who have seen the movie a few times too often and ended up outlining theories about the true meaning of the movie - and these theories are... weird? outrageous? pointless? Whatever they are, each one of these theories are so outlandish, so bizarre, so fascinating, they just have to be true... don't they?

"Room 237" consists of tons of clips and video material from "The Shining" itself, as well as from dozens of other movies. We never get to see the "theorists", we just hear them talking over the pictures, explaining all their strange theories. At first, it was a bit odd to watch, but once I got used to this kind of editing style, I let myself completely suck into that crazy room :)


Some of the theories are just plain ridiculous and made me laugh my ass off, while others are so interesting and fascinating, I caught myself completely glued to the screen several times.

One of the theorists claims than "The Shining" is a movie about the holocaust. I'm sure it's not, but there are several images and dissolves that really make you think that there could be some hidden anti-Nazi-messages.

In this dissolve we get to see a pile of suitcases that "transforms" into a circle of people - or is it the people "disappearing into the suitcases"? A possible allegory on the piles of suitcases that left over after every mass execution during Hitler-era.


This one's a bit sillier: a dissolve that makes Jack Nicholson look like he has a Hitler moustache. "Heeeere's the Fuehrer!!" ;-D


Another interesting theorie suggests that the whole movie is about the annihilation of the Indian Americans. Not sure about this either, but I have to admit, there are a lots of Indian symbols throughout the movie. Paintings, Indian symbols, patterns - and Calumet baking powder! :)


The most ridiculous theory is the one about the moon. Yes, "The Shining" is actually full of hidden messages where Kubrick testifies that he "faked" the moon landing - imagine that! lol

One example for this theory: Danny Torrance (who is actually supposed to be Stanley Kubrick's Alter ego) wears an pullover with an "Apollo"-sweater. When he stands up, the rocket lifts off...


...and head towards Room 237, which is actually the Moon, because... well, there's some MOON in "ROOM No 237". I won't go further into detail, but believe me, I laughed my ass off seeing all this rubbish. =)


There's also lots of talk about a skier in a poster that looks like the Minotaur...


...lots of talk about continuity, that isn't continuity (yes, it's the ghosts that dragged the chair away for a second)...


...and lots of talk about the infamous carpet pattern. For example, in the scene where the balls rolls towards Danny, the hexagonal pattern leading to Danny is open, later it's closed. What does that mean? Deeper meaning? Continuity?


There's tons of other stuff I remember from the doc and I could go on and on, but... well, it makes much more sense to watch the actual documentary where you don't get annoyed by my crappy MS Paint arts.
I hope "Room 237" gets a DVD/BluRay release soon. It's something everyone has to see, doesn't matter if you're a "Shining"-fan or not, because "Room 237" truly is one of a kind and I loved the hell out of it.

Wiki ~ Imdb

25 November 2012

SINISTER

SINISTER

USA, 2012
Director: Scott Derrickson

9/10











I've never been a fan of Scott Derrickson. "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" wasn't my cup of coffee, the "Day The Earth Stood Still" remake was lame, "Hellraiser: Inferno" was a goddamn disaster, and his script for the "Urban Legend" sequel was just terrible. So you see, my expectations for "Sinister" weren't exactly high - but goddamn! I ended up completely blown away by it!


"Sinister" is undoubtedly one of the scariest horror movies of 2012 (next to "The Woman In Black" and "Psalm 21"). Derrickson tells the fascinating, spine-chilling and very well developed story of a true-crime novelist who finds a box of super-disturbing Super8 murder-tapes and gets in contact with a gruesome Pagan deity named Bughuul.

From start to finish, it delivers almost everything I expect from a modern supernatural horror film. It's suspenseful and thrilling, shocking and frightening, but also fun, entertaining and at times quite amusing. Kudos to the flawless direction, the excellently paced screenplay, all the uber-eerie settings, Christopher Young's ("Drag Me To Hell") unsettling and outstandingly chilling score, and Chris Norr's ("What Doesn't Kill You") fabulous camera work.


"Sinister" is full of incredibly creepy images and cool-looking ghosts, the Super8 films are all highly disturbing and Bughuul looks just badass. Imagine a long-haired member of Slipknot, but scary xD
It's also packed with absolutely fantastic jump scares that gave me and my friends many, many mini-heart-attacks. Seriously, these were the best jump scares I experienced in a very long time. Especially the lawnmower-scene was a huge shocker for the audience. Many screamed in fright and jumped out
off their seats :D



Highlights: the stunning opening scene ('Family hanging out'), the boy in the box, the attic scenes, the dog, the spectacularly insane and visually stunning climax, and of course, the awesome performances of Ethan Hawke (mesmerizing), Juliet Rylance (terrific), James Ransone (hilarious) and Vincent D'Onofrio (great as always).

Definitely one of THE must-see horror-highlights of 2012

Wiki ~ Imdb

RETREAT (2012)

RETREAT

UK, 2012
Director: Carl Tibbetts

7,5/10











Home-invasion horror and epidemic-movie - take the best of both worlds, combine it with a twisted and emotional storyline, and you get a movie like "Retreat". Carl Tibbets' directorial feature is a fascinating and thought-provoking suspense-thriller, tense and thrilling from start to finish. In terms of character development a bit similar to the Australian 80s classic "Dead Calm".


The script has its share of flaws (lengthy scenes, illogical plot points), but they are overshadowed by the awesome amount of surprising and unpredictable plot twists. The direction is strong and keeps the pace crisp and chilling.
Chris Seager's ("White Noise") cinematography brilliantly captures the haunting-looking Welsh settings and beautifully lit cottage interior, all wonderfully accompanied by Ilan Eshkeri's ("Centurion") eerie soundtrack.


The true highlight of "Retreat" is the acting: three absolutely stunning and captivating performances of Cilian Murphy ("Batman Begins") as timid husband, the marvellous Thandie Newton ("Rock N Rolla") as anxious wife and Jamie Bell ("Deathwatch") as psychopathic soldier.

All in all, a superb movie, grim, gripping and atmospheric.

Wiki ~ Imdb

23 November 2012

"SISTERS OF DEATH" (Chilling Classics 50 Movies Pack, #14)

SISTERS OF DEATH

Alternate Title:
Death Trap


German Titles:
Death Time / Death Time House / Tödliche Spiele

USA, 1972/1977
Director: Joseph Mazzuca

3/10




Unbelievably boring and dreary dullfest that feels like a quasi-blend of "Slaughter High", Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians" and "Fleshburn". The premise is pretty cool, but due to the unimaginative direction and a horrid script, the movie never gains momentum and moves at such a slow pace
it almost made me fall asleep.


The opening initiation is pretty cool, there are several quite memorable scenes (spider attack, shower scene, electric fence) and the score is solid. Everything else is bad: all the annoying characters, the mediocre acting, shitty dialogue, lots of plot holes, an incredibly illogical twist ending, disappointing kills and no nudity.

Forgettable to the max.
By the way: it was shot in 1972 but not released until 1977 - well, it's easy to see why :-)

Wiki ~ Imdb



"SNOWBEAST" (Chilling Classics 50 Movies Pack, #13 / Chilling 20 Movies Pack, #7)

SNOWBEAST

USA, 1977
Director: Herb Wallerstein

2/10











Another one of these 70s Bigfoot flicks which are mostly just bad: "Snowbeast", written by the great Joseph Stefano - yes, the one who's responsible for the magnificent screenplay of Hitchcock's "Psycho"(!), the solid 90s sequel "Psycho IV" and the cool 80s classic "The Kindred".

"Snowbeast" is one of the most boring, most tedious films I've ever sat through. No suspense, no thrills, nothing remotely scary - just endless sequences of people skiing or snowmobiling up and down slopes, which gives the whole thing an unbearable Willy-Bogner-feeling.

The Bigfoot-scenes are mostly shot in dull POV, only a few moments where we get to see a terribly ugly costume of some kinda retarded gorilla. The score is pretty decent and Bo Svenson's performance is neat - everything else about it sucks. "Slowbeast" would have been a better title for this.

Wiki ~ Imdb


21 November 2012

GREYSTONE PARK

GREYSTONE PARK

Alternate Titles:
The Asylum Tapes / Graystone


USA, 2012
Director: Sean Stone

6/10








"Greystone Park" (or "The Asylum Tapes" which is a better fitting title - although the word "Tapes" has been over-used lately) is the directorial debut feature of Sean Stone, son of uber-director Oliver Stone who even has a brief role in the movie.
It's basically just another found footage flick, but thankfully way creepier than most of the turd that came out lately.



Story and setting aren't that original: it's 3 teens entering an apparently abandoned asylum, and therefore it strongly reminded me of similar-plotted flicks like "Grave Encounters", "Boo!" or "Room 33". Nevertheless, for the greater part I enjoyed it.

The characters are all quite likable and the acting is pretty solid and believable, most notably the performances of Antonella Lentini and Sean Stone himself. The asylum looks creepy as shit and is packed with scary corridors, rooms and cellars. Best of all: the way the movie was set, shot and edited. Lots of cool camera angles, spooky lighting and really effective cuts.


While the first two thirds of "Greystone Park" are genuinely and thoroughly suspenseful and thrilling, it's the last third where it begins to lose its momentum: lots of cheap and lame scares, a few boring scenes and a really silly climax.

Final verdict: flawed but enjoyable FF-flick.

Wiki ~ Imdb

19 November 2012

NIGHTBREED: THE CABAL CUT [/SLASH Filmfestival 2012]

NIGHTBREED: THE CABAL CUT

1990 Original Title:
Nightbreed

Alternate Title:
Night Breed


1990 Original German Title:
Cabal - Die Brut der Nacht

USA, 1990/2012
Director: Clive Barker
Restauration Director: Russell Cherrington

Original Cut: 6/10
Cabal Cut: 8/10



The very first time I've seen "Nightbreed" was in 1993 when German TV channel "RTL" showed a cut version of the movie. I remember that I enjoyed it but it didn't leave an impression on me and I pretty much forgot about it.


Fast forward 19 years: in 2012 various filmfestivals announced screenings of a new extended cut of "Nightbreed", praising it as one of "the holy grails of horror" - and I was like "Um... did I miss anything?"
Yes, for whatever reason, I've never read about or heard of the original two-and-a-half hour version, so I immediately checked out Wiki, Imdb, clivebarker.info and other sites, and I absorbed every single piece of information about the missing footage, the re-cuts, the re-shots, the douchebags at Morgan Creek, the misadvertising, etc. etc.


Then on September 23, I got the chance to see the "Cabal Cut" at the /SLASH Filmfestival. Problem: I forgot to watch the original cut prior to the screening (this movie seems to have the ability to make me immensely forgetful...), so to me, the screening was more or less like watching a new movie

Yesterday, I finally found the time to re-watch the 1990 cut, and now I'm finally able to write a proper review about both versions.


"Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut" is a better movie than "Nightbreed". Plain and simple. It's still not as great as Clive Barker's debut masterpiece "Hellraiser", but it's definitely an epic, highly original and fucking impressive work of art.
Ok, it wasn't an easy watch: at about 150 minutes, it's obviously way too long (I somehow understand that the studios wanted a shorter version), and the high amount of grainy VHS-footage isn't exactly eye-friendly. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it, especially because it feels like a complete movie, a finished product.



The original is good, but due to Morgan Creek's radical editing, it's full of open questions, illogical plot points, confusing scenes, and it totally lacks character development.
Yet, in the "Cabal Cut", almost everything makes perfect sense: we clearly get to understand why Lori (Anne Bobby) is so in love with Boone (Craig Sheffer), and we also get a way clearer picture of the relationship between Boone and Dr. Decker (David Cronenberg) - talk about repressed homosexuality!



Also, the climax is much, much longer, way more brutal and feels more like a Midian-holocaust (incl. many painful and shocking moments), we get to see Boone's hallucinogenic psychosis, Decker talking to his mask, a fun conversation between Lori and Sheryl Ann (Debora Weston), way more Midian-footage, way more creatures (incl. a really cool stop-motion monster) and an entirely different, outstandingly intense and much more satisfying ending (though the Decker-resurrection in the original is also cool).

Regarding both versions: Barker's direction is superb and his script is clever and ambitious, the acting is excellent, the make-up effects are all awesome, the Midian set design is absolutely fabulous, Robin Vidgeon's ("Hellraiser 1&2") cinematography is simply gorgeous, and Danny Elfman's ("Beetlejuice") powerful score is simply stunning.


Overall, the "Cabal Cut" is a must-see for fans of horror and Clive Barker in general. Let's hope we get to see a fully restored version on DVD/BluRay soon.

Support the OCCUPY MIDIAN movement and sign the petition NOW!!!

Wiki ~ Imdb

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