Vampire Showdown: Twilight vs Let the Right One In

A few weeks ago @DVDSnapshot stated on twitter that he believed Let the Right One In was the most over-rated film of the year, while he was very fond of Twilight (see his reviews here and here). @DVDSnapshot runs a very nice site and while I’ve never met him face to face, I’m fairly confident that he is not, in fact, a twelve year old girl. So why would he hold such contrary beliefs to the general consensus of the horror community? This got me thinking… maybe he’s right. Maybe Let the Right One In isn’t a stunningly beautiful study of loneliness, innocence and power, nor the best film of last year. Maybe Twilight didn’t make vampires out to be baseball playing morons that twinkle and fall in love with their food. Maybe I had it all wrong and needed to reevaluate these films using a more quantitative measure than just my own emotional reaction.

I have, therefore, come up with the following incredibly scientific and indisputable way of determining which of these films is the better. I have carefully determined the twelve most important criteria against which all vampire films must be judged, and evaluated the lead vampire from each film in light of these characteristics. For each of the twelve evaluative categories I awarded one point to whichever film best met the standards of the criteria. In order to account for any bias I might have, I recruited an assistant to help with the judging — a familiar face from our Friday the 13th and Halloween fashion reviews, A GIRL. A GIRL has taken responsibility for the judging of half the categories (the even numbered ones), while I have taken the other half. Below you’ll find the results of our research, complete with a brief discussion of why each film won in each category.

(If you have not seen Twilight, there is a 15-minute summary of it available. If you have not seen Let the Right One In, you should really stop reading right now and go watch it. It’s currently available on Netflix Watch Instantly, complete with the preferred theatrical subtitles. So, go forth and watch it. We’ll wait.)

1. Usage of Trees and Related Foliage


Sitting in trees is not one of the better known aspects of vampire life, but it plays a bigger role than you’d think. In Let the Right One In, trees play a dual role for vampire Eli. She is capable of using trees or other overhanging objects as a perch from which to lie in wait for victims. As they pass underneath, she drops down upon them, much like a deer tick (but larger, and she can’t be removed with a match or hot pin). In another scene, she runs up a tree to hide like a raccoon (but larger, and just slightly less likely to be found sorting through your garbage).

Trees also play a large part in Twilight. Hunky yet disturbingly feminine vampire Edward seems oddly drawn to the trees and is very comfortable resting in them, looking like a much paler version of Merry or Pippin happily riding in Treebeard’s branches. As opposed to Eli who uses trees for hunting and hiding, Edward uses the trees in a mating capacity, swinging from the branches or carrying Bella up into them in an effort to impress her. Edward is still thinking like a seven-year-old in this regard, as that’s the only age group I can think of that believes hanging upside down from trees will impress anyone. Due to the theatrical lameness of Edward’s tree-borne attempts at wooing Bella and the coolness inherent in dropping down upon unsuspecting Swedes like a death-dealing pigeon turd, I have to give this one to Eli. ~ Corey

Winner: Let the Right One In

2. Super Powers


No matter how traditional or modern, compelling or ridiculous the story, vampires are known to have a wealth of enviable powers. They are stronger and faster than the puny humans they once were. They have the potential to live forever (assuming they avoid pointy wooden sticks, decapitation, excess garlic and/or lemons, depending on who you want to believe). As the ultimate hunters, they are keenly intelligent and more cunning than their potential prey.

Edward is demonstrably very strong and very fast. He whooshes in to save Bella from an improbably out-of-control car in the high school parking lot, catching it with one hand and making one heck of a dent. He has also been a teenager for quite a while, as demonstrated by the scores of high school graduation caps on his wall. He has lived so long by avoiding the rare combination of decapitation and consuming flame; this mix is rare enough that we can expect him to have a very long life indeed. His cleverness, however, leaves a lot to be desired. He is unable to successfully draw the evil vampires off Bella’s trail, and very nearly allows her to be killed, saving her only with the help of his family.

Eli makes more subtle use of her super-human abilities, resorting to them only when she must. She uses her speed and strength to wipe out the boys who are tormenting Oskar, but does so out of sight of the public and the audience. She may be even older than Edward; she tells Oskar that she has been 12 years old “for a very long time”, in a very grave voice that implies many hundreds of years. Although there may be more direct methods of killing her, we learn only that she must avoid sunlight and entering a home uninvited. Perhaps because she is trapped in a younger body, Eli has learned to be quite clever. She convinces a human adult to venture out into the world for her, gathering blood and other necessities, and thus limits dangerous situations for herself. She also has the good sense to move to another town when everything goes pear-shaped. ~ A GIRL

Winner: Let the Right One In

3. Sleeping Preferences


Since sunlight is usually such a problem for vampires, sleeping eats up a large chunk of their day. But where to sleep? Obviously it needs to be in a location where a stray beam of sunlight through the curtains wouldn’t accidentally light your butt cheeks on fire. There is the traditional solution of the coffin, but for our post-modern vampires, that’s a little on-the-nose. Eli solves this problem by making like a drunken sorority girl and sleeping in the bathtub. She even goes so far as to make a little cocoon out of sheets, blankets and sleeping bags, leading to a fairly sun-free way to dream the day away.

I think I missed this part in the movie, but my fiancée informs me that the vampires in Twilight do not sleep at all. I suppose this makes sense, what with all the creepy lurking in teenage girl’s bedrooms and watching them sleep they have to squeeze into each night. I’ve often dreamed of not needing to sleep, which is a rather ironic statement, now that I think about it. Can you imagine how much you could get done with an extra eight hours in each day? Hell, with that much extra time I could probably have finished Fallout 3 and Oblivion by now. And do you know how good I could get at Left4Dead? For that alone, this point goes to Twilight. ~ Corey

Winner: Twilight

4. Fashion Sense


Vampires are known for their effortless coolness, and often have an exceptionally attractive appearance, the better to transfix their prey. Traditionalists and brooders prefer an all-black look, but your modern vampire selects a flattering designer label. No matter how glamorous they wish to be, however, they must be ever-mindful of blending in with their prey. If they stand out too much, they are in danger of an encounter with the aforementioned pointy stick, lemon, etc.

Edward really wants to achieve the sophisticated vampire look, but is horribly burdened by the necessity of appearing to be a high-school student in Fork, WA. He has compromised by shopping primarily at the Gap, which this GIRL remembers fondly from her younger and poorer days. I do believe that Edward has erred slightly here, as his family’s patriarch is supposed to be a doctor. To best comply with this cover, Edward really should sport trendier, better tailored clothing, perhaps from sister store Banana Republic.

Not having visited Sweden, I cannot claim extensive knowledge of what is fashionable there, for vampires or mere mortals. On the one hand, Eli habitually dresses in over-sized and worn-out clothing which would be several decades out of style in this hemisphere. On the other hand, as far as I can tell so does everyone else in LtROI. Therefore I must conclude that she has a keen grasp of the appearance she must maintain in order to keep her vampire nature a secret.

So, Edward clearly has better fashion sense, but Eli blends more perfectly with her surroundings. ~ A GIRL

Winner: TIE

5. Residential Invitation Requirements


I never liked the way the Buffy-verse dealt with vampires and their invitation-only requirement for entering a private dwelling. They’re magically repelled from empty air as though they’re pushing up against a hard surface? Of course, there were far more important questions surrounding Buffy’s world (like how can Spike smoke with no breath?). In any case, Let the Right One In finally comes up with a cool way to depict this piece of vampire lore. Eli can enter Oskar’s apartment uninvited but (in one of the film’s most effective scenes) after a few seconds she begins bleeding from every orifice and pore. I imagine if this continued for more than a minute or two, she’d die — luckily Oskar gives her an invitation long before it comes to that.

So what does Twilight have to say about this? Nothing. Nada. I’m not sure Stephanie Myer ever actually saw a vampire movie before, so it’s not all that surprising that she missed this part of the legend. In the land of Twilight, vampires can come and go as they please — busting up the window if need be or, if they’re feeling more stalker-ish, just slipping in unnoticed every night and watching you sleep. That Edward… he’s so dreamy.

The point is awarded to Let the Right One In for excessive use of a creepy blood-covered child to make one of the lamer vampire myths cool. ~ Corey

Winner: Let the Right One In

6. Dietary Habits


Vampires really have it rough when it comes to dining. They have more trouble than a gluten-intolerant vegan when selecting a meal at a fancy restaurant. Perhaps they can get by on a juicy rare ostrich steak, but I’m guessing they never touch their fingerling potatoes.

Edward’s family confusingly claims to be “vegetarian”, but like all too many vegetarians they avoid just the meats they find most objectionable, in this case humans. They hunt deer and other forest creatures for blood. Corey rightly questions whether any critters that manage to escape a full draining find themselves transformed into vegetarian vampire wildlife (If so, what do they eat? Insects?). This limited diet is required in order to make nice with the humans, but I can’t help but think that, like vegetarians, they aren’t getting their RDA of all needed proteins, vitamins and minerals. They also aren’t seen to eat very often, so they could be calorically challenged as well. Maybe this explains why they aren’t so smart.

Eli adheres to a traditional vampire diet of human blood. Throughout the movie, we learn that as she grows hungry she becomes more aged in appearance, developing the wrinkles and skin tone of a weathered old woman. She feeds several times during the course of the film, about once every day or so, which is in keeping with the habits of other carnivorous predators. She prefers to have others gather the blood for her, which must be the vampire version of take-out, but when necessary she is very adept at the neck-biting and blood-sucking. ~ A GIRL

Winner: Let the Right One In

7. Tendency to Behead People


Similar to how a ninja’s purpose is to flip out and kill people, a vampire’s ultimate purpose is to flip out and behead people viciously. That’s when they’re at their happiest. You may find in your day-to-day life that you have few realistic opportunities to behead people, but vampires run into them all the time. Case in point — when Oskar’s tormentors up the ante and almost drown him, Eli gets medieval on their Swedish asses. I’m not certain, but I think it is the older brother of the primary tormentor who finds himself significantly shorter thanks to Eli’s tendency to decapitate people that mess with her boyfriends. In a shot that will be studied in film classes for decades, we see the entire massacre play out from underneath the water with Oskar, showing us only glimpses of the violence happening above.

Edward is also put into a situation where decapitation seems like the most reasonable response. After improbably beating James in battle, Edward knows the only way to kill James is to dismember him and burn the pieces. He instead decides to take a bite out of crime, and rips out James’ throat. In a major puss move, Edward leaves his siblings to clean up his mess while he goes and plays with his now a little more worse-for-wear girlfriend/food item some more. ~ Corey

Winner: Let the Right One In

8. Complexion, Hygiene and Hair Care


Personal grooming is much like fashion for a vampire; they must enhance their appearance as much as possible in order to charm their food, but they must not go overboard and garner too much attention. Their unnaturally pale skin always makes them stand out, even in this modern age of ozone holes, melanomas and the widespread sunscreen use made necessary by these dangers.

Edward seems to be about as clean-cut as a teenage boy can get. He never has scruffy beard stubble, and is a master of hair-goo application and manipulation. We never see any food on his face or his shirt, and by all appearances his clothes are kept clean. He does have a disturbing tendency to glow like an albino firefly in the sunlight, but he does the best he can to avoid sunny environments. If he were a girl I suspect he could camouflage this unsightly shine with the liberal application of foundation and face powder, but since he is a boy in the crunchy Washington wilderness, he just can’t be that metrosexual or he really would stand out like…well, like a metrosexual in the crunchy Washington wilderness.

I don’t think it can be said that Eli has any hygiene or hair care regimen at all. She doesn’t seem to be nearly as pale as Edward, but it’s often impossible to tell because she’s covered with dirt or blood. She does not have any cleaning rituals to speak of, although when Oskar informs her that she smells, she does take a shower, and we discover that she cleans up pretty well. I suspect that like a lot of tween girls, Eli just hasn’t had enough experience with proper grooming. Maybe Oskar will get her a subscription to Teen magazine and she will pick up some good grooming tips. There’s a lot of room for improvement for Eli, so we look forward to catching up with her in a few years to see how she’s doing.

This one is hard to call. Both Eli and Edward have a significant problem area that could potentially draw unwanted attention. However, Edward has learned to conscientiously minimize his sparkle time, while Eli just doesn’t have a clue. ~ A GIRL

Winner: Twilight

9. Dating Requirements


When it comes to dating, Eli and Edward are looking for very different things. Eli needs a pre-teen boy who is so abused and neglected that he will hitch his horse to her wagon, no questions asked. One would presume she would also need him to assume the role that her previous “father” had; protecting her during the day, performing half-assed exsanguinations, and helping her get out of town when she draws too much suspicion (the fact that Oskar had a Rubik’s Cube was just icing on the cake). How much of Eli’s need for Oskar’s friendship is necessity based and how much is selfless is debatable, and likely left intentionally vague.

Edward, on the other hand, is a little less picky. He was looking for a girl whose smell contains outrageous flavor (actual quote). Apart from that, she need only be clumsy, needy, have daddy issues and be prone to getting hit by rogue buses sliding around in school parking lots. The fact that Bella’s name means “beautiful swan” is probably also a plus, as is the fact that she’s hot but kinda dumb. I’m going to give this one to Edward because while I find Oskar’s character fascinating, I think Bella would be slightly more tolerable to be around than a eleven-year-old boy fascinated with murder and getting his ass handed to him by bullies. ~ Corey

Winner: Twilight

10. Social and Dating Skills


Vampires must interact smoothly with humans, both in order to maintain their cover and to lure potential meals back to their vampire lair. Edward and Eli are both lucky that they have the appearance of young humans, who are expected to be somewhat socially awkward and sullen. Let’s examine how they attempt to befriend others:

Edward has an advantage in his family. By moving in a pack with them, he gives the appearance of being popular and gregarious. However, from the first moment he meets Bella, his well-socialized persona begins to unravel. Upon catching her scent as she enters the classroom, he makes retching noises and nearly barfs like a freshman at a keg party. He is also unskilled in the art of complimenting a girl, referring to Bella his “little spider monkey” rather than using any words which might be endearing. Before the couple has even been on a date, Edward stalks Bella when she’s shopping with her girlfriends, turning up unexpectedly to rescue her. She must appreciate the quick end to being harassed by the townies, but Edward needs to learn that following a girl around is not charming, it is creepy.

Although Eli has no social circle to speak of, and isn’t much of a conversationalist, she makes a much better first impression than Edward. Upon meeting Oskar, she allows him to strike up a little conversation. She knows how to play hard-to-get, going so far as to say “Just so you know, I can’t be your friend,” although it is clear that she will be. Eventually Eli agrees to date Oskar, although she stipulates that dating must be exactly like not-dating. This is also not charming, but I find it more awkward than creepy. ~ A GIRL

Winner: Let the Right One In

11. Reaction to Sunlight


Apart from drinking blood, the most salient aspect of the vampire myth is their negative reaction sunlight. Occasionally they’re just averse to it, but in almost all cases sunlight is painful, if not outright lethal to vamps, regardless of what movie you’re watching. Eli is no exception to this rule. We never actually see her reaction to it specifically, but as is clear in the image above, sunlight and vampires don’t mix in the world of Let the Right One In. We first see this when the woman that Eli was forced to leave alive begins to transform and a ray of sunlight burns her finger. Her skin ignites and burns much like the tip of a cigarette, which I think is one of the cooler ways I’ve seen this aspect of vampire mythology portrayed.

And then there’s Twilight. While it’s true that the vampires in Twilight avoid sunlight, they do so only because sunlight reveals their true likeness, not because it’s harmful to them. Standing in direct sunlight, Edward’s “skin of a killer” can clearly be seen. And what does the “skin of a killer” look like? Well, it’s remarkably similiar to what you’d look like if you gave yourself a bath in this. Apparently in the Twilight universe, vampires intimidate their prey by twinkling. That is so obscenely ridiculous that I’m not just going to award the point to Let the Right One In — I’m going to break my own established methodology and give Let the Right One In two points for having its vampires properly combust instead of sparkling like an eleven-year-old girl’s cellphone case.

(I tried really hard to work a Donnie Darko “Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion” reference into the previous paragraph, but couldn’t make it happen.) ~ Corey

Winner: Let the Right One In

12. Benefits and Drawbacks of Being Their BFF


Since both Twilight and Let the Right One In are vampire buddy quasi-romances, ultimately they must be judged on the success of the friendship-romance they portray. So, which of our vampires would make the bestest Best Friend FOREVER ever? With whom would we rather hang out, share our secrets, or find ourselves in a compromising photo on the cover of a tabloid?

As previously mentioned, Edward already has a sizable circle of friends. Does he really need another pal? How could we be sure that we were his BEST friend? He doesn’t have any other human friends, so would he discard us once the novelty wore off? He has a nice house and a groovy hairdo, and I’m sure that he can get us into some really good parties. But could we really count on him when we needed him, or would he get distracted and allow us to end up dead in the gutter with holes in our neck?

On the other hand, Eli comes with a lot of emotional baggage that might put a strain on the friendship. She’s obviously used to living alone or being the boss in a relationship of necessity. She’s got some pre-vampire abuse issues that she hasn’t really worked through. We would end up entertaining her at our place all the time, because her house is a mess. Despite all that, I am sure we would be confident that she would always have our backs when we needed her, and we would discover that even though she might not admit it, she would need us as well. ~ A GIRL

Winner: Let the Right One In

Let the Right One In

So by my tally, that gives Twilight four points to Let the Right One In‘s ten. I think it’s safe to say that’s well outside the margin of error. So, I think we’ve put the debate of which is a better film, Twilight or Let the Right One In, to rest. I’d like to thank A GIRL for joining us once again and giving a female perspective on this topic.

AfterDark 8Films2Die4 III

it took me a while to get through all the films in this year’s afterdark 8films2die4, but last night i finally finished up the last one and i thought i’d share what i thought. is this third set of eight to die for, or did i waste $70 at best buy purchasing a shiny set of coasters? let’s find out…

the butterfly effect 3: revelations (2009)
a butterfly effect sequel seems like a really odd choice for this film series, but it actually fits in quite nicely. apart from the “i can travel back in time and fuck everything up good and proper by changing one small thing” (which can be found in other earlier works, such as ray bradbury’s “a sound of thunder”), the third film in this franchise borrows little from the earlier films, thankfully. it could have just been called murder mystery time bouncing fun time and, apart from the stupidity of the title, it probably would have done better as a stand-alone film.

anyway, this film isn’t bad at all. it involves time travel and a serial killer and some clever plot twists, which is probably a whole lot more than anyone was expected from the second sequel to an ashton kutcher movie. the rules of physics and probability take a back seat to the time jumping antics, but that’s to be expected. you probably won’t remember much about this film a year after watching it, but it’s enjoyable enough at the time.

the broken (2008)
very similar in many way to aja’s mirrors, the broken is the far better of the two. lena headey plays a young woman who catches a glimpse of her own doppleganger and follows it home. while there’s nothing quite as brutal as the jaw ripping scene from mirrors, there are some great mirror-related scares and imagery in the film, but make no mistake — this is a slow, engaging mystery that asks more questions than it answers. this is not an action film, and if that’s what you’re expecting you’ll likely dislike the broken. for me, i loved the molasses-esque pacing and conservative parceling out of clues. i actually see the lack of a solid resolution as one of the film’s strengths, as any answer given would ultimately be unsatisfying. many horror films ignore that fact, over-explaining things to the point of annoyance (i’m looking at you, silent hill) instead of following the example from tremors — sometimes giant, multi-tongued killer sand worms show up in your town, and it doesn’t really matter whether they came from outer space, the government, or nature gone awry — you’ve still got to deal with them.

perkins’ 14 (2009)
this isn’t just one of the better entries from the afterdark film series this year, it’s one of the better entries from any previous year as well. you’re never really sure what direction this film is about to go in, but it begins by asking the question “would it be better or worse if your kidnapped child was still alive ten years after being taken by a psychopath?” in many ways this is a revenge tale with an elaborate scheme that requires some serious long-term devotion to pull off (similar to king’s story, “dolan’s cadillac”), but this is a bit different as the person seeking revenge isn’t who you’d expect. the film exudes a tangible air of creepiness that’s punctuated with copious amounts of gore and violence. i don’t know the full story behind the making of this film, but apparently it was sort of democratically created as fans decided by voting what script would get made, what actors would be in it, and even what poster art would be used. that sounds like a terrible way to make a film, but i have little evidence for that opinion because i really liked perkins’ 14.

from within (2008)
from within reminds me of specific buffy and the x-files episodes, each which dealt with witches and paranoia. given the tendency of people to band together and burn witches when they come around, it’s not a big shock that from within also has paranoia as a central theme in its witch story. the film plays out a little like the ring in that people are seeing visions of things that kill them and, once they’re dead, the curse gets passed to someone else. however, this curse isn’t much of a technophile as it just uses physical proximity to decide who to kill next instead of a vhs tape or cell phone address book (one missed call). apart from some serious implausibility to its ending, this is a fairly decent little witch movie primarily aimed at teens and people who think religious intolerance is dumb and a really bad way to advertise your town to potential homeowners.

dying breed (2008)
this is another of those “city folk go into the country and get devoured by hillbillies” stories set in australia. it stars leigh whannell, who it turns out can walk just fine despite having written a role for himself in saw that required standing in one place for ninety minutes. there is absolutely nothing original, new or groundbreaking in dying breed‘s treatment of the traveler’s cautionary tale, but despite being a copy of several other films, it’s a good copy. of all the subgenres of horror, survival horror has the biggest effect on me — and while this is no where near as effective as other similar films like the strangers and eden lake, dying breed is suspense-filled movie that’s well worth checking out if you’re a fan of the films it borrows so heavily from.

i think it’s also worth noting that this is, quite possibly, the least accurate poster art i’ve ever seen. it’s like if the poster for schindler’s list featured a giraffe in a toupee eating yogurt. exactly what does an eyeball in a martini glass have to do with a group of kids heading into the outback being attacked by some country bumpkins?

slaughter (2009)
perkins’ 14, dying breed, and slaughter are the strongest entries in this year’s afterdark film festival. part single white female, part the texas chainsaw massacre, slaughter takes a little while to get going but ramps up the violence quickly once it starts. in an attempt to avoid her super-stalker ex, a young girl moves in to the farm house home of a female friend she meets in a bar who enjoys life to the fullest, which means, of course, that she’s a slut. the friend has a habit of bringing home a different suitor each night from the bar that usually end up mysteriously disappearing by morning. when our non-slut heroine stumbles across something nasty in the woodshed, things go from good to really, really crappy in about 3 seconds. there are some definite obvious flaws in this film, particularly in regards to the ending, but overall slaughter is an effective thriller.

autopsy (2008)
at this point in the afterdark films, i started to get really worried. given the average quality of the films of the first two years (16Films2Die4?), it breaks all the rules of probability and nature that the first six films i watched would be good. with less exceptions that i’d hoped for, the films from previous years were usually just “meh” or insultingly bad. maybe i’m just in a more forgiving mood these days, but i really enjoyed all the ones from this year up to this point. luckily autopsy was there to put things back on track by sucking hard. now i would be remiss if i didn’t let you know that the very smart guys on the bloody-disgusting podcast hated pretty much every one of these films except autopsy. i don’t know what that means, but i personally just didn’t enjoy it. yes, it has a great scene where robert patrick does a spinal tap and then drinks the fluid, but overall the film had a surreal quality and characters that behaved in ways contrary not just to logic, but against common sense. the closest thing i can compare it to is the feel of some of the old tales from the darkside episodes where realism was not considered very important. that’s fine for fairy tales and metaphorical storytelling, but it makes it very difficult to scare an audience when they simply don’t believe in what they’re watching. however, maybe that’s not true for everyone, so perhaps you’d have a different experience with autopsy.

voices (2007)
i was hoping that autopsy would be the only anomaly, but voices really, really wanted to be different from the majority and succeeded completely. this was, by far, my least favorite of the eight films. worse than not being scary, which it wasn’t, voices doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. like all westerners, i occasionally have problems with eastern storytelling, but this is ridiculous. i followed ju-on, ringu, and the majority of takaski miike’s efforts just fine (with the definite exception of imprint). but voices pulled some david lynch antics on me, giving me the distinct impression that they’d just pulled a tyler durden ending, but leaving me with no understanding of what happened. it’s possible i just missed something obvious or maybe i shouldn’t have been twittering while trying to watch a foreign film, but voices is definitely not my bff, and i wouldn’t recommend anyone else even try to get to know it, let alone become close friends.

Horror DVD Releases – Week of May 5th, 2009

(descriptions from netflix &

Mum & Dad (2008)
After missing the last bus home, Polish immigrant Lena (Olga Fedori) accepts a ride with her cheerful co-worker Birdie (Ainsley Howard) — only to find herself knocked unconscious and imprisoned by a deranged family of murderers in this twisted horror flick. Terrified and outnumbered, Lena must find a way to appease the demented clan — or else suffer an agonizing death. Dido Miles and Perry Benson co-star as the sadistic heads of the household.

Slaughter (2008)
When mentally unhinged David Ward escapes from the hospital, he hides out in a van near the town of Collingwood, England, where he binges on drugs and uses a camcorder to film himself raping, then murdering, innocent women. As Ward’s collection of gruesome snuff films grows, the hapless cops turn to his doctors for help in tracking down the lunatic. Scott Castle and Chloe De Salis star in this gory horror film from writer-director Dan Martin.

End of the Line (2007)
When her subway train grinds to a halt during her evening commute, psychiatric nurse Karen (Ilona Elkin) and the other passengers become the trapped targets of an apocalyptic religious cult bent on sacrificing them all in the name of their strange god. The captives fight back, but can their feeble resistance stand up to the demonic powers that are hunting them down? Maurice Devereaux directs this gruesome horror flick. Nicolas Wright co-stars.

From a Place of Darkness (2008)
Documentary filmmaker Miles Kody (Travis Schuldt) is looking for an attention-grabbing subject for his next film — and he finds it in a snuff film producer named Vic (John Savage). Things get weird fast, though, when ghosts begin popping up in Kody’s footage of Vic. It doesn’t take long for the filmmaker to figure out that these fuzzy images represent Vic’s victims in this creepy thriller co-starring Bronson Pinchot and Natalie Zea.

The House of the Demon (2007)
With a ban on campus Halloween parties, Charlie (Gabriel McIver) throws a spooky bash for his college classmates at the abandoned house he’s inherited. But as night falls and partiers arrive, flesh-eating demons come alive. Now, the chance of escape may be as remote as the haunted house itself. Rashida Abdul-Jabbar, Katrina Ellsworth and Brant Bumpers also star in this film festival horror selection.

Scarce (2008)
When three snowboarding buddies take refuge in an isolated backwoods cabin during a sudden blizzard, they soon discover that the creepy mountain men who live there are looking for new sources of fresh meat. Now trapped, the boys must fight back against their cannibalistic captors or face the blade of the slaughterhouse. Jesse T. Cook and John Geddes direct and star in this gruesome bloodbath. Thomas Webb co-stars.

Rise of the Scarecrows (2009)
Moving from the big city to small town Adams, Mass., cop Brown (Anthony Brown) expects to experience a transformation to a tranquil life, but he soon finds out the quiet hamlet hides a horrific secret in this bloody slasher flick. Visitors are being murdered, and as the body count ticker edges upward, Brown must find the culprits — and figure out why the local scarecrows seem to have a life of their own. Geno McGahee directs.

Movies Every Horror Fan Has Seen (Except Me)

I’d like to think that I’m fairly well-read, but whenever I come across one of those recurring lists of “greatest books of all time,” I invariably find myself amazed at how many important milestones of literature I’ve completely neglected. Sadly, the same is true of horror films. So, in the spirit of full disclosure and honesty, I present my list of films that I’m embarrassed to say I have not yet seen. Feel free to chastise me, make fun of me, or, if you feel so inclined to join me, mention a film that YOU hate to admit you’ve never seen.

1. Anaconda (1997)
I’m not sure why I’ve never seen this movie, as I recall seeing a pretty cool trailer involving a lithe and wicked-looking snake whipping around a boat. And I know that it stars some venerable actors, including Jon Voight, and that rapper who sang “Mama Said Knock You OUT.” Maybe it’s this connection to rap music that’s kept me from seeing it. Don’t’ get me wrong, I like rap as much as the next guy, but being a child of the 80s, I can’t help but think of the lyrics to “Baby Got Back” whenever I hear the word “Anaconda.” It’s just part of my subconscious now. So thank you very much Sir Mix-A-Lot. You’ve kept me from seeing what I’m sure is one of the better films ever made about a giant reptile eating Angelina Jolie’s father.

2. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
I like The Omen, The Exorcist, The Prince of Darkness, The Ninth Gate, The First Power, The Car, The Devil’s Advocate, Before the Devil Knows Your Dead, and I even kind of like Bedazzled and My Demon Lover. The first song I remember loving as a kid is Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia. Let’s face it, the Devil is just plain interesting. Add in the fact that this is one of the seminal films from legendary and controversial director Roman Polanski, and it’s ludicrous that I haven’t seen Rosemary’s Baby. I know little about the film except that it stars Mia Farrow, so if Woody Allen is the demonic father of her onscreen hell baby, I’ll kick myself even harder for not seeing this.

3. An American Werewolf In Paris (1997)
One of the things I love about An American Werewolf In London is its strange and unsettling mixture of horror and comedy. I imagine that the Parisian sequel has even more hijinks than the original, with plenty of characters comically slipping on banana peels and whatnot. I’ll wager that the story goes something like this: a romance develops between an all-American wolf-boy and a young French waif, but their relationship is doomed after an inane but tenacious French detective stumbles upon the mutilated, half-eaten body of a well-loved mime.

4. Stir Of Echoes (1999)
This is a film I’ve had in limbo at the bottom of my Netflix queue for years now. I’ve always heard that it’s a pretty good ghost story featuring Kevin Bacon. If I remember correctly, I think the film is about an all-American town haunted by the tragic deaths of some high school kids who were drinking and driving after their box social. Kevin Bacon plays the part of a strange newcomer who must cleanse this town of its ghosts through the power of rock ‘n’ roll and the sheer force of his furious dancing.

5. Dog Soldiers (2002)
The only reason this film is on my list is because my co-writer, Corey, suggested that I include it. I have never seen a trailer for this film, read any reviews of this film, or even heard anyone mention this film until he did. So I figured it must be a film along the lines of Ginger Snaps—a really good film that somehow never got the mainstream attention it deserved. But Corey seemed amazed I’d never seen it, so it must be some kind of mega-hit that I just somehow missed. Apparently, you can even buy Dog Soldiers action figures. And, as Corey pointed out to me, there are no Ginger Snaps action figures (but I say there should be).

6. Dead Alive (aka Braindead) (1992)
Before Peter Jackson made the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I knew him from Heavenly Creatures, his superbly crafted film about the tenderness and cruelty of adolescent obsessions. Apparently, he also made splatter films about zombies and aliens, and one of them, so I’ve been told, features muppets. I REALLY hope it’s Dead Alive, because I think undead muppets would be a wonderful way to introduce kids to the delightful world of re-animated corpses ushering in the apocalypse.

7. Cujo (1983)
I’ve loved gore films since I was a kid, but I can’t stomach the idea of a dog being injured or hurt in a film. I just about had to stop watching I Am Legend because of that terrible scene involving his dog. So maybe that’s why I‘ve avoided Cujo. I also haven’t read Stephen King’s novel, so I’m really in the dark about this one. Of course, “Cujo” has now become a synonym for “vicious dog,” so I think I’ve got the gist of the story: man’s best friend turns out to be not so friendly after all. I’m pretty sure they used a St. Bernard for the film, and I imagine it’s pretty scary, as they’re big dogs, and usually very friendly and trustworthy. However, I think it would be even scarier to be attacked by a gang of very small dogs, say, beagles or pugs.

8. White Zombie (1932)
I love classic black and white horror films. I think James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein is just as savvy and sophisticated as anything being made today. I also love zombies. So, once again, I’m at a loss as to why I’ve not yet seen what is credited as being the first zombie film. And it features the original bad-boy of horror, Bela Lugosi. I don’t know exactly what his particular role in the film entails, but I’ve seen stills of his character, and those big, bushy eyebrows and fu Manchu beard are strangely hypnotic. I’m also pretty sure that Rob Zombie’s band White Zombie took its name from this film, so I bet the immaculately coiffed Lugosi is the real inspiration for Rob’s ongoing fascination with long-haired villains, heroes, and every other character type.

9. Prom Night (1980)
I’ve heard the remake of this film really stinks. But I wouldn’t know, because I haven’t seen either one. I know that it’s an important slasher film, and I’ve heard it described as the unofficial sequel to Halloween, largely due to the fact that it features Jamie Lee Curtis as its final girl. I’m sure this film is as good as everyone says, but I don’t think you need to throw a homicidal maniac into the mix to make prom night scary. They’re inherently terrifying events, what with all those awkward teenage boys in their ill-fitting tuxedos and girls in their big, poofy, southern antebellum prom dresses. And I think 1980, in particular, must have been really tough on proms because it was a lousy year for music. Disco was still around, and a lot of music’s best and brightest tragically died in 1980, including Ian Curtis of Joy Division, Darby Darsh of the Germs, Bon Scott of AC/DC, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, and, of course, John Lennon. And that’s horrifying enough.

10. Black Christmas (1974)
I’m especially embarrassed that I haven’t seen this one, as it’s one of those films that slasher fans constantly reference. I suppose it’s kind of like being a football fan who never watches the Superbowl. I have, however, seen Silent Night, Deadly Night, so I’m not completely in the dark when it comes to violent yuletide films. I know that Olivia Hussey stars in Black Christmas, and I think it must have killed her career. She was brilliant in her portrayal of youthful naiveté and unabashed sexuality in Franco Zeffirelli’s iconic 1968 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. But I don’t think her career ever really went anywhere after 1974. And this makes me wonder all the more about what horrible things Santa must have done to her in Black Christmas. I bet it involves something nasty from that big sack of toys he carries around and the repeated use of the phrase “naughty.”

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Horror DVD Releases – Week of April 28th, 2009

whole lotta crap this week, kids. it looks like the entire puppet master series hits netflix. and something with a penis metaphor title and ron jeremy. and, of course, martyrs. most people seem pretty impressed with martyrs, so maybe i’m in the minority — i loved the first half, but the second half just weighed too much for me and snapped the supports holding my suspension bridge of disbelief (but i’d love to hear other opinions).

(descriptions from netflix &

The Uninvited (2009)
Committed to a mental hospital after her mother’s tragic death, teenager Anna (Emily Browning) discovers upon her release that her father (David Strathairn) plans to marry his deceased wife’s former nurse, Rachael (Elizabeth Banks), a woman who may not have the best intentions. Foreboding warnings from her mother’s ghost only cement Anna’s suspicions in this remake of the 2003 Korean chiller Janghwa, Hongryeon.

Exit 38 (2007)
Two rival cops team up to defeat the powerful vampire that is holding their loved ones hostage in this horror-themed action thriller starring Martin Kove and James Hong. Mercer is a predator who loves to toy with his human prey. Lee Gray and Boyd Parker both dream of the day they can end Mercer’s reign of terror, but they’ll have to find him first, and in order to do that they’ll need some assistance from the FBI and a particularly intuitive Chinese master. With their help, Gray and Parker track Mercer to a gentleman’s club in a sleepy small town, just off Exit 38. There, the malevolent bloodsucker is able to feed without fear of discovery. When Gray and Lee learn that their loved ones are being held captive by Mercer, the two mortal adversaries reluctantly agree that the only way to win is by working together.

The Centerfold Girls (1974)
When she agrees to pose nude in a prominent men’s magazine, beautiful nurse Jackie (Jaime Lyn Bauer) couldn’t possibly have predicted that she’d attract the unwelcome attention of madman with two things: bloodlust and a straight razor. Before long, other babes who’ve bared it all in the magazine become the deranged killer’s next targets. Can anyone stop him before he slays all the centerfolds? John Peyser directs this classic exploitation film.

Curse of the Puppet Master (1998)
In the sixth installment of the Puppet Master horror series, we follow the evil Dr. Magrew (George Peck) as he foolishly attempts to re-create the genius of puppet master Andre Toulon, whose puppets he now owns. Toulon’s puppets have watched silently as Magrew experimented on his own assistant and performed all sorts of atrocities to achieve that end. Now, they’re ready to give Magrew a taste of his own medicine.

One-Eyed Monster (2008)
Adult film stars Ron Jeremy and Veronica Hart reunite in this hilarious homage to horror. Stranded by a storm, the cast and crew of a porn flick fall prey to a vicious killer when Ron’s (Jeremy) dismembered member is possessed by a bloodthirsty alien. Now they’ll have to destroy the slithering monster before it spreads its deadly seed across the world. Amber Benson, Carmen Hart and Charles Napier also star.

Puppet Master (1989)
In director David Schmoeller’s taut chiller, perverse master puppeteer Andre Toulon (William Hickey) harnesses the power of ancient Egyptian magic to breathe life into his crew of marionettes, who morph into demonic killers. Many years later, a group of modern psychics looking for clues to explain a mutual friend’s mysterious suicide end up trapped in a creepy hotel stalked by Toulon’s miniature assassins. Paul Le Mat also stars.

Puppet Master 2: His Unholy Creations (1991)
A gang of ghoulish, supernatural puppets uses an Egyptian brain serum to resurrect their long-dead creator, Andre Toulon (Steve Welles), who promptly orders his marionette minions to drain the brains of a team of scientists. Meanwhile, Toulon falls for Carolyn (Elizabeth Maclellan), whom he believes to be the reincarnation of his lost love. Pinhead, Leech Woman, Blade and Tunneler are all back for more in this gory sequel to the 1989 cult hit.

Puppet Master 3: Toulon’s Revenge (1991)
French puppeteer Andre Toulon (Guy Rolfe) attracts the Nazis’ attention with his anti-Hitler productions, which feature a cast of magical string-free marionettes. The Gestapo promptly kill his wife (Sarah Douglas) and pursue Toulon’s animation formula to create a zombie army. Enlisting the help of his faithful creations, Toulon pulls the strings on a very gory revenge plan in this clever prequel to the first two films in the horror franchise.

Puppet Master 4: The Demon (1993)
With the help of a psychic, scientist Rick (Gordon Currie) and his cohorts find the trunk of dead French puppeteer Andre Toulon. Its contents include several amazing puppet creations — and an ancient animation serum stolen from Egyptian wizards. Rick injects the puppets, who are reanimated just in time to battle a team of ruthless demons sent to reclaim the serum in this bloody-good fourth installment of the popular cult horror franchise.

Retro Puppet Master (1999)
In this prequel to the horror franchise, it’s 19th-century Paris, and a young Andre is visited by a 3,000-year-old sorcerer who shares the ancient secret of installing the souls of the dying into inanimate objects. The problem is that the secret has been stolen from a god — and the god wants it back. Greg Sestero plays the puppet master Andre Toulon in this seventh installment, directed by David DeCoteau.

While She Was Out (2008)
What starts out as a Christmas Eve trip to the mall ends up as an exercise in terror for suburban mom Della Myers (Kim Basinger) when she finds herself stranded in a forest and pursued by a quartet of thugs — all because she’s left an angry note on their car. The baddies (including Lukas Haas) chase her from the mall, and when she crashes her car in a wooded area, she has nothing to fend off her attackers but her wits and her toolbox.

Martyrs (2008)
Years after she escaped from an icy torture chamber in an abandoned slaughterhouse, Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) enlists the help of her closest friend, Anna (Morjana Alaoui), to track down the family who tormented her and exact her revenge. But when Lucie and Anna investigate further, they discover that they’ve only scratched the surface of an unspeakably vile secret organization. Pascal Laugier directs this ultraviolent horror film.

The Sisters Four (2008)
A man searching for the source of his fiancee’s recurring nightmares discovers a dark truth about her mystery-shrouded past in this low-budget thriller. Hard as she may try, Traci Holmes simply can’t stop her recurring nightmares. They seem to be rooted in a traumatic incident Tracie’s childhood. Determined that he can set her free if he can only solve the mystery of her past, Tracie’s fiancee Richard sets out to find the truth. When Richard uncovers a terrible secret about the orphanage where Tracie was raised, and discovers that the former orphanage residents are being systematically slaughtered, he races to catch the killer before it’s too late.

Sick and the Dead (2008)
The zombie apocalypse has come and gone, and as the living dead assume ownership of planet Earth, the few humans who have managed to survive struggle to remain hopeful for a future where they are safe from flesh eaters.

Blood Predator (2008)
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Sigma Die! (2007)
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Grindhouse Double Feature: Beast of the Yellow Night/Keep My Grave Open (1970/1980)
Beast of the Yellow Night
Roger Corman’s New World Pictures distributed this seedy Filipino monster mess about a lecherous American soldier (John Ashley, no stranger to Filipino horror films) who saves his miserable hide during World War II by selling his soul to Satan. Everything works out fine until some years later, when Ashley tries to back out on the arrangement and is subsequently slapped with a werewolf-type curse that has him sprouting hair in unwanted places and stalking villagers by night. The werewolf attacks are remarkably gory — throats are ripped, faces pulverized, and intestines spilled — but still manage to be boring. No special method for exterminating the supposedly indestructible beast is devised; apparently he gets tired of being shot repeatedly by the police and just keels over — as does the film itself.
Keep My Grave Open
This unsettling but moody low-budget psycho-thriller — a drive-in version of Repulsion with a Southern Gothic flavor — stars the eerie-looking Camilla Carr as a demented young recluse who believes herself to be possessed by the spirit of her long-lost brother (who is presumed dead), and slays any man who makes sexual advances toward her — usually running them through with a sword. Her dementia intensifies, leading her to take her own life by chewing on broken glass (a particularly unsettling scene). The chief plot twist and subsequent dramatic punchline — involving the brother’s true identity and whereabouts — is a long time coming, but fairly satisfying nonetheless.

Wii Horrors – House of the Dead: Overkill and Madworld

the graphically challenged and waggle-centric nintendo wii is generally considered to be a far less hardcore gaming system than it’s bigger brothers, the xbox360 and ps3. thus, most of its games tend to focus on cutesy animal adventures, established children’s licenses, puzzle games, or a combination of all three. the majority of graphic violence and horror themed situations tend to be found in games on microsoft or sony’s consoles, leaving horror fans with wii’s little choice but to pick up a second console to play things like left 4 dead, dead space and resident evil 5. there are exceptions to this trend. resident evil: umbrella chronicles, house of the dead 2 & 3 return, obscure and a handful of others jump to mind. these are decent games, but unfortunately they pale in comparison to the quality horror titles that can be found on other consoles. however, there are two games that can be found only on the wii that offer the same level of quality, action, fun and gratuitous violence as anything on any other platform.

house of the dead: overkill

house of the dead has always been one of my favorite series, as there are few things more fun than shooting zombies with a plastic gun. a few of the arcade games have been ported to various consoles in the past, but overkill is the first one written specifically for a home console (the wii). and apparently that makes a lot of difference because this isn’t just the best (no offense to the brilliant voice actors in previous chapters) house of the dead game to date, it’s also (no offense to the dog from duck hunt) the best light gun shooter i’ve ever played.

when i first saw the trailer for this game (see below), i thought the grindhouse style was simply a way to market the game — it turns out i was wrong. the game itself is presented as a grindhouse-era b-movie, complete with bumpers, a rating notification and music that would feel right at home in any tarantino film. each level of the game is presented with a title card as a tiny b-movie unto itself. a sleezy, 1970s movie trailer voice-over narrates the game, setting the scene for your characters and summarizing the story thus far. the visuals of the game are probably the most impressive as the scratches, hairs and dirty feel of films from that age being projected on a grindhouse screen has been replicated perfectly.

zombie blood splatters on nearby walls, zombies continue to crawl towards you if shot in the legs, creepy clowns swing down from rafters, and heads of the undead explode into a beautiful cloud of red mist when hit with a shotgun. consecutively hitting what you aim at leads to an increased score multiplier, which adds a new feel to this type of game and pushes you towards accuracy as opposed to the ‘shoot as fast as you can’ mentality. points earned can be used to purchase bigger, more destructive weapons or upgrade those you already have. the game can be played alone, but two player co-op is definitely where it’s at. my only complaint would be that the writing of the cutscenes is occasionally annoying, as is one character’s habit of punctuating every phrase with the word ‘fuck’ (the game was recently declared the most profanity-laden game in history). the writing of the voice-over announcer, however, is always top-notch… my favorite line being “this game will make you cry blood… from your own eyeballs.” apart from small children and old people who just bought their wii to play bowling, this is a must-own title.


madworld is a completely new license created specifically for the wii. how they thought creating a game this violent for the wii was a great idea i will never understand, but i’m very glad they did. the story of this game is rather simple and familiar to anyone who’s played manhunt or seen the running man or death race — murder has become a televised sport, and you’re a contestant. you move through a camera-monitored city, guided by your ‘sponsor’ via an earpiece. you encounter various ninjas, thugs, behemoths, monstrosities and mutants which you are required to kill. the more elaborate, grotesque and audience-pleasing you make the death — the more points you get.

madworld is easiliy the most violent game i’ve ever seen. i imagine the aesthetic choice to present the game in black & white and make the world look somewhat comic-book-ish is the only reason this game isn’t rated AO (which would mean the game couldn’t be released). if you watch the video below, you can see an example taken from the game’s tutorial. you’re taught to entrap a guy in a tire, uproot a stop sign and skewer him with it through the throat and shoulder, and then carry him over to a wall of spikes and repeatedly impale him on it. the only color in the game is red, which you see a lot of while doing the latter two steps of this process. as we learned from schindler’s list, red against a black and white image creates a startling contrast – and while i’m sure it was done for censorship issues, the fact that the game world is in black and white except for blood makes it appear even more violent than i think it would have in full color. while there are a few movies that have featured scenes that have made me turn away, a video game has never done that. until now. at an early point in the game you have the option of impaling a guy cannibal holocaust style on a large spike situated in the ground. As the spike passed through his entire abdomen and emerged from his mouth, i turned away exclaiming “oh, man! that ain’t right!” truly, this is a great game.

the game features top-notch graphics and sound. greg proops (who’s line is it anyway? alumnus and podrace announcer from episode one) is one of two announcers that humorously narrate your progress, constantly criticize your choices and killing methods, and often wander off topic and have their own little discussions (e.g., announcer a: “heroin is much better when injected directly into your scrotum.” announcer b: “name me one thing that isn’t much better when injected directly into your scrotum?”). the wii’s waggle controls add an interactive element i’ve never seen in a game that featured this level of violence — when you stab, choke or impale someone… it feels like you’re stabbing, choking or impaling someone. this is, of course, the exact kind of thing that politicians will likely get their panties in a wad about if they ever take notice of this game… but assuming you can differentiate images on the wii from reality, spearing a guy through the back by making a spearing motion with your arms can be great fun. i have yet to finish madworld, but i hear it is somewhat short. i don’t see this being a huge drawback because, similar to left 4 dead, part of the fun is in replaying levels and trying to improve on your prior performance. for my money, this is the best game currently out for the wii and i wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who can tolerate ridiculous amounts of over-the-top/tounge-in-cheek violence.

Series 7 and Actress Apocalypse

series 7: the contenders
to me, low-budget film making is the best when the filmmakers find a way to use the lack of financial resources to their benefit instead of overreaching their grasp. such is the case with the blair witch project, [rec], and now, series 7: the contenders. in the near future,citizens are chosen randomly by social security number to participate in a reality show, whether they wish to or not. the players in the game are forced to hunt down and kill each other by any means possible; the winner being the last man or woman standing. the story here is similar to what you’ve seen before in films like the running man, battle royale or the more recent death race, but the difference is that series 7 isn’t trying to be an action film. the cheesy graphics, staged monologues, and the rushing, energetic camera crews chasing after each of the contestants scream “trashy, low-budget reality show.” in whatever future this is, series 7 is not the american idol of its day — it’s likely more akin to cheaters or rock of love. this works to the film’s advantage, as this style breaks down the wall between film and audience and makes what you’re watching seem ‘real.’ which is probably why we love reality tv in the first place. the camera follows characters in their private moments, sometimes peaking through doors and catching the contestants unaware, letting us feel we know these people far better than you could a fictional hero in some action film. of course, these are fictional characters as well — but part of the reason this format works is because that shaky, video quality camera footage makes you feel like what you’re watching is ‘reality.’ in this way, the film owes a lot more to stephen king’s the long walk than battle royale, despite the obvious plot similarities to the latter. series 7 could have probably used a little more polishing, but overall it’s a clever story told in a very compelling way and well worth checking out.

actress apocalypse
i have sorted through hundreds, if not thousands, of crappy, unwatchable micro-budget horror films over the years hoping to find those elusive pieces of genius film making i know are out there. my latest roughage to comb through looking for shiny rocks has been netflix’s streaming service since they plugged it into my xbox. you have no idea how many wretched horror films are available there for you to watch, 24/7. of the dozens i’ve seen so far, only one noteworthy film has risen out of the muck — and that film is actress apocalypse. i can’t imagine the budget of this film being more than what i have in my wallet right now, but this is the best example i’ve seen of how much you can really do with a camera, lots of talent and little else. the plot is remarkably simple and intriguing. david b. lincoln the 3rd is a struggling filmmaker who wants to create his first masterpiece, but unfortunately the only people he can get to help him are his brother vance and a guy who insists on being called “the golden terror.” david’s film, titled clearwater canyon, would be epic — if only he could complete it. for example, it features such classic lines as the following, spoken by a trapped heroine pondering her fate.

As I sit here, pondering my predicament on why the army men haven’t gotten here to save me yet… The fear, that the big, fat, ugly mullet Indian is on his way here to kill me.

while david has only the best intentions at heart despite a stunning lack of talent and little grasp of reality, vance has only one goal in mind — to use the auditions of the actresses for his brother’s project as a way to create his own snuff films. it all plays out as a mockumentary, supposedly the behind-the-scenes making-of footage of david’s doomed film. the film fluctuates seamlessly between being a disturbing serial killer horror film, an over-the-top exploitation flick, and a laugh-out-loud comedy. acting is usually where micro-budget films suffer the most, but the three primary characters (david, vance, and golden terror) are like the marx brothers of low-budget horror production, each far better crafted and acted than most comedic characters found in studio products. based on the director’s own history working on micro-budget productions, i imagine much of the situational humor comes from personal experience. i cannot recommend this film enough, particularly for anyone with any interest in low-budget film production. but if you really need more convincing, i suppose i could mention the extraordinary amount of quality nudity on display. not that anyone would make their decision based such a thing, but it has a lot. i mean… a lot.

Poultrygeist and Gutterballs

poultrygeist: night of the chicken dead
it is remarkable how little troma films have changed over the years. it would be almost impossible to place them in any kind of chronological order without the help of imdb. even the company graphic at the beginning of each one hasn’t changed with the years. there’s something charming about that timelessness of troma’s films, and poultrygeist is no exception. the major difference here is that it’s a musical, but everything else is as it’s always been. the same reliance on potty humor, extreme violence, nudity and tongue-in-cheek shock tactics are abundant. as always, the story plays out like a three stooges routine with copious amounts of blood, feces and breasts. i don’t know how they do it, but poultrygeist even has that same grungy film quality that one immediately associates with troma films. i imagine at this point they just shoot their films normally then run all the footage through some aftereffects plugin to give it that characteristic look that makes you feel like you need a shower. anyway, terror firmer was always my favorite of kaufman’s creations… until now. poultrygeist is by far the best troma film i’ve ever seen. sure, as in all troma films, much of the humor centers around hurling turds at the camera… but these are smart turds. mixed in with the 5th grade level bathroom humor is some biting satire on corporate america and relationships and, most notably, some damn catchy music. unlike the other recent horror musical, repo, this film actually features some songs with melodies and hooks, many of which you’ll find yourself humming days later. if you’re a fan of troma in the slightest, then definitely give poultrygeist a look.

gutterballs is another film from ryan “live feed” nicholson and, as hard as it is to believe, it’s even worse than live feed. this film is a tedious, mean-spirited endurance test of bad writing, acting and direction. however, in the interest of full disclosure, i must divulge that i’m predisposed to disliking nicholson’s films. one of my favorite podcasts (details here, including links to the relevant episodes). regardless of whether i liked live feed or not, i lost a lot of respect for nicholson due to his unprofessional reaction to criticism. (coincidentally, this was at roughly the same time notlp gave a similarly negative review to kevin kangas’ fear of clowns, which prompted kevin to also write them and tell them how much he enjoyed their review, which is an example of how to handle such things gracefully).

however, i honestly believe i would hate gutterballs regardless of who was responsible for its existence. this is a film that includes (at least what feels like) a 20 minute long rape scene, ending with the girl being violated by the larger end of a bowling pin. the scene is obviously meant to be shocking, but it’s horribly undercut by inappropriate vaginal shots during the rape and even before (the victim inexplicably wears no underwear early in the film, showing off her bits each times she leans over to bowl). these shots are meant to titillate, but fail on all levels and further, make the victim unsympathetic and irritating. not that that’s out of place here, as every character is annoying beyond belief and most do little more than scream shrilly and rattle off inane dialogue, most of which is comprised almost entirely of the word ‘fuck.’ gutterballs does feature some impressive special effects and copious amounts of gore, but overall the film feels like the feverish masturbatory fantasy of a mal-adjusted 12-year-old. when you read a description of the film’s plot, it may sound like something troma would create — a cartoony slasher with lots of violence, nudity and vulgar humor. however, if we were to transmogrify a troma film like poultrygeist into human form, it would be your buddy who occasionally drinks a little too much and makes off-color jokes, but is usually fun to have around and, gosh, when he tells that story about pooping his pants at the mall, you always cry with laughter. gutterballs, on the other hand, given human shape, would be your creepy uncle that you wish wouldn’t come to family reunions, likes to talk about his extensive porn collection and you’re afraid to leave alone with your sister. unless you happen to be a creepy uncle yourself, i’d recommend staying away from gutterballs.

Horror DVD Releases – Week of April 21th, 2009

it’s a slow week for sure, but all four releases this week look interesting. top honors goes to laid to rest though. it sounds a little derivative and i’m not sure i’m sold yet on the look of the killer, but i’ve heard good things about it and can’t wait to see it for myself.

(descriptions from netflix)

The Burrowers (2008)
When the men on a pioneer homestead are brutally murdered and the women and children go missing, a posse sets out to find them, assuming they’ve been abducted by Indians. But the truth turns out to be much more horrific. As they find more bodies, it soon becomes clear that something from beneath the ground is brutally attacking humans. Clancy Brown, William Mapother and Sean Patrick Thomas star in this horror film set in the Wild West.

Sam’s Lake (2005)
In the wake of her father’s death, city girl Sam (Fay Masterson) invites a bunch of her pals on a relaxing getaway to the lakeside cottage where she grew up. But once there, they learn of a horrific tale of murder that has haunted the area for decades. It isn’t long before our young heroes become personally — and terrifyingly — acquainted with the legend of Sam’s Lake. This thriller was an official selection at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.

I Dismember Mama (1974)
When he escapes from a mental ward, deeply repressed Albert (Zooey Hall) begins a hunt for his snobbish mother, whom he blames for his incarceration. Meanwhile, he embarks on a sexually charged killing spree of women he thinks are tramps. Oddly, he takes a shine to Annie (Geri Reischl), the daughter of his mother’s housekeeper, and determines to protect her from immoral influences, whatever the cost. Paul Leder directs this grim slasher flick.

Pick of the Week

Laid to Rest (2008)
When a beautiful young girl (Bobbi Sue Luther) wakes up in a coffin, she doesn’t know who she is or how she got there. What she does know is that she’ll have to put up the fight of her life to outwit a tech-savvy madman who wants to slay her before the night is over. On the run from the killer, she meets up with some seemingly benign locals … but how can she know whom to trust? Robert Hall directs this creepy horror flick.