Pet Sematary (1989)

Pet Sematary – IMDB

Not what I expected. Hailing from 1989 this classic crawled out of the burial ground to me. Disclaimer: I find Stephen King adaptations’ goofy, cringy, and weird. However, there have been a few exceptions, most notably (to me) The Mist among other revered classics that remain popular. Other mentions include Secret Window, which is predictable but enjoyable. The other being Dreamcatcher, which has excellent moments, but falls too close to the cheesy/oddball category which is something to say since I enjoy such shortfalls and see them as positives in other flicks. Silver Bullet, for example, has some great effects including a werewolf but the enjoyment value for me is subpar and incredibly stringy cheesy. The kid is better off using rocket boosters in the final race in Little Rascals than fighting the big baddy on a bridge. The Shining is not mentioned due to the film being more of Kubrick’s interpretation. Getting off track here, King has a knack for telling the supernatural. Pet Sematary involves his all; the supernatural, the loving family, Maine, creepy person, mystery, and innocent children. To include what I have mentioned above, Pet Sematary caught me off guard. Not thirty minutes after the movie ended I am still thinking about it…more along the lines of how this movie got under my skin and how will it remain with me in the forth coming days. Let’s just say I got up shortly after the credits rolled to use the restroom, and not closing the door all the way, my dog, my lovely dog, opened the door and stares at me. I thought she rose from the grave.

The story is simple and easy to follow. Dread follows, however, with every passing scene. Definitely something in the air lingering and it’s not rotting animal corpses. It’s actually hard for me to explain the feeling of dread. Maybe it’s the neighbor across the street. Comfort of an ominous trail disappearing into the thicket. A Native American burial ground which is never meant to be messed with. But really it’s more than that, perhaps the music setting a terror vibe that etched from the tree line in to the safety of the home. Then finally, into our protagonist’s anxious but venturous mind who only wants to keep what they already have obtained, unfortunately wrongfully stolen. Yes, like always, music was key. Especially in the final act. I hear the same sounds in horror today and is still effective. Notable mention to the final walkthrough of the house sequence. To think of the synopsis of Pet Sematary it does not ring any attention bells with the exception of being a King adaptation and a classic. In regard to my already premature expectation of anything King, including my forgetful thrill of seeing this many years ago yet under irresponsible substance usage, I did enjoy Pet Sematary.

And now, without further ado, my qualms. Everything was found forgiven till the final act. Which got messy. I don’t want to spoil anything per usual but I must make it said. Like King, things got a little…cheeky. I do not find children scary, they are more of a nuisance when utilized as a scare tactic. This is a gimmick and I don’t agree with the popular opinion they are scary. Sinister for example, which one day I hope to formulate words about on this site sometime, tried to make them scary. Punch them. This would happen to be my biggest criticism. Not fair? Jud didn’t think so either.

All in all, this is what I took away from it: Pet Sematary made me cringe but in a gross way. It got me spooked and care for the family. It made me pet my dog and want to look out for my future children. And sometimes dead is better, but also look out for the high road.

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The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982) – IMDb

The thing

Briefly I would like to explain my absence and apologize for it. For the past three months I have been in Basic Military Training for the Air Force (hua!) and have been missing my currently small but meaningful followers. To pay tribute to my return I have decided to review an all time favorite of mine: John Carpenter’s The Thing. Recently, I purchased this movie for my third time off of Amazon. A long awaited Mondo’s Steelbook Collector’s edition that I have fallen in love with. With a haunting bleak cover of snow and blackness, and a ghostly mutated figure screeching upwards on the left side of the case – the words THE THING etched across it’s chest. And subtle, hidden words lie beneath this beautiful box: Man is the warmest place to hide. I gladly unwrap the movie and recall my favorite moments, and times I introduced this bad boy to fresh eyes. Much like when I told my friend he HAD to watch this movie upon it’s arrival a week after basic, hence, he does not like horror. And I told him if there were ever a horror to watch before you die it must be The Thing  (and given, a few others). He was quite hesitant until this day, today, I had the pleasure of finally showing him after weeks of anticipation. He’s a hard nut to crack, my friend, but has said it contained a good, enjoyable plot and good characters. Seeing 25 years is around the corner of it’s release, that it has stood the test of time and is a worthy addition for your shelf. However, he said, it seemed drawn out and some of the characters were not well developed. Is he right? Meh, to my degree of thinking HE IS WRONG. But I will explain later, ladies and gentlemen.

If you are reading and have witnessed this bloody awesome movie then I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have. If not, then you’re on the wrong ship. Those of you who still need to pop that cherry, I suggest, as a movie lover, watch it. Experience it. Take in the cold and bleak wasteland that is of Antarctica. Where everywhere you go is isolation. Where you thought the below 40 degree weather was the worst of your fears. Until you find out there’s a 100,000 year old UFO beneath the ice. A neighboring outpost is left burned and destroyed, inhabiting nothing but ice and dead bodies. What do you do? The radios are down. You have acquired a stray dog who appears to be normal. Then things happen. Abnormal things. Things you can’t explain. One thing leads to another thing. The characters begin to question each other. Without noticing, you start questioning them. Soon enough you question yourself, Are You Crazy? The thing creeps up on you, slithering it’s way to your brain, becoming absorbed, clouding your judgement. You start building a shanty spaceship out of scraps thinking escape is the answer, I’m telling you that’s not it. You’re infected. Take your last shot of J&B Scotch and burn yourself.

The thing about The Thing is that you begin asking questions from the start. Who are the Norwegians and what are they saying? What is the dog doing? Then more questions begin to form. I think what makes a good movie, specifically this one, is to keep the audience engaged. Have a setting that they become familiar with so they  have the feeling of isolation. Introduce characters we can relate to who can also represent the daily human being. Keep them diversified. Make their personalities stand out and make it seem they have been working with each other for months to the point they appear close. Now throw them in a situation that they need to survive within a stationary location. Where they are faced with unknown, terrifying threat and need to survive with little resources. Where their wits are their best weapon by a foe who takes over it’s host. But they become challenged, divided – their trust tested. This alone, is my favorite part of the movie. The psychological fear can be witnessed on each characters faces. Like the scene when the blood is tested to see who is really who. This scene is what sold director John Carpenter to be a part of it. It was really well done. I feel for the guy because his movies are great but at the time, if any of you know, critics and audience alike did not swarm to his movies let alone Halloween. This made most of his movies a box office flop, only to be picked up by fans in the later years. Carpenter was hit hard by the critics as well. Saying “He’s better suited to direct traffic accidents, train wrecks and public floggings.” Ouch. If it’s any compensation, Mr. Carpenter, we love your movies now. the growing popularity even grew another limb in 2011 entitled by the same name The Thing. Which was a prequel and was to say the least OK. It tried to explain some questions from the first but left out the amazing special effects from the original (1982, not 1951).

I’d like to go out on a separate limb here and comment on the simple but haunting score. Done by Ennio Morricone, using a deep three note bass cord. I thought what was more impressive is that it sounded like John Carpenter did it himself since he has scored for many of his own movies. It fit perfectly, giving Antarctica that lonely, ominous feeling.

Let’s not forget the hard working special makeup effects creator Rob Bottin, who worked himself to exhaustion. Stan Winston (Aliens special effects) stepped in to lend a hand for the dog kennel scene. What’s cool about the effects is it’s actually made and not computer generated like modern movies (i.e. The Thing (2011)). This is where most of the terror, I believe, s produced. The imagery is grotesque. Like pulling guts out from two deformed bodies entangled together creating this twisted freak of a monstrosity. Or when a body’s chest opens up and clamps down on the victim’s arms and tears. And the head dislocates itself from it’s body and forms into it’s own nightmarish creation. You truly believe every part of this thing wants to survive.

Now, to comment on something my friend said earlier. The Thing can feel slow but something is happening and it adds to the storyline if not the characters. It’s a quiet progression, like the cold environment it is set in. The slowness, like other films I have reviewed and said, draws you in and makes the shock value increase. And these moments here are bloody, holding nothing back. As for the characters, you get to know how each individual reacts under pressure and in the face of peril. You see who stands out as the leader, the follower, the strong and the weak. I found myself questioning who to trust and having to change my belief, as did my friend.

The Thing and Alien are among my most beloved films in cinema. They both follow similar criteria; isolation and a small crew against an impossible foe. The Thing is even watched annually June 21 in Antarctica by researchers and the like. Its becoming a forgotten film by the younger generation but I will spread it like an infection. Without it we wouldn’t have the many imitators it has today. It even spawned a chilling videogame in 2002 that elaborated on the ending with a rescue team arriving to the outpost to search for survivors. I played it many years ago and due to it being difficult and being frightened I never finished it. If there were ever going to another installment, I feel this would do justice. (Even though I think sequels/prequels have potential to lessen the value of it’s predecessor.) Since the ending leaves you in the cold to ponder did something survive? It’s the ending that completes this masterpiece. Whether or not a direct sequel will be touched upon only time will tell. Would it be worth the admission?

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Bargain Bin 1

With so many movies releasing every year it’s hard to keep up. A lot of time is spent on which one to watch?  Hoping you wouldn’t regret your decision after the two hours are up. You may choose one through networking because a friend told you to watch it. Or this other flick was hailed by a bunch of critics. Or perhaps you decided not to listen to anyone and watch some random movie out of the mainstream or whatever the case may be. Well, here’s someone else not to listen to: me.

I have compiled a small list that shouldn’t take up much of your time to skim through; a random selection of movies on different budgets, languages, genres, and other rubbish you may find amusing. Whether whatever weather outside, you sit on fur or leather, this is your chance to be pickey-choosey for your pleasure.

Here you go:

Hunter Prey (2010)

This small film caught me off guard. Whilst i was binge surfing on Netflix I decided to give this movie a try. I knew nothing about it and was rather impressed. A small squad is traveling with a cloaked prisoner on a distant planet when he gets loose and they must find him. Simple right? Hunter Prey is really well done for what it sets out to accomplish. Even though the soldiers’ costumes look like they were borrowed from the Clone Trooper sweat shop, it’s easy to write off for it’s still believable and the make up is also well done. Just please, do not watch the trailer. You are better off not knowing anything since the trailer somewhat ruins the twist and makes it seem more like an action movie.

PS: If you liked Enemy Mine you’d like this.

13 Assassins (2010)

I love Japanese culture and their art style. I love samurai movies even more. Takashi Miike gives himself a break from his outrageous horror/gangster films and brings us a story about thirteen samurai who are set on taking down a corrupt, evil leader. And he is evil. The film is set up in two parts basically, the first is build up. This is when Shinzaemon Shimada collects the twelve other samurai on a suicide mission and in contrary, the evil lord shows us just how evil he is. For some, the first hour may seem slow as it really lets us get to know a little bit about each character. Those who are patient, however, will be rewarded. The last hour is nothing but blood shed as the thirteen face off the many in epic fashion.

PS: I love the wide range of colors presented in every frame. Most notably when Japan’s landscape is shown. 

Session 9 (2001)

A little known horror film that came across my way through a friend. This wasn’t a movie i thought he would even like in the first place so when i watched it I was surprised that HE was the one who found it. Session 9 doesn’t need jump scares, no need for gore, just the real Danvers Mental Hospital to film in. At first, everything seems easy enough for our asbestos cleaning crew in an eerie, haunting asylum. But not everything is what it seems in this psychological horror. Hiding secrets can result in brutal fatalitie. Brad Anderson’s editing, shots, and music is what really creeps up your nerves. As well as the session tapes. There’s something about this place that will leave you feeling mental.

PS: Even though the movie isn’t widely known, those who have seen the ending and were left scratching their skull were not satisfied for it’s rather ambiguous. This is a movie worth watching with some people who are open for conversation. I, myself, loved this film for it will have you thinking for days to come.

The Fisher King (1991)

What to say about this delightful movie? I blessed myself when i purchased this without giving it a first look and  it was the one of the best decisions i ever made. It’s a story about fate and moving on from the past. When a radio DJ (Jeff Bridges) who lost his fame due to assisting a woman’s suicide, crosses paths with a looney hobo (Robin Williams) with a tragic past, becomes a comedic tale of redemption and love. Jack (Jeff) befriends the bum hoping he can help him find his true love and aid his past. All performances  are top-notch giving Robin enough room to be weird and heart warming, and letting Jeff be the down-beat cool guy. A favorite of mine from Terry Gilliam.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

I’m a little butt hurt this movie isn’t more well known, or to my knowledge it is not. You have a kick a** cast and amazing one liners. Scrap that, the whole script must be heard. Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr are perfect together, seeing that Val nearly steals the show in every scene.  Their chemistry and delivery couldn’t be any more pluperfect. The story line is a little everywhere which will take you a couple times to re-watch this. That’s not a complaint though, do yourself a favor and have fun solving this jazzed up mystery. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

PS: Still reading? Stop, i found your movie. 

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Apocalypse Now (1979) – IMDb

A magnificent film. After just watching Apocalypse Now I still have a profound feeling of being lost in a cruelly insane, dark but beautiful world. Wonderfully shot by Francis Ford Coppola and relishly written. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the screen with mysterious amazement. I have never seen Vietnam filmed so beautifully and so dangerously. This movie will stand the test of time for it is timeless. One generations will come to watch and seem familiar with because of so many other movies it has inspired today, but still will be viewed as it is iconicly fresh, as in with it’s own zest that can not be coppied. It is brutal, raw, a drug trip down the river hell.

There are some things about this movie you simply can not put down on paper. The imagery will stay with you long after the credits roll. I’m not talking about the shoot outs and the gun-ho scenes at the beginning, for me, it was the smaller imagery that took up a small bit of screen time like an airplane facing nose down in the river and the tail sticking straight out of the water as our unfateful crew boat beneath it. The writing as well is vivid and engrossing, it’s what captured my attention at first. When Willard hears Colonel Kurtz for the first time, and you get the first sense of the guy, it’s over a tape recorder and Kurtz says: “I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That’s my dream; that’s my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor… and surviving.” This is but one example among the single lines, conversations, and monologues that truly stand out and brings the film to another level. i would to make a list of the lines that most impressed me but I believe that will dull the effect of it and will be too long of a list, with the exception of: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

The story of Apocalypse Now is a simple one: Capt. Willard must find a rogue soldier, Col. Kurtz, who has gone mad deep in the jungle and he must terminate Him. The lengthy movie (not taking in account it’s extended Redux) is a build up to the final half hour of the intimidating presence of Marlon Brando (Kurtz). He is sly and patient, smart and unpredictable. Kurtz is no ordinary man, he is a soldier who has been awarded many colors and stripes. However, he has reached a breaking point of going geniously mad and becoming a God among the locals and a few mindlessly lost Americans. One of which is Dennis Hopper who is great fun to watch as the photojournalist. When Willard arrives to Kurtz’s domain, he meets the Photojournalist who speaks about Kurtz on another level that makes it more personal and psychological; you learn more about this mad man and what he’s capable of. You start feeling more anguish and a lob in your throat. You start to wonder as Willard does to himself ‘how is he going to confront him? What is going to happen?’ The Vietnam jungle itself is a character. It boasts fear of the unknown into soldiers’ hearts; a labyrinth of lush trees and bushes leading to impending doom, and a hot attitude that will influence the strongest of soldiers to do unspeakable atrocities. Staying in the boat on this death trip away from the trees will not save their souls.

Apocalypse Now takes you on a journey that showcases war of men and horror. It is not easy as the dread sinks in from the first scene and doesn’t let up, dumping buckets as the minutes go by. Every image has its on spectacle and epic beauty. I remember movies on how they make me feel, and this one is worth remembering after all these years since it’s release and more years to come. The moments that happened prior to the conclusion are just as important. It is shot with patience and great magnitude that will leave you speechless after venturing into the Heart of Darkness.