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Dustin Putman


TheMovieBoy's October of Horror!
Welcome to Dustin Putman's "October of Horror" ReviewFest!

Friday, October 31, 2008 — HALLOWEEN
Well, we've finally reached the end of our countdown to the big day, and with the arrival of Halloween comes the end of my first edition of "Dustin's October of Horror." In celebration, today's featured review is an exclusive of Michael Dougherty's "Trick 'r Treat," a potential modern-day horror (and holiday) classic that you won't get to see this year. I was fortunate enough to attend a screening in New York City at the Two Boots Pioneer Theatre on October 13, which was followed by a Q&A with writer-director Dougherty and actor Dylan Baker. The sold-out crowd went wild for this smart, creepy and just plain entertaining 21st-century anthology, and audiences across the country are destined to react the same way. So why hasn't "Trick 'r Treat" been released theatrically by October 2008 when it was originally scheduled for October 2007 (the trailer was even attached to the DVD release of "300")? Stupidity. That is the only conceivable explanation for how Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures have treated this imaginative, passionate project, for once not a distaff sequel or a lazy remake. If they are unsure how to market it, as Dougherty claimed at the screening, then that only backs up my claims of intelligence-deficiency. "Trick 'r Treat" is a horror movie. Set on Halloween night. Mayhem ensues. If this film were released in October, it would sell itself and make loads of cash. It would also be a welcome change of pace from the increasingly stale "Saw" franchise, which has monopolized the month five years in a row and somehow rakes in loads of cash without being scary or suspenseful. "Trick 'r Treat," meanwhile, is both of these things, and it can't catch a break. Such a travesty.

Switching gears...

In a month's time (written over a period of about 60 days), I published 57 brand-new horror reviews for my "October of Horror." Phew! For those readers who chimed in with suggestions on what I should cover (i.e. "The Evil Dead" trilogy, "The Nightmare Before Christmas," "Sleepaway Camp"), I apologize for not getting to all of your recommendations. There simply wasn't enough time to rewatch most of these movies, write the reviews, plus keep up with all the week's many theatrical releases. Add in an additional full-time job and, well, I haven't had much free time lately. Nonetheless, I really genuinely enjoyed revisiting and writing about all these diverse films. Horror has always been and will forever be my favorite genre. My philosophy is that even when they're bad, they're still usually pretty good. As for next year, I have already begun compiling a list of ideas for what to potentially review next October. The good news is that, since I know the amount of work that goes into it, I'll be able to leisurely prepare throughout the year rather than throw things together in the span of less than two months. As for today and tonight, whatever you have planned, I hope you make the most of the holiday and have fun doing it. Happy Halloween!!!

Today's Featured Review:

Thursday, October 30, 2008
Big-screen horror anthologies are almost extinct these days (with one exception, to be discussed at a later date), and yet one wonders why. The genre is often hit-and-miss, so anthologies allow a bunch of stories to be played out over the course of a compact two hours or less. If you aren't a big fan of one of them, there's a different one coming up shortly. 1972's "Tales from the Crypt" is a wonderful example of a horror anthology; the first story, starring Joan Collins as a woman who has just murdered her husband and is simultaneously being stalked by a lunatic dressed as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, scared me so much as a kid that I couldn't get enough of it. The following four tales are just, or almost, as successful. As good as "Tales from the Crypt" is, my all-time favorite anthology—one that is letter-perfect for Halloween—is 1982's "Creepshow," a collaboration made in heaven (or would it be hell?) between director George A. Romero and writer Stephen King. My adoration of this movie goes back over twenty years, probably to the mid-'80s when I was just a very wee lad. The mere sight of the old Warner Bros. logo on the VHS tape before it began used to terrify me, because I knew what was to come next. I couldn't look away.

Today's Featured Review: Today's Capsule Review:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008
"Halloween III: Season of the Witch" is not very popular in the annals of the "Halloween" series (some refuse to even acknowledge its existence). If you are one that dislikes it, ask yourself this: why? The only reason I have ever heard is because Michael Myers isn't in it. Whoopity-doo. If that's all you care about, you've got eight other movies to watch and a narrow-minded, pompous attitude to work out. Seen for what it is, however—the first (and unfortunately last) in an intended anthology of "Halloween" horror films—"Halloween III: Season of the Witch" not only holds its own, but is one of the better and most original additions to the franchise. It's worth another look as the holiday approaches.

Today's Featured Review: Today's Capsule Review:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008
The first (and best) "Halloween" usually gets all the esteem and regard from fans, but the franchise actually held onto a pretty good track record for quite some time. Indeed, John Carpenter's perennial classic cannot be beat. "Halloween II," released three years later but picking up immediately where the first left off, aimed to mimic the style of its predecessor, and did a pretty laudatory job of that when the more explicit violence wasn't getting in the way. While "Halloween" might have been intended as a stand-alone feature before it found such immense success, piecing it together with "Halloween II" actually allows one to make a three-hour epic of unsuspecting layers and genuine suspense.

Today's Featured Review: Today's Capsule Reviews:

Monday, October 27, 2008
Today's featured review speaks for itself. Let's put it this way: if I were stranded on a deserted island and could only bring one movie with me, it would be John Carpenter's "Halloween."

Today's Featured Review: Today's Capsule Review:

Sunday, October 26, 2008
I discovered "Night of the Demons" as a twelve-year-old (or around then), picking it up at the video store based on the clever tagline: "Angela is having a party. Jason and Freddy were too scared to come, but you'll have a hell of a time!" At the time, I unequivocally loved it. In my twisted pre-teen mind, it was worthy of four stars (yes, I rated movies back then). The film still works today—it's really pretty stylish and effective for a low-budgeter of this sort—but as a more discerning viewer, I can also recognize its flaws. Nevertheless, "Night of the Demons" is a childhood favorite, and for that I'll always think fondly of it. While we're on the subject, avoid "Night of the Demons 2" and "Night of the Demons 3" like the plague. Yikes! As for the upcoming remake's merits (it's filming right now, with Shannon Elizabeth, Monica Keena and Edward Furlong among the cast), one can only hope that the new picture has half the personality that the original does.

Today's Featured Review:

Saturday, October 25, 2008
Today's Halloween-set horror review is what could probably be considered an undiscovered gem. Make that a cracked, bloodied-up gem, but a gem just the same. "Satan's Little Helper" features a costume-hopping killer, which got me thinking about my own Halloween costumes from the past. As a kid, I can remember being, yes, Satan, and the crotch of my plastic pants splitting in the middle of trick-or-treating that year; a punk, complete with skeleton clip-on earrings; and... Wow. That is all that is coming to me. I can clearly remember trick-or-treating every year as a child, but the costumes are by and large escaping me. As an adult, my costume-wearing has lessened. The last time I dressed for the holiday was about four or five years ago. I went as a goth-boy, and dyed my hair gnarly colors, painted my fingernails black, etc. This year—this evening, actually—a friend of mine is throwing a costume party. Excited, I am, and my choice of wear couldn't be any more different than goth if I tried. I'll give a hint; I'm going as a television character from a show currently on ABC, and the character's initials are B.S. No, there isn't a TV personality named Bull Shit.

Today's Featured Review:

Friday, October 24, 2008
With exactly a week until you-know-what, the remaining eight days of the month will be dedicated to featured reviews of movies either set on Halloween, or somehow connected to the holiday. Because kids can appreciate Halloween as much as adults (arguably more) and they generally enjoy spooky things themselves, I thought I would spend one day highlighting a great Halloween film for the whole family. 1993's "Hocus Pocus" was released when I was 11 years old, and I can still vividly remember going to see it as a Saturday evening sneak preview. Afterwards, viewers then got the chance to stay and see a second movie, in this case the Pauly Shore opus "Son in Law." A movie set on my favorite holiday, starring Thora Birch (the child actress that I, as a child, was in love with)? Yes, please! In the fifteen years since its release, "Hocus Pocus" has built quite a rabid following, showing all the time on television in October. Best of all, it still holds up. For a Walt Disney Pictures release, it's pretty morbid stuff, but the fish-out-of-water take on 17th-century witches unleashed in the modern world is also full of imagination and witticism. As a kid of single-digits, what were my own Halloween mainstays? Easy. 1978's "Halloween," and classic television specials "Garfield's Halloween Adventure" and "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." Even now, I still pull these out annually and relive a more innocent time. Whether watching Garfield and Odie attempt to be quiet while hiding in a cupboard from ghostly pirates, or watching Linus and Sally bypass trick-or-treat to eagerly wait in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin, these enduring classics never grow old.

Today's Featured Review:

Thursday, October 23, 2008
When people generally think of John Carpenter, they choose different early films of his that stand out for them. Whether that personal favorite happens to be 1976's "Assault on Precinct 13," 1978's "Halloween," or 1982's "The Thing," the one movie I suspect many overlook is 1980's "The Fog." A box-office moneymaker at the time of release, "The Fog" nonetheless was labeled a disappointment because of heightened expectations. Carpenter had just hit it big with "Halloween" and "The Fog" was his less-acclaimed follow-up. Both pictures have respective similarities, most of them technical in nature—gorgeous panoramic cinematography by Dean Cundey, a chilling music score by John Carpenter, a few of the same cast members—but are otherwise separate entities. "Halloween" is a thriller and a slasher film. "The Fog," meanwhile, is meant to be taken as a ghost story. If one can put away their preconceived notions and view it on its own accord, "The Fog" is a worthy successor, drenched in atmosphere and visually stunning to behold. For instruction on how to disastrously screw up the same basic story, look no further than the godawful 2005 remake.

Today's Featured Review: Today's Archival Review:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008
If you've never heard of "Trigger Man," don't feel out of the loop. Few have. After hitting the film festival circuit and getting a very limited theatrical run in 2007, it went off to DVD this past spring. However, with an indie distributor (Kino) and minor ancillary distribution in chain stores, hopes of it catching on are not pretty. This is a terrible misfortune, because "Trigger Man" is one of the most genuinely suspenseful horror-thrillers in years. Beautifully written, shot, edited and directed by Ti West (if you haven't heard his name before, you will in the future), this is what the genre is all about when it's about more than just a body count or a masked slasher on the loose. If you're a fan of slower-paced narratives that take their time drawing you in and raising the tension, then seeking out this picture is a no-brainer. It may be tough to find in your local Best Buy or Suncoast, but it's available at any online store you can think of, and comes highly recommended.

Today's Featured Review:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008
If viewers of 1974 "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" had been asked, pre-1986, what they would imagine a sequel would be like, it's doubtful many of them would have envisioned the ultra-dark satire of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2." Director Tobe Hooper continued on with the same story and most of the same characters, but turned the serious tone on its head in ingenious ways. Let it be known, this sequel isn't a spoof like "Scary Movie"—it is still extremely violent and serious when it wants to be—but its tone is not without an acerbic sense of humor. And, shock of shocks, it actually works. How did parts 3 or 4 fare in comparison, both of which star actors who went on years later to be nominated or win Academy Awards? Read on...

Today's Featured Review: Today's Capsule Reviews:

Monday, October 20, 2008
If you are on a trip in rural America and run into a crazed family of backwoods yokels, it's safe to say you're in a horror movie. Yesterday's spotlight film, "Mother's Day," would probably not be in existence if it weren't for one of the top classics of the genre, 1974's "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre." Spawning three sequels, one remake, and one prequel of the remake, Leatherface has been terrorizing a fictional, unsavory version of Texas for over thirty years now. Directed by Tobe Hooper, this drive-in favorite that became a phenomenon is the first movie that comes to mind when one thinks of hick homicidal maniacs who don't take kindly to out-of-town passersby. It is also, quite possibly, the first of its subgenre.

Today's Featured Review: Today's Archival Reviews (written at the time of release):

Sunday, October 19, 2008
It was announced a couple months ago that Brett Ratner (director of the "Rush Hour" series and "X-Men: The Last Stand") had just bought the rights to remake 1980's "Mother's Day." Last I heard, it was in the scripting stages and Ratner's intention was to produce. The thought of something as sick and perverse (but also sumptuously satirical) being rebooted by today's Hollywood is just...well...there are no words. "Mother's Day" still holds up today for what it has to say about modern society and consumerism run amok, and these are the very elements I fear a remake would miss altogether, turning it into just a hollowed-out carcass of itself. While we're celebrating mothers the world over today, I figured we might as well give some love to our mother's (or father's) mother as well. Whether senile or sharp as a tack, it doesn't matter. This is your day to shine. In October. Yeah.

Today's Featured Review: Today's Capsule Review:

Saturday, October 18, 2008
Today's featured review is for a film that I hold a soft place for, and one that few of you readers have probably heard of, or at least seen. The 1983 British shocker "Xtro" creeped me out as a child, and it also showed me the possibilities of film. It's not really a deep movie, or a great one, but a huge amount of imagination and artfulness went into its making, impressive for what must have been a modest budget. More than that, "Xtro" showed me that movies didn't always have to be safe, or play by the rules, when telling a story. As a kid, I didn't know what the hell I was watching, but I liked what I saw. "Xtro" thrilled me, frightened me, and left me wanting more.

Today's Featured Review:

Friday, October 17, 2008
The linking continues. Stephen King, responsible for yesterday's featured review, "Pet Sematary," began his career as a novelist with "Carrie." Adapting that best-seller into a major motion picture was Brian De Palma, who would lead actors Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie to Academy Award nominations. Four years after "Carrie," De Palma made one of his most lurid and horrific films, the fantastic psychosexual horror-thriller "Dressed to Kill." With the equally intriguing "Blow Out" released shortly after, in 1981, one could definitely call this De Palma's most potent era, and also his most obviously Hitchcockian. What set him apart from a mere imitator, though, was that he was every bit as slick as Hitchcock at setting up complex sequences of suspense through all facets of his mise en scene. I wish that version of Brian De Palma still existed. He's missed.

Today's Featured Review:

Thursday, October 16, 2008
If "Scream" went on to become one of the most unexpected sleeper hits of the winter 1996/97 season, "Pet Sematary" held a similar trajectory in 1989. At the time, the film nabbed the largest-ever opening weekend gross for the month of April, and remained at #1 on the box-office charts for two additional weeks. Stephen King adaptations were—and still are—hit-and-miss affairs, but he wrote the screenplay for "Pet Sematary" himself, and knew precisely how to cinematically bring his terrifying novel to life. This translated to intrigued audiences and a lot of hoopla surrounding its story of an Indian burial ground with the powers to resurrect the dead (but not their souls). The disquieting use of a 2-year-old toddler as a formidable foe, and the appearance of one of, if not the, most horrifying screen characters in horror's history, were icing on top.

Today's Featured Review: Today's Capsule Review:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I can so vividly remember seeing "Scream" on opening night of its theatrical release—December 20, 1996 (and no, I didn't have to look that information up)—that it's absolutely shocking to consider that it was twelve years ago. I was still in high school then (a sophomore), and now I'm five years removed from college. Time has a funny way of sneaking up on you like that. Though we are now in a new decade, "Scream" still strikes me as awfully modern. Yes, there have been any number of copycats and spoofs based on the picture, but it holds up today as well as it ever has. The same could be said of its two respectable sequels, the three of them making up a solid, emotionally sound trilogy. If it has been years since you saw them, they're worth revisiting.

Today's Featured Review: Today's Capsule Review: Today's Archival Review (written in 2000):

Tuesday, October 14, 2008
What is wrong with the state of horror distribution when any old slasher remake or Americanized foreign redux can readily open on thousands of screens without any problems, but actual original works that audiences might like and appreciate even more are treated like bastard stepchildren? From "The Poughkeepsie Tapes," to "Trick 'r Treat," to "[REC]," to "Repo: The Genetic Opera," there is a wide range of horror cinema that is more than just a common retread of everything that has come before it. And yet, all of the above films remain in release limbo, or—like "Repo"—are being insultingly thrown on a piddling number of screens without advertising or support from their studio. Lionsgate, once such a supporter of the genre, is now the biggest culprit of this, turning a blind eye on all of their horror properties outside of their precious, now-derivative "Saw" franchise. Warner Bros., meanwhile, once had a big cult hit on their hands with 1982's fabulous horror anthology "Creepshow," but have abandoned the similar "Trick 'r Treat" for no good reason whatsoever. Word on the street is that "Trick 'r Treat" is one of the best horror films in years. Maybe someday we'll be able to find out for ourselves. And then, finally, is "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane," acclaimed at film festivals the world over, picked up by a major studio for a load of money, and then promptly forgotten about. It has since switched distributors, but this has not helped one iota in getting it released. Perhaps the biggest question to ask about all of this is, "Why?"

Today's Featured Review:

Monday, October 13, 2008
From movies about malevolent childhood things to a film about the loss of a child. Nicolas Roeg's 1973 horror-drama "Don't Look Now" is a stunning example of cinema at its most rich and substantive, terror at its most spare and unforgiving, human grief at its most authentic and raw. If you haven't seen this one, starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland in career-best performances, you owe it to yourself to seek it out. Multiple viewings only enhance and deepen the experience.

Today's Featured Review:

Sunday, October 12, 2008
Toys symbolize the playfulness of one's childhood. Dolls, the innocence. But what happens if everything they stand for is turned on their heads and injected with a sense of malice? There have been a great many movies that have used the softer sides of preadolescence as a jumping-off point for unsuspecting mischief and scares. 1987's "Dolls," as well as the first three "Child's Play" films, fall safely in this subgenre of horror. Dolls can be jolly and cute, or dignified and attractive. As these movies prove, they can also be dangerous.

Today's Featured Review: Today's Capsule Reviews:

Saturday, October 11, 2008
1981 was a big year. Besides marking the birthdate of yours truly, it was perhaps the biggest twelve months of the '80s for horror. Slasher releases, particularly, saturated the marketplace in the same way remakes saturate the 2008 cinema scene. "Friday the 13th" had come out the year before and done bang-up business on a very low budget. Suddenly, every studio and independent producer wanted a piece of the same pie, and 1981 was when this was most in evidence. Of course, copycats are rarely as good as the films that inspired them, but Tobe Hooper's "The Funhouse" set out to change all that. The television print that used to be run of this movie on Saturday afternoon "Nightmare Theater" and "Creature Feature" shows was unbearably murky, and so was the VHS tape. DVD set things right. Suddenly, the film could be seen in a whole different light. In fact, it was a godsend to be able to see it in any light, since up until that point I had only thought of the movie as being so darkly lit that it was difficult to make out what was going on half the time. This isn't at all the case with the Universal-released DVD. The print is now gorgeous, the lighting and cinematography atmospheric and pronounced. As for the film itself? "The Funhouse" is now one of my personal faves of '80s horror, and one of Hooper's most underrated efforts.

Today's Featured Review: Today's Capsule Review:
Opening This Week:

Friday, October 10, 2008
It's time to play "Six Degrees of Separation." Yesterday's featured film was "[REC]," directed by Jaume Belaguero. Belaguero previously directed 2004's "Darkness," starring Anna Paquin, who made her film debut (and won an Academy Award in the process) in 1993's "The Piano," starring Holly Hunter, who made her film debut in 1981's "The Burning." Three degrees...not bad. Indeed, slashers wouldn't quite be the same without some mischief at summer camp, and "The Burning" is one of the better ones of that period. It went into production around the same time as 1982's "Madman," a lesser-but-funnier take on the same general urban legend of the Cropsy Maniac. Although there are quite a few differences in the details, there is also a lot that they have in common. It's neat to watch them and make the comparisons.

Today's Featured Review: Today's Capsule Review:

Thursday, October 9, 2008
The big theatrical horror release of October 2008 without the word, "Saw," in the title opens tomorrow. The jury is still out on the merits of "Quarantine" (my review of this will be coming to my site late Friday night, as it is opening cold for critics), but prospective viewers should be aware that it is a remake of a Spanish film from 2007 called "[REC]." It hasn't been officially released stateside, but it is easy to get your hands on it if you know where to look. "[REC]" is a simplistic, yet stupendously scary horror picture that I can only hope "Quarantine" approaches in quality. By the looks of the trailers and television ads, this is going to be a nearly shot-for-shot redo, so it's up to the actors and director John Erick Dowdle (whose debut film, "The Poughkeepsie Tapes," has been long delayed) to live up to the original work from filmmakers Jaume Belaguero and Paco Plaza.

For my capsule review of the day, I have chosen the new-to-DVD "Vipers," a carnivorous snakes creature-feature starring Tara Reid. How is "Vipers" even remotely related to "[REC]?" Well, it's a stretch, but here goes: "[REC]" is being remade into "Quarantine," and the former "American Pie" star guested on TV's "Scrubs" a few years back in an episode where the hospital's inhabitants were quarantined. I can still remember the promos for this episode, with Tara holding a drink in her hand and asking, "Quarantini, anyone?"

Today's Featured Review: Today's Capsule Review:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Yesterday's featured review was of "Session 9," a film set almost entirely in a mental institution. In "Clownhouse," a strikingly similar (at least on the outside) insane asylum makes an appearance and directly ties into the picture's plot. Victor Salva's "Clownhouse" is an infamous horror effort, not because of its content, but because of the controversial behind-the-scenes story that hangs over its existence. More on that subject can be found in my review, but hopefully those that can get past it will take a chance on a stylish little coming-of-age thriller that just so happens to involve deranged clowns.

As for "Girls Nite Out," this is one of the lesser-known mid-'80s slasher flicks. When I discovered its existence a few months ago and found out that the killer's costume was a bear mascot uniform with knives implanted into the paws, it sounded too good to be true. Naturally, I scooped up the DVD without a moment's hesitation. How did a horror fanatic like myself go twenty-six years without any knowledge of this movie? It may be close to forgotten for a reason—there are many far better films of its type—but for fans of hack-and-slash cinema hailing from that era of spandex, big hair and shoulder pads, it's worth checking out.

Today's Featured Review: Today's Capsule Review:

Tuesday, October 7, 2008
From a sequel to a stand-alone feature that also incorporates a number into its title, "Session 9" is an unnerving study in restraint and psychological complexity with one of the great uses of a film location in memory. Shot in 2000 at the abandoned, crumbling Danvers State Hospital, located a few miles outside of Boston in Danvers, Massachusetts, director Brad Anderson reportedly crafted the screenplay around the setting. An immense, sprawling, gothic construction, Danvers was built in 1878—back then, it was known as the State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers—and housed mentally ill patients until its closure in 1992. In the years since "Session 9" was filmed, the hospital was sold to Avalon Bay Development and, save for a section of the Kirkbride building, torn down to make way for Avalon Danvers, an apartment and condo complex. Public outcry over this decision was plentiful, but to no avail. Corporate greed won out, completely disregarding a landmark of marked historical significance. Interestingly, a mysterious fire broke out on April 7, 2007, and four of the apartment buildings burned to the ground. An investigation turned up no answers and no potential suspects. Undeterred, construction continued on Avalon Danvers and the place opened later in 2007. What do we have to show for it? Luxury residences without any of the old personality of Danvers State Hospital, and numerous complaints from renters and buyers who claim management sucks, the walls are too thin, and describe bug infestations as a problem. Then again, would you expect anything less from a place built on top of an asylum, with a cemetery of deceased mental patients looming on the edge of the property? This is tantamount to tossing up a suburban housing development on top of an old Indian burial ground, a 'la "Poltergeist." It's ludicrous to even think about. For a price, pretty much anyone is willing to sell his or her soul. Sad, but truer than you might want to believe.

Today's Featured Review: Supplemental Material:

Monday, October 6, 2008
In the "A Nightmare on Elm Street" series, the original Wes Craven film usually gets most of the love, while its first sequel, released a year later in 1985, is typically frowned upon. "A Nightmare on Elm Street 2" takes the story in a new direction—in that way, it is the black sheep of the franchise—but it is a notable and somewhat landmark film that dares to suggestively get within the mind of a teenage boy who is grappling with much more than just Freddy Krueger. For that, I felt like it warranted a full-length review of its own. Read the evidence and see if you agree with my take on the subject.

Today's Featured Review: Today's Capsule Reviews:

Sunday, October 5, 2008
In my attempt to connect every featured film review with the one previous, here's the clothesline: the music score for "April Fool's Day" was composed by the underrated Elmer Bernstein. Just two years prior, Bernstein wrote the equally memorable score for "A Nightmare on Elm Street," a low-budget shocker from director Wes Craven that stood apart from the Jasons and Michael Myers' of the era by introducing a fantasy undercurrent to the story. For Craven, this is his seminal motion picture, the one that made him a name in the business. Yes, he had been working for years, previously helming 1972's "The Last House on the Left," 1977's "The Hills Have Eyes," and 1981's "Deadly Blessing," but it was "A Nightmare on Elm Street" that not only became a monster sleeper success, but helped to create an enduring franchise and, even more impressively, an entire Hollywood studio (New Line).

As an aside, "Deadly Blessing" is a mostly forgotten supernatural thriller set in the Amish country—think "Witness," but with phantoms, a succubus and a fresh-faced Sharon Stone in one of her earliest film roles. It has never been released on DVD, and so I could not watch it again in order to review it for this month. If it had been available, I most certainly would have. It has been at least ten or twelve years since I saw "Deadly Blessing," but its sturdy frights (such as one unforgettable scene set in a barn) have stuck with me. Hopefully the picture will one day receive the digital release it deserved to get a decade ago.

Today's Featured Review: Today's Capsule Review: (Please note that reviews for the middle sequels of these bookends will be appearing sooner rather than later. "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare" encapsulates just how far the series fell, from the heights of greatness in 1984 to the depths of trash in 1991.)

Saturday, October 4, 2008
With the "Friday the 13th" franchise riding high in the early- to mid-'80s, producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. and Paramount Pictures were on the lookout for a fresh, modestly-budgeted horror project to sink their bags of money into in hopes of turning a tidy profit. Since a semi-holiday worked before, they tried-tried again with 1986's "April Fool's Day." A box-office disappointment at the time of its release, "April Fool's Day" stands proudly and with dignity as a spin on an old formula. Teen and twenty-something audiences back in the day were none too thrilled with being served something that wasn't a carbon copy of "Friday the 13th." Ironic, then, that it is this very reason why "April Fool's Day" has grown into a fondly-remembered minor classic that even spawned a loose 2008 remake. Did this modern version stay true to its source material? Is it a tribute to be proud of? Read on...

Today's Featured Review: Today's Capsule Review:

Friday, October 3, 2008
It wouldn't be right to celebrate horror movies for the month of October and not take advantage of the first Friday to talk about "Friday the 13th." When I was all of about three or four years old and my family bought our first VCR, my dad started taking me to rent movies every Saturday morning. My parents were very liberal when it came to what they let me watch at such a young age—"as long as you realize what your watching isn't true," they'd say, "it's okay with us"—and it was because of them that I took it upon myself to start watching horror films. I would still rent "Strawberry Shortcake" and "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," mind you, but I would also check out any horror releases I could get my little hands on. Seeing "Friday the 13th" and subsequently renting the sequels that had been made up to that point are some of my earliest film-watching memories. I loved them, and was fascinated by them, not just for their content but for their filmmaking and style (no, seriously). They didn't scare me, I don't believe, and I can't remember ever having nightmares or negative aftereffects from them. I was too young to understand the sex scenes—I figured they were just kissing with their clothes off—but I was well aware that Jason and Mrs. Voorhees and the blood and the killings were all just make-believe. As an adult, I can firmly say I am not, nor was I, corrupted. Perhaps I was more mature than the average 5-year-old.

With a planned remake scheduled for February 2009, and my past with the original films being what it is, it only makes sense for me to give the "Friday the 13th" that started it all its due. The redux, directed by Marcus Nispel (2003's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"), is reportedly combining the events of the first three installments, so it seemed fitting to also cover Parts 2 and 3 via capsule reviews. Watching them now with a more learned and critical eye, they are certainly not the bee's knees like I used to believe they were twenty years ago. Still, I will always hold a soft, nostalgic place in my heart for "Friday the 13th."

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Thursday, October 2, 2008
I won't pretend to know an overwhelming amount about Mario Bava, but, in the films of his that I have seen, it is blindingly obvious why he is still remembered today—twenty-eight years since his death, in 1980—as one of the groundbreaking masters of Italian horror cinema. A director, screenwriter and cinematographer, Bava was a jack of all trades who created what is thought to be the first giallo film with 1963's "The Girl Who Knew Too Much." In 1971, his "Twitch of the Death Nerve" depicted an expansive body count and splatter effects that were both later popularized in 1980s slasher films. And, in 1973, Bava finally was allowed full creative control over his magnum opus, "Lisa and the Devil." Truth be told, I was unfamiliar with the latter picture until a few months ago when I purchased "The Bava Box Set, Vol. 2" on DVD. Without knowing much of anything about "Lisa and the Devil," the film blew me away with its brazen imagination, visual lushness, and horrific grotesqueries. Truly ahead of its time, it has somehow managed to fly under the radar for over thirty years and is the closest representation I can think of to the kind of artist Mario Bava truly was. Dario Argento may be more popular and well-known, but Bava paved the way for him to follow.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008
For as long as I can remember, my favorite season has always been autumn. The falling of the temperatures and the chill in the breeze. The radiant colors of the foliage. The dwindling daytime hours of sunlight. The fresh pumpkins sitting in yards and on porches. That special, indescribable smell in the air. For me, these characteristics signal only one thing: Halloween is on its way. As much as I live for the fall, I live for the final day in October more. It is a holiday that I find as sacred as Christmas or Thanksgiving, and one that has given me some of my most fond memories from childhood and early adulthood. Because of this, it should be no grand revelation that I have been a fan of the horror movie genre since the age of four (yes, four). Or, perhaps because I love horror, it should be no surprise that I am equally enamored with Halloween. Around the month of October, these two things go hand-in-hand.

With that in mind, I have decided to celebrate the season of the witch by doing something special with TheMovieBoy.com this year. While my time usually only allows me to write weekly reviews of new theatrical releases (these will continue, by the way), I will be working overtime to turn my website into a month-long ode to Halloween and the horror films that, for various reasons, I hold near and dear to my heart. For the entirety of October, TheMovieBoy.com will be updated daily with all-new content, including at least thirty-one full-length reviews of horror pictures—a collection of classics, lesser-known gems, and longtime favorites—that I have never previously covered; an additional smorgasbord of fresh (but not necessarily positive) capsule reviews; and an ongoing blog where I will tackle any number of horror-related subjects. Maybe I can help readers come up with ideas on what's worth watching this October. Or maybe I can help them get in the mood for a holiday filled with ghosts, goblins, costumes, candy, and things that go bump in the night. Either way, the goal is to entertain and inform both die-hard horror fans, as well as the heretofore uninitiated who are interested in taking that first dip into a too-frequently underappreciated category of cinema. And maybe, just maybe, we'll all (myself included) learn a little something, too.

To kick the month off, I can think of no better way to start than at the beginning. If 1922's "Nosferatu" is not technically the first-ever feature-length horror film, it is most certainly the earliest one to have had such a lasting influence on future filmmakers. Eighty-six years later, it remains a quintessential motion picture delving into vampire lore and the morbidly potent cinematic relationship between sex and death.

Today's Featured Review: Today's Capsule Review:



Horror Reviews
Featured Here:
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2009)
April Fool's Day (1986)
April Fool's Day (2008)
The Burning (1981)
Child's Play (1988)
Child's Play 2 (1990)
Child's Play 3 (1991)
Clownhouse (1990)
Creepshow (1982)
Creepshow 2 (1987)
Dark Ride (2006)
Dolls (1987)
Don't Look Now (1973)
Dressed to Kill (1980)
The Fog (1980)
Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)
Friday the 13th (1980)
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)
The Funhouse (1981)
Girls Nite Out (1984)
Grandmother's House (1988)
Halloween (1978)
Halloween II (1981)
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
Hocus Pocus (1993)
Lisa and the Devil (1973)
Madman (1982)
Mother's Day (1980)
My Bloody Valentine (1981)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)
Night of the Demons (1988)
Nosferatu (1922)
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
Pet Sematary (1989)
Pet Sematary II (1992)
[REC] (2007)
Satan's Little Helper (2005)
Scream (1996)
Scream 2 (1997)
Session 9 (2001)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)
Trick 'r Treat (2009)
Trigger Man (2007)
Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971)
Vipers (2008)
Xtro (1983)