Editor’s Note: This review originally ran during the 2014 Fantastic Fest. We’re rerunning it now that It Follows is in limited release.
David Robert Mitchell’s The Myth of the American Sleepover is a movie about the resigning of innocence; the last gasp of youth that is gracefully exhaled before inevitably breathing in the fumes of the adult world. Like American Graffiti before it, there’s an overwhelming sense of melancholia that hangs over the movie’s single night setting, as if the writer/director is mourning the cycle of childhood as it moves into the dawn the responsibility. With his follow-up feature, Mitchell has crafted a natural progression in terms of thematics, only he adds a dash of perverse Cronenbergian genre play, resulting in what may be the defining horror film of this generation. It Follows is a dynamite piece of supernatural storytelling, equal parts touching and thrilling. Though fundamentally the film is more of the same from Mitchell, who is emerging as the premiere cinematic observer of youth in the modern auteurist pantheon. (more…)
As we all know, Halloween is a hodge and a podge of various cultural and religious traditions. The Jack O’ lantern, the holiday’s cheerful, grinning orange mascot is based on an old Irish legend of a man who was so evil he was kicked out of Hell. Jack was sentenced to wander for all eternity, with only a burning coal inside a hollowed-out turnip to light his way. Upon their arrival in America, the Irish found that the pumpkin was a far more user-friendly carving medium for their disturbing little tradition.
Trick Or Treating also has Celtic origins: On the festival of Samhain, the spirits of the dead walked the earth, and people would leave food out for them, hoping this would keep the dead from vexing the living.
It became an American tradition in the early 20th century as a way of keeping the young from vexing homeowners. Essentially, the adults of America made a deal with the nation’s children: “Stop breaking and burning our cities every October 31st, and you can go to any home you want and get free candy”. America’s youth accepted, and Trick Or Treating has been practiced in nearly every American community for almost a century.
Today, we explore the nerdiest of Halloween traditions: The Halloween horror movie marathon.
Sometimes escape is necessary.
Whether it be from the doldrums of the everyday or a deliberate dodging of the authorities which dog us in the aftermath of a mistake, the natural instinct to retreat and regroup is not only imperative but also innate. For it is in these acts of retirement that human beings can re-discover and re-affirm what truly drives them. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s second feature, Spring, revolves around such a retreat, as their seemingly unremarkable protagonist, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci), jets off to Italy in order leave behind what may be the worst turn of events his young life has even seen. Though through this withdrawal, Evan finds not only the girl who may be the love of his life, but also a newfound respect for the world around him. Arguably the greatest quarter-life crisis story conceived since Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, Benson & Moorehead’s second motion picture is a stirring, life-affirming work of idiosyncratic art.
Oh yeah…it’s also a horror film. (more…)
Don’t let Electric Boogaloo fool you: Roger Corman started it.
Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus simply improved upon the cheapo tyrant formula that came to dominate drive-in style cinema in the 60s and 70s. Technically, The Weinstein Brothers perfected the mold, taking the schlock-factory model and somehow managing to add genuine quality into the mix (a shocker, I know). But none did it quite like Golan & Globus, whose somewhat unbelievable rags to riches story was fueled by pure, maniacal love for cinema. And much like he captured the Outback mayhem that was Australian genre cinema in the 70s with Not Quite Hollywood, Mark Hartley has returned to give us The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films. Only by narrowing the focus of the film and making it much more about Golan & Globus as people (though the constant talking head impersonations of the brothers threaten to turn the cousins into cartoons), it gives Electric Boogaloo an intimate edge that the director’s previous cinema documentaries lacked. Frankly speaking, Mark Hartley’s third picture devoted to the niche racks at your local video store (or, more accurately in 2014: Netflix Queue) might be the best movie about movies since Ted Demme’s A Decade Under the Influence. (more…)
When approaching the early works of David Cronenberg, many modern viewers are initially put off by the ruddy, low-rent stylings of films like Shivers, Rabid and The Brood, citing the director’s choice of low-budget genre trappings as rendering his cerebral central postualtions inaccessible. Much like the Canadian horror auteur (who has since moved on to greener pastures of prestige with pictures like Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch and A History of Violence), American independent filmmaker Billy Senese has crafted his sophomore feature, Closer to God, with one foot in the horror film grave. Borrowing liberally from the clinical director’s filmography (The Brood being the most obvious point of reference), Senese strains to balance the “dark thriller” portions of the narrative with the set of proverbial “big ideas” he presents. Once Closer to God descends into out-and-out monster movie territory, it becomes readily apparent that any kind of heady aspirations were simply the jumping off point for a somewhat pedestrian riff on modern Frankenstein mythos. (more…)
For several months FX has been offering unsettling little teases about their new series The Strain. Adapted from the first novel in a series written by collaborators Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, it was originally planned as a story for television. When Del Toro couldn’t find buyers, he took the literary route, eventually leading us to what might just be the future in TV horror. (more…)
Welcome back to our newly revamped “Retro Reviews” column, where we explore both the movies you know and love, as well as the oft overlooked gems you should be spending more time with. Our eighth entry is John Carpenter’s final masterwork, In the Mouth of Madness (1994)…
“Do you read Sutter Cane?”
The 90s were a woeful decade for many a 70s horror filmmaker. Wes Craven may have changed the slasher game forever with his self-reflexive Scream series, but hasn’t made a picture worthy of his (truthfully already spotty) legacy since (unless you count the aughts’ My Soul to Keep — a film so inept it almost feels like an avant garde experiment). Dario Argento’s 90s output ranges from decent (Trauma, The Stendhal Syndrome) to unwatchable (The Phantom of the Opera). Meanwhile, George A. Romero’s sole solo directorial credit (The Dark Half) is definitely one of the more entertaining Stephen King adaptations, but that’s using both dreck like The Tommyknockers and Golden Years as well as Kubrick’s The Shining or Rob Reiner’s Misery as ends of the qualitative spectrum (meaning Romero’s movie is still hanging somewhere around Pet Sematary). Outside of Joe Dante*, whose feature track record went completely unblemished with Gremlins 2, Matinee and Small Soldiers, the decade was somewhat of a nightmare for those who found their start in the gritty 70s, resulting in many horror fans closing the book on what’s viewed by some as the genre’s most auteur-driven period.
Which brings us to John Carpenter, a filmmaker whose ten year run (from 1978’s Halloween all the way up to They Live in 1988) could be considered one of the most impressive in the history of ALL cinema. Carpenter fizzled out in 1992, with the Chevy Chase-starring Memoirs of an Invisible Man marking the end of his marvelous winning streak. His anthology picture, Body Bags, was originally supposed to be a full series on Showtime (comprable to HBO’s Tales From the Crypt), until network executives suffered from cold feet and turned it into a one-off (admittedly mediocre) cable TV movie. It wouldn’t be until 1994 that Carpenter finally brushed the dust off his shoulder and produced what seemed to be, at the time, a comeback of sorts with In the Mouth of Madness, a film that could be viewed as the last true Carpenter masterpiece, as well as the beginning of the widescreen artist’s oft-decried “late period”. (more…)
The third movie in the Expendables series comes out at the end of summer, and, as with the previous two entries, it’s expected to be a tremendous success. We’ve already heard about the potential for at least one spin-off film in The Expendables style, the female-centric Expendabelles, which will feature a cast of kick-ass ladies from franchises across the big screen. This where Bruce Campbell comes in. The Evil Dead icon once discussed the idea of a Horror icon-version of The Expendables that would feature, among others, Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees Kane Hodder, A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Kruger Robert Englund, and, of course, The Chin himself, Bruce Campbell. (more…)
Horror remakes aren’t new new by any means. Between Screen Gems’ beat-for-beat “reboots” and Platinum Dunes’ gritty “re-imaginings”, the past ten years have seen nearly every marquee title and horror icon reinvented by modern producers and directors. Getting in on the decade old fad is WWE Studios, who have cast their tiniest superstar*, Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postl, as the titular keeper of Lucky Charms in Leprechaun: Origins. (more…)
Welcome back to our newly revamped “Retro Reviews” column, where we explore both the movies you know and love, as well as the oft overlooked gems you should be spending more time with. Our sixth entry is Antonia Bird’s underrated cannibal Western, Ravenous (1999)…
Ravenous is an extremely potent horror picture.
Yet to only view the film through the narrow prism of a single genre ignores what truly makes it special. Like Alex Cox before her, Antonia Bird has cobbled together a singular Western whose deepest roots reach back to its “spaghetti” precursors from Spain and Italy in the 1960s and 70s. It’s an amalgamation of particular influence; pulling from deep cut directors like Joaquin Romero Marchent while also tipping its Calvary cap toward Sergio Corbucci. So while the viscera may remain in the cave of the viewer’s mind much more vividly than the vistas, Bird has undoubtedly crafted an examination of manifest destiny that ranks with Major Dundee and Heaven’s Gate as a touchstone of widescreen Western filmmaking. (more…)