Three weeks in and I've thankfully been on track! It's consisted of many late nights and sacrifice of sleep, but it's all worth it. Why am I watching a bunch of horror movies this month? Well, if you didn't know, I'm accepting pledges per movie watched, raising money for both The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Reach Counseling Services in Neenah, WI. If you'd like to pledge or know more about the Scare-A-Thon, shoot me an email at john.marcus.pata(at)gmail.com.
Need to catch up? No problem, check out the recaps of week one and week two.
17. KILLER PARTY (1986)
Because sometimes, you just need to watch some pure '80s cheese on VHS.
The quick pitch is three coeds pledge to a sorority, frat dudes are bursting at the seams with testosterone, and there's some sort of weird spirit/possession going on at an abandoned frat house where, of course, there's going to be an April Fool's Day party. It's super tongue-in-cheeky, very campy, and awfully generic at times. But then again, things do turn unexpected throughout.
For example, we start with a funeral scene in a church. When the service is over, the daughter-in-law who seems to be grieving asks to have a few moments with her deceased mother-in-law's casket. Sounds touching, right? Well, not so much, as she begins hurling all kinds of insults and celebrating that her in-law is dead. The casket opens, the woman gets bragged in, the lid shuts. Then it's sent to the crematorium (which is under the church???) and she's burned alive. But wait! This is actually a movie two characters are watching at a drive-in. Whew, that's comforting. Now, our female is tired of her dude trying to get busy, so she goes to get some popcorn. But the concession stand is empty, no one seems to be around. Confused and concerned, she returns to the car. However, now her boy-toy is missing, and suddenly zombies swarm her! But wait! Now there's a sweet as fuck hair metal band playing in the concession stand. This is actually now a music video for a song called "April" (which also happens to be this starlet's name). The video ends just like you would see on MTV (you know, when they played music videos), with the name of the band, song, and album. Cue the opening credits.
If you didn't guess by now, Killer Party is pretty all over the place. At times, you actually forget you're watching a horror film because the horror elements hide for a bit. They do return, though. And I will say, this sets itself up to be a typical slasher/college fright flick, and goes in a pretty interesting direction. The third act sneaks up unannounced and works pretty well for what it does. Now, don't me wrong, it's not fantastic. Nothing about Killer Party is. Nothing screams "You need to see this!" because, quite frankly, you don't. That said, if you're in the mood for a familiar '80s movie with a twist of something different, you could do worse.
You should probably at least watch the opening, though. It's real ridiculous.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION (2015) - First Time Viewing
Curse the completist in me, making me watch the fifth entry in this series. Or is it the sixth? I think it's the sixth.
Hey! It's another Paranormal Activity movie! It's pretty much the same thing we've seen for the last six years but with some new gimmicks. Like an old camcorder that records on VHS tapes but has extra gizmos that allows you to see and hear ghosts and - wait for it - the ghost dimension!
I'm just going to roll with it, jot a bunch of stuff down. Train of thought style. Here we go.
-We never see anyone in this family work, yet their house is absurdly HUGE and fancy! What do these people do for money?
-Come to think of it, every family in this series has money. Maybe they're not always rich-rich (this time around, they clearly are), but they've all been very comfortable, upper-middle class. Oh wait, that's right. All but the Mexican family in The Marked Ones. Hmmm.
-The brother's mustache is quite distracting. It's pretty solid, though. Too distracting.
-So is Skyler, the unexplained blonde and voluptuous lady hanging out with the family. I think she said something about yoga? She's there for a yoga conference? She's the nanny? I'm not sure.
-Seriously, how the fuck did they afford this house and all the stuff?!
-Unlike every other PA, these people can actually see the paranormal. They have actual proof, it's on the screen in front of their eyes. They're seeing the evil, which is pretty much the symbiote known as Venom from Spider-Man, hangout with their daughter, loom above them even, and yet, they just keep staying home and don't do anything about it. Just watch the tapes and see what else they can get.
-Yeah, the camera. Let's talk about this camera… No, on second thought. Let's not.
-Holy shit, the mythology and ongoing storyline in this series is nuts! I feel like I should have read the Cliff Notes on the previous entries before watching this.
-It is kind of neat how they keep adding more to the story. It is, and it isn't. They might be putting too much into the films now, which is taking away from the simplicity and effectiveness the first couple had.
-There's a line about a girl taking minutes that really made me laugh. It doesn't make sense when you read this, but trust me, it's pretty funny.
-A priest gets involved at one point (of course) and things get real awkward when he's talking to the daughter. Might have been the intent, but I also think it wasn't. And that's what makes me feel weird about it.
-"No one else will take us seriously!" Oh, that's because you haven't talked to anyone else about what's going on!
-There's one scene that I found quite impressive and rad. It involves the two brothers watching a tape from the '80s featuring two sisters. Very cool writing moment.
Yeah, it's a Paranormal Activity movie. It is what it is.
CABIN FEVER 2: SPRING FEVER (2009)
Not only is 31 Days of Horror great for new watches, but I'm also fond of revisiting films I haven't seen for a while, including those I did not like very much the first time around. Enter Cabin Fever 2, which I was monumentally less than enthused with when it was released. However, friends who lie it bring it up from time to time, so it seemed like a great candidate to re-watch.
And I wish I hadn't.
The well-liked dude at high school wants the girl he's been friends with his whole life, but she's dating the class douche who's also rich and most popular. It's prom, and wait a minute. Prom is on a Friday after school. Does this seem right? I didn't go to prom, but I'm pretty sure they're on Saturdays. This is completely inconsequential, mind you, just something I picked up on. Anyway, it's prom, and our main dude and his vulgar, immature, perverted best friend decide last minute they'll go.
However, as set up at the end of the original film (which I am a MASSIVE fan of), the skin-eating bacteria has now reached a water source near a water-bottling plant. The school got a massive shipment of contaminated water bottles, and they're used to make all the prom punch because really, why wouldn't they be?
Meanwhile, Deputy Winston is hot on the trail, trying to stop the transit of the water. Considering he was all about the party and didn't give a shit about much else the first go around, he sure is concerned and determined this time. But the FBI or some other government agency is hot on his trail, laying to waste anyone and everything that the water has touched.
Go ahead, guess where they all meet up. Yep, the prom!
Spring Fever starts out entertaining and then quickly diminishes to dated sex jokes that aren't funny, subplots that try to develop too much in too little time, generic characters doing generic stuff, and a lot of moments that want to gross you out but don't really connect because they're too absurd. Sure, there's a lot of blood and the film isn't supposed to be taken seriously, but so much has no pulse, it makes it hard to care about anything. There was quite the drama behind the scenes between director Ti West (who dismisses the film completely) and the producers (who took the film from Ti and did reshoots), and it shows.
Much like I did with prom, I should have skipped this. too. Heyo!
DIABOLIQUE (1955) - First Time Viewing
Years back, AMC or Bravo (can't remember which one) featured their 100 Scariest Movie Moments, and if memory serves me correctly, Diabolque (also known as its original title Les diaboliques) was the last one for me to see.
Trouble and emotions are afoot at a French boarding school when Christina has had enough with her abusive, controlling, and general piece of shit husband and headmaster, Michel, and plots to kill him… With Nicole, the woman and co-teacher that Michel's been bangin'! So, the wife and the mistress team up to rid themselves of the man in their lives. After the murder, though, Michel's body goes missing and unexpected events begin to occur.
When thinking of a fine-crafted murder mystery, Les diaboliques will absolutely come to mind from here on out. The combination of an outstanding script, strong performances, and patient yet skillful filmmaking kept me engrossed and anxious. Credited as one of the first, if not the first, films to feature a twist ending, I can safely say I did not know how the events were going to unfold, and once they did, I was pretty damn satisfied.
If you like story, not much gore, and a solid mystery, this is one for you. Great stuff!
BASKIN (2016) - First Time Viewing
A group of police officers enjoy a casual dinner, filled with much talk about sex. Things get cut short when a call for backup needed in Inceagac, a nearby town that carries many questionable rumors. While en route to the dispatch, things go horribly wrong and the van ends up in the river. From here, they must travel on foot to Inceagac, and come across the abandoned building that the original distress call came from. Of course, entering the building leads the cops to much more than they bargained for, as they physically and emotionally enter into Hell.
It opens with an incredibly raunchy sex talk around the table (harking back to Reservoir Dogs), which was almost off-putting as the misogyny was rampant. However, that ultimately set the table (aaaaahhhhh, a pun!) for what would happen throughout the film. It didn't just establish our characters, but their paths, as well. With every ten minutes that went by, I was taken on a cerebral journey of absolute madness, chaos, and perversion.
Baskin has a lot going for it and packs a serious punch. It's jarring, bold, and alarming. It's graphic and intense, but never becomes gratuitous. While possessing these unsettling traits, if you will, it's wildly competent at the same time. The camera movement and lighting is equally loud and elegant. This is one fantastic looking film, which seems to compliment and contrast the subject matter is such a powerful manner.
By large, the cast delivers. The officers seep a playful camaraderie that feels genuine, all the while bringing the emotions later on. However, Mehmet Cerrahoglu, who is simply known as The Father, steals the god damn show. One could describe him as the face of a villain (I say "a villain" because the true villain can be debated), I spent quite a while trying to decide if that's truly his appearance or if he was covered in prosthetic appliances, as he looks (fittingly) unreal. His physical presence was heightened by his performance, which was tender and menacing.
This one is bound to go down as my biggest "What the fuck?" viewing, but it was so worth it. This marks co-writer and director Can Evrenol's first feature film, and did he make a name for himself already. Very excited to see what he turns out next.
Surprise, surprise. Chalk up yet another great foreign title.
DRY BLOOD (2016) - First Time Viewing
Brian has many problems, including booze, drugs, staying off of them, and pissing off those in his life. He decides it's time to get sober (after a string of unsuccessful attempts) and exiles himself to his cabin in the mountains. Well, it's actually his ex-wife's cabin, but he'll tell you it's his. While trying to kick his habits, the local sheriff keeps an eye on him and an old friend, Anna, comes to aid his side. However, Brian's plagued by more than his demons in substance form… Or is he?
Filled with paranoia and uncertainty, Dry Blood a fairly successful isolation horror tale. Tonally, the film hits all the right marks. The viewer questions what they see just as much as Brian does, and the scares, while selective, connect. Clint Carney not just wrote the film, but also stars as Brian and proves he has some acting skills. While his performance was on for the most part, it does get spotty from time to time. The film is all about Brian, and it more or less works. Carney's physical execution was stronger than his vocal delivery, but again, he does hold his own. I wish I could say the same about Jaymie Valentine as Anna. Everything about her felt so out of place. Her look (the hair had to be a wig, right?) and acting just did not gel with what Carney was doing with Brian. That said, director Kelton Jones appears as the highly-entertaining sheriff, someone I want to see much more of.
There's some good special effects work, creepy moments, and the film goes in a decently enjoyable direction. I should say, I liked where it went but it was a little choppy getting there. Parts of the third act might have been too ambitious for their capabilities, were handled poorly, and just felt slightly lazy. It didn't kill the film as a whole, but did take weaken it. The soundscape was a little too empty, which held scenes back from truly excelling.
As a whole, Dry Blood was a great surprise I caught at the Madtown Horror Fest. The film has its shortcomings, yet remains a strong effort.
FOUND FOOTAGE 3D (2016) - First Time Viewing
With hopes of truly setting themselves apart from the over-played out found footage genre, a group of independent filmmakers set out to make the very first found footage movie in 3D, Spectre of Blood. Not only that, but the behind-the-scenes camera also got an upgrade to 3D. The third dimension for everyone! Our bare bones cast and crew head out to film their story of a couple's getaway to an old cabin that turns out to be plagued by an evil presence, at an actual old cabin that turns out to be plagued by an evil presence. Holy shit, that's some wacky stuff, right?!
Perhaps this will go without saying, Found Footage 3D is pretty much meta as fuck. Writer/director Steven DeGennaro knows exactly what he's doing, knows the tropes to hit and make fun of, but also how to kept the film fun, unexpected, and unique. Sure, the set-up and turn of events is not completely unique, but the way they're handled is.
The film almost completely rides on the cast, who really nailed the material. Not just through the lines, but also the physical comedy that comes with the script. However, Chris O'Brien who plays the BTS cameraman Mark did not turn in as successful of a performance as the rest, he felt awkward and unconfident. Carter Roy and Scott Allen Perry, on the other hand, were superb. Roy, who plays Derek, the co-writer/actor/producer of Spectre easily had the most range, effectively pulling it all off. While Perry, playing the sound guy Carl, provided the best laughs. Give me an entire film of him and the sheriff from Dry Blood and I would be one happy boy.
There's some cool, genuine moments paired up with the laughs, that lead to a rather chaotic and jovial third act. Sadly, the act peaks early and the film continues for a good (read: unnecessary) twenty minutes. Total runtime is 100 minutes, which is waaaay too long for found footage. I started to feel a little anxious for things to end, then came some seriously satisfying bloodshed, and yet, I had to sit through a bunch of extra crap that squandered the momentum.
There's a lot to enjoy about FF3D, and I sure did. Even with the drawn out conclusion, this is still well worth checking out.
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985)
On the soundtrack, the .45 Grave song asks "Do you want to party?" Well, you better fucking believe I do, "it's party time!"
Dan O'Bannon set out to basically make the antithesis of Romero's Dead films (zombie films as a whole, even), oh boy, did he ever. Don't get me wrong, I love the original Dead films, just as most horror fanatics do, but that doesn't stop me from adoring the hell out of Return of the Living Dead.
The humor excels on every level and the script moves! This time around, I noticed just how quick things move. We, the audience, dive in right away and there's never a dull moment. The laughs are plenty, and while they stay strong until the end, the script also takes a rather dark turn within the last 30 minutes. Something that continues to impress me as it works so, so well. And the music - the music! One of my favorite soundtracks ever.
Charmingly absurd might be one of the most appropriate ways to describe Return, and I mean it in the most endearing way possible.
Also, can we just take a moment to appreciate the beauty that the poster is? Mmm. Everything about this film. Every. Thing.
Total Films Watched: 24 (of 31)
First Time Viewings: 20