Here’s another gem that came out of nowhere for me. It’s such an amazing feeling when I hear absolutely nothing about a movie, yet notice one of my favorite actors in it, check it out blindly, and I’m completely wowed by it. That’s exactly what happened here. I Am Not a Serial Killer is a little low budget, down and dirty Irish film, that just happens to be so unique it hurts. When a movie feels fresh and enters into unseen territory nowadays, don’t take that lightly. It’s not an easy thing to do in today’s day and age. This film is about a teenage boy that has been diagnosed with “sociopathic tendencies.” In essence, he’s obsessed with serial killers, and is convinced that he himself is eventually going to turn into one. We follow his confusion, his struggles, and his total unease with his own self. It’s a really fantastic character study unto itself. But then things get even trickier when a serial killer has apparently entered his small snowy town and a body count begins to add up. To say any more from here would be a complete travesty to the film. Because figuring out exactly where it’s going to go is part of the fun. The story is intriguing. The character development is extraordinary. And the acting is top notch. I mentioned that I noticed one of my favorite actors was in this? Well, that just happens to be Christopher Lloyd. And this just may be his greatest performance. How people are not talking about this film, and his performance in it, is mind-boggling to me. He is so incredible as the boy’s elderly next door neighbor. The range you see from him almost makes you completely forget about Doc Brown (almost.) Anyway, trust me on this one. Just watch without any previous knowledge and go along the journey blindly. It’s a seriously engrossing adventure.
Every once in a while a movie comes out that is SO niche and SO insane that it blows me away how it even got made. Luckily for me the insane niche that this movie tackles just happens to be one of my all time favorite subjects. I’m talking about Italian giallo cinema. The Editor is both a total parody, and at the same time an absolute celebration, of one of horror’s greatest subgenres. If you’ve seen any Dario Argento or Mario Bava movies at all, you at least have an inkling of what you’re in store for with this film. Holy crap, I love The Editor. At times while watching it I felt like it was tailor made for me. But you should know ahead of time that this is a TOTAL niche film and is definitely not for everyone. I would guess the majority of people will have no clue what the hell this movie is trying to do, and dismiss it entirely. So be it. For the rest of us, we’re in giallo heaven. Honestly, I’m finding myself at a loss of where to even begin talking about this movie to a general audience. Hmm, well, let’s start with saying that Italian giallo’s have some very specific aspects to them. There’s a lot of sex. There’s a lot of violence. There’s a lot of sexy violence, as well as violent sex. The whodunit mystery plots usually revolve around a serial killer, usually killing women, and usually black gloved. There’s a ton of bold color saturation, insane lighting, hyper-realistic camera moves and some insane visuals. Oh, and let’s not forget about the bad English dubbing (and acting). The Editor has all of this in spades, including the bad English dubbing! Oh man, this film is hilarious. It is so violent there are moments that give early Peter Jackson a run for his money. But the violence is so over the top, it hardly seems real at all. This film is about an editor that was supposedly the best in the world before he had a nervous breakdown and cut off all his fingers. Now he was unable to edit anymore and finds himself working on sleazy films to make ends meet. But when people on the production start dying all around him, he becomes the key suspect. It’s just amazing how apt this movie is at playing with the genre it’s mocking. But the filmmakers obvious love giallo films, because even when it’s making fun of them, you can tell it’s because they love them. Look, there’s hardly anything else I can say about this insane movie. If you love giallos, have a warped sense of humor, and don’t cringe at a ton of violence, sex and nudity, then you’re in for a treat. Oh, and Udo Kier has a small part too, as if you needed any more reason to watch.
This little film released this past weekend pleasantly surprised the Hell out of me. I always love to find good spooky movies that are in the theaters so everyone can try and have an actual October Halloween scary movie experience in the big black box. Ouija: Origin of Evil surprised me in that I liked it as much as I did, but if I think about it, it really shouldn’t have at all. The first Ouija was, let’s just say, a missed opportunity. So why would I even venture out to see a sequel of a forgettable blah flick in the theaters? Because I like the director Mike Flanagan. When I heard he was directing this movie, that it was a period piece prequel instead of a sequel, and that they gave him a lot of creative opportunity to do what he wanted with it, I became intrigued. All of a sudden there was a curiosity where there originally was a vacant pit. With a prequel you can essentially start over. Plus, I’m a total sucker for period piece horror films. I love them so much. This one takes place in the 1960’s. Not only does it work from a technological point of view (no cell phones, no internet, mostly face-to-face discussions, etc), but there’s also a sweetness to the time period that contrasts so well to any kind of extreme horrors. The story here is about a mother and two daughters that give psychic readings to desperate people. They fake everything and put on a scam of a show. When the mother decides to add the new fad of a Ouija board to their show, wouldn’t you know suddenly shit gets real. The youngest daughter starts hearing and seeing actual spirits, and now their scam business is suddenly the real deal. But… well, as you know, things aren’t always exactly as they seem. I’ll let the movie take it from here. This is an old fashioned ghost/possession/haunted house tale that’s way better than it needs to be. Its strongest point is Flanagan taking his time to create well rounded characters, each of which you truly care about. That was (just one of) the main problems with the first Ouija movie. You really didn’t care about the teens at all. Here, you really care for the mother, the daughters, and the priest (a truly welcome return of Henry Thomas) and even the boyfriend that are all the main focus here. Flanagan deftly takes his time with the scares, slowly building, until some truly terrifying visuals and scares pop out at you. And BECAUSE he took his time, they work that much better. You absolutely do not need to have seen the first one to enjoy this one, in fact, I’d say this is best seen on its own. With the exception of some connecting tissue toward the end, it’s completely its own animal. Don’t be scared away by the weaker PG-13 rating either. This movie is scary, has some serious frights, and one hell of a demon creation (God bless Doug Jones). It’s old-fashioned fun through and through. I enjoyed the absolute Hell out of this movie and you will too. You may not believe me considering its source material, but trust me on this one, guys, it’s really really solid.
Today I’m gonna throw an interesting little anthology at you. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I love horror anthologies (or horror omnibus films if I want to sound British.) I could do all 31 days of this list and only use anthologies. Each one is full of bite-sized nuggets of horror, served up on a larger platter. They don’t require massive attention spans (sadly great for today’s audiences) and each segment usually has a fun little hook or twist. I always find them interesting, even if a few of the segments don’t work. Southbound is the next in the line of horror anthologies from the people that brought you the three V/H/S films. I know those films can be divisive, but I really enjoy them (especially V/H/S 2). With Southbound, they decided to try something a little different, and that’s the main reason I give major props to this movie. Here, they try to connect all the stories in a type of continuous flow, mainly following people driving along a deserted road. It’s not their normal method of rapid fire, non-connected anthology segments, and I think it works. The film opens with a fun story that thematically sets up the entire film. Two criminals on the run appear to be in some kind of inescapable time loop, and are being stalked by some really cool looking floating grim reaper looking things. It’s quick and to the point, and works as a starting point for the rest of the stories. Next, there’s a segment about an all-female band that breaks down in the desert, and rescued by a Stepford-esque family. Bonus points for casting Dana Gould in this one. There’s a segment about a man that hits someone with his car in the middle of the desert and becomes slave to the 911 operator. There’s a segment about a brother desperately searching for his lost sister. And finally there’s a segment about a family that is being stalked in their house by some masked criminals. It’s all fun and loosely connected. It’s not overly explained in every case, which works for some people and doesn’t for others. Me, I’m in the business of not needing every last thing explained to me. I enjoyed this film. It’s not going to win any awards, but it’s a fun rollicking time if you enjoy horror anthologies like I do. And I really do like the look of those cool grim reaper things.
It’s Saturday! Family day! Yay! Time for a classic that you simply can’t help but smile at while you’re watching. It’s time for that perennial Halloween favorite, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Although, it really should be called Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein AND Dracula AND Wolfman (and possibly even another little surprise.) The joy and whimsy of this movie is undeniable. Did I just write whimsy? Yes, I did. Ugh, I should punch myself. Oh well, moving on… The basic plot is that Abbott and Costello work in a freight yard and must deliver some crates to the owner of a House of Horrors. The crates just happen to hold the remains of both Dracula and Frankenstein. And well, zany hijinks ensue. There are many reasons why this movie from 1948 is still entertaining now. First, seeing the Universal monsters is always fun. Even though Boris Karloff refused to reprise his Frankenstein role and was recast, both Bela Legosi and Lon Chaney, Jr. reprised their Dracula and Wolfman roles. Seeing them in a more lighthearted setting is bizarre but fun. It feels almost like a Scooby Doo episode. Especially Legosi, whose Dracula here really hams it up in a few scenes. Another reason is obviously to see the classic Abbott and Costello in action. Those dudes were funny. Here’s the deal if you’ve never seen them before, Abbott is a bonefide asshole, and Costello is, well, a little… special. But the olde tyme comedy bits that usually circle around Costello seeing something and Abbott never believing him, is always entertaining to me. And Costello’s physical comedy is pitch perfect. The scene where he accidentally sits on Frankenstein, and slowly realizes it by feeling his arm, kills me. Look, you know what you’re getting here. It’s classic entertainment from a bygone era. Although, here’s a trick. I watched this with my two kids. I told them that Abbott and Costello were like the “Dan and Phil” of their generation. As soon as I said that, they got it instantly, and we had fun watching it. Oh, and if you don’t know who Dan and Phil are, you definitely don’t have kids. Enjoy a classic tonight everyone. Turn off your brain and just be charmed by it. In today’s day and age, sometimes you just need simple entertainment like this.
Yesterday I wrote about a brutal and visceral suspenseful film in Green Room. Today I’m going to write about another seriously suspenseful film, only this one is more so emotionally and intellectually. The Invitation is a fantastic little mystery that builds ever so slowly and ever so creepily. This is a movie that everyone can watch, even those who say they “hate scary movies.” Hear that naysayers? This is one for you! I really dug this movie. It just kind of gives you the creeps and makes you feel uneasy the entire time. You’re not sure what’s going on, then you’re sure what’s going on, then suddenly you’re not so sure again, and so on. It’s a fun little game. The premise circles around a man who receives a mysterious invitation by his ex-wife and her new husband to come to a dinner party. It’s a strange invite because it’s been years since they’ve seen each other, as they’ve become estranged after the death of their child when they were married. There is no exact explanation for what the invitation is truly for, or why now. The man travels there with his current girlfriend and they meet all their old friends that haven’t seen each other in a while. From here, you’ll just have to watch… Some people may call this movie slow, but I rather like the term deliberately paced. To me the slow build is all part of the fun. Think of it like a sexy striptease instead of just walking out naked. It’s an independent film and you can feel that there were no studio heads making them rush things or make decisions based on pacing. The acting is all on point, with once again, one of my favorite actors John Carroll Lynch stealing the show. Once he arrives, the movie becomes even more unnerving. The Invitation is quite simply just a smart, fantastic mystery that plays games with the audience until the very end (and I mean the VERY end.) If you’re in the mood for a creepy little twister, look no further.
Let’s get down to business on what I consider the best thriller I saw all year. After I saw Green Room at Sundance in January, this was the movie I couldn’t stop thinking about, talking about and telling every person I knew to watch when it came out. This film leaves a serious mark. It rattles your soul. This movie is true horror. I’m not kidding. And along with that, and please listen to me on this one, this film is insanely graphically violent. And the violence is not in a gorehound, cool sfx, crazy over the top way. No. It’s rather done in a realistic, brutal and jarringly visceral way. But saying that, the reason the violence is so effective is because it fits in perfectly with the unbelievably bleak and dark storyline. Green Room is about a struggling punk band desperate to book a show. Their desperation is definitely shown when they book a gig at an isolated compound that just happens to be run by, and for, Neo-Nazi’s. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, there is no way this is going to turn out good. Well, you have no goddamn idea how badly this goes. I don’t want to say another WORD about the plot because you need to experience this ride for yourself. The writing, directing, and acting of this movie cannot by touted enough. The claustrophobia. The helplessness. The isolation. Every emotion and feeling that the actors are feeling is felt right along by the audience as well. The direction and cinematography is pitch perfect. It’s got to be so difficult to truly make the audience feel those tight quarters without making us feel constricted. I could geek on and on about this movie for ages, but let me end with this. Normally I would say the reason to see this film is Patrick Stewart, who plays one of the evilest and most terrifying villains ever. But now I have to say the reason to see this is Anton Yelchin. Sadly this was the last movie that was released while he was still alive. He was tragically killed soon after. Watch him in this role and you’ll understand just how great of a loss that truly is. Green Room is a gem. It’s as tense and terrifying of a suspenseful thriller as you’ll EVER see. Movies like this just don’t come across as often as you’d like. This is one of my absolute highest praised films on my list this year. Mark my words. See this film now.