Monday, October 1, 2012

31 Days Of Horror Movies 2012! (Part One)

For a third year in a row, I'm planning to spend the weeks leading up to Halloween watching 31 horror movies and blogging about the experience (you can check out my previous two October horror marathons here and here. I got off to a head start bright and early this morning, and you can find my report below. As with before, at least half of the movies will be ones I haven't seen before. I've been working up a tentative list of films since the summer, and stockpiling movies of every conceivable genre, nationality,and level of quality, so there are definitely good times ahead. Without further ado, let's wade right in with the two I watched this morning...
TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990): Often considered the unofficial Creepshow 3 (having been produced by original Creepshow director George Romero and featuring one installment adapted from a short story by Creepshow screenwriter Stephen King) Tales From The Darkside: The Movie will, to me anyway, always be the R-rated movie I tried to sneak into when I was 16, was denied access, and had to see Ernest Goes To Jail instead. Directed by Romero collaborator John Harrison (who composed the score for the original Dawn Of The Dead, and would later direct the Sci-Fi Channel's Dune miniseries), this semicomic anthology spins three terror tales, framed by a bizarre story about a suburban cannibal housewife (played by Debbie Harry!). The first story, featuring a young Steve Buscemi as a nerdy college student who uses a murderous mummy to enact revenge on his enemies, was adapted from a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The second, based on Stephen King's short story "Cat From Hell", stars David Johansen (AKA Buster Poindexter!), as a hit man tasked with the unusual job of whacking an infernal feline. The final installment stars James Remar (Ajax from The Warriors!) as an artist who falls in love with a mystery woman (Rae Dawn Chong) after a run-in with a murderous gargoyle. This is a pretty slick production all around, a solid example of early Nineties big studio horror, and the cast is full of familiar faces like Christian Slater, Julianne Moore, William Hickey, and Mark Margolis (best known these days as Hector Salamanca on Breaking Bad). The creature and gore effects by KNB EFX Group (The Walking Dead, plus countless other film and TV projects) are top shelf. But the script by Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas screenwriter Michael McDowell) is neither funny or scary enough to be truly memorable. Stick with the original Creepshow instead to see it done right.
ANTS (1977): I've always been a sucker for Seventies nature-gone-wild flicks like Prophecy and Day Of The Animals, so a movie about rampaging swarms of poisonous ants featuring Robert Foxworth (star of Prophecy) and Lynda Day George (star of Day Of The Animals) was a no-brainer for me. But this slow-moving eco-thriller ("The Picnic Is Ruined!", screams the film's tagline) is pretty tough going for even the most dedicated fan of Seventies cheese. Construction at a resort hotel unleashes an army of insecticide-mutated killer ants who aren't particular about who they chow down on, whether it's the kitchen staff, the resort guests, or a sleazy developer and his arm candy (a pre-Three's Company Suzanne Somers). Throw in a dinky-sounding synth score and a slumming star of Old Hollywood (Myrna Loy as the resort's owner), and the formula for run-of-the-mill Disco-era horror/disaster movie is complete. The bloodless ant attacks, low body count, and uninspired direction by small screen veteran Robert Scheerer reveal that Ants was originally a made-for-TV movie almost immediately. Dramatic tension is represented by awkward reaction shots and slow zooms into expressionless faces. The supposed swarms of ants often look like the special effects department simply smeared raisins all over the resort walls. The only remotely funny/surprising scene occurs when, after a triumphant rescue, a helicopter's rotor blades blow the killer ants all over a crowd of onlookers. Unintentional hilarity notwithstanding, and even at a reasonable running time of just over 90 minutes, sitting through Ants is no picnic.

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