Silence of the Halloween Horror Fest

We’re well into November now, but I still have a few Halloween horror reviews left to cover.  Bonfire night?  Who cares?!  What fireworks?!

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Jodie Foster plays FBI agent Clarice Starling in this fantastic film, on the trail of serial killer “Buffalo Bill”.  To find the killer she enlists the help of incarcerated psychopath Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter (a superb Anthony Hopkins in a career defining role).  Utilising Lecter’s knowledge to enhance the psychological profile of the killer, the young agent finds herself embroiled in his mind games, as the race to catch Buffalo Bill gains further urgency. lambs

If you’ve never seen this film, see it.  If you have, watch it again.  It won multiple Oscars and is absolutely captivating (no pun intended) on every viewing.  Brilliant performances; scenes that look and feel real; and a chilling story make The Silence of the Lambs unmissable.

True, there are no monsters or supernatural occurrences in this movie.  Yet the sense of unease and tension created in The Silence of the Lambs mark it as a real horror film with chills beyond compare.

10/10

Ghostbusters (1984)

Another film that needs no introduction, though of a vastly different style; Ghostbusters is an 80’s classic.  Featuring a team of scientists who, after finding themselves thrown out of their university, form a new business hunting ghosts, this film has laughs and thrills aplenty.  Taking New York by storm with their paranormal investigations, the Ghostbusters wind up facing a threat that is really out of this world! GB

The three main Ghostbusters – Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis – are all excellent; with Murray in particular looking like he’s having tons of fun.  Ernie Hudson as the fourth member does a good job, but is somewhat underused.  Sigourney Weaver puts in a good performance as the musician caught up in a pan-dimensional event she doesn’t understand.  And keep your eyes on Rick Moranis, who is constantly hilarious.

Highly recommended as some fun Halloween viewing, Ghostbusters mixes a few spooky moments with some very funny scenes.  Add in a great theme tune and some memorable quotes, and you really can’t go wrong.

Who ya gonna call?

9/10

That’s it for another year, thanks for reading Halloween Horror Fest!

Halloween Horror Fest Hollow

Halloween is over, but as ever, I’m behind with reviewing the films I’ve watched this October.  So here we go…

Bigfoot Wars (2014)

Now I’m a big fan of Bigfoot movies.  The Legend of Boggy Creek is, in my book, a total classic.  So I was intrigued by Bigfoot Wars and definitely wasn’t put off by the obvious low budget, straight to video fest that I was letting myself in for. bigfoot

The story, in a nutshell, is this: a small town (named Boggy Creek, interestingly enough) has a problem with marauding Bigfoot abducting the local females.

Unfortunately it is all a bit cheap, at least as far as the script goes.  The sasquatch look pretty scary and manage to introduce a good dose of tension to the proceedings.  However the story is fairly lame and obvious, with rather poor acting and dialogue.  Some guy called C Thomas Howell is the token ex-big name slumming it; but his performance is unintelligible.

As a fan of Bigfoot movies, there was enough here for me to enjoy.  However I couldn’t really recommend Bigfoot Wars to anyone else.

5/10

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Tim Burton directed this version of the Washington Irving story, and it really is superb.  The design and cinematography are spell binding; the story rattles along at a great pace, and the cast is rammed with an unbelievable level of talent. Sleepy

Our old mate Johnny Depp plays Ichabod Crane, who in this version is a detective, sent to the remote town of Sleepy Hollow to investigate some hideous murders.  It appears that the locals are being decapitated by a  Headless Horseman, though why is a mystery.  Crane must use his rational, scientific sensibilities to put a stop to the carnage – though it appears that the events may be of supernatural origin after all…

Apparently this film is Tim Burton’s tribute to Hammer horror; it’s easy to see why with the scenes of stage coaches rolling through gloomy forests.  A cameo from the late, great Christopher Lee further exaggerates the point.  Lashings of blood also help to underscore the tribute to sixties horror.

Sleep Hollow is exceptionally well made – it looks incredible and the story is riveting.  Whilst the motivations are a little convoluted, it all comes together in the end.  Highly recommended for some blood thirsty thrills, and worthy of repeated viewings.

9/10

Bram Stoker’s Halloween Horror Fest

Dracula (1992)

A difficult one, this.  Undeniably stunning to watch, this version of the classic tale from Director Francis Ford Coppola has many positives.  Unfortunately it also has some screamingly bad inconsistencies, too.

I won’t dwell too long on the plot, as the narrative manages to follow the source novel for the most part.  Suffice to say that Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) is despatched to Transylvania to arrange some London real estate for a certain Count Dracula (a brilliant Gary Oldman).  Dracula then relocates to Victorian England, where his cult of vampirism is destined to grow.

Despite following many of the key scenes from Stoker’s original book, and indeed managing to correctly include most of the characters for a change, this isn’t the definitive movie version it claims to be.  Rather, Coppola’s film is scuppered by introducing a ridiculous love story between Dracula and Mina (Winona Ryder) that wasn’t in the book.  So for every brilliantly shot tribute to the novel that Coppola makes, there’s a stake through the heart thanks to the silly romance aspect. drac

The performances vary from superb (Oldman) to annoying (Sadie Frost as Lucy).  Then there’s Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, who can’t decide how far to ram his tongue in his own cheek.

Poor old Keanu always comes under heavy criticism for his work here, and yes, his British accent is truly abominable.  In his defence, however, I would say that he looks exactly as I always imagined Jonathan Harker to look.  So give him a break.  For me, Winona Ryder is much worse – her acting and accent are both wrong, and she also looks totally out of place.

Thank heavens for some authenticity with appearances for much loved characters Dr Seward (Richard E Grant, great job); Arthur Holmwood (perfectly cast as Cary Elwes) and the vampire hunter who was always my favourite, Quincey Morris (Bill Campbell).

If I ignore the stupid desecration that is the Oldman/Ryder romance, then there’s plenty to enjoy.  The sets, costume designs and cinematography are simply beautiful.  There are some ingenious ideas where the laws of physics just do not apply – such as shadows roaming randomly – which create a supernatural world.  And there is enough respect for the novel in various other ways that Coppola’s Dracula is irresistible to watch.  Not to mention plenty of blood and dismemberment, and some true horror.

So despite holding my head in my hands and screaming “WHY?!” to the heavens, Dracula is still a must see.  But please folks, read the book.  Repressed Victorian sexuality and fears of the outsider may be present there, but “Dracula” is no love story.

8/10

Halloween Horror Fest of the Dead

The Wolfman (2010)

Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns to his ancestral home of Blackmoor in order to investigate the disappearance of his brother.  Reunited with this estranged father (Anthony Hopkins), it soon becomes apparent that something wild is stalking with the full moon.  When Lawrence is attacked by the werewolf, he too falls victim to the curse – destined to become the Wolfman when the moon is full… wolfman2

This remake of the classic Universal monster movie is something of an under rated treasure.  It was never going to have the charm of the Lon Chaney Jr original, but there’s a lot of craft and reverence gone into this movie.  The Gothic atmosphere is absolutely top notch and there’s enough blood and shocks to aid the spectacle.  It takes a while for our hero to get to his transformation, but it’s worth the wait.

My only criticism really is the werewolf versus werewolf showdown at the end.  Silly and unnecessary, at least this scene isn’t dragged out too long.

Otherwise The Wolfman is a great horror film in the classic tradition.  It really should have been much more successful.  The film is a much better revisit to the Universal vaults than the disastrous Van Helsing.  The only things they got wrong with this movie was not setting it in Wales, unlike the original.  Especially when you have the magnificent Anthony Hopkins in the cast!

8/10  

28 Hallowe’en Horror Fests Later

28 Weeks Later (2007)

Six months after the original outbreak of the Rage virus, the UK is a devastated wasteland in quarantine.  Slowly, re-population of the City of London begins – in restricted zones under the guardianship of US led UN forces.

This sequel to 28 Days Later takes the initial premise further, and doesn’t waste time in exploring further the horror of the Infected.  The opening scenes in particular are designed to make the heart race, as we’re thrust back into the nightmare of the scenario for the first film.  In a short while though, the audience finds itself in a precarious new society as the military attempt to reintroduce life to the dead city. 28weekslater

Both Danny Boyle and Alex Garland, who created the original movie – act as Executive Producers on 28 Weeks Later.  Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo manages to take over the reigns and deliver a solid sequel.

28 Weeks Later does not have the shock value of it’s predecessor; although a  quality cast – including Robert Carlyle, Jeremy Renner, the lovely Rose Byrne and Idris Elba – ensure this is a film worth investing your time in.

I still rate the original 28 Days Later as one of the most intense, disturbing cinematic experiences I’ve ever had.  Sequels very rarely match up to the first film.  28 Weeks Later has a pretty bloody good go, though.

8/10

PS – you can read my write up of 28 Days Later here.

Hallowe’en Horror Fest Shadows

Dark Shadows (2012)

Tim Burton and – who else? – Johnny Depp bring us Dark Shadows, based on the cult late ’60’s TV show of the same name.  It’s a mix of horror, comedy and drama that is happy to lurk in Gothic darkness, but also offers a campy humour. dark

Barnabas Collins (Depp), heir to the wealthy Collins clan fortune, makes the mistake of spurning the love of Angelique (Eva Green).  Angelique happens to be a witch who curses Barnabas to become a vampire.  After being imprisoned for 200 years, Collins is awoken and finds himself in the year 1972.  A man – or vampire – considerably out of his time, Barnabas returns to the family home with the intention of restoring the Collins family to both wealth and harmony.  Aided by matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), Barnabas faces Angelique once more; whilst also attempting to help his family and win the love of his life.

Does that sound like fun to you?  It did to me.  Which is why I’m surprised that some people didn’t dig this retro gem.  The mixing of genres may have confused some audiences, but to me Dark Shadows is a delightfully ghoulish confection in the spirit of the Addams Family and The Munsters.

I enjoyed the comedy elements, and there’s enough blood to tick the horror box.  Most of all though, I love the 1970’s setting – obviously inspired (again) by Hammer, there are cool cars and an exceptional soundtrack.  Alice Cooper even has a cameo as himself, for goodness sake – playing two classic Coop tracks!

Great cast, cool atmosphere – it all adds up to a winner in my book.

9/10