Thursday, November 8, 2018

A Brief Review of ''Elevation''

A new Stephen King book came out on the day before Halloween, and my annual rumpus of gorging on horror movies delayed me from beginning it that day.  Plus, I'd only gotten about halfway through Flight Or Fright, and wanted to finish that one first.
And so I did, and moved on straightaway to Elevation, about which I shall tell you more momentarily.

Elevation is a novel.  It says so right there on the cover, which means Stephen King says it's a novel; therefore, it's a novel.
Thing is, Elevation is demonstrably a novella.  It can easily be read in a single sitting (as I would have done if not for pausing a few minutes to go take a load of clothes out of the dryer and hang them up); this is something that simply isn't true of most novels.
A further thing is, it doesn't much matter whether you call Elevation a novel, or a novella, or a salamander, or a marmalute, or a short novel, or a taquito.  Whatever you call it, it's a sweet little tale about a guy who suddenly begins losing weight without losing mass, and finds a way to apply this newfound lightness of being to an existing problem: a mild feud with the married women next door whose dogs occasionally poop on his lawn.
It's a tale that starts well, middles excellently, and kind of peters out at some point right before the end.  It's still pretty good, though; very minor King, I think, but minor King is still worth a read for virtually anyone who has stumbled their way onto this blog.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A Brief Review of "Flight Or Fright"

It took me long enough, but here at last: a brief review of the Cemetery Dance anthology Flight Or Fright, edited by Stephen King and Bev Vincent.


The book came out a bit more than two months ago; all I can say in explanation of why it's taken me so long is that I got sidetracked working on that whopper of a series examining the Halloween movies.  Is that a good explanation for delaying the reading of a new Stephen King book.  It is not.  Apologies, if only to myself.
Anyways, it's now been tackled, and so let's have a brief look at the contents and call it a review.  

Thursday, November 1, 2018

What I Watched This October (2018 Edition), Part 9

Halloween has come and gone; this here series of posts rolls on. 

Up first:

I'd seen this before -- several times -- but not in close to twenty years, so I figured it was high time for a revisit.
It's a movie that made a strong impression the first time I saw it, not entirely in a positive sense.  If you'll pardon the pun, I found it to be campy and slipshod; this was one of the first times I'd encountered that breed of horror film -- the kind that was made on the cheap by people who only barely seemed to possess a working knowledge of how to do the jobs they'd been tasked with doing -- and I didn't quite know how to process it.  I enjoyed it, though; it was something different than most anything else I'd ever seen, and stuff like that tends to make a mark on impressionable viewers.
It now becomes necessary for me to discuss the movie with the spoiler gloves taken off.  So if you don't know what happens in this movie, now's your chance to bail out.  I'll skip to the end a bit by saying that this revisit reaffirmed my belief that this is a fundamentally bad movie that nevertheless has a fundamentally strong impact.  And a lot of that is due to the plot twist, which I shall now discuss.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

What I Watched This October (2018 Edition), Part 8

Two more days 'til Halloween, Halloween, Hallo....
Well, it's two more days as of this writing; it's liable to BE Halloween before I post this, though, so I might ought to not commit to specifics on that Silver Shamrock ditty.
Anyways, let's dive right in, beginning with another Tobe Hooper movie I'd never seen before:

Sandwiched in Tobe Hooper's filmography between the great 1979 miniseries Salem's Lot and the great 1982 feature film Poltergeist is 1981's The Funhouse, which I found to be a real treat.  I'd never heard many good opinions of the movie, and I suppose an argument could be made that it never quite comes together as well as its potential indicates it might.  I don't think I'd be the one to make that argument, exactly; but it could be made.
Either way, I enjoyed this top to bottom; maybe the climactic confrontation is a mild letdown, but even that is fine.  It's probably be something I gave a thumbs-up to if only for the opening scene, which is a combination homage to both Psycho and Halloween.  Good stuff.
It's a great setup from there: a quartet of teenagers go out for the night to a somewhat disreputable carnival, and walk around experiencing the sordid pleasures there to be experienced until one of them makes a suggestion -- that they go to the Funhouse dark ride, get out of their cards, and hide inside and spend the night.
And so they do.  Naturally, at some point bad things begin to happen; yes, they surely do.

Monday, October 29, 2018

What I Watched This October (2018 Edition), Part 7

First up this time:
I'd never seen this one, amazingly.  I remember it being a big deal when it came out, though; in the eighth grade, some classmate described it to me in gory detail, so much so that as the arm-wrestling scene approached tonight while I watched it, I got a little antsy.  I powered through it, though; and it wasn't so bad as eighth-grade me thought (though eighth-grade me would have disagreed vehemently).
I also recall reading the short story by George Langelaan at some point around the same time, and just being aghast at the way it ends (dude getting crushed to death in an industrial stamper).  Sickened to my very core, I was by that story.  I wish I could remember exactly when I read it; I feel certain it was before my King-reading phase began, and I feel similarly certain that it helped pave the way for me to be able to tolerate some of King's bloody excesses.  I think I might have read it after my classmate described the movie to me, sort of as a I-can-read-anything act of defiance. 
So, in that sense, it may be that The Fly is kind of a part of my King-reading origin story.  The memory is too indistinct to say for sure.
Bottom line, though, is that I've finally seen the movie, and I mostly liked it.  I didn't love it; that could happen over time, but for now, I didn't quite get there.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

What I Watched This October (2018 Edition), Part 6

When we last met, we discussed a late-seventies horror remake scripted by W.D. Richter (1978's Invasion of the Body Snatchers), and so shall we begin this time: with 1979's Dracula.
In no way is this film the measure of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but don't let that fool you; there's a lot here to recommend, and I'd rank this as being a worth Dracula tale.  It doesn't have the mystique of the Tod Browning version from the thirties, nor does it have the sheer cinematic verve of Francis Ford Coppola's version from the nineties, but it's solid, and has its own identity.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

What I Watched This October (2018 Edition), Part 5

No time to waste!
I've got a very fond memory of the first time I saw this movie.  The same friend who introduced me to Halloween gave me a killer birthday present one year: the entire Nightmare on Elm Street series in the form of a DVD box set.  Shortly thereafter, I had my wisdom teeth taken out, and in the several days I was recuperating from that, I worked my way through the entirety of the box set; not just the movies, but all the bonus features, which were considerable.  I was zonked out on meds, naturally, but cognizant and more or less wakeful.
Far and away the most fun I've ever had being sick.
Anyways, A Nightmare on Elm Street is obviously a classic, and this fresh viewing -- first one for me in at least a decade, and probably more like fifteen years -- did nothing to change my mind about that.  It also did nothing to change my mind about the fact that the movie is a little shabby in places; stray shots, occasional line readings, some of the effects.  (I've never thought the moment when Freddy's arms are unnaturally long looked like anything other than shit; probably never will.)
I guess you could let stuff like that distract you if you wanted to, but you sure would be missing out on a lot if you did.

Monday, October 22, 2018

What I Watched This October (2018 Edition), Part 4

I'm making pretty good progress in this series of posts thus far this month, don't you think?  We're about halfway through the month -- which I admittedly began before September had ended (and will admittedly push through at least November 1) -- so it's looking to me like there'll end up being eight or nine posts.  Will that be enough to get to everything I want to get to this month?
Of course not.  Never enough time for everything, is there?
But this next title was definitely one I wanted to cross off the list, and my not-even-vaguely-patented random-selection process has come through for me once again.  So let's look at

This 2014 film was directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, whose adaptation of Pet Sematary will be out in April 2019.
And if I like it as much as I liked Starry Eyes, that'll be cool, because I liked Starry Eyes quite a bit.  It's not perfect; the low budget rears its head a few times, and the pace and tone slip every once in a while.  Still, I'd rate this as a B+ at worst, and further consideration might bump it up from there.  [UPDATE: I'm already up to an A-.  It's sitting in my brain nicely.]

Monday, October 15, 2018

"Halloween" Watchthrough, Part 5: Rob Zombie's Director's Cuts

The bad news: I've got yet more to say about the Halloween movies.

The good news: this one is going to be pretty quick.  Relatively speaking, I mean.  It's still me, so it won't be that quick.

Today, I want to cover the two director's-cut versions of Rob Zombie's movies.  With the first of his remakes, there isn't a huge amount to be said (one scene excepted), because many of the differences between this and the theatrical cut consist merely of scenes that have been extended slightly at one end or the other for the director's cut.

For example, there is some extended dialogue in the breakfast scene.  Judith says she doesn't want any eggs because they're chicken abortions, which Deborah says isn't true.  "Like you know what an abortion is," snipes Judith, which makes Ronnie laugh.  To be honest, it kind of makes me laugh, too.

A brief shot of Loomis arriving at the principal's office appears in this cut.  I kind of like hip young Loomis, who is neither as hip (nor as young) as he likely imagines himself to be.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

What I Watched This October (2018 Edition), Part 3

Welcome back for another dash through the various things I watched this month as part of my yearly Halloween-season binge.  No further preamble seems required, so next up is
In 2014, there was a movie called Ouija that was based on the board game -- they'll make movies about goddamn anything these days, eh? -- and was a bigger hit at the box-office than anyone expected.  Not huge; we're not talking Get Out or A Quiet Place or nothin' like that, but it was profitable.
Thing is, nobody liked it.  I mean, fucking nobody.  Did I see it?  Sure didn't, and I probably never will.  Which begs a question: why did I see the prequel that was made and released two years later?
Two words: Mike Flanagan.  
After seeing and loving his adaptation of Gerald's Game last year, I decided to see a few more of his movies, and after seeing and loving both Oculus and Hush, I decided to see all of his movies.  Which brings us to now; I've still not seen everything, but with Origin of Evil I'm one step closer, and I can definitively say this: I've got a new least-favorite Mike Flanagan movie.
Aha, BUT, y'all, don't let that fool you into thinking I disliked Origin of Evil.  I liked it just fine.  I can't honestly say I loved it, but if this is what Flanagan doing director-for-hire work looks like, then that dude is in good shape.
Anyways, having not seen the first movie, I can't speak to how much of this prequel is beholden to plot points established there.  What I can say is that this movie is set in the sixties, and is about a widow and her two daughters making a living by holding seances for paying customers.  It's all bogus, of course, right up until the point it isn't.
Flanagan knows how to construct a scene for suspenseful purposes, and while there's a little too much of the modern-day creepy-face style of jump scares, a few of them work pretty well and the rest of the movie is strong enough to survive the impositions.
Part of the fun I had was due to being outright pandered to by Flanagan's amusing use of reel-change cigarette burns in the editing.  See, I used to be a 35mm projectionist; I was one for about a decade, so this sort of thing is like catnip to me.
Allow me to explain.