Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dollar Bin Horror's 30 Day Challenge: The Final Six Days


Dollar Bin Horror is hosting a challenge that involves watching 30 horror movies in 30 days. Cody is participating in the challenge, and will be posting his progress here in five chapters, an entry for every six days.

Herein is Cody's write-up for days 25 - 30. The final six days feature zombies, power tools, deadly masks, and more!


Day 25 - A horror film that you used to hate, but now like

HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982)

Hate is a strong word, but I definitely did not used to be a fan of Halloween III. As a kid, I didn't understand why it didn't follow the storyline of the first two films in the series, and since it didn't I mostly shrugged it off. It doesn't have Michael Myers or Doctor Loomis, so just don't pay it any attention. It wasn't until I decided to give it enough attention to evaluate it as its own film that I began to like it.

The film stars genre favorite actor Tom Atkins as a doctor who, when a robotic assassin kills a traumatized witness in his hospital, gets caught up in a maniacal mask maker's sci-fi/black magic mash-up plan to create global chaos on Halloween by causing the deaths of a whole lot of children. The mask company Silver Shamrock will air a special commercial on Halloween night, which daily reminder commercials count down to with a jingle that shares the tune of "London Bridge is Falling Down" and will be stuck in your head for the rest of your life after you watch this movie. Children are told to wear their Silver Shamrock masks while watching the Halloween night commercial, and unbeknownst to them something about the commercial will trigger the Silver Shamrock brand chip on each mask to make the kids' heads melt down into a mess of snakes and bugs. We get to see a test run of this on one unfortunate family and it is quite an unpleasant sight and disturbing scene.

Beyond the title, the only connection to the previous Halloween films are a commercial for the original film and an airing of that film on TVs within this movie. Halloween III isn't a bad movie on its own, but sharing a title with the Myers-led franchise has been a major hindrance to its reputation, as it causes people to bring extra baggage to their viewings of it and judge it in comparison to completely different types of films.

Fun fact: I bought my DVD copy of this movie in 2000 at a video store within the Monroeville Mall, the same mall where George Romero's Dawn of the Dead was filmed. The store clerk was amazed that someone was actually buying Halloween III. He was obviously not a fan.


Day 26 - Your favorite horror film to watch as a child


THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974)

This may seem like a strange viewing choice for a child to make, but it's true that I wanted to watch The Texas Chain Saw Massacre all the time when I was a kid. Soon after the VHS release of Jason Lives introduced me to horror when I was 3, I watched TCM and it became one of my favorite movies. One of my earliest memories involves me sitting inside a playground tunnel when I was in preschool, trying to convince one of my friends to sit there, stare at the wall, and just pretend there was a TV there and we were watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. My friend being a normal kid, he wasn't interested in joining me, but I continued to stare at the wall as visions of Leatherface chasing poor Sally Hardesty with his chainsaw flashed through my mind. I was even fascinated by the VHS covers in the video stores, I love the look of the Media and Video Treasures releases and their slight differences.

Chain Saw has been in constant viewing rotation ever since preschool. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 should've been hitting VHS at the same time as I was first getting into horror, since its theatrical release was three weeks after Jason Lives, so it was also a regularly viewed early favorite. The third film joined in a few years later. I tried to see it theatrically, but that didn't work out so I had to settle on VHS only for it as well. I had a tape with the three movies on it, and for a while in fifth grade I would try to schedule out every day so that I would have enough time to watch all three between my arrival home from school and bedtime.

I'd say that the first Chain Saw is even the root of my love for the look of wide open country locations, both in real life and in film. I love looking at the Texas countryside in the daylight sequences, the hills and fields and trees, green leaves in the midst of shots blown out by the bright sunlight. There's something beautiful about the film to me. When I was around 13, Chain Saw and Texas-shot movies like Flesh and Bone, Dazed & Confused, Bottle Rocket, and Urban Cowboy stirred up a desire to live in Texas. I would watch those movies and stare at the Texas locations and daydream... Which led to me staring at country locations in real life and appreciating the sights. Basically, when it comes down to it, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has made me stare at things a lot over the years.


Day 27 - Your favorite guilty pleasure


SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II (1987)

I figured this was a good chance to include this movie, although I really don't feel very guilty about my love for this awesome film.

Written and directed by Deborah Brock, SPMII follows Courtney, the younger of the two sisters who
survived the attack of a drill-wielding slasher in the previous film. The girl has grown up to be played by Crystal Bernard (who was a gospel singer before this film and became a lead on the sitcom Wings a few years after) and she's in a garage band with her friends Heidi Kozak (Friday the 13th Part VII), Kimberly McArthur (Playboy Playmate of the Month, January 1982), and one of my favorite '80s horror actresses, Juliette Cummins (Friday the 13th Part V, Psycho III, Deadly Dreams). The group's songs are actually by a band called Wednesday Week. Courtney's attempt at a normal teenage existence is being disrupted by nightmares and hallucinations of her institutionalized older sister and a strange rock 'n roller who plays a guitar with a large drill on the end. As Courtney leaves for a weekend with her bandmates at one girl's father's condo in a new housing development, her visions get more intense and bizarre. Some of these visions include her thinking she's been attacked by a frozen chicken, that there's a severed hand in her hamburger, and that a friend's face has turned into one giant exploding zit. The dreams and hallucinations repeatedly warn her: "Don't go all the way." But boyfriends, including Joel Hoffman as the hilarious T.J., eventually join the girls, and when the boy Courtney likes arrives at the condo, she does go all the way... and the rock 'n roller driller killer enters her reality. Atanas Ilitch is great as the killer, whose music plays over chase scenes and who even takes time out during a pursuit to dance and sing a song, the classic "Let's Buzz".

I love this movie. It's insane, ridiculous and hysterical. It's also as '80s as it gets, and if anyone's a regular reader of this blog they've probably figured out by now that my mind is ruled by the '80s.


Day 28 - Your favorite horror film that no one's ever heard of

You've all heard of Jay Burleson's Feast of the Vampires, right?

This was an interesting category to try to figure out, trying to think of a movie that "no one's ever heard of". I doubt that's possible. But I did think of a movie that would nicely bring this challenge full circle in a way. In the First Six Days post, I wrote about The Stink of Flesh, a low budget independent zombie movie co-starring Billy Garberina. For this day in the Final Six, I chose


FEEDING THE MASSES (2004)

A low budget independent zombie movie starring Billy Garberina, written by Trent Haaga and directed by The Stink of Flesh's cinematographer Richard Griffin. Hopefully they wouldn't take offense to the movie being listed under this category, take this choice more as "movie that not everyone may be familiar with".

Garberina plays a news cameraman nicknamed Torch, so called because he's always shooting, always "burning tape". He's paired with female reporter Shelly and military escort Roger, who's infatuated with Shelly. A zombie plague has been affecting the world for a while now, some have used this as an opportunity to start zombie disposal businesses, others are just out to party like it's the end of the world. Since it is. As the plague worsens and society begins to crumble, the news crew witnesses something disturbing: government officials are downplaying the threat, telling them that things are much more contained than they really are, misinforming the people to keep them docile. TV stations and the media at large are taken over by government agents, program schedules are filled with feel-good shows, fluff pieces and reruns. The people need to know the truth, but should the news crew risk revealing the facts or just play along?

The movie is a really good dark satire, with some very impressive production value given its "used car prices" budget.


Day 29 - Your least favorite horror film of all time


This is a tricky category, because this blog is a negativity-free zone, only about movies that we like with no mention of movies that we don't like. But I'm committed to completing this challenge, so I will answer but I'll also keep it short: I'm not a fan of TERROR TOONS (2002).

That said, if you are a fan of Terror Toons and want to write a positive article about it, go for it and send it in, I'll put it on the blog. Be a guest contributor!


Day 30 - Your favorite horror film of all time

Some previous days' picks were definitely contenders for this category, specifically The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead. Actually, I usually just say that my pick for favorite horror film is a four-way tie between Romero's Night-Dawn-Day trilogy and Chain Saw '74. Maybe a five-way tie with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 joining the group. Unfortunately, I never got to feature Day or TCM2 in this challenge. But in the end, I think this has turned out well, and in a situation where I have to choose one favorite, I choose:


NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)

The story behind the making of Night of the Living Dead is the kind of story that I like to hear: a group of friends living far from Hollywood, in this case some commercial makers in Pittsburgh, decide to make a movie on a low budget and succeed beyond their wildest dreams.

In putting together a simple tale of a group of people trapped in one location by outside forces, George Romero and co-writer John Russo re-wrote the rules of zombies, making them a much more viable horror monster and fully tapping into the audience's primal fear of death, inadvertently creating a new horror sub-genre. The zombies, or ghouls, in this film aren't grotesque creatures for the most part, they're just regular people, like everyone watching the movie, they're someone's friend or family member, they've just gone through the inevitable process of dying... and now their corpses have risen, motivated by one urge: to seek out the living and eat their flesh. It's a terrifying concept.

But the best thing about the film is that the zombies aren't the biggest problem for the characters. The zombies get the characters - a group of seven from different walks of life - into their trapped situation and are a very real lurking danger, but the biggest threat to the safety of the people gathered in the film's isolated farmhouse location are the people themselves. If they'd be calm and rational, work together and help each other, maybe they could be entirely safe and make it through the night. Instead, they're hot-headed and
panicked, they bicker over everything and make almost no compromises. The arguing is mainly between two characters - Ben, who becomes the leader of sorts, and Harry, a weaselly man who considers himself a leader - who both feel that they're right and the other is wrong, if you don't like their idea and won't listen to them, to hell with you.

The movie is very dialogue-driven and the script is a masterpiece of fear and simmering tension. The look and feel of the black & white film is fantastic and I love the sound design and quality of the sound. I've watched the movie so many times at this point that these elements are very comforting to me. The score is great, actually cobbled together from library sources. It's interesting how, in a way, the quality of the film elevates the quality of the music, because used differently the music could just be a schlocky sci-fi score (and it was used in the 1959 movie Teenagers from Outer Space), but placed in Night, it's perfect.

A group of novices got together in Pennsylvania to make a movie and ended up making a classic that has stood the test of time, still loved and revered by a large audience forty-three years later. The film is truly an amazing accomplishment.

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