Friday, April 15, 2011

Dollar Bin Horror's 30 Day Challenge: Days 19-24

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 19 - 24, featuring Jason Voorhees, the dangers of rock, Steven Spielberg, and more.

Day 19 - Your favorite horror film involving the powers of Hell or Satanism

My favorite horror film involving Satanism is Race with the Devil, but since the Satanists in that movie don't necessarily have powers, my next choice is


Trick or Treat plays with the "Satanic panic" idea of the day that rock and metal bands were putting subliminal Satanic messages into their music, clearly heard if you played the songs backwards. For example: Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven".

The film follows Eddie Weinbauer, super fan of shock rocker Sammi Curr, who he regularly writes to under the pen name Ragman. Eddie doesn't fit in at school, he has a crush on a popular girl but is a target of bullying from those in her crowd. Curr's image and music helps Eddie get through it. Curr is from the same town that Eddie lives in, and was planning on playing the local high school's Halloween dance until the school board vetoed the idea. Curr is killed before Halloween anyway, dying in a hotel fire, the news of which devastates Eddie. In mourning, Eddie visits a local radio DJ, who gives him a gift: the master copy of a new Curr song, a tape of which the DJ is going to debut on Halloween. Putting the record on and nodding off, Eddie dreams of Curr performing a Satanic ritual in his hotel room as fire rages around him, then awakes to find the record skipping over a strange voice. Running it backwards, Eddie hears Curr speaking to him... With the help of the backwards messages, Eddie stands up to the bullies and eventually gets the girl. But Curr has a darker plan for his afterlife, which involves him coming back into the world as an electricity-blasting supernatural being to wreak havoc on Halloween night. Sammi Curr plays at the Halloween dance after all!

Trick or Treat is pure awesome, a great '80s horror movie with a likeable lead in Marc Price (mostly known for being Skippy on Family Ties) as Eddie, future X-Files/Final Destination writer Glen Morgan in an entertaining acting role as Eddie's best friend, some cool music from Fastway standing in for Sammi Curr, and the wonderfully '80s character of Sammi Curr himself, as portrayed by the late Tony Fields. Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne cameo as the radio DJ and an evangelist on an anti-rock crusade.

Day 20 - Your favorite horror film involving a killer animal

JAWS (1975)

There's nothing I can say about Jaws that hasn't already been said. It's one of the greatest films ever made. The story is simple: With a huge Great White terrorizing his small island community right at the peak of tourist season, police Chief Martin Brody teams with marine biologist Matt Hooper and professional shark fisherman Quint on an expedition to stop the ravenous creature. The filmmakers, including Steven Spielberg, who was still in his twenties when he directed the film, took this simple story and turned it into something amazing.

Mock the shark effects if you must, but they work. The script (based on Peter Benchley's novel) is great, the directing is masterful, John Williams composed one of the ultimate iconic film scores, and the cast - centered on Roy Scheider as Brody, Richard Dreyfuss as Hooper, and Robert Shaw as Quint - is fantastic, with Shaw delivering one of the best, most chilling monologues in cinema history when he tells the others the true story of the USS Indianapolis.

Day 21 - Your favorite medical horror film


Set in the Miskatonic Medical School, the Stuart Gordon-directed Re-Animator tells the story of third year student Dan Cain and his new housemate, fellow med student Herbert West. West is a strange fellow, but he and Cain bond over a common enemy: death. Cain hates to lose a patient, going so far in his attempts to revive them that he gets disapproval from the doctors, and he is totally creeped out when he has to be around the corpses in the morgue. West is trying to find a way to overcome death, creating a serum that can re-animate the dead... but unfortunately, so far the serum has just turned the re-animated into grotesque zombies. West makes another enemy at the school, as he and brain research expert Doctor Carl Hill take an immediate dislike to each other. As the research continues and West and Hill's rivalry escalates, murders, decapitations, lobotomies, and disgusting special effects ensue.

Bruce Abbott and Jeffery Combs are a great uneasy duo as Cain and West, Combs in particular making
himself a genre star with his portrayal of the young, slightly mad scientist. Barbara Crampton is beautiful and at times quite nude as Cain's girlfriend, David Gale is a fantastic villain, and these two share one of horror's best scenes near the end of the film.

Day 22 - Your favorite horror themed TV show

Tales from the Crypt was the horror TV show of my childhood. The show started airing when I was 5 years old and ended when I was 12, so it was there throughout those formative years of horror. I didn't watch every episode, but I caught a lot of them over the years. There were more age appropriate horror shows around, but even at a young age I didn't want my horror diluted in a kids show, I wanted the grown up stuff, pure and uncut... And when I did watch Tales, it often disturbed the hell out of me.

But I decided not to watch a Tales episode for this day. Instead, I'm writing about a different, more recent horror TV show...


I chose to focus on Masters of Horror because I loved the concept. Hour long episodes that are essentially short feature films, each episode in a season from a different established horror director. So, a new movie every week from a master of horror. The series ran for two thirteen episode seasons on Showtime, followed by a short-lived NBC version entitled Fear Itself. I wish it was still going on, I thought it was a lot of fun and there are a lot of directors who I'd really like to see episodes from.

The one I watched was the first episode that aired, Incident On and Off a Mountain Road, directed by Don Coscarelli, based on a story by Joe Lansdale. Incident is about a young woman who crashes on a desolate mountain road and finds herself pursued through the forest by a strange woods-dwelling killer called Moonface. Through flashbacks, we find that the woman has a dark backstory involving her abusive survivalist nut husband, who taught her self defense skills that may help her make it through the night. Angus Scrimm, known for being the Tall Man in Coscarelli's Phantasm series, makes a very fun appearance as a crazy old man shackled in Moonface's cellar.

Day 23 - Your favorite made for TV horror film

Stephen King's The Stand is my favorite TV horror miniseries. For quite a while in my childhood, I thought that miniseries was one of the greatest things ever, it ruled my imagination as I daydreamed of travelling across a post-apocalyptic countryside. But I decided not to count miniseries for this category, just sticking with TV movies. And my favorite horror TV movie is:

DUEL (1971)

Duel follows Dennis Weaver as a regular joe businessman who's on his way to an appointment when, for no apparent reason, a Peterbilt semi truck hauling flammable contents begins to play dangerous games with him on the road. The truck stalks him, tries to force him off the road or into collisions, tries to push him in front of a train... We never find out the driver's motive, we never even see his face, just his hands and boots. According to director Steven Spielberg, who made his feature debut on Duel after some shorts and episodic television, the truck driver has been travelling across the country, killing people in every state.

Written by literary master of horror Richard Matheson, Duel may not generally be considered a horror film, but I think it's a horrifying concept. I've never been very comfortable with driving, in fact I was so nervous about and disinterested in driving that I got my license nine years later than I could have, so the idea of a large truck relentlessly trying to run someone down for no reason... that's definitely horror to me.

But, just in case, I had a TV movie double feature with Duel and


Based on stories written by Richard Matheson, Trilogy of Terror is so named because it's an anthology with three segments, each starring Karen Black as a different titular character. In Julie, she's a teacher who gets caught up in a strange affair with a student. In Millicent and Therese, Black has a dual role as sisters with a twisted backstory. The third segment, Amelia, is the most well known and definitely my favorite of the bunch. Black is the only actor in this segment, playing a woman trapped in her apartment by a living Zuni fetish doll, which is possessed by the spirit of a Zuni hunter called He Who Kills. This guy's a little maniac.

Day 24 - Horror film in which you prefer the edited version over the director's cut

I had to do some thinking about this one, because the only movie that really came to mind was Donnie Darko, where I didn't like any of the changes that the director's cut made to the theatrical cut. But I don't count Donnie Darko as a horror movie, so I had to go with

FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009)

Which may be a cheat, because I'm not sure that the extended version on DVD and Blu-ray actually is a "director's cut", it's just called the "Killer Cut". But I do prefer the theatrical cut over the Killer Cut and it gives me another chance to talk about Friday the 13th, so here we are.

I really enjoy F13 '09, it's the only one of the modern reboots that I can welcome into the established series with open arms. I was nervous about it when the words "remake" and "reboot" first started floating around in connection to Friday the 13th, I was afraid they would try to change things that didn't need changing, that they'd mess with the backstory... I was glad to find that they did not. The same old story is quickly established with a flashback to the death of Mrs. Voorhees during the title sequence and the Jason legend is then told as a manic campfire tale. Within the first five to ten minutes, we've successfully cleared that worrying hurdle with none of the original backstory contradicted. From then on, it's another standard Friday the 13th/Jason story. It's not a remake or a re-imagining, a reboot is a better term, as it takes the franchise back to its roots. (And one of the producers has said that legally it's a sequel.) For the first time since 1988, Jason is stalking his victims in the woods and around Crystal Lake for the entire film. For the first time since 1984, he's a running, human killer. These were both welcome returns to form. If you're fanboy/fangirl enough, you can even try to work this film into continuity with the others. (When I watch the series, '09 is in the timeline between Freddy vs. Jason and Jason X.)

After an awesome twenty minute opening sequence where Jason decimates some campers, we join another group of youthful kill fodder, partying at the lake house retreat of Trent, a total douchebag played by Travis Van Winkle, who is the film's entertainment MVP. The story lifts elements from the earlier films in the series: Jason wearing a sack on his head (part 2) and trading it for the iconic hockey mask (part 3) while a brother searches the town of Crystal Lake for his missing sister (in part 4, a brother was in Crystal Lake to get revenge for the murder of his sister in part 2). Jason has the missing girl shackled in the lair that he has set up in an abandoned mine, a story element that gets "Jason doesn't take hostages" complaints, but I think is a great extrapolation on something from the ending of part 2 - Jason is holding the girl captive because she resembles his mother and is wearing his mother's old locket (she found it while snooping around in the old Voorhees house). In the end of the 1981 Friday the 13th Part 2, the final girl fools Jason into thinking she's his mother by putting on mother's sweater and talking to him as mommy. Her ruse falls apart, but in F13 '09 we get to see what might have happened if it hadn't. He can't kill his mother, he has to keep her around... People also complain about the underground tunnels, but the fact that Jason uses old mine tunnels to his advantage is no issue for me.

But the girl, named Whitney, and her situation in the mine tunnels are involved in why I prefer the theatrical cut over the Killer Cut. The Killer Cut is about five minutes longer than the theatrical and there are some things that I like about it, like a moment where Jason sits down to sharpen his machete and has a flashback to his mother's decapitation, which sends him into a raging fit. This is a nice glimpse into the thoughts and feelings that fuel Jason's killing spree... The biggest change in the Killer Cut, though, is that Whitney manages to escape from the mine. In the theatrical cut, she's in the mine until she's rescued near the end. In the Killer Cut, she escapes, runs to Trent's lake house, is grabbed by Jason before she can get anyone's attention, taken back to the mine and put into the exact same shackled position to be rescued later. The earlier escape is just awkward and unnecessary, and while I can't complain that the editing of this sequence causes the sex scene between Trent and Julianna Guill as Bree to be a little longer, it just doesn't need to be in there.

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