Friday, October 30, 2015

Some More Stuff I've Been Writing at Wicked Horror

Back in January, I shared with you guys some of the articles I have written over at the other site I write for, Wicked Horror, and because it's been almost a year since I've done that, I thought it was time for round two! So if any of these articles strike your fancy, please head over to Wicked Horror and let me know what you think!

First up, my feature titled Noteworthy Heroines of Horror has definitely grown. This feature allows me to spotlight some of my favorite female characters in horror films, who are not really the typical "final girls" that you see pop up in people's top ten lists or whatever, as the description explains. They are just ones that seem to be somewhat underappreciated and this is my chance to say why they are the best! Among these fabulous females are...

Jessie, from Wrong Turn
Rhonda, from Tremors
Lisa, from Red Eye
Erin, from You're Next
Sara, from House on Haunted Hill
Selena, from 28 Days Later
Stretch, from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Sam, from Eight Legged Freaks
Sarah, from The Descent
Mary, from American Mary
Buffy, from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer
Marybeth, from the Hatchet series
Donna, from Cujo

More to come with that feature!

I also got to do two amazing interviews with equally amazing people for WH. The first one was with Camden Toy, whose name I did not know before but definitely do now! He played several villains on the greatest TV show of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer! So it was definitely an honor to talk to him. Read the interview below to find all about what it was like playing one of the Gentlemen, the Gnarl demon, the Ubervamp, and the Prince of Lies!

Exclusive Interview with Camden Toy: A Buffy Retrospective

And I've shared this one before, but in case you missed it, I also interviewed director Adam Green from the Hatchet series, Frozen, and Holliston! This one was truly amazing because as I've also shared before, Adam has been a big inspiration to me lately.

Exclusive Interview: Adam Green Talks Horrified! and the Return of Holliston

I also delved into some controversial topics with these two pieces for WH...

In Defense of Rape-Revenge Films - What?! A girl can "like" these movies? Yes, they can and here's why I do.

The Misidentification of Misogyny in Horror Films

Then there were these other fun articles on some topics that are of great interest to me.

Why Hannibal and Bates Motel Work So Well - Two great television shows with similar premises. I look at why they have been so successful when they maybe shouldn't be on paper. I also did recaps for each episode of season three of Hannibal!
And OHMIGOD I just realized that I never finished the second season of Bates Motel. CRAP!

Six Great Horror Filmmaking Duos - Pretty self-explanatory.

Why I Stopped Using the Phrase "Guilty Pleasure" - A very important idea for horror fans, I think! STOP CALLING MOVIES "GUILTY PLEASURES"!!!

And just in time for this fabulous Halloween season, I (and all the other writers at WH) made a list of my top five favorite films to watch during the holiday. They are really just my top five favorite horror films of all time, but I think Halloween is a great time to catch up on the favorites. Of course, I also watch stuff like Halloween, Trick 'r Treat, Hocus Pocus, etc.

Michele's Top 5 Films to Watch on Halloween

But I'm definitely not done with Wicked Horror! Right now I'm in the middle of reviewing the latest batch of After Dark Horrorfest's 8 Films to Die For (which is back after five years!), and the first two reviews of those are up!

Review: 8 Films to Die For - Murder in the Dark
Review: 8 Films to Die For - The Wicked Within

So if you're even the least bit curious about what other kind of shenanigans I get up to outside of the reviews I do on here, please check out any of the articles above. I know I'm a shameless self-promoter but, hey, somebody's got to do it! And I'm actually very proud of pretty much all of these pieces, and when you're proud of something, you want to share it.

In closing...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Short and Sweet: Over My Dead Body

I'm really intrigued by the influx of sorts lately of rom-zom-coms. Though the zom-com has worked for years in many different movies, adding romance actually seems like a natural progression, if only because it adds to comedy element. A cute example of this is a short film sent to me by producer Alrik Bursell called "Over My Dead Body," from filmmaker Timothy Plain.

In it, a woman is home waiting for her blind date to arrive for dinner, and she's not so thrilled about the fact that he's a zombie. With one location, two great actors, and a simple, but really well-written script, this short definitely works. The comedic timing is on point from both leads, and the conversation they have works well as an awkward first date conversation... and an awkward you're-a-zombie-and-I-don't-know-how-to-deal-with-that conversation. Really funny and cute. The tone also works well at being comedic and sort of serious at the same time, which was nice to see. There's a bit of a lull in the last minute or so, but then the final shot brings it all back and had me laughing again. Take six minutes and watch "Over My Dead Body" for yourself right now!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Franchise Review: Leprechaun 3 (1995)

The leprechaun in Vegas, baby! Two sequels in and we're still having a great time with the green guy and his whacky exploits. To show that direct-to-video doesn't really mean squat, I liked this entry a lot more than the previous one, and it's maybe even a bit more fun than the first film. But that one still has the pogo stick death, so it can't be dethroned just yet. Anyway, let's see what kind of trouble a leprechaun can cause in Sin City.

A pawn shop owner buys a statue of the leprechaun and tries to take his gold. But by removing the protective medallion from his neck, he brings the leprechaun back to life to continue his quest of protecting his gold from greedy humans. Meanwhile, young Scott is traveling through Vegas when he meets beautiful magician's assistant Tammy, and the two of them get tangled up with the devious and relentless leprechaun.

When you look at how things play out in Leprechaun 3, the plot is full of all these different characters coming in and out of each other's storylines and scenes and changing things around at just the last second. But surprisingly, director Brian Trenchard-Smith (who would also direct the next entry in the series) and the editing make everything all work out and make sense. The movie then becomes a fun series of comedic mishaps and run-ins with the leprechaun, while still providing the audience with more information that adds to the mythology of the leprechaun. However, they do go against one established rule: in the previous films, if a mortal got a hold of the leprechaun's gold, he or she was given three wishes. In this movie, the mortal gets one wish for every piece of gold that he or she was able to take.

This setup, though not in line with the story's continuity, actually works really well for Leprechaun 3, especially because it is set in Las Vegas. Scott and Tammy have their adorable meet-cute at the beginning of the film, and they are the nice, good people in the movie that we are supposed to be rooting for. Everybody else is a greedy, sleazy fuck. These people include the lecherous Mitch; the desperate Loretta; and the deluded Fazio. Of course the best characters ever are Arthur, the guy Mitch owes money to, and Tony, Arthur's muscle. Oh wow, these guys were hilarious. Let me just say that at one point, they have an entire conversation about underwear

Leprechaun 3 actually seems to be making some societal comments, if that doesn't seem weird. The people who take the leprechaun's gold are seen as more of the enemies than the leprechaun is. So then there is a lot to say about the greed of humans, again enhanced by the fact that the movie is set in Vegas, where greed and excess is rampant. Strangely, there are also some jabs at the health care industry. This comes up when Mitch ask Arthur what he wants, and Arthur says jokingly that he wants everyone in America to have health insurance. It comes up again when Tammy takes Scott to the hospital and the weirdo doctor and nurse ask him the most "important" questions - Do you have health insurance? Then they find out how much money he has and order a bunch of useless tests. I don't know what any of this has to do with Leprechaun, but it was interesting.
Something else that I've noticed about all the movies so far in regards to the death scenes is that they are very minimal, save for one. All of the kills are generally bloodless and tame, very comedic usually. But then there's that one scene that just comes completely out of nowhere and is more graphic than all of the other deaths put together. In the first one, it was the leprechaun melting and getting blown up at the end; then in part 2, it was the leprechaun exploding at the end. Now though, the exciting thing doesn't happen to the leprechaun, but rather to poor Caroline Williams. She wishes to be young and sexy and beautiful again, which she does get to enjoy for a little while. But the leprechaun is mad that she doesn't have his coin, so he makes her lips, breasts, and butt get bigger and bigger until finally, she is the one that explodes and it is hilarious. Fazio's death comes close in the extreme department when he is sawed in half on stage at his own magic show, but really... nothing beats an explosion.

I know I say this all the time, but there's a bunch of other stuff that I could've mentioned about Leprechaun 3 - dude, Scott starts turning into a leprechaun! - but I can't have this go on forever. Everything about it is just so much fun, and the movie is so self-aware that I really couldn't help but love it. It is directed well, when the plot might have been a mess in less capable hands. I love Caroline Williams, I love Arthur and Tony, and I kind of really love this movie. It absolutely fits in with the series and it's a good time. Three cherries for this one!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Franchise Review: Leprechaun 2 (1994)

Leprechaun 2 is the next in what I'm guessing will be a long line of weird movies in this franchise. But I think I knew that before I signed myself up to do this so I have no one to blame but myself. The movie is a bit erratic and again odd, but it's still kinda fun. However, it's also one of those movies where once is enough and you really don't need to see it again.

A thousand years ago, the nasty little leprechaun was thwarted out of getting his bride by his slave William O'Day. But the green guy put a curse on O'Day that in another thousand years he would wed someone in his bloodline. So now he's back in present day Los Angeles, seeking out young Bridget to take for his wife, and she and her boyfriend Cody - who stole one of the leprechaun's gold coins - must figure out a way to save both of themselves.

So this was definitely an interesting new place to take the Leprechaun story. I will say that it was a really good idea for the writer to give the leprechaun a different mission this time around rather than just getting his gold back, which we just saw in the first film. It's icky to think about, especially the mentions of the "wedding night" and making little leprechaun babies, but I guess everybody needs love. The setting in Los Angeles is cool, too, but they don't really take much advantage of it - definitely not in a Jason Takes Manhattan way, which might have actually been fun. Instead, we get random settings at a bar, a go-kart place, and the leprechaun's home inside a tree.

One thing that's cool to see when you're watching the movie now is all the different little cameos that pop up in the film. In one of the first scenes, Clint Howard and Kimmy Robertson (whose name I did not know until now, but whose face I've seen everywhere) play a couple of tourists; Tommy Cox of Bad Santa shows up at the bar; and perhaps most hilariously, Michael McDonald from MadTV as the guy in the espresso bar. Our main cast is a couple of unknowns who are mostly pretty good, but then again, this is Leprechaun 2 so don't look to be particularly wowed by any of the performances or anything. Shevonne Durkin is pretty cute at Bridget, and Charlie Heath as Cody is the perfect boyfriend who would do anything to save the sweet girl of his dreams. Warwick Davis returns and he's of course just as glorious as ever.

Cody's story is that he is in business with his alcoholic uncle Morty and the two of them run a sham tourist attraction called Darkside Tours. They travel to various death houses in LA, one of them being the remains of Harry Houdini's place, where the leprechaun has made his home inside the tree. Cody and Morty are therefore very good at conning and tricking people, just like the leprechaun is, so this makes for a good setup for some trickery that happens as the plot moves along. One of these tricks is getting the leprechaun drunk, because apparently they can't hold their liquor, so that's a funny and weird scene, especially with all the other little people at the bar celebrating St. Patty's Day cheering the leprechaun on, chanting "One of us, one of us!" Bit creepy. Other than that, most of the movie is just a long cat-and-mouse chase where the leprechaun shows up, the characters get away, they get to a new place, and the leprechaun shows up again. Once everybody else is dead, it's just Cody and Bridget in his treehouse where they run around for a while and keep getting lost. It's not terribly exciting.

Though there's nothing as awesome as the pogo stick death, Leprechaun 2 has its killing moments here and there that you won't find in many other horror films. After Morty gets him drunk at the bar, the leprechaun heads to a coffee shop to sober up, and McDonald is very rude and annoying so of course he has to die. He gets his hands impaled to the table and then dies by getting a blast of steam from the espresso machine in his face. Death by espresso machine! This is why I love horror movies. Other interesting moments are the guy who gets his finger ripped off so the leprechaun can take his gold ring ("Finger lickin' good!"); when Morty makes the fatal mistake of wishing that he had the leprechaun's gold and the pot grows inside his stomach; and the leprechaun's own death at the end when he is stabbed by wrought iron (the only thing that can hurt him) and then freaking explodes. Movies should always end with somebody exploding, I say. The guy who puts his face into the spinning blades of a lawnmower would have been cool too if they had shown any of it.

Leprechaun 2 is a movie that's fun for the moment, but it's not the best kind of sequel there is. There's nothing particular memorable about any part of it - the characters, the kills, the plot. It's not hard to see why Leprechaun 2 was the last movie of the series to be released theatrically (thanks, Wiki) but they obviously continued on with more films, so bring 'em on!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I'm in a Zine!

A little while ago, I was contacted by this nice guy named Richard about contributing to his fanzine, The Fang of Joy (I'll need to ask him what that means sometime).

It's a zine all about Eurohorror and giallo films, and I was pretty much given carte blanche to write about whatever I wanted having to do with that topic. I'm definitely no expert (yet) when it comes to giallo, but there have been some specific movies that I've seen that stick out in my mind so I decided to focus on one of those. The topic of my article is Dario Argento's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, which I would argue any day is his best film - or at least just my favorite.

And look at the contributor list for this issue of Fang of Joy!

Fellow blog buddies Alec Pridgen and James Gracey also have articles here, though I admit to not having read them yet. I'm sure they kick ass.
So anyway, if you want your own copy of this fanzine, follow the link on Richard's blog Cinema Somnambulist HERE! Only $8.75 an issue!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Franchise Review: Leprechaun (1993)

It's franchise time again, fiends, and as previously mentioned, this time I'm delving into the wacky world of the Leprechaun series. It'll be full of bad puns, over-the-top silliness, and some famous actors and rappers. I bet you can't wait! Like Hellraiser, I know the first Leprechaun pretty well, but am iffy on my memory on some of the others, so this will again be like watching them all for the first time, but that's the fun of franchise reviews. Of course we're going to start at the beginning with the film that started it all, Leprechaun from 1993.

After a leprechaun comes after him for taking his gold, Dan O'Grady traps him in a crate in his basement, seemingly forever. But ten years later, JD and his daughter Tory move into his house and the creature is unleashed. Now Tory and locals Nathan, Alex, and Ozzie must find a way to stop the leprechaun before he kills them all for his gold.

Oh, Leprechaun. Leprechaun, Leprechaun, Leprechaun. Such an odd little duck in the horror world. The long and short of it is that I actually enjoy the first Leprechaun movie. It's quick and fun, it's punny and silly. There's nothing more to it than what they present to you on the screen, and you can just watch it and have a good time seeing Warwick Davis biting people and saying the most campy and ridiculous lines ever. Some of the plot points leave a little to be desired, as do some of those lines of dialogue, but this is about what you would expect to get if someone told you that you were going to watch a movie about a killer leprechaun.

First up in the talking points is of course Warwick Davis as the leprechaun, and there probably would be no movie, and no franchise, without him in the titular role. The heavy makeup effects on him and the fact that the director for some reason decided to show him in shadow for a good portion of the movie may have hindered that part of his performance, but the voice and other physical things he does more than make up for it. Davis makes the character funny and therefore pretty likable in that regard. Though he's never really scary at all because of this, you can still believe it and enjoy it when he starts killing people. It always seems obvious when an actor is having fun with a character, and that especially helps with a movie like this. One of my favorite moments in the movie is this great reaction shot that Davis gives when he looks at himself in a mirror.

Recently, it seems like Jennifer Aniston has accepted that she was really in this movie. I watched a few clips of interviews where people have brought it up and she laughs about it now, as she should. Aniston plays Tory, the vapid, useless Beverly Hills girl who resents having to come to this dirty house in the middle of nowhere and only decides to stay because the house painter guy, Nathan, is a babe. She also rocks the LA Gear sneakers like nobody's business. Nathan's younger brother Alex is best friends with man-child Ozzie... and I don't really know how I feel about that character. The actor is good, but it almost feels a little wrong, doesn't it? Still, Ozzie fills the requisite role of the character that nobody believes through most of the movie - though he and the editing do nothing to sell the fact that a person could "accidentally" swallow an entire gold coin.

The kills are pretty basic, but there are definitely some interesting things to note here. The leprechaun doesn't have a weapon of any kind in the movie, and there are only a few on-screen kills, the first of which is when he pushes an old woman down the stairs. Meh. Mostly, the leprechaun is just a dirty fighter, and he scratches and bites people a lot. He also plucks out eyeballs and somehow kills O'Grady in the rest home. Now that I think about it, they really should have had a scene of O'Grady and the leprechaun facing each other again, instead of just showing his dying scene. The scene of the leprechaun chasing the cop through the woods is bit long and weird, and he doesn't even kill him right away so that's boring. Of course, the holy of holy deaths in Leprechaun is my favorite memory of watching the film as a younger me - the POGO STICK DEATH. If there is anything to look forward to in this movie, it is the leprechaun killing the owner of the collectibles shop by bouncing up and down on his chest on a freaking pogo stick. The movie gets serious awesome points just for that. Other quick things to mention: there are some great effects at the end when the leprechaun melts after eating a four-leaf clover (with Alex saying "Fuck you, lucky charms" to enhance the moment) and then gets blown up in the well, AND there's a Nightmare on Elm Street rip-off effects shot when the leprechaun's little hand comes out of the telephone.

Leprechaun is a quirky, campy movie that doesn't need to try to be more than it is. Watch it to enjoy the bad puns and the bad 90s fashions, and to see funny little shots of Davis as the leprechaun on a tricycle, a pogo stick, roller skates, a wheelchair, a skateboard, a toy car, and a soapbox derby car. Seriously, the little guy knows how to get around. The movie is pure comedy and ridiculousness, and I don't think I would have it any other way. I am terrified of the prospect of the "in tha hood" movies, but I will still get through it for you guys.

However, it may take me longer than I thought it would to get through the Leprechaun movies, because though I own the first three movies on a DVD set, I had all the others saved up in my Netflix queue, and just as I going to start the franchise - they all went off Netflix Instant. Grrrr.