Archive for June, 2011

Ode to the Unsung Slashers (Laid to Rest)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Ode to the Unsung Slasher, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2011 by splatterpictures

Horror comes in a lot of different varieties and it’s easy to know a lot about one and not a lot about another, especially for casual viewers. I have a lot of conversations with people about horror; either films, literature or the culture in general. Most people who are not exactly fans of the genre as a whole always are ready to dismiss them as throw away movies. Of course when they make their arguments they by and large are referring to the slasher-genre.

It’s funny but I find myself defending slasher flicks a lot more than any other kind of horror out there. I think it’s just because that particular genre is littered with iconic figures and ridiculous clichés. A lot of horror takes itself seriously but not really slashers. Slashers exist to give the audience; bodies, boobs and if we’re lucky an Iconic killer with a flair for the dramatic.

It’s not really a profound revelation to say that the killers are really the stars of the movie. Nobody cares about the teenagers getting killed. Everybody cheers for Jason, Freddy, Michael Myers or Chucky. Tonnes of slasher films have made household names of their killers. However, we all know that here at Splatterpictures we don’t talk about the ones that are Iconic. No no, I am going to talk about slashers that are nowhere near as famous but are pretty badass in their own right.

Recently sat down to watch a particular slasher called Laid to Rest. I just couldn’t resist the box art. Yeah I’m one of those people. Anybody who’s read my “about” section knows that a lot of times I would be sent to wonder the horror section of my local video store. More often than not I never got one of the movies but I sure liked looking at the box art.

Laid to rest was released direct to DVD in 2009 and was distributed by Anchor Bay (big surprise). The film was directed by Robert Hall. This was definitely one of those pet projects of Hall; he had been doing the make-up artist thing in the industry for awhile with some great success. The films Stars his wife Bobbi Sue Luther (Who looks different every single time I see her). I’d like to take a minute and say how sweet it was for Hall to make a movie and put his wife in it, considering how hard it is for a big breasted woman to make it in Hollywood.

So what’s it even about? Well, basically a girl wakes up in a coffin with no memory or inclination about how she got there. The coffin is in a funeral home and she isn’t alone. A chrome-skulled killer with a video camera mounted on his shoulder is stalking her. It’s about at this point where I start to notice that this girl is dumb even by slasher movie standards. One scene I have to mention is she actually calls the police from the funeral home. Then, she sees a dead body in the morgue and walks towards it while the woman on the phone tells her that in 30 seconds they’ll have traced her call. She actually walks so far that she pulls the phone cord out of the phone. I’m not fucking kidding, Bravo; the Darwin award goes to the lady with the huge rack.

The killer shows up and gives chase. He’s one of those silent slashers but seems to actually communicate with recorded voice of one of his previous victims off of his cellphone. It’s actually kinda refreshing to see a killer who uses modern technology. He also actually has a car.
It’s not long before the girl runs into a kindly man named Tucker, (Kevin Gage) who picks her up and brings her home after she can’t remember what has happened to her, or seem to remember the proper words for things. He has a wife (Lena Headey) and it’s all very typical set up. Of course, they have no phone, no land line or cell. Nothing. Also their truck is pretty much out of gas. The killer catches up with them and the case is on.

The girl that Tucker has named Princess at this point escape to this random computer nerd named Steven (Sean Whalen) That’s pretty much your trio of people running away from the killer and trying to figure out how to stop him and get help. More characters come and go but they’re really only there to get murdered. Watching this one I kept being reminded about why a lot of people hate slashers.

I am all for dumb people in horror movies but they are the biggest bunch of lame-ducks I’ve ever seen. I swear they all could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they just walked off a cliff to spare themselves a gruesome death. How dumb? Well they fall down, the split up, nobody has a cell, nobody has gas, they can’t shoot straight, they can’t load their guns fast enough, they throw away their weapons, they draw attention to themselves while the killer is around, they don’t listen, and finally they stand around watching while other people get killed when they could easily overpower Chrome-skull with numbers. Oh well. Oh wait they also keep going back to the killer instead of just driving away.

Something I would have liked to have scene would be more information about the killer himself. He has a habit of going into cities, kidnapping girls and bringing them back to this funeral home where he tortures and kills them while videotaping. Not much else is learned about him, other than dude can get shot a whole lot.

The most surprising thing about this whole movie was how well it was acted. Even if some of the reasoning was pretty dumb, the characters really reacted to others being killed. It wasn’t just run “oh my friend died”, run, “oh my friend died; no time to care keep running.” Characters have powerful scenes of grief that you would expect when someone you love dies in front of you. The total indifference to others being killed in slashers has always been on of the things that bugged me the most.

So what about the deaths? They’re pretty good. One of them where this guy gets his head partially cut off from the jaw up was great. It was a blend of CGI and traditional effects, which was really effective. Everything frankly looked pretty great considering this was a direct to DVD venture and the first horror directed by Hall.

The ending was pretty weird. Not because of what happens to the killer or most of the characters but without giving too much away I was surprised about who survives and who doesn’t and the final decisions made by some characters. It seemed kinda rushed and not very well thought out. Also the big revelation about the character of princess was kinda cliché.

See you next time!

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Whispering Corridors

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , on June 14, 2011 by splatterpictures

When it comes to Asian horror I try not to differentiate much between what we view here in the west and what is viewed in Korea or Japan. So treating it as a sub-genre within horror isn’t really my style.

I would love to boast about how I liked this sort of stuff before it was cool and that you are all sheep herded into liking it by such box office giants as The Ring or The Grudge, but I truthfully never gave much thought to Asian horror.

I noticed (as I tend to) that there was this steady stream of supernatural horrors coming out to the theaters. Furthermore, I noticed that most of these are remakes of horror movies from Asia, so I became interested in what the originals were like. I was pretty lucky growing up because my parents always had a collection of stations dedicated to playing movies of various ages. They also had a lot of foreign stuff coming out of Japan which enabled me to watch Ringu and then Ju-oh, the source material for The Ring and The Grudge respectively.

I liked them but they were different. I noticed they were slower in pace and a little bit more abstract. I felt like maybe I was taking Western horror for granted. In my opinion we like to have things spelled out for us more than some foreign films.

It wasn’t long afterwards that a film called Whispering Corridors became known to me. It was really a casual conversation among friends and someone mentioned that this Asian horror boom could be traced back to this one film. Needless to say I was pretty interested in watching it but alas my good intentions fell to the wayside. Thankfully things like Netflix exist to force me to toss away all my excuses about films that are less convenient for me to find.

Whispering Corridors was released in 1998, and directed by Ki-hyeong Park, Park also took part in writing the film along with Jung-Ok In. The film focuses on an all-girl’s school in South Korea where the students are taught to consider each other as rivals. The teachers run the gambit as normal to extremely harsh. The film opens up with one of these teachers murdered by some unknown force. A senior student named Ji-oh (Gyu-ri Kim) discovers the body of the teacher handing from an overpass. She and several other students who witness this are swore to secrecy by their teachers because they don’t want anyone like the press snooping around at the school.

Ji-oh is a somewhat bizarre girl who many of the students believe has supernatural powers. She attempts to communicate to the dead and even goes so far as to paint the image of the murdered teacher in her art class. Most of the teachers dismiss her as hopeless.

One of the teachers is a former student named Miss Hur (Mi-yeon Lee) she still feels a bit out of place and somewhat like a student still. She has a closer relationship to a lot of the students and tries to help them while trying to figure out what is going on It’s also revealed that the murdered teacher (now being claimed as a suicide) contacted her moments before her death claiming that Jin-ju is alive. Jin-Ju being miss Hur’s high-school friend who committed suicide.

The rest of the film has various girls who go through their daily school lives where they’re grades and future social standings are pitted against each other. As the film progresses more mysterious are unveiled and more tragic realities of a lot of the girls pasts come to light. Of course there is more death.

Where I think most people can agree why this movie never made it to the mainstream western audiences like The Grudge or The Ring is its slow pace. And it is very slow.

I didn’t find myself bothered by the pacing but I could easily see the standard western movie crowd having a different idea of what a horror movie should be. What I felt was refreshing was the genuinely well acted scenes and the interesting characters. There is a low body count but I found myself legitimately worried if certain characters were going to die or not. The ending is excellent although a bit confusing until you have a minute to think about it. I felt like the film did take things for granted in terms of how the teachers and students conducted themselves. I chalked it up to me simply not being South Korean and this film probably was never intended for a westerner to watch it.

I’m frankly glad this one was never remade like a lot of the other horror films coming out of Asia and no I’m not saying that I dislike remakes of J-horror or things of that ilk. I’m just saying that in this case I feel like a remake would most certainly try to drive the pace, or ramp up the body count.

The film is fine on its own and serves as a reminder about the artificial barriers we put between each other. Whether or not you can still be friends with someone who has lower grades, or what being friends with someone of a lower social standing could do to your own reputation. The film attempts to drive home the argument that it these sorts of things can take something that everyone wants to cherish – like the memories of friends and happy times in high-school, and turn them into a horror we all wish we could forget.

I highly recommend anyone interested in the supernatural to check this one out. It’s a different kind of horror that has all the elements but serves better as a mystery than something really intended to scare or shock. That being said, it definitely has set a standard over the past ten years about how we tell these stories.

See you next time!

Based on a True Story

Posted in Horror History, Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2011 by splatterpictures

Every time we sit down to watch a horror movie it requires us to suspend our belief. I would hope any logical person could realize that humans don’t rise from the grave to enact revenge or that demons from hell don’t lie and trick their way into our world to murder and violate us. The problem with enjoying many movies; is a logical mind that knows that what we are watching is a work of fiction. Despite this, these movies (by definition) should instil horror in us. Writers and directors go to great lengths to try every trick in the book to accomplish this, so their techniques over the last hundred years of film have amassed into a giant book of clichés.

The one method that has always fascinated me the most is when you see these words flash before your eyes in a trailer or on a poster: Based on a True Story or Inspired by True Events. It’s a genius method really. What is more horrific than the truth? I am always giving me and my fellow horror-hounds the benefit of the doubt. While blood and guts may entertain us in film, true acts of violence are repulsive, shocking, and distributing.

Telling us that what we are watching was based on a true story conjures images of how horrible it must have been for the people we are watching. We are no longer looking at actors playing roles, rather we feel are witnessing history told to us through film. It allows us to logically fear the maniac killers or perhaps open our minds to the paranormal.

The one question I always have is… just how much of this is real? How much of what I am watching was supposed to have happened and how much of it was spiced up for film? Well, I’m going to put on my investigators hat and shed a little light on the truth behind these true stories in regards to three select films.

First up, let’s tackle the Amityville Horror. The film was released in 1979 and, while the forefront of the movie was never the advertising campaign that it was real, the novel that the film was based on basically depended on this gimmick.

The story surrounds the Lutz family who claims they had bought a house on 112 Oceans Ave in Amityville a year after a brutal mass murder had occurred. It isn’t long before the family begins to experience paranormal activity from some dark entities. It also carries with it the slow mental breakdown of James Bolin’s character as the dark presence of the house starts to creep into his psyche. It’s implied that this could have been the cause of the murders that happened a year earlier. There is also a famous role given to Rod Steiger as the priest who attempts to get the so-called demons out of the house. For his efforts, he suffers boils and a barrage of flies. The film itself is decent (I found it pretty slow in parts) and had a string of sequels. In 2005 it was even remade starring Ryan Reynolds. So after all of that (demons, poltergeists possession and the biblical plagues set forth on an unsuspecting couple), just how much of it was real?

Well first let’s discuss the mass murder that occurred in Amityville. These murders unfortunately are true. In the 1970’s the house at 112 Oceans Ave became the scene of a bloody and shocking murder. The Defero family were killed in their sleep by Ronald “Butch” Defero Jr, the eldest son. In the night around 2 AM, he systematically shot his father, mother, two brothers and two sisters. After cleaning himself up and getting rid of the evidence, he hatched a long plan about how he was going to pin the murders on the mafia and play the role of the lucky sole survivor. His plan might have worked had he not foolishly left the boxes for the guns he used to kill his family in his room.

A year later his case went to trial and he attempted to get off as legally insane and unfit to stand trial. That plan also thankfully failed and he is currently serving 25 years to life on six counts of second degree murder.

Now since the murders did occur, we can move on to the matter of the Lutz family and the supposed haunting of the house. Well it is true that the George and Kathy Lutz purchased the house and they did claim that there were demons there. It’s largely considered to be a hoax which I’ll explain.

It all started shortly after the Lutz family “fled” the house after only a month of living there. They claimed that the evil goings-on were just too much for them to handle. George Lutz made a call to Dr. Kaplan who was a well known and respected parapsychologist and claimed that demons had terrorized them until forcing them to leave although he couldn’t describe exactly what happened. He also claimed that he had only just started researching the paranormal but Dr. Kaplan quickly started poking holes in his stories that basically revealed that Lutz had been researching this long before he even moved into the house and had mixed and matched behaviours of demons, poltergeists and all sorts of things.

Dr. Kaplan determined that all of these symptoms of a haunting were far too vast and that logically one house couldn’t possible hold that many demons and spirits.

After the book was released and became a best seller, the rights to making the film were sold and then interest in that true story of the Amityville horror really started to take off. The more questions people asked, the more inconsistencies were found. For example, the role of the priest was only legitimate in a way. For what it’s worth, it is true that a priest whose name was Father Pecoraro did have contact with the family. That being said, he first claimed that he never even visited the house and only talked to the Lutz family by phone. Later on he said that he has gone there but nothing unusual happened. One of his last interviews he did revealed that he did at least bless the house and then left. No boils, no flies, nothing. So who knows really what happened there.

The final nail in the coffin was the new owners of the house Jim and Barbara Cromarty. The couple claimed that they had lived in the house with not a single suspicious thing happening. In an amusing turn of events, they sued the Lutz family because of the constant parade of tourists that would come to the house. The courts ruled in their favour and the judge had even stated that the Lutz family had concocted the whole story for the purpose of selling a novel.

Next up we’re going with a more recent film, The Haunting in Connecticut. The film was released in 2009 and was based upon the so-called true events of a family named the Campbells in the 1980’s. The events happen while they are living in an old funeral home that was refurbished into a house. The family moves out there because their eldest son is sick with cancer and the hospital to get his treatment done is simply closer to this house as oppose to their one in the city.

When they move into the house, subtle paranormal events start to take place. They mostly affect the eldest son, Matt, who opts to live in the basement which turns out was the mortuary. He has disturbing visions that become more and more frequent. Everyone, of course, believes he is being affected by his cancer treatment but with this help of Reverend Popescu, he uncovers that the funeral home was used to hold séances. A particularly powerful child medium named Jonah had his powers enhanced by the bodies of the recently dead, so bodies were stolen and mutilated by the man who ran the funeral home. In one instance, the spirits that enveloped the house killed Jonah and his mad doctor along with all of their guests. The movie ends with the discovery that the walls of the funeral home are filled with mummified bodies and Matt has to burn the place down to free them all. Doing this also miraculously cures Matt’s cancer.

But how much of this story is actually real?

The family in question wasn’t the Campbells, they were the Snedekers. They really did move to the house in 1986 to be closer to the UCONN hospital where their son’s special treatments were occurring. The house was, in fact, a funeral home before it was turned into a house. The funeral home in question was the Hallahan Funeral Home. It operated for decades in the area before it was bought in the 1980’s.

In the film, the family discovers numerous death photos that were taken along with the severed eyelids of many of the bodies but in real life there were only a few death photos that were found, no eyelids though. Apparently the mother also found numerous toe-tags and even a head-tag.

In the film there are numerous paranormal activaties that occur. According to the family, there actually was an incident where the mother was mopping the floor and the water turned blood red. Another incident that they claim was true were the dishes putting themselves away. The most fantastic of all was the shower scene. In the movie the niece, played by Amanda Crew, gets suffocated by a shower curtain. The family claims that this did happen although it happened to the mother and not the niece.

The biggest discrepancies are the existence of Jonah, the bodies in the walls, and the climax where Matt burns the house to the ground. None of these things occurred in real life. All were created to explain the haunting and to add more excitement to the film. The family does say, however, that Matt did become darker and more distant like the film portrays.

One of the happier portions that are true is that Matt’s cancer was cured although it probably had more to do with his treatment than spirits. Of course when I say these things are “true,” I mean to say that the family claims they are true. I would like to point out that they did publish a book titled “In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting.” So much like the Amityville horror, there is a lot of controversy surrounding this one but, unlike Amityville, this one isn’t totally debunked yet.

Lastly, we are going to go a little further back and hit up one of the stranger inclusions in the list of “true story” horror: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre was released in 1974 and is one of those heavy hitter films that horror fans love. It has had ridiculous sequels and terrible remakes, but it was one of the first slasher films. In fact, it just missed the number one spot by a few months (Black Christmas is the first true slasher film from a technical standpoint).

However, it did give us the iconic slasher character of Leatherface, the semi-retarded member of a psycho family of hillbillies that murder, torture and terrorize a group of teenagers. Honestly, there isn’t much I can say about this film that hasn’t been said a million times. I really am only including it because it fits the subject at hand.

It really is one of those films that I find hard to watch even as a fan of the genre. I’ve never been totally in to the kind of things that this movie has because it already seems possible enough to me. When I kept hearing that it was inspired by true events, I went nuts. I just had to know what part of this could be real.

Well, not much is real about it actually. The crazy family and all of the events in the film are works of fiction. So why do they say it’s a true story? Well that is the tricky part they don’t say true story they say the ugly step-son of true story; “Inspired by true events”.

For all intents and purposes, the character of Leatherface was based on the serial killer Ed Gein who had murdered and mutilated his victims not unlike Leatherface, skinning them and using their body parts to decorate his home. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre wouldn’t be the only film to use Ed Gein as a reference; Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs was based on him aswell as Norman Bates from Psycho.

So there you have it. Although there are usually some elements of truth behind these so called true stories, the most fantastic elements are fiction for the sake of the audience. Even things that do occur or claimed to be real are debatable.

Thanks for taking this little journey with me, see you next time!