Archive for August, 2011

The Last Man on Earth

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2011 by splatterpictures

Awhile I ago I was writing about the zombie genre through the last hundred years or so in film, when I got to Night of the Living Dead, I explained that Romero’s inspiration for the Ghouls that devoured the flesh of the living was derived from Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend. A lot of you will be familiar with the 2007 film starring Will Smith.

When I am Legend was about to hit theatres, they were saying that it was based off of the novel of the same name, and some people went as far as to mention that the 1971 film The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston was also an attempt to adapt the novel.

But before all of that, before Will Smith and Charlton Heston and before Romero would reshape the entire concept of what a zombie was; there was the 1964 film called The Last Man on Earth that starred the great Vincent Price.

I came across this movie completely by accident. A few years ago I had bought one of those giant movie pack box sets. You know the ones? Like fifty classic horror films all in one package (all public domain films). I was shuffling through the titles after I got home and that title in particular intrigued me enough that it was the first movie I watched out of the set.

About halfway through my young ignorant mind made me say “wow this is just like I am Legend, I wonder if this is some first attempt at the movie?” well it obviously is and even though I have never read the book by Matheson, I have seen all three of the interpretations of the book on film and this one is easily my favourite.

Like I said the movie was released in 1964 (a short ten years after Matheson wrote the book) it was actually partially written by Matheson aswell but he didn’t like it and decided not to get credited on it.

The movie starts with showing Dr. Robert Morgan’s (Price) daily routine. He wakes, he checks his home’s security, Mirrors and garlic, he eats even though he finds the process boring and only a means of survival, he runs down everything he has to do, remove bodies from his property and take them to a giant pit to be burned, he needs gas and more garlic, he makes stakes and then goes hunting. That’s right it’s another vampire flick and I swear I don’t mean for them to come up as often as they do. A good portion of his day also consists of going door to door in his city killing as many vampires as he can.

There are a series of flashbacks that start to explain what happened. Three years ago, a strange plague coming out of Europe started to sweep the world. It’s an air born virus and it threatens to reach the United States. Dr. Morgan is optimistic, and has a staunch scientific mind that refuses to believe in the concept of a universal disease that could wipe out everyone. He and his friend Ben Cortman work at the Mercer Institute of Chemical research and are one of the many global facilities trying to find a cure.

Cortman is more inclined to believe that there might be no hope and that the rumours of some of the dead coming back to life are coming back as vampires; showcasing all of their weaknesses and desires and that the government is trying to cover up knowing the truth.

Soon the plague starts affecting Morgan’s own family, his young daughter (Christi Courtland) loses her sight and blindly paws at the air. I think it was supposed to be tragic but it comes off as pretty funny in my opinion. His wife (Emma Danieli) succumbs soon after and is the first person Morgan sees comes back to life and he is forced to kill her.

The ghouls that return are pretty different from any interpretation I’ve seen. They are zombie-like, with barely any intelligence or strength. Morgan lives in a basic two story house and they can’t seem to break in at all. His friend Ben (now a vampire-ghoul-thing) constantly calls his name and tries to pathetically get through the door.

The film hinges on Price’s performance. Morgan is a broken man, who does nothing but survive, he watches old home movies, and just breaks down into a hysterical fits of laughter that soon turns to tears as he remembers the life that will never be. He doesn’t even have any characters to interact with until towards the end of the movie he first finds a dog, that he befriends (this was what tipped it off to me that it was similar to I Am Legend) sadly he realizes that the pooch is infected and has to take ole yeller out back…if you know what I mean.

Later things get interesting when he meets a woman named Ruth Collins (Franca Bettoia) she exhibits some signs of vampirism but is somehow able to keep command of her mind.

It’s revealed that while a majority of the vampires are nearly mindless ghouls, there does exist another kind who are intelligent and are attempting to rebuild their society. This is where the message of the film seems to come into play. Morgan is the last man on earth and now is the one person who is unlike the rest of society and therefore the true monster.

In the Omega Man and I Am Legend the films end with a glimmer of hope. One that might suggest that mankind will make a comeback, but not this one. Last Man on Earth ends telling us that the age of mankind is over. The final moments of the film are just fantastic and overall this is worth a watch. Like I said its public domain and can be found just about anywhere.

See yah next time and thanks for reading!

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Cronos

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2011 by splatterpictures

There is a lot of horror out there, and I mean a lot. No scratch that. There is a lot of cinema out there. The sheer number of films that get made a year is staggering. Especially if you consider every film that gets released, not just the stuff that makes it to theatres. We just don’t have enough time in a day to watch everything.

A lot of my friends like to say that I seem like the type of person who’s seen or heard of everything; especially in regards to horror. Let me tell you that it couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s a tonne of stuff out there that I haven’t seen. Every time I slip open a genre magazine, like Rue Morgue or VideoScope I am seeing advertisements or reviews of stuff I’ve never even heard of let alone watched.

One of the reasons I started this site was so that I would have an opportunity to see horror that I normally wouldn’t be able to. It’s equal parts research and dumb luck that leads me to a lot of the stuff I end up watching.

I recently was visiting a friend of mine; he’s always had an impressive and varied taste in movies. Really his collection has something for everyone. Mine is pretty genre specific and as time goes on it only gets more so. While looking for something to watch my finger passed over the Movie Cronos, it looked interesting, I checked the back. “Whoa this movie was directed by Guillermo Del Toro?” I kept reading “Whoa this movie has Ron Perlman in it” I read further “10th anniversary special edition?” How did this movie completely blow past me on all fronts? Apparently this film, by a director I love, and containing an actor I enjoy, was released or rather re-released without my knowledge. Now, let’s be clear about something.

Guillermo Del Toro is an excellent director, and I have yet to find a movie he did that I dislike but like most people, I had no idea who he was until things like Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth. The latter being a particular favourite of mine. Also, since another Del Toro horror flick is set to be released this month, it seems oddly appropriate.

Cronos was released in 1993 and is a Spanish language film. It stars Frederico Luppi and Ron Perlman, funnily enough he speaks English through most of it.. It also has Tamara Shanath, to round out the immediate cast.

The film starts off explaining that hundreds of years ago an alchemist created the Cronos device, it would enable the user to live forever provided they keep using it. The Alchemist himself dies about four hundred years later, through a massive chest wound when his house collapsed in on him. After that the device goes missing and nobody is able to find it.

We then meet a kindly old antiques dealer named Jesús Gris (Luppi) and his granddaughter Aurora (Shanath). They discover inside of a statue the Cronos device and while trying to figure it out, Gris winds it up and accidentally sets it off, having no idea what it will do to him.

It’s never really explained how the device works, although it eventually is revealed that inside of it there is some kind of insect that apparently can survive just fine inside of it. The insect is fused with clockwork of the device and the solution it creates is what grants the user eternal life.

Nothing comes without a price and Gris soon realizes that he is changing, not only is he getting younger and more energetic he is also starting to crave blood.

Also, unknown to him is that there is another man who is looking for the device for his own use; Dieter de la Guardia played rather well by the late Claudio Brook. He is sick and dying and wants to use the device to cheat death. He sends his Nephew Angel de la Guardia (Perlman) all over the place looking for it. It’s obvious they hate eachother, and their interactions are some of the highlights of the movie.

The device seems to have an addictive quality to it and Gris can’t help himself but keep using it, despite the fears of his granddaughter Aurora. Throughout off of this she is basically what is grounding him to humanity; she seems to love him unconditionally and will do anything to help him, so long as he doesn’t leave her.

Because he seems to be becoming addicted to using it he also is unwilling to hand it over when De La Gaurdia finds out he has it, they have a series of interactions but eventually out of desperation Gris is murdered for the device. This prompts his resurrection and at this point he is so far gone from this kind old grandfather he was in the first half of the movie that it’s really remarkable.

His skin rots and falls off to reveal a pale undead look underneath; he has an aversion to sunlight and needs blood to…wait a minute. Don’t all of these things make him a vampire? Well yup, it does. Cronos is a well hidden vampire movie, to be sure but it’s pretty subtle and he doesn’t seem to have supernatural powers aside from not being able to die without destroying his heart.

The pacing of the film is kinda slow, and I could have done with a little bit more on the horror side, but if you liked Pan’s Labyrinth I really can’t imagine not liking this, because they are pretty similar in tone.

I have a lot more for you guys in the near future so stay tuned and thanks for reading!

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Posted in Horror Showcase, Ode to the Unsung Slasher, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2011 by splatterpictures

The weirdest thing in the world to me is breaking down a film. I mean don’t get me wrong, I do it all the time, but for the most part I take what I see for what I get. I never took any sort of film studies course I just kinda watch things and “notice stuff”.

When you watch enough of anything you find all kinds of trends, whether it’s in a television series, or a certain author’s work. It’s especially noticeable when you start looking at entire genres of film.

I think it’s safe to say that when it comes to horror, people have parodied it, mocked it, paid homage, and downright insulted it. A lot of times people feel they are being clever but dumb it down a lot(Like Wes Craven’s scream series) Other times it’s just a quick buck piggy banking on stuff that’s already popular (Scary movie series). I really never had much time for those types of films. I always thought that Scream was just lame. Although, with four movies behind it, maybe I’m the one with the problem.

This brings me to our latest and greatest Splatterpictures; Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. The flick dropped in 2006 and was directed by Scott Glosserman. It was written by him aswell and distributed through Anchor Bay (I swear they should put me on their pay role with how often I seem to be talking about them).

The movie is shot like a documentary in a world (I did the epic movie guy voice thing in my head) where the slashers of film are real. They set this up pretty well, referencing Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street.

The film crew is apparently following around a new slasher wanting to make a name for himself; Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel). How they got the idea to do this isn’t really clear and neither is what they think this will all lead to. They go through Leslie’s set up to his “big night” the start of his Legacy. He tells them his story of how he is supposedly the returned spirit of a boy killed by the townspeople. He takes them to his “house” where this will all go down and proceeds to walk them through his “plan”. Honestly what follows is probably the most dead on and hilarious break down of a horror movie I’ve ever seen. It pays homage to horror in a way that is really fun to watch. They talk about everything. The selection of their victims and why, sure Scream did that but think of Scream like cole’s notes compared to Behind the Mask.

A lot of things they mentioned had great moments of “oh yeah I noticed that” Like why they always let some couple have sex before killing them. Why they hide the bodies until the last moment. How about why the phones never work, or the lights go out? Or maybe why weapons always seem to break or killers never seem to stay dead? One moment in particular had me laughing is when Leslie is discussing how much cardio he has to do to give the illusion that he is walking, while everyone else is running away.

There is also a beauty to his plan, and it also shows a more subtle side of the killer that nobody really gets to see. There are moments where Leslie’s true nature peeks through in bursts of anger or when he goes on long obsessive rants about the legacy he is trying to create with his “survivor girl” and how everything he does is for her I really felt like I was sitting through a film class when they start getting into the phallic imagery of a killers weapon and what it means for said survivor girl to use it against the killer.

This movie is first and foremost a comedy and it’s a pretty damn good one. The nice thing is that while I always felt movies like scream were poking fun at horror for the general audience; Behind the Mask seems to have been made for true fans. In the same sort of way that the Comic Series Hack/Slash is for horror fans in that it doesn’t take you through all the obvious references. Sure they talk about the big killers that we are all familiar with but it also goes deeper making direct references or illusions to lesser known horror films or obscure uses of minor things from major films.

During the early parts of the movie, the film crew join Leslie as he visits an old friend and mentor who was a masked killer aswell (now retired). He talks about how “In the old days” it was all about getting in, killing everybody and getting out without anybody ever knowing. That is pretty much the entire plot of Black Christmas (arguably the first slasher film). There are a lot of subtle sight gags, like the “Stay awake” pills from Nightmare, or the Red Rabbit Inn from Halloween.

They also have some great Cameos by Kane Hodder as a guy living in the Elm Street House (he played Jason in Friday the 13th). Of course, the big Cameo is Robert Englund as Doctor Halloran who Leslie refers to as his “Ahab” basically a person who has made it his personal goal to track down and stop his evil. In other words a character type made famous in Halloween with Doctor Lumis.

By far the most amazing Cameo is by Zelda Rubenstein (she played the famous role of the medium in Poltergeist) she delivers her usual creepy speech to perfection.

You’d think that after people start dying the film crew would grow a conscious and try to Stop Leslie’s plan and want to save the teenagers and they do, but it becomes obvious that this was all accounted for. It has a great ending with all the clichés and overall I highly recommend checking this out.

My one complaint is kind of a big one though. I don’t know if it was the DVD that I had and another version exist but there was nothing in the way of gore. The deaths aren’t all that great, some are pretty good but they all cut away before anything is shown, or even worse they happen off camera with just audio. Now, why would they go to all the trouble of carefully crafting references, getting horror icons for cameos and making this movie if they weren’t going to put some gore in it? I have no idea. Like I said maybe it was just the version I had and there is a directors cut out there somewhere.

It’s made even worse by the fact that a lot of casual viewers probably wouldn’t be half as entertained as I was with all the references and jokes. So that leaves more serious fans with a great slasher movie but without a lot of good or memorable kills.