Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Last Exorcism

Once again I’ve managed to go and see a horror film in theaters without reading a single review and only watching bits and pieces of trailers and TV spots. When I really want to see something, I go into IGNORANT MODE so I can be as surprised as possible when I set foot in the theater. I was intrigued by The Last Exorcism because… Duh, it’s not The Exorcist. Oh yes, I love possession films so of course, I was down with checking this one out. Oh shit, I just remembered, I still haven’t watched The Exorcism of Emily Rose. I should probably check out that out some time. Anyway, on a windy and hot Sunday morning, I met up with my friends Nafa, Max, and Rod at Veterans AMC 24 to see if this Eli Roth production was worth seeing or not.

The film is about Cotton Marcus (played by Patrick Fabian), an energetic preacher in Louisiana who has been preaching the word of the Lord since he was just a child. He comes from a long line of preachers who have been performing exorcisms for generations to fund the church as well as put food on the table for their families. While going through a crisis of faith, Marcus reads a news story about a young man who was accidentally killed and he decides that it is time to stop performing the rites. He decides to perform one last exorcism in front of a documentary film crew in order to show that his is a fraudulent craft.

Marcus and his crew are called to the Sweetzer farm where widowed patriarch Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum) is convinced that his 16 year old daughter, Nell (Ashley Bell), is possessed by the devil and has been killing their livestock. Once all of his tricks are set up, Marcus performs a mock exorcism, collects his money, and leaves. However, at their roadside motel that night, Marcus and the camera crew discover Nell practically comatose in Marcus’s room. They take Nell to a hospital but they can find nothing wrong with her. Things start to go downhill quickly back on the farm and it looks as though Nell might actually be possessed.

I won’t say any more about the plot because I don’t want to spoil anything (until my spoiler paragraph at the end). Despite a few generic ideas and a couple of moments that felt a little familiar, I have to admit I enjoyed The Last Exorcism. It is told in the popular format of the documentary style horror film which is all the rage right now. Personally, I need a break from this style. One thing though, once things got rolling with this flick, my adrenaline shot up and my heart kept thumping until the end. Assuming I don’t have some kind of condition that I should probably be seeing a doctor about, the tale of Nell Sweetzer is a thrilling one.

One thing that Nafa pointed out is the soundtrack. Up until the scary stuff happens, the film has little to no music score. Then some ominous orchestration kicks in. I noticed it but it didn’t bother me. Nafa said that it took him right out of the movie. I must admit that even though I liked the music, the film would have been better off without any kind of music score. The silence to accompany the screaming would have made things much more stark and isolating.

Audience reaction was pretty nonplussed at Veterans 24 and there weren’t any cries for ‘mama’ (Blair Witch Project), people yelling at the screen (Paranormal Activity), or folks running out to puke (Paranormal Activity (though I think that was from motion sickness and not terror). When the movie ended, some guy just went: “Wow.” And that was not a good ‘wow’ either. I hear another lady whisper to her friend: “Well, that sucked!” Most entertaining was this redneck guy there with his mom who was very outspoken. He raised his voice and proclaimed to anyone who would listen that The Last Exorcism is "stupid shit!" and that "The Exorcist was better than this stupid shit!"

In fact, he would get the attention of a female usher to tell her just how he felt about this movie. The sad part is, he left his poor old mother to struggle at getting out of her chair. It took her a big part of the credits to finally bounce her way out of her chair. And this wasn't a big woman either, she just had to use the momentum to get upright. Her stupid son finally got done berating the usher and anyone else in the theater about the film and then said to his mother: "I’ll meet you at the car." What a dick!

The same usher would tell another dissatisfied moviegoer that she wrote and directed The Last Exorcism and that she was personally sorry for it turning out so bad. As for me, I had a good time. Max said he liked it and Rod, well, Rod didn't really say. But I'm sure that he liked it better than The friggin' Collector. Nafa said he thought it was okay but something was definitely missing.

I especially liked Patrick Fabian’s portrayal of Cotton Marcus, the lovable conman preacher who gets in way over his head. Ashley Bell is awesome as Nell Sweetzer. Her performance is quite good, especially when the innocence cracks to show something malevolent underneath. There is a quick shot of her cracking one of the creepiest smiles ever that is just chilling. In fact, there weren’t any bad actors in this movie at all. Louis Herthum also deserves mentioning. The guy nailed the part of Louis Sweetzer, a man torn apart by grief trying to hold what’s left of his family together.

Though flawed, there are other good things going for The Last Exorcism. One is the choice by the filmmakers to keep the CGI down to a nice acceptable level. They could have gone all over the map with blacked out eyes, a mouth stretching open to some unholy, inhuman chasm, and rippling things crawling underneath Nell’s flesh. But they didn’t and that is important. Pacing is good though a couple of the calm scenes felt forced. I doubt that even that redneck duder was fooled by those moments of forced peace. The ending is also a little dicey which I’ll talk more about in the spoilers below. My (almost) final word on The Last Exorcism is that it is not quite as good as I was hoping but it’s very tense, well acted, and pretty damn cool. Don’t expect this to be the scariest film ever made, just enjoy the ride.

Oh yeah, cat lovers, cover your eyes when- oh, you’ll know when.


I really hope this movie has alternate endings when it hits DVD because the one that played in theaters, though acceptable, has some issues. I don’t think Satanists are scary for millennial audiences. Maybe if this was the 70s or 80s when satanic cults had everybody’s panties in a bunch, this would have worked. Nafa said he immediately thought of the awesome The Devil’s Rain. I, on the other hand, thought of the mostly decent Race with the Devil starring Warren Oates and Henry Fonda. So yeah, I think it was a poor way to wrap things up but it could have worked out better had the ending not seemed so rushed. Truth be told, the more I think about this ending, the more I’m warming to it. I’m going to stop now so you don’t have to read my mental debate.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mad Ron's Prevues from Hell

Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell
Directed by Jim Monaco
Released: 1987
Starring Nick Pawlow, Happy Goldsplatt, Michael Townsend Wright, Anthony Kelly, Ron Roccia
Running Time: 83 minutes
DVD Studio: Virgil Films

Two zombies walk into a movie theater- stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Hey gang, Mad Ron (Ron Roccia) is chained to the projector and is playing all of his favorite horror trailers! So sit back and enjoy the show. Our hosts Nick Pawlow and his zombie pal Happy Goldsplatt, are here with some ghastly jokes and ghoulish quips-uh oh- what’s that? It seems like those two zombies brought along their undead pals and things are getting out of control. Um, maybe you shouldn’t sit back too far, the ghouls in the back row aren’t content with their bloody popcorn anymore.

This makes me so angry! Where the hell was Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell when I needed it the most? I was 11 years old when this hit VHS and I realize that missing out on it stunted my horror growth. This compilation of trailers with its cheesy hosts and gory goofiness plus my steady diet of junk food and thrash metal could have made me into a horror man instead of the horror boy I am today.

The collection of trailers here are perfect for a good time. Selections like the standard Texas Chainsaw Massacre are here alongside the more obscure picks like (the “stomach shocker of your life”) The Ghastly Ones, The Diabolical Doctor Z, and Mad Doctor of Blood Island. Of course, Lady Frankenstein is here which is always good for a devious grin and oh man, the trailer for Love Me Deadly is a dang riot. Also, the trailer for the double feature, I Drink Your Blood/I Eat Your Skin, is here and it is simply perfect.

The only thing that got on my nerves are the inclusion of Man from Deep River featuring real animal violence and Africa – Blood and Guts which features real human and animal violence. I know a lot of horror folks don’t bat an eyelash at these things but I personally count them as a detraction from the entertainment value of Prevues from Hell. Who is a wet blanket? Me!

So if you like your trailers wet and sloppy, then check this out. The interruptions from the hosts are pretty amusing (in a kitschy eye-rolling, ironic knee-slapping kind of way) and they come bearing gifts: dozens of classic trailers, gory setpieces, and goofy zombie antics. Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell is a perfect party favor when you have some fiends over with short attention spans and a lust for trash.

DVD Stuff

First of all, this disc has a fucking great menu. It’s simple, it’s cheesy, and it’s awesome. Prevues from Hell looks and sounds okay all things considered. The full frame transfer looks like a grubby video production but it is definitely watchable. Once this party gets started, you’ll tell your HD TV to shove it and your Blu-ray player to get bent. Extras include two behind the scenes reels, a poster gallery, promos for the DVD release of Preveues from Hell (apparently, someone from Avatar was involved), and deleted scenes (actually a couple of bonus trailers).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Still Thinking About Ya!

Hey folks. I'm still taking some time off here to gather my dead and dumb brains which are scattered all over, as usual. I thought I would insult the internet itself by posting a lame-o poll. It's to the left and just a little above my stupid face. I'm getting pretty jazzed about this Asian horror month. It is going to be epic and whatnot. I'm still looking for contributors, so if you want to post some Asian radness in September, send me an email and we'll discuss.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Less, Less, Less

As you can see, I’m still in a 1976 frame of mind…

So this is my last post until the first of September so I can prepare for the mind-erasing insanity of The Invasian. Keep thinking about Asian horror films and send me your recommendations on what titles, actors, directors, subgenres, etc. that you’d like me to review or ramble on and on and on about. I’ll also be harassing some of y’all out there in the horror/cult blogging community for submissions.

Before I vanish into the moonlight, I wanted to talk about something. I’ve received some awards lately from some really great bloggers and I can’t tell you how proud that makes me. Just knowing that somebody out there gives a triple brown shit about CinSom and DooMo, is really, really important to me. These are just a few of the many great blogs out there that inspire me. They are rad and bad (the Michael Jackson variety) and you should be reading them immediately.

The Agitation of the Mind - From John Woo to giallo and from Christopher Nolan to Herzog, Neil goes places cinematically that I can only dream of.

The Cathode Ray Mission - Professor Brian O’Blivion’s blog is a pastiche of horror films, horror music, interviews, 80s goodness, and freakin’ weird shit. It is mesmerizing.

The Cheap Bin J. Astro sets his sights on some pretty trashy stuff and we are all better for it. The dude is irreverent and will make you jealous (and a little afraid) of his destiny as the chosen one.

Cool Ass Cinema - Venoms5 has this blog which is staggering in its gigantic greatness. His coverage of Kung Fu flicks alone will make your eyes and butt bleed forever.

The Death Rattle - I have been lucky enough to contribute to some ‘best of’ lists over at Aaron’s blog. Does Aaron need my help? Fuck no! Aaron is superb and his blog is full on rockin’ awesome.

In It For The Kills - Erin is also in it to win it with some great reviews and honest, frank opinions.

The Kid in the Hall - Morgan makes the 80s look like this really great decade where awesome shit happened. How does she do that?

The Lightning Bug’s Lair - Whenever I start to get these illusions of my own coolness, they are quickly shattered by Zachary’s superpowers. His eyes are on the prize; the prize being obscure and awesome films.

Lost Video Archive - I know you are obsessed with VHS. Get your fix and more at The Goodkind's blog. Totally perfect.

Trash Film Addict - Alex isn’t afraid to get dirty, bloody, and possibly stinky (or maybe just musky) in order to share his addiction with the world.

So yeah, check these out and I will see you good peeps in a little less than a month.

Dark August

I wanted to love Dark August but sadly, I don’t. This film, released in the year of my birth and named after my (probably dark) birth month seemed like the most serendipitous horror movie event of my life. It isn’t. The recurring 1976 theme of a cloaked figure (see Land of the Minotaur and the story my mom provided for my bizarre origin story) shows up and Sal smokes Vantage, my father’s brand of cigarettes. Weird, right? Anyway, I fired this flick up on my birthday this year to see what all the fuss was about. (There is no fuss anywhere about this movie.)

Dark August
Directed by Martin Goldman
Released: 1976
Starring J.J. Barry, Carolyne Barry, Kim Hunger, Frank Bongiorno, Richard Allen Fay, Kae McKeown
Running Time: 87 minutes

After accidentally running over a young girl, artist Sal Devito (played by J.J. Barry) is haunted by three things: visions of the tragic incident, a strange figure lurking in the woods, and by Old Man McDermitt , the girl’s grandfather. As Sal’s mind is slowly coming unglued, his girlfriend Jackie (Carolyne Barry) tries her best to stand by her man. Jackie’s friend recommends that Sal seek spiritual guidance from Adrianna (Kim Hunter), a witch who specializes in white magic. Adrianna discovers that someone has placed a curse on Sal which summoned a demon to torment him.

Director Martin Goldman takes a pretty big chance with his take on what a horror film should be. Without an effects budget or a high body count (this definitely ain’t no slasher film), he instead focuses on psychology, the performances of his actors, and the supernatural. But you’ll have to use your imagination here as almost nothing otherwordly is ever shown in Dark August to indicate that what’s happening is anywhere but in the minds of the characters. The score by William S. Fisher is a jazzy synth mishmash with some wacko drums and piano (so of course, I dig it). The workmanlike cinematography by Richard E. Brooks has a few surprises stashed in the film in the form of some gorgeously composed shots.

Unfortunately, the entire film hinges on Sal, a friggin’ unlikeable bastard. J.J. Barry (who co-wrote the film with Goldman and Carolyne Barry) turns in a great performance but his character is a selfish and smug douchebag. The only thing I liked about Sal’s character is that it doesn’t take him long to buy into the supernatural world around him. If this movie had taken an extra ten minutes he moronically vacillated between faith and science, I would have given up. Other members of the cast do a fine job but the script has them caught in a mire of banal melodrama. Dr. Zira herself, Kim Hunter, is great and she gets to spout some pretty crazy incantations during a séance which goes horribly awry.

Despite its “Me Generation” whining, ponderous pacing, and actors’ workshop vibe, I have to admit that there is something special about Dark August. On the surface it feels like Savage Weekend but without the trashiness or the chainsaw. It does have a very well staged and surprising moment of violence that I did not see coming. Another cool scenes is when we first see the dark figure that is always watching Sal, it is chilling. Sal tries to catch this presence by following it deeper and deeper into the woods and his demon stays just out of reach and is always seen in a blurry haze.

Also in the film’s favor: I watched Dark August after I burned my beat up Lightning Video tape to DVDR. In my experience, this always lends a claustrophobic, anything-can-happen vibe to old rare films like this one. I highly doubt that this fairly obscure film will get the special treatment if it ever does make it to DVD. It’s a shame because even though Goldman's film has some major strikes against it, I was left with a creepy feeling when it was over and a few things to think about. I can’t recommend Dark August too much because I don’t think horror film fans should go out of their way to find it. However, if this flick turns up on some 50 movie pack someday, patient folks should give it a spin.


Like I said before, Dark August really stuck with me after I watched it. There was something about that ending. Throughout the film, Sal's dog whines whenever he is going out to the woods, especially when the dark stranger is watching. After Adrianna and is killed and Old Man McDermitt is destroyed by her freed spirit (I am just guessing on this one - it's fucking weird), Sal goes out into the woods with his shotgun and his trusty dog to catch the thing that has been haunting him. He doesn't find it, instead he finds a pair of inhuman footprints where the thing was standing. His dog becomes possessed by the demon, viciously attacks Sal, and he is forced to gun the poor beast down. The dog was trying to warn him throughout the movie! And wait, didn't Jackie's friend mention that there had to be a sacrifice? Hmm...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Birth Shopping

From Moviestop (all used, all $5.99-$7.99, buy 3, get 1 free):

From Mojo Books & Music (used $7.99):

Happy Birth!

Every person is born but how many of us really think about how important we are? Did I not mention that I'm one of those obnoxious people who thinks that their own birthday is special? Until the United States government recognizes August 4th as a national holiday, I have to run around looking like a moron all by myself in my leopard thong, zebra chaps, and paisley Doc Martens, and dangly gold earrings in the shapes of little 4's.

So I'm going to do some DVD shopping and other activities (cigar smoking, junk food eating, etc.). And, of course, I'm going to dig on some 1976 horror flicks that I've never seen before. So expect some more posts today and tomorrow about the wildly amazing year that also just happened to be our great nation's bicentennial.

One more thing, Zachary over at The Lightning Bug's Lair also turned 34 just two days ago. But after a quick DNA test we did over the internet, it turns out that we're not related! Good thing since that would mean my mom would have been in labor for 48 hours! Crazy! Quick survey: Did any of you other bloggers out there happen to be born this week 34 years ago?

More, more, more!

The Spirit of '76 Moviethon

Some 1976 movie reviews:

Violent Naples

Werewolf Woman

Plot of Fear

Satan's Slave

The House with the Laughing Windows

And look, Raffaella Carra recorded this in honor of my birth:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Tape was Blank...

It was very, very weird. Fast-forwarding through the static made me very anxious which is probably better than the actual experience that watching this movie might have been. I think Troma has Epitaph on DVD so I can check this out one day when I'm really desperate.