Jonathan Demme and ALIENS!

 

April 26th started out fun.

It was “Alien Day” – in reference to the famed planet of LV426 from the Alien franchise – and fans like myself have fun spending the day tweeting and posting all kinds of amusing tributes to the films.

While I was on Twitter, I spotted Jonathan Demme’s name trending, and I immediately feared the worst.

Sadly, those fears were confirmed when I learned he had indeed passed away at age 73 from cancer and heart-related issues. My heart sank. No longer would I have the chance to see another new film from him, whether it be an irreverent comedy like Married to the Mob, or a powerful drama like Philadelphia, where Demme tackled AIDS, homosexuality, and bigotry with respect and finesse. In my view, that film really started the conversations that led to the levels of acceptance of the LGBTQ community we enjoy today.

The Silence of the Lambs.

No discussion of Demme can be made without including this film, arguably one of the ten best films in Hollywood history. Certainly, one of the most beloved and influential movies of the horror genre. TV shows like CSI and Criminal Minds wouldn’t exist without Silence, nor would films like Seven or The Bone Collector.

After what initially seemed like the single worst decision Hollywood ever made, appointing a man who was previously known for concert films (Stop Making Sense) or irreverent comedies (Something Wild, Married to the Mob) to direct a film based on the book by Thomas Harris, one of the greatest (not to mention most popular) horror thrillers ever written, Jonathan Demme instead turned out to be one of the best decisions Hollywood could’ve made.

The Silence of the Lambs, costing a mere $19 million, went on to gross over $270 million worldwide and swept the Oscars in all five major categories: Best Picture, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster), Best Director, and Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally).

For fans of the novel like myself, Oscar night that year was extra special for a couple of reasons. First, Jonathan Demme delivered a perfect adaptation of a perfect book. Second, Hollywood didn’t snub the film as we all feared it would.

Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal Lecter elevated the cannibalistic doctor to icon status in the horror genre as well as in pop culture, and Jodie Foster’s performance as Clarice Starling was equal to Sir Anthony’s, a stunning achievement not only in acting terms. Foster portrayed a smart, strong woman fighting for – and earning – the respect of her male boss and fellow officers in a time when that was not only rare but generally frowned upon in society and especially in movies and television. Clarice Starling reflected the millions of women dealing with the same issues in their own lives. Clarice was a major character in the film. She was not added to the movie to simply be a love interest for a male character, or a damsel in distress waiting for the hero to save her. She was her own hero, and with her combination of smarts and her resilience, she was a hero for all of us, male or female.

Suffice to say, The Silence of the Lambs was a crowning achievement for everyone involved. Demme’s quirky style melded perfectly with Ted Tally’s spot-on script, defying all odds. Granted, Silence cast a hefty shadow, and while I didn’t quite enjoy Demme’s work after Silence as much, he was without doubt a terrific filmmaker who added depth and humanity to every one of his films.

I’m going to close this post so that I can go back and enjoy my favorite Jonathan Demme movies – not just The Silence of the Lambs, but Something Wild, a strangely magical dark comedy that may or may not have influenced Breaking Bad. I’ll let you decide. And of course, Stop Making Sense, a brilliant concert film that I promise will make you a Talking Heads fan, even if only for a short time. (I’m willing to bet you’ll explore their catalogue after watching!)

I think it’s fitting that Jonathan Demme left us on ‘Alien Day’ – a fun day celebrating the achievement of a legendary director. And aliens!

I bet he’d get a kick out of that.

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Dear Horror Readers

Dear Horror Readers,

                It’s me, an old horror fan from a generation that grew up pre-internet, pre-Netflix – in other words, the stone age!

                I was around when Stephen King first wrote Carrie, and got to marvel at that handful of dark, wonderful gems he wrote as they were first published. It was an amazing time to be a horror reader. There were lots a great horror movies, too – but that’s another post.  There were other great writers that came out of that time – Robert McCammon, Dennis Etchison, Michael McDowell, to name just a few. Horror was hugely popular in print and on the screen – it was a great time to be a fan!

                Discovering new authors back then was a matter of how stocked your local bookstore’s horror section was. I grew up in a small town that didn’t have a bookstore, so I relied on the small section of trade paperbacks in the drugstore, or the public library. There was a Waldenbooks (remember those, anyone?) about thirty miles away, but I didn’t get there often. Still, the reading life for this horror fan was one of few complaints. The books I could get my hands on were mostly solid to downright phenomenal.

                As time passed and the publishing houses started closing their horror imprints, I began to get discouraged. I was growing disappointed with Stephen King’s work, and new works from the other authors I liked were getting increasingly harder to find. As a result, my enthusiasm for reading horror fell off.

                Boy, did I miss it! I was also into the noir genre, so I pacified myself with classics by Chandler and Spillane, and a relatively new writer at the time named Lee Child, but I missed horror. There were occasional books by Stephen King that captured my interest, and while his prose was always terrific, in my opinion his work was becoming too bloated, too wordy. The magic of early King just wasn’t there anymore.

                To be fair, it’s rare that any artist maintains that level of greatness associated with their early work throughout their career. Hell, most writers would kill for a fraction of the success King enjoyed. And it wasn’t the man’s fault he became a pop culture icon. I can’t even imagine functioning as a human being in such an intense spotlight as that, let alone write!

                From a technology standpoint, I’m several years behind the times. I wasn’t exactly the first kid on the block to have a computer – let alone the internet. Even after I got all that stuff, my PC was slow, and my dial-up connection was already a dinosaur compared to the more powerful desktops and the high-speed broadband that was now available. And the Kindle had been out awhile before I finally got one.

                 Once I did get a Kindle, my reading world opened up considerably. Sure – a lot of the horror offerings were terrible. Self-publishing was upon us, and with few publishers available to them, writers were taking their work directly to the readers for as little as a buck or two, and oftentimes free. Sadly, much of the work I was discovering was poorly edited (if edited at all) and I found myself disappointed and skeptical of anything not written by known authors.

                I was mired in a rut of familiarity. While it was great discovering work by my favorite authors that was either new or ‘new to me,’ I realized I was getting boxed-in by not exploring the genre more. Besides, I’m one of the many unknown indie authors out there! By not exploring the work of these fellow authors, I was not only shutting myself off from undiscovered gems, I was making a choice not to support someone in the same boat as me! I couldn’t live with that.

                So again, I waded into the vast ocean of indie books. Social media introduced me to many authors that were enjoying success in the horror genre, including John F.D. Taff, Josh Malerman, John Foster, Ania Ahlborn, Rhoads Brazos, among others.

                There were some great small publishers I found along the way. Publishers who specialized in bringing high quality horror fiction to the world, and who were open to working with new voices. Grey Matter Press, Crystal Lake Publishing, Sinister Grin, Cutting Block Press, Postmortem Press, and Permuted Press are among the best small publishers out there. Pick any of their books – you really cannot go wrong.

                Of course, there are also some authors out there who are truly independent and either work sporadically with various small presses or exclusively self-publish. The best of them will match the quality of the small presses, with terrific covers and interior design, as well as solid formatting and professional editing. Some of my favorites are Rebecca Besser (@BeccaBesser), Latashia Figueroa (@LatashFigueroa), Isaac Thorne (@isaacrthorne), Israel Finn (@Israel_Finn), I encourage you to not only read the work these fine authors have available, but discover new authors as well. Feel free to share those author’s names in the comments section below!

                To help you discover those next great voices in horror, I suggest visiting some fantastic book sites and blogs such as GoodReads, Shotgun Logic (shotgunlogic.com), The Horror Bookshelf (thehorrorbookshelf.com), The Scary Reviews (thescaryreviews.com) or by joining one or more of the many fine book review groups on Facebook. As a member of those groups, you can usually post your own reviews – which really helps the authors spread the word about their books.

                The point of this open letter is simple: don’t be afraid to explore the indie world. The small presses mentioned above are a great place to start your journey, but don’t let the fact that an author who self-publishes means they are somehow not “legit.”

                Most small presses and self-published authors spend thousands of dollars and weeks, if not years of their time perfecting and marketing their books. Rarely is this endeavor profitable. They write and publish not just for money (though money certainly helps!) but because they love the craft, and want their readers to have the same experience they’d get from a major publisher.

Indie authors not only love readers’ feedback, they absolutely depend on your reviews for survival, particularly on Amazon. It has nothing to do with ego. Whether it’s three words or three hundred – reviews trigger Amazon’s algorithms to recommend the author’s books to shoppers.

As I discover new voices in the horror genre that I like, I’ll be sure to feature them on the Deadsville After Dark blog, so be sure to visit again soon!

                Before you go, allow me a moment of shameless self-promotion. Right here on the website you’ll find information and links to the Deadsville anthology I wrote with T.D. (Terry) Trask. Give it a look-see while you’re in the neighborhood, and feel free to connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.

                Thanks for reading, Deadies!

                 Yours in Horror,

                Dale Elster (@DaleElster)

               PS –  Follow Terry on Twitter – @tdtrask

 

 

 

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Whats Wrong with The Walking Dead

 

I’ve been watching The Walking Dead since it debuted on AMC in 2010, or more accurately, what’s starting to feel like sometime late last century.

Overall, it has been a fun series to watch, and, like its core group of survivors, the show itself has proven to be a survivor. Chewing through major characters as well as showrunners (TWD is currently on its third) like one of the “walkers” shambling through the world of Rick Grimes and Co., the series has been resilient in keeping its core audience watching. There has been some fluctuation in numbers of viewers between the season premiers and cliffhangers, but so far there hasn’t been a fatal dip in the ratings. In fact, most shows would kill for the weakest numbers The Walking Dead has put up this season.

After the brief six-episode first season, the series expanded to thirteen episodes, then sixteen by Season Three, split into two, eight-episode runs with a hiatus of a couple of months in between.

For me, this is where the problems began to arise.

This is where the “filler” episodes began to crop up, along with the current formula consisting of exciting season debut, a whole lotta not much, then a (usually) exciting “mini-cliffhanger,” hiatus, exciting first episode return, and so on.

Not that I demand non-stop action in every episode. Frankly, if the show were as simple and straightforward as the series of graphic novels it’s based on, it wouldn’t make for very good television.

I also enjoy good, dramatic acting, so watching the performances by the stellar cast in the quiet moments is just fine. The problem, especially in regard to the recently-concluded Season 7, is taking these interesting characters and sending them on either moronic missions that go nowhere or wasting more than half of an episode while they wring their hands over moral dilemmas. This is tolerable in smaller doses, but week after week it makes for a tedious and frustrating viewing experience.

****SPOILERS AHEAD****

Negan, the iconic, bat-wielding villain from the graphic novels is portrayed in the series by veteran character actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and he does a phenomenal job chewing up the scenery with a gleeful balance of wit and menace. No wonder he’s given pages of dialogue in several episodes!

That’s also one of the problems with Season 7.

Too much of a good thing.

By the time the showdown between Rick and Negan comes at the end of Season 7, Negan feels less menacing, and his jokes have gotten stale. And what’s with all the respect for members of Rick’s group? Negan respecting Carl made sense. Respecting Daryl made sense. The scenes where Daryl is locked in a room while the song “Easy Street” blares twenty-four seven in an effort to “break” him and convert him to Negan’s crew were effective.

But by the time we get to Sasha’s storyline (inane and senseless as it was in this season) and her entirely unnecessary decision to follow Rosita’s lead in taking out Negan, only to have their plan fail (predictable) and then sacrifice herself for nothing and for virtually no advantage to Rick’s group was the clearest example yet of the damage these filler story arcs can do.

We should’ve seen the problems with Season 7 coming.

In Season 6’s climax, we see the major players of Rick’s group on their knees before Negan, with one of them waiting to meet their fate at the business end of Lucille, the villain’s barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat. We never get to see who the victim is. What we get instead is a Negan monologue that drags on WAY too long before, from the unidentified victim’s point-of-view, we see Lucille arcing down as the episode fades to black with dopey, animated blood dripping down the screen.

Too much hype. Zero payoff.

The producers of the show obviously heard outcry from enraged fans and over-corrected by showing EVERYTHING in the Season 7 opener, in which we see Abraham meeting Lucille in grim fashion before Daryl punches Negan in the face, thereby sealing the fate of the beloved Glenn Rhee. The scene is delivered with such savage brutality that you could almost hear the collective gasp worldwide as it happened.

I had no problem with the brutality, and was looking forward to what was setting up to be an exciting – albeit extraordinarily dark – season. Flash forward to last Sunday’s season finale, which featured some fun moments – Shiva the tiger devouring the face of an unlucky Savior, the “filthy garbage people” double-crossing Rick, Rick staring down Negan, defiantly informing the leather-jacketed villain that he’s “already dead.” But those moments were weighed down by the tedious, flashback-laden Sasha storyline that, again, was ill-conceived and ultimately meant nothing.

While many fans were happy with the finale, I found the battle sequence less than impressive. I was hoping it would feel as epic as the Season 2 finale, or even the Season 4 finale with the fall of The Governor, but this one fell short. At least the stage is set for all-out war between Rick’s group and Negan’s Saviors, but I fear more of the same filler in store for next season.

Season 7 could’ve been wrapped up in eight episodes instead of sixteen, though I doubt AMC will shorten the seasons any time soon. I understand wanting to keep Negan around for two seasons, but at what cost? Having to sit through pointless filler only to see a few cool tidbits is getting pretty damn old.

The Walking Dead still feels like a zombie epic, but that epic is feeling like it’s made up of mostly the deleted scenes at this point.

The fans deserve better, AMC.

Thanks for reading, (Walking) Deadies!

Feel free to share your thoughts on this piece by posting a comment below!

 

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Netflix and CHILLS: CLINICAL

 

 

 

 

 

As a horror fan, I’m heartened by Netflix’s recent efforts to make original horror programming a featured part of their lineup. Outside of old movies (watered down for TV) or AMC’s The Walking Dead, there just isn’t much out there.

It’s been mostly a swing-and-a-miss so far.

That being said, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that, given the overall quality I’m seeing, it’s only a matter of time before Netflix hits a home run.

CLINICAL is not a home run. It’s more of a bloop single. But it does have a nifty opening sequence, and a solid performance by character actor Kevin Rahm, (aka Ted Chaough on AMC’s Mad Men) the main supporting player in the cast.

CLINICAL follows the story of Dr. Jane Mathis (Vinessa Shaw) a psychiatrist who, after a horrific, near-fatal encounter with a patient, attempts to resurrect her career.

Enter Alex, (Kevin Rahm) a disfigured man trying to overcome a tragic event shrouded in mystery when he arrives at Jane’s door seeking her help. Despite her efforts, Alex is reluctant to open himself up and reveal to Jane the mystery of his tragic past, allowing only minimal clues as to what happened to him.

CLINICAL resides in the psychological thriller end of the horror spectrum, where one’s inner demons serve as the mechanism for unleashing real horrors upon the world.

Sadly, this film’s weaknesses are not enough to overcome its strengths. The main character isn’t nearly as interesting as she needs to be, and I found myself not caring all that much about her struggles to normalize after her violent attack in the film’s opening, or her mildly supernatural journey to learn the fate of the patient that both physically and emotionally scarred her.

Kevin Rahm does what he can with the script to add depth and humanity to a character that holds the secrets behind the central mystery of the film, but the mystery itself lacks the depth to rise above only the mildest of interest for the viewer. It’s far too weak of a glue to hold the plot’s pieces together, and the climax is straight out of the Final Girl playbook.

CLINICAL wants desperately to be a Brian DePalma-esque thriller, but its attempts to copy his style and split-screen finesse arrive too little, too late, and too removed to be of much use.

Still, I applaud Netflix for pursuing original horror content.

Sooner, rather than later, I’m confident they’re going to score a big hit.

Netflix and CHILLS: I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

 

 

 

This entry in my Netflix and Chills series of blog posts takes a gander at an indie horror film that is a Netflix Original, an effort that I appreciate from the Netflix folks. It’s cool that they are investing in original horror content.

Sadly, this film is a disappointment.

Many of the best ghost stories are a “slow burn” in terms of pacing, and this film is no different.  This isn’t a bad thing, despite being a risky move in this day and age of instant gratification and the demand for constant action. Adding to the slow pace of the film is the narration by the main character, which is recited more than spoken, her voice a deliberate, sleepy monotone. I could get past this, but the words she is speaking are at times quite over-written and tedious.

If there was a satisfying payoff to this ghost story, I could forgive the pacing and the sluggish narration, but when the climax arrives, it’s just as yawn-worthy as the rest of the film.

It’s a shame, because a slow burn, throwback ghost story filmed in the Kubrickian-style that the director of this movie attempts to emulate could be great. Sadly, Pretty Thing lacks both an intriguing ghost and fails to engage as a story. At just under ninety minutes, it’s not a huge investment of time, but even at that length it feels too long. I think the whole thing might have worked best as a short film, where the misfire of its climax would have more impact.

Netflix – I give you an A for effort, and I sincerely hope you continue to invest in original horror programming. Given the recent success of Stranger Things, I have a feeling that 2017 will be a very good year for fans of the genre!

Thanks for reading, Deadies!

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Netflix and CHILLS, Part 3

 

 

For this third installment in the Netflix and CHILLS series, I explore one of my favorite kinds of horror films – the anthology!

HOLIDAYS is comprised of eight short horror films, with each tale themed around – you guessed it – a particular holiday. The short films themselves range from the humorous to straight up twisted, and the result is an uneven film overall.

The fact that HOLIDAYS is uneven is not unusual for an anthology film, and hardly disqualifies it as a good viewing experience. Most anthologies, whether in film or in print, are oftentimes uneven, with consumers picking and choosing favorite stories depending on their personal tastes.

For me, HOLIDAYS had its weak moments, but overall I found it to a fun little movie. The stories are short enough that, even if you don’t care for one, it’s over and on to the next before you decide to bail. And chances are, you’ll find the next story worthy of watching, leaving you curious to see what happens in the tale that follows.

My favorites include “Valentine’s Day,” about a bullied girl with a deadly crush on her gym teacher. “Easter,” a bizarre story that, despite it not-great makeup effects, puts an enjoyable, twisted spin on the holiday’s traditions. “Father’s Day” is a well-directed short film that would’ve made an effective cold open for an X-Files episode. “Christmas,” starring Robot Chicken creator and Family Guy alum Seth Greene, is a very “Black Mirror”-ish tale of a desperate father trying to score the hottest gamer tech of the season at the last minute on Christmas Eve. Finally, “New Year’s” is a fun, splatter-filled romp about the creepy perils of online dating.

HOLIDAYS is a horror holiday you won’t want to skip. Pop some corn and grab your favorite beverage. You’ll have to endure a few “relatives,” but you’ll be drunk enough not to care.

When searching Netflix, look for this film by title instead of genre. For some reason, it isn’t listed under “horror movies.”

Thanks for reading, Deadies!

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Netflix and CHILLS, Part Two

 

In this continuing series, I scroll through the horror menu on Netflix and post reviews on the gory goodies that catch my eye!

In today’s installment, I give you the low-down on the recently added… A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY.

Christmas comes early for horror fans with this fun little anthology film!

Comprised of four interconnected tales set in the small town of Bailey Downs one Christmas Eve, A Christmas Horror Story has all the goodies horror fans crave: zombies, demons, ghosts, killers… and Krampus!

The film, both in tone and style, feels so much like 2009’s anthology gem Trick ‘R Treat, that I was certain the same creative minds were at work on A Christmas Horror Story. This is not the case, but the trio of directors and handful of writers of ACHS do a superb job of delivering their four colorfully-wrapped presents – all tied with shiny, blood-red ribbons.

The film opens at The North Pole, with Santa getting ready for his big night. Something is awry however, as one elf suddenly goes off on a bizarre, expletive-filled rant that culminates in a grisly accident leading to the little one’s death – but not for long. Soon Santa finds himself battling a horde of zombie elves… and something darker.

Another story concerns strange murders at the local high school, with a trio of ghost-hunting students investigating after hours. Let’s just say those meddling kids discover something other than a villainous adult wearing a scary mask.

In another tale, a family trespasses onto private property for an afternoon of Christmas tree hunting and wind up with much more than they bargained for.

A dysfunctional family of four pay a surprise visit to rich old Aunt Edda in the hope of scoring some bail-out money to leverage the poor business decisions of her nephew. Instead of getting money, the exceedingly naughty behavior of mom, dad, and the bratty kids lead to a grisly encounter with Krampus in the woods later that night.

The threads of the four tales are loosely connected to William Shatner, who turns in a hilarious cameo performance as Dangerous Dan, a local DJ with an affinity for egg-nog – and ranting, Glenn Beck-style monologues.

ACHS packs an intoxicating mix of horror and humor into its stocking. In that respect, it very much reminded me of Creepshow. The fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously is exactly what makes this film work. Sure, the stories are mostly colorful icing, but the sugar cookies underneath ain’t half bad.

Kick back, dunk those cookies in the boozy egg-nog of your choosing and enjoy this riot of a Christmas party! You’ll be glad you did.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Deadies!

Netflix and CHILLS, Part One

 

 

DARK SKIES

Season’s Greetings, Deadies!

In this series of blog posts, I review and discuss horror films currently streaming on Netflix.

First up is DARK SKIES, a sci-fi horror thriller from Blumhouse Studios and starring Keri Russell, with a cameo from J.K. Simmons, which I mention because his performance is the best part of the film.

DARK SKIES follows the story of the Barrett family, who lead a typical middle-class suburban existence on the outskirts of a nameless American city. Lacy Barrett (Keri Russell) is a fledgling real-estate agent trying to hold her marriage together while unemployed bread-winner Daniel struggles to find work while failing as a good stay-at-home dad to his sons – the rebellious 13 year-old Jesse and younger (6-ish) Brandon, a troubled, socially-awkward boy who is suffering from nightmares about The Sandman, a menacing evil presence that is eventually revealed to be something more.

DARK SKIES struggles to be two films: a dark mash-up of Poltergeist and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. There are tributes to both films, more so on the Close Encounters side, but sadly, DARK SKIES offers nothing you haven’t seen before – and better.

The set-up goes on far too long, and most of the film winds up feeling more like one of the lesser, tepid episodes of The X-Files. One scene demonstrating that The Sandman can take possession of his victims has Keri Russell’s Lacy bashing her forehead against a sliding glass door during a real-estate showing in a scene that was supposed to be terrifying but had me LOL-ing instead.

Only in the last thirty minutes does the film take a turn for the better, thanks largely to the performance of veteran character actor J.K. Simmons, who plays Edwin Pollard, a former victim of The Sandman who explains the true identity of this supernatural menace, as well as his otherworldly intent. Even with this formulaic, lackluster script, Simmons elevates the film and allows DARK SKIES to have a respectable conclusion.

DARK SKIES would’ve worked better as a short film – say thirty minutes, max. It just might have kept the viewer off balance enough to be enjoyable, as well as better conveying the nifty nostalgia. At over double that length, it’s a flying saucer that crashed to Earth with very little of interest to be discovered in the wreckage.

Thanks for reading!

 

THE SHALLOWS

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While surfing a secret beach in Mexico, a woman stumbles upon the feeding ground of a large Great White shark.

That’s the gist of The Shallows, an intense survival thriller starring Blake Lively as Nancy Adams, a medical student looking for solace as she grieves the recent loss of her mother.

Nancy escapes to a remote Mexican beach – the same spot her mother surfed in 1991 – as a way of coping while she ponders how to move forward, and the possibility of abandoning her medical education. Everything goes well at first, especially for a woman vacationing alone and far removed from tourist-friendly resorts. The secret location is gorgeous. It’s also a surfer’s dream, featuring crystal clear, relatively shallow water (hence the title) and a strong tide that pulls in spectacular waves.

Then Nancy spots something in the distance that piques her curiosity. As she paddles toward it, she discovers the corpse of a small whale – and the particularly large Great White shark actively feeding on it. Attracted by her splashing, the shark moves in for the attack.

Badly wounded and now stranded two hundred yards from shore, Nancy finds herself in a battle of wills with the hungry Great White. Cutoff from the safety of the beach and with no help in sight, she must figure out a way to outwit a force of nature that holds a vicious home field advantage.

The Shallows is easily the best killer shark movie since JAWS, and that’s because it’s not about the shark. It’s about Nancy Adams trying to save herself, and there just happens to be a big fucking shark in her way.

Blake Lively does a great job pulling off the raw physicality of the role while at the same time revealing a woman who is as flawed as she is fierce. In other words, she is a real, believable character in an equally believable situation. Yes, this is a movie. As in all movies, there is some suspension of disbelief, but it never removes you from the action, which is fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat and completely thrilling from start to finish.

Blake Lively’s shark co-star is terrific as well. Unlike JAWS, this Great White is not a mechanical creation of the special effects department. As clunky as the beloved “Bruce” may have appeared in Spielberg’s classic, those old practical effects held a certain charm that CGI can never live up to.

Not surprisingly, The Shallows big fish is entirely CGI, borne of software and hard drives. Still, CGI is much better suited to recreate the Great White’s speed and power, which meshes perfectly with the tone of this film. In some shots, the technology falls flat. What works best are the close ups, where the CGI perfectly captures the crushing power of the bite and the ferocity in the big fish’s eyes.

The Shallows is currently available to rent at your nearest Redbox and streaming on Amazon Video. Don’t let this one get away, Deadies!

 

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Halloween Is Coming

 

halloween

That’s right, Deadies!

The most wonderful time of the year is fast approaching, and I ain’t talkin’ Christmas!

For horror fans, even though the holiday isn’t official until October 31st, the celebration begins when the leaves begin to turn and we wake to the crisp, refreshing air of autumn. For many of us, Halloween is a year-round affair.

Writing horror fiction, my daily life is all skulls and monsters all the time, especially since DEADSVILLE AFTER DARK went live. And I’m okay with that! In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Halloween used to terrify me as a kid. As a young child, I was a wimp. A scaredy-cat. In department stores, one of my three big sisters would lure me out of the toy aisle and into the Halloween costume section, where the other two would jump out and leap around in masks, sending me screaming for my mama as they burst into laughter.

My sisters had other tricks up their sleeves, too. A spider placed under my shirt, (I was wearing it at the time) fake ghosts haunting our house, etc. It was around this time that, having endured their terrifying pranks for years, I was no longer scared. I started liking horror. I got freaked out plenty – that first viewing of The Exorcist comes to mind – but an intoxicating thrill now accompanied the scares, like a dark ride at the carnival.

Soon, horror elements began finding their way into the writing I was dabbling with. I had discovered Stephen King, whose collection of short stories, Night Shift, cemented my desire to write horror fiction

I love horror books, and I love a good horror movie as well.

Enter a gentleman named John Carpenter. Despite my pleading, my mother would not allow my youngest sister (still five years older than me) to take me to see Halloween. She’d caught on to the fact that I was sneaking in viewings of films like The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby on HBO while she was out partying on the weekends with friends (she was a single mom, and this was the 70’s, folks!) so I had to bide my time until Carpenter’s film made the rounds on HBO. From a parental standpoint, I honestly couldn’t see the difference between seeing the film in a theater or at home. However, not being known as the mom who lets her twelve year-old go to R-rated horror films was probably a good thing.

Until its debut on HBO, I had to settle for my sisters’ reactions when they saw it, and the fact that it scared the hell out of them thrilled me beyond words. Revenge? Maybe, but I was bracing myself for the intensity of it. There was another film released a few years earlier that was arguably more intense called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I wouldn’t see that until around ’80 or ’81. More about that one in a later post.

John Carpenter’s Halloween changed the game, ushering in the slew of slasher flicks in the 80’s. All of you know this already, so rather than regurgitate the same old same old, as it were, I’m going to focus on other aspects of the movie.

Not since Hitchcock had a director packed so much suspense into a film. Every shot is steeped in it.

Despite the mindlessly bloody slasher flicks that would follow it, Halloween was anything but mindless, and there was barely a drop of blood to be found. Though tasked to deliver a cheap exploitation film, Carpenter instead presented audiences with a film that would redefine horror and suspense for an entire generation, featuring developed characters and an iconic villain. The Shape (Michael Myers seems more a reference to the boy who ceased to exist after donning the clown costume in the opening scene) was a force of pure evil. The Shape was anyone – and no one at all.

I still enjoy the film, and I watch it once a year – around Halloween, of course. I never cared for any of the sequels or remakes. Carpenter’s reluctant involvement in Halloween 2 is evident, as that film became a poor imitator of itself. Halloween 3 is due some credit, as it at least tried to be something new and different. All the rest are unwatchable, in my opinion, as I’ve sat through more of them than I should have.

I can’t help but get a little excited over John Carpenter’s involvement in the forthcoming Halloween film. He won’t be directing, but will be “steering the ship” on several fronts, including developing the script and selecting the director. I can’t imagine he won’t be creating new music for it, as that seems to be where his deepest passions lie these days.

Still, can we really expect anything better than Halloween 2? I hope so. I would rather see Carpenter direct a new film from a script he was truly passionate about instead of a retread, even if it turns out well.

But I can understand fans not getting enough of Halloween. Carpenter made a classic that has gone on to become synonymous with the holiday, and every time we see one of the many “Michael Myers” walking the streets Halloween night, we can’t help but think of the film. And like the kids bounding from house to house, feeding their addiction to sugar, we fans long for a tasty new movie treat in our bags, instead of the stale, recycled junk we’ve had to settle for beginning with Halloween 2.

But even if the new film is underwhelming, at least there’s the original to fall back on.

We’ll always have Halloween.

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