Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Follow a Terrifying Investigation of the Supernatural in Noroi (2005)

For some, the horror subgenre of found footage has become the bane of good horror filmmaking. Much like the slasher and zombie subgenres in previous decades, found footage has become the subgenre of choice for aspiring horror filmmakers who have very small production budgets at their disposal. Of course, the talents of such filmmakers vary and while some of them have produced found footage films of high entertainment value, many more have made films that are simply average, below average, or so below average that they are unwatchable.

Even though some found footage narrative conventions have become clich├ęd due to their recent overuse, I still think that this subgenre has the potential to tell stories that other subgenres can't. As the name suggests, "found footage" is just that--footage that was shot by one person or group and found by another. With so many forms of video technology available these days, the footage could come from anywhere: home video, security cameras, news footage, live Internet video feed, and so on. In other words, wherever a video camera can be found, a found footage horror movie has the potential to be made.

In the case of Noroi, the found footage in question is a documentary that was completed by a journalist two days before he went missing. Unlike most found footage films, Noroi is shot like a documentary with very few "shaky cam" shots. What also sets this film apart from others in its subgenre is the span of time it covers: most found footage films cover events that occur within a few hours or a few days, but Noroi examines events that occur over the course of several months. Such differences result in a different kind of horror movie, the kind that foregoes jump shocks and excessive gore in exchange for an eerie, creeping mood that stays with you long after the film ends. Read on for my complete review.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Adults Become the Ultimate Monsters in the Vernon Smith's Hide

"Killer kid" stories, stories where one or more children become bloodthirsty murders, has long been a popular subgenre in horror. A few of my favorite killer kid horror movies include Village of the Damned (1960), Who Can Kill a Child? (1976), and The Children (2008). Yet for a many killer kid novels, short stories and movies that there are, there are very, very few that reverse the roles in this subgenre. In other words, while there are plenty of stories about previously normal children becoming relentless and remorseless killers of adults, few dare to depict a situation where previously normal adults become relentless and remorseless killers of children. Not so with Hide, a new comic book series that's written and drawn by Vernon Smith and published by El MacFearsome Comic Squares.

The plot behind Hide is as simple as it is scary: One day, people over the age of 18 decide to go on a killing spree against everyone who is under the age of 18. (By everyone under 18, I mean everyone--no child is spared.) No clear reason is given in the comic (at least not yet) as to why this is happening; even creepier is that the adults still behave normally around each other and only become consumed by a violent rage whenever they see a teenager or a child.

The first issue of Hide is currently available at comic stores, and you can read it online at the El MacFearsome Comic Squares site. According to the site, Hide should total at 140 pages in length when it is finished; judging by what I've seen in the first 22 pages, this is going to be a wildly terrifying ride.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

KMD Artistry Restores Two of Hollywood's Classic Human-Insect Freaks of Nature

KMD Artistry, which is owned by visual artist Kelly Delcambre, specializes in restoring and replicating props and costumes that have appeared throughout Hollywood's history. To date, KMD projects have included replicating costumes from Universal's classic monster movies to restoring mechanical props used in films such as the original Fright Night (1985). Delcambre has also designed and produced many cosplay costumes, which are very remarkable in their own right. Yet with me being a huge fan of "Big Bug" movies, I wanted to call attention to one of KMD's restoration projects that is near and dear to my dark, twisted heart: the human-fly costumes from the original The Fly (1958) and its first sequel Return of the Fly (1959). Click below for more pictures of the human-fly monster restorations, as well as a few thoughts about how the restorations compare to the original costumes. All pictures are provided courtesy of KMD Artistry.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Classic Italian Horror Cinema Lives on in Insidious (2011)

One of the great things about being a long-term horror fan who watches both American films and films from other countries is noticing how older horror films impact newer horror films in different cultures. No, I'm not talking about Hollywood's current infatuation with remaking horror movies, both domestic and foreign; I'm talking about how filmmakers from one country adopt the look and feel of horror that is often associated with filmmakers from another country--while at the same time remaining faithful to their own cultural roots. Such mixture of styles result in horror movies that are much more engaging than those that are content to merely imitate the cinematic approach used by the most well-known horror movies.

Take Insidious, for example. When it was released in 2011, the ad campaigns promoted the fact that it produced by people from the Saw and Paranormal Activity franchises--namely James Wan, Leigh Whannell, Jason Blum, Jeanette Brill, Oren Peli and Steven Schneider. Wan directed Insidious, while Whannell wrote its screenplay and Blum, Brill, Peli and Schneider assumed producer duties. Such advertising was done to capitalize on popular American horror franchises, and the plot of Insidious does bear some plot similarities to Paranormal Activity (2007) and other popular American horror movies such as The Exorcist (1973) and Poltergeist (1982). Yet what I did not expect when watching Insidious was just how much it was influenced by classic Italian horror directors such as Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento. In other words, as American horror movies go, Insidious is the most Italian movie I've seen that wasn't made by anyone from Italy.

Insidious tells the story of Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) who have just moved into a new home with their three children. After one of their children Dalton (Ty Simpkins) slips into an inexplicable coma, strange occurrences begin to plague the Lambert family. The Lamberts move to a new address to escape what they believe to be a haunted house, but the haunting continues in its frequency and intensity. Josh and Renai soon learn that the key to ending the haunting lies with saving their comatose son, a task that requires the Lamberts to look to the past for answers.

I don't want to say too much more about Insidious because it will give too much away. What I can say is that I think it is a movie that delivers an ample supply of scares, largely through Wan's careful attention to detail: the film features many visual and spoken clues that pay off greatly during the film's final act. I also encourage horror fans who love films by Italian directors such as Bava, Fulci and Argento to see Insidious because they will find much to appreciate in this movie. As the film progressed, it reminded me of classic Italian thrillers such as Shock (1977), Suspiria (1977) and The Beyond (1981).

I think that Wan's homage to Italian horror was intentional: If you look closely in Dalton's bedroom in the second house, you'll briefly see a page from a Diabolik comic book displayed in a picture frame. The character Diabolik made his first appearance on the big screen in 1968's Danger: Diabolik, a film that was directed by horror maestro Bava. That said, I'd also advise that fans who don't care for Italian horror, which is known for balancing surreal creepiness with low-budget camp, might want to avoid Insidious for the same reason why I appreciated it. If spaghetti horror isn't your thing, Insidious probably won't be either.

Insidious is a welcome addition to the haunted house subgenre of horror, but fans who know their foreign films will also be thrilled by the movie's frequent nods to the classic Italian approach to fright flicks.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Star Wars Flashback: Early Star Wars Remote Control Toys and Model Rocket Kits

This weekend marks the release of the Wii U, the new Nintendo gaming console. The big selling point for the Wii U is the touch screen control pad, which offers new ways of interacting with video games. With me being a sci-fi fan, hearing about a new kind of video game control scheme immediately leads me to wonder how the new scheme will allow me to better interact with and control the iconic vehicles from my favorite sci-fi franchises when they are ported into a video game environment.

Take Star Wars, for example. The earliest video games that put fans in the seats of Rebel and Imperial star fighters first appeared during the 90s, with titles such as X-Wing and TIE Fighter. (There were also the Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back arcade games in the 80s, but those were more like rail shooters than flight simulators.) Yet even before video games had enough sophistication to create a vehicle simulation fit for a galaxy far, far away, Lucasfilm tried to give fans the experience of controlling a Star Wars vehicle through remote control toys and model rocket kits (with varying degrees of success, of course). Click below to look back at these early attempts to put fans in the seat of their favorite Star Wars vehicles.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) is Fantastic

Through my blog, I do what I can to call attention to movies, TV shows, video games, prop replicas, or other things that I think deserve some additional recognition among the fan community. Most of the things in question are from the genres of horror and sci-fi, but I'm happy to make exceptions to this rule for things that fall outside of these genres. This brings me to the topic of this post, my review of Wes Anderson's stop motion animated film, Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is based on a book by Roald Dahl.

I'm not sure how Fantastic Mr. Fox escaped my attention for so long. I only have a passing familiarity with Anderson's films but since the movie is based on the work of an author who's as popular as Dahl, I'm surprised that it didn't earn a more successful reception. I've read that 20th Century Fox had no idea how to promote this film, so it became the victim of an extremely poor marketing campaign. That shouldn't have happened, because Fantastic Mr. Fox is a witty animated fable that is entertaining for children and adults alike--all without loading its script with pop culture references, casting the most popular movie stars, or clogging its soundtrack with the latest batch of one-hit wonders. Read on for my complete review.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Three Wii Horror Games That Were Never Released

With the official release of the Nintendo Wii U console just a few days away, I thought I would take the time to look back at three promising horror titles for the Wii that never made it to the store shelves. Mind you, I'm not talking about horror games that were released for the Wii overseas but not in the U.S. (although there are a few of those, such as Japan's Night of the Sacrifice), nor am I talking about horror games that were released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 and not the Wii. No, these are games that spent plenty of time in production and development but for whatever reason were not released--ever. Click below to read more about these unseen Wii games (listed in alphabetical order), games that may still have a chance on the Wii U.

Friday, November 9, 2012

REC 3: Genesis (2011) Movie Review: 'Til Demonic Possession Do You Part

After watching all of the films in the REC franchise so far, I've come to this conclusion: The ending for the first movie in 2007 was that film's "twist" ending. Period. I don't think that the film's creators had any plans to explore that ending in any greater detail, let alone build a franchise around it. Yet a franchise is what REC started and as of the latest entry, REC 3: Genesis, fans are no closer to learning anything more about the larger significance of the ending of the first film within the REC universe.

To be sure, REC 3 is not a bad horror film; its director Paco Plaza has a lot of talent and it shows in many sequences of this sequel. But even though REC 3 is a more polished movie than its predecessor REC 2 (2009), it still is a weak sequel in terms of advancing the plot that was started in the first movie. Read on for my complete review. Note: If you haven't seen REC yet but would like to, skip this review now and come back later because this review will spoil the ending of that movie for you.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

It's a Beastly Bare-Skinned Bloodbath in Wii's Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers

As of this post, I have come to the end of the horror video games that I'll be reviewing for the Wii, at least for the time being. With Wii U's release set for later this month, I figured that I'd ease off the video game reviews for a while until the new Nintendo console has a chance to settle in and demonstrate how its new selection of touch screen controls complements the pre-existing motion controls. Thankfully, the Wii U is reverse compatible with Wii games, so feel free to come back to this site for reviews of low-priced Wii games that you can play to tide you over until you can afford the more expensive Wii U games.

This review is of Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers, which was released for the Wii back in 2009 by Tamsoft. In case you couldn't tell by the title, Onechanbara is a big, heaping serving of campy Japanese gore cheesecake, a video game counterpart to films such as Tokyo Gore Police (2008) and Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (2009). As a game, it feels like an oversimplified version of Hunter: The Reckoning, but the main appeal of Onechanbara is found in its endless supply of blood and dismemberment. Read on for my complete review.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, a Pilot Movie about Humans Fighting Intelligent Machines, Debuts this Friday on a Computer Network

Oh, you silly SyFy Channel. Have you ever liked the sci-fi genre at all, or was your initial airing of sci-fi TV shows just an excuse to sneak more professional wrestling and reality TV on the air?

I just found out that the two-hour pilot episode of Blood and Chrome, the long-delayed prequel spin-off of Battlestar Galactica, will be making its debut this Friday. However, the pilot will not be seen in a single showing on the SyFy Channel, which was home to the rebooted Galactica and Caprica, the first prequel spin-off series. Instead, the Blood and Chrome pilot has been edited into ten chapters that will be made available on Machinima's YouTube channel starting this Friday. You can learn more about this segmented premiere here at the Entertainment Weekly site.

I enjoyed the Battlestar Galactica reboot through most of its run, although things started going downhill when the "Final Five" Cylon infiltrators started hearing Bob Dylan in their heads. Don't get me started about the series' finale--that frustrated me so much that I completely avoided Caprica. But anyone who knows anything about television knows that if you really, really want to promote a new TV project, the last thing you do is chop it into pieces and dump it in some obscure location. (Wait--did I just describe a mob hit?)

To be sure, Machinima isn't the most unpopular site for video content on the Internet (see this page for stats about Machinima) but from what I've read, putting the Blood and Chrome pilot on Machinima is not a teaser for a new TV series, but some kind of weak promotional campaign to help sell the pilot when it is released on DVD in 2013. In other words, this is part of SyFy's attempt to ensure a return on its investment in a failed attempt at creating a new TV series. I suppose that impressive DVD sales and high ratings from online viewings could earn Blood and Chrome the series commission that it didn't earn initially, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Anyway, here’s a preview trailer for those of you who give a frak:

Monday, November 5, 2012

Nerd Rant: Darth Vader Goes to Disneyland, while Terminator Remains Lost in Time

Everyone knows by now that George Lucas has sold Lucasfilm and all of its creative properties, such as the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, to Disney for over $4 billion. This is big news for both Star Wars fans and sci-fi and fantasy fans in general, so I thought that I would contribute a few of my own thoughts as to what this means for the future of Star Wars and sci-fi/fantasy film franchises in general, as well as how it compares to the current status of the floundering Terminator franchise. Read on ...

Friday, November 2, 2012

What Every School Needs: A Zombie Survival Club

Last Halloween, I did a blog post about how Westlake Ace Hardware and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) were using zombies as part of their respective public outreach campaigns. Not wanting to be left out of the zombie apocalypse preparedness movement, John Deere Middle School in Moline, IL has created their own "Zombie Survival Club" in time for this year's Halloween.

According to the Quad-Cities Online news site, "Zombie Survival Club is made available through a partnership between Lights ON for Learning 21st Century Community Learning Centers and the Moline Public Library. ... The program was created by Jan Laroche, the teen services librarian who has an interest in Zombie movies and recognized the trends in teen literature about zombies. She says the club will focus on STEM lessons (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in a fun setting. 'Zombie Survival Club is intended to be a lighthearted, activity based program that develops educational skills through a fun after school curriculum.'" Click here to read the full story, and you can see the video report about the club that aired on WTVR here.

From what I've read and seeing the video report, the Zombie Survival Club is a variation on the CDC's zombie apocalypse campaign that I wrote about last year that's aimed at a younger audience. While practical, real-life emergency survival information is incorporated into the club's teaching materials, you can't go wrong with an educational program where kids can proudly say, "We learned what weapons to use to kill some zombies."