Lil Spooky Reviews: The Haunting, Thir13en Ghosts, Most Likely to Die, and Terror Train

The Haunting (1963)

First Watch or Re-Watch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: Nah

In our continuing mission to watch classic horror movies from the 60’s (and then the shlocky remakes that came 30-40 years later), Mek and I rented The Haunting, which was . . . interesting. Visually, I loved it. The use of black and white, the strange angles, the set design, the practical effects–it’s all technically brilliant and eerie as shit. I especially loved the weird bending door, the loud knocking sounds, and basically every shot that takes place at the spiral staircase.

That all being said, the script could use some work. Nobody’s reactions make sense scene to scene, least of all Eleanor’s, who I realize is annoying in every iteration of this story, but I’m convinced doesn’t have to be quite this bad. Her constant VO’s are generally unnecessary and her shrieky meltdowns are extremely grating. The whole story ends up feeling a bit incoherent, but not, like, in a deliberate way? All in all, I can’t help but feel that the story might be told more effectively if you just muted it and watched with some creepy, atmospheric music playing in the background. You know, like The Wizard of Oz set to Pink Floyd. Make this movie one long, creepy music video.

Also Luke (Russ Tamblyn) is okay, I guess, but the second he announced he wanted to rip up the library and turn it into the nightclub, I was like, “Nope. You need to die now.”

Thir13en Ghosts (2001)

First Watch or Re-Watch: Re-Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix (DVD)
Spoilers: ABSOLUTELY

Oh, man. This might be it. This might be the pinnacle of the Mid 90’s-Mid 2000’s Bad Horror Nostalgia Watch. It is such a product of its time, I mean, that goddamn title alone. Fuck you, Se7en, this is all YOUR fault. And the creepy mansion made up of weird glass rooms is far more reminiscent of Cube than it is of the original 13 Ghosts. The glass walls even slice poor JR Bourne* in half (and let him fall apart very, very slowly), which was definitely The Kill to Do during that time period (Cube, Resident Evil, Slither, etc.) Surprisingly, the soundtrack is not as in-your-face as I expected, with the notable exception of “Excess,” a decent enough song which has absolutely no business being in this movie. (“Excess” was also used in 2002’s Queen of the Damned, a terrible horror film notable for its fun but extremely intrusive soundtrack. Then again, I did own said soundtrack when I was 16, so. Can’t say it didn’t work to sell shit.)

The remake also decided to make some other, ah, interesting changes. They killed off the wife, for instance, so that Tragic Dead Wife could be one of the ghosts. (It’s about as boring as you’d expect.) There are also multiple new characters or at least very loosely interpreted ones. Matthew Lillard is woefully miscast as an anxious psychic on a quasi-redemptive arc. (Some of his lines are genuinely funny, but overall his performance is cartoonish and overacted.) Embeth Davitz plays a passionate crusader for ghost rights who suddenly transforms into this vaguely new-age-y badass–with a trademark Badass Black Leather Vest, natch–who’s then revealed to be the Big Bad’s accomplice and is thus quickly smushed to death by said Big Bad. (It’s all very silly, but it’s also Miss Honey in a Badass Black Leather Vest, so. I’m okay with it.) And then we have housekeeper Maggie (Rah Digga), AKA Sassy Black Female, who’s mostly around for comic relief but turns out to be surprisingly interesting because a) SHE LIVES and b) she’s really the hero of the story, like, the movie tries to pretend it’s Arthur (Tony Shalhoub) and his whole big, dramatic, death-defying leap towards his kids, but there’s actually no reason to make that leap, and it’s Maggie who turns off the Big Ghost Machine and saves the day, so. Yeah. Fuck you, Arthur.

This isn’t a good movie, but I did have a pretty fun time watching it. What’s more, I actually do think there’s some workable stuff in here. I find it hilarious that I can imagine an updated remake of the original 13 Ghosts and also a remake of this Thir13en Ghosts, but those remakes would be two wildly different films.

*No one really feels sorry for JR Bourne’s character, mind you, because he’s playing the quintessential slimy lawyer doomed to die badly. Still, my adoration of him on Teen Wolf means I’m happy to find him whenever I can.

Most Likely to Die

First Watch or Re-Watch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix
Spoilers: Some, yes

This year’s Splatterfest Movie was Most Likely to Die, a truly awful horror film about a group of old friends getting together the night before their 10-year high school reunion. One by one, they’re killed off by a dude wearing–I shit you not–a graduation cap and gown with the word DIE written on his mask. He also likes to play “Pomp and Circumstance” before the slaughter and poses his victims in manners befitting their “Most Likely To” superlatives. Obviously, the guy “Most Likely to Eat Anything” didn’t make out so hot.

Basically everything about this movie is awful. Both distance and time are relative concepts here, ruled not by any known laws of nature but Laws of What the Script Demands. The budget, presumably, was primarily spent on getting Jake Busey to drop by and be creepy for five minutes. Valiantly, the script does attempt to build character by giving our protagonists opportunities to discuss their lives and regrets; unfortunately, they keep doing this at times when it makes absolutely NO SENSE. Like, I know when I find a murdered girl–and she’s been super murdered, people, like she’s posed with electrical lights and everything–my instinct is to a) stick around instead of getting help because it “feels wrong to leave her here,” b) turn off the generator for decency’s sake, both fucking with the crime scene and, you know, simultaneously shutting off the main house’s power, and c) take this time to have a heart-to-heart about poor life choices with an old friend, as if a very dead girl isn’t five feet away and, oh yeah, a murderer isn’t running loose. Our heroine (Heather from Glee) is particularly insufferable; she’s a jaded and failed professional poker player who “proves” that her ex-boyfriend is a selfish, greedy bastard by pointing out how he kept raising the bet during a hand of Texas Hold ‘Em, even though the pot was already large and he knew he had an unbeatable hand. You know, THE WAY YOU FUCKING PLAY THE GAME, BY TRYING TO WIN ALL THE MONEY. Every poker metaphor in this movie physically hurt me.

The best thing I can say about Most Likely to Die is that, kinda shockingly, the gay comic relief (Perez Hilton) who actually freaks out about dead bodies– you know, like you might–lives. (The lesbian still dies, though. Still, I have to admit, I was pretty surprised I actually found a horror movie with two separate queer characters.) Oh, and Angsty Ray has a surprising and hilarious moment of awesome. Sadly, you have to wait through the whole movie to see it. I wouldn’t advise such an endeavor.

Terror Train

First Watch or Re-Watch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix (DVD)
Spoilers: Yes, basically all of them

After the friends went home, Mek and I watched Terror Train, an 80’s horror film starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Ellis from Die Hard, and, uh, Sexy David Copperfield? There are aspects of the movie I like; Sexy David Copperfield definitely isn’t one of them. (Seriously, between his awful late 70’s hair and the supposedly seductive dance moves, Copperfield might be the scariest thing in this movie.) I’m definitely a sucker for people getting killed off one-by-one on a train, though. I genuinely enjoy how the killer keeps adopting the costumes of his last victims, like, sure, that seems unnecessarily time-consuming but it’s also just fun, right? And while it’s very short-lived, I enjoyed it when Alana (Curtis) and Doc (Hart Bochner, AKA Ellis) are the last people standing from the original prank, mostly because they absolutely hate one another and there’s absolutely no UST between them. It’s an interesting dynamic that I definitely would’ve enjoyed seeing more of.

Still, this movie’s got problems. While I actually like that the Big Bad is the Magician’s Assistant, not the Magician, I don’t like that Kenny (our prank victim) is secretly dressed in drag as said assistant the whole time. It’d be different if he just killed the assistant sometime during the movie and dressed up as her like everyone else; this, unfortunately, feels much more transphobic. Also, the movie takes too long to really get going, the absence of a radio is preposterously contrived, the acting overall leaves something to be desired, and certain character reactions make no sense at all, say, the conductor who immediately assumes the murder was done by “some kid messed up on dope,” like, WHAT? Also, Doc successfully uses a gynecology rotation pickup line on some girl, which is easily the creepiest and least believable thing in the whole movie. It’s even creepier than David Copperfield’s dance moves, and that’s saying something.

Between 1978 and 1980, Jamie Lee Curtis was in four horror movies: Halloween, The Fog, Prom Night, and Terror Train. TT is the only one that hasn’t been remade yet, and–despite the terrible remakes of all those other films–is probably the one most begging for an update. Hollywood, get on that.

“She Has Now Become Satan’s Prisoner!”

Well, that was predictable: for the sake of the 2018 Clarion West Write-a-Thon, I sold my reviewing services to the highest bidder–so to speak–and the highest bidder, once again, was Evil Tom.

Now, Evil Tom’s initial plan was to make me watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as he was shocked to discover I’d never seen the movie. Such a selection would’ve suited me just fine, as I have mild interest in the film–almost entirely because Ezra Miller is in it–but not quite enough to actually bother, you know, renting it. Unfortunately, Evil Tom couldn’t resist changing his Evil Plan at the last minute, which is how I ended up watching 80’s Indonesian horror film Mystics in Bali instead.

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2013 Fall TV Premieres – The September Issue

Once upon a time, it seemed like every TV show began in the same calendar week. Well, no longer. As such, I’ve decided to break up my pilots/premieres coverage month by month. Shows like The Walking Dead (October) and Almost Human (fucking NOVEMBER) will just have to wait.

Sleepy Hollow

sleepy hollow

I watched a trailer for Sleepy Hollow earlier this year and laughed my ass off. The whole premise was so stupidly ridiculous. I figured, I’d have to watch the pilot and mock the holy hell out of it. But then a strange thing happened — I started reading a ton of positive early reviews. Everyone seemed to really love the show, so I said to Mekaela, “Mekaela? This one might actually be good.” And what do you know — it is.

I’m sorry, FOX, for doubting you. Just this once, mind.

So, the plot is utterly ridiculous — like the Headless Horsemen is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ridiculous — but it’s really entertaining. This is almost entirely due to the show’s fantastic leads: Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie). Tom Mison is attractive and English and Englishly attractive, but more than that, he’s funny. This Ichabod is considerably sharper and crankier than past iterations I’ve seen, and I love it. Beharie is also funny — she’s got great comedic timing — and she and Mison have good chemistry together. More importantly, she seems totally competent so far, and yet her character has, like, feelings and expressions. She shrieks at a moment where it’s totally justifiable to shriek, yet she doesn’t just stand around, flailing her arms and crying all the time. I’m . . . confused. A realistic female character? Surely not.

There are definitely things to mock in this pilot — glowy-eyed horses, miracle sunrises, Ichabod getting arrested for . . . being dirty? But I definitely had a good time watching this. I am grading it down for saying Book of Revelations, though. Come on, people. Don’t we all know better than this by now? It’s Revelation. No plural, please.

FAVORITE QUOTE:

“It can’t be mere coincidence that he and I arrive in the same place at exactly the same time.”
“That isn’t possible.”
“Oh, really? Oh, well, that’s wonderful news. Thank you for the clarification. Here I thought I’d actually awoken in the future and my wife had been dead for 250 years. I’m glad everything I’m seeing and hearing and touching is impossible, because that means it isn’t actually happening.”
“I have orders to take you to a mental institution.”
“Excellent. This day continues to bear gifts.”

GRADE:

B+

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

shield

I don’t know if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was the most amazing pilot I’ve ever seen — it’s no “Serenity,” is what I’m saying —  but it’s solid and entertaining, and I enjoyed watching it. I love Coulson (Clark Gregg), obviously, and I’m naturally intrigued by the mystery of his resurrection, especially since Coulson himself seems to be in the dark about it. Although I must say, I’ve been reading a lot of fan speculation that Coulson is, in fact, a robot or a Life Model Decoy or something of that nature, and if that’s actually the case, Whedon’s going to have to do a lot of work to sell me on it. (Because I’m sure Joss Whedon — and Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen too — are highly concerned with what I think about this program. Stop laughing. Of course they are.)

I like some of the tie-ins to previous Marvel movies (like Extremis from Iron Man 3), and I’m relieved that Skye doesn’t seem nearly as annoying as she came off in the promos. Mostly, I’m just waiting around for the actual character development. Weirdly, I’m most concerned about Fitz and Simmons — they’re cute and, you know, accents! But I wish I could have seen anything to them besides cute and accents. I mean, it’s a pilot. A lot of pilots are too busy setting up the universe to get into any real character building, and that’s cool. It’s just . . . this is Joss Whedon, and I’ve come to sort of expect better from him. But hey, I’m still excited. COULSON LIVES!

FAVORITE QUOTE:

“It’s a diaster.”
“No, it’s an origin story.

GRADE:

B+

Person of Interest

poi2

The actual case in Person of Interest was just sort of blah, and I was a tiny bit disappointed by the lack of awesome Finch (Michael Emerson) moments, just because I love Finch. But the women in this episode . . . the women owned.

Sarah Shahi is immensely badass as Shaw. I loved every moment she was on screen — I would totally watch an action movie starring her. And Root (Amy Acker), always awesome, is currently stuck in an insane asylum arguing with the Machine on the pros and cons of murdering her skeezy psychologist? Yes, please. And then somewhere between getting demoted, hiding out Elias (Enrico Colantoni) and keeping a Secret Crazy Vengeance Wall in her closet — Carter (Taraji P. Henson) got a lot more interesting. Also, Reese is right. She does look pretty badass in that uniform.

My only thing — the part where Reese abandons Fusco alone to deactive the bomb, and the false tension that arrives when he might not have defused it in time? Eh. I know it’s supposed to be funny, but it just made such little sense for John (Jim Caviezel) to actually do this that I couldn’t get into the humor. It felt way too contrived for me.

QUOTE:

“The truth is God is eleven years old.”

GRADE: 

B

Elementary

elementary

I drifted away from this show last year but after hearing positive reviews and a few surprising developments, I decided to check out the second season premiere because, hey, I like Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu quite a bit, so why not? And kind of like Person of Interest — I wasn’t exactly wowed by the case, but I enjoyed the episode well enough. It’s fun. I really like that I can already see how Sherlock has grown as a character from the last time I watched this show — one of my big problems with actual Sherlock adaptations or shows with Sherlock-esque characters (i.e., House) is that their super-observational powers coupled with their near-to-total lack of people skills starts feeling stagnant after a while, and I tend to turn against the character. You know, I don’t want them to become bright, shiny, happy people all the time, but if characters refuse to have any kind of actual growth . . . you know, I get bored.

I also enjoyed seeing Sean Pertwee as Lestrade, mostly because I like his gravelly voice, and Rhys Ifans as Mycroft. The scene on the bench? Awesome. I will gladly come back to watch this show if there continue to be more scenes like that.

FAVORITE QUOTE:

“Our relationship is entirely genetic.”

GRADE:

B

“Once Upon a Time, in a Shitty Little Town . . .”

In Casa Verde — otherwise known as the St. George household — we only have a few rules.

1. Bring chocolate.
2. Mock as if there will be no tomorrow.
3. Watch any Jeremy Renner movie that has absolutely no chance of being nominated for an Academy Award.

Case in point?

hg

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is silly and campy and hugely dumb sometimes. But I must say, it’s still not nearly as bad as I was expecting.

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