Thursday, October 31, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 31 - Movie

Emma Larsimon, a successful French horror novelist, ends her bestselling series of books and announces that she's going to write non-horror fiction from now on. A visit from an old school friend and some unpleasant dreams force her home instead where she learns that the villain of her books, a demonic witch named Marianne, may not be fiction and is not happy that she's stopped writing about her.

Marianne (2019) an original 8-part series made for Netflix, may be the best Netflix original anything I've seen. It succeeds unlike every horror tv series they've tried and far better than most movies, Netflix produced, or otherwise, with an intensity not seen since Hereditary (2018). A French production, the cast was uniformly excellent, with great chemistry between them, and genuine believabilty. The direction, writing, cinematography, sound design, music, make-up, were also all top notch, and the location added so much to the sense of dread that infused this series. This was just overall outstanding on every level and easily the best thing I watched for this Countdown.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 30 - Movie

A child killing terror, which most often appears in the form of a clown named Pennywise, fights a group of youngsters in 1960. Thirty years later, when new murders begin, the youngsters, now adults, reband to attempt defeating Pennywise once and for all.

When I read Stephen King's novel It back in 1986 when it was first published, I loved it, and could not put it down. It remains one of my favorite novels of his. When I saw It (1990), the two part miniseries, based on the novel, when it debuted I was really let down.  Coming across it in the $5.00 bin at Walmart around the time the new movie adaptation came out, I thought I'd give it another look, something I ended up putting off until now.

I still don't like it. The cast is fine, but this mini-series lacks any bite and because of its length and the way the book is broken down into vignettes focusing on each character as a child, and as and adult, not only does the plot feel simultaneously simple and disjointed, but the relationships between the characters lacks the depth and the strength that really powered the novel. Without it, I just didn't care about what happened to any of them. I had no stakes in their winning over this clown which was presented as something somewhere between Caesar Romero's Joker if he were a drunk, carnival clown with an unhealthy interest in children, and Krusty on the Simpsons. He wasn't scary like a monstrous cyclical, unstoppable evil. He was mildly disturbing in a drunken relative has invited himself into my house and I can't get him to leave kind of way. One of the big disappointments, too, was that when we get to see Pennywise in his true form it's as some sort of big spider. Yawn.

I know a lot of people love this mini-series, and I suspect those that do were significantly younger than I was when they first saw it, and I get that changes things. You are welcome to keep this version of It warm in your hearts. I'll stick with the book.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 29 - Movie

The Prince of a South Seas island is murdered in a power grab, but allegedly for befriending the American Scientists whose vaccines they fear. Having vowed to return for vengeance, he comes back as the nearly indestructabe tree creature, Tabonga.

I don't think I've actually ever seen From Hell It Came (1957) before, and after this viewing I expect I probably never will again. Sure, the tree monster suit is not exactly chilling, but that's the least of this movie's problems. Wooden acting (and not by Tabonga), over acting, clumsy writing, and poor direction all combine into a boring mess that drags on for what seems like hours longer than its running time.

If you still feel compelled to watch it, here's a link:

Monday, October 28, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 28 - Movie

Seventeen years after being raped by a strange creature, a woman's son starts transforming into a similar creature. Seemingly possessed by his progenitor, the son seeks vengeance against the enemies of his inhuman father, then as his own lifecycle nears its end, he rapes the one girl he's been trying to protect in order to bring the next generation of his kind into being.

The Beast Within (1982) received a lot of press as it was originally released, but has mostly fallen into obscurity since. While the notion of a creature with a seventeen year life-cycle, like a cicada, is a good one, the ugliness of its reproduction through rape, while keeping with the dark nature of horror, is pretty distasteful. The filmmakers did try and make these scenes as discrete as possible without diminishing their ugliness. The film itself seems to meander around more than build. There's what is meant to be a showstopper transformation scene - all the rage following Altered States, An American Werewolf in London, and The Howling - which goes too far in it's latex rubber and air bladder stretchiness and makes the viewer all too aware that what they are watching is a bunch of inflated pulsating rubber. I didn't care for this movie when I saw it on the big screen way back when, and my opinion of it now is really one of indifference. It wasn't as bad as I remembered it, but it wasn't really entertaining now either. It's just sort of there.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 27 - Movie

Blade (Wesley Snipes) joins a group of young vampire hunters seeking to destroy Dracula, and all vampires.

Blade: Trinity (2004) written and directed by David S. Goyer, who has given himself the worst script to give lackluster direction to. Strangely considering that he wrote all three, this story, which essentially puts Blade in a barely involved supporting role, doesn't feel at all like it was written by the same writer. Blade's character sometimes acts uncharacteristically, the continuity is sloppy, especially regarding the vampire physiology, there's too much inspiration from the Matrix films, and the new characters are really uninteresting, as is the story in general. It's dull.

The new pack of vampire hunters, the Nightstalkers, are really poorly defined. Ryan Reynolds plays the same character he does in every movie/ Jessica Biel says little, prefers hunting with a bow and arrow and showing off her stomach. Patton Oswalt plays a geek, and Natasha Lyon a blind biologist with a young daughter that I can't remember whether or not gets rescued from the vampires at the end of the movie. There are a few other people, I think, but they are wallpaper.

The bad guys don't fare much better. Parker Posey is bad and annoying as their leader. Dominic Purcell as Drake, amy be the screen's least interesting, or intimidating Dracula, and the others are cypher strongman, and cackling toady types.

This was just a bad bad movie. Do not watch it.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 26 - Movie

Blade (Wesley Snipes) is recruited by the vampires to help stop a new mutated breed of vampires, the Reapers, who threaten the existence of both vampire and human populations.

Blade II (2002) written by David S. Goyer and directed by Guillermo Del Toro is a major step up from the original film. While the screenplay was written by Goyer (based on characters created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan for Marvel's Tomb of Dracula), Del Toro's fingerprints are all over the storytelling, from his use of color, to a more biological approach to the vampires and reapers, and the increased amount of elaborate technologic weapons. The characters are also richer and more dimensional with a more romantic and tragic feel to the entire film.

Blade II would be the highpoint for the series and allowed Del Toro to try and succeed at grafting an action movie onto the genre he loves best.

Friday, October 25, 2019

31 Days of Halloween - Day 25 - Movie

A half-human, half-vampire, who has all of a vampire's strengths and none of their weaknesses, hunts vampires while searching for a way to make himself human.

Blade (1998), directed by Stephen Norrington, and written by David S. Goyer is the movie which really allowed the current cinematic Marvel universe, and the Underworld franchise to happen. Adapted from the Marvel comics starring a character who made his debut in Tomb of Dracula, this movie takes its subject matter seriously and gives it a polished look with plenty of action and horror. Wesley Snipes' Blade is a real badass, but with a guarded human core.

There are only a couple of things detrimental to this film. The CGI effects are pretty abysmal. This gives the film an unfortunate dated feel, especially in the climactic scene right out of the climactic scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, which would have been a visual showstopper if not for the limitations of the special effects. Also Stephen Dorff as the villain is pretty pathetic rather than intimidating.

It's an above average vampire action film with a lot of promise which would be delivered in its first sequel.

The Art of Little Shoppe of Horrors

I've been providing illustrations for Little Shoppe of Horrors, the excellent magazine devoted the the films produced by Hammer Studios, periodically for the past few years. I'm humbled bight company I keep, both in the outstanding artists (see list below) and in the incredible journalists and scholars who write the articles, and in Richard Klemensen whose been keeping this publication going for nearly 50 years.

Now there is a book that contains all of the cover art and much of the interior art from its entire history, including something by me.

Following is the solicitation information for the publication. You can order a copy here.

       Little Shoppe of Horrors arrived on the horror film scene in 1972 as a general interest monster-zine. But with the legendary Issue #4 in 1978, it morphed into covering Hammer Films and other British Horrors.

Starting with issue #10/11, in 1990, the covers began featuring the fabulous color artwork of many of the best artists working today. From Steve Karchin's gorgeous 'Kiss of the Vampire' in that seminal issue - We've expanded to four color covers each issue - all of them dazzling. Now-Here they are in all their original text free form. Assemble all together in one place.

Artist-Shana Bilbrey, David Brooks, Norm Bryn, Veronica Carlson, Lee Copeland, Frank Dietz, Kayla Free, Dan Gallagher jr., the Gurch, Tim Hammell, Chantal Handley, Mike Hill, Alistair Hughes, Steve Karchin, Bob Lizarraga, Ron Lizorty, Mark Maddox, Stewart McKissick, Shane Ivan Oakley, Dean Ormston, Jeff Preston, David Robinson, John Rozum, Adrian Salmon, Jim Salvati, Mike Schneider, William Stout, Bruce Timm, Neil D. Vokes and Paul Watts.

8-1/2" x 11" softbound book
170 pages - full color