HIDDEN HORROR – Willow Creek

Although Cannibal Holocaust is considered the first found footage film, The Blair Witch Project became the quintessential film of the subgenre, coining the now popular term and creating a new wave of films capturing the things that go bump-in-the-night via amateur video.

Although some now consider this a tired genre or gimmick, horror fans are blessed with a brilliant “found document” every so often, from the 1992 Belgian masterpiece (and first real found-footage film) Man Bites Dog, to Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, to Paranormal Activity, to the V/H/S series.

There have also been a series of misfires as well, but the latest lost tape to get it right is 1980s funny-man turned writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek, in which the hunt for Bigfoot becomes grounds for the documented expedition.

In the tradition of Blair Witch, our documentary filmmaking couple, Jim the enthusiast and Kelly the skeptic, venture out to Willow Creek in search of the elusive Sasquatch. Interviewing simpleton locals in Willow Creek, the Bigfoot capital of the world, before embarking into Bluff Creek in search of the famous 1967 Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin film site (where the two men caught the first moving picture of Bigfoot), Jim and Kelly encounter more than they bargained for.

Again, like The Blair Witch Project, all of the terrifying events take place off camera, from strange vocalizations in the middle of the night to a sabotaged campsite when returning from a shoot.

Jim does not become too demoralized from the unsettling actions taking place during his Bigfoot production, while his girlfriend Kelly does.

The acting is beyond the sub-par expectations of the genre, where the couple (portrayed by Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson) carry numerous scenes in one long drawn-out shot. This is something current horror films do not accomplish, because in this MTV-age of short attention-spans, films are assembled with quick shots, while casting is based on beauty, not talent.

Now that’s the wonderful thing about indie films: they may not get the attention they deserve, but they’re made with pure conviction.

Goldthwait did the festival run with this film, and it did not get a wide release, but the film has developed quite the cult following the past year, thanks to word of mouth.

Although we can all quickly dismiss the great American Bigfoot as a hoax, like South America’s Chupacabra or Sasquatch’s distant cousin, the Yeti, in the Himalayas, one thing for sure is that Willow Creek brings a tone of realism to the table, both from the found footage subjective camera work, and brilliant acting that makes this one stand apart.

– Matthew McPhee

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TERROR TV – TALES FROM THE CRYPT – People who live in Brass Hearses

19 People who Live in Brass Hearses.avi_000434400There were seven seasons of Tales From the Crypt all together and in my opinion season 5 was the last good season. There were many memorable episodes in said season. One episode was gorier then it should of been crime episode with terrific acting from Bill Paxton, Brad Dourif and Michael Lerner, that episode of “People who live in Brass Hearses”

In the hot summertime in the city, a very hot tampered convict Billy (Paxton) is released from prison after a two year sentence. Billy convinced his dim witted brother Virgil (Dourif) to help him rob a ice cream warehouse and to get revenge on Mr.Byrd, the kindly ice cream man who is responsible to sending Billy to Jail. However there plan turns awry and quite bloody due to Virgil’s stupidity and a revealing secret about Mr.Byrd.

Now even though this episode of the Crypt doesnt have any supernatural elements to it, it it a surprisingly gory ‘Crime’ episode. With stabbings,hooks to the head, blown apart legs and heads all in very “meaty” detail. And not only is the death scene top notch but the performances from Paxton, Dourif and Lerner are all top notch too, with Lerner practically being a showstopper during the twist ending. And speaking of the twist ending, where as alot of Tales from the Crypt episodes end with a twist involving some rotten zombie back for revenge, here the ending twist doesnt involve anything supernatural but is still a effectively brutal and macabre twist ending resulting in a comeuppance. So if you happen to pop in the fith season of the Crypt, make sure to check out “People who live in Brass Hearses”, with its meaty death scenes,great performance and different twist ending makes it a memorable episode of the Crypt. – James J. Coker

HIDDEN HORROR: The House with Laughing Windows (Redux)

I reviewed this film back in February, but I have recently watched again and decided that my previous review did not do justice to this great film.

MV5BMTY5NDMwMzM1OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjUzMzAyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_The world of Italian horror and giallo is a vast one, full of incredible gems that not very many people know of and this title is a perfect example of that. The House with Laughing Windows is a 1976 giallo film directed by Pupi Avati. What makes this film so great is that it has a wild plot, atmosphere, dread, mystery, and gore, which together makes this film truly a piece of art. The cinematography work on this film is incredible and the atmosphere this film has rivals any Mario Bava film. It is one of the best Italian/giallo films of all time, and it is criminally unknown.

The film tells the tale of Stephano, an artist, who comes to an island to restore an old painting in a church that depicts several murders. However, the story behind the painting is a grisly one as the artist who created them was said to have actually killed, tortured, and then painted people and their expressions so that his art could be more realistic! The artist behind the paintings is said to be long gone and dead but as Stephano begins to restore the painting, he finds that something or someone does not want him to, and a string of murders begins to occur in the village. As the film progresses Stephano learns the truth about the artist, the painting, and the village’s twisted secret.

Despite this film being atmospheric and a piece of art, it is a brutal film. It features gore, not as much as Lucio Fulci, but enough to make this film brutal and the ending is pretty unsettling as well. This film is kind of like two films in one, some parts being pure giallo/mystery with beautiful cinematography, then other parts being a more traditional and creepy horror/slasher. Speaking of which, the beginning of the film is creepy as hell and so is the painting that Stephano is restoring. The ending is very Psycho-esque to say the least, hitting the viewer like a ton of bricks because they never saw it coming. The dread and tension throughout is comparable to Rosemary’s Baby. The film at times is an uncomfortable watch. It is hard to believe that it’s from 1976, as not many horror films these days can match what this film has. This film is superior to most generic horror films out there today by using the basic elements of originality, mystery, dread creepiness, and brutality- and using them quite well.

Pupi Avati is an incredible director. He did not make very many horror films though and this is a shame because I (and anyone else who has seen this film) think it is one of the greatest horror films ever made. Pupi Avati was like the Mario Bava of the ’70s, but he did not get as much credit as Lucio Fulci or Dario Argento. This film was not officially released in America either. If it had been, it would have probably been as famous as Zombie 2, Suspiria and so on. So if you want a terrific outside the box horror film that is unique, yet artsy and creepy, but still brutal then this film is for you. The House with Laughing Windows is unlike any horror film you have ever seen. It may be one of your future favorites.

-Dakota Bailey

A Farewell to FEARNET – By Sterling Anno

Fearnet - RIPAlas, yet another network provided soldier has fallen in this current age of innovation and commercial damnation. We’ve lost many as of late, some clocks were ticking all along, while others simply went before their time had come. I’ve seen the once amazing TechTV devolve into the what was then known as G4, only to then succumb to it’s own identity crisis and vanish once its main assets were cast aside in the same manner as M. Night Shyamalan’s public stature. I’ve seen IFC, a channel once known for it’s basic cable screenings of uncut R rated material and the free speech cannon of Henry Rollins, shoot itself in the foot with the elimination of the latter and replacing it with reruns of Malcolm in the Middle, among other 3rd party shareware the channel would have never touched if it’s integrity hadn’t been compromised at the end of the last decade. Even my own favorite Documentary Channel has caught a flesh eaten disease. It has since gone through reconstructive surgery and reemerged as nothing more than a trendy pop-politics propaganda network convincing us why SOPA may not have been all that bad…(fuck you Pivot). But now, with tis latest casualty in our arsenal of entertainment all but lost, I can officially say that my overall selection of viewing material has seen far better days.

Fearnet was a great one. A horror website that conquered its frontier and moved on to invade the idiot box shortly after. A channel that stood out of an already endangered selection of horror themed tv networks, Fearnet will always be remembered for pushing for the extra mile. Providing the both young & old with the Eerie Indianas and Cryptkeepers of our past, it was the horror fan’s version of “The 90s Are All That”. Their highly outside the box promotional campaigns, their extremely fun and over the top comic convention presence, and of course, their attempt at establishing an empire of original televised content are all aspects that proved it was built on a fanbase and not a trend. Fearnet garnered its namesake through the simple act of giving an actual shit about its followers and providing them with material they wanted, whether or not it was ever deserved. Though the channel had its downsides in the field of censorship, exchanging the occasional F-bomb for the ability to reach out to and bestow its blessings upon a wider audience, one can only analyze the trade as noble. Through them we had received films seldom seen by the light of day and a series that they gave to us out of the love in their black hearts. And might I add that the visual experience of “Holliston” was but the rarest of phenomenons. As someone who sees modern television as nothing more than a fish tank with slightly more going on than a couple laps around the coral reef, seeing a new show I can honestly call a new personal favorite is too obscure to fathom. Regardless of one’s opinion on that show, the channel’s selection of films or its individualistic approach to its fans, Fearnet had something for everyone, and in return everyone was made happy. This of course is why Comcast destroyed it(tossing its remaining assets to SyFy and Chiller respectively). Because according to this company, humanity can’t have anything nice, nor convenient to contemporary society. This is of course why they recently shot the internet in the head as well. All in all, Fearnet’s thunder may have dissipated, but the lightning will never truly be erased from existence… For this motherfucker has scarred far too many minds to be truly forgotten, for better or worse. In other words, for better. Always better.

– Sterling “The Spork Guy” Anno

HIDDEN HORROR – The Slayer

The_SlayerEvery horror fan knows that the early 80s was the slasher movie boom, Countless slasher movies came out during that time to the point its difficult to keep track of all of them. One of those slasher movies in that explosion was a little film called The Slayer, a little obscure slasher film that went completely under the radar at the time and is sadly completely under the radar to horror and slasher movie fans now. And that is quite a shame because out of all obscure slasher movies to come out of the early 80s, the Slayer has to be one of the most atmospheric ones.

A couple along with the wifes brother and his wife travel to an isolated island retreat for some long awaited rest and relaxation, but the wife suffers from recurring nightmares of being chased by a maniacal monster around the island and of nightmares of the others being killed. But she soon realizes that the dreams are actually premonitions of things to come. And it is not very long until the Slayer begins to kill his victims one by one.

Now even though the Slayer has pacing issues and a low body count, it makes up for in a good music score, a cool ghoulish looking monsterious maniac, and terrific atmosphere that blends two different kinds of atmosphere very well. During the daylight scenes in the movie it has very warm, Summerlike Beachfront atmosphere while during the night scenes it has a very stormy “old dark house” style atmosphere. So seeing these two different kinds together is quite an interesting blend. Almost making the film perfect to watch in either the Summer or Autumn. Also another noteworthy thing about the film is that here is a early 80s slasher film that to a surprise does not have dumb fun loving teens as victims but instead grown ass adults who somtimes get into bickering arguments with there signifigant other as would any older couples would, so its a good change from the usual partying teen that your just waiting to be killed.

So if your glossing over all the many MANY slasher films from the 1980s and come across the Slayer, please dont overlook it as so many horror fans have, give it a chance and enjoy one hell of a atmospheric little slasher movie that can be enjoyed in the Summer or the Fall. – James J. Coker

TERROR TV: Tales from the Crypt – ‘Til Death

04 'Till Death.avi_001502968Back when Tales from the Crypt was airing on television, its second season took the ghoulishness, rotting zombies, gore and makeup effects to the tenth degree, compared to the first season. One second season episode that really took advantage of the Crypt‘s signature brand of darkly comic yet ghoulish and gruesome tone was the episode “Til Death.”

Logan, a real estate developer looking to build a hotel on a Caribbean island, is an unscrupulous gold digger who would do anything to catch the right woman with lots of money, including dabbling in voodoo. When he meets Margaret, a beautiful and prudish rich widow on vacation, he immediately asks his partner, a voodoo priestess, to conjure up a love potion for him. He secretly slips Margaret the potion and she falls in love with him, but finds out too late that he gave her too much love potion and now she will love him even after death.

If you see only one typical “rotting corpse” episode of Tales from the Crypt, then it should be “Til Death.” Not only does the episode showcase the show’s typically dark comic, macabre, and ghoulish sense of style, but there’s also some fun to be had with the episode’s Voodoo atmosphere with it and seeing poor Logan run from Margaret who gets progressively more rotten with each shot thanks to the director Chris Wallace’s superb makeup effects. Finally in Crypt fashion our poor Logan gets what is coming to him, but this time it’s not death, but much worse. So if you’re in the mood to watch an episode of Tales from the Crypt that has that “rotting corpse that wont go away” trope, there’s no better one then the second season episode “Til Death.”

– James J. Coker

UNDERRATED SEQUELS – JAWS 2

jaws-2-red-posterThere is no denying that Jaws is not just a horror masterpiece, but a masterpiece of cinema altogether. Hell one could even say that Jaws is the ultimate summer horror film, but what about all those sequels to Jaws? Of course they don’t measure up to the original and are smeared by both critics and fans, but how can they possibly begin to compare to how great the original film was. Although those sequels are smeared a lot, there is one Jaws sequel that deserves more love from fans and certainly more forgiveness: Jaws 2.

Four years after the events of the first film, the island town of Amity suddenly experiences a series of mysterious boating accidents and disappearances. Chief Brody, back from the original film, fears that another shark is out there, but he is ignored by the townsfolk and Mayor Vaugh. Unfortunately, he’s right, because there is another Great White in the sea. And it wants revenge.

One immediate likeable thing about Jaws 2 is that it feels like a direct follow up to the first film by have three characters from the previous film all played by the same actors back in this film. Roy Schieder, Lorraine Gray and Murray Hamilton reprise their roles as Amity Island police chief Brody, Ellen Brody, and Mayor Larry Vaugh, respectively. So you’re not seeing a completely new story with Jaws 2, but instead a “few years after” storyline.

Although the scares and suspense of Jaws 2 do not match up to the scares of the original, it is still an entertaining movie and good follow up that focuses on Chief Brody and his obsession with what he believes is a new shark problem in Amity. The movie actually leads up to a complete meltdown of the character on the beach right in front of everyone and the mayor. Surprisingly the film also focuses on a group of fun loving teens that are stalked and eaten by our wonderful shark, hell one can say that Jaws 2 is practically a slasher film with that trope, combined with the cliche obsessed man hunting down said monster. I digress, but either way it’s a worthwhile sequel to the original masterpiece and if you’re in the mood to see what happened to Chief Brody and Amity island after the events of the first Jaws, then try giving Jaws 2 a watch, just don’t expect the exact same level of fear and suspense that the first film had and you could have a decent time.

-James J. Coker