Go See Prey at Night

“The Strangers: Prey At Night” is a well-crafted sequel in the
John Carpenter tradition, but what’s really interesting about it is
the way it reflects contemporary concerns and anxieties. The
“Strangers” films play on fear of The Other. What is the Other?
Anything that will come, motivated or not, and destroy a couple (in
“The Strangers”) or a family (the new film). You can see these
anxieties also in “The Purge” films (the fourth of which is coming
this summer) and the new “Death Wish” remake. The basic thrust of all
these films is that not only will the government not protect you, but
also that they will force you to take matters into your own hands.

Even though crime has supposedly been falling the last few years,
paranoia is up and people don’t feel safe. The message of these
movies is simple: kill or be killed. You can certainly argue with
this message, but you can’t argue that these films bluntly and
effectively present it. Horror films like these show us what we fear
and also how little we can do to avoid crime. “The Strangers: Prey at
Night” is a terrifying mirror of where we are right now, and as such
is more illuminating than exploitative. It’s unfortunate that horror
films are reflecting current problems, but don’t blame the messenger
for the message. The second installment of “The Strangers” is
recommended and don’t go alone!

Shock Value Intereresting but Flawed

Recently one of my best friends gave me a book called “Shock
Value” for Christmas. Written by Jason Zinoman, it chronicles the
birth of modern horror, beginning with “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Night of
the Living Dead” and continuing with the great horror films of the
1970’s including “Last House on the Left” and “The Texas Chain Saw
Massacre.” Directors such as George A. Romero, John Carpenter, Roman
Polanski, Brian De Palma, Wes Craven, Steven Spielberg, and William
Friedkin are chronicled.

While it is entertaining to read about the birth of modern horror and
these amazing, strong personalities, the book ends
up trying to cover too much ground. Only Hooper and Brian
De Palma come across as fully formed individuals; everyone else
(particularly Carpenter and Romero) seems too thin a character for the
pages allotted. Dan O’Bannon (writer of “Alien”) goes the other way;
we learn a lot about him personally but little about his filmmaking
techniques. Why, for example, does he think “Assault on Precinct 13,
one of the best films of the 1970’s, is a terrible movie? The book is
entertaining enough but I have a nagging feeling it should have been
better. Definitely check it out of your local library then, but only
purchase at a big discount. “Shock Value” needs more shocking
insights!

I Dig “It”

We’re a little late with our review of the blockbuster film “It,” but, yes, it is a good horror film. Bill Skarsgard probably deserves award consideration for his portrayal of Pennywise the clown, and the actors who play the children are all good. The film does an excellent job of evoking childhood fears, not just of clowns and death but also bullying and social ostracism. Setting the film in 1989, as opposed to the novel’s 1959, is a masterstroke because it brings a large portion of the audience back in time; the New Kids on the Block references are priceless! At the end of the day, the film is not as scary as “The Shining” or as profound as “Stand by Me,” but it is nevertheless a well-done horror film that delivers the gory goods. When the little boy meets the clown at the beginning, it is particularly terrifying and gory. If you like Stephen King, horror, and creepy clowns, don’t miss “It”!

Bye Bye Man : TeenieSlayer

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I went to check out this flick because the trailer made it look like a cool rip-off of the 90’s classic Candyman. Knew there was a chance that there would be a bunch of annoying teens at the theatre because this film is only PG-13. So while standing in line there were a bunch of 14 year olds buying tickets in big groups ahead of us, one after the next. The film was pretty basic, a boogieman of sorts exists, who shows up and kills you when you become aware of his existence. Well actually he gets you to kill yourself and anyone else who knows by causing hallucinations. The Bye Bye Man appears as a tall skinny mute albino demon looking type thing and he has a burley hell-dog that munches on you after you perish. That part is pretty effective, and the visuals are good.

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And a lot of people die in this film (for a PG-13).

The down side of this film are that there is no character development. The main character’s only personality is that he wears different punk rock t-shirts everyday. The Bye Bye Man is killing teen after teen, and for better or worse, the viewer is indifferent to their plight since they are just another pretty face. Another minus is that the crowd of pubescent teens are talking over this film about the various 9th grade parties going on later that night, complete with their puberty fantasies , while the movie is playing. I would recommend going to see this film after curfew so that you don’t have to deal with annoying teens. The lady from the Matrix has a small part as detective, which is well acted. The acting in the flashback scenes was a bit weak though.

Some might say that the film fails to give an explanation for the Bye Bye Man’s origin. I think its good that it avoids that cliché. The film is from a pretty acclaimed director. And its pretty good overall for a teeny bopper film. It could have been better had it been rated R and took more time with character development and took itself more seriously, because the villain is horrific.

Plan 9 From Underworld

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The “Underworld” series is really something. It has great action and special FX and terrible scripts. The new installment, “Underworld: Blood Wars,” finds the heroine played by Kate Beckinsale once again in the middle of the war between vampires and Lycans, or werewolves. Her character is really hot and apparently cannot be killed and is a Death Dealer. Charles Dance (from “The Golden Child” and “Alien 3”) is also in the movie as the heroine’s (I think)grandfather, and he hams it up in fine Christopher Lee fashion. He’s a great actor and has helped save many a genre film. However, most of the acting and literally the entire script is bad. All this business about Lycans and Death Dealers is beyond me to explain, but what’s good about this movie and the series is the action and set design. I did feel like I was in another world, albeit a world without character development.

To say this film is ridiculous is a grave understatement; there is so much sneering and so many double-crosses that the film becomes a parody of itself. Beckinsale doesn’t act; she just poses. Many of the actors appear to be posing for a Calvin Klein commercial, in fact. And yet despite all this, I LIKED this flick. It’s like a Hammer film crossed with Clive Barker’s “Nightbreed” on crack. It aims for a sort of “Empire Strikes Back” kind of feeling, and it doesn’t totally fail. It earns its R rating with massive bloodshed and lots of sexual innuendo. And it doesn’t seem TOO much like a video game. The series also beat “Twilight” and “The Daybreakers” to the screen, so it was passably original. If the scripts had ever been any good, this could’ve been the greatest horror series ever. As it is, it is one of my leading guilty pleasure. You have to put your brain on hold, but if you do, “Underworld: Blood Wars” is good fun. I would compare it to the 90s sci-fi epic “Waterworld” in that regard.

Incarnate is Hokey Fun

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Sometimes when I’m bored, I don’t want to see an Oscar winner, or even a well-composed film. Sometimes, I’m in the mood for a lowest-common-denominator horror film. A sensitive close-encounter sci-fi film? Nope. A moving war epic about a pacifist? Try again. Aaron Eckhart in a wheelchair battling demons? Sounds great!

“Incarnate” is indeed about a wheelchair-bound man who works as an exorcist. The thing is, though, rather than using prayer and holy water, he enters the subconscious of the possessed and saves them by helping them escape the demons with their mind. The twist is that he doesn’t really care about the people he helps; instead, he wants to get back at the demon who killed his wife and daughter and left him in a wheelchair.

Are you following any of this? It doesn’t matter. “Incarnate” is a sublimely bad movie, rather than a run-of-the-mill bore. Aaron Eckhart is a great actor who will someday get the praise he deserves, but, for now, he’s turning films like this and “I, Frankenstein” into must-see bad movie classics. His nonchalance when confronting demons is classic. The fact that he is in a wheelchair because of a demon named Maggie is perfect. The 11-year old he is helping is a mean demon himself; this movie does have a (small) body count. In short, if you have refined tastes and require that the films you watch are of high quality, skip this film. But if you enjoy Aaron Eckhart and cheap but fun films about demonic possession, check this flick out. It’s bad but tons of fun! –CoolAC

The Voodoo Wheelchair of Death

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There was this dark spacious intersection in Campbell, CA. It was nothing very remarkable. The asphalt was dull with dull yellow and white painted stripes It was a grimy area, near a creek. The large unsuccessful liquor store by it was faltering, its Ethiopian owner stooping to selling cigs to kids. It was quite a grimy area. The laundry mat was old and run-down. A tasty but crummy looking Chinese joint was there too. And the lights took forever too. Hamilton and San Thomas were not a pretty site.

People zoomed by this place in their fancy cars on their way to work at Ebay or Netflix. Since it was near highway 17 which connected to all the other highways in the area. Basically this area was spread out, so hardly anyone walked. There were a few bicyclists every once in a while. One day a young gay black disabled man named Robert set out in his Quickie power wheel chair to head to his medical appointment. Robert had muscular dystrophy or something like that, and it caused him to drool. That didn’t stop him from taking weight lifting classes at De Anza or from wanting to do martial arts. He was a really cheerful and uplifting guy to know. Anyhow the sun was starting to set, and there was quite a glare in the sky, especially with all the summer pollution up above. Robert pulled up into the crosswalk, wrongly assuming the monster SUV would stop for the right turn on red. Needless to say the SUV plowed through him at full-speed, fully accelerating through the impact – and never looking back. And they were blasting horrible sounding rap music with the bass turned up, while leaving a trail of lifeless bones and blood in the street behind their vehicle.

Robert had a fairly small tightly knit group of friends, all of which attended the funeral. Malcolm’s gay lover was in shock and jumped on the coffin as it lowered at the funeral. His mom passed out drunk in the limo. And the priest had gas and did a lousy sermon. But luckily Robert had one kinda chubby brown haired nerd friend named Chuck from back in the day who had gotten very much into voodoo. He had been interested in voodoo ever since he was very young and read the Harvard professors book called Serpent and the Rainbow. He went to Haiti himself while in college and had learned the black arts himself.

Chuck was irate and disturbed that the SUV driver fled and was not caught after mauling Malcolm. He had immediately gone to the crime scene (intersection) and took what he could find in terms of wheelchair and bone/blood frags. There were some chips of paint from where the car had hit, and he saved those too . He set them up at his black voodoo altar in his man-cave. And lit candles all around the room in a hexagon. He went into his herb jars and grabbed poppies, scorpion tails, beetles, and other strange ingredients and ground them into a potion. He had a new Quickie wheelchair that he ordered from Amazon Prime. So he sprinkled the potion on the wheelchair. Next, he did some Latin chants (basically about seeking revenge for his homie) and made a blood offering. Finally, he poured out a Mickey’s 40oz malt liquor over Malcolm’s old high school yearbook. Suddenly the windows flew open, and there was loud banging on all the walls. His blunt lit itself on fire, while shit started flying everywhere. The Ouija Board he had on the table in the corner started to spell something. It said:

I AM GOING TO KILL THAT MOTHERFUCKER WHO RAN ME OVER!!!

Suddenly Robert’s Quickie 5000 wheelchair miraculously transmutated and reconstituted itself from small fragments into its original condition. But it didn’t stop there. It was shiny and mean looking now, and it had hydrolics and started bouncing. The arm rest and siding now had custom detailing saying “Made In Hell” with flames and skulls and dice emanating from it. Its wheels grew to epic proportions- more than eight feet high each! And the damned thing even had hubs with sharp Swiss-made blades sticking out more than 8 inches each. The cushion of the chair was also enormous, and it glowed angrily like a hot coal in a fire. Under the seat were a set of demon teeth, larger than those of any great white shark. And the battery was now the size of a large jet engine’s. The exhaust pipe have out a thick, putrid neon-green cloud of smoke, like that color from Maximum Overdrive. The wheelchair grew so large and tall that it burst through the roof, and squashed all the furniture. Then it loudly set out into the night to seek revenge.