Review: 'The Belko Experiment'


By: Heather Seebach

When watching the trailer for The Belko Experiment, many people said, "That kinda looks like Battle Royale!" For those unfamiliar, BR is a 2000 Japanese film about high school students who are put on an island wearing explosive collars and forced to fight to the death. Are they similar? Superficially, sure. Of course, many genre nerds also used that complaint against The Hunger Games, when in fact, the blood sport genre precedes all these films and that comparison is pretty tenuous. Upon actually seeing The Belko Experiment, well, it is actually the closest thing yet to a remake of BR; however, that is not necessarily a negative attribute. While lacking the depth of the Japanese thriller, Belko definitely delivers on the violence and gore with some biting black humor.

Belko Industries is a company that facilitates the hiring of American workers in South America. The film takes place at a secluded location in Bogota, Colombia. Employees there are set up with their own company car, an apartment, and a tracking device implant in case they are kidnapped. Mike Milch (John Gallagher, Jr.) notices things are a little different this morning: all the local employees have gone home, and the regular guards have been replaced by heavily-armed soldiers. It makes a little more sense when the mysterious voice comes on the loudspeaker, demanding that 30 employees be killed within two hours, or twice as many will die. Some folks panic, others think it's a joke, but things get dead serious when the tracking device in someone's head explodes. Naturally, a few people entertain the idea of doing as commanded, while others focus on escape. Such is the experiment.

 Belko packs a large fantastic cast of actors, including alumni of screenwriter James Gunn's other films like Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn, and Gregg Henry. Tony Goldwyn is great as the Belko boss Barry Norris who treats murder like a necessary evil. So too is John C. McGinley's unhinged, cleaver-wielding Wendell Dukes a scary menace. It is a far cry from when he was one of "the Bob's" in Office Space! On the opposite end of the spectrum from them is Mike, who sees no excuse to take innocent lives. Gallagher, Jr. has really shined in the genre lately after co-starring in two of last year's best horror films, 10 Cloverfield Lane and Hush


As for the BR comparisons, human nature is relatively consistent, so when 80 people are forced to kill each other or be killed - whether it's on a Japanese island or in a corporate office building - they are likely to behave similarly. Some will go mad with power; others will refuse to kill. Alliances will be formed, while some clever folks work on ways to beat the system. All these things occur in both Belko and BR, though the former is more shallow in its storytelling. Besides the basic concept that humans can turn savage in the face of death, the only depth for which Belko aims is that corporate office work sucks - and it does not even drive that home very well. The film leaps quickly into the carnage, which is great but it does not allow much time to nail the banality of office life. Most of the film feels like it could have easily taken place in any kind of secluded building anywhere. There are a few office supply kills, at least.

For gorehounds, there is plenty to sink your teeth into. The violence is unrelenting and brutal, ranging from disturbing executions to a slightly-humorous chorus of exploding heads. Cutting away is rarely an option, as almost every gory kill is on full display with glorious prosthetic fx. Director Greg McLean is best known for the Wolf Creek films and he brings that same savage brutality to this film's violence, while screenwriter James Gunn (Slither, Dawn of the Dead) provides the wit and cleverness. The soundtrack utilizes Spanish-language covers of Life FM-type songs to great effect. While it certainly has some dark humor, Belko definitely leans on the side of tense and disturbing, especially in today's socio-political climate where gun violence is almost status quo.

 McClean and Gunn are strong players in the horror genre, so their joining of forces for The Belko Experiment will have any horror fan salivating. The collaboration is unfortunately without much substance and its attempts at satire lack bite. As all the critics will say, it's like Battle Royale meets Office Space, but it does not measure up to the respective elements of either film. As your boss would say, "it brings nothing new to the table." Even the title of the film is a bit of a misstep as it spoils what could have been more mysterious. Despite that, the movie is more success than failure because it's damn entertaining. Likable characters played by a great cast and absurd levels of violence and gore keep the viewer  (at least the more sick-minded ones) jumping and gasping. It does everything a horror film is supposed to do, even if it's not exactly breaking the mold. Plus, you will almost certainly leave the theater wondering which of your co-workers would kill you first.

 
out of 5 R's




Review: 'Kong: Skull Island'


By: Heather Seebach

With seven previous films, Kong was not exactly begging for another incarnation; but with his lizard king counterpart getting the modern American treatment in Gareth Edwards' Godzilla, we knew the big ape couldn't be far behind. Much like that film, Kong: Skull Island was surprisingly entrusted to a relative newcomer, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Prior to helming Godzilla, Edwards had at least cut his teeth on a big monster movie with Monsters, but Vogt-Roberts' only feature at the time was the independent coming-of-age comedy, The Kings of Summer. While that was a fantastic movie, it's a bit surprising he would be plucked to helm a giant ape action film. Thank goodness for it, though; this trend of giving indie filmmakers the reins to blockbusters is great for artists and films alike.

With Skull Island, Vogt-Roberts draws from very unexpected influences, ranging from nature documentaries to Apocalypse Now. Whereas Godzilla has along been a metaphor for nuclear weaponry and its consequences, this version of Kong touches on war and imperialism. The film is appropriately set at the end of the Vietnam War as U.S. forces are pulling out. When government researchers (John Goodman, Corey Hawkins) are looking to study the uncharted Skull Island, a dejected Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) jumps at the opportunity for one last mission. Joining the crew is a jungle tracker (Tom Hiddleston) and a photographer (Brie Larson). Needless to say, they find more than they bargained for when they meet the island's colossal primate inhabitant.

John C. Reilly also joins the crew and easily steals the movie, at least as far as characters are concerned. Frankly, most of the lead actors are boring and underused. Hiddleston and Larson are both incredible actors, and yet they are completely wasted in this film. Reilly is easily the MVP and brings more emotion to the film than one might expect. Besides him, Jackson is also very good as the Colonel Kurtz-esque soldier with an ape-sized chip on his shoulder. In smaller roles, Shea Whigham and Marc Evan Jackson also steal many-a scene.


Nothing about this movie is subtle. There are primary characters named Conrad and Marlow, just to drive home that Heart of Darkness influence. The film also shamelessly apes (pun intended) Jurassic Park, right down to the moment Samuel L. Jackson exclaims, "Hold onto your butts!" Yes, really. Both thematically and visually, it's about as subtle as King Kong tip-toeing through the jungle. Still, these small transgressions are forgivable thanks to awesome action sequences and the inspired choice to set the story during the Vietnam War, which gives the film a unique look and feel. Expect obligatory (but always awesome) 70s music like CCR and Jefferson Airplane.

The computer-generated FX are top-notch and there is no shortage of giant creatures fighting each other. It is gory and violent in ways that push its PG-13 rating, which is fitting considering the prevalent war theme. Kong's very first appearance is a powerhouse of awesomeness to which the rest of the film never quite lives up but there is plenty more fun thereafter. There is even a bit of humor, though it does not always succeed. For sure, Skull Island's strongest attributes are its 70s-inspired visual style, the war allegory, and some bad-ass gorilla action. It is not a perfect film but it is a damn fun one that should ideally be experienced on the big screen. It is the very definition of a "popcorn flick" plus a little extra food-for-thought, at least for those who remember their history lessons.

(Psst, make sure to stay until after the end credits!)


Reviews: Ash vs. Evil Dead - "Trapped Inside", "Delusion", "Ashy Slashy" & "Home Again"


By: Heather Seebach

**Warning: The following contains spoilers**

Review: "Trapped Inside"

As you may have noticed, I fell a bit behind in my Ash vs. Evil Dead reviews, thanks to a very busy November, and boy did I pick a shitty time to take a hiatus! These last four episodes have been freaking great! After my last review ("Confinement") came "Trapped Inside" wherein Ash & co are under siege by an angry mob and Cheryl (played by Ellen Sandweiss herself) makes an epic return! Right down to the wardrobe and forehead bandage, she was perfect! The final sequence of Ash showing the townsfolk how demon-killing is done with her was pretty great, too. Sadly, we lost Chet this episode, but fortunately it wouldn't be the last time we see Ted...more on that later!

Best Lines of "Trapped Inside"

1) "You died after you got branch-banged by a demon tree about 30 years ago." - Ash
2)  "Back off now or I will fuck your faces with bullets!" - Kelly
3) "I'm gonna make like a tree and fuck you!"- Cheryl


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Review: "Delusion"
 
Next up came "Delusion" wherein Ash wakes up in a mental institution. This episode quickly jumped up to my favorite of the season, possibly even the whole series to-date. Firstly, Baal is way more interesting as the doctor than that greasy-haired, fingernail dude. Secondly, it's a mind-bendy episode with just enough wackiness (i.e., the puppet) to fit comfortably in Evil Dead canon. There are definitely some moments in the asylum that recall Ash losing his mind in Evil Dead 2.

 Sure, we know full-well that Ash's experiences couldn't have all been a delusion (or at least we know what a cop-out that twist would be) but it's still a pretty interesting concept, and it would be typical of a murderer to create such a delusion to cope with the guilt and grief. Plus, the mental torment makes Baal that much more interesting of a nemesis. Finally, how freaking awesome is that puppet?!

Best Lines of "Delusion"

1) "You can suck my saggy bills, Baal." - Ash
2) "Ruby said this would be hard. Buddy, I've had harder turds. You are a joke of a demon!" - Ash
3) "Wait, there was that one time sunlight DID work..." - Ash (on deadites vs. vampires)


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Review: "Ashy Slashy"

"Ashy Slashy" was the next episode. It is the weakest of the most recent episodes but not by much. It's basically part two of "Delusion", as Kelly, Pablo, and Ruby try to rescue Ash, who may or may not be brainwashed now. The MVP for me this episode is deadite Lacy. This season does not have as many classic deadites as season 1, so I love when they come along, especially ones enjoying themselves as much as the sheriff's dead daughter. Also, Kelly vs. the puppet is a classic Evil Dead 2-esque slapstick battle. It is also nice to see Ash as the enemy once again, even if it's just an act. Bonus: cosplayers now have a new version of Ash to dress up as! 

If I could change one small detail about this episode, it would be to have Linda be the one who shoots Baal in the final scene (after her rousing speech about avenging her family) - it's just more poetic. Speaking of the final scene...Pablo. *sniff sniff* I hope it's not really the end for him. I love Pablo!

Best Lines of "Ashy Slashy"

1) "Look daddy, a unicorn! Magic IS real!' - Lacy
2) "I have seen some seriously disturbing stuff lately but you...are ADORABLE." - Kelly
3) "Girl, you're the one with your hand all up in my puppet pooper!" - Ashy Slashy

Also, Ash chainsawing through a corpse's chest and saying "Having a heart to heart"? followed by Ruby swiftly punching him in the face through his chainsaw hole...makes me snort-laugh.


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Review: "Home Again"

Finally, the most recent episode saw Ash dealing with the grief of losing his "little Mexican buddy." He realizes he can possibly save his friend by going back in time again, thus giving us our most solid reference to Army of Darkness on this series yet. Sure, it could still technically be an Evil Dead 2 reference, but all the same, the medieval times portion of Ash's life has not been alluded to yet on this show for legal reasons which are no longer an issue according to producer Rob Tapert. 

So Ash & co. go back through that familiar blue portal and end up in 1982. Right away we are reminded that time is a loop when Ash causes the business man to drink - the same man who we already know is a homeless drunk in present-day. Also, Ruby outright reminds us that there are always multiple timelines, thus introducing a clever and intriguing way of explaining (or at least poking fun at) all the loose continuity of the first two Evil Dead films. 

 This season has been dropping little throw-backs to Evil Dead 2 since episode 1 but this is the one that really brings it home. The particular timeline/universe in which Ash has arrived is seemingly the one we saw in Evil Dead 2. The cabin looks just as we remember, from the Home Sweet Home sign to the soon-to-be-possessed deer and rocking chair. The framed photo of Annie on the table basically confirms which film we are in.
 
What comes next is sheer delight for fans of ED slapstick: Ash steps on a nail, his foot gets possessed, and we assumed what comes next until it goes all Army of Darkness on us with a demon in Ash's belly. The sound effects in this scene are perfect and just as we remember. By the time Ash was back in the kitchen, punching himself and swallow scalding water, this fangirl was in heaven! This whole episode is just oozing ED2 goodness. The director clearly paid close attention because there are subtle shots that totally nail the style of the second film, from the quick-zoom montage to the slow pan toward the cellar door - perfection!

This episode has some fun Easter eggs for fans of the original films, like this little cameo by a The Hills Have Eyes poster. That same poster appeared in The Evil Dead


You may also have noticed the familiar Camp Tamakwa shirt hanging there by the closest...


There have been many references to Shemps beer so this one is not new, but since we got such a good shot of it this episode....


As you probably know, Freddy's glove made two appearances in Evil Dead 2, in the workshed and the cellar. This shot from the cellar in "Home Again" shows a glove and what almost looks like blades there, but I'm skeptical. It does look like the same location...perhaps it's still an intended reference but copyright is an issue now?


Compare those to this shot from season 1...


What comes next is when yours truly very nearly exploded. I am a massive fan not only of Evil Dead 2 but of Henrietta in particular, so this episode blew my goddamn mind. Not only does Henrietta make a grand re-appearance, blue dress and all, but then she transforms into her first gnarly deadite form and who else has returned to reprise the role but TED FUCKING RAIMI!  Ted was just 20 years old when he first suffered in that Henrietta suit, and here he is doing it again at 50! Never in a million years did I think I'd get to see that again. Dreams do come true folks! The make-up looks GREAT and Ted brings everything to it again! I'm still reeling! Needless to say, this episode quickly overtook "Delusion" as my favorite.

Best Lines of "Home Again"

1) "I thought it was here...or did I find it in cellar with Scotty?" - Ash, looking for the book
2) "Fuck you, Ash! Fuck you!" - Ash's tummy monster
3) "That chin of yours is an easy target!" - Henrietta



So, next week is the big finale! I'm curious if Professor Knowby's student Tanya is going to have any sort of yet-unseen relevance in the next episode (especially with that random story about her roommates' cat). Probably not but I'm curious all the same. I also figure Baal will be back, as this episode has a blink-and-miss-it moment of a man-in-black running toward the cabin. I love that this episode subtly addresses the confusing timelines and I expect we will get more of that next week. Here are the little things I most want to see...
My Wish List for the Finale:

- Henrietta in her third form (I already know we are getting this based on the preview, yay!)
- Return of the laughing deer, and maybe some possessed household items too!
- Return of Evil Ash (perfect timing what with all the Ashy slashy stuff)

What are you hoping for in the season 2 finale?! 

Watch Ash vs Evil Dead this Sunday at 8PM ET/PT on Starz! 

Review: Ash vs. Evil Dead - "Confinement"


By: Heather Seebach

With the possessed Classic subdued and the Necronomicon cast into Hell, a celebratory Ash is ready to pack up and head back to his Jacksonville paradise but evil is not yet done with Elk Grove. So too are the police not yet done with Ash, who is swiftly arrested for murder. Meanwhile, the much-talked-about villain Baal finally makes his first appearance in the flesh - literally. Just call him Buffalo Baal because this bad boy has a thing for skinning folks and wearing their hide! 

With Ash in jail, the whole gang soon assembles at the local police station and that's when things go a bit John Carpenter: Assault on Precinct 13 meets The Thing as everyone is locked in the station and Baal slowly turns them against each other using paranoia. Among those trapped is Sheriff Emery, who has a serious grudge against Ash (one made even stronger by Baal's whispers), along with his wife and daughter. Chet, a knife-happy prostitute, and the town drunk are along for the fun, as well. 


Ruby in particular is taking no shit this episode and to be honest, it is the most I have liked her character in a long time. Mostly, I find her pretty useless and uninteresting, but I was buying her act a little more this episode. Lawless goes face-to-face with fellow Kiwi actor and Xena alum, Joel Tobeck, who portrays Baal, and who looks exactly like the would-be lovechild of Michael Shannon and Brad Dourif. He likes to slit people open with his velociraptor fingernail and masquerade in their skin-suit, thus creating the fear that he could be anyone and anywhere. 

The skinning thing is pretty gnarly, and one of the best displays of practical FX to date on this show. It is obvious that the show-runners listened to CGI-related woes from the fans after season 1, as this season has definitely upped the ante on practical gore FX. Furthermore, that change has not remotely slowed the flow of blood; in fact, this season has only gotten wilder and bloodier! For that, this horror fan is most grateful. 

My three wishes for the next episode:

- I would like to see what else Baal can do. This particular demon has been mega-hyped and I hope he is as frightening of a foe as they make him out to be.

- Please give poor Pablo a break. He has existed this season entirely to be tortured, tormented, and generally used as a meat puppet, and it's just getting sad now.

- Bring the original films back into the mix. I suspect there is a Cheryl subplot still coming and I look forward to that. The first episode of this season had a lot of direct and indirect references to the films and then the show shifted away from that. 


Ash vs. Evil Dead airs Sunday nights on STARZ at 8PM ET/PT

Review: Ash vs. Evil Dead - "D.U.I."


By: Heather Seebach

Picking up just moments after the shocking conclusion of episode 3, "D.U.I." wastes little time on tears and slips right back into disgusting, hilarious territory. Ash's beloved Delta 88 is still possessed and wreaking havoc on Elk Grove. While Ash searches for his metallic baby, Ruby is hunting down her own kids for fear they may find the Necronomicon first. Meanwhile, Pablo takes an unwanted joyride and goes face-to-face (literally) with the Book of the Dead. 

This episode fortunately gives Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi a lot more screen-time together. When Ash's own vehicle breaks bad, he needs some wheels and that's where Chet (Raimi) comes into it. Campbell and Raimi go way back, and Xena: Princess Warrior fans are no doubt anxiously awaiting a three-way reunion between those guys and Lucy Lawless on this show. For now, it is a treat just watching the boys together again, especially with Ted's signature Raimi hamming. 

Kelly joins Ruby in her quest, which is kind of boring and redundant if I'm being honest. The ladies kick deadite ass but there is nothing new here, save for a creepy jump-scare or two. I was more interested in Pablo's latest brutal premonition, which gives us our first little glimpse at Baal, the putative villain of this season. So far, we have only heard vague mentions of the name, and I am still hoping his eventual introduction is not a let-down.


Oblivious to the goings-on with Baal and his minions, Ash tracks the Classic to an abandoned Demolition Derby where he engages in a bullfight of sorts with the demonic car. There is a bit of cartoon-y CGI but hey, at least the gore isn't so digitized this season, yes? In truth, nothing about this episode takes itself seriously, from the gruesome opener to shtick-y banter between Ash and Chet. "D.U.I." is absolutely caked in blood and violence but the stakes do not feel especially high, not yet anyway. That is where I am hoping Baal will come into it -  the proverbial shit on the fan. 

Evil Dead fanatics should keep their eyes peeled this episode for little Easter eggs, like the many references to the local brew with an amusing name, or a familiar sticker on the rear window of the Classic...

"D.U.I." airs Sunday, October 23rd at 8:00 PM ET/PT on Starz

Happy 35th Birthday to THE EVIL DEAD!


This very day, 35 years ago, the Michigan Mafia premiered their debut feature, Book of the Dead at the Redford Theater in Detroit. This little horror movie would, of course, later be known as The Evil Dead, one of the most revered and infamous films of all time.

That night at the Redford, the cast was in attendance along with crew members and friends such as Josh Becker, Ted Raimi, Tom Sullivan, and even Ethan Coen, who actually delivered the final reel to the screening. His brother Joel was an assistant editor on the film. Of course the three main amigos were there too - director/writer Sam Raimi, producer Rob Tapert, and star Bruce Campbell (all featured above) - arriving in a limousine decked out in their tuxedos. According to Becker, the limo would drive around the block and individually drop each of the three men off to make it appear as if they each had a limo. If that isn't so perfectly Raimi-esque, I don't know what is.

Campbell had suggested the Redford Theater because he grew up watching films there. Sam wanted the premiere to be as theatrical as possible, using custom tickets and wind tracks set in the theater. He ordered big searchlights and ambulances to be waiting outside the theater to build hype. Raimi was inspired by filmmaker William Castle who was best known for his theatrical gimmicks with films like The Tingler and Macabre. The Redford also had the largest pipe organ in the Midwest so of course they used it open the film with Bach's haunting Toccata and Fugue in D minor.

Sam Raimi and Josh Becker

According to "The Evil Dead Companion" by Bill Warren, the movie shown that night is the movie we see today with two exceptions:

1) The title (obviously)

2) Sam had composed the film for a 1:1.66 aspect ratio, which the Redford Theater was able to accommodate, and it has never been shown that way again since.

The 1100-seat Redford Theater ended up being packed with a thousand guests, far exceeding the expectations of the filmmakers. They deliberately filled the balcony with hundreds of high school kids who provided exactly the uproarious reactions they wanted. The screening was by all accounts a big success, after which Raimi & co. went on to "tour" the film to build hype and secure distribution. The rest, of course, is horror history.

Sam Raimi and Ethan Coen


Fun Fact: It Follows (2014) had a particularly effective scene in a movie theater where the protagonist goes on a date. That scene was filmed in the Redford Theater!


Review: Ash vs. Evil Dead - "Last Call"


By: Heather Seebach

The Evil Dead franchise has only a few consistent staples that appear in every incarnation. Among them are Bruce Campbell, the Necronomicon, and Sam Raimi's 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88, better known as The Classic. This episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead pays special attention to the yellow machine after it was stolen by some hoodlum teenagers in the last episode. As a fan of all things Raimi, I was particularly tickled watching The Classic have its day, including a loving montage that recalls all the good times it and Ash have shared over the years. The montage is especially amusing if you know that Campbell, in fact, once vowed in his book to "have an army of mechanics dispatched to destroy [the car]." Their relationship is a complicated one, needless to say. 

In "Last Call", however, Bruce has nothing but love for the old Delta 88 which, along with the Necronomicon, is now in the hands of some thieving kids. In order to get his baby back, Ash has a plan: throw a party and lure the thieves with the promise of drugs and fun! With the help of his old pal Chet (played by another Evil Dead staple, Ted Raimi), he mixes up his famous drink "Pink Fuck" - a Ketamine-laced liqueur concoction - to lure every drunk, horny teenager in Elk Grove. The plan goes awry, however, when Ash's dad Brock crashes the party.


Meanwhile, said teenagers learn they shouldn't smoke weed and drive the hard way when The Classic meets "the Force" for the first time in Evil Dead history - think Christine with shades of Death Proof. The episode is full of over-the-top gore scenes but three in particular drive it home (pun intended): 

1) One of the teenagers is dispatched in a delightfully nasty way.
2) We see what a swirly looks like in the Evil Dead universe.
3) A shocking moment that just might make you exclaim "Jesus!" (as I did)

 Viewers who dislike the "sex and drugs" element of the show may be turned off by this episode but hopefully the combination of The Classic and Ted Raimi will sate those old-school fans. I am particularly hoping for more of Bruce and Ted hamming it up together, as we only get a brief glimpse in this episode. On the plus side, we get more of Bruce and Lee Majors together, including a mechanical bull challenge and other forms of father-son bonding. There is even some surprisingly heartfelt conversation between the two. 

"Last Call" is a bit of a come-down after the insanity of last week's episode (that morgue scene!) but it's a fun, interesting time all the same. I look forward to this season finding its villain but it seems Ash has a lot of internal demons to defeat first.  

Ash vs. Evil Dead airs Sunday nights at 8pm ET/PT on STARZ


Josh's Essential Halloween Viewing


By: Josh Bravo 

If you’re reading this, you probably love Halloween as much as I do. It’s just the best - pumpkins everywhere; horror movies on basic cable; cool air (depending on where you live); autumnal colors (also depending on where you live); Spirit Halloween stores popping up; the costume and decoration section at big box stores; mini Snickers; those orange Oreos; haunted houses; fog machines; haunted trails; skeletons; Michael Jackson’s "Thriller" being overplayed; Halloween-themed TV episodes; bobbing for apples; people discovering The Misfits; costume parties; blah, blah, blah. I could go on forever. I really think the best part of October is that everyone suddenly relates to all of us horror fanatics for 31 days. Everyone is in the mood to watching something scary. Where are these people the rest of the year? Who knows! 

But let’s get to the bottom line of this article: every October I have a sustaining desire to watch movies ABOUT Halloween. I’m not even exclusively talking about something scary. I’ll take something family-friendly or funny or weird or whatever it might be. If it’s about Halloween, I’m in. And I’m not talking about having one scene set during Halloween. I’m saying, if you can replace Halloween and set it around any other day or holiday, I’m out. Halloween has to have a crucial part of the plot. 

So, with all that said, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best and some of my favorite Halloween movies, TV episodes and specials. Right off the bat, I’m not including the usual suspects: John Carpenter’s Halloween, Hocus Pocus, Trick R Treat, It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, and Halloweentown. These are Halloween staples and just way too obvious to include. I want to shine a light on the more obscure ones; the ones that I believe should be on the Halloween display in every movie section. I feel like these capture the spirit, flavor, and charm of Halloween perfectly. Oh, and I promise I won’t include a complex, wordy book report on each one that so many “lists” include nowadays.


1. The Midnight Hour (1985) 


The Midnight Hour is too good to be a TV movie. It's a much darker Hocus Pocus. I mean, people straight up die in this movie! And that ending would put test audiences into a frenzy. Did I mention it’s similar to Hocus Pocus? A group of kids on Halloween inadvertently resurrecting a witch? Check. Trying to break the curse before midnight? Check. The undead roaming around the town? Check. Someone from the past coming back to a put a stop to the curse? Double check.



 2. The Real Ghostbusters - The Halloween Door (1989) 


This arguably might be better than Ghostbusters II. This Halloween special (which was aired during prime-time) shows what would happen if you erase Halloween from existence - which is, you know, demon-monsters rising up and destroying New York. It also has a great Halloween song sung by the Ghostbusters. But the best part of this special is the design of the main demon. It’s so downright creepy that he might as well be the Devil. Did you hear what I just said? Yes, it could basically be boiled down to the Ghostbusters vs the Devil on Halloween night.



 3. Night of the Demons (1988) 


 I have a soft spot for teen horror flicks from the 80s. You just always know what you’re going to get: a group of way-too-old-to-be-in high-school teenagers; that one girl that you want to see naked will get naked; tons of over-the-top kills; one person will survive until the sequel; and the whole thing will be set to music from a Casio keyboard. Night of the Demons doesn’t do anything new but it’s the Halloween version of all of that. Oh, and it’s the best Linnea Quigley movie ever.


4. Tales from the Darkside - Halloween Candy/Trick or Treat (1985/1983) 


Out of all the anthology horror television shows, this is the one that was the most unsettling, especially that intro! I’m taking the two Halloween episodes and making them one big episode for this entry. On one side, you have the episode “Halloween Candy” directed by Tom Savini, who knows a thing or two about scary shit. If you’ve seen Trick R Treat (and you probably have), it plays out almost identical to the final segment. It's a true Halloween and curmudgeonly old man tale if there ever was one. Speaking of a curmudgeonly old man, “Trick or Treat” - which was written by George Romero - will seriously have you yell out, "Holy shit!" It has probably the scariest witch I have ever seen and what I can only imagine is Satan (hey, it’s his second appearance on this list) handing down punishment for taking the “trick” in trick or treat too far. Basically, if you’re an old man, don’t hate on Halloween - it is never going to end well for you!



5. Garfield’s Halloween Adventure (1985) 


Some of the best cartoons are the ones that find that middle ground of not too childish and not overly adult either. You know, it starts out pretty normal and funny and cute but as it gets going it begins to get spookier and spookier, until it has you at that point where a telephone ring would make you jump. That's this one. And it has a Halloween song by Lou Rawls that you will have to immediately add to your Halloween party mix after hearing it.



6. Halloween with the New Addams Family (1977) 


 The Addams Family in color! And real color, not that colorized BS. This special televised reunion was meant to be a reboot for a new series, which ended up never happening. How appropriate for the family of weird to get such a weird Halloween special. This one is shot on videotape instead of film - which gives it a cheap middle school production feel - and is filmed in a real house as opposed to a studio. Plus, there is a new opening theme song and a laugh track that can’t decide whether to join in or sit out. All of that aside, having the Addams Family prepare for Halloween by putting up a Halloween scarecrow and singing Halloween songs is too good to leave off. Also, there is a flute gag with Gomez that is just perfect.



 7. WNUF Halloween Special (2013) 


Why don’t local news stations do Halloween specials anymore? Do they even dress up for Halloween on the air anymore? If they don’t, they should. But I digress. The fictional film, WNUF Halloween Special not only captures Halloween in a nutshell but it perfectly captures the VHS era. Recording your favorite movie or TV show on a cassette tape; fast forwarding through the commercials; and sometimes not hitting record fast enough and missing the first few seconds - WNUF has all of that plus fake commercials to go alongside the broadcast. It’s a genuinely refreshing take on the found-footage genre and even takes it up a few notches.


8. The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t (1979) 


He is never going to be mentioned alongside Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi, or Klaus Kinski but goddamn is Judd Hirsch really funny as Dracula. Okay, funny is different for everyone, so I will be more specific: This one is pretty slapstick-y. It even has a Scooby-Doo style chase in it. My biggest takeaway from this movie: wishing the real world loved monsters like the kids in this movie do.


 9. The Halloween Tree (1993) 


 This is a legitimate love letter to Halloween that is written and narrated by Ray Bradbury. You don’t get much better than that. It inches toward PBS educational territory, as we learn about the historical significance of the holiday, but then the plot goes deep and dark with a child about to stare death in the face. It features a ton of Halloween imagery and some damn fine animation, courtesy of Hannah Barbara. When it comes to animated Halloween tales, this one is unrivaled.


10. Goosebumps - The Haunted Mask Part I and II (1995) 


I am going to combine episodes again: making ’The Haunted Mask Part I' and 'The Haunted Mask Part II' into one big episode really makes it much scarier. It tells the tale of a mask that simply won’t come off, which is terrifying. Not only will it not come off, but it slowly begins turning you into someone or something else entirely. And remember, these are prepubescent kids that are in danger here - a theme that you see a lot during Halloween.



 11. Fun Size (2012) 


This is a theatrical release that should have been a TV movie. A really fun film that has all the imagery of a hectic Halloween night. You’re not going to find anything macabre here but you’ll get Adventures in Babysitting on Halloween. Plus, it’s one of those movies that gets a little too raunchy for its own good - you know, for a family film.



 12. Under Wraps (1997) 


This spot would easily go to Halloweentown but that one has gotten pretty popular over the years, and as I said in the intro, I'm omitting the more popular choices. You can find the entire Halloweentown series on DVD in almost any store but Under Wraps is the one that seems to get kicked to the curb. In this Disney Channel Original, a group of kids help a mummy that needs to get back to his coffin before midnight on Halloween. It also features a Halloween-obsessed kid that I’m sure everyone can relate to.


13. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) 


Remember when I talked about kids in danger? Well, killing kids is literally the plot of this movie. I mean, how brilliant is it to take the two biggest factors of Halloween (kids and costumes) and turn them into a method of murder for the antagonist? I swear, this movie would be a classic if it didn't have "Halloween" in the title. That fact is ironic because Season of the Witch is way more about Halloween than Carpenter's Halloween is about Halloween. This is the movie that should be the October equivalent of A Christmas Story. It would be such a metal parallel device to have everyone singing that "Silver Shamrock" tune in real life. You would get sick of it just like Tom Atkins got sick of it in the movie! 


There you have it! Thirteen films and specials that should give you those Halloween feels when you need them the most. Sit down and watch them in the dark; project them onto a wall during your annual Halloween party; have them playing in the background while you’re carving your pumpkin; or any time you just want to get into the Halloween spirit. These all deserve to be seen, especially in October. 

The Sound of Vengeance: The Music of 'The Crow'


By: Tristan Collett

From the tribal, middle eastern-inspired opening bars of Graeme Revell’s score, hovering over a tapestry of burning buildings, it is clear that the soundscape of The Crow is as integral to the character of the film as its visuals. However, along with this orchestration, the nocturnal urban setting is perfectly complimented by a carefully chosen rock soundtrack.

When I went to see the film adaptation of James O’Barr’s graphic novel in 1994, it felt like the first time alternative rock culture was represented on a decent-budget movie. To blend with the comic book dark fantasy, The Crow took cues from the 80s goth music scene, reviving its influence. It may even be to blame for late 90s metal going on to embrace such a morbid, theatrical visual style. The dark rock soundtrack was, of course, fitting, seeing as the source material’s character was influenced by cultural icons such as Iggy Pop and Bauhaus lead singer Peter Murphy.

Music is everywhere throughout this movie, whether incidental in the background (such as ‘Big Empty’ by Stone Temple Pilots and ‘Snakedriver’ by The Jesus and Mary Chain); more deliberately present to set the mood for the scene (in the menacing ‘Golgotha Tenement Blues’ by Machines of Loving Grace, for example); or even actually helping drive the narrative. The soundtrack feels almost like another character in the movie.


The Crow provides a great example of how well music can be used in a film. Certain moments feel like set pieces designed around the music and are all the more impressive for it, gelling image and soundtrack perfectly. When the recently resurrected Eric Draven remembers his lost lifetime, he channels his rage, transforming into the avenger. ‘Burn’ by The Cure, an original song written for the film, gives songwriter Robert Smith licence to his interpretation of our protagonist. Everything about this tune is hauntingly beautiful, depicting Eric’s character transition perfectly - consumed by grief, lost love and anger: “Every night I burn, Scream the animal scream, Every night I burn, Dream the crow black dream”.

As he realises his mission, Eric chases the crow across the rooftops to his first revenge kill. For this sequence, the truly inspired choice of Nine Inch Nails’ cover of original goth-rockers Joy Division’s ‘Dead Souls’ is used. This choice is validated by O’Barr having credited Joy Division as having particular influence on him throughout his writing the book. A song this slow shouldn’t work, but the relentless trudge of the rhythm section mixed with the drive of the faster power guitars allow Eric to keep pace. The lyrical mantra “they keep calling me” replaces the need for an expository monologue. Director Alex Proyas knows when to let the film breathe with the music.

The introduction to the main antagonist’s club hangout is accompanied by the raw energy of a live performance. As T-Bird and Skank walk into The Pit, shoegaze band Medicine are playing ‘Time Baby III’. The fact that you can feel it has been recorded live gives a gritty realism to the world, subconsciously pulling the viewer even deeper into the story.


As the film reaches its final act, ‘After The Flesh’ by My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult brings us back into the villain Top Dollar’s lair, building the tension for the imminent conflict. A frenetic live performance from the band on the lower floor level stage is intercut with preparation for the violence of the Devil’s Night arson attacks. This board meeting is interrupted by the titular supernatural crow and indestructible Eric, erupting into a systematic slaughter of the mob in order to reach the next target, Skank. The techno-infused rock accentuates the chaos, heightening its impact. As one of the henchmen is catapulted down into the club level, crashing into the stage, the music stops and the tone changes. Purposefully, this emphasises that this is no time for a rock video to glamorize the violent, vengeful proceedings.

For the closing credits, ‘It Can’t Rain All The Time’ provides a softer bookend to the story, borrowing from one of Draven’s fictional songs within the film itself. Although more commercial-sounding than any of the other music in the film, the bittersweet lyrics sung by Jane Siberry and the acoustic instrumentation give the much-needed break the audience needs from the melancholia of the previous 90 minutes.

The soundtrack to The Crow worked against the odds. Although prolific use of alternative rock in a movie’s soundtrack is commonplace nowadays, back in 1994 it was a risk. The song choices did not come from as much of a commercial standpoint as most examples of its day, free reign seemingly having been given to Alex Proyas when directing. When watching the film, it feels that Proyas successfully created a mutual trust between himself and the intended counter-culture audience, which remains over 20 years on.

The Incredible "Off The Wall" Sculptures of Brad Hill


Today, Los Angeles' own pop-culture art gallery Gallery1988 featured these unique and adorable little sculptures based on some of the best genre films! Created by Brad Hill, these figures are one-of-a-kind. So as you can probably imagine, they are not cheap - and most are already sold out - but you can still feast your eyes by checking out Hill's "Off The Wall" gallery right here on Gallery1988! Below are some of my favorites...

Aliens

An American Werewolf in London

Donnie Darko

Mad Max: Fury Road

Jaws

Pet Semetary

Se7en

The Thing
 



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