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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Horror Special: Top 50 Horror Films!

Okay, I have to do my obligatory (albeit late) list of my all time favorite horror movies! See if you agree! If I missed any, please leave a comment and I'll add it!

1) Halloween (1978) --John Carpenter's masterpiece. Michael Myers behind his frozen mask=pure terror.
2) Psycho (1960)--There is a good reason why everyone picks Psycho as a favorite. I especially love the stair scene.
3) Alien (1979)--Just one can kill seven.
4) Se7en (1995)--Speaking of seven, don't open the box!
5) Freaks (1932)--One of us! One of us!
6) Audition (1999)--As I mentioned earlier, the only movie to ever to make me physically ill.
7) Don’t Look Now (1973)--Beware of spectres from your past, they might turn out to be...
8) Dawn of the Dead (1978)--Zombies! On an escalator!
9) Night of the Living Dead (1968)--Zombie children are NOT okay.
10) Silence of the Lambs (1991)--It rubs the lotion on its skin...
11) The Thing (1982)--When you consider how many people have ripped this movie off, you start to appreciate it more.
12) The Ring (American Version) (2002)--Finding the dead girl in the closet was more than I could take.
13) Jaws (1975)--We're gonna need a bigger boat.
14) The Exorcist (1973)--Take meee!
15) Suspiria (1977)--Satan's ballet company. Don't stand under the chandelier.
16) Creepshow (1981)--Hilarious, campy, terrifying...this one's got it all!
17) The Shining (1980)--Okay, so, it's not the book, but Kubrick manages to tell a story that is, in some ways, better!
18) Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)--The scene with the girl getting dragged up and down the walls...holy shit.
19) Cat People (1942)-- Strange, fierce pleasures that no other woman could ever feel!
20) Rosemary’s Baby (1968)--It is only really scary the first time, but it is truly creepy.
21) The Haunting (1963)--For very little money, Robert Wise scares the crap out of Claire Bloom.
22) Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)--Doesn't anyone care about ME and MY BOY???
23) Carrie (1976)--One of my all time favorite films. Piper Laurie is as scary as Ann Coulter.
24) Aliens (1986)--Not as scary as the first, but almost.
25) Arachnophobia (1990)--More funny than scary, but it is truly one of the finest additions to the creature subgenre
26) The Last House on the Left (1972)--Rape is much more terrifying than giant subterranian worms.
27) Tremors (1990)--AGH! Giant subterranean worms!
28) House of Wax (1953)--Vincent Price at his finest.
29) Child's Play (1988)--This movie made me too scared to play with my My Buddy Doll. I locked him in the closet.
30) Dracula (1931)--He never drinks...wine.
31) An American Werewolf in London (1981)
32) The Fly (1986)--I used to fantasize about Jeff Goldblum. Then I saw his face fall off. Thanks a lot, David Cronenberg!
33) The Hills Have Eyes (1978)--Brutal.
34) The Lost Boys (1987)--A bunch of angst-ridden pseudo-gay vampire teenagers, plus Corey & Corey. Awesome.
35) Evil Dead (1982)--A fabulously sick movie that changed the face of horror forever.
36) The Vanishing (1988)--When you lose your wife at a truck stop, let it go.
37) The Birds (1963)--Phone booths are NOT seagull proof, you fool.
38) Peeping Tom (1960)--The cameraman as the angel of death. Truly rare and disturbing.
39) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)--Better than the original, and absolutely terrifying.
40) Silver Bullet (1985)--My favorite werewolf movie, it manages to be scary and lighthearted at the same time.
41) Nosferatu (1922)--I think Max Schreck really was a vampire in real life.
42) The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)--There is a good reason why Rob Zombie rips off this movie so often.
43) Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)--He killed his momma!
44) Franksenstein (1931)--The best adaptation of the book, in my opinion.
45) White Zombie (1932)--Bela Lugosi's classic zombie slave love story.
46) Scream (1996)--I just love meta-horror! Scream is a rare combo of tongue-in-cheek and real suspense.
47) 28 Days Later (2002)--A terrifying, breakneck zombie picture.
48) The Devil’s Backbone (2001)--The Spanish Civil War, orphans, ghosts, gold, and masterful direction by Del Toro.
49) Dog Soldiers (2002)--Werewolves of Scotland...Aaaooooo!
50) Eyes Without a Face (1960)--The original Face Off.

Masters of Horror: Imprint

How disturbing do you have to get to be turned away from Showtime's inconsistent but nevertheless entertaining series Masters of Horror? Takashi Miike's incredible short film Imprint proves that some things can be too brutal even for American cable television. Miike, of course, is used to having his work labeled "grotesque" and "disturbing." His film 2003 film Gozu famously nauseated its audiences, and his 1999 film Audition is the only film to ever make me physically ill. Miike is so revered and influential in the horror genre, Eli Roth featured him in a memorable guest role in Hostel , a movie that owes much of its imagery to Miike's work. While the promise of nausea hardly sounds like a ringing endorsement, it is all part of Miike's unique style, and it is central to the messages he tries to convey in his work. Imprint, like Audiion, juxtaposes the very beautiful with the very ugly, and parallels the tortures of guilt with, well, actual torture.

The story is very simple. Christopher, an American journalist, travels through mid-19th century Japan searching for a long lost love. Well, actually, it's a long lost whore, but she is the only woman he has ever loved and, as he sees it, his last shot at redemption. Many years ago, he promised to take her back to America. As the film begins, we see him travelling to a nefarious island of ill repute in the hopes of keeping that promise. The brothel on the island is inhabited by, we are told, whores and demons. He spends the night in the brothel, accompanied by a deformed whore with no name who tells him horrific tales about the fate of Komomo, his lost love. As the film progresses, we begin to discover that the demons we see are projected by Christopher himself, and that he is pretty much beyond any kind of redemption.

Imprint is an incredibly upsetting film that touches on every evil imaginable. In one short hour the audience is exposed to incest, rape, murder, torture, abortion, child molestation and spousal abuse. While this imagery might seem gratuitous, I found it to be a necessary device. After all, how can a man confront the evil inside him if he censors the evil? Although one could interpret the film as a criticism of exploitation of Japanese culture by American culture, I got the feeling that this film had little to do with cultures or nations. Rather is is about the true evil that exists in human nature. Imprint has a nightmarish and surreal quality, reminiscent of Rashomon and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. It suffers somewhat from a dearth of Japanese: the film is shot entirely in English, in spite of the fact that only one cast member could actually speak english, and Miike himself only knows a few English words. As a result, some of the dialogue comes off as odd and stilted. The photography makes up for the script, however; I have not seen such a bold and symbolic use of color since The Last Emperor. This film is not for everybody. I found much of it hard to watch, and I am not a squeamish woman. However, if you are a fan of Miike's work, Imprint is not to be missed.

The amount of money I would pay to see this: $6

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Dexter Hits Its Stride, Weeds Leaves Us Hanging

Attention: the following review contains spoilers. I, personally, love a good spoiler, but I don't want to ruin it for the rest of you and have to sift through hate mail so...close this window now if you don't want to know what happened to Nancy Botwin or if you still don't know who the Ice Truck Killer is.

In its fifth episode, Dexter really hits its stride. Dexter offs some baddies who make their living hustling Cubans into Florida (and murdering the ones who can't pay for the service). Meanwhile, the Ice Truck Killer (we presume) follows Dex on his kill and decides to turn the cops onto his trail. That's right, one serial killer is outing the other. The relationship between Dex and Rita is becoming very sweet, and I get the sense that Dexter is starting to understand what love is (while he's stalking one of his victims on a yacht, Dexter thinks "I wonder if Rita and the kids would like fishing? No, no, focus..."). I also like the fact that Rita's character is becoming more developed; she is not just a two-dimensional love interest, she has her own story line and her own personality. Now that Dexter has piqued my interest, I wonder how it could possibly maintain its momentum to the end of the series. Here is my biggest question: will Dexter stick with the same plot line as the book, thus introducing the same character as the killer? The show has begun to deviate from the book's plotline already, so it is very possible that the show's writers have something special in mind. Personally, I would appreciate that because the end of the book is a big disappointment. I have big respect for the Law of Economy of Characters, which states that there are no unnecessary characters, and all characters are really clues to the plot's mystery. The Law has driven some of the greatest films and television shows ever: The Usual Suspects, The Woman in White, Twin Peaks, Psycho, Dressed to Kill and Desperate Housewives to name a few. Saw, while fundamentally flawed, used the Law brilliantly, introducing the killer early while planting the notion that he could not possibly be the killer (what with the terminal cancer and all). I absolutely hate it when a film (I'm looking at you, Bone Collector) introduces a total stranger as the killer. It makes me feel cheated, because it means I never had a chance of figuring out who the killer was the whole time. Dexter, if it stays true to its source material, should be introducing Dexter's brother Brian any episode now. If they wait for the last episode of the season to trot out an evil twin, I'm going to fashion wax effigies of the writers and set them on fire.

Weeds had its season finale yesterday; one of the best season finales I have ever seen. Jenji Kohan borrows an awful lot from Tarantino in the final episode, but that particular style fits with the complex characters structure and subject matter in the show. I have never held my breath while watching a sitcom, but Weeds manages to create such suspense in the cliffhanger ending, I had no choice but to clutch onto my coffee mug in anticipation. Here's the lowdown: Celia finds out that Silas took all of the drug free zone cameras and signs. She comes to Nancy's house with a gun (oh, Celia) and shoots Nancy's china cabinet, then stumbles off to crawl inside a bottle of Belvedere. Nancy attends Shane's graduation (at which he gives a very Abby Hoffmanesque speech) and then goes off to meet UTurn and Peter for the buy. Peter, however, is taken by surprise when the Armenians grab him and drag him into a garage. I have a feeling that that's the end of Peter, because the next time we see the Armenians they are spattered with blood and they don't look like they're bleeding. UTurn and the Armenians are both standing in Nancy's--sorry, Lacy LaPlante's--growhouse kitchen holding guns at her head telling her that they want to take her weed. She goes to open the safe to give it to them and...she finds a drug free zone sign. Yes, Silas, her 16-year-old son, has stolen her weed in order to muscle in on "the family business." Stupid child. With eight semi-automatic weapons aimed at her face, Nancy calls her son...just as he is being accosted by a police officer for stealing Celia's cameras. In the meanwhile, Shane runs off with Cat, Andy runs after them with Cat's Inuit bounty hunter, and Doug and Dean get into a girly slap fight at their kids' graduation party. Now for my complaint: Weeds is a 26-minute show that lasts 12 episodes a season. That is so not fair. I'm not sure I can wait until next August to see what happens, so, um, Showtime, if you are listening, bring the damn show back in February instead of August. I'm serious, your fans don't want to wait, and this fickle world of cable television, you can't afford to disappoint them