American Horror Story

Has anyone tuned in for this new series on FX? I just watched the pilot episode and it’s shaping up to be one strange and weird story.

We have a couple on the rebound from a miscarriage and infidelity trying to make a new start and forgive each other. They also have their awkward daughter who doesn’t fit in with the other kids and doesn’t try either. They move across the country to Los Angeles where they get a killer of a deal on an old, spacious house. The deal is too good to be true because the previous owners were killed there in a murder – suicide. Right off the bat we have a bad marriage, troubled teen and a house with a dangerously checkered past. But that’s not all. There’s the nosy neighbor who knows a hell of a lot more than she’s telling. Her daughter who has a habit of breaking into the house and telling people they’re going to die. And the housekeeper that simply shows up to resume her duties. She cleans the house regardless of who lives there. For good measure, there is the other troubled teen that has fantasies about killing his classmates and teachers. He also has a thing for the couple’s daughter.

Things get strange very quickly and nothing is as it appears. It’s Amityville, the Shining and A Haunting all mixed together. It’s a pretty interesting move to make this a series rather than a standalone movie. We should get plenty of character depth, plenty of history and plenty of chances for some good scares. This first episode certainly got the balls rolling; let’s hope the following episodes keep the tension building.

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Grave Encounters

grave-encounters Lance Preston and the crew of “Grave Encounters”, a ghost-hunting reality television show, are shooting an episode inside the abandoned Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital, where unexplained phenomena has been reported for years. All in the name of good television, they voluntarily lock themselves inside the building for the night and begin a paranormal investigation, capturing everything on camera. They quickly realize that the building is more than just haunted – it is alive – and it has no intention of ever letting them leave. They find themselves lost in a labyrinth maze of endless hallways and corridors, terrorized by the ghosts of the former patients. They soon begin to question their own sanity, slipping deeper and deeper into the depths of madness, ultimately discovering the truth behind the hospital’s dark past…and taping what turns out to be their final episode.

What grabbed me about this movie was that is sounded exactly like the set up for Ghost Adventures. A small team locks themselves in a psychiatric hospital so they can record evidence of the paranormal. It seemed like a parody to me, but the reviews were surprisingly positive. I’ve never heard of this movie before and the DVD isn’t scheduled to come out until October, but Amazon has a digital rental.

Ok, right off the bat this is a mix of Ghost Adventures, Blair Witch, Kingdom Hospital, The Shining, Paranormal Activity and several other movies all rolled into one. What we’re watching are the "lost diaries" of the team after their final episode has been taped. What ensues is a Ghost Adventures episode gone wrong. There is a lot of humor in the set up where Lance speaks to the camera in his William Shatner like tone, he bribes a gardener to make up stories about seeing apparitions, the maintenance guy is less than thrilled to be on camera and have these "kids" running around the place and he even has a "medium" come in to talk about what he feels. It has all the elements from all the paranormal shows. It also has the night vision cameras, the slightly matrixing walls and hallways where you desperately try to scan the room looking for shadows and plenty of rooms where nothing happens. But then all of a sudden…

Honestly, this movie entertained the hell out of me. Its low budget scares, wildly jerky camera angles, Halloween fun house effects and just as much cussing as you find in Scarface, give you a wild ride through a creepy hospital where the corridors are endless and hallways lead to dead ends. This is the raw footage so nothing gets bleeped. Bottom line, expect plenty of F-Bombs. It all starts rather cynically, as Lance is just doing this to get some scares for the folks at home and to try make some money. The previous episodes have been good, but he needs some evidence to keep the show going. He’s ready just to make stuff up if it keeps the ratings up.

Evidence is what he gets. I won’t give any details as that will spoil the ride, but there was plenty to like. It gets a little silly in a few places, where they go for shock factor or the "gross out" effect, but overall you should be entertained. This will make some for some great late night viewing. As I said, there are plenty of long dark hallways, rooms where you expect something to leap out at you, screaming and chaos off camera and plenty of doors slowly opening and closing. It’s a mixture of low key scares and in your face action. You’re just not sure which one is coming next.

If you’re looking for something to add to your Halloween movie collection, this is definitely a rental to keep in mind.

Grave Encounters on Amazon

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Demonic Fruit

This is plain awesome!


Listen to the bananas

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Best Halloween Movies?

So what are the best movies to watch during this Halloween season? I know a lot of people are fans of the big slasher films like Friday the 13th and Nightmare of Elm Street, and while those have their entertainment value, I’m not a huge fan. Mind you, I liked the "original" originals (Halloween was my personal favorite), but with so many sequels and ridiculous story lines I can’t say I have an interest in most of these anymore. As an aside, the Rob Zombie remake of Halloween was pretty good.

Putting the slashing films aside, what would you consider to be the best horror movies? They can be more subtle like the original Dracula or more blatant such as Saw. To get things started here are a few of my personal choices.

Saw and Saw II (the rest of the series is crap) – I thought these were both well done and offered something new. Very atmospheric and really played to the deception factor. Nothing was what it seemed. And the situations made you cringe and to me that was part of the thrill.

Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh, Robert De Niro) – This came across as a pretty good remake of the old tale. It’s not without flaws, but overall it had plenty of creepy moments and De Niro as the creature was kind and brutal as told in the original book. I’m actually a fan of this one.

The Others (Nicole Kidman) – Not everyone is a fan of hers, but I still liked this movie. It has a certain sense of oppression and gloom about it that works so well for the time period and the setting. Plus, giving the children a condition that makes them sensitive to light keeps the movie dark and moody. There’s plenty of twists, turns and deception. I really liked this one for the story and it’s misdirection.

Flatliners – Still a favorite of mine after all these years. The idea of exploring life after death is very intriguing. I think Oliver Platt is the most amusing character in the movie.

Shaun of the Dead (Simon Pegg) – A great parody (at least I think it’s a parody) of the zombie movies. Plenty of action, plenty of emotion, plenty of brains and plenty of hapless companions being eaten. It’s funny, gory and scary. An excellent combination.

Zombieland – Is this another parody? Hard to tell. Another funny, but gory and action packed deathmatch against the zombie horde. Hang on was this a documentary? A lost diary story?

The Exorcist – This movie is still creepy even after all these years. There’s plenty of exorcism movies out there, but this is the original. It’s a little dated but still has plenty to offer.

Paranormal Activity – I loved this movie until the final 5 minutes. I thought the ending was completely cheesy and awkward. But looking past that, it’s a good movie. The movie is subtle and uses simple techniques to get under your skin. I think the low budget aspect is part of the appeal.

Blair Witch Project – This gets an honorable mention for the technique used in making the movie. Unfortunately with so much hype (and bad sequels) there’s really no surprise factor or excitement to this movie anymore, but if you just accept it for what it is you can still have as much fun with it as Paranormal Activity. It’s cheap and simple and uses the classic techniques of confusion and misdirection.

The Village – I can already hear the boos and sighs. Come on now. For what it was, this wasn’t a bad movie. It wasn’t M. Night’s best work, but it wasn’t his worst either (that would be Signs). It does have some good moments and if you don’t pick it apart looking for the surprise ending there’s a lot to like. Again, this is another movie I like for the ambiance and mood.

The Shining – And not that remake, that was horrid. This is the one we all remember; Jack at the hotel, getting cabin fever, getting the axe and stalking the family. This one has plenty of mind games going on as well as straight on action. The axe in the door is classic! It’s a creepy and fun movie. Well, fun in the crazy guy with an axe sort of way.

Scream – For a quasi-parody, this has plenty of chills and kept you guessing. Some times it was hard to tell if you were supposed to laugh or be scared. Sadly, they ruined a pretty clever movie by creating a slew of third rate sequels.

So what am I missing? What are the other great Halloween/horror/scary movies out there? I’ve seen a lot of them but most are completely forgettable. What spine tingling, make you cringe, make you squirm movies can you recommend?

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