And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film (2009)
"Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You actually paid money for this?  Foolish humans!"

"Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You actually paid money for this? Foolish humans!"

While it may or may not be “the best documentary of its kind in years,” Nightmares in Red, White and Blue is certainly the most comprehensive. Covering almost one hundred years of American horror film history, Nightmares is not a film you watch so much as absorb. It deserves its own study guide, and that’s exactly what I found on the film’s official website. God I love living in the future, don’t you?

It not even a film, really. More the backbone of a college course…or a whole wing of some major university department. Plus it’s got Lance Henriksen as Our Humble Narrator and if ever there was a man chosen by prophecy to narrate this kind of stuff, it’s Frank Black. “Yea, verily, one will be born among them with a face like an Arizona relief-map and the voice of gravel under foot. And he shall narrate horror film documentaries, because that’s certainly better than slumming in a wasteland of straight-to-DVD indie-horror…”

So the “best documentary of it’s kind in years” begins with Frank Black reading our liturgy: Continue reading

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The Fog (1980)
Filmmed in PortholeVision!

Filmed in scenic PortholeVision!

When one looks at his early career it becomes extraordinarily evident John Carpenter wanted very much to be the Howard Hawks of his generation. Even at his lowest, Carpenter made sure to aim squarely for Hitchcock Territory. For one brief, shinning moment (called 1978), it looked like he’d succeeded.

Too bad nothing fails like success. And if your directorial debut happens to become the most popular, iconic and financially successful independent movie in history (at the time) you might as well just give up and die. Otherwise you’ll have to spend your entire subsequent career dealing with uppity assholes who insist nothing will ever be as good as your first film. The rest is frustration, aesthetic decay and silence. Though I’m just kidding about that “silence” part since we haven’t even started talking about Carpenter’s sophomore slump, The Fog. Continue reading



Halloween II (1981)
Excuse me...can I borrow a cup of blood?

"Um...line...? HA! Had you going, didn't I?"

And here we have a film never should’ve seen the light but, like that three-car pile-up on your way to work, resolutely sits right in the middle of the road refusing to be ignored. The same way most critics ignore John Carpenter’s made-for-TV movies.

Awkward segues aside, there’s two very good reasons to focus on the man’s studio pieces. For (1) they’re better, and for (2) they’re easier to find. Yet in their blindness, critics miss essential facets of Carpenter’s story, which is in many ways the story of genre cinema in the 1980s. That’s sad because it’s a great story in itself…often much more interesting than the films it created. A story littered with greed, betrayal, and compromised aesthetic principals that will probably go on to make a great bio-pic once everyone forgets who Orson Welles was…or, if they remember him at all, remember him only as “the voice of Unicron.” Continue reading



They Live (1988)
May 21, 2007, 12:31 pm
Filed under: Movies, Reviews | Tags: , , ,

"That David Boreanaz jumpin' around up there? What's he doin' daywalking?"They Live is one of those unfortunately good movies that cannot be adequately analyzed without betraying the very elements designed to entrance first time viewers and inspire the unfettered love that those of us who’ve seen the movie far too many times still hold. As such, standard Spoiler Warnings apply. All bastards unfortunate enough to have never experience a context-free viewing of this picture are hereby placed On Notice. You’ve been warned. They Live, We Sleep.

The movie also served as my introduction to the outre one John Carpenter, last seen around these parts when…my god, has it been as long as all that? (Note from behind the fourth wall: I’d meant to examine his sophomore effort, Assault on Precinct 13, neigh on a year ago. Anyone reading this site can properly tell where that little effort went.) Made twelve years after a little bit of paranoid schizophrenia called Assault on Precinct 13 and two years after the apocalyptic, artist vs. studio row over Big Trouble in Little China, They Live presents a portrait of the artist as a not-so-young man, no longer trustful of the authoritarian forces that served as Assault‘s protagonists. Here we find Big JC making no bones about his distasteful distrust, not only of the entertainment industry, but the whole of capitalist society. No surprise, really. A decade living and working inside the studio system could do that to anyone…but just imagine doing it (buh-dun-*cymbal crash*) the ’80s. {More}



Halloween (1978)

"Raise your hand if you're Pure Evil!"It’s easy enough to review Halloween. Just prattle on about how scary and haunting adjectival it all is given that twenty years of increasingly-mechanical slasher films have done absolutely nothing to diminish Halloween‘s overall effectiveness. Nothing at all. Do you hear? Rather like I attempted to do in my original review of the film, which appeared somewhere very much like this space way back in the dark, dial-up days of 1999. Don’t look for it: I’ve not touched the thing since I originally put it up, and I’d just as soon it ceased to exist. Bloody Wayback Machine.

On the other hand, it’s difficult to review Halloween given its lofty position at the event horizon of the American Slasher Film, a cinematic object so dense its sucked down the entire horror genre into an ever-redshifted morass of misogyny, masochism, and mordant self-referencing. Halloween is the film most directly responsible for this ongoing Judgment Day, making it the cinematic equivalent of a supernova. Unknown, it flashed onto the American scene at the decrepit end of the 70s only to collapse in on itself, creating an omnivorous black void from which nothing good can escape. Continue reading