I remember the first time I saw "The Wicker Man".  At the time I was in college, drunk on
Xmas break at a party upon which eve a bong made out of a watermelon was passed around like a surreal fruit blimp.  The cult movie I then watched which, though the butt of countless jokes, for various reasons (other than intoxication) stayed with me.  I mean sure the movie is funny... police dude who looks like Phil Collins' dad gets stuck on pagan island as the sacrificial lamb dupe only to be entrapped by Christopher Lee who wears a skirt... sorry KILT, I know I know I KNOW I am being culturally insensitive again.  Damn, those mandatory classes didn't take. 

Initially, as a youthful intoxicant, none of the film (other than the campy hilarity) really resonated with me other than I would totally sign up to live on some pagan island and dance around bonfires made out of republicans.  What did resonate with me after the years broke my spirit and I had to look at most things with more analysis than before, was the mythological base upon which the film was laid.  The lost child and the symbol of the rabbit, the belief in spirits and nature, the historical gore of what Romans describe the wicker man to be... it's not a surprise Christopher Lee sees this as his best film despite the same replaying clip of folk music in the background.   

Ok let's face it.  Foreign policy.  The Brits have their shortcomings.  Like cold pork pies, for example, stored for days/hours not in the fridge.  I mean how unsanitary is that?  And large masses caring about soccer.  Lord, I hate American football, but soccer makes our farcical dementia-inducing national pastime actually interesting by comparison.  And nobility.  How hilarious is that sensationalized borefest descending from the folks who had the most money and land 500 years ago.  At least in the states, we call a spade a spade, our nobility being... taaadaaa... the folks with the most money and land, not the Duchess of Cadburlingberrytshire.  I mean at least Madonna earned her holdings and title (Queen of Pop, richest pop star), wtf did the Duke of Pisswick do other than fall out of his mum's ass?  Note: British women also do not have vaginas, they have "fannys".  This has been documented by scientists and pornographers.

NEVERTHELESS the Brits have one thing we poor Colonials do NOT have, and that is a
superwealth of LORE.  It just so happens when you have relatively high population of the same folks in the same land for like a thousand years, you get a lot of weird myths and ghost stories because generally speaking, scary shit does down. Eventually, if the US of A doesn't get blown into space, we will be able to scare the marbles out of ourselves on film with ghosts of ancient times other than the Native Americans whose treasure trove of mythos has largely been exploited or ignored.  What Brits can do is the eerie thrilling horror tragedy that connects its lineage to tragedies of yore.       

*And speaking of yore, note: when I am talking about "The Wicker Man", I am of course referencing the original, not the confused remake starring Nick Cage. 

Point being, what made the movie great was the basis of myth. Without that underpinning, all you have is humans doing a bunch of crazy shit to each other.  Which we do all the time.  A well-meaning police officer who is equally endearing as he is annoying in this tale is subjected to the will of a culture much older and darker than his Christian god, reflecting the clash of religion that came to the British isles and the subsequent wars over which god or gods to believe in.  Also you have the hot chick "the landlooord's daughter" singing to the virgin policeman naked through the wall, which is both creepy and funny at the same time.  Her song was creatively remixed by "The Sneaker Pimps" if you are a fan of this movie.  

The terrifying commonality of old religions (which makes me sort of think it equally
cracked as the new ones) is that the ultimate sacrifice = flesh.  That the gods or god may very well be the giver of life and sun and spring, but that there is a dark face of this all-knowing creator that requires of us to give that means the most to us in order to please his/her/their/its will, which for whatever reason is flesh.  One may presume that the gods are definitely bar-b-cue fans.  In the end, however, you have to confront the dark side of what be humans have believed for thousands of years about forces larger than ourselves.  The characters of the island in "The Wicker Man", have resigned themselves and eventually embraced that darkness.        

That same black starry river flows underneath "In the Dark Half", even though the stories are poles apart, there is a nocturnal similarity between the two that made me connect them.  The plot revolves around this messed up adolescent girl named Marie whose homelife is in tatters and mind is full of fear.  Each day she runs to a concrete building in the middle of nowhere to perform various mysterious rituals, the purpose of which we will come to know only as we begin to understand the reasons for her cracked life.  She feels that tragedy befalls her primarily... because it does, like how we ask ourselves why Tom Cruise gets a private jet and the folks working to cure diseases and fight wars have to struggle.  Living in a low income neighborhood of what appears to be a smallish town, with a basket case for a mother and a crush for an adult single dad nextdoor neighbor, Marie lives in the awkward bracket between childhood and teenagerdom where we don't quite know who we are or even what we feel and almost everyone around us is not what they seem.  

Jessica Barden steals the show here: her character's pre-teen unpreparedness for the
sexual or substance conquests of her mates, denial/rebellion against aspects of life we come to accept but initially regard as unfair (because it is), and good heart are stunning.  As bad things get worse, this girl faces what many of us avoid for life because the question is too big: is there  always such a difference between intuition, and delusion?  Yes, we can certainly all define the terms using a dictionary or DSMV but we have all had those moments where we (as Stephen King would put it) "shine" a tad.  Moments, feelings, places, acts we cannot explain to anyone.  Part of being an adolescent, or rather the part that is terrifying, is the feeling that you are going through this experience alone.  While there may indeed be 1000 other kids in your high school, you experience the freshness of love, the intoxication of drugs and/ or sex, the pain of heartbreak and the first sour tastes of the catty cutthroat actual adult world all by yourself.  And in those moments, it is up to you to decide what's real, and how to act.  

This girl is more alone than most of us,  and living in a small town it becomes natural for her to sneak away into the forest, and to manifest herself there.  Part of that manifestation is the supernatural, paranormal, occult, or the age-old question: is it just insanity?  Note to reader: I ask myself that question all the freakin time. 

There are parallels in both of these movies and while I can't say there is a gigantic sacrificial burning man in the end of each, those parallels do speak over the glaring differences in mood and theme.  For instance, both begin with the loss of a child and the question of what happened to an innocent person.  Both pieces call into question why life has to be so cruel, and what if anything can we do to rectify that cruelty.  Parallels of child and adult lessons, the occult, communion with nature, and sacrifice come into play as both tales unravel.  In the end, that power of myth and history is there too, lurking and occasionally baring a white tooth or the glint of an eye from just beneath the surface.

Watch "The Wicker Man" first, then this modern piece.  Two very different tales with roots in the same old forest.

WTF "The Wicker Man" = 26
W = 10
T = 9
F = 7

WTF "In the Dark Half" = 21
W = 8
T = 7
F = 6




I have been meaning to review this film for a long time.  Another unexpected pleasure. 

I really enjoy it when horror movies rationalize Christianity in a fun-sized thrill-kill neat n' tidy box.  With its elevator music, sterile office building waxed floors, and cityscapes, I was reticent to sit back and take this one in.  It seemed too easy to film.  Like something that could be done in a day at some job site in Philly.  Sometimes cheap equals cheap.  So, yeah, I had my reservations.  

But I persevered. 

Take your average citizens, your average situation, a simple ride to whatever floor in an office building.  Think about how often and absentmindedly we trust ourselves in these enclosed spaces that span hundreds of feet.  Anything could go wrong.  For that short amount of time, think of the freedom temporarily bestowed upon everyone in that steel box.  No rules.  No recourse to the law.  No protection.  

Think of the people we trust on a daily basis in general, and the assumptions we make automatically about strangers.  I love this concept, sort of a recall to the "pod people" idea.  But in a real sense, this is the truth.  We ride on buses with molesters, we sit in restaurants with paranoid schizophrenics, we interact on the street with those who have drawn blood with fists and other implements.  To deny this about the human race is to deny the human race for what it is.

And then we have the real evil, the Devil, that shadowy figure in history, myth, or religion (whichever you prefer) that channels the dark side in all of us.  Christian lore is a treasure trove of excellent horror fodder, The Bible being a great start on blood, guts, and detailed instructions on sacrifice.  The folks in the elevator stand against each other, but really, they stand against what we have deemed the darkest power there is.  I liked the varied personalities of the trapped people, their histories, back stories, and how they unravel as time grows short and the menace becomes more and more apparent.
Because I don't do so well watching stuff about enclosed spaces (partially out of boredom too, no scene change), as per usual I allowed my assumptions to make the judgment call about this film before I let the film speak for itself.  Turns out evil speaks well enough for itself.  Enjoy.



If I could shorten this review to one word it would be: yum.

It occurred to me the other day, in dialog with another movie lover vis-à-vis the ideology and use of gore, that horror movies...or should I say GOOD horror movies...are like PASTA.  Go ahead and scoff at me, it's fine.  But I'm right.  Good horror is like good  pasta.  I shall explain: the componants of horror are varied, but you can reduce it down to two basic pieces that make up all of the horror related across time: substance and gore.  The substance is the plot, characters, mythos, wordplay, and so on - the pasta.  The gore...well, that's the sauce.  Let's face it, in most horror (especially in the olden days) someone gets a'sliced up or eaten or burned at a stake and so on.  A trueborn horror movie has the perfect blend of both substance and gore, pasta and sauce, those timeless ingredients of a masterpiece meal.
And oh is "Lovely Molly" a dish.  Directed by Eduardo Sánchez (director/co-writer of Blair Witch...I know, I had my reservations too...Blair Witch was a product of its time and a valiant effort but...kinda overbuzzed for what it was), this film is in my humble opinion exemplary of the expert combination of character acting, mythos, mystery, local color, shock-horror, and that final saucy sauce: blood'n'gutz.  I ended the film sated with the story, and sad that it didn't go on longer, in the same manner that one wishes a good book goodbye like some old friend.  The plot twists in this thing are also bad + ass.

Centered on the life of Molly (Gretchen Lodge), a low income mall janitor with a closet full of secrets behind her, the movie begins with the pastoral images of her quaint wedding to her truckdriver husband Tim (Johnny Lewis), attended by a girl we soon discover is her sister Hannah (Alexandra Holden).  Molly and Tim are that "even though we ain't got $" couple, as they move into their new home in a wooded area with quite a bit of land.  I'm not sure where this setting is supposed to be, or if they make references to it in the film, but it reminds me a lot of the poorer rural areas of upstate New York, though that was just how it resonated to me.  Since they do not have adequate funds to purchase their own home, they move into the empty house of Molly's parents, now deceased.  

What endeared me to Molly, Tim and Hannah is their struggle and the past darkness that they just don't talk about but still visibly grapple with.  These actors do not appear Hollywoodized.  They do not look like they have personal trainers and eight hours of make-up done just to look like a perfect person pretending to be imperfect.  The genius of these characters is the imperfections are plain, and painful to see. Put simply and without the political correct parlance of our time: they pull off poor people with just enough of a touch of white trash to convince you that they are representative of a huge portion of struggling Americans in the same grim chainsmoking minimum wage fucked up world.

That Tim and Molly have this seeming gift of a house should be a helping hand; instead the house is the harbinger of their undoing.  Haunted houses are one thing, but this story is far deeper and more convoluted.  Molly is witness to the flashbacks of her past experiences, many of which were blocked by trauma or child confusion.  This leads her to undergo a transformation into both the stereotypical hysterical female (the woman no one believes until it is too late) AND the evil woman (the woman we blame it all on) and the victim (the woman who must bear the sins of those who came before her).  That Molly combines all of these film/fiction personas is testament to the complexity of her character and the mastery Lodge demonstrates.  Without spoiling, there are several places in this film where I remarked to myself that the scenes must have felt very invasive and self-degradating or maybe even cathartic to execute. All I know is I don't think I could have done them. Lodge can and does.  Give her an award. Give her some good pasta.
The movie cleverly plays with use and disuse of the video camera, perhaps as a partial callback to the Blair Witch/reality/home movie simulation genre birthed into horror at the turn of the century.  It also cleverly plays with camera angles and sound - particuarly subtle sounds, even more so than other horror movies I have seen using just a touch of some element to cast a shadow here and there.

What we ultimately have is the combination of decent into madness and something else, the question that makes every single human being shiver at some point or multiple points in our brief little lives, whether it has to do with daydreams, fears, nightmares, suspicions, rumors, sickness, lies, the past, hallucinations, and so on.  That question: IS IT REAL?  And I think in the case of Lovely Molly, perhaps this question is too easily answered, which would be the one little stick of criticism I would float in here, but it isn't substantial enough to fuck up the movie.  If anything, that the movie does give you is a direction, in my case what I felt was a decisive departure from the camera flitting and somewhat arguable images of Blair Witch.
Lastly GORE.  Gore is like cursing or yelling.  Too much of either and people simply do not take you seriously.  Without going into it, the gore in this piece is choreographed with care and precision, and yes oh yes, there IS THAT MOMENT where you want to jump out of your seat and scream "Ohhhhh!  That did NOT just happen!  AND I crapped my pantaloons!"  (disclaimer: I did not just admit to crapping my pants) 

Which brings me to what always gets my hairz a'standing on end: mythos.  Molly's folly (teehee) is her exposure to that powerful element found in so many horror movies and is often underused and misused and misunderstood and undeveloped, etc.. In this case it's just elusive and mysterious enough that you want more, but don't feel like you've been cut short an explanation.  You know it: the sinister dark presence.  Hard to do right.  Elusive as fuck.  But when it's done right makes you scared of the ancient things on this earth.  Scared of of the rocks you stand on and the trees behind your house and the darkness at the basement floor.  That's horror people.  You can spin it any way you want it and argue until you are blue in the face that campy stuff is equally wonderful but it is movies like these that burn holes in your brain in the shape of questions marks.  Delicate, but effectual.  Yum.
WTF = 27 
W = 8
T = 9
F = 9




When you really love a given work it becomes difficult to render an appropriate review. This issue becomes even more burdensome when this work is, by most movie-quality-barometers, a complete and utter stink bomb. A Return to Salem’s Lot, a sequel in name only, to Stephen King’s heralded original work, Salem’s Lot, is quite possibly the most absurdly underrated “crappy in-name only” sequel in history. This film is truly up there with the likes of Halloween III and Zombi IV in the “would be a classic under a different name” category.
The soundtrack is memorably creepy, harpsichord-ridden, and begging for a techno remix; allowing for the film’s atmosphere to set in without any defense. Those of you with lifetime experiences in the American Northeast will have no difficulty attaching your receptors to this setting. Bovine country indeed.
Donning Hollywood starlets, horror cheese mainstays, and decorated actors from the golden age of cinema; this film has the cast alone to separate itself from the pack of oft-forgetten straight-to-video sequels. Famed Charles Grodin lookalike Michael Moriarty (The Stuff, The Stand) turns in a tour-de-force performance as the only character he knows how to play; a hard-as-nails, woman-ravaging, manly-man in the body of a shoe store manager from Seattle. Andrew Duggan and June Havoc also chime in as the undead Aunt Clara and Judge Axel, the latter of which is the “king of the vampires” type, who eerily resembles my grandfather.
Speaking of star power, A Return to Salem’s Lot features former Hollywood slam-piece Tara Reid (American Pie, recipient of botched boob job, seen here with melted face) in her first performance, as a lovable pre-teen vampire who tries to seduce Michael Moriarty’s smart-ass son, Jeremy; an unforgettably ginger badass with a mouth like a trucker and a filmography that could fit on a fortune cookie paper.
These casting accolades are a clear second place to the involvement of screenwriting, acting, and low-budget film legend, Samuel Fuller. This self-described “nazi killer, not nazi hunter” is a breath of fresh air, as he is halfhazardly thrust into a plot involving vampires for NO DICERNABLE REASON WHATSOEVER. This is the beauty of cheese-cinema. If you can’t have an elderly nazi hunter in a vintage Studebaker randomly plop himself into a  script about vampires, then you just aren’t living; screenwriting-wise. 
 Ensemble cast aside, A Return to Salem’s Lot makes it’s bacon on being an extremely well-balanced horror film; engorging the viewer in appropriate doses of eerie music, scares, good movie makeup, and a quickly developing plot. Director Larry Cohen is far from gunshy, racking up a healthy body count of vampires, humans, and drones (see the film) alike.At one point, a plethora of doped up cyber-punks (Think Bill Paxton in Terminator) are viciously murdered by seemingly elderly townsfolk. At another juncture, Andrew Duggan rips a vagrant’s face off! Look mom, one hand! 
 Another aspect of A Return to Salem’s Lot that garners my respect is a homage to the time-tested tradition of writing stock footage of the wilderness into a given horror plot. This goal is handily achieved through the creative writing of Michael Moriarty’s character as an anthropologist; Allowing for not only gratuitous scenes of tribal sacrifice, but also ample shots of the rainforest and wildlife, even if grossly overused. Hey, anything to add some gore and tribal mamories, right?

 I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this film would have been an 80’s horror-cheese smash hit if it were released under a different name. Maybe, “writer of the vampire bible” or “nazi killer vs. the geriatric vampire horde.” Literally anything would have sufficed. Maybe we would be giving this film the respect it deserves today, instead of taking the Stephen King route and filing suit to ensure that his name will never be associated with this work. Apples to Oranges.After all, A Return to Salem’s Lot has very little to do with its alleged predecessor. No character’s transcend the works, nor do the antagonists share any similarities, absent a slight resemblance, and vampirism. Maybe they are second cousins? Regardless of the title or classification, this film is very enjoyable; seek it out!

There. I did it. I Reviewed a horrible film that I love more than most Oscar nominees. *exhales* 

WTF = 21
W - 6 (not all that witty, but still disturbing at times)
T - 7 (great post-CGI effects when employed)
F -  8 (thoroughly enjoyable)