Old-Fashioned Tech Horror Week – Ringu (1998)

Welcome to Horror Movie Month here at Late to the Theater! Once a year we focus on one of our absolute favorite things, horror movies! For the entire month of October we’ll review at least two movies a week, some old, some new, and usually fitting into a weekly theme. So pop the corn, pour yourself a glass of whatever, and come along for the ride! I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers!

This week is Old-Fashioned Tech Horror Week, where we take a look at some classic films that jumpstarted the tech horror boom, as well as the trend of remaking Japanese horror movies for an American audience – Yes, I’m talking about that hair-raising* classic Ringu (1998) and its spiritual sister, PULSE (2001).  So defrag your hard drive, check my sound cloud (bruh!) and run a McAfee scan on that possibly haunted PDF your shady cousin just sent you, because you can’t spell ‘execution’ without .exe*!

Ringu_poster
Before you die, you see…

If you’re familiar with the American version (and the memes it has spawned) then you know the story – you watch a cursed videotape and then have seven days to solve the mystery before a long-haired girl crawls out of a TV and does a herky-jerky murder dance at you. Copying the tape and showing it to someone else breaks the curse. Since I was still getting chain letters from elderly relatives in the early 2000s, the idea of being killed by not passing on some nonsense was legit terrifying.

ringu_moving
How I probably look to my cat when we play the ‘I’m coming! I’m gonna gitcha!’ game

Continue reading “Old-Fashioned Tech Horror Week – Ringu (1998)”

Musical Interlude – Mighty Mighty Bosstones

In the meantime, please enjoy this throwback from my high school days – The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ super-jaunty Knock on Wood.

Not a lot of film reviews done lately, but I’m working on one for Noah Baumbach’s character-driven Frances Ha. I was pleasantly surprised by that one !

In the meantime, please enjoy this throwback from my high school days – The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ super-jaunty Knock on Wood. 

 

Back in the day, a friend of mine knew Dicky Barrett. She’d go to all the shows in town and see him there, and they’d hang out. I never went to many ska shows but I do miss that sound. Now and then I need to throw some on and skank around my house when I’m doing some housecleaning.

FUN FACT – I can’t remember where I heard this but the song is supposed to be about taking responsibility for your actions by getting tested for AIDS. Feels like one of those VH-1 Pop-Up video facts to me, but maybe I also made it up.

Anyway, enjoy, and have a great weekend!

Halloween and the Kitchen Sink Week: The Nightmare Before Christmas

You should see it.
That is all.

October is Horror Movie month, where we let down our hair and celebrate all things macabre and scary! Not that we don’t during the rest of the year, but still… HORROR MOVIES! People who don’t like horror are encouraged to check back November 1st for less bloody and/or disturbing films. For everyone else, let’s put on our galoshes and WADE INTO THE MIRE!

We’re switching gears yet again with Halloween and the Kitchen Sink Week – this week’s entries all include Halloween or its trappings in some way, AND they will be much shorter in length. There’s not much logic to their selection, so don’t think that I’m intentionally leaving things out – these movies put me in the Halloween spirit for whatever reason. It’s the final countdown to Halloween, so throw some candy in a bag, put on your walking shoes and come trick or treating!

I was going to review Tim Burton’s classic, immortal The Nightmare Before Christmas but I’m literally having too much fun carving my pumpkin and getting ready for tonight, so here’s my super short review:

  • You should see it.
  • That is all.

If you haven’t, watch it tonight! It’s not scary– just a wonderful, joyous celebration of all things spooky, ooky and kooky. Here’s the opening song to get you and everyone else in the mood!

Happy Halloween, y’all!

Have fun tonight, and if you can’t be good, be careful! 

Halloween and the Kitchen Sink Week: Sleepy Hollow (1999)

In stark contrast to that is the moment when Ichabod meets Katrina Van Tassel at the harvest festival. Great, bulging cornucopias barf the season’s bounty across the tables, fiddlers are dropping fire, and young people are allowed to *gasp* TOUCH EACH OTHER during their blindfold game.

October is Horror Movie month, where we let down our hair and celebrate all things macabre and scary! Not that we don’t during the rest of the year, but still… HORROR MOVIES! People who don’t like horror are encouraged to check back November 1st for less bloody and/or disturbing films. For everyone else, let’s put on our galoshes and WADE INTO THE MIRE!

We’re switching gears yet again with Halloween and the Kitchen Sink Week – this week’s entries all include Halloween or its trappings in some way, AND they will be much shorter in length. There’s not much logic to their selection, so don’t think that I’m intentionally leaving things out – these movies put me in the Halloween spirit for whatever reason. It’s the final countdown to Halloween, so throw some candy in a bag, put on your walking shoes and come trick or treating!

Classic!
Classic!

Sleepy Hollow  is Tim Burton’s homage to the misty, melodramatic films of that classic powerhouse of theatrical frights, Hammer Horror. Hammer films reigned supreme for decades and launched the career of Peter Cushing. Britt Ekland, and a slew of others including the great Christopher Lee, whose ferocious portrayal of Dracula can be credited with associating raw, aggressive sexuality with vampires AND with first showing blood and or fangs, at least in western cinema. Vampires, werewolves, cave girls, ghouls, Frankenstein’s monsters, mummies… I mean just look at the production history!  It’s… I … *heavy breathing, starts sweating*  I need to stop, this is about Sleepy Hollow, after all!

Audiences raised on the Disney version of Sleepy Hollow took one look at the poster and knew they were in for either a real treat or a real trainwreck–especially given the R-rating. Happily, it was mostly the former, and the movie is a glorious mishmash of action, romance, murder mystery, and horror. It also boasts gorgeous production value; the women wear huge, sweeping dresses, the men fine suits and complicated wigs, and the houses look weirdly cozy when the Headsman isn’t battering down the door.

Sleepy Hollow captures the strange duality of Halloween perfectly.

To wit: the movie opens on a harrowing escape in a bouncing, rattling carriage racing through a night-dark cornfield. A thunder of hooves, the hiss of a blade and a beheaded driver later, and the carriage’s occupant is beheaded himself, his blood spraying over the jack-o-lantern topped scarecrow behind him. The contrast is dialed up and the colors dialed down, and the palette calls to mind ukiyo-e prints of blotted ink and charcoal on rice paper.

BOOOO!!! All right this is a little more blue than I'd like but you know what I mean
All right this is a little more blue than I’d like but you know what I mean

In stark contrast to that is the moment when Ichabod meets Katrina Van Tassel at the harvest festival. Great, bulging cornucopias barf the season’s bounty across the tables, fiddlers are dropping fire, and young people are allowed to *gasp* TOUCH EACH OTHER during their blindfold game. The lighting is all warm candle and firelight, there’s frothing ale mugs, and steaming bread.

Not Pictured: Personal Space
Not Pictured: Personal Space

The rest of the movie swings between extremes: sometimes plodding, and sometimes blowing your face off with its blend of practical and CG effects – Burton had great restraint with CG and to my mind there’s only one scene that doesn’t really work with it… the witch scene with the eyeballs has always been a little too cartoony. Great stunts — including some masterful swordwork and horsemanship by Ray Park, best known for playing the face and body of Darth Maul or Toad from X-men– and acting by Christopher Walken turned the Headless Horseman into a wonderfully charismatic villain.

And Christopher Walken! Who doesn't love Christopher Walken in an insane nonspeaking role?
And Christopher Walken! Who doesn’t love Christopher Walken in an insane nonspeaking role?

A pre-Pirates Johnny Depp is decent as condescending Enlighment Champion Ichabod Crane, and Christina Ricci is… well her performance has always been a little overly stiff to me. I’ve never figured out what she was going for. Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gough, the aforementioned legendary Christopher Lee, and Ian McDarmid (The Emperor!) round out an amazingly talented and amazingly British cast as the rest of the townspeople.

Sleepy Hollow is Tim Burton at his best and probably his happiest… weird and gothy, with moments of dark humor, peculiar characters and fantastic imagery. It’s a great film to get yourself riled up for Halloween if you haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it already this season. Be aware though – it’s incredibly gory and violent, and not for the faint of heart!

That’s it for today’s entry! Check back later this week for more entries in Halloween and the Kitchen Sink Week – here’s a hint of an upcoming post:

“Wolfman’s got nards!” 

Have a great day!

Hell Week Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth

As I mentioned, Pinhead has become more villainous and displays more agency than he had previously. Doug Bradley really put in a wonderful performance and got to show some marvelous range.

October is Horror Movie month, where we let down our hair and celebrate all things macabre and scary! Not that we don’t during the rest of the year, but still… HORROR MOVIES! People who don’t like horror are encouraged to check back November 1st for less bloody and/or disturbing films. For everyone else, let’s put on our galoshes and WADE INTO THE MIRE! 

Today’s post is about the Hellraiser series and unfortunately is NSFW – mostly because it’s damn near impossible to show work-safe images from the movies. Also LOTS OF gore, S&M, torture, physical, mental, and sexual abuse…

….Man… you start listing all the disturbing things in this series and wonder what you’re doing with your time…

ANYWAY! On to the review!

HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH

Look familiar? It should!
Look familiar? It should! It’s the same image from the first movie, with some tweaks.

By the third Hellraiser film, Clive Barker’s influence has begun to wane big time. The movie might as well have been titled ‘Clive Barker’s Hellraiser: Hell On Earth Based on Characters Created By Clive Barker From a Story By Clive Barker’ so that the film makers could still ride the first film’s coat tails. Maybe I’m wrong, but I get the sense he was losing some of his enthusiasm for the series by this point, and not just because he was relegated to the position of Executive Producer. His original idea for the film dealt with exploring the Lemarchand Configuration (puzzle box’s) origins and connection to ancient Egypt and sounds MUCH more interesting than this. I hope that movie will still be made some day!

Hell On Earth begins with a slick 80s-type jerk entering what appears to be an abandoned building but is really a secret art gallery, the kind that only those In The Know know about. J.P. Monroe and his distracting hair and cigarette wander the art gallery, oozing arrogance so thick you’d have to scrape it off with a trowel.

He puts me in mind of that German expression: "Face In Need of a Fist."
He puts me in mind of that German expression: “Face In Need of a Fist.”

He comes upon a fascinating, rotating sculpture that is basically a distillation of the first movies as it contains the Lemarchand Configuration, twisting, tortured bodies, and the face of Pinhead himself. A mysterious art dealer appears, and makes arch comments about who the column really belongs to. Monroe waves a roll of cash and the art dealer takes it, saying that the column now belongs to Monroe.

There's an IKEA Joke in here somewhere that I'm too lazy to make.
There’s an IKEA Joke in here somewhere that I’m too lazy to make.

Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the movie’s real protagonist, news reporter Joey, played by Terry Farrell, who would go on to find fame as Jadzia Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Tall and statuesque, Joey is nonetheless annoyed to find herself relegated to the graveyard shift of reporting, and she’s looking for her first big break. Her father was killed in Vietnam and she is tormented by nightmares about him. While reporting on the morgue, she is startled when a team of EMTs bring in a young man who’s bloody and battered. Just as she runs toward the door to see what’s going on, hooks appear and rip him messily apart.

Perky!
Perky!

Having witnessed Some Shit, Joey begins investigating, and soon meets Terri, a club girl and ex-girlfriend of JP.

Meanwhile, JP is busy being a douche in his fancy club, The Boiler Room. Apparently he bought the place after he inherited a shitload of money from his parents. He bangs hot girls while smoking and flexing in his totally 90s apartment above the club.

BACKPFEIFENGESICHT!!!!
BACKPFEIFENGESICHT!!!!

The Pinhead of the column comes to life and begins talking to him, in a manner much more forward than in the previous films. We learn that JP murdered his parents for the money. Here, Pinhead appears as a tempter, as a devilish dealmaker who is actively trying to shape events. As we learn through Joey, Pinhead’s human side and his cenobite sides were cleft. Although he is trapped in the column, that won’t last forever, and he wants out. Pretty soon JP is killing people and feeding them to the statue in order to bring Pinhead into the world again.

As we knew it would, It Got Weird.
As we knew it would, It Got Weird.

And things go from there.

Although Hell on Earth had some truly ridiculous moments (one of the guest cenobites has CDs in his face, because again– 90s), it also has some very interesting character moments.

This wonderful moment being one of them.
This wonderful moment being one of them.

As I mentioned, Pinhead has become more villainous and displays more agency than he had previously. Doug Bradley really put in a wonderful performance and got to show some marvelous range.

Why you saucy devil!
I See What You Did There, you saucy devil!

The relationship that develops between Joey and Terri was actually very progressive. Terri, a witness to some of the club’s insanity, is a homeless party girl whose entire life fits in her backpack, and was living with JP until he threw her out. She stole the Lemarchand Configuration before she went, and gives it to Joey.

Terri moves into Joey’s apartment and the very different women become friends. Terri is envious of Joey’s apartment and self-sufficient lifestyle, and their interaction doesn’t feel forced as they get used to each other’s funny little ways. I realized partway through the movie that it was actually passing the Bechdel test. A nice touch is the mess that Joey’s apartment becomes once Terri moves in; it’s never mentioned, but it’s just a neat little background detail that underscored their differences.

Another moment was when JP returns to the art gallery to ask about the column and finds the gallery abandoned and empty. I’m sure it was intended to be part of the Hellraiser mythos, but I laughed and wondered if the art dealer was actually some homeless guy in the right place at the right time to scam a dumbass rich kid out of some money. “Yeah, that mysterious column is totally… mysterious. *snickering* Oh I totally work here, I just wear dirty rags because I’m an edgy artist. Name your price, hotshot.” *pockets money, walks away laughing*

Pinhead slaughters his way through a crowd of Cool Club Kids and makes himself a new squad, and Joey must use the puzzle box to reunite him with his human side and defeat him. Once all is said and done, she shoves the puzzle box into wet cement, hoping it’ll be trapped for eternity and safe from human hands…

… OR SO WE THINK. As the other films have, this one left the ending open for a sequel.

Overall there were some good bones in this installment of Hellraiser, although the flesh (HA!) surrounding them was a hot mess. I thought the protagonist was interesting, particularly Joey’s subplot concerning her father, and Terri’s character and backstory were likewise compelling. I also prefer stories where Pinhead is manipulating a human agent, rather than doing things directly, but it was definitely great watching him go bonkers in the club. And seeing him reveling in his role as torturer and tempter was fun, as well.

And that was Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth! Before we conclude Hell Week, I’ll do one more post about the glorious, bizarre mess that is Hellraiser IV: Bloodline, or as I’ve been calling it, Pinhead In Space. Y’all have a great Friday!