Thursday, October 27, 2011

April Fool's Day

Since it is close to Halloween, let's discuss horror movies centered around holidays. There isn't one holiday I can think of that doesn't have a movie centered around it and most fall into the slasher genre with Michael Myers being the biggest example of cashing in on holiday horror. I think one of the most intriguing films plot wise and the first "holiday slasher" I remember seeing is April Fool's Day.

Film Plot: Rich college student Muffy St. John invites a large group of her friends to stay at her family's mansion on a coastal island for the spring break weekend, which falls on Muffy's favorite holiday: April Fool's Day. Its the regular set up of drinking, partying and sex but the atmosphere of good old fashioned pranks turns into something more sinister after a joke goes to far. A deck hand for the ferry is gruesomely injured, Muffy's cousin Skip disappears and the laughter turns into screams of terror when the bodies start popping up. Who is responsible for all of this? One of Muffy's guest or has the hostess taken her love of April Fool's Day a little too far?

Even though April Fool's Day is a horror film and regarded as a slasher it has a plot based on an Agatha Christie novel to make the horror more suspenseful. There is blood but it does not take it up to gore levels and the formula of what you don't see is scarier to make the film different from it predecessors. I first saw the movie on one of those early time slot days of being home sick from school when you could catch more obscure films and fell in love with this flick. There is humor and intrigue, drama and gore and also characters that you can actually like thanks to the terrific if sometimes cheesy acting but hey it wouldn't be an 80s horror film without it!

Next Blog: Embrace Of The Vampire

Friday, October 14, 2011


After a family emergency (which turned out better than it sounded) I have returned to my blog posting.

When you are sitting there watching a horror movie do you ever realize how beautiful it can be? Yes despite the blood and gore the cinematography or the sets of a film can be gorgeous. One off-shoot of the horror genre is quite good at this and that is Italian horror. One of the masters of Italian horror is Dario Argento and one of the classics of Italian horror cinema is Suspiria.

Film Plot: American Suzy Banyon arrives one night at a prestigious German ballet academy during a storm...and another young woman's flight from the same school. This girl, Pat, flees to a friend's apartment and is then attacked by some unseen dark force which results in the death of Pat and her friend. It seems Pat's death puts in motion a string of strange events that Suzy must try to uncover with only one sure clue: something about an iris.

Soon, maggots start raining from the ceiling, footsteps in the night and strange noises of whispers and snoring begin to haunt Suzy and her roommate Sara as a former pianist at the school is attacked and killed by his own seeing eye dog. When Suzy starts becoming sick, Sara believes that witchcraft might be to blame for the recent events and her roommate's sudden illness. When Sara is killed, Suzy is now left alone to face the dark forces within the school before they destroy her.

I find it very hard to describe Suspiria without giving so much of the plot away because the film is one of those movies that you just have to watch to know exactly what is happening. Turning away for even a single minute robs you of Suspiria, plot wise and visually. The film is gory and glossy and even though the film has no nudity it has plenty of porn...scenery porn that is with its use of primary colors and of course it is also expected to be grandiose thanks to setting it in a ballet academy and filming Suspiria in both Germany and Italy.

Suspiria is also notable in that it has a very dominant female cast with little or no dialogue from the male actors and characters which will make it a film that woman can grasp and men can enjoy. Lead actress Jessica Harper does a great job here as Suzy Banyon and if you want another great performance from her, try finding Phantom Of The Paradise on DVD (just as I'm trying to do.)

Short and sweet I know but if you haven't seen Suspiria I don't want to spoil it for you and if you have seen this film, you should already know how good it is or bad (depending on your view) it is. Since October is as good a month as any for horror, I recommend viewing Suspiria this Halloween.

Next Blog: April Fool's Day

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Brothers Grimm

Another thing you need to know about me when it comes to movies: I love films based on fairy tales. Since I grew up watching Disney films with the rest of my generation, I have come to enjoy fairy tales even in their most blatant forms of happy endings but I also enjoy the darker side of the tales which is how they were written way back when. The most prominent authors of fairy tales were the German Grimm brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm, and their works have been adapted to film and even films have been made about the brothers themselves. Most of these movies are light-hearted adaptations but we are going to talk about the 2005 film directed by Monty Python alumnus Terry Gilliam. This movie of course begins once upon a time...

The Brothers Grimm, Jake and Will, are con artists who go from village to town to rid the people there of supernatural forces of evil: witches, demons, monsters and evil spells. Older Will is in it for the money, the glory and the women it attracts while Jake is more interested in chronicling the folklores into stories much to his brother's frustration. Being in French occupied Germany doesn't help the Brothers Grimm when they are captured by Italian torturer, Cavaldi, and taken to French General Delatombe who has another mystery for them to solve...while trying to find a way to debunk the brothers' past "victories".

Young girls are going missing in the village of Marbaden  and Will and Jake are sent to find out why and soon discover that the woods about the village are said to be cursed by an ancient queen, gifted with eternal life but in search of eternal youth and beauty that only the blood of twelve young girls can bring her. Not knowing the woods, the brothers along with Cavaldi are lead to the beautiful huntress Angelika, whose own sisters were taken by the queen, to lead them into the cursed forest.

After stopping the queen's werewolf huntsman from taking the final twelfth girl from the village, Jake and Will soon have to go off and rescue Angelika when it is determined she will be the last girl instead to complete the Queen's spell. All of the stories are coming true and the Brothers Grimm only have a short time to save Angelika and the other girls from the village from the wicked queen but with General Delatombe and his french soldiers out to capture them...can Will and Jake bring a happily ever after to their own dark fairy tale?

The Brothers Grimm is one of my favorite films due to its very dark take on fairy tales but with enough comedy and drama to keep me entertained and of course it is also filled with adventure and fantasy like the stories of the real Brothers Grimm that is the reason I watched the film in the first place. Matt Damon and the late Heath Ledger are very talented in this film which shows of how funny at times Matt Damon can be and the role of Jacob Grimm fits Heath Ledger's charm and he is just adorable and vulnerable at the same time. I relate with Heath's role more than Matt's role as Will because I am interested in the romance and the fantasy of the stories Jake wishes to tell more than the fame and glory that seems to be the character's focus but I love the connection of almost real brothers that Damon as Will brings to the story when he and Ledger share the screen.

Even though the Brothers Grimm are the main characters, Jonathan Pryce as General Delatombe and Peter Stormare as Cavaldi at times steal the movie with their over acting but being a Terry Gilliam film, it is to be expected that overacting does not equal hammy but comedic gold. Lena Headey's Angelika is a very positive female character and I like how she is not made out to be just some shallow love interest to cause friction between the two brothers but a woman who can handle herself without the help of a man. Monica Bellucci as the Evil Queen has a very limited role but the time she spends onscreen she is seductive, beautiful and dangerous enough to bring the role of the vain and evil sorceress  present in any fairy tale to life. Besides the characters, the beauty of the Czech Republic is showcased in the beautiful background as the filming location and the cinematography is just breathtaking.

If you enjoy fantasy films and love fairy tales as much as I do, you will enjoy The Brothers Grimm. I can also say that if you love Matt Damon and Heath Ledger as much as I do, you will enjoy this film. You may watch the film only to see these two talented and handsome actors but you will end up falling under the spell of this film for all its dark and fanciful charm just as much as I have.

Next Blog: Suspiria