Tag Archives: Movie Review

Movie Reviews from The Fox Hole – The Frighteners (1996)

Hidey-ho neighborinos! Yeah, I know the Pup and I have been missing for *pauses to check calender* HOLY SHIT! It’s been over a month. Damn, real life is always trying to take away me and Pup’s fun. 😦 But that’s okay with a swift kick in our ass from our beloved blog mistress (okay, I know it was a reminder, but a kick is more dramatic) we sat down and dusted off one of our favorite cross-genre movies. *glares at the Pup* Don’t look at me like that. I said CROSS-GENRE not CROSS-DRESSER. No worries, Pup, your secret is safe with me. I think you look lovely in that glittery purple feather boa…damn…did I say that aloud? I did…didn’t I?

*head desk*

Okay, let’s all forget that conversation happened. Besides we’re here for the MOVIE REVIEW!! *tosses confetti*

The Frighteners (1996)

The Frighteners (1996)

Trailer HERE

CAST: Michael J. Fox, Trina Alvarado, Peter Dobson, John Astin, Dee Wallace Stone, Jeffrey Combs, Jake Busey, and Chi McBride

Review –

Ghostbusters was probably the first mainstream movie to mix comedy and the paranormal. Yeah, sure we had the Abbot and Costello black & white flicks of the 40’s involving the Mummy, Dracula, and even Frankenstein’s monster, but off the top of my head I can’t quite think of another movie that did it quite the same way that Ghostbusters did it. All this talk of Ghostbusters probably has you thinking you read the title of this post wrong—well, you didn’t folks.

Most days I have a tendency to babble, this post is indicative of how that usually goes. Have you ever had the distinct feeling that you’re going senile? Now, where was I? Oh, yeah, I decided to review a movie this time that is funny, weird, and has scares enough to make even me jump.

Long ago and far away in the verdant land of New Zealand there was a curly-haired jolly fellow known as Peter Jackson. Although, we know him quite well now for his epic trip through the land of Hobbits, in 1996 Mr. Jackson was just beginning to capture the world’s attention. In this case, he caught the attention of the legendary Robert Zemeckis with a story that rides a fine line between comedy and horror.

Michael J. Fox (Spin City, Back to the Future) plays industrious con-man Frank Bannister, psychic investigator and ghost buster for hire in the quaint seaside town of Fairwater. There’s one thing though that no one knows about Frank. His con cleansing houses of the ghosts—the ghosts actually work for him. Contrary to what the townspeople believe, Frank is an honest to God psychic that can see and communicate with the spirits of the dead. His cohorts in crime are Cyrus (Chi McBride, Human Target; Pushing Daisies) a militant African-American who died in the 1970’s with a taste for cigars; Stuart (Jim Fyfe, The X-Files; The Lone Gunmen) a geek from the 1950’s and The Judge (John Astin, The Addams Family; Brisco County, Jr.) a 19th century gunman followed in death by his beloved bloodhound.

Bannister lives along with his ghostly cohorts in what we soon learn was to be his dream house. The house though now sets unfinished, draped in plastic sheeting on the side of a lonely hill overlooking the town. There is more to Frank Bannister and the town of Fairwater than meets the eye.

It seems the town of Fairwater has an epidemic on their hands, a series of deaths with no scientific explanation. Healthy young people dropping dead from what appears to be heart attacks. There’s only one problem, an unseen force, not clogged arteries, crushed their hearts. Rattled by the series of deaths Frank and his ragtag team of ghosts play on the town’s grief earning him a place on the local paper’s target list.

During one of his ghost busting gigs, Frank meets Dr. Lucy Lynsky who works at the local clinic. Her husband Ray is snide self-centered pain who doesn’t believe a thing that Frank says or does. While wrapping up the job Frank sees a fiery number carved in Ray’s forehead that then fades away. At first, he believes it’s a prank created by one of his ghost buddies. Soon we learn why the number affects Frank the way it does. Three years before Frank was a successful architect, married, and a bit of a self-centered ass when he and his wife are in an accident, his wife dies, and he walks away with no memory of what happened and the sudden ability to communicate with the dead. A good portion of the town believes he killed his wife because her body when discovered yards away from the car had the number 13 engraved in her forehead.

After Lucy’s husband is the next to die, she and Frank find themselves caught up in a terrifying game of cat and mouse with the evil entity responsible for the deaths in Fairwater. Standing in their way are the local police and a nutty FBI agent Milton Dammers (Jeffrey Combs, The 4400; The House on Haunted Hill) who specializes in paranormal crimes (think Fox Mulder on crack with a huge helping of Renfield). Not only that, but the deaths seem to have a link to a hospital murder spree from the past involving the hospital administrators daughter (Dee Wallace-Stone). What they uncover is a plot that comes straight from the grave and Frank Barrister is the only one that can stop it.

As I’ve learned from watching Peter Jackson’s movies, the man is huge on visuals. Now, nearly fifteen years later, the special effects appear dated, but in 1996, they were state of the art. Jackson is not afraid of treading that line that makes the movie watcher nervous—the crossover of genres. In Hollywood where everything is forced to bagged, tagged, and categorized (thank you, again, Mulder) Jackson has the unerring ability to mix comedy, drama, and horror in a perfect balance that leaves the watcher feeling satisfied in the end. For those of you who are fans of the CW series Supernatural I can tell you that Jackson’s work on this movie is without a doubt on Eric Kripke’s list of inspirations.

Michael J. Fox puts in an intense turn as Frank Bannister, a man who believes he has nothing to live for until he’s forced to face the past he’s been running from. He has an edge that we rarely saw in his earlier rolls and yet he can still make you laugh in the middle of a darkness that permeates The Frighteners. The supporting cast is brilliant ranging from the psychotic to the hilarious and everything in between.

Looking for a fun movie with a dark, edge to it for the upcoming holiday weekend I suggest you get your hands on a copy of Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Final Rating: 4/5 Fox Pups

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Ratings System:

5 Fox Pups – Must See/Can’t Miss

4 Fox Pups – Excellent

3 Fox Pups – Good

2 Fox Pups – Passable

1 Fox Pups – Skip It

Movie Reviews from The Fox Hole – The Legend of Hell House (1973)

Well, hello there strangers! The Pup and I have been missing in  action the past three weeks, but then real life unfortunately takes precedence over fun with movies time. Don’t you hate that? 😛  We’re back though and we come bearing a review of a classic early 70’s horror movie written by the incredible Richard Matheson–The Legend of Hell House! So without further ado…

Talk About Creepy & Weird...

The Legend of Hell House (1973)

Trailer HERE

CAST: Pamela Franklin, Roddy McDowall, Clive Revill, Gayle Hunnicut, Roland Culver, Peter Bowles, Michael Gough (uncredited)

Review –

As many of you might know by now I harbor an obsession with the paranormal. Well, maybe obsession is a bit of an over statement (looks around with guilty eyes)—okay, I admit it I’m obsessed. I blame it on my mother and movies such as The Legend of Hell House that I watched as a kid. By today’s standards of horror this particular movie would be considered tame, but what passes today for horror is little more than torture porn.

Yep, I said it—TORTURE PORN.

Now by just bringing this up I may be opening a can of worms. Many fans of modern horror dislike this term due to the fact they misunderstand the true meaning of it. In particular the word porn which is a shortened form of pornography. Most people hear the word porn they automatically think of sex, but Merriam-Webster lists three separate definitions for the word pornography; the third being the one movie critics are referencing. It is as follows:

  • the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction <the pornography of violence>

Although, violence is not new in horror it’s reached an all time peak within the last twenty-five years. Often violence will be elevated and plot tossed to the curb, which is the main reason critics coined the term. The Legend of Hell House, made during the popularization of exploitation films in the 60’s and 70’s, does contain aspects of both sex and violence, but the true focus lies in the personal experiences and education of four characters (two women and two men) who are out to find hard facts proving the existence of the life after death.

Based on the novel Hell House by Richard Matheson, well known as the thinking man’s paranormal writer (he also wrote the screenplay) The Legend of Hell House opens with a meeting between one of the world’s most renowned parapsychologists, physicist, Dr. Lionel Barrett (Clive Revill, Crime and Punishment; Feast of All Saints) and the wealthy, aged Rudolph Deutsch. Mr. Deutsch wastes no time telling Barrett up front that he wishes him to provide the facts of survival after death and he’s willing to pay him £100,000. Barrett is amused until Deutsch tells him where he can find these facts—Belasco House aka Hell Housethe only place on earth where survival after death has yet to be refuted. He tells Barrett that two other people will accompany him on the investigation. A young girl, Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin, a staple of network television in the 70’s and 80’s) who is a mental medium and Benjamin Fischer (Roddy McDowall, Fright Night; Remo Williams) who is a physical medium and the only one to make it out alive during the last investigation of the Belasco House. He then informs Barrett that they have precisely one week in which to accomplish the task.

After accepting the challenge, Barrett explains to his wife that this is not just any house. Belasco has a history, one as dark as hell itself with a body count to match. In the parapsychological community, Hell House is the Mt. Everest of haunted houses. After two failed attempts to investigate the house, leading to the deaths of eight investigators Fischer being the only survivor, the Belasco family sealed the house—until now. Barrett tries to convince his wife Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt, Dallas) to stay behind due to the dangerous nature of the investigation. Of course, she’s having none of it and insists on going.

Introduced to Fischer first, a silent and intense man, and we get the impression right off the bat that he knows more about what’s going on in the house than anyone else. He was fifteen when he dragged himself out, the lone survivor of the last investigation twenty years prior. It’s obvious he’s no fool and he’s well aware that returning to the place of his nightmares may just destroy him completely this time. Florence, whom they pick up at a convent in the English countryside, is a mix of innocence, self-importance, and stubbornness. We learn later that she finds the idea of Barrett’s disbelief in existence after death ludicrous and close-minded. Not to mention she believes that what is labeled paranormal has an intimate connection to religion and spiritual belief.

On their arrival at Hell House, an imposing Victorian manor, surrounded by a gated fence, gargoyles, and undulating mists that seem to possess a life of their own, each of the group have different reactions. Its towering peaked roofs looming through the mist is what one would expect of a classic haunted house. The manor was literally sealed—even the windows bricked up so no natural light dare penetrate the shadows within. What adds to the atmosphere of our introduction is the deep booming electronic score created by Brian Hodgson and Delia Derbyshire that resembles the beat of drums in the jungle or the rhythm of a human heart.

What is obvious about the characters is that the house openly affects the two women the most. Ann is in silent awe of the stature and size of the house. Florence on the other hand is quite vocal about her opinion referring to the house as hideous. When Barrett checks her at the front door by stating they are not inside yet, she informs him that she doesn’t have to be. As they enter, the viewer knows without doubt that the only one in the party who is awaiting a greeting of some sort is Fischer, who silently takes in everything, and whose expression speaks volumes. Roddy McDowall who breathes life into Fischer was one of the best character actors of his time, small in stature he might have been, but what he lacked in that department he made up for in his subtle yet mesmerizing performances. His performance as Fischer draws the viewer in and makes one wonder exactly what he is hiding behind those dark eyes.

Almost immediately, the impression is given that something lurks in the shadows watching and biding its time as the investigators settle in. As the movie progresses we begin to understand the darkness that lurks in Hell House is arrogant, and considers the group nothing more than mice in a maze. It also knows who it can manipulate and why. Dr. Barrett, for his unwillingness to believe in anything beyond his scientific theories, Ann because of her own insecurities within her marriage to Barrett, Florence because of her arrogance and immaturity, and finally Fischer because of the fear he refuses to reveal outwardly. One by one, each member of the team discovers themselves manipulated, using their flaws against themselves, and each other. The outbursts become more violent with each passing day until only the most foolish could deny that there truly is something not of this world inhabiting the halls of Hell House.

The Legend of Hell House relies more on mind games, minor special effects, and camera angles to inundate the story with a sense of horror than out and out violence. One of the most infamous moments from the film is when what appears to be a possessed cat physically attacks Florence (the scene was recreated for laughs in the Wayans’ Brothers film Scary Movie 2 in 2001). The atmosphere is claustrophobic, a sense of human depravity laced throughout, suggesting that even in death, the sickest appetites do not rest.

Final Rating: 4/5 Fox Pups

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Ratings System:

5 Fox Pups – Must See/Can’t Miss

4 Fox Pups – Excellent

3 Fox Pups – Good

2 Fox Pups – Passable

1 Fox Pups – Skip It

Movie Reviews from The Fox Hole – Legion (2010)

Good morning, my fellow Pagans! Yes, I know I missed a week, but the pup insisted that foxes shouldn’t be forgotten at Easter. After all fox pups enjoy chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs as much as the next kid. Scrubbing the melted sticky peeps out of the carpet and fox fur though was not my idea of a good time. *glares at pup*

Any who…where was I? Oh, yeah the pup and I have a new movie review for you folks.

Legion (2010)

Legion (2010)

Trailer HERE

CAST: Kevin Durand, Lucas Black, Jeanette Miller, Kate Walsh, Tyrese Gibson, Dennis Quaid, Paul Bettany, Charles S. Dutton, Jon Tenney, Adrianne Palicki, Willa Holland

Review –

I’ve only reviewed movies from my DVD collection so far, but this time I’m doing a recently released movie Legion from writer Peter Schink (Gotham Café-2005) and Scott Stewart (producer – Big Love). There are numerous reasons I chose to review Legion. One of the main reasons though is (as a friend of mine likes to say) that I seem to obsess over angel crap. Well, it’s not an obsession and I’ve told her numerous times, but she’s not interested in religion so it’s all crap to her. 🙂

Since my teenage years, I’ve had an interest in myth and religion, two subjects inextricably entwined in the history of mankind’s existence.  It’s not just Christianity (after all, I am Pagan) but rather all religions that have existed or still exist and their similarities in belief and the written word. Christianity just happens to be one of the most visible and verbal. With the newest belief the apocalypse will hit in 2012 (courtesy of a misunderstanding of the Mayan calendar), Hollywood has grabbed onto the Apocalypse and rode it bareback rodeo-style into the arena of the theater as well as television—nothing new there. What I do find new is the throwback to the original source material—yes folks, Revelations.

Schink and Stewart take a page from Revelations and smack us in the face with a version of the original biblical end of the world. Anyone who has read the bible knows that the angels are the ones that start the Apocalypse under God’s orders. Hollywood and society spent decades convincing us that angels are beautiful beings of light with huge fluffy white wings and halos when in reality angels were far from that in the Bible. Angels were in fact, warriors, soldiers of God, and the original bad asses of the universe. The sight of them put the fear of God into man—no pun intended.

Legion opens with a montage of desert scenes voiced over by Charlie (Adrianne Palicki from Friday Night Lights, Supernatural). She talks of her childhood and her mother’s faith in God. When her father leaves her mother’s views on God change and she asks her mother why God is angry with his children. Her mother’s reply; I don’t know. I guess he just got tired of all the bullshit. I personally love this line because to be honest if I were God I’d be pissed. Mankind has been using their religion as an excuse to murder millions in the name of God for centuries.

We are then delivered to a dark alley, somewhere in Los Angeles, two days before Christmas to witness the appearance of the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany, The Da Vinci Code). It’s apparent he’s on the run from something, his wings sliced off leaving two massive wounds in his shoulder blades and he’s kicking ass and taking names. Breaking into a warehouse of illegal weapons, he cleans himself up, and packs some bags for a massive showdown. When he blows the doors of the warehouse, he attracts the attentions of two cops who soon become the first to fall in the war that’s coming. One killing the other while possessed by what appears to be a demon that tells Michael these are not your orders. Michael informs said demon that I’m following my own orders now before killing it. He then takes off with the police car, the lights of the city going dark in his wake.

Skipping forward we’re introduced to our two leads who have no idea what’s headed their way in the middle of the Texas desert; Jeep (Lucas Black, American Gothic), the son of the diner/garage owner, and Charlie (Adrianne Palacki), a pregnant waitress who he adores, although she doesn’t love him the way he loves her. Our cast is rounded out by Jeep’s father, Bob (Dennis Quaid, Pandorum); a hook-handed cook Percy (Charles S. Dutton, Fame); a family trapped until their vehicle is repaired (Jon Tenney, Willa Holland, & Kate Walsh); and a father on his way to see his kid, Kyle (Tyrese Gibson, Transformers). This motley assortment of characters, possess unique flaws that makes for some interesting interactions. They’re wrapped up in their own problems so deep they don’t see the writing on the wall, so to speak, until it’s too late.

Around them are signs that something isn’t right; no television signal and loss of phone service. Enter an elderly woman that turns out to be far more than just human. She delivers a message to Charlie, Your baby is going to burn, and then turns on the occupants with a demonic vengeance. At this point, the good folks of this isolated way station begin to wonder exactly what they’ve stepped in. Trust me folks it isn’t dog shit.

Terrified, they hole up in the diner, and soon Michael appears, arsenal in tow, and informs them that he isn’t there to protect them, but rather Charlie and her unborn child.  You see, Charlie, who never wanted the baby in the first place, is carrying humanity’s only hope of surviving the apocalypse.

Legion isn’t the best movie I’ve ever seen, but I admire the writers for going the route they do. They spin all our heads with the idea that God, his angels, and heaven aren’t exactly what we believe they are. The special effects are impressive: especially during a violent showdown between Michael and Gabriel (Kevin Durand, Lost & Dark Angel) who still has his wings. Legion taps into a number of genres to tell its story including the classic western showdown (can we say Alamo?), fantasy, and horror. It even takes a chapter from James Cameron’s original Terminator.

Although not shocking, the ending does have a twist that amused me and holds a lesson for anyone who has followed orders blindly. In a society bombarded by the media, telling us how to dress, speak, look, and what to read and believe on a daily basis it is a lesson we should take to heart. Welcome folks to free will and thinking for yourself. Not to mention taking responsibility for our own lives and the decisions you make–whether good or bad.

Final Rating: 3/5 Fox Pups

~*~

Ratings System:

5 Fox Pups – Must See/Can’t Miss

4 Fox Pups – Excellent

3 Fox Pups – Good

2 Fox Pups – Passable

1 Fox Pups – Skip It

Movie Reviews from The Fox Hole – The Haunting (1963)

After a surprising and busy week, the pup and I decided to set back, relax, and enjoy a classic black & white horror movie. It might have you reaching for the Pepto during some scenes if you have a sensitive tummy i.e. motion sickness, not for the gore factor. Why not the gore factor? Because this one was made when film directors still knew less was more. A lesson today’s studios need to learn in short order although I doubt they will.

The Haunting (1963)

The Haunting (1963)

Trailer HERE

Cast: Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn

Review –

In this day and age of remakes, few studios in Hollywood have a clue as to what is truly scary.

Uncertainty has become the most terrifying word in the English language to many people I know. With the economy as it stands, many of us don’t know from one day to the next whether we’ll have a job come tomorrow. Uncertainty breeds confusion and that leads to fear; that is what horror was bred from our fears. Whether that fear is real or if it originates from our imagination doesn’t matter—it is real to us.

Uncertainty is the focus of the 1963 classic Robert Wise horror film The Haunting based on Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill House. Although, I’ve never had the pleasure of reading Jackson’s novel if it is anything like the movie (which is hard to tell sometimes) then I applaud her for the mind fuck of the 20th century.

The movie starts with a shot of Hill House a forbidding 90-year-old mansion built, as the voice over tells us, by the wealthy Hugh Crain for his young wife and daughter in remote New England. The narrator we later learn is one Dr. John Markway (Richard Johnson) an anthropologist, researching the existence of ghosts. He informs us that the house was born bad beginning with the death of Crain’s wife, before she ever sets eyes on his gift, in a carriage accident. A bitter, angry man Huge Crain stays in Hill House to raise a young daughter on his own. His story continues with the death of Crain’s second wife from a fall down the main staircase a few years after. Crain then leaves his young daughter in the care of a nurse and travels to England where he dies in a drowning accident.

Crain’s death isn’t the end of the story though. His daughter, Abigail, continues to live there until she is old and bed-ridden. She dies when her paid companion ignores her pleas for help in favor of lust in the arms of a young farm hand. The companion inherits the house only to end her life by hanging herself from the library ceiling at the stop of an iron spiral staircase.

It is here that we finally meet Dr. Markway, who is meeting with the present owner of Hill House, convincing her to rent him the house against her better judgment so that he may do an experiment in the search for the supernatural. He has selected a handful of people, all who have had experiences with the unknown, and the owner is sending her nephew Luke (Russ Tamblyn, father of Amber Tamblyn of Joan of Arcadia fame) to keep an eye on things.

We are then introduced to our main character, Eleanor ‘Nell’ Lance (the talented Julie Harris, you might recall her as Val’s mother in Knot’s Landing), a young woman trapped in an unhappy situation with her sister after the death of their mother. For years, she was primary caregiver to their deathly ill and not nice mother. She’s looking for a way out of her own unhappiness and she believes Hill House is it. Stealing her sister’s car (which she insists is half hers) Nell arrives at the house with a belly full of doubts, greeted by the caretaker Mr. Dudley who sets her nerves on edge. Dudley’s wife isn’t much better warning her that no one comes to the house after dark (they use almost the exact same line in the 1999 version).

Fearful that she’s the only one to arrive, she starts to panic, but then meets Theodora ‘Theo’, a flashy dark-haired beauty, who makes Nell feel at ease. Together the two of them begin exploring the house, getting lost in the winding corridors as a result. Nell’s doubts begin getting the best of her and she insists to Theo that something is following them. She hears voices and Theo doesn’t although she comments off-hand that the house wants Nell. Eventually Dr. Markway makes his appearance and introduces himself along with Luke, who finds the talk of ghosts and the supernatural hilarious. During dinner theories are tossed about and we discover two things 1) Originally there were to be six participants and one by one they backed out, and 2) Theo possesses ESP and Nell had, at the age of ten, a run in with a poltergeist that she vehemently denies.

Over the course of the movie, a number of questionable scenarios offered up to the viewer make us doubt the truth of what is going on. Noises in the night, thuds, and cold spots that Theo and the others witness, but the darkest things are for Nell’s ears and eyes alone. She becomes drawn more and more to Markway and begins forming an unnatural attachment to him. Theo seems to be the only one that notices and constantly confronts Nell at every turn.

When the good professor’s wife shows up Nell’s obsessive delusion shatters and the shit hits the fan. It’s then we think back at Nell’s poltergeist experience as a child and we begin to wonder if Nell might be responsible for the occurrences since their arrival. Just as she was responsible for the poltergeist years before that was a manifestation of her frustration and anger towards her mother. The question is now—is the house truly haunted or is everything inside Eleanor’s mind?

Robert Wise does an exquisite job establishing not only the atmosphere of the house but Nell’s descent into madness. Warped and oddly angled camera shots, lighting that shifts and changes at the drop of a hat, and Nell’s internal dialogue, all play to her state of mind. Filming in black & white only emphasized the surreal feel of the story.

The Haunting is a well-balanced psychological thriller with a taste of the supernatural. It takes us on ride through a troubled mind that may or may not be responsible for manifesting a darkness that permeates an inanimate object, giving it a life of its own. After watching The Haunting, you may begin to wonder if the supernatural is an exterior force or if it resides inside all of us.

Final Rating: 4/5 Fox Pups

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Ratings System:

5 Fox Pups – Must See/Can’t Miss

4 Fox Pups – Excellent

3 Fox Pups – Good

2 Fox Pups – Passable

1 Fox Pups – Skip It

Movie Reviews from The Fox Hole – The Blair Witch Project (1999)

TGIF! The pup and I are back after a rough week with a review of a modern classic–a classic piece of WTH? Here’s hoping there are more folks out there with common sense than spastic colons. 😉

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Trailer HERE

Cast: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams

Review –

July of last year marked the tenth anniversary of a movie that blew records out of the water, nauseated viewers with erratic camera work, and screwed with many a moviegoers’ head. You have to give Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, the writers and directors of The Blair Witch Project, an A+ in the hook department.

The Blair Witch Project follows the fictional disappearance of three college students Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard (to give the story more authenticity the characters share the same names as the actors—confused yet?). Heather is putting together a documentary as a part of her thesis on the infamous Blair Witch, a rural legend in nearby Burkittsville, a small Maryland town in the Black Hills. Along for the ride are Joshua and Michael two film students volunteering their time and the university equipment to Heather’s thesis project, unfortunately, what starts out as a weekend trip into the woods ends with them all disappearing without a trace.

The entirety of the film is recorded via hand held video in both color and black & white by the students who head out on their adventure to begin collecting tales of the Blair Witch. The main tale they discover is that of a serial killer in the 1940’s who murdered a number of children and claimed the Blair Witch made him do it. Nothing new here being as there have been numerous tales told about serial killers who blame, ghosts and demons for their own actions.

The following day, they continue their exploration of the town and the outer edges of the woods; collecting the original tale of the witch and the mysterious disappearance/reappearance of a young girl, Robin, in the mid-1800’s. Parking their cars, they load up their gear and head out to Coffin Rock where another of many bloody legends linked to the Blair Witch supposedly occurred. Their first night in the woods passes with no problems. At this point, nothing odd has happened and to be honest I was bored out of my mind. Not even a prick of my hackles.

On their second day in the woods, the three begin arguing with one another when they don’t arrive at a supposed cemetery that Heather is leading them to through the woods. What do they discover? A clearing filled with piles of stones. Okay, now my mind is boggling. What the hell is scary about this? Later, after dark, they hear noises in the woods. OMG! Noises in the woods—hang on to your bloomers folks.

Definitely lost in the woods now the arguing intensifies between Heather and Michael. Unable to return to the car before sundown they agree to camp one more night. The noises sound like something moving through the trees. Yeah, there’s no explanation for movement in the woods in the middle of the night. (Can you sense my sarcasm?) The following morning more of the mysterious rock piles appear surrounding their tent. Tempers continue to flair between all three of the intrepid filmmakers especially when Michael tells them he threw their map away the day before. Just as twilight approaches, they discover another clearing where the iconic stick figures of varying sizes dangle from the trees. As night encroaches, they freak out as more sounds begin to close in some that appear to be weeping and/or screaming.

I have to be honest I was not impressed with the Blair Witch. If anything, The Blair Witch Project focused on scaring the bejesus out of people who never stepped foot in the woods. (Much like Deliverance did in the 1970’s) Being a country girl who spent a good deal of my childhood running through the woods, exploring caves, and abandoned houses nothing came off as particularly scary. Panic, jerky camera movements, torn up backpacks, and eventually a missing comrade have the others on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I would be more likely to believe at this point that what the three are experiencing is a mass induced paranoia and audio hallucinations if not for the bundle filled with teeth and blood. Of course, that could be explained by Josh (who goes missing) going coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs first.

The closest to creepy is the final scene of the movie that leaves us with more questions than answers. I won’t spoil the scene though if you happen to be one of the few people who never saw this movie. The most amazing thing that The Blair Witch Project managed to do was convince thousands of people that it was REAL. Not since Orson Wells’ 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds has a piece of entertainment caused people to lose their common sense. Of course, Orson did it so well people were committing suicide. We can look at that as a sign of Wells’ genius or at the fact that humanity has gotten smarter. I’d prefer thinking we’ve gotten smarter, but I doubt it.

So what’s my final opinion?  Myrick and Sánchez are two of the best snake oil salesmen to slither into Hollywood in ages. The fact that a film made them both millionaires that had no real script, no well-known actors, and filmed on a miniscule budget, is quite the feat. They held the title for ten years until Paranormal Activity appeared out of left field in 2009.  Let’s just say that hand held video does not an excellent horror movie make. Not even if Steven Spielberg backs you, the man is good, but he’s a mouse when it comes to knowing what’s scary, but that one is for another day. *snorts & rolls eyes*

Final Rating: 1/5 Fox Pups

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Ratings System:

5 Fox Pups – Must See/Can’t Miss

4 Fox Pups – Excellent

3 Fox Pups – Good

2 Fox Pups – Passable

1 Fox Pups – Skip It

Movie Reviews from The Fox Hole – The Fog (1980)

Welcome back to Movie Reviews from The Fox Hole. My little buddy and I have a classic ghost story for you this time around and a blast from the past.

The Fog (1980)

John Carpenter’s The Fog

TRAILER HERE

Cast: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, John Houseman, Tom Akins, Hal Holbrook

Review –

As an adult, you often look back on your childhood and recall memories tied in with activities that you shared with either friends or family. For me some of those favorite memories are of watching horror movies with my mom. We constantly butted heads, didn’t have the best relationship in the world, but there was one thing we shared our love of horror movies. I grew up in a very poor household and didn’t actually go to the movies until I was eighteen and on my own. The first movie I saw in a theater was one done by one of the master’s of horror I’d grown up with John Carpenter. One of my favorite John Carpenter treats is The Fog.

The Fog is a classic ghost story; a tale of vengeance and the sins of the fathers revisited on the children. I haven’t seen the remake—No, I have, but it was so unremarkable that I already forgot. Any who back to the original and best…

Carpenter opens with a fantastic quote from one of the father’s of modern horror Edgar Allen Poe, “Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?” This happens to be one of my favorite Poe quotes and suits the story that follows to a tee. In the first scene we’re tantalized with the ghostly legend of the Elizabeth Dane, a ship that had crashed on the rocks at Spivey Point, a hundred years previous, as told by an elderly sea captain (played by the late, great John Houseman) to a group of  kids setting around a fire on the beach. Houseman was an exquisite actor whose raspy voice made the hairs on the back of neck stand straight up when I was a kid. Not much has changed. The man had a way of mesmerizing you with that voice and that intense gaze would make you feel guilty even if you did nothing. 🙂

Having set up the origin of the ghost story, Father Malone (the incredible Hal Holbrook) is introduced,  a priest who seems to enjoy the communion wine just a bit more than is appropriate. Don’t blink during this scene or you’ll miss a cameo by Carpenter himself as the church handyman (all big fluffy hair and bell-bottoms that scream 1980). As the clock strikes midnight, April 21st rolls into the town of Antonio Bay with a stirring of what lies ahead for the townspeople as they prepare to celebrate the town’s centennial.

Unlike most of Carpenter’s work The Fog relies more on suspense than what you see in the blood and gore department. The opening sequences introduce us to a handful of characters including Father Malone who we follow as the story unfolds; Stevie Wayne, the local disc jockey; Nick Castle, owner of a small local fishing vessel; Elizabeth Solley, a hitchhiker Nick picks up and beds; Kathy Williams, the town mayor, and Sandy, her assistant.

A minor tremor rocks the town, revealing a journal and something else buried in the church’s basement wall. The journal, a hundred years old, reveals what appears to be a warning dated April 30thMidnight ‘til one belongs to the dead. Good Lord deliver us. Numerous mechanical things go haywire as well; pay phones ringing, lights flickering on, cars engines coming to life, car alarms going off, etc. announcing the arrival of something sinister and supernatural.

As the story unfolds, we learn that the town of Antonio Bay has a dark secret, hidden by the founding fathers that no one has suspected in a hundred years. During the hour between midnight and one, the first night, the fisherman of the Sea Grass discover themselves trapped in a mysterious icy fog bank that rolls up out of nowhere. Their boat goes dead in the water and something emerges from the fog; a ship that shouldn’t be there followed by a group of shadowy figures. Stevie, the disc jockey, is the only one to witness the unnatural behavior of the fog, including the fact it seems to glow, that night from the lonely lighthouse where she broadcasts from to Antonio Bay. As the clock strikes one the fog vanishes without a trace.

The following day Father Malone tries to talk the mayor out of going through with the centennial celebration after revealing to her the secret hidden for the past century—a conspiracy involving murder, greed, and six of the founding fathers of the town including Malone’s own grandfather. She refuses to reveal this information and continues with the plans despite his warnings that the town is cursed.

During the course of the day, each of the main players experience occurrences that border from the unexplained to the out and out supernatural including the discovery of the Seagrass and one of her crew who apparently drowned, but not before his eyes were gouged out.

Stevie acts as the binding between the various other characters warning them of the fog that rolls in as the sun sets and the things hidden within it. Adrienne Barbeau who plays Stevie (better known for her breasts, any guy who came of age in the 1970’s will tell you) does an excellent job of being a single mother separated from and terrified for her child. Her fear and strength in the situation she discovers herself in is real and palpable. Soon the celebration turns into a fight for survival as what lurks in the fog steps foot on dry land for the first time in a hundred years to seek vengeance.

The Fog although dated is beautifully done in palettes of blues and grays during the night scenes a harsh contrast to the beautiful sunny daylight scenes. The special effects team use all the tricks at their disposal (remember this was 1980) to give the fog an intelligence that it shouldn’t possess as it rolls into town destroying phone lines and cutting power. Carpenter scored the movie as well and the music heightens the sense of danger with a throbbing rhythm that rises and falls through out, highlighted by an eerie undertone that reminds me of the hum of katydids or peepers out in the countryside of my childhood.

If you’re a fan of Carpenter’s early work, a lover of classic ghost stories that rely more on suspense than gore then The Fog is your kind of movie—dated or not. I suggest you sleep with the light on afterward though and you might not want to answer if a knock comes at your door in the night. It might be The Fog

Final Rating: 4/5 Fox Pups

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Rating System:

5 Fox Pups – Must See/Can’t Miss

4 Fox Pups – Excellent

3 Fox Pups – Good

2 Fox Pups – Passable

1 Fox Pups – Skip It

Movie Reviews from The Fox Hole – Possession (2009)

Today I’m test driving a possible new feature here at The Pagan & the Pen. As some of you know I do a Sunday feature  where I interview author’s on my own blog because my main passion is writing, but I have another passion–movies. In particular I adore horror, fantasy, suspense…oh, hell I just love movies. 😀 My collection of movies is huge some dating back to the early 1960’s. I came up with the idea to review movies from that collection and this is my first review.

So, here goes nothing folks! 😉

Possession (2009)

POSSESSION

TRAILER HERE

Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Lee Pace, Michael Landes

I admit going into this movie with a bit of hesitation. After all, Sarah Michelle Gellar isn’t on my Top 10 List of best actresses. Yes, I openly admit to being a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and their creator Joss Whedon, but Ms. Gellar wasn’t the one I watched Buffy for, actually, her character, although the star, annoyed me to no end. That’s a discussion for another day though.  Possession caught my eye because of Lee Pace and William B. Davis’ names attached to it and the subject matter. Sadly, Davis aka The Cigarette Smoking Man of X-Files fame is in the movie all of maybe three minutes.

Possession is an American adaption of the 2002 Korean film Addicted. I haven’t seen the original film so I have no source of comparison, but I was pleasantly surprised. For a remake of an Asian film it was better than most and actually had me second-guessing myself at times.

Sarah Michelle Gellar portrays Jessica, an attorney in San Francisco, who is happily married to Ryan, an artist, played by the adorable Michael Landes. As the movie opens, they are celebrating their first wedding anniversary, but their life isn’t as perfect as you might think. The biggest problem, although Ryan doesn’t see it, is his brother Roman, played by the exquisitely delicious Lee Pace.

Roman is the complete opposite of Ryan, on the wrong side of the law, and the bad boy. We’re impressed with the idea early on that he lusts for his brother’s wife and that there is a possible history between Jess and her now brother-in-law. Lee Pace does a superb job of making Roman the type of character that sends your skin crawling along your bones. Having only seen Pace in one other thing (ABC’s Pushing Daisies) I was surprised how wicked he was capable of being.

After a freak traffic accident on the Golden Gate Bridge, Jess’ discovers her world collapsing, her husband and his brother both ending up on life support. One year after the accident, Roman wakes from his coma a changed man in more ways than one. The memories he has are not his own, but rather his brother’s. It appears that the soul of her husband has taken over the body of Roman his brother, who she despises, while his body lingers on the verge of physical death in the hospital. This sets off a chain of events that has Jessica believing either she’s losing her mind or that something sinister is going on.

Now although this isn’t the traditional version of a walk-in it definitely fits the bill. For those who are unfamiliar with the term a walk-in occurs when one soul leaves the body and another takes over. Those who believe in walk-ins claim that a deal, made on the other side between two souls, agrees once the first soul has accomplished what it wants to it agrees to walk away from the physical body and the second soul walks in.

As the truth unfolds, the writers tease the audience with subtle hints. For some viewers, especially those of us who’ve seen one too many suspense or horror movies the ending might not be that big of a surprise. It’s not as scary as it could have been and there’s a distinct lack of blood and gore, which I applaud.  I have to give the writers credit though for trying their damnedest to keep you in suspense.

In my opinion, the story is solid, but the pacing is a bit slow. My biggest complaint and perhaps this is just me; I have a hard time believing Sarah Michelle Gellar as an attorney. Lee Pace though steals the movie with his portrayal of Roman a man, who is at first slime on toast, and then does a complete 360, to tug on our heartstrings.

Possession is one of those movies that are perfect for a rainy afternoon when you just want to curl up on the couch with a drink, bowl of popcorn, and under a favorite blanket. Surprisingly there is even a message about love that might surprise you.  It’s well worth the rental fee and a lazy afternoon viewing.

Final Rating: 3/5 Fox Pups

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Rating System:

5 Fox Pups – Must See/Can’t Miss

4 Fox Pups – Excellent

3 Fox Pups – Good

2 Fox Pups – Passable

1 Fox Pups – Skip It