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Fright Night (2011)

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Fright Night 2011Starring Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Tennant, Imogen Poots

Directed by Craig Gillespie


Let’s start off this review by just going ahead and addressing the elephant in the room. Yes, Tom Holland’s Fright Night is by far one of the best vampire movies to come out of the 1980s, and like many of you horror fans out there, I have been completely apprehensive about DreamWorks remaking it ever since the film went into production late last year.

Sure, you had one of the most compelling genre writers behind the script (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” alum Marti Noxon), an imaginative director at the helm (Lars and the Real Girl‘s Craig Gillespie) and an insanely gifted cast assembled to introduce a new generation of fans out there to the world of Fright Night; and yet, I still couldn’t help but be skeptical. After all, Holland’s original film remains one of my very favorite movies (genre or otherwise), and initially I felt like a part of my childhood was being stolen from me.

But now that I’ve had the opportunity to check out the new Fright Night for myself (twice), I’ve definitely done a 180 on the subject. Not only is Fright Night a brutally fun horror flick. but it’s also one of the best remakes I’ve seen over the last few years. And for those of you nervous about seeing another one of your favorites getting remade, don’t worry too much- it’s absolutely clear after seeing it that both DreamWorks and Gillespie approached this project with the utmost love and respect for Holland’s original story.

In the new Fright Night Gillespie and company waste no time immersing viewers rather quickly into the world of Charlie Brewster (Yelchin). A former geek that used make backyard sci-fi movies with fellow outcast (and best friend) “Evil Ed” (Mintz-Plasse), Charlie finally has everything going for him. He’s left his dorky past behind him (including Ed), he’s no longer an outcast at school and he’s dating Amy (Poots), the proverbial hot girl with a heart of gold.

In this incarnation of the Fright Night story, it’s Ed that discovers Charlie’s new neighbor Jerry (Farrell) is a bloodthirsty vampire who’s snacking his way through their isolated subdivision on the outskirts of Las Vegas. After Adam, one of their close friends goes missing, Ed pleads with Charlie to help him uncover the truth about what happened to their long-time mate and asks him to do some investigating into the matter right after school. Charlie, who’s desperately trying to put his geek past behind him, tries to blow Ed off, but Ed’s having none of that- if Charlie doesn’t show up, he plans on releasing their home movies to the entire student population, ultimately killing Charlie’s chance at any kind of a social life.

Of course, Charlie’s hesitation with meeting Ed stems from the fact that he’s a bit pre-occupied with the fact that both his hottie girlfriend and his mom (Collette) seem to have both fallen under the spell of the new mysterious neighbor Jerry, who oozes both charisma and sex with every word that comes out of his mouth. Charlie can sense that there’s something he doesn’t like about Jerry but chalks it up to the guy just being a good-looking alpha male that may want to bump uglies with both his mom and girlfriend and no one really ever likes to see their girlfriend (or their mom) get hit on. After Charlie reluctantly leaves the leading ladies behind to go investigating with Ed, he gets the whole rundown on just how dangerous Jerry is from Ed, who had been following Jerry around for days along with the now missing Adam.

Ed explains to Charlie that Jerry is the culprit behind a recent string of disappearances in the area and through his reconnaissance he discovered that Jerry is much more dangerous than your average serial killer- he’s actually a vampire. Charlie initially scoffs at the idea that a night stalker has taken up refuge next door to him, but Ed warns Charlie about Jerry, telling him, “This guy is a killer. He’s the fucking shark from Jaws, and he’s just going to continue to eat his way through the neighborhood until he’s stopped.” Ed desperately pleads with Charlie to help him kill Jerry, but like their friendship, Charlie just accepts Ed’s stories as his inability to “grow up” and tells him to stop reading Twilight and ultimately blows Ed off, leaving him frustrated and emotionally wrecked.

And that’s when things start to get really interesting.

The next day Ed has gone missing, and Charlie begins to realize that maybe there might be something to what his former best friend was trying to telling him. Charlie discovers Ed’s research in his bedroom and sees for himself- Jerry is most definitely a vampire and an incredibly dangerous one at that. From there a cat and mouse game begins between Charlie and his fiendish neighbor once both realize the other is on to him, and the stakes (pun intended) continue to get raised for Charlie as Jerry threatens both him and the people he loves most.

A desperate Charlie reaches out to Vegas performer Peter Vincent (David Tennant), whose stage show at the Hard Rock Hotel centers around the occult, the supernatural and vampires in particular. Charlie approaches Peter in a last-ditch effort to figure out how he can defeat Jerry under the guise of a reporter asking Peter about vampire mythology as part of a feature assignment. But Charlie’s journalist façade comes crumbling down once he can no longer contain his real reason for the visit, and in a fit of anger Peter throws Charlie out of his apartment, leaving the teenager to fend for himself against his bloodthirsty neighbor.

Now, if you’ve seen the original Fright Night, then you are well aware of how the events of the movie play out, and if you haven’t, don’t worry- I will try my best to not ruin anything in the new Fright Night for you. Let’s just say that the updated Fright Night touches on all the right beats from the original story and blends them with a gaggle of inventive twists and surprises throughout the film which should delight both diehard fans of the original and newcomers alike.

In this day and age where horror remakes seem to get announced almost on a daily basis around these parts, this writer can’t help but be skeptical about any kind of remake, let alone one of my favorite genre flick of all time. But somehow both Gillespie and writer Noxon manage to not only create an intense and darkly comedic update on Holland’s classic story, but the pair have also managed to create the best straight-up horror flick of the summer with Fright Night 3D. As a fan of the original from the very beginning, I couldn’t have asked for a better remake than what DreamWorks has made here.

Noxon, who is no stranger to the world of vampires, has created an incredibly intelligent and chilling story with the new Fright Night, and that’s part of why the movie works: She understood the soul of what made the original Fright Night so great and knew what needed to get reworked for new audiences in a way that won’t be insulting to the diehards out there. There is plenty of heart still beating within the story, the horror delivers on all levels (gores, jumps and intensity) and the comedy moments in Fright Night work well with this darker spin.

In terms of casting, Fright Night is one of those rare treats where a cast is comprised of many Hollywood heavy-hitters and newcomers alike. Farrell continues to prove he’s an engaging presence on the big screen with his performance as killing machine Jerry Dandridge in this updated Fright Night. Farrell doesn’t try to take away anything from the performance of the original Jerry (Chris Sarandon) and incorporates a few new vampire habits with his take on Jerry that I found incredibly clever and surprising. And ladies, forget that Edward what’s-his-name…Farrell’s Dandridge is the new sexy vamp on the block, only he doesn’t sparkle. He just wants to rip your throat out, drink your blood and move on to his next victim. Farrell does a great job balancing out the incredibly dark humor to Jerry’s character with the ice cold vampire instincts that drive him to eat his way through his neighborhood, and here he proves that he’s one of the more engaging actors working today.

As the film’s main protagonist, Yelchin has his hands full playing Charlie. At first Charlie isn’t exactly the most likable guy- he’s selfishly left his best friend behind for the popular life, and he’s been posturing for new girlfriend Amy so that she won’t uncover his dorky past. But once Jerry sets his sights on taking away everything from Charlie, the teenager must now transition into adulthood and either put an end to Jerry or die trying. I’ve been a huge fan of Yelchin since his gut-wrenchingly raw performance in Alpha Dog, and he does a wonderful job of making you care about a character that, for the first two acts of the movie, is a total douchebag. It’s Charlie’s character arc in the film’s third act where we see the reluctant hero transform into the man he so desperately wants to be.

The 3D in Fright Night is very much akin to the 3D you experienced this past weekend if you made it out to see Final Destination 5 in theaters. Like FD5, Gillespie uses 3D in Fright Night to give audiences an immersive filmgoing experience that not only gives off a feeling of intimate dread but looks amazing to boot. Don’t worry; for you fans out there who like those “in-your-face” 3D moments, too, Fright Night has them as well and demonstrates that once again, if you actually shoot your project in 3D, you can make an incredible looking horror movie where the 3D lends itself well to the story unfolding on the big screen.

Fright Night definitely earns its R rating, too, as Farrell starts amassing a long list of victims that would make Charles Manson proud. The practical gore is good, and the digital gore is used minimally (during various parts of the third act mostly), which should make the gore enthusiasts out there happy to hear. The creature and vampire design work done on Fright Night by KNB’s Howard Berger looks great even if I wasn’t a huge fan of the digital alterations added to the prosthetics for “enhancement” purposes, but that’s just because I’m more a fan of the old-school approach to bringing macabre creatures to life.

The one thing that may throw fans off a bit is that the new movie seems to move at a breakneck pace, and you get the first hour of the original Fright Night thrown at you over the course of the new flick’s first 20 minutes. I understand why Noxon chose to go this route as the writer (audiences these days unfortunately aren’t into plodding storylines that take their time to get going), and while I would have preferred to have things slowed down just a bit, I don’t feel like the frenetic pace of Noxon’s story took anything away from my overall enthusiasm for the new Fright Night.

In a filmmaking climate where so many remakes stumble, Fright Night has managed to get everything right and make a fan out of me. With an exceptionally talented cast assembled, an innovative director at the wheel and one of the best genre writers attached, Fright Night is one of those rare remakes that has the ability to hold its head up proudly on its own merits (there are plenty of surprises in the last 20 minutes that should manage to keep fans of the original guessing until the very end) but also manages to loving pay its respect to its source material without ever taking anything away from the original film or trying to duplicate what made Tom Holland’s classic film so special to its loyal fans.

4 out of 5

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith


I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
3.5

Summary

Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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User Rating 3.59 (22 votes)
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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User Rating 4.13 (23 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 3.95 (20 votes)
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