Sailor Twift presents “AUTO SHOP”

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, teens! As promised, we bring you the premiere of our “first” short film: AUTO SHOP!

Advertisements

1990 to Now, A Perspective on Horror Films by the Decade: Part II of V

I don’t know why, but November was a popular month for horror in 1990. The three films named in this survey released that year resided in the month of November. Tim Curry as “Pennywise the Clown” would scare a generation of youngsters in the TV miniseries based on Stephen King’s 1986 best-selling novel IT. To make a TV-14 offering of a book as graphic and twisted as IT is a victory (in my opinion) for director and co-writer Tommy Lee Wallace.

null

King would have another novel converted into a film for release, this time on the big screen, in Misery. James Caan showed us just how helpless he could be in his portrayal of author Paul Sheldon, while Kathy Bates delivered a chilling performance as an obsessed fan of his, Annie Wilkes. The role gained Bates an Academy Award for Best Actress. Misery stays with you long after you see it.

To round out the films on the list from 1990, knee-high terror Chucky, voiced by Brad Dourif, came back for a second round of on-screen battling with his nemesis Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) in Child’s Play 2. Chucky earns his place in horror history, but only because a possessed killer doll is a worthy fear for any young mind.

In 1991, The Silence of the Lambs – which some would argue isn’t a horror film – came away with five Academy Awards. The Silence of the Lambs seemed to break the streak of films in the genre from the 1980s that utilized the role of the female characters as simple objects, there to expose their breasts and be hacked up in gory fashion. Instead, Jodie Foster plays heroine of the story Clarice Starling, an FBI agent prying into the mind of the intelligently evil Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) as she readies for one final showdown with a terrifying villain. This film is a masterpiece, and only the third film in Academy history to receive the “Big 5” Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Jodie Foster), Best Director (Jonathan Demme) and Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published (Ted Tally). It’s also important to note how frightening Ted Levine is as…NO SPOILERS! Watch this film if you haven’t already.

In 1992, Tony Todd’s legendary role in Candyman would bring race and social injustice to the viewer in a menacing yet sympathetic performance. Director Bernard Rose brought to life this Clive Barker tale as an urban legend set in the Cabrini-Green section of Chicago, featuring a strong female lead in Virginia Madsen. If you saw this movie as a youngster, there was most definitely a fear of saying “Bloody Mary” in a mirror three times…or saying “Candyman” five.

null

The Academy Award winning streak would also continue in the genre for ’92 with the Francis Ford Coppola directed film adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This version featured many top actors like Gary Oldman as Dracula, Winona Ryder as Mina, Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker and Anthony Hopkins (back again!) as Van Helsing. But it was the costume, effects and makeup department that would shine at The Oscar’s.

Two films were named as “Favorites” from 1993: The Dark Half and Puppet Master 4. I didn’t much care for the George A. Romero directed version of The Dark Half, as the Stephen King novel it was based on scared me…the movie not so much. But our favorite evil puppets returned, and strangely they weren’t the evil ones in the direct-to-video fourth chapter of the Puppet Master series.

null

In 1994, Wes Craven decided Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) had become a bit too comical, and made a final installment for the character in New Nightmare, hoping some folks would forget the sequels his 1984 classic spawned. The “Real Life” Freddy film wasn’t so bad, after all.

null

1995 was absent in this survey. Probably for the best.

In 1996, Wes Craven would sit once again in the director’s chair and bring blockbuster status to the genre with Scream. This film poked fun at slasher movies, with a guessing game leading to a final act where the killer was revealed. Cell phones weren’t “smart” yet, nor were they a part of the consumer market for teenagers. But they played a big role in this cleverly-crafted tale. Scream was one of the top-performing films in this survey, and led the 90s with 8 total votes. The film was penned by Kevin Williamson, who’d write four more horror flicks before the turn of the century. It is THE horror movie for fans of the genre.

Unfortunately, Paramount Pictures rushed 1997’s Event Horizon to the finish line to avoid competing with Jim Cameron’s Titanic at the box office that year. This was a futile move on Paramount’s part, as the Paul W.S. Anderson space thriller was unable to make back half of its $60 million-dollar budget. Time has been generous to the film, as it has gained a following in the era of streaming.

Cube, 1997’s Best Canadian First Feature Film winner at the Toronto Film Festival, is a film that gained a cult following over time. I have only viewed this film once, more than a decade ago. From what I can remember, a group navigates a series of cubes looking to obviously escape, but booby traps are aplenty. There is another Cube viewing soon in my future.

That brings us to 1998, where the teenage market was the target audience for the 90s horror powerhouse distributor Dimension Films. Kids under 17 snuck in to theaters to watch their favorite teen heartthrobs either save the day, or die. Some of that would come into play in Halloween: H20, with a newly-minted Josh Hartnett and young Michelle Williams (Dawson’s Creek). But audiences 18-and-over were more focused on the next chapter; Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role as Laurie Strode to face off against a 40-something Michael Myers. For fans of Halloween 1 and 2, H20 successfully ignored the Halloween 4-6 storyline.

null

John Carpenter, who was in a filmmaking slump by ‘98, also brought his version of Vampires to the big screen. But this wasn’t the tale of Van Helsing, Mina, Jon and The Count. This was about a group of vampire hunters led by the foul-mouthed Jack Crow (James Woods) and The Vatican’s mission to prevent vampires from walking during the day. It was delightfully violent, and based on John Steakley’s 1990 novel Vampire$.

Oh 1999. The year before the new millennium. The 90s sure went out with a bang, didn’t they? Three films were named from this year alone. A “Favorite” named was the horror/comedy Idle Hands, starring 90s hunk Devon Sawa and released in the spring of ‘99.

But…it was the one-two punch of The Blair Witch Project and The Sixth Sense that would achieve massive commercial and critical success in the summer of ’99.

null

The Blair Witch Project – while not credited as the first found-footage film – launched a sub-genre that would play an important role in horror films for the new millennium. The stars aligned for independent filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez at Sundance, where Artisan Entertainment reportedly purchased distribution rights following the film’s screening to the tune of $1.1-million dollars. With critics responding positively, and a lukewarm reaction from moviegoers, the film is most famous for the creative marketing campaign that brought in more than $240-million dollars at the box office on a $60,000 budget. Like many films before and after it, The Blair Witch Project is scary because of what the viewer isn’t seeing, relying on good ol’ suspense to provide the scares.

The Sixth Sense was the breakout success that gave non-horror audiences a high-expectation for future offerings from Philadelphia-based filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan. It was well acted, slow burning and scary, and featured the first trademarked Shyamalan twist. The Sixth Sense is one of those films they say you can only watch once. But if the last time you saw it was 1999 in theaters, or perhaps on home video soon after, now is the time to grab some popcorn and watch it again with the lights out.

Survey Results for the 1990s –

Favorite Best Total Tally
Scream (1996) – 4 The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – 5 1. Scream (1996) – 8
Candyman (1992) – 1 Scream (1996) – 4 2. Silence of the Lambs (1991) – 6
Child’s Play 2 (1990) – 1 The Sixth Sense (1999) – 4 T3. Candyman (1992) – 4
Halloween H20 (1998) – 1 Candyman (1992) – 3 T3. The Sixth Sense (1999) – 4
Idle Hands (1999) – 1 The Blair Witch Project (1999) – 2 4. The Blair Witch Project (1999) – 3
IT (1990) – 1 Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) – 1 T5. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) – 1
John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998) – 1 Cube (1997) – 1 T5. Child’s Play 2 (1990) – 1
Puppet Master 4 (1993) – 1 Event Horizon (1997) – 1 T5. Cube (1997) – 1
The Blair Witch Project (1999) – 1 Misery (1990) – 1 T5. Event Horizon (1997) – 1
The Dark Half (1993) – 1 Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) – 1 T5. Halloween H20 (1998) – 1
The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – 1 T5. Idle Hands (1999) – 1
T5. IT (1990) – 1
T5. John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998) – 1
T5. Misery (1990) – 1
T5. Puppet Master 4 (1993) – 1
T5. The Dark Half (1993) – 1
T5. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) – 1
Total Survey Votes for 1990-1999 Horror Movies- 37 Individual Movies Named from 1990-1999- 17

Did your favorite 90s horror flick make it? Let me know in the comments below!

Y2K is approaching now. Are you ready for films from 2000-2009?

EC

Watson’s Top 10 Christmas Films

Well folks, it looks like Christmastime is upon us once again, and the weather outside certainly is frightful. It’s hard to believe it’s been twelve months since last year’s gleeful celebrations, but it’s here; and December 25th is approaching pretty darn fast. As per usual, fluorescent lights will be decorating the houses on the streets you pass, trees will be being put up in the corners of living rooms, kids will be building crude snowmen in their front gardens, and dads everywhere will be squeezing their way into now-undersized Santa suits. And what better way to celebrate Christmas than sitting down in front of the fireplace and watching a movie while the snow descends from the skies above? Opening presents is overrated.

There are always the regular festive flicks that pop up during the TV stations’ December schedules, all snow-covered and candy-cane-flavoured. These Christmas films have become a common ritual of family time during the wintry season, and in amongst them is quite a collection of all-time classics — some more holiday-like than others. Everyone has their favourites, whether it be from the films’ holly-jolly attitude or from pure childhood nostalgia. So, let’s leave the cookie out for Santa, turn the heating up, and countdown my personal top ten seasonal features.

10. “Scrooged” (1988) — First on the nice list is Richard Donner’s “Scrooged,” a fantasy comedy starring everyone’s favourite funnyman, Bill Murray. A modern (well, modern in the ’80s) retelling of Charles Dickens‘ classic novella “A Christmas Carol,” it tells the story of self-centred TV executive Frank Cross, played by the perfectly cast, scenery-munching “Ghostbusters” actor. Due to his arrogance and extreme selfishness during the holiday season, he is visited by three ghosts who show him how much of a heartless git he’s become, trying to turn him into a nice man once again. Both lighthearted and darkly comic at the same time, “Scrooged” proves itself as not just another lazy retelling of “A Christmas Carol,” showing off Murray at his very best. Yule love it.

9. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989) — The third of the misadventures of the infamous Griswold family, “Christmas Vacation” follows the dysfunctional household as they celebrate the jovial month and excitedly prepare for the big day itself. Chevy Chase leads once again as accident-prone Clark in this hysterical everything-goes-wrong comedy, in which, well, everything goes wrong — except the movie itself, of course. Written by John Hughes, it’s a hilarious film worthy of cracking up over and giggling some more — and if you don’t, I’ll strangle you with a goddamned wreath.

 

8. “Elf” (2003) — Before Jon Favreau was directing Robert Downey Jr. in superhero flick “Iron Man,” he did a side-splitting and sweet little Christmas film called “Elf.” Will Ferrell plays Buddy, one of Santa’s not-so-little helpers who’s much taller than his fellow workshop workers. Discovering that he’s actually a human, he leaves his home in the North Pole and sets out to bond with his dad, James Caan, in New York. Ferrell is unforgettable as the naive, chuckling chatterbox who has a staggering obsession with Christmas — he’s a well-meaning grown man walking around in an elf costume. Fluffy fun that even cotton-headed ninny-muggins will enjoy.

7. “The Santa Clause” (1994) — A bit of a nostalgia piece for me, John Pasquin’s family comedy stars Tim Allen as a man who accidentally kills Santa Claus. Through some contractual rules, the cranky father-of-one is forced to don the famous red suit and floppy hat, having to take on the obligations of the chubby present-giver whether he likes it or not. A definite high-point of Allen’s so-so film career, “The Santa Clause” is a fabulous source of much kid-friendly merriment. It’s better than “Christmas with the Kranks” anyway.

 

6. “Die Hard” (1988) — “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker” may not sound like the joyous catchphrase to a hee-haw Yuletide family film, but action-flick “Die Hard” has Christmas traditions exploding out the yin-yang. Revolving around a vest-wearing Bruce Willis (with hair) as he skilfully thwarts a bunch of hostage-taking terrorists/thieves in a skyscraper, John McTiernan’s high-octane actioner has a big Christmas party, festive songs, a massive Christmas tree, and a recently-deceased henchman wearing a Santa hat on his head with “Now I Have A Machine Gun. Ho-ho-ho!” written in blood on his jumper. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la, la la la die.

 

5. “Gremlins” (1984) — Another non-traditional Xmas picture, Joe Dante’s “Gremlins” is a tongue-in-cheek horror that’s mostly suitable for turkey-hungry littluns. Zach Galligan is given an early gift of a cute and cuddly little creature called Gizmo by his father for the holidays, bought from an antique store in Chinatown. Things go horribly wrong when water is spilled on the adorable fur-ball, causing Gizmo to spawn a whole gang of malicious monsters that attack the snowy town through hilariously grisly methods. Don’t get them wet, don’t feed them after midnight, don’t expose them to bright lights, but most certainly don’t let them not watch “Gremlins” every December. If you can drag them away from the local “Snow White” screening, that is.

4. “Home Alone” (1990) — John Hughes will always be known for his seminal ’80s chick-flicks, but what I will always remember him for is for scribing the wickedly funny slapstick “Home Alone,” a childhood favourite of mine. The film that shot Macaulay Culkin to fame (before he disappeared into some unknown parallel dimension), “Home Alone” showed the mayhem kids can get up to when left on their own. Eight-year-old Kevin McCallister ends up being accidentally left behind when his parents go off on holiday to Paris for the season, the situation made even worse when two scheming robbers target the family home. It’s also even more entertaining when Kevin decides to take on the couple of clumsy bandits all by himself, setting up intricate traps around the whole house. Darn pesky kids.

3. “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947) — Whether or not you believe in Santa Claus (how could you not?), you’ll adore this black-and-white classic from writer/director George Seaton. Kris Kringle is an elderly man who claims to be the bearded holiday icon himself, and ends up in the loony-bin because of these seemingly delusional declarations. A faithful lawyer, who Kringle has recently befriended, bravely tries to defend him in court, attempting to convince a judge that Kringle is indeed the real thing, reindeer and all. Crafted with much humour, “Miracle on 34th Street” is a charming vintage Christmas film starring Santa Claus himself. Edmund Gwenn really was Santa Claus, wasn’t he? Wasn’t he?

2. “A Christmas Story” (1983) — Never has a film created such a childish sense of wonder and fascination than Bob Clark’s “A Christmas Story.” The story in question is of a nine-year-old boy from Indiana who wants an official Red Ryder carbine-action two-hundred-shot range model air rifle for Christmas. It’s jaw-dropping how involving such a simple story can be, as we yearn for little Ralphie to receive what he so wishes for. Jean Shepherd’s awe-inspiring narration is one of the many fuels behind this film’s warm, burning fire, making one feel like a toddler again. And Ralphie’s such a cutie!

 

1. “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) — Heartwarming, funny, tender and emotional, Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” truly is the quintessential Christmas movie that should be watched every year by all in range of a television set. Part fantasy, part sentimental drama, it has James Stewart receiving a visit from his guardian angel, Clarence, when the former considers suicide. For most of the film we’re watching the life of the generous, selfless businessman as his personality goes from highs to lows, Stewart beginning to realise that his dreams may never come true. The poignant ending will leave even the hardest man welling up and quivering in tearful delight. It’s a wonderful film.

Watson