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all the rest. [halloween moviefest, 2010.]

So, without going into great detail, because I don’t feel like writing about it, I got really sick and spent most of the last few days sleeping. I was able to get the movies in, but was unable to write about them. Thus, like last year’s post, the rest of the films I watched for HWMF ’10 will get a short treatment here.

Day Nine: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

The good: Francis Ford Coppola’s freaky side. Gary Oldman being awesome. Anthony Hopkins as the most awesomely hilarious Van Helsing ever.

The bad: Keanu Reeves being Keanu Reeves. Sometimes it was a little too far into the campy side for me. Also, I thought sticking so closely to the epistolary form of Stoker’s novel hurt the narrative flow. Oh yeah, and the success of this film at the box office is largely responsible for the production of Dracula – Dead and Loving It.


Day Ten: Monster House

I queued this one from Netflix because of a pretty solid voice cast, the involvement of Dan Harmon (creator of Community), and a decent showing on Rotten Tomatoes. There were definitely a few moments where I laughed out loud, but that’s about all I have to say about this one. Underwhelmed.


Day Eleven: Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens)

The classic silent horror film which influenced everything to come after it. There isn’t much to say about it that hasn’t already been said.

From a movie-lover’s viewpoint, it’s impressive to watch this movie and see how it is still used by horror directors, and directors in general, as inspiration. Although, call me uncultured, but I do still have trouble getting into silent films. There are just so many huge leaps in translation of storytelling technique that I have trouble making. I get why the acting has to be so over-the-top and falsely emotive, I get why the text panels have to be up on the screen for an hour, I even get why the pacing feels confused and erratic by later standards in film. I get all those things, I just still have trouble getting by them and getting into the film and story itself.

Still, Count Orlak, the Dracula based villain, is pretty fucking creepy for 1922.

I won’t sit down and watch it for fun, but it’s not hard to see why this movie is a big deal.


Day Twelve: Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Nothing new here. We own this one, so I’ve seen it several times.

How do you not love this movie, or any Wallace and Gromit film for that matter?

Curse of the Were-Rabbit has everything: cheese, amazingly bad puns, hilarious sexual innuendo (mostly vegetable related) that stays vague enough that you won’t feel bad watching it with your kids, the cutest bunnies in movie history, Gromit, and the smarts to make fun of the metaphors normally played with in the werewolf sub-genre (that is, before Twilight went and spoiled everything for a few years).

If you haven’t seen this movie, I accept your apology, just try and have it watched before Thanksgiving and we’ll just pretend this never happened.


Day Thirteen: The Fly (1986)

I threw this one in because it was one of those sci-fi horror classics I’d never seen because it came out when I was four years old. We’ve had some trouble in the mail-forwarding department, so several of the films I’d been sent from Netflix haven’t shown up yet. Thus, I fell back on the trusty instant queue. I sure am glad events transpired the way they did.

This movie was stupendous! Jeff Goldblum’s transformation into Brundlefly was hugely entertaining, albeit in the grossest possible way.

Cronenberg did such a great, uncompromising job of sticking to what the film was, a ‘scientist turned monster’ movie. They never wasted any time outside of their purpose, it stayed focused in a way films normally don’t. Also, I’m not really sure how the monster effects didn’t seem terribly outdated by today’s standards, but it was as creepy, gross, and disgusting today as I’m sure it was in 1986. More often than not, scenes that were a big deal in the 80’s make us laugh now. Yet, there were several scenes in The Fly that made me jump, or led to an audible “Bleh, that’s nasty!” on my part. That’s pretty freaking impressive.

Also, it’s the movie that gave us the line, “Be afraid, be very afraid.” That’s gotta count for something right?

Gooooo, team Cronenberg!


Day Fourteen: Shaun of the Dead

I watch this movie every Halloween, and usually once or twice between then as well. It’s one of my favorite movies ever, and seeing it theatrically back in ’04 was when I discovered and fell in love with Simon Pegg, which wound up paying tremendous dividends in terms of my continual entertainment. He’s like the Prime Minister of geeks (the loving awesome things sort, not the biting the heads off of birds sort).

Also, I soooooo want this.


Day Fifteen: Dead Snow

This one was on last year’s list, and I’ve already written about it in a number of places, including here. If you can stand the blood, you should watch this movie, it’s loads of fun.

So, there you have it. Another successful Halloween Moviefest in the books. I’m still looking for suggestions for 2011. What are your favorite related films?


Jenny Lewis [photogenic.]

Jenny Lewis is adorable.

The other day I had “Handle with Care” stuck in my head … I mean, it played over and over in my head as if stuck on repeat. I was just thankful it was actually a good song … anyway, after a while I realized  that the voices singing were not those of Tom Petty, Roy Orbison et al, but the voices of Jenny Lewis, M. Ward, and Benjamin Gibbard (that’s right, I called him Benjamin). So, you not only get a super cute picture of Ms. Lewis herself, but also her covering the aforementioned song with her own “supergroup”.

I feel like Jenny Lewis was the crush of every indie boy nationwide … that is, until Zooey Deschanel crashed the scene and started giving those same indie boys wet dreams. Both are hot in their own way. Jenny’s still got it, if you ask me.

And now for the song, as promised …



So, I get excited about things way in advance, and I am already starting to think about Halloween Moviefest TwentyEleven. I was hoping everyone out there on the interweb might have some recommendations for Halloween appropriate films to watch next year.

I had a lot of fun with the 30 Westerns in 30 Days, so maybe I could even make next October an entire month of Halloween Moviefest.

Help me out, folks.


‘the devil's backbone,’ day eight. [halloween moviefest, 2010.]

I love Guillermo del Toro’s imagination! He has an amazing ability to use dark, scary, and even violent themes and stories to inspire hope and give glimpses of redemption in an ugly world. This is true not only in projects he wrote and directed himself, like Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, but also in projects by others which captured del Toro’s imagination so that he chose to produce and attach his name, like The Orphanage.

Movie number eight this year is the aforementioned film, The Devil’s Backbone. Our first and only ghost story this year. It takes place when a young boy is placed in an orphanage in late 1930’s Spain. As he tries to adjust to his new life by making friends, dealing with bullies, and looking for parental figures in his life, he also has to deal with the fact that not all of the other people at this particular orphanage are, technically speaking, alive.

The film is another example of Guillermo’s knack for brilliant, compelling, original storytelling. After watching the movie, it is clear to me that del Toro is quite taken with the concept of childlike innocence and imagination being the only salve, or perhaps just the only sane response, to the evil things that happen, and horrible people who live in the world. This is one of the most common themes that seem to pop up in del Toro’s work, most notably in the titles listed above. This theme is front and center in The Devil’s Backbone, as is the setting of the Spanish Civil War, which is also the setting of Pan’s Labyrinth. This setting makes clear the presence of huge, powerful events creating a storm in which children can do nothing but try to survive, without ever really understanding all the turmoil into which their world has been thrust.

The movie isn’t scary, but it is highly engaging, and I would recommend it to all of you out there in the internets.


‘pontypool,’ day seven. [halloween moviefest, 2010.]

Last year, when we started the very first Halloween Moviefest, I hoped I would discover some scary[ish] movies that I actually liked. What I didn’t realize was that I would actually discover some of my favorite overall movies ever. I probably can’t rightly say that my favorite film from last year’s HWMF was Let The Right One In because Pontypool was every bit as good.

I kid you not, this movie is really, really good. Adapted by Tony Burgess from his own book, this Canadian film takes place on a cold February morning in Pontypool, ON, CA. We begin with morning radio host Grant Mazzy, on the phone with his agent on his way to work. He has an odd encounter with a woman on this dark, snowy morning, framing everything that is to come next. The entirety of the rest of the film takes place in the small church basement from which the radio station broadcasts as the scene of a zombie apocalypse unfolds in Ontario.

Through the accounts of listener phone calls, some surprise guests, a police scanner, and Ken Loney in the “Sunshine Chopper”, the events taking place outside slowly take shape for Grant and his two colleagues.

The film is smart, understated, brilliantly acted (Stephen McHattie’s delivery of every, single line is perfect, he carries the entire film), and has a wildly original and brilliant cause for the zombie outbreak that I’ll let you discover for yourselves. Seriously though, discover for yourselves. Watch this movie!


‘dawn of the dead (1978),’ day six. [halloween moviefest, 2010.]

Zombies used to be related only to voodoo, they were dead bodies, resurrected by witch doctors and the like to be mindless slaves. George Romero changed all that, without a conscious choice of his, the flesh-eating corpses he dreamed up in Night of the Living Dead came to be called zombies, and the mythology of the zombie apocalypse was born. Certainly, it was born in Night of the Living Dead, but it was 1978’s Dawn of the Dead that really made the genre what it is.

The recipe? Obviously, you start with a base of an undead horde of resurrected corpses intent on consuming the flesh of the living. Then, add some over the top gore, although by 1978 standards that gore couldn’t be all that realistic for both logistic and ratings purposes. Once you’ve stirred that in well, throw in a group of survivors working together for the purposes of surviving the apocalypse. Third, and this is the most important ingredient of all, you need to layer those ingredients with healthy amounts of subtext featuring commentary about the parts of our culture which make us real life zombies.

That’s the general formula, and it found its true birth in Dawn of the Dead. The zombie as we know it came into existence in Night of the Living Dead, there may have been a few poor attempts to recreate that during the early seventies, but Dawn of the Dead is the movie folks have been recreating in various forms and mediums ever since.

It’s certainly not a perfect movie, but it sure is a damned important one for the trajectory of what came after. The fact that without belaboring the point in the film, zombies are hording to the mall because their commercial worship in life formed such a neural connection that their instinct driven, undead brains continue to sense the significance of the place after death. It’s that sort of quiet, understated critique of ourselves that separates the wheat from the chaff in zombie-lore. This movie got the ball rolling in understanding the potential of the zombie genre to give us a way to play with the ways we destroy us.

There have been improvements and alterations, missteps and revolutions in the genre, but when you’re talking about zombies, it all comes back to this folks… it all comes back to this.