Piranha (1978)

I’ve never seen the movie that Milhouse describes. I don’t know if it’s real but it sounds amazing. The closest I’ve come to it is Roger Corman and Joe Dante’s 1978 Piranha, one of my absolutely favorite nature run amok movies. I remember seeing it when I was young and it scared me in the same way that Jaws did. I guess that’s appropriate since this was basically Roger Corman’s answer to Jaws.
Both movies definitely made an impression from the opening credits.
“Piranha” then sinks into the water and turns the water red. Just like real life!
The movie opens very similarly to Jaws. Two hiking teenagers find a swimming pool in a military installation. They decide to swim in it because what can hurt you in a pool? Uhm, what if it’s a sewage treatment plant? It’s all fun and games until they’re attacked by…something.
Heather Menzies stars as Maggie McKeown, a private investigator with a penchant for playing “Jaws” arcade games.
She’s been sent to find the teenagers. Maggie comes across Paul Grogan (Bradford Dillman), a reclusive, alcoholic mountain man. He suggests that she check out the military base and she drags him along with her.
They find a lab there populated with these weird hybrid creatures.
They empty the pool to see if they can find anything and are attacked by a man. There’s a skeleton in the pool and the man turns out to be a scientist, Dr. Robert Hoak (Kevin McCarthy.) They’ve just released a whole bunch of genetically engineered piranhas upstream of a summer camp and a water park. Oops. Dr. Hoak crashed their car so they end up rafting down the river to get back to civilization. This leads to ample opportunities to be attacked by piranhas.
The military becomes involved and is determined to cover up their involvement in creating the piranhas and in the shady land deal between the government and Buck Gardner (Dick Miller), the owner of Lost River Water Park. There’s also shady Dr. Mengers (Barbara Steele), who doesn’t seem too interested in stopping the piranhas.
I like this better than Jaws in some ways. I appreciate the critique of the relationship between government and big business. Also, the use of science for military purposes. There’s an earnestness in this that’s lacking in its remake, Piranha 3D, which is why I’ll always love this movie more. Sometimes the irony of this decade is very tiresome.
I guess the movie looks dated. My best friend spent most of the movie snickering. There are definitely moments of movie cheese but I like that. I think the movie’s best when you don’t see the piranhas, when characters are just jerked away and suddenly there’s blood in the water. There is an unfortunate number of repeated shots of the piranhas and this detracts from the scares. You have to admire how good they look for a movie from 1978.
The movie was directed by Joe Dante, who’d go on to give us Gremlins and The Howling. You really have to appreciate how Roger Corman cultivated filmmakers that would go on to great success like Dante, Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard. There’s nothing wrong with a big budget film but I have a special appreciation for a filmmaker that can make a movie that looks good on a shoestring budget and under a strict time limit. That’s something you learn working with Roger Corman.
If you’re a Corman fan, I really recommend getting the Roger Corman Cult Classics releases from Shout! Factory. They come with nice pamphlets about the movie, the artwork is great, and there are loads of bonus features.

Posted in 1970's, creatures, eco-horror | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

We Need to Talk About Kevin

This week’s movie shows how complicated the horror genre can be. At its heart, good horror is about people in extraordinary circumstances. This movie isn’t explicitly gory or violent but I decided to write about it based on the reaction it provoked not just in me but in the people I asked about it. I’m talking about We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Isn’t that a great poster? I love the saturated colors. The movie’s palette is mostly muted but there are these scenes that burst with color.
The movie stars the incredible Tilda Swinton as Eva Khatchadourian.
Her story is nonlinear. You see flashbacks to her glamorous life as a young travel writer and her relationship with her lover, Franklin Plaskett (John C. Reilly). The main focus of the story are the repercussions of what happens after their son, Kevin (Jasper Newell as Kevin 6-8 years old, Ezra Miller as teenage Kevin) commits a school shooting.
Eva’s relationship with Kevin is troubled from the beginning. She’s shown to be ambivalent towards motherhood. The baby Kevin cries incessantly when he’s around her and, in one scene, she stands with him near a construction worker jack-hammering to drown out his cries. From right after he’s born, you always see this physical space between Eva and Kevin.
You can feel her simmering resentment as Franklin insists they move to the suburbs and they leave New York City. As Kevin grows, her relationship with him becomes more contentious although doctors insist that he’s normal. Kevin also seems perfectly normal with Franklin, although he’s not above manipulating his parents and playing them against each other.
We alternate between seeing Kevin growing up and Eva’s life after the shooting. She works in a crummy travel agency and has a little house near where Kevin is imprisoned.
I really liked this movie but I don’t think I could watch it on a regular basis because, at its heart, it’s about people being shitty to each other. Tilda Swinton does an amazing job playing Eva. She makes Eva, who is a woman who isn’t necessarily likable, compelling. I actually like Eva a lot. I also think she’s a terrible mother. Not a bad person but someone who shouldn’t necessarily be a mother.
There’s this moment when Eva’s giving birth where someone tells her, “Stop resisting,” that I could really relate to. I know they were talking about her physically resisting the birthing process, but you can also see it as society tells an independent woman to abandon her independence and become a mother. I feel this especially poignantly as someone who’s voluntarily child-free but is also at the age where her Facebook feed has turned into Babybook because so many of her friends are reproducing.
Interestingly, Eva gets along well with her second child, Celia (Ashley Gerasimovich). This makes me question if Eva can be trusted as a narrator. Her interactions with Celia are all shown to be normal while her interactions with Kevin are so fraught. Are her memories accurate? Is she remembering Celia more kindly because Celia is more sympathetic and is such a target of Kevin’s violence?
I don’t think we can trust Eva’s memories but that doesn’t make her story less compelling. What definitely helps are the performances of Jasper Newell and Ezra Miller. The audience sees Young Kevin in diapers at six-years-old and knows that something isn’t right and wonders why his family can’t see it. Eva suspects that something is wrong with Kevin but Franklin has a supreme set of blinders about his son. Ezra Miller plays Teenage Kevin with sinister smirks and biting sarcasm.
What began as childhood battles with his mother has turned into a supreme battle of the wills. Eva catches Kevin masturbating and he just glares at her but doesn’t stop. She invites him out for dinner and she catches Kevin eating the hugest turkey leg ever just before they go out.
In the end, I don’t think Kevin is a bad child. People know when they’re resented and is there any other way he can react to this resentment? By the end of the movie, Eva and Franklin are on the verge of divorcing. Franklin tells Kevin that he might misinterpret things heard out of context, to which Kevin replies “I am the context.”
Interestingly, Eva and Kevin are both very similar, which might explain why they don’t get along. They’re both harsh. At one point, while playing mini-golf with Kevin, Eva goes on this (hilarious but mean) rant about fat people, about how she always sees them eating bad food and she doesn’t want to hear about how they have a slow metabolism. Kevin looks at her and says, “You know, you can be kind of harsh sometimes.” She responds, “You’re one to talk.” Plus, Eva can be as manipulative as Kevin. She doesn’t even tell Franklin that she’s pregnant with Celia until she’s showing enough for Kevin to notice.
What I especially like about the movie is that it could have become an issues movie but it avoided that. The focus remained on Eva and Kevin. The victims are barely seen in the movie. Also, Kevin’s choice of weapon–a bow and arrow–is rare enough to be interesting while avoiding the whole NRA debate that my country is currently entangled in. Plus, you know I love the use of a bow and arrows since it echoes one of my favorite killer kid movies, Bloody Birthday.
In the end, you feel sorry for Kevin. His head is shaved and he’s wearing a different uniform because he’s going to be transferred to an adult prison. There’s a vulnerability in his face when he looks at Eva and says he doesn’t even remember why he committed the shooting. It’s not bullying or video games, in the end he’s just a person who did a really shitty thing.
Before I finish this entry, I’d like to point out the badge on the right side of my blog. I finally gathered my courage and joined the Horror Blogger Alliance. I recommend you check out their blog listing, some of the pages look mighty interesting.

Posted in 21st century, killer kids, psychological, thriller | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

In the Mouth of Madness

For my first post-Slashermas entry, I really wanted to do something as unslashery as possible. Years ago, one of my friends gave me a copy of John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness. I’d been putting off watching it but I was definitely in a John Carpenter mood last night.
In the Mouth of Madness is the third part of the Apocalypse Trilogy. The first part is The Thing and the second part is Prince of Darkness. If The Thing deals with extraterrestrial biological horror and Prince of Darkness deals with spiritual horror, then In the Mouth of Madness is a Lovecraftian story about mental horror.
Sam Neill stars as John Trent, an insurance investigator. We first meet him in a mental hospital, where his story is told via flashback to Dr. Wrenn (David Warner.) That’s a very Lovecraftian narrative choice, just saying.

You probably shouldn't draw crosses all over yourself if you want to convince people you're not crazy.

You probably shouldn’t draw crosses all over yourself if you want to convince people you’re not crazy.

I always forget that David Warner can act since I first saw him in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie Quest of the Delta Knights.
Anyway, after exposing a fire as insurance fraud, Trent is offered a job with Arcane Press. Publishing director Mr. Harglow (Charlton Heston) and editor Linda Styles (Julie Carmen) explain that their best author, Sutter Cane (J├╝rgen Prochnow) has disappeared. His latest book is being released and he went away to work on another book and he hasn’t been heard from. Trent agrees to take the job but he thinks the whole thing is a weird scam to drum up publicity.
Sutter Cane is a horror writer and he writes Lovecraftian horror. Cane’s book is The Hobb’s End Horror, compare that with “The Dunwich Horror” by H.P. Lovecraft. I’m not italicizing Lovecraft’s works because they tend to be short stories. Or, another one of Cane’s books is The Whisperer of the Dark, compare that with Lovecraft’s “The Whisperer in Darkness.” Cane’s Haunter Out of Time versus Lovecraft’s “The Haunter of the Dark.” Cane’s The Thing in the Basement versus Lovecraft’s “The Thing on the Doorstep.” I can’t find any correlating stories for the Cane titles The Breathing Tunnel and The Feeding but I’m welcome to suggestions if anyone has any. Even the title of this movie is reflective of “The Mountains of Madness.”
Anyway, Trent picks up some of Cane’s books and reads them. He starts experiencing weird dreams and also notices that the book covers form a map of New Hampshire when aligned properly. Trent also notices stories on the news about people acting oddly.
Theorizing that Hobb’s End may be based on a real place, Trent and Styles try to follow the map. Styles has a particularly bad experience driving, when she seems to lose the road during the night.
They arrive in the town, inexplicably in the daylight. It looks like a perfect small town. The only creepy thing is that it seems to be inhabited by characters from Cane’s books. Mrs. Pickman (Frances Bay), the nice old lady who runs the inn is reminiscent of a character who chops her husband into bits (See also, the Lovecraft story “Pickman’s Model.”) There’s even the evil black church.
The residents aren’t as nice as they seem either. The kids are creepy and evil and have bad teeth.
Styles and Trent finally find Cane in the black church. And, holy hell, he’s Neil Gaiman’s evil twin.
It turns out he really did tap some kind of eldritch horror and is now able to affect reality. Are we all just characters in a Sutter Cane story, now? As John Trent says, “Oh, Jesus, this place makes my head hurt.”
I have mixed feelings about this movie. I tend to dislike Lovecraft adaptations. His horrors tend to be things from beyond space and time that we can’t conceive of because we’ve never encountered them before. Yet, a lot of horror and sci-fi monsters are just big versions of Earth animals or chimerae. How do you portray something that’s never been seen before? With tentacles and leftover KY Jelly from The Thing, apparently.
The rest of the effects are pretty good. People are battered, in this movie, since everyone is going mental, and Greg Nicotero does a good job with them. But I’m just never scared when I see the horrors Cane has supposedly unearthed.
The music is also lacking. Carpenter scored this with Jim Lang but, instead of his usual throbbing pulse score, we have this weird modern rock music that just doesn’t add to the horror.
That being said, I really like the idea of memetic horror and think a lot could be done with it today, especially with how fast memes spread on social media. Richard Dawkins pinpointed the concept of a meme in 1976 in The Selfish Gene. It’s like a gene, in the sense that it reproduces itself, but it’s a unit of culture and it exists in your mind. It jumps from person to person as a belief or a pattern. We actually see this idea in an interaction between Styles and Trent. She asks him if he reads, he says “no,” she says he should read Sutter Cane. Imagine this on the level of a society and every person who picks up one of Cane’s books inherits the madness he wrote about and passes it on. Don’t worry, there’s also a movie coming out about the book, to catch all the people who don’t read.
I also like the idea of layers of reality. I remember when I was little, I would lie in bed and wonder if I were really awake or just dreaming about being awake. This movie taps into the unease of whether or not you’re mad or going mad. It’s also fun to see Styles’ and Trent’s positions reversed. At the beginning of the movie, it’s Styles saying they’re in a Sutter Cane book, but, by the end Trent has accepted this and is trying to tell everyone else.
This is kind of an odd thing to notice about a movie, but I really liked the use of space. Look at this shot of the institution that Trent is locked up in.
Isn’t it too neat and orderly?
As Trent spends more time in the town, there are more shots of him from above. They become very claustrophobic, like he’s being physically oppressed by the town, until he’s actually in a confessional.
I enjoy this movie the more I think about it. It’s quite a divisive movie, people either love it or hate it, based on what I’ve read. So I only recommend it for Carpenter completists and fans of Lovecraft.

Posted in 1990's, apocalypse, possession, psychological, supernatural, you so crazy | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Cut (2000)

This is it! The last post in Slashermas/Slashermarch! This lasted way longer than I meant it to which really goes to show that when I commit to something I really commit to it. I definitely had fun doing this but I mostly want to see a movie that isn’t a slasher. Something supernatural? Zombies? Anything, please?
The last movie is the 2000 Aussie horror-comedy Cut.
Kylie Minogue plays horror director Hilary Jacobs.
She’s directing the film-within-a-film “Hot Blooded” starring Vanessa Turnbill (Molly Ringwald) as Chloe.
Brad (Frank Roberts), the actor who plays Scarman, confronts Jacobs after being berated by her. He ends up mutilating himself and brutally killing Jacobs. Vanessa walks in on this and kills Brad. The movie is never finished but remains a legend, especially after more people who are associated with it die.
Fast-forward to the present–well, the present circa 2000. The P.A. on the film, Lossman (Geoff Revell) is now teaching about film. His students, Raffy Carruthers (Jessica Napier) and Hester Ryan (Sarah Kants) want to pick up where the film left off, despite all the dire warnings of doom from Lossman and this guy.
They hire Vanessa Turnbill to play her character’s mother and filming resumes, with Raffy and Hester in charge of a crew of utterly interchangeable people. But then people start going missing. And it seems like there are multiple Scarmen on the set.
Yup, the deaths in the original film combined with the negative energy on set created a real Scarman that manifests whenever the movie is worked on or even screened. And it’s up to this plucky gang to fight Scarman! Wait, did I say “plucky?” I meant to say “highly annoying.” I think the problem is that all the characters are so similar they could be interchangeable. Am I just a crabby old person who doesn’t like the youth of today? Probably. But these people are only distinguished by who they’re dating or want to date and that doesn’t make a fully fleshed character. I wish someone had cut (hehe) the cast in half. Then, maybe I could have cared more and been more entertained.
There was definitely humor in the piece and I think the filmmakers really love slashers and care about them. Maybe I’m just old and jaded and tired of movies winking and nodding about the horror genre? Possibly. There are serious pacing issues with this movie and parts of it dragged so much. You know your movie isn’t doing the best when you wish you were really watching the movie within the movie.
That being said, every single moment with Kylie Minogue or Molly Ringwald on screen is pure gold. It’s easy to forget that Molly is really, really funny and she brings a biting wit to her vain character that I love. Plus, she’s a tough and competent Final WOMAN. Is this why Cut was brought into my life? Is this the lesson I was meant to learn? Probably…not.
Past Slashermas Offerings
Dark Night of the Scarecrow
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Sleepaway Camp
Who can Kill a Child?
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Bloody Mary (2006)
Halloween II (1981)
Prom Night (1980)

Posted in 21st century, comedy, foreign, slasher, slashermas 2013, supernatural | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments


Episode three bring the meat and potatoes of what this season. That makes sense because “potage” is traditionally a kind of stew.
How involved was Abigail Hobbs with her father’s crimes?

Abigail (Kacey Rohl) wakes up and is incredibly manipulative.

Abigail (Kacey Rohl) wakes up and is incredibly manipulative.

Reminds me of the ending of "Carrie" when "Carrie White burns in hell" is spray-painted on the empty lot where her home was.

Reminds me of the ending of “Carrie” when “Carrie White burns in hell” is spray-painted on the empty lot where her home was.

A closer look at the ravenstag.

A closer look at the ravenstag.

Abigail's friend, Marissa (Holly Deveaux) becomes a victim of the Shrike Copycat.

Abigail’s friend, Marissa (Holly Deveaux) becomes a victim of the Shrike Copycat.

Whoever could have killed her? One of the joys of this show is seeing Hannibal’s reactions to other people. I love the stink-face he makes when Franklin (Dan Fogler) leaves his gross, snotty tissue on Hannibal’s side table. You can see the wheels turning in his head when Marissa calls her mom a “bitch.”

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Prom Night (1980)

As Slashermas becomes Slasher-March, it’s time for our penultimate slasher movie. It’s the 1980 Canadian/American
I love that font so much. Remember when horror movies had actual fonts for their titles?
The movie starts with Robin Hammond (Tammy Bourne) trying to join a game of hide and seek at an abandoned convent. The bratty neighborhood kids Wendy (Leslie Scott), Jude (Karen Forbes), Kelly (Joyce Kite), and Nick (Brock Simpson) gang up on Robin and she accidentally falls out a window. They vow to keep what really happened a secret and a notorious rapist is blamed for the crime.
Six years later, it’s the aforementioned prom night. Robin’s older sister, Kim (Jamie Lee Curtis) has been voted Prom Queen and Nick (Casey Stevens), of the bullying incident, is Prom King.
Kim’s younger brother, Alex (Michael Tough), is the deejay and their dad (Leslie Neilsen) is actually the principal of the school so it’s a family affair. Wendy (Eddie Benton), Kelly (Marybeth Rubens), and Jude (Joy Thompson) are all grown up and still keeping their secret.
As the day passes, they all receive threatening phone calls. Plus, it’s obvious that Wendy dislikes Kim because Kim is Prom Queen with the guy that Wendy likes. Wendy reminds me of a Rent-a-Center Chris Hargensen from Carrie. She gets this bully, Lou (David Mucci), to go to the prom with her so she can show up Kim.
The prom happens. There’s this crazy dancing scene.

And the kids responsible for Robin’s death are picked off one by one. Who’s the killer? Is it the rapist who, coincidentally, escaped that night? Is it Kim’s dad? He’s conspicuously absent by the end of the movie.
The movie ends with Wendy and Lou’s prank going awry, leaving Lou pretty decapitated by the killer who mistakes him for Nick.
Kim fights with the killer and turns out to be the most competent fighter in the town. She unmasks him and it’s…Alex! He knew they killed their sister and was out for vengeance.
This movie falls into the “I wanted to like it more” category. The opening, with the creepy kids was so promising. But then the movie became terribly, terribly dull. It’s like it had one serving of tension that was supposed to be shared by five people. Some moments are effective like when Wendy is being stalked before she’s killed. But mostly it’s boring.
This makes me sad because I love Jamie Lee Curtis and wanted to like this movie so much more than I did. None of the characters are particularly well-developed and I just couldn’t care about them. Kim Hammond is interesting enough but she’s no Laurie Strode. Also, this movie wastes Leslie Nielsen’s talent. We’ve seen that he can pull off scary in Creepshow. I wish we’d seen more of him.

That sweater is just damn cool.

That sweater is just damn cool.

I’d say this movie is worth it if you’re a hardcore slasher fan and want to see everything but I don’t think the casual fan will want to skip Prom Night.
Past Slashermas Offerings
Dark Night of the Scarecrow
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Sleepaway Camp
Who can Kill a Child?
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Bloody Mary (2006)
Halloween II (1981)

Posted in 1980's, killer kids, slasher, slashermas 2013 | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments


“Amuse-Bouche” has Will hunting for a serial killer that buries his victims and turns them into fertilizer for fungus. I agree with the criticism that I’ve read that there are too many serial killers on the show. If I recall correctly, at any given time there are twenty to forty serial killers operating in America. It seems like Will is looking for all of them at once. That being said, it reminds me of season one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it was a Monster of the Week show until the very end when it was all “Oh, hey the Master is here.” You have to establish your principals first and you can’t assume everyone will read the books. Look at the dorks that were shocked by what happened at the end of the season. Kindly take your fangirl slash pairings back to Sherlock, Hannibal isn’t going to marry Will.

It's amazing how healthy and normal Will (Hugh Dancy) looks at the beginning of the season.

It’s amazing how healthy and normal Will (Hugh Dancy) looks at the beginning of the season.

Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) with his stag statue behind him in his office.  I like to look for the stag.

Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) with his stag statue behind him in his office. I like to look for the stag.

Eldon Stammets' (Aidan Devine) fungus garden.

Eldon Stammets’ (Aidan Devine) fungus garden.

Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki)

Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki)

In my last post, I mentioned Jack Crawford and race. I was surprised again with casting choices as Dr. Alan Bloom became Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) and Freddy Lounds became Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki.) I really didn’t see that coming, maybe it’s because 2/3s of the Freddy Lounds I’ve seen portrayed have been played by men. Plus, there’s the rat-faced sleaziness of the character that I associate with the book.
Both actresses make it work. I actually like Freddie Lounds as a woman. Women can get away with stuff that men can’t and no one ever suspects us.
Come for the serial killers, stay for the food.

Come for the serial killers, stay for the food.

Fans have been recreating the food from the show. It helps that Janice Poon, the show’s food designer, has her own blog. Honestly, when I watch, I try to match what I eat with the show’s theme. So I’m very much looking forward to season two’s Japanese theme.

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