October Horrorthon 2012 – 24 – “The Burrowers”

Aka – Demons Underground, Evil Underground

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbfQB8Aq3uE

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Okay, when someone tells you a movie is basically “Tremors set in the old west”, you’re probably stoked for that, right ? I mean, everyone loves Tremors !! It’s a great flick ! I can’t vouch for 2,3 or 4, but the first one is wicked ! Plus, the old west is … Pretty fun too, in its way, right ? And actually, Tremors 4 was set in the 1800’s, so I guess that was kind of “Tremors in the old west”, but ANYway, cool sounding premise, right ?

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As promised, “The Burrowers” is set in the old west and follows a group of cowboys who are searching for a family of settlers that have disappeared mysteriously. Presuming they’ve been kidnapped/killed by a group of Indians, they set out for revenge. Little do they know, the REAL danger lurks beneath them ! In the form of Tremors-like creatures. Or maybe the REAL monster is mankind !! Maybe not

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I’m not gonna lie to you, this movie is boring as hell. It takes forever to get going, the creatures don’t look that great, it feels like its 2 hours long (actually only an hour 36) and honestly not much really happens. I’d heard mixed things going in, but the premise is great and I expected more from the writer/director of Mimic 3 (cough).

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Oddly enough, this was the first movie of my Horrorthon that actually had multiple people there watching it. There were 6 of us total, all Tremors fans stoked to see a new take on the idea. Halfway through the movie I felt like I needed to apologize to everyone for picking such a slow moving movie with no payoff. On the plus side, I did think of the line “More like The BorroWORST !!” and we all laughed, so that’s something I guess.

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As you can tell, I can’t recommend this movie. I know it does have a cult audience (to a degree) but I (and 5 other people, and anyone else I’ve talked to) just couldn’t get into it. Perhaps it stems from writer/director JT Petty, who also made the underwhelming “S&Man” (among other things). He seems to be good at picking a premise but bad at actually pulling it off.

In the end, it certainly wasn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen (possibly the worst Horrorthon one though), and there was some decent acting and shots in the film. Unfortunately you have to wade through a ton of bores to get there. My advice is, don’t bother.

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October Horrorthon 2012 – 23 – “Lifeforce”

Aka – Space Vampires

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqNquDlAanE

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Lifeforce has such a wicked premise (from a great writer), it always seemed like a movie I should love. It has zombies ! Vampires ! Aliens ! Space ! Good effects ! Cool story ! Cool alternate title ! Exclamation mark ! Anyway, I tried watching it when I was younger and found it boring, has time been kind ?

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The film begins with several astronauts discovering an enormous spaceship hidden in Hailey’s Comet. All of the occupants are dead, save for 3 human-like beings (2 male, 1 female) who are frozen in suspended animation. Once on earth these “space vampires” begin stealing people’s “Lifeforce”, turning them into mindless zombies. Can humanity stop them in time ?!

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The cast does a good job with the material and included a few familiar faces. Obviously the first that jumps out is Patrick Stewart, and it’s fun waiting to see him pop up. In addition Steve Railsback (Helter Skelter, Alligator 2, Disturbing Behaviour) turns in a good performance as the main astronaut who first discovers the space vamps.

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One of the most exciting things about this movie is the talent involved. Tobe Hooper had made a name for himself with the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, but it was “Poltergeist” that helped solidify his name as a director. He signed a 3 movie deal after that success, with “Lifeforce” being the first (his remake of “Invaders from Mars” and follow up “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” were the other two). Hooper does a good job directing the action, no doubt having learned much from Spielberg on set of “Poltergeist”.

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Even more influential than Hooper was writer Dan O’Bannon. He’s written some truly awesome movies, including Total Recall, Dead & Buried, Alien, Return of the Living Dead (which he also directed), Blue Thunder and 2 of the segments from the awesome “Heavy Metal” animated movie. O’Bannon is geek royalty, and he brings a lot of fun ideas to “Lifeforce”.

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Now, I’m not gonna say this is an awesome movie. It certainly doesn’t live up to the amount of awesome in its premise. It starts well, has good effects and maintains interest for the first hour or so, but at some point it sort of fizzles out. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but by the end of the movie you’re just sort of like “Oh, cool”.

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That having been said, there is still a lot to like about this movie. Lifeforce would turn out to be a flop, as would his two follow up films. Oddly enough, all 3 have gained cult status in the years since, and it’s certainly not hard to see why. That said, this is my least favourite film of those three, but it’s certainly my favourite with space vampires. Too bad it sort of sucks.

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October Horrorthon 2012 – 22 – “The Horde”

Aka – La Horde

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gY4ui929TiE

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I’ve been hearing a lot of hype about this one for awhile now. Zombie flicks have been pretty done to death at this point (no pun intended) but there have been some recent gems that continue to give me hope (The Dead, Dawn of the Dead remake, The Walking Dead series). Having enjoyed a few recent French horror films as well (Inside, Martyrs, High Tension (until the ending)) I was looking forward to this one.

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The plot concerns some rogue police officers who are out to avenge the death of one of their own. They bust into a highrise run by local gangsters and are quickly taken out. As the villains decide what to do next, a zombie busts in and devours one of them. After punching, kicking and shooting him, they finally go for the headshot, bringing him down. As the group realizes there is a (cough) horde of the undead outside, they band together to try to escape with their lives.

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The cast does a pretty good job for the kind of movie that it is. Lots of yelling, overreacting, screaming, punching, shooting, screaming, etc. I decided to watch the dubbed version because it was late and I was feeling lazy. On the plus side the voices weren’t too irritating, but some of the characters actions sure were.

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And therein lies my issue with this movie. Granted, it’s extremely stylish, well shot, ambitious, good story, etcetera. Unfortunately the overly stupid actions of the characters left me completely unsympathetic to them. I was basically rooting for the zombies by the end of it actually. Not that it was easy to choose between the murderers or the cops (aka – justifiable murderers) but still.

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The biggest cardinal sin of the movie is the fact that after emptying 40 rounds into the first zombie they manage to bring him down with a headshot. Great ! Like most characters in zombie flicks you’re just waiting for them to realize that this is the way to finally kill them. Except they don’t go for a headshot again for the rest of the movie !!! Really ?! Come on !! No no, you have unlimited ammo ! Keep firing at their chests ! It worked before right ? No wait, it was a fucking headshot that worked you morons ! You’re cops ! Ever tried a headshot ?! Good lord !!

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If that weren’t irritating enough, okay, I’m about to head into potential spoiler territory here. Okay, so the group finally makes it down to the basement, but then they realize they need to get to the parking garage. The Tom Savini-looking main guy tells them he’ll stay behind to “hold off” the zombie horde while they escape. Really ?! You have plenty of time to leave WITH them !! Why the fuck are you committing suicide for NO reason ?! Oh well, at least he’ll go for headshots ! Wait, no !! He has 2 pistols and just fires into the zombie crowd till they swarm him !! Sweet plan bud !

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I realize that during times of crisis people probably don’t make the most rational choices, but half of these people are already murderous assholes, the other half are murderous rogue cops. The characters are already fairly unlikable, now they’re also ignoring the only thing that actually killed a zombie in the first place ? Fuck !!

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Anyway, it’s not a “bad” movie, and maybe the subtitled version is somehow kind of a bit better in a way. That said, there are far too many retarded decisions by these people, to the point that I wanted them all dead by the end anyway. I’m sorry, but I can’t overlook completely ignoring headshots after it was the only way to kill them off. That’s just bullshit stupidity at that point.

Anyway, it looks nice, starts well, angers greatly and fizzles out. Still, not the worst zombie flick I’ve seen. Not sure what is actually. Maybe “House of the Dead”. Yikes

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My Favourite Movie Posters

Almost more than movies themselves, I’ve always been a huge fan of poster art. As a child I was fascinated with the lurid and enticing art on video covers, generally horror and sci-fi. The art often outdid the film itself, but it always stuck with me and enticed me enough to become a poster fanatic.

I decided to compile a list of some of my favourite posters I’ve found over the years. Many of the movies I’ve never seen, and I only actually own a couple of these posters, but I thought I’d share their grindhousey goodness with you all, in honour of Halloween !

Creepshow

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My favourite horror film, I eventually got a hoodie with this poster on the back. I’ll never got the VHS “big box” of this one.

Jaws

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Easily one of the most iconic posters of all time, it conveys so much with a simple image. Equally thrilling and terrifying.

The Evictors

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I first saw this poster as a shirt on a the Fright-Rags website. There’s an eeriness to it that really intrigued me. Sort of a gothic tone to it that I like.

The Mutilator

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I actually really like this movie, but the poster is awesome. Great tagline, and pretty much sums up the whole movie nicely.

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

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Another classic poster, this one is amazing because of two things. First, she’s CLEARLY more like 50 stories tall rather than feet. Secondly, whenever someone sees this poster at my house they inevitably make a crack about looking up between her legs. People are strange.

Piranha

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Pretty much a Jaws knock off in poster and movie form, it’s easily the best one. Much like the Jaws poster I certainly remember this one from my childhood. Great flick.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

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Another classic poster / movie, I love how the tagline really leaves you frothing at the mouth to see how the movie unfolds. Another “big box” classic at its finest.

Transmutations (aka – The Freakmaker)

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This movie was originally on my “Horrorthon” list for last year, then got bumped to this year, then dropped off the list. I found this sweet poster by accident while looking for another poster for one that DID make the list. Oddly serendipitous.

The Burning

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This is an alternate poster that Mondo made for this excellent Friday the 13th knock off (featuring Jason Alexander ! With hair !). I absolutely love this poster, the colour, balance, everything about it. A classic.

The Mummy

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This is another (recently released) Mondo poster. They did one for each of the Universal Monsters, and despite being more of a Creature from the Black Lagoon fan, I really like the sand-effect in this poster. Very well done.

The Prowler

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Another overlooked slasher gem, this is an excellent use of black and white. Despite the abundance of black, it conveys a lot about the movie itself.

American Gothic

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One of my favourite b-movies, the poster is pretty obvious. Still, I like the tongue in cheek nature of it, and the trapped kids in the background is a nice touch.

Horror Express

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I really dig the almost 3D effect of the movie title as well as the train going through the middle of the poster. Very well put together.

The Thing

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I’d never seen this alternate poster until a week or two ago. Obviously the movie is a classic, but this poster is simplistic and amazing, especially if you’ve seen the film.

Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2

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No, it’s not the “Breakfast Club” poster this movie is known for, but I always preferred this one. It would look great on a door.

Reptilicus

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I’ve always liked this one, despite clearly being a Godzilla knock off. I’ve never seen the movie, but you know it can’t be as good as this poster.

Violation of the Bitch

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I found this one in an awesome poster art book I got called “Shock! Horror!”. It’s so over the top, but the tagline and the fact that the gun seems to have been fired already really makes your mind wander. Probably a terrible movie though.

The Stepfather

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This is actually from the (presumably terrible) remake, but I always thought it was an awesome poster. So simplistic, but quite menacing as well.

Jurassic Park

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Another Mondo alternate poster, being a huge fan of this movie really did my heart good to see this fun take on the poster.

Slugs

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Admittedly pretty gross, it probably sums up the movie well. I haven’t seen it, but this is a well done poster, for what it is.

The House by the Cemetary

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Another Mondo gem, this one is actually better than the movie itself. I mean, I like Fulci, but this movie sort of blows. Amazing birds-eye poster though.

The Dark

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This is a really cool sci-fi poster, but I highly doubt there are ray-shooting giant aliens in this movie. I could be wrong, but nothing can be as fun as this poster is.

The Corpse Grinders

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This poster is sweet not simply because both cats look like my two cats (although it helps). It has such a great title, and the idea of being overpowered by two cats is kind of great. Or is it terrifying ?

Die Sister Die

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Don’t run towards the severed arms !! What are you thinking ?! Although they almost look more inviting than that asylum-esque building behind you. Carry on.

The Street Fighter

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Not horror or sci-fi, but there’s something about this one that I’ve always liked. Mostly that you KNOW he’s gonna beat them all up after this is over.

Invasion of the Blood Farmers

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Classic poster for a (supposedly) awful movie. This is the epitome of why I love horror posters. Colourful, macabre and intriguing (in a sick way I suppose).

Schoolgirls in Chains

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There’s a lot going on here. Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll escape eventually !

Inseminoid

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Speaking of a lot going on, I found this one by accident, but it’s out there enough to make you wonder what’s going on here.

The Astro Zombies

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That’s a pretty big knife !! I was hoping to find the version of this poster in blue, but it’s basically the same. I bet the zombies look terrible in the actual movie.

Dracula has Risen from the Grave

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So simple, so effective. Amazing poster.

The Mummy

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This one sort of reminds me of “The Dark”. It’s definitely more special effects heavy than the movie itself, but still, cool poster.

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

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This is another one that looks a lot cooler than it probably is. Still, you’ve got dinosaurs, scantily clad cave girls, a straightforward title. What more could you want ?

Well, that’s all for now. Look forward to more of my favourites in the future ! Or don’t, but either way there’ll be more.

October Horrorthon 2012 – 21 – “Pieces”

Aka – Chainsaw Devil, One Thousand Cries Has the Night

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A97EOtxF2gA

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“Pieces” is another blood soaked cult classic from the golden year of 1982 that brought us such classics as Creepshow, ET and my birth. That last one is less popular than the first two, but without it you wouldn’t be reading this incredibly late review, so that’s something I guess. It’s been awhile since I’d seen “Pieces”, does it still hold up ?

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The plot begins with a child who is caught by his mother as he assembles a jigsaw puzzle of a naked woman. She flips out, hits him and starts searching through his toys for more contraband material. In turn, he axes her to death, chops off her head and concocts a story when the cops show up. Flash forward 40 years later as a string of murders begin at a local college. Who did the little boy grow up to be ? Can the police catch him in time ? What is he using the “pieces” for ?!

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This is a super gory little romp that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. It’s over the top, ridiculous and keeps you guessing as to the killers identity. I’d never seen it until I bought the deluxe DVD that Grindhouse Releasing put out a few years ago. I’d enjoyed it, but later sold it anyway. Later I got the urge to revisit it and I’m glad I did.

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While I can’t say I’ll buy it again, for fans of gory 80s Giallos I highly recommend this film. It’s gross, dirty, ridiculous and non sensical in parts (like the random appearance by a Brice Lee impersonator) but that’s part of its charm. It also features an insane “twist” ending that will have you wincing.

For most casual fans this wont be your cup of tea, but if you’re into this kind of flick its definitely deserving of its cult status.

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October Horrorthon 2012 – 20 – “Parents”

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67KhqYRUVVg

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I’ve always been a fan of a good suspenseful mystery type film, especially in a horror setting. It may not be a large sub genre, but the “Are they or aren’t they” murderers/cannibals film intrigues me. Bonus points for being a period piece, which really kind of narrows the genre even more.

“Parents” is set in the 1950s and involves a family who recently moved to a new town, along with all of their “leftovers”. Their son suffers from intense nightmares and begins to think that all is not quite as it seems. Are his parents cannibals, or is he just an imaginative little boy ?

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The film stars Randy Quaid and several other people I’d never heard of. One of the girls was in “976-Evil” before this, then did one last film before (presumably) being eaten by the movie industry. Quaid does a good job balancing a caring tone with a menacing one, though I often think of him as the alcoholic father in “Not Another Teen Movie”.

Interestingly, “Parents” was directed by actor Bob Balaban, co-star of recent Horrorthon entry “Altered States”. This was his first non-TV movie, and he brings a good directorial flair to the proceedings. The tone, music and cars all evoke the 50s nicely and really play to the stories strengths.

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Based on the poster (and the fact that this is a horror film) there really isn’t too much mystery to whether or not there really is cannibalism going on here. The abundant use of eerie music, especially around Quaid, really adds an uneasy tone and makes you wonder how safe the boy really is at home.

All in all, “Parents” is a fairly enjoyable film with competent acting, a good eye for detail and an unsettling tone throughout. You’ll see the final “twist” coming, but at only 81 minutes you can’t really feel like you’ve wasted your time. There are a few WTF moments, but it’s certainly worth a look if you’re into this sort of thing. Plus, it was filmed in Toronto, and that ain’t not bad !

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October Horrorthon 2012 – 19 – “Creepshow”

Aka – Creep Show

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_6vtAmFnkA

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Let me start off by saying that “Creepshow” is my favourite horror movie. It’s the best horror anthology (and believe me, I’ve seen a ton of them) and strikes a perfect blend of horror and comedy, no easy feat in movies, old or new. An homage to the equally great 50’s EC comics (that would spawn two great horror anthologies and an excellent TV series) “Creepshow” is a labour of love from two horror masters.

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As previously stated, this is an anthology of 5 stories and a wraparound tale (starring Stephen King’s son and genre vet Tom Atkins) all written for the screen by master storyteller Stephen King. The stories come from a (non existent) comic book that Atkins throws out at the beginning of the film.

There’s a corpse that comes back to life to exact revenge on Father’s Day, a meteorite that spreads plant life at an extreme rate, an ancient crated beast that helps a man kill his wife, a revenge plot that leads to watery zombies exacting their own revenge and a hated millionaire being attacked by cockroaches. In short, lots of laughs and gross Tom Savini effects !

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Much like “The Sentinel”, “Creepshow” has an excellent cast anchoring it. Ed Harris (dancing hilariously), Leslie Nielsen, Adrienne Barbeau, Stephen King, Hal Holbrook, Tom Atkins, Ted Danson and Tom Savini. Everyone seems to be having a great time, and the passion for the project really comes through. In particular it’s fun seeing Nielsen as the villain for once.

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I was lucky enough to see this in 35mm on the big screen for the first time at our local Mayfair theatre. They’d had the print for two years but never screened it because of a missing real (classic grindhouse !). After an online poll asking if there would be interest in showing the blu ray for the missing 20 minutes, it was decided they would proceed with the screening. The crowd was loving it, and I was sure to wear my Creepshow hoodie there to celebrate.

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The movie is made to feel like watching a comic book on screen, ideal, since it was an homage to comic books in the first place. A recent attempt at this was Ang Lee’s “Hulk” film, which used a similar tactic of framing the screen with comic book panels. I wasn’t a huge fan of that film, but I really appreciated its visual style in that regard.

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“Creepshow” is an undisputed cult classic, leading to two sequels and a web series. Only the second film is really worth checking out, though I have far less vitriol to spread over the third film. It attempted a sort of “Pulp Fiction”-esque style of connecting all of its stories. An interesting idea, but the production values were extremely low, making it look nothing like the first two films.

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The films greatest strength is its triple threat of horror masters in the directing, writing and special effects departments. It was clearly a labour of love for George Romero (Dawn of the Dead), Stephen King (The Shining) and Tom Savini (Friday the 13th), not to mention the cast themselves. It’s pretty rare to have such an assemblage of talent on a genre project, leading to a sort of lightning in a bottle gem of a film.

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Another excellent aspect of the film is the original score by John Harrison. It was eventually used in “Grindhouse” for Eli Roth’s fake trailer “Thanksgiving”. While I’m no fan of Roth, he does have good taste in horror films. Hearing the familiar strains from “Something to Tide You Over” immediately conjured up thoughts of the murderous Leslie Nielsen cavalierly driving back to his home after exacting his revenge.

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“Creepshow 2” continued the tone of the first film, even having a screenplay written by Romero, adapted from 3 more Stephen King stories (and featuring King in a cameo appearance). While Romero didn’t direct, the cinematographer from the first film did, certainly helping maintain a similar tone. Certainly not as good as the original, it remains a pleasing anthology film in its own right.

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While an homage to the “Tales from the Crypt” comics of the 1950’s which would go on to spawn an acclaimed TV series themselves, “Creepshow” was also intended to have its own TV series. It eventually became the Romero created “Tales from the Darkside”, which itself lead to a movie version. That film ended up being directed by Creepshow composer John Harrison, with one of its stories being another King adaptation by George Romero. This has lead to Tom Savini referring to it as “The real Creepshow 3”.

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If you’ve never checked out this film, I (clearly) highly recommend it. It’s a real blast, an excellent blend of comedy, horror and the pulp comics that inspired it in the first place. Anthology films, especially horror, are extremely difficult to pull off, many suffering from subpar stories. While some dismiss the comedic King-starring second segment, I find it breaks up the film nicely and keeps its tongue firmly in cheek.

If you’re looking for a fun, colourful 80’s horror story romp, or are a fan of “Tales from the Crypt”, look no further than this enjoyable gem.

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For more, check out this feature length Creepshow documentary –

http://youtu.be/E9PHroXl9X4

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