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True Grit (2010)

10 Jan

If I told you what the exact nature of their relationship is, you wouldn't believe me. Just go see this great movie.

When I first heard rumblings of a remake of “True Grit,” I complained. Then I learned the Coen Brothers were helming the update, and I stopped grumbling. If any filmmakers are to be trusted with presenting an updated version of a beloved Western, it’s the Coens. They have displayed an appreciation for sparse scenery and restrained emotion which makes them ideal candidates for re-inventing (or perhaps reviving?) the genre. As it turns out, my faith in the Coens was well-placed. With “True Grit,” they delivered an elegant, yet entertaining, update of both the original film and the genre. Continue reading

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Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

19 Nov

Scuzzy filmmakers ahoy!

When a movie is titled “Cannibal Holocaust,” it’s absurd to expect anything other than over-the-top shock horror. That this film offers measured and intelligent social commentary along with its horrific violence and impossible-to-forget imagery elevates it far beyond mere schlock. Continue reading

Sisters (1973)

9 Nov

Common sense should dictate that an open flame shouldn't be that close to super styled hair, but Phillip is a boundary pusher like that.

So “Sisters” is a bit of a cheat. Though Criterion lumps it under its “Scary Films” header, it’s more straight-out thriller than horror. The difference is subtle; for me, a horror movie makes me feel immediate “danger.” The film seems to threaten me, personally, and so evokes that fear response. In a thriller, all the danger is for someone else. A thriller may intrigue and shock, but it never steps beyond whatever the boundary is that makes a horror movie frightening. Which is not to say “Sisters” isn’t a great film; it’s just not a horror movie. Continue reading

Night of the Demons (1988)

28 Oct

Don't watch this movie if you're squeamish about blood. Seriously.

Here’s the exact point when I knew I was going to have a great time watching the fondly remembered “Night of the Demons“:  The female lead, virginal good girl Judy, is on the phone with preppy Jay, who’s trying to convince her to attend a party at spooky Hull House. As he’s trying to talk her into it, he reaches for a box of Vanilla Wafers, and I was completely sold. Any horror movie this snarky is bound to be a fun ride. Continue reading

Fido (2006)

21 Oct

One good thing about a zombie dance partner: He won't mind if you step on his foot.

So … zombies are kind of everywhere these days, and — although I don’t agree with it — I guess I can sort of understand when people say they’re sort of over them. I mean, there’s only so much you can do with dumb, lumbering dead people that are intensely brain-driven and prove easy to kill once you know how. Smart filmmakers are coming up with new ways to make zombie movies without actually making movies about zombies. With its blend of black humor, ’50s shtick, sharp satire and, yes, plenty of gore, “Fido” is right on trend. Continue reading

The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

18 Oct

 

Carlos' beatific reaction to seeing a bomb stuck in the courtyard of his new home is beyond weird.

 

The Devil’s Backbone” is another genre-bender from visionary director Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro’s films tend to be beautiful and poignant while at the same time suspenseful and terrifying, an uneasy marriage of art and horror. With this film, he adds another layer — a coming-of-age story — and creates an altogether different interpretation of what at first appears to be a traditional ghost story. Continue reading

Peeping Tom (1960)

9 Oct

 

This character's relationship with his camera is not a healthy one.

 

There was a moment while watching “Peeping Tom” where I physically shuddered. And I have the benefit of being a modern viewer and knowing there are certain places a film from 1960 just will not go. I can’t imagine what audiences of the time must have thought of this shockingly effective psychological thriller. Continue reading

Teeth (2007)

5 Oct

And she seems like such a nice girl...

Everything I was hoping to get out of “Bad Biology” I got out of “Teeth” — and then some. This little flick gnawed its way into my heart, and yes I’m going to keep punning … Continue reading

Slasher (2004)

30 Sep

They earn a (mostly honest) living by slash, slash, slashing prices! (Kevin, from left to right, Slasher and Mudd)

A few weeks ago, I watched “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard.” While I was right in thinking it would be stupid, I was wrong in assuming it would also sustain entertainment value. I should have picked “Slasher,” the unbelievable biographical documentary of a real-life car lot slasher sale auteur Michael “just call me Slasher” Bennett. Continue reading

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

1 Sep

People this attractive shouldn't be allowed to be together. It ruins the gene pool for the rest of us.

My inner cynic thought I would hate “(500) Days of Summer.” I don’t like many romantic movies, much less romantic comedies. I get tired of the drooling fanboy worship of Zooey Deschanel (who is a fine actress, but come on!). The movie seemed overly hipster-y and slightly twee. My inner cynic was, however, wrong. Continue reading