October 18th: Best Made-for-TV on SyFy

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DeadStill

October 18th: Best Made-for-TV on SyFy

In October 2014, I reviewed the made-for-TV SyFy original film Dead Still. It was the first fictional feature-length film from the Booth Brothers, twin brothers who produced several nonfiction films based on paranormal themes. Four years later, the movie remains enjoyable. The movie will be aired again on October 21st on the SyFy Network. Plan to DVR this one.

Here is the original review:

Dead Still Worth Viewing

I love horror movies. I’ve watched them since I was a teenager. My favorites include the classics: The Exorcist (1975), Jaws (1975), and Poltergeist (1982). However, I like the B-movie horror films, namely The House on Haunted Hill (1959), The Monster Squad (1987), and The Tingler (1959), too. I grew up watching Dr. Paul Bearer on Creature Feature on WTOG. Horror movies transcend decades and act as social commentary. The Booth Brothers’ new film Dead Still incorporates the Victorian practice of taking mourning portraits into a fictional modern-day inheritance issue. Dead Still, an original SyFy movie, is worth viewing.

The Horror film genre remains popular. Box office rival Annabelle nearly toppled Gone Girl this past weekend. Even though each film generated over $37 million in ticket sales, Annabelle was the money winner. Produced for under $7 million dollars, Annabelle’s return in one weekend was five times its production costs. Wow! Low-budget horror films produce huge profits. This applies to films released exclusively on television with DVD sales later.

Dead Still’s estimated production costs were $2 million dollars. That’s extremely low for any film project. Moreover, the film shines with beautiful cinematography, haunting music, and A-list acting.

Filmed on location in Baton Rouge, Dead Still features an incredibly spooky house. Philip Adrian Booth captures the moody ambiance of the house, as well as, the Negative world. Remember: This is a low-budget film. Philip does a lot on a tight budget.

Equally impressive is the eerily evocative soundtrack. Twin brother Christopher Saint Booth assembled a soundtrack heavy with strings—quite appropriate for a horror film. Working as “Saint,” Christopher has assumed the role as music scorer for their productions. Christopher delivers.

Producers landed three strong actors. Ray Wise is absolutely wicked. Mr. Wise’s transformation into the crazy “Wenton Davis,” great grandfather and original owner of the antique Victorian camera, is creepy. Creepy weird and chilling. Ben Browder as “Brandon” is convincing as the relationship-challenged heir to the camera. He’s at his best in the Negative world. Gavin Casalegno portrays “Bobby,” Brandon’s son. His facial expressions convey what words cannot. Already boasting an impressive acting resume, Gavin has a long career ahead of him.

Graphic scenes are limited; however, I could have done without the sexual scene with the newlyweds. It didn’t add any real content and could have been achieved without the nudity and hand-gripping bedrail close-ups.

The antique Victorian camera is an amazing prop. The claw-footed, custom-made stand is intricately detailed and gorgeous. Reproductions of mourning portraits are impactful. They realistically represent the type of photographs popular in America and Europe from 1840-1891.

Dead Still is entertaining and gruesome. The Booth Brothers have expanded their filmmaking collection and have made the jump into the fictional horror movie genre. I look forward to their next film. Until then, stay still—Dead Still.

October 17th: Top 5 Animated Films for Halloween

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October 17th: Top 5 Animated Films for Halloween

These are some of the best animated films with creepy themes to watch with the family for Halloween.

  1. Coraline (2009): Sinister secrets lurk behind a door in the old house Coraline and her parents move into. In a parallel universe, Coraline finds she really didn’t want what she wished for.
  2. The Corpse Bride (2005): Victor Van Dort practices his impeding wedding proposal and awakes the corpse bride, who thinks she is actually married to Victor. Another Tim Burton classic.
  3. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005): Stop-action Claymation film from the creators of Wallace and Gromit see the duo investigating the sabotage of the village’s annual vegetable contest. It’s clever, sophisticated, and full of humor.
  4. Hotel Transylvania (2012): Dracula runs a luxury resort for monster families. When a human boy discovers the hotel, Dracula tries to disguise him from the other monsters and his daughter. The third installment of this franchise opened this past summer earning over $425 million dollars worldwide.
  5. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): The pumpkin king of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington, is bored and sets off on an adventure to stumble across Christmas Town. Tim Burton’s stop-action animated film became an instant Halloween classic. It boasts an fantastic soundtrack, as well.

 

October 16th: I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream

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Scream

October 16th: I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream

Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) received an Honorable Mention in “Top 10 Opening Scenes in Movies” from WatchMojo.com (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74BE-_jsEmc). Screenwriter Kevin Williamson makes fun of the horror film genre by littering references throughout. Scream rejuvenated the dying horror film genre and ignited new interest. There are four films in the $600 million dollar worldwide grossing franchise; however, the first one is the best.

 

October 15th: Just for Fun

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October 15th: Just for Fun

One of the best “Just for Fun” horror movies is Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness (1992). This is the third installment of the Evil Dead franchise; however, the studios hoped it would stand on its own and refused the title Evil Dead III. Army of Darkness pays homage to the slapstick routines of the Three Stooges.

Home goods clerk Ash is transported back to 1300 A.D. medieval times to battle an army of dead to recover the magic book, Necronomicon.

Yep, that’s about it. However, Bruce Campbell excels at playing the snarky clerk while interjecting his favorite word: Groovy. Don’t miss this film. Raimi is a master of horror and rekindled the genre.

October 14th: Best Tween Film

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Halloweentown

October 14th: Best Tween Film

Halloweentown (1998), a made-for-TV Disney movie, is a fantastic family-friendly Halloween movie. After learning she’s a witch, Marnie, played by Kimberly J. Brown, travels to Halloweentown to apprentice under her grandmother Aggie Cromwell, played by Debbie Reynolds. The TV-G film runs one hour and 24 minutes. The film started a series of 4 films; however, only Reynolds, Judith Hoag who plays mom Gwen, and Joey Zimmerman who plays Marnie’s brother Dylan appear in all four.

Side note: The movie was filmed in St. Helens, Oregon, where the locals celebrate Halloween and their special link with this movie in a month-long event titled Spirit of Halloweentown.

October 13th: Best Soundtrack

October 13th: Best Soundtrack

The Best Soundtrack in a Live Action Horror Film goes to The Lost Boys (1987). Joel Schumacher gathered a few teenage heartthrobs promising them immortal life—on screen—in one of the most popular teen flicks made in the ‘80’s. Schumacher also assembled a rocking soundtrack.

Brothers Michael and Sam relocate with their mom into their Grandpa’s house and attempt to make friends on the town’s boardwalk. Little did they know that the teenage gang is a pack of vampires who hunt human victims.

The soundtrack was released along with the movie and then converted to CD in 1990. MTV is credited with making it popular. Critics mostly panned it; however, the throngs of teens who saw the movie purchased the cassettes. “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” took on a new meaning, while Echo and the Bunnymen cover The Doors’ “People Are Strange.” Even though the Australian group was already signed to the label, INXS were catapulted to international stardom when the soundtrack came out. Watch the movie with your sunglasses on and your CD player tuned high.

October 12th: It Rains Throughout Identity (2003)

Identity

October 12th: It Rains Throughout Identity (2003)

Identity (2003) with its ensemble cast is an overlooked thriller that explains the entire film in the opening credits. Unsuspecting audiences don’t realize this until the end. (Think Usual Suspects but in the first 15 minutes.)

I use the opening of Identity in my college composition courses to illustrate an effective opening to an essay. The viewer sees and hears the minimum required to remain hooked. That is how a documented essay should be constructed.

This film stars several acting heavyweights. Give this film a chance, preferably on a stormy night.

October 11th: The Frighteners (1996)

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TheFrighteners

October 11th: The Frighteners (1996)

Frank Bannister, played by Michael J. Fox, develops psychic abilities after a tragic car accident kills his wife. Frank sees dead people—lots of them. Frank abandons his career in architecture and takes up ghostbusting, only he’s not necessarily legit. During one of his cleansings, he notices a number engraved on the forehead of a client. After the client dies (early spoiler which won’t ruin the movie), Frank sees “Death” marking his victims and decides to stop him.

This was Peter Jackson’s pre-Hobbit days. Filmed in New Zealand on a $30 million-dollar budget, the movie wasn’t financially successful. However, it has found a cult audience through cable and streaming services. This movie is clever and fresh. Watch it!

October 10th: The Oscar for Best Picture Goes to…

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GetOut

October 10th: The Oscar for Best Picture Goes to …

Get Out, Jordan Peele’s 2017 horror film, should have won the Oscar for Best Picture. Not surprisingly, it did not. Only 2 horror films have ever been nominated for the top category: The Exorcist (1973) and Get Out (2017).

Get Out waded into the treacherous polarizing topics of American slavery and stereotypes based on race. As a horror film, it provoked and challenged the viewer. As social commentary on American racial relations, it excelled. Filmed over 23 days and on a budget of $5 million dollars, Get Out was a financially success picture grossing more than $255 million dollars worldwide. The Oscar buzz started in earnest early on.

Get Out features Danial Kaluuya playing the African-American boyfriend Chris Washington to Rose Armitage, played by Allison Williams, a woman eager to introduce him to her liberal-minded Caucasian parents. Racial tensions begin immediately on the couple’s trip to upstate New York. The film feels more like a social commentary on current, lingering racial prejudices until it plunges into the horrific—dare I say experimental—meditative rituals used by Rose’s mother.

Get Out competed against a packed field of Oscar contenders. Ultimately, Guillermo del Toro’s science fiction government cover-up conspiracy The Shape of Water won. Seems the Academy Awards feel that horror films are still a bridge across The Sunken Place too far. See it. And then see it again.

Get Out, Jordan Peele’s 2017 horror film, should have won the Oscar for Best Picture. Not surprisingly, it did not. Only 2 horror films have ever been nominated for the top category: The Exorcist (1973) and Get Out (2017).

Get Out waded into the treacherous polarizing topics of American slavery and stereotypes based on race. As a horror film, it provoked and challenged the viewer. As social commentary on American racial relations, it excelled. Filmed over 23 days and on a budget of $5 million dollars, Get Out was a financially success picture grossing more than $255 million dollars worldwide. The Oscar buzz started in earnest early on.

Get Out features Danial Kaluuya playing the African-American boyfriend Chris Washington to Rose Armitage, played by Allison Williams, a woman eager to introduce him to her liberal-minded Caucasian parents. Racial tensions begin immediately on the couple’s trip to upstate New York. The film feels more like a social commentary on current, lingering racial prejudices until it plunges into the horrific—dare I say experimental—meditative rituals used by Rose’s mother.

Get Out competed against a packed field of Oscar contenders. Ultimately, Guillermo del Toro’s science fiction government cover-up conspiracy The Shape of Water won. Seems the Academy Awards feel that horror films are still a bridge across The Sunken Place too far. See it. And then see it again.

October 9th: Vincent Price

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October 9th: Vincent Price

Prolific, yet stereotyped, actor, Vincent Price, starred in numerous seminal horror films. Price built a lucrative career drawing on man’s evil proclivities. I’ve selected three favorites that every horror film aficionado should know.

  1. House of Wax (1953): This GP (General Public) one hour and 28-minute film was in 3D. Professor Henry Jarrod creates wax figures. When his gallery burns down, Jarrod opens a new horror-inspired gallery where the wax works are created in an unconventional way.
  2. House on Haunted Hill (1959): This unrated one hour and 15-minute film features Price as a wealthy man who invites 5 people to stay at his and his wife’s home. Anyone who survives the visit receives $10,000, which equates to $86,000 in today’s dollars. The creepy house hides ghosts, secrets, and the macabre.
  3. The Tingler 1959): Price stars as Dr. Warren Chapin in this unrated one hour and 22-minute film. Chapin is a pathologist who performs unorthodox experiments on prisoners. He theorizes that fear resides within a creature living inside every human. Chapin takes on a deaf/mute as his next patient to see whether the creature grows when the woman is terrorized.