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The MFF Podcast #194: Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow

May 16, 2019

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

Depp’s character is always hiding behind people.

The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re talking about 1999’s Sleep Hollow, the Tim Burton directed movie that is beautiful to look at. The movie still looks amazing 20 years later, and it totally deserved the Oscar win for its wonderful art and set direction. Throw in the Colleen Atwood costume design, and Emmanuel Lubezki cinematrography, and you have one of the best looking movies of the last 20 years. In this episode, you will hear us talk about tubes of death, pumpkin throwing and people looking great in wigs. If you are a fan of Sleepy Hollow, you will love this episode.

Told you.

If you are a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the pod!

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

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John’s Horror Corner: Tales from the Crypt, Season 1 (1989), a wonderful horror anthology series that keeps it light.

May 13, 2019

MY CALL: Even watching it again 30 years later, this is still my favorite horror anthology series. The tone is generally light, the cast and director line-up will conjure wonderful nostalgia (beyond the horror genre), and the stories are cheekily executed.

MORE HORROR ANTHOLOGIES:  Dead of Night (1945), Black Sabbath (1963), Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Vault of Horror (1973), The Uncanny (1977), Creepshow (1982), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye (1985), Deadtime Stories (1986), Creepshow 2 (1987), After Midnight (1989), Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), Two Evil Eyes (1990), Grimm Prairie Tales (1990), The Willies (1990), Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Campfire Tales (1997), Dark Tales of Japan (2004), 3 Extremes (2004), Creepshow 3 (2006), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), Chillerama (2011), Little Deaths (2011), V/H/S (2012), The Theater Bizarre (2012), The ABCs of Death (2013), V/H/S 2 (2013), The Profane Exhibit (2013), The ABCs of Death 2 (2014), V/H/S Viral (2014), Southbound (2015), Tales of Halloween (2015), A Christmas Horror Story (2015), The ABCs of Death 2.5 (2016), Holidays (2016), Terrified (2017; aka Aterrados, which is a pseudo-anthology), Oats Studios, Vol. 1 (2017), Ghost Stories (2017), XX (2017) and The Field Guide to Evil (2018).

Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996) has always been my favorite horror anthology series. It has everything I could ever want: horror, satire, fun twists, a diversity of stories and styles and tones, an outstanding array of directors and guest stars, and a perfect host. The Crypt Keeper (John Kassir; Smothered) brings hilarious, candor to our episode introductions, and likewise closes each episode with puns thematic to the story. I love his Santa suit in the opening of And All Through the House, and when he electrocutes himself, giggling and gagging all the while, at the end of The Man Who Was Death.

The themes are broad and include taxidermy, holiday horror, mental patient lunatics, the death penalty, resurrection, voodoo and murderous obsession. And whereas Black Mirror (2011-2017; 4 seasons) focuses its allegory on our potential trajectories misusing, overusing, or addicting to technology and/or social media and the stories all seem take place somewhere in the near to distant future, Tales from the Crypt enjoys the simplicity of basic sins like greed (And All Through the House, Lover Come Hack to Me, Dig That Cat), pride (The Man Who Was Death) and wrath (Collection Completed), told with feisty flare in a more low-brow atmosphere.

Season 1 comprises only six episodes. Let’s review them without spoilers as I’m hoping to turn some horror fans to this old show…

Directed by Walter Hill (Undisputed, Bullet to the Head), The Man Who Was Death was the premiere episode about a death row executioner (William Sadler; Bordello of Blood, Demon Knight) who found avocational means to continue his duties after being laid off by the prison—with Gerrit Graham (CHUD II, Chopping Mall, It’s Alive III) among his victims. The story’s narration (by the executioner himself), the trajectory and the ultimate twist embrace the most classic sense of The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) while infusing it with dark humor, increased horror and satire.

And All Through the House (directed by Robert Zemeckis; What Lies Beneath, Death Becomes Her, Back to the Future) tells the unfortunate holiday tale of a scheming spouse (Mary Ellen Trainor; Scrooged, The Monster Squad) who murders her husband (Marshall Bell; Total Recall, Stand By Me, A Nightmare on Elm Street part 2) on Christmas Eve with a giggly wacky escaped mental patient (Larry Drake; Dr. Giggles, Darkman) in a Santa Claus outfit making his way to her home. And with her young daughter in the house, there’s plenty of room for dark humor and dire scenarios. This delightful episode was based on the Tales from the Crypt (1972) segment of the same name.

Then in Dig That Cat…He’s Real Gone (directed by Richard Donner; Superman I-II, The Omen, Lethal Weapon 1-4), Ulric “the Undying” (Joe Pantoliano; The Goonies, The Matrix, Bad Boys I-II, The Sopranos) procures the nine lives of a cat, which he uses in a circus sideshow as he is drowned, hanged and killed every which way to entertain paying crowds with his manager (Robert Wuhl; Batman, Arli$$). This episode is among the corniest in execution, but it features a great concept and a fun feisty atmosphere.

A prostitute (Lea Thompson; Jaws 3-D, Howard the Duck, Back to the Future) sells her “beauty” to a voodoo-savvy pawnbroker (Britt Leach; Silent Night, Deadly Night, Weird Science) in Only Sin Deep (directed by Howard Deutch; Pretty in Pink, The Great Outdoors, The Replacements). This is probably the most straight-faced serious of the episodes.

Lover Come Hack to Me (directed by Tom Holland; Fright Night, Child’s Play, Thinner) features a wealthy woman (Amanda Plummer; Needful Things, The Prophecy) on her honeymoon with her young handsome fop (Stephen Shellen; The Stepfather). This is the only episode of the season I specifically did not like, despite being by far the bloodiest and featuring a wonderful director.

Collection Completed (directed by Mary Lambert; Pet Sematary 1-2) is easily the most ridiculous of the episodes, but also my favorite of season 1. Struggling to fill his time in retirement, a man (M. Emmet Walsh; Critters) is driven insane by his animal-loving wife (Audra Lindley; The Relic, Spellbinder) and her numerous pets. Detached from reality with a theatrical sort of melodrama, the restless husband finds peace by embracing his insanity with a new macabre hobby.

The product of a lower budget in this first season, special effects and make-up work are pretty mild outside of the Crypt Keeper himself. Fortunately, these horror vignettes don’t rely on gore or effects—they’re great without them!

Some may describe the writing as a bit hokey, but I’d say this is often clearly deliberate to cultivate a light mood. The performances by William Sadler (The Man Who Was Death) with his stylish narration, Larry Drake (And All Through the House) with his mangled teeth and googly eyes, Joe Pantoliano (Dig That Cat) and his buried alive realization, Mary Ellen Trainor (And All Through the House) with her delightful villainy and manic screams, and M. Emmet Walsh (Collection Completed) with his temperamental mania, all push their respective episodes to excellence. You can just feel how these actors were “going for it” with every moment they had before the camera.

If you’ve never seen this wonderful show, or simply haven’t seen it in decades, I implore you to give it a chance. And with only six episodes it feels like watching an anthology horror movie.

John’s Horror Corner: The Unseen (2017; aka Amaurosis), a British thriller about blindness, grief and unseen menace.

May 12, 2019

MY CALL: This film sews tropes of both horror and thriller at first, leaving us curious as to where we’re being led. Overall, I’d say this is not for horror fans, but for fans of crime or mystery-driven thrillers; perhaps viewers who generally dislike horror but desire a little more edge to their intrigue.

Disclaimer: Screener access was provided by the filmmaker. However, I was not paid or compensated to write this nor were there any conditions to my receiving viewing access other than my solicited review.

After the tragic accidental death of their son, Gemma (Jasmine Hyde; Good Omens) and Will (Richard Flood; Shameless, Crossing Lines) have lost their ability to function normally. They succumb to bereft bouts of rage, visions of intense guilt, and Gemma suffers unpredictable episodes of amaurosis—a sort of panic-induced blindness.

Using the audience-POV during amaurosis episodes is anxious at first, and develops into seat-clutching stress when its timing is most dangerous. But even more unnerving is Will’s rage and claims of hearing their son calling from his room… at which point we are tempted to wonder if either both grieving parents are experiencing their own very different and very extreme delusions, or if there is an external (supernatural) force at work.

The convenient kindness of a pharmacist (Simon Cotton; Among the Shadows)—who initially helped Gemma during a blindness episode—offers the opportunity for Gemma and Will to escape their lives to his lake house estate to ease their minds and their recovery. As the story unfolds we are led into unexpected territory.

Written and directed by Gary Sinyor (The Bachelor)—better known for his comedies—this British film walks a tightrope balancing thriller and horror-based tropes while never strongly delivering the expectations of either. While interesting, it’s difficult for me to recommend this to fans of horror. I fear such fans won’t find the “horror” they desire.

The performances, dialogue, direction and production value are all top notch—although the story develops into a stew that doesn’t fancy my taste… which would involve more murderous intent (e.g., The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, Fatal Attraction, The Stepfather) or heavier twists. But still, the film is clearly well-made, sharply acted and the photography was simply excellent.

Unfortunately, despite being interesting (even if slow), it never truly embraces its own potential darkness. For such heavy content, the execution feels tame, the pacing is slow and the reveals are… well, sort of boring (especially as the blindness filter becomes overused). At least, boring for a horror fan. Instead I’d suggest this for fans of crime or mystery-driven thrillers; perhaps viewers who generally dislike horror but desire a little more edge to their intrigue.

The MFF Podcast #193: Airborne and the Best Cinematic Rollerbladers

May 11, 2019

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

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The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re talking about the 1993 rollerblading (and hockey) movie Airborne. Many of you might slightly remember Airborne because it features Jack Black and Seth Green rollerblading down a massive hill called “The Devil’s Backbone” during the epic finale. The final race is pretty great, whereas the rest of the movie does its best to get to the race as quickly as possible. In this podcast, you will hear us talking about Alita: Battle Angel, big moogombas, and spaghetti chili. If you are a fan of Airborne, you will love this episode.

Seth Green was everywhere in the 1990s. Dude crushed it.

If you are a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the pod!

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

Bad Movie Tuesday: Witchcraft II: The Temptress (1989), just boring, boobs and bloodless.

May 7, 2019

MY CALL: Like part 1, only witchcraft could compel me to watch this movie again. There are bad movies (that are fun to watch), and then there are just plain awful movies. But hey, at least it’s better than part 1, right?

Well good for this sequel. It opens with incantation, alliteration and gross ingredients as the spell components for some manner of witchcraft are combined to transform an older experienced witch into a younger-looking seductress. Armed with a potion of bewitched blood, she comes for her target and in just one scene, that already matches (or even exceeds) the witchcraft I recall from the previous movie Witchcraft (1988).

Now all grown up after being rescued as an infant in part 1, teenager Will (Charles Solomon Jr.; Witchcraft III-IV) finds our recently transformed and provocatively wardrobed witch Dolores (Delia Sheppard; Rocky V, Dinocroc vs Supergator, Sexbomb)—actually this is the witch from part 1 disguised in a younger more attractive form to lure Satan’s yet uncorrupted heir to evil using the power of seduction.

When you think of 80s horror films what pops in your head first? Gore, cheap jump scares and gratuitous nudity, right? You’ll find only one of these things here: nudity. And from what I glean on IMDB, that will become a theme in subsequent sequels.

Dolores delivers a mysterious magical box (which will unleash zero special effects) and cleans her rain gutters dressed like a hooker. The sexuality is far from subtle. Released just one year after its lame predecessor, director Mark Woods (his only feature film, not surprisingly, and only a year after making a Playboy video) shows off his softcore chops with over-shot sensual scenes and occasional adult film dialogue. The sex scenes with Will’s girlfriend Michelle (Mia M. Ruiz; Demon Wind) are probably more raunchy than the era mandates.

Back when I reviewed Witchcraft (1988) in early 2012, I was mortified to learn there were 12 sequels building up to Witchcraft 13: Blood of the Chosen (2008). Well, good news if you love this drivel! Because now I’ve discovered they made it all the way to Witchcraft 16: Hollywood Coven (2016). So fans of the franchise can sit back and watch as the Witchcraft series pelts out over a dozen TnA-driven sequels! But, if we’re being fair, part 1 had no nudity and this 1989 sequel was nothing I’d call a “smutty” film even if the sex scene was more graphic than most 80s horror.

This movie is WAY better than part 1, not that this means it’s “good.” But the acting is less wooden, the writing isn’t as annoying… it’s a bit more of what you’d expect from a lousy 80s horror you never heard of, I guess. The most noticeable fault of this craptastic flick is that none of its budget went to death scenes, blood and gore, or “magical” special effects. At one point Dolores breaks a horny teen’s neck and it couldn’t have been more boring. Even a throwaway scene of her uttering some incomprehensible spell making someone cough up blood, tremble and die would be an improvement.

As the movie progresses Will is tempted here and there, he learns of his devil-touched family history, there’s a little more nudity and not enough blood, and it fails to build to anything meaningful. Even if not as bad (but still pretty bad), this was every bit as forgettable as its predecessor. Even Blood Gnome (2004) was better than this.

Witch Movie SIDEBAR: Some excellent witch movies that actually feel like witch movies include Warlock (1989), Warlock 2: The Armageddon (1993), The Witch (2016; podcast discussion) and The Witches of Eastwick (1987). Beautiful Creatures (2013) and The Woods (2006) may appeal to young adult audiences.  But I would sooner direct you to Hocus Pocus (1993), The Witches (1990) and The Craft (1996). I’m leaving Harry Potter out of this discussion, by the way. Fantasy sorcery (Willow, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and wizardry (The Lord of the Rings) is to be considered its own thing entirely. The campy The Kiss (1988), Spellbinder (1988), Necromancer (1988), Necropolis (1987) and Cherry Tree (2015) are entertaining but bad. And speaking of campy, Superstition (1982) and The Haunting of Morella (1990) are allegedly witch movies but don’t feel like it. But even if you want a bad movie, definitely skip Witchcraft (1988) and all sequels.

The dark noir Lord of Illusions (1995) is intriguingly edgy and, while more a “magic movie” than a “witch movie,” it hits a lot of the same dark arcane notes. And, of course, The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) were awesomely stylized in their own unique ways despite never actually showing us a witch—at least, not until Blair Witch (2016).

Check out Pumpkinhead (1988) for a great depiction of a witch, though it’s not a “witch movie.” Meanwhile Deadtime Stories (1986) and The Theater Bizarre (2011) features a pretty cool witch short story, and The Pit and the Pendulum (1991) addresses witch trials.

Witches can come in so many flavors, can’t they? Lords of Salem (2013), Mother of Tears (2007), Suspiria (1977) and Suspiria (2018) deal with witches’ spirits and covens in the form of dark ritual and possession. Quite the opposite, Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), The Last Witch Hunter (2015; podcast discussion) and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) offer action and effects-driven popcorn fun—Season of the Witch (2011) attempted this, but failed miserably.  But the witch from The Brothers Grimm (2005) was pretty cool.

 

The MFF Podcast #192: Avengers: Endgame and Tacos

May 6, 2019

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

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The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re talking about the 2019 mega-blockbuster Avengers: Endgame. We love how the Russo Brothers did a fantastic job tying together 11 years and 22 films worth of Marvel shenanigans into one massively emotional package. We had a great time getting into all the spoilers and easter eggs featured in this three-hour epic. In this podcast, you will hear us talk about peanut butter sandwiches, tacos, beef jerky, beer, pizza, cheeseburgers and ice cream (food plays a major part in Endgame). If you are a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and food discussions, you will love this episode.

So many heroes….

If you are a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the pod!

You can download the pod on Itunes, StitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

John’s Horror Corner: Butterfly Kisses (2018), an excellent pseudo-meta-mockumentary about a documentary about found footage about an urban legend.

May 1, 2019

MY CALL: This multi-layered metamovie mockumentary was unexpectedly good, thoughtfully written and sincerely acted. Overall a big win for me. More like this please! MORE MOVIES LIKE Butterfly Kisses: For more mockumentary-esque for docu-gone-wrong horror I’d strongly recommend The Last Exorcism (2010) and Grave Encounters (2011). I’d also suggest Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) and Scream 1-4 (1996-2011).

This film’s opening had me fearful I was in for another The Bye Bye Man (2017) as we view footage from a film student’s (Rachel Armiger) senior thesis. She fears she’ll soon be dead because she doesn’t know how much longer she can go “without blinking” as I roll my eyes and the video ends. Then we abruptly cut from this found footage to the more congenial docu-style introduction to our investigative filmmaker protagonist Gavin (Seth Adam Kallick). He finds a box labeled “don’t watch” and waxes cheekily “isn’t that how all good horror movies start?” And what’s on the tapes? The raw, unedited footage of the film student’s project.

In both the film student’s footage and the Gavin’s documentary about that footage, candidly presented witness and expert testimonials cultivate endearing asides explaining the back story, history and rules of The Peeping Tom—a deadly folklore entity. But the student’s recordings cannot be easily connected to many real people (e.g., the ophthalmologist), bringing into question the legitimacy of the film student’s work… and the subsequently Gavin’s work as well. So Gavin is now investigating whether the now-dead student was fabricating or telling the truth that she saw The Peeping Tom, as Gavin’s critics wonder the same of him.

During Gavin’s frustrating journey, this film explores what the notion of “found footage” really implies down to questions of testing validity or proof of manipulation (or lack thereof). In a Crash Palace Productions interview (The Last Knock podcast) with director Erik Kristopher Myers (Roulette), it was explained that this is to found footage movies what Scream (1996) was to the slasher subgenre. I couldn’t agree more!

For a film I hadn’t heard of by a director I didn’t know about, this turned out to be quite a treat. Everything struck me as thoughtfully executed. There is almost no blood, one or two jumpy moments, and briefly-viewed disturbing imagery… but it was all more than enough. This film works through the gravity of the filmmaker, the actors’ performances (especially Seth Adam Kallick) and the excellent direction and editing.

Found footage gets a bad rap because the filming style lends itself to sloppy filmmaking and abysmal budgets. And with little required effort, a few films with poor writing and direction behind them can paint the subgenre’s canvas with crap. Even if you’ve never heard of this film until now, you really ought to just go watch it regardless of your opinion on found footage. This film is the very life preserver that the oft-scoffed subgenre needed!

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