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John’s Horror Corner: The Grudge 3 (2009), watchable but easily worst of the franchise (so far).

February 9, 2020

MY CALL: It’s not awful, but the overall quality has dropped notably from parts 1-2. I’d still call this an entertaining one-watch horror flick. It just lacks the impact of Takashi Shimizu’s hand. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Grudge 3: Well, The Grudge (2004), The Grudge 2 (2006), Ju-on: The Grudge (2002) and Ju-on: The Grudge 2 (2003) would be the best place to start; followed by The Ring (2002) and Ringu (1998), then Ju-on (2000) and Ju-on 2 (2000). There is also the second remake of The Grudge (2020) and Lights Out (2016).

FRANCHISE SIDEBAR: Her neck broken by her infuriated husband, an unfaithful woman’s spirit came to haunt the house of her death where the angry enraged spirit (Kayako) infected the subsequent occupants of the home and even the caretakers of their elderly mother. After yet more deaths, an international high school student Allison (Arielle Kebbel; The Uninvited) comes in contact with the spirit and brings it home to the United States in The Grudge 2 (2006). Then Kayako killed young Jake’s entire family in Chicago.

This third Grudge movie continues in the Chicago apartment building where The Grudge 2 (2006) ended. After the death of the occupants of apartment 305 (i.e., Jake’s family), the building superintendent hopes to rent the unit to Japanese visitor Naoko, who is secretly investigating the deaths (that occurred in Japan) for herself.

Traumatized and institutionalized after the events of The Grudge 2 (2006), young Jake (Matthew Knight; Skinwalkers, The Grudge 2) is overseen by Dr. Sullivan (Shawnee Smith; The Blob, Saw I-III/VI). Sullivan doesn’t believe his ghost story and poor Jake doesn’t last long with Kayako ever on the loose. The boy is utterly brutalized by Kayako, who slams him across his holding cell (like Shia LaBeouf in Constantine) to the tune of countless compound bone fractures. The scene is just plain mean, and even though the CGI is weak, the intensity sticks with you.

THE RULES: In The Grudge (2004) the haunting was limited to the house of origin. But in The Grudge 2 (2006) Kayako’s ghostly reach extended beyond her old haunt into the rest of Tokyo and even to Chicago… much as Freddy’s Revenge (1985) and The Ring 2 (2005). At that point, the Kayako and her cat-groaning son apparently became able to appear anywhere they wish whenever they wish. There don’t seem to be any rules governing their abilities or behavior. They can go where ever they please as long as it is in pursuit of those victims who have come into contact with them.

Our croaking ghost is back, staggering down hallways and scurrying across the floor like a sprayed roach, she’s behaving more like Samara (The Ring) than ever as she emerges through bleeding paintings and crawls toward scrambling victims. Meanwhile her cat-groaning little boy ghost is up to his old shenanigans as well… and that meowing kid gag is really getting old. Attempts at horror feel noticeably less inspired, and there isn’t much gore (just blood). The first director to take on Kayako since Takashi Shimizu (Ju-on 1-2, The Grudge 1-2, Flight 7500), Toby Wilkins (Splinter) fails pretty hard to deliver what franchise fans want.

Some of the visuals are shocking, but overall this strikes me as less scary or creepy than its two predecessors. And not that it’s awful, but the writing, acting/casting and direction have all dropped notably from parts 1-2. I’d still call this an entertaining one-watch horror flick. It just lacks the impact of Takashi Shimizu’s hand.

The MFF Podcast #250: The Thing, Kurt Russell's Beard and Squishy Noises

February 8, 2020

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker. (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere)

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

250 episodes! We’ve hit a major milestone, so naturally we had to talk about the absolute classic that is John Carpenter’s The Thing. We love The Thing, and think it’s a perfect film that features timeless special effects, great hats, beautiful beards and loads of suspense. In this episode, John Leavengood and I discuss blood tests, jerky aliens, and spaceship construction. Thank you for all the support! We hope you enjoy!

Best movie hat ever.

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 episode!

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean,or Spreaker.

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

So Creepy.

John’s Horror Corner: Jennifer’s Body (2009), the shockingly well-written, well-directed and well-acted movie where Megan Fox is a man-eating demon.

February 6, 2020

MY CALL: I can understand how this may sound like a cheesy raunchy flick about a sexy succubus. But you’d be wrong. This film is more layered and thoughtful than what occurred to me upon first viewing. It’s not sexist or misogynistic. This is an awesome horror film that loves its characters. MORE MOVIES LIKE Jennifer’s Body: For more supernaturally powerful women behaving badly, check out The Craft (1996), Carrie (2013), The Babysitter (2017).

What happens when a down-on-their luck indie band doesn’t follow all the instructions during their virgin sacrifice to win fame and fortune from Satan…? A demon-fueled high school cheerleader with a newfound appetite for boys’ souls to sustain herself and her glowing complexion. And sure, I can totally understand how this may sound to most like a cheesy raunchy trope-tired skin flick about a sexy succubus. But you’d be wrong.

Smartly written and boasting a great dry sense of humor, our story is recounted by Needy (Amanda Seyfried; Lovelace, Red Riding Hood). Friends since their sandbox youth, Needy and Jennifer (Megan Fox; Transformers, Jonah Hex, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) live an interesting symbiosis seesawing Needy’s sincerity and Jennifer’s desperate yet controlling codependence. And despite both being beautiful, Needy’s humility serves prey to Jennifer’s arrogant frailty.

Just a few scenes deep, it’s evident that the editing, storytelling and script are top notch with a style that seems to meld American Beauty (1999) and Mean Girls (2004)… but notably lower brow. Truly, this isn’t just a good horror movie—this is exemplary filmmaking. It saddens me that being a “horror film”, or worse a “horror comedy” about a man-eating succubus, likely cheapens its status among perfunctory movie raters. The “sex” scenes are not exploitative and don’t offer any nudity—at all. The sexuality is all in the social interpersonal dynamics of the characters. In fact, the sexuality reminds me very much of a contemporized Interview with a Vampire (1994), with Needy and Jennifer mirroring Louis and Lestat.

Actually, other aspects of this soul-devouring demon movie follow the tenets of vampirism. Jennifer has a frightful ghoul-like transformation phase (after emerging from her natural death) during which she projectile vomits evil ichor after trying to eat regular food; she uses sexuality to lure male victims to their demise (much as many monsters of folklore and mythology); she becomes invigorated and indestructible (i.e., regeneration) and looks vibrant after feeding, but looks anemic and weak when hungry; and she possesses a sensual love for her best friend.

Director Karyn Kusama (Aeon Flux, XX, The Invitation) impresses with every aspect of her filmmaking. Great photography and shots; the gore effects are sloppy and gross and awesome; and steering far from cheap jumpscare fare, there are many abruptly shocking moments. Jennifer’s demonic roar followed by projectile vomitous bile was an exquisitely shocking highlight.

And wow, the cast! Watch out for a deliciously sociopathic Adam Brody (Ready or Not, Yoga Hosers, Scream 4), a likably douche-y Chris Pratt (Jurassic World, Passengers, Guardians of the Galaxy), the hilariously deadpan J.K. Simmons (The Snowman, Dark Skies), and solid performances by Amy Sedaris (Stay, Strangers with Candy) and Kyle Gallner (A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Haunting in Connecticut, Red State, The Cleanse).

I find this film to be much more layered and thoughtful than what occurred to most (including myself) upon first viewing. It’s not sexist or misogynistic, it’s not basic, it’s not just some flick. This is an awesome horror film that loves its characters.

The Lodge: An Excellent Horror Film That is Haunting and Memorable

February 6, 2020
Poster courtesy of Neon

The Lodge is an atmospheric horror film that explores grief, loneliness and what happens when you’re stuck with your significant other’s kids inside a snowed in lodge for several days. It’s a dread-filled experience that features a beautiful looking descent into insanity, and it proves directors Veronkia Franz and Severin Fiala (Goodnight Mommy) have become experts of creating psychological horror films that revolve around isolation, paranoia and static camera shots that create oppressive worlds (I wish I had the money for the Panasonic Primo and Ultra Speed MK II lenses used throughout the film).

To dive into spoilers would be doing you a disservice. Just know that The Lodge is about an irresponsible dad named Richard (Richard Armitage) leaving his two children Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHigh) alone in a remote lodge with his soon-to-be-fiance Grace (Riley Keough). The kids dislike Grace, and blame her for their mother’s suicide (it’s a dark movie), so, naturally their time alone with her is not ideal (in a neat bit of foreshadowing, they watch John Carpenter’s The Thing together). Throw in the fact that Grace was the only survivor of a mass-suicide that was spearheaded by her cult leader father when she was 12, and you have a recipe for some cold weather mayhem.

What makes The Lodge so effective is the cinematography by Thimios Bakatakis (Dogtooth, The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) He makes the best of the tight corridors and long halls in the lodge by using a 1.85:1 aspect ratio (as opposed to the widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio) to make the cabin hallways and rooms seem tall, ominous and empty. I love how the camera stays mostly static, and alternates between wide shots and closeups that successfully create anxiety and dread.

The production design by Sylvain Lemaitre (Small Crimes, Turbo Kid) is also excellent, as the red Christmas decorations stand out amongst the grey clouds and brown walls. Also, the warm colors emitted by the lamps, and slivers of light that shine through the frosted windows create a homey-yet-cold vibe that works well within the scarcely decorated lodge. I never thought I’d say this, but, the purposefully drab colors made me miss the clean, open, and sunlight-drenched interior design of the modernist home in Goodnight Mommy. Both movies are terrifying, but, at least you’d get a tan while going through the terrible ordeal in Goodnight Mommy.

The Lodge is an oppressively bleak film (in a good way) that doesn’t pull punches or look for easy ways out. Despite it’s bleak tone, I found it to be more accessible and human than Goodnight Mommy, and I found myself dreading the outcome because I liked the people involved. If you are looking for an excellent horror film, I totally recommend The Lodge.

John’s Horror Corner: The Devil’s Rain (1975), a slow-paced classic with melty-goopy grossness, William Shatner and… a young John Travolta?

February 3, 2020

MY CALL: Of all the 70s classics worthy of study, respect and revisiting—this is not among them. I’d only recommend this for the fun of seeing young Shatner and Skerritt, and a few deliciously gross melting people covered in fleshy pancake batter. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Devil’s Rain: For more goopy gross factor flicks, I’d suggest Slime City (1988), Street Trash (1987) and The Blob (1988).

IMDB—“A Satanist cult leader is burnt alive by the local church. He vows to come back to hunt down and enslave every descendant of his congregation, by the power of the book of blood contracts, in which they sold their souls to the devil.”

When I generally think of 1970s horror, I don’t expect much in the way of special effects. But this movie, God bless it, opens with a melty-faced man in the first scene! And for a 70s PG movie, his face is a gooey gross melting mess!

This movie starts so fast it feels like a sequel. Before being reduced to a pile of bubbling gobbledy-gook (a la Gremlins) on Mark Preston’s (William Shatner; A Christmas Horror Story, American Psycho II, Incubus) front porch, he warns that some guy named Corbis (Ernest Borgnine; Escape from New York, Willard, Deadly Blessing) demands what is his: a powerful book! After Mark is captured by Corbis, Tom Preston (Tom Skerritt; Alien, Poltergeist III, Contact) comes seeking his disappeared family and finds himself facing Corbis’ cult alone in a ghost town.

Shatner (above) and a young John Travolta (below; The Fanatic, Carrie).

Those proselytized to Satan have their eyes melted away (a weak special effect) making them look more sinister while carrying out Corbis’ orders. But after the opening scenes of the film, the pacing becomes quite sluggish and the action is exceptionally boring. Such pacing was typical of the 70s, though.

Whereas we started out strong with a gross gory scene, the majority of the film is pretty boring and, honestly, not even effective as a Satanic Panic era flick. The story isn’t interesting either. The movie’s only saving grace is that which essentially lulled me into buying it: a great cast and a single great gore gag (at the beginning and end of the movie). At least the end scene is loaded with slimy melting Satanists with green goop draining from their eyes and their pulsating life-drained corpses. It’s really gross.

And maybe that’s the virtue of director Robert Fuest’s (The Abominable Dr. Phibes, And Soon the Darkness) pink pancake batter movie. This may just be the grossest movie of the 70s.

The MFF Podcast #249: Predicting the 2010 Academy Awards

February 3, 2020

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker. (or wherever you listen to podcasts…..we’re almost everywhere)

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

The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re predicting the 2010 Academy Awards. We figured too many people were predicting the 2020 winners, so we went back in time to pick our favorite 2009 films that were up for Academy Awards. In this episode, we come up with terrible nicknames for actors, ponder if Avatar is better than Hurt Locker, and make 100% correct predictions. Enjoy!

Will Christoph Waltz win?

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 episode!

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsTune In,  Podbean,or Spreaker.

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

Will Bigelow win again?

MFF Special: Dolph Lundgren is Really Good in Universal Soldier

January 31, 2020

By 1991, Dolph Lundgren was already a worldwide action movie star with movies like Rocky IV, Masters of the Universe, Red Scorpion, The Punisher and Showdown in Little Tokyo (watch this clip now) under his black belt. The problem was, none of these films let him string together more than several lines at a time (he only had nine lines in Rocky IV). His thick Swedish accent, scared off many writers from giving him showstopping monologues, and his roles largely relied on his large frame and ability to punch or front-kick stuntmen into oblivion.

That’s where Universal Soldier writers Richard Rothstein, Christopher Leitch and Dean Devlin come into play. They weren’t afraid to give the brilliant Swede a monologue in their bonkers action film, and in 1992, the Fulbright scholar, who had a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Sydney, proved to the world that he could break any dialogue given to him. Here’s a transcript of the monologue from The Roland Emmerich directed (Independence Day, Midway) Universal Soldier.

“God damn it the whole fucking platoon’s dropping like flies! What the hell are you staring it? Do you have any idea what it’s like out there? Do you? Well I’m fighting this thing man, it’s like kick ass, or kiss ass, and I’m busting heads! It’s the only way to win this fucking war. And these shitheads, these yellow traitoring motherfuckers. They’re everywhere. And I, Sergeant Andrew Scott of the US Army, I’m gonna teach ’em all.”

Right now, you are probably thinking “huh?” and did he really say “yellow tratoring motherfuckers?”  Well, considering the movie is about two soldiers who killed each other in Vietnam, and resume their battle in 1992, after they’ve been Frankensteined into super-soldiers, the dialogue makes sense. Dolph’s character, Andrew Scott,  suffered a mental break in 1969, went on a homicidal rampage, and was killed by Jean-Claude van Damme’s character Luc Deveraux (who also died in the fight). Years later, after being turned into Unisols (universal soldiers), the two go on a rampage and try to kill each other again. During one of their skirmishes, several of the red-shirt Unisols are injured and Scott drags them into a supermarket freezer to heal (ice or freezing temperatures heal their wounds). While in the supermarket, he unleashes the unexpected speech that you read above, and we’re fairly certain it confused/enthralled everyone in the audience who had never heard him string that many sentences together.

Take a look at his expression when he leans in towards the man with the cowboy hat. The quick look to the side and raised eyebrows are inspired and more than anyone expected.

After he says “They’re everywhere” Dolph’s body language is excellent as he slowly turns, and skulks away with hunched shoulders. It’s the body language of a Frankensteined-super soldier who still thinks he’s in Vietnam and is monologuing to a captive audience inside a rural supermarket.

Soon after, several unlucky officers run into the store and are killed by Scott. This is how he caps off the murder spree.

You can tell Dolph loved this moment and he did he best to create a nuanced and well-acted moment in a bonkers action film. Compared to JCVD’s work, Dolph deserves an Oscar.

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