Without a doubt, The Blob is one of those classic time capsules which get better with age. For 1958, it was rare to think a B movie like this would escape the bonds of being a cheap trick and make its way to Hollywood fame. The premise is simple, almost every character feels organic and it has a lasting nostalgic charm that keeps everything fresh with every view.
A meteor falls into a small town which contains a jelly-like goo that gets bigger with every victim it consumes. And that’s all you need to know. There is more to The Blob with the characters and some raising stakes, but that is about as basic as it gets. This movie was created in a time when monsters were more campy and less scary. Famed creatures, like Universal’s Gill Man or Harryhausen’s Ymir, got born in an age when atomic warfare was more frightening than a rubber monster. Obviously, the tone of horror shifted from trying to scare audiences into something more fun and goofy. Some of them worked while others didn’t. Still, Blob was able to break through the mold of cliche 1950s monsters films.
For one, the characters are actually much smarter than they appear. A group of teenagers actually plan things out and try to be one step ahead. True, they drag race and enjoy a late night scary movie from the local theater, but that’s who they are. If these kids walked around and said stale, brainy dialogue, then we wouldn’t buy it. Everyone speaks with a natural flow and feel like average people we can see in real life. Even the police are more than just the typical “biased adults” who think there is a prank going on. Once in a while, there is an officer that debates wither these kids are telling the truth about a monster giving actual reasons and theories.
Steve McQueen leads on and does a great job being the intimidating yet heroic Steve Andrews. He’s the kind of kid that doesn’t mess around. Sometimes, he enjoys a good race on the road, but is always street smart. He’s the guy you want to root for and see save the day. At times, the delivery of his dialogue is a tad stiff, but I feel it adds to his “tough” attitude. It feels like watching a teenage Charlton Heston for some reason.
The special effects on the blob creature are something to be desired. There is a great range of miniatures and camera tricks to make you believe this monster is pulsating and alive. There’s not too much you see of the monster, but it adds tension. To think years later and silicone gel can make a frightening beast compared to today’s CGI. While primitive, there is something charming to see civilians running from a gelatinous monster who are trying to sell the fear.
The Blob has been celebrated so much, that my own opinion can’t do much justice. This film has become a staple of classic Americana to the point a yearly festival is performed called “Blobfest” and hosted in the town of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, one of the original location shoots. The movie gets screened in the local Colonial Theatre ,along with a re-enacting of the scene where moviegoers run out of the theater in terror. Not to mention, the actual gel used for the Blob effects has surprisingly survived over the years and is always on display during the event. It shows there is much love for this simple film which continues to expand from one generation to the next.
You would think a modern remake would tarnish and trash the impact of the original. However, there does exist a remake from 1988 which does a great job being its own kind of entertainment. This one reflects the time period when horror movies were gorier and increased the tension. There’s plenty of differences that extinguish both from each other which proves when remaking something, it’s ok to do something different.
The cast of characters are more stock, but there is a tongue-in-cheek feel to it. Ranging from a batch of randy teens to adults with morals, there are characters you still root for. The protagonist duties are switched from a local drag racer to a cheerleader played by Swawnee Smith and feels less like a damsel in distress. They do throw you for a loop at the start when you think her boyfriend is going to be the lead. But there is a nice little bait and switch that feels natural. It starts like the normal story with the goody-goody boy hoping to get the girl, until the story takes a different turn.
The script was a collaborative effort by director Chuck Russell, who also directed The Mask and Nightmare on Elm Street 3, and Frank Darabont, best known for directing The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption and even wrote some Tales from the Crypt episodes. The tone is self-aware and uses iconic moments from the original while adding new spins. For example, when the creature first crashes, we see this weird rock-like meteor sticking out of the ground. Later on, we see its really a round satellite that hosted the creature with debris on top. It keeps newcomers engaged while adding new twists that never diminish the enjoyment.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about the updates to the blob. It gets upgraded from alien jelly to a man-made biological weapon that moves quick and packs a gluttonous appetite. A wide rage of stop-motion and animatronics are used to bring this fierce creature to life. It adds more personality to the pink beast as it consumes one person after another changing all sorts of shapes. Again, the effects themselves relate to the time when practical effects were close to becoming a dying art.
It should be noted some of the blob effects were created by Lyle Conway, who did the Audrey II plant puppets for 1986’s Little Shop of Horrors. Originally, Little Shop ended with the plants taking over the world and eating up New York. The entire finale cost $5 million to produce and ended up getting scrapped for a happier ending. If anything, the scenes where the blob goes on a rampage almost feels like an apology for cutting a entire special effects finale where giant Venus flytraps destroy and scale a miniature Statue of Liberty.
The only thing that nearly ruins it for me is the secret government agents that get involved. The head agent, played by Joe Seneca, really wants to confine this beast and doesn’t care about sparing humanity in the process. It’s not a bad touch, but it feels a little “run of the mile” and cliche. A lot of this movie does play around with classic character tropes, but I almost feel like these agents could have tried to help others out in the process.
In the long run, I love both the original and remake on their own terms. Both Blobs have distinguishing elements to separate from each other while the remake doesn’t stray too far off. The original is your perfect popcorn entertainment, while the remake knows where to improve on things. Both versions reflect the time they were made in and their charm comes from what suits your film appetite. If you want a well-made B movie or a great special effects show from the 1980s, there is a lot of variety here from both.
That’s right everyone! The Horror-Wood Blog-a-thon is finally back. A mini-marathon of horror movie reviews to serve as your personal home video guide for what to check out. I’ve been trying to keep it as some form of tradition after I first launched it back in 2014. Unfortunately, I didn’t seem to factor in how busy my life would be. 2015’s marathon didn’t quite finish and it sort of left me a bit empty.
This time I’m bringing it back, but there are some certain rules I’m applying to accommodate with my new free time and other work I have. Instead of a straight forward 31 blog post, there will be only 13. That calculates to 3 a week with one specially saved for Halloween. I don’t want to overwork myself. There’s a special video in the works for Jaimetud’s “special” Halloween video and one (non-Vaulting related) video I hope to get out next month.
The chosen films will be centered around one basic theme; cult classics. We are digging into the strange and weird abyss of cult classics. These range form ones you never heard of, some you pass by at the bargain bin or perhaps you have no idea these existed. I might toss in a TV series or two for variety, but the whole idea is to really get titles I’m hopeful few have heard of it. If you have heard of them, I’m certain you might want to know my two cents then.
Considering I’m also a contributor to Manic-Expression.com, I will also be posting my Horror-Wood blog posts just for a little share. For those on Manic-Expression reading this, you can get an idea of what the past blog-a-thons were like by heading over to BlockbusterChronicles.Wordpress.com.
13 films within one ghoulish month! The fun begins October 2nd! Tune in….won’t you?
I think I just saw a movie. Then again, I’m not sure if I should call it a movie. The more the minutes lingered, “Boo! A Madea Halloween” felt more like an out of body experience desperate to find at least some humor. One joke to hang onto despite a soulless effort to make use of the holiday. Tyler Perry stated in interviews he’s not a fan of ghosts, witches or anything creepy crawly. A shame as the trailers advertise scenes of everyone’s favorite granny punching clowns and running away from zombies. If one thinks this will be a big “monster mash,” you will be disappointed to find its really a lame pumpkin smash.
The main plot relies on Brian Simmons (Tyler Perry) and his inability to control his bratty daughter. He crushes his daughter’s plan to go out and party at a nearby fraternity by having Madea watch her. As expected, Brown’s daughter sneaks out and the granny is not happy. Armed with her two friends and brother, Madea seeks justice in a plot that really goes nowhere. I shouldn’t be surprised as that tends to happen in most of these movies. There seems to be a spark of an idea but somehow gets lost in a sea of meandering subplots and running jokes.
First, we get the fraternity and their big Halloween bash as every teen acts like a stereotype from Animal House or a watered down gang that boozes on beer and sex. While we don’t see any beer glasses touch lips, the writing for these characters gets irradiating with a one sided view on the modern teenager. The kind who is constantly saying a bunch of suffer talk in a masculine way, but acts all tough. The only time the fraternity got interesting is when they try to wise up (say if, someone under-aged appears at their party) and take responsibility. But even then, this action would immediately backfire when they decide to do something completely irresponsible like intense pranking.
This leads into one of the biggest problems of the whole movie. It seems to be really centered on the idea that a prank gone too far can have serious consequences. And honestly, I’m ok with stuff like that. The way its being handled is what I can’t tolerate. Without spoiling too much, certain characters will go out of their way to do these elaborate pranks against each other wither it be staging a zombie apocalypse or the death of a main character. I understand the morale value behind this subplot, but it wears the welcome too much. It even trails into an unnecessary 15 minutes near the end which completely contradicts the “other” main message.
And that is the other big problem I have which is the main theme of parenting. Most of the Madea movies center on a certain theme from second chances to dysfunctional families. “Madea Halloween” tries to examine the idea of what is good parenting and bad parenting. But it gets a set of mixed messages when you have jokes about how to beat a child up wrapped around a climax when Brian finally gets the idea of how to discipline your kid. I’m all for the idea of show and even discussing the limits of child discipline. Yet everything goes back and forth on key jokes like Brian talking to Uncle Joe about a time when Joe tossed him off the roof to learn a lesson. Material like this is not funny and bogs down the message to the point it will feel like a beating to the head or exhaust itself.
I can’t remember a single character I liked from this movie. They were all annoying, irradiating and even some that got under my skin a lot. Madea was never funny or interesting to me. I get the reason why people love this character, but I always find her to be too mean spirited at times. And it doesn’t help when you have her force out this morale message of kids respecting parents when immediately afterwards has a entire sequence when she does something mean to others. I know the purpose why she does (I can’t say without spoiling), but it sort of goes against those moments when the character has a heartfelt morale to say.
As for the others, I really couldn’t care less. Uncle Joe is the perverted senior that’s always trying to say some kind of catchphrase or dirty joke. Aunt Bam has this running gag about being able to legal smoke marijuana which gets old. Hattie is the comic relief with the annoying voice that keeps mispronouncing words just for a gag. The biggest offender I found was really Brian and his daughter. I get they are trying to build this arc over how he can’t manage to connect or even maintain control of his daughter. But when we get to their moment when they recoup, it feels manipulated after a slew of exposition on why Brian is inept over taking charge. And for someone his age, Brian should at least be able to know his daughter this well.
There were only two times I actually did snicker during “A Madea Halloween.” Once at a gag when Bam steals candy from kids and a comment from Uncle Joe about Madea having a prostate. Those jokes only worked because of the delivery of the humor and the ideas behind these two jokes. Everything else I recall is material about being harsh on child discipline and fraternity boys learning responsibility the hard way. There is nothing else I can remember that was remotely investing outside of the advanced technical work giving us the ability to see three Tyler Perry characters in one shot. I know there is an audience for Madea, but I’m not one of them.
“Boo! A Madea Halloween” left me feeling empty and dumb down to the point my mind felt numb. The morale is mixed between cynical humor and taking responsibility to the point it feels kinda calculated. Tyler Perry said his movies were meant for entertainment and not to be thought too heavily on. My criticism to that is when you force a morale like that amidst jokes of spanking and child beating, there will be mixed signals. There are better things to watch this Halloween season and this movie is no treat. I wouldn’t even recommend a single frame to anyone. The only positive about this whole thing was that I saw this Madea movie at my local cinema on Bargain Tuesday for $6. Because it would have been a whole lot scarier if I paid to see this for full admission price.
Well folks, it happens to be that time of year again. Halloween is upon us and I’m sure everyone is wondering what is the perfect horror movie to watch on the dark season. Now is that time again to dig through the cult classics and the crummy B-movies to bring you another 2nd Annual Horror-Wood Blog-a-thon! Last year I felt was a success despite some hiccups. This time around, I want to go deeper into the classics while also giving some titles I wanted to do last year but never got the chance or enough time to expose.
There will be some franchises that will get a look at but not all the sequels will be discussed. Or sometimes, I’ll devote a day to a certain film. Its all about time and effort on this one. If that’s not enough, I’ll also toss in some modern horror films to see how well they hold up. We’re talk about ones that get praised like mad masterpieces or torn to shreds. From kaiju to demented doctors, this will not just be a big year but also a solid line-up.
It all begins this October 1st. 31 days of 31 blog posts. I barley made it last time around. Now let’s see if I can go all the way this year! The personal “Horror Movie Guide” is back so get ready for some real tricks and treats this time around!!!
To describe the Evil Dead franchise in one word would have to be cheese. Good, old-fashioned cheese that ages over time to be appreciated by a new generation. Its unlike any other film series that gets gradually different in its sequels even if there is two and one recent film that is both a reboot and remake while having some connection as a continuing entry. While the tone of the series does change within each installment, each one goes from different and fresh ideas while straying away from the uncanny valley of degrading the series like Teenage Mutant Ninjia Turtles or the RoboCop films. Instead, the tone of the film is downgrading but still keeping that enjoyable energy that existed in the first one.
The Evil Dead started as a short film made by Sam Raimi in hopes of expanding it to feature length. It certainly drummed up interest with investors and as a result, we got one of the most important horror films of the genre. Sure the plot is basic but what makes it scary is how the terror progresses. Its the traditional group of college students that go to a cabin in the woods for their spring break. But what they find there is a book called the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis that is said to be the Book of the Dead. As it turns out a professor was trying to analyze it but ended up releasing a gruesome batch of evil spirits upon the woods. Well as you can imagine, these five university fall victim to the demons that lurk in the small house as one by one they get possessed and try to survive till morning.
The center of the movie is a character named Ash played by Bruce Campbell who would later be known for this series and many other films to numerous to name. It was this series that jettisoned his career as a B-movie king of the 1980s and 1990s. Its also interesting to note the journey his character goes through from each film. Here, he is a basic student that is trying to make sense of what’s going on and attempt to stop the evil. We do root for him seeing how big of a leader he becomes near the end when stuff hits the fan.
The biggest highlight are the scares and boy, does it get frightening. I’m tempted to compare how terrifying it is to today’s standards but it basically Diet Coke to Rob Zombie’s movies. Back then, it was really pushing. The gore goes straight to the jugular without being subtle like a pencil to the ankle to one getting molested by a tree. And yes, you heard me right. A character gets groped and….well, it would be too much to describe in words but I think you get the picture. The whole movie is one fest of twisted scenarios that seem like they would come from your deepest nightmares. Sure the movie was shot with a low budget and on 16mm film but the way its executed feels very gritty and brash like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Its like watching a grindhouse movie that’s been washed off with Windex while being dipped in dark chocolate. It doesn’t feel too polished nor too amateurish.
As impressive as this entry is, I often don’t find myself turning to it a lot. Instead, I often jump to its sequel Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn and I think I have a good reason why. Rather than be straight-up horror, it goes for some camp vaule to keep the series fresh and new. And it was in this direction the series would take in being goofy popcorn fun but the good kind. It picks up where the last one ended as Ash is still stuck in the cabin but this time the group of demons labeled as “Deadites.” This entry is split into two as the first half focuses on the Ash character trying to survive the horrors of the cabin while the second half is set on a new character. The professor’s daughter Annie returns with extra pages from the Necronomicon but finds that the whole party is dead with the doctor’s wife resurrected into an ugly hag of a Deadite in the cellar.
Ash has to face new problems now as the two try to stop the evil that lurks in the woods, Ash’s possessed girlfriend and at one point his own hand. I’m not kidding. His own hand gets too evil to the point he has to lob it off with a chainsaw. To keep this from being two gruesome, the fights between Ash and his dismembered hand play off like a Tom and Jerry cartoon as he chases it down with a shotgun but his hand literally keeps getting the “upper hand.” What keeps this from being darker like its predecessor is how it goes for comedy and less horror. There are some scares but its played up for laughs more. For example, there’s one scene where a Deadite’s eyeball is knocked out of its socket and lands into someone’s mouth. On paper, it sounds gross but the execution makes it funny. We embrace its fake strings and how ridiculous it looks to the point we can’t help but laugh at how poorly constructed it looks but how they convince it as being serious makes it funny.
But the one fans known the best has to be Army of Darkness. Of all the entries in the series, I feel this one gets easily recognized a lot when you consider its premise and again, the tone it goes for. Like Evil Dead 2, it goes for horror comedy but its far more campier and obviously Stooge influenced. Again, it picks up from the last installment where Ash somehow gets transported back to the Middle Ages and is hailed as a hero after a Deadite encounter. Yes, apparently the place is amok with Deadites as they try to take over King Arthur’s castle. Ok, he’s known as “Lord” Arthur but why not? Its meant to be a crazy take on A Confederate in King Arthur’s Court with demonic zombies.
Ash demands to go home as his hero stasis goes from every man to reluctant hero. He’s told there is a copy of the Necronomicon in this time period which has the ability to take him back home but in obtaining it, he unleashes the evil spirits within the process. Now, he can’t return home until he puts the demonic beasts to rest and this is where things really get good. The climatic finale is a huge highlight as an evil version of Ash (long story, don’t ask) resurrects an army of decaying corpses and skeletons to take siege on the castle. There’s a wide variety of special effects and stop-motion animation that give it a Ray Harryhausen feel when the animated skeletons ram a log at the front doors or when they are sword fighting. Even though its obvious, the way the actors treat this as something serious makes it enjoyable and it feels like everyone is having a good time without being too self-aware.
There’s a director’s cut of this film with 15 minutes of extra footage that I highly recommend checking out. There’s more character development, more humorous scenes that got cut from the theatrical version, more battle footage I’m surprised to see got trimmed and even an alternate ending. Like Little Shop of Horrors, its bleak in concept but hilarious considering how you know the character Ash is easy to mess something up like the instructions of drinking a potion to get him back home. In the theatrical version, its changed so he gets home safe and still be a hero of his time. I’m honestly fine with both endings but part of me likes the one in the extended version slightly more just for how absurdly funny it is. But I can’t say this version is all around perfect. It goes use alternate takes of certain moments that I feel play down the campy quality. The infamous “Good… bad…I’m the guy with the gun” is swapped with a line that is less effective. There’s at least two instances where it does that surprisingly downplay the silly tone. Its hard to describe why but I feel those moments really add to the comedic quality Army of Darkness goes for.
Now of course, I have to talk about the new film because it has some connections to the old films or at least there will be in the future. The 2013 entry titled “Evil Dead” serves as a reboot and a remake while acting like a new entry. To compare, there was the 2011’s “The Thing” which was meant to be a prequel to John Carpenter’s film but at times felt confused if it was meant to be a remake of the classic or fill in the loose holes that I felt didn’t need to be. “Evil Dead,” however, avoids that trap by going in a fresh direction that pays homage to the series while giving it a new spin. Most critics treat this with a positive to mixed reception but I feel this is a superior entry that doesn’t tarnish what the franchise has done.
Sure it rehashes the teens going to the woods to party but with new twists. Instead, they go there to help one of their friends to quit her drug addiction in hopes of reconciling with old friends. This is a bit of a nitpick but why take someone like that to a desolate place in the woods is beyond me. You could argue they are trying to keep her away from things like social interaction with druggies via in person or by phone but it feels a little off when you think about it too much. Either way, the group comes across the Book of the Dead and this time a wide variety of horrid things in the basement. These are images I will tell you know that still haunt me like animal corpses in the basement or how freaky the Deadite act when they posses a victim. Even the infamous “tree scene” is one-uped with such a subtle yet disgusting concept that is far too frightening to describe here or even talk about.
In short, “Evil Dead” lives up to its advertising moniker as being “the most terrifying film you will ever experience.” It goes straight for the horror and doesn’t hold back. It makes John Carpenter’s The Thing look like a whoopie pie in comparison to the truckload of blood and gore. Its not too bad to the point where it feels like a snuff film. I’m not talking about guts getting torn out or sick stuff like that that. But the violence is so over the top to the point we are more fixed on how realistic it feels and less laughing about the cheesy execution in the effects. Its like a Tom Savini wet dream of special effects. Think George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead but a tad extreme. I am happy to see that all of the special effects are 90% of the time practical. Director Fede Alvarez confirmed in an interview that most of “what you will see is real, which was really demanding… There’s a reason people use CGI; it’s cheaper and faster, I hate that. We researched a lot of magic tricks and illusion tricks.” Its a true testament to what practical effects can do. And I mean a true testament. Everything looks and feels real with we see an arm getting lobbed off with an electric kitchen utensil or a Deadite getting split in half vertically with a chainsaw. Its an insane film but I have a hard time recommending it for others.
And when I mean others, I mean those who really have a weak stomach. What I feel is missing is the humor that made the previous sequels all the more enjoyable. This soaks in its horror and doesn’t step back. From beginning to end, its an intense adrenaline rush that might turn some viewers off. I know from experience seeing I saw this with my sister and mother. While my sister enjoyed how insane the violent scenes where, I felt more bad from my mother who kept looking at her smartphone hoping the gory scenes would end. And it doesn’t help either that she’s not on top of movies like this so I best recommend this one with a warning. For those who can really stomach such much hard violence and like a gory film, you won’t be disappointed. Those with weak stomachs, might want to stick with Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. Even though Evil Dead II can get violent, its never to the point of being gory and is more played for laughs.
Its funny to see a film series where I barley can think of an entry that I honestly disliked. Maybe the magic of this one is just how each entry acts like its own film to the point we treat them different varieties of chips or soda. Even Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness open with a recap while changing things around so viewers can be enlightened on what they missed. It really adds on to the fun factor of each one as they kept pushing the cult campy tone while show just how fun these movies can really become. It shows you can make a horror movie with mindless laughs and fun concepts that I feel are missing from some of today’s movies. All in all, I highly recommend checking out all of them with the exception of the new “Evil Dead” in case you want something different but still keeping with the roots of the series.
John Carpenter’s The Thing is by far one of my all-time favorite horror movies. Its the movie that got me back into the horror genre during college and got me thinking there is much more than a monster to make a movie scary. Its that good to the point I feel one single analysis can’t do it justice. It needs to be seen to be believed to know just how all the tension and craft is perfect. I can’t think of another time when I felt so satisfied with a horror movie like this. There’s a lot to talk about but I will try to cover what works so well.
I guess I should start by saying its based on John W. Campbell’s novella titled Who Goes There, which depicts a group of scientists in Antarctica that are trapped with a alien that can assimilate and mimic its victims. It was later adapted loosely into The Thing from Another World where the beast was humanoid but was able to grow limbs back and be something close to a walking vegetable. But the strange thing is that this adaption takes place in the North Pole as opposed to the novella’s South Pole placement. Unfortunately, I was unable to get time to view this version but I have heard before its been highly praised as a science fiction classic. Perhaps next year I will get the chance to bring a deep review but for now, let’s discuss the 1982 adaption.
Its funny how John Carpenter’s take really reflects the darker aspects of the novella by not only being set in Antarctica but also having the creature being able to assimilate its victims. The creature effects were done by Rob Bottin and he really pushes the limitations of what practical effects can do. When the Thing starts to shapeshift and “devour” what ever it comes into contact with, its absolutely disgusting. Instead of seeing its true form, we can a hint when it starts to consult its various forms. There are times when it forms into a blob of organs and times when it mutates into such nightmarish forms that are far too horrific to even mention here. In short, the creature is nasty while being a show stopper at the same time. You really have to admire just how much effort was put into the anamatronics. Gore fans won’t be disapointed.
The characters we get are also interesting too. Carpenter regular Kurt Russell leads the team of scientists as MacReady who is not only anti-social but alienates himself a lot from the group. Is it out of fear for tolerance among the group or is he bad at socialization? That’s what makes his character interesting. As cold as the snows and ice of Antarctica gets, so does his thoughts on humanity and doomed he feels about it later. At the very least, he plays it smart knowing that anyone could be inhumane. Even himself. Expectations are played so much that we wonder if he’s truly alien himself or just to those around him.
Some viewers of today might be uneasy to see an all male cast instead of something more co-ed like Alien but I think it works. The fact these guys have been out of society for so long raises the stakes when the creature appears. Being out in the tundra could drive one insane seeing how little interaction there is out there. The pace of the movie is slow on first watch but on repeated viewings you start to realize its part of the atmosphere of the film. It sets you in the mood considering how chilling and cold a place like this can really be.
Its a much darker film and its a nice change of pace seeing the original 1951 version set in the suspense well. But it does make some reference to the original movie as some form of sequel which is more interesting itself when they discover the remnants of the alien are from a Norweigian camp site. This is a really great scene from the movie as our characters look through the burnt down base. We don’t need flashbacks or an explanation. The images of fozen corpses and a block of ice where the creature burst out of is all we really need.
Speaking of which, its interesting we never get to see the Thing in its true form. There are hints along the way with how huge and twisted it looks but we don’t know if its trying to form into what it really is or just constantly morphing. There was originally a bigger climax that alludes to its original form with the use of stop-motion animation by David Allen and it does look impressive But unfortunately, most of the animation was left on the cutting room floor when John Carpenter felt the effect was too obvious and less seamless with the Rob Bottin puppet. In the final cut, a few seconds remain but the full sequence can be seen on the DVD as a bonus.
Perhaps the less said about this one, the better because this movie is too good of an opinion. Its a pity it didn’t do well at the box office and I can understand why. With today’s movies and TV shows relying on darker elements, its fair to say that The Thing was way ahead of its time. Over time, it has grew a better appreciation with home video sales and given the audience it truly deserves. What else can I say but this one is a true must watch.
Now there hasn’t been a sequel to this outside of video games and comic books but there was a prequel that came out in 2011. There were many proposed ideas before then to give it a franchise feel like an abandoned Sci-Fi Channel miniseries. At first, I was hyped considering how much potential there was. This one was set before MacReady and the gang find out about the Norweigan campsite and also show what happened. I was even impressed to hear there would be English and Norwegian dialogue thinking it would get a foreign horror film feel. Well, I was unable to see it theaters but by the time I was able to rent it, I found myself to be really underwhelmed.
Not only does it answer questions and shows what happened at the campsite but it demystifies the Thing as a monster that is beaks and tentacles. It doesn’t explain its reason for being on Earth which is good but at times, it seems to appear too often than it should. In John Carpenter’s take, the Thing appeared not as frequent as the viewer was kept in suspense wondering who the alien would take next. In the prequel, the creature seems to pop out for no reason at times. Most notable is when a group is escaping in a helicopter and for no reason the Thing morphs out of its disguise and kills the crew. Why not wait till it goes to the base or why even bother transforming now? It doesn’t make any sense.
I expected the effects work to be CGI and was surprised to hear how at times they would use practical effects in certain scenes. Unless they blended the two well, all I say was mostly computer effects all the way. Shame seeing how great the effects in John Carpenter’s film were compared to this one which becomes more of a generic haunted house and less of an intense thrill ride. The characters are honestly forgettable to me. Outside of having a female in the group, that’s really about it. And the Norwegians I mentioned become easy “red-shirt” bait in the second half. Wouldn’t it been more interesting if they were all NOT American to heighten it? Its sounds ambitious but you never hear of a foreign film made by an American studio. It also doesn’t help we certain story elements that I feel harm the intense nature. Going inside the spaceship it came in really robs the mystery of the creature and I wasn’t a fan of seeing what many speculate as his “true form” near the end.
But the final nail in the coffin of crap is how THIS prequel is called The Thing. No subtitle or anything added on. Just “The Thing.” Its clear they wanted to cash in on the Carpenter classic and nothing else. Even weird is how at times I feel like I’m watching a remake of the Carpenter film and less of the prequel trying to be its own movie. It recycles everything from the dogs being assimilated to even the infamous blood test scene. Why bother labeling it a prequel when you do stuff like this anyway? Unlike how the original builds character and tension, this one just rushes the story to answer questions than give us time to take in the atmosphere or get to know a character before they are killed off. Its about as fast as how the Thing moves way too swiftly in this one. Bottom line, skip it. Stick with the Carpenter film for something truly chilling and really on the edge of your seat terror.
Invaders from Mars is very much the “poor man’s” version of War of the Worlds. Its ironic as well seeing both Invaders and the 1953 adaption of War of the Worlds came out on the same year while months apart from each other. It follows the general archetype of 1950 science fiction that was in full bloom at the time with cheap looking monsters and cheesy storylines. But to be fair, this movie does have some charm and holds very well but only in the first two thirds.
Child actor Jimmy Hunt plays a kid that grows suspicious of the strange behavior his parents are having. They act like their in a cold and hostile personality and have a strange mark on the back of their necks. A lot of tension is built up to the point where its revealed that his folks are under the mind control of aliens hiding out not too far form his backyard. The way Jimmy’s performance of the character David is very well executed and is what holds this movie together. Its from the perspective of a kid and at the time, not many movies or science fiction stories had children as the protagonists. So I give props for going in a different direction on trying to be innovative in the storytelling.
Once we get the reason behind his parent’s odd actions, we go underground to find Earth is to be invaded by some very cheap looking Martians. The design alone looks very laughable on first sight. I understand this was all before anamatronics and CGI but even for back then this looked hilarious. Apparently, David is menaced by green-pajama monsters with buggy eyes and a leader who looks like a head in a jar with cheap tentacles sticking out. Its just downright laughable. On the upside, the scenes in the underground Martian tunnels do have a strange surreal quality to it. Almost like its the dream of a child and his interpretation of things. In that way, it works but I still feel let down considering how much tension is built around this kid trying to evade his brainwashed parents.
Even stranger is the ending which uses the “it was dream or is it” motif and feels really tagged on for a cheap scare. Oddly enough, the ending had to be re-filmed when it was being released in Britain because of the many objections the UK distributor had with it. In that version, its a straight forward conclusion and even so it still feels a bit tagged on. Even more interesting are a few extra scenes added in like a planetarium sequence with more charts and pictures and odd enough are moments when Jimmy Hunt appears to have grown a few inches with more hair. Its obvious these scenes where shot after the film’s release in the US.
Overall, I don’t think its the best invaders film to exist but it does have an iconic look and feel to it. Right down to the idea of having a young protagonist is clever enough because it puts you in that mind set when you were young and had a presence to the world. I still say the last third is unfortunately laughable when you consider the amount of stock footage used and the cheapness starts to show. And its as shame seeing how engaging it feels up to its big moment when you see the Invaders. Its an ok movie that was in need of improvements.
Now here is where the Tobe Hooper remake comes in and its a very different movie. Even right down to the tone, its easy to say its vastly improved and surprisingly darker than its cheaper predecessor. The story is very much the same with a lot of differences. Hunter Carson plays David, a kid with a crazy imagination and Hunter’s acting is surprisingly good. He really puts you in that time when we were kids and our imaginations would just run wild. You really start to root for him from beginning to end and is easily likable from the start.
The way his parents act after being brainwashed is a huge step up and far creepier. In the original, they acted melodramatic and cold while the remake really pushes it. Not only they have a robotic quality but goes as far to have strange quirks like cook and eat bacon that burned all the way to black without questioning its taste. The remake also adds a new character which raises the stakes. Louise Fletcher plays a teacher that acts like a teacher with a grouchy attitude but slowly you start to realize she’s not only brainwashed by the aliens but succeeds in being the teacher from Hell. This is the person we love to hate. She seeks after David like a bounty hunter and feels like a huge threat. Even in one scene we see her devour a frog in such disgust that this review simply can’t do justice to describe.
Of course, the Martians are going to easily the biggest thing to get improved. Here, creature effects were done by Stan Winston and John Dykstra who succeed in making an alien design that not only absurd but frightening and memorable. I like the idea of how it resembles a big head with arms and legs but that’s not the interesting part. According to an issue of Cinefantastique that did a feature article, it required two people in the heavy monster suits and they had walk backwards. But it gets better. It required someone with the strength of a bodybuilder to move the giant puppet and a little man inside the mouth area to move the jaws up and down. I am dead serious about this. The thought of having a big hulking guy with a small person strapped to him walking backwards is just strange yet humorous to me. But it shows just how much creativity and effort it took to bring such amazing monsters to life.
The lead of the Martians is giving a huge upgrade as he goes from a squid head to a giant brain. Its an obvious and generic choice but what works is the design. It almost reminds me of Krang from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon and I like how it has small flippers for hands in the front. Again the creature effects are a big highlight and huge upgrade from the original film. Its nice to see a practical effect in an era before computer effects start to show a cheaper way to do monsters.
While I appreciate the remake more for improving the special effects and increasing the tension in a good way, I will say its a movie that’s not for everyone. There’s some dumb moments here and there like the idea that the alien’s weapons are coin-operated that might turn some people off. I will say first and for most that if a B-movie is what you want, its what you get. The 1986 remake is meant to be over-the-top and out of control but still maintains that childhood charm of how something so simple like a tree outside your window can be scary at night. Director Tobe Hooper of Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame knew what he was clearly doing. He wasn’t going to rehash the same movie again but create a version that reflects the era its in as well as do something different. Both movies are decent but I feel the remake is a vast improvement. Its edgier, darker and great funhouse ride that I can’t help but have a soft spot for. But for those who want a remake of an alien movie with sophistication and “higher class,” come back tomorrow because you will be in for a treat…
With Halloween around the corner, I decided to try something different this year. Again, I plan to make more use of my blog and I still have a Vaulting episode around the corner. But I want to do something I never had the courage to do. And that is to commit to the ultimate blog-a-thon. And what better occasion than Halloween. The time of ghosts, goblins and spooks running about creating frolic and chaos. But also, this is when a curious movie goer would sit back and see the occasional horror flick. Only problem is that there are tons to choose from ranging in tone and style.
Well, no need to worry. Here at the Blockbuster Chronicles, we got the goods to recommend for this year and it will be done all in one month. Each day of October will be a different movie review or a review of a film franchise. Some from the past and some from today. Some that are campy and some that are garbage. This is sort of my personal “Horror Movie Guide” and I hope to do it each year seeing the big filmbuff I can be. Not only will there be a review but also behind the scenes triva, a brief look at its sequels or remakes depending on film and if I’ve seen them and also the cut stuff (after all, censorship was a big thing of horror films in the past so I feel its far to elaborate on a few that got hit hard by it.)
Now before the big month starts, I have to lay some ground rules. I do plan to look at some of the classic monsters films first and then we’ll dig into some contemporary stuff like Psycho or The Thing. It will be out of order and have no kind of sequencing. Its all at random and you will never know what movie will be next. If there is a franchise, then I have to talk about its sequels. If there are more than three movies, I have to either do three to four a day or do individual posts based on the film and other factors. You can request titles at facebook.com/VaultingOfficial but I can’t guarantee it will be picked. It will be based on interest and if I have enough time seeing there’s only 31 days.
Regardless, I hope to have a lot of fun with this. We’ll do some great horrors you know and some you might not even heard of. 31 days of 31 blog posts and it all begins on October 1st. So join us if you dare to the Blockbuster Chronicles’ 1st Annual Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon!