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The movies that scared the crap out of me...

10-28-2012 4,180 views Movies 11 Comments

It's been a while since I did a good "Sunday OT" post and with Halloween quickly approaching, I thought I'd share what I consider to be the most scary movies I've ever seen. Before jumping into the list though, I need to provide a bit of context.

As a child, I was interested in the supernatural, specifically Bigfoot and UFOs. I'm not really sure why (outside of just being young and slightly less mature than I am now), but I read every book I could find on anything related to cryptozoology and UFO sightings. While it was a good deal of junk "science", it was, for the most part, adult level writing, which was probably pretty good for my reading skills as a youth. On the negative side though I can clearly see how it's impacted my fears as an adult.

I'll also point out that I am very much not a fan of gore. I can remember watching Hostel and having to turn away at times. Every aspect of that film, and films like it (Saw for example) just felt wrong to me. I can't stomach it. (Although you're going to see one exception to the rule below.)

The Abominable Snowman

I can remember discovering this film around 12 years old or so. Being that I was a huge Bigfoot fanatic at the time, I was naturally also interesting in the Abominable Snowman. I got even more interested when I noticed that one of the main characters was Peter Cushing, AKA Grand Moff Tarkin. I had expected a fairly simple, old style monster movie. What I didn't expect was a movie that put much more of an emphasis on the mood and environment than silly scenes of men in monster suits. The whole idea of a monster film that skipped the monster was incredible to me at the time. The tension I remember feeling was much more heightened because of what they didn't show compared to what they did. I don't want to spoil it, but the ending of this film is creepy as hell. I haven't seen this film since I was 12, and I probably wouldn't enjoy it as much now, but at the time it really opened my mind to what could be done by implication and subtlety compared to special effects.

Poltergeist

I'm sure everyone who reads this has scene this film, but pretend for a moment you haven't. If I were to tell you that one of the most chilling scenes in this film involved a tree, you would probably think I was crazy. I've got something of a minor phobia when it comes to storms. Minor isn't probably fair. I get very nervous when lightning is around, even if I'm safe and sound in my home. The storm scene in Poltergeist then is one of the scenes that freaks me out. While there are numerous creepy scenes in the film, I'll also call out the "voice in the TV" scene as pretty intense too. I rewatched this recently and as a parent, it was even more nerve-wracking to watch.

Communion

While not necessarily meant to be a horror film, this "supposedly based on true events" story of alien visitation was just plain creepy. Of course, anything with Walken is a good film, the scenes where the aliens seem to be in the same house as him and peering around a corner still sends chills down my spine.

The Blair Witch Project

Ok, I know this movie has almost no middle ground for viewers, but for me, especially with my whole Bigfoot-thing, a film set out in the woods with weird crap going on was pretty scary for me. Yes, you had those obnoxious actors, but the scenes at night with the voices just did something for me. (And by something I mean - of course - scare the crap out of me.) I loved the gradual build up and the lack of any real gore. It made the one small bit of gore all the more effective. I know it started the whole found-film genre that Hollywood has decided to go over the top on, but when it first came out it was an interesting change of style.

Speaking of films set out in the woods, I'll also point the scene in the Village where the townspeople stood with their backs to the woods was incredibly scary for me as well.

Signs

Ok, since I brought up a Shyamalan film, I might as well bring up the one that is - for me - the most creepy. While the Sixth Sense was a much better film and Unbreakable is - easily - one of the most interesting superhero films - it was Signs that crept me out the most. Just about every scene with an alien in this film freaked me out. The film breaks down pretty bad towards the end, but I still find certain scenes in this film scary.

Paranormal Activity

I love ghost stories, but they almost always take place in familiar territories - old creepy homes, abandoned hospitals, or mental institutions. What really got me with Paranormal Activity was that it took place in suburbia. Hell, it could have been my neighbor's house. It also made excellent use of sound as well. I absolutely love this film. Even watching it again still creeps me out and I know exactly what's going to happen next. I enjoyed PA2 and 3 as well, and may see 4 too. But I think they are pretty much milking this series dry at this point.

Let the Right One In

To be clear, I'm talking about the original Norwegian version, not the remake. If this film taught me anything it's that Norwegians have some serious eff-ed up films. There are things in this film that are more than a little bit uncomfortable to see, but over all, it's an amazingly well-done film. The ending - again - is an amazing example of what can be done when you don't show the main action but rather show the effects instead.

The Rest...

I'm sure I'll think of more later, but other films I'd add to this list would be:

  • Alien: For obvious reasons. I rewatched this about a month or so ago and was surprised how quiet the beginning of this film was. So... different from most films. The closest example I can think of is the period in Castaway with no dialog.
  • The Orphanage: A very different, surprising film.
  • [Rec]: Another found-footage film, this one contained within a building with a zombie-esque type flavor to it. I'd also recommend the sequel, which took things in a very different direction.

Oh - and I mentioned earlier that I do not like gore. I'm going to make one exception to the rule. The Cabin in the Woods was marketed as a "different" type of horror film. The trailers even tend to give you a big idea of what that twist was. But when you actually see the film, you really begin to realize how different this film is. There were parts of this movie so fun/exciting I almost jumped out of my seat. It's my favorite film of 2012 - even more so than the Avengers. While it definitely had gore, it didn't feel gratuitous.

Spoiler Talk on Prometheus

06-09-2012 4,190 views Movies 36 Comments

I saw Prometheus last night. It was cool. Stop reading now if you haven't seen it. Seriously - this is your last warning...

Talk to me about Green Lantern (non-spoiler)

06-18-2011 5,199 views Movies 8 Comments

I just got out of seeing Green Lantern with my boys. (My eldest loved it. Said it was the best film he had seen all year.) I have to say - despite all the negative reviews I heard - I really enjoyed it. It was early in the film when I figured out exactly why. Movies like Iron Man and Thor - and I assume Captain America to come - are all "Films based on Comics." That's great. But Green Lantern felt like a "Comic Book Movie." When you spend the first five minutes or so deep into cosmology and aliens you're in an entirely different world than what you get with Iron Man. Shoot, even with Asgard in Thor, Green Lantern just felt a lot more 'comicy'. (Yes, I'm creating that word. I own it and will be charging royalties.) Green Lantern is far from perfect. A lot of the romance felt like - well - comic book romance. It also spends a surprisingly large amount of time away from the main character. That being said, I really enjoyed it. I was never a Green Lantern reader so I can't comment on how well it pays homage to the comic. I can say I'm considering picking up the comic - especially with DC about to reset everything in a month or so.

So - what did folks think? (And please - try to keep it spoiler free!)

Thoughts on Tron Legacy

12-20-2010 7,616 views Movies 22 Comments

It's rather late - but my eldest boy is keeping me up so we can see the eclipse in another hour so I figured I'd do a quick write up of my thoughts on Tron Legacy. Everything above the word SPOILER will be spoiler free. Anything below, including comments, should be considered free reign for anything folks want to say.

There are a few movies from my youth that hold a warm spot in my heart. Star Wars (and Empire and Jedi of course) are one of them obviously. Tron is another. In fact, I'd probably say Tron had the biggest impact on me as a young computer programmer. Tron came out in 1982. I was 9 then and to be honest - I don't remember if I had even used a computer at that point. But I remember being in awe of the special effects and even more so - at the idea of a living, breathing world inside of computers. I know that when I did begin to program (Apple IIe FTW!) that the idea of my programs being actual living creatures was always there in my mind. All thanks to Tron of course.

Coffee talk about Avatar

12-20-2009 7,155 views Movies 23 Comments

I just got back from seeing Avatar, the latest film from James Cameron. I won't call this a review - just a smattering of thoughts - but I'd love to hear what others thought. Let's keep it spoiler free though. Overall, I thought it was a good film, a strong film, but not quite great. It tried real hard, but in the end, the story was lacking enough for me to keep it from being great.

Technologically, the film is perfect. Seriously - this film has set the bar for special effects, and probably will be the film by which others are judged. The Na'vi looked realistic enough for to be 100% believable. You didn't have any of the "Dead on the Inside" type feeling you get from other movies with computer generated characters (I'm looking at you, Polar Express).

The 3D was also well done. You had none of the "in your eye" type shots to remind you of the 3D, and in fact, except for a few scenes, I pretty much forgot that there was any 3D at all. There was one scene with insects though that - I swear - almost made me raise my hand to bat them away. This is how 3D should be done.

So from a special effects angle, the movie gets an A+. Shoot, higher than that. I really think it was perfect in that regards. It's the story that... I don't know. It just didn't rock my world. It wasn't a bad story. Not at all. In fact, when I realized that the movie had lasted over two hours I was truly surprised. The movie never dragged or got boring. Some of the mysticism did get a bit corny at times, but I could live with that. No - what I didn't like was how... simple the story was. It seems like something we've seen many times before. Big bad corporation, evil military forces, face off against a technologically inferior but more spiritually aware native force. It just felt... easy. Too simple. I mean, there was one offhand remark by Jake (the main character) where he mentions that there is no more green on Earth, that it is dead. If the corporation were mining something that Earthlings desperately needed to survive as a race, well, at least we'd have some complexity, some deepness to the story.

I did enjoy the story. Really. And I can see buying it (I bet it will be stellar in Blu-Ray), but I wish that some of the subtlety and innovation that was brought to the special effects had been put to work to the story as well.

Ok, so that's my non-review. One last note. I love ship and vehicle design in Sci-Fi movies. The first shot of the film - the long range ship that beings Jake to Pandora, was incredible. It had a classic 60s feel to the design. Very unique.

Oh, and one last last note. Did folks catch the anti-Bush/anti-Iraq war one-liner in there? Ugh. While I may agree with the politics, it had the subtlety of a brick to the side of that head.

Review: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

07-17-2009 6,747 views Movies 12 Comments

As always, I will divide this review into two sections. The top portion will be spoiler free. Everything after the SPOILERS! mark will be, well, full of spoilers, and I'd assume the comments will be as well.

Going in to this film, I was worried. I had heard many good things about this adaption, but frankly, I wasn't convinced they could convey the proper tone for the book. Sure, Harry Potter 1 was all magic, smiles, and laughter, but things have progressively gotten darker and moodier. For me, Goblet of Fire, almost stands out as the Empire Strikes Back of the series. It's the turning point where the laughs kinda die off and the body count begins. What I love most about the series is that it goes from light-hearted magical fair to a much more serious, emotional, and frankly, painful story. To Rowling's credit, she never turned the book "adult." There isn't sex, gratuitous violence, or other cop outs. Rowling moves the series expertly along as the characters age and the stakes rise.

So back to my worry. The books convey this pain, this fear, so well, and I wasn't sure the movie could pull it off - especially the pivotal ending. Happily - they did it. Obviously a lot was cut out. But I think the movie did a fair job of striking a balance between length and representing the book. This movie is sad. Overwhelmingly so. And I'm happy they kept it like that. There is no "Hollywood" cop out here.

If you are a fan of the series, and maybe felt a little let down by the last movie, definitely see this one. It's worth seeing on a big screen. You may not want to bring your youngest. I brought all my kids, and while there wasn't anything objectionable (even with all the teenage hormones), the movie may drag a bit for them. Again, it's more dark, more serious, than the previous ones.

SPOILERS!

To me, there are 3 critical parts of the entire series. The death of what's his name at the end of Goblet of Fire, the death of Dumbledore, and the revelation of Snape at the end of B7. I thought Snape's history in Order of the Phoenix wasn't handled well. But they handled his character great here. Ditto Malfoy. The movie did a great job conveying how tortured he felt.

The scene with the bridge in the beginning was incredible. It was a great way to demonstrate how the Muggle world was being impacted as well.

I do wish they had spent a bit more time on Voldemort's past. They didn't do a bad job - that young kid was perfect (remind anyone of Damien or the Omen or whatever that old movie was?) and I wish they had maybe cut a bit more of the teenage hormone stuff and spent more on him.

Review: Star Trek

05-08-2009 6,876 views Movies 25 Comments

Before I get into my thoughts about the Star Trek reboot, let me be clear. Any and all spoilers will be marked as such, and will be at the end of the blog entry. So if you just want to know what I thought, you can read the blog entry up until the warning block and turn away. As for comments, I say anything goes.

Want to see something really scary?

10-26-2008 6,747 views Movies 43 Comments

It's almost Halloween and this year I'm trying my best to enjoy it as much as possible. Halloween seems to be slowly fading away as everything seems to be pushing towards Christmas insanely early. Sure Halloween is more a kids thing, and maybe I shouldn't care as much now that I'm an old guy, but I really feel like getting into the mood this year. I visited a haunted house earlier in the week. Our house is decorated (my wife found some awesome and unique decorations this year) and I can't wait to go out trick or treating with my young ones.

Forgive the rambling. I brought all this up because I wanted to talk about movies. Scary movies. Growing up I was a big horror fan, but in the last ten years or so I've found myself really turned off by gore. I don't know why exactly. When I watched Hostel, I found myself disgusted and had to turn away multiple times. Maybe it has something to do with my kids. Most horror films involve young kids and I can't seem to watch a modern horror film without thinking that those could be my kids up there. Or maybe I'm just a wuss!

While I don't care for horror films, I'm really getting into the more subtle, suspenseful films. I can remember watching The Adominable Snowman when I was a young kid. (Staring Peter Cushing, the future Grand Moff Tarkin.) What fascinated me about this film was that while it was obviously a monster film, they never showed you the monster! You got glimpses here and there, but in general there wasn't ever a "money shot".

A few years later I saw Alien. Easily one of the best sci fi films ever made, the monster spends more time in the shadows and comes off far scarier for it. I remember the first time I saw a complete shot of the alien in some magazine and I wished I had not seen it. My imagination had made it far larger and scarier in my mind.

Some other examples:

  • Blair Witch Project: Ok, so this is a love it or hate it type movie, and it got way too much marketing, but this film scared the living crap of me.
  • The Village: Really the beginning of Night's descent into crap-hood, and featuring what my wife calls the Giant Killer Badger - the early scenes by the woods were very well done. When one of the kids goes to the edge of the woods, and turns his back, I can literally feel my legs tensing in some subconscious attempt to get him to get the heck away.
  • El Orfanto (The Orphanage) - A well done ghost story with a grand total of one shot of gore, this one was simply incredible. My wife really enjoyed it as well.
  • Communion - Supposedly a true story of alien contact, any film with Christopher Walken is worth watching in my opinion. It's been years since I've seen this, but I remember being royally creeped out multiple times. One scene in particular has the main character simply sitting down in a room - and across the way an alien sticks his head out - slowly.

So that's all I can think of right now. Any other recommendations? Think high creep/low blood.

Review: Clone Wars - It didn't suck!

08-24-2008 6,487 views Movies 10 Comments

Yesterday I took my three kids to see the new Clone Wars movie. I knew it was coming to TV eventually, but I couldn't pass up the chance to see more Star Wars on the big screen. My boys are pretty big Star Wars fans themselves (gee, I wonder where they get that from) and my daughter, well, she loves her daddy so that was enough for her. The title of this blog entry is a bit of a joke. I am not one of those Star Wars fan who hate Lucas or thinks he is raping the franchise. I do think some parts of the prequels suck. But at the same time - I don't see Jar Jar being any more worse than the Ewoks. (Although we do get to see an Ewok die though...) I read quite a few negative reviews of the movie, but I went with an open mind and figured - at worse - my boys would absolutely love it.

Turns out the movie really doesn't suck! I had been extremely pleased, surprised even, by the first Clone Wars series that came out a year or so ago. Some of the scenes in that series were easily as cool as any of the stuff in the both the prequel and classic series. (Especially the giant foot ship!) In my mind, this new series is even better. The pacing is a lot more intense, and I felt that the story comes off better then the first series. (To be honest though, seeing everything at once does tend to reinforce the storyline more than seeing a series by watching a few minutes at a time.) I found it kind of cool to see the Jedi bending over backwards to help Jabba. It was also nice to get a bit more detail about the war in general. I think this movie opens the door to a lot more material in the period.

The animation style is... well interesting. It's definitely different from the first series, and it's a bit artsy, but I thought it was ok. The only character design I didn't care for was Dooku. I just couldn't take my eyes off his super deformed nose. On the flip side, Ventress was awesome. Easily as cool as Darth Maul, she is a welcome addition to the Universe and I hope we can see more of her.

If there was one thing I really didn't care for - it was the Mardi Gras Hutt. I don't remember his real name, but if you see the movie you will know what I'm talking about. His part in the story - fine. But his voice, design, etc, just annoyed the heck out of me.


Sunday Mega Media Review

06-22-2008 5,845 views Movies 12 Comments

I've been meaning to post a few quick reviews and as I've got nothing to do until I board my plane, I thought I'd take the time and share some.

The Incredible Hulk - I saw this last night with some friends at CFUNITED. While not as good as Iron Man, it was pretty darn good. Yes - the CGI is very fake looking. There is no way you are going to make a 1-ton green monster look real. But - Edward Norton did a great job, the story was well done, and I loved the nods to the old show. Oh - and I won't ruin the spoiler, but the entire movie was made cooler by one line uttered by the Hulk. We should also give credit to the movie company behind Iron Man for letting their actor appear in another company's movie. Both may be Marvel properties, but still, that was pretty cool.

Sex and City - Ok, so this is trash, but I enjoyed the series when it was on TV. The movie was way too long, but if you liked the series, then this simply adds a few more episodes to the run. I'd probably just rent it from Netflix or Blockbuster though.

Kung Fu Panda - Jack Black is the king. This is one of the best kid movies I've seen in a while. I thought the animation style was done well.

The Happening - Absolute, 100%, trash. I've given up on Night. Completely. I've seen better acting in high school. I'd rather push rusty, dull, smelly nails through my eyes, backwards, than watch this film again.

The Invasion - An older one - but I just saw it. Meh. Nicole Kidman is nice to look at, but outside of that, this is just one more remake.