Friday, February 8, 2013

Trick 'r Treat ****

Rue Morgue’s 200 Alternative Horror Films led me to a treasure that I somehow missed when it was released.  Trick ‘r Treat (2007) is a fine piece of horror film making and a great addition to your October 31st list of libations. 
The film was written and directed by Michael Dougherty.  It stars Dylan Baker, Brian Cox and Anna Paquin.  I would note also the presence of Britt McKillip and Christine Willes, who played Reggie Lass and Delores Herbig (“her big brown eyes) on one of my favorite TV series, Dead Like Me. 
TRT gives us Halloween in a town that loves Halloween, but probably ought not to.  Four stories are skillfully interwoven as the film progresses.  The action switches from one story to the other and back again.  In one we see a face at a window.  Later, we see what is happening on the other side of the window.  When that sort of thing is done well it is delicious.  It is done well here. 
Some of the story elements are just predictable enough to give you the satisfaction of having solved a riddle.  Others give you the satisfaction of having been totally wrong about who the victims are and who the monsters are.  All the stories are tied together both by the locale and by the presence of a perfect Halloween MC: a child-sized person with a jack o’lantern shaped head concealed by a burlap hood.  Don’t worry; you get to see what is under that hood. 
The genius of Trick ‘r Treat lays mainly in the way that the stories are stitched together and in the brilliant use of light.  Contrary to the usual procedure, almost every scene is a feast of yellow or orange glow.  I have affection for cinema that gives me appalling visions in beautiful light.  There are also a powerful lot of exquisitely carved jack o’lanterns.  I kept wanting to push pause and copy the patterns. 
This is one for the collection.  I am keeping it for next Halloween, but I would warn you that it is not safe for children.  There is a bit of nudity and more than a few kids get gobbled up.  If you want something to satisfy your Halloween jones, this would be it. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Hole Wasn't Deep But Wasn't Bad

One well-explored subgenre of horror might be called the Home Alone Horror (not that Home Alone is an example).  In such a film, the action centers on characters in their teens or younger (and usually with a mix of teen and pre-teen characters) with adults strictly out of the loop.  The Gate (1987) and Spielberg’s Super 8 (2011) are typical examples and are typically disappointing. 
This weekend I watched The Hole (2009).  There wasn’t a fresh idea anywhere in it; still, it wasn’t half bad.  Mom and her two sons move into a new house in a new town.  The teenager Dane (Chris Massoglia) is obviously unhappy and insecure.  He takes it out on his younger brother Lucas (Nathan Gamble).  One bright spot in Dane’s dark mood is Julie (Haley Bennett), the girl next door. 
The two brothers discover a wooden door in the basement floor with dozens of padlocks securing it.  Below it is a dark, apparently bottomless pit.  Once the “darkness sees you” you are in big trouble. 
At the risk of a small spoiler, this is basically a “defeat your fears by confronting them” plot.  Like most Home Alone Horrors, focusing on kids has the result that the movie is mostly fit for kids.  I have to say, however, that I did enjoy this one.  If the story telling was unimaginative, the strength of the actors and the dialogue were enough to carry it.  We also get a delicious bit part by Bruce Dern as Creepy Carl. 
I like the idea of the hole in the basement.  If you want something wholesome and fun, this movie will fit the bill.  It is pretty safe for children.  I do long for something more serious in the genre, something more like the bits in Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (the novel, not the movie) that focused on the boy.  Horror movies with kids could stand to be a bit more grownup. 

Rue Morgue's 200 Alternative Horror Films

My favorite horror magazine is Rue Morgue, just as my favorite podcast was Rue Morgue Radio until they stopped producing it.  On the stands now, the folks at Rue Morgue have a special issue: 200 Alternative Horror Films.  This is one of my favorite kinds of things: a guide full of suggestions for my Netflix queue.  The only beef I have ever had with the folks at Rue Morgue (besides killing RMR) is that their movies reviews are so frequently devoted to telling me what not to watch.  Offering me two hundred films that I should watch is a treasure. 
I just got it yesterday, so I can’t report any major finds yet, but judging from the films listed that I have already seen, their judgments are trustworthy.  I just wish that they had found room for a lot more.  If you are into horror, don’t let this one disappear on you.  
While Rue Morgue Radio is no more, the Rue Morgue Podcast is still going strong.  Today I listened to a marvelous interview with Roger Corman.   Rue Morgue is the place to go for horror nerds like yours truly.