Category Archives: blair witch

The Frankenstein Theory

The Frankenstein Theory ~ Shot similarly to The Blair Witch Project, a documentary crew follows the obsessed Professor John Venkenheim to the Arctic where he intends to prove that Frankenstein was not only true, but about his ancestor, and to vindicate his reputation once and for all. He believes he can find the Frankenstein monster.

This is a fascinating concept, and the film moves between actual movie and shaky cam documentary style well. Writer/director Andrew Weiner’s background is in Troma and low budget horror, but this is a step above. I liked it.

Kris Lemche plays Venkenheim with perfect obsessive creepiness, but just enough compassion that you care about him. It’s just this side of pity, but you do care for the buggy little fella. Joe Egender does him one better as the antsy paranoid meth-head and witness to the monster’s present day shenanigans.

Tiny role, but camera crewman Brian Henderson made me laugh doing a funnier Dane Cook than Dane Cook. Timothy V. Murphy playing the wilderness guide who channels Robert Shaw in Jaws wonderfully is pretty entertaining too. I absolutely love him and his campfire story. Beautiful.

Granted, the film does fall apart a bit toward the last act, but there are enough good parts here to push it above say, Sharknado. I really kinda dug it, recommended for horror fans.

Paul McCartney Really Is Dead

Paul McCartney Really Is Dead ~ This one has the also just as intriguing subtitle of “The Last Testament of George Harrison.” It comes from the gist of this documentary being tapes discovered by George Harrison disclosing the horrible secret that has burdened the Beatles for decades – that Paul really is dead. The tapes are George’s confession. Yeah, if you smell the Blair Witch, don’t worry, I do too.

Apparently all that nonsense, all those hints about the hoax that Paul was dead – it was all true. As suspected, Paul dies in a car crash. MI6 has a double, William Campbell, after cosmetic surgery, join the band as Paul. The remaining Beatles, under penalty of death keep quiet, while still leaving clues on their albums and in their music as to what really happened.

Supposedly, the voice of George narrates a somewhat skewed history of the Beatles and thereafter, with these new facts inserted, creating a new truth. All the usual stuff is in here, along with some shocking new bits. One truly bizarre addition indicates that ‘Lovely Rita,’ who witnessed Paul’s death, is actually, wait for it, Heather Mills.

As a kid, it was always fun to find the clues, but come on, we all knew it was a hoax. I gotta give the producers props for trying at least. It gives new meaning to many lyrics previously thought indecipherable, a nice touch. A fun, if at times, rather sinister, faux documentary/conspiracy theory.

Apollo 18

Apollo 18 ~ Much like my earlier review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this movie pulls at my nostalgic heartstrings. NASA, the Apollo program, the moon landings, Skylab, Tang, all that stuff is a part of my childhood, and monumental to the 1970s. It’s worth noting that even Steve Austin was an astronaut, that’s how tied together this all is. And a movie about a mysterious Apollo 18 mission fits right in with my recent flights of nostalgia.

From the opening moments of Apollo 18 where it portends to be a found footage film, my heart sank. This type of filmmaking rarely works, and if it does, it usually falls apart at the end. Blair Witch and Chronicle are the rare exceptions to the rule. I hoped this would be as well. Just don’t think about how it is you’re watching this film. It’s apparently edited together after the fact, takes advantage of the poor video quality of the missions, and also spotlights bits of film the viewer is supposed to pay attention to. For me, that kind of ruins it. Don’t oversell, and don’t underestimate your audience.

We see lots of the cast, but sadly the film doesn’t give us enough of the astronauts for us to care about them. This probably remains the biggest fault of the film. That said, once into the premise and watching the movie, you can’t take your eyes off it. So settle in, dim the lights, and add some vodka to your Tang, you’re in for an intriguing and startling ride. Not what I expected at all. Relax and enjoy.

Paranormal Activity

When a flick gets press that says it’s the scariest film ever or shows audiences jumping and screaming in terror I am skeptical. And so it was with Paranormal Activity. I was so unimpressed I waited until it was on DVD to see it. After watching the first half and seeing where it was going, especially as I was alone in the house that night, I waited until the next day to watch the rest. Yeah, the hype and the potential fright did that, but it wasn’t necessary.

I was expecting tricks and stunts and blood and gore. I got none of that. I was full-on expecting that YouTube trick of the picture that doesn’t move and the friend who keeps saying “keep watching” only to have something jump out at you toward the end. I got none of that.

What I did get was actually a pretty coherent horror movie. And not any blood or gore either. This was an old-fashioned it’s-what-you-don’t-see type thriller. And when you do see stuff, man oh man. This was good. I can’t believe how good it was.

This was a great first effort from first time writer/director Oren Peli, and the acting, while stiff at times was more than adequate in bringing us into their world via a handheld camera. Nowhere near as shaky as you would think, and this is no gimmicky Blair Witch Project either. It’s just straight forward what it appears to be.

The acting of the two principals was so good at some points I was yelling at them. And this is a weak point in all horror flicks of a certain type. If you hear a noise downstairs – one you are sure is not a burglar… wouldn’t you turn on the lights so you could see better? Granted, if you don’t know, grab a bat and keep the lights off – but if you’re looking for your possibly kidnapped by supernatural forces girlfriend, don’t depend on the camera for a light source. Turn on the damn lights!

I don’t hold out much hope for the big budget sequel due out this Halloween, but the original is legitimately scary and recommended. Watch it with the lights on.

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Halloween Treat from Animal Planet

I could talk about some of my favorite scary movies for Halloween but I have something a little different this year. Probably the scariest and most fun television I have seen of late is a show on, believe it or not, Animal Planet.

Lost Tapes” airs Tuesday nights on Animal Planet and is sort of a twisted take on The Blair Witch Project. In every episode some hapless individual or individuals are trapped, with a video camera of course, with some beast out of a cryptozoologist’s wet dream. It’s all dramatization based on supposedly real events – and it’s not only scary, it’s a hoot.

Check out the website for schedule information and other goodies. Of local interest, this coming Tuesday they do the Jersey Devil. Should be fun. Happy Halloween!

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Quickies 8-3-2009

Imagine That ~ This is actually pretty good, imagine that. Unlike Adam Sandler who I really don’t care for, I like Eddie Murphy. Like Adam Sandler however, Eddie keeps making terrible films. When The Bride wanted to see this new one, I just groaned but went along just cuz I love her and all – but I was relatively sure I was not going to enjoy it. Surprise! And a pleasant one too. Imagine That is a feel-good little family film. It’s a tad predictable and requires a bit of that old suspension of disbelief from the adults, but still a lot of fun. Great Beatles cover soundtrack too.

American Zombie ~ A cool concept of a documentary made about zombies in a world where they have integrated into society. It moves swiftly from funny art school hi-jinks with a camera to Blair Witch-esque horror to conspiracy theories. Just when you think it’s run its course the film changes form like a basilisk. More intriguing and compelling than it deserves to be.

I Hate Valentine’s Day ~ More anti-chick flick chick flick entertainment from Nia Varadalos. She seems to excel on using the formula while bringing a new twist or touch to it. This one, written and directed by Nia, reunites her with My Big Fat Greek Wedding co-star John Corbett. Cliched but fun, definitely worth seeing.

Knowing ~ More of Nicholas Cage playing himself flawlessly in a one note flick. Unimpressive, despite the intriguing premise, but the disaster scenes are pretty cool though. It’s a shame the rest of the film doesn’t match up. For a movie about predicting the future, this was just waaay too predictable.

Pauly Shore Is Dead ~ Probably the best Pauly Shore film ever, period. Smarter and funnier than it should be – if only it had an ending.

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Cannibal Holocaust

Cannibal Holocaust ~ One of the most infamous films of all time. Four filmmakers take a journey to the ‘Green Inferno’ deep in the Amazon rain forest… their footage survives but they don’t. Sound familiar? That’s right, and it predates The Blair Witch Project by more than two decades. So much for originality.

There’s an amateurish quality to this Italian film, and I’m not sure if it’s on purpose. Whether it’s bad acting or just bad dubbing, there are still segments that are unwatchable, and not at all for the reasons you’re thinking of. And then there are the scenes that the movie is known for, also unwatchable, but for a completely different reason.

As a rescue team sets off in search of the filmmakers we learn of the mysterious natives of the Green Inferno. At times it’s part mock National Geographic documentary and equally gross-out slasher flick. When it tries to be reality television, of course decades before what we now know as the genre, it fails badly.

The side story here is of the professor, who finds the footage, fighting not to have it shown publicly is almost ludicrous in comparison to the rest of the flick. We know we’re going to see the footage, and we know it’s going to be horrific, why fight it?

As with any good horror film, the bad guys get what they deserve. This can only be recommended, if at all, as a curiosity, and definitely not for the squeamish or weak of heart. Just a side note, PETA would absolutely love this flick.

Halloween Leftovers

Penny Dreadful ~ Okay, I had another one of those nights completely without sleep. And, rather than do something constructive like do some writing, editing, reading or maybe taking a walk just for the health of it – I turned to my old friend, Comcast OnDemand. One of the newer services, or channels (for lack of a better word), is Fearnet. This is where I found Penny Dreadful. This was a surprise, a very small and simple film that gets right to the point and right to the very real horror. Excellent performances by Rachel Miner and Mimi Rogers, this is a must see for horror fanatics. I would advise however you see it on DVD rather than on Fearnet. Halfway through the flick OnDemand, Miss Horrorfest interviewed writer/director Richard Brandes, and while it was a good interview and Miss Horrorfest is so easy on the eyes, they give away the film, making the second half not such a surprise. I was very disappointed by the way this was presented.

The Host ~ Also known as Gwoemul, this 2006 Korean horror was the talk of the genre a year or so ago. I have to admit it gets to the action almost immediately and the giant (well, semi-giant) monster stuff is merciless and frenetic. The first ten to fifteen minutes of The Host are relentless and unlike anything I’ve seen before. Props to director Joon-ho Bong for dazzling us with something new. It’s a pity that it soon becomes standard fair after that, a little bit Mimic and a little bit Virus. I also think it suffers from what appears to be faulty translation from Korean to English. The best part of the DVD is when director Bong apologies to the citizens of Seoul for tying up traffic while filming. See the first fifteen minutes if you’re a kaiju fan – it will open your eyes.

The Last Broadcast ~ A lot of folks dismissed this as a rip-off of The Blair Witch Project when it came out but the reality is this came first. As one of the first digital films it’s innovative and original. It also gets points for talking about the Jersey Devil without getting silly. My only question is – who’s holding the camera in the last sequence?

The Mystery of Cloverfield

Yep, more YouTube goodness. Anyone who checked out the Transformers movie earlier this summer got to see an interesting trailer/teaser that has come to be called “Cloverfield.”

The flick, alternately called “Cloverfield” and “1-18-08,” is the brain child of J.J. Abrams. Name sound familiar? It should. Abrams is the force behind the “Lost” TV series and he will soon be helping Paramount relaunch their “Star Trek” franchise. The writer of this project is an Abrams buddy from “Lost” and the directer was seasoned on “Felicity.” I’m really not sure what that says.

“Cloverfield” appears to be about a giant monster attack on New York City, but done with a new twist. That twist would be the use of portable cameras and pone to record the action, and yes, I see the ghost of The Blair Witch Project hiding over there by the stairs too.

As a huge Godzilla fan, I should nip some major speculation in the bud right now. It’s not Godzilla. The rights to that character are held by Toho and Sony, neither of whom have anything to do with this project. Other speculation does sound intriguing however, as I’ve also heard talk of the ‘monster’ being H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu, which, unlike Godzilla, is in the public domain. Done right, that would rock.

There is also the very real possibility we wouldn’t see (or get a name for) the ‘monster’ at all. “Cloverfield” could be a human story about people coping with disaster, but of course, that would be anywhere near as much fun as a giant monster.

Well, there it is, only time will tell now. It’s set for a January 2008 release. Wait and see.