28 Weeks Later
Five years after the release of 28 Days Later, we finally got a sequel, and like all good sequels, 28 Weeks Later ups the ante. Picking up (appropriately enough)28 weeks after the events of the original film, Weeks plants us right back in England as the US military attempts to clean up the last vestiges of the rage virus while also securing part of London for repopulation. Of course, things go awry and the rage virus breaks out once again. 28 Weeks puts a heavier focus on action, and ends with a cliff-hanger that leaves the film open to a third sequel.
Another “Reality” style horror film, [Rec] follows a news crew as they tag along with the night crew of a local fire department for what is essentially a fluff piece, until the crew gets a call about an old woman trapped in her apartment. What starts out as a routine call turns into a nightmare of claustrophobic horror as all hell breaks loose in the apartment complex. Remade a year later in the US as Quarantine, [Rec] is a gripping new take on the zombie genre that has spawned two sequels in its native Spain, and is worth checking out, even if you’ve seen the American remake.
What happens when you take two powerhouse directors (Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez) and give them free rein to pay homage to the schlocky 70’s films they so often speak highly of? Grindhouse, one of the most fun movie going experiences I’ve ever had. Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Tarantino’s Death Proof are straight up exploitation films that would have easily fit into the grindhouse circuit back in the day. For those that missed out on seeing this in the theater when it came out, the films played back to back with a short intermission of fake trailers from directors such as Rob Zombie (Werewolf Women of the SS), Eli Roth (Thanksgiving), Edgar Wright (Don’t), and Rodriguez’s own Machete which was later made into a real film. The experience of seeing Grindhouse in a theater is one that I will never forget, and being far too young to have ever experienced the grindhouse theaters in their heyday, I can only imagine that the atmosphere and fun I had while watching these two films was like that of the 70’s. Both films were released separately on DVD initially, with a later “Special Edition” with both films presented as they were in theaters, and I recommend tracking down that version if you can, as Tarantino’s Death Proof as it was originally released on DVD is the extended Cannes cut, and while the extended cut doesn’t hurt the film, some of the fun of the “Missing Reel” segments is lost.
30 Days of Night
Adapted from the Steve Niles comic, 30 Days of Night brings vampires back to being the blood thirsty monsters of old. Centering around the Alaskan town of Barrow, the film begins with the towns folk preparing for the coming “30 Days of Night” that occurs every winter. A pack of vampires descend on the town and all hell breaks loose. One of the best vampire films of the last twenty years, 30 Days introduces vampires that are closer to the description of the eastern European “Strigoi” than the more charming, seductive vampires often seen in cinema. A sequel , 30 Days of Night: Blood Trails was also released in 2007 through the Fearnet channel, and later DVD.
Trick r’ Treat
Yes, I realize this film wasn’t actually released on DVD until 2009, but it was initially slated for theatrical release in 2007. One of my favorite anthology films ever made, Trick r’ Treat is as close to a perfect anthology film as you’ll ever find, weaving each of the six stories together in such a beautiful way that the ties between each story don’t become clear until the film ends. Trick r’ Treat captures the atmosphere and the mood of the Halloween season beautifully, and introduces one of the greatest characters to enter into the pantheon of the Halloween season, the little terror known as Sam. Decked out in orange footy pajamas and a sackcloth mask, Sam is the living spirit of Halloween, and as Principal Wilkins (played to perfection by Dylan Baker) warns, “The traditions of Halloween were originally meant to protect us”, and as the film continues, we soon see what happens to the unfortunate souls who don’t take the Halloween traditions seriously. Trick r’ Treat has become a staple of my Halloween movie watching tradition since it’s DVD release in 2009, but I urge you to see this film if you haven’t, you won’t be disappointed.
Hostel: Part II
It may seem strange that I have Hostel: Part II on my list and not the original Hostel but I have to confess, I really wasn’t impressed with the original film. Hostel, much like Eli Roth’s directorial début, Cabin Fever, didn’t impress me nearly as much as it did other horror fans. The idea at the core of Hostel was interesting, but the characters were such unlikable fuck heads that when it came time for them to be murdered, I had no sympathy for them at all. Hostel: Part II however changed that, giving us a group of likable and interesting female leads, as well as expanding on the world of the “Elite Hunters” initially introduced in Hostel. Hostel: Part II also has the distinction of being one of the few films I’ve nearly walked out of, after making the mistake of taking a female friend to see the film with me. Hostel: Part II is what the original Hostel should have been, a compelling cast of characters with a better story and even more graphic violence and bloodshed, including several genuinely cringe-worthy torture scenes.
My Name is Bruce
More a comedy than a Horror film, My Name is Bruce follows the exploits of an over the top caricature of Bruce Campbell (played by the man himself) as a young Campbell fan calls in his cinematic hero to save his small town from the vengeful spirit of Guan-Di, the protector of a 19th century Chinese graveyard in the small mining town of Goldlick. Packed with references to Campbell’s other works and one of Ted Rami’s funniest performances, My Name is Bruce is a must see for any Campbell fan, and be forewarned that Guan-Di’s theme song will get stuck in your head.
Yet another “bad” movie making it my list, Drive-Thru is an over the top slasher film centered around “Horny the Clown” the mascot of the local “Hellaburger” fast food chain as he carves a path of destruction through a group of local teens. The plot is a by the numbers slasher affair, but there’s so much humor (both intentional and unintentional) in this film that I have to recommend it. This is a shining example of how to take a clichéd storyline and make it into something genuinely entertaining.
House of Fears
Another film that didn’t see DVD release until 2009, House of Fears is the tale of an African fear idol that makes its way to an American haunted house attraction as a prop and the chaos that ensues. Don’t be misled the DVD artwork, as the creepy clown on the cover plays a very small part in the film, House of Fears rises above it’s sometimes less than stellar writing and acting thanks to the fantastic haunted house site. Had this film been made on a shoestring budget, I doubt it would have made my list, but haunted house itself enhances the story. House of Fears is one of the few “Fun House” movies that really capture’s the experience of going through a dark ride.
Black Devil Doll
I’ll say it now, if you are easily offended, do not watch this movie. The tale of an executed black militant who’s soul is transferred into the body of Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist doll, Black Devil Doll is an over the top send up to blaxsplotation films, full of blood, breasts and more uses of the words “Mother Fucker” and “Nigger” than I care to count. I loved every politically incorrect moment of this film, and I laughed through all 73 minutes of its running time. And this movie has one of the greatest tag lines in the history of cinema: “He’s a Lover, He’s a Killer, He’s a MOTHER FUCKING PUPPET!” Completely absurd, over the top and raunchy as all hell, Black Devil Doll is a politically incorrect blast of pure fun.
Another vampire film that breaks the mold, Night Junkies tells the tale of a couple turned into vampires, and treats vampirism as if it were drug addiction. Yet another film with less than stellar DVD box art, Night Junkies took me by surprise by how well written and acted it was, and easily makes my list of favorite vampire films.
A deadpan horror comedy, Murder Party follows Christopher as he attends a Halloween party in Brooklyn, only to find out that the hosts of the party are a group of deranged art students who intend to commit murder as part of an art exhibit. This isn’t a film for everyone, as the humor is jet black and at times extremely uncomfortable, but the story itself is well written and the actors are excellently cast.