Happy Birthday Adrian!

One of my all time favorite movies is Rosemary’s Baby which came out 49 years ago today, not quite 50 but let’s give Adrian all the birthday wishes and Satanic blessings!

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5 Ways Universal Can Reboot The Dark Universe

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Everyone wants their own Cinematic Universe. With the unbridled success of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, all the studios are rushing to create a massive interconnected franchise of solo movies interspersed with team up movies. Universal Studios has been attempting to launch a shared universe consisting of their classic monsters including Dracula and Frankenstein for a few years now. But in their rush to simultaneously emulate Marvel, and catch up with their offerings and popularity, things have not gone smoothly.

As anyone who follows these things knows, Universal originally reworked their film Dracula Untold to work as the launching pad for a series of films that would have seen Vlad team up with his fellow monsters to defeat an ancient evil. But when the film starring Luke Evans (Highrise, Beauty and the Beast) flopped at the box office and failed to woo critics, they decided it wouldn’t be included and instead placed their hopes on The Mummy.

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Where as Dracula Untold focused almost exclusively on building up it’s take on Dracula and the vampire mythos, The Mummy tries to jam not only it’s take on undead Egyptian royalty, but lay extensive groundwork for a shared universe that consists of a single film. A large part of Marvel’s success with it’s films has been keeping the focus on the titular character while giving just enough connective tissue to pay off after several very loosely connected films. Instead of trying to give the world solid solo outings for it’s stable of Monsters, they just wanna launch directly into the kind of shared universe that it took Marvel years and 6 films to achieve.

Universal had already given it’s new franchise a name, Dark Universe, and a cast of stars for films that don’t even have directors yet. In addition to Cruise’s  adventurer and Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyl, Universal has also cast Javier Bardem as Frankenstein’s Monster and in an incredibly questionable casting choice Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man. With Bill Condon (Beauty and the Beast, Gods and Monsters) set to direct the next instalment, Bride of Frankenstein which will focus on the titular Bride who has yet to be cast. They’ve also got plans for Dracula, The Creature from the Black Lagoon (rumoured to star Scarlet Johanson), Phantom of the Opera, The Wolf Man and yes even The Hunchback of Notre Dame (despite the story not being horror or part of the original group of Universal’s horror pictures).

Suffice to say that Universal is counting it’s monsters before they hatch. Given that their second attempt to start the shared universe has failed, let’s take a look at some ways they can restart this shared universe the right way.

Go R-Rated

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These are monster movies, why not give the audience something actually scary! The PG-13 rating that most big budget movies go with means that they inevitably end up as action adventure movies dressed up in horror trappings. Why not give the audience some gore and ultra violence? While the budgets would be smaller, movies like Blade, Deadpool and Bram Stoker’s Dracula have proven that R rated films can make money and get critical acclaim. Universal had done an R-Rated Wolfman film with Benicio Del Toro but it failed to find success. Maybe it’s time they revisit the concept.

Lean Into Comedy

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While not everyone realises it, we have already gotten cross overs featuring our favorite monsters. Universal had Abbott and Costello meeting Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolfman over 50 years ago. In the 80s, the world was gifted with The Monster Squad. Directed by Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps), the film is a comedy focusing on a group of misfit kids who are obsessed with classic horror monsters. When Dracula brings together The Wolfman, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy and Frankenstein’s Monster to help him plunge the world into darkness, making him nigh unstoppable. So it’s up to the group of spunky kids with assists from a Holocaust survivor and one of the boy’s older sisters to stop Dracula before it’s too late.

The film, which has a massive cult following shows how comedy can be the perfect genre for these monsters to meet. While the stakes are high, so is the camp. Perhaps instead of trying to sprinkle just the right amount of humor, Universal should instead lean into it wholeheartedly.

Make Them Period Pieces

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Trying to modernise these stories is quite the tall order. It’s hard to find a balance of “grounded” and fantastical. By setting the films in the past, there isn’t as much need to make them grounded. Francis Ford Coppolla had great success with Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Tim Burton’s take on Sleepy Hollow is sumptuous and spooky. Even lesser films like Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or Joe Johnson’s Wolf Man gave the audience gore and violence mixed with atmosphere and old world charm.

More recently, Penny Dreadful showed audiences that these stories can work best when recontextualised within the past, instead of being modernised. One of Dracula Untold’s strong points was that it was set during the historical period during with Vlad Tempes was in power. A series of solo movies could set up the heroes from each film to become something along the lines of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Go Young Adult

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Some of the most successful franchises in the last decade have been based on young adult novels. Instead of going for casts whose median age is 45, why not lean into the younger demographic and cast young up and commers for a youthful approach. Dracula becomes a story about a young Mina Harker who becomes enthralled by a handsome prince with a dark and violent secret who Mina must stop with the help of her professor Van Helsing. The Wolfman tells the story of a young man cursed by the full moon. A younger cast could bring in a younger audience which means better longevity.

Go Full Freddy vs Jason

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Rather than spend a ton of time reinventing the monsters, creating secret societies that are obviously rip offs of SHIELD and the Telemasca, just go full tilt Monsters vs Monsters. Good monsters (The Bride, Wolfman, Creature from the Black Lagoon and Van Helsing) vs bad monsters (Doctor Frankenstein, Dracula, The Invisible Man, The Mummy). At the end of the day, people just wanna see a monster brawl, so why not just give it to them? Stop trying to make things high art and just lean into the pulpiness of it all. I mean who doesn’t want to see The Bride of Frankenstein kill her maker, or the Creature from the Black Lagoon tearing The Mummy in half?

Whatever Universal does, the most important thing is that they examine what makes people love these stories and characters. Instead of producers working on making sure they have everything on their check lists, they need to hire people who are passionate about making quality films, not hollow blockbusters. Gone are the days where soulless garbage still breaks even. In this new age of Gods and Monsters, the audience is discerning about not to fall for sloppy attempts at cashing in. They want to see movies made with passion and creativity and a true love for the source material. With Bill Condon directing Bride of Frankenstein, based on his favorite film, there may just be hope yet for The Dark Universe. But if the big wigs decide to start over a third time, perhaps they will take a different approach. Lordy knows as a fan I want these films to be a success. But if they thought The Mummy was the right way to start things off, I’m not very hopeful for the success either critical or financial for this shared Monster-verse.

 

 

 

 

 

Movies for Mother’s Day [LIST]

Happy Mother’s Day! Let’s celebrate how awesome Moms are with some freaky movies about moms.

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The Others I remember seeing the film for the first time and being so completely blown away. The trailers under sold what ended up being one of the best horror movies of the early 2000s. For those unfamiliar with the film, Nicole Kidman plays widow and mother to two children who are allergic to sunlight. What follows is a ghost story for the ages.

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Serial Mom is more of a black comedy than a horror comedy. But watching as Beverly causes mayhem and blood shed in suburban Baltimore is hysterical. John Waters completely subverts the archetype of the perfect mother in a way only the Pope of Filth could manage with such style.

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Inside isn’t a feel good movie for Moms. It is however a completely terrifying movie for mothers. French Extremism and home invasion collide in a sparse minimal story of a woman, pregnant and recently widowed as she defends herself from a woman who is willing to do anything to get her hands on the unborn child.

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Carrie wouldn’t be Carrie without Piper Laurie’s completely bat shit take on shut in religious fanatic Margaret White. Whether she is screaming about dirty pillows, throwing Sissy Spacek in closets or misquoting the Bible, she is the mom we are all glad we didn’t have. I mean imagine if Carrie had a cool mom?

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The Babadook is equal parts modern fairy tale and character study as horror. A mother unravels as she is overwhelmed by the stresses of motherhood and her own darkness. Original as it is scary, there is a reason it topped so many best of lists when it dropped 2 years ago.

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Goodnight Mommy got into my bones the first time I saw it. The cold aloof Mommy. The mischievous twins. The bugs. The way it plays with audience perception. It is a film that uses a slow and ever building sense of dread that bursts into horror while completely changing your view of the events depicted.

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Rosemary’s Baby is any list complete without you? I think not. Mia Farrow is iconic as Rosemary as she slowly becomes convinced something isn’t right. With her apartment, her husband, neighbours and even her unborn child. Mother hood can be terrifying, let alone when you are mother to the Antichrist.

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Friday The 13th Pamela will always be scarier than Jason. That hair. The sweater. The turtle neck. And most importantly the completely unhinged look in her eyes. A mother driven by grief and out for blood, even if it’s symbolic revenge. I mean come on, she brings her mentally handicapped son to camp, and he drowns cause horny teenagers weren’t paying attention. She has a pretty compelling reason for going crazy and massacring teens.

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Aliens: The Director’s Cut, yes the director’s cut! Why? Well the original cut had WAY MORE MOM STUFF. One of the most important parts being a scene in the first act where Ripley finds out her daughter died two years ago at the age of 66. Ripley promised to be home for her 11th birthday. It makes Newt that much more important. Her parents are killed by Aliens. Aliens prevented Ripley from being a mom to her daughter. Not to mention Aliens has the Queen Xenomorph. It’s a theme you guys.

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Psycho is the mother of all modern horror films. See what I did there? Norman and his Mommy Dearest are part of the greatest misdirect in film history. Hitchcock starts Psycho off as the story of a woman who stole some money from her boss, cause apparently she was dickmatized. But then suddenly the movie is peepholes, shower murders, cross dressing and mummified mothers. The perfect combination of classy and terrifying for Mother’s Day.

Don’t Leave Me Hanging On The Telephone [IN MY DAY]

Sometimes watching horror movies in 2016, I find myself feeling old. I once watched a horror movie that took place solely on social media/via Skye etc. Seriously. How have I gotten so old that I remember thinking the Blair Witch Project was actually found on a bunch of buried tapes, to literal ghosts in whatever the hell Snapchat is. I mean I know what it is but still. I sometimes just want to yell at children playing, about how they don’t appreciate horror like we did as youngsters.

A big thing I realized I miss in horror is the role phones have always played.  Now a days, a strange number or blocked call comes to our cell phones and we ignore it. We can dial 911 from a magic computer in our hands. But back in the day! You were tied to the phone like a life line if a killer is coming to get you. What if the line gets cut? Or you call your friend, and a stranger answers. The horror can be endless. So without further adieu some horror movie phone moments.

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The Witch [REVIEW]

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There’s evil in the wood – William

Sometimes a movie gets so hyped that when you watch it, you find yourself going hmmm is this really that good? In the case of The Witch, the moment I found myself confronted with such a delightfully shocking moment I found myself smiling afterwards.

The film plays for large stretches like a drama about isolation, religion and character study, when suddenly it throws something at you that changes the context of the film. The Witch is not a movie that you see coming. Some movies you can see the twists coming a mile away. The Witch plays in a way that some how feels wholly original while also being strongly connected to films of the past.

The incredibly detailed sets, costumes and period accents are the kind one normally sees in the kind of movie that would sweep awards season but mixed with the kind of horror one might expect from the love child of Argento and Lynch.

It is difficult to say more without getting into specifics that would ruin the surprises in the film. Suffice to say, The Witch will chill you, thrill you and if you have a heart condition possibly kill you.

You Weren’t Always An Only Child [VIDEO]

Check out this amazing deleted scene from the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. One of my favorite characters is Marge Thompson aka Nancy’s drunk mom. But in this Ronee Blakley is giving me life as she explains to the truth to Nancy. That the reason they took the law into their hands was because Freddy had killed the siblings of Rod, Tina, Glen and Nancy.

This puts a whole new perspective on the Elm Street story. And Heather and Ronee nail it.

Baskin [REVIEW]

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Are you ready to be one with the cosmos? – Baba

Going in to Baskin I was expecting Clive Barker level craziness and boy did it deliver! The story concerns a group of cops responding to a call to an abandoned police station who discover hell waiting for them. Thing is, the narrative is more complicated than that. It has a very Lynchian vibe with visions within dreams within nightmares. The film is very gory. Like the goriest I have seen in 2016. But the film does it in such a way that will delight genre fans. The whole film is cast in these beautiful shades of red, purple, blue and yellow. The kind of horror candy that reminds us of Argento before he was making 3D movies with giant praying mantis and visually molesting his grown daughter with his camera. I won’t go deep into the plot because the finer points will spoil it. But I will say, I googled it and I am pretty sure that dude’s lips are real. And by real I mean that they are not prosthetics. Pretty sure someone injected his mug full of silicone in a back alley in Istanbul.

Point of story? If you like movies like Hellraiser, you need to get your eye balls on Baskin.