Around 3 a.m. last night, I couldn’t break free from my bed. I tried to, multiple times, each effort feeling increasingly impossible. I was beneath mounds of quicksand, essentially; the comforter and sheets smothering me like tar. The only way the whole experience could’ve have been more terrifying would have been if Freddy Krueger showed his face and revealed that the ordeal was of his doing. But, of course, it wasn’t. Instead, I was stuck in authentic nightmare territory, a direct result of a film I watched only three hours prior. The movie was an old Italian giallo from 1976, The House with the Laughing Windows, a minor cult favorite from director and co-writer Pupi Avati. While the film was playing, I was certainly into it, but far from enamored. There are these murky church organs that dominate the soundtrack, and are quite effective. Before this nightmare, those keys were the scariest thing about Avati’s picture; the denouement, a disturbed GOTCHA moment, punctuated by a slight cross-gender twist, for the film’s hero  Stefano (Lino Capilicchio, a James McAvoy lookalike), is more haunting than full-on scary. But as those organs play over the enigmatic final shot, The House with the Laughing Windows settled into my head, something awful. The nightmare was inevitable.

I swear on the names of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci that this bad dream was one of the worst I’ve ever had. It all felt so damn real; I heard the organs, lifted straight out of Avati’s work, and I saw the film’s two endgame antagonists, the Legnani sisters, an embodiment of the two peripheral figures commonly seen in paintings of St. Sebastian’s final moments. My bedroom, lit only in the shadows peeking in through the windows, became a tomb; my attempts to simply rise out of bed turned into a broken record spinning devil music. Up and down, up and down; “I can do it” into “Don’t kill me,” “I can do it” into “Don’t kill me.” 

The House with the Laughing Windows takes the St. Sebastian imagery into its own fictional world, envisioning the traditional picture as an impetus for supernatural hub-bub. Stefano is hired to restore the unfinished work of Legnani, a deceased painter cloaked in mystery; he was dubbed the “painter of agony,” due to his penchant for drawing those near- and in-death. As Stefano gets to work, the townsfolk get more ominous by the second, and bodies start dropping. This all commences with patience. The film’s pacing is slow; it’s one of those creepy-crawly horror stories that zaps you early on, lets the dread marinate and then pulverizes you with third-act devastation. Not all of Avati’s film works; clocking in at 110 minutes, the flick would benefit from a solid 15-minutes-off edit. Yet, the bookends are powerful enough to salvage the entire thing. Consult Netflix immediately for this, if only to check what is easily one of the most Satanic opening credits sequences out there. All-red screen, those organs-from-Hell, a slow-motion reenactment of St. Sebastian’s encounter with razor-sharp knives, sprinkled with blood-curdling screams and yelps, all before an eerie voiceover that’s up there with “Simon” from Brad Anderson’s awesome Session 9. Even if the entirety of The House with the Laughing Windows had sucked, the beginning credits would justify its cult status.

Hell, the opening credits, paired with the film’s final five minutes, did me in more than any other horror movie in recent memory; the closest parallel I can draw is the sleepless effects that Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining had on me as a little kid watching it for the first time. In no way am I saying that Avati’s film is on par with hat Kubrick masterpiece; there’s merely an inexplicably common force between the two, in terms of their unsettling tones. 

I may have to buy The House with the Laughing Windows on DVD just to come to grips with this nightmare. Dissect the pic until I uncover the direct cause of a truly horrific nighttime experience. Or, just to swoon over Francesca Mariano, the film’s beautiful female lead. Face-wise, she’s remarkable. 

Scenes from the film—- specifically the opening credits, footage of sexy-ass Mariano and the spoiler-heavy final minutes—-after the jump: Continue Reading »

One of the many perks of living in the Tri-State area is the ease in which I can visit the IFC Center in downtown Manhattan, a wonderland of independent and foreign cinema. Ever since the otherworldly vibe I felt while watching David Lynch’s Inland Empire there in the winter of 2006, I’ve loved the place. Over at Reel Loop, I’ve jotted down my thoughts on a new French film playing at IFC, Catherine Breillat’s Bluebeard

Give it a read, if you can….

LINK: Reel Loop review — ‘Bluebeard’

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a damn-good Swedish thriller that opened here in America a couple weeks back, without any real promotion or word. Meaning, this is most likely the first time you’re hearing about the damn thing. Click the link below to learn more about it, courtesy of a review I’ve penned for Reel Loop:

LINK: LATE PASS Review — ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’

The stench was pungent from the very first scene. I sat down, endured some pretty lousy trailers (I’ve seen the Death at a Funeral remake preview a dozen times now and it somehow gets worse with each round), and eagerly anticipated a spin in the Hot Tub Time Machine. The reviews have been predominantly upbeat, and the cast all but promised enjoyment. Craig Robinson and John Cusack, side by side? Foolproof, I thought. But five minutes in, I nearly slapped my forehead in disbelief. Robinson’s character, Nick Webber-Agnew (having taken his wife’s last name, because he’s the emasculated Ed Helms/’Stu’ member of the film’s all-dude quartet), works at a dog training-and-grooming spot, ‘Sup Dawg, after a failed singing career left his days as the frontman of Chocolate Lipstick as historical inventory. A customer (the usually spot-on Thomas Lennon) brings his sick pooch in for a look-over, recognizes Nick from his crooner days and then gags as Nick pulls the canine-owner’s car keys out of the dog’s ass—-fecal matter as a bonus topping. And in that instant, I realized a painful truth: Hot Tub Time Machine was going to be an excruciating 100 minutes. 

Little, if anything, convinced me otherwise by the time Rob Corddry’s just awful Lou pops up in the final scene as the lead singer in a fake Motley Lue video. The impetus, of course, is that he and his pals were sent back to 1986 after getting sloshed in the title jacuzzi, and the old butterfly effect came into play, allowing Lou to use his foresight to conceptualize Lougle (Google) and front Motley Lu (Motley Crew, obviously). It’s a somewhat clever ending to a altogether unfunny film. Ineffective use of its inner 1980s motif is made, other than a running joke with Back to the Future costar Crispin Glover, tons of shiny clothing and scattered peripheral imagery. Focus is put on gags where one heterosexual guy is forced to give his also hetero boy oral sex, or hand soap is splattered all over one’s face to look like ejaculated spooge. Cheap tricks, dragging down a premise that could have spawned endless humor. Guy-on-guy blowjobs are the easy way out, of course, and will always induce a giggle or two from audience members. Nobody (myself included) buys a Hot Tub Time Machine ticket and expects high art, but unexpected punchlines and intelligent one-liners? Shouldn’t be too much to ask.

I’ve spoken with a good amount of people who’ve seen Hot Tub Time Machine and loved it, so perhaps I’m screwing up here. I’m no flawless filmgoer, being the same cat who owns Neil LaBute’s The Wicker Man remake on DVD, by tongue-in-cheek choice, though that doesn’t matter in the bigger self-respecting picture. I’ll duel to the death on point, though—-Rob Corddry single-handedly ruins the film. One of the most over-the-top performances I’ve ever seen; manic beyond the point of entertainment. It’s tough enough that the majority of his lines are stale dick-and-ball jokes; he could have been delivering Ricky Gervais-written bits and I still wouldn’t have liked a mere second of his work. One reviewer called him “the next Zach Galifianakis,” an attempt to parallel Hot Tub Time Machine to last year’s infinitely superior The Hangover. Toss that comparison out the window, right away. Galifianakis’s presence in The Hangover succeeds thanks to an alternately subtle and bizarre demeanor; Corddry, however, bullies his way through every scene on a tailspin. There’s a stark difference between a humorous guy and one who seems on the verge of self-destruction, or, worse, gone-postal violence. Spitting out words like a cocaine fiend. Unfunny words, at that.

I know, I know… the film is called Hot Tub Time Machine, so I should just loosen up my britches. Put my analytical side on hold. Go watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo instead (which should be the move tonight), or Catherine Breillat’s Bluebeard (tomorrow evening), if I’m craving a real fix. Believe me, that was the intention all along, until Rob Corddry ruined everything. If not for him, I could have even given ‘Sup Dawg another try.

Over at Reel Loop, I’ve weighed in on the this weekend’s newly released erotic drama Chloe.

Give it a look…. it can’t hurt, right?

LINK: Reel Loop: Review – ‘Chloe,’ Sexual Force Proves Impotent, Says Matt

I wish I could somehow recline in the mind of David Lynch for just a few hours, no perversion included. Simply a desire to figure out how the one-of-a-kind filmmaker’s brain ticks, where the insane ideas pour from, why he’s so adept at constructing cinematic puzzles that have no easy-does-it solution. There’s a distinct power at play in any film that forces its viewers to revisit the picture in its entirety in order for them to discern just what the fudge is exactly going down, and that’s a magnetism that doesn’t need to be rewarding to earn its rightful place. I’ve watched Lynch’s spell-binding Mulholland Drive at least ten times at this stage of my life, and I still can’t decide on a straight-and-narrow synopsis. Every fresh watch pokes holes through my then-existing analysis. But, the thing is, I love that ongoing thought process. Coin it as being a tad masochistic; fine by me.

Far too few celluloid experiences pack the discomfort and open-mouth gapes that accompany Lynch’s first work, 1977’s black-and-white Eraserhead, which I caught earlier on the Sundance channel. Guess is,  the fifth time I’ve seen the film. The aftermath is always the same—-brain sodomy. Essentially, this one’s about a nearly-mute weirdo, Harry Spencer (the by-God’s-own-hands unsettling Jack Nance), who sports a pre-Christopher “Kid” Reid pencil-top hairdo and is deathly afraid of becoming a father, and the neurosis he undergoes when his girlfriend gives birth to a disfigured baby. Only, you don’t get your standard daydreams filled with dinnertable scenes starring multiple rugrats; Lynch’s treats feature little alien-like creatures convulsing, or spewing blood, or living in heaters, not to mention, as a sweet bonus, bearded ladies singing showtunes.

Reports state that Lynch made the film using a slim $10,000 grant he received from the storied AFI Conservatory and IOUs he grabbed from friends and odd-job employers. Shows the then-31-year-old wannabe-director’s determination and honed vision. Something tells me, though, that Eraserhead wouldn’t be any less abstract if he’d been given a grant 20 times that amount; like all of his films, Lynch’s debut remains such a singular vision 23 years after its premiere, you can only enjoy it in guiltless bafflement. And that, folks, is precisely the skill that I’d love tap into somehow, some damn way; the ability to create give-me-your-undivided-attention fiction, stories and live-action deals brimming with all-my-own imagination. Of course, no one will ever manage to replicate a David Lynch film, but that’s not even my point; I’m itching to learn how he so brilliantly digs into his own unique sensibilities and translates them into works that equally polarize and astonish.

Eraserhead is by no means a masterpiece, or even one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s up there amongst the strangest and most invigorating, however; one of many offbeat films I re-check often, when I’m searching for inspiration.

Fatherhood is nowhere in sight, so I can’t sympathize with poor Harry Spencer; I am paranoid as hell in other areas, though, namely within a professional pit of quicksand I can’t seem to crawl out of. Could bearded songbirds and mini-ETs get their metaphors on over that? Should they even, for that matter? Not at all. I need to visualize my own what-the-fuck imagery, just as David Lynch did back in 1977.

Distance absolutely makes the heart grow fonder. Having left the once-highly-active Theater of Mine a dust-filled cesspool of lost dreams forfar too long, I’m back in effect, hungrier than ever. The balance of dollar-free passion here and pays-the-bill, necessary passion there is a tight rope stroll, but it’s time I regain some traction. More than before. Work a good amount of literature coverage into the pot; show the world what I’m gassed about in the 2-0-1-0. It’s like that.

And what better to stick a needle in inspiration proverbial ass than a trashy zombie film from the early 1970s. Last night, I finally caught up with the late Bob Clark‘s schlock pseudo-classic Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972), an early no-budget gem from the man who’d go on to direct the great Black Christmas (1974), Porky’s (1982), Porky’s II: The Next Day (1983) and the interminable A Christmas Story (1983)—–yes, the one with Ralphie and those damn Bumpus hounds.

Written and directed by Clark, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is my favorite of his films (that distinction goes to Black Christmas), but it certainly falls above the Red Rider BB gun flick. The characters are awful, a large amount of the dialogue grates like fromage, and the gore effects are a mere step away from using cherry Kool-Aid in the place of authentic life liquid. The first two acts slither along like a finger digging through marshmallow, and the scares are telegraphed. Somehow, though, through all of this ineptitude, Clark emerges as a magical auteur, yanking heaps of entertainment from the lame-brained festivities. That I was never bored throughout the film’s lean 85-minute duration speaks volumes.

The late Bob Clark

Continued after the jump: Continue Reading »

Opening today is Antoine Fuqua’s Brooklyn’s Finest, a film I’ve been heavily anticipating since it made waves back in January 2009 at the Sundance Film Festival. Though the reviews from that fest were mixed, I latched on to the word that the picture is brutally dark, and had a downbeat and polarizing ending. I say ‘had” because I’m pretty sure they went back and changed the coda after that response. I could be wrong, though, since the conclusion I saw wasn’t even close to being marginal; it’s outright grim.

Over at Reel Loop, I’ve written my thoughts down into a review. Give it a look, eh?:

LINK: Reel Loop – Review: ‘Brooklyn’s Finest’

I owe it to myself and to my few but loyal readers to scribe a full-on Shutter Island reaction, one that gushes with praise while defending Martin Scorcese’s admirable decision to totally indulge in his lifelong cinema geekery, on some Quentin Tarantino ish. That piece is being written in my head, and will hopefully make its way onto this here blog in the near days to come. Just have to bang through a wall of other stories that need proper attention.

In the meantime, I feel it’s only right that I post a numero dos for Score Settling: Shutter Island, this time singling out my personal favorite musical composition used in the film, the ditty that rose above all the other dynamite stretches of audible boom. It’s called “Root of an Unfocus,” and the composer is one Boris Berman. This creeps into the film during two choice scenes, the first one standing out as a chilling highlight: Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) enters a distorted, nightmarish dream-state, after a migraine attack sends him onto a cot. In this slumber-terror, he’s slowly walking through a walking creepshow, first seeing a dead little girl’s eyes pop open, then pow-wowing with the arsonist responsible for killing his wife, and finally aiding a three-time child killer. Boris Berman’s work, an off-putting series of sonic raindrops, sets the scene to goosebumping degree.

Hear for yourself (if you’ve yet to see the film, or just want to revisit this gem of a score), after the jump: Continue Reading »

Brings me back to the days when I played Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style on the Playstation like it was going out of style. 

Because I’ve chatted with a handful of women lately who’ve, much to my dismay, sung the praises of those Twilight novels. And then, I’m all like, “Have you heard of Let the Right One In? Since you said you love vampires and all,” and they’re all like, “Nope, sorry.” Where’s Col. Hans Landa when you really need him?

As the release of Shutter Island rapidly approaches, concluding a marathon of anticipation around these parts, I’ve been working on some related posts for my colleagues over at Reel Loop. The first is today’s feature, ‘Six Book-To-Film Adaptations That Hollywood Needs to Make Happen,’ comprised of novels I love and think would translate well on the big screen. For added measure, I’ve also made some suggestions on how said projects should move forward, if any or all get that chance one day.

Give it a look, and let me know what books YOU’D love to see turned into feature-length flicks.

LINK: REEL LOOP Feature: Six Book-To-Film Adaptations That Hollywood Needs to Make Happen

Slowly but surely, I’m jumping back into the film review pool. Time permitting, of course.

Here’s my first leap back, a review of this week’s remake of The Wolfman. Head over to Reel Loop for the words, please. Many, many thanks.

LINK: REEL LOOP: ‘The Wolfman’ Review

It feels like eons since I’ve last posted here. Between my fiction-writing pursuits that dominate my time at night, my daily actual-job duties and the recent uprising of my Reel Loop film news writing, poor Theater Of Mine has been neglected. But that’s about to change, as I’m hoping to revitalize this here blog, for the scarce few that happen across on occasion. I’m also pondering an idea that would introduce some amounts of original fiction here, as well as finally abandoning that “wordpress” in the site’s URL. Time is of the essence.

What better way to kickstart a new round of TOM posting than with a Shutter Island-related entry? Martin Scorcese’s latest, for those aware of my tastes and quirks, has been my personal Holy Grail for going on about a year or so now; I adore Dennis Lehane’s novel, and every piece of pre-release swag I’ve seen or read for the film has left me enthralled. There’s no doubt that a Thursday February 18th midnight showing is in my future.

This morning, I read a short but sweet New York Times profile on Sir Scorcese, and one of its finer points was a discussion of the music used in Shutter Island. It’s a good read, so give it a look. Amongst the classical talents revisited for the film’s soundtrack is Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, whose “Passacaglia” is cited by Scorcese as a perfect musical encapsulation of Teddy Daniels’s (the main character played by Leonardo Dicpario) crumbling, tortured psyche. And, naturally, the track is of top quality, and has me even more excited. Precisely the tone I love to hear in movies. Listen to “Passacaglia” after the jump: Continue Reading »

Over at the fulltime grind, I’ve somehow found a way to merge two passions of mine in a completely random and maybe-too-esoteric way. See, I took my all-week duty of one rap-music-specific blog per day and wrote a Shirley Jackson remix, combining hip-hop’s cherished “battle rap” practice with the iconic author’s brilliant short story “The Lottery.” Music and literature, a treacherous pair. 

I’m not entirely sure if my idea congeals well enough, but I’m, at the least, happy with the execution. Check it out for yourselves and let me know, please?

LINK:  XXLmag.com – The Hip-Hop Witch Project: Don’t Throw Stones in Rap Houses

This goes out to all nine of my loyal readers. You all complete me. And shock the hell out of me.

2010 begins an interesting diversion, the windy path to notoriety within the online film-covering community. Earning respect, one post at a time. That’s the goal, at least. So far, I’m on two channels: this here one, which will continue to be home to all random film musings, free-spirited reviews and reactions to pictures both new and old, and other me-centric writings that, honestly, have no other fitting home; and Critics Notebook, where I regularly contribute in-depth reviews of new films, whether independent, obscure or mainstream. Here, the reviews are raw; there, much more controlled and self-edited.

Which leaves a place for me to cover a healthy smattering of film news, and that’s where my new outlet, Reel Loop, comes into play. Though its still in its upstart stage, Reel Loop shows tons of potential and, most importantly, spunk. Not that dry news, but lively updates and an occasional creative remixing of the hard-news approach. The site’s tagline is “Face-Punching Film News,” so there you go. They’ve welcomed me into their fold, and I’m quite grateful. Still learning the system, yet to master the flow, but ready to soak up game and solidify my name.

These are crazy, closed-door times for those hungry to kick in hinges, especially in the film journalism circuit. I’m a year older, and recharged. Down for whatever. More passionate and studious toward cinema than ever before. Just how I like it.

Now, about nixing that surname and upgrading this into a legit dot-com…..

It’s the quintessential Academy Award job, a brave and vicious turn from a critically-beloved actress known for her vintage class. The kind of work that leads to writers typing, “Who knew she had it in her?” Not unlike Charlize Theron’s Oscar-winning descent into ugliness and despair in 2003’s Monster, when the stunning, radiant actress morphed into a schlubby, disgusting prostitute-turned-murderer. If you went into that film blind and there’d been no opening credits, Theron’s name would be most likely remain silent when it came time to play the guessing game of “Who’s that star?”

It’s similarly difficult to accept the fact that it’s Tilda Swinton on screen while watching Julia, a nobody-other-than-critics-knows-it-exists independent thriller from last year, directed by French filmmaker Erick Zonca. In an otherwise strong but flawed film, Swinton is grade-A. Written by Zonca and Aude Py, Julia is a dark look at one desperate, 40-year-old woman’s frantic downward spiral, which she brings upon herself by kidnapping the 8-year-old son of her fellow Alcoholics Anonymous groupmate, a mentally-unstable Mexican woman. She promises to give Julia (Swinton) buckets of cash if she helps steal her estranged son from his grandfather, an electronic tycoon who hates the fact that his grandson’s mother is of Mexican descent. Julia’s life is a series of drunken hookups and flimsy values, made worse after she’s fired from her job. On the edge of hopelessness, she orchestrates her own swipe-the-kid plan that goes completely to hell, though she does end up with the kid, not for lack of scaring the piss out of him (wearing a creepy black mask, she puts a pistol to his head and then tosses him into her trunk). The rest of Julia’s idea devolves into a nightmare of debt, crime, and run-ins with con men in Tijuana.

Throughout all of the film’s realistic intensity, Swinton is dynamite. The role of “Julia Harris” is a sharp left turn from the Scottish actress’s recent work; earning heaps of praise for her co-starring gigs in Michael Clayton, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Burn After Reading, she’s proven to be surgical when embodying uptight sophistication. Which is why she’s such a revelation in Julia; here, Swinton is indistinguishable, talking with a sailor’s mouth one second, telling a sleazy gun-toting delinquent “I wouldn’t wipe my ass with you!” the next. There’s hardly a 10-second stretch in the film without Swinton in sight, and she holds the production down with pure muscle. ‘Julia Harris’ starts off as a wretched low-life, escalates into a menacing degenerate, and then unexpectedly upgrades into a sympathetic misfit—–As conceived by screenwriters Zonca and Py, the character is ticking timebomb beaming with dimensions, and Swinton nails them all. Even when the film itself enters an over-the-top climax, one that demands suspension-of-belief to accept its absurdity (how Julia and the little boy survive a few moments is anybody’s guess), Swinton literally saves face.

Too bad she won’t snag enough nominations over the next two months, let alone win any statues. Julia received a lowball theatrical release last May on its way to a second life on DVD, yet even in that market it hasn’t ignited. No real Oscar push for Swinton is underway, though she totally deserves one. Some critics have pegged this performance as a dignified actress merely slumming it, grappling with a down-and-dirty assignment simply to show that she can, that she’s not above the grime. Some critics, in that same breath, are delusional. Julia would be an intriguing premise undone by too many implausabilities, and not much more, if guided by another star.

Whenever Meryl Streep is on stage accepting trophies for Julie & Julia (it’ll probably happen more than once), know that there’s another Julia better known as Tilda Swinton out there who never got a fair shot. After all, awards season has never been prone to justice.

Julia trailer, after the jump: Continue Reading »

I figured that it’d take longer than a eight days before I began steaming over my Best of 2009 list, but, alas, the ocho is upon me. Lone Scherfig’s An Education is lucky, because had I seen Oren Moverman‘s The Messenger before New Years Eve, it would’ve most certainly edged An Education off the list (The Last House on the Left, which placed tenth, had the 10-spot secured, lock and key, regardless; that ninth position was the flexible one). A steadily hectic schedule kept me from seeing Mr. Moverman’s sobering and fresh look at war-time grief, and that’s a shame.

The film sprinkles a variety of emotions, all landing right in the middle of the pie. Moverman, along with the script’s co-writer Alessandro Camon, knows when to relieve the tension with perfectly-executed humor; there’s some of the most earned levity in this film that I’ve seen in some time. The domineering sensation is that of a heart being wrenched, though, particularly in four scenes that show U.S. Staff Sergeant, and medal-holding hero, Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) and Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) carrying out their patriotic duties: they’re both Army soldiers turned Casualty Notification Officers, meaning they’re the troopers stuck with the somber task of informing a recently-killed comrade’s next-of-kin about his or her death.

Whenever this specific job requirement comes into play, The Messenger devastates. Foster and Harrelson knock on one home’s front door and greeted by a grumpy middle-aged man; they’re looking for his daughter, though Harrelson has requested her by a different last name. Turns out, she recently married an Army guy whom her pops disapproves of, behind his back. What starts off as a father’s heartbreaking realization that his kid has broken his own heart shifts into violent sobs from her and daddy being forced to swallow his pain and console. Moverman keeps the camera mere inches behind the daughter’s back, showing her father’s teary eyes as he hugs her in the foreground, and the holding-back-their-own-tears, crumbling expressions of Foster and Harrelson. It’s extremely taxing. Continued after the jump: Continue Reading »

Right before the holidays, I spoke with author Scott Snyder, for a freelance magazine assignment. He’s published a collection of short stories, Voodoo Heart, and he also currently teaches creative writing at NYU, Columbia, and Sarah Lawrence College. None of that was what we talked about, though; in March, a new comic book series that he created and co-wrote, along with the almighty Stephen King, hits shelves, called American Vampire. So, naturally, the bulk of conversation revolved around the vampire lore, everything from Bram Stoker to Max Schreck to Edward Cullen, with some Sookie Stackhouse thrown in for balance. We both agree that Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987) is incredibly badass and under-appreciated, and that vamps shouldn’t sparkle, ever (take that, Stephenie Meyer). Or, just keep counting your dollar stacks and live comfortably. I am a realist, after all.

Something tells me that Snyder will dig the latest entry into the vampire realm, Daybreakers. Why I feel this way can be found over at Critics Notebook, where I’ve reviewed the film (opening today in wide release). Give it a go, would you?:

Critics Notebook: DAYBREAKERS (2010)

It’s The Violent Kind, an indie horror film that’ll be premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in a couple of weeks. About some unfortunate bikers fighting for their lives while pit-stopping in an off-the-beaten-path farmhouse. That’s really all I know about it, story-wise. This one-sheet is just what the film needed to ignite excitement. A la last year’s The House of the Devil; here’s to similarly met expectations with this one. 

Spotted over at: Bloody Disgusting

There’s also this, a choice still from The Violent Kind:

Pardon the pretentiousness that could be taken from the following; I’m just typing while thinking.

Take from this what you will, but there’s seriously no greater joy for me than when unsuspected visitors to my bedroom finger through my DVD collection, only to leer my way with hesitation and mild shock. That me, the nice, friendly and warm fella they thought they knew so well has such a perverse appreciation of truly fucked-up cinema. Sure, they glance at Billy Madison and other non-threatening standards, but then they also see Lucio Fulci’s The House by the Cemetery, and Dario Argento’s Deep Red, and the many recent foreign horror flicks with the off-putting cover art designs. And then I proceed to fawn over the elaborate death scenes, how the respective director makes you squirm while reeling in sadistic glee. 

Truth is, I’m accepting more and more every day that there’s this inner dark side beneath my naturally disarming ways. Take the book I purchased this morning—-Ramsey Campbell’s The Face That Must Die. I know tons of people reading The Lost Symbol, thinking that they’re onto something quite intriguing, but not I; I’m enraptured by British horror writers. Just last week, I stormed through James Herbert’s ferocious ’70s novel The Fog. And every night, before I drift off into slumber city, I take in another entry from Jack Ketchum’s demented short story collection Peaceable Kingdom. His “To Suit the Crime” is a must-read; it’s an intense exploitation story bookended by a Rod Serling-esque twist. 

The reason for this self-examination is the following, the first full trailer for Amer, a French new-age-giallo from filmmaking duo Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani that could potentially show Dario Argento how he used to make horror. Amer is currently making the festival rounds, and the praise is slowly mounting. The trailer, released earlier today, is bizarre and moving, lavish and somewhat vile. Meaning, exactly my kind of thing. You want to know more about me? Watch the trailer, after the jump, and wonder why I’ve replayed this five times in a row now. But first, here’s the synopsis found on Bloody Disgusting

Desire has always been linked to one’s look. And cinema too. Luis Buñuel knew that very well when he filmed the short of a razor over an eye with a detail shot. Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani recover this image in an experimental film with immaculate style. Someone watches a girl through a keyhole. The wind lightly lifts a woman’s skirt as a group of men look on. The fantasy of a dress tearing. Composed of fragments -of eyes, lights, shadows, gestures– and without dialogues, Amer delves into the life of Ana, always halfway between the real and the imaginary. A film of sensations, always shot skin-deep.

Head beyond the jump for the hypnotic trailer: Continue Reading »

The Internet needs another Best of 2009 list like it does an incurable virus, but whatever. I was asked to do one by the good folks over at Critics Notebook, and who am I to refuse a chance to treat myself like a big deal? It feels good once in a while. Especially when I also have the opportunity to flash lights on the year’s most slept-on horror flicks, ones that either didn’t make it into any theaters on their way to DVD oblivion, or suffered from puny theatrical runs.

These lists are never easy. Once your own is posted, it’s there for any- and everyone to see, dissect, hate, agree with; it’s also there for the writer his- or herself to chastise. “How could I forget that film?” “Why in Sam-hell did I place that above this?” I’m sure I’ll ask myself in due time. Another thing, there are still a few films I’ve yet to see that could’ve very well landed on my list: The Lovely Bones, for instance. Or, Julia. Maybe even The Headless Woman (which I’m finally watching tonight). Certainly The Fantastic Mr. Fox and/or Up. Oh, and The Messenger.

I did see Avatar, though, and I’m confident in its exclusion from my rundown. The visuals and effects are magnificent, sure, but the story is irritably predictable and, frankly, trite.

Well, here goes nothing….. My 10 Best Films of 2009 list, followed by the 10 Best Overlooked-By-The-Mainstream Horror Films of ’09:

Critics Notebook: Matt Barone’s 2009 Best Of lists

…. has a new, effective poster.