Recent horror viewings
July 02, 2015

Ready to do this? Then let's do this!

The Conjuring (2013)

Ed and Lorraine Warren return to aid a poor family plagued by a child-killing, devil-worshiping ghost.

I expected a lot from The Conjuring, mainly because it was a hit movie, and I was slightly disappointed. I did, however, set myself up for that, and honestly the movie really isn't that bad. It's a decent throwback to flicks like The Amityville Horror and Burnt Offerings, mainly because it highlights most of the subgenre's tropes. Unfortunately, for someone who's been there several times, it comes off as a standard routine. Yeah, there are some mildly scary parts, but I didn't feel quite as terrified watching this one as I have with more effective ghost/haunted house movies. I will say, though, that I was impressed with the movie's ability to recreate the look of the '70s and its cast mostly likeable characters. Granted, it doesn't parallel The House of the Devil in terms of its devotion to the decade, but it does a better job than most faux-retro pieces.

It's a shame that most of the movie is pretty forgettable. Just the same, I think fans of ghost movies should at very least rent or stream the film at least once.


Puppet Master 4 (1993)

"When bad puppets turn good."

When you're a twelve-year-old horror fan and lover of Charles Band's material, a tagline like that sounds like magic. Nowadays, the enchantment may have dissipated, but the boldness and ridiculousness of Puppet Master 4's premise is no less present.

I mean, seriously. We've seen these creatures take innocent lives and who we're supposed to root for them? I mean, it's not like I doing so wasn't before, but... you know...

Andre Toulon's collection of murderous puppets find a kinder, gentler new master. Utilizing the Egyptian magic Toulon pilfered, he reanimates the puppets, believing them to be the key to artificial intelligence. Of course, the demon lord whom Toulon robbed isn't too happy about this and sends three of his minions--who just happen to be puppet-sized--out to stop the new master and his puppets.

Pure early '90s cheese ensues...

There aren't many human death scenes in Puppet Master 4. The couple that it does sport consist of one of the demon lord's cronies jumping on someone's back whilst that person is somehow unable to deal with an 18" tall creature. The result is pretty much: "struggle struggle bite bite bite bite bite bite bite struggle struggle struggle bite bite bite bite bite bite bite bite struggle bite dead." Thankfully, they're not as agonizing of death scenes to witness as Alien Prey's "slow motion drowning in a cesspool," but they could have been a little more inventive.

Of course, as a fan of Full Moon, there isn't much for me to gripe about. The movie is chock full of cheesy and decent practical effects, puppets battling other puppets, and pint-sized gore. One scene pits one the demons against Pinhead, Blade, and Tunneler. Realizing he's screwed, the creature puts his hands up in surrender while the first two hold him to the wall. Tunneler fires up the old drill and puts a hole in the villain's stomach, arguably the flick's high point.

I can't quite call Puppet Master 4 a horror movie. It's more like a superhero flick as imagined by Roger Corman. Not that I'm complaining.


Razorback (1984)

Both Gregory Harrison and Bill Kerr have lost loved ones to a hungry, rhino-sized boar (the former losing his wife and the latter his two-year-old grandson). Together they stalk the Australian bush and Outback in search of the beast, unaware that a couple of sociopathic kangaroo hunters want to mess them up.

I love a good, campy "nature run amok" film, and Razorback definitely has the credentials. There are numerous artsy flares used now and then: snazzy transitions, awesome use of camera angles, and and a bit of show-don't-tell character development. On top of that, there's a pretty sweet practical effects monster in the boar.

Above all, I dig that the movie isn't just another '80s splatter flick. It eschews graphic scares in favor terrifically dim lighting, suggestions, and sound effects. I'm not only indicating the boar's roar, either. During the scene in which Harrison's wife bites the dust, you can hear her bones splintering in the boar's maw. While I'm not against gore in horror movies, I will say that Razorback's sound effects are much more effective than most graphic visuals.

Now, don't get me wrong; the movie has its share of '80s cheesiness and questionable direction, particularly with the 'roo hunters. Within about ten minutes, they go from being a couple of dingy, rapey pricks to being the film's comic relief. Call me crazy, but the abundance of humor doesn't fit well with a movie that kicks off with a one-ton swine devouring a toddler and leaving an old man's home inexplicably in flames. In fact, it kind of cheapens the movie's punch.

Just the same, I enjoyed rewatching Razorback, and am kind of tempted to check out some other killer boar movies. I know there aren't many, but South Korea's Chaw is looking tempting, plus there's a quasi-remake of this movie entitled Boar in the works.

Most recent blog posts from Joseph Shaffer...

overdrive overdrive - July 03, 2015 (07:04 AM)
Razorback is one that I'd like to see sometime. I have PM 1-8 (or 9) on a DVD collection, but haven't gotten around to watching nearly all of those. Looks like Corman was still trying at 4, though, which makes it an improvement over what I've read about 8, where 90% of the thing is stock footage from earlier films.

A recent one I saw (in 5 20ish-minute increments on YouTube; don't know if it's still up) was a pretty effective suspenseful ghost story in R-Point. Korean horror set in the Vietnam War. One real demerits were that (1) you need a certain knowledge of Korean folklore to understand the last 10 or so minutes and (2) the ol' ethnocentric "they all look the same" deal, which isn't helped by how, as military personnel, all the characters have similar uniforms, along with how a good bit of the proceedings happen at night.
JoeTheDestroyer JoeTheDestroyer - July 03, 2015 (07:40 AM)
I liked R-Point for the most part, but I thought the middle was a little long. Other than that, it was an effective and pretty original ghost movie. I dug the imagery with the bleeding radio.

I've only seen up to PM 4. Since I also have the collection you mentioned (which has all but the newest PM and Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys), I'll finally get around to watching the other five or so films. I'm kind of dragging my feet with #5, though. I'm a bit wary of the superheroish form the series seems to have taken on.
Genj Genj - July 03, 2015 (07:42 AM)
I liked The Conjuring but it is really cliche. It's a lot like James Wan's recent Insidious films in that they're fairly well-crafted and enjoyable but rely heavily on cheap jump scares.

I find it hard to find good horror movies I haven't seen before. Have you ever seen Society? I watched it last night (the Arrow Video blu ray is superb). It has "biting social commentary" that a 12 year old could have wrote and I'm not entirely sure how much of the film was serious but it sure is very 80s and the last 20-30 minutes are pretty mind-boggling with fairly grotesque special effects. I'm also really looking forward to It Follows coming to blu ray as I've heard a lot of good things.
JoeTheDestroyer JoeTheDestroyer - July 04, 2015 (04:28 AM)
I enjoyed the first Insidious, but haven't seen the other two. I'll probably have to change that some time.

I've actually wanted to see Society, but I'm not surprised that it's a bit silly (by the sounds of it). Brian Yuzna is a bit of an odd guy, from what I've gathered, and this seems like his material through and through.

I almost dragged my wife to see It Follows, but never made it to the theater to watch it. I want to see it badly, but am afraid that I might be getting my hopes up despite the overwhelmingly positive reviews. I've noticed that there have been a fair number of newer indie movies popping up on recommended lists. I've caught a few and liked some (The House of the Devil was good, although it had some slight pacing issues), but there are others I've still got on a long to-watch list (Borgman, Starry Eyes, Under the Skin, The Demon's Rook).

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