Spooky and Seductive Vampires – Fright Night (1985)

Every second week of the month, Catie Rhodes and I review a classic film and its reboot in our Original versus Remake series.  For the month of February, we’ve gone back to the horror genre and selected Fright Night.  While Catie will be reviewing the original on Wednesday, and I will be covering the more recent adaptation next Friday, today I thought I’d share my take on the ‘80s classic I watched countless times as a little girl.

Yes, that’s right; my parents let me watch whatever I wanted when I was younger.  The horror genre really took off in the ‘80s, and I can’t express my thanks enough to my parents for not sheltering me from these movies.  Watching these frightening flicks didn’t scare me away either; I absolutely love slashers and all kinds of horror today.

But most vampire movies today want the audience to fall in love with the vampire.  Take the Twilight series for example – none of the Cullens actually feed on humans (not that we see, anyway).  No, the bad vampires (like Victoria) are the evil vamps killing innocents; and the good vampires, like the Cullen family, fight these bad seeds to protect Bella and the other humans.

The same can’t be said about Tom Holland’s 1985 classic, Fright Night.

That’s not to say the viewers don’t secretly love Fright Night’s vampire lead.  Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) possesses all the qualities we love in a vampire; he’s sexy, seductive, brooding, and he’s not afraid to sink his teeth into a nightly feed.

But Jerry is not the character the audience is supposed to cheer on during the big showdown at the end of the movie.

Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) lives a normal teenage life with his single mother, Judy (Dorothy Fielding), quirky best friend, Edward, aka “Evil Ed” (Stephen Geoffreys), and girlfriend, Amy (Amanda Bearse), until one night he notices the new neighbor moving in with what resembles coffin-like boxes.

Being a horror fan, Charley immediately questions whether or not a vampire has just moved in next door and he begins investigating.  He reaches out to a television vampire hunter, Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), for ways to prove, or disprove, that his new neighbor is indeed a blood-sucker.

Watching women disappear after joining the mysterious man next door, Charley decides to sneak over and put some of Peter’s ideas to the test.  His suspicions are confirmed when he notices Jerry’s image does not reflect in a mirror.  But unfortunately for the teenager, Jerry learns that his young neighbor has been sneaking around when Charley leaves behind a piece of his mirror.

Jerry stalks Charley, terrorizes him, and makes his life a living hell.  He lures those closest to Charley by turning them and compelling them to do as he wishes.

Charley’s only hope is to trust Peter.  Armed with holy water, crosses, and wooden stakes, Charley and Peter enter the vampire’s house with one goal—kill.

Fright Night is not a feel-good vampire movie.  It’s mysterious, dark, and at times spooky.  Even the music was eerie and seductive, particularly the instrumental “Dream Window (Come to Me)” by Brad Fiedel.

The movie won awards, spawned a novelization, a sequel, a comic book series, and a computer game.

And in 2011, a remake.

DreamWorks (Steven Spielberg) has remade the classic film, and cast Colin Farrell as Jerry.  Colin Farrell!  Who doesn’t think this is the best casting for the sexy, dark role of Jerry?

The casting all around is FaBOOolous: Anton Yelchin (Terminator Salvation, Star Trek) plays Charley Brewster; Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, United States of Tara) plays Jane Brewster; David Tennant (Doctor Who, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) plays Peter Vincent; and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Role Models, Kick-Ass) plays Evil Ed.

A few other notable roles include: James Franco’s (Freaks and Geeks, Spiderman, 127 Hours) little brother, Dave Franco, playing Mark; Sofia Vergara’s (Modern Family) little sister, Sandra Vergara, playing Ginger; and Lisa Loeb (1994 hit song, “Stay”), playing Evil Ed’s mom.

So how does the remake hold up?  You’ll have to come back next week to find out!

Be sure to tune into Catie’s blog on Wednesday to see what she thinks about the original, and I’ll be back next Friday with my take on the 2011 film.

Until then…

What do you think?  Were/are you a fan of the 1985 Fright Night?   I’d love to hear from you!


Friday FaBOOolousness – Celebrating October and Halloween 2012

October is one of my favorite months.  First of all, football season has officially kicked into high-gear.  Also, the cooler weather slowly begins to creep into the state of Texas—everywhere really, but we Texans can finally start to notice a difference between the daytime and nighttime temperatures.

Additionally, one of my favorite holidays just happens to fall during the month of October—Halloween.  I enjoy getting dressed up, most of the time anyway, and handing out candy to all of the children who knock on my door.  I’m also fascinated by the idea of anything spooky—haunted houses, horror movies, etcetera.

And, since it is October and Halloween is right around the corner, why not dedicate a Friday FaBOOolousness post to my fellow bloggers getting into the spirit with some spooky and festive posts?

Food and Recipes…

Yum. Myndi. Yum.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes, anyone?  Check out Myndi Shafer’s recipe!

How about Pumpkin Tiramisu?  Kathy Owen tempts our taste buds…

Apple Pie?  Sarah Benson shares her step-by-step process to this delicious treat…

And, while it may not be a specific Halloween or fall treat, I couldn’t help but include August McLaughlin’s Best Foods for Sex post.

Halloween Arts and Crafts and Costumes…

S.P.O.O.K.Y.

Looking for a quick craft for Halloween?  Lucky for us, Tameri Etherton gives us the steps for Spooky Eyes

How about another?  Liz Schulte shares how she made the perfect “Raven” Halloween Decorations last year over on Mandy O’Steen Stevens’ blog Taking Time for Mommy.

Need a quick and easy costume idea?  Check out Jill Kemerer’s faBOOolous idea in her Costumes and Crime Scenes post!

And, let’s not forget about our furry friends.  Thankfully, we have Amy Shojai to share a few Kitty Costumes that are absolutely hisss-terical.

Spooky True Crime Stories…

Two of my favorite bloggers always have faBOOolous posts about true-crime and freaky stories, so I’ve chosen two that fit into today’s BOO! Factor.

Believe in urban legends?  Check out Catie Rhode’s post about The Black-Eyed Kids.

Crazies exist year round, not just during Halloween.  To prove it, Stacy Green writes about a few Celebrity Stalkers.

Miscellaneous Halloween and Spooky Stories…

Kitt Crescendo shares why she loves Halloween in her post All About All Hallows

This one takes me back… the Halloween movies we loved as kids by Olivia Hardin.

Before we go, this week a few of my writer friends (Catie Rhodes and Rhonda Hopkins) released a collection of spooky short stories in their anthology Tales From the Mist.  Be sure and check it out!   I’ll reveal my review of the works in an upcoming Friday FabOoolousness post… so stay tuned!

What does Halloween mean to you?  Do you dress up in costume and go trick or treating?  What’s some of your favorite Halloween pastimes and crafts?  Do you have any ghost stories to share?  I’d love to hear from you!

And just when you thought my post was over, I decide to keep going.  I guess it’s my little “trick” for Halloween…

Are you looking to go to the movies this month?  Here are a few posts that might help sway you one way or another…

Piper Bayard’s Review of Argo… I hear Ben Affleck knocks the ball out of the park with this one.  Do Piper and Holmes agree?

Bond.  James Bond.  A few weeks ago, the world celebrated its favorite spy’s 50th anniversary, and my favorite British gal Donna Newton helps us get ready for the Skyfall release in theaters November 9th.

Do you plan to see Argo or the new James Bond?  Or have you already?  I’d love to hear from you!

And, if you like to read whodunits, check out my YA Mystery novel, Football Sweetheart… now available on Kindle and Nook!  High School Football Can Be MURDER…

Friday FabOoolousness – Kill for Mother (Friday the 13th)

It’s time again for Catie Rhodes and I to break down another cinematic original and its remake.  Sticking with our usual ways, Catie reviews the original and I take on the remake.  This month we tackle the horror classic, Friday the 13th.

Usually, I include Catie’s Homeade Summary that applies to both films.  But this time, I tweaked it just a bit:

A group of young adults is terrorized by a killer at Crystal Lake and the nearby deserted summer camp.

Before I begin, let me first mention that I love Friday the 13th—not just the movie franchise—but the actual date itself.  But when I think about it, maybe I love it when a Friday lands on the thirteenth of a month because I automatically associate the day as a scary day because of the horror movie and its subsequent sequels.  Regardless, I’m a fan…  When I see that a particular Friday actually falls on the thirteenth, I hit the television and search immediately for a Friday the 13th marathon.  Sadly, not many stations actually take the opportunity to air an all-day and all-night marathon of Jason Voorhees movies; and if I ever run a TV station, this will be one of my first orders of business.

Friday the 13th is a classic and Catie said it best in her blog post discussing the original—if anyone considers themselves to be a horror buff and they have not seen this movie, shame on them.  Because of this movie, there have been many instances in real life where I have felt uncomfortable—like when I stayed at a week-long Athletic Training Camp at Prude Ranch in high school; I heard noises outside my cabin… and I really didn’t want to shower out there—or anytime I go to a lake; one never knows what or who’s lurking in that dirty water—or when I camped overnight at Palo Duro Canyon in college; I heard noises in the dry, dead brush all around us the entire time.  Thanks a lot, Jason.

One might ask, if the 1980 film is so great, why remake it?  Well, I don’t feel Friday the 13th (2009) is an actual remake… it’s more a re-envisioning of the first few films in the franchise.  The writers did a fantastic job creating somewhat of a new story all its own, while still incorporating many elements of the other films and the classic horror movie rules.

Let’s talk about the similarities—things that if were missing from the film would not make a Friday the 13th movie complete:

The Curse of Camp Crystal Lake:

It all started in 1980, when innocent camp counselors worked to open an old camp site; a camp that had been closed after a young boy, Jason Voorhees, drowned in the lake.  How did Jason drown?  Two camp counselors that were supposed to watch him decided to have sex instead.  Devastated by her son’s death, Jason’s mother took matters into her own hands to ensure the camp didn’t open again—to protect other children from counselors who were more interested in their summer shenanigans than watching the children.  One by one, she stalked the unaware teenagers, placing blame on each of them for her son’s death.  Mrs. Voorhees managed to brutally murder each counselor—all except for one.   Alice managed to escape Mrs. Voorhees’ murderous rampage and turned the tables on the crazed mother.  In what began the true Friday the 13th style, Alice decapitated Mrs. Voorhees’ with a machete.  Thus, we have the Curse of Camp Crystal Lake.

Jason, the mask, and the machete:

Jason Voorhees remains one of the most frightening characters today.  He’s gigantic, has super strength, obtains supernatural abilities, and isn’t afraid to kill.  He always has his machete, but he will also never shy away from bows and arrows, spears, pitchforks or chainsaws—anything that will cut right through his victims.

Yeah, I’d run if I saw him coming…

The music:

Ki ki ki, ma ma ma – The dreadful, eerie, creepy music.  There have been many debates over what the actual sounds of the Jason music are.  The ‘ki’ sound comes from the word ‘kill’ and the ‘ma’ sound from ‘mommy’—a line in the original movie spoken by Mrs. Voorhees in her child’s voice: “Kill her mommy!”

The killings:

Even the murders mirror classic Jason killings from a few of the earlier movies:  a machete chop through the head; a machete stab through the chest and into a tree; an arrow through the head; a metal hook through the throat; a towel rack and an ax through the back; and a fireplace stoker through the eye.  Okay; it’s been a while since I’ve seen all of the Jason movies, but all of these kills at least seemed familiar… next Friday the 13th, hopefully I’ll find a marathon so that I can confirm that all of these tactics have indeed previously taken the lives of a few other teenagers in Jason’s way.

The re-envisioning also incorporates a few of the franchise’s key moments: a shrine to Jason’s mother with her decapitated head as the centerpiece, showing his love and dedication to her, and also Jason’s finding an old hockey mask to cover his disfigured face.  We also see the classic horror elements Catie listed in her post: the prior “evil” events at Camp Crystal Lake in 1980, and the fact that help is not coming.

Next, let’s go over the horror movie rules present in Friday the 13th (2009) just in case someone isn’t quite familiar:

  1. Don’t show your breasts.  Show your breasts, and die.
  2. Don’t have sex.  Everyone knows that the second a couple fornicates, they die.
  3. Don’t drink or do drugs.  Intoxicate yourself in any way, and die.

Now, let’s switch gears and discuss cast and characterization.

Catie mentioned that the cast of the original was primarily a group of relatively unknown actors.  One of Jason’s victims back in 1980 may not have been well known then, but he’s a huge Hollywood star today—Kevin Bacon.  How many times have we seen someone’s starring in a slasher film actually launch their career?  But I digress…

Unlike the original, the 2009 version stars many familiar faces: Jared Padalecki (Supernatural), Danielle Panabaker (Shark), Amanda Righetti (The Mentalist), Travis Van Winkle (Transformers), and Willa Ford (ex-wife to hockey super-star, Mike Modano and former Dancing with the Stars contestant).  Each of these actors and actresses can be described as easy on the eyes, or eye candy—a feature that doesn’t hurt when deciding which movie to go see…

Clay will do anything to protect his sister… much like Mr. Padelecki’s Supernatural character will do anything to protect the world… He’s awesome.

And where the casting can affect whether or not I’m interested in seeing the movie, the characterization determines whether or not I enjoy the movie—usually.  In the case of horror films and slashers, I usually can’t empathize with many of the characters.  In other words, I don’t mind the fact that I know each and every one of them are about to be hacked into pieces.  However, I can list four characters in Friday the 13th (2009) that I actually liked:

  • Clay, the hero—the good guy on a mission to find his missing sister and protect as many as he can in the meantime.
  • Jenna, the nice girl—the girl with substance, unlike her partying friends, who wants to help others and not only protect herself.
  • Whitney, the damsel—the girl that even though held captive, plays her captor like a fiddle to prolong her survival.
  • Jason, the killer—the poor, lost soul who wants to follow his mother’s orders (“Kill for mother.”), protect his land (“They must be punished, Jason.”), and be left alone (“We just want to be left alone, and so does he.”).  He may be a serial killer, but viewers see a side of Jason we’ve never seen before… more of a “why” he does what he does.

As usual, Michael Bay’s production does not disappoint.  That’s right—Michael Bay.  Many associate his name with major motion picture action and drama masterpieces (Transformers, Bad Boys, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, etc…), but he also co-owns the production house responsible for so many of our favorite remakes  (A Nightmare on Elm Street, and last month’s feature, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).  Mr. Bay may be one of my favorite producers in Hollywood now simply for this reason.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I was one of the crazed, movie-goers that attended the premiere of Friday the 13th on Friday, February 13, 2009.  How could I possibly pass up the opportunity to see a Friday the 13th film on Friday the 13th?  I couldn’t… so I coaxed my guy into taking me by playing the Valentine/birthday card.  While he tolerated it (he’s not into slashers and horror like I am), the film didn’t disappoint this Friday fan.  I enjoyed all of the classic elements of the older versions, as mentioned above, but especially and most recognizably the ending—Jason’s resurrection after being buried in the water, from which he rises and grabs a survivor before the screen fades to black…  Did you jump?  I sure did!  Now that’s my kind of ending…

What do you think?  Have you seen either the original or the “remake” of Friday the 13th?  If you’ve seen both, which do you prefer and why?  If you haven’t, do you want to?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Remember to stop by Catie’s blog discussing the original if you haven’t already.

And while it may not  be horror, remember to check out my YA Mystery novel, Football Sweetheart… now available on Kindle and Nook!

Friday FabOoolousness – Cue the Chainsaw

It’s time again for Catie Rhodes and I to break down another cinematic original and its remake.  Sticking with our usual ways, Catie reviews the original and I take on the remake.  This month we tackle a horror classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Usually, I include Catie’s Homeade Summary that applies to both films.  But this time, I tweaked it just a bit:

Five young adults, traveling the back, desolate roads of Texas, pick up a wandering and nearly comatose hitchhiker.  When the hitchhiker has a psychotic break and commits suicide, the group’s only option is to explore a nearby and deserted community searching for help, but instead stumble on a family of sadistic killers.

Before I begin, let me first mention that to this day, I have never watched the original 1974 Texas Chainsaw Massacre entirely.  Why?  Because the story spooks the bejeezus out of me.  First of all, I’m a Texan.  Secondly, the story claimed to be based on actual events.  Third, not only did my family live out in the country when I was a little girl, sort of anyway, so did both sets of my grandparents.  And what was the only way to get out to my grandparents’ properties?  We had to drive down desolate, two-lane Texas roads.  Oh, and the sound of a chainsaw?  You’re kidding me, right?  I will still run the other direction to this day—just ask my friends that I attend haunted houses with every year…

Anyway, despite all of my above fears about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I’m usually not one to shy away from a good horror movie.  So, I saddled up and watched the 2003 remake.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I now know the TCM tale isn’t really a true story, even if it is based on bits and pieces of actual real-life sociopaths.

So that I don’t give too much away for those who have yet to see either the original or the remake, I’m going to stay away from a storyline synopsis here.  Regardless of whether or not readers have seen the films, I’m quite certain everyone knows the gist:  A man known as “Leatherface” uses a chainsaw to hunt and kill his victims, victims that are stranded out in the middle of nowhere and have no hope of rescue.

But what I do want to do is compare the 2003 film to Catie’s “Why is Chainsaw a Classic?” list.  How else can we determine whether or not the remake is worthy of our time?

Let’s start with the opening.  Catie mentioned that the original begins with a voice-over by John Larroquette that leads viewers to believe the events of the film are based on a true story.  Keeping with what I consider to be one of the best indicators of a well-made remake, the 2003 feature also uses a voice-over by the very same John Larroquette to open the film.  It’s always in the details… right?

So, obviously, the voice-over—check.  We covered that above…

The hitchhiker—check.  Seriously, who picks up a hitchhiker?  Call me crazy, but I actually speed past ‘em… maybe I’m not a nice person?  Or maybe I’ve just seen too many horror flicks!

The isolation—check.  What’s scarier than being stranded out in the middle of nowhere?  Not  much.

The eerie lack of dialogue from the killer—check.  It is always the silent ones we need to keep our eyes on, right?

The “help is not coming” factor—check.  This fits alongside the isolation factor.  Granted, today we have cell phones.  But this film is based in 1973, when if someone was stranded, they were stranded.  And just when you think you’ve found a gas station attendant or a sheriff to help, think again…

The cringe-worthy violence—check.  Cringe-worthy is definitely the proper terminology used to describe the violence in TCM.  What the viewer actually sees isn’t too horrible and gory; yet, what is left up to the viewer’s imagination is pretty disturbing.  Well, depending on where the viewer’s mind goes…

The music—no check.  Maybe a check?  I honestly have no idea.  I was so engrossed by the intense scenes and the sound of the chainsaw that I literally can’t remember if there was music in the film!  Someone help me: was there music?

The murder house luring its victims in like a spider web draws its prey—check.  Seriously, why not run the other way when you discover a graveyard of the previous victims’ cars?

The simple fact of knowing the killer is still out there—check.  Even if he only has one arm left, he still has that chainsaw, and he’s still roaming the desolate, two-lane roads of the Texas countryside.  Scary!

Comparing the remake to the original in the list above seems to indicate the 2003 film holds up.  But with most horror films, and not just in remakes, I look to the dialogue.  Is it quirky?  Does it make me laugh?  Is there the element of foreshadowing and does the dialogue itself state the obvious?  The answer to these questions is an absolute YES in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

“You’re all going to die.”
“He’s a bad man.”
“Something like this comes along, makes folks realize how crazy the world is out there.”
“Pig Sty.”  (I really loved this one, especially since the character was walking through a disgusting living room as huge pigs meandered about.)
“Deader than a doornail.”  (And here I thought only my family said this….)
“You’re so dead, you don’t even know it.”
“That wasn’t a good idea.”

As usual, Michael Bay’s production does not disappoint.  That’s right—Michael Bay.  Many associate his name with major motion picture action and drama masterpieces (Transformers, Bad Boys, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, etc…), but he also co-owns the production house responsible for so many of our favorite remakes:  A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th (coming soon in our original versus remake series), and today’s feature, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Mr. Bay may be one of my favorite producers in Hollywood now simply for this reason.

And here we are, closing in on the end of the review, and I haven’t even mentioned the characters/actors in the 2003 movie.  Well, that’s because it honestly doesn’t matter… unless, you’re a man.  Men will love this movie.  Why?  Because most men will enjoy watching Jessica Biel run around, sweaty and wet, in a knotted-up-tank-top, showing off her big breasts, curvy waist, and great derrière.  Really.

What do you think?  Have you seen either the original or the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?  If you’ve seen both, which do you prefer and why?  If you haven’t, do you want to?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Remember to stop by Catie’s blog discussing the original if you haven’t already.  And be sure to check out her blog post today, where she talks about Elmer Wayne Henley… one of the real-life killers used as inspiration for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

And why stop there?  Visit a few of her archives that also relate to our original versus remake series this month:  Leatherface’s House (we can actually go have dinner there in Kingsland, Texas… if you want) and Ed Gein: The Man Who Changed Horror, another of the real-life inspirations used for the movie.

And while it may not  be horror, remember to check out my YA Mystery novel, Football Sweetheart… now available on Kindle and Nook!

Now, I need to go watch another of the films in the franchise—The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. Why?  Because Matt Bomer is in it!!  You know, Neal Caffrey from White Collar… or Ken from Magic Mike?  Oh, and don’t worry men; there’s some eye candy for you too (Jordana Brewster).

Friday FabOoolousness – The Boo Factor: Dark Shadows

We don’t go to the movie theater often.  When we do actually go to the cinema, we rarely pick a flick on its opening weekend.  But at least once a year there is a movie release that I absolutely can’t miss — a film that I have been anxiously awaiting for months.

Readers of my blog know that I love scary movies – horror, slashers, psychological thrillers, classics, B-rated films, etc.  These are “my movies” according to my guy, and he usually insists that I see these with my girlfriends.

Two years ago, the film was the Nightmare on Elm Street remake starring Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, and Thomas Dekker.  My girls and I rushed out early on a Saturday morning to witness the “new” Freddy Krueger terrorize the teens of Springwood, Ohio.

In 2011, we again met at the theater for a Saturday morning viewing of Colin Farrell as the sexy vampire Jerry Dandridge in the remake of Fright Night – in 3-D no less.  As with Nightmare, this vampy flick put a new twist on the popular original which is exactly the kind of remake I appreciate (in most instances, not in The Clash of the Titans’ case).

But I digress…

Around December of last year, I knew exactly which film my girlfriends and I would see on its premiere weekend this year – Dark Shadows.

Dark Shadows is not new; it has been around for decades, literally.  In the ’60s and ’70s, Dark Shadows aired on the ABC network as a soap opera.  Dan Curtis’ melodramatic soap put the supernatural on the map – vampires, ghosts, werewolves, zombies, witches, etc.  It also featured time travel and aspects of parallel universes, something that is extremely popular on TV today.

The soap opera launched into a phenom craze of its own, and MGM released two feature films based on the popular hit in the ’70s: House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows.  Since then, the Dark Shadows franchise has grown to also include magazines, comics, and books.

In 1991, Dark Shadows aired on NBC as a primetime drama as a reimagining of the original series (also created by Dan Curtis).  The “new” Dark Shadows didn’t last past its freshman year, but the story grabbed a certain teenage girl in Midland, Texas who never missed an episode.  Yes, I’m talking about me…  Even today, I have my DVR set to record the ’91 series anytime it airs in syndication on SyFy or Chiller.

The Dark Shadows television series was almost brought back to life in 2004 by the WB, but the network passed on the pilot starring Alec Newman and other familiar faces: Marley Shelton (Valentine), Jessica Chastain (The Help), Alexander Gould and Martin Donovan (Weeds), Kelly Hu (Nash Bridges), Ivana Milicevic (Head over Heels), and Blair Brown (Fringe).  I am seriously bummed that this series didn’t make it.

So what makes Dark Shadows special?  Vampire Barnabas Collins

As if it wasn’t enough that Tim Burton is bringing Dark Shadows to the big screen, he cast one of the best actors of our time in the role of Barnabas Collins — the fabOoolous Johnny Depp.

Barnabas Collins, 2012

I’m a fan of vampires in general (the dark kind, not the lovey-dovey kind – yes, I’m referring to Twilight here).  The trailer has me worried that the film will be a bit “campy” for me, but I’m putting all preconceived notions aside and am looking forward to my movie date this weekend.  After all, Mr. Depp isn’t the only star cast in this cult classic: we also have Michelle Pfeiffer, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloe Moretz (Hit-Girl from Kick-Ass), Helena Bonham Carter, and Jackie Earle Haley (the “new” Freddy Krueger) to just name a few.

It’s also rumored that a few of the soap opera stars from the ’60s and ’70s will play a cameo in the film, something I truly appreciate.  Did everyone notice Chris Sarandon’s cameo in Fright Night (2011)?  Loved it – the “old” vampire Jerry killed by the “new” vampire Jerry.  Brilliant!

I don’t know what to expect from this movie, but I know I’m looking forward to it.  With the exception of The Rum Diary (in my opinion), everything Johnny Depp touches turns to gold.  Surely Dark Shadows will be another of his masterful character pieces and will leave all of us applauding him once again.  The man is simply fantastic.  Partnered again with Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter, how can it fail?

Are you a Dark Shadows fan?  Did you prefer the soap or the ’91 retelling?  Do you plan to see the movie?  I’d love to hear from you!

Friday FabOoolousness – Living with a Wicked Stepfather

It’s time again for Catie Rhodes and I to break down another cinematic original and its remake – this month, we discuss The Stepfather.

First, I must applaud Catie’s homemade summary for the 1987 thriller:

Jerry Blake is in search of the American Dream.  Somewhere out there is a house surrounded by a white picket fence and a family who will live up to his expectations. And if Jerry’s family doesn’t live up to his expectations, he’ll murder them and start over again.

And in keeping with Catie’s style, here’s a taste of the most recent, The Stepfather (2009):

When I first watched the trailer, I had no idea this film was a remake.  I saw the stars of the movie (each from past and current day television programs that I highly enjoy) and the premise of the movie, and I was hooked!  Not to mention, you know you’re aging when you have just as much of a crush on the dads of the film as you do the young actor playing the teenage son…

Now for a few differences between the original and the remake:

Jerry Blake is now Grady Edwards, or David Harris (played by Dylan Walsh, Nip/Tuck).  We can’t be sure of his real name because he has changed it each time he has murdered his family and attempted to move on with his life.

David is definitely no Sean McNamara...

David meets Susan (Sela Ward, CSI: NY) in a grocery store where he discovers his next opportunity — his next American Dream — a single mother with two young children, a boy and a girl.  He introduces himself, she invites him to dinner, and the happiness commences.

Susan just wants to be happy...

That is until Susan’s oldest son, Michael (Penn Badgley, Gossip Girl), returns home from military school.  Apparently, Michael didn’t respond well to his mother and father’s (Jon Tenney, The Closer) divorce, so Mama sent him away to give Michael time to contemplate whether or not his acting out was the best way for him to deal with his life changes.

Michael is ecstatic to be home, but he’s not thrilled about David — he doesn’t like the speed with which David has courted his mother; and David makes him uncomfortable when he invites Michael down to the now padlocked basement for a shot of tequila for the two to bond over.  But Michael’s girlfriend (Amber Heard, Playboy Club) convinces him to give David a chance — after all, his mother has been so happy since David came into her life, and she doesn’t want Michael shipped back to military school.

Don't do anything stupid, Michael!

Everything in David’s new world is perfect — Susan’s sister (Paige Turco, Person of Interest) hires him at her lucrative real estate agency; he and Susan will soon marry; and it seems he has successfully escaped his life as Grady Edwards.

That is until the neighbor sees a man resembling David on America’s Most Wanted.  Of course this neighbor loves to gossip, so Susan laughs her off.  But not David.  No, he can’t have a nosy old woman sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong.  So he does what he does best — he murders her.

It’s also about this time that Michael and Michael’s father begin questioning the new man in Susan’s life.  And they aren’t the only ones…

Mom, are you sure you can trust David?

Why is the basement padlocked now that David lives in the house?
And since the basement door is already padlocked, why are the brand new shelving units that David built down there also padlocked?
Why does David call his deceased daughter by two different names?
Why doesn’t he have any form of identification to provide to his boss for his required government tax documents?

Stepdaddy is CRAZY!!!

Catie mentions in her post that including the POV of the brother of Jerry’s dead wife saves the predictability of the 1987 film.  The same can’t be said for the 2009 remake.

What’s not predictable?  The fact that David escapes at the end…  I honestly didn’t see that one coming.  Of course, had I known at the time that there was an original and subsequent sequels as I watched The Stepfather (2009)  for the first time, perhaps the ending would not have surprised me the way that it did.

But here’s the best part — The Stepfather movies are loosely inspired by actual events.  Has anyone ever heard of John List?  John List murdered his entire family and then walked away — vanished into thin air.  For more on List, click over to Catie’s blog today and read all about him on her Freaky Friday post.

David can change his appearance, but he can't change the crazy!

What do you think?  Have you seen either the original or the remake of The Stepfather?  If you’ve seen both, which do you prefer and why?  If you haven’t, do you want to?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Remember to stop by Catie’s blog discussing the original if you haven’t already.

Friday FabOoolousness: Babysitting is a Dangerous Business

Catie Rhodes and I had such a fabOoolous time teaming up and writing the last collaborative blog (Straw Dogs), that we decided to start a monthly series where we’ll review and compare original films and their remade counterparts.  This month, we discuss the psychological horror film, When a Stranger Calls.

On her Wild-Card Wednesday post, Catie breaks down the 1979 horror film, When a Stranger Calls, starring Carol Kane and Charles Durning.  In her blog, she mentions the fact that the original movie was based on an urban legend: The Babysitter and The Man Upstairs.

In addition to When a Stranger Calls, other popular horror/slasher flicks come to mind that play off of this urban legend: Black Christmas (1974 and 2006), as well as the cult-classic Scream franchise.   Being that Catie and I are planning future blog posts, I won’t go into much detail about Black Christmas since it’s a potential candidate in the running, but we can briefly discuss the opening sequence of Scream.

A girl, home alone, prepares popcorn awaiting the arrival of her boyfriend when the telephone rings.  The disguised voice on the other end asks her, “What’s your favorite scary movie?” and before we know it, the teenager is terrorized by a crazed killer, chasing her through the house.  While she may not be babysitting, she is home alone and the killer is already inside the house.

Creepy…

Catie also does a wonderful job of  breaking the original When a Stranger Calls down into the classic three-act structure: Act One, the babysitter and the “caller”; Act Two takes place seven years later, as a former policeman chases the “caller”; and Act three, when the “caller” has refocused his attentions on the babysitter from years earlier.

Immediately, we see the first major difference between the original movie and the remake – the 2006 When a Stranger Calls focuses approximately 90 minutes on the original film’s act one.  The second and third acts of the original movie do not exist in the remake.

The trailer:

The movie begins with a brutal murder after a girl receives prank phone calls – the killer doesn’t leave behind a murder weapon, and the body is so completely mutilated that the medical examiner has to remove it in multiple body bags.

 

Next, we meet Jill Johnson (Camilla Belle), who lives over a hundred miles away from the first homicide.  Jill is clearly having a rough week – her boyfriend cheated on her with her supposed good friend Tiffany (played by Katie Cassidy), and her parents have disconnected her cell phone for going 800 minutes over her calling plan.

Side note #1: Why does the home-wrecker character always have to be named Tiffany in movies and television?

Side note #2: The fact that a teenager doesn’t have an unlimited cell phone plan really dates this movie, and it’s only six years old.

Back on topic:

To pay off her cell phone bill, Jill agrees to babysit instead of partying all night with her friends at the high school bonfire.  Her father drives Jill out to her employer’s house for the evening — a beautiful and luxurious home out in the middle of nowhere, hidden behind security gates with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the plush trees and forest.   The wealth of the family also allows for motion sensor lights throughout the house, and for an enclosed  greenhouse smack dab in the center of the home, filled with greenery, chirping birds, a pond, and fish.

The parents give Jill the quick run through before leaving for their night out – if she hears any noises, it could be one of three things:

1)      Their black cat,
2)      Their housekeeper, who lives upstairs but has the night off,
3)      Or their son living in the guest house, home from college.

Jill sets the alarm, and settles in for a nice and quiet night of studying while the children sleep upstairs.  This should be easy, right?

Wrong.  The suspense starts almost immediately: the phone rings with no one on the other end, which Jill assumes is her silly ex-boyfriend and his friends playing pranks on her; she hears doors and/or cabinets close, which she imagines is just the housekeeper; the house alarm sounds, which she also writes off as the housekeeper since her employers mentioned they can’t seem to get her to remember the code; Tiffany pays her a surprise visit, through the open garage door (how did that happen?); and the motion sensor lights keep going on and off in other parts of the house.

Jill is so spooked, that at one point she walks through the house with the fire-place stoker in hand.  Okay, who hasn’t done that at least once?

The prank calls continue, and finally the voice on the other end of the phone speaks out and Jill has had enough.  She calls around for help, but not even the police can do anything at this point.

The phone rings again, and this time the “caller” asks those five frightening words:

“Have you checked the children?”

Jill does what any good babysitter would do, and she rushes upstairs to check on the sleeping children who are safe and sound, snuggled away in their beds.

The phone rings again:

“How were the children?”

How is he watching her?  Jill hangs up and calls the police again, and this time they agree to run a trace on the calls.  Before hanging up, the officer on the other end of the call reminds Jill that she is “safe inside the house.”  Yea, right!  Famous last words….

At this point in the 2006 film there is a lot of Jill’s running around the property, searching for the housekeeper, for the son home from college, for anything to make her feel better about being alone in this house.

And then the phone rings again, and trying to keep the “caller” on the line for the minimum sixty seconds required for the police trace, Jill asks, “What do you want?”

“Your blood, all over me.”  This may be one of the creepiest movie quotes of all time…

Jill successfully keeps the “caller” on the line long enough for the police trace, and the police notify Jill that “the call is coming from inside the house!”

Side Note #3: My doorbell rang at this very moment in the movie, and I had to laugh at the fact that I literally jumped in my seat.  Now I’ve seen this movie multiple times, but that didn’t stop the delivery man from giving me that one little “BOO!” when he dropped off our package…

Back to When a Stranger Calls

This is where the big battle ensues, and I don’t want to give too much away in case everyone hasn’t seen the movie.   But even during the fight scenes, the viewers don’t see the “caller’s” face.  Not once.  He is just a dark shadow, lurking around every corner, pursuing Jill until the end.

It’s not until the very end of the film, after the “caller” is arrested, that we see his face – and it is a creepy, creepy face (played by Thomas Flanagan).

There were rumors that a sequel was in the works, but other rumors mentioned that it had been thrown to the cutting room floor.  I’m not sure “sequel” would be the appropriate term anyway; it sounds just like another remake.  A true sequel would be a movie about the second and third acts from the original film, not another movie about a babysitter.

Regardless, we still have the 1979 When a Stranger Calls, the 1993 television sequel When a Stranger Calls Back (also starring Carol Kane and Charles Durning), and the 2006 remake to satisfy our psychological thriller needs.

What do you think?  Have you seen either the original or the remake of When a Stranger Calls?  If you’ve seen both, which do you prefer and why?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Remember to stop by Catie’s blog discussing the original if you haven’t already.

If you still want more of “The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs” urban legend, check out When a Killer Calls (also 2006).

Friday FabOoolousness – Knocking Down Straw Dogs

I love scary movies, including honest to goodness horror and slashers, as well as suspenseful, psychological thrillers.  That’s why when I saw the trailer for Straw Dogs (2011) last year, I felt chills run down my spine.  I would watch this movie.

It didn’t hurt that the trailer for the film was full of eye-candy: Alexander Skarsgard (Vampire Eric Northman from True Blood); James Marsden (Cyclops from the X-Men movies); and for the men, Kate Bosworth (Blue Crush).

Immediately, I reached out to my writing and movie friend, Catie Rhodes, who has introduced me to many great crime films – some even inspired by actual events.  But, I digress.

During our chat, Catie mentioned that Straw Dogs (2011) is a remake to the 1971 Sam Peckinpah film starring Dustin Hoffman and Susan George.  Once again, Catie was educating me on an older movie that I wasn’t familiar with (travesty, I know).

After renting Straw Dogs (2011) via my favorite vending machine (Redbox), I contacted Catie again.  Following a brief conversation, we decided to team up and provide a review of the original movie and the remake.

Hollywood always seems to remake movies, almost to the point to where we might think all originality is gone.  But I like to think that it is because there are so many great older films that the newer generations aren’t familiar with, and the remake introduces them to the story.

The general definition of the term straw dog means something that is made to only be knocked down, or when someone is referring to raping or pillaging someone.

In Catie’s post, she mentioned the Chinese tradition of using straw dogs (dolls) as sacrifices.  According to the Tao Te Ching, a straw dog was dressed up and honored at the altar only to be discarded in the streets at the end of the ceremony.

Honestly, all three of these explanations are applicable in the 2011 remake by Rod Lurie.

The movie follows David Sumner (Marsden) and his wife, Amy (Bosworth), as they return to her small hometown in Mississippi.  The young couple recently inherits her family home following her father’s death, and David feels the wide open space and the peace and quiet will be exactly what he needs to finish his current movie script.

They’re not in town long before David meets the town’s characters, including: Amy’s former classmate and ex-boyfriend, Charlie Venner (Skarsgard); the previous high school football coach (Emmy winning and Academy Award nominated actor, James Woods) and his teenage daughter (Willa Holland, The O.C.);   Daniel Niles (Walton Goggins, Boyd Crowder from Justified) and his mentally handicapped brother, Jeremy (Dominic Purcell, Prison Break); and Charlie’s “boys” – Norman (Rhys Coiro, Entourage), Chris (Billy Lush, The Black Donnellys), and Bic (Drew Powell, Leverage).

Trying to win over the home crowd, David hires Charlie and his “boys” to fix the barn’s roof across from the couple’s new home.  The “boys” take advantage of the situation by showing up for work according to their own schedule and working only a few hours per day.  Matters intensify as the “boys” taunt David, making Amy feel she’s married to a coward, and they constantly gawk at Amy and her short shorts and braless breasts (although flashing her bare breasts while the “boys” are working doesn’t help the situation).

One thing leads to another, and before we know it the Sumner family pet is murdered, Amy is brutally attacked, and David snaps.

Everyone has a breaking point (the logline for the 2011 remake).

To what extent will Charlie's "Boys" follow the leader?

The closing scenes of Straw Dogs reminds me of one of my favorite all-time movies (Fear starring Mark Wahlberg, Reese Witherspoon and William Peterson) when the “boys” and their coach viciously attack the impenetrable Sumner home from the outside, while the Sumners (particularly David) put up the fight of their lives protecting one another and distraught Jeremy, who sits in the corner rocking back and forth yelling over the commotion trying to ease himself.

Sounds like Fear, doesn’t it?

In her blog post reviewing the 1971 movie, Catie writes “the tension is like a character in the film.”  That’s also true of the 2011 version, but probably the largest similarity between the two Straw Dogs is the ambiguity of the stories – we don’t get a ton of answers.

We never know the story behind Amy and Charlie, other than it seems extremely awkward when she returns.  We never know who murders the Sumner pet; we only assume it’s one of the “boys” at Charlie’s orders.  We never know why the former football coach’s teenage daughter continuously bates poor Jeremy, knowing that her father will kill the poor boy the next time he catches Jeremy near her.

Mainly, we just never know many things behind the why.

But we do know that the so-called coward transforms into a hero at the end, and all the straw dogs are knocked down.

“He’s got some man in him after all.”

What do you think?  Have you seen the original 1971 Straw Dogs film or 2011 remake?  Were you satisfied or left wishing for a bit more? Is there a remake that you feel is actually better than the original?  I’d love to hear from you.

Be sure and click over to Catie’s review if you haven’t already!

Friday FaBOOolousness – Urban Legends

Watching American Horror Story this week reminded us of the power of the urban legend when a patient of Dr. Harmon’s couldn’t even muster up the strength to walk into his bathroom in fear of the Pig Man.

By definition, an urban legend is a modern tale or myth usually believed to be true.    A few favorites include:

The Bloody Mary Legend, the ghost who appears in a mirror after her name is called three times.

The Killer in the Backseat Legend, the story that begins with a woman driving home alone at night when a passerby scares her by flashing his high beams or speeding past her.  She manages to make it home, safe and sound, before realizing the other driver was only trying to warn her about the man in the backseat.

 

The Achilles Slasher Legend, the fear that a mysterious person lays in wait underneath cars ready to slash our Achilles tendons as we attempt to open the car door.

The Spider Bite Legend, the legend of the facial spider bite that swells and bursts, releasing hundreds of tiny baby spiders.

The Hook Legend, a tale of a serial killer who stalks and murders young couples.

 

The Kidney Heist Legend, the terrifying story of waking up in a pool of ice only to discover a kidney has been surgical removed and stolen.

The Pop Rocks and Soda Legend, the tale that enjoying a package of Pop Rocks candy and a can of soda together will result in an explosion of the face, throat, and/or stomach.

Hollywood has told the tales of the urban legend over and over again, and it has thrived in the success of moviegoers perhaps believing in, and definitely enjoying the frightening stories.

Candyman, the 1992 horror film starring Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, and Xander Berkeley combines the tales of Bloody Mary and the Hook, while placing a new spin on the legends.  In this movie, the characters summon Candyman by calling his name five times while looking into a mirror.  A man with a hook for his right hand appears and seeks revenge against those who harmed him years before.

Candyman successfully spooked the begeezus out of our group in high school, and as usual the sequels weren’t quite the same (Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh and Candyman 3: Day of the Dead).

I Know What You Did Last Summer, the classic tale of The Hook, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., and Ryan Phillippe.  This movie follows a killer with a hook stalking four teenagers responsible for a hit and run the summer before.

Hollywood produced a few sequels, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (Jennifer Love and Freddie Prinze Jr. return with the addition of Brandy Norwood, the singer, and Mekhi Phifer) and I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (all new cast), but these follow-ups lost the shock factor of the original.

Finally, let’s not forget the Urban Legend Franchise that includes tales such as the Pop Rocks and Soda story, the Kidney Heist, the Spider Bite, and the classic, Bloody Mary.

Urban Legend stars a young, popular cast of the ‘90s: Jared Leto, Rebecca Gayheart, Joshua Jackson, as well as other familiar faces like Alicia Witt, Natasha Gregson Wagner, and Freddie Kruger himself, Robert Englund.    This movie resembles more of a slasher flick, but does introduce a few of the classic urban legends within the storyline.

Similar to its predecessor, Urban Legend: Final Cut hit screens a few years later starring Jennifer Morrison, Anthony Anderson, Eva Mendes, Joey Lawrence, and Rebecca Gayheart (again). We watched as another mysterious killer makes his way across campus killing college students working on their thesis projects.

Urban Legends: Bloody Mary wraps up the franchise, but moves toward the supernatural when three friends call to Bloody Mary during a sleep over.  Instead of the usual slasher theme, this movie follows the story of a decades old murder via haunting and mysterious deaths.

Urban Legends – fact or fiction?  Share a favorite in the comment section below. 

What other movies have you enjoyed that tell the tales of the urban legend?  Is the number three the death number for an urban legend franchise (three Candyman movies, three I Know What You Did Last Summer movies, and three Urban Legend movies), or is it just coincidence?  I’d love to hear from you!

Friday FaBOOolousness – The Boo Factor: Halloween

Who can get through the Halloween season without watching the spooky 1978 film, Halloween?  Not this horror movie fan!

The House

The Mask

The Scream Queen

Michael Myers

The movie opens with a young Michael Myers stabbing his teenage sister to death in 1963.  He is admitted into Smith’s Grove Sanitarium where he spends the next eighteen years undergoing treatment from psychiatrist Dr. Samuel Loomis.  But, on October 30th 1978, Michael awakens from his catatonic state, escapes the hospital, and steals a car.  Where’s he going?  He has unfinished business in Haddonfield, Illinois

The next morning, we’re introduced to Laurie Strode and her best friends Annie and Linda, a happy group of teenage girls walking to school.  The three friends agree to babysit later that night, Halloween night, despite the fact that Laurie feels like someone has been watching her all day – a man in a dark jumpsuit wearing a weird, white mask. 

Later that night, Annie’s boyfriend calls for a ride, so she drops off the little girl she is watching with Laurie who is conveniently babysitting Tommy Doyle across the street.  Alone in the car waiting for her boyfriend, Michael sits up from the back seat and kills Annie.  Tommy watches as the “Boogie Man” carries Annie’s lifeless body back to the house, but Laurie shrugs off Tommy’s antics as a Halloween scare. 

Next, Michael discovers Linda and her boyfriend Bob having sex in the house.  What are the rules of horror movies?  Never have sex.  Have sex, and die. 

Michael sets his eyes on his true target – Laurie.  After very suspenseful scenes, Laurie barely escapes Michael’s grasps and manages to hide the children before crawling deep into a corner of an upstairs closet.  Just as Michael finds her, Dr. Loomis finally catches up to his patient and shoots him.  Michael falls from the bedroom window; however by the time Loomis looks out, he is gone. 

Queue The Music

Ever wonder why the film is referred to as John Carpenter’s Halloween?  That’s because John Carpenter wrote the screenplay (with Debra Hill), produced (with Hill, and others including Moustapha Akkad) and directed the movie, and created the original music.

In October 2010, the Biography Channel aired Halloween: The Inside Story, and my appreciation for the original film of the Halloween franchise grew.  Not only did the film captivate audiences, but the movie’s success came with an extremely low budget, even for the 1970s. 

Carpenter took the small financing and hired a ton of no name actors, including the now famous, Jamie Lee Curtis to play Laurie Strode, Michael’s main target.  He approached famous actors to play the part of Dr. Samuel Loomis, but after multiple rejections, Carpenter finally found an English actor interested in the role, Donald Pleasance.

The other cast members had a few film credits to their name, but many were considered “B” movie actors: Nancy (Loomis) Kyes played Annie; P.J.  Soles starred as Lynda; and Nick Castle played “The Shape” – or Michael Myers as we know him.

Keeping within the small budget, Carpenter selected areas in California for filming the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois, and he tasked the actors with gathering and dropping the fake fall leaves over and over again during the twenty-one days of filming.  The most astonishing of all the Halloween facts learned while watching Biography’s special, was the fact that the Michael Myers’ mask is actually a Captain Kirk mask painted and tweaked just a bit so that it wasn’t recognizable as the popular Star Trek character.

Originally the The Babysitter Murders, Carpenter’s movie saw extreme box office success. The approximate $300,000 film made over $47 million at the theaters.  The Halloween franchise remains popular today and consists of ten films, including two recent remakes by rocker, Rob Zombie

Pleasance and Curtis have remained loyal to the franchise; Pleasance filmed a total of five Halloween films and Curtis four.  The Halloween movies have also featured a few familiar faces over the years:  Danielle Harris (Halloween 4, 5, and both of Rob Zombie’s remakes); Paul Rudd (The Curse of Michael Myers); Josh Hartnett, LL Cool J, Michelle Williams, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Adam Arkin, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (H20); Sean Patrick Thomas, Tyra Banks, and Busta Rhymes (Resurrection); Malcolm McDowell and Scout Taylor Compton (Zombie’s 2007 and 2009 movies).

Halloween III: Season of the Witch is the only film in the franchise that doesn’t tell Michael Myers’ story, and is by far my least favorite.  So which one is my favorite?  The original, of course.  But, I’ll watch  Halloween: The Return of Michael Myers, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, and Halloween: H20 anytime I can!

Did the original 1978 Halloween scare you?  Did you ever think twice about babysitting on Halloween?  Which of the Halloween movies is your favorite and least favorite?  Who wins – Michael / Freddie / or Jason?  I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Halloween!

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