Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The House of the Devil (2009)

There's nothing to fear about babysitting in the middle of nowhere during a lunar eclipse! That's what Samantha thought until that night. Sometimes when you venture out into the unknown, things aren't what they seem. The creaks in the attic. The whispers from the basement. There's nothing to fear in THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL! HEHEHEHEHAHAHAHA!!!
Samantha is a small town college girl who just wants her own apartment since her dorm roommate is a nympho and always trashing half the room. Being that Samantha needs money to make the payment on the perfect apartment that she has just found, she seeks out in search of a job to make some quick cash. Luckily (or unluckily depending on how you look at it), she discovers a babysitter flier posted outside her dorm building.  Samantha calls the number and talks with Mr. Ullman, who wants her to babysit for him that night. Since the guy lives out in the middle of nowhere, Samantha's best friend Megan is worried and tries to talk her out of it.  That night, Megan drives Samantha to a big house in the countryside. It turns out though that Mr. Ullman and his wife don't have a child, but want Samantha to watch Mrs. Ullman's mother, who is very old.  He even offers to double the money.  After Megan and the Ullmans leave, Samantha hangs out around the house. She watches television, orders pizza, shoots pool, and even dances around the house listening to music.  Things begin to start getting weird when she tries to call Megan's house phone and nobody answers every time she calls.  Then there are the whispers coming from the basement and footsteps up in the attic.  And a lunar eclipse that is coming at midnight.  Something is lurking in the darkness and watching Samantha closely.  Something not Human. Something evil. Something from HELL!
  The babysitter story has always been a popular scary story. We've had many stories dealing with a babysitter in the horror genre.  The story that mostly everyone knows is where the babysitter receives harassing and creepy phone calls, traces them back, and discovers the shocking truth that the stalker is in the house with her. WHEN A STRANGER CALLS is best known on film as the babysitter story. Truthfully, I'm not a big fan of that movie. Sure, the first ten minutes are creepy, but then there is the rest where we follow the fucking "stalker" around the remainder of the film and got to know him, therefore ruining the mystery that we had at the beginning.  John Carpenter's  HALLOWEEN is probably the best form of babysitter in peril on film. It was suspenseful, we were never given too much information about the villain, the protagonist was sympathetic, and of course the atmosphere and music made the film chilling.  The babysitter story also made its way to book form with R.L. Stine's (author of the GOOSEBUMPS & FEAR STREET series) 1989 teen horror novel THE BABYSITTER, which spawned three sequels in the early '90s. I definitely recommend the first book, it's the best of that series.
    While not babysitter related, the creepy caller being nearby scenario was also done in BLACK CHRISTMAS (both versions) and of course in the SCREAM films.  In 2008, an independent horror film titled BABYSITTER WANTED was released starring Sarah Thompson (CRUEL INTENTIONS 2 & tv's ANGEL) and Bill Moseley (THE DEVIL'S REJECTS). That film brought back the babysitter horror story and gave it a Satanic twist.  A year later, independent filmmaker and old school horror fan Ti West released a similar horror film called THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL.  I'm not sure if West saw or was highly inspired by BABYSITTER WANTED, but both films use the Satanic scenario in two very different ways. While BABYSITTER WANTED is a pretty fast paced horror film, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL does a nod towards the '70s/'80s horror films by being a slow burning build up of suspense to a creepy and crazy climax.
  The thing that I love about THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL the most aside from creeping me out in a way that many modern horror films fail to do is that the film looks like it was made in the '80s. I'm not just talking a modern film with an '80s homage, but it looks and feels like an '80s horror film. It was like stepping back in time while watching this film. There's been many modern horror films that claim to be old school horror, yet still feel modern. This movie however impressed me at how it feels like it was taken off of a VHS tape from the '80s and just now got put out on DVD.   Everything about this movie screams the 1980s. The clothes, the hair styles, the music, the phones, and even the music players.  Ti West definitely pulled off the retro feel.
The screenplay by Ti West is pretty damn good and the story has a great build up to the horror.  I love that West kept the story and characters simple without over explaining anything like most modern horror movies love to do.  For the first time in a very long while we get a story and interesting characters that moves the film forward instead of lots of gore and female nudity. While I love gore and T & A just as much as the next horror fan, it's still nice to see a film that concentrates on story, characters, and build up above all else.  
The protagonist Samantha is likeable and also very sexy. I just have a lust for '80s girls. All Samantha wants is to move out of that dorm room. Who would want to stay in a room with a girl who likes to fuck a lot anyway? Wait a second, where's this college campus again (hehehehe)? Oh yeah, sorry. I was fantasizing there for a second but I'm back.  Samantha's best friend Megan is just trying to be a good friend. She's concerned about her friend and honestly, who could blame her?  You can tell something weird is going on by how Mr. Ullman is acting. Megan is like West's way of placing the audience inside the movie. We know shit ain't right and don't want to see this sweet young woman get killed.  Of course, we also don't have a... Oh no, I ain't spoiling it. You'll just have to watch and see.   Mr. Ullman is all kinds of creepy. Personally, I thought Mrs. Ullman was even creepier. She kinda reminded me a bit of Ms. Baylock from THE OMEN except without looking like an evil Mary Poppins.   All in all, the characters were well written and well performed.
THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL slowly gets darker and darker as the film moves along. I could actually catch myself getting low in my seat while watching this film towards the finale. I can't recall doing that since I was a little kid.  The suspense in this film was so well structured that when the movie does kick up, it makes you jolt. Not a stupid jump scare, but actually a real general scare. You're so involved with what's happening that it really gets to you when things start speeding up.  The atmosphere was fantastic and that house is all sorts of errie.
The film does have a fair share of gore, but it's like a dessert after a really delicious dinner.  THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL delivers story, suspense, and characters before the red stuff. I really was digging the gore in the last act. We get a head shot to pieces, a slit throat, blood drinking, and so on. It's no gore-fest, but an appropriate amount for a film like this.
I do have two issues with the film though. While I loved the slow burning build up of suspense that lead up to the finale, there were moments that were a tad too slow. Like, there's a moment where Samantha is just wandering around the house.  The other is the very ending. Not the finale, but the very last few seconds before the end credits. It was just a cliche' final "twist".  Other than that, this film is a great horror film.
The direction by Ti West was pretty damn good except for that sequence that moved a tad bit too slowly.  I've enjoyed the guy's work as a writer/director except for CABIN FEVER 2: SPRING FEVER.  I did however really enjoy West's other horror film THE ROOST about bats that turn people into zombies after biting them.  Pretty good throw back to the old black and white monster movies. THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL is definitely Ti West's best movie this far. I'm excited to see THE INNKEEPERS, which is said to be his next project.  I also loved the style of editing with the credits that felt very '70s/'80s. I could definitely tell that West was heavily inspired by ROSEMARY'S BABY and THE OMEN. Great stuff!
The acting was pretty solid.  Jocelin Donahue was great as Samantha, giving us a final girl that we truly care about.  And plus, she's a hottie too!  Greta Gerwig cracked me up as Samantha's best friend Megan. She was sarcastic and very funny. Definitely the kinda girl I would date.  Tom Noonan was creepy as Mr. Ullman. He looked like the old guy who lives in the dark mansion in those old horror classics that's up to no good. Noonan is probably best known by horror fans as the original Tooth Fairy in MANHUNTER or as Frankenstein in the '80s classic THE MONSTER SQUAD.  Mary Woronov is probably the creepiest character as Mrs. Ullman. She had Satan's guardian written all over her.  AJ Bowen was really good as Victor, the cemetary caretaker. And Dee Wallace was good in her short cameo role as The Landlady. Dee Wallace is best known for playing the mother in ET, the main character in THE HOWLING, and Mrs. Strode in Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN '07.  All in all, great cast!
Before I conclude, I must mention the music. I loved the use of the '80s music. We get "One Thing Lead To Another" by The Fixx and "The Breakup Song" by The Greg Kihn Band. The horror music was well used too and sounded creepy as fuck! Once that music came up, this movie really got under my skin.
Overall, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL is a great horror movie and a great throwback to the '70s and '80s horror realm.  I wish we would get more films like this in the future.  I know that not everyone will get into this movie because of its slow burning pace, but if you love to be creeped out then definitely watch this film. I recommend watching this alone at night with all of the lights off. Then, it may have an entirely new meaning. THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL is one HELL of a great scare-a-thon!
Looks like babysitting is a Hell of a job!  Wait, you're not the babysitter?  Oh, the knife? I'm not going to hurt ya. I'm just going to slide the sharp part across your throat and drain all of the blood out.  As you can see boys and girls, the lunar eclipse allows for new demons to be born! Until the next screaming, have a nice fright! HEHEHEHEHAHAHAHA!!!
3.5/4 STABS

Friday, January 7, 2011


   This is just an update to let you guys know about the new movie blog that I've created titled FRIDAY-NIGHT-MOVIES.  I decided that I want to write more than just horror/thriller reviews. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the genre, but want to expand since there's a lot of other movie genres that I love too. FRIDAY-NIGHT-MOVIES will have all of the reviews that I write for action, science fiction/fantasy, comic book adaptations, drama, and comedy.  I'll still continue to write my horror/thriller genre stuff here at DISTURBING ENTERTAINMENT. I just thought that I would let all of my readers know what's going on and to make sure to become a fan of my other movie blog too so you can see how I view other genres outside of horror. 
   This is something that I've kinda wanted to do for awhile now.  So, please join me at FRIDAY-NIGHT-MOVIES to share the magic of the fascinating world of cinema. The blog still needs a lot of work, but I'm hoping to make it an awesome source for sharing my view of movies as entertainment for you.  Also, if you could please spread the word on both FRIDAY-NIGHT-MOVIES and the ghoulish fun that we have here at DISTURBING ENTERTAINMENT, I would greatly appreciate it and in return will help promote your work.  I want to personally thank all of you who've continued to support me and send me feedback. If I have introduced you to a movie or entertained you with my love of movies then that is enough for me. 
- Mike Huntley aka SIKO MIKE
Click the link below to check out my FRIDAY-NIGHT-MOVIES blog...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Terror Train (1980)

 All aboard!!! Step on up, don't be shy!  Come aboard the Terror Train. Nothing says New Fear's Evil like a masked killer aboard a costume party taken place on a train. Scarring the scream queen herself, Jamie Lee Curtis!  It's a New Year ah rising for this Greek party, but who will live to tell about it? Mystery and suspense lurk around every corner of this train. Oh joy! A magician! I wonder if he can show me how to cut a woman into pieces and put her back together again inside out.
  It's New Year's Eve and a fraternity decides to play a prank on their newest pledge Kenny Hampson. The frat's leader Doc insists that Kenny enter the house where Alana is waiting in an upstairs bedroom to have sex with him. Alana hides behind the bed and tells Kenny to come closer. Kenny undresses down to his underwear and pulls back the covers to find a corpse laying there. Kenny freaks out and gets tangled all up in the bed's curtains, screaming his head off, as Doc and his frat brothers burst in laughing at him.
    Three  years have passed and it's New Year's Eve again. The Greek system has planned on one last big college party before everyone graduates. This time, the party is on an overnight train and it is a costume bash.  Everyone is having a blast. That is until the party goers begin to get killed off one by one by a masked killer. This killer keeps changing disguises where nobody knows who he/she is. Could it be Kenny back for bloody revenge? Could it be that mysterious magician that has a nack for sword play and disappearing acts? Or, could some escaped mental patient have just snuck on the train? 
      Train rides can be fun. I remember when my family and I took a train to Florida one time. It was so relaxing and the view is great along the way. But, there's also that dark side to trains just like anything else.  There's butchers who like to slaughter and hang people upside down with hooks so that monsters can eat them underneath the streets of New York City. There's some trains that harvest peoples' organs without permission over in Europe.  There's some weirdo that tries to grope you while eating salad.  There's that daring IMF agent that likes to stand on the roof and blow up helicopters with chewing gum. And who can forget that time when Death caused a subway train to crash?
   TERROR TRAIN is one of those slasher flicks that came out in the early '80s to cash in on the slasher craze that took off after the massive success of HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH.   I personally like to refer to these early '80s as the Jamie Lee Curtis era of horror. After HALLOWEEN was a success in 1978, lead actress Jamie Lee Curtis became the horror genre's scream queen.   A lot of her fame in the genre also was the result of her mother, Janet Leigh, playing in Alfred Hitchcock's classic PSYCHO in that infamous shower scene.  Curtis quickly became a popular final girl in the horror community with HALLOWEEN II, John Carpenter's THE FOG which her mother also starred in, PROM NIGHT, and TERROR TRAIN.
     Like most of the slasher films of the '80s, TERROR TRAIN takes place on an international holiday, New Year's Eve.   While most slasher films go right for the gore and over the top kills, TERROR TRAIN goes for the atmosphere and mystery.  The screenplay written by T.Y. Drake is okay. It's your typical slasher with one dimensional characters that get killed. Some of the characters are definitely more interesting than the others.   The main characters that really stick out are the film's protagonist Alana, the asshole frat guy Doc, the Conductor, the Magician, and the killer. Some of the dialogue is kinda dry though, especially by the more one dimensional victims. The film does drag a bit here and there, but not too much.
     Where TERROR TRAIN truly shines is in its suspense, music, and setting.  The killer's identity is obvious in the first ten minutes as well as his motivation.  This is not a slasher where the big mystery is who is behind this, but where this person is because they keep changing costumes throughout the whole movie. They could be anywhere on the train.  I loved that the victims are stuck on a train with no escape from this psycho. That right there makes the film truly creepy as well as not knowing where the killer is lurking. 
     The killer's costumes are pretty creepy. My favorite is when the killer is wearing the Groucho mask. This guy made Groucho look so fucking creepy!  The CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON outfit was cool as well.  There's one costume though that shocked the hell out of me because it was right in front of my face the entire time and yet I didn't notice till the end.  
  The direction by Roger Spottiswoode was really good. I absolutely loved the way the movie was shot and lit. It reminded me a lot of the original FRIDAY THE 13TH, especially when we see a shadow of the killer holding an axe.   There's a really freaky scene where the killer is disguised as one of the guy's girlfriend and has his finger nails painted and wearing a black dress. I find guys who dress up like women and kill people very creepy.  Kinda reminded me of when Norman dressed like his mother in PSYCHO and that one episode of TALES FROM THE CRYPT where the guy dressed up as his ex wife.
  There wasn't a whole lot of gore, but I like the deaths nonetheless. We get a stabbing with a sword quite a few times, a decapitation with an obviously fake head,  a slit throat, a severed hand, a stabbing, and some guy gets his face ran through a bathroom mirror.
 The acting was decent. Jamie Lee Curtis was really good as Alana. This is definitely Curtis' best horror film aside from HALLOWEEN and HALLOWEEN II.  Hart Bochner was great at playing an asshole as usual as Doc. I just couldn't wait to see this guy bite it. Bochner is great at playing douchebags in such films as BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM, DIE HARD, and URBAN LEGENDS: FINAL CUT.  David Copperfield was great as the Magician. I have to say that this is some of the best and most convincing magician work that I've ever seen. Ben Johnson was really likeable as the Conductor. Sandee Currie was pretty sexy as Alana's best friend Mitchy.  And Derek McKinnon was creepy as hell as the movie's killer, Kenny Hampson. Holy shit, this guy was like if little Stuart Minkus grew up to be Jeffrey Dahmer!
Overall, TERROR TRAIN is a pretty good early '80s slasher film.  I definitely recommend checking this one out. Although, you may not look at magicians, magician's assistants, costume parties, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, or Groucho  the same way again!  Happy New Year everyone!
    Want to see a magic trick? I'm going to make this pencil disappear. BAM! It's gone. HEHEHEHEHAHAHAHA!!!