Archive for September, 2014

Halloween Month: Re-Animator (1985)

Posted in Halloween Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

This 1985 sci-fi/horror/comedy is a cult classic to modern horror audiences. Based on the H.P Lovecraft short story ‘Herbert West- Re-Animator’ written in the early 1920’s, Re-Animator was originally planned to be a stage play then a television series. That was until Director Stuart Gordon was advised by special effects co-ordinator Bob Greenberg that there was more scope for horror within the medium of film. Gordon took this on board and was then subsequently introduced to producer Brian Yuzna. Yuzna was impressed by Gordon’s vision and encouraged him to shoot the film in Hollywood as it would be beneficial for all the special effects that were to be brought to life. Ultimately that is what Re-Animator is, a spectacle of squirmworthy special effects that proves difficult to take your eyeballs off!Its a visually gory mind-blowing experience and downright entertaining. The Lovecraft story particularly held appeal to Gordon as a director; noticing a repetitive surge in vampire films, Gordon yearned to see something based on the Frankenstein tale, which is what essentially Re-Animator is a homage to. Although while originally intending to be faithful to Lovecraft’s work, the finished product greatly diverted and became its own thing. The opening scene that sees Herbert West re-animate his professor Dr. Hans Gruber is the main link between them.

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Medical student Dan Cain’s (Bruce Abbott) world is turned upside down when he makes acquaintance with a strange new student Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs). Following his arrival from the University of Zurich, West conducts outlandish experiments on dead tissue to prove he has succeeded the research into brain death. West’s fantastical ideas cause a stir with Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale), a respectable brain surgeon with bizarre and dark agendas of his own as well as Cain’s clingy girlfriend Megan Halsey (Barbara Crampton), daughter of the dean of Miskatonic University (the film’s setting). First tested on animals, West extends his experiments to humans along with Cain’s aid as they break into the morgue in search of the perfect corpse to re-animate, however things so horribly and terribly wrong when Dr Halsey (Robert Sampson) is brutally attacked by the students creation leading to plenty of madness and mayhem to follow!

Certainly a product of its time Re-Animator was set to be an effects focused body horror in the style of the popular horror movies of the time before it, e.g. Evil Dead and The Howling, which is how Yunza pitched it. With shock value galore, the 80’s were one of the more intriguing times for the genre as the goriest effects possible were experimented with, creating a whole new tone for horror movies, how far could they go to make you squirm? While genre films before them relied on the power of suggestion to create their iconic moments, with the availability of FX, 80’s movies could be as visually graphic as possible. At the same time movies like these would have their tongue firmly planted in cheek bringing out buckets of blood with an equal amount of dark comedy. Narrowly, Re-Animator managed to avoid a place on the notorious video nasties list over in the UK however it didn’t go unscathed. Its original video format was given 2 minutes of cuts to remain ‘acceptable’. That said, the intended version has been around for some time now so viewers can enjoy Re-Animator in all its gory glory.

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Overall 24 gallons of blood was used in the movie. Make-up effects artist John Naulin stated that it was “the bloodiest film he’d ever worked on”. However the most challenging effect the film would have to undertake is transforming the late David Gale’s character Dr. Hill into a headless zombie. While CGI wasn’t mastered at this time, what Re-Animator achieved here was tremendous and incredibly well-crafted. Mechanical techniques were in use to bring Dr Hill’s crazy transformation to life. Actor Gale would have to use a specially-made upper torso to stick his head through in order to achieve the effectiveness of him being a headless corpse carrying around his own decapitated head.

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What’s engaging about Re-Animator is its perfect pacing. Beginning as a slow-burner it cleverly manipulates the audience into thinking Herbert West is the villain of the piece but it is soon discovered he is more of an anti-hero once Dr Carl Hill proves how power-hungry he is and attempts to grossly sexually assault Megan and become filthy rich through plagiarising West’s research, all while detached from his own body! Despite West being the creator of carnage he attempts to put things right while protecting his work, he involves a reluctant Dan Cain who’s girlfriend is in jeopardy. Cain also proves that when it comes down to it he will do whatever it takes for the one he loves even if that means putting West’s bright green serum to use! The antagonisitc relationship between West and Hill is compelling and intense viewing as its safe to say no character in this film is a true “good guy”. The build-up from a quirky science-fiction film to an explosion of blood, guts, corpses and gore is a real treat.

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Jeffrey Combs generated cult stardom following his iconic performance in the film. Prior to Re-Animator, Combs made his horror film début in Frightmare (1983). But its this 1985 film and its subsequent sequels he is most remembered for.  Adding to his status as a cult star, Combs has appeared in numerous  episodes amongst the Star Trek franchise. He continued to act in several horror movies following his Re-Animator popularity in titles such as House on Haunted Hill (remake), I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Feardotcom, The Frightners and The Wizard of Gore. Most recently Combs lent his voice to Don Thacker’s bizarre yet intriguing debut feature Motivational Growth which toured the festival circuit last year. Combs played the mysterious Mould. Combs plays West in Re-Animator as a  headstrong yet flawed character who continually builds on his experiments no matter how out of hand they get! West is calculated, manipulative and ambitious, did I mention murderous! Despite this, Combs does create a sense of likeability with this interesting horror character that allows the audience to root for him.

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The film’s score composed by Richard Band is one of its most powerful assets, creating an atmospheric tone, it is said to be heavily influenced by the theme from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). Without a doubt its one of the best horror movie themes delivering both tension and excitement during the innovative opening credit sequence.

Upon its release in October 1985, Re-Animator did exceptionally well. It went on to make $2 million in North America, surpassing its budget of $900,000 which was well achieved. The late, great film critic Roger Ebert who was continually vocal about his distaste for certain horror movies gave Re-Animator a thumbs up, describing it as a “pleasure” and admitted “in its own way, on its own terms, in its corrupt genre, this movie worked”. Other critics praised Combs dynamic performance and the out-of-the-box special effects. Re-Animator is now ranked at number 32 on Entertainment Weekly’s “Top 50 Cult Films”.

In 1989 Brian Yuzna directed a sequel, Bride of Re-Animator which is also incredibly well-liked among the horror community. Yuzna directed Beyond Re-Animator a number of years later in 2003 which generated mixed reactions.

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2011 saw a musical adaptation, an intruging translation from screen to stage but fitting in the sense of  Gordon originally planning it as a stage play. From the piece of footage before, the musical looks like a lot of fun with mind blowing effects. In 2006 Dynamite Entertainment released a crossover comic between Ash from The Evil Dead coming across Herbert West. Certainly a guilty pleasure thrill ride for fans!

It’s safe to say that Re-Animator is one to watch this Halloween. Its a true 80’s horror movie, grossly gory, compelling and a twisted update of the classic Frankenstein story that is guaranteed to make you laugh out loud.

Brian Yuzna will be attending this year’s Celluloid Screams Sheffield Horror Festival here in the UK on October 24th-26th as the guest of honour, a late night screening of Bride of Re-Animator will also be on offer. Don’t miss it.

Tweet: @SheffHorrorFest

I love to read your comments, so let me know via this article, twitter (@HayleyR1989) or facebook (link below) your thoughts on Re-Animator and what you’d like to see covered on #HayleysHalloweenMonth2014

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

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It’s Coming…

Posted in Halloween Month with tags , , , on September 28, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

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Halloween Month 2014 on Hayley’s Horror Reviews

A Complete Month of  the Movies You Should Be Watching Over This Spooky Season!

Starting October 1st! 

Visit Here for previous Halloween Season Reviews from 2011-2013.

What happened in 97′ should stay in 97′! Thoughts on the Re-boot.

Posted in Press Release with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**Contains Some Spoilers**

I Know What You Did Last Summer has always been somewhat of a guilty pleasure. Released in 1997 hot on the heels of the teen slasher revival thanks to Scream (1996), IKWYDLS showcased a young, talented cast of the time including Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillipee; arguably the film is filled with nonsensical plot-holes and unbelievable scenarios but still manages to engage the viewer. Maybe nostalgic tainted glasses are at play here but there is something about the tone of the film that comes across at unnerving and is what it is a cheesy slasher that takes itself too seriously at times.

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Originally a teen thriller 1970’s novel by Lois Duncan, the film version was far removed from what the book intended. In Duncan’s novel four teens Barry, Helen, Julie and Ray are involved in an accidental hit and run resulting in the death of a young child, without giving too much away the teens are targeted by a mysterious stalker in which the novel culminates in a heart-pounding satisfying finale that unfortunately would be difficult to translate over to film. In Kevin Williamson’s script, the teens led by popular actress Jennifer Love Hewitt as protagonist Julie James are also involved in a hit and run but with that of a Fisherman with a dark secret who manages to return from his shallow grave to warn the teens he knows and wants revenge! Ben Willis is more or less an unmemorable villain and terribly hammy, failing to match the heights of Michael Myers, Freddy Kruger and even Ghostface he is mostly forgotten.

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Lois Duncan was less than impressed at the ‘hot new slasher movie’ in town. Sitting in the cinema back in 97′ she was disturbed to discover her mystery thriller had been transformed into a typical horror movie featuring young women in danger, some even ending up killed. This was in bad taste considering Duncan’s daughter had been brutally murdered back in 1989.  This in-depth article covers the tragic story of a mother’s anguish in bringing her daughter’s killers to justice. Williamson himself wasn’t completely at blame here. In his original script that was potentially in the works before he hit the big time with Scream, he had treated the film as a suspenseful thriller where no slashing took place until much later on. As expected this didn’t test well with audiences therefore director Jim Gillespie had to go back and shoot a death scene for minor character Max (Johnny Galeki) to satisfy audiences blood-thirsty taste buds and up the ante to determine Ben Willis really meant business.

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While popular in its time, the film grossed $125,586,134 at the Box Office and won a few awards e.g. MTV. An awesome soundtrack featuring tracks from Korn, The Offspring, Type O Negative and Hooverphonic was released.  Despite Sarah Michelle Gellar’s powerhouse performance as Helen Shivers and believable chemistry with Ryan Phillipee’s Barry Cox, I Know What You Did Last Summer isn’t a film that’s heavily discussed among the horror community as its simply a product of its time much like a slew of forgettable 80’s Slashers that emerged following Friday the Thirteenth etc.

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News just in Oculus director Mike Flanagan is penning a new script in plans to re-boot the movie which in itself seems quite random. Flanagan has stated he will not be directing or producing however original producer Neil H. Mortiz is said to be on board. Oculus may have done commercially well however among the convoluted plot it didn’t come across as anything that hadn’t been done before therefore I suspect a remake of IKWYDLS won’t be a vast improvement on the original. Flanagan is supposedly going to create a screenplay closer to the original book which is completely problematic.

As a franchise it failed, the sequel I Still Know What You Did Last Summer was rushed out in 1998 and left viewers on a cliffhanger and a 2006 straight-to-DVD monstrosity I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer followed and that was that. Various rumours emerged over the years that Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze Jr would return in a follow-up particularly after Scream 4 but nothing was made concrete regarding the title until now.

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 No casting information has been revealed as of yet but the film is allegedly planned for a 2016 release, it will be interesting to see how this project develops despite how unnecessary it seems. Remakes are just tiresome and Hollywood has killed the horror genre. What is ultimately a product of the 90’s should stay in the 90’s…what next are we going to see a remake of Urban Legend?

 

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

 

 

 

Ghostface Girls Show Reel: 2014

Posted in Ghostface Girls, Horror Attractions, Horror Festivals, Women in Horror Recognition Month with tags , , , , , , , on September 19, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Vamps (2012) Review. (Love Horror).

Posted in Love Horror with tags , , , , , , on September 19, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

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Released on Blu-Ray/DVD this week, take a bite out my review for 2012, Amy Heckerling horror/comedy VampsA tongue-in cheek look at two Manhattan based fanged females morally against the temptation of human blood. It really is as fluffy instead of fangy as it sounds!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Pieces of Talent: An Indie Masterpiece.

Posted in Love Horror with tags , , , on September 16, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Visit Love Horror for my five star review of the dyanmic and innovative Pieces of Talent (2014), the best horror film I have seen this year so far. A twisted tale of an underground filmmaker who has a specific vision on bringing his bizarre imagery to the screen.

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Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Shocktastic Scares at Sheffield: What’s going on in Celluloid Screams 2014!

Posted in Horror Attractions, Horror Festivals, Press Release with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

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The eagerly anticipated line-up was announced today for Sheffield’s scariest film festival, Celluloid Screams. One again Rob Nevitt and team didn’t disappoint with a selection of sinisterly intriguing features and shorts. Already announced was the opening gala film, The Editor with special guests Astron-6 in attendance. The Editor looks set to be a throwback to the giallo sub-genre with a retro feel, setting the perfect tone for the festival’s beginning. Astron-6 are the centre of Celluloid’s annual, “The Short Film’s Of…”, which showcases an insight into the work of a particular filmmaker. Astron-6 will no doubt bring some crazy horror to Celluloid’s blood splattered screen!

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Producer and Director Brian Yuzna was also announced as Celluloid’s main special guest this year. Known for Bride of Re-Animator (1989), Beyond Re-Animator (2003),  and The Dentist (1996) plus several others, Yuzna is a frequent collaborator with director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator 1985) and will be partaking in a Q&A about is contribution to the horror genre and helping bring H.P Lovecraft’s work to life. He will also be presenting special screenings of Dagon (2001) which looks the most appealing, Bride Of Re-Animator (included in the all-nighter) and Society (1989) giving us a sense of his interesting career in the genre.

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While not every film I was particularly hoping for is in the line-up (there’s always the secret film!); there is plenty in store to satisfy all our gore-hungry appetites! What We Do in the Shadows, a New Zealand vampire mockumentary has tongue-in-cheek written over it, coming across as a laugh-out-loud horror comedy.

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Starry Eyes, is one of the most intriguing films on offer with a sense of pure darkness surrounding it, there seems to be an Argento-type familiarity at play as it tells the story of a young, aspiring actress who falls prey to the lure of fame and fortune.

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Suburban Gothic is the second feature from Excision director Richard Bates Jr, while his first film was a mixed bag of mesmerizing visuals up against a strongly unlikeable protagonist, Suburban Gothic feels a lot more watch-able. Raymond (Matthew Gray Gubler) is forced to move back in with his domineering parents, following being kicked out of his apartment. Raymond has always inhabited a special gift of communicating with the paranormal,  and is soon put to the test when a vengeful spirit starts terrorizing his small town. Its Tim Burton meets John Waters (who makes a cameo in the trailer!).

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Celluloid are also welcoming back Aaron Moorehead and Justin Benson following their fantastic participation at the 2012 festival with their feature Resolution. Their next offering is Spring a darkly fascinating piece focused on a young man who flees to Italy and subsequently begins a romance with a mysterious woman. Spring is described as “Beauty and the Beast by way of Linklater and early Cronenberg”making it sound all the more enthralling.

For those of you who are hardcore, you get a chance to enjoy and endure the All-Nighter, featuring screenings from cross-over Sci-Fi movies including Maximum Overdrive, Killer Klowns from Outer Space and Night of the Creeps. 

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One of the most exciting addition’s is the screening of The ABC’s of Death 2, showcasing 26 new directors with 26 new ways to die, judging by the trailer it looks like this sequel has certainly upped its game with plenty of crazy gore for us to feast our eyes on. We look forward to seeing segments from Jen and Sylvia Soska, Aharon Keshales, E.L Katz, Dennison Ramalho plus many more.

Dead Snow 2: Red Vs Dead gives the impression of an absolute crowd-pleaser and will certainly close the festival on a high what more could we want other than a bloody, zombie comedy!

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Ghostface Girls (myself and Caitlyn Downs) will be attending, my fourth festival and her second. Look out for plenty of coverage videos around late October-early November. Plus a new video coming soon!

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All that’s left to say is bring on the blood, guts, gore, vampires and nazi zombies!

Celluloid Screams 2014 potentially could be the best yet!

24th-26th October.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.