Netflix Pick of the Week: Scream

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Released in 1996

Since I’ve been on a Wes Craven kick I’ve decided to choose this nineties gem and Kevin Williamson written slasher starring Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette, Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Jamie Kennedy and Drew Barrymore as my Netflix Pick of the Week. A standout picture that has now become cliche due to the saturated market of teen horror that has tried to imitate it, Scream is a great movie born out of a clever script.

Self aware and witty, this nineties slasher knew what it was doing. Scream is more than your typical horror film, while playing with some of the rules set in to motion before slasher scripts were a thing, Scream found its own way in to the heads of its audience. While there are certain things you may question (check out cinema sins Everything Wrong with Scream) the good far out ways the bad. An enjoyable movie that I return to at least once a year, Scream is a classic thanks to great direction by Craven and a fun script by Williamson.

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The cast of characters are far more complex than the characters of this films predecessors. Randy, played by Jamie Kennedy, is the know-it all film buff. He is the odd one out in a group of friends including final girl, Sidney Prescott, who is still reeling from mother’s murder one year prior to the events of the film. Her boyfriend Billy Loomis, with his perfect teen heartthrob hair, is the brooding type while his best friend Stu is the goofball. Tatum is the best friend and the perfect foil to her good girl friend, Sidney. Apart from the high school students is Dewey, a sheriff and brother to Tatum, and Gale Weathers, a reporter who believes Sidney was wrong about the man she accused of killing her mother. There is also a special appearance by Henry Wrinkler as the Principle and a cameo by Director Wes Craven who appears as a Janitor that looks suspiciously like Freddy Kruger.

The film is brutal but not gory. Funny and is dramatic without becoming overly cheesy. There are many ways this film could have gone wrong but while refusing to take itself seriously, Scream is able to standout in a difficult genre.

Checkout MTV’s Scream, on Netflix, A Nightmare on Elm Street and New Nightmare by Director Wes Craven are on Netflix and The Vampire Diaries and The Following created by Kevin Williams are also available on the streaming website.

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Suspense Saturday: And Then There Were None

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Released in 1945

Adapted from the novel and play by Queen of Crime Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None adapts the plays more Hollywood friendly ending. Released in October of 1945, And Then There Were None received rave reviews and currently holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That probably wouldn’t be the case if were made today. Mostly due to the changing times, there is less of a need for happy endings and for pretty  people to win. Today we want more realistic and honest stories. While the book and a more recent adaptation gives us that, And Then There Were None is given an ending that reflects the production system of its era and not the truth of the situation. That being said, And Then There Were None is still an enjoyable film and a must see for mystery lovers.

Today’s audiences and lovers of cult classic Clue probably recognize the story as And Then There Were None is one of the most adapted and used plots of the 20th century. Before the release of the novel there wasn’t many like it. That changed after the publication and popularity. With the release of the film and the success of the play the plot has been adapted and reworked plenty of times.

Ten strangers are summoned to a remote island. As they wait for their mysterious host to arrive they listen to several recordings dealing out serious accusations. Soon they begin to die one by one and they reach the only conclusion that makes sense. One of them must be the murderer.

The film is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Film Noir Friday: Too Late for Tears

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Lizabeth Scott as Jane Palmer

Too Late for Tears was originally released in 1949 starring Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, Dan Duryea, Arthur Kennedy and Kristine Miller. The film was Directed by Byron Haskin, written by Roy Huggins and adapted from a serial by Roy Huggins. In the public domain, Too Late for Tears is available to watch on YouTube in pristine condition. An original print was found in France and restored at UCLA. This edition premiered on TCM on July 17, 2015.

After a bag of cash is thrown into their backseat by mistake a husband and wife disagree on what to do with it. Alan Palmer, played by Arthur Kennedy wants to turn it in. His wife Jane, played by Lizabeth Scott, wants to keep the money. Things soon go south for her when she meets Danny Fuller (Dan Duryea) who claims the money is his. Jane tries desperately to keep the money, going so far as to kill her own husband and bring Fuller into it. As she grows more ruthless, Jane’s sister in law Kathy (Kristine Miller) becomes suspicious of her so she calls in a man from his past.

Too Late for Tears showcases the perfect example of a Femme Fatale. A beautiful women who pulls the strings even as the anti-hero attempts to gain control. Much like the better known Femme Fatale’s like Barbara Stanwyck’s turn as Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity, Jane Palmer seduces a man into helping her get away with the murder of her husband. While Stanwyck’s role as Phyllis was straight up seduction, things for Jane are a little different. There was no original plan for her to do this but she was sick of the mundane life she was leading. Being a house wife was not for her so when given the opportunity to change her life she went for it. She was willing to risk her life and things resulted in murder just so she could hold onto it. Beneath the wide eyed innocence that she seems to pull off so perfectly is a killer who’s main goal is to grab a huge chunk out of life damn the consequences.

When a film is found or restored I will always recommend it. Especially if that film is good or at least interesting. Too Late for Tears is one of my new favorite films of the genre. The main focus is on the female protagonist and while there are big male roles in the film it is the woman that does most of the dirty work. Film Noir has always been one of my favorites due to the complexity of the female characters and this film is no exception. It gives us a character that appears innocent and thirsty for adventure on the surface but beneath it all she is thirsty for a lot more. She shows weakness, strength and a vigorous need to fight back. That vigor however will be her end.

 

Netflix Pick of the Week: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

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New Nightmare released in 1994 

“Freddy, Freddy, Freddy.”

The longest film in the franchise and the only one to feature no opening credits, New Nightmare is the seventh film made featuring Freddy Kruger. Many aspects of the film play into the real life of its stars including Heather’s husband working in special effects and her having a stalker. This version of Freddy is Wes Craven’s original vision for the character and the story was originally pitched as the storyline for Dreamscape but was turned down by the studio. However, in 1994 this film was made and has become one of the better rated films of the franchise.

Freddy Kruger enters our reality when a demonic force uses him as its portal. Heather Lagenkamp returns as herself and a mother of one. After her husband’s death by Freddy’s claw while returning home things begin to go more than a little crazy for Heather. Robert Englund returns as himself and as the infamous Freddy Kruger. This time the entity he portrays is far darker than the Kruger we know from the original. There are also appearances by Wes Craven and Robert Shaye as well as stars of the original film, Jsu Garcia and John Saxon. Lin Shaye who made an appearance in the original Nightmare on Elm Street as a teacher appears in this film as a nurse.

My third favorite in the franchise after the original and Dreamscape, New Nightmare was the first film I saw with Freddy. I didn’t know it at the time or watch the entirety of the film but I do remember the first time I saw it vividly. It wasn’t until a few years later that I saw the original film and while I didn’t believe I was scared it affected me a lot more than I thought it did. New Nightmare was the second film in the franchise I saw and I fell in love with the concept and the returning characters. The story is interesting and while I prefer the original look of Freddy from the first film this look is a lot more demonic and plays into the reality of the storyline.

If you are a fan of horror and love Freddy Kruger this is a good film to settle in and watch on a Friday night. Don’t forget to grab the popcorn and shut off all the lights. Don’t forget whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.

Film Noir Friday: Fourteen Hours

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Richard Basehart and Paul Douglas in Fourteen Hours

Fourteen Hours, is a lesser known Film Noir from 1951, directed by Henry Hathaway and Written by John Paxton. Based on an article by Joel Sayre in The New Yorker describing the 1938 suicide of John William Warden. The film was shot in New York and is the film debut of Grace Kelly in a small role.

The film follows a cop as he attempts to coerce a suicidal man off the ledge of a building. Onlookers and family discord make the situation worse as the Officer attempts to gain the unstable man’s trust. Over the course of fourteen hours he succeeds in winning him over only to have his efforts continually messed up due to those around him.

My happiest surprise while watching this film was the treatment of mental illness and the reality the stigma towards it. People on the streets are seen as being both sympathetic and horrible towards the situation. Below the man on the ledge, taxi drivers are placing bets and kids are mocking him. While this is a harsh view it is a true one and a view we still live with today. Far too often people forget that those suffering from a mental illness and those on the brink of suicide are ill and they need help. However we don’t view it in the same vein as physical illnesses like cancer so we have a distorted view of the harsh reality.

On the streets and in the buildings of New York, life continued. People went to work, found their ways back to each other and managed to find love. It is a Hollywood movie after all. You could’t expect them to make a movie with at least a little romance did you? Fourteen Hours breaks up the drama that exist on the ledge by showing us his affect on those below him and how they react to the situation. While this film may not be as well known as Noir classics  Laura and Double Indemnity, it still works with a great script and superb acting by the films star, Robert Cosick.

Two endings to the film exist. The original and preferred ending by the Director has Robert falling to his death but due to the suicide of Fox President, Spyros Skouras daughter on the day of the films preview the ending was changed to have Robert survive.

Supernatural Sunday: The Conjuring

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Post written by Ainsley Peace

One of the best ghost stories and haunted house thrillers in years, The Conjuring follows the famed Warrens as they investigate the haunting of the Perron family after they move into a farmhouse in Rhode Island.

The Warren’s, by the time of this case were not as well known as they would later become. A year prior to investigating the Perron’s residence they became involved with Possessed doll Annabelle. Their encounter with her is scene in the opening of this film. After this case they would later become one of the teams to investigate the Amityville haunting. While many of their cases have been greatly criticized and debunked, the Perron haunting hasn’t experienced as much backlash. That was until the films release. The current residents are suing Warner Brothers for damages after their home has been targeted several times.

Considered one of the best Supernatural Thrillers in years, The Conjuring doesn’t oversaturate itself with jump scares, relying heavily on its atmospheric tone and the suspense in the silence. James Wan, writers Chad and Carey W. Hayes and the actors all stir the pot and create an excellent ghost story that is soon to be considered a classic in the genre.

Not only is this films success based on the opinions of the relative few, The Conjuring has also experienced financial success. While Annabelle the prequel/spinoff wasn’t as successful The Conjuring 2 was a success and other prequels, sequels and spinoffs are said to be great as well. While The Conjuring carries a lot of weight with it there is no shame and in trying to take its energy and put it into another film. We all know how success works in Hollywood and when you find something that brings in the mula you usually try to milk it for what it is worth and The Conjuring is worth a lot.

One of the best ghost stories and haunted house thrillers in years, The Conjuring follows the famed Warrens as they investigate the haunting of the Perron family after they move into a farmhouse in Rhode Island.

The Warren’s, by the time of this case were not as well known as they would later become. A year prior to investigating the Perron’s residence they became involved with Possessed doll Annabelle. Their encounter with her is scene in the opening of this film. After this case they would later become one of the teams to investigate the Amityville haunting. While many of their cases have been greatly criticized and debunked, the Perron haunting hasn’t experienced as much backlash. That was until the films release. The current residents are suing Warner Brothers for damages after their home has been targeted several times.

Considered one of the best Supernatural Thrillers in years, The Conjuring doesn’t oversaturate itself with jump scares, relying heavily on its atmospheric tone and the suspense in the silence. James Wan, writers Chad and Carey W. Hayes and the actors all stir the pot and create an excellent ghost story that is soon to be considered a classic in the genre.

Not only is this films success based on the opinions of the relative few, The Conjuring has also experienced financial success. While Annabelle the prequel/spinoff wasn’t as successful The Conjuring 2 was a success and other prequels, sequels and spinoffs are said to be great as well. While The Conjuring carries a lot of weight with it there is no shame and in trying to take its energy and put it into another film. We all know how success works in Hollywood and when you find something that brings in the mula you usually try to milk it for what it is worth and The Conjuring is worth a lot.

Suspense Saturday: The Sixth Sense

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Post written by Ainsley Peace

I remember the first time I saw The Sixth Sense. While my surroundings are blurry, I can reach back into my memory and recall exactly how this film made me feel. By nine years old I had already fallen deeply in love with cinema so I could easily tell you that this movie had one of the best twists ever. This may come as a shock to those of you who have experienced more of M. Night Shyamalan’s failures than his successes but The Sixth Sense was one of the best films of the year.
The Sixth Sense follows child psychologist Malcom Crowe after he is confronted by a former patient. Shaken by the encounter, Crowe takes on the task of attempting to cure a young boy who “sees dead people.”
Inspired by an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? The Sixth Sense has a depth that many ghost stories and horror films were lacking at the time. The emotional impact far outweighs many horror films with its use of child psychology and very personal fears. Cole, played by Haley Joel Osment, who was best known for playing the titular character’s young son, gave a memorable performance as the young boy plagued by literal ghosts.
There are probably very few people that don’t know the twist of this movie. With the wide variety of content that is constantly being released there is a chance you won’t be as surprised as the audiences that originally saw it. As you go into this movie let go of all the baggage that comes with ghost stories, horror films and movies directed by Shyamalan. Allow yourself to be swept up by the psychological thriller. It’s slow pace and lack of gore make it the perfect horror movie for people who don’t love horror movies.

TV Tuesday: Zoo

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Post written by Ainsley Peace

Loosely based on the novel by James Patterson, Zoo was quite the surprise when I decided to watch it. I am glad that I finally jumped on it as there are many aspects of this show that play into our very real fears. It makes us question our place on the food chain and puts at the very bottom as animals begin to attack humans. The investigations bring’s together five very different individuals, tour guides Abraham Kenyatta and Jackson Oz, French Intelligence Officer Chloe Tousignant, Veterinary Pathologist Mitch Morgan and Journalist Jamie Campbell. Caught up in the investigations the team leads their old lives behind and realize that even when fighting the animals, humans really are the worlds worst predators.

There has been a lot of growth in the series and not all of it has been beneficial. It is normal to lose characters early on and new ones to be added. The changes that occurred in the second season may have changed things up quite a bit the added characters gave the show something more as the story developed and the problem grew larger. Now the show is in its third season complete with time jump and major character development it appears that the story may have take far too many sharp turns. What I loved about the first season with the viability and honesty that came with it. It was an adventure and the characters were relatable but still gave us someone to live through. I was enthralled with the story but as I went into season three I realized that so much about what made seasons one and two enjoyable are missing.

While I wouldn’t be so quick to recommend the series were it is now I would gladly send someone over to Netflix to watch the first two seasons. Two strong, independent female leads who don’t sacrifice their femininity for strength stands out. Friendships and a growing familia bond that is embraced over the course of the first two seasons adds to the heartbreak that comes with fighting the war on humans, a war that many of the audience members probably understand.

Zoo may take the story to extremes but as you watch this show you will probably embrace some of those fears we once thought as irrational while nodding along to the fears that are all too real on a daily basis. We are often told not to be afraid of animals because they are more afraid of us. Now I am beginning to think that is part of the problem.

Netflix Pick of the Week: It Follows

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It Follows Poster

Directed by David Robert Mitchell and staring Maika Monroe, It Follows is one of the best horror films of the last ten years. Set in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, It Follows tells the story of an unknown entity that haunts its victims. It only leaves them alone once they pass it on through a sexual act. Not a metaphor for a STD, It Follows can be what you want it to be and what it is, is unsettling.

One of the things that makes this post 2000s horror film so great is that we don’t know exactly what It is or what its motives are. More often than not the more recent films in the genre tend to give us a little too much detail, letting go of the mystery. Sometimes the best horror is the unknown and if you can keep that, you’ve got a better chance at getting under someones skin.

Set in a Michigan suburb the timeless nature of this film prevents it from being dated. A lack of cell phones, old cars and TVs and a reading device that doesn’t exist make us question what period the film is set. No modern conveniences in sight add to the spooky atmosphere. Wearing its inspirations on its sleeve, It Follows will satisfy film fans and you may even recognize a few scenes that mirror other movies. John Carpenter was obviously a big influence on the film, right down to the killer score. The suspenseful nature of this film alludes to Hitchcock and several scenes also mirror even older films like the original Cat People.

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Maika Monroa in It Follows

Many Directors of the horror genre should take note and enjoy the subtleties that bring this world to life. It Follows stands out for what it doesn’t tell and show us. If you haven’t taken the time to watch this film in the past couple of years do yourself a favor and watch it now. This is one every fan should have on their shelf or in their queue

TV Tuesday: Loch Ness

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Loch Ness also called The Loch

Broadchurch it is not but Loch Ness manages to draw you in to the mythical shores of Loch Ness to find what other monsters may lurk along the Lochs of Scotland. Set in Bonnie Scotland near the country’s most famous Loch, Loch Ness is a murder mystery starring Laura Fraser. Secrets and scandals thwart the investigation as a serial killer continues to haunt the town.

Available in the States on Amazon Prime, Loch Ness is a six episode mini-series also starring ‎Siobhan Finneran. The show itself is most admired for the beautiful images of Scotland herself. A country that deserves to have a starring credit. The gorgeous scenery is tough to ignore and, regardless of the weather, The Highlands still manage to shine.

The mystery itself is a slow burn until the final moments when things speed up a little too fast. This is a common mistake in most mysteries. They spend so much time on the suspense that they forget the importance of the pieces. Still, a great mystery with an interesting twist that resembles a few older tales, Loch Ness may surprise you when in reaches its climax.

Supernatural Sunday: The Uninvited

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After stealing money from her bosses client, Secretary Marion Craine runs off with the money. After ditching her old car in favor of her new one, Marion stops at The Bates Motel during a stormy night. This would be her biggest mistake. After her disappearance, Marion’s sister searches for her with the help of her sisters lover Sam Loomis and Private Detective Milton Arbogast.

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Using a television crew and a small budget, Psycho was a big departure from his previous film North by Northwest. Hitchcock’s willingness to take risks and try new and exciting things aided him in a long and successful career that spanned six decades. Beginning in the his career in Britain during the silent film era, Hitchcock made five silent films. In the thirties he would make one musical and one of his best and better know British films The Man Who Knew Too Much. After his move to the US, Hitchcock found greater success with his films like Rebecca, his first film in America and Shadow of a Doubt in Film Noir style. The Fifties would become his peak years with films like Rear Window and Vertigo that are often cited as his best films. His first film in the sixties was Psycho and you can tell that Hitchcock can’t do the same thing over and over. His peak years that came in the decade prior all had a different flair and that would be the same for his films in the sixties.

Receiving mixed reviews upon its initial release, box office sales changed things for Psycho and it has grown into a classic film often scene as a top movie for Hitchcock. Adapted from the novel of the same name, Hitchcock got as many copies as he could not to spoil the ending something impossible today.

 

 

Suspense Saturday: Psycho

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Screen shot of Janet Leigh in Psycho 

Often seen as a precursor to the modern horror/slasher film, Psycho is one of Hitchcock’s most known films among modern audiences. Shot in black and white after Hitchcock already used color and technicolor in previous films, Hitchcock made a deliberate choice that added to the atmosphere of the film. Most famous for the character of Norman Bates and the infamous shower scene, Psycho is has laid the ground work for many writers and directors in the suspense and horror genre.

After stealing money from her bosses client, Secretary Marion Craine runs off with the money. After ditching her old car in favor of her new one, Marion stops at The Bates Motel during a stormy night. This would be her biggest mistake. After her disappearance, Marion’s sister searches for her with the help of her sisters lover Sam Loomis and Private Detective Milton Arbogast.

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Promo shot from the set of Psycho 

Using a television crew and a small budget, Psycho was a big departure from his previous film North by Northwest. Hitchcock’s willingness to take risks and try new and exciting things aided him in a long and successful career that spanned six decades. Beginning in the his career in Britain during the silent film era, Hitchcock made five silent films. In the thirties he would make one musical and one of his best and better know British films The Man Who Knew Too Much. After his move to the US, Hitchcock found greater success with his films like Rebecca, his first film in America and Shadow of a Doubt in Film Noir style. The Fifties would become his peak years with films like Rear Window and Vertigo that are often cited as his best films. His first film in the sixties was Psycho and you can tell that Hitchcock can’t do the same thing over and over. His peak years that came in the decade prior all had a different flair and that would be the same for his films in the sixties.

Receiving mixed reviews upon its initial release, box office sales changed things for Psycho and it has grown into a classic film often scene as a top movie for Hitchcock. Adapted from the novel of the same name, Hitchcock got as many copies as he could not to spoil the ending something impossible today.