THE RETURN OF THE HALLOWEEN HORROR MOVIE CHALLENGE

Oh shit, it’s that time of year again! You know the drill – 31 horror movies in 31 days. As usual there’s no specific theme…just whatever I can drudge up from On Demand, plus a few choice rentals and hopefully a couple of trips to the theater. (Unfortunately due to the cock smugglers over at Netflix, their vast and weird selection of horror movies available for streaming will not be in the pool this year.)

New to the challenge this year will be a mini drinking game to go along with each movie, because horror movies and drinking go together like Children of the Corn sequels and bargain bins.

Let the games begin!

The Relic is sorta like the ’90s version of an old-fashioned creature feature, or one of those standalone, monster-of-the-week X-Files episodes stretched out to a full movie. (Come to think of it, it would have made a decent X-Files movie if the actual X-Files movie wasn’t so caught up in that convoluted alien bullshit.) But instead of Mulder and Scully we get Tom Sizemore, who looks like Mulder ate Scully. He spends the movie chasing a paycheck monster around the bowels of a museum, while Penelope Ann Miller runs a bunch of DNA tests up in her lab. Speaking of Penelope, she’s one of three (!) Kindergarten Cop alumni in this movie (the other two are Linda Hunt and Chi Muoi Lo). The hell is that about? The monster itself sounds like an asthmatic fat kid who just sprinted up a flight of stairs, and its roars sound suspiciously like the growls of Gozer’s possessed dogs from Ghostbusters. And when finally revealed, it looks like Pumbaa from The Lion King on steroids and crack (Hakuna Matata, motherfucker!”). I loved Stan Winston, but sadly this wasn’t one of his better creature designs. Before wrapping up, The Relic makes sure to include the “Monster Money Shot”, which of course is the tight, lingering shot of a slimy, salivating monster inches away from a frightened woman’s face. Hollywood executives seem to be really aroused by those shots.  2.5/5

  • Speaking of shots – take one every time Sizemore’s tough-guy cop character says “hypothalamus.”

Land of the Dead

George Romero has been a prolific bastard these past few years, driving his once-esteemed Dead series (back) into the ground with cheap spinoffs like Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead. But back in 2005 it was sort of a big deal to see him return, after a 20 year absence from the whole zombie thing, with Land of the Dead. Of course his timing could’ve been better, as Land of the Dead would barely make a splash amidst a sea of other zombie movies at the time, including a well-received, souped-up remake of his own Dawn of the Dead the year before. So despite the 20 year layoff, Land of the Dead wasn’t exactly fresh, and it feels more like a belated appendix to Romero’s original trilogy than a bold new installment. Of course this being a Romero picture, the blood & guts come with subtle doses of social and political commentary; the zombies begin to show signs of cooperation and thought, while the humans continue fucking each other over, raising questions as to which species is more savage. The main villain is therefore not a flesh-eating corpse, but Dennis Hopper, phoning it in as a Trump-like entrepreneur who owns a massive highrise where wealthy people continue to live in blissful ignorance, shielded from the zombie apocalypse around them. He’s mostly wasted here, but nonetheless delivers the film’s best line: “Zombies, man…they creep me out.”  2.5/5

  • Take a drink every time someone gets bit, then when the credits roll, stagger to the bathroom like a zombie.

The Ward Let’s face it – nobody who’s seen this movie did it because it looked even remotely good or original; they did it because it was directed by John Carpenter, after a 10-year absence from filmmaking (save for two solid Masters of Horror episodes). However a quick stop over at imdb will remind you that the last feature film Carpenter made was Ghosts of Mars starring Ice Cube, which should snuff any hopes you had right the fuck out. The Ward is so boring and by-the-numbers, one gets the sense that Carpenter must have lost his enthusiasm somewhere between signing his contract and showing up on set. And perhaps rightly so, since the real offender is the god-awful screenplay, which rips off half a dozen other movies before slapping us in the face with a “twist” ending that’s so cliché by today’s standards, the script must have been sitting on a shelf for the past seven years. John Carpenter used to be a lot more hands-on with his movies, often writing or co-writing the screenplay, and even composing the music. Unfortunately, the modern-day Carpenter is a man who’s seemingly content with just sitting back and cashing checks whenever a classic of his is remade, so I wonder why he’d get up off his ass to direct something that sucked before the cameras even rolled.  1.5/5

  • Have a drink every time you feel embarrassed for Johnny C. But pace yourself!

Quarantine 2: Terminal is pretty par for the course when it comes to direct-to-DVD horror sequels. It’s not exactly terrible but not that great either – it just sort of exists (which some would say is arguably worse). I’m not the biggest fan of found footage flicks, but the first Quarantine (itself a remake of Spanish horror hit [Rec]) did it right, playing out as a would-be news broadcast of a rabies-like virus outbreak in an apartment building, with a reporter and her cameraman trapped inside. Quarantine 2 takes place on the same night, only on an airplane. In a random bit of What the Fuck?-ness, there’s a brief scene that introduces two of the stewardesses flight attendants, where one gives the other a signed copy of what is clearly the latest Band of Horses album (Infinite Arms) and brags about how she got backstage to meet the band. Not to nitpick here, but that album came out in 2010 – a full year and a half after the first Quarantine. If this movie is made to take place on the same night, that would mean the first movie really took place in the future. But no, they just fucked up. Anyway, perhaps the biggest change is the decision to drop the POV style of the first one, though the close confines of the airplane and handheld camerawork initially put you right in the movie anyway. Unfortunately, this is soon expelled with when the flight is grounded and the remaining passengers are quarantined in a hangar, at which point this just becomes another routine survival horror movie. By the time the credits roll, you realize that moving the action off of the airplane was a fatal mistake.  2/5

  • Have a drink every time someone complains to the flight attendant. This keeps happening even after everyone gets off the plane.

Silent Hill I’ve never played the game this was (loosely?) based on, but something tells me it wouldn’t have mattered. Silent Hill is one of those movies that scrapes by with outstanding production design and visual effects, because the story doesn’t appear to make any goddamn sense. A woman’s adopted daughter keeps having vivid nightmares of an abandoned mining town called Silent Hill, so naturally she decides to take her on a field trip there. When the daughter promptly disappears, Mother of the Year spends the next two hours wandering through the town looking for her, occasionally having to fend off a variety of ghouls that look as if Clive Barker directed a Cradle of Filth music video. The movie’s all atmosphere, and at its best moments it recalls Hellraiser and Event Horizon, though at its worst it’s just another inane video game adaptation. It at least gets a bonus point for tossing in Sean Bean as her worried husband, even though much time is devoted to his storyline only for it to go nowhere.  2.5/5

  • Take a shot every time that siren blares, cause you know you’re in for some wacky shit.

The Shining scared the everloving fuck out of me when I first saw it, which might’ve had something to do with the fact that I was 10. It succeeds mainly because director Stanley Kubrick took the skeleton of Stephen King’s novel, and basically wiped his ass with the rest of it (which, come to think of it, is sorta what you need to do when adapting King’s work). If you need further proof of this, look no further than the coma-inducing 5-hr miniseries in 1997, adapted by King himself after his reported dissatisfaction with Kubrick’s version. If you’re smart, though, you’ll just stick with this one. Jack Nicholson turns the crazy up to 11, though I’m sure he never intended to compete with Shelley Duvall, who looks creepy without even trying sometimes. Then there’s those two little shits (see above), who did to hotel hallways what Jaws did to the ocean. But the sorriest sonuvabitch in the cast has to be Scatman Crothers, who leaves his swank pad in Florida and travels up the snowy Colorado mountains during a winter storm to try and help, only to get taken out by a swift swing of an axe. Let The Shining be a warning: if you’re gonna be watching an empty hotel for an entire winter, bring a fucking iPad or something.  4.5/5

  • Go ahead, have some bourbon with good ol’ Jack. Don’t let the man drink alone!
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