No matter how many horror movies you’ve seen, there is always one you missed. To celebrate Halloween this year, Team Unwinnable sought out the monster movies they haven’t seen to find out if they are as good as everyone says. Yesterday, Don Becker took on John Carpenter’s The Thing. Today, Dave Trainer looks at [REC], Olivia Davis looks at Prince of Darkness and Erik Weinbrecht takes on Freaks! Gabba Gabba Hey!
I love a great scary movie. I love to see people squirm in their chair as an unmistakable act is taking place right in front of them. I love the rush of adrenaline as I feel more and more uncomfortable. [REC] does all this with well-timed action and suspense that will have you questioning everything up until the very end (to be clear, I am talking about the original version from Spain, not the shitty American remake Quarantine).
[REC] places you behind the lens of Pablo, an independent television cameraman for a local news show who’s staked out at the local firehouse on the hunt for a story. Lo and behold, a siren goes off and they respond to an apartment complex where neighbors have called the fuzz after hearing a woman screaming. It’s a simple enough idea (which had me yawning immediately). I thought, “Zombies, definitely zombies.”
I was partly right, well, almost 100%, but hey – who doesn’t like a good zombie movie?
What makes [REC] so immersive is the way it is filmed. It turns you, the viewer, into a supporting character of the story, seeing firsthand the accounts taking place. Yes, it is filmed in a documentary style, so if you’re prone to motion sickness you may have to take a couple of breaks as once the action picks up it gets a bit choppy. Nausea aside, [REC] scared me. It made me happy to see how uncomfortable my girlfriend got – this was the first movie in a while where she was hiding her face at some crucial moments. That’s thanks to the end, which has a great and utterly grotesque payoff that solidified [REC] as one of the best horror thrillers I’ve seen in a very long time.
– Dave Trainer
John Carpenter has always been a master of his craft in the horror movie realm. With such classics as The Thing, Halloween and They Live to his credit [Editor’s Note: No matter what Don Becker thinks], it is no wonder why people hold him in such high regard. His blend of sci-fi, horror, the supernatural and dark humor has come to be regarded as a signature of the genre. Prince of Darkness contains all of these elements, but they don’t coalesce as seamlessly as in his other works.
We start the film with an introduction to a group of college-aged physicists and their teacher. They are called in by a priest to help investigate a strange container filled with a mysterious green substance that has been hidden in the basement of an abandoned church. A book accompanies the container which, within its pages, describes what lurks inside. As the film unfolds we learn that the container holds none other than the Anti-Christ, who has a penchant for possessing anyone that gets too close.
What seems like a solid outline for a supernatural horror film falls surprisingly flat. One of the biggest problems is that the movie has too much of everything. Characters, scientific facts, plot points and otherworldly occurrences become too busy and difficult to follow. It was almost as if they couldn’t pick between many ideas and decided to attempt to cram them all into an hour and a half. Carpenter unfortunately missed the mark on this one. A couple of good elements do not make a whole great movie.
One thing was abundantly clear to me as I finished watching: this movie has some of the best slayings that I’ve seen in quite a long time. While they are all kitschy, that is one of the charms within Carpenter’s films. The winner is when Alice Cooper’s character, a possessed and murderous hobo, kills a man, with half a bicycle as his weapon. This movie is worth a watch almost entirely for that scene alone!
– Olivia Noel Davis
Tod Browning committed career suicide when he made Freaks. At the time, nothing like it had ever been seen on the silver screen. The seedy underbelly of circus sideshow acts was left in the shadows and it wasn’t until his feature that dwarves, people with medical abnormalities and others like them had the spotlight role in a film. Freaks follows Hans, a sideshow dwarf, as he pines after Cleopatra, a normal-sized circus performer. After finding that Hans is due for a hefty inheritance, she leads him on, marries him, and tries to poison him. The film isn’t very long, but makes you wait until the final twenty-five minutes or so for the horror to kick in.
The central theme of the film is simple: don’t piss off circus freaks. Realizing that Hans’ love interest is out to get him, the collaborative freak army plans a trap to catch Cleopatra and kill her. Browning’s portrayal of the human anomalies is dark. There is the suggestion that any gang of sideshow freaks follows a strict code wherein if one is hurt, so are the rest. Therefore, there will be no hesitation in exacting swift revenge on the attacker.
Clocking in at just over an hour, you don’t have to clear your schedule to catch this film. The acting is raw and the film is almost one hundred percent devoid of special effects. That means (for the most part) everything that you are seeing is real. Once the sideshow acts begin to put their plan into motion, the reason why this is considered a classic horror flick becomes obvious. Between the imagery, the lightning storm, and the audible void the score dives into, the end is genuinely creepy and rather off-putting. The audience is meant to feel bad for Hans, and it works. At the end, you find yourself rooting for the punishment of Cleopatra and feel as bloodthirsty as the titular freaks.
Though Browning’s career may have suffered a tremendous blow from this film during his lifetime, Unwinnable is happy to include it on this year’s Monster Movie Mash. Do yourself a favor, as a horror fan, and check out this little black and white nugget of history.
– Erik Weinbrecht
Don’t get bit, and follow @Dave_Trainer to safety on Twitter. Olivia Noel Davis loves to nit-pick movies on her Twitter @OliviaNoelDavis. Remember the Pinheads from Clerks: The Animated Series? “One of us! One of us!” Follow @Erock88 on Twitter!
Tune in tomorrow for Michael Sheridan on White Zombie and Chuck Moran on Dead Snow!