Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Hootenanny Best Halloween Movies, Part 2

Greetings ghoulies

The 2012 Nate's Verbal Hootenanny Countdown comes to its frightening end with Part 2 of the Best Halloween Movies!

A Quick Review of #'s 7-4 posted yesterday 10/30:

#7.  Carrie
#6.  The Fog
#5.  The Shining
#4.  The Exorcist

Before we move on to the Best 3 Halloween Films of all time, here are some Hootenanny Honorable Mentions:

DRACULA: "Children of the night, what music they make..."  A classic film.  The ultimate vampire tale.  Still yet to be matched.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: "They're coming to get you, Barbara" Yes they are.  Oops... and there goes my bladder.

ERNEST SCARED STUPID: Dumb, campy, yet somehow fun.  Actually- this is only on the countdown because Adam D. Wilson said it had to be.  ;-)

GARFIELD'S HALLOWEEN ADVENTURE: Garfield, Odie and Lou Rawls music.  Wait, what?  Yep- you read that right.  Good clean 80s Garfield Halloween hijinx with a Lou Rawls soundtrack... what more could you possibly want?

INSIDIOUS: This is the last movie in the theaters to make me scream.  Despite some cheesy effects toward the end, this movie is one damn good scare.  Kudos to Lynn Shaye- an actress I normally associated with comedy (The Farrelly Brothers movies specifically) proving she's got some serious chops.  

Now without further delay... 
The Top 3 films to really get you in the Halloween mood:


Ok, some of you may hate me for this.

But open your minds...  this is the very definition of Halloween films.  Witches, magic, danger, zombies, curses, spells, and virgins lighting magical Black Flame candles!  Just doing my part to remind you that the Halloween mood doesn't always have to be scary and creepy... it can be funny and campy.

As far as quality of film goes, this is NOWHERE close to the other films on my countdown but I defy you to watch this movie and not be ready to go out trick-or-treating.  It's impossible.  And come on... Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy casting a spell on a ballroom full of people by singing "I Put A Spell On You" is classic!

Anyone else wonder how the Sanderson Sisters, having been dead for 300 years right down to the day, knew the lyrics and melody to "I Put A Spell On You" without even a single rehearsal? I mean, I know they're witches, but come on...!

Sit back, watch and have fun with Hocus Pocus... it'll give you a break from the terror that's about to ensue...


While Hocus Pocus may excited you about going out for tricks-or-treats, this next flick may give you pause...

Many of you have probably never seen this film.  And that's a shame.

If there ever was a love letter to everything that is Halloween, it is Trick 'r Treat. Starring Anna Paquin, Bryan Cox and Dylan Baker, TrT is a film that weaves 4 different stories together over the course of one Halloween night in a small nameless town.  Part dark comedy, part thriller, part true horror film writer/director Michael Dougherty touches all the truly Halloween elements: serial killers, ghosts, monsters, werewolves- and even manages to create a few new ones.

I discovered Trick 'r Treat 3 years ago and have made it a point to watch in preparation for every Halloween.  Truly a hidden gem of cinema, I was saddened to hear that politics and typical industry BS kept this film from being the massive Warner Bros. release it was originally intended to be... however, its anonymity makes this film feel even more special.  

So do yourself a favor... before this day is over, go to Netflix and discover this movie.  It will undoubtedly make you just a little bit more afraid of going trick-or-treating.  And what fun is going out in costumes looking for candy without some small hint of danger...?


You all knew this was coming, right?

Well you were right.  But honestly... can anyone think of a movie that defined this holiday more than John Carpenter's 1978 masterwork?  Here's a little SAT work for ya: Halloween is to Halloween as It's a Wonderful Life is to Christmas.

The above image is exactly what pops into my head when I think of Halloween the season.  Carpenter created a very simple tale: disturbed young man escapes from mental hospital and murders young kids.  It's an urban legend we've heard since we were kids.  What Carpenter did was make it both real and more complex:  instead of it being just some mental patient, Michael Myers is a purely evil lunatic who murdered before he was old enough to even stay home by himself.  Myers is so evil that the doctor who was supposed to treat him instead spent 8 out of 15 years trying to KEEP him locked up and when he escaped, ol' Dr. Loomis went out, bought a gun and decided to personally hunt him down.  Oh and by the way... no matter how many times you stab or shoot him, he doesn't stay down.

"I met him fifteen years ago. I was told there was nothing left. No reason, no conscience, no understanding of even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six year old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes, the Devil's eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy's eyes was purely and simply... evil."

What makes Halloween so successful is that, despite how superhumanly evil and strong Myers is, it all seems plausible. We see that "The Shape" as he is mostly referred to, is a stalker.  He drives by the unsuspecting female leads, parks outside their classroom windows, follows them on their walk home and hides behind bushes.  What really gets me is when poor Laurie Strode looks down from her room, she sees the ghostly figure standing in her hanging laundry outside, staring right up at her.  

Because there is really no scenario presented to us that couldn't actually happen (until late in the film), we immediately put ourselves in Laurie's place.  We suddenly begin to relate to her predicament:  ok, so there's a guy following me, my friends suddenly aren't anywhere to be found, even though they're supposed to be right across the street, maybe I should go check things out just to be safe, hm this house is empty and dark and much more quiet than it's supposed to be, and oh wait... what's that on the bed in there...?

Shit, meet fan.  

I was born after the release of Halloween and since 1978 many movies have tried to copy or put their own spin on the tale John Carpenter told here.  Some have succeeded, most have failed.  What makes Halloween such an awesome seasonal film besides bearing its name is that it reminds us that there is sometimes, quite simply real evil out there.  That sounds depressing.  But maybe the best way to deal with that is by giving ourselves an outlet to release all the anxiety and fear that comes with such a truth. We watch scary movies and dress in scary costumes and walk down dark streets knocking on strangers homes so that we don't REALLY have to worry about bad people and things they do.  

So, let loose, get frightened, pee your pants a little... after all:
"It's Halloween.  Everyone's entitled to one good scare."  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Hootenanny Best Halloween Movies, Part 1

In case you couldn't tell over the last 30 days, I'm a horror movie fan.  

A movie doesn't even need to scare me (as that is actually pretty hard to do after having been introduced to horror movies as a young kid)- if the mood and atmosphere is just right, you will hook me.

If the tension is real and well-earned, you'll make me sweat.

If I feel that the filmmaker is willing to break away from typical horror conventions and- say- kill off a major character or tell us a story in a new and inventive way, chances are I'll become a huge fan.

Now, Halloween is also one of my favorite times of year.  It's a chance to get lost in my imagination a little.  As the weather changes and a new time of year arrives, Halloween season allows me to feel like something spooky awaits my future.  And to celebrate, I spend my time listening to spooky music/classic horror film soundtracks, and watching scary flicks.

To share with you some of the joy I get from this tenth month of the year, I have created a short list of what I consider to be the Best Halloween Films of All Time.  I have based this list off of movies that really put me in the mood to get dressed up, to get spooked, to feel like I'm being watched and that I may be in imminent danger.  Now- bear in mind- this is NOT a "Best Horror Film" of all time list but rather a list of movies that you can turn off all the lights, watch and really get excited about (or dread) the Halloween season.

So, here we go:


Ok, so that's NOT Sissy Spacek.
But I am happy to say that the only time I have voluntarily dressed like a woman in public is for this enormously successful Halloween costume of 2011.

Carrie is one of those masterpieces of cinema that was adapted from a literary masterpiece that they managed not to mess up.  Not only did DePalma manage to perfectly transfer a Stephen King story to the screen (which, as we've seen many times unfortunately, is not easy), his technique and masterful creation of atmosphere made him a pioneer of a new way of scaring us on-screen.  

What also makes Carrie a gem is that it not only functions as a horror movie but also a tragedy.  From the very opening shot, our heart goes out to Carrie White.  We feel for her.  We love her.  And yet, we know what's coming and we root for her to win.  The moment Carrie's and Tommy Ross's names are called at The Prom and DePalma slows everything down backed by that beautiful Pino Dinaggio score, we are happy for Carrie!  She finally got what she always wanted...

and yet, we know it's not going to last.  And when that bucket of pig's blood comes down, our heart sinks for 2 reasons:  1) we know that that is it for Carrie's happiness.  That one sad, brief moment... but then 2) we know that now they've gone too far.  We know what she's capable of and that everyone surrounding Carrie in that instant is truly, unavoidably fucked.

And that's when shit gets real.


Do yourself a favor:  turn out the lights, cover yourself with a blanket, cuddle up with someone and let John Carpenter, the master of creating the spookiest atmospheres in cinema history, take you on a journey to Antonio Bay- a seaside town in Northern California that has no idea what's about to hit them.

The Fog is a revenge tale.  And it's not the scariest film of all time.  Not even close I don't think.  What it IS is a classic ghost story with a Carpenter twist.  If you loved listening to ghost stories growing up, you will love this movie.


If this picture ALONE isn't enough to make you shit your pants, then you obviously haven't seen the movie.

While Stanley Kubrick may not have had Stephen King's blessing to use King's story but not really... what Kubrick did create was a legendary film that is every bit as good as King's novel but for completely different reasons.

Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy and gifted son Danny get a bit more than they bargained for when Jack accepts the job as the off-season caretaker of the secluded Overlook Hotel.  It's the perfect setup for a horror story:  an isolated family with a past, danger lurking in every cranny of the hotel, a son with a gift that he doesn't know how to control and a father who just has way too many skeletons in his closet to withstand the forces that run the Overlook during the winter months.  

One of the scariest scenes of all-time lies within this film- a bathroom encounter between Jack Torrance and Delbert Grady, the last doomed caretaker of the Overlook.  There's really nothing to be scared of because it's just a conversation that's only really happening in Jack's head, right? RIGHT?

Well, not really.


To be honest with you, the first time I saw this film and they flashed the face of Pazuzu on the screen- I literally jumped up and ran around the block.  Quite possibly the scariest moment I can ever remember enduring in cinema, seeing the demon that inhabits little Reagan McNeill was very truthfully a blood-chilling moment.

Much like Carrie, The Exorcist works so well as a horror film because it's not simply a horror film.  The first half of the film is so effective at making us sympathize with the McNeill family and with Reagan's inexplicable change of behavior that by the time it is explained as possession- we completely buy it.  The second half of the film then proceeds to just genuinely scare the bejesus out of us.  


Because director William Friedkin doesn't treat us like idiots.  Everything feels real, everything feels genuine.  There's no sudden swelling of music, no cheap scares, no main characters falling down while trying to escape or making bad decisions to go back in the house even though they've made it safely out.  All we're left with is a small group of people who have no choice but to try and save this poor girl- even though only one of them, the old and in poor health Fr. Merrin, has enough faith to try what needs to be done.  

One of the highlights of my life as an actor was the time I got to be directed by Friedkin on CSI.  He was completely off-his-rocker and wacky, but his philosophy seemed to be very simple:

just tell the story.

And, boy, is The Exorcist a scary story?  

Stay tuned tomorrow, kiddies, as the Hootenanny reveals its Top 3 Halloween Movies of all Time.  


Friday, October 26, 2012

Conversations With the Misinformed

Nate's Verbal Hootenanny is taking a moment to pause from its regularly scheduled Hootenanny Halloween Countdown to discuss a very important issue...

Election 2012.

For any of you who have followed my blog for a while, you know my political backstory.  In short, I was raised and educated Catholic, followed my mother into a non-denominational Christian faith, voted Republican and did all the things a good Southern boy is supposed to do.  Then I moved away.  And Hurricane Katrina happened.  And the combination of these events began to shape my world view in such a way that I began to swear allegiance to neither the Republican nor the Democratic party.  In 2008, I broke away from my family politically and voted for Barack Obama.  

Now the next Presidential Election is here and it is time once again to decide who is going to get my vote.

It all began with the Republican primary in 2012.  Though we'd gotten a glimpse of Mitt Romney in 2008, he always looked like an amateur next to John McCain.  This time around everyone agreed Mitt was the Man To Beat.  And he came out swinging.  Mitt was the frontrunner from the word "Go."  

But something funny happened on the way to Tampa...

Suddenly, Michelle Bachman started getting a lot of attention.  Then Rick Perry jumped ahead of Mitt in the polls.  Campaign Romney shook off the dust and re-gained ground... only to have Herman Cain (HERMAN CAIN everyone) overtake him.  It wasn't until people found out Herman Cain has had about 78 mistresses over the course of the last 3 years that Romney came back.  Then came Newt Gringrich- think about that.  And just when you thought Romney had finished off all his challengers, Rick Santorum- the most ridiculously close-minded and unpresidential candidate in my lifetime (can you imagine him trying to stand up to China???) began to give Mitt his toughest test.  Finally, when the dust settled, Mitt Romney got the nomination after all.  Whew...

Now came the tough part:  what the hell does Mitt Romney stand for?  The next few months were spent revealing that Mitt Romney:

1) is a constant flip-flopper who will say anything to get elected.  Let's not be naive- all politicians are.  Obama flip-flops.  He's had to eat plenty of crow.  But Mitt Romney has mastered the art of completely ignoring quotes he's actually made in the past and just saying "That's not true, I did not say that" even when it is being quoted directly to him. 

2) is medieval when it comes to social issues.  He's got "binders full of women" to appoint to his cabinet... because he wouldn't ever appoint any of the women he personally or professionally knows because, well, he doesn't know any.  And don't even start on issues of civil rights for gay people.

3) has no specific tax plan.  Oh wait... I stand corrected Mitt Romney spent the better part of July and August talking about a $5 Trillion Dollar Tax Cut, only to completely deny it in every single debate with Barack Obama.  He used the phrase "cut spending" (a Republican buzz word which is actually a good policy), only any idiot will tell you cutting spending does not increase revenue.  It only frees up the current revenue you have.  And when one finds himself in debt, the only way to climb out of debt is to cut spending AND increase revenue.  And tell us Mr. Romney, how do you plan to increase revenue?  By cutting taxes for the middle class AND the wealthy? Hm.... that doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.  #Arithmetic

4) believes that 47% of the country's population is lazy and doesn't want to work for a living.  Remember this factoid for later.

5) has no foreign policy. To have this confirmed, watch the 3rd Debate in which Mitt Romney agreed with everything Barack Obama has done in office and proposed no new ideas.  

And yet, here I was, back home in Louisiana not even a week ago and was completely surrounded by people who were voting for Mitt Romney.  Not only were they loud and proud about it, but they tried to challenge me on WHY ON EARTH would I vote for Obama?!?!?

It went a little bit like this:

Mom: "How could you vote for that lying ass Barack Obama?"  
Me: "How could you vote for that lying ass Mitt Romney?"
Mom: "Nate, just look at the economy!!!!"
Me: "Oh you mean the one that Republican policies helped to drive us into?  Ok.  What does Mitt Romney plan to do to get us out?"
Mom: "Um..."
Me: "Oh and by the way, did you know that unemployment in September was the lowest it's been in 3 1/2 years and consumer spending was almost double what economists thought it would be? Hm."


Nanna: "How could you vote for Barack Obama? He wasn't even born in this country!"
Me: "Oh Jesus."
Nanna: "Well he wouldn't show his birth certificate!"
Me: "I guess Fox News didn't ever show the birth certificate that Obama released did they?"
Nanna: "Well what took him so long?!?!"
Me: "Funny, I wonder the same thing about Mitt Romney and his tax returns...."


Stepfather:  "How could you vote for that man? He's not a Christian!"
Me: "Yes he is actually."
Stepfather: "Oh bullshit."
Me: "By the way, Mitt Romney is a Mormon."
Stepfather: "....."
Me: "And Paul Ryan is Catholic" (My stepfather believes Catholics are not Christian, btw)
Stepfather: "Well tell me one thing Barack Obama has done that proves he's a Christian."
Me: "I don't know the man personally, but eliminating pre-existing conditions so that everyone has a shot at healthcare seems like a good start."
Stepfather: "That's Socialism."
Me: "Nice retort, O'Reilly.  And by the way, did you know that certain sects of Mitt Romney's religion believe in polygamy and the entire church believes a man found golden tablets from God in Upstate New York in the late 1800s, that the church didn't allow black people to participate until 1978 when "God suddenly changed his mind" and that when you die you all get your own special planet?


Elderly Family Member: "Romney was right about the 47%.  There are that many lazy people in this country?"
Me: "Do I work?"
EFM: "Yes."
Me: "Did you work before you retired?"
EFM: "Yes."
Me: "How's that Social Security working out for you by the way?  Anyway, (off-screen to mom) Hey mom! Do you work?"
Mom (off-screen): "Yes. Why?"
Me: (to EFM) "So that's 3 people right there.  If Romney was right in his statement, then between the 3 of us, at least one of us would have to be completely living off of unearned government benefits believing that they are the victims of an unjust society in which they don't have a fair chance.  And since none of us believes that, I guess that wasn't so right.  Oh and by the way."


Friend of the family: "Being gay is wrong and our government shouldn't support it."
Me: "Old Testament?"
FoF: "Yep."
Me: "Tell me- has your son ever disobeyed your husband?"
FoF: "All the time."
Me: "So why hasn't your husband taken your son to the city limits and stoned him to death?  That's in Deuteronomy. Also the Old Testament in case you forgot."
FoF:  "Well it says it in the New Testament too!"
Me: "Did Jesus say that?"
FoF: "No."
Me: "What was Jesus's only real commandment?"
FoF: "Love each other."
Me: "Next."
FoF: "So you're saying as long as you don't hurt someone you can love whoever you want?  So if I go out and cheat on my husband, it's ok as long as I love that other person?"
Me: "Tell ya what, go cheat on your husband and we'll ask him which hurts worse: that there are gay people on this planet or that you banged someone else."

I've tried not to get too political this season.  After the Peanut Gallery of the Republican primary ended and the only viable candidate in my opinion (Ron Paul, and even he has some truly frightening ideas) was ousted, I knew I would be voting for Barack Obama.  I also know that arguing politics with people in any forum is dangerous.


Because emotions are involved.  And they should be.  Where it gets dangerous is when emotions rule the decision-making.  The 4 examples I provided above are ACTUAL conversations I had just last week.  And in all 4 cases, the subjects were not aware that voting should be an informed, intellectual exercise.  It should not be made from our hearts first.  Our heart should support the decision our brains make.  And furthermore, because we don't live under the Ayatollah, faith should not be the ONLY thing that informs our decision.  Neither should abortion.  Or sexual identity.  Or the economy.  Or foreign policy.  Or any one issue.  

In our two party system, one will be hard-pressed to find a candidate with whom one agrees about everything.  Lord knows, there are PLENTY of issues that President Obama and I do not agree upon.  And I think if some of my family and friends could get their heads out of Fox News's ass long enough, they would find they actually agree with the President on 1 or 2 things (foreign policy for example?) .  

I wish it was not like this.  I wish we had more than 2 choices.  I wish every election did not come down to the lesser of 2 evils.  I wish we'd been able to hear from the likes of Gary Johnson, and- hell- even Roseanne Barr for that matter.  This is why I'm registered Independent and why I think more of you should register as such.  However, until some radical advocate sparks change, the trick to making the wisest decision for any political office in this 2-party climate is finding the candidate with whom one has the most in common.  

For me, that never was nor never will be Mitt Romney.  I hope he has a long wonderful happy life.  I hope he reads this and knows I would never try to undermine his happiness because of my religious beliefs.  Because even though he has openly said he would do that to me, I can get even with him in a very non-violent and peaceful way:

he will never get my vote.

Hootenanny Halloween Countdown: Rosemary's Baby

There's an old saying that can be applied to many things:
If you look around you and you can't figure out who the crazy one is, it's you.

That's a frightening prospect.

But what terrifies me more is the idea that maybe you're NOT the crazy one, after all.  Because what that means is that you are, indeed, surrounded by crazy people.

This is exactly the dilemma faced by young Rosemary Woodhouse in the classic Polanski thriller Rosemary's Baby.  Young, sweet, innocent, Rosemary moves with her new husband- Guy- into a beautiful old building in Manhattan.  They soon become bosom buddies with the old couple who lives next door...

and strange events follow.

Nightmares of being impregnated by demons, strange sounds, death and discoveries of former tenants who may have learned a little too much about Minnie and Roman Castevet from down the hall begin to plague Rosie and turn what should be the joyous news of her first pregnancy into a paranoid torment.  As Rosemary's baby grows, so does her suspicion and she begins to believe Minnie, Roman and their cadre of strange elderly friends have plans for her unborn baby.

And what's worse... everyone seems to be in on it.  Her husband, her doctor, anyone and everyone!  Except her friend Hutch of course... oh wait, yeah he's dead.

What to do? What to do?

Well, you'll just have to watch.  Polanski creates a world that is oppressive and claustrophobic in a surreal, occult-ish sort of way.  The beautiful apartment they inhabit becomes increasingly dark and gruesome as Rosemary's suspicion increases.  But the suspense is drawn mostly from not knowing what the hell is actually going on!  We are naturally inclined to side with our sweet protagonist Rosemary, and yet we don't know what to believe.  After all, when you look around the room...

This is a moody, suspenseful classic and is perfect to get you in the mood for the Halloween season.  And that final scene is quite possibly the most quietly terrifying scene in history.

"He has his father's eyes."

Watch... if you dare!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hootenanny Halloween Countdown: SCREAM

"What's your name?"
"Why do you want to know my name?"
"Because I wanna know who I'm looking at."

And with that, a 13 year old Nate Frizzell wet his pants in a crowded theater.

If you were born in the 80s, chances are the original Scream scared the bejesus out of you in the theaters.

Still one of the finest opening scenes in any movie ever, the original Scream did for answering phones what Psycho did for taking showers.  Before the series became all about "meta humor" and self-referential quips with predictable slasher-film conventions, the original Scream had one goal:

to scare you.

Watching Drew Barrymore, home alone out in the middle of nowhere, as she is terrorized by some psycho on a telephone was a great way to start off.

SPOILER ALERT (though if you haven't seen the original Scream 16 years later, I have no pity for you):

I mean, who would have thought they would kill off Drew Barrymore???  I certainly didn't... which was why it was genius!  The entire opening sequence had me thinking to myself "It's going to be alright, it's going to be alright, it's going to be..." SLASH.  Nope.

The movie continues on without its biggest star to become a who-dunit meets slasher classic.  Bunch of hip teens not taking a series of grisly murders seriously enough and paying the price, while the sensitive heroine with a past lives the nightmare of being the obviously next target while no one around her either cares or believes her for some inexplicable reason until the very end when it's pretty much already too late.

Scream could have continued on in a very cliche way, except it didn't.  The ending and revelation of who the Bad Guy(s) was/were took everyone by surprise.  Stu and Billy Loomis?  The goofy friend and the boyfriend?  And why?  Because one of them was mad that the lead's mom caused his parents divorce?  Meh.  Yet it was the inspiration for the motive that set Scream's ending apart.  That, of course, being that the boys intended on blaming horror films and action films and thrillers for their mental state.  Too much intake from violent influences. It was laughable in one sense, but then when you really got right down to it: was it?

Take, for example, the recent tragedy involving the theater shootings in Colorado: the shooter was dressed like "The Joker."  Apparently, writer Kevin Williamson had a glimpse into the future and saw that some people can be perhaps a bit too heavily influenced by the movies.

Aside from being a cool scary movie, Scream re-defined a genre.  Its influence can still be seen today in pretty much any horror movie that comes out, especially in any type of slasher film.

So if you're looking for a film to make you feel a little less safe the next time your phone rings while you're home alone, seek no further than Wes Craven's original Scream.

What's your favorite scary movie?
~The Hootenanny

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hootenanny Halloween Countdown: Joy Ride

"You know, Black Sheep, you really ought to get that fixed."
"Get what fixed?"
"Your taillight."

We've all done dumb shit.  Let's be honest.  And many of us have gotten away with it.  Some of us haven't.  But no matter whether you got away scott-free or had to sit in a corner, chances are you never had to deal with a creepy trucker named Rusty Nail voiced by the guy who played Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking... Paul Walker?  Leelee Sobieski?  Why on Earth...?!  But, Steve Zahn certainly makes up for both of his co-stars' lack of charisma with a multi-layered performance that skirts the edge of over-the-top without going over.

Aaaaand, Joy Ride is co-written and produced by JJ Abrams (pre-LOST and even pre-Alias) as well as directed by John Dahl (veteran director of Rounders and multiple episodes of True Blood, Dexter, Justified, Californication).  This movie has some heat behind it.

To me, this is further proof that good suspense and horror films are the ones in which the director is allowed to shine.  If you've ever taken a road trip that lasted a few days, you'd know that there are stretches of time during which you feel like you've left civilization.  And if you're anything like me, your imagination begins to run wild with thoughts like

What if I get lost out here?
What if I get stranded?
What if I encounter some crazy person/ crazy family?

Well, Joy Ride is a combination of those things.  The 3 leads find themselves the target of a crazy-ass trucker who was the butt of an innocent CB radio prank (God I used to love those things back in the day).  There are some genuinely tense moments here... as Rusty Nail seems to be somehow omnipotent- which is believable not because of anything extraordinary or supernatural, but because if you've ever been on a highway you know that trucks rule the road.  Piss a trucker off who spends the majority of his life staring at the road ahead with no one to talk to and there's hell to pay...

The pacing of the film, the lighting, Ted Levine's creepy voice... all these things add up and steamroll towards a really tense cliffhanger ending- with some humor thrown in along the way courtesy of Zahn.

You can't get away.
You can't drive fast enough.
No off-ramp is safe.

Joy Ride.

Dreadfully Yours,
~The Hootenanny

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hootenanny Halloween Countdown: The Lost Boys

I readily admit it: Joel Schumacher's The Lost Boys is not really a Halloween movie.  Sure it deals with vampires... but to me it feels like more like a summer movie version of a Halloween flick.

That being said, there is some really fun stuff in this movie.  And by fun, I mean scary.  Take the opening for example: from our very first glimpse at Kiefer Sutherland we realize the dude's not right.  Granted, that's the impression we always got when we saw him in the 80s and 90s... and, well, ever since but he is particularly vicious-looking here.  He intentionally picks a fight with another nasty looking guy on the town's boardwalk and is stopped by a portly security guard who seems to have Sutherland's number.  


At that point we are introduced to post-Lucas Corey Haim, a debuting Jason Patric and a post-first Oscar Dianne Wiest: a single-parent family in search of a better life so they turn to sunny beachside community Santa Carla where they bunk with Wiest's eccentric father (Barnard Hughes).  

Beach during the day and party on the boardwalk at night... Jason Patric may have found his paradise.  Hell, his first rock concert on the beach includes a ridiculously buff guy with a slicked-back ponytail playing the saxophone!  It's every 80s-era rebel's dream, right?

Wrong again.

Soon Patric and Haim discover that all is not as it seems in the city of Santa Carla.  For Kiefer Sutherland and his band of merry blood-suckers (which includes "Bill S. Preston, Esquire" of Bill and Ted fame) draw a bead on Patric and are determined to initiate him.

The scariest stuff to me is the dilemma these young brothers are faced with: they've been forced to move to a town where there are some really bad things going down and none of the adults in town believe them (despite the insane amount of missing people in their small town).  What do you do?  Well, you have to take it upon yourself to fight back of course!  And who you gonna call?

The Frogg Brothers (Corey Feldman and some other dude).

In true 80s fashion, the final battle is epic... and full of booby traps.  A highly entertaining ending to a fun vampire romp.  

One of the final lines in TLB comes from grandpa- a man who just didn't seem to have all his marbles in place.  After he lends an unexpected hand, he momentarily leaves us wondering who the hell he really is... until he blankly says this:

"One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach... all the damn vampires."

It makes you want to simultaneously laugh and beat your head against the wall.  But it's all good fun... so put yourself in a blood sucking mood and enjoy some vampires- 80s style.

~The Hootenanny

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hootenanny Halloween Countdown: Dawn Of The Dead

Ok, so neither incarnation of "Dawn of the Dead" is very scary.  Let's be honest.

However, when you talk about this post-apocalyptic zombie thriller there's one word that comes to mind: cool.

Whether you prefer George Romero's original treatise on American consumerism set against the backdrop of zombies attacking survivors in a mall or Zack Snyder's more action-packed remake, you're going to get a really unique film.

Romero expands the world of zombies that he originated in the classic Night of the Living Dead.  In that film, Romero used zombies to comment on racial attitudes in the US and in his follow-up, Dawn finds ol' George making a statement on out-of-control American consumerism.  Don't be fooled though... this 1978 film does not get bogged down in preachy sentiment.  Instead it's a thrilling and comedic ride that features monsters, blood and gore in what is most certainly a precursor to the hilarious Shawn of the Dead (but with more real tension).

Zack Snyder (of 300 and soon to be Man of Steel fame) put his name on the big-budget map by helming a remake of DotD that could have gone horribly wrong.  While the writing of the remake does not feature the deepest dialogue nor does it delve into the commentary that Romero did, Snyder showed a deft hand at both casting and tempo.  From the opening sequence featuring an exhausted Sarah Polley (who, to her credit, successfully avoids all blond horror leading lady stereotypes) returning home to her husband (Louis Ferreira, himself a veteran of the campy classic Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2) and getting a nasty surprise to the final thrilling escape attempt by the desperate survivors, Snyder crafts a witty, moody and tense film that begs the question:

What the hell do you do when you're one of the only ones left?

This has long been one of my favorite themes in storytelling.  Born during the 80s and therefore growing up during the Cold War and not long after in a post-911 world, the possibility of nuclear fallout has always been present during my lifetime.  Seeing some variation on that scenario played out in any media- cinema, tv or in novels- has always set my imagination going.  Would I survive? Would I be strong enough?  Would anyone who survived be able to piece together a civilization again?

And if not...  what do you go on living for?

Both Dawn of the Dead films provide a glimpse of this doomsday scenario but they leave the worrying to us... and it sticks with us long after we turn off the tv.

A clip from the original (which won't upload for some reason):

And from the remake:

(Kudos to Zack Snyder on bringing back Ken Foree to repeat an ultra-cool line that, in case you didn't realize the first time, means you're fucked.)

Rest in pieces,
The Hootenanny

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hootenanny Halloween Countdown: Creepshow

The countdown resumes boys and ghouls...

Part of the fun of Halloween season is watching all the deliciously creepy flicks that seem to make their way into our dark, empty homes and keep us company whilst we sleep- alone, in the dark.

One of my favorites is the collection of short films, a collaboration of masters of terror Stephen King and George Romero called Creepshow.  This film is a chilling homage to horror comic books of the 1950s such as "Tales From The Crypt," "The Vault of Horror," "The Witching Hour," etc.

The Hootenanny Countdown Selection Committee has chosen the clip below to represent this fine film.  Starring Academy Award nominee Hal Holbrook and the legendary Adrienne Barbeau (who will no doubt have another entry in this year's Halloween countdown), it is the tale of an obnoxious, shrew of a wife who pushes her quite professor husband around and shrilly commands anyone she meets to "just call me Billie."  Ol' Hal just usually sits and daydreams of how to get rid of her but never actually believes he could...

that is, until, a colleague of his discovers an old crate hidden away in their university.

The following clip... may delight you.

That's what you get for messing with old mysterious crates that have chains on them.

Sleep tight kids!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Hootenanny Halloween Countdown: Something Wicked This Way Comes...

Greetings my tasty ones...

Today marks the beginning of my favorite season of the year... Halloween!  That's right kiddies... I do not solely celebrate All Hallow's Eve but rather an entire season of macabre mayhem and spiritsssssssss.....

This year I have chosen to mark the Verbal Hootenanny's Countdown with some of my favorite quotes from some of the scariest tales told on the Silver Screen.

I hope you'll join me as I begin my journey into the depths of madness, courtesy of the Month of October.

Our first selection is from one of the earliest tales of magic and evil.  Of witches and madness.  Of ghosts and curses.   A story of a man who learns what COULD BE and, with the help of his serpentine wife, begins to make it so... however, as these stories often go, all is not what it seems:  Fair is foul and foul is fair.

Our first quote of the season comes from Act IV, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare's Macbeth.  Hovering above a boiling cauldron, the 3 Witches who have helped shape Macbeth's fate chant a spell to summon the future...

First Witch
Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.

Second Witch
Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.
Third Witch
Harpier cries 'Tis time, 'tis time.

First Witch
Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison'd entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Second Witch
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Third Witch
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches' mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Silver'd in the moon's eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Second Witch
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

Enter HECATE to the other three Witches
O well done! I commend your pains;
And every one shall share i' the gains;
And now about the cauldron sing,
Live elves and fairies in a ring,
Enchanting all that you put in.

HECATE retires
Second Witch

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
Open, locks,
Whoever knocks!


Shakespeare kicked ass, didn't he?

Such spooky writing and yet so pretty at the same time...  hope it helps get you in the mood.

Stay tuned Hootenanny-ers... Halloween doth come!