Monday, October 26, 2009

TRICK R' TREAT! A Halloween Movie Marathon Recap, Plus: TRICK R' TREAT - Reviewed! And: Smallville and Glee Thoughts!

Another HALLOWEEN HORROR MOVIE MARATHON has come and gone, and I'm happy to say that it was another successful night of thrills, chills, and teenaged werewolves. Saturday night's annual horrorthon was once again good times, and I thought the lineup of movies turned out well, with (mostly) crowd-pleasing results. This year's selection was somewhat unique in that I had personally never seen any of the featured films before. Nope, not even TEEN WOLF. That one was fun ... do I think it's a good movie? No. But it's a good one to watch with a group and mock mercilessly for its sheer absurdity. It's amazing how they could actually pull off a movie like that in the 80's. I mean, say what you want about the quality of movies today, but, wow, I feel like if Teen Wolf came out now, it would be totally ridiculed by critics and fans. But yeah, this was a fun movie if only for its sheer craziness. NEAR DARK on the other hand, was an awesome flick, but perhaps not the greatest party movie, as it at times was more of an atmospheric journey than a fast-paced thriller. But still ... the movie had some crazy moments of outlaw vampire badassery, and actors like Bill Paxton and Lance Henrikson were totally at the top of their game here. And the amazing direction from Katherine Bigelow reaffirmed what I extrapolated from The Hurt Locker - she is the real deal. She may still mostly be known for Point Break, but man, the woman can direct action and atmosphere with the best of them. Finally, we watched TRICK R' TREAT. Since this one is actually a newly-released movie (albeit direct-to-home video), I'll give a full review below. The short version: as a whole, it was pretty good, but man, there were a couple of moments of sheer awesomeness that elevated the movie from decent to very good. More on that later, but, it was definitely an ultra-appropriate movie for the occasion. And of course, we had some classic episodes of THE SIMPSONS - both a Treehouse of Horror episode and the beloved installment in which Mulder and Scully of The X-Files pay a visit to Springfield. So hilarious. So, anyways, thanks to those who came out for the marathon - a scary-good time was had by all, and looking forward to doing it again next year!


- SMALLVILLE had a somewhat weak episode this past Friday, with the focus being on Oliver Queen and his current "identity crisis" of sorts. In the past few weeks, we've seen Oliver quit his life as the Green Arrow in favor of a hard-drinkin', hard-travelin' lifestyle involving lots of self-pity and brooding. As if all of Clark's self-doubt at the beginning of the season wasn't enough ... But really, it wasn't so much the premise of this episode that was bad, just the execution. I was actually excited to see Oliver and Clark tangle with Roulette, a cool villain from the comics created a few years ago by Geoff Johns in the pages of JSA. Her gimmick has long been a scheme in which she runs an underground gambling ring of sorts frequented by super-villain types, with the main attraction being hero-on-hero battles in which the good guys are forced to fight each other, or else suffer some horrible punishment cooked up by Roulette. So, did any of that coolness translate from page to screen? Um, no. Sure, they nailed Roulette's look, but that was about it. Instead of cool underground hero-fights, we got a rip off of the movie The Game, in which Ollie is put through a bunch of "are-they-real-or-just-part-of-the-game?"-style challenges. But the whole thing just felt plodding. Even worse was the peripheral stuff going on. Lois has been getting more and more annoying every episode this season, and this one did her no favors. So, "every year" she and Oliver play beer pong on his birthday? Like in all two of the years he's been on the show? And again, the Lois-Clark dynamic is getting sickeningly cheesy. They were so much better when they were written as having the traditional Lois/Clark friendly rivalry thing going, as opposed to now where they just stare into each other's eyes for half of every episode. Anyways, this season of Smallville has been kind of schizo so far, weighted more towards the side of fail. This episode was not a step in the right direction.

My Grade: C

- I hinted last week that I've been getting back into GLEE. And it's true. A couple of weeks ago I felt almost ready to drop the show, but ever since Kristen Chenoweth's guest appearance I think that it's been on a roll. Wednesday's episode was another good one, and like I was saying last week, I think the show has done a great job of shifting its focus a bit, to the point where the character dynamics now make a lot more sense than they did before. Teri is now something of a villain. Quinn is 1000 times more interesting than she was originally. Sue Sylvester is like the female Chuck Norris, increasingly hilarious in every episode. I loved the recurring theme of getting hit in the face with a Slushie in last week's ep. It takes skills to craft a whole episode around such a random thing, but somehow, Glee did it. And the fact that they pulled off that feat made me realize that this show has more win than I initially gave it credit for. I'm in for the longhaul, at least for now.

My Grade: A-

- I have Thursday's FLASH FORWARD on my DVR, but haven't watched yet, and not sure if I will. Thoughts?

- Alright, as promised, here's a review of the recently-released horror flick, TRICK R' TREAT.


- Trick R' Treat is a great Halloween movie, no question. I watched this one as part of my annual Halloween Horror Movie Marathon, and I think it's safe to say that it turned out to be a crowd-pleaser. With a fun cast, a cool structure, and some very fun surprises, Trick R' Treat will likely be a staple of Halloween movie-viewing for a long time to come.

Written and directed by Michael Dougherty, and exec-produced by Bryan Singer, Trick R' Treat marks a reunion of sorts for the team behind the original X-Men movies (it also features X-Men alumni Anna Paquin and Brian Cox). But what makes the movie stand out to me is that, stylistically, this is very much in the vein of EC Comics, Tales From the Crypt, Creepshow, etc. - that is, it's a horror anthology that focuses on darkly comedic morality plays, most of which have some sort of ironic twist at the end. I love that stuff, and the movie pays obvious tribute to its various inspirations with animated opening and closing sequences presented in a comic book style.

The big twist here is that, yes, this is an anthology, but at the same time, there are no hard breaks between the various storylines. Instead, we cut back and forth between them, at times stopping to focus on a particular set of characters. Meanwhile, the various stories intersect and crossover in often unexpected ways. In fact, things really start to get interesting when they do.

The various stories each focus on the mythology and experience of Halloween from a different perspective. First, we've got a group of kids out trick-or-treating - they seem like a nice enough bunch, but soon we find out that their Halloween plans include a rather sinister prank. Next, we've got a group of teens out on the prowl for a happening Halloween party. They seem like your typical horror movie victims-in-waiting, but again, all is not as it seems. Then there's a creepy middle-aged school principal, played by Spiderman's Dylan Baker. For him, Halloween is a chance to let it all hang out, so to speak. And finally, there's a curmudgeonly guy who is basically the Halloween equivalent of Scrooge. Given his hatred of Halloween, it's only a matter of time before this bitter soul, played by Brian Cox, runs afoul of Sam, the movie's mascot of sorts. Because throughout the movie, "Sam," lurks in the shadows. Charged with preserving the spirit of Halloween, like a creepy version of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, Sam is a little guy who looks like a cross between Jack Pumpkinhead and The Scarecrow. And despite his miniscule size, the guy packs a punch.

Trick R' Treat takes a while to really get into its groove, but about midway through the movie, things really pick up, as the various twists start popping up. In fact, there is one incredible sequence involving Anna Paquin and her teenaged friends that absolutely blows the doors down. Before that sequence, I was thinking the movie was only okay. But after that, I had to admit, this was getting good.

The movie is a nice combo of lots of various Halloween tropes. And it looks great too, thanks to some inspired direction from Daugherty. The movie is overflowing with Halloween atmosphere - glowing jack o' lanterns, creepy music, and that aforementioned sense of dark, ironic humor. And the script, while not overflowing with memorable dialogue or anything, nonetheless captures that spooky, sitting-around-the-campfire vibe. And the way the various stories criss-cross is also handled very cleverly.

All in all, this one definitely can be considered a Halloween treat. It's a shame it didn't get the theatrical release it deserved. But hey, I digitally rented it in HD via XBOX - a Halloween Horror Movie Marathon first. I certainly got some bang for my buck. And some of my friends were even reported to have walked back to their cars after the party on the lookout for diminuitive pumpkin-men with murderous intent. A sign of a horror movie that's done its job.

My Grade: B+

- Okay, that's all for now ... next: a review of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE!

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