29 Oct 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Friday Minute
No. 191 | October 29, 2010

Crooked Numbers

Our theme this week

Horror film franchises from the 1970s to today

Featured this week (theme introduction)
Monday         —   The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (6 films, 1974–2006)
Tuesday         —   Friday the 13th (12 films, 1980–2009)
Wednesday    —   A Nightmare on Elm Street (9 films, 1984–2009)
Thursday        —   Saw (7 films, 2004–2010)



The franchise films
1.  Halloween (1978), John Carpenter, director
2.  Halloween II (1981), Rick Rosenthal, director
3.  Halloween III:  Season of the Witch (1982), Tommy Lee Wallace, director
4.  Halloween 4:  The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Dwight H. Little, director
5.  Halloween 5:  The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), Dominique Othenin-Girard, director
6.  Halloween:  The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), Joe Chappelle, director
7.  Halloween H20:  20 Years Later (1998), Steve Miner, director
8.  Halloween:  Resurrection (2002), Rick Rosenthal, director
9.  Halloween (2007), Rob Zombie, director
10.  Halloween II (2009), Rob Zombie, director

halloween_michael myers

The villain
Michael Myers, portrayed by Tony Moran / Will Sandin (age 6) / Nick Castle (The Shape) (1), Dick Warlock (The Shape) / Adam Gunn (Young Michael) (2), George P. Wilbur / Erik Preston (Young Michael) (4), Don Shanks (5), George P. Wilbur (6), Chris Durand (7), Brad Loree (8), Tyler Mane / Daeg Faerch (9), Tyler Mane / Chase Wright Vanek (Young Michael) (10) (Michael Myers did not appear in Halloween III)

If you’re a horror fan with discriminating taste—we know you’re out there somewhere—this may be the one for you.  The first of the series is the gold standard of low-budget mask-wearing psycho-killer slasher films.  John Carpenter’s Halloween features some fine performers, including veteran English actor Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis in her “scream queen” debut, a memorable score composed by Carpenter himself, and a story that relies more on suspense than depictions of gore.

Michael Myers begins his killing early, as a 6-year-old, when he takes a kitchen knife to his older sister while their parents are out for the night.  Fifteen years later Myers escapes from the sanitarium and returns to his Indiana hometown.  The body count of teenage babysitters begins to mount.  Here we see a masked murderer, and it makes perfect movie sense.  It is Halloween, after all.  That face on the mask, if it looks at all familiar, is none other than William Shatner.  Frightening, huh.  Why Shatner?  The story is, the budget was tight and the Captain Kirk mask was the cheapest at store, just a buck-ninety-eight.

In the first of the films, Myers stalks the sitter played by Curtis, while being hunted by the doctor played by Pleasence.  The good doctor turns out to be a good shot, yet after he plugs Myers with six gunshots, Myers’s body disappears.  The sequel, three years later, picks up where the original left off.  The main cast returned, but in the end, to lesser effect.  III was a one-off, unrelated to the other films, and when Myers returned for 4 and more, it was often a retelling of genre clichés.  The 2007 and 2009 films rebooted the franchise, with heavy-metal frontman-turned-film director Rob Zombie handling the script and directing.

In 2006 the Library of Congress selected Halloween, the 1978 film, for the National Film Registry, a rare distinction for a horror movie.  It’s been a highly influential slasher film, and it kicked off one of the most popular franchises of the genre.  Production for the next in the series, a 3D version, was shut down last year because of money problems, but ultimately it will take more than that to kill off Michael Myers.

Halloween (1978)
John Carpenter, director
John Carpenter, Debra Hill, writers
Dean Cundey, director of photgraphy

Quote of note
“I met him fifteen years ago.  I was told there was nothing left.  No reason, no conscience, no understanding, even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, 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 what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply evil.”
—Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence), Halloween (1978)

Final Friday Five, the monthly mini-quiz

1.  Béla or Boris?  Which icon of classic Hollywood horror starred in the movies below, Béla Lugosi or Boris Karloff?

Dracula (1931)
Frankenstein (1931)
Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
White Zombie (1932)
The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)
The Mummy (1932)
Island of Lost Souls (1932)
The Black Room (1935)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Murder By Television (1935)

2.  Match these movies based on works of Stephen King with the director of the film.

Carrie (1976)
The Shining (1980)
The Dead Zone (1983)
Misery (1990)
Dolores Claiborne (1995)
Apt Pupil (1998)
Dreamcatcher (2003)
The Mist (2007)

David Cronenberg
Frank Darabont
Brian De Palma
Taylor Hackford
Lawrence Kasdan
Stanley Kubrick
Rob Reiner
Bryan Singer

3.  Let’s play “I Am Not a Witch.”  Name the movie witches who speak the lines below.

a.  “Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”  (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
b.  “Just try and stay out of my way.  Just try!  I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!”  (The Wizard of Oz)
c.  “Rock-a-bye rabbit, in the hot oven, into my mouth for dinner I’ll shoven…” (Bewitched Bunny, animated short, sung to Bugs Bunny)
d.  “Devil’s Snare, Devil’s Snare.  ‘It’s deadly fun, but will sulk in the sun!’  That’s it!  Devil’s Snare hates sunlight!  Lumos Solem!” (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)
e.  “Now I am the ruler of all the ocean!  The waves obey my every whim!” (The Little Mermaid)

4.  The following ghost stories appear in alphabetical order.  Place the films in order of their release.

Blithe Spirit
Field of Dreams
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
The Haunting
The Ring
The Sixth Sense

5.  Saving the scariest for last, a quiz on elections!  Name the office for which the candidate ran in the following films.

Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) in Citizen Kane
Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) in Election
Bill McKay (Robert Redford) in The Candidate
Jack Stanton (John Travolta) in Primary Colors
Jay Bulworth (Warren Beatty) in Bulworth
John Iselin (James Gregory) in The Manchurian Candidate

Answers here.


Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 29 Oct 2010 @ 08:27 AM

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 28 Oct 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Thursday Minute
No. 190 | October 28, 2010

Crooked Numbers

Our theme this week

Horror film franchises from the 1970s to today

Featured this week (theme introduction)
Monday         —   The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (6 films, 1974–2006)
Tuesday         —   Friday the 13th (12 films, 1980–2009)
Wednesday    —   A Nightmare on Elm Street (9 films, 1984–2009)



The franchise films
(short) Saw (2003), James Wan, director (sometimes referred to as “Saw 0.5”)
1.  Saw (2004), James Wan, director
2.  Saw II (2005), Darren Lynn Bousman, director
3.  Saw III (2006), Darren Lynn Bousman, director
4.  Saw IV (2007), Darren Lynn Bousman, director
5.  Saw V (2008), David Hackl, director
6.  Saw VI (2009), Kevin Greutert, director
7.  Saw 3D:  The Final Chapter (2010), Kevin Greutert, director (opens in the U.S. tomorrow)


The villain
Jigsaw/John Kramer, portrayed by Tobin Bell (1–7)

I suppose every decade gets the horror it deserves.   The 1970s had its slasher films, the past decade torture porn.  There’s an argument to be made that the Saw films are not, strictly speaking, torture porn.  It’s about as convincing as the argument that waterboarding isn’t torture.  Remember that one?

That’s not to say that the Saw franchise is quite the same thing as Hostel and its sequel.  Distinctions can be made—there’s an ongoing debate, actually—but however you want to slice it, the horror films of today go a lot further, and darker, than those slasher films of the ’70s that were then the cutting edge, so to speak.

The conceit of Saw is a diabolical killer named John Kramer, a.k.a. Jigsaw, who does not kill his victims directly.  He captures people, then tests them in a series of games—death traps, really—in which the victims have to maim, or kill, themselves or each other to achieve some macabre objective.  The so-called games are elaborately constructed, with each device intented to teach a lesson to its victims.  There’s a cold calculation to the Saw franchise that puts it far beyond horror films of the past.  It almost makes the vengeance of a Jason Voorhees seem understandable, if not sympathetic.  Like Jason, and most of the killers this week, the Jigsaw character is often seen wearing a mask, a pig mask, in fact.  Every killer needs a prop.

The good news, if you’re a Saw fan, the newest installment, in 3D, opens in theaters this weekend.  The good news, if you’re not a fan, it’s called The Final Chapter.  You can hope, but by now you should know nothing’s ever “final” in the world of horror.

Saw (2004)
James Wan, director
Leigh Wannell, writer
David A. Armstrong, cinematographer

Quote of note
“Hello, Mr. Hindle, or as they called you around the hospital, Zep.  I want you to make a choice.  There’s a slow-acting poison coursing through your system, which only I have the antidote for.  Will you murder a mother and her child to save yourself?  Listen carefully, if you will.  There are rules.”
—Jigsaw/John Kramer (Tobin Bell), Saw (2004) 


Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 28 Oct 2010 @ 03:11 PM

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 27 Oct 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Wednesday Minute
No. 189 | October 27, 2010

Crooked Numbers

Our theme this week

Horror film franchises from the 1970s to today

Featured this week (theme introduction)
Monday         —   The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (6 films, 1974–2006)
Tuesday         —   Friday the 13th (12 films, 1980–2009)

A Nightmare on Elm Street

a nightmare on elm street

The franchise films
1.  A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Wes Craven, director
2.  A Nightmare on Elm Street 2:  Freddy’s Revenge (1985), Jack Sholder, director
3.  A Nightmare on Elm Street 3:  Dream Warriors (1987), Chuck Russell , director
4.  A Nightmare on Elm Street 4:  The Dream Master (1988), Renny Harlin, director
5.  A Nightmare on Elm Street 5:  The Dream Child (1989), Stephen Hopkins, director
6.  Freddy’s Dead:  The Final Nightmare (1991), Rachel Talalay , director
7.  Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994), Wes Craven , director
8.  Freddy vs. Jason (2003), Ronny Yu , director
9.  A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Samuel Bayer , director

a nightmare on elm street_freddy krueger

The villain
Freddy Krueger, portrayed by Robert Englund (1–8), Jackie Earle Haley (9) (Englund played the character for the 1988-1990 TV anthology series, Freddy’s Nightmares)

One of Wes Craven’s inspirations for Freddy Krueger was the song “Dream Weaver,” a top ten hit of 1976 for Gary Wright.  Now that’s a scary thought.  I must have heard that song a thousand times—and I can’t say I didn’t want to scream sometimes—but I somehow managed not to go off the deep end.  Craven, it appears, was not so lucky—though whatever trip he took to the dark side turned out to be a lucrative one.

A Nightmare on Elm Street played with the idea of mixing dreams and reality (long before Christopher Nolan was on the scene).  Freddy Krueger appears as a stalker who inhabits the dreams of teenagers in Springwood, Ohio.  Years before Krueger had been a child murderer.  Released on a technicality, he was killed by the town’s angry parents, and as the series kicks off, he returns to wreak his vengeance.  Teens on Elm Street mysteriously die, apparent murders and suicides, but it’s actually nightmares of Freddy that do them in.  A deformed figure with a razor-studded glove and fedora, Freddy kills his victims in their dreams, thus causing their death in real life as well.

In the first of the films, Nancy Thompson loses friends and has terrifying nightmares of Freddy herself.  She struggles to overcome her fear, and when she does, she destroys whatever power he had to do her harm.  Freddy returns in other films to continue to terrorize the town’s teens and families, wiping out the children of poor Springwood.  In The Final Nightmare, a resourceful doctor pulls Freddy from the dream world and she finally dispatches him with a pipe bomb.   But in the world of horror films, there is nothing that is “final” (not if audiences continue to buy tickets).  Freddy has made a few more appearances on the screen, including this spring’s remake of the original.  The film made more than a hundred million at the box office, and the nightmares on Elm Street are a sure bet to continue.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Wes Craven, director
Wes Craven, writer
Jacques Haitkin, cinematographer

Quote of note
Nancy:  But what if they meet a monster in their dreams, then what?
Glen:  They turn their back on it.  Take away its energy and it disappears.
Nancy:  But what happens if they don’t do that?
Glen:  Well, I guess those people don’t wake up to tell what happens.
Nancy:  Great.
—Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp), Glen Lantz (Johnny Depp), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)


Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 26 Oct 2010 @ 08:25 PM

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 26 Oct 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Tuesday Minute
No. 188 | October 26, 2010

Crooked Numbers

Our theme this week

Horror film franchises from the 1970s to today

Featured this week (theme introduction)
Monday         —   The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (6 films, 1974–2006)

Friday the 13th

friday the 13th

The franchise films
1.  Friday the 13th (1980), Sean S. Cunningham, director
2.  Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), Steve Miner, director
3.  Friday the 13th Part III (1982), Steve Miner, director
4.  Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984), Joseph Zito, director
5.  Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985), Danny Steinmann, director
6.  Jason Lives:  Friday the 13th Part VI (1986), Tom McLoughlin, director
7.  Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988), John Carl Buechler, director
8.  Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989), Rob Hedden, director
9.  Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993), Adam Marcus, director
10.  Jason X (2001), James Isaac, director
11.  Freddy vs. Jason (2003), Ronny Yu, director
12.  Friday the 13th (2009), Marcus Nispel, director

friday the 13th_jason voorhees

The villain
Jason Voorhees, portrayed by Ari Lehman (1), Warrington Gillette (2), Richard Brooker (3), Ted White (4), C.J. Graham (6), Kane Hodder (7, 8, 9), Ken Kirzinger / Spencer Stump (Young Jason) (11), Derek Mears / Caleb Guss (Young Jason) (12); in Part V, Dick Wieand portrayed Roy Burns, a copycat killer fashioned on Jason

Jason Voorhees died at summer camp long before the series begins.  A promising start, you might say, but Jason is the boy who does not stay dead.  That’s a recurring element through the series of films, many of them set at Camp Crystal Lake, where Jason drowned in 1957.  If only the counselors had saved him, but the counselors were doing what counselors do best, having sex.  That leads to another recurring element:  he and she who have sex must die.  A double murder and other unfortunate events close the camp for decades to come.  The first film takes place when the abandoned camp is ready to re-open.  That’s when the body count for camp counselors begins to escalate.  Knives, arrows, axes—there’s a lot of slashing going on.  A visit from Mrs. Voorhees (the original “mama grisly“?) gets violent, and when she loses her head to one of the surviving staff, it’s the corpse of Jason himself who appears for the final attack.

The franchise got a lot of mileage from the same basic story.  Counselors come to camp, get horny, and die.  Someone kills Jason, but not really.  Jason’s trademark hockey mask makes its debut in the third film (in 3D).  Even after a Final Chapter (part 4) and a Final Friday (part 9), the series—like Jason—refuses to die.  In 2003, Freddy vs. Jason brought together Jason with the villain from the series A Nightmare on Elm Street.  The 2009 film, same title as the original, was a reboot of the franchise.  The latest two films earned more than a combined $200 million worldwide.  As you should know by now, don’t think you’ve seen the last of Jason.

Friday the 13th (1980)
Sean S. Cunningham, director
Victor Miller, writer
Barry Abrams, director of photography
TV Spot

Quote of note
:  He neglected to mention that downtown they call this place Camp Blood.
Marcie:  Next they’re going to tell us there are poisonous snakes in the outhouse and crocodiles in the lake.
Jack:  The crocodiles are in the cabin.
—Ned Rubinstein (Mark Nelson), Marcie Cunningham (Jeannine Taylor), Jack Burrel (Kevin Bacon), Friday the 13th (1980)


Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 26 Oct 2010 @ 08:28 PM

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 25 Oct 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Monday Minute
No. 187 | October 25, 2010

Crooked Numbers

They’ve been making horror movies since the early days of cinema.  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu are silent classics.  Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy rank among the popular hits of the 1930s.  Otherworldly creatures hit the screen during the ’50s, in movies such as The Thing and The Blob.

The horror genre covers many kinds of films and villains—mad geniuses, monsters, zombies, vampires, the supernatural—but in the 1970s a new kind of horror movie was born.  The danger we had to fear was no longer out there, but more likely right next door.  The villains may have been our neighbors or the new kids in school.  Maybe we knew them, or maybe not, but the deranged behavior they exhibited onscreen was unlike anything anyone had seen before. The production code was no longer in effect to constrain what was permitted, and new tools allowed depiction of gore in a more realistic manner, even on a low budget.  With Vietnam, Watergate, and the sexual revolution all tearing at society, the culture had a lot to process.  Filmmakers found new ways to scare the bejesus out of audiences.

The early slasher films owed a debt to Alfred Hitchcock, whose Psycho in 1960 must have been an inspiration for many of them.  Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, also from 1960, broke similar ground; the film about a London serial killer had thrust moviegoers into a new world of sensation, and helped create an appetite for what was to come.

Slasher films didn’t win raves or awards, but they did win—and continue to win—a loyal audience.  The appeal of the films is not like that of most movies.  We don’t go just to find out what happens or to see who’s in it.  We go for the visceral experience.  We go to feed our nightmares.  We go to test ourselves—to see if we can survive.

The horror films featured this week are among the most successful at getting under the skin of the people who watch them.  These are not just films with sequels, but bona fide franchises, with series of numbers appended to their titles so we can keep them straight.  (Crooked numbers, in the sports world, refers to numbers greater than one, especially the numbers generated when a team is running up the score.)  Each of the franchises has at least six films to date, and a couple of them number in double digits.

Our theme this week
Horror film franchises from the 1970s to today

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

texas chain saw massacre

The franchise films
1.  The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Tobe Hooper, director
2.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), Tobe Hooper, director
3.  Leatherface:  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990), Jeff Burr, director
4.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre:  The Next Generation (1994), Kim Henkel, director
5.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), Marcus Nispel, director
6.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre:  The Beginning (2006), Jonathan Liebesman, director

texas chain saw massacre_leatherface

The villain
Leatherface, portrayed by Gunnar Hansen (1), Bill Johnson (2), R.A. Mihailoff (3), Robert Jacks (4), Andrew Bryniarski (5, 6)

Leatherface and his inbred family of cannibals run a gas station somewhere on the backroads of Texas.  Pity the poor travelers who stop to refuel and find the deranged, chainsaw-loving clan who make a practice of abducting and murdering their customers.  (And if a chainsaw isn’t handy, a meat hook will do.)  Leatherface gets his name from the variety of masks that he wears, made from the skin of his victims.  Shocking?  Well, yes it is.  Good to know this is a fictional story, yet the “inspiration” for Leatherface was a real-life figure named Ed Gein, a Wisconsin murderer who had a certain taste for the skin and bones of his victims.  Gein was also the model for a couple of other famous movie villains, Norman Bates and Hannibal Lecter.

Tobe Hooper, as director, co-writer, and producer of the first in the series, deserves much of the credit (or blame) for the franchise, as well as other slasher films to come.  (Wes Craven, with The Last House on the Left, in 1972, was another key instigator.)  The original in the Chain Saw series was a very low-budget affair, made for $140,000, but a big moneymaker at the box office, taking in more than $30 million.  The sequels had bigger budgets and varying returns.  The 2003 movie, a remake of the original but with a somewhat different storyline, was the top grosser of the franchise, earning more than $100 million worldwide.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Tobe Hooper, director
Kim Henkel, Tobe Hooper, writers
Daniel Pearl, cinematographer

Quote of note
“The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths, in particular, Sally Hardesty and her invalid brother, Franklin.  It is all the more tragic in that they were young.  But, had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day.  For them an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare.  The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.”
—Narrator (John Larroquette), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)


Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 26 Oct 2010 @ 08:26 PM

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