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'Killer Party' Is A Zombie Movie With A Refreshing Lack Of Zombies
Production: Comedy Factor: 
Scary Factor: 
For the better part of three years, first-time filmmaker Alex Drummond's The Shower has been toiling away in its various forms on the festival circuit. Finally, it will be available to audiences - only the name has been changed to Killer Party. Killer Party is about a group of Hollywood twenty-somethings who...

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'Hell Or High Water' Feels Like A Lost Coen Brothers Faux-Western
Production: Writing: 
Between his prison drama Starred Up and his sci-fi romance Perfect Sense, director David Mackenzie has been simmering away in the independent filmmaking underground. With Hell or High Water, he is poised to break through. Hell or High Water follows the exploits of Toby and Tanner Howard (Star Trek's Chris Pine...

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Fear Not - 'Pete's Dragon' Will Not Ruin Your Childhood
Production: Special Effects: 
Score & Soundtrack: 
In 1977, as a seven-year-old kid, I loved the original Pete's Dragon. The clever blend of animation and live action stuck me on the hook, and the catchy songs reeled me in. Not even the two-hour-plus running time discouraged my "Sesame Street" attention span. So, while everyone else was worrying about whether...

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'Sausage Party' Is An R-Rated Toy Story, And It's Hilarious
Production: Comedy Factor: 
Imagine Toy Story, but instead of a talking cowboy doll and spaceman, the main characters were a talking hot dog and bun. And instead of the world of toys come to life, the world of food takes on a mind of its own. That's basically Sausage Party in a nutshell. Oh, and the food is raunchy, foul-mouthed, and borderline...

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'Suicide Squad' is a Messy Anti-Superhero Movie
Production: Action Sequences: 
What if Superman came down to Earth and, instead of helping the population, decided to enslave it? That's the question posed by Suicide Squad, director David Ayer's anti-Avengers, a movie where the bad guys unite under the flag of good, while at the same time consistently reminding us they are bad. It's a movie...

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'The Mind's Eye' Reads Like A Love Letter To Cronenberg's Scanners
Production: Special Effects: 
Scary Factor: 
Writer/director Joe Begos' first feature film, 2013's Almost Human, was a slickly competent throwback to eighties sci-fi/horror that generated a lot of fan buzz, even if the critics were a little meh about it. Begos' second movie, The Mind's Eye, continues the filmmaker's love affair with the decade of indulgence. Set...

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'Sun Choke' Is An Unpredictable Ride Into Paranoia And Insanity
Production: Scary Factor: 
It's been quite a strange year for horror. We've had high-profile franchise films like 10 Cloverfield Lane and Blair Witch made in absolute secrecy. We've seen an amazing movie like The Witch sparking passionate arguments over whether or not it deserves the horror label (spoiler alert - it totally does). Then,...

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Modern Action Movies Have Passed 'Jason Bourne' By
Production: Action Sequences: 
For all intents and purposes, the Bourne franchise has been batting 1.000 with Matt Damon in the lead role. The Bourne Identity came out with a surprise blend of espionage and gritty action, and its follow-ups, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, continued that legacy. Speaking of legacy, it's best...

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'Nerve' Is A Dangerous Fairy-Tale For The Adrenaline Junkie Generation
Production: Directing: 
A few years back, directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman turned heads with their provocative "documentary" Catfish (in quotes because its authenticity as a nonfiction film has always been suspect). A year later, the filmmaking duo was rewarded for their efforts when they were asked to helm Paranormal Activity...

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There's Not Much To Fear Within The Darkness Of 'Lights Out'
Production: Scary Factor: 
A couple of years ago, filmmaker David F. Sandberg made a terrifying short film called Lights Out that went viral, scaring the pants off of internet surfers everywhere and attracting the attention of horror wunderkind James Wan (the man behind Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring). Wan was so impressed by the short...

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'Café Society' Is Vintage Woody Allen, Through And Through
Production: Comedy Factor: 
For the past fifty years, writer/director/cinematic auteur Woody Allen has been one of the more consistent filmmakers, pumping out a movie every year, just like clockwork. The last couple of them - 2015's Irrational Man and 2014's Magic in the Moonlight - were even pretty good. This year's offering, Café Society,...

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'Ghostbusters' Is A 'Ghostbusters' For A New Generation - And A New Audience
Production: Chemistry: 
Comedy Factor: 
Whenever a filmmaker sets out to remake a beloved movie from the past, there's bound to be some resistance. Resistance is an understatement for what director Paul Feig (The Heat, Bridesmaids) has been up against ever since the announcement of his Ghostbusters remake. But, the film got made, and haters beware:...

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'The Infiltrator' is A Compelling Drama That Glosses Over a Few Too Many Details
Production: Acting: 
In the mid '80s, customs agent Robert Mazur took on the identity of Bob Musella, a wealthy Italian businessman, in order to gain the trust of and ultimately take down some of the biggest Latin American drug cartels. His story isn't well known, and his actions are glossed over because the War on Drugs is still...

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'The Purge: Election Year' Hides A Thinly Veiled Political Allegory Behind Walls Of Flying Bullets
Production: Action Sequences: 
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While The Purge and The Purge: Anarchy were both fairly disappointing, the concept behind the movies - that of a single night where any and all crime, including murder, is legal - is compelling enough for audiences to at least give each subsequent movie in the franchise a fair shot. Although it's still not exactly...

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Not Even Alexander Skarsgard's Abs Can Save The Dismal 'The Legend Of Tarzan'
Production: Action Sequences: 
What happens to Tarzan after he leaves the jungle and rejoins civilized society? What would life be like with Jane in late 19th Century London? These are some of the questions that could have easily propelled a movie like The Legend of Tarzan, and yet somehow we're stuck back in the jungle with a tired chase movie,...

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'Swiss Army Man' Prides Itself On Being Just As Weird As Everyone Says It Is
Production: Score & Soundtrack: 
Some of the biggest buzz coming out of this year's Sundance Film Festival was centered on a little movie about a shipwrecked man who makes friends with a farting corpse. Now that it has gotten a wide release, everyone can see if Swiss Army Man lives up to all of the hype. The short answer; it's exactly as weird...

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'Wiener-Dog' Is A Dog Movie That Is Absolutely Not For Dog Lovers
Production: Acting: 
The rationale that writer/director Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse) gives for Wiener-Dog is simple; he had never made a dog movie. The title character in Wiener-Dog is a little dachshund who moves through a handful of different owners, each with their own story. The little canine's adventures include...

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Just When You Really Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water, 'The Shallows' Makes Sharks Scary Again
Production: Acting: 
Scary Factor: 
Summer's here, and so is The Discovery Channel's Shark Week. So what better time for a good old-fashioned killer shark movie? Lucky for theatergoers everywhere, that's exactly what The Shallows is. The Shallows stars Blake Lively (The Age of Adaline) as a young medical student named Nancy who makes a pilgrimage...

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'The Neon Demon' Is As Visually Stunning And Aurally Exciting As A Plotless Movie Can Be
Production: Cinematography: 
Score & Soundtrack: Scary Factor: 
Director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Forgives) claims that, with The Neon Demon, his aim was to create a "teen horror film...without the horror." That's as accurate of a description of the movie as one is bound to find. The Neon Demon is about an underage orphaned girl named Jesse (Elle Fanning from...

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Frame Of Mind

GothicIt’s common knowledge that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was the result of a friendly writing competition between herself, her future husband Percy Shelley, the poet Lord Byron, and author/physician John Polidori.  While stuck indoors during the unseasonably rainy summer of 1816, the four writers took turns trying to scare each other with stories of ghosts, ghouls, and goblins.  Only the four participants know for sure what happened over the course of those isolated and secluded days, but director Ken Russell (The Devils, Altered States) posits one theory in his 1986 movie Gothic.

Diary of a MadmanWhen most people think about classic horror writers, two names usually come immediately to mind: Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.  But there is a third name that deserves to be there.  The prolific French writer Guy de Maupassant had every bit as much imagination and talent as Poe and Lovecraft.  There just haven’t been enough movie adaptations of Maupassant’s work for him to have gained household name status.  There have been some Maupassant movies, however - the best known being the 1963 chiller Diary of a Madman.

GleasonFormer New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason’s football career can be defined in a single play.  On September 25th, 2006, in the Saints’ first home game since their city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Gleason blocked a punt by the Atlanta Falcons that was returned for a touchdown, the first score of a game which the Saints would go on to win.  It was more than just a football play.  It was a symbol of resilience, a statement about the resurgence of a city that had been nearly destroyed.  Gleason provided a spark of hope which turned the city around.

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2The biggest news coming out of last weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con was, arguably, the announcement that the upcoming Adam Wingard/Simon Barrett movie The Woods is, in fact, a sequel to The Blair Witch Project.  With all the hoopla and hub-bub, some fans seem to have forgotten (or perhaps have been trying to forget) that there already has been a Blair Witch sequel: 2000’s Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.

Carnival of SoulsWhen people think of horror auteurs, the names that normally get thrown around are ones like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and Dario Argento.  One name that usually does not get brought up is Herk Harvey, an industrial film director who barely dipped his foot into the horror pool.  Harvey only made one feature length movie, but it’s a doozy.  In 1962, Harvey took a break from making educational documentaries to produce his contribution to horror history, Carnival of Souls.

The MutilatorIn the wake of John Carpenter’s legendary Halloween and Sean S. Cunningham’s equally legendary Friday the 13th, film studios everywhere in the early eighties rushed to get their own psycho killer movies into theaters.  The era that has come to be known as the Golden Age of the Slasher saw dozens, if not hundreds, of splatter flicks released, each bloodier than the last, and many with exploitative names like The Prowler, Madman, and Maniac.  Fitting right in with the most stereotypically titled of the Golden Age Slashers is the 1984 schlock flick The Mutilator.

The Ghost TrainFrom the very beginning of cinematic history, there have been movies about trains.  One of the first “Actualitiés” by the Lumiére Brothers in 1895 was Arrival of a Train at la Ciotat.  In 1903, filmmaker Edwin S. Porter introduced the world to composite editing and location shooting with The Great Train Robbery.  The horror world has given audiences Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train and the seminal slasher Terror Train, as well as modern classics like Snowpiercer and Transsiberian.  And that’s just the tip of the symbolic iceberg – there have been plenty more, lesser-known train horror movies.  For example, in 1941, after Porter but before Hitchcock, a horrifying locomotive pulled into the station in the appropriately titled The Ghost Train.

Theatrical one-sheet for TICKLED, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.A lot of weird stuff can be found on the internet.  The general rule is that just about anything – and I do mean anything – is just a Google search away.  For example: who would have thought that Competitive Endurance Tickling was a thing?  Well, if you believe the new documentary Tickled, apparently it is.

Die, Monster, Die!For classic horror back in the day, there were basically two big studios; America had Universal Pictures and Great Britain had Hammer Film Productions.  But, there were also smaller companies that pumped out movies as well, one of which was American International Pictures, headed up by uber-producer Samuel Z. Arkoff.  AIP made and distributed B-movies, many of which fit squarely into the fright flick genre, from the mid-fifties right up until the company’s absorption in the early eighties.  In 1965, right at the apex of the company’s output, AIP distributed the classic British creepfest Die, Monster, Die!

Jack's BackNot only is Jack the Ripper one of the most famous and infamous killers of all time, he’s also a pretty good movie villain.  Whether the movie sticks relatively close to the true story, like Jack the Ripper, or takes things in a surreal mashup direction, such as in Edge of Sanity, Jack is always a fun antagonist.  A movie can even transport the slicey Brit into the future and still be effective.  Case in point: the eighties crime thriller Jack’s Back.

De PalmaWhether one considers him one of the freshest voices in modern cinema or just a hack Hitchcock imitator, there’s no doubt that Brian De Palma has made some of the most important movies of the last half century.  Now, fellow directors Noah Baumbach (Mistress America) and Jake Paltrow (“NYPD Blue”) turn the camera around on the iconic filmmaker in the simply titled documentary De Palma.

The ThingWhen it comes to horror remakes, there are two approaches that can be taken.  First is one of replication, where the filmmaker simply imitates the story and style of the original.  The recent remake of Carrie did this, as did the new rehash of Poltergeist (and don’t even get me started on Gus Van Sant’s Psycho).  The other way of thinking is to take the basic premise of the original and run with it until something new and different emerges.  These are the reboots that become legendary classics, movies such as David Cronenberg’s The Fly or Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac.  Horror icon John Carpenter’s 1982 reimagining of The Thing belongs squarely in this second category.

Don't Look in the BasementHorror movie titles can be so commanding, especially when they’re telling the viewer not to do something.  The word “Don’t” has appeared at the beginning of so many movie titles that silly director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Attack the Block) spoofed the trend in his hilarious contribution to the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez collaboration Grindhouse.  The “Don’t” movies can be subliminally cautionary, like Don’t Look Now.  They can be sagely advisive, like Don’t Open Till Christmas.  They can even wide-eyed and optimistic, like Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.  But, most of the time, they’re exploitatively demanding, like Don’t Go Near the Park, Don’t Go in the House, or Don’t Answer the Phone!  Way back in 1973, one of the first movies to warn its viewers to “Don’t” do something was the proto-slasher Don’t Look in the Basement.

Warcraft PosterIn 1994, Blizzard Entertainment released the game "Warcraft: Orcs & Humans," which created a universe so popular the company created three more games in the series; the most widely known and arguably the most popular being "World of Warcraft (WOW)." The "WOW" phenomenon has had its ups and downs in popularity among gamers, but it continues to have a solid following. The most shocking part of the games' story is that it took over 20 years to have a movie based on them made. Warcraft has finally arrived, rolled up in an action-packed, CGI-filled fantasy spectacle that will surely have "WOW" devotees grinning from ear-to-ear.

 

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