Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Nightmare on Troll Street

Director: John Cherry
Writer: Charles Gale, Coke Sams
Starring: Jim Varney, Eatha Kitt, Austin Nagler
1991 | United States | PG | 91 mins

Halloween is as much a spooky holiday for kids as it is for adults. The time to go out from house to house and trick-or-treat dressed up in various costumes is counted down on any child's calendar once October hits. Coming home with a pillowcase full of goodies to rot your teeth is the ultimate childhood rush. To celebrate this spooky time of year the horror film selection for the whole family is a little slim, with the likes of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and possibly Poltergeist among a few others, but one movie dares to please the entire family with thrills, chills, and fun, and therefore Halloween is never complete without a screening of our favourite goofball up against an evil troll!

Long ago in Briarville, Missouri a terrible troll terrorized the townsfolk's children. Finally captured and buried beneath a tree, the curse would remain unbroken until a decedent of the Worrell family would accidentally set him free. A couple of school kids enlist town garbage man and all-around goofball Ernest P. Worrell (Jim Varney) to help them build a tree fort to ward off some local school bullies. But upon completion of building the tree fort Ernest accidentally summons Trantor from his imprisoned slumber, and now the evil troll must capture five of the town's children before midnight on Halloween to resurrect his evil troll race. Now it's up to the dimwitted Ernest and his sidekick dog Rimshot, under the guidance of Old Lady Hackmore (Eartha Kitt), to stop Trantor before it's too late and all of the town's children are turned into wooden figurines!

Ernest Scared Stupid is a great mix of wholesome family fun and Halloween scares. Charles Gale and Coke Sams script puts Ernest up against a very gooey group of trolls in the best of all the Ernest movies. Featuring some great writing and the always hilarious Jim Varney hamming it up, Ernest Scared Stupid never fails to consistently entertain. Whether you're laughing at Ernest's ineptness or being grossed out by the slimy and booger-encrusted Trantor, Ernest Scared Stupid succeeds at being a great horror film for the whole family. The troll effects are fantastically disgusting and gooey, created by none other than the Chiodo Brothers whom were responsible for the cult classic Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

For a family film Ernest Scared Stupid has a great blend of horror and comedy and has just the right amount of scares and laughs to initiate the young and entertain the old. Oozing with Halloween spirit, Ernest Scared Stupid will take you back to that feeling of childhood fun digging into your pillowcase for your favourite treat. So take off that mask, curl up in front of the TV, and get glued to the perfect Halloween film where you know you're in for a treat, not a trick, when classics like The Brain from Planet Arous and The Hideous Sun Demon appear during the opening credits. Ernest Scared Stupid is silly Halloween fun full of chills and thrills for the whole family.

All contents copyright 2010 Tyler Baptist

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Trick or Treat?

Director: Michael Dougherty
Writer: Michael Doughterty
Starring: Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox
2007 | United States | R | 82 mins

It's the end of the lighter part of the year and the beginning of the darker half. It's Samhain! All Hallow's Eve! Halloween! Ghosts, goblins, and ghouls run amuck going from door to door. Lit pumpkins on doorstops, on fence posts, and behind windows shine bright orange in the night. Skeletons and monsters stand tall in doorways or attached to posts anchored in the ground. It's everyones favourite time of year where a little scare goes a long way and you get to celebrate by donning a grisly costume and partaking in many frightful activities. From bobbing for apples, haunted attractions, and costume parties, Halloween is the only time of the year where being scared is part of the fun. How do you go about capturing the spirit of Halloween on film? The frightful yet playful nature the secular holiday encompasses? Well, you weave a horror anthology of fright and myth in the bright orange and dark black world of Trick 'r Treat!

It's Halloween night in Warren Valley, Ohio and all the creatures of the night are in full swing going door to door, dancing in the streets, and scaring the pants off each other. But don't blow that Jack-O-Latern out before midnight, because Halloween has its rules you must follow! Follow Sam (Quinn Lord), our Halloween mascot, through four interwoven tales of true Halloween scares! Steven (Dylan Baker), a high school principal, has more sinister motives for carving a Jack-O-Latern than one would suspect. And remember, always check your candy! Laurie (Anna Paquin) is a college virgin who, under the pressure of her friends, must find a suitable and willing male to fulfil her desires peaked on this frightful night. Next, a group of kids travel to the old rock quarry to pay their respects to the legend of the school bus massacre, but when a prank goes too far pumpkins nor candy won't be an acceptable offering! And finally, a grumpy old man (Brian Cox) gets a visit from a special trick-or-treater who will show him the true meaning of Halloween. Trick or Treat?

Michael Doughtery successfully captures the look and feel and the spirit associated with Halloween. Trick 'r Treat is a fantastically frightful and fun horror anthology that is as humorous as it is dark. Each tale is interwoven with the next, and previous, to bring the characters and events full circle. No one is safe from breaking the rules as kids and adults alike get knocked off for disobeying Sam's cautious watch. The ensemble cast is great and the choice to actually have a kid (Quinn Lord) under the Sam costume gives the character an innocence and movement that would never have been achieved if it were an adult in the role. Dylan Baker is especially creepy as the principal with a dark secret in one of the darker stories that is almost as if Todd Solondz got to tell a Halloween bonfire tale.

Trick 'r Treat isn't afraid to get under your skin while simultaneously entertaining. Like a good set of ghost stories told between friends, all the tales in Trick 'r Treat are guaranteed to give both goosebumps and giggles. With a great cast and a great script full of spooky atmosphere Michael Doughtery crafts a true Halloween movie that should be mandatory viewing every year on the night of Samhain. Ghosts, goblins, and ghouls abound should find more than their fair share of frightful delight in this horror anthology as Trick 'r Treat is a bag of Halloween goodies that has already been thoroughly checked and approved. Dig in!

All contents copyright 2010 Tyler Baptist

Friday, October 29, 2010

Game Over

SAW 3D (aka SAW VII)
Director: Kevin Greutert
Writers: Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan
Starring:  Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Cary Elwes
2010 | United States | R | 90 mins

Freddy. Jason. Michael. Pinhead. All these horror icons, and a few others, share a common thread - they've all lived on through numerous sequels. Horror is the only genre, other than pornography, that spawns sequel upon sequel once a franchise is developed, and there's usually no stopping them until they decide to kill off the bad guy, send them to space or the hood, or remake them. The latest horror franchise, the SAW series, hasn't gone to space nor has it been remade but they did kill off Jigsaw numerous sequels ago, yet yearly we get another labyrinth of mayhem to navigate and survive. Now in the supposed final instalment they're taking the traps to a whole new dimension in 3D.

Picking up immediately after the previous instalment, a now-scarred Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is out to silence Jill (Betsy Russell), Jigsaw's wife, once and for all. The police get involved to protect Jill but it's not before long that a new game is set in motion when fellow Jigsaw survivor Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) wakes up to find himself playing again because of his dark secrets. Now all the loose ends will be tied up as Hoffman tries to carry out Jigsaw's (Tobin Bell) legacy with the cops hot on his tail, and the one-legged Dr. Gordon (Cary Elwes) makes a surprise return to bring things full circle.

SAW 3D takes us back into the convoluted maze of cops, traps, and moral choices right from the start. If you are not familiar with all of the previous entries you will be completely lost as there is no recap of previous instalments. As the series progressed and threw out another set of questions with each wrapped up plot twist the SAW series somehow managed to become intriguing and interesting as it progressed. As the mythos became larger, and heavily convoluted, it also became more entertaining. However, SAW 3D sloppily wraps things up and breaks a few rules previously set. The writing is quite shoddy and the acting the worst of the series. SAW 3D is the epitome of soap opera horror and, even though the whole series digresses into that category, the seventh film suffers heavily from it. Tobin Bell, of course in flashback, and the now-returned Cary Elwes get very minimal screen time when their characters and motives are central to connecting the franchise which, in turn, is the biggest disappointment of SAW 3D.

While the mayhem and traps are in bloody full swing, and we do finally get to see the infamous jaw trap in action, some of the set-pieces are repetitive and used solely for the gimmick of 3D. The opening trap is the first mistake the film makes as it has no connection to the legacy and motives of Jigsaw and the public setting is a horrible metaphor for voyeurism. The key points the seventh film ties together to wrap up the series could have been easily condensed into another act added onto the sixth film and wrapped up the series a whole lot better, and more efficiently. But instead we have to endure another convoluted game and uninteresting characters, and in 3D no less. The twist ending to bring the series full circle, while it does answer more than one unanswered and important question, is not given enough time to fully have an effect but does indeed cap off the franchise. SAW 3D could have been a great ending to a decent franchise, but instead traps the series with sloppy writing, acting, and lack of focus on the important aspects that made the series something to explore. Game Over.

All contents copyright 2010 Tyler Baptist