Saturday, November 1, 2014

Movie Night at the Rec Hall – Deliver us from Evil

-         - Contributed by Luke Merrill

With the advent of Halloween behind us, and the flip around to Nov and the not-so-celebrated All Saints Day, Horror Camp decided to go a little Catholic this year and watch the Exorcism/Possession Cop Drama “Deliver us from Evil” starring Eric Bana.  The film centering on the topic of possession and subsequent exorcism of demons is the most recent entry in a genre of horror based on real life events following in the grand tradition of movies such as The Amityville Horror, anything based off the life of Ed Gein, and the granddaddy of this film, The Exorcist.

The movie follows a heavy handed cop portrayed by Bana. As an officer Bana’s character is a no-nonsense NYPD special forces agent and a family man whose only failings in life may be his staunch commitment to his wife and child, he loves his job a little too much, and his hard knuckle approach to wife beaters, child molesters and …. Cats. Bana’s character Sarchie has an ear for trouble and an uncanny sense for evil that manifests itself in the form of a Silent Hill style radio static and a psychic Pandora account for Jim Morrison. That’s right the old sixties crooner is helping to protect our main man from the denizens of darkness. Much like the movie “The Lost Boys” if you hear the familiar opening riff from People are Strange you know that trouble is afoot.

Bana is played opposite throughout the movie by his two partners. His police partner is an adrenaline seeking man of action who couldn’t be happier than when he’s encircling an opponent in a knife fight, played by funny man Joel McHale. McHale who I remember most fondly for drumming out wisecracks in “The Soup” a decade ago, does a wonderful job in this action role and is probably the only ray of sunshine in an otherwise somber story. Bana is later introduced to a new partner, this time of the Jesuit persuasion, Father Mendoza. Mendoza is played by up and coming Latin heartthrob Edgar Ramirez, whose unbridled passion and unkempt facial hair does a wonderful job in selling a new look for the Catholic faith. That new look could probably be loosely defined as being “The priest who would most likely sleep with your wife, and not touch your children” that the Catholic Clergy is desperately trying to reinvent themselves into.

The premise is following Ralph Sarchie, the NY Sergeant whose account this movie is based upon, as he follows a trio of Iraq War Veterans who discovered an old world evil in the form of an incantation that can drive susceptible people into possession upon viewing. When viewed the incantation can open a portal (hence The Doors references) that can make your mortal coil the home for the ethereal demons of hell. Sgt Sarchie get tangled up into these affairs because of his unique talents and gifts that pulls him closer to the occult, even though he is reluctant to believe that these events stem from anything divine. Of course the closer to the case he becomes the closer he becomes to being devoured by his own personal demons as he walks the line, kinda like Johnny Cash.

The movie is good, the scares are well timed and ominous, but my only gripe is that it is hard to commit to the events around the protagonist. Bana plays a man distressed by what is going on around him, but he never fears anything supernatural, and is calm and controlled even though death and demons are surrounding him at every turn. His personal development center around his coming of terms with his faith which is great if that’s the kind of movie you are looking for. Fear and terror are hard to sell if the big man on the screen keeps his wits about him, so for me this was more of a cop movie with horror elements.

If I were to look into The Catholicism side of the movie, I’d say I was relatively pleased. I had a foul taste left in my mouth by that older possession movie Stigmata that had come out 15 years ago. That movie didn’t do a great job of humanizing the faith and I felt that it was full of some new age Hollywood rhetoric that “faith is in the heart, and Jesus says if it feels good do it”. Kinda trite message. Deliver us from Evil does a good job at humanizing the men who wear the cloth, and point out good men can be tempted and seduced by evil works, but can seek the forgiveness of Christ’s eternal Love. Hypocritical, sure whatever, but let he who haven’t sinned cast the first stone yada yada. So Catholicism is making a comeback, hooray for Catholicism. Movies starring the Devil are not the same without you, and it’s good to have you back.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Movie Night at the Rec Hall -- Oculus

-Contributed by Luke Merrill

This week we stared into the abysmal unending corridors of reflected horror with the haunted mirror story to take on all haunted mirror stories: Oculus. Known for the classic take-double take scares that mirrors have provided in horror cinema over the past 4, maybe 5 decades that mirrors have been in movies, I was somewhat skeptical of the scares that Oculus would provide. Although there are quite a few of those present in this film I was pleasantly surprised by how the rules of this particular haunted mirror were laid out and felt the movie did a good job balancing scares with reality. One pleasing feature was that the mirror cursed, possessed or otherwise, could not physically hurt you in any way, shape or form. The quirky thing about this mirror was that it has a funny way of distorting the affected persons vision and thoughts eventually driving them crazy. Although you may see or hear some bizarre things the reality may be that it is not actually there.

The real Oculus which will steal Men's Souls as they immerse themselves into the MMORPG's of the future

The premise of the film is interesting enough. Two young children grow up in a house that goes all amityville horror story on them. Their parents are killed in a bizarre fashion and the youngest son gets locked away at the tender age of ten and undergoes extensive therapy and treatment until his 21st birthday when he is released and deemed mentally competent to realize the circumstance of his families past are not the fault of some screwy ghost mirror. He gets out just in time to meet up with his older sister, who just so happens had been obsessed with tracking the ghost mirror down and has decided it would be best if the two of them return it to their old family home and exonerate their family name. One, because the mirror must be stopped but mostly because she’s tired of having to live with the stigma of being born into a family of psychopaths for her teenage years. It was worse than wearing braces.

This provides one of the films interesting juxtapositions. The sister is intent on helping her brother remember the truth. The brother is desperately fighting for his newly acquired sanity and is afraid he will fall into relapse. When things start to get weird the audience can be convinced that this must be the work of Satan’s looking glass, but could it be possible that the trauma of the past events had truly driven them crazy? Well the audience has to decide that.

Cameras can be deceptive too. I wouldn't lie to you, Dave.

The movie does a wonderful job explaining how certain haunting events are occurring, and the use of cameras and technology help to clarify what is real and what isn’t, but by the end of the movie nothing is really certain. If you were to hallucinate and start seeing things that weren’t there isn’t it conceivable that looking into a digital camera that seems to give the all clear could also be part of the hallucination? I don’t know and you won’t either, but Oculus is one entertaining ride.

Another feature to note that I thought would bomb out, but was well played, was the telling of the two stories simultaneously. I had mentioned earlier that this Brother/Sister combo had traumatic experiences when they were young, but this is not completely revealed to us in its entirety. While they seek the answers of their youth as adults, the movie will seamlessly cut to a flashback of their younger years. Normally this back and forth flashback business plays off as a little bit of moviemaker misdirection to get cheap thrills, but it doesn’t feel forced in Oculus. At one point the two stories nearly merge into one giving a wonderful sense of finality to the movie, which I enjoyed.

Fractured Mirror Monsters are not to be trifled with

The whole movie in my opinion is an allegory on the perils of drug usage, and reminds people why they should never take ten hits of LSD and stare into a mirror for too long. You need to be a lvl18 wizard before you can attempt that, and Oculus is here to remind a new generation of this. Check it out, but for the love of God, do not watch the movie while it is being reflected into a mirror, not even your iphone can save your soul then.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Movie Night at the Rec Hall – Chemical Peel

-Contributed by Luke Merrill

This week at Horror Camp we had the pleasure of viewing the Movie ‘Chemical Peel’ released to video earlier this month. And I have to say it has been a while since I have seen a horror movie that had so well boiled down the genre to just the essentials. No over the top killers, no paranormal activity, no need for pursuits, this movie has none of that. Just a house full of panic-stricken women trapped together in excess of 48 hours without a man in sight to calm them.

You'll never make it through the night, bitch!
It sounds horrible, and I certainly would have never watched the movie if I had known what it was about. But don’t kid yourself; Chemical Peel is the equivalent of a Lifetime Original movie with all the gross out gore you can stomach. I know that sounds terrible in and of itself, but the backstabbing the catfights, the crying! Oh the sweet crying! It’s all there and it terrific!

That's caged heat, boyo!
The premise is simple. A group of girlfriends get together to celebrate their friend’s bachelorette party at a secluded house in the outskirts of their old home town.  An unfortunate accident releases a noxious gas that blankets their valley overnight, and the women are trapped in the house with no one to save them but themselves! Fear quickly pervades the household as hope of rescue dwindles with the passing hours, and half baked theories are thought up ranging from terrorist attacks to engineered government super viruses, even a reference to a contagious Ebola outbreak! Any, if not all, of these theories being simultaneously true.

One thing is certain, that gas is no joke. Caught directly in it and you only last for a matter of minutes, and it is slowly seeping into the house making these poor women look all the more unpretty every time they tear up. Which is almost constantly. But the real killer isn’t the gas it’s DRAMA, and there is plenty of that abound. The movie is a real nailbiter, and the head bitch in charge is Such a BITCH, OMG!

Always be prepared for your Sun family outing!
To be fair these women have a reasonable amount of things to be worried about and handle themselves well. If the situation were reversed and a group of fraternity men were stuck in that house they would get themselves killed much faster trying to one up each other and play hero. To their credit, the women in Chemical Peel actually do go from ripping into each other to helping each other. Like most people they are just caught wholly unprepared for a scenario as severe as the one they found themselves in, and quite reasonably start to freak out.

I'm supose to be getting married tomorrow!
This is why I like Chemical Peel as much as I do. Being a participant of a Horror Movie you always have this edge. As viewer you can say, “You shouldn’t do this, or don’t do that”, but the viewer always has the comfort of being in a relatively calm state and watching the movie from a secure location. Modern Horror is combating this stance by playing up an old concept. Let them be sensible, a person or group of persons who can evaluate a situation and make a plan of attack in confronting their fears. This isn’t new but the approach takes some of the terror edge of the pursuit away from the overall feeling of the movie.

This can be annoying.

 It’s a nice sentiment and a step in the right direction for some pictures. I just feel like you end up losing some of the enjoyment of some flicks because in the end, you want to feel superior to the characters on the screen. You want to have the ability to say, “That would never happen to me because I would never let my fears overcome me” Even though the reality of the situation is you probably would. Chemical Peel reminded me of that, and I recommend watching it with a loved one or close girlfriend with some red wine and some popcorn. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Movie Night at the Rec Hall – Leprechaun Origins

-         -- Contributed by Luke Merrill

This weekend at Horror Camp we screened a new release hot off the video rental shelves. Albeit no one rents movies from a video store, just bear with me alright?

Leprechaun Origins is the reboot of the cult classic from the nineties starring the loveable Warwick Davis. Warwick Davis being such a fine choice in the role for being one of the most recognizable “little person” actors. I really don’t know how to be more politically correct with that statement. I instantly remember Davis from his memorable role in Willow, which was a fantasy tale most likely made to closely parallel LOTR at the time, without the annoying feature of being 20+ hours to watch which just wasn’t allowed back then. Leprechaun was such a departure from Willow that it was such a treat to see Davis in his garishly disgusting role, wisecrackin and trickin everyone from stupid white people to greedy thugs in the 6 films of the original franchise.

The original Horror Leprechaun design

This is a reboot so it has none of that. The leprechaun doesn’t wear cloths, he’s more akin to a feral beast so he never talks, and there isn’t a four leaf clover to be found anywhere in the film. Really this film doesn’t even have a plausible segueway to explain how Warwick Davis later became the Leprechaun we know and love from the original series. So if you can get past that one little detail you might be able to watch this movie in its entirety. If that’s something that would bother you, ya know the fact this movie could’ve been named anything other than Leprechaun and been a little less misleading then you probably don’t need to continue reading.

The New Horror Leprechaun design

That being said, despite this obvious flaw the movie isn’t half bad, but who really wants to commit to a movie that isn’t even half good? It has the same Joss Whedon feel that Cabin in the Woods gave us except without any of the humor, but the plot is almost the same, except without the Joss Whedon twist that made Cabin in the Woods a horror parody of itself. In order to watch this movie you have to be prepared to watch a genre picture where young couples get chased though the woods and have time to discuss real relationship issues between catching their breath. Pressing issues such as “Hey Bitch, why did you keep running after I fell?” Or “No, It’s your turn to bait and attack the leprechaun to meet you inevitable death, you jerk.” Are addressed. This is the colorful banter that truly tests relationships and forges unbreakable chains of trust to persevere from now until the hereafter. Unfortunately for the poor saps in this film the hereafter might be 20 minutes from now. Most everyone dies.

How we used to imagine Leprechauns

The real question to this film is “who is the survivor going to be?”  It’s a tough call the couples are quick to assimilate what is happening, what they must do to survive, and have an excellent team dynamic. So anyone could have come out on top, not one single character had so many flaws that it was a guarantee that they would die in the very next scene. I find that to be true of a many of these WWE production horror flicks. I find although the concept itself is a bit overplayed, or more to say conventional in terms of plot, the character development typically trends toward level headed thinking and genuine human emotions in terms of “what do we do in this deathtrap scenario?” Many of the characters exhibit cowardice, but typically will redeem themselves and show some inner strength. It still gets them and the people around them killed almost everytime…… but it’s.  the.  JOURNEY. that truly matters. That sense of personal growth that only trial by pursuit of horrible monsters, that these movies are so quick to highlight, which is most important.

How I want a Leprechaun Remake to look

So I wouldn’t say to not watch Leprechaun Origins it’s decent in its own regard. I’ve heard it compared to a Syfy original and would have to agree. But I feel the disappointment from not getting anything that resembles the Leprechaun that fans of the series have grown up with and watched on BET reruns is going to be a bitter pill to swallow.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Movie Night at the Rec Hall

-Contributed by Luke Merrill

This week at Horror Camp we start off the October Scream season with a lesser known flick from the Queen of Screams, Jamie Lee Curtis in Terror Train. Terror Train is an inventive horror movie with a twist on its theme that makes for a real unconventional thriller. The movie itself is a story about a fraternity prank gone awry and the subsequent revenge of the victimized character as he methodically stalks and picks off those who have wronged him years later. The basic premise to this particular movie isn’t particularly unique to the 80’s but it’s the differences that make the film stand out.

The location of these tragic events takes place, as the title suggests, on a train. But not just any train a small train rented to private parties, in this case a group of aspiring medical students celebrating a masquerade new year’s party to decompress from the stress of their studies before making their way into, what one would assume, a promising post college career in medicine.

Dude, Oakford medical only offered me $512,000 annual salary, cheap assholes!

This makes for an extremely difficult premise. Our jaded killer has to navigate narrow train cars undetected and dispose of his victims in ways that no one else would notice. Or in the case of the movie when noticed continue on his killing spree with an aware group of people on the lookout for him. The movie presents a unique and brilliant solution. When the killer kills someone he can don their costume and move undetected through the party, unbeknownst to his next victim.

Now we have a killer whose identity is suspected by those who realize who he is, but they have no way of knowing which party goer is the killer. This leads to a unique who-dun-it. Could the killer be the kindly coal-hand who works his job on a nothing train outfit for the love of shoveling coal on a classic train, could it be the aloof but highly talented magician hired to perform for a bunch of hard case college drunks, or could it be Jamie Lee Curtis herself suffering from some guilt-induced nervous breakdown for her role in tricking and mentally destroying a nerdy albeit shy young man, who could only dare to love her, and be caught up in a malicious but psychotically scarring frat trick. Probably not the last one, but the results lead to many intense moments where the killer becomes intimately close to his victims before finally striking, donning a new but terrifying mask before killing his intended victims.

It was the train under that mask all along! AAIIEE!!

The killings themselves are kinda pedestrian actually. Some occurring with no explanation at all, what, how and when did that happen, I don’t know, whatever. But the killings themselves didn’t really sell me on the movie. To tell the truth it was the character driven story, and final chase, reveal, and finality of the movie that I found extremely rewarding. Nothing over the top just decent acting. I had actually got sold on the fact that the jerks who were going to be killed were actually scared human beings, and I found myself empathizing with both the killer and the victims. For me the movie is both tragic and fulfilling at the same time.

Alternate foreign market art for Terror Train

So let’s spend a little time on the cast. You have the experienced conductor with dreams of leaving the biz to one day invest in the RV industry. He’s fatherly and sensible, and knows enough not to freak out at the sight of a dead body. These kids could either be messing with him, or at the very least bring financial ruin to his business. My take is this guy is grace under pressure, and when he tells those little shits “Yes there’s a killer on the train, No we cannot find him, and Yes you are getting back on the train because we are in the middle of nowhere and you will freeze to death if you stay here” convinced me he wasn’t some doddering old fool who was getting kids killed, but the calm voice of reason.

You have the magician played by a young David Copperfield, and Oh boy was that a treat to witness. Dark, mysterious, the eyebrows he had it all. The passion for his magic tricks *ahem * illusions, very striking. He was riffing and scatting all over them smart ass frat boys with an ever present smile on his face, as he made card after card appear and disappear before my delighted eyes. I can only assume he had simultaneously made every panty melt for every sorority sister on that train.

The dedication. I can't look away.

Much to the Chagrin of Frat boy Prank master Doc, who undoubtedly is the biggest asshole in the world. The control freak of the group, he sets a lot of these events in motion. You know he’s going to get his at some point in this flick, but he legitimately gets driven insane and starts shrieking violently as the train turns against him, as though he were the boy who cried wolf at his hour of need only to be laughed at himself by his fellow partygoers. The finality in his voice as he accepts the cruel fate that his own machinations wrought, Ohhh that's classic horror cinema boys and girls.

Welcome to the party!

Last of all ,of course, the stars of the film Jamie Lee Curtis and the killer who stalks her. Let’s just say Jamie Lee lives up to her screen cred. She's coy yet defiant dressed in her half pirate costume. Her pants say she’s ready for action but the sash accentuates her sexuality just like a good girl horror movie heroine should be. She's obviously in terror as the very people who are closest to her are taken away one at a time. Not afraid to scream and run when it’s necessary until it’s just her and her assailant, but if she is backed into a corner she is prepared to defend herself and not fall to pieces. The very end of the movie is the big reveal. We see Jamie Lee with her Killer unmasked and prepared to confront her, and it’s strikingly intimate. Rather than beg and bargain her way out she makes peace with the situation in the only way that could of possibly saved her, and when the killer is finally disposed of the movie ends, not necessarily with a bang, just it’s over. The terror is done. It’s strangely fitting and on the whole I liked it. No fluff. No explanations. Just the end. It works.

So on the whole I thoroughly liked this movie and I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested. Terror Train is legit. So until next week’s movie which is still yet to be determined, check out terror train or some other Jamie Lee Horror flick and let me know what you think. Until then stay warm around the Horror Campfire, and don’t catch cold.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Rant off the Beaten Path

-Contributed by Luke Merrill

So this is kinda a new feature I’m inserting into Horror Camp, and I feel it’s fairly important. It’s always well and good for me to embrace the horror genre, but lately I’ve come to second guess myself. I find hiking in the woods to be a little therapeutic, and sometime I find myself hiking at the camp and find out that I’m not at Horror Camp. I’m in a more terrifying place called reality, and at times it seems like they are two sides to the same coin. So hence this feature. I can’t keep reviewing movies and profess my love for the genre without being a little objective at times.

The reason I’m being a little more serious than usual because a lot of terrifying things are happening in the world. Over the summer, there were a few instances with a fictional internet personality known as Slenderman. For those of you who may not know slenderman, from my understanding is a Bloody Mary type internet character/mascot for a website that promotes horror fan fiction. At times you invoke the spirit of slenderman and he may appear or possess you! And it all makes for great fiction except for a few cases where young girls try to sacrifice one their friends to appease the spirit of Slenderman.

One of many slendeman portrayals

Or a Young girl attacks her mother with a knife, and claims she has no recollection of the event. That Slenderman possessed her.

Late night news reports (that is to say late late night) were actually questioning the possibility of paranormal activity in these events.

That also actually happened.

So these events began to trouble me, my younger brother loves YouTube and started telling me about some of these game sites where kids play on a Slenderman map. One player spawns as slenderman and chases the other players, and I find I’m having a frank and earnest discussion with my little brother about disturbed boys and girls who actually believe there is a real slenderman. And these boys and girls have lost the ability to differentiate reality from fantasy and may try to hurt you.

It was the strangest thing I’ve ever had to tell a kid.

I never really grew up with R-rated horror it came to me at a later point my life, the teenage years. Once I conquered the fear I embraced it. It’s fun to let yourself get scared and know that in reality you don’t have to be.

But that was the summer and I figured I don’t necessarily have to worry about my little corner of the internet influencing children, but it made me think about how I was approaching my premise. Horror Camp, a nice little fictional place for kids, probably the grown–up kind, to be scared. Then this actually happened.

Steven Miles

Some Young kid with Dexter Delusions, Steven Miles does a number on his girlfriend. It is one of the most horrible things I have ever heard, but I could almost feel it happening a year ago when I was writing reviews for No One Lives and Maniac. Both Psycho thrillers one that glorified the Psychopathic Anti-Hero, and one that more represented how impossible it is to live in a society with these obvious sociopathic tendencies and the destructive pain it brings to both the perpetrator and the victims.

This all comes as a blow. I’m about to release a review on Terror Train tomorrow where one of the more powerful lines in the movie is when the killer stares into the eyes of a potential victim and states, “I am. He didn’t know how to cut a woman into pieces.”  On the flip side of the coin I‘ve got to read about some kid who did do that to his girlfriend.

So I hate to get somber, but even though I have a love for these sorts of movies and stories, I still hope for the understanding that comes with healing the misspent emotions of youth. The young kids who are feeling more and more detached from society that feel lashing out violently is the only outlet left for them.  All you can do is hope that they can find the guidance they need before they throw away their own chances at a normal life while harming the people around them. It makes me sad.

I really don’t have anything more I can say on it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Camp Announcements

Contributed by Luke Merrill

After a long seasonal shutdown Horror Camp reopens for the month of October. The most obvious reason being that Halloween is fast approaching, which means it’s time to go back to camp and watch some horror movies again. There were a lot of deliberations on my part to continue blogging: time constraints, waning interests, not being a paying gig,  mounting insanity, being a crybaby, you know the usual reasons why blogs continue or flounder without any real reason. But the REAL reason I was drawn back into the love of Horror at this particular time didn’t stem from my dedication to my craft…. I have none. Not from the love of my adoring fans….. I’m fairly certain 98% of my hits come from a network of robot counters generating fake statistics. NO NO NO, the REAL REAL Reason Horror Camp is up and running this month is because Halloween falls on mo-suckin Fri(ght)day the 13th this year, If 31 was dyslexic and the one was where the three is and the three was a one, and really what more reason do I need. It’s gotta mean something. So that being said this month expect the usual Saturday evening updates with Movie Night at the Rec Hall. This weekend we’ll screen the Prom Queen of Horror Jamie Lee Curtis as she steps aboard the “Terror Train” with a bunch of people who will most certainly be killed and special guest … (bah bah ba bum) ….David Copperfield. It’ll prove to be a great time. Hope to see you there.