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We watched The Exorcist last night. It was part of AMC’s MonsterFest so, being on AMC, it was a bit cut up and it was the original version, the one without the Regan spider walk, without some of the Captain Howdy flashes.

I saw The Exorcist in the theater when I was 11 years old. When I say I was raised on horror movies, I’m not exaggerating. My mother saw nothing wrong with taking a little kid to see a movie in which a young girl turns her head around, vomits on a priest and, oh yea, fucks herself with a crucifix. If someone took their 11 year old to see that film now, they’d be charged with child abuse, thanks to the pussification of our society.

I had already been through thousands of horror movies with my mother before that. Not much scared me. Scary movies entertain me, they don’t really frighten me. I’m more scared of movies where the antagonist is a real human, where the premise is a possibility, even if a remote one (see Last House on the Left), and I’m more creeped out by psychological mind fucks (see Session 9) than I am by gore and demons. But I love horror movies. I love the gore, I love the blood, I love the ridiculous demons (see Hellraiser). They just don’t scare me, per se.

I hadn’t seen The Exorcist since that the original release. It would show up on tv every once in a while, but I never sat down to watch it again, because I remember it as one of the only horror movie that gave me a real fright. Just one scene; one quick, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene that is almost inconsequential to the film and has nothing to do with Linda Blair’s histrionics. It’s about an hour into the film, where Father Karras is dreaming about his dead mother. She comes up out of a subway station and for about half a second the demonic face of Captain Howdy flashes on the screen:

Out of everything that happened in the movie, this is what frightened me. It was sudden and unexpected and it was so fast, such a quick burst of that image, that if it weren’t for the gasps from people around me, I would have doubted that the image existed at all.

According to this Exorcist fan site, there were several subliminal images like this inserted into the film which, for whatever reason, were taken out of the theatrical release but later inserted back into the film for one of the gazillion DVD versions that were put out. There’s a list of them here, most of them from the Version You’ve Never Seen DVD.

I wanted to watch the movie last night just to see if that scene still scared me, and to really watch the film with an understanding that I did not possess at 11 years old. With fresh eyes, so to speak.

Unfortunately, those “fresh eyes” have been jaded by nearly 40 years of horror movie watching. What was fresh and daring in 1973 seemed simplistic and predictable to me now. The movie seemed slow and tedious, with the character development and atmospheric build up making me feel restless and impatient. Maybe because I knew there were better parts (or so my memory thought) coming, maybe because I was waiting for that one particular scene. I thought a lot of the story was disjointed and messy; the unearthing of the artifacts in Iraq really didn’t play a very important part in the movie. It could have been done to the same degree without that background. I felt like a lot of the imagery was forced in order to make connections between everyone in the film. And what was the deal with the Homicide detective? He was an extraneous character that seemed to exist only to fill up time. What was never really explained was, why Regan? Why did the demon that was presumably unleashed in Iraq possess this little child in Georgetown? Was it the Ouija board? Were they trying to tell us what my grandmother insisted back in the 70’s, that playing with an Ouija board is an open invitation to let demons into your home?

Well, the scene finally came up with Father Karrass’s dream. There’s the subway, there’s his mother, there he is running for her, there…………oh damn it all to hell, I blinked. I literally blinked and missed it. My sole reason for watching – to see if that scene still scared me – was null and void.

We continued watching anyhow. I did see Captain Howdy at some other point in the movie, and I was disappointed, though not shocked, that they cut the scene with Regan and the crucifix. There were also typical AMC edits here and there and they cut out the entire “your mother sucks cocks in hell” dialogue instead of editing it. Which is fine, as AMC is notorious for bad editing.

smellysocks.jpg

The viewing wasn’t a total waste, however. There’s always unintended lessons to be learned from horror movies. For instance, when the priest tells the demon inside Regan that if he is really the devil, he can make her restraints disappear, it says “That’s much too vulgar a display of power….” So, I figured out where Pantera got an album title from.

And I also realized that I am still more frightened by the absolute depravity of a movie like Last House on the Left than I am by things that go bump in the night.

For your viewing pleasure, the deleted-from-the-original spider walk scene:


Some time before Halloween, I’ll tell you a story that involves some drunken teenagers, a “haunted” graveyard and the theme to the Exorcist.

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and restore freedom to the galaxy……

One of my favorite thought-provoking questions I’ve ever been asked:

If you could erase your memory of any movie from your mind…just wave a wand and it’s as if your brain never saw this film before…what movie would you choose to erase just for the sheer joy of seeing it again for the first time?

It’s the last part that’s the kicker. Sure, I’d love to erase ever having seen 3000 Miles to Graceland or Kazaam from my head. But the qualifying part of the question – to experience once again the joy of seeing it for the first time – leaves me with only one possible answers.

Star Wars. Episode IV. A New Hope.

It’s not the best among the original trilogy; I reserve that honor for Empire Strikes Back. Yet I did not experience the same level of exhilaration from ESB that I did from SW.

I remember sitting in the darkened theater. Words on the screen:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…..

Then the Star Wars logo.

The music kicks in. John Williams’ Main Theme.

The opening crawl starts up.

It is a period of civil war….

I felt it. Knew it. I was seeing something special. Maybe it was the music. I don’t know. But I felt a sudden anticipation.

And then.

The ship.

Holy shit.

My jaw hung open the rest of the film. This was it. I was in love with a movie. I fell really hard. The second it was over I wanted to see it again. And again. And again.

I still to this day get chills when I hear the opening music and see the first glimpse of that Destroyer.

Yes, I’m a geek.

I’d love to experience that again for the first time.

The only thing that has ever come close for me in a movie was, unsurprisingly, the opening sequence to Revenge of the Sith.

When the opening crawl to RoTS started and the music began I actually teared up. I swear to you, there were tears in my eyes and I almost, nearly started crying. And I’m not the only one. There was a sense of relief in the theater when the scroll came up. Like everyone sighed at once. Finally, our questions answered. The closure. The scroll and the music is the beginning of the end, and it’s very bittersweet because you know that once the movie starts, you’re on your way to it being over. Not just the movie being over, but the whole Star Wars saga that you spent 28 years of your life thinking about and talking about is over.

That was the closest I came to feeling that magic of watching Star Wars for the first time.

So what is it for you? What movie would you erase your memory of just to be able to experience its magic for the first time?

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Hey, it’s Friday the 13th! Which makes me think about frightening things. Well, not really, as I’m not scared of a day/number combination. I have a lot of weird fears, but this ain’t one of them. But it does make me think of horror movies. Or maybe it just gives me a reason to post my favorite scene from a scary movie.


Trilogy of Terror

I grew up on horror. chiller.jpg I was in maybe first grade when my Mom got me hooked on Dark Shadows and Vincent Price movies. Other kids gathered around the tv with their family on Sunday evenings to watch Wonderful World of Disney. We stayed up late together on Friday nights to watch Chiller Theater. I think watching so much horror from such an early age sort of desensitized me. As I got older I realized that, while I enjoyed scary movies as much as always, I just didn’t get that frightened. I didn’t jump when everyone else did or scream when everyone else did. What I mean is, the movies just didn’t scare me while I was in the theater. It wasn’t until I got home and was by myself in the dark that I turned into a pussy. But I bet a lot of you are the same way. I’m just admitting it.

So, I’ve seen a lot of horror movies in my time. Hundreds. Movies you have seen a thousand times. Movies you never heard of. Big budget crapfests. Indie crapfests. Foreign crapfests. Yea, most horror movies end up being crapfests. Just the way it is. The really great ones are far and few between. And lately, even the mediocre ones aren’t that many. The art of making a good horror movie seems to be lost (that’s another rant for another day). But, gore, blood, murder, ghosts, vampires, mindfucks, slashers, freaks, voodoo….you name it, I’ve seen it. And out of all of those movies, all of the genres of horror, all of the screams within, the one movie that left such an impression on me that I still freak out when I look at a picture from it was a made for tv movie.

Trilogy of Terror. Written by Richard Matheson. 1975. trilogy14.jpgThree different horror stories, all starring Karen Black. I can’t remember what the other two were about. I just remember the one. The tribal doll. That creepy, evil little doll with the knife and the leer.

For those that never saw this, short premise: Black buys a Zuni fetish doll for her boyfriend. Not for nothing, but if a date ever brought me something that looked like this, I’d think twice about where things were headed. But anyhow, she brings it home and gets ready for her date. She also has a fight with her overbearing mother on the phone. Setting the stage, there.

Somehow,the doll’s necklace falls off and it’s revealed that’s a big mistake. No necklace = live doll.

Let me tell you. What happens in the next ten minutes or so after Black realizes the doll is alive still gives me the chills, just thinking about.amelia2.jpg When she hears the pitter patter of little feet in the kitchen, you know. You want to say to her, get the hell out of the apartment, woman, that doll is gonna spear you! But the doll says, fuck this spear, I need me a knife. He finds a butcher knife. As he torments Black, he repeatedly stabs the knife into the floor. With that look on his face. Mind you, this thing is only like a foot tall, if that. And he moves real quick. And he has this ugly, snarling face of pure evil.

The light goes out in the living room. You hear a sound. He’s slashing at her. In the dark! He backs her into a closet and she traps him in a suitcase. And then you see the knife cutting a circle in the suitcase and the doll is out and back in action. Finally, Black traps the bastard in the oven, which has been on this whole time. He goes up in flames and stupid, stupid Karen Black, that dumb son of a bitch, she opens the oven door. Why? Did she want to stick a toothpick in him to see if he was done yet?

Well, no amount of my screaming at the tv for her not to do that would help. She opened the gates of hell when she opened the oven and the Zuni Spirit of Random Murder flew out of the oven and into Karen Black’s soul. I thought that was the end. That would have been cool. I could have gone to bed satisfied with that and not had too many bad dream moments because of it.

But, no. You hear a phone call. She’s calling her mom.

Yea mom, come on over. Sorry I think you’re a controlling whack job, mom. Come on over and we’ll do the hug thing, ok? Ok.

And then the camera moves to her. She’s crouched on the living room floor. She’s got….teeth. Fangs. She’s got a knife. And she’s repeatedly stabbing it into the floor.

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Mom’s in for a big surprise when she gets there.

Hey, you can buy one of these dolls. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna put one of those hideous things in my house. Hell, I still can’t say Candyman five times into a mirror.

There are a lot of movie scenes that were, in retrospect, a lot scarier than that. There were some that played with my head, some that made me nearly pee my pants and some that gave me chills. The ending to The Thing. That scene in Salem’s Lot with the kid in the window. So many, I should probably make a list. But this is the one that stayed with me, that still shows up in my dreams once in a while.

(Retrocrush has my favorite list of scary movie moments)

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(17 hours smoke free and counting)

Robert Berry of Retro Crush read my take on his cover songs list yesterday and commented that I have too many rules for list making.

I own up to that. I know I do. It’s the OCD in me.

I’m about to do it again.


I mentioned yesterday the new AFI 100 Greatest Movies of All Time list. Let it be said that I rarely agree with any list the AFI puts out. I think of the American Film Institute people as a bunch of 80 year old men in derby hats and seersucker suits, sitting in smoky room, nursing glasses of warm bourbon and crying about how the film industry just ain’t what it used to be. You know, back in the day when people didn’t have to talk in films! Back in the day when they didn’t have all this fancy schmancy color stuff. Simpler times when there were no gizmos and gadgets to make special effects look real! And then the nurses come in to wheel them back to their rooms, where they watch The Maltese Falcon on an old RCA tv and whisper “Rosebud” in their sleep.

Here’s what irks me most about this list: Calling it the GREATEST films of all time. When you look through the list, you just know why some of these movies are on it. Cinematic achievement. Setting standards. Technical breakthroughs. This is the same problem I have with any music list titled GREATEST songs/albums of all time. “This album changed the direction of rock and roll” does not make it great. It makes it important. Influential. But not necessarily great.

Greatest movies should be ones that you would watch over and over again. Films that bring you joy, make you cry, give you your money’s worth in entertainment. Yes, they should have good acting and good directing and all that, but that is not paramount to making it great. A great movie is one that makes you leave the theater saying “Holy shit. I have to see that again.” Or one, like Apocalypse Now, which makes you sit in the darkened theater for fifteen minutes after the credits have rolled, jaw dropped, still trying to process what happened.

This is why GREATEST anything lists are too subjective to be touted as definitive. It’s so damn smug of the AFI to present this list to the public with all this fanfare and snobbery as if they were revealing to you the only true movie list that matters. I picture one of those cranky old men sitting in that smoky room, handing an envelope to a courier. “Quick, boy. Deliver this list. The people need to know what movies they should be watching!”

Obviously, I disagree with the list. But my own top 100 list would include zombies and severed hands and cursing cartoon children, so maybe my opinion shouldn’t count for much.

Which is really my point. I don’t need the opinion of a bunch of film snobs to tell me what the greatest movies of all time are. Who cares what they think?

You know what? I HATED Forrest Gump. I left the theater feeling like I’d just been mind-raped. I’ve never seen Gone With the Wind or Titanic or Lawrence of Arabia and I really don’t care if I ever do. I could go down this list and scratch off at least half of their choices. 2001? Boring. Annie Hall? Mind numbing. Star Wars? Yea, I LOVE Star Wars to death but everyone knows that Empire Strikes Back was the better movie of the two. The Sixth Sense? ARE YOU SHITTING ME? How in bloody hell can that movie be included on a list of 100 GREATEST? What made that movie great? Just because it had a surprise ending that I saw coming two hours earlier? That film should be taken off the list for the sole reason that it made us have to endure the career of M. Night Shamalamawhatever. Hell, I’d rather see a Uwe Boll movie up there than that piece of excrement.

I’m a little cranky today.

I’m sure you are saying right now, “Gee, Michele, if you think this list is such crap, then why don’t you tell us what YOU think the 100 greatest movies are?”

Well. I don’t really have time to write out a list of 100. And even if I did, that list would probably change from month to month. But I’ll tell you what. Because I still have a little time left before I have to leave for work, and because I am jonesin for a cigarette right now and need to keep my hands busy before they reach for the pack sitting within five inches of me, I’ll throw down some of my favorite movies for you, just so you can see that the AFI and I differ immensely on what makes a great movie, therefore my opinion of their snobby old men in nursing homes and their lists really doesn’t matter much.

Remember. “Great” means I got a lot of enjoyment out of it and I’d see it again and again and could probably repeat a ton of quotes from the movie, if not recite the whole thing verbatim and I may or may not have little action figures from the movie lined up on my desk. Great, in my mind, does not mean “set the industry standard for achievement in sound effects.” Great means “that’s a damn cool flick.”

No particular order.

Empire Strikes Back
The Big Lebowski
Spirited Away
The Phantom Tollbooth
Army of Darkness
Cemetery Man
Night of the Living Dead
12 Monkeys
Fifth Element
True Romance
Leon
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
The Sting
Star Wars
Nosferatu
The Godfather
The Fly (original)
Aladdin
West Side Story
Airplane!
Slap Shot
Apocalypse Now
Winged Migration
Snoopy, Come Home
Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring
Bad News Bears
Interstate 60
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Jaws
Super Troopers
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie
Toy Story
A Christmas Story
Nightmare Before Christmas
Edward Scissorhands
Dog Day Afternoon
And Justice For All
Real Genius
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Dawn of the Dead
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Nothing to Lose
The Last Boy Scout
Ghostbusters
The Longest Yard (original)
Office Space
Blazing Saddles
Young Frankenstein
The Muppet Movie
Dead Alive (Brain Dead)
Session 9
Heathers
My Life as a Dog
Princess Bride
The Sandlot
Evil Dead
Heavenly Creatures
Spartacus
Jesus Christ, Superstar
Titus
Smokey and the Bandit
Revenge of the Sith
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
Lost Boys
This is Spinal Tap
Strange Brew
South Park, Bigger, Longer and Uncut
Dead Again
Goonies
Good Burger
Starship Troopers
Bladerunner
Shaun of the Dead


I need to stop now. I still have no idea what I’m wearing to work today. This list is not complete, but you get the point anyhow.

Now, for those of you who actually read through the list, you can see from my inclusion of cinematic legends such as Good Burger and Power Rangers, that my list is far superior to that of AFI. Plus, it’s more fun. Really, if you had to sit through a marathon viewing of the old fogey’s list or my list, whose would you choose? Maybe you would get more intellectually out of the AFI list, but you’d be missing out on some good zombie action.

This is going to be a long, cigarette-less day. I need to go find a random hobo to stab before I get to work, or I’ll end up with a bloody co-worker on my hands.

Feel free to mock my list or give me your own.

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28 Weeks Later, A Review

First, let me say that I was never a fan of the first movie of this series, 28 Days Later. Everyone called it a zombie movie. No. Zombies are the living dead. These people are not dead. Therefore, not zombies.

Now that I have that out of the way, let’s cut to the chase.

This movie SUCKED.

I know, it’s horror movie and you shouldn’t expect much from horror movies. Unless they are touted as “art house” movies that defy cinemagraphic norms.

Moving the camera around in arcs and coloring everything so that it looks like high contrast photographs run through some cheap Photoshop filter does not a good movie make.

You need suspense. You need momentum. You need me to care about what is happening. Hell, I cared more about the flat characters in Day of the Dead than I did about the people in 28 Weeks. When 20 minutes into a movie I start thinking about how much longer til I can get out of the theater and pee and smoke, you’ve got a clunker on your hands.

No amount of gore and splattered blood and exploding eyeballs could keep me interested in anything but making mental notes of the plot holes and mistakes (I mean, could you really survive a chemical weapon attack by rolling up the windows in a car and putting your shirt over your face?) or counting how many close up shots of there were of the girl’s face.

So many stories here, and none of them explained or expanded upon. It could have been good. But no, it was like sticking your hand in a box of Cracker Jacks expecting a prize and getting just an empty prize wrapper. Maybe it would have been better if there as no expectation of filling in plot lines or back stories or explanations for things like why the kid and mother were carriers (I’m assuming it had something to do with the eyes, but who knows, they never explained it). If the movie had just been another mindless, plotless gorefest, I would have been ok with it. But don’t tease me with the beginnings of some depth and then suddenly cut me off by switching back to fake scares and shaky camera action to fill the space on the reel.

I really wanted to like this movie. I liked the premise. I wanted the answer to the question that most post apocalyptic zombie-type movies make me think: what happens after? Not only did this movie NOT answer my question, it just left me with more.

Like, what the fuck was I thinking by spending money on this crap?

Now, let’s go over this zombie thing again, shall we?

Zombies are the living dead. They do not run, they lumber. They are not beings who have been infected with some virus and go crazy. They are dead. They are slow.

Accept no substitutes.

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