Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Creepshow & Creepshow 2 (Double movie Review)

     The 1982 motion picture titled “Creepshow” is perhaps one of the most unique horror movies of all time because it’s not just one but five short stories combined into one feature film and there’s no limit to how wild, crazy, fun, frightening or disgusting they can get. Based on the EC horror comics like “Tales from the Crypt”, these five short stories where written by legendary horror author Stephen King, some where written for the screen-play specifically while others where adapted from his short stories. It’s a rare kind of horror film that doesn’t aim for scares, instead it just busts loose and has fun with itself, using lots of fun color techniques and stylish cartoon visuals during transitions that are reminiscent of a comic book strip. Part of the joy of experiencing a film with a horror/ anthology style like this is not knowing what you’re in store for next, anything can happen.  

       The first episode is titled “Father’s Day” and it’s perhaps the weakest of the five episodes. Basically, a grumpy old man comes back from the dead as a zombie to seek revenge on his family members. It’s as basic a story as you can get with lots of average characters and basic excitement. But to be fair, it does help set the tone for the rest of the specials and the Zombie make-up is quiet good, but that’s probably expected considering that this film is directed by George A. Romero, who’s often regarded as “The Godfather” of Zombie movies.

      Next is “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill”, which is far sillier than any of the other episodes. A meteor crashes on a farm and spreads some kind of plant vegetation. It’s kind of neat to have something as simple as plant growth be the main situation at hand. But the reason this episode stands out is because of Stephen King’s over the top performance as the farmer. It’s a fun contrast to see the guy who scared people with countless frightening stories to be this goofy dope of a farmer.

     The middle episode titled “Something to Tide you Over” is my personal favorite, largely due to the lead performance from one of my favorite late actors Leslie Nielson. However, Nielsen isn’t playing a funny comedic relief character like he did in “Airplane” or “The Naked Gun” films, instead he’s playing a vengeful mastermind whose out for revenge. He learns his wife was cheating on him so he berries her and her lover neck deep on the beach as the tide comes in. It’s such a suspenseful seen and I never thought that Leslie Nielsen could be so frightening. The way he calmly talks to them while also taunting them as they droned is very unsettling and it all goes to show how versatile Nielson can be. The climax of this episode is especially good, featuring more cool monster effects, makeup and a relatively chilling atmosphere.

    Episode four is titled “The Crate” and this one’s a lot of fun, it’s all about this mysterious crate that holds a monster trapped inside. The creature eventually escapes and stalks people one by one on the school grounds. It’s the longest of all the episodes but there really isn’t all that much that I need to say, it’s cheesy, B monster entertainment at its finest.

    The last episode titled “They’re Creeping up on you”, goes straight for the gross out factor. “Bravo” even labeled it as one of the one-hundred scariest moments in film because of just how repulsive it is. The story’s all about this jerk who’s constantly attacked by bugs in his office and if you can’t handle the images of cockroaches bursting out of a man’s body, you should probably skip this one. 

     My only real problem that I have with this film is the prolog and the epilog, which focus on this boy who’s being mistreated by his dad, then in the end, the boy gets his revenge in the most unspeakably cruel way imaginable. This might just be the worst epilog I’ve ever seen in my life and it completely ruins all the fun that the movie has to offer. Having said that, this is still an enjoyable horror/ anthology flick, Tom Savini’s special effects are as great as ever, the direction is very stylish and in the end, it shows you just how fun a horror movie can be. I give “Creepshow” 3 ½ stars.

     Next, in 1987 there was the sequel, simply titled “Creepshow 2”. George Romero, Tom Savini and Stephen King are all back for this film, giving it that same fun comic book, anthology style and adapting more of Stephen king’s short stories. Both the Intro and Outro are much better than the last film, using more of a flashy cartoon style, they aren’t nearly as mean spirited as before and we also get Interlude’s between each short film. Unfortunately, this movie only features three episodes instead of five, which is a real annoyance and restricts you from having as much fun, thankfully this sequel dose have some improvements.

     The first episode is titled “Old Chief Wood'nhead”, there’s some great acting in this episode, particularly from George Kennedy, who plays a very kind and loving store owner. Unfortunately, this episode drags at a snail’s pass and the payoff is bitter sweet. Basically, he’s robed by these three idiots that despise Indian culture, even though it’s there inheritance. This angers a giant Indian statue that was in the shop, which latter goes on a killing spree. 

    Next episode is titled “The Raft” and it has completely opposite problems. The story is far more exciting and suspenseful but the characters are people that you could care less for. It’s all about this group of young adults that are out vacationing at a lake. Soon they find themselves stranded on a raft because the lake water is suddenly filled with some kind of slime that melts flesh. It’s an exciting concept and the way this situation gradually builds is very intense. I just wish that the characters could have been a little nicer. 

     The last episode titled “The Hitch-hiker” is my personal favorite of all the “Creepshow” shorts from either of the movies. It’s about this woman who’s coming home late one night from work and accidently runs into this pore man on the road, taking his life. In the heat of panic, she drives off and gets lost in the woods. She’s having a hard time copping with what just happened and what she’s doing but then things get really intense as she’s followed by the man she hit. At first the episode doesn’t establish if it’s his ghost back for revenge or if he’s a figment of her troubled imagination. Either way, there’s nothing quiet as terrifying as being followed at night by a man you just accidently murdered. The tension in this episode is great because whenever she tries to escape this guy, he always reappears again, either on the road or even in her own car and his appearance gets more and more decayed every time. It’s a really intense concept pulled off very well, with an eerie atmosphere and plenty of scares.

    Overall, “Creepshow 2” is an uneven sequel with small problems throughout, but it still has its fare share of really good stuff and the last episode certainly makes it worthwhile. I give “Creepshow 2” 3 stars out of 5. There was another sequel titled “Creepshow 3” but I’m not going to review that one because it was an independent project, released straight to video and had no involvement from either George Romero or Stephen King. There was also the “Tales from the Crypt” TV show that was inspired by these films and there’s plans for more “Creepshow” sequels on the way. If you want some really fun tricks and treats this Halloween, I say check out either Creepshow” or “Creepshow 2” because there the most fun you’ll ever have being scared.   
                 Happy Halloween!        

The Simpsons: Tree House of Horror (TV series review)

        There’s lots of annual traditions people do on Halloween, trick r’ treating, go to parties, exploring fake haunted house's, dress up in costumes, decorating the house, etc. Well, I do all of that, and I also make it a tradition to watch the annual “Simpsons: Tree House of Horror”. The Simpsons of course need no introduction, it’s often regarded as one of the greatest animated TV series of all time, it’s a beloved comedy series, and it’s one of the longest lasting TV shows in recorded history. Yes, it’s a classic series, but personally the best thing about this show is its yearly Halloween special. Ever sense the second season it became a tradition to always have a Halloween episode. It’s practically a small series in of itself because instead of a traditional half-hour long episode, the “Simpsons: Tree House of Horror” consist of three short back to back episodes in a single block. It’s an anthology, comedy series, and I love it.

      These episodes are often regarded as some of the best of the entire Simpsons line-up and their so popular that most marketing toured the show revolves around their Halloween episodes. There’s a Simpsons tree house addition of Monopoly, video game spinoff’s, comic book spinoffs and I’ll never forget when Burger King had a lineup of toys based around the Halloween episodes and recurring characters. This lasted for a couple years, I distinctly remember my friends and I tried to collect as many of them as possible. Regrettably, I’ve lost them over the years, but at least I still have the board game.

      The episodes weren’t always aimed at Halloween specifically, sometimes it was a funny recreation of a popular “Twilight Zone” episode, other times it would be a parody of a popular horror movie. The very first episode I ever saw was titled “Fly VS. Fly”, which was a satire of the classic 1958 Sci-Fi/ Horror movie “The Fly”. Other popular horror movies including “The Exorcist”, “King Kong”, “Night of the Living Dead”, “Psycho”, “Paranormal Activity” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” have all gotten funny Simpsons makeovers on this show. Over the years they began to spoof non horror films and instead big blockbusters like “Avatar”, “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”. Even popular children’s films from the 90’s like “Free Willy” and “Jumanji” all had funny spoof episodes.  


     There’s also a lot of annual traditions that reoccur with ever yearly Halloween episode. One of my favorite traditions is the opening segments, which often recreate the traditional Simpsons intro with a funny Halloween twist. Half the time these openings are better than the actual episodes, and often do a better job getting me in the mood for Halloween. Another tradition are appearances from the two squid aliens named Kang and Kodos. These characters are exclusive to the Tree House of Horror series, and usually just make short cameos, but they’ve also had entire episodes dedicated to them, which are always a lot of fun. Another set tradition that regrettably didn’t last long were the Wraparounds, which were like mini segments that loosely connected all the shorts. For example, in the second season, the kids take turns telling scary stories in a tree house, and every story the kids tell leads into a new short. There was also a season in which they eat too much candy resulting in every family member having a separate nightmare that would act as a standalone episode. This unfortunately didn’t continue after season four, but the result was longer episodes, and that was at least a plus.        

      You can never predict what you'll get from a Simpsons Halloween special, it could be dark, it could be cute or it could be extremly wild and over the top. One thing's for certain, they can always make an audience laugh, and laugh hard. Right now there’s a total of 75 episodes, and there’s no way I can do them justice because they just need to be seen on their own. However, I’ll at least round up my personal top 10 favorite episodes.  


10. Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores 

Now here’s a clever satire revolving around product placement, and advertising that have gone too far. In this episode, giant company mascots and logos come to life to destroy the city, but the only way to defeat them is to ignore them. It’s wild, imaginative and features one of my favorite Bart Simpsons jokes as he literally becomes a shoulder devil for a giant devil monster. 

9. Tweenlight 

It was only a matter of time before the popular “Twilight” series got the Simpsons treatment for Halloween. I’ll start by saying that I’ve never had any real animosity toured the often hated “Twilight” series, but these guys sure gave it a funny spoof as Homer finds himself teaming up with Dracula in order to prevent Liza from falling in love with the Counts evil son. The variety of vampire jokes are great and the stabs made at “Twilight” are terrific. It’s just good old Halloween fun with this spoof.  

8. Bart Simpsons Dracula 

Here’s yet another clever vampire parody, but this time aimed at the 1992 motion picture “Bram Stoker's Dracula”, and it even pokes fun at “The Lost Boys”. It’s a brilliant spoof like any of their movie parodies, but this one has some of the quickest comedy and flat out funny jokes that the Halloween collection has ever offered, and that’s saying a lot. Plus, Mr. Burns has never been more memorable then as a second rate Count Dracula.  

7. Dial ‘Z’ for Zombies 

Definitely a classic episode, what’s not to like about a premise involving the Simpsons battling an army of scary zombies. When Bart reads from a magic book in an effort to bring the family cat back from the dead, he unintentionally awakens a herd of Zombies, or as they like to be called “The Living Impaired”. This episode has all the good stuff, cute moments, clever gags, social satire, zombie action, and lots of dark comedy. The best scene of all is when Homer kills zombie Flanders, you really just need to see it for yourself.   

6. I’ve Grown a Costume on Your Face 

In this episode, a real witch gets insulted at a costume party, which results in her cursing the town people to literally become what their dressed up as for Halloween. There’s a lot of creativity and funny jokes revolving around the towns folk as they try to adjust in their new forms. It’s just really fun seeing everybody become their costumes, and it’s especially nice to have an episode that’s positively drenched in Halloween.

5. The Terror of Tiny Toon 

This is without a doubt one of the most imaginative situations to come from the series. Bart and Lisa get sucked into their TV and are dropped in an extremely violent Itchy and Scratchy cartoon. The kids are the prey, while the cartoons are the villains that simply want to destroy them. The result is a frantic chase throughout TV world, with lots of cartoony gags and visual hummer. Sense their stuck in a TV show, Bart and Lisa can do more traditionally cartoony things that you’d normally see in an old Roadrunner cartoon. They also jump through different TV programs, even a moment when they drop into a live action cooking show. What more can I say, it’s just comedy gold.

4. The Shinning 

As you’d expect from the title, this episode is a parody of the 1980 horror classic “The Shining”. It captures the feel and mood of its movie counterpart beautifully with some of the best dark comedy the show ever provided. Right from the opening, this episode lets you know what you’re in for as it mocks the film’s daily transition scenes. It’s just a brilliant satire, and a loving tribute to one of the greatest horror movies of all time.     

3. Homer3 

This is an iconic episode that blew everybody’s mind, and it still stands as one of the all time greatest Simpsons moments. When trying to hide from his dead beat relatives, Homer finds himself lost in an AlterNet dimension which looks like the world of “Tron” if it was rented out by “Futurama”. The effects in this episode were awesome, the jokes were great and the ending was brilliant, because Homer actually finds himself in the real world, making it look a little like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. It’s just an awesome and clever parody of “The Twilight Zone”, and one that still gets me laughing to this day.    

2. It’s the Grand Pumpkin, Millhouse 

That’s right, the Simpsons are tackling one of the most treasured Halloween specials of all time. The original “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” is still a favorite of mine that I still watch ever year, and from beginning to end, this episode is a faithful recreation of it with some brilliant comedy throughout, and an awesome twist with the grand Pumpkin coming to life to seek revenge on all the pumpkins that have been killed to make Jack O’ lanterns. It’s clever, brings back Nostalgic memories of Charlie Brown and features an awesome ending with giant holiday mascots in battle, what more do I even need to say.

1. Time and Punishment 

I’ll always regard this one as a classic, and honestly, it’s the episode that got me watching “The Simpsons” in the first place. When Homer accidently ruins his toaster, he tries his best to repair it, but he unintentionally creates a machine that can send him back in time. Once he gets sent back to the Dinosaur age, he constantly messes things up which have huge changes on his present day life. Every time his present life is altered, he goes back in time to try and fix things again, but it only makes more problems for his life in the future. The comedy is relentlessly fast, and it’s just so creative with how many different AlterNet realities Homer get’s himself stuck in. It also features my favorite moment in the whole series, when he returns to his present life and everything seems perfect, the house is perfect, the family is perfect, but there’s only one setback ... NO DONATES! That just kills me every time. The premise is so brilliant, over the top, and funny that it had to be my number one favorite.    

     Overall, “The Simpsons: Tree House of Horror” still stand as some of the funniest episodes to come from the series, and to this day there some of my favorite animated Halloween specials that I still enjoy watching every year. If you love Halloween, and you love dark comedy, this is one series that I highly recommend checking out.

         I give “The Simpsons: Tree House of Horror” 4 ½ stars out of 5.