showtime shocker: popcorn

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One of the thrilling prospects of horror movies is the thought that you’re always one movie away from discovering some gem you can’t believe you’ve never seen before. For me, Popcorn—a 1991 slasher flick directed by Mark Herrier—is exactly the type of movie I’m hoping I’ll come across at any given moment.

Jill Schoelen plays Maggie Butler, a film student who keeps having these bizarre dreams about a young girl being chased by a maniacal man. She hopes to turn it into a movie some day, but in the meantime she and the rest of her class need to raise some money for their struggling film department. Their big plan involves hosting the ultimate horror movie all-nighter, complete with gimmicks for each showing and plenty of crowd-pleasing special effects to go along with them.

Once the big night arrives, it soon becomes apparent that a twisted killer is on the loose in the theater, and this story collides in a major way with the very dreams that have been both plaguing and inspiring Maggie. Who is THE POSSESSOR, and what does he have to do with Maggie and her mom (Dee Wallace)?!

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Much like the all-nighter itself, Popcorn is a crowd pleaser through and through. I imagine this one plays really well with an amped crowd at a movie marathon, so if you can get some other folks together to watch it with you, definitely do so. No matter how you see it, though, Popcorn is a ton of fun nearly 30 years after its initial debut.

You can find this one online if you’re so inclined. If you dig it, though, Synapse Films put out a collector’s edition Blu-ray a couple years ago, which is something I might have to pick up down the line for the new scan and special features alone.

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Halloween 2019 Movies:

1. Sequence Break
2. Deadtime Stories
3. Hell House LLC
4. Body Bags
5. Pumpkinhead
6. Friday the 13th Part III
7. Child’s Play 2019
8. Ghoulies II
9. Satanic Panic
10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
11. Demons
12. You’re Next
13. Frankenstein
14. The Ranger
15. The Fly
16. Train to Busan
17. Halloween III: Season of the Witch
18. Army of Darkness
19. Lake Mungo

deadly downer: lake mungo

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Unlike the movie itself, this is going to be a quick one. Full disclosure: Before choosing to watch 2008’s Lake Mungo, I couldn’t remember which movie with Lake in the title was supposed to be the really good one. It was either this or Lake Bodom, and I just went with this one because it was right before me on a streaming service I can’t recall at the moment. Not that both aren’t acclaimed depending on who you ask, but I’m going to go ahead and guess that I didn’t choose the right one.

Lake Mungo is kind of an interesting take on the traditional ghost story in some ways. It depicts a family as they attempt to recover from the untimely death of their daughter, but certain phenomena allude to the fact that she might not be as gone as they suspect. There’s spooky home video footage, abundant apparitions, and even a séance, all suspended beneath the conceit of a documentary feature. It has its moments, but for the most part I found my interest and my patience waning.

That’s not to say some folks out there won’t love it. If you like the faux documentary angle and aren’t tired exploring the potentially supernatural, it’s out there for you to discover. I’ll also go ahead and tease that it is far from the worst movie I watched this month. Stay tuned!

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Halloween 2019 Movies:

1. Sequence Break
2. Deadtime Stories
3. Hell House LLC
4. Body Bags
5. Pumpkinhead
6. Friday the 13th Part III
7. Child’s Play 2019
8. Ghoulies II
9. Satanic Panic
10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
11. Demons
12. You’re Next
13. Frankenstein
14. The Ranger
15. The Fly
16. Train to Busan
17. Halloween III: Season of the Witch
18. Army of Darkness

medieval mayhem: army of darkness

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Time is already a tenuous construct as it is, and after shotgunning a ton of movies this month it’s even less of a factor in my life. With that said, at some point this month I watched Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness on my friend’s projector, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing it for the first time probably since it first hit home video. It’s not quite at the level of Evil Dead 2 for me as far as this series goes, but there are a few things I forgot about that are even more entertaining to me today.

First of all, rewatching this 1993 entry just a few weeks after watching (almost all of) Ash vs. Evil Dead was a trip. Bruce Campbell is so young in these movies, and pulls off an amazing combination of effortlessly cool and colossally stupid. I actually forgot just how Looney Tunes Army of Darkness gets at times, which is never on display more boldly than during the extended battle against Ash’s tiny doppelgangers.

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That second act sequence is just the starting point for when this movie goes completely bonkers. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated that or the stop-motion skeleton hijinks more than I did during this viewing, and I don’t doubt that I’ll be watching it again sooner rather than later.

This time around I watched the director’s cut, which was a tough choice to make. I like both endings equally, but now I want to go back and check out the theatrical cut again. There are some other cuts on Scream Factory’s excellent collector’s edition Blu-ray set, which I highly recommend picking up. As many times as they’ve reissued this movie, I can’t imagine there being a more definitive version down the line as we enjoy what will likely be the last major physical media format.

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Halloween 2019 Movies:

1. Sequence Break
2. Deadtime Stories
3. Hell House LLC
4. Body Bags
5. Pumpkinhead
6. Friday the 13th Part III
7. Child’s Play 2019
8. Ghoulies II
9. Satanic Panic
10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
11. Demons
12. You’re Next
13. Frankenstein
14. The Ranger
15. The Fly
16. Train to Busan
17. Halloween III: Season of the Witch

mental manufacturers: halloween iii

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A friend was recently looking through my Blu-rays and remarked, “Of all the Halloween movies, the one you own is the third one?” Yes, the one I own is the third one, because it’s great. My Halloween 2019 rewatch cemented the fact that 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch deserves to be on everyone’s seasonal marathon lineup.

Back in the day, I remember Halloween III being known as “the one that doesn’t even have Michael Myers in it.” There’s no arguing that, unless you count some off-screen tube TV cameo action. I’d love to say that it’s underrated as a result, but I think the general consensus—at least among horror fans—has really come around on this one over the years. And who could blame ’em? It’s got malevolently manufactured masks and the one, the only… Tom Atkins!

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My main takeaway from this watch of Halloween III, despite how great it looks on Blu-ray, is that Tom Atkins is a sex symbol? I think he might be, I just never considered it before. This one may not have The Shape in it like the others, but director Tommy Lee Wallace—who also helmed Fright Night Part 2 (!)—builds some solid tension and makes the most out of a story that somehow manages to connect a missing chunk of Stonehenge to masks that make snakes and bugs explode out of kids’ faces.

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The music is great, too. With Alan Howarth along for the ride, John Carpenter cooked up another solid score with a few particularly memorable tracks. And good luck getting the Silver Shamrock commercial jingle out of your head for the rest of the Halloween season.

If you wanna watch it yourself, it’s available streaming, but if you really dig it you should pick up Scream Factory’s excellent Blu-ray. I wish I had that version; I have the one that just plays automatically and doesn’t even have any extras! Now that’s scary.

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Halloween 2019 Movies:

1. Sequence Break
2. Deadtime Stories
3. Hell House LLC
4. Body Bags
5. Pumpkinhead
6. Friday the 13th Part III
7. Child’s Play 2019
8. Ghoulies II
9. Satanic Panic
10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
11. Demons
12. You’re Next
13. Frankenstein
14. The Ranger
15. The Fly
16. Train to Busan

terror tracks: train to busan

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If you’ve heard anything about Train to Busan since the 2016 debut of Yeon Sang-ho’s feature, you might not be surprised to learn that I loved it. It may have taken me a few years to get around to it, but it definitely ranks high among zombie flicks, and it’s surprisingly swift given its nearly two-hour runtime.

The premise is dead simple: Workaholic Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) is an absentee father who finds it difficult (read: too time-consuming and inconvenient) to connect with his young daughter. As little of his time as he’s able to give her, he’d rather she didn’t travel to Busan to visit her mom on her own, so he elects to escort her on her train ride in the morning. Unbeknownst to them—or anyone else on the train for that matter—this particular journey happens to coincide with the moment a full-on zombie outbreak occurs.

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And there’s your hook: Zombies on a train! Even in these close quarters, Train to Busan is shot with real expertise, making up for the claustrophobic setting with well-paced action beats and the kind of emotional core we’ve come to expect from many of the South Korean smash hits out there.

Thanks to all the heavy lifting it does with its characters in the first act, Train to Busan sticks its heart-wrenching landing with gusto. It also has Dong-seok Ma totally stealing the show as this dude:

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As usual, despite breaking records upon its release in Korea and wowing critics around the world, Train to Busan is getting remade in English. At least it was as of a couple years ago; I’m not sure if this still holds true, but once again the assumption is that audiences here won’t read subtitles (which is probably accurate). I’m totally game for Sang-ho’s sequel, however.

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Halloween 2019 Movies:

1. Sequence Break
2. Deadtime Stories
3. Hell House LLC
4. Body Bags
5. Pumpkinhead
6. Friday the 13th Part III
7. Child’s Play 2019
8. Ghoulies II
9. Satanic Panic
10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
11. Demons
12. You’re Next
13. Frankenstein
14. The Ranger
15. The Fly