Happy Halloween!

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Halloween Countdown: Top 5 Songs for the Season

The best day of the year is tomorrow and to help everyone get in the mood I thought I’d post this countdown. Little can evoke a certain mood or feeling like music can, and songs suited for Halloween are no exception. Obviously, this list was put together by me and is nothing more than my personal opinion. Enjoy:

5. “Wolf Like Me” – TV On the Radio

“Got a curse I cannot lift, shines when the sunset shifts.” Off of the band’s 2006 album, Return to Cookie Mountain, “Wolf Like Me” is a song about a guy who turns into a wolf every full moon. There’s some great imagery in the song that could be straight out of a Horror film. Plus, the video is awesome.

4. “Psycho Killer” – Talking Heads

The name says it all. Such a fun song, plus David Byrne really looks and sounds crazy in this video. This song plays during the awesome credits scene for Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (the last review I posted, if you haven’t read it yet you should).

3. “Cry Little Sister” – Gerard McMann

If you’ve seen Lost Boys (shame on you if you haven’t) then you’ve heard this song, close to 400 times. You could watch the movie one time and it would be impossible to hear this song and ever think of anything else. I wouldn’t have it any other way, though, it’s definitely one of those mood evoking songs I was talking about. “Cry Little Sister” and Lost Boys were made for each other, and they compliment Halloween pretty well.

2. “Thriller” – Michael Jackson

“No mere mortal can resist the evil of.. The Thriller!” I’m aware that 99.9% of people who’d make this list would put “Thriller” at #1, and I almost did, but I just really think my #1 “sounds” more like Halloween. That said, “Thriller” is a classic. Full Moons, Werewolves, Zombies, Ghouls.. Most would say “Thriller” IS Halloween, and you really can’t disagree with them. It doesn’t hurt that the video was revolutionary, either.

1. “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” – Bauhaus

Like I said, it was tough to put this one over “Thriller.” However, while most might listen to MJ’s classic and hear Halloween, I hear it when I listen to Bauhaus’ nine and a half-minute escapade. The atmosphere of this song is incredible. And spooky. Take a drive at night in late October with leaves falling across your windshield and this song playing through your speakers and try to tell me it doesn’t just feel right. If the atmosphere weren’t enough, the fact that the entire song is about Bela Lugosi (the guy you probably picture when you think of Dracula) transcending both death and identity and becoming one-in-the-same with Dracula (“Bella’s un-dead”) certainly should be.

 

There you have it, my top 5. I know I’ll have them on repeat all day tomorrow, and I hope you will too. Feel free to let me know what you think. Agree/disagree, tell me what I missed, what should go where, whatever.. Comment and let me know! And while you’re at it, check out my newest post over at Benevolentstreet.com: http://www.benevolentstreet.com/?p=6599. Thanks for reading!

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

Here’s a review I wrote up a while ago over one of my favorite Horror (and comedy) films. While you’re at it, check out my first post over at BenevolentStreet.com: http://www.benevolentstreet.com/?p=6553. Without further adieu:

Imagine a world in which the Horror genre’s biggest names, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Kreuger among others, are real people. This is the world in which Leslie Vernon lives. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is like no movie you’ve ever seen before. Shot mostly in documentary style, it follows a promising up and coming slasher, Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel), as he prepares for his first big killing spree.

For years the legend of Leslie Vernon has been passed around the town of Glen Echo as a boy who suffered a grisly death as a small child and on the right night, still haunts his family’s abandoned orchard farm. Only, Leslie Vernon is not dead. In fact, he couldn’t be any healthier. Residing quietly outside of the small town, he has been preparing for years for the night that he’ll finally return to the farm and cement his name among the greats such as Myers and Kreuger. In the month prior to the big night, Vernon invites a grad school film crew to chronicle his training and last-minute preparations.

Vernon the person could not be any more likable. Despite knowing he is a real life serial killer, you can’t help but love him. He’s got an irresistible charm. As the film crew follows him in the days prior to his “reappearance,” he introduces them to the key players in his plan and along the way deconstructs and explains every Horror cliché in the book. My favorite line of the movie is when Vernon describes one of these clichés:

“You have no idea how much cardio I have to do. Its ridiculous. You gotta be able to run like a freakin’ gazelle, without getting winded. Plus there’s that whole thing in making it look like you’re walking when everyone else is running their asses off. And i gotta stay with em’. It’s tough!”

You get the idea, he’s hilarious. All of this leads up to the night Vernon “comes home,” a finale which does not disappoint.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is not only very funny, but wildly original. Like I said earlier, you’ve never seen anything like it. The characters are great and the story is brilliantly crafted, managing to be self-aware of itself and the genre without being campy or unoriginal. Baesel’s performance as Vernon is very convincing and he plays well off the rest of the cast, which includes Horror greats such as Robert Englund and Zelda Rubinstein. Bottom line: you should see this movie.

****/5

Update

I know I haven’t posted in a while, I will continue to do so every now and then so please keep following! However, I’ve been given the opportunity to write for a horror site: http://www.benevolentstreet.com. So, from now on, a majority of my reviews and stuff will be on there. It’s an awesome site with some really cool guys so you should all follow me on there as well. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I actually just posted my first review.. So go check it out!

Straw Dogs (2011)

I should start off by saying that I’ve never seen/had never heard much about the original Straw Dogs, I’d just occasionally seen it listed on some “most-shocking” lists and stuff. I’m usually kind of wary of all of these modern-day remakes, but since I’d never actually seen the original, and since the new one stars Alexander Skarsgård aka Eric from True Blood I was down.

Directed by Rod Lurie, Straw Dogs starts with Hollywood screenwriter David Sumner (James Marsden) and his actress wife Amy (Kate Bosworth) relocating to Amy’s hometown of Blackwater, Mississippi. While they’re there they intend to repair Amy’s deceased father’s house (ravaged by Hurricane Katrina) and David also hopes to find a little peace while working on a new screenplay. It doesn’t take long for the couple to run into Amy’s old boyfriend Charlie (Skarsgård) at a local bar & grill, whom David promptly offers a roofing job to as a showing of good faith and an attempt at assimilation. David never manages to assimilate, though, and he quickly comes to find that Charlie is interested in much more than work. Namely, his “Amy-cakes.”

From the moment Charlie and his crew start their work at the Sumner household we are led down a slow burning, uncomfortable, and confrontational path as we watch cultures clash and tensions rise, culminating in an explosive finale at the Sumner barn-house residence.

There are lots of things to like about Straw Dogs. The tension built through the dialogue is pretty incredible. Every word spoken from the time the Sumners arrive in Blackwater, whether it be between David and Amy, Amy and Charlie, Charlie and David, etc., holds a very noticeable amount of contempt. By the time the pacing really starts to pick up the confrontation has already been built to an alarming level, making the pay off all the more effective.

When it comes down to it, Straw Dogs doesn’t qualify so much as a Horror film as it does a Psychological Thriller; It ultimately ends up playing out as an intense character study. There is no shortage of violence, but make no mistake that the brutality, blood, and even a rape scene serve to heighten the tension and progress the story. So many films today aim just to shock and often use these elements to do so. Straw Dogs is not one of those films. Everything about it reads as genuine and as a result, it can be difficult to watch at times.

Like I said, I’ve never seen the original Straw Dogs, but I’d have to imagine this one is just as effective, if not more, at what it’s trying to do. Those who go into it expecting a Horror film will likely be disappointed. However, those who look at it for what it is: A character driven thriller raising questions of manhood, relationships, culture, politics, and violence among other things, should not be.

****/5

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

You’re 29 years old and working a dead end job at an electrics store. You’ve got a strained relationship with your mother caused by a disapproving stepfather. Your best friend/roommate is a freeloader who doesn’t pay rent and just might be holding you back. And last but not least, your girlfriend has just dumped you citing your careless lifestyle and penchant for the local pub, the Winchester.

Welcome to Shaun’s life. It’s going nowhere fast and following a rude awakening from his roommate late one night, he vows to sort it out the next morning. One problem: Shaun (Simon Pegg) awakes that morning to a sweeping zombie epidemic, later to be named “Z-Day.” No better time to start, right? Armed with nothing but a cricket paddle, his best friend Ed (Nick Frost), his ex-girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield), and his Mom (Penelope Wilton) among others, Shaun sets out to prove his worth all while saving the day, his failing relationships, and their lives.

Shaun of the Dead is directed by Edgar Wright and reunites him with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the three of whom worked together on the popular BBC show Spaced from 1999-2001. The three have become a sort of dream team together and Shaun of the Dead shows exactly why. Co-written by Pegg and Wright, the script hits on every zombie film convention in the book, and in hilarious fashion. Shaun of the Dead employs a very tongue-in-cheek, self-reflexive type humor with Pegg and Frost carrying a majority of the comedy load and not disappointing in the process. Pegg even shows some solid dramatic range in the film’s finale at the Winchester.

There’s really not much I can say to do this film justice, its been a favorite of mine since the first time I watched it and it only gets funnier with repeat viewings (see: The Winchester scene where Shaun, Ed, and Liz pummel the pub’s owner to the tune of “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen). The best advice and review I can give to those who haven’t seen it: You should.

*****/5

Welcome!

My first post in my new blog.. I guess I should tell you all a little about me. You may have already noticed that I’m a student at the University of Kansas. It’s the school I wanted to go to my entire life and it’s pretty cool to say that not only have I been able to, but I’m almost done. To make things even better, I get to major in a subject I love: Film. When it comes down to it, that’s why this blog exists right now. I had to choose a project to work on all semester long for my New Media class and decided this would be the way to go.

I’d be lying, though, if I said that I didn’t really enjoy doing this. Some of you may have even read a blog I wrote on shortly late last year. If so, thanks for coming back! This is where I’ll be doing some film reviews and other stuff in the months to come (and hopefully getting a good grade on a project). In order to do that though, I’m going to need some interaction! So, read my blog, like my blog, share my blog, comment on it, sign up for emails, share it with friends.. Whatever you want, just help me out!

To kick things off we’re going to celebrate the season, and in doing so “The KU Critic” will be doing a Halloween countdown sort of thing. There will be plenty more and different things to come after October, but for now, let’s get started!