Friday, October 28, 2011

Film #81: Mad Monster Party? (1967)

Ain’t no party like a Mad Monster Party, ‘cause a Mad Monster Party don’t stop!
And how could it with such unstoppable horror maniacs in attendance?
You have Dracula working the lick-her bar… red “wine” only. Then there is Frankenstein doing his classic Monster Mash dance move all night. 
Mix in the Invisible Man’s incessant bathroom practical jokes (the perv) and the Mummy “toilet papering” every room he can shuffle into to, and dat Monster Party is off da chain, dawg! Straight up!

Actually though, this classic monster party takes place in 1967… a good 35 years since some of these creepers were in their prime. 
More likely the affair would be a bunch of washed up freaks sitting around a table slurping prune soup, filling their diapers, and complaining about their fading star. And that is just what this movie features… metaphorically of course. Or just in our heads (read more about that in Chris' review).

Ever see those 1960s stop-motion Christmas specials about Rudolf the Red Nosed Freakazoid and the Abominable Snow Crybaby? Mad Monster Party is crafted in the same heart-burning way, only this party is for the best holiday on the calendar – Secretary’s Day! We mean, Halloween!

Dr. Boris Frankenstein, the chairman of the League of Monsters and notorious mad scientist, has called upon his fellow league monsters for a mullet-style meeting -- it is part business, and part party. The party aspect is to celebrate his latest mad invention, a potion that has the ability to destroy all matter in the universe. Seems old Frankenstein wants his fellow freaks to acknowledge his accomplishment. What an attention whore. 

The meeting side of the monster gathering is for a more serious purpose. Dr. Frankenstein has decided to retire from his wicked doings, and therefore needs to appoint a new leader of the League of Monsters. So, he rallys the trouble for a final hurah!

The guest list to this haunted gathering reads like a horror All Star roster: Dracula, The Frankenstein Monster, Bride of Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, a zombie Peter Lorre, and the mysterious “IT.”

Also invited is sneezy pharmacist Felix Flankin, Dr. Frankenstein’s previously unknown nephew and only heir. At first Flankin thinks the invite to the desolate Caribbean island Frankenstein now calls home will be filled with buxom beauties and long walks on white beaches. 
Not so much… case in point, the island has a huge skull embedded on its active volcano. This is no Sandals!

 But there is one beauty for Flankin to leer at, the strawberry topped curvaceous (almost too much for a kids show!) Francesca, an assistant to Dr. Frankenstein. Flankin falls instantly in love. But the feeling isn’t mutual… at least at first.

After all the monsters assemble for their meeting, Frankenstein makes his big retirement announcement, sending the speculation flying like a bat out of hell. Who will become the leader? Will Dr. Frankenstein hand over the anti-matter potion along with the monster crown?

When the monsters find out it will be Flankin who will take over the reins of the league, and not one of them, the plotting begins as each monster and even Francesca works to eliminate bumbling Flankin from the chain of command so they can take the monster throne.

Will the deadly anti-matter fall into the wrong clawed, sore-infested monster hands?
Does Felix Flankin have what it takes to head up the League of Monsters?
Which is worse, failing or never trying?
Find out in the 1967 bedeviled holiday classic “Mad Monster Party?”

RDHP Ratings and Reviews

C-Rating: 2.9
Chris Dimick parties:
“Good clean fun. That is the best way to describe Mad Monster Party. Was it scary? No? Was it entertaining? Sometimes. But it was always fun. 
How could it not be with such a comprehensive cast of horror legends gracing the screen?

 Mad Monster Party is a horror/comedy, and I use the term comedy lightly. It is filled with so many 60s-quality, zinging one liners that play off the characteristics of each monster, you won’t want to eat cheese for a whole month. 
Example: Getting ready to fly out a window, Dracula says to the camera “Now you will discover who the original Bat Man is!”

When you stop peeing yourself with laugher, read this next gem: Flankin drops his glasses and pats around on the floor, eventually bumping into the Invisible Man. He says “Excuse me, I can’t see a thing” to which the Invisible Man replies “you don’t know how often I hear that.” 
There were so many horrible zingers that Nick actually got whiplash from shaking his head in disapproval.

The monsters in Mad Monster Party are caricatures of themselves… watered down, Disney-fied versions fit for a holiday children’s movie. That seems about right for 1967, which as mentioned above is a full 36 years after Universal’s Dracula scared the bejesus out of people. 

Of course, it is hard to be sacred of a monster when it is taking part in a five minute song and dance number… of which there were numerous in this film. These monsters had seen their scary day, and by 1967 were mainly historic and beloved figures of horror.

But could we do the same movie with today’s horror icons? Could you assemble Jason, Freddy, Jigsaw, Leatherface, Michael Meyers, Pinhead, Chucky, and the Leprechaun for a kid friendly romp? I sure as hell would watch it if they did?!
But I’d assume not.

The classic horror movies left most of the horror off-screen, while also adding plot depth and personalities to their monsters. Frankenstein wasn’t all evil after all. In fact, in Bride Of you even feel sorry for the monster. Sure, Friday the 13th Part 8 tried to make us understand Jason Voorhees trauma of being drown and watching his mother get decapitated, but at the end of the day Jason was designed to be a one-note slash and stab menace... not a loveable horror fixture. 
The problem with the most recent generation of horror icons is their relentless evil and penchant for dicing up innocents makes it hard to see them ever being beloved.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Jason Voorhees. And Freddy and I are definitely friends with benefits. But do I have nostalgic heart pangs for their act? No… or at least not yet.
Give it a few more years, and maybe someday I’ll be looking back on the Friday, Halloween, and Nightmare movies as quant and fuzzy films. 
But to me, the modern works are just too visceral to take that turn. And I couldn’t be happier. 
It would be a sad day the first time I saw a plush doll Jason Voorhees carrying a stuffed machete and cottony dismembered head… for a number of reasons.

Isn’t that what makes the classic monster movies so great? They aren’t scary… but they sure have character. And nostalgia for the days of solid dialog and well drawn plots in horror movies fills in the rest of the emotions.

Good clean fun. 
I typically don’t endorse it. 
But it is Halloween time, and you caught me at a weak moment. Turn on Mad Monster Party. 
Is it good? Not really. Is it fun? 
More fun than Jell-O-filled underwear!”

N-Rating: 1.7
Nick Rich parties:
“To be perfectly honest, I can't believe this film exists! I'd be interested to know the history of its origins... who thought it would be a good idea? Did they think it would be profitable? Was that target audience children? (I would hope it was, but if so, it raises quite a few more questions)

Mad Monster Party left me feeling kind of funny, like I was watching a holiday special as a kid, all the while knowing that there should be some bite behind the characters I was seeing dance and sing around the screen. It all felt a bit off. You see, unlike traditional holiday specials like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer which clocked in at 47 minutes, Mad Monster Party was a whopping 94 minutes long!

He's got does... in different area codes.

While it was neat to see stop-motion incarnations of the classic monsters, the novelty wore off pretty quickly and the length of this film hurt the concept immensely. What could have been a silly jaunt down horror lane became a drawn out, pun filled fiasco with uninspired musical numbers that, if shown on commercial television, would have left the audience reaching for the remote.

All-Star cast; nowhere idea.
Not to mention that a part of me was a bit disturbed/upset by the neutering (sorry Wolfman) of the  classic monsters that this film symbolized. Sure, the characters were well on their way to that fate in their respective films by this time... but to have horror's all-time greats transformed into stop-motion caricatures for the digestion of children?!?! With Phyllis Diller?!? They deserved better than that.

She makes you happy the Bride of Frankenstein was destroyed!
So, unlike Mad Monster Party, I'm going to show some respect and cut this review short as I take a swig of my ice cold apple cider, making sure to pour a sip on the ground for my undead homies.

The Skinny: Check this flick out if you feel like undertaking the project of reediting it to make it a watchable holiday special or if you've been waiting for just the right film to drop that last bit of acid you save from the 60's to.”

Things We Learned From Mad Monster Party:
-The honeymoon didn’t last for the Bride of Frankenstein.
-There is nothing more different than an Easter candycane.
-You could sing a children’s ballad about devil worship in the 1960s.
-Dracula is a broke deadbeat.
-Phyllis Diller naturally looks like a monster.
-Union grave diggers are lazy.
-Sometimes the only way to say “I love you” is with a bitch-slap.
-Boris Karloff takes EVERY role seriously.
-The Invisible Man is actually Hunter S. Thompson.
-Monsters love to get hammered.
-You gotta stay one step ahead.
-Out of ghouls, demons, and spooks; humans are the worst kind of monster:

Quote of the Viewing:
[Curvy Frankenstein assistant Francesca conspires with Dracula on how to become the rulers of the monsters. But while she is talking, Dracula seems distracted with the “scenery.”]
Chris: (in Francesca voice) “Ummm, my eyes are up HERE, Dracula!”

RDHP Presents:
Our Dream Monster Party
It has been nearly 45 years since Mad Monster Party assembled the best and spookiest monsters for the party of a lifetime. A lot of ghosts, goblins, psychos, aliens, demons, and other things that go bump in the night have since entered the mass public ether.
Below, the RDHP lists who they would invite to their Mad Monster Party circa 2011, and the respective party roles the guest would be assigned. Because if we learned anything from Seinfield, it is that every party guest needs a job!

Possessed Regan
Party job -- entertainment
With her stairs crab-walking and unexpected floor peeing, we think The Exorcist's Regan would nail the party entertainment. If things started to get dull, she could always play the always titillating party game of “Find the Hidden Crucifix!”

Jason Voorhees
Party job – bouncer
For sure the booze would be flowing at our Monster Party, so we’d need someone to make sure no underage teens enter the shindig. Since Jason physically can’t stop himself from macheting anyone under 21, we think he’d be the perfect door bouncer to keep the young-ins away from this adult soiree. 

Party job -- TV remote nazi
There is not bigger party killer than some ahole turning the big game to Grey's Anatomy or some other party killing show. The Ring star, who has a penchant for crawling around (and in) the TV, would be best to nazi the remote.

Party job – food
We just don’t know how he does it, but Leatherface makes the most finger-licking BBQ this side of hell. Mmm mmm mmm mmm MMM! All he ever mumbles is that it is an old Texas family receipt, and that he’d have to kill us to truly get “into” the dish specifics. Gotta hate foodie snobs, eh.

Michael Myers
Party job – music
Every time Michael enters a room, John Carpenters still thrilling spook-jam Halloween theme song blares from his pores. Never a good thing when stalking his female relatives, but that soundtrack is perfect for a Halloween monster party. Hey, Michael, can you lift your armpits and turn up that music?

The Thing
Party job -- coats
After being frozen in ice for thousands of years, we bet The Thing from Another World would be more than happy to handle all those warm coats. Now alien Thing, don't let anyone puke on the coat bed... and you better not be hiding under there once the party is over!

Party job – drinks
All this guy ever does is philosophize on the meaning of life and death. We think he could use a drink. So, why not put him in charge of the entire booze cache!? He seems responsible enough to handle the party’s most important job – what with all those complex death machines he meticulously builds and sets. It takes time to create a reverse mouth bear trap! I’m sure he can handle keeping the monsters liquored up.
Why so serious, Jig! Grab a jug!

RDHP Says:
Happy Halloween!
The horror project's favorite holiday is just around the corner, a magical time when the air smells like fall and carved pumpkins, the “norms” flock to horror for a taste of the dark side, and the world takes a break for the pure fun revelry of celebrating the unknown and mysterious.
Below, some Internet treats (and a few tricks) in celebration of the best holiday of the year – Halloween!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Film #80: Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

Kid sister, kid sister, kid sister, kid sister!
Kid sister killed me!

Kristi Ray may sing this jaunty 1980s commercial tune in hell after the events of Paranormal Activity 2 unfold.
Her sister is, after all, the notorious Katie from the first Paranormal Activity that became possessed by a demon and murdered her boyfriend. But all that is in the future, so right now the K-sisters are the best of buddies!

Oh the fun sisters Kristi and Katie had back in the day as kids.
You know, all that crying about demons, literally driving their mother insane, and that little incident when their house mysteriously burned down.
Ah the memories.

But they are all grown up now, damn it, and they won’t talk about such spooky dealings!
Older sister Kristi is officially an adult, having recently married Burger King franchise pimp and widower Brian Rey and squeezing out fresh baby Hunter.
Kristi, Brian and Brian’s teenage daughter Ali all shack up in a kickin’ Carlsbad, Cali-crib... happy as can be.

Well, at least happy until baby Hunter comes home from the hospital and weird occurrences begin to occur. It starts with strange noises going bump in the night… the ones Ali isn’t making with her pimply boyfriend Brad.

Then one day the Rey family comes home to find their entire home trashed… as if a tornado of evil had torn ass through the joint. They even smashed the 50 inch TV! The savages!
Strangely though, nothing had been stolen from the “break-in” expect a good luck necklace Kristi’s kid sister Katie gave her back in their miserable childhood. Foreshadowing!

Well this scares the family worse than tourists on the El, so they install a state of the art home security system that includes closed circuit cameras in every room of the house (lucky for us movie goers, eh?!)

When pans start leaping from their hangers and the robo-pool cleaner takes to jumping from its watery grave nightly, Kristi starts to worry that the spooks from her childhood have come back to haunt her.
Sis Katie tells her to “just stop it!” with that talk. The more you talk about the demons, the stronger they become.
Katie will find this out the hard way in a few weeks, seeing as she is the star/victim of the first Paranormal Activity. But again, this is a prequel, so don't spoil Katie's surprise!

Brian is too much of a man to believe in ghosts, but teen Ali is thrilled a Casper has shacked up with the fam. 
Along with hornball Brad, the two bust out the Ouija board and attempt to contact the spirit in the home.
After all, it could be her dead mother creeping on her husband’s new family!

If we learned anything from the first Paranormal Activity, it is that use of a Ouija board is the equivalent of opening your front door and soul to the netherworld.

After the welcome invitation to murder, the spirit moves from noises to heavy duty spooks and even attempts a possession or two. Now Ali is scared, and starts researching just what could be causing this ghost to haunt her family.
Thinking of her step-mothers past experiences, Ali takes to the all knowing Internet to solve the mystery. Meanwhile, the demon has taken a shine to fresh baby Hunter. Baby meat is after all the tastiest human flesh.

Will the Ray family be able to exorcise their demons?
Can this be accomplished simply by walking the demon once in awhile, like they promised they would do every day if their mean old parents would just let them get it?
Why do good things happen to bad people?
Find out, in the 2010 screamquel, “Paranormal Activity 2.”

RDHP Ratings and Reviews

C-Rating: 3.9
Chris Dimick exorcises:
“Take a chill pill America.
Most modern horror relies on fast cuts, flashy gore, and ear piercing racket to frighten its audience. After all, the post-MTV generation has the attention span of gnats, right? They would surely turn to their newfangled texting computers if the action/horror wasn’t balls in the face every second of the film? Right?

Wrong. Slow suspense still stabs deeper into the scare consciousness of an audience than any flashy serial killer gore fest. Want proof, turn on the Paranormal Activity series.
Like a calm Crystal Lake just before mutant Jason lunches from the depths, Paranormal Activity strips down horror to its base ingredients: atmosphere, suspense, tension, and creepy dialog.
It is a breath of fresh air.

Yes, this is a product of the public’s obsession with mindless reality TV and fake first person “documentaries.” But it is easy to let that slide when PA2 is so good at making you jump.
Each lashing out of the Rey’s pesky demon is preceded by long bouts of character building dialog, and even longer shots of various security camera images showing nothing at all but a home.

At first, it becomes a where’s Waldo of sorts for the viewer looking at the images and trying to detect where the ghost will appear.
Since the camera is stationary, PA2 relies on the viewer to find the action in the scene. And that simple trick causes a lot of anxiety and tension to build, which is released when the ghost makes it’s usually surprising appearance.

Like the first movie, many of the scenes seem loosely scripted and ad-libbed, which give you the personal “home video” feel of the film. This is after all “found footage” of a real haunting (yep, they are still playing that old tune). But it works in this setting.

Scenes build as the audience is shown various camera angles in rhythmic fashion. Pool shot, front door shot, inside house hallway shot, nursery shot, nursery shot, GHOST!

The ghost action typically centers on baby Hunter, so this slow burn of video leading up to the nursery leaves the audience to wonder just what will happen in the room next. Or the next room. The technique is simple, but effective.

Audiences have been flocking to see the Paranormal Activity movies, with the 3rd installment being released today. It is easy to see why they are packing them in.

The plot is interesting and twisty enough to keep the franchise honest; after all PA2 is both a prequel AND a sequel to PA1.
But the real bread and butter of this series is how its slow, quiet action always ends in a big shocking spook… and likely a few wet theater seats. Best of all, PA2 is even freakier and more “jump” inducing than the first movie.

Ferris Bueller once said “Live moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once and awhile, you might miss it.”
So take a break, slow it down, and relax with Paranormal Activity 2. It’s better than a Zanax and twice as trippy! Well, actually, don't expect to relax…”

N-Rating: 3.4
Nick Rich exorcises:

Thank you Google for making me aware of the existence of 'Boy Howdy'.
There's so much to love about this picture!

Two weeks in a row of demons haunting heathen families that are just trying to live 'the good life'! What were we thinking here at the ol' RDHP? For one, we were thinking that the postal system in Chicago is horrendous (not a new thought) as, according to Netflix, it swallowed up the film we were supposed to watch this week. Secondly, as this is October (that magical time of invigorating air, crisp apple cider and days growing creepily shorter) we were in the mood for a good scare. Given the jaw slacking shock and eerie awe that accompanied the first film, we thought Paranormal Activity 2 would fit the bill nicely as this week's pinch hitter.

Why must you taunt me so by not being cider?!?

And fit it did! PA 2 was a fun flick.
After I got over the requisite plot exposition (i.e. the placement of the cameras, establishing the cast, etc) I found myself eagerly drinking in the slow-boil that flowed from the rest of the story. Let it be know: certain things strike me as odd in films and when they do I become a bit irked by them. In the case of PA 2 it struck me as odd that a family would get video surveillance of every square inch of the inside (and outside) of their house after it got trashed. Wouldn't most people just get a security alarm system and maybe a few cameras on the outside? Who would really want every nook and cranny of their home recorded and view-able? That in and of itself is a scary proposition! Does this premise bother anyone else?!?

Conveniently we can see nearly every inch of the Rey household.
Ok, Nick, we've moved past that... you enjoyed the film remember? Wait, while we're in tangent land let's ruminate for a moment about the fact that you are oddly craving horror films involving babies just as you are about to have one of your own. What up with that? Are you hoping to learn every possible thing that can go wrong with a child so as to avoid it? Perhaps this your subconscious trying to deal with a fear you are unaware of in the depths of your psyche? Or is it simply that babies seem more real to you now and hence you are trying to take advantage of the fact that you are ripe for being creeped out by them on a whole new level...

I love my baby but fully acknowledge its
potential to be unearthly creepy.

Getting back on track: as with all sequels, PA 2 had to deal with the loss of the novelty factor. While it was in most ways equal to, if not better than, its predecessor I found this film to be lacking a bit when compare to the first. Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed watching this film. My face froze in shock at times, the hair on my arms stood on end and I was just generally chill-ridden throughout the viewing... but not as much as the first one.
I knew the formula; the mystery wasn't as palpable in this film. I knew there would be a slow buildup that would culminate in an explosive ending. Did I enjoy the ride? Of course! It was a satisfying one, but it just doesn't compare to the first. No matter how great that second kiss it, it still can't match the shock, emotion and new sensation of the first one. Oh, it can be fun and even knock your socks off, but your heart will still belong to the first. I wonder how the third will feel?

The Skinny: Check this flick out for a good scare or if you want to ensure some hectic snuggling the next time you're on the couch with your dearest - it's Halloween season after all!

Things We Learned From Paranormal Activity 2:
-The Misfits are so hardcore.
-New-born babies are “smushie.”  
-“Release the Kraken” is the best way to begin sex.
-Sage is your best friend in a haunted house.
-Nick hates voicemail. He HATES it.
-You can’t trust the word of anyone under 15.
-The terrorist win when babies rule Mommy/Daddy time.
-Most Mexican nannies double as exorcists:

RDHP Presents:
Our Favorite Ghosts
We ain’t ‘fraid of no ghosts! In fact, there are quite a few specters that the RDHP wouldn’t mind running into in a spooky cemetery or haunted castle. Sure, the demon in Paranormal Activity 2 doesn’t seem all the cuddly.
But not all spirits are evil. Below, we list our favorite ghosts from both film and legend.

Large Marge
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
This scene featuring free-wheeling truck driver ghost Large Marge from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure was so terrifying to child Chris, he had his mother actually remove it from his tape copy of the movie.

Ghostbusters (1984)
His ectoplasm goes great with pita bread!

Space Ghost
Space Ghost Coast to Coast (TV, 1994-2008)
Is Tad Ghostal a real ghost? No one knows. And no one cases. Well, maybe Zorak.

Elliot Hopper
Ghost Dad (1990)
From the look of those sweaters, we’d have to say Bill Cosby’s Ghost Dad is eventually heading to fashion hell.

Beetlejuice (1988)
He is the ghost with the most after all. The most what? We'd say sass. But let's ask him. "Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice!"

Dr. Malcolm Crowe
The 6th Sense (1999)
What a friendly ghost, helping little Haley Joel Osment literally conquer his demons. Oops, did we just spoil the ending off The 6th Sense? Good, if you haven’t seen that movie by now, you suck.

Resurrection Mary
Urban legend dating to 1930s
This lady in white appears along highways in various parts of Chicagoland, hitching a ride to her home… which always ends up being a cemetery. What? But that legend is in your town too?
How many hot white chicks have died in automobile accidents already?

Jack Goodman
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Olde Jack comes back from the dead to help his cursed buddy. Hey, even werewolves need friends too?

A Christmas Carol Ghosts
Charles Dickens' classic novel; endless movies
The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future taught not just Scrooge a lesson, but us all. And that lesson is: don’t be an asshole.

Dick Clark
Former American Television Icon
Speaking of holiday ghosts, strange that this apparition only appears at the stroke of midnight, New Years Eve. Oops... did we say stroke.