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Monday, November 11, 2013

The Short-Lived Existential Crisis Of A Middle-Aged Horror Movie Fan

The Creeping Terror (1964) claims a victim
The Creeping Terror (1964) claims another slow moving victim.
     How will I feel on my deathbed, when I reflect upon all that was and all that could have been and realize just how many of the fleeting moments of my life were wasted watching movies?  Is "wastedthe right term here?  Surely, my life is enriched by these movies - or is watching these movies the sum total of my life?  As I ponder this conundrum I picture an image of myself sitting alone in the dark on my couch, coffee in one hand and cigarette in the other, my hydrocephalic head lolling about like a ham atop a toothpick as my pale, withered limbs curl up beneath me like singed strands of hair.  I'm pretty sure some big things are happening outside because I see it depicted in the movies I watch - I just don't have time to investigate for myself.  It's more important that I make time for one more viewing of The Creeping Terror (1964) just to be absolutely certain it's as bad as I remember.

     Yep, it is.  Glad that's taken care of.

     I'm being facetious, of course - but only a little bit.  It's difficult to make a valid argument that too much time watching movies - particularly movies of often questionable merit  - is a worthy pursuit.  I could be working in a soup kitchen or planting trees.  I could be reading to the blind or assisting the elderly.  Hell, I could even be doing something as arguably useless as making movies, and at least then there would be a historical record of my efforts, something for future generations to study and dissect.  As it is, there's just that ass dent in the couch.  Every crease tells a story, though.

The Howling (1981) poster
     I often have difficulty remembering events from three days ago, but I have movie related memories from three decades ago that are as clear as a natural spring.  For example, I can still tell you with one hundred percent certainty the name of the theater in which I saw The Howling (1981) for the first time.  It was the Wayne Theater in Waynesboro, Virginia.  It was a sunny afternoon, and my mother and I had been shopping in downtown Waynesboro when we happened upon the now iconic poster for the movie in the light box outside.  I'd seen a television ad for The Howling the night before, and I persuaded mom to spring for a couple of matinee tickets.  Oddly, neither of us knew it was a movie about werewolves.  The advertising used for The Howling (including that poster) was intentionally ambiguous since most of the audience for horror in '81 was only looking for the next big slasher movie.  Werewolves were passe.  We paid our money, though, and we took our chances.  I ordered a popcorn with extra butter at the concession stand, but I had to settle for a Mr. Pibb to drink because they didn't have Dr. Pepper.

     The Wayne was one of those old megaplex prototypes made by splitting a pre-existing full size theater into two separate venues.  Theater number one was the larger one.  The Howling, of course, was playing in theater number two, which was small enough that it bore an unnerving resemblance to the porno booth in the movie in which reporter Karen White first meets Eddie Quist.  I remember that afternoon showing was sparsely attended, and I distinctly remember being spooked when I had to slip out of the theater alone for a Pibb induced bathroom break.  I even specifically remember that the scene playing when I returned from the bathroom was the one in which Karen's friend Terry first realizes the woods near The Colony look suspiciously like a sketch taken from Eddie's room.

Ok, who's responsible for this mess?  Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)
     Watching The Howling for the first time must have been an important moment in my life for me to remember the details so vividly, right?  I'm certain I won't regret spending that ninety minutes of my life watching a movie, but not all movies are that good.  Take, for example, Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)That's ninety minutes of my life I want back.  For every one really good movie I watch, I probably watch a dozen that range from barely adequate to worthless.  I keep doing it, though.  I keep chasing the dragon.  That metaphor is all too apt.  I'm a junkie, and a really good horror movie is the high I'm after.  So let's get back to my deathbed - is realizing that I've wasted all that time because I'm an addict going to make it easier to stomach?

     The Dog Farm is creeping  up on its first anniversary, and a big part of the appeal of creating this blog was to apply some kind of structure to the fruits of my misspent life watching horror movies.  I'm far from being the resident authority in the company of the knowledgeable folks who run their own horror movie blogs, but I do take solace in the fact that there are so many others like me.  It's like one big old horror themed Narcotics Anonymous meeting - but I digress.

     Following that mental image of my big-headed, movie watching self turning to mush on the couch is the image of my baby Gunnar all grown up and watching the horror movies I loved.  He'll know I loved them even if I'm gone, because he'll have access to a time capsule called the Dog Farm that's still drifting in the blogosphere like an abandoned satellite.  It's all here. 

     So is it all just a waste of time?  I think not.  It's more like a calling.  It makes me happy to be building something for myself, for my future, and for Gunnar.  It ain't much, but it's home.

     Now I'm going to watch The Creeping Terror just one more time.  You can join me if you like.  You'll have to sit in the recliner, though.  That ass dent in the couch is mine.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Sunshine? Here At The Dog Farm? I Guess Every Dog Has His Day . . .

The Sunshine Award sunflower pic
     Isn't it great to start the day with a pleasant surprise?  Like many folks, my morning routine includes a cup of coffee and a half hour or so checking web correspondence before leaving for work.  A couple of mornings ago I opened an email which informed me of a Tweet in which I'd been mentioned which in turn  informed me that Vern at Vern's Video Vortex (who also runs The Vern's Videovanguard) had awarded me The Sunshine Award

     Thanks for the recognition, Vern!  Before going any further, please allow me to share the rules of The Sunshine Award . . .

The Rules

1. Include the award’s logo in a post or on your blog.
2. Link to the person who nominated you.
3. Answer 10 questions about yourself (use these or come up with your own).
4. Nominate 10 bloggers.
5. Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated.

     Following are my ten questions as dictated by the rules above, which in turn are followed by a list of the ten bloggers I've nominatedThanks again for the accolade!  This is my first blogging award!

 1.  How long have you been doing this, and when did you launch?  

     I began blogging just a bit shy of a year ago at the behest of my friend Phil Neff, who maintains the real world dog farm for which Movies At Dog Farm is named.  Phil told me that the freakishly long comments I'd been leaving on the Movies At Dog Farm group page on Facebook were, in fact, blog entries.  He also convinced me I could teach myself the nuts and bolts of blogging.  I doubted that.  I took a stab at it, tough, and here I am about to celebrate the Dog Farm's first anniversary.

 2.  Most pleasant blogging surprise? 

      I'm not sure why it didn't occur to me that www. stands for World Wide Web.  I was surprised and amused that my silly little movie blog was being read by folks in other countries.  Consequently, one of the first gadgets added to my sideboard was a Flag Counter.  It still tickles me when I pick up a new flag.

 3.  Most hard won blogging wisdom?

     I'm doing this for my own satisfaction.  I couldn't be happier if others are interested, but even if they're not this project is something I do because I enjoy it.  By extension, if I'm not enjoying it and it becomes a chore, then I'm not doing something right.

 4.  Topic of your favorite post?  

     My favorite post is also one of my earliest and lengthiest: Ten Best Genre Movies Directed By Canadian Auteur David Cronenberg.  It's still the Dog Farm's most viewed post by a wide margin, which I'd like to believe is not coincidental.  The Dog Farm quickly developed a less review oriented structure, though, since I don't really fancy myself qualified to be a movie critic. 

 5.  Favorite movie franchise?   

     Phantasm, because it does such a fine job blending elements of horror, sci-fi, action, comedy, and just about anything else you can think of that's entertaining into a genuinely unique whole.  I'd give my left nut for one final entry in the franchise while the Tall Man still walks among us.  Angus Scrimm can not be replaced.

 6.  Favorite animal? 

     I'm a cat person all the way.  Don't even try to make that reconcile with this page's thematic conceit.  Life is full of contradictions.

 7.  Recent movie you most feel the need to re-evaluate?

     Maniac (2013).  I generally don't care much for horror that's too "real", and I was never really a fan of the original.  I'd seen a great deal of Elijah Wood on Wilfred, though, which is often a dark and disturbing show, and I had faith that he could do the role justice.  He did, and the conceit of seeing everything through his eyes - which easily could have turned into a video game - was well rendered and highly effective.  Perhaps it was too "real" for me.  I've been haunted by images from Maniac since my first viewing, though, so I feel like I need to take a second look.

 8.  Favorite band?

     Radiohead is probably the only still active band I listen to.  Each successive album is more creative than the last.  I listen to Thom Yorke's solo albums for variety.

 9.  Favorite movie to subject straights to even though I'm almost certain they won't enjoy it?

     Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970).  I've not made many converts, but the movie's history and execution fascinate me.

10.  Favorite movies to subject straights*  to because I'm certain they will enjoy them? 

     Suspiria (1977) and Pontypool (2008)The Thing (1982) is also a great choice if the straight in question leads a more sheltered life and I want to demonstrate the glory of practical special FX within the context of an altogether fantastic movie.

* "Straights" in this context refers to individuals not predisposed to enjoying genre movies.  


     Carl at The Info Zombie
     J.D. at Blood Sucking Geek
     Jeremy at [Being Retro]
     Warden at Warden Stokely Horrorzine
     Erin at Seven Doors Of Cinema
     Giovanni at At The Mansion Of Madness
     Bob at Candy-Coated Razor Blades
     Maggie at MK Horror
     Steven at Watching The Dead
     Kev D. at Zombie Hall

     All of these winners are talented individuals who commit a lot of time and effort to turning out some great content - in addition to just being an all around nice bunch of guys and gals.  Each of the listed sites is unique and displays all of the considerable personality their respective contributors bring to the table.

     Congratulations to the winners!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Have A Safe And Happy Halloween 2013 From Movies At Dog Farm!

jack-o-lanterns 2013 photo by adrienne cupp
Adrienne's jack-o-lantern and mine, carved 10/30/13.  Photo by Adrienne Cupp

Posted by Brandon Early

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Movies At Dog Farm Presents The Diary Of A Movie Watchin' Madman

The Conjuring (2013) poster
     Here, at last, is my final dispatch for this year's Pre'Ween celebration.  I've long been in the habit of attempting to watch thirty-one movies in thirty-one days each October,  and though I failed this year, here's an annotated list of what I did watch.  Since I have such an aversion to writing proper movie reviews, you just may see this format of capsulized impressions again in the future.  It seems a good way to document my viewing habits without getting all hypercritical about it.  For what it's worth, I expect to watch both The Conjuring (2013) and Trick 'r Treat (2007) by Halloween night, as well.

     Happy Pre'Ween, everyone!  Have a safe and satisfying Halloween!

(10/1)  She (1965) - I've still got nothing but love for you, Peter Cushing, but She put me to sleep.  Yes, literally.  (First Watch)

(10/2) Sharknado (2013) - A shitstorm of dodgy CGI and groan inducing stupidity . . . Sharknado was every bit as cheerfully retarded as I'd hoped.  What were the odds that Ian Ziering would be swallowed whole in midair by the "right" shark in a sharknado full of 'em?  It's brain dead entertainment at its finest. (First Watch)

Bloody Moon (1981) decapitation
Bloody Moon (1981)
(10/2)  Bloody Moon (1981) - Best circular saw decapitation ever, followed quickly by a gratuitous child murder - just because.  Throw in some sleazy incestuous plot points and horrendous dubbing, and you've got yourself a modest winner.  (First Watch)

(10/6)  Rewind This! (2013) - Sure, this documentary about the rise and fall and rise again of the humble VHS tape isn't actually a genre movie, but how many of us saw our favorite genre movies for the first time by way of a grotty old rental VHS tape?  Great doc, and as an inveterate collector myself, I found it deeply inspiring.  Recommended.  (First Watch)

burnt Chucky from Child's Play (1988)
Child's Play (1988)
(10/8)  Child's Play (1988) - Why does Child's Play director Tom Holland not get more love from the genre community?  Seriously, check out Holland on IMDB - in both his directorial and screenwriting capacity.  I finally got to watch a lovely Blu Ray edition of this tonight, and I was reminded once again what an effective little piece of nonsense Child's Play is.  I hear the just released new Chucky movie goes back to basics and shoots for a similar, less comedic vibe, and I plan on watching that before the end of the month, too.  (Re-watch)

(10/9)  Pacific Rim (2013) -  How could my first viewing of a movie I'd been anticipating for so long turn into such a complete freakin' disaster?  Sadly, Pacific Rim was marred for me by a malfunctioning Blu-ray player that guaranteed I never watched more than about a ten minute stretch without having to reboot my media server.  I ultimately ended up having to watch the big conclusion on my laptop.  Grrrr.  Those ten minute clips were good, though.  I'll definitely have to give this one another shot under better circumstances.  (First Watch)

American Horror Story: Coven poster(10/10)  American Horror Story: Coven (2013) - Yeah, I'm counting this.  It's my sexy blog, I do what I want!  The first episode of American Horror Story: Coven was easily one of the best "horror movies" I've seen lately.  Though I thoroughly enjoyed the first two seasons, this slick and focused premiere seems to promise - at last - a slightly less grim and oppressive tone.  There's still plenty of sex, violence, and mayhem, but the principals (Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson, Taissa Farmiga, et al.) are clearly having more campy fun with things this season.  (First Watch)

(10/12)  The House On Sorority Row (1983) - Who knows why, but Adrienne requested a slasher movie tonight.  Fortunately, I had a plenty of them on hand owing to this older post in which I prattled on about how I was going to start watching more golden era slasher movies.  This would be . . . let's see . . . the first slasher movie I've watched since writing that post.  The House On Sorority Row was more professionally crafted and slick than most of its ilk, but it otherwise brings little to the slasher party.  I felt for much of the film's run time - while the sorority sisters were struggling to conceal and / or dispose of Mrs. Slater's body - as though I was watching a teen comedy from the same era a la Weekend At Bernie's (1989).  You won't hear me say this often, but I actually think the remake Sorority Row (2009) was far more entertaining.  (First Watch)

(10/16)  One Million Years B.C. (1966)  . . . has a great poster.  Only the typically fine stop motion animation of the late Ray Harryhausen succeeds in breaking the tedium otherwise.  All these great Hammer movies to choose from.  What was I thinking? 

Friday the 13th The Final Chapter Jason's demise
Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
(10/17)  Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) - This is the slasher movie Adrienne actually wanted to watch on the 12th, and she only slept through half of this one.  It's a personal fave (though it still doesn't top Part II), and I watched with renewed interest this time owing to a nifty little documentary that I'll mention here when I finally finish watching all seven plus hours of it.

(10/22)  Pacific Rim (2013) - Take two, and Adrienne watched it with me this time.  Much better experience on the second go round, but I was afforded the opportunity to note what a charisma free block of wood Charlie Hunnam is.  Also, one of the coolest things about giant monsters versus giant robots is a well delineated sense of scale in the action sequences.  Setting the entire end of the movie underwater with no reference points for scale (buildings, vehicles, boats, etc.) robbed the finale of some of its impact.  Still, those monsters and robots were pretty sweet.  By the way, if anyone can explain to me what might makes a Jaeger "analog" as opposed to "digital", I'd love to know.  Would anyone ever actually make an analog robot?  Could you?  I need an answer from a robotics engineer, like, right now.  (Re-watch)

(10/23)  Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History Of Friday The 13th (2013) -  It is, indeed, complete.  It's so complete I could literally have watched four or five other complete movies in the time it took me to watch this one documentary.  I regret nothing.  It's pretty tough to dig up fresh and compelling info on a franchise that's nearly thirty-five years old, and Crystal Lake Memories does so.  (First Watch)

An American Werewolf In London
An American Werewolf In London (1981)
(10/25)  An American Werewolf In London (1981) -  As I edge ever closer to the Big Day, I've come to realize I'm not going to watch anywhere near my typical thirty-one movies in thirty-one days this Pre'Ween.  I'll have to go for quality over quantity.  Adrienne recently reminded me that I'd yet to show her this one in its entirety, and this is about as good as a genre movie gets.  She was watching a show on Hulu titled Call The Midwife in which the name Jenny Agutter (Nurse Alex Price in AWIL) appeared in the credits, and I made a remark about how foxy Agutter had been in AWILWhat does the fox say?  Anyway, Adrienne fell asleep before David's first transformation, so I suppose she still hasn't really seen An American Werewolf In London in its entirety.  That just gives me an excuse to watch it again at some as yet unscheduled date in the future.  Adrienne did at least recognize a snippet of dialog from the movie that I'd used in my Halloween Monster Mix before she fell asleep, so there's that . . .  (Re-watch)

Room 237 poster(10/27)  Room 237 (2013) - Erin at Deep Red Rum (which is transforming into Seven Doors Of Cinema on November 1st) already made far more cogent observations about this documentary than I could ever muster, and I believe reading Erin's post put me in the proper frame of mind to enjoy Room 237 as an entertainment - and only an entertainment.  Arguably, Room 237 is a documentary about various theories that have evolved over the years as to what Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980) is really about.  I say arguably because, as Erin pointed out in her post, it seems by the sloppy nature of its construction and attribution (or lack thereof) that this documentary is actually about something other than what it's actually about.  Just like The Shining, right?  Now my head hurts.  Taken purely at face value, though, I enjoyed Room 237.  Again . . .  just like The Shining, right?  The snake continues to eat its own tail.  I'm glad Erin already did the hard thinkin' on this one.  Movies like this are precisely why I rarely ever write a proper review.  (First Watch)

Clancy Brown, just being badass in Hellbenders (2012)
(10/27)  Hellbenders (2012) - A writer / director with a slightly more mainstream sensibility than J.T. Petty could have really made hay with the notion of blasphemous hellbound ministers dragging demons back to Hell.  As it is, this is the fourth time - following Mimic: Sentinel (2003), S&man (2006), and The Burrowers (2008) - that I've seen Petty not quite deliver on the promise of  his own great ideas.  I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on this round, though, and say that I suspect most of Hellbenders shortcomings can be place squarely at the feet of an insufficient budget.  You just can't promise Hell on Earth throughout and then end the movie with a brawl in the middle of a field dotted with CGI fire pits.  Still, Hellbenders does have much to recommend it.  A fresh idea, a bawdy sense of humor, and a uniformly excellent cast all make it worth at least a rental.  In particular, the always fantastic Clancy Brown absolutely owns it as Angus, the group's foul mouthed and surly senior member.  Petty should make damn sure Brown is along for the ride if we get a Hellbenders II.  (First Watch)

Curse Of Chucky (2013)
Chucky brings the scary back!  Curse Of Chucky (2013)
(10/28)  Curse Of Chucky (2013) - It's fortunate that I happened to watch the original Child's Play (1988) again recently, because Curse Of Chucky is the only other film in the franchise that truly feels like a continuation of the original's narrative and tone.  The first and second sequels were both underwhelming and forgettable.  Bride Of Chucky (1998) worked brilliantly as a parodic reanimation of a moribund franchise, but there were no scares to be had.  Seed Of Chucky (2004) took that evolution a step further and was almost purely comedic.  Who would have thought the sixth in the series would so successfully return the franchise to its scary roots while retaining just enough of the winking self-awareness of Bride and Seed to make the whole affair a bit more than just a competent killer doll movie?  I sure didn't.  Curse Of Chucky undoubtedly benefited from my diminished expectations, so I wouldn't want to oversell it - hyperbole is almost always suspect - but Curse just may be the best of the franchise.  The bulk of the movie is better than you'll expect it to be, but it's the last twenty minutes or so that really swing for the fences.  Curse Of Chucky does a commendable job of bringing the franchise full circle.  This is a rare instance where a franchise entry actually feels like a worthy conclusion to a twenty-five year old series.  Perversely, that almost guarantees we'll see more entriesBe sure to stick around through the end credits for a genuinely funny, unexpected, and appropriate coda.  (First Watch)

     So long for now, dear diary.  I'll be watching you . . .

Posted by Brandon Early

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Getting Back My Halloween Mojo (And You Can, Too!)

Sam from Trick 'r Treat (2007)
Sam, just keepin' it real . . . Trick 'r Treat (2007)
     Halloween is my favorite holiday.  Shocker, right?  Most people take a week off to go to the beach each year.  I take a week off at the end of October to celebrate Halloween.  Lately, though, I've found myself ringing out the month of October feeling a little depressed.  My Pre'Ween activities leading up to the holiday proper have consumed more and more of my focus for the last several years, leaving Halloween itself seeming more than just a little bit anticlimactic.  This troubles me.

     Upon reflection, I've realized my Halloween ennui (read that three times quickly) stems not from within, but from a rising ambivalence toward the holiday perpetuated by the world around me.  No one seems to celebrate Halloween night correctly anymore.  My Octobers had always been filled with movie marathons, Halloween themed projects, and seasonal treats.  That was always capped off by a quiet evening at home basking in the soft glow of the jack-o-lanterns, enjoying a few five star horror movies, and answering the door when the trick-or-treaters came calling.  Where did all the trick-or-treaters go?

     That last one was the key component, I think, but now I'm lucky to get three or four trick-or-treaters a year.  How the hell am I supposed to maintain my child like sense of wonder about Halloween when the children can't?  I don't blame the kids, though.  It's the parents who've let the holiday go to shit.  I'm looking at you, Mom and Dad.  Halloween doesn't just happen.  We all need to step up our games (I'm including myself here) and do our parts to get set things right.  Trunk-or-Treat in a parking lot isn't good enough.  I want my baby Gunnar growing up with the same kick ass version of Halloween I knew.

     I've worked up a plan of action, and if we all do our parts we can bring back Halloween from the edge of oblivion.  Following are seven steps we can all take to keep Halloween from becoming irrelevant.  Do it for the kids - and if I happen to get back my Halloween mojo in the process, so much the better. 

Step 1 - Take Your Kids Door To Door 
     Trunk-or-Treat doesn't cut it.  Seriously, who decided letting children wander around parking lots digging in people's trunks for candy was somehow less dangerous than going door to door in your own neighborhood?  Find out where all the neighborhood pervs live beforehand, and plan a proper trick-or-treating route accordingly.  You'll be right there with the kids, right?  Of course you will.

Step 2 - Don't Micro Manage Your Kids' Choice Of Halloween Costume       
     Try not to let your unfulfilled childhood desire to be a pretty ballerina make your darling little boy a laughingstock.  Kids loooove the autonomy of choosing their own costumes.  What was your favorite costume as a child?  Bet your Mom didn't pick it out for you.

Step 3 - Celebrate Halloween On October 31st 
     No one reschedules Christmas when it inconveniently falls on a Sunday.  Halloween is October 31st.  Period.

Step 4 - Don't Make Halloween Into Something That Sucks
     "Harvest Festivals" suckDon't make Halloween into a "Harvest Festival".

Step 5 - If You Don't Have Kids, Have Proper Treats On Hand, And Don't Be That Dick Who Turns Off Your Porch Light              
     The dicks know who they are.  They're begging for tricks, so be sure to seize the opportunity to teach the young'uns about karma. 

Step 6 - Actually Carve A Jack-O-Lantern 
     Don't paint a goofy face on your pumpkin.  Don't glue parts onto your pumpkin a la Mr. Potatohead.  Get on up in those pumpkin guts and do it right!

Step 7 - Let The Kids Watch At Least One Wildly Inappropriate Horror Movie That's Sure To Give Them Nightmares
     It's a rite of passage.  Sure, the kids might wake up screaming from the night terrors afterwards, but after that it'll turn into a cherished memory.  

Trick or treat jack-o-lantern     You get the idea, folks.  We can do this!  If you think I've missed anything, let me know by leaving a comment below.  You've still got plenty of time to get your own plan of action in place before the big night!

     Happy Halloween again!

Movies At Dog Farm Pre'Ween 2013 logo

Posted by Brandon Early