Predator

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Predator (1987)

Director: John McTiernan

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carilla and Kevin Peter Hall

Synopsis: An elite team of Commandos headed by Major Dutch Schafer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) are hired by an old teammate of Dutch’s, Dillon (Carl Weathers) to rescue a Cabinet Minister whose helicopter has crashed in South America. Once in the jungle the team realizes that there is something much more sinister with them than just an army of Guerrilla soldiers. After a while they begin to realize their Predator (Kevin Peter Hall) is not from this world and is picking them off one by one. Now Dutch and Dillon with the help of the remaining team members and Anna (Elpidia Carillo), a local rebel, to try and kill the Predator before it kill them.

Trivia: An attempt was made to get shots of the Predator swinging from tree to tree using a monkey in a red special-effects suit. However, the monkey kept removing the suit and the idea was abandoned. The original “Hunter” model was a large creature with a long neck, a head shaped like a dog and one big eye in the middle. This can be seen on the camouflage demo’s on the DVD. It was only when Stan Winston moved in that the complete design of the now “Predator” changed, along with the title.

How scary is this really?: Predator is not very scary anymore after the hundredth viewing but when I was a kid this scared the crap out of me. This is the best non Terminator film that Arnie did and it is still a great sci-fi film. Kevin Peter Hall is amazing as the Predator and remains to his day he best actor to don the Predator costume. This is another good October film to watch and a great guy’s movie.

The Thing

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The Thing (1982)

Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley, Richard Masur

Synopsis: An American scientific expedition to the frozen wastes of the Antarctic is interrupted by a group of seemingly mad Norwegians pursuing and shooting a dog. The helicopter pursuing the dog explodes, eventually leaving no explanation for the chase. They decide to go to the Norwegian camp to see what is going on over there, they send the camp doctor and helicopter pilot R.J. Macready (Kurt Russell). They find that the camp has been mostly destroyed and all of the other inhabitants are dead in quite a gruesome fashion, they also find a strange burned mash up of two men. They arrive with the specimen and they start to do an autopsy. That evening the dog begins to act strangely and then mutates into an alien creature that starts to consume the other dogs, they quickly learn that this thing is afraid of fire. They realize that this thing is able to perfectly copy the person or animal it consumes and looks to be setting its sights to other parts of Earth. In order to stop this thing they must all work together to stop it before it is able to escape.

Trivia: The Norwegian dog in the film was named Jed. He was a half wolf/half husky breed. Jed was an excellent animal actor, never looking at the camera, the dolly or the crew members. Jed, however, is NOT the dog seen in the beginning chase scene, where the Norwegian is trying shoot him. Per Carpenter’s commentary, this was another dog painted to look like Jed. This film is considered a benchmark in the field of special makeup effects. These effects were created by Rob Bottin, who was only 22 when he started the project.

How scary is this really?: This movie pretty scary and is incredibly freaky. This is my favourite John Carpenter film and it is also his best collaboration with Kurt Russell. The visual effects are amazing in this film setting the standard for new generation monster films. This is a great film to watch in October or in the middle of a snow storm.

Red Dragon

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Red Dragon (2002)

Director: Brett Ratner

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel and Ralph Fiennes

Synopsis: In his Baltimore townhouse, famous local psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) hosts a dinner party. The main subject of conversation over dinner is the disappearance of a local musician who was criticized for playing several wrong notes at a concert that Lecter attended. After dinner, Lecter is visited by Will Graham (Edward Norton), a young gifted FBI agent, with whom he has been working on a psychological profile of a local serial killer. Edible body parts of the victims, such as the kidneys and liver were removed from the bodies after being killed, and Graham is convinced that the killer is actually a cannibal. During the consultation and brainstorming session, Graham discovers evidence implicating Dr. Lecter in the murders, shortly before Lecter returns and attacks Graham, wounding and nearly killing him before Graham resists and subdues him. Lecter is subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment in an institution for the criminally insane while Graham, severely traumatized by the experience, retires from the FBI. Years later, another serial killer appears. The killer is nicknamed the Tooth Fairy, because of his unique bite pattern. He stalks and murders seemingly random families during sequential full moons. Hoping to speed things up and capture the killer before his next attack, Special Agent Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel) seeks out Graham and pleads for his assistance. Graham, believing the death of another family to be an unbearable burden on his conscience, reluctantly agrees. After checking over the crime scenes, with only minimal insight, he comes to the realization that most of his previous successes were achieved due to the insightful collaborations of Dr. Lecter, and concludes that he must once again visit Lecter and seek his help in capturing the Tooth Fairy. The Tooth Fairy turns out to be Francis Dolarhyde (Ralph Fiennes) a delusional video editor who worked on both families videos. Graham must now set a trap to stop Dollarhyde from killing another family.

Trivia: In William Blake’s “Great Red Dragon” series of paintings, there are two with very similar names. The novel “Red Dragon,” by Thomas Harris, uses the title of one painting (“The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun”), but in describing the image, gives a description of another (“The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in the Sun”). Due to the muddled reference, the first adaptation of the the novel, “Manhunter” (dir: Michael Mann), Francis Dolarhyde is obsessed with the painting that Harris cites by name, while this film features the painting as described by Harris, which is a back view of the dragon with his tail wrapped around the woman. Ralph Fiennes’ back tattoo took eight hours to apply.

How scary is this really?: I love Red Dragon it is such a great film with an amazing cast. Anthony Hopkins is amazing as Lecter and he does very well back in his comfort zone locked away. Edward Norton is also great is this but the film belongs to Ralph Fiennes who is incredible as Dolarhyde. Brett Ratner delivers his best directorial effort to date as he he channels Jonathan Demme very well. An amazing film and a perfect Halloween film and the perfect companion to The Silence of the Lambs.

Hannibal

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Hannibal (2001)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Ray Liotta, Giancarlo Giannini and Gary Oldman

Synopsis: FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) is disgraced after a botched drug raid resulting in the deaths of five people, including a baby. Though Starling had tried to abort the raid before a violent situation developed, another officer charged ahead and precipitated the gun battle with Drumgo and her bodyguards, and Starling is unjustly blamed for the bloodbath by Justice Department official Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta), whose romantic advances Starling had rejected years earlier. As a result of the publicity surrounding the drug raid, Starling and her past connection to escaped serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) come to the attention of one of Lecter’s victims, Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), a wealthy, sadistic pedophile. Verger, who was left horrifically disfigured and paralyzed by his encounter with Lecter, still seeks revenge for what occurred. He uses his political influence to have Starling assigned to the Lecter case once again in the hope that this will draw Lecter out of hiding. Hannibal is found on Italy by Inspector Pozzi (Giancarlo Giannini) who unsuccessfully tries to capture Lecter for Verger. Verger eventually captures Lecter and it is Starling who comes to his aid. Hannibal is not done though who jas a special meal on order for Starling and Krendler.

Trivia: After Thomas Harris finished writing the novel, he sent copies to “The Silence of the Lambs” principals Jonathan Demme, Jodie Foster, Ted Tally, and Anthony Hopkins for approval. The screenplay was rewritten no less than 15 times because of dissatisfaction by Demme and Foster over new character elements. In the end, neither Demme nor Foster remained with the production. Some of the places where the movie was filmed include places where filming hardly ever is allowed. Author Thomas Harris, while doing research for his book, got in contact with the heir of the Palazzo Capponi. For the movie this same heir allowed Ridley Scott to film the Capponi Library.

How scary is this really?: This is not super scary but it has some scary and some pretty gross parts thoughout. Hopkins delivers again as Hannibal but I find myself missing Jodie Foster’s presence and Jonathan Demme’s steady hand behind the camera. Don’t get me wrong both Scott and Moore do great jobs but they both seem a little out of their elements in his one. It is a good sequel but not as good as Red Dragon. Still worth watching with Lambs though.

The Silence of the Lambs

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The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Director: Jonathan Demme

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster, Scott Glenn and Ted Levine

Synopsis: Promising FBI Academy student Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is pulled from her training at the FBI Training Facility at Quantico, Virginia by Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, who tasks her with presenting a VICAP questionnaire to the notorious Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant forensic psychiatrist and incarcerated cannibalistic serial murderer. After learning the assignment relates to the pursuit of vicious serial killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), Starling travels to the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane and is led by Dr. Frederick Chilton to Hannibal Lecter. Although initially pleasant and courteous, Lecter grows impatient with Starling’s attempts at “dissecting” him and viciously rebuffs her. As Starling departs, Lecter offers a riddle containing information about a former patient. The solved riddle leads to a rent-a-storage lot where the severed head of Benjamin Raspail is found. Starling returns to Lecter, who links Raspail to Buffalo Bill and who offers to help profile Buffalo Bill if he is transferred to a facility far from the venomous Dr. Chilton. Buffalo Bill abducts Catherine Martin, the daughter of United States Senator Ruth Martin. At Quantico, as news of Catherine Martin’s abduction sweeps the country, Crawford authorizes Starling to offer Hannibal Lecter a fake deal promising a prison transfer if he provides information that helps profile Buffalo Bill and rescue Catherine Martin. Instead, Lecter begins a game of quid pro quo with Starling, offering comprehensive clues and insights about Buffalo Bill in exchange for events from Starling’s traumatic childhood. Unaware to both Starling and Lecter, Dr. Frederick Chilton tapes the conversation and after revealing Starling’s deal as a sham, offers to transfer Lecter in exchange for a deal of his own making. Lecter agrees and following a flight to Tennessee reveals Buffalo Bill’s real name, physical description and past address to Senator Martin and her entourage of FBI agents and Justice Department officials. As the manhunt begins, Starling travels to Lecter’s special cell in a local Tennessee courthouse, where she confronts him about the false information he gave the Senator. Lecter refuses Starling’s pleas and demands she finish her story surrounding her worst childhood memory. Later that evening, Lecter escapes from his cell. After notified of Lecter’s escape, Starling pores over her case file, analyzing Lecter’s annotations before realizing that the first victim, Frederica Bimmel, knew Bill in real life before he decided to lill her. Realizing that Buffalo Bill is a tailor fashioning a “woman suit” of real skin, she telephones Crawford, who is already on the way to make an arrest, having cross-referenced Lecter’s notes with Johns Hopkins Hospital and finding a man named James Gumb. Crawford instructs Starling to continue interviewing Bimmel’s friends while he leads a SWAT team to Gumb’s business address in Calumet City, Illinois. Starling’s interviews lead to the house of “Jack Gordon,” who Starling soon realizes is not who he claims to be.

Trivia: Dino De Laurentiis, who had produced “Manhunter”, passed on Silence of the Lambs because Manhunter had flopped. He gave the rights away free to Orion Pictures. The Tobacco horn worm moths used throughout the film were given celebrity treatment by the filmmakers. They were flown first class to the set (in a special carrier), had special living quarters (rooms with controlled humidity and heat) and were dressed in carefully designed costumes (body shields bearing a painted skull and crossbones)

How scary is this really?: This movie is amazing and one of my all time favourites. This movie doesn’t really frighten me anymore but it definitely did the first time I did. Anthony Hopkins is brilliant in his signature role and Jodie Foster is great in as Clarice. This is a great Halloween film even if you’ve seen it a ton of times already.

Poltergeist

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Poltergeist (1982)

Director: Tobe Hooper

Cast: JoBeth Williams, Craig T.Nelson, Heather O’Rourke, Zelda Rubinstein

Synopsis: The Freeling family live in a neighbourhood just like any other until their daughter Carole-Anne (Heather O’Rourke) begins communicating with the supernatural through a dead channel on the television. It is not long before the enter the house and at first begin to play small tricks to amuse the family. Then the spirits behaviour takes a nasty turn when they start to attack the family and finally abducting Carole-Anne and bring her to the other side. Her mother (JoBeth Williams) and father (Craig T. Nelson) hire a spiritual medium to help them get Carole-Anne back.

Trivia: The hands which pull the flesh off the investigator’s face in the bathroom mirror are Steven Spielberg’s. Both of the terrors that plague Robbie came from Steven Spielberg’s own fears as a child, a fear of clowns and a tree outside his window.

How scary is this really?: This is definitely a scary film but not super scary just enough to give you the willies. The effects are great for the time and the actors performances are all pretty great. This is another great Spielberg produced film and a great job by director Tobe Hooper.

Alien

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Alien (1979)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt and Ian Holm

Synopsis: On its way home the starship Nostromo picks up a distress call from a local planet and wakes up the crew in order to go to the planet to investigate. The captain of the ship Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Kane (John Hurt) and one other decide to go on the surface of the planet to find the distress call, where they find a large spaceship. Inside they find an incredibly large dead alien with a hole in its chest, while inspecting the alien Kane falls down in a another part of the ship and he finds hundreds of eggs on the floor. While looking at one the egg opens and a parasitic creature latches onto his face prompting Dallas to rush back to the ship upon their arrival back to the ship. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), is the officer in charge and refuses to let them back on the ship until Ash (Ian Holm) over rides her and lets them aboard. While Kane lies unconcious in the medlab the rest of the crew agrues about what they are supposed to do with it when they decide to remove the facehugger its tightens its grip on his neck and proves to have acid for blood. Eventually the facehugger just falls off and dies leaving Kane alive and very hungry. During the meal Kane is eating like a horse when he starts having a sort of seizure before something starts to rip through his chest. The rest of the crew realize the facehugger laid some sort of larvae in Kane that takes on the features of its host. After they realize that their employers intend to bring this Xenomorph back to Earth to use as a biological weapon it becomes clear to Ripley and the rest of the crew that they need to kill this alien before it wipes them all out.

Trivia: The alien’s habit of laying eggs in the chest (which later burst out) was inspired by spider wasps, which are said to lay their eggs “in the abdomen of spiders.” This image gave Dan O’Bannon nightmares, which he used to create the story. But spider wasps (pompilidae) lay eggs on their prey, not inside them, after which the wasp maggots simply snack on the sting-paralyzed spiders. O’Bannon may instead have been thinking of either ichneumon wasps or braconid wasps. The ichneumon drills a single egg into a wood-boring beetle larva, whereas braconids inject eggs inside certain caterpillars. Both result in fatal hatch-outs more alike to O’Bannon’s alien.

How scary is this really?: I love Alien it is the only real scary one in the series and is also the best in my opinion. This is only Scott’s second film and is still one of his best. Sigourney Weaver does a phenomenal job as Ripley one that she continues throughout the rest of the series. An amazing movie and a perfect one to watch this time of year.

Prometheus

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Prometheus (2012)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Logan Marshall-Green, Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce

Synopsis: In the year 2089 on the Isle of Skye off the shore of Scotland, archaeologist couple Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her boyfriend Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a star map in a cave which they record among the remnants of several otherwise unconnected ancient cultures. They interpret this as an invitation from humanity’s forerunners. Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the elderly founder and CEO of the Weyland Corporation, funds the creation of the scientific deep space research vessel called the USS Prometheus to follow the map to the distant moon of LV-223 several light years from Earth.The ship’s crew travels in hibernation stasis at light speed while the android David (Michael Fassbender) stays awake at the pilot control to monitor their entire voyage. In 2093, the ship arrives in the orbit around LV-223. After being awakened from hibernation, the crew are informed of their mission to find the ancient aliens, called “Engineers” whom may be the original humans. They also view a holographic message from Weyland himself, who tells them about his funding for the mission and that he has since died. Mission director Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) orders them to avoid any direct contact and to return if the aliens are found. The Prometheus lands near an alien structure (resembling a large temple-like pyramid) and a team including Shaw, Holloway, and David explores it, while Vickers remain aboard the ship and monitors their progress. What they find on the planet is a horror none of them could have imagined.

Trivia: Was originally conceived as a prequel to Ridley Scott’s “Alien”, but Scott announced his decision to turn it into an original film with Noomi Rapace (who was already set to star) still in the cast as one of five main characters. Some time later it was confirmed that while the movie would take place in the same universe as Alien and greatly reference that movie, it would mostly be an original movie and not a direct prequel. The “beginning of time” sequence that opens the film was shot in Iceland. The whole shoot took two weeks to complete.

How scary is this really?: This is not a super scary movie but it is really good film. This is Ridley Scott’s triumphant return to sci-fi. Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron are very solid but its Michael Fassbender carries this film with a tremendous performance as David the android. This is a great film and comes highly recommended.

The Thing

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The Thing (2011)

Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.

Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen, Trond Espen Seim

Synopsis: Paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has traveled to Antarctica for a mysterious expedition at the request of Dr. Sander Halverson (Ulrich Thomsen) who was recommended by Halverson’s assistant Adam (Eric Christian Olsen). Once they arrive they join a Norwegian scientific team led by Dr. Edvard Wolner (Tond Espen Seim) that has stumbled across an extraterrestrial ship buried in the ice, they also discovers an organism that seems to have died in the crash eons ago. When a simple experiment frees the alien from its frozen prison, Kate must join the crew’s pilot, Carter (Joel Edgerton), to keep it from killing them off one at a time. And in this vast, intense land, a parasite that can make a perfect copy of anything it touches will pit human against human as it tries to survive and flourish.

Trivia: The red axe that ‘Joel Edgerton’ uses and eventually sticks into the wall can be seen still stuck in the wall when the Americans visit the Norwegian camp in the original John Carpenter version. In order to not try to compete with Kurt Russell’s portrayal of the 1982 film’s protagonist, R.J. MacReady, the character of Kate Lloyd was designed to have traits in common with the character Ellen Ripley from the Alien film series. The song Kate is listening to on her headphones is “Who Can It Be Now?”, a song by Australian band Men at Work from their 1981 debut album, “Business as Usual”. The lyrics tell of a paranoid man who hears knocking at his house door and wishes to be left in solitude. This foreshadows the paranoia of the scientists later in the film.

How scary is this really?: If this movie sounds familiar that’s because this is a premake of John Carpenter’s The Thing a much better take on the same premise. While considering this is a prequel the film plays out almost the same way. That being said this is still a nerve wracking film to watch because even a lesser version of the thing is still freaky. While I and almost everyone else prefers Carpenter’s version this is still quite an effective version.

Gremlins

Gremlins (1984)

Director: Joe Dante

Cast: Zach Galligan, Hoyt Axton, Phoebe Cates and Howie Mandel

Synopsis: Inventor Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) is on a business trip and is searching for a last minute Christmas present for his son Billy (Zach Galligan) when he is brought to an antique Chinese store. In the store he tries to sell one of his inventions when he hears a faint singing and he offers to buy the creature singing. After he is refused sale of the animal the grandson of the store owner secretly sells it too him but tells him there are three rules he must follow keep it away from light sunlight can kill it, don’t get water on it and don’t feed it after midnight. We discover that the animal is a Mogwai which the family names Gizmo (voiced by Howie Mandel). It is not long however before they spill water on Gizmo which makes more Mogwai’s. It’s not long before they are fed after midnight turning them into small monsters that wreak havoc on the town and it’s people. Now Billy must rush to save the town and Kate (Phoebe Cates) a girl from work he has a crush on before the gremlins destroy to much of the town.

Trivia: Generally credited (along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) to influence the MPAA to create the PG-13 rating, as many felt the scenes of violence in both movies were too much for a PG rating, but not enough for an R rating. Hoyt Axton was always the foremost choice for Rand Peltzer. Pat Harrington Jr. was also considered. Pat Hingle was said to have delivered the best screen test, but was passed on because it was feared Rand’s character would take over the picture as a result of Hingle’s excellent performance.

How scary is this really?: This movie is quite notorious because it was one of the films that created the necessity of a PG-13 rating. I have always loved this movie and while an overly scary movie is terrified me as a kid but I still couldn’t help but love it. If it wasn’t the fact that they can turn into gremlins I really wish the Mogwai was a pet you could actually have because they are beyond adorable. Although it is set around Christmas I still feel as though this is also a Halloween movie.