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.

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.

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.

The Mummy

The Mummy (1999)

Director: Stephen Sommers

Cast: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Oded Fehr and Arnold Vosloo

Synopsis: In ancient Egypt, high priest Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) started a forbidden relationship with Anck Su Namun, Pharaoh Seti’s Mistress. When Seti finds out about their betrayal, Imhotep and Anck Su Namun kill him, but can’t escape the trustworthy guards: Anck Su Namun chooses to commit suicide while Imhotep is bestowed with the Hom-Dai, the most feared curse of all: He is mummified alive in Hamunaptra, the city of the Dead. Now in 1923, adventurer Rick O’Connoll (Brendan Fraser) leads Librarian Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) and her brother Jonathan (John Hannah) to Hamunaptra the city of the dead. While Jonathan is keen on finding the legendary Egyptian treasures, Evelyn wants to search for the Book of the Living, which would clarify a lot in historical knowledge about the ancient Egyptians. There is another compteing group of American diggers who are being led by an old friend of Rick’s. While digging the Americans open a chest containing the organs of Imhotep and they also find the black Book of the Dead. After Evelyn steals the Book of he Dead from one of the Americans and begins to read through it and accidently awakens Imhotep. Now the creature will bring forth the ten plagues of Egypt and find those who opened the chest and drain the life from them until he becomes fully generated and will become Immortal. To make matters worse Imhotep wants to resurrect Anck Su Namun by using Evelyn’s body and together they will rule the world for all time. Only Rick can stop him with the help of a modern day Medjai named Ardeth Bay (Oded Fehr) before he sacrifices Evelyn.

Trivia: Ardath Bey, an anagram of Death By Ra, is the name of a sworn protector of mankind from the mummy Imhotep. However, in The Mummy, Ardath Bey is the alter-ego of the mummy Imhotep (played by Boris Karloff) when he attempts to pass for a modern Egyptian. According to director Stephen Sommers, Universal phoned him the morning after this movie was released and said, “We need another one.”

How scary is this really?: This movie scared the crap out of me the first time I saw it although I was only 12 but it was also so much fun to watch and 13 years later it is still just as much fun to watch. Brendan Fraser is great as Rick O’Connoll the best adventurer since Indiana Jones and Rachel Weisz is great in her breakout role. Arnold Vosloo is great as Imhotep reinforcing the belief that the less you talk the more intimidating you can be. All around a great adventure film but not the scariest thing by any means.

The Rite

The Rite (2011)

Director: Mikael Håfström

Cast: Colin O’Donoghue, Anthony Hopkins, Alice Braga, Ciarán Hinds and Rutger Hauer

Synopsis: Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue), is a Mortician working for his father Istvan (Rutger Hauer) who he has become estranged with over the years. In order to get out of being a Mortician for the rest of his life he decides to go into Seminary School in order to become a Priest. Nearly done his Priesthood Michael sends an email to Father Matthew requesting to leave the school because of a lack of faith. His religious beliefs are further jolted when he sees a young girl haplessly dying in a road accident for whom he reluctantly performs the ritual to absolve her sins. Father Matthew still believes in him and urges him to go to Italy to take an exorcism course hoping that he it would strengthen his faith in Christianity. In Italy he attends a session from Father Xavier (Ciarán Hinds) who soon becomes aware of his skepticism.  As a result he sends him to an eminent Jesuit exorcist, Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), whose ways though questionable are quite effective. He witnesses the exorcism of a sixteen year old girl but still seems unconvinced. Father Lucas explains to him that it takes multiple sessions over a long stretch of time to completely free a victim from the demon. In the class he also meets a young reporter named Angeline (Alice Braga) who is doing a story on the course and wants to interview Michael about Father Lucas. Despite witnessing some supernatural occurrences during the aforesaid exorcism, Michael is as skeptical as ever. After the second exorcism, the girls condition becomes quite critical as she is moved to a hospital. She soon dies and the demon finds a new victim in Father Lucas. Now Michael with the help of Angeline must confront his beliefs and help exorcise the demon from Father Lucas before it destroys them all.

Trivia: Mikael Håfström attended exorcisms to prepare for directing the film. He was not allowed to witness them, but he could hear what was happening from outside the door. The image used to describe the demon Baal is usually that of a man, a cat, a toad, or a combination of all of them. Lucas house is infested with cats, as well as toads in the fountain.

How scary is this really?: I’ll be honest I was super excited about this movie because it was a film about exorcisms starring Anthony Hopkins one of my all time favourites. While not bringing anything new to the table this movie is not that bad but could have been better. Colin O’Donoghue gives a solid performance as Michael but Hopkins steals the show especially in the third act. This movie has some scary moments but is not an overly scary film though doesn’t always sit well with horror fans. Worth seeing at least once.

Films to See Before You Die: #39 The Exorcist

exorcist

The Exorcist (1973)

Director: William Friedkin

Cast: Jason Miller, Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Max von Sydow

Synopsis: Chris Macneil (Ellen Burstyn), a movie actress taking up temporary residence in Washington D.C. has her troubles. The script for the movie she’s filming seems inadequate. Her ex, who is also the father of her adolescent daughter, Regan (Linda Blair), neglects to call the girl on her birthday. And the attic has rats. Once Regan starts to exhibit some very strange behaviour Chris takes her to a doctor who just chalks it up to A.D.D. Meanwhile, Father Karras (Jason Miller), a priest and a psychiatrist, is losing his faith; and he’s dealing with a sick mother who needs medical care he hasn’t the money to provide. Regan is steadily getting worse by speaking in different languages with new voices and also becoming very violent. Fed up with nowhere else to turn Chris finds Father Karras and asks his help and even brings up exorcisms which haven’t been performed by the church for centuries. After visiting Regan it is clear to Father Karras that this is beyond his expertise and consults the church who then send Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), has just returned from Iraq and has experience performing exorcisms. It becomes clear to both Father Merrin and Father Karras that in order drive out this evil force in Regan they may be forced to sacrifice themselves.

Trivia: On the first day of filming the exorcism sequence, Linda Blair’s delivery of her foul-mouthed dialogue so disturbed the gentlemanly Max von Sydow that he actually forgot his lines. The demon that possesses Regan MacNeil is named Pazuzu in the script, but this name is never mentioned in any cut of the film. During the film Pazuzu lies to Father Damien Karras claiming to be the Devil/Satan. Conversations with Father Lankester Merrin show this claim to be false.

Why I think you should see this: This is the greatest horror film of all time and one of my favourites movies as well. It is just so effective it is not as much scary as it is creepy. There is also a very realistic film you actually feel like the characters are really going through this. A classic check it out sometime.