Archive for the ‘horror’ Tag

The Skull (1965)   2 comments

skull poster

Do you collect things? Stamps? Godzilla figurines? Commemorative spoons? In The Skull, Christopher Maitland (Peter Cushing) and Sir Matthew Phillips (Christopher Lee) collect all things Satan. They scour auction houses in search of devilish statues and books about torture for their macabre collections. They even buy hot tchotchkes from shady evil-stuff-seller, Marco (Patrick Wymark). Marco stocks an unusual variety of bizarre items, including a book he sells to Maitland. It’s a rare book. Well, one hopes it’s rare since it’s the memoirs of the Marquis de Sade covered in human skin. Nummy. Anyway, Maitland jumps at the chance to drop major ducats on the tome, which gives you some idea about his level of dedication to his hobby.

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I’ll wait for the paperback.

The next night, Maitland lounges in his well-appointed study reading his skin book when Marco arrives with a new demonic accessory to clutter his bookshelves. Marco brings Maitland a skull. This is no ordinary, dime-store skull, mind you. This skull has provenance. Well, Marco says it has anyway. This skull is the bony part of the head of the Marquis de Sade! Why Marco didn’t sell the skin diary/skull as a set will forever remain a mystery. The two men haggle over skull prices, as one does, but Maitland won’t bite. Maitland mentions the exchange to his friend, Sir Matthew, who warns him not to buy it by saying, “All I can say is keep away from the skull of the Marquis de Sade.” Words to live by, Matthew. Words to live by.

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“That skull’s evil, right devil statue?”

Unfortunately, Maitland doesn’t listen to his friend and drops by Marco’s place to buy the skull. Marco is indisposed, being dead and all, so Maitland grabs his souvenir and hits the road. Back home in his library, Maitland relaxes after a hard day’s looting. He spends a lovely evening surrounded by statues of Beelzebub reading about sadism from a book made of skin.

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Cozy.

Almost immediately, weird stuff happens. The normally peaceful Maitland begins to feel a strange, homicidal urge.
Is it coincidence? Is it the skull? Is he not getting enough fruit? Only the skull knows for sure.

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“Honey? You up?”

The Skull is an absolute blast. The stellar cast of Amicus/Hammer regulars, including Patrick Magee, Michael Gough, and Jill Bennett, add to the general atmosphere of British horror wonderfulness. We even get a little George Coulouris for good measure.

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“You didn’t see my lips move, didja?”

Robert Bloch (Psycho) wrote the story, aptly named “The Skull of the Marquis de Sade”.  Milton Subotsky, half of the Amicus production team of Rosenberg/Subotsky wrote the screenplay and the script moves right along. Director, Freddie Francis, a veteran of Amicus films, knows how to pack a lot into 83 minutes. They also pack some cool special effects into The Skull. Ted Samuels, who created the special effects for a number of Amicus features including Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and The Psychopath outdid himself here. The skull, you see, flies. When provoked, it floats gracefully toward the camera. It’s not a choppy, Tingleresque motion, rather a majestic glide. The skull also lights up. It even manages to look evil. I stopped the DVD three times to watch a lit skull soar across a gentleman’s study. Seriously, you need to see this. If I haven’t convinced you yet, think about this. One scene in The Skull shows Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing playing pool…in tuxes.  ‘Nuff said.

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Hiya!

Note to self: Check into the possibility of manufacturing skull nightlights. You know, for kids.

 

 

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Session 9 (2001)   2 comments

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When an asbestos abatement crew, led by Gordon Fleming (Peter Mullan) gets a gig to clean up an abandoned mental asylum, they think they’ve struck it rich.  Promised a $10,000 bonus if they can finish in a week, the team of Phil (David Caruso), Mike (Stephen Gevedon), Hank (Josh Lucas), and Jeff (Brendan Sexton, III) dig right in.  As Gordon and his team work, each of them reacts to the pressure of the deadline differently.

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“Gordon, are you in there?”

Gordon, we learn, owns the company and is under a great deal of financial strain.  He’s also a new dad and hasn’t slept well since his daughter was born.  Phil, Gordon’s right hand man, questions Gordon’s accepting the short timeline.  Phil’s trouble is that his girlfriend just left him for Hank, making the friends’ relationship a tiny bit awkward.  Mike, a law school dropout, is highly intelligent, but at sea about his future.  Jeff, Gordon’s nephew, is young and a little goofy, but earnest.  He clearly wants to impress his uncle.  Now that we’ve met the men, we understand them better when they start to unravel.

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“Here, let me get that eyelash.”

Filmed at the former Danvers State Mental Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts, SESSION 9 has a great, creepy vibe and the setting, complete with scary treatment rooms, peeling paint, and puddles of stagnant water works a treat.

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Yummy

Director, Brad Anderson, has a talent for showing us just enough to follow the story, but not quite enough to predict how it will end.  There are some lovely red herrings and the dialogue makes sense.  Anderson and Stephen Gevedon wrote the screenplay and the cast even gets the accents right.  Uta Briesewitz’s cinematography kept the eerie mood even without 392 jump scares.  Music by Climax Golden Twins sets the dark tone of the film well.  I had never heard of them, but their strange, atmospheric music is perfect in SESSION 9.

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Director, Brad Anderson might have watched THE HAUNTING once or twice.

I have wanted to see SESSION 9 for ages and I’m glad I finally did.  It’s a frightening horror tale with good acting and an intriguing story.  I wanted to know more.  It’s original, but not completely new and that’s all right.  In my notes I wrote, THE SHINING, but with asbestos.  While I can see comparisons, (days of the week on screen, evil place, etc…) it doesn’t diminish the effect of the film at all.  Paul Guilfoyle and Larry Fessenden round out the supporting cast.  Actually, the whole cast is made up of character actors.  Maybe that’s why I like it so much.  It’s a natural ensemble piece played by a talented ensemble.

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Santa?

Weird note:  Carson Daly (Mr. MTV) was the executive music producer.

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Tonight on Club MTV…

 

 

 

31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter: Electric Boogaloo: The Nightmare Continues (2015)   1 comment

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Phew!  I made it.  For a month, this has been my life.  “After work, I will stop for groceries, pick up my small/not small person, walk the dog, make dinner, watch a movie, write a review, and possibly, sleep.  Oh man.  I’d better do a load of laundry or we’ll be wearing bathing suits under our clothes tomorrow.”

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I challenged myself to write 31 pieces for my blog this month.  One for every day of my favorite month.  I tried it last year, but I’m not sure how far I got.  I think I wrote 14 or 15.  That’s not bad, but this time I did it.  I must say, I’m proud of myself.  I didn’t cure a disease or discover a new planet or anything, but I set a goal and accomplished it.  I discovered a few things too.

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  1. Writing every day makes my mind more nimble.  If someone at work asked, “What’s another word for x?”  I’d come up with three in an instant.  I’m usually pretty good at that, but I did notice a difference.
  2. I had to make time to write.
  3. I like anthology horror films.
  4. Writing so many reviews made me branch out.  I watched films I might not have if not for deadlines looming every day.
  5. I’m a bit bleary-eyed right now.
  6. My online friends were wonderfully supportive.  Thanks!!

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So here’s my final list.

  1. Picture Mommy Dead (1966)
  2. Homicidal (1961)
  3. Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)
  4. The House That Dripped Blood (1971)
  5. The Houses October Built (2014)
  6. From Beyond the Grave (1974)
  7. The 7th Victim (1943)
  8. Archivo 253 (2015)
  9. And Now the Screaming Starts (1973)
  10. V/H/S: Viral (2014)
  11. I Walked With a Zombie (1943)
  12. Stonehearst Asylum (2014)
  13. Don’t Blink (2014)
  14. Scream of Fear (1961)
  15. The Gorgon (1964)
  16. Monster-a Go Go (1965)
  17. Ravenous (1999)
  18. Pontypool (2008)
  19. Helter Skelter (1976)
  20. Asylum (1972)
  21. Saw (2004)
  22. The Deliberate Stranger (1986)
  23. Housebound (2014)
  24. Dead of Night (1945)
  25. Ghost Adventures: Clown Motel and Goldfield High School (2015)
  26. Attack of the Beast Creatures (1985)
  27. The Village (2004)
  28. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
  29. Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)
  30. House on Haunted Hill (1959)
  31. Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)

aaalarry

Thanks for coming!  Please enjoy a hot towel.

 

 

Posted November 2, 2015 by Kerry Fristoe in 31 Days of Horror

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Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)   6 comments

aaadoc

Ahhh Amicus. I love your sordid little anthology films. Just seeing the names Milton Subotsky, Max Rosenberg, and Freddie Francis makes me smile. The funny little touches, the simple linking story, and the superb casts combine to entertain me more than any other horror films of the period. Maybe it’s my short attention span, but I love these stories.

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“Read ’em and weep, gentlemen!”

In Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, six men meet in a train car. One of them, Dr. W.R. Schreck (Peter Cushing) has a set of tarot cards and claims he can tell the future of anyone who taps his deck three times. Schreck, which in German means terror, reads three cards for each man to tell his fortune, a fourth to determine his fate, then a fifth, which will divine whether or not the man can alter his future.

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“Tarot this, Dr. T!”

In the first story, “Werewolf”, architect, Jim Dawson (Neil McCallum) travels to a remote island in Scotland to renovate his old house. While exploring the basement, Dawson finds a coffin full of Count Cosmo Valdemar. One of Dawson’s ancestors killed Valdemar hundreds of years ago and the Count holds grudges…even after he’s dead. Apparently, Valdemar is coming back to life as a werewolf. Dawson knows his stuff so he melts down a silver cross to make anti-werewolf bullets.  Things don’t go as planned.

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“I’ll make a mint with this on Antiques Roadshow.”

“Creeping Vine” tells the story of a robot that eats children. Actually, it tells the story of a creeping vine. I can’t put anything past you. This is no ordinary ivy plant. This vine is a killer. Even the marvelous Bernard Lee can’t stop it. All I can say is the British are too polite. A little well-place poison or a flamethrower would do wonders. This part has a cool ending.

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“Enough with the Miracle Grow already!”

“Voodoo” involves a trumpet player in a jazz quintet, Biff Bailey (Roy Castle) who hears a cool tune while visiting the West Indies. He decides to steal the song and call it his own. The people who actually wrote the song don’t like it.

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“A little auto-tune and this’ll be huge!”

Franklyn Marsh (Christopher Lee), who isn’t buying any of Dr. Terror’s tarot tales, stars in “The Disembodied Hand”.  In this segment, Lee plays a nasty art critic who insults the artwork of Eric Landor (Michael Gough). Landor makes a fool of Marsh and then taunts him relentlessly. Marsh has no sense of humor so he runs Landor over with his car. Hands go missing and soon Marsh is getting an unexpected back rub while driving. This almost never ends well.

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Digits roasting on an open fire…

The last story, “Vampire”, stars Donald Sutherland as Dr. Bob Carroll. Dr. Carroll moves back to his New England hometown with his new wife, Nicole (Jennifer Jayne) to start a practice there. A series of mysterious illnesses and deaths convince Carroll to look for a vampire. After consulting with the other town doctor, Dr. Blake (Max Adrian), the men decide to take action. I love the twisty ending to this tale.

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“I don’t think we covered this in medical school.”

As in most of the Amicus portmanteau films, we switch back to the linking story between segments and at the end. The template, laid out in Dead of Night (1945) works a treat. This was the first of the Amicus anthologies and it’s fun. The pace drags in parts, but the last two segments and the linking parts make up for it. Also, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing!

aaaayes
“Yes, it’s us.”

 

haunty

 

 

 

House on Haunted Hill (1959)   8 comments

aaahohh

Vincent Price invites you to a party. Are there balloons and noisemakers and a clown? Gee, I hope not. No, but Price does invite a bunch of total strangers, a creepy housemaid, and a scaaaaary skeleton. Ahhhhh!!

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Avon lady!

Millionaire, Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) holds a birthday party for his wife, Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) in a spooky mansion. For those of you playing at home, that mansion is Ennis House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. If his guests can stomach a night in the spooky house, Loren will pay each of them $10,000. That’s about $81K in 2015 dollars. A nice payday. It sounds simple enough until we learn that several people, including Watson Pritchard’s (Elisha Cook, Jr.) brother were murdered in the house. Funny thing though, they never found his head.

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A building from Wright’s pueblo pyramid period.

Just when we think we’re watching a straight haunted house film, Loren and his wife go at it. The couple do their version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and it’s clear this party will end badly. Loren, you see, has had three wives before Annabelle and each has expired under mysterious circumstances. Hmmm. Annabelle confides in guest, Lance Schroeder (Richard Long) that she fears for her life. Her husband, she says, wants to kill her and he’ll stop at nothing. When the servants leave prematurely, locking the party-goers in for the night, they’ll have to contend with ghosts and spirits and a possible murderer among them.

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Vincent has the coolest party favors.

Robb White, frequent William Castle collaborator, wrote the screenplays for House on Haunted Hill, Macabre, The Tingler, and others for the great showman.  Castle directed this movie and filled it with piercing screams, an active skeleton, and a rolling old lady. Supposedly, Alfred Hitchcock saw Castle’s big box office returns and decided to make Psycho. Then, Castle saw Psycho and decided to make Homicidal. I hope that’s true. Anyway, we win. All three films are horror classics.

aaaeat
“There’s no food at this party.”

Oozing charm and menace, Vincent Price does his best Vincent Price. The rest of the cast hold their own, but are nothing to write home about with the exception of Elisha Cook, Jr. His crazed, drunken ramblings about ghosts and unseen forces are appropriately over the top. Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, who might win an Una for screaming artistry, and Robert Mitchum’s big sister, Julie round out the players. Julie Mitchum’s claim to fame in this film is that when offered a drink, she always asks for a scotch and… A scotch and what? Motor oil? Drain cleaner? Mare sweat? It’s an odd thing, but it always strikes me as funny.

aaaacook
“Aaahoooo Werewolves of London!”

Ever the marketing genius, William Castle used this tagline for House on Haunted Hill. ‘First film with the amazing new wonder EMERGO: The thrills fly right into the audience!’ I wish I had been around to see a Castle film in the theatre. Flying skeletons, fright insurance, cowards’ corner…such fun. By the way, does anyone know a good acid vat installer?

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“I’m not touching you!”

haunty

 

Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)   2 comments

 

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Laura Mars might need a new eyeglass prescription.  Every so often, and without notice, she sees the world through the eyes of a serial killer.  Laura (Faye Dunaway) earns her living with her eyes.  She’s a high fashion photographer who specializes in photographing models wearing beautiful clothes in violent situations.

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The film uses Helmut Newton’s photographs as Laura’s.

She lives in a huge, penthouse apartment, wears expensive clothes, and goes to all the best parties.  Laura’s photographs and coffee table books sell like hotcakes.  She’s on top of the world.  When someone starts killing her friends, Laura’s life changes just a bit.

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Great lips.

At first, the police, led by Detective John Neville (Tommy Lee Jones) suspect that Laura is killing her associates to gain publicity for her artwork, especially when she tells them that she sees the murders…from three blocks away.  She claims to witness each crime as the murderer would.  Both authorities and her friends think she’s a loon.

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“What you talkin’ ’bout, Laura?”

I should point out that all this time, Faye Dunaway sports some happening duds.  It’s autumn in New York City and Faye’s got the tweed thing going on.  She wears a lot of cool mid-calf wool skirts with double front slits and high boots.  She also has the plaid shawl thing down.  Theoni V. Aldredge designed the costumes.  Well done, Theoni!  Clad in tight, bell-bottoms, boots, and wool blazers, Tommy Lee Jones cuts a dashing figure.  Even his mullet is impressed.

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The sheep are nervous.

The seventies lives through the music in the film as well.  Tunes by K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Heatwave, Michael Zager Band, and Odyssey give the modeling sessions a Studio 54 vibe.

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After a few more bodies pile up, Laura convinces John that she’s not crazy so they fall in love after a funeral.  Sigh.  Now that the pair are a completely committed couple destined to spend their lives together, we can all relax, right?  Wrong.  Hey guys!  There’s still a killer out there playing ice pick tag.

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“I just remembered.  All my friends are dead.”

I like EYES OF LAURA MARS.  I hadn’t seen it in 432 years and seeing it again was a trip.  Did you know it was written by John Carpenter?  I didn’t.  The cool set-pieces and shots of gritty, 1970s New York give the film texture and the cast is wonderful.  Raul Julia gets to play Laura’s alcoholic gigolo of an ex-husband and he’s perfect.  Rene Auberjonois, as Laura’s handler/manager does his usual terrific job.  I like Brad Dourif in this too.  As Laura’s mumbling, semi-sketchy driver, Dourif is convincing as a guy who’s polite on the surface, but might have a head in his fridge.

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“You looked in my fridge?”

Tommy Lee Jones is pretty hunky in this role.  My daughter said, “He’s so ugly, he’s cute.”

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“I’m not ugly.”

He’s likable, intelligent, and deeper than he seems.  Dunaway plays her part well.  She’s a bit over the top, but it works.  What doesn’t exactly work is her character.  Laura Mars, a wealthy, powerful, career woman who takes sexually charged and violent pictures seems sort of shy and virginal.  A few times in the film, people remark that she’s not at all what they expected when they saw her photographs.  It’s like they have to say she’s not really like that  as a way of making the audience like her.  Oh well.

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“The game is afoot!”

All in all, EYES OF LAURA MARS is a satisfying watch.  Carpenter’s story has a fun central idea and the performances are fun.  Oh right.  The song.  Jon Peters made his bones producing the Kristofferson/Streisand film A STAR IS BORN and this film.  A former hairdresser, Peters dated Barbra Streisand during this period and the two made a few successful films together.  Back to the song.  “Prisoner”, sung by Streisand at the beginning and end of the film is a perfect showcase for that voice.  She hits every note bang on.  I know what you’re thinking, but you have to admit, the woman can sing.

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“You shoulda seen it!”

EYES OF LAURA MARS stands out because of its creative concept and solid performances.  It has no castles or bats, but it does have the main character’s friends getting stabbed in the eye, so huzzah!

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More plaid.

haunty

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)   2 comments

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I first watched this film with my daughter in 2001.  She was four and I couldn’t watch THE WIZARD OF OZ one more time. My cousin, who’s a horror film fan and art school guy, had recommended the film to me years before, but I just never got to it.  What a revelation!  It’s such a joyous film.  Everyone in the film is trying his hardest all the time.  It’s honest and sweet and it even has a love story and a dog.  Wonderful.  I can remember watching my daughter’s face as she looked at the Halloween Town residents. “They scare for fun.  They’re not mean.”  Exactly.

mummy

“This won’t hurt a bit.”

No one creates a spookier Halloween than the Pumpkin King.  All the goblins love him.  Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) is at the top of his game. After a particularly successful haunting one Halloween, Jack returns to his home in Halloween Town and mopes.  The ghosts and vampires and creepy-crawlies have lost their charm.  Jack is bored.  Something’s missing.

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“What’s missing?  Is it an eye?  Oh, I hope it’s an eye!”

On a long, doleful walk in the woods, Jack comes upon a circle of trees.  On each tree is a door and a picture which represents a different major holiday.  Intrigued, Jack opens the door marked with a Christmas tree and is sucked into Christmas Town. Clean, white snow, music, and smiling faces greet him as he ambles through the jolly village.  Charmed, Jack decides Christmas sounds like a capital idea.

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“You…light up my eyes.”

He sprints back to Halloween Town and regales his ghoulish friends with tales of the mysterious Sandy Claws, who rules over Christmas Town.  This year, he promises, the denizens of Halloween Town will run Christmas and give Sandy a break.

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“I have a headache.”

 Jack assigns tasks to each spooky group.  Dr. Finkelstein (William Hickey) will bring to life some skeletal reindeer to drive Jack’s sleigh.  The creatures of Halloween Town will make ghastly toys.  Sally (Catherine O’Hara), Jack’s friend and a talented seamstress, will make Jack’s Sandy Claws costume.  Devilish juvenile delinquents, Lock, Shock, and Barrel will kidnap Mr. Claws so Jack can take over.  

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Lock, Barrel, and Shock have something to hide.

While the industrious townsfolk make hats out of dead turtles and stuff killer snakes into gift boxes, Sally tries to remind Jack he’s making a mistake.  Halloween is his true calling.  Ignoring Sally’s warnings, Jack takes off to deliver his weird toys to the unsuspecting boys and girls.  It doesn’t go well.  

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“But I already have one!”

Danny Elfman, former Oingo Boingo front man and composer, wrote some killer tunes for this Halloween-y/Christmas-y story. They’re creative, sweet, dramatic, and thoroughly singable.  They’re also complex as hell.  Elfman threw himself into this soundtrack. Elfman also sings the part of Jack Skellington and Barrel.  The multi-talented Catherine O’Hara sings and acts the Sally part along with that of Shock.  Ken Page plays the infamous Oogie Boogie and Ed Ivory is Santa/Sandy.  Glenn Shadix plays the typically wishy-washy mayor of Halloween Town.  Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman) is Lock.  Tim Burton, Michael McDowell, and Caroline Thompson wrote the story and screenplay and Henry Selick directed.

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Tonight on 50 Shades of Christmas

It’s hard to know where to begin with this film.  I love it so much.  The music, animation, story, and talents of a wonderfully talented cast gang up and whack you.  It’s impressive.  There’s no wasted space.  In every scene, you see something fascinating. It looks so cool.  The creatures of Halloween Town look so different from the goblins of other films.  They’re spunky and fun and they clearly have relationships.  I’m still waiting for a behind-the-scenes documentary showing the vampires smoking between scenes and Zero, Jack’s ghostly dog, in a robe, signing autographs.  They have so much personality, you want to meet them.  A combination of the sophisticated stop-motion animation, the original story, and the fantastic soundtrack sung by a great cast make THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS the awesome film it is.  Happiness.  

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“Mom!  You might want to come down here.”

haunty

             

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