Ten days into the month, and I’ve only watched six horror films. Actually, seven, if you include Mars Needs Moms, one of those movies that makes you want to pluck your eyes out in punishment for viewing such an atrocity. It’s not funny (in the supposedly comic moments), it’s poorly written and it looks horrible. It’s a bad sign when the aliens are more visually appealing than the humans. I will give it a smidgen of credit for paying homage to B-movie classic Invaders from Mars. Quality 3/10, Fun 1/10.
Technically, however Mars Needs Moms is not a horror movie. The three that I did watch were Paranormal Activity 2, Don’t Look in the Basement and Dracula 2000.
If you’ve seen Paranormal Activity, you’ve basically seen the sequel. Actually, it’s more of a prequel, as this story explains (to some extent) why the first movie’s events occurred. But overall, it’s more of the same. Doors opening and closing unexpectedly, objects mysteriously moving, characters who take a while to believe something supernatural is going on, et cetera. It uses the First Law of Sequels: repeat the first movie, just make it more.
In this case, it means increasing the number of people at risk to include a teenage girl, a toddler and a dog (okay, so a dog’s not a person). There’s also that horror movie stereotype, the old lady (in this case, a nanny of Mexican (?) heritage) who has the old-world/traditional knowledge to possibly counter the demon wreaking havoc. As in the first film, it uses the Blair Witch Project device of finding lost video, this time aided by a home security system. It’s not a bad movie, it just isn’t all that original. Quality 6/10, Fun 5/10.
Interestingly, many of the problems the family of Paranormal Activity 2 seem to be linked to something in the basement. Therefore, Don’t Look in the Basement could have been a good alternate title. It’s actually the name of an early 1970s low budget horror flick about mischief at a sanitarium. At the beginning of the movie, the doctor who runs the place is providing unorthodox treatment to one of his patients, a middle-aged man who thinks he’s a judge. The treatment has the patient taking out his aggressions with an axe on a piece of wood, but of course, he soon turns on the doctor.
A couple days later, a new nurse arrives, unaware that her employer has met his demise. The new doctor running the place keeps the nurse on. Among the patients are a nymphomaniac, a crazy old lady, the “judge” and a gentle giant who has had a lobotomy. People start getting maimed and killed; the nurse isn’t super bright (or good at her job), but even she can figure out there’s something bad going on. The big twist can be seen coming a mile away, but somehow, this movie still is pretty entertaining, with some nasty deaths and a bit of suspense. As for the basement, it doesn’t play much of a part till the last scenes. Quality 3/10, Fun 6/10.
Back in the late 1990s, there was Scream, which kicked off a whole string of horror (typically slasher) films that were seemingly hipper and with a self-aware sense of humor. What Scream did well, its imitators did less well in varying degrees: I Know What You Did Last Summer, Halloween: H20 and Dracula 2000.
This final movie I watched when it was first out in the theaters. It was on a cheapo four-on-a-disk set of horror movies, so I decided to give it another shot. It’s a movie that isn’t particularly bad or good. The premise is that Dracula didn’t die back in the late 19th Century and in fact could only be stopped, not killed. Van Helsing, accidentally infected with a bit of Dracula’s blood, is still around a hundred years later and keeping Dracula’s body locked up in a booby-trapped filled vault.
Thieves, thinking there’s treasure in the vault, set off a string of events that eventually has Dracula walking the Earth again. He’s drawn to Van Helsing’s estranged daughter since she has a bit of his blood in her. Van Helsing may be a bit long in the tooth, but fortunately, he has a young assistant to help the beautiful daughter.
While the story itself differs a lot from the Bram Stoker novel, that’s not very surprising: most movie versions do. There are plenty of references to the original story, including the three vampire “sisters” and the best friend named Lucy. What is seemingly original to this movie is Dracula’s origin, one that is wonderfully logical but somehow (to me, at least) vaguely unsatisfying. Quality 6/10, Fun 5/10.