Return of Project Horror, Day 31: The Halloween Tree


When I did the first Project Horror last year, I decided that because October's 31 days don't divide evenly, I'd avoid making Halloween fit into any category, and just make the theme "Danny's Choice."  Last year, my choice was the fun anthology film Trick 'r Treat.  This year, I had a hard time deciding what it would be, and it wasn't until about a week ago that I was browsing through the TV listings and found my answer.

Ever since I was a kid, I have loved reading Ray Bradbury.  (One of my most prized books is an autographed paperback of The Martian Chronicles.  One of my English teachers in high school knew that I was really enthusiastic about Bradbury, so she took a copy from the school's stash along with her to an event that he was at, and had him sign it for me.  [Full disclosure: I was dating her daughter at the time.])  I'm 36 now, but I can still pick up stories of his that I read for the first time 25 years ago, and enjoy them just as much, maybe even more in some cases.  When I read Something Wicked This Way Comes in junior high school, I thought it was thrilling and dark.  When I read it now, I find that it perfectly captures the feeling of being a boy, and of the approaching autumn, and of the nostalgia that grown men have for that time.  It is beautiful and pitch-perfect.

Although I didn't cherish it as much as Something Wicked, I also really liked Bradbury's The Halloween Tree, a fantasy-adventure about a group of boys trying to rescue a lost friend.  It's a hard story to summarize and do justice to it; when you read it, you're able to go along with the wild places it goes to, but just hearing about it makes it sound strange.  The boys show up at the house of Pip, their best friend, to take him trick or treating, only to find that he's been rushed to the hospital and is very ill.  One of them thinks it's a prank, and sees a ghostly version of Pip walking towards an eerie old mansion, which they follow him into.  It's here that the group meets the diabolical Mr. Moundshroud, who challenges them to answer his questions about Halloween, and to tell him why they are wearing the costumes that they have on.  The rest of the story follows them through different periods of history, as they try to free Pip's spirit from Moundshroud's grasp by learning about the origins of Halloween, and he tries to reclaim it.  At the end, they are able to rescue their friend's soul, but only at the cost of a sacrifice which will effect each one of them.

The Halloween Tree was made into an animated film in the early '90s, but I've never seen it, and it has never been made available on DVD.  You can buy used VHS copies of it on eBay for like $40, but I don't even own a VCR anymore.  Then, last week, I was searching for something in the onscreen guide on my TV, and saw that The Halloween Tree was about to play on the Boomerang channel, so I had the DVR record it.  That's when I decided what my final movie of Return of Project Horror was going to be, and who my very special guest blogger would be - Blake.

As you've seen if you joined me for Project Gastronome or Enter the Danny, Blake is kind of my lucky charm.  In fact, Ali put it into those exact words in a comment that she left on one of my posts.  I decided he needs to be a part of this project.  After trick or treating and a bath, I turned on the movie to watch with him and the other kids, in the dark on our living room sofa.  Here's some of our conversation after the movie.
Did you like the movie?
Yeah!  Was it one that you watched when you were little?
Well, I read the book.
There's a book?  Can we get it?
Sure!  What was your favorite part?
I liked when they would travel in time to the different places.  The best was when they went to Mexico for... what is it?
Dia de los Muertos.  What was the scariest part?
When they first went into Mr. Moundshroud's house, and he wouldn't tell them where Pip's spirit was, and then they saw all of the pumpkins on his tree.
Why do you think Mr. Moundshroud had all of those pumpkins with people's souls in them?
Each of them was somebody else's friend.  He wants to keep them so that he can just do what he wants to with them.  He was surprised when Pip's friends tried so hard to bring him back.
Do you think other kids would like this movie?
Yeah, I do!

The movie was pretty good, and stayed fairly faithful to the book.  The best part, though, was getting to share it with the kids.  I give The Halloween Tree five Halloween trees out of five.
 TOMORROW: A wrap-up of Return of Project Horror

Return of Project Horror, Day 30: Sleepaway Camp

I can't lie, I'm glad that the project is almost over.  The movie-per-day pace is tough to keep up for too long, and I am bushed.  Tonight's movie is the last of the Campy & B-Movie block, one that was suggested to me by Kyle.  His reasoning was that it's kind of a campy movie, it's set at a camp, and it's one that I've never seen before, so it was perfect to use as a part of this block - Sleepaway Camp.

The movie is the story of Ricky and Angela, cousins who are going to the same summer camp.  Ever since a boating accident left Angela an orphan at a very young age, she  has lived with Ricky and her aunt.  She is very quiet, timid, and reserved, traits that make her a target of bullies at camp, while Ricky rushes to her defense.  Before long, Angela's tormentors begin meeting very sinister ends...

Here's the problem with watching a movie that is nearly thirty years old - unless you live under a rock, it's nearly impossible to go into it unspoiled.  I found out the twist ending of this one on one of those "I Love the '80s" shows that VH1 used to air.  I was still curious about the movie, though, so I thought this would be a good time to finally check it out, and see if it can hold its own even if you are aware of how it ends.

It's not really very scary.  The kills are good, but are generally telegraphed enough in advance, or done enough offscreen that they don't leave you very frightened.  Despite that, though, it's still a fun movie to watch.  It builds the story well, gives you some good villains so that you have killings to anticipate, and keeps you wondering about the details, even if you do know what it's ultimately leading up to.

Now, about that ending.  On the extreme off chance that you don't already know Sleepaway Camp's denouement, I won't spill it here.  It's one that an audience today would probably see and laugh, but I can see how it would have knocked a 1983 audience off their feet.  What got me most was not the actual reveal, but Angela's face when it happens.  She looks less like a human than like a cornered animal, and it's more frightening than anything that came before.

Not bad.  I give it three sleeping bags out of five.

TOMORROW: I'll bring Return of Project Horror to a close with my Danny's Choice movie for this year.  To find out what this one is, you'll just have to check back tomorrow.  All I'll say is that it's probably not one you'd expect, and I'll be joined by a very, very special guest blogger.

Return of Project Horror, Day 29: Retardead


A haiku review of Retardead:

Execrable film
You should never have been made
What a waste of time 

OK, here's a visual aid, too.

This movie gets one whatever out of five.

TOMORROW: Sleepaway Camp

Return of Project Horror, Day 28: The Rocky Horror Picture Show


I have to admit, I've been both attracted to and repelled by The Rocky Horror Picture Show for a long time.  Attracted to it in the sense that if I am flipping through the channels late at night, and see that it's on, I know that I'm going to sit there and watch the rest of it.  Repelled by it in the sense that the whole audience participation subculture that's grown around it has kind of put me off of ever wanting to experience it live.  I'm sure it's fun and all, but it just seems like the kind of thing where if you just wanted to go and have fun, you couldn't do it without getting judged by the people who are hardcore about it.  Of course, I may be making an unfair judgment there, because my friend the lovely McCall (who is guest blogger Kyle's wife) told me she's been to/performed in RHPS nearly 60 times, and she's one of the coolest people I know.

I'd originally intended for this to be the only movie this month that I'd already seen before, but my Netflix shipping snafu on Day 20 means that this is actually the second.  No matter, because I was going to do this one my way, with a viewing party at my house, bridging the gap between a late night cable showing and a public audience participation showing.

That was before the stupid World Series went to seven games.  One by one, the people who had RSVP'd began to cancel, until there was nobody left.  And I'm not upset over it, and you and I are still cool, everybody, but I will tell you that you missed getting to see me in this costume.
I know that's not me in the picture, but I am not kidding about this.  It is in my closet right now, unworn.  Your loss, internet.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a high-camp musical parody of the sci-fi and horror movies of the '40s through the early '70s.  A young couple attends a wedding, and become lost when their car breaks down on the way home on a stormy night.  They walk to an ominous castle, hoping to find help, only to find that they have arrived at the home of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, where the Annual Transylvanian Convention is being held.  Frank announces that he has harnessed the secret of life, and unveils his creation/new lover, Rocky Horror.  I could tell you the rest of the plot, but it gets sillier and sillier as it goes.  There's seductions, in all directions and of all types.  There's a killing, a mutiny, and some surprise cannibalism.  To bring things to a close, the castle blasts off into space, to return to planet Transsexual.  And all throughout, there are plenty of catchy musical numbers.

Like I said in the first paragraph, there's just something about this movie that keeps me watching it.  I doubt that anybody, even people who have been to multiple screenings of it, would actually say that it's a great movie.  But it's funny, and surprising (even after several viewings), and most importantly... it's got Tim Curry.

Tim Curry should be a far, far bigger star than he is.  I know his career has by no means been undistinguished, but I also know that I wouldn't mind seeing far more of him.  Gen X'ers, think of all the movies you loved that he was in when you were kids: Annie, Legend, and Clue, just to name a few!  He's got a face that's tailor made both for broad comedy and for knowing smirks.  He's really the center of RHPS.

For good or bad, some of these songs always stay in my head for days after I've watched the movie.  "Time Warp" is probably the best known, but my favorite is "I Can Make You a Man."  It's hysterical and, again, Tim Curry completely sells it.

I can't explain it, but I really do like watching this movie.  Even if it consisted solely of the line "Do you have any tattoos?  Too bad..." I would still give it four lipsticks out of five.

TOMORROW: Retardead


Return of Project Horror, Day 27: The Call of Cthulhu


Last year when I watched The Dunwich Horror, I stated my opinion that most of H.P. Lovecraft's work has never been put on film in a really good way.  My friend Scott, who guest blogged a few entries with me this month, told me about Guillermo del Toro's production of At the Mountains of Madness, which was in the works at Universal, a prospect which had me very excited.  Unfortunately, the studio's vision differed from del Toro's, and it's been put on hold indefinitely.  Fortunately, I can still change my opinion about Lovecraft adaptations now, because The Call of Cthulhu was just an immensely fun movie to watch.  I included this as part of my Campy & B-Movies block because its production style (more about that in a minute) is very definitely low-fi, landing it in B-Movie territory, but it's not campy at all.

Aside from a few small differences, this is a very faithful adaptation of Lovecraft's story.  It's told in flashback, as a man tells about his obsessive study of a horrible cult, an obsession which was inspired by his great uncle's records of his own lifelong study of the same.  Within this frame story, there are three separate stories, each one revealing more about the nature of the cult, the horrid secrets it conceals, and the fearsome deity that it worships.

What made this movie fun to watch was the fashion in which it was made.  Although it was shot only a few years ago, it's a black-and-white silent movie, the same in style as movies from the 1920s.  Dialogue is given through the use of title cards, significant details are irised in upon, and the effects are decidedly old school.  It's an approach that could become gimmicky if you saw it too often, but it works really well as an homage to the age of really great movie monsters.  Did you see Brick, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt?  It was really fun seeing a high school movie interpreted as a classic film noir, but that doesn't necessarily mean you want to see more movies made from that same template.  The same applies here.  It works because of its uniqueness.

My one very small complaint is also a result of the way the movie was made.  The movie was obviously made with a very low budget, something which actually doesn't work against it, because of the style the filmmakers were emulating.  However, this also means that they couldn't afford to shoot on film, so the movie was made on digital video, and filters were applied to it to give the movie an aged, scratched, old film look.  About halfway in, you stop noticing it, but for a while it's very noticeable.  The picture has that very clear digital appearance to it, not a textured look like film would actually give.  Like I said, though, that's a very small complaint.

If you are a fan of vintage horror, H.P. Lovecraft's writing, or independent film, I think you'll enjoy this.  It's available on Netflix instant streaming, and it's only about 45 minutes long, so even if you don't like it, at least you haven't sunk too much time into it.  I give it four Lil' Cthulhus out of five.
TOMORROW: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Want to watch it with me?  It's not too late!  Leave a comment or send me an email, and you can come to my viewing party, starting at 9 PM!)

Return of Project Horror, Day 26: ThanksKilling


I don't know if I planned this out very well.  I probably should have started the month with campy movies, and then finished strong with some movies that would knock it out of the park.  I wanted to have my Rocky Horror Picture Show party towards the end of the project, though, which ended up setting the calendar for me.  (By the way, there's still room at the party, along with pizza and beer!  Send me a note or a comment if you'd like to join us, and I'll let you know where to come.)

So.  Here, in a nutshell, is what you need to know about ThanksKilling.
  1. Literally the very first onscreen image in the movie is a boob.  Not a topless woman, just a full screen boob.  When the camera pulls out, it is revealed that the boob belongs to a topless pilgrim lady.  Also, four of the first five lines of this movie contain at least one of the following words: tits, titties, boobs, bitch.
  2. The movie is about a turkey who kills people every 500 years, because of an Indian curse.
  3. The movie ends with the words "To be continued... IN SPACE!"
OK, so clearly this thing wasn't made to be awards bait.  It's just a few minutes longer than an hour, the special effects are ridiculously corny, and the acting is just awful.  Really, just really bad.  The only way that you could possibly be frightened by this movie would be if you are a toddler and have never seen a movie before.

That said, I also have to admit that I actually enjoyed watching this movie.  Part of that is because it was mercifully short, which was a treat this late in the month.  But also, it just doesn't pretend to be anything at all other than what it is, which is ludicrously moronic fluff.  It's got a ton of groan-inducing turkey puns and jokes ("You just got stuffed!", "I suspect fowl play!", "Gobble gobble, motherfucker!"), it's got boobies, and it's got a musical number about best friends.

How to rate this?  I did enjoy it.  I also fully recognize that it's just not a good movie at all.  I'm going to give it two roast turkeys out of five, but with the qualifier that you may actually have fun watching it under the right circumstances.
TOMORROW: The Call of Cthulhu (available on instant streaming)

Return of Project Horror, Day 25: The Devil's Backbone

Oh, hey guys.  Thanks for your patience.  I'm just waiting on Will to get here so we can do this review...
Ah!  Here he is now!  I'll just let you eavesdrop on our IM session.

DH: hey man.
WM: captain spitcurl! what's going on?
DH: spitcurl - nice. just checking in, seeing if you're ready for the movie.
WM: oh yeah, i'm psyched! i've watched it 3 times this week alone. 
DH: really?
WM: yeah! i can mouth the dialogue (which gretchen finds annoying-slash-amusing). and i have my halloween costume all set. found a plain, bent-up sombrero, even those retro shades with the sunscreens woven to the sides. i thought about getting my helicopter pilot's license, but that would be overkill,  ri-
DH: dude. what? are you talking about. we're watching the devils's backbone.
WM: the devil's backbone? what, is that like a sequel or some fan fiction or something? how did i miss that? i troll the boards.
DH: i feel like you're talking about The Thing again, in which case you run the boards.
WM: the boards. i know of the boards. i might be on the boards. post from time to time. chat. small talk. rob bottin.
WM: ok, yeah, i run the boards. and i have no idea what you're talking about.
DH: the devil's backbone, you know, guillermo del toro's spooky yet politic meditation on the spanish civil war as seen through the lens of a superstitious orphan, dealing with loss, grief, abandonment, sexuality, ghosts, the sword of damacles and the long walk home: the devil's backbone.
WM: wait, what? i thought we were doing The Thing. finally?
DH: no man, i told you we're not doing The Thing this year. i watched it last year
WM: not doing The Thing this year?! you might have mentio-
DH: i was very clear we're not doing The Thing this year. despite the fact the prequel coincides with return of project horror.
WM: but what about the fact that the prequel coincides with return of pro...oh.
DH: and despite the fact that it is the single scariest movie streaming on netflix.
WM: but it's the single scariest movie stre...mmm.
DH: and, most of all, the omission is not an affront to the fact that it was the first R-rated movie that your father ever took you to see.  at 12.
WM: but i was 12 when the major...i see.  
WM: so you're dead set against it? (making puppy dog eyes.)
DH: will, you're not actually making puppy dog eyes. you're just typing. and it's not happening
WM: (feebly offers forward a very worn copy of The Thing.)
DH: typing. 
WM: (thinking about getting in 'n out burger for dinner.)
DH: you know if you're not even going to pay me the respect of staying on topic i don't have time for this. i have a wife and kids and...in 'n out burger you say?
WM: yep.
DH: just whenever you want it, because you just want it?
WM: yep.
DH: ok, so let's put a pin in this "Thing" thing until tomorrow. i've gotta run, catch you later.
WM: ;) 
WM: heh.
I warned y'all about Will before, right?  He really likes The Thing.  I guess I'm taking this one by myself.  The Devil's Backbone is another Guillermo del Toro movie (you may remember that Cronos, which I watched earlier this month, was, too).  It is simultaneously a ghost story, and not really a ghost story at all.

This month is catching up to me.  I'm having to chug coffee to stay awake at work, and I'm neglecting the gym to stay home and watch movies.  That's OK, just a few more days.  I'm afraid I may not do this movie full justice tonight, but I'm going to do my best.

Carlos is an orphan who is taken in at a boys' orphanage in Spain, during the Spanish Civil War.  He is targeted by the school bully, but soon becomes more worried by glimpses of a ghost around the school, a young boy just like him.  He sets out to learn more about the boy's history, what happened to him, and why the school bully denies believing in the ghost.  When the boys find out why the ghost is at their school, and the danger that it also places them in, they act to avenge his death and free his spirit.

Mr. del Toro.  Guillermo.  Billy.  Nicely done.  As I started watching this, I thought it was going to be a standard haunted house thriller, maybe with some Sixth Sense influences.  It definitely delivered on the spookiness front.  Even in scenes where I kind of knew what was coming (like when Carlos was peeking through the keyhole), you delivered in a way that still got me.  What I wasn't expecting, though, is how well the movie would execute on other fronts, too.  The ghost story at the movie's center ends up being more of a means to tell a story about sacrifice, friendship, and love.  The real horror comes not from the ghost, but from the war that is drawing closer to the orphanage, and driving people to acts of desperation.

I especially liked this line: "What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber."

This was a great film to end the Evil Twins & Children block with.  I give it four gold ingots out of five.

TOMORROW: We'll begin the Campy & B-Movie block with ThanksKilling (available on instant streaming)

Return of Project Horror, Day 24: The Bad Seed (Kyle's review!)


I messed up a little bit tonight!  I hadn't heard from Kyle when I started watching, so I wrote my review solo, and only checked email afterward, to find his excellent review waiting for me.  Instead of going back and editing it together with mine, I give it to you here!  (What I think is great is that without even seeing each other's reviews, we both tied this movie back to our own experiences as fathers of daughters...)
Sometimes you watch a movie and it feels timeless, like no matter when it was made the theme, acting, writing, all hold up as though it could be released this Friday and contend. Then there are movies that feel like they are so much about the zeitgeist of the day that they don't really make sense unless you allow yourself to do a sort of mental time shift and try to watch the film as an audience member from the past. The Bad Seed is a good example of the latter.
It's not a bad film. It's quite engaging and it does draw you in. But it is so steeped in mid-twentieth century pop psychiatry (most of which is laughably outdated) that it's hard to take seriously from a modern perspective. There's a nature vs. nurture debate that runs throughout the film that lacks the enlightenment we have as a result of the Human Genome Project for instance. So while the characters concern themselves with nature or nurture as though they are two mutually exclusive camps, they are unaware that most every human characteristic has a genetic component as well as a cultural one. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Rhoda is a sweet, little girl. How could she not be? She's white, she has blond hair (in pig tails no less), blue eyes, she's polite, and keeps tidy. Unfortunately, she's also inherently evil. When she loses a penmanship award to a fellow classmate, she becomes so overwrought with anger and jealousy that she kills the little boy and takes his medal. Rhoda's mother starts to suspect that she may have been involved with the boy's death but the very thought of it starts to push her towards madness. How can she face the truth while protecting her daughter? 

On some level this film is exceedingly shallow. The whole premise is built around the idea that what makes the thought of Rhoda being a killer so horrible is how cute and sweet she is on the outside. As though if she were boorish and ugly with a unibrow and warts it would be perfectly reasonable to think an eight year old might bludgeon their classmate to death. But because she is nice, and pretty, with a toothy smile we ought to be horrified that she is without conscience. Remember, psychopathy is a mental disease of the hideously unattractive.

You often hear that one of the first rules of directing is don't work with children. But Patty McCormack does a terrific job here and just goes to show that it is possible for a child to develop a complex character. I also liked Henry Jones as the slow witted janitor who suspects Rhoda early on. Their interplay specifically is very good. 

The Bad Seed is not particularly scary or horrific, but it is a good watch. I would highly recommend it for anyone who has a hard time with the graphic nature of modern horror films. There's no blood or guts here. In fact, I'd have to say the scariest thing about this whole movie was how much watching Rhoda reminded me of my own little girl!
I give it 3.5 out of 5.

Return of Project Horror, Day 24: The Bad Seed


It's the final week of Return of Project Horror!  There are some good things in store this week, friends.  Today and tomorrow will be the final entries from the Evil Twins & Children block of movies, and then there'll be five days of Campy & B-Movies.

There are two events in particular that I'm excited about.  First, if you're in Lubbock or going to be in Lubbock at 9 PM this Friday night, I'd love if you came by my place for the Rocky Horror Picture Show viewing party!  Pizza, beer, singalongs... you should really be there.  Leave a comment below if you want to come, and I'll get in touch with directions to my house.

Second, Halloween night will be my Danny's Choice movie selection.  I've done something different this year by welcoming guest bloggers, and my guest on Halloween will be a very, very special one, with a unique movie choice to bring the project to a close.  I don't want to say too much else about it, because I want to preserve some of the surprise, but it's going to be one that you'll like, even if you don't like horror movies.

Now, on to tonight's movie, The Bad Seed!  I didn't know this when I added it to the lineup, but this movie was directed by the legendary Mervyn LeRoy (I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Quo Vadis, Mister Roberts).  With movies from him, Cronenberg, Romero, and Donner in the mix this month, I feel like I've assembled something of a directors' showcase.

This is one that has so deeply entered the cultural consciousness that it doesn't matter if you've seen it or not, you still know the basic story, and it's one that set the template for many movies that followed it.  In fact, I would say that this movie is the standard bearer of Evil Children movies.  At least Damien had an excuse; dude was the devil's kid.  But The Bad Seed opened up a whole vein of movies where kids were cruel just because that was their nature.

The story opens with little Rhoda's father kissing her goodbye as he leaves on military duty.  By all appearances, she is a well-mannered, proper little girl who plays the piano and enjoys dancing.  We see the first cracks when she reveals how upset she was at losing a competition to one of her classmates, a little boy who soon turns up dead in a drowning accident.  Her mother becomes suspicious of the circumstances around the boy's death, and her investigation leads her to the discovery that this is not the first time that Rhoda has killed somebody to get what she wants.  She must decide how far a mother's love extends, and whether she can protect Rhoda, or whether she shoudl deal with her on her own...

Aside from what's in the story, there's some other really interesting things surrounding this movie.  First is the way that it was altered from its original source material, a novel and a play by the same name.  In those stories, the mother's suicide attempt is successful, and the daughter is alive at the end of the story, with nobody else any the wiser about her true nature!  When this movie was made, though, the Hays Code still governed what could be shown onscreen, and one of its stipulations was that villains can not be seen as profiting or getting away with their crimes.  Second was the "curtain call" at the end of the movie.  All of the cast comes out, as they do at the end of a theatrical production, and then there's this really crazy scene where the actress who plays the mother spanks the little girl.  I am not making this up!  Look!
 I've gotta say, I really liked this movie.  Even though you can piece together some of what's coming, it still manages to work a few surprises into the mix, particularly about the possible origins of Rhoda's evil nature.  Read into this whatever you will about my relationships with women, but I actually really preferred the character of Rhoda when she was being evil to when she was being good.   It rang especially true to see Rhoda with her dad.  Why?  Because he is completely fooled by her facade, which her mother sees through.  I have a daughter, and this is exactly how it works.

My one complaint is that this movie is very stagy.  It was adapted from a stage play, and it really shows.  The characters all speak in monologues, and their entries and exits happen hot on each other's heels, past the point of plausibility.  Still, this is a small complaint, and doesn't really detract from the movie.

I've gone on long enough, but there's probably a whole volume on gender studies just waiting to be written about The Bad Seed.  It really works on a lot of levels.  I give it five penmanship medals out of five.
TOMORROW: The Devil's Backbone, with guest blogger Will

Return of Project Horror, Day 23: The Omen

Hello from the future!  By the time you read this, it will be Sunday night and I will be in Hollywood, FL for a week-long business trip.  Thanks again for letting me contribute to Look What Danny Made!  It's been fun watching these few movies "with" you. 
Hey!  It's my friend Scott again!  Dude be writing from the future.  It's been fun having you as a guest reviewer.  I'm thankful for your help tonight, because I'm having a hard time getting my brain to the "writing place."  That's probably because it's after midnight already...

Simply put, The Omen is a bona fide classic.  Gregory Peck (yes, THAT Gregory Peck) stars as Robert Thorn, a US diplomat whose wife delivers a still-born baby while they are stationed in Rome.
This is why movies from the 1970s are my favorite.  There's still the occasional thoughtful horror movie, or one with a pretty big-name star in it, but in the 70s, big freaking stars like Gregory Peck and George C. Scott could show up in a horror film.  Gregory Peck in The Omen!  Atticus Finch!  George C. Scott in The Changeling!  Patton!  (In case you were not aware, I'm a big fan of Patton.)

Out of the shadows, a priest appears and offers Thorn another infant, a child who otherwise would have no family (oh, and the child was born on the 6th day of the 6th month at the 6th hour).  Knowing his sedated wife would be crushed to learn of her own tragic delivery, he accepts and keeps the secret from her.  So the happy couple proceeds to raise the child as their own, however a strange aura of death and danger follows the young boy everywhere he goes.  Bad things happen as Thorn digs deeper and unravels the prophetic mystery surrounding his son, Damien.
I want to give a plot summary with so much more detail, but I get why you're staying intentionally vague.  The movie's over 30 years old, so it's fair game for spoilers, but it still pays to be thoughtful.

The Omen haunts me and it only seems to get better with age.  Aside from The Exorcist, this is probably the best horror movie to come out of the '70's.  Let's start with Peck.  He lends such an unusual gravitas to this role, you just know it's not your average fright flick.
This is kind of what I was getting at above.  There were really great horror films coming out back then.  What makes this one work so well is that it takes plenty of time setting things up before the scares start coming.  The opening, with the priest substituting the baby, sets a dark tone, but then it spends a long time after that showing you an idyllic, happy family.  When the scares come, they're even more powerful because of what came before.  (As a sidenote, The Changeling, which I mentioned above, does the same thing.  It takes its setup so deliberately that by the time the rubber ball comes bouncing down the stairs, it's enough to terrify you.) 

Directed by Richard Donner (who would next direct Superman: The Movie and later go on to direct The Goonies and the Lethal Weapon series) expertly stages multiple sequences of tension and terror, which build towards a gut punching climax.
When I watched An American Werewolf in London last year, I had a few beers and wondered what had ever happened to John Landis.  I didn't think of it at the time, but I think the Twilight Zone lawsuit pretty much sidelined him for the better part of a decade.  All of that is to say that Richard Donner is a director who worked steadily for over 30 years, and who also knew how to knock it out of the park.  In fact, I may even have to say that he's got a better track record than Landis.  I haven't seen every last one of his movies, but I've seen almost all of them, and there's really not a stinker in the bunch.

I have so many favorite moments from this film.  The image of the nanny, standing on the roof of the mansion with a noose around her neck, shouting, "Damien!  Look at me!  It's all for you, Damien!" just before she jumps to her death during the boy's birthday party is an all-time memorable shocker.  Damien freaks out in the car when he catches sight of the church, a pack of baboons at a drive-thru wildlife sanctuary become agitated and aggressive when they sense the boy coming, stray  rottweilers stand guard and protect the boy while he sleeps and the mysterious Mrs. Baylock (the NEW nanny) nurses her own hidden agenda to great goosebumpy effect.  My favorite spine tingling moment of all comes when Thorn visits the cemetery to uncover the truth behind Damien's real birth mother.  Even now, I shudder to think about it...
I think you nailed most all of the highlights, but I just have to reiterate how very fantastic the scene is where they find out about Damien's mother.  Earlier in the film, when the priest was trying to tell Thorn the truth, but is cut off, I was racking my brain trying to think of what the rest of the word could be that he'd been trying to say.  Until the reveal, that possibility would never have crossed my mind.

Danny, I know you are doing "evil children" week or whatever it is exactly but man, your week should begin and end with The Omen.  It only won an Oscar for Best Original Score but for my money, it could've (should've) been taken more seriously in contention for other categories as well, including Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress (Mrs. Baylock) and Screenplay.  This is horror done classy and done right.
I agree with you on the excellence and deservingness of The Omen, but the project must move on!  I've got two more nights of evil children to be frightened by before I head into the homestretch of Return of Project Horror.  Thanks for being a part of it, Scott!

Five rottweilers out of 5!
Agreed.  But I'm making them rottweiler puppies, because, awww puppies.
TOMORROW: The Bad Seed, available on instant streaming



I was talking with my mom this morning, and things turned to the topic of Papa again.  It started when she told me that she had mowed her lawn one day, and how it had really been an effort for her.

"Mom, just call me.  I'll be happy to come do it."
"No, it's OK.  I came inside, toweled off, and talked to Papa's picture.  I told him that I was going to pay somebody to come do it from now on."
"Yeah, he didn't say anything, so I think he's OK with it."

My mom, everybody.

There have been so many times since Papa died that I've wanted to talk to him about something.  Several friends have told me about experiences they've had talking to loved ones who have passed away, but it's felt really strange to me.  Today, though, I just really wished I could contact him.  I was going through some of his camping equipment that he left me, and I wanted to tell him how I was going to use it.  I wanted him to know about the trip with Blake and Jack that I'm hatching in my head.

I was spreading some of the stuff out on my lawn to check its condition, so I just sat there in the middle of it, quieted my mind, and thought, "Papa?"  This still felt strange, so I followed it with a question, "Can you hear me?"

And that's when I realized that I'd just meditated the first line of a Barbra Streisand song.  My dad is shaking his head right now, thinking, "My boy, everybody."

Return of Project Horror, Day 22: Dead Ringers

I didn't plan two Cronenberg flicks on purpose, but tonight's movie was definitely an interesting contrast to VideoDrome.  That one was much more representative of what I think of David Cronenberg's body of work, but this one was much more interesting to me.  You probably couldn't classify it as a straightforward horror movie, but it's a good example of a psychological horror movie.

Jeremy Irons, who I really like (and who I have watched for my blog before), stars in a dual role as identical twins Elliot and Beverly Mantle.  They are gynecologists with a highly successful practice, a history of research breakthroughs, and many professional recognitions.  Elliot is the more outgoing and social of the two, with Bev being more of the lab rat/bookworm.  They live together.  They share everything.  Elliot, who is also the more amoral, seduces women, and then passes them along to his brother when he tires of them, with the women never knowing.  This pattern continues until Bev meets Claire, one of their patients, and falls deeply in love with her.  When she finds out how the twins have treated her, though, she walks out on them, beginning Bev's slow descent into madness.  His resulting actions risk his reputation, practice, and life, until he hits bottom, and the twins realize that much like Siamese twins, they must be "separated"...

Like I said above, this isn't strictly a horror movie, but it definitely has several of those trademark Cronenberg touches, including a bizarre dream sequence.  Jeremy Irons gives a fantastic performance.  At the beginning of the movie, you can clearly tell each twin's identity from his appearance and mannerisms.  As they begin to slip, though, and lose their identity, it becomes harder to tell them apart, until the last scene, when it becomes impossible.

I give this one four speculums out of five.
TOMORROW: The Omen, with Scott

Return of Project Horror, Day 21: Basket Case


The last five days passed pretty quickly, and now we're on to the next to last block, Evil Twins & Children.

Because I enjoy keeping up with movies, even if I don't get to go out to watch as many as I used to, it's really rare that I watch one completely unspoiled.  Basket Case is one of those rare cases where I really knew nothing about the movie before putting it on, aside from what the little plot capsule on Netflix told me.  That was a good thing for this one, because I think it probably works better the less you know about it.  So, that's your warning if you're planning to watch Basket Case any time soon.
Basket Case centers around Duane, who shows up at a seedy hotel in New York City, carrying a large, locked basket and a folder full of names.  It turns out that the basket contains Duane's formerly conjoined twin, who is heavily deformed.  Against the twins wishes, their father hired a team of doctors to separate them years earlier, hoping to give Duane a normal life, and for his twin to die.  The twin grew strong, though, and the boys are out to get vengeance on the people who separated them - the people whose names are in the folder.

First, I have to say that this was one of the corniest movies I've watched this month.  That said, it was also a total blast.  This movie has to walk a difficult line.  With a decent effects budget, it could actually have been very scary.  (There's a scene when Duane first arrives at the hotel, where he pulls a stack of twenty dollar bills out of his pocket, and the story is that this was actually the movie's entire budget.)  As it is, though, the scenes with the deformed twin play kind of like horror parody, because they're done in stop motion or with puppetry.  The twin is still pretty gross looking, though.

Something I've noticed, after watching this and Maniac, is that 1980's horror films set in NYC have a really unique and awesome feel to them.  True, I didn't really care for Maniac for the most part, but something that did work about it (and for Basket Case) is that it just felt dirty, grimy, and morally reprehensible.  You sometimes hear longtime New Yorkers bemoaning the way that Times Square has been sanitized, but movies like this show you the seediness and danger that used to surround that area.

It's cheesy, but if you're in the mood for that sometime, check out Basket Case.  I give it three conjoined skeletons out of five.
TOMORROW: Dead Ringers

Return of Project Horror, Day 20: Re-Animator


I watched a movie based on an H.P. Lovecraft story during last year's Project Horror.  Now that I reread that post, I notice that I actually mentioned tonight's movie, Re-Animator! Now, unfortunately, I was supposed to watch this tonight, and have Scott guest blogging it with me, but things went awry.  Check out my other post from tonight for the full explanation.

Anyway, he'd already sent me his writeup for Re-Animator, and it was too good not to use, so tonight you get a double feature!  Here goes.

Let me just go ahead and get this out of the way first...Re-Animator is bug-nuts CRAZY (oh, but gloriously so!).

This campy horror cult classic from 1985 follows Dr. Herbert Ross, a highly-intelligent med student who has concocted a bright green serum that can bring the dead back to life if injected shortly after the moment of death.  Re-animation ain't pretty though, as the subjects when revived turn out to be snarling, out-of-control zombies.  Ross is aided by his reluctant roomie, viewed suspiciously by his roommate's fiancee and envied by his jealous professor.  Things really get wacky when said professor is beheaded, injected with the serum himself and kidnaps the fiancee.  It's up to Ross and his roomie to save the girl and put a stop to the crazed professor.

You might gather from this synopsis that Re-Animator is not for everybody and you'd be right!  But if you have a strong stomach and a high tolerance for insane, gross out horror, then this is the movie for you.  Some of the acting borders on Rocky Horror bad but this Frankensteinian flick goes for broke and that makes it endearing (in a sick and twisted kind of way).  It goes so over the top, you can't help but laugh at it and the filmmakers know exactly what they're doing.  Whatever little  budget they had, they spent on special effects and they are just as good and nasty as anything Rick Baker, Rob Bottin or Greg Nicotero has ever done.  I remember going to see a midnight reissue of Re-Animator at the old Inwood Theatre in Dallas sometime in the early 90's and to see this film with a crowd is quite an experience (and it's sequel, Bride of Re-Animator, is almost as much fun).

Shocking, depraved, repulsive, pervasive - all of the above applies to Re-Animator.  The finished film may not exactly be what H.P. Lovecraft had in mind when he wrote the story on which this is based on but it's sure something special.  In fact, I'm certain it would make shock-horror auteurs Roger Corman and George Romero blush...and perhaps vomit.

Re-Animator gets 4 re-animated heads out of 5.

 Scott made me promise that I'd still watch this at some point, and I will!

Return of Project Horror, Day 20: Night of the Living Dead


Crap!  I done goofed.  You know how when Netflix doesn't have the next movie in your queue available, they skip it and send you the next one after that?  Re-Animator was next in my queue, but I wasn't paying attention.  Netflix shuffled me around, but all I noticed was that there were two DVDs sitting by my TV, waiting to be watched.  Unfortunately, they're both part of my next block (Evil Twins & Children).  Here's why this is even more of a problem, though - my buddy Scott was going to guest blog Re-Animator with me.

Fortunately, I am trained for just this type of situation.  One of the things I do for my employer is business continuity planning and testing.  If this doesn't qualify as a calamitous event, what does?  So, here's what we're doing: Scott already sent me his write-up of Re-Animator, so I'm going to include it as a bonus movie for today.  And I am going to pull one out of the collection, and watch Night of the Living Dead.

I'm going to keep this a little shorter than usual, because I am flat-out exhausted from staying up so late every night.

Night of the Living Dead is, of course, the first movie from George Romero, the granddaddy of zombie movies.  If you've seen other Romero zombie movies, or just any zombie movies, the plot is pretty quickly recognizable.  For unknown reasons, the dead are coming back to life, and cannot be satisfied by anything except the flesh of the living.  A group of strangers finds themselves thrown together when they seek refuge in an empty farmhouse.  One man, Ben, takes leadership of the group as they try to survive through the night until help can reach them.  As the night continues, though, and the siege worsens, it becomes clear that not all of these people will make it until dawn...

This isn't the most frightening movie around, although it has aged very well, and you can easily see how it was very disturbing and controversial at the time of its release.  Zombie movies have become so focused on using extremely gruesome zombie makeup, and upping the number of kills, that it's fun to see the one that launched the whole phenomenon, low budget aesthetic and all.  Just as many zombie movies have interesting commentaries on larger social issues, this one gives a compelling but completely subtextual look at race relations during the civil rights era.

I watched this with Clay, who also joined me for Maniac a couple of weeks ago.  He wanted to try another, so I took this to his house tonight.  He told me that it was literally the second scary movie he'd ever seen, Maniac being the first, but that he hadn't been all that scared by it.  I'm going to have to step up my game with Clay and bring something that will really scar him.  Time to bring back Inside.

We're two-thirds through Return of Project Horror!  I'm kind of ready to be done.  I'm really tired from all of the late nights this month.  Night of the Living Dead: I can't argue with a classic.  You get five zombie tweens out of five.
TOMORROW: Basket Case, the first of the Evil Twins & Children block


Return of Project Horror, Day 19: VideoDrome


David Cronenberg's filmography is full of movies that I keep meaning to see.  Somebody will ask me, "Hey, did you ever see Eastern Promises?" and I'll be like, "No, but it's in my Netflix queue."  I've seen... 

Hold on, the DannyLine is buzzing.  Why, it's my friend Scott!  (You can tell it's him because, like my other friends, he always shows up in blue.)
I'm headed home from work, on the train, listening to Jane's Addiction, and I'm ready to tackle my first contribution to your now legendary blog!  Hope it doesn't suck...
Ooh!  Is it their new one?  "The Great Escape Artist"?  I just bought it yesterday, and listened to it tonight at the gym.  (Scott knows that Jane's Addiction is my most favorite band EVAH, so he gets some bonus DannyPoints for that.)

Scott is also being modest when he says he hopes what he wrote doesn't suck.  He knows a LOT about movies.  His personal collection of DVDs is over 2,000 discs!  Also, he's my inside source for a lot of things, because he works for Universal Studios.  If I do a third Project Horror next year, I may have to do a block of Universal Monsters and invite him to join me for that!
Let's look through the DannyArchives...  Yes, here it is - a picture of Scott's family and my family at Disneyland in February 2010.  That's me on the left, and the guy on the right who looks like Ron Swanson without a mustache is Scott.  (Also pictured: beautiful wives and darling children.  And Walt and Mickey.)
Well, Scott, what did you think?
You could say I have a love/hate relationship with David Cronenberg movies.  There are a few I love (The Fly, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises), a few I hate (Crash, Naked Lunch, eXistenZ) and a few that I've always been on the fence about, including Scanners, Dead Ringers and...VideoDrome.
Just before you got here, I was about to list my experience with Cronenberg.  I've seen Scanners, The Fly, and A History of Violence, but not any of his others.  (I'm planning to watch Dead Ringers during my Evil Twins & Children block, though.)  Although he's a director with a fair degree of mainstream success, I think it would still be fair to classify his movies as cult favorites, which makes him well-suited to my five days of cult and independent films.

As a sidenote, the way that I saw Scanners was pretty much the perfect way to experience Scanners.  Back in the day, when I was a bachelor in a crummy apartment, and my weekends and money were my own, I used to hit a local used record store pretty often.  They also sold used movies and video games, so it was like one-stop shopping for my geeky needs.  I found an old, beat up copy of Scanners on VHS, in a pile of tapes that were marked down to a dollar each.  Something about that movie, and its subversiveness, and its whole texture, just felt especially right when you found it in a place like that, at a price like that, in that format, and took it home to watch in a crummy apartment.

But you're right that it's only a so-so movie.  Now that I've seen VideoDrome, I'd say the same thing about it.

VideoDrome tells the tale of Max Renn, a small time cable producer (played by James Woods) looking for the next big ratings grabber.  He stumbles across a pirate satellite signal which seemingly depicts real life torture and murder.  Thinking this will be his ticket to the big time, he investigates the origins of the signal only to get consumed by it's sadomasichistic hallucinations and...some real weird shit happens.
There are several James Woods movies that I have really liked, but he's one of those actors who never makes me forget who I'm watching, and just watch the character instead.  I'm always aware that it's James Woods I'm staring at onscreen.

Your plot description is pretty much right on.  I would add that the weird shit includes a far-reaching conspiracy, and the opportunity to see Debbie Harry getting kinky.  After seeing Pontypool a few nights ago, with its linguistically-transmitted illness, it was interesting to see VideoDrome's televisually-transmitted illness.

Honestly, I've never really considered VideoDrome to be a "horror" movie.  It's more of a sci-fi thriller, like A Clockwork Orange (with a dash of Network and Taxi Driver for good measure). 
When I'm putting together my movie lists for these projects, I sometimes rely too much on how Netflix classifies things.  That's what screwed me during Project Valentine when I watched Something to Talk About, and during last year's Project Horror with Mondo Cane.  Still, I feel OK about classifying this one as horror.  Maybe not spooks and monsters and killers horror, but, like a lot of Cronenberg's work, it fits into the category of body horror.  It didn't leave me cringing or frightened like some of the things I've watched this month, but it definitely left me feeling unsettled.

That said, it's been at least 20 years since I last saw it and I remembered thinking back then that maybe I would appreciate more when I got older.  Now I'm older and do I appreciate it more?  Well, yes and no.  Nobody plays fast-talking, sleazy and charismatic as well as Woods (that description makes me want to see Casino again) and he was born to play this role (he would perfect this balance 2 years later in his Oscar nominated performance in Salvador).  Additionally, I've always enjoyed the incredible make-up and special effects by Rick Baker, who even in this early stage of his career had already won the first ever Best Make-Up Oscar for An American Werewolf In London.  Video cassettes and TVs come to pulsating, breathing life.  James Woods grows a grotesque, strangely sexual orifice in his chest, as well as a pseudo biomechanical firearm out of his, well, arm.  

I praised Tom Savini's work in Maniac a few days ago, and Rick Baker is right up there beside him in the pantheon.  How many make-up artists get individual billing in the opening credits, right after the director?  CGI has done amazing things, and some of my favorite movies of the last few years couldn't have happened without it, but there's really something to be said for the greats like Savini and Baker, who produced real, tactile effects that can both fascinate and disturb.
But did I mention how weird this movie is?  That's where it sort of loses me.  It becomes so hard to separate reality from fantasy that it actually hinders my enjoyment of the film.  I will say that the "twist" behind the true motivations of the VideoDrome channel is a good one.
I feel like I'm just dittoing a lot of what you say, but I agree with this, too.  And I like weird movies.  But this... I dunno.  The best I can say is that now that I've seen it, I definitely get the dream sequence in A History of Violence much better.

VideoDrome was clearly ahead of its time when it was released in 1983.  Even back then, television was taking over our lives and the boundaries of "good taste" were being questioned.  Fast forward to 2011 and we are kinda living in a VideoDrome world.  Though you can't exactly tune into the "torture porn" channel (you have to go to the movies for that kind of stuff), reality TV is everywhere.  There are just more channels and more ways to digest content (not just via cable tv).  There has been serious talk of remaking VideoDrome but I don't think it would be as effective nowadays, if for no other reason that a living breathing DVD or flat screen plasma TV just doesn't sound as intimidating as a videotape or one of those huge flat top cabinet encased TV sets.  Long live the new flesh!

Wikipedia ("We're often correct!") tells me that it's your boys at Universal who bought the remake rights!

I give VideoDrome 3 fleshy TVs out of 5.
That's about right.

 TOMORROW: Re-Animator, with Scott again!

Return of Project Horror, Day 18: Cemetery Man


Cemetery Man might be one of the most difficult movies to classify that I've ever seen.  Is it a horror movie?  Yes.  But it's also a comedy, a romance, and an art film, and is successful in each category.

I didn't see very many horror films that came out in the '90s, at least not after 1996.  That's when Scream  came out.  I went and saw that, along with everybody else, and enjoyed it.  At the time, it was a really original work.  Unfortunately, its success meant that we all spent the next five years with nothing in the way of horror except for winking postmodern movies that could never just play it straight.  So right before I graduated college in 1997, when a friend told me about a 1994 movie called Cemetery Man, and used the adjective "clever" to describe it, it was pretty much a guarantee that I didn't want to see it.

As more time passed, though, I kept hearing about this movie from different sources, until I couldn't resist anymore, and added it to this year's Project Horror lineup.  It's the story of Francesco Dellamorte, the caretaker of the cemetery in the small town of Buffalora.  He lives in the cemetery along with his bizarre assistant Gnaghi.  He doesn't know whether this happens everywhere or just in his town, but one of Francesco's duties is to "re-kill" the dead when they come back to life on the seventh day after their death.  The townspeople have no idea that this happens, and when he attempts to tell some of them, nobody pays any mind.  In the midst of this, he instantly falls in love one day with the beautiful widow of a recently deceased man.  After a night spent with her, fate steps in and keeps him from being with her.  At this point, he starts to slip, imagining that other women he meets are her, and beginning to kill people who have not yet died.  He eventually tries to flee the town, leaving the cemetery behind, but finds that his escape attempt takes him someplace quite unexpected...

That's a pretty bare-bones plot summary, because there's really quite a bit more to this movie than that.  It's witty and literary, but also scary and thought-provoking.  There were one or two spots where it did get a little bit too talky, but then it would make up for it with a really great scene like the one where Death confronts Francesco.  Plus, Anna Falchi (the love interest) has one of the best pairs of boobs I have ever seen in a horror movie.  I mean, if you enjoy that kind of thing...

I still don't entirely know what to make of this movie's ending, but that just means I'll need to see it again.  If you've seen it and have an opinion, I'd love to hear it in the comments.  Despite the confusing ending, though, this was still a very enjoyable movie.  I give it four revolvers out of five.

 TOMORROW: Videodrome, with guest blogger Scott (available on instant streaming)

Return of Project Horror, Day 17: Pontypool


You are awesome, Internet!  Yesterday, during my interview with Damon O'Steen, I mentioned that I thought his female lead, Davis Neves, is really cute.  As it turns out, my friend Kyle (oh, you remember Kyle - he's guest blogged on a few movies with me this month) also directed her in a sketch show at the Improv Olympic.  He told her to come check out my blog, and she not only left a comment, but we're also friends on Facebook now.  That took one day!  Do you know what this means, Internet?  It means that Fred Schneider is totally going to call me for my birthday!

Pontypool is one of my favorite kinds of viewing experiences, the completely unexpected surprise.  I was scanning an online discussion about titles that people wished would become available on Netflix, and somebody mentioned this movie.  It was released in 2009, and has been on DVD for a while, but it's never been made available on Netflix.  When I was trying to think of movies to add to the lineup for Return of Project Horror, I remembered this one and saw that it was still unavailable, but had the idea to search the upcoming listings on TV.  Success!  It was airing at two in the morning on one of the movie channels, so I set it to record, and it's been sitting on my DVR for nearly two months, just waiting for me to watch it.

After watching it tonight I think it may end up being this year's standout recommendation, just like BubbaHo-Tep was last year.  I found it to be a really unique movie, both in terms of plot and execution.

Stephen McHattie plays morning radio personality Grant Mazzy, who has been fired from two previous stations for shock jock antics, and is now stuck in the small town of Pontypool, Ontario, giving boring news updates and trying to find a job at a station with the kind of audience that he once had.  As the morning progresses, the station crew receives reports of strange and increasingly violent behavior in town, but they're unable to get clear information about its cause or outcome until the town doctor shows up at the station and begs to be let in.  He is able to share his theory about what is happening: the town has been struck by a virus that spreads itself not through air or by touch, but through language.  Certain words or patterns of speech cause the brain of the person who hears them to reprogram itself, and they become violently obsessed with  spreading the virus to others.  As more and more of the town becomes infected, the sick begin to close in on the sole remaining source of untainted voices: the radio station.

With the exception of this movie's opening scene, and one or two others, the entirety of the plot occurs in just one room, the broadcasting booth.  Except for a couple of scenes of violence, almost all of the action actually occurs offscreen, and is relayed to our characters through phone calls or TV broadcasts.  You would think that this would make for a really uninteresting movie, but it works perfectly.  You don't know any more than the people in this small room do, so you share in their confusion and isolation.  When the infected begin to lay siege to the station, you share in their panic and claustrophobia.

The character of Grant Mazzy is nicely developed through the course of the movie.  As the strange events of Pontypool begin to be reported to outside media, you can see the gleam in his eye as he anticipates using his role as the man-on-the-ground to begin his climb back into a better job.  The relationship between him and his station engineer (played by McHattie's real-life wife, Lisa Houle) grows progressively more interesting and complex, too.

I also thought that the idea of a linguistically-transmitted illness was a very cool one.  It reminded me of the Neal Stephenson book Snow Crash.

Although there is a little bit of onscreen violence, I think I could still safely recommend this movie to people who are not usually fans of horror movies.  I'm actually surprised this one hasn't built a bigger name for itself, because it's honestly one of the most well-executed horror movies I've seen in a long time.  I give it five radio microphones out of five.
TOMORROW: Cemetery Man