That Horror Question

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Often a question is presented to horror fans—especially adult fans—that we frequently ask ourselves. What made us life-long fans of the ghastly? I think there may be as many answers to this query as there are fans of horror. I once knew someone that felt her interest in horror was a way to overcome her fears. I don’t believe that has much to do with me. My interest, it seems to me, comes from my love for film. I used to watch far too much TV growing up. I’d watch just about any kind of movie there was on the tube: old Hollywood dramas, musicals, Abbott and Costello comedies. Horror films seem to dominate my past viewing habits, though.

A little history: during the 70s in the Detroit area we had three TV stations showing horror films of yore every Saturday. Channel 2 would have Sir Graves Ghastly. His show was dedicated to Universal and RKO films from the 30s and 40s. Channel 50 would present a double feature of films from, well, the 50s. The stuff shown on 62 was a mix of schlock like The Brain That Wouldn’t Die and foreign fare like the great Mario Bava’s Black Sunday. I loved Saturdays. Of course, prime time programming would serve up made-for-TV movies like Bad Arnold and Sybil. It would also show recent theatrical horror such as The Other and Burnt Offerings. Needless to say televised horror had a great impression on me.

This brings me to my cinematic experiences of my youth. Mostly during the 70s I was too young to see much horror on the big screen. In fact, I believe the first horror film that I did see theatrically was Willard. A great deal of the movies that I saw in the 70s were fantasy-driven adventure films like the last few Ray Harryhausen films, films that starred Doug McClure and Disney films of all sorts. And then there was Star Wars. But that’s another story. All this could have lured me away from horror if it wasn’t for TV. Until 1978, the year that changed everything. Halloween brought forth a horror boom that was felt for about ten years. I didn’t get to see this film until it was televised just before the release of its first sequel. But it was still the maker of that film, John Carpenter that started the most important years of my horror viewing with his next film, The Fog. Along with the films that came out during that period of late 70s to the mid-80s there was a place that showcased many of those films. That place was Hazel Park, Michigan’s answer to the grindhouses of New York, Northgate. The Northgate Cinema was a small multi-plex within a mini-mall. During the 70s this was the place I saw most of the movies I wrote about above. As I grew into my teens horror seemed to take over the place. Double-features helped me see movies from the likes of Romero, Cronenburg, Fulci.

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Many know that film is the director’s medium. The horror film is the best example of this belief. Creative film-making is a requirement for these kind of films. Most 80s mainstream movies seemed to me to have lacked the creativity that sparked my interest in film in the first place. Horror and other forms of fantastic cinema seemed to keep that creativity. This was another reason why horror has fused itself onto my life.

I think this is the best answer to why I’m a horror fan.–Charles T. Cochran

My Movies

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I know this goes away from what this blog was created for but today I decided to put the spotlight on me and a couple of movies I made. One is from my past and the other is much more recent. The first, Hands of Death, was made in 1989 for a college course. It started out as an idea I had about zombies playing cards. It later changed into an existential comedy about the afterlife.

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I came up with the second film, Georgia Shock, when I was an owner/operator of a cargo van driving around the country expediting small freight, most for the auto industry. The idea came when I was in a motel room in Kansas City. I thought “what if there was some kind of very angry creature that was in the room with me. This idea developed into the film it is today. It was finished about a year ago.

The Purge–movie review

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In an America of the future where right-wing conservatives have taken over, dubbing themselves the New Founding Fathers, the crime rate is very low due to the annual Purge. The Purge is when all laws are suspended and the public is encouraged to participate in the festivities. The only law that seems to be broken is murder and that seems the point. The Haves have the means to protect themselves; as the Have-Nots, who may turn to crime for wants and needs, are less likely to have the wherewithal to do the same. There are open conversations about what the Purge really is intended for. Is it just to ‘cleanse’ the citizenry of their hatreds and their frustrations building throughout the year? Or is it to get rid of what the Haves feel is the undesirables of society? It became rather clear within the course of the film it’s the latter and not so much the former that’s the answer to those questions.

The film centers on the Sandin family, a wealthy family living in affluent community. The parents don’t participate in the Purge, and one gets the sense that they never have joined in. But, they support the event all the same. Partly, because father James (Ethan Hawke, Training Day) works selling advanced security systems mostly to his neighbors. This line of work has been rather good to James and his family. But, also James and his wife, Mary (Lena Headey, Game of Thornes) have been convinced that the Purge works as intented. Their son, Charlie (Max Burkholder) isn’t so sure. The couple’s teenaged daughter, Zoey (Adelaide Kane, Goats) is far more concerned with her father’s disapproval over her too-old-for-her boyfriend, Henry (Tony Oller, Beneath the Darkness). But things are looking good for the Sandin family as they lockdown their house with the same security system that James has sold those who live around them.

Things turn unexpectedly, as Max shows sympathy for a homeless vet (Edwin Hodge, Red Dawn remake) who starts begging for help down their street. He deactivates their system long enough to let the man in. This understandingly elicits a bad reaction from the parents, especially when the homeless man disappears within the house. Adding to the complications this presents, Zoey’s boyfriend never left the house in the first place and wants a man to man “discussion” regarding he dating Zoey. Things go to a whole new level when Ivy League sociopaths, led by a Ray Davies lookalike credited as Polite Stranger (Rhys Wakefield, Sanctum), that were chasing the homeless man want him back and believes they have the wherewithal to break into the house. And James believes them. James wants to protect his family, but isn’t sure if he can hand over the man with a clear conscience. But, first he has to find the man hiding in his house and time is running out. Either way, as the trailer clearly shows, the security system is compromised and the bad guys get in and the action begins.

The Purge is clearly a sociopolitical satire posing as an action/horror/thriller. It presents the idea that if the right-wingers take over (more than they already have) and they are given this type of time period to run free and do what they want they will show their true faces. As monsters. The film may be heavy-handed, but since it’s a satire I’ll give it a pass. Besides, I share the films political bent. Its message is delivered well, but it’s delivered loudly and in your face. Many will find this too much. Right-wingers should hate the film.

But, it also works exceptionally well on the action/horror/thriller front as well. Suspense is well maintained throughout, as well as the terror of the situation. As for action, the crowd I saw it with was cheering at all the right places and we all had a good time with it all. Writer/director James DeMonaco (Little New York) is someone to watch. He proves himself on all fronts here: drama, suspense, scares, and action. He can do it all.

Great writing, great direction, great acting from a great  cast. This is a winner!–Charles T. Cochran

Film rating: 5 out of 5

Cabin in the Woods-A Very Quick Review

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I felt it over simplified the horror genre much like Scream did. It’s a satire of a tiny portion of horror but tries too hard to pack those things that don’t fit into their narrow view of the genre. And even if it’s a satire, it’s a satire of horror and nothing more. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and much of the work of Bentley Little are horror stories that work as satires of something else, usually social issues. Romero and Little are miles above what the markers of this film are even trying to reach. Therefore, Cabin in the Woods’ satire is superficial and less interesting. And it comes off as more of a bullhorn than a whisper or even a shout as if it isn’t pushed into our face we won’t “get it”. Besides that, it never was scary (at times thrilling though) and its humor mostly didn’t produce any laughs from me. The stuff that worked was delivered by the stoner. Contrivances are expected in art. But here too many don’t make any sense considering the reveal at the end. Why do these people have to act like the stereotypes that they naturally don’t fit into? I know that they’re meant to die in a specific order. But how does their stereotypical behavior lead them to that end? The main strength of the film is that it has very likeable characters played by very likeable actors. And I believe that’s the main reason why I didn’t think it was boring.