Archive for » August, 2010 «

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

Back at the end of summer 2009, we started to get a number of trailers for Nelson McCormick’s remake of the 1987 patriarch horror “The Stepfather”. Initial reaction to the trailers was full of disdain; this was yet another remake and it appeared to be filled with actors not too interested with the project and your annoying teen stereotype that is so common in the horror genre these days. After all, there was no way that Dylan Walsh would be able to out do Terry O’Quinn from the original movie, so why bother? I suffered from this train of thought as well. Now having sat through the movie and seeing just what Dylan Walsh was capable of as an insane step father hell bent on the perfect family, I have to eat my words. It turns out, the movie and Walsh were just fine.

The setup is simple; an insane man wants the perfect nuclear type family and will do anything to get his wish. If his newly adopted family fails to comply and falls beneath his lofty standards? He’ll just wipe them all out. Plain and simple. Filled with a life traveling from town to town and wooing divorced women along the way, David Harris murders his way across the country en-route to being crowned father of the year. Except he’s not always named David Harris and the Father of the Year bit exists only in his own mind.

Nelson McCromick’s version of “The Stepfather” does very little change things up from the 1987 original. After all, it was a pretty good flick so there was really no need. A few of the obvious things were changed along the way; Jill Scholen was swapped out for a son in the form of Penn Badgley and there were a couple of extra kids thrown in for the mix. That was really the only large step away from the predecessor. This does leave us questioning the idea of why they felt a remake was needed for this franchise but by now we all know the answer to that; money. The studios like making money and they want a safe bet to slap onto celluloid and push out the door. “The Stepfather” is this movie, more or less a simple cash grab for Screen Gems. It’s not a bad movie to watch however.

The biggest concern going in is how Dylan Walsh would measure up as the insane step father. Terry O’Quinn did such a great job before with his simmering anger and insanity that bubbled just under the surface in his day to day life. For myself not being very familiar with Dylan Walsh, I just didn’t see how he could possibly measure up. He does quite well however. He has the manly charm needed to woo the likes of Sela Ward. He works great as the want to be family man and plays well off of the children and coming across as trying too hard with the eldest child of the family. What we really want to see though is how he comes across when he hits the heights of anger and starts to cut loose on those around him. Even here, Walsh excels and does a fine job with the simmering insanity.

My second concern with the trailers were in the switch to a male lead for the eldest child of the family. After all, Jill Scholen in the original film had a certain innocence and charm about here that made it easy to sympathize with her. Early on, the marketing led us to believe that Penn Badgley would be playing an over bearing douche bag type of teen primarily concerned with looking cool on screen. The trailers also hinted towards a heavy foray into teen sexuality causing a lot of tension with Badgley and Amber Heard which was off putting. In the final product, while that teen sexuality is there, it isn’t a major plot point. It is one of the devices that leads to the stepfathers unhappiness; he doesn’t want a son that’s known for defiling young virgins and getting a bad reputation. He wants a good boy that does that right thing. With the switch from a daughter to a son, the device fits well. Plus, it’s Amber Heard. That always helps a bit too because she’s generally pretty great.

My message to all of you out there that were with me hating on “The Stepfather” from the first trailers? It’s not so bad! I can’t say that was fully worth the $10 admission fee when it first hit theaters but it a great watch for home. The tension runs thick as we watch Harris come unhinged and the characters are plenty engaging. Sure, you may not sympathize with Penn Badgley as much as you did with Jill Scholen the first time around but you will get drawn in. If it helps, you can sympathize with Sela Ward as she seems like a pretty sweet mom.

In the meantime, while I was unfamiliar with Dylan Walsh before? He’s now A-Ok in my book.

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Monday, August 23rd, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

Heather Faville over at Double Shot Reviews posted a great review of Dark: A Horror Anthlogy where my story “Deep Lies the Murky Floor” resides! Be sure to check out the full review!

If you are one of the folks that has bought a copy of Dark on Amazon, be sure to go back and leave us a short review in the store! And I mean good or bad review too, we’re big boys! We can handle it!

If you were a fan of the original anthology, stay tuned as talk of the sequel “Darker” has already begun! My own submission “Dirty Work” is nearing the end of it’s first draft and appears to be some good old fashioned monster fun! Well, I think it’s fun anyways. I don’t know if you all will or not!

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Saturday, August 21st, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

Late last year the horror world became abuzz with the release of “Paranormal Activity”. Shot completely in POV style, the movie captured the attention of a lot of movie watchers and scared a good many of them. Naturally, when a horror movie comes along that generates a ton of buzz and box office cash, The Asylum is going to pay close attention and try and spin off their own feature. Thus is the story behind their film Paranormal Entity. Absolutely nothing is changed here as far as what counts. You have a family dealing with a ghost and an edgy twenty something who decides he’s going to catch the whole thing on camera. Throw out his cute wife and replace her with a sister and a mother and you have the first and nearly only significant change from the original movie. Mix in a story about a dad who died in a car crash and a grieving wife who’s trying to talk to him and you have the second major reconstruction. Other than that? We’re dealing with the exact same formula.

Considering I wasn’t a big fan of the formula the first time around? The second pass in “Paranormal Entity” was a chore.

The Asylum has never been a group concerned too much with artistry. They want to slap a film in the can and push it out the door. They want money; mimicking a popular money making movie is how they make that money. This time around, they got lucky as there wasn’t much they had to contend with in the artistry department. Just like it’s predecessor, is shot entirely on hand held cameras. The setup is nearly the same, the haunting is nearly the same. The unseen spector shows up at random times of the night and scares the three family members still living in the house. Things move around from unseen forces, the TV turns on and off and something knocks around in the attic. Again, much like the first film, this spirit is dedicated to messing with the life of the leading female, the sister. In between the bouts of shaking video camera shots accompanied by the heavy mouth breathing of the brother, we see sister getting messed with in various manners. We also see a lot of her in her bra and panties. I guess that’s the one thing The Asylum thought “Paranormal Activity” was lacking; T&A.

To be fare and forthcoming and all that good stuff; I didn’t like the original film very much. The movie had its moments but ‘jumped the shark’ at the halfway point when we see the Ouija board burst into flames. For “Paranormal Entity”, the scares are not very effective as we’ve seen them all before. “Activity” sucked in its viewers because it was scaring them in new ways. Those ways are no longer scary. They also suffer from a severe lack of editing as well. There are many times that we see the camera being set down and then continue rolling on nothing interesting. We can hear people knocking about in the back ground but it isn’t dialog needed for the scene in question. We see lots of long dark shots waiting for something to happen, like a chair to move, but it never comes. These long and tedious moments combined with scares that we know what is going to happen and the movie just simply starts to feel uncomfortable.

You know when your aunt and uncle come back from vacation and want to show you their videos. You sit there a bit antsy as you are bored to tears, but you don’t want to say anything rude because they’re you’re aunt and uncle; you don’t want to hurt their feelings. That’s what watching “Paranormal Entity” feels like; uncomfortable vacation videos.

I will give the cast and crew credit for one improvement over the originals scare formula. In “Activity”, there is a tense moment when the characters spread baby powder in the door way of the room to find chicken shaped footprint in the morning. In “Entity”, they take this moment and expand into something much longer and a bit weightier. The family is under full on assault form the spirits that have marked them for torment. They run about the house trying to get away from their unseen assailant. Doors slam in the background, furniture moves about to try and trip them up and once they finally turn on the lights; they find foot prints traveling the length of the house upon the ceiling. For me, finding human shaped footprints upon the ceiling is far more unsettling than chicken feet in your bedroom. Upon further investigation in the morning, the brother follows the footprints to their source and finds they have originated from his fathers ashes. Sure, the fathers death is a throwaway plot crutch but in this one tiny moment, they make the idea a bit more chilling. It didn’t last long though, so I wouldn’t dwell on it.

In the end, I watched “Paranormal Entity” and was not surprised in the slightest by a film from The Asylum. You get what you expect, which is crap. I also lost a solid two hours of my life to this film and I’m still a bit bitter over this fact. It also leads me to wonder and speculation on how the studio plans to pull of “Paranormal Activity 2”; there’s a strong chance they may suffer from the same ‘been there, done that’ boredom that plagued “Paranormal Entity”.

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Thursday, August 19th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

I’m branching out a bit this week, joining the gang from The Movie Fan House Podcast to discuss “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World” and “The Expendables”! It’s always fun sitting in with Charlie Jess and Brad, this show was no exception! Strap on your headphones and give it a listen!

Be sure to share your own thoughts on the films as well!

The Movie Fan House #56 Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World and The Expendables!

The gang’s all here, or so they say. Charlie, Jesse and Brad are all on board with recurring guest Casey Criswell from the Bloody Good Horror podcast! The guys review Scott Pilgrim vs. The World as well as The Expendables and also reveal their Fav 5 Unlikely Movie Team-ups.

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Monday, August 16th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

Back in 2001 the world was blessed with Larry Blamire’s creation “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavera”. The movie did an outstanding job of lampooning the era of science fiction and horror flicks where rubber suited monsters and horrid effects ruled the day. The humor was fast paced and constant and the plot was suitably hokey to keep the viewer near tears form laughter throughout. This past year, Blamire has brought together the same cast from the first film for “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again”, the continuation of horror coming from the smart mouthed skeleton villain of the first movie. If you’re wondering if Blamire and crew were able to pull off the feat of “Lost Skeleton of Cadavera” once again?

Let me put it this way; “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again” wore me out. I haven’t laughed that hard since the first film.

For this second go around, a lot has happened since Dr. Armstrong and his crew last battled the Lost Skeleton of Cadavera. The Dr. himself has become a bitter man stuck in a South American jungle. He’s discovered the rare metal Geranium-90 but somebody else took credit for his find! While away, his faithful wife Betty has kept a lonely vigil for the past two years, keeping up their home and being a dutiful wife. Such is the life of a scientists wife! Dr. Armstrong isn’t the only person in search of Geranium-90 though. While digging through his late evil twin brother’s belongings, Peter Fleming uncovers the skull of the Lost Skeleton. Of course, the only thing that can make the Lost Skeleton’s body complete once again is the mysterious Geranium-90. Seeing has he has no legs or hands, he takes control of Peter Fleming and they take off in search of the rare element. One would think it would be pretty easy to find a rock in the jungle. One would be wrong though considering that the Geranium-90 is guarded by the Cantaloupe people in the Valley of the Monsters. This factor doesn’t slow down Dr. Armstrong and pals though; they’re working for SCIENCE.

When forced to explain to the uninitiated what to expect from a “Lost Skeleton” movie, I generally fall back to explaining the plot in bursts between fits of laughter. It’s one of those ‘you had to be there’ things because simply talking about it reminds you of a number of jokes and soon you’re laughing to yourself and your co-worker you were talking to thinks your nuts. For myself, I’ve yet to get past the scene in “Returns Again” where The Skeleton has taken control of “Carl’, a simple minded crook without fits of laughter. The banter between the Skeleton and Carl as they trudge hopelessly through a small grove of bushes is pants wetting-ly funny in both simplicity and delivery. “Carl…Carl, where are you going….Why are we in the bushes Carl?” Out of context, such a scene doesn’t seem like much. After you’ve been primed by forty five minutes of constant jokes and subtle one liners, it is down right hilarious. Such is the nature of “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again”.

The story of the “Lost Skeleton” movies are secondary to the jokes and timing of the excellent cast. Sure, there’s a story there and it fits perfect with the era of film they are trying to parody. There are moments in the film where you can pinpoint an homage to Ed Wood Jr. and other bastions of 1950’s era cheese. The plot runs similarly lean as its predecessors once did; that’s okay though. What we’re really here for is to watch them crack jokes as they work their way through the outline. For “Returns Again” though, they do manage to work a little bit of magic with the characters and backgrounds involved. With Dr. Armstrong we’ve watched him transform from a bright eyed scientist doing science for science. Here, we watch as he has become a darker version of himself, driven to bitterness by his time in the jungle. Various characters met their ends at the hands of the monsters in “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavera”. Thankfully, they all had twins though and they were available for filming. Even Animala, the velour suited cat beauty that hypnotized everyone with her power of dance is back in a newer form. She’s still a cat and she’s still a hell of a dancer; she gets a bit beefier story line however and becomes just a little more integral to the course of the film. In fact, the only character that hasn’t changed much is Dr. Armstrong’s wife Betty. She’s still lovely and hopelessly devoted. She’s hopelessly oblivious as well.

“The Lost Skeleton Returns Again”, to put it bluntly, is downright hilarious. The humor is more of the same that was started in “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavera” while managing to be fresh all at the same time. The monsters that attack our erstwhile adventurers are creative and hilarious at the same time. If you were a big fan of the first film, you must see the sequel. It’s just as good. If you haven’t seen either, get your act together and go find them. You’re going to laugh. Hard.


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Wednesday, August 11th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

Hey gang! Give a hearty welcome to today’s guest poster Ross Tipograph! He’s been reading Cinema Fromage for quite some time now and approached me to see if he could write an article for the site. I of course, said sure!

Read on for Ross’s look at “Eerie Indiana”!



Coming of age in the ‘90s was a fantastic beyond fantastic gift. I couldn’t ask for more enjoyable cheesy fun. For the child horror aficianiado that I was, I had not one, but three children’s horror options on the boob tube. First of all, there was the almighty “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” series on Nickelodeon, which is the ultimate kids’ horror anthology show; it played out much like “The Twilight Zone,” which the same narrator(s) opening each episode and unveiling to the audience a new tale of terror. For the more off-beat crowd, we had “Goosebumps” on the FOX network, “Goosebumps” was like the trippy cousin of “Are You Afraid,” with each episode serving as an adaptation of one of R.L. Stine’s many books in the popular horror book series.

If you think hard enough, there was most definitely a third, albeit short-lived, option for those in need of a horror fix, and it was called: “EERIE, INDIANA.”
“Eerie” was created by Jose Rivera – who later went on to be nominated for an Oscar for his Motorcycle Diaries screenplay, and is currently working on the upcoming film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road – and Karl Schaefer, who stayed in the television world for fare such as “Ghost Whisperer” and “The Dead Zone.” It ran for just 19 episodes through ’91-’92 on NBC, and it was glorious.

We follow the trials and tribulations of Marshall Teller, played by Omri Katz of family-horror-comedy “Hocus Pocus” (1993), as he moves with his family to the titular city and is seemingly the only sane human being there, among other creatures. His only friend is the slightly younger and super inquisitive Simon, played with supporting comic relief hilarity by redhead Justin Shenkarow. Together, they spend each episode investigating a specific creepy, crawly going-on in this bizarre city they both call home. Sometimes the town of Eerie holds some supremely unique surprises. In one episode, Marshall and Simon stumble upon a Stepford-like neighbor woman who keeps herself and her twin boys sealed up every night in human-size Tupperware containers to keep their bodies from aging. In another, a young male classmate of Marshall’s passes away in a heart transplant for another girl in the class, only to have that girl suddenly develop a personality much like the boy who gave her his heart…

My absolute favorite episode defines why this briefly seen series deserves to be remembered: In the one titled “Reality Takes a Holiday,” the town of Eerie is discovered to in fact be a set of a television show, with all of the characters suddenly calling her each other their real-world actor names, i.e. Marshall is now called Omri by his family and friends, but he has no idea who that is. This episode is unbelievable and borders on near nonsensical insanity – but it’s fun. “Eerie, Indiana” not once takes itself, or its low-budget, or its goofy subject matter too seriously, or really, seriously at all. It’s one big laugh.
Luckily for us few fans, the show has been preserved on DVD, the handful of discs packaged into a delightfully creepy box set. Surprisingly, it’s sold almost everywhere – so GO GET IT! It’s awesome.


Ross Tipograph is a film buff and Emerson College screenwriting major. When he’s not reviewing movies, he writes about Halloween costumes.

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Tuesday, August 10th, 2010 | Author: Casey Criswell

Sunday AfternoonHey there! Remember me? I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. I haven’t been too attentive to the pages of Cinema Formage for the past week. I’ve got good reason though!

As you saw in the last post, I’m helping to produce a new fiction anthology called ‘Mondo Sasquatch’. The thing is, even when you’re on the ‘staff’ for the anthology? You still have to you know…write your own story for the book. It kind of helps and all, right? People tend not to buy books when they don’t have stories.

At any rate, this past week and some change has left me with heaps of creative brain trust going on and to be frank about it; I’ve been taking advantage of it. I’m happy to announce that the “Incident at Crater Lake” is now done. Early feedback from my alpha readers is quite good, which leaves me excited. The novella, I call it that because the entire story has come in at around 50 pages and 16,500+ words, is now festering for the next week or so before the first pass with the editing wand of doom hits! I’m pretty excited; with the last few years I’ve had and the trouble it brought with the fiction side of things, it’s pretty damn pleasing to be able to pump out a work that’s that long and still getting great feedback on the first draft.

In the wake of “Incident and Crater Lake”, I’ve found my creative brain is now working overtime as a number of new stories are starting to queue up for their chance out the gate. There will be a new volume of the first anthology I took part in called “Darker” and I’ve been invited to partake. And partake I shall! I’ve been surprised to find a good two or three other stories rummaging about in my brain pan this week as well, so the story writing goes well. In addition to the swelling amount of short stories? I’ve also begun my first novel attempt too, based on a story that I begun a few years ago. I was stuck before; I pulled it out last month and looked it over again and now I can’t shut myself up. And while I’m sitting here tooting my horn, I’ll throw out there that my character bible and some ideas for my comic pitch “Blood Hound” are sitting with a great artist at the moment, so here’s hoping that may take off soon as well!

In lieu of making this post after a week and a half absence sound like nothing but bragging, I’m just here to say that you should stay tuned here to Cinema Fromage for more reviews. I’m not planning on stopping those anytime soon. When the fiction muse comes calling however, I have to stop and listen! So if things go dead here for a week at a time, rest assured I’m just writing. Writing something other than movie reviews that is!

Note: For a brief explanation; when I get in story mode, I don’t get too many movies watched. I get tunnel vision pretty bad. Or obsessed. Obsessed would be another good description of the process.

With that said, stay tuned this week for reviews of Wes Craven’s “Swamp Thing”, a flick called “Metamorphosis” courtesy of a disk given to me by friend and fellow bad taste veteran Dan Taylor over at Exploitation Retrospect, a guest post on the classic series “Eerie Indiana” and more!

Until then; so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night!

PS: While I’m thinking writing projects, I want to throw out there that there may be a print collection of Cinema Fromage movie reviews before the year is out! Granted, this is primarily for my own benefit. I’ve dumped a lot of words and I’d like to have them bound up all pretty like to stick on my book shelf for posteriors sake. Posterity? Something like that. Should that be something that readers would be interested in for a handy dandy reference guide to cheese flicks? Let me know! Comments are welcome or you can hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, or The Official Facebook Page for Cinema Fromage!