Missing Reels: “The Frighteners” (1996)

Missing Reels examines overlooked, unappreciated or unfairly maligned movies. Sometimes these films haven’t been seen by anyone, and sometimes they’ve been seen by everyone… who loathed them. Sometimes they’ve simply been forgotten. But in any case, Missing Reels argues that they deserve to be seen and admired by more people.

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When most moviegoers hear the name Peter Jackson, they think of a sprawling fantasy adventure like he delivered with “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies. However, Jackson got his start with low budget works, first with the independently made horror comedy “Bad Taste” (1987) and then with the deeply profane Muppets send-up “Meet the Feebles” (1989). While popular in New Zealand, these were mainly cult films for international audiences who had to purposefully seek out these quirky and raunchy examples of genre by the then-little known Kiwi auteur. His first real brush with international acclaim came with “Dead Alive” in 1992 (also known as “Braindead”), which was a gory zombie flick that included some of the most gruesome, outlandish and hilarious effects seen on film since Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead 2.” Gorehounds and horror fiends had found a new sensation with Jackson and reveled in the madness he was bringing to their screens and VHS rental stores.

The filmmaker really broke out internationally with “Heavenly Creatures,” his poetic tale of magical realism that centered on the dangerous romance between two (ultimately) murderous teen girls played by a young Kate Winslet and a young Melanie Lynskey. The film garnered acclaim outside of the genre crowd and proved that Jackson was a versatile filmmaker capable not just of incredible sequences (usually involving gore) but also of truly understanding the emotional depths of his characters.

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Ha-Ha-Horror: Why Horror and Comedy Go Together So Well

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Laughing and screaming are not so different, when you think about it. Both are involuntary reactions to outside stimulus that betray the true emotion of a person. Yet when people talk about horror films, they rarely talk about the crucial element that comedy plays in crafting a successful scary movie. And while not every horror movie uses (or needs) comedy in its storytelling, especially those films that are more interested in cultivating an atmosphere of dread and doom, those that do tend to be crowd pleasers that deliver a more complete experience for the audience.

There’s always been a certain wicked sense of humor in horror, whether it’s the clever wordplay of Edgar Allen Poe or H.P. Lovecraft, the ironic morality tales of comics like “Tales from the Crypt,” or even Stephen King’s moments of levity in his gruesome tales of the macabre. And while many point to “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” as the watershed moment where comedy and horror collided, there are earlier examples in films like “Bride of Frankenstein” that have truly funny moments embedded within them. With the rise of a more cultivated viewership, filmmakers have gone on to inject more comedy into their horror fare. Part of this is a recognition of tired tropes and clichés, but part of it serves a real purpose in telling a scary story.

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Blu-ray Review: Final Destination 5

After a terribly disappointing fourth installment in the popular teen death series, New Line does the unthinkable by not only making a fifth “Final Destination” but, horrors (see what we did there?), casting old people as the leads. You know, people who are, like, 30, and even some born in the ’70s, ewww. Who wants to see old people die?

As it turns out, it was a very savvy move. “The Final Destination” was in a tough position in that its predecessor ramped up the death scenes’ difficulty factor (Rube Goldberg would have been proud, then probably ashamed) while maintaining self-awareness. “FD4″ tried to maintain the planned chaos, but it was undone by bad dialogue, poor acting, and too much foreshadowing. From the very beginning, “Final Destination 5″ does two things to separate itself from the previous movie: it casts grown-ups in the lead roles (David Koechner and Courtney B. Vance, holler) and gets serious in a hurry after a premonition on a suspension bridge leads a group of white collar drones to hop off the bus, Gus. Also, there are no bad last lines like “I’ve got my eye on you” (poor, poor Krista Allen), and while a death may be triggered by a chain reaction, the cause of death itself is often something normal (fall, fire). Don’t think they didn’t get creative, though; one of the women suffers a particularly gruesome accident that is impossible not to react to.

This, as you might imagine, does not end well.

They’ve also changed the rules – which is ironic, but for reasons we cannot divulge – when coroner William Blodworth (Tony “Candyman” Todd, returning for a third tour of duty, fourth if you include his voice work in “FD3″) suggests that the survivors can cheat death by killing someone else, a la “The Ring.” It adds an interesting wrinkle, since you get a glimpse of what people are willing to do in order to stay alive. Do not under any circumstances watch the bonus features if you haven’t yet seen the movie, otherwise the big surprise, which is a good one, will be spoiled. Definitely check them out afterwards, though, as you’ll get a glimpse of Koechner adding some of his natural comic flair. A welcome return to form for what was presumed to be a, um, dead franchise.

Click to buy “Final Destination 5″ from Amazon

  

15 Best Horror Movies

Check out the list we put together back in 2005 of the 15 best horror movies. As Halloween approaches we’ll be featuring some of the best horror content from our archives. You’ll find most of the classics there, though these lists often generate a lively discussion. Is your favorite on there?

  

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