Monday, October 29, 2007


Each October I watch a lot of horror movies. I tend to mix classics I want to revisit with new stuff I hope will be good. Of course, I’m always on the hunt for new horror films that don’t stink up the room and make me wish I’d just watched television that night, but in October this search intensifies. Usually I start casting about for movies that I might have written off earlier, digging a little deeper than average hoping for a surprise. I call it panning for gold but someone else might call it sifting through shit. Whatever you want to call it, I occasionally find a nugget of the pure stuff. That happened with this film.

Back in early 2007 I saw a trailer for DEAD SILENCE and dismissed it out of hand. I saw a ventriloquist dummy, thought “MAGIC for the 21st century” and never thought of it again. But over the last few months I’ve started listening to a great horror film related Podcast called Now despite being named after a pretty crappy 80’s film the two Kentucky guys that hold court on this show are funny, informed and honest in their opinions. I certainly can’t say I agree with them all the time (MONKEY SHINES is a damned good movie) but we share a hatred of Eli Roth so I’m on their side in most instances. One of the great things about any sustained conversation on a favorite topic is that it tends to focus the mind and listening to these fellow fans has had that effect. They’ve made me think a bit harder about what I like and what I don’t. I should probably thank them for that one day. So when one of them commented that he had liked DEAD SILENCE and thought it tried to do something fresh in the genre I took note. A quick trip to the NetFlix cue and I settled down to view it with mild expectations.

In a word- WOW! This is one damned good little ghost tale! Not a ventriloquist story really but a horror story about decades long revenge and murder that has a number of nice surprises and at least 5 or 6 stand out scare moments that are simply masterful. When a film is good enough to evoke chills from the sight of a pale white hand inching its way around a wooden post you know you’re in the hands of people who understand horror. And this is the rare film that gets better as you think more about it afterwards. I almost want to watch it again just for the joy of being played so well.

The film tells the story of a young man and his wife who have moved away from the small town in which they grew up. One night they receive an unmarked package containing an old but well kept ventriloquist dummy. Both of them remember an odd story and rhyme they heard as kids about someone with dummies like this one. That same night, while the husband is out of the apartment, his wife is murdered and her tongue ripped out leaving her looking a lot like the wooden doll. Under suspicion for the death he travels back to the couple’s hometown to find out who sent the dummy to them and discover the reason for his beloved’s murder.

That’s all I’m going to tell you other than this is a wonderfully creepy, atmospheric, beautifully photographed and pleasingly well paced horror movie. It is easily one of the best in the genre I’ve seen in many moons and I regret not seeing it on the big screen. I don’t want to over praise it and possibly build up too much anticipation but I really do recommend this one. This is exactly the kind of good, scary movie we need more of these days. It’s a shame it tanked at the box office but maybe we can make it a hit on DVD.

Rod says- CHECK IT OUT!

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I'm happy to report that it turns out that I was wrong about how Universal was going to lay out the five films in their new Classic Movie Archive currently available only through Best Buy. The movies are laid out on two DVDs with THE BLACK CAT (1941 version), MAN MADE MONSTER and HORROR ISLAND on the first. NIGHT MONSTER and CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN share disc space on the second. Considering the short length of these films this is a good choice making it easy to go on a binge of 1940s horror without leaving your chair!

I'm also happy that now I've been able to finally see NIGHT MONSTER (1942). It's one of the very few movies staring Bela Lugosi that I've never caught up with (and I'll get to MURDER BY TELEVISION one day). It turns out Bela is a minor part of the story but the movie is pretty darned good any way. As a matter of fact, I'd say its the second best of the five. Of course, the real gem of the set is the great little Lon Chaney, Jr. film MAN MADE MONSTER. I think Chaney gives one of his best and least hammy performances here. I actually prefer his work as an actor in this one to his turn in THE WOLF MAN.

I love this poster art from the 1953 re-release. Somehow the title change just doesn't thrill me, although I'm sure it fooled plenty of folks looking for the latest atomic mutant film.