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Wednesday, Jun 2, 2010
Fifteen remakes - and what they say about the state of horror in general.

With The Wolfman hitting video shelves this week (itself, a stylish update of the iconic 1941 Lon Chaney effort), SE&L decided to look back at the other horror remakes from the last 30 years to see how many of them hold up, and how many should have never seen the light of day. There are a couple of caveats, of course. We couldn’t offer up opinions on every single update of a past terror title. We’d be here until some studio decides to turn Splice into a 3D, virtual reality immersive experience. Secondly, we purposefully avoided all the East to West, J-horror to Hollywood hackjobs. If you’ve seen one dark haired Asian ghost groan like she’s got the macabre mange, you’ve pretty much seen them all.


For us, the 15 films chosen represent the most recognizable and mainstream of the post-modern creepshows. They are the names even the most clueless moviegoer would know. More importantly, more than a couple are considered the very best that the genre has to offer - even in their updated form. While opinions may differ, it’s clear that this is one cash machine category that’s not going away anytime soon (right, Hellraiser, Suspiria, People Under the Stairs, etc.).


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Monday, May 17, 2010
As one of homemade filmmaking's pioneers, the underground subgenre needs Chris Seaver. He is everything good - and taken for granted - within the format.

Based on a recent announcement he sent to friends and fans on Facebook, we could be witnessing the end of Chris Seaver’s reign as the sophomoric court jester of homemade horror comedy. For nearly 19 years (wow!), the upstate New York based filmmaker has plied his particularly perverse sense of camcorder anarchy, creating crazy cult franchises like the Mulva movies and the scatologically surreal Filthy McNasty comedies. While he has dabbled in everything from parody (Quest for the Egg Salad, Ski Wolf) to demented diversions into his own twisted Id (I Spit Chew on Your Grave, the Heather and Puggly Trilogy), he continues to make strides toward a more mainstream acceptance. Indeed, anyone lucky enough to see his brilliant ‘80s style satire The Karaoke Kid, or his workplace as weird amalgamation of terror and truth, The Film Crew, can attest to his ability to provide gross-out gagging of our post-millennial Hangover-era of laughs.


But last month, Seaver slapped the Low Budget Pictures faithful with an announcement as desperate as it was depressing. Due to a lack of interest in his latest work, as well increasing commitments to his family (married to the equally talented Lauren, he is the father of a young boy), he may actually be forced to call it quits. While he does have one last epic “road picture” in preparation, we could be smack dab in the middle of the final flail from the mind who up chucked TeenApe, Bonejack, and a wealth of memorable movie miscreants. Sadly, his two latest efforts, the dorks against dweebs masterwork Geek War, and a salty return to sleaze entitled Beyond McNasty: Filthy McNasty Part 4, proves he’s lost none of that madcap motion picture Midas touch. In fact, should he decide to stay behind the lens, one of these two films indicates a clear direction for his future in film - and greater acceptance among a demographic ready to embrace his unusual cinematic sense.


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Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Sarno vividly explored the phobias and fetishes that polite company only whispered about and did so in a way that combined sexuality with seriousness.

When Joe Sarno was good, he was golden. No one peeled back the slick sophisticate layer off the otherwise wife-swapping underbelly of suburbia better than the man who made the ‘60s gated community a bastion of plausible perversion. On the other hand, when he was coasting, or better yet, when he traded innuendo and style for smut and hardcore, his mid ‘70s to later output suffered. For many, the name will mean nothing, just another in a long line of exploitation giants who few understand and even less loved outright. But for those who know his work, and even better, appreciate his take on the social climate over the last three decades, his death on 26 April at age 89 truly was a loss.


Sarno stands amongst grindhouse giants - names like Friedman, Lewis, Cresse, Mahon, Novak, and Babb. He was the bellwether of the sexual revolution’s earliest days and its harshest critic. While other filmmakers were focusing on gore, or pseudo-sadism, Sarno stood fast in his belief that the secret scandals behind closed doors - and the nudity which usually accompanied same - would more than satisfy the raincoat crowd. When Deep Throat made pornography mainstream, the director jumped on the bawdy bandwagon. From 1977 onward, his name was associated with such seminal works as Inside Seka, Seven Minutes in Heaven, and The Erotic Adventures of Bedman and Throbbin.


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Tuesday, Apr 27, 2010
This is an unforgettable cinematic experience that's also unforgiveable, unfathomable, and unseemly as Hell. Movies aren't supposed to make you feel this dirty, this polluted, this…disturbed.

It has a premise so repugnant that it’s hard to fathom a reason for it to exist. Yet it’s filmed in such a way as to give the disgusting idea of patina of fright film respectability. The acting is impeccable, the direction clean, crisp, and assured. Yet there’s no escaping the core concept - a mad surgeon, known for his skill at separating conjoined twins, so hates the human race that he’s out to reconnect a few unfortunate tourists. His plan? Medically sew their mouths to each other’s anuses, connecting their gastric systems into one long entrail and create…a human centipede. His methodology? Practiced, precise, and wholly perverse. The results? Devastating. 


Ever since it hit the festival circuit last year, Tom Six’s The Human Centipede has been the stuff of heated discussion and dismissive scandal. It’s been called everything from a “masterpiece” to a “miscreant pile of self-indulgent garbage.” If it’s art, it’s the kind without any real redeeming social or political value (though a certain subtext can be read into it) and if its exploitation, it often fails to deliver the debauchery one expects from the genre. Landing somewhere solidly in the middle, this is an unforgettable cinematic experience that’s also unforgiveable, unfathomable, and unseemly as Hell. Movies aren’t supposed to make you feel this dirty, this polluted, this…disturbed.


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Wednesday, Apr 14, 2010
While the traditional comic book bad-ass with his x-ray vision and sonic speed gets relegated to a second slot in the cultural conversation, we keep cheering and cheering for the everyday masked vigilante (with exceptions) who look and talks like us - or how we wish we were.

Looking back over the last three decades of superhero movies, it’s interesting to note the successes and failures. Batman (both Burton and Nolan)? Your basic box office gangbusters. The Hulk and Superman? No so much. It seems like, more and more, audiences like to be able to identify with their caped crusader, be it brooding and darkly knighted, or spidery and adolescently geeked. While the traditional comic book bad-ass with his x-ray vision and sonic speed gets relegated to a second slot in the cultural conversation, we keep cheering and cheering for the everyday masked vigilante (with exceptions) who look and talks like us - or how we wish we were.


This week, Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Kick-Ass will unveil yet another layer in this ongoing social saga. The story centers on a young comic nerd named Dave Lizewski who longs to be like his favorite pen and ink crusaders. Deciding that he will be the first “average guy” to actually emulate his obsession, he dons a line green wet suit and christens himself Kick-Ass. A popular MySpace page and one epic fail later, and he is teamed up with the vendetta-driven duo of Big Daddy and his daughter Hit-Girl. Both have taken the notion of homegrown interpersonal justice to decidedly deadly ends. The target of their secret ID wrath? The crime kingpin Frank D’Amico and his entire redolent racketeering organization.


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