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Tuesday, Oct 28, 2014
James Wan and Leigh Whannell didn't start off the Saw series with a focus on the gory "games", but these 10 examples of Jigsaw's various traps explain the franchise's enduring fear factors.

It didn’t start out as torture porn. In fact, the first Saw film only contains a single sequence that could conceivably be labeled as such. But with its success came a slew of sequels, each one focusing on the splatterific ways the main villain—a dying man named Jigsaw—would pick off his preselected victims. Thus the new horror subgenre, and in part, the last legacy of James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s celebrated Sundance hit, Saw.


Coming out of nowhere to take the fright film society by storm, the efforts of these two talented Australians (with further developmental help from Parts Two through Four guide Darren Lynn Bouseman) became the benchmark for fear over the last 10 years. Dozens of movies, made in conjunction with the real gorno purveyor - Eli Roth’s Hostel -took inspiration from this taut, post-modern thriller and, soon, the masked slasher made way for a clever criminal, his (or her) disembodied voice, and a series of cruel, brutal games.


Tagged as: horror, james wan, saw
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Monday, Oct 27, 2014
The Death Kiss brings the Dracula gang (Bela Lugosi, David Manners, and Edward Van Sloan) back together.

One of the final releases from Tiffany Pictures, an independent studio with a tight budget and a classy moniker, was this B-picture that would remain obscure if not for starring Bela Lugosi in his heyday. In fact, he’s reunited with two of his Dracula co-stars, David Manners and Edward Van Sloan, which must have led some viewers to suppose it was another horror picture. Although that’s the key selling point, several more elements keep the film watchable.


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Friday, Oct 24, 2014
As long as it avoids anything closely resembling the real world, Ouija works. Not as horror, but as a cautionary example as to why "gotchas" don't necessarily equal scares.

Welcome to the world of stupid horror, terror where the failed fear comes out of the character’s single digit IQ actions, not anything remotely realistic or relatable. It’s a place where no one ever turns on a lamp, where already scared individuals walk blindly into pitch black areas carrying only notoriously unreliable flashlights, where the police are never called or investigate very mysterious deaths, and where information is parsed out it narratively beneficial drips and drabs.


It’s a place where a house someone has lived in for years contains an easily discoverable secret room that no one has come across before (wouldn’t a home inspection and a title/blueprint search for tax/insurance purposes cover that?), and where clueless characters walk right into supernatural traps, clearly never learning their lesson the first 15 times around.


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Friday, Oct 24, 2014
That's some view... of modern marriage.

So… a man runs away from an impending avalanche, leaving his wife and two young children behind.


That’s it. That’s the basis for this talky, incomprehensibly narrow minded “view of modern marriage” being touted as some brilliantly enlightened masterpiece. Indeed, Force Majeure (Latin for “superior force”, though typically translated as “unavoidable accident”) is making the arthouse rounds in preparation for an end of the year run at the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar next February and what an over-praised pile of yellow snow it is.


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Thursday, Oct 23, 2014
These two films by Robert Z. Leonard are showcases for June Allyson, who uses her youthful visage to her strategic advantage.

Now available on demand from Warner Archive are two minor entertainments directed by the old and reliable Robert Z. Leonard, both of which showcase June Allyson. A short, pert, perky blonde with a smoky voice, Allyson accents her ability to pass as a teenager.


The Secret Heart follows Hollywood’s postwar vogue for pat Freudian psychology. In a carefully worked out script with a flashback for the complicated backstory, we learn that Lee Adams (Claudette Colbert) is a hardworking real estate agent in New York because she’s paying off debts incurred by her late husband (Richard Derr), a frustrated pianist who embezzled bank funds and killed himself while she was having a good time with his friend Chris (Walter Pidgeon). If that’s not enough, the real focus of the drama is Lee’s moody, 17-year-old stepdaughter Penny (Allyson, almost 30 in real life), who keeps her father’s spirit alive by playing piano and falling for Chris as a substitute daddy, without realizing he’s got his eye on her stepmama.


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