Friday, October 21, 2016

Favorite Scene Friday! Insidious: Tip Toe by the Window

As usual, for the month of October we're looking at our favorite scenes from the world of horror. Today's post is from Lindsay Street of French Toast Sunday.

October brings with it many beautiful offerings – cooler temperatures, cozy sweaters and the comforting embrace of horror movies. While I will happily watch a ghost story or gory blood bath any night of the week, most people stick to Halloween for scary movies.  Over the past few years, there have been a number of great mainstream horror flicks and you can thank director James Wan for more than a few of them. Wan is responsible for the first Saw film and both of The Conjuring movies, but today I’m looking at a scene from the first movie of his that really got my attention.

I honestly don’t remember knowing anything about Insidious before I went into the theater. I do, however, vividly remember the loud imposing title card that filled up the screen. The whole thing had a retro vibe and I was digging it. Shortly after the opening credits I found myself fighting off cardiac arrest as Wan ratcheted the tension and played mercilessly with my emotions.

Insidious is a fairly straightforward Haunted House story with a dash of possession thrown into the mix. A suburban family starts to experience radial paranormal disturbances after their son suddenly slips into a coma. Terror ensues. Admittedly, it can be hard to choose a scene from the movie that is effective out of context but this one I choose demonstrates exactly what Wan does best.

Let’s break this down a bit. While our matriarch Renai (Rose Byrne) is busy expelling the trash from her gorgeous Craftsman house she sees a small child through the window. This would be strange for anyone but not necessarily creepy. What Wan does in this scene is enhance the suspense by letting the viewer in on just a few more key details: the first identifier being a short but still lingering camera pan to a back shot of the boy in the laundry room, then when Mom is out of the house the music changes. The audience is on the hook and terrified of what this will mean. Now back to Renai’s troubled reaction, “Who is that? Is he real? Am I really seeing this?” She rushes inside to scope out the situation. Nothing. Then a door slowly creeps closed. The audience shivers but Renai is startled, still not sure what to make of the entire scene. Then SHIT! That is a little kid! It just ran through the house. We all fucking saw it now! Stunned, Mom follows the kid into her son’s room.  It seems still but…that rocking chair is moving…it’s…FALSE alarm. But what about those boots? Now both Renai and the audience are shaking with fear. When the curtain pull reveals another false alarm, Wan wastes no time hitting us with a legit jump scare.

You see, Wan is so good at what he does because he knows exactly how to leverage dramatic tension. He knows when to show, when to fold and when to do whatever that other poker reference is that’s equivalent to scaring the shit out of you.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Favorite Scene Friday! The Thing: Doctor, Teeth, and the Infected Flaming

As usual, for the month of October we're looking at our favorite scenes from the world of horror.

I'm not a horror guy. I don't love a lot of the classic horror movies, and the ones I do love tend to be for reasons in spite of their horror roots. Take John Carpenter's The Thing, for example. Yes it's a film about a terrifying creature horrifically mutilating the inhabitants of a research base cut off from anywhere, with a palpable sense of dread and a fear of the monster's unknown appearance in every scene, but it's also a monument to character actors, mounting tension and, of course, some of the greatest practical effects work ever committed to film, and that's why I'm talking about it today.

Poster by Randy
One of the best scenes - the Blood Test Sequence - has already been discussed here by Lackey, so I'm taking a scene that occurs just slightly before then. The story so far is there's an American research expedition at a secluded base in Antarctica. A wild dog ran onto their compound. and it soon becomes clear that the dog was actually a shape-shifting being in disguise, capable of killing then taking the form of any living thing it comes into contact with. Despite killing the dog-beast, the men of the base are increasingly paranoid that at least one of their number is not who they appear, especially after some of them die. MacReady (Kurt Russell) seems the most likely of being a monster after his clothes are found torn when he is separated from the group. Whilst Mac holds the rest of the men at bay with the threat of dynamite, Norris (Charles Hallahan) appears to suffer a heart attack, and the doctor (Richard Dysart) attempts to revive him, when this happens:

Amazing. As the doctor goes to resuscitate, Norris' chest becomes a giant mouth and just eats his hands. The first time I saw this I lost my mind. It completely comes out of nowhere, as up to now Norris had not even been hinted as to being a suspect, and milliseconds earlier you were concerned for his well-being and presuming him dead from shock but nope, he's a monster, he's going to kill everyone, and he's starting with the doctor and his defibrillator paddles.

I'll admit, the effects work on the hands being ripped off isn't great - the cut appears some distance above where the teeth bite - but the rest of the scene more than makes up for it. Not-Norris' gut-mouth erupts with flailing tendrils and projectile vomits a flurry of yellow-green bile into the air, along with a Norris-faced, snake-necked spider monster that has yet to leave my nightmares. Understandably MacReady does the sensible thing and unleashes his flamethrower upon this hell-beast, but the monster has another trick, this one involving the still-attached not-Norris head, which stretches at the neck, tongue lolling all over the place, until the neck tears, more bile erupts and the head becomes a separate, night-terror-inducing entity of its own, complete with a whip-like tongue and a haunting noise reminiscent of a tortured soul trapped in a conch shell. If that wasn't enough, the head - in possibly the greatest 6 seconds of cinema history - produces eight long legs and two creepy-as-all-get-up tentacle eyes and scuttles away. Palmer (David Clennon) takes it upon himself to play the audience surrogate here, by resignedly decrying "You gotta be f*cking kidding me," as truly it seems there's no limit to just how hideous this creature can be.

What I love most about this scene is how unexpected it is, coming in the middle of an already tense and frenetic moment that gets diverted into a completely different direction, and also just how phenomenally impressive the effects are. Despite having seen this scene dozens of times, I'm still always shocked at just how long the legs that emerge from the head are, and I'm fascinated by the practical effects that went into making them. And yes, my mind does occasionally wander and freak me the heck out by imagining my own head dropping off, sprouting legs and eyes before running away into a doorway and being burned alive. Guess I wont be getting much sleep tonight then.

What's your favorite practical effects scene?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Favorite Trailer Friday! Evil Dead (Red Band)

Here we are, kicking off our month of October horror scenes once more. But if you'll permit me, I'd like to make it even more epic by finally starting "Favorite Trailer Friday", in which we share one of our favorite previews, something I've been meaning to do for a while. The trailer in question is the very, very graphic, very NSFW Red Band trailer for 2013's Evil Dead.

Laz Marquez via Live for Films

I love how this starts out. It's so memorable and one of the reasons I saved it for this feature. That first creepy image of the cabin along with the rain sets the perfect tone, and it's a bit of a different format, being more of a scene than a trailer at the beginning. And Jane Levy's performance as Mia is perfectly creepy and standout. Her plea to her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) to get her away from the cabin is chilling.

The trailer then becomes a pretty standard, well, trailer, with creepy shots of the film set to an explanation from Mia that she thinks an evil force from the woods has followed the siblings and their friends back to the cabin. The trailer proceeds to get extremely bloody and intense (this is a Red Band trailer after all), so anyone squeamish should turn away now. Lastly, the iconic image of Deadite Mia poking her head out from the basement has gotta be my favorite part of the trailer. The "We're Gonna Get You" rhyme is apparently nowhere to be found in the theatrical cut.

What's your favorite part of this trailer?

What are some of your other favorite horror trailers?