Friday, April 26, 2013

Nancy Drew

"Nancy Drew" (2007) is a mystery / thriller that brings back everyone's favorite teenage sleuth, Nancy Drew.  It stars:  and Josh Flitter.

Nancy Drew is known by all in her small hometown of River Heights for her ability to solve mysteries.  When her father, Carson Drew has a three month long business trip in L.A., Nancy picks the house they will stay in, a house that belonged to a Hollywood starlet from the past named Dehlia Draycott.   Carson makes Nancy promise that while in Los Angeles, she will refrain from sleuthing as it keeps getting her into dangerous situations.  Being that she had already picked the house that has a mystery behind the actress' disappearance, that promise will be hard to keep.

Nancy is a smart and intelligent sixteen year old who would rather read books and solve mysteries instead of the things the kids in L.A. want to do.  Wearing her old fashioned clothing also makes her stick out from the crowd and she has a hard time fitting in at her new school.  She gets the attention of a precocious 12 year old named Corky who becomes her new best friend and helps her with the mystery.  When her "boyfriend" Ned comes to join them, he is annoyed by Corky's attentions toward Nancy.

While trying to fit in with her classmates, she gains unwelcome attention from some thugs that don't want her to discover the truth behind the disappearance of Dehlia Draycott and they will do anything to keep her from finding Dehlia's long lost daughter and the original will.

This is a great family movie with an intelligent and fun girl as its main character.  She does her own thing and doesn't care much what others think of her.  Nancy pieces together a long forgotten mystery and does good for others as her father always taught her.  If you loved Nancy Drew stories when you were a kid, you'll love this modern rendition of the character.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Cat Creature

"The Cat Creature"is a TV movie that aired in 1972 as an ABC Movie of the Week, starring: , and and directed by .  An ancient Egyptian cat creature is let loose on LA.

An ancient gold amulet is stolen off an Egyptian mummy's neck in a dead California collector's house.  The man who is making an inventory of the house if found dead with scratch marks all over him.  This starts the police investigation who seeks out college professor Roger Edmonds (Hedison) to help them find out more about the Egyptian amulet.

The investigation takes them to the curious local shop called The Sorcerer's Shop run by Hester Black (Sondergaard).  She admits the thief tried to sell her the amulet but she passed on it because she suspected it must be stolen.

Meanwhile, Hester's shopkeeper is followed home by a cat which turns out to be the cat creature and which hypnotizes her into jumping out her apartment window.

A couple days later, Rena Carter (Baxter) drops in the shop to fill in the newly open shopkeeper position.  As the investigation continues, the professor gets to know Rena more and in his research discovers exactly why that amulet should have stayed around the mummy's neck.

This is another great example of the type of TV movie from the 70s that I love.  There's an interesting story.  Great atmosphere and the use of shadows to show the cat before you actually see the creature adds to the suspense and eeriness.  The acting is even top notch for made for TV fare and Gale Sondergaard shines as the mysterious Hester Black.  Catch this movie for a great chiller from the past!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Moon of the Wolf

"Moon of the Wolf" is a made for TV movie that aired as an ABC Movie of the Week in 1972, starring: , , .  A werewolf is wreaking havoc on the citizens of the rural town of Marsh Island in Louisiana.

A local woman is found dead and chewed up on the large Rodanthe estate and the locals think its a pack of feral dogs that got her.  The Rodanthe's are the founding family of the island and town and live in a large southern plantation style mansion.  The Andrew runs the Rodanthe estate and sister Louise has just returned to town after being away in the big city.

Sheriff Aaron Whitaker is investigating the death and he soon discovers it was no accident - something sinister is loose in the community and the killings soon escalate. In the sheriff's investigation, he soon discovers all kinds of secrets about the people he thought he knew.  He also finds out more about the Rodanthe's as he befriends Louise who he went to school with.
A dying man who lives near the swamps says it's a werewolf who killed his daughter.  The sheriff starts to believe that and has to put aside his disbelief in the supernatural to find the killer.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.  I had been putting off watching it but finally did and I loved it.  The rural Southern Louisiana setting is lush and beautiful and at the same time mysterious and somewhat sinister with its swamps and its somewhat peculiar denizens.  The music adds to the mood and atmosphere and all together it creates an atmosphere filled with suspense. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Room 237

"Room 237" (2012) is a documentary exploring the hidden subtexts, meanings and conspiracies within Stanley Kubrick's horror movie "The Shining".

Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" (1980) is a visual masterpiece.  The hotel's interior is filled with different patterns and puzzles in which many an obsessive fan has looked for meaning.  This documentary, showing scenes from the movie and from other movies while off screen fans talk about the hidden meanings within the movie. For those of you that don't remember, room 237 refers to the room in the film's Overlook Hotel that had the naked corpse woman in the bathtub that attacked Danny and tried to seduce Jack.

These fans and conspiracy theorists see vastly different things in Stanley Kubrick's film.  One sees the director commenting on the white man's genocide and displacement of Native Americans as proven by the fact that the hotel is supposed to be built on Indian burial grounds and because of the prominent placement of cans of baking soda that have an Indian's head on them.  There's also the theory that Kubrick was commenting on the Holocaust and genocide of the Jews.  One theorist believes Kubrick has left clues that he was involved in the US Government's conspiracy to fake the moon landing in 1969 and that the filmmaker filmed the moon landing footage on a movie stage.

Watching this documentary and listening to the people that have invested so much time into the study of this film you are bound to be interested in what they are thinking and some of the hidden "clues" do seem to make sense in the context of what they believe but they could also mean many other things or be nothing more than something the set designer had available and placed on set.  Who knew there was so much thought put into the hidden meanings of the film?  It's too bad the director is no longer with us to confirm or deny these hidden meanings but I guess that would take all the excitement out of solving the unsolvable.


The Shining

"The Shining" (1980) directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd and Scatman Crothers is one of my all time favorite horror movies.

Jack Torrance (Nicholson) is hired to be the Overlook Hotel's caretaker for the off season. The hotel is a large hotel in the mountains of Colorado and it is isolated from the rest of the world during the snow season. Wife, Wendy (Duvall) and son Danny (Lloyd) join him to live as the hotel's "only" occupants for the 6 months it is closed. The hotel has a violent history of one of the past caretakers succumbing to cabin fever and killing his family. It is also said to be built on Indian burial grounds.

When the family arrives on closing day, they are shown around the hotel and introduced to some of its staff that will be leaving that day. They meet Dick Hallorann (Crothers), the chef, who tells little Danny that they both have what his grandmother calls "the shining", the power to communicate without speaking and to see things that others can't. Danny's shining is often manifested through his imaginary friend Tony who lives in Danny's mouth and talks out of his finger and Tony has already shown him some disturbing visions of the Overlook hotel and room 237 which Dick tells Danny to stay out of.

The Torrance family settles in for the winter in to the enormous hotel. Jack tries to write his long anticipated novel, Wendy cares for the family and increasingly picks up the hotel chores that Jack was hired to do and Danny explores and plays in the hotel. Increasingly sinister things start to happen though. Danny encounters twin girls who stand and watch him before he suddenly sees them surrounded by blood. While driving his Big Wheel through the hotel's corridors, he stops in front of room 237 and is drawn by something inside. Jack, a recovering alcoholic, begins talking to a bartender that isn't really there in the hotel's Gold Room and meets the caretaker, Grady, who killed his family. Wendy feels more and more isolated as her husband becomes more remote and erratic and she is left to care for the family and the hotel.

The movie is one of the most visually stunning horror movies ever made. The picturesque hotel in the mountains turns sinister and cold once the snows envelop it. The interiors of the hotel are immense and add to the mystery of the place. The patterns Kubrick uses in the interior designs add to the puzzle that is the hotel. The film is shot at angles and in ways that add to the tension that builds throughout the movie. What could be more creepy than a family of three living in a huge hotel, isolated from the rest of the world and suddenly finding there are supernatural things happening in different rooms and in random corridors. The evolution of Jack's madness creeps up on the family and the viewer. Every time I watch "The Shining" I am thrilled by the claustrophobic world it creates and the scary feeling it invokes. This is a must see movie if you haven't seen it and a favorite to enjoy over and over again.