Godzilla (1954)

Godzilla 1954 PosterSixty years. That’s how long the big guy has been stomping around. There was a new American version released this year which seems to have done reasonably well, but it all began back in 1954, with a film made in Japan (as with nearly all of the franchise). Originally titled Gojira, and still often referred to as such even by American fans, the first film was released in altered form in the United States, with additional footage spliced in to make it more “relatable” for American audiences and voices dubbed over.

Having had a fairly limited Godzilla experience — I had only previously seen the Matthew Broderick film, bits of Godzilla 1985, and of course the all-time classic Bambi Meets Godzilla — I decided that this was the year to correct this by watching the original. The original original, the 1954 Japanese version, with the only alteration being English subtitles. It was definitely worth it. Continue reading

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The Amityville Horror (1979)

Amityville Horror 1979 PosterThe 1970s were an influential time for horror films. Many of the subtypes of the genre either got their origin during the decade, or at least received one of their most influential entries. The allegedly-based-on-a-true-story haunted house genre is no exception; the town of Amityville, New York, has been dealing with a supernatural reputation for 35 years now, ever since its story was popularized by Stuart Rosenberg’s film.

The Amityville Horror is based on a novel, itself based on the claims of George and Kathy Lutz of what happened when they moved into a home that had been the scene of a mass murder the year before. Played by James Brolin and Margot Kidder in the movie, the Lutzes are a newlywed couple with three children from Kathy’s previous marriage. They are initially unconcerned about the house’s past; “Houses don’t have memories”, as George says. But they soon find that it’s not just a case of a simple little fixer-upper. Continue reading

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The Exorcist

Exorcist Poster1973 Best Picture Nominee

William Friedkin’s The Exorcist is one of only two horror films to ever be nominated for the Best Picture award at the Oscars, and this only if we accept the occasional labeling of Jaws as a horror film, which is debatable. There’s no such debate with The Exorcist, as its distinctly diabolic theme puts it firmly into not just the horror category, but the supernatural horror category.

It’s also a film that — as with last week’s review of Scanners — is fairly well-known for a particular scene, even among people who haven’t seen it. A 360 degree head turn and a gusher of pea soup evidently make a lasting impression on the public. Continue reading

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Scanners PosterIt seems as though I’ve been hearing about Scanners since before I could read. That’s probably as incorrect as it is inappropriate, but suffice to say I’ve been aware of the movie for a long time. Or at least, aware of one particular scene from the film. Anybody who is a fan of b-grade sci-fi and horror probably knows the scene. For those of a delicate disposition, I’m not going to include a picture here, let alone an animation, but let’s just say it’s one instance where one could say a film was “literally mind-blowing” without aggravating any grammarians.

David Cronenberg’s 1981 film certainly has notoriety, to say the least. The question facing me was whether it was worthy of any actual acclaim. After watching it, it’s still something of an interesting question. Continue reading

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Why Horror Movies Tend to Get Negative Reviews

Note: I wrote this essay a few weeks ago in response to a poster on Reddit asking why scary movies always seem to get low ratings and bad reviews. Although I think my Halloween Haunters reviews have been more evenly mixed over the years, I’m well aware of the trend, and I felt I had a good grasp on why it is the way it is. When I was finished writing, I realized just how much I’d written, and recognized it as a sign that maybe it was time to start blogging regularly again. Since the post went over fairly well in that Reddit thread, and since it fits well within the theme of the month, I’m reproducing it here with minor modifications.

Why does it seem like scary movies always get low ratings/bad reviews?

There are a few factors at work here. The easy answer is that most horror films really aren’t very good, but of course that wouldn’t really answer the question because it doesn’t explain why, and what it means for the films to be bad. Continue reading

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Gremlins 2: The New Batch

Gremlins 2 PosterLast December, I reviewed the original Gremlins as the initial installment of that year’s Christmas Cinema. The sequel, not being tied to any particular time of year, I could have viewed at any time, but circumstances allowed for it to come across my path just in time for it to inaugurate this year’s Halloween Haunters.

Director Joe Dante and stars Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates returned for Gremlins 2, which is vital for the sequel. This is not a franchise that would be near as enjoyable without the sense of continuity; it’s more fun to watch people who are experienced with the little troublemakers than to switch to somebody new and start all over again. By sticking with Billy and Kate as the protagonists (along with Gizmo, of course), the film is able to skip over most of the build-up and plunge headlong into the lunacy. Continue reading

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Signal Intermittent

Testing… 1, 2, 3… Testing…

I’ve mostly been maintaining radio silence here on Morgan on Media since February. Real life concerns dictated that I didn’t have much time for the blog, and I didn’t want to stress about trying to find time for something that was, after all, only meant to be a hobby for fun. I’ve broken my hiatus a couple times — once to maintain a silly tradition, and once to speak on something serious (a rare political post from me) — but for the most part, I haven’t been doing much writing. Nor much movie watching. I watched a fair number of films in March, and a handful in April, and then things tapered off to the point where I only watched four films over the summer — and one of them was a short film, while another was the re-release of Ghostbusters to theatres (worth it!)

But I’ve been feeling the itch. The itch to watch movies. The itch to talk about them. And things have settled down a little at this point, at least for the time being. So I thought maybe I’d take another crack at blogging. The days of daily updates are probably gone for good, or at least for any time in the foreseeable future. But once a week? Maybe twice? That seems reasonable. I’m not going to set anything resembling a schedule though. If I post five times in a week, that’s fine by me. If I post once a month, that’s also fine. We’ll just see what happens.

I’ll also try to be back in the blogging community as well. I’ve been talking to some of you now and then on Twitter and Facebook, of course, but I’d like to get caught up on your posts. Got a bit of a backlog. If you wrote something that I’d be interested in, chances are it’s still sitting in my inbox waiting for me. If you suddenly get a comment from me on something you posted two months ago, don’t be surprised.

Coming back to the blog, I decided it was time to do a bit of maintenance. I’d been using the Twenty Eleven theme from WordPress almost since the inception of the blog. It was mostly pretty good, and there’s a lot to like about it. But there was one thing that bugged me intensely, and that was the fact that it had a two pixel space between the header and where the background ended on top. Not enough to be a reasonable style choice, too much to completely ignore. I tried to mitigate its appearance for years with the graphics I used, but eventually I just got sick of it. It was an eyesore. So I spent a day trying other themes, looking for one that looked nice, allowed me to set custom headers for different posts, and played nicely with the headers I had used in the past for Halloween and Christmas. Didn’t find it. Every free WordPress.com theme fails on at least one of those grounds. You’d think at least one would allow you to just specify any old size for a banner, but no… at least, not if it met the other criteria. So I settled for two out of three and reverted to the Twenty *Ten* theme. Progress evidently means regression. I edited the banners I’d used before to make them work in the new size, and so far things are working out OK. I’ll be making a few more tweaks as I go along, as much as I can. It is, of course, pretty limited in terms of flexibility (I can’t even change the link color!); WordPress.com doesn’t like to let you customize unless you pay them an annual fee, which I’m disinclined to do at this point. Or unless you self-host, but I’m also disinclined to do that at the moment. So for now I’ll settle for “OK”. One thing I do plan on doing is adding a couple more review indices; one listing all the films by how I’ve rated them, and one for film franchises — so that if a series has a lot of disparate titles, people can find them all in one spot.

Of course, the current Morgan on Media default banner is only going to be up for one more day. Tomorrow’s October 1st, and you all know what that means. I may be posting on a lighter schedule, but it’s still time for Halloween Haunters. Things take a turn for the spooky tomorrow, assuming I get the first review of the season written during the day. This will be a pretty different Halloween Haunter schedule than 2012’s and 2013’s; it’ll be a lot more like the first one: unorganized. After all, I only decided to start blogging again recently. I haven’t had time to track things down. While I know I want to work A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 and Halloween 4 in, to keep the annual traditions going, I haven’t even tried to get ahold of them yet. I’ve watched one movie for the season. I have one more that is in the “confirmed” category. That’s it. Otherwise I have a few vague possibilities, but nothing definite. I’m not even 100% sure how I’ll be viewing everything, as I’m loathe to use commercial-interrupted services such as Hulu, and HitBliss — which had been on its way to becoming my dominant movie source — went on a hiatus of its own at the end of May and it hasn’t come back. Again, we’ll see what I figure out; I’ve still got a few semi-decent options. I’ll probably be winging it the whole month, so it’s a good thing I don’t plan on posting every day.

It may seem a little silly to be gearing up to write reviews for films that I haven’t even selected for viewing yet. But like I said, I’ve been wanting to talk about movies again. Maybe not to the same over-abundant degree as before, but just a little bit. So, I guess I’m back, tentatively at least. As for forward plans, I’m going to turn Oscarama into a year-round category, since it got interrupted by the hiatus; I’ll note when I’m reviewing a Best Picture nominee, but I’m not going to set a specific time aside for them. And I’d like to finish up my Oscarama stats posts that I didn’t get to before. There are also, as I said, a fair number of films from March and April that I watched but didn’t review; I’ll try and write a few lines on them to pad out slow days. All that will probably come during November. This week, it’s time to start Halloween Haunters. First up, some goofy little menaces we last saw during Christmas. After them, let’s just say that history shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man.

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