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Trick or Treat? Pop quiz, boys and ghouls.
"Trick or treat" is:
a) the phrase yelled by giddy costumed kids going door to door on October 31 in search of candy
(b) a modern-day version of the medieval tradition of going door to door seeking food in exchange for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day
(c) a crazy, cheesy, cult classic 80s heavy metal horror movie
(d) the question on a film fan's mind right before watching a movie
(e) all of the above
It's difficult to determine if that sci-fi/fantasy, horror, thriller or horror-fi movie you're about to watch for the first time will fall into the trick category or the treat category. Movie trailers are pure spin. Internet buzz isn't reliable. Critics disagree. Everyone has different likes and dislikes. One person's cinematic trick is another person's cinematic treat.
Watching a movie is like trick-or-treating on Halloween night. We put on our costumes (snobby film buff, grindhouse guru, casual film fan, no-CGI-ever grumpy old man, etc.). We go door to door, movie to movie, theater to drive-in to VHS to DVD to online downloads. We wonder "Trick or treat?" and wait to see what we'll get. Afterwards come the examination (What the heck was that?), the categorization (delicious, so-so or disgusting) and the griping (Why do I keep watching that guy's movies? His movies get suckier each year!). Then we have to call our friends to see what they got and what they think and if they'll take three candy-corn DVDs for that homemade brownie VHS.
Five Films That I Thought Were Tricks (in no particular order):
1. Shadow Puppets – A great cast: James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville), Jolene Blalock (Star Trek:Enterprise) and Tony Todd (Candyman). An intriguing premise of waking up in a padded cell and not knowing how you got there or who you are. And nothing else, unforunately, except a waste of time.
2. Let's Scare Jessica To Death – Also known as Let's Bore The Viewer To Tears.
3. The Halloween remake – A boring, ridiculous, stupid, pointless movie that hacked away at the beloved original film like Michael Myers working his way through Haddonfield.
4. Cloverfield – Bland, interchangeable, uninteresting characters who make stupid choices – and faithfully record their experiences on the world's longest-lasting and most durable camera – while fleeing a mysterious, briefly-glimpsed, building-stomping monster.
5. No strong contenders for this spot come to mind at the moment, but I know as soon as I hit "publish" I'll immediately think of ten movies that tricked me out of my time and money.
Five Films That Turned Out To Be Treats For Me (in no particular order):
1. May – A delightfully creepy little flick about obsession and loneliness.
2. Tremors – Goofy horror/comedy. Huge worm-like creatures that live underground and can suck down an entire car. Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Michael Gross and Reba McIntyre, of all people. Awe. Some.
3. The Descent – Six chicks with picks trapped in a claustrophobic cave along with a legion of ... well, whatever they are, they're hungry. The original ending (available on DVD) is what puts it in this category. (The theatrical-release ending is a cruel trick.)
4. The Butterfly Effect – I usually avoid Ashton Kutcher movies like the plague, but I watched this twisty, nonlinear, alternate reality, surreal mind-**** flick on a whim. And then I immediately watched it again.
5. Candyman – Grad students are researching an urban myth about a murderer with a hook for a hand who appears out of nowhere when someone repeats his name five times in front of a mirror. It sounds like a set up for grade-Z schlock, but instead it's an eerie, haunting psychological horror film. With blood and gore.
What movies have been surprise treats or unexpected tricks to you? Share your lists (or tell me how wrong mine are) on the message board.
Remember to watch out for hidden razor blades and don't stay up past your bedtime.
[The correct answer is (e).]
"FANGRRL" is ©2008 by Lisa Ciurro. All graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.
Pop quiz, boys and ghouls.