Twenty years ago, Studio Ghibli and the master Hayao Miyazaki opened my mind up to a new dimension of animation and storytelling that pretty much changed my life. It also inspired me to look toward telling bigger tales with richer characters, because Miyazaki is very much about rich characterization and brilliant metaphor. Much of his films revolve around the love of nature, the vastness of the open sky, and the effect humans can have on the environment and the world around us.
Returns to theaters across the nation for a 20th Anniversary celebration, complete with a new 4K restoration. Premiered in theaters Thursday, January 5 in Japanese with English subtitles and will screen Monday, January 9 with an English dub at 7 p.m. local time. Tickets are available now. The event will also feature a screening of the never-before-released music video directed by Hayao Miyazaki, On Your Mark!
Back when “Princess Mononoke” hit the states in 1999, I literally had no idea who Hayao Miyazaki was. My teacher in high school kept a poster of the movie up on her bulletin board and I thought the movie looked amazing. Years after the Oscar buzz, I discovered “Princess Mononoke” and the brilliance of Studio Ghibli. The great thing about Studio Ghibli is there is no wrong way to enter in to their universe.
For the nineties kids that grew up with great YA horror fodder like “Goosebumps,” “Fear Street,” and “Are You Afraid of the Dark,” director Paul Gandersman and writer Peter S. Hall really seem to have done their research, building a pretty damn great short horror film around the mold of a series called “The Dead Kids Club.” I hope they can find the funding to continue producing films under this label, as I’d love to see a series of shorts or feature length films within “The Dead Kids Club” concept.
William Friedkin’s treatment of William Peter Blatty’s groundbreaking novel thankfully translated in to a groundbreaking horror film that continues to be the standard for the dismal “possession” movie sub-genre. Friedkin’s take on Blatty’s novel is a masterstroke of horror and dramatic cinema, and is easily one of the most intelligent horror films ever made. Ellen Burstyn plays Chris MacNeil a woman still reeling from a bitter divorce who is tasked with a heavy work schedule filming a movie and attending to her young daughter Regan. Linda Blair is brilliant as Regan, a young girl longing for attention, especially from her estranged father, and begins to make contact with an imaginary friend through a Ouija board she called “Captain Howdy.”
I’m very glad to say that “Princess Mononoke” was my first real experience with Hayao Miyazaki’s amazing cinematic contributions. After its Oscar buzz in 1997, I sought out the film, and was shocked at what I’d been missing from the master director. “Princess Mononoke” is probably Miyazaki’s broadest film, but one that also conveys a meaningful alllegory about the sanctity of nature, and how the wars of men can taint the sacred lands. It’s an action packed and incredible morality tale that will win over fantasy buffs instantly. “Princess Mononoke” is set in the Muromachi Period of Japan where a local village is attacked by a vicious amorphous demon. The bow and arrow wielding warrior Ashitaka, comes to the rescue of the village, fending off the demon and defeating it after a horrific battle, but the demon manages to corrupt his body with its vile darkness.
What Jim Wynorski’s “Hard to Die” has in common with “Die Hard” is that it features a high rise. And that’s about it. But I don’t blame it for being so shameless in exploiting the aforementioned action film, when “Hard to Die” is purposely exploitative and shameless to begin with. 1990’s “Hard to Die” also known as “Tower of Terror” and “Sorority House Massacre 3” is seventy minutes (Well if you cut out the montage from “Slumber Party Massacre,” the film is a cool hour) of goofy ridiculous fun intended to mock the horror genre at every turn. It’s a horror movie, a comedy, a slasher, a demon possession film, and a softcore porn romp all in one. And damn it, it’s still a lot of fun.
There’s really not much to say about “Hard to Die” except that its narrative is nothing but a hodge podge of plot elements mashed together for the sole purpose of featuring our buxom cast run around in lingerie. A group of gorgeous busty women working in a lingerie shop have to pull an all nighter sorting out stock for their sleazy boss. They’re also easily startled by the building janitor Orville, as played by Peter Spellos. He survived the previous confrontations from the past “Sorority House Massacre” movies and is still suspected of murdering the poor girls. Deciding to pass the time, they put on lingerie and scamper around, all the while taking showers together, bouncing and jiggling and making pretty funny jokes that reference previous scenes.
When a pizza delivery girl is called up to the building through the elevator, the mysterious killer of the movie sets her ablaze. Cut to one of the characters moaning “Where’s the girl with the food already? It’ll be char broiled when she gets here.” Yes, it’s that kind of movie. While “Hard to Die” is a loose sequel it’s also very much a horror comedy that spoofs all of the eighties film tropes, right down to the action flicks. Suffice it to say if that isn’t enough, the girls accidentally receive a package in the form of a locked box that unleashes a demonic spirit. When released, the murdering begins as someone is knocking off the buxom troop. Could it be Orville? Or could it be someone entirely unexpected?
For a movie that doesn’t require much in the way of acting ability, the cast of gorgeous women pull off their performances well, and Peter Spellos is very good as the enigmatic Orville. “Hard to Die” has a narrative that’s just absolute nonsense, but I enjoy how it seems aware of that, and uses it to deliver a hilarious and entertaining horror comedy. When the girls happen upon a gun store in their high rise, and one of the characters justifies being able to inexplicably handle a machine gun like a pro by declaring “My dad was a marine!” you just have to laugh and enjoy the ride.
I remember watching a horror documentary about Dracula, and I forget who exactly said it, but during a screening of Frank Langella’s “Dracula,” two women in the audience admitted that they would completely allow Langella’s Dracula to take them with him and turn them, if they could just spend the night with him. In spite of the inherent attraction and allure of the vampires, men also have those female figures in horror that we wouldn’t mind spending the night with, even if it meant sacrificing our very lives, skin, blood, or brains. For the very reason those women would have given themselves to Dracula is the reason why many men would submit themselves to certain horror femmes. In spite of suffering a slow and possibly painful death, you’re almost guaranteed a night of head exploding, heart rupturing, love making that will leaving you a withered, soulless, but wide grinning corpse. To add to the endless hordes of horror geeks who’d offer themselves up to hot horror figures of the opposite sex, we list ten horror femmes we’d risk our very essence to spend one long night with.