FilmCraverChris's blog

8:04 PM on 03.29.2013

Evil Comes in How Many Forms?

One of the reasons I love horror movies so much is that they are constantly surprise me. One of the many ways they do this is by changing the face of evil. Sure, I love the slasher - some guy in a mask - classic! You have ghosts, zombies, vampires and so many other movie monsters to choose from as well. To me, however, it's when evil is presented in an unlikely form that really gets to me. Some of the top horror movies succeed because they manage to surprise me. There are so many different ways that evil seeps through - here are some of my favorite examples:

The Elderly

Legion is a great example of taking something safe and natural and turning it into a nightmare. A kindly old lady turns into a wall-climbing demon - while Legion may be a somewhat underwhelming film - that scene alone is worth the price. A lot of credit has to be given to the actress Jeanette Miller (who has plenty of credits in her resume) for the performance - she just plays it so perfectly. Other roles that fit? Laurence Olivier as the worlds worst dentist in Marathon Man, Sidney Blackmer and Ruth Gordon as the Castevets in Rosemary's Baby and whoever played the old lady in the bathtub in The Shining - I still haven't recovered from that shock.

Man's Best Friend

Animals often make great horror icons (Jaws anyone?) but certain animals make sense at being evil. Dogs, however, always give me the worst feeling. I mean, these are supposed to be our companions - and when they turn, it's never pretty. Cujo remains the best example. A kindly, even cuddly St. Bernard has a run-in with a rabid bat and turns into a blood-crazed canine. It's the transformation that gets me. Certain breed (like Rottweilers) are often portrayed as "evil" - but another great example is the husky in The Thing. It's very friendly - right up until it mutates and tries to infect you.


Oh, the uber-creepy kid - one of the best examples of turning innocence into evil. The bar was set quite high thanks to The Bad Seed and the excellent performance from Patty McCormack. Some other examples can be found in Pet Sematary, Village of the Damned and The Ring (Daveigh Chase carried the torch well). When the casting is right - children turn into monsters - and it will make you rethink babysitting forever more.


When it comes to toys - movies have a way of turning the mundane into murderous monsters. The prime example has to be Child's Play and Chucky, but there are plenty of other examples. Puppet Master has stringless horror coming to life and offing the unlucky in various ways. Magic features a literal dummy (as in a ventriloquist's dummy) but for my money nothing beats that horrendous clown doll seen above. Poltergeist is one of the first horror movies I remember watching and that close doll was a big reason why I love horror films today.

Your Mom

That's right - your own parents are out to kill you (or someone at least). More often it's a step-parent (or sibling) causing issues, but as Kathleen Tuner proves in Serial Mom - just because someone appears nice and unassuming doesn't mean they're plotting to kill you. Other terrifying parents include Margaret White from Carrie, Jack Torrence from The Shining and, evil to the core, Eleanor Shaw Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate (you will never view Murder, She Wrote or that nice teapot in Beauty and the Beast in the same way ever again).


What can be more boring than a plant? It's all green and leafy and just kind sits there. Yet movies somehow make them evil - whether it's an alien plant that wants you to feed him (Little Shop of Horrors) or some kind of vegetable attack (or is it a fruit?) - plants are not as docile as you think. If I learned anything from The Happening (other than M. Night Shyamalan is officially over) it's that you don't want to make Mother Nature unhappy - or she might make you sit down in front of a huge, running lawnmower.

Those are just some of my favorite examples of evil turning up in unexpected forms. I'm sure you can think of your own examples - I know there are plenty more out there (killer rabbits? Night of the Lepus!) but as I said before - that's why I love horror films - they're never boring.

Chris Kavan is a chief critic and blogger at, and he's convinced that we all go a little mad sometimes.   read

1:05 PM on 09.26.2012

Movies That Raise the Bar (Games) to the Next Level

Contrary to popular belief, you can do things in bars other than just drinking and trying to impress the opposite sex. In fact the social aspect involved in hitting the downtown scene takes many different forms - many of them competitive. Some of these may not be the top sport movies in the conventional sense, but they prove that anything you can do for fun with friends, you can always turn professional.

Over the Top - You know, I can't figure out why there haven't been more movies dedicated the art of arm-wrestling. Okay, no one is going to confuse this 80s Sylvester Stallone film with The Godfather or Lawrence of Arabia, but it's the only movie that made any attempt at making arm-wrestling look cool. I say attempt, because I don't think it really succeeded all that well, but at least I found out your arm-wrestling prowess could lead you to a sweet gig in Vegas.

Beerfest - The favorite of frat boys from coast to coast - drinking games are the lowest form of entertainment, yet prove incredibly popular. Beer pong, quarters, chugging competitions - Beerfest takes them all and pits them in a nation vs. nation championship for supremacy. Broken Lizard has a shaky track record for films (though I still think Super Troopers is fantastic) and Beerfest is pretty middling but where else are you doing to find such dedication and pride over what millions of college-age kids do every weekend?

The Hustler / The Color of Money - I couldn't limit pool to just one film as this one-two punch of "Fast" Eddie Felson go hand-in-hand. Although I think The Hustler is the superior films, both turn the game of pool into something almost poetic, while at no point avoiding the gritty and at times dangerous world of hustling. Whether you've ever played pool for money or simply played for fun, these two films perfectly capture the essence of something the right attitude and the talent to back it up.

Rounders - Poker has certainly evolved in the recent years. Huge tournaments, colorful personalities and online sites make even the most green amateur think they have a chance at winning a bracelet (and millions of dollars in prize money). Yet Rounders came out before the avalanche hit and while I don't think it was responsible, it certainly couldn't have hurt. The film didn't exactly make poker look glamorous, but it did make it look like a lot of fun and Matt Damon and Edward Norton couldn't go wrong. Go to any small-time tournament held at your local bar and I bet you'll find more than a few people who can quote this movie.

Duets - I'm aware that karaoke is usually not competitive, but I think that just about every type of drinking establishment holds at least one night of karaoke at some point in time (weekly, monthly or special occasions). Duets gets extra points because the ultimate goal is Omaha, NE - not quite my hometown, but close enough! And apparently home to a national karaoke competition. Anyway, the whole point of the movie is to show all the wacky people who take this usually drinking-inspired endeavor seriously. Con men, would-be professionals, a salesman - plus where else will you find Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Giamatti singing in the same film? Once again, the film didn't exactly wow the critics, but for everyone who has been reluctantly dragged up to participate in this ritual, or who just likes cover songs, Duets will do the trick.

Swingers - And finally we come to it - the reason most people go out to bars - to pick up people. Swingers introduced us to Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau and Ron Livingston, but it also gave men everywhere an ideal to shoot for. I've never seen the actual bar scene look this slick, but the movie is worth it for the one-liners and soundtrack alone. I may not be as "money" as the guys here, but I wonder about the multitudes of men who derived inspiration from this film

There are other films out there that take an evening out with friends and turns it into something... bigger. It just goes to show that in Hollywood, anything small can be made into something amazing. Now if only someone would turn darts into a compelling film. I mean, they've done it with chess, pool and dodgeball - why can't they get darts right?

Chris Kavan is the Community Manager of and he's done nearly all the above at some point in his life.   read

4:19 PM on 07.15.2012

The Films Where Handicaps Are Anything But

There are plenty of people out there who think a disability is a liability. However, Hollywood often proves that an individual suffering from either a physical or mental condition is just as capable as the common man. This is not some sort of agenda. Sometimes the situations may be fantastical, but the message remains the same whether it's a top drama movie, family movie or comedy - disabled does not mean unable.

5) Forrest Gump - Some may see this as overly sentimental, but you have to admit this story, spanning multiple decades, is quite uplifting. The titular character, played by Tom Hanks, may have some mental issues, but that doesn't stop him from playing college football, becoming a hero in Vietnam, playing in the Olympics, running a successful shrimp boat and single-handedly taking down Richard Nixon. The movie is a bit saccharine, but you have to admit, if you could achieve a tenth of what he accomplished, you would be a better man too.

4) Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man - Although we have come a long way to understanding Autism, back in 1988 it was still something that was widely misunderstood and all too often shunted and ignored. Dustin Hoffman portrayed Raymond as a Autistic savant - in this case, someone who was a genius at math. While this type of Autism is more rare, it does occur. In the film Raymond is shown as a man who relies on routine and repetition to get by - when his estranged brother shows up to take him on a cross-country trip to get what he sees as his fair share of inheritance, it will have an impact on both their lives and prove that people with Autism lived productive lives just like everyone else.

3) John Nash in A Beautiful Mind - Basing a movie on a real-life person is always risky and A Beautiful Mind did takes some liberties with the actual story of John Nash. Yet even with some embellishments, what remains is that Nash spent a lifetime dealing with Schizophrenia and, unlike what other Hollywood films would have you believe, this paints a much better picture of dealing with this condition. Nash went on to be awarded a Nobel Prize in economics, but not until dealing with his Schizophrenia for the better part of his life.

2) Christy Brown in My Left Foot - Another movie based on an actual person, Daniel Day-Lewis has never been better as a man born with cerebral palsy, who most considered little more than a vegetable, but whose mother never gave up on his. Through sheer determination, Brown learns to control the only part of his body he can - his left foot. He goes on to become a man - maybe not one who is always easy to get along with - but also a gifted artist and writer. The best part of this film is that it doesn't sugarcoat the subject - it presents Brown, arrogance and all, as an actual person.

1) Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker - Once again, fact triumphs over fiction - The Miracle Worker is, in my mind, one of the most inspirational stories ever. Although today it is easy to overcome deafness and blindness, but in 1880, when Keller was born, times were completely different. Anne Sullivan was brought into her life and thus began a 49-year relationship between the two women. Keller went on to become a famous orator and writer - as well as quite the radical (along with contemporary Mark Twain) often supporting the socialist cause. No matter her views, she never let her disabilities stand in her way. If this story doesn't inspire you, double check to make sure you still have a beating heart.

There are plenty more examples of people overcoming their particular disability - everything from superheroes (Professor X and Daredevil) to the everyday (The Other Sister, I Am Sam). These are some of the films that really caught my attention - what inspires you?   read

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