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Showing posts from 2017

Survival of the Dead (2009)

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I have been curious for a long time about where George Romero intended to take his zombie films.  Although The Night of the Living Dead was an largely an attempt to get a low-budget horror film in the theaters and make some money, it was one of the first (and still one of the few) to have an African-American actor as the lead.  Later episodes further explored consumerism, corporate greed and the stability of democracy when there is a need to feel secure. 

What I was most interested in, however, was something first really touched on with Bub in Day of the Dead, and explored even further with Big Daddy in Land of the Dead.  The zombies in the Romero films, rather than simply being ravenous decaying flesh, always seemed to retain some core memory of their previous life.  What they didn't remember they seemed to have the capacity to relearn.  The end of Land of the Dead certainly left some questions about whether these were just shambling monsters to be used for target practice or if…

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

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I believe I had seen A Nightmare on Elm Street prior to this sequel, but I could be wrong.  It was 30 years ago, after all.  I know I didn't see the second film until sometime in the '90s, although I had seen all the others by that time.  No loss, since I never really liked the original sequel.  This was the true one, giving an explanation to what happens at the end of the first movie and continuing the original story.

My memories of it are quite fond, as I saw it at a get-together with a number of other kids that I had gone to summer camp with.  I forget what else we watched that night (Lucas, maybe, although I can't remember a single thing about that movie), but Dream Warriors convinced me that this series was not just another slasher film.  It really didn't get this good again until Wes Craven's New Nightmare.  Still, it had me hooked, and I think it is a prime example of why '80s horror was so much fun.

Kristen (Patricia Arquette) is having nightmares, som…

Knock Knock (2015)

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I have sometimes wondered if Keanu Reeves's acting has, at some point, become Keanu Reeves acting like Keanu Reeves trying to act.  I am sure he is aware at this point how his line delivery comes across and how difficult it is to take him seriously in any setting.

Not to mention I saw someone mention that it is possible that this entire movie was made by Eli Roth and Reeves just communicating by the words "bro," "dude" and "whoa."  What came out of this remake of 1977's Death Game makes me believe there may be more than a little truth in that.

Evan (Reeves) is a devoted father of two (Dan Bailey, Megan Bailey).  A former DJ turned architect, he lives in a fancy home in the Hollywood hills with his wife Karen (Ignacia Allamand).  Karen is an artist that has finally published her first catalog and is preparing for a gallery showing.  For a breather, however, she is taking the kids to the beach.  Unfortunately, Evan has some work to do and has to st…

The Green Inferno (2013)

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Cannibal Holocaustwas one of the most controversial movies of the early 1980s.  Ruggero Deodato pops up in Eli Roth's Hostel 2 as one of the rich guys who, surprise, is seen eating the victim that he has tortured.  Since Eli Roth is such a fan of Deodato, Cannibal Holocaust and Umberto Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox, it's no surprise that he finally got around to doing his own version.

Other than the fake trailer for Thanksgiving from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's 2007 Grindhouse, not much had been seen or heard from Roth since Hostel 2 - at least not from behind the camera.  Being friends with Tarantino paid off, as he got a substantial role in Inglourious Basterds, and spent some more time acting in a number of low-budget films.  It was a surprise in 2015 when we suddenly got two new films from him, The Green Inferno and Knock Knock.

The Green Inferno had actually been finished in 2013, but financial problems with its distributor kept it from a major release until …

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

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Many ideas sound much better than they turn out to be.  This universal truth, as well as terrible advertising in the U.S., conspired to kill Pride and Prejudice and Zombies before it even got released.  That, and the title is way too close to one of the worst big-budget disasters of all time, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Both movies come from books, and both books got good reviews despite the outrageousness of the plots (basically, the titles say it all).  Only the Abraham Lincoln one took itself, and its subject matter, absolutely serious.  The original Pride and Prejudice, a classic novel by Jane Austen that deals with upper class trials and tribulations and a young woman's reluctance to marry, was not that serious at all, so adding zombies is questionable at best.

Well, lo and behold, the film adaptation is no cinematic masterpiece - I don't even expect it to become a cult film - but it is much better than can be expected.

England, for a number of years, has been exper…

Don't Breathe (2016)

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Many times the question comes up about what exactly a horror movie is.  It's easy to categorize something with ghosts, demons, other supernatural beings or supernaturally charged killers.  It's another thing when faced with fire-breathing monsters or realistic psychopaths.  Personally, if you are going to scare me even a little bit, you need to go with the latter.

Let's face it.  I'm never going to have to worry about fighting a werewolf or a vampire.  Demonic possession is not on my list of greatest fears either, nor am I expecting Godzilla to come stomping through the neighborhood any time soon.  But, while I also never plan to try to steal a bunch of cash from the home of a blind veteran, what does lie deep within someone's house is a bit frightening.  It becomes even more so when you're looking at an isolated area where someone can do about whatever they want.

Alex (Dylan Minnette) is the son of a man who owns a security company in Detroit, and he uses tha…

The Conjuring 2 (2016)

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Both The Conjuring and this movie creates some mixed feelings for me.  I know there are many who would not agree, but I think James Wan is one of the best horror directors we have had in a long time, and he is also good at getting other people to work on the projects he cannot.  Not everything he turns out is gold, but it is often interesting and almost always fun.  It's something the horror industry has needed for a long time, as many of the name directors we toss around are either past their prime, retired, dead or have long since moved away from doing horror as their primary genre.

The reason the mixed feelings come in is because of Ed and Lorraine Warren.  I have been interested in ghosts, psychic phenomena and everything else surrounding the paranormal since I was a kid.  I naturally have become more skeptical as I got older, but the truth is that I have seen and experienced things and I remain in many ways a believer.  I am, however, very scientifically minded, and wish tha…

Young Frankenstein (1974)

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Let's face it.  The Universal monster movies got to the point where they were no longer even trying to be frightening.  There was some effort to hold things together, usually by Lon Chaney, Jr., but there was a reason it took Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein to even temporarily revive any interest in the series.  It took about a decade, and for a British studio known for pushing limits, to put them back on the map.

But even Hammer couldn't keep things going forever.  Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell was not a horrible film, but Hammer was on shaky ground and was no longer a force to be reckoned with.  Horror was changing, particularly with The Exorcistcoming out a year later and completely disrupting horror cinema.  Not to mention the cheap exploitation flicks which seemed to have much more imagination.

There was also a man named Mel Brooks who was quickly redefining comedy.  Earlier in 1974 his movie Blazing Saddles proved a popular, if extremely controversial, s…

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

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Universal ran the set of creatures into the ground.  Surprisingly, in the late 1950s, the British studio Hammer began to revisit them, and with an amazing amount of success.  Largely the films were in color, significantly more violent and benefited from a superb Gothic atmosphere.  They were low-budget, to be sure, but one thing that British cinema (and television) has always been good at is overcoming budgetary constraints with superior storytelling.

Of course, the Hammer versions of these monsters started going the repetitive route as they wore out their welcome as well, becoming jokes or just plain unimaginative over about the same time period as Universal did.  And, though they initially had to do anything to avoid copyright violations, eventually they even reached a deal with Universal.  Hammer became the most successful British movie studio of its time - and it all starts right here.

Yes, Hammer had been around since the 1930s, producing films of various quality.  Still, it was…

House of Frankenstein (1944)

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If there is one thing I have learned when trying to watch this entire series it's that either Universal couldn't care about being consistent with a story, audiences weren't paying attention, or both.  It's also possible that by this point where we have the sixth (and technically last) film in the Frankenstein series, combined with the third Wolf Man movie.  And, just for added effect, we have a cameo by Dracula. 
Also, by this time, Lon Chaney, Jr. seems to be the only one interested in reprising his role.  We do have Boris Karloff back, but not under the makeup, and Bela Lugosi was off in a traveling production of Arsenic and Old Lace.  That means he is not the monster either (he played the role in the previous entry, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man), nor is he Count Dracula.  Instead, we are left with a sometimes enjoyable, sometimes laughable mashup, where it seems the only thought was to get as many monsters on screen and rush the movie into theaters as soon as po…

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

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These days it is almost a given that, whenever possible and copyrights align, famous monsters will do battle.  Godzilla fought King Kong and then about every other monster under the sun.  Freddy went head-to-head with Jason.  Santa Claus once fought a demon trying to destroy Christmas. 

Okay, so I'm taking things a bit too far there.  The most important thing to know is that Universal provided us with the first fiendish throwdown with Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. 

There are a number of factors at work here.  First, this was released in the middle of World War II.  By this time we had real monsters to worry about, so it is no surprise that as Universal's rogues gallery inched past the decade mark that the studio would start providing lighter, more escapist entertainment.  The Wolf Man was the latest edition at that point, and unfortunately got short shrift when it came to sequels, as Universal had already decided that these were no longer going to be major releases, but in…

The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)

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In my opinion, the story of Frankenstein's Monster had a satisfying ending in Son of Frankenstein.  Wolfgang von Frankenstein dispatches the evil Ygor by shooting him multiple times, and comes in swinging to knock the monster into a sulfur pit and save his son.  He then high-tails it out of Frankenstein (the town), leaving the villagers to do what they will with his castle. 

However, I can think of many, many film series that had great endings, but still keep popping up repeatedly.  When there's money to be made there will be resurrections, sly escapes and about everything else under the sun.  At some point, though, logic does have to prevail, and eventually even series that need the least bit of continuity start to crumble under their own weight.

We start back in the town of Frankenstein, where the townspeople are quite upset that no one wants anything to do with their village.  Although the Frankensteins are gone, they still blame everything on the old family, and decide (r…