Showing posts from October, 2015

Dragonfly (2002)

I remember when Dragonfly came out it the previews made it look like it was a somewhat more sentimental version of Flatliners.  I also remember getting it constantly confused with The Butterfly Effect since both were mediocre movies with insects in the title.

Since being burned by Kevin Costner in The Postman, I really haven't paid too much attention to many of the movies he has been in sense.  I liked him most recently in History's miniseries The Hatfields and McCoys, but otherwise I often find him an overhyped actor that I can do without.  He has one good movie as a direct (Dances with Wolves) and a few decent ones as an actor (No Way Out), but by and large I remember him for his biggest disappointments (Waterworld, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves). It should have not been a surprise that Dragonfly would be a disappointment as well.

Dr. Joe Darrow (Costner) loses his wife Emily (Susanna Thompson) when the bus she is on is pushed into a raging river by a landslide.  Wracked wi…

In Their Skin (2012)

Ever spend a good portion of the movie yelling at the main characters for their stupidity?  That is what you will end up doing with In Their Skin, which follows the recent "strangers show up and try to kill you for no reason" formula.  I guess it made enough money for Stangers and Them that studios are just starting to churn this out.

In truth, this whole genre largely goes back to Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, in which a family is set upon by supposedly "real man" survival types while the weak father (who typically doesn't like violence) has to suddenly defend his family and become a "real man" himself. 

Mark (Joshua Close), Mary (Selma Blair) and their son Brendon (Quinn Lord) visit Mark's family cottage in the woods in order to reboot after the death of their daughter.  Understandably, things are tough between the couple, with Mark feeling responsible for the death and Mary feels the family growing apart.  To make matters worse they suddenl…

Hands of the Ripper (1971)

I am always happy when I stumble upon a Hammer film that I haven't seen before.  In this case it's one of the later ones, Hands of the Ripper.  In a lot of cases Hammer's quality had taken a dive by the 1970s, but occasionally a pretty good film emerges.

When Jack the Ripper is pursued through the streets of London he retreats to his home.  His wife suddenly realizes what he is and he murders her in front of their daughter Anna.  Afterward he picks her up, gives her a kiss and abandons her to her fate.

About 15 years later Anna (Angharad Rees) is living with Mrs. Golding (Dora Bryan), a fake medium who uses her for spirit voices and also pimps her out on occasion.  It is on one of these occasions that a member of the House of Commons, Mr. Dysart (Derek Godfrey) gets frustrated with Anna and begins to beat her.  It seems Anna has been entranced with a necklace that Dysart brought for her.  When Mrs. Golding breaks up the altercation and gives Anna a kiss, she hears her fat…

Final Destination 3 (2006)

I got my hopes up a bit during the opening credits.  Truthfully, I really liked the first two installments of this series, and seeing James Wong (who was involved in many of the best X-Files episodes) and Glen Morgan (responsible for a number of my favorite Canadian-based sci-fi series) teaming up on this one I thought I might be in for something more than another cash-grab.  I was mistaken.

Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is taking pictures for yearbook during her senior class's trip to a local amusement park.  When she has a premonition about most of the class dying on a roller coaster ride, she panics, getting off and causing seven others to get off with her.  Everyone thinks she is crazy, but the accident happens, killing her boyfriend Jason (Jesse Moss) and best friend Carrie (Gina Holden), who were unable to get off the ride, as well as several other people.

Soon after the survivors start to die in extremely complex accidents following the order in which they would have die…

Return of the Living Dead III (1993)

I remember video stores from the 1990s fondly because it was direct-to-video films that largely replaced what would have been drive-in films decades earlier.  Sure, there was the usual milking of a series that should have ended after two or three movies, tons of softcore porn and movies that looked like they were filmed in someone's back yard, but a number of great movies came out during that time that, for whatever reason, didn't see theatrical release.

Return of the Living Dead III is one of those.  It received a very limited release in theaters in the United States, but was largely intended for the video market.  The strange thing is this series really hadn't played itself out; the first one is a classic horror comedy, while the second is largely annoying but still with some good parts.  Since the third decided not to rehash the plot of the other two, and some actual effort went into making it, one would think it would have seen a wider release. 

We find Colonel John Re…

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014)

After part three, I was probably one of the few people who actually cared where the Paranormal Activity series was going.  Although it was getting rather annoying watching the same buildup when I already knew from the first that it was a demon related to the girls' family I found the core story interesting enough and was curious to see how things would wrap up.  Unfortunately, part four did absolutely nothing to forward the plot, leaving me thinking that the makers of these movies were totally lost on how to bring the series to an end.

The fact that the next movie was going to be a spin-off, and not even released around Halloween, seemed to confirm it.  Honestly, by the time they got around to making a fourth, they really should have found a way to stop making them found footage, as they had stretched the concept about as far as it could go.  Not too mention everyone wanting to get a movie out on the cheap went in this direction.

Well, it comes as a welcome surprise that, though …

Demons (1985)

Being the son of one of Italy's most famous directors has to be hard.  Mario Bava had such a particular style, especially after making films in color, that it would be easy to fall into a pale imitation of him to keep the family name going.  And when you decide to team with Dario Argento on writing your film you suddenly have another person whose particular style is known by many.

Fortunately, Lamberto Bava manages to make this film his own.  Some of the primary colors his dad is known for show up, and the movie definitely goes in a number of directions (which is typical of Dario Argento), but in the end Lamberto has his own style.  Despite the different elements he doesn't let trying to get a specific shot overshadow the fact that he is making a horror film, keeping things on track throughout, especially after the action starts.

Which may be where some people have a problem.  He's not trying to create art with Demons, but rather a straight apocalyptic horror film. 


The House of the Devil (2009)

Ah, the Satanic Panic of the early 1980s.  Ritual abuse was going on everywhere.  Rock groups were using backwards messages and hidden meaning in songs to drive our young people into the arms of the devil.  The conspiracy reached to the highest levels as the end times approached.  It was a war for our very souls.

In truth, it was a bunch of charlatans trying to sell their books to gullible Christians.  Judas Priest was definitely not telling their fans to kill themselves (especially in a song they didn't write).  Johnson and Johnson executives were never holding secret sacrifices in their office suites.  Those who claimed abuse were either seeking attention or had false memories implanted by opportunistic psychiatrists. 

Of course, the Warrens were charlatans as well.  That didn't mean we couldn't get some good movies from there supposed exploits. 

The Satanic cult movie had been around for quite a while and, though director Ti West did his best to make this look like an …

City of the Living Dead (1980)

I need to be quite clear here.  I know many people will be watching this film because they think it is a zombie film or related to another Lucio Fulci film called Zombie which was, itself, an unofficial sequel to Dario Argento's Italian edit of Dawn of the Dead.  It is not.  It is a beginning of a trilogy which also includes The Beyond and The House Near the Cemetery.  Rather than zombies we are dealing with more of what would traditionally be considered ghouls.

That is where I think this movie loses a lot of people.  They are expecting a Romero-style zombie flick, but instead a surrealistically plotted movie about the end times. 

During a seance in New York Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) sees a vision of a priest (Fabrizio Jovine) hanging himself in a cemetery in a small town called Dunwich.  His suicide opens the gates of hell and causes the dead to rise.  This is supposedly because Dunwich was built over the remains of the original Salem, and those that persecuted the witch…

The House at the End of Time (2013)

Too often when a movie is represented as one thing and later becomes another you end up with nothing but complete frustration.  For instance, I practically have no use for the "schizophrenic" twist when it comes to supernatural thrillers (especially since multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia are two different things - something Hollywood hasn't figured out yet for the most part).  I also despise Scooby Doo-type endings unless someone actually says a line about meddling kids.

Occasionally, though, we get something that is truly clever.  The Others, for instance, was pretty obvious that the main characters were the ghosts haunting the house, but even figuring that out early on in the movie did nothing to spoil it.  Jacob's Ladder comes to mind as another that had enough going on that the reveal at the end was not a giant letdown.  Now I can add The House at the End of Time to that list.

The film begins in 1981, with Dulce (Ruddy Rodriguez) discovering her h…

Pieces (1982)

This is going to be one of the places where I break from most horror fans.  I have wanted to see Pieces for awhile.  I have a cheap DVD set that it is on, but never watched it because I heard that particular version was horribly copied and cropped to where you couldn't tell what was happening on screen.  So, I waited.

As I waited this kept coming up in discussions as being one of those obscure European grindhouse films that just has to be seen.  Also, it had a reputation as being one of the superior films in the slasher genre. 

Well, the wait is over, and I can definitely say I cringed through most of the movie.  Unfortunately, it had nothing to do with any of the violence.

In 1942 a young boy is putting together a pornographic puzzle.  His mother (May Heatherly) discovers him doing it and threatens to burn it as well as any other "filth" he may have about.  This leads him to chop her into pieces with an axe.  When the police show up he hides in a closet and claims some…

Stake Land (2010)

Despite the proliferation of cheap movies with cheap jump scares (not to mention just plain garbage trying to mask itself as cult material from studios like Asylum), I would say that we are entering another renaissance for horror films.  The old tropes are still there: zombies, vampires, werewolves, masked killers, etc.  What is changing is what scares us.

This can often be seen down the years more through anthology shows such as The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Dark Side.  The 1950s and 1960s had their share of technophobia, but much of what came across as scary was the civilization the west had striven to attain being destroyed by an outside other than treated us like we treated the lands we colonized.  By the '80s technology was beginning to evolve at the rapid pace that it is now, and many of the old horror staples were brought into the modern day and were often the result of misuse of technology.

Today we have generally come to grips with technological advance and, despi…

Nightbreed (1990)

I have to admit that I have never really read many of Clive Barker's novels or stories.  I did give him a chance at one point, with The Great and Secret Show, which in hindsight was probably not the best place to start.  At some point I plan on getting deeper into his work and, despite my disappointment with that novel, it's Barker's film work that continues to keep me curious.

Rarely are writers good at adapting their own material for the screen, and even rarer do they turn out to be skilled at directing.  Michael Crichton is one of the few that come to mind (The Great Train Robbery and Looker are both good films), while a more typical result is Stephen King's one directorial effort, Maximum Overdrive.

Clive Barker hit the mark at the beginning with themovie Hellraiser, which went on to become a franchise (although there is not much worth watching after the third film).  However, other than story and characters, Barker wasn't involved in any past for the first.  …

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2015)

I am always wary when a movie says it is like something crossed with something.  Problem is, it rarely is anything like either one, but it is almost guaranteed to be bad.  Happily, though Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead has little in common with Mad Max or Dawn of the Dead, it is still an interesting entry into the overdone zombie genre and one of the few movies to breathe new life into it in years.

Benny (Leon Burchill) is out camping with his brother and a friend when they see a strange meteor shower.  When he wakes up in the morning he finds his friend dead and his brother a flesh-eating zombie.  Meanwhile, Barry (Jay Gallagher) awakes in the middle of the night to find someone standing in his kitchen eating raw meat, and is attacked when he confronts the stranger.  He receives a call from his sister Brooke (Bianca Bradley) after she is suddenly attacked by her friends, warning him to get out of the city as everyone is going crazy.

Barry grabs his family and goes, only to have his wife…

American Mary (2012)

American Mary is one of those films I can admire but be disappointed with at the same time.  It tries for the body horror of David Cronenberg, but also dabbles in being a classic revenge story.  At points it even goes into slasher territory, with a number of nods to Clive Barker (including the last name of one the characters).  In the end, though, it seems to lead up to a whole lot of nothing.

Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) is a med student in Seattle that is training to be a surgeon.  In fact, she is promising enough that she is constantly hounded by her professor, Dr. Grant (David Lovgren) to do even better.  Her main concern at the moment is how to pay her rent and her for her phone. 

Needing quick cash she answers an add for "sensual massage" and light BDSM work at a strip club owned by Billy Barker (Antonio Cupo).  She naively brings a resume which mentions her schooling and, during the interview, she is offered $5000.00 to do impromptu surgery on a friend of the Billy…

Horns (2013)

Alexandre Aja is a filmmaker that tends to pop up where I'm least expecting him.  Other than knowing that this was starring Daniel Radcliffe and a bit of the plot, I was not aware it was one of Aja's films.  High Tension was pretty good (the ending kind of messed it up), his remake of The Hills Have Eyes was on par with the original and Piranha 3D was pure, nasty fun.

I would not say that he has developed any particular style in the past.  Content-wise, he managed to throw in much of what other horror films only tease at.  Beyond that they could have been directed by about anybody.

I think Horns is where we finally see Aja coming into his own.  Based on a book by Joe Hill (Stephen King's son), Aja manages to work with something wholly original rather than building on certain elements of previous horror films or standing on the shoulders of other directors.

Ig Perrish (Radcliffe) is a disc jockey in a small Washington town not far from Seattle.  Since he was a kid he has b…

Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (2014)

The original Dead Snow came as a bit of a surprise.  I had avoided it since zombie movies have literally flooded Netflix, the hordes of bad ones struggling to eat the brains of unsuspecting horror fans.  However, a few friends recommended it and, to my surprise, it was less typical zombie film and more like John Carpenter's The Fog crossed with Dead Alive

So I was quite happy when I heard a sequel was in the works.  And, unlike many planned sequels to indie horror films that never see the light of day, this one made it.  It also manages to beat the original in bad taste and fun.

We begin from where the original left off.  Martin (Vegar Hoel) has managed to give the gold back to the Nazis and escape, although he accidentally killed his girlfriend Hanna (Charlotte Frogner) in the process.  He also accidentally forgot to put a coin back in the box, and Herzog (Ørjan Gamst) and his troops come after it.  Martin manages to get away, scraping Herzog off the side of his car with the h…

The Babadook (2014)

Every once in a while there is a horror movie that comes along and actually changes things.  That is quite hard to do since horror movies, even some of the most imaginative, rely on certain formulas.  Some of those formulas are in The Babadook, but largely because you can eschew everything that has come prior.  What it change is sometimes brilliant, sometimes frustrating, and in the end makes me feel apprehensive about the slew of movies that will copy it (not to mention the inevitable Hollywood remake).

Samuel (Noah Wiseman) is a precocious child who is into magic and building contraptions in order to kill the monster he believes is stalking him.  His mother Amelia (Essie Davis) is at her wits' end.  Samuel's father Oskar (Benjamin Winspear) died driving her to the hospital the night Samuel was born (a fact the kid is willing to blurt out to anyone), leaving her a single mother with a job in a nursing home.  Samuel's behavior also doesn't leave her much time for slee…

A Place of One's Own (1945)

While known for Hammer Studios and a number of classic horror films from the 1950s through the 1970s, older British horror was quite a bit more reserved.  Not a problem, since there is always room for a good haunted house tale.

It is 1900, and Mr. and Mrs. Smedhurst (James Mason, Barbara Mullen) have put away a good nest egg from their drapery business and have decided to retire to the English countryside.  They purchase an estate called Bellingham House that has a bit of a reputation of being haunted.  Of course, Mr. Smedhurst will have nothing to do with such nonsense.

However, when they take in the young Annette (Margaret Lockwood) as a companion for Mrs. Smedhurst, their lodger begins to sense a presence trying to take her over.  It's small at first, and even her Dr. Selbie (Dennis Price), her soon-to-be fiance, ignores it. 

It is when she is completely overcome by a wasting disease that Dr. Selbie cannot diagnose that he and Smedhurst begin to face the fact that there is som…

The Ghost of Yotsuya (1959)

Typically when I think of older Japanese horror films I think of a movie like Kaidan.  They are wonderful works of art and visual style, but the style often overtakes the story and, for someone who is not Japanese (especially 50 or more years removed), there is a lot that is lost in translation.

Not so with The Ghost of Yotsuya.  While based in Japanese folklore, and still reflecting some film making styles of its time, the pacing is much more like a modern Western horror film. 

The story takes place in Edo, where a young samurai named Iemon Tamiya (Shigeru Amachi) wishes to marry Iwa (Katsuo Wakasugi), the daughter of of another samurai of higher rank, Hikoemon Sato (Arata Shibata).  When Sato refuses the marriage and insults Iemon, the younger man flies into a fit of rage and kills Sato and his guards.  This, however, is witnessed by Sato's servant Naosuke (Shuntaro Emi).  Iemon makes to kill Naosuke, but Naosuke comes up with a plan to cover up the murder by claiming it was do…

Dead of Night (1974)

Bob Clark arguably made one of the biggest cult movies in history.  Every year, millions of buy it, get together in groups and quote every line from it.  Critically panned when it came out, it has grown to become one of the best known examples of its genre and has entertained three generations of kids and adults.

That move, of course, is A Christmas Story.  At the time many people couldn't believe this endearing bit of nostalgic family film making came from a guy who had made two of (by reputation, less by act) raunchiest comedies of the '80s: the first two Porky's movies. 

Long before that, though, was another Christmas-themed movie: Black Christmas, an early slasher film with a young Margot Kidder, that followed on the heels of this grim horror film with its thinly-veiled commentary on what the Vietnam war was doing to the United States and the soldiers who were fighting.

Andy Brooks (Richard Backus) is a young U.S. soldier who comes to the aid of a fellow soldier, only…