Showing posts from October, 2019

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

John Carpenter and Debra Hill created one of the best horror movies of the 20th century with the original Halloween.  I know there are those who retroactively pick it apart, but that's a trend that has been around forever.  I will still stand by the original Universal films as being some of the best as well, but if all you are concerned about is that anything older than a decade is not worth watching, then I guess there's really no way of changing your attitude.

Still, attitudes do change.  I will always maintain that Halloween II was a mistake.  Sure, the first made a ton of money, so the sequel was almost guaranteed to do the same, especially since they got Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance back, John Carpenter was still tangentially involved and Debra Hill worked on the script.  However, if the original intent was to make a number of unrelated films with a Halloween theme year after year, then this was bad way to start.  It's not even that the sequel was a huge dro…

Coma (1978)

Hospitals figure into many horror films.  Usually the killer has been brought there when they think he's did and starts looking for the protagonist who, conveniently, was brought to the same place.  Other times he's content to reduce the hospital's payroll.  Either way, it's long, deserted corridors with barely-functioning flourescents flickering on and off.  It is always the same way - not a soul around.  Security guards asleep. No nurses making rounds unless they conveniently get in the way of the killer's knife. 

The truth is I don't think a masked psycho killer has ever been on the top of anyone's mind when going into a hospital for surgery.  They are generally well-lit and full of people any time of the day, largely because all the bad stuff that happens outside the hospital doesn't keep a time schedule.  The fear most people when going into the hospital is whether or not they will leave.  Surgeons remove the wrong limb, leave stuff inside the pat…

Ghostbusters (2016)

For decades Dan Aykroyd has been promising a third Ghostbusters film.  While Ghostbusters IIwas a financial success, it was nowhere near the fan nor critical success of the original.  Still, if everyone had been on board for it in the 1990s, and the proper script (that didn't break Sony's bank account) had come around, there was still enough life in the franchise to draw audiences back.  Of course none of that came to be.

Instead, after all the years have gone by, what we get is a reboot with an all-female main cast.  Director Paul Feig decided to follow up his Melissa McCarthy action-comedy vehicle Spywith this production, which had Aykroyd as executive producer and which Feig co-wrote with Katie Dippold, who had worked with him on a previous movie (also with McCarthy) called The Heat.  While there was some eye-rolling about the gender swapping early on, things heated up when the initial trailer dropped.  It became the most down-voted trailer on YouTube.

Honestly, there was …

Ghostbusters II (1989)

In my review of Ghostbusters, I referred to this as a mediocre sequel.  Keep in mind that when this came out I was able to scrounge my own money together to see it with my then girlfriend in high school.  We were the same age and had the same general memories of seeing the original when it came out.  Because Bill Murray was so against doing another one the fact that this even got released was a pleasant surprise.  Then, of course, we sat through the film.

The disappointment was such that, until I watched it for this review, I had never seen it again.  Literally 30 years has passed since I had seen it, and I really had no desire to see it again.  My expectations were low, and I was bracing myself. 

This is only to find out that, while it has significant flaws, it is not that bad of a movie after all. 

My views are, of course, tempered by the fact that I spent 30 years hating it at this point instead of, when it came out, five years of revering the original.  I know that these days fiv…

Ghostbusters (1984)

The second season of Stranger Things saw the kids dressing up like the Ghostbusters.  Other than the fact I would have liked to had the money and the time to make those costumes I would have loved it.  It would even be nice to buy them; I don't remember them on the market, but if they can be found in rural Indiana, then I am sure I would have found them in Phoenix.  Not that I would have had one anyway; 1984 was not a good time economically, something that Stranger Things tends to gloss over a bit.

I mention this because after rewatching this movie after about 15 to 20 years, I realize just how rooted in the '80s it is.  I am not talking about the obvious, like the music, clothes and hair, but just how you had to be there to get some of the references.  There is plenty for any generation to enjoy, from special effects that, except in a few cases, hold up today, to a lot of humor that avoids the politics of the day.  When it does make reference it's not enough to distract …

The Terminal Man (1974)

While I still run into some older people who treat computers like they are Satan contained in a box (and, unfortunately, some people from my own generation as well), they have come a long, long way.  The Terminal Man was written by Michael Crichton in 1972 and there is a significant part of the novel explaining computers, workstations, time-share on the terminals and a number of other things that were a reality when your typical computer was an expensive behemoth that often took up its own floor of a building. They were also something alien and imposing to most people, and frighteningly cold and inhuman.  That most people only knew of computers from science fiction movies didn't help.

When I read the book in about 1995 a lot of the concepts of 1970s computer technology were already alien to me, having grown up as home computers advanced in power and usefulness. The idea of surgically implanting electrodes into someone's brain in order to short-circuit seizures, and thus preve…

The Hearse (1980)

I seem to have a thing for killer cars, and I know I'm not the only one.  Christine is one of my favorite Stephen King novels (even though I'm a bit lukewarm on John Carpenter's film adaptation).  The Car, as silly a b-movie as it is, has been a favorite of mine since childhood, as was Steven Spielberg's Duel.  One of the most interesting things about The Kingdom was the phantom ambulance that showed up at the same time every night.

All this means that if you then give me a movie called The Hearse, then of course I'm going to want to check it out.  If Satan can cruise around the desert in a black car then things have to be even better if we have a full-on hearse.  People seem to get the heebie-jeebies around the things, especially the classic all-black ones.  Perhaps that's why so many look like white limousines today instead of something the Munsters would cruise around in.

Happily, or unhappily for heroine, we have the traditional black coach, and it's q…

Killer Party (1986)

One of the things I like best about '80s horror, especially once the slasher genre started to play out, is that by the mid 1980s it got to the point where they would just throw in everything except the kitchen sink.  Blood everywhere, special effects (usually imaginative as they had to get around low budgets) and big, bad creatures at the end.  Ghostbusters, The Evil Deadand A Nightmare on Elm Street all started this trend, but soon it could be found in films like Prom Night 2

By the description I read of Killer Party, I was hoping this would be another one of those, even if it was minor and largely forgotten.  And, from what I understand, at some point in its life it was, until everything good about the movie ended up on the cutting room floor to please the MPAA.  What's left, instead of a good horror comedy, is just a horrible comedy with a little horror at the end. 

Phoebe (Elaine Wilkes), Jennifer (Joanna Johnson) and Vivia (Sherry Willis-Burch) are pledging to the Sigm…

Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

Happy Death Daywas a surprisingly fun film, and a decent slasher despite being saddled with a PG-13 rating.  Although there was a bit of the usual Hollywood situation of barely any consequences after someone is killed in a rather brutal manner, it also had a pretty decent ending that wrapped up everything.  However, the fact that the movie was rather profitable meant that there had to be some way of bringing everyone back for a sequel.

It seems that director Christopher Landon, based on ideas from original writer Scott Lobdell, had some ideas on how to do this after making the first one.  In Groundhog Day fashion Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is stalked by a killer wearing a baby mask (the mascot for the fictional Bayfield University) and continues waking up each day in the dorm room of Carter (Israel Broussard), whom she eventually falls in love with.  She also eventually solves her murder; her roommate Lori (Ruby Modine), after failing to poison her with a birthday cupcake, lets a se…

Happy Death Day (2017)

There are fewer ways keep me from seeing a horror film than to slap a PG-13 rating on it.  What the rating typically means to me is that at some point a studio executive decided that they wanted to get the kids in, cut out almost everything interesting and dumped another steaming pile of trash into the theaters when they knew another Marvel film was coming out.  Since horror is usually on the low budget side anyway, there's a chance of making a little cash, but if it is too bad of a movie the upside is no one will get to see it.

Happy Death Day seemed a little different.  It got a decent promotional push and, despite the rating, looked interesting.  At least it was the kind of plot that could still be enjoyable regardless of the amount of blood being spilled.  Still not enough to get me to shell out theater prices for, but it stayed on the back burner.  I kind of wanted to see where it too the concept, especially since the excellent series Russian Doll came out not too long after …

Alone in the Dark (1982)

By looking at the poster of this movie you would assume that we have another slasher along the lines of Friday the 13th, with an ax-wielding maniac making steak tartar of annoying teenagers and a few adults along the way.  It was certainly released at a time when these movies were becoming increasingly popular, so what would one more movie with an unstoppable killer (or killers, since it says they) have to offer?

The truth is the poster has nothing to do at all with Alone in the Dark.  I am halfway convinced this was rejected art for another movie poster that New Line Cinema came across and slapped the a name, tagline and cast and crew information on.  Wouldn't surprise me, as this movie was the first in a number of ways: New Line's first, director Jack Sholder's first feature length film and the first horror film to be released in Dolby Stereo.

Once Alone in the Dark got going I am sure that no one really cared that the poster was a bit of a trick.  This is because rathe…

Count Yorga, Vampire (1970)

Somewhere there is a world that, when you are promised a cheap and nasty horror film, you get more of the former and less of the latter.  Many lurid titles from the late 1960s through the mid 1980s would have one expecting no less.  The way the critics often reacted would have one expecting even more.

Take Count Yorga, Vampire for instance.  I have often heard what a nasty piece of work it is.  I have heard everything from no redeeming value to an exercise in pure exploitation.  After all it started off a soft-core porn film.

Somewhere along the line director Bob Kelljan decided to make a real movie, and so most of the sex (if any of it was ever filmed) went out the door.  It was actually given a plot and retooled for mainstream audiences.  While definitely cheap, the level of violence was the same as Hammer films of the same period. 

I say all this because if you are looking for some forbidden exploitation gem, then you are going to be heavily disappointed.  The good news is that de…

Dead of Night (1945)

Ealing Studios is well-known for their comedies and crime capers.  They were one of the major post-war British studios, featuring a number of movies that are considered classics today.  Although occasionally some Gothic elements creep into Ealing films, they only did one horror film, Dead of Night, and it proved to be groundbreaking in many different ways.

Dead of Night is an anthology of stories with a wraparound, something that would become more popular in the following decade, largely with American, British and Italian filmmakers.  They present a way of making money on something that usually doesn't - short films.  Shorter films typically play well in art cinemas or as a way of showing the talent of a director, but it is hard to fit them in when most people are going to see feature-length films.  Anthologies largely fixed this, and when it came to horror it often gave directors known for their more serious work a chance to do genre films without having critics wringing their ha…

The Monster (1925)

It is a pity which films have been randomly lost.  A large portion of the early years of cinema is gone, either through neglect or just the fact that film had a habit of combusting at the time.  Censors and other people who enjoy butchering art have also had their way.  In a lot of ways it is a miracle we have what we do.

Unfortunately, what we do have is not always the best.  Take Lon Chaney for instance.  For every Phantom of the Opera we still have, we are missing something like London After Midnight.  It also means that lesser films, like The Monster, have also managed to survive.

The town of Danbury, Indiana is shaken by the disappearance of one of its wealthier farmers.  The local mercantile puts up an award, leading to a visit from a detective from their insurance company (William H. Turner).  The store’s under clerk (Johnny Arthur) finds a clue leading him to believe that it may have something to do with a local insane asylum thought to be recently abandoned.  Of course no o…

Dead Ringer (1964)

An unfortunate rule when it comes to actresses is that at a certain point, unless you are willing to switch from playing lead roles to playing a supporting (or even smaller) role as a matron once you get above a certain age then your career is over.  In a lot of cases that doesn't matter who you were.  Back in the Golden Age of cinema you didn't even have a directing gig possibly awaiting you.

There were many actresses that decided it wasn't worth the fight, but also decided that they wanted to be remembered a certain way in their work, and by their 30s they were out of the business.  There were others that accepted the roles they would have to play.  Still there were others that doggedly hung on.  Bette Davis is somewhere in between the last two.

In 1962 Davis starred opposite Joan Crawford in the thriller Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?  For a time it resurrected the career of both women but, where Crawford was increasingly relegated to starring in cheap exploitation pr…

Overlord (2018)

The opening scenes of Overlord are supposed to be riveting, as planes filled with soldiers fly over occupied France and prepare to drop a team tasked with taking out a Nazi radio jamming device located in a church.  As we get to know the soldiers shortly before anti-aircraft fire starts buffeting the plain and blowing up others nearby, one thought went through my head.

When, exactly, were the Armed Forces integrated?

I should know this since this is a major historical era I have studied again and again (right answer: 1948).  But this just goes to show how even if you know something is wrong you begin to doubt the facts that you do know.  Even if the 101st Airborne had been integrated at the time, there was no way there would have been a black NCO commanding them.  There was a good third of the country that still hadn't figured out by that time that hanging people due to the color of their skin was wrong.

If you are going to stage a riveting airborne infiltration, especially one t…