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Showing posts from 2021

The Frighteners (1996)

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Although I realized while watching Dead Alive the first time what a great, creative director Peter Jackson was, I never expected him to enter the mainstream.  He was a bit too out there, making what some consider the bloodiest film of all time as well as co-directing the nastiest puppet movie ever, Meet the Feebles .  This was a guy that seemed determined to make a career out of trying to be a hybrid of Sam Raimi and John Waters. Then came Heavenly Creatures .  Prior to this his effects had all been practical, some more successful than others (the zombie baby in Dead Alive is just perfect in its awfulness), but suddenly he was dabbling in digital effects with barely the budget of the major studios that were using them.  Some low-budget films came out in the 1990s and tried to use digital effects to cut corners, but they always looked horrendous.  While maybe a bit primitive today the scenes that represented the fantasy world of the two girls at the center of  Heavenly Creatures were re

Halloween Kills (2021)

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My opinion, and it still stands even though I think Halloween Kills is a solid sequel that is getting a lot more hate than it deserves, is that the 2018 version of Halloween should have been one and done.  It was the first direct sequel to Halloween   to take the story seriously and not convolute it with unnecessary family connections and supernatural nonsense.  Michael Myers is, simply, an embodiment of pure evil.   That is what the second Halloween went for, and it was successful, right down convincingly killing Michael (Nick Castle) off in Laurie Strode's (Jamie Lee Curtis) boobytrapped home.  It was the first truly good ending since Halloween H2O , and when David Gordon Green decided to do a sequel I was really hoping he wouldn't ruin the good will he inspired with his first film.  Unfortunately, for many, it appears that he did, and it may not have been really necessary to drag this out as a trilogy and explain a number of things in an attempt to set up the upcoming Hallo

Love and Monsters (2020)

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Halloween 2020.  Our "two weeks to slow the spread" in March was still in swing in October, thanks to a number of different factors and, though occasional big event films like Tenet were starting to make it into the theaters, few people were going.  Even a lot of people like myself, who weren't as worried about getting sick, thought sitting in an enclosed space with a bunch of strangers for two hours might just be too much like poking a sleeping tiger.  People were supposed to keep their masks on the entire time, but people are people and, personally, I saw no reason to sit in a theater with a mask when there were plenty of movies I could watch at home without one or my pre-movie entertainment being some old guy berating a 16-year-old about the Constitution.   Those things should have gone through the mind of whoever it was that decided to release Love and Monsters in the manner they did.  It was released as video on demand but, unlike Bill and Ted Face the Music , this

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1972)

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The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is one of those movies I have been wanting to see for a long time.  I originally had it on a cheap horror box set but never watched it.  I did get about maybe a minute or two into it, but it was a poor pan-and-scan version.  From what little memory I have of it the beginning was completely different and, even at the time, I knew there were several versions of this.  All the versions that made it to the United States - including the theatrical one, which had a great poster that had little to do with the story - were butchered in some manner.  It went into public domain rather quickly which meant anyone could do what they wanted, and I am sure that many companies, including those leasing films for the grindhouse circuit, made versions that emphasized the nudity (of which there is plenty) or the violence (of which there is a little) or the horror element (of which there is next to none).  Releasing it under the direct English translation of the Itali

Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (2004)

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The first two Ginger Snaps films dealt with oncoming adolescence, adulthood, stalking and addiction.  In the second we followed what happened to Brigitte (Emily Perkins) after she injected her sister's blood, resorting to injecting monkshood to try and keep the change from happening.  In the end, despite being set up as the victim of a male werewolf's carnal desires or resorting to performing various acts to get her needed drug from an orderly in a rehab, Brigitte came to have an even worse fate.  An outcast girl she befriended, Ghost (Tatiana Maslany), turned out to be a budding serial killer and intended to use Brigitte in her final form as her personal hellhound to help her terrorize her enemies. It's not exactly what one figured would be the end of the story, especially since a third movie was filmed at the same time as the second.  Unfortunately, after all this time, we are probably never going to find out what happened with Ghost and Brigitte, and since changing to a

Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed (2004)

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Ginger Snaps was a strange, sometimes humorous werewolf film involving two outcast sisters trying to deal with one (Ginger, of course) becoming a werewolf.  It was written by Karen Walton and put a more allegorical twist on monthly cycles and changes in life in general.  There were the usual horror elements, but there was also the bond between sisters and a lot of references to what a woman goes through entering puberty.  I, obviously, have no point of reference for the latter, but the humor and the fact that this was a completely different take on the werewolf story got me liking it more than I thought I would.  It's also not a Canadian werewolf version of Twilight , which was a relief. The next movie didn't come out until four years later, and both the direct sequel and prequel were filmed at the same time, albeit with different directors.  Karen Walton also didn't continue on with the story, but instead Megan Martin was responsible for the second part which follows up o

Witchboard III: The Possession (1995)

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Kevin S. Tenney wrote and directed the first two Witchboard movies based on research that he had done on Ouija boards and possession.  Although they had their flaws both of them were interesting horror films, quite different than a lot of the slasher films that were all the rage at the time.  However, Tenney committed a mortal sin with Witchboard 2 - at least in the eyes of the slimy old Weinstein-style producers that were funding his film.  To get more money for the sequel he made a deal with Republic Pictures, and they thought that what Witchboard 2 needed was a little nudity to help get people into the theater.  However, Ami Dolenz, the star, had a no-nudity clause in her contract.  Tenney was pressured to try to coerce Dolenz into getting her kit off and, thinking it morally wrong, refused.  This resulted in little to no promotion of Witchboard 2  as well as the third installment being taken away from him.  All he gets on this one is a writer's credit.  Personally, I would not

Witchboard 2 (1993)

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Kevin S. Tenney, when he finally got down to making a sequel to his 1986 movie Witchboard , really didn't have to put that much effort into it if he didn't want to.  It was a sequel to a movie that horror fans knew about but not one of the big ones that everyone loved.  It had its moments, it had Tawny Kitaen at the height of her popularity and, unlike a lot of movies of its time, felt like a good old-fashioned horror story.  It had its flaws, but it also had its moments of brilliance. Tenney did a number of movies between the two films and, although the first one set up a sequel in rather cheesy fashion, the public wasn't exactly clamoring for another one.  Still, since it had its fans, a sequel was produced in partnership with Republic Pictures in 1993.  Originally called Witchboard 2: The Devil's Doorway , instead of a return of Malfador, the spirit that haunted both the board and residence in the first film, we get an entirely new ghost - even if the board is quite

Witchboard (1986)

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Honestly, the only reason most people are probably familiar with this low-budget '80s horror film is because Tawny Kitaen is in it.  The movie benefited from that bit of serendipity, as it came out the same time she was rolling around on a car in the video for Whitesnake's "Is This Love?"  She was already getting a bit of fame as a model and an actress, but the video became her claim to fame and it undoubtedly helped give a boost to this movie. It kind of needed it as this was well into that first bunch of slasher films that rode the coattails on Friday the 13th .  It is also getting into the point of the 1980s where horror films started moving beyond masked killers and got a bit stranger, thanks to A Nightmare on Elm Street  and The Evil Dead .  Witchboard has a bit of that later influence, but writer/director Kevin S. Tenney didn't have the same budget of Wes Craven had or the ingenuity of Sam Raimi  With his brother Dennis doing an electronic score and the paci

Spiral (2021)

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If there was one thing Jigsaw did it was bring the Saw series to a satisfying end.  At the same time it showed that it didn't have to keep following the same pattern movie after movie.  Honestly, I don't think there was ever any intention on carrying on further with the story, as we learn about John Kramer's first test run and yet another unknown assistant, Logan Nelson, who is originally one of his intended players until Kramer has second thoughts and decides what he is doing to Nelson is too much like vengeance.  The story is basically about Nelson bringing down a Detective Halloran, who had let the murderer of Nelson's wife go free, and framing him as a Jigsaw copycat.  The film works as Nelson has just one goal.  He achieves it and, as far as is known, continues his work in the city's coroner office with no one the wiser.  Neither he, nor any of the other participants except Kramer are mentioned in Spiral as a new Jigsaw copycat emerges, this time targeting the

Jigsaw (2017)

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The Saw series by this time should be played out.  Honestly, the first three were good, the fourth merely okay, and after that there was a brief return in the sixth to what made the series good before it gave us an underwhelming finale.  Instead of the two-parter that was promised it was basically a repeat of the mistakes of the fifth movie with unexplained time jumps and what should have been shocking revelations devolving into pointless cameos.  Yes, Dr. Lawrence Gordon was back, was revealed as being one of Jigsaw's accomplices, but beyond that it looked as if Cary Elwes had popped in between engagements to earn a little side money.  So, by the time the events in  Jigsaw happen, John Kramer as been dead for 11 years, no one knows what happened to (or even mentions) Mark Hoffmann and, because the killings stopped, Dr. Gordon is not even known to have had a role in the Jigsaw murders. The question then begins how to restart a series where it had fallen into a rut and killed off al

The Phantom of the Opera (1998)

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I think it may be safe to say that Dario Argento is the Queensrÿche of horror directors.  There are many famous directors that, at some point, the quality just vanished.  John Carpenter comes to mind, but there was a glaring reason why his movies after In the Mouth of Madness were not as good: he got tired and wanted to quit, only he seems to have needed the paycheck that stuff like Vampires and Ghosts of Mars promised so he could go off and spend the latter part of his life enjoying making music.  Dario Argento, on the other hand, just seems to suddenly hit a wall, much like Queensrÿche, who were one of the biggest metal bands in the 1990s and almost managed to survive where grunge had killed the others off.   With Argento, ignoring his segment for Two Evil Eyes , he had released one of his best movies, Opera, in 1987.  He followed that up with Trauma in 1993 which, though not as good, still had all the elements that made him popular.  The Stendhal Syndrome is different but still resp

The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

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Musicals.  Having to watch one typically causes a chill in my spine unlike any horror film.  With a horror film I typically know that even if it is boring or just plain bad that it will be over, in most cases, in about 90 minutes, even if that 90 minutes feels like three hours.  Musicals, though, take that 90 minutes of plot and stretch it out for unfathomable amounts of time with major production pieces, overdramatic songs and what typically amounts to a fair amount of empty bombast. Empty bombast is probably the best way to describe Andrew Lloyd Webber.  I know it may be strange for me, as a person who loves music so much, to have such a revulsion to musical theater.  While I do occasionally like a few classic musicals they tend to be ones where the plot would work with or without the music, and vice versa.  Some of Andrew Lloyd Webber's stuff does - parts of Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita , for instance, although I cannot stand to sit through an entire production of either.  F

The Phantom of the Opera (1989)

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It always disappoints me when a studio gets cold feet.  Menahem Golan, parting ways from his partners at Cannon, formed 21st Century Film Productions.  Instead of going for something cheap he decided to get one of the biggest contemporary horror stars - Robert Englund - to play one of the most popular horror roles of the past.  Instead of going the cheap Full Moon route he hired Dwight H. Little, who had directed the surprisingly well-done  Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Meyers , and filmed on a set of 19th century London that Hammer would have been proud of.  Despite the fact that most of us who remember when this film came out probably think it was a direct-to-video release, quite a bit of money was invested to make this a stylish crossover of old-time horror films and late '80s slashers. Unfortunately they just couldn't resist trying to connect this new version of The Phantom of the Opera with A Nightmare on Elm Street, right down to using what looks like Freddy makeup o