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Showing posts from October, 2021

Ghost (1990)

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While there aren't too many tales of studio interference when it come to Ghost , it was an unlikely mix.  Director Jerry Zucker was one of the team responsible for Airplane!  and The Naked Gun , while Patrick Swayze was a bankable action star.  Demi Moore was an up-and-coming young actress who had starred in some romance and drama films, while Whoopi Goldberg was a comedian who had shown promise as a dramatic actor in The Color Purple before starring in a number of flops.   To add a bit of strangeness Zucker was working directly with writer Bruce Joel Rubin.  Prior to Ghost he had been responsible for Brainstorm , which, though interesting, was known more for being Natalie Wood's last film.  The film he did after that was Deadly Friend , directed by Wes Craven and best known for Kristy Swanson smashing Anne Ramsey's head with a basketball.  While nothing in this disparate amalgamation of talents really speaks of disaster it also doesn't foretell a supernatural romance/c

Zombies on Broadway (1945)

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In the 1940s one of the biggest comedy duos was Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.  The two had success in radio early on, but soon hit their stride performing on stage and on film.  Toward the late 1940s they were famous for briefly breathing some new life into the old Universal monsters, particularly with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein , but their first foray into supernatural comedy was 1941's Hold That Ghost .  Like a number of their films over the next decade it was a hit, and just the light-hearted fare the nation needed during wartime.  Whenever a successful formula pops up it is inevitable it will be copied, and a number of other studios tried.  There were the Ritz Brothers, who worked for both 20th Century Fox and MGM, and then there was Wally Brown and Alan Carney at RKO.  Where the Ritzes typically did their own thing (although compared somewhat to the Marx Brothers), Brown and Carney were fishing from the same well as Abbott and Costello.  They didn't last as long

Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971)

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Bram Stoker is most known for his novel Dracula , but he had a career as a popular novelist that stretched close to 40 years.  He wrote in numerous genres, from romance to mystery, but his stories of the macabre are the ones he is most known for.  Besides Dracula , there is also his unfinished The Lair of the White Worm, which was adapted into a film in 1988 by Ken Russell, and Jewel of the Seven Stars .   The latter ended up spawning two films within a decade, Blood from the Mummy's Tomb and The Awakening .  Other versions pop up every now and then, while plot elements have shown up here and there in a number of mummy films.  The early 20th century saw ancient Egypt gain massive popularity with the public as new discoveries were made almost constantly.  Many popular novelists jumped on the bandwagon, and Stoker was a major name.  It is strange that the story took almost 70 years go make the jump to a movie.  Margaret Fuchs (Valerie Leon) is nearing her 18th birthday when her fathe

The Awakening (1980)

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When I first saw the description of this I was sure I was going to see a movie where Charlton Heston fought a mummy.  That still is a lost opportunity, as it would have been entertaining to see a mummy come to life, take one look at him and say, "Moses?"   Unfortunately, we don't get a mummy trying to get his damn dirty hands on Mr. Heston.  Instead what we get is an adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Jewel of the Seven Stars , which had only been adapted 9 years before in the Hammer film Blood from the Mummy's Tomb .  We have Charlton Heston in his first and, as far as I know, only horror film alongside a young Stephanie Zimbalist and a lot of gorgeous on-location filming in Egypt.  Unfortunately what we also get is Stoker's novel translated into a dull attempt to cash in on The Omen.  Matthew Corbeck (Heston) is an archaeologist looking for the tomb of a legendary nameless queen.  Following the directions of a 19th century Dutch explorer named Van Horn, he ha

Sinister 2 (2015)

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The first Sinister featured an interesting twist on found footage, following the person watching the footage instead of just sitting through it ourselves.  It was low budget, but the fact that everything took place within one dark house where a murder took place added to the tension.  Unfortunately, toward the end, it went from subtle scares to jump scares, with a number of the children that Bughuul had captured running about and the creature itself saying, "Hi there!" at the end.  Despite the fact that the last attempt at a scare was more stupid than frightening the rest of the movie was pretty good.  The music added to the tension and the way it revealed certain things while hiding others helped to leave a lot to the imagination.  It made enough so that Blumhouse thought there might be a sequel, so Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill whipped one up, only this time with CiarĂ¡n Foy directing.   The Deputy (James Ransone) is no longer a deputy, but a private investigator,

Sinister (2012)

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The Blair Witch Project helped introduce the world to found-footage horror films and an entire new genre took off.  All that was needed was a location, some handheld cameras and actors who were willing to do most of the work.  There was a general story, but a good portion was improvised.  Hours of footage could be recorded since this was largely done digitally and then edited down to what would eventually make the movie.  However, there had to have been someone, at some point, that actually found the footage.  Sinister introduces us to one unlucky soul who happens to do so. Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) is a true crime writer whose reputation has been diminished since one of his books ended up messing up a case.  Facing bankruptcy and sensing that he has one more chance to turn his career around he moves his family into a house where a family was murdered and the daughter went missing.  He decides to keep this information from Tracy (Juliet Rylance) and his kids Trevor (Michael Hall D&#

The Ninth Configuration (1980)

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William Peter Blatty wrote The Ninth Configuration both to rewrite his previous novel, Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane! into something he was satisfied with and   as a sequel to his novel The Exorcist .  It's a bit strange as this has nothing to do with demonic possession or even anything traditionally horror-related unlike his third book in the series, Legion .  Instead he meant it to be an exploration of the nature of goodness in the world which, I would have to admit, is a bit harder to explore than the nature of evil. After all, we are supposed to be good by default , and only evil by choice.  There have been some stories and novels that explore whether the opposite is true, but this is not one; it is largely exploring the potentiality for good to exist even within someone that would be considered evil by most.   The way in which The Ninth Configuration relates with The Exorcist (the book, not the movie) is that Capt. Billy Cutshaw is the astronaut that Regan informs

Prince of Darkness (1987)

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If someone goes by the reputation of John Carpenter's films today they would think he was on the same level as Steven Spielberg with his string of successes.  The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China are two of the most talked-about, and most reacted-to, films on YouTube.  The sad truth is, however, that almost no one saw them until they came out on cable and video.  The critics, who now stumble over themselves to praise its effects and atmosphere, lambasted The Thing as an example of everything that was wrong with horror films in general. While he had some moderate success with Christine and Starman , Carpenter had pretty much had it with dealing with major studios failing to properly promote his movies, as well as critics like Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert who thought it was their duty to act as gatekeepers for what the United States could see.  While highly regarded for their reviews the truth is the two of them were as bad as the MPAA, and it still befuddles me to see the cowr

Kiss of the Tarantula (1976)

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When digging into the depths of '70s trash cinema I never know what I'm going to discover.  I just know that often, among the lurid titles and barely legal poster art what I'm often going to find are 90-minute films that spend a good portion of the running time walking or driving from place to place.  When these movies are good, and have something shocking or strange to offer, they are truly good in their own twisted way.  Unfortunately quite a number are incompetent and make Paint Drying seem like epic filmmaking.  Thus was my fear going into Kiss of the Tarantula .  Other than an episode of The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams one of Munger's few other director credits is the blaxploitation film Black Starlet .  While that movie does seem to have its share of fans, Kiss of the Tarantula doesn't.  It's written off as a boring clone of Carrie .   While it is not the most exciting movie in the world, the truth is this was in production and probably finished before

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