Posts

Showing posts from 2024

Sometimes They Come Back (1991)

Image
"Sometimes They Come Back" was one of Stephen King's early short stories and one of the most memorable from his Night Shift collection.  It is pure King, portraying bullies in their worst light and taking any romanticism out of small-town life.  Like all the best King short stories it works best on the page because, where King has a habit of filling his novels with bloat at often has trouble nailing the ending, he rarely has that same problem with his shorter works. The problem comes when someone decides to extend what would make a good story in an anthology movie or show to feature length, and that is what we have with the 1991 television movie adaptation of the story.  In fact, it was originally supposed to be one of the stories in Cat's Eye , but Dino de Laurentiis decided it would work better on its own. Jim Norman (Tim Matheson) is a teacher that suffered a nervous breakdown sometime in the past.  Against his better judgment he accepts a job in his hometown, a pl

Cronos (1992)

Image
If there is a horror trope that is more played out than zombies it is vampires.  I am more than happy with the Universal and Hammer films as well as a handful of others, but it is rare that I look forward to seeing another vampire film.  It is around 150 years since Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu introduced them to popular culture with Carmilla , and the only true innovation over that time has been altering the rules.  Even so, altering the rules often means returning to the ones set out by Le Fanu and Bram Stoker, as the movies tended to ignore the books and just come up with their own. There are times, though, where someone adds a new twist to the old story.  This is what Guillermo del Toro does in his feature film debut, Cronos .   Jesus Gris (Federico Luppi) operates an antique store in Mexico City, often with his granddaughter Aurora (Tamara Xanath) in tow.  Some of his items include those that were sold off as a lot in the 1930s and had belonged to an alchemist (Mario Iván Martínez) tha

Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

Image
I don't believe there is much confusion around Shadow of the Vampire , but I will reiterate that, though based on the making of Nosferatu, a Symphony of Terror this is a work of pure fiction.  It features portrayals of real people who were involved in the making of the movie, but Steve Katz based his script on a legend that Max Schreck, who portrayed Count Orlok in the 1922 film, was a real vampire.  It was based on specious information that Schreck made only the one movie and then disappeared.   These rumors arose long before the internet but still at a time when it was not too hard to verify information if one tried.  It was one of a number of rumors about Schreck, who was a bit of a loner and kept his private and public life separated.  Another was that he never existed and that Orlok was played by another actor named Alfred Abel.  That Schreck did exist and was a bit eccentric is not in question and it is not hard to find information about him, but the truth is Shadow of a Vam

Madame Web (2024)

Image
It has reached a point for Sony that it would benefit them more to just turn over their Marvel properties, which seem to revolve solely around Spider-Man, to Disney.  Disney hasn't been doing great with the Marvel Cinematic Universe lately, but at least they occasionally figure out how to make the minor characters work.  Also, the only Sony films featuring a Marvel character that have done well are the Spider-Man movies that were made in tandem with Disney.  Sure, the Venom movies have been fun, but nothing that matches the main character in the series - a main character that the live-action movies take pains to ignore exists. Besides two Venom films Sony has given us Morbius and Madame Web, both major financial and critical disappointments.  It's not something that's even new with Sony; the two Amazing Spider-Man films were misfires after the studio got nervous and rebooted the series after Spider-Man 3  instead of letting Sam Raimi get his series back on track.  They also

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)

Image
While Godzilla vs. Biollante has become a favorite among fans it didn't set the Japanese box office on fire.  That, along with the fact that Toho couldn't get theatrical distribution in many countries including the U.S., frightened them a bit.  Because of this, and with the 50th anniversary of the studio coming up, it was decided to do another rematch with King Kong.  Problem is, unlike in the 1960s, King Kong was now owned by Turner Broadcasting, and they wanted 9 million dollars for the rights.  Being that it would have been two thirds of what was the final budget for this movie Toho did a poll to decide who Godzilla would go up against next.  The result was King Ghidorah. Only thing is returning director Kazuki Ômori didn't want King Ghidorah to be, in his words, was a silly space monster.  Since The Return of Godzilla had wiped the slate clean of every Showa film after the original that meant the origin of King Ghidorah, as well as Godzilla himself, could be altered. 

The People Under the Stairs (1991)

Image
Wes Craven was one of the more frustrating horror directors.  He churned out a lot of movies, some for television, and kept doing so even when he had big hits.  After A Nightmare on Elm Street   came the TV movie Chiller , followed by the ridiculous Deadly Friend .  The only good movie he did for the rest of the decade was The Serpent and the Rainbow , an atypically strange film involving voodoo, before he brought us Mitch Pileggi as electric Freddy in Shocker . But, true to form, he pulled another strange movie out of his hat to open the 1990s with The People Under the Stairs .  Taking inspiration from a real-life incident in which a burglary call led to police finding a couple's children locked in their rooms, Craven came up with this urban fairytale of two monstrous landlords who get up to all sort of evil, including keeping a number of teenagers prisoner in their home.  Fool (Brandon Quintin Adams) is a young boy whose family is facing eviction from the dilapidated slum in whic

Housebound (2014)

Image
Few movies have any surprises in them these days and those that do are usually not of the good variety.  Housebound , the debut film of Gerard Johnstone of M3GAN fame, is one of the good ones.  Like all the best fright films from New Zealand this was made on a shoestring budget and with help from the New Zealand Film Commission, who has always seemed like a bunch of weird horror fans rather than some stuffy bureaucratic office.   Low budget means, as usual, an economic use of sets and places, and Housebound  is no different.  The title pretty much gives that away, but the special thing about this movie is that it begins as a haunted house film and evolves into something else as it goes along.  Add the usual dry Kiwi sense of humor and it turns into something special. Kylie (Morgana O'Reilly) is a young criminal who, after a failed ATM robbery, is put under house arrest with her mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) and stepfather Graeme (Ross Harper).  It's a home that she has always

Panic Room (2002)

Image
David Fincher, upon completing Fight Club , decided he wanted to make something a little simpler.  David Koepp had a script about a woman and her daughter trapped inside a safe room when their house was invaded.  It's a good set-up, limits the filming locations and allows for a tight focus on both the action and the drama.  It also keeps the budget down, keeps the actors to a minimum and, despite a confined feeling for the audience, provides a number of possibilities for various scenarios.   Problem is things didn't go the way Fincher had planned.  Nicole Kidman, who was supposed to play the lead, was injured early on in filming.  Also, instead of using a real location, Fincher had the complete interior of the brownstone built on a stage, resulting in extra expense.  Still, it resulted in one of the highest grossing films of 2002 even if it did receive mixed reviews at the time and is pretty much forgotten now.  Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) is recently divorced and is looking for

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)

Image
Jodie Foster made a number of movies in 1975, from the family-friendly comedy Freaky Friday to the gangster film Bugsy Malone .  It meant that 1976, when all these movies hit the theaters one after another, Foster was everywhere and pretty much the next teen sensation.  She also did two of her most controversial films during that time, Taxi Driver and The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane .  Rynn Jacobs (Foster) is a 13-year-old girl with a poet father who is frequently away from the home.  This situation unfortunately gets attention in the small Massachusetts village where her father has leased a house for the next three years from Cora Hallet (Alexis Smith).  The worst of that attention comes from Cora's son Frank (Martin Sheen), who on Rynn's birthday shows up and tries to get a bit too friendly with her.  She does, however, find a true person to watch over her in Officer Miglioriti (Mort Shuman), who knows all too well Frank's history.  She is on no better terms with

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (2023)

Image
It had been a while since the two-part finale to the original Hunger Games series and, though Suzanne Collins's prequel had sold well, it was no guarantee that a movie version would still attract an audience.  After all both the books and the movies were aimed at a young adult audience and, after this long of a gap, none of the original fans were young adults anymore.  Still, Francis Lawrence was back directing once again and, for those of us who got into the series as actual adults, the idea of getting some history and background of Panem, the games and Corialanus Snow was at least enticing.  My expectations were tempered due to the last two movies in the series.  The usual money grab of dividing the last book into two movies was done but it still managed to feel rushed.  While The Hunger Games: Catching Fire felt like a true adaptation of the novel the Mockingjay movies felt rushed despite the unnecessary two-part stretch, and emotionally they didn't hit the same way as the

Blacula (1972)

Image
It is unfortunate that blaxploitation earned a reputation as being rather silly.  Some of the movies were, to be honest, not that great, and one begins to encounter that after a bit of digging beneath the more famous titles, but there was also a bit of a perception problem caused by the producers and studios.  The poster for Blacula, for instance, makes it look like this is some sort of horror comedy, with the painted-on blood and ridiculous stake coming out of the title character.  It is truly one of the worst movie posters of the time and doesn't do the film justice.  Despite the exploitative title first-time director William Crain took the script by Joan Torres and Raymond Koenig and made a serious urban horror film.  It isn't anything that breaks the mold as it is at heart a retelling of Dracula  set in 1972 Los Angeles, but it has enough creativity and a sympathetic villain at the center to set it apart.  Horror fans have long known this and the movie is held in decent reg

Def by Temptation (1990)

Image
James Bond III is not an affected name.  It's the director's real name, as evidenced by the dedications at the end of the film to his father and grandfather.  He is also the writer and star of this movie which he had been trying to put together since working on the Spike Lee film School Days .  His association with the most well-known and respected black filmmaker of the 1980s didn't hurt when casting and getting money for the movie. Strange thing is when I heard about it the title stuck in my head because I knew I had heard of it before.  Def by Temptation did moderately well at the box office, and quite well for Bond due to its shoestring budget.  It was only after seeing the real promo poster, and not the current ones that make it apparent the movie is a horror film, that I understood why.  If one looks closely - and be assured at the age of 18 I did not - there are hints this is a horror film.  Otherwise, it looks almost like a poster for a Spike Lee film or a number of

The Wild, Wild Planet (1966)

Image
I am unapologetic over my love of bad movies.  Not the bad movies I often complain about where it is 90 minutes of people walking around a forest, driving or just doing nothing, but bad movies that were attempting to be good ones.  Antonio Margheriti is one of my favorite directors for such movies and his Gamma One series is one of my favorite science fiction sagas.  Sure, it is filled with models that look like toys, hilarious line readings - especially when using futuristic slang - and ridiculous plots.  Those are only some of the things that make these movies great.  Commander Michael Halstead (Tony Russell) is being forced to accommodate a corporate scientist named Dr. Nurmi (Massimo Serato) on Gamma One.  Nurmi is working on skin grafts and genetics in order to build the perfect human being.  He is also cutting in on Halstead's kind-of girlfriend Lt. Connie Gomez (Lisa Gastoni), who he invites to his base on Delphis for her upcoming leave.   Halstead is not pleased, but he'

Baba Yaga (1973)

Image
Baba Yaga  is about a witch, but not about one living in a forest in a mobile house walking on chicken feet.  The movie is based on an erotic comic book series called Valentina by Guido Crepax and Corrado Farina, being a fan, decided to bring it to life.  Unfortunately, what happened is the producers and the studio decided to hack his film to bits and re-edit it, cutting out some of the erotic parts and omitting entire scenes all together. This is the version of the movie I saw, under the title Kiss Me, Kill Me , although Farina has sinced gained control of the film and released the version he made.  Even as a victim to studio tampering it remains and interesting, if flawed, supernatural movie that somehow holds together despite the dreamlike quality of the narrative. Valentina (Isabelle de Funès) is a photographer living in Milan.  One night on her way home she sees a dog in the road and, when a car comes barreling out of nowhere, she rescues the dog.  The car happens to be driven by

The Evil Eye (1963)

Image
The Evil Eye is also known by its direct Italian translation, The Girl Who Knew Too Much .  As the name implies Mario Bava was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock when making this film.  There are certainly such touches, but this movie is considered one of the first giallo films.  There isn't as much sex, and no black-gloved killer, but the plot itself lends itself to the genre more than to Hitchcock, with a number of strange twists and turns as we, along with the protagonists, try to figure out what exactly is happening. Nora Davis (Letícia Román) returns to Rome to care for her sick mother.  After reaching her mother's apartment she meets Dr. Marcello Bassi (John Saxon) who frequently looks in on her mother.  She starts having fantasies of him, weaving him into her obsession with detective and romance novels.  However, on the first night there, her mother passes away during a major storm that knocks the phones out.  She tries to make her way to the hospital to inform them but is mug

Misery (1990)

Image
Back when I first saw the preview for Misery I had no idea who Kathy Bates was.  She was a theater actress and, if she had any movie roles before this, I'm pretty sure they were small.  The one thing I did know, at first glance, is that I was looking at Annie Wilkes.  Often when books get adapted to movies it's amazing if they get the hair colors right.  But, here I was, looking up at the screen, and it was as if director Rob Reiner had made a trip to rural Colorado and found not an actress to play the part but somehow dragged Wilkes right out of the pages of the novel. I know this is the reason why Stephen King, when agreeing to sell the movie rights to Misery , insisted on Reiner directing or at least producing.  King had been impressed with  Stand by Me , Reiner's adaptation of his novella The Body , and trusted him to treat Misery with the same kind of care.  It was a new direction for Reiner as well as he had never made a horror or suspense film.  Still, King was right