TDcore's Horror Journal: 2018
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One Dark Night (1982)
This was the first film and first foray into the horror genre of Tom McLoughlin who would later give us Jason Lives, the (in my humble opinion) best entry in the Friday The 13th franchise. Everything about this film is relatively low budget and obviously the product of a first time director, but in those regards it's still a surprisingly adept little creeper. For one, the plot is pretty damn original, dealing with a psychic who's experiments in telekinesis continue from beyond the grave, re-animating the corpses surrounding his deathbed. It's a creepy concept that's handled pretty well, especially in the opening scene detailing his gruesome apartment. Next we have a cast sporting some familiar faces including the original Batman (Adam West), a very young Meg Tilly in her first role and even Elizabeth Daily (the voice of Rugrat's Tommy Pickles). Unfortunately the film takes a good while to get going, choosing to focus too much time on it's bland, almost personality devoid characters. But some atmospheric cinematography keeps things going, as well as some scenes involving the psychic's daughter that are more satisfying than the teens melodramatic problems. The end wraps things up nicely in a gooey, gory avalanche of dripping corpses and gore effects, making this one worth a look for eighties cult fans.
The Entity (1982)
It has to be said, this is not a feel good film, nor the kind you can watch frequently, but it is a superbly made, extremely powerful film that has an important message beyond it's supernatural trappings even. Credit has to be given first and foremost to the fantastic performance of Barbara Hershey, without whom the film simply would not work as well as it does. The rest of the cast is almost equally great and the direction and cinematography is spot on. By subject matter alone this is one of the most disturbing films I've seen, even as a man, and triple that for a woman. It also speaks a particularly powerful message of feminism and how in society women can be systematically broken down by men and unfeeling women alike and the way in which our culture deals with rape. All of this is especially relevant nowadays, and this "horror film" presents this argument better than any modern feminist film I have seen. It's one of the few properly done supernatural horror films and a wonderfully made, potent film that will stay with you forever. For that very reason, proceed with caution. Those who can stomach it, will be glad you did.
This has to be one of the stupidest "haunted house" movies I've ever seen. It begins with potential, but that quickly withers as the filmmakers feel the need to throw in everything but the kitchen sink. We here mumblings of a haunted house, but there's no ghosts. Instead we have demons, ghoulies, creatures and flying Halloween decorations hanging from strings, each effect more unconvincing than the last. One could say that we should just take enjoyment in the zany fun of it all, but the film is simply not fun, funny or as imaginative as it thinks it is. It's not scary at all, nor is it a good laugh. Instead, you'll just find yourself shaking your head at how a group of grown adults thought this flick was a good idea.
The Watcher in the Woods (1980)
For a first-time kiddie horror flick, this would work well. As a serious piece of horror film fiction however, it's very lacking. It has it's charms, a wonderful cast and splendid direction from the ever underrated John Hough, but those are really it's only saving graces. It's simply an ok supernatural mystery, who's story checks off all the boxes for clichéd ghost stories and then takes an even sillier turn towards the end. It's a competently made film when all is said and done, but it's not nearly spirited or original enough. And even for children there are better family-friendly horror flicks out there.
This could've been a classic thriller, and as far as Australian produced genre films it is well remembered, but it just didn't do the trick for me. It plays the material far too safe and ends up neither being thrilling enough to be a good thriller or creepy enough to be a good horror flick. It's simply quite boring, and although director Richard Franklin went on to helm some great films, even his directorial skills here are very lacking, resulting in a very mediocre picture with a good plot wasted on the mundane.
The Stuff (1985)
This one was just plain fun, but not without it's social commentary as usual with Larry Cohen films. At it's core it's a good old-fashioned monster movie full of awesome special effect shots, but it's also a comment on consumerism, capitalism and even takes some satirical jabs at Conservatives with Paul Sorivno as an perverted, racist army general. Basically this film was Ronald Reagan's nightmare back in it's time, and it's themes are still relevant today. Some people won't be expecting the more procedural moments that pepper the film, but I found them humorous, well-written and Michael Moriarty's performance to be a joy. Check this one out if you're looking for a thinking man's creature feature.
The Believers (1987)
There aren't enough horror films about Voodoo and other such ancient beliefs in my opinion, and while this little flick isn't quite Angel Heart, I think it deserves to be more well remembered than it is. It's a more traditional thriller, and at first it seems to paint by the numbers. The fantastic performances keep things going until about the middle of the film when things begin to take shape and get interesting. There's some genuine tension and good old fashioned suspense, with some scenes not for the squeamish although things never get overtly gory. It never really becomes more than the sum of it's parts, but at the end of the day it's a wonderfully directed and acted picture that keeps you on the edge of your seat and even succeeds in unnerving the viewer up until the end. I quite enjoyed it. The only thing that might bring it down is the ending, but upon closer scrutiny I believe the end shouldn't just be dismissed, as I won't ruin anything, but the film is trying to say something a bit deeper than it first seems. Like I said, it's not quite Angel Heart, but in some ways it's just as good.
Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971)
This has to be one of the strangest films I've ever seen, horror or otherwise. Almost all the ingredients are here for a great horror film, but the execution is all over the wall. It can be an incredibly difficult film to follow, and it throws in numerous unusual touches and moments that don't feel vital to the plot. The truth is, the film was actually re-written when shooting began and was originally a much more straight-forward B-Movie. But whoever combined the screenplays had no idea what they were doing, so now instead of either a psychological horror film or an atmospheric vampire flick we have a ramshackle combination of both that ends up accomplishing neither direction in a satisfactory manner. To be honest, this film is often just plodding and annoying as you're waiting for things to come together. The film does have a surreal, nightmare-like atmosphere to it and beautiful cinematography, but when things never wrap up properly, the journey doesn't really matter.
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