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Added by Michael S on 2 Jan 2014 03:48
1942 Views 13 Comments

Aesthetix' 365 Nights of Horror: Jan/2014 (closed)

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This Month's Focus:


While things started off as planned with this first month of my year-long look at horror cinema, I got a bit off-track from my intentions. I did finally watch the entire Hellraiser series (as well as the Mimic trilogy) but the other selections are a bit scattered and diverse.

I also began watching The Howling series, which I'll finish in February, and a number of the old Universal horror movies. In the coming months I'll attempt to be a bit more precise and fluid with my selections as far as grouping goes. Still, it was a satisfying month and I'm eager to continue and, hopefully, take in many that I've never seen before.
People who added this item 76 Average listal rating (45 ratings) 3.2 IMDB Rating 2.7

Synopsis: Two malcontents take off for Mexico where they come into possession of the puzzle box which summons the Cenobites.

For any fan of Hellraiser the best advice I can offer, with regards to this particular movie, is to avoid it at all costs. Doug Bradley doesn't play Pinhead and the best actor in this farce is the puzzle box itself. I'd rather hose down a well-used garbage truck in midsummer heat than watch this ever again.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 151 Average listal rating (106 ratings) 4.2 IMDB Rating 4.2

Synopsis: Gamers playing a MMORPG based on the "Hellraiser" franchise find their lives endangered after being invited to a rave whose host intends to show them the truth behind the Cenobite mythos.

Yeah, it's as stupid as the plot summary sounds and whatever hopes I had because of the inclusion of Lance Henriksen in the cast were thrown out with the baby and the bathwater. Oh, he does his usual fine job but I really had a hard time caring about anything in this movie.

It's adapted from a short story. Seriously, could they not find a better story out there? There has to be tons of fan fic on Hellraiser and this was the best...

There were interesting things going on, mind you. The world of Hellraiser is an online game and no one believes that it's real...yep, that's it. Viable idea to start with but they went nowhere with it. Instead we are treated to a standard slasher flick with various Cenobites as the slashers...sort of.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 31 Average listal rating (21 ratings) 5.3 IMDB Rating 4.3

Synopsis: An environmentally-hypersensitive Strickler's disease survivor (or Judas kid), is forced to observe life through the lens of his camera from his bedroom window. When strange people begin lurking about and others start disappearing life really gets interesting.

They could have named this one Fear Window yet it's not so much a ripoff as it is an homage. There's even a line in the film when Marvin warns his sister and neighbor not to go snooping in the Garbageman's apartment and says, "Haven't you seen this movie?!?"

It's obvious that the screenwriter (at least), if not the director, loved Rear Window and Hitchcock. This third offering in the Mimic series is far better than the second yet not as good as the first. Where #2 offered up an incredibly stupid premise, weak acting and gore, this one gives us a decent script and acting laced with suspense.

It's a good movie, not great but definitely good, and because I absolutely LOVE Rear Window, I enjoyed this, too. Lance Henriksen as one of the cast was a bonus for me, yet he doesn't appear until halfway through the film.

There are weaknesses here aplenty for someone to pick over but the whole 'homage' aspect of it was what made the film for me. Would I watch it again sometime.....idk, maybe; still, I'm glad that I did just once.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 54 Average listal rating (39 ratings) 4.4 IMDB Rating 4.6
Mimic 2 (2001)

Synopsis: A school teacher named Remi has trouble with men, but not half as much trouble as they end up having with her. Every guy she’s recently dated has been killed and had his face sheared off. Before too long, her school has a serious infestation of giant mutant cockroaches.

A weak follow-up to a pretty damned good horror flick but isn't that almost always the way of it? This movie holds the most ludicrous premise for a plot that I've seen in a while. A mutated Judas Breed bugman gets the jollies for a science teacher and starts killing off the competition so it can breed with her. Naturally she and a couple of kids get stuck in the school fighting for their lives. Meh.

Added to this is Edward Albert cast as a complete ripoff of Gary Busey's character in Predator 2 as a government spook hunting the bugman with his squad.

Skip this one and just move onto #3.

NOTE: is it just me or does Alix Koromzay (who plays Remi) look an awful lot like Gabrielle Carteris from the old BH 90210)
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 525 Average listal rating (327 ratings) 5.5 IMDB Rating 6

Synopsis: In an effort to stem the tide of a disease (spread by roaches) that is claiming hundreds of children's lives, scientists gene-gineer a new breed of bug to kill the roaches. It works but a few years later, they find that their experiment hasn't died out as expected; they've bred and mutated into something horrible and deadly.

I had no idea who Guillermo del Toro was when I first saw Mimic; what drew me to the movie were the previews and the cast. Little did I know that this would be an introduction to the work of someone who would, in later years, become one of my most-loved directors. I loved it with the first viewing and have seen it numerous times over the years. It weathers the passage of time as well as any movie can.

Looking back now, it's easy to see del Toro's fingerprints all over it; the trademark characteristics that are infused in his movies. Mimic is, not only one of my favorite horror movies but, one of my favorite movies...period. It's also my favorite from most of the cast, too.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 132 Average listal rating (86 ratings) 5.4 IMDB Rating 5

Synopsis: This take on one of Stephen King's Night Shift tales is set in a Maine textile mill whose overbearing manager (Stephen Macht) finds himself in a tight spot when county inspectors crack down on his less-than-safe operation after a fatal accident involving a picking machine.

Not one of the better adaptations from King's works but then this isn't exactly one of his better tales either. I'm a huge fan and I love his books. The man has a knack for infusing weirdness and horror with just the right amount of twisted humor. Even when a character is only going to live for a moment (in the life of the tale), he still takes the time to infuse life into them.

Graveyard Shift is a weak effort at bringing King's work to the screen and suffered from a small budget, as did many of his early movies. 'You've got to spend money to make money' is one of the truest adages of them all. Still, if I were choosing which tales from the master of horror to bring to the screen...it wouldn't have been this one.

Brad Dourif is the sole bright spot in this rat's nest of a movie.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 50 Average listal rating (31 ratings) 6.6 IMDB Rating 6

Synopsis: An ancient mummy is revived to destroy those that would invade the 3,000 year old tomb of an Egyptian princess.

Universal's follow-up to the Karloff smash is, it seems, completely unrelated but it's still quite good. It substitutes humor for the suspenseful atmosphere of it's predecessor and reminded me a great deal of the Abbot & Costello stuff in later years.

I do know that this is the first of four films featuring Kharis as the Mummy and, if I can find them, I have every intention of watching the rest.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 389 Average listal rating (270 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7
The Mummy (1932)

Synopsis: A living mummy stalks the beautiful woman he believes is the reincarnation of his lover.

This classic holds up well, like most of the Universal horrors and it's another trendsetting moment for Karloff. I've seen this numerous times, over the years, and thoroughly enjoyed it each and every time.

It's a close call which I love more, this or Frankenstein and really it depends on my mood. I've always been fascinated by Egyptian mythology and history, as well. That said, I find Frankenstein to be a superior movie but, not by all that much.

This is a far finer performance from Karloff but, then again, he actually has lines and does more than lumber around. ;)
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 963 Average listal rating (609 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.4

Synopsis: The ancient, vampire Count Dracula journeys from his homeland in Transylvania to England where he finds new prey and a nemesis in the form of Prof. Van Helsing.

Watching The Wolf Man and The Invisible Man the other night put me in the mood to see more of the Universal Monsters and, since Dracula was soon to leave Netflix, I chose Lugosi's defining role to be next. I'm sad to say that time has not been kind to my memory of this film. While it has always been my least favorite of the signature core of films, I still loved it.

Now, upon seeing it again, it just seems rather slow and drawn out. The highlight of the film is easily Dwight Frye's portrayal of Renfield, which is still the best to date.

For myself, I prefer Hammer's version with Lee and Cushing all the more now.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 379 Average listal rating (237 ratings) 6.6 IMDB Rating 6.5
The Prophecy (1995)

Synopsis: Angels come to Earth to find a human soul that can end the war in heaven. Humans are caught up in this battle and must find a way to stop the angel Gabriel before he takes the soul back from where the angel Simon has hidden it.

It's strange to me that I've never watched this movie before now. I've always loved horror movies, especially those steeped in myth and legend. The cast, as well, is better than you normally find in standard horror movie fare.

War among the angelic ranks is nothing new when it comes to movies & television but it may have been when The Prophecy was made. Legion, Constantine, Dogma and the TV show Supernatural all come to mind but they all came after this film. Though they all have different takes and offer different aspects, on every occasion it is Earth that inevitably becomes the battleground and man which proves to be the key to stopping it.

Walken is excellent here as the delusionally-spurned archangel Gabriel who is the prime antagonist of the tale. Stoltz, in turn, plays the angel Simon and does a fine job himself; though, sadly, with far less screen-time. Yet the true delight here, for me, was finding Viggo Mortensen cast as Lucifer. I had no idea that he was even in the movie and to see him play such a deliciously-evil role at odds with the heroic Aragorn of later years was a sight to see.

The Prophecy does what it sets out to, offering a gritty look at a celestial what-if with creatures of near-absolute power expressing all-too human emotions such as doubt and jealousy. Though I found the inclusion of a defrocked priest-turned-policeman a bit cliche it nevertheless serves to give the central role of Thomas Dagget (Koteas) an insight into what is transpiring around him. It allows him a weapon to strike at his enemy with that can do far more damage than any gun or sword; words, which serve to sow seeds of doubt in the enemy mind.

All in all, this was a good tale and a good movie. What I found most enjoyable though was watching these particular actors in their respective parts. Stoltz, Walken, Mortensen and Koteas. I wonder what this movie would have turned out to be had they settled for unknowns to cast in those roles; certainly we would not have the plethora of sequels which it has spawned - sequels which I will, most likely, attempt to watch now.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 504 Average listal rating (319 ratings) 7.7 IMDB Rating 7.7

Synopsis: Making a magnificent screen debut, Claude Rains stars as a scientist driven mad by an invisibility potion in this adaptation of H.G. Wells's classic story.

What can be said about this film that hasn't already been said a thousand times before. It's a thoroughly enjoyable experience that time cannot tarnish in the least. Rains' screen debut is the most impressive that I've ever seen and shows exactly what the public had to look forward to in the coming years. The man is every bit a screen legend as cinema has ever had.

This is surely the lightest of the Universal horror staples with regards to atmosphere and is loaded with many humorous bits.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 487 Average listal rating (328 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.2
The Wolf Man (1941)

Synopsis: A practical man returns to his homeland, is attacked by a creature of folklore, and infected with a horrific disease his disciplined mind tells him can not possibly exist.

My favorite of all the Universal horror pictures, just edging out The Bride; this set the standard for werewolf movies just as it's brethren did for vampires, reanimation and mad scientists. Yet The Wolf Man, for me, stands apart from the pack (pun intended) because of Lon Chaney Jr.'s portrayal of Larry Talbot.

Never before, or since, has there been a more fitting character to shoulder the eptithet of hard-luck hero.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 377 Average listal rating (226 ratings) 5.4 IMDB Rating 5.9

Synopsis: A young girl buys an antique box at a yard sale, unaware that inside the collectible lives a malicious ancient spirit. The girl's father teams with his ex-wife to find a way to end the curse upon their child.

One of the more realistic horror movies that I've seen though, in truth, it held few surprises. Even the ending - especially the ending - was predictable. Still, it was quite an enjoyable viewing.

The thing about this movie that impressed me (especially given that it was a supernatural tale) was the script and the basis for the story. They did not simply have a malignant spirit with no apparent origin; neither they did not take the easy way out and have a spirit of one who had died 'violently'; nor, ultimately, did they have a garden-variety demon just 'happen' to possess someone.

The tale hinges on a mysterious and beautiful, wooden box that is found at a yard sale and is rooted in Hebrew folklore. When things begin to really go 'off-the-rails' the father actually does the logical thing (as opposed to what usually happens in a horror movie), recognizes the box as the root of the problem and begins to research it and the strange script that is carved upon it. His findings lead him to seek aid from a Jewish community in another city.

As I said, there are aspects of this movie that are, as usual, predictable; there are others that are not. It's a well-written script and capably performed. It's not perfect and there were no surprises for me beyond those things I stated above, yet it was well worth the watching.

Yet another horror film from the modern era that tells me there is more than hope for the genre; it's in capable hands.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 167 Average listal rating (113 ratings) 4.4 IMDB Rating 4.6

Synopsis: A journalist uncovers an underground group who can bring back the dead and slowly becomes drawn into their world.

The fact that Marc Warren was among the actors starring in this intrigued me as I remembered him from an episode of Doctor Who. Yet Kari Wuhrer's presence as the lead set alarm bells ringing...well, ringing louder anyway; this is the 7th installment in the series and I wasn't exactly expecting all that much.

Journalist investigates cult; journalist gets drawn into cult. Death. Resurrection. Strange dreams and visions of a less-than-savory childhood w/ abusive dad. Etc, etc, etc.

Pinhead and company play an extremely small role here and it's far from the norm of the series. It's not terrible but...it is rather boring, truth be told.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 366 Average listal rating (244 ratings) 5.6 IMDB Rating 5.5

Synopsis: A group of high-schoolers invite Mandy Lane, a good girl who became quite hot over the summer, to a weekend party on a secluded ranch. While the festivities rage on, the number of revelers begins to drop quite mysteriously.

This film has a few things going for it that all good horror movies should; an R rating (because, let's face it, PG-13 & NC-17 are copouts when it comes to horror) and halfway-decent acting. Sadly that's all it has working in it's favor.

This is one of the most stupid plots I've come across in awhile and the characters even more so. I was actually rooting for them to die long before they did. Granted, these are teens and teens do some stupid things but this was lame.

There was one person in the entire cast that I actually did not wish dead - the ranch hand. Out of the entire cast (Mandy Lane included) he was the only likable one.

There seem to be some half-handed attempts at surrealism, accompanied by annoying, glitchy camera effects, that actually take away rather than add to the atmosphere. The movie holds one surprise (and honestly, it's not much of one) which was ruined right after it was sprung. I won't go into details, in case you really want to see this though.

My recommendation...see Dark Skies, Cabin in the Woods or Evil Dead, if you haven't yet and you wish to see a really good, modern horror movie, and pass this one by.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 327 Average listal rating (216 ratings) 6.1 IMDB Rating 6.3
Dark Skies (2013)

Synopsis: As the Barret family's peaceful suburban life is rocked by an escalating series of disturbing events, they come to learn that a terrifying and deadly force is after them.

An impressive cross between Signs and Insidious that kept me interested and entertained throughout. As the mystery of strange occurrences beginning to happen deepens and the family seeks to solve it, the answers they find pulls them inexorably into a whirlpool of horror and dread. I love movies like this which favors substance over flash.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 134 Average listal rating (69 ratings) 5.8 IMDB Rating 6

Synopsis: A family inherits what proves to be a haunted house, but a special pair of goggles allows them to see their ghostly tormentors.

My first time seeing this gimmick-laden ghost flick brought a few smiles to my face but that's about it. It's a bit better than average. I don't believe it was intended a comedy but I found numerous things about it funny; there were certainly no scares at all.

It took me a few seconds to place Martin Milner (without his Adam-12 policeman's uniform). The prompts to put on the 'ghost viewer' had me grinning, as did the 'ghosts' themselves, and the sheer fact that there was, not only a ghost of a lion tamer, but the ghost of the lion as well had me actually laughing.

Hokey fun objective complete and curiosity satisfied. The 2001 remake w/ Matthew Lillard and Shannon Elizabeth is far superior to this and has fantastic fx, too.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 47 Average listal rating (24 ratings) 4.8 IMDB Rating 3.6
Gallowwalkers (2012)

Synopsis: A cursed gunman whose victims come back from the dead recruits a young warrior to help in the fight against a gang of zombies.

Blade-lite spaghetti western style...without the noodles...or the style. If this movie makes any sense at all it's an illusion superimposed by your own brain seeking to render order upon chaos. Numerous little subplots litter the cinematic landscape here, each more nonsensical than the last.

I'll admit I was intrigued; the undead-Western is a motif that has always appealed to me and there's very little of it to be had. Also there was the horrible title and Snipes' presence. Yet you know the old saying about 'wanting in one hand and...'

I actually started watching this the other day, made it 2-3 minutes in and stopped it; I really should have left off right there. Curiosity and cats...
Michael S's rating:

Synopsis: A young man whose sister was murdered by werewolves helps an investigator track down a gang of the beasts

Originally titled Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch, they decided to change it to the far more politically correct (and really stupid, if you think on it) Your Sister is a Werewolf. Anyway, I don't suppose it matters much considering this film is complete rubbish.

Let's go over the finer points, shall we? Pretend it's a property in need of sale and your job's on the line if you don't.

1. Christopher Lee. His mere presence is enough to make grown men go out of their way to buy opera cloaks and vampire teeth. A fine addition to any cast.

2. Sybil Danning's bared breasts! Two, nigh-perfect, golden globes of femininity (with and without fur!) offered up for your viewing pleasure. And, if that's not enough, they return for an encore presentation something like 17 times in the credits run!

3. The Romani. Yep. They are brought into the tale (one would think to solidify the whole legendary aspect) along with a strange Druidic ritual.

4. .... sorry, looks like that's all for the selling points.

On to the negatives then. Pretty much everything else and I really don't have enough room (or time) to expound upon them. Suffice to say that if you think Reb Brown's acting is enough to make aspiring actors consider taking up a career as a gas station attendant instead, then you should see Annie McEnroe's abysmal attempts at it. And those two were playing lead characters! You would probably have to grab the nearest 'found footage' movie to find worse.

Rumor has it that Lee later apologized to Joe Dante (who directed the first Howling) when he was cast in Gremlins 2, which Dante was direcing, for even starring in this.

The only reason this movie gets 2 stars from me are Lee and Danning's aforementioned breasts.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 512 Average listal rating (326 ratings) 6.6 IMDB Rating 6.6
The Howling (1981)

Synopsis: After a bizarre and near fatal encounter with a serial killer, a television newswoman is sent, for therapeutic reasons, to a remote mountain resort whose residents may not be what they seem.

It's been some time since I've seen this one and, if it weren't for Netflix, it might have been even longer. See, for reasons known only to the ghost-in-the-machine at Netflix (or possibly the people in charge...who knows, really), they are offering up The Howling series for streaming but they neglected to actually include the first film. Silly of them, I know; I mean, who wants to watch a film series while skipping the first film - especially when the first film is (supposedly) the best of the lot?

- so I tried to find it elsewhere on the net. No luck there; well, I found some links but none that would actually play. So, upward and onward, eh.

Today, I actually paid a visit to Wally World (in the middle of the day, no less!) but they didn't have a copy either. Luckily there's a video store right down the street and they DID have a copy, the first two films together; so $15 later, here we are. ;P
After all this time it's still good; it deviates from the novel a bit (okay, it actually doesn't bear much resemblance at all) but that's par for the course w/ Hollywood anyway. The story's sound enough and with the presence of Patrick Macnee, Kevin McCarthy, John Carradine (and Slim Pickens, no less!) it's like old-home week. The special effects are cheesy (there's that word again!) but while that's to be expected they're not that bad.

Anyway, enough rambling. It's decent, better-than-average and a good watch. There are humorous scenes for the enjoyment and bad (is there any other kind) country music to wince to. There's even some of those juicy nude scenes that the 80's were so well known for (God, don't ya just miss the hell out of those?) Just for the record though? Dee Wallace...not that good of an actress; I've certainly seen worse but I've also seen far better.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 112 Average listal rating (72 ratings) 6.2 IMDB Rating 6.1
Dead Heat (1988)

Synopsis: Two cops stumble onto a mad scientist's scheme to use zombies for crime sprees.

What do zombies crave even more than eating brains? Well, I suppose it all depends on who creates them. In this case it's money, jewels, etc... This is 80's cheese at it's fi- *ahem* okay, honestly, this is SO not the finest in 80's cheese. This is bloody awful.

Want to know a secret though? It's fun, too. ;P
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 24 Average listal rating (13 ratings) 5.1 IMDB Rating 4.7

Synopsis: Talented young martial artist Megumi wrestles with the guilt of her bullied sister's suicide while joining her friends on a journey deep into the woods, where they encounter the nefarious Dr. Tanaka, who conducts gruesome experiments on the living dead.

If this movie was actually as good as the above synopsis suggests it could be...well. Honestly, the title is a 'dead' giveaway as to just how bad this movie is but it was because of the title and how it made me laugh that I watched it at all.

Supposedly, the director once directed adult features but, if this film is any indication, they probably sucked just as badly. This comes across as the hormone-addled fantasy of a twisted adolescent more than anything with all the toilet humor and cheesy dialogue.

Enter at your own risk...but exit through the rear.
Michael S's rating:

Synopsis: A vampire tells his epic life story: love, betrayal, loneliness, and hunger.

My opinion of this movie really hasn't changed in the intervening years since I first watched it. There was a time when I hated Tom Cruise as an actor and most of his early movies I just didn't care for. This is one of those movies, too. I loved the original trilogy from Anne Rice but could not believe they cast Cruise as Lestat. It was actually quite a while before I even watched this.

I must say that, after watching it again, I was impressed with Brad Pitt's performance here and, in truth, never had a problem with his casting as Louis. Even Dunst, whom I despise, was fine as the child vamp who goes insane; it should be noted that this is the only thing I've seen her in that I can say that about, too.

The scenery and mood of the overall film is good but Cruise ruins what could have been a decent movie for me. Thankfully, he has yet to attempt to play a vampire since. I will concede that the film deserves more than my original rating of 4/10 stars, so I'm raising it to 6.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 220 Average listal rating (140 ratings) 6.1 IMDB Rating 6.1
The Gate (1987)

Synopsis: Three young children accidentally release a horde of nasty, pint-sized demons from a hole in a suburban backyard and must fight to close it.

I knew that I had watched this years ago but couldn't really remember anything about it. Now, after watching, I realize that I could have saved myself the trouble. The demons were worth a few laughs as were the antics of the kids but, in the end, this is a movie about kids and aimed at an audience of kids.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 2162 Average listal rating (1491 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 7
Prometheus (2012)

Synopsis: A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corner of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.

So, I finally get around to watching this prequel of the Alien franchise and I can honestly say that it was worth the wait. At the same time, I feel that it was a bit of a letdown, too. I guess that I just expected a bit more.

Now don't get me wrong; I did say that it was worth the wait. I enjoyed it but I just felt like there should have been ... more.

Idris Elba sporting, what was for him, a funny accent made me smile. Michael Fassbender playing one of those habitually-untrustworthy androids was interesting, too. The real joy here for me was watching Noomi Rapace, whose performance has instilled in me a driving curiosity to see more of her work. I found her to be both attractive and intriguing.

Edit: After a bit of time and thought on what disappointed me about this film, I'm changing my rating from 8/10 stars to 6. There are more plot holes in this film and nonsensicallities than there are stars in the sky. That's what bothered me and that's why, while watching it, I kept thinking 'WTF?!' It's saving graces are certain actors performances and cinematic visuals...
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 17 Average listal rating (7 ratings) 4 IMDB Rating 3.2
The Rig (2010)

Synopsis: The roughneck skeleton crew of an off-shore oil rig battles a mysterious beast that's killing them off one at a time as a massive tropical storm makes any hope for escape impossible.

The driving force behind this particular choice was curiosity and a persistently-evasive memory. Curiosity was sated in short order because I realized early on that this film wasn't going to win any awards with me. The dodgy memory I spoke of was of a short-story that I read a long time ago; a tale which belonged to that weird and wonderful family of the Cthulhu Mythos, though the author's name I can't recall.

I can't seem to forsake watching any sci-fi or horror film whose location is situated upon an oil rig...or an asylum for that matter, but that's another story entirely.

No, this isn't a great watch and I really can't recommend it to anyone. I could tell you not to waste your time with this one though. In it's defense, the majority of the 'acting' is better than you'll find in your garden-variety, found-footage film. ;D
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 88 Average listal rating (59 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 6

Synopsis:In medieval Europe aging Countess Elisabeth rules harshly with the help of lover Captain Dobi. Finding that washing in the blood of young girls makes her young again she gets Dobi to start abducting likely candidates.

While I'm an admittedly-avid fan of Hammer horror and love the Gothic-style of the genre, as well, this one left me wanting. The film is based upon the legends of Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory whom, it was said, to have bathed in the blood of young virgins to sustain her youth and beauty. This is a fine production and Ingrid Pitt never looked lovelier but I found it a bit lackluster and slow.
Michael S's rating:

Synopsis:A feature-length documentary based on the book of the same name by Joseph Maddrey. It examines the idea that horror films reflect the times and places in which they are made.

After watching the last movie, I got to thinking about horror movies, in general, how different countries/cultures have varying defining styles within the genre, which (inevitably) led me to American cinema and the progression of said films and my own self-discovery through the years. Then I remembered this doc and decided to watch it again. Out of the handful of horror docs I've seen, this is the best of them; professionally handled and pieced together with commentary from some of the biggest names in American horror, including my favorite director, John Carpenter.

It explores the birth and inevitable growth of the American horror industry and how world events, both abroad and at home, brought about defining changes in these films and the people who made them. It's great stuff.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 202 Average listal rating (125 ratings) 5.4 IMDB Rating 4.7

Synopsis: An anthology film divided into 26 individual chapters, each helmed by a different director assigned a letter of the alphabet. The directors were then given free rein in choosing a word to create a story involving death.

Interesting in theory moreso than execution yet there were some gems hidden amid the trash. Curiosity drove me to watch this when I stumbled across it on Netflix and, with the first two segments, I thought I was actually onto something. Sadly, most of these are mediocre (at best), some are downright sick and others just butt-ignorant with no discernible purpose whatsoever.

There were a few though that were actually decent:
A is for Apocalypse (directed and written by Nacho Vigalondo)
B is for Bigfoot (directed and written by Adrian Garcia Bogliano)
D is for Dogfight (directed and written by Marcel Sarmiento)
H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion (directed and written by Thomas Malling)
J is for Jidai-geki (Samurai Movie) (directed and written by Yûdai Yamaguchi)
L is for Libido (Directed and written by Timo Tjahjanto)
S is for Speed (directed and written by Jake West)
T is for Toilet (directed and written by Lee Hardcastle)

8 out of 26...I guess you can decide if it's worth your time to watch; it's a lot to sit through for a few decent shorts. I read that the T segment was submitted by a contest winner; it's ironic, perhaps, that I found it to be the best one of the bunch. I've also discovered that they've made (or are making) a sequel...somehow I think I'll skip it.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 194 Average listal rating (130 ratings) 4.7 IMDB Rating 5

Synopsis: A shady businessman attempts to piece together the details of the car crash that killed his wife and rendered him an amnesiac-- and left him in possession of a sinister puzzle box that summons monsters.

"Protect yourself from mayhem, like Dean Winters acting."

Okay, it's not that bad but his acting in those Allstate commercials is actually better than here. I'd read that a number of Hellraiser fans actually viewed this installment of the series as the best since the first two; with the return of Ashley Laurence as Kirsty, I had hoped they would be right. Sadly, such is not the case.

Laurence, one of the more memorable Scream Queens, is easily the best actor in the cast yet appears in a limited capacity here. Now that's not to say that the acting is nearly as bad as in Hellraiser 3 but it is most decidedly lacking. The film is not so much carried as drug, kicking and screaming, by Dean Winters, who plays Kirsty's husband. Pinhead and his fellow Cenobites play about as much of a role in this as does Kirsty.

Like Hellraiser: Inferno before it, this is a departure from the early films in story and technique, yet while the basis of the tale is sound enough it does lose itself along the way - and rather quickly, too.

Hallucinations abound and the whole thing just winds up being a confusing mess. By the time they wrapped things up in a tidy bow of chains and barbed hooks, I was almost beyond caring. It leaves me to wonder if any of the remaining movies in this series will return to what actually made Hellraiser one of the most unique and deliciously horrifying movies of the genre; somehow I doubt it.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 402 Average listal rating (259 ratings) 6.3 IMDB Rating 6.4

Synopsis:In post-World War I England, a boarding school haunted by a boy's ghost calls on Florence Cathcart, who disproves hoaxes for a living. But Cathcart senses something truly strange about the school, leading her to question her belief in the rational.

While The Awakening holds an 'R' rating, it's really for one brief nude scene of bathing; likewise it's genre placement among horror movies because there is little (if anything) horrifying here. That's not to say that this isn't an excellent movie and a superb ghost story because it is.

The setting, cast, script and film direction all lend to a completely believable (and eerie, at times) atmosphere that is perfect for a tale about ghosts. Truly this is some of the finest acting I have seen in some time and I felt immersed in the time period.

If you're looking for something to scare you then look elsewhere but if you want a thrilling ghost tale in the classic sense, you have to look no further than this. I loved every minute of it yet the climax of the tale may leave some wanting for it's not at all what one might expect.

Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 214 Average listal rating (145 ratings) 5.3 IMDB Rating 5.5

Synopsis:A shady police detective becomes embroiled in a strange world of murder, sadism and madness after being assigned a murder investigation against a madman known only as "The Engineer".

The fifth installment in the Hellraiser series offers a different perspective than the previous films. Here we are invited to sit upon the shoulders of Det. Joseph Thorne (played by Craig Sheffer) and watch the descent of a seemingly sane man as he winds the spiraling track into madness.

I honestly had no high hopes for this film as, with most horror film series, quality is usually forsaken for quantity. Yet fellow Listal member VierasTalo suggested that it would be well worth my time to see it. Knowing of other opinions of his on films, this raised my expectations of it considerably and I wasn't disappointed.

While I don't find it as good as the first two films in this series, I will say that it was quite entertaining and unique. Madness is much more palatable when it's viewed from without rather than the alternative; then again, who's to say that we all aren't a bit mad and, if we were, would we even know it?

It was nice seeing James Remar here in a supporting role and I also found the 'Wire Twins' deliciously ... disquieting.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 158 Average listal rating (103 ratings) 5.8 IMDB Rating 5.7

Synopsis: Nazis are forced to turn to a Jewish historian for help in battling the ancient demon they have inadvertently freed from its prison.

If you did not know that this was an 80's horror movie upon watching it, you would certainly be able to tell by the prolific, synthesized soundtrack that was so prevalent in that decade. The allure of new toys and all that...

This was my first time viewing this; though it was recommended years ago by a friend, I just never found the occasion. It's quite interesting to find among the cast such stalwarts as Ian McKellan, Gabriel Byrne, Jurgen Prochnow and Scott Glenn; were it not for their presence and the novelty provided by it, this would be a mediocre-at-best movie.

There is atmosphere here and decent dialogue, certainly the acting is fine, yet it still left me wondering with questions unanswered. I've read the Repairman Jack novels by F. Paul Wilson and enjoyed them immensely yet I've never read The Keep, which this movie was based off of. Perhaps I should...perhaps the unanswered question might be answered. Who knows?

Still, it's a decent enough horror for the time period. The 80's were rife with horror movies and, while quite a few of them were more than good, there were even more that were utter crap. It's still my favorite decade for horror though... I'm giving this a 7 star rating but it's really only because of the cast.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 280 Average listal rating (189 ratings) 5.2 IMDB Rating 5.2

Synopsis: In the 22nd century, a scientist attempts to right the wrong his ancestor created: the puzzle box that opens the gates of Hell and unleashes Pinhead and his Cenobite legions.

As it turns out, I have seen this installment before though only once and, most likely, back in '96 when it came out. Perhaps it was my age at the time or what was going on but I found it merely adequate. Now, all these years later, I find that I appreciate it much more.

This is a fitting sequel and vastly improved segment in the Hellraiser saga. I realize that demons-in-space isn't a new concept and it wasn't in '96 either but it hasn't been done to death either. In fact, it's a fitting culmination to this tale of toymakers, bloodlines, curses and redemption. Perhaps it's true that 'no one can hear you scream in space' but when Pinhead's involved...anything's possible.

I was surprised to recognize Valentina Vargas and Adam Scott, happily so; they and the rest of the cast performed admirably here and were a huge step up from the cast of H3. In fact, this tale in all it's aspects was far better and I quite liked it. Believable, inventive and interesting.

They actually could have stopped right here, with the film ending as it did; but we all know the way of sequels and franchises.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 1372 Average listal rating (932 ratings) 6.5 IMDB Rating 6.8
Insidious (2011)

Synopsis: A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further.

As my daughter expressed wishes for me to watch Insidious: Chapter 2 with her, I thought it would be prudent for me to see this first. Now that I have, I can't wait to see the second installment in this series.

Insidious is a creepfest cocktail laced with shades of Poltergeist and a kick that sneaks up on you in the finest fashion. This is what low-budget, found-footage crap like Paranormal Activity could (and should) have been. This is creepy - this is horror - THIS is a ghost story...with a very cool twist!

James Wan proves to me here that he knows how to direct a horror movie. I'll have to add The Conjuring to my queue, as well. This is a fine horror film from script to screen with a great cast.

In total opposition to The Evil Dead, which I watched earlier in the evening, this is gore-free, suspense-building horror. Both are equally effective and both styles were quite appropriate to each film. This one gets a solid 8/10 stars from me, too.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 808 Average listal rating (560 ratings) 6.3 IMDB Rating 6.5
Evil Dead (2013)

Synopsis: Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. The evil presence possesses them until only one is left to fight for survival.

What? Did you think I was going to watch aaaalllll the Hellraiser films in a row? ;P

I needed a break after H-3 and this proved a perfect distraction. Besides, curiosity had been eating away at me ever since I found out they were making this. My only regret? Not seeing this on the big screen.

The revamped, polished and gore-soaked remake of the cult classic is a worthy successor to the name The Evil Dead. The future of horror is now! This marks the third impressive horror film that I've watched, produced in the last five years. Along with Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale and Cabin in the Woods, The Evil Dead serves as a balm to concerns that truly awesome and entertaining horror films were a thing of the past. Granted I haven't watched that many of late (which is the whole idea for this particular journal) but I'm both a bit relieved and hungry for more.

Where the original trilogy was laced with campy humor, this leaves the comedy behind, pulling out all the stops for an edge-of-your-seat, spine-tingling, shock-fest. (Was that enough hyphens for ya?) I have no idea if this is 'The most terrifying film I will ever experience', as the film was touted but it was terrifying. I haven't jumped while watching a horror film in years and I did a couple of times during this.

I will admit that some of the gorier scenes had me wincing; it's not really my thing. Yet the film was very well done with an excellent script and dialogue. The actors were all outstanding and it was a personal pleasure to see the beautiful Jessica Lucas again...even if she met her fate far too soon for me. As well, the direction of Fede Alvarez, who I'm not at all familiar with, was quite impressive. This was an all-around, damned fine horror film.

Truly, there were only two things which disappointed me and, while I can understand both, they still had me shaking my head. The first was the excessive use of gore but this was an Evil Dead film, so it's to be expected. The difference here is that the Bruce Campbell trilogy was camp and this sooooo was not. The second was the fact that with each violent act they seemed to be trying to imitate what had come before.

The tree-rape scene, locking the possessed Mia in the cellar, the hand-bite/amputation, the shotgun, the duct-tape, the chainsaw (and another hand-capitation), etc... I felt as if this new crew of film-makers had come upon the abandoned playroom of those gone before and simply scooped up their toys instead of bringing their own.

Still, it was a small discredit, in my estimation, and I'm still tempted to give this a higher rating than 8 out of 10 stars. Food for thought... I'll certainly watch this again in the future. Maybe then.

I highly recommend!

Further thought: As this has sat and simmered in my mind, I've decided to amend my rating of 8 stars to 9-out-of-10. This was really a fantastic movie and one of the best remakes I've ever seen.
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 420 Average listal rating (290 ratings) 5.5 IMDB Rating 5.5

Synopsis: Joey Summerskill is an ambitious TV reporter whose life is changed forever when she witnesses the horrific death of a tormented teenage boy, torn apart by bloody chains. Determined to find the truth behind this gruesome vision, she discovers the Lament Configuration Box which opens the door to the Cenobites' demonic world.

This is my first time seeing this since it came out in '92 and my overall opinion hasn't changed; it sucks. I was surprised to recognize Terry Farrell of Deep Space Nine fame but she was the only one of the cast that I did (besides Doug Bradley, of course, and the brief cameo by Ashley Laurence).

It's sad to see an incredible premise and original execution reduced to this. The majority of the previous two film's actors might have been unknown to me prior to their viewing but they could, at least, act. Hellraiser III showcases some of the weakest attempts at 'the craft' that I've ever seen but that's not it's only faults. The script is every bit as weak and contrived, too.

Contrived for one simple reason - to make money. Yet with such a failed attempt that is completely devoid of originality, imagination or respect for it's progenitor I can't imagine that this movie made all that much.

There is one brief mention of characters and events from the previous movies while the reporter is investigating a story. Everything about this is half-assed and I can safely say that I won't be revisiting this particular chapter again.

Here's hoping some of the later ones show more promise...
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 565 Average listal rating (395 ratings) 6.5 IMDB Rating 6.5

Synopsis: Kirsty is brought to an institution after the death of her family, where the occult-obsessive head resurrects Julia and unleashes the Cenobites once again.

Hellraiser II, like all the best sequels, picks up shortly after the events of the first film. We find Kirsty, the sole survivor (sort of), hospitalized from psychological trauma. This sets the stage for the second sequence of events as the leading doctor on staff becomes the focal point of further horrors.

It's been ages since I first watched this and, though I still love it, I now notice a few inconsistencies. Still, they are minor in the grand scheme and the movie's quite enjoyable. Where the first took place primarily in the family house, this one is split between hospital and Hell itself.

It's a cautionary tale of 'Be careful what you wish for' combined with the proverbial 'Where there's a will, there's a way'.

As with the original, I plan to write a full review of this gem; there's just too much to ramble on about (both good and bad).
Michael S's rating:
People who added this item 1475 Average listal rating (992 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 7
Hellraiser (1987)

Synopsis: An unfaithful wife encounters the zombie of her dead lover, who's being chased by demons after he escaped from their sado-masochistic Hell.

I thought I'd start the New Year off with a bang and watch an old favorite of mine. Frankly, I had an ulterior motive but I'd also forgotten just how much I loved this movie. See, I noticed that Netflix has the entire Hellraiser film series on tap and since I've only seen the first three...well, it seemed like the perfect time to play catch-up.

This is one of the few horror films that I've seen with a low body count and you don't even notice; Hellraiser is just that good. This is Clive Barker at his best and deserves a full review (as time permits) but I love the uniqueness of this tale. I've never looked at a Rubix cube the same since. The Cenobites are the coolest demonic-fetishists you'll ever meet.

A perfect 10!

Full review
Michael S's rating:

The first installment of my new personal project for 2014. This will be a movie journal strictly focusing on the horror genre, one of my favorites, which I've strayed away from in the later years of my life. It's a rediscovery of sorts and I'll be revisiting some old favorites and movies that memory has not served me well with; yet interspersed throughout will also be many movies that I've never seen.

I'll be breaking this down in monthly installments, which I'll then collect in one list-of-lists, and each month I'll also focus on one series or franchise. Hellraiser, The Howling, Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween, just to name a few. I'll also take a closer look at the classics of the genre and a number of silent era films that I've never seen, as well as certain directors offerings whose names have become synonymous with horror.

Suggestions welcome...

Ratings breakdown:
★★★★★- 2
★★★★☆- 2
★★★★- 8
★★★☆- 7
★★★- 9
★★☆- 2
★★- 5
★- 1

Final Assessment: Hellraiser
There was a definite decline with the last three in the series and I wouldn't recommend them to anyone; likewise with H3, which offered up the absolute worst acting of the entire series. The rest were all good in their own right and offered varying takes on the original premise but none match the first movie which, in my opinion, earned a place among horror cinema royalty.

Hellraiser - 10/10
Hellbound: Hellraiser II 8/10
Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth 1/10
Hellraiser: Bloodline 8/10
Hellraiser: Inferno 7/10
Hellraiser: Hellseeker 6/10
Hellraiser: Deader 4/10
Hellraiser: Hellworld 4/10
Hellraiser: Revelations 1/10

Top 5
The Wolf Man 10/10
Hellraiser 10/10
Evil Dead 9/10
The Awakening 9/10
The Invisible Man 8/10

1 Star Movies
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
Hellraiser: Revelations
Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead

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