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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 hear 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 (1981)
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.
This was one of the last films worth seeking out by Tibor Takacs, director of cult favorite "The Gate". Nowadays his filmography sadly consists mostly of Syfy Originals. He was a decent director and the few films he did churn out before going stale in the eighties and early nineties are all interesting little oddities. I'd been attempting to get my hands on this one for a while as it's pretty rare, and presents a rather original concept. It's not quite a forgotten classic or anything, but it's a fun, ably directed little flick. It's biggest downfall being a lack of a grounded story, as the film leads you on half of it's running time into thinking it's going to end in a fashion which it goes in the opposite direction of. Needless to say, the whole thing ends up being silly and not making much sense, but it's different and is enjoyable to watch. The antagonist is creepy and his backstory somewhat original. The cast is simply ok, but lead actress Jenny Wright carries the film. She's beautiful, effortlessly charming and a pretty good actor. It makes one wonder why her career didn't take off after this, at least in genre films. All in all, not anything amazing or particularly memorable, but it's a fun, decent little romp. The kind of flick that's perfect for a Saturday night with a giant, greasy pizza.
The Dead Zone (1983)
This is one of Cronenberg's more accessible, mainstream films, but still a shining example of what a brilliant director the man is. Great praise must be given to the always amazing Christopher Walken as well, who delivers a pitch-perfect performance that is pivotal to the film. No one else could have played Johnny Smith as he does. The rest of the cast is utterly fantastic as well. Those who's knowledge of Stephen King only extends to film adaptations of his work should be aware however that this film is not an outright horror story like most of his work. While there are certainly some horrific situations peppered throughout the film (serial killers, children in danger), the film mostly finds very different ways of frightening it's audience. It relies more on emotion and feeling for the characters which is where the film falters a bit. As usual, Cronenberg attempts to take his more subdued, restrained approach to the material. Sometimes this results in a feeling of disconnection from what's happening onscreen, but most of the time, thanks to the incredible performances, we can feel what the characters are going through. It's a suspenseful, quietly moving and surprisingly still relevant (in it's political musings towards the end) film that all Cronenberg and King fans should see. It really is a shame the two never worked together again.
The Last House on the Left (1972)
Although I'm not someone who usually enjoys rape/revenge type horror films I had to give this one a pass seeing as it was the first feature film by Wes Craven, my favorite horror director. I also thoroughly enjoyed the remake, as the only of it's type that I have. Sadly, this is probably one of Craven's worst films, and though I understand it's place in history, I don't understand how it managed to gather any admirers as, vileness aside, it's simply an astonishingly inept film. The cinematography looks like it was shot on a broken lens, the acting is either cheesy as hell or just plain bad, the music is annoying and out of place and worst of all, the two bumbling, comedy relief police officers. Even the rape scene is not effective when compared to more brutal films like the remake or I Spit On Your Grave. Perhaps intentions were good, in presenting a raw, unglamorous depiction of violence in opposition to the hero-fetishizing of the armed forces (as Craven muses in the DVD documentary), but when the film lacks any real punch and is often just laughably crafted, it has no real effect. Maybe it was the most shocking film ever back in 1972, but nowadays we have even more shocking, more meaningful and most certainly better produced films. It's worthy of it's historical interest, but holds no real power and is not well crafted in the least.
Those with their rose-tinted nostalgia glasses firmly positioned will call this a classic, and one of the greatest horror films of all time. Discerning, experienced filmgoers will see it as it is. An outdated, not even entirely exceptional for it's time piece, that is most noteworthy for it's place in history and the films it inspired from better directors. It's an alright picture, but for those who know the story of Frankenstein it's simply a paint by the numbers affair. The direction is workmanlike and stiff, with no flair or style as is the cinematography. The acting is decent, though not phenomenal, and even Karloff is better remembered for his appearance as the monster, rather than delivering an exceptional performance. It's respectable for what it is, but as far as 30's horror films go, Universal would put out better films. And although the opinion may be unpopular, I much prefer the 1994 Kenneth Branagh remake, as it is truly a much more beautifully directed, passionately acted and moving picture, just as Coppola's 1992 Dracula is superior to it's 1931 original. All self-respecting horror fanatics must see this film, of course, but that doesn't mean it's a great film.
Edge of Sanity (1989)
I was curious of this one for some time, seeing as it has several "cultish" things going for it, that made me believe it could be a hidden gem. The presence of Anthony Perkins in his first and only horror role that didn't see him portraying Norman Bates was the biggest draw. But the idea of suggesting that Jack The Ripper and Jekly/Hyde were one and the same is incredibly original and ripe with potential. Sadly, all of that is wasted and one has to wonder why a self-respecting man like Perkins ever would have agreed to appear is such garbage as this. It's a competently directed picture with some lovely cinematography, and Perkins performance is fantastic as usual, but those are it's only saving graces. And even they are not enough. This is an incredibly exploitive, grimy film. And not in the fun way. Perkins still seems to be suffering from some "mommy issues", this time with his mother having been an abusive prostitute, and thus when he sets out to murder the harlots of Whitechapel, he not only dismembers them, but has all manner of kinky, 70's booth-porn esque, sex with them beforehand. The whole thing just comes across as giddily immature and nastily misognynist, especially when the film makes no interesting attempts to explore the link between it's sexualism and violence, thus rendering it all merely for the sake of shock value. It makes you feel like you're watching the porn film given to you by the shady, fat dude in the back alley, to be frank. Also, there is a distinct lack of any real characterization, or development, making all of it's "characters" not even cardboard cutouts, but simply mannequins lined up for the slaughter which seem to have only two moods, horny or scared. This would have been a hit at the 1970's grindhouses, but for true horror fans, it will be nothing but an unpleasant, and honestly, quite boring experience.
The Relic (1997)
This film was a huge part of my childhood and one of the first horror films I ever saw, so forgive me if I may be the slightest bit biased towards this one in some ways. It's not a groundbreaking, terribly original film. But it was one that instilled a love of monster movies in me and when all is said and done, it's still a damn good little monster flick. The creature is brought to life by the genius Stan Winston, and it's an awesome creation. There's some CGI, but most of the effects shots are practical, and we're always shown just enough of the creature to satisfy without seeing so much that it loses it's mystique. The cast is good as well, with no one delivering a mind-blowing performance, but perfect actors for this sort of film. They take the material just seriously enough while obviously still having fun with it. Writing is also witty and peppered with sly humor and one-liners. Like I said, not the most original film ever, but it's a well-meaning, thoroughly entertaining monster movie. There's nothing wrong with that.
This one is somewhat the black sheep of the F13 franchise, what with the actual absence of the real Jason. But it's not really bad at all, when it's said and done. For an F13 film, it's mostly what you'd expect. It's a lot of mindless fun, there's some great kills and best of all, some downright zany characters. It's no wonder there's a bit of a cult following for this one, seeing as it takes place in a Halfway House there's plenty of kooky characters, and some hilarious writing. It's an oddity, what with half of the characters being simply lined up for the slaughter, without any characterization or need to the plot. But it's all, good, trashy fun, and the ending is quite original and daring considering the time in which it was made. Not great, but a solid slasher flick.
The only thing setting this one apart from the other F13 films is it's telekinetic lead character, who resurrects and subsequently battles Jason with her powers. It's best described as Jason vs. Carrie, and it would've been incredibly easy to mess up beyond belief, but somehow the whole thing is pulled off with finesse. When the film is focusing on Tina, her powers and her strained relationship with her shady doctor it's an interesting flick. But when concerned with all the things usually found in a Jason flick, it's ho-hum at best. The kills are some of the weakest and most mundane in the franchise. The teenagers are also depressingly ordinary and most aren't well written. However, the film is directed with style by special effects guru John Carl Buechler and the beginning and ending are so enthralling and well done that it makes the film worth a watch. One of the weaker installments in the franchise, but miles above the series' lowest points.
This is quite possibly, next to Season Of The Witch (which I still have yet to see), Romero's most underrated, difficult to track film. And it certainly was worth the effort. It's not the usual output we'd expect from him, but most of his trademark themes can still be found, including a strong social message (this time against conformity and capitalism) and biting black humor. Jason Flemyng is likeable as the main character and Peter Stormare delivers an unhinged, but joyously deranged performance as the asshole boss. Even cult horror favorite Tom Atkins shows up as a detective. The concept is fairly original as well, and handled in a number of witty ways. Most of the kills are satisfyingly violent as well. Things start to fall apart towards the end, however, with a denouement that seems too busy and is ultimately botched, but the overall piece is so enjoyable and enthralling that it's well worth the attention of devoted horror fans and Romero admirers.
Jeepers Creepers 3 (2017)
I waited a long, long time for this. As a huge horror fanatic, and as a Jeepers Creepers fan above all else, the original film was the movie that really affirmed my obsession with the genre and to this day is the most perfectly made, creepiest, just plain fun horror flick I've ever seen. I have an almost as intense love for the second film as well. There is nothing quite like these films out there for me, and they hold an incredible sense of nostalgia as well. But as I watched this film go through delay after delay, I knew deep down that it was going to be a mess. I tried to be as optimistic as possible, seeing as director Victor Salva's continued work in the horror genre proceeded to churn out some more decent films (Rosewood Lane and Dark House), but the moment I saw the trailer I knew I was going to be massively disappointed. Reviews didn't give me much hope either. So when the time finally came to actually watch the film, I had my expectations tempered about as low as they could go. And while not awful, this is just what I sadly expected. An incredibly mediocre film, that simply cannot recapture the magic of the first two. There's a handful of inventive moments that almost harken back to the originals, but cheap digital cinematography, abundant plot-holes and a complete lack of the promised resolution in any way, shape or form drag the film down. Also, I don't think the Creeper should have been shown nearly this much in the daylight, as it seriously detracts from the mystique of the character. If you're a Jeepers Creepers fan, nothing I can say will stop you from watching this, and while it's not as bad as it could have been, and it won't ruin your memories of the first two, it's still an incredibly disappointing experience.
I was quite excited for this one, due to the fact that a good origin story for Leatherface had yet to be done and due to the involvement of Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, the French directors behind such films as Inside and Livid. I knew with these guys behind the cameras that the film would be deliriously violent, deeply disturbing and beautifully crafted. And that it is. This is the best TCM film since the 2003 remake, and makes an excellent companion to both the original and the remake, as well as standing completely on it's own. Instead of telling a lazy, paint-by-the-numbers story like the wretched TCM: The Beginning in 2006, this one is quite original and moves in ways even the most devout TCM fan won't see coming. It's full of brutal violence, gushing gore and some of the most downright disturbing scenes in a while (including an uncomfortably sexy Necrophilia scene and a nice switchblade to the mouth scene). But there's also a fantastic cast which provides a nice emotional backdrop to all the gore. It more than satisfied me as a definitive take on who Leatherface truly is, and what made him the unspeakable monster we all know. I'm quite saddened that the filmmakers lost the right to produce further iterations, due to the underwhelming box office. But if you loved the original or the remake, or even both, you should love this.
I really don't get the shabby wrap this one gets. I was expecting nothing but a cheap B-flick from what others had said, but instead I found myself watching a fairly restrained and strikingly intelligent monster movie. I thoroughly enjoyed the social and political underpinnings and the cast was fantastic in bringing the emotional scenes to life. The bear creature is obviously not particularly amazing in the special effects department, but he's shown on screen just enough that he looks convincing and actually makes a pretty menacing monster. My only qualm is the botched ending that reeks of studio interference, leaving several important sub-plots unresolved and ending the film with a comically inept slap in the face. But the rest of the film is so good that those 12 seconds doesn't detract that much. This one is sorely underrated. Go in knowing what to expect and you might be surprised.
Happy Death Day (2017)
This one turned out to be a nice little surprise. I've enjoyed some of director Christopher Landon's other works, particularly Disturbia and the recent Scout's Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse. He did however, write half of the wretched Paranormal Activity films as well, making his work rather hit or miss. This was mostly a hit. The idea of a character having to repeat the same day over and over is certainly nothing new (and comparisons to Groundhog Day are inevitable) no one has ever really combined the concept with a horror film. Rising star Jessica Rothe carries the picture with her charming performance and the humor and writing work wonderfully. Most of the horror is sadly subdued for a slasher flick in favor of a more profitable PG-13 rating, but there's some intense, witty moments towards the end that make up for the overall lack of bloodshed. Still, I think a little gore would've made the film that much better. There's also a fair amount of twists and turns to keep the viewer guessing, and the film carries a good moral story. These things coupled with the superb acting and grin-inducing humor make up for the lack of scares.
Apartment 143 (2012)
What to make of this one? It's one of the strangest paranormal films I've ever seen, but also one of the most original and disturbing in a long time. I'm a found footage nut, so that's what drew me in, but this is a truly unique little flick. Don't go into it expecting anything like your usual "haunted house" film. This one focuses more on metaphysics and psychological horror. The acting is good across the board, with restrained performances from the ghost hunters which make them come across as realistic human beings. Kai Lennox steals the show however, as the tormented father. His performance is Oscar worthy in my humble opinion. I won't spoil the twists for anyone, but suffice to say there's never been a film that quite explores these areas of supernatural science, and being somewhat experienced in this area I really appreciate a film playing with these themes and showing the more "scientific" side of the spiritual world. This film will burrow under your skin and stay there for days. It's truly a haunting, deeply disturbing little flick that deserves to be remembered among found footage enthusiasts. Paranormal Activity wishes it could be like this film.
The Taking (2014)
This flick has gained quite the cult following in just a few years from it's release. Even those who don't usually enjoy found footage horror, eagerly recommended this to me at several times, so I knew I was in for something special, and I was delighted to find that I was right. This is one of the most unique POV horrors yet, and it's not at all lacking in areas like production value, lighting and acting where other found footage films may be. It's an incredibly atmospheric film, with the color palate and sets perfectly planned out, giving the film a more "film like" quality than some shaky cam entries. The performances are also fantastic, across the board, but especially Jill Larson in the title role, whom delivers an absolute tour de force, with Anne Ramsey equally as fantastic as her daughter. The concept of using Alzheimer's as a link to possession is brilliant and the film is full of unnerving moments and some imagery towards the end that is sure to stick with you. This one is one of the best examples of it's sub-genre yet. And a truly scary little flick.
Devil's Due (2014)
I skipped this one back when it came out simply because of all the highly negative buzz. However, it was ultimately Eli Roth's glowing praise and the involvement of the Radio Silence team that made me give in. I greatly enjoyed Radio Silence's segment in the first V/H/S film, so I was interested to see what else they could do with the found footage genre. Sadly, it's a pretty paint by numbers affair. The film simply chugs along for a good while, not being bad, but not being particularly involving either. Towards the end things pick up and you start to feel that same frantic energy from the directors' V/H/S segment, but it's too short-lived and overall the film ends in an unsatisfying manner. Performances are okay, but there's no future stars here, either. All in all, certainly not the unthinkably awful film that a lot of reviewers made it out to be, but rather just a very mediocre one.
Grave Encounters 2 (2012)
I thought the first Grave Encounters was a decent, fun little popcorn flick that could be downright scary at times. This sequel is often looked upon with disdain by fans of the original, but I decided to give it a chance anyway. Sadly, this is indeed a step down from the first film. There's a lot of good ideas here, like playing with the notion that found footage films might actually be real, some effective scares and more exploration of the building's powers. But the film takes far too long to get started and it's characters are it's greatest downfall. There's not one very likeable person amongst them. They all come off as pretentious, douchey little hipsters. The writing basically consists of dudes arguing over whose dick is bigger, chicks screaming and the words "fuck" and "shit" on repeat every five seconds. Like I said, there's a lot of potential here, but it's ultimately squandered.
I'm always down for a good werewolf flick, but there aren't many out there. This one was recommended numerous times to me by other lycan enthusiasts, but I always steered clear of it for some time seeing as I'm not a big Mike Nichols fan. Well, that's understatement, really. I loathe the man's films. And this one has all the same problems as his other efforts, except it has the distinct travesty of trying to mix together Nichol's polished, aristocratic style with nitty-gritty horror. The whole thing is so ineffective that I almost don't want to call it a horror film. Never once is there a moment where there is the least bit of fear, brooding atmosphere or tension. It's like watching a bunch of rich, pretentious thespians trying to remake The Howling for the more "refined tastes" of cinema. There are a few things that keep it watchable, first and foremost being it's wonderful cast, and it's not unbearably awful. Just mediocre and far too tame to succeed in either being a horror flick or an erotic thriller.
This is the most well received of the string of eighties rip-offs left in Alien and it's sequels wake. Although if this is the crème of the crop, the crop might not be too creamy. It's a passable creature feature, but besides it's underwater setting it's a pretty damn close imitation of Alien. We have Peter Weller instead of Sigourney Weaver and we have a shoddy looking aquatic mutation instead of a menacing alien, but for the most part it feels like sub-par imitation. Some of the effects work is good, but the creature design is startlingly inept for Stan Winston. There's not much excitement to be found, no fear and the ending is botched and laughable at best. There's certainly worse monster movies out there, but that still doesn't make this one worth seeing.
Well, this one has been at the tip top of my anticipated releases list for some time now. It's brilliant marketing campaign, critical acclaim and the involvement of director Andy Muschietti all adding fuel to the fire. Muschiettei's first film, Mama was a wonderful horror flick and since then I've been dying to see what else he could do with the genre. It, is also quite possibly Stephen King's most original and famous work, and while I'm also a huge fan of the 1990 mini-series, it's the kind of tale that can be told over and over again in a variety of ways. Needless to say, I built my expectations almost unachievably high for this one, and while they weren't always met, it would be a travesty for my critical brain to register this as anything less than a fantastic film. Musichietti's storybook-like vision and penchant for creating visual nightmares rather than lazy jumpscares are still present. The film is beautiful, with Spielbergian cinematography and music. The cast is also fantastic, with the kids all turning in potential star making performances and Bill Skarsgard front and center as Pennywise. I've got to hand it to young Bill, he took Tim Curry's portrayal of the character and turned the notches up 100 percent. He's utterly fucking terrifying and there's plenty of nightmare inducing scenes peppered throughout. The thing I was most pleased with however, was the filmmakers refusal to give into the Hollywood complex and water things down. This film may star children, but the gore is plentiful, the scares genuine and the plot doesn't shy away from the true horrors of bullying and parental abuse. We have the youngest child in the cast's entire arm being bitten off in the first scene. I have to respect that. All together, this is a great flick. Sometimes I wanted more out of it, but when it's as scary, beautifully crafted and touching as it mostly is, it's hard to find fault. I can't wait to see what's done with chapter two.
I knew it would only be so long before there would either be a sequel or a reboot to the Saw franchise, and although I'm happy they did not attempt to reboot the series, this sequel has nothing to offer the cannon either. In fact, it might truly be the weakest film in the series. This chapter doesn't even truly feel like a Saw film. It looks more big budget, instead of the hectic editing and low budget vibe that gave the originals their signature feel. The traps are decidedly weak, not nearly reaching the level of imagination seen in the previous installments. Even the characters are not nearly as enthralling as those who came before them, and I spent most of the film wondering how they all connected, seeing as they are so bland that one doesn't even realize some of them are related until halfway into the film. I had hopes that this would turn out to be a wonderful continuation due to the involvement of the genius Spierig Brothers, but it's simply a cash cow. There's nothing new or interesting here for Saw fans, but rather a lukewarm, passionless exercise in tedium churned out for a quick buck. It could've been way worse, but that doesn't excuse the producers simply thinking they could double back to a beloved franchise just to make some quick cash. I guess they didn't learn anything from the guys who did Rings last year. Let Saw rest in pieces.
The Other (1972)
This one is a cult classic among killer kid films, and while it was certainly a chilling film, I can't quite give it my stamp of approval. Which saddens me, because I wanted to love it. It's depression era setting, fantastic cast and creepy music all hit the right notes, but a nonsensical narrative structure that takes things far too long to get moving ultimately botches things up. The film is at times a mess of warring paces and moods, and in the end it's uneven at best. The final resolve is haunting, and the film won't easily be forgotten, but even then, I can't help but think how much better it would've been in the hands of a director better suited to the material.
The Woods (2006)
I'm not at all a fan of Lucky McKee's work, but this one might actually be the only worthwhile film he's ever produced. It contains none of his usual trademarks, and is instead a rather straight-forward supernatural tale. It is directed with beautiful cinematography, top-notch sound design and a haunting score, giving the film it's own look and distinct feel. It's this atmosphere, coupled with the solid cast that make it a worthwhile watch. At the end of the day, though, it turns out to be a pretty paint by numbers affair, checking off all the boxes needed to be an imitation of previous films rather than it's own unique tale, though it certainly has it's moments of originality, those are eventually squandered by a sloppy, haphazard ending. There's definitely some things worth seeing in this film, but it doesn't live up to it's potential and when all is said and done will simply be lost in your subconscious recollections of other films much too like it.
The Phantom of the Opera (1989)
This is probably my favorite version of The Phantom so far, despite how infuriating it may be for those hoping for a faithful adaptation of the novel. It's a surprisingly nasty little flick, that at times feels like a slasher pic and gorehounds certainly won't be left wanting. But the picture is also brilliantly directed and photographed, and exudes a big budget aurora that makes it seem grander than it really is. Robert Englund of Freddy Krueger fame also gives a perfect performance as The Phantom, proving that he should've played far more horror roles in the late eighties and early nineties than he did. He's in turns frightening, slyly humorous and displays some real talent in the more emotional scenes as well, proving that he's good for more than just grimaces and devious grins. Jill Schoelen is also charming in the role of Christine. It may not be all that original, but it's a beautifully directed, gory and satisfying experience for horror fans and admirers of Englund.
The original Candyman is one of my favorite horror films of all time, and nothing short of a masterpiece in almost every way. Needless to say, it's going to be pretty hard for a sequel to live up to the standards set by such a film, especially when the film didn't need a sequel in the first place. However, the continued involvement of Clive Barker as well as the opportunity to see Tony Todd turn in another masterful performance eventually won me over into giving this one a try. But it was just as one might expect. I have a lot of problems with this film, but foremost is that it cements Candyman's existence in historical fact, whereas in the original it was left hauntingly ambiguous as to whether he really ever existed at all or was simply an entity brought into being by people's belief in him. Also not to my liking is the decision to show the Candyman's execution. The scene in the original in which Purcell recounts the tale of Candyman's death to Helen is one of the greatest scenes in the film and it's accomplished entirely with good acting and writing. We don't have to see anything, and the fact that that scene alone is somehow more horrific than the one in this film wherein we actually see the events happening, is a testament to how inferior a product this really is. It also turns the Candyman into nothing more than a regular horror icon, checking off all the groan worthy boxes. There is some good. The film is ably directed, well photographed and acted, but it's simply lacking in any sort of inspiration or even purpose. It's purpose was simply to make a quick buck. That it did, but nowadays it's simply a useless curiosity.
The Dark Half (1993)
I'm not sure why this film isn't a better remembered part of Romero's filmography, or Stephen King's for that matter. It's a great little flick that can be quite unique at times and has a creepy atmosphere about it. It's sort of a modern day Jekyl & Hyde story, but it has it's own personality. Of most importance is the fantastic performance of Timothy Hutton, in what may be his only truly great performance, as Thad Bheumont and his evil doppelganger George Stark. Thanks to the makeup and the performance itself, one can hardly tell they're the same actor. The only thing holding this one back in my opinion is the rushed ending, which rather abruptly is just over. Besides that minor complaint, this is a thoroughly solid flick. One of the better King adaptations of the 90's.
This one had all the ingredients to be a great film. Creepy setting, solid direction, fantastic cast, but somehow it turned out to be just okay when all was said and done, and certainly not very memorable. Part of that reason is thanks to it's utter predictability. I wanted this film to surprise me, it sets itself up as a rollercoaster ride leading to some shocking twist ending that turns out exactly like one would except it to, but would hope it doesn't. It's not a bad ending, but utterly predictable and it makes the film seem more like a run of the mill thriller when it had the chance to be so much more. As it stands it's simply an alright picture, worth a look if it seems like your taste, but not at all a prime example of it's sub-genre.
I haven't yet seen the Francis Coppola original yet, so I'm not sure exactly how close this one sticks to it's forbearer, but it wasn't anything special. Whereas the original film is seen as one of the first examples of the modern slasher flick, this one just feels like a rehash of things we've seen a thousand times before, albeit without any flair or twists. The film plays so closely to the clichés of it's genre that it quickly grows routine, while shoddy editing, bland direction, ugly cinematography, and poor acting don't add anything worthwhile. It's a thoroughly amateur production, and should be used in film classes as an example of how not to edit a film. It's not mind numbingly awful or anything so bad it's unwatchable, but merely completely uninvolving. Nothing to see here.
This just may be one of the most underrated horror films of all time, not only in the sense that it flopped horrifyingly at the box office, but to this day hasn't garnered much of a following and doesn't even seem to be considered a horror film by most of the genre. I'm here to tell you it is indeed a horror film, and it's pretty damn good at that. Don't get me wrong, it's not anything mind-blowing, nor is it a classic, but it's a surprisingly original little road horror/thriller with a good cast, some great chase scenes and a clever villain. It's downfalls are it's somewhat vague characters and it's incredibly short running time, whereas a film like this one should be significantly longer in order to better develop the characters. As it is, it feels like it takes place in a very short amount of time, and although characters are likeable, they never quite feel like real human beings. Still, as a fun, creepy, nail-biter, this one delivers. If you dig flicks like The Hitcher (which was directed by the same man), Joy Ride and Road Games, then give this one some love. It deserves it.
This may not be the most original horror flick to have come out recently, but surprisingly, it's a fairly solid effort when all is said and done. We've seen variations in the thousands of the "home invasion" sub-genre by now, and frankly it's a template that's easy to screw up with unlikeable characters and stupid decision-making. But that's where this film does the right things. It has a wonderful cast across the board and likeable, well-written characters that it takes the proper time to develop, whom don't go about doing the most blatantly stupid things possible (although there are the few, obligatory moments of stupidity). The plot is simply a re-hash of previous films, but things move along at a brisk pace, with some satisfyingly brutal kills and a chilling ending that makes the film stand out, even if in just the slightest way. It's not great, but it's good enough to warrant a watch if you like this kind of stuff, and provides respectable thrills. Just don't expect anything groundbreaking and you should enjoy it.
A Bucket of Blood (1959)
This was really Roger Corman's breakthrough success, paired with Little Shop Of Horrors which was shot directly after this one, using the same sets. Both of them share similar themes, but for my money, Shop Of Horrors is slightly better. This one is still a cult classic in it's own right, however. It holds up surprisingly well, considering it's beatnik themes and usage of fifties era social comedy, and serves as somewhat of a satirical look back at hippie culture. The comedy is charming, though not laugh out loud funny and there's some effective horror moments. Dick Miller is also fantastic in his first big performance. The only things holding it back are it's incredibly short runtime and a lackluster ending, but given it's time and budget constraints, these minor issues are forgivable. A B-movie classic.
This is the black sheep of the TCM franchise, but it has garnered a rather large cult following since it's release, though I have no idea why anyone would like this shit. This is easily, one of the worst horror films I've ever seen, and with Tobe Hooper himself in the director's seat, there's no excuse for that. It attempts to be a horror comedy, but there's absolutely nothing funny about it. It attempts to disturb and unhinge as the original did, but doesn't even come close. The only emotion felt whilst watching this wreck will be annoyance. Annoyance at the shrieking, screaming villains as they run about shouting their lines over and over, making jokes and puns that would make your parents roll their eyes and just...screaming and yelling...a lot. At not one point are you ever afraid of Leatherface and his family in this film, you'll just find yourself wishing they'd shut the fuck up or die. Even a double-chainsaw wielding Dennis Hopper can't make this film the least bit enjoyable. That says something. After suffering through far too much of this dreck, you'll find yourself with one of the most retarded endings I can remember being witness to. Anyone who likes this garbage should be ashamed of themselves. There's nothing funny, clever, scary or fun about it. It's just irritating shit.
Innocent Blood (1992)
This one had the potential to be a classic, but it's sadly squandered. Directed by John Landis, one would hope it would recapture the energy of his first horror film, the immortal An American Werewolf In London, and although the films share a horror/comedy element, that's about all they have in common, as comparing a film this mediocre to a masterpiece like An American Werewolf would be pure travesty. It's not awful or anything, but merely very dull and poorly written, with a script full of clunky dialogue and embarrassing humor. The concept of Mob vampires is original, but not used in very many interesting ways and the performances are good across the board, but the film just feels so lifeless and lacks the charm it needs to pull off the material. It saddens me that a director like Landis couldn't get this right. Pretty much a waste of time.
Creep 2 (2017)
The first Creep was a complete surprise. One of the most original, daring and scary horror films in recent years that literally came out of nowhere and quickly amassed a cult following. It broke all the rules, poking fun at it's genre, while at once, being a superior entry in it. We all knew a sequel was coming. And though I was unbelievably excited for this one, it just can't hold a candle to the first. Mark Duplass still gives an absolutely phenomenal performance as "Aaron", and the dialogue is still as refreshing and creepy as in the original, but there simply aren't as many "what the fuck?" moments as there were, and those that are, simply aren't as shocking or memorable. Also, it may be a nitpick that is solely my own, but I much preferred seeing Aaron stalking a male victim, as that seemed to be more of his M.O. It was creepier, less expected and I really appreciated the concept that his serial killer behavior wasn't explained away with Freudien sexuality. In this film, although I knew the victim was to be female, I was hoping they could somehow pull it off without adding in the clichéd sexual acrobatics, but they did. And while they're still far from typical, it's much more predictable than the original. It still has it's moments, and is worth seeing almost solely for Duplass's performance, but it's a very inferior product when compared to it's source. Disappointing.
Toolbox Murders (2004)
This is really the last "decent" film Tobe Hooper has so far directed. Though it's not as bad as what he's put out since, it's still not on par with the classics he once helmed. It's a very low budget film, but it doesn't work this to it's favor like Hooper's past ventures. It's simply boring and plain, filmed in a very workman-like manner. It's a basic slasher pic, that doesn't deviate too much from the expected, but without directorial flare or an inventive story, it falls flat, not to mention that it's kills are completely unremarkable as well. The execution of the storyline is muddled, full of plot holes and ends up not making much sense. It's not quite bottom of the barrel stuff, but it's stodgy and dull.
This was the first of a string of "Jaws rip offs", released a mere year after Spielberg's masterpiece. It's one of the more well remembered of it's batch, and is notable for centering around a bear terrorizing a national park rather than yet another aquatic creature terrorizing a lake/river/pond etc. However, if one looks past it's respectable cast and reasonable budget, you'll find it's nothing more than a very low-brow B-picture masquerading as something more. It's not, and for the very same reason, it doesn't work as a good trash flick either. The performances of the cast and writing of the characters are great, but when the film focuses on the sloppily-edited bear attacks and goofy gore effects, it becomes laughable, distasteful and most of all, tonally confused. Not a good combination.
Tell Tale (2009)
Those looking for a faithful re-telling of the legendary Poe story should temper their expectations, seeing as besides it's name and a few moments of loose inspiration, this film shares nothing in common with it. Really, it's nothing remotely original, as we've seen films like this before, but it's competent and never becomes completely boring. A good cast keeps the film going, with the three leads all delivering great performances as well as atmospheric direction and cinematography. The concept is far from original, as I said, and you're probably better off just watching Body Parts, but it's not bad, just average.
This one has gained attention for being, quite possibly, the first worthwhile film that stars Dolph Lundgren in some time. And while Lundgren's performance is a drawing point, and quite enjoyable, this film is actually good enough to stand on it's own two feet. The opening sequence alone is stylish, brutal and sets the stage perfectly. If you call yourself a horror fan, and you're not smiling in demented satisfaction at the opening of this film, then you've become far too jaded. The flick harkens back to the days of good 'ol demon killing/gore films like Evil Dead and Night Of The Demons, with fantastic, oftentimes practical, gore effects and a helping of black humor. Also worthy of note is the inventive concept of not being able to kill the demon, as it will simply jump to the body of the person who killed it last. This leads to some interesting concepts and fun chaos. Lundgren also gives his best performance in years, obviously happy to be cast in a film that actually has some inspiration, and the rest of the cast, including rising horror star, Kristina Kleibe, all deliver worthy performances. It's low budget, shot on cheap digital cameras and sadly short, but it's a fun, burst of eighties style action. Perfect for those just looking for a good time.
The Innocents (1961)
This is easily one of the most beautiful, haunting and quietly disturbing horror films I've ever seen. And though it holds it's place amongst the genre's classics, I still feel it doesn't get all the credit it deserves. It's a masterpiece almost solely in the fact that it achieves fear in the most subtle of ways. Almost everything is pitch perfect, from the excellent cast to the gorgeous cinematography and writing. It hasn't aged in the slightest and is still every bit as effective as it was in it's prime. An absolute must for horror fans.
Deadtime Stories (1986)
This little oddity is almost forgotten these days and incredibly hard to find, but there's a good reason for that. Seemingly directed by the creepy uncle your parents tell you never to be alone with, it's a wildly inept production that wreaks of sleaze and mass alcohol consumption. It's a chore to watch, but at times almost reaches "so bad, it's fun" levels of stupidity, although by the end the whole thing just becomes irritating. There is some surprisingly good practical effects work and creature design, but the dreadful acting, horrendous editing and awful dialogue will grate your nerves to the point that it doesn't matter. Trash, and not quite the fun kind either.
Deadly Blessing (1981)
This is one of Wes Craven's more unknown efforts, and certainly different from the outset than the bulk of his work. For the duration of it's runtime it plays like a standard slasher, albeit set in Amish (here called "Hittite") country, with themes of religious corruption and paranoia. The cast is also notable, even featuring a very young Sharon Stone, and they all give worthwhile performances. Things are going fine up until the end, wherein the film begins to stack twist on top of twist, each becoming more laughable and ludicrous, until the whole thing winds up with a head-scratching finale that would feel more at home in a David Lynch film. These ridiculous twists sour the entire film, and leave a bad taste in one's mouth of laziness and studio interferement. An incredibly strange film, and a serious low point in Craven's filmography.
Mute Witness (1995)
This one is more of a horror/thriller, but in the end it becomes rather difficult to categorize. It has horror, suspense, thrills and humor in equal doses, all directed with a steady hand and filmed with unmistakble style. It's truly a shame it isn't better remembered, but it's more than deserving of it's cult status. The suspense is breathtaking with several long stretches of sustained terror that will have you grinding your nails into your armrest. And though the plot is nothing new, it has enough twists and turns that it will keep genre veterans satisfied, especially when it goes against the grain. Acting is good from the English cast and mostly decent from the Russian stars as well, although some character development would have been welcome, but the characters are charming enough that one cares what happens to them. Some of the humor towards the end is also scattershot, but never really becomes a problem. This one deserves more attention. It's suspenseful, stylish and inventive in it's refusal to conform to what you expect from it. It's a shame director Anthony Waller never really took off, but this is most likely the best film he ever produced.
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