Category Archives: Horror Films

My Bloody Valentine-2009

My Bloody Valentine-2009

Director-Patrick Lussier

Starring-Jensen Ackles, Jaime King

Scott’s Review #604

Reviewed January 11, 2017

Grade: B

What can I say? The remake of the classic slasher film from 1981 is a very slick version of the perfect Valentine’s day treat- My Bloody Valentine. To compare the 2009 offering to the original is unfair since I consider that one top notch. This version is what I expected it to be. Though several aspects of it were changed from the original, it was entertaining all the same.

The sleepy mining town that the film is set in becomes immersed in scandal as a string of grisly murders occurs in one of the town mines. It is revealed that a tragic accident occurred at one time causing several deaths. The one remaining victim awakens from a coma and goes on a killing spree. At the same time, youths throw a party near the mine and a series of deaths begin again.

The 3-D effects are necessary to a film like this, for without them, this movie would have been generic as anything else in the same style. The story is lame, implausible, and the characters are dumb, but looking past all that, as I usually do in the horror genre, this was a fun ride. Lots of gore nudity, violence, and a few genuine scares.

Zombie Strippers-2008

Zombie Strippers-2008

Director-Jay Lee

Starring-Jenna Jameson, Robert Englund

Scott’s Review #599

Reviewed January 10, 2017

Grade: C-

Zombie Strippers is so filled with campy moments and so over-the-top, that it is a film that is impossible to remotely take seriously. As they say, there is a time and a place for everything, and this includes films. It is completely a cheesy, campy B minus horror film.

The story, if one can call it that, involves a small strip club, in Nebraska, in the middle of nowhere. The star stripper is played by former adult film star, Jenna Jameson, who, I am pretty certain, was not hired for her acting talents. One day, a government controlled virus is released by the government, causing Jameson’s character to be transformed into a flesh-eating zombie. The motivation is not really there, and, who cares anyway? This is not the film to watch for compelling plot.

The acting all around in the film is poor, and the story is completely unrealistic- laced with stereotypes galore. However, how nice to see horror legend, Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street) in a prominent role, even in a bad film. Also deserving of credit are the makeup and prop department, clearly having a small budget, for making the film look better than it might have.

If you are looking for a cheesy, after midnight, and after a few drinks fun film, this is it. Otherwise, don’t waste your time.

Friday the 13th-2009

Friday the 13th-2009

Director-Marcus Nispel

Starring-Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker

Scott’s Review #592

Reviewed January 8, 2017

Grade: C-

As a devoted and faithful fan of the Friday the 13th film franchise and having many wonderful memories of Friday the 13th’s of the past, I was expecting better than this version. There was no reason for the producers to start from scratch with a brand new beginning- that makes no sense to me.

There is really nothing to distinguish this, 2009 Friday the 13th,  from other sequels. They would have been better suited making a “Friday The 13th Part 11” since that’s really what it was. In essence, an entire new story-line was created- only keeping to the original Jason and Mrs. Voorhees characters, and Camp Crystal Lake location.

This movie is not scary, nor are any of the characters particularly likable. In fact, several were quite unlikable- way too many horror films do that. The film also contains very distinct stereotypes, which in this day and age seem ridiculous. Also, Jason has now graduated to “taking prisoners” instead of simply hacking his victims. There is also a “flashback” scene from 1980, which, inexplicably is a newly filmed scene. A wiser choice, and treat for loyalists, would have been to show this scene from the original Friday The 13th from 1980 instead of foolishly recreating one.

The story is completely implausible in countless ways. I am giving this film a very liberal C- grade for at least giving us a new film and for being somewhat entertaining, even though there are many negatives. This film will be forgotten before too long.

Drag Me To Hell-2009

Drag Me To Hell-2009

Director-Sam Raimi

Starring-Alison Lohman, Justin Long

Scott’s Review #591

Reviewed January 7, 2017

Grade: B

Drag Me To Hell is a fairly predictable, modern day horror film, with some supernatural elements and special effects that make it slightly above average. Directed by Sam Raimi (of Spiderman fame) one can definitely see his stamp on it, as he has a way of horror-camp. 1983’s cult classic, Evil Dead, directed by Raimi is evidence of this.

Young Loan Officer, Christine Brown, played by Alison Lohman, is bucking for a promotion and intent on impressing her boss by being a stickler for the rules. She chooses the wrong day to do this as an elderly woman, desperately needing a loan, is denied one by Christine. The angry woman places a curse on Christine, causing her life to spin out of control. She has a mere three days to remove the curse before her soul is “dragged to hell”.

As with most horror films involving a curse, the plot is completely unrealistic and filled with holes. The film also tries to be both serious and comical at times- sometimes succeeding, sometimes not. In a few scenes I was not sure if the intention was to be comical or if it was unintended, but periodically the acting was over the top.

With all that said, if one is interested in a fun horror film that has a few scares and is not too gory (it is rated PG-13 after all), one will enjoy Drag Me To Hell.

The Final Destination-2009

The Final Destination-2009

Director-David R. Ellis

Starring-Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten

Scott’s Review #587

Reviewed January 7, 2017

Grade: B

The Final Destination is a fun, entertaining film, and exactly what one might expect from a film of this nature, of the horror genre, and by this time the fourth in the series. The 3-D effects were a nice (and needed) addition at this in the franchise as a way of keeping it modern and fresh.

The film has the expected additives- an attractive cast, mediocre acting, and the ridiculous situations, which inevitably lead to the fated kills- in typical grisly fashion. As audiences of the Final Destination films know, characters cannot tempt fate, and there is a specific order to the deaths. In fact, the only aspect that sets The Final Destination apart from its predecessors is the 3-D effects.

The story is reminiscent of the original version of Final Destination, made in 2000, only instead of an airport, the action begins at a raceway, where the main character of the film, Nick O’Bannon, has a premonition of a grisly accident at the racetrack. After he saves some folks from their deaths, they believe they have cheated “death”, but before long, fate has other plans for them.

Some fun kills include- decapitation by flying tire, a sharp rock emitted from a lawn mower, a crushing tub, and a speeding ambulance.

The novel concept of the film, originally fresh and unique, has become to be expected and rather redundant- the fun part is the creative kills. The film is the perfect movie to sit back, relax, have fun, see some interesting deaths, and be entertained.

The Crazies-2010

The Crazies-2010

Director-Breck Eisner

Starring-Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell

Scott’s Review #568

Reviewed December 27, 2016

Grade: B+

The Crazies is an example of a very rare instance of a remake (especially in the horror genre) actually being better than the original (Cape Fear also comes to mind). Despite the original film being made in 1973, a wonderful time for creative film-making, I was not such a fan. The remake is more slick and stylized, but I actually think it works well and makes the film an above average effort.

There are many thrills during The Crazies and jump out of your seat scares (car wash scene), and I may never look through a keyhole again, ha! I actually felt tense watching several scenes and I genuinely did not know what was going to come next, which is quite an achievement for the modern horror genre.

I love the heartland, small town, middle of nowhere elements. A feeling of isolation and vulnerability is apparent and a must for successful horror.

The acting is above average for a horror flick, though, let’s not kid ourselves- who watches horror films for the Shakespearean acting? This film was sort of a cross between 28 Days Later and Night of the Living Dead, but set in mid-western surroundings. A must for fans of modern horror.

Repulsion-1965

Repulsion-1965

Director-Roman Polanski

Starring-Catherine Deneuve

Scott’s Review #554

Reviewed December 21, 2016

Grade: A

Repulsion is an excellent British film, and an early film of great director, Roman Polanski- made in 1965. The film was shot on a low budget, and the action mainly takes place inside a small London apartment. Repulsion is part of Polanski’s “Apartment trio”, along with Rosemary’s Baby and The Tenant- all set inside apartments.

The film tells the story of Carol (Catherine Deneuve), a beautiful, young, woman who slowly goes insane over the course of a weekend, while left alone by her vacationing sister. Carol is a beauty parlor worker who seemingly is sweet and shy, but gradually becomes violent, volatile, and unbalanced. Carol experiences hallucinations and it is alluded to that she may have been sexually abused as a child. She loathes men.

The film is shot in black and white with eerie camera shots and background noises and very little music. This film has a claustrophobic entity that makes it all the more disturbing. All of these characteristics make the film a difficult experience to watch, but that is to its credit.

We see Carol unravel and are mystified by the aspects that make her this way. The bathtub scene and the scene with Carol’s landlord are highlights in their brutality.

Repulsion is difficult to watch, but a wonderful piece of cinema. An in-depth character study of an already unhinged woman reaching her psychological breaking point.

Friday the 13th: Part VII: The New Blood-1988

Friday the 13th: Part VII: The New Blood-1988

Director-John Carl Buechler

Starring-Lar Park Lincoln, Terry Kiser

Scott’s Review #551

Reviewed December 19, 2016

Grade: B-

The seventh installment of the legendary Friday the 13th franchise is enjoyable, yet clearly predictable. However, props must be awarded to the creators for at least making an attempt  at a novel idea- this time the “final girl” is not the damsel in distress type, but rather, gives as good as she gets. Friday the 13th: Part VII: The New Blood is a decent offering in the horror genre and certainly better than some of its companion films.

The main heroine is a telekinetic girl named  Tina Shepard (Lar Park Lincoln). Via flashbacks, we learn that Tina’s father was an alcoholic and abused her mother. When Tina’s telekinesis was unlocked ten years earlier, Tina caused her father’s drowning death, conveniently at Camp Crystal Lake. Tina has harbored deep regret ever since and is now treated by Doctor Crews (Terry Kiser). The duo- along with her mother- decide to stay at the lake where a group of partying kids take up residence next door. Apparently none of them have any idea who Jason Voorhees is.

The beginning and end are ridiculous even by horror standards as the action is way over the top and too convoluted to go into, but everything else is fine. The cast seems a bit larger than in other chapters, which is great because that means more kills. Unfortunately, many of the kills have been edited to make an R rating. (I try to watch NR horror films- no edits). My favorite kill by far is the “sleeping bag” kill. Awesome!! Unfortunately, the DVD version of this kill is severely edited from the theatrical version.

Also, Jason looks like a true monster in this one and that is to be applauded. Stuntman Kane Hodder would begin a successful stint at the killer and he looks the part. Friday the 13th: Part VII: The New Blood is a fun popcorn horror flick.

Eraserhead-1977

Eraserhead-1977

Director-David Lynch

Starring-Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart

Scott’s Review #541

Reviewed December 10, 2016

Grade: B+

Eraserhead is one of the oddest films that I have ever seen. The film is an early (1977) David Lynch film and is shot entirely in black and white. It is a surrealist horror film.

Entrancing is the locale of the film- a bleak wasteland, of sorts, in an even bleaker town-the name is unknown. Factory worker Henry Spencer (Nance) is garish in appearance-poofy/spiky hair, wild eyes, he is peculiar to say the least. He trods day after day, to and from his job, meeting interesting, yet grotesque characters. He has a child, who is inhuman with a snakelike face. Henry meets an odd woman, while carrying groceries home, and his apartment is filled with rotting vegetation.

While not one of Lynch’s best works, since the “plot” is incomprehensible to follow or make very much sense of, still, Eraserhead is a blueprint for his later works, with odd visuals, and even odder characters, and is to be revered for its imagination alone.

The film is definitely fascinating in its weirdness, but I probably never need to see it again. It’s a must see for any David Lynch fan for the warped experience.

Saw V-2008

Saw V-2008

Director-David Hackl

Starring-Tobin Bell, Donnie Wahlberg

Scott’s Review #532

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Reviewed December 1, 2016

Grade: B

The Saw movies are fun, bloody, late night flicks. It is quite helpful if you see them close together, and in sequence, as they either continue or backtrack to previous films- past knowledge is helpful. Saw V is no exception, as we learn the how’s and the why’s of serial killer Jigsaws, apprentice,  detective Mark Hoffman.  What would possess this man to follow in the footsteps of Jigsaw?

In their heyday, the Saw films were intriguing and more cerebral than the standard slice and dice ’em offerings. I like these films because there is usually a plot twist or some other surprise connection to an earlier entry in store. Also, the victims are not merely innocent’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, nor are they killed for the sake of killing. They typically have embezzled someone, maimed an innocent party, or caused someone pain in some fashion, so the audience does not feel sorry for them, making their various tortures tolerable to watch, if not satisfying.

In Saw V, as far as the kills go, we are treated to somebody being sliced in half, a decapitation, another blown to bits by a detonating bomb, bloodletting, a crushing to death, and various other forms of mutilation.

This is all well and good, but by Part V in a franchise, even the most clever of stories runs out of gas, and by this point the series is feeling a little tired, although still enjoyable for the puzzle of story connections. Saw V is a very bloody film, so not intended for the squeamish.

Piranha-2010

Piranha-2010

Director-Alexandre Aja

Starring-Richard Dreyfuss, Ving Rhames

Scott’s Review #529

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Reviewed November 29, 2016

Grade: C-

2010’s Piranha is a tongue-in-cheek (I hope!) horror comedy that saves itself from being complete drivel by having some sense of humor. Remarkably, it stars some decent talents- Richard Dreyfuss, Ving Rhames, and Elisabeth Shue. The film is pure fluff- not high art in the least, with nary a message or a purpose to be found.

The film is basically terrible, but kind of fun at the same time. It’s complete camp and not to be taken at all seriously. The plot is simplistic and standard horror fare- a school of piranhas are unleashed after an underwater earthquake, kill a fisherman, and ravage a college vacation party on a lake. The college kids come to Lake Victoria to party and lounge on the beach, and typically, are dressed precariously. They are unceremoniously ripped to shred by the angry and hungry killer fish.

Shue and Rhanes must have hit rough times, and have been in need of a paycheck to star in this. They play a Sheriff and Deputy- laughably unbelievable- as they try to protect the beach-goers from a grisly fate. Dreyfuss plays a ridiculous and unnecessary role as the aforementioned fisherman.

On a serious (and sour) note, the objectifying of women is shocking in this day and age. Haven’t we seen enough stereotypes for one lifetime? A few cool kills and humor, but basically a dumb, popcorn horror film.

The Last Exorcism-2010

The Last Exorcism-2010

Director-Daniel Stamm

Starring-Ashley Bell, Patrick Fabian

Scott’s Review #528

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Reviewed November 27, 2016

Grade: B+

The Last Exorcism is a really enjoyable independent horror film. I found it unique and creative, and is shot documentary style, so there is a level of watching something new and different in the horror world, that I appreciated. Certainly the usage of either hand-held or documentary footage has been done before, this film feels fresh and not cliche driven. Horror master Eli Roth produced the film.

A doubtful preacher (Reverend Cotton Marcus) who lives in Louisiana, sets out to perform his final exorcism with a documentary crew in tow, only to find a girl who really is possessed by the devil. Cotton is assumed a con-artist, so we doubt he actually can help the girl, which is what makes the film so interesting and unpredictable. What will happen next? Could the girl or her family be frauds?

The film is really scary and contains dark, creepy, ambiance. It reminds me a bit of The Blair Witch Project with the shaky camera and dark, raw tones, and independent nature. Recommended for fans of horror.

Devil-2010

Devil-2010

Director-John Erick Dowdle

Starring-Chris Messina

Scott’s Review #523

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Reviewed November 23, 2016

Grade: B

Devil is an enjoyable thriller/horror film that is deemed as the first in a trilogy, though it is unknown if the subsequent films will see the light of day since this film was not a smash success at the box office nor was it critically acclaimed. A fun fact is that the screenplay is based off of a story written by respected director, M. Night Shyamalan.

The premise is very good;  set in Philadelphia, a man suddenly jumps from a tall skyscraper to his death. We learn from a narrator that the devil takes many forms and makes his presence known by a suicide. Detective Bowden (Messina) is called to investigate the death. Eventually five people are stuck in an elevator and one is a killer, presumably the devil. The film is a whodunit of sorts and also a tale of morality, good versus evil.

Parts of the film are a bit hokey and suspension of disbelief is certainly required, but Devil is also a decent, edge of your seat thriller. Being only rated PG-13, the film tones down the gore and the death in favor of lighter, tamer activity. The revelation of the actual killer is surprising and rather enjoyable.

Saw VI-2009

Saw VI-2009

Director-Kevin Greutert

Starring-Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith

Scott’s Review #518

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Reviewed November 12, 2016

Grade: B

The Saw movies are a fun experience. They are like watching a puzzle form and there is usually some sort of twist or reveal at the end of each film, making them enjoyable. John Jigsaw’s torture legacy lives on in this film.

This installment picks up where Saw V left off and there are many flashback scenes to earlier installments so things make sense and all come together. The twist, however, is not as interesting as earlier ones, but the kills are extremely gory and the reasons behind the victims are always interesting. In typical fashion, the victims deserve, in some way, their punishments, either causing someone else’s death, or ripping someone off in their past, so the brutality is not exacted on the innocent.

Deaths and torturous methods such as a severed arm, busting temples, cages, hydrofluoric acid, and needles are all used in ready fashion.

For any Scream Queens reality show fans, Taneadra Howard has a role in this one. Decent movie, but not as good as other Saws.

28 Weeks Later-2007

28 Weeks Later-2007

Director-Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Starring-Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner

Scott’s Review #513

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Reviewed November 6, 2016

Grade: B-

At the time of its release, I remember 28 Weeks Later to be a successful follow-up to the original 28 Days Later, a clever play on the title and picking up events some seven months after the original. Watching the film now, however, I see flaws, mostly in the lack of character driven story and the resulting traditional action-type film. Still, the film is far from all bad.

The action begins as the audience meets a “family”, barricaded in a homey residence, attempting to resume normalcy in life by preparing and serving a delicious family dinner- almost reminiscent of Thanksgiving. The scene is tranquil and rich in familiarity. When a little boy pounds on the door to be let in, the terror begins and the Rage virus is proven to still be alive and well.

The story written for 28 Weeks Later has nothing to do with the original and contains none of the original characters. Rather, a father, mother, and young boy and girl, are the family that we follow throughout the film. Rose Byrne stars as a doctor- laughingly named Scarlet- and Jeremy Renner as a U.S. military presence, NATO having been sent in to keep order as best they can.

The opening sequence is fantastic as peacefulness turns deadly rather quickly and the characters are in immediate peril. Another scene, when father and mother are alone in a laboratory and events go awry, the sequence is gory, shocking, and quite heartfelt. These are merely moments, however, and are not quite enough to carry the film into a successful sequel.

Another positive to note about the film is, even more prevalent than in the original, are the wonderful location shots of London. From the London Eye to Big Ben to street shots of downtown London and the surrounding streets, are capably done and I loved seeing the ariel views of said city.  The conclusion at Wembley Stadium was also great. This was a treat for any fan of London and made the film a clear sense of location.

Conversely, I was not a fan of the characters in 28 Weeks Later. Whereas, in 28 Days Later, the characters were well drawn and compelling, rich with beauty and emotion, the same cannot be said for the sequel. In fact, I am unclear what the purpose of Renner’s tough, no-nonsense military type was for, or Byrne’s sympathetic, but pointless turn as a scientist/doctor. Both held little appeal and gave snore-worthy performances. Or perhaps the roles were just not written well. Regardless, neither worked. The dynamic between the father and mother did work, but the kids were not the best actors and I found their additions pointless as well.

The last scene, a frenetic trip through a tunnel by the infected and arriving in gorgeous Paris- a shot of the Eifel tower as proof, is a nice touch.

With a few nice touches added, cool location shots, intense peril in a few sequences, but with limited compelling characters, 28 Weeks Later is okay, but hardly an upgrade to the original or even close to the character driven film. No follow-up film, while initially planned, was ever completed.

Let Me In-2010

Let Me In-2010

Director-Matt Reeves

Starring-Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Grace Moretz

Scott’s Review #509

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Reviewed November 4, 2016

Grade: A-

I loved this film. It is nearly as exceptional as the original, Let the Right One In, which was Swedish. Billed as horror, it contains none of the typical horror cliches or corny dialogue- rather it is mysterious, compelling, and character driven. This in itself is refreshing. Additionally, the cinematography is exceptional in its coldness, darkness, and good old fashioned ambiance.

Let Me In is about a twelve year old outcast, named Owen,  who befriends a neighbor girl-Abby- who we learn is a vampire. Owen is bullied at school and through Abby, learns to stand up to his tormentors.

I am partial to foreign language films so, to me, the American version lacks the engaging language a bit and is not…well, foreign, so that detracts slightly, but not much at all, and this effort is quite remarkable.

This film is a horror film- in the classic sense of containing vampires and not being played for goofs- and quite gory, but also a beautiful, emotional film and the concepts of sadness and loneliness are explored. One of the best horror films I’ve seen in recent years.

28 Days Later-2002

28 Days Later-2002

Director-Danny Boyle

Starring-Cillian Murphy, Noah Huntley

Scott’s Review #507

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Reviewed November 2, 2016

Grade: B+

Before the influx of zombie related horror films and television shows filled the land- arguably offset by the success of The Walking Dead series, a little film came along- now almost teetering on its influence being forgotten- that presented this genre with fresh insight and creative storytelling posing questions amid the mayhem. 28 Days Later rejuvenated this largely dormant film category with a gritty story of peril among a group of survivors spared from a deadly virus. The film is smart as it explores morality issues and the needs of society to continue.

We initially are immersed in confusion as chaos immediately ensues. After a brief prologue of a group of laboratory chimpanzees gone mad, inflicted with rage, being let loose by animal liberators, and killing all present as well as inflicting the humans, we meet a lone man named Joe- the timing is relevant as it is “28 days later” from the incident. The young man awakens in a hospital to find himself alone amid downtown London- not a soul in sight.  Fortunately, he has been in a coma and missed the crumbling of society due to an outbreak- somehow Joe has been spared. Gradually, Joe meets others uninfected by the virus and they forge through the country in search of a military base rumored to be a safe haven.

The infected humans are not zombies, but rather, violent creatures who destroy anyone in their path. The film not only presents the grotesque creatures, but also challenges the audience to think in a political sense- how will the survivors forge a new society? How will women be treated differently from and by their male counterparts in a world that now lacks any police force or government?

My initial reaction to watching 28 Days Later- years after its initial release- is that it now seems slightly dated, but that has more to do with the legions of copycat films that have come after it and have been exposed to. We have become more encompassed by this type of film, both in genre and in style. Appreciation is warranted for its gritty, fast-paced camera-work, extreme violence, and the use of “infected” who turn from human being to vicious beings.

A fantastic part of this film is that it is not simply a horror film, it is more layered than that. There are moments of great beauty and tender moments among Joe and Selena- the sole surviving female other than the young, waif-like, Hannah, whose world has been shattered by the death of her loved ones. In one sad scene a couple have peacefully committed suicide, rather than face what would surely become of them.

There is a sense of a human story in 28 Days Later, which made me find the film heartfelt and almost sweet. Even the military soldiers- their motivations questionable- are relatable based on the world being turned upside down. A layered, complex, zombie film with some character driven elements.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch-1982

Halloween III: Season of the Witch-1982

Director-Tommy Lee Wallace

Starring-Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkins

Scott’s Review #506

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Reviewed November 1, 2016

Grade: B

Halloween III: Season of the Witch was met with much disdain when it was released in 1982- a mere one year following the very successful Halloween II- the sequel to the iconic Halloween. Fans (and critics) expecting a third chapter in the maniac wielding Michael Myers saga were sorely disappointed and perplexed at what they were “treated” to. After all, the title is billed as “III”. Therefore, the film was met with disapproval. To be clear, this film is not even in the slasher genre- more of a science fiction meets Twilight Zone.

Years later, this film would be heralded as a not so bad offering from a stand-alone film perspective. A different title might have been wise, but at the risk of being a forgotten film.  I agree with the sentiment-it’s not a fantastic film- the plot far from its strong suit, but a brave film and one that has aged well. Apparently, the franchise creators (John Carpenter and Debra Hill) had hoped to create an anthology type film series with different chapters all surrounding the holiday of Halloween. This was not to be and Michael Myers would return for the fourth installment. Director Tommy Lee Wallace was also affiliated with the original Halloween.

The story actually begins a week before Halloween (reaching a crescendo on Halloween) as shop-owner, Harry Grimbridge,  runs along a highway in northern California, panicked and fleeing from corporate looking men in business suits- he clutches a Halloween mask. Finally rushed to the hospital by a stranger, he is killed by one of the business men, who then sets himself on fire. Grimbridge manages to tell Dr. Dan Challis that “They’re going to kill us.” Challis and Grimbridge’s daughter, Ellie, mount an investigation to solve the mystery of her father’s demise. Naturally a romance ensues between the pair.

The film, while not a stinker, does have some issues. The corporate greed that we realize exists by villain, Cochran, the founder of a company producing Halloween masks and responsible for the prosperity of a town is silly. Even more perplexing are his motivations- he plans to sacrifice children wearing the masks to honor some ancient witchcraft- huh? He creates androids as his henchmen and airs creepy television commercials to release a signal- and there are strange bugs that emerge from the masks, thereby killing the mask wearers. The story is ludicrous.

Others gripes involve no chemistry between leads Tom Atkins and Stacey Nelkin, and the shameful waste of actress Nancy Loomis’s (Annie Brackett from Halloween) time and talents as she is reduced to a one-scene appearance as nagging and haggard looking, ex-wife of Challis. She deserved better and would have been perfect in the lead female role. The fact that Loomis was married to director Wallace makes this even more surprising- they were later divorced.

The negative attributes listed above would make one think that I detested this film, but somehow it is compelling in its own right. The musical score is one highlight of Halloween III. Techie and new-wave-ish, it really does wonders at portraying peril and creepiness- especially where the male androids are concerned. And the sing-along jingle to the tune of the classic children’s song, “London Bridge is Falling Down”, encouraging children to buy the masks, is superb.

Though the story does not work- the subject does contain a throwback to science fiction films of yesteryear- most notably, highly resembling Invasion of the Body Snatchers in its eeriness and mystique, that renders the film appealing. In the end a character we do not suspect is revealed to be an android spinning the plot into a fun finale.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch is flawed, but becomes a bit of an acquired taste- appreciated a bit more over the years- if for no other reason than going against the grain and trying to be something different and creative. The story fails, but other little nuances succeed immeasurably.

Halloween II-1981

Halloween II-1981

Director-Rick Rosenthal

Starring-Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence

Scott’s Review #505

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Reviewed October 31, 2016

Grade: A

The follow-up to the surprise 1978 cult classic, independently made Halloween- directed by legend John Carpenter,  Halloween II was made in 1981. In real life it is three years later, but in the film picking up immediately where the original left off in a chronological sense- the infamous night Michael Myers came home to brutalize the town where he killed his sister years earlier. This is an excellent plot point that makes this film successful as it takes the viewer immediately back to that infamous night. Halloween II is one of my personal favorite film sequels.

Despite not directing Halloween II, John Carpenter, along with Debra Hill, both wrote the script so that they are, thankfully, heavily involved in the production of this film, giving it authenticity and familiarity. So much so that Halloween and Halloween II can be watched back to back- like one long film.

Michael Myers path of destruction continues in the sleepy, suburban town of Haddonfield, Illinois. This point looms large in this fantastic sequel and we are treated to a direct transition from original to sequel. The events switch from babysitter territory to the community hospital as new characters- mostly doctors, nurses, and ambulance people are introduced to the story, Laurie’s friends are sadly deceased.  Certainly, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Doctor Loomis (Donald Pleasence) are the main stars of the film and by the climax take center stage.

As a recap- the determined Loomis shot Michael Myers several times as he tumbled off of a balcony to his presumed death. In spectacular fashion, the original Halloween brilliantly set the stage for a sequel, as Myers survives and disappears into the night-whereabouts unknown. Now hours later, Laurie is transported to Haddonfield hospital for treatment.  While there, the hospital staff do their best to protect her, but are subsequently offed one by one by the crazed killer, who finds his way into the (conveniently!) deserted hospital.

A great quality to Halloween II is that it is gorier than it’s predecessor. More characters are sliced and diced in unceremoniously brutal fashion. One has her blood drained, another is stabbed in the eye with a syringe. Yet another is repeatedly dunked into scalding water. And then there is the traditional knife in the back.

In contrast to many other slasher films, the supporting cast of characters are quite likable and they are given little back stories of their own- a great touch. Bud- the wise cracking ambulance driver is dating Nurse Karen. Jimmy, a handsome orderly, takes a shine to Laurie. Mixed in with the clearly heavy horror are nice comic moments, as when Nurse Janet ineptly tries to assist the hospital security guard- the bumbling Mr. Garrett, with a walkie-talkie, or when Head Nurse Mrs. Alves scolds the staff for being tardy. We grow to care for these characters, in their little night-shift family, so that their inevitable demises hit home.

The chilling music- so instrumental to the success of the original- is slightly modernized into more of a keyboard style sound. This gives a slicker, more commercial appeal. Not to take away from the brilliance of the original score, but it is nice to hear a change- giving a fresher, more contemporary sound, rather than simply copying the same music.

Admittedly, Halloween II is not quite on par with Halloween, but that is asking the impossible. Halloween is a masterpiece, but Halloween II holds its own and is more than adequate as a sequel having large shoes to fill. Thanks to many of the same creators involved, it does not lose its edge nor its relevance all these years later.

Halloween: H2O-1998

Halloween: H2O-1998

Director-Steve Miner

Starring-Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin

Scott’s Review #504

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Reviewed October 30, 2016

Grade: B

Halloween: H2O is the seventh installment of the Halloween franchise, though only associated story-wise with Halloween and Halloween II. Made in 1998, the film capitalized on the twenty year anniversary of the original classic horror film. To measure up to that masterpiece would be an impossibility, but the film is not bad on its own merits and nice odes to the past are peppered into the story making for a film franchise pleaser. Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the role that made her famous.

Before we are even re-introduced to Curtis’s character, we are treated to a nostalgic scene involving chain smoking Nurse Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) from parts I and II. Her house is vandalized by Michael Myers as he steals a file she has kept on Laurie Strode. How nice to see this character back in the fray- though her screen time is limited. She is pivotal to the kick-off of the new story.

Laurie (Curtis) has faked her death and is now living life anew in California- running a prep school as its headmistress. Her son John (Josh Hartnett) attends the school and her boyfriend Will (Adam Arkin) teaches there.  John’s girlfriend Molly (Michelle Williams), a poetic security guard (LL Cool J), and a dizzy secretary, Mrs. Watson,(Janet Leigh) round out the cast.

For the past twenty years, Laurie has been troubled by the notion of Michael Myers returning to kill her and clearly her fears come to fruition. The film has an interesting slant- no longer is Laurie the victim, cowering in cars and corners. Now, she is intent on exacting her own revenge on Michael- her brother. She wants this long chapter in her life finally closed.

What nods to history this film contains!  And is really the best part of it. Otherwise, without the history, it would be a run of the mill slasher film. Besides the obvious Michael/Laurie connection, what a treat to see Jamie Lee Curtis’s real-life mother (and original scream queen herself), Janet Leigh. Furthermore, her character’s car is the exact make and model, and same license plate, from 1960’s Psycho, in which she starred- a brilliant treat for horror and classic film fans.

The film also uses some impressive stylistic choices- the use of mirrors and reflections are used successfully, as well as events occurring in the background- seen by the audience, but not the other characters are well used.

Halloween: H2O contains several young, up and coming stars, who, years later, would be big stars (Hartnett, Williams, and a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Who new these talents got their starts in one of the greatest horror franchises?

Let’s be clear- Halloween: H2O is not a masterpiece- far from it. The horror clichés run rampant- the silly, supporting characters (friends of John and Molly’s) eager to drink and party and clearly meant for comic relief, in addition to the LL Cool J character. These characters are stock types. Predictably, we more than once think that Michael Myers is finally dead- only to resurface- perfectly timed to the plot.

The inevitable standoff between Laurie and Michael Myers is well done and a satisfying conclusion to a fantastic franchise. Laurie gets her revenge while Myers gets his just desserts in dramatic fashion.

April Fool’s Day-1986

April Fool’s Day-1986

Director-Fred Walton

Starring-Amy Steel, Jay Baker

Scott’s Review #498

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Reviewed October 24, 2016

Grade: B-

Emerging at the tale end of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s slasher film craze that encompassed that period in cinema (for better or worse), April Fool’s Day capitalized on the “holiday theme” marketing tool that escalated Halloween and Black Christmas to superstar ranks.

Unfortunately, for this film, it is not a traditional horror flick, in that is has plenty of comic elements, but also contains the standard slasher characteristics, thereby making it a blockbuster failure. Is does not know what its identity truly is. From a story perspective, the film has one great twist, but otherwise suffers from mediocre writing and unmemorable characters that nobody cares about.

We are treated to an ensemble of actors, mostly of the unknown variety, except for horror maven Amy Steel, (Friday the 13th Part 2), who portrays Kit, arguably the most relatable of the female characters . A clever facet, weaved by director Fred Walton, is the casting of eight principals in April Fool’s Day, all with similar amounts of screen time, rather than one obvious “final girl” surrounded by minor characters, who we know will be offed.

The set-up is all too familiar in the slasher genre- the group of college-aged kids escapes mundane life for a spring break weekend getaway at their wealthy classmates, Muffy St. John’s, island estate. Conveniently, her family is away- leaving the friends to have the run of the mansion, with a dinner party as part of the plan. Even more convenient is that the ferry the group takes does not run on weekends, so once they are dropped off at the island, there they stay until Monday. This sense of foreshadowing gets the anticipated peril and dread going.

We also sense that there is something very off with Muffy- despite being everyone’s friend. When Muffy finds a jack-in-the-box stored in her attic, and has a childhood recollection, we know this is the set-up to the mystery. Is she mentally unstable? Is someone out to get Muffy for a childhood prank or event that once occurred?

Since it is April Fool’s Day weekend, the groups spends most of the film playing pranks and amateurish jokes on each other (a whoopee cushion, an exploding cigar), mixed with a dash of intrigue- someone is leaving trails of past history as part of the jokes. One girl had an abortion, so the prankster leaves an audio tape of a baby crying. In another room, heroin paraphernalia is left for someone with a former drug habit. Slowly, one by one, the college kids disappear one by one, but is it just a hoax? Or is the hoax just a hoax?

The final twenty minutes or so is really the main reason to watch this film. As Kit and boyfriend Rob are the last remaining “alive” there is suddenly a startling twist that changes the entire dynamic of the film- in one moment everything the audience thinks of the story is turned upside down-this is wise writing, but comes too late in the game.

Sadly, some parts of the film are downright silly and most of the characters are of the stock variety- the flirtatious blonde, the obnoxious jocks, the stuck-up preppy, which ruins the creative twist that is aforementioned.

With glimpses of genius and striving for something more clever than the standard, run of the mill 1980’s horror film, April Fool’s Day has some potential, but ultimately winds up with something missing and heaps of unearthed potential.

I Spit on Your Grave-2010

I Spit on Your Grave-2010

Director-Steven R. Monroe

Starring-Sarah Butler

Scott’s Review #492

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Reviewed October 9, 2016

Grade: B+

Too often in the horror genre, remakes of classic or cult classic gems are spewed out with high hopes, but of little worth, and more often than not, quickly forgotten, fading into oblivion. This is not the case with I Spit on Your Grave.

I Spit on Your Grave is a 2010 remake of the original film from 1978 and just as disturbing. Having seen the original and being shocked at the content, I did not expect the same of the re-telling. Much to my surprise, this version contains the same intensity and is fraught with brutality- however, not in an unnecessary way.

The film tells the story of a young writer who leaves the hustle and  bustle of New York City for a couple of months rest and relaxation in the country to work on a novel she is writing.  While there, she is brutally raped by a bunch of local men.  As terrible as this is, the victim then exacts revenge on all of them, one by one, which is the real crux of the story and we cheer on her (just as brutal) vengeance.

The rape scenes are quite intense and difficult to watch, but necessary, as the viewer wants the perpetrators tortured and maimed…which they are. This film is for horror fans who like it brutal.

Holidays-2016

Holidays-2016

Director-Anthony Scott Burns, Miscellaneous

Starring-Jocelin Donohue, Sophie Traub

Scott’s Review #460

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Reviewed August 7, 2016

Grade: A-

While perusing my Netflix streaming new releases options , I stumbled upon an intriguing choice with an interesting premise. Eight varying horror vignettes all set in a holiday theme, aptly named Holidays. The description of the stories harkens back to the days of the beloved Showtime Masters of Horrors  series that featured macabre horror shorts. Not all eight offerings are spectacular, but the ones that standout are dynamic if not downright creepy.

Set in chronological order, Holidays begins with a story centered on Valentine’s Day- a clear homage to the horror classic Carrie. A taunted female teenager nicknamed “Maxi-Pad” by her cruel nemesis is encouraged to dive into the high school pool by her male coach to retrieve a brick, presumably to conquer her fear of swimming or water. The coach, who Maxi is in love with, is in need of a heart transplant, so Maxi goes to morbid lengths to assist him and exact revenge on her tormentor.

In Father’s Day, a young female teacher receives a mysterious cassette tape from her long estranged father, leading her on an adventure in an abandoned area, in an attempt to now locate her father, wonderfully voiced by actor Michael Gross. The voice tones and static sound of the audio tape lend a great deal to the intrigue and suspense of the story.

Along with the Valentine’s Day story, the Christmas and New Year’s Eve segments are my personal favorites as each are exceptional and creative. On Christmas Eve, a young father attempts to buy the last virtual reality device for his son, but when he leaves a stranger to die in order to obtain it, he becomes haunted by the device. On New Year’s Eve, a male serial killer looks for his next victim, a lonely woman desperate for an online date, but once they return to her house for sex, who becomes the hunter and who becomes the victim?

Other holidays featured in either too bizarre to make perfect sense or less compelling stories, but still worth mentioning, are St. Patrick’s day, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Halloween.

I adore the holiday theme that this film cleverly features and the wonder of which holiday will come next and exactly how it will be incorporated into the story is wonderful fun. Specifically, the Christmas story reminds me of a classic Twilight Zone episode in which betraying an unknown stranger for personal gain leads to guilt and conflict for the main character.

A few of the stories focus on the traditions of the featured holidays, like the legendary snakes of St. Patrick’s day or the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday, as a frightened young girl becomes terrified of the folklore involved. This is incorporated with the  legend of the Easter bunny delivering candy as the confused girl cannot separate fairy tale from reality, which makes me wonder if the director’s point was to question the silliness of religion if one were to dissect it enough.

Other themes are revenge as in the Halloween and Valentine’s Day episodes.  Both feature bullies in one way or another, each getting their due in the end.  I wish more anthologies like Holidays were made as it was a fascinating, late night joy to watch this feature.

The Witch-2016

The Witch-2016

Director-Robert Eggers

Starring-Anya Taylor Joy, Ralph Ineson

Scott’s Review #446

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Reviewed July 7, 2016

Grade: B+

The Witch is a slow-build 2016 horror film that plods with a sinister wickedness and left this viewer thinking well beyond the credits. Is it a message movie? Clearly good versus evil and containing a definite religious umbrella encompassing the entire film, it is god against the devil and guess which one wins out? To be transparent, this film will undoubtedly offend the staunch religious.

Set in 1600’s New England and entitled- “The Witch- A New England Folktale”, we meet a Puritan family banished from the village they inhabit. They are forced to begin a life on their own and build a farm struggling to survive by selling family heirlooms in secret. William and Katherine are the parents, followed by teenage daughter, Thomasin, son Caleb, and youngsters, Mercy and Jonas. Their recent addition to the family, Samuel, is snatched by a mysterious creature appearing in the shape of a witch. We only see her draped in red as she sneaks into the woods holding the infant. From the families perspective, they know not who (or what) has taken Samuel) and they tell themselves that it was a wolf, but soon they are not so convinced and Thomasin is assumed to be a witch.

I adore how this film is not set in modern times, undoubtedly a turn-off for some viewers. The thick English dialect is almost Shakespearean at times and challenging to follow at others, but rich in culture at the same time. The time period is unsettling for some reason as is the absolute purity of the family- too good to be true? Much of the film is shot in daytime- unlike many horror films- and this actually adds to the tension- combined with the creepy musical score- strings are used.

At one hour and thirty-two minutes, the very short film feels longer- it truly does move at a snails pace, but the final act makes up for this as something all along told me it would. It simply has a creepy feel to it and nightmarish events occur at the films finale.

Some of The Witch is open to interpretation. At times I suspected one family member or another of perhaps being evil, but the film is really not that straightforward and some complexities arise. For instance, do spirits possess the animals? When Thomasin milks a goat and blood runs out is this supposed to represent female menstruation?

A thinking man’s horror film, which is refreshing within the horror genre or any other genre for that matter, The Witch is unorthodox and thought provoking, which makes it a winner in my book.

The Fog-2005

The Fog-2005

Director-Rupert Wainwright

Starring-Tom Welling, Maggie Grace

Scott’s Review #444

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Reviewed July 4, 2016

Grade: D

The Fog is a 2005 remake of the original The Fog from 1980 and it is overall not very good. In fact, it sucks. Why original creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill had anything to do with it is completely beyond me unless they needed some fast cash. It is so modernized that it loses the mystique that the original had.

The credit that it does deserve is for a few good scares and keeping with the same characters as the original had. Otherwise, it is largely a disaster. For starters, the ending is completely changed from the original and contains some ridiculous, silly fantasy elements that simply do not work at all.

An interesting actress in the television series Lost, Maggie Grace, clearly attempting to embark on a film career, is wooden and one-dimensional. In fact, there is no good acting in the entire movie. Not that I expect great acting in a horror film, but it just adds to the mess of storytelling and writing.

A big fail.