Category Archives: Horror Films

Devil-2010

Devil-2010

Director-John Erick Dowdle

Starring-Chris Messina

70142822

Reviewed January 31, 2011

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

70119356

Reviewed February 5, 2011

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

70058018

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

70135744

Reviewed February 20, 2011

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

60027998

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

569108

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

569099

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

16915002

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

60024022

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

70138803

Reviewed March 4, 2011

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

80096585

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

80037280

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

70038804

Reviewed March 24, 2013

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.

House at the End of the Street-2012

House at the End of the Street-2012

Director-Mark Tonderai

Starring-Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue

70215438

Reviewed March 31, 2013

Grade: B

House at the End of the Street is a perfect example of a horror film that has excellent effects and great potential, but the storytelling brings it down. It is also a film starring Jennifer Lawrence, before she was the Oscar winning star. Her performance is an adequate effort, and she does what she can in the lead role. Lawrence is likeable in this role and is the clear hero of the film.

The film itself looks great. It certainly has all of the necessary horror elements: a creepy house in the woods, darkness, sudden scares. The buildup during the first half of the movie is very interesting and the audience is not quite sure what’s to come and what mysteries and secret lurk in the title house.

During the final thirty minutes, however, when the twist is revealed, the film becomes a predictable, by the numbers, thriller and disappoints at the end. The story becomes so convoluted it hardly matters anymore. First half- great; second half- fail.

I was happy to see Elisabeth Shue in this movie, as she has been out of the limelight for years, her character, though,  is quite one dimensional.

Film summary- great looking horror film, mediocre writing.

The Woman in Black-2012

The Woman in Black-2012

Director-James Watkins

Starring-Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer

70206133

Reviewed May 15, 2013

Grade: C

The Woman in Black is an example of a recent trend in modern horror films-  great effects (shadows, lighting, ghosts, some scares), but the story is not compelling and, in fact, made no sense to me.

The eerie setting of foggy London and a creepy seaside village are perfect. The cinematography dynamic, it instantly elicits a feeling of dread, coldness, and secrets. From that point the story sinks into a muddled mess of unbelievable story twists that, instead of compelling, confuse the viewer until he or she no longer cares. That is a shame.

I give Daniel Radcliffe credit for trying to shake his Harry Potter image by going the horror route and, I suspect, that is the entire point of the film, as it clearly centers around Radcliffe, but, to me, it seemed like I was still watching a Harry Potter movie.

Nice effects, poor story. This one will be forgotten before long.

Evil Dead-2013

Evil Dead-2013

Director-Fede Alvarez

Starring-Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez

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Reviewed May 24, 2013

Grade: B

Having recently seen the original Evil Dead, directed by horror master Sam Raimi, from the early 1980’s, the recent remake is fine, but not as compelling as the original. Hardly the most terrifying film you will ever experience either. Quite low budget was the original, the remake is very modern and glossy looking, though with a tiny cast of characters.

The film is set almost entirely inside of a cabin in the middle of nowhere, at night, and has wonderful mood and contains all the necessary horror elements. A Book of the Dead is unearthed and one by one the youngsters are possessed by evil spirits. The film is entertaining, lots of well done gore (loved the bathroom face-cutting scene), and while over-the-top, did not seem overly cartoonish. It has a fresh energy.

Clearly, some liberties are taken (in reality someone with a torn off limb would not continue to walk around like nothing happened). There is a silly drug addiction sub-plot that feels unnecessary. There are some genuine scares and all in all an enjoyable horror movie-going experience.

Paranormal Activity 4-2012

Paranormal Activity 4-2012

Director-Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman

Starring-Katie Featherston

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Reviewed June 6, 2013

Grade: B

Circa 2013, and at this point in the Paranormal Activity  film franchise (with part 5 on its way) one pretty much knows what to expect. To me the plot is almost secondary.

In the story the newborn from the first installment is now age 7 and living next door to the family at the center of the film. The entertaining aspect of these films are the camera angles and occasional scares that sporadically follow.

The ending to Paranormal Activity 4 is effective and a bit scary, in fact. The original Paranormal Activity was a huge hit and novel idea at the time (though The Blair Witch Project originally did the hand-held videotape) and was a water-cooler movie.

I’m not sure how much life remains in the franchise, but for fans of it and horror fans seeking some good thrills, this one is worth checking out.

Five Dolls For An August Moon-1970

Five Dolls For An August Moon-1970

Director-Mario Bava

Starring-William Berger, Howard Ross

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Reviewed April 9, 2016

Grade: B-

Five Dolls For An August Moon is a 1970 Italian horror film by horror maestro Mario Brava, a well regarded director of the genre. Being relatively a novice to his films, but knowing his name, I expected a bit more from the film than I was treated to.  From a critics consensus Five Dolls For An August Moon is not considered to be one of his better films- not even close. I found some positive elements to the film, but ultimately it did not come together in a concise or compelling way. The dubbing from Italian to the English language is poor and I would have preferred more authenticity to watch in the native Italian language.

Containing a fascinating and mysterious premise, a group of gorgeous people gather on a sunny, remote desert island- somewhere off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Owned by wealthy industrialist George Stark, the weekend is intended to be one of socializing, fun, and relaxation. It appears to be summer(hence the title) and the vacationers exude a sexuality and sense of good style. The beach house is lavish and sophisticated and it is suggested that all are brilliant, or at least, riding on the coat-tails of those who are. One of the guests is famed chemist, Professor Gerry Farrell, who has recently created a revolutionary formula, and it is quickly revealed that all of the guests are industrialists with plans to buy the formula from him at any price. Incensed, Farrell refuses to budge and, suddenly, one by one, the guests are killed off in typical gruesome horror fashion.

I am a sucker for a good whodunit, and Five Dolls For An August Moon appears to be in the Agatha Christie’s- And Then There Were None style of intrigue, but this aspect of the film proves to be the most trivial and uninteresting as the plot moves along.  The characters motives were unclear (yes, I get they all wanted the secret formula), but the real necessity of having it besides, presumably money, which they all appeared to already have plenty of, was dull. The ending of the film and the “big reveal”, while clever, was also overly complicated for this type of film.

The film was for its time (1970), very provocative in look and style and that impresses. Featuring a groovy, psychedelic soundtrack, bright, trendy clothing, and a sunny set, the film challenges the tried and true horror elements, especially foreign horror (darkness, rain, fog, gloom) and this really makes the film work from a cinematic perspective. One cannot help but watch this film and think of director Russ Myer as a heavy influence. The casting of good looking Italian actors, both male and female- the females busty and gorgeous- the men stylish and cool, reminiscent of Myer male actors, is noteworthy.

Interesting, and another glaring example of how other countries progressive sexual viewpoints contrast with the more conservative United States, is that many of the couples on the island are involved sexually with other people on the island, including a lesbian romance, highly unusual to show in 1970. These shenanigans give Five Dolls For An August Moon a more creative, suave, and sexual intrigue.

A highly effective, and creepy, aspect of the film is the keeping of the corpses in a freezer with plastic bags over the victims heads- meat locker style. Eyes bulging, with the clear bags giving a ghastly view, I immediately thought of the still to come masterpiece, Black Christmas, and how this film might have been an influence with a similar scene of a victim wrapped in plastic with a gruesome facial expression. This is good horror stuff.

Five Dolls For An August Moon is not a great film, but it does have some edgy elements, a cool look, and thanks to great direction from Mario Brava, does some influencing of films to come. A decent horror flick, and a worthwhile investment for fans of Italian horror- Brava is a heavy hitter and, next to Dario Argento, is the master in Italian horror films.

My Bloody Valentine-1981

My Bloody Valentine-1981

Director-George Mihalka

Starring-Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier

Top 20 Horror Films-#20

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Grade: A

Reviewed May 15, 2016

My Bloody Valentine is a perfect slasher film to watch on the romantic holiday of Valentine’s Day or, in fact, any day during the cold and snowy month of February. The film sort of loses something if watched during summer or any other time of the year, since the dark and harsh feeling of the film is perfect atmosphere if watched appropriately.

In my opinion, My Bloody Valentine is an underrated gem of the early 1980’s- just as Black Christmas was to the 1970’s- and both ironically are heralded so by directors such as Quentin Tarantino. Other less gritty films of this nature received greater exposure and commercial success, but I am proud to name My Bloody Valentine as one of my Top 100 favorite films. Both are also “holiday themed” films.

The plot is basic, yet layered, with a unique setting. Rather than a creepy house, a summer camp, or some other tried and true device, we have the ingenious coal mine setting- immediately fraught with great potential. Think about it- a coal mine is dark, suffocating, creepy, with countless secret passages, the fear of being lost, and running out of oxygen. It is also underground where help can easily be unobtainable. The town is aptly named Valentine Bluff (how clever) so Valentine’s Day is a major holiday. The Mayor and police chief figure prominently in the story and the use of town history makes the film engaging.

Typical for the slasher genre we have a bunch of horny teens, partying to the max, who decide that the coal mine is the perfect place to throw a Valentine’s Day party, and they do so with gusto. There are a few middle-aged characters with meaty stuff to do, and the main plot is of the whodunit sort. The killer’s get up is simply genius. He (or she) is wearing a miner’s outfit, completely dark, with an oxygen mask, which elicits a heavy breathing sound adding to the great atmosphere that My Bloody Valentine contains.

One of my favorite scenes involves the offing of Mabel Osbourne, the earnest, sweet-natured party planner, who excitedly is preparing the annual Valentine’s day town dance. She marvels at receiving a box of chocolates with a wonderful poem until she reads the poem. “Roses are red, violets are blue- two are dead and so are you”! Poor Mabel then has her heart removed and it is sent (gift wrapped naturally) to the Mayor and police chief. The scene is both horrific and comical.

My Bloody Valentine is a favorite of the genre for me and actually cascades that genre with its bloodiness, fun storytelling, and wicked charm.

The Omen-1976

The Omen-1976

Director-Richard Donner

Starring-Gregory Peck, Lee Remick

Top 100 Films-#67     Top 20 Horror Films-#18

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Reviewed February 24, 2017

Grade: A

On the heels of similarly themed supernatural horror films, and all three classics in my view, The Omen follows suit with the religious minded terrifying piece that resembles both The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby. In fact, all three films are cherished gems and favorite horror films of mine. Clearly, The Omen (last to be released) is quite possibly the weaker entry having taken much from the other two films, and at the forefront is a child encompassed by devilish forces. But to say “weaker” implies it is not good, which is not the case- The Omen is a masterpiece.

Set mostly in London, the film actually begins in Rome. Gregory Peck plays a powerful diplomat, Robert Thorn. Robert’s wife, Katherine (Lee Remick), has just given birth to a baby, who dies. Unbeknownst to her, Robert and a priest have taken a newborn whose mother has just died, thereby fooling Katherine into thinking she has delivered a healthy baby boy. They name their child Damien. Soon, Robert is named U.S. Ambassador of the United Kingdom- an astounding honor, but his and Katherine’s lives spin out of control when strange events begin to occur surrounding Damien, and they realize the child is not “right”.

I adore the many aspects of The Omen. The locale of sophisticated and royal London is perfect. The Thorn’s live in a grand, palatial estate just oozing with possible horror elements. During a vast party for little Damien’s fifth birthday, the attendees are gathered on the perfectly manicured grounds of the Thorn home. It is a bright and cheery afternoon. Suddenly, from the top floor bedroom window, Damien’s fresh faced nanny publicly hangs herself from the window proudly shouting, “This is all for you Damien”! This scene is one of the most horrific and surprising scenes in the film. When Damien’s new nanny shows up, she is off-putting and sinister. The inclusion of a pack of black dogs hovering around the estate is fiendish, and an innocent trip to the zoo results in the scared animals fleeing from Damien as if he is the anti-christ, which of course, he is revealed to be.

Fantastic is the religious element of The Omen, a sure measure to frighten and freak out audiences brave enough to watch this film. Who will not be on edge as a sweet looking little kid is assumed to be the devil?  Religious elements in horror have been prevalent through the ages, and hardly work better than they do in The Omen. Perhaps it is the Italian and British accents and settings that add layers of fear to the film?

What I love most about the film is its cynicism. The Omen is not a happy film by any means, nor does it result in a happy ending- Satan wins in the end. Two memorable scenes are the pole through the heart of the priest scene and the gruesome decapitation of a photographer by a sheet of glass. In both scenes Satan causes the deaths.

The finale of the film is incredibly compelling and downright shocking- the face off of Robert and Damien in a church and the prevailing conclusion sets the stage for a sequel, which of course there was more than one. The sinister smile at the end of the film is immeasurable in its evil nature. The Omen is a film that I love to watch and revel in fright when the chills start to creep up my back. What a fantastic film.

The Exorcist-1973

The Exorcist-1973

Director-William Friedkin

Starring-Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair

Top 100 Films-#39    Top 20 Horror Films-#13

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Reviewed February 11, 2017

Grade: A

Making a lasting mark on cinematic history and impossible not to be familiar with through some form of pop culture, The Exorcist is a classic supernatural horror film that transcends the genre to become a Hollywood success story. Along with Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, these three films have similarly haunting “religious” subject matters and deal with dark and sinister topics such as “god versus the devil” and “good versus evil”. The Exorcist is a masterpiece on every level and is adapted from the 1971 hit novel of the same name.

The story centers on “demonic possession” and was quite simply a shocking subject when The Exorcist was released in 1973, scaring the wits out of those brave enough to see it (especially Christians) everywhere. Some abhorred the subject matter and refused to have any part of the film-their loss.

Ellen Burstyn stars as Chris MacNeil, an actress of note who moves to Georgetown to film a movie. In tow is her twelve year old daughter Regan (Linda Blair). As shooting on the film wraps, Regan begins acting very strangely- making noises, becoming belligerent, and peeing on the floor during a dinner party. Worried, Chris enlists the assistance of priests (Max von Sydow and Jason Miller). Things progress from bad to worse as Regan spirals out of control and Chris and the priests determine that an exorcism is the only resolution to the problem.

The Exorcist-mainly director William Freidkin sets up the film in a clever way by using various technical elements to build the tension. For starters, the eerie musical score is highly successful at scaring the audience and the score is similar to that of Rosemary’s Baby. The film is also lit very well, so it appears dark with dim lighting- the cinematography and the windy rustling of leaves in the exterior sets is great. The cover art of the film should give an indication of the unique style used- black and white, a man with a hat and suitcase peers up at the second floor of a house where a glowing light is illuminating- the image is intriguing and haunting.

Enough cannot be said for Linda Blair’s performance as Regan, especially in the final act. Certainly, during the “pea soup” and the “jesus crucifix” scenes a different voice was used, but the facial expressions and the emotions that Blair uses are admirable. As Regan is bed-ridden, angry, scared, and emotional, there is no limit to Blair’s range. Throughout a large part of the film she is a sweet, young girl- innocent, so much so that her transformation is both shocking and disturbing to witness.

The final act of the film- the “exorcism” is riveting and a groundbreaking aspect of film history. The terrifying scene all taking place in one child’s tiny bedroom elicits fright and is nail-biting beyond belief. The Exorcist is a very influential film that inspired filmmakers for decades to come and still resonates with audiences to this day.

Carrie-1976

Carrie-1976

Director-Brian De Palma

Starring-Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie

Top 100 Films-#37     Top 20 Horror Films-#12

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Reviewed September 25, 2016

Grade: A

Carrie is a horror film from 1976 that is adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name. Many King adaptations have been fails, but Carrie (along with The Shining) is among the best. Going beyond the scope of horror and receiving more than one major Oscar nomination (largely unheard of in horror), Carrie influenced films and filmmakers for decades beyond release. This is largely due to the dream-like and breathtaking direction of mood master Brian De Palma.

By this time (2016), the film and the character of Carrie White are legendary. Carrie (Sissy Spacek) is a lonely suburban teenager, ostracized by her classmates for being “weird”. Her mother (Piper Laurie) is a devout Christian who spreads the word of god amongst the neighbors. Carrie has a special ability to move things, usually during anger- this is called telekinesis. After a humiliating incident in the girls locker room when Carrie begins menstruating, one of the nicer girls in the class, Sue Snell (Amy Irving) feels sorry for Carrie and convinces her boyfriend, Tommy Ross, to take Carrie to the prom. When others in the class take revenge upon Carrie with a sick joke, things take a horrific turn.

Betty Buckley as the empathetic gym teacher, Miss Collins, and John Travolta and Nancy Allen, as dastardly Billy and Chris, also star and are perfectly cast.

The direction in the film is second to none. De Palma adds interesting camera work throughout the film. During a tender, lovely prom dance between Carrie and Tommy, the camera circles the pair repeatedly, giving a spellbinding, but not dizzying quality. The use of slow motion in the important “pig blood” scene is immeasurably effective. The seemingly eternal time it takes for the blood spilling to occur, the camera (in slow motion) goes from Sue to Miss Collins to Chris to the bucket of blood is fantastic. The list of inspired and intense scenes go on and on- from the climactic scene between Carrie and Mrs. White to the “jump out of your seat” final scene.

The acting is also worthy of high praise. Spacek and Laurie deservedly received Oscar nominations for their work. Spacek elicits so much rooting value into her role with a shred of psychosis bubbling just beneath the surface. Carrie wants to fit in and have a happy life so the audience is immersed in her corner and celebrates her short-lived happiness with Tommy at the prom. Spacek is just perfectly cast. Laurie on the other hand, exudes crazy in every sense, but we do feel pangs of sympathy for her. We largely believe she cares for her daughter and wants to protect her from the dangerous world.

Carrie is a masterpiece that continues to hold up well and influence generations who can relate to school bullying,  taunting, and the desire to see the nasty popular kids get their just desserts. More than a great horror film, it is a revered classic with a dreamy, moody vibe. One of my all-time favorites.

The Silence of the Lambs-1991

The Silence of the Lambs-1991

Director-Jonathan Demme

Starring-Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster

Top 100 Films-#31     Top 20 Horror Films-#9

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Reviewed February 9, 2017

Grade: A

The Silence of the Lambs has the honorary achievement of being one of only three films to win the top five Oscar statuettes, having been awarded Best Picture, Best Director (Jonathan Demme), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins) and Best Actress (Jodie Foster) at the 1991 Oscar ceremonies. This is no small feat, especially considering the film was released in March (not an Oscar happy month) and is a horror film. These elements speak volumes for the level of mastery that is The Silence of the Lambs and the film holds up incredibly well as the years go by. The film was a sleeper hit at the time of release and gradually built momentum throughout the year, becoming a phenomenon and forever a classic.

The film is adapted from the novel of the same name- written by Thomas Harris and, despite being a horror film, contains little gore. The film stars Foster as Clarice Starling, and FBI trainee, sent by her superiors to interview the infamous Hannibal Lecter. Hannibal, “The Cannibal”, is a highly intelligent former psychiatrist who has been banished to a maximum security insane asylum after having been found guilty of killing and eating his victims. The FBI hopes that Hannibal will aid them in a current case involving “Buffalo Bill”, a serial killer who skins his female victims.

Hannibal and Clarice embark on an intense and strange relationship in which he gets under her skin and questions her unhappy childhood in exchange for information about “Buffalo Bill”. This relationship leaves Clarice vulnerable, though the pair develop a strong connection. As Hannibal makes more and more demands in exchange for information, he eventually escapes form custody and a chilling and bizarre escape.

The psychological elements and the intense relationship between Hannibal and Clarice are of monumental importance and Hopkins and Foster share amazing chemistry. Hopkins gives a top notch and downright creepy performance as the cannibalistic killer. His mannerisms stiff and calculating, his tone of voice monotone, he simply embodies his character, making him a legendary and recognizable presence in film history. Two memorable lines that he utters are, “I do wish we could chat longer, but I am having an old friend for dinner.”, and “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti”.

The character of “Buffalo Bill” is as terrifying as Hannibal Lecter. Portrayed by Ted Levine, the character is maniacal, sexually confused, and otherwise downtrodden. A tailor, he aspires to make a full “woman suit” costume out of his victims skin. His current hostage, a Senator’s daughter, is kept confined in an old well and terrorized by Bill’s antics. His famous line, “It puts the lotion on or it gets the hose again” still terrifies.

Highly influential, mimicked for years to come, and containing multiple lines and characters permanently etched in film history, The Silence of The Lambs is a classic not soon forgotten. The film was followed by multiple sequels, none of which comes close to the power and psychological complexities of the original.

Burn Witch Burn (Night of the Eagle)-1962

Burn Witch Burn (Night of the Eagle)- 1962

Director-Sidney Hayers

Starring-Peter Wyngarde, Janet Blair

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Reviewed January 1, 2016

Grade: B

Burn Witch Burn- re-titled for U.S. release from the original title of Night of the Eagle, is a 1962 black and white horror film.  It is based on a 1943 novel entitled Conjure Wife. The film is quite decent and delves into the interesting, and arguably unusual, subject of witchcraft, but is careful not to be too dark a film and resembles more of a long episode of the Twilight Zone- a very good episode. I enjoyed how the film had a wit and a charm to it never taking itself too seriously, instead had a humor and lightness to it.

Norman, a psychology professor at the local university, is intelligent, successful, and well-adjusted. He has a blonde, pretty, sophisticated wife named Tansy. The perfect housewife, she coordinates Friday night bridge parties with fellow professors and staff and is a Mrs. Cleaver type- the mother character from the famous 1950’s television series, Leave it to Beaver. When Norman discovers Tansy is practicing witchcraft and possesses various charms, dolls, and weird things, he forces her to destroy all of them. This leads to a series of bad events. Norman is accused of rape by a students and other dire circumstances occur. This is assumed by Tansy to be the result of the destruction of her witchcraft.

Burn Witch Burn is a fun film- it does not take itself too seriously, despite the heavy subject matter. Tansy certainly does not look like the stereotypical witch. In fact, she looks more like a PTA mom. We almost cheer for her. At the same time, the film is not so over-the-top that it becomes ridiculous either. I found the film to be entertaining, but certainly not a masterpiece or at all scary.

As the film progresses, I found the action to be a bit confusing from a story-line perspective, but that was admittedly okay. I simply went with it and enjoyed. For instance, the plot thickens when some enormous eagle affixed on the front of the university building comes into play. Or the sinister university secretary’s motives are revealed.

Worth mentioning are the thunderstorm special effects and ambiance. I found the heavy storm to be crucial in making Burn Witch Burn and effective horror film. It gave a heavy dose of spookiness to events and the atmosphere was spot on.

Burn Witch Burn is a fun, late-night horror flick that does not take itself too seriously, but is a worthy film for horror fans to partake in and enjoy. An under-appreciated  flick.

The Shining-1980

The Shining-1980

Director-Stanley Kubrick

Starring-Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall

Top 100 Films-#20     Top 20 Horror Films-#7

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Reviewed November 20, 2016

Grade: A

The Shining is one of the great horror masterpieces of all time. Released in 1980 and atypical of the slasher craze that was running rampant at that time, the film is a psychological ghost story with frightening elements including musical score, long camera shots, and a haunting grandiose hotel in a deserted locale. Without the brilliant direction of Stanley Kubrick, The Shining would not be the masterpiece that it is- to say nothing of the talents of Nicholson and Duvall in the lead roles. Based on the popular horror novel by Stephen King.

Nicholson plays Jack Torrance, an author and alcoholic, who takes his wife Wendy (Duvall) and son Danny to serve as caretakers at the vast Overlook hotel- for the winter in snowy Colorado. The lavish hotel will be deserted for the season and Jack looks forward to months of peace and quite which will enable him to complete his novel. Unfortunately, the hotel is haunted by spirits of the past, and the added burden of the previous caretaker going mad and chopping his family to bits with an ax.

The real success of The Shining is that the hotel itself is really a character and has nuances of its own. The hotel is deathly quiet as the Torrances take over for the season as long hallways are featured and the forbidden Room 237 takes on a life of its own. Creepy images of two young girls and red blood gushing from the elevators take over. Young Danny is able to communicate with the chef without speaking to each other. Jack imagines a gorgeous nude woman in the bathtub only to discover she is really a shriveled old hag.

The films cinematography coupled with the looming, morose, musical score perfectly go hand in and hand and, in my opinion, are the reasons for the films success. Throughout the film there is a sense of dread and a forbidden presence that works beautifully. The very first scene is an aerial shot of the Torrances driving along a mountainous road to be interviewed for the caretaker position. The vast land and mountains as we eventually see the Overlook immediately reveal to us the feeling of isolation, which is really what the film is about. These exterior scenes are also gorgeous to marvel at.

The crisp, gloomy, winter scenes and the endless maze of animal shrubbery come into play during the films final act as Jack, now completely mad, chases Danny throughout the snowy paths that seemingly lead to nowhere. The catch phrase, “Here’s Johnny!”, that is uttered from an ax wielding Nicholson, is permanently ensconced in the relics of pop culture.

Nicholson and Duvall have such dynamic and palpable on-screen chemistry that makes the film work from a character perspective. There is something slightly off with each of the characters, readily apparent from the outset, but that is more to do with each actor being rather non-traditional in appearance. I can imagine no other actors in these roles.

Author, Stephen King, who reportedly despised the film version of his novel, has since grown to respect the film and Kubrick’s direction, a great deal. The Shining is one of my favorite horror films in addition to being one of my favorite films of all time.