Category Archives: Horror Films

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Meyers-1988

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Meyers-1988

Director-Dwight H. Little

Starring Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris

Scott’s Review #1,312

Reviewed October 27, 2022

Grade: B

Give me a good slasher flick any day and I’m a pretty happy guy.

Especially if it’s one from the Halloween franchise (my favorite series other than Friday the 13th, naturally), and viewed around the demonic holiday is the perfect flavor.

There is so much atmosphere to embrace with pumpkins, masks, and trick-or-treaters nestled seemingly safe in a small town ripe for the picking by a knife-wielding maniac.

By 1988 though, the slasher genre had severely waned and felt quite redundant with watered-down sequels and copycat patterns resulting in a stale crop of films.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Meyers (1988) is an okay film and a worthy entry to the franchise. It is most notable for fixing what many fans thought was a terrible mistake.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) omitted maniacal Michael Meyers entirely which made many fans seeth with rage, so Part 4 corrects this miss by adding his name to the title card.

John Carpenter and Debra Hill, the main contributors to the original Halloween (1978) were not involved so executive producer Moustapha Akkad went for a conventional and safe route, creating a standard slice em and dice em affair.

The allegedly comatose Michael Myers (George P. Wilbur) is being transferred from one hospital to another, but he wakes up when the ambulance crew chatter about his surviving niece, Jamie (Danielle Harris).

Out for fresh blood, he slaughters his attendants and sets out to find his one living relative who is being cared for by a kind and resourceful foster sister named Rachel (Ellie Cornell).

Meanwhile, the ever-cautious Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) remains on the killer’s path intent to destroy the monster once and for all.

The overall tone of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Meyers is by the numbers providing an offering that would only satisfy fans of the franchise and not dare ruffle any feathers or acquire new fanatics.

Even the premise of Meyers escaping a hospital and targeting a family member is identical to the original film and its sequel. The familiar Haddonfield Hospital and Smith’s Grove Sanitarium return like good friends not seen for years.

There are no points given for originality but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, Haloween III tried to reinvent the wheel and was largely derided for its efforts.

I liked the film and I like Part 4 for different reasons.

Meyers is front and center with his pointy butcher knife and hulking frame, and that’s pleasing and comforting. The mask is a bit paler and his height shorter but it’s the same Michael we all know and love.

Missing is Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, presumed to have died, but the return of Pleasence is a major win as he takes center stage and has more screen time than he has ever had as Loomis. Scarred and looking older and more withered, his determination is even stronger to best Meyers.

In a neat little twist, Michael looks to pass his killing baton to his niece as she attempts to butcher her stepmom, similar to what Michael did to his sister many years earlier.

Borrowing heavily from its predecessors, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Meyers (1988) is satisfying but not revolutionary. There are enough nods to history combined with a new batch of teenagers to mutilate to forge ground and continue the legacy.

X-2022

X-2022

Director-Ti West

Starring Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega

Scott’s Review #1,310

Reviewed October 20, 2022

Grade: B+

Film company A24 has become synonymous with releasing quality independent films, mostly within the horror genre. The newbie distributor, only birthed in 2012, has hit it out of the park on numerous occasions.

Cutting-edge and downright bizarre projects like Ex Machina (2014), Hereditary (2018), and Midsommar (2019) immediately spring to mind.

I’ll see anything that this company releases.

A group of young, aspiring actors set out to make an adult film named The Farmer’s Daughters, in rural Texas. They rent a cabin from an unwitting elderly, reclusive couple. When the old folks catch on to what the actors are doing all hell breaks loose as an unlikely killer begins a murder spree.

At the risk of spoiling the fun X was shot on location in New Zealand which doubles as Texas, USA.

Ah, the magic of movie-making.

The film immediately will draw comparisons to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) in setting alone. Isn’t remote and barren farmland so effective in horror? There is something so creepy and foreboding about the stillness, animals, and miles and miles of emptiness.

Instead of a slaughterhouse or rotting meat, X uses a deadly alligator which comes into play during the final act.

To further add to the similarities of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the time is the late 1970s so the character’s dress and mannerisms are similar. Even one long shot of the elderly couple’s house entryway is almost identical to the one used in that film, and surprise, surprise, the cast drives up in a van.

But X is better than merely a modern film patterned after a cult classic. There is proper tension and a stark 1970s, dirty grindhouse look with gritty camerawork and a grainy texture.

I felt absorbed in the atmosphere and the time capsule rather than watching current people dress in retro clothing.

Very few viewers of X will likely be prudes but there is a fair amount of nudity and sexual behavior- I mean a lot!

Since a porn film is being made this is unsurprising but rests assured there is a hefty helping of tits, asses, and full-frontal nudity.

Perhaps as a response to the typically voyeuristic female-only nudity in most older slasher films, there is plenty of male nudity to balance the scales.

Another improvement to slasher films is the incorporation of character development and diversity. In lesser films, supporting nymphomaniacs like Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow) and Jackson (Scott Mescudi), who is black, would have been written as one-dimensional but not in X.

Bobby-Lynne and Jackson love sex but they also have dreams and aspirations and are kind people, each separately trying to help the elderly couple.

Unsurprisingly, the elderly couple, especially the wife, takes center stage as the plot moves along. Suffice it to say, Pearl (the old lady) longs to be young and sexual again like she was in her prime.

She stalks Maxine (Mia Goth), touches her, and finally sneaks into bed with her hoping to recapture her lost youth.

Things don’t exactly go well.

Goth portrays both Maxine and Pearl.

Motivations of Pearl may be a stretch but there is a creepy fascination that works well throughout X and the film never drags. It’s not every day that a ninety-year-old woman in a blood-soaked house dress wanders about a farm bludgeoning folks to death.

For a raw, independent, and fun foray back to the early days of the slasher genre before it became overly conventional, X is a winner.

A24 has another success on its hands since X (2022) will be followed by both a prequel and a sequel.

Halloween Ends-2022

Halloween Ends-2022

Director-David Gordon Green

Starring-Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, Rohan Campbell

Scott’s Review #1,309

Reviewed October 19, 2022

Grade: B+

As a bit of rewind for newer fans of the series or altogether non-fans, Halloween Ends (2022) is a slasher film that is the sequel to Halloween Kills (2021), and the thirteenth installment in the legendary Halloween franchise.

It is reported to be the final film in the trilogy of sequels that commenced with the 2018 film rebirth, which directly follows the 1978 film and disregards all other entries.

It’s as if nothing more happened after knife-wielding Michael Meyers toppled from a suburban terrace and escaped one Halloween night long ago.

Time will tell if this is indeed the final farewell but the film wraps events up nicely and it feels like a satisfying ending.

Halloween Ends is unconventional and murky in parts that intrigued me more than confused me. But rest assured there is enough mayhem and creative kills to satisfy blood-thirsty audiences- it just takes some patience to get there.

I’m not sure all diehard fans will be satisfied with the film.

There are some twists and turns to maneuver through and some perplexities with a couple of leading characters but I’m careful not to give too much away.

Over forty years since being terrorized while babysitting one Halloween night, Laurie Strode is writing her memoir as she tries to put the trauma of her past behind her. Since she still resides in the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois this will not be easy when the sudden death of a young boy sets off terrifying events.

The opening sequence is compelling despite not even involving Laurie, Michael, or Laurie’s granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak)!

The introduction of male babysitter Corey (Rohan Campbell) breathes fresh life into the complex family tree within the small town and an event causes the young man to become Haddonfield’s new pariah.

Corey is a nice addition as he dates Allyson and becomes involved in the family drama with Michael Meyers becoming a major connection.

I’m keeping this vague so I don’t spoil the fun but the romance between Corey and Allyson works especially during a scene where they romance outside a local radio station one night.

Reminisces of Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan’s characters in David Lynch’s masterpiece Blue Velvet (1986) appear amid a hauntingly cerebral musical score that adds an art film look and feel. The young romance is shrouded by oncoming chaos but they cannot stay away from each other.

A fun fact and a nod to strong film history are that John Carpenter, director of the original Halloween, and his son Corey, provide the music in Halloween Ends.

Some of Corey’s and Allyson’s sequences feel poetic and dreamy which is the opposite of what a ‘normal’ Halloween film feels like.

Not to be outdone by poetic filmmaking, the director David Gordon Green makes sure any bullies, sluts, or sexual creatures get their due by being fittingly hacked to bits or suffering crushed skulls to pay for their sins.

One even gets ensnared in barbed wire and then unceremoniously run over.

My favorite kills include a comical tongue removal that ends up making an album skip, and a stabbing and impaling onto a door, a clear reference to Bob’s death in the original.

Inevitably, the film belongs to Laurie and Michael and their showdown is no surprise. I was salivating for this final blood feast from the get-go and it doesn’t disappoint.

Laurie’s kitchen is conveniently stocked with a set of sharp, shiny knives which allows for a healthy dose of crimson-red blood soaking.

I could have used more nods to history. Besides the carbon copy killing of Bob, an old photo, and quick clips of scenes from the original, there isn’t a whole lot.

Bringing the original actors and characters to the fold in Halloween Kills worked well but all little Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards) gets to do is serve drinks at the local bar and listen to other characters’ problems.

My money is that we haven’t seen the last of Michael Meyers but Halloween Ends (2022) will satisfy those looking for the expected Halloween trimmings with a dash of creative filmmaking.

Other than a couple of missed opportunities, it remains true to its audience.

Jaws 2-1978

Jaws 2-1978

Director-Jeannot Szwarc

Starring Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary

Scott’s Review #1,307

Reviewed October 13, 2022

Grade: A-

Because of the enormous critical and commercial success of Jaws in 1975 a sequel was created. Important to keep in mind is that in the mid-1970s it was not yet common to produce sequels especially if the director, Steven Spielberg, had no interest in participating.

Jaws 2 (1978) was an enormous box-office success but the reviews were only mixed. I adore the film which mixes thrills with the horror genre and wisely sets up the kills like a slasher film.

The mostly teenagers are savagely attacked and killed by the Great White shark, one by one style, using a lurking and effective musical score.

The film’s tagline, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…” has become one of the most famous in film history and has been parodied and homaged several times. I’d like to assume it led to a healthy almost now mandatory helping of subsequent sequels of other successful films.

Unfortunately, Jaws 2 also spawned a couple more sequels of its own which were piss-poor and laughable but we won’t get into that here.

Fun fact-Jaws 2 was nearly as troubled as Jaws was. The first director for the film, John D. Hancock,  was deemed incompetent and was replaced by Jeannot Szwarc. Star Roy Scheider, who only reprised his role to end a contractual issue with Universal, was also unhappy during production and had several heated exchanges with Szwarc.

Maybe that should have been a sign not to make any more Jaws films.

Years after the shark attacks that left Amity Island reeling, Sheriff Martin Brody (Scheider) finds new trouble lurking in the waters and must rise to the occasion.

To add conflict, Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) wants to end the beach town’s poor reputation. But the sudden disappearance of a pair of divers suggests that something is up. When Sheriff Brody voices his warnings about holding an exciting sailing competition, everyone thinks he is suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress.

That is until a shark fin is spotted in the water sending the town into panic mode.

There’s no logical plot reason to make Jaws 2 but somehow I’m okay with that. The film entertains with enough frights and jumps to satisfy and the formulaic approach works well.

Besides the enthralling final sequence when Brody must rescue his sons Mike and Sean (Mark Gruner and Marc Gilpin), the opening sequence involving scuba divers and a female water skier is quite enticing and the best part of the film.

The musical score by John Williams who fortunately returned to the fold is fabulous and enhances any peril the characters face. The slick and clever approach gives the audience a clue that danger lurks nearby but we don’t know when or where the shark will strike.

I mentioned slasher films earlier and this formula is used in Jaws 2. As the teens set sail for the competition it is good fun to wonder who will get killed and who will live to see another sunny beach day.

Despite Scheider not wanting to do the film, you’d never know it by his terrific acting. He doesn’t phone in his performance and provides macho swagger and muscle. He’s everyone’s favorite dad who only wants to save and protect.

Jaws 2 (1978) attempts to scare and entertain and it succeeds. There is little character development but it’s not the type of film that needs deep texture.

The reason to watch is to see folks who intend to enjoy the water get attacked and ripped to shreds.

The Black Phone-2022

The Black Phone-2022

Director-Scott Derrickson

Starring Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Ethan Hawke

Scott’s Review #1,296

Reviewed September 7, 2022

Grade: B+

The Black Phone (2022) is a compelling horror offering with some good frights and jumps contained within. It merges classic horror with a supernatural element that toes the line very well, never going too deep into either territory.

It doesn’t redefine the genre but nor does it feel stale or like a tired retread of other modern films. This is because of merging other genres into the action. Some question marks surface but the movie is an above-average effort by the director Scott Derrickson, surprisingly most known for the superhero vehicle Doctor Strange (2016).

The 1978 cloudy suburban blue-collar United States setting works particularly well and Ethan Hawke is delicious as the evil ‘Grabber’, a demented masked man who snatches neighborhood boys and hides them in a stank basement.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the brilliant inclusion of the Pink Floyd song ‘On the Run’ during the final sequence.

Wonderful is how snippets of The Silence of the Lambs (1991) peek in now and then while never feeling like a carbon copy or even source material.

The Black Phone feels quite like a coming-of-age story since events surround a conflicted teenage boy and his numerous insecurities from bullying to blossoming romance.

Finney, played by newcomer Mason Thames, is a shy but clever thirteen-year-old boy. He and his younger sister, Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) live with their alcoholic father and take turns looking after him. Finney is bullied by neighborhood boys but also has a protector in his friend Robin until Robin goes missing.

Eventually, Finney is abducted and finds himself trapped in a soundproof basement where screaming is of little use. When an old disconnected black phone on the wall begins to ring, Finney discovers he can hear the voices of the killer’s previous victims.

The Black Phone was adapted from a 2004 short story of the same name and has a similar feel. Events flow quickly and the film doesn’t drag though I was ready for it to end when it did.

Since the film was a commercial success, rumors of a sequel or prequel are swirling. I vote for a prequel because there is a lot left to tell regarding the Grabber. The character’s backstory is barely touched, leaving many questions unanswered.

He only kidnaps and kills teenage boys, the suggestion being that the Grabber is gay. At one point, he announces that he just wants to look at Finney. The suggestion is uneven though because it’s never revealed if he rapes the boys before killing them or what his motive even is.

The Grabber has a brother, who plays a key role in the story but their relationship is not explored. What about parents, kids, or jobs?

In a nutshell, I wanted to know more about the killer and I was left unsatisfied.

Speaking of the Grabber, here’s where the Silence of the Lambs comparison comes into play. The villains are similar since both are presumably gay and disguise themselves in one way or another, either by creating a ‘women suit’ or donning a creepy mask.

Both lure their victims into a grimy van and keep them tucked away underground before killing them.

But, Buffalo Bill beats the Grabber by a landslide. The line ‘it rubs the lotion on its skin- it does this whenever it is told’ will forever run a chill up my spine.

I’ve droned on long enough about the Grabber but only because he is a fabulous villain and I am intrigued beyond measure at the possibilities.

The editing and continuity are a win, especially in the final twenty minutes. The rescue/escape scenes are powerful and emotional without being hokey or overly predictable.

The psychic dreams are pretty good and McGraw is a superb child actor but those sequences didn’t enamor me as much as the scenes with Finney and the Grabber or the voices on the telephone.

I’ll bet casting Ethan Hawke against type in The Black Phone (2022) supercharged audiences into seeing the film. The independent film style and edge-of-your-seat pacing ultimately make the film a winner, even if I was left with tons of questions.

Crimes of the Future-2022

Crimes of the Future-2022

Director-David Cronenberg

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux

Scott’s Review #1,295

Reviewed September 2, 2022

Grade: B

Being somewhat familiar with the work of director David Cronenberg and the macabre and squirmy elements he adds to his films, I had a fair idea of what type of experience I was in for. There was anticipation as I slipped the blu ray of Crimes of the Future (2022) into the player.

He’s responsible for such peculiar pleasures as Eastern Promises (2007), an annual Christmas time watch for my husband and me, and A History of Violence (2005) a gangster-flavored effort. Cronenberg frequently teeters around psychological horror and science fiction though has dabbled in other genres.

Stalwart actor Viggo Mortensen once again graces the screen in one of Cronenberg’s films and leads the charge as the main protagonist in Crimes of the Future.

Visually the film is astounding with creepy shapes and visceral red images floating about mainly in the opening credits. It’s riddled with a subdued and mellow mood taking its time to get going and allowing for somber tones and textures.

It’s a tough and weird watch but somehow slowly lures the viewer into its confusing web.

Be warned though that the story is inexplicable and impossible to figure out. I even read a post-film synopsis and was still unclear how the puzzle pieces are supposed to come together. But maybe they aren’t.

Crimes of the Future is the type of film that is recommended to be digested and left to ruminate in one’s inner being. The translation is to not overthink the events but rather to enjoy what is being served.

Sometime soon, the human species has adapted to a new synthetic environment, causing bodies to undergo new transformations and mutations. With his partner, Caprice (Léa Seydoux), Saul Tenser (Mortensen), a celebrity performance artist, publicly showcases the metamorphosis of his organs in avant-garde performances.

In simpler terms, his body is cut into for all to see.

An odd character named Timlin (Kristen Stewart), an investigator from the National Organ Registry, obsessively tracks their movements. A mysterious group exists with a mission to use Saul’s notoriety to shed light on the next phase of human evolution.

The summary is tough to write and even tougher to explain so I won’t waste space even going there. I’ll leave it to say that the above is the best that can be explained and only that there is a fascinating story element to the events.

Something about science fiction and the future typically equates to mystique and wonderment.

I could watch Mortensen in pretty much any film which is the main reason to see Crimes of the Future. The actor is so keen on choosing just the right roles for him and each is so different from the last.

Merely comparing his recent films like Captain Fantastic (2016), Green Book (2018), and Crimes of the Future results in the actor continuing to challenge himself with the depth of each character instead of capitalizing on name recognition to cash a hefty paycheck like other similar aged Hollywood actors.

I won’t name names but Liam Neeson could take a note or two from Mortensen.

Seydoux, a French actress pairs well with Mortensen. She possesses a sophisticated European vibe that translates well within this distant future. She is sexy and because of the subject matter, this is key to the visual style the film has.

I’m not quite sure what to make of Kristen Stewart as the nutty and nerdy Timlin but it’s a shocking follow-up to a fabulous portrayal of Princess Diana. As she speaks rapidly with timidity it’s a particular role but nice to see Stewart continue to go with edgy roles.

Because it’s Cronenberg, Crimes of the Future (2022) is cerebral and provocative with a fleshy and grim style. I’d expect nothing less from the director but would have preferred a more cohesive package.

In the end, I simply couldn’t figure the film out so it’s tough to completely recommend it.

Malignant-2021

Malignant-2021

Director-James Wan

Starring Annabelle Wallis, George Young

Scott’s Review #1,294

Reviewed August 30, 2022

Grade: B

James Wan is a fantastic director responsible for co-creating the Saw (2003-2017) and Insidious (2010-2018) franchises. Anyone familiar with those films will enjoy Malignant (2021) since it borrows from them and is peppered with trimmings from those films.

In particular, it taps into supernatural elements of Insidious and the mood and score from Saw. Malignant even copies the gruff and robotic phone caller’s voice that was Jigsaw’s trademark and used in Saw. It’s not as threatening but it brings back those memories.

The result of Malignant is mixed but mostly good. It’s not one bit scary like Insidious was but not gratuitously gory like the Saw films though it has its moments of butchering.

Though utterly ridiculous, the conclusion of Malignant contains a terrific twist and a weird supernatural CGI contortionist choreography extravaganza that somehow reminded me of The Matrix (1999).

The storyline twist must have been influenced by Sisters (1973), an early effort by director Brian DePalma. It could be deemed as silly but somehow it’s my favorite part of the film.

Wan reaches into his magical bag of tricks and pulls out some wins. He also demands suspension of disbelief, which is okay in supernatural horror films but many points of the story do not add up.

Malignant begins in 1993 when Dr. Florence Weaver (Jacqueline MacKenzie) and her colleagues treat a violent, disturbed patient named Gabriel at Simion Research Hospital. Gabriel can control electricity and broadcast his thoughts via speakers. He kills several staff members but Weaver survives and deems him untreatable.

Years later, Madison Lake (Annabelle Wallis) becomes paralyzed by fear from shocking visions. She slowly realizes that when a murder victim dies she is in the room with them witnessing their gruesome death.

Gabriel is on the loose and intent on killing Dr. Weaver and her colleagues for calling him cancer, and Madison is somehow involved.  She and her sister, Sydney (Maddie Hasson) must sleuth along with the police to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Malignant does well with the mood and tone of the filming. It has a dark grey quality plentiful in modern horror films and fans of Insidious and Saw will enjoy this familiar style of filmmaking. It’s set in Seattle which is a wise choice though all we get are some aerial views of the city, specifically the Space Needle.

Because it’s directed by Wan, it’s professional and contains the horror elements to be expected. There’s even a giant window fan that I swear I’ve seen in a Saw film. Wan knows what he is doing and the name recognition alone was enough to get me to see the film.

It’s not an ‘A’ but it does what a modern horror film is supposed to do and that’s to entertain. Malignant is not groundbreaking but it’s sound.

The plot holes are not worth dissecting beyond asking why there are no other patients in a large city hospital, a device that has existed since at least Halloween II in 1981, but that’s just the beginning.

Malignant annoyed me when it decided to add some humor. A sidekick character, Detective Regina Moss (Michole Briana White) bares an uncanny resemblance to funny lady Wanda Sykes. Unfortunately, her one-liners feel thrown in for kicks, and a blossoming romance between Sydney and Detective Kokoa (George Young) goes nowhere.

During these scenes, I felt like I was watching Chicago Med or Chicago Fire or any one of those other generic network television shows.

Fortunately, the scenes were brief and Wan returned to the point of the film- blood, killing, and chaos.

Lead actress Wallis is a fine casting choice. Pretty but relatable, she carries the film as the victim especially as more to her backstory is revealed.

Films like Malignant (2021) require putting the breaks on any deep analysis and merely going along for the ride. It’s entertaining and that’s good enough for me. With Wan at the helm, I anticipated a particular type of horror film and was ultimately satisfied with what I was served.

Bluebeard-1972

Bluebeard-1972

Director-Edward Dymtryk

Starring Richard Burton, Joey Heatherton

Scott’s Review #1,293

Reviewed August 23, 2022

Grade: A-

My expectations of Bluebeard (1972) were of a late-night foray into the world of weird horror. The story is loosely based on a French folktale of a nobleman with a curious wife forbidden from entering a mysterious room. I was anticipating an entertaining experience but nothing more.

To lower expectations, the critic reviews of the film were quite harsh, ridiculing and ripping upper-class actor Richard Burton to shreds calling this film the decline and fall of his career.

Instead, I was treated to luscious art direction created on a small budget and a fascinating, macabre story about a man nicknamed ‘Bluebeard’ (Burton) who kills each of his six former wives while revealing his dirty deeds to wife number seven, Anne, (Joey Heatherton) who he plans to kill.

We learn that Austrian aristocrat Baron von Sepper (Richard Burton) would rather kill his wives than divorce them. It’s the 1930’s and he is a decorated war hero with a secret or two. A lady’s man meets the most beautiful women but quickly becomes bored with them.

He hides their remains in a secret refrigerated room and Anne stumbles upon their corpses. Now, she must escape his clutches to avoid becoming his next victim.

Burton is famous for being the husband of Elizabeth Taylor and appearing in superior films like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) and The Robe (1953) and was a much sought-after Hollywood star during the 1950s and 1960s.

By the time of Bluebeard’s making, he was a raging alcoholic and needed the film work. However, intentionally or not he is a fabulous addition to the film whether he was sober during shooting or not. He perhaps doesn’t even recall making it.

The most fun with Bluebeard is the anticipation. Once I realized the film was working backward and detailing each of Bluebeard’s six former wives’ murders I was hooked! Each murder is better than the last and poor Raquel Welch as Magdelena is locked in a tomb alive.

In the comical form, the actress plays a slutty nun.

One particular scene had me tickled pink. Bluebeard’s third or fourth wife, a gorgeous blonde who is a chatty ‘motor mouth’ and eager to dive into bed with her new husband, is decapitated via guillotine when she thinks she will finally become intimate with him.

It’s a fabulous sequence that I had to watch twice.

The decapitation scene is nearly rivaled by a titillating girl-on-girl scene between Nathalie Delon and Sybil Danning who plays a prostitute hired to teach Bluebeard’s wife how to enjoy the pleasures of touch and eroticism.

They quickly get naked and kiss.

Instead of being aroused as any straight man would, Bluebeard takes a shear to them impaling them to death one on top of the other. We then realize he is quite inadequate in the sexual department.

It should go without mentioning that folks looking for a PG affair need to look elsewhere. There are enough breasts bared to make the prudish blush mightily. The lesbian scene might leave them running for the hills.

No, Bluebeard is an adult venture for those desiring a healthy serving of female flesh with their bloodletting. The male actors are spared any nudity- that’s the way cinema was back then.

Heatherton does surprisingly well paired with Burton and the chemistry works between them. She is not a top-quality actress but she is appealing and we root for her to escape the madman.

The art direction is tremendous and reminiscent of the attention to detail and craft that Hammer Horror films were able to create around that same period. The velvet red walls in Bluebeard’s massive estate ooze with royalty and sophistication. Each table, chair, and set piece is perfectly placed.

Of course, Bluebeard is pure camp and over-the-top shenanigans but it’s a hoot all the way, never dragging nor taking itself too seriously.

I was pleasantly pleased by Bluebeard (1972) and consider it a must-see for Burton fans desiring some later works sans Elizabeth Taylor. It’s not high-art but it sure is delicious Saturday night fun.

An American Werewolf in Paris-1997

An American Werewolf in Paris-1997

Director-Anthony Waller

Starring Thomas Everett Scott, Julie Delpy

Scott’s Review #1,289

Reviewed August 12, 2022

Grade: C+

While fun, An American Werewolf in London (1981) is not in my top 10 best horror films ever. Werewolf flicks were never my go-to film in the genre, and appreciating the incorporated humor, the product is entertaining but not much more.

I’ve gained more appreciation for that film when compared to the follow-up, the haphazard and goofy An American Werewolf in Paris (1997). The only elements it gets right are culturally satisfying locale shots of Paris, France, and an underappreciated starring role by charismatic actor Thomas Everett Scott.

An American Werewolf in Paris is a completely watered-down version of An American Werewolf in London but with little to no connection to it. Considering the sister European cities it’s a missed opportunity and quite a shame that cross-connection wasn’t utilized.

Three handsome young American male tourists traverse Europe for some fun and naturally to meet females. The main focal point is on Andy (Everett Scott) who is virginal and serious.

The group arrives in Paris and witnesses an attempted suicide by Parisian Serafine Pigot (Julie Delpy). Andy can amazingly save her jump from the Eifel Tower by diving after her and catching her in the nick of time.

He is injured and transported to the hospital but eventually locates Serafine.

While on a date at a nightclub with her, Andy is suddenly attacked and bitten by a werewolf. The next day he discovers that Serafine is also a lycanthrope and that he is beginning his transformation into one of the beasts.

The overall tone of An American Werewolf in Paris is silly and amateurish. The situations work poorly, like when Andy and Serafine are having coffee at a Paris cafe and he pretends a condom he is chewing is bubblegum. Later he stumbles upon ditzy American Amy Finch (Julie Bowen) and they have a graveyard adventure that leaves her un-dead and vowing revenge on Andy.

Anyone expecting authenticity like the full nudity of the human/werewolf during the transformation will be severely disappointed with the decided lack of skin-only actress Delpy bares her breasts.

Otherwise, it’s bare chests only for the males which is unfair to viewers expecting the running through the forest naked sequences as An American Werewolf in London had.

It’s a stretch that both Andy and Serafine catapult from both the Eifel Tower and later the Statue of Liberty with barely more than a scratch and very little peril to enjoy.

The wacky plot involves bad guy Claude (Pierre Cosso), his henchmen, and a transforming-inducing drug. They hold a Fourth of July party to attract American tourists to slaughter, and Serafine’s stepfather is revealed to have created a drug with the opposite intention that led Serafine to accidentally kill her mother.

It’s all weak and uninspired causing an overcomplicated storyline to become more and more contrived as the film moves along.

The makeup during the transformation sequences is lacking, especially compared with the superior special effects of An American Werewolf in London. The CGI used looks fake.

And, how could you not compare the two films?

Despite all of the negatives, An American Werewolf in Paris has a moderate presence of fun but only when Everett Scott appears. He, as Andy, is such a likable guy, wearing his heart on his sleeve, that we root for him to ride off into the sunset with Serafine.

Everett Scott and Delpy don’t have the greatest chemistry but this can be forgiven because the film is really about the werewolves.

There are no characters to root for besides Andy and every Parisian character is written as inflexible, or as any other number of French stereotypes. The only relevant Parisian references are the locales though most are built sets to replicate the real places.

There is little need to ever see An American Werewolf in Paris (1997) again since it pales tremendously to the superior An American Werewolf in London (1981).

Saw-2004

Saw-2004

Director-James Wan

Starring Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell

Scott’s Review #1,285

Reviewed August 4, 2022

Grade: A

One of the many reasons that I love the horror genre so much is how it changes and develops over time. Many classic horror films are influential to more modern ones and that’s all well and good.

But then sometimes a new idea or style comes along that throws everything topsy turvy and influences other films for years to come.

Saw (2004) is one of those films. It smacked everyone who thought they knew horror films upside the head with a relentless and pulsating gore-fest.

I was fortunate enough to see the film when it premiered and boy was it the ‘water cooler’ film of its day. The clever writing and intricate plot and set pieces were unheard of in a world of maniac-wielding knife setups and redundant endings.

It invented the grisly ‘torture porn’ moniker that became popular with films like Hostel (2005) and many more that would come after it.

The Saw franchise ultimately produced perhaps one too many sequels that left it feeling stale and exhausted, but what an influence the original Saw had, and continues to have.

I still remember the hold the film had over me and how much it resonated in nastiness, butchery, and enough creative killings to last a lifetime.

Needless to say, it’s not for the squeamish or faint of heart, and watching Saw now knowing the surprise twist doesn’t pack quite the same punch that it did in 2004, but I’ll never forget how I felt when first watching this film.

The twist ending is unforgettable.

Events get off to a kick-ass start when two men awake in peril. Photographer Adam Stanheight (Leigh Whannell) and oncologist Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) who do not know one another, regain consciousness while chained to pipes at either end of a filthy bathroom.

As the confused men realize they’ve been trapped by a sadistic serial killer nicknamed “Jigsaw” and must complete his perverse puzzle to live, flashbacks unravel the mystery of other character connections.

Meanwhile, Dr. Gordon’s wife (Monica Potter) and young daughter (Makenzie Vega) are forced to watch his torture via closed-circuit video.

A massive clue to the puzzle that Saw presents is lying right there in the bathroom but of course, the unwitting audience knows none of this. The fun of the film is to sit back and let the filmmakers slowly unpeel the onion and reveal the who’s who of the backstory.

And let the blood drip.

Unlike legacy films like Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980) or even later efforts like Scream (1996) that brought thousands of rabid horror fans back to movie theaters, nobody is being chased with a knife in Saw.

It’s much more cerebral than that.

Who can ever forget the sound of Jigsaw’s grave voice pouring out of a tape recorder stating “I want to play a game” in a robotic tone? It is still as ominous a sound as one could imagine, and the big reveal still comes as a genuine shock.

Most of the characters have secrets to reveal and most of those secrets are dirty.

Director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell who also stars in Saw, brilliantly craft a web of deceit amongst their players. The characters who suffer the most have committed a hateful act of deception or schemed their way to benefit based on someone else’s ruin.

In perfect form, all the victims almost deserve their fates like being caught in a shotgun trap, shot in the chest, or being forced to ‘saw’ off their foot to escape death.

The final reveal is downright freaky and will make the audience quickly rewind the events of the film in their heads. The character thought to be the main killer, and wonderfully played by creepy actor Michael Emerson (star of television’s Lost) is merely a pawn of someone more sinister.

Saw (2004) savagely hacked its way into viewers’ heads with a sophisticated, plot-driven experience with a film style enhanced by an independent look.

It’s had its day but it must never be forgotten for the influence left behind.

Scream-2022

Scream-2022

Director-Mike Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Starring Melissa Barrera, Neve Campbell, Jack Quaid

Scott’s Review #1,284

Reviewed August 2, 2022

Grade: B+

Scream, the 2022 version, was billed as a ‘relaunch’ of the film series when it was released in the crappy month of January. However, is that so important in a Covid age when hardly anyone goes to movie theaters?

The film is really ‘Scream 5′ because it has continuity from the last installment released in 2011, and harkens back to the 1996 Scream premiere.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the film.

Scream ultimately follows a formula, but a formula that works especially well and will please fans of the series. My expectations were superseded, and wonderful is the inclusion of series stalwarts in roles that are much more than glorified cameos.

On the flip-side the finale is underwhelming and the killers’ (isn’t there always two??) motivations are lame but I found that to be unimportant because the real fun is the whodunit aspect.

Scream is very faithful to that.

Twenty-five years after a streak of brutal murders shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro, California, a new killer dons the Ghostface mask and begins targeting a group of teenagers to resurrect secrets from the town’s deadly past.

The frightening release date and the first of the series not to be directed by Wes Craven is enough to make any Scream fan bite their nails in worry about how the end product would result.

In addition, there are two screenwriters and two directors which is rarely a good sign for creativity.

But, all’s well that ends well as writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, and directors Matt Bettinelli-Olipin and Tyler Gillett do many things right.

I mentioned the formula before and they wisely use an anniversary as a starting point. Vicious murders commence on poor Woodsboro at just the right time for mayhem to erupt all over again.

For those who have forgotten the titillating and flawless opening sequence of Scream circa 1996 when poor Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) is forced to play a guessing game with an unknown phone caller to avoid death is reintroduced with gusto.

The film immediately begins with a nod to that history.

When teenager Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) answers her landline the audience whoops with joy at the anticipation of what’s to come. She will endure a game of horror film trivia with Ghostface before he (or she) leaps into the kitchen to cut her to bits.

Pleasurably, a new gang of fresh-faced Woodsboro teenagers is then introduced to be plucked off one by one. But, could one or two of them be the killers?

A treat for all fans is the inclusion of Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, and Skeet Ulrich in their original roles with one of them having a major connection to a new character.

This only cements the lifeline of the franchise.

The clever writing was considered unique at the time of its release for featuring characters aware of real-world horror films who openly discussed the clichés that the film attempted to subvert.

In Scream (2022) this is heightened by a discussion of ‘source material’ and ‘requel’ which feels like a horror film progression.

If you’re thinking that Scream 2022 is a carbon copy of Scream 1996 it kind of is but with some modernization. And it works like a charm, feeling like a good visit with an old friend and watching their offspring sprout into young adults.

Scream (2022) takes a lesson from what the recent Halloween film reboot did. A reprisal franchise once aged and tired that breathes new life into the series by using its history and legacy characters.

How clever that the characters in Scream even acknowledge this in the story!

I anxiously await the next Scream film rumored to be released in 2023 for more fun.

Cat People-1982

Cat People-1982

Director-Paul Schrader

Starring Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, John Heard

Scott’s Review #1,275

Reviewed July 10, 2022

Grade: B+

Cat People (1982) is a mysterious and psychological trip into the strange universe of humans possessing cat qualities, sometimes with a tendency towards vicious limb extraction and other such mauling techniques.

It’s an absurd premise though admittedly clever with an identity all its own. Feeling slightly dated mostly due to the early 1980s synthesizer-like musical score, film style, and the casting of some actors at the top of their game then, Cat People is nonetheless enjoyable and sexual.

Especially recommended is a late Friday or Saturday night viewing with as little light as possible for the best ambiance.

Since our rented DVD copy was ravaged by poor visual quality and hard-to-hear sound, a thought is to simply buy the film.

The 1982 version of Cat People is directed by Paul Schrader who is best known for writing or co-writing Scorcese greats Taxi Driver (1976) and Raging Bull (1980). The director also has his share of his films as recent as 2021.

His production is a remake of one made some forty years earlier which I have not seen.

The mood of Cat People is an overwhelmingly sensual and violent horror and thriller tale. The action immediately gets off to a sexually perverse start when during presumably prehistoric days, a wild black panther impregnates a young girl offered to him via sacrifice.

The message is clear that this results in a weird human/cat hybrid being coming into existence.

In present times, Irena Gallier (Nastassia Kinski) harbors a dark family secret that she despises. She reconnects with her estranged brother, Paul (Malcolm McDowell) who shape-shifts into a savage beast. He lives in the southern city of New Orleans and has spent time in a mental hospital.

Irena visits the local zoo and finds herself attracted to handsome zoologist Oliver Yates (John Heard), even as her brother makes his incestuous advances toward her. Inevitably, the family curse rears its ugly head when Paul rips the arm off one of the zoo workers played by a young Ed Begley Jr.

I like tremendously how Schrader incorporates New Orleans as the central setting. Having nothing really to do with the story the French-influenced city is nice to look at as restaurant scenes feature Creole style and other southern/European sophisticated little gems.

Ruby Dee is cast as a wacky housekeeper named Female rippling with New Orleans flair and who is aware of the terrible family secret.

Nastassja Kinski is perfectly cast as the provocative and sultry main character and she effortlessly leads the charge. Others like Heard and Annette O’Toole who were A-list stars in the early 1980s provide a time capsule of Hollywood relevancy.

Unfortunately, this also makes Cat People feel like from another time and the 1980s film style is painfully obvious.

The growling and vicious cats feel both scary and fake during close-ups but imagine the trickery of using real-life leopards? The filmmakers did the best they could and this is also obvious.

Some sequences are quite grisly and when they aren’t there are best-remembered scenes of peril and intrigue. O’Toole’s character of Alice (another zoologist) takes a late-night dip in a swimming pool and is harassed by a menacing Irena.

Earlier, a great scene occurs when a prostitute named Ruthie visits her client in a dingy motel room only to realize that her john is a mean leopard. We assume she will be ripped to shreds but this dubious honor is saved for another slutty character who Paul picks up at a funeral.

An attempted triangle between Irena, Oliver, and Alice goes nowhere and bewildering is why the decision was made to even try. The power couple is Irena and Oliver as their smoldering love scenes are sensual and skin heavy professing almost immediate love for each other.

With enough explicit sex and gratuitous violence to keep many viewers titillated, Cat People (1982) has positives and negatives. When it was released I bet it was a pot boil of juicy and relevant intrigue, but the film hasn’t held up quite as well as some others.

Frayed-2009

Frayed-2009

Director-Rob Portmann, Norbert Caoili

Starring Aaron Blakely, Alena Dashiell, Tony Doupe

Scott’s Review #1,270

Reviewed June 24, 2022

Grade: A

As I began to watch Frayed (2009) the last thing I expected was to be as riveted as I was. I was enthralled, glued to my seat, frightened, and left completely floored by what I had experienced.

In the best of ways possible.

Things didn’t bode well at first since the previews on our rented DVD screamed low-budget and cheesy with sub-standard acting and ridiculously cheap production.

I expected a by-the-numbers, cliche-riddled Halloween (1978) style rip-off. Some thirty years after that film was made didn’t exactly scream relevant.

Maybe somebody’s experimental film school project?

I’ll add that with an astounding five credited screenwriters (rarely a good sign) the outcome could have easily been a muddled mess.

Expectations were shot through the ceiling only increasing with pleasure as the film went along. There are a couple of slow pockets here and there but the last fifteen minutes or so spiral Frayed out of control and into a fantastic new dimension in twists and turns.

Just when I thought I had things figured out and was satisfied with the surprise twist that wasn’t too hard to figure out, there appeared another twist, and yet another, and finally another twist!

I felt like I had done a series of summer saults and was breath taken by the film and left to ponder, consider, and reconstruct the storyline.

Sheriff Pat Baker (Tony Doupe) has led a life of tragedy. When his young son Kurt brutally murders his mother at sister Sara’s (Alena Dashiell) fifth birthday party the boy is left catatonic in a mental asylum.

Thirteen years later, Kurt escapes during a transfer and wanders the nearby woods dressed as a masked clown, chasing a security guard and stalking Sara and her friends. Baker and the team must capture the escapee before he wreaks more havoc.

But since the killer is his son is Pat too invested?

In ways, Frayed is a classic slasher film and a throwback to the 1980s. Sara and her best friend sneak out of the house to meet their boyfriends for beer and sex in the middle of the woods amid a campfire. Sara and her father and stepmother live in a small, remote town.

What better setting for a crazed killer on the loose with bloodletting on his mind?

These are standard setups for dire events.

But Sara, played well by Alena Dashiell isn’t your typical ‘final girl. She drinks a bit and has sex on her mind while remaining strong and careful.

The opening scene is a doozy.

In a flashback, we see Kurt’s mother enter his bedroom and scold him for teasing the birthday girl. She forgets she has a camcorder on and is quickly bashed to death with a baseball bat. The camera viewpoint is from the floor so all we see is the mother’s head repeatedly beaten.

It’s gory and sickening and led to the film being banned in more than one country.

Director, Rob Portmann, who co-wrote the film will not appeal to the faint of heart with this scene though the gore is left to a minimum throughout the rest.

There is so much more to this film than gore.

In retrospect, aspects of Frayed are like a puzzle. Why is the security guard the focus as much as Sara? Why does Pat’s new wife look like his dead wife? Why is a team softball photo constantly shown?

Frayed might warrant a second or third viewing to see how well it holds up.

Surprisingly, the acting is quite good by most of the cast and made on a small budget. Professionalism is laid out, especially by Blakely and Doupe and all the players give compelling performances and are given rich character development.

It’s a shame that Frayed did not garner more notice because the film is fiendish, terrific, and satisfying. Given it’s 2022 and it was made in 2007, and released in 2009 its time may have passed.

Frayed (2009) will please fans who love good old-fashioned slasher flicks and who love a good twist or three or four.

Borrowing from previous films but with an identity as fine as The Sixth Sense (1999) it’s to be remembered in the best of ways.

Antlers-2021

Antlers-2021

Director-Scott Cooper

Starring Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons

Scott’s Review #1,255

Reviewed May 13, 2022

Grade: B+

Antlers (2021) is a film co-produced by Guillermo del Toro who is famous for dark, humanistic treasures like Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and the Oscar-winning The Shape of Water (2017).

His name attached to the project conjures images of supernatural and otherworldly creations and some murky elements. While the film does contain his influence if looked at carefully it’s in a tepid way and I wouldn’t call it a del Toro type film.

But, it’s not as if he directed it either, he only helped fund it. Scott Cooper, known for Crazy Heart (2009) and Black Mass (2015), two very good films, does a fantastic job of adding horror elements and impressive cinematography that create a bleak and grey atmosphere that is perfect for horror.

The plot is the weak point in an otherwise exceptional offering. The story has a standard setup and unsatisfying ending save for an attempt to push the wheels in motion for a potential sequel.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Antler’s release date was postponed twice and flew under the radar as many films did in the early 2020s.

Plus, star Jesse Plemons received an Oscar nomination for The Power of the Dog (2021) by the time the film hit the screens so it’s doubtful he’d make a return appearance.

I’m not sure the film is good enough to warrant a follow-up but I did thoroughly enjoy the perfect trimmings and quality acting even though the story didn’t completely satisfy me.

The film is based on the short story The Quiet Boy by Nick Antosca.

The action is set in a rural, isolated Oregon town where a middle-school teacher (Keri Russell) and her sheriff brother (Plemons) become entangled with her taciturn student Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas) whose dark family secrets lead to terrifying encounters with a legendary ancestral creature known for creating debauchery.

The dazzling cinematography by Florian Hoffmeister perfectly encapsulates the setting of the Pacific Northwest making it appear grim and constantly cloudy. The foreboding presence is only helped by adding a dark mine as the main set where the dire events occur.

Russell does a fine job with carrying the film and Cooper and the team provides a character-driven approach to the story. Julia has returned to her hometown after the suicide of her father, who we quickly learn was abusing her as a little girl.

She bonds with Lucas who is also abused and this portion of the story works well. We get the bond and they connect well. He’s got a different set of daddy issues though since his wolf-like papa salivates at the sight of him and is diseased from an incident in the mine.

But, the Julia/Lucas relationship ultimately has very little to do with a wild creature running around killing a student and a principal. A quick scene involving a local townsperson explaining an ancient curse is uninspired even if he is played by Graham Greene from Dances With Wolves fame (1990).

I was more invested in the Julia and Paul raising Lucas angle and what comes next over the silly folklore curse that we’ve seen countless times in films.

The texture of Antlers easily awards it a solid B+ rating because it’s spooky and scary in some sequences. When Julia and Principal Ellen (Amy Madigan) separately approach the run-down Weaver house the camera follows the characters making the audience feel like they are the ones entering the house.

We know bad things will soon happen and that makes it fun.

Because of the great camera work and use of lighting, I’d never want to set foot in Cispus Falls.

As an aside for every film writer out there, it’s time to discard the anti-LGBTQ slurs once and for all. Aren’t we beyond this? Can’t we write one character calling another a ‘loser’ and leave it at that?

The visceral style of Antlers (2021) is more than enough reason to recommend it. A straight-ahead supernatural horror film with a grim veneer is the reason to see it. The ho-hum story is rather secondary.

The Phantom of the Opera-1962

The Phantom of the Opera-1962

Director-Terence Fisher

Starring Herbert Lom, Michael Gough, Heather Sears

Scott’s Review #1,254

Reviewed May 12, 2022

Grade: B+

Probably not the best-known film adaptation of the famous 1910 French novel written by Gaston Leroux, but likely the most horrific. Hammer Horror Productions getting their hands on this is a significant win since the story is perfectly suited for the horror genre.

I’ve not yet seen the 1925 silent film version of The Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney which I hear is wonderful so I cannot compare that to this.

The possibilities for a macabre telling are endless and director Terence Fisher, a familiar director in Hammer films, is back at the helm to mix the dreariness of a musty London theater with the creepy face mask of its lonely and wounded inhabitant.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating in this review. It’s impressive to notice the astounding achievements the Horror films obtained by making lemonade out of lemons from a budget perspective. The limited funds necessitated creativity which can be seen in every series frame, especially the colorful sets and costumes.

The Phantom of the Opera (1962) is no different and is even better than some others in the brilliant mix of mood and sympathy for its main victim, specifically the luminous and disfigured ‘phantom’ played by Herbert Lom.

Dastardly Composer Lord Ambrose D’Arcy, wonderfully played by Michael Gough, and his bullied backer, Harry Hunter (Edward De Souza), struggle to find a replacement for the female lead in their new opera after she quits and flees town in the wake of a gruesome theater murder.

When a new prospect, the virginal Christine Charles (Heather Sears), disappears after the advances of Ambrose, Harry cautiously investigates unaware that there is a lonely figure inhabiting the theater.

Meanwhile, a mysterious masked man (Lom) who is eerily familiar with the opera holds Christine captive and offers to groom her to play the part.

He is a mix of crazy and passionate and his plight is sympathetic when what he’s been through is finally explained.

But the atmosphere is what sets The Phantom of the Opera apart from other similar films of the 1960s, even Hammer films.

This is never more evident in an early scene when the camera follows the characters on the misty streets of London, the darkness and shadows becoming prominent as they walk through streets and dark alleys.

Fisher, now five years into his association with the production company has hit his stride. A limited budget might reduce another director to a fretting basket case but the result and ease that he parlays to The Phantom of the Opera are quite beautiful.

Many scenes take place in the theater itself adding a foreboding element to the events. Dusty yet brimming with musicianship and artistic pizzazz, it’s fun to watch the characters sneak around and scheme within the confines of this structure.

Therefore, the mood and trimmings are exquisite without actually being so.

The music sequences are impressive without going on for too long, and despite the locale being switched from Paris to London for obvious reasons, the main being that the actors are British, this doesn’t hamper the overall experience.

The best, and most gruesome scene, occurs when a poor chap swings across the theater stage in a neck rope, dead as a doornail. The creaking sound of the rope as the man swings back and forth is chilling and dubious.

Lom is my favorite actor in the film and his character’s backstory reveal is humanistic and impressive. Who can’t relate to at least once being swindled or cheated out of work that is rightfully theirs?

Gough, also familiar to Hammer Horror fans, is tremendous as the treacherous main villain.

Sears is okay but perhaps not the greatest actress nor the best choice for the role. She’s rather bland and unmemorable.

The Phantom of the Opera (1962) falters a bit when it ends too suddenly, though many Hammer films suffer the same fate. This film is not for those expecting a grandiose Andrew Lloyd Webber style musical but for fans of down and dirty horror it’s just what the doctor ordered.

War Wolves-2009

War Wolves-2009

Director-Michael Worth

Starring John Saxon, Adrienne Barbeau, Tim Thomerson

Scott’s Review #1,252

Reviewed May 7, 2022

Grade: C-

Technically, a horror-television film that aired on the Syfy network, War Wolves (2009) is an abysmal experience in both filmmaking and plot. Bad dialogue and juvenile special effects are just the tip of the iceberg in what could easily be a hard-hitting review.

But, strangely enough, even with bad films pleasure is to be found and sometimes more than is rightly earned. My final rating of ‘C-‘ is my gift to the film that currently rates an anemic 8% audience favorability rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The only saving grace is the inclusion of veterans Adrienne Barbeau (Escape from New York-1981) and John Saxon (Black Christmas-1974) into the mix though Barbeau’s character is completely throwaway. Saxon is the co-lead and what a treat to see the seasoned actor do his best with weak material.

The action begins on the battlefields of the Middle East, presumably Afghanistan, where veteran Jake Gabriel (Michael Worth) is cursed with lycanthropy during a gunfight. He is aware of this and struggles to suppress his inner werewolf once he quickly returns to the United States.

His military comrade and girlfriend, Erika (Natasha Alam), and other female former soldiers begin to grow fangs and develop a fancy for the taste of blood. Jake resists but members of his “pack” attempt to hunt him down and convert him to the more thrilling life their changes are introducing them to.

Saxon plays a commander named Tony who is sent to the States to apprehend Jake before he can infect others and is joined by Frank Bergman (Tim Thomerson), his best friend, and polar opposite. Barbeau plays a woman named Gail who talks incessantly about her deceased husband.

Hopefully, Saxon, Barbeau, and Thomerson were thrown what little monetary breadcrumbs existed in the budget for this film. They play their parts earnestly while providing much-needed professionalism. Poor Barbeau even throws in a southern accent to her northern California hailing character in an attempt to make her more interesting.

I’ll say one thing. The above-average acting by the veterans makes up for the tepid and wooden acting by the rest of the cast. But casting gorgeous female ‘actresses’ as military personnel has a market too.

Unsurprisingly, the plot doesn’t add up and it’s never explained why Jake is infected in the first place or what anyone’s motivations are besides the obvious infecting and destroying the infecters.

The pale attempts at below the surface humanistic connections either go nowhere or result in the reaction of ‘who gives a shit, let’s see more blood’!

Worthy of mention is that star Michael Worth also directs the film. A better title than War Wolves would have been desirable. Although a humorous take on the word ‘werewolves’, it doesn’t roll off the tongue very well and conjures images more aligned with parody versus seriousness.

Unfortunately, Worth doesn’t play the film for laughs and it’s meant to be taken seriously, at least on paper. Tony and Frank have experienced this mission before and it causes Tony to be estranged from his family, a weak attempt at creating humanistic drama that never goes anywhere other than one conversation with an unseen family member from a pay phone.

I daresay the film is a load of fun providing some unintended laughs, especially in the final act. When the female pack appeared with cute, tiny brown noses, with matching pointy ears, and uttered demonic dialogue to appear threatening, I roared with laughter.

War Wolves (2009) is a film focused on the werewolf genre that is merely a blip on the radar and is probably forgotten already. It’s not my favorite horror sub-genre of all time but I’d still list The Wolf Man (1941) and An American Werewolf in London (1981) as the best entries.

But, for the 1230am-to 2 am timeslot on a boozy Saturday night, War Wolves is an appropriate fit.

Really bad movies can be fun too.

The Convent-2000

The Convent-2000

Director-Mike Mendez

Starring Adrienne Barbeau, Joanna Canton, Megahn Perry

Scott’s Review #1,246

Reviewed April 16, 2022

Grade: C+

I debated whether or not to reward Adrienne Barbeau with top billing recognition for The Convent (2000). After all, she doesn’t even appear, save for a quick silhouette scene that probably wasn’t even the actress, until the final third of the film.

Since I am a fan of Barbeau’s work, mainly the television series Maude, and films like The Fog (1980), and Escape From New York (1981), I decided to throw caution to the wind and cement her star status.

The film itself is terrible and needs all the help it can get. It’s campy beyond belief, amateurish, hokey, and acted poorly, suffering from enough ridiculous one-liners for me to wonder whether director Mike Mendez was purposely trying to make a bad film.

But before I get all curmudgeonly and smack this film in the face with an ‘F’ rating I’d like to justify my more than generous ‘C+’ rating.

If The Convent had tried to take itself seriously and produced shit like this I would have gone for the jugular in my review but it knows it’s a silly film and instead embraces this fact wholeheartedly.

Still, I kept wondering if the film was some sort of nod to the slasher film genre that took over the world from the late 1970s until the late 1980s, or if it feebly tried to merge this genre with the zombie genre and produce something fresh.

If made in say 1985, The Convent would have fit snugly amongst the heaps of other similar themed films that were patterned after superior feasts like Halloween (1978) and Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).

The film opens impressively enough when a young woman named Christine walks into a convent and goes batshit crazy shooting every nun she sees and burning the place to the ground.

I grinned because Christine looks exactly like Uma Thurman’s character in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 masterpiece Pulp Fiction with bright red lipstick and dark shades. Even her outfit looks the same.

Unfortunately, that’s where any parallels end.

From this point, the plot is basic and uninspired. A coed named Clorissa (Joanna Canton) joins her best friend Mo (Megahn Perry) and a group of college students on a dare to venture into the aforementioned convent (now rebuilt) and tangle with nun and priest spirits rumored to be inhabiting the structure.

After Mo is left alone and the rest of the bunch dine at Denny’s the plot goes from standard to wacky as the returning students are bitten and become possessed by Satanists who want to beckon Satan back to earth. There is an attempt to sacrifice any virgin among the group to help with this.

Conveniently, Christine (now older) lives down the street after spending a thirty-year stint in the loony bin. The badass woman comes barreling to the rescue with her motorcycle and an arsenal of machine guns to kick Satan’s ass.

The fun begins when Barbeau finally appears. With her dangling cigarette and macho talk, the actress is in her comfort zone. The dialogue uttered by her and the rest of the characters is so bad that once again I wondered whether this was the intent. I truly hope it was.

The robotic head twitching and glowing green eyes by the now possessed students align perfectly with the gimmicky art direction and juvenile special effects. I’ve seen better on a 3 pm daytime afternoon soap opera.

The most irritating character is easily played by rapper Coolio in a ridiculous role as a loud policeman. This attempt at comedy fell completely flat and I was more entertained by the gay satanist who cleverly decides that if he and another virgin boy have sex they will be spared.

Once the credits rolled I was happy not to have to endure any more of the one-hour and twenty-minute experience. Upon my five-minute reflection, I decided to interpret the film as a comical satire over anything more.

The Convent (2000) isn’t distinct enough to get the ‘it’s so bad it’s good’ award because it lacks any sort of identity. However, for a midnight movie that is so goofy and over-the-top that there is plenty to mock the film is a fun time.

And, it’s always a joy to see Barbeau in anything she is willing to appear in.

Jaws-1975

Jaws-1975

Director-Steven Spielberg

Starring Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw

Scott’s Review #1,240

Reviewed March 28, 2022

Grade: A

The directorial breakthrough by the iconic Steven Spielberg is Jaws (1975). The film is such a legendary and familiar project that even stating the name to pretty much any human being immediately conjures images of a man-eating great white shark and the unforgettable ‘duh-duh, duh-duh’ musical score.

It’s the film that famously made people afraid to go into the water just as Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece Psycho made people afraid to take a shower. When I have occasion to be near the ocean I always think of this film.

Jaws is a hybrid horror/thriller/adventure/action film whereas the subsequent sequels were all straight-ahead horror films that cast more teenagers, and some better than others.

Spielberg teaches a valuable lesson that much can come from very little and that a small budget can create greatness. What he accomplishes with Jaws is admirable, to say the least.

With Jaws, the story is more about the attempts of three men to destroy a killer shark and their relationship with the shark itself. The scary aspect, always terrific in horror, is we do not know what the shark’s motivation is. Why does it kill?

It’s a brilliant film that holds up well decades later despite the shark feeling less authentic as the years go by. But, the time a film is made must always be kept in mind.

When one summer day a young woman is killed by a shark while skinny-dipping near the New England tourist town of Amity Island, police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) wants to close the beaches. He comes into conflict with the mayor, Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) who overrules him, fearing that the loss of tourist revenue will negatively affect the town during its summer season.

Dismissed as a mere boating accident, the great white shark then kills a young boy in full view of a beach crowd resulting in panic and mayhem. It’s as if the shark is determined to be taken seriously.

Oceanographer, Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and grizzled ship captain Quint (Robert Shaw) offer to help Brody capture the killer shark, and the trio engages in an epic battle with the beast.

Jaws is a film that can be viewed multiple times and provides sheer pleasure each time. Forgetting the horror elements, the film provides adventure and heart-pounding thrills per minute once the men dare to try and foil the shark.

The fun, as in any film of this kind, is not knowing when or where danger will strike, only that it inevitably will come.

Scheider excels in his household name-making role as the determined police chief. He cares deeply about the townspeople and is therefore a likable hero. During frequent scenes, he gazes out to the water, a troubled look on his face, pained and feeling responsible for the deaths.

The audience empathizes with him.

Lorraine Gary, who would have a lead role in later films with poor results, is terrific as the supportive yet challenging wife, Ellen. She is the yin to his yang and it comes across on-screen.

The best scenes of the film are the very first one when the girl is eaten by the shark and the later one when Brody yells at everyone on a crowded beach to flee the water. Munching on the first victim, this is the scene where the dreaded music makes its debut. From this point, the audience knows that once this music is heard it means the shark is nearby.

In the other scene, the panic caused is breathtaking and palpable and sympathy is felt for Brody. He obediently takes the blame for the chaos and the deaths and makes it personal when his own son is victimized. The scene sets the tone for the scramble and mayhem.

Jaws (1975) has it all: adventure, thrills, horror, action, a hero, and blood. The technical aspects are astounding with underwater sequences and effects that remain viable.

It arguably created what has become to be known as the summer blockbuster.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Film Editing (won), Best Original Dramatic Score (won), Best Sound (won)

Two Evil Eyes-1990

Two Evil Eyes-1990

Director-George Romero, Dario Argento

Starring-Adrienne Barbeau, Harvey Keitel

Scott’s Review #1,239

Reviewed March 26, 2022

Grade: B+

Two legendary masters of horror, American director George Romero, famous for zombie films, and Italian director Dario Argento, famous for stylistic horror,  team up to create a thrilling double-bill horror feast.

For fans of the genre, the idea is titillating, to say the least, and the follow-through is a robust success. There is a gnawing television film feel to each of the films that are eventually usurped by the reminder that grand directors are at the helm.

Cleverly, they base their films on the works of the poet Edgar Allan Poe, famous for writing poems and short stories of the macabre and peculiar. ‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar’ (1990) and ‘The Black Cat’ (1990) are the featured tales.

Having seen many Argento and Romero works with Suspiria (1977) and Dawn of the Dead (1978) being my respective favorites, the fun is seeing how each film contains familiar aspects of each with a sprinkling of the 1960 Hitchcock masterpiece, Psycho, thrown in for good measure.

Fun fact- Psycho star Martin Balsam appears in ‘The Black Cat’ story.

In the first feature, ‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar’, Adrienne Barbeau plays an ex-flight attendant named Jessica who plots with her lover Dr. Robert Hoffman (Ramy Zada) for her elderly husband’s money. While liquidating large amounts of cash, her husband’s lawyer grows suspicious and warns her there will be consequences should her husband die in the next three weeks.

Naturally, he does, and events grow weird and terrifying.

In the second film, ‘The Black Cat, Harvey Keitel plays an unlikeable man named Rod Usher who works as a crime scene photographer. He suffers the consequences when he viciously kills his girlfriend’s cat. In his attempts to rid himself of both his girlfriend and the cat, they continue to reappear, much to his chagrin. With two detectives on his tail, the finale is both grim and satisfying.

If forced to choose, I am more partial to ‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar’ and this is mostly to do with the casting of Barbeau of whom I am a big fan. It’s also the winner of the two as far as the unexpected conclusion goes.

Barbeau carries the film, short at only an hour or so, and infuses likeability into a character who could easily be dismissed as a gold-digging bitch. Jessica feels some sensitivity and truly wants no harm done to her husband, she only desires some money. After all, in her mind, she deserves the payoff for having married an old man.

Romero’s influence is apparent but not as much as Argento’s is in ‘The Black Cat’. A gruesome scene at the conclusion when a character’s decomposing body lumbers forward immediately brought me back to the zombie delights of ‘Dawn of the Dead.

The music in the opening credits reminds me of Argento films in general. A mysterious high-pitched synthesizer sound peppers the experience with horrific beats that are highly effective.

I did not enjoy the prevalent cat torture scenes that appear in ‘The Black Cat’ and these are tough to sit through. I was somewhat encouraged by the knowledge that the dead cat does enact revenge on its torturer in the end.

I chuckled at the numerous references to ‘Psycho’ mostly when Balsam’s character of Mr. Pym appears. When the man climbs a flight of stairs who won’t immediately think of a similar scene in ‘Psycho’ with a deadlier result. Another scene of draining shower water immediately conjures up the legendary shower scene in ‘Psycho’.

Casting heavyweights like Barbeau, Keitel, Balsam, Tom Atkins, John Amos, and Kim Hunter provide credibility to a project that could easily have been dismissed as a throwaway horror double-feature.

The experience is much better than that as the compelling nature and thrills by the minute will keep the audience invested and longing to know what happens next.

‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar’ (1990) and ‘The Black Cat’ (1990) effectively team two of the best horror directors out there in dedication to the best horror poet.

Perhaps a longer duration for each film might have allowed time for more character exploration but the results are just fine.

Dead Snow-2009

Dead Snow-2009

Director-Tommy Wirkola

Starring-Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen

Scott’s Review #1,237

Reviewed March 12, 2022

Grade: B

First off, the cover art (pictured above) to the 2009 Norwegian horror-comedy film Dead Snow, is simply incredible. The creepy Nazi head embedded in the snow with a background chainsaw is perfect marketing and genuinely artistic.

It automatically makes the tired zombie horror genre feel fresh and alive with endless possibilities.

The film itself is a decent watch and tongue-in-cheek sensibilities are necessary to appreciate the movie. There is a hint of art film qualities peppered throughout and it’s not a run-of-the-mill mainstream horror film either but a sense of humor and embracing the ridiculousness is required.

In other words, one must be a fan of the genre to watch Dead Snow. Otherwise, it will not win people over with a great storyline or character enrichment.

It’s a slice and dice ’em affair and after a slow build goes into overdrive with the kills and thrills.

The familiar setup of a group of young people, this time intelligent medical students, heading off for a long weekend of booze and sex in a remote location gets Dead Snow off to an intriguing start. A lonely cabin in the middle of the snowy mountains of Norway is the primary setting for the Arctic Easter bloodbath.

The eight of them plan to ski and relax during the time away. After one of their group disappears while on a solo cross-country hike, a mysterious resident (Bjørn Sundquist) provides the remaining visitors with a backstory.

In the last days of World War II, a battalion of Nazi soldiers disappeared into the nearby woods after the residents turned on them, and that their zombified corpses remain on the prowl in the area looking for fresh meat.

Of course, the students hoot and snicker at the stranger’s proclamations but the audience knows full well the Nazi soldiers will emerge eventually. After all, in the very first scene, one of the students who never shows up to join the others is killed by an unidentifiable figure in the dark woods.

If nothing else, Dead Snow is prime-grade entertainment. I eagerly awaited who from the group would be butchered first and how it might happen. As all fans of the slasher horror genre know he or she who parties or has sex is not long for this world, and Dead Snow is no different.

What is different from a straight-ahead release is the dark humor that encompasses the film. When one student who is deathly afraid of blood must remove his arm with a chainsaw after being bitten, he does so with deep seriousness and precision.

The macabre scene nearly rivals some others like when a male member of the group is seduced for sex by a female member of the group while sitting on the toilet in the cold outhouse.

Enough splatters of blood exist to forget how silly the Nazi soldiers look. But the makeup and creative team do a superior job of making the zombies look horrific too. In particular, their leader, Colonel Herzog, is a combination of sexy and hideous.

The international quality and the Norwegian language require sub-titles but that is no problem for me. This brings sophistication and intelligence that I appreciate, rising the film above the mediocrity that it may have suffered from had it been an American release. The foreign lands add mystique.

Dead Snow at one hour and thirty minutes is short enough not to wear out its welcome which it starts to do in the final fifteen minutes or so. A chase scene across the snowy mountains and motivation for some ancient gold coins is explained as the final character makes it to safety in an until then missing car.

Or does he or she?

Providing some fun without taking itself too seriously, Dead Snow (2009) contains no message nor any marquis stars. Making Nazis the evil ones is no stretch so that there is immediately enough rooting value to forgive some of the students for their idiotic decisions.

It’s a bloody fun time but not much more.

Halloween-2007

Halloween-2007

Director-Rob Zombie

Starring-Malcolm McDowell, Scout Taylor-Compton, Tyler Mane

Scott’s Review #1,234

Reviewed February 27, 2022

Grade: B

I’ve seen director/musician/entertainer Rob Zombie tear down the house as the headlining second stage act at the metal festival Ozzfest in the 2000s. He’s a striking individual with ferocious energy and a creative persona. He’s also quite brave to take on such an undertaking as remaking the legendary slasher film Halloween from 1978.

The results of his 2007 effort simply titled Halloween is a mixed effort but props to him for having the balls to try.

Similar to other horror films he has directed, and his music, there is brutality and rawness mixed with nastiness and a grim outlook. He wisely focuses on the character of Michael Meyers but fulfills too much backstory for my liking. Part of the appeal of the crazed killer is his mysteriousness.

Michael is played by both Daeg Faerch and Tyler Mane.

The story is a bit of a remake and an original. The original aspect focuses on events that begin on Halloween when ten-year-old Michael inexplicably butchers a school bully, his sister, her boyfriend, and his abusive stepfather. He is sent to a mental hospital for the next fifteen years becoming despondent and fixated on making paper machete masks.

The second part is more familiar territory. Nearly two decades later he breaks out, intent on returning to the town of Haddonfield, Illinois. He arrives in his hometown on Halloween to hunt down his younger sister, Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton). The only thing standing between Michael and a night of bloody carnage is psychologist Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell).

I stress the point of the nearly impossible task that Zombie faced of remaking or even reviving a film as iconic as John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece. Without even putting pen to paper there would immediately be those who would mock and trivialize any attempt.

Zombie both wrote and directed the film. He immediately provides a reason for Michael’s dirty deeds. Close with his mother, played by Zombie’s real-life wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, who does a fantastic job, Deborah is a struggling stripper married to an abusive man. So Michael’s earlier butchery can be somewhat understood by audiences.

My preference is how Michael’s parents were portrayed in the original in their one brief scene. They appear to be an upstanding middle-class couple with a nice house and family. This makes Michael’s psychotic rampage all the more vague and confusing.

A fabulous scene at the mental hospital showcases an ominous moment. It’s Halloween Eve and Doctor Loomis visits the despondent Michael in the outdoor yard. The audience knows he will escape but not when or how things will erupt and who will be slashed, we just know the bloodletting will soon commence.

The rest of the film is standard fare and a letdown compared to the ambitious first half, though there is way more violence and gore than can be imagined. The film feels haunting and brutal with an uncompromising approach by Zombie to kick the killings up ten notches.

It’s like the original Halloween on steroids.

The casting highlights start and stop with the exceptional Malcolm McDowell as the tortured Loomis. The famous actor, forever known as Alex in A Clockwork Orange (1971) carries the film with his expression-filled crystal blue eyes and tremendous acting ability.

Another winning choice is Brad Dourif as Sheriff Lee Brackett. Classic film fans will remember the actor as a mental patient in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest in 1975 which he was Oscar-nominated.

Scout Taylor-Compton does a decent job as Laurie Strode but can anyone compare to Jamie Lee Curtis? I snicker at the thought. The rest of the actors portraying the teen friends are okay but not memorable.

Followed by Halloween II in 2009, Halloween (2007) received enough attention at the time to give fans a flurry of excitement but with the later recreation and reprisal by Jamie Lee Curtis and others from the original, the Zombie offerings won’t be remembered well.

It’s dirty, bloody, and raw but never terrifying. Zombie adds story points, some that work and some that don’t but I give the man much respect for dusting off a film as brilliant as Halloween (1978).

The Faculty-1998

The Faculty-1998

**Updated Review- Original Review in 2017**

Director-Robert Rodriguez

Starring Josh Hartnett, Jordanna Brewster, Clea Duvall

Scott’s Review #1,227

Reviewed February 5, 2022

Grade: B

The Faculty (1998) was released during the late 1990s horror film renaissance. Wisely, it cast film veterans that improved its merit along with young rising stars bankable at the box office. The film was only a moderate success but has become a cult classic over the years.

With a teacher/student dynamic incorporating all the standard cliches that go along with that, it mixes classic horror with a direct ode to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and is enjoyable, though hardly worthy of regular viewings.

Instead, it can be part of a 1990s nostalgia night or taken out as an opening act for comparison film Scream (1996), a similar vehicle also released by Dimension Films. The sunny yet somber high school setting is nearly identical in both films.

The Faculty is a sheer delight for teenage audiences or even twenty-somethings who can relate to the idea of their teachers being otherworldly or some such alien beings.

Stars Josh Hartnett, who had just jumped into the horror circle by being in Halloween H2O: 20 Years Later (1998), along with attractive and similar-aged Jordanna Brewster and Elijah Wood, lead the pack.

Piper Laurie, Robert Patrick, and Bebe Neuwirth appear in supporting roles as part of the faculty.

The setting is midwestern Ohio, where the students at Harrington High find Principal Drake (Neuwirth) and her gang of teachers a bit odd. Wacky under the best of circumstances, suddenly they become controlled by a parasite and attempt to infect the students one by one.

Cheerleader Delilah (Jordana Brewster), football player Stan (Shawn Hatosy), drug dealer Zeke (Hartnett), and new girl Marybeth (Laura Harris) team up with some of their other classmates to fight back against the invaders.

But is one of the students actually the ringleader and controlling the faculty?

The horror standardized offing one by one is intelligently mixed up in The Faculty. Rather than a maniac brandishing a hatchet and chopping the students to bits, they are instead infected by more subtle means. The fun is finding out who will become an alien next and enjoying the weird behavior of the staff.

And who hasn’t imagined one of their teachers writhing around on a sports car coquettishly toying with the hunky high school football players?

Yes, there are some plot holes to contend with and some stale attempts at pairing the teens off romantically. Predictably, the standard jock, cheerleader, nerd, outcast stereotypes abound as well as perceptions of what a school nurse, math teacher, and drama teacher look and sound like.

For good measure, one of the faculty (Salma Hayek) is ‘hot’.

There is much fun in the film and perhaps some truth and that’s what director Robert Rodriguez showcases throughout. He doesn’t take himself or his characters too seriously as inside high school jokes and role interplay make for a playful, light experience.

Rodriguez is the best friend and frequent collaborator of filmmaker Quentin Tarantino but The Faculty holds no Tarantino influence whatsoever.

My favorite line may be when Casey says to snooty Delilah Profitt, “You’re actually pretty cool when you’re not being a bitch”.

The film isn’t really about students versus teachers or the faculty getting their comeuppance. The target audience is the teen crowd and they will have a marvelous time experiencing The Faculty. Times may change but the same teenage angst is shared from generation to generation.

The film is a good outlet for that.

Any fan of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, either the 1950s version or the 1970s remake will notice some familiar territory. The pods become fish and the explanation of taking over planet Earth because another planet is dying is intentionally (hopefully!) silly with a science-fiction edge.

The film ends happily ever after which is satisfying for the level of seriousness one must take while watching.

Borrowing heavily from other horror films near and dear, The Faculty (1998) carves out enough originality in the science fiction area to warrant some props. It’s not a measured success but evenly distributes the pacing and the entertainment in a nice way.

And the big stars add a nice touch.

The Cabin in the Woods-2011

The Cabin in the Woods-2011

Director-Drew Goddard

Starring-Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth

Scott’s Review #1,221

Reviewed January 17, 2022

Grade: A-

The Cabin in the Woods (2011) is a very clever film with tremendous writing and acting. It takes a standard horror film premise and spins it into something new and inventive. I wouldn’t dare spoil the twist reveal at the end of the film but suffice it to say it’s a doozy.

It’s not your typical or expected slasher film.

Created by Drew Goddard (he wrote Cloverfield-2008) in his directorial debut he also co-wrote the screenplay with Joss Whedon. Besides horror, there is dark comedy and science fiction incorporated making it cross-genre entertainment and enjoyment.

When five college friends (Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams) arrive at a remote forest cabin for relaxation and quiet, odd horrors await them. A group of backwoods zombies wreaks havoc on the group and they are systematically killed one by one in a gruesome fashion.

From an unknown location, two scientists (Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford) are manipulating the events, but there are even more sinister machinations going on somewhere else.

The story on the surface is pretty basic and Goddard and company delightfully add parodies of standard horror elements. Most who see The Cabin in the Woods will be fans of the horror genre.

Anytime five college kids head for a weekend alone in a secluded cabin it’s a recipe for disaster.

I immediately compared the film to Friday the 13th (1980) meets The Evil Dead (1981).

The group even has nicknames that coincide with traditional horror/slasher film character trademarks: ‘The Virgin’, ‘The Athlete’, ‘The Whore’, ‘The Fool’, and ‘The Scholar’. This is a pure treat for fans.

Goddard, or the scientists manipulating the action, gleefully fills the students with intoxicants making their libidos flare and their curiosities piqued. A mysterious diary and other weird objects are found by the group in the cabin basement.

Ordinarily smart, the students are unable to provide rational thinking or proper reasoning. Naturally, they are unable to escape the remote area either.

The scientists cackle and make bets on which zombie will appear next. The audience enjoys this immensely because what horror film viewer doesn’t predict who gets killed when and how and who will be the last one standing?

The Cabin in the Woods is incredibly enjoyable.

In joyous form, two of the group have animalistic sex outside and one is decapitated.

Then things get strange.

The audience knows of the scientists, but wait there’s more! When the scientists are called by a mysterious ‘director’ who tells them that Marty (Hemsworth) has not been killed and is attempting to rescue Dana (Connolly), something has gone amiss.

The reasoning and understanding of the big reveal are very implausible but shocking nonetheless. It’s scary because it’s unexpected and that’s why the film is so creative and successful.

The Cabin in the Woods (2011) turns the traditional horror formula upside down and is a pure delight for fans of the genre. Instead of mocking, it embraces the methods and offers intelligence and humor that I truly appreciated.

The Curse of the Werewolf-1961

The Curse of the Werewolf-1961

Director-Terence Fisher

Starring-Oliver Reed, Clifford Evans

Scott’s Review #1,219

Reviewed January 15, 2022

Grade: B

Oliver Reed, later famous for films like Oliver! (1968) and Women in Love (1969) makes his first starring role in the low-budget Hammer Horror film, The Curse of the Werewolf (1961). He carries the latter third of the film simply because it takes that long for his character to appear.

The film is sectioned into parts and though only a little over one hour and thirty minutes feels quite long. The finale is the best chapter and the others, while good, move too slowly considering the brief running time.

This is the first werewolf film to be colorized and the film was heavily censored upon release.

Hammer horror regular director Terence Fisher is at the helm so there is a soothing and secure feeling for the viewer. We know the quality will persevere and I adored the setting of Spain with its gothic steeples and flavorful culture.

The Curse of the Werewolf is above average but not one of the best in the Hammer series.

Reed plays Leon Corledo, a man with brutal and macabre origins. He is adopted and raised in the home of a kind and respectable Don Alfredo Corledo (Clifford Evans). When he leaves Don Alfredo to find work, Leon discovers that he has increasingly violent urges. Although these fits are somewhat calmed by Leon’s love for the beautiful Cristina (Catherine Feller), he regularly transforms into a werewolf, terrorizing the Spanish countryside.

Before the central part of the story, Leon’s mother is imprisoned and raped by a homeless beggar gone mad. Unfortunately for her, she gives birth on Christmas where the werewolf curse is started. She soon dies and little Leon is taken in by Don and his motherly housekeeper, Teresa.

The middle sequence explains how Leon as a little boy escapes out his bedroom window to kill animals thinking it’s all just a dream. Don and others try to hide Leon’s secret.

The curse doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Why does the Christmas holiday make an unwanted newborn “unlucky” and a vicious werewolf? Why is Leon the only werewolf around? Surely, others are born on Christmas day.

Reed is the main draw as the handsome Leon and he makes a lovely mate for Cristina though too few scenes of them exist. It’s not explained why they fall in love other than they are both beautiful and Cristina’s current intended mate is boorish.

But, then again, The Curse of the Werewolf is not a love story so we accept some details with a grain of salt.

Any fan of Hammer horror films wants blood and mayhem and there is a good smattering of each. The dastardly Marquis Siniestro who humiliates the beggar and nearly rapes the servant girl (Leon’s mother) gets it in the back from her with a jagged mirror and the death is bloody and satisfying.

Later, a slutty girl with designs on Leon is ravaged to death by him after he turns into a werewolf on a night with a full moon.

The finale is bittersweet and almost tender when Don must make a horrible decision to kill his son with a silver bullet made with a crucifix to prevent the tortured Leon from killing anymore and suffering a life of misery and regret.

The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) is not as satisfying as the Hammer horror films featuring Dracula or containing Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing. Nobody will ever usurp Lon Chainey Jr.’s frightening portrayal of the wolfman decades earlier but it’s fun seeing Reed take center stage in the film.

There’s also enough to keep Hammer fans entertained.

The Brides of Dracula-1960

The Brides of Dracula-1960

Director-Terence Fisher

Starring-Peter Cushing, Yvonne Monlaur

Scott’s Review #1,218

Reviewed January 9, 2022

Grade: B+

It’s always impressive to me what Hammer Film Productions do with such a limited budget mostly from a set and art direction perspective. With small funds, they can create gloomy yet beautiful set structures that are highly creative and appear extremely lavish.

To the savvy viewer, this tidbit can make each film a treasure trove of enjoyment if only to look beyond the central activity taking place and notice the style.

The Brides of Dracula (1960) is no exception.

The film is a sequel to the 1958 film Dracula (also known as Horror of Dracula), though the character of Count Dracula does not appear in the film, and is instead mentioned only twice. As fans of these films know Christopher Lee portrays Dracula. Instead, the vicious vampire at the center of the film is Baron Meinster, a disciple of Dracula’s and played by David Peel.

The fiendish villain even bites his own mother played by Martita Hunt making her undead and terrifying to the residents of a Spanish village.

Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is the hero of the story and must drive a stake through the heart of the vampire baron before he deviously makes innocent Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur) his bride.

Cushing is a familiar part of Hammer horror film lore and leads the charge as the film’s hero. I love the character because he is heroic and unflinching, always calm, cool, and collected in the face of sheer horror.

The aforementioned sets are gothic and brilliant, especially the gloomy castle owned by Baronness and her son. When she invites Marianne to spend the night the girl is treated to a stylish room and a ravishing dinner served by a threatening servant named Greta.

The exteriors are as good as the interiors and portray the village within Transylvania as cozy and homespun. Outside the prominent inn run by the locals is inviting as much as it feels forbidden and haunted.

When Marianne is abandoned in the village by her terrified coach driver we know that secrets or living creatures are waiting to be unearthed.

These atmospheric additions will compel audiences to tune in and enjoy the horrific moments.

Speaking of the horror, The Brides of Dracula feels enough like camp to not be too scary, and comic elements exist throughout. No better example of this is the bumbling and boozy Doctor Toblerplayed by character actor Miles Malleson.

While many moments are over the top especially when a vampire character bares their fangs in the best hammy way, the film never feels foolish or amateurish.

A huge misstep is naming the film The Brides of Dracula when no Dracula is ever to be found. I incorrectly assumed that the Baron was Dracula until after the final credits had rolled. It’s a sneaky way to capitalize on the name recognition of Dracula.

There are too many fun moments in the film though to harbor much resentment. Of the brides, my favorite is Gina, played by Andree Melly who looks the most frightening.

The Brides of Dracula (1960) is an entertaining and pleasing chapter in the Hammer horror catalog. All the expected elements are contained within including a crucifix and a healthy dose of holy water.