Category Archives: Horror Films

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.

Candyman-2021

Candyman-2021

Director-Nia DaCosta

Starring-Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris

Scott’s Review #1,217

Reviewed January 8, 2022

Grade: B

Not being such a fan of the original Candyman horror film from 1992 though admittedly not remembering it too well either I had mixed feelings when I heard that a reboot was in the works. I’ve learned that while most remakes, especially in the horror genre, are not masterpieces, there is some joy in seeing them resurface.

I was delighted when I realized that Jordan Peele, the magnificent modern director of gems like Get Out (2017) and Us (2019) had co-written the screenplay. Peele has a tendency of creating intelligent and well-written black characters, something that still needs more representation in film today.

I admire the creativity and visual aspects that the new Candyman (2021) offers and the characters, mostly black, are to be respected and emulated because they are the heroes of the film.

The social message is another win and Peele is not the only player deserving of credit. Newcomer director, Nia DaCosta treats the viewer to more than the story. An artsy and sophisticated downtown Chicago art gallery and the swanky apartment is the main setting.

With all these credos Candyman is not a complete win and is sometimes overcomplicated. The supernatural elements, paired with a socially relevant angle, are implausible and I yearned for a more direct and accountable approach rather than fantastical storytelling.

The film has a certain left-wing message which I champion but that others may not.

For as long as residents can remember, the urban housing projects of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green neighborhood have been terrorized by a word-of-mouth ghost story about a supernatural killer with a hook for a hand. He can easily be summoned by simply repeating his name five times into a mirror.

As a child, Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who was a resident of the towers, met a man assumed to be the killer who was then unnecessarily killed by police.

Decades later, the Cabrini towers are long gone and Anthony is a struggling visual artist. He and his girlfriend, gallery director Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris), move into a luxury loft condo in Cabrini, now gentrified and inhabited by affluent millennials.

Anthony has a chance encounter with a former Cabrini-Green resident named Billy Burke (Colman Domingo). Anthony begins to explore these macabre details in his paintings, unknowingly unleashing a supernatural beast and risking his own sanity.

The sophisticated visual style and especially the wonderful drawings featured at the start and end of Candyman are highly impressive. They provide a heavy and realistic portrayal of African American culture and the generations of unfairness and mistreatment they have suffered.

This parlays to the point of the film and is nuanced with why the supernatural force with the hook rises up in the first place and takes his vengeance out on people who conjure him.

The final sequence cements this detail as a slaughter erupts between Anthony, Brianna, and the police. The police are portrayed as unkind and corrupt but I get the point of the film. Oftentimes the police are no friends of poor black people.

Despite the social element, Candyman doesn’t feel preachy.

The lead actors are attractive and appealing and even the original Candyman, actor Tony Todd, makes an appearance, though extremely brief. Other characters from the original also make appearances.

The kill scenes, a must for a horror film, are delightful, especially a sequence in which a troupe of gossipy schoolgirls meets their maker in a bloody girl’s bathroom scene. Besides being fun, the scene features a camera visual through a makeup compactor that is highly effective.

It’s just that when the credits rolled I didn’t feel enough satisfaction from what I had just seen. I was more perplexed with how the legend intersected (or did he become?) with present times and with Anthony specifically.

Candyman (2021) delivers an entertaining and relevant themed resurfacing of a thirty-year-old film that I’m glad I watched. It sometimes delivers but the realistic and important racial message is sometimes overshadowed by an otherworldly spirit.

The Forever Purge-2021

The Forever Purge-2021

Director-Everardo Gout

Starring-Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Ana de la Reguera

Scott’s Review #1,209

Reviewed December 18, 2021

Grade: B+

To date, I’ve seen two of the four installments of The Purge film franchise. The first one, The Purge (2013) was an edgy, creative concept that brought fresh energy to the horror genre. The sequel, The Purge: Anarchy (2014) was a decent follow-up but nothing to write home about either.

I skipped the next two: The Purge: Election Year (2016) and The First Purge (2018).

My expectations were low for the latest effort, The Forever Purge (2021). I’ve seen way too many ‘part five’ of various horror films to be tricked into thinking anything different will be offered to me.

I was pleasantly surprised. While the film doesn’t rewrite the rulebooks and sticks to a familiar formula for these types of films, there exists a timely political plot surrounding immigration that mirrors the deadly ‘Trump era’ that the United States is sadly still in the midst of ever since the 2016 presidential election.

After the film ended I first chuckled but then felt sad at the message that perhaps at some point citizens of the United States will flee to Mexico instead of the other way around.

It’s a somber message worth taking seriously.

In the first scene, we see Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and her husband Juan (Tenoch Huerta) come across the border from Mexico to live in Texas, where Juan is working as a ranch hand for the wealthy Tucker family. We presume they are illegal immigrants.

Juan impresses the Tucker patriarch, Caleb (Will Patton), but that fuels the jealous anger of Caleb’s son, Dylan (Josh Lucas). The residents of the small town prepare for lockdown because of the annual Purge, where all crime, including murder, is legal for one night only.

On the morning after The Purge, a masked gang of killers attacks the Tucker family including Dylan’s pregnant wife (Cassidy Freeman), and his sister (Leven Rambin), forcing both families to band together and fight back as the country spirals into chaos and the United States begins to crumble around them.

The insurrectionist movement continues committing crimes and murders nationwide after the Purge’s ending. The gang and their supporters spread throughout the United States as a Civil War eventually erupts causing many residents of Texas to flee to neighboring Mexico.

Unusual for horror films the premise and the screenplay are written quite well. The social message is a unique one and solidifies the importance of the action going on. Rather than feeling superfluous, I instead imagined that the events could occur in real-life current United States.

It was an unsettling feeling that made me focus on the film even more than I likely would have.

I love that James DeMonaco (director of the first three and writer of all five) is so heavily involved with the franchise. This consistency brings continuity and a good flow to the series. A sixth film is already in the works.

Too often in horror films a new regime will come along and change everything we knew from the preceding films.

The progressive slant of DeMonaco and director Everardo Gout won me over and I champion that the Mexican characters are the heroes of the film. Not to be forgotten, the caucasian Tucker family are written as sympathizing with and supporting their Mexican friends, becoming strong allies.

Where The Forever Purge lags a bit is with the traditionally standard action sequences. Numerous occurrences of shootouts between the Tuckers and Mexican family (they are never given a last name) and the radical movement become tired and standard after a while.

I sometimes felt like I was watching an episode of The Walking Dead.

The insurrectionists are portrayed as your basic dumb rednecks with primitive ideals and racist viewpoints but you never hear the current government’s side of the story. It is explained that the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) have regained control of the U.S. government but the explanations are limited.

It is supposed to be 2048 but this point feels silly since it is present times as far as hairstyles, clothing, and automobiles go.

I credit the thoughtful and forward-thinking approach that DeMonaco provides to The Forever Purge (2021). The political commentary is a huge win in an otherwise entertaining yet standard dystopian action horror film.

The film may be dated in ten or twenty years but in 2021 the message is pretty damned frightening.

Tales from the Crypt-1972

Tales from the Crypt-1972

Director-Freddie Francis

Starring-Joan Collins, Ian Hendry, Robin Phillips

Scott’s Review #1,200

Reviewed November 25, 2021

Grade: A-

Tales from the Crypt (1972) is a delicious British anthology based on stories from the EC Comics series. Each of the five chapters is eerie storytelling that offers horror fans glimpses into the minds of depraved and devilish characters with sinister motivations.

The sheer joy is witnessing their comeuppance.

This film is the predecessor to Vault of Horror from 1973 and can easily be watched as companion pieces.

Below is a summary, review, and rating of each vignette.

Intro

Five strangers are suddenly compelled to go with a tourist group to view old catacombs.

Separated from the main group, the strangers find themselves in a room with the mysterious Crypt Keeper (Ralph Richardson), who details how each of them may die.

…And All Through The House- A

Joanne Clayton (Joan Collins) brutally kills her husband Richard (Martin Boddey) on Christmas Eve to get her hands on their insurance money. She prepares to hide his body but hears a radio announcement of a homicidal maniac (Oliver MacGreevy) on the loose. She sees the killer (who is dressed in a Santa Claus costume) outside her house, but cannot call the police without exposing her crime.

Her daughter is upstairs in her bedroom, unaware.

This is my favorite chapter and is non-stop action. Collins is terrific as the greedy English woman put in peril. The audience will cheer for her to get her just desserts especially after she callously disregards a lovely Christmas gift her husband bought for her.

Reflection of Death- B+

Carl Maitland (Ian Hendry) abandons his family to be with his secretary, Susan Blake (Angela Grant). After they drive off together, they are involved in a car accident. He wakes up, having been thrown clear of the burned car. He tries to hitchhike home, but everyone he meets screams with horror when they see him.

This vignette is slightly confusing as far as the timeline of the events but compelling as we wait to see what Carl’s face looks like and what has happened to Susan and his wife.

Poetic Justice- A

James Elliott (Robin Phillips) lives with his father Edward (David Markham) across from the home of elderly dustman Arthur Edward Grimsdyke (Peter Cushing), who owns several dogs and entertains children in his house. James hates Arthur’s ramshackle lawn and embarks on a scheme to rid the neighborhood of the old man.

I love seeing Cushing play against type as a kindly grandfatherly character and this chapter is the ultimate revenge fantasy and quite satisfying to see what happens to James.

It’s also a perfect watch on Valentine’s Day since the holiday comes into play.

Wish You Were Here- A-

Businessman Ralph Jason (Richard Greene) is on the verge of financial collapse. His wife Enid (Barbara Murray) notices the inscription on a Chinese statue the couple owns. They are granted three wishes. Enid decides to wish for a fortune and, surprisingly, the wish comes true, but with dire results.

This one wonderfully cascades a chain of events that leaves the characters in peril. The theme is once again about greed and specifically surrounding insurance money. The fast-paced nature is appealing and the ancient Chinese wishes leave one character into eternal suffering.

Blind Alleys- A-

Major William Rogers (Nigel Patrick) becomes the new director of a home for the blind and exploits his position to live in luxury with his dog Shane, while his drastic financial cuts on food and heating lessen the residents’ living conditions.

Led by George Carter (Patrick Magee) the resident’s revolt after a fellow resident dies of hypothermia. Rogers and Shane are locked in the basement where Rogers must navigate through a maze of razor blades and a now ravenous wild dog who will hungrily eat his owner.

Though far-fetched, Blind Alleys is delicious fun and contains my most hated character. This is all the more satisfying as he ‘gets it’ in the end!

Finale

After completing the final tale, the Crypt Keeper reveals that he was not warning them of what would happen, but telling them what has already happened: they have all “died without repentance.

The conclusion does nothing more than put a satisfying cap for the viewer as each character once again pays for their shenanigans.

Halloween Kills-2021

Halloween Kills-2021

Director-David Gordon Green

Starring-Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Anthony Michael Hall

Scott’s Review #1,190

Reviewed October 31, 2021

Grade: B+

The second in a planned revival trilogy of the iconic Halloween franchise that began in 1978, Halloween Kills (2021) is a frightfully effective “middle sibling”. Bridging the gap between Halloween (2018) and the highly anticipated Halloween Ends (2022) the film has enough gory kills and bloodletting to satisfy any horror fan.

The plot is furthered and the groundwork is laid for the next installment.

The nods to history and having several actors reprise their characters from the original film is an enormous treat for fans and a true pleasure to see. The writing in regards to history is great and weaves these characters in with newer characters. Jamie Lee Curtis, of course, stars as the terrorized Laurie Strode.

Picking up where Halloween-2018 left off on Halloween night (naturally), a wounded Laurie (Curtis) is whisked away to Haddonfield Hospital to recover while confident that she has finally killed her nemesis, Michael Meyers, by burning him to death. She is joined by her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) since the trio left the masked maniac caged and burning in Laurie’s basement. Or so they thought.

Spoiler alert- Michael is far from dead.

Continuing his ritual bloodbath held on Halloween night, Michael roams the quiet streets of Haddonfield while the fed-up townspeople rise against their unstoppable monster and form a vigilante mob led by Tommy Doyle (Hall). They continue to chant “Evil dies tonight” in anticipation of Michael’s demise.

Kyle Richards (Lindsey Wallace), Nancy Stephens (Nurse Marion Chambers), and Charles Cyphers (Sheriff Brackett) return to the action with prominent supporting roles. Their additions are a major win for me and presumably any fan of the franchise. It’s on par with welcoming old friends back into one’s life with open arms after decades apart.

The fact that they provide historical background is icing on the cake. Brackett’s daughter, Annie, one of the first of Michael’s victims is celebrated and shown via flashbacks. Marion’s close friendship with Michael’s doctor, Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) is also mentioned. He is seen via computer-animated imagery when the events go back to 1978.

The decision by the director/writer David Gordon Green, along with co-writers Scott Teems and Danny McBride to frequently go back in time to the events of 1978 is uncompromised and relevant to remind old fans of the history of the story and teaching novice fans how the dots connect. It’s a brilliant decision.

The diversity offered in Halloween Kills is a breath of fresh air and progressive. An interracial couple, a same-sex couple, and a black couple are added with respect, dignity, and without stereotype. They are everyone’s neighbors and a true representation.

As residents of the cursed Meyers house, Big John and Little John are written as tough and intelligent, avoiding any comic relief that too often shadow gay characters.

A few death scenes are extended to show the victim’s pain and suffering instead of the usual quick and easy slice ’em and dice ’em style. This will make the squeamish a bit nervous but that’s half the fun of horror films, right?  The typical throat-slashings and eye gougings are included but many of the small characters are likable, witty, and smart, and not written as complete morons.

In contrast to the original Halloween, the residents of Haddonfield now seem more blue-collar and red necks than upper-middle-class.  I chuckled when Laurie yelled “sheep” to the venomous residents who were chasing a man assumed to be Meyers (he wasn’t). I surmised that maybe the filmmakers were sticking it to the dolts that blindly follow political leaders in a cultish way and devoid of thought.

Before anyone thinks that Halloween Kills (2021) is a work of art, it isn’t. There exists enough silly dialogue to make anyone snicker but that’s what slasher films are all about. They are meant to be fun and this Halloween installment doesn’t disappoint.

The film is sheer entertainment done well and makes me anticipate the next and “final” Halloween chapter. But, as long as the films remain hits at the box office the killings will go on and on and on and on.

Lamb-2021

Lamb-2021

Director-Valdimar Johannsson

Starring-Noomi Rapace, Hilmir Snaer Guonason

Scott’s Review #1,187

Reviewed October 17, 2021

Grade: A-

Director, Valdimar Jóhannsson’s feature-length film directorial debut is a mixed recipe of eeriness and gorgeous cinematography sprinkled with horror and dread. The film is shot entirely in remote Iceland making the texture of the film ominous and haunting.

The creation, Lamb (2021), is highly effective in mood and dread as throughout most of the film the feeling that something awful will happen at any moment is unrelenting. During numerous sequences, I expected something to leap out from behind a door or suddenly peer through a window but the film contains no gimmicks.

It doesn’t need them. The low-key musical score is terrific.

After an extremely slow build, the shit finally hits the fan making the payoff well worth the wait.

On their remote farm, María (Rapace) and Ingvar (Guonason) share a peaceful and idyllic life raising sheep. They are deeply in love but miss having a child. After one of their sheep gives birth to a human/sheep hybrid, they are filled with love and decide to raise it as their own naming her Ada. The arrival of Ingvar’s troubled brother Pétur (Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson) upends their calm family dynamic.

Providing an additional hurdle is the arrival of their “daughters” sheep mother who remains outside their house crying for her newborn. She is determined not to let María and Ingvar steal her baby. Does María go too far in a fit of rage?

Jóhannsson, who also co-wrote the screenplay, fills the film with mystery. The first scene is of a herd of horses terrified by some approaching force that arrives at María and Ingvar’s barn. Later, featured animals like the sheep, a cat, and a dog seem spooked and alert. What is this force and what’s in store for the characters?

On the surface, a sheep/human hybrid runs the risk of feeling ridiculous especially as Ada ages and is clad in bright sweaters and jackets. She cannot speak but can comprehend and is capable of feeling and emotion. She is quite human-like and filled with love. I, as audiences will, took to her and therefore rooted for her happiness.

I adore the characters of María and Ingvar. Preparing meals together, sipping wine, and playing cards, they take turns with the farmwork and make a wonderful romantic ideal. It’s never known if they once had a child who died or whether Ada is the first sheep/human hybrid they’ve ever seen. They don’t seem completely surprised at the birth.

When they visit a grave marked with the name Ada, we wonder who the deceased is?

I shuttered upon the arrival of Pétur. A heap of trouble he mooches off of our happy couple and despises Ada, almost shooting her with a shotgun. Thankfully, he has enough sense not to hurt her but the ever-present shotgun inevitably comes into play later on.

Rapace, Guonason, and Haroldsson provide exceptional acting which goes miles to ground a story that could easily be deemed as silly or superfluous.

Cinematographer, Eli Arenson, deserves major props for filming gorgeous Iceland location shots. Having visited this lush geographical paradise I immediately appreciated what I was being offered and was taken back to the sprawling farmlands and statuesque mountains.

Those who are squeamish about seeing an animal give birth may want to close their eyes during one scene which undoubtedly is a real birth of a lamb. I found it beautiful.

The final fifteen minutes of Lamb is violent and daring. Mixed with an obvious nightmare is a sweetness and sincerity that dripped from the screen. The folktale presentation creates a fairytale comparison and the fate of one character is shrouded in uncertainty.

For those wondering who or what Ada’s father is, daddy does finally make an appearance.

Lots of questions abound after the credits roll so might there be a sequel offered by Jóhannsson? Let’s hope so.

Lamb (2021) perfectly infuses the common reality of farm work and an attractive couple’s daily life with a horrific folklore story. I might have preferred a slightly faster pace but by no means did I ever feel robbed of a proper payoff.

Final Destination-2000

Final Destination-2000

Director-James Wong

Starring-Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith

Scott’s Review #1,186

Reviewed October 16, 2021

Grade: B

Following the commercial success of Wes Craven’s Scream in the mid-1990s, the horror genre was now a hot ticket item once again. New Line Cinema capitalized on this financial goldmine by creating the popular Final Destination franchise in 2000. Five films were created in total.

The Final Destination films all have the same premise. A small group of people escapes impending death after one individual sees a sudden premonition and warns the others about the mass-casualty accident that is about to happen. Their luck is unfortunately short-lived.

After avoiding their foretold deaths, the survivors are systematically killed off one by one in bizarre accidents caused by an unseen force creating complicated chains of cause and effect. In other words, there is no way they can cheat death and the bastard will have his way with them.

The upside is that the deaths are highly creative and oodles of fun for the blood-thirsty horror viewer to feast upon. Instead of a knife-wielding maniac, the protagonist is an evil force which at the time was a neat little add-on that made the film unique.

The victims are mainly teenagers or twenty-something characters which are the target audience for these and most other horror films.

In Final Destination (2000), high school student Alex Browning  (Sawa), is about to embark on a fabulous trip to Paris for his senior class trip. He is joined by a group of his schoolmates. Just before takeoff as the group is settling in for their eight-hour journey from New York to Charles de Gaulle Airport Alex experiences a premonition and sees the plane explode moments after leaving the ground.

Alex becomes unruly and insists that everyone get off the plane and seven people including Alex, are forced to disembark. All watch as the plane explodes in an enormous fireball, killing everyone on board. He and the other survivors have briefly cheated death, but will not be able to avoid their fate for very long. One by one, these lucky survivors fall victim to the grim reaper.

I have seen each one of the Final Destination films and enjoyed them all. Atypically, the first film is not the best. I may argue that part 2 is the best but that is irrelevant to this review.

The premise is extremely clever and instantly absorbing. Instead of the dated “final girl” one assumes that Alex will be the last survivor and that may or may not be true as a twisted game of figuring out which order the seven survivors will be killed is based on their seating arrangements on the flight nearly drives Alex mad.

It’s the perfect engagement for the viewer.

As a clue, director James Wong who co-wrote the screenplay creates stock characters like the dumb jock, Carter Horton, with the muscle car, played exceptionally well by Kerr Smith, and the douchey Billy Hitchcock (Seann Williams Scott). There is a teacher and FBI agents thrown in for good measure so it becomes obvious who is going to be killed off.

The fun is watching how they are killed. Delicious deaths like being run over by a bus, embedded by flying knives, and a good old-fashioned decapitation by flying shrapnel are to be enjoyed.

The final sequence, ironically set in Paris, is exceptional as three survivors are left and they feel safe. They are not safe at all as one of them suddenly realizes resulting in a clever final kill followed by sudden end credits.

This is narrowly usurped by the brilliant plane crash premonition scenes as Alex teeters between reality and premonition. The plane explosion is highly effective and is shown from inside the fuselage. The visual effects which used a miniature Boeing 747 are wonderful to watch with heart-racing detail and excitement.

At times during Final Destination, the action lags and Ali Larter who plays Clear Rivers is not the greatest actress. Her silly battle with electric sparks while sitting in a car is not the film’s finest sequence.

Final Destination (2000) is a fun popcorn film with some admirable unexpected turns. It stays true to the horror formula while offering some unique additions that feel fresh. It’s a roller coaster ride meant to be enjoyed and not overanalyzed. The innovation suitably balances the fun.

I Know What You Did Last Summer-1997

I Know What You Did Last Summer-1997

Director-Jim Gillespie

Starring-Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ryan Phillippe, Sarah Michelle Gellar

Scott’s Review #1,182

Reviewed September 29, 2021

Grade: B+

Capitalizing on the wild success of the mid-1990s horror resurgence led by Wes Craven’s Scream (1996), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) was a popular low-budget popcorn hit at the time. The year 1997 was like 1979 or 1980 when the slasher craze (part Deux) was still fresh and intriguing.

The film is fun with superior direction and a dark ambiance that works quite well for the genre.

A slew of other imitators would follow this release including the tepid I Still Know What You Did Last Summer in 1998 but the first one is formulaic entertainment done well. It wisely cast youthful stars of the day chomping at the bit to be the killer’s next victim.

One hot July 4th night in the small coastal town of Southport, North Carolina, a group of four teenagers run over a fisherman and dumping his body in the water, vow never to speak of the incident again. Some members of the group feel little remorse while others are racked with guilt.

The four principals are Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt), Barry (Ryan Phillippe), Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), and Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr.).

Predictably, one year later Julie receives a frightening letter and the group reconvenes. They fret and worry that they have been seen or worse yet that they will be exposed. The letter clearly states ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’. Someone begins to follow them, especially Julie, clad in fisherman’s gear and wielding a meat hook.

In a way, he is a combination of other horror villains like Jason, Freddy, and Michael Meyers, but we know neither his identity nor his motivation.

Does he want money or blood?

One of the group incorrectly pursues who he thinks is the killer and is unceremoniously run down and terrorized. The bloodletting only continues as other townspeople become involved in the events some amid a local Independence Day parade.

There are some obvious inclusions to the story to make sure audiences are aware they are watching a slasher flick and a teen-targeted genre flick. This is no wonder since the screenwriter, Kevin Williamson, was the best know for teenaged-themed writing for television’s Dawson’s Creek.

I Know What You Did Last Summer borrows from so many 1980’s slasher-flicks like Terror Train (1980), Prom Night (1980), and My Bloody Valentine (1981) that it’s a given that Williamson and director Jim Gillespie spent weekends shacked up with popcorn and sodas while watching these films for reference material.

The killer is masked. This is to make damned sure we know that we are watching a whodunit and that at the finale the killer will be exposed- think the big reveal in every Scooby-Doo episode. Could the killer be one of the teens themselves?

Julie is immediately the clear ‘final girl’ simply because she feels the most guilt and is the most pursued perhaps for that very reason. Other necessities like the asshole jock (Phillippe), the mean girl (Bridgette Wilson), and the red-herring are added on like clockwork. We know that Julie will be the one to survive.

Still, the premise is quite compelling and immediately had me hooked. I also knew that I was being manipulated but I did not care. I couldn’t wait to find out who the killer was.

The final sequence that ensures a sequel is delicious and an obvious ode to Brian De Palma films. A year later in 1998, Julie is in college in Boston. As she enters the shower, she notices the words “I still know” written in the steam on the shower door. Moments later, a dark figure crashes through it as Julie screams!

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) is straight up, by the numbers mainstream horror but the familiarity doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the experience. You know what is right around the bend and you can’t wait to get there.

Deathdream-1972

Deathdream-1972

Director-Bob Clark

Starring-Richard Backus, John Marley, Lynn Carlin

Scott’s Review #1,175

Reviewed September 3, 2021

Grade: B+

Deathdream (also known in some circles as Dead of Night) is a 1972 horror offering directed by Bob Clark and written by Alan Ormsby that plays out like a very good science-fiction meets gruesome horror type of The Twilight Zone episode.

This is not to say it’s amateurish though in certain ways it is and mostly just it’s that the dialogue is spotty. Rather, it has the feel of an episodic adventure more than an actual film. This makes perfect sense since it was inspired by the W. W. Jacobs short story “The Monkey’s Paw”.

The film was shot in a town named Brooksville, Florida which is unusual in itself and provides a genuine southern quality like when the family sits down for a hearty meal.

Usually, horror films stick to Hollywood studio locales or cheaper areas like Canada to film.

Deathdream stars Richard Backus, John Marley, and Lynn Carlin.

The premise immediately intrigues me. A middle-aged married couple, Charles and Christine,  (Marley and Carlin) receives the devastating news that their son Andy (Backus) has died in the line of duty during the Vietnam War. They’re overcome with grief, to say the least. Before the news, Christine seems overly chatty and a bit peculiar while Charles is much older than his wife.

Soon after, Andy, very much alive, hitches a ride with a truck driver whom he then murders. He arrives home and is clearly not the same, seeming to be zombie-like and in a trance, not the same boy who left for Vietnam a year earlier.

As a classic film lover, I was immediately tickled pink by actor John Marley’s appearance onscreen. Associated with Love Story (1970) and The Godfather (1972) with the latter forever etched in my memory as the film director who is made “an offer he can’t refuse” by way of his gorgeous horse Khartoum, it was a treat to see him in a horror film.

I noticed facets of Deathdream that reminded me of one of my favorite horror films, Black Christmas (1974) not realizing that they were both directed by Bob Clark himself. Deathdream serves as the perfect opening act to that most influential horror film.

An organ/synthesizer effect immediately caught my ear with more than a tad of fright. I instantly recognized it as the spooky noise emitting from the Black Christmas musical score. And both use a rocking chair prop with fantastic results. The creaking sound brought chills up and down my spine.

Can you believe this guy also made Porky’s (1981) and A Christmas Story (1983)? Talk about versatility.

It’s clear the film was made on a shoestring budget but proves in a mighty form that, similar to British Hammer horror pictures, creativity can ooze out of a small budget. Terrific is what the crew does with the special effects. Instead of cheesy or campy they are thrilling.

The story could be construed as silly or ridiculous. Andy is some kind of vampire or zombie who needs the blood of others to reinvigorate his decaying body which on paper makes little sense. The only reason he comes back from the dead (we see him killed in combat on-screen) is because he promised his mother he’d return home.

Beyond that, under the surface is a message about the war that I found powerful and that usurped the horror genre where the film lies. It’s not just another horror film- it has deeper subtext.

Though Clark is never overt about it, Andy obviously suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, something not yet realized in the early 1970s and certainly not talked about. Clark’s message is clear.  Andy is a young man whose life has been ruined unnecessarily.

Despite being a film aficionado I had not heard of Deathdream (1972) until quite recently. It’s an overlooked gem like so many others in the horror genre, but this one can be appreciated by horror fans, fans of message films, and those looking for a good scare.

It deserves some love.

A Quiet Place Part II-2021

A Quiet Place Part II-2021

Director-John Krasinski

Starring-Emily Blunt, John Krasinski

Scott’s Review #1,170

Reviewed August 12, 2021

Grade: B+

A Quiet Place Part II (2021) makes excellent use of sound, almost a character in itself, by featuring a deaf character and aliens who are blind and use only their acute sense of hearing to stalk and annihilate their prey.

The big sounds and the deafening silences keep the film fresh, capitalizing on its novel approach.

The film is both a sequel and a prequel that presumably allows director, writer, and actor John Krasinski the chance to reprise his ill-fated character offering a neat timeline to the events of the first film, A Quiet Place (2018).

Since that film was an enormous success a sequel was green-lit by the studio almost immediately. It offered Krasinski a great deal of freedom which he runs within this offering.

I can’t say the plot exactly comes together as tidy as I hoped and there is no explanation for the alien’s actions or motivations- what is it they want and where do they come from? The lack of explanation gnawed at me. After all, they must have been created from somewhere. The lack of motivation of a horror character like Michael Meyers is understandable but aliens?

The film is raised quite a bit above average thanks to a thrilling and fascinating opening sequence. This lengthy scene was astonishing with differing character points of view, meticulous filmmaking, and frights galore. Plus the appearance of Lee (Krasinski) killed in the first film immediately drowns us in intrigue.

I wish the rest of the film had remained as breathtaking but it’s not bad either. As a northeasterner, I was treated to some of the action taking place on a dilapidated metro-north railway train. Any commuter will appreciate this nod.

And who doesn’t enjoy numerous shots of Emily Blunt playing bad-ass with a loaded shotgun? The talented actress and wife of Krasinski add credibility to the horror genre.

I know someone who saw A Quiet Place Part II without seeing A Quiet Place and enjoyed it nonetheless but I think it’s helpful to know the material to appreciate the first scene.

We begin on Day one and the Abbott family-husband, wife, and three children, enjoy a little league game on a summer afternoon. When suddenly a cloud-like object plummets to Earth, all hell breaks loose and the town is in a terrified flee as aliens destroy all in their paths.

This plot point is interesting since viewers will know that two of the family members will not survive very long.

A year later the Abbott family-Evelyn (Blunt), Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and a newborn must leave their farm with a calculated plan to reach safety. They realize through a never-ending song played on the radio that there is a sanctuary on a nearby island.

Clever Regan, who is deaf, can combine a microphone with her cochlear implant to kill the aliens.

Young actress Simmonds is quite a find and along with Jupe emerges as the star of the film. The teenagers spent much time on the run and battling the aliens. Setting events up for another sequel Kransinki and Blunt may want less to do with follow-ups.

Deaf in real life she is the standout and supports a female empowerment slant especially while possessing a disability. She is a unique character because she is unconventional-looking and authentic, lacking the typical characteristics that attempt to get moviegoers into theaters. She is my favorite character.

Geography is an issue here. Presumed to be upstate New York and shot in western New York, possibly the Utica area, the sanctuary is in Long Island Sound off the coast of Stamford, Connecticut. This would require the Abbots to travel hundreds of miles but the film makes it seem that both areas are neighboring. This mistake may not be noticed by most but since I live in the area it’s apparent.

A Quiet Place Part II feels reminiscent of the television series The Walking Dead. The additions of the family traversing the countryside, a sanctuary, and ravaging humans all support this comparison.

There are some predictable plot points to endure that prevent it from straying too far from the fray but A Quiet Place Part II (2021) also offers a film about the senses that still feels unique. By part III this may become redundant but John Krasinski proves he can make a compelling sequence with enough suspense to keep his viewers engaged.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space-1988

Killer Klowns from Outer Space-1988

Director-Stephen Chiodo

Starring-Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder

Scott’s Review #1,169

Reviewed August 6, 2021

Grade: B-

A film surely only meant to be viewed late at night and/or in a hallucinated or otherwise drugged state for maximum pleasure, Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) is not to be taken seriously.

It does contain great imagination.

It’s kind of a take-off of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) with a wretched 1980’s look. It’s a fun film but as odd and pointless as they come. There is no explanation offered for the villain’s behavior nor is one really necessary. There is also no political message or motivation.

It’s like someone thought of the weirdest possible gimmick and made a film about it.

For a horror film, the body count is very high but there is little gore. Unsurprisingly, it has found a permanent home in the genre cult classic category, forever to be dusted off when in need of the wacky or absurd.

Teenage lovebirds Mike (Grant Cramer) and Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) see a comet crash outside their quiet, small-town one late night. They investigate and discover a pack of murderous aliens who look exactly like circus clowns. When they do the right thing and warn the local authorities, everyone assumes their story is a prank.

Meanwhile, the clowns attempt to harvest and eat as many people as they can. When they kidnap Debbie, Mike decides to set out himself to rescue her and stop the bloody rampage. This leads to an epic battle between Mike and his friends and the clowns.

The Chiodo Brothers, who wrote and directed Killer Klowns from Outer Space, are primarily known for special effects, stop motion, and clay modeling and the film uses these techniques heavily. The wonky and lumbering clowns possess sinister smiles and quirky cotton candy cocoons to keep their prey.

Hardly are they directorial or screenplay masters so the film feels extremely experimental in many regards. The storyline is basic and the villains have only one modus operandi. The character development is nill and the acting poor.

Is anyone surprised?

The key to the enjoyment of Killer Klowns from Outer Space is that it knows it is a B-movie and embraces the classification. Avoiding all seriousness is arguably what makes it a marginal success. One can sit back and laugh at it as one would rib an old friend. It is acceptable to both parties.

The clowns, or Klowns, are the real star of the film. It’s fun to view these odd creatures and admire their costumes. This is the creativity of the film coming out and the Chiodo Brothers are masterful at this. One part scary and one part goofy their lavish costumes are bright and colorful. The creatures themselves are ugly as sin, big and lumbering.

Predictably, the film writes the supporting characters as stereotypical as possible, and maybe that’s the fun in it all. Farmer Gene Green (cool name!) believes Halley’s comet is the strange glowing object falling to earth. He and his dog are quickly harvested. The police officers are curmudgeons and disbelieving of the teenagers. Various friends of Mike and Debbie are cast as one would think for a horror film.

The final climax is the best part of the film when an ice cream truck is used as a weapon against the clowns until a myriad of pies starts falling from the skies. Anyone watching the film while stoned would gleefully laugh.

Recommended for the adventurous cinema lover who wants to delve into the bizarre, late-night campy horror territory. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) is mesmerizing in its absurdity and harkens back to 1950s science fiction.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow-2020

The Wolf of Snow Hollow-2020

Director-Jim Cummings

Starring-Jim Cummings, Riki Lindhome

Scott’s Review #1,166

Reviewed July 28, 2021

Grade: B

Jim Cummings, who writes, directs, and stars in his self created horror-comedy offering about a killer werewolf, delivers a film named The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020) which has sprinklings of both Fargo (1996) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) mixed in with an appropriate amount of comic moments to offset the stark horror.

While the film can be watched and enjoyed any time of year, the snowy drifts and the Christmas and New Year’s seasons are well-positioned for a holiday horror feast. Especially clever is the inclusion of the song Auld Lang Syne during the finale of the film.

The film excels at offering a compelling locale and set trimmings.

To further the point and emphasize the Fargo comparisons, the setting is wintery Utah and many of the characters resemble those found in the Coen brothers film. The kooky police force, the odd characters, and the snowy plains are a nice nod to the film.

A small-town cop, John Marshall (Jim Cummings) struggling with a failed marriage, alcoholism, a rebellious daughter, and an inept team of officers, is assigned with solving a series of brutal murders that are occurring only during a full moon. As he’s consumed by the hunt for the killer, he struggles to deal with his sick father, played by Robert Forster, who is also the acting sheriff.

Are the murders being committed by a werewolf or someone donning a disguise? Part of the fun for the audience is the guesswork. Just the premise alone of a werewolf on the loose in a small town is compelling.

The film is a bit all over the place from a plot perspective. Besides the main plot of the murders and the subsequent whodunit, that should be enough to satisfy a quick one hour and twenty-three-minute running time. The relationship between father and son is touching and is a win. Since Forster died shortly after the film was made this adds even more poignancy.

There are some loose ends however that either don’t add up or are too predictable. The frequent shots of an unnamed townsperson suspected of the killings, who lives with a wolf and takes drugs are way too obvious a red herring. Spoiler alert- he’s not the killer. And Marshall’s daughter sneaking out to a car to have sex with a boyfriend is an obvious plot ploy for her to be attacked.

I’m not sure why so many films present police officers as either being incompetent, unintelligent, or corrupt but The Wolf of Snow Hollow is guilty as charged with some clear cliches meant to be humorous.

The film is still enjoyable and never boring. Lots of dark comedic elements lighten things up like when John flies into rages or banters with his father or female police officer and sidekick Officer Julia, played by Riki Lindhome.

The mystery of the killer is compelling and the final sequence is enthralling. I was immediately engrossed with the first scene when a  young pair visit the snowy town and dine in a local eatery preparing to embark on a romantic weekend. The assumption is these two are the main characters but when the girl is murdered things charter in a different direction.

On a quick inclusion note when a townsperson utters an anti- LGBTQ+ slur he is railed at by a character though no gay characters appear.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020) is an entertaining affair. It borrows from some other films but resurrects the werewolf storyline which is intriguing in itself. Since Cummings took on the bulk of this film himself I’m curious what else he will bring to the cinematic table, in the horror genre or otherwise.

Macabre-1980

Macabre-1980

Director-Lamberto Bava

Starring-Bernice Stegers

Scott’s Review #1,165

Reviewed July 26, 2021

Grade: A-

With a pedigree for horror, director Lamberto Bava has a lot to live up to. He is the son of Mario Bava deemed the “Master of Italian Horror” for creepies like Black Sunday (1960) and Black Sabbath (1963) and worked alongside Dario Argento, another famous Italian horror director.

Lamberto certainly learned his craft exceptionally well and he creates a terrific and gruesome horror film called Macabre (1980) which certainly lives up to its name. I won’t spoil the fun by revealing too much but the experience of watching his film will stay with the audience long after it ends.

Nightmares anyone?

Let’s just say that one won’t look at one’s libido and the human head in the same way ever again.

Sadly, Bava wouldn’t remain very long in the feature film industry. After assisting Argento with his films throughout the 1980s Bava would move to the television industry. But what a lasting impression he makes with Macabre.

The horrific tale mixes murder, madness, and perverse (or perverted) passion. A lonely New Orleans wife and mother, Jane Baker, played by Bernice Stegers, carries on a torrid affair without her family’s knowledge. After sneaking around and causing her daughter Lucy’s (Veronica Zinny) suspicions to be aroused, a violent accident leaves her lover, Fred, dead.

Devastated, Jane does a stint in a mental institution. Supposedly cured, she leaves determined to pursue her forbidden desires and ends up moving in with her dead lover’s blind brother, Robert (Stanko Molnar). But what secret or ghastly desires does she hold dear to her heart and what oddity resides in her refrigerator?

You’re probably wondering why a director with Italian roots as strong as Bava’s would choose the cajun and gumbo-infused city of New Orleans- I was too. Why not choose a more gothic locale like Rome? The setting is even more jarring given the British and Italian actors cast in the film.

Rumor has it the events in the film actually happened in New Orleans but I’m not sure I buy that.

Be that as it may, something is unsettling about this weird setting. But somehow it works as measured against the bizarre nature of the story. It’s so out there that for some reason it affects.

The running time is just right at one hour and thirty minutes and with such a low budget any longer might have felt distracting or made the pace plod too much.

Stegers is fabulous in the central role. She is controlled yet neurotic, madly in love with her beau on the brink of instability. She is also a strong, feminist woman as she brazenly carries on with her affair unconcerned of the consequences though death isn’t exactly what she expects. Regardless, Stegers does a fine job and carries the action throughout the duration.

It’s tough to measure at the time whether Bava is going for mid-level camp or complete over-the-top bizarro. He certainly knows the tricks of the trade and avoids the popular slasher effects like gore and blood. This is to his credit.

Instead, he floods Macabre with juicy atmospheric elements and a perfect mood. This mood gets creepier as the plot develops reaching a crescendo at the conclusion when Richard, Lucy, Jane, and even the deceased Fred adjourn for a savory dinner where the events will never be seen coming.

Macabre (1980) is a forgotten masterpiece that I highly recommend for any fan of Italian-style horror and those desiring a ghoulish and titillating journey into the macabre. How appropriate.