Welcome, children of the night! This Blog is for fans of vintage horror films as well as those who are just beginning to discover the joy of these classic movies. I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

After the Americans artfully slashed their way through Black Christmas (1974), Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980), it was time for the Canadians to answer the call and cash in on the slasher craze.  The result is My Bloody Valentine [MBV] which is beloved by many and even labeled as a “cult classic” by some.  I don’t fall into either of these categories.  Like Little Nell in Rocky Horror Picture Show, I found myself saying “He’s OK” at the end of the film.  Nothing more, nothing less.

MBV has a few things going for it: 1) The scenes in the mine are creepy and atmospheric, 2) The look of the killer is original and interesting, and 3) the premise of the story is solid.  What it lacks are 1) characters we care about, 2) actors who can convey genuine terror instead of just screaming hysterically and, 3) a “twist” ending that’s actually a twist.

I know there will be many in cyberspace who will disagree with me with regard to MBV, but I’ve seen more than my fair share of slasher flicks and I found it to be fairly uninteresting, standard fare.  Yes, there are a few good kills that made me wince a bit but the rest of the movie is a yawner.  The young miners and their girlfriends who inhabit the opening scenes of the film are just not that interesting. I really could not have cared less who survived and who got impaled by the pick axe!  There is no character, like Laurie Strode from Halloween, who drew me in and stole my heart with her vulnerability and perseverance against a terrorizing psychopath.  Every character in MBV felt formulaic and poorly acted.

Yeah, I know, some of you out there LOVE this film!  What can I say?  I’m just not one of them.  I never saw the 2009 remake because I didn’t care for the original. If you’re a fan, tell me why you like it.  I’m still open to hearing what you have to say.


For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Pet Sematary 2 (1992)

I don't know what's wrong with the critics on IMDB. My suspicion is that many of them don't like horror, especially when blood and guts are involved. Therefore, they rate many of these films much lower than they should be rated. Thus is the case with Pet Sematary 2. Director Mary Lambert gives us a second helping that goes beyond the Stephen King novel. This time out Richard Outten provides the screenplay, upping the violence and gore in place of Stephen King's more subtle approach. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it's just different. Personally, I think it's harder to do what the first film delivers, but the sequel is a powerful film to watch nonetheless.

In addition to Mary Lambert's direction, the film's other strong point is the cast. Edward Furlong [Terminator 2, Detroit Rock City] is dynamite as Jeff Matthews, a young man who experienced the horrific death of his mother. Anthony Edwards [E.R.] also does a great job as his father. But the real force of nature in this film is Clancy Brown [Highlander, The Shawshank Redemption] who plays Sheriff Gus Gilbert. His manic energy in Pet Sematary 2 is a joy to watch. He definitely provides most of the squirm-worthy moments in the film.

If you haven't seen this one, PLEASE give it a chance. It is a worthy successor to the original.

RATING: Very Good.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pet Sematary (1989)

Pet Sematary is one of my all-time favorite horror films for many reasons.  First of all both the novel and the screenplay were written by Stephen King.  He is simply the master of setting an ominous mood and cranking it up to full force by the end of the story.  If someone else had adapted his novel, Pet Sematary would have definitely been a lesser film.

Secondly, director Mary Lambert, who did a number of award winning music videos for Madonna, has an impeccable visual style and each scene is lovingly composed.  There aren't too many women with an interest in doing horror and Pet Sematary is all the proof we need that there should be more of them.

Thirdly, the special effects are mostly subtle but really good.  I especially LOVE the work they did on Brad Greenquist who plays the ghost who keeps reappearing all throughout the movie. The other outstanding creation is Selda, the sister of the main characters who was actually played by a man, Andrew Hubatsek.  If that doesn't creep you out, I don't know what will.

Finally, we have a dream cast anyone would love to work with.  Both Dale Midkiff [The Crow: Salvation] and Denise Crosby [Star Trek: The Next Generation] are perfect together as Louis and Rachel Creed.  They help to create a family we really care about and that's essential for this film to work.  The other standout is my beloved Fred Gwynne [The Munsters, My Cousin Vinny] who plays the next door neighbor, Jud Crandall.  I think he is perfect in this role and shows he was just as great at drama as he was at comedy.

What more needs to be said?  If you've never seem this film, what are you waiting for?  I count Pet Seminary as one of the best Stephen King adaptations out there.  I never get tired of watching this film.

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Pumpkinhead (1988)

An iconic and original horror movie monster is born!  Pumpkinhead is the tragic tale of Ed Harley, a father who seeks revenge for the accidental death of his son.  With the help of a mountain witch named Hessie, Harley summons up a kick-ass revenge demon named Pumpkinhead.  The demon then begins to unleash his reign of terror on those who did Harley wrong.

There are a number of things I love about this movie.  The biggest one is Pumpkinhead himself.  Stan Winston Studios created a magnificent monster that feels fresh and original.  Tom Woodruff Jr [Aliens, Terminator] is credited with playing the creature as well as make-up effects.  The look of Pumpkinhead is also enhanced by the subtle blue lighting and fog effects that are used for the night scenes.  It's a visual feast for the eyes.

Another plus are the performances of Lance Henriksen [Aliens, Terminator] and Devon Odessa [Uncle Buck, My So-Called Life].  Henriksen's Ed Harley is the heart and soul of this movie.  It would be in serious trouble without him since much of the acting is a little weak.  I also loved Odessa's portrayal of Hessie who is a crusty old hag is there ever was one.  Her scenes greatly add to the film as well.

Stan Winston also does a fine job as director. Although he is known more for his special effects, he paces Pumpkinhead nicely and creates lots of tension and suspense once the monster is unleashed. 

On the negative side, there are plot elements that are a little weak.  The set up where Harley's son is killed comes as no surprise and you can see the death coming way before it happens.  The other thing I object to is their portrayal of mountain folk.  I live in the mountains of Southern Appalachia and found this very insulting.  We have soap here and we wash our clothes!  We even speak proper English!  Rant over!

With a few tweaks I could have given this film an Excellent rating but it just doesn't quite reach that high.  However, I love the monster and feel like Pumpkinhead is an underrated film by many critics.  Give it a chance!

RATING: Very Good.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Monster Squad (1987)

Yay, The Monster Squad is now streaming on Netflix!  I don't know a young teenager in the late 80's who didn't simply adore The Monster Squad.  It's the film that got many teens of this vintage hooked on horror.  It's a salute to all the classic horror archetypes, mostly from the 30's, with the exception of the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  We have Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, Mummy, and the Wolfman.  While they are different in appearance from the originals, I assume this is due to copyright restrictions.

The basic plot is that Dracula and his cohorts were vanquished by Van Helsing many years ago when they tried to rule the world.  Now they're back and giving it a second shot.  Standing in their way are a group of teen boys who are members of the Monster Squad.  They, along with a tag-along younger sister, combat the forces of darkness and, of course, save the world for a second time.

This is a classic piece of 1980's PG horror.  Very little blood is shed…but it sure is a lot of fun!  Fred Dekker's [House, Night of the Creeps] direction is spot on.  It has the feel of a Spielberg adventure with lots of action and a few "steal your heart moments" for good measure.  The effects are good for the time and nothing stands out as terrible.  It all works quite nicely.

In terms of acting, the cast is mostly unknown but this does not stop them from giving fine performances.  They are the kind of kids all of us grew up with and their characters ring true.  There is a brief scene with Jason Hervey [Back to the Future, The Wonder Years] who plays bully E.J. Justice is served on him quite quickly in a scene that will make nerds cheer everywhere!

There is not much more to say about The Monster Squad.  It's the perfect film for a lazy Sunday afternoon and will be a trip down memory lane for quite a few horror fans out there.  Classic stuff!

RATING: Excellent.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Trick or Treat (1986)

Growing up in the 70's I was warned repeatedly about the horrors of rock and roll. Backwards masking on LP's contained hidden messages about the devil and many bands such as AC/DC (AnitChrist Devil's Cult) and KISS (Kings in Satan's Service) were accused of attending Black Masses and swore their allegiance to the Dark Lord.  I knew it was bull$*@ then and it's bull$*@ now.  Long live rock and roll!  Trick or Treat is a comedic horror send-up of all things metal.  It brilliantly casts Gene Simons as a deejay and Ozzie Osbourne as a conservative Christian preacher.  If that's not enough to entice you to watch it, I don't know what will!

While Trick or Treat is hardly a horror masterpiece, it's got a lot of things going for it.  The soundtrack from metal band Fastaway shreds it's way through a tale of teenage angst, bullying and, oh yeah, resurrecting a dead rock star.  Marc Price, who played next door neighbor Skippy on Family Ties, has an opportunity to shed his squeaky clean image as Eddie who is the dead rock star's greatest fan.  The other well known actor in this film is Doug Savant [Melrose Place] who plays the bully quite effectively.  It's all class 80's stuff and both actors give it all they've got.

The real standout for me is Tony Fields who plays the dead rock star in question, Sammi Curr.  His performance is quirky and fascinating to watch, especially the concert scene where he owns the stage like the demon-possessed soul Sammi Curr claimed to be.  After watching the film I learned that Fields was a trained dancer and it definitely shows. Fields appeared in numerous music videos including Michael Jackson's "Beat It" and "Thriller."  He was also a Solid Gold dancer and appeared in the film version of "A Chorus Line as well."

If you're looking for serious horror, Trick or Treat will likely disappoint.  If, however, you're looking for a fun ride then it will fit the bill quite nicely.  It's everything some people either love or hate about 80's horror.  I happen to love it!

RATING: Very Good.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Master (1988)

The kids from the looney bin that survived Freddy in Nightmare 3 are back in school and have a legion of new friends ready for Freddy's slash fest.  That's about as exciting as this one gets.  Once again, the franchise suffers from Wes Craven's absence.  The screenplay is weak and the direction and cinematography are lacking as well.  Heather Langenkamp is MIA which is always a bad thing.  All this smells like New Line trying to make a fast buck with as little investment in the franchise as possible.  They succeed admirably.

In Nightmare 4, Patricia Arquette, who played our hero Kristen in the last film, has been replaced by Tuesday Knight.  [Seriously?  Sounds like a porn star name to me.]  Her stage name alone gives you a hint what you're in store for: a lackluster performance that doesn't even come close to Arquette.  Two of the other surviving teens are played by the same actors but both are dispatched of early on in the film.  What is left are caricatures of teen archetypes who are bitched at by completely clueless parents and teachers.  

Robert Englud is back, of course, as Freddy but they even give him less to do in 4 than he did in 3.  I hate this because I'm a big Englund fan.  He's capable of so much more than the pablum they give him in Nightmare 4.  In this flick he's reduced to a series of clever retorts that really aren't that clever.

To add insult to injury, the soundtrack suffers with lots of marginal 80's tunes and bland, atmospheric synths.  Further the special effects don't light a candle to earlier films.  It all feels like it's been done before and done better.  And that's the truth!

Not until Craven completely took over the reigns of the franchise with New Nightmare [Nightmare 6 if you're counting] did Freddy rise again to greatness.  This one is adequate at best and I feel sorry for the actors who are trapped in this marginal film.


For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.