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!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

V (1984, TV Mini-series)

V is proof that a TV miniseries can be well-made and stand the test of cinematic time. Yes, it's got a number of 1980's giggle-worthy moments but, by and large, it's well made and well acted. The main thing that makes V work is it's intelligent screenplay. It starts with visiting aliens that appear as menacing as your grandma. Then, slowly, details are added which make you realize they are visiting earth with evil intent. The build-up is near perfect and makes for enjoyable TV watching.

I remember watching this when it first came out.  I was a fan of Marc Singer who had a hit a year earlier with The Beastmaster. He plays a TV cameraman in V and nails it perfectly. However, the best surprise is the appearance of Robert England who would become Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street the same year. His role as the lovable alien Willie is quite a contrast from the menacing Freddy, which goes to show his underrated range as an actor.

One of my favorite scenes is when Singer boards one of the alien ships and ends up tussling with one of them when his hiding place is discovered. As the human mask of the alien is pealed away, it reveals a reptilian creature whose face is well done and effective.

V would spawn another miniseries, V: The Final Battle (1984), and two TV series which ran from 1984-85 and 2009-11. I am especially fond of the latter version that is one of the finest remakes out there. If you're a Sci-Fi fan and haven't seen the original, what are you waiting for?

RATING: Excellent.

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

Monday, October 19, 2015

The People Under the Stairs (1991)

Wes Craven's The People Under the Stairs [TPUTS] is still one of the weirdest and most original horror films I have ever seen.  While it could have easily ventured into pure torture porn, Craven packs the script with lots of intelligence and just enough humor to make the gore bearable.  There are more squirm-worthy moments than I can possibly list here.  That's a tribute to Craven's skill as a filmmaker because it takes a lot to make me squirm!

In addition to excellent directing and writing TPUTS benefits from a strong cast including the delightfully demented slum landlord and his wife, played respectively by Everett McGill [Twin Peaks, Silver Bullet] and Wendy Robie [Twin Peaks, The Glimmer Man].  I would much rather spend a night with Freddy Krueger than with these two sadistic cannibals!  Even though their actions are way over the top, both of these actors make their characters seem very real.  Deep in the bottom of your gut you know there are people in our world who are equally as crazy and sadistic as these two which is what makes the film so horrifying.

The kids in the cast are also pretty good as well. Brandon Quintin Adams plays Fool who is the hero who saves the day.  He goes from being an average kid from the hood to bad mamma-jaima who utters the line "I'm tired of fucking around so you either put the gun down now or kiss your ass goodbye, boy!"  A.J. Longer is great as Alice, the daughter they've kept locked up in the house for as long as she can remember and Sean Whalen [Men in Black,Twister] brings a lot of heart and warmth to the story as Roach, one of the kids who lives under the stairs.

The final piece that makes TPUTS work is the incredible set and special effects.  The design of the house is flawless and seems to have an endless number of creepy rooms with secret passageways and tunnels that lead to one horrific room after another. The blood and gore effects also hold up well and definitely made me wince a time or two.

I have always been a Wes Craven fan and admire his visionary spirit and demented imagination.  TPUTS stands the test of time as one of his best and should not be missed.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

A zombie classic is born!  The Return of the Living Dead begins with a direct reference to George Romero's Night of the Living Dead.  Apparently some of the zombies from that plague were packed in barrels that were filled with a mysterious liquid.  [Zombie pickles?  Fantastic!]  When two bumbling employees discover them in a medical supply warehouse they not only bring one back to life but unknowingly launch a new zombie apocalypse.  The new zombies are a little bit different from the original models.  Unlike their shambling elders, these zombies move quickly like those in 28 Days Later and also have a specific craving for brains instead of flesh.  The result is a thrill ride that is both gory and funny.
ROTLD sports a somewhat cheesy 80's soundtrack but it does have a few good songs along the way.  The mix of comedy and gore is near perfect and the special effects are solid for 80's standards.  The cast of teens is a bit over the top in terms of typecasting but it suits this film just fine.  The main actors, especially James Karen [Poltergeist, Joyride] and Clu Gulager [Feast series] are great and understand how to make the comedic aspects of this film work.  The rest of the cast is solid as well, even though many are simply hors d'oeuvres for the zombie buffet.
ROTLD launched many sequels and solidified the reputation for zombies to be brain munchers.  It also provided some of the inspiration for making Shaun of the Dead (2004) which is definitely my all-time favorite zombie horror comedy.  Definitely watch ROTLD if you have any love for zombies at all.
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

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