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 19, 2017

It (1990)

Oh. My. Goodness. I forgot how great this mini-series was. I ordered the Blu-Ray and I must say, I was not disappointed. Although it did not contain any extras (boo, hiss), the picture quality is excellent and it's clear they took some time to get this digital transfer right.

It is, perhaps, one of the most successful adaptations of a Stephen King novel. I would add Carrie (1976), Children of the Corn (1984), and Pet Sematary (1989) to that list. The only thing that does not work in this film is the monster reveal toward the end of the movie. It's a cheesy effect that lacks any sense of terror to it. In fact, it only elicited a chuckle from me. Pennywise the clown, however, is another matter altogether. Tim Curry gives the second iconic performance of his career with this character. The first being Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). The voice he uses for his character is perfect with a touch of gravel and lots of sinister behind it.


Director and co-writer Tommy Lee Wallace [Fright Night 2, Halloween 3] hits everything out of the ballpark except for the aforementioned monster. The pacing is great and he captures wonderful performances from his actors. Furthermore, the movie's transitions between scenes of when the characters were kids and when they are adults is seamless. It always makes sense and is never jarring or out of pace.

Speaking of characters, It is jam packed with A-list actors. The adults include Richard Thomas [The Waltons], John Ritter [Three's Company], Harry Lee Anderson [Night Court], Annette O'Toole [Smallville] and Dennis Christopher [Deadwood]. All of them have numerous TV credits attached to their names and know how to take full advantage of the small screen.  The kids include Jonathan Brandis [The Never-ending Story 2], Emily Perkins [Ginger Snaps series], and the one and only Seth Green [Buffy the Vampire Slayer]. No one is a weak link and everyone gives a solid performance.

I saw the remake this summer, and I must say I thought it was as good as the original if not better. I know some will argue back and forth as to who does Pennywise better [Bill Skarsgard is uber-creepy in the remake] but what's the point? Both do an amazing job with the character. The thing the remake has going for it is that they divide the material into two movies. The first is when they were kids and the second, which comes out in 2019, is when they are adults with flashbacks. This was a brilliant choice because they gave each of the kids a backstory in the remake. You understand their motivation for doing what they do and care deeply about what happens to them.

So, go see both. They are a joy to watch from start to finish.
 

RATING: Excellent.

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Pumpkinhead 2: Blood Wings (1993)

Although this film is slightly out of the time period for my movie reviews, I included it because it's the sequel to the 1998 horror classic Pumpkinhead which I rated Very Good. Unfortunately this sequel was made on the cheap and it definitely shows.
The bright spots are begin with Pumkinhead himself which is still a wonderful and creative monster design. I freakin' love the way he looks and even though there is a different production company in charge of the beast, he still looks great.

The second bright spot is Andrew Robinson [Hellraiser, The Puppetmaster] who plays the sherif in this small rural town. Unfortunately, most of the other actors around him are really weak. I give him credit for trying his best but he looks a little frustrated with the incompetence which surrounds him.

The major weak point of P2 is the script. The opening scene is really great and gave me hope that it would be a solid movie. However, the story then violates all the "rules" regarding Pumpkinhead that were so carefully set up in the first film. [I hate when that happens!] He is not a revenge demon in P2 but is, somehow, the resurrected form of the person who died in the opening scene. Boo! Hiss!

If there is another horror franchise that deserves to be remade, the is it! The monster is great and with the right script and more money, it could be a fun and enjoyable horror ride. Just don't expect much from this tepid sequel.

RATING: Fair.

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Hell High (1989)

If there was ever a mis-titled film, this is it. Hell High does involve high school students [Although they are Beverly Hills 90210 High School students who look about 25-30 years old!] But the focus is really on the Biology teacher who witnessed a traumatic event in her childhood. When she students start to bully her, she looses her shit and goes on a killing spree. [Trust me, her victims deserve it.] So a better title would help because I was expecting this to take place in the school but very little of it does.

Hell High is predictable slasher stuff with no creativity whatsoever. You see everything coming from the beginning of the film. Yet, this does not mean it's a poorly made movie. In fact, one-time-only director Douglas Grossman does a better job than some veteran directors who have multiple movies attached to their names. He makes this movie work given its limitations.

Therefore, it's not bad but its not good either. In the end, its simply uninteresting. Given the plethora of Dead Teenager movies that were spawned after the success of Friday the 13th, there are too many other great options to watch if you're in the mood for this kind of hour movie.

RATING: Fair.

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

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Day the World Ended (1955)


Day the World Ended is a post apocalyptic melodrama that feels like a 1950's version of The Walking Dead. Director Roger Corman [Masque of the Red Death, The Raven] had no budget to work with but manages to make the film look like a first-rate picture…that is until we get the full reveal of the monster. Corman wisely shows us on small bits and pieces of the beast so it keeps things interesting and suspenseful. When we finally see it in full figure, however, it looks like a Halloween costume that was picked up in a discount bin at Wal-mart. Disappointing to say the least.

This is a shame because the rest of the film is pretty good as a character study of how people behave when resources are limited and survival is the main issue at hand. This is where its Walking Dead-ness kicks in. Fans of the show will find it to be familiar territory. The acting is solid and the story holds together without a lot of ridiculous pseudo-science. Yes, there are explanations for everything that is happening but they are quite convincing.

Thanks for Corman's direction, much of this film is effective. It's a shame that the climax is killed by a poorly designed monster.

Rating: Fair.

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Fright Night, Part 2 (1988)

As far as I'm concerned, Fright Night 2 is one of the best horror sequels that is every bit as good as the original. This time around our hero, Charlie Brewster, is in college. He's in therapy trying to convince himself that vampires don't exist but this doesn't last for long. William Ragsdale [The Reaping] is wonderful as Charlie. He gives the character humor, vulnerability, bravery and fear in equal measure. It is definitely the role he was born to play. The ever-magnificent Roddy McDowall [Planet of the Apes movies] is back as horror TV host Peter Vincent. I just love him in this role. Together they are magic.

Without spoiling any of the surprises, director Tommy Lee Wallace [Halloween 3, Amityville 2, John Carpenter's Vampires, It] knows how to make a great horror movie. Fright Night 2 has tons of atmosphere to spare and the vampire effects work very well. The pacing is perfect and he ramps up the tension to a fevered pitch at the end of the film. He also gets wonderful performances out of all his actors.

Speaking of special effects, there are far too many people to mention but they get it right from start to finish. Costume design, set design, make up and prosthetics create a seamless look. This is one of the best the 80's has to offer.

Fright Night 2 also has a solid soundtrack by Brad Fiedel [Terminator, Gladiator] that is thoroughly 80's but doesn't give into cliches. It helps to set the mood as much as the visual effects do.

If you've seen the original but not the sequel, don't hesitate to watch Fright Night 2. As a side note, I'm also fond of the  2007 Remake of the original Fright Night starring Colin Farrell and Anton Yelchin. It's a modern adaptation of the original 80's film that is quite possibly better than the original. This proves that you can do a remake that doesn't totally jump the shark [Rob Zombie's Halloween comes to mind].

RATING: Excellent.

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Cry Wilderness (1987)

Thank God I saw this one on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It's really the only way to view this warmed over piece of dookie that uses grainy stock footage and a horrible bigfoot costume as it's best cinematic effects. Thankfully director Jay Schlossberg-Cohen only has two movies to his credit [4 as a producer] so at least we have something to be grateful for!

Cry Wilderness is the not-so-touching and totally predictable story of a boy and his sasquatch. Honestly, there's not anything else you need to know. Eric Foster plays the boy in question. He does an adequate job considering he's been given virtually nothing to work with. [Why the hell is a 11 year old hitchhiking in a snowstorm in the middle of the Colorado wilderness and NO ONE thinks this is odd.] When he finally catches up with dear old Dad in the wilderness we're greeted with some of the worst acting in the film at the hands of Maurice Grandmaison. Thankfully this film was the end of his acting career. Watch it and you'll know why! The cherry on this crap sundae is the prolonged fits of laughter that is truly creepy. It will haunt you for days!

How this film ever got made is a mystery to me. I'll take Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outerspace over Cry Wilderness any day. Truly one of the worst movies I've ever seen.

Rating: Bad.

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Invitation to Hell (1984)

Fun! That's the best way I can describe Invitation to Hell, directed by horror-meister Wes Craven. This made-for-tv movie is predictable stuff but it's done with lots of energy and enthusiasm and, thankfully, does not take itself too seriously.

The story centers on your average American family looking to have their slice of the American Dream. Robert Ulrich [Spencer For Hire, Vegas] is the father of this clan and gives his usual excellent performance. He grounds the film and makes some of the more absurd elements believable. Soap Star Susan Lucci [All My Children] is the leader of The Club which offers more than most people bargain for. It's clear the entire costume budget was spent on her and she has a blast delivering all the comedic lines and campy elements of the movie.

If the kids look familiar they are Soleil Moon Frye [Punky Brewster] and Barret Oliver [The NeverEnding Story]. The cast also includes such veteran actors as Joanna Cassidy and Kevin McCarthy. You simply can't go wrong with all the talent assembled.

I won't tell you much more because the fun of it is watching all the silliness unfold. Craven has a good time directing this one and delivers the kind of thoroughly entertaining movie many of us watched on TV in the 1980's. The interesting thing to note is that this was also the same year that A Nightmare On Elm street was released. These two films together, show the breadth of talent this wonderful director possessed.

RATING: Good.

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