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!

Monday, April 30, 2012

To the Devil A Daughter (1976)

To the Devil is a decent little film.  In its favor, it has Christopher Lee in a commanding performance as a rogue priest, Father Michael who appears to be playing for another team.  [Satan, anyone?]  He and his minions have nefarious plans for sweet Catherine, played perfectly by Nastassja Kinski [Cat People].  Her only hope is an American occult novelist, played nicely by Richard Widmark [Coma, Murder on the Orient Express], who tries his best to deliver her from evil.  Yep, it's classic stuff.
The second thing it has going for it is a few good special effects and the creepiest little "satan baby I've seen in a long time.  These elements add the needed feeling of dread to the film.  There's not much more to say about this one.  The story is far from original but it's a great one to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon.  If you're a fan of the classic "giving birth to a devil baby" genre, then this one is definitely your cup of tea.
RATING: Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Devil Within Her a.k.a. Sharon's Baby (1975)

The Devil Within Her has many names.  This is the U.S.A. title you'll find on Netflix.  Then there's the IMDB title "Sharon's Baby" and the original U.K. title "I Don't Want to Be Born."  But no matter what you call it it stars Joan Collins [Dynasty] as Lucy who used to be a "showgirl" but eventually went on to marry the successful Gino and has a baby.  It would seem that her life is now perfect.  But not all is as it seems!  I won't spoil the surprise for you but the baby appears to be possessed by something.  The Devil, perhaps?  Or something altogether weird and crazily different?
Joan Collins is, well, Joan Collins.  She handles the role of femme fatale with her usual flair and drama.  Ralph Bates [Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde] fills Gino's shoes nicely as well.  He's a classic British actor and handles the role with ease.  Also good are Donald Pleasence [Halloween, Escape from New York] as the doctor who birthed the baby and Eileen Atkins [Wolf] as Gino's sister Albana who is also a nun.  Pleasence is better in Halloween as Dr. Loomis but he handles the doctor role here just fine.  Atkins is wonderful as the nun who saves the day in the end of the film.  She has great expressive eyes that serve her well in this film.
Sharon's Baby is listed as a horror film and I'm sure it was written to instill terror in the hearts of 1970's filmgoers.  However, it is best labeled these days as a horror/comedy.  It is unintentionally funny but it's funny nonetheless.  If you view this film in this light, you'll find it to be an enjoyable viewing experience.
RATING: Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Parents (1989)


Parents is listed as a horror/comedy set in the 1950's.  I expected a fun romp through an era that is easy to make fun of with it's convenience cuisine and uncomfortable furniture.  This happen to a small degree but, make no mistake about it, Parents is a horror film.  It is dark, scary and the viewer doesn't really know what's heck is going on until toward the end of the film.  This is pure genius, of course.  It's hard to make an horror film that feels fresh.  This one is weirdly quirky which is something I enjoy form time to time.
Kudos to the director, cinematographer and set designer for putting together eye popping visuals that often contain subliminal messages.  It's great stuff and fun to watch.  
Furthermore, the family trio of Dad [Randy Quaid], Mom [Mary Beth Hurt] and son [Bryan Madorsky] are great together.  Their interactions are strange and a bit twisted to say the least but it does keep you on the edge of your seat.  I especially admire Madorsky's portrayal of Michael.  This is NOT your typical kid's role.  He gives a subtle and unnerving performance that draws you in as you try to figure out what's going on inside this kid's head.  Surprisingly, this is Madorsky's only film listed on IMDB.  I can't imagine why he didn't do more.
Weird can definitely be wonderful so if you're looking for something completely different to watch, then this one should fit the bill nicely.
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

The trailer is not allowed to be embedded but click HERE to see it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Die, Monster, Die! (1965)


Die, Monster, Die! has a problem.  It can't decide whether it wants to be a 1950's cautionary tale about the dangers of radiation or a 1960's "there's something dark and Satanic lurking around the house" story.  It's a bit confusing to the viewer.  The original source material is a story from H.P. Lovecraft that I have not read...yet.  If you have, it would be interesting to see how the two differ.  Something definitely got lost along the way.
This is a shame because the performances in this film are quite good in spite of the ambiguities in the script.  The story begins when a young man (Stephen) visits his fiance's estate (Susan).  He discovers there a less than hospitable father (Dr. Whitley) who is wheelchair bound and wants Stephen to leave the estate ASAP.  Boris Karloff [Frankenstein, The Mummy] plays Dr. Whitley with great depth and passion.  Karloff always has a certain spark in his performances that is enjoyable to watch no matter what decade we find the actor perfecting his craft.  Nick Adams [Frankenstein Conquers the World, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea] and Suzan Farmer [Dracula: Prince of Darkness] are also quite good as the young lovers.  
Furthermore the cinematography is quite beautiful and reminds me of the best of the Hammer Horror pictures.  The colors are vivid and the sets are impeccably constructed.  The film is directed well, too.  There's just the problem of the script that I think needed a major rewrite.  Oh well, if you're a Karloff fan, you'll want to see this one.  If you're not there are definitely better films out there from the 1960's to watch.
RATING: Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

From a Whisper to a Scream a.k.a. The Offspring (1987)


What a great title for this completely neglected gem from the 1980's.  Whisper stars Vincent Price as an historian who introduces four tales of terror that happened in his small town of Oldfield.  While many anthologies of this type, such as Creepshow, use lots of humor to move the stories along, Whisper turns up the horror full blast.  There is not a weak story among the four, although my two favorites are, not surprisingly, the first and the last.  
Story One contains a strong performance from character actor Clu Gulagar [Feast] who plays a bespectacled geek with homicidal tendencies who falls in love.  It's a creepy tale with some nice twists and turns.  Story Four is a Lord of the Flies meets the Civil War tale.  It reminds me a bit of Children of the Corn and this is a good thing.  Nicely done.
Whisper showcases Vincent Price toward the end of his career.  Yet, he still has that delightful sparkle in his eyes and impeccable timing in every scene he is in.  He trades barbs with the delightful and quirky Susan Tyrrell [Cry Baby, Powder] whose sister in the movie was executed at the beginning of the anthology.  They are simply great together.
Take a chance on this one.  From a Whisper to a Scream is well worth your time.  Kudos to director Jeff Burr for bringing this nice collection of stories to life.  I'm not sure why this one has escaped most people's attention but it's a keeper in my book.
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Food of the Gods (1976)

Shhh...what's that sound?  Oh, it's H.G. Wells turning over in his grave.  Food of the Gods is an adaptation of a portion of one of Well's novels where nature gets nasty and begins turning on humans.  The premise of the story is fine and it's been done brilliantly before in films such as The Birds or Creature from the Black Lagoon.  However, the giant, mutant animals in this one are anything but scary.  In fact, they are guaranteed to produce roaring laughter when they appear on screen.  [The giant mutant chicken has to be seen to be believed.]
Shame on director Bert I. Gordon [Attack of the Puppet People] and the people credited with doing the special effects, Tom Fisher, John Thomas, and Keith Wardlow, for giving us such terrible creatures.  This was the year of Star Wars, people!  You really needed to kick it up a notch or two!  Surprisingly, effects guru Rick Baker is uncredited as helping with the special effects.  Perhaps he knew it was so bad that he didn't want his name to appear in connection with this film.  But, hey, a guy's gotta earn a paycheck so I forgive him!
The acting in Food of the Gods isn't too spectacular, either.  It's not bad but no one in this cast is in danger of being nominated for an academy award either!  The 70's gave us some great horror films so don't waste your time watching this one.  Try one of the classics such as Jaws or Carrie.
RATING: Fair.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)

Cinematic gold was found every time writer/director Roger Corman teamed up with Vincent Price to produce an adaptation of a story from Edgar Allan Poe.  The Tomb of Ligeia is certainly no exception to this rule.  It's a mostly forgotten gem that needs to be seen by EVERYONE who loves either Poe or Price.
The story begins with the sullen and mysterious Verden Fell, played brilliantly by Price.  Fell buried his beloved Ligeia several years back along with her promise that she would not stay dead.  Fell meets the beautiful Rowena and one of the most bizarre love triangles ever conceived begins.  Elizabeth Shepherd [Damien: Omen 2] gives a powerful performance in the dual roles of Ligeia and Rowena.  She and Price make quite a pair...or is that a threesome?
Furthermore, the cinematography is lush and beautiful.  Corman and cinematographer Arthur Grant ant make wonderful use of a dilapidated church for many of its outdoor scenes.  It makes an amazing background and sets the tone for the film.  They also employ fire and flames in some creative ways hat make it feel more like a character in the film rather than a special effect.
Ligeia is more thriller than horror, but it's a thrilling ride indeed.  I'm surprised more people don't know about this one.  It's classic horror at its best.  Don't miss it.

P.S.  There is some serious cat abuse in this film, so if you're very fond of felines and have a weak stomach, you might want to skip this one.
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the episode's entry in IMDB.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Humanoids From the Deep (1980)

IMDB was being awfully kind by giving Humanoids a 5.5 rating.  This film is one big stinking pile of fish poo if you ask me.  How bad i s it?  Let me count the ways.  First of all, it takes itself way too seriously.  Director Barbara Peters was one of the few female directors who made trashy exploitation pictures in the 70's and 80's.  This kind of film is effective if it tells its story with a wink and a nod.  Unfortunately, Humanoids tries to hard to be a genuine horror film.  It fails miserably.
Secondly, the creatures in this film look like they were created for a High School play.  They have more in common with 1950's B-movie monsters than they do the typical fare found in the 80's.  They were meant to evoke terror but are unintentionally funny at best.
Finally, the acting is often stiff and wooden.  Some of it has to do with the dialogue.  most of it is simply bad acting.  There are so many wonderful horror movies that were made in the 1980's, bet scary and trashy ones.  I suggest you check them out instead and leave this one rotting away at the bottom of the ocean.
P.S.  Roger Corman is uncredited as executive producer of Humanoids.  It is hardly his best work and has more in common with the dreadful Monster From the Ocean Floor (1954)  than it does The Masque of the Red Death (1964) which is one of his finest efforts.
RATING: Bad.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

Horror legend Vincent Price [House on Haunted Hill, The Fly] and Italian scream queen Barbara Steele [Nightmare Castle. Black Sunday]  combine forces for a classic adaptation of Edgar Alan Poe's story The Pit and the Pendulum.  With director Roger Corman [The Masque of the Red Death, Little Shop of Horrors] at the helm and Richard Matheson [I Am Legend] in charge of the screen play could you really make a terrible film?  No, is the short answer.
Pit looks and feels like a Hammer Horror film which is a good thing.  The cinematography is gorgeous, the acting is rock solid and story is engaging every step of the way.  Price gives a rather subdued performance as Nicholas who is haunted by the spirit of his dead wife, Elizabeth.  I like Price in this role and appreciate his nuanced approach as the "tortured soul" Nicholas.  No one could have done it better.  The only complaint I have is that Steele, who play's Nicholas' departed wife perfectly, receives very little screen time except in flashbacks.  She has such a commanding presence on screen that it's a shame they gave her so little to work with here.
Pit is listed as a horror film but should be thought of as an old-fashioned thriller that keeps giving us tidbits of info along the way that provide all the twists and turns of the story.  This one is definitely a keeper and is right up there with Corman's best work as a director.  Don't miss it!
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Oasis of the Zombies (1981)

Bad make up.  Bad music.  Bad acting.  Bad cinematography.  What is there to like about Oasis of the Zombies?   Absolutely nothing!  IMDB gave this one a 2.3.  They were being extremely generous.  Don't rent this French film even if it's the last video on the shelf.  I'd like to get those 82 minutes of my life back!  Don't you waste them away like I did.  Avoid this one like the plague of the undead.
RATING:  Bad.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Vamp (1986)


I have to disagree with the critics on this one.  Vamp is a decent horror film that attempts to put an 80's spin on the vampire mythos.  While it's no Lost Boys (1987), Vamp has some really good moments.  Top of my list is Grace Jones as vampire Katrina.  While she is only in a few scenes, she absolutely lights up the screen.  You simply can't take your eyes off her.  It's too bad they don't use her more in the film because her presence is mesmerizing to say the least.
The story begins with two fraternity brothers Keith and AJ who go to the big city to pick up a stripper for a pledge party only to discover they get more than they bargained for.  Chris Makepeace [My Bodyguard, Meatballs] does a great job with Keith who vamps out early on in the movie in a great "sex equals death" scene with Grace Jones.  Robert Rusler [Weird Science, A Nightmare in Elm Street 2] makes the perfect AJ who is the sensitive hero type.  He is definitely the heart and soul of this film.  The "Twilight trio" is rounded out with Dedee Pfeiffer who plays Amaretto, a typical 80's gal who is up for adventure.  An added bonus is the appearance of the one and only "Long Duk Dong" from Sixteen Candles, Gedde Watanabe.  I love that film and it was fun to see him in a slightly more subdued role.
The cinematography is also very nice in this film.  The lighting which included washes of green and purple, added a nice mood to the film.  Also the vampire make up was great.  The look was less Twilight and more sinister which worked well in the film.
The only negative things I can say about Vamp is that the soundtrack is not the best the 60's had to offer.  Plus the acting is a bit uneven in places.  However, this didn't detract from me enjoying this film.  Give this one a chance.  Don't pay attention to the 5.4 rating on IMDB.  Remember, the critics are not always right!
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the episode's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Thing With Two Heads (1972)

The Thing With Two Heads falls into the "it's so bad it's good" category.  It stars football player turned actor Rosie Greer as a convicted killer who gets the head of a brilliant but racist doctor transplanted onto his body.  The special effects are horrible as Greer runs around with a dummy head on his shoulder.  This is interspersed with scenes where the good doctor is obviously standing in back of him with a towel wrapped around both of their necks.  Puh-lease!
Where this film transcends itself is its dealing with attitudes toward race which it tries to creatively dismantle.  For the most part, it works and this makes the film worth watching.  There's nothing like the head of a white racist transplanted on a black man's body.  The dialog is very tongue-in-cheek at times and it leaves you with the feeling that the filmmakers are in on the joke.
So, this isn't really a horror film but could be labeled as a sci-fi comedy adventure.  There is nothing ominous about The Thing With Two Heads.  He's simply a two headed man on the lam doing his best Dukes of Hazzard chase scenes.  If that appeals to you then you just might enjoy this terrible slice of cinematic heaven.
RATING: Bad.  [As in "it's so bad it's good"]
For more info check out the episode's entry in IMDB.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Crucible of Horror/The Corpse (1971)

They say that evil dies hard.  Such is the case with Crucible of Horror, the story of a domineering, sadistic father who tortures his family while his wife and two adult kids bear it all with quiet grace and dignity.  [Ah, it's the British way!]  Things have probably been going on like this for years with no one willing to challenge dear old Dad.  Finally, mom and daughter have had enough and they devise a plot to kill off the old man.  They succeed but the problem is that he doesn't stay dead.
Crucible is rather slow paced British film whose bright spot is Michael Gough [Alfred in the 1990's Batman movies] as the father.  He's a terrific actor who can bring just the right amount of menace and cruelty to the role.  
The problem with Crucible is that it's just not that interesting.  The cinematograph is fine.  Most of the acting is  fair.  However, there's just not that much material to work with here.  It feels like very familiar territory and the movie pulls no surprises.
This one might be fine for British audiences but its all a bit too tamed and civilized for me.
RATING: Fair.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Child's Play (1988)

Child's Play is one of the classics of 80's horror that spawned a franchise and an intensely loyal following.  Like A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) before it, Child's Play is able to inject humor into it's horror with great results.  The movie begins with a spectacularly intense scene where psychopath Charles Lee Ray is being pursued by the cops.  By way of dark magic, he places his soul into a doll that end us in the hands of sweet little Andy.  Naturally, things go downhill from here!
Brad Dourif [Exorcist 3, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers] is Ray as well as the voice of Chucky.  He's wonderful in both role and brings a delightful menace to Chucky the doll that few could match.  He went on to voice Chucky in all of the sequels as well.  If you've never seen his performance in Exorcist 3, check it out.  He know how to do creepy really well.
Alex Vincent is also great as Andy.  For such a young kid, he brings tons of emotion to the role and is convincing and believable at every turn.  That's quite a feat for a child actors and he embodies all the qualities that are needed for us to want to jump onto the screen and save him from danger.  Catherine Hicks [7th Heaven, Star Trek 4] plays Andy's mom, Karen, and she fills the role quite nicely.  Together they have that "you and me against the world" vibe that works well in horror films.
The cast also includes Chris Sarandon [Fright Night, Nightmare Before Christmas ] who plays the cop investigating the case.  I love Sarandon in every film I've seen him in.  He does a great job with this role as well.  Director Ton Holland keeps the action rolling at a nice pace and the film score by Joe Renzetti adds to the overall sense of suspense and terror.
The only negative thing I can say about this movie is the use of little person Ed Gale as Chuck's stunt double.  It's so obvious they've switched from the doll to him that it's painful to watch.  My hope is that someday they will do a remake of this film and take advantage of the CGI technology we have these days to make Chucky come fully alive.  Now THAT would be something to see.  

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

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Doctor Blood's Coffin (1961)

Doctor Blood's Coffin [DBC] is a modern take on the Frankenstein story with less than spectacular results.  Kieron Moore [The Day of the Triffids] is Dr. Peter Blood, our mad scientist who is secretly experimenting with reviving the dead in a remote Cornish town.  He is a decent actor with good screen presence but they really don't give him anything juicy to work with.  I kept waiting for something exciting to happen and it never really occurred.
Instead of Igor or Fritz, we have femme fatale Hazel Court [The Masque of the Red Death, The Curse of Frankenstein] who is Dr. Blood's nurse assistant.  She is clueless as to what the good doctor is doing after his office hours are over.  She also finds him strangely attractive.  Court is wonderful as Nurse Linda Parker.  She is dressed to the nines no matter what the occasion.  Her hair and make-up are flawless wether she is serving tea or crawling through the tin mines.  My kind of girl!  Hitchcock would have loved her.
The problem with DBC is that while the cinematography and acting are quite good, the script doesn't bring anything new or interesting to the table.  We've seen it and heard it a thousand times before.  This is the inherent danger in working with the Frankenstein story.  You have to really bring it if you're going to be successful.  DBC barely gets above a low simmer, let alone give us something exciting to watch on screen.
RATING: Fair.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

During the 1970's we were all a bit Satan obsessed.  In school they warned us about cults and how we should keep an eye out for Satanic symbols.  Handouts were even passed around in the hallways with these symbols on them so we would know a Satanist when we saw one.  The Dunwich Horror is one of a long line of movies in this vein.  Based on a story by H. P. Lovecraft, the story centers on Wilbur Whateley who is desperate to get his hands on the Necronomicon, which contains a history of the "Old Ones" and how to summon them.  Dean Stockwell [Quantum Leap] plays the high priest of darkness with cold detachment.  It is an understated performance to say the least.  I would have liked to have seen a bit more menace in the role myself.
Sandra Dee [Gidget] plays Nancy who becomes Wilbur's love interest/virginal sacrifice.  You decide.  It's amazing she doesn't see that this guy is bat-shit crazy from the moment she set eyes on him.  She willingly trusts him without any red flags going off which is surprising to say the least.  I know some women who are attracted to bad boys but they usually don't go for psychopaths!  Oh, well!
The acting The Dunwich is fine but nothing special.  There are a number of scenes that have the feel of a hippy acid trip with strangely costumed naked people awash in psychedelic color filters and patterns.  This same use of color filters is employed every time something ominous is happening on screen and it gets old quickly.  It's a poor substitute for actual special effects.
Even though the film is only 90 minutes along, it felt much longer which is never a good sign.  I think the reason for this is that during the first 60 minutes of the movie the pacing is way too slow.  Things don't really pick up until the end of the film.  But by then it's really too little, too late.
When it comes to occult films, there are much better ones out there.  The story in this one has a lot of potential that The Dunwich Horror doesn't quite capture.  Too bad.
RATING: Fair.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Fog (1980)

I love John Carpenter's films and The Fog is certainly no exception.  It's a film that does a lot with very little and I mean that as a sincere compliment.  Carpenter starts with a interesting screenplay that doesn't lay all of its cards on the table at the beginning of the film.  Then he loads his cast with great, emotive actors such as Adrienne Barbeau [Swamp Thing, Creepshow], Jamie Lee Curtis [Halloween, True Lies], Janet Leigh [Psycho, Touch of Evil], and Hal Holbrook [Creepshow, All the President's Men] who make us care what is happening on screen.
Finally, he brings in just the right amount of special effects: a creepy day-glo fog, a weird pulsing soundtrack [Carpenter wrote the score like he did with Halloween], an arm of the living dead here, a knock at the door there.  It all adds up to an old-fashioned fright where less is more.  Your mind fills in all the gory details including the blood splatter which we actually see very little of on screen.  Nicely done!

A remake of The Fog was done in 2005 but it's not as good as the original.  The sequel's strong suit is that it fleshes out the backstory a bit more than the original film does and I love the ghost effects in it as well.  As far as I'm concerned you can't go wrong with either version.  [The sequel is much better than critics say it is.]  Watch them both for yourself and let me know which one you prefer.
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Exorcist 2: The Heretic (1977)

The Exorcist is one of my all-time favorite horror movies.  I wish I could say the same about Exorcist 2.  The demon-possessed girl from the original film, Regan, is now demon free...or is she?  Linda Blair reprises her infamous role, although they give her absolutely nothing to work with in Exorcist 2.  She's all sweetness and light in the sequel which is not a good thing, since Blair is at her best when she's either projectile vomiting pea soup or cussing like a demon-possessed sailor.
Screen legend Richard Burton enters the story as Father Lamont who is sent to America to investigate the death of Father Merrin [Merrin met his demise at the end of the first film].  Burton gives the role of Father Lamont all he's got and provides the only memorable moments in this film.  Without him, it would be bleak indeed.
The problem with Exorcist 2 is that it gets bogged down in pseudo-science and religious mumbo-jumbo.  It's got too many things happening at once and they don't necessarily tie together very well.  We have Louise Fletcher [Flowers in the Attic, Firestarter] who is trapped in the role of a sympathetic psychologist.  She gets my vote as "most likely to loose her license by the end of the film."  As someone who works at a hospital I have to ask "Who wrote this crap"?  Then there's the incomparable James Earl Jones [Star Wars, The Lion King] who finds himself wearing a locust hat and sitting in a grass hut.  Seriously?  This is Luke Skywalker's father for crying out loud.  Show him the respect he deserves!
To add insult to injury, the sets in Africa look like they were constructed for Disneyworld and the annoying soundtrack from the usually brilliant Ennio Morricone makes me want to drive an awl through my ear drums by the end of the film.  [They say confession is good for the soul so I'm glad I got all that off of my chest.]
I don't think Exorcist 2 is as bad as the critics say it is, but it's not stellar filmmaking either.  If you liked the first one, skip over Exorcist 2 and watch Exorcist 3 which is the worthy sequel to the original.
RATING: Fair.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Wraith (1986)

According to the dictionary, a wraith is a ghost or ghostlike images of someone, especially one seen shortly before of after their death.  True to it's definition, The Wraith is the story of Jamie who is killed by a gang of thugs and returns in a new form to seek his revenge.  The film stars a young, clean and sober Charlie Sheen as Jamie/Jake.  He does a nice job with the role although his performance is a bit understated.  Nick Cassavetes [Face/Off, Alpha Dogs] is the gang leader, Packard Walsh.  Although he feels a bit too old for the role [Think Luke Perry in Beverly Hills 9020] he is the most believable of the pack.  The rest of his gang are too cartoonish to be convincing or menacing. 
Sherilyn Fenn is Keri, the love interest in this triangle.  Her character is sweet and adds some much needed emotional depth to this movie.  Matthew Barry also does a nice job a Billy, the brother of the deceased Jamie.  He is also quite a likable character and helps give us a reason to care what happens on screen.
Overall, it is filmed well but, for whatever, reason I simply can't get too excited about The Wraith.  It's predictable from start to finish and you pretty much know where it's going every step of the way.  The soundtrack is classic 80's tunes featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol, Robert Palmer, Bonnie Tyler and more.  It's fun but doesn't add a great deal to to establishing the mood of the film.  It's more like a giant jukebox that plays random hits.
The Wraith car design and "space suit" are nice.  They are probably the most interesting elements of the film.  Finally, all you pyros out there will love the explosions.  WOW, they really had some firepower at their disposal.  It was impressive to say the least.
Perhaps, with a stronger cast of gang characters, The Wraith would have been a better film.  For me it chugs along at an even keel but is lacking something in the end.
RATING:  Good.
For more info check out the episode's entry in IMDB.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Warlock (1989)

Warlock is a fun, imaginative film.  I'm not sure why critics only give it a 5.9 on IMDB.  It deserves much better.  Warlock is the story of a warlock [Surprise!  Surprise!] who flees from the 17th century to the 20th century in search of parts of a missing book that would give him tremendous power.  Julian Sands [Gothic, Arachnophobia, Tale of a Vampire] is perfect for the part.  He has the look, the attitude, and fills the screen with his commanding presence.  The Warlock is pursued by a witch hunter form the same time period who is played by Richard E. Grant [Dracula - 1992 version, Corpse Bride] who sports some bad Braveheart hair.  In spite of this, he does a great job with the character, adding both humor and pathos to the film.
His modern gal tag along is noneother than Lori Singer [Footloose] who sports a really tortured hairdo herself.  [Where's the hot oil treatment when you need one?]  She does a nice job with the role even when they have to apply tons of old lady make-up on her face for several scenes in the film.  My only beef is that when they portray her as a 60 year old, she hobbles around like a 90 year old.  It feels a nit overdone.
Speaking of effects, they are really nice in Warlock.  I especially like the way the Warlock conjures up fire from his fingertips.  The look of the flames is actually quite beautiful.  The rest of the effects are solid as well and work really well on screen.
The icing in the cake is a great script and beautiful music by composer Jerry Goldsmith [Star Trek movies, Omen] who has more movie credits attached to his resume than I can mention.  His score elevates this film high above many cheesy synth driven scores that appeared in 1980's films.  Director Steve Miner keeps the action humming along nicely and doesn't let the special effects overpower the story.  I think Warlock is a classic and should be seen by everyone.  Don't miss it.
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the episode's entry in IMDB.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Beast With One Million Eyes (1955)

What would happen if you crossed Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963) with George Romero's The Crazies (11973) and then stripped them of anything remotely interesting and innovative?  What would be left?  What if you then took this meager carcass of an idea, added a few marginal actors, a UFO, and had a budget of about $100 to work with?  What kind of film would be the finished product?  Why the answer, my friends, is The Beast With a Million Eyes.
This one reads more like a soap opera than a horror, sci-fi adventure.  The plot involves a dysfunctional family who lives on a farm in a remote desert.  Mama is an unhappy housewife who is about three Xanax short of a nervous breakdown.  [How many times can she burn the cake?  Really, honey, that's what they make timers for!]  Then there's the misunderstood daughter who wants to go to college but no one is listening to her. [I think she's secretly yearning for a torrid lesbian romance.  I can see it in her eyes.]  Oh yeah, there's Dad as well, but he doesn't seem to do much except a lot of moralizing at the end of the film.  
Finally, a UFO arrives that looks like a low budget R2D2 with disco lights and one hopes that the plot will thicken.  It doesn't happen...the animals and the humans start acting a bit crazy [crazier than they were to begin with, that is] which eventually leads to the UFO demanding that it take possession of the daughter.  But this does not happen.  Love wins out, the family sticks together, and the alien is destroyed.  You expected any other outcome?
Wow, this one is a bottom feeder for sure.  It represents the worse of 1950's cinema.  Avoid it at all costs and watch something that is actually enjoyable such as Them! (1954) or Forbidden Planet (1956).
RATING: Bad.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.