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, December 31, 2013

Poltergeist III (1988)

Three times is not always the charm.  Such is the case with Poltergeist III.  Once again, they hired a new director/writer/executive producer, Gary Sherman, whose work is better than some critics contend but he’s hardly Tobe Hooper who did the first film.  Still, Sherman pulls off a nice visual trick in that we see much of the spirit activity through mirrored surfaces while these same figures are absent from the real world.  It adds a nice element of mystery but does get a bit old since it’s used rather extensively in the film.

Some of the other visuals are a bit lame such as the ice-covered boy who looks like he’s been dipped in oatmeal!  Sherman also borrows a camera tricks from Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street but doesn't do them with the same skill and shock value as Craven.  They come across as groan-worthy instead of terrifying.  P3 also suffers from a bad case of late 80’s fashion sense that does not serve the film well.

Heather O’Rourke is back as Carol Anne and so is Zelda Rubinstein as psychic Tangena  [LOVE her!].  The rest of the Freeling family is MIA which is remedied by Carol Anne staying with her Uncle Bruce and Aunt Patricia.  Thankfully, they got Tom Skerritt [Alien, Top Gun] and Nancy Allen [Carrie, RoboCop] to play these roles.  Both are excellent actors in their own right and their presence in this film helps it considerably.  However, this new family configuration lacks the emotional punch that the first two films had. The nuclear family in Poltergeist I and II simply works better as the emotional heart of the story.

Another minus…Julian Beck who did an amazing job as Reverend Kane in P2 died before P3 was filmed. Nathan Davis took his place but was not nearly as effective as Beck’s impeccably creepy preacher persona.

Sadly, this was Heather O’Rourke’s film as she lost her battle with Crohn’s Disease, signs of which you can see in the puffiness in Carol Anne’s face.  She was only twelve years old and it breaks my heart every time I think about it.  A remake of Poltergeist is slated for 2014 with horror icon Sam Raimi at the helm.  This is a “contemporized” version of the story so who knows what they will end up with!!!  Hopefully, they won’t massacre this classic film series.

RATING: Good. [Don’t pay attention to its rating on IMDB.  It’s better than you think!]

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

Monday, December 30, 2013

Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)

Dario Argento is a visionary filmmaker whose work has been the inspiration for countless other horror directors after him.  His bold visual style and flair for the dramatic always take the viewer on a “long, strange journey.”  Four Flies is no exception to this rule.  The story begins with a musician who accidentally kills a man who was stalking him.  While this act is taking place, a mystery man takes pictures of the event that eventually end up in the musician’s mail box.  Who is this mystery man?  That’s what this movie is all about!

Argento takes his time developing the story and adds a number of murders along the way. [Would you expect anything less?]  These murders have a hyper-realistic style to them that is pure Argento.  It’s a combination of slow motion action and bold symbolic visuals that pack quite an emotional punch.  Others have tried to duplicate this but no one has done it better than Argento.

Be patient with the pace of the film because the ending will knock your socks off.  [The strange title of the film is explained here as well.] The version I saw had a few extra minutes added to the end of the film that were cut from the original U.S. release.  I’m not sure why they made these cuts because the movie makes a lot more sense with them in it.  It’s quite a plot twist that I don’t think anyone could figure out before it hits you like a ton of bricks.

Fun stuff!  This is an Argento film that is accessible to just about every horror fan, especially those who like “who-dunnits.”

RATING: Very Good.

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

Sunday, December 29, 2013

House II: The Second Story (1987)

Do you want to know how to waste 7.8 million dollars?  House II is the answer!  Director Steve Miner is back with over twice the budget of the original film.  The results are horrifyingly bad.  Let’s start with the plot which involves young Jesse who inherits an old house that he quickly discovers is a bit haunted.  [A classic set-up].  Then things go downhill fast.  At the center of the story is a crystal skull that various demons and reanimated corpses try to possess.   First, Jesse’s great great grandfather is resurrected.  Then we meet a few really bad puppets, followed by Aztec warriors and a virgin sacrifice [I kid you not].  The cherry on the top of this sundae is Hallmark sentimentality that makes you want to throw up in your mouth just a title bit.  It’s all horrifyingly bad.

The biggest waste of an actor is Royal Dano who play’s the aforementioned great, great grandfather.  He is a marvelous character actor with a long resume in films dating all the way back to 1922!  The crap they give him to work with is unforgivable and painful to watch.  The only bright spot in House II is a brief cameo by John Ratzenberger [Cliff from Cheers].  He steals the show as the wacky electrician.  Unfortunately, it’s not enough to save this sinking Titanic of a film.

Do yourself a favor, and skip this one altogether!


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

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Shock a.k.a Beyond the Door II (1977)

Mario Bava’s final film is a keeper.  Shock is full of creepy, surreal imagery that is greatly  aided by a wonderfully spooky performance by child actor David Colin Jr. [who also starred in the first Beyond the Door film].  Colin plays Marco, a sensitive child who is possessed by the sprit of his father who died under mysterious circumstances.  His mom is your typical Italian horror histrionic actress who screams far too much and far too long.  It’s actually quite annoying.  The rest of the cast is fine.

The star of this film is the feeling it gives the viewer.  Bava’s creativity is always fun to watch.  He really comes up with some unique and artistic horror images.  The soundtrack which is a bit “Goblin-esque” [Goblin was an Italian prog-rock band] is full of texture and atmosphere that enhances the overall feel of the film.

I realize that Italian horror is not everyone’s taste but Shock should appear to horror fans of all types.  It’s part demon possession tale, part ghost story and part murder mystery.  Like many Bava films, the storyline is not as important as the experience.  Bava finishes his career with a strong offering that showcases the talents of a visionary director, writer and cinematographer.  Well done.

RATING: Very Good.

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