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!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Knightriders (1981)

Knightriders is not a horror film, but the legendary George Romero [Night of the Living Dead, Creepshow] wrote and directed it so that’s why it’s here.  Think of Nightriders as a Renaissance fair gone bad.  It’s all about knights on motorcycles who joust and fight for paying spectators until someone gets hurt.  Leading this family of Camelot misfits is none other than Ed Harris [Gravity, The Abyss] in one of his earlier roles.  He is this group’s King Arthur, who goes by the name of Billy, and seeks to maintain harmony and order within the community.  But Billy has a dark side which makes things interesting.

Billy’s nemesis and threat to the throne is  Morgan, played wonderfully by special effects guru Tom Savini [Dawn of the Dead].  This movie proves that Savini is not only good at guts and gore, he’s a fine actor as well.  The two of them duke it out among a cast of merry misfits who try to make a living doing what they love.

Romero’s script is smart and while it taps into universal themes, it still feels fresh and original.  His direction is spot on as well and the action scenes are quite effective.  Look for a fun cameo from Stephen King who was working with Romero on the script for Creepshow while Knightriders was being filmed.  It’s great to see Romero make good use of this serendipitous occasion.

The only negative thing I can say about Knightriders is that with a run time of 146 minutes, it’s way too long for the story it tells and should have been edited down to 120 minutes or less.  If you like action films with lots of drama, then Knightriders will be an enjoyable movie to watch.  If you’re a Romero fan and you haven’t seen this one yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?  I believe it showcases the talents of a creative and visionary director and stands as one of Romero’s best films.

RATING:  Very Good.

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


Friday, October 17, 2014

Rodan (1956)

In 1954, visionary director Ishiro Honda wowed audiences with Gojira, his tale of the horrors of the atomic bomb. It was just as much a political critique as it was a horror film.  This same year the American version was released [Godzilla] and the Japanese have been fighting scores of monsters ever since!  Ca-ching!

The next monster to terrorize the Japanese countryside was Rodan, which is actually two mutant pterosaurs along with their two offspring.  The story begins in a mining village where workers keep disappearing in one of the mine’s deepest shafts.  Investigators are sent in and they discover a few giant prehistoric bugs who have quite an appetite. After this, the Pterosaurs appear and begin to unleash their reign of terror.

The script is good, especially the ending scenes which are truly heartbreaking. But what is missing is the deep social and political commentary that made Gojira a masterpiece.
Rodan follows a simple formula that many horror films before and after it follow:  Monster appears.  Monster kills.  Humans are no match for the monster at first, but find a way to destroy it in the end.

My biggest complaint are the pterosaurs which pale in comparison to the look of the original Godzilla monster.  Granted, Godzilla was a guy in a suit but this gave the monster an organic feel.  The Rodans look a bit cheesy to me and the repetitive use of the same shot over and over again, gets on your nerves pretty quick.

I know this film is beloved by many but it doesn’t do a lot for me.  I’m a huge fan of Gojira [The Blu Ray edition is gorgeous] but Rodan leaves me feeling a bit disappointed.

RATING: Good.

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


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Firestarter (1984)

Those of us who grew up in the 80’s were treated to a number of Stephen King adaptations including Firestarter.  While it’s not the best of the bunch [Carrie takes that title] it is a well acted and enjoyable film.  Drew Barrymore does a wonderful job as Charlie, an 8 year old girl with pyrokinetic powers.  Barrymore is perfect for the role and is the emotional heart of the film.  Her evil counterpart John Rainbird, is played to perfection by George C. Scott.  He can go from sweet to sinister with the slightest change of facial expressions.

This dynamic duo is helped out by a wonderful cast of actors including Martin Sheen [The West Wing], David Keith [An Officer and a Gentleman] and small role appearances by Heather Locklear [Melrose Place], Art Carney [The Honeymooners], Louise Fletcher [Flowers in the Attic] and Antonio Fargas [Starsky & Hutch]. 

Director Mark L. Lester does a good job of keeping things moving along and is able to capture some wonderful performances from his actors.  Firestarter is also greatly helped by Mike Edmonson [The Avengers, Iron Man] it’s pyrotechnical and special effects foreman.  By 80’s standards all the fire scenes are first rate and they hold up well 30 years later.

The two weakest elements in Firestarter are the wind effect that is used every time Charlie starts a fire with her mental powers and the Tangerine Dream soundtrack.  The first is just plain cheesy and looks like they are holding a blow dryer up to Barrymore’s face.  The second is too tepid and Tangerine Dream's ambient synths fail to pack the musical punch this film needed in its most dramatic moments.

Firestarter has its critics, especially those who have read the book.  But books and movies are two completely different entities and should be judged on their own merits.  I’ve watched Firestarter several times over the years and found it enjoyable from start to finish.  Don’t miss it!

RATING: Very Good.

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


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Vintage Zombie Fun for October 2014

If you’re looking for a good zombie film to watch during the month of October and you can peel yourself away from new episodes of The Walking Dead, I recommend the following which are reviewed elsewhere on this blog.  There are no voodoo zombies on this list.  Everything zombie begins with George Romero! [They are in no particular order.]

Straight Up Zombie Movies

  • Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  • Dawn of the Dead: Dario Argento’s Cut (1979)
  • Day of the Dead (1985)
  • Zombi 2 (1979)
  • Night of the Comet (1984)
  • City of the Living Dead (1980)

Zombie Horror/Humor

  • Sugar Hill (1974)
  • Night of the Creeps (1986)
  • The Return of the Living Dead (1985)