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!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Halloween (2018)


I rarely rate a film that was made beyond 1990 but, hey, this is Halloween, the mother of all slasher flicks [If you exclude Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho]. There are a bazillion reviews out there of this highly anticipated film, so I'll keep my comments short.

Here's what works: The opening title sequence is brilliant as a dried up pumpkin is resurrected. It pays homage to the original and is perfectly executed. The revamped soundtrack by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter & Daniel A. Davis puts a fresh coat of paint on what is one of the finest horror soundtracks of all time. The familiar themes are there, but they are beefed up a bit and it works flawlessly.

Then there's Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode. This time out she's a gun-toting force to be reckoned with. It's the right evolution for her character and Curtis, of course, gives a great performance. I would argue she holds the film together. It would be in serious trouble without her.

I also love the exploration of how trauma affects future generations. Strode is estranged from her daughter, Karen, whom she trained to be a survivalist. Judy Greer [Jurassic World, Cursed] does a solid job with Karen who sees her mother as obsessed with Michael Meyers to the point of serious mental illness. The tension between these two characters is quite believable and serves the story well. Finally we have the granddaughter, Allyson, who serves as the bridge between these two generations. Andi Matichack is good in the role and rounds out the trinity nicely.

Here's what doesn't work. Most of the kills felt like I've seen them WAY too many times before and a number of them happen off screen. It's supposed to be a slasher flick so let's get to slashing! Considering it received an R rating, they could have upped the gore a bit.

Then there's Michael Meyers supernatural ability to arrive on scene before cars get there. Is he a marathon runner? Hardly, considering he slowly but surely shambles his way across Haddonfield, it's ridiculous for him to be all over the place. If the director had done this element of the movie well, I wouldn't be asking the question.

Another thing that didn't work for me, and I got skewered in a Facebook horror group for saying this, is that Allyson's relationships with the boys who surrounded her seemed a little too 1970's and not enough MeToo generation. It was all a little too cliche for me and I would have liked to have seen at least one teen male who wasn't a drunk horn-dog. Rant over. Someone actually told me not to bring the MeToo movement into a slasher flick but, I disagree. We need to stop perpetuating these stereotypes and give our teen boys better role models to follow EVEN in a slasher flick. Rant over.

Overall, I enjoyed Halloween 2018 and thought it was one of the strongest films in the series. My only frustration is that I saw glimpses of brilliance in it that were never fully explored. So close,  but yet so far.

RATING: Very Good.

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

Friday, September 28, 2018

Predator (1987)

Predator is an 80's horror classic that's sooo much better than its sequel. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as "Dutch," a cigar smoking commando who leads a band of hired soldiers on a covert mission in a Central American jungle. There are lots of shoot-em up's and explosions which is what one would expect in such a scenario. But then the hunters become prey for a mysterious extra-terrestrial warrior whom the audience does not get a glimpse of until much later in the film. All we see at first are the infrared images from the alien's hunting gear. This is actually very effective. It's what we don't see that makes the situation all the more intriguing.

Schwarzenegger gives one of his finest performances in this film. He was born to play a kick-ass soldier with keen survival skills. The best part of the movie is actually toward the end when it's just alien vs. Schwarzenegger. The confrontation between the two is epic.

Director John McTiernan [Die Hard, Rollerball remake] knows how to pace this film well, upping the tension until it reaches its climax. Just like Spielberg did with Jaws, he just shows us bits and pieces of the alien and saves the big reveal for later in the film. It works very well and creates tons of suspense and intrigue. The orchestral score by Alan Silvestri [The Polar Express, Avengers: Affinity War] adds to the viewing experience and ups the emotional feel of the film.

Horror Legend Stan Winston [Terminator 2, Aliens, Jurassic Park] re-designed the look of the Predator due to problems on the set with the original creature suit. He was recommended by Schwarzenegger and the result is an iconic creature design that's among the best in the business.

I can't recommend this one enough and am a little nervous to see the reboot of Predator that's coming out in a few weeks.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Predator 2 (1990)

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the star of the original film, passed on the sequel. So did director John McTiernan who opted to do The Hunt for Red October instead. Good call!  I had high hopes because the cast included Danny Glover [Lethal Weapon], Bill Paxton [Aliens] and Gary Busey [Lethal Weapon], but they could not save this over-acted, stereotyped, uneven film.

Here's the deal. Reviewers are all over the place with this movie. Some love it. Some hate it. I think the reason for this is that Predator 2 becomes a decent film once the Predator uncloaks itself. The last 20-30 minutes form a strong, cohesive story and are quite enjoyable. Unfortunately, the front end of Predator 2 is a mess. It's ridiculously overacted by everyone and the Jamaican drug gangsters look more like caricatures of gangsters rather than the real thing. It's just too much of everything: too much emotion, too many bullets, too many ridiculous lines uttered, etc. It's not exciting, it's mind-numbing.

So who is to blame for all of this? Let's start with co-writers Jim & John Thomas. They also wrote the screenplay for the original Predator film which I though was fun and interesting. But for whatever reason, they did not carry some of the mythos of the first film into the sequel. What's left its a dumbing down of the story where the alien is reduced to a simple killing machine who shoots anything that moves and utters one word epithets at the humans. Boring.

I also blame the director for amping up the action in Predator 2 to the point of Michael Bay ridiculousness. [That's not a compliment!] It's just noisy for no good reason and the action scenes are a bit of a jumbled mess. A little more restraint would have helped this film tremendously.

I do like action movies but I just couldn't get into this one. For those on IMDB who say that Predator 2 bested the original, I have no earthly idea why you think this is the case. Glad you enjoyed the film. I most certainly did not.

RATING: Bad.

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

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Man With Nine Lives (1940)

You need to know from the get go that there's a lot of pseudo-science in The Man With Nine Lives that is delivered with the seriousness of a medical textbook. I'm sure it sounded a lot more convincing in 1940, but if you ignore the ridiculousness of some of it, you will thoroughly enjoy this move.

Boris Karloff stars as Dr. Kravaal who is a pioneer in "frozen therapy," what we now call cryogenics. His goals are noble: To use this kind of therapy to eradicate diseases such as cancer. However, the good doctor disappeared 10 years earlier and was never found. Enter Dr. Tim Mason and his research assistant Judith Blair, who discover Kravaal's frozen body and are able to revive him. This is all you really need to know because the fun is watching what happens next.

Not surprisingly, Karloff is wonderful as Kravaal. He is not your typical "mad scientist" because his motives for doing what he does in the movie serve the greater good, at least in his mind. This makes the character more complex and interesting.

I also really enjoyed the performances of Roger Pryor who plays Dr. Mason, and Jo Ann Sayers who plays Judith. Prior was considered to be the "poor man's Clark Gable" at Universal and Columbia studios during the 30s and 40s. His dashing looks and charismatic presence serve him well in this role. Sayers is an absolute delight in her role as the research assistant. She is smart, self-assured and does not faint at the first sign of danger. This is a refreshing change to most women's roles we see in vintage horror films and I like it!

The sets are simple but interesting. Locating Kravaal's lab in a hidden underground facility give the movie a claustrophobic feel. The freezer rooms look like glaciers and really enhance the mood of the film. Director Nick Grande, who also directed Karloff in The Man They Could Not Hang, keeps the action moving at a nice pace and there are no lulls in the action once things get rolling.

The Man With Nine Lives is a little hard to find, but worth tracking down. I could not find it to watch for free online but it was included in Boris Karloff Collection - 6 Movie Set on Amazon. It was only $8.99 and well worth the price to see this classic horror movie.

So, definitely give this one a chance. It's a good vehicle for Karloff and an overall enjoyable little thriller.

RATING: Very Good.

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

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Burning (1981)


The Burning is the poor man's version of Friday the 13th. The story begins with a camp prank gone awry. The camp's caretaker is horribly burned and comes back five years later to take revenge revenge on unsuspecting campers. Ho-Hum.

The cast has a few surprises with a young Jason Alexander [Frazier], Holly Hunter [The Incredibles] Brian Backer [Fast Times at Ridgemont High] and Fisher Stevens [Short Circuit]. This raises the quality of acting a step above most 1980's dead teenager movies.  However, I found myself being a little bored since the killer lurks a lot in the shadows and doesn't claim many victims until about an hour into the film. Much of the time I found myself waiting for something to happen that never really happens.

Tom Savini [Dawn of the Dead] did the special effects in this film which I knew would be a good thing. There are some pretty squirm-worthy kills, especially the scene on the raft. The monster reveal is also very good. However, it felt like Savini was being restrained by the director/producers regarding how much gore he could show. If you've seen his work, you know he can bring it! The effects are all good in The Burning, but it left me wanting more.

Rick Wakeman of the progressive rock band Yes did the soundtrack and its synth driven loops are very effective in setting the mood of the film. It is one of the highlights of The Burning.

I'm not sure how many horror camp stories we need. Friday the 13th still did it the best.  This one is a very distant third or fourth place.

RATING: Good.

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

Monday, August 20, 2018

Psycho (1960)

"A boy's best friend is his mother." says Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece Psycho. Now that's a mouthful or maybe a knife-full!  Much has been written about this film. Simply stated, Psycho is the perfect horror film. Every scene is lit and edited beautifully. Hitchcock chose to do Psycho in black and white instead of color because he thought the blood would look more realistic. He also had trouble with the censors who swore that during the shower scene they saw Janet Leigh's breasts as well as the knife plunging into her. Hitchcock made them look at the scene again and upon closer examination they realized their own minds had filled in the details. Brilliant!

As a side note, Steven Spielberg followed Hitchcock's lead while filming Jaws (1975). They were having problems making the mechanical shark look realistic. So Speilberg showed very little of the shark during much of the film, allowing the audience to fill in all the gory details. This same filmmaking technique was also used to great effect in The Blair Witch Project (1999) where the "witch" is never seen on camera.

Anthony Perkin's portrayal of Norman Bates in Psycho is iconic. Everyone else in the cast is great as well. The musical score by Bernard Herrmann [who worked extensively with Hitchcock] greatly enhances the viewer's experience of the film. I think it's one of the greatest horror scores ever! I was lucky enough to come across the two DVD special edition set of Psycho [Universal Legacy Series] at a local used Book, CD and DVD store. The digitally remastered version is pure eye candy and the documentaries that accompany it are excellent and insightful.

I will not summarize the plot because if you haven't seen it, it will ruin your experience of the film. Don't read any more reviews. Just rent it or buy it and enjoy watching a director who is at the peak of his creative power. Pure genius.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Frankenstein (1931)

Frankenstein is, without a doubt, one of the greatest horror films of all time. It is also one of the greatest films period. What director James Whale accomplished with Frankenstein is nothing short of perfection. As you watch it, notice the angles and forced perspectives of the graveyard, the tower and the final chase scenes. There is hardly a perpendicular line to be found anywhere. Furthermore, the stage backdrops with their dark backlit clouds set an ominous tone that enhances the film greatly. In contrast to these scenes the "normal" places are shot on location and everything is neat and clean: The town, the lake, Baron Frankenstein's mansion. Amazing cinematography for 1931 or any year for that matter.

Boris Karloff's Monster is sheer perfection. (Thanks to the legendary Fx icon Jack Pierce.) The make-up is flawless and Karloff's ability to make that heavy costume come to life is astonishing. In the documentary that accompanies the film they said that Karloff suffered back problems because of the sheer weight of the Monster's costume. When he was  on break he had to sit in a special reclining chair in order to get some relief. Colin Clive is perfect as Henry Frankenstein. He embodies his character with touches of brilliance, ego and insanity all rolled up into one. Edward Van Sloan as Dr. Waldman also gives a knockout performance [Is it just me or does he provide the inspiration for the Criminologist in Rocky Horror Picture Show?] as does Dr. Frankenstein's side kick, Dwight Frye as Fritz [not Egor!!!].

I've seen every remake and incarnation of Frankenstein and none of them can light a candle to the original. It has inspired countless filmmakers and fans alike. If you've never seen it, put this one on the top of your list. Furthermore, if you're a fan of Frankenstein and you've never seen Bill Condon's Gods and Monsters (1998) I consider it to be a fitting tribute to one of the greatest directors of all time. I don't believe that Frankenstein can be viewed for free online, If you know differently, let me know. I own Frankenstein: The Legacy Collection which includes not only the original film but the four sequels that followed. It's well worth the purchase price. Personally, to see this film online with poor resolution is a crime. See it on the best screen possible.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Black Room (1935)

After he finished filming the horror classic The Raven with Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff jumped right into making The Black Room. This film is not well-known among horror fans, but it should be. The Black Room shows Karloff at his best and proves that he is an amazing actor with or without monster make-up. This is definitely his film, and everyone else is along for the ride.

Karloff plays twin brothers Gregor and Anton who come from a wealthy family with an ancient prophecy that the younger twin will meet his demise by the hands of the older twin in the castle's black room. Karloff has a ball playing Gregor, who is the younger ruthless one, but brings a different kind of intensity to Anton who is the compassionate older twin. Both characters are fully developed and the audience knows immediately which one is on screen. The best part of his performance, however, is when Anton meets his demise and Gregor assumes his identity. Karloff creates a third character who is mostly Anton but we can see Gregor seething beneath the surface. Bravo! Well done!

The rest of the cast is quite good as well and support Karloff's masterful performance. Perhaps the most well known among them is Marian Marsh [Svengali] who is Gregor's love interest, even if she's not interested in him! She gives a lot of emotional depth to a role that could have easily ended up as window dressing.

Kudos to director Roy Willian Neill [Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Spider Woman] who knows how to pace a thriller. It's a quick run time [63 min] and no scene is wasted. Everything serves to drive the plot forward.

I also enjoyed the graveyard set which is absolutely gorgeous. It reminds me a lot of Frankenstein (1931) with it's beautifully painted background and lush details. The castle set is also built well with lots of attention to detail.

If you are a Karloff fan, this one is a must-see. It's always a pleasure to watch him do what he does so well. This film would also appeal to those who are a little squeamish when it comes to gore, but enjoy a good crime thriller.

As a final note, you can see the ending of this movie coming from a mile away, but this did not stop me from enjoying watching what happens to Gregor in the films closing moments. Fun stuff, indeed!

RATING: Very Good.

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

Friday, August 10, 2018

Isle of the Snake People (1971)

Most people totally trash this movie online and that's understandable, because it's a pretty terrible movie. However, there are a few things about Isle of the Snake People that make it worth watching. Let's start with the good stuff!

First of all, it's got Boris Karloff. Granted, it's clear from the moment we see him on screen that he's in poor health. (He was suffering from pneumonia at the time and also had only one lung due to cancer.) Yet, in spite of this, there is a vibrant energy that comes through his performance even though we can clearly see he is having a hard time breathing. It's the sign of a class act and someone who was whole-heartedly dedicated to his craft. He has my utmost respect and admiration.

The second thing Snake People has going for it are two Mexican actors who give memorable performances. The first is Santanón who plays a character that is simply known as "The Dwarf." He's creepy as all get out and adds some much needed energy to otherwise dull voodoo rituals. The second is Tongolele (Yolanda Montes) whose snake dances are delightful. Her piercing stare and vibrant presence are most welcome in this tepid movie.

Now for the bad stuff. While most of Snake People was filmed in Mexico, Karloff's scenes were shot in Hollywood because his doctor thought he couldn't handle Mexico City's high altitude. Cult film director Jack Hill did all of Karloff's scenes in Hollywood while Mexican director Juan Ibáñez handled everything else. This gives the movie a somewhat disjointed feel which is not surprising.

The worst thing about Snake People, however, is the screenplay. It's a jumbled mess of fake voodoo rituals and lots of talking when the visuals should speak for themselves. There are so many inconsistencies that it's not even worth mentioning. Who knew that cannibalistic zombie women could be so dull! My favorite LOL moment is when some poor soul is "bitten" by a boa constrictor and dies. Last time I checked, boas were not poisonous. Oh well, Snake People is not exactly accurate on details!

The other ridiculous thing is Captain Pierre Labesh's accent. Labesh is played by Cuban actor Raphael Bertrand. Sometimes his accent sounds French, while at other times it sounds like Spanish, or a combination of the two. It's quite amusing and they would have been better off if they stuck with Bertrand's natural accent when he speaks English.

All in all, Isle of the Snake People is a really bad movie. But if you're a Boris Karloff fan, it's worth sitting through the bad stuff in order to see the master bring his mojo to the big screen. [Snake People can be found streaming on YouTube].

RATING: Bad. [Unless you're a Karloff fan.]

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

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Genuine: The Tragedy of a Vampire (1920)

Silent films require a certain amount of patience but I have mostly found them to be rewarding. Works such as the mesmerizing Nosferatu (1922) and the German Expressionistic masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) are must-sees for any fans of horror to see where it all began. So I was pretty excited to finally sit down and watch Genuine: The Tragedy of a Vampire since it was directed by Robert Wiene who also did Caligari. This review is of the 43 minute condensed version which, I believe is the only one that can be seen these days. The original cut of the film lasts 1 hour and 28 minutes so A LOT has been removed from this film. I'm curious regarding what has been eliminated because that's ridiculously severe in my book.

First of all you need to know that Genuine is not a vampire movie in the traditional sense. So if you're looking for blood-sucking and bats, you will be highly disappointed. Genuine is the "vampire" in question and it's more a surreal story of a priestess from some kind of unnamed cult who has power over others. That's it!

What Genuine has going for it is it's sets and costumes which are very dream-like and inventive. Genuine's outfits in particular are really fantastic. The sets also sports that German Expressionism look of Caligari, although it's not executed quite as masterfully. Yet, there is plenty of eye candy to keep the viewer interested.

The cast does a good job of bringing these characters to life and communicate quite a bit through their body postures and gestures. The intertitles that have been done in English are also a necessity if one is to understand what it happening in this film.

Genuine's weakness lies in the fact the story is not nearly as compelling as Caligari. I would consider it to be more of a thriller than a true horror movie, but that's just my opinion. That being said, there is much to enjoy about Genuine if you know what you're getting into. I appreciate the artistry and imagination that went into this film. I value directors such as Wiene whose work became the building blocks for all the 1930's classics we know and love.

This film can be found on YouTube as well as archive.org.

RATING: Good.

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

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Monster in the Closet (1986)

Monster in the Closet is a guilty pleasure, served just the way I like it! You'll either love or hate this movie. I definitely fall in the LOVE category. The first thing it has going for it is the screenplay which contains some cheesy 1950's B-movie dialogue along with a tongue-in-cheek gay subtext that not every viewer will catch. It's intentionally campy and subversive at the same time. Plus the writer plants a prop and a sight gag earlier in the film that play an important role in the movie's climax. I won't ruin the surprise for you because I'm that kind of guy. Then there's also the magnificent parody of the Psycho shower scene that is perfectly executed. I could watch that scene again and again. Kudos to screenplay writer Bob Dahlin for not dumbing down the comedic elements. He also directed this film but I'm surprised he doesn't have many writing credits attached to his name.

The second thing Monster in the Closet has going for it is the wonderful cast who are more than capable of selling what Dahlin has written. There are familiar faces such as a hilarious cameo by horror legend John Carradine, Claude Akins [B.J. and the Bear], Howard Duff [Knott's Landing], Henry Gibson [Laugh In] and Donald Moffat [The Thing, Dallas]. Most of these may not be familiar names but you will know their faces immediately and each has an extensive body of work as an actor. Monster in the Closet also boasts the screen debut of Paul Walker [Fast & Furious franchise] who is a wee little kid in this film but already shows some serious acting chops.

The last thing it has going for it is the monster which is a send up of all the really bad 1950's sci-fi monsters. It's clearly a guy in a rubber suit which works perfectly for this film. There's also a small nod to Alien that you'll catch in the creature's design. I'm sure it was intentional. As a side note, 6' 5" Kevin Peter Hall dons the monster suit. He is monster royalty, having also been the creature in the Predator films as well as Harry and the Hendersons.

This is NOT, I repeat, this is NOT a scary film. But if you're a fan of cult classics such as Airplane [1980] and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes [1978], definitely give this one a try.

RATING: Very Good.

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

Friday, August 3, 2018

Crucible of Terror (1971)

Please. Make. It. Stop. There's nothing worse than a horror film that tries to talk itself to death. Based on the opening scene, I had high hopes for this movie. It begins in an artist's studio and he's prepping a young woman's body for God knows what. I won't ruin the surprise but it's a really powerful scene. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie never lives up to this dramatic set-up.

Crucible of Terror was directed and co-written by Ted Hooker, who had a very brief career in British film. The plot is hardly original and owes a great deal to the classic House of Wax (1953) along with the kill scenes of Dario Argento, although they are not executed as masterfully as Argento. It also has a bit of a Hammer Horror feel to it but never lives up to that homage either.

There are two major problems with Crucible. The first is that it's WAY too dialogue heavy. A grizzly murder occurs every once in a while to perk the audience up. But most of it is just words that don't really lead anywhere. I didn't develop an affinity for any of the characters, so when they met their demise I was just glad they stopped talking!

The second problem is the ending of the movie which was so nebulous that the surviving characters have to explain what the heck just happened. There is no way the audience could have figured this out by themselves. There were no hints or clues along the way to help the climax make sense. It just comes out of left-field.

So, you can skip this one and, instead, try one of Argento's films which has plenty of shock value and a lot more skillful filmmaking.

Rating: Bad.

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Cheerleader Camp (1988)

If you're a fan of 80's cheese then Cheerleader Camp is your kind of movie. It's really bad but it never takes itself too seriously which is a good thing. Gratuitous nudity, sight gags and sexual humor abound. The acting is uneven and some of the dialogue, along with the cheer leading, is really bad. It also steals scenes from such 80's classics such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Porky's.

The cast is full of familiar faces including Leif Garrett [The Outsiders], Betsy Russell [The Saw Franchise], Lucinda Dickey [Breakin' 1 & 2], Lori Griffin [Teen Wolf), and Vickie Benson [The Wraith]. They may not be household names, except perhaps Leif Garrett, but you know you've seen them before and have to rush to IMDB to figure out where!

The problem I have with films such as these is that in the Me Too era, this stuff just doesn't fly. Cheerleader Camp is sexist, fat shaming, exploitive and more. It elicited a chuckle or two from me but with so many other great slasher flicks out there from the 80's, why watch one like this?

That being said, I know these kinds of films have their fans. If you like the kind of thing then you will definitely enjoy this one.

Rating: Bad.

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

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Killer Shrews (1959)

Ah, 1950's Sci-Fi. There's noting else like it. This one's about a doctor who is experimenting on making humans half their size in order to help prevent overpopulation and depletion of natural resources. It sounds like a noble goal but, of course, there are side effects! The Killer Shrews is classic cheese from Director Ray Kellogg who has a long resume of visual effects in movies as varied as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and The Giant Gila Monster (1959). Shrews is his first of five times in the director's chair and he does a decent job with it. The characters are believable, the acting is solid and the pacing is good.

But, we all know what we've come to see…killer shrews!!!! So, how do the oversized varmints rate? Goodness gracious, they're bad. When they finally appear on screen they are simply dogs with some type of fur costume on them. It's painful to watch! There are also a few close-ups of the "monsters" but they use either a puppet head or a small mouse enlarged for dramatic effect. Ugh! If the monsters had been a little better, this would have been a MUCH better film.

The cast includes at least one actor that might be known to modern audiences. The man's man, Thorne Sherman (he even has a manly name. LOL), is played by James Best who is best known for his role as Sheriff Rosco Coltrane in the 70's TV show The Dukes of Hazzard. This is a very different role for him but he holds his own quite well. His femme fatale sidekick is played by Swedish actress/model Ingrid Goude. She is unfamiliar to American audiences but fits the bill quite nicely.

As a final thought, The Killer Shrews offers no surprises. You can tell where it's headed from the get go. It's strictly unimaginative, by-the-book stuff. So, you can skip this one unless you're a fan of bad cinema.
comedy and not a horror movie.  You can view it legally online and it can be appreciated as a solid effort that was done on a very limited budget.

RATING: Bad.

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

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Hobgoblins (1988)

Dear sweet baby Jesus, please make it stop! Hobgoblins may very well be one of the worst movies I've ever seen in my life. That's saying a lot because I've seen LOTS of wretched movies over the years. Think of Hobgoblins as the worst version of Gremlins you can ever imagine and it will far exceed your expectations! The characters are paper thin. The acting is simply atrocious. The script doesn't always make sense. And then there's the hobgoblins which are puppets with a fixed expression on their face. Their heads bob up and down and their jaw moves a little but that's it. When they attack the director switches to stuffed animal versions whom the actors fake-pretend are attacking them. It's beyond hilarious and looks like something out of a Saturday Night Live skit. They are supposed to be terrifying but I could only laugh at these poorly constructed creatures.

What more is there to say? Beware this stinker of a film. You've been warned.

RATING: Bad (Really bad).

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Xtro (1982)

What the hell did I just watch? Xtro is one of the weirdest Sci-Fi movies I've seen in a long time. Alien abduction, vampiric-like activity, midget clowns, telekinesis, Argento-style blood spurts and a black leopard are just some of the strange happenings in this movie. Someone must have been doing some serious LSD when they wrote this screenplay! It's hard to know what to say about Xtro except that it has to be experienced firsthand. There is no way to convey the craziness in this movie in a way that makes sense. But I can say that I couldn't stop watching it because I wondered what bizarre thing I would see next.

Xtro was written and directed by Harry Bromley Davenport who ended up directing a trilogy of these unusual and somewhat disturbing films. His resume is small and that's understandable. After doing something like this, studios would be hesitant to hire him to do something more mainstream.

The bright spots of Xtro are the acting and the special effects. Bernice Stegers [Atlantis, Final Fantasy XII] is the heart and soul of this movie. She's a wife whose husband mysteriously disappeared three years ago and she was left to raise her son. Now, three years later, her husband is back, but something is not quite right about him. Most of the other British actors are not well-known to Americans but you may be familiar with Maryam d'Abo who played the Bond Girl in The Living Daylights. The rest of the cast is sold as well.

Now, let's talk about the special effects. The team on Xtro definitely paid homage to Dario Argento and other Italian horror masters. Their work is gooey, graphic and even made this hardcore horror fan squirm a time or two. Much of the work they did on Xtro is very unique and felt like a fresh and creative take on gross-out effects.

The weakest link in Xtro is the soundtrack. Good God, it was awful. I know they had a limited budget but this lone synthesizer became annoying at many points in the movie and never added anything to the mood of the film. Simplicity is not the problem because John Carpenter proved that simple can be very effective in Halloween (1978). The score is just poorly written and Harry Bromley Davenport should have given the task to someone who was more capable than he.

So, it's hard to know how to rate this film. I have to give it a Fair because my overall impression is that it's a little weak. It has some great things going for it, but the sum is definitely less than the parts. However, if you have a taste for the strange and the gross then you will probably enjoy Xtro.

RATING: Fair.

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

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Sometimes They Come Back (1991)

Although this is slightly outside of my time frame for vintage horror movie reviews, I just had to include it here because, for some odd reason, I had never seen it and absolutely loved it. Sometimes They Come Back is an adaptation of a Stephen King story. How I missed this film is a mystery to me. As far as I'm concerned everything about it works well.

The story revolves around a teacher who comes back to the town his family ran away from due to the death of his brother when they were kids. His return unleashes something, or several somethings, he needs to confront if he is going to have any peace in his life. It's classic King territory and the story is told very well.

Director Tom McLoughlin (Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI) pulls off something that rarely happens: This made-for-tv movie feels like a big budget movie release. It has great filming locations, set designs and tons of suspense. I also admired the special effects work which, until I looked it up, suspected it belonged to someone like Rick Baker. Instead, it was done by the team of Gabriel Bartalos (Darkman, Godzilla remake), Patti Brand, and Daniel Marc (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, House II). Kudos for just the right gory touches to add to the mood of the film.

The cast was pretty much near perfect. Tim Matheson (Animal House, The West Wing) plays the adult version of the boy whose family fled the town many years ago. He's great in this role and so is Brooke Adams (Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake, The Dead Zone) who plays his wife. They make it easy to care for the family at the center of this supernatural drama.

And what's a good horror film without its bad guys? Robert Rusler (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Weird Science) and Nicholas Sadler (Twister, Idle Hands) are lots of fun as two street punks who simply won't stay dead. They play off of Matheson perfectly.

I also need to mention Chris Demetral (The Secret Adventures of Jules Vern) who is the older brother who was killed early in the movie. His presence is seen and felt throughout the film and it wouldn't be the same without him.

So, if for some reason you've never seen this one then do so ASAP. You can find it streaming on YouTube. It's great for fans of supernatural horror as well as Stephen King. Don't miss it!

RATING: Excellent.

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

Strange Behavior (1981)

This movie had a lot of potential it didn't quite reach. It's strongest point is the screenplay written by Hollywood legend Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) and director Michael Laughlin. This was Condon's first screen credit as a writer. It's classic Sci-Fi/Horror stuff where a "mad scientist" experiments on teenager's brains and turns them into murderers. The story unfolds nicely and has at least one nice twist toward the end of the film.

The weakest part of Strange Behavior is that the acting is a bit uneven…and what's up with the manic teenage Halloween dance scene? It's both silly and weird and I'm not exactly sure why it's in there! Some of the music choices for the early 80's were way off. My friend and I would have NEVER danced to Lou Christie's Lightning Striking Again. We would have thought the host of the party had lost their mind!


I was drawn to the film because of Louise Fletcher (Flowers in the Attic, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest) whose work I absolutely adore. Alas, she is regulated to a minor role even though she often received top billing.

The main teenager Pete Brady (Survivor Girl?) is played solidly by Dan Shop (Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, TRON). He reminds me of a number of friends I had in High School and fits the role well. His love interest, Caroline, is played by Dey Young (The Serpent and the Rainbow) who has a long career in TV and films. They are definitely the bright spot in this dead teenage universe with most of the other roles being on the weak side. With a little better acting I think this could have really been a good film.

What can I say? I was really rooting for this Strange Behavior to work. It just fell short of my expectations. It's not one big glaring thing. It's just a bunch of small things that are a little bit off. The result it that it made me long for what this film could have been.

RATING: Fair.

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

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Night of the Demons (1988)

I had high hopes for Night of the Demons. I recently saw the 2009 remake and found it to be entertaining. Therefore, I hoped the original would put a fun, classic 80's horror spin on the story. No such luck. The original suffers in so many ways.

First of all much of the acting is awful and amateurish. Most of the characters are total stereotypes and I couldn't have cared less about what happened to any of them. They lived. They were killed by demons. Big whooping deal!


The first exception to this is Amelia Kinkade [Night of the Demons 1,2,3] who plays Angela, the hostess of a Halloween party gone wrong and one of the first to become a demon. Her possession dance is excellent and her presence on screen is very good. Too bad, everyone else does not rise to her standards. This could be a really great film if this were the case.

Kudos also go out to Linnea Quigley [The Return of the Living Dead, Silent Night Deadly Night] whose femme fatale turned crazy demon is also worth a shout out. The sight gag with a tube of lipstick is not to be missed!

The second weakness of the film is that while there was tons of gory demon make-up, I found myself being bored with it all.  Everything I saw has been done before and done better. Give me Nightmare on Elm Street or Hellraiser over this film any day! Some of the demon make-up was good but the 80's spoiled me and I expect more!

The third weakness is that Night of the Demons was trying its best to imitate The Evil Dead in terms of its snarky attitude and cartoonish over-the-top gore. Epic fail as far as I'm concerned. No comparison between these two films.

Finally, while I'm a big fan of 80's music, the soundtrack suffered because of it. D-List bands composed most of the tepid score which contains some of the most god-awful metal music I've ever heard. A stronger soundtrack would have really helped with film.

Enough already. How this one got a 6.2 on the IMDB baffles me to no end. If you're a fan, tell me why. I'm listening. It's frustrating because this film has SO MUCH POTENTIAL it never quite reaches.


On a positive note, I really enjoyed director Kevin Tenney's [Witchboard] choices of scene composition. He gives the movie a claustrophobic feel during the scenes that take place in the house and the lighting is also really effective.

RATING: Fair.


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

NOTE: A sequel entitled Night of the Demons 2 came out in  1994 and is about on par with the original. It starts out strong with lots of humor mixed in with its horror. But then, unfortunately it drops its snarkyness which was its biggest asset. The biggest surprise is Night of the Demons 3 (1997) which I think is actually the best of the bunch in spite of its low rating on IMDB. The plot is well developed, the acting is solid, and the overall direction is stronger.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Sisters of Death (1976)

If this film feels like it's more late 60's early 70's, there is a reason for this. Sisters was actually shot in 1972 but was never released until 1976. As far as I'm concerned, it should have never been released period!

It's clear from the get-go that sisters is a low budget "exploitation" picture disguised as a horror film. It opens with a secret initiation where one of the sisters is accidentally murdered during a pledge ritual…or was she? Seven years later, they are all mysteriously invited to a reunion at the house of…the father of the murdered girl. You can imagine where it goes from there.

Bad acting and melodramatics abound as these beautiful bombshell fashionistas try to unsuccessfully escape impending danger. If there is any sense of fun in this film, it's trying to guess who will be killed next.
 

Joe Mazzuca has only four screen credits to his name as a director and Sisters of Death was his last. No big surprise there! Thankfully he turned out to be a great production manager and has a nice resume of TV credits to his name.

The cast has a few recognizables. The Dad of the murdered girl is Arthur Franz [Monster on Campus, Abbott & Costello Meet the Invisible Man] who is the best actor in this movie. One of the drivers who took the ladies to a secluded hideaway for their reunion is Joe E. Tata who is probably best known as the owner of the Peach Pit Diner in Beverly Hills 90210. The rest of the cast is just grist for the murder mill.

Trust me, you can skip this one!

RATING: Bad.

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Children of the Damned (1964)

Children of the Damned is not so much a sequel to Village of the Damned (1960) as it is it's own entity. You don't really need to see the earlier film in order to enjoy the second one. That being said, there is a lively debate regarding which one is the superior film. My preference is Village over Children.

The reason for this is that Village sets a more menacing tone. The children in question are more menacing and the "glowy eye thing" works better in this film. In Children it is more inconsistent and the kids spend the vast majority of their time staring blankly and saying nothing.

Furthermore, Village has more of a Sci-Fi/Alien thing going on, while Children is more a Cold War morality/Human evolution tale.  Both have their merits. It just depends on what you're looking for.

So, let's talk about Children for a moment. The cinematography by Davis Boulton [The Haunting] in this film is gorgeous. The stark black and white is beautifully shot and gives the film lots of power. The art direction by Elliott Scott [Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Haunting] is also spot on, especially the scene which take place in a dilapidated cathedral.

The acting is also solid through and through. The children are well cast, although I prefer the David in Village over the David in Children who takes on a more "Damian Thorn in The Omen" kind of vibe.  Barbara Ferris is particularly good as Susan, who becomes the protector of the children. Her character is much stronger than the Mom in Village.

My advice with Children of the Damned is don't give up on it half way through the film. It is a slow starter but the ending scenes are really excellent and well worth your time. Just go into it knowing this is not so much a horror film as it is a morality tale.

Rating: Very Good.

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ghosts on the Loose (1943)

If you're looking for horror, this is not it. Ghosts on the Loose is a low budget Banner Production, distributed by Monogram Pictures that's a vehicle for the comedy of The East Side Kids. Although both Bela Lugosi [Dracula] and Ava Gardner [Night of the Iguana] receive top billing on most movie posters, they have very little screen time. I watched this film because of Lugosi's fun performance in Spooks Run Wild (1941) which I highly recommend. But, alas, Ghosts on the Loose does not compare to his work in the other film. In this film he plays it straight and serious and only has a few lines here and there. It was disappointing to say the least.

This is not to say that Ghosts on the Loose was a bad film, but there's nothing paranormal going on here. It's a little "let's get the Nazis" meets "wedding of a friend" kind of film. If that's your thing, then you'll enjoy it. If you're looking for Lugosi to deliver the goods, then look elsewhere.

RATING: Fair.

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

Monday, March 12, 2018

Village of the Damned (1960)

As far as I'm concerned, Village of the Damned is a perfect Sci-Fi thriller. Yes, it's that good! Everything about this film works. Director Wolf Rilla is not exactly a household name but he paces this film perfectly and uses just the right amount to special effects to achieve his goal. Sometimes simple is best and tiny tots with their eyes all aglow is exactly what this film needs!

If you haven't seen this film I won't run any of the plot. It should be enjoyed as it unfolds. The set up involves a strange occurrence in a small English village and the suspense ramps up from there. It keeps the viewers attention easily from start to finish.

One of the reason why Village of the Damned works is a strong cast. From adults to kids, everyone gives a strong performance. The family at the center of this Sci-Fi drama pulls off their roles flawlessly. George Sanders [The Picture of Dorian Gray, All About Eve] is Gordon Zellaby, the father. He embodies the quintessential Englishman with a stiff upper lip and a "stick to it until we figure out what the heck is going on" attitude. His wife, Anthea, is played by Barbara Shelley [The Avengers] with lots of drama. Unfortunately, she is not the fierce, empowered woman we would like her to be. But, hey, it's 1960, and we still have a way to go when it comes to women's roles in cinema. Their son, David, is embodied creepily by Marin Stephens, who has the strongest presence of the three on screen. He really makes this movie work effectively.

Put this on your must-see list. I can't find a fault anywhere in this enjoyable movie. A remake of Village of the Damned was done in 1995 with legendary director John Carpenter at the helm. One would think it would be a rousing success. But, alas, it falls short of the original.

RATING: Excellent.

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

Friday, March 9, 2018

Spooks Run Wild (1941)

It does my heart good to see Bela Lugosi having fun onscreen. He's definitely in on the joke in this low budget Monogram film in which he stars along with The East Side Kids. They would do another Monogram film together entitled Ghosts on the Loose (1943) and Bela would do a total of 9 films for Monogram. Spooks Run Wild is, perhaps the best of the bunch.

The story takes place at a camp where the East Side Kids hear about a "monster killer" who is on the loose. It's a classic horror set up. Not surprisingly, the Kids decide to leave the camp and get themselves into all sorts of trouble. I won't ruin the fun. Just enjoy it.

Lugosi plays Nardo who has just moved into a nearby mansion that was left unoccupied for many years. He shows up with several coffins along with his man servant, Luigi. Lugosi has a blast in every scene and makes the most of his mythology, poking fun at it more than a time or two. Luigi is played by the legendary Angelo Rossitto, who appeared in over 70 feature films. While he is only 2' 11" tall, he has a commanding presence in this film and many others. Most people know him from Tod Browning's Freaks (1932) or Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).

The East Side Kids provide a lot of the comedy in this film and their chemistry together is very good. The only criticism I have is that these "kids" look like Beverly Hills 90210 teens, if you know what I mean. They are definitely older than the characters they portray on screen.

Director Phil Rosen keeps the action and comedy bits moving along so there are no dead spots in Spooks Run Wild. I don't know why it's taken me this long to see this film. I enjoyed it very much and would definitely watch it again.

RATING: Very Good.

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

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Superstition (1982)

I don't think they meant for Superstition to be a comedy, but I found myself laughing constantly throughout it. Overall, I thought this move was terrible but that doesn't mean it wasn't entertaining. This one is definitely over-rated on IMDB but here's what I enjoyed about the film.

First of all, it has some really great sight gags. This isn't your typical 80's slice and dice. They tried to be creative with the kills which have more in common with a Road Runner cartoon than they do Friday the 13th. The biggest missed opportunity was a "death by paper cutter" that almost happened. Alas, it was not meant to be! They settled for a hanging instead.

The witch who seeks her revenge in Superstition is also mildly entertaining. We see her full figure only in flashbacks some 300 years ago when she was put to death by drowning. In the present time we only her her cackle and her super strong arm that grabs most of her victims by the head an tosses them around like a kitten with a mouse. Again, this is very Road Runner and elicited a number of laughs from yours truly.

The rest of the film is bad acting from Canadians whose names we've never heard of, plus a plot that is pretty predictable from start to finish. I'd skip this one if I were you. There are lots of great slasher flicks from this era that you could watch instead. Look elsewhere on my blog for suggestions. That's all folks!

RATING: Bad.

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

Monday, March 5, 2018

Prom Night II: Hello Mary Lou (1987)

Campy and occasionally inventive, Prom Night 2 is a lot of fun to watch. You need to ignore some of the bad acting and just enjoy it for what it is: A Canadian "Dead Teenager" flick from the 1980's. The plot is standard horror fare: A teenage girl is possessed by the spirit of another teen who died tragically on prom night back in 1957. The person responsible for her death is now the principle of the school and, conveniently, his son is attending prom…..you know where this is going! Need I say more?

Director Bruce Pittman is not exactly a household name but he has a long career in Canadian television. He paces the film well and incorporates enough sight gags along the way to keep the viewer interested. Much of what happens in Prom Night 2 is done with tongue-in-cheek and it contains lots of giggle-worthy moments. This film steals from lots of other sources including The Exorcist, Carrie, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and every after school special we watched during the 1980's. As long as you don't expect this to be a scary movie, you'll probably find it entertaining.

The two strongest performances come from Michael Ironside [Scanners, Total Recall] who plays Principal Nordham and Lisa Schrage who plays Mary Lou. Ironside always has such a strong presence in his films and this one is no exception. Schrage play the deceased teenager with a great balance of camp and anger as she seeks her revenge.

As a side note, you do not have to view the original Prom Night (1980) in order to watch this film. It stands by itself and doesn't reference anything in the original film.

RATING: Good.

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