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, 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.