This is it - the end of this year's challenge.It certainly won't be the end of me watching horror movies for the next ten and a half months.It should be an end to the manic rate at which I was watching horror movies (sometimes three a day), and I imagine that my dreams will be a little less...dark.Ever since the events of The Shining viewing, we got a little grim here.Kind of bleak.This batch of movies all seemed mostly good, and some were even kind of light-hearted, so we're on a bit of an upswing.A fitting end, and I more than cleared fifty movies for the second year in a row.Maybe this year I'll type up a retrospective.Maybe I'll rank some of these bad boys in order.
50 NIGHTS OF HORROR CHALLENGE:WEEK 7
THE NEST (1988)
Right off the bat, know that this is a Roger Corman-produced creature feature with cockroaches as the main menace.That sets the bar pretty low, and that's where the bar should be.Then the movie will have that much easier of a time exploding your expectations.The usual clumsy cast of bad actors, silly special effects, and swiss-cheese-holey plot are here in requisite Corman fashion, but it all congeals together much better than it has any right to congeal.On its face, this should be a boring, throwaway trash film, but it is absolutely more than that.Not many scares or scenes to make you jump or convulse, but enough creepy bugs and spurting blood and kinda-gore that it hooks you.The first hour of the movie was interesting enough, and not to spoil anything, but the movie takes you on a wild ride with a funky twist for the end of the film.Well worth watching, and I'm very glad I have this in my collection now.
THE VISITOR (1979)
Genre:Intergalactic Satan Cult
I saw a quick blurb from The Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY that they would be showing The Visitor.I didn't know anything about the film.It had never been on my radar before.I very much wanted to go to the Alamo, so I decided to take the risk and go check this film out.
I would write a much more glowing review for the Drafthouse than I would for this movie.A very nice, knowledgeable man from Fangoria opened the movie by explaining that the film we were about to see was the product of the creators of Beyond the Door and Tentacles.I haven't seen Tentacles, but I definitely struggled through Beyond the Door, and I remember thinking it was one of the worst movie I'd ever seen.
The Visitor wasn't overly-ambitious (like some other obscure movies I really enjoy --Lifeforce).It wasn't made using some excellent source material.It's just a flawed movie with some considerable actors.It's essentially a rip-off of The Omen with some extra-terrestrial elements for some reason.I can't say I recommend it.Some of the audience laughed throughout the movie.I chuckled a couple times.More often than not I grimaced.
SESSION 9 (2001)
I first watched this movie several years ago with IcyJones, and I remember being terrified throughout.My second time through, I didn't remember much of the movie, and I found myself caught in that same web of terror again.Everything about this one is solid - the story, the performances, the mood...all of it.
Like some of my favorite movies from this year's challenge, one of the scariest aspects of this movie is the setting.This film takes place in an honest-to-God abandoned asylum, not unlike the Waverly Hills Sanitarium in Louisville, an abandoned asylum I briefly worked at during college.Watching the movie, I could remember the smell of the rot, the feeling of inhaling cobwebs and dust, and the blurred vision when too much grime gets in one's eyes.
probably the scariest set since Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Another scary aspect of the movie never appears onscreen.The dusty files and tapes and recordings of a former patient add to the miserable, scary ambiance.It's scary, and it adds another layer of fear to the film.There's not really any gore and very little violence.There's no female actors in the movie, so we can't be whetted by any sex or sexiness.In that regard, it's a unique horror movie, and one that every fan of the genre ought to see.
HALLOWEEN 5:THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1989)
I followed the advice of one of my co-workers and gave the Halloween franchise another shot.I was utterly bummed after Halloween 3, and Halloween 4 seemed like more of a silly action movie to me than a Halloween movie.Rick told me that 5 and 6 were solid contributions to the Halloween mythos, so I gave in and put this bad boy in on 10/31.And I'm glad I did.The movie seems much more tightened up and paced better than Halloween 4.The fourth was very clumsy and lazy.The Revenge of Michael Myers gets the characters back on track.
That being said, H5tRoMM is still nothing compared to the first two installments of the series.The pace, the mood, and the overall quality is watered down.I suppose that can happen when the main menace doesn't talk and only lurks in the shadows.And the protagonist can't keep escaping the menace, or it wouldn't make for a good horror movie.It would make a Roadrunner cartoon.So I would say that this is a decent entry, but it does get better, later.Halloween 6, for example, is a better movie.I was intrigued, too, by the Man in Black character.Speaking of...
HALLOWEEN 6:THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995)
No Halloween movie matches the first two.Halloween 6 is as far into the series as I've gotten, so I can't speak to H20 or Resurrection.The Rob Zombie movies were, in my opinion, poop.I would have liked them alright if another movie title had been used.But reinventing the Halloween mythology (or trying to) was shitty and arrogant.It's odd, then, that I don't totally mind Halloween 6 adding a new, conspiratorial twist to the Halloween story by including an Irish cult (s/o to H3?), secret societies, and something about science(?).
The movie gets considerably gorier than 4 or 5, and a bit sexier.So right off the bat, know that this is a slasher that falls back on some cheap thrills, something I'm absolutely ok with in slasher movies.And, for the first time in three movies, the franchise gets closer to its roots, initially, before exploding them all over the place.Allow me to explain.
The first two thirds of the movie feature innocents alone in the house with a killer.Michael Myers' mask has been fixed, and he's walking again instead of driving all over God's green.These things seem small, but they go a long way to getting back to where the franchise originated.This isn't the original house, but bodies begin turning up like they did in the original.It's funny to say in regards to a horror movie, but this is nice.
And then shit goes sideways.There's a scene that feels like an intermission.Or an omission.There's a very dramatic scene with a severe plot twist and then....[intermission/omission]...our heroes were "drugged" (not killed by a slasher like Michael Myers and his conspiracy cult), and then they decide to infiltrate the cult and save the day.What follows isn't a terrible third of the film.It's not very Halloween-ish, but it was at least ambitious.Confusing and unclear and pretty silly, but at least it's an attempt to keep things fresh.
In a neat nod to the original, Paul Rudd's character is supposed to be the boy that Jamie Lee Curtis was babysitting in the first movie.This is Rudd's first movie -- and it shows.
Halloween 6 isn't great, but it's the best Halloween entry since H2.From what I've read about the movie, it was supposed to be very different, but it suffered through many re-writes and Joe Chappelle re-finishing the ending without any support from the film's writer.
THE MANGLER (1995)
Genre:Possessed Commercial Laundry, Human Sacrifice
So...this should have been a lot better.Based on a Stephen King short story (not a great one, but still).Directed by Tobe Hooper (the downward spiral of his career, but still).Featuring Robert "Freddy Kreuger" Englund and Ted "Buffalo Bill" Levine... this is a stinker.There really is a lot of potential here.There should be at least one scare and at least one wince.
At its core, though, this is a movie about a demonic commercial laundry iron.Silly.It's just silly.Expecting more than silliness is...well shit...its realistic, because this is a really great team at work.But everything stinks.At its best, the short story could have been an eery episode of the Twilight Zone.Working it out to be more than a 40 minute drama would be a severe stretch, and that's what's happened here.At one point we get to see Ted Levine striking an old coil-top refrigerator violently...at which point he...exorcises it.Good God almighty.
WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (1976)
Absolutely powerful horror movie.The title will turn off many casual viewers.And it's a shame.There's much more going on with this movie than meets the eye.In many ways, this movie reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, which is one of my all-time favorite movies of any genre.It also reminds me of The Wicker Man, a movie I reviewed a couple weeks ago.These are two great movies to be compared to.
Like The Birds, this movie deals with protagonists coming to terms with the fact that otherwise-innocent people (kids in this instance, birds in The Birds) have become extremely dangerous.Like The Wicker Man, the dreadful and the macabre act like nothing they're doing is wrong by any means, and that adds another layer of mean nastiness to the movie.
This is by no means a Grindhouse movie.I wouldn't call it an art-house movie, either.It's just a good, solid horror movie with a protagonists (a husband and pregnant wife) trying to escape when they learn that their vacation is going to be less-than-relaxing.I can't recommend this one enough.The twists, the turns, the empathy you feel for our hero, it all mixes together to make a very effective movie.
BURNT OFFERINGS (1976)
I was expecting a better movie than what I saw here.This was pretty boring and goofy and overall dumb.Really, there's nothing here that would have prevented this from being a made-for-TV version of The Shining or Amityville Horror.Unlike those two movies, though, this movie doesn't have any of the characteristics that made those movies fun or spooky.This movie misses on all points of scariness and plays out more like a bad supernatural soap opera.The ending was kind of ok, but absolutely not worth the slow, melodramatic build-up.I recommend you pass on this one.
If I had to say one good thing about the film, it's the casting.Oliver Reed plays a manly father loaded with issues.Karen Black plays a kind of hot wife/mother.Bette Davis is in here doing something.And there's a ghoulish chauffeur that shows up from time to time to scare the crap out of the cast.Otherwise...fail.
THE COMPANY OF WOLVES (1984)
Genre:Grimm Fairy Tale, Werewolves
I have a theory about this movie.I think that, after the success of The Howling and American Werewolf in London, some studios did their best to cash in on the werewolf craze.Subsequently, some British team threw together a better-than-average cast of actors on a set that looked like a Hammer Horror holdover and had them perform a gothic Little Red Riding Hood werewolf fairytale movie.For the life of me, I can't figure out who the target audience for this movie is.It's too silly for adults but too gory and grim for children.The French!I bet they ate this movie up!
There were some neat werewolf transformations here, a theme about a young girl coming-of-age and dealing with her virginity.I imagine the source material is very appealing to feminists.But the way the movie is handled, I just can't figure it out.Not a terrible way to spend 1.5 hours, but there are superior werewolf movies out there.I'd save this one for the werewolf enthusiasts.
THE HOWLING (1981)
Speaking of werewolf enthusiasts, this is one of the best (if not THE best) werewolf movie I've ever seen.I really love this movie.There are a lot of themes at play here, and a lot of fantastic performances.Joe Dante was one of my favorite 80's-90's directors (Gremlins, Twilight Zone, InnerSpace, Piranha), and this might be his masterpiece.Everything comes together extremely well, and if you haven't seen this, I recommend you do so sooner than later.
The movie was powerful enough to spawn its own franchise (though I think most went direct-to-video), and all of the aspects that make for a fun werewolf movie are here.Like all of the great Dante films, this one is not too scary, but you'll definitely jump.It's fun to watch, and it's funny, too, but you won't walk out thinking it was a comedy by any means.
The special effects are done really well, there's significant gore, sexy women, and sympathetic characters.Dee Wallace, for all her faults, comes into this role with all of her strengths.She's dealing with the repressed memories of an attempted rape/murder/werewolfestration, and her psychiatrist recommends taking some time off at his ocean-side retreat.So far so good.But his retreat has a terrible secret.Uh-oh.Christopher Stone plays Dee Wallace's husband, and he has to deal with a sketchy wife, some flirty women at this new retreat, and fitting in with the dudes at this new retreat.Stone is a man's man, and he just wants to fit in, take care of his wife, and enjoy the retreat.But things don't really go his way, either.
If you haven't seen this movie, I won't ruin anything for you.The ending is fantastic.Hell, the beginning and middle are fantastic, too!The film doesn't really miss a beat.If I had to pick a weak spot, I'd say it's the werewolf sex scene (!!!), because the crew ran out of money and had to animate the scene instead of using monster effects to simulate the sex (!!!).One of the best horror movies in my collection.
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)
Yeah, so I was on something of a werewolf kick this week.If it weren't for The Howling, this would be the best werewolf movie on the list.I have a very difficult time picking between the two, but I give the edge to The Howling, because this movie takes the werewolf legend in a couple new directions.It's done extremely well, too, and the characters are even more sympathetic than in The Howling.The special effects are better than The Howling's, probably some of THE BEST in all of the horror movie genre...hell...maybe the best effects in all of movies.But the story isn't a straight-forward werewolf movie by any means...not that there's anything wrong with that.But as far as werewolf movies go, that's why I peg this one a half-inch below The Howling.
There are some very serious themes in this movie, and some really neat subplots.You're going for a ride when you watch this movie, and it's easy to sympathize with our protagonist, a good-natured young American man lost in England, dealing with a nasty disease.I imagine you could read into this and write books about the meaning.That being said, I love John Landis movies, and that's enough for me.He does the delicate dance between horror and comedy and tragic drama expertly, and rightfully so, because legend has it that he worked on this movie for years.
This is a great movie, in or out of the horror genre.Landis, though a noble historian of the horror genre, couldn't ever really live up to the hype of this film, and it's a shame.In that regard, it's a high point, and one that should be reflected upon regularly.
TRICK R TREAT (2007)
This is my favorite of all the anthology movies.Werewolves, ghosts, monsters, and serial killers...this is a very fun, expertly put together horror anthology.The stories all weave in and out of each other, so none is exclusive to the next like other episodic anthologies.A lot of attention to detail and love for the horror genre went into this one, and it shows.The special effects, the actors, and the mythology that this movie utilizes is pitch perfect.I love this one, and its a Halloween staple.If you watch John Carpenter's Halloween every year, this should be on your list, too.And for whatever reason, you can buy it for cheap.I hate that no sequels have followed yet.
The Lost Boys is the only movie where I can sympathize with any character wearing leather jackets and dangly earrings.Any other time I see these 80's goth-punks in a film I instantly dislike them.There's a lot to dislike about this movie, but somehow it has found a cult following.
Evil Ed, not quite Evil yet, on a motorcycle
Here's what you need to know.The actor that plays Evil Ed in Fright Night is a sympathetic nerd in this movie.His cousin is cool.Evil Ed is a nerd.The cool cousin gets chicks and lives alone.Evil Ed lives in the house next door with his over-protective, Bible-thumping mother and tries to sneak glances of the boobs in National Geographic.Cool Cuz does cool things.Evil Ed only gets to spy on his cousin and lust for Cool Cuz's life.
Evil Ed, totally evilled out
So when Evil Ed finds that calling the equivalent of one of today's 1-900 phone numbers, he can gain power, he takes advantage of this shortcut.Slowly he loses control of this power.Aaanndd....you've seen this movie more times than you care to remember.It's not handled particularly deftly here, either.Robert "Freddy Kreuger" Englund directs a movie whose story is a cheapened Stephen King knockoff.Englund made the movie's tone pretty dark and moody, but it's all very corny, too.
The bad guys in the film are bully punks, and I hate them oh-so much.What do you call this style of 80's bully?Boy George bully?Flock of Seagulls bully?I don't know, but it's funny to imagine them transplanted into a high school today wearing that get up.
Boy George bully?
I understand that you have to accept what this movie is - a cheap, B-grade horror movie - but even Robert Englund should have known how to handle something like this better.This was the first movie he ever directed, but he could have at least called someone for help.Wes Craven.Roger Corman.James Cameron.He has a lot of people he's worked with in the past that could have helped him.It looks like he just went off on his own and spewed this, a bad episode of Freddy's Nightmeares stretched out too long into a full length feature film.I do not recommend this film.
Genre:British Period Piece
This is a British period piece that shouldn't be considered horror.The actors are so British and obnoxious.They're rich, incestuous, bisexual, drug addicts that trip out and have lucid nightmares.The movie is supposed to be the basis of how Mary Shelley created the Frankenstein legend.I was too preoccupied by the heavy-handed, over-the-top acting and miserable characters.I never thought I'd see a Gabriel Byrne movie that I didn't like, but sure as shit, I really disliked him in this one.
Steve Buscemi was not in this movie.But his eyes were.
There are some scary visuals, but never anything that makes you jump.There are some sexy scenes, but they're all pretty obnoxious and depressing.One person does hallucinate removing a woman's blouse, and, instead of nipples, there are two eyeballs on her boobs.So there's that.Probably the only scene that I'll take away with a smile.
Genre:Zombie, Mad Scientist
Ah, Re-Animator, so good to see you again.It had been a long time since I had seen this one.It is a great tribute to H.P. Lovecraft that this movie came out as well as it did.It never bores.It never lets down.It successfully makes you go "HOLY SHIT" over and over again.The combination of Stuary Gordon (director) and Jeffery Combs (lead actor) fires on all cylinders here, and it would the following year in From Beyond.I really wanted Kelley to watch this one with me, but she was passed out asleep.She did manage to wake up at one point and scare the hell out of me by shouting "do you have porn on?!"If you've seen the movie, you probably have an idea of what scene she was asking about.She quickly realized that this was not porn, but a truly out-of-control horror movie, and she was hooked enough to watch it through to the end.
Do not let anyone spoil this horror movie for you.If you don't know anything about it, all the better.Sit down with no expectations, and let this movie take you for a wild mad-scientist ride with some very sinister implications.Nobody has handled the question of the morality of the undead better than Re-Animator, though many have tried.I always want to call this a zombie movie, but for many reasons, it is not.It's much more than that.
Fun fact:during the filming of this movie, over 35 gallons of fake blood were used.True story.So awesome.