Monday, January 20, 2020

COLOR OUT OF SPACE (2019) Movie Review




Color Out of Space (2019) d. Richard Stanley (USA) (111 min)

Living with his family on their small and isolated farm, Nathan Gardner (Nicolas Cage) enjoys a laid-back existence, eking out a meager existence milking alpacas and cultivating tomatoes while his online stock-trader wife Theresa (Joley Richardson) does daily battle with their sketchy internet bringing home the proverbial bacon. Their kids are a relatively well-adjusted if offbeat brood, with older brother Benny (Brendan Meyer) holding down the level-headed fort between bong hits, aspiring spiritualist Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) trading time between healing spells to repress her mom’s cancer and complaining about living out in the boonies, and young dreamer Jack (Julian Hilliard) drawing and tinkering his home-schooled days away. Of course, all that changes one night when a strange purple glowing meteorite crashes down in their front yard and proceeds to slowly influence everyone and everything around it.


Monday, January 6, 2020

Civilian 2019 Wrap-Up and Year-End Stats!



Aaaaaaaaand we're back!

Having addressed the horror genre in the previous entry (hey, this is HORROR 101 after all), it’s time to give the Civilian flicks their moment in the sun. As always, all titles listed were encountered for the first time from January 1 to December 31, 2019 (i.e. no repeat viewings were eligible), with top picks denoted with an asterisk. (*)

However, first... A little context:

This was probably the first year in the last 20 years that I didn’t see a single movie at the multiplex and, with the exception of the Music Box of Horrors and Cinepocalypse, it was the first time that I didn’t see more than a single film in the theater with each trip. That’s right, no double, triple, quadruple features, just in and out and off to the proverbial snack bar to discuss. It was a fairly unique experience, but it also meant that my numbers for current releases were WAAAAAAAY down from usual. Also, since my focus tended to err toward chosen “projects” – most of which were of a certain vintage (007, Chuck Norris, various directors) – my home viewings rarely dabbled in the modern shiny stuff. Can’t say I’m really bummed about the results, they’re just not the norm.

Totally gratuitous pic of Denise Richards riding a dinosaur to entice you to click below the fold...

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Dr. AC's 2019 Horror Wrap-Up Extravaganza!


Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter... I mean, hey, come on in!

Howdy, folks!

Wow, I’m almost impressed with myself for getting this done in such a timely fashion. I mean, hell, I haven’t even written my rent check for the month and I’m already posting this? WINNING.

Since (once again) I haven’t been breaking my neck to keep up with the latest and greatest, I’ve (once again) extended my field of view for genre releases to cover the last two years, both 2018 and 2019 releases. To be honest, I was surprised that I had seen as many as I had, but widening the field means we can plant more crops, if one might be allowed to explore the metaphor.


Please note: All the films listed below were encountered by your humble scribe for the first time over the past 12 months and, to acknowledge as many as possible, I've broken them down into various categories in alphabetical order, with my top picks denoted with an asterisk. (*)

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Fool's Views (12/16 - 12/31)


FINISHED!!! TELL ME THERE'S STILL SOME EGG NOG!

All right, last lap, everyone!

The back half of December was actually quite a treat, since I knew I had done pretty well in terms of total films and having finished up several projects, but I also knew that I had a few loose ends I wanted to tie up before the final bell rang. I was one film away from completing The Omen franchise, two films away from completing the Silent Night Deadly Night franchise, I had several gaps from the 1940s that I wanted to fill, and so on. I would find myself waking up and thinking, “Oh, yeah, that would be a good thing too…” and, even though I didn’t quite finish all the items on my wish list, I still did pretty well.

In short, it’s been a hell of a year (in many ways), and I was often reminded how lovely it can be to be transported to a different time, different place for a few hours and come back home, feeling just a little richer for the experience. Thanks to everyone who shared with the ride with me in one respect or another.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

Friday, January 3, 2020

SILVER BULLET (1985) Blu-ray Review



Silver Bullet (1985) d. Daniel Attias (USA) (95 min)

In the small rural Maine community of Tarker’s Mills, a maniacal killer is on the loose, viciously rending its victims to pieces, leaving the townsfolk terrified and the police stumped. But young Marty Coslow (Corey Haim) is convinced that a supernatural shapeshifter stalks among them, a werewolf who only shows its toothy maw every full moon. Problem is, Marty is 13, so no one believes him; worse yet, he’s stuck in a wheelchair, which leaves him vulnerable. With his only allies, sister Jane (Megan Follows) and boozy Uncle Red (Gary Busey), Marty sets out to devise a means of stopping the beast before it homes in on the one person who knows its true identity....


Thursday, January 2, 2020

Fool's Views (12/1 – 12/15)


We're here for the Old Year....

Howdy, folks,

Well, with the self-defense schedule relatively clear after the first week, December provided rich and varied cinematic terrain to explore and celebrate with others. Just in the nick of time, I held my first official Share the Scare of 2019, during which we knocked out eight, count 'em, EIGHT flicks in the course of one afternoon. I also started notating which years had been thus far neglected and rented accordingly from the local library shelves: 2005 (Tsotsi), 1963 (Bye Bye Birdie), and 1951 (A Place in the Sun). Sometimes – nay, usually – my OCD tendencies yield interesting fruit and these were no exceptions.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

Sunday, December 29, 2019

MAN MADE MONSTER (1941) Blu-ray Review



Man Made Monster (1941) d. George Waggner (USA) (59 min)

When Dan McCormick (Lon Chaney Jr.) emerges as the lone survivor after a bus careens into an electrical pylon, Dr. John Lawrence (Samuel S. Hinds) is puzzled until he learns that McCormick is Dynamo Dan,” a carnival performer who regularly runs voltage through his body. The doctor theorizes that Dan might have actually built up an immunity to electricity and suggests that Dan stay with him at his house/laboratory so that further tests can be performed. Dan acquiesces, but Lawrence’s overzealous assistant, Dr. Rigas (Lionel Atwill), secretly bombards him with maximum doses of electricity hoping to create a race of superhuman atomic warriors. Dan grows more and more listless, increasingly dependent on the treatments and subject to Rigas’ will, even murdering Lawrence when the senior doctor threatens to expose the misguided experiments. In a bizarre twist of fate, when the wheels of justice attempt to execute Dan in the electric chair, they unwittingly create an unstoppable weapon capable of mass destruction!


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Fool's Views (11/16 – 11/30)


Who is this Chuck Norris person and does he have a flashlight?

Howdy, folks!

Racing toward the 2019 finish line, but still need to recap the magic that was November! In addition to wrapping up our (perhaps ill-advised) Chuck Norris marathon, we also participated in our 15th annual Turkey Day with the good folks over at Kitley’s Krypt. FIFTEEN YEARS OF TURKEY, SUCKAHSSSS….

In all seriousness, I feel extraordinarily grateful to have been there from the beginning (or at least when Jon decided to start sharing the pain after two years of enduring it alone), watching the event evolve from a couple of dudes watching flicks and eating Thanksgiving leftovers to a glorious cavalcade of questionable cinematic adventures and delicious gourmet pizzas! There were 17 different varieties this year, including Miso, Paneer, Chili Dog, Crab Rangoon, Breakfast (meat or veggie), Rueben, The Drunken Billy (spaghetti pizza), Jalapeno Popper, Spinach/Artichoke, Italian Beef, Chorizo/Egg, Huevos Rancheros, Poblano/Corn, Mac and Cheese, Biscuits and Gravy, and Western (BBQ w/ sausage, bacon, onion). Many thanks to the rotating repertory of regulars for making the shared ride so enjoyable, and especially to the Kitleys for indulging our vast appetites for a decade and a half.

In other news, my Code of Silence viewing earlier in the month prompted me to dig deeper into director Andrew Davis’ C.V., splitting time between revisits (The Fugitive, Under Siege) and  previously unviewed fare (Holes, The Guardian). For some reason, he seems to have stopped directing since 2006 – not sure what the story is there since the dude was riding pretty high. Love to have him get back in the chair sooner than later.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

Friday, November 29, 2019

EEGAH! (1962) Blu-ray Review



Eegah! (1962) d. Arch Hall Sr. (USA) (90 min)

“Love Breaks the Time Barrier!”

Arch Hall Sr. produced and directed this deliriously delightful train wreck under the pseudonym of Nicholas Merriwether, and then cast himself in a major supporting role under another aka of "William Watters." One assumes this was done to not call attention to his relation to the film’s nominal star, Arch Hall, Jr., who zips around in his dune buggy, squints and smiles a lot from under his zany blonde pompadour, and croons a couple of tunes to his girl Roxy (Marilyn Manning, The Sadist) – usually with other girls’ names as the titles.


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

MARY (2019) Blu-ray Review



Mary (2019) d. Michael Goi (USA) (84 min)

Stymied by having to struggle to make ends meet working for other venues, over-the-hill captain David impulsively purchases an abandoned ship, much to the dismay of his practical wife (Emily Mortimer) and two girls (Stefanie Scott, Chloe Perrin). After pouring their savings into repairs and restorations, the family takes the Mary out for her maiden voyage, with first mate Mike (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and youthful family friend Tommy (Owen Teague) aboard. But as is so often the way with discarded seacraft, a sinister curse seems to hang over the ship from bow to stern, muddling the minds of passengers and crew alike and causing them to lash out at one another with increasing violence and unpredictability. Trapped in the middle of the ocean (near the Bermuda Triangle, as fate would have it) with nowhere to escape, the hours tick by with certain doom drawing ever nearer….


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

DRACULA (1979) Blu-ray Review



Dracula (1979) d. John Badham (USA) (109 min)

Fresh from his Broadway triumph in the titular role, a young and handsome Frank Langella smirks and smolders his way into the hearts of heroines Mina Van Helsing (Jan Francis) and Lucy Seward (Kate Nelligan), leaving the former bitten and drained, the latter smitten and stained with his tainted blood. Donald Pleasance provides a busy and eccentric turn as Dr. Seward, head of the local loony bin, while Laurence Olivier lends estimable gravitas as an aging but feisty Van Helsing, wrestling with undead demons and an unplaceable European accent (Dutch? Swiss? German?) with equal fervor.


Monday, November 25, 2019

Fool's Views (11/1 – 11/15)


"Eleven #$%@&% Chuck Norris movies??? Are you out of your mind, boyo??????"

Well, with the crush of Scare-A-Thon 2019 behind us, the past two weeks have felt nearly luxurious. And by luxurious, of course, I mean we got to watch more movies! In addition to polishing off the handful of first-time views I’d grabbed as potential October Challenge selections, I finally got around to seeing Avengers: Endgame, had a Robert Pattinson double feature, and (drum roll please), embarked upon my first – and probably only – Chuck Norris film festival… affectionately dubbed Chucktober.™

You see, back in June, my buddy Dan Kiggins and I got together for a little movie day and randomly pulled The Octagon off his creaking video shelves. The wave of ’80s nostalgia sparked viewings of Invasion USA and Lone Wolf McQuade later that week, as well as the dawning realization that I hadn’t seen a majority of The Man Who Would Be Walker: Texas Ranger’s cinematic efforts, despite the fact that he cranked out at least a movie a year for over a decade before launching his nine-year television run.

It took a few months to work up the nerve, but the first weekend in November, I took the plunge into the pool of bad hair, dodgy fight scenes, and dodgier plotlines as a means of revisiting my youth (when His Blondeness was the spin-kicking champion for pre-teens across the country) as well as attempting to understand how someone with such limited screen presence and acting ability somehow managed to will himself into the realm of movie stardom. 14 films later (with another 5-6 still to go), I’m not sure I’m any closer to an answer, but it’s been an interesting journey to be sure.

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

PROPHECY (1979) Blu-ray Review




Prophecy
(1979)
d. John Frankenheimer (USA) (102 min)

Dr. Robert Verne (Robert Foxworth) and wife Maggie (Talia Shire) travel to Maine to research the impact of the lumber industry on the local environment. They begin to investigate a succession of mysterious and terrifying events: ecological freaks of nature and a series of bizarre and grisly human deaths. Something unimaginably horrible waits in the woods ... something unwittingly created by man, that will become an uncontrollable, merciless machine of destruction.


Monday, November 18, 2019

DAMIEN: OMEN II (1978) Blu-ray Review



Damien: Omen II (1978) d. Don Taylor (USA) (107 min)

Following the demise of his parents, young Damien Thorn (Jonathan Scott-Taylor) is adopted by his uncle Richard (William Holden), head of Thorn Industries, and his new wife Ann (Lee Grant). As the lad becomes a teenager, he and his cousin Mark (Lucas Donat) attend an illustrious military academy near Chicago where they are brought under the wing of taskmaster Sergeant Neff (Lance Henriksen). Meanwhile, the ruthless Paul Buher (Robert Foxworth), while also attempting to take Thorn Industries in a radical new direction of acquiring land in the Middle East for pennies and holding the world’s food supply hostage, starts to show a curious interest in Damien. The Antichrist is alive and well, with his key protectors in place to ensure his rise to power.


Friday, November 15, 2019

THE FAN (1981) Blu-ray Review



The Fan (1981) d. Edward Bianchi (USA)

Douglas Breen (Michael Biehn) adores classic Hollywood and Broadway star Sally Ross (Lauren Bacall). He writes her personal letters, sends tokens of affection, and prides himself on being above all the shallow “fan club” adulation. Douglas has a deep, abiding connection to Sally and is comfortable in the knowledge that one day she will share his life, loving him with the same fervent ardor that he feels for her. The problem is… Sally doesn’t even know he exists, since his increasingly impassioned letters are received and responded to by her loyal assistant Belle (Maureen Stapleton), who tries to deter the misguided suitor’s attempts, only to find herself drawn into his web of madness.


Sunday, November 3, 2019

2019 SCARE-A-THON FINAL RESULTS!!!



And that, friends and fiends, brings us to the end of yet another OCTOBER HORROR MOVIE CHALLENGE and Scare-A-Thon 2019!

As always, the Challenge itself is to watch (at least) one fright flick for each of those glorious 31 days that make up the month of October, 16 of which must be first time views. I am happy to report that we have accomplished that lofty goal and that along the way, thanks to the generous hearts and minds of fans like you, over $2,500 has been raised for Amazon Watch, with additional funds still coming in. (Yes, you can still drop a line at drach101@gmail.com if you wish to donate!)

My thanks to everyone who participated in some way, whether it be reading the reviews, making a contribution, watching alongside, or just stopping by to chat here or on the HORROR 101 with Dr. AC Facebook page. It makes the long nights go by much easier knowing that one’s efforts are noticed and appreciated. Hope you found a few new suggestions for future movie nights along the way!

Below are the 31 “official” features viewed (with links to the full-length reviews), as well as 16 additional titles "just for fun." Beyond that, there are a bevy of additional OCD factoids you might get a kick out of… or you can just run for the exits like any sensible human being. The choice is yours.

Enjoy!

CHALLENGE STATS:
Total Movies Watched: 47
First Time Views: 16
Total Scare-A-Thon Donations: $2,565.56

Friday, November 1, 2019

TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975) Blu-ray Review



Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 31
Total First Time Views: 16
Amount raised for AMAZON WATCH: $2,565.56

Trilogy of Terror (1975) d. Dan Curtis (USA) (72 min) (2nd viewing)

Producer/director Dan Curtis was already a legend in 1975, having created the legendary vampire soap opera Dark Shadows, as well as The Night Stalker, the highest-rated made-for-television movie released at the time, and well-received adaptations of Dracula and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (both starring Jack Palance). So when he hired Richard Matheson, already a well-regarded entity in both television and film, with numerous Twilight Zone credits to his name, among others, to adapt three stories, it seemed like a can’t-miss proposition. (William F. Nolan was eventually recruited to adapt the first two tales, while Matheson handled the concluding chapter, “Amelia,” based on the short story “Prey.”)


Thursday, October 31, 2019

THE PREDATOR (2018) Blu-ray Review



Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 30
Total First Time Views: 16
Amount raised for AMAZON WATCH: $2,482.80

The Predator (2018) d. Shane Black (USA) (107 min) (1st viewing)

It’s amusing that I watched this the same day as Jigsaw, since both represent the latest installments in franchises that have limped along far past their sell-by dates, inexplicably generating box office revenue when it’s pretty obvious no one is really clamoring for them. That said, the notion of Shane Black (The Nice Guys, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) directing a Predator movie, especially one co-written with longtime buddy Fred Dekker (The Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps)… well, color me intrigued, especially since Black was hired to spice up the screenplay for the 1987 original with Arnold Schwarzenegger and was later added to the cast as Hawkins. Here’s a guy who was literally there at the beginning and now wants his shot at the title.


THE MIND'S EYE (2015) Blu-ray Review



Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 29
Total First Time Views: 15
Amount raised for AMAZON WATCH: $2,400.04

The Mind’s Eye (2015) d. Joe Begos (USA) (87 min) (1st viewing)

It’s easy to dismiss and/or diminish writer/director Begos’ second feature merely as “a Scanners rip-off,” but it’s worth remembering that David Cronenberg did not invent the notion of a telekinetic monster (Carrie), nor the idea of an evil organization weaponizing such paranormal abilities nor even the spectacle of exploding body parts onscreen (The Fury did both three years earlier). As such, it seems a bit unfair not to at least acknowledge that Begos is doing quite a lot with a little (as was the case with his debut, Almost Human) and that his film does exactly what it sets out to do, which is to pay homage to what has gone before and tell his own version of the story. I don’t have a problem with that, and I’m a little surprised how many armchair critics have taken the film to task for its “lack of originality” when the horror genre is built upon endlessly recycled ideas and concepts.


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

JIGSAW (2017) Blu-ray Review



Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 28
Total First Time Views: 14
Amount raised for AMAZON WATCH: $2,317.28

Jigsaw (2017) d. Michael Spierig / Peter Spierig (USA) (92 min) (1st viewing)

John Kramer, better known as the infamous “Jigsaw Killer,” has been dead for ten years. So who is responsible for the bodies suddenly start turning up around the city bearing his signature disfiguring in the shape of a puzzle piece? The list of suspects is growing, extending to include the medical examiner in the case (Matt Passmore), his Jigsaw-obsessed assistant (Hannah Emily Anderson), the lead investigator (Callum Keith Rennie), his partner (Cle Bennett), and the comatose thug in the hospital bed (Josiah Black). And, of course, the Game Master himself, John Kramer (Tobin Bell), who unequivocally expired in Saw III and was graphically vivisected in Saw IV, but if you can’t keep a good man down, you certainly can’t count him out.