Thursday, February 26, 2015
House of the Long Shadows (1983) d. Pete Walker (UK)
Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, and John Carradine are teamed together, and while the film itself is less than momentous, the horror icons actually get to play off one another (unlike, say, Scream and Scream Again) and seem to be enjoying the opportunity. Desi Arnaz, Jr. might wear out his welcome as a brash young writer who takes his publisher’s bet to pen a new novel – in one night, mind you – while under the titular spookhouse’s roof, but the quartet of aging veterans is clearly having a ball (with Cushing’s lisping quakeboots a distinct highlight) and their enthusiasm is infectious. Longtime Walker fave Shelia Keith lends her distinctive flavor of menace – as well as a few off-key high notes (literally) – to the proceedings.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Starry Eyes (2014) d. Kevin Kolsch / Dennis Widmyer (USA)
Aspiring actress Sarah (Alexandra Essoe) juggles her soul-killing day job at a spud-centric Hooter’s knock-off (Big Taters) while knocking on doors all over Tinseltown. The deceptively simple plot follows her day-to-day trials until her big break comes in the form of a toilet temper tantrum following a botched audition (this happens a lot in the acting world; trust me on this). The casting director hears something “different” behind those thin walls and invites her back for a second, more involved audition, followed by a meeting with the mysterious producer, each step drawing the young artist deeper into the tar-thick mire of immorality. But sin – and fame – comes at a price, with Sarah’s tender spirit and flesh the currency of the day....
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Animal (2014) d. Brett Simmons (USA)
This Chiller-produced creature feature plays like an amalgam of other films – notably Night of the Living Dead, Jurassic Park, and Feast, the latter of which borrowed liberally from Romero’s playbook – but it’s all put together so slickly and with such a knowing tone that it makes for a surprisingly entertaining beer n’ chips Friday Night Fright.
Monday, February 23, 2015
Digging Up the Marrow (2014) d. Adam Green (USA)
I’m not sure if the Hatchet man was trying to take the piss out of the found footage movement or just too damn busy producing his TV show Holliston to bother getting it right, but his latest offering is lame as lame can be. The former proponent of “old school horror” now jumps aboard the faux-documentary express, playing “writer/director Adam Green,” happily spending his days creating material with his pals and weekends hobnobbing with various genre celebs at conventions. Among the celebs that appear as themselves – stiff, mannered versions of themselves – are Kane Hodder, Tom Holland, Mick Garris, Don Coscarelli, Lloyd Kaufman, and Tony Todd. By now, we’re all thinking, “Wow, that Adam Green is pretty cool,” or at least that’s what I think we’re supposed to be thinking. (I remember when I also thought Adam Green was cool, having met him back in 2007 during the pre-release tour for Hatchet. This was, of course, before I realized I didn’t really like any of his movies.)
Saturday, February 21, 2015
Motivational Growth (2013) d. Don Thacker (USA)
Ian Folivor (Adrian DiGiovanni) is a depressive shut-in who, following an ill-fated suicide attempt, finds himself being given life lessons from The Mold, an expanding fungal growth in his bathroom (a superb alliance of puppetry and Jeffrey Combs’ mellifluous vocal performance). Soon, the thesaurus-enhanced smooth-talking goop is large and in charge, leaving Ian desperately trying to maintain sanity in between bouts of channel-surfing on his sometimes-deceased television (named Kent) or keyhole-stalking the comely next-door neighbor (Danielle Doetsch).
Friday, February 20, 2015
Thursday, February 19, 2015
The Phantom of the Opera (1989) d. Dwight H. Little (USA)
Aspiring young soprano Christine Day (Jill Schoelen) auditions for a new opera production with a strange and unusual composition discovered by her friend in a dusty music library, "Don Juan Triumphant." Courtesy of an errant sandbag nearly clocking her onstage, Christine is transported into a dream (or is it a memory?) of a previous life in London, one where she is the object of a mysterious and malicious figure's affections. Said figure being the resident "theatre ghost," Erik Destler (Robert Englund), an ambitious composer who has sold his soul to the devil in exchange for musical magnificence. (There's also the added bonus of Satan having horribly disfigured Destler's visage, so that his music is all that anyone can ever love.) Erik hides in the shadows, coaching Christine through her windows at night and eliminating anyone who threatens her ascension to fame and fortune. The unwitting starlet finds herself at the center of a spate of bloody murders, wondering at what price her success...and when will her benefactor come to collect?
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
GirlHouse (2014) d. Trevor Matthews / Jon Knautz (Canada)
Struggling with both her father’s recent death and university tuition, foxy but decidedly “good girl” Kylie (Ali Cobrin) hits upon a novel solution: why not take up residence in a mansion of many rooms and even more cameras for a Big Brother-ish site where the chicks get hired for the clicks they inspire? What sets the titular abode apart from every other reality/porn channel out there is its canny combo of everyday goings-on with the occasional striptease or private one-on-one chat sessions with the lovely ladies. Unfortunately for them, a slovenly, tech-wiz psychopath dubbed “Loverboy” (played by the mononymic Slaine) gets a little too turned on by Kylie’s arrival, an unhealthy obsession that grows in direct proportion to his sexually fueled violence. Before you can say “Survivor,” the fetching femmes are being stalked and (messily) slaughtered, but since the location of the GirlHouse is top-secret, no one can help – they can only watch.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) d. Bill Condon (USA)
An unnecessary sequel to the 1992 mini-classic that basically tells the vengeful hook-handed boogeyman’s (a top-billed Tony Todd) origin story all over again, relocating the action from the housing projects of Chicago to the sultry climes of New Orleans. Screenwriters Rand Ravich and Mark Kruger – working from executive producer Clive Barker’s screen story – deliver a much weaker narrative this time: The daughter of a Candyman murder victim (Kelly Rowan – not Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child and Freddy vs. Jason fame as I first thought) seeks answers to free her brother, jailed for the killing of a sleazy author (who lays out the “say his name five times in the mirror” legend in the opening minutes to catch latecomers up to speed). What follows is a string of gory slayings and murky investigations, with Rowan’s character ultimately discovering a closer personal connection to her bee-spewing nemesis than she could have imagined.
Friday, January 9, 2015
Having addressed the horror genre in the previous entry (hey, this is HORROR 101 after all), it’s now time to give the civilian flicks their moment in the sun. As before, all titles listed were encountered for the first time from January 1 to December 31, 2014 (i.e. no repeat viewings were eligible), with top picks denoted with an asterisk. (*)
TOP CIVILIAN RELEASES OF 2014