Friday, December 19, 2014
The Device (2014) d. Jeremy Berg (USA)
Movies about extraterrestrial visitors never seem to go out of style, and Seattle-based quadruple threat (writer, producer, director, cinematographer) Berg delivers a pleasantly lo-fi effort that elicits favorable comparisons to The X-Files in terms of claustrophobia, conspiracy, and out-of-the-kit creature effects.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
The anthology film has been making a comeback over the past few years, with offerings like ABCs of Death, V/H/S and its sequels, The Theatre Bizarre, and the just-announced Tales of Halloween. The short form appears to be back in vogue, which sits just fine with this monster kid; I loved Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits, etc. because I enjoy a good set-up-punchline approach to horror. During the late 60s/early 70s, the British film company Amicus cranked out seven of these omnibus efforts, packing each story with massive star power due to the short shooting schedule. In their ongoing re-releases of MGM’s Midnight Movies catalogue, Shout! Factory has now dropped two of the most popular in the series onto shiny new Blu-ray, both based on EC Comics’ classic titles and inspired by stories from the same.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Shaun of the Dead (2004) d. Edgar Wright (UK)
Edgar Wright’s crowd-pleasing feature debut, a zombie comedy romance (or zom-rom-com, as pundits immediately dubbed it), instantly earned its place alongside such luminaries as The Return of the Living Dead and Peter Jackson’s Braindead (aka Dead-Alive). It was, quite simply, one of the best horror films – not to mention comedies – in years, as well as a winning tale of friendship and true love.
Monday, December 15, 2014
Monkey Shines (1988) d. George A. Romero (USA)
Following the lackluster reception of 1985’s Day of the Dead, Romero had a difficult time getting his feet and his next project. He found both – or rather they found him – in the form of producer Charles Evans (older brother of Paramount honcho Robert Evans) earmarking him to script and helm the screen version of Michael Stewart’s novel about a paralyzed accident victim Allan (Jason Beghe). In a classic science-gone-awry scenario, the “Helping Hands” support group provides him with a full-time live-in assistant, a small capuchin monkey named Ella who just happens to be Allan’s scientist pal Geoffrey’s (John Pankow) pet project, if you’ll pardon the expression. See, Ella’s been injected with a serum derived from human brain tissue in order to make her brainier; before you can say “Monkey Say, Monkey Kill,” Ella starts inexplicably sharing Allan’s headspace and all who arouse her new boyfriend’s ire meet with untimely ends.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Classic film aficionados and horror enthusiasts will relish the 4-Disc Blu-ray release of Scream Factory’s THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION, Volume II, perfectly timed for this year’s holiday gifting season. This extraordinary collector’s set is an essential movie collection for every home entertainment library and brings together SEVEN Vincent Price masterpiece classics, featuring the first-ever Blu-ray movie presentation of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959), RETURN OF THE FLY (1959), THE COMEDY OF TERRORS (1963), THE RAVEN (1963), THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964), THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964) and DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN (1972).
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Nightbreed (1990) d. Barker, Clive (USA)
Based on his novel Cabal, Clive Barker’s follow-up to Hellraiser exhibits as many of that film’s strengths (vivid, original storyline, exemplary makeup effects) as its weaknesses (uneven performances, gore without scares, jarring jokes). Craig Sheffer stars as Boone, a troubled mental patient whose implication in a series of violent murders leads him to Midian, an underground “other-world.” Within this subterranean city, we encounter the “Nightbreed,” a wonderfully grotesque collection of freaks and mutants (wonderfully realized by makeup designer Paul L. Jones) that populate the shadows of the human world, unable to venture into the light.
Squirm (1976) d. Jeff Lieberman (USA)
A downed power transformer in the small backwater town of Fly Creek, Georgia, sends thousands of volts of electricity into the wet ground and thousands of agitated biting Glycera worms to the surface. From this somewhat farfetched premise, writer/director Lieberman wrings a laudable amount of suspense, aided in no small part by his no-name cast who inhabit empathetic, intelligent, and resourceful characters worth rooting for.
Friday, November 21, 2014
Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972) d. Robert Fuest (USA)
After the surprise hit of the original Phibes, Fuest and Price returned for another go-round of mirthful murderous mayhem, this time with the mad doctor hoping to revive his lost love via a sacred papyrus scroll and the mythical “River of Life” in Egypt. Robert Quarry co-stars as a millionaire equally consumed with the river’s life-restoring properties, one not at all amused by Price’s propensity for knocking off his expedition members through varied outlandish means.
The Comedy of Terrors (1963) d. Jacques Tourneur (USA)
After the success of The Raven, AIP attempted to tap the comic vein a second time but with decidedly diminished returns, both artistically and financially. The premise of a funeral home recycling its one coffin and occasionally helping the town’s populace into them is an amusingly dark one, but despite its terrific veteran cast, the comedy feels much more forced and mean-spirited, with Price’s tyrannical drunken lout snarking at underling Lorre and wife Joyce Jameson (who had memorably appeared opposite the two stars in “The Black Cat” episode of that year’s Tales of Terror).
Thursday, November 20, 2014
The Raven (1963) d. Roger Corman (USA)
A childhood fave that continues to hold up half a century later, thanks to the game comic performances from screen scream veterans Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, and Peter Lorre. Concerned that they might be repeating themselves, Corman and screenwriter Richard Matheson opted to spin the dark and forlorn premise of Poe’s best-known poem into an extravagant slapstick romp involving quarreling wizards, magic spells, duplicitous wives, and warnings from beyond the grave.