Tuesday, December 31, 2013

CANDYMAN (1992) movie review



Candyman (1992) d. Bernard Rose (USA)

Chicago grad student Virginia Madsen is working on her “urban legends” thesis and uncovers the tale of Candyman, a wrongfully murdered black artist with a hook for a hand, who appears if you say his name in a mirror five times. Of course, Madsen tries it out for herself, only to find that the avenging spirit is all too real and that his hook is all too sharp. Several gory slayings ensue, all of which seem to implicate our heroine, who slips further and further into madness.


THE SEDUCTION (1982) movie review



Seduction, The (1982) d. David Schmoeller (USA)

This overheated tale of an obsessed fan (Andrew Stevens) stalking the local bombshell news anchorwoman (Morgan Fairchild, at her plastic, soft-porn best) has little to recommend it in terms of actual tension or horror. But it is a certifiable hoot to watch and certainly fits the bill as a late-night guilty pleasure...if one were so given to feel guilty about such things, which, well, I'm not, so I don't.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Fool's Views (12/2 – 12/15)


"You've only watched HOW many movie this year???  Get ON with it..."

Howdy folks,

Running out of 2013 to work with here, so I'm going to keep the preambling to a minimum. These two weeks represented a hectic time of doing the last passes on HIDDEN HORROR (now available on Amazon), so I let Shout! Factory be my programming guide (at least as far as horror went) while the civilian viewings represented flicks that I'd been toting around for the better part of two years wondering when I would ever get to them. Luckily, all proved to be well worth my while.

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

Enjoy!

ZOMBIE HAMLET (2012) movie review



Zombie Hamlet (2012) d. John Murlowski (USA)

First time director Osric Taylor (Travis Wester), hot off the success of his Planet of the Apes-inspired fast food chicken commercial, lands a deal to helm his longtime vision of Hamlet set during the Civil War. Unfortunately, as soon as things get underway, financing falls through and the decision is made to capitalize on the current zombie craze in order to secure additional funds. This bizarre creative compromise is only the first of many that Taylor must undergo to get the Bard in the can, including hiring a C-list action star (Jason Mewes) and the adorable but dim-witted niece (Emmalee Wilson) of the primary investor (June Lockhart) to assay the lead roles.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

RAZE (2013) movie review



Raze (2013) d. Josh C. Waller  (USA)

Two attractive women clad in white tank tops and gray sweatpants stand opposite one another inside a cylindrical brick room. The blinking red lights of surveillance cameras flicker in counterpoint to their panting as each sizes the other up. Then, without warning, they proceed to pound, punch, kick, pull, choke, slap, bite, and savage one another’s bodies until one lies dead and bleeding on the dirt floor. This scenario plays out over and over (and over) again in director Josh Waller’s feature debut, a film that resembles a live-action 90-minute Mortal Kombat video game session, only with more blood, tears, camera angles, and flash cuts (and only slightly more exposition).


Thursday, December 19, 2013

HERE COMES THE DEVIL (2012) movie review



Here Comes the Devil (2012) d. Adrián García Bogliano (Mexico/US)

A young Mexican couple (Francisco Barreiro, Laura Caro) takes a weekend jaunt to Tijuana with their two adolescent children (Alan Martinez, Michele Garcia). In a scene that recalls Peter Weir’s fascinating and haunting Picnic at Hanging Rock, the bored youngsters venture up a rocky hill, disappearing into a dark cave. As dusk falls and their offspring fail to return, the panicked parents call the police, haunted by guilt as they spend a sleepless, blame-filled night in a seedy hotel nearby. The next morning, the cops arrive with the kids in tow, but something is off – they seem distant, traumatized. Over the week that follows, the family is slowly torn asunder by dark forces from both within and without.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Interview with THE BATTERY director Jeremy Gardner!!



 
Every so often, horror fans encounter an independent venture that make us want to collectively stand up and cheer. Writer/star Jeremy Gardner’s directorial debut, The Battery (debuting Sept 16, 2014 on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory) is one of those films.

Forget the zombie trappings. Forget that it was made for $6K. Forget that it contains no major stars or studio backing or that you probably never heard of it before it started showing up on everyone’s “Best of 2013” lists. Just watch and revel in the breathtaking creativity, intelligence, resilience and filmmaking savvy on display. The Battery is the kind of microbudget horror effort that provides as much offscreen inspiration as it does onscreen entertainment.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

CRAWLSPACE (1986) Blu-ray review



Crawlspace (1986) d. David Schmoeller (USA)

Despite having the estimable FX talents of John Carl Beuchler and John Vulich among the ranks, the greatest special effect in this mid-80s shocker from executive producer Charles Band’s Empire Pictures is its wackadoo headliner, Klaus Kinski. The Poland-born star commands every onscreen moment as the offspring of a notorious Nazi doctor, now living a quiet life as the landlord of a apartment building who spends his times spying on his exclusively female tenants and every so often – when they get too nosey – bumping them off with elaborate mechanical traps. Each murder is followed by a round of Russian Roulette, and – after clicking upon an empty chamber – the chilling whisper, “So be it.” Out goes the “For Rent” sign and in come the fresh victims.


THE BEAST WITHIN (1982) Blu-ray Review



Beast Within, The (1982) d. Philippe Mora (USA)

Lensed before (but released after) the shapeshifting one-two punch of The Howling and An American Werewolf in London, this bladder-blasting freakshow first entered my consciousness – as it did for many a youthful fright fan – via its terrifying and evocative poster art. (If anyone knows who the artist is, please drop me a line and let me know!) I assumed, as many did, that it was another lycanthrope movie, only to find out years later that the titular beast was, ahem, a giant were-cicada.


Monday, December 16, 2013

THE INITIATION OF SARAH (1978) DVD review



Initiation of Sarah, The (1978) d. Robert Day (USA)

It's easy to see why this this late-'70s TV-movie has been historically categorized as a low-fi rip-off of Brian De Palma's stellar screen version of Carrie, released two years prior to much critical and commercial acclaim. Both feature ugly duckling female teen protagonists with pyschic abilities, both have snotty popular cliques tormenting our hapless heroine, both have "beautiful swan" moments that end in humiliation, and both conclude with fiery climaxes of death and destruction. It's probably not too much of a stretch to say that the walking orders for screenwriters Don Ingalls, Kenette Gfeller, and Carol Saraceno (who wrote the original screen story with genre veteran-to-be Tom Holland) were to "crank out something along the lines of Stephen King's novel while making enough changes to avoid any legal proceedings." That said, The Initiation of Sarah still manages to be a fairly entertaining slice of mainstream fright fare.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Fool's Views (11/25 - 12/1) (with Turkey!)



Howdy, folks,

With HIDDEN HORROR is about to take flight, Noises Off destroying Milwaukee audiences with unfettered hilarity, and a certain holiday celebrating thankfulness (followed by the annual pilgrimage to Kitley’s Krypt to assault eyes, brains, and stomachs known as Turkey Day), it turned out to be a good week for the Views. Like any self-respecting Thanksgiving feast, a balanced menu of horror and civilian offerings left me satisfied and built up my appetite for the remainder of the year. Doubtful we’ll reach to our usual 400+ films/year ratio, but I’m confident we’ll break 300; considering the bounty of offscreen adventures in 2013, that’s a tally I can live with.

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

Enjoy!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

THE LOCH NESS HORROR (1981) movie review



Loch Ness Horror, The (1981) d. Larry Buchanan (USA)

Buchanan, having given us The Eye Creatures, The Naked Witch, and Zontar, the Thing from Venus, rings down the curtain on his genre efforts with this sublimely awful adventuRRRRRRRe yaRRRRRRRRn of a bRRRRRRash young AmeRRRRican (Barry Buchanan, son of Himself) coming to Scotland with his newfangled sonaRRRRRR to discoveRRRRRR the tRRRRRRuth behind the mysteRRRRRRy of the monsteRRRRRRR known as Nessie. He is aided in his effoRRRRRts by a bRRRRRave young lass (Miki McKenzie), heRRRRR gRRRRRRRouchy old gRRRRRAndfatheRRRRRR (Doc Livingston), and a local natuRRRRRalist (Sandy Kenyon), all of whom have wildly vaRRRRRRRying degRRRRRees of Scottish bRRRRRougue.


FRANKENSTEIN'S ISLAND (1981) movie review



Frankenstein's Island (1981) d. Jerry Warren (USA)

When you see a cast list comprised of Steve Brodie (The Giant Spider Invasion), Robert Clarke (The Hideous Sun Demon), Cameron Mitchell (Toolbox Murders, Silent Scream) and John Carradine (every movie ever made), your optimism might rise in spite of - or because of - the low IMDb rating (1.9!) and the presence of below-decks dreck merchant Jerry Warren. Lest ye be fooled, as I was, heede my warning: Abandon all hope and brain cells, ye who enter heere.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

DRACULA, PRISONER OF FRANKENSTEIN (1972) movie review



Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein (aka Dracula contra Frankenstein) (1972) d. Jess Franco (Spain)

This is Franco in his “I ain’t got no money, but I got some actors and a castle to play in” prime. The “script” makes absolutely no sense at all, with Dr. Frankenstein (Dennis Price) deciding to revive Dracula (Howard Vernon) for no other reason than to, um, have a vampire around? Somehow, this is also supposed to prove that he has mastered the bridge between life and death, but he also delights in the fact that the Count seeks out a semi-crazed artist (Genevieve Robert) and turns her into an undead as well. (As one of my fellow viewers noted, “That guy writes 'Success!' on every page of his diary.”)


THE ATOMIC BRAIN (1963) movie review



Atomic Brain, The (aka Monstrosity) (1963) d. Joseph Mascelli (USA)

A mysterious scientist (Frank Gerstle) is revealed to be messing around with mysterious practices in his aging landlady’s Los Angeles basement, the ultimate goal being to transplant her gray matter into a fresh new body. To this purpose, they have sought out the services of three international housemaids/potential donors, hailing from Mexico (Lisa Lang), Austria (Erika Peters) and jolly olde England (Judy Bamber).


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

SATURN 3 (1980) DVD/Blu-ray Review



Saturn 3 (1980) d. Stanley Donen (UK)

A pair of botanists (Farrah Fawcett, Kirk Douglas), manning an experimental agricultural outpost on one of Saturn’s moons, is visited by a stiff-necked military gent (Harvey Keitel) bearing lots of attitude and a revolutionary new robot, Hector. Powered by strange colored liquids, electricity, and a huge tube of human gray matter, the android is designed to replace one or both of the current residents to increase productivity and feed a starving Mother Earth. But, as so often happens in movies of this sort, malfunctions occur during the programming stage – turns out our metal guest has a direct feed into the roughneck’s psychopathic nature, and both have a yen for the fairer sex. With communications blocked due to a solar eclipse, the battle of man vs. machine vs. man will be waged for the love of a beautiful blonde.


Monday, December 2, 2013

THE HORROR SHOW (1989) DVD/Blu-ray Review



Horror Show, The (1989) d. James Isaac (USA)

When word rolled around that Shout! Factory would be releasing a Lance Henriksen/Brion James horror flick from the late 80s, I was honestly perplexed at my ignorance of this title’s existence. I mean, I’ve seen a few movies in my time and of those that I haven’t seen, there’s usually a blip on the radar either through having seen the box art while combing the local video store’s aisles (pardon me while I weep for this younger generation that will never experience such pleasures) or reading back issues of various genre mags. After a bit of research, I realized I actually had heard of it, but under its international distribution title: House III: The Horror Show. Sean S. Cunningham, who produced the first two House films, explains on the audio commentary track that the foreign markets were more interested in the branding than the film. So, even though it bore no relation to its predecessors and doesn’t actually deal with a haunted house (unless you count Henriksen’s chatty furnace), The Horror Show became the third installment in the franchise for overseas distribution (leading to some confusion for U.S. audiences when Cunningham decided to make House IV in 1992).


Saturday, November 30, 2013

FOOL'S VIEWS (11/1 - 11/24)



Howdy folks,

I suppose I have no one to blame but myself for the back half of 2013’s sluggardly pace as far as cranking out the flicks goes. There’s no denying that I’ve kept myself busy with various projects, but this has been the case every other year as well. I’ve been writing (much) longer reviews than in the past, which definitely accounts for some of the lack of time spent in front of the other screen. However, now that HIDDEN HORROR is almost out of my hands and on the brink of being in yours (or at least, within your reach – lead a horse to water and all that) and Milwaukee Rep’s production of Noises Off is up and running, I’m hoping to be able to chill out with a few more movies as the year comes to a close.  It's encouraging that I watched as many movies the last week in November as I did the rest of the month. Of course, a very relaxed Thanksgiving with the femalien and Jon Kitley’s Turkey Day had something to do with that....

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

Enjoy!


Monday, November 25, 2013

KNIGHTRIDERS (1981) Blu-ray Review



Knightriders (1981) d. George A. Romero (USA)

As the recognized godfather of the modern horror era, it’s a bit depressing to realize just how little joy George A. Romero derived from the majority of his genre output. Pigeonholed early on into the fright flick biz by an inflexible Hollywood, the great independent from Pittsburgh kept trying to wiggle his way out but found few doors open to him. However, following the worldwide success of Dawn of the Dead, he struck a three-picture deal with executive producer and distributor Salah A. Hassanein, securing creative autonomy under the sole contingency that one of the three would be a sequel to Dawn (the resulting film being 1985’s Day of the Dead). The other two were his 1982 EC Comics tribute with Stephen King, Creepshow, and a long, rambling, idealistic, at times naïve but extremely personal and heartfelt tale of motorcycle-riding knights attempting to live by an old-world code in a modern get-rich-quick world. One became a huge financial smash and beloved kitschy treat, while the other was virtually unseen by the movie-going public. The neglected foundling in this case, the one which Romero claims as his second personal favorite (behind 1976’s Martin), is 1981’s Knightriders.


EVE OF DESTRUCTION (1991) Blu-ray Review



Eve of Destruction (1991) d. Duncan Gibbons (USA)

During an advanced testing session in public, a female android prototype (Eve VIII – looks a bit like “evil,” doesn’t it?) and its keeper find themselves caught in the crossfire during a bank robbery; the resulting mayhem leaves the human dead and the humanoid machine malfunctioning and locked in “battlefield” mode, its highest state of alert, ready to use deadly force at the slightest provocation. Oh, and did I mention she’s also packing a thermonuclear charge?


Sunday, November 24, 2013

ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976) Blu-ray Review



Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) d. John Carpenter (USA)

Two elements hang heavy over any critical viewing of Carpenter’s second feature (and his first to be executed over a normal shooting schedule – his debut, Dark Star, was a college film shot in fits and starts that was later picked up for distribution, resulting in additional reshoots): 1) it is a conscious reworking of Howard Hawks’ 1959 classic western Rio Bravo with John Wayne, Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson, and 2) the onscreen shooting of a young girl (played by Disney fave Kim Richards) earned Assault on Precinct 13 instant notoriety. The latter item infuriated the MPAA and more sensitive reviewers, but being that this was an unabashed low-budget exploitation piece, it became the talking point that proved, “Any publicity is good publicity.” Following its initial cool reception in the U.S., the film became a critical and commercial success in Britain, affording the young writer/director (and composer and editor) the traction to mount what would become one of the most successful independent films in history, Halloween.


Monday, November 18, 2013

POSSESSION (1981) movie review



Possession (1981) d. Andrzej Zulawski (France)

Deliberately abrasive and queasy, idiosyncratic Polish director Andrzej Zulawski’s best known film assails its audience from the opening scenes and never lets up for a second, leaving the viewer exhausted, exasperated and exhilarated. Returning home from a vaguely defined military mission, Sam Neill is alarmed to find that his relationship with wife Isabelle Adjani has disintegrated into complete hostility and disgust. He soon discovers that she has taken up with several lovers, one of which might not be entirely...human.


CARRIE (2013) movie review



Carrie (2013) d. Peirce, Kimberly (USA)

The tagline, “You will know her name” speaks to the very problem inherent to revisiting such iconic material: We already do know Stephen King’s seminal telekinetic protagonist’s name, and she has already been immortalized in an Oscar-nominated turn by Sissy Spacek as directed by a near-the-top-of-his-game Brian De Palma. Even if viewers have never seen the full feature, they’ve seen the highlight reel. But the post-millennial remake trend continues, and despite director Peirce and screenwriters Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre’s best efforts to the contrary, the results are redundant at best and tiresome at their worst.


NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984) DVD/Blu-ray Review



Night of the Comet (1984) d. Thom Eberhardt (USA)

The good doctor grew up in a house devoid of cable (or even much in the way of network television), so many of the nostalgia items that make up many of my fellow genre fans’ ’80s pop culture bedrock were not available to me, at least not in the heavy rotation kind of way. Such was the case with writer/director Eberhardt’s cult classic Night of the Comet, which I only encountered decades later via MGM’s bare bones DVD release. While I wasn’t displeased, the “Valley Girls meet the Apocalypse” saga didn’t instantly burrow its way into my heart, in spite of the terrific offbeat cast of Catherine Mary Stuart (The Last Starfighter), Kelli Maroney (Chopping Mall), Robert Beltram (Eating Rauol), Geoffrey Lewis (Every Which Way But Loose) and Mary Woronov (Death Race 2000, among many others). However, after recently gorging myself on Shout! Factory’s Collector’s Edition BR/DVD combo release of the film, stuffed to bursting with special features that genuinely live up to the name, I can definitely say that I’ve been won over in a big, big way.


Monday, November 11, 2013

BODY BAGS (1993) DVD/Blu-ray Review



Body Bags (1993) d. John Carpenter / Tobe Hooper (USA)

I’ll be honest, until its recent DVD/BR unearthing by Shout! Factory’s Scream Factory division, I had nearly forgotten this made-for-cable anthology effort even existed, much less sought it out. Since it’s billed as “John Carpenter presents Body Bags,” I was even unaware that Carpenter had served as director for the majority of the piece (two segments and the wraparound). Blame it on Wes Craven, whose stream of similarly branded straight-to-video awfulness (Dracula 2000, They, the 1998 Carnival of Souls remake) left me more than a little gun shy. And, in addition to the fact that it was made for Showtime long before its original programming was the stuff of ACE awards, no one within my horror crew ever talked about it. Like, at all. Even when the conversation would turn toward Carpenter and his output, people seemed to go out of their way to ignore this little gem, skipping straight from 1988’s They Live to 1994’s In the Mouth of Madness (with completists throwing in a cursory nod to Memoirs of an Invisible Man from 1992) without so much as a good, bad, or otherwise. Which is a darn shame, because this is horror charm on the cheap, a slice of low-budget cheese that should delight any fan of Tales from the Crypt or the short-lived syndicated series, Monsters.


Friday, November 1, 2013

October Horror Challenge 2013 FINAL RESULTS!!



Howdy folks,

Due to a variety of distractions (starting rehearsals for NOISES OFF at Milwaukee Rep, putting the finishing touches on HIDDEN HORROR), the Doc knew he wasn't going to be able to dedicate himself fully to the task at hand during this most sacred of months. As a result, I opted not to do the full-on Scare-A-Thon treatment this year, but simply to fulfill the basic requirements of the October Horror Challenge as it was writ long ago on the IMDb Horror Message Boards, i.e. "View at least 31 horror movies during the month of October, 16 of which must be first time views." So, that's where we set the bar.

As you can see, I managed to stretch a little further than that (mostly due to the fact that I miscounted my FTVs heading into the final lap and had to knock out two more at the last second), and for the first time in many years, I actually watched a few non-horror efforts during the course of the month.

But the focus was on the fright, so here's the final stats. I'm a little behind on the reviews, but rest assured, they'll be there before long.

33 films / 16 FTVs

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

CHILLING VISIONS: 5 SENSES OF FEAR (2013) Blu-ray Review



Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear (2013) d. Various (USA)

The multi-headed anthology film, where a disparate group of filmmakers ally forces (or at least throw their respective hats into the same ring), continues to gain steam and **thisclose** to being a legitimate subgenre unto itself. Three...Extremes, Chillerama, the V/H/S films, The Theatre Bizarre, Little Deaths, The ABCs of Death and so on. However, I can’t say I’ve been really impressed by most of these, since many simply feel like a two-hour short-film festival with little unifying rhyme or reason. On the one hand, I’m happy these artists are reaching a broader audience than they might just shilling their short on YouTube, Vimeo, et al., but at the same time, my nostalgic heart pines for a time when the portmanteau format was utilized with a bit more cohesiveness and forethought, where a unifying vision ran through the proceedings. Even if the stories themselves were uneven, they at least felt like they were of the same universe. Happily, Chilling Visions (originally produced for and aired on the Chiller network this May, and now available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory) is that rare beast where all involved are pulling in the same direction even as they utilize the “divide and conquer” method of filmmaking.