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.


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