Friday, October 19, 2018

AS ABOVE SO BELOW (2014) movie review

As Above So Below (2014 ) d. John Erick Dowdle (USA) (93 min)

Other than its intriguing setting, that of Les Catacombes de Paris (where much of the principal photography was actually lensed), there isn’t much new on display in this found-footage Young Female Indiana Jones meets The Descent, with a dose of “Oh, by the way, don’t desecrate the remains of six million dead French or you’ll have to face your own personal demons” and the shapeshifting traps of Cube (minus any rational explanation).

Thursday, October 18, 2018


In 2006, over the course of a few weeks and with the help of fellow fiends online and off, I put together what I felt was a list of essential horror films, a “Horror Primer,” if you will, that I hoped would be useful to newcomers to the genre. These films, ranging from the early silent years to the turn of the 21st century, provided what I felt was a path, one that would lead horror fans through a variety of subgenres and influential figures that had shaped the course of onscreen fright. I was also quick to note that these were in no way meant to represent “THE BEST HORROR FILMS OF ALL TIME,” but merely the ones that had made a significant impact on the genre in some fashion.

That list, substantiated by 101 accompanying essays from horror fans around the globe, eventually found its way into print form in late 2007, under the amazing colossal title, HORROR 101: The A-List of Horror Films and Monster Movies, Vol. 1. (Midnight Marquee Press). I served as editor for the project, giving birth to my Dr. AC alter ego in the process.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

CHILD EATER (2016) DVD review

Child Eater (2016) d. Erlingur Ottar Thorodsson (USA) (82 min)

With his vision failing from macular degeneration, petting zoo proprietor Robert Bowery (Jason Martin) starts to lose his younger clientele as parents fear for their offspring’s safety. His macabre solution is to viciously gouge out and consume the eyes of children in the hopes not going blind, which understandably does not go over too well with the community at large. Fast forward 25 years: the myth of the old dark zoo on the edge of the woods is alive and well, and babysitter Helen (Cait Bliss) is tasked with watching Lucas (Colin Critchley), the young lad whose father has recently taken up residence near The Old Bowery Place. As night falls, Lucas senses a malevolent figure lurking in his closet (one resembling a gaunt and begoggled coal miner); while Helen dismisses it as the after-effects of their evening’s scary movie, the boy – and the audience – knows better, and the race is soon on to see who will survive the night with orbs intact.

GHOST STORIES (2017) Blu-ray review

Ghost Stories (2017) d. Jeremy Dyson / Andy Nyman (UK) (1st viewing) (98 min)

Based upon their hit live show, creators Dyson and Nyman so successfully leave the trappings of the stage behind that folks who have not witnessed it firsthand (such as your humble narrator) are left wondering, “How would they have done that onstage?” Taking the classic anthology approach, we are introduced to Nyman’s character, Professor Goodman (is he or isn’t he), a professional debunker of the supernatural and unexplained, who is contacted by another of his trade to investigate three unusual cases: 1) a night watchman (Paul Whitehouse) who is visited on the job by a strange figure, 2) a young man (Alex Lawther) whose late-night drive home takes a hard right turn into darkness, and 3) a well-to-do businessman (Martin Freeman) wrestling with poltergeists in the wake of his wife’s pregnancy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

THE CHILDREN (2008) movie review

The Children (2008) d.Tom Shankland (UK) (84 min)

During a winter holiday visit between two families, the younger set starts to exhibit cold-like symptoms (coughing, vomiting) as well as erratic behavioral swings which are easily rationalized by changes in the weather and, well, “they’re kids.” Of course, once the grown-ups start getting bumped off in a series of “accidents,” the real challenge begins: convincing themselves that the pint-sized antagonists are genuine threats and dealing with them accordingly.

Monday, October 15, 2018

THE MAFU CAGE (1978) movie review

The Mafu Cage (1978) d. Karen Arthur (USA) (102 min)

Raised in Africa on their father’s research outpost, adult siblings Ellen (Lee Grant) and Cissy (Carol Kane) have returned home following his death. They reside together in a gorgeous SoCal house bedecked with countless artifacts and native decorations, with Ellen pursuing her burgeoning career as an astronomer while her younger sister stays at home creating meticulous, detailed, and seemingly purposeless illustrations for her late father’s extensive scientific notes. Then there is the titular enclosure for Cissy’s series of pet orangutans, all named Mafu, none of which seem to survive for very long under the violent and unpredictable stewardship of their unstable owner.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

GOKE: BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL (1968) movie review

Goke: Body Snatcher from Hell (1968) d. Hajime Sato (Japan) (84 min)

In the 1960s, Japan turned out some of the wildest, weirdest genre offerings fans could encounter. Case in point: This futuristic Flight of the Phoenix where, after passing through blood-red cloudbanks, murdering a score of kamikaze birds, and encountering a glowing UFO, a commercial airliner crashes in the desert, stranding its disparate band of survivors. An evil space amoeba subsequently takes possession of a would-be hijacker (a show-stopping, head-splitting, glob-oozing sequence) who begins drinking the other passengers’ blood.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

THE BRIDE (1985) Blu-ray review

The Bride (1985) d. Franc Roddam (UK) (118 min)

An inspired extension of James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein, this sumptuous costume drama captures the Gothic look and feel with fine production design and sturdy acting even as it fails to engage emotionally. The film begins on course, with great-looking laboratory scenes of mad doctor Charles (?) Frankenstein (Sting) animating Eva (Jennifer Beals) to be his first creation’s (Clancy Brown) mate. But the seams begin to show when the plotline splits in two: One half following the original creature (dubbed “Viktor”), shunned by both mate and creator, in his travels while the other observes Frankenstein as he dresses up his newest creation as an independent society lady at home.

Friday, October 12, 2018

CLUB DREAD (2004) movie review

Club Dread (2004) d. Jay Chandrasekhar (USA) (104 min)

Comedy troupe Broken Lizard (of Super Troopers fame) tries their hand at the slasher genre, with fairly impressive results in both the gore and guffaw departments. Set at “Pleasure Island,” a Costa Rican resort owned by boozy soft-rock balladeer Coconut Pete (Bill Paxton, doing his best Jimmy Buffet) where the guests come to drink their fill, lose their inhibitions (and clothes), and get naughty. Unfortunately, a serial killer is slashing his/her way through the fun-loving staff and patrons, with the body count piling up faster than you can say “Margaritaville.”

Thursday, October 11, 2018

THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE (1944) Blu-ray review

The Curse of the Cat People (1944) d. Gunther Von Fritsch / Robert Wise (USA) (70 min)

Despite identical cast and characters from Cat People, this peculiar sequel (featuring neither cats nor curses) is more childhood fable than atmospheric chiller, which may confound fans of the original. Producer Val Lewton and co-directors Von Fritsch and Wise concern themselves this time not with the sexuality of shapeshifting cat women, but with the loneliness of a young girl.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932) Blu-ray review

The Old Dark House (1932) d. James Whale (USA) (72 min)

Almost forgotten (and for a period of time considered “lost”) in the Universal collection of horrors, this gem of a flick is often overshadowed by its more popular monster rally brethren. Director Whale’s follow-up to Frankenstein is well worth seeking out for its sheer wackiness and gale-force acting from the entire ensemble, two of whom (Boris Karloff and Ernest Thesiger) would turn up again in 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

[REC] (2007) Blu-ray Review

[Rec] (2007) d. Jaume Balagueró /Paco Plaza (Spain) (78 min)

As the reality-TV onslaught continued into the late 2000s, it was no surprise that the “found footage” trend of horror filmmaking (originally spawned with Cannibal Holocaust, later reaching the mainstream with The Blair Witch Project, and soon to explode with Paranormal Activity) still had legs. With 2008 already having seen releases of Cloverfield and Diary of the Dead, there should have been little surprising left to see from the first-person, shaky-cam format. However, Spanish filmmakers Balagueró and Plaza’s high-concept, low-budget offering managed to pack more feverish, twitchy energy and legitimate scares into its under-80-minute running time than both of its gringo compatriots combined.

Monday, October 8, 2018

GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2 (2012) movie review

Grave Encounters 2 (2012) d. John Poliquin (Canada/US) (95 min)

Grave Encounters, written and directed by “The Vicious Brothers,” was a fairly standard found-footage flick about a gang of wannabe reality-TV ghost hunters exploring the “infamous” Collingwood mental institution. It had a few scares and generated a bit of buzz, but was nothing exceptional in the pantheon of POV horror. The sequel (penned by the VB and directed by Poliquin) earns a few more points, adopting a meta approach by having our main character Alex (Richard Harmon), a video blogger and an aspiring horror filmmaker himself, review the 2011 original whilst mocking anyone who believes the onscreen events to be (scoff) real. (Shades of Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows.) Of course, when he receives an anonymous online comment, insinuating there is more to the GE story than a simple low-budget venture, he rounds up his posse of insufferable film student pals and they head off to Collingwood to shoot their own documentary about the “maybe/maybe not” fictitious documentarians.

Sunday, October 7, 2018


The Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988) d. John Hough (UK) (94 min)

Joe Dante’s original 1981 werewolf smash was a perfect assemblage of sharp direction, Rob Bottin’s superb special effects, marvelously calibrated performances, and a smart, cunning script from John Sayles that improved markedly upon novelist Gary Brandner’s source material. For the fourth entry in the (very) loosely connected franchise, the decision was made to dispense with these winning elements and get back to the basics of shoddy lycanthropic cinema: a muddled yet cliché plot peopled with thunderously dull thesping, occasionally punctuated by a few sequences of fur and fangs and froth, all in the service of providing a more “faithful” adaptation of Brandner’s slick pulp yarn.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD (2009) movie review

Survival of the Dead (2009) d. George A. Romero (USA/Canada) (90 min)

Reportedly inspired by the Gregory Peck/Burl Ives western The Big Country (1958) and shot in Canada and Nova Scotia, this is a decided change-up from Diary of the Dead, its immediate predecessor, with POV camcorder shots replaced with gorgeous widescreen vistas. But the clunky social commentary, the ridiculous (and unexplained) Irish accents, the lack of likeable or empathetic or non-cartoon characters (living or undead), etc. reduce it to an entirely forgettable effort, just another low-budget zombie movie in a decaying sea of same.

MOTHER! (2017) movie review

mother! (2017) d. Darren Aronofsky (USA) (122 min.)

Rich with allegory, imagery, and dream logic, Aronofsky’s wildly expressionistic exploration of relationships, boundaries, and grief falls into the same category as his previous efforts Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and Black Swan in terms of not explicitly being yet generating more tension and disturbing imagery than most “legit” horror films.

ERNEST SCARED STUPID (1991) movie review

Ernest Scared Stupid (1991) d. John Cherry (USA) (91 min)

Confession: prior to now, I had never seen an Ernest P. Worrell movie or television skit. I was aware of the character created by Jim Varney and advertising executive-turned-director John Cherry from the various direct-address commercials he appeared in, frequently spouting his signature “KnowwhatImean,Vern?”catchphrase, but I had never had the inclination to actually sit down and experience the phenomenon firsthand. When I stumbled across a three-pack of Ernest films at the local library with the October Challenge in full swing – a time when good judgment often gives way to “why the hell not?” – it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Having ventured to the other side, however, I wish I could say I understood the appeal or, more to the point, that everyone’s standards could have been just that much higher.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

RAMPAGE (2018) movie review

Rampage (2018) d. Brad Peyton (USA) (97 min)

It’s not often that I get to say, “It’s exactly what you think it is,” but it’s rarely been as true. Rampage is a big, dumb, fun creature feature starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson opposite a giant spiky wolf named Giant Spiky Wolf (not really), a superhuge giant mutated alligator named Chompy the Chomptastic (not really), and a giant albino gorilla named George (really), all of which have been blown up to jumbo size thanks to some nefarious scientists meddling in, um, science and now everyone’s heading for Chicago to stomp the bejeepers out of everything because, um, urban devastation/monster mash porn.

Monday, October 1, 2018

RAW (2016) movie review

Raw (2016) d. Julia Ducournau (Belgium/France) (99 min)

From the land of chocolate, beer, and waffles comes this marvelous urban cannibal feature about an innocent young vegetarian (Garance Marillier) who eats raw meat as part of a college hazing ritual and develops a taste for it—humans in particular. Written and directed by Ducournau, who uses her heroine’s ever-growing hunger as a metaphor for sexual awakening, familial bonding, and a host of other meaty subjects.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Fool’s Views (9/24 -9/30)

Howdy, folks!

No time to waste! The October Challenge and SCARE-A-THON 2018 are underway, so gotta get these in the books and start Sharing the Scare!!!

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