Wednesday, October 31, 2018

TALES FROM THE HOOD (1995) Blu-ray review

Tales from the Hood (1995) d. Rusty Cundieff (USA) (98 min)

Stack (Joe Torry), Ball (De’aundre Bonds), and Bulldog (Samuel Monroe, Jr.) sneak into the local funeral parlor, seeking to recover a rumored drug stash held by “professional and courteous” mortician Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III). Before the transaction takes place, however, Simms insists on leading the trio on a tour of the establishment, getting the stories straight from the corpses’ mouths.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

THE CHANGELING (1980) Blu-ray review

The Changeling (1980) d. Peter Medak (Canada) (107 min)

This stellar haunted house tale usually takes a back seat to the big-budget envisioning of Stephen King’s The Shining, released the same year. But in many ways, Hungarian director Medak’s smaller film, loaded with creepy atmosphere and tightly fashioned suspense sequences, surpasses any axe-swinging histrionics that Stanley Kubrick and Co. dish out.

Monday, October 29, 2018

MANDY (2018) Blu-ray review

Mandy (2018) d. Panos Cosmatos (USA) (121 min)

Since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, everyone seems to be going crazy for this art-house revenge flick from the son of George P. Cosmatos (Rambo: First Blood Part II, Tombstone) starring Nicolas Cage, and while I recognize there is plenty to admire, the overindulgent tone left a wicked aftertaste in my mouth both during and afterwards. With a pulsing, oversaturated color palette and (deliberately) lugubrious pacing, we are introduced to a couple (Cage, Andrea Riseborough) living a blissful existence in the backwoods (he’s a logger, she’s an artist) until a strange traveling cult-in-a-camper led by a long-haired Richard Lynch-looking gent named Jeremiah (an excellent Linus Roache) decides to kidnap Mandy with the help of their motorcycle-riding, escaped-from-the-Hellraiser-franchise Cenobites.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

BELL FROM HELL (1973) DVD review

Bell from Hell (aka La Campana del Infierno) (1973) d. Claudio Guerin Hill (Spain)

In an era when Spain’s genre output consisted primarily of Paul Naschy’s hirsute efforts and Jess Franco’s loopy zoom lenses, this atmospheric psychological horror offering from Claudio Guerin Hill (with uncredited assistance from Juan Antonio Bardem – more on that in a second) provides a splash of fresh blood. A dark and twisted tale of revenge and madness whose bleak tone never lets up, Hill and screenwriter Santiago Moncada (All the Colors of the Dark, Hatchet for the Honeymoon) also work in a vivid condemnation of the petty bourgeois during the last years of the Franco regime.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

THE DEVIL LIVES HERE (2015) Blu-ray review

The Devil Lives Here (2015) d. Rodrigo Gasparini / Dante Vescio (Brazil) (80 min)

Three teens head off into the countryside to meet up with their friend Apolo at his family’s remote honeybee farm for a little R&R... and perhaps a little occult raising of the dead. You see, every 9 months, as the legend goes, the spirit of a long-dead slave named Bento threatens to slip through the veil, and Apolo’s trusty service hand – who used to perform rites to keep the unquiet spirit at rest – has recently passed away. The kids treat the occasion as an opportunity to party and get frisky (because this is a horror movie), but as the shadows grow long, spooky things start to spin into reality with not only Bento’s restless spirit making its presence known but that of the sadistic Honey Baron (Ivo Muller) who lorded over Bento’s family in life.

Friday, October 26, 2018

[REC] 4: APOCALYPSE (2014) Blu-ray review

[Rec] 4: Apocalypse (2014) d. Jaume Balaguero (Spain) (95 min)

Angela (Manuela Velasco), our charming heroine reporter from the initial outbreak documented in [Rec]  (and who also put in a surprise final-reel appearance in its 2009 sequel), is rescued from the besieged apartment block by officer Guzman (Paco Manzanedo) whereupon both are quarantined aboard a repurposed oil tanker in order to contain the demonic virus. More importantly, an antivirus has been developed and is ready for testing, but when the test subject (an infected monkey) escapes its cage and bites the crew’s cook, the stage is set for yet another flurry of hyper-furious flesh-munching zombies decimating everything in sight.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

ESTIGMA (aka STIGMA) (1980) Blu-ray review

Estigma (aka Stigma) (1980) d. Jose Larraz (Italy/Spain) (86 min)

Angry young man Sebastian (Christian Borremeo) has powers and, as such, he has problems. Whenever he gets angry at people, tragedy befalls them and, well, being an angry young man, he is surrounded by a lot of tragedy. Are these all coincidences or is he actually causing these deaths? If the latter, is there any way he can control his emotions so that he doesn’t murder everyone he comes in contact with, knowing they will eventually disappoint him?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) d. Jack Arnold (USA) (79 min)

A team of scientists (led by Richard Carlson, Richard Denning, and Julia Adams) head into the wilds of South America in search of a mythical “living fossil,” a scaly humanoid amphibian that could serve as a missing link between land and sea creatures. The testy love triangle between the eggheads provides the melodrama until the monster makes its presence (and its ardor for the lone female member of the expedition) known, leading to a fierce battle of wits and sheer animal instinct that will leave the Amazonian waters red with blood....

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

BLOOD BEAT (1983) Blu-ray review

Blood Beat (1983) d. Fabrice A. Zaphiratos (France/USA) (87 min)

A Christmas family gathering goes hilariously sideways in this Wisconsin-lensed supernatural thriller that assembles a hodgepodge of random horror elements, tosses them into a burlap sack, swings it around a few dozen times before hurling it over the neighbor’s fence with a note attached saying, “See what you can do with this.” For one-off writer/director Zaphiratos, said elements include psychic abilities, vengeful ghosts, tea sets on waterbeds, girlfriends who say “no” to nooky, deer-hunting parties complete with authentic field dressing, white leggings on healthy Midwestern farm girls, kitchen poltergeists, girlfriends who say “yes” to nooky at the most inappropriate times, more psychic abilities, and haunted samurai armor/swords.

Monday, October 22, 2018


Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016) d. Paul W.S. Anderson (UK/USA) (107 min)

It’s been a longtime joke around the Doc’s office that the Resident Evil flicks are of the rare type that you actually forget them while you’re watching them, with characters and plot points so inconsequential that they are barely even introduced. (I revisited the first three flicks back in 2015 as part of the October Challenge and can't remember a thing about them, even after going back and reading my reviews for same.) The trend continues here. Consider the opening of this latest installment: Following a cursory recap of the nefarious history of the uber-evil Umbrella Corporation, their zombie-making T-Virus, and the subsequent worldwide apocalypse that ensued (i.e. the previous five films), Alice (Milla Jovovich) wakes up amidst the wreckage of a city. Seconds later, she is attacked by an unexplained flying dragon-like beast that provides about four minutes of thrills before being predictably offed in shamelessly badass fashion by our gorgeously attired, pleasingly weathered, husky-voiced hero. Face out and onto the next level, er, scene.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

TRICK 'R TREAT (2007) Blu-ray review

Trick ’r Treat (2007) d. Michael Dougherty (USA) (82 min)

Writer/director Dougherty and producer Bryan Singer deliver a blood-soaked candy basket to horror fans everywhere with this cleverly structured, EC comics-flavored anthology piece, offering up four interlocking stories all taking place in the same neighborhood over the course of Halloween night. With stalwart high-profile ensemble members as Anna Paquin, Brian Cox (both X-Men 2 veterans, which Dougherty scripted and Singer directed), Leslie Bibb, and Dylan Baker lending able support, this is a well-acted and gorgeously photographed celebration of all things midnight and monstrous.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

NEITHER THE SEA NOR THE SAND (1972) movie review

Neither the Sea Nor the Sand (1972) d. Fred Burnley (UK) (110 min)

Upon meeting handsome lighthouse keeper Hugh (Michael Petrovitch) while on vacation on Jersey Island, Anna (Susan Hampshire) decides to leave her loveless marriage and dives headlong into a passionate love affair. Unfortunately for both of them, the young man collapses during an afternoon seaside stroll and is pronounced dead by the local sawbones, only to rise in the morning as though nothing had happened. But something has happened; the question at hand is whether Anna is willing to keep her new lover at any cost.

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.