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Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Malignant

Wednesday, September 15th, 2021

A cool thing about MALIGNANT is that the trailers made it look like the new movie from James Wan, the director of INSIDIOUS and THE CONJURING, when it’s actually the new movie from James Wan, the director of INSIDIOUS, THE CONJURING and AQUAMAN. After you direct Dolph Lundgren on a seahorse you’re not content to just do a fuckin demon possession or haunted house for your next horror movie. You gotta go further.

I feel a little out of step for not loving all of Wan’s movies. In my CONJURING 2 review I wrote, “Like all of Wan’s ghost movies, I started out thinking ‘This is one of the most effective ghost movies I’ve seen!’ and ended thinking ‘I guess I just don’t really like ghost movies that much.’” They’re extremely well directed and I have a bunch of nice things to say about them, but I guess that genre just doesn’t do it for me. (And I’m still uncomfortable that the great CONJURING protagonists are based on real life charlatans who never face accountability for their lifetime of exploitation.)

So I’ve always been in the weird position of being more into Modern Master of Horror James Wan’s occasional non-horror movies. FURIOUS SEVEN, of course, and I love AQUAMAN, and it was DEATH SENTENCE that really turned me into a fan. I still think that’s a brilliant and under-recognized version of the “vigilante revenge is not as great as it sounds” story, with some really original and well-executed action sequences, and Kevin Bacon giving a full-hearted dramatic performance unhindered by the pulpiness around him.

In Wan’s first film since AQUAMAN (2018) and first horror film since THE CONJURING 2 (2016) he combines those well-honed horror chops with what he learned from making a movie with an octopus in warpaint playing FURY ROAD drums, and I’m so happy to finally be fully on board a James Wan horror joint. MALIGNANT is a keeper. (read the rest of this shit…)

Candyman (2021)

Thursday, September 2nd, 2021

CANDYMAN (2021) is the first sequel in 22 years to CANDYMAN (1992), my pick for the best horror movie of the ‘90s. Though I don’t think this one’s nearly as good as Bernard Rose’s original, it’s much more worthy of the mantle than the previous sequels, Bill Condon’s New Orleans-set CANDYMAN: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH (1995) and (it goes without saying) Turi Meyer’s horrendous DTV CANDYMAN 3: DAY OF THE DEAD (1999). It’s nice that various trends have aligned to allow revisiting the subject decades later, minus any mercenary needs to strike while the iron is hot, and with the now-gentrified Chicago neighborhood where the first film took place providing a new angle from which to explore its still-relevant race and class themes. That seems to be the main point of interest for director Nia DaCosta (who did the excellent 2018 drama-with-some-crime LITTLE WOODS) and her producer/co-writers Jordan Peele (GET OUT, US) and Win Rosenfeld (executive producer of BLACKkKLANSMAN).

When the movie starts, the Universal logo comes on, so that globe spins around, and the letters come out, and then you realize they’re backwards. For half a second I thought something was wrong with the projection, but of course it’s referencing the importance of mirrors in the CANDYMAN films (where the titular restless spirit is summoned by chanting his name, like Bloody Mary). A couple of production company logos proceed to play backwards as well, so by the time the film proper started I had to look around until I spotted some numbers on a building and could finally be sure the movie was playing properly. Beginning the movie already off balance. Nice touch. (read the rest of this shit…)

Don’t Breathe 2

Thursday, August 19th, 2021

Your mileage may vary, but I loved DON’T BREATHE, director Fede Alvarez’s followup to his EVIL DEAD remake, once again produced by Sam Raimi. It was a hit at the time, and they talked about a sequel, but Alvarez was getting bigger offers, like THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB. Which I also liked, but it didn’t really catch on. Now five years have passed, and I haven’t noticed DON’T BREATHE turning into a big thing, but we finally got that sequel, written and produced by Alvarez and directed by his usual co-writer Rodo Sayagues, in his directing debut. Hey, I’ll take it!

Stephen Lang (MANHUNTER, HOSTILES) returns as “The Blind Man,” or Norman Nordstrom as he is apparently named. He’s a Gulf War vet who lives in a rickety house in a largely abandoned area of Detroit with a rottweiler named Shadow and a young girl named Phoenix (Madelyn Grace, 2 episodes of Z-Nation). He home schools her, trains her in survival tactics, and only rarely allows her to go into town with his Army Ranger friend Hernandez (Stephanie Arcila, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels).

Phoenix calls him Dad, and we have to wonder what’s up here because we’ve seen part 1. In that one he was a victim of home invaders and went uncomfortably far in exacting his vengeance on them, then he was revealed to (SPOILER FOR THE FUCKED UP TWIST IN PART 1) have the woman who killed his daughter in a hit-and-run accident imprisoned in his basement, pregnant with a “replacement.” So there are many reasons for concern here. (read the rest of this shit…)

Body Parts

Thursday, August 5th, 2021

“Fuck you and all your bullshit! I WANT THIS FUCKING ARM OFF!”

August 2, 1991

BODY PARTS is an Eric Red horror joint that is much better than I thought I remembered, though it has become more macabre in retrospect due to things that have happened in real life.

Red is the guy who came to fame by writing THE HITCHER. By ’91 he and Kathryn Bigelow had written NEAR DARK, BLUE STEEL and UNDERTOW together (though the latter wasn’t produced until 1996) and on his own he had written and directed the not-well-received COHEN & TATE. While Bigelow was basking in the California sun for POINT BREAK, Red still had some affairs to attend to in the gloomy underside of humanity.

But it doesn’t go as dark as it could, and it has an enjoyably chaotic spirit to it, a world that pretends to be pretty down to earth and then leaps into absurd sci-fi concepts. I like these movies where there’s absolute insanity lurking around in your peripheral vision that you just don’t notice until it comes for you. (read the rest of this shit…)

Alligator II: The Mutation

Friday, July 16th, 2021

July 5, 1991

ALLIGATOR II: THE MUTATION is a surprisingly decent sequel – especially considering it was made for TV! It didn’t register as that when I was watching it (and there does seem to have been some sort of limited theatrical release), but an article that I found in my Fangoria collection while researching T2 quotes director Jon Hess (THE LAWLESS LAND, WATCHERS) as saying “more or less, it was made for ABC-TV.” Fangoria’s David Szulkin speculates that may be because “despite its nonperformance at the boxoffice, ALLIGATOR placed in the top 20 for network airings of theatrical films the year it first aired, outdoing such broadcast premieres as CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND.” But Hess maintained that returning producer Brandon Chase (THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER) was “a really strong independent producer, so ABC wasn’t looking over our shoulder, examining all the dailes. We shot on a very tight schedule with a feature sensibility, but at the same time, we knew we were going to hand the film in to ABC.”

Now that I think about it there’s not as much gore or especially sex as you would normally get in a ‘90s horror sequel, but like SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK earlier in the summer it has enough severed limbs to throw you off the TV movie scent. More importantly it has a real Larry Cohen sort of indie horror feel to the type of actors and characters that show up, giving it a personality that’s at least in the spirit of the original. (read the rest of this shit…)

Alligator

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

ALLIGATOR (1980) may not have knocked the world on its ass the way THE TERMINATOR did, but it’s another genre movie made by Roger Corman veterans in the ‘80s that holds up today. People often credit that to an allegedly satirical screenplay by John Sayles, who had already written the Corman classics PIRANHA and BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS and begun his indie auteur career with RETURN OF THE SEACAUCUS SEVEN. (He completely rewrote an earlier script by Frank Ray Perilli [THE DOBERMAN GANG, DRACULA’S DOG, LASERBLAST], who gets a story credit). But let’s not overlook the serious skills of director Lewis Teague. His NYU classmate Martin Scorsese had reportedly recommended him for the job at New World Pictures, where he’d edited COCKFIGHTER and done some second unit and editing on DEATH RACE 2000 and AVALANCHE. ALLIGATOR was his third time directing a feature, after DIRTY O’NEIL and THE LADY IN RED. He was also directing second unit for Sam Fuller’s THE BIG RED ONE around this same time, but I’m not sure if that was right before or right after the gator picture, so I can’t speculate how one gig might’ve informed the other.

ALLIGATOR opens with a teenage girl (Leslie Brown) on a family vacation to Florida watching a guy get mauled at a gator wrestling show. Despite this potentially traumatizing experience she buys a baby gator from the farm and names it Ramon. But when she’s back at home somewhere in Missouri her drunk dad flushes the poor thing down the toilet. Then we cut to 12 years later when Ramon is still alive in the sewer system, and has grown to unusual size and hunger from munching on the clandestinely dumped victims of illegal animal experiments, and is destined to bump heads with police detective David Madison (Robert Forster in his follow up to THE BLACK HOLE).

I would like to note that a news report on the radio places the toilet flushing during the ’68 Democratic National Convention, i.e. the time and place when in real life Forster was filming MEDIUM COOL. (read the rest of this shit…)

Howling VI: The Freaks

Wednesday, June 16th, 2021

This isn’t like me, but I have not followed the THE HOWLING franchise. Before now I’d only seen 2 of the 8. I’d seen the original THE HOWLING a couple of times and HOWLING III: THE MARSUPIALS once, and I’d liked both. But I figured I could jump right to HOWLING VI: THE FREAKS, which falls into the Summer of ’91 since it was released DTV on June 13, 1991 according to IMDb. I guessed correctly that it’s not connected to previous entries (although production company Allied Vision had been behind the series since part IV).

It’s directed by Hope Perello, who I believe is the only woman to direct a HOWLING to date. She’d worked as a production coordinator (TROLL, FROM BEYOND and DOLLS) and producer (DEADLY WEAPON) and was producer and second unit director of PUPPET MASTER, but this was her first time as a director. Screenwriter Kevin Rock, who apparently loosely incorporated a few elements from the third installment in the Howling book series by Gary Brandner, was also a rookie.

The movie opens with a typical monster-P.O.V.-chasing-a-little-girl thing. Or, wait— no, it’s an adult woman, I just assumed it was a little girl because she was clutching a teddy bear. Anyway, she gets killed by an unseen howler, and then we go to a sunny desert road where a mysterious David-Duchovny-looking drifter named Ian Richards (Brendan Hughes, RETURN TO HORROR HIGH, BAD INFLUENCE, and apparently the werewolf in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON!) is carrying her teddy bear. Hmm. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Boneyard

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

THE BONEYARD is a pretty cool little horror movie that according to IMDb was release direct-to-video on June 12, 1991. I’m not sure if that’s right, because that was a Wednesday, but I’m gonna assume it really was a summer of ’91 release. I’d never seen it before, but if I’d known about it when I was a little bit younger than I was in ’91 I definitely would’ve wanted to see it, because the cover has a demonic poodle monster, and for some reason I thought that type of shit was hilarious when I was young. For example, the poodle with the mohawk was half the reason I liked ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK.

That image made me expect a horror comedy, so when the movie started with a very legitimate horror score (by John Lee Whitener [RAGIN’ CAJUN]) I was impressed because it makes it feel pretty serious. And then I slowly realized that it is mostly serious, so those FRIDAY THE 13TH-esque violins are appropriate.

In the opening sequence, veteran homicide detective Jersey Callum (Ed Nelson, who played Harry S. Truman in BRENDA STARR) and a younger partner Gordon (James Eustermann, later the makeup effects coordinator of SPECIES) come to a house looking for someone in regards to an investigation. No one answers so they go inside to look for her. There’s something very authentic and sad about this big, messy house. Not quite full-on hoarder, but garbage bags all over, pans covering every counter, laundry hanging in the kitchen. (read the rest of this shit…)

Army of the Dead

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021

I’ve been waiting for Zack Snyder’s ARMY OF THE DEAD since it was first announced in 2007, at which point he’d only directed DAWN OF THE DEAD and 300. Snyder would’ve produced and they had commercial director Matthijs van Heijningen (who later did the THE THING premaquel) set to direct. My understanding of the premise was that Las Vegas was walled off to contain a zombie outbreak, a team of mercenaries were hired to go in for a heist, and the hero was really trying to rescue his daughter who was stuck in there.

14 years later it exists in what could only be an entirely different form, since it’s directed by Snyder himself, rewritten by a guy who was 13 years old when it was announced, starring a guy who was a WWE wrestler and hadn’t even been in a David DeFalco movie yet, made with technology that didn’t exist, distributed on a service that didn’t exist. As always, Snyder is unpredictable. I definitely wouldn’t have guessed that I’d be happier with his 4 hour redux of JUSTICE LEAGUE than the zombie movie I’d already been waiting several years for when he did MAN OF STEEL. But here we are.

ARMY OF THE DEAD did not live up to my hopes, so I will share many complaints about it. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it – it’s an entertaining movie, especially for straight-to-Netflix. I recommend watching it if you’re into this sort of thing and won’t pull your hair out that it’s either surprisingly sloppy or prioritizes setting up anime spin-offs and fan theory speculation over telling a good story. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Empty Man (plus AM1200)

Thursday, May 13th, 2021

THE EMPTY MAN is an interesting horror movie that’s on VOD right now. Turns out it’s based on a comic book from Boom! Studios, but I was not aware of that when I saw it. I just knew it was getting some word-of-mouth as a good horror movie that had not gotten its due upon its release in October. After further research I learned that after it got dumped by the studio (with a misleading trailer dropping one week before release) and completely flopped it got bad reviews and a D+ Cinemascore. Luckily I was listening to the right people.

If you’re game, I suggest doing a trust exercise here and just watching it without reading what it’s about. I liked seeing it unfold knowing nothing at all. But for those of you who can’t do that, I’ll get more specific. It opens in Bhutan in 1995, where four American friends are on a hiking trip. You know – all excited to visit a foreign land, waving at passing monks and shit. They get to the top and it’s beautiful and amazing and then Paul (Aaron Poole, THE SAMARITAN) is all, “Do you hear that?,” walks toward a ledge and slips right into a crevice. Just drops right in like it was an open manhole. (read the rest of this shit…)