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Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Sometimes They Come Back

Friday, May 7th, 2021

May 7, 1991

I don’t think I’ve ever included a TV movie in a summer movie retrospective, but this came up on a summer of ’91 list and I figured why not? After the opening weekend for A RAGE IN HARLEM and ONE GOOD COP, some people checked out a new Stephen King movie on the CBS Tuesday Movie Special. It aired against a Roseanne episode that introduced Shelly Winters as Nana Mary, the fourth episode of a short-lived sitcom called Stat, and a thirtysomething about Hope (Mel Harris) volunteering at a homeless shelter.

One could reasonably assume that a Stephen-King-based TV movie in the ‘90s would be a Mick Garris joint, but in fact it’s a different notable horror director: Tom McLoughlin of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES fame. He also did ONE DARK NIGHT and, come to think of it, co-created She-Wolf of London with Garris. This one comes from a King short story first published in Cavalier in 1974, and later included in Night Shift. It was adapted by Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal, whose all-over-the-place filmography at this point included THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN, THE JEWEL OF THE NILE, SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE, and DESPERATE HOURS. (read the rest of this shit…)

Modern Vampires

Monday, April 12th, 2021

Back in the late ’90s, being a superfan of the SHRUNKEN HEADS mythos, I was excited for a new Richard Elfman/Matthew Bright joint called MODERN VAMPIRES. I found it disappointing at the time – decadent L.A. vampires are not nearly as weird as flying severed head super heroes, so it didn’t make much of an impression. But since I revisited FORBIDDEN ZONE and SHRUNKEN HEADS in close succession this week I decided to also do this one. Now that it’s old I think it plays a little better as a b-movie piss take on the vampire movies that were being made at the time.

Or is that even what it is? When MODERN VAMPIRES went straight to video in the U.S. it was October of ’99 and the cover had a design style and not-screen-accurate fashion flagrantly copying BLADE, but it had actually premiered before both BLADE and John Carpenter’s VAMPIRES. FROM DUSK TILL DAWN and Buffy the Vampire Slayer had already reclaimed bloodsuckers from Anne Rice, though, so I suppose that’s what they’re playing off of, if anything. Or maybe it’s just West Coast elite NEAR DARK. (read the rest of this shit…)

Shrunken Heads

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

Richard Elfman is the son of novelist Clare Elfman. He grew up in L.A., then worked as an Afro-Latin percussionist in the San Francisco musical theater troupe The Cockettes before moving to Paris to perform, and later returning to form the “commedia dell’arte ensemble” or “surrealist street theatre troupe” The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. They performed Cab Calloway covers and Russian ballet songs in whiteface, won an episode of The Gong Show, released a doo wop song about the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, and played demons in a hallucination scene in I NEVER PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN. In the late ‘70s Elfman turned filmmaker, directing the Mystic Knights’ black and white cult musical FORBIDDEN ZONE (released in 1982).

It’s a pretty obnoxious and completely amazing movie, filmed on theatrical sets beautifully designed in a German expressionist/Max Fleischer cartoon style (and sometimes noticeably made of paper). It’s a short but unrelenting burlesque nightmare of tap dancing frogs and skeletons, adults dressed as children and/or only wearing underwear, lots of Mickey Mouse ears, fezzes and boobs, every single character (and there are tons of them) a weirdo or a grotesque caricature. They move bizarrely and at fast speed, lip sync to old timey big band jazz tunes, simulate humping. It stylishly switches to animation as they plummet to Hell or through the intestine shaped tunnel from the Hercules family’s basement to the Sixth Dimension, which is ruled by Susan Tyrrell as the Cruella-meets-drag-queen Queen Doris, and Herve Villechaize as her cheating husband King Fausto.

Elfman’s younger brother Danny made some great songs for it and has a scene as Satan, singing “Minnie the Moocher” with a band of hooded, lumpy ghouls. Joe Spinnell shows up as a sleazy, drunk sailor. To me it’s soiled by its use of historical racist imagery – I know this is vintage hipster irony or some shit, but opening with a blackface pimp character looking for his heroin is a problem. And you also have to be patient with the inside joke art school forced weirdness nonsense humor ethos that thinks it’s hilarious to have  a main character named “Squeezit Henderson,” who has a twin sister played by the same actor, who is credited as “Toshiro Boloney.” (That’s actually Matthew Bright, better known for directing FREEWAY. His well-meaning drama TIPTOES, which infamously co-stars Gary Oldman as a little person, was inspired by the director’s friendship with Villechaize.)

Around that time Richard passed the creative direction of the Mystic Knights to Danny, who soon decided to ditch all the theatrics and strip down to the rock band Oingo Boingo. They became very popular and had songs on movies ranging from WEIRD SCIENCE to TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2. And during this time, of course, Tim Burton convinced Danny to score PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE, which led to other scores, and all the sudden he was an A-list film composer.

Meanwhile, Richard directed a few of the band’s videos, but didn’t make any more movies until 1993, when he resurfaced with a silly but pretty straight forward Mimi Lesseos b-action vehicle I’ve already reviewed called STREETS OF RAGE. For that he was credited as “Aristide Sumatra,” which is the name of a character in his third movie, SHRUNKEN HEADS. Released in 1994, SHRUNKEN HEADS was written by Elfman’s old friend Bright (pre-FREEWAY) and produced by Charles Band and his company Full Moon Entertainment. So you better believe it has some tiny little guys in it. Shrunken, like the title says. (read the rest of this shit…)

She Never Died

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

SHE NEVER DIED (2019) is… kind of a sequel to HE NEVER DIED, the really good, dryly funny 2015 horror-action movie with Henry Rollins as an ancient being whose peaceful but depressing life is upended when an encounter with gangsters revives his habit of eating humans and absorbing their strength. From what I understand, the script by HE NEVER DIED’s Jason Krawczyk started as a continuation, but was rewritten for director Audrey Cummings (TORMENTED, DARKEN) to follow a different, similar character called Lacey, played by Olunike Adeliyi (SAW 3D, A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY).

Like Rollins’ Jack, Lacey lives in an unnamed city (filmed in North Bay, Ontario), eats at a diner and lacks social skills. But she’s straight up homeless, barely talks and has no qualms about killing people – bad people, at least – and tearing off pieces to eat later. When we first see her she’s busting into a nefarious warehouse looking for a particular man who wears lots of rings, and settles for a guy who’s about to play Russian roulette with a dog for one of those sicko livefeeds that exist in the darkest corners of movie-world.

That’s also when veteran detective Godfrey (Peter MacNeill, CATHY’S CURSE, Droids, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE) first spots her. He sees her leave with a bullet wound in her head and then sees her the next day, completely healed. And he’s after the same guy so when he meets her even though he realizes she’s a cannibal he decides to set her up with his unused flophouse (with refrigerator for storing fingers and ears and stuff) and give her the DEATH WISH 3 style unofficial sanction. (read the rest of this shit…)

Freaky

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

FREAKY is the recent Blumhouse horror comedy conceived under the title “FREAKY FRIDAY THE 13TH,” because yes, it is a slasher movie combined with a body switch comedy. A psychotic serial killer called “the Blissfield Butcher” (Vince Vaughn, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, PSYCHO) steals an ancient magic dagger, not realizing that when he uses it to stab random teen victim Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton, THE MARTIAL ARTS KID) their souls will switch places. Whoops.

The director is Christopher Landon (BURNING PALMS), which makes a whole lot of sense, because he’s the guy who did HAPPY DEATH DAY, a slasher movie combined with GROUNDHOG DAY (and a movie I enjoyed quite a bit). I heard an interview where Landon said he was a little reluctant to be that guy, but he liked the idea by co-writer Michael Kennedy (assistant animation producer, Family Guy) so much he had to go for it anyway. (read the rest of this shit…)

Train to Busan Presents Peninsula

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

TRAIN TO BUSAN PRESENTS PENINSULA is, of course, director Yeon Sang-ho’s sequel to his excellent zombie hit TRAIN TO BUSAN (itself a live action sequel to his less-widely-known animated movie SEOUL STATION). Although PENINSULA is officially a TRAIN TO BUSAN presentation according to the American title, these are sequels in sort of the George Romero tradition: same world, different sets of characters. Different things that happen to people in South Korea trying to survive a fast-zombie outbreak. So, although I recommend all of them, you could watch them in any order.

This one starts maybe a little bit after the other two movies. Jung-Seok (Gang Dong-won, ILLANG: THE WOLF BRIGADE) uses his station as a captain in the Marines to get his sister and her family a spot on an evacuation ship. But of course a guy on the boat starts twitching weird and next thing you know there’s running and screaming and biting. This is just a pre-credits sequence but, like TRAIN TO BUSAN, it captures a deep sense of loss as Jung-Seok and his brother-in-law Chul-min (Kim Do-yoon, THE WAILING) see their loved ones turn into monsters. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mother Krampus

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

MOTHER KRAMPUS (2017) is a quite serious and pretty gory b-movie from the UK that claims to be “Based on the German Urban Legend of Frau Perchta, the Christmas Witch, who takes a child each night over the 12 days of Christmas.” Maybe C.J. or any of the other German readers can let us know if they’ve ever heard of such a thing. With a little reading I learned she’s a pagan goddess of the Alps, a guardian of beasts and does have some association with the 12 Days of Christmas. She often has one oversized foot and an iron beak, both of which are sorely missing in this cinematic depiction. In some legends she has servants who look like Krampus, but they’re not Krampus, and she doesn’t have them in this movie anyway, so the title is bullshit. But it is a specifically Christmas-themed horror story about an evil hag who comes out of the woods to kill people at Christmas time and that I can get behind.

And we gotta give the ol’ Frau this: it takes balls to do the opening kill at a church! A mom is not paying attention to her son, as she talks to the priest after the service, and he follows a trail of candy to the door, where our shadowy robed non-Krampus related hag snatches him up. I like that it’s hard candy, because it shows that Mother Krampus is a grandma at heart. Either that or she’s so devious that she could use any delicious candy and purposely chooses the less good stuff because she knows it’ll do. (read the rest of this shit…)

Campfire Tales

Monday, December 21st, 2020

CAMPFIRE TALES is a very low budget horror anthology released in 1991. After directors William Cooke and Paul Talbot graduated from college in 1987 they decided to build a film around “The Hook,” a short they’d made in their senior year 16mm class. The stories are very simplistic – unusually light on gimmicks and ironic twists for this type of material – and the filmmaking is not what would traditionally be considered “good.” But being made by beginners with no money gives it that scrappy underdog charm where you’re excited for anything they kind of pull off, and since it was made by young people in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s there’s some relatability and nostalgia for somebody like me who may or may not have come of age around that time.

“The Hook” is set on Halloween, but there’s another story that’s about Christmas, which is what brought me to it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Blood Beat

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

BLOOD BEAT (1983) is another Christmas-set (as opposed to Christmas-themed) horror movie that I watched on Shudder. This one I had heard of as a notably crazy movie, and I knew it had been released on blu-ray by Vinegar Syndrome. It’s about a family being stalked by the spirit of a samurai. I believe.

It’s a low budget movie shot in Wisconsin – on film, though. Don’t worry. It has a little bit of the awkwardness and amateurishness that can make regional horror charming, which serves to make it more impressive when some of it seems pretty legit. The lead couple give fairly natural performances, the most inconsistent actor turns out to be an endearing character anyway, things that wouldn’t be impressive in a bigger production – like a guy jumping through a window and hitting the ground, or getting a nice shot of the fog or a frozen lake – seem triumphant. And it’s very weird. Sometimes in a goofy way, usually in a pretty cool way. (read the rest of this shit…)

Saint Nick (Sint)

Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

I’ve got this problem that I always want some good Christmas horror movies I haven’t seen before, but also I assume any of them coming out this century are gonna be boring, cheap garbage. Yes, KRAMPUS (2015) is semi-recent and has become an annual tradition for me already, but does that mean I should give a shot to the unrelated KRAMPUS: THE CHRISTMAS DEVIL (2014), KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING (2015), KRAMPUS: THE DEVIL RETURNS (2016), KRAMPUS UNLEASHED (2016) or KRAMPUS: ORIGINS (2018)? So far I have assumed no. In this same spirit, I was curious, but didn’t make it a priority, to watch the 2010 Dutch killer Santa type movie SAINT NICK (also released here as SAINT, originally SINT).

And then this year happened! Not the bad stuff, but the stuff where I finally caught on to the Dutch writer/director/composer Dick Maas. I enjoyed his killer elevator movie DE LIFT/THE LIFT (1983), his scuba-action-slasher AMSTERDAMNED (1988), his killer elevator English-language remake DOWN (2001) and his killer lion loose in Amsterdam movie PROOIL/UNCAGED (2016). So, okay buddy, I trust you to make a Christmas horror movie now. I’m ready. (read the rest of this shit…)