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7/10
Tom Atkins is a treat to watch, as usual.
16 February 2012
This is a great send-up of the 1950s era monster movies that saturated the horror genre. It manages to at once take the story serious enough that you sympathize with the characters but also has enough fun with itself that it is never falls into self-parody.

Tom Atkins is a great as usual. He is one of the horror genres most dependable actors and this is no exception. Fred Dekker, who would go on to make The Monster Squad, reveals a real appreciation for the genre he is working in with his direction and the screenplay shows a thorough knowledge of horror convention and knowledge.

This is not a groundbreaking, transcendent genre film like Dawn of the Dead or The Exorcist. It operates well within the confines of the genre but it does so brilliantly.
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Shock Waves (1977)
6/10
Mostly boring underwater Nazi SS zombie film - yes, that's a real thing.
16 February 2012
I don't want to say that I hate this movie because I didn't. I didn't like it either though. It was so middle of the road in all ways possible that you don't dislike, but you don't particularly enjoy it either.

The zombies, to use the term loosely, are people in SS uniforms that walk in and out of the water to somber music. The violence is not existent in the context of zombie films. The special effects are less than special. I understand that this is low-budget and I have much admiration for low-budget films but this is just such a run-of-the-mill zombie film that I really can't recommend it.

The screenplay leaves a lot to be desired as does the direction. However this is not a bad film. Watch if you must but I wouldn't waste much time seeking it out.
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8/10
A little different than typical Carpenter, but one of the best.
14 February 2012
This is one of Carpenter's best films. It is useless to compare it to The Thing, They Live, or Halloween - it is as different from those films as they are from each other. It is more of an atmospheric horror tale in the vein of Lovecraft, in fact it has a very distinct Lovecraft vibe to most of it.

Sam Neil is great, it is a great mystery tale. Perfect film to watch around October and Halloween.

Find it, buy it, watch it. Let's just hope Carpenter has at least one more like this still in him. By the way, I lived in New Hampshire and I'm pretty sure there aren't giant cathedrals and monsters there. Beautiful state, go visit.
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From Beyond (1986)
6/10
Not Re-Animator but still a watchable Lovecraft-styled tale
14 February 2012
The story could have done much more with this concept than it did. The script was very narrow. The horror wasn't horrifying and the humor wasn't very funny but Combs is great to watch and Foree is always a nice touch.

The effects are good it just lacks that special flare that was captured in Re-Animator. The ending is disappointing. I wouldn't try to search this out in any capacity because it isn't worth the time but if you happen on it, sure pick it up and watch it. Genre fans will get some enjoyment out of it.

Still better than most rubbish out there polluting the genre though.
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6/10
Watchable, though not necessary.
14 February 2012
There is a severe drop in quality in comparison to the first film. This one still has the gore and is essentially more of the same, just less interesting and little more boring. Jefferey Combs is a pleasure and he carries the movie when it starts to get tedious.

The ending has an interesting scene but I just can't help but see this film as largely tedious and not near the classic that its predecessor remains to this day.

Watch the original and then if you happen to have access to this, throw it in. I would suggest borrowing it from a friend because you probably won't watch it more than once.
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5/10
Waste of time for all but the most hardcore fans
13 February 2012
This movie is just bad. Combs can't even make this stinker watchable. The first one was great, Bride was a drop in quality but still good, and this one is an abomination that I can only rationalize in my head as a cash grab to generate some more money from the Re-Animator years after the series had apparently ended.

Watch the first two, don't watch this even if you are given a copy for free (which I imagine happens often because no one will want this in their collection and likewise anyone who has heard about it won't want to waste money on it.)

The five-stars I assigned it were generous, we'll just say that.
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7/10
Fulci's best, though I don't know why . . .
13 February 2012
This film is vintage Fulci and I love every second of it. The strangest part is that I have absolutely no idea why I like it and I don't really understand how anyone could like it - though I know people like me are legion when it comes to this film. The plot - to use the word loosely indeed - is almost non-existent. The images on the screen don't really seem to progress in any cohesive way. Almost nothing is adequately explained. Yet, it all is so damn cool.

That's Fulci. He's a man about images and his images are powerful even if they are not strung together by a reasonable plot. The music, the images, the grainy stock of the film, the acting . . . it's all great and it's all classic Italian horror from the heyday.

The opening scene alone is worth the price of admission just make sure you don't accidentally get an edited version under one of the many alternative titles.
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They Live (1988)
7/10
Supremely enjoyable Carpenter film slowly getting the recognition it deserves.
13 February 2012
I've seen the popularity of this film slowly rise of the years and all the better for it. This one of Carpenter's most underrated films. It features everything we all love about John Carpenter during his heyday, especially the musical scores that are so recognizably his.

The dialogue is intentionally B-movie cheese - but it is great cheese. You'll be quoting this movie for a long time potentially the rest of your life. You'll saying something about asses and bubble gum - if you haven't seen it, you'll soon know what I mean.

Also there is a fight scene in this movie that goes on for approximately fifteen minutes that you can't even comprehend - not to say that it is good but only that it is so hilariously long (and the actors take it SO seriously!) that you can't help but think Carpenter is having a little send-up of 80s action flicks.

Great story, entertaining acting, and pure B-movie greatness. Watch it today.
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Re-Animator (1985)
7/10
Classic 1980s Lovecraft-inspired gore film!
13 February 2012
If you're looking for a faithful Lovecraft adaptation you will not find that here. In fact, you will not find that anywhere. Lovecraft stories defy cinematic adaptation without cracking in the process, the screen just can't catch that cerebral, ethereal quality that the imagination can. Either way, the filmmakers look to Lovecraft as inspiration and take many liberties with the story - this is a positive attribute because instead of a lackluster Lovecraft tale we get a fantastic Lovecraft inspired gore film.

This and Dead Alive are probably the most mainstream of the famous gore films and that isn't a shot at its quality just the odd crossover appeal it happens to possess. I have shown females raised on The OC and Green Day and they have enjoyed the film. I don't understand what the appeal is to a wide group of people but it is there. That said this is a great introduction to gore films.

The gore here is so over-the-top and cartoon-like that it doesn't tend to gross out like many of the more hardcore, meaner spirited gore films tend do. Despite the buckets of blood and gore this is a FUN movie to watch.

If you're looking for a good movie to watch with some beers and some friends you can't go wrong with Re-Animator.
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7/10
Max on Sydow saves this King adaptation
13 February 2012
I'm not a big Stephen King fan but the premise to this story is just great. It should make for a great film but for some reason the film disappoints. Not terribly but you feel like you should have gotten more.

Enter Max von Sydow. The man is an absolute pleasure to watch in any film he is in and no matter how long he appears in a given film it is better for his involvement. Without question one of the world's greatest actors of the twentieth century. This is obviously not his best role but he lends a wonderful Old World charm to this American story, his turn as the shopkeeper saves this movie from being low- quality and brings it up to a decent spooky story.

I have heard that the TBS version is much better as it feature more characterization (what I found to be the weakest part of the film) but I have not seen it. If anyone has any idea where to acquire it please leave a comment.
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7/10
Future classic.
18 January 2012
When the current era of Asian horror films are over this is one of the films that will emerge as a true classic of the time. It transcends horror films and becomes a great film in the broad sense. The story is fragile and easily ruined so it will not be discussed here.

Just know that this is a horror film of the highest level. It tells its tale subtlety and with focus. The frights emerge from the plot development and the strong characterization. The atmosphere is dreamy, almost with that haze of childhood about it.

Watch this if you haven't seen it. It deserves the praise often given to it.
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Dark Water (2002)
7/10
The Asian horror industry is the new standard.
18 January 2012
The American horror film scene has been getting staler and staler for the better part of two decades. We get the same boring clichés and jump scares packaged under different titles with little originality. That is not to say that there aren't some very good American horror films to be produced since the 1980s but the more Asian horror that I watch the more I see that they have taken up the torch and are producing the best horror movies of the era.

Dark Water isn't necessarily one of the best Asian horror films to come out but it certainly is a good one. The American remake is really indicative of what is wrong with the industry in North America. The story is the same and many of the scenes are very similar but for some reason, some intangible reason, it is of remarkably lower quality. Even with a very talented actress in the lead role it still doesn't shine like the Japanese original, even though it possesses every required ingredient. It is these intangibles that the Asian horror scene has somehow mastered and the American scene has lost.

Dark Water itself is a nice little ghost story. It is a slow-burner with an unsettling tale and reveals itself subtlety. The characters are not throw away fodder as in many modern American horror tales and there are some scenes that had me, a hardened horror veteran, wanting to squint my eyes at the television screen. This is not American horror in the sense that everything is not in your face blood, gore, and knife wielding psychos. This is a much more subtle, psychological tale. It will creep under your skin.

Asian horror is the new standard. I hope that the American industry will learn thing a thing or two from the Asian scene and not just try to emulate it so that perhaps the next generation of filmmakers can bring the torch of horror back to the United States.
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Hard Boiled (1992)
8/10
John Woo's best action sequences
17 January 2012
There is really no need to discuss plot. Plot isn't a device that Woo uses particularly well and that is actually a positive attribute of a film like this. The story is serviceable enough but it isn't overly complicated to get in the way of the action. And let's not mince words, the action is the real star of this show. Chow Yun Fat oozes cool and he is given some incredible action set pieces to look cool on.

I prefer A Better Tomorrow over this film but don't think that is anything more than subjective opinion - this is an amazing action film that most any fan of gun fights and explosions will enjoy to the fullest. You essentially get two hours of some of the greatest action sequences ever filmed. The opening scene in the Chinese tea house has to be seen to be believed and I won't even mention the finale. Just know that it defies description.

Watch this film soon, might become a new favorite. And you will most likely develop a man crush on Chow Yun Fat.
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8/10
One of the best Hong Kong action films.
17 January 2012
This is the movie that made John Woo the reputation that he has for action films. If you enjoy action films, and in particular other Hong Kong action films then you will enjoy this. Stylistically it is easily identified as a Woo film and doesn't really transcend the action film genre but it does work marvelously within the confines of that genre.

Some consider The Killer or Hard-Boiled to be the better John Woo HK film but I find that while the Killer and Hard-Boiled both have tighter, more elegant action sequences what really makes A Better Tomorrow lead the pack is the plot. It isn't an entirely original plot but it is well acted enough that you really feel for the characters and can understand the motivations. It isn't a typical action movie plot where the script serves simply as a device to create interesting action sequences. You get traditional Chinese themes such as honor, loyalty, and strong family ties.

As always Chow Yun Fat is a pleasure to watch. He is simply one of the coolest action stars in the entire global movie industry. You could search far and wide and not find a more suave action star than the dual-pistol wielding, cigarette-in-mouth Chow Yun Fat. Worth watching for his presence alone. If you only know him from the American films he has done then you are doing yourself a disservice.

In summation: if you like action films you will love A Better Tomorrow. It's that simple. Also check out other Woo HK films like The Killer and Hard Boiled.
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8/10
Great spaghetti western in an unusual setting.
16 January 2012
If you like the westerns that were being produced in Italy about forty years ago then you will undeniably enjoy The Great Silence. If you didn't enjoy those films and find Sergio Leone boring or without merit then you will not enjoy this film. It is filmed in typical spaghetti western fashion, fans of the genre will instantly recognize the camera work and use of music (which is Morricone so it is of course excellent.)

The film has a good story, great cinematography, and Klaus Kinski is perfect as the villain. It doesn't exactly break new ground or transcend the spaghetti western genre but within that genre it certainly is one of the best that I have seen.

Like Italian westerns? Watch it. You won't be disappointed.
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Child's Play (1988)
5/10
The Child's Play series is terrible. Not even genre fans will find much to like here.
13 January 2012
I'm a hardened horror film fan. I've been watching all kinds of genre films since I was a child and would like to think that I could stand my own in a conversation with most any horror film fan. That said, the Child's Play movies are absolutely awful and I really don't see what even a genre fan has to enjoy from these films. I suppose the character of Chucky has become very recognizable but he is anything but interesting. Quite annoying actually.

The premise is ridiculous even for a horror film. The ending of the movie makes absolutely no sense and I have yet to find out why a group of adults can't figure out a way to stop a tiny doll from slaughtering them. It's not exactly intimidating. The one-liners are not funny and the movie is not entertaining. Watch if you must but it is perfectly acceptable to pass by this and all of its sequels.
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The Killer (1989)
8/10
Two hour gunfight from John Woo
12 January 2012
I loved this movie. The plot was paper thin with a basic character set-up but it functions perfectly fine within the context of this film. The draw here is not an intricate plot it is the almost unbelievably awesome action sequences. I think John Woo has used more bullets and guns than were used in the Warsaw Uprising or Stalingrad. Forget Die Hard or Commando or any of those other American action films: films like The Killer set the bar for what an action film can be.

If you are looking for gun battles, explosions, blood, Chinese people with unintentionally hilarious dubbing, and of course doves flying around a church then this is the film you want to watch. If you like action films you will love The Killer without question. It will probably provoke you to seek out other Hong Kong action films which is a good thing because The Killer is not the only one. City of Fire and A Better Tomorrow immediately come to mind as other great HK films.
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8/10
A yearly tradition. Halloween is not the same without Charlie Brown.
12 January 2012
Every year I put together a horror movie marathon for me and my friends around Halloween and this special is always on the play list. It just wouldn't be the Halloween horror movie marathon without it. The Great Pumpkin really evokes why we all fell in love with the Halloween season and holiday. The candy, the costumes, but most importantly the mysterious nature. As a child everything seemed so mysterious and grand which is what Linus is experiencing with his Great Pumpkin beliefs.

The Great Pumpkin really sets the mood for the Halloween season. If you have young kids you could do much worse than introduce them to this wonderful little special. It was a huge part of my childhood and I have many fond memories sitting with mom and dad watching this on CBS with the old Halloween-themed McDonald's commercials. It just brings me back to a simpler time.

Also, do not give out rocks as treats. That's just cruel.
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8/10
Not Scorsese's best, but still entertaining.
12 January 2012
This is not Scorsese's best film but it is a very well made thriller that will keep you interested for the run time. Shutter Island lacks the tension that Scorsese's other thriller Cape Fear managed to create but DiCaprio and company do a great job with the script.

My favorite part of the film was the setting. The sets are great, they set the mood for the entire film. The costumes also contribute to the success of the film. The film will keep you guessing most of the way through and if you are in the mood for a good thriller this will not let you down. Leonardo DiCaprio is a pleasure to watch act as usual. The accents are all done surprisingly well considering the infamous difficulty non-native actors with the Eastern Massachusetts accent.
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Cemetery Man (1994)
8/10
Suffered in the United States from poor marketing. Great film.
12 January 2012
Cemetery Man suffered immensely in the United States from poor marketing by its American distributors. The title was changed to Cemetery Man from the original Italian title and given a schlock and camp-filled ad campaign painting the movie as just another zombie film in an already saturated market. Consequently it was released to critical and commercial failure.

Instead of the campy zombie film most people were expecting when they bought their tickets, Cemetery Man delivers something much more rare: intelligent and thought-provoking ideas in a horror film. Yes, we do get our primitive desire to see zombie carnage (and then some) fulfilled but we also get something to think about.

See this film if you are in the mood for a zombie flick but would also like something that offers a lot more substance than anything by Fulci and most Romero films post-1978. I recommend this to people who like zombie flicks but also those who like a good drama. Give it a chance, you won't be disappointed.
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6/10
Good for the kids. Bad for Steve Guttenberg.
12 January 2012
If you are planning on showing this to a child they will enjoy themselves and might even get a little fright out of the story. To an adult the plot is very cliché and poorly executed but the children will have a fun time. The characters are likable enough and Dunst and Guttenberg both give decent though movie-of-the-week type performances.

It is very much a low-rent television movie but it is good enough for the kids. There are ghosts and other spooky things but I don't think a parent would find too much to find offense with in the movie.

Watch if you want to show a child something a little more thrilling to them but don't expect too much yourself.
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Garfield in Disguise (1985 TV Short)
8/10
One of the best Halloween specials available.
12 January 2012
This is one of the best children's Halloween specials you could hope to watch. It is somewhat obscure and often forgotten about but it deserves all the recognition that the famous Christmas specials get. The dead leaves and dark night set the autumn mood while Garfield and Odie go out candy collecting but get into a spooky adventure along the way. I won't spoil the show but it involves a haunted house, classic Halloween fare all around.

There are a few memorable songs, good animation, classic Garfield humor, and a nice spooky Halloween setting. This is a perfect choice to show to children around October, it might even become a yearly tradition.
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9/10
The best ghost story I've seen on film.
11 January 2012
This is the ultimate ghost story as far as I am concerned. It has the Gothic undertones, the creepy mansion, and an engaging ghostly mystery at the center of the plot. All of that pales in comparison to the performance by acting great George C. Scott. He really takes what would have been an average ghost story and turns into something far more with his performance, he is an absolute pleasure to watch in this movie.

This one is not well-known in all but the most seasoned of horror circles so if you are a casual horror fan and someone happened upon this page and are reading this review please do yourself a favor and find some way to watch this movie on a dark, stormy night. It does what few horror films have managed to do: it transcends the horror genre and simply becomes a good film that isn't qualified with "it's a good for a horror film." This is just good cinema.
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8/10
More people need to see this fine pulp-style horror anthology.
11 January 2012
This film is the perfect example of the failings of the studio system. This is a truly world-class horror film that deserved a full theatrical release with a decent marketing campaign. The film has still managed to get itself a decent reputation and is growing in popularity but from the beginning it should have been treated with more respect.

This is the Halloween film to beat. I'm a Carpenter faithful however this film encapsulates everything that horror and Halloween fans appreciate about the season and the holiday. The atmosphere is dripping with the trappings of Halloween. It is not scary nor is it meant to be scary, it is very much in the style of Creepshow or Tales from the Crypt though I find is superior to both, especially Creepshow.

In my reviews I don't like to discuss particulars about the films, just enough to get a feel as to whether to you should view a film or not. If you like the Halloween season, campy horror films, John Carpenter, and in general the creepy autumn mood - watch this and I guarantee you will not regret it.
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Hocus Pocus (1993)
7/10
Another example where critics let an enjoyable film slip through their hands.
11 January 2012
This is not Kieslowski. This is not Wajda. This is not Goddard. This is not Bergman. This is a children's movie based on the legends and myths of the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts. It uses its setting to great effect and establishes a very enjoyable autumn mood throughout the entire running time. Critics fall victim to their own pretensions. Yes, we all love The Seventh Seal but not every film needs to blast me in the face with serious moral dilemmas and deep philosophical questions. Can you imagine a world where all art did that? No thanks.

This is a fun little film for kids and the adults will enjoy it also. I have had the pleasure of seeing this in Salem, Massachusetts at Cinema Salem more than once which was a nice touch. This story of witches and the kids who try to thwart them will really engage your children around Halloween time. The actors all have great chemistry together and make this into a fun movie you can watch every year.

Critics be damned. Hocus Pocus is a great Halloween film.
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