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7/10
Mean, nasty and vicious; - like rabid dogs indeed.
16 December 2018
Not to be confused with the almost identically titled masterpiece directed by Mario Bava, "Like Rabid Dogs" is one of the obscurest Euro-crime cult thrillers to come out of 70s Italy, but nevertheless a very worthwhile one for fans to check out. It's not highly original, it's not exceptionally well-made, it doesn't have a stellar cast and it wasn't directed by a famous name in the industry. And yet, just because of all these reasons "Like Rabid Dogs" is so darn entertaining! How's that? Well, it's the type of film that benefices from its bare-boned production values, because it generates a raw-edged and nihilistic atmosphere, while the characters (both heroes and villains) are genuinely insane and the violence is extremely brutal and uncompromising. The film is a modest entry in the also overall modest Euro-crime sub genre of "delinquent rich teenagers on a rampage". Other noteworthy, but almost equally obscure, titles in this category are "Young, Violent, Dangerous", "Terror in Rome" and "The Children of Violent Rome". As you may guess, the protagonists are spoiled kids from rich & influential families that, for reasons none other reason than boredom and the quest for kicks, commit vile crimes like robbery, rape and murder. The trio in "Like Rabid Dogs", two boys and a girl, particularly fancy terrorizing and slaughtering the prostitutes that the father of one of them frequently visits. This gives the investigating police inspector Muzi the unorthodox and rather stupid idea to disguise a female colleague as an undercover prostitute and send out her out on the street unprepared & unprotected. The tone of "Like Rabid Dogs" is very grim and primitive straight from the opening sequence, set at a football stadium where the two bad boys pull off a heist and unhesitatingly shoot a security guard in the face. Immediately after this scene, there's shockingly realistic footage of a woman committing suicide by jumping out of a window from the sixth/seventh floor. We then hear in the police debrief that the victim was the security guard's fiancee, so the first five minutes are already quite sour-tasting and confronting. The film is full of unrelenting rawness like this, including extreme misogyny, merciless executions and homophobia. With his background as director of lewd sex-comedies ("Blue Jeans", "La Ragazzina"), Mario Imperoli naturally doesn't cut back on nudity and sleaze. The gangster trio, for example, has a very open triangular relationship and even the policewoman willingly submits to sleeping with inspector Muzi moments after nearly being raped by hoodlums. Imperoli also tries hard to reflect the contemporary Italian political & social tensions in his film, and he even adds an artsy footnote in the form of an Othello reference, but "Like Rabid Dogs" mainly and primarily just remains bold and nasty exploitation entertainment. Especially the climax will fill you up with that good old-fashioned feeling: "Ha, they got what they deserved!"
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Pay the Ghost (2015)
5/10
Nick pays the ghost, and we pay to see Nick!
10 December 2018
I strongly suspect that, around 2009-2010 or so, Nicolas Cage participated in a secret scientific experiment to have himself cloned, and that since then there are at least three of four Nicks walking around in Hollywood! How else would you explain the large number of Nick Cage vehicles that is getting released each year? I seems that, every time I blink my eyes, two or three titles are added to Cage's filmography here on IMDb. I don't mind, though, and it's even quite clever because I (and surely many others with me) will pretty much watch everything that Nicolas Cage stars in, regardless of the quality. And, granted, a lot of the B-type action/horror movies that he starred in lately are bad. Take "Pay the Ghost", for instance. I probably never would have bothered to continue watching if it weren't for Cage's name prominently decorating the opening credits, as it looks like just another derivative and predictable ghost story with a weak plot and an overload of fake scares. Make no mistake, "Pay the Ghost" IS a forgettable and weak supernatural horror entry, but hey, maybe I was in an exceptionally good mood because I nevertheless enjoyed it. The script is obviously trying to cash in on "Insidious", "Sinister" and every other recently released thrillers featuring ghost children, and Cage strictly acts on automatic pilot, but I was still interested in the plot of his missing son. Charlie mysteriously vanished during last year's Halloween parade and, nearly one year later, his father discovers that several children go missing every year on All Hallows Eve without ever getting found. Mike reunites with his estranged wife and together they stumble upon a harrowing tragedy that occurred nearly three centuries ago. Being a sucker for folklore/urban legend stories involving witchery and burning at the stake, I really dug the tale of Annie Sawquin, and director Uli Edel ("Christiane F.") did his best to insert a creepy atmosphere, decent special effects and eerie scenery. Certain scenes are quite brutal, like the fade of the spiritual medium, and the happy ending doesn't feel too forced. But, like I said, I was in a good mood and Cage himself probably already doesn't remember "Pay the Ghost" anymore.
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Mitchell (1975)
4/10
My my my my Mitchell! Sleazy, filthy, sloppy Mitchell
6 December 2018
In case of "Mitchell", I absolutely wanted to see the original version before the famous "Mystery Science Theater 3000" episode. Don't get me wrong, I really love the MST3K concept, but do think it's mainly just suitable for particular types of bad films; - notably 50s B-horror movies and cheap Sci-Fi fodder. Over the years I saw several great and personal favorite movies receive the MST3K treatment that honestly didn't deserve it ("Danger: Diabolik", "Phase IV", "Hangar 18", ...) and feared it would also be like that for "Mitchell". It's a bad movie, there's no point in denying that, but also quite entertaining and uniquely distasteful! "Mitchell" has the kind of script that makes you wonder things aloud, like "what idiot wrote this?" or "why did these stellar actors agree to star?". Unmistakably inspired by the stream of popular and excessively violent cop-thrillers of the early 70s, "Mitchell" takes the concept of the disobedient and unorthodox police detective several steps further! In fact, this movie truly deserves to be named "Dirty Mitchell", because the lead character doesn't just disobey his superiors and enforces the law rather brutally, he's also literally a dirty man due to a lack of personal hygiene and a massive overcompensation of beer! Detective Mitchell is the lousiest type of cinematic hero you could ever image. Joe Don Baker depicts him as a miserable hermit without friends or relatives who sleeps until noon in his yesterday clothes, yells against children, throws elderly ladies out of cars and doesn't wonder about who paid for the prostitutes that show at his doorstep. He naturally doesn't listen when told to lay off the rich and influential lawyer (John Saxon), of whom Mitchell is convinced he's a cold-blooded murderer. Instead he's instructed to shadow a businessman (Martin Balsam) suspected of being at the head of a cocaine-smuggling network. Luckily for Mitchell, the script is unoriginal, and the two villains are evidently connected to each other. Lumpy Mitchel wobbles from one tepid action sequence to the next, with lots of terrible dialogues and pointless footage in between. I did watch the MST3K-version afterwards, and they nailed the description of the stunt work: "This car chase makes Driving Miss Daisy look like Bullitt!". Mitchell has his very own theme-song, but the lyrics aren't exactly inspirational and the singer (Hoyt Axton) sounds like he's about to die from throat cancer. Can't say for sure if Joe Don Baker properly realized what turkey he was starring in, but John Saxon and Martin Balsam perform poorly, in accordance with the script (and probably their paycheck as well). I would recommend watching "Mitchell" in combination with playing marginal games, for example: try and drink as many beer cans as Joe Don Baker does throughout the film! Massive delirium guaranteed!
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8/10
Lou "The Looper" is ready to rumble!
3 December 2018
I don't have a valid or acceptable excuse for why this is only my second "Abbott and Costello" movie in more than 10 years. I worship horror classics and adore genre parodies (if they respectfully handle the source material) and, moreover, my first encounter with the duo ("A & C meet Frankenstein") instantly catapulted itself my all-time favorites list. Their encounter with the invisible man made slightly a less powerful impression on me, but it still is a fantastic film with a solid storyline, terrific gags, stellar performances and downright genius special effects. Freshly graduated as private investigators (!), Bud and Lou are approached by professional boxer Tommy Nelson in their office. Tommy is wanted for the murder of his manager and a fugitive from the police, but he seeks the help of smart detectives to help prove his innocence as he was framed by match-fixing criminals. Right before the police can arrest him, Tommy injects himself with a serum at the house of his friend, Dr. Gray. The serum makes Tommy invisible and allows him to help infiltrate Bud and Lou into the world of professional boxing. With Lou pretending to be a sensational new talent, while it's actually Tommy who's handing out the punches, he rapidly becomes known as "Lou the Looper" and challenged to a fight against champion Rocky Hanlon. The plot about using invisibility to prove one's innocence isn't necessarily original, but it's effectively transferred to the dubious scene of illegal sports gambling. The film contains numerous comical highlights and, not coincidentally, they all revolve around the one and only Lou Costello and his unlimited talents. The sequence at the restaurant, where Lou must pretend to have two meals, is hilarious, and so is the punching bag scene at the boxing school and the eventual ring battle. Again, for a 1951 film, "Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man" has astounding special effects! The invisible man undresses, shuffle cards, smokes cigarettes and slurps up spaghetti and it all looks very convincing!

At the beginning of my review I mentioned that I love it when horror parodies respect the classic source materials. Well, in the house of Dr. Gray, there's a picture of Claude Rains and it's explained that his character in the 1933 Universal classic invented the invisibility serum, but that it made him mad and eventually got him killed. It doesn't get more respectful that this, I reckon.
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7/10
Shame and scandal in Don's Family!
30 November 2018
"The Don is Dead" - the title alone is worth the price of the purchase - is too often downgraded as a quick and inferior attempt to cash in on the tremendous success of Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather"; released the year before. Let me tell you, the problem doesn't lie with this perfectly enjoyable and competently made Mafia saga. The problem merely is that "The Godfather" is insanely popular and too many avid fans will bash and boycott everything that even remotely resembles their preciously favorite milestone. Popular cinematic ideas are reproduced and often even get blatantly copied, that is a fact. This doesn't mean, however, that nothing good comes out of the giant stream of imitations! Italian exploitation, for example, is my personal favorite type of cinema and that genre exists for 99% out of shameless knock-offs and stolen ideas. Regardless of what you mean read, "The Don is Dead" remains an excellent drama/thriller with an absorbing plot, splendid performances from a great cast and steady direction from the underrated Richard Fleisher. Following the death of a highly respected Don, representatives of three Mafiosi clans gather to re-divide the Las Vegas territory. The slimy Luigi Orlanda and his mistress see this as an opportunity to double-cross the others and raise a destructive gang war. They manipulate for the powerful Don Angelo DiMorra to fall in love with the girlfriend of his own protégé stepson Frank Regalbuto and things rapidly escalate into deceit, executions and mass-retaliation. The story is good, and Fleisher effortlessly finds the right balance between talky sequences and exciting action footage. There are some delightful execution-highlights, like set in a barbershop or a laundry salon. Anthony Quinn gives a fine performance, although clearly modeled after Marlon Brando - I admit, and "young" actors Frederic Forrest and Robert Forster are also very impressive.
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Run All Night (2015)
7/10
Liam Neesploitation!
26 November 2018
Few things in the present-day cinema business are as fascinating and remarkable as the sudden career change that Liam Neeson underwent since 2008! The charismatic Irish born actor has always been a tough guy, at least from the looks of it, but nevertheless he was mainly known and celebrated for his weighty and highbrowed roles, like in "Schindler's List", "Michael Collins" or "Les Misérables". But since 2008, with the release of the first "Taken", Neeson seems reborn as a hardcore-to-the-bone and authentically unhinged action hero! The "Taken" sequels, and other similarly themed and equally fast-paced action movies (like "Unknown", "Non-Stop" and "The Grey"), followed so quickly in the next ten years that we can now even almost speak of a spontaneous new sub-genre: Liam Neesploitation! "Run All Night", Neeson's third collaboration with director Jaume Collet-Serra in a row, is easily his best since the original "Taken", and it takes our protagonist back to his roots by depicting a heavy-drinking and embittered Irish ex-gangster. What makes the film even cooler is that Neeson is now surrounded by equally embittered compeers, like the underrated Vincent D'Onofrio, the sadly forgotten Bruce McGill and the always phenomenal Ed Harris. The difference between these old & experienced veterans and an ensemble cast existing of young hunks is that you genuinely believe them if they act like they don't care if they are going to die or not! Neeson is terrific as the emotionally tormented former hit man Jimmy Conlon, with real agony in his eyes and voice. Certain circumstances force him to kill the son of his best friend and patron Shawn Maguire, and the latter now swears that he's "coming after Jimmy's son Mike with everything he's got". Sit back and enjoy the wild mixture of car chases, virulent shootouts and raw duels.
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3/10
Only a terrific idea on paper...
26 November 2018
I'm a man who likes his horror raw, shocking and extremely bloody. I can also handle pretty much everything else in terms of cinema, but I'm truly petrified of one thing: having to watch movies like "Pride & Prejudice", "Atonement" or "Sense and Sensibility" with my wife. I simply always fail to stay awake during those incredibly lengthy, tedious and dreadfully sentimental historical costume dramas. Therefore, the idea of Burr Steers' "Price and Prejudice and Zombies" seemed so appealing when I first encountered it! It has the romantic aspects and contemporary costume & set designs to please my beloved wife, and at least I could seek comfort in the fact there will be zombie mayhem after every sappy and melodramatic interlude. Giving this one an optimistic chance nevertheless became one of the bigger mistakes of the century, as "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" is just as boring as the traditional Jane Austen adaptations and, moreover, a disgraceful entry in the horror genre, what with its horridly inept CGI-effects and anti-menacing zombies. Apart from the "...and Zombies" that is nonchalantly added in the title, Steers' ambitious project solely contains two reasonably imaginative gimmicks. Charles Dance's five beautiful and eligible-for-marriage daughters are all masters in Oriental martial arts techniques, and the noble but arrogant Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) uses ordinary flies as a primitive but highly efficient method to detect newly infected living dead people. Everything else is lame and derivative guff that is neither funny, nor exciting. I still think mixing two opposite genres or cinematic styles can work out perfectly fine, but for this to work, the writer and director must demonstrate deep respect and knowledge of both genres, which Burr Steers obviously lacked to do. In the competent hands of George A. Romero, for example, and with the much-needed help of Tom Savini in the make-up department, the potential outcome of such a genre salad could have been fabulous (perhaps)!
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Monkey Shines (1988)
7/10
Release the anger, unleash the monkey!
19 November 2018
George A. Romero went down in history as the cinematic father of zombie cinema, but he was so much more than that. In fact, he was truly one of the most creative and versatile horror writers/directors of all times! The "Living Dead" films were raw-edged and explicitly violent, but this "Monkey Shines" is a very controlled and atmospheric thriller with hardly any gore or bloodshed at all. The screenplay, adapted by Romero himself from a novel by Michael Stewart, is smart and absorbing and - even more praiseworthy - creates an emotional context that is far more plausible and identifiable than usually the case in horror. Paralyzed from the neck down and bound to a wheelchair following a horrific sport accident that didn't just cost him his bodily functions but also his relationship, Allan Mann entirely lost the will to live. This changes drastically, however, when his pal Geoffrey provides him with a cute Capuchin monkey, named Ella, trained as home help. What Allan doesn't know is that Geoffrey is sleazy mad scientist who experimented on Ella by injecting her with liquified human brain tissue. The friendship between Allan and his monkey escalates into a sort of mind-merging bond, and Ella starts executing Allan's oppressed but savage revenge-fantasies. Unless I'm mistaken, there isn't a proper explanation for the sudden telepathic connection between Allan and Ella (probably a bizarre side-effect of Geoffrey's serum?) but I, for one, am gladly overlooking this little script error. Romero's film is clever and often very suspenseful, and there's even some for room for his usual trademark of social criticism, this time largely aimed at the arrogant and self-indulged world of medicine and science. Jason Beghe is terrific in the lead role, and especially his facial expressions of rage and hatred are terrifyingly convincing. The supportive cast is splendid as well, including Joyce Van Patten as the overbearing mother and director's regular Christine Forrest as freaky nurse, and the real-life animal trainers (including David Meeks) should have received a special type of Academy Award.
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Martin (1978)
9/10
After the zombie, genius Romero reinvents the vampire
16 November 2018
Whoever says the name George A. Romero, says zombies. The tremendous success and importance of the original "Dead"-trilogy, and to a much lesser extent the three post-Millennial sequels, gradually made Romero's name a synonym for zombie films that swiftly mix extreme terror with not-to-be misunderstood social commentary. Romero is - was ¬- Mr. Zombie, and certainly does deserve every bit of admiration and respect that he received, but he also did so much more! He pleased much larger crowds with the anthology "Creepshow", raised paranoia with the virus-outbreak classic "The Crazies", experimented with intelligent animals in "Monkey Shines", joined forces with his Italian buddy Dario Argento to bring homage to Edgar Allen Poe with "Two Evil Eyes" and, last but not least, he demolished the up until then sacred folklore of vampirism with "Martin".

"Martin" is, bluntly put, just as subversive, thought-provoking, satirical and progressive as the landmark zombie movies. However, apparently not even George A. Romero could break through the traditional barriers of established vampire cinema classics. "Martin" invites you to think outside the box and look beyond every known vampire cliche or traditional stereotype. Straight from the dazzling opening sequences, which - for the record - require a rather strong stomach, you realize that the titular anti-hero isn't the vampire you came to expect via legendary actors like Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee. Romero plays games of juxtaposing fable and reality. An atypical kind of vampire or a certifiable case of extremely dangerous psychosis? The boy, Martin, certainly seems convinced that he's a vampire, but he's more likely to be a severe mental case. Of course, Romero also grabs the opportunity to insert some of his favorite pet peeve trademarks, like pitch-black humor, socially relevant criticism (notably against the contemporary alienation and increasing types of personality problems) and the portrayal of Pittsburgh as a desolate and raw middle-class wasteland. The director's sardonic sense of humor is best illustrated via the key moments during which Romero oh-so provocatively deconstructs the traditional vampire lore.

"Martin" also marked the beginning of Tom Savini's career. He makes his acting debut in a modest supportive role, but more importantly it gave him the chance to demonstrate what kind of realistically engrossing and horrifying make-up effects he could achieve, even with limited financial means. The horror in "Martin" was pleasingly shocking and imaginative, and the duo went on to make "Dawn of the Dead" together. The rest is history, as they say.
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The Mutilator (1984)
6/10
The epitome of 80s Slasher-cinema!
12 November 2018
This isn't my first review for "The Mutilator", in fact. I wrote one in 2004 already, but after reviewing the film (in far superior picture quality) last weekend, I decided to delete my previous comment and write a new one. Partially because my writing style was quite amateurish and embarrassing in 2004, but primarily because my rating and judgement for this slasher favorite were far too low and negative. "The Mutilator" pretty much emphasizes why we love horror slashers, those of the 1980s in particular! Maybe I'm embittered by the lack of quality and entertainment value in nowadays horror movies, but I feel that the spontaneity and cheesiness of films like "The Mutilator" deserve better ratings and more appreciation.

The joyfulness already begins with the director's name (Buddy Cooper) and the catchy opening credits song "Fall Break". Oh yes, "The Mutilator" is straightforward, unhinged and sheer entertainment! It was the early 80's and anyone capable to come up with a nasty title and a handful of dollars was given the freedom to produce a slasher. Buddy invented the title "The Mutilator" and made his lifelong dream come true. Good for you, Buddy! The whole thing doesn't make much sense, as the intro depicts how a young boy accidentally shoots his mother in the back on his father's birthday. It's supposed to drive the father crazy, but all he does is remain stoically calm and pour himself a drink. Several years later the father asks Ed Jr. to go up to their family beach house and close it for the summer. Considering it's also fall break, Ed and his friends, six dim-witted teenagers in total, see this as the ideal occasion to spend a little holiday. Little do they know, of course, that Ed Sr. arranged for his son to come to the cabin and kill him. Now lucky Big Edhas six teenagers to annihilate! "The Mutilator" is full of memorably nonsensical moments, like nude swimming parties, dull games of Monopoly and endless supplies of beer coming out of the rustiest refrigerator you'll ever see. The acting performances are stupendously terrible; - most notably the tall blond guy and the obligatory practical joker-guy. Our over-enthusiast director Buddy Cooper also knows all the cliches and he's not afraid to use them! Virgins have a fair chance to survive ordeals like these and the killer's dead body will have vanished when you turn on the car's headlights! Finally, the obvious reason to adore a film like "The Mutilator" are the vile and uncompromisingly gross slaughtering methods, as well as the unsubtle and explicit make-up effects. Apart from a couple of commonplace murders, executed with pitchforks or shiny axes, this genre gem features a rather unique speedboat-engine kill and a truly cringing scene involving a fishing hook and a young lady's lower regions. Auch!
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4/10
Have you watered your plants today? Or said something nice to them, at least?
9 November 2018
The world of horror/occult cinema is a wonderfully unpredictable place. I have been a horror fanatic for almost my entire life and I daresay that I have seen practically everything. I saw cannibal tribes devouring innocent people, serial killers painfully tormenting their agonizing victims and even I even watched babies getting impaled on spikes. None of these sights ever shocked or frightened me, though, but the simple alternate title and poster image of this obscure & low-budgeted thriller, I find strangely unnerving and eerie. "The Plants are Watching", and then the image of a tipped over plant next to the lifeless hand of a woman. You must admit that is somewhat uncanny, no? Well, I certainly think so.

"The Kirlian Witness", which is the official title, also brings forward some very original and intriguing themes but - unfortunately - it's too much of a poorly produced and amateurish effort to be entertaining. With better production values and slightly more competent cast & crew members, I'm sure this could have been a modest cult gem, but now it's destined to remain an obscure oddity for avid collectors. The idea of communicating with plants, and even depend on them as witnesses of vile crimes like murder, may sound foolish but actually it's quite compelling and suspenseful (given that the screenplay is better elaborated than here). Laurie is an introvert girl, obsessed with botanical flora and persuaded it's possible to telepathically communicate with plants. She's found murdered on the rooftop of her apartment complex one day, and since writer/director Jonathan Sarno could only afford Lawrence Tierney one single day for a cameo appearance as the Police Detective, it's up to Laurie's sister Rilla to identify the killer herself. Since there are only two main suspects, and one of them obviously did not do it, the script isn't exactly compelling or exciting. In fact, "The Kirlian Witness" is a painfully tedious film that only exists of lame conversations between 3 terrible actors and an endless amount of shots of Sansevierias hooked onto seismograph devices. There's one moment of spectacle, when someone makes a nasty fall down an elevator shaft, but that's also over in the blink of an eye. I'm giving it a generous rating 4/10, because I still very much like the main idea and because of the little shiver the title gave me, but it sadly can't be recommended.
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The Gallows (2015)
2/10
Hang 'Em High. ALL of them!
8 November 2018
I lost count of the number of times that I swore to myself not to watch any more of these lousy "found-footage" horror flicks, and yet I keep making the same mistake over and over again. I really should follow my own advice, though. After all, there's only one truly genius found-footage movie (that would be "Cannibal Holocaust") and just a few that are remotely worthwhile (like "REC", "The Bay" or "The Borderlands"). And yes, I'm fully aware that I'm not including so-called masterpieces like "The Blair Witch Project" or "Cloverfield" because they are, in fact, rubbish! "The Gallows" is even worse than rubbish; - an utterly boring and amateurish effort with an uninteresting story, loathsome lead characters and shaky camera movements that are possibly even more irritating than in every other found-footage movie ever made. Is there seriously anyone curious to learn the history of a geek who accidentally died 20 years ago during the performance of a high-school play. No? Too bad, because that's what "The Gallows" is about. In the same school in middle-of-nowhere Nebraska, new geeks are rehearsing for the same play in which poor Charlie got hung in front of a full theater. For some unclear reason, however, supposedly cool but dumb kids intend to wreck the scenery and decors in the night before the big premiere. They quickly come to regret it, of course, as Charlie's ghost haunts the school hall and clearly wants his tribute to take place. The routine of these zero-budgeted "found footage" movies is overly familiar by now. Nothing happens until the final five minutes, except maybe a couple of blurry ghost-apparitions. Then we get some vague and unidentifiable action-shots and a bit of hysterical shrieking, and then it's finished. What makes "The Gallows" even more unendurable is that the lead characters are beyond stupid, and the school setting is so damn dull and customary. Other found-footage movies suck too, but at least they are set in abandoned asylums, desecrated churches or whatever. I'm generously giving one additional point because Cassidy Gifford is pretty to stare at for as long as she doesn't talk too much.
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The Calling (2014)
6/10
Hi, my name is Simon and I'm collecting souls! Care to donate?
7 November 2018
Yours truly is a major sucker for (serial) murder stories set in small town locations, so "The Calling" already appeared on my radar when it first got released. I nevertheless patiently waited until it aired on television, because I was quite wary regarding the involvement of giant Hollywood names. Famous actors and actresses undoubtedly add quality and prestige to a thriller (especially if these are veteran names like Susan Sarandon, Ellen Burstyn and Donald Sutherland), but too often it's also an indication that the film might be "softer" and more restricted in terms of explicit violence, rawness and shocks. "The Calling" indeed isn't a film for gore or smut seekers, alas, but it still is a more than adequate effort thanks to the compelling plot, the efficient use of sets and scenery and - of course - the beautifully integer performances. It's been a while since I watched a good serial killer movie set within the sinister world of Catholicism, and I recommend "The Calling" to people who like convoluted, absorbing and well-structured stories. Remarkably enough, police chief Hazel Micallef (Sarandon) and her team (including Topher Grace and Gill Bellows) don't have too much trouble discovering the identity of the murderer, but the mystery is merely emerging from his patterns, modus operandi and motivations. The stoic and intelligent killer, named Simon, leaves a vague (and admittedly far-fetched) trail on the faces of his victims that leads to an ancient theological poem in Latin. Revealing the meaning of this poem would give away too many spoilers, but let's just state that Simon is (or, at least, considers himself to be) a sort of prophet with a - titular - calling. Debuting director Jason Stone's pacing balances between atmospheric and dull, with sadly too many slow parts and too much dialog. There's hardly any action, but a good portion of suspense is provided by the performance of Christopher Heyerdahl as the odd but menacing killer. It's praiseworthy for a relatively unknown actor to stand out in such an ensemble cast.
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Hellions (2015)
4/10
How about a purple and pink Halloween?
6 November 2018
Yours truly is a diehard horror fanatic, but also a sucker for mushy traditions. During the Christmas period I seek out holiday-horror with psychotic Santa's or demonic elves, and on All Hallows' Eve I like to stay in theme as well. And, since you can't watch John Carpenter's "Halloween" every year, it's good to have some alternatives. "Hellions" isn't nearly as good or entertaining as, say, "Trick 'r Treat" or "Tales of Halloween", but I'm nevertheless glad that I watched a genuine Halloween flick with spooky seasonal decoration, gruesome costumes and lots & lots of pumpkins! Perhaps I'm being too generous here, as I was in a festive mood, but I think "Hellions" is a solid film for a mere two-thirds of the running time. Bruce McDonald, director of the - in my humble opinion - heavily overrated "Pontypool", creates an ideally sinister atmosphere and comes up with an efficiently unsettling premise. The rebellious but troubled 16-year-old Dora Vogel finds out she's pregnant, so she's pondering alone at her house while the rest of her family goes out trick or treating. Eerie kids with seriously terrifying masks and outfits soon come knocking at her door, but these little monsters aren't satisfied with regular candy. They want Dora's unborn baby, and anyone who tries to protect her won't survive the night! The set-up of the plot is great, the little demon-kids look petrifying and Chloë Rose is a persuasive young actress. So far so good, but admittedly Bruce McDonald has no idea where his surreal storylines are going or how to lead everything towards a credible finale. The skies over Dora's isolated little town suddenly color purple and pink, along with various other surreal and inexplicably bizarre phenomena, which causes us to suspect that McDonald tries to cover for the lack of content and/or continuity with visual distractions. Nice try, but horror fans really aren't as dumb as some people think, you know! I'll remember it for the handful of authentic frights, but "Hellions" definitely won't become a cult classic.
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6/10
The TV is always right!
1 November 2018
This curious new Brit-horror effort starts out as a dead-serious, disturbing and paranoid Sci-Fi story, but gradually turns into an absurd and surreal but nevertheless still extremely bleak and gritty splatter flick. Of course, I would have preferred that it remained serious, but I can also accept that it would have been an extremely challenging task to come up with a plausible and intelligent denouement. So, instead, they merely went for the David Cronenbergian kind of body-horror, expanded with exaggerated dysfunctional family clichés and Northern Yorkshire racism. On Christmas Eve, Nick and his Indian girlfriend Annji reluctantly visit Nick's family for the first time in three years. Tensions quickly arise, and the couple decide to sneak out early the next morning to escape the racist innuendo of Nick's sister Kate, the nasty remarks of granddad and the overall dictatorship of his father Tony. The house is hermitically sealed off, however, with an unknown but unbreakable black substance covering all doors and windows. The TV-set in on, displaying short & sober messages like "Stay indoors and await further instructions". The father is persuaded that some sort of national crisis broke out and that they should strictly obey the messages on TV, but Nick and Annji openly question the source of the transmissions. The "instructions" on the TV quickly become far-fetched, and the decisions taken by the family members even more so, but at least director Johnny Kevorkian maintains a fast pacing and an unsettling atmosphere, and there's plenty of action at regular intervals. The third act is completely bonkers plot-wise, but the special effects are terrific and the make-up art is gruesome and quite often petrifying. "Await Further Instructions" may not be a masterpiece, or even a future cult gem, but it's definitely an unpredictable and extravagant Sci-Fi/horror experiment that keeps you glued to the screen.
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Summer of 84 (2018)
6/10
The 1980s called, they want their...um...never mind!
1 November 2018
Hit series like "Stranger Things" and blockbuster films like "It" didn't launch the trend of retro-eighties horror, they merely just popularized the phenomenon. Clever and nostalgic horror directors have been making 80s throwbacks for almost a decade now, primarily slashers, and quite frankly I can't blame them! Everything was so much better and simpler in the 1980s, including making a scary movie. Kids were naive instead of arrogant, they hung out in the streets rather than behind their computers and life wasn't made extra complicated by stuff like the Internet or mobile phones. Kids purely relied on their imagination and instincts to experience adventures, which is the starting premise of "Summer of 84". The film poster and reputation are actually quite misleading, as this story isn't horror. "Summer of 84" is more reminiscent to decade milestones like "The Goonies", "Explorers" or "Stand by Me"; - in other words: a light-headed and easily digestible 'coming of age' adventure with young adolescents collaborating to unravel a sinister mystery. Based on the picture of a missing child on a milk carton, the dreamy Davey Armstrong suspects that his neighbor, Mr. Mackey, is a notorious serial killer and persuades his 3 inseparable pals to unmask him. Only problem, however, Mackey is a respectable police officer and all their attempts to shadow him or dig up evidence lead nowhere. The talented directors' trio, previously responsible for the modest cult hit "Turbo Kid", tried very hard to pen down a compelling and suspenseful screenplay. They largely succeeded but forgot to consider pacing and the occasional moment of action. It's all very interesting, but there's nothing concrete happening until the last 10-15 minutes. The climax is decent but predictable and not nearly courageous enough. Provided that the denouement was grittier and more dauntless, "Summer of 84" could have been fantastic, now it's just slightly above average.
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The Ranger (2018)
4/10
Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but irritating punk kids!
1 November 2018
I added "The Ranger" straight to my watchlist, because I instantly liked the premise of a psychopathic National Park Ranger. Some of the best slashers of the 1980s took place in the backwoods, but the killers were always toothless rednecks or cannibalistic inbred families, so this could have been an interesting and original new angle, especially because the film (like so many others nowadays) supposedly also takes place in the 80s. But alas, "The Ranger" never fully lives up to its potential despite the cool titular killer and an adequate performance by Jeremy Holm, and that's principally because co-writer/director Jenn Wexler is seemingly more interested in a bunch of pathetic punkers and atrocious loud music than in atmosphere or scenery. Running from the police after an idiotic and unnecessary incident at a punk club, five vexatious teenagers seek shelter in a cabin in the middle of a National Park. One of them, the introvert Chelsea, spent much of her childhood vacations here with her uncle, and her own dark secrets from the past gradually come back to the surface. Meanwhile, the psychopathic Park Ranger ensures that Chelsea's disrespectful and arrogant friends receive the excruciatingly painful deaths they deserve. "The Ranger" is a textbook and thus unmemorable slasher that sadly doesn't make proper use of the locations, the villain, the numerous potential slash-methods or the 80s setting. The grim film poster remains by far the best asset of the entire production.
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Mandy (I) (2018)
6/10
I never realized how psycho you made me, oh Mandy.
1 November 2018
Five days after watching "Mandy" at a charming little genre festival in my home country, I only established one thing so far: that it's a damn difficult movie to review! Admittedly I also didn't watch "Mandy" the way it is 'supposed to' be watched. All I ever read about this film is how it's an experimental, abstract, trippy and even artistic masterwork, but yours truly simply and desperately wanted to see a straightforward and outrageously violent revenge flick with a completely derailed Nicolas Cage in one of the best roles of his career.

And thus, I did! Throughout the entire second half, "Mandy" is a fantastically absurd, blood-soaked, blackly comical and bizarrely intense horror delight, and that's what I primarily want to remember! This means, of course, that I found the first hour often tedious (with incomprehensibly muttered lines by Andrea Riseborough), pretentious (most notably the animated sequences) and surreal just for the sake of being surreal. Quite frankly, I didn't understand one iota about where those Cenobite bikers came from or what was the significance of that Seraph with his tiger. What I did understand, and loved, was that Cage's manly and robust lumberjack character goes bonkers when a clique of Jesus freaks kidnap and kill his beloved muse Mandy, so he manufactures himself a giant shiny axe and heads out for a massacre! The violence is masterfully choreographed and delightfully explicit, Cage unleashes his acting demons for 200% and the Jóhannsson soundtrack is truly unique.
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Cruise Into Terror (1978 TV Movie)
3/10
Featuring the, hands down, lamest and most pathetic "shark attack" sequence in the history of lame and pathetic shark attacks!
26 October 2018
"Cruise into Terror" comes with my warmest possible recommendation, but only in the unlikely event that you are deliberately looking for an occult thriller/horror film that is chock-full of utter nonsense! This made-for-television flick, produced by Aaron Spelling, contains so much senseless and imbecilic drivel that it's almost impossible to write a summary; - but here is an attempt anyway! The scenario raises the theory that the Ancient Egyptians discovered Mexico, and that they even laid the foundations for the Mayan culture. I tell you, it requires an experienced actor with a stoic and motionless straight face like Ray Milland to daresay claptrap like that! Furthermore, they want us to believe that the Antichrist (yes, the son of Satan) travels in a midget-sarcophagus from the US to Mexico and that there are pyramid tombs at the bottom of the ocean. Why drag in Satan and his offspring when you're dealing with Ancient Egyptians, by the way? What's wrong with bloodthirsty mummies, vengeful pharaohs or malignant Egyptian deities? So, 12 people are floating around on a ramshackle, retired cruise liner supposedly because the much better boat was overbooked. On board we meet a stereotypical group of travelers, including a reverend struggling with his beliefs (how very "Poseidon Adventure"), an estranged couple, two party girls, nagging women, an obsessive old scientist, a hunky deck officer/technician, a melancholic captain and a disposable black guy. Oh, and there's also a black cat. That's always a good idea to have on board of a cursed voyage! When they stumble upon the sarcophagus, most of the greedy passengers want to sell it to a museum and make money out of it, but the reverend insists to destroy it due to its unholy content. Just another exciting day on board of Aaron Spellings' secondhand Love Boat! The pacing is intolerably slow, and you can certainly tell it's a TV-movie by the complete lack of excitement or bloodshed. Whenever director Bruce Kessler does try to insert a bit of action, he fails miserably. Prime examples are the laughable cabin fire, where people simply stand motionless in between supposedly raging flames and the legendary dumb (to me, at least) shark attack. I know a thing or two about sharks, and this specimen is an average-sized Blue Shark. This species is almost entirely harmless and hardly what you can call menacing. There have been a few cases of Blue Sharks attacking humans, but they barely cause any damage. You also don't need to be an expert to see that the footage was added in separately. What tremendous good performances of the ensemble cast for looking so genuinely terrified at nothing!
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Death Cruise (1974 TV Movie)
4/10
Where's aunt Agatha when you need her?
23 October 2018
A whodunit mystery set on an inescapable and claustrophobic location, victims that were lured there with the cheap excuse of having won a lottery and an unseen assailant marking off the faces of a photograph each time he/she makes another kill. Hmm, that all sounds vaguely familiar. Could it be we're watching an inferior and less inspired knock-off of the almighty Agatha Christie's "And then there were None"? Set on the luxurious cruise liner that producer Aaron Spelling borrowed from other series "The Love Boat", "Death Cruise" is a rather tame and predictable, but nevertheless endurable TV-movie attempt to cash in on the contemporary tremendous success of typical Agatha Christie murder whodunits with impressive cast lists and excessively convoluted plot twists. The differences here are that the actors and actresses' names aren't too spectacular, and neither are the red herrings, the murder methods or the denouement. Someone is rudely interrupting the holidays of thee married couples by, well, murdering them! Each couple struggles with a relationship crisis, however, and they seemingly were all together once before in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1970. The ship's doctor (Michael Constantine) decides to put on his Hercule Poirot moustache and investigate! The script can't hold a candle to any of Agatha Christie's writings, as the final revelations are fairly obvious and not so waterproof. Everything else has written "made-for-TV" written all over it, like wooden performances and off-screen killings. If you want to see solid mysteries set on a vessel, seek for Christie's "Death on the Nile" or the fabulous "The Last of Sheila".
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Karloff the Greek versus the Plague
18 October 2018
Although not nearly playing in the same league as some of Val Lewton's other horror productions for RKO Radio, like the stupendous "Cat People" or "The Body Snatcher", "Isle of the Dead" is nevertheless still an extremely atmospheric chiller with a solid plot and a few moments of unforgettable fright! Set in Greece during the final months of the Balkan Wars in 1912, the film stars the almighty Boris Karloff as the relentless, cruel and excessively disciplined General Nicholas Pherides. He gets trapped on a small cemetery island, together with six others, when there's a sudden outbreak of the plague. Pherides stoically insists that they must remain quarantined on the island, in order not to contaminate his soldier troops on the mainland. As the number of survivors shrinks, the superstitious housemaid hints that maybe it isn't the plague that is killing them, but instead the mythological Greek vampire creature known as Vorvolaka. She gradually even persuades Pherides that the local beauty Thea potentially forms a much bigger threat than the plague! The atmosphere is non-stop unsettling and bleak, but the undeniable highlights of the film involve a cataleptic woman in combination with a premature burial. The scenes in which the poor woman awakes and finds herself entombed, as well as the footage of her meandering around the island at night in a white gown are truly nightmarish. Mark Robson is clearly a less talented director than Robert Wise or Jacques Tourneur, but Boris Karloff carries the film effortlessly. The rest of the cast is unfortunately rather wooden, and it's a crying shame that the role of the naturally born uncanny Skelton Knaggs is so small.
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Obsession (1976)
4/10
Exactly whose "Obsession" are we talking about here?
18 October 2018
Wait, I'm confused here. Exactly to whom is the titular "Obsession" referring to? I suppose it hints at protagonist Michael Courtland's firm believe that a young student-painter is the reincarnation of his beloved wife who got killed during a kidnapping. Granted, Courtland always stares rather eerily at the much younger Sandra and he's quite hasty to marry her, but he isn't *that* obsessed. I'm afraid that our director, Brian De Palma, suffers from a much bigger and more pitiable obsession, namely with the oeuvre of Alfred Hitchcock and perhaps even also with the desire to be seen as the Master of Suspense's ultimate successor! It's downright astounding how De Palma, with a little bit of help of writer Paul Schrader, blatantly copies "Vertigo", and borrows elements and ideas from other Hitchcock classics. In other words, there are several amazingly choreographed scenes and brilliantly unique camera angles in "Obsession", but we all know that virtuoso photography alone doesn't still make a good movie! This film has, at least as far as I'm considered, three major problems. In order from least to most irritating, they are: acting, lack of genre and pacing. Cliff Robertson is quite alright, but Genevière Bujold and especially John Lithgow are intolerably bad. Luckily there are only three lead characters in the film. I personally even don't understand how Lithgow still got assignments after this! "Obsession" is presented as a thriller, but the themes and subject matter honestly don't lend themselves for a suspense thriller. Throughout 95% of the running time, "Obsession" feels like a melodrama, and a truly dull one to boot. It only turns into a thriller with predictable revelations and perverted denouements during the last handful of minutes. Finally, the film is just too damn slow! The story already isn't very interesting, but the excruciatingly tame pace makes it even less endurable.
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1/10
Oh boy, that's a mighty big goldfish!
15 October 2018
I think it's safe to state that I never, in my entire life, tried so desperately hard to like a movie; - yet failed. "The Neptune Factor" stood on my must-see since many years because there were several indicators looking positive and promising. I love adventure/disaster movies from the 70s. I worship films with aquatic monsters, regardless of how trashy and cheesy they look. Heck, I'm even on a personal mission to track down every single movie in which Ernest Borgnine starred. Well, if I'll ever achieve something in this lifetime, I sincerely hope it's discouraging other people to watch this piece of dreck! The simple and honest truth is that "The Neptune Factor" is a film of monumental, unsurpassable and indescribable dullness! I still don't fathom how the story of a deep-sea rescue mission, for a manned research lab lost due falling into an ocean floor crack following an earthquake, can possibly be this boring, and yet I just witnessed it with my own eyes. These people are supposedly racing against the clock to save their friends and colleagues' lives, so the very last things I expect are 10,000 scenes moving at sea-snail pace or characters endlessly looking at each other and sipping coffee. After a full hour of infuriating and talkative tedium, the four-headed submarine finally descends into the unexplored abyss and you subconciously develop a tiny bit of hope that the film might improve. Alas, "The Neptune Factor" instead becomes even more pitiable and imbecilic, because director Daniel Petrie begs us to believe that optically enlarged and utterly harmless sea animals (sea horses, anemones and even a god-damn goldfish) are viciously lurking, bloodthirsty monsters. How retarded do they think we are? Not even Walt Disney movies dared to pull this off! And as for you, Mr. Borgnine, I'm sorely disappointed!
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Assassination (1987)
5/10
What's deadlier than Charles Bronson? Charles Bronson with a bazooka!
12 October 2018
Here's a fictional but potentially possible piece of dialogue between Charles Bronson and his agent like it could have taken place prior to filming "Assassination" in 1987. Agent: "Hey Charlie, they asked for you to do yet another numeric and insignificant action movie. This time you'll be a Presidential bodyguard. Are you up for it?". Charles Bronson: "Sure. I'm only 64 years old. I'm still fit and plausible enough to pass for a bodyguard". Agent: "Awesome, Charlie. Cross-reading the script, it'll be something with plenty of action by land, by sea and in the air!". Charles Bronson: "Sure. I'm only 64 years old. I'm still fit and plausible enough to crash motorcycles, steer jet skis, fire off bazookas and jump from helicopters". Agent: "Great! And you know what? Your character fools around with a hot young Asian babe and eventually even the Presidents' wife will fall for you". Charles Bronson: "Sure. I'm only 64 years old. I'm still fit and plausible enough to pass for a viral and hunky stud". Agent: "You're the man, Charlie!".

Please don't misinterpret the feeble attempt at humor written directly here above! I truly do worship Charles Bronson, and even if he would have made a hundred lousy action movies more during his career, I probably would have watched those hundred lousy action movies as well! Fact remains, however, that during the 80s, Bronson exclusively appeared in excessively violent but routine action vehicles that are long-forgotten and look heavily dated by now. "Assassination" (even the title is unremarkable) isn't an exception despite being directed by a former James Bond guy (Peter "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" Hunt) and featuring a handful of impressively staged stunt sequences. Bronson's character Jay "Killy" Killian gets assigned to protect the flamboyant new First Lady, who has the reputation of being a difficult and insufferable shrew. This initially feels like a degradation for an experienced veteran like Killian, but he rapidly turns out to be the right man for the job, as the notorious terrorist/hit man Eddie Bracken is on a mission to kill her. "Assassination" delivers in terms of straightforward an action-packed entertainment, with plenty of virulent chases and numerous explosions, but the plot is predictable, and Charlie too obviously acts on automatic pilot. At least I hope he enjoyed being able to fire off bazookas, because the rest of his stunts were clearly performed by much younger men. For Jill Ireland, Bronson's wife and frequent co-star, "Assassination" was the last film. She died from breast cancer in 1990, at age 54.
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The Lost Boys (1987)
6/10
The 80s called. But only to state they are still inimitable!
11 October 2018
It's actually very relevant to watch or re-watch a film like "The Lost Boys" in 2018, because we're currently at the heights of an era where horror stories taking place in (or bringing homage to) the 1980s are tremendously popular. Thanks to the success of shows like "Stranger Things" and movies like "It", almost every young and aspiring horror director wants his/her film to play in the eighties and feature that indescribably joyous atmosphere. Can't blame them, of course, because everything really was a lot better and much simpler back then. But anyways, it's films like "The Lost Boys" that truly make you realize that all these nowadays attempts to recreate the 80s will always just remain pathetic wannabes. Nothing, and I really do mean NOTHING, can beat the spirit and the vibes of an authentic 80s horror movie, and "The Lost Boys" is a stellar example to prove so. It's difficult to put into words what the exact differences are, but if you're old enough to have witnessed cinema in this era, or if you're a genuine fan of the horror genre, you'll definitely know what I mean.

By this tirade, I certainly don't intend to claim that "The Lost Boys" is a masterpiece of horror. On the contrary, I even think it's quite overrated and that many people only regard it so dearly because they saw it upon its initial release and thought it was the hippest, freshest and coolest product since Coca Cola Light (or Diet Coke, depending where you are from). Following a few script-rewrites, "The Lost Boys" allegedly changed from a vampire version of Peter Pan (with child protagonists) to a Californian pop-culture vampire flick with teenage and adolescent protagonists. Whatever it is supposed to be, director Joel Schumacher fools around with all the traditional vampire trademarks and puts them down as nihilistic biker punks with flamboyant hairdos and party animal lifestyles. Hence the legendary tagline "Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It's fun to be a vampire". The vampires' haven is the beach community of Santa Carla, where the town's carnival remains open 365 days per year and excessively oiled muscular saxophone players give away free open-air concerts. Santa Carla is nevertheless known as the murder capital of the US, as illustrated by the hundreds of "missing children" posters hanging all over town. We're supposed to assume that head vampire David (Kiefer Sutherland in an iconic role) and his gang are responsible for all these disappearances, but we actually don't ever see them murdering or abducting any victims. The main plot revolves on two brothers, Michael and Sam, moving to Santa Carla with their mother, following her divorce. Adolescent Michael is immediately drawn to David's cool vampire gang, whereas teenage Sam joins forces with the crazed Frog-brothers; who always hang out in the local comic book store and claim to be experienced vampire hunters.

Several aspects of "The Lost Boys" are undeniably fantastic and utterly cool, like Corey Feldman's OTT performance, the soundtrack, the hanging-from-the-bridge sequence and the explicitly gross vampire deaths during the climax. Other, and sadly more important elements, are downright disappointing, like the absence of tension or genuine frights, the lack of real menace coming from the vampire characters, the inefficient comic reliefs (like grandpa) and the expulsion of mandatory monster essentials. For example, since when can you become a vampire by sipping from a bottle instead of getting bitten? "The Lost Boys" remains a must-see for horror lovers and admirers of typical 80s cinema in general, but in case you're searching for a truly great alternative vampire gem, check out "Near Dark" which got released in the same year, 1987.
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