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Peggy just might be the last innocent girl left in a post-apocalyptic world. Nine years earlier, Peggy watched as a rain of toxic chemicals maimed, scarred and/or killed her friends at her seventh birthday party. It is a memory which haunts her still, along with the deaths of her father and older sister Anna. Sheltered by her overprotective mother, the pretty sixteen year old Peggy works in the family diner in a town which has all but dried up and blown away. When a group of dangerous punks wanders into the diner one day, Peggy is immediately attracted to the leader, Jak, a tough but nice guy. It is love at first sight, but Peggy's hate- filled mother kicks the foursome out. It's too late though. Jak has already arranged to meet Peggy at midnight, and Peggy slips away with Jak and his friends to the forbidden and dangerous town of Muskeet, where the diseased and the dying go to party. Peggy is taken to the Doom Room, a scummy nightclub run by a sleazy Emcee (Robert Englund) who literally deals in blood. The toxic rainfall of 9 years earlier left many of its victims in a state of undeath, but when injected with fresh blood, the zombies are briefly reanimated. Hauled out onto the grimy stage of the Doom Room, the zombies are poked with cattle prods, twitching and contorting for the amusement of the customers. This is the Dance of the Dead, and Peggy will learn more about it in one night than she ever wanted to know.
I was really impressed with this third entry in the Masters of Horror series. This is Tobe Hooper's first foray into the zombie genre and it's a unique take. These aren't flesh-eating ghouls out for blood, just pathetic cadavers who have become entertainment in a world without cable reality TV shows.
The camera work is dizzying, the music is hard, cold and nihilistic and the performances are great, particularly by Englund whose Emcee is a thousand times scummier, sleazier and nastier than Freddy Krueger could ever hope to be. Jonathan Tucker as Jak is an extremely likable character, despite the fact that he's a thief and a drug addict - he's also chivalrous and heroic, an odd combination that Tucker miraculously makes work. Jessica Lowndes as the innocent Peggy is perfect, going from scared kid to world weary woman within an hour.
Suitably disgusting and abysmally bleak, Dance of the Dead is fun to watch and difficult to look away from, kind of like a particularly bloody car accident. I would (and will) watch this one over and over again.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
Thoughtful, Intelligent and Spooky
If you're hoping for a good, gory, gross-out horror movie with lots of scares, blood and hideous demons running around...well, look elsewhere. However, if you want a quiet, thoughtful, intelligent examination of good, evil and the power of faith, then this movie just might be for you.
Based on the true story of Annelise Michel, a young German girl who died during an exorcism in the 1970s, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a courtroom drama first and a horror movie second. 19 year old Emily Rose is dead, and Father Moore is on trial, accused of having denied the possibly epileptic and psychotic Emily proper medical care in favor of an exorcism. Erin Bruner, an ambitious young lawyer, agrees to defend the Father in exchange for a full partnership in her firm. But as the trial progresses, Erin gets a glimpse into a world of darkness and evil and a glimpse is all it takes to rattle her cage. The story of Emily Rose unfolds in flashback as witnesses for both the prosecution and the defense recall the devout Emily's short and tormented life. Was she indeed an epileptic whom medicine could have saved? Or was Emily touched by god and possessed by demons, destined for sainthood?
There is no projectile pea-soup vomiting in this movie, no swiveling heads and no gore whatsoever. And yet, the atmosphere of this movie is genuinely creepy, filled with a quiet, nerve shattering dread. The performance of Jennifer Carpenter as Emily is outstanding; her bodily contortions and wicked facial expressions are quite disturbing in the few scenes where she is allowed to explode with wrath and violence. But it's the silence in this movie that freaked me out the most: the heavy silences in dark rooms where you know something is moving around with ill intent but you never quite get to see what it is. A few quick glimpses of a black hooded Something are subtle and spooky without being cheesy. Tom Wilkinson as Father Moore is excellent as he always is, playing the priest with a quiet dignity and giving us a very human character who only wants to tell Emily's story and accept his own fate with grace, no matter what it may be. Laura Linney as Erin Bruner does a great job as a focused, no-nonsense business woman who nevertheless learns that she can still be scared of the dark.
All in all, I was really impressed with this quiet, thoughtful tale. Cheap splatter and lame BOO! techniques are cast aside in favor of a serious look at our beliefs and our disbeliefs, and in the end you are left to make up your own mind about Emily. This film still manages to be quite scary in places, but it's a nice, Adult kind of Scary that you don't see too often anymore. This film will probably bore horror fans who are used to splattering guts and screams, but it just may impress those of you who appreciate a plot with a brain.
Very good. And sadly underrated.
Silent Hill (2006)
I don't play video games, so I went into this film with no pre-conceived notions or expectations. I came away pretty impressed and a little disturbed.
Rose and Chris Da Silva are worried about their adopted daughter, Sharon. Little Sharon has been sleepwalking and speaking, while still asleep, of a place called Silent Hill. When Sharon nearly falls to her death during her latest sleepwalk, Rose decides to confront the issue head-on. She packs Sharon into the SUV and heads for Silent Hill, West Virginia. But Silent Hill is a ghost town that the locals don't like to speak of and which is contaminated by an ever burning coal fire deep in the bowels of the earth. After a freak car accident knocks Rose out, she awakens to find Sharon gone and a rain of ash falling from the sky. Silent Hill is indeed a ghost town, populated by demonic mutants and the ghosts of the damned. Rose is led by grisly clues deeper into the tragic history of the town and a terrible secret which involves her adopted daughter. Aided by police officer Cybil Bennet, Rose must face the dark demons of Hell and prevent history from repeating itself if she is to save Sharon.
This is quite a freaky film, though surprisingly not as gory as I had thought it would be. After a somewhat slow first 20 minutes or so, the film descends into rotting horror as air- raid sirens warn of The Darkness, deformed creatures lurch out of the shadows and the patina of normalcy literally melts away with the approach of evil. Standout characters include the sorrowful Dahlia, played by Deborah Kara Unger, who looks like the worlds oldest and saddest Goth woman, and the hideous creature known only as Pyramid Head, who stomps into view with a horde of cockroaches at his command. Radha Mitchell does a great job as Rose, playing her as a realistically frightened woman, but also as a determined mother who will stop at nothing to save her daughter. Jodelle Ferland is great in her double role of Sharon/ Alessa, a sweet, haunted little girl one moment; a creepy, frightening little monster the next. Sean Bean as the hopelessly lost Chris Da Silva is perfect; you can feel his frustration and panic. Alice Krige too is unnervingly chilling as Christabella.
The atmosphere of this movie is great - ash covered cemeteries, drippy basements, abandoned schoolrooms - all very creepy and menacing in their utter stillness. The violence, when it comes, is quite brutal. Skin is ripped off, bodies are roasted, limbs ripped away by barbed wire. Pretty gruesome, but not overly so. The demons are the real attraction here: besides Pyramid Head, there are also twisted torsos spewing black acid, deformed beings in nurse uniforms wielding scalpels and, in the scene which freaked me out the most, a man with his body bent double and his feet over his head crawling across a bathroom floor.
I've never played the video game so I really can't tell you if this was a faithful adaptation or not. But I can say that it is very original, quite spooky, satisfyingly bloody and even rather disturbing in several parts...and I don't scare easily. All in all, a very good horror movie.
I rarely get scared or creeped out by horror movies anymore...but this one hour "Masters Of Horror" installment by John Carpenter really got under my skin and stayed there.
Mr. Ballinger, played by an ice-cold Udo Kier, is a collector of the rare, priceless and profane. He hires the financially and emotionally troubled Kirby Sweetman (Norman Reedus of Boondock Saints fame) to track down a copy of a rare and notorious film called "La Fin Absolue Du Monde" - The Absolute End of the World. The film was reportedly destroyed after its one and only premiere, during which the audience went mad and a bloody, murderous riot resulted. Kirby, badly in debt and haunted by his own bloody ghost of the past, goes on the hunt for the obscure film and encounters evil not only in those who have been touched and corrupted by the film but within himself as well, for the unholy "La Fin Absolue Du Monde" does not simply drive its viewers mad but destroys them completely, turning their fears and sins against them.
The tone of this movie is genuinely disturbing throughout and the performances are intensely convincing, particularly by Udo Kier and Norman Reedus. Standout scenes include a vicious execution via machete and an upsettingly heartbreaking scene featuring a frail, angelic creature being tormented by Ballinger. A horrific climax involving Ballinger, a knife and a film projector was extremely flinch-worthy. The few clips we are shown of the fictional "La Fin Absolue Du Monde" are riveting and creepy and one wishes that it could be made into an actual feature length film.
Thank you John Carpenter for managing to deeply disturb me with this short film! Very impressive!
A really fun homage to the first movie
20 years have passed since Michael Meyers went on his bloody killing spree in Haddonfield, Illinois. Laurie Strode, the only survivor of the massacre, has since faked her own death in an auto accident, changed her name to Keri Tate and has gone into hiding with her son, John. Now a headmistress at a prestigious private school, Laurie has become a paranoid and emotionally damaged woman with too many prescriptions and a liquor cabinet that never runs dry. She also cannot let John out of her sight, virtually imprisoning him within the locked gates of the school. But John has finally begun to rebel. Sick of his mother's neurosis, he skips the school trip and retreats with his girlfriend and two others to the storage rooms for an all night party. It is Halloween night, 1998, and Laurie realizes that John, who has just turned seventeen, is now the same age that she was when her brother came looking for her. Her sense of foreboding proves to be not without merit: Michael Meyers is alive, he has found his way to the school and he is looking for John, Laurie and anyone who gets in his way.
This 7th installment in the Halloween series skips over parts 3, 4, 5 and 6 and serves as a direct sequel to part 2, making the series into a trilogy for those who might prefer it that way. It's also a really fun homage to the first two films and to the genre at large. Numerous references and in-jokes pop up constantly throughout the film, cleverly worked into the story instead of taking away from it. Jamie Lee Curtis makes her triumphant return as Laurie and brings her character full circle, from frightened screaming victim to ass-kicking woman who has finally Had Enough. The kids are surprisingly quite likable as well; they're not vacuous, empty-headed, one dimensional idiots served up like cattle for the slaughter, but rather well drawn characters that you are allowed to identify with and care about. Josh Hartnett and Michelle Williams, who later went on to bigger films and incredible fame, really shine here as the teenage leads. Adam Arkin as Laurie's boyfriend Will is such a sweet, genuinely nice character that you will be very sorry to see him go.
Chris Durand as Michael Meyers is really great, perhaps the most threatening, PO'd boogeyman since Kane Hodder put on the hockey mask. He really gives Michael life in this movie, making him a violent, quite scary and very angry killer. The scene in which he is hunting Laurie in the dining room, throwing tables aside easily but with furious force, is really tense.
This sequel should satisfy many fans of the original. But there are some who may be bored as well. The gore is minimal, there is no gratuitous sex and a lot of time is spent with character development and the building of suspense. I thought it was one of the more intelligent sequels to follow the original, and a lot of fun to boot. Die-hard fans of the first movie should not miss this one.
Demon Hunter (2005)
Worth watching for Billy Drago's performance alone
Jake Greyman is a demon hunter, a sort of supernatural cleaner, the guy who takes over when the exorcism fails. The film starts out with Jake cleaning up after yet another exorcism gone wrong, the third within a matter of weeks. All of the victims have been young and attractive girls and both Jake and the church are suspicious. There seems to be a new demon at work, one with a definite schedule. Jake teams up with the unorthodox sister Sara and the two learn that the Demon of Lust, Asmodeus, is doing his horny best to impregnate as many hot young girls as he can in order to produce a race of half breed beings who will destroy us all.
This is a blatant and watered down rip off of Constantine, but hey, at least Keanu Reeves isn't in it. Sean Patrick Flannery, quite a good actor, does his best here with a corny script and a limp storyline. Angelina Jolie lookalike Colleen Porch isn't too shabby either as the sister with a secret. Tania Deighton as the Succubus is really hot and slinky and she expertly manages not to look embarrassed by her phony looking horns. Billy Drago as Asmodeus really steals the film though. Drago, a great but seriously underrated actor who almost always plays scummy bad guys, is excellent as the fanged and sleazy demon, surrounded by half naked girls and smiling like an alligator. His scenes are the best and most fun, particularly one in which he enthusiastically nails a lovely Asian lady in a crypt. Wow! Seriously sexy hot stuff! The fight scene between Drago and Flannery is well choreographed and is a lot of fun to watch.
The special effects are rather lame and the soundtrack is bloody awful, sounding like a bad 80s hair band reunion, but there are enough good and energetic performances in this film to make it halfway decent and raise it slightly above the level of most other direct-to-video crap. Worth seeing at least once, especially if you're a fan of either Flannery or Drago.
Thir13en Ghosts (2001)
Eccentric gazillionaire Cyrus Kriticos dies in a violent pre-credit sequence and leaves his fortune to his nephew Arthur. Arthur, who lost his wife in a tragic house fire 6 months earlier, is now a bitter, heartbroken mess of a man, living with his two children and a sassy au pair in a small apartment. The family is ecstatic when they are informed by a creepy lawyer that they have inherited Cyrus's grandiose estate and immediately make the several hour drive out into the remote countryside to see their new home. The house, made entirely of sound and shatterproof glass, seems like a dream come true...at least until Dennis Rafkin, a tweaky psychic filled with dire warnings, shows up and passionately advises Arthur to get out and take his family with him. But it's too late. The house is actually a giant machine designed by Satan and built by Cyrus for the sole purpose of opening the "Eye Of Hell" and it seals itself shut, trapping everyone inside and releasing the 13 ghosts imprisoned in the basement from their enspelled holding cells. The ghosts are now onthe hunt, determined to kill anyone who crosses their path.
First, the good points, few though they may be. The ghosts are pretty cool looking. The Jackal in particular is impressive with his steel cage headgear and his rabid temper. The girl ghost too was sufficiently freaky looking. The house itself is a cool set, filled with some really nifty looking mechanisms. And that's where the cool stuff ends.
The performances in this film are excruciatingly bad, and the script is so abysmally idiotic that it hurt. Matthew Lillard is by far the only character I gave a damn about; his twitchy, geeky psychic was oddly likable. And poor F. Murray Abraham...he really deserves better roles than this. The rest of the family is so freaking annoying that I was looking forward to seeing them all get killed in many painful and horrible ways. After five full minutes of listening to the cast scream: "Bobby!" over and over, I developed a pounding migraine. The gore is minimal but halfway decent when it appears, i.e. the "split" scene. But the film gets really tedious really fast as characters spend much of their time running down glass corridors, screaming their heads off and stupidly pausing to look through their spectral welding glasses at the ghosts, who are given ample time to close the distance between themselves and their brain dead victims.
A very bad, stupid, lifeless movie.
The Devil's Rejects (2005)
This sequel to Zombie's debut film House Of 1000 Corpses picks up where that film left off, continuing the story of the deranged Firefly clan. Weeks or perhaps months have passed since the events of 1000 Corpses, and the police raid the Firefly ranch, engaging the dangerous family in a full blown gunfight. Otis Driftwood and his sister Baby escape the carnage and are on the run. Mother Firefly is arrested and taken into custody by Sheriff John Quincy Wydell, the brother of Lieutenant George Wydell who was brutally murdered in the first film by the Firefly's. Otis and Baby alert Baby's father, the sadistic clown Captain Spaulding, of the raid and the three fugitives team up, leaving a bloody trail of murder and destruction behind them as they flee across Texas. But Wydell is right behind them and with the help of a couple of bounty hunters, he corners the threesome in a whorehouse run by Spaulding's brother Charlie. But Wydell has gone over the edge. He no longer wants justice, he wants revenge.
This is an amazing and beautiful film, so different from its predecessor that it seems like an entirely different story with a brand new director. Ditching the day-glo, psychedelic splatter of 1000 Corpses, Zombie goes in for a gritty Western feel; part Tarantino-ish gangster/road movie and with some Peckinpah inspired violence, Rejects never lets up, not for one second. It's harsh, sadistic, sickeningly brutal and funny as hell. Everyone in the film turns in an amazing performance and the cast reads like a cult film roll call: Michael Berryman, Steve Railsback, Danny Trejo, PJ Soles, Daniel Roebuck, Priscilla Barnes, Deborah Van Valkenburg and EG Daily all turn up in small but important roles and each delivers an outstanding and memorable performance. Likewise the leads, Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, Sid Haig and William Forsythe are absolutely amazing and totally convincing, truly inhabiting their characters. Leslie Easterbrook is a jaw-dropper as the psychotic Mother Firefly, taking over the role from Karen Black and making it her own. She is unforgettable. The ensemble cast never once threatens to overpower the film - they become the film and make you forget for two hours that they're actors.
The violence is vicious and plentiful and is not for everyone. Consider yourselves warned. In particular, the scene between Otis and Priscilla Barnes is almost impossible to watch without cringing; it is deeply disturbing. Beautifully photographed and boasting a killer soundtrack to boot, The Devils Rejects is a triumphant sequel to House of 1000 Corpses and is a huge improvement as well. Zombie proves himself to be a filmmaker to watch with this impressive effort.
Very highly recommended, not only to fans of Zombie but to anyone who appreciates the action films of the 70s such as Straw Dogs, The Wild Bunch and Bonnie & Clyde. This is a great homage to those films, but it also stands all on its own, defying categorization.
Just see it.
The Uninvited (1944)
A Lovely, Old Fashioned Ghost Story
Roderick and his sister Pamela are vacationing along the English seaside when they discover a beautiful old house with which they fall immediately in love. They purchase the home from Commander Beech, an elderly man whose daughter and son-in-law once lived in the house. Almost as soon as Roderick and Pamela move in, the disturbances begin. A woman can be heard sobbing in the early morning hours and the smell of mimosa perfume is everywhere. Soon, Roderick takes a liking to the Commander's granddaughter, a very pretty but solemn and haunted looking girl named Stella. When Stella enters the house, the disturbances increase alarmingly, threatening her life and driving her perilously close to the sea cliffs. The Commander forbids her to set foot in the house, for he knows of the terrible tragedy that occurred there 20 years earlier. But the guilty secret he's been keeping all these years, a secret that involves Stella and her heritage, will not stay secret anymore and Roderick must face a vengeful ghost if he wishes to save the woman he loves.
This is a really great ghost story, a true classic of the genre. Everyone involved turns in a brilliant performance, especially Ray Milland as Roderick the sweet and likable composer and Ruth Massey as his spunky sister. Gail Russell as Stella is perfectly cast, always appearing shaken and fragile. The effects are terrific too! The crying ghost in particular will give you shivers as it echoes down the halls of the dark house and disappears with the dawn breeze. Light and shadow are used to maximum effect and despite the fact that this film was made in 1944, it never feels dated and it's lost none of its power to unsettle, disturb and even downright terrify.
Perfect viewing for a dark and stormy night. This is a flawless ghost story. Highly recommended.
The Haunted (1991)
A good, effective ghost story
Jack and Janet Smurl move with their four daughters into one half of a duplex, and Jack's parents move into the other half. Almost immediately, the two families are plagued by disturbances. Janet hears voices in the basement, and both she and Mary see a black, cyclone-like apparition moving through the walls. The men at first are disinclined to believe their wives, so Janet goes looking for answers on her own. She discovers that their neighborhood was built atop a collapsed mineshaft and that evidence of Satanic activity was unearthed as well. When Jack is violently attacked by a female demon, the family seeks help within the church and then from the Warren's, a husband and wife parapsychologist team.
Based on the true story of the Smurl family, The Haunted is a better-than- average made for TV ghost movie, perhaps one of the best I've yet seen. The performances are truly terrific, particularly from Jeffrey DeMunn as Jack, a man who is alternatively skeptical and terrified but always devoted to his family. Sally Kirkland is perfect as the harassed and strung out Janet who is desperately trying to hold her family and her sanity together. There's no gore or cheap scares to be found here; this is a story of a frightened family trying to find help and ultimately realizing that the only way to battle the ghostly invaders is to remain a close and loving family.
Despite the fact that this is made for TV, it's pretty damn spooky. The black cyclone is creepy as hell and the ghosts, when they appear, are all the more frightening because they look so normal. This film never falls back on cheap scare tactics or rotting boogeymen in closets; it looks real and seems very possible, which is what makes it so scary. I remember seeing this on TV when it premiered in 1991 and it gave me nightmares for several nights afterward.
Definitely worth seeing.
The Uninvited (1996)
Predictable and Dull
Pattie and Charles and their two young children Molly and Jonathan move into a brand new house in suburbia. Soon, little colored lights are flying around and the bath tub is belching up blood. When little Jonathan nearly drowns in the same tub and is levitated above it right before Pattie's eyes, she seeks assistance from a local whackjob psychic woman. Their investigation leads them to a little old lady who informs them that she once lived on the land where the new house now stands, and that there is a family plot on the property. She also informs them that her brother was murdered many years ago by their father, and now it seems as though the wicked ghost has the same intentions for Jonathan. But Charles, concerned for Pattie's mental state, has her admitted to a hospital for psychiatric observation and takes the children home. Pattie now has to find a way to escape from the hospital and save her son before history repeats itself.
Yaaawwn. This is a very blatant rip-off of Poltergeist, watered down for television and starring a bunch of people who look like they should be on the Lifetime Afternoon Movie instead. How the hell Beau Bridges ended up in this silly mess is beyond me - he deserves better. The special effects are lame, the dialog is so corny it's painful and any seasoned horror fan is going to be bored stiff by this predictable tale.
Creepy & Dirty, 70s style
Ezra Cobb has been taking care of his bed-ridden, domineering mother all his life and has been listening to her hateful rants against evil women and diseased sluts for about as long. When the nasty old cow finally dies, Ezra - in his own quiet way - finally loses it. He digs up her corpse and brings it back home, placing it back in bed and carrying on as though nothing has happened. But as Mother continues to rot and decay, Ez realizes that he must replace her skin. And so she won't get lonely, he brings home the corpses of recently deceased matrons to keep her company. Ez becomes quite adept at making skin masks and other nifty trinkets out of dead flesh and bone. But alas, grave robbing isn't enough for Ezra after a while. Soon, he's kidnapping and murdering live women. But nobody suspects the dumb and seemingly harmless Ezra who was once so devoted to his sick mother...at least, that is, until a young local girl goes missing and the trail leads right to Ez's house.
"Deranged" is based, obviously, on the true case of Ed Gein, and actually sticks pretty close to the facts. Roberts Blossom as Ezra is truly creepy with his Elmer Fudd appearance and wardrobe and his wide, freaky eyes. He's also rather pathetic, and even though he's committing some of the most reprehensible acts known to man, you can't help but feel terribly sorry for him. Micki Moore as Mary is also really good in her role of the promiscuous waitress that Ezra brings home to be his wife. She's cool and level headed, a rarity in a 70s horror movie. Some of the sets are cheap looking and some of the cast can't act, and the whole film suffers from a dreadful soundtrack featuring the world's most depressing funeral home organ, but it's not a bad little film, really. It's not something I'd watch over and over again,but I'm not sorry I sat down to watch it.
A pleasant surprise
I admit it. I thought this movie was going to be a total piece of crap. But I was wrong.
Adrian Dunn is a violent and very creepy convict serving out his sentence on a lunar base prison. When he kills a fellow inmate, he is infected with a nasty alien virus that the dead man had been carrying. Assumed dead, Adrian is shipped back to Boston for burial...but he awakens as a red eyed zombie inside of his body bag. When a rape victim turns up at police headquarters and identifies Adrian as her assailant, Cameron Grayson, aka Roddy Piper, flies into action! Turns out that Adrian was in jail for the brutal rape-murder of Roddy's wife, Katie. When the rape victim dies a horrible, explosive death, Grayson and his new friend Dr. Kirbie Younger realize that they are running out of time. Adrian is spreading his disease with every woman he rapes, and Kirbie is next on his list.
Okay, yeah. This movie is cheap looking, silly in places and suffers from an abysmal budget, but it's really not that bad! Roddy Piper is quite likable as Grayson, and Jayne Heitmeyer is a smart, resourceful ass kicker. And Billy Drago as Adrian Dunn is awesome! He really makes Adrian a sinister, creepy and somewhat pathetic monster, shuffling zombie-like through the dirty streets. His scene with a woman tied to a bed is really chilling. By film's end, he looks like a melted candle with the worlds worst case of acne. Icky! But really effective.
I've seen much worse movies than this one. "Sci-Fighters", despite its stupid and misleading title, is quite likable and enjoyable with well-drawn and involving characters. Worth watching for Drago's performance alone.
Dead Birds (2004)
The year is 18 hundred-and-something. A small group of Confederate soldiers led by William plan and execute a brutal bank robbery in rural Alabama. William along with his girlfriend Annabelle, younger brother Sam and three other men head off to a pre-designated hideout, an abandoned plantation estate which belonged to an old war buddy of William's, now dead. Upon their arrival, they shoot and kill a strange looking animal which has emerged from the corn fields surrounding the house, and discover a human body hung up like a scarecrow. Despite the morbid warnings, they settle in for the evening. Soon, each member of the gang begins to experience odd disturbances; ghostly voices and violent images of events which took place in the house years before. One by one, the gang succumbs to the deadly forces within the house.
This really isn't a bad little haunted house film. The cast is very good, the setting of the abandoned plantation house is genuinely spooky and the gore is pretty nasty. The storyline is a little cloudy and doesn't make a whole lot of sense and it may move a little slowly for some, but all in all, Dead Birds is better than most of the stuff sitting on the shelves in the horror aisle.
Nochnoy dozor (2004)
Impressive and Original
Taking place in modern day Moscow, Night Watch is the story of the powers of light and darkness and the uneasy truce they have been holding for several millenia. The powers of Light (shapeshifters, psychics, what have you) rule the day and keep watch on the powers of Darkness (vampires, sorceresses, etc) who rule the night. The main storyline centers around Anton, who made a hasty decision 12 years earlier and employed a dark sorceress to bring back the wife who abandoned him. Before the curse can be completed, Anton realizes his mistake and the sorceress is stopped by a pair of shapeshifting Night Watchers. It is at this point that Anton realizes that he too is an Other, and he chooses the way of Light and becomes a Night Watcher himself.
Fast forward 12 years and Anton is a weirded out wreck of a man who, in trying to save a little boy from a couple of hungry vampires, begins an irreversible chain of events. The apocalyptic appearance of a Cursed Virgin raises the alarm among the Night Watch as they realize that the Final War is approaching and the uneasy truce will soon come to an end.
This Russian horror-thriller-fantasy, the first in a promised trilogy, is really trippy and very watchable. The first ten minutes of the film made me nauseous - beware the shaky camera work! But there are amazing things to be found in this movie, like a scene in which the camera tracks a falling screw, a nice scary peephole scene featuring a female vampire with a burned face and an owl which violently transforms into a woman named Olga, who becomes Anton's partner. Star Konstantin Khabensky, who starts out the film looking rather dorky, becomes more handsome as the film progresses - I certainly enjoyed watching him. This movie never would have been greenlit by Hollywood, which is what makes it so great. In Russian with beautiful, interactive English subtitles that flow across the screen and blend in with the action. It also boasts a great soundtrack. And yes, Pop Stars ARE evil and this movie has proof!
Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (2004)
A lot of silly, harmless fun
I love the Tremors movies. They're fun, they're surprisingly well made and they don't take themselves seriously at all...and neither should the audience.
The year is 18hundred-and-something and the Wild West town of Rejection is one step away from becoming a ghost town. The silver mines have been abandoned due to the mysterious disappearances of several miners. Prissy mine owner Hiram Gummer (Michael Gross) shows up in Rejection, determined to restore his mines to working order. With the help of a noble miner named Juan and a slightly insane gunman named Black Hand Kelly, Hiram sets out rather unwillingly to destroy the Graboids and restore order to Rejection.
This is a movie played mostly for laughs, and the cast does a good job with it. The entire premise is absolutely ridiculous, but everyone looks like they're having a good time. Michael Gross, the only member of the cast to appear in all four Tremors films, plays his role perfectly, making Hiram a multi-faceted character; arrogant jerk one moment, insecure nerd the next. Billy Drago, best known for his sleazy Bad Guy roles, almost steals the film as Black Hand Kelly, a typical, squinty eyed cowboy with a really weird sense of humor. It's nice to see him play a good guy for a change, even if his good guy is a little creepy and ends up as worm food far too soon.
Fans of the first Tremors film will definitely want to catch this prequel. Tremors 4 is the best film in the series after the first film, filled with the same sense of silly fun as the original as well as being an homage to it as well. 7 out of 10 stars for Tremors 4.
The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
A good, gory retelling
Three generations of the Carter family - father Bob, mom Ethel and their kids, Brenda, Bobby, Lynne, Lynne's husband Doug and their baby Catherine - are driving across the New Mexico desert en route to San Diego. Looking to cut some time off of their drive they unwisely follow the directions given them by the slightly creepy gas station owner and head out onto a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Unbeknownst to the Carter's, another family lives in the high desert hills, a clan of irradiated mutant cannibals who set a clever trap for the Carter's. One minor car crash later, the Carter's are stranded in the middle of nowhere. Bob Sr. and Doug head off in opposite direction looking for help, leaving the women and children alone. When night falls, the cannibals descend upon the Carter's, raping, killing and stealing baby Catherine away. What's left of the Carter's must now become as savage as their tormentors if they want to survive and get the baby back.
This is a shockingly faithful remake in some ways and an entirely new story in others. Fans of the original film will be happy to see that the storyline does not deviate very far from Wes Craven's original tale, but fans of Aja will be quite pleased with the gratuitous gore on display as pick-axes, baseball bats and even po'd German shepherds are used as weapons. The film is very bloody and tense with a grim, filthy atmosphere; you can almost smell the rotting body parts. Everyone turns in great performances despite some moments of clunky dialog. The desolate scenery is a character all its own; hellishly hot and red, littered with vultures and crows.
My only major gripe with this film was that not a lot of time was spent with the cannibal family. They don't have a lot of dialog and what they do have isn't the greatest. The idea of Family Versus Family that was so prevalent in the original film is missing here, and instead it's Family Versus Monsters. Which is fine, but as a fan of the original, I really would have liked to see the mutants interact with each other more and been given a sense of their family dynamics. And Billy Drago, perhaps the most severely underrated actor of his time, has perhaps three minutes screen time total and one line of dialog despite the fact that his name is in the opening credits and he's playing Jupiter, the head of the mutant family. Will somebody PLEASE give Billy Drago some decent screen time for gods sake!
That said, I did enjoy this remake very much. It was impressively faithful, but it was also willing to present some new ideas. The script is idiotic in several places and there's some downright silly music towards films end, but these are perhaps petty gripes on my part. All in all, it's a fun two hours of blood, scares and horror. As far as remakes go, this is one of the better ones I've seen.
It may take place in 95 but this film feels very 70s-ish; gritty, brutal and nasty. Fans of the original will want to see it at least once, as will fans of films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wrong Turn.
Good Against Evil (1977)
Boring as Hell, no pun intended
This made for TV Exorcist rip off doesn't feature much of anything good: the acting is okay and Richard Lynch is always welcome as the Bad Guy, but the plot is nonsensical and the entire movie is sluggish and very boring.
Jessica is a strong, single woman living in San Francisco. She meets Andy when he rear ends her car and after she screams at him like a PMSing harridan for nearly five full minutes, he begins stalking her in that cutesy, romantic way that guys did back in the 70s before restraining orders got popular. Jessica finally agrees to go out with him, despite the fact that every other guy she's ever dated has mysteriously died. This doesn't discourage Andy, who decides to marry Jessica after a whirlwind three week long romance. But Jessica has already been promised to Astaroth by the evil Richard Lynch. And she has the unfortunate ability to bring shadows and cold temperatures into a church with her. A nosy priest is murdered, a few childish looking pentacles are scrawled around and a cheap dime store hypnosis gimmick is all it takes to steal Jesica away. Why Lynch didn't just keep her with him to begin with is anyone's guess. Anyway, Lynch then decides to distract Andy with an ex-girlfriend whose daughter has been inexplicably possessed by the devil...a plot twist which serves no other purpose than to showcase a very lame exorcism scene, complete with shaking bed. Nothing is resolved, nobody wins and the movie just sort of stops with several large threads still dangling in the breeze.
This is a terrible movie, which is a shame because it could have been okay. The cast is pretty decent and the acting really isn't all that bad. It's just poorly written, clumsily plotted and apparently filmed by a very depressed insomniac. Unless you're a very big fan of Lynch, or you're curious to see what Kim Cattrall was doing before writing sex books, skip this mess of a movie.
Operazione paura (1966)
Lovely Gothic Ghost Story
Operazione paura, or "Kill Baby Kill" as it is better known, is an incredibly spooky and atmospheric ghost story set in a small turn of the century village. Paul, a young doctor, arrives in town to investigate the bizarre death of a young woman. Aided by a pretty young assistant named Monica, they soon discover the disturbing legend of a ghost girl named Melissa, who is seeking revenge for her own sad death. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
There are some really great performances to be found here. Baroness Graps is an early incarnation of Pamela Voorhees, the grieving insane mother who also manages to elicit sympathy. The young sorceress Ruth is an especially complex character with a secret agenda. The freaky looking Valerio Valeri is a great ghost girl with her pale blond hair and wide eyes, pressing her spooky face up against dark windows. The plot might not be anything new, but Bava handles it masterfully. A sequence involving Paul following Moncia's screams through the same room over and over again is especially trippy and a spiral staircase shot is truly disconcerting. Cobwebs, beautiful girls and genuinely creepy sets make this a must for ghost enthusiasts and Bava fans alike.
A lot of fun
After the disappointing pile of crap that was Friday the 13th Part 5, Jason Voorhees fans should appreciate this return to the real hockey masked killer and his nemesis, Tommy Jarvis.
Tommy, who viciously slaughtered Jason Voorhees as a little boy in Part 4, is now an emotionally troubled and very angry young man, played by Thom Mathews (who also appeared in one of my favorite zombie films The Return of the Living Dead). Tommy has been plagued by bad memories and nightmares ever since his slaying of Jason and so decides to trek out to Crystal Lake with his buddy Hawes (aka Horshak) to finish Jason off once and for all. After digging up Jason's grave and opening the cobwebby and maggoty coffin, Tommy goes ballistic, stabbing Jason's dead body with an iron spike ripped off of the cemetery fence. Unfortunately, Tommy has extraordinarily bad timing: a lightening storm descends over the cemetery and one convenient lightening bolt later, Jason is alive and well and is ripping Hawes's heart out of his chest with his bare hands. Tommy is then off and running, trying to warn the local sheriff of Jason's resurrection, but the sheriff dismisses Tommy as a nutcase and later believes that the young man is responsible for the new string of bloody murders. However, the sheriffs pretty blond daughter believes Tommy and decides to help him, breaking him out of prison and hunting Jason down...but not before Jason can decapitate a bunch of yuppie paint-balling executives, slaughter an annoying fornicating couple in a mobile home, slaughter two camp counselors at the newly re-opened Camp Forest Green and terrorize a little girl. Can Tommy finish what he foolishly began and kill Jason before he and his new girlfriend are killed themselves?
This, along with part 7 and 8, are my favorite sequels in the Friday the 13th series. Thom Mathews is great as the haunted and ultimately very foolish Tommy. C. J. Graham is satisfyingly brutal as Jason Voorhees, displaying all the right qualities of rage, curiosity and dumb innocence that Kane Hodder would later improve upon. This is a somewhat spoofy, darkly funny and satisfyingly bloody installment in the prolific series. The opening sequence, featuring Jason's maggot-ridden corpse, is perhaps the best pre-credit sequence of any of the Friday films yet.
Hardcore Friday fans should not miss this 6th sequel. 8 out of 10 stars for Jason Lives!
Jason Vs. Carrie...sort of
Weepy Tina Shepard arrives at Crystal Lake with her mom and her doctor. Tina is a wreck of a girl - plagued by a powerful telekinetic ability, Tina killed her drunken and abusive father in a fit of rage many years ago and has been trying to deal with her guilt ever since. Unfortunately, her sadistic doctor wants only to exploit Tina's powers and drives Tina to the breaking point with his cruelty. In yet another emotional fit, Tina attempts to raise her dead father from the depths of Crystal Lake, but instead raises the rotting carcass of Jason Voorhees instead, who emerges with his hockey mask intact and his bloodlust stronger than ever. Jason immediately heads into the woods and starts killing, gradually working his way to the house next door to Tina's, filled with vacuous partying teens. Tina, who is also precognitive, tries to warn those around her of impending death, but no one will believe the stressed out girl. Finally, Tina must battle Jason herself is she hopes to save her new boyfriend and herself from death.
This is Kane Hodder's first outing as Jason Voorhees and its a really great one. Jason is a hulking killing machine of pure, cold rage and the deaths the accrue have never been more vicious or grimly satisfying. The now-famous sleeping bag bludgeon makes its first appearance in this 6th installment, and its one of my favorites - really nasty and brutally hilarious. Lar Park Lincoln is great as Tina - perhaps a bit too weepy, but almost as angry as Jason and erupting in great displays of rage, both verbal and telekinetic. Lincoln did a lot of her own stunts in this one too, which is always impressive.
The make-up effects in this movie are my absolute favorite. Jason is a wet, rotting cadaver, his spinal cord clearly visible through the shredded remains of his clothes, his ribcage poking out, his flesh dark with rot. The unmasking scene is a truly shocking and "wow!" inspiring awesome moment, as Jason's face is revealed to be little more than an animated skull - but animated it truly is! Beneath the hideous make-up, Hodder impressively expresses the evil wrath of Jason with one empty eye socket and half a mouthful of teeth. The telekinetic effects are a lot of fun as Tina "throws" every weapon at her disposal at Jason: a couch, a jar full of nails, a light fixture and finally a can of gasoline and the flames from the basement furnace. It was great to see someone give Jason a run for his money instead of just screaming and running away.
All in all, one of the better sequels to follow the original Friday the 13th. 7 out of 10.
Go Jason! It's Your Birthday!
Rennie Wickham, a hydrophobic aspiring young writer, boards a cruise ship with her graduating class and heads for New York for fun. Unbeknownst to her and the rest of the passengers, Jason Voorhees, recently resurrected and VERY PO'd, has already boarded the ship and is looking for irresponsible teens to slaughter. Rennie, her boyfriend, her sadistic jerk of an uncle and a very small handful of survivors manage to escape the ship and dock in New York harbor before Jason can kill them too...but Jason is not so easily left behind. The huge and hulking hockey masked killer follows Rennie and her friends right into Times Square.
This is yet another semi-brainless installment in the never ending teen slaughter-fest that is Friday the 13th, and yet I really enjoyed this 8th sequel. It's nice to see Jason taken out of Crystal Lake and transplanted elsewhere for a change. Kane Hodder is and remains my favorite incarnation of Jason Voorhees and his performance here is nothing short of amazing: the man somehow manages to make Jason express explosive rage, childlike curiosity, impatience, disgust and even dry humor, all from behind an expressionless hockey mask. My favorite scenes are all of him: Jason peering up at a billboard advertising a hockey team, Jason flipping his mask up and revealing his rotting visage to a group of punks, Jason knocking a guys head off, Jason throwing Ken Kirzinger (the future Mr. Voorhees) across a diner and into a mirror. Jason Voorhees has never been more frightening and cool than when played by Hodder, and watching Jason plow through back alleys, a subway train and the New York sewer system is exhilarating great fun! You'll be rooting for Jason in several scenes, such as when Jason unintentionally "rescues" Rennie from rape or slams the jerk of an uncle head first into a rain barrel.
The body count is high and bloody, the teens one-dimensional and vacuous - the better to enjoy the slaughter - and the action unrelenting. And though it is true that Jason spends far more time on the cruise ship than in Manhattan itself, its a forgivable mishap. Once Jason enters Times Square you'll have forgotten about the ship anyway. Longtime hardcore fans of the series will probably enjoy this offering of cinematic junk food and appreciate it for what it is - harmless fun. 7 out of 10 stars for Jason takes Manhattan.
An Okay 3rd Installment
Where Hellraiser 1 and 2 were both very dark and very British, Hellraiser 3: Hell On Earth is very Hollywood.
J. P. Monroe is the scumbag, soulless owner of The Boiler Room, a somewhat gothy dance club decorated with morbid art. In his search for more profane objects to add to his collection, J. P. comes across, and subsequently purchases, an odd pillar in an art gallery, which fans of the first two films will have no trouble recognizing. Enter Joey Summerskill, a frustrated reporter who comes across a bizarre death in a hospital emergency room. As she watches, a young man is torn to pieces by hooks and chains that appear out of midair. Eager to discover the story behind the gruesome, supernatural death, and with only one clue to follow, Joey arrives at the Boiler Room and befriends the insecure and abused Terri, J. P.'s ex girlfriend. Together, they discover the history of the Lament Configuration, the bizarre happenings at the Channard Institute and the story of Kirsty Cotton. But it doesn't end there. Joey begins having dreams about a man named Elliot Spencer, a World War One soldier who warns her that evil has been unleashed in the form of his own evil alter ego, the Cenobite Pinhead. Indeed, Pinhead soon breaks free and turns The Boiler Room into a slaughterhouse. Now he wants Joey. But can Elliot Spencer stop Pinhead before Joey is taken to Hell?
This isn't a terrible sequel, really. It's not great, but it's nowhere near as bad as some of the others that followed. There's some nice bloody gore and naked girls, and Pinhead, as always, seems to be enjoying himself immensely, seducing his victims with a smile and making his offer of an eternity of pain seem quite irresistible. His scene with a priest is particularly nasty and blasphemous...and wickedly funny. The storyline doesn't always make sense, there's a lot of unintentionally laughable moments and some of the acting borders on the ridiculous, but all in all, Hellraiser 3 is pretty good cinematic junk food. If nothing else, Doug Bradley alone always makes these films watchable with his flawless portrayal of Pinhead.
6 out of 10.
The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
The Carter family are on their way to California, but take a detour through a nuclear blasted desert in search of a family silver mine. When a freak accident causes them to crash their car, the Carter's - Bob & Ethel, their children Lynne, Brenda and Bobby, Lynne's husband Doug and their baby Katy - are stranded in the middle of nowhere...but they are not alone. Little do they know that the rocky wasteland is inhabited by another, very different family. Papa Jupiter is the head of a cannibal family who live in the desert hills, and he and his vicious sons - the sadistic Mars, the deformed Pluto and the simpleton Mercury - are already plotting the deaths of the Carters in order to replenish their food supply. Bob and Doug wander off into the desert, searching for help, leaving the women and children behind. As night falls, Bobby Carter grows increasingly alarmed. The family dogs are restless and spooked, and the bitch Beauty turns up dead, horribly gutted. Heavy breathing can be heard on the CB they are using to call for help. When father Bob is discovered, crucified and burned alive, it is already too late. Mars and Pluto have descended upon the trailer, raping Brenda, killing Lynne and Ethel and stealing baby Katy away. However, when the sun finally comes up, the Carter's have ceased to be victims. Brenda, Bobby and Doug turn as savage as their tormentors, setting traps and giving chase into the hills to retrieve baby Katy and have bloody revenge upon Jupiter and his sons.
Loosely based upon the case of Scottish cannibal Sawney Bean and his outlaw family, The Hills Have Eyes is similar to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but not quite as good. That's not to say it's bad - it's a great, tense, atmospheric and brutal movie, though not as brutal as it could have been considering Craven's previous film The Last House on the Left. The attack on the trailer and the rape/ murder of the women is a difficult scene to watch, but it's also enormously satisfying to see Brenda recover and ruthlessly take charge, plotting a clever trap for Jupiter. Likewise, cannibal family daughter Ruby also emerges as a heroine of strength and resourcefulness. For a film made in 1977, The Hills Have Eyes really is a woman's lib horror movie.
It may move too slowly for some, and admittedly some of Brenda's screaming got on my nerves, but all in all this is a great movie for its time. 8 out of 10.
Halloween II (1981)
Not a total loss
It is still Halloween night in Haddonfield, and the corpses of Annie, Linda and Bob have just been discovered. Laurie Strode has been rushed to the hospital and Michael Meyers is still on the loose. As he slaughters his way through the formerly peaceful suburb, making his unerring way towards the hospital where Laurie has been taken, both the traumatized Laurie and the determined Dr. Loomis learn the truth at last: Laurie is Michael's little sister, born two years after Judith's murder and adopted by the Strode's. Michael has already killed one sister and is determined to murder the other before the night is over.
This sequel to the 1977 classic Halloween isn't too shabby. It's a little more exploitative than the first. The murders are gorier and the blood is brighter and more generously splashed around. The victims are far more vacuous in this installment and we're given no time at all to see them develop or to care about them before they are stabbed, desanguinated or boiled to death. However, I do like the way in which all of the loose threads are tied up in this one and the tidy explanation is pretty believable. This is a straightforward, unapologetic slasher film which still manages to be a hell of a lot better than many of its modern day contemporaries.