Monday, September 18, 2017

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)

With Death Note being a bit of a downer, I decided that I would venture into something completely different. After searching my streaming services, I decided on the 1987 supernatural sequel Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II.

Plot/ Thirty years after her accidental death at her 1957 senior prom, the tortured spirit of prom queen Mary Lou Maloney returns to seek revenge.

I remember seeing this when it came out. As a fan of the original Prom Night with Jamie Lee Curtis, I was somewhat disappointed in the change of direction with the sequel. However, after watching it again, I found it a decent flashback to the classic 1980s cheese that seemed to become more prevalent as the decade wore on. While this one had almost zero connection to the original and was a complete mixture of multiple supernatural classics (The Exorcist, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Carrie for a start), this one was fun and mindless. Most importantly, it was not afraid of pushing the boundaries or limits of the rating system (something it seems like no films will do today). Sure, the looks are dated, the performances were uneven, it lacked the tension from the slasher craze, the storyline was unoriginal, and it was rather predictable, but there was a decent amount of blood and it created an interesting departure from what many would have expected. In the end, this is in no way a great movie and it is quite mindless, but it can serve its purpose as background fodder on a slow afternoon. Give it a shot; you could do worse.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Death Note (2017)

After last nights trip to the theater to see IT, I decided to do some relaxing before the Steelers game today. To accomplish that, I chose the 2017 anime adaption Death Note from Netflix to help pass some time.

Plot/ A high school student named, Light Turner, discovers a mysterious notebook that has the power to kill anyone whose name is written within its pages and launches a secret crusade to rid the world of criminals.

Having not watched the original anime series, I went into this one somewhat blind on what to expect. I usually take this as a positive, however; in this case, I am not sure. From the outset, the characters felt disconnected to the story and somewhat underdeveloped, the scripting seemed a bit flat and empty, and the special effects and CGI seemed to be underwhelming and at times laughable. The performances were not bad and the cast seemed solid enough, but those elements did nothing to make this memorable in any way. In the end, I should have followed my student's advice and moved past this one when it popped up. They said this was terrible and I would be better off watching the anime series. They were right; this one did nothing for me in any way. Stay away, especially if you are a fan of the series; you will be disappointed.

IT (2017)

As a horror fan, it is nice to see a buzz created within the genre. Hopefully, this attention leads to Hollywood taking some time and giving horror fans more movies, we can enjoy. With that buzz, I had to actually go see this one in the theater because the daughters have been yapping about it for a week. Last night I broke down and saw the 2017 Stephen King adaptation reboot of IT.

Plot/ In the Town of Derry, the local kids are disappearing one by one, leaving behind bloody remains. In a place known as The Barrens, a group of seven kids are united by their horrifying and strange encounters with an evil clown and their determination to kill IT.

Last night, I finally took the girls to see IT and was actually surprised by the overall experience. While this one was not as scary as I had heard (and would have liked), I thought it was an entertaining movie and one that was perfect for the daughters. The performances were solid and the actors and characters had great chemistry between them, the make-up was outstanding, and the cinematography, use of lighting, and overall visuals were tremendous. Even the scripting was able to create a somewhat darker atmosphere and keep the subtle comedic elements in play throughout. Unfortunately for me, the scares just weren’t there. Maybe it is because I have read the Stephen King classic or maybe because I consume horror movies all the time, but I found it a touch predictable. Plus, I am not a huge fan of CGI and there were some times where that process felt overused. In the end, I did thoroughly enjoy this movie. No, it wasn’t perfect or close to the best King adaptation, but it made for an entertaining evening and again proves why Clown Lives Matter. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

IT (1990)

As I prepare to go see the new blockbuster IT, I decided that I wanted to venture back into the mind of Stephen King for a few days this week. So I figured that there was no better way to end this week than a trip back to 1990 for the King classic IT!

Plot/ In 1960, seven pre-teen outcasts fight an evil demon who poses as a child-killing clown. Thirty years later, they reunite to stop the demon once and for all when it returns to their hometown.

As I prepared this week to go see IT, I don’t think it would be prudent to see the film unless I revisited the 1990 miniseries that made people fear clowns. First off, Tim Curry is amazing as Pennywise, interpreting the darkness of the evil clown perfectly. Based on a huge novel by Stephen King, the adaptation was sound; striking a nice balance between the materials from the novel that was necessary and unnecessary. Yes, some of it was a touch bizarre, but that fit the storyline. Other than that, the cast was interesting and because it was a made for television event the lack of gore and onscreen violence is to be expected. Unfortunately, the production values reek of lower quality television, the visuals are average at best do not capture the atmosphere in the way that it should, and the performances are a little flat. In fact, because of the run-time, it is debatable on whether or not the film is too long or short, an answer that even watching it again has me questioning. The worst part is the ending, which was somewhat of a letdown in comparison to the craziness from the source material. In the end, this was a fun and nostalgic look back at a miniseries that did leave an imprint on society. While it is rough in some spots, I feel that it is a great primer for the movie I am about to see. It may not be perfect, but if you haven’t seen it, give it a shot.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Blob (1988)

One of the things that have taken a backseat to softball season these past few years is attending the annual Blobfest that celebrates the classic tale, The Blob. It is a festival that I totally recommend for any true sci-fi fan. After some thought last night, I decided to revisit The Blob, but instead of the 1958 classic, I chose the modern reboot from 1988.

Plot/ Remake of the 1958 sci-fi horror classic about a deadly blob from another planet, which consumes everything in its path. Teenagers attempt without success to warn the townspeople, who refuse to take them seriously.

Let me start by saying, I am a huge fan of the original cult classic The Blob. While this one is not as campy or even as charming as the original, it does do enough to stand on its own. This movie was a lot more entertaining than I thought it would be. It would likely be more respected had it not been a reboot of the cult classic. Completely different from the original, this one does feature some solid performances, a lot of action, and enough gore to fit in with many of the films crafted in the 1980s. However, the feel loses some of the tension created in the scenes with the blob and never truly captures those atmospheric elements that could have made this movie even more memorable. Plus, it lacks suspense, leaving is solely a gorefest. In the end, while this is a fun and entertaining film (even all these years later) it does lack the overall atmosphere and suspense to make it extremely memorable. If you have not seen it, and you are a horror/sci-fi fan, you are missing out. Find it and check it out.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Thing (1982)

After treating myself to a musical with Sweeney Todd, I decided that I needed something with a little more realism and some horrific splatter scenes and gore. I finally settled on the 1982 John Carpenter classic, The Thing.

Plot/ A research facility in Antarctica comes across an alien force that can become anything it touches with 100% accuracy. The members must now find out who is human and who is not before it is too late.

I remember when this one came out because it was a fascinating watch. Having just seen ET and feeling bored, this one was what I expected in an alien flick. Looking back at it now, I appreciate it even more because of the effects. The practical effects in this movie are some of the best and definitely run laps around the majority of CGI crap that hits the screen today. Even better, everything holds up well even after all these years. The atmosphere is dark, heavy, and toxic, the cast and performances are solid, and the amount of paranoia created within the scripting was amazing. And, did I mention the gore and effects? Honestly, not only are they realistic, but also they fit perfectly with the tension built throughout the film. In the end, this may be one of the best films by John Carpenter and it should be revered in the same manner as Halloween, Prince of Darkness (Okay, one of my favorites) or The Fog. If you have not watched this one yet, you are missing one of the best horror films of the 1980s. Find it and check it out.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

After watching Cujo last night, I decided that I needed something different before heading off to bed. Lately, I have been struggling with focus while trying to write and have been searching for something to just start that. Finally, while searching my streaming services, I decided on the 2007 horror musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Plot/ In the Victorian London, the barber Benjamin Barker is married to the gorgeous Lucy and they have a lovely child, Johanna. The beauty of Lucy attracts the attention of the corrupt Judge Turpin, who falsely accuses the barber of a crime that he did not commit and abuses Lucy later after gaining custody of her. After fifteen years in exile, Benjamin returns to London under the new identity of Sweeney Todd, seeking revenge against Turpin.

I will admit, I have a soft spot for musicals, especially if they trend in the direction of horror and this one did not disappoint. Being a Tim Burton movie and featuring Johnny Depp, it was hard to be excited, as their stuff has been hit or miss. Fortunately, this one was a hit and it is well worth watching. This one is a pure musical, but it does a great job at mixing the dark comedy and horror elements in a way that makes it extremely entertaining. The cast is amazing (although, I did feel like it should have been a Harry Potter reunion), Burtons’ imagery and cinematic choices were tight and crafted an atmospheric tale, the artistic elements were flawless, and the graphic horror elements, while brutal and gory, came across in almost a subdued way that fit perfect in this dark world. Yes, being a musical may turn some people off, but honestly, that shouldn’t be a factor as this one is much more than your typical musical. In the end, this is a movie that should be seen, and one that I feel does not get the respect that it deserves. It is everything a horror fan should enjoy and if you have not watched it yet, you are missing out.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Cujo (1983)

As I prepare to finally break down and head out to see IT in a couple days, I figured that it was time to immerse myself in a mini Stephen King marathon. My first selection in this endeavor is the 1983 thriller Cujo.

Plot/ Cujo, a friendly St. Bernard, contracts rabies and conducts a reign of terror on a small American town.

Movies based on Stephen King novels are often hit or miss and unfortunately more seem to miss. I was a huge King fan growing up and read all of the books he put out, so maybe, that is why I find the adaptations uneven at best. Most of the movies never seem to capture the characters as well as they were written. This one was a movie that when I first saw it in the 1980s didn’t meet my expectations. Watching it today, while I still find it a touch uneven, it does have a tension that I didn’t remember existing when I first watched it. The cinematography was solid, the cast and performances worked, the storyline was believable, and this was much better than the majority of animal attack films that came out during that general era. I have to admit that the realistic feel and the tone definitely took me back to my youth and the grainy look of the drive-in classics. Sure, some of the movie feels a touch dated, but that is somewhat expected after all these years. In the end, this may not be the best adaptation of his work, but it does rank in the top half. If you have not seen it, you should check it out.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Salem Witch Trials (2002)

After watching Witchery yesterday before practice, I found myself in a witchcraft mood last night when I got home. So, I did what I always do, and turned to my streaming services to find something that would help quench my appetite. I eventually settled on the 2002 entry Salem Witch Trials for my journey into the occult and witchcraft.

Plot/ A masterful work accurately details the current consensus of what exactly occurred to prompt the colonial witch trials.

This was another movie (mini series) that I somehow missed during my time in the Navy. In fact, when I saw it last night, I thought it was a documentary. I am excited that it wasn’t. What I found was an entertaining journey into the times of the Salem Witch Trials, one of the historical events that helped shape my interests as I have grown older. The ensemble cast led by Shirley MacLaine and Kirstie Alley was tremendous and the performances definitely were in harmony with the dark storyline. The cinematography was outstanding, the storyline was layered, and the entertainment and educational value really came together. While the film does have a drawn out feel, because it was a miniseries, that was to be expected. In the end, the story of the Salem Witch Trials and the hysteria that overtook society is something that can never be forgotten in our history. It is part of the fabric of our Nation and demonstrates what can happen when greed and panic become one. This may not be perfect, but it is a story (and movie) that must be seen and remembered. If you have not watched it, find it on Amazon and check it out.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Witchery (1988)

When it became evident that the West Virginia game was over, I decided to find something on television to help pass the time before I had to leave for Prestige softball practice. After some searching, I decided on the 1988 entry Witchery (AKA Witchcraft and Evil Encounters).

Plot/ When a storm strands a group on a Massachusetts Island where the only dwelling is an old hotel supposedly haunted by the ghost of a former German actress their worst fears are brought to life.

This is a film that I can honestly say that I do not remember from my youth. That is funny because, between the subject matter and Linda Blair, I almost certainly would have picked this one up. What I found today when watching it was a movie that was clearly part of that 1980s big box horror with some outrageous effects and many head-scratching moments. Of course, this also has the typical flaws with uneven performances, some strange cinematic decisions, laughable moments, and a pace that seems to teeter between slow and fast. That being said, the setting was amazing and the storyline (while somewhat predictable) was entertaining. In the end, this was not a great movie, but it was not the worst either. Feel free to give it a shot if you are searching for something and need something mindless, you could do much worse.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Creeping Terror (1964)

After a couple of days of Italian Horror, I decided to venture back into one of the box sets that I have been going through. This one is from the 12 Creature Features set and it is the 1964 entry The Creeping Terror. 

Plot/ A newlywed sheriff tries to stop a shambling monster that has emerged from a spaceship to eat the citizens of an American town.

Some movies are bad, and yes, some are really bad. Then you get to movies like this one that take you to a new low. If you have read my blog regularly, you already know hat I am a sucker for classic sci-fi and horror from the 1950s and 1960, and that I can often look past the inherent flaws that comes along with those creature feature. Unfortunately, this movie, while hilarious, has no such appeal. Honestly, this may be the worst movie I have ever watched regardless of the budget. There is really nothing that it can lean on to save itself. The acting, the lighting, the cinematography, the sets, and the effects are absolutely laughable and do not have any redeeming qualities. Yet, there is something with this one, and the bizarre nature of the entire production that makes it a fun watch every so often. In the end, if you decide to make the jump and give this one a shot, then be warned, it is nowhere near a good movie (although the MST3K edition is decent) and you may regret your decision.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Manhattan Baby (1982)

After spending last night with Lucio Fulci, I decided to go back into his mind for an encore. After some debate, I decided on the 1982 entry Manhattan Baby.

Plot/ An archaeologist opens an Egyptian tomb and accidentally releases an evil spirit. His young daughter becomes possessed by the freed entity and upon arrival back in New York the gory murders begin.

While this isn’t a great movie or even anything close to Lucio Fulci's best work, there is something in this one that always makes me want to see more. Not a typical Fulci gorefest, this one is definitely closer to an atmospheric thriller than true horror film. As usual, it does suffer from some of the typical issues that seem to permeate most films by Fulci with slower pacing, underdeveloped characterizations, and uneven performances. Plus, the movie does feel a bit dated, but that too should be expected with it being filmed in the early 1980s. Fortunately, if you are a fan of his work, you should already be expecting this. This one does offer an interesting (sure, unbelievable) storyline, a tremendously dark and heavy atmosphere, and a perfectly matched gothic soundtrack that helps build the tension. In the end, this one may not be his best work, but it is still an entertaining (and polarizing) journey into the world of Fulci. If you have not seen it, you should give it a shot.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

After some creature features and a disaster flick, I decided to go back a few decades and visit some Italian horror. My first selection in that genre for this week is the 1981 Lucio Fulci entry The House by the Cemetery.

Plot/ A New England home is terrorized by a series of murders, unbeknownst to the guests that a gruesome secret is hiding in the basement.

This is definitely a polarizing flick from the Fulci catalog, but it is one of my favorites. This Italian splatterfest has enough blood and gore for any horror fanatic and is backed by an outstanding soundtrack that sets the moods perfectly. The make-up and special effects work, the cinematography is solid, and as I already mentioned, the soundtrack was eerie and dark. Yes, the performances are a touch uneven, there are some plot holes, and the gore may turn some viewers off because of the overall violent tones (more of a problem today with all the sensitivities that exist), but those elements do not harm this one in any way. In the end, Fulci is one of those filmmakers that can be a lightning rod and many will either love his work or hate it. However, if you look within his films, the shocking aspects act as cover for some important social issues that are still problems today.  If you love blood, gore, and violence, you should check this one out. It definitely isn’t the sugarcoated horror of today.