Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

October of Horror #16: Halloween (1978)

Posted by Trixter on October 21, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

A psychotic killer escapes from a mental health facility and decides to go back home.

Opinion

Believe it or not, I’d never seen the original Halloween — I’d seen bits and pieces of it on TV, or maybe watched the beginning and then got distracted, or what have you.  Melissa and I are going to watch the 2018 sequel next week, so it was a logical choice to watch the original.

Holy crap, it’s good.  It’s better than good.  It was so good that it established just about every modern horror trope still in use today:  Slow reveals of the killer right behind you, the killer there and then not there, killer point-of-view shots, and probably a dozen more I’m forgetting.  Jamie Lee Curtis turns in a natural performance which is exactly what is needed for the film.  The pacing is slow, deliberate, and perfect — I was never bored.

Recommendation

Required viewing.

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October of Horror #15: Slaughterhouse Rock (1988)

Posted by Trixter on October 20, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

A teen boy is having extremely vivid nightmares about a demonic presence haunting an abandoned prison.  But when his nightmares start manifesting into reality, he and his friends head to the prison to confront the demon.

Opinion

This sounded like an absolute dream project for me:  Recently scanned into Blu-ray, it had cheezy 80’s horror, 100% practical effects, soundtrack by Devo, and a guest appearance by Toni Basil.  I’ll bet the producers thought so as well:  The screenplay combined elements of music, comedy, boobs, horror, and lots of gore.  For a project filmed in 1985, it seemed impossible to fail.

Well, I don’t know what went wrong with Slaughterhouse Rock, but it doesn’t work.  One major issue is that it was filmed at the very tail end of Devo’s and Basil’s pop career, so when it eventually got released nearly three years later, their involvement must have seemed odd or desperate.

What’s really frustrating about the movie is that it isn’t anybody’s specific fault:  The cinematography is very good, the actors all deliver exactly what is asked of them, Toni Basil improvises a dance sequence that is at her usual high level of quality… and yet it just falls flat.  You don’t care about anything that’s going on, you’re not invested.  And despite my admiration of Devo, I just couldn’t get into the soundtrack.

The end credits sequence has a Devo track with Basil singing lyrics, and it’s the best music of the film — too little, too late.

Recommendation

Everything you could want to know about Slaughterhouse Rock can be gleaned from YouTube in about 2 minutes.  Not worth your valuable time.

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October of Horror #14: The Beyond (1981)

Posted by Trixter on October 18, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

A woman inherits a Louisiana hotel only to find it is built on top of the one of the seven portals to Hell — and the door has been unwittingly opened.

Opinion

One of the things that bother me about Chinese and Italian films from before 1990 is that 95% of them are all dubbed.  They felt it was more cost-effective to not worry at all about location audio, and just do all of the dialog and foley in the studio afterwards.  This is very jarring to me, and makes it very hard to suspend disbelief.  The Beyond is an Italian film, and even though the two leads are English and speak English, they are also dubbed.  It is unsettling.

Your next thought might be “that would make for an unsettling horror film, then?”  Unfortunately, it doesn’t come to that.  The opening of the film is great, and sucks you in, but it goes downhill from there.  Italian films of the late 70s to early 80s have wonderful imagery, but for their more fantastical offerings, they fall short on story.  The story isn’t explained enough, and you can get by on practical horror effects only for so long.  The movie plays like someone who saw Night of the Living Dead, The Shining, and The Devil’s Rain and tried to make a movie combining all three.  It doesn’t work.

The effects themselves range from very good to laughable.  Blood thinner than water doesn’t help.

Recommendation

Skip it, and watch The Devil’s Rain instead.

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October of Horror #13: Killer! (1989)

Posted by Trixter on October 13, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

A psychopath works his way across the midwest killing nearly everyone he meets.  He claims he cannot be killed — if so, can he be stopped?

Opinion

Robert Rodriguez’s film El Mariachi is widely regarded as one of the most engaging and polished films ever made on a microbudget.  What is commonly overlooked is Tony Elwood’s Killer!, made three years earlier, on the same low budget.   While the story is nothing amazing — crazy person goes crazy and kills people — it is handled in about as professional a manner as possible for a total budget of $8500.  The film stock alone must have cost that much, so no idea how they got the film made, but they did, and it looks great for what it is.

Of course, nothing is perfect; there are night scenes where you can hear the film camera, the generator, or both in the background.  Some blood exits wounds at bizarre angles.  Not everyone can act.  But for $8500, it’s damn impressive.

Recommendation

It’s not for everyone, but if you want to see a psychopath dispatching everyone from his parents to a car mechanic, using guns, knives, fire, a crowbar, etc. then you could do a lot worse.

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

October of Horror #12: Zombieland (2009)

Posted by Trixter on October 12, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

(From IMDB) A shy student trying to reach his family in Ohio, a gun-toting tough guy trying to find the last Twinkie, and a pair of sisters trying to get to an amusement park join forces to travel across a zombie-filled America.

Opinion

I fully admit I’m taking a mulligan today because not many movies on my playlist for October are wife-friendly, and we wanted to spend time together tonight.

For those who haven’t seen Zombieland:  It’s not really horror, but a horror comedy with about 90% comedy and 10% horror.

Recommendation

It’s funny and entertaining.  It’s not horror, but it’s worth seeing.  For a much darker horror comedy, I recommend Return of the Living Dead.

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

October of Horror #11: The Darkest Hour (2011)

Posted by Trixter on October 11, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

Young adults vacationing in Moscow are attacked by invisible alien beings who attack via violent storms of electricity.  They can be also be detected using electricity, but is it enough to stop them?

Opinion

One of the better lower-budget ($30 million) international offerings from the last decade, with astonishingly good digital effects.  There is a reasonable amount of tension, and the deaths at the hands of the beings is well-animated and always stays shocking (pun intended).  While none of the actors particularly stand out (sorry Emile Hirsch), they deliver a good performance.

The film has a few sections that flesh out the story and relationships, but they feel like padding to stretch out the length.

Recommendation

I liked it.  If you can view this in 1080p, do so, since the digital effects are great for 2011.  And if you get bored, just skip forward 30 seconds and that should get things back on track.

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

October of Horror #10: Pinocchio’s Revenge (1996)

Posted by Trixter on October 10, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

Jennifer Garrick, a lawyer and single mother,  brings home a hand-carved Pinocchio puppet as part of evidence in a murder trial after the murderer is executed.  Her daughter Zoe takes a liking to the puppet after it is mistaken for a birthday present.  A few days later, accidents start happening to those who cross Zoe.  Worse, Zoe blames the puppet for the accidents.

Opinion

Ok, ok, I know what you’re thinking:  Obvious Child’s Play ripoff, right?  I thought the same thing, but the movie surprised the hell out of me as to how good it was!  Low budget, direct-to-video, obvious ripoff, etc. etc. — believe me, I was expecting a terrible film, but it did a surprisingly good job of telling a story, slowly evolving the puppet’s is-it-real-or-isn’t-it menace, and keeping my interest.  Best of all, it is very much not like Child’s Play in how it handles the final third of the film, and I wasn’t expecting that, and I respect the filmmakers for going down an alternate path and sticking to it.

Being low budget, there are some obvious corners cut, but if you can suspend disbelief you can get through them.  The only real trouble I had with the film was Rosalind Allen’s acting in the final third:  When she figures out what is going on, any sane person would be freaking the hell out, shocked beyond belief, etc. but she doesn’t really emote that at a time when the film really needs it.  Instead, she acts like an actress who knows exactly what is coming on the next few pages of the script, which is a shame since she’s great the first two third of the film.

Recommendation

I can’t believe I’m recommending this one, but I am!  If you were disappointed by every Child’s Play sequel (I know I was), give Pinocchio’s Revenge a shot — if you can find it.

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October of Horror #9: Infection (2004)

Posted by Trixter on October 9, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

Doctors and nurses become infected with a terrifying disease after the death of a patient under their care.

Opinion

One of the six J-Horror Theater films, Infection (original title: Kansen) delivers everything you would expect from a Japanese horror film.  Until the end of the film, you are constantly guessing if what is going on is a zombie virus, mass psychosis, the work of spirits, and who knows what else.  It grows at a steady pace.

One description online likened the film to something like an X-Files episode, and I think that’s partially true.

Recommendation

If you like slowly foreboding horror, Japanese horror, slowly-evolving stories, etc. then you’ll enjoy the film.  If you require more jump scares and special effects in your horror, you may want to skip it.

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October of Horror #8: Evils of the Night (1985)

Posted by Trixter on October 8, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

Vacationing teens are being captured and drained of all blood by aliens who want to use it to prolong their own lives.

Opinion

As a child in the 1970s, I watched a lot of re-runs on TV after school.  So when I heard there was a movie made in the 1980s starring John Carradine, Tina Louise (from Gilligan’s Island), and Julie Newmar (from Batman), I had to seek it out.  Better yet, there was a recent Blu-ray transfer of the film.

The Blu-ray was indeed a great transfer, but I kind-of wish it hadn’t been, since it just showed how small the budget was.  I also wish I could get those 90 minutes back.  The filmmakers were going for some sort of science fiction/horror/soft porn combination, but the end result is best described as embarrassing and inept.  A low budget is not an excuse when your story is ridiculous.

Bafflingly, the opening and closing scenes show an honestly good practical effect of a spaceship landing and then taking off.  How they built it and were able to rent what must have been a crane to animate it is beyond me.

Recommendation

Do not, under any circumstances, see this movie (unless you love terrible movies).  If you want a good combination of sci-fi/horror/soft porn that also came out in 1985, watch Lifeforce instead; it’s vastly superior.

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October of Horror #7: Return of the Living Dead III (1993)

Posted by Trixter on October 7, 2018

(For an explanation of what these posts in October are, see the parent post.)

Synopsis

A heartbroken teen decides to revive his recently deceased girlfriend with Trioxin, the same chemical that rose the dead in the previous two films.  But upon revival, his girlfriend suffers from an insatiable hunger for… something.  Can she keep the hunger at bay with constant pain, or will she give in?

Opinion

Unlike the previous two installments, Return of the Living Dead III makes no attempt at humor, but rather establishes a unique question any fan of the Living Dead movies eventually asks:  If you revive the deceased immediately after death, are they ok?  Can they function normally?  Can they communicate?  If so, what would they say about how it feels to be dead?  It’s easily the most introspective movie in the series.  One very positive selling point of the story is the main actress Melinda Clarke, who puts everything into every moment she can and delivers a harsh but authentic performance of what it must be like to go through something unfathomable like this.

Unfortunately, the movie is hobbled by its budget.  The effects are very good, but most are not believable.  This is no slight against the filmmakers — the effects are amazing given the budget they had to work with.  I just wish they had a bigger budget.  More money would have given us better effects and less filler.

An exception to the above are the amazing practical effects regarding Melinda’s character’s piercings in the last third of the film, as the character tries to keep the hunger at bay using pain.  They look great, and some are very creative.

Recommendation

It’s a solid B movie.  If you know what that means, you’ll either really want to see it, or really want to avoid it.  It delivers exactly what is promised.

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