Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Posts Tagged ‘horror’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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October of Horror #6: Warlock (1989)

Posted by Trixter on October 6, 2018

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

Synopsis

A warlock flees the Puritan era to modern day, looking for the three halves of the Dark Grimoire:  The Devil’s Bible that can undo all of creation.  A witch hunter from the same era gets help from a young modern woman to track the warlock and try to stop him.

Opinion

15 minutes into the film, I got the sense that this wasn’t really a horror film, but more along the lines of medieval fantasy.  Turns out I was right:  If you’re expecting scares, revulsion, and dread, you won’t find it in Warlock.  But does that make it bad?  On the contrary, I found it very entertaining.  There is a surprisingly small amount of outright scenery chewing; everyone plays it straight, which works.

While I never got the feeling anyone was truly emoting (Julian Sands as the titular character looks the part but never really feels the part), what was entertaining was learning all of the witch lore:

  • You can cripple a witch’s foot by hammering their footprint
  • Witches hate salt, and are both hurt and bound by it
  • Witches can fly by making a potion primarily out of the fat of a young boy
  • Witches cannot set foot on hallowed ground

…and so on.  Everyone knows vampire lore, but not everyone knows witch lore, and I found that maintaining my interest throughout the film.

Bonus points for a played-straight appearance by reliable 70’s and 80’s B-movie staple Mary Wolonov, who delivers exactly what was necessary for the character.

Recommendation

For some fantasy fare that is sideways from science fiction and lighter than horror, you could do a lot worse (like the two Warlock sequels I’m dreading).

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October of Horror #5: The Night Stalker (1972)

Posted by Trixter on October 5, 2018

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

Synopsis

News reporter Carl Kolchak covers a series of murders, and discovers a link between them that suggests the killer is imitating a vampire.  But when he witnesses the killer evading police, he sees things he cannot ignore, and comes to the conclusion that the killer might actually be a real vampire.  How do you convince the police department a real vampire is on the loose — and worse, how do you stop it?

Opinion

Originally a made-for-TV movie, The Night Stalker was something I’d hear about from time to time but never had a motivation for watching it until Dana Gould mentioned it on his podcast.  Based on that recommendation, I finally tracked down a pristine copy and watched it (sans commercials), which put it at a short movie length.

So how does it hold up today?  Very well!  The movie is populated completely with character actors (Darren McGavin, Claude Aikens, even Larry Linville before he was a staple on M.A.S.H.) and they all do a fine job.  The pacing is great; you’re never bored.  As an added bonus, the movie doesn’t shy away from an honest ending.

Recommendation

At only 1h15m, it’s definitely worth your time — and, if you ever have a need for such a thing, it’s appropriate for the family (no swearing, no nudity, and genuine tension without being disturbing).

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October of Horror #4: Fright Night (1985)

Posted by Trixter on October 4, 2018

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

Synopsis

Charlie is almost certainly sure that his new neighbor is a vampire: He sees a coffin being brought into the basement, and women have a nasty habit of turning up dead once they visit next door.  Problem is, nobody believes him.  Desperate, he enlists the help of his friends and a washed-up horror movie actor to confront the vampire once and for all.

Opinion

I’d somehow missed this movie when it first came out, but my wife Melissa had seen it nearly a hundred times as it was in regular rotation on HBO in the 1980s, so we watched it together.  Unlike yesterday’s disaster Return of the Living Dead II, Fright Night mixes together just the right amount of comedy and horror.  The supporting players (Chris Sarandon, Roddy McDowall, and Stephen Geoffreys) are standouts, with Geoffreys in particular striking an unnerving, off-balance character that made him perfect for his later starring role in 976-EVIL.

The story is simple but engaging, the pacing is even throughout, it hits all of the right vampire lore notes, and the practical effects are cheesy but fun to watch.

Recommendation

While it may not be the best film ever made about vampires, it’s great fun, and definitely worth your time.

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