Showing posts from 2017

The Man They Could Not Hang (1939)

Frankensteinsuddenly changed Boris Karloff's acting career quite late in his life.  Still, he only played the role that made him famous three times.  His large stature, sunken eyes and amazing way of chewing scenery often made him much more suited for the guy creating monsters rather than the monster himself.  Even his other famous monster role, The Mummy, saw him largely in a major acting role.

Thus we find Karloff doing a series of films for Columbia for b-movie director Nick Grinde, each featuring him in a mad scientist role.  The first of these was The Man They Could Not Hang

Dr. Henry Savaard (Karloff) is about to experiment with a young medical student (Stanley Brown).  He has developed an artificial heart that can be used to restore circulation after the body dies, thus allowing doctors to perform major surgery while the body is technically dead.  Savaard and his assistant Lang (Byron Foulger) use a combination of gasses to end the man's life, and then go about bringi…

One Hour Photo (2002)

The foundation of humor is always tragedy.  That is why I am always surprised when critics stumble over themselves to praise a great dramatic performance by someone known for their comedic work.  Of course they can play it straight.  Depending on how your life is, however, why would you make a career of playing it straight when you have done that all your life to little or no reward?

For a movie like One Hour Photo, it does help that your lead actor, though a comedian, is also known to be a bit unpredictable in their own field.  Younger generations know Robin Williams from the movies he made, while I remember him as the alien Mork and for comedy routines that, while hilarious, often sounded like a homeless man screaming at you.  If it's funny, you can't help but laugh, but then feel a bit bad about the fact of who it is you are laughing at - especially since Williams was never shy about admitting his problems to the world.

I do think, for general audiences, that when Williams…

The Quiet Ones (2014)

Hammer Films has been trying to play on their past reputation and become relevant again in the horror genre.  Sure, Hammer did more than horror in its heyday, but that's what they're known for, so you can't really blame them. They even had a bit of success with The Woman in Black

Still, with Universal rebooting its entire monster franchise for the monster age, it leaves no room for Hammer to do what it was best at: reinterpreting those monsters themselves.  And, although they have a huge range of British stage and film actors to choose from, they have yet to find a modern day Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing, nor do they have any directors like Terence Fisher to tap.

Unless they have more successes going forward, it leaves them producing backwater copies of popular films like The Conjuring, which is essentially what The Quiet Ones is.

It is 1974, and Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) is trying to find a cure for mental illness.  The subject of his experiment is a…

Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

Today the masked slasher has become a cliche.  Halloween perhaps did it best, while Jason Voorhees managed to carve his way to fame with a hockey mask.  While The Abominable Dr. Phibes is probably the origin point for the genre, Alice, Sweet Alice is certainly responsible in its own way for what it became.

12-year-old Alice Spages (Paula E. Sheppard) is jealous of her younger sister Karen (Brooke Shields), who gets all the attention of her mother Catherine (Linda Miller).  With their father out of the picture, Catherine is forced to raise the two girls on her own, and Alice becomes more and more upset with the attention lavished on Karen, particularly by Father Tom (Rudolph Willrich) and the priests' caretaker, Mrs. Tredoni (Mildred Clinton).

It also seems that no one else likes Alice either.  Father Tom will not give her communion, her aunt Annie (Jane Lowry) thinks that she is evil and Mr. Alphonso (Alphonso DeNoble), their perverted landlord, thinks he can use everyone's d…

The Witch (2015)

It was a year or two ago that I was reading an article that mentioned The Witch, The Babadookand a number of other modern horror films, largely exploring if these films were actually horror.  While many people have no problem with a movie like Don't Breatheor Hostel being considered horror films, despite the lack of anything remotely supernatural happening, there has been a growing argument that films that may, or may not, play a bait and switch with their monster are not to be included.

I call goat droppings here.

Horror is a state of mind.  I defy someone to tell me they would be less scared running from a masked, immortal killer than they would be stuck in a confined, locked space with a crazed meth-head with a knife.  I would also say that it would help looking back on your childhood.  You knew deep down many things you feared in the darkness were not real, yet just the possibility of it being real was frightening enough. 

Scared is scared, and there was a time - a very short…

El retorno de Walpurgis (1973)

This is the seventh of Paul Naschy's films featuring Count Waldemar Daninsky, a Polish noble who is afflicted with a curse that makes him turn into a wolf man every full moon.  Rather than running as a straight series, each movie is a standalone picture, often with completely different time periods and origin stories.  Though this may seem like a sequel to La noche de Walpurgisand share a few off-hand plot points, the two have nothing to do with each other other than the main character's name.

For those who are unaware, Paul Naschy was often referred to as the "Spanish Lon Chaney".  I never know exactly which Lon Chaney they are referring to, but I think he spans both, since Junior made Larry Talbot and the Wolf Man his most famous character, while Senior was a genius at early film makeup.

Either way, his werewolf movies are his most famous outside of Spain, and he still remains largely an undiscovered talent - even though he should be up there with Dario Argento, e…

La noche de Walpurgis (1971)

I just need to mention that it was a major Paul Naschy fan that got me into the October Horror Movie Challenge, as well as (in a roundabout way, not directly) ended up with me doing this review blog.  I'm a big more willing to review mainstream films as well as the obscure exploitation and horror films, but I never meant to imitate his blog anyway.  Still, I'm surprised that it has taken me this long to review one of Naschy's werewolf movies.

Paul Naschy was the pseudonym for Jacinto Molina, a Spanish actor and director who not only did horror films but a number of different genre and mainstream movies as well.  He was extremely popular in his home country, but is still underappreciated elsewhere.  This is in some ways a good thing as his movies don't end up getting overplayed around Halloween.  The problem is, because of the way they were distributed, sometimes there will be a dozen titles for the same film, and the way it is edited will have a major effect on one…

The Monster Squad (1987)

There are two teams when it comes to 1980s adventure films starring a bunch of kids going up against frightening, and somewhat overwhelming, odds: The Gooniesand The Monster Squad.  Both films feature a group of outcasts going on an adventure (of course they both have a fat kid as well), and the situations the children are in are not of the type where they just fear grounding.

Keep in mind The Monster Squad never got the respect that The Goonies did, nor did it have Steven Spielberg behind it.  It did get a VHS release, but only one, and it got lost in the shuffle.  I know I saw it back in the 1980s when it got played on TV, but that was about it.  It also didn't get that good of reviews, but I still remembered liking it.

While I am firmly in camp Goonies when it comes to the two movies, it is nice that The Monster Squad has gathered the cult following that it has.  It is both a great example of a type of movie (save for Itand Stranger Things, one of which was written in the same…

Survival of the Dead (2009)

I have been curious for a long time about where George Romero intended to take his zombie films.  Although The Night of the Living Dead was an largely an attempt to get a low-budget horror film in the theaters and make some money, it was one of the first (and still one of the few) to have an African-American actor as the lead.  Later episodes further explored consumerism, corporate greed and the stability of democracy when there is a need to feel secure. 

What I was most interested in, however, was something first really touched on with Bub in Day of the Dead, and explored even further with Big Daddy in Land of the Dead.  The zombies in the Romero films, rather than simply being ravenous decaying flesh, always seemed to retain some core memory of their previous life.  What they didn't remember they seemed to have the capacity to relearn.  The end of Land of the Dead certainly left some questions about whether these were just shambling monsters to be used for target practice or if…

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

I believe I had seen A Nightmare on Elm Street prior to this sequel, but I could be wrong.  It was 30 years ago, after all.  I know I didn't see the second film until sometime in the '90s, although I had seen all the others by that time.  No loss, since I never really liked the original sequel.  This was the true one, giving an explanation to what happens at the end of the first movie and continuing the original story.

My memories of it are quite fond, as I saw it at a get-together with a number of other kids that I had gone to summer camp with.  I forget what else we watched that night (Lucas, maybe, although I can't remember a single thing about that movie), but Dream Warriors convinced me that this series was not just another slasher film.  It really didn't get this good again until Wes Craven's New Nightmare.  Still, it had me hooked, and I think it is a prime example of why '80s horror was so much fun.

Kristen (Patricia Arquette) is having nightmares, som…

Knock Knock (2015)

I have sometimes wondered if Keanu Reeves's acting has, at some point, become Keanu Reeves acting like Keanu Reeves trying to act.  I am sure he is aware at this point how his line delivery comes across and how difficult it is to take him seriously in any setting.

Not to mention I saw someone mention that it is possible that this entire movie was made by Eli Roth and Reeves just communicating by the words "bro," "dude" and "whoa."  What came out of this remake of 1977's Death Game makes me believe there may be more than a little truth in that.

Evan (Reeves) is a devoted father of two (Dan Bailey, Megan Bailey).  A former DJ turned architect, he lives in a fancy home in the Hollywood hills with his wife Karen (Ignacia Allamand).  Karen is an artist that has finally published her first catalog and is preparing for a gallery showing.  For a breather, however, she is taking the kids to the beach.  Unfortunately, Evan has some work to do and has to st…

The Green Inferno (2013)

Cannibal Holocaustwas one of the most controversial movies of the early 1980s.  Ruggero Deodato pops up in Eli Roth's Hostel 2 as one of the rich guys who, surprise, is seen eating the victim that he has tortured.  Since Eli Roth is such a fan of Deodato, Cannibal Holocaust and Umberto Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox, it's no surprise that he finally got around to doing his own version.

Other than the fake trailer for Thanksgiving from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's 2007 Grindhouse, not much had been seen or heard from Roth since Hostel 2 - at least not from behind the camera.  Being friends with Tarantino paid off, as he got a substantial role in Inglourious Basterds, and spent some more time acting in a number of low-budget films.  It was a surprise in 2015 when we suddenly got two new films from him, The Green Inferno and Knock Knock.

The Green Inferno had actually been finished in 2013, but financial problems with its distributor kept it from a major release until …

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

Many ideas sound much better than they turn out to be.  This universal truth, as well as terrible advertising in the U.S., conspired to kill Pride and Prejudice and Zombies before it even got released.  That, and the title is way too close to one of the worst big-budget disasters of all time, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Both movies come from books, and both books got good reviews despite the outrageousness of the plots (basically, the titles say it all).  Only the Abraham Lincoln one took itself, and its subject matter, absolutely serious.  The original Pride and Prejudice, a classic novel by Jane Austen that deals with upper class trials and tribulations and a young woman's reluctance to marry, was not that serious at all, so adding zombies is questionable at best.

Well, lo and behold, the film adaptation is no cinematic masterpiece - I don't even expect it to become a cult film - but it is much better than can be expected.

England, for a number of years, has been exper…

Don't Breathe (2016)

Many times the question comes up about what exactly a horror movie is.  It's easy to categorize something with ghosts, demons, other supernatural beings or supernaturally charged killers.  It's another thing when faced with fire-breathing monsters or realistic psychopaths.  Personally, if you are going to scare me even a little bit, you need to go with the latter.

Let's face it.  I'm never going to have to worry about fighting a werewolf or a vampire.  Demonic possession is not on my list of greatest fears either, nor am I expecting Godzilla to come stomping through the neighborhood any time soon.  But, while I also never plan to try to steal a bunch of cash from the home of a blind veteran, what does lie deep within someone's house is a bit frightening.  It becomes even more so when you're looking at an isolated area where someone can do about whatever they want.

Alex (Dylan Minnette) is the son of a man who owns a security company in Detroit, and he uses tha…