Archive for December, 2011

Night of the Werewolf (1981)
{El Retorno del Hombre-Lobo}

Directed By: Paul Naschy

Starring: Paul Naschy, Julia Saly, Silvia Aguilar, Azucena Hernandez, Beatriz Elorrieta

Subgenre: Gothic, Werewolves, Vampires

night-of-the-werewolf

Synopsis: Two college girls find the tomb of the in famous Countess Bathory, one with intentions to bring her back to life.

Thoughts: For the uninitiated, Paul Naschy brought gothic style horror to Spain and the World, much like Hammer Films did.  His movies deal with many of the classic monsters and gothic atmospheres that Hammer did, including vampires, witches, zombies and werewolves.  His most famous character was Waldemar Daninsky, a man cursed with Lycanthropy.  Night of the Werewolf is one of the twelve movies featuring Daninsky, but it is also packed with witches, vampires and an undead gladiator.  Another important note as that most of Naschy’s films are meant to stand alone, so feel free to jump in anywhere.

Naschy is a jack of all trades, as he often wrote, directed and starred in his own movies.  He does the same here and has quite a demanding screen presence.  Personally, I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves for being a pioneer of the genre.  It is also very typical for a Naschy film to star very beautiful women who tend to shed their clothes with ease.  In Naschy’s heyday, Spain was experiencing many new found freedoms, as their government was in transition, and Naschy used this freedom in his films.

The story, at its core, is good.  It does get a little convoluted, so pay attention.  Naschy wasn’t always concerned with an airtight plot, but rather on giving viewers atmosphere you can cute with a knife and plenty of practical FX.  You get both here.  Many of the scenes take place in castles or in catacombs, with fog and auxiliary lighting to ramp up the atmosphere.  Personally, I would have cut out the disfigured girl and patched up the story a little bit, but I was still very entertained.

If you are a fan of 70s Hammer, you will probably dig Naschy’s stuff.  This is one of my favorites and really gives you a feel for his work.  I consider it a great place to start exploring the world of Paul Naschy.

Zombie 5: The Killing Birds (1988)

Posted: December 23, 2011 in Movie Review
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Zombie 5: The Killing Birds (1988)
{Uccelli assassini}

Directed By: Claudio LAttanzi

Starring: Robert Vaughn, Lara Wendel, Tim Watts, Leslie Cummins, James Villemaire

Subgenre: Zombies

Synopsis:  A group of college students who stumble upon an old farmstead where the living dead reside. The dead are there because a soldier returning from Vietnam decided to kill his family because his wife was cheating on him. Oh, and there are birds, lots of them. Not zombie birds, which may or may not have been cool, just angry birds that tend to rip people’s eyes out.

Thoughts:  This may very well be one of the worst horror movies I have watched, and that is saying a lot.

Like I said, there is a lot wrong with this movie. The zombies looked like ass. The makeup took away from the death scenes, as it was sophomoric at best. I have seen better makeup jobs at the bar on Halloween. Especially dreadful were the knife wounds at the beginning of the movie. Just bad.

I did learn that this was actually released a year before Zombie 4, and was not initially a Zombie film, being simply known as The Killing Birds. It’s really too bad that it picked up the Zombie moniker, as I highly doubt I would have watched it otherwise.

In case you haven’t noticed, I can’t recommend this movie to anyone but the hardcore zombie fans out there and that would be just for the sake of watching it. Cool cover though.

Zombi 4: After Death (1989)

Posted: December 23, 2011 in Movie Review
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Zombi 4: After Death (1989)

Directed By: Claudio Fragasso

Starring: Jeff Stryker, Candice Daly, Massimo Vanni, Jim Gaines, Don Wilson, Adrianne Joseph, Jim Moss, Nick Nicholson

Subgenre: Zombies

 

Zombie 4

The best part of this movie is the poster, and it isn't even close.

 

Synopsis: On a remote tropical island, a secret team of doctors anger a local voodoo priest who opens the gates of hell, releasing zombie like creatures.

Thoughts: If Zombi 3 was a huge step back from Dawn of the Dead and Zombi 2, Zombi 4 drove the franchise right off a cliff. There really isn’t much to say about this in-name only sequel that is positive.

It’s a bit of a stretch to even call this a zombie movie, as the zombies appear to be dudes in burial shrouds with a little bit of latex thrown on them. The make-up is not so good. These “zombies” are also capable of running, talking, and using firearms. Take that George Romero!  The Voodoo Priestess in the beginning looks more like a poor impersonation from Lamberto Bava’s Demons than a zombie.

The acting is atrocious as is the script. The lead is played by a gay porn star making his lone attempt at acting in a real movie. This is one of those rare gems that truly earned its IMDb rating (currently 3.4).

Anyways, skip this pile unless you are a huge zombie fan or a glutton for punishment.

Zombi 3 (1988)

Posted: December 22, 2011 in Movie Review
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Zombi 3 (1988)

Directed By: Lucio Fulci, Bruno Mattei

Starring: Deran Sarafian, Beatrice Ring, Ottaviano Dell’Acqua, Mike Monty, Uli Reinthaler, Deborah Bergamini

Subgenre: Zombies

Zombi 3

Synopsis: When a biological weapon is stolen from a tropical military base, it’s unintentional release causes people to turn into flesh eating zombies.

Thoughts: When Dario Argento re-edited Dawn of the Dead as Zombi to be released in Italy, the producers of Lucio Fulci’s film (Zombie, Zombi 2, Zombie Flesh Eaters) wanted him to make a few script changes to connect it to Romero’s film. Zombi 3 or Zombie Flesh Eaters 2 as it is also known is the sequel to that film.  Fulci was brought on to direct it, but served to film only parts of the movie. It is believed that an illness was the reason that Fulci pulled out. Bruno Mattei was brought in to finish the film. Mattei made some changes that resulted in a zombie film that really did not resemble Fulci’s work. In an interview on the Shriek Show DVD, Mattei said that Fulci’s work comprised about 50 minutes of screen time.

Like Fulci’s Zombi 2, Zombi 3 takes place on a tropical island, which is a fantastic place for a zombie movie, but this time, the chaos involves the military, both as the protagonists and the antagonists.  The Military scientists are desperately trying to contain the outbreak while a group of soldiers on leave are trying to escape the island.

Zombi 3 was not nearly as bad as I was expecting. The zombie makeup was very well done, which is to be expected when Fulci is involved.  The plot and acting were beyond bad, but we are talking about an Italian B Zombie movie here.  Not all of them can be as good as City of the Living Dead or The Beyond. It is a worthy addition to the zombie genre, but probably best to be viewed by zombie fanatics.

Fright Night (2011)

Directed By: Craig Gillespie

Starring: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Toni Collette

Subgenre: Vampires

Fright Night 2011

Synopsis: Charlie Brewster is your average teenager living in suburban Las Vegas, dealing with the pressures of growing up; school, girls, and the vampire next door.

Thoughts: Not that it ever stops Hollywood, but it is always difficult to successfully remake a horror classic.  It’s been done a few times (see Dawn of the Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes) and Fright Night comes close.

I think that the remakes that do the best are the ones that take the general idea and storyline and develop their own ideas.  Fright Night does just that.  It is updated and changed, for the better, in many places.   

I also thought the cast was great.  Two of my bigger worries with the cast prior to seeing this in the theatre were with Farrell and Mintz-Plasse.  Colin Farrell put my fears to rest in short order and gives one hell of a show as Jerry.  He’s not suave and smooth like Chris Sarandon in the original, but plays more of a predator, both in the human sense and the vampire sense. Evil Ed is toned down a bit in the remake as well, something that I appreciated.  One of the biggest surprises was David Tennant.  Now, I’m not a Dr Who fan, so I had no idea who Tennant was, so when he stole every scene he was in, I was pleasantly surprised.  Overall, the casting was a homerun for Fright Night.

I thought Craig Gillespie was a bit of an odd choice to direct a horror movie, with his previous effort Lars and the Real Girl, but he did a really good job.  There were some pretty tense chase scenes that were shot with great effect, especially the one at the beginning of the movie.  I look forward to seeing what else Gillespie can do.

Fright Night was shown in 3D in theatres, so a lot of the FX were done in CGI.  When watched at home, the CGI blood looks pretty awful, but such are the times with CGI.  There were also a few other dodgy spots, mostly around some of the transformations, but that’s about the only downside to Fright Night, at least in my eyes.

Thirteen Ghosts (2001)
Thir13een Ghosts

Directed By: Steve Beck

Starring: Tony Shalhoub, Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, Embeth Davidtz, F. Murray Abraham

Subgenre: Ghosts, Supernatural

Synopsis: Down on his luck and recently widowed Arthur finds that he has just inherited a mansion from his uncle Cyrus.  Little does he know that Cyrus was a Ghost Hunter and had stored his trophies in the house.

Thoughts: This one is another remake of a William Castle film brought to us by Dark Castle.  Their first remake, House on Haunted Hill was at least somewhat successful, so they went ahead with Thirteen Ghosts, and eventually House of Wax. 

I don’t think that this remake is quite as good as the first, but it still has a few things going for it.  The absolute best thing about this movie is the design of the ghosts.  There is a rich backstory for each ghost, even though they are barely explained in the movie.  It was a great touch and made the Ghosts the most interesting aspect of the movie.  The house was also very well designed with glass walls and floors covered in Latin etchings, constantly moving and changing like an insane labyrinth.

In theory, the cast should have been great, but I didn’t find them to be that great.  F. Murray was ok as the villain, but he has the chops to be one of the best villains ever.  It’s too bad he missed the opportunity.  As for the rest of the cast, I have never been a huge fan of Shalhoub or Lillard.  Shalhoub always seems to be channeling his character from Monk, perhaps because that matches his persona so well.  Lillard does a decent job in his role, but much like Shalhoub, he always seems to be playing the same sort of character.  There are quite a few “names” in the cast, which is an oddity in this era, but they didn’t really impress all that much. 

The producers did give a great nod to William Castle with the special glasses to see the Ghosts.  When Castle released the original 13 Ghosts, 3D glasses were distributed and you had to wear them in the theatre to see the ghosts on the screen.  The producers missed the 3D craze by about a decade, otherwise you can be sure this would have been in 3D, and who knows, maybe it will get remade again.  I wouldn’t put anything past Hollywood anymore.

The story, at its base should have been good, but it got a little disjointed in the end.  The best part of the movie is when the ghosts were involved, making Thirteen Ghosts the equivalent of a summer popcorn movie, good visuals, light on everything else.  I think it is worth checking out just for the ghosts and one particular death scene that is very cool.

House on Haunted Hill (1999)

Directed By: William Malone

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs, Ali Larter, Bridgette Wilson, Peter Gallagher, Chris Kattan, Jeffrey Combs

Subgenre: Ghosts and Supernatural

House on Haunted Hill

Synopsis: A group of strangers attempts to spend the night in a haunted asylum for a million dollars.

Thoughts: Early on in the current deluge of horror remakes, Dark Castle Entertainment would produce three remakes of classic horror movies.  House on Haunted Hill would be the first, with Thirteen Ghosts and House of Wax to follow.

While not a great movie, I thought that House on Haunted Hill was a pretty fun movie.  I thought that the cast was strong, especially Geoffrey Rush stepping into Vincent Price’s role from the original.  I have a lot of respect for Rush as an actor and thought his role was great.  Famke Jannsen played the perfect trophy wife to Rush’s character as well.  I have to admit I have always had a thing for Jannsen.  I think she is gorgeous and usually love her in movies.  Chris Kattan does what he does best and gives comedic relief when needed.  Throw in Jeffrey Combs as the murderous spirit Dr. Vannacutt and you have an all-around solid cast.  About the only role I had a problem with was Taye Diggs.  For someone with so much screen time, I just didn’t care for him.

The atmosphere of the House was also really well done.  The asylum was just plain spooky and the shots of Vannacut shuffling around were creepy as hell.  The script is muddled as Malone peppered the haunted house with a twist amongst the guests all while trying to figure out why they were all invited.  It led to just too much going on with not enough time for scares.  Malone went for tension here, whereas I think that a few jump scares and a simpler story would have made this a blast.

There are some pretty gory scenes and the FX are more than solid up until the end when The Darkness manifests itself as a black cloud filled with souls.  The ending really soured the movie for me.  Had the ending been better, I think this would have been a successful movie, but even so, I thought it was a fun movie.