Archive for June, 2012

Vampires (1998)

Vampires

Directed By: John Carpenter

Starring: James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith, Maximilian Schell, Tim Guinee, Mark Boone Junior

Subgenre: Vampires

Synopsis: Jack Crow, the leader of a recently decimated team of Vampire hunters, must stop a master Vampire from performing a ritual that will make him unstoppable.

Thoughts: You can’t argue the in the 70s and 80s that John Carpenter brought us some brilliant movies.  It’s also tough to argue that since then, he hasn’t come close to returning to that brilliance.  Even so, he has directed some pretty decent movies since then, including In the Mouth of Madness, The Ward, and this movie, Vampires.

John Carpenter takes a vampire story and puts it into a modern Western setting.  It takes place in the Southwest and there are multiple shots that look as if they came right out of a John Wayne movie.  I swear that after I watch it, I feel as dusty as the characters in the film.

The cast is pretty phenomenal as well.  James Woods nails his role as Jack Crow, the head vampire hunter and his foil, Valek the Vampire is played equally well by Thomas Ian Griffith.  Griffith’s screen presence is very imposing and I loved the gothic look of the vampires in the western setting.  Very cool imagery indeed.  Although the team’s screen presence is pretty limited, I liked them as well, especially Mark Boone Junior, but I am biased by his recent work on Sons of Anarchy (great show if you haven’t checked it out.)  Even Daniel Baldwin delivers a very solid performance as Jack Crow’s partner, Montoya.

This is one of my favorite vampire flicks of the last 20 years and something that I watch a couple of times a year.  I love Wood’s snarky one-liners I’ve read that Carpenter let him improvise quite a bit, as long as Woods did one good cut straight from the script.  While this isn’t in the same league as Halloween or The Thing, I still think it’s pretty damn great.  If you passed this one by, check it out.

Godsmack – Vampires

Posted: June 28, 2012 in Music Videos
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House II: The Second Story (1987)

House II

Directed By: Ethan Wiley

Starring: Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, Lar Park Lincoln, Amy Yasbeck, Royal Dano, Bill Maher, John Ratzenberger

Subgenre: Haunted House, Supernatural, Horror-Comedy

Synopsis: While searching for a magical crystal skull, Jesse unearths his Grandfather’s casket, only to be confronted by his reanimated corpse.

Thoughts: A sequel in name only, House II has nothing to do with the first movie, other than it takes place in a house.  While the first movie did have a fair bit of humor to it, House II went full out when it comes to comedy.  Had Gramps not been a reanimated corpse, I doubt this would have fallen under the horror genre at all.

Following along with the theme, the cast is reminiscent of a 80s comedy more so than a horror film.   It does feature Lar Park Lincoln, who would later go on to star as Tina Shepard in Friday the 13th, Part VII as well as a brief appearance by none other than Kane Hodder who would eventually battle Tina as Jason Voorhees. Royal Dano plays Gramps, the reanimated zombie cowboy, and delivers at least a few funny parts.  The closest connection that House II has to the original is the fact that both have supporting Actors that played on Cheers.  This time around, John Ratzenberger offers his services and drops some knowledge on extra-dimensional spaces, which is totally in-line with Cliff, his character on Cheers.

While Director Ethan Wiley isn’t a well-known name to the horror masses, he has been very involved in the genre for the last 25 years or so.  He has written, directed and produced a lot of movies, including Children of the Corn V, Blackwater Valley Exorcism, and Brutal.

House II isn’t that great, but it reminds me of a movie you find on cable in the middle of the night that you can’t help but watching.  I found myself sitting through the whole thing, but at the end wondering why I did.  It’s probably worth it if you want to see Kane Hodder take a dive off a balcony or if you can’t get enough of Lar Park Lincoln, but this movie is pretty passable unless you are really into b-grade 80s comedy.

Shark Night 3-D (2012)

Posted: June 26, 2012 in Movie Review
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Shark Night 3-D (2012)

Directed By: David R. Ellis

Starring: Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Chris Carmack, Katharine McPhee, Joel David Moore, Donal Logue, Joshua Leonard, Sinqua Walls

Subgenre: Creature Feature

Shark Night 3D

Synopsis: Seven college students head out for a weekend of relaxation on a lake in Louisiana, but the weekend takes a terrifying turn when a shark attacks.

Thoughts: When a movie gets panned by critics and fans alike, my expectations are usually so low that I find a way to enjoy it.  Shark Night is one of the most reviled movies of the year, so when I saw it available on Netflix Instant, I thought I would give it a shot.  There is no beating around the bush here; this movie is not very good at all.

The acting isn’t horrible and the cast is pretty standard for a horror movie.  It gets a big plus with the addition of Sara Paxton, who also starred in the great Ti West release, The Innkeepers.  I think she has a pretty bright future ahead of her, and it doesn’t hurt that she runs around in a bikini for most of the movie. The direction isn’t half bad either, with some pretty decent shots underwater.   Ellis keeps the story moving along, which leads to one of the bigger problems, the story.

As far as scripts go, this is right up there with the ScyFy releases.  I don’t generally spoil plot points, but when more than one shark was introduced, the story started a downward spiral that it never recovered from.  The other thing that I just can’t understand is the PG 13 rating.  This movie wanted to be rated R, and it would have helped greatly with a healthy dose of gratuitous nudity and gorier shark attacks.  Had Shark Night gone this route, it would have followed in the path of Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D; not nearly as good mind you, but it couldn’t have hurt.

In case you are still wondering, give this a wide pass.  There really isn’t a reason to check it out.  There are better animal attack movies out there, and Shark Night doesn’t make it as a “so bad, it’s good” movie either.  It’s just bad.

Beyond Re-Animator (2003)

Directed By: Brian Yuzna

Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Jason Barry, Simon Andreu, Elsa Pataky, Santiago Segura

Subgenre: Science Fiction, Zombies

Beyond Reanimator

Synopsis: Dr Herbert West is in prison for his role in the Miskatonic Massacre but manages to find time to continue his experiments.

Thoughts: The third installment of the Re-Animator series finds Herbert West locked in prison for the past 13 years for his role in the Miskatonic Massacre. During this time he has been conducting experiments on rats, perfecting the reanimation process and discovering a new component in bringing the dead back to life, Nano-Plasmic Energy. This allows the recently dead to recover their memories and act more like normal humans.

West is joined by a new prison doctor, who we quickly learn was a young boy when his sister was killed by one of West’s zombies. He made his way to the prison to work with West. There is the normal love interest (a reporter) and villains (the warden, a security guard, and a rat loving prisoner) and the story isn’t really anything special. The movie actually premiered on the Sci-Fi channel, although butchered to a PG rating. The DVD release is rated R, but there are some unrated cuts to be found as well.  

I actually enjoyed Beyond more so than I did Bride. I thought Combs played a better West here, a little more reserved and I didn’t miss Bruce Abbott (Dr. Cain) at all. Beyond gave Jeffrey Combs the chance to really let the warped Dr. West shine.  The rest of the cast acts as filler for West’s antics, but do their jobs.  I thought Andreu was particularly interesting as the sadistic warden, and he filled Dr. Hill’s shoes nicely.

Enjoy Beyond Re-Animator but watch out for a cringe worthy amputation (sort-of) towards the end of the movie and the hilarity that ensues.

As I was digging around for Re-Animator posters for the reviews, I stumbled on some very cool fan made posters on Deviant Art.  The artist, daveforyou, has a handful of movie posters, all in the same minimalistic style as these Re-Animator posters.  You can check them out here.

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Bride of Re-Animator (1990)

Directed By: Brian Yuzna

Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, David Gale, Claude Earl Jones, Fabiana Udenio, Kathleen Kinmont, Mel Stewart

Subgenre: Science Fiction, Zombies

Bride of Reanimator

Synopsis: The good doctors are back, continuing their research into bringing the recently dead back to life.

Thoughts: In this sequel to the cult classic Re-Animator, Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbott reprise their roles as Dr. Herbert West and Dr. Dan Cain.  The doctors find themselves in Central America in the middle of a civil war, a great place to continue their research on the reanimation reagent.  After things get a little too hot to handle, they return back to the scene of the first movie Miskatonic University.

In my opinion, one of the keys to making the first movie so great was the cast. Combs is great as always, but not having Barbara Crampton hurt the movie.  Fabiano Udenio is an amazing piece of eye candy, but lacked the same presence as Crampton in the first film.  I found Claude Earl Jones’ portrayal of the unhinged police detective to be too far over the top as well.

Much like his friend Stuart Gordon, Director Brian Yuzna is an admitted H.P. Lovecraft fan, and has also been involved in several Lovecraft adaptations.  He wrote From Beyond and produced the original Re-Animator, as well as directing its two sequels.  Yuzna has an obvious flare for the horror genre but has failed to give us a movie that grants him Master of Horror status.  Bride of Re-Animator may very well be his best movie, but that’s not saying much as it is competing with the likes of Silent Night, Deadly Night 4, Return of the Living Dead 3, and The Dentist.

I loved the premise of Bride, with West assembling body parts to build a bride for Cain.  The fact that it paid homage to one of my all-time favorite movies in Bride of Frankenstein also helped a ton.  Unfortunatly, Bride of Re-Animator took some of the gags too far.  The absurdity of some of the reanimations failed at being funny or frightening, and took away from the movie. 

That being said, I still had fun with Bride of Re-Animator.  If you liked the first one, chances are you’ll like this one.  It lacks some of the polish of the first movie and is more ham fisted in its approach, but Jeffrey Combs brings enough to the table to make this entertaining.

Re-Animator (1985)

Directed By: Stuart Gordon

Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, David Gale, Robert Sampson

Subgenre: Science Fiction, Zombies, Horror Comedy

Re-animator

Synopsis: Dr Herbert West had discovered the formula for reanimating the recently dead.

Thoughts: We’ve seen humor infused into the horror genre since its inception, but it seems to be a rarity for it to be done well.  In my eyes, Re-Animator is one of the best examples out there.  The 80s were a great time for really gory horror movies infused with dark humor.  Give me a night of Dead Alive, Evil Dead 2 and this, and I am happy.

The main reason that Re-Animator “works” is Jeffrey Combs portrayal of Dr Herbert West.  He is easily a top 5 horror character, second only to Ash in my book.  His deadpan lines are outstanding and he really makes the movie. The rest of the cast is great as well, and I would be a damn fool not to mention the beautiful Barbara Crampton, who plays an important part in one of the most memorable scenes ever.  If you’ve watched Re-Animator, you know what I am talking about, if not, what the hell are you waiting for?

Director Stuart Gordon is an obvious fan of H.P. Lovecraft as most of his movies are based on his works, although infused with quite a bit more sex.  His works include Dagon, From Beyond and Castle Freak, but Re-Animator remains my favorite.  Other than a couple of Masters of Horror episodes, Gordon hasn’t done a lot lately.  I’d love to see him revisit the Re-Animator universe.

Re-Animator is an absolute 80s classic and a must see for horror fans. If this has somehow avoided your radar, do yourself a favor and seek it out.

The Devil Inside (2012)

Directed By: William Brent Bell

Starring: Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmuth, Ioonut Grama, Suzan Crowley

Subgenre: Demons & Possession

The Devil Inside

Synopsis: Isabella is filming a documentary on exorcisms, a topic that is very close to her, as her mother murdered three clergy members during an exorcism when Isabella was a child.

Thoughts: I had high hopes for The Devil Inside from the moment I heard the radio advertisement with the 911 call. Sadly, that commercial turned out to be the best part of the entire movie.  It is becoming increasingly difficult for a filmmaker to be successful at using the “found footage” technique, and The Devil Inside is a perfect example of that.  The reason that movies like Blair Witch and REC work is that the camera work helps to build tension.  Here the camera work is just annoying.

I didn’t have a problem with the cast, and actually thought they did a decent job with what they were given, but I have to admit, I was never invested in any of them.  I blame the script for that more so than the actors.  There was little, if any, character building.  An extra ten minutes or so in the first act would have gone a long ways to improving the characters.

I don’t generally talk about the climax of a movie, but it is next to impossible not to at least mention the ending of The Devil Inside.  Quite frankly, it was one of the most disappointing endings in quite some time.  Much like the lack of character building, I think a little more thought should have gone into the ending of the movie.

There were a few moments in the movie that worked, most of them centered on the mother in the hospital.  That scream made the hair on my arms stand up.  There were also a couple of good jump scares, but the movie failed to deliver over all.  Good exorcism flicks usually leave me feeling uneasy, but that just never happened here, especially after the ending. 

In case you couldn’t tell, I suggest passing on this, there are a lot better movies out there.