Archive for the ‘Movie Review’ Category

Childs Play

Directed By: Tom Holland

Starring: Brad Dourif, Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Dinah Manoff, Tommy Swerdlow, Raymond Oliver

Synopsis: A doll possessed by a serial killer makes his way into the home of Karen Barclay and her son, Andy.

Thoughts: Everyone knows Chucky as the foul-mouthed, wise cracking killer doll, but in the first movie, he was a pretty dark character. Sure, he swore like a sailor, but he was actually pretty frightening. The original Child’s Play was steeped in Voodoo and possession, making it much darker than the rest of the series.

Chucky was one of the later slasher icons to join the party in the 80’s, following in the familiar path that Michael, Jason and Freddy all started in years prior. Chucky’s look, along with the eerie voice of Brad Dourif, all but guaranteed that we would see much more of Chucky after the first movie. On top of an iconic killer, the cast was great as well. Cathering Hicks, who played Karen Barclay, the mother, played the downtrodden mother who would do anything for her son very well. Her character reminded me of someone you would see in something more dramatic. Andy was played by Alex Vincent, who convincing, if not a little annoying at times, although most kids that age can be pretty annoying. I suppose he gets a pass for being stalked by a voodoo created killer doll stalking him. Last, but not least, Chris Sarandon plays the Detective that not only killed Charles Lee Ray prior to him possessing Chucky, but also is the one to investigate the first murder at the Barclay home. Sarandon is no stranger to the genre, having played the antagonist in Fright Night, as well as a handful of other roles through the years.

Tom Holland is a man that loves the horror genre. He is active in social media and helps promote the movies we all love. In addition to Child’s Play, he’s directed the first two Fright Night movies and Stephen King’s Thinner. He wrote and directed in the Tales from the Crypt series over the years, as well as helmed a Masters of Horror episode. He’s also comfortable in front of the camera, appearing in The Stand and The Langoliers, as well as a couple of Adam Green features (Hatchet II and Digging up the Marrow). It’s people like Tom Holland that keep this genre alive.

It had been a while since I sat down to watch Child’s Play and actually pay attention to it. It’s been on in the background over the years, but it’s not a movie that I watch often. I forgot that the first movie does have some pretty scary parts. I can’t say the same for the rest of the franchise, but this movie is a classic and must see and own for horror fans.

Scouts Guide

Directed By: Christopher Landon

Starring: Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, Sarah Dumont, David Koechner, Halston Sage, Patrick Shwarzenegger

Synopsis: A zombie outbreak can only be stopped by a group of Boy Scouts and a cocktail waitress from a strip club. Yes, hilarity ensues.

Thoughts:
Zombies are everywhere. They have been for a few years now. I blame The Walking Dead, but that really is irrelevant. The truth is that they have infiltrated the mainstream and are everywhere. This has led to a lot of really bad and mediocre zombie flicks. It’s also made it tougher to find the few good zombie movies that have come out. For some reason, Scouts Guide caught my eye when I saw the trailer.

Scouts Guide takes a recently popular approach to the genre by playing up the laughs and the gross out factor instead of social commentary and scares. It’s been a popular approach, with some of the more successful entries including Shaun of the Dead, Zombie Land and Dead Snow. Scouts Guide succeeds in its approach, although not quite well enough to be included in the aforementioned list.

The cast is adequate, but probably one of the weaker points of the film for me. Most of the actors are ultimately forgettable. When you look at the most successful horror-comedy hybrids, the characters make the difference. I could easily see most of the actors in a horror movie without the comedy, as they fall into stereotypical roles and don’t bring the needed charisma to make an impression. I felt Logan Miller (Carter) overplayed his role quote a bit and some of his scenes felt fake as a result.

Christopher Landon isn’t a household name, even in the horror genre, but he has been the screenwriter of several well-known horror movies, including Disturbia and Paranormal Activity 2, 3 and 4. His directorial debut was Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and this was his follow-up. I can see him becoming a pretty popular director in the genre. He also happens to be the son of Michael Landon (Little House on the Prairie, Highway to Heaven).

The FX are pretty solid as well. The zombies are reminiscent of the infected from The Crazies remake from a few years ago, mixed with some more classic zombie looks (such as the zombie missing his bottom jaw). Where Scouts Guide differentiates itself are with some of the gross out gags. You see gratuitous zombie tits, more than once even, you see an extended scene with an “old guy” zombie’s dick and you also see a zombie go down on a girl (ode to Re-Animator maybe). The jokes are pretty run of the mill, but there are a few laughs.

Overall, I had a pretty good time watching this, but it isn’t likely to land a spot in my collection (although it is much better than a lot of movies I own). To me, this is an excellent movie to catch on Netflix or Redbox, and maybe a good movie to buy if you are a big zombie (or comedy) fan. I recommend checking it out, but keep your expectations tempered. That way, you should enjoy it.

Crimson PeakDirected By: Guillermo del Toro

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver, Burn Gorman, Doug Jones

Synopsis: Edith falls in love with Sir Thomas Sharpe, returning to his estate after marriage, but everything is not what it seems.

Thoughts: Leave it to Hollywood executives to second guess a director like Guillermo del Toro. He has said many time that this is not a horror movie, but a romance that just happens to have a supernatural element to it. The studio tried to market it as one of the scariest movies of the year, likely driving off potential viewers that wanted to see a gothic romance and enticing some viewers that wanted to see a gory scarefest. In my opinion, this is what led to a very weak box office for Crimson Peak (27.7 million in North America and 61.9 million worldwide as of November 1st).

What you think of Crimson Peak largely depends on what you were looking for in the movie. It is, without a doubt, a beautiful film. The costumes, settings and SFX are amazing to behold. As he’s done before, del Toro has a penchant for showing gratuitous violence on the screen in a beautiful way. It’s amazing that the bathroom scene can make its way into a mainstream film!

While the movie is beautiful, it can be slow at times. The story is cliché and the plot is predictable. Some of the plot points take too long to play out, likely because there isn’t a lot of suspense for most viewers. Perhaps if the movie was a little shorter, that would’ve helped.

As far as the acting, there are some amazing performances here, but there are also a few I found to be a bit lacking. Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain were phenomenal as the Sharpe siblings. Hiddleston has become a force and chews scenery like no other, no matter the role he is in. Mia Wasikowska was alright as the lead, but her character always came across as a little flat to me. I was a huge fan of Charlie Hunnam in Sons of Anarchy, but it seems he brings that same character to all of his roles now. He seemed woefully out of place in this period piece.

There’s not a lot to say about del Toro. It seems you either love him, or hate him. I happen to love his work, but this movie is probably towards the bottom of the list of his movies for me. His eye and imagination are intoxicating for me to experience.

Crimson Peak is a beautiful, yet tragic gothic romance. It just happens to have a few scary moments with some ghosts as well as an overly violent scene or two to link it to the horror genre. It can be a tad slow at times, but del Toro throws enough eye candy out there to keep viewers engaged. This is a film I recommend checking out, but don’t fall for the Hollywood marketing machine and expect a scary movie, but be ready for a romantic drama that just happens to have a ghost or two in it.

Only Sin Deep is a classic tale, as Leah Thompson chooses beauty over longevity, but this time there is a twist, applying pawn shop guidelines.  This may be the least original episode in Season 1, but don’t let that detract from its quality.  It’s very good, mixing vanity and greed with murderous intent.

Director Howard Deutch may be the most displaced in Season 1, as his specialty was comedy’s, including Pretty in Pink and The Great Outdoors.  Still, he weaves this tale masterfully, moving the episode along at a quick enough pace that you don’t get bored.  As an added plus, the episode was written by none other than Fred Dekker, director of Monster Squad and Night of the Creeps.

Overall, this is my least favorite episode from Season 1, but it still isn’t a bad episode.  The horror elements are dialed way back, and this plays more like a Twilight Zone episode.  Other than a couple of gunshot wounds, this episode is devoid of the grue and guts you expect to see.  It’s a pretty tame episode all around, but still very worth watching.

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Santa Clause as a killer. You have to admit, it’s an effective visual, although it’s been done before to varying degrees of effectiveness.  Larry Drake delivers one of the scariest looking of the bunch, making this entry another winner.  Mary Ellen Trainor does the majority of the heavy lifting when it comes to acting, and does it well.  A large portion of the success of Tales from the Crypt was due to the amazing talent that worked on each episode.

Speaking of talent, it blew my mind to see Robert Zemeckis directed this, until I took a closer look at his work.  Sure, he’s directed movies like Back to the Future, Forrest Gump and Cast Away, but he’s also directed What Lies Beneath and produced several horror movies from the Dark Castle production company.  He’s masterful here, which shouldn’t be a surprise.

This episode is a classic, and often one of the first recalled when the series is a topic of discussion.  Part of that is due to the iconic imagery of Santa as a killer, but the strength of the episode is also a major reason.  I often wonder what a similar approach would look like today, with our generation’s Masters of Horror working with A-list talent to produce an anthology.   The closest I’ve seen is the recent series American Horror Story, which has attracted some great talent, but I’d love to see something similar to Tales make a return.  Hell, bring back the Cryptkeeper!

Island of Death

Directed By: Nico Mastorakis

Starring: Robert Behling, Jane Lyle, Jessica Dublin, Gerard Gonalons, Jannice McConnell, Nikos Tsachiridis

Synopsis: A British couple terrorize a small Greek island, killing anyone they deem as sinful.

Thoughts: Yet another Video Nasty to mark off my list! This time around it is the Greek exploitation flick Island of Death, also titled A Craving for Lust or Devils in Mykonos. I’d heard quite a bit about this movie prior to seeing it, so I thought I knew what I was settling in for. I was wrong.

Island of Death isn’t afraid to go the extra mile to shock you. I don’t mean excessive gore. I mean it has your standard genre fare of violence and mayhem, but it also goes the extra mile with bestiality, incest and golden showers. There is also a rather bizarre scene where the couple is having sex in a phone booth and the guy decides to call his Mom and tell her what he is doing. It’s all to show just how insane the couple is, but Mastorakis really pushes the envelope. It’s not hard to see why this landed on the Video nasty list.

As you would expect, the acting is quite bad, but I can’t imagine that is why you would watch this movie. There aren’t really any redeeming characters, or actors to be found here. Mastorakis attempts to cover just how awful the acting is with the beauty of lead actress Jane Lyle, and finding every excuse to have her naked on the screen.

As awful as the acting is, this was a fairly enjoyable experience. I found myself laughing more than anything, which I don’t think was the initial intention, but it works. The Director admitted in an interview that his sole reason for making the movie was to make money. He was inspired by the financial success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Although this isn’t a movie I will be watching on a regular basis, it is something that I think fans of exploitation need to see. It is so over the top that you won’t believe what you’re seeing on screen. It’s also worth noting that the scenery is great. The island that this takes place on is really a place of beauty. It serves as a great contrast for the carnage happening around it.

Night Train Murders (1975)

Posted: September 29, 2015 in Movie Review
Tags: , ,

Night Train Murders (1975)
{L’Ultimo treno della notte}

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Directed By: Aldo Lado

Starring: Flavio Bucci, Gianfranco De Grassi, Irene Miracle, Laura D’Angelo, Macha Meril, Enrico Maria Salerno, Marina Berti, Franco Fabrizi

Synopsis: Two thugs, influenced by a demented matriarch, torture and kill two teenage girls heading home for Christmas, only to encounter the parents of one of the girls at the train station.

Thoughts: Ah, the Video Nasties; a veritable checklist of carnage that horror fiends often reference. As time goes on, there are fewer and fewer titles that I have yet to see. My latest foray into the list is Night Train Murder, which among many other names, is known as The New House on the Left, mostly because it is the exact same story as Wes Craven’s 1972 shocker. Two young girls, out on their own, encounter trouble, ending up sexually assaulted and killed and then the killers end up running into the parents of one of the girls. The parents find out, and then exact revenge upon the killers. My guess is that the studios in the US either didn’t know, or didn’t care about the “similarities” between the two movies, otherwise you would think that they could have blocked the release.

I’m admittedly not a huge fan of the rape/revenge genre. Watching movies like this is an uncomfortable experience, so when I do watch them, I want there to be some substance behind them. Movie like Last House and I Spit on Your Grave are really well made movies with a lot of context and messages to them. I don’t get that from Night Train Murders. There is a minor, ham-handed attempt at making this a social comment on violence in society, primarily driven by the father’s comment early in the movie, but this just seems like a blatant cash in on Wes Craven’s movie. On top of being a rather shallow movie, the pacing is off, the script is mostly awful and the moments that should be tense, tend to cut away. For being considered a brutal movie, not a lot happens outside of the knife scene that will make you flinch.

Fans of Italian cinema will likely pick up the familiar presence of Ennio Morricone, who supplies the score. Morricone’s score is far from his best, but even that is better than most movies. It’s one of the lone highlights here for me.

I can’t really recommend Night Train Murders other to the most ardent of fans of Italian horror. I imagine a lot of people will check it out if they are interested in the Video Nasty list, but it is one of the least entertaining entries on that list in my opinion. If you are interested in picking it up, 88 Films did a nice job with their release of it. It is the first title in the Italian Collection.