I’ve run out of title ideas. That or I’m just tired these days. Yet I press on to another Horrorfest even though at some point I’ve got to be getting too old for this sort of thing. Anyways on with the show!
July (Monsters Oh My!):
Creature with the Atom Brain (1955, Edward L. Cahn)-Arrow Films Video Blu-ray Creature Feature
Mostly this is just a rant about RedBox, which I still use anyways and their streaming app has free stuff to view with adds. However the actual kiosk for the service is just the old video store without the charm or people and with fewer steps. You still have to return the movie in time or you keep being charged, if you want to buy the movie it’s usually more expensive to do so, and the selection is actually worse on the kiosk. I think RedBox does it on purpose so people use the streaming service and have to spend more money.
Video on demand isn’t much better than having to pay for numerous streaming services anyways. Even worse kiosk capitalism, (which after a quick Google search tells me the Washington Post wrote about in 1993!) is literally everywhere. On my recent trip I wandered into a McDonald’s without realizing that they had the ordering machines ready, which is probably why the people at the counter gave me a weird look when I went there first. I was expected to use the kiosk instead.
I’m pretty sure none of this is good, especially since it will cause people to lose their jobs and those machines usually break really easily. I would know since I deal with self check out machines at work and they cause me a great deal of annoyance and they well, break! Also something like the RedBox kiosks is really way too based on people not having Internet and also being willing to still use physical media in a world of online viewing. There’s a reason video rental stores went under in the first place.
Jennifer’s Body was another horror movie I viewed on Halloween night in 2017, and was also obtained at Best Buy. The Blu-ray copy I got is still in my possession and it had one of those specialty covers they threw on top to get someone like me to buy it. I’m a sucker for blind buys even if they end up disappointing me, and Karyn Kusama’s film is notably polarizing so of course I had to watch it and see for myself what the buzz was all about. I’m not sure it’s the masterpiece some proclaim it and I don’t think it sucks like many do. In fact I just really liked the movie, and I will probably revisit my copy at some point down the road just to refresh my memory about certain aspects. I’ve softened my stance on second viewings over the years and I find a lot of times they give me another perspective and let me know what I missed the first time. Oh and this movie’s script is both a blessing and a curse, with dialogue that made me laugh, cringe, and shake my head at times.
Say what you will about Megan Fox back then or now, she completely owns this movie. Amanda Seyfried is fantastic too and the pair of them have what could be described as a friendship that turns into bleak obsession and insanity later on. Funny enough Johnny Simmons has the normally written for a woman thankless role as the boyfriend, which is one of this movie’s strengths: it likes to turn some horror and dramatic clichés and flip them around. Despite some dodgy 2000s CGI the kill scenes are pretty freaky and the finale is pretty intense. I’m not a big fan of the movie’s opening narrative bit though just because it seems a little too banal and expected, things that a lot of the movie are not.
If you want to view Adam Brody and a bunch of rockers singing 867-5309 / Jenny before they mercilessly slaughter someone, this is your movie (and that scene is bleakly comedic in all the right and wrong ways). Kusama could have probably gone even farther in tackling the sexes, classism and a number of other issues that were perhaps a bit too much for a largely surface movie such as this one. Yet I really enjoyed Jennifer’s Body, and most of the movie will stick with me for a while. I’m actually glad this never got a sequel even though the end credits eagerly pushed for one.
In 2017 Best Buy still had a decently sized movie section that has since been gutted since everyone streams movies and physical media has taken considerable hits. I went there to find something for Halloween since I knew I didn’t have to work the day after and I would be able to stay up late viewing horror movies after work. They had a cool looking copy of Return of the Living Dead, which I hadn’t seen in years at the time and was due for a rewatch. I still own my copy and I love that movie because it is a punk zombie horror comedy that has plenty of bite and even some scary moments. I’m not sure if it is a great movie, however I’ve known plenty who could argue that it is and even convince myself. Return of the Living Dead is one of those films that could only have been conceived of and made in the 1980s-yes I’m going to be that guy-primarily since a lot of the styles and trends the movie features are very much out of date and now laughably retro. Also punk has been co-opted by Hot Topic and has unfortunately gone mainstream. Too bad.
One thing I enjoy about Dan O’Bannon’s cult classic is that the movie has some great comedy moments and also some really surprisingly creepy moments as well. Plus the flick works as an agreed to by O’Bannon and George A. Romero unofficial sequel to Night of the Living Dead (1968) where in this universe that movie actually really happened and the government covered it up. I also dig how the movie shows actual dates onscreen, acting as an unofficial covering of what happens one July 4th (yey holiday movie horror!) weekend. Freddy and Frank are two bumbling medical supply warehouse employees who accidentally unleash a zombie plague upon their home city of Louisville, making their city famous for more than just basketball. A group of young punks, friends of Freddy, end up breaking into a cemetery in what turns out to be the worst mistake of their young lives.
The cast for this film is excellent: I mean you have James Karen and Clu Gulager as the major heavyweight veterans, with Thom Mathews and Linnea Quigley headlining the younger cast. Quigley ends up stealing the movie with a freaky performance both as a living person and as the undead! I still chuckle at the “Send more cops” line, and admire this movie for having brain eating zombies, fast moving zombies, and trap setting zombies. Although technically the cult flick Nightmare City had zombies that moved quickly and were capable of using objects as weapons before Return of the Living Dead, and I’m sure it helped inspire O’Bannon’s film as well.
Despite not finding this movie very scary I still love it anyways, and I’m holding on to my Blu-ray copy as long as it still works. Return of the Living Dead is one of those movies that every horror fan should see, and despite being dated 1980s wise a lot of the material holds up incredibly well. Besides who doesn’t wanna party? IT’S PARTY TIME!
Despite the obvious limitations of it being a TV mini-series in the early 1990s, I rather enjoyed the 1990 IT adaptation. The young cast and Tim Curry were the best aspects of the whole project, and the original mini-series was not afraid to show plenty of violence for being on network television at the time. The newer version that I saw in theaters back in 2017 improves upon the material, although granted this new version of IT has a bigger budget and they wisely split the movie into two parts. Andy Muschietti also put together a talented young cast as well, and his Pennywise is in some ways different from Curry’s take on the character while also being just as scary in his own way. I feel that Curry’s was more sinister, however both versions of Pennywise made you believe that they would destroy you in a heartbeat and also devour anyone and everyone you ever loved or cared about. That is one important underlying thing about the movie and the book’s monster, how if you were not careful whatever mistakes you committed would be your last. Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise embodies that aspect very well.
Plus the newer version is unlimited by how much gore and violence can be unleashed upon the viewer. The infamous sewer scene is expanded upon and is far more terrifying, especially since Muschietti wisely slowly unfurls what is happening. Poor Bill (Jaeden Martell) is left haunted forever by that experience, and I really dug the young cast assembled here: Jeremy Ray Taylor and Sophia Lillis are the standouts, although Finn Wolfhard almost steals the movie as as young Richie. Chosen Jacobs, Wyatt Oleff and Jack Dylan Grazer also round out the pretty talented main cast, and as I’ve noted before child actors are no longer a hinderance to most cinema: they’re expected to be able to act as well as their adult co-actors. Getting the young cast right was important, as this film and the mini-series both reflected the book in that the flashbacks to the younger days are the best things about all of them.
Although some parts failed to scare me, the projector scene in the garage was pretty terrifying to me and some parts worked incredibly well. Unfortunately even this movie gives into the modern reliance on jump scares too much, so there was some parts that didn’t work at all for me. The lady in the painting was at least really creepy, and there is one scene that is probably one of the bloodiest moments in all of cinema that doesn’t feature anyone being murdered. I am disappointed that the turtle elements were mostly dropped from the movie, although perhaps that stuff was just too weird and not really necessary to advance the movie’s plot. I suppose you either prefer the original 1990 version or this one (I happen to really like both) yet in the end I prefer this take on the material. Besides the original didn’t have Ben professing his love for New Kids On The Block, and that is one moment I wouldn’t have missed for the world ha ha. As for the second part, that’s for a later review…all hail the Losers Club!
The late Alfred Sole gave us one of the more underrated and chilling 1970s slasher cult classics in Alice, Sweet Alice, which has a memorable killer outfit, gruesome murders and a pretty surprising finale even by 1970s standards. The movie is very grounded in the Catholic religion, and thus religious themes of guilt, murder, sex and punishment are all depicted in very strong fashion. I’ll never forget the eerie mask that the killer wears the entire movie, or how many of the film’s victims meet their own ends. If there was ever a movie to cause the viewer to fear or distrust anyone donning a yellow raincoat, it would be this movie.
Young Alice (Paula E. Sheppard) is part of a family where the mother is divorced; she is jealous of her sister (Brooke Shields in an early role) and loathes some of the tenants of the building she lives in, although one who attempts to molest her definitely warrants such hate. Whether or not she is guilty of the murders that start to occur from the earliest scene onward remains to be seen, and the movie operates as an American style giallo and a slasher movie. The ending is quite chilling and very shocking, and there is one death by falling that forever sticks out in my mind as well for being rather unexpected.
One thing I really love about this movie is how even though it is low budget the cinematography is still quite good, and the direction and pacing work very well. Never once was I bored, and Sole gives you reason to notice and care about the characters, even the more nasty ones. The film has an appropriate body count for maximum effect, and I really wish I had seen a better print of this movie than the one Tubi possessed at the time. Sometimes free doesn’t always work out, although I suppose I could buy this movie from one of the many cult movie distributors currently out in force today. Check it out.
The 1982 film Pieces is what you would get if someone decided to create a Texas Chainsaw Massacre type giallo in the 1980s. The movie is pretty wild and has some random moments that don’t really fit yet make the movie entertaining as a result. It’s not enough to have a killer roaming a college campus killing people with a chainsaw and cutting them up, the killer also has to be taking body parts too! There was a kung fu scene thrown in for good measure because why not, and the main character (played by Ian Sera) is both likable and a complete leech all at the same time. He ends up investigating the crimes along with one of those 1980s movie detectives (the always great Christopher George) who never go home and end up obsessing over one case when I’m sure they have at least 20 others to solve. There is also a long list of female victims, and a female undercover cop played by Lynda Day George.
This movie has both a great tennis related thriller scene and a waterbed moment that is very memorable in all kinds of ways. The ending doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me-I won’t say more about what happens, you just have to watch-yet I come to expect that in a lot of these movies. I’m not sure I liked this movie a whole lot the first time I saw it, yet I came to appreciate it more after viewing this during Joe Bob Briggs’ return to Shudder marathon back in 2018. I’m sure better writers than me could elaborate more on any of the film’s meanings, still all I got out of it mostly was there are some really crazy people out there in this big old world. I believe I viewed this movie on Tubi, although I’m not 100% sure as it was five years ago. Man time flies.
Perhaps viewing a subpar copy on Tubi back in October 2017 negatively affected my viewing of The Satanic Rites of Dracula (woof what a title!) yet I don’t think so. I liked this movie, however it pales in comparison to some of the better entries in the series. I did prefer this over Taste The Blood of Dracula, however I even liked Dracula A.D. 1972 over this one and people usually hate that flick. In fact The Satanic Rites of Dracula felt as if it was cribbing a bit too much from that one, and the last act of this movie was more of a Doctor Who episode than a Hammer Studios film. Too bad since this was the last time Christopher Lee faced off against Peter Cushing, although I still enjoyed certain elements and I don’t feel that the movie is a complete waste. Dracula has decided to make more vampire brides and also unleash a plague upon England, which makes him more of a super villain this time so that’s neat, I guess.
Both Lee and Cushing elevate some fairly weak and flimsy material, and I honestly don’t even recall any of the younger actors in this movie which is a bad sign. I know I saw it back in 2017 yet I should at least remember what the other actors did. If it wasn’t for Wikipedia I wouldn’t even be able to name them, which is a bad sign. Honestly if you’re a completist such as myself, watch this movie and you might get something out of it like I did. If you’re looking for something better vampire movie wise, skip this and watch The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires instead, which followed this movie and is a much better and more satisfying conclusion to the Dracula series even if it only has Cushing.
Although I have viewed different types of cannibal movies before, a lot of them sure were not the same as Raw, aka Grave, a French 2010s horror movie. I’ll spare you the biting puns and other taste jokes and note that this movie is still not for the faint of heart, and this is coming from someone who watches way too many horror movies. Julia Ducournau also fashions a haunting coming of age tale about womanhood and the desperate search to find ones’ self in college. I remember college and that’s hard enough for a man and very difficult for a young woman, I’m sure. Garance Marillier is fantastic as Justine, the movie’s central character.
Perhaps vet school wasn’t the best place for Justine to end up at, and things continue to spiral out of control when she meets up with her sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf), who is older and more wild than Justine. Adrien (Rabah Naït Oufella) is the film’s male character who befriends Justine in more ways than one instead of running the other way. There is an arm biting scene that will probably make the squeamish groan in disgust, and several other scenes that even made me sit up and notice. I really want to view this movie again, and it deserves a longer review than I’m willing to pen at this time. Check it out as it’s one of the more stark and unforgettable horror movies of the 2010s. I have no idea if it is still on Netflix, and I always am down for more foreign cinema.
Years later on Shudder I watched the regular cut of The Exorcist III after having seeing the Director’s Cut thanks to my local public library. I prefer the DC although the theatrical cut is also fine, even though I feel that Legion is far more scarier and has a more effective and creepier ending. Both center on evil refusing to die, the past coming back to haunt people, and of course that epic nightmare fuel jump scare scene involving someone wielding a large pair of sheers. George C. Scott anchors this film as a policeman searching for answers that lead him back to a dead serial killer known as The Gemini Killer.
The opening for Legion is different and features an odd, wind filled sequence in a church that inspires dread. Legion is about how evil never really dies and how the devil has endless ways of maintaining evil , only in this case it is through a long dead killer showing back up again. Brad Dourif has always been good at playing evil and crazy people, yet I think he is at his most terrifying here as Gemini, the instrument of the film’s awful events. I can’t think of a movie that’s made me wary of garden sheers than this one, or at least one that’s been made recently. Ed Flanders and Scott Wilson also do a great job as part of the supporting cast as well. Wilson and Flanders both were also in the equally great The Ninth Configuration, which Blatty also directed.
Although this isn’t as good as The Exorcist, The Exorcist III is a worthy sequel and is one of the best horror films of the 1990s. It has also held up pretty well, particularly in it’s discussions of faith, belief, and fighting against the forces of darkness. The battle is a dirty daily job, but according to Scott’s policeman someone has to do it on a daily basis and the war never ends.