Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Ju-On: The Grudge (2002, Takashi Shimizu)

What we learn in the really good, almost great Japanese horror movie Ju-On is that the legacy of violence never ends. It just leads to more violence. Unlike the other J-Horror films that offer a possible solution to what is happening, Ju-On does not have that level of optimism or hope. Nope, the cycle just keeps on going, which is depressing yet more realistic. Man is a violent creature, and his actions lead to tragedy and horror on multiple scales. In this case, it results in a cursed house.

This is bad news for the family that has moved in there, the police investigating, and others who are friends or relations. I found this movie to be frightening and very realistic in terms of quietly showing it’s many horrors. Particularly during a scene where a TV set is one of the most dangerous things in a small room occupied by one person. Oh and creepy kids show up again because well, they are creepy and effective.

I don’t like comparing this one to Ring, as the two films are quiet different and I actually found Ju-On to be more scary. There is an excellent hallway scene that is beyond terrifying, and I love how this movie ends. I will say that Ring flows better narrative wise, yet the two are both satisfying and must sees for any horror movie. Besides I think Pulse (Kairo) is better than either one, anyways.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Ringu (Ring 1998, Hideo Nakata)

What I have learned from horror movies is that when the TV turns on by itself, that’s bad. Such was the case in Poltergeist, yet also it happens in the incredibly unsettling Japanese horror classic Ringu, or Ring, which helped jumpstart so called J-Horror in Japan. This also started the trend of really creepy girls being a part of horror movies, although I’m sure that probably showed up somewhere before.

Nanako Matsushima is fantastic as the movie’s protagonist, Reiko, who is forced to investigate the tape and unfortunately watches it. Teaming up with her ex husband, she desperately tries to solve the mystery of the really eerie and weird videotape. I like how most of it still remains a mystery, and how the viewer is pulled into the frantic search to discover a way to break the curse.

Plus there is a scene that is famous for being pure nightmare fuel, and was made famous also by the American remake, which I might see even though I’m not expecting it to be as good as the Japanese original. Even the original spawned sequels and a prequel, which just goes to show that horror franchises are universal. That and the mirror part is also creepy-I loved how the movie has so many creepy small moments that build up into one freaky entity.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Edge of the Axe (1988, José Ramón Larraz)

Edge of the Axe works best when it is brutal and unflinching, showing bloody and horrific murders onscreen. I did not care much for the final act, even though the closing shot is neat. However I rather liked this movie even if I feel certain aspects didn’t work for me. Also that opener is both shocking and well done, making one paranoid about being in a car wash. I guess even in one’s vehicle you are not safe. The killer’s mask is a fine inhuman, freaky touch indeed.

The Arrow Video transfer looks great of course, and I am reminded of why I upgraded to Blu-ray about four years ago. I like that the Spanish decided to create in the 1980s their own slasher movie, and they did the genre justice. My favorite part is when a woman makes the mistake of reaching for shotgun shells and pays dearly. Check this out even though it may be a tad dated. Also hey I can’t think of any other slasher films that depend on computers this much. That’s a fairly original touch.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Blood Tide (1982, Richard Jefferies)

A movie called Blood Tide doesn’t have to do much to win me over or get me to see it. The title is cool enough, plus this is one of those lost 1980s movies that bombed. The fact that it almost became public domain is depressing and I thank Arrow Video for them releasing it on a nice restored Blu-ray that has bonus features. It helps that the movie is a pretty good Jaws in the Greek islands type movie with a really good cast.

Legendary actor James Earl Jones chews scenery, dives for treasure, quotes Shakespeare and has a beach bunny for a girlfriend. Naturally he awakens this ancient evil sea monster that of course the locals fed virgins to centuries ago. Deborah Shelton steals the movie as a haunted woman living with nuns who makes the mistake of uncovering her destiny, or so she thinks. José Ferrer is the local mayor who knows way more than he’s telling, of course. Martin Kove of Karate Kid fame is Shelton’s sister and Mary Louise Weller is his wife, both who go looking for her.

The monster effects are solid enough yet it is the gorgeous scenery shots that are truly captivating. Also the score is quite good in that 1980s way, done by Shuki Levy and Jerry Mosely. Unfortunately I can’t find it anywhere so that sucks as I would love to share the opening theme. This is one of those cheesy movies that I fully embrace simply because it is my kind of cheesy movie. Oh and I’m probably going to watch it again.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Haunt (2019,  Scott Beck, Bryan Woods)

Shudder kept recommending me this movie, yet I only got to Haunt because it was on a Joe Bob Briggs special. I think I put it off really because it seemed scary, and while it wasn’t as scary as I expected this is definitely a creepy movie. Haunted houses are bad enough without weirdos wandering around in masks, and in this case the weirdos decide to murder you and your friends. Should have stayed home, college kids. It’s what I do every Halloween when I’m not at work. It was easy this year because of a national pandemic.

Harper and Nathan are both likable characters, and their friends were sympathetic enough. The traps in this film can often be quite brutal, and the movie has some “Ouch! Yikes!” moments that I appreciated. Although the middle part of the film dragged, the rest of this was really quite good, and I liked this movie a lot. No need for a sequel either, yet the film did leave room for one. I want to see what Scott Beck and Bryan Woods do next.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Creature (1985, William Malone)

So it turns out that the woman who voices Francine in America Dad, Wendy Schaal, is in this movie. I laughed when she asked the captain if they were having fun yet. Hey that’s my line, just kidding I stole it from a Nickelback song. Ugh. Creature is a dumb Alien rip off that I didn’t hate, yet I can’t fully embrace or recommend beyond wanting to see another gory killer alien movie. Well killer alien mixed in with zombies, I guess.

I’ve seen better Alien knockoffs, and I’ve seen worse Alien knockoffs. This one falls in the middle, and reminds folks that even when Klaus Kinski is not evil, you still shouldn’t trust him anyways. Oh and this film has the annoying cliche of a key character vanishing, if only because said character would have cut the movie short. This was a dumb movie with limited charm and the more I think about it, the less I like it. I doubt I’ll recall having seen it in oh, two months.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Firestarter (1984, Mark L. Lester)

Drew Barrymore has always been a good actress, and she got her start as a young girl appearing in multiple famous 1980s movies. One of them was Firestarter, which I think was really great even though the critics didn’t like that one. I bet they compared it to Carrie, and while it’s not as good as that film it is certainly a well done effort in its own right. Imagine a girl with the ability to cause fires with her mind. I wouldn’t want to anger that person, and the people who are after her find that out all too well.

Charlie and her dad Andy (David Keith) are on the run from The Shop, a quasi-CIA style organization that wants to harness her powers. Leading the group is Hollister (Martin Sheen played two evil characters in Stephen King adoptions), who sends George C. Scott’s creepy hit man Rainbird after them. What happens next is both violent and shocking, as Charlie’s full powers are revealed. I was reminded of The X-Men films, and while the comics existed before Firestarter the modern film adaptations clearly borrowed some elements from this movie.

I liked the flashbacks, which outline both Andy and his wife Vicky (Heather Locklear)’s powers, and how they try to deal with Charlie’s struggles to control her abilities. The Tangerine Dream score for this film is also unreal, and the final act is pure escalation, to put it mildly. Despite being a tad dated I really loved this movie, and I eagerly recommend it. Maybe one day I’ll read the book, too.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Victor Crowley (2017, Adam Green)

This is where I admit that I haven’t seen any of the other films in the Hatchet series. I only saw Victor Crowley due to Joe Bob Briggs covering it on The Last Drive In, and I found myself liking it although it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. This is fine, since the movie works as a fun bottle episode fleshed out into a full length movie. Plus it has multiple famous people in the cast.

You have Kane Hodder as the menacing and very gruesome Crowley, legendary horror actress Felissa Rose, Brian Quinn from Impractical Jokers and indie scream queen Tiffany Shepis. The plot isn’t terribly important, just that like any slasher sequel the horror villain rises from the grave to terrorize the living once again. Oh and Dave Sheridan steals the movie as Dillion, who has more confidence than anyone should have. He was a riot.

I will try and view the rest of the series, and I think the first one was on Tubi at one point. This movie isn’t super intelligent but it does offer fun, and sometimes that is good enough. Oh and remember if you defeat the villain to not build a memorial site to him full of power tools he can use. Just saying.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Fear (1996, James Foley)

Ah, young love. It’s great as long as one of them doesn’t take it took far and turn out to be a complete psycho. In the case of Fear, one of those entertaining horror thrillers from the 1990s, the guy is the crazy obsessed one here. Mark Wahlberg plays David, who seems normal and is in love with Nicole, played by Reese Witherspoon. However he quickly reveals his dark side, sweeping her and her family into a nightmare.

William Petersen and Amy Brenneman play her parents, and naturally Peterson as her dad gets bad vibes from meeting David, which Nicole ignores. The movie kind of touches on how people stay in dangerous and abusive relationships because they think the other person loves them anyways. Then it veers back into outlandish thriller territory, particularly with the final act.

Still that last act is pretty entertaining and suspenseful, and the movie has it’s fun share of crazy moments. Wahlberg chews scenery, Witherspoon is very likable and what happens in the end is darkly hilarious to me. I think I’ve seen too many horror movies. This is definitely one, also, going between slasher and crazy people movie all too well.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978, John DeBello)

Look I know that Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a parody movie, but it wasn’t all that funny. There are some good moments and even a couple decent foot chases, yet the movie feels incomplete. I do remember the animated TV show when I was a kid, or at least I think it existed. I prefer the show, and I don’t think I’m going to bother watching the sequels.

At least the Jaws and The Birds jokes were amusing. This movie clearly had a low budget, yet that shouldn’t have hindered some of the jokes. Maybe I’m tired of horror comedy movies, yet more likely is this movie stinks. Sounds reasonable. Well this movie wasn’t a complete waste, as the country’s government failing miserably to deal with the tomatoe invasion reminds me of something similar happening right now…

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