Horrorfest 2017 Presents: IT Chapter One (2017, Andy Muschietti)


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!

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Rituals (1977, Peter Carter)


Rituals is a low budget 1970s wilderness horror thriller that was definitely inspired by Deliverance. Yet it has it’s own style and is mostly effective although parts of the movie was the director trying too hard. The final act drags on a bit too much also. Still I liked this movie and I realized midway through that I’m a fan of wilderness horror movies as a sub-genre. Hal Holbrook leads a cast of lesser known actors as they struggle to escape from a killer pursuing them in the Canadian wilderness.

This movie has some great outdoor shots, and Peter Carter puts both the characters and the audience through the ringer. This was a decent enough flick that I only saw thanks to Shudder. I’m not surprised that Steven King is a fan of this movie as many of his stories feature people dealing with extreme situations. Be prepared when you head out into the middle of nowhere and expect crazy people to show up is the lesson I got out of this movie.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: I Bury The Living (1958, Albert Band)


Even though I Bury The Living does not stick the landing with the ending, the rest of the movie is pretty cool. You have Richard Boone playing a businessesman who has to oversee a local cemetery. During his stint as chairman he believes that he possess the ability to cause people to die. That is a good concept for a movie, and to have it be a 1950s movie reminds me that 1950s horror cinema is quite underrated. The black and white cinematography works in this movie’s favor as well, casting shadows and building up the movie’s overall atmosphere.

You have Boone’s Robert slowly falling into despair and insanity as he begins to believe he is the cause of people he knows dying. There is a fantastic scene where he runs among the tombstones that is one of the movie’s highlights. Alas the film’s conclusion is too mundane and a copout that happens too often in older horror movies. I do agree with those who say this is literally a Twilight Zone episode turned into a movie, which is fine.

My final thoughts are that my local community college cable channel used to show I Bury The Living all the time, and yet I never got around to seeing it. Thanks to Tubi I finally did and I’m glad because it is a really good old school horror movie. Richard Bone was a cool actor too by the way, definitely one of the more famous stock character actors of his time.

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 2019 Presents: City of the Dead (1960, John Llewellyn Moxey)


Sure City of the Dead has other names, yet I really like that title. It fits the movie really well, and this flick is one of those hidden gems I always seem to find every time I binge horror movies in October. Christopher Lee is the major star in this film and he isn’t even one of the main characters. Perhaps he made City of the Dead inbetween Hammer Studios movies. Oh and Rob Zombie used this movie in one of his songs and it had to have influenced his modern day flick The Lords of Salem-a film I love a lot. Witches seem to pop up quite a bit in horror cinema, only in this case they operate as if fueled by urban legend.

Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) under the guidence of her professor (Lee) decides to investigate a small New England town where witchcraft happened centuries ago. This mission ends up dragging in her boyfriend and her brother, and leads to one Mrs. Newless (Patricia Jessel in a fine performance). Despite being not very quickly paced at times, City of the Dead works as a good slow burn with some very wicked atmosphere and a good closing act.

If anything this film reminds me of Stephen King and I wonder if he saw it as well. The idea of small ancient towns hidding dreadful secrets appeals to me for some reason. I guess I have always wondered if some legends are true, and that maybe I am too afraid or smart to find out. Horror movies have taught me that it is best to leave the searching to others.

Horrorfest 2019 Presents: Creepshow 2 (1987, Michael Gornick)


Those few who have bothered to read my reviews know that I am a sucker for horror anthologies. Even the lesser ones have something good to offer, however Creepshow 2 is a good one that I rather enjoyed. The first film is better due to the director and casting choices, yet the sequel has its charms. The Creep, this time played by horror legend Tom Savini, hands the latest issue off to young Billy, all while laughing with glee. And thus, begins our film. Hey it’s from New World Pictures, that company rocked.

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Ok the wrap around story is cool, although its mostly animated. Probably for budget reasons, and because it looks great, reminding me a little of the animation from Heavy Metal. More on that later. The first story is called “Old Chief Wood’nhead,” and it concerns a nice elderly couple played by George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour. What happens to them is tragic, resulting in a killer statue coming to life and seeking revenge. This one is awesome and is wisely kept short, although the viewer is left to wonder if the old chief will do it again. Or has done it before. Spooky. Also I didn’t recognize Holt McCallany as Sam, the leader of the gang that gives the old couple trouble. It must have been the hair…

Before the next story begins, Billy stops to buy a Venus flytrap bulb. Does this figure into the story later? Maybe…and now, for “The Raft,” the best tale of the bunch. A group of young kids make a grave error and encounter something monsterous on a secluded lake. Not the fun romp they had in mind. I like the FX in this one, and the ending made me chuckle. I know the story is slightly different, and I will read it at some point. This is the only tale of the trio that could have been made into a movie. Which is not a knock on the film overall, just a reminder that some tales are better than others.

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Look at that fat bully. He leads a gang that makes the really big mistake of going after Billy. The wrap around story is actually my favorite thing about Creepshow 2, and has the main thing I like about both films: if you are a sucky person, you get crushed by the wheel of karma. This brings us to the last tale, a bleak slice of humor called “The Hitch-hiker.” Lois Chiles cheats on her husband, then runs over some poor guy on her way home. She keeps on driving, only to find out that sometimes the dead refuse to stay dead. “THANKS FOR THE RIDE, LADY!” is a line I will never forget, haha, along with Stephen King playing a trucker in a weird little cameo.

Overall despite its flaws (low budget, only three stories, lesser cast, etc) I rather liked Creepshow 2. I have no desire to watch the third film. I believe that Shudder is making a new Creepshow show, which sounds promising. They were also the reason I was able to finally view this flick. What a great resource.

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: Goosebumps (2015, Rob Letterman)


Look this film needed more monster blood. Come on people how do you make a Goosebumps movie and not have monster blood? Oh well at least this film was entertaining and had Slappy. Also R.L. Stine has a cameo so brief that you will miss it if you aren’t paying attention. I also loved Jack Black playing Stine because he is hilarious and it works perfectly. The film is a bit hit and miss at times but that’s okay.

Also the main trio of kids made smile. Zach, Hannah and Champ come off as normal kids who become wrapped up in extraordinary situations. Stine reveals that he not an average person after a funny egging on by Zach and Champ where they compared him to Stephen King. Plus Slappy appears and unleashes all of the characters from Stine’s books, leading to chaos in the town and monster attacks.

Despite some elements not working this was still a mostly funny and enjoyable flick. Black is great in multiple roles and the kid actors are likable and not annoying. Plus the last act owes a bit to Army of Darkness, which is fine. Too bad I didn’t bother to go see this in theaters as I love the book series and I’m hoping for a sequel.

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: IT (1990, Tommy Lee Wallace)


All too many Stephen King adoptions don’t work out. Yet still there are ones that manage to at least properly tackle his material, IT being one of those adaptations that works rather well. Such a novel is immense and rather hard to tackle, especially considering the novel’s use of flashbacks, many which intercede with the present setting of the novel in the 1980s. And just like the novel the 1950s flashbacks work the best.

Oh and Tim Curry is wonderfully creepy as Pennywise, the villain of the piece. He has hilarious one liners and manages to even terrify in some parts. Particularly when poor grownup Bill recalls what happened to his brother Georgie. So much teeth…how they bite. Some of the adult versions of the young cast don’t quite fit with the novel’s descriptions of them, however. Especially John Ritter and Richard  Thomas, although both give quality performances. Also while I like Harry Anderson as Ritchie it oddly feels a bit too obvious of a casting pick. That said the rest of the cast is spot on, particularly with all of the young kids (Seth Green and Emily Perkins being notable standouts); also Annette O’ Toole is perfect as Beverly and Tim Reid is a great Mike.

Also they get Eddie right despite changing a few details. The second half isn’t as strong as the first, mostly since the kid actors play their parts with the utmost sincerity. Still I also enjoy the second half and naturally due to budget and length issues certain other aspects of the novel had to be cut. I wonder how the planned new version will work out, and I am hoping that it’s an improvement. Still I rather like and enjoy this slice of 1990s TV miniseries, a reminder of the days when such programs existed.

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Body Bags (1993, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Larry Sulkis)


Lately I’ve been viewing more anthologies and enjoying them, particularly horror film ones, simply because the horror genre is often at its best in the short form. Edgar Allen Poe certainly thought so and he gave us some of the best short horror fiction. Stephen King’s Night Shift and other anthologies he’s written over the years have been mined for full length horror films based off of his creepy, much shorter tales. Body Bags is such an anthology, however it was originally meant to be a TV series on Showtime-unfortunately for us all, that never happened and all we are left with is this film, which has a typical wrap around plot and of course three ghoulish tales of murder and mayhem. Overall this is a pretty good, enjoyable feature, and considering that it involved John Carpenter (also playing the sinister narrator) and Tobe Hooper, two horror movie legends, its a shame that we only have the three stories and the one film from the project.

Emerging from hiding in a morgue, the weird looking corner stops and notices us, the viewer. He then proceeds to find body bags, obviously, and uses them to spin tales. The first such one is called “The Gas Station,” and it is the best one of the bunch. Directed by John Carpenter as is the second tale, this one centers on poor Anne (Alex Datcher), a college student who takes a job at a gas station on a lonely stretch of highway in the middle of nowhere. With a killer on the loose, no less, which makes her the typical final girl/not particularly bright heroine found in so many horror movies. What really makes this tale eerie and suspenseful is the killer, who I will not reveal here because it is a delightful twist, one that turns this story into an urban legend of sorts. You have Robert Carradine being his usual cheerful self, Wes Craven acting all odd and frumpy, and Sam Raimi in a cameo that is well, rather shocking. Also Carpenter cannot resist throwing in a reference to his 1978 classic Halloween. See if you can find the reference.

Next up is the also Carpenter directed “Hair,” which I found to be the weakest of the bunch although still decent/solid overall. This one has the best cast, with Stacy Keach as a vain man desperate to grow hair so that he can please his long suffering girlfriend, played by Sheena Easton. David Warner and Deborah Harry show up as people who offer to help, and of course they are not who they seem. The twist ending is actually rather frightening, and as a man going bald I have to wonder if maybe losing my hair instead of becoming a slave to something alive is perhaps the wiser choice. Although I’m not sure how this one fits into what the Corner says before the story…

Finally you have “Eye,” which is a frightening and tragic episode, directed by Tobe Hooper and starring Mark Hamill as a baseball player who descends into madness after receiving an eye transplant. Although some objected to this episode’s religious overtones, I rather enjoyed “Eye,” finding it to be both rather freaky and also sad, especially with how it ends. Besides one can argue that the episode was not condemning religion, although I cannot go into this further without spoiling the conclusion. Oh and look for great cameos from famous icons John Agar and Roger Corman, who play the doctors that operate on Hamill. I guess I should have recognized Twiggy as Hamill’s poor wife, too, and for some reason I didn’t.

As for the wrap around story, I am amused by how it concludes, and what it really entails. Particularly since it stars Tom Arnold and Tobe Hooper and has a really good singular joke. Body Bags may or may not have resulted in a decent TV show, but perhaps it works best as a singular anthology film. Many thanks goes to my local public library and Scream Factory for the DVD release I was able to get my hands on.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: Graveyard Shift (1990, Ralph S. Singleton)


Based on the short story of the same title from the Stephen King classic anthology Night Shift,4 this 1990 film is a decent adaptation. It fleshes out the short and builds up the anticipation of finding out what horrors are lurking down below in the basement dungeon of the old mill. That mill is the lifeblood of a small rural town and it is on danger of being shutdown. Warwick, the asshole in charge will do whatever it takes to keep the mill running. Even if he has to sacrifice people to do it.

A drifter named John comes into town desperate for work. Getting hired at the mill he ends up becoming ensnared in what is happening at the mill, pitting himself unintentionally against his new boss. However he has an ally in a coworker, Jane, who is the only friend he’s got in a town where most of the people don’t like him. But hey at least people are easier to deal with than the rat infestation that has overtaken the mill. Much easier.

Brad Dourif is great in his unfortunately limited role as The Exterminator and this film does create a fairly solid atmosphere. I liked Dourif’s really eerie monologue about why he hates rats and Warwick is a really sinister villain. The creature effects are good for an early 1990s movie and I was entertained even if this film isn’t all that scary. I wouldn’t mind a remake of this movie, although bad CGI would probably be involved and too many awful horror remakes exist already. Sometimes its best to be satisfied with what you already have.

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