Horrorfest 2022 Presents: Trick ‘r Treat (2007, Michael Dougherty)

Finally after years of watching my cheap DVD copy I got at maybe Best Buy or Barnes & Noble I was able to see Trick ‘r’ Treat on the big screen. The way God, cinema and mankind intended. Despite some obvious low budget or dated 2000s material this is a really good, fun and nicely creepy horror anthology from Michael Dougherty, who has gone on to bigger and arguably better things. My overall rating is an 8.5, yet I will rate and review each of the segments individually.

The Opening, or cold opening, is decent yet also sets up the rest of the movie. Leslie Bibb is a woman who finds out that her Halloween obsessed boyfriend is right that you should adhere to certain holiday traditions. There is some good gore in this one, however it’s a bit too short to have enough of an impact. I believe it is in this short opener that the location of the town the movie is set in is revealed: Warren Valley, Ohio, which does not exist I think. Or at least that’s what the movie tells us, ha ha…

Principal is a really good second tale, elevated by Dylan Baker as a man who has a dark hidden life. This one does a much better job than the first one at covering Halloween traditions, and it pays off very well in the end. If you don’t like kids, this is probably the tale for you. You also won’t ever look at jack-o’-lanterns the same way again.

The only reason I don’t give Halloween School Bus Massacre a full 10/10 is because I wanted it be longer. This is one they could have made into a longer movie, and it’s just wonderfully freaky and offers a nice twist. A group of kids trick a nice young girl named Rhonda (Samm Todd), into accompanying them to a local quarry. This is a chilling reminder that you should believe local legends. The kids find this out all too well in what is my favorite segment in this movie.

Sorry folks but I still think Surprise Party is the weakest one of the bunch. Too bad since it features the always great Anna Paquin, who makes this one at least passable. I would have been fine if they had cut this one from the movie. I will still refuse to give away the ending since I don’t do spoilers on principle, but let’s just say it’s pretty damn obvious from the get go. Lame. Also loses points for use of Manson song that was dated the minute it was featured in the movie.

Even though Sam is the best one of the bunch, earning that 10/10 rating, I doubt it would be as effective in longer form. Brian Cox unsurprisingly steals the movie as a cranky elderly neighbor who fails to give out candy on Halloween. Sam, the official Halloween mascot of this movie, shows up to force the curmudgeonly miser the error of his ways. I love how Sam uses his powers in so many different ways, and this story’s ending is just marvelous.

Now the actual Conclusion offers a nice wrap around to events, and ties up the movie very neatly. It also has a truly bone chilling moment, too, and offers one thing I really enjoy about this movie: the little clues to what is happening spread throughout the movie. Each story weaves into the other tales, and that’s why this a pretty good anthology movie. It would also be nice if we got more movies set on and or around Halloween that don’t require a certain William Shatner masked individual, although I enjoy those, too.

Cool, end credits!

Horrorfest 2022 Presents: Sole Survivor (1984, Thom Eberhardt)

Despite being largely a slow burn, Sole Survivor is a well made slow burn with some fine creepy moments. Also it’s pretty obvious that Thom Eberhardt’s cult film inspired both The Final Destination movies and It Follows, which is neat. The flick also manages to be eerie and spooky as well, plus very moody. This would be a good fall movie, honestly.

Anita Skinner plays a woman who manages to survive a plane crash, yet she remains haunted afterwards. The doctor who treats her (Kurt Johnson, who is very likable) tells her it’s all in her head, then falls in love with her. Meanwhile literal zombies roam the city streets and proceed to stalk her in different ways. Is this death reaching out, or something more sinister at work? The movie doesn’t quite say, which is fine to me.

Gotta love those blue color schemes and those eerie late night streets.

Is there a grand conspiracy at work, or is it just people’s imagination? Caren Larkey is also great as a fading actress who claims to know the answers, and Skinner is perfect for the role. She makes us, the viewer, sympathetic to what she is going through. There is a shocking swimming pool scene, plus an unnerving moment on a staircase that really works. Is this a zombie movie or a supernatural movie? Perhaps it’s both, really? I’m not sure.

Between Sole Survivor and Night of the Comet, I really like what Eberhardt accomplished in the horror genre. I wish he had done more, yet he moved on to more general Hollywood fair. Which is fine yet also too bad since he appeared to have a knack for making reliable horror movies with sci-fi elements. Viewed thanks to Shudder, a service that happily offers up plenty of cult movies every now and then.

Horrorfest 2022 Presents: Storm of the Century (1999, Craig R. Baxley)

Lately I’ve been thinking about the quote of “The banality of evil,” which is typical of this world. Yet in some cases very obvious and atypical evil arises. André Linoge is that very clear evil, however his arrival in the very Stephen King island town of Little Tall wisks away the veneer of respectability the people of the island wish to present to others. Colm Feore is fantastic here, switching from creepy uncle to pure demonic entity, often in the same scene at a moment’s notice.

Tim Daly’s Mike (in what might be his best performance ever) offers up a sharp contrast and is the mini-series’ main character. He is as good and wholesome as Linoge is evil, although Linoge asserts that usually what he encounters is the worst of humanity. Mike challenges him however lacks the ability to understand what his nemesis understands: people can easily turn on one another, and do so very quickly. It’s a bleak take on human nature yet every so often people band together only to fall apart when cracks begin to form. The center cannot hold was a theme in The Stand, and it’s revisited here as well.

Ah those cold East Coast winters. Brrrr.

I cannot say more about the final episode, only that it offers a very depressing notion about one’s fellow neighbors. I liked the second episode the best out of the three, particularly since it had some good creepy moments. Debrah Farentino is also great as Mike’s wife, Molly, and King adaptation regular Jeffrey DeMunn shows up as well, playing the town manager who’s exactly the kind of sniveling authority figure you would expect in a show like this.

Despite some obviously dated and low budget special effects (this is a TV mini series after all), I really liked this one. It’s probably one of the best of the TV King mini-series, which is ironic since it’s and original work from King and not an adaptation. Maybe that’s why it’s so effective, containing most of King’s strengths and little of his work’s weaknesses. I wouldn’t mind a modern day take on it though, although I’d make it probably only two episodes honestly. Viewed finally thanks to Hulu.

Horrorfest 2022 Presents The Oracle (1985, Roberta Findlay)

The Oracle is a huge mess and for some reason looks and feels like a 1970s movie people decided to finally release a decade later. It would be not good in either decade, and I was very much let down by the whole thing. The movie tries to be both supernatural and a slasher movie and really fails at both, and it drags so much that by the end I was just glad to see the credits roll.

There was a cool decapitation kill that comes too late to salvage the movie, and the ending is as predictable as one can imagine. I didn’t like any of the characters and there is very little suspense or much of anything worth noting in this movie. I didn’t hate it, yet I can’t recommend seeing this one. That’s 1980s cult cinema for you: sometimes you find a gem, sometimes you are reminded why a lot of these movies weren’t big hits or remembered.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Malignant (2021, James Wan)

After doing big time Hollywood franchise movies, James Wan returned to give us another freaky horror movie. In this case I’m not sure if Malignant is a great bad movie, a good movie, or a complete mess. However I dug this movie a lot, and it managed to creep me out and even scare me at times, which is more than I can say for a lot of horror movies.

Madison (Annabelle Wallis) begins to have nightmarish visions of murders in Seattle. Her sister, Sydney (Maddie Hasson) decides to investigate, and what she uncovers is both shocking and disturbing. James Wan creates a horror movie that is equal parts giallo, supernatural thriller, and body horror movie in one crazy, glorious package.

This movie should be viewed for the cop station scene alone, and also because it’s a giant homage to the films that clearly inspired James Wan. Plus George Young is actually really good as the one cop who mostly believes Madison, and the final act is utterly insane. Some may not enjoy this movie, yet I feel many such as myself will champion it years from now.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Found Footage 3D (2016, Steven DeGennaro)

Even though Found Footage is slow at times, it still has some geniually creepy moments. However it does suffer from the problem all such movies have: why are the people still holding the camera instead of ditching it and heading for the hills? In this case I suppose the movie comes up with reasons why, yet I’ll admit when the shit does hit the fan the people still keep shooting.

I didn’t really care about the film’s attempts at melodrama, and I didn’t recognize any of the main cast either. One of the movie’s standouts abandons the project midway through, and another decent character isn’t smart enough to ditch when things keep going south. Despite this Found Footage is decent enough, and I only watched it in 2D because regular 3D (not Avatar type 3D) gives me a headache.

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 2021 Presents: The Dead Pit (1989, Brett Leonard)

This randomly popped up on Shudder and so I decided to check out The Dead Pit, a late 1980s horror movie. This flick is a much a supernatural Americanized giallo as it is a slasher movie. These blending of elements work in the film’s favor, as does it’s likable main characters. The Dead Pit isn’t a great film, however it is very well paced and is very satisfying. The asylum setting is pretty good, and is very unnerving. The entire movie is appropriately bleak.

The Jane Doe, played by Cheryl Lawson, arrives at an old crumbling asylum with amnesia. Aided by a fellow patient, Chris (Stephen Gregory Foster), she tries to uncover the mystery of her memory loss. I liked how this movie was shot, using lots of green and building up a general sense of menace, hinting at nasty, dark hidden secrets.

Danny Gochnauer is fantastic as Dr. Ramzi, the movie’s evil sadistic villain, matched by Jeremy Slate as  Dr. Gerald Swan. The finale even goes full blown Fulci with the undead, which is cool. Chris is one of those awesome secondary movie characters, and Lawson is a good sympathetic main character. Check this flick out on Shudder while you still can.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Baron Blood (1972, Mario Bava)

While I like Mario Bava’s films a good deal Baron Blood was disappointing. Joseph Cotton and company do their best to elevate really flimsy material that is way too dependent on gory torture scenes. The film also takes much too long to become interesting, and I felt a lot of the film is a drag. This might be the first one I’ve seen from Bava that I have no desire to revisit, which is a shame.

The movie is not a complete waste, as the sets were neat and I liked several well framed shots. The ending is brutal as well, which does help and there is a scene that is quite suspenseful. I just expected more from a movie with a plot this ridiculous. Oh well. I’ll still try and check out more from Bava anyways, despite not having many of his famous films left to watch.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Doctor Sleep (2019, Mike Flanagan)

Oh how I wished I had seen Doctor Sleep in theaters when theaters were still a thing. The run time probably was a reason I didn’t go, plus it was released too late for horror movie season-November is usually when I move on to Oscar flicks. Still I found the theatrical cut on Blu-ray at my local library, and I loved it a lot. This is how you do a long overdue followup to a classic movie: pay homage, yet offer a new, mostly fresh story that builds on the previous efforts.

The cast sure helps a lot, too: Ewan McGregor was an excellent choice to play a grown up, still haunted Danny, who manages to overcome the lingering demons of his past. Does the creepy old lady and the eerie bartender show up? You betcha. Kyliegh Curran is another prime example of how child actors are no longer a hindrance to movies anymore, playing Abra, who also has the “Shine.” I loved Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat, simply because she disappeared into her role and reminded me of an evil cat mixed with a shark. Also quality character actor Cliff Curtis pops up as Billy, a man who helps Danny-he never gets enough credit these days.

I did like how they smartly re-casted some of the characters from the original, who pop up. Particularly Carl Lumbly, who does a great job channeling Dick Hallorann from the 1980 flick. Oh and Zahn McClarnon was properly menacing as one of the members of the group that is after Abra. I liked how you only got hints and glimpses at them, so that they remained freaky and not overexposed. Too much detail sometimes ruins things.

I wonder if the director’s cut changes some things or adds more to the movie. I will have to get my hands on that copy. For now I am very satisfied with Doctor Sleep, and I actually prefer it over The Shining, which I also love of course. Doctor Sleep covers tragedy and trauma, offering hope that one can overcome the demons of the past. Also grateful the bear suit scene didn’t make a comeback haha. Oh hey the elevator is still full of blood…

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