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Horror Movies

Hideaway

DollarindexHideaway is a 90s horror movie based on a novel by Dean Koontz, and it really feels like it. There’s something about a film based on a novel, we see it in a lot of Stephen King adoptions as well, something about the tone, pacing, and style of the film that just feels like it’s an adaption. Indeed, this movie actually reminds me a lot in its construction and tone of the mangler, whether it’s a jumble of recognizable names pasted across a pastiche of 90s horror tropes complete with dodgy CGI that may have looked cool at the time, but never looked realistic.

Hideaway is the story of a man – Jeff Goldblum – who experiences a near-death event, and comes back connected to other psychics. One of them happens to be a sociopath with his eyes on Goldblum’s daughter and it’s up to him index3to stop the psycho killer by any means necessary.

Hideaway also features Alfred Molina and Alicia Silverstone. If you’re expecting much from Silverstone though, you’re going to be in for disappointment. She is a vast with a couple of the story line seems to herself.

It’s weird timing for that too, seeing as this movie came out a year after Jurassic Park, when Goldblum would be at the height of his power, and the same year as Clueless, which would catapult Silverstone to stardom. I suspect it was shot a bit earlier and then somebody suddenly realized they just happen to have a index4film on the shelf starting the hero of last year‘s Blockbuster and this year’s it girl, which would explain why Silverstone is so prominently featured in the poster, but is largely absent from the film.

This is absolutely Goldblum’s movie. The problem with using Jeff Goldblum though, is you have to cast a really strong actors who can hold their own against him. That’s not the case here. The wife, even when she’s complaining about him bringing a gun and indignant about having to leave, feels hollow, and Silverstone really just sleep walks through the film. Instead of feeling dread when watching our villian up to his own machinations, I find myself frequently just a little bored and waiting for index2Goldblum to come back on and continue the story.

At the end of the day, it’s not that this is a terrible movie, it’s just not the sort of them I’m into – it’s too many of the 90s clichés with no monster, Lawnmower Man levels of bad CGI, and a certain indifference to the genre. It was worth the one dollar that I paid for it, but the shelf of the dollar tree store is exactly where this thing belongs.


Robert

Looking at the cover of Robert, you can see they’re trying to strike a balance between the imagery of the Anabelle films and the newer Child’s Play remake. The film starts with a warning that the film what you’re about to see is based on the tragic real life events with a family after estranged all called Robert entered their lives. Blah blah blah, etc. etc., whatever the truth may be, Robert the doll has gained a legendary and fearsome reputation. Really? Because I’ve never heard of this little sucker until I started finding these DVDs littering the dollar tree shelves.

We get a prologue with Agatha, a Lynn Shaye look-alike warning a couple that they are being hunted, not by a house, but by a doll. We fast forward three years where Agatha is now the nanny for a different family.  She keeps Robert locked in suitcase, just in case. That’s probably not a good thing because she’s about to get fired by Jenny, a bored housewife with some mental problems and having a midlife crisis. On our way out, she stops to see Gene, the boy she’s been taking care of and gives him Robert… telling him that now that she’ll be gone, he needs a new friend!

 

The parents don’t make much of it, though they do question the young boy… “Since when do you play with dolls?”

“He’s different,” Gene says. “He talks to me.”

 

Spooky things start to happen. Footsteps in the middle of the night, as well as a child’s play gag of tiny footprints through sugar. We get a glimpse of something moving, and I’m amused to spot a child’s drawing of Robert pinned to the fridge. We get some stalking POV shots, low to the ground,  and a defaced painting. Jenny is already paranoid, and erupts in anger when her son tells her it’s Robert causing the mischief.

The next morning, a maid arrives, and there’s none too impressed by Robert. He creeps her out and she shakes her head and bewilderment

“This is messed up.”

This displeases Robert, and an upset Robert is no good for an unsuspecting maid.

With our first body in the bag about halfway through the film, Robert starts to feel his oats, writing DIE on the bedroom mirror in the mother’s lipstick. She is horrified as she stares down the hall into her son’s room – Robert is sitting on the rocking chair with the lipstick still in his hand.

Jenny asks her son if she can stash Robert away in the attic but Gene warns her that this would  be a bad idea- Robert will get mad. Indeed, that night  it seems like even Gene  is beginning to show some fear of Robert. The couple head out on a date and leave him in the care of a sitter, but when it comes time for bed, Gene requests that the light be left on. Those fears may be justified because the babysitters the next one to get it.

We enter the third act with the mother hysterical and furious at her disbelieving husband. She’s had enough, taking the doll away and screaming at it, demanding it talk to her the way he talks to her son. Her husband thinks she’s crazy, but she doesn’t care… and locks Robert in the outdoor shed.

The next day she’s off to track down Agatha, to try find out where Robert came from. The problem is, Agatha’s dead… and while she explores her house and correspondence to try and dig up some answers, her family has been left home alone… with Robert.

The ending is a bit of a shocker.

 

Robert is a nice, low budget Child’s Play rip off (Ironically, the real Robert doll was the inspiration for Chucky). It takes place mostly in one location, in one house, with good reason. The movie was shot in just eight days, with their child star only available for three of them. Robert himself gets enough screen time to satisfy, and when he’s not on screen, people are talking about him. It makes his character pervasive. This is essential to the story being told, because according to director Andrew Jones, in many ways, Robert is a stand in for mental illness.

“The lead character Jenny has schizo affective disorder, some of the symptoms of that involve hearing voices and seeing hallucinations. Her husband Paul is worried about her state of mind and also about whether or not the illness has been genetically passed onto their son Gene,” Jones told StudyParanormal in a 2015 interview. “The whole film is essentially Robert serving the same function as the mental illness, causing distrust and tension between the characters simply by his presence in their home.”

 

Even in this first installment, the film deviates significantly from the events it’s based on.

 

“The real life story of Robert doesn’t really work for a narrative film because it had no natural ending. It would have been tough to build a film towards a definitive resolution sticking entirely to the true story.” laments Jones.  “There isn’t a great deal of back story out there for Robert’s origin, nor is there any great detail about the Otto family. So I had to embellish on the characters’ personal stories and also give Robert some additional back story to add more drama.”

 

In the actual history, a young man named Robert Eugene Otto was first given the doll back in 1906, when he was a mere six years old. It was gifted by an angry Bahamian servant who supposedly had an interest in black magic. It’s been said that the gift was the servant’s revenge for being poorly treated by the family. Young master Otto decided to give the doll his first name,  Robert and suddenly decided that he would no loger go by the name “Robert” himself, but rather requested that everyone refer to him instead by his middle name, Gene. Gene would go on to become a well know artist and author in Key west, but would keep Robert by his side for the rest of his life, right up to his death in 1974. It is rumored that Gene’s wife, Anne, was driven insane by her husband’s lifelong devotion to the doll.

 

The film was shot on location in Saundersfoot and Swansea in Wales, UK, as opposed to the actual location, a mansion at the corner of Eaton and Simonton streets in Key West, Florida, now known as the Artist House. In 1978 the Artist House was converted into a Hotel. As for the doll itself, The real life Robert the Doll now resides at the East Martello Museum in Key West, Florida, though the doll is annually loaned out to the Old Post Office and Customhouse in Key West during the Halloween season.

The doll itself is not a well-articulated puppet, but that seems more a function of budget than anything else. Still, the use of low angles and partial shots – an arm or a leg sticking in the frame really helps to sell the character. They do well with what they have. It’s average straight to video fair, but worth the dollar that I paid for it. I’m interested in seeing the next sequel.


The Shining Part Two : Doctor Sleep

I think that Doctor Sleep had been out well over two months before I actually got a copy of it. Still, it didn’t take long for me to bang through this book. The better part of the week perhaps? In the years since, I’ve read it probably more times than I’ve actually read The Shining. It’s one Kings best works in a decade at least. Something about it compels me, and it’s not just the connection to The Shining, in a lot of ways, I’m far more fascinated by the AA components of the book. There is a marvelous story here, built on the smoldering ruins of a world King created, ready to accept a new chapter. That’s one of the interesting things to note about the film in the book versions of the shining. The film attempts to build atmosphere. But the book really is creating an entire world around the hotel, it’s history, and the Torrance family. It’s just great in-depth stuff. And absolutely the sort of fertile house soil that will grow some thing when you very least suspect it.

Stephen King’s never been happy with the Kubrick Shining. This is no secret. Indeed, he went as far as to authorize the TV miniseries back in the 90s… And what disaster that was. Steven Weber and Rebecca De Mornay do a good enough job, although the Monet films land. But the miscasting of young Danny is an absolute crime. It’s not just The total lack of charisma, but even the look is just wrong. The perpetual upturn lip, exposing buck teeth that would embarrass a beaver. The toneless whine of this child’s voice, it just ruins the film for me every single time. But then again, we also have the terrible make up on the ghosts and the genuinely small, cramped feeling of what should be an expensive grand hotel. It just doesn’t work.

In a real way, King’s best chance at rewriting, and reinventing the shining to put emphasis back on the book, was to do a sequel. Dan grown-up, and what really is the aftermath of the horrors he experienced in the overlook hotel. Maybe I’m just talking for myself. But that’s exactly how it felt for me. Like legitimize in the book as the “real“ version.

It’s hard to describe my trepidation when I heard they were adapting it for the screen (and that may have something to do with why it’s taken a few years for me to actually watch the film!).

Look, this is a task I absolutely do not envy director Mike Flanagan. Because he’s faced with a unique problem. How to adapt a book that is a sequel to another book that was made into one of the most beloved horror movies of all time… but done so in a way that it still adapts the normal book that’s a sequel to the different book that you’re adapting into a film… Oh, my head hurts.

I never felt like I needed elements of The Shining in Doctor Sleep while I was reading the book. But it’s a fair argument that more people have seen the film than have read the book… It might be a more even split among baby boomers and Gen Xers of a certain age who saw the book sitting on their parents shelves, but overall the Kubrick film is far more visually iconic.

Flanagan himself wasn’t new to King’s work. He’s a lifelong fan, but more importantly he had some credibility to his name. This is the person who did the adoption of Geralds Game, a book that was largely considered unfilmable. He found the right balance, what things to alter to be able to make the movie without compromising The story or key elements. He kept true to the core story and knew where the cosmetics mattered and where they didn’t. It was this sort of credential that was enough to get him in front of King to ask about adapting Doctor Sleep for film. It’s a tricky proposition. King’s attitude towards the Kubrick film had not softened at all over the years, but it’s an unparalleled understanding of the core story and all of the material that allowed Flanagan the inside to present his idea. A scene at the bar, something that would truly examine, explore and progress the Torrance family story arc… something that King felt never happened before… And an intriguing enough idea that it moved King from a firm quote “No.“, To “Keep talking, I’m listening.“

Doctor Sleep is the story of Daniel Torrance (played perfectly by Ewan McGregor – seriously, his performance can not be underplayed here), in the years after his experiences at the Overlook hotel. We find him, a washed up alcoholic pretty well hitting rock-bottom. On the other side is Abra, a teenage girl who is coming into her full power in The Shining. And in the darkness, The True Knot. A group of psychic vampires led by Rose the Hat (played by Rebecca Ferguson – who manages to feel immediately familiar – even though I’ve never seen her before in ANYTHING. Hmmmm. Perhaps she really IS a vampire!), all intent on drinking Abra‘s Shining right out of her, and purifying it through pain.

The film follows the book fairly closely for the first two acts actually, although it does nod its head towards the film here and there. A flash once in a while, rare and scattered. We discover early on that Dick Halloran is in fact dead in the story. That immediately signals to this being more of a sequel to the film than the book, though you could probably wrap your head around a rationalization if you need it to. The actor is a brilliant re-creation of Scatman Crothers though. It’s an almost dead on impersonation and really well realized. Carl Lumbly has been made up to be the spitting image and a perfect Dick. They re-create Danny as a young child as well, but it’s again, used sparingly so the fact that he looks just attach off in the face… You’re not given enough time to really think about it. Shelley Duvall‘s doppelgänger Alex Essoe fares a little worse. Duvall is a much more recognizable actress, but one might argue that the events of the shining changed her… Aged her. Jack Torrance however, is shocking when we see him. He’s perhaps the epitomie of watching Flanagan is done with this movie. That face is not Jack Nicholson‘s, but everything about him is Jack Torrance. The hair and the mannerisms, the color and the movement. Henry Thomas (yes, THAT Henry Thomas) absolutely nails it and I buy it immediately, never questioning the entire time he’s on screen… And he’s on screen for a while.

Why? Because it’s that third act where things really start to diverge from the book. In the book, the final showdown between Danny, Abra, and rose the hat… It takes place at the site of the overlook… But of course in the book, the Overlook was reduced to a burning, smoldering rubble when the furnace exploded. Today it’s just an overlook point, a scant campsite with a few picnic benches and a plaque that might mention the grand old hotel. Rose meets her end in those outbuildings.

The problem is, for this film to really appeal broadly, we need more than that. We need the hotel itself, we need… The Overlook.

We’re never given a proper explanation as to how the building is still standing, why the electric still works or why it’s so pristine inside. Who knows, perhaps it doesn’t even exist anymore… But it’s held together by the sheer force of will stemming from Dan’s imagination? Or perhaps it’s just a cursed old haunted house, the sort of place that can’t ever really die. Whatever it is, 30 years later, it looks exactly the same… And I mean exactly the same. Kubrick’s estate handed over photos and documents, even the original plans for the Overlook so it could be built and replicated down to the last detail. And when I say the last detail, I mean last detail. Photos, props, even sheets of paper with the inscription “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.“ typed immaculately dozens of times across the crisp white sheets. The directors sets his third act there, with Rose the Hat meeting much the same end and she does in the book, perhaps in a more visual way, perhaps more ghosts eating at her life force than what the book might describe (along with some that a visually more recognizable), but the essence is still there. However, Flanagan then pushes the climax even further enveloping us in the terror that is a return to the Overlook. It’s ending is ultimately a satisfying climax, especially in this format… where you’re limited by the 2 1/2 hours to tell a story and tie the strings together. In a lot of ways he’s done the impossible. He’s merged the book and the film together, and created something that reconciles both. Just as importantly, he’s created a film adaptation that I once again enjoy just as much as the book.

Well, almost.

Doctor Sleep is derivative. It is an adaption. It is a piece of art with a foot in both the literary and cinematic world. But it’s not The Shining. It’s not necessarily it’s own entity the way that the book and film versions of The Shining are. here. No, this is definitely the Earth 2 version of the book, and as such will never be quite as satisfying. But as far as party tricks go, pulling this off is a pretty spectacular one. It’s available on streaming now, it’s on DVD now, go find it.

 


The Shining : Part One

Yeah, I know. You’re thinking “He’s doing a review on The Shining???“ I mean, is that really necessary? No. But this isn’t really going to be a proper review anyhow. It’s more of an examination… a set up.

It was a couple of years ago at Cinema Wasteland when the thought really occurred to me. I was in the bar, sitting at a table with a group of friends. I’ve been discussing my difficulties with the Dark Tower… I really only enjoy the middle couple of books, which then get interrupted by a flashback which I’m not into at all… It’s a mess for me. Nevertheless, because in a lot of ways, it’s the binding material that connects the Stephen King universe, I felt like I had to get through it. This led to a brief discussion on the movie, and my friend Shrew, a massive King fan, was adamant that the books are always better than the films. We went through and talked about favorite books, and then favorite movies. Then I pose the question; which do you like better? The film or the book of The Shining? That stopped him dead in his tracks. You could see the cogs turning in his brain as a smile started to curl at the corner of his mouth. It’s an unfair question I realized, because unlike any of kings other work, The Shining is a unique example of filmmaking That transcends but doesn’t eclipse its source material. Indeed, I think you could regard each has their own separate entity. Not merely a multi-verse divergence or a medium translation, but fully formed individual entities, separate from each other yet bearing the same name.

To be fair, they share a lot of the same names. Jack Torrance. Danny. Wendy Torrance. But are they the same characters?

Maddie and I are still talking about Spider-Man No Way Home. She is in an MCU phase right now, and before going to see the most recent Spider-Man movie, we went back and we watched homecoming and far from home as well. These new MCU films have a lot of characters with the same names as characters in the Spider-Man comics. But Zendaya is Michelle is not Mary Jane Watson. The producers them selves even made this clear. While we’re calling her MJ, this is not the same character. Nor is Peter‘s friend Ned, or his nemesis flash. Indeed, it’s my one big beef with the Tom Holland Spider-Man films. I wish they had just given all of these characters original names… Because they’re original characters. Seriously, I still bristle every time Peter calls Michelle “M.J.“.  Ned’s derivative, but the cast itself is pretty interesting, and have they been given original names, you might see them eventually translate into the comics. That’s never going to happen now.

But just like these characters in Spider-Man share the names with those in the comics, but not their faces of the personality… The same is true in The Shining. Stephen King described Jack Torrance as a pretty normal guy, going through a bad time he goes crazy. He’s description of Jack Nicholson‘s Torrance though, he’s a guy who’s already unbalanced and a little crazy who goes completely around the Bend. Likewise, Wendy Torrance in Kings mind was a sort of athletic cheerleader type. Pretty and outgoing, but sheltered. Naïve. The kind of woman who has never really had to face any kind of adversity. While I didn’t necessarily read that same sort of trophy wife status in the book, Wendy did strike me as strong and intellectual. Likely someone with higher education, someone who is not easily spooked, but rather a very rational kind of girl. Either way whichever us you listen to you’ll find it a stark contrast to the neurotic, chain-smoking twig we see in the film. Shelley Duvall is a mess already, and there’s no bravery in her. She is a flighty Hufflepuff, not a Gryffindor. Even the hotel itself is different. While the Overlook is absolutely a grand old hotel in both incarnations, the Overlook in the book is darker. The pipes rattle, and that boiler is ready to blow at any time, just waiting to give us a traditional Stephen King ending where he writes himself into a corner and then just blows everything up.
The outside is different as well. That iconic hedge maze that everybody knows from the movie, isn’t present in the book. Instead, it’s replaced by a roque Court, something like an oversize croquet game. Indeed, it’s a roque mallet that Jack carries through the house, ready to bludgeon Wendy, but not so much to chop her up as in the movie. It again underscores the fact that the book house itself may well be more dangerous than Jack. There are also hedge animals. Amazing topiaries, littering the front yard. And these are sinister things, moving only were not observed, like the weeping angels from Doctor Who.

So when I look at these foundational underpinnings being so different between the book and the film it’s only natural that it’ll progress in a different way. There are different hauntings, different survivors and different threats. For instance, while the lady in the bath is pretty shocking, even after grabbing Danny a bit, I’m never entirely convinced that the ghosts in the hotel can really hurt you. That’s why they need Jack, stocking the halls with an axe. In the book however, I am absolutely convinced that these things will kill you dead. I am convinced that Jack will be torn apart by the topiaries in the yard if he doesn’t escape. I am positive that while it’s a double entendre, the dog man threatening Danny, will indeed eat him up as a bloody snack if Danny dares to trespass down the wrong hall. The snake that the fire hose turns into… It’s full of venom and those teeth are needle sharp. There’s more monsters in the hotel in the book, whereas the film leans far more heavily on specters. And why not? Film is a visual medium, whereas pros is the theater of the mind.

At the end of the day, the end result is two entities so distinct that their night and day. And in a fascinating turn of events, the film is not better than the book. But the book is also not better than the film. They are each their own distinct pleasures, holding within them their own unique delights in tears. I can read the book or watch the movie and still come always satisfied but in different ways. Which one I reach for on any given day depends greatly on exactly what sort of itch I’m attempting to scratch.

That’s a fascinating thing to me about The Shining. I can think of no other film that is so divergent from its source material while being absolutely as valid and effective. But it then poses its own unique dilemma when it comes time for the next movie. What do you make the sequel to? The book? Or the film?

We’ll talk more about that tomorrow.

 


Introduction to Tropes

We’re going to try a little something new out this year. Along with some of our dollar tree movie selections and even some of our box set movie reviews, you’re going to notice this banner down at the bottom.

The more of these kind of movies that I watch, the more I see the same common tropes repeated again and again. There’s obvious ones, like how young the casts tend to be. If you’re trying to get an indie movie off the ground, maybe you shoot with your friends when you’re all young. Younger actors cost less and are looking for a break, or at least some footage to put on their reel. But it’s more than just that, it’s things like the same colors and composition on DVDs, the same characters showing up in movies, sometimes even the same plot… And once you start to see them. They’re impossible to ignore. So instead, let’s highlight them!


Mind you, just because we do a trope count at the end of a movie doesn’t mean it was a bad movie. The lack of a trope count doesn’t mean it was a good movie. Usually just means they’re worth enough to make it worthwhile hunting them down. Nevertheless, I think it’s going to be a fun experiment to see how many recurring themes we see, and from time to time, will check in here and talk a little bit about trucks and where I’m getting them from, as well as how I watch for them.

 

 


Daniel Armstrong

I first encountered Daniel Armstrong in a dollar tree film called Sheborg. It was such lunatic fun, that I felt like I had to discover everything else this guy had made. I wasn’t surprised to find out he’s based in Australia… His films have that sort of classic as exploitation deal from flaky films in the 80s… Not just Mad Max, but some of the really weird ones like Dead End Drive In. Armstrong’s use of blood and off kilter characters makes for entertaining fare.

You can see some of his trademarks, starting in the way that he presents credits… High-quality and integrated into the scene, much as was done in Zombieland. But there’s also a heavy musical influence in his movies as well. Veteran music video Director, Armstrong’s films generally feature live band performances, that is, if they don’t integrate the band itself directly into the story. It’s not unusual to see one of his featured players also doing the title song for his films.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still schlock, but it’s fun schlock and definitely a director that you really not know about.


The Munsters Scary Little Christmas

I found this at the dollar tree sometime either this past spring or summer 2020. I came across it for something else in my library, and decided it was finally time to throw this in the DVD player and give it a spin.

I know I was in trouble almost immediately, when it became apparent that wasn’t Fred Gwynne on the cover. I understand how universal would’ve been eager to try and reboot the Munsters in 1996. The massive success of the two Addams family films made it seem like a simple prospect. But there’s some significant differences between the Addams family and the Munsters . Scant as it may be, the Addams family has source material. It may just be a collection of single panel cartoons by artist Charles Adams, but it defined The look and ethic of the TV series, movies, and all other sundry sequels. With the Munsters however, they are the source material. Yes, I understand they’re based on the universal monsters, but Herman Munster is not Frankenstein. Grandpa is not Dracula. They are their own unique creations, defined by the actors who stepped into those roles.

This is one of the immediate places where these Munsters reboots fail. The actor playing Herman just doesn’t look right. He’s not tall enough to proportion out that barrel chest, nor is his face long enough. And would’ve gone along way towards that, as well as an additional half inch at the top of the four head appliance. Grandpa is even worse. We have Jack Klompus, (The rival of Jerry’s father in Seinfeld) done up in corpse paint and an incomprehensible false nose. He lacks the roundness of Al Lewis, not to mention his charm. He’s chewing the scenery and doing his own thing, and it’s jarring. Herman at least attempt to act like Herman… When he remembers to. But it’s a cartoonish exaggeration, something that was earnest when Gwynne would do it. Honestly, I am completely incredulous that they didn’t just bite the bullet and hire Brad Garrett. That man had been preparing for that role his entire life, and he was definitely available for a TV movie or two in 1996.

The other big difference between this and the Addams family reboots, is money. Those two films had an enormous budget, they backed up the stellar performance by Raul Julia and Christopher Lloyd with a well-funded background design. You can see a huge difference by the time we get to the Addams Family Reunion, where the scanty Power Rangers TV budget makes the whole thing look so cheap that even the brilliance of Tim Curry can’t save it.

Likewise, this series looks cheap. I realize that HD TV wasn’t a thing in 1996, but I’m watching this on DVD in standard definition and I can still see the seams on the ears and the noses. You can spot the eyebrow pencil being used to create the widows peaks. They re-created the costumes all right, but they look cheap. Fur around Santa‘s boot falls down at one point, circling his ankle, and they leave it in. Even the film stock feels… Less than.

The exterior set Is done well enough, it’s a facade that’s designed to look more like the Addams family house than the monster one though, and the actors they use who are pretending to be animatronics, well, it just looks a little dumb… Much the way it did in Kiss meets the Phantom of the park. I just keep coming back to that. The whole thing just looks cheap.

For their parts, the actress playing Lily, and the kid playing Eddie do a good enough job. Marilyn too. But the truth is, they’re mostly walking props. The focus isn’t on them, though when Lily does get a little something to do, I do feel like I’m watching Yvonne DiCarlo. It’s good.

Since they’ve moved from Transylvania to Southern California – really? – Eddie just isn’t in the Christmas spirit. It’s too different here, he’s getting bullied at school, and he’s just down. So the family devises their own plans to make him feel better. Marilyn wants to throw a party with all of their relatives… A good excuse to bring in as many universal monsters as possible! Lily on the other hand thinks that what Eddie  needs is involvement in the community… Kind of like in a Charlie Brown Christmas. Herman thinks he can solve it by getting Eddie the perfect Christmas gift, and goes off to look for a second job so he can afford it. Grandpa just believes all Eddie needs is snow. Herman and Marilyn’s plans are quickly sidelined, they’re not even the “B” storyline… Although they do get referenced at the very end. The main thrust of the story comes when grandpa accidentally transports Santa into his lap instead of snow. Then the movie becomes a story about how the Munsters have to get Santa back to the north pole and save Christmas. But can they do it in time? Santas got to lecherous elves with him who would really like the night off and they might just have a thing or two to say about it!

It’s just weird. It feels like somebody took a bunch of puzzle pieces that may or may not fit together, tossed them all into a blender and poured out this movie. I can almost see The writers room with a couple of checklists.

Munsters costumes question Check.
Herman in a Santa suit? Check.
Herman in a biker costume? Check.
Junior high bullies? Check. Santa Claus? Check.
Comedic misunderstanding? Check.
Munsters saved Christmas? Check.
Nosy neighbor? Check.
Holiday contest? Check.
Fruitcake? Check.
Subverting Christmas archetypes for comedic affect? Check.
Drag U La? Check.

It’s all here, it’s all mashed up, safe as can be, but with no coherent vision or Throughline. It’s so safe, no network exact could possibly have said no. But, that makes it so by the numbers, what’s here to get me to watch this instead of a rerun of Baywatch?

Perhaps I’m being a little hard on this, it was the third attempted monster reboot over the course of about five years. But still, this thing is pretty much a stinker. It looks nice on my shelf of misunderstood Christmas movies, but I can’t recommend it in anyway shape or form.


New Years Evil

The Capitol couldn’t manage to  put on thier 12 hours of terror marathon this year, but did pull together a smaller one; a four film night called Season’s Bleedings. Of the movies in that lineup, the one I was most looking forward too was New Years Evil. Not only have I never seen it before, I’d never even heard of it.

New Years evil is a straightforward slasher. We have Diane (Roz Kelly – if you ever watched Happy Days, you may remember her as Pinky Tuscadareo) basically a pre MTV VeeJay, hosting a Nu Wave countdown for New Years. The special is spread across all time zones, with diffrent countdowns in each one. But she caught the attention of a serial killer who also has plans for each time zone – a murder each for each one! Now it’s up to the hapless ’80s cops to track down and capture the killer before he gets to his last victem; Diane herself.

It’s an interesting enough setup, but the film itself is LOADED with problems. Setting aside my own preferance for a monster or a masked killer (This one just has an interesting assortment of costumes, false glasses and moustaches – though he does don a strange Stan Laurel mask at the very end) I’m genuinely not sure who to root for here. Obviously we’re ment to side with Diane, but honestly, she’s so unlikeable. She’s a disinterested mom, and really dosen’t even care that her emasculated and drunken husband is either shacked up or on a bender (I actually though he was he Ex from the way she talked about him), just got to get on with the show! And can we be real for a moment? Roz Kelly, at this point in her career, was not passing for a punk princess. Even if she were trying, the fact that she’s got a 20 year old son (and even he’s just…yuck) just makes her too old to be a pop idol. Heavy makeup over bad skin just drive home the slightly karen-esque characterization.

On the other hand, I’m not rooting for the killer either. We don’t get an explination for his motivation until well into the third act, and even then, he feels like a loser. He also never really ingratiates us with cool kills like a Jason or Michael. It’sjust stabby stabby with the switchblade and no set pieces until the final bit at the end.

The cops are basically cardboard cutouts. And this movie could have REALLY benifited from a charasmatic investigator. A Thomas Harris type like Will Graham or Clarice Starling (for that matter, a more charismatic villian would have been equally helpful). These guys aren’t even there to be stereotypes for kills. they’re just…there.

The one notabel thing abotu this film thoguh is the soundtrack. While our rocker crowd and VeeJay are really more….hollywood’s IDEA of what rockers should be like, the two bands featured in the film are the real deal. Made in Japan and Shadow are both good bands cranking out music that is authentic for the era. The real problem is, they’re good, but not GREAT – and on the Sunset strip….good dosen’t really get you anywhere. Still, the soundtrack is actually my favorite thing about this movie.

Despite my issues, this is worth a watch. It’s not a keeper, and I think that smack dab in the middle of a marathon like this is the perfect way to watch it. If it hits streaming like Pluto or Tubi, it’s worth 90 minuets, just for the curiosity alone.

 


Encanto

I went into Encanto with absolutely no expectations or preconcieved notions In fact, I went in with no information at all. I hadn’t even heard of the film. But my daughter had, and she was very eager to go see it, so when a couple of passes for an advance screening crossed my desk, I grabbed Maddie and off we went.

Even now though, mere days before the movie comes out, I’m seeing really no push. There’s a banner on Disney+, and sometimes an ad will pop up on my fire stick, but otherwise nothing. No commercials on television, no ads before YouTube videos, it almost feels like this thing doesn’t exist. And that’s a shame, because Encanto is a pretty good film.

We have a Colombian family, who generations ago escaped tyranny. The patriarch gave his life so that they could escape, and because of that, a miracle happens. An everlasting magical candle appeared and imbued all the members of this family with special gifts. One daughter has super strength, while another has super hearing. One can make flowers bloom out of nothing, well another one can heal you with whatever food she cooks. It’s an interesting premise, with this family as sort of the patrons of the entire village. They live in a magic house which manages to have its own personality without ever speaking a word, and from there they live and work and marry, and prepare for the youngest’s gift to emerge. That’s a time of some trepidation, because the last daughter, Mirabelle (Stephanie Beatriz), discovered she didn’t have a gift.

In the background though, the cracks in the walls are beginning to show. And it looks like the time for that miracle may be running out. It is up to Mirabel to save the miracle, save her family, and maybe in the process, figure out who she is.

Maddie is a big fan of the sort of Latin entertainment that’s been coming up lately… Stuff like Cuco, or Luca, or Book of Life, so this fits right into her wheelhouse. It’s gorgeously made with genuinely interesting characters, and a sense of magic… Dangerous magic. Mirabelle finds a lost family member Bruno (John Leguizamo) with a dire vision of the future, but it’s mixed up. Things don’t happen in order, and this becomes a mystery she has to unravel.

The thing that stands out the most for me in this film, are the songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda. I am an old theater veteran, and I pay attention to the songs in Disney films, glorified show tunes really. But the thing is, in the modern era, the music hasn’t been particularly memorable. With the exception of Frozen, I can’t really pick too many modern era Disney songs out of the air. Tangled is a better film than Frozen, but the only thing I remember from that is about half of “Waiting For My Life to Begin”. Frozen two, I know that “Into the Unknown” exists… But I can’t even hum it from memory. And the only reason that I remember “You’re Welcome” from Moana, is because I watched Spider-Man sing it at karaoke one night. All the music in Encanto just sticks with you. It’s a sort of film where you want to rush out and buy the soundtrack because it’s haunting and original and just works. It doesn’t stick with a normal pop or show tune formula, it’s progressive melody and really well thought out. I could give this film high marks just for that.

I could, but I don’t have to. The characters really carry this done as well. It’s still Disney, but there’s flaws and there’s depth and there’s growth. Everybody has an arc, and that’s interesting. Mirabel herself should be the least interesting of all of them, no superpowers, and maybe the mousiest looking one of them all. But there’s a personality and quirkiness to her that’s just enchanting. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes as well, the way she sews and embroidery on some things, the particular personality quirks of each character, and especially the bizarre and mournful nature of the lost brother Bruno. Everything just works together perfectly.

If I have any complaints, it’s that I wish we got the dark prediction earlier in the film, somewhere tacked onto the end of the first act. Watching Mirabel try and prevent it, and hunt down the clues is really the most entertaining part of this film for me. But because it’s really all shoved into the middle and back end of the third act, it sometimes feels like it goes too fast. Then again, that might be an endorsement… The film obviously passes The watch test.

I have two daughters, which means I spent a lot of time taking them to Disney, princess, and animated films over the last decade. There’s some that fall into a predictable pattern, predictable characters and tropes, and after a while you can spot it a mile away. It becomes boring. There’s others, that stand out, films that you end up enjoying yourself as well, it’s not just about taking the kids out. This is one of those. So when Encanto comes out this weekend, go see it. Hit it in the theater where you got a good sound system to revel in that soundtrack.

Encanto hits theaters November 24th.

By the way, go see Ghostbusters Afterlife as well… I got together with a group of ‘busters and we hit that this weekend too! The film gave me everything I wanted from a Ghostbusters sequel and is possibly an even better follow up than Ghostbusters Two. Support good films like Encanto , but let’s also support the good ones like Afterlife… I kind of don’t want to see Encanto knock Ghostbusters off the board! (I’m going again this week and taking the wife with me this time!)


Halloween Kills

I really enjoyed the Halloween reboot a few years ago. It was a genuinely good relaunch, tense and scary, one that embraced a lot of the lore, but without getting bogged down in the minutia. It was straightforward and did what it needed to do, reinvigorate the series and reinvent it after we got the taste of Rob Zombie out of our mouth (I’m not a detractor of those movies by the way, I like them, but they’re more Rob Zombie films than they are Halloween ones).

*Mild Spoilers*

Halloween Kills doesn’t quite land the second swing. It’s still maintains a lot of the feeling that we get from the reboot, but it misses the point in a lot of places. It wants to be a message movie, about how humanity is the real monster, the mob is the real evil, and The insertion of this subplot, takes up way too much time and is way too heavy handed to be effective.

Picking up immediately after the events of Halloween 2018, Laurie Strode is being raced to the hospital, and the firefighters are on their way to put out the fire in her house. We’re introduced to some of our characters through flashbacks, and of course, the charge to destroy Michael is led by Tommy Doyle. Chants of “The evil dies tonight!” are pervasive. Michael is on a rampage, killing his way through the town as he carves a path back home. Michael is all about home. About looking through that upstairs bedroom window… Or perhaps he’s not looking through the window, perhaps he’s just looking at his reflection and into himself. Either way, this is where he’s headed, and it’s where the ultimate showdown will be.

The film is heavily loaded with reunions. Tommy Doyle, this time played by Anthony Michael Hall (Part of me is upset they didn’t bring back Paul Rudd, but then again, he hasn’t aged a day since part six back in 1995 and actually might not look OLD enough for this version). Charles Cyphers police chief, and Tommy’s young sleepover friend Lindsay from the original… we even get a quick nod to the Silver Shamrock masks from the unrelated part three! However, we spent a lot of time on reflection and reunion and retelling, and much like the heavy-handed “the mob is the REAL monster” subplot, the stuff gets very old. It’s not that I don’t wanna see these characters back, it’s just that there’s so much of this family reunion stuff going on that it distracts from the film.

Jamie Lee Curtis for her part is sorely under used. They keep her at the hospital for the entire film… And this is no Halloween 2, where Michael is stalking the hallways. She’s just out of the way. We get a mob scene at the hospital where they think he might be coming to get her, but it’s all a red herring. Michael’s not after her, he just wants to go home. It almost feels like one of those movies like the direct to video Hellraiser movies, where they bring in the lead actor for a day or two, that way they get the name on the cover, but they shoot all the coverage separate from everybody else in their own little corner of the set and get it over with. Honestly, the easiest way to solve the pacing issues would be to drop a lot of the hospital stuff, and give Jamie Lee Curtis basically all the lines and actions that Judy Greer (playing her – Laurie strode‘s – daughter) has in this film. Give her a chance to really be the hero again.

That’s not to say this is a bad movie. Horror fans and gorehounds alike will be thoroughly satisfied with the amount of blood constantly thrown at the screen as well as the levels of the torn flesh that we get to see. Michael is brutal as ever, perhaps even more than usual, and this Director loves the spectacle of the violence. If you don’t see the night go in, you’re still going to see blood spraying towards the camera. It’s everywhere. It’s also frequent. There is an enormous amount of action here, almost with a comic book pacing. The problem here is, there’s very little actually thats frightening. But that’s OK, you’re not coming to this movie to genuinely be scared… You’re coming to visit familiar faces. The familiar heroine in Laurie Strode, and the familiar villain in Michael Myers (by the way, there’s a certain brilliance in the way the Shatner mask has been burned and weathered. It ages Michael up, giving him the same character lines on his face that mirror those on Laurie), even the familiar legacy of Doctor Loomis. And in those respects, it really does deliver and makes a fairly good companion piece to the 2018 reboot. However, the film can’t stand on its own and feels a little sloppy (not to mention about twenty minuets too long). It’s a little poorly put together, with an ending so bleak that it genuinely bothers me. Then again, we knew there was another one of these coming out already. It almost makes me wonder if the ending had been altered in someway to make that happen.

I wish I could say this was a definite go to on opening night, but it really isn’t. I wouldn’t be opposed to streaming it, or renting it when it comes out, but in many ways it feels like this is a step backwards in quality. A real shame considering how far this series has come.

Halloween Kills opens in theaters on October 15th

 


Cinema Wasteland Fall 2021

“You’re not leaving already?” Eric Roberts looked at me.

I smiled and shook my head, and as I readjusted my backpack.

“No, I’m just trying to get everything stashed and get out-of-the-way.”

Roberts smiled. “You’re not ever in anyone’s way, and you’re a lovely man!”

You know, these sort of things just don’t happen at Horrorhound.

It feels like Cinema Wasteland lite this time around, even more so than the movie nights Ken occasionally throws. He tested the waters with one of those movie nights month or two ago, and was putting on the first full Cinema Wasteland this weekend since the lockdown. But, the attendance was a little more sparse than usual. Regulars like Tom Sullivan were notably absent. About half of those in attendance and vending were wearing masks. Like I said, it felt a bit like a light version of the normal show. Nevertheless, I hadn’t realized how much I needed a wasteland weekend.

I did an smaller number of shows the last couple years… Basically hitting anything that was open to show support for the cons that dared to run a show. That means a lot of Jeff Harper events, as well as some trips south to the Toyhio show. It also meant a couple of trips to PA, where my buddies finally managed to drag me to the big Steel City comic con in Monroeville. But Wasteland is different. Wasteland reminds me why I love convention life. I said it in my reviews, the Steel City is a cash grab. It’s a cattle call, moving you through expensive guest lines and it’s programming is lackluster… Then there are the shows like the Harper events where there’s no programming at all.

Wasteland is all about programming. It’s all about the curation, and showing me films I never knew I needed to see like The incredibly strange creatures just stopped living and became mixed zombies. This one was playing Friday evening, hosted by Gunga Jim. I generally enjoy his stuff, and he is always a fun personality at the events. Gunga Jim came into the movie room to announce that this would in fact be the only time he gets to show this film. Somebody had just snatched up the rights to this public domain movie, just this week and that prevented him from selling it or ever screening it again. Such a bizarre development, and really, after watching this movie… Who would WANT to buy the rights to it? This thing isn’t getting a criterion Blu-ray release!

But I also was happy to be back at Wasteland to remind me that there are still shows out there that aren’t just trying to gouge their customers at every opportunity. Most guests were charging $20 for an autograph, and that went down to $10 if you brought your own thing. Photos were free with the autograph. David Millbern was pleasant and chatty, showing me photos of his new Emmy, as well as the contract from slumber party massacre… just to prove how ridiculously low his day rate was. I make more than that at my own job. Roseanne Katon squealed in delight when I Unrolled my Motel hell poster for her to sign… She’d be the first person on this one. She talked about filming and even shared that her daughter had dressed up as her character for Halloween one year… gotten make up for a bloody slit throat and everything. Fred Olen Ray was in his corner, hocking DVDs. If you bought two or three, he would throw in a free autograph. That’s actually a pretty good deal on the best of days. Likewise, James Edwards from JR Bookwaters crew was set up, and happy to sign my DVD copies of Dead Next Door and Robot Ninja for free. He was delighted to hear about the screening we had in Cleveland couple years ago and amazed I actually got to see it on the big screen.

Guests at Cinema Wasteland tend to be more obscure ones, not the main stream folks who are constantly on the convention circuit… there are a lot of first-timers and these are people who genuinely want to be there. They’re having fun and amazed at how nice the crowd is. Wasteland tends to spoil a first time convention guest for any other shows.

Zander Vorkov could not make it this year, some health problems have sprung up recently, so I signed the giant get well card that Ken had set out at the registration desk. Another fun little touch that wasteland generally does for guests to have to bow out because of some ailment or another.

I managed to slip in for the short film block, but I swear, these things are getting longer. The last feature was a full hour! That doesn’t count as a short film in my book! Still, I sat through an interesting kind of ghostly cult film for 23 minutes and God bless the guys who did the second one. Creating a fun and Quick little shock story and showing how effective that can be even in a mirror three minutes. I’ll admit I bailed right before the third time. I know what to expect from this particular filmmaker, he’s an expert in molding and sculpting silicone, and nobody does gore better than he does. I wasn’t up to 40 minutes of that though, but I did run over to his table To purchase some grotesque body parts for my collection.

My personal favorite film this time around, had to be psycho ape. The premise is a crazed killer rate goes around murdering people with bananas. In this universe, bananas are as razor sharp and deadly as any knife or blade. He’s pursued by a teenage girl who wants to be the next Jane Goodall, trying to help him, and the sinister doctor ZOOmis; Wildlife specialist with a Dr. Loomis from Halloween sort of obsession with capturing and imprisoning psycho ape. The apes it is bad, the CGI blood packs are terrible, and the whole thing is just ludicrous… And it revels in it. They know exactly how bad of a film as it is, and they lean into it. It ends up being bloody, funny, and just a generally good time.

I ended up my weekend, by popping out to wasteland Sunday afternoon for one quick last go around in the dealers room, before headed out to the Cleveland Comic and Nostalgia Show a couple towns over in Westlake. I’ve reviewed a couple of Harper shows this year already, there’s not much that changes or that needs to be said. I was there for $.50 bins and to hang out with a friend who was having a birthday.
 
It was nice to cap off the weekend with one extra run through a different dealer’s room. All in all, it really does help remind me, why I enjoy con life. I can’t wait until we really see things get back into full swing.
 
 
 
 

 


Steel City August 2021

I wasn’t really feeling it this weekend. I honestly wasn’t in the mood for a long drive to Pennsylvania, and my map completely turned me around and added both time and mileage. Still, I was really just coming in to grab a few Elm Street victims, almost everybody I needed to complete my scrapbook.

Brooke Theiss and Toy Newkirk were both supposed to have come to steel city con last year, but the plague shut everything down. Even now, there’s still a certain degree of trepidation and both arrived this time, but masked. It certainly put a damper on things, and I declined photos with them. Still, Toy had some interesting photos with her. Her mother had been on set when she was doing make up tests and getting her lifecast and and taking dozens of photos that she never knew about. She only discovered them a couple of years ago, and had a really interesting collection that gave her a good excuse to talk about the whole process there.

I was particular excited for Breckin Meyer though. I enjoy him in a variety of things, not the least of which are the Garfield movies. I have an unreasonable lot for these. But he’s also fun and stuff with the robot chicken crew and things like rat race. One of his early performances was in Freddys dead… He looks completely different and his voice and dropped yet. It was always strange to see him, and I assumed you with one of the guys I was never going to get in person. It was a great deal of fun to head up and chat with him and get my photo signed. I pulled down my mask and headed in.

“Gahhhhh!” Meyer exclaimed as he jumped back startled. I pulled up the Freddy hockey mask I was wearing, as we laughed over it.
“That is so %$#@&* cool!“ breathed Meyer. “So thanks for coming out and terrifying me today! “

I noticed Tom Arnold didn’t have any line so I decided to run over and see him too. He’s one I’ve been debating on, he doesn’t really get killed by Friday, but he does have a look at cameo in the film and some genuine achievements in his filmography.

Costumes were out in full force as Sunday is the costume contest for the show… The place had violently erupted in anime characters. But there is also a stunning Mothra floating through the place, as well as some interesting bits and pieces… A brilliant J Jonah Jamison and a dead on Hulk Hogan. For my part, I was phoning it in – my freddy/jason top, along with a Hockey mask I had done up in a Freddy theme. It was actually king of fun – people (especially the crafters in the artist alley) kept asking where I had gotten the mask, and I got to walk them through the process of making them!

I ended up sticking around a little bit longer than I had expected because I kept running into friends who wanted to hang out… Some of which I haven’t seen since before the plague started. It made for a longer day, and by the time I left I was wiped. I still insist that steel city is not going to be a regular stop on my route. For the most part I’m trying to avoid the big meat market autograph shows, but it’s nice to know its there, just within reach to sneak out to. Maybe next time I’ll slip over to Evans cemetery on the way home.

 

 


NEO Comiccon 2021

So, it would be accurate to say that there were no quarter bins of comics this year at Neo comicon. It would be accurate to say that. It would NOT however, be accurate to say if there were no quarter bins at all…

We hit Neo comicon lite just as soon as the doors opened this weekend. We had another appointment on the east side of Cleveland so we were going to be very limited in our time here and knew we’d have to be judicious in our browsing. Still, in the two hours we were there, I can’t see me or Maddie having lasted much longer than that.  It’s a small show this year. No programming, no costume contest, no out of town guests. We’re easing back into conventions. Still, it was nice to see old faces and the new acquaintances. One of my buddies from Heroes United ran up to me shook my hand while another just flat out embraced me. He mentioned that he forgot to bring my Flash box set that Chris has… I was confused.

“Wait, I loaned that to Rocky!”
“Yes,” he replied and “Rocky loaded to Chris. And then Chris passed it on to me since I do more Heroes United events than he does these days! But I totally forgot today…”

I love this stuff, it’s nice to be back on the convention circuit.

I caught up with Josh and Steph and Jennifer as well, who I just seen the previous night at our birthday parties… (We did all the July birthdays together at a new restaurant in Cleveland). I haven’t seen Jen in costume in a long time, and that’s kind of cool. Josh on the other hand has pushed Deadpool to a new ridiculous level. He’s got a Deadpool version of the Mandalorian, complete with a baby carrier for the child… Except the child is Detective Pikachu. Also for no reason, there’s an alligator Loki involved in this costume. It’s glorious.
Despite the lack of a costume contest, Cosplays were in full force here. Maddie decided to pull out her Clementine outfit from The Walking Dead again. Both of us were looking for quick and easy costumes that we could get around with no problems in, stuff that wouldn’t get us stopped for photos frequently, although to be fair, Maddie got recognized repeatedly as her character. In fact she was recognized just as often as my Shadow was. Always gratifying. It makes her day, especially considering we’re both showing Up in outfits that (as one of her favorite tik-toker‘s says )
“there is absolutely no demand for this character!”

Maddie bought a sketch from one artist booth that she instantly fell in love with, and immediately dropped her entire convention allowance (and then some of her own money) on it. I love that my kids buy art. I know I’ve said that before, but they still do it and it’s consistent. The fact that they support local artists is one of the things that just makes me proud as a dad. She also grabbed some hero clix with me and then stared longingly at a lot of the Pokémon stuff!

Remember when I said there were no Quarter comic bins? I’m not lying. There were only dollar bins.  Sure, I dug through some of the dollar bins and found a few interesting bits and pieces, but what I really hit hard, were the toys. We found about half a dozen long boxes filled with hero clix, a quarter each or five for a dollar. I dropped five dollars. That doesn’t sound like much, but it sure does look like a whole ton when you have an arm load. Some were OP prizes or FCBD specials that nobody actually carries, as well as dozens of characters that we really like and wanted to play with. I got a new penguin and I got a rocket raccoon, I even got a gladiator hulk! Superman and wonder woman and Batman, or the one I thought was a USAgent that was actually the captain… Steve Rogers while he was in exile. Great figures, and it almost makes me wanna play again!

But the single purchase that I was the most excited for…..

I actually just bought a couple of comics from this vendor, then went around the corner and spied a small box of twenty five cent toys. When I looked in, there were tons of old Star Trek micromachines. I love the Star Trek micromachine series. I grew up reading ads for the FASA wargame miniatures, and these things one for $10 for each ship in the 80s. When this series of Micro Machine starships came out, these were five dollars for three of them. I bought most of them when they ere first on sale about twenty five years ago. In the bin I saw a deep space nine that I immediately grabbed, because The one that I bought years ago, had actually lost a pylon. Snapped right off. Replacing it for a quarter was a treat. a new borg ship, a Klingon D7, and then I looked down and I saw it. It was a saucer. I almost thought it was Miranda class… Maybe the reliant itself but it was completely round, and the lines were sharper… And I saw the registry. NCC-1701-A. My jaw dropped and I frantically dug through the rest of the bin. The saucer section, the primary hull, had broken off of this figure… I dug desprately. Finally, in the corner of the box I found the secondary hall, the body of the ship with the engines…

I see the look on your face. I realize you don’t understand.

I came into Star Trek during the movie era. Not necessarily the wilderness period, but definitely before Star Trek the next generation. For me, Star Trek is the DC comics written by Peter David and Mike W Barr. It’s the maroon wrap around tunics, and the white starship with the blue dish on the front. It’s my single favorite ship in all of Star Trek. But micro machines, in their infinite wisdom, only ever released this ship as part of a large set that I could not afford at the time. Besides, that set had every ship that I’ve already bought in it…

I have always wanted this starship and I don’t care if this one’s broken, I have superglue at home. And at $.25 been this was the single most exciting discovery I had all day. Serious biz, I can’t even tell you how happy this find made me.

So amused that I still hit 25 cent  bins as hard as ever, but today it was all about toys, rather than comics. Nevertheless. I came home with some new reading material, a lot of toys to play hero clicks with my kids, and some really fun memories of what is generally the best comic convention in the area. I’m hoping they’re back to full speed next year.
 
 
 
 

 


CW Film appreciation society July 2021

Wait, what do you mean that last week was the season finale of The Flash?? Also, Cisco, how can we miss you if you won’t leave? I swear, this dude has been talking about quitting for years, actually left the show three times, and keeps coming back. Still, a satisfying conclusion to the Godspeed war… And actually, it feels a little bit like the comics again. That moment where Jay and Barry and Bart all line up with Iris and XS as a speedster ensemble… This is a trend we started seeing in the comics midway through Wally’s run, and it’s always a fun feeling to get.

I could do another paragraph gushing about Superman and Lois, but I’ve already done enough of that. And really, TV wasn’t the big event this weekend, it was the One day show that Cinema Wasteland was putting on. It’s an event that grew out of those film appreciation society screenings Ken was putting on at the local Eagles Hall, he’s expanded it moved it to the hotel that usually posts wasteland. For some reason I missed the last one before the plague, so this was my first time hitting one of these events.

The vendors room is small, smaller than some of those Harper shows I’ve been going to, using approximately a third of the space Wasteland takes up… With only 30 vendors instead of 100. There’s an hour and a half between the time the vendor room closes and they transform it into a screening room, so I decided to swing by around lunchtime, while I was doing other errands, with the plans on heading back that night for the films (My real interest). The shopping was lightly attended, and you could do that dealers room in 20 minutes, 30 if you really dug in. With hours going from 10 to 5, the room would never fill up too much. Thankfully they were a great deal more people showing up for the movie later that night. It was a double feature of the Human Duplicators and Mutiny in Space, both on 16mm film. The human duplicators was particularly fun, as you can see Richard Kiel and Hugh Beaumont in the same film. That’s like the greatest Jeopardy question ever.

Wastelanders were happy to be out of the house and back talking with like-minded folks. Guys were even chatting me up in the bathroom about the movie we just seen, how the one actress could’ve been a Bond girl and what do you think their reaction was one they needed life cast of everybody even though they weren’t doing make up? It’s different in a women’s restroom, and a guys bathroom it’s generally considered gauche and uncomfortable to talk between The stalls, but Wastelanders family. Even family that you don’t know.

Most of the out of towners skipped this event, understandably. There are a few among the vendors, like Dirk Manning or happy club picture is and it was nice to catch up with Mike and Amy and Dirk. I ran into my buddy Jim and his new wife Amy, and they introduced me to their friends, and with patches of people just standing around and hanging out in black T-shirts, talking about monsters and tattoos and hobbies, it felt like Wasteland again. Like were easing back into the scene, and I for one cannot wait for October.

 


The Graveyard : Bloody Murder 3

index.jpgThe Graveyard is not necessarily a direct sequel to the Bloody Murder films, although it was planned as one. As it is, the film is more of a sidequel, taking place in the same town and at the same camp but not necessarily with the same character as a killer. Nevertheless, you can tell even within the opening minutes that it shares a great deal of the DNA from the previous two films and it very much belongs as a part of the series.

The film opens with a group of stupid teenagers sneaking into the Placid Pines cemetery through a broken gate. I say stupid teens, by the way, not because they’re teenagers but because they are really acting dumb and half drunk announcing their entry and competing for the most interesting entrance to the cemetery. The whole party is overdubbed by a miscellaneous rockabilly song as they run in between the tombstones. While they don’t specifically state that the game they’re playing in the cemetery is “bloody murder” it is set up the same… One person is it and has to go find the others. However the person counting down doesn’t notice the masked killer behind him – and when he opens his eyes a white mask and a knife are coming straight at him. That’s enough for him, game index2or not he takes up running – but the mast killers pursues him, scoring a victim along the way. He wasn’t looking – and impales himself on the broken fence, it’s only then that we discover our masked killer is one of the dumb teenagers – it was all a massive fake out (just like it has been in every previous film) – one that ended up tragic.

Five years later, the masked teen, Robert,  is getting paroled after being charged with manslaughter for this incident. One of the girls from that night is taking him back to town, where they hang out at the campsite from the previous two bloody murder films. We get a melancholy shot of the cemetery as they drive past in Roberts pensive mug staring at the windows. The gangs all coming back to the camp now that Robert is out.

During the getting to know you sequences we get a couple of jump scares with the groundskeeper – someone who is not part of the reunion going on here. Everyone seems to be in fairly high spirits except for Bobby gloomy-McWet-blanket. Perhaps he’s just tired of hearing the couple in the cabin next door have sex. He ominously warned them index3.jpgthat the woods aren’t safe.

The rest of the group has a quick power in the dining room where they discuss whether or not it safe to be around body – turns out his family was murdered while he was in jail, an incident involving arson – the plot thickens. One of the girls freaks out and runs to the cemetery, convinced that karma will follow her and the only way out is to beg forgiveness… In the darkness, a masked killer stalks. He’s not just following her though, he seems to be everywhere – his reflection showing up in the mirror as one of the others heads to the bathroom for an obligatory shower scene.

Back at the graveyard, the dead friend’s grave is empty – dug up.

While they’re investigating the graveyard, shower girl gets it. The group hears screaming but by the time they arrive, the shower is empty. Everyone tries to figure out what happened – her bags are still there and her car is still there. Bobby tells them if she went to the woods, she’s gone. He believes it retribution for what they did five years ago… It doesn’t matter the group decides to head up to the woods to search for her.

In the words we run into an angry ex-girlfriend – this might of actually served as a nice misdirect if they didn’t kill her off as soon as she storms away. We get some squabbling as they wander aimlessly through the effectively lit woods, complete with another fake out– not only a mask but also a retractable blade. They laugh it off, despite the fact that the caretaker warns them once again – these woods aren’t safe, and one of their people are still missing.

index4.jpgBack at camp, the cars have all been tampered with – slashed tires, missing batteries and cut gas lines. That should be ominous, but the pacing feels off and the tone hasn’t built up enough dread. While the boys try and fix the cars, the girls smoke pot and pontificate – that is until the killer shut up again, this time with a severed head in hand (Possibly the best gore in the entire film). The camp is lit beautifully, with that light blue mist we’ve become so used to in the Bloody Murder films and the sight of the killer walking across the field to stalk his victim feels iconic.

Gore signals the beginning of the third act, and now the remaining campers know they’re in danger.

It’s about this time that the cop shows up… He catches Bobby with a bloody knife that the killer used on someone in the woods and he finds himself back in custody. Morning index5.jpgcomes and our survivors gather together in one of the dorms, while the cop throws Bobby in a jail cell. Meanwhile, at the cabins the remaining campers think they have figured out who the killer is.

While it’s clumsier than the two Bloody Murder films, The Graveyard still throws us twists, turns and enough fake outs to keep you wondering through the third act who the killer actually is. Truly the only thing keeping this from being a fully realized Bloody Murder film is the absence of the series slasher, Trevor Moorehouse… And even without him, we still have a masked killer who looks like a natural evolution from that stalker. The white mask this killer wears could just as easily be a weathered and patched up version of the one from Bloody Murder 2. It’s definitely worth watching with the other films and absolutely deserves its place in this trilogy.


Steel City Con and Pulp Fiction

Look, I knew when I was getting into. I’ve been avoiding Steel City Con for a few years now, because it’s just too big. It looks like a cattle call, a meat market… One of those large autograph focused conventions that I’ve been increasingly dropping for my schedule. However, my buddy Mike has been bugging me to ride along to a show with him for a while now, and he and his buddy had an open seat in the back of the car.

And William Shatner was coming.

I’ve been going to Star Trek conventions for a long time, and I even have Shatner‘s autograph through his fan club, but we never actually crossed paths. He made it to Cleveland a couple of times with wizard world, but we all know how I feel about that show. Being able to camp out in someone’s backseat and not have to worry about navigation or parking, it kind of changes the equation. So does the fact that Shatner is 90. This felt like my best chance, now or never. So I ponied up for the photo op… Something I generally consider to be gouging, but again… This is really my best shot, then I gathered up my Shadow costume and met the guys drive down to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.

Steel City Con is actually held at Monroeville convention center… A suburb of Pittsburgh, and also right across the street from Monroeville mall. This is a bonus. I was going to check two boxes off my bucket list, meet Shatner, and finally visit mall where Dawn of the Dead was filmed.

The fan community in PA is just as starved for conventions as what I’ve been noticing in Ohio. The show was packed, shoulder to shoulder. The prices were high, and other than Shatner, I was really only interested in meeting two people. Comedy legend John Lovitz was signing at his first convention ever here, and I’ve loved him in everything I’ve ever seen him in. He seem to be in a bit of a mood though, he smiled brightly and cheerfully for photos, and that smile would fade as soon as the camera went down. His panel was half hearted, he still delivered some fun lines, but he really didn’t seem into it.

On the other hand Alanna Masterson and Chandler Riggs from The Walking Dead we’re both in fine form. They were happy and friendly, and just generally fun to be around. Alana walked out and looked over the attendance… And just breathed “ look at all the people! I haven’t seen this many people in ages!” She is bouncy and happy and steals the show even when people are asking questions specifically of Chandler Riggs. She’s every bit of fun in person as she always was on talking dead, and that’s a nice thing. The panels themselves though were really lackluster. There is no moderation, no one up there asking questions guiding the conversation and bring us something new. They brought the actors onto the stage, and let the audience just ask questions. The problem is, when you do that, you just get the same dozen questions that you’ve heard in every other interview, convention panel, or talk show. I was actually a little disappointed, because I’ve always loved the entertainment and programming portions of these sort of shows.

The other person I was there to meet was Larry Thomas, better known as the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. He was strictly a target of opportunity, I wanted to meet him because he was there, and also The least expensive autograph and photo! Thomas is having a great time. He loves seeing the fans he loves mugging for the camera, he just seemed genuinely happy to be there, even down to a snarky “master of my domain shirt”, he was possibly the most fun guest that I interacted with that day.

Back in the dealers room I was saddened by the lack of comics. I guess they don’t cal themselves a COMIC con, but that’s what it is… Or at least what it started out as. Best you can do for bargain bins were dollar bins… Although I found one that was swimming full of trade paperbacks. I grabbed some Hell blazer and ultimate, some titles that I always meant to get around to like bite club, and even a strange looking ultimate Spiderman trade. I checked the volume number, it wasn’t on my list… I should’ve looked a little closer though. It’s about three or four issues, all translated into what appears to be Norwegian. I’ve got those issues in English elsewhere, so it’s just kind of a trip to see this thing. Not what I was looking for, but not a complete waste of a dollar bill.

I grab some blind bags of Doctor Who figures to open up with the kids when I got home, as well as digging through a huge box full of Disney park pins. Each, I grabbed a handful for the kids, as well as a bunch of superheroes to pin to the back of my comicon bag.

All in all, I still managed to have a fun day, the guys introduced me to Indian Food, and I got to meet Captain Kirk – really the one that started it all. Still, it was hot and crowded, and in a lot of ways exactly the sort of imagine that I don’t enjoy going to. They could probably still get me back with certain guests… For instance, a couple of the Elm Street girls are coming in the fall, and I’m tempted to make the trek back out just to grab them. But it’s definitely not gonna be a stop on my normal rotation.

Of course because I’m just that masochistic, I decided to make it a doubleheader this weekend. There was a small Jeff Harper show going on in my backyard (and God bless Harper for keeping the con scene alive through the pandemic), back at the Westlake double tree where they did the spring comic show, and where they held Retro Invasion convention back in fall of 2019. The hotel has been getting a lot of traffic with these kind of shows, and it’s nice to have some of the stuff showing up within a quickie 15 minute drive. This one was the pulp fiction show, and really I was just going to find out what it would be like. I have no idea what to expect, other than a strange flea market atmosphere. I once again donned the shadow costume and dove in. When they say pulp fiction convention, what they mean is book sale. All books, a lot of trashy pulp novels from before I was born, as well as more than enough pulp magazines, but also newspaper reprints. A smattering of comics, and a lot more paperback novels from the 70s 80s and 90s than I expected. I loaded up on James Blish Star Trek adaptions as well as Roger Zelazney paperbacks as well as a few odd ducks like a Buck Rogers and a strange zombie for dummies style book. It was an interesting show, and it would probably behove me to go with a list of shadow reprints that I don’t have, and maybe a more informed attack on the paperbacks. It was also a pleasant surprise to discover my buddies Rhonda and Criss there. I haven’t seen these two girls in probably over a year, so it was nice to bump into them, despite my full costume!

There’s talk of making Pulp fiction convention a yearly thing. And I think that’s more than enough. A quick, one day niche specialty feel like this. I’m intrigued enough to show up again if they come back!

 


Bloody Murder 2

index.jpgThere’s pros and cons to Bloody Murder 2… Pro, Tiffany Shepis is in this… Con The mask is different, and is in fact pretty uninspired compared to the hockey mask of the previous installment. It’s just one of those plain white face masks you see at the craft store – and it’s not even the one they feature on the cover of the videotape!

We open to what is pretty obviously a dream sequence, a young blonde woman in a misty woods – I’m pleased to see that they’ve retained that same look from the last film, at least this carries over. It’s the sister of Jason, the final victim from the previous film and she is dreaming of bringing her brother back. It’s a good enough set up and it brings us back to the camp. This time however, they aren’t getting ready to open the camp, but rather they’re closing Camp Placid Pines up for the winter. We don’t get a proper opening kill on this one – the dream doesn’t count – but they do mention a wood chipper… That’s Checkovs gun if I ever saw one!

This time, it’s Tiffany Shepis who suggests the game of bloody murder as the campers set around the bonfire. We get a little bit more of the lore concerning Trevor Moorehouse. It’s a good thing because he was woefully under developed in the previous film. Back in the woods, we get the same fake outs from the previous film – a camper with ketchup and another one in a fake plastic hockey mask.

Still, I can’t complain because it does lead to the first kill – and I gotta give these guys props… It’s a lot more graphic than what we saw before. At its heart, Bloody Murder couldn’t decide if it was a slasher or a mystery, but Bloody Murder 2 goes straight for the gore and does so before we even hit the 18 minute mark. They need to go hard on the scene as well, because it’s the films set piece. They’re still creative kills and blood splattered throughout the film, but none as flesh rippingly intense as this one. Best to go in knowing what to expect.

images4.jpgThe next morning, we are still following the structure set down by the first movie – that first kill isn’t missed because they believe he’s left the camp for the year. In the meantime, the local cook gives us an idea of just how pervasive the Trevor Moorehouse urban legend is around these parts. It gives us a better feel for it and makes it more real than what we had seen previously. They mix it with some of the Meta dialogue that scream had made so popular – a discussion of who gets killed first in horror movies, the black dude or the women, then top it off with a little nookie so we can be reassured about who is going to die next.

After the next kill, the skeptical sheriff shows up to address ingenue Tracy’s concerns that she saw Trevor Moorehouse. It doesn’t matter, with the body count piling up, she is increasingly suspicious and decides to take the remaining campers to go search the campsite. Tiffany by the way, isn’t having it and storms off. It’s early in her career though which means this is just a good excuse to get her naked.

The rest of the campers searching the campus don’t find anything, but Tiffany certainly does – a desiccated corpse with an arrow through its neck lies on her path and her screams bring down the cast. At least it’s enough to convince the sheriff there’s a killer amongst us.

index5.jpgWhile the sheriff searches, it’s time to hit the showers to clean off some of the blood, right? Of course, as we all know, the shower scene is like a dog whistle for a slasher and our killer shows right up, hiding in in a new stall to lure his victim out. There’s a clever twist here, and for all of my complaining about them changing from the hockey mask, the blood splatter really does look good on this plain white face – especially under the high contrast of the overhead fluorescent lights. Needless to say, the cops are not pleased.

The plot thickens when our ingenue discovers a video camera pointed at the dorms, potentially revealing the identity of the killer! This leads to the rest of one of the campers, and yet, surprise! The killer is still out there! (after all, we still have about a half hour left) meanwhile, it’s time for another spooky dream sequence.

The head counselor admits that the camp is over and offered to send the girls home, but they’ve got just a little bit more investigation to do – checking pagers, figuring alibis, and getting murdered in the woods. There is still more twists before the killer is revealed as images3.jpgthe third act ramps up.

It’s curious, the first time I watched this movie years ago, my initial thought was how much it was like an early Friday the 13th film… Now I’m struck by just how much this movie is like the first bloody murder film. They both have very similar structures, very similar beats – they’re not just checking off elements of the slasher film this time, they’re also checking off beats from the first movie, down to the final surprise appearance by Trevor Moorehouse. There is also a sort of backhanded attempt to create continuity – rejiggering the timeline and connecting the ingenue to Bloody Murder’s final victim.  It’s a blatant attempt to wedge this in line with the previous film – I’m not complaining, but it’s obvious that The continuity was invented after the bag rather than being planned out from the first film, and I’ve got to say it would be a lot more convincing if they were using the same mask in both movies. The radical changes a bit jarring. Still its interesting to see how they work it and it practically guarantee is that if you like the first one, you’ll like the second one, but there’s not much going on here that’s new or that pushes the franchise forward any. Bloody Murder 2 is a good, solid slasher that you can enjoy as part of the series or on its own.


Bloody Murder

index.jpgI can’t believe that Bloody Murder starts off with the old running out of gas gag, but it sure does… It starts right off on a good note though, – the husband walks over to a darkened van to ask for a lift to get some gas… Out of the van steps our killer complete with hockey mask and chainsaw, and a chase ensues!

It’s actually just a fantasy, as a couple of new camp counselors talk over the urban legend of Trevor Moorehouse, the area’s local bogeyman, but it’s still a good start.

We get a pleasant 10 minutes of getting to know you fare, complete with a doomsayer in the woods and a fake out with one of the boys peeking into the girls dorm while wearing a hockey mask.

The title of the film comes from a game that the campers play where one person hides in the words, and then tries to tag the others as they separate to search for him. The game is images3.jpgcalled bloody murder, it is pretty much the best scenario ever for a campfire serial killer. The woods are filmed beautifully, well lit so you can see the green in the trees, with blue mist Low to the ground, contrasting the dark and cloudless night sky. It’s here that we get our second fakeout, ketchup blood on the shirt and our counterfeit mask scaring one of the campers.

Elsewhere in the woods, we hit all the slasher trope checklists – one girl smokes weed, another couple gets naked. The filmmakers definitely did their research on the formula, but let us down a little bit because the first murder happens off screen. The missing counselor is noticed the next day, but people blow it off as him just abandoning the camp and taking off on the road. 23 minutes in is way too early to start panicking , after all.

That night, or killer infiltrates the camp and we get an eerie moment when one of the campers notices a knife missing, just before it used to slash her to death. Ritz crackers in highly reflective blood is a nice artistic touch. The head counselor decides it’s to time to images4.jpgcall the sheriff in. The sheriff is understandably skeptical, even moreso when the Trevor Moorehouse urban legend is mentioned. One of the campers has his own theory on how the second murder happened, and that’s an interesting addition to the formula, but ultimately a misdirect.

We get another long talky stretch, where we repeatedly reference the legend of Trevor Moorehouse but don’t actually add anything to the story. When the killer appears there are a lot of shots of shoulders and hands, a sort of giallo feel like we got in the first Friday the 13th, which is weird because we’ve already seen this character is hockey mask. Still, the next kill serves exonerate our first suspect, he was in police custody at the time – now suspicion falls on the first camper killed, after all he is missing!

images5.jpgOur next appearance of the killer has him chasing the engineer across the field in broad daylight Before slicing the throat of one of our other unhappy campers. It’s genuinely surprising how much of this film occurs in broad daylight, but fortunately the powder blue jumpsuit and edgy hockey mask look pretty good in full light.

Slowly, our ingenue discovers the camps terrible secret – a young man named Nelson Hammond went mad and committed murder there decades ago… Back when her father was a camp counselor there.

Later that night she’s startled by her ex-boyfriend Jason, the guy we thought was the first murder back at the beginning! Since he is the murder suspect, he’s taken into custody, but there is still half an hour left so we know this ain’t over yet…

Using a photograph she found in a hidden cabin, Julie the ingenue discovers the identity of the killer and it’s not who you would expect. Or maybe it is, this thing manages enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. I actually really dig this – it has all of the bits and cues of Friday the 13th movie, but manages a twist at the end that generally satisfies me. Even with that knowledge, it’s still a nice average slasher with everything you could possibly expect from the genre.

But what about the sequels?


Dominique is Dead

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indexDominique is dead it’s one of those movies that’s full of people that I feel like I should at least be peripherally familiar with, folks like Simon Ward and Jenny Agutter and Cliff Robertson. It starts off on the eve of dinner party, with the wealthy couple that are obviously having friction. The husband just fired the chauffeur and the wife is in a generally bad humor.

That evening, the wife, Dominique is depressed and scared and pleads with the new chauffeur driver to help her, but he’s just kind of weirded out by it and sends her back off to her room. She plays piano a lot. Her husband wakes up, and heads out to the patio to find her hung by a noose in a blue moonlight.

Watch Check; we’re nearly a full half hour into this thing! This chick better start haunting us, and quick like!

Husband comes home, lights a cigar and sits back, very satisfied. He does a quick check of the house before heading to bed and just stares at the piano. I’ve got a bad feeling about that piano.

index1The next day, a gravestone is delivered to the cemetery… It’s a gravestone with his name and the date of death is… Soon. He tracks down the manufacture, who talks about it being ordered by a woman in black, and said she was a mourning for her husband. She paid cash so there’s no trace, but when the husband comes home the piano is playing by itself and distant echoing footsteps ring out through the gloom of the house. Indeed, there is a figure and black walking through the halls, figure that disappears just as swiftly as it manifested.

Over the next day or two similar events occur, and it’s enough to send the husband after the cemetery to dig up the grave and discover whether or not his wife is truly Dead. Dead or alive, the grave is empty.
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I figure in black. In the house, outside the house, outside the office, in the street. He has a vision of his wife hanging again conservatory, but he’s convinced it’s a plan… a conspiracy to drive him mad.

Soon, the grave has a death date etched in its stone surface, and that date is tomorrow. The piano place itself as the husband rises from sleep with a gun in his hand and stocks the house, shooting at the ever present spectral figure. The bullets miss of course and the driver comes out to find out what’s wrong. Wracked with guilt, the husband admits he drove Dominique to her death, then fires the chauffeur.

Now he’s all alone.

I don’t think I will spoil the ending here, because this is a genuinely good film that I’d really like you to seek out and watch. I’ve noticed it in several places, not the least of which is YouTube.
The thing is, the movie is so understated that there are times when I could almost mistake this for a TV movie. It’s not, it’s just the way things looked in 1979 when you’re dealing with this sort of Gothic thriller, but despite the sometimes slow and sometimes flat delivery, it’s a masterful mix of classic mystery and ghostly horror. They get the mix just right, and managed to keep up a sense of dread through a lot of the movie. The trick is to get past that slow first half hour, because the last 2/3 of this film are stellar.

Cruel Will

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indexCruel Will starts with a news report at the scene of a gruesome murder before flashing us back two weeks earlier. A man sits alone in his apartment, smoking and going through bills before having a sudden heart attack. The credits roll, and I still know nothing more about where this song is going and I did when I pushed play

It turns out he’s the father of a young woman, Lily, who has just moved into a new home with her husband Paul. She’s already behind on her exams, and this is only gonna push her further back. It’s also causing a strain on her relationship, considering there was bad blood between Paul and the father. Indeed, we have a kind of bait and switch here as we focus more on paul now, who starts having visions. Visions of the white Lilly possessed, and strange things happening

Out of nowhere, a mysterious man drops off a package for Lilly, it’s a recording from her dead father promising that he’ll come back for her.

Paul thinks he’s going crazy, and gets pissed at his shrink that he won’t prescribe him anything. The doctor is convinced that it’s all in his head and that everything was OK. Nevertheless Paul finds himself sinking into madness, the more he feels as if his father-in-law to haunt him.

It doesn’t help Lily’s teacher has the hots for her and is slowly trying to move in on her. It all culminates into a violent confrontation between Paul, now fully crazy and everyone else as he siezes the urn with the father‘s ashes and runs away, plunging his entire life into an unraveled mess.
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It’s a very personal haunting, a very personal madness. I keep using both words because even by the time I hit the end of this movie, I’m not entirely certain what happened. I’m not sure if Paul was crazy, possessed perhaps, or genuinely being haunted and tormented by a ghost. Same goes true for the wife Lily. It’s not nearly as pronounced with her, for most of the film she’s just trying to cope, but once in a while we see something crack.
Ultimately though, the film is slow and that combined with it’s ambiguous nature, is a bit of a turn off for me. I’d like to have more answers at the end, and the entire movie plays like a CW show… brief moments of action punctuated by long stretches of attractive people talking about their feelings and hallways. It almost feels padded in this way, and this particular subject matter might’ve been better served in a short film that could’ve better made use of what is a thin plot. This one probably would’ve been a pass if it weren’t part of a set like this. However this sort of collection is exactly work in the midst of. A strange curated collection.


Dracula 2000

lussierindex2I’ve spent way too much time trying to figure out why this film is so hated. I’ll admit, the font used on the titles is a little over the top and the use of classic Dracula protagonists names for modern characters is a little irritating, but honestly – look at that opening shot of the Demetre… The blue cast that contrasts with the red blood on the people and on the sails. It’s amazing. The footprints in the sand where we slowly see animal turn the human, it’s marvelously understated and yet perfectly effective.

We get a good bit of establishing banter with our characters. It’s perfectly clear who Van Helsing is, but Johnny Lee Miller himself still charms as well. I feel a little heartbroken when Selena turns down his date.

Downstairs, the thieves are quick and efficient. Omar Epps actually does a marvelous job images4.jpgbeing sinister. He has a cultured style to him that underlies his efficiency. I could actually really dig a pure heist movie featuring this crew… it’s almost a shame that they won’t live long enough for a sequel.

In a gothic cave chamber below Van Helsing’s office (Setting off a few traps to give us some fun, spiky kills) The chamber itself, adorned with vampire skulls, almost feels like a hammer film set. It’s more of an homage than anything else, because the rest of this film will do its best to be slick and modern.

Across the pond in New Orleans, our heroine Mary, he is having bad dreams. Flashes of Dracula, armor, and strobe lighting mix with her face until she awakens terrified. It’s a reasonable bit of foreshadowing considering Dracula is on his way to her in the thieves airplane. The first attacks from Dracula are fast and brutal, and more than once it’s succeeded in making me jump. Gary Tunicliff wields fake blood effectively, though I’ll index.jpgdmit I wish Dracula’s de-ageing were a little less sudden. Then again, when you got Gerard Butler  in your cast, you want to get his shirt off and have him looking pretty as quick as possible.

We effectively sidestep skepticism by having Johnny Lee Miller follow Van Helsing and almost immediately witness the vampires firsthand. They’re well done too, Gary Tunnicliffe chose to make them gruesome more by virtue of blood spatter rather then the physical deformity we see in Carpenter’s Vampires or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Still, there is no mistaking the red eyes and fangs for anything less than monsters. Lussier delivers us a kinetic action scene before Van Helsing takes Miller aside to explain the plot. There is a new twist to the vampire legend here, the idea that Dracula is patient zero – the first vampire, and that the methods that destroy other vampires simply don’t work on him. It’s a logical, organic addition to the mythology. We get additional foreshadowing as silver Mardi Gras coins are dropped from a balcony while Dracula wanders the streets of New Orleans. Foreshadowing is actually something Lussier is good at and the general confusion and massive activity that we get from this admittedly small-scale Mardi Gras celebration provides a colorful and acceptable challenge to our vampire hunters. It’s no challenge for Dracula though, as he finds Mary‘s roommate Lucy to images3.jpgcontinue the game of cat and mouse that he is playing with her and her father.

Lussier creates an almost Suspiria like atmosphere to introduce the brides and finally give us our first real confrontation with Dracula. We get great wolf and bat imagery as Miller savers Mary and they race after the Church for sanctuary.

We get bloody scripture, exploding bibles and massive cemeteries, not to mention one of the best crucifixion scenes I’ve ever seen and as we finally discover the origins of the first vampire.

images55.jpgThere is some cringe here, brilliant dialogue like “we are also much more complicated than our names aren’t we? “Are undercut by goofy dialogue like “I don’t drink… Coffee”. The ever present Virgin Records marketing can get on your face a bit as well and the name itself is admittedly a bit hokey. Still, the imagery, the twist and the action all serve to make this one of my all-time favorite vampire films, second only to the Lost Boys. It’s an incredibly fun vampire romp, not overly grotesque like Fright Night or John Carpenters Vampires but still free of the over-the-top romanticism that Anne Rice and the later Twilight stories would infuse into the genre.

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Kill Baby Kill!

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indexAs Kill Baby Kill starts, I have no idea what’s going on, a young woman running out of a gothic environment and somebody getting skewered while we get little girl laughing in the background… Even if this wasn’t a bava film, I’d pretty much be on board from this point.

A doctor arrives in a desolate patch of Italian wilderness, surrounded by gorgeous ruins. In the distance people carry the coffin to its final destination as a doctor finds the local pub to meet up with the local inspector so he can perform the duties of coroner.

It’s a superstitious village, and the inspector suspects a murder, but the investigation is going to be an uphill battle.

And autopsy determines that a coin had been inserted into the dead girls heart, it follows local legend about those who die vilently. Still, it doesn’t actually help them figure out whether it’s murder or suicide.

On his way home, the doctor is attacked by two gravediggers who object to the exclamation. The assult is stopped by a mysterious woman who vanishes as suddenly she appeared, leaving the doctor weary and broken to stumble into the inn he is staying at.

Elsewhere, the mysterious woman performs a rite on a young girl, lashing her so death will not touch her. She declares to the doctor that the entire town is under a curse. It index1certainly looks like it, with the foggy ruins, and atmospheric cemeteries. She directs him to the third household to discover his answers.

The house is old and sprawling in empty, covered by cobwebs. He finds a cranky old woman who demands he leave, as well as a ghostly child and bouncing balls floating in the halls. Meanwhile, his assistant is haunted by nightmares and visitations of a creepy doll. Across the street, the bell tolls in the abandoned Church and the assistant is convinced that the devil is here. They’re all bad portends, because the curse of the town is anyone who sees the dead little girl is the next to die, if they’re not buried immediately, the rise like a zombie.

Very much a “kill the outsider” kind of film, as a town is being supernaturally punished for it’s one hidden secret, much like Children of the Corn or the Wicker Man. There’s an undertone of dread and black magic that pervades and feeds right into the highly atmospheric visual style that Mario Bava infuses the film with. It’s worth a watch if for no other reason than just to lose yourself in the lush visuals, and immerse yourself in this dark ghost story.

The Devil’s Partner

boxevilindexIt might be easy to mistake the Devil’s Partner for a redneck, hillbilly film. You got an old mountain man bringing out a sheep in the wilderness, but then we get a good look at the arcane document that he is writing in its blood and see a hand reach over to help him and my faith in the occult thriller is restored.

Our credits go over a bus on the road headed to the flats, and a lone passenger getting off in a rumled suit to pop in to the local café. He’s way out of place in the small town restaurant. And he announces he’s looking for his uncle, the place clears out And the cops show up.

They suspect foul play in his death, he wasn’t very liked in the community.
As our hero Nick inspects the spell written on the floor, the dog mauls the local mechanic Dave, coincidentally opening up a job for Nick so he can stay in town. He takes employment at local garage, catching the eye of the girl who runs the local restaurant. The real horror here though, is that he’s wearing a bowtie in the shop! Also he’s picking up the local drunk for more arcane rituals. He gets trampled by a rabid horse.

It’s really not good to be an animal in this movie.

index2After discovering the body of the dead drunk,the local sheriff pops over to the shack Nick has been staying in, discovers the spell written underneath the rug, while his Yorkie sidekick digs up a goat bone on the side of the building. The sheriff starts to think there’s more going on here than meets the eye, and contrives a way to trick Nick into revealing himself.

Despite being a B feature from 1961, The Devil’s Partner is actually a pretty solid flick. It would be perfect horror host fodder, and I’d be completely content to stick around at a drive-in to watch this after the main feature. It’s flooding around YouTube and has popped up in several collections, it might just be worth your time.


19 Doors

boxevilindex19 Doors starts off with a screen writer meeting with her producer. He’s found her a location for thier next film, an old rooming house above his friends local bar, and it’s perfect for a horror movie. It’s a good efficient preamble and leads into some unique looking credits. Not too flashy not over the top, not the same animation I’ve seen a hundred times befre. That leaves me with a good feeling about this movie despite the shot-on-video resolution.

After scouting a location, the writer locks herself up in a hotel room, and it’s spooky enough to drive her out of her room to go explore some of the rest of the place. She starts to have visions of the place’s brothel history. Ghostly children wander up here and that’s around the time she breaks out the Oujia board.

She brings up a cop, she brings up a priest, but the visions keep coming every time she’s alone, and when the priest comes to bless the building, black cloaked entities command him to leave. The priest suggests about time the writer move out.. before the haunting turns into a possession
The thing about 19 doors  is that it’s just so flat. They try with the lighting, but overcompensate, creating, instead of mood, just a harsh contrast. The music is canned, and none of the scares actually frighten and it just fails to be affective. Good story, with some good ideas, good gags, good characters. I bet this was a great script. However the resulting film is just so bland that instead of creeping you out, it ends up just being boring. Sadly, this one’s not worth your time.