For no reason other than I watched two movies from each year, I take on these four from 90 and 98, covering various subgenres.
BEYOND DARKNESS (1990)
This is the last gasp of awesome 80s Euro horror trash…from the director of Troll 2! The opening scene of a priest meeting with a Satan-loving child killer—a woman—before she is executed is quite creepy. This chick is the highlight of the film and underutilized when all is said and done.
We then meet a perfect family that moves into a new house. The dad, played by cutie Gene LeBrock of Metamorphosis (my blog here), is a reverend. Convenient, because this house is fucked! Creepy toys and furniture fill the place, while fog surrounds it. There’s a scary hole in a wall, and it’s beckoning the daughter. Organ-drenched horror music abounds, as do Evil Dead camera angles. And the executed killer from the beginning is now a witchy looking demon bitch from hell, and she’s brought along a bunch of black-cloaked minions.
Part Poltergeist and part The Exorcist (there’s a possession and exorcism), Beyond Darkness really only has one major downside…a bit too much religious dramatics. It’s just not high quality enough to waste its time on deep characterization of a fallen priest….
GRIM PRAIRIE TALES (1990)
When you put James Earl Jones and Brad Dourif in your wraparound, the tales in your horror anthology better kick ass. Grim Prairie Tales fails miserably.
It’s the Old West, and Brad and James end up at the same campfire together. They share scary stories, all the time arguing about how crappy the stories are. WTF? Making the self-proclaimed bad stories worse is the fact that they’re all Old West period pieces. Blech.
Story 1 – A very short tale about a foolish old man who dares to enter an Indian burial ground. Nothing scary here, and a twist you’ve seen numerous times.
Story 2 – Best story in the bunch, this one is also really short and features a cowboy picking up a stranded woman. What happens next probably ruined the sex lives of straight boys for years to come back in 1990.
Story 3 – A daughter discovers the horrible thing her father will do to make a new home for his family. It isn’t particularly horrible for a horror movie. Yawn.
Story 4 – The final disappointment. A cowboy is haunted by the Indian he killed in a showdown. The best moment is the cowboy’s wickedly cool animated nightmare. The worst part involves the cowboy in a bed with a woman who gets her period.
THE CURVE (aka: Dead Man’s Curve) (1998)
In dark drama The Curve, Matthew Lillard and Michael Vartan are college buddies. When they learn that you automatically get a 4.0 GPA if your roommate commits suicide, they decide to kill their roommate…and make it look like a suicide.
Matthew Lillard’s Stu shtick is always entertaining in every 90s horror movie and thriller he did after Scream. Also like many other films from the same era, The Curve slams you over the head with endless pop culture references, and is not even subtle or clever about it. The kids actually sit around playing a trivia game that allows them to name-drop endlessly.
Anyway, the intrigue comes when the body disappears…and there’s another “suicide” involving Vartan’s girlfriend, played by Keri Russell (could this movie BE any more 90s?). At this point, the film kind of becomes Cruel Intentions, with backstabbing and bed-hopping to keep viewers guessing whodunit…and what they actually dun.
If you’d seen this film when it was released, you would have loved it because it’s just so now (back then). These days, it’s pretty damn bland.
THE LANDLADY (1998)
The Landlady is a great reminder of how embarrassingly formulaic the obsessed-psycho-thriller/horror genre was by the end of the 90s. The Temp, Single White Female, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, The Crush, Fear, The Good Son, etc.
This time, Talia Shire, in a last ditch effort to be relevant again, plays the psycho stalker who becomes obsessed with a man, kills anyone who gets near him, and eventually holds him against his will before the battle to the death.
The most entertainingly funny part of this cookie cutter flick is when some bimbo in the apartment building asks Talia’s obsession if he wants to go to an AC/DC concert. An AC/DC concert in 1998?