Four horrors of the 1900s

Ha! Sounds like a long time ago, doesn’t it? In fact, the first film in this foursome is nearly 100 years old and its plot is still being ripped off to this day. So let’s see how the past has shaped the present in horror.

MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (1933)

I checked this one out because it’s included as a bonus on the Blu-ray of the Vincent Price 1953 movie House of Wax, which is actually a remake…and a very faithful one at that!

It’s amazing to see how well-formulated the macabre plot was back in 1933, even if there are no shock moments of people being turned to wax. Best of all—a strong female reporter is the lead character here.

No, wait. There’s something even better. She becomes suspicious of how incredibly real the figures are at a new wax museum where her friend’s fiancé works. And her friend is? Fay Wray! Amazing.

The film is more of a tame mystery than a horror, but there is a “Phantom of the Opera” vibe given off by the big baddie, and he’s as creepy as they came back then.

HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM (1959)

While William Castle mastered the art of immersive theater gimmicks, with intros speaking directly to the audience, this film tries but fails miserably, with an emotionless narrator going on for 13 minutes about hypnosis before the movie even begins.

The film is from the director of Fiend Without a Face, one of my faves. Here he combines two plots into one with his take on the wax museum craze.

The owner of the wax museum in this film also happens to be a crime writer, so instead of killing people to create figures for his museum, he does it so he’ll have crimes to write about. What I’m saying is the museum is absolutely irrelevant here.

I do like the film’s willingness to go for the gruesome, especially in 1959. Despite there being no gore, the kills feature some unique weapons and concepts. However, they are few and far between. The film focuses on the writer’s state of mind and the way he makes his museum assistant into a ghoulish monster that commits the crimes.

Annoyingly, as with many of these old movies, one good kill is spoiled by a ridiculously misplaced, upbeat jazz number blaring (I assume to soften the severity of the kill), but the film saves itself with a near jump scare moment at the end that feels almost like a contemporary scene.

THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE (1962)

I just love 1960s b-horror movies that pushed the envelope with sex and gore, and as campy as The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is by today’s standards, it definitely wasn’t for mainstream audiences of that time period.

A doctor doing transplant experiments steals his girlfriend’s severed head after a car accident and then goes on a hunt at seedy clubs for a hot chick to put the brain in. There are long dance scenes and even a cat fight! Ah, the sixties sleaze of it all.

Meanwhile, back at the lab the girlfriend’s head moans about wishing she had been allowed to die (pretty sadistic). She also learns from the doctor’s assistant that a hideous experiment gone wrong is locked behind a door in the room. She convinces the creature to do her bidding, but all we get to see for most of the movie is its hand reaching out a peek-a-boo window in the door.

It all comes to a head when the doctor brings a female specimen to the lab to do his operation. I have to say, this is a pretty satisfying monster when it’s revealed.

It even bites off and spits out flesh. Ew! Definitely a template for so many horror films that came after it.

THE CRAWLING EYE (1958)

I would almost guarantee that Carpenter’s The Fog and Stephen King’s The Mist were both inspired by this film (also known as The Trollenberg Terror), a definite goodie from my late brother’s stash of DVDs.

People at a mountain resort are terrorized when a) mountain climbers begin turning up headless, and b) creepy smoke can be seen encircling the mountain.

One girl has some sort of ESP and can communicate with the presence in the smoke. Meanwhile, there’s a crazed dude with a pick axe running around the mountain killing people. This little movie is packed with horror concepts.

The creature finally comes out of the smoke screen at the end to attack a whole building.  It’s a huge, squid-like creature with tentacles and one big eye! Awesome, and also super campy and funny at this point in time. Even the hubby was laughing with me.

 

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The weirdness of the 80s in four films

There’s so little left for me to cover from the 1980s, yet I keep scraping the bottom of the seemingly endless barrel from the golden age of video tapes. So let’s get into the four I’ve watched recently, two on Blu, two on Prime.

DEATH SHIP (1980)

This odd little supernatural flick from 1980 is such a convoluted mess it’s almost as fun as the Euro horror of the time.

George Kennedy and Richard Crenna run a huge ship that crashes and sinks. They and a small group of survivors on a lifeboat row up to a huge black ship that has no one aboard.

They move right into the rooms and get cozy, even watching old films on a projector they find…which seems to make one lady’s face turn zombie.

Meanwhile, the ship has a mind of its own and begins killing people on deck with chains and hooks and spilling blood from shower heads. It also possesses George Kennedy, and he kills people on the sly.

The film is actually rather boring beyond the scene in which one guy loses his mind after finding a torture dungeon of corpses and seeing a film clip of Hitler. Yes, it’s a Nazi themed ghost movie, but it does a mostly terrible job making that point gel with the insanity going on. I guess we’re to assume Nazi spirits are haunting the vessel.

There’s also a great death scene right at the end, but I won’t spoil it.

HELLHOLE (1985)

More a dark exploitation flick than straight up horror, Hellhole isn’t a particularly good movie, but it’s totally awesome for 80s whores.

Judy Landers (the Landers sister that wasn’t in A Chorus Line) sees a guy in leather choke her mother to death with his red silk scarf. Sure he was gay, I was amazed when he later takes a mud bath with two women.

Anyway, after a tragic “accident”, Landers is put in a mental institution and remembers nothing. But leather man thinks she does, so he gets a job as an orderly hoping to get from her what he was trying to get from her mother.

Speaking of guys in leather, a guy from Cruising plays an undercover cop working at the institution. Maniac Cop is a guard. The guy who battled giant rats in The Food of the Gods is a doctor. And b-queen Mary Woronov does what she does best—plays an evil doctor with lesbian tendencies that preys and experiments on the female patients in her all-girl institution.

Her liquid lobotomies put them into a zombie-like state, so they’re all kept locked up in an extra building on the facility called “Hellhole” that has a boiler room straight out of Elm Street. Of course the whole movie is about Landers and everyone else eventually ending up in Hellhole and the lobotomized women getting free. If only it were as good as its 80s atmosphere.

WHITE OF THE EYE (1987)

This film reminds me of Far From Home, another mystery thriller desert movie that came out a few years later.

The two—count them, two—kill scenes in this near 2-hour movie are quite original and weird, like something right out of the Argento playbook.

One comes right at the beginning of the film, and the other an hour in.

Other than that, this film makes you feel like you live in the slow moving world of a desert community where there’s nothing to do but watch the sand blowing. It’s soooooo boring despite its attempts to be avante-garde.

David Keith and Cathy Moriarty are a couple. They have sex, they talk, he becomes the prime suspect in a murder mystery. And we just sit there waiting for something, anything to happen. In the last half hour, Cathy and her daughter become trapped in her house by the killer, leading to a cat and mouse chase to an abandoned building in the desert.

1970s funk hit “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate is a running theme throughout the film, if that works as an incentive to watch.

TOUCH OF DEATH (1988)

It feels like Fulci was going for a Herschell Gordon Lewis throwback with this gorefest, in which all the female characters are disposable for the sake of a bloodbath.

It’s a pointless cycle—a crazy guy dates women who are mocked for laughs in each scene as he becomes grossed out by their flaws (one has facial hair, one likes to sing opera while being slapped around, etc.). His reactions are the best part of the film.

Then he kills them in a gruesomely graphic way—although much of the gore is over-the-top fake. It’s also implied he eats them.

In between, he watches the news to learn how close the authorities are to identifying him as the killer.

That’s it. That’s the movie. Yawn.

 

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The gay horror of director Matheus Marchetti

While many of the gay horror movie options on my homo horror movies page are campy, low budget romps, Brazilian director Matheus Marchetti is taking a much more refined and classic approach to the subgenre. His short films are available to watch on YouTube, but I would love to see these beautifully crafted films gathered together on a DVD or Blu-ray release.

Here is a brief rundown of each of the films with links to view them.

The Prince’s Kiss

Rich in the neon horror lighting made famous by Euro horror directors in the 1970s and 1980s and swelling with a score of classical music, this lush and artistic short film manages to deliver a quick take on Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein with a touch of understated gay camp.

Watch the film here. No dialogue, so there are no subtitles.

Garden of the Sleepwalkers

This sadistic gay fairy tale romance vampire rock opera goes from sexy and sweet to dark and ominous, with strong musical compositions.

If Burton’s The Corpse Bride were a live-action gay love story, this would be it.

Watch the film here. Hit the CC button to turn on English subtitles.

The Angel in the Pit

While maintaining that upscale feel of Marchetti’s other films, The Angel in the Pit offers a classic teen horror flick vibe with a gay twist.

Two geeks dream of being all powerful with the help of the Necromonicon—which might just be the key to ridding them of the undeniably sexy bully in their life.

As an added bonus, it’s also a Christmas horror flick!

Watch the film here. Don’t forget to hit the CC button to turn on English subtitles.

Nuptials of Dracula

Marchetti’s longest work is an art house re-imagining of Stoker’s original novel.

While the film is more overtly lesbian-focused, there are hints of gay male vampirism and an AIDS allegory embedded in the plot.

Rather than a grandiose presentation with elaborate sets, this an eloquent, intimate adaptation focused primarily on the characters.

Watch the film here. Once again, hit the CC button to turn on English subtitles.

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STREAM QUEEN: four films, one fave

I took a break from all the low budget indie stuff to indulge in some films with a little more polish. How did that work out for me? Let’s take a look.

WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS (2020)

Not even 1980s nostalgia can save this well-promoted, totally uninspired film about asshole teenagers. I fought to make it all the way through it because it was soooooo dull.

Three girls at the end of the eighties drive to a heavy metal concert. There they meet three boys (including the dickish friend from Love, Simon), they hang, they name drop metal bands from the eighties for a long time, they hang out at one girl’s house, and then we finally get to the point—satanism, religious extremism, and human sacrifice.

Sounds fun, right? Nope.

It is bland, attempts at humor are weak, there’s no suspense whatsoever, the girls are totally unlikable from the start, and the inclusion of a heavy metal theme is entirely irrelevant, barely touching upon the notion in the 80s that the genre of music would lead kids to Satanism—despite that point being the whole twist in the movie.

It’s just three kids chasing three other kids around a house, with Johnny Knoxville and a burly bear cop stopping by to up the body count.

Even the use of Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth” is a copycat cover instead of her version—and also a weird montage song choice in a movie about heavy metal. As is the use of T’Pau’s “Heart and Soul” for the closing credits. That also happens to be the best part of the film.

THE LODGE (2019)

The Shining meets The Others with a splash of that movie Barricade and becomes a grueling and tedious film about a woman trapped in a snowbound house for Christmas with the two kids that may soon be her stepchildren.

This is basically a film about PTSD and mental health, for the main woman is a survivor of a religious cult.

For that reason, religion, guilt, and sin play a big role in her mental state, making the eerie, unsettling atmosphere and creepy moments feel like exactly what they end up being….a letdown.

I can’t stand sitting through a slow burn that doesn’t burst into flames.

PAINKILLERS (2018)

In a cool opening scene that seems completely unrelated to anything else in this movie, Mischa Barton is attacked in an alley by the always witchy horror queen Maria Olsen. Neither of them is ever seen again.

This becomes a character study “vampire” movie starring cutie Adam Huss, who carries the whole film with his performance.

He is suffering from extreme emotional and physical pain after the death of his son. His wife, played by Madeline Zima (little Gracie from The Nanny) does her best to help him, but he ends up figuring out himself what he needs…

Blood.

He meets a man who convinces him he’s a vampire and only fresh human blood will ease his pain. Together they embark on a journey to get Huss some nourishment. Problem is, Huss can’t bring himself to harm another human being. Ever.

So what we have here is a non-horror vampire movie. There’s plenty of deep diving into the effects of grief, but ultimately I was let down by this one.

THE WRETCHED (2019)

For starters, The Wretched has two awesome modern wave songs that I’ll totally be playing on my Future Flashbacks show:

Joypopp – “Desire” (lueur verte mix)

 

and Qween M8 – “Apartment Song”

 

Aside from that, it’s just an awesome, sleek, modern take on the Fright Night concept, with a witch instead of a vampire.

With the onset of his parents’ divorce, a teenage boy comes to stay with his dad.

He isn’t exactly welcomed by the local kids, who make him the butt of jokes…

With nothing else to do, he soon notices his female neighbor is acting very strange. We notice, too, because if the film has one fault, it’s that it shows way too many scenes of the witch going through transformations. But it’s so creepy cool I can’t complain much.

Before long, the boy is in a battle of wits with the witch as she begins abducting children and dragging them to her underground lair.

Of course no one believes the boy, so he’s on his own. I just don’t know how kids are so brave in horror movies like this, especially when the witch is as freaky as this one.

The Wretched is most definitely the one film in this bunch that I’ll be adding to my personal collection.

 

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The Halloween horror for October 2020 begins with some home invasions

It’s only August, yet I’ve already scored a double feature of holiday home invasion horror, so let’s get right into Don’t Let Them In and The Good Things Devils Do, two new ones to go on the Halloween holiday horror movies page.

DON’T LET THEM IN (2020)

A few shots of Jack o’ lanterns and a couple of trick or treaters are the most you get in terms of visual Halloween spirit in this one.

However, the date relates specifically to the disappearance of children in the plot.

It’s not much of a Halloween film, but it is a home invasion film with a hint of an Evil Dead vibe.

Which is perhaps the problem. There is only a hint of a darkly humorous tone, which feels oddly of place in what is otherwise a serious and unevenly paced film.

The setup has a pair of social workers doing a wellness check of an extremely troubled man on Halloween. He’s acting aloof, anxious, and disturbingly odd. Before they can leave, he holds them at gunpoint. They may think he’s the biggest threat, but then masked figures show up and immediately start hacking and slashing.

It’s pretty thrilling, the main male social worker gets all the funny bits after being initially annoying, and there’s an unexpected turn when the masks come off as the battle between good and evil rages.

Really, what’s good about this film is quite good. It just feels like it needed more of its most thrilling moments.

THE GOOD THINGS DEVILS DO (2020)

I’ll start off by saying that if you want Halloween spirit in your holiday horror flick, The Good Things Devils Do delivers, from decor on houses and scenes of kids trick-or-treating to the classic “spooky” sounding score and the theme song “Good Things” by Neil Lee Griffin, which is perfect for a Halloween playlist.

 

The cast is also horror gold.

Linnea Quigley is a woman whose husband is creating a museum of the macabre—and gets a mysterious trunk delivered to his basement like something right out of Salem’s Lot.

Bill Oberst Jr. is a gangster about to retire after one more robbery job with his daughter and unwanted partner in crime Kane Hodder.

Naturally they invade the home of the man with the trunk, and of course a vampire is released from it. She proves to be the best part of the film.

She looks great and gory, releases a heinous, high-pitched squeal, and gets those trapped in the house to do some vicious things to themselves and each other. But even she can’t help the dip in pacing in the middle of the film before things pick up again for the final act.

The film just seems to have an inconsistently funny vibe. Rather than the whole cast delivering an evenly humorous tone throughout the film, the comedy sort of gets handed off from one character to another. Quigley’s grown daughter offers some campy bimbo humor at first, Kane Hodder gets all the over-the-top, exploitative lines once he appears, and then a kid that comes trick or treating to the house temporarily treats us to the funny lines.

And just when the film is finding its groove with Oberst and the museum man working as a vampire fighting comic duo, it comes to an end. Argh! Even so (or unevenly so), I still added this one to my Halloween horror movie collection.

 

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Four from the Christopher and Cushing era

My late brother was a big fan of the Hammer horror films and anything starring Christopher Lee and/or Peter Cushing, so he left me with a nice little collection of their films. Here’s my first dip into the selection, which I’ll be chipping away at over time.

THE MUMMY (1959)

While Hammer films are impressive and set a strong tone with their period design and costumes, The Mummy is a perfect example of how they were more about horror style and indulgent story-telling rather than actual scary substance, which is why this cheap thrills and chills seeker wasn’t a fan of many of them.

Peter Cushing and his team of archaeologists ignores the warnings of a man who tells them not to open the tomb of an ancient princess.

When they don’t listen, the dude resurrects the servant that was mummified and buried with her to protect her in death—Christopher Lee! Yes, Lee is the mummy in this film. Awesome.

He goes around committing a few low key revenge murders, there are agonizingly long and melodramatic flashbacks to the burial of the princess and resurrection of the mummy, and just when I thought I couldn’t be any more disappointed, the dude who resurrected the mummy goes on a killing spree, dragging the mummy along with him like a pet. Yawn.

THE GORGON (1964)

One of few Hammer films my brother made me watch that stuck with me, The Gorgon introduced me to the concept of “Medusa” (along with an episode of Popeye), and inevitably it’s what prompted me to write Snakehead, the latest installment of my Comfort Cove gay horror series.

And damn, this movie stills holds up for me, despite being a period piece. Peter Cushing plays a doctor that doesn’t believe the tale of Megaera, who supposedly haunts his small town. No idea why she’s not called Medusa—the film voted for the lesser known evil of two mythological sisters.

I also have no idea why the town doesn’t do something about her since she seems to reside in a castle in town that everyone avoids—until they hear her haunting siren singing, which draws individuals to go seek her out. Once they see her they turn to stone.

These scenes are quite eerie, and the setting is perfectly creepy. We only see the gorgon from afar under dramatic light for most of the film, and it is so spooky I can’t get enough of it.

Christopher Lee shows up to hunt down the gorgon and also helps to indulge us with more details of her mythology, including aspects involving the moon and mirrors.

And of course we get to see the gorgon’s “hideous” face and snakes up close at the end. Eek!

THE SKULL (1965)

Although it brings together Cushing and Lee (just a little), The Skull isn’t a Hammer film, and it shows. The atmosphere is there (for instance, it begins with a man digging up a grave), but it’s dumbfounding how slow it is with so little happening.

Cushing plays a man that collects occult and supernatural items. He scores a skull that’s supposed to be that of Marquis de Sade. His friend Christopher Lee warns him away from it. He keeps it.

There’s skull POV as this item begins to haunt Cushing.

It floats around a lot and gives him some unnerving visions for most of the movie! I know it was the 1960s, but if you’re going to delve into de Sade, someone’s face needs to fall victim to some scat action or something!

The most this skull does is take some lives on its own and then possess a couple of people to do the killing. Really nothing thrilling going on here. I dare say The Skull has no backbone.

HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

Even though it’s a period piece, Horror Express comes from 1972 and has a more contemporary feel in that there’s a pretty creepy monster and a whole lot of gore. It also has the dark, isolated, claustrophobic setting of a train. EEK!

There’s a very aristocratic set of passengers on board, and everyone seems to have a dirty secret, like Christopher Lee, an anthropologist transporting a frozen humanoid specimen he discovered.

Naturally, it escapes. Yay!

The creature lurks in the shadows and attacks passengers, causing their eyeballs to bulge out of their skulls at first, and then eventually possessing them.

It’s visually freaky, but the film lacks the extra oomph of jump scares—the monster’s presence is always announced with melodrama in the style of movie monsters of prior decades, as if to protect the faint of heart.

Meanwhile, Peter Cushing is a doctor who does some grisly autopsies of victims, and Telly Savalas makes an odd appearance late in the film, right when the monster action turns into totally satisfying chaos.

 

 

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PRIME TIME: are the ghouls scarier than the movies?

I checked out four flicks on Prime ranging from slasher to supernatural, and they all delivered on the cool creeps—but is that enough?

FLIGHT 666 (2018)

I’ve seen zombies on a plane, snakes on a plane, demons on a plane…now it’s time for ghosts on a plane.

Setting the mood, Flight 666 takes place during a thunderstorm. We meet all the main players, including a druggy, horror hunk Paul Logan, a hunky air marshal, the pilot and copilot, a woman who has had supernatural experiences in the past, and a male flight attendant who is clearly gay. The dude even talks about flying penises with his coworker and is happy to get behind the hunks when the going gets scary. So of course that lands him on my does the gay guy die? page.

About an hour of the film has everyone just getting weird vibes and seeing flashes of ghostly faces in the plane and out the windows. It’s quite boring.

Then it gets kind of funny. We finally see some possessed looking female ghosts in the flesh, which is creepy cool, but when spirits began jumping from one passenger to the next screaming “revenge!”, the hubby and I both burst out laughing.

The moment does launch the most thrilling part of the entire film, though. It’s just a bummer that it was all crammed into the last few minutes.

HOLLOWER (2016)

I continue to check out the films of MJ Dixon when they hit Prime because I’m always impressed by his style, so it was time to give this one a whirl. And once again I was totally feeling the tone Dixon sets.

The film focuses on an agoraphobic man being interrogated and slowly recounting the events leading up to the death of his neighbor.

I say slowly because the film most definitely crawls. Much of the time is filled with scenes of the agoraphobic man alone, watching his neighbor and her man arguing in the hall, speaking to her through the door, and eventually inviting her in and building a relationship with her.

But…they’re not alone. Some sort of dark presence has been let in because he let his guard down. EEK!

Unfortunately, we only see it a few items because the film is so heavily focused on the main character instead of the horror.

On top of that, there are numerous, distracting montages set to the same bright, sunny pop song as if conveying him coming out of his shell. Plus, all the best horror doesn’t happen until the last few minutes of the film as the truth of what haunts him is revealed.

THE BRAIN HUNTER (2013)

This is a low budget backwoods slasher/torture porn with some weird supernatural elements thrown in for good measure.

The ghoulish killer is pretty creepy looking and there are plenty of kills, but the writing, execution, fluctuation in film quality, inconsistent shifts from day to night within the same sequences, and clumsy cuts between scenes make it glaringly obvious this is a low budget production.

People in a small town are rattled by a series of deaths, and so numerous random characters show up just to be killed off.

That’s because there’s a weird guy caring for a humanoid that eats brains. So eventually everyone ends up at his house to be tortured, raped, and killed.

There’s also weird green light, occult flashbacks that just confuse matters, and a whole lot of scenes of people meandering all over the place…just like the movie. That’s not to say I won’t totally watch the announced sequel.

CRUEL PETER (2019)

Cruel Peter starts off disturbingly strong. It’s a period piece in which a little prissy aristocratic bitch named Peter tortures peasants, servants, and animals. But he gets his.

The problem with that scenario is that, unlike supernatural revenge horror such as The Ring, where the mystery unfolds as the people in the present are haunted by a violent ghost, Cruel Peter tells us everything we need to know in the beginning.

That leaves us forced to watch an archaeologist in the present slowly get up to speed after unearthing Peter’s grave. Doing so has unleashed a whole lot of darkness, and it is all aimed at his deaf daughter.

It doesn’t help that the film is so darkly lit we can hardly see any of the horrors that target her. The film has a great gothic tone and atmosphere, we just can’t see much of it.

And in the end, the plot is nothing we haven’t already seen, only done more effectively. But if you are a fan of this ghost mystery subgenre, I definitely think it’s worth a watch.

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STREAM QUEEN: the terror of technology

Will you want to get off social media, put down your phones, close your laptops, and stay away from the cyber world after this foursome? Let’s find out.

HOST (2020)

This Shudder exclusive is the one everyone has been talking about online because it focuses on a group of friends that can’t get together due to quarantine, so they decide to Zoom a séance.

More like a DOOM séance. I wouldn’t do a séance with 10 friends in the same room with me, let alone in the dark by myself with just my friends’ faces in Hollywood Squares formation on my computer screen.

Just like Paranormal Activity, this one psyches you out, only now you’re constantly looking at the background of six screens in anticipation of something terrifying in the shadows. Eek.

Since this is a short 54 minutes long, there’s some brief setup before the spirits begin freaking out the friends (all girls). Every effective found footage trick in the book is utilized to keep you on the edge of your seat for the rest of the film.

My only disappointment is that the final jump scare is delivered just as I expected. So cliché. Yeah, cliché, I knew it was coming, blah blah blah…and my hubby still had to peel me off the ceiling.

COUNTDOWN (2019)

Countdown feels perfectly like a throwback to early 2000s supernatural horror flicks that focused on pretty young people being pursued by an evil entity, with plenty of jump scares, a creepy specter, some great suspense moments, and likable characters.

Somewhat similar to Final Destination in general concept with a more modern twist, it’s about a nurse who starts to believe an app that predicts when you will die has killed one of her patients and his girlfriend.

After testing out the app and getting a countdown reminiscent of the “seven days” call in The Ring, she starts to see quick flashes of a dark figure that looks like something out of Darkness Falls, and then meets a really hot dude who used the app as well.

Together they must race the clock to put a stop to their deaths. They even team up with a quirky, comical priest.

Pure popcorn movie fun, this one is immediately being added to my collection for its retro vibe.

RECOVERY (2016)

I totally can’t remember the name of it, but I blogged about a similar movie in the last year about kids who track their missing phone down to a house where trouble awaits. Recovery combines the “find my phone” app concept with a house inhabited by a psycho family…in the middle of the suburbs!

During a graduation party, a young woman befriends another girl and they decide to blow off the party and go clubbing. They bring along the guy she likes and her brother.

After some harrowing encounters on the “wrong side of town”, one of them goes missing with the main girl’s new phone, and they track it to a house of horrors—or at least of horrible people.

It’s not the most original film and it takes a while to get going, but the suspense scenes are tight, and there are a few freaky surprises along the way.

However, the biggest surprise of all is ridiculously obvious from the start if this isn’t your first time ever seeing a horror movie…

LIVE (2018)

While not delivering much in the way of traditional horror, this film about a woman of color being abducted on Facebook Live is eerily timely in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests against police brutality around the U.S.

The opener grabs you right away as we see a masked figure beating a bound woman on video.

The film focuses on an investigation into the disappearance of a woman named Linda Johnson, and it’s presented through Linda’s video footage, surveillance footage, and interviews with family and friends. There’s also video of an “anonymous” hacker attempting to lead a viral movement to bring justice for Linda and point out societal disinterest in justice for people of color.

The film feels very real in that the actress playing Linda is quite genuine in her at first mundane live feed footage for social media; she talks about everyday aspects of her life, makes pop culture references, etc.—the usual ridiculous crap that somehow makes talentless people viral video stars.

But then we get to see darker moments in Linda’s life—difficult situations that have pushed her to make some bad decisions. It most definitely takes too long to get to the major theme of the film, and the subject matter will definitely polarize viewers exactly the way the Black Lives Matter/All Lives Matter divide has in reality.

The only problem I had with this unique presentation of the issues is that it doesn’t quite deliver the chilling effect it’s going for because it holds back too much on enveloping its social commentary in an effective horror movie.

 

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Four from the end of the 90s

This proved to be an entertaining selection of four films from between 1997 and 1999 that are a bit of a departure from the sleek, post-Scream craze going on at the time.

THE WAX MASK (1997)

Fulci and Argento worked together writing this story, which in a long-winded way I don’t feel like explaining is incorrectly credited as being based on a story by Gaston Leroux, when it is in actuality just their Euro version of the House of Wax plot. However…it does have moments reminiscent of Phantom of the Opera!

A young woman comes to work at a wickedly macabre wax museum as a costume designer after a young man is found murdered there. The plan is to create scenes exploiting real life murders.

Suddenly, a whole bunch of new murders begin racking up like a supply and demand situation. They also cause the main girl to have flashbacks of hiding while witnessing a murder by metal-fingered hands when she was younger.

As is to be expected when these two masters of horror are involved, loads of weird situations keep us entertained and dumbfounded. Wait until you see the major contraption used to turn living people into wax…and just exactly what the killer is hiding behind that mask.

The film has its charms, but not as many charms as the films of Fulci’s and Argento’s heydays. Maybe because neither of them directed?

THE RELIC (1997)

Penelope Ann Miller is a scientist at a museum and Tom Sizemore is a detective on the case when a security guard is torn to pieces in a bathroom stall. Would you believe they made it a black security guard smoking a joint while he’s supposed to be working? Have to wonder if they would make that same “creative” decision over twenty years later.

This is a typical creature feature of the 90s that uses the improving CGI effects of the time. However, it is a loooooong stretch of movie before we get to see the creature in this 110-minute feature. Much of the focus is on the museum preparing for a big gala and Sizemore’s team exploring underground tunnels looking for what they assume is a human killer.

This one finally picks up when a body drops into the middle of the gala and a chaotic mass exodus leaves a handful of people trapped inside with the pretty awesome CGI monster.

Their only way out…go through the underground sewers. Eek! Plenty of frustratingly dark scenes of the monster emerging from under the water ensue, but we finally get to see it full force when Penelope comes up with a one-woman plan to defeat it…and gets a nasty tongue bath in the process.

JOHN CARPENTER’S VAMPIRES (1998)

Vampires is like John Carpenter making up for not thinking of Near Dark, Subspecies, and From Dusk Till Dawn first, and therefore combining them into one feature of his own.

James Woods and Daniel Baldwin are an unlikely pair of vampire hunters in the desert. At least it’s better than Woods and Stephen Baldwin, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to stomach all the right wing illness on screen at once. On the bright side, Carpenter and his writers actually make Woods seem cool in this movie.

The most original idea presented is that the gang of hunters goes into vampire nests and harpoons vampires to drag them out into the sun. Since Carpenter knows that’s the most he’s got going on here, he milks it for all it’s worth right from the start in a long opening scene. As a result, by the time it happens again during the final battle, it not as impressive.

The film is still quite enthralling immediately after that opener. While the hunters party in a motel room, the place is invaded by the suave vampire master, who sure knows how to make an entrance.

Lone survivors Baldwin and Woods drag a vamp infected woman (reminiscent of Glory from Byffy) along with them because she has a psychic connection to the master, and they team up with a priest to hunt down the master.

There’s a lot of religious background and flashbacks to ancient times, and I grew bored until the final act, when the action kicks back in. Not even “cool” James Woods could help the pacing problems of this lesser-loved Carpenter flick. And a constant twanging country music score didn’t help. Ugh.

KNOCKING ON DEATH’S DOOR (1999)

The opener of this film feels like 80s Euro horror—cops enter a house, find a dead woman in bed, and then get attacked by a flying axe.

The tone changes drastically after that. Twenty years later a couple that is also a parapsychology team gets married, moves into a new home, and immediately begins fighting while doing ghost hunting.

The husband is convinced the wife is contacting a male ghost that is jealous of their relationship. He also holds some resentment for past indiscretions.

For me, the film never lives up to the opener. It is intriguingly stylized and flashy to the point of weird, which makes it effectively eerie and disorienting as much as it makes it annoying. That’s what kept me watching for a while, but my attention began to flounder.

The film slows down drastically as the couple works to unravel the mystery of what happened to the ghost in the house. It gets less and less compelling as it progresses, with the most interesting angle being that the ghost always strikes during the couple’s sexy times.

Despite some creepy moments, the ghost is quite tame, so I have no idea what supernatural force was throwing an axe at cops at the beginning or why.

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I needed throwbacks to Crocodile and Crocodile 2 in my isolating life right now

I never would have imagined that by 2000, the man who brought us the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre would make a movie of SyFy original quality…which happens to be oodles of ridiculous fun that screams end of the 20th century.

Pretty people head out on a boat for spring break to the strains of pop rock that will catapult you back to the beginning of the millennium—unknown music reminiscent of the kind of stuff that packed the NOW CDs back then.

Same goes for the fact that all the boys look like they’re supposed to be in a boy band. 90s nostalgia is done…long live Y2k memories.

The kids catch some rays, we get to see boy butt…

…they tell campfire stories, there’s a little dog that constantly appears ready to be croc food…

and…the kids end up with a croc egg in their possession just like something out of Jurassic Park 3.

Croc attacks and single-serving kills are a load of fun if you gather some friends around for a movie marathon. The croc even seems to taunt the kids as it gobbles down their friends.

You’ll laugh, you’ll scream, you still won’t believe that Tobe Hooper made this movie. Except…it ends up kind of feeling like a remake or re-imagining of Tobe’s Eaten Alive!

Tobe isn’t back for Crocodile 2: Death Swamp from 2002, but the big time croc chomping is. This sequel is handled by Gary Jones, director of Jolly Roger, Boogeyman 3, and Axe Giant.

The story is totally different. Armed robbers hold up a bank, get on a plane, create major chaos in the air, and cause the plane to crash land in a swamp.

What I’m saying is it takes quite a while before the croc comes out to play (about 30 minutes). But once it does, it’s feeding time, and there’s plenty on the menu. And even some scissor sister action…

The good guys and bad guys battle it out in the swamp, and the leader of the robbers pre-dates Samuel L. Jackson’s Snakes on a Plane attitude by like four year, and Janet Jackson’s nip slip by two.

He has no patience for everyone getting gulped down nonstop.

Adding a little more excitement to the mix, the boyfriend of the main girl comes looking for her with the help of 80s hunk and Ralph Macchio nemesis Martin Kove.

The men might not get shirtless like the boys did in the first film, but there’s something very sensual about their interactions.

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