Horror. Worldview. Faith.

Haunted Honeymoon – Review

Haunted Honeymoon – Review

Jan 29, 2017

reviewed by Philip
directed by Gene Wilder, 1986
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I love this movie. Yes, it was nearly universally panned by critics and fans alike and currently holds a 25% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but I was captivated by it from the beginning. I found it to be genuinely scary at times (I was only 10 during my first viewing) and also found it to be quite funny. The film is certainly not able to compete with Wilder’s classic gems, such as Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, but there are nevertheless some wonderful “Gene” moments scattered throughout.

Larry Abbot (Wilder) and Vickie Pearle (Gilda Radner) are radio actors who are getting married. Unfortunately, Larry has been getting stage-fright that causes him unable to speak his lines correctly. They decide to get married in the huge castle where he grew up and when they travel to the site, Vickie is able to meet Larry’s family, including his great-aunt Kate portrayed by Dom DeLuise in drag. Larry’s uncle, Dr. Paul Abbot, believes Larry needs shock therapy to scare him out of his newly formed stage fright, so after letting the other family in on the secret, they begin playing tricks and stunts on Larry. Unfortunately, the horror becomes all too real when one of Larry’s cousins wants him dead.

I can remember being fascinated by Dr. Abbot’s special effects and the way they attempted to scare Larry. Lightning machines, levitation pulleys, werewolf costumes, and downright frightening masks (like the one below) kept me on the edge of my seat. Another one of Larry’s cousins, named Susan, was married to a world-renowned magician who also brought some creepiness into the film, including the ability to make his eyes glow! Throw in the fact that Larry ended up being buried alive, which has been intriguing to me since I read about magician Harry Houdini’s buried alive stunt when I was a kid, and this movie has all the right ingredients for atmospheric fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
The cast is also fantastic. When you have Gene Wilder, Gilda Radner, Dom DeLuise, and Jonathan Pryce leading the charge, you can safely assume some fun is in the works. A routine that has been done several times before in movies just so happens to be one of the best when Wilder pretends that a pair of legs that are not his own actually belong to him in order to get some police officers off his back. No one can do this kind of comedy like Wilder.

But, the movie has all kinds of flaws. The comedy is definitely cliched, there is no believability to the film, and the performances are less-than-average for this incredibly gifted cast. And yet, at the end of the day, there is just something about it that keeps me smiling. Unfortunately, this would be Radner’s final film before her untimely death.

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Rubber – Review

Rubber – Review

Feb 18, 2014

reviewed by Philip
directed by Quentin Dupieux, 2010
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Rubber is a self-proclaimed homage to “no reason.” At the beginning of the film we meet Chad, a California sheriff who describes one thing that virtually all movies have in common to one degree or another – no reason. Why is E.T. brown? No reason. Why was JFK shot? No reason. This, he says, is the reason Rubber was created. No reason.

We discover there are two audiences watching the movie. Us, the audience watching a screen, and an assembled group of people in the movie itself who are handed a set of binoculars in a California dessert. Presumably, we are watching the same series of events unfold. And what might those be?

Oh you know, just your average horror movie stuff. An old tire in the middle of a garbage dump comes to life for no reason and begins running over things. First it is just a bottle and other kinds of trash, but then it moves on to living things, like a scorpion. When it discovers that it cannot break a certain glass bottle, the tire discovers it posses a certain kind of psychokinetic power and blows it up. Well, the sky’s the limit now, and the tire begins blowing up rabbits, humans, and anything else in its way.

The only plot to speak of is when the tire becomes infatuated with a woman who is staying at a hotel. After blowing up the motel manager’s head, the police begin a tire hunt. For no reason, the audience inside the film are all poisoned and killed, except from one guy in a wheelchair who did not eat the poisoned food. The tire is eventually shot by Chad, but is reincarnated as a tri-cycle that ends up killing the man in the wheel chair.

No, I’m not kidding.

This is definitely not a good movie and I certainly can’t recommend it, but I do find the premise to be intriguing. Does the presupposition guiding the movie even hold up? Was E.T. brown for no reason? Was JFK shot for no reason? Perhaps not good reasons, but there are reasons nevertheless. What Rubber tries to do is pretend it doesn’t care about what really makes movies entertaining and attempts to be stylistic and smart. As is so often the case, the smarter we think we are, the dumber we become.

The fascinating aspect of Rubber is the connection it has with a secular humanist worldview. The film dares you to try and make sense of what is happening and that is very thing each of us will do because we are hard wired to connect the dots. But it has already given you the answer – there is no reason to the film. This is secular humanism in a nutshell. Such a worldview attempts to take admittedly random things and create joy, purpose, and significance out them. But really, they make as much sense as a tire coming back to life with psychokinetic powers.

All in all, Rubber is a film you wish you would have never watched and only should be watched on a portable digital device if you are stuck in a bus for a few hours. Other than that, forget about it.

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Tucker and Dale vs Evil – Review

Tucker and Dale vs Evil – Review

Feb 2, 2012

reviewed by Danny
directed by Eli Craig, 2010
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It’s possible I have said this so much it is becoming my mantra, but horror comedies are a very difficult thing to pull off.  To do it well, the director and writer have to mock convention while maintaining a reverence for what is good in the genre.  Well, at least that is what I’m looking for.  It is why the original Piranha worked for me and the sequel not as much.  And, it is the reason stuff like the Scary Movie franchise are anathema to me.  When I got a hardy recommendation of Tucker and Dale vs. Evil from two horror-movie-fanatic friends, I knew that the film likely got the mix of comedy and horror right.  Turns out, they were right.  Tucker and Dale is horror-comedy done right, and it is the best slasher film parody to date (sorry, Student Bodies and Pandemonium).

Tucker and Dale plays on two slasher film sub-types, the killer hillbillies and teenager campout.  Both of those sub-types are ripe for parody, and Tucker and Dale does a good job getting right to it as we are introduced to the titular characters, the two nicest rednecks your ever likely to meet.  Tucker, played by the always great Alan Tudyck,  has just bought himself a vacation home, and he has brought his best bud, Dale (Tyler Labine) with him to help with the “fixer-upper.”  We simultaneously are introduced to a group of college kids on their way to camp out.  This group, led by the arrogant Chad (genre regular Jesse Moss, who, if his career doesn’t quite work out, can already probably survive on the horror convention circuit for the rest of his life).  Dale immediately takes a liking to the beautiful Allison (30 Rock’s Cerie).  In what will go down as one of the most awkward cute-meets in film history, Dale manages to cement in the student’s minds that country-folk are strange and dangerous.  The rest of the plot and humor of the film is based on that misconception as the redneck and college-kid paths continue to cross coincidentally.

The sight gags and specific deaths in Tucker and Dale are too good to spoil.  Suffice it to say that in an effort to escape the “killer” rednecks, the college kids manage to kill themselves in an escalating variety of ridiculous ways.  Just when it is all getting too ridiculous, the film reveals that there is a crazy killer in the mix, and the remainder of the film flips the ratio to eighty percent horror, twenty percent comedy.  There is a real threat in the denouement and our main characters take some real punishment.  I wasn’t expecting the tonal shift, and it was a pleasant surprise.

In the end, Tucker and Dale succeeds because of its tone and some great performances by the four main characters.  Tyler Labine and Jesse Moss are especially good here, with one playing it straight and the other in full scenery-chewing mode.  I highly recommend the film for horror buffs who can tolerate a bit of mockery (and I know not all of us can).

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Return of the Living Dead – Review

Return of the Living Dead – Review

Sep 23, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by Dan O’Bannon, 1985
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Some movies carry with them a sense of legend that escalates them in quality past the film’s real achievements.  Return of the Living Dead is such a film.

Director Dan O’Bannon is himself something of a legend.  He is most known for his screenwriting and character development, making a name for himself in films such as Alien and Total Recall.  And yet it is  silly little zombie flick O’Bannon directed in 1985 that cemented his name in horror movie history among die-hard fans.  O’Bannon only directed two films during his career, one of which was a zombie spoof called Return of the Living Dead.  It is cheesy, over-the-top, and filled with every element one would expect to find in a mid-80’s horror film.  You know – perfect.

The film is a heavy spoof on Romero and this original Night of the Living Dead.  The U.S. army is to blame in this one, producing a chemical agent that brings dead things back to life.  When a few barrels of this stuff accidentally gets shipped to a medical supply company (conveniently located next to a mortuary, crematorium, and cemetery), it creates a recipe for disaster.  The manager of the supply company, Frank,  shows his new warehouse employee, Freddy,  a young rebel, the aforementioned barrels and accidentally releases the fumes from the container in the process.  Not only does every dead thing in the medical supply company come back to life, including dogs cut in half for universities to study, but the cemetery begins to unleash the living dead.  Add to the mix a gang of 80’s styled friends who are coming to pick up their buddy Freddy.  This is a real beauty of a group as depicted through their clever names:  Spider, Trash, Chuck, Casey, and Scuz.  All these guys provide the necessary collection of humans for the newly resurrected zombies to feast on.  Frank and Freddy attempt to keep things under wraps as long as they can, but soon there is a frenzy of zombification and mayhem.  The only way for the government to lock down the problem is by sending in a nuclear strike on the peaceful little town.

Return of the Living Dead certainly has some memorable characters, such as “Tarman”, the first zombie unleashed by the chemical.  If you enjoy zombie films, then it seems near impossible not to appreciate ROTLD.  Yes, the dialogue is hokey, the plot is ridiculous, and the effects are way over the top – but this is a satire.  Then, right in the middle of the the silliness, O’Bannon throws in some effective scares and shocks that would stand up to any zombie movie out there.  It is a nice mixture of comedy and art.

I can’t put my full weight behind ROTLD, but if you enjoy horror and enjoy zombies, then what are you waiting for?  Take a look.

Click here to purchase Return of the Living Dead

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The Monster Squad – Review

The Monster Squad – Review

Jun 26, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by Fred Dekker, 1987
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Although not financially successful, Fred Dekker managed to direct two of the more memorable and long-lasting cult horror films of the 1980’s – Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad.  I recently sat down for a re-visiting of the latter; I was all smiles throughout.

The Monster Squad follows a “club” of children led by Sean (Andre Gower) who gather in a super cool tree house to discuss monsters and mayhem but really have nothing much to do.  Sean sports a “Stephen King Rules” t-shirt most days and entrance into the club is mandated by the passing of a horror movie quiz.  Things begin to heat up for the squad when Sean is given the ancient diary of Van Helsing, the famed vampire killer.  After utilizing the services of the local “Scary German Dude” in order to read the German text of the diary, they realize that a special amulet which maintains the balance between good and evil becomes vulnerable to destruction once every century – and that time is now!  Sean begins piecing local disturbances together and realizes that Dracula has invaded their city in search for the amulet.

In order to assist Dracula in his search for the amulet, he enlists the services of the Wolf-Man, Gill-Man, the Mummy, and Frankenstein.  The race is on between the monsters and the Monster Squad to find the amulet and use it for their own advantage.  Frankenstein is eventually befriended by the young 5 year old Phoebe and turns against Dracula in the search.  The movie works its way to a climatic finish where a portal into another dimension is opened and the monsters are ultimately cast away for another century of peace.

The Monster Squad has several elements working in its favor that help make this a great movie for all ages.  First, the monsters look incredible.  Legendary monster maker Stan Winston (Aliens, The Thing, Terminator 2) had a bit of a challenge when creating the look for the monsters in the film.  Universal Studios owned the copyright to their “look” of the classic monsters.  Thus, Winston had to create a version of Dracula, Frankenstein, and all the rest that both differed enough from Universal’s monsters to keep them out of court but also make it very clear who these monsters were.  He did a superb job.  The classic monsters are some of the best looking creatures in any horror film and they are fun to watch throughout.

Second, the casting for the film, especially the monsters, was excellent.  Tom Noonan as Frankenstein and Duncan Regehr as Dracula provided powerful, near epic performances for these famed characters of legend.  The children are believable and incredibly funny.  The movie provides some classic one-liners, the most famous being Horace’s proclamation that “Wolfman’s got nards!”  As with many movies of this genre type, the group of children are just a blast to watch and provide a reminder throughout that we should not take this too seriously.

Having said that, the film does go into some fairly dark directions on occasion.  After visiting the “scary Germad dude” for help with the text of Van Helsing’s diary, Dekker takes just enough time to zoom in on the German’s arm as he closes the door – on it is a Nazi concentration camp tattoo, a subtle reminder that not all monsters live in the world of the undead.  Also, at the end of the film, young 5 year old Phoebe is picked up by Dracula.  Dekker does not hold back one iota as Dracula screams into her face, “Give me the amulet you BIT**.”  Pretty dark stuff for this type of film.

All in all, The Monster Squad is memorable, very re-watchable, and worth your time.  Sadly, the box office failure of the film, despite the cult following it enjoys today, added to the disappearing of Fred Dekker’s career.

Click Here to purchase The Monster Squad

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Night of the Creeps – Review

Night of the Creeps – Review

May 19, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by Fred Dekker, 1986
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Before a single word is written about the 1986 B-film classic Night of the Creeps, it is imperative that the career of writer and director Fred Dekker is acknowledged as one of the more unfortunate stories in horror movie history.  Dekker is an immensely gifted artist who created two of the most enduring and fan loved genre films of the 80’s – Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad.  Today, both of these films enjoy a massive cult following and have been highlighted in various horror conventions over the years.  As they say, hindsight is always 20/20, and I have yet to hear a single producer, director, or actor in the movie industry say anything other than the confident brilliance Dekker brings to a film project.  However, money rules the day in Hollywood.  Both Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad were box office failures.  The failure of Robocop 3 sealed the deal.  There is little argument, even from those within the movie studios, that the poor return at the box office had nothing to do with Dekker’s ability to direct and everything to do with the incredibly inept marketing strategies employed by the studio.  Case in point, the tag line for The Monster Squad was “You know who to call if you have ghosts, but who do you call if you have monsters?”  Wow, that is horrific.  Much more could be said, but this reviewer mourns the early departure of what I consider to be a superb director and talent in the horror industry.  Enough time has elapsed; a studio needs to give Dekker another chance.

Night of the Creeps is a perfect blending of about every B-film ingredient you can think of.  Aliens, zombies, sororities, a two-fisted cop, parasites, college humor, cryogenic labs, and gore are all beautifully mixed together.  Dekker refers to his film as placing all his favorite elements in a blender and hitting puree.  It is done tongue-in-cheek and yet has a serious tone.  It is filmed unmistakeably in the style of the 80’s and yet is not overly campy.  This is horror at its best.

The film begins with a strange UFO and alien scene where an experiment of some kind is launched from the spaceship down to planet earth.  The year is 1959 and a couple of sweethearts see what they mistaken to be a falling star.  The boyfriend finds the capsule and several slug like creatures infect him.  At the same time, the girlfriend is chopped up by an escaped homicidal maniac.  Yep, that is one heck of an awesome beginning.

Cut to the present age where we meet and begin to follow two college roommates, Chris Romero (Jason Lively – tough to see him as anything other than Rusty Griswold) and J.C. Hooper.  By the way, that “J.C.” is short for John Carpenter and you can probably figure out the Hooper and Romero names.  J.C. is a crippled who walks with two crutches and is on the prowl to help his best friend Chris score with the love of his life, Cynthia Cronenberg (yep, Cronenberg – seeing a pattern here?).  In order to accomplish that feat, they figure joining a fraternity is in good order.  Their orientation task?  To steal a cadaver and leave it on the front steps of a rival fraternity.  When the two friends set out to accomplish their goal, they find their way into a cryogenic lab where a frozen dude, who just so happens to be the infected guy from 1959, is encased in carbonite (or something like that).   You can guess what happens.  Chris and J.C. thaw out the corpse and the slugs are back on the loose!

Enter the best character of the film, Detective Ray Cameron (a nod to James) who is the coolest cop to grace the silver screen except maybe for Joe Hallenbeck.  Ray Cameron is beautifully played by Tom Atkins, perhaps my favorite character actor of all time.  “THRILL ME!”  Those are the words used by Cameron when answering a phone or walking into a crime scene.  Anyway, Cameron was the cop on the scene in 1959 when the girl was hacked to pieces (who just so happened to be his ex-girlfriend).  He begins to make the connection to the present day situation.  Meanwhile, pandemonium is running wild as more and more college students become infected by the slugs, turn into zombies, and produce more slugs.  Unfortunately, J.C. meets his demise, but not before he learns the secret to killing the creeps – fire.

Eventually the film boils down to an entire fraternity being turned into zombies while on the way to pick up their dates at the sorority house.  This leads to some of the most epic scenes imaginable as you have a bunch of college dudes in tuxedos walking around as zombies.  After Ray Cameron busts into the sorority house to save the day, he delivers what is possibly the best line in horror movie history:

“I have good news and bad news girls.  The good news is that your dates are here.”
“What’s the bad news?”
“They’re Dead!”

Flame throwers, shotguns, lawn mowers, and all kinds of fun inhabit the last 20 minutes of the film as Chris and Cynthia fight their way out of trouble.

As you can tell by now, I love this film.  But it is far from perfect.  Some of the scenes are beyond believable, even for B-film horror, and the cheese factor at times goes pretty high, which is of course intended, but probably goes overboard on occasion.  Much of the dialogue is strained and you may find yourself rolling your eyes at specific scenes in order to get through them.  But all of this happens with the greater good always at hand.  Dekker manages to maintain a small piece of sincerity in the film, especially in scenes such as Chris listening to J.C.’s recorded final message and Ray’s speech on finding his ex mutilated.

Steven Spielberg is all over the place in Night of the Creeps.  There is, of course, a blatant spoof of the beach scene when Cameron sees his girlfriend rise out of the water, complete with the cuts being signaled by people walking past him.  There are more subtle tributes as well, such as when the camera zooms on Cameron’s face while the background moves in the distance when he sees the ax-murderer turned zombie.  That Dekker was influenced by Spielberg’s brilliance is putting it mildly.

Thankfully, Night of the Creeps is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray in a wonderful edition, complete with terrific behind the scenes footage and interviews.  I really don’t like the cover art for the DVD however.  In its original release, the movie went through several different poster and art changes, the best by far being the zombie dressed in a tuxedo holding a bouquet of roses.  If you have never seen Night of the Creeps, then by all means click the link below and buy it now!

Click Here to purchase Night of the Creeps

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