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Killer Double Feature: Screamers and Runaway

November 24th, 2015 · 3 Comments

Did everybody collectively decide behind my back to downplay and willfully underrate the cinematic output of PETER WELLER? Be honest. I’m seeing a pattern here. Every movie PETER WELLER is in is approximately twice as good as its reputation would suggest. BUCKAROO BANZAI is as quirkily hilarious as it is ahead of its time, LEVIATHON is supposed to be sub-ABYSS but it’s actually better at being what people wanted THE ABYSS to be than THE ABYSS ever was, OF UNKOWN ORGIN makes every other killer rat movie that sprung from the eighties smell cheesier and NAKED LUNCH is somehow a masterpiece even though its amorphous source material did everything in its power to stand obstinately un-filmable. And hey, what about ROBOCOP? At the end of the day didn’t ROBOCOP have so much more to say than THE TERMINATOR both literally and figuratively? I’d say so and if I’m wrong well, it’s also got NANCY ALLEN and is therefore unsurpassable. Anyway, you get the point. PETER WELLER movies are always better than people act like they there are and here comes another screeching example with SCREAMERS!

Mid-budgeted science fiction films are the best because they have enough money to not embarrass themselves but not so much that fall prey to that inhuman soulless vibe that follows TOM CRUISE around like an overbred puppy. SCREAMERS surely suffers from some endearing dated-ness from time to time but for the most part its worn just enough around the edges to be the right shade of dystopian. Written by the late great DAN O’BANNON (ALIEN, DEAD & BURIED, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) and based on a short story by BLADE RUNNER mastermind PHILIP K. DICK, SCREAMERS tends to be a little too detail oriented for my humble head so I’m just going to describe it as TREMORS with self upgrading robots that can sometimes pass for humans and leave it at that (also don’t watch the trailer cuz the trailer has a big mouth). Furthermore it features the criminally underrated JENNIFER RUBIN of NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: THE DREAM WARRIORS fame! I’m just going to go out on a limb and say that RUBIN’s Taryn is my favorite of all the ELM STREET characters. Sorry, but Nancy gets on my nerves. I’ll close by adding that SCREAMERS only real misstep is making some of the deadly droids too adorable. I kind of want to own a few as pets and just cross my fingers that they don’t saw my arms off.

Speaking of my profound disappointment to find myself in the year 2015 without a robot to call my own, lets say we take a look at the fantastic, though sometimes shoddily designed semi-futuristic world of RUNAWAY. This 1984 production was written and directed by none other than MICHAEL CRICHTON. You may know CRICHTON as the dude behind JURASSIC PARK but I know him as the worship-worthy genius who created the stunningly insane thriller LOOKER (1981) and the esteemed gent who wed B-movie royalty ANNE-MARIE MARTIN of THE BOOGENS and PROM NIGHT (who, just when I thought I couldn’t love her more, makes an appearance in RUNAWAY as “hooker at bar”).

Swanky TOM SELLECK, at peak TOM SELLECK-ness, stars as cop Jack Ramsey who is really good at dismantling wayward rogue robots (called “runaways”) and really terrible at dealing with heights (which not surprisingly comes into heavy play during the films high altitude climax). Luckily Tom’s uniquely vulnerable (for an ‘80s movie) character has a strong support system that includes a robot maid named Louise and a new partner played by multitalented dancer extraordinaire CYNTHIA RHODES (DIRTY DANCING, STAYING ALIVE, FLASHDANCE). Oh, and he also has a sometimes trust worthy ally played by the sometimes worthy but mostly crusty KIRSTIE ALLEY.

Jack’s going to need all the help he can get because he’s facing off against an equally hirsute but way smarter madman named Luther (GENE SIMMONS of KISS sans make-up). Lethal Luther creates killer spider, jumping bean robots that inject acid into your neck before catching your ass on fire and is fond of a gun that shoots miniature heat seeking smart bullets and he really, really wants some kind of plans or floppy discs or circuits that he can use to make even more deadly devices. RUNAWAY is one of those movies that can just basically coast on how awesomely eighties it all is. There is some super sloppy editing here and there (one character’s death scene comes off as a footnote when it should have been a headline) but mostly its non-stop joy with a synth-tastic JERRY GOLDSMITH score. The shrugging humdrum future offered in RUNWAY that left audiences wanting more in 1984 ironically lends it a little extra credibility today. Do yourself a favor and grab some SCREAMERS, pair them up with them RUNWAY spider-bots and create a perfect homemade army of murderous albeit slightly clunky late night double feature entertainment.

Special Bonus: ROCKY IV’s Happy Birthday Paulie-bot

Since tomorrow sees the opening of CREED, the latest film in the ROCKY franchise which just happens to take place in Philly, the same beloved city that Kindertrauma Kastle calls home, lets take a moment to appreciate the peaceful robot that appeared in ROCKY IV, killed absolutely nobody and ultimately stole the hearts of millions…

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Tags: General Horror · Killer Double Feature

Killer Double Feature: Breakdown and Dying Room Only

November 19th, 2015 · 2 Comments

I can’t imagine a horror fan not enjoying 1997’s BREAKDOWN. Sure it’s more likely to be thrown into the action/thriller pile but it skillfully drives well past suspenseful and crashes into something scarier than your average fright flick. Not to mention this baby also stars two of horror fandom’s favorite folks, frequent JOHN CARPENTER cohort KURT RUSSELL and resplendent KATHLEEN QUINLAN of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, WARNING SIGN, EVENT HORIZON and THE HILL HAVE EYES (remake) fame. If you are not a KATHLEEN QUINLAN supporter then I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave these premises…shoo! I said good day sir!

What I can tell you without ruining the point of watching the movie is this: our chums KURT and KATHLEEN portray likable married couple Jeff and Amy Taylor who are relocating themselves to California and have to drive through that gross part of America where all the crazies live. Their car breaks down and Amy gets a lift from a trucker (the always dependable, exceptionally good and surprising menacing J.T. WALSH) to get to a nearby diner to call for assistance and maybe get an iced tea. Later when Jeff gets to the diner to meet up with his wife, she’s nowhere to be found and the trucker acts like he’s never seen him or her before! Yep, it’s a total nightmare and things just get worse and worse from there as justifiably paranoid Jeff does everything possible to find his wife while uncovering the evilest of peoples and the shadiest of happenings.

After you watch BREAKDOWN you must watch DYING ROOM ONLY or wait, maybe you should watch DYING ROOM ONLY first. Yeah, do that instead. It’s only fair because DYING is from 1973 and it came out first and it’s one of the best TV movies ever made and why wouldn’t it be when it was written by genre legend and a half RICHARD (too many stone cold classics to list) MATHESON? DYING ROOM ONLY concerns the slightly less affable married couple Bob and Jean Mitchell (my dream parents DABNEY COLEMAN and CLORIS LEACHMAN) who stop off at an out of the way diner in the middle of nowhere and live to fully regret it. When Jean returns from using the ladies room her husband is nowhere to be found and every creepy person in the diner starts acting like a cat that swallowed a DABNEY COLEMAN-flavored canary. Again, I’m not going to ruin anything but the more Jean investigates the more horrific and widespread the conspiracy appears to be and there doesn’t seem to be a limit to the evil those involved are capable of.

If you haven’t noticed yet BREAKDOWN and DYING ROOM ONLY mirror each other and are two peas in a pod especially if one of those peas has gone missing and the other has to search for it. Both flicks expertly rake similar fears involving mistrust of strangers (particularly in areas far from home) and the anxieties and frustrations that orbit our inability to fully insure the safety of our loved ones. I say get on these! Both are nail-biting essentials especially if you have control issues, chronic ruraphobia and a healthy and well-warranted mistrust of greasy spoons.

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Tags: General Horror · Killer Double Feature

Crimson Peak, The Pyramid, We Are Still Here and Ash vs The Evil Dead. Plus Stung, Kristy and The Last Shift.

November 13th, 2015 · 2 Comments

Don’t bury me I’m not dead! Sorry I have not been around lately but boy was I sick and not in the cute sniffles and terrycloth slippers way that allows for binging on KATE & ALLIE reruns either but in that way when you can’t even sleep because your body is a sack of stolen silverware and Satan is using your lungs for Jell-0 molds and you spend your time praying to the cenobites to maybe not be so stingy with the oblivion. Luckily I love the taste of medicine and can drink it all day and am actually now starting to fantasize about opening a bar that only serves shots of Robitussin and extra strength liquid Mucinex. Yum. Anyway, here’s some stuff I watched through queasy-colored glasses…


If you can still catch this in the movie theater you should, even though I’m convinced that walking past the poster for JEM and the HOLOGRAMS is how I caught my death-flu. I may even be so bold as to say that CRIMSON might be my favorite Guillermo del Toro movie. I know it’s probably not as worthy as either PAN’S LABYRINTH or THE DEAVIL’S BACKBONE but it has much better re-watch value for me because it’s not emotionally taxing in any way. And let’s face it, I can be super shallow and sometimes I just want to gawk at a movie and bask in its visuals and bypass all the chin music. CRIMSON PEAK’s story is pretty frivolous and inconsequential and it almost got into trouble with me for having a helpful ghost at the end (luckily it didn’t physically interact with anything so I gave it a pass) but it’s an absolute stunner to look at overall (give or take a few gaudy effects) and the entire cast is mostly phenomenal (special shout out to SUPERNATURAL’s much missed JIM BEAVER!). CRIMSON may have stumbled at the box office but I’m here to tell you that once it finds its intended audience, it’s sure to become a cult classic. I want to own it and I want to watch it every time it snows for the rest of my life.


What kind of person watches THE PYRAMID on HBO while chomping on CHEEZ-IT encrusted chicken fingers and left over Halloween candy? A garbage person and that’s me! Dudes, I was at the height of my hallucinating, barely coherent, flipping in and out of consciousness coupled with a ferocious fever/death-dream when I sort of viewed this bucket of why bother and it held my hand and walked me toward the light. Sure, it’s terrible but my brain could only handle soft food anyway. Did you know there is no mummy in this movie? Aren’t you happy to hear that? Instead it’s got BOOGENS-behavin’ CGI kitty cats and a jackal headed ALIEN-esque monster stomping around its halls! That’s not a spoiler, that’s a selling point! I would have seen this mess in the theater if the advertising told me as much! On the down side, PYRAMID is as stupid as a rock, looks like it was filmed in a left over SID & MARTY KROFT LAND OF THE LOST set and is crying like a baby for a more charismatic lead than whoever the hell that blonde lady was. God help me though, I did enjoy heckle-watching this flick and I want to thank it for kindly delivering on the gore and adorable monsters.


At this point nothing gives me more pause than an independent horror movie carting around a satchel of near unanimous positive reviews. Moreover, if it happens to sport a fawning blurb from one of the larger horror websites on its DVD cover I interpret that as more of a red flag warning than an endorsement. I know that’s cynical, I’m just telling you my truth, I almost skipped right on by WE ARE STILL HERE on account of all the moonie-flavored gushing surrounding it. Even more suspicious was the fact that the flick’s got LARRY FESSENDEN in it! I can’t trust reviewers to be clear-headed when he’s around. The guy is a hypnotist!

Anyway, eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I went against my jaded nature and gave it a twirl and guess what? I thought it deserved a pat on the back or maybe a high-five. How was I not going to dig charred gooby-ghoulies with glowing eyes that looked like they fell off THE FOG’s Elizabeth Dane? Plus the flick has got a strong sense of setting and there’s a nifty retro vibe and frankly, a supernatural stew of occult mumbo jumbo was exactly what the doctor ordered. I was also very much impressed with BARBARA CRAMPTON’s glum performance. The rest of the acting ranged from passable to cringe-worthy but I thought CRAMPTON was the bee’s depressed knees. Alright, I’m gonna smoosh a gold star sticker on this movie’s face for setting up a delightfully dismal mood and for delivering the gory goods instead of jerking everybody around but I’m also going to say it’s needlessly convoluted, there’s plenty o’ room for improvement in the dialogue department and (most damning) I could possibly live without owning the DVD. Maybe.

ASH vs EVIL DEAD (2015)

People like to call me on my landline and say “Hey! You’re too nostalgic! Why don’t you like modern stuff? You only like old junk! Get with it Pops!” which is obviously super annoying. I almost started believing those turds until I saw ASH vs EVIL DEAD and was reminded by its brilliant recapturing of the spirit of the original series that movies really were tons better in the eighties. Not my fault. This ASH show is funny, scary (sorry, those possessed deadites still get to me) and most of all, refreshingly buoyant and lively. And get this, I think Ash is even more Ash now that he’s hit curmudgeonly over-the-hill mode! It’s so perfect for him. Sadly I don’t have STARZ so I may have to wait to keep up to date but as for now, the first episode is available free online or as a special cable preview. Now THIS is a godsend folks. The more Ash the better I always say! Now I’m so glad I didn’t die this week!

Being not dead and sparked with new hope for the future thanks to my pal ASH, I decided it was time for me to crawl out of my cave and take a peek at what I was missing on the Internet. What I found was an avalanche of inanities concerning Christmas cups and a couple of dunderheads disrespecting the sad death of beloved horror icon GUNNAR HANSEN who famously portrayed the lucky person who got to kill Franklin Hardesty in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Something deep within my soul said; “Oh, hells no” and so I ran into the strong welcoming arms of NETFLIX streaming where I will always belong…


Nothing can cheer a guy up more than watching a catered event destroyed by a swarm of killer wasps and STUNG is swell enough to overfill my plate by suggesting said wasps also grow to the size of Volkswagens and more than occasionally burst out of people’s skins. If you are a fan of slimy, over-the-top practical effects you’ve just hit pay dirt and then some but stand warned that the characters and story don’t gel any firmer than the rivers of goo. I dunno, I kept feeling like I had caught this flick in the middle even though I hadn’t and I guess I would have appreciated more time to establish things. Still, if you are a fan of say, 1993’s TICKS you are going to want to check this twisted sister out. There’s even a memorable weird-o performance by CLIFTON COLLINS JR. that struck me as possibly inspired by CLINT HOWARD’s turn in that flick. Nope, it’s not nearly as fun as TICKS but it comes a hell of a lot closer to crawling along side it than your standard CGI monster flick.

KRISTY (2014)

Whilst myself and Aunt John were wantonly watching THE UNAUTHORIZED MELROSE PLACE STORY on LIFETIME we were bombarded with ads claiming that a week later we could watch KRISTY, the story of a college lass who skips Thanksgiving break and is fittingly attacked by people wearing aluminum foil masks resembling angry, abandoned baked potatoes. Of course we showed up that very next week but where was KRISTY? She was a no-show and some dumb other thing was presented instead. I figured that was that and I’d never hear of KRISTY again but the fates had different plans and this chilly thriller that concerns itself with random acts of unkindness materialized on our buddy Netflix. The nice thing about KRISTY is that it is a patient movie and it takes it time and it builds some legitimate moments of suspense. The FINAL EXAM campus setting and autumnal atmosphere don’t hurt either. On the minus side, there’s a repetitiveness to the cat and mouse play and when it switches to ye old building weapons and booby traps HOME ALONE-mode, it’s basically paint by numbers. I applaud the build up simmer though and promise to buy it a Mountain Dew and a pumpkin pie for at least being original enough not to utilize tired old livestock masks.


Wait a minute. This movie got to me. Something about working late at night, alone is so unnerving. LAST SHIFT concerns a lady cop on her first night of work having to hang out at a police station that’s preparing to close so it’s sort of like NIGHTWATCH mixed with ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 but with a hell’o bunch of super-yikes supernatural shenanigans going down. There’s one shot that I truly hated involving JACOB’S LADDER-style shaking figures that I felt was way too dated and obvious but otherwise LAST SHIFT is a surprisingly eerie effort and seriously supplies the mind-trippy spooks. The make up is amazing. There’s a demon face that appears in this flick that I felt compelled to turn away from that puts that Bugaboody dude from SINISTER to abject shame. Huh, so I guess as far as actually scaring me, this LAST SHIFT picture takes the prize. Who’d have thunk? Then again, I was watching some sitcom on TBS and they thought it might be a good idea to advertise an upcoming show about bugs by having a giant striped cockroach of some sort crawl over their logo on the corner of the TV screen and it almost made me simultaneously loose my lunch and my feeble sanity so maybe it’s just my state of mind. All right, I’m going back to bed.

EPILOGUE: G.I. JOE episode: There’s No Place Like Springfield

We received a traumafession years ago about this episode of the animated G.I. JOE series concerning sailor extraordinaire “Shipwreck” and his mental unraveling as he discovers he is living in false reality and witnesses trusted allies transforming into wailing blobs of molten gray sludge on several occasions. I’d like to know why it’s being shown at 5 in the morning when I can’t sleep. Why?

NOTE: The very top image is of a painting by artist HUEY CROWLEY and I had zero permission to hang it sideways.

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Tags: General Horror · I Have No Idea What This Is

The Final Girls (2015)

October 14th, 2015 · 1 Comment

There I was sitting on a curb waiting for a waaahhhm-bulance because it was almost mid-October and I had no reliable prospects as far as a new, decent horror movie went. CRIMSON PEAK looked splendid but it was yet to be released and the only horror representative playing in the theater was GREEN INFERNO which I’d heard was OK-ish but still looked about as appealing as a LIMP BIZKIT reunion to me. But then Mr. Aunt John suggested we watch THE FINAL GIRLS because, thanks to the miracle of modern technology, it was available on demand for way cheaper than any movie ticket and guess what?! It turned out to be better than so very much of the stuff I shelled out twice as much for and I didn’t even have to leave my house and court bedbugs! In fact, I just invited a chum over to watch it again before it expires!

I’ll be for real with y’all and admit that I’m not the biggest fan of reductive terms like “final girl” especially when attached to bogus slasher “rules” about characters needing to maintain their virginity in order to survive. I know it makes folks feel clever and academic to speak of such things but I’ve got shelves of movies that tell a different story. I’m putting that out there to let you know that I had that little hurdle to jump over before me and THE FINAL GIRLS got cozy. I suppose somebody was going to utilize the popular buzz term as a title eventually (2015 also saw the release of a non-plural FINAL GIRL movie with ABIGAIL BRESLIN) and it’s good news that this movie makes it such an easy pill to swallow by being so genuinely funny, heartfelt and all around affable (i.e. non-douchey).

As it turns out, THE FINAL GIRLS is far from your standard condescending mockery of the delicious slasher tropes some of us authentically adore. It does make light of several clichés but its main interest is affectionately pointing out how blurry the line between our lives and movies sometimes get. Anyone who has ever used a movie to escape from life’s darker realities is going to have zero problem connecting with this flick. It’s kind of THE WIZARD OF OZ of horror films and the way it speaks about relationships, loss and even the ability for people to break out of the limiting way they might view themselves is truly noteworthy. Gosh darn it, something got in my eye when I watched this and that’s my favorite thing in the world.

I do have two complaints though and I’m going to share them because it’s important to remember you don’t have to like every single thing about something in order to love it. Firstly, there was a giant missed opportunity here to get some laughs from over-the-top gore. Due to most of the action taking place in a false, dream-like reality I’d assume the movie could get away with more than most and I for one would have enjoyed that. Secondly, and I know I’m being persnickety here, but I really hated the killer’s mask! Is that too incidental to complain about? I dunno. The rest of the movie was so spot on visually that it was kind of a glaring lack of taste in my book. Making it worse, the killer carved the mask himself, which means the sky was the limit as far as what it looked like and it ended up looking like a froggy-tiki mask. Maybe it will grow on me. I plan to return to this jaunt many times in the future, so we’ll see.

Those little qualms aside, there’s not much to complain about here. The script by JOSHUA JOHN MILLER (Yay, TEEN WITCH!) and M.A. FORTIN is rather brilliant in the way it juggles the familiar while still bringing something uniquely its own to the table. TODD STRAUSS-SHULSON’s direction too is a breath of fresh air and it’s so nice to catch something in the genre that is so colorfully epic looking rather than relentlessly poseur gray.

Horror comedies are famously difficult to pull off, so in the future let’s say we all take a tip from THE FINAL GIRLS and cast people who are actually funny? ADAM (WORKAHOLICS) DeVINE, THOMAS (SILICON VALLEY) MIDDLEDITCH, ALIA (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT) SHAWKAT and especially ANGELA (HALLOWEEN II) TRIMBUR basically hit everything thrown at them out of the park. AMERICAN HORROR STORY’s TAISSA FARMIGA is the real deal and somehow able to convincingly alter her age three years using little more than a pony tail and facial expressions and I gotta say the MVP award goes to MALIN ACKERMAN (who is also great in another comedy/horror, 2013’s COTTHAGE COUNTRY). She’s pretty much the heart and soul of the movie and like the movie itself, she’s hard not to love.

NOTE: YOU can see THE FINAL GIRLS! If it’s not at a theater near you or available on your cable service, it’s all over your computer on iTunes and Amazon and Google and such. Trust me, it’s the cure for whatever ails ya and the treat that horror fans deserve this Halloween.

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Tags: General Horror

Betsy’s Black and White Horror Show

September 10th, 2015 · 4 Comments

The other night like many horror fans I’m sure, I went to sleep watching BETSY’S WEDDING (1990). Don’t judge, I’ve got a giant stock of sleepy time VHS and I know what I’m doing. Anyway, BETSY’S WEDDING was kinda rubbing me the wrong way with its ambivalent, leaning towards garish visuals and so I decided to tone that shit down by removing all the color via my remote and switching my TV to black and white. Then, who would have thunk it, but BETSY’S WEDDING transformed into some lost, mid-level WOODY ALLEN jaunt and I found myself engrossed with the courtship of ALLY SHEEDY and ANTHONY LaPAGLIA (who incidentally steals the film entire).

I still fell asleep before it was over but the black and white switcheroo was a success. I should not have been surprised at all really, because I had already learned this lesson with THE MIST and GHOST STORY (thanks to Fascination with Fear!) Anyway, I decided to leave my TV black and white for a while and watch some horror movies and see what this homegrown gimmick works with. I wouldn’t even try it with something like SUSPIRIA in which color plays such an important role in the film but I’ve got a feeling that some films might only be complimented by the new garb. Here’s what I tried…


The frat party beginning is a toss up but Garth Manor and black and white work wonders together. Suddenly we could be just down the road from THE HAUNTING.


Holy crap this movie just gets better each time I watch it and you know the snow graduates to a whole other level of engulfing in B&W. How will I ever repay Amanda by Night for turning me on to this fine film? A fruit basket is in order.


Speaking of snow, Geez, isn’t THE DEAD ZONE beautiful? I Love me all types of CRONENBERG but on a visual level I think it’s my favorite of his. Black and white really brings out the beaten down and past its prime small town atmosphere and the gazebo scene somehow becomes an even bigger knock out (if that’s possible). I feel about THE DEAD ZONE in black and white, the way the lady below feels about a certain curtain store….

ALIEN (1979)

Dare I? I’m so far gone at this point I went one even better and watched ALIEN not only in B&W but on a VHS tape so old, it has the nerve to boast about being in HI-FI stereo on the cover! Dead media and backwards technology makes me giddy. I feel like lil’ COREY FELDMAN in FRIDAY THE 13TH: Part 4 when he discovers the view from his new bedroom window.

FIDAY THE 13TH (1980)

I might as well at this point! I did just happen to pick up a used copy of the original on VHS this year just so that I could hold it in my hand again. I gotta say, this always-reliable classic worked a far sight better than I imagined it would. Color is not a very significant factor in F13th, in fact, it rarely comes into play but the black and white sure does a lot to deepen the woods and sense of isolation and it sure makes my pal Mrs. Voorhees lovely white sweater pop out against the night sky! That reminds me, me and your Aunt John were at a bar the other day (actually, right after my first draft of this) and they had a TV set to an obscure Game Show channel featuring a game show in B&W and guess who was a panelist? BETSY PALMER, the patron saint of broken cars and serendipitous career opportunities!! Of course I took a picture for you….

Done. Now I’m going to play Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” in an effort to alienate any stragglers who didn’t stop reading at the mere mention of BETSY’S WEDDING. Am I the only one not buying GEORGE WENDT as Mac’s dad? I totally get TESS (AMITYVILLE 3-D) HARPER as his mom though: they’ve both got that that Midwich Cuckoo look. Let me know if you guys have any other ideas as to what color horror films might work well in B&W!I’m on a roll so far and open to suggestions.

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Tags: General Horror

Sinister 2 and Summer Wrap Up

August 27th, 2015 · No Comments

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first SINISTER. I thought it had a few creepy moments and I dug the music but it failed in convincing me of its own reality and I’m a pretty easy mark. Still, I was open to a sequel because I figured all the new installment had to do was have a little more respect toward the audience and maybe not require them to leave every shred of their common sense at the door. Well, jokes on me. Not only does SINISTER 2 double down on the rejection of the laws of the physical world and basic human nature, it abandons what worked in the first installment by jettisoning nearly all traces of artistry, nuance or anything that could be perceived as remotely scary. How did this come from the same guy who did 2012’s nightmarish CITADEL (CIARON FOY)? Was he forced to direct hanging upside down from a tree with a bag on his head? I guess there’s not much you can do with a confused and uninspired script but even on a visual level, nearly every frame is loudly lackluster.

The sad thing is I really liked the two charismatic adult leads (SHANNYN SOSSAMON and a returning JAMES RANSONE). I even found myself wishing they were in a romantic comedy or Lifetime Channel domestic abuse drama or just about anything that didn’t involve wet blanket baddie “Bughuul.” Rather than revving up the fear factor, the films signature demon drags everything down whenever he shows up with his senseless home movies that are less unnerving (or believable) than your average Woody Woodpecker short. Seriously, you could throw a stick at a pile of straight-to-video CHILDREN OF THE CORN sequels and be confident in hitting a smarter, scarier flick than this. On the other hand, if you love a bad movie; SINISTER 2 is in a way, more fun than the original but only because it’s laughably dopey and replaces a morose ETHAN HAWKE with burrowing rats, cartoon alligators and the use of the word “rutabaga” in an unprecedentedly dramatic manner.

Sorry, this is why I don’t write reviews anymore. I don’t want to sound like a stick in the mud. I just can’t help thinking that I might have pursued a career in screenwriting if I had known all you had to do was fill pages with whatever came to your head and none of it had to make any coherent sense. If you can’t believably explain how a small child lynches multiple adults just skip over it! If anyone dares inquire further just shrug and inform them it’s a “supernatural thing.” To be fair, I know I must be a fan of at least a couple horror movies that are less credible than SINISTER 2 (Something Italian? I know, how about the end of HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME? I love that movie and that ending is stupefying) so how come I can buy crap in one movie and not the other? For me, the whole “home movie” element demands a certain amount of base realism. In my mind it’s pretty much the point and if you want to take advantage of that highway you have to pay that toll. Even if you reject being grounded in such a way then at least be creative. SINISTER 2 even drops the ball with a Christmas set massacre. How is that even possible?

Hey, as long as the gloves are off let’s say we take a look at some of the other flicks that came out this summer, that way I can get all my disgruntlement out in one fell swoop! Don’t mind my grouchiness. I promise I’ll write an underrated list in the near future as penance and restore positive karma to the land…

THE GALLOWS is pretty much what you think it is (I’m still regretting not seeing JURASSIC WORLD instead). I can’t honestly say it’s any better than SINISTER 2 (it certainly has less likable characters) but it’s got at least one decent scare (the death of a surprisingly convincing CASSIDY GIFFORD) and I enjoyed that the ending leaned towards bonkers. I have to grant it some leniency for having far less resources at its disposal and not having the luxury of coasting on the good favor of a generally well-received movie that came before it. I guess I’m saying the cheap, home grown feel to it was actually a plus for me because it made me nostalgic for the days when you could randomly catch a shoestring budgeted flick at the cinema and I suppose undercooked tastes better to me than over-processed. It stinks but in an affable drive-in sort of way and I have my fingers crossed that the beyond bizarre denouement effects some poor kid the way the ending of SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT did me. I would have certainly preferred it to have not taken the tired found footage route but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I found the backstory and setting more interesting than that of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. Yes, I still hate that movie.

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3. Let’s face it, Part 3 is “do or die” time for a franchise. Part 3 is when Jason earned his iconic mask and it’s when Freddy became an unstoppable household name. Part 3 is when the makers of HALLOWEEN learned not to overestimate their audience and admit that a certain masked man buttered their pumpkin bread and part 3 is when the world told POLTERGEIST’s Carol Anne Freeling that they were willing to follow her to “the other side” but certainly not Chicago. Part 3, to steal a line from FAME is when you start paying…in sweat! So how did INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 do? It did pretty good considering it now must fight against not only the audience’s familiarity with the series itself but also fatigue from the multitude of other films that have attempted to adopt its style and tone.

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 smartly switches its focus to a teen in a more urban setting, takes death relatively seriously and has at least one totally horrifying image in the form of a creepily waving silhouette but there is no denying the true ace up its sleeve is LIN SHAYE who is promoted to Captain of the ship. The noteworthy thing is that she is actually shown earning her footing. She starts out freaked, forges for fortitude and finally delivers a line of dialogue that went over so big in the theater I saw it in that it practically took the roof off. The flick has got some flaws and none of it as fresh as it once was but I left the theater satisfied and that makes for a good Part 3.

POLTERGEIST. Can this movie have another title, please? I don’t accept this as a POLTERGEIST movie. SAM ROCKWELL is extremely talented and can convince me of nearly anything and ROSEMARIE DeWITT is like the second coming of CHRISTINE LAHTI in my book but even they are powerless against the shadows of pointlessness that truly haunt this picture. It’s like they wanted to hook up with POLTERGEIST by impersonating INSIDIOUS and woke up sleeping next to AMITYVILLE 3-D instead.

The movie is far from worthless, it has more than a couple creative set pieces floating around, I admire that they made attempts to ground some of the supernatural occurrences and I’m just the type of shipper to appreciate a HAPPINESS (1998) reunion between JARED HARRIS and JANE ADAMS…and yet…there is zero joy (SOLONDZ pun noted) in this movie, zero wonder, zero awe, zero reverence for the mysteries of life and zero of the carbonation that made the original POLTERGEIST sparkle and bubble. It’s like skunked POLTERGEIST. I wish I could completely dismiss it or set it on fire like one of those failed Ellen Ripley clones in ALIEN RESURRECTION that whisper “kill me” but I can’t help remaining curious to see when the DVD comes out if any of the deleted scenes (the director’s cut was something like 8 minutes longer) give it more of a mutated leg to stand on. In any case it wasn’t a total loss for me because after it was done I needed to cleanse my mental palette and so I went to see….

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD! Yay! I had to see this one in the movie a second time and I can’t wait to watch it again and again because it gave me the feeling that I used to get as a teen leaving the movie theater. It made me feel like anything was possible and that the sky was the limit and there was more to creating than just constantly churning out derivative content to fill space. It reminded me that I could still be amazed and inspired and practically possessed by a movie. Sorry to say but for me, horror movies mostly disappointed this summer (at least the ones that made it to my neck of the woods) and I honestly don’t feel much like covering for their shortcomings anymore. FURY ROAD and pretty much FURY ROAD alone is what kept my faith in (going to) the movies properly kindled.

Truth is, my most fulfilling experience with the horror genre this summer came via the television. One fifty-six minute episode of PENNY DREADFUL entitled “The Nightcomers” pretty much eclipsed every horror film I saw in the theater combined. It was beautiful, scary, thought provoking, tragic, heartening, it had a point of view, it pushed forward rather than pandered and it took full advantage of the potential of the genre rather than taking the easy way out at every turn. So no, my love of horror is far from dead and I’m a full believer in the cyclical nature of things. I know that the perfect time to have your mind blown is exactly when things are at their most stagnant and bromidic. By the pricking of my thumbs…

The End. Thanks for letting me gripe and clean out the gutters. We now return you to your regularly scheduled, far less crabby program.

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Tags: General Horror

DVD Review:: Water Monsters (Featuring She Creature!)

July 9th, 2015 · 8 Comments

Remember back in the good old days (three months ago) when I was all inordinately excited about a cheap-o DVD set that included the sadly underappreciated killer bat flick NIGHTWING? Those were good times. Who can blame me for trying to recapture that feeling of fleeting contentment by snagging yet another modestly priced four-movie collection from the fine folks at MILL CREEK entertainment called WATER MONSTERS!?

Yay WATER MONSTERS! It’s not news that I love monsters and don’t even get me started on water! I don’t mean to go overboard but I sometimes think I couldn’t live without that stuff! Let’s say we take a closer look at this gift from God that you can probably find at your local Best Buy or Target or K-Mart or what have you. Maybe even Caldor? Does Caldor still exist? Come to think of it, one of the reasons I like these sets is that they remind me of the bins of mass-produced VHS tapes that they used to have at the center city Woolworths here in Philly back in the early nineties. That probably shouldn’t be a fond memory on account of that is how I was exposed to the abominations NUKIE and BOOGEYMAN 2 but fond it is.

Let’s talk picture quality. All four movies in this set are on one disc. They all look fine for casual viewing. If you pause them you’ll notice some sketchiness but it’s not all that bad. I’ll be honest with you; I’m not the biggest stickler about such things. In fact, I ended up not being very interested in Blu-rays at all. I figure as long as I have visual masterpieces like BLADE RUNNER, ALIEN, THE THING and maybe THE FUNHOUSE on Blu that’s enough. In all other cases, my Playstation 3 upconverts garden variety DVDs just fine for me. Also, and I may be insane here, but HD has a glassy, synthetic quality to it that reads a bit sickly to me whereas your standard DVD is all warm and toasty and snuggly like a carpeted den. I don’t know, maybe I’m bonkers. In any case, I’m more about filling the holes in my DVD collection than needlessly upgrading that which I already own. I guess I’ve got agreeable peepers is all (I also ate a filet-o-fish sandwich today so maybe I’m just hopelessly lowbrow). Moving on…


Aw, look the first movie is ANACONDA! Cool! You know, some people like to dismiss this flick because it’s called ANACAONDA and it concerns at least one ANACONDA but I’ve always enjoyed it and back in 1997, it was a wonderful B-movie throwback when there weren’t that many to be found. It really owes a lot to those beloved seventies-era disaster flicks with its extensive multigenerational cast and deliberate build-up. It’s got an agreeable epic journey vibe and I have to say the jungle location is actually convincingly oppressive. Yeah, yeah the CGI is dated but they don’t really take on anything too complicated and there’s a fair share of practical effects too. It’s simply a fun movie and JON VOIGHT’s off-the-rails performance alone makes it worthwhile. The weird thing is how likable and down to Earth JENNIFER LOPEZ is. This movie is so old it’s from before she became a phony-baloney media gadfly.


I just realized I’m senile and the undeniable proof is that this movie that came out eight years ago, is in my mind, a recent release. Oh well, I certainly don’t mind having a hard copy of this effective Australian killer croc picture one bit. I’m not quite in the mood for a re-watch just yet, but the urge is bound to strike me one day in my limited future. Check me out unabashedly batting my eyelashes at this unassuming gem in a full review way back HERE.

RED WATER (2003)

This, I’d say is the lone dud of the pack. There isn’t a whole lot to differentiate it from any other made for TV shark movie you might bump into. On the plus side, LOU DIAMOND PHILIPS and KRISTY SWANSON are present, so that might be fun if you don’t get depressed thinking about how likely they’re wishing they were anywhere else. I guess this one is good for people who don’t get the SyFy channel and want to pretend they do for an hour and a half.


This is the one that sealed the deal for me. SHE CREATURE (listed on IMDb as MERMAID CHRONICLES PART 1: SHE CREATURE) was the first (and as I recall, the best and possibly the only worthwhile installment) of a CINEMAX series known as CREATURE FEATURES which consisted of original films inspired by preexisting AIP (American International Pictures) movie titles. It stars RUFUS SEWELL and CARLA “The lone member of TROOP BEVERLY HILLS who starred in a #1 movie the summer of 2015” GUGINO as an easy to look at carnie couple who kidnap and plan to exploit a mermaid who is far more formidable (and sympathetic) than she originally appears.

The late great STAN WINSTON supplies the flick’s super slick monster effects and the whole deal seeps with a dank, waterlogged atmosphere. In fact, in my mind this is a suitable companion piece to the brilliantly briny DAGON of the same year. Everything about it is enjoyably old school right down to a Matte painting establishing shot of a seaside mansion (that I’m guessing was lifted from a classic AIP flick. Does anybody recognize it above?). Did I mention it takes place for the most part on a boat? Who in the world can resist boat horror? Oh, and the multitalented COLLEEN CAMP is a producer! I have to give COLLEEN a high five…

So there you have it. What a deal! This cornucopia of slippery sharp-toothed water mongrels can be yours for cheaper than a bottle of Perrier. Moreover, and I swear I do not work for MILL CREEK, I just found out they have a new batch of affordable sets including a HAMMER FILMS COLLECTION featuring the used to be impossible to score SCREAM OF FEAR (!!!) and a WILLIAM CASTLE COLLECTION with HOMICIDAL, and even the elusive THE OLD DARK HOUSE remake among other classics! That’s some slobber worthy cinema that won’t leave your poor wallet feeling defiled!

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Tags: DVD Review · General Horror

The Runestone (1991)

June 24th, 2015 · 4 Comments

I stumbled across the strangest movie. It’s my most favorite view since THE MEDUSA TOUCH and it flew into my hands in much the same way. I was at an indoor flea market and this guy had a giant grey plastic tub of used VHS that he was selling three for five bucks. I found two that I wanted and had to take a gamble on a third. I was pretty sure I had seen 1991’s THE RUNESTONE before, as I had a vague negative feeling toward it, but I figured I’d give it a second chance because at least it looked semi-horror related. I didn’t already own it and it was in very good condition (the tape inside was tightly wound, laying flat and mold free! You gotta check for mold, I tells ya! It’s an epidemic!!) Anyway, after watching it, I doubted there was any way I had seen it before, as I would surely have remembered something so idiosyncratic. I guess, due to the cover art so proudly boasting the presence of the late ALEXANDER GODUNOV, I was unfairly associating it with WAXWORK 2? On the other hand it’s not impossible that exactly what makes THE RUNESTONE charming now made it forgettable back in its day. Some films need to sit and ferment.

I’m going to reference a ton of titles now as a kind of shorthand, so stand warned. RUNESTONE starts off as some sort of archeological adventure like RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and there’s an all-consuming myth-dipped puzzle vibe that sorta reminded me of INFERNO. But then it gets to be so very much like THE RELIC except instead of a larger than life, difficult to register creature to deal with, there’s an old-fashioned, in-your-face dude in a rubber suit deal (think PUMPKINHEAD or RAWHEAD REX or especially HUMANOIDS OF THE DEEP). Jumping back even further, the soundtrack does its best to ape the sweeping, over the top dramatics of B-movie horror films from the fifties like THE CREATURE OF THE BLACK LAGOON.

I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that it’s like watching THE DAVINCI CODE do the cha-cha with SPAWN OF THE SLITHIS (1978) and I say that having never actually finished watching either of those. I should also mention it’s got a too big for its britches, would–be epic if not for its staggering lack of plausibility quality as per 1979’s THE DARK or the same year’s batty THE VISITOR. What’s it about? Let’s just say some jealous guy finds a rock in Pennsylvania and it brings out his worst.

Writer/director WILLARD CARROLL based his screenplay on a novel by MARK E. ROGERS but the entire affair has an intoxicating lunatic auteur feel to it, as if everything was obsessed over in some seriously unhealthy way. In fact, the concentrated visuals and often clunky dialogue reminded me of FRANK De FILITTA’s adorably self-indulgent insanity dispenser SCISSORS of the same year (and I mean that as a compliment). What’s extra odd is that RUNESTONE has its heart set on being funny, so you have to endure lead balloon joke after lead balloon joke until finally you begin to look forward to them. Weirder still, it actually is funny on at least two occasions.

You’ll never catch me saying, “It’s so bad, it’s good” but I have no issue saying it’s so awkward, it’s stimulating. I can’t help feel a tinge of exhilarating embarrassment for THE RUNESTONE. It’s goofily earnest and it knows no shame and it’s willing to throw anything against the wall in the hopes that it’ll stick and somehow, against all odds, some things do. For example the line, “Where am I when I need me the most?” is shoehorned into a scene for no good reason and now I can’t get it out of my head and there’s an extended bit that skewers a New York art gallery that somehow ends with the creature in question sporting a police hat that I won’t forget too soon. (Don’t get me started on the sex scene involving an impossible moon, and the battling silhouettes of a woman in the throws of passion and a swiping monster claw. It has to be seen to be believed).

Anyway, I know a keeper when I see one, there’s never something not going on, the misses are as fascinating as the hits and there’s no doubt you’ll see different things popping out upon multiple visits. I wish I could entice you better with the cast but that’s not going to work unless you are a big fan of PETER (ANIMAL HOUSE) RIEGERT, JOAN (BLACK SCORPION) SEVERANCE or the guy who looks exactly like the guy who was on that early FOX sitcom DUETS but is not that guy on account of he’s his twin brother (MITCHELL (not MATTHEW) LAURANCE).

What I CAN do (and what may be my sole purpose for being born), is to reiterate, highlight and underline that THE RUNESTONE is a MONSTER movie! To me, that is crucial, game-changing information previously neglected to be declared properly in the movie’s advertising art. In my book, monster movies are allotted a certain amount (acres and acres) of extra leeway to be somewhat off the wall. I’m not saying it’s part of their appeal, I’m just saying I’ll happily overlook a few zillion questionable choices to see a guy in a rubber suit rip some other guy’s arm off. I can’t help it.

So there my job is done. THE RUNESTONE is available to watch on YouTube. The picture quality is not the best (I can tell right away by how off the red hue is in the opening credits) but it’s not available on DVD or Blu-ray, so what are you going to do? Personally, I’d order a VHS from Amazon while supplies last. This is a cult hit waiting to happen and all it needs is somebody with more clout than me to say so.

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Tags: General Horror · Stream Warriors · Streaming Alert!

Cousin Wil’s Top Ten Tear Jerking Horror Scenes

June 3rd, 2015 · 7 Comments

1. Monster Squad (1987) Frankenstein Gets Sucked Into Vortex

Watching Phoebe’s feeble attempt to hold on to Frankenstein as he is being sucked into a vortex was one of the most heartbreaking moments of my childhood.

2. Godzilla aka Gojira (1954) Daisuke Serizawa Sacrifices Himself to Save Mankind

This is actually the movie that gave me the idea for this list. Serizawa’s sacrifice at the end of the original Godzilla film is not only sad but it is mostly forgotten by horror fans, which is even sadder.

3. Splice (2009) Dren Realizes She Doesn’t Look Like Other Girls

If the Barbie doll scene in Splice doesn’t make you cry then you’re even less human than Dren.

4. The Prowler (1981) Final Girl Almost Saved by Mentally Handicapped Red Herring

It may be hard to remember this scene, but there is a brief beautiful moment between Pam and Otto right before the final kill of the movie.

5. Alien Resurrection (1997) Alien-human Hybrid Says “Mommy” Before Being Sucked into Space

This scene is like the ghost in Three Men and a Baby, it makes the movie better if you just choose to believe it is real.

6. Return of the Living Dead (1985) Frank Takes Off His Wedding Ring Before He Incinerates Himself.

When you think “tear jerking” Return of the Living Dead doesn’t come to mind, but the movie does take a break from all the silly zombie shenanigans to give Frank a tearful goodbye before the poop really hits the fan.

7. Prom Night (1980) Jamie Lee Curtis Realizes the Killer is Her Brother

I always like to think Joss Whedon got the idea for the Buffy episode “New Man” from this scene.

8. Let the Right One In (2008) The Entire Movie.

We all remember our first crush, but did they really want to be your friend or were they just grooming you to be their next Familiar? We may never know.

9. Congo (1995) Amy Realizes She’s Not Like the Other Apes

I guess I have a thing about feeling left out. Amy, the talking gorilla, has a Dren moment when another gorilla totally throws some shade because she’s not like him.

10. American Gothic (1988) Cynthia Joins the Family

I wanted to end the list with a story of acceptance since it is filled with so much rejection. It always warms my heart to know that Fanny found a new sister at the end of American Gothic, even though it doesn’t quite work out for her.

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Tags: General Horror

It Follows

April 15th, 2015 · 3 Comments

First of all, I’d like to thank any and all who recommended IT FOLLOWS to me and/or urged me to see it in the theater. You were not wrong to do so. It was really cool to see a small independent horror film featuring a singular personal vision in an actual theater again. It brought back a lot of good memories. Plus, I have to say one of my favorite parts of the film ended up being its pushy retro soundtrack and the theater I saw it in sported an impressive sound system and was able to highlight that aspect it in a way that would be impossible (for me) to duplicate at home.

My overall experience was enjoyable, it was money well spent and I shall forever be happy that I went. That said, I’ve gotta say… and don’t hate me…I’m not exactly over the moon for IT FOLLOWS. I was left in more of a C+ to B- zone. I thought it was interesting and fun to talk about later but it in no way bowled me over in the way that I would have liked it to. This isn’t like when I went to see PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and left with the feeling that its supporters were rubes or like when I saw YOU’RE NEXT and couldn’t wait for it to be over; I can totally understand folks liking IT FOLLOWS. I get it. Just as I once got the general consensus that FARRAH was the most beautiful of CHARLIE’S ANGELS even though clearly that honor has always belonged to KATE JACKSON. What I’m trying to say is, here comes a mixed review…

Let’s get what I appreciated out of the way. IT FOLLOWS often plays like a soothing throwback and I dig its shameless, fetishistic reverence toward nostalgia. I can’t, in good conscience, join the chorus that commends it for its originality due to it brazenly lifting scenes from ubiquitous classics like HALLOWEEN and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET but I can give it props for being wise enough to pilfer beyond the surface and into the soul. What IT FOLLOWS has in spades (or at least foreboding Old Maid cards) is the understanding that the diabolizing of sex in horror films involving teens is more about expressing natural fears associated with leaving childhood behind then anything else. It’s a “mortal” issue rather than a moral issue and this film seriously seeps a sad melancholy “last days of our youth” vibe throughout. Yes, there’s a curse, a disease that one can catch by way of intercourse in IT FOLLOWS and that disease is adulthood. It does my Robert Smith loving original goth-ster heart good to witness teenagers waxing nostalgic for salad days as a once sanguine suburbia crumbles around them.

So yeah, tonally IT FOLLOWS works for me- my big issue, I’m thinking, is structural. I say this acknowledging that we’re all scared of different things and that scares are not necessarily the be all, end all when it comes to a successful horror film. I just found this movie inexcusably front heavy in the fright department to the point that it irked me. As you may know, the ambiguous threat in IT FOLLOWS can take the form of anyone living or dead and we’re told it has a tendency to mask itself as a loved one just to be extra sadistic. So in the first half of the film it appears as a decrepit, death-eyed crone (yikes), a hideous, toothless lady who urinates on the kitchen floor (zoinks) and a shadowy, too-tall dude who has to bend down to get through a doorway (check please!) and then for reasons I cannot fathom, the second half the film features the entity as a friend/invisible hair puller (meh), the bored looking original victim (snore), a naked man (day at the office) and the blasé absentee father of the protagonist (which may have the potential to be unnerving if it were only presented any other way than it is). Wouldn’t all of that work better in reverse? Maybe not, point is, for me, the movie becomes less and less scary as it goes on and that’s not my preferred scenario by a long shot.

And so I stand in the middle. As much as I’m grateful to see, after what seems like decades, non-model, normal looking humans on the big screen again, I find myself frustrated that so many confrontations and opportunities to add depth to the characters are shirked. As much as I was on board with the multitude of literary and cinematic referential nods, I couldn’t help feeling pulled out of the drama by all the winking, hipster aesthetic photo-bombing. I was more than happy to allow a parade of inconsistencies and un-knowables into the party in the name of surrealism and all forgiving “dream logic” but at some point, the smudgy lines started feeling more lazy than clever. In the end, my basic rule of thumb is that any movie that gets stuck in your craw to this degree is more than worthwhile and I plan to return to IT FOLLOWS somewhere in the future after the fawning has died. I’m very glad that it got a wide release and was able to play in the lone theater that is within walking distance of my home but if you asked me whether it deserved that privilege more than THE BABADOOK, HOUSEBOUND, STARRY EYES or THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, at this point, my answer would be (maybe) the first half did.

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Tags: General Horror