DEEP RISING (1998) is a rousing horror adventure filled with intrigue, humor and plenty of sea serpent tentacles (courtesy of special effects master Rob “THE THING” Bottin). Written and directed by future THE MUMMY (’99)-helmer Stephen Sommers, this misunderstood mini-masterpiece also features an impeccable cast that includes Treat Williams (RIP, one of the true greats) Famke Janssen, Anthony Heald, Cliff Curtis, Kevin J. O’Conner and Dijon Hounsou among others. Back in my video store working days I was able to attend an advance sneak peak viewing of this fun flick and it remains one of my favorite movie -going memories. The crowd went wild, popcorn flew and all were riveted from the opening credits till the hopeful-for-sequel ending. I was a hundred percent certain it was going to be an unanimously loved hit but for some reason (I blame shockingly uninspired marketing) it did poorly at the box office. Over the years it has slowly collected the devout fans it deserves but if it has somehow evaded your grasp, consider this a reminder to dive into it as soon as you can.
THE KINDRED (1987). Family reunions can be a drag especially when your sibling is a giant fish mutant (don’t I know it!). Let’s face it folks, when 1950’s-style mad science mayhem meets 1980’s level make-up artistry and practical effects, the audience wins every time. Once a late night cable staple, THE KINDRED fell off many a horror fan’s radar after avoiding the jump from VHS to DVD but now that it’s on Blu-ray, there’s no excuse for missing this slime-dripping throwback gem. Sporting a cast of scene-chewing masters (Rod Steiger, Kim Hunter) and engaging then-newcomers (Amanda Pays, Talia Balsam), this agreeably overstuffed B-movie dynamo will have you checking the backseat of your car for creatures stowing away in watermelons for many years to come.
THE ALIEN FACTOR (1978) is simply not content delivering one mere monster from outer space, it delivers three, each being more absurd then the one that preceded it. Created by the unstoppable Don Dohler (FIEND, NIGHTBEAST), this backyard beast feast may be assembled by bubble gum and popsicle sticks but it’s charmingly earnest and more fun than most movies quadruple its budget. You know the drill: UFO crashes to Earth delivering murderous entities and small town sheriff tries to protect the locals while greedy mayor sabotages his efforts in order to insure plans for a future amusement park are not thwarted. I’ll admit the first time I caught this makeshift mock-buster on VHS, my poor soul internally whimpered for a refund, but over the years my aghast pity has transformed into unfeigned respect and slow-clapping, nodding approval. Sure, the creatures presented somewhat resemble oatmeal plastered Halloween costumes strutting down a Jr. High School assembly stage but damn how you can’t keep your eyes off them!
THE CAVE (2005) got slammed by critics and audiences alike and although it’s no masterpiece, much of the animosity towards it may have been due to it being released around the same time as Neil Marshal’s similarly set and far superior, spelunking suspense classic THE DESCENT. I had avoided it for years based one its bad reputation but a recent watch entertained me well enough and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a low emotional commitment monster mash that plays like an underground version of 2000’s PITCH BLACK. Heck, both pictures even feature the always reliable Cole Hauser (THE CAVE’s full deck cast also boasts Piper Perabo, Lena Headey, Morris Chestnut, Eddie Cibrian and Daniel Day Kim) It’s all rote, predictable and inconsequential for sure but the sets are splendid, the creatures (when visible) are cool, the stunts are impressive and I gotta admit that sometimes (maybe most the time) I find comfort in familiarity. Your world won’t be rocked but this is a fun diversion if you enjoy seeing disposable characters picked off one by one by less than humans beasties.
EQUINOX (1970) was warning folks (particularly KFC chomping picnickers) about the perils of reading from ancient Evil tomes a good decade before THE EVIL DEAD (’81) followed suit. Why didn’t anyone listen? Those lucky enough to stumble upon this eye-popping oddity on late night television (or preferably a drive-in) back in the day can attest to its amusing yet still somewhat eerie power. Fans of cabin-centric locales, Lovecraftian yore, Harryhausen-happy stop motion effects (we’re taking everything from flying winged demons to giant ape dudes), demonically possessed forest rangers and fashions befitting the B-52’s will be left perpetually smitten.