Archive for the Movies Category

For a guy who had to build additional shelves to house his horror and kung-fu/ninja DVD collection, I realize reviewing a sappy made-for-television special from 1989 isn’t something I would normally review. And to be honest, it’s not something I would normally even watch, must less review. However, while combing through thrift store VHS tapes in search of commercials to rip and upload to my YouTube playlist, I ran across this movie and (somehow) got sucked into watching it.

(The first movie on the tape (labelled “?? – John Goodman”) turned out to be The Big Easy, starring Dennis Quaid, Ellen Barkin, and Ned Betty. Good luck finding three people who would describe this as a “John Goodman” film.)

Type Cast the First Stone into IMDB and the site’s search engine suggests 2000’s Cast Away and 1966’s Cast a Giant Shadow (starring Kirk Douglas and John Wayne) before offering up the “Cast of Baby Daddy.” Performing the actual search reveals four television episodes and another movie with the same name. Google also turned up a band and a Slayer song with the same name. In retrospect I wish I had watched or listened to any of those things rather than watching this movie.

Our story begins with Diane Martin (Jill Eikenberry, L.A. Law), an innocent (and perhaps naive) school teacher, returning from a Catholic retreat. During her drive home Diane sees and picks up a random hitchhiker, Andy (Sandy Bull). The two of them have a conversation about how Diane picks up hitchhikers because she and her friend hitchhiked across Europe back when they were in college.

Things are set in motion that evening when Diane stops at a motel, lets Andy out, and gets a room for herself. Later, during a rainstorm, Andy locates her room and asks Diane if she will let him sleep on his floor. Reluctantly, she lets him in. In the middle of the night, unable to sleep, Andy retrieves a knife from his backpack and rapes Diane.

STRANGER DANGER!

Diane, feeling embarrassed, ashamed, and humiliated, does not report the rape to the police. Instead, she returns home the following day and, over time, attempts to resume her life. Things become complicated, however, when Diane’s doctor informs her that she is pregnant.

At first, Diane is reluctant to tell anyone she has been raped, and when she does begin to tell people, nobody believes her. Her sister doesn’t believe her, the principal of her school doesn’t believe her, the parents of her students don’t believe her, and the school board doesn’t believe her. All of these people think Diane has made up the rape story to cover up the fact that she is having a child out of wedlock. And when people find out that she plans on keeping the baby, that’s when the townsfolk really begin to revolt.

Let me state that again. When the parents of her students and the school board learn that Diane the Catholic plans on keeping the baby instead of aborting it, that’s when they turn on her.

In one scene, we see Diane concerned about a student who obviously has dyslexia. A meeting with the student’s mother goes south when the parent demands her daughter not be labelled as a student with a learning disability. Later in the year, the same parent complains about Diane when her daughter’s grades haven’t improved. Eventually every parent who has any complaint at all about the school bands together in a motion to have the tenured Diane dismissed.

While Diane is in labor with her son, the school board finds her “guilty of immorality.” (This was back before Facebook.) Diane does return to the school, but after multiple parents and fellow teachers continue to complain about her lack of morality, she is fired. (Diane is by far the most moral person in this TV film.)

Because Cast the First Stone takes place in the late 1980s, we have the typical problems that would be easily resolved by today’s technology. In one scene, Diane attempts to set up an appointment with a counselor but is forced to hang up when students approach the pay phone she is using to make the call. In another scene, we are told that the local police are helpless to track down whoever has been prank calling Diane and calling her a whore because they can’t keep the caller on the line long enough to stay on the line. I’m as nostalgic about the 1980s as the next guy, but life before cell phones and Caller ID had its limitations.

After being fired, Diane teams up with an attorney (Refson) who takes her case in an attempt to help Diane get her job back. From a moral and I suppose legal aspect I understand this, but why would Diane want to work at a school (or in a town) where literally every single person hates her? The only thing missing from this film is a scene where a convicted child molester walks by Diane and spits on her.

After going on trial for “violating moral codes,” where she is (again) accused of making up her story, Diane is eventually successful in getting her job back. Sorry if I just spoiled an 80s TV movie that you will never watch.

Although Cast the First Stone was released in 1989, the actions, thoughts and values of the characters in the film seemed like they were from an earlier time, and after a bit of digging I think I’ve discovered why. The character of Diane Martin and the events in this film were “inspired by a true story” that originally took place in the late 70s.

(For the record, other films listed as being “inspired by a true story” include the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, The Mothman Prophecies, and The Fourth Kind, a film that claimed hundreds of people missing from Nome, Alaska had been abducted by aliens, so there’s that.)

Diane Martin’s story was inspired by the story of Jeanne Eckmann. Like the fictional Diane, Eckmann too was a school teacher who claimed to have been raped and was later fired from her job. Unlike Diane, Eckmann won a $3.3 million dollar settlement from the (then) past and present school board members. (I was surprised when that article named Eckmann’s four year old son by name — another case of “how things used to be done,” I suppose.) I know nothing about the real life case that inspired the fictional television movie, and can only say that real life is complicated and there are three sides to every story. Jeanne Eckmann died in 2001 and took her side of the story with her.

As for Cast the First Stone, I’m not sure if any of that was covered in an epiloge or not. After the verdict of Diane’s trial is announced, my copy abruptly jumps to an episode of Star Trek: The New Generation. I found used VHS copies of the film available on Amazon for as low as $4, but it’s not worth that to me to find out.

In 1980, the question on television viewers minds’ everywhere was “Who shot J.R.?” A decade later in 1990, the new question everyone was asking was, “Who killed Laura Palmer?” I didn’t watch Twin Peaks when it originally aired on television, but even those of us who missed out on David Lynch’s beautiful yet eternally confusing show the first time around were aware of its cultural impact. Several months ago I ran across a used copy of the Twin Peaks Definitive Gold Box Edition for $10, and decided to find out for myself, who killed Laura Palmer.

The Twin Peaks Definitive Gold Box Edition contains 10 DVDs, and on those discs you get almost everything you could ever want related to the television show. For starters, on discs one through nine you get all 29 episodes of the show — that’s seven episodes for s one and 22 episodes for the second season. You also get two different versions of the pilot episode: the version that originally aired in the US, and a second version containing an alternate ending that essentially wrapped up the story in case the show itself wasn’t picked up by networks. Disc nine also contains deleted scenes from the series.

The final disc of the box set contains a large collection of extras. First up is A Slice of Lynch, a four-part documentary that covers the making of the series and David Lynch’s thoughts about the show. It’s a great documentary that gives viewers a view into the making of this groundbreaking show. You also get Return to Twin Peaks (footage from the 2006 Twin Peaks Festival), an interactive map of the town, a couple of Twin Peaks-related Saturday Night Live clips, a couple of music videos, and a few other random bits and pieces. The greatest inclusion here is Secrets from Another Place, a documentary about the show that includes lots of interviews with people from both in front of and behind the camera.

The video on the discs is great, remastered from the original negatives, and the audio is presented in both 2.0 and 5.1 soundtracks. For a television show that aired years before we knew what HD was, the show looks and sounds great.

Now, the bad news.

Despite being labelled as the “Definitive Gold Box Edition,” it’s not — at least, it’s not any more. The biggest omission is Lynch’s follow up film, 1992’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, a prequel that shows the events leading up to the beginning of the television series. Normally I wouldn’t think of an additional film as an omission, except that it was included in Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery, release on Blu-ray in 2014. (Is anything really “definitive,” anymore?) The newer Blu-Ray release includes a few new cast interviews, 90 minutes of missing footage originally cut from Fire Walk With Me, but lacks the Saturday Night Live skits and a few other minor extras.

That being said, especially if you can find an inexpensive copy like I did, Twin Peaks Definitive Gold Box Edition is a fantastic way to experience the television series from beginning to end — although with talks of a new season of Twin Peaks set to begin filming later this year, the word “end” is subjective. Expect a new “DEFINITIVE definitive” version in years to come.

(This review contains minor spoilers, most of which are revealed in the trailer.)

Can we all agree by now that a theme park that puts people near unrestrained carnivorous dinosaurs is a bad idea?

2015’s Jurassic World skips over the past two installments in the series (1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park and 2001’s Jurassic Park III, neither of which took place on the original island) and picks up where the 1993 original film left off.

Twenty-two years later (both in real time and movie time), John Hammond’s dream of bringing Jurassic Park, a theme park filled with real live dinosaurs (grown from extracted dinosaur DNA), has been fully realized in the form of Jurassic World. Just like in the first film, dinosaurs have been restricted to various zones on the island be large barriers made of concrete. Also, like in the first film, visitors to the park are allowed to be precariously close to these giant beasts in various vehicles and viewing areas. Finally, like in the first film, everyone is assured that nothing could possible go wrong… until it eventually does.

By now Jurassic World’s gates have been open for ten years and the visiting public has grown tired of the same old dinosaurs (really?), so the park’s DNA wizards have decided to create their own dinosaur. The all new Indominus Rex was created much in the way Willy Wonka designed the Everlasting Gobstopper — a pinch of T-Rex here, a dash of Giganotosaurus there, and so on. The end result is a dinosaur that is bigger, meaner, smarter, and more aggressive than any dinosaur the park has seen to date. My nine-year-old whispered to me, “That sounds like a bad idea.” How this fact eluded the park’s board of directors is a head-scratcher.

While only DNA master Dr. Henry Wu returns from the original film, Jurassic World’s new cast of characters are cut from similar molds. Clair is the driven business woman, so dedicated to running Jurassic World she doesn’t even know how old her two adolescent nephews are (Zach and Gray) when they come to visit. Then we’ve got Simon Masrani, the rich backer behind the new park, and Hoskins, the greedy leader of the park’s security team who has other plans for some of the park’s assets. Finally there’s Owen (Chris Pratt), who brings the whole thing together. Navy retiree Owen has established himself as the park’s animal behavioral expert by becoming the “alpha” of a small team of velociraptors and getting them to stop eating people long enough to do a few tricks.

If you’re counting “bad ideas,” add these to your list: sending your teenage kids to a dinosaur theme park in hopes that their career-driven aunt they haven’t seen in seven years will watch over them; attempting to train velociraptors; anything the park’s board of directors has approved in the past 22 years.

Within twenty minutes of its introduction the Indominus Rex has outsmarted every member of the park’s security team, which launches the film’s events into motion. Will our kids be the heros or the victims? Who will save the day and who will be dinosnacks? Ultimately it doesn’t even matter — there’s enough dinosaur-on-man attacks and dinosaur-on-dinosaur battles to keep you cheering and jumping for the film’s run time. Long gone are those slow, tense moments from the first film; we know what these monsters are capable of, and the movie wastes little time in showing us. While Jurassic Park had elements of horror mixed in, Jurassic World is more action-comedy. I laughed outloud at least half a dozen times, mostly to Owen-delivered one-liners. For the record, I also jumped at least twice.

If your brain is bigger than a Stegosaurus’ you’ll laugh at some of the film’s goofy plot decisions and characters’ actions, but the action is so loud and fast that you won’t have time to think about them until you’re back at home, checking your bedroom closet for velociraptors before bed.

My sister Linda is the best Tetris player I have ever watched play in person. Tetris is simple. It consists of seven different rotating pieces (trivia fact: “Tetriminos”) that must be placed in rows to prevent them from reaching the top of the screen, thus ending the game. When the pieces are dropping slowly and you’re getting the ones you need, anyone can play the game; it’s when things start speeding up and you hit a “drought” (a long period of time in which players do not receive straight pieces) that separates the men from the boys — oh, and the women from the girls. If I’d had any since at all I would have pulled my sister out of school and driven her cross country, hustling Tetris players for cash in seedy 80s arcades.

Even at her prime, I’m not sure my sister could have out-Tetrised the players that appear in the 2011 documentary Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters, which follows Robin Mihara’s attempt to find the world’s best Tetris player by establishing a national tournament.

The documentary begins with Mihara tracking down the country’s best Tetris players, who have all declared the NES version to be the de facto version of the game. This is done by searching Twin Galaxies (not getting a quip from Walter Day seems like a glaring omission). Unsurprisingly, most of the country’s best Tetris players look and act exactly what one might imagine adults in their 30s and 40s who have dedicated their lives to mastering a Nintendo game might look like. Along the way we meet a guy who mastered solving Rubik’s Cubes “in order to pick up women,” a girl who often ignores her spouse while playing Tetris, and another girl who plans on wearing a sweatshirt that says “I > U” along with Nintendo-branded pajama bottoms to the tournament. None of the potential contestants come off as annoying, but none are particularly charismatic either.

The dark horse of the tournament is Thor Aackerlund, one of the winners from the 1990 Nintendo World Championships who became a spokesman for Nintendo before turning into a recluse and walking away from the industry. For a while the film teases a Billy Mitchell “will he or won’t he show up,” but eventually he does and although a bit hesitant to reenter the limelight, he turns out to be a nice guy.

Like the Donkey Kong kill screen from The King of Kong, Tetris too has its own mythical achievements: one involves maxing the game out at 999,999 and the other involves reaching level 30. Thor claims to have done both but doesn’t feel the need to take or share any photographic evidence of his achievements. A few of the other competitors timidly hint that they have their doubts about Thor’s achievements, but no one goes as far as to call him out. In fact, it turns out that for the most part people who spend 10-12 hours a day mastering a Nintendo game tend to like one another.

After establishing the fact that there’s going to be a tournament, Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters spends the next 45 minutes introducing us to the contestants. During this part of the film you’ll be exposed to a lot of people who play a lot of Tetris, and also a lot of Tetris. Along the filmmaker’s journey he got to watch a lot of Tetris footage, and you’ll get to see some of it, too. Some of the footage is impressive and a lot of it goes by too fast to tell what’s going on. All the footage made me think (a) all these people deserve to be in a Tetris tournament, and (b) I hope it happens soon.

The final third of the film covers the tournament itself. Some of the players do well and some don’t go as well as they had hoped. Will one of our new friends win the tournament or will Thor reclaim his former title?

During one of the film’s interviews, Thor explains that shortly after winning the 1990 Nintendo tournament, his house burned down and his family became essentially homeless, their only income being his endorsements and paid appearances. “In one way life is a lot like Tetris,” he says. “It throws random things at you, but what you do with them is up to you.” For me, this was the film’s takeaway moment.

While The King of Kong transcended Donkey Kong and perhaps video games in general in its simplified (and in many cases, forced) “good vs. evil” theme, I don’t think Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters does the same. While it’s a good film, I’m not sure it would appeal to those not interested in Tetris or at least video game tournaments. If you’ve ever played Tetris so long that you’ve dreamed about the game or attended a classic video game expo, no doubt you’ll enjoy this film.

In 10 minutes I’m about to go wake my sister up, get her out of bed, and start her Tetris training regimen for the inevitable sequel.

The WNUF Halloween Special is a copy of a copy of a VHS recording of a live news broadcast that took place on October 31, 1987. For those of you unfamiliar with the incident, during a live broadcast, news personality Frank Stewart along with acclaimed psychics Louis and Claire Berger and a Catholic priest (Father Joseph Matheson) were broadcasting live from the supposedly haunted Webber House (the site of a double murder) when they experienced paranormal activity. The live broadcast went dead, and none of the four were ever seen again.

The rest of this review is chock full of spoiler. If you plan on watching this movie, don’t read past the picture below. If you’re okay with spoilers, continue… if you dare.

If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of the Webber murders, Frank Stewart, or WNUF for that matter, is because they’re not real. This film goes to great lengths to appear to be a VHS recording from the 1980s, but it was actually created and released in 2013. The filmmakers went as far as to record dozens of 80s-esque commercials which are sprinkled throughout the recording, and made multiple VHS copies of the movie to give it the look of a second-(or third or fourth)-hand tape that’s been copied and passed around among friends.

The film begins with a live news broadcast from October 31, 1987. After a few news stories presented by a couple of stereotypical broadcasters from the 80s, we get to Frank Stewart, who is doing a live remote broadcast from the Webber House. In the 1960s, Donald Webber, guided by a Ouija board, murdered his parents in the house and drug their decapitated bodies down into the basement. After the trial, the house was boarded up remained abandoned for 20 years. Twenty years later on Halloween night, the house is being unsealed (a’la “Geraldo and Al Capone’s Vault”) during a live broadcast. Joining Stewart during his broadcast are husband and wife psychics Louis and Claire Berger, their cat, and Catholic priest Father Joseph Matheson.

It’s pretty clear up front that Frank doesn’t believe the house is haunted, the psychics do, and the priest doesn’t know quite what to think. The psychics brought along their third partner, Shadow, a cat that is also psychic. Shadow quickly runs off which causes the four humans to go searching for him. They do eventually find Shadow — er, parts of Shadow, anyhow — which is one of our first signs that something is going on in the Webber house. During their search for the cat, the psychics’ EVM recording equipment is also smashed off screen.

Each of these segments are interrupted by commercials, which were created explicitly for this movie. As someone who grew up in the 80s I can tell you most of them are spot on. Some of them, like the ones for a local monster truck rally and the anti-drug ads (sponsored by “Parents Against Partying”) are spot on. The biggest giveaway that none of them are real is that none of them are for shows or products or businesses that you’ve ever heard of. Obviously the point is to add to the authenticity of the recording, and they certainly do that.

Anyone who has ever sat through an episode of Scooby-Doo should be able to predict the ending. While I won’t give everything away, the last five minutes contain more f-bombs than I was expecting. As viewers, we ultimately get to see footage that did not make it to the live broadcast, which makes one wonder just whose tape we are watching…

Part The Last Broadcast/Blair Witch, part retro-80s fun, the WNUF Halloween Special is better in theory than it is in production, but if you’re in to low budget thrillers and the 1980s, give it a watch. Expect it to become a Halloween cult classic in years to come.

The first time I saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was at a friend’s birthday party. I was in ninth or tenth grade. There were girls at the party so when the movie started only half of my attention was on the film. By the time the movie ended, 100% of my attention was on the film. I don’t even remember who else was at the party. But I sure remember that film.

A common theme from this month’s list of films has been that supernatural films don’t scare me as much as realistic ones. There’s nothing supernatural about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and yet it’s the worst kind of evil I can think of — people hurting other people for no reason. Revenge, no matter how brutal or violent, I can understand: that’s hurting someone else for a reason. But in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, there’s no rhyme or reason or motive to the brutality. There’s just a family of deranged maniacs who simply attack people when the opportunity arises.

And one of them has a chainsaw.

Opportunity arises in this film with a van load of teenagers who happen to pick up the wrong hitchhiker. I wouldn’t be surprised if this film single-handedly had an effect on hitchhiking. Our teens end up stopping at the wrong gas station and end up at the wrong house and pretty soon they start ending up on the wrong side of a chainsaw. I think one of the scariest things about this film is how few choices lie between us and a horrible death on any given day.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a gruesome, timeless classic. There’s a reason it became the archetype for these types of films. Many of the tropes still appearing in horror films today can be traced back to this very film. Classic, classic, classic.

And still scary as hell.

(This review is a part of my month-long October 2014 A-Z Horror Reviews.)

Have you ever taken a bite of terrible food and immediately turned to the person next to you and said, “Here, try this!” Have you ever seen a disgusting video on the internet only to show it to someone else just to see their reaction? This, I suspect, is the reason people are still talking about Sleepaway Camp today.

Thanks to the success of Friday the 13th, like several other slasher films of the 1980s, Sleepaway Camp takes place at a summer camp. After her father and brother are killed, young Angela goes to live with her Aunt Martha and cousin Ricky. Ricky and Angela go off to summer camp together, which seems like a good idea until Angela begins getting picked on and people begin dying. Is sweet, innocent Angela the killer? Is it her over protective cousin Ricky? Or is it someone else?

All of this is difficult to focus on because there’s so many other creepy things going on. And I don’t mean creepy like spiders crawling on people, I mean creepy like camp counselors who continually make remarks about which thirteen-year-old campers they want to have sex with. And then there are the death scenes, which sound disturbing (one involves a beehive; another, a curling iron) but are so bizarre that it’s hard not to laugh at them.

Yes, every part of this movie is bizarre. And then there’s the ending, which is so bizarre that it makes the rest of the movie… I don’t want to say “seem normal,” but it’s so earth-shattering bizarre that no one will be talking about the beehive or curling iron scenes afterwards. It’s so jarring that I guarantee you will rewind however you are watching the film and watch it again. It wouldn’t surprise me back in 1983 to hear of people marching right back into the theater to watch the film a second time. Like Sixth Sense, this film is entirely different upon a second viewing.

When this movie was pitched, I can imagine the studio asking “what sets your movie apart from all the other slasher films?” and then the producer shows him the last page of the script and they all say, “yup, that’ll do it!”

If you’re ever up for watching a messed up movie, come on over and we’ll watch Sleepaway Camp. I can’t wait to see your reaction.

(This review is a part of my month-long October 2014 A-Z Horror Reviews.)

On June 16, 1984, Ricky Kasso murdered Gary Lauwers over a $50 drug debt in the woods outside Long Island, New York. Ricky Kasso was a self-proclaimed Satan worshiper, a fan of heavy metal music, a drug addict, and schizophrenic. Kasso was arrested for the murder less than a month later on July 5th, and hung himself in his jail cell two days after that.

Several books and films have documented Kasso’s case. Ricky 6 (also known as Ricky Six and Say You Love Satan) is unique in that it’s a film “based on a true story.” Only the names have been changed (yeah, right). In this film Ricky Kasso becomes Ricky Cowen (aka Ricky Six), while his real life partner-in-crime Jimmy Troiano becomes Tommy and Gary Lauwers’ name is inexplicably changed to Tweasel.

Director Peter Filardi’s biggest challenge with Ricky 6 was making the character Ricky remotely likable. He does this in a number of ways; one, by picking a somewhat attractive actor (Vincent Kartheiser, better known as Pete Campbell from television’s Mad Men).

In a rare case of making the fictionalized version of a news story less (instead of more) violent, Filardi also toned down a number of the facts from the case. In the film, Ricky stabs Tweasel and shouts “Say you love Satan!” In real life, Kasso’s victim was tortured to “three or four hours,” according to witnesses. Also in real life, Kasso shoved rocks down his victim’s throat and carved his eyeballs out with a knife.

Despite leaving out some of the more violent details, the film loosely parallel’s Kasso’s real life. Both stories show a troubled teen’s life spiraling out of control as he falls into heavy drug use (lots of mescaline and PCP-laced joints) combined with schizophrenia (hearing voices). Although Kasso was originally arrested wearing an AC/DC shirt and some press at the time mentioned the “heavy metal” angle, it’s not presented strongly in the film. Instead what we see is a fall from grace (and sanity) by a kid with some definite mental and chemical issues. We see Ricky go from a kid on the football team to a kid who dabbles in Satanism to a kid strung out on dope to a murderer to a kid who hangs himself in his own jail cell in under two hours. Forget those ABC after school specials; let your kid watch this and he’ll “just say no” on his or her own.

After making a brief visit to a few film festivals, Ricky 6 was shelved and never released. Some online sources say that the Columbine shootings played a part in that; others report that the film’s owner is now in prison himself (I could not verify this). Ten years ago this is the type of movie that, without distribution, would have dropped off the face of the earth. Fortunately for anyone interested you can watch the entire movie on Youtube.

I don’t know that I would watch Ricky 6 again or that I would even classify it as a horror movie. If you want to really be scared, read David St. Clair’s non-fiction account of the murders, Say You Love Satan. It’s a hell of a lot scarier than any fiction film.

(This review is a part of my month-long October 2014 A-Z Horror Reviews.)

I’d be lying to you if I said I’ve been dying to watch Q: The Winged Serpent. Fact is, I’m going through the alphabet watching horror movies and there aren’t a whole of them that start with the letter Q.

The plot of Q: The Winged Serpent (such as it is) is pretty straight forward. In the film, Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, The Stuff, Maniac Cop 1-3) perches the titular winged serpent on top of the Chrysler building in New York City, where it occasionally descends from to feast on the heads of New York citizens. When Jimmy Quinn (played by long time Cohen collaborator Michael Moriarty) discovers the location of the serpent’s nest while hiding out after a failed robbery, instead of turning the information over to the police he instead attempts to sell it to them for one million dollars.

The film co-stars David Carradine and Richard Roundtree as cops in search of Quetzalcoatl, aka “Q”. Before long we learn that an Aztec cult performing ritualistic murders is responsible for Q’s arrival and it’s up to the cops to stop both the cult and Q itself.

According to legend, Q: The Winged Serpent was conceived and written in a single week after Larry Cohen was let go from another low budget film and found himself already in New York City. Along for the ride was David Allen, the stop-motion animator of Q (Allen’s credits include Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Caveman, Ghostbusters II, and the Puppet Master films.) I’ve always been a fan of guerrilla film making and Cohen’s commentary track (available on the Blu-Ray release) is amazing to listen to.

Also amazing is the fact that Q: The Winged Serpent was released on Blu-Ray. But I digress…

I miss the days of stop-motion monsters. Q: The Winged Serpent has a charm about it that makes it fun to watch. Don’t get me wrong: this is a horrible movie and should not be mistaken for good cinema, but parts of the movie feel like some of the people were trying which is about as positive as I can get. Q is a fun but terrible monster movie.

(This review is a part of my month-long October 2014 A-Z Horror Reviews.)

I saw Poltergeist when it first came out in 1982. The film features an eight-year-old boy named Robbie who gets attacked by a tree outside his window. When I first saw the film, I was also an eight-year-old boy named Robbie with a tree outside my window. Later in the film, Robbie gets attacked by a clown doll. I never owned a clown doll… just in case.

It’s been at least a decade, maybe two, since I saw Poltergeist. I still think it’s great, and like any great horror film, it works on multiple levels. The film contains plenty of scares, but as with many (most?) Spielberg productions, it attacks your heartstrings as well. As a kid, the idea of ghosts pulling me into a television was scary. As an adult, the concept of losing a child and not being able to rescue him or her is horrifying.

In Poltergeist, five-year-old Carol Anne makes contact with “the TV People,” who turn out to be spirits from beyond communicating through the Freeling’s television. The contacts increase in frequency and the poltergeists increase in power until Carol Anne is pulled into the spiritual void. The Freelings bring in a trio of paranormal investigators to search for their daughter, but when the trio of researchers realize that this is no prank and that this is outside of their scope, they bring in Tangina, a psychic with the knowledge and strength to formulate a plan to rescue Carol Anne.

For the most part I feel like this movie still stands up as most of the themes (corporate greed and the loss of a child) are timeless. As for the special effects, I’d say some stood the test of time while some (Marty’s bathroom hallucination) looked laughably fake.

Poltergeist was followed by the almost-as-good Poltergeist 2, the not-so-great Poltergeist 3, and the television series Poltergeist: The Legacy. Some (if not all of these) attempted to build on the back story surrounding the hauntings, but I felt like the first film gave us all that we needed.

A remake Poltergeist is currently underway and set to be released in 2015. I am sure the special effects will be better. I am not sure it will be a better film.

(This review is a part of my month-long October 2014 A-Z Horror Reviews.)