Archive for the Reviews Category

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.)

The Omen doesn’t rely on traditional horror “bumps and jumps” to frighten you. Instead, it frightens the bejesus out of you with a horrific premise, and goes from there.

Unbeknownst to her, Katherine Thorn’s newborn son died shortly after birth. Her husband Robert is convinced by the hospital’s priest to secretly adopt an orphaned baby and raise it as their own. Robert agrees to the deception, and the Thorn’s return home with their newborn son, Damien — who just so happens to be the Antichrist.

Early in the film we learn there’s something different about Damien. Animals react violently in his presence and he has a real issue with entering churches, but it’s not until we witness the boy’s nanny publicly hang herself in the middle of Damien’s birthday party that we see the real power he harnesses (whether he knows it or not).

Multiple people attempt to solve the mystery of Damien’s evil origins, the first of which is Father Brennan who actually knows the boy’s history. Damien’s father Robert dismisses Father Brennan as a crazy old man, but later teams up with journalist Keith Jennings who works Robert to solve the mystery when his photographs apparently begin to predict the deaths of people surrounding Damien. Eventually the two race to put an end to Damien before he can fulfill the biblical prophecy and rise to power. I’ll not say who prevails, but the first sequel to this film was called Damien: Omen II. And there were two more movies released after that one.

Horror films from the 1970s are typically slower-paced than modern films, but that works in The Omen’s favor. Damien’s evil slowly builds along with the film’s tension, and we as the audience must go along Robert Thorn’s personal journey as he goes from a protective father to a man being convinced that his son is literally the Antichrist — so convinced that he is willing to murder him.

The Omen is a definite horror classic. I didn’t see the 2006 remake because I feel like this one still stands up. It’s slow and brooding, but sometimes that’s how evil works.

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

Growing up I loved all those horror anthologies of the 1980s like Cat’s Eye, Creepshow 1 and 2, Tales from the Darkside, Twilight Zone: The Movie, and countless others. I remember catching parts of of Nightmares on HBO back in the day, but never saw the entire thing from beginning to end before.

Nightmares consists of four stories: “Terror in Topanga,” “Bishop of Battle,” “The Benediction,” and “Night Of The Rat.” Each one contains a supernatural angle. Unlike some of the other anthologies, there’s no “bookend” story to hang the segments on. Here, they’re simply unrelated “chapters” packaged together.

Each segment can be completely summarized with a single sentence. In “Terror in Topanga,” a serial killer on the loose ends up in the backseat of a woman’s car. In “Bishop of Battle,” a young Emilio Estevez is so obsessed with an arcade game that he plays it until the game literally consumes him. In “The Benediction,” a priest who has lost his faith does battle with evil itself in the form of a black Chevy pickup. Finally, “Night of the Rat” is about some rats that attack a family in the night (some larger than others).

I’m being a bit factitious in my descriptions, but in all honesty none of the stories in Nightmares are particularly deep. A couple of the stories (most notably “Terror in Topanga”) feel less like complete stories and more like clips taken from other movies. Unsurprisingly my favorite of the lot was “Bishop of Battle,” most of which takes place in 1980s arcades. The graphics of the game seem silly in retrospect, but then again so do most of the film’s few special effects.

What I took away from Nightmares is that death is pretty avoidable. When there’s a serial killer on the loose, don’t get in your car with the gas gauge pointing to empty and head out for cigarettes. if you hear a rat scratching inside the walls of your house, call an exterminator. If you’re a priest who has lost the faith, read the Bible instead of abandoning the church and setting out on a drive across the desert in a car with no air conditioning. And whatever you do, if the Bishop of Battle taunts you into playing level 13, put down the quarters and your Sony Walkman and walk away…

Despite Nightmares’ 17% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I kind of liked it. Even a bad segment in a horror anthology is only twenty minutes long. I suspect the financial backers of the film ended up with more nightmares than the viewing audience, but I didn’t think it was as terrible as many other mainstream reviewers did.

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

I didn’t see My Bloody Valentine when it first came out; in fact, until last night I had never seen it. In 1981, My Bloody Valentine was a violent and somewhat original film. In 2014, it comes off as just another slasher film.

My Bloody Valentine borrows almost every film trope seen previously in Friday the 13th. Both films feature a child who grew up to be a killer. Both killers wear masks. If you have sex during the movie, you’re probably going to die. Both like sticking sharp objects through people’s chests. Sure, one of them prefers machetes while the other wields a pick ax, but that’s really splitting skulls — er, straws. It’s hard to remember a time when these staples of the horror genre hadn’t been beaten to death (both figuratively and literally).

The film takes place in Valentine Bluffs, a mining town that also happened to be the site of a horrible mining tragedy twenty-years prior. Harry Worden, a miner, was trapped underground and forced to eat the bodies of his co-workers to survive, an act that made him insane. Valentine Bluffs hasn’t celebrated Valentine’s Day since the day of the accident, but when they decide to, Harry Worden (OR IS IT?) returns with an ax to grind. Again, literally.

Worden, who appears wearing a miner’s mask to hide his identity, has a habit of cutting people’s hearts out and leaving them in heart-shaped boxes (along with tacky poems) for the local authorities. Once the sheriff realizes Worden is back he tries to call off the local Valentine’s dance, but the townsfolk go around his back and have a party anyway… with bloody results.

There’s a love triangle and a whodunnit mystery going on amidst all of this, but the real stars are the kills — brutal and realistic, especially by 1981 standards. So brutal and real in fact that the MPAA cut somewhere between 3 and 9 minutes (depending on who’s telling the story) to get the film down to an R-rating. The 2009 DVD release has the cut footage reinserted. Again, by today’s standards it’s rather mild, but at the time it must have been over the top.

I didn’t think My Bloody Valentine was bad, I just felt like I had seen before — and if you’ve watched more than a couple slasher films, you have too. I felt more like I was paying respect to the film by watching it than anything. My Bloody Valentine is considered to be a classic of the slasher genre… I just wish I hadn’t seen 100 rip-offs before watching the original first.

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

I suspect that The Little Girl Who Lives Down the lane will be one of the least bloody and least violent films I’ll watch this holiday season. It may also end up being the most unsettling.

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the lane stars a thirteen-year-old Jodie Foster as Rynn, the titular girl living down the lane. Rynn claims to live with her father in a rent house, but a few nosy townsfolk realize that none of them have actually met the girl’s father. Rynn’s father is always conveniently out of town, working in his study, or upstairs sleeping when people drop by.

The film feels like a play, with one major location (Rynn’s house) and a small cast of characters. The few people Rynn interacts with are Mrs. Hallet (the landlord), her grown son Frank Hallet (the town pedophile), police officer Miglioriti, and his fifteen-year-old nephew, Mario.

In all of Jodi Foster’s childhood roles she comes off as being wise beyond her years, and this movie is no exception. Rynn is always quick with a story as to where her father is and handles herself as an adult throughout the film. She remains one step ahead of everyone, and by the time they realize it, she’s three steps ahead.

This movie is not your traditional horror film. In fact, although we learn about four deaths during the film, none of them take place on screen and we only end up seeing one dead body. The horror in this film does not come from traditional gore or scares; instead it comes from a thirteen-year-old girl being actively hunted by a sexual predator who no one is either willing or able to stop.

The film also includes a sexual relationship between thirteen-year-old Rynn and the slightly older (fifteen) Mario. There’s a brief nude scene apparently featuring Foster’s slightly older sister that’s not terribly explicit, but it’s enough to make you wonder how this film earned a PG rating. The 70s were a different era, that’s for sure.

I don’t know that I would call this a Halloween film or even a horror film (it’s more “psychological thriller,” if anything), I would definitely recommend it.

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

When you’re used to films with budgets of tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars, sometimes it’s nice to scale things back to their roots.

I’d guess Kottentail had a budget of approximately $28.75, and that’s assuming they paid full price for the bunny costume.

In Kottentail, a couple of hot girls free a (stuffed) rabbit from an animal testing lab. The plot quickly shifts to cover four hot sorority girls, the two hot rabbit liberators (one of whom is a prostitute), and a hot female cop. You will never believe this, but one hour into the movie, most of these girls end up having a pillow fight. I digress…

Once freed, the rabbit bites Hans Kottentail, who turns into a giant killer rabbit. This causes him to eat a few random people for no real reason.

Eventually five of the hot girls team up and come up with a plan that involves putting on hot bunny costumes in an attempt to lure Kottentail in. It works, and he promptly mauls one of them to death.

There’s some sound effects that sound like they came from 16bit arcade games, there’s some cheesy music, there’s some T&A, there’s a disemboweling, and there’s a killer 6′ tall rabbit in overalls on the loose.

Twenty-four hours ago, Jack Frost was my favorite “bad” Halloween movie. Today, Kottentail knocked it down a rung.

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

Most of the horror icons of the 80s — Jason, Michael Myers, and so forth — were cut from the same fabric. They were big and mean and, for the most part, silent. They rarely spoke, and when they did it wasn’t to crack jokes. Freddy Krueger was the first of the pack to break that mold. In the original Nightmare on Elm Street he was mostly just evil, but with the second film came “You’ve got the body, and I’ve got the brains!” (as he peeled back the top of his own head), and by the time part 3 rolled around he was uttering an evil catch phrase with each murder. (My favorite was when he said “Welcome to prime time!” right before shoving a girl’s face through a television.) Soon after there were dozens of copycat murderers hacking their way through slasher films, doing bad things while offering up bad puns. A match made in Hollywood, for sure.

1997’s Jack Frost begins with the demise of a serial killer named Jack Frost. On the way to his execution, Frost escapes, only to get blasted with an unknown chemical as part of an auto accident. The chemical (which we later learn is experimental genetic chemicals) physically bond’s Jack Frost’s soul with the snow, turning him into a wise-cracking killer snowman.

Jack Frost vowed revenge on Sheriff Sam Tiler, the man responsible for his capture. Frost makes his way back to Snowmonton (ugh) to get his revenge against the Sheriff. By all counts, Frost has the upper hand: he moves silently, he has the ability to melt and reform a’la Terminator 2, and he comes armed with a few weapons and even more bad puns. I’ll give you three guesses what happens right before Jack Frost says, “I only axed you for a smoke…”

After “the world’s most pissed off snow cone” begins hacking his way through town (killing several locals along the way), Frost finally makes it to the police station to face off against the Sheriff, his deputy, and a couple of yahoos from the chemical company who have been posing as FBI agents. The sheriff’s initial plan is to melt Jack Frost, which seems dumb as both we and they have seen Frost melt and reassemble at will. At one point the faux-FBI agents try shooting at water puddles. They even blow up the police station in an attempt to melt Jack Frost, which they learn the hard way won’t work. Frost quickly assembles himself, although he doesn’t look quite right for a bit.

“Look ma, I’m a Picasso!” -Jack Frost

After unconventional weapons fail the cops turn to hair dryers and antifreeze, which work to an extent although knowing there’s a Jack Frost 2 out there (and a third one was planned) makes their solution seem temporary at best.

With a couple of beers and the right friends, Jack Frost might be one of the best worst movies I’ve seen in quite some time. If you’re going in expecting horror or dialogue or anything to make sense, keep on sledding. if you’re looking for a movie about an evil snowman armed with killer icicles and an amorous carrot, boy did you hit the jackpot.

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

Black humor. It’s not for everyone.

In 1999’s Idle Hands, a perpetually stoned teenager named Anton Tobias murders his parents. When his two stoner friends (Mick and Pnub) discover what he has done, he murders them too. It is soon revealed that Anton’s hand has a mind of its own, and soon it wants to kill the love of Anton’s life, Molly. Unable to stop his hand from killing, Anton severs it from his body. Unfortunately this does little more than free it; now, Anton, Mick, and Pnub must stop the hand from killing Molly before it’s too late.

And yes, I included Mick and Pnub. Despite the fact that Anton’s possessed hand stabbed a broken beer bottle into Mick’s forehead and cut Pnub’s head clean off with a well-thrown saw blade, the two of them return from the grave and help Anton in his quest.

Unfortunately the more the writers try to explain why all of this is happening, the worse they make things. We don’t need to know why Anton’s hand is doing these things and frankly the little backstory we get about a high druid priestess chasing a spirit that inhabits only the most worthless of individuals just leads to (a lot) more questions. I wish they hadn’t bothered. The film is funny enough with Mick and Pnub wandering around like undead versions of Bill and Ted while Anton bumbles his way through his quest. Spending brain cycles wondering why any of this is happening is a waste of time.

The special effects in Idle Hands were impressive. Obviously a substantial chunk of the film’s $25 million dollar budget went toward animating Pdub’s severed head and Anton’s wandering hand. In theaters the film earned $4 million. I’m sure more killings took place in the boardroom after the closing credits rolled.

I liked Idle Hands. While the violence is cartoony (Mick reattaches Pnub’s severed head to his body with a meat skewer and a roll of duct tape), the language and drug use would keep me from letting my kids watch it. I didn’t jump while watching the film but I did laugh more than once, which makes Idle Hands better than the film’s 16% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes implies.

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

The last time I saw Motley Crue perform live was January 3rd, 1990. I was sixteen years old, and the band was touring in support of their fifth album, Dr. Feelgood.

After 33 years together as a band, in 2014 Motley Crue announced their farewell tour and publicly signed a contract stating that they would no longer tour together as a band after 2015. While many bands have announced “farewell tours” only to renege later (KISS’s farewell tour was in 2000; they played Tulsa last month), I’m taking the Crue at their word here and assuming this is the last time I will ever have the opportunity to see Vince and his buddies Sixx, Mick, and Tom perform live.

For their farewell tour Motley Crue brought along “very special guest” Alice Cooper as an opening act. Alice Cooper is 66 years old and I did not expect much from his show. I was wrong. Despite the fact that most members of his touring band weren’t even born when Alice first took the stage, they performed each song as if it were their own. (Lead guitarist Nita Strauss was born in 1986, the same year Alice Cooper released his sixteenth studio album, Constrictor).

It was great to finally see the father of shock rock and the predecessor of Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie do his thing on stage. Throughout the show we got to see Alice Cooper strapped into a straightjacket and tortured by a demented nurse, electrocuted, and ultimately, beheaded in a guillotine. After Cooper was “electrocuted,” the band was joined by a ten-foot-tall monster. Check out this “not from our show but it looked just like this” clip. Jump to the 2:15 mark for the good part.

I was disappointed that the band didn’t play anything from Raise Your Fist and Yell (my favorite Alice Cooper album) but they certainly ran through Alice Cooper’s most classic material.

Alice Cooper Setlist

Hello Hooray
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Under My Wheels
I’m Eighteen
Billion Dollar Babies
Poison
Dirty Diamonds
Welcome to My Nightmare
Feed My Frankenstein
Ballad of Dwight Fry
Killer
I Love the Dead
School’s Out (with “Another Brick In The Wall”)

After roughly 30 minutes, Motley Crue took the stage, opening the show with the title track from the latest (2008) album, Saints of Los Angeles. People cheered not for the song but for the band. This was our last time to see Motley Crue perform live. People wanted the band to rip through their entire discography, and that’s exactly what they did. The band didn’t waste any time playing less popular songs from “those years,” completely omitting all material from 1994’s Motley Crue (1994), Generation Swine (1997), and New Tattoo (2000). Instead they stuck with their biggest hits, giving the crowd exactly what they wanted.

There were three breaks in the action. The first was Tommy Lee’s drum solo, an event that has been evolving since the early 90s. Back then, Lee’s drum kit would spin 360 degrees as he played to the crowd. For the farewell tour, his entire drum kit is connected to a roller coaster track that carries him out into the audience as it spins him 360 degrees. Gimmicky, decadent, and over the top? You’ve just described Motley Crue.

I wouldn’t watch this entire clip, but you should watch the first minute of it.

The second break in the show came from Nikki Sixx, who asked the entire crowd to sit down and get ready for story time. Sixx spent the next five minutes telling the story of Motley Crue; how the band members met, how they struggled, and what decisions we all made to get us all in that arena at that time. It was pretty deep. Moments later he strapped on a bass guitar with a built-in flamethrower and shot fire over the crowd as 20,000 people pumped their fists in the air and screaming “Shout at the Devil” at the tops of their lungs.

The final break in the show was Mick Mars’ guitar solo. Mick Mars’ health has seriously been on the decline for the past decade, but you wouldn’t have known it from last night. Note for note, Mars ripped through every song and every solo, nailing every note. Unfortunately, and maybe it was where we were sitting, but his solo sounded like a muddled mess to us. The stage amps were in competition with the house speakers, causing enough of a delay to make the whole thing sound like muddy noise. The guy can still shred though.

Vince Neil did what Vince Neil does, running around the stage, hitting most of the words while working the crowd. Perhaps it’s nostalgia that makes him sound better than he really is at this point. If you’re going to see the band perform one last time you need to see it perform with all four original members and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

As the show closed and the band made their way through their biggest single (“Home Sweet Home”), a slideshow of pictures (starting with the guys’ high school yearbook photos) was projected on to a screen and I have to admit I got a little teary eyed. I have followed this band for as long as they’ve been a band and saying goodbye, as silly as it sounds, felt like saying goodbye to an old friend, a real friend.

As the lights came up, Tommy Lee stood at the edge of the stage shouting, “I’m gonna miss you guys.”

We’re gonna miss you too.

And now… on with the show.

Motley Crue Setlist

Saints of Los Angeles
Wild Side
Primal Scream
Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)
Looks That Kill
On With the Show
Too Fast for Love
Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room
Without You
Mutherf**ker of the Year
Anarchy in the U.K.
T.N.T. (Terror ‘N Tinseltown)
Dr. Feelgood
In the Beginning
Shout at the Devil
Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
Live Wire
Too Young to Fall in Love
Girls, Girls, Girls
Kickstart My Heart
Home Sweet Home