500 Posts! Thank you!

 

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been 500 posts since I started this thing three years ago! Thank you so much to everyone that has been a constant reader or even those of you that are new! I wouldn’t be here without you!

Here’s a look back at the most popular reviews since this whole thing started.

 

  1. Turbo Charged Prelude (2003)
  2. Poltergeist (1982)
  3. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
  4. Frankenstein (1994)
  5. 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
  6. Leprechaun (1993)
  7. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
  8. The Fast and the Furious (2001)
  9. Horror Express (1972)
  10. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

 

You keep reading and I’ll keep writing…

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 31 – Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

 halloweeniiiseasonofthewitch1982a

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Cast: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy

Screenplay: Tommy Lee Wallace

98 mins. Rated R.

 

Well, here we are again, at the end of it all. I had another great season, and I hope you did too.

halloweeniiiseasonofthewitch1982c

So today, we will look back on, arguably, the strangest Halloween entry, Halloween III: Season of the Witch. As you may be aware, this is the only film in the series to not feature Michael Myers, and the story behind the film is incredibly interesting and perhaps too ahead of its time.

Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins, Lethal Weapon, Drive Angry) takes an interest in the mystery surrounding his newest patient, Harry Grimbridge, a local shop owner who was attacked and left for dead. After meeting and sexing Harry’s 20-something daughter Ellie (Stacey Nelkin, Bullets Over Broadway, Everything’s Relative), who joins him on his quest, Dan discovers that the attack is linked to Santa Mira, California and Silver Shamrock Novelties, owned by the very rich and unusual Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy, RoboCop, Fail-Safe). As he digs deeper into the odd happenings of Santa Mira, Dan and Ellie discover that the link between Harry’s attack and the Silver Shamrock Halloween masks that are sweeping the nation.

Now, let’s discuss the story behind the story. So John Carpenter and Debra Hill had just finished Halloween II, and they had no interest in continuing the story. From their point of view, the story was done. But when pressured by Universal Studios, they came up with a rather interesting idea: make Halloween an anthology series with a new installment each year centered around the holiday but telling a different story. They brought in Tommy Lee Wallace and crafted Halloween III: Season of the Witch. When the film was released, it was panned because everyone went to the theater expecting to see Michael Myers. It was upsetting for fans of the slasher, and the film’s poor reception put the Halloween franchise on hold for six years.

halloweeniiiseasonofthewitch1982b

So is Halloween III really that bad? Not terrible, but it has some problems. A convoluted plot, masked in confusion and the occasional scare, but it relies more on the eerie presence that the setting conveys. I enjoy the film a lot more after knowing the intention behind the film, but it is the dark horse of the Halloween franchise, though not its worst installment. Atkins is a fine lead and O’Herlihy a menacing villain. As it stands, there are multiple underdeveloped plot points and an ending which borders on the silly, but fans of horror anthologies will enjoy the possibility of what might have been. Worth a look.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of John Carpenter’s Halloween, click here.

For my review of Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II, click here.

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 30 – Final Destination 2 (2003)

finaldestination22003a

Director: David R. Ellis

Cast: A.J. Cook, Ali Larter, Tony Todd, Michael Landes

Screenplay: J. Mackye Gruber, Eric Bress

90 mins. Rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, language, drug content and some nudity.

 

Sequels are tough. Sometimes tougher than the original. Especially when it’s the first sequel of a big franchise, which Final Destination ended up becoming.

finaldestination22003b

Final Destination 2 begins on the first anniversary of the explosion of Flight 180. Kimberley Corman (A.J. Cook, TV’s Criminal Minds, Mother’s Day) and her friends are heading to Florida for Spring Break, but when she has a premonition of a major traffic collision, she inadvertently saves multiple lives. Now, though, she and the survivors are dying one by one, and the only person who can help her is the lone survivor of Flight 180: Clear Rivers (Ali Larter, TV’s Heroes, Resident Evil: Afterlife), who resides in a psychiatric ward where she can be safe.

Final Destination 2 makes the fatal error of breaking the rules of the first film multiple times and insinuating that there are ways to cheat death when it regularly breaks its own rules. Death’s motives and methods change drastically in the film. The decision to bring back Larter and series regular Tony Todd (The Man From Earth, Hatchet II) were good choices, but to play with a pre-established set of rules really messes with the series.

I personally didn’t like many of these characters who came off as caricatures of normal humans. Kimberley is a nice lead and Thomas Burke (Michael Landes, Burlesque, 11-11-11), the Deputy Marshal, is a nice male lead, but most everybody else is rude, unlikable, or generally cartoonish.

Final Destination 2 definitely ratchets up the body count and style of the first film in spectacular fashion, now if only we liked the characters enough. The screenplay from J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress (TV’s Kyle XY, The Butterfly Effect) gives us little in terms of character development other than interesting but fizzly Rube Goldberg-esque deaths.

FINAL DESTINATION 2, Keegan Connor Tracy, 2003, © New Line
FINAL DESTINATION 2, Keegan Connor Tracy, 2003, © New Line

Final Destination 2 is a fun movie, but one that is picked apart quite easily. This movie has straight-up flaws, and most of them could be fixed by just understanding and respecting the mythology. Director David R. Ellis (Shark Night, Snakes on a Plane) would return to helm the fourth entry of this franchise to similarly misunderstood results.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of James Wong’s Final Destination, click here.

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 29 – Creep (2014)

creep2014a

Director: Patrick Brice

Cast: Mark Duplass, Patrick Brice

Screenplay: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass

77 mins. Rated R for brief violence and language.

 

So take a look up there and notice the credits I’ve supplied. Now tell me how many people it took to make this film. It’s true: Patrick Brice (The Overnight) directed, he and Mark Duplass (TV’s The League, The Lazarus Effect) wrote and starred. The film is Creep, a small 2014 film that’s been received quite well. Let’s turn on the found-footage and have a watch.

creep2014b

Brice plays Aaron, a videographer answering a Craigslist ad for a small one-day job with Josef (Duplass), a man dying of his terminal illness who wishes to capture a day in his life for his unborn son. As Aaron and Josef spend more time together, it’s clear that Josef is not all that he seems.

I want to describe the film further, but that’s about it. This is not a complex plot by any stretch of the imagination, and it also isn’t all that surprising of a story. It’s the genuine way the story unfolds that wins here. It also is a film with a lot of important but unnecessary dialogue, as in you don’t have to catch a lot of the dialogue but it’s pretty fun when you get what’s really going on.

The issues I had? First, the title is terrible. I would rather something more inconspicuous. Same with Duplass’s performance, which all but gives away his character. The film should be less obvious than it ends up being. The clues that are given are a bit too on the nose and it’s noticeable.

creep2014c

I don’t want to get much more into it. This is an easy film to watch and a fairly short and to the point kind of movie. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t all that engaging either. It’s a nice simple little movie. I’m excited to see where they take the story for parts 2 and 3 of this supposed trilogy.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 28 – Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood (1996)

talesfromthecryptpresentsbordelloofblood1996a

Director: Gilbert Adler

Cast: Dennis Miller, Erika Eleniak, Angie Everhart, Chris Sarandon, Corey Feldman, Aubrey Morris, Phil Fondacaro, Juliet Reagh, John Kassir

Screenplay: AL Katz, Gilbert Adler

87 mins. Rated R for horror violence and gore, sexuality, nudity, and strong language.

 

I grew up on Tales from the Crypt, from watching old episodes of the HBO series, cut for content, on Sci-Fi at 3 in the morning to actually reading old issues when I could get my hands on them at the used book store/comic book shop in my hometown. Horror has always been important to me, and Tales from the Crypt holds an important piece of my childhood. Tonight, we look at the second in a series of Tales from the Crypt films: Bordello of Blood.

Katherine Verdoux (Erika Eleniak, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Dracula 3000) is concerned for the safety of her brother Caleb (Corey Feldman, Stand By Men, Lost Boys: The Thirst), who went missing a few days ago. But the local law enforcement has numerous other missing persons to find, and out of desperation, she hires private detective Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller, Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser, The Campaign) to help find him. His search leads him to brothel hidden underneath a mortuary inhabited by the undead and led my the mother of all vampires, Lilith (Angie Everhart, Last Action Hero, Take Me Home Tonight), who discovers that Rafe’s blood type is incredibly rare and seeks him out. As the blood and body party start to fly, it is clear that Rafe is in for the fright of his life in a story presented to us by the one and only Crypt Keeper (John Kassir, Pete’s Dragon, The Secret Life of Pets).

talesfromthecryptpresentsbordelloofblood1996c

First of all, I’m going to drop a truth bomb: I know that this film isn’t great, but I love it anyway, and I think if you switch off for a bit, you’ll like it too. Each time I view it, I see plot-holes and dialogue that doesn’t really work and moments of sheer stupidity, but it’s the very nature of Tales from the Crypt to be goofy, and in that sense, it comes off no different than the tone and style of much of the HBO series.

Now, for the things I don’t like. As I said before, there are plot-holes about the very nature of the brothel and how it works. The dialogue is very slap-stick and silly. But my biggest issue with the film is the opening Crypt Keeper segment. For fans of the series, this opening is practically identical to an episode of the series entitled “The Assassin” in which William Sadler plays the Grim Reaper from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and challenges the Crypt Keeper to a friendly little game. It is recreated, I’m assuming for rights issues, here, for no apparent reason. Could they not have conjured up a more interesting and new opening? It bothers me to no end, and I actually really like the recreated version more, but I wasn’t asking for it.

The things I loved here? First off, let’s talk about the connection to Demon Knight. The key which holds power over Lilith is an actual previous from the previous year’s Demon Knight, the last of seven keys that held the blood of Christ. The idea of this key popping up here again sets up a lot of mythos. For example, is this the same exact key or another of the seven? Does each key have a tale behind it and, if so, what are the stories of the other five? This would’ve been an interesting direction to take this series if this film had done better at the box office. In fact, I’ve always felt that the Tales from the Crypt tales exist in the same world for the most part and should occasionally intersect, and this idea only adds fuel to the fire.

Or, perhaps they just wanted to cut costs.

And I would be angry if I missed the chance to talk about the best use of Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” ever. But I won’t spoil it for you.

talesfromthecryptpresentsbordelloofblood1996b

Bordello of Blood is just plain fun. I can understand the detractors; trust me, at this point, I’ve seen them. But this is a rollicking and unique take on the vampire mythos and a damn fun time even if it doesn’t necessarily pack the scares in.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Ernest R. Dickerson’s Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight, click here.

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 27 – The House of the Devil (2009)

thehouseofthedevil2009a

Director: Ti West

Cast: Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Greta Gerwig, Dee Wallace

Screenplay: Ti West

95 mins. Rated R for some bloody violence.

 

I love that independent horror has made a comeback. There are so many talents in the film-making community that it would be a shame to miss out on some of the terrific titles being produced. One of those talents that has been gaining more and more steam in recent years is Ti West (V/H/S, The Sacrament). Two years ago, I reviewed The Sacrament and the anthology The ABCs of Death, which featured West’s short M is for Miscarriage, and while I really enjoyed the former, West’s work has been hit or miss with me. Tonight, we will take a look at the project that brought him into the public view, The House of the Devil.

thehouseofthedevil2009c

It’s 1983 and Samantha (Jocelin Donahue, Insidious: Chapter 2, Holidays) needs money badly to pay for her new apartment. She takes a babysitting gig offering a lot of money for a strange older couple, much to the frustration of Samantha’s best friend Megan (Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha, Arthur). When the husband, Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan, Heat, Anomalisa) admits he hasn’t been completely honest, Samantha starts to wonder if this is all worth the money, but she takes the job anyway. The house is old and creepy and its clear that something isn’t right within its walls. Something very sinister is happening to Samantha, and she soon discovers that this job is not what it seems.

It’s hard to talk about The House of the Devil without revealing spoilers, but I’ll try my best. The main plotline isn’t extremely inventive, but West’s close attention to detail and gorgeous style are really what’s at play in this film. From his use of 16mm film stock to his stylish opening credits and musical choices, it isn’t hard to see that this film is an homage to the classic independent horror of the 1980s, and the production of the film can’t be beat in that regard. He also retains young talent with Donahue and Gerwig as well as veteran talent from Noonan, Mary Woronov (Death Race 2000, The Devil’s Rejects) and Dee Wallace (E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, The Lords of Salem) in his casting choices.

The problem comes with West’s writing, and I’ve said this before. He doesn’t get the ball rolling quick enough. There’s a good 45 minutes or so (half the film’s runtime) spent on setting up the story, and by the time it gets going, there isn’t enough time to develop real scares until the last 20 minutes or so. When it gets to the finale, it works to build an intense conclusion, but it lost me several times in the buildup. Slow-burn is fine, but this burn is barely steam.

thehouseofthedevil2009b

The House of the Devil is a fine enough film, but it definitely doesn’t showcase all of West’s talents, though his visual sense cannot be denied. Donahue leads the film with a subtly accessible performance as Samantha, and she is matched by her terrific castmates. I just wish this film had a better sense of direction.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of the anthology film The ABCs of Death, click here.

For my review of Ti West’s The Sacrament, click here.

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 26 – [Happy 15th Birthday!] Thir13en Ghosts (2001)

thir13enghosts2001a

Director: Steve Beck

Cast: Tony Shalhoub, Shannon Elizabeth, Embeth Davidtz, Matthew Lillard, Alec Roberts, Rah Digga, F. Murray Abraham

Screenplay: Neal Marshall Stevens, Richard D’Ovidio

91 mins. Rated R for horror violence/gore, nudity, and some language.

 

Dark Castle Entertainment was formed in 1999 by the legendary producers Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis,  and Gilbert Adler. It’s initial inception began with the goal of remaking William Castles’ horror films from the 1950s and 1960s. It only made two such remakes before the idea shifted to original films and non-Castle remakes. This is the second William Castle remake. Thir13en Ghosts.

thir13enghosts2001c

Arthur Kriticos (Tony Shalhoub, TV’s Monk, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows) has just inherited a large estate from his recently dead Uncle Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham, TV’s Homeland, The Grand Budapest Hotel), but the home, a gargantuan glass house with strange and unusual writing along the walls, is already occupied with twelve terrifying spirits, ghosts of those who have died under painful and unresolved circumstances. As Arthur and his family attempt to navigate the labyrinthine home, he is aided by Dennis Rafkin (Matthew Lillard, TV’s The Bridge, Scooby-Doo), a psychic who assisted Cyrus in hunting down the twelve ghosts. Cyrus’ legend speaks of a thirteenth ghost that Rafkin is unaware of, and now, the house is taking over and the puzzle is waiting to be solved.

Thir13en Ghosts has one absolutely fatal flaw. The film just isn’t all that scary. The mythology is interesting. The production design is crazy but effective and unique. The film is unforgettable for the atmosphere, but it just isn’t scary. Not at all.

The performances are fine from Shalhoub and Abraham, and Lillard is memorable. The film does hold a distinction for being the first American wide-release film sporting three Arab-Americans as the leads, which is nice. Director Steve Beck (Ghost Ship) is serviceable, and I loved learning more about the different ghosts. I think there is a lot of story to tell here, but the audience never got to see.

thir13enghosts2001b

I love when remakes take a different path than the original, and Thir13en Ghosts is definitely more ambitious than most remakes, but audiences need to be scared at a scary movie, and Thir13en Ghosts is just more interesting than it is engaging or exciting. Genre fans can get away if the movie is cool but not exactly scary, but general audiences need more than that.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 25 – [Happy 20th Birthday!] Thinner (1996)

thinner1996a

Director: Tom Holland

Cast: Robert John Burke, Joe Mantegna, Lucinda Jenney, Michael Constantine, Kari Wuhrer, Bethany Joy Lenz, Kenneth Londoner

Screenplay: Michael McDowell, Tom Holland

93 mins. Rated R for horror violence and gore, language and sexuality.

 

In the annals of Stephen King adaptations, few are as strange as 1996’s Thinner.

thinner1996b

But first, a story about health. Director Tom Holland (Child’s Play) got Bells-Palsy while production was in full swing, but producers wouldn’t allow him to seek health, and the ensuing chaos caused Holland to leave the film community for almost a decade. A rare talent mistreated by producers. Yikes. But, now onto the movie.

In this adaptation of the Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman) novella, Thinner is the story of Billy Halleck (Robert John Burke, Limitless, True Story), a heavyset man nearing 300 pounds, a lawyer suffering from an addiction to food. But when an accident causes him to kill a gypsy woman who crosses in front of his car, Billy falls ill to a curse from Tadzu (Michael Constantine, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Prancer), the gypsy woman’s father. Now, Billy is losing weight at an accelerating rate, and he has no choice but to find Tadzu and get the curse reversed before he shrinks to nothing.

Thinner is strange in that it is so small in scale. I think the film would’ve worked best as an hour-long episode of an anthology series than an actual film. The idea of basing a movie around a man getting slowly thinner is just rather odd. The novella moves quick, but the film is rather sluggish, particularly when finding its footing at the beginning of the film.

The performances are passable, but the real enjoyment (what little there is) derives from Tom Holland’s screenplay with Michael McDowell, a terrific and unsung writer from back in the 1980s/1990s. It’s a fun little script that is pretty exciting if altogether campy.

thinner1996c

Thinner is absolutely bonkers, and that both works and doesn’t work. There are many elements that are very self-aware, but other factors, like the ending, just fall flat and don’t get back up. Overall, there’s a reason it fell to obscurity, but it is still worth a viewing. If only one.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Tom Holland’s Child’s Play, click here.

[31 Days of Horror 3] Psycho II (1983)

psychoii1983a

Director: Richard Franklin

Cast: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Meg Tilly, Robert Loggia

Screenplay: Tom Holland

113 mins. Rated R.

 

Who would ever believe that a sequel to Psycho, twenty years later, would actually be successful? Psycho II was just that, earning roughly $34 million at the box office. It spawned two further sequels and a slew of other media properties. Crazy. Today, after years of avoiding it, I looked at Psycho II.

psychoii1983b

Twenty-two years after the unspeakable crimes he committed, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins, The Trial, Crimes of Passion) has been released from the mental institution against the wishes of Lila Loomis (Vera Miles, The Searchers, The Initiation), sister of his victim Marion Crane, who amassed 743 signatures to keep him locked up. Once Norman gets comfortable, he takes on a job at a nearby diner where he meets Mary Samuels (Meg Tilly, The Big Chill, Body Snatchers), a nice young woman who quickly becomes friends with Norman. But as things in Norman’s life start to look better, trouble starts, and bodies pile up, and all eyes are on Norman. Is he responsible? Or is something far more sinister happening?

This sequel appears in many ways to be heading down the same path as the original Alfred Hitchcock classic, but then director Richard Franklin (Road Games, Cloak & Dagger) and screenwriter Tom Holland (Child’s Play, Thinner) throw in some genuinely intriguing twists and turns that kept me guessing the entire runtime. Not every plot point plays out the way it should, but overall, Psycho II does offers some shocks and surprises as a worthwhile sequel.

The film is further elevated by standout performances from Vera Miles’ return as Lila Loomis and franchise newcomer Robert Loggia (Scarface, Independence Day) as Norman’s doctor Bill Raymond, who does his best to transition Norman to the real world, however difficult the task becomes.

psychoii1983c

Now, I felt that the last half of the film gets a little too convoluted in trying to play mind games with the audience, and I’m still not sure I walked away with all the answers, but maybe that’s the idea. It just didn’t work as well as it could have. Psycho II is still the kind of sequel that further develops its characters and provides an interesting if somewhat similar and easy plot. I actually enjoyed it. There you have it.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, click here.

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 23 – Would You Rather (2012)

Director: David Guy Levy

Cast: Brittany Snow, June Squibb, Jeffrey Combs, Sasha Grey, John Heard, Logan Miller, Robb Wells

Screenplay: Steffen Schlachtenhaufen

93 mins. Not Rated.

 

Okay, so I clicked on Would You Rather purely because I expected it to be terrible. Terrible? No, it wasn’t terrible. Good? That remained to be seen.

Iris (Brittany Snow, Pitch Perfect, Prom Night) needs money badly for treatments for her sick brother Raleigh. Out or desperation, she accepts a strange invitation from Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs, Re-Animator, Night of the Living Dead: Re-Animation) to come to a dinner at his house. At the dinner, Iris takes part in a game with the other eight guests, but as she quickly discovers, this game of Would You Rather escalates rather quickly and no one is allowed to leave until only one player is left standing.

The conceit of the film and the entire setup is rather silly, but I found the enclosed environment to be rather interesting and enjoyable. The game stayed pretty interesting as the film progressed in this character piece. If only the characters were strong enough to be engaging.

Another issue is the fact that the Dr. Barden (Lawrence Gilliard Jr., TV’s The Walking Dead, The Machinist) subplot, where the oncologist who connects Iris with Shepard feels regret for his decision and sets out to save her, was completely wasted and didn’t add anything to the film.

Now, for the ending. I watched the entire film and thought, for the most part, Would You Rather was pretty solid. Then, the ending. I hate this ending. It completely betrays the characters and the way they are developed through the film in the name of shock value. Then, they have a twist that further upsets and doesn’t work at all.

Would You Rather actually works for a bulk of the movie, flawed yes, but it works. The beginning and ending are boring, so the movie evens out at a so-so. It’s worth watching on your Netflix account, so there’s that.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe