Film Review: Fright Night, Part 2 (1988)

Release Date: December 8th, 1988 (Australia)
Directed by: Tommy Lee Wallace
Written by: Tommy Lee Wallace, Tim Metcalfe, Miguel Tejada-Flores
Based on: characters created by Tom Holland
Music by: Brad Fiedel
Cast: William Ragsdale, Roddy McDowall, Traci Lind, Julie Carmen, Jon Gries, Brian Thompson, Merritt Butrick

New Century/Vista, TriStar Pictures, 104 Minutes

Review:

“It was a performance.” – Charley Brewster, “She cast no reflection!” – Peter Vincent

You know that old sentiment that sequels are never as good as the original? Well, it’s not entirely true, as many sequels have eclipsed their predecessors. However, Fright Night, Part 2 is not one of those.

While it is great to see Roddy McDowall and William Ragsdale reunite, as vampire hunting friends, the film has a massive void from all the other characters who aren’t here. Granted, Chris Sarandon’s Jerry Dandrige is dead and we have a new vampire threat in this chapter but Amanda Bearse is sorely missed, as is Stephen Geoffreys, whose Evil Ed died but reappears in a tease at the end of the first movie.

We do get the additions of Jonathan Gries, a guy I love in everything, and Brian Thompson, one of the most intimidating heavies of the ’80s and ’90s. Plus, Traci Lind is really good, even if she isn’t Bearse, and Julie Carmen is absolutely alluring as Dandrige’s ancient vampire sister, seeking revenge for the events of the first film.

Sadly, this film is pretty damn boring. It has a few good momnets, here and there, but none of them really make up for the overall film being unable to even muster up just a little bit of the magic they had in the first picture. The only time you really feel anything, is when McDowall and Ragsdale are together but even then, it feels like a cheap imitation of the first movie. However, that vampire bowling sequence is fairly amusing.

Fright Night, Part 2 is neither bad nor good. It just sort of exists and isn’t all that memorable. It’s a highly sought after film, as it has been out of print for awhile but I’ve still got an old copy.

If you haven’t seen this sequel but have been dying to because you’re a fan of the first film, just be prepared that it isn’t the lightning in a bottle that was the original Fright Night. You also shouldn’t pay a lot of money just to get your hands on a rare copy of it.

Film Review: Gremlins Recall (2017)

Release Date: December 5th, 2017
Directed by: Ryan Patrick
Written by: Ryan Patrick
Based on: the Gremlins films series by Chris Columbus
Music by: Russ Howard, Grand Soleil
Cast: Katherine Rodriguez, Randy Irwin, Sarah Lilly, Robert Wood

10 Minutes

Review:

I don’t often times talk about fan films here. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed one, actually. However, I like to give recognition to fan films that are really well done. And this one is pretty friggin’ cool. Mainly, because I love the Gremlins films and we haven’t had one in nearly three decades.

This little ten minute short was written and directed by a guy named Ryan Patrick, who did a superb job with this and really captured the tone of holiday dread like the original film did.

The story picks up thirty or so years after the events of the original 1984 film and sees Mogwai being sold as domesticated pets. How is that safe? Well, Mogwai need to be given an injection that keeps them from having the negative effects that turn them into terrors. With the injection, the rules for owning a Mogwai no longer apply. However, there is obviously a curveball waiting to be thrown.

The film is well shot, decently acted and the Mogwai and Gremlin puppets are really well constructed. They were made by Eric Fox, who was, at one point, a competitor on the special effects Syfy reality show Face Off. The film was also shot in just three days and all of it takes place at a diner, which works well for this just being a ten minute picture. But, it does leave things open for a sequel.

And like the original film, this takes place around Christmas, which was a nice added bonus. I have also always loved Gremlins 2: The New Batch but I wished that it took place around the holidays like its predecessor.

For a fan film, this is stupendously done. Kudos to Patrick, Fox and everyone else that put this together.

Film Review: Life (2017)

Release Date: March 18th, 2017 (SXSW)
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Music by: Jon Ekstrand
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya

Skydance Media, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Control, if you’re listening, and you probably are ’cause you’re creepy that way, can I just rant for a second about the micromanagement? We’re not blood-filled meat puppets. I come from a long line of plumbers that can fix a shower, but I can’t. Well, Hugh doesn’t shower anyway – he’s British. It’s not being critical, you’re just a very under-bathed nation; everybody knows it.” – Rory Adams

Man, oh man… where to begin with this thing?

First, this is one of about a zillion ripoffs of Alien. While I don’t have a problem with that, as some films have done great versions of the smart people trapped in space (or underwater, or in Antarctica, or wherever) with a killer monster, this one follows the majority of the clones and is a derivative piece of shit with selfish stupid scientists and a story that offers up nothing new to this overused subgenre of horror/sci-fi/thrillers.

I will say that this did effectively build some suspense in some areas but even then, you pretty much knew where this was going: everyone is fucked.

The only other real positive was the alien creature itself. It was cool looking in an era where alien species just aren’t memorable in film. It was also fairly unique in how it came to be and how it operated and moved but a visually cool alien doesn’t save a giant pile of dreck. Because as cool and different as the alien was, the picture, as a whole, was the exact opposite. It was a rehash of every bad cliche that’s awfulness was only enhanced by the sheer and utter stupidity of its “smart” characters.

Despite all the apparent flaws, I still tried my damnedest to enjoy this thing. For some reason, I love these “trapped in space with a killer” movies. To some degree, I was even playing this up in my head as better than it really was but all that washed away when I got to the ending, which was incredibly fucking predictable and executed so poorly that I actually audibly LOL’d. And quite boisterously, I might add.

Maybe it’s just my problem, but I’m so damn sick of movies with scientists and smart professionals that make incredibly poor decisions and are so worried about saving their own skin that they’ll put the entire human race in harm’s way. You signed up for the danger; you took on the responsibility of that danger when you brought an alien life form on board your space station. Now it wants to kill you. So fucking deal with it and don’t, in any way, allow it to get to Earth. Are there no heroes in movie science, anymore? You got a killer alien? Cool. Now you have to Ripley the fuck out of it! Or die. But you kill that son of a bitch in the process.

I’ve used a lot of f-bombs in this review, which I typically try to refrain from but fuck this piece of shit. My score for it is only as high as it is because the alien was cool and I wanted it to succeed in murdering all these dumb people.

So does this get run through the Cinespiria Shitometer? Of course it does! The results read, “Type 1 Stool: Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass).” You bet your sore ass this was hard to pass.

Film Review: Hellhole (1985)

Also known as: Hell Hole (alternate spelling)
Release Date: April 26th, 1985
Directed by: Pierre De Moro
Written by: Aaron Butler (as Vincent Mongol), Lance Dickson, Mark Evan Schwartz
Music by: Jeff Sturges
Cast: Ray Sharkey, Judy Landers, Marjoe Gortner, Edy Williams, Mary Woronov, Terry Moore, Robert Z’Dar

Arkoff International Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

This is a film that I didn’t even know existed until recently. Somehow it evaded me in countless pillages of mom and pop video stores throughout the ’80s and ’90s. But it does have some people I like in it, so why not check it out?

The film sees a woman murdered by some crazed madman that looks like a middle aged punk rock mobster hybrid. Kind of hard to describe him but it’s the ’80s and this isn’t even a B-movie it’s more like a D-movie. Anyway, the woman’s daughter sees the murder, is then pursued and chased until she falls about ten feet and gets amnesia. She is then locked up in an insane asylum where they do crazy experiments that turn female patients into killer zombies. Also, the man that murdered her mother is there, working as an orderly.

In a lot of ways, this is an absolutely awful movie. However, it isn’t all a waste because it’s got some great character actors in it and frankly, it’s full of so much ’80s horror cheese that it should satisfy you, if that’s your thing.

The film has Mary Woronov, who was great in Death Race 2000Eating RaoulRock ‘n’ Roll High SchoolNight of the Comet and so many other B-movies. We also get Marjoe Gortner, who I enjoyed in Starcrash and as the villain in American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt. Then you have the “Maniac Cop” himself, Robert Z’Dar in an early role before he’d star in a slew of B-pictures, usually as a psycho killer… okay, always as a psycho killer. But he’s a guy with serious gravitas, a good presence and a chin that would make Bruce Campbell’s take a month off.

I’ll be honest though, there isn’t a whole lot here, apart from the cast, that is all that great. However, I was a bit surprised with how well it played out for what it is. At its core, it is a women in prison movie with a horror twist. There are boobs, lesbian stuff and whatnot. Sadly, there isn’t as much of it as you’d expect from this type of film. But hey, we get killer women prison zombies, so things balance out.

Hellhole isn’t a complete waste of time and it is only ninety minutes. If you didn’t get your fill of Woronov being a psycho in an operating room in Night of the Comet, then this should be up your alley.

Film Review: The Babysitter (2017)

Release Date: October 13th, 2017
Directed by: McG
Written by: Brian Duffield
Music by: Douglas Pipes
Cast: Samara Weaving, Judah Lewis, Hana Mae Lee, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Leslie Bibb, Ken Marino

Boies / Schiller Film Group Production, Wonderland Sound and Vision, Netflix, 85 Minutes

Review:

“Three out of four people got an STD; I got two people’s blood on me! You do the math! I got AIDS! I know I got AIDS!” – John

McG has never made a film that I have liked. Still, a lot of time has passed since I watched a McG movie and I like comedy horror films, so I gave this a fair shot. However, just as McG is a stupid douchebaggy name, The Babysitter is kind of a stupid douchebaggy movie.

The problem however isn’t the actors or even the script, it is solely the director and his creative decisions. With McG pictures in the past, it was the same thing. All the things he ultimately controls, are shit.

The quick music video style editing is annoying and sloppy. While he started as a music video director, there is a big difference in trying to convey a story over four minutes than there is when it’s a feature length film. McG seems to embrace the style that got him his earliest work, even though it isn’t beneficial to the medium he works in now. Nobody wants a ninety minute music video with fast cuts, overly stylized camera movement and funky graphics sprouting up on the screen. Well, some people do I guess, like those who gave this a “thumbs up” on Netflix.

I can’t fault the cast, though. In fact, most of the actors were really good.

I especially liked Samara Weaving, who has impressed me between her performance here and her small but sweet role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. She was likable and hot and even when you realized that she was a psycho Satan worshiping serial killer, it only makes her presence in this film, that much cooler. And really, I mostly liked the story. It was the execution of it that was the problem.

Robbie Amell and Bella Thorne are also pretty good but their screen time was limited to just a few good scenes, as Weaving and the young Judah Lewis were really at the forefront.

Also, despite Weaving giving a good performance, her “too cool” character was presented a bit over the top and it just didn’t feel believable. Something felt off about her being the hot and cool babysitter that was really into nerdy shit with her BFF, a twelve year-old boy. I attribute this to a combination of the direction, the editing, the dialogue and the overall writing.

All the comedy elements tried really hard to generate laughs but the vast majority of it missed the point, came off as forced, seemed overly hokey and was really just derivative schlock. The character of John had some funny lines but I’ve heard just about the same shit from a dozen other characters that did it better.

At least this wasn’t a boring movie and it was over pretty quickly.

So the question is, does The Babysitter need to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer? Why, yes it does! And the results read, “Type 5 Stool: Soft blobs with clear cut edges (passed easily).” Seems about right, as it was shitty but it did pass pretty easily.

TV Review: Attack On Titan (2013- )

Original Run: April 7th, 2013 – current
Created by: Hajime Isayama
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Attack On Titan manga by Hajime Isayama
Music by: Hiroyuki Sawano

Wit Studio, Production I.G., Dentsu, 37 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2014.

I’m not what you would call a big anime fan. Well, at least not since I was a kid and a teenager in what I now consider to be the golden age of anime, which was the mid 80s through the 90s. As a kid I was captivated by Robotech and Akira. As a teenager, it was Ninja Scroll and Ghost In The Shell and really just about anything I could get my hands on before anime went really mainstream in the United States.

Once it became a big thing, I sort of checked out. At that point, the quality of what was successful paled in comparison to the earlier stuff that I loved. The fanboys who raved about how good everything was, even the shit, just irritated me and I had the attitude of, “Fuck you, I was here when all you knew was Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles.”

Anyway, Attack On Titan is the first anime series that I have seen in years that not only kept my interest but also had me applauding its writing, its characters, its philosophy and its artistic execution. Other than Hellsing, I cannot think of another anime series in the last decade that had me so engaged from beginning to end. In fact, I am assuming that it is resonating with many others and sort of anticipate some English-speaking live-action crappy remake in the next few years – hopefully not starring Sam Worthington.

The premise of this tale is pretty compelling and is what initially hooked me. Essentially, it has been a hundred years since humanity has been decimated by a race of giants called “Titans”. In that time, they have built a wall around themselves in an effort to keep the Titans out. As the story starts, the Titans bring down the wall and our main hero sees his mother eaten by one of them – spurring his rage and his quest for vengeance.

What follows, one would assume would be pretty predictable: kid wants revenge for dead mother, kid becomes badass, kid kills evil, revenge accomplished. What you get however, is a story that is anything but predictable and in fact, takes several crazy turns throughout the series, always giving you something fresh and new. Roadblocks seemingly come from everywhere and no one ever feels like they’re safe.

Yes, it is a dark and intense show. While that seems to be a trend in entertainment lately, Attack On Titan doesn’t just use it in a generic typical way, they use it to motivate the characters and the plot in a pretty dynamic way. The characters constantly find themselves at odds with the awful cruel world that they live in and even though they must fight to survive in it, at the core, they strive for something better and refuse to accept their doomed apocalypse of a life.

The show presents a lot of questions and by the time you get to the end, many of those questions are left unanswered. This leaves me thinking that there is more to come. The show is over, at least this initial series but there are companion films being released and I anticipate a proper conclusion to the main protagonists story at some point.

Again, this is an amazing series and I’d recommend it to anyone wanting something different and refreshing to watch. I binged watched it in two sessions of about five-to-six hours each, so you can get through it fairly quickly. Check it out on Netflix. Also, it is not dubbed, it is subtitled. I really enjoyed being able to hear the traditional Japanese dialogue.

Film Review: The Spiral Staircase (1946)

Also known as: Silence of Helen McCord (working title), Some Must Watch (working title)
Release Date: February 7th, 1946 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Robert Siodmak
Written by: Mel Dinelli
Based on: Some Must Watch by Ethel Lina White
Music by: Roy Webb
Cast: Dorothy McGuire, George Brent, Ethel Barrymore, Elsa Lanchester

Vanguard Films, RKO Radio Pictures, 83 Minutes

Review:

“The only thing that keeps me from cracking you in the jaw is the almost certain possibility that it would break your neck.” – Dr. Parry

The Spiral Staircase isn’t specifically categorized as horror. It is categorized as a thriller but it is definitely horror in its subject matter and in its ability to build suspense and give you a real sense of terror. Plus, the opening moments of a woman dressing, as the camera closes in on an eye watching her from a hidden position is chilling and nightmare inducing by 1940s standards.

The story follows a mute girl (Dorothy McGuire) who is targeted by a serial killer that picks off young women with disabilities. She lives in a mansion, taking care of a wealthy bedridden woman (Ethel Barrymore). The woman, as well as the girl’s doctor, urge her to leave the house. The doctor knows the cause of the girl’s muteness and wants to cure her.

The film really has similar notes to a slasher or giallo movie without the violence. It also predates giallo by several decades.

The film is dark and moody but it is just as beautiful as it is haunting. It has great cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca, who did amazing work in the horror/noir hybrids Cat People, The Curse of the Cat PeopleThe Seventh VictimBedlam and The Ghost Ship. He also did the beloved noir classic Out of the Past. With the direction of Robert Siodmak, this film was helmed by two artists who were masters of creating atmosphere and visual suspense.

This is a solid psychological thriller and an atmospheric gem. The acting is better than average and the music is also really good, adding to the slow build of dread in this film.

I actually find it surprising that this RKO horror/noir creation was not produced by Val Lewton, who was the mastermind behind most of these pictures for the studio. It was produced by Dore Schary, who would eventually go on to be the head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.