Film Review: 976-EVIL (1988)

Release Date: December 9th, 1988 (UK)
Directed by: Robert Englund
Written by: Rhet Topham, Brian Helgeland
Music by: Thomas Chase, Steve Rucker
Cast: Stephen Geoffreys, Jim Metzler, Maria Rubell, Pat O’Bryan, Sandy Dennis

CineTel Films, Horrorscope Productions, New Line Cinema, 92 Minutes (theatrical), 105 Minutes (VHS)

Review:

“[possessed Hoax produces two ripped-out hearts] Would it be possible… to enter the game with a pair of hearts?” – Hoax

976-EVIL probably has a bad rap. It’s not a good movie, per se, but it gets more negative attention than it deserves. It is underappreciated, in my opinion, even if it is far from perfect. Plus, it was directed by Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund.

The film stars Stephen Geoffreys, most famous for playing “Evil Ed” in Fright Night. He is just as strange in this picture but even with that strangeness, he is likable and charismatic. In this, we get to see him break down from a nerdy kid into a demon possessed badass with some really good lines and cool moments.

The film isn’t boring but it also isn’t too exciting. It feels like a rehash of a lot of things 80s horror fans had already seen with better execution. Tapping into the hotline craze of the 80s was a cool touch, though. It became a story where the supernatural was reliant on technology to spread itself into the world, similar to what we would see years later with the Japanese film Ringu and its American remake The Ring. Not to mention all the films since then that tap into people getting possessed or killed by supernatural evil working through websites or social media platforms.

976-EVIL isn’t a complete waste but it isn’t a must see movie either. It works on a day when you’ve exhausted every 80s horror film you can think of and find this sitting on a streaming site. It is a good way to kill 90 minutes and Stephen Geoffreys gives a memorable performance.

Also, the big finale in the house where “Hell froze over” is well done. I always liked this part of the film and it stands out as a memorable horror finale from this era.

Comic Review: Hack/Slash – Omnibus Two

Reworking my way through the Hack/Slash comic series, I have now finished the second omnibus.

Revisiting this series has been a lot of fun and I’m doing it to refresh my memory, as I am a bit behind and need to read the fourth and fifth omnibuses, as I last stopped at the third.

In this collection, the series really finds its footing. The series begins to really take shape, as Cassie Hack’s team of allies start to come together to create something bigger than just her and Vlad taking on slashers. The people she has saved and helped, up to this point, want to assist her in her noble fight by putting their talents to use from wherever they are.

The stories in this volume are more fleshed out and not just one-offs. This collection is also capped off with a crossover between Hack/Slash and Re-Animator. In fact, the Re-Animator story works as a sequel to the film series, following the events of the three movies but tying the character of Dr. Herbert West to the family affairs of Cassie Hack.

This omnibus has a good mix of artists. One story in the book also takes on the form of a classic Archie comic in its visual style.

Cassie and Vlad’s relationship develops deeper and we also get to see possible love interests for both characters enter the picture. Plus, we get the introduction of my favorite demon dog Pooch, a talking, grotesque but very comedic mutt from the depths of Nef, a special kind of Lovecraftian Hell.

I prefer this omnibus to the first, even though the first was a great introduction to the series. Now the series feels more lived in, the characters have more depth and the relationships are blossoming into something more complex than just victims appreciating the hero. The emotionally complex hero now has people that she can put that emotion into, as well as her trust.

Film Review: Night of the Demons (1988)

Release Date: October 14th, 1988
Directed by: Kevin S. Tenney
Written by: Joe Augustyn
Music by: Dennis Michael Tenney
Cast: William Gallo, Hal Havins, Amelia Kinkade, Cathy Podewell, Linnea Quigley

Paragon Arts International, Republic Pictures, International Film Marketing, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Eat a bowl of fuck! I am here to PARTY!” – Stooge

I’ve never been a huge fan of this 80s horror picture. While it does have its fans and it went on to have sequels and a remake, it just never hit the mark for me.

Night of the Demons feels like someone wanted to make their own version of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead mixed with Lamberto Bava’s Demons with an added in teen sex comedy element. That’s not a bad mixture, really, but the film feels cheap and like a retread without much of anything new to offer.

Plus, the demons look so repulsive and off putting that it is almost a distraction. At least Bava’s Demons had amazing style and was more creative with its visual repulsiveness.

The makeup is pretty good, considering the quality of the rest of this film’s special effects. However, the demon dragon skeleton thing looks like a character from The Muppets, even if it is supposed to be the embodiment of pure evil. It’s an awful monster that looks as if it were constructed by some kid that didn’t know how to assemble one of those wooden dinosaur bone puzzles. Also, everything else looks just as amateurish.

The cinematography, the shots, the lighting – it’s all bad.

The acting doesn’t get any better than the rest of the film’s faults and really, you don’t care for a single person in this mess of a film.

The only really cool thing with the picture was the main girl dressing up like Alice from Alice In Wonderland. It helped to give the film an otherworldly vibe and the girl felt like a real fish out of water except it was Alice in Hell instead of Wonderland.

I also liked the use of Bauhaus’ “Stigmata Martyr” when Angela was transforming into a demon with her strange dance.

Also, Linnea Quigley is in this so boobies are guaranteed. But she’s the biggest star, which goes to show the quality of talent in front of the camera.

Night of the Demons is a forgettable film, other than it pushing the bar with its repulsiveness.

Film Review: Fright Night (1985)

Release Date: August 2nd, 1985
Directed by: Tom Holland
Written by: Tom Holland
Music by: Brad Fiedel
Cast: Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Stephen Geoffreys, Roddy McDowall

Vistar Films, Columbia Pictures, 106 Minutes

Review:

“Hello, Edward. You don’t have to be afraid of me. I know what it’s like being different. Only they won’t pick on you anymore… or beat you up. I’ll see to that. All you have to do is take my hand. Go on, Edward. Take my hand!” – Jerry Dandridge

This was one of those movies I discovered at the video store, as a kid in the 80s. Once I found it, I rented it almost monthly for a year or two. That was, until the crappy sequel came out and sucked the wind out of this film’s sails. It could have been a stellar franchise but it wasn’t. However, this picture is still a classic and always will be, in my opinion. Frankly, they should have just left the movie alone and never made a sequel or that reboot.

Chris Sarandon makes a pretty good vampire. While he is technically the star of the picture, this really is a good small ensemble piece, though.

William Ragsdale really gets the most screen time. This was before he had that cool Fox sitcom Herman’s Head and this was his most famous role outside of that show. His girlfriend is played by Amanda Bearse, who would also go on to be in a major Fox sitcom shortly after, Married… with Children.

The cast was rounded out by veteran Roddy McDowall, who is superb in this, and Stephen Geoffreys, whose character “Evil Ed” gave birth to two of the most overused catchphrases in the 1980s: “You’re so cool, Brewster!” and “To what do I owe this dubious pleasure?”

The film is an 80s teen horror romp. It exists in a similar vein to movies like Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad, albeit more violent and less child friendly than the latter.

The special effects are pretty good but this was when practical effects were at an all-time high and the effects maestros of the 80s were on a different level, especially in regards to their ingenuity and creativity. The wolf effects, at the end, as well as the final battle between the heroes and the vampire were great. There’s a reason why I love movies like this, the aforementioned and An American Werewolf In London. Even at their most absurd, they still have a sense of realism because what you see is there in the physical world on set.

Fright Night is one of the top horror films of the 80s that isn’t connected to a famous slasher. It sort of revitalized the fantasy horror genre at a time when Jason Voorhees was chopping through everything in sight.

TV Review: American Horror Story (2011- )

Original Run: October 5th, 2011 – current
Created by: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Cesar Davila-Irizarry, Charlie Clouser, James S. Levine, Mac Quayle
Cast: Evan Peters, Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Taissa Farmiga, Denis O’Hare, Jessica Lange, Zachary Quinto, Joseph Fiennes, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Lizzie Brocheré, James Cromwell, Frances Conroy, Emma Roberts, Kathy Bates, Michael Chiklis, Finn Wittrock, Angela Bassett, Wes Bentley, Matt Bomer, Chloë Sevigny, Cheyenne Jackson, Lady Gaga, Cuba Gooding Jr., André Holland, Billie Lourd, Alison Pill, Alexandra Daddario, Grace Gummer

Ryan Murphy Productions, Brad Falchuk Teley-Vision, 20th Century Fox, 78 Episodes (so far), 37-73 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

I just binge watched the first three seasons of American Horror Story, as I was running out of things to watch on Netflix and this was in my queue for a few years. I have yet to see season 4, as it isn’t available yet.

I have a few friends who obsess over this show, which is probably why I put it off for so long. Usually, when a bunch of people build something up really high, I am left disappointed. I think the only time I wasn’t was when I finally sat down to watch Breaking Bad.

I wouldn’t call American Horror Story a disappointment though. It was pretty enjoyable and I’ll watch future seasons, albeit at my own leisure. But I wouldn’t call the show special or hype it up to everyone I know.

The premise of the show is horror, which is obvious by the title, but other than tapping into supernatural elements and showing something scary every now and then, it plays more like a teen drama. But that is the way of Hollywood these days. Sure, most of the characters are older than teens but this is definitely a show written for them.

The show just isn’t scary and that is why I have reservations about horror being used in a television format. Sure, you can churn up a few frights and provide creepy visuals and a dark tone but over the course of a 13 episode season, the monsters you are selling get less and less scary. When the reveals have to happen early because modern audiences can’t tolerate suspense, there is nowhere else to go other than adding in more teen drama and stretching out a resolution.

I guess the one thing that irks me about the show, is how the payoffs seem rushed, the resolution happens almost too early and the final few episodes of each season play like an epilogue that is too fleshed out. The grand evil each season is conquered around episode 11. So what you get is two more episodes that really aren’t necessary. I don’t care about any of these characters that much. It’s like the ending to the extended edition of The Return of the King – you just want it to be over.

Highlights of the show include the acting talents of Jessica Lange and Evan Peters (who was Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past). The rest of the cast, at least the actors who appear over multiple seasons are all pretty good. Although, Angela Bassett as Marie Laveau was horrible. I don’t blame her, as the character of Laveau was horribly written. The writers really tarnished the well respected legacy of the New Orleans Voodoo Queen and turned her into an evil vengeful idiot. Kathy Bates was fantastic though, I do want to point that out.

I like the show more than I dislike it but it hasn’t solidified me as a fan and it is a moderately enjoyable way to waste a weekend.

Update:

After the third season, I watched two more. Each year gets worse and worse, to the point that I’ve completely stopped caring about the show. The last season I watched was Hotel and I have no more interest in the future of this anthology franchise. I think there are two more seasons after Hotel with the possibility of this going on forever… but I’m done.

Comic Review: Hack/Slash – Omnibus One

Since it is just about time for Halloween, I wanted to revisit my favorite horror comic book series. No, it isn’t The Walking Dead, it is this great series by Tim Seeley and originally Devil’s Due Publishing (before Image Comics picked up the series).

I didn’t read Hack/Slash until the first omnibus was published. Since then, there have been five omnibuses to date, each coming in at around 300 pages, which equates to about ten regular sized comic books. This one covers the first several stories put to paper.

Hack/Slash follows Casey Hack, a girl who is an outsider that would rather hunt down slashers than try to conform to a normal life. She is aided by her very large sidekick Vlad, a Hulk-sized slasher looking guy in a gas mask. The slashers that she hunts are of the Hollywood variety. They aren’t just gimmicky serial killers though, they are essentially undead and incredibly hard to kill like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers.

In this omnibus, we get the first story, see Cassie and Vlad’s origins and get to see them take on a myriad of evil slashers. We even get to see her face off against Chucky and Eddie the Head, the mascot of the thrash metal band Iron Maiden.

The stories are well-drawn and the plots are really entertaining. Hack/Slash uses a lot of humor to balance out the horror and dread. It feels like a true throwback to the 1980s slasher era and adds in a mix of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although, Cassie is much cooler than Buffy and Vlad is a better sidekick than any of the people from the Buffyverse.

This is one of my favorite comic book series of all-time and this is the best starting point for anyone who wants to check it out.

Film Review: Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)

Release Date: September 10th, 1995 (TIFF)
Directed by: Todd Solondz
Written by: Todd Solondz
Music by: Jill Wisoff
Cast: Heather Matarazzo, Brendan Sexton III, Eric Mabius, Matthew Faber

Suburban Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Yo, Weiner, you better get ready, ’cause at three o’clock today, I’m gonna rape you!” – Brandon

I saw this a long time ago. In fact, I was probably about seventeen or eighteen when I got a copy of this at my neighborhood video store and decided to check it out, as I was really getting into American indies at the time.

What I remembered about this is that it starred Heather Matarazzo, who I really liked at the time as DJ’s girlfriend on Roseanne. Also, it left me feeling sad, angry but somewhat hopeful. Well, that effect still works, all these years later.

Welcome to the Dollhouse follows the life of a young middle school girl who is struggling with just about everything. Everyone in the entire film, literally everyone, treats her like she’s an afterthought or just bullies her for no real reason other than she’s awkward and not pretty. She really only has one friend, a younger boy, but eventually the pressure of everything causes her to then treat him like shit.

For anyone who had trouble of some sort while going through middle school, which is most of us, Welcome to the Dollhouse can be a pretty real experience. Granted, I hope no one ever had to go through what Dawn Weiner did in this film but the reality is that kids are pretty cruel to one another at the middle school age. In fact, Dawn’s older brother sums it up when she asks him if high school is any different and he says, “All of junior high school sucks. High school’s better; it’s closer to college. They’ll call you names, but not as much to your face.”

Heather Matarazzo was brilliant in this and she really became the role. You really just go through the film with a growing disdain for nearly every character because of how much Matarazzo is able to make you sympathize with her character. However, as much as you’ll hate the bully Brandon in the beginning, Brendan Sexton III plays that part so well that you feel for him and his situation by the end of the film. All these kid actors are pretty damn great and really carry the picture.

Welcome to the Dollhouse isn’t a great film but it is a much better than average coming of age drama mixed with a bit of comedy. It works because of the cast and because it is pretty real and gets darker than you might expect.