Alright gang, I know it’s almost February of 2020, but I still have a Best of 2019 post or two I want to get out before moving on! I’ve already covered old and new horror films, but I saw a lot of other flicks this year that I at least want to say a few words about. So, I’m going to do exactly that and run down a whole slew of movies and just say a few sentences about what I dug! LET’S. GET. INTO IT!
The fist time I saw Night Of The Creeps was at a Manly Movie Mamajama with the Wizard gang several years back. As it happens, that’s also how I saw another Fred Dekker film, Monster Squad, for the first time. The other two films in that particular triple feature were Night Of the Comet and Nightbreed (still the only time I’ve ever seen that one). As it turns out, I remembered the least about Creeps because, as I watched this movie on Netflix in the past few weeks (it took me several viewings to finish because I take care of two very active children all day), most of the film was a surprise. Let’s blame that more on the length of time between viewings and not the presumed gallons of beer I probably drank that night.
The movie kicks off with some strange looking aliens fighting over a canister that gets knocked out the ship and heads towards Earth back in 1959. The canister lands in front of an escaped mental patient, infects him with its worminess and leads to him hacking up some kids with an axe. Flashforward to the 80s and we’re introduced to college students Chris (Jason Lively) and J.C. (Steve Marshall), the young stars of the film. Chris wants to get with a girl named Cynthia (Jill Whitlow) who’s dating the head of the D-bag fraternity, so they rush. They’re then tasked with finding a dead body, so they sneak into a nearby morgue (overseen by David Paymer!) where they find the body from the beginning of the movie in suspended animation. They get him out of there and wind up unleashing the worm-like aliens on their college campus. Enter wise cracking, jaded detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins) who was the cop who found the maniac in the first place back in the 50s.
I mentioned above how this film took me several watches to get through. Most of that is because of the kids, but there was also a bit of a barrier for me as I tried to get into this film. I think that boils down to the film’s tone, specifically in regards to Atkins’ character. I’ve become a huge fan of that guy’s work, thanks mostly to Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch, but I just couldn’t get into his catch-phrase spouting wannabe hardboiled detective in this movie. He says “Thrill me,” so many times and it never once sounds like the kind of thing this guy would actually say.
On the other hand, I really enjoyed Lively and Marshall as the two geeky college students. They have a very realistic relationship that reminded me of the kind of thing seen more in the raunchy 80s comedies that you all know I’m a fan of. These young actors are very believable and I like the ways they got to express their characters as the story progressed. And, how can you not love a film that ends on the night of a fraternity formal with a boy in a tux and a girl in a fancy dress wielding shotguns and flamethrowers?
At the end of the day, I really want to like this movie because it mixes that great 80s comedy set-up with some pretty high quality horror special effects. It’s really too bad that Dekker — who also wrote the screenplay — decided to turn Atkins, who can handle a ton of levels even in fairly odd movies like this, into such a corny, one-note character. Just imagine if he was able to play this a little closer to Daniel Challis from Season.
It’s kind of interesting timing that I watched this Dekker film not only after he was announced as the helmer of the new Predator movie writte by Shane Black. These guys wrote Monster Squad together which is a real classic, so I’m excited to see what they can do all these years later.
When I was in high school my buddy Eric Toth talked a lot about a movie called Monster Squad. He said it was like Goonies, but full of monsters and that I, being a horror fan, would love it. At that time, I think it was really hard to find on video and I wasn’t really the type to go out of my way to search out a movie, especially when there was still so much at my beloved Family Video that I hadn’t seen yet. Fast forward a few years and I’m at Wizard working with a ton of rad folks including Rickey Purdin who, if memory serves, found one of the creators of the movie selling his own copies or something along those lines. Soon enough he got his hands on a copy and I watched it with him, but I think that’s the only time I’ve actually watched it before last night.
The other night I felt like giving it another watch, added the Bluray to the top of my Netflix queue and was happy to give it a watch last night. Man, I love this movie. Toth and Rickey and all the other people who love this movie are dead-on right, it’s great. I’m not sure how, in a world where Goonies seemed to be on television every weekend I never saw this movie as a kid, but that’s how it went down. The premise follows a group of kids who have their own monster club. They basically sit around and talk about horror movies and how you kill various monsters. Then one day, the monsters come to town and they’re the only ones paying attention so they take it upon themselves to save the day. Said monsters are basically the Universal ones including Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, a mummy a werewolf and a creature from a colorful lagoon of some sort.
A lot of movies like this that people my age remember from childhood can be a real let down if you’ve never seen them and watch them for the first time as an adult. For instance, I liked Lost Boys when I saw it for the first time five years ago, but it didn’t make its way into my list of all time faves. While watching Monster Squad again, though, I was actually really impressed with it and not just because I’m a fan of any movie featuring kids dealing with something crazy (Goonies, The Gate, The Pit, E.T., the Troll movies, even the ball-of-weirdness that is Mac and Me) but also because it’s a beautifully shot (the Bluray looks fantastic, you guys), well thought out flick with lots of extra goodness from ridicuslouly quotable lines (“Wolfman’s got nards!” “I’m in the goddamn club, aren’t I?”) to really fantastic creatures and special effects (big ups to Stan Winston!). It helps that the film was co-written by Shane Black (Die Hard, Iron Man 3) and Fred Dekker (Night Of The Creeps, RoboCop 3) who both took the material seriously when putting this thing together.
But, the best part about this movie is the fact that the filmmaker never forgets who its heroes are. These are kids. Somewhat goofy, naive kids who never stop thinking like kids. When the wolfman attacks, their leader commands “Fat Kid” to kick him in the nards. Yes! That’s exactly what I would have thought when confronted by a monster as a 10 year old (or whatever age they are). You know, if I wasn’t in the fetal position crying and being eaten already. That’s another thing I love about this movie, these kids are brave and strong even in the face of craziness, which is something I probably wouldn’t have been in their shoes.
I noted on Twitter last night that I could be happy writing these kinds of stories for the rest of my life and I do think that is the case. I don’t want to say that kids today have no idea how good they could have had it, but do they even really do these kinds of movies outside of Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids movies? I’d actually love to do a project watching these movies with modern day kids and seeing what they think of them. I’d also be interested in watching them with a child psychologist and talk about what good and bad messages they might offer to kids. Anyone interested in that? Drop me a comment.
I have a very deep and honest love for HBO’s Tales From The Crypt series. I wasn’t very familiar with EC Comics before discovering the show and didn’t actually have HBO, but fell in love thanks to late night, toned-down episodes in syndication (I believe they were on Fox, if memory serves). Being unfamiliar with the types of stories told in those EC books, this show was my first real dose of those amazing kinds of endings where you realize that people either got exactly what the wanted or what they deserved in the mostly cosmically complicated, but appropriate manner possible. The woman who sold her beauty can’t get it back because her younger looking self is wanted for murder! Holy crap! I can’t say exactly when I started watching, but I do remember sitting in my room with a friend named John watching episodes. We weren’t really friends after 8th grade which would have been 1996-1997, so it was probably before that, just to give you an idea. The show also informed my early horror brain and was probably the first scary thing I watched on a regular basis until I was 16 and could start renting cheap VHS tapes at my beloved Family Video.
When I saw the first two seasons of Tales From The Crypt in a bundle at Target for around $20, I had to buy them. There are episodes burned into my memory that I wanted to watch again and ones I’d never seen that I wanted to have easy access to, plus you just can’t beat that price. Well, that was a while ago, but I finally sat down to watch the first season of six episodes last night and was not disappointed.
Walter Hill of Warriors fame (a favorite of mine) directed the premiere called “The Man Who Was Death” starring Bill Sadler (the guy who played Dwight on early episodes of Roseanne). Sadler plays an out of work executioner who starts taking the law into his own hands. “And All Through The House” is a campy Christmas-themed episode that finds a woman dealing with getting rid of her husband’s corpse and a psycho slasher Santa on the loose. That one’s directed by Robert Zemeckis. “Dig That Cat…He’s Way Gone” was one I remembered from the syndication days. It was directed by Richard Donner and stars Joe Pantoliano as a guy who gets surgically implanted with a cat’s nine lives. He uses them in a sideshow, but realizes his last trick might not have been such a good idea.
Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps) did another episode I remembered called “Only Sin Deep” about Lea Thompson trading in her beauty to a pawn broker and dealing with the consequences, as I mentioned above. “Love Come Hack To Me” was also remembered and one of the more influential from the first season because it made me really wary of crazy ladies. Amanda Plummer (Honey Bunny from Pulp Fiction) plays a young woman with a strange idea of how love and marriage work. Tom Holland of Fright Night and Child’s Play fame directed the ep. The finale was called “Collection Completed” about a crankpot retiring and dealing with his wife all day and vice versa.
The episodes aren’t exactly the pinnacle of complete horror or even horror comedy, but there are some great moments of those throughout. Plummer comes off absolutely batshit insane in her episode while Thompson really sells her vapid worry about her looks (even if the accent is a little ridiculous). It’s a pretty good gateway into the world of TFTC, the tone of the series and where they were looking to go.
The first season is only six episodes, all of which are on one disc. The second disc has a pair of behind the scenes features that I haven’t jumped into yet. One’s about the history of EC, which I’m not familiar with and the other is more about the series itself. I’m pretty excited about getting further into the series. After checking out the second season today, I don’t remember a lot of those episodes, so the third and fourth season must be the real memory gold for me. I’m sure I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.
I went to Blockbuster last night looking for something without really know what. I went through the new releases and there wasn’t really anything I wanted to watch on my own (Em hates horror movies, so I watch them after she goes to bed). I found myself in the not great, but not awful horror section looking around and found two movies I wanted to check out. One was Halloween H20 which I still haven’t seen. That was going to be the pick until my eyes panned down and I saw a DVD copy of House. I knew nothing about this movie, but remember seeing it all the time when I used to go to the video store with my parents. The creepy hand always freaked me out. I’m not sure why I never rented it once I turned 16, but that’s another story. The cover I remember seeing is below:
House won out over H20 (partly because I haven’t watched H5 or 6 yet this year), but I ended up falling asleep around 11:30 last night. I did wake up around 1:30, tried to watch it then, but kept getting freaked out by the old lady as I fell in and out of sleep and decided to just call it a night and go back to bed.
I lucked out today and Em took a nap, which gave me time to check House out and I kind of love this movie. It’s not a great film and it’s not all that scary, though I do really like the practical demon/monster/zombie make up and effects. It’s kind of creepy, well acted and just well put together, but it’s also fun.
Just check out the people who helped put this movie together. It’s directed by by Steve Miner who also did Friday the 13th Parts 2 and 3 and Halloween H20 (weird coincidence, huh? that I was choosing between two Miner movies). The script was based on a story by Fred Dekker, the dude who wrote Monster Squad and Night of the Creeps (a former Manly Movie Mamajama pick). Plus you’ve got William Kat who used to be the Greatest American Hero, Cheers’ George Wendt and Night Court’s Richard Moll in starring rolls. Seeing Richard Moll in a monster roll kind of validates all of the weirdness he gave off on Night Court (anyone else remember the series finale where he got beamed up by aliens?).
House is basically a haunted house movie with some monster, zombie and Vietnam War moments thrown in as well. Katt plays a writer who decides to live in his aunt’s old house after she hangs herself. It’s also the house that he and his wife lived in when their son mysteriously disappeared. He’s there working on a book about his experiences during the Vietnam War, but also getting hassled by a very cool looking monster in the closet and other tricks the house is playing on him to get rid of him. Meanwhile George Wendt plays his nosey neighbor who gets pulled along for the ride because he can’t mind his own business. Moll plays Katt’s army buddy who he refused to kill and ended up getting captured by the enemy. His ghost comes back later and looks AWESOME. We’re never quite sure why the house is being such a jerk, but it doesn’t really matter as the story focuses on Katt beating the house and eventually getting his son back. It’s kind of a fist pumping ending which I appreciate. And you know what? I don’t need an explanation. As long as the movie makes enough sense to not make me mad, I’m happy with it.
House isn’t Jaws, Halloween or TCM, but it is a fun movie that kept my attention the whole time. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a movie like this nowadays. It’s somewhat lighthearted, funny when it’s supposed to be, happy, sad and sports some of the coolest looking practical effects I’ve seen in a while.