My Favorite Newer Horror Movie Experiences Of 2019

Okay, so I already talked about by favorite older horror movie experiences of last year, so now it’s time for the newbies! I rarely see horror films in the theater, but do try to keep up on the new hotness mainly by listening to Shock Waves and hearing what they’re enjoying on any number of streaming services. Between that, the library and my subscription to Netflix DVD (yup, I’m the one keeping them in business, apparently), I try to stay on top of the genre, but miss a lot. These are the ones I caught!

Continue reading My Favorite Newer Horror Movie Experiences Of 2019

Halloween Scene 2019: Return Of The Living Dead 3 (1993)

Let’s! Get! Into It! I decided to kick off this year’s Halloween Scene towards the beginning of September because, why not?! If you want to get an idea of what I’m focusing on when it comes to comics and books, read this real quick. For movies, I’m trying something somewhat complicated. I want to alternate between movies I’ve seen and those I haven’t, while also following some kind of connection between films! To start with, I perused the incredibly dangerous corner of my office with shelves of old Wizards bolted about an organized pile of DVDs and Blu-rays to watch. There I spied the Vestron Blu of Return Of The Living Dead 3 and decided to give it a go! Continue reading Halloween Scene 2019: Return Of The Living Dead 3 (1993)

My Favorite Older Horror Film Discoveries Of 2018

In addition to making my way through a lot of films in the Great Chronological Slasher Franchise Project (which I will post an update on shortly), I also dug into a nice mix of purchased Blu-rays, gifted DVDs and streaming offerings in 2018! To my surprise and delight, I actually came across some movies that have become favorites easily making their way into my collection. You gotta hit that jump to find out what they are, though!

Continue reading My Favorite Older Horror Film Discoveries Of 2018

Halloween Scene: Old School Round-Up

bride-of-frankensteinAs I mentioned yesterday, I got to an early start when it came to watching horror movies this fall. So, I’ve got a lot to talk about! First, if you haven’t already, check out a pair of lists I wrote for CBR. One’s about movies and shows to follow Stranger Things up with while the other focused on the best classic horror movies to stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime!

Continue reading Halloween Scene: Old School Round-Up

Halloween Scene: Stranger Things & The Like

stranger-things-posterHey, look, it’s nearly October and I’ve already watched a bunch of great stuff! Like the rest of the world, I fell in love with Stranger Things and even wrote a list for CBR about a dozen other movies and shows you should check out if you liked it as much as me. Regular readers won’t be surprised by how much I responded to the idea of a bunch of kids trying to stop something far beyond their natural abilities. Plus, it gave me a great reason to re-watch the likes of The Gate and Cloak & Dagger. Continue reading Halloween Scene: Stranger Things & The Like

Halloween Scene Triple Feature: Shivers, After Midnight & Billy Club

shivers posterLast week I found myself in the enviable position of being in the house alone during the day with a bunch of work to do on my laptop and the television unoccupied by children demanding to watch the same two episodes of Bubble Guppies on repeat. So, like anyone who hasn’t been able to stay up past 11 on a week night in recent memory, I decided to watch three movies in a row all on Amazon Prime! Continue reading Halloween Scene Triple Feature: Shivers, After Midnight & Billy Club

Halloween Scene: Nightmare Weekend (1986)

Nightmare-Weekend-1986Oh my goodness, you guys. Nightmare Weekend has got to be the most bonkers movie I’ve seen in a good long while. Maybe that’s because it’s the ONLY credit to screenwriter George Faget-Benard’s name or that director Henri Sala mainly seemed to deal in French erotica or the fact that it deals with, well, everything, but Nightmare Weekend is that rare movie that tries to do too much, fails, but still manages to entertain.

You probably want to know what the movie is about. I’ll try to let you know, but there are a surprising number of characters in this movie and far too many of them are brunettes who look very similar. I also don’t remember any of their names and apparently neither does anyone else who’s watched the movie.

So there’s this college girl whose dad is a scientist working on some kind of super computer. She leaves school to visit her pops. At the same time, dad’s assistant (she’s evil) invites one of the daughter’s friends and two others to a seemingly different house to test the computer on (they don’t cross paths until towards the end of the film, so unless it’s an enormous house…your guess is as good as mine). Somehow these tests include taking seemingly innocuous items like a watch and turning them into metal balls that can be programmed to attack various people Phantasm-style. Instead of drilling into the victims, though, they either fly right down the throat or…hide somewhere so they get consumed. If you’re wondering how something like this could cure people, as the assistant claims early on, you’re as confused as I was.

Sound crazy? We’re just getting started. The main girl wants to date this guy in town so she talks to her computer about the best way to get his attention. You’re thinking, “But computers couldn’t do anything cool like that in the 80s!” And you’d be right if it wasn’t for George. George is the girl’s computer, a TV inserted into what looks like a princess castle set from The Land of Make-Believe in Mr. Rogers Neighborhood that can play rudimentary computer games and display text. Oh, that’s right, there’s also a green-haired hand puppet who she communicates with who is basically the interface for the system. No I’m not making this up, I promise. Here’s proof.

You’ve got to wrap your mind around this whole George thing pretty early on, even before the main killings start, so it’s a lot. George can also talk with the dad’s system. There’s one scene where the main character is playing a game in her room, but inadvertently controlling someone’s car in the real world. BUT THAT’S NOT EVEN WHAT THE MOVIE IS ABOUT! It’s about the balls that turn people into crazies who lick spiders, claw people during sex and drown in nearby water.

nightmare weekend poster 2There are so many crazy parts of this movie! The college girls make it seem like being a scientist is like the best, most respected and wealthiest job in the whole world! George! The arachnophobe practically Frenching a Tarantula! Everyone at the bar! The alcoholic chauffeur! That scene where — I think — two people are getting down in a limo while the driver is trying to fix the tire, the passengers are on a picnic just a few feet away and a random guy on a motorcycle is standing…somewhere nearby dancing to his radio shirtless. You really have to see it all to believe it. I’m still processing it all and should probably watch it again. You know, for science.

Nightmare Weekend was a French film shot in Florida in which all the dialogue was eventually dubbed, which explains some of the off-kilter-ness on display. It also probably explains why Troma decided to distribute this one. There’s a Blu-ray version of the film from Vinegar Syndrome, but I streamed it on Amazon Prime. It’s pretty dark at times so you can’t always see what’s happening, something that’s not helped by the fact that the end of the movie bounces from day to night far too quickly. Still, if you like all-out craziness, then give this one a watch.

Oh and for what it’s worth, as someone who spends an inordinate amount of time at the computer, I’d fully support a system like George. I’d much rather talk to a weird, animated hand puppet than type everything out or talk to Siri.

Halloween Scene: Fear No Evil (1981)

fear_no_evilWhen my buddy Rickey recommends I check out a movie, I do it. He also loved Housebound and also recommended I check out the excellent The Shortcut among many, many others over the years. So when he handed me a stack of horror DVDs, I decided to start immediately with Frank LaLoggia’s Fear No Evil.

I’d never heard of this film before, but it’s got elements of The Omen, Carrie, Night Of The Living Dead and even Grease. That might sound like rip-off-central, but the end result is a strangely unique, dark and creepy movie featuring the reincarnation of Lucifer as a high school nerd who raises the dead to help in his evil mission with a soundtrack featuring The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and The Talking Heads!

I went in knowing absolutely nothing about this film and unfamiliar with just about everyone involved, but was surprised by this tale of biblical epic that also marks LaLoggia’s very first directorial effort. I watched a DVD, but I can easily imagine a Blu-ray version that would look absolutely stunning (assuming there’s a good print bopping around somewhere).

Overall, there were just so many elements that I enjoyed about this film, that I’m just going to go through them for your reading pleasure. The main kid who plays Andrew-Lucifer (Stefan Arngrim) is just perfect in this part. He’s super weird and disconcerting, maybe a bit over-the-top, but we all knew a kid like that in high school. Speaking of the setting, it feels a little Grease-y (the main guy wears a leather jacket, his girlfriend an orange Pink Lady-esque shiny jacket). In fact, the boyfriend is a real piece of complicated work, with a macho pose, but an incredibly androgynous look. He even kisses Andrew in the shower in front of all of his friend at one point in one of the more surprising moments that could be unpacked for days. Oh, and again later after Andrew makes him grow breasts.

Other scenes that were surprising, but not in an exploitative way, include one where a baby starts bleeding during baptism, the use of a dog for an evil spell and the most bonkers dodge ball scene of all time. I’m not getting too far into the details of the film because I don’t quite remember everything, but I am very excited about it and want the world to get in on this train. Do yourself a favor and go check Fear No Evil out as soon as possible (or wait until a dark and stormy night).

Halloween Scene: V/H/S (2012) and V/H/S 2 (2013)

vhs poster While on my journey to watch new horror movies from this decade, I very quickly came across the anthology film V/H/S. It and its follow-up both share the same basic concept: a group of people in a framing sequence stumble across a house filled with video tapes and start watching. As they begin, we start seeing short segments directed by different up-and-comers from all kinds of horror subgenres, but each featuring a character holding or carrying a camera of some kind.

I wasn’t so sure if I was down with this concept. Like just about everyone I know and listen to, I’m pretty much done with found footage on all levels, but much like Europa Report, the majority of these segments offer clever reasons for the character(s) to carry a video recording device.

And yet, I still almost turned the first one off. After the fact, I realized that I was not down with the overly “bro” nature of the guys in the framing sequence who run up on women, lift their shirts up and record it and the ones in David Bruckner’s kick-off segment called “Amateur Night” who pick up a woman who is far more dangerous than she seems at first. All of that grossness combined together to taint my opinion of the movie, but after that it got a lot better.

First off, the framing sequence is actually pretty creepy. I wasn’t expecting much from that because, hey, this is a horror anthology and that part is almost always padding, but this one helmed my Adam Wingard (You’re Next) offered its own unique scares. Aside from “Amateur Night,” though, I thought the rest were really well done. Ti West’s “Second Honeymoon” worked super well as a short — and also starred the great A.J. Bowen — Glenn McQuaid’s “Tuesday the 17th” did something really fun and unique with the slasher genre while also making the camera’s presence an integral part of the action. I’ll admit, I had to look up “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger” by Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies) because I did not catch what happened at the end. Finally, Radio Silence’s “10/31/98” featured my favorite incorporation of the camera — the guy is dressed as a teddy bear nanny cam, which is pretty ingenious — and also a rapid fire short that rockets somewhere pretty crazy, pretty quickly.

V-H-S-2_PosterWhile I definitely had my problems with the first V/H/S, I was interested enough to check out the follow-up which, like I said, kept the same basic premise while upping the game when it came to story diversity and special effects. This time around, Simon Barrett, who wrote You’re Next, directed the framing sequence which finds a pair of PIs breaking into a house trying to find a kid who was obsessed with the same kind of tapes seen in the first film. Though it features the same kinds of scares seen in its predecessor, they’re still effective.

Wingard returned for another super clever use of the format called “Phase I Clinical Trials” which saw a guy with a robot eye plagued by ghosts who meets up with a woman with a hearing implant. This one had a super deep mythology that was presented very succinctly and also included a few definite scares that worked well. After that Blair Witch Project vets Eduardo Sánchez and Gregg Hale did a nice little zombie thing I dug called “A Ride In The Park” that’s probably my favorite zombie thing since Dance Of The Dead.

The last two segments, The Raid‘s Gareth Evans’ “Safe Haven” and the Jason Eisener (Hobo With A Shotgun) directed “Slumber Party Alien Abduction,” were stellar shorts that had me going and absorbed from the jump. Huge kudos to both of those for being interesting, fun, scary and all-around fantastic. While so different, both of these parts felt perfectly executed and written for this kind of film.

Overall, I liked the stories in V/H/S 2 better than the original, but I will say that I had more problems with the actual set-up of the films. If you’re buying into the conceit, these videos were shot and then distributed amongst collectors like the people inhabiting the houses in both framing sequences. And yet, in the zombie bit you’ve got multiple sources incorporated (the Go Pro mainly, but then the camera held by parents at a kid’s birthday party). It gets even crazier in “Safe Haven” where you get a mix of the documentary crew’s raw footage (complete with levels and whatnot), plus compound security footage AND subtitles to boot. These elements kind of ruin the suspension of disbelief I had with people trading these simple tapes by putting a lot of editing into the process. On their own, they’re not a big deal, but I kept finding myself ripped out of the story itself with thoughts like “Hey, who subtitled that? Why didn’t they remove the levels and whatnot?” Maybe I over-thought them, but it seems like a pretty simple thing to fix in order to make these movies make sense within the world that’s set up.

Finally, how crazy is the world presented in these two movies? Everything from demon women and zombies to aliens and cults take place all in the same world with only these tapes as proof. I haven’t seen V/H/S Viral yet, but I would love it if that one dug a little deeper into the overall mythology instead of just presenting more cool bits and pieces of short horror.

Halloween Scene: Night Of The Creeps (1986)

night of the creeps tom atkins

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.

night of the creeps poster 1The 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.

night of the creeps poster 2

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.