Ginger Snaps (2000)

Directed by John Fawcett
Copper Heart Entertainment/Water Pictures/Motion International/Canadian Television Fund/Telefilm Canada/The Movie Network/The Government of Ontario/Casablanca Sound & Picture Inc./Tattersall Sound

For the first half of this – legitimate – werewolf picture, it’s funny as hell, a kind-of Heathers-infused look at the mordant, bilious lives of two outcast-and-proud-enough sisters, even after one of them is mauled by a lycanthrope. The second half brings pathos and pain and fear to bear in heavy doses, and almost all of it is done to a turn. The satiric amplification of the dangerous threat posed by the maturation of the teenage female – as famously exemplified in the horror genre by Carrie White, should I have to draw you a picture – is obviously a focus here, but I thought the simultaneous portrayal of the growing differences between the sisters was just as forceful, if not more impressive a feat. This flick features a lot of blood, but somehow didn’t strike me as all that gory. (That is likely an “eye of the beholder” thing, though.) And in a way, that paradox sums up the entire affair succinctly enough.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Many books I’ve read about horror pictures has singled this one out as being way above average. (The latest being the revised edition of Nightmare Movies, recently mentioned in the Bloody New Year review.) So I finally decided to take the plunge, though I remained dubious.


Should You Watch This Movie?

It’s way above average.


Highlight and Low Point

The writing is extremely sharp and several of the performances are exemplary as well. Teenage mystique is captured accurately (thus not admirably). Of especial note to me was that Mimi Rogers and Emily Perkins resembled each other enough to really be the mom and daughter they were portraying.

Rating From Outer Space: A−

死霊の罠 aka Evil Dead Trap aka Shiryô no wana (1988)

Directed by Toshiharu Ikeda
Directors Company/Japan Home Video

There’s a LOT about this Japanese flick that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense – including the title vis-à-vis the content of the picture – but maybe that’s par for the course with a quasi-supernatural mystery-haunted-house-slasher, who can say. (Synopsis: A television newsmagazine reporter traces a videotape that inexplicably includes her.) Other reviewers seem to feel it’s clearly indebted to the Giallo, but I’m not sophisticated enough to tell you if that’s just because of the cloaked killer whose identity eludes us throughout. I CAN tell you that the filmmakers didn’t seem to know how to end the proceedings, but ultimately chose poorly, and that by a certain point someone should have stepped in to do some editing. All in all, though, this was an entertaining and suspenseful production, though that latter quality may be largely due to the amount of creeping through poorly lit hallways the heroine has to endure. There’s an actual sequel, plus a third movie that appears to be mostly unrelated but was slapped with the tag for marketing purposes.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

The title caught my eye, and the description suitably engaged.



Should You Watch This Movie?

It was just different enough from my standard fare to sustain my interest, for whatever that’s worth.


Highlight and Low Point

There’s a lengthy (and frankly tangential) rape in this film which, although not particularly explicit, doesn’t differ much in feeling from an earlier portrayal of consensual sex. The actress was a noted performer from Japanese porn – originally slated for the lead role. The “Evil Dead” part of the moniker basically doesn’t apply, though some Raimi camerawork is evident. One kill in particular reminded me of, I think, “Blood Tracks. (If not Saw.)

Rating From Outer Space: C+

Bloody New Year (1987)

Directed by Norman J. Warren
Lazer Entertainments LTD/Cinema and Theatre Seating LTD.

Felicitously enough, this wannabe fright flick was directed by the same guy who lensed Satan’s Slave and Prey, among other questionable ventures – such as Terror, which I didn’t even remember viewing. (I’ll say this for Mr. Warren’s output: it obviously gets MY attention.) Warren claims that this picture was doomed by its producers, who were cheap and didn’t know anything about horror, so he more or less “gave up. But while there are hints of something potentially interesting here – and something much more compelling should have been possible – this production is overly reliant on ridiculous reverse motion “effects” and insanely repetitive shots of barely seen figures, so place the blame where you may. The most promising theme, involving mirrors as some sort of temporal capture device, isn’t properly developed, severely undermining any attempt to make the goings-on coherent. Redundant at best, and imitative and inane at its worst.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I was supposed to go out, but my bicycle sustained a flat tire. This title claimed precedence, given the occasion.

 
Should You Watch This Movie?

In his somewhat exhaustive tome Nightmare Movies, British horror buff Kim Newman describes this production as a “feeble dump-bin video quickie,” which somehow doesn’t even fully encapsulate its slipshod nature. Provocative linked events that bookend the action ultimately seem only to serve as, presumably, irony. And need I even mention they fail to conform to this endeavor’s internal logic as well?


Highlight and Low Point

See above note concerning “internal logic”; there’s precious little of it. This is basically a ghost story, and the titular “bloody” apparently is only meant to confer its colloquial British meaning. Oh, and the story is set in … July.

Rating From Outer Space: D

Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge (2022)

Written & Directed by ALexandra Barreto, Cameron Burns, Anthony Cousins, John Karsko, Aaron B. Koontz, Jed Shepherd, Rachele WIggins
Paper Street Pictures

So, although I have been disregarding my obligations to this project lately – it’s been tough to make myself buckle down and watch my stockpile of worthy titles – as soon as I discovered this “Shudder Original” I settled in and watched it start to finish. This sequel hews a little more closely to the usually clumsy wraparound setup of your basic horror anthology, as it takes place during Chad’s funeral with a Saw-type series of deadly obstacles or challenges. That’s all fair-to-middlin’ stuff, really, but as per the standard established during the first go-round, some of the parodic segments are idiotically gratifying. Actually, all but the last of these (“We’re So Dead”) are reasonably entertaining; I was particularly amused by “The Night He Came Back Again! Part VI – The Night She Came Back,” but “Welcome To The 90s” and “Special Edition” (produced “in association with Screen Anthology”) are also clever enough. “We’re So Dead,” however, is not, and accompanies an equally uninspired section of the overall storyline. (Much like the first installment, this edition goes on a little too long.) Meanwhile, the ending supplies a clear setup for yet another collection, which I’m not sure I’m ready to endorse. One V/H/S franchise is enough, probably, and whatever point is intended to be proven here probably won’t become more perspicacious through further repetition.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

My interest was genuinely piqued.



Should You Watch This Movie?

Depends on your tolerance for redundancy.


Highlight and Low Point

I was gonna cite the various seemingly hilarious theme songs, but upon further inspection I’m not sure their inclusion is supposed to be all that ironic.

Rating From Outer Space: B−

Smile (2022)

Written and Directed by Parker Finn
Temple Hill Entertainment

Don’t misconstrue what I’m about to say – but this film was kind of a letdown. See, it has one of the most effective and audacious pre-title sequences of anything I’ve seen any time recently (or ever), the kind that left me babbling aloud incoherently. If the entirety could somehow have sustained that, well, it would’ve been an all-timer. It couldn’t, of course, and so it isn’t, but regardless of its well-noted weaknesses, this picture remains an effective and intense depiction of one woman’s deteriorating mental space (and relationships, and existence). That there were many possibilities for what direction this production could have gone added to its impact, even if the route it chose was less than satisfying … though that’s open to interpretation, befitting the story. Feel free to ascribe to it your preferred symbolic framework.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I saw a commercial for it – you know, with the creepy woman. That’s all it took. Sometimes I’m an easy sell.


Should You Watch This MOvie?

Those who are less forgiving than me may find it too derivative at times, or too predictable at others, and yes, it leans very heavily on jump scares. (Despite all that, it sustained my interest.)

HIghlight and Low Point

I don’t think it’s out of the question that this pic could be read as being all in its protagonist’s mind – and indeed, it seems as though the filmmaker wants to encourage that suspicion with his prolific use of skewed or inverted camera angles. (Upside down equaling CRAZEE, etc.) The main character’s name is “Rose,” and when she finally meets the EVIL in its penultimate form, it looks a lot like “Marilyn Manson.” You can call that a coincidence, sure.

Rating From Outer Space: B−

Amityville II: The Possession (1982)

Directed by Damiano Damiani
Dino De Laurentiis Corporation

Ordinarily I have some inkling of how to start these pieces, but I confess, for this title I am somewhat at a loss. A prequel-of-sorts before such a thing became to a degree de rigueur for the horror film franchise – and not blameless in the rise of the horror film franchise itself, come to think of it – this ridiculous would-be epic shamelessly borrows from its, um, successor while also brazenly aping The Exorcist (or any of its already plentiful ripoffs). Along the way, it manages to toss in some hilarious disrespect to Church figures, the least believable courtroom scene since Night Court The Bonfire of the Vanities, a complicated incestuous relationship between siblings, spousal and child abuse, body horror, schlock FX, a priest kidnapping a patient from a hospital with police assistance, evil voice instructions, an “Indian burial ground,” and nearly everything else you could think of except red herrings and space aliens. An impressive accomplishment, really.

Why Did I Watch This MOvie?

I wish I could recall … something I was reading about another film led me to a synopsis of this one, and it provoked me. Because it sounded so lurid, I should add.


Should You Watch This MOvie?

It plays the way I figure a spoof of the “Scary Movie” ilk would. Fewer laffs, probably.


Highlight and Low Point

In what I can only term a dubiously satisfying twist, this picture’s fairly shameless imitation of possessed-person tropes from William Friedkin’s 1973 original offering is repaid fully by Exorcist III‘s borrowing of this flick’s jailhouse colloquies. Burt Young’s patriarch refers to the priest as “Priest,” as though it’s his name. At times, the house and “Sonny” seem simultaneously bewitched, enhancing the (everything-but-the) kitchen-sink undertakings. Kitchen sink included!

Rating From Outer Space:

The Blob (1988)

Directed by Chuck Russell
Palisades California, Inc.

This remake of the ’50s classic is not a horror comedy, and I don’t think I’d even describe it as being tongue-in-cheek, but at the same time, it’s not exactly a, you know, raw slice of life or anything of the sort. Diminishing somewhat its precursor’s contemporary Cold War setting for a more cynical view of the military-industrial complex – and right now I’m trying to remember what specifically in the late ’80s may have spawned the aspersions being cast herein – this picture does vividly evoke its era, at least for someone who was a teenager himself when it was made. (Perhaps the Eighties’ ongoing obsession with “The Fifties” was one reason this flick was produced.) And I enjoyed it about as much now as I did then, to boot. The foreboding ending even still carries portent in these throwback benighted times … unfortunately.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

One of the books I’m currently reading is It Came From The Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror; this film is one of the subjects of the essay “Indescribable” by contributor Carrow Narby. (“Of all the ‘classic’ monsters from folklore and film, the iconic blob monster never seems to get much attention as a queer figure, in scholarship or in popular media.”)

Should You Watch This Movie?

“Blobs are not queer incidentally. They are not queer simply because, through narrative contrivance, they might be associated with the destruction of heterosexual order, as in The Blob … The blob’s relationship to queerness is a product of its basic symbolic function.”

Highlight and Low Point

The essayist’s point is perhaps understandable given the archetypes proffered in this movie’s Americana: the football jocks, the wholesome cheerleader, the nuclear families, the longhaired punk, and so forth.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

La Dinastia Dracula aka Dracula ’87 aka La dinastía de Dracula aka Dynasty of Dracula aka Dynastie Dracula (1980)

Directed by Alfredo B. Crevenna
Co-Director Claudia Becker
Conacite Dos

You would be excused for thinking this flick is a parody, along the lines of 1979’s Love at First Bite, but although that isn’t actually the case, I hereby invite you to go ahead and enjoy it in that light anyway. Heaven knows you may not be able to otherwise enjoy this (copyrighted 1978) telenovela version of the same old Dracula mythos, transplanted here to Mexico. This time, the Count is German, for some reason, which is not reflected in his unaccented Spanish. The FX are repetitious and hilarious, the vampires suspiciously easy to defeat, and the subtitles occasionally provide nothing other than “?????” (Thanks to whoever provided them, though!) This is one case where the remarkably poor quality of the aged, digitized VHS copy only enhances the experience. Two things are unexpectedly, if not exactly surprisingly, missing: a blaring rock soundtrack and gratuitous (or any) nudity.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It sounded interesting enough, and I felt as though I’d been neglecting foreign horror offerings.


Should You Watch This Movie?

If you look for information about this production, you will encounter more than one comparison to monster films featuring Paul Naschy. Make of that what you must.

Highlight and Low Point

When the vampire is in “bat” form, the bat is not only obviously extremely fake but is accompanied by loud squeaking sounds, akin to those of a pet toy. When the vampire appears before a hapless victim, it’s behind a flash of flame. When the vampire bares his fangs, which he does often – and which are also obviously extremely fake – he … growls? hisses? In addition, “holy water” in this picture provides a multitude of results when it is sprinkled on various evil entities.

Rating From Outer Space: D−

Halloween Ends (2022)

Directed by David Gordon Green
Trancas International Films/Rough House Pictures/Universal Pictures/Miramax/Blumhouse

You remember in the remake of Friday the 13th how Jason had that underground lair? Well, Mikey Myers sorta has one of those in this idiotic picture, which additionally curries some Final Chapter/New Beginning zest. Which I guess is fitting, since this rebooted trilogy tried so hard to make “Michael” into J. Voorhees anyway. Most of Jamie Lee Curtis’s scenes are borderline unwatchable in this edition – allegedly the last of these, so we don’t have to pretend we’re interested anymore – and the voiceover narration of her (terrible) “book” is embarrassing. (Her minimal interactions with other cast members seem largely perfunctory as well.) Even for an endeavor that at best was going to be derivative and pandering, this release feels insipid, just one pat scene after another. And as usual, if you bother to think about any of it, it only gets dumber.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Title, date, obstinacy.

 
Should You Watch This MOvie?

The afternoon of the 31st, I listened to the Dead Kennedys album Plastic Surgery Disasters, in tribute to recently deceased drummer D.H. Peligro, because it contains the song “Halloween.” Coincidentally, a bar-party scene in this film features the two main characters dancing to that very same song.

Highlight and Low Point

I presume the (FOUR!) “writers” didn’t intend any anti-bullying message, especially given the namby-pamby transference BS they include. Reconfiguring the whole conceit of “The Shape” may be a halfway decent idea, or it just may be my transposition of their muddle. That Mike is something of an enfeebled afterthought here could be considered incisive commentary on the bogeyman-as-cipher … but isn’t played that way. The bottom line remains: no matter how thin you slice it, it’s still baloney.

Rating From Outer Space: D−

The Cave (2005)

Directed by Bruce Hunt
Lakeshore Entertainment/City Productions/Cineblue

Trying to decide how to introduce this silly wannabe-blockbuster action thriller, I realized I should just state the facts: I decided to watch The Cave precisely because I knew what I could expect to get from the experience. See, I was in the mood for a fair-to-middling production with a “Hollywood” feel, by which I mean an affair so divorced from any actual identifiable reality that its viewer can just comfortably settle in with the stock setup and characters, and soak up the stupid. Striving for mediocrity, The Cave did its job admirably – perhaps too much so, as it barely recovered production costs after factoring in global revenues.

Now, when I try to describe what I had been seeking, let me allow Wikipedia to contribute its description of the cast of characters: “thrill seeking professional cave explorers who run a world famous scuba diving team” (sic). Set in Romania, under an ancient church, the Knights Templar … nah, never mind that, the script barely bothers anyway. Concentrate instead on the mysterious “parasite” that transforms its host into some sorta Species. Because ultimately what this flick brought to mind was the 1995 movie with that as its title.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I wasn’t in the mood for Halloween Ends.


Should You Watch This Movie?

Much as I once compared a clumsy example of an ’80s teen-kill picture to comfort food, I’d halfheartedly endorse this vehicle of dunderhead escapism … if it were, say, as good as The Descent.

HIghlight and Low Point

I found the creatures inhabiting THE cave to be prosaic, at least once they were fully visible. I would also quibble with the biological processes allegedly on display, but I’d like to retain a shred of dignity.

Rating From Outer Space: c−