Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers (1992)

Directed by Mick Garris
Ion Pictures/Victor & Grais

In case you thought the problem with movies made from S. King novels and stories was the difficulty in translating to the silver screen either their length and heft (IT, The Stand, The Dead Zone, etc.) or their sometimes dodgy supernatural motifs (Christine, say), I have bad news to report. This budget B flick was written FOR the cinema, not adapted from a story, and it, too, has some serious issues preventing it from being taken very seriously. I’m not even talking about the $2 FX, either, although those don’t help out a whole lot. And I’m not even talking about the army of darling kittycats that wind up being the main oppositional force to the, um … the quasi-vampire things. (Diehard King aficionados, oops, I mean “Constant Readers,” will recognize the energy-sucking conceit later employed by Doc Sleep.) Hack director Mick Garris – King’s handpicked fave – takes a tale with promise and lets it devolve into gimcrackery over its latter third. Consider (blame) the source, I guess.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Cats and the oeuvre of Stephen King: two things for which I have a soft spot in my heart (if not my head).


Should You Watch This Movie?

Look, I just don’t know what to tell you. I mean, I watched Stephen King’s The Night Flier, too, you know.


Highlight and Low Point

My notes for this picture – yes, really – include that the “deputy sheriff” cruises around happily singing Garry Lee and Showdown’s immortal “The Rodeo Song,” which I first heard about from a friend in, like,  fifth grade, disbelieving such a song could really exist until he proved it. My notes also indicate that apparently one can blow up a cop car by merely shooting it.

Rating From Outer Space: C−

Pale Blood (1990)

Directed By V.V. Dachin Hsu
Noble Entertainment Group

I was completely shocked when the credits rolled on this baby and the copyright read “1990” … though perhaps that’s just the result of my own myopia. See, Agent Orange is in this film, for no particular reason that I can discern, and since the tunes they’re playing are all from their 1986 release This Is The Voice, I presumed it was a little older. (To be fair, it was lensed in ’88.) In a way, that only heightens the weirdness of this little oddity, a vampire flick with several shifts in motive and narration (and incrimination) – one of which was completely unforeseen, at least for me. This was apparently a straight-to-video picture, which makes sense when viewed from the perspective of its production values, but doesn’t much jibe with its fairly accomplished narrative. (In its own way, it’s a hardboiled noir story – just with, you know, immortal bloodsuckers.) I could see this film having been fairly successful with a few alterations and a big-screen existence. Of course, Agent Orange probably wouldn’t have been involved then.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Although I dearly love the early portion of Agent Orange’s career, this was just a happy accident – another one from that endless Internet Archive vid haul.



Should You Watch This Movie?

Even if late-’80s nostalgia doesn’t interest or inspire you, it’s worth a look-see. I don’t even think you’d necessarily have to be all that impressed by vampires, though it couldn’t hurt.


Highlight and Low Point

The tone of this picture varies unpredictably, as it contains significant amounts of basically deadpan humor interspersed with dismal pathos and the like. Wings Hauser’s filmmaker character contributes to the furtive ’80s vibe, and Hong Kong apparently stands in for L.A. at times.

Rating from Outer Space: B

M.D.C – Maschera di cera aka La Máscara de Cera aka The Wax Mask (1997)

directed by sergio stivaletti
Cine 2000/mediaset/france film international

Dedicated to Lucio Fulci by its production team, due to some convoluted backstory (“Dario Argento Presenta”), this very mannered extravaganza boasts a visual sheen not quite in keeping with its turn-of-the-20th-century period setting, and spins a tale that, while engaging enough as it unspools, is somewhat undermined by a gaggle of absurdities at its center. The enigma that compels it doesn’t stay very mysterious for very long, despite the labored attempts by virtually everyone in the cast to vamp it up as much as possible, and the sumptuous costuming is somewhat hilariously at odds with what one must term the futurism at its core. (Were one inclined to be unkind, it could be called anachronistic, but as it’s a horror fable, what would even be the point.) At heart, it’s just kind of silly, another victim of the genre’s inability to stop rewriting stories that weren’t that interesting the first time around. See, it takes place in a WAX MUSEUM, would you believe. And what’s more!

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I’d have to guess at this point, but it’s most likely the release date, and maybe the intrigue underlying its production. (Argento wanted to help Fulci make a film, but Fulci died before filming began.)


Should You Watch This Movie?

It’s nearly interesting at times.


Highlight and Low Point

Despite its efforts, this production doesn’t do a very effective job of making it appear to be 1900 – it is too obvious that you are looking at sets and costumes. (The steampunk Re-Animator setup doesn’t much help in that regard, either.) The gore and pseudogore FX are pretty good, befitting the nominal director’s usual professional pursuits. The absurdly blatant ripoff of The Terminator, on the other hand …

Rating From Outer Space: C−

Dead Girls (1990)

Directed by Dennis Devine
Bovine Productions

The type of movie that’s all about an obviously atrocious “band” – dreamt up by someone who clearly has no idea how things do or don’t work in the music industry – but doesn’t feature a single moment of the “band” performing or practicing (or even any of their alleged music), this substandard wannabe slasher flick features a confused mulligatawny of checklist concepts but little in the way of convincing thespians, believable script or acceptable motivations. I will give it credit for the very unexpected ending – especially coming as it does after nearly two hours of a story that really feels as though the author kept thinking, “okay, this sort of thing happens in horror movies,” only to continually revise his opus because it just didn’t feature enough broadly sketched stock roles. Absurdly unbelievable, by which I mean “unrealistic,” in whatever sense you care to interpret that.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Some nefarious individual posted literally hundreds and hundreds of hours of videotaped movies to the Internet Archive, almost none of which seemed to have registered culturally – like, say, this one. I culled all the horror and horror-adjacent titles, and this is the first one I chose to “enjoy.”

Should You Watch this Movie?

I mean, I suppose it could convince you that you could make a movie, too! Why not!


HIghlight and Low Point

Not only do the Dead Girls have ridiculous names – Nancy Napalm, Bertha Beirut, etc. – only one of them looks as though she might ever consider being in any sort of band at all. Their manager is an offensive caricature, and Asian, though how much those factors are related is theoretically debatable. The “religious” angle seemed farcical, though I’m no longer so sure these days.

Rating From Outer Space: D−

The Clown at Midnight (1998)

directed by Jean Pellerin
GFT/Paquin Entertainment

Purely by chance, this Canadian flick has Christopher Plummer in it (“and Christopher Plummer as Caruthers,” as his special mention warrants); I watched it shortly before he died, but I’ve been more than a little remiss posting anything lately (as you may have noticed), so I’m just trying to play ketchup here. So … there’s a collegiate acting troupe that inherits/inhabits an old theater, which just happened to be the site of an unsolved mystery involving its star opera performer … who, coincidentally enough, turns out to have been the mother of one of the students involved. (Imagine!) The death occurred following the final performance of Pagliacci, and, you know, the lore, and the urban legend, and the haunted performance space, and the deaths. You’ll probably be able to suss out most of the story before it ends, and as usual, it will help not to dwell too much upon it afterward.

why did i watch this movie?

Seriously, the title caught my eye, because it sounded odd. (“Clown at Midnight?” I wondered.) Then I saw it was Canadian, and I’m always for some reason interested in films of such origin. I suppose the credit “and Margot Kidder as Ellen Gibby” may also shed some light.

should you watch this movie?

It is really, really, really intent on breaking no new ground.

highlight and low point

A character or two has an almost-interesting quirk or two, and a not-insignificant portion of the underlying story might nag at you due to its inadmissibility. Or at least, it should, because … sheesh. I don’t wish to give away too much of the “plot,” but you will seriously begin questioning how the production team had the gall to stick with its story, so to speak.

Rating From Outer Space: C+

Mute Witness (1995)

written and directed by anthony waller
a buchman/claus/soentgen/waller production

A suspense-driven exercise in communication problems, this picture is in Russian and English, and its title character spends a lot of its duration desperately trying to stay a step or two ahead of what appear to be some murderous thugs and maybe a criminal conspiracy. Ah, but see, the main players here are all working on a film set, and can you really trust what you’re seeing? Or whether people really are who they say they are? Et cetera. Mordantly funny at times, and a little better than it deserved to be. Maybe the language barrier(s) helped?

why did i watch this movie?

The time-honored setup of the observer of a crime who cannot for one reason or another convince anyone what she’s seen, along with a recurring trend often encountered here of late, ye olde picture-within-a-picture gimmick, I suppose.

should you watch this movie?

It’s a bit of an oddball take, really, but the blurbs aren’t lying – there are extended moments of high suspense throughout. Past a certain point, exactly what the bad guys are up to gets a little unnecessarily complicated, but that’s hardly the focus anyway.

highlight and low point

I’ll tell ya what’s NOT a highlight, trying to determine who’s responsible for these multi-studio, triple-nation co-productions. The differing methods of connection used within, however, are kinda fascinating. Marina Zudina’s portrayal of a deaf-mute  is pretty convincing, at least as far as I could tell. (I was not actually comparing it with the deaf actors in either Soul to Keep or A Quiet Place, or even those playing deaf-mutes in the dialogue-free Mercury, but was instead weighing it against Jennifer Jason Leigh’s blind character in Eyes of a Stranger. Don’t ask me why.)

rating from outer space: B+

Frankenhooker (1990)

directed by frank henenlotter
ievins/henenlotter

Sometime in the ’80s, someone had the following idea for a movie: “So this guy, he’s, like, a science nerd, and his girlfriend gets chopped up by this souped-up remote-control lawnmower he rigs up for her dad, see, and then he invents supercrack and explodes a bunch of prostitutes and uses their body parts to, uh, make a new body for his dead girlfriend’s head, which he’s kept in this … estrogen-rich fluid.” When people lament the elements of life that “cancel culture” and its devotees are out to deny us, they’re forgetting that creations on the order of this one would be among those deprivations. And while we’d inarguably be poorer for lack of hybrids of films like Re-Animator and those released by Troma, the most commendable feature here is that it’s played more or less straight-faced, with a matter-of-fact tone, despite the increasingly ludicrous scriptwriting. (“There wasn’t enough left of you to fry an egg with” was a particular favorite line.) I dunno if exploitative sleaze is really that crucial a societal component.

why did i watch this movie?

It occurred to me that I’d somehow skipped this essential cinematic experience. I think I used to confuse it with other flicks, none of which seemed all that compelling.

should you watch this movie?

It’s fairly diverting, though it does seem pretty dated. Then again, it was proffered under the Shapiro Glickenhaus entertainment banner.

highlight and low point

If the pimp, “Zorro,” isn’t where the creators of Aqua Teen Hunger Force got the inspiration for “Carl,” well … that’s some sorta implication of a terrifying convergence. Main character Jeffrey’s plainspoken yet unhinged manner is oddly endearing, though you may have questions about his self-trepanation. Body horror – and perhaps gynophobia – ultimately reigns.

rating from outer space: B

The Night Flier aka Stephen King’s The Night Flier (1997)

directed by Mark Pavia
New Amsterdam Entertainment™ Incorporated/Stardust International Ltd./Medusa Film S.p.A

Based on an S. King short story I hadn’t read – it’s in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, the titles of which mainly don’t ring a bell, with the exception of “You Know They Got a Hell of a Band,” which I recall detesting – this archetypal B movie was financed by European concerns and tells a tale of Richard Dees and the tabloid “Inside View,” both names I will go ahead and presume you recall from The Dead Zone, by which I mean the novel, not the dreadful film adaptation directed by David Cronenberg and starring Christopher Walken. The titular “flier” – and why the heck isn’t it “flyer,” anyway? – is a vampire airman going by the meta name “Dwight Renfield.” That’s it, that’s the story. With oh-so-subtle parallels drawn to the journalistic pursuit of. Some form of the twist ending you will likely foresee.

why did i watch this movie?

I wasn’t feeling the two pictures that formerly had been slated, possibly as a result of having just watched all nine “Episodes” of the Skywalker Saga triple trilogy, but I WAS in the mood for something based on the timeless works of S. King. The Under the Dome series wasn’t doing it for me and I had yet to discover the three seasons of Mr. Mercedes, so I went with this.


should you watch this movie?

If you’re an I’m-fine-sticking-with-basic-cable-and-terrestrial-channels type, go for it.

highlight and low point

The climactic scenes are pretty gratifying, especially given how ridiculous the vampire looks when finally we see its face. Some subsequent action even manages to atone for that. The rest is pretty standard low-budget middle-of-the-road mild
horror. It’s more of a character study, really …
which, you know, S. King.

rating from outer space: b−

Shock ‘Em Dead (1991)

directed by mark freed
noma productions

It wasn’t until I’d finished this redoubtable inanity that it occurred to me that “1991” seemed to be an inaccurate release date. Surely, I thought, it must’ve been filmed years earlier and languished until it found a video-shelf release date. Allegedly, however, it was committed to celluloid in 1990. Well, these folks must have been living in a wormhole or something, because it sure looks and sounds a lot more like 1988 or so. Splitting hairs, you might think – but wait until you see the fright wig “Angel” sports. “Angel,” of course, for some reason wants to join a horrible band with a singer wearing Richard Simmons’ castoff outfits, so he makes a deal with a voodoo queen (!) to become a demonic guitar hero or some such. Traci Lords plays the non-bimbo in the cast, and all you readers of “Hit Parader” from ye olden daze will be delighted to know that “Michael Angelo” is the stunt stand-in for all the SHREDDING. This is purportedly the last role on the long downslope of the career of blogfriend Aldo Ray.

why did i watch this movie?

It sounded stupid as hell. But how, I wondered, would it match up with, say, Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare or Black Roses, or even Rocktober Blood? And do I need a new hobby, or what?


should you watch this movie?

Somehow, someway, it’s actually watchable – acceptable, even. Maybe it’s even more tongue-in-cheek than it seems. Maybe it’s that self-aware. The songs, unfortunately (?), don’t actually approximate the hair era’s so-called “metal.”

highlight and low point

The production values basically don’t exist at all, though we are treated to green glowing eyes at times of … uh, manifestation. The band members cannot act, at all. The period decorations are choice.

rating from outer space: B+

Mimic (1997)

directed by guillermo del toro
miramax films

Now that I know this is a Guillermo Del Toro production – I mean, now that I know who that is, as I didn’t when I first saw this film – it seems so obvious. The bugs, the labyrinthine depths, the hokum religiosity, the brooding shadows. And the heaviness. Everything’s so portentous, all the time. But when you’re dealing with hybrid mutant DNA experiments threatening the very existence of man – nay, humankind – I guess that’s allowed. So come on, let’s get metaphysical. Personally, I always enjoy it when movies take advantage of the legendary lost/abandoned/forgotten/secret NYC subway stations. It’s like its own Atlantean fable at this point. But anyway, Mira Sorvino plays an entomologist who something something something the CDC and uh-oh now there’s a Rob Bottin creature creation. And a bit of a wannabe action flick besides.

why did i watch this movie?

As has been a burgeoning mini-theme lately, I saw this in the theater BITD, and had been meaning to recontemplate it ever since I screened that other Del Toro picture.

should you watch this movie?

It’s nothing too memorable, really.
(Hell, I didn’t even remember THAT.)

highlight and low point

Flimflam “science” is always good for a laff, and there’s a moment or two where the shivers might get to you, but overall this is kind of a trudge through the mundane … which is sorta remarkable, given that it concerns bioengineered insects that can convincingly portray people. Ms. Sorvino does not come across as a terribly convincing entomologist, though I will admit, I haven’t met any to whom I can compare her. The very final moments of touching humanity in this film are fraudulently cloying postproduction dubs. This version was the “director’s cut,” which okay, sure.

rating from outer space: C