Invaders From Mars (1986)

Directed by TOBE HOOPER
Golan-Globus

Surprisingly entertaining despite some significant drawbacks – chief among them the extremely subpar performance of the lead child actor and some pacing/editing issues – this remake of a 1950s film I haven’t seen showcases director Tobe Hooper’s flair for understated comedic touches, although as usual I have less than no use for the references, homages, and tips of the cap to other movies and/or genres and/or directors. (Which is why I only know about them from online “research.”) What little plot there is – Martians think a NASA/SETI launch is an invasion, so they travel to Earth to preempt it – largely managed to evade my notice, as the few moments of expository dialogue aren’t exactly Pulitzer material. Decent creature and FX work abound, alongside some dependable B-movie performances from the likes of Karen Black, Louise Fletcher and James Karen. Incidentally, the hints of creeping/creepy conformity would in the original have predated those in Invasion of the Body Snatchers by several years.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I’ve always heard that this was an above-average offering, especially given its somewhat dubious provenance.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Sure, if you’d like to relive the experience of watching a network television “Movie of the Week” or late-night basic cable.

Highlight and Low Point

The FX really are fairly exemplary, notwithstanding the somewhat absurdist design of the majority of the Martians themselves. Hunter Carson is a severe detraction (if not distraction) as David Gardner, though in his defense, he was 10 when the film was released and his mother’s also in the cast. (That being Karen Black, who plays the credulous school nurse.) I mean, look, it’s a Cannon Films remake of a 1950s B movie. That statement more or less sums up the overall experience.

Rating From Outer Space: B

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

Directed by Jason Reitman
Columbia Pictures/Bron Creative/The Montecito Picture Company

Okay, I swear to Gozer the Gozerian that I was all set to praise this feature’s overbearing multiculturalism in a smarmy, backhanded manner, by snarking that it was a shame they couldn’t find a way to shoehorn a trans character into the mix, because that would have been the ultimate triumph of this era/age … but after I watched it, I found out that Celeste O’Connor, the performer portraying Finn Wolfhard’s (nonwhite) potential love interest, identifies as non-binary, so scratch that – Afterlife wins after all. Oh, and it’s acceptable as a movie, too, despite – as noted elsewhere – basically devolving into a reprise of the original, and despite its suspicious paucity of, you know, ghosts. Plus, since I don’t pay much careful attention to entertainment media, I was surprised when Ray, Peter and Winston showed up to do battle. (That was far from the worst “franchise”-related pandering the producers did, but more on that in a bit.)

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Man, I was 11 when the original came out. It was an immense cultural phenomenon (as noted by this flick’s script, which treats it like documentary footage).


Should You Watch This Movie?

It’s better than Ghostbusters II. Make of that what you will.


Highlight and Low Point

Seriously, the fan service herein reaches the point where it ceases to be evocative of actual audience identification and instead seemingly exists only to assure said audience that fan service is included in the package. It’s not as incestuous as the Spider-Man ouroboros (or that of Star Wars) … but this is just one picture. As for inclusion, Spengler’s granddaughter is depicted as being “on the spectrum.” Meanwhile, the Asian stererotype kid’s only given name is “Podcast.” That’s progress.

Rating From Outer Space: B

to all a GOODNIGHT (1980)

Directed by David Hess
Intercontinental Worldwide Distributing Corporation/Four Features Partners

Utterly disjointed, this train wreck of a prototype slasher flick is somehow largely enjoyable, albeit mainly on dubious grounds. A gaggle of coeds and their imported beaux are being slaughtered for Some Reason by an Unknown Assailant – who the viewer knows is dressed as Santa Claus. The initial reveal is no surprise, but the SHOCKING twist that immediately follows is … actually fairly unexpected. Most of the killings are absurdly unconvincing, the gore as well, and trying to keep abreast of the film’s botched continuity is an ongoing challenge. (The distinct majority of the acting, meanwhile, is on par with the gore and the killings.) The “action” drags significantly as the conclusion nears, to boot. Still and all, fans of dreck should be delighted.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Well, it was Christmas week. (I’m a little behind.) I was pointed in this direction by The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies by Peter Normanton, but this is as good a place as any to point out that director Hess (of The Last House on the Left repute) also co-wrote and recorded a song called
“Speedy Gonzalez” (among other lesser creations).


Should You Watch This Movie?

Not if you persist in considering a lack of redeeming qualities a detriment.


Highlight and Low Point

The story holds that the original version of this picture available on VHS featured that time-honored pitfall of low-budget terror, scenes that are too dark to be able to discern what may or may not be occurring (such as in, say, Island of Blood, for just one pertinent example). That is not a problem in the Blu-ray release, which brandishes an unfettered “day for night” technique that doesn’t even bother with the pretense.

Rating From Outer Space: D+

Don’t Open Till Christmas (1984)

Directed by Edmund Purdom
Additional scenes written and directed by Al McGoohan
Spectacular International Films

Wow, here’s a distressed downer of a flick for ya. I know, I know, a Christmas-themed slasher that’s a downer? What a sorry state of affairs. Not unlike Christmas Evil in its backstory – and to be honest, not unlike dozens of other horror films in that backstory, either, except for the “Santa Claus” angle – this London-based film gives you a lot of disheveled or otherwise distasteful Santas, some cheesy killings, a little T ‘n’ A, and few survivors. Plus some 1984 British Punks stealing a drunken Santa’s bicycle. The filmmakers (at least three directors at various times!) don’t seem to invest a whole lot in any of the red herrings, and overall there’s kind of a lack of urgency about the whole affair. It’s not half bad, though, even if it does meander a bit too much.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It was the yuletide, so I was duty-bound … although I see I apparently never posted a review of the exemplary Black Christmas, so I’ll have to rectify that eventually.

Should You Watch This Movie?

This flick’s credits include ‘Experience’ Santa Claus, Theatre Santa Claus, Dungeon Santa Claus, Store Santa Claus, Market Santa Claus, Drunken Santa Claus, Circus Santa Claus, Circus Santa Claus (yes, two), and “Santa Claus in car.” They all seem kinda grubby, as does everything else in the picture.

Highlight and Low Point

I appreciated the scene that takes place within the London Dungeon tourist trap, serving as it does as a kind of signifier of the genre’s lingua franca. (Hey, one can semioticize anything, should one wish to do so.) A scene wherein a lonely middle-aged Herbert visits a peep show confers an incongruous subtlety.

Rating From Outer Space: C+

Innocent Blood (1992)

Directed by John Landis
Lee Rich PRoductions

It’s a good thing I’ve recently reviewed a couple other productions that engendered my wondering about classifications or motivations, because they may have helped prepare me for this doozy. Part vampire flick, part mob/police drama, part comedy of manners, part romcom, Blood is hampered sporadically by an insistence on hammering home its farcical elements, but this Pittsburgh-set tale of an ancient huntress and the special agent who stumbles onto her trail after infiltrating the local crime family is highly rewarding at times, too. It’s also drenched in frankly unintimidating gore, liberally sprinkled with nudity and “sexual situations,” and its most assaultive moment features Don Rickles meeting his fate. All in all, It is somewhat hard to envision why or how the producers thought this endeavor would be successful. (Note: it very much wasn’t.) Oh, and there’s a recurring motif of famous monsters of filmland being screened in various locales, along with cameos or other appearances from revered horror directors.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Somebody mentioned it in an online discussion of something completely unrelated, and I felt compelled to look into it due to that commenter’s unbridled enthusiasm.

Should You Watch This Movie?

It IS basically a farce, so if you feel like watching a bloody, violent farce about vampires and the mob, you’re all set.


Highlight and Low Point

Anne Parillaud commands attention throughout this romp, and not just because she’s frequently unclothed and her accent is inviting. Her character, Marie, probably deserved a more compelling vehicle, one absent some of this affair’s more cartoonish elements. That may be a shade too critical a stance, but this flick doesn’t seem focused enough to know what it’s trying to achieve, and frequently undercuts itself to boot.

Rating From Outer Space: C+

Claw (2021)

Directed by Gerald Rascionato
Just ONE More Productions/The Adventurers Club/Exit Strategy Productions

A tough offering to judge, given its brevity (barely over an hour) and its clear, uh … evolution … as a minimally cast mini-feature – by which I mean, normally I’d presume such choices were made to keep costs low, but there’s a lotta FX necessitated by the plot, which I can’t imagine being all that cheap. They don’t look particularly cheap, you dig, and I am ordinarily no fan whatsoever of CGI and its affiliated chintz. Overall, this is a fairly impressive featurette, with the strongest evidence of its “highly independent” …  nature … being the dialogue too often presenting as just exactly that. (A script being performed, that is, rather than the output of naturally occurring conversation.) And as you may have guessed from my lame hints – or if you’ve seen the trailer or any of the promotional materials, such as the poster pictured here – this film is centered around a large, dangerous creature that is not exactly appropriately situated in a modern setting.

Okay, fine, it’s a dinosaur.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

The trailer executed its function well, apparently.



Should you Watch This Movie?

You’ve probably got a spare hour or so.


Highlight and Low Point

This film’s biggest drawback was that I found myself thinking, “you know, there’s only three or four people in this to save money for the FX” and so forth. Granted, that didn’t exactly take me out of the moment or anything – it’s not as though reality was at issue. Characters and raptor alike are cleverly envisioned and deftly handled, and the endeavor succeeds without gore, nudity or crudity. That’s pretty remarkable, honestly. What appears to be a very amateurish false ending leads to a slightly predictable conclusion.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

Wolfen (1981)

Directed by Michael Wadleigh
A King-Hitzig Production

For years, I managed to remain confused as to whether I’d seen this (werewolf) picture, because in my mind I eternally conflated it with The Howling. (It didn’t help that both were released the same year.) Usually, I managed to clear up my confusion by remembering that “Howling” has Dee Wallace in it, and that’s the one I’d actually seen. Yet I still wondered if I’d ever watched this flick, so I decided to lay that question to rest. Turns out I’d never seen it. Turns out it isn’t even about werewolves! Turns out it’s a bit unclear exactly what kind of movie it is, but I can tell you it involves “Indians,” hotchpotch Native American mythologisms, wolves, some prescient Homeland Security-type apparatus, domestic and international terrorism, an NYPD detective who’s British and pairs up with a heavily armed police psychologist, a weirdo who works at the zoo, and I’m probably forgetting some other stuff. To sum up: if you’re not sure you’ve seen it … you haven’t.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I just “explained” that!



Should You Watch This Movie?

Not if you’re looking for werewolves.


H
ighlight and Low Point

The main “Indian” character is played by Edward James Olmos, which is at least somewhat curious given that many Native Americans are employed in bit parts or small supporting roles. The terrorism subplot seems really incidental. The wolves wind up being arbitrarily selective about their victims, and the alpha is pure white, although if that was explained, I missed it. Allegedly, the ruined church was built and destroyed just for this production, which seems insanely wasteful given what’s revealed by the actual footage of the South Bronx environs. The “wolfen,” uh, POV segments are … idiosyncratic.

Rating From Outer Space: C

Black Friday (2021)

Directed by Casey Tebo
MFW Manufacturing/Warner Davis Company

I selected this picture because it figured to be light entertainment, and because it was appropriately holiday-themed … and when you set your aim that low, it isn’t hard to hit your target. I mean, presuming the target is also low – which in this case, it was. Laid-back for the most part – I mean, considering it concerns devastating destruction visited upon a toy store – and somewhat reminiscent of The Banana Splits Movie, it doesn’t feature anything visceral enough to make it too interesting. It isn’t particularly scary, or bloody, or funny, despite the presence of Bruce Campbell as a retail lifer. I guess if anything is supposed to be its calling card, it’s the “revelatory” exchange of personal information among staffers deciding how to cope with their situation. Ironically – given the tension among the employees and the setting – it does its job. I guess.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

As you may be aware, I relish the opportunity to watch holiday-themed horror flix at their designated times – and I watched this Thanksgiving week, despite my tardiness in posting this review. It’s been a time, I’ll just say. (Just for the record, I wrote the entry for Halloween Kills on October 17.)

Should you Watch This Movie?

I mean, there aren’t a lotta Thanksgiving-centered horrors.


Highlight and Low Point

Does ripping off the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man count as a highlight? Here’s the deal: this picture isn’t terrible, but the best thing I can say about it is that it’s suitable for those occasions where you don’t want to be too engaged in anything. It’s just sorta there, and once again I find myself wondering how anyone decided it was worth the effort to produce something with such little resonance.

Rating From Outer Space: D+

Halloween Kills (2021)

Directed by David Gordon Green
BLUMHOUSE PRODUCTIONS/MIRAMAX/TRANCAS INTERNATIONAL FILMS/ROUGH HOUSE PICTURES/Home Again Productions

I don’t really have anything positive to say about this picture, so let’s go ahead and make that one fact nice and sparkling clear. What I have, instead, is what may pass for a philosophical question, especially within the realm of a blog dedicated to horror flicks. See, as you may remember, the most recent reboot of this hoary franchise reestablished what constitutes “canon” from amongst the many, many different films that have borne the titular holiday’s name. Thus, in essence, THIS chapter is now part 3, supplanting “Season of the Witch” – which, of course, never fit the storyline as imagined beginning with the first “Halloween II,” a storyline which continued in Halloweens 4 and 5, and on into installments 6 (“The Curse of Michael Myers”), 7 (“H20”) and 8 (“Resurrection”). Now, none of those movies are supposed to count any longer, and yet, in the eternal name of fan service, this flick is littered with flashbacks and referents to … most of them, apparently. You figure out what that’s supposed to “mean,” especially in the context of yet another unimaginative rendition of a generic slasher, one whose most notable accomplishment is transmogrifying “Michael Myers” almost completely into “Jason Voorhees.” Almost makes one want to reconsider Rob Zombie’s take on the reboot-sequel thing. (Almost.)


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Desperation to procrastinate.



Should You Watch This MOvie?

Don’t be foolish.


Highlight and Low Point

That “philosophical question” I alluded to earlier is, basically, how can one invoke that which has been officially erased? Shouldn’t that negate the existence of this very production? (Judging by the results, it does!) Another variant: why bother rebooting something if you’re just going to make it worse, and stupider besides? What’s to gain?

Rating From Outer Space: D−

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−