IT Chapter Two (2019)

directed by andy muschietti
new line cinema/vertigo entertainment/katzsmith productions/rideback

You may know that this picture hit theaters right about the time S. King’s latest bestselling novel, The Institute, hit bookstore shelves. I had been unaware of the new book until basically its release day, when I read it immediately. (Naturally.) And despite the fact that it lifts its basic premise almost entirely from season one of Stranger Things (and sure, that premise isn’t dissimilar to the one King presented in Firestarter, but he has been enjoying revisiting old themes of late), it’s a pretty good read. King slacks off a bit in the latter half, where character development gets a much shorter shrift than he ever would’ve cottoned to in his prime, and the ending wraps up a little too neatly, especially for a guy whose tendency to punt the ending is lampooned in the latest movie based on one of his works. (This one, that is.) But it’s better than The Outsider, and it’s better than Sleeping Beauties, and it’s better than the Bill Hodges trilogy, and it’s better than The Revival, and it’s less ridiculous than Dr. Sleep and  … well, it’s not better than Joyland.

As for this flick, it’s nearly three (3!) hours long.

why did i watch this movie?

I’d seen the first installment.

should you watch this movie?

First ask yourself what you stand to gain from that choice. Then do something else instead.

highlight and low point

A partial list of drawbacks hampering this production includes overreliance on lousy CGI, jump scares, and emoting, and the alterations to the source text don’t help anything. The unbearably tedious and hackneyed ending is also tremendously anticlimactic, which is, uh, ironic(?), given the script’s aforementioned allusions to the terrible endings of “Bill’s” movies.

rating from outer space: F

the sign says it all

Bloodbath at the House of Death (1984)

directed by ray cameron
wildwood productions

This intermittently amusing English spoof may well have struck me funnier were I British, or approximately 10 years old. (I believe you call an affair such as this one a “broad farce.”) The production is rife with personalities and/or characters that did not resonate with me, and the less said about much of its sense of humour, the better. That being said, it had its good points, with Vincent Price’s absurdly campy centuries-old malevolent priest being a particular highlight. Although a few gags are repeated until maddening, and the overall story – once it eventually (almost) coheres – appears to belie its original aim, this film might hold dimwitted appeal to fans of … lowbrow British television. Not really my spot of tea.

why did i watch this movie?

By now you know I will watch anything with a title such as this.

should you watch this movie?

Anglophiles might enjoy placing the various performers in context of their larger careers, I guess.

highlight and low point

Vincent Price’s initial monologue is so delightfully overwrought it surpasses parody and becomes a true work of comic art; indeed, it is hilarious enough a moment that it sustained me throughout the rest of the film, which is largely lazy and witless. A few other vignettes – an S&M-tinged religious flashback and a scene involving phantom sex among them – are curious enough to add further impetus to the viewing urge, but even the more successful tropes feel halfhearted at times, and a handful of random contemporary allusions (among them Star Wars and E.T. ) either feel misguided, serve little purpose, or frankly are just kind of baffling. Oh, and the ending curries (sorry) more than a bit of a Rocky Horror vibe as well.

Rating from outer space: D+

“ha, ha, very droll”

Nightmare aka Nightmare(s) in a Damaged Brain (1981)

written and directed by romano scavolini
goldmine productions inc.

Despite some questionable casting choices and unconvincing acting in several minor roles, this curiosity is actually a serious study of derangement and childhood trauma, murderous impulses and psychosis, a story of a mental patient who escapes and heads south. Grisly and graphic, it features a helluva shock early on and never settles much into complacency. Unfortunately, the saga drags a bit as it proceeds, especially when it focuses on the obnoxious children of a dysfunctional family. (Mom is little better.) The ending is unnecessarily confusing, especially as it shouldn’t be, due to an inexplicable – and uncharacteristic – refusal to let the camera linger.

why did i watch this movie?

Notorious in its day, it fit a bunch of my usual touchstones.

should you watch this movie?

“You lose a dangerously psychotic patient from a secret experimental drug program, and all you can say is ‘I’m sorry’? … Paul, you believed in these drugs and – you rebuilt this man and you did put him back out on the street, but now –he’s out there killing people, and we can’t have that.”

highlight and low point

The insanely over-the-top initial murder scene has to top this list, but many other aspects of this production might jostle for position. Baird Stafford’s portrayal of the disturbed lead is unsettling, one particular murder is disconcertingly realistic, and the director doesn’t scrimp on now-amusing portrayals of computer analysis OR graphic shots of female pudenda. (Times Square peep shows.) The lines quoted above are spoken by a character played by the producer, so perhaps unsurprisingly, the production paradox rules here: one might think this film would have been better were it more professionally accomplished, but any such consideration probably would have denatured it too much.

rating from outer space: B−

Nattevagten aka Nightwatch (1994)

written and directed by ole Bornedal
thura film/danish film institute/danmarks radio

This melodramatic Norwegian thriller unspools very slowly, a study of the intertwined and dissipated lives of two college friends and their girlfriends. Martin, a law student, takes a late-night watchman’s job in a mortuary; his friend Jens seems mainly intent on drinking and causing problems. Meanwhile, a killer’s on the loose. INTERESTING, isn’t it. Little development of the story takes place until very late, at which point we are intended to wonder which of the main characters we are supposed to distrust. The requisite twist is effective enough, as it’s nurtured and revealed with subtlety, and it’s only somewhat after the fact that one realizes one could drive a goddamn truck through the very significant hole in the plot. The movie ends in laughter – on the screen, I mean; it has a happy ending. Bornedal remade it three years later in English.

why did i watch this movie?

This is yet another title I’ve mulled over many a time. I went ahead with it because it’s a ’90s production, and from Scandinavia.

should you watch this movie?

This is not the film to watch if you demand a lot of exciting action, though eventually significant unease does mount.

highlight and low point

An excruciatingly uncomfortable scene in a restaurant bests a similarly embarrassing moment in a church, and the unraveling of the mystery at the picture’s heart is downplayed to such an extent that its solution is presented in a winningly matter-of-fact sequence. Wondrously anticlimactic, it is. In the main role, Nikolaj Coster Waldau did not impress me much as a thespian. I mentioned the inexplicable plot issue, which is nearly as bad as the one that derailed the otherwise excellent Haute tension in 2003.

rating from outer space: B−

La notte che Evelyn uscì dalla Tomba aka The night Evelyn came out of the grave (1971)

directed by emilio p. miraglia
phoenix cinematografica roma s.p.a.

I don’t know about you, but with a title like this one, I found myself expecting a shoddily filmed 76-minute exploitation picture about vengeful undead … so in a sense I was sorely disappointed by this lavish Italian epic of misdirection and aristocratic shenanigans. I was NOT disappointed, however, by the fact that this film delights in trying to live up to the finest tradition of the giallo (the literal translation of which is “doesn’t make a lick of sense”*). But I WAS disappointed that everything resolves itself in a fairly straightforward manner. Of course, at least one major loose end isn’t even addressed, so that redeems matters somewhat. As for Evelyn and her grave, don’t even ask about that. Trust me.

*untrue

why did i watch this movie?

 I was perusing a website from which I download music, and someone posted this extravaganza’s soundtrack. I had to know more, what with the name and all.

should you watch this movie?

Though mildly diverting, it really doesn’t deliver the goods, as it never commits itself enough to do so. Hey, that’s a mild pun, as the storyline concerns the main character’s mental condition!

highlight and low point

Okay, seriously, a really good movie could have been constructed out of this muddle. Unfortunately, that’s not the movie they made. For instance, one or more characters is revealed not to be what he or she seems to be – but these revelations are irrelevant to anything that subsequently occurs. And once all the confabulations are sorted, it’s not unlike any standard episode of any crime or detective drama. Erika Blanc‘s role isn’t substantial enough, although her character’s disreputability compensates somewhat.

rating from outer space: c−

you keep this by your pool, too, right?

Blood & Donuts (1995)

directed by holly dale
daban films/the feature film project

Wow, what an unexpected delight this obscure little Canadian venture turned out to be. An extremely quirky vampire story, this picture succeeds on the basis of some finely attuned performances and bizarre character studies. The minimal sets and locations only help the cause. It’s really more a comedy than a horror story, although given the heavy-handed tactics employed by a couple of thugs who are muscle for a local crime boss (played by David Cronenberg), some scenes are violently uncomfortable enough to pass muster. Oh, and there’s a multifaceted love story going on as well, so hey, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

why did i watch this movie?

I needed to watch another ’90s movie, saw this title in a list and couldn’t resist.

should you watch this movie?

A film this enjoyable should not be this obscure.

highlight and low point

Well, the location credits include “The Sea of Tranquility, The Moon,” for one thing. Justin Louis as Earl the taxi driver is absolutely terrific, his skeptical take on his life and everything in it only augmented by his unplaceable accent. Helene Clarkson as donut girl/Nick Cave doppelgänger Molly is equally enjoyable, with her lousy attitude gradually revealing hidden depths of emotion. Frank Moore and Hadley Kay as the thug duo rival those performances as well. I guess what I’m saying is the acting on display here is top-shelf. Some of the FX work – the vampire transformation makeup – isn’t particularly convincing, but it’s used sparingly, so it doesn’t detract much. And while I suppose one could find fault with various aspects of the climax and resolution, it IS a vampire picture, so that may be a bridge too far, you know? Plus, the foreshadowing!

rating from outer space: a−

Blood and Lace (1971)

directed by philip gilbert
contemporary filmakers/carlin company productions

Had I seen this one before? That’s not a rhetorical device damning this picture for predictability or anything; I kept having a strange sense of déjà vu at different times as I watched it. Boy, this is one sleazy flick – especially given that there’s only one scene of semi-nudity (a purported teenager’s back). What you have here is the tale of a very questionable orphanage, governed by a woman in cahoots with both the local caseworker and her dead husband (well, sorta), ably assisted by a drunken goon played by the guy who would later be known as Seinfeld’s Uncle Leo, dispatching supposedly runaway teens but pocketing their state funds anyway thanks to an overused walk-in freezer in the basement. But then the new girl upsets the applecart, only for it eventually to be discovered that nothing is as it seems! Except for all the things that are exactly as they seem, of course, and perhaps one or more revelations that you may anticipate.

why did i watch this movie?

I have contemplated watching this movie multiple times before, and I cannot tell you why exactly I went ahead with it this time.

should you watch this movie?

While I don’t think one could call this a “classic,” even among the ranks of drive-in throwaways, it’s got a lot going for it.

highlight and low point

Just about every character in this drama is disreputable in one way or another, which makes for a pretty good time. Overall, the story is fairly plausible, even if in an Erskine Caldwell kind of way. The leads – Vic Tayback, Gloria Grahame, Melody Patterson, the aforementioned Len Lesser – are all appropriately sordid. The “blood” is unmistakably red paint.

rating from outer space: b+