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

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:

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−

The Burrowers (2007)

Written and Directed by JT Petty
Lionsgate/Blue Star Entertainment

It’s probably a fairly damning indictment of a horror picture – or any similar kind of picture, actually – if it revolves around some horrible creatures doing horrible things and the worst problem the production has is the appearance of those very same creatures. Now, to be fair, I suppose the “burrowers” here are not actually all that bad; they’re effectively creepy and gross, and only occasionally betray their CGI animation. They don’t necessarily stretch the bounds of credulity too terribly, either. So what the hell is my problem?

A slow-building, personality-driven nature horror, with all kinds of subtle societal commentaries, this Western set in the Dakota Territories during the time of the “Indian Wars” doesn’t overwhelm its viewer with visceral assaults, preferring to derive its impact from psychological discomfort. All right, fine, that’s laying it on a bit thick, but there’s a villain here that isn’t the insectile hunters, whose method of preparing their dinner is damned unsettling in its own right.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I had no idea this flick existed until only recently, as it was amongst those discussed in 100 American Horror Films (published, obviously, by the British Film Institute).

Should You Watch This Movie?

If, like me, you’re a sucker for tracking down, once you’ve finally heard of them, underpublicized films described as being of an originalist bent … sure.

Highlight and Low Point

As hinted above, upon further reflection I can accept the titular beasties well enough. While actually watching the proceedings, however, I hated them. (Admittedly, I tend to be hypercritical of modern movie monsters.) And I will employ my usual shtick to aver that the truly disheartening REAL HORROR here is only to be discovered at the bitter end.

Rating From OUter Space: B

Land of the Dead (2005)

Written and Directed by George A. Romero
A Mark Canton-Bernie Goldmann and Romero-Grunwald Production

While I enjoyed this relatively lavish Romero film, by the end it was nagging at me that what I had sat through was more or less an action movie. But then I started thinking about it, and realized that at heart, many zombie pictures basically are. This one, however, includes a ridiculous military vehicle – not to mention paramilitary forces – suitable for a Schwarzenegger flick, as well as a revenge plot against a devious criminal plutocrat. Ah, but the allegorical possibilities abound nearly 20 years after this film’s release. Masses in the cities crowded into hardscrabble Hoovervilles! The rich safely ensconced in their fortresslike tower! The undead inhabitating the vast wastelands that once were civilized! Or would those examples be parabular? Maybe Romero just had the touch of prescience.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Having just finished the initial “Living Dead” trilogy, and having found Day of more interesting than expected, I figured I might’s well tackle the more modern set.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Dunno … gotta watch the other two chapters before I can say. (As a standalone, I’m not sure it rates.)

Highlight and Low Point

The acting’s more convincing in this rendition, certainly as compared to the previous installment. It reminded me that John Leguizamo existed, for one thing … and also reminded me that CBS had a show called The Mentalist that I always thought looked utterly idiotic (and which ran for seven seasons). I suppose it’s intriguing that while the military theme carries over from that underground bunker in Florida, it’s now a private concern. I’d like to know more about how the other uninfected human survivors managed to last long enough to form have/have-not parallel societies.

Rating From Outer Space: C+

Cooties (2014)

Directed by Jonathan Milott & Cary Murnion
Spectrevision/Glacier Films

I’m glad I’m not a real movie critic, because if I were I’d apparently have to be as humorless as I was when I was a music critic, and then I wouldn’t have enjoyed this terrific little picture nearly as much as I did. A (now much more) topical story of a mysterious viral outbreak, triggered by an infected meat product, that becomes a pandemic afflicting the prepubescent and turning them into merciless and ravenous killing agents, it’s as effectively targeted at teachers as Abbott Elementary, which it occasionally resembles (only with copious gore). It’s initially set in summer school, you see, and watching the transformation of foulmouthed fourth graders into zombified marauders – and the gleefully violent means to which their teachers resort to fight their way out – is … well, I guess I shouldn’t say it’s “heartwarming” if I want to keep my job, but it sure is grimly hilarious. This is some dark, dark, humor, and though it’s true, critic class, that it doesn’t breathe new life into blah blah blah, what the hell do you people want, anyway?

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I discovered it took place in scholastic environs, and I’m a professional educator.


Should You Watch This Movie?

Well, I thought it was fun. The usual “horror comedy” caveat applies.


Highlight and Low Point

I don’t wanna get up on my soapbox again, but relying on the “Asian” character to provide martial arts flash and noticeably accented speech is an unfortunate choice – even given the rather broadly drawn stereotypes of all the other grownup characters. (Macho man-child, burnout, flaming gay guy, histrionic, milksop, etc.) Amusing use is made of ADHD meds. Located in fictional town of “Fort Chicken, Illinois.” Adeptly vulgar.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

Day of the Dead (1985)

Written and Directed by George a. Romero
A Laurel Production

I didn’t watch it for this express purpose, but this flick has given me some good tips for becoming a doomsday prepper, which feels like a good idea as this country I live in lurches a few steps closer to becoming a full-fledged theocracy. (I also didn’t watch it explicitly to follow one “master of horror” with another, but who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men. Besides the so-called “supreme” court that has been hijacked by conservative ideologues doing the bidding of a dwindling but ever-powerful junta of allegedly “Christian” demagogues, that is.) ANYway, during the first 20 minutes or so of this picture I was dubious, and during the final 25 minutes or so I was but merely periodically amused, but somewhere in the middle I remarked to myself, “Hey, this is actually really good!” For which I must credit primarily the script and its depictions of both the growing interpersonal discord and the standoff between brain and brawn. That latter dualism being multifaceted, of course. As for the dissension in the ranks of the “good guys”? Any resemblance to actual persons or actual events is purely coincidental.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I’d never seen it, and it sounded like a good idea.


Should You Watch This Movie?

It feels unfortunately timely. Not as much as this, but …


Highlight and Low Point

I think this installment may answer my question about the undead’s insatiable hunger. Apparently, their only necessary organ is the brain, and as demonstrated by Dr. “Frankenstein” Logan, it retains vestigial information. So in a sense, the urge to eat is more or less a habit (or addiction, if you prefer).

We’ll just conveniently forget that they also bleed.

Rating From Outer Space: B