A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987)

directed by larry cohen
larco Productions/420 demons

As this picture began to unspool, I didn’t know if I’d be able to stand it, because once we reach the town of Jerusalem’s Lot, the production quality (acting, costumes, props, makeup) takes a severe nosedive – and it was iffy from the get-go. I persevered, however, and was amply rewarded by general weirdness. (I also greatly enjoyed the credit “Based on characters created by Stephen King,” as the only way in which that is true is if one considers the town of “Salem’s Lot” itself to be a character.) Okay, look, in terms of actual credibility, this flick is nowheresville; it plays more like a made-for-TV movie than the 1978 Tobe Hooper-directed Salem’s Lot CBS “miniseries” and is chock-full of several stripes of bad acting that run the gamut from half-baked to hammy. Throw in a Nazi hunter to save the day, and you’ve got everything you always wanted in a fear, and less! This is where sequencing can be important: after watching Scarecrows, this flick wound up being highly enjoyable.

why did i watch this movie?

As acknowledged, I am a bit of an S. King obsessive, so I’ve wanted to investigate this one for quite a while, especially after having viewed Cohen’s Special Effects.

should you watch this movie?

It depends on how SERIOUSLY you take “Salem’s Lot” to be a “gripping masterwork of horror,” or whatever people consider King’s (or Hooper’s) Dracula redux to be, because this is a tongue-in-cheek treatment of the (purported) source material.

highlight and low point

The last time I watched a vampire flick I learned how to revive a bloodsucker; this time I found out a mortal can impregnate one and that its ashy remains may spontaneously combust. This is the terrifying leader of the hemovores:

rating from outer space: D

Blood Bound aka The Dark Rite aka Bloodline (2019)

written and Directed by richard lemay
southern fried filmworks/film mode entertainment/garden house entertainment/bloodline productions

It CAN’T be a good omen that a film’s own production company’s website doesn’t have its title of record updated, or that its “release” schedule on IMDb only lists “(internet),” but truth will out, and this movie is, like, an emo vampire picture. Even if the brooding deep dark character isn’t a vampire. Know what else isn’t a good sign? This explanation: “Two hundred years ago a distant cousin of mine made a pact with a demon to give our family unlimited power. He was greedy and didn’t realize he was binding our whole family to darkness. In exchange, every 25 years we must sacrifice four human lives, one being a member of our own family.” (SHHHH! THAT’S AN IMPORTANT HINT!) This is a teen-soap-opera horror of a type I wasn’t aware they were still making, and it’s got more angst than you could hit with a stake. Even if the demi-magical evildoers aren’t vampires. Note to all aspiring screenwriters out there: Just recycle some shit, that’s how you’ll get your script into “development.”

why did i watch this movie?

Hey, ’19,” I thought. “That’s, like, a new release.”

should you watch this movie?

It is really hard to take seriously.

highlight and low point

That the demon who eats still-beating hearts from human chests is not one of the most labored – pun inevitable – plot points in this picture should clue you in on the level of creativity we’re dealing with here. Also, a detail crucial to the SHOCKING twist at the end impossibly evades the notice of the character it will directly affect. Eden Brolin does a passable job with her thankless role, I guess.

rating from outer space: c–

Bride of Re-Animator (1990)

directed by brian yuzna
wild street pictures/re-animator iI productions

Even before the extravagant reprise of the first film’s opening credits sequence, I feared that this picture would be too obviously a sequel, as all the signs were there. Indeed, moments of one-upmanship pertaining to certain effects, scenarios and locations are present throughout, but the director mostly manages to evade scenes of blatant repetition and also avoids the cardinal sin of reductionism. Even so, at moments it threatens to get a little too cutesy, the parallelism to Bride of Frankenstein doesn’t quite work, and the inclusion of Dr. Hill’s head at times feels forced (and for a while appears to have been forgotten). When things really get dicey near the ending, however, it is about as uncomfortably eerie and threatening as one could reasonably hope from a Lovecraft adaptation, and it succeeds, humor and all. I did not expect this one to be this good – and maybe it isn’t – but Jeffrey Combs delivers enough of a tour de force to make fine assessment meaningless.

why did i watch this movie?

The original was terrific, and I’m still catching up on the 1990s.

should you watch this movie?

Respectable or not, it IS a sequel.

highlight and low point

The portrayal of Herbert West, as noted above, is splendid, and one observation he deadpans in the latter portion of the flick is laugh-out-loud funny.  Bruce Abbott and Claude Earl Jones also deliver worthy performances. Strong motivation is lacking on behalf of many of the characters, though, and if you’re not caught up in the zaniness, you might begin to see right through the flimsy premise.

I mean, presuming you’d be of a mind to take a production of this nature that seriously.

rating from outer space: B+

the credits thank “Mary Wollenscraft Shelly”

(and Tenzing Norgay)

Dark Souls aka Mørke sjeler aka Zombie Driller Killer aka Drill Murders (2010)

written and directed by césar ducasse and mathieu péteul
addict films

At this late date in the human experiment, it’s downright surprising to come across a picture that presents a fresh take on the undead/zombie genre, but this Norwegian offering does just that. Or DOES it. Deliberately vague, the flick doesn’t really sustain its momentum, but it never ceases to lure one along, either. Along about the climax, I suddenly detected a THX 1138 vibe, and some 28 Months Later – or maybe Shaun of the Dead – parallels occurred to me as well. (One man’s zombie is another man’s walking dead, as the old saying goes.) Largely dialogue-free for its final 20 minutes or so, the disconcerting nature of the proceedings persistently is heightened. You know things aren’t going to end well, but you’re just not sure exactly what that might mean. Not bad, could’ve been better, can’t think of any specific improvements offhand. Well, maybe a little more action wouldn’t have hurt.

why did i watch this movie?

Description: It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out. Haha, no, but the breathless review I saw did say it was depressing, confusing, and worth giving a look-see. Et voilà.


should you watch this movie?

I have made similar observations before, but this film-festival favorite (IMDb lists 36 screenings) will be acceptable to, and more than likely appreciated by, the sorts of viewers who enjoy productions of that ilk and/or on that scale.

highlight and low point

Without giving too much away, the various depictions of the stages of affliction of the most prominent victim are both poignant and blackly humorous to a degree. One serious bit of bad planning, though, involves a rather large discrepancy in the time-release nature of the malady. Also, an amateurish sheen prevails.

rating from outer space: B−

The Deadly Spawn aka The Alien’s Deadly Spawn aka Return of the Alien’s Deadly Spawn aka Return of the Aliens: The Deadly Spawn (1983)

written and directed by douglas mckeown
filmline communications

“A real meteorite! It’s red hot!”
What?”
“I gotta get a picture of this!”
“Don’t forget the flash attachment.”

Now, THIS is how ya do the independent lower-budget horror film thing, people. Cheesy, knowing, and with a surprisingly interesting screenplay, this magnificent homage to space-invader creature features of days of yore is a total winner. From the classic gambit of the opening scenes that set the tone by employing characters unrelated to the action that follows, to the legitimately SHOCKING moment at film’s end, this production flirts with excellence throughout. True, the acting skills on display may not show much polish, the monstrous alien marauders are very obviously puppets and rubber props, and some of the fatal injuries inflicted are unconvincing, but the purity of intent delivers with delightful effect.

why did i watch this movie?

I’m not certain, but I think I came across this fetching title when I was randomly browsing through horror compendia, as I periodically do.

should you watch this movie?

With the stipulation that you need to be in the mood for a picture of this type, I do recommend viewing this inspired presentation.


highlight and low point

Truthfully, I greatly admired the lengthy, lively discussions about the scientific method amongst the college students, and the detailed attention paid to the décor of monster aficionado Charles’s bedroom. Too, the fact that the filmmakers did not shy away from exposing – nay, flaunting – their extraterrestrial creation is to their ultimate credit. The only real gripe I have is that the identity of some of the characters is a bit confusing initially, but that’s quickly resolved. Oh, and the camera lingers a little too long on some shots, particularly of Charles, to no discernible purpose.

rating from outer space: A−

Candyman (1992)

directed by bernard rose
propaganda films/polygram filmed entertainment

I was metaphorically looking at my watch during the second half of this formulaic slasher flick, reproaching myself for its selection, then once it was over I decided to read some opinions of it and – wow, you must be joking, internet. Personally, I found this picture to be wildly unacceptable, and not just because it implausibly concerns a murderous supernatural ex-slave bogeyman haunting Chicago’s projects. Sure, that’s improbable, too, but nothing else about this feature is any more reasonable. The ridiculously contrived (and likely inadmissible) police and legal procedures, the intrepid graduate students’ daring thesis research, the architectural lessons, the unthinking racism, the trite dialogue – this one’s got it all and then some! By which I might mean a Philip Glass score that we hear the same snippet of way too often. Oh, and vacuous voiceovers that aim for grandiosity only to land on ostentation. Plus, also, too, it’s not very frightening.

why did i watch this movie?

I’ll admit, I’m beginning to suspect there’s a reason I haven’t seen some of these ’90s offerings.

should you watch this movie?

You’d be better off watching any of the 440-plus episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. You know, I’ve read one of Clive Barker’s “Books of Blood” collections. Yeah, one.

highlight and low point

Certainly, when Virginia Madsen busts out of the institution where she’s been detained for a month with the help of her paranormal hook-handed buddy, I completely lost any semblance of respect for this absurdity. But it just kept going, exhausting my patience. The ending at least made me laugh, partially because it was so predictable, but also because they dragged it out so much. Did I like anything about this movie, I’m wondering.

Nothing’s coming to mind, sorry.

rating from outer space: D+

Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978)

directed by curtis harrington
landers-roberts-zeitman productions

Man, I do NOT remember there being any made-for-TV movies like this when I was a kid – though admittedly, in 1978 my parents most likely would not have let me stay up late enough even on Halloween night, when this aired. (They weren’t that restrictive on content, for the most part, although how they would have felt about a possessed dog is anybody’s guess.) For such an offbeat premise, unfortunately, the product can be a little underwhelming. True, I didn’t expect the main character to wind up going to Quito, Ecuador, to consult a shaman in order to defeat the Barghest his family’s unwittingly adopted, because why would anyone mix up their various mythologies that way. Ultimately, the picture is saved by suchlike casual idiocy, managing to be thoroughly entertaining despite its limitations.

why did i watch this movie?

The power of Zoltan compelled me.

should you watch this movie?

You know, I’ve often thought of the made-for-TV horror picture as kind of a lesser creation, figuring it couldn’t possibly compete with its large-screen brethren and sistren, but it turns out this isn’t always the case.


highlight and low point

“It’s a monstrous thing, a goblin dog,” the occult bookseller tells Richard Crenna’s Mike Barry – “A man … hounded by his dog,” as he described himself to her with an abashed chuckle – and boy, she ain’t kidding.

The climactic and climatic final battle between Mike and Lucky the hellhound is a marvel of multiple-exposure imagery, and the portrayals of Betty, Bonnie and Charlie Barry as they slip toward infernal fealty are quite amusing. Unfortunately, we aren’t treated to nearly enough Satanic goings-on, especially given the promising opening.


rating from outer space: c−