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

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−

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−

‘Salem’s Lot (2004)

Directed by Mikael Salomon
A Mark M. Wolper Production
in Association with Warner Bros. Television

Had I been aware this existed? I didn’t think so, but one scene convinced me I’d at least read about it somewhere before, and I have the sneaking suspicion it must have been a commentary by S. King himself. (I cannot confirm this.) Whatever the case, when I chanced upon it a few days prior to its viewing, a quick scan of its synopsis led me to think it would be nigh unwatchable, but that turned out to be far from the truth. Actually, one could argue the amendments made to the source text actually improve things, since it becomes a little bit less of a blatant rewrite of Dracula in this iteration. Hampered a bit by the need to be palatable enough to serve a basic-cable television audience, and also by the curious handling of the Barlow character, the three-hour runtime felt appropriate. Bringing the story into a more contemporary setting didn’t hurt, either, although I would argue it didn’t resemble “Maine” in the least … were it not for the fact I’ve never been to Maine, so how would I know.

Why Did I Watch This MOvie?

As I’ve never posted a review of Tobe Hooper’s CBS-TV version of this story, I had planned to rewatch that, but at a certain point in the proceedings I became aware of this one and switched allegiances.


Should You Watch This Movie?

I’ll say this, it wasn’t the easiest thing to find.


Highlight and Low Point

The casting is sometimes questionable. Rob Lowe’s a pretty good Ben Mears, but Donald Sutherland’s Straker may require a period of adjustment and Rutger Hauer’s Barlow is just odd. The intro and outro present a quandary.

Rating From Outer Space: C+

Rest in Pieces aka Descanse en piezas (1987)

Directed by “Joseph Braunstein” aka Jose Ramon Larraz
Jose Frade Producciones Cinematograficas aka “Calepas International INC.”

Terrible editing, acting that runs the gamut from A to B, a nonsensical plot about a life-after-death society and an inheritance, and the longest delayed appearance of a guaranteed nude scene in the history of cinema – oh, and credits that don’t even bother to name the cast, just the crew. Truly, this is a highlight of the 1980s video wasteland. Director Larraz (whose offerings Savage Lust and The House That Vanished were previously featured here) loves his mysterious deadly plots, but this production is so slapdash it plays more like a comedy. It can only be described as terribly entertaining, and I believe you probably know which word in that phrase should receive the emphasis. Now, why the hell haven’t I (yet) seen his British lesbian horror Vampyres? I gotta step up my game.

WHy Did I Watch This Movie?

See previous entry. You know, I’m fairly certain I could waste MORE of my precious time if I really tried … but here’s hoping I don’t decide to test that hypothesis.

 

Should You Watch This Movie?

Don’t you ever wonder how much of your precious time you could waste, should you really try?


Highlight and Low Point

The lead actress, Lorin Jean Vail, also had roles in an action movie (“Flex”) about a bodybuilder; an action movie whose description according to Wikipedia/IMDb is “A tough Arizona cop is teamed with a lesbian cop to catch a serial killer who is murdering police officers” (Arizona Heat); a movie called “The Patriot” (action! again); and played Bikini Girl #7 on a two-part episode of The Love Boat. Oh, and she portrayed herself in The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years.

Rating From Outer Space: D+

Dead Heat (1988)

Directed by Mark Goldblatt
Helpern/Meltzer

A movie starring Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo that somehow failed to set the box office ablaze – it grossed under $3.6 million – this action-horror about two cops who don’t let being killed in the line of duty stop them from avenging themselves on the criminal schemers plaguing L.A. with a rash of undead perps is, uh … yeah, YOU try ending that sentence, chief. This picture might’ve worked, but something about it never quite connects. A strictly B-level feeling prevails despite the simulacrum of a big-league budget. Like, Piscopo gets the meathead bro dialogue – go figure – but the patter is too ill-timed to generate buddy cop vibes. Meanwhile, the Williams character (“Roger Mortis,” ho ho) has so little charisma he could be sleepwalking – and that’s before he dies. Also, the extensive FX are a little too glitchy, etc., etc., and so forth. Instead of the cult classic its best future self could’ve become, it’s instead a nearly forgotten obscurity, as far as I can tell.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

This doesn’t answer the question, but I’m pretty sure I read a minor blurb about it around the time it came out.


Should You Watch This Movie?

Do the inner workings of Hollywoodland nag at you? Do you obsess over who gets the plum roles, and why? Are you driven to distraction trying to puzzle out how some projects ever got the nod? Buddy, have I got a story for you.

Highlight and Low Point

Obviously, they never figured out how to market this – and it’s hard to blame them, even if reasonably expecting that problem to have been considered beforehand. But generic cinematic police trappings aside, this film mainly evokes the previous year’s Dragnet and Real Men. Remember those?

(Exactly.)

Rating From Outer Space: B

Ghostbusters aka Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016)

Directed by Paul Feig
Village Roadshow Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Ghost corps*

*”A Columbia Pictures Company”

Check, this isn’t really a horror flick – but it isn’t really not at the very least a horror-comedy, either. You got your scary ghosts terrorizing the populace, undead, a demon-haunted world, the modern version of New York City … it qualifies. Like many a knee-jerk type, I figured this flick couldn’t be anything but terrible, but especially by “reboot” standards, I didn’t think it was all that bad. In fact, I’ll admit, it showed admirable restraint in a lot of areas – especially given the “standard” established by, say, Ghostbusters II. And I’ll allow, in fact, that it kinda acts as a mashup and reboot simultaneously, as elements of “II” intermingle herein with those of the original. I may still be unsure why exactly this was necessary, but it has to have been better than another go-round with the old folks would’ve been. But back to the well we go with the next installment. (Likely still with the same musical theme, too.)

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I wanted to see what Kate McKinnon would do with a feature role, and I was desperately avoiding schoolwork.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Well … nobody else did, hahaha. Not exactly gung-ho for the experience myself, I seriously doubt I could sit through it again. (It’s over two hours long, for one thing.)

Highlight and Low Point

Chris Hemsworth’s himbo secretary offers drollery, and Kristen Wiig is convincing enough as the … I want to say “straight man,” but that seems like a loaded term in the context of a female recasting, and “straight person” and “straight woman” seem to imply something else entirely. Anyway, Melissa McCarthy didn’t annoy the hell out of me, does that count?

Rating From Outer Space: C+

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

Blood and Roses (1960)

directed by roger vadim
documento film/films ege

Let’s be honest here, this is a fairly half-hearted rendition of the “Carmilla” saga, with an added wrinkle or two that don’t do much to improve the tale being told – but also with a brisk, at times nearly impatient pacing that obscures or confuses other details. And after poncing its way through a mock-Victorian costume drama’s story arc, it abruptly veers into what I can only guess is an approximation of German Expressionist cinema for a truly bewildering and bemusing effect. Then the army blows up a castle and we’re teased with a silly coda that doesn’t bother to honestly follow the plot points. Even the sensuality expected from notorious Svengali wannabe Vadim is stilted. It doesn’t wear out its welcome, clocking in around a brief hour and a quarter, so there’s that.

why did i watch this movie?

Let’s be honest here – it’s because of this:

(Just four guys from somewheres in New Jersey.)

As an aside, the movie industry through various guises sure has churned out a massive clutch of vampire pictures. I sorta wanna trace the development thereof, but on the other hand …

Should you watch this movie?

A lot of other options exist if it’s the source material that interests you.

highlight and low point

The sequence during which Carmilla prefers to get drunk and listen to beat music instead of getting ready to attend the preposterous masquerade ball heralding her “cousin” Leopoldo’s upcoming nuptials is unexpectedly amusing. And of course the bizarre detour into artiness (if not artifice) will make you sit up and take notice. Even then, however, the production fails to capitalize fully on its own mythology. Some minor characters flesh out the running time without adding anything to the storyline.

rating from outer space: C−

Cut (2000)

directed by kimble rendall
beyond films/mushroom pictures/mbp/south australian film corporation

Another Australian horror comedy? Okay, sure, why not. Dispensing with overt laffs in favor of a general mood that isn’t all too serious, this filming-of-a-film-within-a-film is about the attempt to finish, uh, filming a film. Which was never finished. Said celluloid seems to be cursed, you see, as mayhem and terror ensues whenever anyone even tries screening the reels that remain of the initial endeavor. Despite that, some plucky young film students are determined to make a go of it, their professor’s objections notwithstanding. For a largely unheralded picture languishing in smaller-foreign-film obscurity, this flick is a pretty good time, even if saddled with a pretty ridiculous underlying concept. (To be fair, it’s generally internally consistent, which is always a plus in my book.) Molly Ringwald has a meta role as a onetime name actress who agrees to take a scream-queen part in a DIY indie production.

why did i watch this movie?

Probably because it’s Australian, a condition I usually find signifies a certain reliability. After making the selection, however, I held off for a while because the whole “horror film shoot or equivalent plagued by slasher or equivalent” isn’t the                                                                             most innovative idea.

should you watch this movie?

Ultimately, it doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table. If you’re looking for cinematic entertainment you don’t have to get too involved with, though, this’ll do.

highlight and low point

Really, the fact that the director was a founding member of the quirky rave-up combo (Le) Hoodoo Gurus leads this category. How random is that? The script could’ve worked harder to create misdirection about the killer’s identity, and it feels as though some opportunities were missed in observing the lineage of the fateful film.

rating from outer space: C+