Freaky (2020)

directed by CHRISTOPHER LANDON
Blumhouse Productions/Divide/conquer

I will freely admit – I have to – that I’m a sucker for this exact sort of flick, to the extent that I knew I was going to like it as soon as I read a review of it. And I put off watching it for some reason anyway. So, yeah, here’s another Blumhouse comedic horror romp, and boy is it ever of the moment. A body-switching gender-defying mockup slasher spoof of “Freaky Friday” and its ilk, it even manages to worm a little bit more tension out of some of the hoariest of the genre’s tropes. Men’s rights advocates probably won’t like it much, and who the hell knows whether the newly minted Science-trusters will denounce it while busily insisting they’re defending the natural rights of biological women. Why, there could be ammo for the cancel-culture-cancellers, too! Now THAT’s inclusive!

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Man, I already done TOLD ya! I’m like a moth around a light bulb for this kinda thing.

Should You Watch This Movie?

I will go ahead and presume it will not suit everybody’s taste. Hell, it could even seem like outright trolling in some regards, I suppose. But here’s the thing: Times change. Seasons change. But this movie is bloody entertaining. (Literally, of course.)

Highlight and Low Point

Vince Vaughn is tremendous in this picture. Which may be surprising to you, should you not be aware that Vince Vaughn is still a guy who acts ‘n’ such. Hey, it caught me a little bit unawares. And see above comments about aggressive agenda-pushing. I mean, look, that’s a big part of what’s behind the whole premise here, but … certain people take their cues from certain people they know, if you catch my drift.

Rating From Outer Space: A−

Girls Nite Out aka The Scaremaker (1982)

directed by robert deubel
anthony n. gurvis/concepts unlimited

Jeez but the “girls” in this flick got some foul mouths on ’em, buddy. Although a copycat movie about a copycat killer – or IS it – WHOMEVER it may be – some surprisingly nuanced characterizations give this slasher ripoff a bit of its own personality, at least. The actors are all too old (of course), but I gotta say, those writing for ’em captured that peculiar tinge of collegiate life, where personas can get a little cloying and foibles are more apparent than their wielders probably ever dream. You will recognize elements exhibited in Graduation Day and replicated by Happy Death Day, and maybe even recollect The Prowler, if you’re that unlucky. Plus many more! All told, it’s passably entertaining, though.

why did i watch this movie?

Uh … yeah, I watched some of these pictures I’m now posting so long ago that I’m gonna hafta guess my motives in some cases. This one I think was because it’s an early-’80s slasher that was unknown
to me and the screenshots looked interesting,
maybe.

should you watch this movie?

If, like me, you remain fascinated by just how many different ways people could think of to make essentially the same movie, many during the exact same time period – and you’re also enamored of the
ongoing permutations of same – well,
possibly you already have.

highlight and low point

There’s a kind of lost-in-time aspect to this film’s setting, where you can kinda glimpse all manner of pop-culture references endemic to its era … but that don’t seem purposeful. By which I mean, as the ’70s was transforming into the ’80s, there was a lot of bleed between period-specific touchstones. Can these productions serve as literal depictions of life-as-lived? Or is it cinematic artifice?

rating from outer space: B−

Mute Witness (1995)

written and directed by anthony waller
a buchman/claus/soentgen/waller production

A suspense-driven exercise in communication problems, this picture is in Russian and English, and its title character spends a lot of its duration desperately trying to stay a step or two ahead of what appear to be some murderous thugs and maybe a criminal conspiracy. Ah, but see, the main players here are all working on a film set, and can you really trust what you’re seeing? Or whether people really are who they say they are? Et cetera. Mordantly funny at times, and a little better than it deserved to be. Maybe the language barrier(s) helped?

why did i watch this movie?

The time-honored setup of the observer of a crime who cannot for one reason or another convince anyone what she’s seen, along with a recurring trend often encountered here of late, ye olde picture-within-a-picture gimmick, I suppose.

should you watch this movie?

It’s a bit of an oddball take, really, but the blurbs aren’t lying – there are extended moments of high suspense throughout. Past a certain point, exactly what the bad guys are up to gets a little unnecessarily complicated, but that’s hardly the focus anyway.

highlight and low point

I’ll tell ya what’s NOT a highlight, trying to determine who’s responsible for these multi-studio, triple-nation co-productions. The differing methods of connection used within, however, are kinda fascinating. Marina Zudina’s portrayal of a deaf-mute  is pretty convincing, at least as far as I could tell. (I was not actually comparing it with the deaf actors in either Soul to Keep or A Quiet Place, or even those playing deaf-mutes in the dialogue-free Mercury, but was instead weighing it against Jennifer Jason Leigh’s blind character in Eyes of a Stranger. Don’t ask me why.)

rating from outer space: B+

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+

Ladrones de tumbas aka Grave Robbers (1989)

directed by ruben galindo jr.
producciones torrente s.a.

A gleefully gory tale of demonic retribution (or something) that somehow keeps a straight face throughout its often surprisingly effective graveyard-campsite-and-church assault, this Mexican extravaganza has a little bit of everything you’d expect: lustful Inquisition monks, young people up to no good, stalwart lawmen, holy writ, and a whole lot of shrill screaming. Despite the obviously unreal nature of the proceedings – we are, after all, dealing with the undead, unless one considers that condition differently when Satanic possession is in play – only a few moments provoke disbelieving laughter, and even the evil rejuvenated monk’s makeup job works pretty well. And for all the hints of or nods to well-worn potboiler themes or tactics, well … I’m not sure where else you could reasonably expect to go with this material. Call it “classically themed” and move on.

 
why did i watch this movie?

My previous selection was known as “Grave Secrets,” and was released the same year as this one. Plus, a Mexican production felt like a good idea.

should you watch this movie?

Right from the start, it hits all the notes. You more or less know what you’re going to be getting, and you get it. Plus some nifty depictions of attacks from la hacha.

highlight and low point

There’s an interesting twist to the method of dealing with the supernatural fiend, which is especially welcome given the prevalence of so many other standard-issue tropes. Sociologically, you’d have to go with the quartet of young adults who pursue grave robbing as, like, their career choice, because how else are they supposed to earn a living? The occasional melding of diverse genre elements is also fun. A glaring continuity error provoked a literal double take on my part.

rating from outer space: B

Zibahkhana aka ذبح خانہ aka Hell’s Ground (2007)

directed by omar ali khan
bubonic films/boum productions ltd/mondo macabro movies

All right now, this is what I’m talking about. A terrific little number with barely an original idea in its head – though that appears to have been the filmmaker’s intent – this Pakistani flick ultimately surpasses its bare-bones budget and its bare-cupboard storyline to produce a thoroughly enjoyable picture. Much of the proceedings are a recasting of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, there’s an obvious nod or two to Night of the Living Dead, and there’s some camerawork and atmosphere courtesy of The Evil Dead as well (plus the final girl’s name, Ayesha, often is rendered as, yes, “Ash”). Well-paced, and clearly made with the right attitude and healthy amounts of appreciation for the endeavor, its DIY sheen only adds to the entertainment value. Really pretty rewarding, given that it’s “Pakistan’s First Gore Film.”

why did i watch this movie?

Dude, it’s Pakistan’s first gore film. I couldn’t resist that kind of come-on. (It helped that I was able to locate subtitles for it.)

should you watch this movie?

If you actually read this palaver, you are presumably at some level a devotee of this art form, if not an aficionado per se. If you are also of a certain bent, you just may appreciate this presentation precisely because of its … familiarity.

Or you won’t.

highlight and low point

The weapon of choice for the unrelenting maniacal stalker quite amused me, as did the transliteration of the stock young adult characters into a South Asian disposition. “Yah, let’s get STONED, and get that damned radio on, yah?” as Rubya Chaudhry’s Roxy memorably puts it. At times, depictions here reminded me of the original attempt at All Cheerleaders Die. The élan involved is definitely similar, anyway.

rating from outer space: B+

Hack-O-Lantern aka Halloween Night aka Death Mask (1988)

directed by jag mundhra
spencer films

WHAT to say about this affair, other than that it’s off the charts in terms of unintentional hilarity. Although crammed full of cinematic signifiers – by which I mean events and occurrences happening only because a movie is being filmed – there’s so much more to it than shadings of what a defunct magazine of the philosophical arts once dubbed “fake authenticity.” The haphazard approach to various elements of what might otherwise be termed “set design” is also remarkable. Stage direction, there’s another area that inspires a true sense of wonder, as viewers observe one of the lead actors apparently making up his jive-ass “mystical gestures” on the spot. And this is going to surprise you, but the story doesn’t make a whole lotta sense, either – but you’ll still be able to accurately predict things. Really, this tossed-off tale of a family’s twisted involvement in the black arts (for no discernible purpose) is quite the marvel no matter how you slice it. I guess I shoulda said “hack it,” but if I weren’t trying desperately to avoid quack punnery here, I woulda already described this picture as a “hack job” and been done with it.


why did i watch this movie?

My brother “recommended” it, presumably based on … reputation. But I watched it on HALLOWEEN NIGHT, so it fit the bill.

should you watch this movie?

I did NOT expect this flick to slot in so well following Trick or Treat, but the inexplicable sequence comprising a music video for D.C. Lacroix’s tune “Devil’s Son” was an uncanny match. “Grandpa” also appeared in Nightmare in Blood.


Highlight and low point

The décor of Tommy’s basement room cannot be topped, but the presence in the cast of “Angel Rush” was a delight.

rating from outer space: D

Halloween II (2009)

written and directed by rob zombie
dimension films/trancas international films/spectacle entertainment group

In a way the definitive Rob Zombie picture, this sequel to his remake of the first Carpenter horror classic basically only makes a dent because of that lineage. I mean, if this were only a movie about just some random psycho killing people for no real reason most of the time – and it is, only that character happens to be dubbed “Michael Myers” – it would not be particularly compelling, nor memorable. Brutal and dismal throughout, it ends without redemption, and Zombie’s juvenile obsession with titties-and-beer doesn’t particularly help. His ongoing attempt to inject metaphysical compulsion (or something) into the Myers saga via hallucinatory visions is categorically odd, and his characters, as usual, are often rehashed caricatures. But for all that, it definitely establishes and holds a mood. Why it bothers is a different question.


why did i watch this movie?

This was strictly stunt programming, piggybacking on the previous selection.


should you watch this movie?

Are you really enamored of extended scenes of cruelly barbaric murder, or hopelessly trapped in hidebound fascination with music of the 1960s and ’70s? (“Laurie’s” Black Flag and Government Issue t-shirts notwithstanding.)

highlight and low point

It may be unfair to point out, as I watched the “Director’s Cut,” but a lot of moments here are just Zombie indulging his own tastes, to the point of self-parody. One might prefer to think he’s self-aware enough to give W. Al Yankovic a cameo role for just that reason, but honestly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It would appear he just thinks these stylistic touchpoints are, like, bitchin’. Yeah, you can identify his work as his own – after a fashion, anyway – but the effect can be pretty grating.

rating from outer space: C

Halloween II (1981)

directed by rick rosenthal
dino de laurentiis corporation

One of those movies where I recognize certain scenes but don’t remember much else besides, this once-and-future sequel – for now, it’s been written out of the canon – is mainly notable for introducing Michael M. to the cinematic world of the bored spree killer who begins to get creative in his methods of destruction, along with its clumsy attempt to hang some sort of meaningful framework onto a story better left unexplained. And no, I don’t mean the “Laurie’s his sister” angle, I mean that “Samhain” silliness, a direction which of course reached its apogee in “Season of the Witch.” It’s good enough, I guess – but strictly as a sequel, as its formulaic nature probably wouldn’t have sustained it as a standalone. Not that thousands of its ilk haven’t been churned out anyway, of course. I will give it some credit for taking place immediately following the events of the first feature, as a continuation of the same story; that’s pretty crafty.

why did i watch this movie?

A) it’s the last week of October
B) see the first sentence of the lede

Should you watch this movie?

Dude, it’s not canon. You’re waiting breathlessly for Halloween Kills, correct?

highlight and low point

Though it’s something of a staple in this genre, Mike’s experimentation with different approaches to killing becomes sublimely absurd. Messing with the thermostat? Man, in my house growing up, that’d GET a guy killed, not prove lethal to others. One of his means of dispatch doesn’t even seem as though it’d work! An empty syringe to the temple, quickly in and out? Pshaw. Not to mention, subtleties of slaughter and the aforementioned nod to the rites of sacrificial hoo-haw kinda undermine the big guy’s mythos.

rating from outer space: C

Night Warning aka Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (1981)

directed by william asher
s2d associates

Yeah, “Night Warning” makes no sense as a title, especially for this flick, but look how bad that original title was. Despite the nomenclature, this is a surprisingly chilling, thrilling little affair, though I haven’t heard the word “fag” so much since, like, third grade (which, coincidentally, would’ve been circa 1981). See, the lead detective has a bit of a problem with “fags,” and also appears to be at least somewhat racist, along with being a lousy coworker and a blowhard. Anyway, there’s this kid, Billy – promising scripting – who lives with his aunt, since his parents died when he was but a mere toddler. His aunt, she seems a little off, ya dig. But she sure likes Billy, a whole lot. Maybe TOO MUCH … and she really doesn’t like Billy’s girlfriend. They really coulda used a nocturnal alert or something. Imagine that.

why did i watch this movie?

I was selecting options based solely on title and era, and this caught my eye. That it featured ’70s teen idol Jimmy McNichol in an incestuous storyline sealed the deal.


should you watch this movie?

Not quite suitable for a time capsule due to a seeming lack of universality in some of its particulars, it apparently instead has become a bit of a cause célèbre for its inclusion of non-stereotypical homosexual characters.

highlight and low point

Lest you think I’m exaggerating about Bo Svenson’s Det. Joe Carlson, to Billy’s semi-closeted basketball coach he states, “I suggest you resign … If you don’t, chances are you’re gonna get yourself lynched.” Later, he tells his PD’s officers “I want all these fuckin’ deviants off the street – pronto!” Svenson’s tight-lipped copper and Billy’s histrionic aunt, as portrayed by Susan Tyrrell, are both rather, uh, outsize characters.

rating from outer space: B−