Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers (1992)

Directed by Mick Garris
Ion Pictures/Victor & Grais

In case you thought the problem with movies made from S. King novels and stories was the difficulty in translating to the silver screen either their length and heft (IT, The Stand, The Dead Zone, etc.) or their sometimes dodgy supernatural motifs (Christine, say), I have bad news to report. This budget B flick was written FOR the cinema, not adapted from a story, and it, too, has some serious issues preventing it from being taken very seriously. I’m not even talking about the $2 FX, either, although those don’t help out a whole lot. And I’m not even talking about the army of darling kittycats that wind up being the main oppositional force to the, um … the quasi-vampire things. (Diehard King aficionados, oops, I mean “Constant Readers,” will recognize the energy-sucking conceit later employed by Doc Sleep.) Hack director Mick Garris – King’s handpicked fave – takes a tale with promise and lets it devolve into gimcrackery over its latter third. Consider (blame) the source, I guess.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Cats and the oeuvre of Stephen King: two things for which I have a soft spot in my heart (if not my head).


Should You Watch This Movie?

Look, I just don’t know what to tell you. I mean, I watched Stephen King’s The Night Flier, too, you know.


Highlight and Low Point

My notes for this picture – yes, really – include that the “deputy sheriff” cruises around happily singing Garry Lee and Showdown’s immortal “The Rodeo Song,” which I first heard about from a friend in, like,  fifth grade, disbelieving such a song could really exist until he proved it. My notes also indicate that apparently one can blow up a cop car by merely shooting it.

Rating From Outer Space: C−

Pale Blood (1990)

Directed By V.V. Dachin Hsu
Noble Entertainment Group

I was completely shocked when the credits rolled on this baby and the copyright read “1990” … though perhaps that’s just the result of my own myopia. See, Agent Orange is in this film, for no particular reason that I can discern, and since the tunes they’re playing are all from their 1986 release This Is The Voice, I presumed it was a little older. (To be fair, it was lensed in ’88.) In a way, that only heightens the weirdness of this little oddity, a vampire flick with several shifts in motive and narration (and incrimination) – one of which was completely unforeseen, at least for me. This was apparently a straight-to-video picture, which makes sense when viewed from the perspective of its production values, but doesn’t much jibe with its fairly accomplished narrative. (In its own way, it’s a hardboiled noir story – just with, you know, immortal bloodsuckers.) I could see this film having been fairly successful with a few alterations and a big-screen existence. Of course, Agent Orange probably wouldn’t have been involved then.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Although I dearly love the early portion of Agent Orange’s career, this was just a happy accident – another one from that endless Internet Archive vid haul.



Should You Watch This Movie?

Even if late-’80s nostalgia doesn’t interest or inspire you, it’s worth a look-see. I don’t even think you’d necessarily have to be all that impressed by vampires, though it couldn’t hurt.


Highlight and Low Point

The tone of this picture varies unpredictably, as it contains significant amounts of basically deadpan humor interspersed with dismal pathos and the like. Wings Hauser’s filmmaker character contributes to the furtive ’80s vibe, and Hong Kong apparently stands in for L.A. at times.

Rating from Outer Space: B

‘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+

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−

The Night Flier aka Stephen King’s The Night Flier (1997)

directed by Mark Pavia
New Amsterdam Entertainment™ Incorporated/Stardust International Ltd./Medusa Film S.p.A

Based on an S. King short story I hadn’t read – it’s in Nightmares & Dreamscapes, the titles of which mainly don’t ring a bell, with the exception of “You Know They Got a Hell of a Band,” which I recall detesting – this archetypal B movie was financed by European concerns and tells a tale of Richard Dees and the tabloid “Inside View,” both names I will go ahead and presume you recall from The Dead Zone, by which I mean the novel, not the dreadful film adaptation directed by David Cronenberg and starring Christopher Walken. The titular “flier” – and why the heck isn’t it “flyer,” anyway? – is a vampire airman going by the meta name “Dwight Renfield.” That’s it, that’s the story. With oh-so-subtle parallels drawn to the journalistic pursuit of. Some form of the twist ending you will likely foresee.

why did i watch this movie?

I wasn’t feeling the two pictures that formerly had been slated, possibly as a result of having just watched all nine “Episodes” of the Skywalker Saga triple trilogy, but I WAS in the mood for something based on the timeless works of S. King. The Under the Dome series wasn’t doing it for me and I had yet to discover the three seasons of Mr. Mercedes, so I went with this.


should you watch this movie?

If you’re an I’m-fine-sticking-with-basic-cable-and-terrestrial-channels type, go for it.

highlight and low point

The climactic scenes are pretty gratifying, especially given how ridiculous the vampire looks when finally we see its face. Some subsequent action even manages to atone for that. The rest is pretty standard low-budget middle-of-the-road mild
horror. It’s more of a character study, really …
which, you know, S. King.

rating from outer space: b−

Bit (2019)

written and directed by brad michael elmore
provocator/thirty 06 productions

So, the general premise here – young person seeking definition finds group of vampire peers – may not sound very fresh and exciting, but … the hook is that the young person is transgender, and the vampires are militant feminist lesbians. Hey, you got your polemics in my genre picture! (Men in particular take it on the chin here.) And I almost skipped over it just because that description sounds like a bit of a forced narrative. As I’m a cis male, though, maybe my perspective is skewed. But I AM gonna grumble that it’s set in L.A.. How come no young person can find fulfillment in a coming-of-age tale of self-discovery set in, like, Dubuque? Or Des Moines, perfect example. Ultimately, there’s no real empowerment message here, and in fact I’d wager there’s an anti-defamation group or two out there just stewing, alongside the fundamentalists. Hell, in one reading, the transgender arc can be spun as negative . Either way, the conversation happened, ya dig. This picture did remind me of The Lost Boys, though, which could be a troubling sign since I’ve never even seen it.


why did i watch this movie?

A spot of banter in the trailer.


should you watch this movie?

No fooling, if you like to debate coded messages, you could have a fun time with this one.


highlight and low point

Despite the clunky and perhaps cliché setup, and pointedly misandrist diatribes notwithstanding, the LGBTQIA+ bent didn’t strike me as a contrivance … because it isn’t presented as such. That the embodiment of the central metaphor is allowed to have personality flaws instead of bearing the standard of wishcasting idealism is instructive. Which doesn’t preclude the potential for friendly fire from obstinate axegrinders, unfortunately.

Rating from outer space: B

The Vampire Lovers (1970)

directed by roy ward baker
hammer film productions/american international productions

This soundstaged costume drama takes a while to build up any steam, but when it eventually does, it rips bodices with the best of ’em. Figuratively, I mean; despite the robust sapphic undertones of this first-of-a-loosely-formed-trilogy of films derived, again, from J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, no clothes are torn away in any frenzies of lust. Suitably gothic, and chockablock with little details we all should recognize from the classic Dracula legends, the film shows admirable restraint in not unleashing the deadlier side of Ingrid Pitt’s enigmatic evil paramour until it’s nearing its torrid climax. That may make this picture sound a little more exciting than it is, but it does redeem itself rather nicely.

why did i watch this movie?

This is the picture I intended to see when I instead watched Kiss of the Vampire, which was probably provoked by my experience with Vampire Circus, which I viewed because of its name.

should you watch this movie?

It’s probably more faithful to the novel than The Blood Spattered Bride, should that matter to you. (I cannot confirm or deny that supposition, as I haven’t read the source material … yet.)

highlight and low point

Kate O’Mara’s governess and Madeline Smith’s Emma are delightfully rendered portrayals, and Kirsten “Betts” (Lindholm) gets the magnificent credit of “1st Vampire.” Scenes shift abruptly at times, some lack of communication is both unfortunate and somewhat unlikely, and there’s a mysterious, portentous onlooker whose role doesn’t amount to anything. As before, the revelation of the identity of the vampiress lends itself to mirth (her various names are anagrams, and it only dawns on folks after it’s far too late). The deaths of the familial vampires are remarkably easy to effect.

rating from outer space: B−

Doctor Sleep (2019)

directed by mike flanagan
intrepid pictures/vertigo entertainment

As a no-longer-practicing alcoholic, I found a lot of S. King‘s The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep all too grimly realistic, even if I felt the underlying tale of the “psychic vampires” who sustain themselves by torturing children to death – no, really, that’s the impetus of the plot – to be kinda, you know … dumb. But I guess if you’re going to revisit Danny Torrance and his psychic abilities, you may as well retcon your story to broach lucrative sequel territory. All right, that’s unfair, and I know it; the novel was way better than I expected it to be, even with its jaw-dropping deus ex machina. Flanagan’s adaptation actually handles the ending a lot better, and likewise is much more enjoyable than I thought it would be – as I felt it was going to be kinda, you know … dumb. Never getting particularly scary, this film’s paltry ROI makes it a box-office failure, especially glaring when compared to the likes of the recent Pet Sematary and, especially, IT TOO. Which is kinda … you know.

why did i watch this movie?

After all those 13th flicks and a detour into Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood, what the hell.

should you watch this movie?

It – sorry, this production – would’ve worked just as well as a Television Event.

highlight and low point

The atmospherics are pretty good and the FX aren’t half bad, and a crucial segment contains an effectively startling moment or two … but as usual, condensing the Kingly sprawl into even a lengthy picture (150 minutes, in this case) tends to lessen some of the impact. To wit: the reason grown-up Danny’s abilities contribute the eponym is largely ignored. The use of stand-ins for Nicholson and Shelley Duvall amused me.

rating from outer space: C+

La novia ensangrentada aka The Blood Spattered Bride (1972)

escrita y dirigida por vicente aranda
morgana films

Part of the early-to-mid-’70s lesbian vampire movie mini-craze, this Spanish offering is actually a very stylish affair, even as it doesn’t skimp on some more questionable themes or visuals. One of many retellings of important Dracula precursor Carmilla, the tale follows a newlywed couple back to the groom’s palatial ancestral home, where strange occurrences soon are afoot. And at hand. Namely, the young bride begins having eerie, violent dreams that involve a mystery woman she has glimpsed more than once while awake. Her chauvinistic husband is dubious. A doctor who apparently doubles as a detective of sorts is downright dismissive. The caretakers’ strange little girl … is strange. An accomplished piece of art, despite its exploitative carnality.

why did i watch this movie?

It was in my queue for so long, I couldn’t possibly tell you, but at some point I was stockpiling turn-of-the-’70s vampire flicks, so …

should you watch this movie?

“You mean the two women were howling?”
“Mm-hm, like two cats in heat – that’s when I ran away. They sounded … like vampires.”

highlight and low point

Should you need proof of how mores have changed in male/female relationship dynamics since the early ’70s – or, perhaps, seek illustration of the difference between Spain and the USA in terms of attitudes toward such things – you’ll be delighted by how Susan’s new husband treats her. If you’re of a certain bent, you’ll also appreciate her eventual response. If you’re like me, you’ll love exchanges such as this:

“How many times does something have to be repeated before it ceases to be a coincidence?”

“Some cases, twice would be sufficient.”

Performances are very deliberate. Maribel Martín, in her inaugural star vehicle, delectably transforms a moue into a death stare, often.

rating from outer space: B+

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−