They/Them (2022)

Written And Directed By John Logan
Bh/Desert Wolf

You know, if you’re a horror movie kinda person, you might make some general allowances for films made in your preferred idiom. For example, imagine, oh, I don’t know … maybe a “slasher” flick that takes place at … oh, let’s say a “camp.” With such a familiar setup, you therefore might reasonably expect certain motifs, themes, tropes, what-have-you. And when all the stuff you more or less expect happens, it’s more or less what you’re willing to accept.

Except familiarity breeds contempt, and in this made-for-TV “Peacock original,” there are multiple problems. After the not-unforeseeable reveal is, well, revealed, it just doesn’t pass muster, a literally unbelievable gaffe that’s a disastrous last choice for Their underwhelming genre attempt.

I had higher hopes for this picture. I did appreciate the mild pronoun joke (poorly aped just above). And though I’ll grant that one must start somewhere in working out how to approach broadening the scope of flicks like these, this attempt mainly just shoehorns orientation/gender topics into an unimaginative template. I began this piece by pointing out my willingness to play along, but – ironically enough – this production mainly comes across like it’s not sure what it really wants to be.

Uninspired even by stock horror standards, it feels as though it was written around its cliché bonding moment – a musical number.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

In another review, I suggested a “slasher movie where the trans character breaks the usual archetype,” and imagined that potential addressed here.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Spoiler alert: It doesn’t come close, but one character (“Jordan”) takes a tentative step.


Highlight and Low Point

HEY DIDJA KNOW THE TITLE’S PRONOUNCED “THEY SLASH THEM”


That attempted witticism’s not even an accurate synopsis!

Rating From OUter SPace: D+

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+

Matinee aka Midnight Matinee (1989)

Written and Directed by Richard Martin
“©1989 D Slayer Productions inc.”
Produced With the Participation of Téléfilm Canada
Produced in Association with B.C. Film

A Canadian made-for-TV picture about the aftermath of a mysterious murder at a horror-film festival and the threatening goings-on when a similar festival is attempted three years later, complete with a visit from a hotshot local-boy-done-good director and its impact on his estranged daughter and ex-wife, this is essentially an insanely melodramatic soap opera with some largely implied killings and an extremely low-key manner. For all that, it made for surprisingly compelling viewing, at least until it became obvious who the perpetrator must be and devolved into the requisite finale of stalking quarry through murk. Needed more montage scenes with anthemic accompaniment.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It was in my “to watch” folder, and I didn’t have the foggiest notion what it was, although I knew it was a fairly recent addition. Once I started it, I just stuck with it.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Probably not? It’s more a somnolent (and lengthy) episode of any random crime drama than a proper motion picture, much less a scary one.


Highlight and Low Point

As is not uncommon with these sorts of affairs, the film festival(s) screen a number of faux flicks, of which we get to see glimpses. In this one, those titles are “Murder Camp,” “No Escape,” “The Sleepwalker,” “Bad Blood II” and “The Black Closet” … all of which would probably have been more entertaining than “Midnight Matinee.” William B. Davis plays director/guest/dad Heath Harris, and eventually I realized he was “Cancer Man” from The X Files. A pointless subplot about the intertwined pasts of “Detective Al Jason” and newspaper reporter “Geoff Oslam” is never explained or resolved.

Rating From Outer Space: C−

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

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)

Directed by David Blue Garcia
Legendary Pictures/Bad Hombre/Exurbia Films

Goddamn, will somebody tell me why they keep making these movies. Battling itself for its first 30 minutes as to whether it preferred to be more inane or more annoying, this mess produced by the once-promising Fedé Alvarez is said to have taken its modernist cues from the ongoing rebooting of Halloween. Sure, I guess “Hey, you know that thing that sucks? Let’s double down on it” is a possible approach one can take, but ideas like that haven’t held as much appeal for me since I quit drinking 10 years ago. But at least there’s a bona fide chainsaw massacre in this one! For about ⅔ of this picture’s mercifully brief running time (barely 75 minutes) I was angry my intelligence was being so demeaned, but then I just started laughing at the idiocy (mine perhaps included). This is a deeply stupid and lazy undertaking, and really tips its cap to its inspiration by giving ol’ Leatherface a Voorhees factor of at least 40. Way to go?

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I didn’t even know this garbage existed until my brother asked me about it on NFL Football Championship Sunday. Then I unwisely looked into it.

Should You Watch This Movie?

This film proudly trumpets that it’s been “50 years” since the original events … yet good ol’ Leatherface appears to be barely older than 50 himself. His fountain of youth is not mentioned. And his chainsaw looks fine and is rip-roarin’ ready to go despite … you know what, don’t
even bother.

Highlight and Low Point

“Sally Hardesty” carries around an allegedly old Polaroid of her long-lost chums and brother. The producer claims this storyline can encompass all the rest. Sarah Yarkin and Elsie Fisher are somewhat unconventional leads.

 
Rating From Outer Space:

Boys From County Hell (2020)

Directed by Chris Baugh
Six Mile Hill/Blinder Films

A vampire yarn … or IS it. Well, yes, only it proposes a mythological Irish malevolence that doesn’t appear to align precisely with ye olde folke tales, but what the hell do I know. At heart – of course – it’s really a fable about family, about fathers and sons and mothers. There’s also a lot of drinking, foul attitudes, and an amusing side story about the forces of progress and who’s in opposition to them and who’s aiding and abetting. In fact, that’s how all the trouble begins. I mean, after two buddies have a drunken fight in front of a locally legendary cairn. The relationships between the friends and family members are coarse, rude, and revealing. And as usual, I couldn’t decipher some of the dialogue through the brogue.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Hey, let’s see how many times I have to replace this embedded video!

(Sometimes, it’s just that simple.)

Should You Watch This Movie?

You know, it has come to my attention that some folks don’t particularly LIKE horror comedies … but as for me, I usually do, and as I’ve pointed out before, I also usually seem to enjoy Irish pictures as well. Is this flick groundbreaking? Aside from some of the onscreen action, no. It’s a mildly suspenseful diversion.

Highlight and Low Point

It’s nice to have a new perspective on vampirism, even if the creature itself ends up being somewhat more bark than bite, so to speak. Slapstick elements briefly threaten to become overwhelming, and the tearjerker motifs don’t pack quite enough heft. I might have preferred a little more attention be paid to the underlying theme of unwelcome development, but that probably would’ve put too much of a damper on things.

Rating From Outer Space: B

Stage Fright (2014)

Written and Directed by Jerome Sable
Music & Lyrics by Jerome Sable and Eli Batalion
Serendipity Point Films

A slasher horror comedy, which also happens to be a musical, this ridiculously over-the-top production doesn’t seem to have rated very highly in the world of apparently overserious movie-raters. And hey, I’m guilty as anyone of frequently missing the point, or not “getting it” – whatever the “it” in question may be for a given flick – but this is a very amusing picture chock-full of however many touchstones you’d care to notice. And have I mentioned it’s a musical? A meta musical at that, set at a theater camp for theater kids, with heavy family drama at its center. (Or is it … TRAGEDY?) It’s got obnoxious characters, classic tropes, red herrings, a tongue in its cheek and a song in its heart, and scads of gore. The show must go on! Will the playhouse be saved? Someone check on the cast.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I selected this title because I thought I’d previously considered watching it, but once it began, I wasn’t so sure that had been the case.

Should You Watch This Movie?

You know, it has come to my attention that some folks don’t particularly LIKE horror comedies. And I know musicals aren’t necessarily a preference for many viewers besides. So if it helps at all, the storyline here doesn’t make a whole lotta
                                                                             sense, either.

Highlight and Low Point

The songs are frequently hilarious, provocatively stereotyping theater nerds and the like. The late Meat Loaf has one of the major roles, and I found it at least a little surprising that his singing comes across weakly, given how he found fame and all. Most of what’s clever here lies in
the picayune.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

Night Ripper! (1986)

Written and Directed by Jeff Hathcock
A Video Features/Jeff Hathcock Production

I would be sorely tempted to break from my established format to give this gem the classic Devil’s DVD Bin treatment, as it has all the requisite ingredients: it’s (poorly) shot on video, the script and dialogue are lousy, the acting’s worse, characters show up and do stuff for little apparent reason and sometimes you’re not even sure who they are or who they’re supposed to be. and so forth. Unfortunately, I’m not capable of being that entertaining, so you’re stuck with my usual humdrum rundown. Someone’s killing “models” – that’s the plot. You’re supposed to suspect the “photographer” – there’s the intrigue. Everyone calls the killer “The Ripper,” which is enjoyable. The final (extremely slow-paced) stalking scene takes place in a room full of mannequins, because of course it does. Then it ends. Abruptly.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It somehow warranted a review in the “Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies”!

Should You Watch This Movie?

So, the SPACE RATS “rating system.” This release gets a very bad letter grade, but that shouldn’t imply I didn’t highly enjoy watching it. The thing is, it’s technically terrible in almost every possible way, which more or less dictates the judgment. But other quirks are involved as well … “B movies,”
naturally, get rated along the “B” continuum, and general-release or “Hollywood” films most often are assessed by “C” criteria. (“C” classically denoting an “average”
mark.) Ideally, very few features will receive A or F designations.

Highlight and Low Point

There’s no “ripping”! Just stabbing, actually depicted reasonably well given the limitations. (And the “quality” of … everything else.)

There’s also this:

Viewers get to “enjoy” that contemporary delight during an interminable sequence of a car driving across town.

Rating From Outer Space: D

to all a GOODNIGHT (1980)

Directed by David Hess
Intercontinental Worldwide Distributing Corporation/Four Features Partners

Utterly disjointed, this train wreck of a prototype slasher flick is somehow largely enjoyable, albeit mainly on dubious grounds. A gaggle of coeds and their imported beaux are being slaughtered for Some Reason by an Unknown Assailant – who the viewer knows is dressed as Santa Claus. The initial reveal is no surprise, but the SHOCKING twist that immediately follows is … actually fairly unexpected. Most of the killings are absurdly unconvincing, the gore as well, and trying to keep abreast of the film’s botched continuity is an ongoing challenge. (The distinct majority of the acting, meanwhile, is on par with the gore and the killings.) The “action” drags significantly as the conclusion nears, to boot. Still and all, fans of dreck should be delighted.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Well, it was Christmas week. (I’m a little behind.) I was pointed in this direction by The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies by Peter Normanton, but this is as good a place as any to point out that director Hess (of The Last House on the Left repute) also co-wrote and recorded a song called
“Speedy Gonzalez” (among other lesser creations).


Should You Watch This Movie?

Not if you persist in considering a lack of redeeming qualities a detriment.


Highlight and Low Point

The story holds that the original version of this picture available on VHS featured that time-honored pitfall of low-budget terror, scenes that are too dark to be able to discern what may or may not be occurring (such as in, say, Island of Blood, for just one pertinent example). That is not a problem in the Blu-ray release, which brandishes an unfettered “day for night” technique that doesn’t even bother with the pretense.

Rating From Outer Space: D+

Don’t Open Till Christmas (1984)

Directed by Edmund Purdom
Additional scenes written and directed by Al McGoohan
Spectacular International Films

Wow, here’s a distressed downer of a flick for ya. I know, I know, a Christmas-themed slasher that’s a downer? What a sorry state of affairs. Not unlike Christmas Evil in its backstory – and to be honest, not unlike dozens of other horror films in that backstory, either, except for the “Santa Claus” angle – this London-based film gives you a lot of disheveled or otherwise distasteful Santas, some cheesy killings, a little T ‘n’ A, and few survivors. Plus some 1984 British Punks stealing a drunken Santa’s bicycle. The filmmakers (at least three directors at various times!) don’t seem to invest a whole lot in any of the red herrings, and overall there’s kind of a lack of urgency about the whole affair. It’s not half bad, though, even if it does meander a bit too much.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It was the yuletide, so I was duty-bound … although I see I apparently never posted a review of the exemplary Black Christmas, so I’ll have to rectify that eventually.

Should You Watch This Movie?

This flick’s credits include ‘Experience’ Santa Claus, Theatre Santa Claus, Dungeon Santa Claus, Store Santa Claus, Market Santa Claus, Drunken Santa Claus, Circus Santa Claus, Circus Santa Claus (yes, two), and “Santa Claus in car.” They all seem kinda grubby, as does everything else in the picture.

Highlight and Low Point

I appreciated the scene that takes place within the London Dungeon tourist trap, serving as it does as a kind of signifier of the genre’s lingua franca. (Hey, one can semioticize anything, should one wish to do so.) A scene wherein a lonely middle-aged Herbert visits a peep show confers an incongruous subtlety.

Rating From Outer Space: C+