Rituals aka The Creeper (1977)

directed by peter carter
astral films limited/coast films/canadian film development corporation

You know, I enjoy listing the multiple titles for some of these pix, mainly because it usually follows that the more different names a film acquires throughout its life of distribution, the more debatable its quality. There are exceptions, of course; every rule has them. This picture could be one of those exceptions. Its sobriquet may have been appended because somebody wisely decided that the original name didn’t make any sense whatsoever. Now, ’tis true that one of the characters in this patently Deliverance-derived flick makes an offhand remark – a barely audible offhand remark, mind you – that the subjects may be the victims of a demonic ritual, but … yeah, that’s not the case. They are, however, being stalked by a deranged backwoods weirdo. In the forests and wilds of Ontario. Including on a river. Despite that derivative handicap, however, the movie’s pretty good. Bonus points awarded because two of the friends here are played by the very same actors who played acquaintances in The Clown Murders, and for the fact that multiple reviewers have compared this affair to 1981’s Just Before Dawn.

why did i watch this movie?

I may have been misled by the title and synopsis into thinking it contained a “ritual” aspect. Crazy, I know.

should you watch this movie?

You probably won’t, but it does manage to link neatly the aforementioned Deliverance (from 1972) to 1982’s First Blood.

highlight and low point

One supremely shocking scene stands out, as it very well might have in any number of other scary movies, mainly because it so starkly emphasizes how hopeless the situation is for our protagonists. Overall, however, this is just too reminiscent of that earlier blockbuster production I do not want to name again.

rating from outer space: c−

Dead of Night aka Deathdream (1974)

directed by bob clark
Quadrant films/impact films

The first thing I noticed about this movie, the sophomore effort from Bob Clark following Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, is how vastly improved in every aspect of filmmaking it is in comparison to that initial offering. Script, lighting, camerawork, acting, pacing, makeup effects – everything is better. It’s as though Clark and head writer Alan Ormsby made a serious study of their inaugural production in order to make a more professional showing with their next film. Whatever the explanation – the budget was almost 400% larger, nearly $240,000! – it worked, because altogether this little horror picture is nearly excellent. The emotional impact of the small-town boy returning from a foreign war and the many repercussions of his impaired condition – to describe it as benignly as possible – are powerfully depicted, and the creeping sense that something is very wrong is deftly developed. Inspired by the W. W. Jacobs story “The Monkey’s Paw,” this saga sure seems to have been bastardized within S. King’s 1983 novel Pet Sematary in the tale of Timmy Baterman. (PERHAPS coincidentally, late in this flick, the action veers into a graveyard identified on its iron gates by a sign bearing the misspelling “Cemetary.”)

why did i watch this movie?

As mentioned when I reviewed Children, I had previously seen Clark’s third opus, Black Christmas, and I wanted to complete the trifecta.

should you watch this movie?

Yeah, I think any fairly serious horror fan probably should.

highlight and low point

Appraisals of the thespians amply cover both extremes. As the returning soldier “Andy,” Richard Backus does an overly intense Anthony Perkins impersonation, and as his mother, Lynn Carlin is often grating. John Marley as the father is absolutely perfect, however, and the various smaller roles are also done to a turn.

rating from outer space: A−

Welcome to Arrow Beach (1974)

directed by laurence harvey
brut productions

With all the makings of a cult classic, it’s a shame that this plodding soap opera can’t deliver the horror equivalent of, say, Reefer Madness. It does have a dippy drug subplot, though. This turgid melodrama also is in possession of outlandish, dated dialogue that probably felt just as forced and inauthentic then as now, along with a Californian Korean War vet with a British accent and an incestuous relationship, a runaway hippie chick, an Afro-sporting reporter for an underground newspaper called Young People’s Press, a steadfast law ‘n’ order sheriff and his deputies, an aging stripper and a death scene featuring a meat cleaver. Oh, and presumable cannibalism. Despite such an enviable list, this curio fails to keep one’s attention for long. One surmises it may have been intended to Make a Statement about Issues of the Day. The tearjerker ending is unexpected.

why did i watch this movie?

The artwork I first saw made it look a bit more lively. The (as it turns out, somewhat inaccurate) description wasn’t quite so fetching, but all right. Come to think of it, it listed the wrong year as well.

should you watch this movie?

Since I would guess that the major attraction would be how completely out of touch this production seems with its zeitgeist, and any residual retro appeal contained therein, I also must propose that you could find a much more entertaining example of same.

highlight and low point

The wondrous contents of the Air Force vet’s medicine cabinet add a touch of intrigue and the corny slang is amusing throughout, but the utter charade of the sheriff’s reelection stump speech and reception is ineluctable.  As hinted above, the pace is glacial.

rating from outer space: d+

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

directed by rian johnson
lucasfilm ltd.

While technically not a horror movie, the moaning and wailing that greeted Episode VIII from its bereaved fanboys (and -girls) could have convinced one otherwise. Which, okay, I can dig where they’re coming from, as this installment plays for laughs more often than one might expect, obscures the franchise’s hoary catchphrase, and – heaven forfend! – introduces some new Ewoks porgs (and another animal species, which, uh, sparkles, besides). Honestly, I thought it had worse problems than that, but I’m endlessly fascinated by the Star Wars Universe, much the way I am by, say, the rock band KISS: No matter what they do, what they did was so epochal that I’ll keep reading about it and revisiting it. Disney, I think, knows this about its audience, which is why I have a hard time believing they’ll be wrapping this epic up after Episode IX, especially because that seems a difficult prospect at best given where The Reboot Strikes Back leaves us.

why did i watch this movie?

That cannot be a serious question.

should you watch this movie?

Well, if you’re a “Star Wars” type, you most likely already have, and if you are not, you probably won’t, and if you are new to this whole “Star Wars” thing, you should maybe start with “Episode VII.” So … you tell me.

highlight and low point

Jedi manages to stay entertaining for two-and-a-half hours, and this despite neglecting a few key characters just introduced in the last canonical segment. Luke’s divisive portrayal is an oddball key, a koan in action. Several scenes defy any and all acceptable logic, even given the disclaimer that they are occurring a long time ago in a nonliteral galaxy. With a magical spirit power.

rating from outer space: C

Deathwatch (2002)

directed by michael j. bassett
lions gate entertainment

More recent than the majority of the movies that will be discussed here, this offering is mainly psychological in effect, both for the characters and the audience. Set in the trenches of World War I, it very effectively conveys how miserable an experience that must have been. Besides the basic nature of trench warfare, wherein one is essentially fighting blind in claustrophobic conditions, it is cold and raining throughout almost the entire running time of the movie. This actually had a negative effect on the film’s verisimilitude, as I found myself thinking how unpleasant it must have been to act in it, thereby removing me from my immersion in its intended reality. Anyway, after a nighttime blitz, confusion ensues. By the time things get sorted out, you probably will have guessed the SHOCKING TWIST long before they get around to it onscreen. A pleasant surprise anyway, this one, as i just kind of stumbled across it while looking for more schlock to watch.

why did i watch this movie?

To be honest, because it sounded different from the schlock I usually watch, and also had the added novelty of being from the 21st century.

should you watch this movie?

That’s not such a bad idea – it’s probably better to see it thinking it’s a war picture or an action vehicle rather than a horror flick, though. Value added!

highlight and low point

Really, the absolutely bleak nature of the setting and environment so effectively leads the viewer toward each successive slice of despair and hopelessness that it’s an impressive accomplishment. A little predictable at times.

rating from outer space: b+