Friday, October 28, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016 - Day 28

The Conjuring 2
James Wan

Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson), are hot off documenting the Amityville haunting. They are beset by critics and fatigued by the whole thing. Lorraine has a vision of Ed dying violently, and she wants to stop investigating the paranormal all together. A year later in London, a small family begins to experience serious ghostly trouble. The Warrens travel to London to investigate. There is a specter that is laying claim to the house. With each passing moment, Lorraine realizes her vision of Ed’s death is drawing closer. The actual haunting is not as it seems, and the Warrens struggle to keep the family together even though it may cost Ed his life.

Two caveats: I don’t like the real life Warrens, they were hucksters of the worst sort, and I didn’t like The Conjuring (2013), it had plenty of atmosphere, but blew it on all on a by-the-numbers climax. That said, The Conjuring 2 is fantastic. It’s beautifully filmed, filled with dread and scares, and actually manages to make what appears to be a typical haunted house plot, fresh again. There is a sentimentality to the film that threatens to become overbearing, but fortunately the story knows exactly when to pull back and return to the scares.  There is some obvious franchise building here, but it never gets in the way of the main story. Modern big studio horror films that aren’t limp PG-13 snoozes are a rarity, and one that is almost a masterpiece is nearly unheard of.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016 - Day 27

The Woman Eater (aka Womaneater)
Charles Saunders

Doctor Moran (George Couloris) leads an expedition deep into the Amazon jungle. There he comes upon a strange ritual being performed. Natives dance and drum, sending an entranced woman into the clutches of large grasping plant. Five years later and Doctor Moran, now has the plant and one of the natives his basement. It seems that the plant excretes a liquid that can bring back the dead. Moran hopes to unlock its secrets, but to do that he’s going to need to feed his plant. As women in the area disappear, Dr. Moran’s mechanic, Jack Vennner (Peter Wayn) suspects that something is up, but if he gets too close to truth he could end up dead as well.

With a title like The Woman Eater, you would be forgiven for thinking you’re walking into something sleazy. The truth is, that this film is pretty demure. Sure, there are some questionable jungle scenes, and a few moments of women swaying in a trance before they are fed to a monster plant, but it’s all shot with an unfortunate amount of tastefulness.  The Woman Eater doesn’t really have much to offer beyond the killer plant, most of the movie is devoted to a tepid romance and dim-witted police failing to realize anything is going on. The film finally remembers to be a horror story in its closing moments, but it’s way too late to keep The Woman Eater from being anything more that dull curiosity

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016 - Day 26

David DeCoteau

Adam (Thomas Bern) is a heavy metal musician (you can tell because he wears a Def Leopard t-shirt with no sleeves). Like any good heavy metal enthusiast he’s also into black magic. Adam casts a spell to summon a succubus named, Lily (Sylvia Summers), who will make him successful with women.  The night Adam and his girlfriend are hosting a party for all their terrible friends, Lilly crashes it. Lily’s price for her services is blood. She spends the evening dispatching a house full of horny teens, while Adam is beside himself with what to do about it. I mean, this his fault after all.

This is the first film of David DeCoteau, the creator of ‘boxer-briefs horror’ (The 1313 series, the Brotherhood series, etc.). Those films are notable for being extremely cheap exploitation films that are more interested in young men standing around in their underwear than any actual story. You can see the genesis of all that right here in Dreamanic, the camera lingers on the male bodies in way that must have quite surprising for something you’d pick up in a local video store in 1986. Dreamanic does have some fun kills and is soaked in the sort of 1980s VHS vibe that is extremely popular to emulate in the modern era. For such a short film, it’s pace is too slow, only occasionally showing some energy during Lily's attacks. There’s also a big twist at the end of the film that will have you shouting obscenities at the screen while the credits roll.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016 - Day 25

Evil Toons
Fred Olen Ray

A man named Gideon Fisk (John Carradine) kills himself rather than submit to the will of a talking magical book. A group of women ( are hired to clean-up the old house where Gideon died.. As part of the deal, they have to stay in the place over the weekend. They will get a whole $100 when they are finished. An undead Gideon shows up at the front door and forces the book on them, their curiosity gets the better of them and they read it. This unleashes a cartoon drawing of a monster that immediately starts possessing and killing everyone it comes across. One by one the girls and some of the neighbors fall to the monster, and not even the power of Dick Miller can stop it.

Evil Toons promises cartoon monsters, but is barely able to deliver on even just one. The women (Monique Gabrielle, Suzanne Ager, Madison Stone, and Barbara Dare) manage to summon a grey sort of wolf monster thing that lurks around and ogles them for a grand total of 3-4 minutes before possessing one of them. It makes a brief appearance at the end, but only for a few seconds. What the movie does not skimp on is plenty of nudity from its female cast. Dick Miller (Gremlins) and Arte Johnson (Love at First Bite) have small but amusing roles. Despite the initial disappointment of this movie having very limited cartoon mayhem, it does manage to lose itself in being weightless fun. Strangely, no matter how lurid it can be at times, the film goes out of its way to end light and as silly as possible.

Monday, October 24, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016 - Day 24

Curse of the Cat People
Robert Wise, Gunther von Fritsch

Set a few years after the events of Cat People (1942), Ollie (Kent Smith) and his wife, Alice (Jane Randolph) now have  a daughter by the name of Amy (Ann Carter). Amy is an imaginative child, but a lonely one as well. Ollie worries that she lives too deeply in her own fantasy world and encourages her to play with other children. Amy befriends an elderly actress named Julia (Julia Dean) who is convinced her own daughter is an imposter. Amy wishes for a friend, and a mysterious woman appears named Irena (Simone Simon) who looks identical to Ollie’s deceased first wife. Ollie refuses to accept Irena’s fantasy life and she finds herself spending more and more time with Irena who may be just be the imaginary friend of sad little or something much more sinister.

Curse of the Cat People is a sequel to Cat People only in that it carries over a few characters. There are no actual Cat People in this story, the smoldering sexuality of the first film has been replaced with a melancholy wistfulness. This isn’t a horror movie in the traditional sense, more of a drama with supernatural overtones. The only real menace comes from adults pushed to extremes. The moment when Ollie decides to spank Amy to punish her for having an imaginary friend is played for more horror than any interaction between Amy and the ghostly Irena. This is a  beautifully filmed story that exudes just enough darkness to keep from becoming maudlin. Curse of the Cat People is a curious choice as a sequel, but a touching film on its own.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016 - Day 23

Glenn Miller

At soon to be open mega-zoo called Eden, a virus is running rampant through the monkeys. They seem to die, only to awaken into fierce eyeball ripping killers.  A tour group, the zookeepers and scientists all find themselves locked inside the grounds. The scientists are fearful that the virus will spread to the aviary and infected birds could escape to start an epidemic. Dr. Ellen Rogers (Kim Nielsen) is forced to turn her endangered animal sanctuary into a blood bath as undead, apes, giraffes, koalas and lemurs tear apart the park guests.

Zoombies is a missed opportunity, and I would love to see a remake with a little more care put into the final product. The concept for a horror film featuring zombie animals is a fresh concept, and hasn’t been overdone (which not something you can easily say in the zombie sub-genre). Zoombies is absurd, but never takes much of chance to revel in its own silliness, it’s too busy being a by the numbers zombie story. This is an Asylum production (creators of the Sharknado series), so normally I would let the sub-par CGI have a pass, but here it really undermines the whole film as the animals are rarely more that blurry blobs, not to mention a CGI gorilla that in no way matches the animatronic suit shown in other scenes. The film is an obvious rip-off/satire of Jurassic Park (1993), but everything just feels rushed and it never settles down long enough to have much fun. Only occasionally do we get things like zombie giraffes plucking people out of trees and tearing them in half, and it could have used a lot more scenes like that.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

31 Days of Halloween 2016 - Day 22

Laid to Rest
Robert Green Hall

A woman (Bobbi Sue Luther) awakens inside a coffin. She struggles to escape, and once she does, she realizes she doesn’t know where she is or who she is. She quickly learns she’s being stalked by a freakish killer who sports a chrome skull mask and a shoulder mounted video camera. The woman evades "Chromeskull" long enough to find a couple, Tucker (Kevin Gage) and Cindy (Lena Headey). Chromeskull continues his unrelenting assault, only occasionally stopping to reapply some adhesive to his mask. The group meets up with another local, Steve (Sean Whalen), and since no one in this town seems to know how to work a cell phone, everyone is sent running from one location to another desperately looking for a way to stop Chromeskull once and for all.

Laid to Rest initially comes off as yet another grim torture filled slasher, but peel away this outer layer and it reveals itself to be more of a sly weirdo comedy than an outright horror film. No one seems to understand how cell phones or GPS systems work. The woman, struggling to remember her name settles on Princess Gemstone from a childhood memory. Chromeskull himself only speaks through texts and stitched together voice recordings. The kills are inventive and extremely gory (there’s lots of neck sawing). The film starts to build momentum, but loses almost all of it during a strange maudlin scene of characters discovering dead bodies. It goes on too long and saps the film of much of its energy. Things pick-up during a last stand in a convenience store and manage to end in an amusing anti-climax. Not the greatest slasher ever made, but it does strive to be something different.

Today's Really Quite Tasty Evil Ingredient:
Wilton Silver Color Mist