azathothpwiggins

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Reviews

Slaughterhouse-Five
(1972)

Space-Time Drifter...
Having read Kurt Vonnegut's novel, and seen the film version of SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE several times, it's astounding how well-realized it is on screen! What is striking about both book and movie is the Billy Pilgrim character and the way in which his being "unstuck in time" is presented. Director George Roy Hill takes the words right off the pages and makes Billy live! He is a traveler through space and time, drifting through his own life as a disengaged observer. Like a cork floating down / up a stream, able to appear at different points spontaneously. Billy is a warm, innocent human being who is utterly removed from his own existence. He watches / feels situations unfold like a character in a play. Reminiscent of the great Peter Sellers' Chauncey Gardener in BEING THERE, adrift in a universe that simply takes him where it will.

The various segments of Billy's life are presented from his own scattered, yet comprehensive viewpoint. We accompany him on his journey, like following a leaf in a windstorm. The very fabric of space-time is unraveled, allowing events to occur in no particular order. Billy has the perfect temperament to drift through the seeming chaos of this constant shifting. He's a happy man. Somehow, he's at peace with this apparent madness, and just enjoys being alive. Not even the devastation and horrors of war can alter this. Some have suggested PTSD, shock, dissociation, etc. as being the root cause of Billy's outlook and attitude. Actually, whether Mr. Vonnegut intended it or not, Billy is the perfect example of realized non-duality. Notwithstanding the awesome Tralfamadoreans!

Special mention must be made of the wonderfully colorful characters that populate Billy's life. Especially the heavenly Montana Wildhack (Valerie Perrine). The fact that Ms. Perrine spends much of her screen time naked gives a whole new meaning to eternal bliss...

Rawhead Rex
(1986)

Rubberhead Rex...
First off, anyone who is a fan of Clive Barker's horror stories, and is expecting a serious film version of his RAWHEAD REX can simply abandon any such notions. On the contrary, this movie is everything that a cheeeze-addicted, schlock fanatic could ever hope for!

The big, hairy demon himself is magnificent! A masterpiece of 1980's special effects! Probably the best use of latex since the mesmerizing absurdity that is OCTAMAN! Ignoring the unwritten rule that says "only show ridiculous monsters sparingly, and under the cover of darkness.", the makers of this mind-mulcher decided to display REX in full daylight, as often and as up close as possible! The result is a glorious escapade, featuring someone in a wobbly Halloween costume roaring, slobbering, and mutilating his way through the countryside!

You will never forget the trailer park massacre scene, even if you live to be a thousand years old! A true gut-buster!

This is required viewing folks, but don't forget the intoxicants...

And Soon the Darkness
(1970)

"I'm An Impulsive Fellow!"...
Jane and Cathy (Pamela Franklin and Michele Dotrice) are two young, carefree women bicycling across Europe. While touring the French countryside, they encounter a mysterious man who seems to be following them. Jane wants to keep going, but Cathy wants to stop for a protracted rest in the middle of absolutely nowhere. After a disagreement, Jane pedals on, leaving Cathy to fend for herself.

Stopping a few miles up the road, Jane becomes concerned, returning to find Cathy missing. Does her disappearance have anything to do with a murder committed nearby? Jane sets out to uncover the truth about what happened.

AND SOON THE DARKNESS is a thriller that relies on building suspense to create a sense of dread and paranoia. Like Jane, we don't know who we can trust! Ms. Franklin is outstanding in her sleuthing role, trying to figure out what happened to her friend. The finale, though not unexpected, is still effective. Filmed almost entirely in broad daylight, the real darkness lies in what looms in the shadows...

Seance on a Wet Afternoon
(1964)

"I Sometimes Wish I Were Ordinary, Like You!"...
Dominant, unbalanced "psychic" medium, Myra (Kim Stanley) and her longsuffering, milquetoast husband, Billy (Richard Attenborough) live in her huge, old house, where Myra makes a meager living by holding seances. However, Myra dreams of bigger things, and hatches a "foolproof" plan to improve life for herself, and, yes, Billy as well. After much preparation, the time comes to enact her scheme. Billy, of course, does the dirty work, snatching the little girl from right in front of her school building! After some unexpected resistance, he whisks her back to the house. To Myra, the girl is a simple means to a end. Her wealthy parents will pay out so that Myra can finally live the life that she deserves. With the girl sealed in a spare, hidden room, the ransom letter is sent. How could this possibly fail?

SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON is a fascinating psychological thriller, fueled by the authenticity of the main characters. Myra is as pitiable as she is coldly calculating, while Billy is the epitome of domesticated loss of spirit. At times, one can almost believe in Myra's "gift", and it's even tempting to hope, if only halfheartedly, that her plot is successful. The final seance is gripping, unnerving, and terribly sad. Patrick Magee is effective in his short role as Inspector Walsh...

The Spiral Staircase
(1946)

No Imperfections Allowed...
Helen (Dorothy McGuire) is the caretaker for the bedridden Mrs. Warren (Ethel Barrymore) in her huge mansion. Also living there are the two Warren sons, the secretary, the nurse, Mr. Oates, and his wife (Elsa Lanchester). All would be well for Helen and company if it weren't for two facts: #1- There's a serial murderer on the prowl who appears to only prey upon those he deems to be disabled / imperfect in some way. #2- Helen has been unable to speak since a tragic childhood event.

Now, in the mansion at night, during a terrible thunderstorm, the crazed killer shows up to take care of business!

THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE is a wonderful suspense / thriller with gobs of atmosphere and a mysterious perpetrator who remains unknown until the final act. Ms. McGuire is great in her silent role, and shows how to be smart in the face of terror. The rest of the cast is excellent in an "old dark house" way, especially Barrymore, who somehow manages to be both comical and solemnly foreboding simultaneously! Highly recommended for fans of classic thrills!...

Wait Until Dark
(1967)

Inner Light Vs. Darkness...
The legendary Audrey Hepburn gives a stellar performance in WAIT UNTIL DARK. She's the seemingly vulnerable, yet strong and resourceful Suzy Hendrix. Suzy is blind, but she's also very smart. Finding herself inadvertently mixed up in a scheme involving narcotics and murder, she must use her wits in order to survive.

Led by the psychopathic mastermind, Roat (Alan Arkin), a trio of criminals attempt to gaslight Suzy because she has something in her apartment that they desperately desire. This is staged brilliantly, and Suzy gets caught up in the fake drama. That is, until she starts to smell a rat!

This is a tremendously suspenseful movie, filled with nail-biting sequences. Especially, the finale, when Suzy must face the full wrath of the unhinged Roat! Arkin deserves special mention for his portrayal of such a heartless, ruthless monster. He's not just creepy, he's terrifying! Richard Crenna and Jack Weston are also quite good as Roat's ill-fated cohorts, as is young Julie Herrod as the very helpful Gloria...

See No Evil
(1971)

These Boots Were Made For Stalkin'...
Sarah (Mia Farrow) is staying in the country with her aunt and uncle on their vast estate, far removed from the noise and chaos of the city. Unfortunately, these fine people have returned from a trip to said urban center, unaware that someone there has taken an unsavory interest in them.

Soon thereafter, Sarah returns from an outing, and goes about her usual routine, not knowing that her loved ones have met with a catastrophic end. Sarah is blind, and can't see the carnage as she navigates through the huge house. The dire circumstances become a nightmare, and Sarah finds herself hunted by a murderer, identified -to the viewer- only by his distinctive footwear.

Director Richard Fleischer keeps us in the dark with Sarah, using the camera to trick and jolt us along with her. SEE NO EVIL is another fantastic thriller for Ms. Farrow. This time, instead of the Devil, she must attempt to flee from an unknown psychopath. Her sightless journey is nerve-jangling and treacherous, loaded with a school of red herrings! This film is for lovers of mystery, suspense, and the cold touch of horror...

Touch of Evil
(1958)

Dark, Darker, Darkest...
Director Orson Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL is truly a dark crime thriller. Certainly, this is true in the noir sense, but this film is just plain dark through and through! For its time, it takes chances and moves the noir style into even bleaker territory. Quinlan (Welles) isn't just a crooked, rogue cop, he's downright satanic in his pursuit of his own self interest. It doesn't matter to him who dies in the process!

Vargas (Charlton Heston) becomes a problem by trying to do the right thing, and his wife (Janet Leigh) faces what is, especially in the context of 1958 American cinema, a harrowing, unthinkable ordeal. Her hotel room assault is filmed so tightly, it's as though she's in some hellish broom closet! The thugs pressing in on her are like glaring goblins, with Mercedes McCambridge's character being the most chilling.

In fact, this entire movie is like some desolate nightmare world where everyone seems menacing, crazy or off-kilter. The twitchy hotel manager (Dennis Weaver) is a good example of a sinister crackpot. Is he harmless? Dangerous? The Vargas' are the only real sane people in this strange netherworld, and they're in serious danger at all times.

Welles filmed this movie the way he did, mostly for practical reasons, but man, does it look great! Thankfully, his original vision has been rescued from meddling studio hell. Welles spent much of his career fighting for his artistic freedom, something that corporate Hollywood has never fully understood nor valued. Reading about the interference in Welles' work, by profit-minded buffoons is enough to make one's blood boil! Thank God that this film didn't suffer the same fate as his MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS...

It Waits
(2005)

I Want To Be A Forest Ranger! Right Now!...
What are the odds of finding both the world's hottest forest ranger AND a marauding, mythological monster in the same forest? It boggles the mind!

Danielle (Cerina Vincent) is said ranger, and the monster is no joke! Unfortunately, we must wait, since the first half of IT WAITS is about Danielle's breakdown after losing her friend. She spends her time drinking vodka, crying, and feeling guilty.

Very guilty.

Nearby, the hideous creature emerges from its cave lair and goes on a murderous rampage.

Meanwhile, Danielle is consoled by her concerned boyfriend. Everyone gets in touch with their feelings.

Then, the monster attacks with a vengeance, forcing Danielle to cut short her rustic therapy session in order to survive. Blood is spilled, heads are removed from their shoulders, and Danielle forgets all about her emotional issues.

This is a movie with an extremely slow beginning, a mediocre middle, and a fantastic finale. The monster itself is actually quite imposing. The worst part is that damned parrot! Jeez, the boyfriend was annoying too, but at least he was shredded by the monster! As for Ms. Vincent, she has convinced me to look seriously into the forestry service...

Maximum Overdrive
(1986)

Maximum Agony...
MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE is the movie that prolific horror author Stephen King was born to direct. Based on his own, far superior short-short story "Trucks", this was King's attempt to offset what he saw as the awful film adaptations of his books. Did he succeed? Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that it's hilarious, especially the parts that were meant to be "gripping" or "terrifying". The scene that everyone remembers, involving a steamroller and a young boy, is pure comedic platinum! Where it doesn't fare so well is when it's actually supposed to be "funny", resulting in lines that sink like lead life-preservers! Emilio Estevez was an interesting choice for the lead in this thing. Having him play the action hero, is like watching Don Knotts play The Terminator! Most of the "action" takes place in and around a gas station, while semi trucks encircle it. This seems to go on forever, and we can almost smell the diesel fumes as we drift into our tedium-induced comas! No offense to Mr. King, but he directs movies like a go-rilla tosses a salad! This, from a major fan of his horror stories...

Castle Freak
(1995)

Comes Fully Furnished, With One Freak...
John and Susan Reilly's (Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton) marriage is in deep trouble. They've been hurtling toward divorce ever since John's drinking problem caused the death of their young son, and left their teen daughter blind. Two years later, John inherits a castle in Italy. The Reilly's move in with the intention of liquidating and selling the place.

Unbeknownst to them, John's hermitic aunt spent the last 42 years of her life there, and kept a dark secret locked up in the castle's vast cellar. The Reilly's have no idea that the titular creature has escaped its chains beneath them. Having not eaten in a while, it's very hungry.

CASTLE FREAK is another Stuart Gordon film based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft. The story line is good enough to raise it above the average bloodbath movie, although the gore level is pretty high. One scene involving a prostitute is downright disgusting! Still, the creature is somewhat sympathetic, and there's an emotional depth that is surprising for such a film. As for Combs and Crampton, they once again make us wish they would do more movies together...

Alien Factor 2: The Alien Rampage
(2001)

Space Cheeeze...
Director Don Dohler's frenzied follow-up to his brilliantly hokey ALIEN FACTOR is another example of ultra-low budget filmmaking done right.

The cyborg creature is well-realized and somewhat menacing in a rubber monster sort of way. There's a high body count, since the hideous marauder traps an entire town in its forcefield, leaving no one able to escape its death ray!

ALIEN FACTOR 2: THE ALIEN RAMPAGE is a worthy sequel that stands on its own inexpensive -yet fun- merit...

The Galaxy Invader
(1985)

He's Green! Let's Get Drunk And Kill Him!...
A spaceship -don't worry, it's never shown- crashes in the woods. A college student witnesses the crash and calls his science professor for help. Together, they seek to make contact with the alien creature that has exited the craft.

Oh no!

The strange visitor has landed smack dab in the middle of drunken hillbilly country! Soon, every imbecile with a shotgun is after him, trying to take his weapons or his life. It's difficult to be an "invader" while being hunted by rampaging rednecks!

THE GALAXY INVADER is another enjoyable schlock-n-cheeeze sandwich from low budget maestro, Don Dohler.

Co-stars the indefatigable Dohler regular, George Stover...

The Alpha Incident
(1978)

Bill Rebane Does It Again!...
A deadly microorganism from Mars is unleashed on Earth, imperiling all mankind. Though this may sound exciting, it's decidedly not. THE ALPHA INCIDENT just doesn't have the budget, talent, or anything else necessary to create a story about a super-plague wiping out humanity. Instead, we get five people -a government stooge, a secretary, her boss, and two hicks- trapped in a train depot after one of them accidentally releases the alien virus. Obviously, in the right hands, even this scenario could have been made into a pulse-pounding drama. Alas, this is a Bill Rebane movie, so, after one of the hayseeds gets infected, he runs away, never to be seen again. The remaining four sit around chatting. This drags on for about a century. After being told that they must stay awake or die, they decide to have a party! The secretary has sex w/ the surviving hillbilly in a nearby boxcar. More chatting ensues. Meanwhile, scientists in a secret lab debate philosophical issues while working on a cure. More chatting. At the depot, Charlie (Ralph Meeker) falls asleep, causing his head to split open like a melon, his eyes to bulge, and his brain to roll out! Now, we're getting somewhere! No more chatting! This all leads to more deaths and a tragic, bleak ending. If only the rest of this stink-log had been as good as the final 10 minutes, it might have been worth watching!...

Escapement
(1958)

"You'll Wake Up Into An Entirely Different World!"...
After a film star is killed in a car crash, insurance investigator Jeff Keenan (Rod Cameron) is dispatched to get to the bottom of the death. Upon arrival in the south of France, Keenan discovers that others have died, and may be linked to his company's client. This might have something to do with a certain psychiatric clinic.

THE ELECTRONIC MONSTER has no "monsters" in the literal sense. Instead, it has psychiatrists / scientists messing around with the human brain in order to relieve patients of their anxiety. Oddly, this has something to do with implanting images of semi-erotic, modern dance routines!

Of course, this isn't a good idea, and leads to horrific results. In addition, a nefarious cabal is at work behind the scenes with an unsavory agenda.

This isn't a bad movie, and it's a shame it's been almost totally forgotten. The plot is interesting, and the movie could be remade. It's the sort of raw material that would make for a tremendous David Cronenberg film. Until then, it's enjoyable enough...

To All a Goodnight
(1980)

"Man, This Is The Best Vacation I've Ever Had!"...
Tragedy strikes at the Calvin Finishing School For Girls, when a sorority prank goes awry, resulting in a well-clothed dummy plummeting to its demise. Two years later, during Christmas break, six girls and their house mother remain behind. Horror and death are doled out by a vengeful maniac. Directed by David Hess, TO ALL A GOODNIGHT is sort of a strange, somewhat awkward merging of PROM NIGHT, BLACK CHRISTMAS, and SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT. Among the girls are the sickeningly-sweet Nancy (Jennifer Runyon) and the hormonally-charged, enormously-endowed, brain-deprived Melody (Linda Gentile). In addition to the girls, are their idiot boyfriends and Ralph the odd groundskeeper. It should come as no shock that the killer is dressed as the not-so jolly old elf. This is pretty standard, by-the-numbers slasher fare w/ lackadaisical pacing and a cast to match. Some characters seem nearly catatonic! Not surprisingly, goody-two-shoes Nancy must remain until the "double twist" denouement. On the bright side, there is one good scene involving a suit of armor and a crossbow that almost makes up for the rest of this festive fiasco...

Gothic
(1986)

Group Hysteria...
Lord Byron (Gabriel Byrne) throws a party like no one else! Gathering his friends, including the future author of FRANKENSTEIN, Mary Shelley (Natasha Richardson), Byron sets out to have a night of haunts and fear. To get things started, everyone imbibes laudanum infused wine. This results in their spending an evening of hallucinations and deepening states of terror.

Director Ken Russell shows his knack for presenting narcosis on screen, treating us to several nightmarish images and a heavy, foreboding atmosphere. GOTHIC has many memorable scenes, including the randy suit of armor, the thing in the coach, and the "look into my eyes" scene. Fans of Mr. Russell's other work will want to add this to their watchlist...

The Demons of Ludlow
(1983)

The Lemons Of Dudlow...
A haunted piano (!) arrives in the small town of Ludlow, just in time for the big bicentennial celebration. Weirdness and death ensue, as descendants of the town's founders are killed in horrible ways. A little girl (Angailica) appears to the victims, along w/ the "demons", who look suspiciously like ordinary people in a drama club production of 1776. As for the piano itself, it's the home of a dead warlock who lost his hands and wants them back. Directed by schlock demigod Bill Rebane, THE DEMONS OF LUDLOW is quite unspectacular, featuring halfhearted "acting" and "dialogue", accompanied by "special" effects that are... underwhelming. However, this movie's greatest sin lies in its boredom factor. One viewing can cause your brain to blister and die...

Cries in the Night
(1980)

Checkout Time...
Heather (Lesleh Donaldson) moves in with her grandmother, who lives in a former FUNERAL HOME that has been converted into a bed and breakfast (!). She barely gets settled in before people start dying violently, plunging Heather into the middle of a murder mystery.

More of a psychological thriller than a horror movie, the story has more to do with mental illness than with spooks or some unknown eeevil. As such, it's not too bad, though the "shock" finale covers some rather familiar ground. Recommended for those looking for a creepy, PSYCHO-like movie...

Sisters of Death
(1976)

The La La Sisterhood...
In SISTERS OF DEATH, a secret sorority initiation rite ends tragically. Seven years later, the five remaining "sisters" receive mysterious invitations to a reunion. They decide to go to the mysterious home of a mysterious man (Arthur Franz) in a car with two other mysterious men. When they arrive at the mysterious house, it's surrounded by a ten-foot tall electrified fence. The sisters enter gleefully, without delay.

Not-so surprisingly, the women soon find themselves trapped by a mysterious madman with eeevil intentions. One by one the sisters bite the dust through death by strangulation, electrocution, and rattlesnake bite! Is this movie absurd? Indeed, yes, but it's also highly entertaining!

Co-stars the deliriously delectable, Claudia Jennings...

Haunts
(1976)

Snip, Snip...
Ingrid (May Britt) lives on a farm with her uncle Carl (Cameron Mitchell), where she spends her days milking her goat and having flashbacks of her childhood traumas.

Meanwhile, a scissor-wielding maniac is busy mutilating women around town. There are several suspects for the sheriff (Aldo Ray) to consider, including Frankie (William Gray Espy), the Romeo who works at the butcher shop. There's also the stranger who just arrived in town. Old Uncle Carl seems a bit suspicious as well!

In addition, Ingrid herself seems to unravel as the story progresses. Was she really attacked by the scissor killer? Twice? And, what about her bloody hallucinations?

HAUNTS is an average thriller / chiller with above average aspirations. The characters are endearing in a Mayberry sort of way. Alas, a lot of what is meant to be mysterious and frightening comes off as half-baked and rather dull.

Still, it's enjoyable enough in a 1970's way...

La campana del infierno
(1973)

That Boy's Not Right...
John (Renaud Verley) has just been released from a mental institution. Once back home, he gets a job at a slaughterhouse.

Enter John's Aunt Marta (Viveca Lindfors) and his three female cousins. It appears that John had an affair with one of the trio and raped a second, while the youngest is quite smitten with him. It's also made clear that John might have been committed unnecessarily for nefarious, greedy reasons having to do with his mum's estate.

Is John really insane? Well, he's certainly a complex character. While he enjoys playing heartless "jokes" on his unsuspecting relatives, he also saves a young girl from would-be rapists. So, when the revenge sequence arrives, it's a real shocker. Let's just say that John's acquired knowledge from his job really comes in handy! The final act is creepy, bizarre, and totally unexpected.

BELL FROM HELL is an effective mystery / horror film...

Memorial Valley Massacre
(1989)

Unhappy Campers...
In MEMORIAL VALLEY MASSACRE, a cave-dwelling wild man is on the loose, picking off unlucky campers. More humorous than terrifying, this movie boasts an extremely unlikeable cast of potential victims, and a killer that will tickle your ribs! You will cheer as the toothsome troglodyte takes out his aggression on these annoying people. Watch for the wet T-shirt dance in the rainstorm, but don't expect this one scene to supply any lasting relief from the overall wretchedness! Co-stars William Smith and Cameron Mitchell in throwaway roles...

The Driller Killer
(1979)

Portable Pain...
Director Abel Ferrara's THE DRILLER KILLER features Ferrara as struggling artist, Reno Miller. Living with two gorgeous women in a rundown apartment, Reno has a problem with an obnoxious punk band living in the apartment beneath him, as well as other stressors.

Ultimately driven mad by sleep deprivation, Reno buys an electrical outlet belt he sees on TV, plugs in his handy drill, and proceeds to go on nightly hunting trips through Times Square.

While not a tremendous effort, this movie gets extra points for originality and bleakness! Ferrara is both humorous and menacing in his role...

Die Hinrichtung
(1976)

"Don't Scream! I Won't Hurt You!"...
An American Viet Nam veteran named Cain (Mathieu Carriere) passes through Belfast Ireland on his way back home. He notices a group of young nurses living together, and decides to pay them a visit. This is unfortunate, since Cain happens to be a psychopathic, sexual sadist. Once he starts his onslaught, NAKED MASSACRE becomes a vile, relentless display of rape and murder.

A hopeless, deadening film, those averse to non-stop misogyny, humiliation, torture, and death, are advised to steer clear of this one! Loosely based on the true crimes of Richard Speck, NM definitely captures the terror and suffocating atmosphere of such a bleak event. Personally, one viewing was quite enough...

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