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Final Exam

All around a decent, moody though bloodless slasher
Slashers have it easy. Their target audience are among the most forgiving when it comes to actual quality and will take enthusiasm over competence into consideration more so than "real" film lovers.

"Final Exam" goes for the "Halloween" (1978) vibe (a low-key piano piece is a dead give away as to inspiration) in that it is light on blood and gore and goes for honest scares and mood. Too bad it's also light on scares but the mood is above average. There's also a novelty in that the killer is clearly seen, never speaks and has no motivation known to the audience. But then one character clearly states that most killers have no motivation and that, in itself, is quite scary.

The film has pretty decent actors, most of whom have never been heard from again, and the characters do have some personality. The biggest gripe the film has received is in it's very slow build-up. It's true that "Final Exam" takes it's sweet time until actual mayhem takes place but it goes by pleasantly enough.

Photography and lighting is fine and, as said, the film has a certain mood that's undeniable. It's a mood that seems was only attainable in late 70's and early 80's and distinguishes these slashers.

"Final Exam", for me, gets better with repeat viewings and it comes recommended; for slasher film fans. But make no mistake; this isn't the cream of the crop but enthusiasts should enjoy it.

The Sorcerers

The hypnotists and their puppet
Married couple and hypnotists Karloff and Lacey control the mind and actions of young Ogilvy and the wife, after years of pent up frustration and anger, starts indulging her psychopathic tendencies through the young man.

Surprisingly effective thriller. Starts out somewhat clumsily with a too convenient setup but once past that the film becomes quite involving once the hypnotists start living, and feeling, through Ogilvy who becomes, in a sense, their puppet. As the couple go further in their control Ogilvy's whole life crumbles and he doesn't even know it.

"Sorcerers" moves pretty fast and doesn't outstay it's welcome but you get a clear idea of the characters and really feel for Ogilvy (who gives a good performance) as it becomes clear there's not gonna be an easy way out for him. Karloff and especially Lacey are very good as well.

Only the second movie of three that director Michael Reeves made in his short life and despite an obvious low budget the film is very well done, well paced, somewhat stylish and quite suspenseful.

The Deliberate Stranger

The definitive film on Ted Bundy
This one always stays with me; even twenty some years after initial viewing.

Mark Harmon is chillingly perfect as Ted Bundy; one of the most notorious serial killers and this 1986 TV Movie depicts his vast amount of evil-doing and his eventual capture. It's split into two 90 minute segments (the old mini-series) and while you don't get a solid glimpse into what made him tick the story is thoroughly engrossing and almost a little hard to believe.

With strict censorship, being a TV movie in the 80's, the film nevertheless manages to convey Bundy's actions all too vividly with well handled characters who are impacted by him one way or another. Particularly heartbreaking is Rita Zohar's (as Elenor Rose) story as her only daughter is a victim of Bundy's. The cops who pursued him are also portrayed well by good actors and their characters aren't one-dimensional but well realized.

And although no outright violence is depicted; there's a scene where Bundy attempts to kidnap a girl by handcuffing her in his car and heading off; that scene is just terrifying in it's buildup and execution thanks to an intensity Harmon somehow conjures up with very menacing looks and behavior.

"The Deliberate Stranger" is, so far at least, the definitive film on Ted Bundy. These films don't always have to be exceedingly graphic or vulgar (no bad language to speak of either) to make their point and depict a truly horrible individual who caused a lot of harm and suffering.


Cozzi delivers a fine piece of copycat entertainment
There's something about Luigi Cozzi's (aka Lewis Coates) movies that make them enjoyable despite never actually being good. Granted; I have only seen four of his films ("Killer Must Kill Again", "Starcrash" and "Hercules" being the other three) but his outright determination to entertain pays off.

"Contamination" is a rather muddled affair that has drastic tonal and location shifts and veers from horror territory to sci-fi and always with a "wink wink" attitude. Characters are wholly unbelievable and badly written but the game cast sell them well. After a few too many Italian flicks I've become immune to the bad dubbing and see it as an essential part of the experience and here, as in many other films, some choice dialog is simply hilarious.

There's a bit of "Alien" here, a bit of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and a lot of "white zombies" (as one character puts it) that are packed with machine guns but never hit a thing and a big, nearly motionless monster to cap things off. It's all done in the most sincere way to simply give the audience a hell of a time. And in that respect; "Contamination" delivers. And Goblin do provide a fine soundtrack.

I enjoyed it and do recommend it. But those who are interested probably have a pretty good idea what to expect.

R.L. Stine's Monsterville: Cabinet of Souls

Enjoyable light horror with likable characters
I'm a big horror nut but sometimes I like the soft stuff. I've read a few R.L. Stine's "Goosebumps" novels and they're always an enjoyable read. I feel like he captures teenage life quite nicely and he creates likable characters who you root for. He's been well served by the television medium as his "Goosebumps" TV series is quite well done and I've just began watching his "The Haunting Hour" show and so far so good.

"The Cabinet of Souls" is, likewise, a very solid TV offering of light horror aimed (mainly) at kids and adults alike. The setting is good; a traveling house of horrors with a mysterious owner who collects the souls of customers and feeds off of them. It could very well be a premise for a full out gory R-rated film but it manages to generate a few creepy moments and is always entertaining.

The cast is likable and their characters as well. They do possess qualities that are admirable and that's a nice thing for a parent to know if they'd like to sit down with their kids for something a little bit on the scary side. Bad language is nicely sidestepped without the film feeling corny or something like that.

"The Cabinet of Souls" is an all around decent flick which many age groups can enjoy.

Easy Come, Easy Go

Elvis does Yoga and dives for buried treasure
A frogman (Elvis) working for the Navy discovers treasure in a sunken ship and once he becomes an ordinary citizen he sets out to retrieve it; but he's got competition for it.

One of Elvis's later entries; quite shallow and cheesy but fairly enjoyable. The slapstick humor works OK in parts and there's an underlying comic jab at the hippie lifestyle that's well played out. There are also some impressive underwater sequences here; "Easy Come, Easy Go" is a little more visually compelling than other Presley flicks around this time.

The songs are few but pretty good (6 in total) and many have commented on "Yoga is as Yoga Does" as Elvis's most embarrassing moment on film. Personally I think nothing can top his singing to the dogs in "Paradise, Hawaiian Style" but I also think the Yoga moment here is pretty funny and the song OK; in a cheesy sort of way. You gotta admire how the King was a professional through and through and pulled this off and manages to be funny as well in his bungled Yoga attempts.


"I guess I got a little carried away" - an understatement to be sure!
I thought I'd seen every relevant slasher worth a damn and I'd quite comfortably ruled out years '87 and upwards (mostly) as the genre had it's creative period between 1978-1984. Anyways; most likely I still have a few undiscovered gems to look forward to if "Intruder" is anything to go by.

Plot wise it's as simple as it comes. An especially gruesome maniac is dispatching a few people at work after hours in a grocery store.

Most seasoned genre fans will spot the twist a mile away but no matter; "Intruder" has everything a slasher fan could possibly want and the humor works especially well; really dark humor mind you!

You have to get through a little rough spot in the very beginning as it starts out rather clumsily but it soon finds it's ground and climaxes with some incredibly gory (and quite inventive) murder sequences. Very methodical build-up (first half hour is ho-hum introductions and false scares, the second is gore galore and the third is a final girl showdown) but the flick's sense of humor and outright nastiness ensure it a special place in a slasher lover's heart.

Casting in fun too with the Raimi brothers (Sam in particular) getting ample screen time and a Bruce Campbell cameo is always a good thing.

Highly recommended.


Solid Presley vehicle
Elvis is Mike, a racer/singer/gypsy living free soul who impresses a spoiled rich girl (Fabares) and her dad (Betz), who desperately wants Mike to race his car and NOT marry his daughter. Along for the ride is an author (McBain) who also wants to marry Mike and a tomboy drummer in his band (Walley) who's quite obviously vying for his affections.

As formulaic as Elvis's later flicks tended to be; but somehow a little better. The goofy atmosphere is energetically played out by a willing cast, the slapstick humor works surprisingly well and the songs aren't too shabby. Granted; "Adam and Evil", "Beach Shack" and "Smorgasboard" are no "Love Me Tender", "Jailhouse Rock" or "King Creole" but they're quite fun and fit well in the movie.

Elvis isn't quite as front and center here as in most other flicks and supporting players get room to breathe and develop a little. The racing scenes here, as was the case with "Viva Las Vegas", are fairly impressive as well.

Make no mistake; this is pretty shallow stuff and Elvis looks a little bored at times. But as far as Elvis's later flicks go; "Spinout" rates pretty high.

Criminal Minds: Strange Fruit
Episode 9, Season 9

Bitter sweet justice
Up till this episode everything in Season 9 of "Criminal Minds" has been pretty routine and mediocre with the team nearing complete supernatural heights of deduction skills with a series of incredibly gruesome killers and very elaborate schemes. Not that that's boring but with what seasoned viewers of the show have become accustomed to; it's pretty forgettable. This episode, however, reminds me just why I stick with the show.

Bones are discovered in the backyard of a middle class African American family and the mother, father and son are rushed to headquarters for interrogation. At first the son is suspected but soon it seems more likely the father is the guilty person. Meanwhile more bodies are being unearthed as Rossi gets in a heated situation with the household father.

We have here a bona fide victim of hatred who's killed because of what was done to him and viewers understand him, if not sympathize to a large extent. The episode also unfolds in a very different fashion in that it mostly takes place in an interrogation room with primary focus on Rossi and the guilty party. In order to try and dig deeper; Rossi admits to a heinous act in his past hoping that it will get the suspect to open up to him (and all indications point to that Rossi was telling the truth). When confession time finally comes most viewers will probably be quite shocked at what the man had to endure and fully understand his rage. This becomes at the end a bitter sweet justice at best.

This episode doesn't stray from the usual hard-to-believe fast nature of the unfolding; with DNA results getting the rushed treatment and delivering concrete data in a matter of hours being one of the more irritable "unbelievables" in the show but no matter; this is still a top tier "Criminal Minds" episode. Rossi has always (at least from Season 3 onward) been the richest of these characters and here we get another glimpse of his past and Mantegna is in top form here. Glynn Turman, as the suspect, gives Mantegna a run for his money as their scenes play out in a tense manner and could easily have gone on longer had running time permitted.

In the end; the crimes included innocent individuals so retribution is necessary. "Strange Fruit" will go down in my books as one of the more interesting episode in this long running series.

The Boogens

Solid creature feature in most respects
A boarded up silver mine in snowy Colorado is blasted open and nasty creatures are unleashed and start wrecking havoc. Caught in the crossfire are a pair of couples (and their seriously adorable dog) in a guest house where the "boogens" can easily enter through the basement.

The film is very atmospheric and the snowy locations and nice cinematography provide gorgeous scenery throughout. The small town setting is nicely captured and you really get a feel for the place. The horror; well, not so much a scary movie "The Boogens" is but it does generate a sense of dread, an eerie mood and a few set pieces are very well done. The acting, by relative unknowns, is first rate and the characters are all likable; not that common for a creature feature from the early 80's.

"The Boogens" does boast spectacularly fake looking creatures but they're wisely kept out of sight 'till the very end. Most horror aficionados will probably be in a forgiving frame of mind as a low budget most definitely contributed to that factor and they'll appreciate all the other things the flick does so well.

All in all; highly recommended for horror buffs.

The Zombie Horror Picture Show

Killer show from a master showman
The first Zombie concert on film and it's a good show...a f###### great show to be exact :)

I doubt I'll ever see him live so this is the closest I'll come and a Blu-ray of the show does this justice; best enjoyed when cranked up real loud. I'm not much of a heavy metal type but Zombie's music has always had that dance rhythm and catchy as hell hooks with an added oomph! to it. The guy is also a real showman and props the show with gadgets, snow, monsters, robots, film clips, a space-mobile and you name it! It's there. And that John 5 is a killer guitarist.

The set list is good but a fan of his can always point out a few tracks he'd love to have had. Particularly great here are "Teenage Nosferatu (you know the last word)", "Sick Bubblegum", "Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga" and "House of 1000 Corpses". Would love to have had "What" included here but we can't have it all.

There's loads of breast bearing women to be seen here as well as a few brawls between able bodied men; all part of the experience of a Zombie concert I'm sure.

Highly recommended for Zombie fans.

Silent Night

A very sick Santa picks off the naughty ones in grisly fashion
Some less than decent citizens in a remote Midwestern town are being dispatched of (some in very grizzly fashion) by a killer in a Santa costume and a young deputy (King) and her Sheriff (McDowell) try and track him down.

Not much of a remake of the old Christmas slasher classic "Silent Night, Deadly Night" but it does borrow from it and even honor it with that flick's most memorable kill scene. I first saw "Silent Night" three years ago and it's been a steady Christmas time view for me since. It's extremely brutal on occasion (that wood chipper scene is just disgusting) but it's a decent horror/thriller/slasher that moves along nicely and is peppered with some very decent performances.

Jaime King, in particular, invests in her role and is not only believable but a very likable and human character. McDowell goes the other way; delivering one cheesy line after the other but he does it so well and is obviously having a good time playing the token small town sheriff.

There's no snow here but the Christmas atmosphere is nicely captured and the small town scenario always seems to be a big plus in these types of films. There are a few very effective and graphic sequences displaying just how angry this Santa is and some scenes definitely stay with you afterwords.

I feel it kinda peters out at the end with a less-than-inspired conclusion but up until then it's an enjoyable ride for horror buffs with the stomach for some very unsettling imagery.

To All a Goodnight

A stinker of a Christmas slasher
A killer dispatches a few people on Christmas at a finishing school.

Give a film credit where credit's due. First of all; this is the first film depicting a killer Santa at Christmas (the "Tales From the Crypt" segment with Joan Collins is just that, a segment), it's a few months ahead of "Friday the 13th" with the undying formula of disposable people hacked to death at a secluded location, a minuscule budget and a 10 day shooting schedule definitely called for fast thinking and fast shooting (and a lot of painfully obvious day-for-night scenes). The fact that David Hess and co. managed to churn out a semi coherent slasher must be considered quite a feat in itself.

Too bad that "To All a Goodnight" is such a bore. The kills are mostly clumsy and the extreme gore scenes look pretty bad, there's no suspense and any attempt at a creepy atmosphere in promising surroundings falls flat with cringe worthy dialog and well below par performances. For me; a William Lauer (never heard of him before) delivers the best performance as the typical horn dog of the pack while others quite literally stink. Kiva Lawrence, as the cook and overall watchdog of the girls at the finishing school, is the most experienced actress and she's not bad per se but doesn't come off any better than the rest. Future mini starlet Jennifer Runyon doesn't do any better either.

There's also that killer second twist in the end where you think everything's wrapped up but it turns out not so much. Needless to say it doesn't better the film but it's another point in the flick's favor concerning how it beat most others with that indispensable routine.

With no Christmas atmosphere to speak of, no real suspense, not any great gore or memorable scenes for that matter or any other small things associated with decent slashers to recommend; I hardly think "To All a Goodnight" will be a seasonal mandatory viewing in the yuletide season for slasher fans.

I wanted to like...scratch that...Love "To All a Goodnight" but it's a plain old stinker in most respects.

Criminal Minds: The Replicator
Episode 24, Season 8

Lacklustre season finale
A real let down of a season finale in "Criminal Minds".

The Repclicator has been harassing the crack team of behavioral specialists all season long and here's where his modus operandi and identity is revealed.

NO SPOILER HERE - It's pretty cheap (and easily resolved!)

Spoiler ahead for those who've yet to view

  • Turns out it's a disgruntled ex-employee in the bureau (a very weary looking Luke Sky...ahem; Mark Hamill) who got mistreated by Erin Strauss (Jane Atkinson) way back when and the episode starts with him disposing of her. Crackling opening in what turns into a very routine easy-to-spot villain and a speedy dispatching of (with a laugh out loud trick used by Rossi) followed by a cozy gathering of the team to close it off.

End of Spoiler

I keep sticking with "Criminal Minds" despite it's absurdities (mostly with the near supernatural deductive abilities of the team) and quite often the show manages to be both incredibly gruesome and suspenseful and, in fewer instances admittedly, even quite moving when showing a bit of the human factor with it's characters. The Eighth Season had a few very good episodes concerning Spencer (Gubler) and his doomed romance and even upped the ante in the "sickening" department with a few truly harrowing eps.

But always lurking behind the scenes was this "Replicator" who'd been shadowing the team and copying gruesome murders they'd already solved. You always knew it had to be someone with inside knowledge and the setup for the finale was quite good. Too bad the actual episode was so cut and dry and really had a silly resolution. Mark Hamill will always be fondly remembered by film lovers but he's really painful to look at and his performance here is so mundane it barely registers.

The Eighth Season finishes on a whimper :(

Full Moon High

Strange and mostly unfunny werewolf comedy
Larry Cohen is one of the big horror names and I've been meaning to get to his movies for quite some time. Never caught his "It's Alive" trilogy, nor "Q" or "God Told Me To" but as a horror nut; I'll get to them eventually. Perhaps "Full Moon High" isn't the best introduction into Larry Cohen the director.

Adam Arkin gives his all as a teenager who's bitten by a wolf in Romania and his life falls apart soon after. Father dies (quite a funny scene though) and he fulfills his destiny; roaming the earth for a great deal of time before tiring of it eventually and then return home. He does just that but a lot has changed.

Perhaps aiming for the heights of screwball comedy gold "Airplane"; "Full Moon High" is just a plain old misfire. Maybe some quality inside jokes flew by me but the flick is spoofing Werewolf oldie's left and right while trying to be somewhat topical of changing times and values in the old US of A. There are scattered laughs here and there in 93 minutes (mostly with Ed McMahon and Kenneth Mars - the shower scene early on is pretty funny) but on the whole this is a pretty painful sit-through.

Certainly a one of a kind movie and not surprisingly it has a small cult following; I'm all for that (mostly in the horror department myself though) but I can't honestly recommend this movie for comedy buffs. Adam Arkin is likable here but like most others he looks a little lost and no wonder. I'll give the movie one thing; it's anything but predictable as I never knew what direction it was going to turn to next. Halfway through I thought I had it pegged but was I dead wrong!

Weird flick and not in the good way.


Very decent horror film
The name "Blacula" indicates a less than stellar cinematic experience but the flick actually delivers the goods in most things; solid acting (particulary the lead), decent scares and a surprisingly thoughtful and tragic story.

William Marshall registers strongly as Prince Mamuwalde who travels to Count Dracula's castle in Transylvania and is soon attacked and cursed by the vampire Count. Fast forward some 200 years and the black prince awakens in modern LA.

Woven into the storyline is Mamuwalde's wife, Luva, whom Dracula also killed and he's convinced he's found her reincarnated in Tina (McGee) and she becomes his sole reason for living in his cursed existence.

"Blacula" is a little rough looking in it's opening stages and some set pieces fall rather flat. I don't know if it was filmed in sequence but it gets much better as it goes along and there are a couple of outstanding seat jumpers along the way that manage to scare even by today's standards. The tragic love story is well handled and Marshall is excellent as Mamuwalde/Blacula. All others range from decent to fairly lame. The finale; where Blacula beats up a lot of cops in an underground facility is very entertaining and the film wraps up in a very satisfying way.

I'm no expert on Blaxploitation films but "Blacula" is one of the higher rated entries in the horror genre and I can see why. There are, of course, very dated fashions and some hilarious outfits and hairstyles on display here along with a very groovy soundtrack (and a big pause on events to listen to a couple of musical numbers in a nightclub) but I believe this is a stable in the Blaxploitation genre and as such; it's very welcomed and certainly gives the film a unique style of it's own.

In the end; Blaxploitation film or not; "Blacula" is a good horror film that's treading much covered ground but imbues it with a fresh take on the material (that's often been covered since), a sense of style, very decent scares and a great central performance by a very forceful actor.

Highly recommended.


Draw the "Curtains" of a mishmash of a thriller/slasher
Two styles collide; one has a bit more style and flair (with emphasis on mood, lighting and camera angles etc.) while the other treats the material as a straight ahead stalk and slash flick. That's the mishmash that is "Curtains" and while it's a recipe for disaster somehow the film works quite well.

Several aspiring actresses (and a seasoned one) gather at a remote country house (in icy winter, no less) and subject themselves to auditions by an eccentric director (Vernon) for an upcoming feature film. Someone among them is a killer and the actresses disappear one by one.

What started out as an ambitious Hitchcockian thriller (by an ambitious first time director) was quickly shelved by the film's producer in favor of more slasher film elements that were popular at the time. Even though most viewers don't know what exactly was filmed originally and what was added on later; there is a striking difference in tone throughout the film and the climax, in particular, seems like an afterthought (although it's a thrilling sequence) where there's an extended chase scene in such different surroundings than all that's preceded it.

There are some plot elements that appear only to be discarded completely early on (the creepy doll, for instance) and a character played by Michael Wincott must have remained mostly on the cutting room floor as his part is practically non-existent. The beginning; with Samantha Eggar as a seasoned film star voluntarily submitting herself to an asylum for research, is a nifty starting point which doesn't lead anywhere and is resolved rather clumsily once the actresses at the secluded country house storyline has begun. This feels rather disjointed and is definitely the work of two colliding directors.

With all that said; "Curtains" is really an OK thriller and it's overall weird vibe propels it through it's rough spots. It's very well acted, not only by pro's Vernon and Eggar but Lynne Griffin and Lesleh Donaldson turn in fine work as well. The look of the film is splendid and there's an absolute stunner of a scene where the killer slowly approaches a victim on ice skates on a frozen lake which culminates in a very nasty and inventive kill scene; the stuff slasher fans eat up with delight. Also I think the "hag" mask the killer dons is quite unsettling and creepy as hell.

A complete and utter mishmash but a treat for slasher fans who'll definitely be the ones giving this film a fair shot to begin with anyway. Highly recommended for that lot.

Plus; I thought it was a nice touch to credit the main character Jonathan Stryker (the name of John Vernon's character) as the director since neither wanted the credit.

The Final Terror

Long lost horror flick gets a new lease on life
This ultra rare-completely-forgotten horror flick has been brought back from the dead. Good news? Yes; well mostly.

Quite similar to "The Burning"; a group of young people head into the woods where a crazed maniac is lurking about and soon they're in danger. Not only similar to "The Burning" but countless other slashers in and around that era. Where "The Final Terror" fails is in it's lack of body count, inventive kills, gratuitous gore and the required dose of t&a for this kind of flick. It's been noted that it's a slasher film in denial; it wanted to cash in on that trend but take things in a slightly different direction. In short; not gory and trashy enough for the slasher crowd and not sophisticated enough for serious thriller admirers.

That said; there's a lot to admire in "The Final Terror". It's wonderfully atmospheric, has decent acting and at least two good seat- jumpers. It builds tension quite nicely and is gorgeously photographed; utilizing the woods scenario to maximum effect. The main villain is pretty creepy and the few scenes that feature him are well played out.

The film clocks in at a mere 82 minutes so it doesn't get long-winded. It's only real problem is that viewers most likely to give this one a shot are slasher enthusiasts who come in expecting a little more of what the film is purposely denying them. It didn't find an audience in it's initial run but here's hoping that modern slasher fans will appreciate it a bit more.

Without Warning

Palance and Landau give added weight to mediocre horror flick
"Without Warning" is one of those horror flicks that for years you'd heard about but was practically unobtainable. The HD era has been especially ripe for many obscure horror titles and recently this little film has gotten a new lease on life. And for us horror geeks - it's a must see.

It's not very good. Though it has a number of things going for it. It's a nifty idea that predates "Predator" by a few years that has an alien visitor coming to earth to hunt humans and collect their bodies as trophies. The flying disks it uses to subdue it's prey look both incredibly fake but once they grabbed hold - it's pretty icky and the effects department shines. It's just that the film is fatally slow moving and has so many lulls and director Greydon Clark can't milk those scenes with any degree of tension. It picks up for the finale and it ends on a high note thankfully.

The film gets a huge plus for it's cast; or at least Martin Landau and Jack Palance. Often times when big names appear in low budget slashers you have what amounts to little more than a cameo but these old pro's have ample screen time and invest in their roles. Palance, in particular, is effective as a hunter who goes after the alien. Both these guys overact to a degree (Landau more so) but their presence elevates the material and gives a much needed added class to the proceedings.

Minor spoiler -

"CSI Miami" star David Caruso has a small part here but thankfully he's dispatched of soon - another thing in the film's favor :)

End of Spoiler

"Without Warning" will appeal to fans of the genre (be it horror, sci-fi or both) as long as it's low budget origins and hectic shooting schedule (less than three weeks) are taken into account. I found it entertaining as such but it needed some pruning as the lulls were too many and tension free.

Film gets a five but Landau and Palance bring it up a star.

La casa dalle finestre che ridono

Atmospheric thriller with some unforgettable images
A restorer is called to a small village in Italy to repair a fresco detailing the murder of St. Sebastian. He slowly becomes obsessed with finding out the truth about the deceased painter and unravels a horrifying secret that's far from buried in the past.

A fairly slow moving but tremendously atmospheric thriller set in a hypnotic landscape of decay and beauty in the Italian countryside. The mystery is involving and well written and director Pupi Avati stages a few unforgettable images of cruelty and genuine madness. The pace is deliberate and the mood of the flick is completely captivating; I doubt seriously that thriller lovers will get bored.

Lino Capolicchio and Francesa Marciano are likable leads and do well but most performances in Italian "giallo's" suffer due to the language dubbing. The film is preferable in Italian with English subs. That said; some performers here are somewhat stiff and unconvincing but that's a regular trademark in these "giallo's", as most fans know from the start.

"The House of the Laughing Windows" is one of the best thrillers associated with the genre and it rivals the best works of Argento, Bava and Fulci.

Highly recommended.

Edge of Tomorrow

Fun flick
I went into this pretty blank; hadn't even seen the trailer - just the tag line "Live-Die-Repeat" and already I thought of "Groundhog Day". Little did I imagine that this would, in fact, be somewhat of a kindred spirit to that comedy gem.

When all is said and done; "Edge of Tomorrow" is pretty entertaining and doesn't take itself all too seriously. Tom Cruise is in fine form and reminded me, at least, how likable a performer he can be. There are of course a number of action packed set pieces that look good and the special effects are top notch. There is at least one heartfelt moment midway through that I thought was well played out but the film pretty much steers away from sentimentality.

The supporting cast is good; Emily Blunt is a good match for Cruise and Bill Paxton is always fun as an army officer.

Minor spoiler alert.

I felt it lost a bit of steam towards the end but nothing detrimental as to ruining the whole experience. It's capped off with a "what the..." type of ending but it's not too mind bending and really is in good flow with the overall tone of the film.

End of minor spoiler.

"Edge of Tomorrow" was just plain fun and I recommend it.

Harum Scarum

Better than it's reputation suggests
Perhaps I was in a very forgiving frame of mind but "Harum Scarum" went down pretty well. Widely regarded as one of the King's worst offenders and he was disappointed with the results as he thought (before reading the finished script) that this would be a welcome change of pace from his established formula.

The scenery is a breath of fresh air (though we all know it's MGM's back lot for the most part) and the film has a bit more of a plot than usual; although it's very clumsily handled. The comedy bits are fairly lackluster and the action is rather stiff but the film moves along well with few to no lulls. Elvis has a strong presence but he really doesn't strain himself too much and he receives little support from his fellow co-stars; though Billy Barty (most memorable as J.J. MacKuen from "Foul Play") does induce a few chuckles without a line of dialog.

The songs range from pedestrian to very good ("Kismet" and "So Close (Yet So Far) From Paradise") and the girls, as almost always is the case with Presley films, are quite the eye candy.

"Harum Scarum" is not good but it's breezy enough entertainment for fans of Elvis that's not quite as bad as it's reputation suggests. I'd choose this over "Stay Away, Joe" any day of the week.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Know what you're in for
The further adventures of Ron Burgundy and his fellow news teammates yields quite a few laugh-out-laud gags and more than a few head scratches. I guess this is one of those films that depends heavily on knowing what you're in for. The first one was a big indicator and I had a hell of a good time with this.

I liked many of the jabs at modern news reporting and ratings and others that range from synergies to the chicken industry. Many quite good and to the point. Then there are those moments you're embarrassed to laugh at (the one with Paul Rudd's "Ladykiller" friends, for example) and will definitely offend more than a few. And this is, naturally, all done in the most over the top manner possible.

For some reason the bits with Steve Carell and Kirsten Wiig fell a bit flat for me but overall I completely enjoyed the film's excessiveness. Will Ferrell owns this role and everyone else gives it a fun go.

Get yourself in the right frame of mind and most likely you'll enjoy it.

Maniac Cop

Good central premise but as a whole falls short
There's something very unsettling about the simple fact that a symbol of justice turns out to be the very thing you should be afraid of. Nicely captured in the opening minutes of "Maniac Cop" when a victim of a couple of muggers runs to a police officer only to be met with a swift and brutal death. The film, written by Larry Cohen, capitalizes on this well enough for the first fifteen minutes or so before it becomes an uneasy mixture of a suspense/slasher/horror flick that really should be more entertaining than it turns out to be.

Most know the plot; a former cop, Matt Cordell (Z'Dar), returns from the dead to exact vengeance on those who wronged him and a lot of innocent people as well. Detective McRae (Atkins) investigates what seem to be murders committed by a man in blue; and he doesn't believe that fellow cop Jack Forrest (Campbell) is responsible although most everyone on the force suspect him after his wife is discovered dead.

The cast is right on the money; genre vets Tom Atkins, Richard Roundtree and William Smith all turn in decent performances but Bruce Campbell (who most of the time I love) and Laurene Landon are remarkably stilted and unconvincing. The violence is obviously toned down as this could have been really bloody and the action sequences are well staged with a knockout scene to close out the film.

The mystery here and it's unfolding leaves a lot to be desired as I feel Cohen could have made more of Cordell's character and McRae discovers things all too easily. He looks to be a little more interested in making a social statement concerning fear of the uniform of safety and justice and mixing it with some old school horror and splatter (on the light side) because that's what sells. Lustic seems more content with staging action sequences and catching the seedier look of the city (as with his earlier "Maniac") than driving home this point. "Maniac Cop" is never really suspenseful, it's not bloody enough to satisfy gore hounds and Campbell and Landon really sink the final act as they take center stage for the showdown.

Having said that; the film did grow on me a little with repeat viewing and it's central premise of a cop committing senseless murders on unsuspecting citizens is quite unnerving. Atkins delivers a fine performance and the action scenes are quite good. I still feel it should have been better and, based on numerous reviews I've read, the sequel actually delivered in spades what this movie fell short of. I'll be checking that out before too long.

For fans of Atkins, Smith or Roundtree; "Maniac Cop" comes recommended as long as you keep your expectations in check. As for Campbell; he's always a welcome presence but he's not very good here.

Jurassic Park

Still terrific
Just caught a 3D screening of "Jurassic Park" a while ago and it's still a very entertaining slice of popcorn fare; in fact it's the Steven Spielberg us movie aficionados knew and loved.

The 3D effects look good and it was certainly fun to experience the film this way. The ground breaking visual effects (some 20 years ago; man how time flies!) still hold up extremely well.

As for the film; the 3D doesn't make it better but it doesn't detract anything from it either. Compared to today's big budget summer flicks "Jurassic Park" would undoubtedly be considered fairly slow moving but it builds momentum very well and climaxes in a number of knock out suspense sequences.

It's fun to look back at the cast 20 years back; Jeff Goldblum is fun here and you can easily see how his fledgling career got second wind with his performance here; Sam Neill demonstrates why he could have been a possible successor for Roger Moore as James Bond and Laura Dern was quite the eye candy in 1993. And now we know that Wayne Knight didn't die a nasty death; he simply went into hiding and found work as a postal worker in New York :)

"Jurassic Park 3D" was a fun night at the movies. Spielberg really knew how to make great adventure flicks and his old movies hold up really well.

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