Nightman85

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Reviews

Prey
(1977)

Cult films don't get culty-er than this!
Alien lands on earth and takes on human form only to end-up being a pawn in the lives of a bickering lesbian couple.

The premise of Alien Prey alone will give one a glimpse into the off-beat weirdness that is this strange low budget sci-fi/horror show. Among the crazy offerings you've got animal-men attacking people, an alien in drag, some howlingly bad dialog, a party for a dead fox - its difficult not to find this a tongue-in-cheek effort. Also this bizarre flick has enough sleaze for any exploitation fan thanks to some drawn-out sex scenes. This is all capped off with a surprisingly violent (and bloody) finale and one pleasingly nihilistic ending.

The direction isn't bad and the filming locales are nice. The cast's performances are just erratic enough to add even more weirdness to the film. Sally Faulkner throws out a perfectly 'bitchy' vibe only matched by Barry Stokes' deliciously odd 'stowic' performance as the alien - who you just might be rooting for in the end.

Alien Prey is simply a hoot for cult fans. There's definitely no other film like it and whether you laugh or groan you're bound to be entertained regardless!

*** out of ****

La corrupción de Chris Miller
(1973)

An intelligent and fiendish thriller that deserves to be re-discovered!
This early 70's mystery-thriller from Spain is a film that most genre fans have never heard of, let alone seen, and it's a shame.

A repressed woman living in the Spanish countryside must deal with her disturbed stepdaughter but their world is about to become more troubled when a sexy drifter wonders into their lives. Will he create a void between the two and furthermore does this charming stranger have anything to do with the local family that just got butchered by an elusive killer?

The Corruption of Chris Miller is one slippery thriller. Its wonderfully twisted plot always manages to catch the viewer off guard in every act with some truly surprising turns and revelations. Its one thoroughly well-written tale that's compelling from its sinister opening to its chilling final images. In addition the direction of Juan Antonio Bardem is stylishly done with some nice camera work and lovely filming locations. The lush music score is also a welcomed plus.

One of the biggest highlights here is the cast. Star Jean Seberg is great as the revengeful Ruth, as is Marisol as the lonely and traumatized Chris. The gorgeous Barry Stokes is probably the best of the cast though as his likable, mysterious, and just possibly dangerous character. The supporting cast is solid as well.

For those that take their thrillers seriously The Corruption of Chris Miller is a true lost gem. It has a touch of Hitchcock, a bit of Italian giallo, and even a foreshadowing of the slasher genre. In short it's a wild-card treat for genre fans. Obscure and difficult to find yes, but oh so worth being unearthed!

*** 1/2 out of ****

The Evictors
(1979)

Chilling and suspenseful – one of Pierce's best
In 1942, a couple moves into an old farm house in Northern Louisiana only to discover all the previous tenants have met with sinister fates. But does this eerie history have anything to do with the ominous stranger that's now terrorizing the young wife?

Director Charles B. Pierce may be best known for his docu-chillers The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) and The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976), but The Evictors may just be the over-looked gem of his film career. Like his previous films The Evictors has a splendidly gritty, rural atmosphere that gives it a raw believability. This becomes all the more effective when the story builds to some strong tension as our heroine is stalked by a phantom prowler. There are also a number of flashbacks, shot in stylish black and white, that have a chilling creepiness.

The story is fairly well-written, as the plot takes a few unexpected and surprising turns. Its only real flaw is a final revelation that's a bit improbable. Pierce does well at creating a 40's era atmosphere, much like that of The Town That Dreaded Sundown. The camera work is nicely done and the music score solidly spooky. The biggest highlight here may come from star Jessica Harper's understated performance. Harper (best known as the heroine of Suspiria and Phantom of the Paradise) makes a truly convincing role here.

Over all, The Evictors is definitely a film worth checking out for horror fans, particularly those who are fans of Pierce or Harper. This is an underrated effort in need of a new audience.

*** out of ****

The Possession of Joel Delaney
(1972)

A unique and chilling forerunner of the 'possession' sub-genre.
Manhattan socialite begins to fear for her troubled younger brother when he starts behaving bizarrely and he seems to have been friends with a backstreet murderer.

The Possession of Joel Delaney is a dark horror film with much going for it. For one, it's among the earliest horror films to deal with the theme of spiritual possession. Also, it's one of those horror gems that doesn't need to resort to special effects or overt gore and violence to be effectively unsettling. It's a thoroughly well-written film as it blends eerie supernatural horror with a strong social commentary. The plot is compelling and quite off-beat as it builds to some chilling peaks and a finale that's splendidly suspenseful. It's a truly disturbing tale.

The direction, cinematography, and urban locations are all good but the true highlight is the stars. Veteran actress Shirley MacLaine is great as her bewildered, yet unsympathetic character. However the show is truly stolen by young Perry King who puts on an excellent dynamic performance as his potentially unhinged character. It's easy to see why King went on to a notable career after this debut.

All around The Possession of Joel Delaney is one of the finer low-key horror films of the 70's. It's a film that wisely chooses the intelligent, non-camp approach to its subject matter and it comes off a solid effective chiller because of it.

*** 1/2 out of ****

The Haunted House of Horror
(1969)

Tense finale in an otherwise routine camp-fest.
London "hepcats" grow bored at a party one night and decide to go explore an old nearby estate that's supposedly haunted. Once there one of the gang is brutally knifed to death and the group is left to wonder if one of their own is a killer.

The Haunted House of Horror (also known simply as Horror House) is a swinging 60's British chiller that's a bit of a mixed-bag for horror fans. On the good side there's a couple of effectively shocking (and bloody) murder scenes, a nicely moody music score by Reg Tilsley, and the climax of the film is pleasingly intense. Unfortunately the rest of the film is hampered by a sluggish pacing and a fairly routine setup. The uneven performances from the cast don't help things either.

Still, overall Haunted House of Horror has enough going for it to make it an interesting watch - particularly for fans of British horror from this era or maybe for people who just hate Frankie Avalon.

** out of ****

Zombieland
(2009)

A delightful comic riot from beginning to end!
A young man must cope with life in the midst of a zombie apocalypse as he joins a tough redneck and two sisters in a fight for survival, romance, and twinkees.

The zombie genre has always seemed to make for the best horror-comedies. There's Return of the Living Dead (1985), Dead Alive (1992), and Shaun of the Dead (2004), just to name a few; now we have a little gem called Zombieland and it certainly lives up to all the previous "zom com's". Zombieland is a terrifically fun film. It has lightning-fast pacing, hard-hitting action, and a fantastically colorful sense of humor. This is one excellently well-written comedy that packs genuinely effective laughs into nearly every scene - which is a feat in itself. The dialog is often hilarious and the comic gags are clever. The characters are endearing and very likable. The direction is quite good and there's plenty of gruesome zombie chaos for genre fans to enjoy.

The cast is great. Jesse Eisenberg is a joy as the wimp-turned-lovesick-hero. Woody Harrelson has never played a more colorful character and he's a complete hoot. Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin are solid as the two sisters. Bill Murray is a welcomed sight as he makes an uproariously funny cameo - playing himself no less.

Zombieland is one of the most entertaining movies I've seen in ages. It's a comedy that more than delivers on what it promises and becomes a superior horror-comedy that's not just for zombie fans. It is destined to be a cult classic. See it!

**** out of ****

Il rosso segno della follia
(1970)

A fiendish and colorful psycho drama from the great Mario Bava.
Handsome bridal shop owner is troubled by mysteries from his childhood which seem to drive him to murder brides-to-be. However he may have other problems after the ghost of his vindictive wife starts to haunt him.

Hatchet for the Honeymoon is one deliciously strange and darkly comical chiller from the great Mario Bava. As usual Bava's direction is excellent and inventive; particularly the dynamic camera-work and vivid imagery. The story is quite compelling as it goes against the norm and takes the killer's point of view and makes us surprisingly sympathetic toward him. The plot also takes some nicely off-beat twists as it brims with moments of macabre humor, sharp suspense, and some touches of dream-like surrealism. In addition the music score of Sante Maria Romitelli is jazzy and quite beautiful at times; a nice contribution to the colorful cinematography.

The cast is fairly solid too. Star Stephen Forsyth does a wonderfully brooding performance and makes his psychotic character strangely likable (one wonders if Bret Easton Ellis saw this film before writing American Psycho). Forsyth is perfectly matched by co-star Laura Betti, who does a fiendish performance as Forsyth's domineering wife.

Hatchet for the Honeymoon is a real treat for fans of Bava and the giallo genre, or those that just enjoy odd-ball horror films. It's one of Bava's most interesting works and remains perhaps the most overlooked of his films.

*** 1/2 out of ****

Lisa e il diavolo
(1973)

Eerie, surreal, and strangely beautiful - one of Bava's best!
Lovely tourist Lisa becomes lost in a European town and soon finds herself at an isolated estate where she's plagued by bizarre and frightening occurrences. The handsome master of the house seems to think Lisa is the reincarnation of his dead lover, a phantom stranger may or may not be a ghost, and the smug family butler is possibly the devil himself!

Lisa and the Devil is perhaps the most unique of the great Mario Bava's horror films. It broods with the lavish and colorful direction that the great filmmaker was well known for and it has a terrifically weird atmosphere. The story is a compelling mosaic of mystery, murder, and otherworldly surrealism as it provides for one effectively nightmarish journey. The fluid camera-work is excellent, the Gothic scenery and sets are nicely captured, and the haunting music score is perfectly pitched to give this film a stylish and chilling atmosphere.

The cast is also quite good. Gorgeous Elke Sommer gives a strong performance as bewildered Lisa. Dashing Alessio Orano is terrific as the master of the house. Veteran actress Alida Valli is great as the blind countess. However the biggest show-stealer is Telly Savalas as the charismatic and possibly fiendish butler. The supporting cast is also quite solid.

Lisa and the Devil is simply a must-see for all fans of Bava and particularly for fans of surrealist horror. It's a truly original horror gem and one of Bava's greatest works.

Footnote: Avoid a terribly re-edited and re-worked version of the film re-named House of Exorcism. This was a poorly constructed version of the film forced onto the market after distribution problems. Stick with the film that Bava intended to make instead!

**** out of ****

Sorority Row
(2009)

Surprisingly fun slasher flick and a decent remake.
When a prank goes awry, a group of sorority sisters are left with a dead body on their hands. They cover up the accidental murder, but on graduation night someone begins to brutally kill everyone involved in the deadly prank.

Admittedly I went into Sorority Row with low expectations because I've always had a soft spot for the original House on Sorority Row (1983) and I feared that this would be another weak insulting remake, i.e. Black Christmas 2006 or Prom Night 2008. However I found myself rather entertained by this polished and energetic remake, it was an engaging ride all the way. Sorority Row has a typical slasher film setup, some hokey dialog, and the usual MTV-style direction, but it manages to build some good suspense and action throughout its interesting plot. Also it has some effectively funny moments of dark humor. In addition there's some flashes of nudity thrown in along with some inventive and bloody murder scenes.

Cast-wise the actors are adequate enough though their characters are typically paper-thin. The biggest standout is definitely Carrie Fisher as the amusingly tough housemother Mrs. Crenshaw. She deserved more screen time.

Over all Sorority Row is a fun slasher guilty pleasure that thankfully doesn't tarnish the memory of a horror classic. It's a worth-wild watch for horror fans, especially if you don't take it too seriously.

** 1/2 out of ****

Dellamorte Dellamore
(1994)

A wickedly wonderful black comedy with a surprising amount of depth!
It's been called one of the best horror films you've never seen, and I would have to whole-heartedly agree! Italian director Michele Soavi (who gave us such great horror films as Stage Fright and The Church) makes perhaps his biggest genre landmark with this unique masterpiece.

Cemetery caretaker Francesco, along with his dim-witted assistant, spends his days re-laying the dead to rest when they rise from their graves. But, is there something more to life than keeping zombies down?

Dellamorte Dellamore is an excellent black comedy/zombie film, yet it is very unlike any other film of its genre. Gianni Romoli delivers a weird and frequently off-beat story, based upon characters from the graphic novel by Tiziano Sclavi. This film has a kind of oddly philosophical depth to it, as well as a genuinely heart-felt hero. Of course it also packs plenty of exciting action with loads gore, sex, and dark humor. Dellamorte Dellamore is a truly wild and often fun ride from its humorous opening sequence to its mystifying conclusion. Michele Soavi's direction is terrifically colorful, flaring with beautiful imagery and dark atmosphere. The settings are very nicely detailed and give the movie a great comic book feel. The special FX makeup is outstanding and the music score is perfect.

The greatest highlight however comes from the cast. Franois Hadji-Lazaro is very animal-like as Francesco's faithful assistant. Lovely Anna Falchi shines as not only one, but three different characters that become love interest to Francesco. And of course the best of all is our hero Rupert Everett. Everett builds a character that's deep, bizarre, funny, dark, and very sexy. Frankly, he's the force behind this film.

Dellamorte Dellamore is a delightful oddity in the zombie genre, it's a film that invites you to figure life out, while you fight off some murderous zombies in the process. A must-see!!

**** out of ****

Messiah of Evil
(1973)

A red moon over Pointe Dune.
A girl arrives in a strange town on the California coast to see her father and learns that he's vanished. When she meets up with a swinging drifter the two soon discover that the weird locals are hiding a horrific secret, they're also quite hungry...

Dead People (also known by the title Messiah of Evil) is an obscure gem among the numerous low-budget drive-in horror flicks of the 70's. It's a gritty film that brims with creative energy and remains intriguingly off-beat throughout. This isn't your standard horror tale at all. There's a great atmospheric dread that runs through the film, along with an amazingly nightmarish moodiness. The compelling plot sports a number of truly chilling scenes and escalates to an intense, if somewhat surreal, finale that's perfectly haunting. It also uses very little violence or gore to reach its effective creepiness.

Director Willard Huyck does a splendid job creating a dream-like vibe for this film and does well with crafting some suspenseful scenes. The cast is good as well. Star Marianna Hill is confident in her portrayal of mystified Arletty and Michael Greer brings something genuine to the character of wondering Thom. Veteran actors Elisha Cook Jr. and Royal Dano are both excellent and truly spooky in their brief but memorable roles in the film.

Is it a perfect film? Not quite, there's some rough editing and a wistful love song theme that seems out of place here, but these issues are dwarfed by the strong points. There's plenty to admire about this chilling, unique horror film. It's definitely worth tracking down for horror fans that enjoy their films a bit on the existential side.

*** 1/2 out of ****

The Blood on Satan's Claw
(1971)

Frightening and simply unforgettable British horror!
In 1670 a British plow boy unearths strange skeletal remains while tilling a field. As it turns out it's the bones of Satan and soon the children of the village begin to practice black masses; preparing to make some murderous sacrifices to their possessor.

Blood on Satan's Claw is a profoundly eerie little horror film. It possesses such a powerful atmosphere of dread while its intriguing plot builds to some truly chilling imagery and some genuinely shocking scenes. Also there's a sexual undertone to the happenings which adds all the more to the unsettling vibes that surround this dark tale. In addition there's one disturbing rape scene and some grisly murder sequences. The film is finely directed by Piers Haggard with splendid camera work, lush locations in the English countryside, and a believably Gothic setting. The unique music score by Marc Wilkinson is terrifically creepy too.

The cast is strong in their performances. Patrick Wymark (in one of his final roles) is good as the Judge who faces down the evil. Linda Hayden is menacing as the young lady who becomes a temptress for the devil. Barry Andrews is likable as the farm hand who unearths the evil and may just become sacrifice for it. The supporting cast is solid as well.

Blood on Satan's Claw is simply a must-see for horror fans. It's outstanding film making wrapped around a haunting tale of good verses evil. Not for all tastes, but the serious horror fan will find it an unsettling and captivating gem! One of the best British horror films of the 70's.

**** out of ****

Pánico en el Transiberiano
(1972)

A one-way trip to outstanding horror.
In 1906 a British scientist discovers a mysterious frozen creature in Manchuria and boards a train to bring it back to England. Unfortunately the creature thaws and begins to possess the passengers; literally draining their souls by merely looking upon them!

Horror Express is one unique and finely-made genre gem. From its eerie opening credits to its smashing, fiery finale it's a journey through the bizarre and terrifying unknown. The story is truly chilling and remains compelling all the way, as it builds to some great shocks and is cemented in a profoundly creepy atmosphere. Eugenio Martin's direction is good, making a B budget film into grade A quality. The camera work is nicely done and the period setting is quite authentic-looking. John Cacavas' haunting music score is also a great addition.

Cast-wise the film is quite solid too. Horror veteran Christopher Lee delivers his usual sophisticated performance, while fellow horror star Peter Cushing adds a colorful presence of his own. The supporting cast is also good, particularly Telly Savalas who plays the captain of a band of rebels who take the train hostage.

Excellent on all levels, Horror Express is a delightful and scary film. Definitely a must-see for genre fans as this is one of the best British horror films of the 70's.

*** 1/2 out of ****

Zaat
(1971)

There's a reason Zaat begins with 'Z'...
Crazy scientist living in the Florida swamps turns himself into a monstrous walking fish-man and proceeds to terrorize.

Another drive in low-budgeter that probably would have been more at home in the 1950's rather than the early 70's. It's weird and cheap schlock all the way! The big rubber monster of the film is quite cheesy looking as it teeters around the swamps and struggles to swim in underwater scenes. The zippers of the monster suit are "hidden" by patches of fur. Zaat seems to have all of the hokey B flick trappings - a silly storyline, lackluster acting, crude editing, and a folksy theme song. Also there's a bikini-wearing girl who gets kidnapped by the monster to cap it off.

Now ordinarily such campy qualities might be downright charming to a B horror fan such as myself, unfortunately Zaat is just too roughly-made and ultimately ridiculous for its own good. Not the worst of its kind, it certainly beats the similarly themed 1966 movie Curse of the Swamp Creature, but Zaat leaves much to be desired.

Then again, what other horror film is there where the monster robs a drugstore?

* 1/2 out of ****

The Last House on the Left
(2009)

Like the original, you'll feel like taking a shower after this one too.
While vacationing with her parents a teenage girl and her friend are kidnapped and brutalized by a gang of thugs. The tormentors then unwittingly spend the night at the home of the parents and needless to say, it will be one long night...

As a fan of the 70's horror genre, I was appalled to learn that Wes Craven's landmark horror-thriller was going to be remade for modern audiences. I wondered just how they would tone-down such a violent and disturbing classic for today's audiences without just ruining the entire film. Much to my surprise though this polished-looking remake actually retained much of the violent brutality of the original film.

I'll warn you up front folks, this isn't a film for all tastes, even the average horror fan may have a difficult time watching this one. Like the original film there's an effectively disturbing rape scene and some very bloody violence. While Last House 2009 does alter the story of the original somewhat, it stays fairly true to the shocking nature and gripping suspense that made the original a classic. It has some terrific action sequences and remains quite intense throughout. The cast delivers good performances, the cinematography is slickly done, and the guys at KNB create some excellent makeup work as usual.

My only complaint about the remake is the fact that it shy's away from the bleak ending of the original in favor of a more routine Hollywood ending. Still overall it remains a bold and effective effort.

All in all Last House 2009 is above-average by remake standards. It's solidly-made and remains engaging and tense all the way. Just don't forget it's pretty savage and definitely isn't for everybody!

*** out of ****

The Wicker Man
(2006)

Let's build a wicker film projector and sacrifice this remake in it!!
California police officer is summoned to an isolated island to investigate the disappearance of a girl and instead discovers that the bizarre islanders are harboring some dark secrets.

The Wicker Man 2006 is one of the most unnecessary remakes to ever be thrown onto a movie screen. Like Gus Van Sant's 1998 remake of Psycho, The Wicker Man is such a classic that the films plot is common knowledge and a remake that produces no twists on the original storyline is just useless. The entire film never manages to create any suspense or surprise, and the plot just meanders along for 100 minutes never picking up speed. Then, of course, comes the 'shocking' conclusion that we've seen coming since 1973! This remake is just a waste of money that could have gone to make a better film. The cast is OK, alas they have little to work with here.

The only thing that saves me from completely BOMBing this turgid remake was the unintentionally hilarious scene where Nicholas Cage karate kicks Leelee Sobieski in the face! That's definitely the highlight of the movie, unfortunately it's over in three seconds. Shame.

* 1/2 out of ****

The Fog
(2005)

Not as bad as it's reputed to be, but still doesn't deserve to be called The Fog.
The coastal Oregion town of Antonio Bay is in danger, as a huge fog bank blows in harboring some revengeful spirits.

Remake of John Carpenter's classic ghost film exchanges the subtle, creepy style of the original film for a bunch of CGI effects and a band of teen-pleasing actors. So I guess it's needless to say it just doesn't live up to Carpenter's classic. The 2005 version of The Fog falls into the cliché trappings of many modern horror flicks. The characters are thinly-written and are cast with actors much younger than those in the original film. The "scares" rely on CGI-created violence rather than on suspense or brooding atmosphere. On top of this the stereotypes are many and the film was obviously created to be pleasing to a certain demographic audience.

With that said the remake does feature some decent direction from Rupert Wainwright and screenwriter Lew Cooper does produce an interesting, if flawed, re-working of the plot of the original film.

So, is it as bad as people say? Well, it's no winner but I don't think it's as bad as such lame remakes as The Wicker Man 2006, Black Christmas 2006, When a Stranger Calls 2006, or Prom Night 2008.

** out of ****

The Mist
(2007)

A bold and powerful horror film, a must for King fans!
Over the years Stephen King's shorter works (his short stories and novellas) haven't always made for the best big screen adaptations. Recently however King's works have been done some good justice (this year's 1408 being a fine addition) and now this stunning film version of King's novella The Mist, which may just be the best and brightest King-based film in many a day.

Following a violent storm, several residence of a small Maine town head off to the local grocery market where they find themselves trapped by a massive cloud of mist. As fear and paranoid grow among the locals it soon becomes evident that monstrous creatures lurk outside, but that's not the only threat.

The Mist is one fantastic tale of unknown terrors and human evil. Director-screen writer Frank Darabont does an excellent job of capturing the chilling effectiveness of the novella. Not only is the film pretty faithful to the original story, it also adds some effective elements of it's own, such as a jaw dropping conclusion to what was originally an open-ended story. The creature FX are gruesomely well done, the suspense and claustrophobia are quite intense, and Darabont's documentary-type camera work makes the film all the more realistic. There's also some great doses of sweat-inducing action to be had. Adding even more to the story are the well-drawn and heart felt characters, which make the film's bold climax all the more powerful.

The cast is quite good. Thomas Jane is endearing as our unfortunate hero, Marcia Gay Harden is a chilling villain as the religious fanatic, and Laurie Holden is solid as a new-comer to town. Toby Jones, William Sadler, Frances Sternhagen, and young Nathan Gamble round out a great supporting cast.

All around The Mist is a fine horror film. It isn't a schlocky, clichéd, or pretentious popcorn scare fest, but an intelligent and deadly serious journey that possesses far more than just gore and shock. It has genuine depth and that alone puts it above most modern genre movies.

**** out of ****

The Happening
(2008)

Mr. Shyamalan or How I Learned to Start Worrying and Love the Plants.
When mysterious force starts causing mass suicides in the cities, a school teacher and his friends flee to the country where they must fight to survive this deadly unknown phenomena.

I've been a big fan of M. Night Shyamalan since Signs and I was one of maybe five people who actually liked The Village. Lady in the Water.... well that is another story. Anyhow I was still eager to see this latest work by Shyamalan and it truly did leave an impression on me. That impression was that he will likely never make another big-budgeted Hollywood film again. Sad, but true. The Happening is a very campy kind of disaster film. It has an intriguing premise but it's really muddled down by it's hammy dialog, lack of suspense, and performances that are just bizarre. Seriously, was Shyamalan's direction to Zooey Deschanel to act as if she were stoned through out the entire movie? Even the wonderful Mark Wahlberg is more awkward than anything else in this film. I know it's a poor film, yet...

I found myself genuinely entertained by it. In a campy kind of way this movie did amuse me. It was funny at times, though unintentionally so, and even as the film didn't have the suspense or scares that I had hoped for it had enough action to keep it afloat. It was weird and off-beat and in the end I think it was the pure strangeness of it that saved it from being a bore.

So what's my final verdict? Well, it's a tough call. I found it interesting and never dull, but I'm also the first to admit that it was pretty flawed. I say if you're a die-hard Shyamalan fan, go see it, if not I would do some internet investigating before seeing it. Either way, I think the time of M. Night Shyamalan has ended.

** 1/2 out of ****

Turistas
(2006)

Perfect for fans of intense survival thrillers.
The horror genre is really turning off people to traveling!

Tourists in Brazil find themselves robbed, stranded, and now being led into a deadly trap. Enter some shady characters desperate for some black market body parts...

Turistas is a swiftly moving thriller that really grabs one from the beginning and only grows more intense throughout. At the same time the film really avoids the horror clichés very nicely and turns out a twisted and unpredictable story. While comparisons between Turistas and Eli Roth's Hostel are inevitable, this little horror ride actually has much more in common with the excellent 2005 horror film Wolf Creek. Much like that film, Turistas is a thriller that relies upon suspense and tension rather than on brutal violence and gore. Although it does have its share of cringe-worthy moments with some occasional graphic images. Also Turistas is slickly filmed in a kind of documentary style that makes the occurrences on screen all the more believable - and more startling. The filming locations are fantastic, the story is very edgy, the cast is solid, and the suspense is well-crafted.

In short, those that enjoy gripping horror films (like High Tension, Wolf Creek, Hostel, etc.) will find this film a worthy ride. It's one of the best sleeper-horror films we've seen this year!

*** 1/2 out of ****

When a Stranger Calls
(2006)

This stranger shouldn't have called again.
While babysitting at an isolated Colorado house, a teen girl is terrorized by an elusive murderer on the telephone.

Remake of the 1979 semi-classic horror film basically takes the opening 20 minutes of the original film and stretches it out to fit an 87 minute time span! So it's pretty needless to say that the plot of this remake is pretty thin. There's little in the way of originality or interest in this movie. There's a lot of Camilla Belle wondering around a dark house wondering who's calling her and encountering all kinds of false scares. It all gets repetitious and routine after the first 30 minutes and never manages to muster up much in the way of suspense or chills. It certainly never reaches the intensity of the original film, especially since it wimps-out and changes one important plot point from the original. I guess we have the PG-13 rating to thank for that.

On the plus side there's an impressive set design and some dark atmosphere, unfortunately there's not much going on around it to save this remake from being sub-par. Belle's performance is pretty mediocre too.

It's just another unimpressive remake.

* 1/2 out of ****

The Hitcher
(2007)

Driving in circles leads.... no where.
College couple picks up a mysterious stranger while traveling and soon find themselves in a terrifying situation.

The Hitcher 2007 is a needless remake of the 1986 road horror film that adds nothing nor improves upon anything from the original film. This is one of those remakes that just turns the story of a unique original into a generic, uninspired horror flick. This remake simply ignores the eerie psychological elements of the original, not to mention the road action isn't nearly as exciting or impressive as that of the original. It just pales in comparison on every level. The fact that the hero of the film is changed to a girl is hardly a surprise either. It's just more clichés for a mainstream audience there.

The cast is OK, Zachary Knighton being the only real standout among them. Sean Bean tries for a menacing villain, but isn't nearly as threatening as he could have been. He's a far cry from the convincing madman that Rutgar Hauer with in the original film.

Folks, The Hitcher 2007 is nothing new. Anyone that's seen the original film will find no surprises here, well not any pleasant ones. Though there's some gruesome violence, a fast pace, and a so-so cast it still fails to rise to the greatness of its superior source material. Do yourself a favor and rent the 1986 film instead. You'll get a far better pay off.

* 1/2 out of ****

Friday the 13th
(2009)

Say what you will critics, but it's definite fun for slasher fans!
Teenagers head out to Crystal Lake, NJ where they encounter murderous Jason and his handy machete...

Make no mistake horror fans, Friday the 13th 2009 isn't exactly a remake of the 1980 slasher classic (save for the opening five minutes), but really more of another sequel to the popular series. Even still Friday' fans will find much to enjoy in this splashy, well-made slasher flick. The film makes no pretensions, it's a slasher film and acts like one too! The action arrives hard and fast, with bloody brutal kill sequences and some intense chase scenes. There's also a dash of dark humor (and plenty of topless actresses) thrown in for good measure.

So I can't complain that there's little character development or that the movie is riddled with clichés and stereotypes because this film is wise enough to dispense with the myriad BS and get to the elements that Friday' fans enjoy. Good choice. My only big complaint is the fact that Harry Manfredini's iconic theme music wasn't featured much, if any, in the movie. I did miss that ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma.

Worth your money horror fans, as this is one of the best Friday' movies in many years.

** 1/2 out of ****

Calvaire
(2004)

One of the most disturbing portraits of insanity in recent memory.
This intense, eerie survival horror film from Belgium is one effectively haunting piece of nightmare cinema.

A Belgium singer gets off the beaten path en route to a gig and ends up at a rustic country inn. The lonely, strange owner of the inn is extremely eager to help his lost guest, but his hospitality soon reveals a sinister, psychotic vendetta.

Calvaire (known as The Ordeal in English) is a brutally shocking film that has taken quite a bit of influence from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). However, unlike many Texas imitators, Calvaire actually manages to reach the horrific levels of madness that made Texas Chainsaw so frightening. Calvaire is more than just a homage to classic backwoods horror, it's an almost other-worldly bizarre assault on the senses. The psychological terror here far out weighs any violence, which Calvaire has surprisingly little of. The plot builds to great tension and some fantastically crazy sequences. The direction of Fabrice Du Welz is quite stylish, giving the film a great gritty atmosphere of dread. Also the wintry Belgium locations are somehow both eerie and lovely, making for a unique and isolated setting for the action.

The cast is quite strong. Jackie Berroyer is terrific as the crazed innkeeper who will stop at nothing to keep his guest. Laurent Lucas does a good turn as the tormented victim. Jean-Luc Couchard is memorable as a wondering nut case who constantly looks for his missing dog.

Calvaire is a brilliant little horror film. It's a sharp entry in the backwoods horror genre that wisely remembers the scariest attacks are not on the body, but on the mind. A real winner for the genre.

**** out of ****

My Bloody Valentine
(2009)

There's more than one way to lose your heart....
A young man, who survived a vicious massacre, returns to his hometown only to become the prime suspect when someone wearing miner's gear begins pick-axing the locals left and right!

I didn't know what to expect from this remake of the 1981 slasher classic, heck I didn't know if my theater would even present it in 3-D, but it turned out to be an amusing little ride for this horror fan. Turns out I was lucky enough to see it at a theater showing it in 3-D and it was a surprisingly fun gimmick. My Bloody Valentine 3-D is a gory, fast-paced slasher film that delivers plenty of suspenseful action and lots of gruesome murders, which are all the more shocking thanks to the effectively neat 3-D presentation. The movie is well-directed and shot, and remains entertaining throughout.

Still its not entirely flawless. Most of the characters never rise above being one dimensional, though the performances of the three leads (Ackles, King, and Smith) aren't bad, and the plot does stretch itself pretty thin by the end. It does have an admittedly good twist during the climax though.

So here's the breakdown horror fans....

The Good:

  • suspenseful action scenes - clever and gruesome murder scenes - impressive 3-D effects - an engaging story with one solid twist - nudity (both male and female) for the trash lover in you - an R rating (because there's no such thing as a good PG-13 slasher movie)


The Not-so-good:

  • some weak supporting characters - some routine slasher clichés - a conclusion that's not entirely satisfying


So the good does out weigh the bad in this energized remake. It's definitely fun for horror fans and it's one of the better classic horror remakes in quite some time. Try to catch it in 3-D though.

** 1/2 out of ****

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