The Eye (2002) Reviewed

•July 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

2002's Japanese Horror Flick, "The Eye"

EYE, THE (2002)
The creative forces behind the original Japanese The Ring are responsible for this effective chiller that manages to shock despite a pretty familiar story structure. A young woman who’s been blind since her very early childhood receives a corneal transplant that leaves her with the unenviable power to see…well, dead people. Whether it’s riffing on the glut of other similarly plotted films or a victim of bad timing is unclear, but some powerful visuals and visceral blasts of shocking violence keep you paying attention. All in all, an artsy genre flick that delivers the goods with style and above-average writing. The inevitable American remake, starring Jessica Alba, arrived in 2008 to almost complete disinterest.
***

Euro Trip (2004) Reviewed

•July 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

EURO TRIP (2004)
Fairly standard teen comedy that combines elements of American Pie and Road Trip and manages to be funnier than both of them. Two teens set course for Berlin (when one finds that his pen pal is a blonde hottie), bump into some friends and make several European stops along the way. There are lots of gross-outs, sex and nudity but a surprising amount of heart too. This would make an excellent triple-bill with Hostel and Hostel II — if either of those movies were worth a shit.
**1/2

House on Bare Mountains (1962) Reviewed

•July 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

3996847932_84575562f2HOUSE ON BARE MOUNTAIN, THE (1962)
A kooky moon shining granny (Bob Creese in drag imitating Jonathan Winters in drag) runs an all-girls finishing school. She keeps her bootlegging in the basement with her pet werewolf. There are other monsters thrown in to the mix for no good reason at all. The movie’s centerpiece is a spiked-punch party that gets “crazy.” Essentially this a run-of-the-mill nudie cutie with a pretty nice assortment of students who barely bother with clothes at all.
**

Nosferatu (silent, 1922) Reviewed

•July 20, 2009 • 1 Comment
Max Schreck as Count Orlock in Nosferatu.

Max Schreck as Count Orlok in Nosferatu.

NOSFERATU (1922) aka Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror
The first filmed adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Draculais arguably the best. Though not a direct adaptation in name, due to some stubbornness on the part of Stoker’s widow and estate, German silent-era maverick F.W. Murnau changed the names and locations and added his German expressionistic aesthetic. Still creepy to look at, it will likely bore the life out of those whose only experience with silent films involves Charlie Chaplin. Max Schreck embodies all that is vulgar and horrific about the vampire mythos playing Count Drac- er…Orlok, with his talon-fingers, pointy ears, misshapen skull and wild eyes – he’s a long way from the Hungarian gentlemen we associate with Universal’s Count. Nosferatu is plenty rewarding for film school students, vampire fanatics and silent film aficionados even if there’s not much here to interest, say, teen girls at a slumber party. Regardless, it’s a classic and with good reason – it terrified audiences during its initial release in a way that modern movies can’t. No one had ever seen anything like it at the time. Watch for a reverse photography carriage ride to the Count’s castle for some very interesting early special effects that manage to capture the true foreboding that that scene deserves and other adaptations squandered. Though it’s available in many public-domain collections, the restored DVD is better looking and has a solid essay commentary. Klaus Kinski played Orlok in Werner Herzog’s long-winded 1979 retelling. Shadow of the Vampire, starring John Malchovich as Murnau, fictionalizes the making of Nosferatu to mixed affect.
***

Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors (1987) Reviewed

•July 20, 2009 • 1 Comment
One of my all-time favorite horror movie posters. It appears to have been designed prior to casting considering that Kincaid (left, holding bat) is black.

One of my all-time favorite horror movie posters.

NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987)
The second Elm St. sequel wisely ignores part two. The last of the Elm Street kids are all hospitalized in a mental ward because their nightmares have been causing weird behavior and suicidal tendencies. Nancy (Heather Langerkamp), sole survivor of Elm St. 1, returns as a counselor to save the kids from what she knows is the real trouble: Freddy Krueger. We get some back-story on Freddy that reveals that he’s “the bastard son of 100 maniacs”…which would be effective if it made any biological sense. Subsequent sequels would prove that the less we know about Freddy, the better. A very young Patricia Arquette plays the lead, Kristen, who’s able to pull others into her dreams. Lawrence Fishburn plays a sympathetic orderly. John Saxon returns as Nancy’s police captain pop. The special effects are first-rate and the story is the strongest in the series. Even the acting is better. Langerkamp, so perfect in part one, seems oddly out of her depth here. There is a disturbing cameo by Zsa Zsa Gabor and Dick Cavett. Director, Chuck Russell, also made the excellent remake of The Blob the following year, but hasn’t done much of consequence since then. The titular theme song, by Dokken(!), had a fairly popular video on MTV. This was the high point of the NoES sequels and every sequel that followed was worse than the one before it. ***

Watch the trailer for Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors:

Phantasm (1979) Reviewed

•July 20, 2009 • 1 Comment
Phantasm poster art.

Phantasm poster art.

PHANTASM (1979)
Don Coscarelli’s effectively creepy tale of a boy’s private battle with the evil that dwells in his neighborhood’s mortuary/cemetery is very original and filled with lots of bizarre and startling images. Angus Scrimm’s “Tall Man” would become a horror legend. I had many a sleepless nights fearfully waiting to find him standing over my bed, snarling: “Boy!” Flying silver balls drill holes in foreheads and shoot the gore out their backside. Jawa-like dwarves scurry around crypts. No solid explanation is given which adds to the surrealist nightmarishness of it all. The performances are all good and the script generously supplies a few well-placed laughs. There’s some brief toplessness, but it turns out to be dirty supernatural prank (ripped off in Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors). Coscarelli went on to direct two decent sequels and Bubba Ho-Tep.
***
Watch the trailer for Phantasm:

The Phantom Creeps (serial, 1939) Reviewed

•July 20, 2009 • Leave a Comment
Bela Lugosi in "The Phantom Creeps" (1939)

Bela Lugosi in "The Phantom Creeps" (1939)

THE PHANTOM CREEPS (1939)
This 12-episode serial stars Bela Lugosi (doing low-rent stuff for Universal who had brought him stardom) as the mad Dr. Zorka who has discovered a new element capable of…well, freezing plants and creating tiny explosions, evidently. But it takes a mechanical spider to get the job done. What?! Your typical circular serial storytelling lays it all out. The Feds are the heroes trying to get this important discovery for the security of America. There’s a nosy, Lois Lane-style reporter and a lumbering mechanical monster whose face has become sort of iconic — Rob Zombie used it on an album cover. A good example of the genre, but pretty flat and lacking the style of Flash Gordon. Lugosi never fails to give it his all though. All 12 (poorly-restored) episodes are available together on one DVD. The abridged feature-length cut of the story that aired for years on television is available on a gazillion public domain collections.
**