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Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The Pit (1981) - Lew Lehman


The Pit (AKA. Teddy) is a dreadful horror film. The usual tropes exist. The list is loaded. But this poor horror movie has something all the other poor horror flicks don't have. Sammy Snyders. Snyders plays the annoying lead antagonist. Who am I to complain? This role is what brought the film to cult status. The other elements lack but Snyders' work is what remains the most notable. That's not a good thing. The picture looks interesting enough. But, doesn't take long for the picture to derail. It's just so damn curious. The box art is pleasant and weird. It's not the best art but at least it was created by hand. I hadn't heard of the movie before discovering it online. I can't think of seeing this movie on the racks at the video store. And seems to be pretty forgotten. I believe that makes it pretty rare. 

The plot revolves around a kid going through puberty in the worst way. I am not one to mince words. He acts like a strange little creep. His name is Jamie, and he isn't normal. Jamie flies off the handle at the slightest bump in a social setting. It's understandable that he would be bullied. But Jamie has a weapon for those bullies. A hole in the forest. Jamie had come across this hole deep in the woods. Inside of the hole are these weird goblin  things called Tra-La-Logs. These creatures need meat to survive and Jamie appears to be their only friend. One day he just starts pitching folks down into this pit. Anyone that had wronged him. Later he literally lets the Tra-La-Logs out! But that's when the horror movie really begins. It's not just about some awkward little asshole. 

Sadly, the movie takes a great deal of time to show Jamie lusting after his babysitter Sandy (Jeannie Elias). She is at the center of his perverse attention. Jamie clearly makes his intentions known while playing dumb the entire movie. It's annoying. Sandy denies his advances and he goes into full dramatic Emo mode. I would like this movie much more if Sammy Snyders wasn't in it. It's the worst. His annoying voice just rips across each scene thoroughly. I had to take a break. His antics infuriated me. 

There are small pockets of attempts at horror. I believe that this must have looked great on paper. But the movie doesn't genuinely deliver and I wouldn't want to watch it again. The ending is so mishmahsed that it becomes too unusual for it's own good. The sleaze, the gore and tone in the second half of the movie feel like a Roger Corman picture. Ordinarily that would be a good thing. In this case it just boils down to bad film-making. I can't say that I recommend it either. I can see why people would subject themselves to something like this as a cult feature. I would like to cast this movie into a pit. 

Director: Lew Lehman
Producer: Jennet Fode/John F. Bassett
Writer: Ian A. Stuart
Starring: Sammy Snyders and Jeannie Elias
Studio: Amulet Pictures/Ambassador Film Distributors/New World Pictures/Embassy Home Entertainment
Release Date: October 23, 1981
Country: Canada



















Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Mist (2007) - Frank Darabont


With the modern IT coming out soon followed by The Dark Tower, it seemed to be a good time to look at the King adaptations. Like this revisit of Frank Darabont’s The Mist. I had reviewed this back in 2011 and decided to give it one more day in court. I am glad to go back and view The Mist. This time I had taken the advice of Rocket Film School and saw the movie in black and white. It was so much better.

This picture is the closest thing we have to a Lovecraftian feature film. In the horror society it is well known that Sir Stephen King holds H.P. Lovecraft in high regard. He has been loving up to that man for his entire career. I had always felt Cthulhu would have been genius on the big screen. In my wildest dreams I can picture Kubrick showing us a great Lovecraft story. Now I understand Ron Howard is working on something. Let's hope it is better than this...

The Mist is a movie about a small town that gets terrorized by alternate dimension monsters that hide in a thick mist. The movie doesn't focus on the monsters it focuses on the emotions of the people that had become trapped in this situation. The movie takes this small town that has grown up around each other and turns them on one and other. Even though the movie focuses on the group part of the film more than the horror part. It still has some decent gore with horrible CGI. You see this giant ??? outside, holding everyone inside of a supermarket. All we know is that this monster has tentacles that rip people to shit.

The initial paranoia that the movie begins with is great. The creeping fear that doesn't stop and can't be explained is perfect. Then they add terrible CGI monsters ruining the whole damn thing. The Mist was a huge disappointment but the noir style version I had watched made it more palatable. The acting wasn’t as horrible as I had remembered but it was far from perfect. What else would you expect from a Thomas Jane led film? Did anyone not learn anything at all from Punisher!? This movie is hot wind and nothing more. The scariest thing in the movie is not even the Monsters, it's the bible thumping psycho bitch that kills a military guy in a human sacrifice. What the hell... nuts.

The good is that the characters are pretty well flushed out. They just aren’t believable. The cast has a number of actors from The Walking Dead and a few that appeared in other King works like William Sadler, Frances Sternhagen, Jeffrey DeMunn and Andre Brauer. Not to mention Thomas Jane himself who had also been in Dreamcatcher. A movie that I expect has ties to this one. Both dealing with similar looking creatures being hunted by a covert arm of the military. Both movies taking place in the King multiverse is just more evidence. 


Also, I cannot stress enough that this black and white thing is far superior. The black and white makes me appreciate the shots. It’s lovely aside from the CGI. Which is better but still horrible. The movie has a very minimal soundtrack, and that adds to the impending dread and despair but the music it uses is pretentious and exceedingly melodramatic. The worst part about the movie has to be the ending though. The ending... The damn ending. A horrible display of wrapping this nasty excuse up by copping out and wasting everyone. There are no incentives for any of the evil acts that take place.The survivors kill themselves leaving Thomas Jane the only survivor. Just as a tank strolls past and the mist clears up, revealing troops killing the monsters. I am expected to believe that the survivors drove on however much gasoline. Across highways and strange roads. Only to commit suicide and be passed by truckloads of survivors from THEIR TOWN! Did the armed forces follow them? They roamed across highways, freeways and fire roads but nevertheless the military found them! I can’t even.


Director: Frank Darabont

Producer: Frank Darabont, Martin Shafer and Liz Glotzer

Writer: Frank Darabont
Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher and William Sadler. 
Studio: Dimension Films, Darkwoods Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date: November 21, 2007
Country: United States
Did Ya Know: Frank Darabont agreed to make the film with Dimension only under the condition that no matter what, they wouldn't change the scripted ending. They agreed.(WHAT!?) This is the same director as The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile (WHAT!?) The movie actually got pretty good marks from different websites.













Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Death Ship (1980) - Alvin Rakoff



Death Ship is striking. The exterior resembles any other small-budget horror movie released in the late-seventies or early eighties. It's muddy and coarse. But Death Ship is surely worth trying out. It has tension and terror. Plus, stages of certain fright. If that's not sufficient. Consider seeing a possessed George Kennedy starring in a movie set on a runaway Nazi ghost ship.

An ocean liner is bearing out on a retirement voyage for its captain. The ship is run into by an unknown dark vessel and draws on water. This causes it to sink. A lot of the voyagers and crew are drown and are killed. But both captains and their families live along with the band leader. They are ultimately "rescued" by that same dark vessel that sank them. A solitary German World War II Nazi torture ship that desires to execute them one by one. To make things worse, the retiring captain becomes possessed by Nazi ghosts and cooperates in the deaths. It's insane.

The movie doesn't come without obvious issues. There are terrible cuts and snags from the dreaded low-budget. But the overall trend of the movie still comes off as dark and foreboding. It's unnerving. One scene is when an individual falls into the hull of the ship. The possessed captain fetches him out utilizing a net full of bones and decomposing corpses. It's brilliant. The man suffers as he yields to despair. The movie slows down in this spot to tack on extra fright and irregularity. That scene is hard to watch. The whole time we get to intense levels of unhealthy quality nazi music. That's enough to contribute to a few rough dreams.

Issues are bound to occur. These headaches are with the condition of the film, dubbing and acting. Sure. But the effects aren't insignificant. In fact a number of them were outstanding. But this film isn't about blood and guts. This horror movie relies on environment. The shots of the inner recesses of this huge abandoned ship are enough to give you the willies. The casting is likewise impressive. Richard Crenna, Nick Mancuso and Saul Rubinek all star or make appearances. The acting is television quality, but it's not the most terrible. And it doesn't take away from the surroundings or how weirdness. Another cool thing is that the movie was written by grind house legend Jack Hill. So that gives Death Ship points.

I found it funny that the most convenient group of people survive the wreckage. Just about everyone featured on board the first ocean liner survived. Moreover, both captains fail to go down with the ship. But those are mere petty criticisms. I admired this picture. The movie touched a lot of buttons for me. It isn't perfect, but there's an attraction. This anti-Semitic murder machine is preposterous. A giant nazi killer ship! I mean what in the hell! George Kennedy as a nazi possessed curmudgeon is the definition of fright. This is a must see for horror fans.

Director: Alvin Rakoff
Producer: Derek Gibson and Harold Greenberg
Writer: Jack Hill and David P. Lewis
Starring: George Kennedy, Richard Crenna, Nick Mancuso and Sally Ann Howes
Studio: Avco Embassy Pictures
Release date: March 7, 1980
Country: Canada and United Kingdom
Did ya know: The make and model of the derelict mysterious black 'Flying Dutchman like' "Death Ship" was a deserted German World War II freighter which had once been a Kriegsmarine prison ship used for torturing.




















Sunday, April 23, 2017

Laid to Rest (2009) - Robert Hall


Laid to Rest is a low quality but high effort horror movie written and directed by Robert Hall. I say high effort because Director Hall had the drive and wanted to create something. The parts that succeed remind me of Hatchet but the rest suffers from the Director's inability and a low-budget. 

This movie features a slasher named Chromeskull. A serial killer that wears a chrome-skull mask and specializes in brutalizing his victims. Of course he does it in the goriest ways possible. Chromeskull is in pursuit of Princess, a young woman with amnesia that woke up in a morgue. Princess (Bobbi Sue Luther) is joined by Steven (Sean Whalen) and Tucker (Kevin Gage). They serve as her protectors that aid her escape from the clutches of this malicious masked stranger whose motives are a mystery chased through the entire picture.


Chromeskull is awesome. His style is the coolest-looking thing in the movie. His mask reminds me of Marilyn Manson's album cover for Golden Age of the Grotesque. Robert Hall must have had a great time directing Chromeskull's mutilation scenes. Gore levels in this movie are off the charts. In one scene, the killer takes a knife and stabs a man through the mouth. Cheek to cheek. Right through the teeth and gums... yikes. Then rips off the dudes face! That was wonderful! The practical effects were wonderful. I even liked the CGI when it was used sparingly. 

That's all the movie did well. The Director misused the computer graphics when he put cheap splatter effects in. I saw that CGI blood and lost it. Then the movie has horrendous editing that hinders a number of scenes. Sometimes it's hard to tell what is happening and who is getting attacked. And the casting is weird. Why even get Lena Headey (300, Game of Thrones) when she is so inefficient. 

In fact, all the characters are inefficient. It's a cliche female lead with Goldberg and Steve Buscemi’s little brother in tow. Your biggest known actor that gets a decent chunk of screen time is Sean Whalen (Frogurt from LOST). It could have been good if it were made better. The occasional stabs at comedy are okay but not enough to save it. 

While the Director tried, and the movie had its moments. The poor just outweighed the good. I appreciate low-budget movies that pull themselves up by their bootstraps. But movie is not well executed. Maybe Robert Hall will get it right for the sequel. Check this out if you are looking for something to watch and you feel like seeing just about anything. 



Director: Robert Green Hall
Producer: Chang Tseng and Bobbi Sue Luther
Writer: Robert Green Hall
Starring: Bobbi Sue Luther, Kevin Gage, Sean Whalen and Johnathon Schaech
Studio: Dry County Films and Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: March 18, 2009
Country: United States
Did ya know: When Tucker and Steven print off the information about The Girl they use a laser printer, but the sound is that of a matrix style printer.









Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Uncanny (1977) - Claude Héroux


Cats are strange creatures. While I love my cat a lot. She is very lazy and expectant. She doesn't do much outside of eating, sleeping and getting belly rubs. But I have this sneaking suspicion she is planning my demise. This movie only affirms such behavior. The Uncanny is a French-Canadian/British anthology horror movie consisting of different cat themed tales.

The interweaving story is a series of true stories that Wilber (Peter Cushing) is trying to sell to his publisher. While Wilber tells these stories, he seems to grow more and more nervous about his cat "speaking" to other neighborhood cats. They are all mingling about taking the human species out.

The stories comprise feline revenge tales. Our initial tale has a woman trying to rob an old cat lady. It so happens her cats don't like that. They rip her apart. Quaint little jazzy tunes play in between stories, it breaks up the atmosphere. A lot of films from the seventies made that mistake. Like directors didn't know how to direct the soundtrack.

The next story is about Lucy, a young girl who moves into her aunt's home after her mother's death. The young girl has books on Witchcraft and also has a stereotypical black cat. Thus she begins her journey on a satanic lifestyle much to the chagrin of her oppressive aunt. Lucy shrinks her bully cousin during a dark ceremony. She shrinks her down to the size of a mouse. Perfect for the cat to bat around. These scenes are entertaining. It's fantastic when the cousin meets her horrific demise.

The last story is about a rich asshole (Donald Pleasence) in Hollywood that murders his wife on set to give the part to the young lady he is having an affair with. She's not so great either. He treats his wife's cat like shit. He is constantly yelling at it and stomping at the poor thing. So, like the other felines it tries to kill them and succeeds.

The actors performances are cheap. Typical from a movie from the late seventies. It has its moments. Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence and Ray Milland all do fantastic. But the rest of the cast is stuck churning out daytime television performances. The segment with satanic Lucy was my favorite. And the overarching story was great. There could have had better quality picture and better dubbing. Those are my only gripes.

The Uncanny was enjoyable. It was cheap but charming. It's one of only a few movies that shine a light on the common house-cat's true intentions. Something that is respectable. All joking aside. I would recommend this movie. It's not something that a casual horror fan would enjoy but more for the horror lover. Especially if that horror lover is a fan of Hammer pictures or just British horror altogether. 

Director: Claude Héroux
Producer: René Dupont and Milton Subotsky
Writer: Michael Parry
Starring: Peter Cushing, Ray Milland and Donald Pleasence
Studio: CineVideo, TOR and Rank Films
Release date: August 26, 1977
Country: Canada/Britain
Did you know: Peter Cushing was third choice for author Wilbur Gray.