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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Horror Island (1941) - George Waggner

I chose this movie at random and was surprised that it was a Universal feature. This movie has really weird vibes around it. Upon first impression, it's a really good quality and well made picture. However, it starts to take weird and bizarre turns. It's a sea faring horror flick with pirate overtones that's produced by Universal Pictures. What could go wrong?

A broke sailor, Bill Martin, is convinced at trying his luck at obtaining a couple of million dollars in buried treasure. A strange sailor, Leo Carrillo,  has a piece of a map that leads to that treasure and it just happens to be located on an island that the sailor's family owns. The sailor gathers a small group and they all travel to the island to stay the night at an old dark castle, with the intention of searching for the treasure. Only, they won't be searching for it. They will try to survive as a strange cloaked Phantom seeks to get them to leave one by one. 

The music in the film is phenomenal and really adds to the tension. The plot is predictable, but it still has it's moments. And the comedy is really funny too. The Phantom himself is pretty creepy looking but doesn't do much to make the film any more frightening. It's just another early forties comedy horror, trying to lighten the spirits of the masses during a bad time. 

The film is about 60:40 Comedy to Horror with a twinge of Adventure. It's not really what I would consider to be scary. Although it has a few scenes that are well produced and would do well as stock footage. The majority of the film seems like it was produced by a cookie-cutter. Plug any actor into Foran's role and no one would notice.  

Dick Foran does a well enough job. He is in the Clooney type comedic role that happens to fit his character really well. Peggy Moran did alright too. Unfortunately, this is another movie that follows that tired and worn-out Old Dark House motif. To me that is a style that is getting really dull. I appreciated the sailor theme though. But Leo Carrillo makes for a pretty weird pirate. 

The film is pretty decent and good for a date movie. It's comedy still holds up and isn't overly hokey. It's by Universal Studios and they are notorious, at the time, for putting out some really quality work. It's not scary but it isn't terrible either. Check it out. 

Director: George Waggner
Producer: Jack Bernhard
Starring: Dick Foran, Peggy Moran, Leo Carrillo and Foy Van Dolsen
Production Company: Universal Studios
Release Date: March 28, 1941
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $93,000

Monday, April 11, 2016

Burying the Ex (2014) - Joe Dante

Horror Comedy has become so complacent. The jokes and atmosphere is stale, it's tough to pull off in a good way. This is one of those complacent movies. It has a good amount of star power, but the writing falls flat. The gore and practical effects are the saving grace. Veteran Joe Dante knows his stuff and happens to be the one person that is trying. It's just lame. 

Max (Anton Yelchin) is in a crappy relationship with a controlling and manipulative girl, Evelyn. Fate smiles upon our young friend Max and kills off the girlfriend by having her struck by a bus. After a bit of grieving, Max has the freedom to start seeing a new girl, Olivia. Things get complicated when Evelyn comes back from the dead as a brain craving zombie. Evelyn seeks to rekindle her relationship with Max while physically deteriorating in front of him. And Max is trying to move on, keeping his dead ex-girlfriend a secret from Olivia for now. 

This one is brought to us from horror movie legend, Joe Dante. It follows the usual humor found in most Dante pictures. It had hints of the usual schlock-ness, but comes off as more mature than his previous entries. The movie leans heavily on the comedy angle and succeeds at being funny during a few scenes. However, the overall story is just bland. The details are great but it's not enough to carry the picture. 

Burying the Ex is a decent date movie. It's not good enough to care about if things go in your direction, so you wouldn't be missing much. The movie is not scary in any way whatsoever. It's too fun. Or at least, it tries to be fun. It's not going to give you nightmares and is safe enough for just about anyone. It may be a bit too risque for the younger ones, but teens would love it. 

Initial release: September 4, 2014
Director: Joe Dante
Initial DVD release: August 4, 2015
Screenplay: Alan Trezza
Music composed by: Joseph LoDuca

Did ya know...
Near the beginning of the film a moving truck can be seen with the name Romero & Sons. A reference to George A. Romero who is the father of zombie movies.
When Max and Evelyn are having sex at the beginning of the film, the movie Fright Night (1985) is playing on the TV. Anton Yelchin played the lead role in the 2011 remake, Fright Night (2011).

Saturday, April 09, 2016

The Ghost Train (1941) - Walter Forde

Stuffy, boring and tedious. This movie has some great parts and good scenes. But overall it just doesn't cut the mustard. It's a British feature that acts as a vehicle for Arthur Askey more than an actual picture or movie. It tries to incorporate a good deal of drama as well but is overwhelmed with it's strangely dated quick witted humor. It's not a horrible picture, it's just terribly boring. 

Queue the old dark house narrative when we have a group of strangers all stranded in an old dark train station overnight. The group is haunted by trains and ghosts the entire picture. Also, someone is trying to knock them off one by one. The entire time they are being bombarded with sharply dim-witted comments spewed off by Askey the comedian. 

This movie was obviously filmed during World War II most notably during the German blitz on London. That accounts for the cramped nature of the picture. It's unfortunate. Arthur Askey is not the type of comedian you would like to be cooped up with. He is a little too over the top. 

The movie isn't scary. If you were looking for something to give you shivers, then keep on looking. It was probably much needed in England after the bombings. The humor may have been annoying and juvenile, but it must have kept the moods light. That kind of thing is important during wartime. 

I wouldn't suggest this film to any casual horror fans. This is for more of a horror movie's horror movie. It's a bit long for not really having much of a point. It barely kept my interest and Arthur Askey is really annoying. The rest of the cast was pretty forgettable too. 

Initial release: May 3, 1941
Director: Walter Forde
Story by: Arnold Ridley
Adapted from: The Ghost Train
Screenplay: Val Guest, Marriott Edgar, J. O. C. Orton

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Riki-Oh: Story of Ricky (1991) - Lam Nai Choi

I had seen this movie years ago when I was a kid. It was weird enough to stick with me but alluded me all through these years. It had come on Cinemax for a long time along side movies like If Looks Could Kill, Parenthood and Fast Getaway. If you grew up in the nineties then chances are you might have seen this. It was crammed somewhere in between your sessions of Street Fighter II or Super Mario Brothers 3. Let's just say that the best way to enjoy this movie is with a Slurpee and bag of Chili Cheese Fritos.

This is the movie about a misunderstood prisoner with superhuman strength, dexterity and endurance. Riki-Oh has been in prison for assault and manslaughter and must resort to some extreme measures in order to survive. The prisons are run by gangs and each one is ruthless, they all want Riki-Oh dead. It doesn't help that the prison is practicing cannibalism. Cartoonish and Entertaining, this movie mixes elements of late eighties Jackie Chan movies with Tom Savini-ish effects. 

Riki-Oh is a Kung Fu movie with horror elements. The film isn't presented in any way that would be considered scary. In fact it feels like Enter the Dragon or something in that way. The horrific details are what make this movie fun. Riki-Oh showcases a trail of blood and guts that is never really rivaled in other Martial Arts movies. 

This movie isn't a classic. It's not the best acted and doesn't have the best effects. In fact some of the fighting is a bit slow. However, what it doesn't have in quality it more than makes up for with loads and loads of gore. It is apparently based on a manga but I don't know if that one is as violent or gory. 

Another fantastic entry to a playlist for a Halloween party. This movie is sure to entertain just about everyone. The over-the-top violence is just a small part of what makes this movie eerie and weird. It is definitely too violent for younger viewers but older teenagers and young adults will really love it. I know I did. 

Initial release: October 5, 1991 (Japan)
Director: Lam Ngai Kai
Screenplay: Lam Ngai Kai
Music composed by: Phil Chen

Story by: Tetsuya Saruwatari, Masahiko Takajo
Starring: Fan Siu-wong, Fan Mei Sheng, Ho Ka-kui

Did ya know...
The first Hong Kong movie to receive a "Category III" rating for violence. Riki-Oh's Category III rating (the Hong Kong equivalent of an NC-17) greatly inhibited its ability to make money at the box office. It was one of the first Hong Kong movies that used Category 3 film rating system for non erotic media. It grossed $2,147,778 HKD in Hong Kong.

"The Gang of Four" was an actual group that existed in China in the 1960's and 1970's. The members were Jiang Qin (wife of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong), Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Wang Hongwen. All four were convicted of anti-party activies and given life sentences.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

WNUF Halloween Special (2013) - Chris LaMartina

This movie is genius. I found this while browsing around on Shudder. Made to look like a VHS recording of a block of television on Halloween in 1987. This horror movie keeps the air light enough that it is a perfect selection for a playlist for a Halloween party. It's fun, it's creative and it has a great feel. I just fell in love from first sight. 

As I had explained above. This movie is presented as a block of television from 1987. It comes complete with commercials and bumpers for two full programs. The WNUF Evening News and the WNUF Halloween Special. The focus seems to be on the Halloween Special where special reporter and local goofball Frank Stewart, take a group of paranormal investigators and unlucky people through an actual Haunted House. Things go awry of course and something ends up killing off members of the crew. It turns out that Frank Stewart doesn't have long to live and it will all be caught on tape!

The films tension is broken up tediously by some of the best satiristic commercials i've seen since Grindhouse. Each one is directed by a different person, but they all have that authentic feeling. It's really not annoying in the slightest. Not if your a fan of that vintage television style. The film has it's really intense scenes saved for the final ten minuets while using more comedic scenes in the leadup. It ends up working really well. 

The movie had me going for a little while. I had to do some research during the opening WNUF news segment to see if that was even a channel. I wasn't unhappy to find out that it wasn't. It didn't end up ruining anything for me. It made me respect it even more. I even like that the creators of the movie tried to start a viral marketing campaign for it, leaving copies in a few areas. That's creative. 

This movie is pretty tame. It's definitely alright for teenagers but a bit intense for the younger ones. It's great for parties or just for a quick viewing to kill boredom. It's a little bizarre for a date movie so just be warned. If you have a weird partner than they might be into it. WNUF Halloween Special is another entry into the new Found Footage category of horror with movies like VHS. 

Initial release: October 18, 2013
Directors: Chris LaMartina, Shawn Jones, James Branscome
Budget: 1,500 USD
Screenplay: Chris LaMartina
Cinematography: Chris LaMartina
Editor: Chris LaMartina