Friday, January 28, 2011

Review – Countess Dracula

The legend of Countess Elizabeth Bathory (or Bathori if you want to go all European about it) gets Hammered into one of the studio’s typical bare-bosomed vampire chick movies. Of course none of this has anything to do with Dracula, nor does the production feature many of the usual cast of Hammer actors (notably absent are both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing). At least we get Ingrid Pitt as the bloodthirsty countess struggling to find enough virgins in the local village to drain of their youth-sustaining blood. Mildly amusing

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Abandoned – Beware! The Blob

As much as I’d love to feast on a low-budget horror sequel directed by Larry Hagman (not to mention the weird punctuation in the title), this movie and I abruptly parted company around seven minutes in when the monster kills a kitten.

Review - Fear of the Dark

As with several other movies from this “era,” I lost the original review in a hard drive crash and now barely remember seeing it. As I recall, it’s a run-of-the-mill horror flick about a young boy having trouble convincing his older brother slash babysitter that the monster in his closet is actually real. Mildly amusing

Monday, January 24, 2011

Review – Cropsey

Once again indie filmmakers come up with a great idea that goes nowhere. This starts out as an exploration of the connections between childhood boogeyman stories – in this case the Staten Island local version of the Cropsey legend – and Andre Rand, a real-life child killer who stalked the area back in the 80s. Where the production focuses on its stated purpose, it’s actually quite good. Unfortunately, in fairly short order this switches from a thoughtful contemplation of the relationship between reality and legend and turns into yet another dull criticism of the justice system. Did Rand really do it, or was he an innocent mentally ill person who made a convenient hook to hang some convictions on? Compared to a thoughtful consideration of childhood terrors, the question isn’t all that interesting to anyone other than Rand himself. Mildly amusing

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Abandoned – Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever

Try as I might, I just couldn’t focus on this movie. It’s supposed to be hilariously terrible, but I found myself having more success ignoring it than laughing at it. 30 minutes

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Abandoned – Act of God

Yep. Them’s guys what dun been struck by lightnin’. Eight minutes

Review – The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Here we have the great-granddaddy of all weird-ass experimental films everywhere. On the down side, it's kinda hard to follow. A plot summary -- evil carnival showman turns homicidal somnambulist loose in a small German town -- doesn't even come close to doing justice to the story. Fortunately, the good part of the movie isn't the script, it's the visuals. The set work in particular brought me mindful of Lovecraft's many references to "non-Euclidian geometry." Anyone interested in the history of the horror movie or in German expressionist cinema needs to make this a stop along the journey. Worth seeing

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review – Cool World

Imagine Who Framed Roger Rabbit? redone by Ralph Bakshi and you’ve got this picture without even seeing it. A detective (Brad Pitt) spends his days making sure that animated characters from toon land don’t “hook up” with anyone from the real world, which interferes with the plans of one of the sexier toons (Kim Basinger). The movie fails primarily because it has no obvious audience. It’s too nasty (though not explicitly pornographic) for kids and too stupid for anyone else. See if desperate

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Review – Advise and Consent

If you’re a fan of cerebral political thrillers from the 1960s, this Otto Preminger movie belongs on your must-watch list. The President’s new nominee for Secretary of State (Henry Fonda) becomes a political football between rival players in the Senate, especially the Majority Leader (Walter Pidgeon) and a smarmy, Southern member of the opposition (Charles Laughton). Overall the picture is a thoughtful exploration of the question “when it comes to dirty tricks, how dirty is too dirty?” However, the small details are fascinating as well. I specifically noted Betty White’s brief appearance as a female senator from Kansas (several years before Nancy Landon Kassebaum became the first elected female member of the Senate). Worth seeing

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review – Dracula A.D. 1972

To the already-extensive list of crimes against civilization committed by hippies, add “resurrected Dracula.” Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing square off briefly, but the rest of it is a stale tale of Satanic ceremonies gone awry. See if desperate

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review – Burn, Witch, Burn

I have the same problem with this movie as I do with the old TV series Bewitched: if you found out your wife was a practicing witch who could actually do magic, why the hell would you tell her not to? A woman who can zap steak dinners onto the table and Cadillacs into the garage? What’s not to like? And in this case the question is even more urgent, as the practices to which hubby objects so strongly are the only things keeping him from being torn apart by evil spirits conjured by a work rival. Originally released as Night of the Eagle (which makes it sound more like a war movie), this dreary little English horror picture plays more like an episode of The Twilight Zone than an actual feature. Mildly amusing

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review – Death of a Ghost Hunter

Rare indeed is the movie so thoroughly spoiled by its own coda. Usually such end-of-picture tack-ons merely result in a little extra unnecessary running time. But this time a fairly spooky tale gets over-explained to death. My affection for ghost chasers expired back when I outgrew Scooby Doo, so this picture didn't exactly start out on my good side. But the strange, illogical nature of the haunting slowly won me over. The picture also has a level of writing and direction uncommon for low budget productions. But then dang it all they have to spend the last 20 minutes providing a thoroughly repulsive explanation for the whole thing. See if desperate

Friday, January 7, 2011

Abandoned – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (2008)

I thought perhaps the presence of Dougray Scott and a couple of other recognizable names might herald something better than yet another transformation of Stevenson's classic into a cheap excuse for a slasher movie. Nope. 16 minutes

Review – The Descent Part 2

At least this time around they used the monsters a little more. Of course there's still plenty of annoying cave shenanigans. This sequel follows so close on the events of the first round that they could almost be the same movie. So if you got a kick out of The Descent, prepare to be kicked again. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Review – Drop Dead Fred

Any inner child film festival should feature this picture prominently. A woman (Phoebe Cates) recently separated from her husband and otherwise down on her luck suddenly finds herself rejoined by the title character (Rik Mayall), her mischief-making childhood imaginary friend. Most of the screen time is taken up with Fred causing trouble from minor pranks to major disasters while the protagonist takes the blame. Overall the production is mo entertaining than it should have been given that most of the humor is more than a little obnoxious and the ending far too sappy. Mildly amusing

Review – The Donner Party

Here's the problem with the Donner Party story: in theory tales of cannibalism in extreme survival situations should be fascinating. But their dramatic structure doesn't fit the movie mold. If everything was going great for the settlers and then suddenly they all decided to eat one another, that would make for a standard – if somewhat stupid – slasher picture. But the logic of reality is less cinematic. The result of staying true to the truth is a long, dull story about a handful of folks stuck in the middle of nowhere getting colder and hungrier and colder and hungrier until finally it drives them to extremes. I'm glad they passed up most opportunities to sensationalize, but I don't think I'd sit through it again. Mildly amusing

Monday, January 3, 2011

Review - Fame (1980)

Looking back from the age of American Idol, it's funny how almost sweet and innocent this seems. To be sure, any movie about fame-hungry teenagers is going to feature a hefty dose of self-important desperation. But there' also a measure of likability thanks to characters who have at least some dimension. I'd worry that my mercy to this cliché-ridden musical was prompted by nostalgia, as I was a teen myself back when this came out. But then I never saw it until years later, and I don’t particularly miss the era as a whole. Mildly amusing

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Review – Donovan's Brain

Funny how the word "brain" in a movie title is an almost infallible indication that it's going to be a mad scientist picture. And this one certainly doesn't disappoint on that count. An expert in keeping brains alive after death finally gets what he's been wanting – a human subject – almost literally dropped in his lap when the freshly-dead body of a plane crash victim is brought to his isolated desert lab. Things go wrong when 1. the donor turns out to have been an evil man and 2. The brain has the psychic ability to assume control over the doctor's will and force him to misbehave. The concept is clever enough, and the actors – even the future Nancy Reagan – do what they can to overcome the picture's relatively low budget. Mildly amusing

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Review – Catacombs

For a movie about demonic infestation, this one’s remarkably calm. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the evil spirit chained up in the basement, this monastery would be an ordinary, everyday community of religious men. But then a female teacher shows up to do some research, the demon gets loose, and things go downhill from there. The natural-to-the-verge-of-dull atmosphere made the supernatural intrusion more effective than it would otherwise have been. It’s a shame more low-budget horror filmmakers don’t take advantage of this simple trick. Mildly amusing