Cry of the Werewolf (1944)

Directed by Henry Levin [Other horror films: The Unknown (1946)]

I saw this one once before, and it didn’t do much for me. I didn’t hate it, it just came across as pretty generic and unmemorable. Unfortunately, not much has changed.

Part of this consistent disappointment comes from the fact that the title of the film is a bit misleading. There’s a woman in the film who can turn into a wolf, but there’s no werewolf whatsoever, so if you’re looking for The Wolf Man or Werewolf of London, you won’t find it here.

Honestly, this isn’t a film that there’s a lot to say about. The lead performance of Stephen Crane was pretty underwhelming, and while both Nina Foch and Osa Massen were okay, I don’t think either one particularly stood out, partially because of the script.

While the movie itself isn’t necessarily dull (given it’s just over an hour, there’s not really much time to mess around with anyway), the story is just sort of meh. There are some interesting elements, but I also can’t deny that it strikes me as occasionally xenophobic in regards to the gypsies.

Really, much of the film just feels pretty weak and tepid. There was a single suspenseful scene which didn’t go anywhere, but hey, it was something. The kills, though, are pretty much all uninspiring, and overall, Cry of the Werewolf doesn’t really have a hell of a lot going for it, even for a fan of older horror films such as myself.

If there’s one positive thing I can say about it, the plot, while I personally didn’t much care for it, was moderately unique. There’s sort of a nice mysterious vibe to portions of the film, and while, as an audience, there’s nothing that we don’t really know, it’s still almost okay. But having seen this twice, I just don’t think there’s much to it. Might be worth checking out, but I don’t know how much someone would get from this one, even if they’re into the classics of the genre.

5/10

Stay Alive (2006)

Directed by William Brent Bell [Other horror films: The Devil Inside (2012), Wer (2013), The Boy (2016), Brahms: The Boy II (2020)]

This movie was shit.

Now, I’ve seen this before, but it was a long, long time ago, so I recalled very little of it. I was already hesitant about rewatching it, but since I plan on rewatching and reviewing every single horror movie I’ve seen, there was no avoiding it, so I went in with tepid expectations.

The movie failed even those.

Most of the performances are shit. Whether that’s because of the script or actors/actresses themselves, I can’t say. I just know that I pretty much didn’t like any of the characters (and in particular, Samaire Armstrong’s character). As a lead, Jon Foster was terribly generic and just not interesting. Armstrong seemed like a character originally thrown in to lead to some plot twist, but instead, she’s just some random girl who lies about her background and never amounts to anything.

Frankie Muniz didn’t do anything for me. I didn’t hate his character, per se, but I definitely didn’t care about him one way or the other. Sophia Bush and Jimmi Simpson made for an interesting sister-brother pair, and I’d argue that Bush was probably one of the best characters in the movie. It was also nice to see the Bunk, or Wendell Pierce, here. Stay Alive is a far-cry from The Wire, though.

It’s not just the characters, though.

I’m a very casual gamer, so much so that calling myself a ‘gamer’ is a stretch by any definition. Give me Minecraft, Civ 3, Democracy 3, and Hearthstone, and I’ll be perfectly content. I have watched quite a lot of gameplay, though, and I have to say that the game portrayed in Stay Alive didn’t look like any horror survival games I’ve ever seen.

The angles were all janky in the third-person mode (and why was it we basically only saw first-person mode once, I wonder), and there’s no way that could be that pleasurable a multiplayer gaming experience. We saw a HUD about only three times, and just generally, that didn’t look anything like a game. Now, to be fair, this was released in 2006, so maybe survival horror has come a long way, but we about never saw an inventory, or health bar (or even sanity bar, à la Amnesia). It didn’t look anything like a game. At all.

Also, the kills throughout the film sucked. There was virtually no gore (hey, it’s a PG-13 movie, so fuck gore, too violent for the kiddies and loses us money, amirite?), and the kills overall were just so damn tepid and unmemorable, which is a shame, as this film certainly had potential.

That’s probably what bothers me most – it’s not like this film was shot in someone’s backyard, The estimated budget is around 20 million dollars, and they couldn’t come up with a script that made any modicum of sense? Seriously, I don’t get it. So the ghost of Bathory somehow made a game, that some company got distributed to Beta testers, because why? What? What is this shit?

And the game keeps going so characters can basically die without playing, right? So one of the characters (played by Muniz) says that he’ll actually play the game, giving him a better chance at surviving. Fine – that’s logical. But the other people who are alive, one of which is driving, can’t play, and Muniz can only play for himself, not for the other characters, so why the hell doesn’t the ghost take out every character who’s not playing?

This movie, the more I think about it, just annoys the shit out of me. The story makes very little sense despite the budget and potential of a video game-based horror film. You want a good video game horror movie? How to Make a Monster (2001), which is much lower quality, but it’s 1) actually fun and 2) makes a hell of a lot more sense. This movie was virtually worthless, and the ending was shit too. Oh, the CGI zombie children were great. Terrifying stuff. A+!!!

2/10

Night of the Wild (2015)

Directed by Eric Red [Other horror films: Body Parts (1991), Bad Moon (1996), 100 Feet (2008)]

There’s very little about this Syfy film that’s worth seeking this movie out for. The fact it stars Rob Morrow is one of the few things I enjoyed about this, because otherwise, it’s pretty unremarkable.

My first big problem is the plot – some meteors fall from space, and it causes all dogs and wolves in a local area to go crazy and start attacking people. The funny thing is, despite the fact that these meteors were a bright glowing green, only once was it brought up that they might have something to do with it, and exactly no one in the movie seemed to notice them scattered across the town (despite them being, you know, a glowing green).

Speaking of colors, it wasn’t uncommon for there to be a red light tinting some of the scenes. Apparently, according to IMDb, director Eric Red was influenced by the lighting of Suspiria (1977), which amazes me. It’s great that he’s seen the classics, but after watching Suspiria, he thinks that this pile of trash is a good way to give reverence to it?

Rob Morrow, who I know mostly from the television series Numb3rs, of which I’ve seen every episode, is a fun presence here. His character’s decent, but more importantly, Morrow himself is just a solid actor to see here, which is a positive, as few others stand out. Playing his daughter, Tristin Mays did fine, but wasn’t particularly memorable. Her two friends, played by Mary Risener and Mary Katherine O’Donnell, were pretty pointless characters, and neither actress was impressive (Risener in particular). Lastly, Kelly Rutherford didn’t do a thing for me.

There are some solid dog attacks in the film, and there was a somewhat gory aftermath (including a body torn apart) that I enjoyed. But toward the end of the film, a lot of time is spent on random dog attacks in the downtown area, and as it dragged on and on, I was just bored out of my mind seeing characters I didn’t know get killed by dogs that hadn’t appeared before, especially since few of the attacks there were really worth seeing. Also, there were about five to six scenes using slow motion, which just looked ridiculously dramatic and utterly unnecessary.

Personally, if it weren’t for Morrow, I’d rate this movie quite a bit lower. It’s still nowhere near a good movie, or even an average one, but I think I see it in a slightly better light because Morrow’s one of the stars. That said, if you couldn’t care less about Morrow, than I suspect that Night of the Wild is one Syfy flick that you could do without. Even with Morrow, I understand that feeling.

Also, the CGI dogs at the end didn’t help either. It’s a poor movie, period.

4/10

Wild beasts – Belve feroci (1984)

Directed by Franco Prosperi [Other horror films: Mondo cane (1962), Africa addio (1966)]

This Italian movie is something of a hoot. Truth be told, while it has the tendency to drag a little, overall, I definitely think it’s a film worth seeing, should you be a fan of Italian entries to the genre.

I wouldn’t say you should see it for the cast, however – make no mistake, I think the principal actors/actresses (John Aldrich and Lorraine De Selle) do fine, but neither one is special, especially considering the rather horrible dubbing job done. I did appreciate Ugo Bologna as the Police Chief, along with Louisa Lloyd as De Selle’s bratty daughter (and, on a side-note, I detected what had to be close to underage nudity early on in the film, which came as a bit of a shock). Still, these four are virtually the only important cast members, and while none of them are bad (which isn’t to say unlikable), it’s not why you’d come to this flick.

Instead, it’d be for the sometimes brutal animal attacks, of all flavors. Favorites of mine including an elephant stomping on a woman’s head (unfortunately cut somewhat short), an epic rat attack toward the beginning, which was beautifully gory, and a rather tragic attack upon a blind man by his seeing dog (which was filmed in a much more somber way than you might expect from a piece of schlock like this). The gore is never too in-you-face, and there are plenty of suspenseful scenes that go without, but when it did pop up, it was generally of solid quality.

At times, though, because of switching between mostly random people being attacked by random animals (such as the six minute cheetah chase, which was moderately suspenseful), the movie felt a bit aimless at times. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, because within the context of the story, such a route makes sense, but Wild Beasts definitely felt a bit off at times.

Personally, I think that this movie had a lot of get-up-and-go despite some of the issues I had with the cohesiveness (I should point out that the conclusion is pretty cool, albeit a bit weak in the way it played out). It’s not a great movie, but I do think that this Italian flick has a lot of character, and while I wish it had more gore, there were some kills (such as the seeing dog attack and the rat attack) that were well-worth seeing, and generally, I’d say Wild Beasts is enjoyable, just not special.

7/10

Bluebeard (1944)

Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer [Other horror films: The Black Cat (1934), The Man from Planet X (1951), Daughter of Dr. Jekyll (1957), The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)]

Having seen this one about three times now, I have to admit that it’s never done much for me. The story is fine, and John Carradine does particularly well in it, but overall, Bluebeard just doesn’t impress me.

Generally, the plot’s perfectly enjoyable. I sort of like the brief side-step they took with the portrait subplot, which added a bit more meat to the film, and the conclusion’s pretty decent also. Carrdine’s presence here really brings life to the antagonist of the film, so that’s a plus.

Somewhat unfortunately, Carradine’s about the only performance here who really glowed. Jean Parker and Teala Loring were virtually indistinguishable to me, and Ludwig Stössel, while an interesting character, had a bit of an accent to him, and was hard, at times, to really decipher.

Which may not really be his fault, as the audio and visual quality of this film has somewhat faltered over the last eighty years. The most common print has pretty bad audio, and it’s not uncommon for some of the dialogue to be drowned out by background music. The black-and-white is a bit muddled, and while it’s not overly distracting, it is noticeable. Even if you can look past that, though, I’m not convinced that the film is all that enthralling.

Bluebeard is a story that’s been made multiple times within the genre, the earliest version, titled Barbe-bleue, is from 1901 (and, for a short from such an early period of cinematic history, it’s not that bad). Maybe that’s part of the issue – this movie, at 70 minutes, just feels too drawn out, and while some of the film is perfectly solid, after having seen it multiple times, it’s continually let me down.

If you see this for any reason, let it be for Carradine, who is fantastic, especially toward the end of the film. His character’s sanity toppling toward the end as he recounts the origins of his crimes was pretty spectacular, in a Povery Row type of way.

This said, ultimately, Bluebeard isn’t one of those 40’s movies I’d go out of my way to recommend. It might be okay for a single viewing, but I don’t think multiple viewings will do much for you, no matter how fun Carradine is here. By no means a god-awful film, I do feel it’s below average, and pretty much always have.

6/10

We Are the Missing (2020)

Directed by Andrew J.D. Robinson [Other horror films: The Monster Pool (2015, segment ‘One Giant Lepus’)]

In the vein of such films like The Poughkeepsie Tapes, Lake Mungo, and Hell House LLC, We Are the Missing is a fake documentary focusing on a young woman who went missing, and the impact it has on her community. Well, at first, anyway – the scope is pulled back a bit around 40 minutes in, but suffice it to say that this movie is well-made, though may not entirely be that memorable.

The documentary feel was pretty authentic throughout. At times, it felt like I was watching a lower-budget version of Searching (2018), and the acting here was generally pretty decent, and probably more stable than what we got from The Poughkeepsie Tapes. Some portions were maybe a bit problematic (an almost four-minute montage of police calls about an hour into the movie, for example), but overall, this felt as authentic as expected.

There are two issues that really sort of irked me, I have to admit. This first one may be a bit nitpicky, but then again, no one ever accused me of not picking apart movies, so there you go.

Firstly, the time-frame is somewhat confusing, at least to me. This is evidenced by a goof near the ending of the film. I won’t belabor the point, as I did mention this to Andrew Robinson, the director, who did admit that it was a mistake. Even so, it was something I noticed, and something I thought I should point out. At this juncture, I also want to make clear that I watched this movie upon request, which I am always happy to do should anyone out there be interested.

To move away from my shameless self-promotion, though there’s another thing that stood out – during the montage of police calls, multiple people state that “no one believes them” about their experiences with what seem to be ghosts. If this thing is going on all over the city, though, even a large city (and another individual even said that people quit coming to work or leaving their houses because of it), I find it hard to take in that “no one” believed so many of these people.

Even if it’s a big city, if a 5% chunk of people are reporting these experiences (and it does indeed seem wide-spread), and if people are actively staying home and avoiding work, then I would think only a minority of individuals would still remain skeptical. It ties into someone said at the end, about how this tragedy pulled people together – as far as I could tell, most people suffered through this alone.

If I was in a city which was going through mass disappearances and unexplained experiences, I would be around as many people every day and night as possible as opposed to locking myself up alone in my house. I would throw a block party (which the local authorities would be inclined to approve, as safety would likely been seen as more likely in large numbers). What I wouldn’t do is stay in my small apartment alone and make videos. I’d want to be with people, and if this city is a bigger city (and it certainly looks it), that shouldn’t at all be a problem to organize.

Also, the lack of national media presence, at least referenced national media presence, seemed odd. If half a hundred people disappeared over such a short time-span, then I’d expect the area to be crawling with media outlets of all types, but that doesn’t really seem evidenced in what we see.

Here’s the main question, though – do any of these issues really harm the movie? Mostly, not so much. Sure, I do think the way these people react to this incident (bolting themselves inside as opposed to saying in large groups) is unwise, but large groups of people do unwise things all the time (just look at presidential elections in the USA). None of this takes away from both the subtly disturbing atmosphere and the authentic feel of the film, which I think are some of We Are the Missing’s highlights.

I can’t say that this movie will have a high amount of rewatchability (though some, for sure, may exist), which is a bit of an issue. Look at Hell House, LLC – that movie, you could watch as many as three times and notice new things each time. This film has a different focus, of course, and one more worldly (missing people as opposed to Halloween haunted houses), but even so, if there’s not much bringing people back for a second watch, it’s hard to call it a great movie.

This is a good movie, though. Obviously we’re not left with an actual answer here, which is to only be expected, and it leaves the viewer with the potential thought that this may easily happen again in a new city at a new time. The atmosphere and authenticity work well to this end.

Prior to giving this my final rating, I did want to give some props to my two favorite performances, being Mark Templin (Riley’s father) and Willow Mcgregor (Mackenzie). Good performances in a movie like this are of paramount import, so I’m glad that these two especially were here.

I don’t think anyone would honestly claim that We Are the Missing is breaking any new boundaries, but it is a competently made film in this style, and while overall I found the film around average, I do think that there’s a lot of potential here. Give it a watch (it’s free on YouTube, so why not?) and see how it goes, though, because the authenticity here alone is worth the watch.

7/10

Ozone: The Attack of the Redneck Mutants (1986)

Directed by Matt Devlen [Other horror films: Tabloid (1989)]

This low-budget flick is not nearly as fun as the title would lead you to believe. In fact, it’s a pretty damn dry and boring film, and there’s very little here that’d be worth seeking it out for.

Does the movie occasionally boast some solid, low-budget gore? Sure, but it’s pretty sparse, and ultimately not really worth it. In the first half of the film, there was really only one scene worth watching (it was decently gory, luckily), but everything else was just utterly pointless filler (the highlight of which was an old woman chasing a chicken around her kitchen, cackling).

Let me let you all in on a secret: When the height of entertainment in the first half of a movie is an old woman chasing a chicken around a kitchen, cackling, you know that the film has problems.

The pitiful performances didn’t help much. Blue Thompson was the best of the bunch, which really, really isn’t saying anything. Scott Davis whined way too much, and Brad McCormick was just a ridiculous caricature of a hillbilly (though nothing so over-the-top as Redneck Zombies did, thank God).

Of course, nobody’s coming to this film because of the potentially solid acting – it’s for the low-fi gore. And I will admit, for a lower-budget film, the special effects and gore are decently effective. It’s nowhere near as good as Nathan Schiff, but it’s still decent. The problem is, save for the one aforementioned scene in the first half of the film, most of the movie just follows pretty uninteresting characters in extraordinarily dull ways.

We watch this farmer’s wife do some dishes and iron a few shirts as she looks to the window, where her husband’s outside giving water to their dog. We see an older woman knead some dough and chase a chicken. We see a wanna-be country singer (god, was her accent something else) get ready to go to her singing engagement (which takes place at the small general store). All of this is done without dialogue, and it’s more than a little boring.

Ozone: The Attack of the Redneck Mutants is nowhere near as fun as the title makes it sound. It was a painfully joyless experience, and the occasionally good gore (which including a tongue getting pulled out, an eyeball removed, and of course intestines being ripped from the stomach) doesn’t excuse this film’s unfortunately dry feel. Even if you are a gore-hound, there’s almost nothing about this one to recommend. It was just poor movie-making.

3.5/10

La corta notte delle bambole di vetro (1971)

Directed by Aldo Lado [Other horror films: Chi l’ha vista morire? (1972), L’ultimo treno della notte (1975)]

This Italian giallo, widely known as Short Night of Glass Dolls, was a decent film for much if the run-time, but toward the end, it sort of went into a somewhat incoherent mess.

The mystery here is pretty good, and enjoyable to watch unfold. A young woman disappears without a trace in Prague, and her lover, an American journalist, attempts to find her. It’s typical for a giallo, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. It’s made better by the setting, and more so, the time period, as this took place when then-Czechoslovakia was a Communist state behind the Iron Curtain.

Because of that, there is a bit of anti-USSR material strewn throughout the film, and even toward the conclusion, though I don’t think it’s terribly over-troubling. It does lead to a more oppressive feel, and much of the going-ons have a very conspiratorial feeling to them. Problematically, the conclusion doesn’t explain what’s going on nearly as well as I’d have liked, and honestly, I’m at a loss right now as to what actually happened, and why. It’s just not made clear, as far as I could tell.

Worth noting, most of the main story is told via flashback, and the present-day material, luckily, is decently engaging. Still, I don’t care much for the conclusion they had there, either, though it certainly possessed a somewhat bleaker feel than some audiences might be used to.

I’m not trying to harp too much on the movie, because much of it is really engrossing. It’s not until the final ten minutes or so that the movie, in my opinion, falls apart. It’s just rather noticeable because my enjoyment level went down so much as the ending unfolded, and I felt that given how good the film was before, it was rather unfortunate.

I liked much of the principal cast of this film. Jean Sorel took a little bit, but he grew on me as the film went on. Playing a friend of his, I thought that Mario Adorf did well with his more care-free, fun-loving character. Lastly, playing the woman who goes missing, Barbara Bach did well as a beautiful, semi-mysterious woman.

For a giallo, La corta notte delle bambole di vetro is extraordinarily tame. There’s little to no gore, and many of the staples you might expect from the subgenre, such as first-person view from the killer, or black gloves, are absent. The mystery is certainly here, and like I said, it’s done well, but this movie feels really toned down, and if you’re expecting a run-of-the-mill giallo, then you’ll likely to be disappointed.

I will admit to being disappointed by this one, if only because the conclusion (to both the flashback and present-day stories) were so unsatisfactory. I can live with little gore, because the story was otherwise engaging, but what draws me to giallos is how everything’s pieced together nicely at the end, and I definitely didn’t get that feeling here. For what this movie is, it’s okay, but I’d definitely temper your expectations before jumping in.

6/10

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Directed by Edgar Wright [Other horror films: N/A]

Often called one of the greatest zombie-comedies, Shaun of the Dead is an undeniably fun film. It never gets too silly (which is one of my personal pet peeves when it comes to comedy-horror films), and is just a good movie to throw in when little else is going on.

Much of the reason this works is because of Simon Pegg, who does great as the unmotivated, titular Shaun. His was a rather enjoyable performance throughout. Much of the time, I didn’t care for Nick Frost’s character, but as an actor, he did well. Most others were enjoyable also, such as Bill Nighy (who had one of the few emotional scenes in the film), Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, and Penelope Wilton (who’s cheery ‘Hello’ always cracked me up). Hell, we even got a cameo of Martin Freeman before he became the star he now is.

Of course, the story’s fun, the style is solid (love the quick cuts used constantly), and I do enjoy the scenes of Pegg walking to and from his apartment, as they bring a very localized feel to the film. I don’t have any real big complaints, aside from a few portions that felt a bit much (such as the end, which was a tad more goofy than I’d have hoped for).

Generally, though, there’s a reason that this movie is held to such high regard, and though it’s not perfect, it is an enjoyable, potentially brainless, film that is pretty well worth seeing. There’s even a little gore, as one of the characters gets his legs and arms ripped off by a horde of zombies, so there’s a little something here for many horror fans.

I don’t necessarily love Shaun of the Dead, but I’ve seen it multiple times, and it’s never failed to amuse. Stand-out scene was probably the “Don’t Stop Me Now” Queen sequence in the pub. “Kill the Queen” indeed.

8/10

The Wicker Man (2006)

Directed by Neil LaBute [Other horror films: N/A]

Even to this day, I don’t think the original Wicker Man gets the respect it so totally deserves. It’s a classic that really has a lot going for it. This remake isn’t altogether dissimilar, but for entirely different reasons.

I have to get this off my chest first, though: I just cannot take Nicholas Cage seriously. I just can’t. I love his character in National Treasure, but as an actor, Cage is a hard person for me to see in serious light – I think Next (2009) was the only time I remember his character coming across as a bit more normal, for lack of a better word.

Because of his presence, what really is an interesting and almost mostly-well written story (even with it being a remake of a far better film) just comes across as silly much of the time. It’s not just some of Cage’s more questionable lines, either, be it ‘What’s in the bag, a shark or something,’ or his yelling at the end about ‘goddamn honey.’ His actions are just as ridiculous, such as that scene where he punches out one of the women without comment, or kicks another one (while wearing a bear costume) into a wall.

If they had gone for someone a bit more generic, but brought less unintentional camp into the film, it’s possible The Wicker Man wouldn’t be as memorable, but I also think it wouldn’t be nearly as panned as it has been.

I have little complaints about others in the film. While few of them really stood out, Kate Beahan was moderately decent in her role. While by no means a big actress, Leelee Sobieski was nice to see, as I know her from starring in the 2006 British film In a Dark Place. Even James Franco has a small (and unexpected, as when I first saw this, I had no idea who Franco was) appearance at the end. Otherwise, no one really did much for me, aside from Cage, who I’ve already spoken extensively about.

The Wicker Man is a hard movie to talk about because of the fact that Cage’s performance overshadows so much of the actual story, which, like I said, is decently enjoyable. I rather loved the conclusion (though, as always, I thought the original did a better job), and generally, I think the story’s both somewhat interesting and fun.

Truth be told, this is a difficult one to rate. It feels really ridiculous at times, but I cannot pretend that I wasn’t amused or engrossed with the story playing out on-screen. On one hand, I think it could have been shortened by at least ten minutes, but on the other, that’d mean ten minutes less of Cage’s antics.

Love him or hate him, ultimately, this is the Nicholas Cage show, and while I really didn’t care for what his presence did to an otherwise pretty interesting plot, this is one that I’d watch again just due to the sheer amusement it brings forth.

6/10