Creepshow (1982)

Creepshow

Directed by George A. Romero [Other horror films: Night of the Living Dead (1968), Hungry Wives (1972), The Crazies (1973), Martin (1977), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Monkey Shines (1988), Due occhi diabolici (1990, segment ‘The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar’), The Dark Half (1993), Bruiser (2000), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007), Survival of the Dead (2009)]

Creepshow’s an interesting movie to me, because while I actually only love two of the stories in this one (‘Something to Tide You Over’ and ‘The Crate’), I think overall the movie’s pretty excellent, and definitely excels in creating that comic book feeling, which so few movies can properly do.

‘Father’s Day’ and ‘The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill’ are both lacking in different ways. I certainly like the revenge aspect of the former, and I do enjoy the final scene, but it just doesn’t do it for me. As for the latter, I love the concept, and think the plant life looks rather creepy (and the ending is pretty good on multiple counts), but the overly comedic style of the story wasn’t something I’m fond of.

The final story, ‘They Creep Up on You’, is my third favorite, my main issue being that I felt they could have added in something along the lines of either the recent widow or the ghost of her husband somehow being connected to the onslaught of roaches (which would have worked well, since three of the past four stories in this movie have been about revenge in some form or another). I think it’s a fine story with solid effects, but it could have been better.

‘Something to Tide You Over’ isn’t a complex story, but I think it’s rather fun, mainly because of Leslie Nielsen’s great performance. His eccentric character is fun, and I love the final line (“I can hold my breath for a looooooonngg time”), and I reference it often. No one in ‘The Crate’ is as fun as Nielsen (though I do rather like Hal Holbrook), but it’s probably a better story overall.

There are some solid performances throughout. Obviously, I love Nielsen’s role, and he stands out as perhaps my favorite character. Hal Holbrook (who appeared in other classics such as Rituals from 1977 and The Fog from 1980) did great in his role also. E.G. Marshall, while his character is despicable, does great, as expected. Others who stood out positively include Tom Atkins, Ted Danson, and Viveca Lindfors. I love Stephen King’s writing, but his acting here, while intentional in it’s campiness, didn’t really work for me.

As far as anthology horror films go, there are better examples than Creepshow, such Tales from the Crypt (1972). Still, Creepshow is arguably much funner, and is a damn good example of a campy anthology done right. It’s not perfect, but there’s a lot to like about it, from the performances, to the animation, from the framing story (with a rather satisfactory ending), to the soundtrack. Not every story hits the mark, but it’s still a movie well-worth watching.

8.5/10

Silver Bullet (1985)

Silver Bullet

Directed by Daniel Attias [Other horror films: N/A]

Having seen this one a couple of times, now, I think that Silver Bullet is a decent werewolf flick with a somewhat nostalgic feel, but I don’t think it’s quite as good as many others seem to feel it is.

The story (based off the Stephen King novel Cycle of the Werewolf) is pretty fun, although I don’t really think it was necessary to have it be narrated by Megan Follows’ character. I enjoyed the mystery elements, however little they were used, in which the identity of the werewolf was trying to be ferreted out. The special effects, not to mention death scenes, were generally good (the decapitation near the beginning being a highlight for me), though the werewolf transformation was a bit lacking.

Silver Bullet did have a solid cast, though. I’ve never been overly fond of Gary Busey, but he does pretty good here, and his character is certainly memorable. Corey Haim does great with his role, and while Megan Follows (playing Haim’s sister) didn’t seem that relevant to the plot until the end, I really liked her also (though again, her narration of the events seemed somewhat pointless). Terry O’Quinn was rather fun as the sheriff, and it’s nice seeing him a few years prior to The Stepfather. I wasn’t completely won over by Everett McGill, though – he just seemed a bit much at times, and occasionally felt somewhat ridiculous.

I’ve not read the source material for this one yet, so I can look at this from a slightly less critical point-of-view. The first time I saw it, I wasn’t overly impressed, but with a fresh viewing, I feel I understand the appeal of the movie a bit more. The 1980’s was one of the most important decades for werewolf movies, and while Silver Bullet’s no An American Werewolf in London, I definitely enjoy it more than The Howling.

I wish that they had done a little more with the whole mysterious identity of the werewolf before the reveal, and a few other things felt like they needed some expanding, but I still found this a somewhat enjoyable movie, one of the better werewolf flicks, and overall, I’d rate it somewhere around average, with the performances (especially those of Haim and Follows) being the highlights.

7/10

Killing Spree (1987)

Killing Spreee

Directed by Tim Ritter [Other horror films: Day of the Reaper (1984), Twisted Illusions (1985), Truth or Dare?: A Critical Madness (1986), Wicked Games (1994), Creep (1995), Alien Agenda: Endangered Species (1998), Screaming for Sanity: Truth or Dare 3 (1998), Twisted Illusions 2 (2004), Deadly Dares: Truth or Dare Part IV (2011), Hi-8 (Horror Independent 8) (2013, segment ‘Switchblade Insane’), I Dared You! Truth or Dare Part 5 (2017), Trashsploitation (2018, segment ‘Truth or Dare’), Hi-Death (2018, segment ‘Dealers of Death’)]

Dedicated to H.G. Lewis, Tim Ritter’s low-budget fourth film is overly inept but extraordinarily fun, and if SOV horror is something you’re a fan of, I think you’d find this a blast.

The story, if taken seriously, is actually somewhat tragic, what with a man believing his wife is cheating on him, and so he decides to kill the men ‘making’ his wife unfaithful. Of course, in as low-budget, gory ways as possible. Obviously, this isn’t a Hollywood film, and the acting is pretty awful across the board. That said, so many of the lines of dialogue are hilariously awesome that it doesn’t matter (such as a favorite of mine, “Why is she writing all of this down?”).

Asbestos Felt does fantastically great as the paranoid husband, with plenty of cheesy dialogue and overall a beautifully delicious performance. Courtney Lercara, the wife, wasn’t quite as memorable, but I did love her over-the-top scenes of her various lustful encounters. Pretty much everyone else was second tier, but that doesn’t stop individuals such as Raymond Carbone, Joel D. Wynkoop, and Rachel Rutz from standing out of the pack in their wacky, goofy ways (Rutz’ nonsensical dialogue just broke me up multiple times despite her short time on screen).

For a lower-budget flick, the gore effects are decent. They don’t really become great until the ending (such as the hammer in the jaw scene, perhaps my favorite kill, followed by the lawnmower sequence), but you can tell that Ritter definitely got his sensibilities from the Godfather of Gore, H.G. Lewis, who, like I mentioned at the beginning, this film is dedicated to.

I have a few issues, though, that hinder this film from reaching it’s arguably-rightful place of above average. One was a dream sequence which struck me as way too goofy, though the fact that it is clearly a dream sequence grants it some leeway. The other problem, though, is the conclusion, in which the movie shifts gears from a slasher to something else (and to avoid spoilers, I’ll just say it sort of comes out of nowhere). The final 15 minutes felt far more stale to me than the rest of the film, and I would have been okay with a 70 minute film, cutting out or changing the conclusion.

It’s a shame, as pretty much everything else is both amusing and deeply enjoyable (I always loved his random beach-rage sequence – for some reason, that’s always a scene that I remember the most from this flick). The twist, such as it was, came across as slightly more sophisticated than one might think from a film like this, but it certainly added a tragic twist to the film. If only the ending was better. It’s still a deeply enjoyable film, though, and despite my seemingly unenthusiastic rating, I’d recommend it to fans of lower-budget outings from the 1980’s.

6.5/10

Redneck Zombies (1989)

kinopoisk.ru

Directed by Pericles Lewnes [Other horror films: N/A]

I am somewhat ashamed to say that I actually have a pretty good time with this movie, mostly due to the fact of how utterly stupid so much of it.

For some reason, I’ve seen this at least twice before, and some scenes are pretty damn memorable, such as the introduction of the Tobacco Man (sort of a parody of the neighborhood staple ice cream man) and a rather odd, yet ominous, sequence at a local butcher’s house. Other scenes stand out also, such as the LSD-inspired zombie sequence, along with the autopsy scene which, while ultimately silly, was entertaining if only due to Anthony Burlington-Smith’s over-the-top antics.

Being a lower-budget film, the gore is pretty damn good, in a Nathan Schiff way. I rather liked the scene in which a zombie pushed his thumbs through another’s eyes and a solid decapitation toward the end. Obviously, this movie was aiming to be gory, and they certainly did a good job with what they had.

Most of the actors and actresses here weren’t in anything else, which probably isn’t surprising due to the nature of the film. It’s difficult to judge many of them, too, because they sort of tried to make this a traditionally bad film. Lisa DeHaven doesn’t really seem like final girl material (which isn’t a spoiler, as it’s shown at the very beginning of the film she survives), and didn’t particularly stand out. I did like James Housely, but he didn’t add all that much to the story. Bucky Santini was something else entirely.

There were times when the silly nature of the film was too much for me, such as the almost line-for-line parody of the hitchhiker from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Also, the high levels of stupidity the rednecks had was, again, a bit much (though the “Don’t open ’till Christmas” line did make me sort of chuckle). It’s not an easy film to necessarily like, but if you can get past some of the really stupid scenes, I do think it’s a movie you can enjoy.

Redneck Zombies is classic Troma entertainment. Great gore, horrible acting, and a somewhat interesting taking on a often-told story. Just think of it as a low-budget and politically incorrect (the Jew joke at the beginning got me laughing, I admit) version of The Return of the Living Dead, but even then, you’ll not really understand what this film’s like until you chance a watch. For as stupid as it is, I do enjoy it, and that certainly counts for something. It’s indeed the epitome of horror.

6.5/10

Le notti del terrore (1981)

Le notti

Directed by Andrea Bianchi [Other horror films: La tua presenza nuda! (1972), Nude per l’assassino (1975), Malabimba (1979), Maniac Killer (1987), Incontri in case private (1988), Massacre (1989), Gioco di seduzione (1990)]

This Italian zombie offering (commonly known best as Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror) has some fantastic special effects in both their zombie design and exuberant amounts of gore. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really offer up much aside from that.

Really, it’s hard for zombies movies to not feel derivative – at times, this felt like fellow Euro-horror forebears such as Tombs of the Blind Dead and Let Sleeping Corpses Lie/The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (though in somewhat unique fashion, the former is a Spanish film while the latter an Italian-Spanish production), and of course emulated Fulci’s Zombi 2 and City of the Living Dead, along with taking some elements from Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City.

All of this is to say that you pretty much know what you’re going to get: a thread-bare story but great gore and effects, and by God, Burial Ground delivers.

Obviously, perhaps one of the most memorable scenes is a woman getting her nipple and breast tip gnawed off, but there are also plenty of scenes of zombies digging through peoples’ entrails (thinking Night of the Living Dead, only in glorious color), along with just general great use of gore. The zombies themselves have a great design too, looking both overly decayed, dried out, and decrepit, along with being inundated with maggots and seeping brownish liquid (which one can only imagine would be quite foul) when punctured.

Most of the performances here aren’t really note-worthy in any way. One that just has to be mentioned, though, is Pietro Barzocchini (credited as Peter Bark in the film). Because of Italian laws that restricted the use of children in violent and sexual scenes, Barzocchini (age 25 at the time) was cast as a young child (I’m guessing he was supposed to be between the ages of seven and ten), which added such a strange, surreal feel to the scenes he was present in. It also allowed for a rather creepy scene where he tried to seduce his mother.

Oh, fun times indeed.

On a small side-note, I rather liked the somewhat low-key way this film ended. I can imagine it bothering some viewers, but it also plays into the whole hopelessness the characters felt throughout the whole film.

For a fan of classic horror, there’s a lot to appreciate about this movie, but Zombi 2 will always be my go-to when it comes to Italian zombie movies, no matter how good some of the effects here tend to be. Still, I definitely recommend giving this one a look, as really, you can’t go wrong with Italian zombie flicks from that golden era.

7/10

Blood Hook (1986)

Blood Hook

Directed by Jim Mallon [Other horror films: N/A]

While I generally enjoy slashers and slasher-like flicks from the 1980’s, something about this one didn’t quite work for me. Dare I say, I wasn’t hooked.

One thing I do appreciate about this film is the story – while they had characters who never really did much, I did like the characterization of some of the main performances, and though it was sort of muddled due to the low-budget quality of the film, I think the backstory on some of the characters here was interesting and a bit deeper than you might expect.

Of course, the movie throws in a bit of humor too, and it’s not too over-the-top, which is another thing I give Blood Hook props for. Oh, it certainly felt silly at times (just an over-sized fishing hook flying out of the dark, with no indication of someone nearby, felt a bit much), and the ‘loon-woman’ was just hilariously ridiculous, but the light-hearted tone, if anything, was far more muted than I expected (especially for a film distributed by Troma).

Speaking on that point, actually, there is a longer version of the movie out there, clocking in around two hours, while I saw the more common Troma release, which cut out quite a bit, from my understanding. Given that I didn’t particularly care for what I saw, I sort of doubt I’ll try out the longer version, but it should be stated that, in all fairness, that I didn’t see the ‘most complete’ version of Blood Hook out there.

For a movie of such a low budget, I will say that much of the cast did decent. Most of them appeared just in this single film (which was filmed on location in Wisconsin), such as Christopher Whiting, Sara Hauser, Don Winters (probably one of my favorite performances in the film), and Paul Drake. Others appeared in a handful of other movies and/or episodes, such as Mark Jacobs, Lisa Todd, and Bill Lowrie. Lisa Todd had perhaps one of the funniest scenes, in which she’s trying to connect on a personal level with the killer – something that I generally wouldn’t care for, but worked well here.

As much fun as the movie can occasionally be (personally, I wasn’t feeling all that invested until around the half-way mark), Blood Hook dragged much of the time. The little gore there was struck me as decent for the budget, and like I said, the story itself was actually pretty solid, but this movie didn’t work on some level for me, which is a shame, as it certainly had potential.

Honestly, this may just be one I need to give another shot a few years down the line – I could see my opinion improving a bit if I gave it another chance. As it is now, though, I find Blood Hook a rather sub-par slasher during a time when so many better horror flicks were being released.

5.5/10

The Prowler (1981)

The Prowler

Directed by Joseph Zito [Other horror films: Bloodrage (1980), Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)]

The Prowler is one of those early 80’s slasher classics I’ve just seen once before. Truth be told, I only remembered the vaguest of scenes, so it was nice coming into this one as an almost-new viewing. While the story and conclusion are a bit lacking, The Prowler more than makes up for it with it’s atmosphere and fantastic gore effects.

The setting for this one is pretty good also – it’s nothing overly special, just a college campus (of sorts), but I liked how everything happened so close to each other. In one scene, the main actress is walking out of a dance, tons of people and energy, and then just two blocks away, the streets are dark and empty. I’m not sure why, but I just really dug that.

Of course, when anyone talks about this one, they’re going to bring up the gore, and for good reason. I don’t think there was a single death in this movie that disappointed me. The bayonet through the guy’s head (from top of skull, coming out his jaw) was fantastic, as was the double pitchfork impalement at the beginning. Even better, the shower-pitchfork scene, which was fantastically gory, along with providing a bit of welcomed nudity to the film. Let’s not forget the head being blown off with the shotgun, though – in pure Maniac style, that scene was great.

Which makes complete sense, given that the same individual behind the special effects for Maniac, Tom Savini, was behind these also. If you want to see a slasher that’s not afraid of showing some gore, this one is perfect.

I don’t want to give off the impression that the film is without downsides, though. The motive behind the mystery killer are never really explained, leaving the kills without context, and in fact, the identity of the killer is almost pathetically easy to ascertain pretty early on (many of the red herrings were obvious, and we’re pretty much left with a single suspect in mind). Also, while the atmosphere never falters, it did feel a bit sluggish toward the end before the conclusion. And on that note, there’s a scene in the conclusion that just feels overly silly (I’m guessing that, if you’ve seen this, you know which one I’m talking about).

It’s also worth noting that the cast isn’t really amazing either, but for an early 80’s slasher, I pretty much think most of those involved did fine. Vicky Dawson was a pretty fair main character, and Christopher Goutman, while a bit generic, did okay as a co-protagonist. Neither one, by the way, had much a career in movies, which I find a bit interesting. I wish he had appeared more, but Farley Granger was fun while on screen, and I have no idea who Bill Nunnery is, but his short scene is pretty amusing.

It’s the lack of motive that bothers me most about this one, and all other complaints can mostly be swept under the rug. I don’t get why they didn’t throw in a short relevant flashback, or a Dear John letter, or something to indicate why the killer went out of his way to kill again after so long. It was noticeably weak, which is a shame, as otherwise, The Prowler is a solid movie. Even so, the special effects here are damn good, and if I’d recommend it for anything, along with the classic feel, I’d recommend it for that.

8.5/10