Friday, December 4, 2020

Santa Jaws

This past October, I went searching through Amazon Prime Video for Bruno Mattei's notorious Jaws rip-off Cruel Jaws. It wasn't available at the time but, in my efforts to find that movie, I discovered the streaming service had a movie called Santa Jaws in its library. Which I ended up watching based, almost exclusively, on the teaser image. Knowing full well that Santa Jaws couldn't possibly be very good, I went in with low expectations. It ended up being even worse than I thought it could be. In the movie, a teen receives a magical pen that brings his comic book creation, a killer shark named Santa Jaws, to life. Santa Jaws then begins picking off the teen's family and friends one by one. Does the magical pen hold the key to defeating Santa Jaws or has it all just been a nightmare? I'm not even sure the filmmakers could tell you because the ending seems to play it both ways.

Rating: 41%

(Image from Amazon)

Thursday, December 3, 2020

A Bionic Christmas Carol

After a devastating crash, astronaut Colonel Steve Austin's body is rebuilt with bionic appendages. He then reluctantly goes to work for OSI, the Office of Scientific Intelligence. His new boss at OSI, Oscar Goldman, sends Steve out on various covert missions. Recovering hostages, stopping terrorists, fighting Bigfoot. You know, boring government stuff. "A Bionic Christmas Carol" finds Steve investigating possible sabotage at a government contractor's facility. Instead of sabotage, Steve finds only the miserly Mr. Budge. While it turns out that Mr. Budge is not doing anything illegal, he is guitly of being a real prick. Forcing his employees to work through Christmas and treating his nephew, Bob Crandall, like shit. When Mr. Budge accidentally overdoses, Steve uses it as an opportunity to teach Mr. Budge the error of his ways. Come for the heartwarming story, stay for the sequence where Steve carves a tombstone from a slab using only karate chops.

Rating: Forgiveness%

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Sonic: Christmas Blast

I typed "Christmas" into Amazon Prime Video and it came back with Sonic: Christmas Blast. While I knew there had been Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons, I had never considered that there might also be a Sonic the Hedgehog Christmas Special. And, I must tell you, it left me asking some difficult questions. Has any adaptation of a video game ever been good? Was the terrible animation in the special because of a rush job or did the show's regular episodes look just as bad? Were all the things I liked from my youth actually crappy? Was my decision to double up on Christmas reviews this year a mistake? It was a lot to process.

Rating: Rings%

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Christmas Show

I used to have trouble sleeping on Christmas Eve when I was a kid. I would be so excited for Christmas morning that I would toss and turn all night. I would check the alarm clock over and over again, counting down the hours until I was allowed to get up. One year, in an effort to alleviate my yuletide insomnia, I decided to sneak in some late night TV. But because it was either the late eighties or early nineties, my options were limited. I ended up watching a few episodes of I Love Lucy that night. I hated it. It was worse than the insomnia. It never really stood a chance though. I was a kid, all jacked up on Christmas, and it was a black and white TV show that was already very old at the time. And, up until I watched "The I Love Lucy Christmas Special" DVD, that was the last time I intentionally watched the show. Seeing it this time around, as a middle aged man, proved to be much more enjoyable. The special, which originally aired in 1956, featured Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel reminiscing about the good times while trimming the tree on Christmas Eve. Those good times being, of course, flashbacks to earlier episodes. Despite thinking I would hate it, just like I did when I was a kid, I actually found it charming and wholesome. The theatricality of the show and goofy, slapstick humor really worked for me this time around. Go figure.

Rating: Train Set%

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Garfield's Thanksgiving

Of the three Garfield holiday specials, I have to assume that Garfield's Thanksgiving gets the least love. Despite being an ardent Garfield fan growing up, I'm not even sure I saw this special back when it originally aired. In the interest of full disclosure though, I did grow up in Canada and our relationship with the Thanksgiving holiday is much different than it is in the United States. Our Thanksgiving is in October and it only lasts two days max. Thanksgiving in America seems to last a week and a half. In Garfield's Thanksgiving, Jon is finally able to wear down Dr. Liz and convince her to go on a date with him. He invites her over for Thanksgiving dinner. And while I've never thought of Thanksgiving as a date holiday, it's not like these 24 minutes were going to fill themselves. Jon totally drops the ball when it comes to dinner prep, so it's Grandma to the rescue. Grandma, last seen in A Garfield Christmas, totally kills it in the kitchen and ends up being the highlight of the special. Everyone enjoys the meal, some jokes are made about going on a diet and the credits roll.

Rating: Grandma's Sweet Potatoes%

(Image from IMDB)

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Nightmare City

aka City of the Walking Dead

Nightmare City is, technically, not a zombie movie. Umberto Lenzi, the director, wanted people to think of it as a "radiation sickness" movie. It has a lot in common with The Crazies and The Return of the Living Dead. The ghouls in the movie look a lot like the Toxic Avenger. They don't eat flesh like a zombie would, but they do drink the blood of the living. And while they are not opposed to biting people, they're just as likely to stab or shoot their victims. Since this is an Italian horror movie, it should come as no surprise that it has a funky score and lots of goopy gore. There are also a number of particularly dangerous looking stunts in the movie. And there's even an eye gouging sequence that almost rivals the splinter scene in Lucio Fulci's Zombie. The ending sucks though.

Rating: 65%

(Image from TMDB)

Friday, October 30, 2020

IT

 

An ancient cosmic fear monster terrorizes/murders kids in a small Maine town, so the local cadre of misfit preteens decides to stop it in 1960 and again in 1990. For a basically PG-13 rated TV-movie this is pretty well done. Though (SPOILERS) I do think it's a little bunk that while everybody goes out and gets rich the black kid has to stay behind to be a poor local historian and the Jewish kid kills himself before taking on It the second time. 

RATING: 60%

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Invisible Man

A lot of the Universal Monsters inspire sympathy, not the Invisible Man. He's a straight-up murderous asshole. He's the kind of guy who can calmly sit in a study and say to someone, "we'll begin with a reign of terror." He goes from zero to murder in no time at all. Having been driven mad by the chemicals in his formula, the Invisible Man spends most of his time lashing out at colleagues and simple townsfolk. At one point, he even knocks over a baby carriage. A baby carriage, for God's sake.

Rating: 69%

(Image from Wikipedia)

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Graveyard Shift

 

In this completely forgettable adaptation of a completely forgettable Stephen King short story, some rats in a local cotton mill are wilding out because of their rat boss, a giant flying rat. Hey isn't a flying rat just a bat? That's what the Germans would have me believe anyway. Anyway who gets called in to solve the monster problem? A salvage crew of course!


RATING: 44%

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Deadly Friend

There are two things in Deadly Friend that really stand out. The first is BB, the robot. BB looks like a shittier version of Johnny 5 from Short Circuit and sounds like R2D2, if R2D2 had been voiced by Stripe from Gremlins. The other thing that really stands out in the movie is the scene where Kristy Swanson's character throws a basketball at Anne Ramsey's head and her head blows up real good. It's almost as good as the exploding head in Scanners, almost. And even though Deadly Friend's exploding head has been meme'd to death, the best part of the scene is actually what happens right after the explosion.You get to see the headless body run around the room spurting blood for a few seconds before it flops to the floor. It might have been my favorite part of the movie.

Rating: 59%

(Image from Wikipedia)

Monday, October 26, 2020

Tales From the Darkside: The Movie

 

In this anthology, based on George Romero's TV show I've always wanted to see but it's never available to stream or rent, there are three little tales of horror/irony, including a mummy one, an evil cat one, and a gargoyle one. There's also a cannibal Debbie Harry wraparound one. The best one (and the one Stephen King and George Romero wrote) is "The Cat From Hell," in which an unscrupulous pharmaceutical dude hires a hit man to kill a cat he's convinced is trying to kill him. The one they clearly spent all their FX budget on though is the last one, which is also the most boring. Anyway, it's an ok if very 90s anthology if you want to see an extremely young Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, and Christian Slater.

RATING: 63%

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Shivers

aka They Came from Within

Only minutes away from downtown Montreal, the Starliner Towers apartment complex has everything you could possibly need. Cable television in every room, an Olympic size swimming pool, onsite health care professionals, and parasites that send you into a sex crazed fury. Cronenberg's first commercial feature film, if you can call it that, proved to be both successful and controversial. Many critics balked at the film's combination of sex and violence. Some Canadian critics were especially upset that the film had received some of its funding from the federal government. The movie shares some similarities with Cronenberg's following film, Rabid, along with movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Crazies. Personally, the thing that surprised me most about the film was a car crash stunt that seemed just a little too realistic.

Rating: 65%

(Image from Wikipedia)

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Pet Sematary

 

A family moves to rural Maine just off a busy highway where they befriend Herman Munster, who helpfully directs the father to a secret resurrection burial ground whenever the family cat dies. The cat comes back, the very next day even, except it stinks and is extra jerky because of going against the laws of God and nature and science and etc. Hey I'd still do it to bring back any of my dead cats. As you can guess, the movie is not just about bringing pets back from the dead whenever the family's toddler is killed by a semi truck in a wild example of poor parenting. First, they shoulda put a fence around their yard as soon as the kid was almost hit by a truck months earlier. Second, the kid runs like 50 yards toward the busy road while the whole family watches and it only dawns on them to try and stop him when they see a truck in the distance. Anyhoo, the kid dies and is buried and his dad is like hmm, maybe I'll dig him up and try that titular sematary again. In movies and shows people are always digging up graves but I hope I never have to do it - it seems like hard work! The kid comes back a little jerkier and killier and nobody lives happily ever after but at least Denise Crosby gets in the last... jab.

RATING: 78%

Friday, October 23, 2020

Brain Damage

Brain Damage is a wildly original and inventive horror/exploitation movie. It's goofy and gross. It's trippy and tragic. It's clever and crass. The special effects, which are clearly low budget, are fantastic. Some of the acting in the movie is bad and broad, but the performances from the lead actor and Elmer the talking parasite are quite good. There is, however, one scene in the movie (quite possibly the most infamous scene in the film) which features an act of sexualized violence that is so over the top and cruel that it honestly tainted my overall enjoyment of the movie. Caveat emptor.

Rating: 68%

(Image from IMDB)

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Running Man

 

In the distant future of (checks notes) 2019 the evil government frames a dude who wouldn't kill a bunch of innocent civilians in a food riot and sentences him to go on a game show where he fights... to the death! It's peak Arnold one-liner land, which isn't to say they're all winners, but even the bad ones are so unzing they work (hey lighthead!). And really, who, in a life or death situation with the fate of the country at steak would just make relentless pithy jokes, anyway? Oh right, memes.


RATING: 70%

Check out Creepshow 2 here!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Strange Behavior

aka Dead Kids

There's something wrong with the kids at Galesburg University. Instead of turning up for class, they keep turning up... dead. The police are baffled. The bodies are piling up. And no one, NO ONE, is safe.

Dead Kids

Rated R

Strange Behavior is both a slasher flick and a mad scientist movie, with hints of early Cronenberg and De Palma thrown in the mix. It's supposed to take place in rural Illinois, but it was clearly filmed in New Zealand. The pacing is a little slow and the narrative unfolds somewhat haphazardly, but it remains fascinating to watch. Well shot and scored, with an effective balance of tension and atmosphere.

Rating: 65%

(Image from Wikipedia)

Fun Fact: Scott Brady, who played Shea, played Sheriff Frank in Gremlins.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Twilight Zone - "Gramma"

 

A kid is left home with his sickly grandmother that he's a little scared of - like, duh! Check out that picture! There's a lot of distracting internal monologuing that screenwriter Harlan Ellison decided to have the characters think aloud, but pretty decent dread from a mostly forgettable Stephen King story.

RATING: 53%

Monday, October 19, 2020

Don't Go in the Woods

aka Don't Go in the Woods... Alone!

Don't Go in the Woods is, essentially, about four campers getting stalked by a maniac in the mountains. And if I were to describe the movie in one word, that word would be "amateurish." Bad acting, crappy music, incomprehensible action, incompetent camerawork, and strained attempts at humor. The folks at Troma and the Asylum can rest easy knowing they make better movies than Don't Go in the Woods. In the interest of full disclosure, I did enjoy the scenery and one of the sets. Run, don't walk, away from this movie.

Rating: 42%

(Image from IMDB)

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Stand By Me

 A group of four preteen boys hear about a kid's dead body and decide to hike to it in order to be heroes and/or get on tv. Along the way they learn a little bit about life and struggle and puking after a pie eating contest. It's got a great set of 80s kid actors (River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O'Connell) who do a real good job goofin and cryin. I do question the frame of the author writing about this adventure, though - what does that add to the story? The ability to tell us who lived and who died? Like, why not add a narrator to a movie about King Arthur? "Everybody died a thousand years ago, deep." Also as a kid my neighbor and I used to blast the oldies soundtrack to this flick while drawing our own versions of Wacky Packages.

RATING: 83%

Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Spider

aka Earth vs the Spider

As far as giant insect movies from the 50s go, The Spider is average at best. It's really only notable because it was produced, directed and featured special effects created by Bert I. Gordon. Gordon was one of the many B-movie auteurs of the 50s and 60s. His gimmick was big stuff. Big monsters, big people, big bugs. You get the idea. He used a lot of process shots, rear projection and forced perspective tricks. He wasn't known for his screenplays, if you hear what I'm saying. It's fitting that The Spider was one of several Bert I. Gordon films featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It was practically tailor-made for the MST3K format.

Rating: 59%

(Image from IMDB)

Friday, October 16, 2020

Maximum Overdrive

 

A comet's tail covers Earth in space dust, bringing all machines to life! Well, not *all* machines, since a gun is a machine and those seem fine, but probably best not to think about whatever spurious iotas of science may or may not exist here. A rag tag group of strangers including Lisa Simpson, Gus Fring, and Emilio Estevez wind up trapped by a bunch of 18 Wheelers in a truck stop, sort of like a car version of Night of the Living Dead. People (including Stephen King, who wrote, adapted, and directed the movie) hate this one, but I think it's great - it'll kill anyone (including children), and the broad daylight that most of the movie takes place during gives it a very different feel than any other 80s horror flick. 

RATING: 79%

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Dagon

A boating accident leaves a young couple stranded in a remote Spanish fishing village. Right away, the couple notices that the locals all look and sound rather strange. Something fishy seems to be going on, literally. If you're familiar with Stuart Gordon's adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft's stories, it should come as no surprise that this movie quickly gets weird, gross and sexual. The practical special effects still look pretty good but the CGI in this movie has not aged well.

Rating: 62%

(Image from IMDB)

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Silver Bullet

 

A vicious serial killer is terrorizing a small town, but if that's not bad enough what if it's a werewolf kind of serial killer cuz it is! Of course the only person who believes that is a troublemaking kid with a souped up wheelchair and his drunk uncle. In movies they're always melting down jewelry to make silver bullets but how pure exactly does the silver bullet have to be to work? Couldn't it just be silver tipped to save some money?

RATING: 68%

Cat's Eye 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Killer Crocodile

You get to see a lot of the crocodile in Killer Crocodile. A surprising amount, really. There's a daytime shot of the crocodile in the first minute of the movie. In fact, there are a lot of daytime shots of the crocodile. There are a lot of closeup shots as well. They don't make the crocodile look any more believable but, at the same time, it was honestly refreshing to see a Jaws rip-off that showed off so much of its killer critter. And it's quite fitting to call this a rip-off, John Williams should have sued the pants off the people behind this one.

Rating: 60%

(Image from IMDB)

Monday, October 12, 2020

Tales From the Darkside - "Word Processor of the Gods"

 

A writer with such an awful life is gifted a word processor (an old shitty computer that only had like Microsoft Works) by his dead computer whiz nephew. Turns out anything he types comes true, which is good for him because it allows him to erase his nagging wife and guitar playing son without a second thought! I haven't read the short story in a quarter century or so but I don't remember it being so nihilistic.

RATING: 48%

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Pit and the Pendulum

After the success of House of Usher, American International Pictures (AIP) were eager to make another movie based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Roger Corman, using many of the same people (and sets), brought Pit and the Pendulum to theaters a little more than a year after House of Usher was released. With Vincent Price, once again, top billed, Pit and the Pendulum continued the moody, gothic style of House of Usher. Pendulum tweaked the formula somewhat with psychedelic silent film techniques and slightly more sadistic and shocking violence. It would go on to be even more successful than House of Usher, prompting AIP to double down on Corman's Poe gamble. AIP and Corman would go on to make another six* Poe-inspired films over the next three years.

Rating: 66%

(Image from IMDB)

*seven, if you count 1963's The Terror

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Firestarter

 

When I was ten and "not allowed to read Stephen King" I borrowed this book from a friend and felt like a real little badass secretly reading it at night, except I only got like 50 pages in because it was tres boring. It's about a little girl who has pyrokinetic superpowers and the government is after her and her pops because she's very dangerous and or useful. I am not supposed to think this, but I do kinda agree with the evil government agency here - you can't have some eight year old with anger issues just wandering around blowing things up with her brain! Much like the book the movie is mostly boring except for an amazing final action scene where the little girl totally loses her shit on some secret agents. 

RATING: 61%

Friday, October 9, 2020

Children of the Corn: Runaway

If I was feeling generous, I would tell you that Children of the Corn: Runaway isn't so much a horror movie as it is a psychological thriller. A methodical, minimalist meditation on trauma and family. A rustic, windswept tone poem. And if I wasn't feeling generous, I would tell you that the movie is a total snooze fest. A bare bones bore. Just another unnecessary entry in an already lackluster franchise. "It's not good," I would say. "I wish they would stop making these."

Rating: 49%

(image from IMDB)

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Children of the Corn

 A couple is taking a shortcut through the rural back roads of Nebraska when they hit a child with their car, yikes! Don't worry, though, the kid was already murdered when they hit him, they swear, officer. When they try to get help they wind up in a quaint little town where all the kids have murdered the adults so they can have their own quasi Christian corn cult. I think there's some kind of creature but the effects of the movie limit it to some flashing lights that eat up whoever's being sacrificed. In movies whenever a couple rescues a kid from some horrible traumatic thing they're always like "you can stay with us now!" Like I know you just went through some serious shit but you gotta at least fill out a form or two for that to happen! 

RATING: 57%

Quammy's Take

Christine

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

According to some very cursory internet research, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child has the lowest body count of the entire Elm Street franchise. Only three horny teens get killed in the movie. Freddy still manages to get lots of screen time though. He's big and cartoony in the movie, punctuating most of his sentences with, "bitch!" The plot, so much as there is one, hinges on Freddy using Alice's unborn baby to reach more victims. There's also some callbacks to story elements introduced back in Dream Warriors. The effects hold up pretty well. The series is definitely past its prime by this point, but Dream Child is still watchable.

Rating: 67%

(Image from IMDB)

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Dead Zone

 A school teacher gets coma'd by a car accident and when he wakes up five years later his daggum girlfriend has left him and is married with a kid. Also he's got the ability to see the future by touching a person, a common side effect. He uses said power for the usual - stopping needless deaths, solving a serial killing, and preventing a murderous populist presidential candidate from destroying the whole planet Earth. 


RATING: 74%