Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Christmas Story

On Christmas Eve, Andy and Barney decide to empty Mayberry's jail so that neither of them will have to spend Christmas guarding their prisoners. Of course, before letting them go, Andy makes them all swear to come back right after the holidays. Unfortunately, Ben Weaver, the local department store owner, brings in Sam Muggins and demands that Sam be locked up for making moonshine. Despite Andy's protests and promises, Ben threatens to make trouble for Andy if he doesn't keep Sam locked up over the holidays. Andy, being Andy, decides to have it both ways. He locks up the rest of the Muggins clan, so that they'll at least be together for Christmas. And he also deputizes Opie, Aunt Bee and Ms. Ellie Walker, on account of needing some extra help to look after all the prisoners. But while all is merry and bright inside the jail, Ben seems determined to get himself locked up as well. Now, why would a fella go and do something like that?

This may have been the first episode of The Andy Griffith Show that I ever watched in its entirety. And even though I enjoyed it, I have to say that it was much hokier than I'd anticipated. I had expected Don Knotts to provide a lot of goofball charm but I was surprised to see just how silly Andy Griffith's character acted. Perhaps that was due to the jovial nature of it being a holiday themed episode or maybe that's how the character was played in its earliest seasons. After all, "The Christmas Story" was only the 11th episode out of the show's 8 season, 249 episode run.

Rating: Roller Skates%

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Time Monster

In the famous Poochie episode of The Simpsons, Milhouse voices his frustration with an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon by whining the immortal line, "When are they going to get to the fireworks factory?" It's the way we've all felt at one time or another while engaging with a piece of entertainment that telegraphs something and then delays that thing for as long as possible. It's certainly how I felt while watching The Time Monster. "When are they going to get to Atlantis?" I kept saying. And the answer is: in the fifth episode. And then they're only there for about an episode and a half. The rest of the time they're at a university. And don't even get me started on all the Minotaur hype.

Rating: You've noticed%

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Satan's Slaves

After their mom (who was a briefly famous singer) dies, some creepy ghosts start showing up around the house, specifically of their mom and grandma. It turns out maybe their mom made a deal with the devil in order to have some kids? Dang isn't being a parent already a deal with the devil? It had some creepy parts but I especially liked where the main woman finds a hidden Satan track under a record label.

RATING: 75%

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Stuff

Some miners find a weird white goo seeping out of the ground and their first instinct is to... taste it?? Anyway, it's apparently delicious and they get rich selling it. Too bad it's also addictive (hey, so is ice cream!) and also mind-controls you (hey, so does ice cream!). It's a pretty fun horror comedy if you ask me which you did not. PS - I can't believe I only just saw it for the first time!

RATING: 77%

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Most Beautiful Island

An undocumented immigrant struggling in NYC winds up taking a gig for some extremely rich people where bizarre rich people stuff happens and maybe isn't exactly safe, but what can she even do about it? I don't wanna say too much, but one way (the only way?) to convince your lead actress to let a bunch of spiders and cockroaches crawl all over her naked body is to cast yourself as the lead actress.

RATING: 88%

Friday, October 25, 2019

Nightmare Beach

aka Welcome to Spring Break

I've never been to an execution before but I've seen enough movies to know that if the person who's about to be executed swears that they'll come back to get their revenge, that's a threat that you shouldn't blow off too easily. It's advice like that that could've helped the poor folks of Manatee Beach. After executing Diablo, leader of the Demons motorcycle gang, for a crime he didn't commit, corpses start to pile up around town. The powers that be are keen to cover up the murders but a plucky college quarterback and his dead-eyed bartender gal pal won't rest until the find out who's behind the killings. If you seen a slasher movie before, you won't have much trouble figuring out who's the killer. It's pretty obvious within the first ten minutes or so. That said, Nightmare Beach is still an enjoyable late period slasher, with good performances from John Saxon and Michael Parks.

Rating: 68%

(Image from IMDB)

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Mystics of Bali

An American tourist who just loves learning about evil magic all over the world convinces a local dude to put her in touch with a witch. They have a real good time turning into pigs and snakes and eating mice together and etc, and also the witch turns the American into a leak (or penanggalan) a variation on a common southeast Asian spirit that is a flying head trailing its guts like a kitestring behind it. Yeah, the effects might not always be top notch, but it's got a great creepy atmosphere amplified by many of the witch encounters taking place in sparse dark swamps.

RATING: 82%

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

House of Usher

aka The Fall of the House of Usher

After a couple of years of making low budget black and white movies for American International Pictures (AIP), Roger Corman was able to convince the distributor to let him make a movie in color with a half-decent budget. AIP was initially confused by his choice of subject matter. "Where's the monster?" they asked. "The house is the monster," he told them. And then they wrote him a check. That man could sell anything. House of Usher ended up becoming the first of eight films made by Corman loosely based on works from Edgar Allan Poe. The movie has a kind of lower-end Hammer vibe going on but it also has some surprisingly stylish elements. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Vincent Price's stellar performance.

Rating: 68%

(Image from Wikipedia)

Monday, October 21, 2019

Men Behind the Sun

This is another of those super extreme gore movies that I guess I felt I had to watch as a horror snob or whatever. It's not especially gorier than like, Day of the Dead or the Saw movies, but it's incredibly difficult to watch because it's based on an actual historical Japanese unit (731) who conducted lethal biological research on captive Chinese civilians during World War II, killing thousands of people. (As far as the filmmakers, they killed a bunch of rats for the movie and filmed a real child's autopsy so that's nowhere near as bad but still rough to watch.) Anyway, at least the people in charge of the real camp got tried for war crimes. Oh, wait, what's that? They were granted immunity by the United States in exchange for all their research? Well that's just super.

RATING: 74%

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Psycho

I can understand why people give Gus Van Sant's remake of Psycho so much shit. It's not quite as bad as I was led to believe but it is a little frustrating to watch. The remake uses the same script as the original, almost word for word. And it's a little jarring hearing modern actors trying to deliver forty year old dialogue. It's very unnatural. Except for William H. Macy's performance, he knocks that shit out of the park. Also, late 90s cars and clothing have not aged as gracefully as those of the early 60s. And no one ever needed to hear the sound of Norman Bates masturbating.

Rating: Let me get my Walkman%

(Image from IMDB)

Halloween

In this sequel to 1978's Halloween (but *not* the nine sequels or remakes since), Michael Myers busts out of prison to continue his reign of terror, but luckily his sister - oops, no, that was retconned out - his survivor Laurie Strode is ready for him with a house full of booby traps. It's a really well done flick by David Gordon Green, though since Michael Myers has only one movie's worth of kills under his belt it's a little odd to see people so terrified of him. True, he turns out to be a relentless killer, but at first he's just some sixty-something dude who's been in jail for forty years, so what's the big deal?

RATING: 84%

Friday, October 18, 2019

Psycho IV: The Beginning

"Talk of the Town" gets the guest of a lifetime when Norman Bates decides to call in and offer his personal perspective on the topic of matricide. He shares a few stories about his mother and their really messed up psycho-sexual dynamic. He also tells them about some of his early, formative murders. It seems that some of those old feelings have come back to Norman. He's thinking about killing again... and that's about it. While Psycho IV definitely gets a few things right (it's somehow the only one of the sequels that uses any of Bernard Herrmann's amazing music) it's barely a movie. There isn't a whole lot of plot, it's mostly just vignettes of a young Norman and his icky times with Mother. The framing device of Norman and the radio show really slows down the pacing and the ultimate conclusion is pretty lackluster.

Rating: 55%

(Image from Wikipedia)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Ready or Not

A woman gets married into an extremely rich family who made their money off board games and all is good until at midnight when she has to play a game of the hide and seek murder variety. It's a really fun premise, a really fun execution (har har), and you get to see a bunch of rich people stumble around and get hurt and/or die. I do feel bad for the butlers and maids though. Well, not all of them.

RATING: 81%

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Bates Motel

Before there was Bates Motel, there was Bates Motel, a made-for-TV movie from 1987. It was supposed to be the pilot for a series set at a newly renovated Bates Motel, but it wasn't very good and it never went any further than the pilot movie. It's not even really canon. It's pretty much a sidequel. It ignores Psycho II and III, starting after the events of the original. We follow a character who befriended Norman Bates while they were both institutionalized. After Norman's death, Alex (our lead) inherits the Bates Motel on the condition that he gets it up and running again. It's part whodunnit/Scooby-doo/gaslighting and part shitty Twilight Zone. You can find Bates Motel these days on cheap multi-packs with the other Psycho sequels, but for years it was only available on bootlegs. Because horror fans have always been willing to bootleg garbage.

Rating: 45%

(Image from IMDB)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Child's Play

A new multimedia hit doll (Buddi, but you know his real name!) hits the stores that has AI and controls stuff in your apartment sorta like a creepy Alexa. Well, Alexa's already creepy, but imagine she was a giant doll. How could that go wrong??? They undid the murderer-possession aspect from the original Child's Play and made it so a disgruntled worker turns off the "violence inhibitor," but this one is really fun. It does make me question my own grading system, which I swore never to overthink. Like, I *am* ranking it an 83%, which is higher than the original Child's Play, but I don't think it's going to stick in the collective consciousness as long as the original.

RATING: 83%

Monday, October 14, 2019

Psycho III

About a month after the events of Psycho II, no one is the wiser about what is really going on at the Bates Motel. As far as the townsfolk are concerned, Norman Bates is a reformed citizen who should be allowed to quietly return to his private life. All of that starts to change after the arrival of a journalist, a sleazy musician and a former nun. Psycho III is the most explicit film in the franchise so far and it's definitely the one that comes the closest to being a full-on slasher. It's also a very straight forward movie. The first two films are all about suspense and deception, whereas III feels like an attempt to make the series more contemporary.

Rating: 60%

(Image from IMDB)

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Psycho II

After twenty-two years in a mental institution, Norman Bates is deemed cured of his insanity and is released. This doesn't sit too well with Lila Loomis, Marion Crane's sister. Norman goes back to the Bates Motel and the home he shared with Mother. He takes a job at a local diner, where he befriends a young waitress named Mary. Things get off to a rocky start when Norman begins to find notes from his mother. Soon he begins to receive phone calls from Mother, as well as hearing her voice around the house. Is Norman losing his grip on sanity or is something more sinister afoot?

Rating: 65%

(Image from IMDB)

Fun Fact: Psycho II was written by Tom Holland, the director of the original Child's Play. It also stars Meg Tilly, sister of Jennifer Tilly.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Cult of Chucky

Nica, the survivor from last movie, gets blamed for the murders and committed whenever she tries to tell people a doll did it. Now we're making sense! Of course Chucky figures out a way (Jennifer Tilly as Jennifer Tilly) to have himself mailed to the asylum, and Andy from the first movie shows up to try and save the day with guns. I really liked this movie, and hope they do another one in this timeline to wrap up the story since it sorta ends on a cliffhanger!

RATING: 79%

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Curse of Chucky

A paraplegic woman and her mother get sent a nice little gift of a freaky doll named... well, you know who! It turns out the mother had some sort of connection to Charles Lee Ray, as we learn in some flashbacks that for some reason believe a wig and that's it will make Brad Dourif look 25 years younger. This one is more serious than the last two so it's a bit better, but how serious can you really make a movie about a killer Cabbage Patch Kid anyway? Good on Brad Dourif though for making a chance to work with his daughter happen (she's lead).

RATING: 53%

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Psycho

I don't really need to tell you anything about Psycho. You probably know the story already or at least a few of the major plot points. Even the slightest mention of the shower sequence probably brings to mind the soundtrack's screeching violins. It's a movie that is impeccably shot, acted, edited and scored. It's a masterpiece. I can't wait to see how terrible the sequels are...

Rating: 95%

(Image from IMDB)

Seed of Chucky

Chucky and Tiffany's kid from the last second of the last movie is traveling around being a ventriloquist's dummy when he sees his long lost parents on tv. It turns out they're making a movie about the Chucky murders starring Jennifer Tilly! So the kid seeks out his parents, who once again get rebrought to life by some accidents and want to kill people and steal Jennifer Tilly's body. Anyway, the kid wrestles with if he wants to kill or not but of course he's way evil because his name is Glen with one 'n'! (My name is Glenn with two 'n's is the joke.)

RATING: 26%

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Graduation Day

The golden age of slasher movies was sometime between the late seventies and the early to mid-eighties. But as much as it was a golden age for the genre it was also, unapologetically, a gold rush. Producers and studios scrambled to churn out films to capitalize on the audience's hunger for "dead teenager" movies. Graduation Day is great example of a slasher movie made in that spirit. It's very by-the-numbers. The inciting incident takes place at a high school track meet, where a hard-ass coach barks orders at a runner during a race. After she crosses the finish line she collapses and dies. Two months later, just before graduation day, a black gloved killer stalks and kills the rest of the track team. Needless to say, this movie isn't especially memorable or original. It doesn't even have any particularly good kills. If anything, it's really only memorable for featuring Linnea Quigley and Vanna White.

Rating: 45%

(Image from IMDB)

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Bride of Chucky

It's one year after the events of Child's Play 3 (though the movie came out seven years later), and Charles Lee Ray's ex manages to resurrect him into the sewn-together doll he's been possessing all these years. They have a kind of abusive relationship as you might expect from a couple murderers, so one thing leads to another and Chucky's girlfriend ends up in a doll body too. Then the race is on to get themselves back into human bodies so they terrorize some total strangers into taking them to New Jersey. It's got that sorta blue look that was so common to 1990s horror movies - seriously, what was up with that aesthetic? Was it Scream's fault?

RATING: 68%

Friday, October 4, 2019

Child's Play 3

It's eight years after the events of Child's Play 2 (though the movie came out less than a year later), and Andy is sent to military school because of his continued troubles. Ya know, you and I know that his doll really came to life twice and killed all those people, but dontcha think realistically a better place for Andy might be jail??? I mean, he's the only one with a connection to all these corpses! Anyway this one is pretty boring except for a cool final showdown in a haunted house ride.

RATING: 46%

A Bay of Blood

aka Twitch of the Death Nerve

An old lady is murdered and then, within seconds, her murderer is murdered. And that pretty much sets the tone for A Bay of Blood. Every character in the movie is either a murderer or someone who's about to be murdered. Also, there are at least two kills in this movie that were ripped off by Friday the 13th Part 2. So you know it's gotta be good.

Rating: 71%

(Image from moviepostershop.com)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Mole People

It's almost a shame that they couldn't get the Dark Universe off the ground, because a movie like The Mole People is perfect for a modern reboot. It's a movie that, I'm guessing, not a lot of people have seen. It definitely doesn't have the cachet of your Draculas and Frankensteins but it's something that could easily be gussied up for our times. It even has some racial themes that could be explored, Jordan Peele-style. I mean, who wouldn't want to see a movie about some archaeologists discovering a subterranean city populated by albinos and their mole man slaves? Just put, I don't know, Ryan Gosling in it or something.

Rating: 61%

(Image from IMDB)

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Child's Play 2

In the aftermath of the murders of Child's Play 1 (better known as Child's Play), Andy's mom is committed, Andy is put into a foster home, and, oh yeah, the toy company rebuilds Chucky to prove he's not a murderer. Not a great move! Of course, nobody ever believes Chucky is actually a murderer until he's murderering them, which to be honest is reasonable.

RATING: 71%

Child's Play 1 review here!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Curtains

In Curtains, John Vernon plays a (what's a kind word for abusive?) difficult director in search of an actress for an upcoming film. After stranding his first choice in an insane asylum, he invites several potential candidates to his secluded mansion. Surely nothing could go wrong under those circumstances. It took almost three years to complete Curtains, following several rounds of rewrites and reshoots. The final product is a little disjointed. There are, however, a couple of decent kills in the film, most notably in the ice skating sequence.

Rating: 59%

(Image from Amazon)

Friday, September 27, 2019

The Mutants

The Mutants was inspired, at least in part, by the conditions in South Africa under apartheid. The serial definitely puts across an anti-colonial, anti-racist message. Which is a little ironic given that there were definitely people involved in the production who thought that colonialism was just fine and that things were so much better when the British Empire was running the world. Having said all that, you might be under the impression that The Mutants is a dry, serious slog. Far from it. While it's not as good as the other stories from this season, it has its charms. The titular mutants are well designed and the contrasting locations (an orbital space station and a primitive planet) keep things interesting. 

Rating: I'm just the messenger boy%

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Sea Devils

The Third Doctor is often referred to as a "man of action" and The Sea Devils is the perfect showcase for this title. While battling the Sea Devils, an aquatic offshoot of the Silurians, the Doctor engages in fisticuffs, gets into a sword fight, throws himself on barbed wire and pilots several means of transportation. This serial also reintroduces the Master, seemingly under lock and key after the events of The Dæmons. The show's producers managed to get assistance from the Royal Navy, so many of the locations and vehicles used in the show (including a freakin' hovercraft) are authentic. And the script provides several opportunities for some perfectly British bureaucratic pissing contests.

Rating: Oh, you think so?%

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Curse of Peladon

For much of the Third Doctor's run, I've been praising the show for being original and innovative. The Curse of Peladon is proof that there's still some benefit to doing things the old fashioned way. Much like Colony in Space, The Curse of Peladon breaks free of the UNIT formula by allowing Jo and the Doctor to take a much needed break from their regular routine. The serial starts with the Doctor thinking he's repaired the TARDIS enough to take it on a test flight, only to find out that he and Jo have been deposited on the side of a mountain. After a dangerous climb, our heroes find themselves mixed up in some courtly intrigue. The Doctor quickly falls into his old habit of impersonating someone important and sets about protecting some intergalactic ambassadors, including his former enemies the Ice Warriors. Pertwee's Doctor fits into the story quite easily and this throwback adventure ends up being quite enjoyable.

Rating: Which way indeed%