Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

The Midnight Meat Train

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

tn_mmt“Please, step away from the meat.”

Before THE HANGOVER made him a marquee name, and before he was nominated for Oscars three years in a row, Bradley Cooper was the star of THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (2008). Sure, he’d already been in WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER and WEDDING CRASHERS and some TV shows, like he was on Alias and he played “Jack Bourdain” in Darren Star’s short-lived TV version of Kitchen Confidential. But come on. Obviously nobody cares about that shit and I’m embarrassed that I just typed it. He was, and is, the star of THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN.

Loosely based on a Clive Barker short story, this is a tale of city life. It’s about fears of late night public transit, of deserted subway platforms and cars, and our curiosity about the other odd people who are out late. The model in the fur coat, the teens selling candy bars at 2 am, most of all the dour, weathered bruiser in the suit and tie (Vinnie Jones, GARFIELD: A TAIL OF TWO KITTIES), always hunched over clutching his bag and looking miserable.

Leon (Bradley Cooper, THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN) sees the guy and becomes obsessed with him. He follows him GHOST WORLD style, researches him, photographs him, dreams about him. Leon helps a lady escape from rapists, she goes missing that night, and he decides the man with the bag is involved. The more he investigates the creepier and crazier the whole thing seems. And he has a dream where he sees his own head on the guy’s body and it slits his throat and he sees his face reflected in the puddle of blood. You know, that old dream. (read the rest of this shit…)

Warlock

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

tn_warlockWARLOCK is a fun, simple movie about a warlock (Julian Sands) who, as he’s about to be inquisitioned to death in 1691, does a magic spell that transports him to 20th century Los Angeles. A storm accurately referred to as “The Devil’s Wind” literally blows him through the window into the home of Kassandra (Lori Singer) and her roommate. Naturally they figure he’s a drunk and let him spend the night. Talk about a racial double standard! If it was a black guy who flew through their window they’d be going for guns. And that wouldn’t have helped here but it would’ve been the right idea at least. Next thing you know the warlock is cutting out the roommate’s tongue and devouring his life essence.

Suddenly a dude wearing furs (Richard E. Grant) is in the house too. Kassandra screams, tries to get away, he punches her, she punches back. He’s talking nonsense, wants to know if the warlock bled in the house. She cuts open her vacuum bag to give him the glass shards for the window, then tries to get away. (read the rest of this shit…)

Don’t Open Till Christmas

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

tn_dontopenIn Victorian England there was a tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve. This is what gave us A Christmas Carol, of course, but is it a dead tradition otherwise? Well, I don’t know. There are an awful lot of Christmas-themed horror movies. There’s enough of ‘em out there that I still haven’t seen nearly all of them. Maybe that’s what the ghost stories turned into over the years.

Or maybe SILENT NIGHT, DEADY NIGHT just reminded everybody that killer Santas are a fun idea. I don’t know. Anyway, this year I chose to watch a British one I didn’t know much about, DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS, released on DVD by the Mondo Macabro label (who usually put out things much crazier and more exotic than this).

This was made at the same time as SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (they both came out in winter of 1984), but it’s the reverse of a killer Santa movie. This is about a guy who goes around killing Santas! He’s unseen, face off camera, like a killer in a giallo. But in the American slasher tradition he’s a puritanical executioner. The Santas he kills are all doing something he apparently disapproves of: having sex, being drunk, going to see a stripper, throwing an awesome disco costume party, etc. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hatchet III

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

tn_hatchet3Ever since I was a little kid (give or take decades) I’ve always wanted to like the HATCHET movies. They talk a good game about bringing back “old school horror,” they’re throwbacks to the ’80s slashers I’m in love with, they have Kane Hodder as a deformed hillbilly swamp maniac and some funny gore ideas. I also kinda liked writer/director Adam Green’s other movie FROZEN, which of course is sweeping the nation and capturing the hearts of little princesses of all ages who want to see a thriller about people stuck on a ski lift.

On paper HATCHET and HATCHET II are right up my alley, but in practice they took a different street. They’re not comedies, but I found them too self-conscious, too jokey, not atmospheric enough, not structured correctly to be an effective slasher story. I remember the first one as a bunch of actors walking around in a big group on a small, fake-looking swamp set pretending to be lost. I just couldn’t get into it.

So I’m proud to announce that I finally pulled it off. I really liked a HATCHET movie! Part III specifically. Maybe we can credit new director BJ McDonell (promoted from steadicam operator on the first two in the series), but to be fair I-II director Green did write this and was very hands-on as a producer from what I’ve read. Maybe practice makes perfect. After 10,000 hours of making HATCHET movies you get really good at it, like Malcolm McDowell says. (read the rest of this shit…)

Psycho Cop Returns

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

tn_psychocopreturnsPSYCHO COP RETURNS is a huge leap ahead of part 1. Yes, it’s one of those purposely cheesy self-aware horror movies from the Troma era. Broad acting and stereotypes, big-haired, big-boobed female characters there more for the stripping scenes than for anything else, douchebag characters who frequently hoot and holler about booze and tits, cheesy keyboard-badly-imitating-an-orchestra score. And it’s the type of movie where the third billed actor is “1993 Penthouse Pet of the Year Julie Strain,” kind of like how Don “The Dragon” Wilson’s kickboxing titles were sometimes included on the opening credits.

And it’s not a great movie. But it’s almost instantly clear that they’re trying to do a good version of that type of bad movie. The opening few minutes – two dudes encountering the Psycho Cop (still Bobby Ray Shafer) at a donut shop, followed by an opening credits montage of gorey body parts piled inside his patrol car – shows much more signs of effort than the entirety of part 1. It smacks of “This is gonna be stupid, but let’s go for it!,” and that attitude is pretty infectious.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Psycho Cop

Monday, December 15th, 2014

tn_psychocopPSYCHO COP is no MANIAC COP, I’ll tell you that. You know, MANIAC COP is a low budget indie exploitation movie, but it’s the kind with scope. The kind where they use all the resources they have, sneak shots on location, try to push the envelope on stunts, stretch the budget, get as much bang for the nickel as they possibly can. The kind that were made to play in a theater in Times Square for a while but that people are still interested in today. PSYCHO COP (which came out between MANIAC COPs 1 and 2) is the other kind.

Instead of an action-horror hybrid this is a generic shitty slasher with its closest thing to a redeeming value being the cop-themed killer, Officer Joe Vickers (played by Bobby Ray Shafer, now best known as Bob Vance of Vance Refrigeration on The Office). He’s an officer who suddenly goes on a killing spree. Also he’s satanic. In the opening he puts on his uniform in a dingy apartment with a pentagram painted on the wall and candles everywhere. He dips his hands in a bowl of blood before putting on his sunglasses. Later he sets up a bunch of wooden crosses in the woods for a ritual. (read the rest of this shit…)

Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

tn_maniaccop3In the tradition of MANIAC COP 2, MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE begins with footage from the end of the last one. Undead Maniac Cop Matt Cordell (Robert Z’Dar)’s honor guard funeral is intercut with new scenes of a voodoo priest (Julius Harris, also in Larry Cohen’s BLACK CAESAR) stabbing a head with a ritualistic dagger and chanting. So now we know that part 2’s CARRIE-esque ending is actually a voodoo curse. Man, first Chucky, then Screwface, now this. What the bloodclot, voodoo?

Robert Davi returns as Mac, who is investigating these voodoo guys and suspects a connection to Cordell. Claudia Christian’s character Riley doesn’t show, but there’s another female lead (Gretchen Becker), a younger officer nicknamed “Maniac Kate” for her Dirty Harry type approach to law enforcement. Mac knows her mother and considers her a kid sister, but seems kind of flirtatious in their first scene together at the gun range (hopefully now renamed The Six Target-Shooting Officers Killed By Maniac Cop In Part 2 Memorial Gun Range) where they take turns shooting the target while she vents about getting in trouble for shooting an attempted rapist. Mac says she should’ve waited a little longer so she could’ve shot more than just an attempted rapist. Classy.

Maniac Kate responds to a pharmacy holdup by a crazed pill-feaster (Jackie Earle Haley in the movie that came before the one that earned him an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor). Kate and the junkie end up in the hospital, the hostage dead, and a pair of sleazy tabloid video journalists film the whole thing and broadcast an edited version that makes her look like she was in the wrong. (read the rest of this shit…)

Maniac Cop 2

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

tn_maniaccop2Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon return for the bigger, I think better MANIAC COP 2. I guess it had a bigger budget than the first one and it has a more confident, cinematic feel. Hats off to cinematographer James Lemmo (who also did the first one, MS. 45, VIGILANTE and THE GLADIATOR) for his deliberate, ominous pans through New York City locations. There’s even a great opening credits sequence designed by Pablo Ferro (DR. STRANGELOVE) that really establishes the mood as the camera glides across a police impound lot and the remains of the vehicle involved in the climax of part 1.

This is maybe 2 weeks later, when Jack (Campbell) has been cleared of the murders but is trying to get back on the force. I’m a little confused because there’s a new captain and reference to the previous one being dead, but for some reason the commissioner, played by Michael Lerner (BARTON FINK) instead of Richard Roundtree, and given a different name, is treated as the guy who’s always been there. He sends Jack and Theresa (Landon) to police psychologist Susan Riley (Claudia Christian, HALF PAST DEAD), which is also where a new character, Detective Sean “Mac” McKinney, ends up after shooting a suspect. (He didn’t kill him, but only because he says it’s too much paperwork.)
(read the rest of this shit…)

Maniac Cop

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

tn_maniaccopMANIAC COP is like an ’80s b-movie dream team. William Lustig (MANIAC) directs, Larry Cohen (IT’S ALIVE!) writes, James Glickenhaus (THE EXECUTIONER, THE PROTECTOR) executive produces. And check out this cast: Tom Atkins (NIGHT OF THE CREEPS) is Frank McCrae, a tough NYC lieutenant investigating a murder spree by a mysterious dude in a police uniform. Bruce Campbell, one year after EVIL DEAD 2, is Jack Forrest, a cop who is implicated in the murders and goes on the run to find out who really did it. Hundra herself, Laurene Landon, plays his crimp-haired mistress Theresa Mallory, a fellow cop who helps him in his quest. Richard Roundtree (SHAFT) and William Smith (HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN) are the hardass commissioner and captain. Sam Raimi has a cameo. And also Jake LaMotta, for some reason. And Robert Z’Dar (TANGO & CASH) plays the maniac cop. He’s mostly in silhouette, so his superhumanly giant chin is not as much of a distraction as in some movies.

(Wait a minute… how did Bruce Campbell title his autobiography “If Chins Could Talk Kill” when he co-starred with Z’Dar? He knows his chin ain’t shit.)

Jack gets involved because his wife (Victoria Catlin, GHOULIES, Twin Peaks) notices him sneaking around and suspects him of being the maniac cop. But of course he’s really going to see Theresa. Whoops. Since his wife gets killed by the maniac and left in his hotel room, now it looks like he’s the guy. (read the rest of this shit…)

House

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

tn_houseThat’s a good feeling when you watch a movie that you don’t remember being all that special back in the ’80s but now it seems like a gem. Last Halloween that happened to me with FROM BEYOND, this year it was HOUSE (1986).

All I remembered was haunted house, George Wendt (and/or John Ratzenberger), something about Vietnam. Maybe kinda funny. All those things are true except for Ratzenberger, who is in part 2. But the star is 10-years-after-CARRIE William Katt as Cobb, a Stephen-King-level-popularity novelist who’s going through some troubles. First we think it’s just that his old Auntie who raised him (Susan French, JAWS 2) hung herself. Then we find out he’s still hurt by his divorce from a soap star (Kay Lenz, DEATH WISH 4: THE CRACKDOWN). And writing his memoir is dredging up painful memories of Vietnam (“The war?” a fan asks). And he still hasn’t given up on finding his missing son.

Jesus, that’s alot of problems. (read the rest of this shit…)