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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

To All a Goodnight

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021

Programming note: This will most likely be my last review until some time after Christmas. My MATRIX RESURRECTIONS review is in-progress but I don’t want to rush it and I’m hoping I can get in a second viewing soon. For now please enjoy this perhaps overly detailed assessment of a lesser known killer Santa movie. Happy holidays, friends!

 

David Hess was a singer and songwriter in the 1950s. Under the stage name David Hill he recorded a version of “All Shook Up” before Elvis did, and later wrote some lesser known Presley songs including “Come Along” (from the movie FRANKIE AND JOHNNY) and “Sand Castles” (from PARADISE, HAWAIIAN STYLE). He also penned songs for Pat Boone and Sal Mineo.

In 1972, like The King before him, Hess took his talents to the big screen, starring in a movie and recording the soundtrack for it. But this was pretty different from LOVE ME TENDER; it was Wes Craven’s LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, and he played the despicable villain Krug. It kicked off an acting career in American and Italian exploitation, episodes of Knight Rider, The A-Team, etc., often, I’m afraid, playing criminals and rapists. He was in THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK, Craven’s SWAMP THING, and even Mark L. Lester’s John Candy movie ARMED AND DANGEROUS (as Gunman #4). Since he was reportedly a Method actor, I’m sure he was fun to be around.

And he directed exactly one feature, the Christmas slasher movie TO ALL A GOODNIGHT, given a limited release in January of 1980 before going to video in ’83. (Yes, it’s surprising that a Christmas movie didn’t catch on a month after Christmas.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Turbulence

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

TURBULENCE is kind of an also-ran in the world of ‘90s studio thrillers. They used to put pretty big budgets into these mainstream action/thriller hybrids, especially if they starred Harrison Ford and/or Tommy Lee Jones. I guess psycho Ray Liotta is a little more low rent than that, and heroine Lauren Holly wasn’t exactly a Jodie-Foster-sized marquee name (she was known for Picket Fences and DUMB AND DUMBER). But if Wikipedia is correct, the budget for this one was bigger than THE FUGITIVE, IN THE LINE OF FIRE, PATRIOT GAMES, THE NET or SPEED! So although most of the story is confined to one 747 it has plenty of scope. It feels like a big DIE HARD type production.

Or maybe I should say DIE HARD 2 – that’s the movie I thought of when it was at the airport, with its attention to the pomp and circumstance of a law enforcement caravan arriving to search the plane before bringing prisoners aboard. It even takes place at Christmas, with Christmas music. Anyway, I have a soft spot for this type of movie. Any stupidity that may or may not be involved did not get in the way of my enjoyment of this one. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mother Krampus

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

MOTHER KRAMPUS (2017) is a quite serious and pretty gory b-movie from the UK that claims to be “Based on the German Urban Legend of Frau Perchta, the Christmas Witch, who takes a child each night over the 12 days of Christmas.” Maybe C.J. or any of the other German readers can let us know if they’ve ever heard of such a thing. With a little reading I learned she’s a pagan goddess of the Alps, a guardian of beasts and does have some association with the 12 Days of Christmas. She often has one oversized foot and an iron beak, both of which are sorely missing in this cinematic depiction. In some legends she has servants who look like Krampus, but they’re not Krampus, and she doesn’t have them in this movie anyway, so the title is bullshit. But it is a specifically Christmas-themed horror story about an evil hag who comes out of the woods to kill people at Christmas time and that I can get behind.

And we gotta give the ol’ Frau this: it takes balls to do the opening kill at a church! A mom is not paying attention to her son, as she talks to the priest after the service, and he follows a trail of candy to the door, where our shadowy robed non-Krampus related hag snatches him up. I like that it’s hard candy, because it shows that Mother Krampus is a grandma at heart. Either that or she’s so devious that she could use any delicious candy and purposely chooses the less good stuff because she knows it’ll do. (read the rest of this shit…)

Campfire Tales

Monday, December 21st, 2020

CAMPFIRE TALES is a very low budget horror anthology released in 1991. After directors William Cooke and Paul Talbot graduated from college in 1987 they decided to build a film around “The Hook,” a short they’d made in their senior year 16mm class. The stories are very simplistic – unusually light on gimmicks and ironic twists for this type of material – and the filmmaking is not what would traditionally be considered “good.” But being made by beginners with no money gives it that scrappy underdog charm where you’re excited for anything they kind of pull off, and since it was made by young people in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s there’s some relatability and nostalgia for somebody like me who may or may not have come of age around that time.

“The Hook” is set on Halloween, but there’s another story that’s about Christmas, which is what brought me to it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Body

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

I was in the mood for some more Christmas horror, and I tried this movie BODY – the 2015 American movie, not the 2015 Polish movie – for the following two reasons: it showed up in Shudder’s holiday section, and the running time was 75 minutes. I had not heard of it, but it’s something that played the Slamdance Film Festival and is distributed by Adam Yauch’s company Oscilloscope Laboratories.

The “Christmas horror” label is arguable here. The Shudder description uses the term “Hitchcockian,” and the poster tries to evoke Saul Bass with simple cutouts on a red background. But it’s about young people and some killing and it’s set at Christmas time, so it’s a Christmas horror and/or thriller. (read the rest of this shit…)

Saint Nick (Sint)

Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

I’ve got this problem that I always want some good Christmas horror movies I haven’t seen before, but also I assume any of them coming out this century are gonna be boring, cheap garbage. Yes, KRAMPUS (2015) is semi-recent and has become an annual tradition for me already, but does that mean I should give a shot to the unrelated KRAMPUS: THE CHRISTMAS DEVIL (2014), KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING (2015), KRAMPUS: THE DEVIL RETURNS (2016), KRAMPUS UNLEASHED (2016) or KRAMPUS: ORIGINS (2018)? So far I have assumed no. In this same spirit, I was curious, but didn’t make it a priority, to watch the 2010 Dutch killer Santa type movie SAINT NICK (also released here as SAINT, originally SINT).

And then this year happened! Not the bad stuff, but the stuff where I finally caught on to the Dutch writer/director/composer Dick Maas. I enjoyed his killer elevator movie DE LIFT/THE LIFT (1983), his scuba-action-slasher AMSTERDAMNED (1988), his killer elevator English-language remake DOWN (2001) and his killer lion loose in Amsterdam movie PROOIL/UNCAGED (2016). So, okay buddy, I trust you to make a Christmas horror movie now. I’m ready. (read the rest of this shit…)

Happiest Season

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

I don’t usually review comedies, especially straight forward romance/family ones like HAPPIEST SEASON, nor do I plan to do it often. But I thought this was a pretty good one and I decided to give it a shot. Sharpen my skills.

HAPPIEST SEASON is new on Hulu and takes place at Christmas time, but is not specifically about any holiday celebrations. It has received some attention as a high profile romantic comedy with a same sex couple, and of a much higher quality than the ones starting to pop up on Hallmark and Lifetime. Sony/TriStar had actually intended this for a major theatrical release before the pandemic and its supporters fucked up the country. It was directed and co-written by Clea DuVall, who we of course know as an actress from GHOSTS OF MARS, THE GRUDGE, ZODIAC, etc., so it’s a pretty good in-joke when a character’s teenage bedroom is still decorated with a sexy poster of Josh Hartnett (THE FACULTY). (read the rest of this shit…)

Jack Frost 2

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019

Last Christmas I gave you my heart, by which I mean I finally watched JACK FROST and wrote about it. This year, I wouldn’t say I was in tears, but JACK FROST 2: REVENGE OF THE MUTANT KILLER SNOWMAN wasn’t as special.

I mean… they tried. Writer/director Michael Cooney returned in the year 2000 (three years after the original) with another scrappy low budget bag of silliness. This one does not have a fancy Vinegar Syndrome special edition, because it was shot in shiny ugly digital video, so what would be the point? There are a couple obvious stock footage shots and I thought “Oh, that’s what a real movie looks like.” On his commentary track (respect for including that), Cooney says he hopes people don’t notice that the stock footage looks different. Whoops. (read the rest of this shit…)

Black Christmas (second remake)

Monday, December 16th, 2019

BLACK CHRISTMAS (2019) is another loose remake of BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974). Like the original and the 2006 remake it’s about a group of sorority sisters who stay on campus during winter break and then start getting stalked and murdered. The creepy phone calls have been updated to creepy texts, and the identity and mythology behind the killings is completely different from either of the previous versions. Which I support. No reason to do this otherwise.

The opening feels like the serious, scary parts of SCREAM. A student named Lindsay (Lucy Currey) is walking home one snowy night, getting weird texts, thinking a dude is following her. He’s not, but suddenly she crashes into a different man wearing a mask and black robe who chases her around a heavily Christmas-decorated house where no one responds to her cries for help. But the horrifying/beautiful overhead shot of Lindsay making a snow angel as she dies and is dragged away sets a bar that’s never met in the subsequent off rhythm and ineffective cat and mouse scenes. I didn’t realize until afterwards that it’s a PG-13 movie, which might explain some of that, but doesn’t really justify that the mask isn’t particularly cool or creepy. That shit is important in a masked slasher movie.

But maybe not as important as a good protagonist, and in that department BLACK CHRISTMAS definitely delivers. The story centers on Riley (Imogen Poots, 28 WEEKS LATER, FRIGHT NIGHT, GREEN ROOM), who is helping the sisters prepare for some sort of Christmas performance at a frat party, but doesn’t plan to participate. Even though she’s in a sorority, her long coat and Doc Martens signal a tinge of cool non-conformist status that Poots somehow makes credible. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Brain

Monday, December 24th, 2018

A Very Tape Raider Christmas

THE BRAIN is a 1988 sci-fi horror movie that takes place around Christmas time. That’s not an important part of the plot, but there are Christmas decorations at the beginning, “Jingle Bells” plays (and then ominously slows down) on a car radio, a pot of poinsettias gets shot by police during a chase scene, I noticed a sign in the school for a dance or something with the theme “Cosmic Christmas,” and there’s some snow on the ground. Also the movie itself is kind of a Christmas gift to me because it’s pretty good and its weird vibe and gooey special effects warmed my heart like I imagine a yule log would if I had ever experienced a yule log in person.

First and most important order of business is to assure you that the title and cover art are not misleading. Though it was made during the height of slasher sequels and shows a strong A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET influence, it is indeed a movie about, as the hero calls it, “that brain monster thing that’s killing everyone.” And they show it right at the beginning – a big slimy pulsating brain with a tentacle/spine hanging out like a tail, hooked up to some machines in a lab at the Psychological Research Institute (PRI). I think it was wise to establish that we’re dealing with arguably a goofy ’50s drive-in movie throwback before the first big scare sequence and not after. Pull that Band-Aid right off. (read the rest of this shit…)