Arachnoquake (2012)

Directed by Griff Furst [Other horror films: I Am Omega (2007), Wolvesbayne (2009), 30 Days to Die (2009), Lake Placid 3 (2010), Maskerade (2011), Swamp Shark (2011), Ghost Shark (2013), Ragin Cajun Redneck Gators (2013), Starve (2014), Cold Moon (2016), Trailer Park Shark (2017), Nightmare Shark (2018)]

When I first saw this one, I was somewhat amused, because unlike other Syfy films that actually try for a more serious tone and epically fail, from the beginning, you could tell that this one knew it was utterly ridiculous. There’s a humorous tone throughout, and that went a long way to make Arachnoquake more enjoyable despite the atrocity of the CGI.

One thing I definitely didn’t care for, though, was Edward Furlong. I didn’t really see much of a point in his character, other than to pad out some additional time. Most other performances were fine (or at least not terrible), but Furlong just rubbed me the wrong way. On the other hand, there were two rather attractive women, Megan Adelle and Olivia Hardt, so it wasn’t all bad. Also nice to see Ethan Phillips (who I definitely recognize, but I can’t figure out from where), and Bug Hall made for a decent leading actor.

The biggest issue with the film is the fact that the spiders don’t look anything like actual spiders, and given the CGI is so bad to begin with, it’s a rather large detriment. Obviously, I don’t think people go into a Syfy movie with high expectations insofar as special effects go, but at the same time, I feel like they definitely could have tried to do a better job with the design. Also, while much of the movie flows at a decent pace, the final twenty minutes were a bit of a grind. If they had found a way to trim out maybe ten minutes, perhaps fifteen, I think that Arachnoquake would probably work a bit better.

As it is, I generally find this film fun. There are some attractive ladies, some amusing lines, and while the special effects were just utterly abysmal, I had fun with the story. Like I said, this is one that I’ve seen before, and though it’s not quite good, I suspect that I wouldn’t have that much hesitation with watching it again.

6/10

Zombie Night (2013)

Directed by John Gulager [Other horror films: Feast (2005), Feast II: Sloppy Seconds (2008), Feast III: The Happy Finish (2009), Piranha 3DD (2012), Children of the Corn: Runaway (2018)]

The Asylum strikes again, and while Zombie Night isn’t necessarily as bad as much of their output, it’s definitely rather generic and as run-of-the-mill as you might expect from a modern-day zombie flick.

Truthfully, I’ve always thought that more than any other subgenre of horror, zombies are the most difficult to keep consistently engaging. How many zombie movies have a group of people banding together to survive a zombie attack, and that’s virtually it? From Doomed to Consume (2006) to Remains (2011), from Day of the Dead (2008) to Isle of the Dead (2016), Zombie Apocalypse (2011), Dead Season (2012) and Zombie Women of Satan (2009), there’s so many bad and generic zombie films out there to make the genre virtually pointless.

Obviously, there have been some well-deserved successes, and those films almost exclusively add something different to the experience. Technically, Zombie Night sort of tries the same thing, as apparently the zombies are only active at night (during the day, they’re just harmless corpses), but that’s not really enough when everything else in the movie has been done to death (pun intended).

There are so many idiotic character choices in the movie, it gets really hard to feel sympathy for any of them. Have an older, blind mother? Leave her in the basement alone without company, I’m sure that won’t freak her out at all. Have a family member about to turn? Just refuse to shoot them, I’m sure that they’ll take your feelings into consideration and stay dead. Want a great place to hide? Try a greenhouse, you know, one of those structures made mainly of transparent glass that, you know, cracks. Even if the greenhouse was stormproof, you really think having a mass of bodies pushing against the glass isn’t eventually going to cause the structure to give? Oh, and instead of letting a babysitter go home to her family, lock her up in one of the rooms, I’m sure that’ll work out.

Of course, it didn’t, and a zombie broke in, killed her, and then all hell breaks loose, not that it matters, because most of the characters utterly suck. I sort of appreciate Anthony Michael Hall’s character, and Rachel G. Fox was sort of cute, in an emo way, which gave us a little something, but otherwise, no other performance (including Daryl Hannah) do that much for me.

It doesn’t really matter, because with a movie this generic, it’s really hard to stand out. Certainly, I was a bit more invested in this movie than, say, Day of the Dead (2008), and generally, I thought the movie was a little better (the fact that no origin was given for the zombies was somewhat refreshing, as opposed to some ham-fisted explanation twist at the end), but it’s still pretty pointless. For a zombie movie, you could definitely do much worse than Zombie Night, but I don’t think this movie has a whole lot to offer overall.

5.5/10

The Sandman (2017)

Directed by Peter Sullivan [Other horror films: Summoned (2013), High School Possession (2014), Ominous (2015), Cucuy: The Boogeyman (2018)]

This Syfy flick isn’t the worst I’ve seen the channel make, but it is overly generic and pretty close to pointless. Ultimately, it comes across as a poor knock-off of Firestarter, what with a little girl who has a power she can’t control being chased by military men, and I just couldn’t find myself caring whatsoever.

In terms of what the film does right, I felt there were a few solid kills that warrant a mention, such as a character’s head getting compressed until it pops, along with a scene in which the Sandman breaks the spine of one of the soldiers. Also, Tobin Bell has about six minutes of screen-time, so that’s cool, right?

Shaun Sipos’ character ends up being a lot less important than one might think, which was a bit surprising, but honestly, I couldn’t find the effort to care much. Lead girl Shae Smolik does about as well as you can expect a little kid to do, but I personally found her a bit irksome throughout. Amanda Wyss (Tina from ANOES) appeared for a bit, but I honestly didn’t know who she was until I checked through her IMDb credits. Haylie Duff somewhat sucked. But hey, Tobin Bell has about six minutes of screen-time, right?

Honestly, the more I think about this one, the more derivative I feel it is. Like I said, I kept getting a Firestarter vibe from it, which was exactly how I felt when I first saw this film, shorty after it’s premiere in October 2017. I didn’t like it then, and I certainly haven’t changed my view in light of another watch.

To be entirely truthful, I don’t think there’s really anything else to say about this, other than that I really didn’t care for the design of the titular Sandman (it didn’t look near organic enough, if that complaint makes sense). This flick wasn’t the worst Syfy original I’ve seen, but it was entirely pointless and without merit. I mean, at least I got to see Tobin Bell in a handful of scenes, so that’s enough, right?

3.5/10

Devils of Darkness (1965)

Directed by Lance Comfort [Other horror films: Daughter of Darkness (1948)]

I went into this one pretty blind, not overly sure what to expect. Unfortunately, though this British vampire movie possesses some charm, overall, I struggle to believe that Devils of Darkness will end up being that memorable.

As such, the plot itself is somewhat decent and moderately intriguing, dealing with members of a vampire-led cult attempting to retrieve something of their masters’ from an unsuspecting man, and the mysterious deaths around the man are somewhat interesting. When Scotland Yard gets involved, things become even more interesting. But despite all of this, I don’t think the movie ends up being great.

There’s no doubt some cool things here, such as a somewhat suspenseful reflection-off-water scene near the beginning (and speaking of the beginning, I did appreciate how we got eight minutes of opening before the title and credits came up), along with blood coming from a portrait. A few red herrings around Tracy Reed’s character, too, come into play. But there wasn’t anywhere near enough to keep things moving along at a brisk enough pace.

As a leading character, William Sylvester does pretty good, and I sort of liked Hubert Noel’s vampire character. But other than Tracy Reed, who wasn’t necessarily great, most of the cast is pretty forgettable, which certainly doesn’t help matters any.

Ultimately, Devils of Darkness has the occasional atmosphere that you might be looking for from a 60’s vampire film, but it’s not done nearly as well as Hammer was able to, so why go for a cheap knock-off if you can pick up the real thing? Might be worth checking out a single time, but I wouldn’t really expect to fall in love with this one. At least the color looks moderately nice.

5.5/10

Tales from the Hood (1995)

Directed by Rusty Cundieff [Other horror films: Tales from the Hood 2 (2018), Mr. Malevolent (2018), Tales from the Hood 3 (2020)]

This is one that I’ve seen once before, and I recall enjoying it, but seeing it again shines an even brighter light on the film, because I now think it’s one of the best anthology horror films of the 1990’s.

Honestly, competition isn’t that high, as most anthology films usually falter in one or two of the stories, but Tales from the Hood boasts not only four pretty decent stories, but a solidly amusing framing sequence right out of Tales from the Crypt, with a very classic Amicus feel.

Of all the stories, the only one that I didn’t absolutely love is the final story, titled ‘Hard-core Convert’, but I’ll be honest: as a white guy who barely knew any black people until college, I don’t even know if I really have a right to say much on this one.

The comparison between the violence committed on blacks by racist whites to the violence committed on blacks by other blacks (gang violence, primarily) struck me as somewhat troubling in it’s nature, but then again, as I’m not at all black, and have little experience with the experiences they deal with on a daily basis, especially in areas overrun by gangs, I admit that this is something I don’t think I know enough about to comment on. I’ll simply say that while the story was certainly one that made me think, the implications (seemingly ignoring the poverty and lack of upward mobility that leads many into the gang life in the first place) bothered me.

I think the best story is difficult to choose, but I’d likely go with ‘Boys Do Get Bruised.’ It’s certainly the most moving of the stories, and I definitely thought that it really stood out in a genre that sometimes comes across as unfeeling and cold. I especially enjoyed both Rusty Cundieff’s and David Alan Grier’s performances, and while the ending wasn’t necessarily amazing, I think the story had a lot going for it.

‘KKK Comeuppance’ and ‘Rogue Cop Revelation’ were both pretty good, and also topical to today’s rather racist climate, unfortunately. I’d probably give the edge to ‘Rogue Cop Revelation’, almost for the pure joy of seeing racist cops killed for their atrocious actions of killing a black community leader. Cops like that, and those who defend said cops (which seems to be a vast majority of the corrupt police force), are utterly without virtue, and seeing, even in a fictional movie, the revenge so rightly deserved taking place brought me a lot of joy. There’s joy in seeing a racist politician taken down too, no doubt, but the police seem more solidly protected from the consequences of their racist actions than do politicians (just look at all the police officers who get off on murder charges when they’re clearly guilty).

On a related note, I suspect that while many of the stories in the film are well-crafted, including the framing story (though the conclusion is both expected and ultimately a little on the corny side), if one’s a conservative, or a racist, they may take issue with the film. That’s not to say that some conservatives couldn’t enjoy the film for what it is, but given the issues that the film tackles, I think it’s safe to say that some would definitely be turned off, claiming the film carries with it a ‘political agenda.’

As it is, I’m nowhere near conservative, so I had no such problems enjoying the film. Really, looking through the 1990’s anthology films, I struggle to find one that get’s anywhere close to matching how much I enjoyed this one. Tales from the Darkside: The Movie had one pretty great story, but was otherwise forgettable. Two Evil Eyes ultimately didn’t do anything for me. I’ve not seen either movie titled Campfire Tales (from 1991 and 1997), nor Quicksilver Highway (1997), and I really didn’t care for Body Bags (1993). Looking at the competition, there’s not really any choice, and even without comparing Tales from the Hood with underwhelming movies, I think it stands on it’s own merits. Well-worth the watch, and definitely one that I’d go back to.

8.5/10

5 Headed Shark Attack (2017)

Directed by Nico De Leon [Other horror films: N/A] & Jose Montesinos [Other horror films: Nightmare Wedding (2016), Sinister Minister (2017), From the Depths (2020)]

Oh dear. This series was looking marginally better with 3-Headed Shark Attack, but it dropped down a bit with this one. Now, this is definitely better than the first movie, but boy, it’s not a good or even enjoyable flick whatsoever.

Well, scratch that – there was one decently amusing scene of a multiple-headed shark (who’d have thunk it?) jumping out of the water to attack a helicopter. That was rad, in a hideous-CGI sort of way. Otherwise, I didn’t much see the point of the film.

Sure, both Lindsay Sawyer and Nikki Howard look steaming in bikinis, but that’s not enough. I did sort of like Jeffrey Holsman’s character arc (such as it was), and Chris Bruno looked super familiar (I’m guessing because he’s the brother of Dylan Bruno, an actor I enjoyed in the series Numb3rs), and was decently fun, but there’s still not a lot of reason to go watch this one.

Part of the issue is the repetitiveness of the plot – group goes out on the water, gets attacked, comes back to mainland, decides to go out on water again, gets attacked, so on and so forth. I mean, I’ll be honest, I don’t expect a whole lot from most shark movies, but even for a sub-genre as often dry as this, the film was pretty bad.

Worth noting – for the first 35 minutes or so, the shark only had four heads. Then, for some reason, the shark’s tail became a fifth head. Yes, it’s tail, and yes, it looked as stupid as you’re probably imagining right now.

I’ve now seen 2-Headed Shark Attack, 3-Headed Shark Attack, and 5 Headed Shark Attack, God help my soul, and none of them have been great. The closest the series has gotten to average (and it was still a far way off) was 3-Headed Shark Attack, and I’m sad to see that the series dipped down with this rather lackluster outing. Here’s hoping the next one is better, but let’s be honest, how likely is that?

3/10

Forced Entry (1973)

Directed by Shaun Costello [Other horror films: Daughters of Discipline (1978), Dracula Exotica (1980)]

Oh boy, where do I start with this one?

Well, first, I guess I should state what this film primarily is, and that’s a pornographic movie. A very gritty and grimy porno, not to mention hairy, but a porno all the same. You can find this on IMDb if you look it up on a search engine such as Google or Webcrawler, but looking it up on the site’s search-bar will bring you to the 1976 remake, which was non-pornographic, and focused more on the kills (I’d guess, as I’ve not seen it).

Just because this is a more gritty and harrowing experience doesn’t make it any more wholesome, though. The high points of the film would be the few consensual sex scenes, particularly the lesbian one (though both actresses involved, Ruby Runhouse and Nina Fawcett, were extraordinarily annoying). There was also a solid stabbing scene, where a nude woman is slashed down the chest then stabbed twice. That’s really the only time I truly felt this was a horror film. Otherwise, it was a virtually plot-less fiddle flick.

Often, it’s just tedious sex scene after sex scene. Multiple forced blowjobs, a lot of derivative sex talk (‘Oh, you like it, don’t you.’ and ‘You know how to do this, you practiced, didn’t you’), and a lot of real-war sequences from Vietnam.

I think that’s perhaps the most (and only) interesting thing about the film. The serial rapist is a Vietnam vet with P.T.S.D., and instead of getting the treatment the U.S. Government should have given all returning soldiers, they’re thrown back into their lives without any way to cope with the horrors of war (and despite all the rape in the film, I really feel like the overarching trauma of war was the true culprit).

The movie didn’t really go out of their way to address this point – sure, they threw in a lot of images from Vietnam, and the killer (played rather well by Harry Reems) definitely had a problem with hippies and large crowds (which seemed to set off some of his manic behavior). Still, if you take any bigger idea away from this movie, it’d be the solid anti-war sentiment that’s apparent throughout.

Still, this is a porno, and not a particularly enjoyable one. Unless you’re into anal rape and forced blowjobs under coercion, all with the gritty and hairy sensibilities of the 1970’s, I don’t think Forced Entry would have much to give off. I will say that it’s finally refreshing to actually see male sexual organs in a horror film for once, but boy, after seeing this one twice, I don’t think there’s any enjoyment at all to derive from this.

3.5/10

Frenchman’s Farm (1987)

Directed by Ron Way [Other horror films: N/A]

This Australian mystery/horror/romance/drama is rather interesting. Not necessarily good, mind you, but interesting. Calling it horror is probably fine, but the film is definitely more focused on the mystery aspect than the multiple killings, which is a bit of a shame, really.

With Frenchman’s Farm, there’s a lot of exposition in a lot of scenes. There’s quite a few names and dates that you’d best try to remember, or otherwise you may get lost along the way. As it was, I actually missed something somewhere, so there’s something that didn’t make sense to me come the end (regarding the ghost of the farm), but I suspect that if I watched closer with a more attuned ear to the Australian accents, everything would be clearer.

As it is, because so much of the movie relies on understanding the mystery, I will admit to feeling it dragged past a certain point. To be fair, given the movie’s a hour and forty minutes, perhaps it would have felt like it was dragging anyways. There are some horror aspects that certainly pop up throughout the film (some rather effectively creepy, too), but I don’t know if it’s really enough to sate me given the total time spent with the film.

Being an Australian film, I don’t really know any of the actors here, but everyone involved did a reasonably good job, such as Tracey Tainsh and David Reyne, who play the main characters. Their relationship feels authentic, and I appreciate the both of them. Others who do well include Norman Kaye and Andrew Blackman. I want to give a special mention to John Meillon, who played Riley in the first two Crocodile Dundee movies. I didn’t even recognize him when watching the film due to his character having a mustache, but looking back, it’s definitely him, which is sort of cool.

While there was a lot I enjoyed about the film, I find it a hard one to really recommend to fellow horror fans, given that, while no doubt in my mind horror, that others would be inclined to disagree. Given the focus of this is far more the mystery the two main characters are trying to uncover, the horror portions (as great as some of them are, especially near the end) are overshadowed. Might be worth a look if you’re into Australian cinema, but otherwise, I suspect many would be disappointed, especially given some of the posters for this one.

7.5/10

The Gruesome Twosome (1967)

Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis [Other horror films: Blood Feast (1963), Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964), Monster a-Go Go (1965), Color Me Blood Red (1965), A Taste of Blood (1967), Something Weird (1967), The Wizard of Gore (1970), The Gore Gore Girls (1972), Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat (2002), The Uh-oh Show (2009), Herschell Gordon Lewis’ BloodMania (2017)]

H.G. Lewis is a personal favorite director of mine, despite not having seen all of his horror output as of yet. Both Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs!, despite their flaws, are rather enjoyable. The Wizard of Gore is somewhat nonsensical, but still fun. I never cared much for Color Me Blood Red, and generally consider that my least-favorite of his.

Luckily, The Gruesome Twosome is a bit more enjoyable than the disappointing Color Me Blood Red, but it’s still quite a rocky film for only being an hour and ten minutes, isn’t that right, Napoleon?

The biggest issue here, by far, is the padding throughout the film. I’d say that 18 minutes easily could have been cut out without much issue (including that atrociously amusing opening, a ten-minute sequence of a character following someone they suspect is a killer, and a couple of beach party and slumber party scenes), but no, you have to suffer through those scenes honestly to get to the good stuff.

And the gore itself is pretty solid – I mean, c’mon, we’re talking about H.G. Lewis, aren’t we, Napoleon? There’s a solid throat-slitting with an electric knife, an enjoyably messy scalping, and while possibly gratuitous, a scene in which the killer’s digging through a woman’s entrails (for some reason). I mean, sure, it more often than not looks fake, but we’re talking about 60’s horror, so I applaud Lewis for his heavy use of gore.

Being a film from the Godfather of Gore, much of the acting is either subpar or wildly ridiculous. Gretchen Wells, as the main character, didn’t really make much an impression on me, nor did co-star Rodney Bedell. In his limited screen-time, Chris Martell did well as the mentally-subnormal killer, but it’s really Elizabeth Davis’ performance that’d leave a mark on you. As a kindly old woman who often talks to her stuffed wildcat Napoleon, and makes flighty, poetic comments from time-to-time, a lot of screen-time is spent on Davis, which I was cool with, as her character was so fun. It’s a shame no one else came close to her, isn’t that right, Napoleon?

I don’t think that many people, even horror fans, would go out of their way to see this one unless they were already fans of H.G. Lewis, which is probably a good thing, as it’s not his best release. Certainly a gory proto-slasher that’s better than Color Me Blood Red, The Gruesome Twosome isn’t really anywhere near as enjoyable as Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs!, or The Wizard of Gore, especially due to the unnecessary padding throughout the film. If you’re an H.G. Lewis aficionado, though, and you’ve not yet seen this, give it a shot. It could certainly be worse, isn’t that right, Napoleon?

6/10

Warlock Moon (1973)

Directed by William Herbert [Other horror movies: N/A]

While not entirely that good of a film, this early 70’s flick occasionally carries a psychedelic vibe that does really well for it. Much of the film, while certainly not incoherent, feels like a bad trip, and questioning the reality of the situation will probably happen at least once. This doesn’t make Warlock Moon a good movie, but it does allow it a more unique feel.

If one happened to be somewhat bored throughout a lot of the film, I don’t know how much I’d blame them. There’s certainly a sluggish and potentially-repetitive feel at times, and though it does pick up the pace a bit at the end, this movie makes you work for it.

The movie really only has three noteworthy characters, and two of them are decently well-acted. Playing the main young woman, Laurie Walters is pretty adorable, and has a very youthful, innocent feel to her. She does great when she believes she’s losing it later and, and pulls off much of her time onscreen well. Edna MacAfee did great in her role of a kindly, yet potentially dangerous, older woman. On the flip-side, Joe Spano did very little for me, and that includes the conclusion, in which we learn more of his character. Still, Walters and MacAfee are good enough to make up for that.

For much of Warlock Moon, I appreciate what they were going for, and even the ending, while I don’t personally love it, or enjoy it that much, shows a solid grasp on their goal of a somber, psychedelic experience. Maybe in a somewhat shorter film, things would have come out better, but as it is, while I was decently engrossed through most of the film, I felt lukewarm about most of it.

I think that the atmosphere of the movie is pretty good, and I think there’s a good feel for the confusion of Walters’ character. Really, Warlock Moon isn’t a bad film, it’s just lacking a bit here and there. The setting (a mostly dilapidated spa resort) is rather ominous, and at times, the uncomfortable vibes of the much more modern Get Out (2017) pop up.

Though I find the film below average, I would say that if you’re a fan of 70’s horror, it’s still potentially worth a look. You may not necessarily love it, but I do think you’d appreciate some of the elements and ideas they threw into the film.

6/10