The Thing from Another World (1951)

Directed by Christian Nyby [Other horror films: N/A] & Howard Hawks [Other horror films: N/A]

This classic is always worth a watch, because the atmosphere here is next to none. To modern audiences, the story might not be that original, but the setting and atmosphere here really make this a claustrophobic classic.

My favorite performance here is probably Robert Cornthwaite, a scientist who butts heads consistently with the military. His character didn’t always make the best choices, but I can’t help but respect his dedication to science and trying to find common ground between the alien being and themselves. Kenneth Tobey felt more generic than anything, and his romance with Margaret Sheridan’s character didn’t really interest me, but at least Douglas Spencer’s ‘Holy cats’ was fun.

Once the alien being is revived and escapes, the movie begins moving at a quicker pace, what with them trying to locate the creature and the scientists trying to discover more about it (the plasma garden was appropriately grisly on that front), and the tension growing throughout. The finale in itself is solidly tense, and while it’s wrapped in the cliché ‘science is sometimes a boon, not a help’ frame-of-mind, it’s still done well.

The Thing from Another World is one of the few note-worthy horror movies from the early 1950’s, and there’s certainly a reason for that. Though the titular ‘thing’ doesn’t appear that much, when it does, it certainly looks threatening in the black-and-white format of the film. As much as I like the movie, though, I don’t really think it’s perfect, or close (a big part of this is the generic nature of the main character and his romantic entanglements, which seemed entirely unnecessary). Still, it’s a movie very much worth seeing, and I do rather enjoy it.

7.5/10

The Strangler (1964)

Directed by Burt Topper [Other horror films: N/A]

What makes The Strangler a movie worth remembering is the performance of Victor Buono. Sure, the crisp black-and-white looks nice, and it doesn’t feel too far removed from Psycho (which I’m sure influenced this), but Buono’s performance here is what makes it work.

Others in the film do fine, including his atrocious mother played by Ellen Corby, a detective played by David McLean, and two attractive young women Davey Davison and Diane Sayer, but no one stands out as well as Buono does, and truth be told, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Before this, Buono had a quite a few small television roles, along with some uncredited movie roles, until he played a character in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, which was probably one of his first bigger roles. But The Strangler was one of his earliest starring roles, and boy, does it work for him.

While the kills are as tepid as you could expect from the 1960’s, the characterization Buono puts in is fantastic, and I personally can’t help but feel sympathetic for his character (especially after seeing what his mother puts him through). It’s just heartbreaking at times, and Victor Buono really shows it on his face and pained expressions.

The Strangler was a good movie when I first saw it some years back, and it’s still a movie very much worth watching. In many ways, I’m reminded of a movie I saw just some weeks ago called The Couch, which was also a 1960’s film focusing on an insane killer and his steady decline in a psychological manner. The Strangler is the better of the two, but I think both would fit well on a two-pack, but no matter what, definitely give this one a look if you’re a fan of 60’s horror.

8/10

Shadows of the Dead (2016)

Directed by John Ross [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a Syfy film I have little to say about, which isn’t really surprising. Shadows of the Dead isn’t a particularly poor film, but it’s certainly not that memorable, and I probably couldn’t see myself giving this one another go.

Story-wise, the movie takes a somewhat interesting route. I truthfully expected most of the movie to take place during the anti-prom party at the beginning, but no, it’s over the following days that the bulk of the story unfolds. It doesn’t really make the story itself any less mediocre, but it did go against my expectations, so that’s at least something.

Really, there aren’t many memorable characters here. I guess you have some decent young actresses (Kennedy Tucker, Alexandria Paige, and Lindsay Elston), but no one stood out whatsoever. As far as characters go, my favorite was probably the shadow creature, which looked okay (though every time it was onscreen, I was reminded of the Marvel comic book character The Fury, an enemy of Captain Britain).

I highly doubt I’ll remember Shadows of the Dead in another two weeks, and already small things going from my memory. The movie wasn’t nearly as bad as other newer horror films could be, but there’s little here going for it, and I can’t say that this is one I think many would look highly upon.

5/10

Nightmare Honeymoon (1974)

Directed by Elliot Silverstein [Other horror films: The Car (1977)]

If ever a movie has been marketed to the wrong audience, Nightmare Honeymoon would be a great example. Looking at the poster, you’d expect perhaps a somewhat exploitative grindhouse flick, but instead, you get a drama with a pinch of horror (and that’s if you’re being generous).

This isn’t really the movie’s fault, but more whoever decided to try and pitch the film to horror fans. When all’s said and done, Nightmare Honeymoon is decent, but it’s really not what I was looking for whatsoever, and I can’t help but find a lot of it a waste of time.

It could have been decent, though. This could have been a bloody tale of revenge, but instead, it felt like a subdued action movie at best, and overly melodramatic at worst. It wasn’t without it’s potential, as Rebecca Dianna Smith does well as a tragic victim of rape, and her husband (of a few hours, as they were on their honeymoon when she was attacked) Dack Rambo did good as someone seeking revenge.

But the revenge here wasn’t like what you might think from watching The Last House on the Left or I Spit on Your Grave, but just chasing down the manic rapist (played sadistically by John Beck) with ill intent and a gun.

If this is the type of movie you’re looking for, then it probably works well for you. The movie isn’t bad, like I said, just marketed to the wrong people. As a drama, Nightmare Honeymoon might be worth a watch, and even as a tepid tale of revenge, maybe there’s an audience, but as a horror movie, I think it’s quite weak and very much a disappointment.

4/10

Malignant (2021)

Directed by James Wan [Other horror films: Stygian (2000), Saw (2004), Dead Silence (2007), Insidious (2010), The Conjuring (2013), Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013), The Conjuring 2 (2016)]

Being only the fourth movie I’ve seen from 2021 (the first three being the Fear Street movies), Malignant came out of nowhere and took Twitter by storm. I saw so many reactions to this movie in such a short span of time, and though I don’t usually jump into seeing new movies that quickly, I did have the opportunity to watch this, and definitely found it worthwhile.

I don’t think I can call it a great movie. There are plenty of very well-done elements, to be sure, but at best, I think it’s just quite good. It can be a wild ride, especially if you go in with very few preconceptions (as I did, as luckily, most of what I saw online was quite vague). I didn’t know what I was going into, and I definitely had a blast trying to figure out exactly what was going on, which always makes for a good experience.

Reaction has been somewhat mixed – generally, I see positive comments, but it seems that those who disliked the movie disliked it quite a bit, and I can sort of see that. Toward the end, there were portions I wasn’t particularly fond of myself, and if someone sits through an almost two hour movie to reach an unsatisfactory conclusion, I get why that might leave a bad taste in your mouth. Personally, I dug enough of the film, and found much of it interesting, that I had a pretty good time, but I think I can understand those who didn’t.

Even if someone didn’t like it, though, if there’s one thing Malignant excels in, it’s having an engaging story. You’re trying to figure out the whole story along with the characters, and are having a good time doing so. Some of the cinematography is absolutely stunning (such as the overhead point-of-views during a chase sequence), some of the scares superb (the washer scene, for instance), and the atmosphere quite strong. Some feel it’s reminiscent of classic giallos, and I myself (who watched this with online friends) saw Argentino’s name pop up a few times. I don’t personally know if I’d go that far, but I can say that this movie carries with it a very unique vibe.

The somewhat amusing thing is, as much as I enjoyed portions of the movie, none of the performances wowed me. Make no mistake, I think that both Annabelle Wllis and Maddie Hasson are decent, and their performance as sisters believable, but I don’t think either one stood out. George Young was someone I was sort of expecting more from, but his character was never really given much to do, so again, there’s no much here to watch for as far as performances go.

That’s probably okay, though, as a brunt of the entertaining scenes deal with utter violence and rampage. Things go somewhat slowly during the first half of the film – I was interested and engaged throughout, don’t mistake me – but when things pick up in the last thirty minutes, they really pick up. Some expected yet still well-done revelations and violence galore (my favorite perhaps being a face being crushed on the floor, but a chair being thrown was another quality scene), and it’s just a hell of a lot of fun.

Related, the special effects (much like the camera-work) are fantastic. There are some body horror elements that look quite disturbing, and the movements of the killer have a creepy jerky look to them (which is explained in story, which is nice). The violence that plays the movie out is just a lot of fun – arms being cut off, faces being smashed, throats being slit – I don’t doubt that they knew what they were going for when they threw these action-packed sequences in, and they did a damn good job on them.

I do think the story could have been a little stronger at times, and there are some things not answered by the plot, but I did love the mystery here, and though Malignant isn’t a movie I’d call perfect, I do say freely that it’s a refreshing movie, and definitely one I’m eager to revisit in the future.

8.5/10

Final Exam (1981)

Directed by Jimmy Huston [Other horror films: My Best Friend Is a Vampire (1987)]

If there’s anything Final Exam did, it solidified my hate of fraternities.

This is a decently classic slasher that took me until now to finally sit down and watch, and while the kills were decent, I will admit to being disappointed by some aspects of the movie (especially in regards to the killer).

Generally, I enjoy the atmosphere here, which feels not too dissimilar from other slashers of this time period. It’s not great, but it’s decent, especially since we have a few positive characters here (mostly Lisa and Radish, but Janet was okayish also).

Cecile Bagdadi only has this movie in her IMDb credits, which is a bit sad, as I think she does decent here as the main girl, if not maybe a bit generic. Still, her conversations with Joel S. Rice (Radish) were somewhat touching, and held a bit of depth. Otherwise, there wasn’t much in the way of characters that inspired me.

The whole frat thing just bugged the hell out of me, though. I know that this is from an entirely different era, but that prank at the beginning (which was entirely beyond the pale) should have gotten them thrown in jail at the very least, and they never get better, and harassing pledges (stripping one down and tying them to a tree, while shoving ice down their underwear, is another act that should get them thrown in jail), which is done to this day, is just disgusting.

I can ignore the stupid frat guys, though, and get to my real problem, which was the killer. Having never seen this before, I was expecting something with a bit more mystery as opposed to The Slumber Party Massacre, but even that movie gave a lot more explanation of the killer than we got here. We literally got nothing – not a name, motive, nada. Obviously, if the kills are decent and the characters are fine, maybe I could let that slide, but it’s not like the movie was stellar in either of those departments.

I’m not going to go as far as to say Final Exam was a failure, just that I was expecting a slasher of a higher caliber, and this seemed to bring little worth mentioning to the table.

6.5/10

Green Eyed Monster (2007)

Directed by Gabriel Barboza [Other horror films: N/A]

I didn’t know a thing about this movie until it was suggested by my brother I watch it (and by suggested, he just picked the movie completely at random, so it wasn’t as if it was a positive recommendation from him), and I wasn’t wowed at all by this. For a low-budget film, I think it’s probably fine, but overall, there wasn’t enough meat here to really get my blood pumping.

Estella Gomez was cute and all, but boy, did she get on my nerves after a while. Playing her abusive boyfriend (we didn’t once see him strike her, but I’d bet anything that guy did) was Michael Lee Arnold, who was okay, but his despicable character, not to mention idiotic once we reach the end of the film, made him impossible to root for. Andrea VanEpps got some funny zingers in, but she too wasn’t that engrossing a character.

As for the plot, I won’t say that it didn’t have potential, but as plenty of movies in the past have shown, potential isn’t really good for much on it’s own. Certainly Green Eyed Monster seemed to possess a somewhat unique story, but given it’s multiple annoying characters and repetitive nature during the second half, it wasn’t what I wanted whatsoever.

If you go into this one blind, I have a hard time believing you’ll come out satisfied, but at the same time, it’s not like it’s atrocious. I don’t expect to see this one again, which works for me, and truth be told, I’ll probably forget it by next year. For a one-time watch, I’ll concede it’s possible one could be entertained, but I really don’t think this is making anyone’s favorite low-budget list.

5/10

Death Curse of Tartu (1966)

Directed by William Grefé [Other horror films: Sting of Death (1966), Stanley (1972), Impulse (1974), Mako: The Jaws of Death (1976), Whiskey Mountain (1977)]

To be honest, I wanted to like this one. I mean, a low-budget horror film made in Florida by Grefé (see resume above)? Sounds like it could be a lot of fun. Sadly, though, more than anything else, Death Curse of Tartu is pretty dull.

The best thing I can say about the performances is that Maurice Stewart and Mayra Gómez Kemp looked cute during the ridiculously groovy dance scene. Otherwise, Babette Sherrill and Fred Pinero, not to mention most everyone else (save perhaps Bill Marcus) were overly stilted and the dialogue generally just felt awkward.

Setting the story in a Florida swamp had potential, and even filming most everything during the day was a somewhat daring move, but due to the sluggish pace of the film, it doesn’t really help all that much.

See, the thing is, watching a snake chase someone for four minutes isn’t exciting, nor are most chase sequences in the film. The only exception that comes to mind is a scene toward the end with Tartu (Doug Hobart) chasing Sherrill’s character, and it was filmed in a pretty solid way. Everything else, though, just felt uninspired and quite dull.

Death Curse of Tartu could probably be a pretty cool movie had it been done entirely differently. The potential is there, but it just didn’t show at all, which wasn’t really surprising, but I will admit to being disappointed. For the 1960’s, the color here was nice, but it didn’t save the sluggish pace, and I can’t really see myself sitting through this one again sober.

5.5/10

28 Days Later… (2002)

Directed by Danny Boyle [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a movie I’ve not seen in quite some time, and it’s always refreshing when a rewatch is just as good as you’ll hope it’d be. 28 Days Later… is perhaps one of the most important zombie films of the modern era, and it’s certainly a well-made movie from the UK, and perhaps one of the UK’s best in the last twenty years.

Most of the main cast was great. Cillian Murphy (who I pretty much only know from Batman Begins) was good as the main character, as he doesn’t really seem the type. Naomie Harris is fun as an action, kick-ass gal. Brendan Gleeson (Lake Placid, fourth Harry Potter film, The Guard) and Megan Burns give the movie heart, whereas Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who) gives it pragmatic brutality. Solid cast all around.

There’s a lot of feeling in this one. When I say that Gleeson and Burns really made an emotional impact on me, I’m not trying to exaggerate – that father-daughter combination was great, and much like how they brought Harris’ character some joy, they brought the viewer joy too, which makes the movie doubly impactful past a certain point.

Also, that score is damn phat. Really great score which helps the movie along, especially toward the end.

As far as zombie movies go, 28 Days Later is pretty damn important, and really brought back to life (see what I did there? :P) the dying (OMG HE GOES FOR A SECOND SHOT AND NAILS IT) subgenre of zombies. I mean, there were decent zombie movies in the late 1990’s (one that comes to mind is Bio Zombie, from Japan), but it was 28 Days Later that really made the genre profitable again, for better or worse.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this again, and I feel sort of bad for having waited as long as I did, as it’s a movie I suspect that one wouldn’t really get too tired of. I’d certainly recommend giving this one a look or a rewatch if you’ve not seen it in some time, as it’s great stuff.

8.5/10

Hide and Go Shriek (1988)

Directed by Skip Schoolnik [Other horror films: N/A]

This one might seem unassuming, what with being a slasher from the late 80’s, but I’ve long thought that Hide and Go Shriek was a bit of a hidden gem. I’m not saying it’s perfect by any means, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable slasher that’s always entertained me.

Cast-wise, most of them did decently. I don’t think there are that many memorable characters, though, aside from those given to us by Brittain Frye and perhaps Bunky Jones. Frye’s character, Randy, was just out there, and had a wildly fun personality, where Bunky Jones provided me with my favorite nude scene in the film (three of the four ladies here show off a little something, so if that’s what you’re into, you’ll enjoy this). Still, Ria Pavia, Sean Kanan, Annette Sinclair, and Donna Baltron all did reasonably well.

The setting here goes a long way to make the film enjoyable also. An after-hours excursion into a furniture store doesn’t sound too thrilling, but it’s a pretty big (and multi-layered) store, with a lot of mannequins and hiding places. It even comes with a freight elevator, which comes into play throughout the film (and provides a very solid death sequence). Also, a favorite scene of mine has always been when the group is trying to get the attention of a homeless man and some police officers across the street, but due to the shatterproof glass, they’re doomed to keep fighting for their survival.

As far as twists go, I wouldn’t say Hide and Go Shriek is amazing, but I was still pretty happy with it. It pretty much comes out of nowhere, but there is a bit of emotion during the finale, so I can easily excuse the seeming randomness.

I say this pretty much every time I review a slasher film, but as a fan of slashers, I’m not really that difficult to please. Hide and Go Shriek had solid tension, decently fun characters (that ridiculous ‘Walk this Way’ scene at the beginning a case in point), and good gore when it ventured in that direction. I’m sort of surprised there was never a sequel to this, but that makes this all the better, in my view.

Having seen this one somewhere from four to five times now, I can say I greatly enjoy this, and recommend it to fans of slashers.

8.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. To listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, check out the video below.