Salem’s Lot (2004)

Salems Lot

Directed by Mikael Salomon [Other horror films: N/A]

Here’s a little secret for you all: so far in my horror movie viewing, I’ve not yet seen the original Salem’s Lot. I’ve been meaning to, but it’s never happened. What I have seen twice is this 2004 adaptation, starring Rob Lowe (of The West Wing fame). And overall, I am pretty pleased with it.

Many of the characters are enjoyable, and the acting is solid; toward the end, the little vampire-killing group was enjoyable to observe, though I wish they were seen together a few more times than they were. Being a mini-series, it’s pretty lengthy, much like the original (both over two hours, I believe), but I was quite happy with what I saw.

Oh, there’s the occasional subplot or scene that didn’t do much for me, but those were far outweighed by stuff I enjoyed. Andre Braugher’s character, Matt Burke, for example, was a fine character, but not necessarily overly likable. The ending was somewhat reminiscent of Fright Night, where they go to the main house and hope to finish the vampires off, which was sort of fun. I’ve no major complaints, really, and I feel this is worth a watch, despite the changes they made from King’s original novel.

8/10

The Mangler (1995)

The Mangler

Directed by Tobe Hooper [Other horror films: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Eaten Alive (1976), The Dark (1979), Salem’s Lot (1979), The Funhouse (1981), Poltergeist (1982), Lifeforce (1985), Invaders from Mars (1986), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), Spontaneous Combustion (1990), I’m Dangerous Tonight (1990), Night Terrors (1993), Body Bags (1993, segment ‘Eye’), The Apartment Complex (1999), Crocodile (2000), Shadow Realm (2002), Toolbox Murders (2004), Mortuary (2005), Djinn (2013)]

This is a poor movie, and the fact it runs for an hour and 45 minutes does little to help it out.

Based on a short story by Stephen King that’s no longer than ten pages, The Mangler brings to us the story of an evil laundry folding machine. If the movie took itself a bit less seriously, it may have turned out okay too. But no. Director Tobe Hooper kept this movie serious, and while goofy acting by Robert Englund may make one question that conclusion, throughout the film, little humor is present.

The main characters are fine enough, but not overly enthralling. And some of the gore is good also, which is only a plus. But things don’t work together – the plot twist at the end seemed to be thrown in there, and just doesn’t strike me as overly realistic. The movie’s quite simply not good, and while I’ve not seen it in years before this rewatch, I recall not caring for it much then either. For good reason.

5/10

HauntedWeen (1991)

HauntedWeen

Directed by Doug Robertson [Other horror films: N/A]

This is why I watch obscure horror. While not necessarily a gem, this early 90’s slasher really made up for the not-so-great movies I’ve seen recently. While the budget is clearly low, and many of the kills uninspired, I certainly got the feeling that this Kentucky-based slasher had heart. That being said, as I’m a fan of virtually 3/4’s of the slashers from 1975 to 1995, that likely doesn’t surprise anyone.

I’ve wanted to see this for a few years now, and I’m just happy I’m not disappointed. The nudity was ample enough to warrant a plus in that department. The kills, while at first, not great, got better, and toward the end, I was quite happy with what I witnessed. The story, while lacking, wasn’t as big a factor, as few people really watch slashers for the story.

If you’re a slasher fan in particular, this may well be worth watching. I did see that after the credits, “Coming Soon… Hauntedween II” rolled across the screen. Sadly, this looks like it never happened, as it’d have been a hoot to see. The acting here was pretty bad, on one last note – one of the characters has a terrible accent that really grates on you. After a while, though, you start to love the guy. As for other characters, they’re nothing special. Still, this was a pleasure to see, and if this ever comes out on DVD (which, after twenty some years, looks like it has), I’m definitely picking it up.

7.5/10

Fist of the Vampire (2007)

Fist of the Vampire

Directed by Len Kabasinski [Other horror films: Swamp Zombies!!! (2005), Curse of the Wolf (2006), Wendigo: Bound by Blood (2010), Ninja: Prophecy of Death (2011), Skull Forest (2012), Blood Mercury (2014), Angel of Reckoning (2016), Blood Prism (2017), Swamp Zombies 2 (2018), Schlock-O-Rama (2018, segment ‘Film Trailer’)]

I forgot during which October Challenge I first saw this film, but I remember thinking that it was likely the worst film I saw for the challenge. And upon rewatching it, that opinion hasn’t changed. This is one of the worst horror movies I’ve seen. In fact, on IMDb, this is one of the 18 horror movies I rated a 1/10. Only a select few make that listing, and this certainly belongs.

The acting is terrible, and while that is a problem, that’s far from the worst this movie had. The dialogue was weak – the delivery overly stale. No one’s heart really seemed in this movie, which is a shame, as since the plot was utterly atrocious (vampires running an underground fighting ring; an undercover cop infiltrates the ring and becomes one of their fighters), it needed something to carry it. Nothing was there to do so, though.

The nudity wasn’t particularly impressive, and the kills were blah. Sure, they had blood to an extent, so they tried, but it just didn’t ring as something worth seeing, and certainly nothing worth the wait. And the kung-fu fighting. *groans*. The overly-choreographed fighting that looked so fake was a prominent part of this movie. Another recurring motif – CGI bullets. CGI fire. Generic hard rock/heavy metal.

It was God-awful. This was simply a bad movie. The hammy dialogue at the end only made it worse. A true chore to get through in one sitting. Just avoid this, unless you’re like me and has to watch every other horror film nearby. On a quick side-note, the director of this flick, Len Kabasinski (who also acted in the movie), directed a low-budget 2005 flick I tepidly enjoyed titled Swamp Zombies!!!, so it’s a shame he couldn’t end up directing another low-budget favorite. In short, this movie simply isn’t worth watching, in my opinion.

1/10

Hit and Run (2009)

Hit and Run

Directed by Edna McCallion [Other horror films: N/A]

I’ve not seen this since either the 2009 or 2010 October Challenge. Either way, I think I disliked it even more this time around.

The good elements Hit and Run contains are as such: 1) the main actress, Laura Breckenridge, was pretty attractive, 2) the usage of the Modest Mouse song “Float On” was welcoming to the ears and 3) some of the scenes, specifically death scenes, were acceptable.

Everything else failed miserably, though.

Most prominently among them, you don’t feel an ounce of sympathy for the main character – whether she lives or dies, you really don’t care. You dislike her boyfriend even more, though. And it doesn’t help that you don’t feel much sympathy for the murderer past a certain point. It’s a movie with no sides to root for. Not only that, but some edits and cuts in this movie just look amateurish.

Now, some have commented that this film was trying to harken back to the days of 70’s/80’s slashers. If this was their intent, they failed miserably. After the initial incident, in which our main character runs someone over while driving home intoxicated, the movie almost turns into a character study. We see how she reacts, the trials of going through with burying the person she hit instead of letting the police know. And for 40 minutes, the horror elements are zilch.

If this character had been particularly interesting, or had this been done by the hands of a far more talented director, maybe it could have worked. For what it was, though, I was bored out of my mind. And when things do happen, it’s not particularly good. This is just a disappointment of a movie, and does many things wrong. The points I gave it come from the fact that while this film isn’t good, it’s certainly leagues above the worst horror films. It’s overly generic, and just overall not conducive to a fun viewing.

4/10

In a Dark Place (2006)

Directed by Donato Rotunno [Other horror films: N/A]

This would be the third time I’ve seen this film, and I have the same lukewarm reaction I did the first few times. In a Dark Place, another rendition of The Turn of the Screw (the most famous being 1961’s The Innocents) is not really a bad film. But it fails to really go above and beyond what it could have been.

The ambiguity (is it a ghost movie? are the children possessed? is our main character just losing it?) inherent in the original story certainly remains in this rendition, to the annoyance of some viewers. By the end, nothing is necessarily for certain, though I personally feel clues do lead to one central conclusion.

The acting here isn’t overly stellar, and the lesbian subplot just seems a tad odd, but I appreciate them wanting to add a little something to the story. In some ways, this feels like a slow-burner, though whether it pays off at the end is up for each viewer to decide. I’m not a giant fan of the ending, but then again, I wouldn’t have expected much else. In a Dark Place isn’t a bad movie. It’s just not that memorable.

6.5/10

The Hornet’s Sting and the Hell It’s Caused (2014)

The Hornet

Directed by Dustin Mills [Other horror films: The Puppet Monster Massacre (2010), Zombie A-Hole (2012), Night of the Tentacles (2013), Bath Salt Zombies (2013), Easter Casket (2013), Trashtastic Trailers from the Underground (2013), Skinless (2013), Theatre of the Deranged II (2013, segment ‘PlateFace’), Kill That Bitch (2014), Her Name Was Torment (2014), Snuffet (2014), Applecart (2015), Invalid (2015), Halloween Spookies (2015), Her Name Was Torment 2 (2016), Ouija: Blood Ritual (2017), Benny and Steve Almost Die (2017), The Hornet’s Disciple and the Scars She Left (2018)]

At the time I saw this, IMDb didn’t have a plot for this movie, and only 53 people had rated it. More so, it’s only an hour long. So what I was getting into, I had absolutely no idea.

When I started this film, I didn’t even know for sure I was watching the right thing. The title screen doesn’t pop up until 13 minutes in, and before that, you have an amateur actress being interviewed and then stripped nude and tied up at gunpoint. In fact, for about 50 minutes of this hour-long movie, nudity is present. And I do mean full nudity. Both males and females, though admittedly focusing on females.

The story is simple, once you get past the opening 13 minutes – a photographer named Rose abducts women and men, sexually abuses and tortures them, and sells the photos she takes to clients of hers. Now, that said, while scenes can sometimes be grueling to get through, outright violence is, generally speaking, low. A woman forced to use a pair of scissors to cut into one side of her cheek was about the worst we got (which was filmed in a way to make me cringe, I admit).

This movie isn’t all nudity and sexual abuse, though – there are some cleverly filmed scenes, and in fact, good usage of animation about half-way through the movie. Dustin Mills, the director, certainly has an artistic streak, and while it popped up only a handful of times, they were definitely noticeable. One note, the nudity, while constant, was very rarely titillating, which in a movie like this, I can say is only a positive thing.

The story here isn’t that strong, and delving into our characters, the few there are, isn’t really done, so it’s sort of hard to get a good feel for them. It’s for that reason why the ending could come across as slightly controversial (in a movie filled of sexual abuse and torture, it’s the ending I find controversial – ironic, I know). For an extremely low budget film, I think that this did what it was trying to do, but it’s just not my type of thing. Artistic scenes really helped out out though.

6/10

Cube (1997)

Cube

Directed by Vincenzo Natali [Other horror films: Splice (2009), Haunter (2013), ABCs of Death 2 (2014, segment ‘U is for Utopia’)]

Cube has long been a small favorite of mine.

The plot itself is rather interesting – being trapped in a potentially deadly cube with no idea how you got there or how to get out is a cool idea (for the viewers, anyway). The characters here are interesting in that some go through phases – at first, I think many people would be behind Leaven, but sort of get turned off by her treatment of Kazan. Quentin really tried pulling people together at the start, but toward the end, he was arguably more dangerous than the cube itself.

The acting isn’t always amazing, I’ll grant that, but I think for the most part, people do their jobs well. As to the conclusion, well, I can understand why some would be turned off, but given the various theories discussed in the film, I don’t think anyone should really be surprised with how this movie ended. It’s further expanded in Cube Zero anyway, so I’d recommend that if this movie pleased you. Hypercube is a mixed sequel, but I won’t lie – I recall liking it also. Cube’s a solid movie, and it’s a cult classic for a reason.

8/10

Stanley (1972)

Stanley

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

I last saw Stanley back in 2009 for my first October Challenge. In the many years that had passed, I forgot how much I enjoyed it.

Part of this may well be the fact the version I watched back in 2009 was a 90 minute version, whereas what I watched this time around was 105 minutes. Truth be told, I couldn’t tell you what scenes have been added, but the additions did seem to flesh out the main character’s motivations better.

The main drawback this movie possesses is the long set-up time. It takes 45 minutes, thereabouts, for us to really get introduced to the horror elements. Beforehand, we’re meeting various characters, most of whom who are killed in the last hour of the film. While that in itself may seem strenuous, with the 70’s music in the background, and the lack of editing out small things, it just feels grueling. But once it picks up, I think the pace sails along pretty nicely.

The kills are nothing overly special, but I do rather enjoy some of them. The freeze-frame when one of the characters jumps into a pool filled with snakes was overly ridiculous, and I loved it. Truth be told, while it’s slower at the beginning, once the kills come along, Stanley does well for itself. The ending is a bit to be desired, but I don’t fault it all too much. One last note – one of the characters, a pill-popping, cocaine-sniffing ‘psycho’ was consistently one of the funniest around for his short screen time. A sluggish pace, yes, but this movie, I personally feel, was worth it.

7.5/10

The Dark (1993)

The Dark

Directed by Craig Pryce [Other horror films: Revenge of the Radioactive Reporter (1990)]

It’s been something like three years since I saw this last, and so I had forgotten the amount to which I enjoyed it.

First thing that came to mind watching this was the actors, a majority of which do a solid job despite the obviously low budget involved. Stephen McHattie (who played the main character in Pontypool over 15 years after this film) did quite well as this film’s protagonist. Dennis O’Connor, Cynthia Belliveau, Neve Campbell all do very well also (and seeing Campbell three years prior to Scream was interesting).

In fact, my favorite scenes early on was the believable chemistry between gravediggers Jake and Ed (played by Dennis O’Connor and Jaimz Woolvett, respectfully). Their friendship struck me as very realistic, and that surprised me in a movie of this budget. The actors I didn’t care for, including most prominently Brion James, were far outshone by those I did.

And that doesn’t usually happen – in fact, very rarely in most movies to actors stand out one way or the other to me. Here, they did. The actors really were the strong point of the film. That’s not to say the story was bad, but it wasn’t dripping in creativity. More so, the special effects, when need be, were lacking. And in fact, some of the scenes early on just felt wrong. That all said, I got a good feel for the characters, and deemed it enjoyable. In short, it’s low in quality, high in fun.

7.5/10