Offerings (1989)

Offerings

Directed by Christopher Reynolds [Other horror films: N/A]

So, you all know me: if it’s an 80’s slasher, chances are high that I love the movie. And this late 80’s addition to the genre is no different.

After a prank goes awry, those involved are slaughtered ten years later. Plot-wise, there’s not much going on, and I thought it worked out just fine. This independent Oklahoma rip-off of Halloween was a lot of fun. It’s low-budget, but has a lot of heart (think HauntedWeen, and this won’t be the last time I make the comparison). The musical score is a complete copy of Halloween’s, and the final twenty minutes (along with the fact the killer is mute, and just escaped from a mental institution) takes heavily from Halloween also.

Even so, there’s some memorable stuff in here, from hammy acting to decent kills. While the gore was kept to a minimum, there was some decent blood during a few scenes (which is definitely one area where HauntedWeen one-ups this film).

The acting was about how you’d expect, but I got a kick out of it. Our main girl Gretchen (played by Loretta Leigh Bowman) did her part well, and was an attractive young lady to boot. We got two zany side-characters, one being a mortician’s intern (played comically by Mark Massey – his only other role was in the SOV horror film The Ripper from 1985) and the other being Deputy Buddy (played by Barry Brown – his only other film being an early 90’s crime/thriller, which, worth noting, is the only other film the director of this movie directed). Both were zany goodness with strong Oklahoma accents (which is a trait shared by almost every cast member, our lead girl with the most notable accent).

Perhaps my favorite character, though, is Sheriff Chism. He’s a genial, nice guy, who actually tries his best to help the girls out. Really, Chism’s a great character, and I had fun with him. The actor who portrayed him, G. Michael Smith, has only this single movie under his belt, which is a shame. Most likely, he’s just a citizen of Oklahoma City (where this was filmed) who the director thought fit the role best, and boy, does he ever.

This movie had a few comedic scenes thrown in (including one juxtaposition near the end which I laughed aloud at), and overall, Offerings was a fun film. While lacking in the gore department, I got a kick out of this one, and while it might appeal purely to slasher fans of the bygone era, it’s a movie I recommend.

7.5/10

Hell Night (1981)

Hell Night

Directed by Tom DeSimone [Other horror films: Sons of Satan (1973), Hellhole (1985)]

Hell Night was a decent movie, but it actually didn’t do nearly as much as I thought it would, especially given the sub-genre and time period.

At an hour and forty minutes, this movie’s a tad longer than many slashers of the 80’s, but more than anything else, things felt drawn out as opposed to expanded upon. The reveal near the end was sort of cool (though expected), but it didn’t really mean much, as there wasn’t all that much backstory given to why exactly the killer went out of his way to kill during this night and not previous initiations.

The 1980’s mentality was fun – I loved the soundtrack and most of the dialogue (while some of the acting was lacking) was pretty amusing. But given the length of the movie, I was expecting a bit more than I got. Loved the atmosphere throughout most of the film, and most of the kills were acceptable (though only a few really stuck out to me), but something was missing.

What that was, I don’t know, but despite all the flaws, I moderately enjoyed it (including Linda Blair’s decently done character); it falls just below average, and there are certainly other slashers I’d go watch again before giving this another shot.

6.5/10

Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)

Hellraiser III

Directed by Anthony Hickox [Other horror films: Waxwork (1988), Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1989), Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992), Warlock: The Armageddon (1993), Full Eclipse (1993), Knife Edge (2009)]

A hard movie to speak about, the biggest problem with this flick is that even though it tries to follow the first two Hellraiser movies, Hell on Earth feels entirely different in tone.

The story is fine. Nothing special, nothing terrible. The subplot with Elliot Spencer and Joey wasn’t really all that intriguing, in my opinion. The movie just felt off, and despite connections to the previous films (including a brief scene with Kirsty), it didn’t real feel all that related.

Most of the acting wasn’t that great. Our main character, played by Terry Farrell, was okay. At times, she certainly didn’t do that well, but she was consistently better than Kevin Bernhardt’s J.P., a pale intimation of the original movie’s Frank. I really did like Paula Marshall as Terri, and throughout the film, she had sort of a Shawnee Smith feel to her, which was definitely appreciated. In fact, I think some of the best scenes of the movie are those with Farrell and Marshall, who did decently well together.

Doug Bradley, of course, did well as Pinhead, but although he occasionally had some interesting insights to shine a light upon, he spoke significantly more in this movie as opposed to the previous ones, which sort of dampens his effects. He had some solid lines (the whole mocking Jesus scene was quality, as was the “limited imagination” line), but smaller doses are what the doctor ordered when concerning his dialogue.

The makeup in the movie was serviceable, but the special effects, many of which were done in early CGI, just looked damn awful. And speaking of awful, every single one of those new Cenobite designs were a kick in the face to the horrific simplicity of the original’s Butterball and Chatterer. The CD Cenobite was bad, yes, but every single design (from the fire-breathing Cenobite to Pistonhead to Camerahead) was an ocular assault. They just looked shitty.

The movie was also far too corny, with some really bad lines in there. The acting often didn’t help with this, truth be told. I’m not sure if all of it was intentional, but even so, it just didn’t do much for me.

If you’re a fan of the first two Hellraiser movies, as I am, this one will come as a bit of a shock. Certainly it’s the black sheep of the first four movies (even if it is probably a bit better than the fourth). This has only been the second time I’ve seen it, but I can see why I forgot much of it. Hell on Earth has an odd vibe, and while it’s not really a terrible movie, the first two are very much superior.

As Camerahead said, that’s a wrap.

6/10

Maciste all’inferno (1925)

Maciste

Directed by Guido Brignone [Other horror films: N/A]

Provided you’re in the right mood, this early Italian flick may be a hell of a lot of fun.

A small note, first: Maciste is one of the earliest reoccuring characters in the history of cinema, and is very well-known throughout Italy. A Hercules-type figure, Maciste is a man of much physical and moral strength. Played by actor Bartolomeo Pagano, Maciste appeared in over 25 silent films from 1914 to 1926 (Maciste all’inferno being one of the last ones).

The plot of this movie is about as simple as it sounds: being of strong moral fiber, King Pluto (or the Devil) takes it upon himself to tempt, and damn, Maciste, in order to destroy his morality. And once Maciste gets taken down to Hell, which happens about twenty minutes in, we’re in for a fun time.

It may sound a serious melodrama, of sorts, which certainly aren’t uncommon insofar as silent cinema is concerned, but Maciste all’inferno is a lot of fun. It’s an hour and five minutes of fantastic special effects (that hold up to this day), fist-fighting brawling action (seeing Maciste brawl with the legions of Hell is damn fun), and amazing fantasy, albeit certainly dated. It didn’t take itself seriously, and what we have is a light-hearted (though certainly, there’s still some real drama at points), often fun flick.

There were some really great scenes in this movie, from multiple decapitations (and after one of these, a demon re-attaches his head, which was creative), to all-out brawls between two factions of Hell, to a scene with Maciste flying on a dragon over the depths of Hell. Some things looked a little hooky, but was it fun? Hell yeah (pun certainly intended).

The main problem I had was a subplot that seemed to come out of nowhere. Wanting to usurp King Pluto’s place, another demon named Barbariccia led a revolt in order to satisfy his “revenge.” Perhaps it just flew by me, but I have no idea what exactly he wanted revenge for. It was a cool bunch of sequences, but still, I felt I was missing context, which may well have to do with the version I watched.

About the copy of the film I watched: there’s a 95-minute version of this movie out there, which can be found online, but I opted for the shorter 65-minute version, for two reasons. Most importantly, the alternative version was in it’s native Italian with French captions. I speak neither Italian nor French, and would look very idiotic trying to. Secondly, it uses the score of the French progressive/death metal band Gojira. While I have nothing against Gojira’s music, it’s not the type of stuff I want to listen to while watching a silent movie.

Still, even the shorter version of Maciste all’inferno was a lot of fun (and probably more digestible if you’re not into silent films), and everyone involved seemed to have a good time. One of Italy’s earliest-surviving horror films (though no doubt this could also simply be called either a fantasy or action flick), Maciste all’inferno was a deeply enjoyable watch the first time around, and it was no different this time.

8.5/10

Black Rock (2012)

Black Rock

Directed by Katie Aselton [Other horror films: N/A]

This movie doesn’t have a lot going on, really – six total characters, and really, only five get all that much screen-time. It felt like a cheaper version of Eden Lake, more or less.

While at first I didn’t know where the story was going, once the catalyst to the action occurred, everything afterward was pretty predictable. The gore was decent, more on the realistic side as opposed to a splatter film.

What was really the strong point of the movie was the friendship, somewhat strained, between the three main female friends. While the dialogue can sometimes feel like a bit much, I thought it worked out well, and the actresses all did a decently good job (Kate Bosworth being my favorite, as I also enjoyed her performance in 2008’s crime/drama movie 21). For most of the beginning, it felt like a real friendship, and to me, they seemed to talk like real people, which isn’t something that is always seen in movies.

Past a certain point, though, things drag a bit, which is saying something, as the film’s under 80 minutes. It starts out decently strong, but peters out about twenty minutes in or so. All-in-all, Black Rock’s not a bad movie, but in the end, it feels rather more average than I’d have preferred. An okay viewing the first time around, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it again, as it’s just far more predictable than I’d have hoped for, and drags rather badly at times.

6.5/10

Cult of Chucky (2017)

Cult of Chucky

Directed by Don Mancini [Other horror films: Seed of Chucky (2004), Curse of Chucky (2013)]

Having just finished this at the time of this writing, Cult of Chucky is a somewhat hard one to rate.

It certainly feels much more ambitious than any of the previous films, and follows Curse quite nicely. But as for the story itself, I think it got a bit away from itself.

The setting of a mental institution is quite fun, and especially as the film begins having a dreamier atmosphere a bit through the movie, the bright white surroundings work well. Actually, I really liked the dreamy feel this movie had, and parts even reminded me of (I know, it’s crazy) A Cure for Wellness. Hell, even the cinematography was of very high production.

Curse of Chucky was a step toward trying new techniques, but this one, with slow motion, and occasionally dreamy scenes, and split screens, thrown in with a somewhat befuddling story, really makes this one stand out. For the most part, that’s a positive thing. Even though there were a few atrocious CGI scenes (one of the death scenes, for instance), most of what was tried here works still.

Gore was pretty solid throughout, with multiple stabbings, stompings, and, of course, disembowelments. All in good fun. Like I said, the only death that wasn’t that great was due to CGI, unfortunately.

Despite a plethora of these positive factors, the story is a bit of a mess toward the end. It’s not as though it was without some solid tension, and it was definitely better than the abortion that was Seed of Chucky, but really, the story seemed to go all over the place, and with the route they took, I’m sort of getting the feeling that future films won’t really be as solid as Curse was able to be. I can’t say much more without spoilers, but it was worth mentioning, as it’s about the sole reason this isn’t being rated as near as well as Curse.

There are plenty of good things about Cult of Chucky, but it’s no doubt that Curse was a more cohesive, enjoyable, and better movie. The direction that this takes the series seems iffy, but time will tell. If you’re a fan of the series, this is certainly worth seeing, but as it’s entirely different than all of the other movies, I can’t guarantee you’ll love it.

6.5/10

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

TCM

Directed by Marcus Nispel [Other horror films: Frankenstein (2004), Friday the 13th (2009), Exeter (2015)]

This won’t be a very long review, because quite honestly, I can’t think of much to say.

Throughout the whole of the film, I just felt it very bland. It’s not bad, per se, but nothing really did anything for me. The gore was top-notch, with some solid dismemberments and impaling on meat hooks and the like, but with the glossy style the movie sometimes took, it sort of weakened the impact.

One thing, gore aside, that this movie did really well were the sets. The Hewitt house looked great, with a really creepy exterior and fantastically-done basement, with a whole mess of random horrific stuff crammed down there. The meat packing plant was appropriately creepy also, so kudos there.

As for the actors/actresses involved, none of them were either that great or that bad. They just felt sort of there, going through the motions. I didn’t care for R. Lee Ermey’s character, but he did okay. As Leatherface, Andrew Bryniarski did decent, and looked rather menacing. As for Jessica Biel and company, really, nothing good nor bad stands out. Biel was certainly attractive in some scenes, which is what they were going for, it seems, but other than that, eh.

The movie starts off a bit sluggish, and doesn’t really pick up until about forty minutes in, and when it does, it’s a smooth ride forward, but I just couldn’t shake the idea of how bland I felt the movie was. It has it’s positive factors, but from 2003 alone, I can think of other horror flicks I’d rather watch (such as Dead End or House of 1000 Corpses), so ultimately, I wasn’t much impressed this time around.

6/10

Wishmaster (1997)

Wishmaster

Directed by Robert Kurtzman [Other horror films: The Demolitionist (1995), The Rage (2007), Buried Alive (2007)]

Very much a B-movie, Wishmaster has a lot to offer fans of horror.

The story is a fun one, as we don’t get too many Djinn-focused horror flicks. What made it even better, though, was the solid cast. Tammy Lauren did pretty damn well as the main star, despite not really being in all that much of note (the only place I know her from is the 1988 television remake I Saw What You Did, co-starring Shawnee Smith).

Most everyone else was a pleasure too. We had some Kane Hodder, Tony Todd (fantastic as Johnny Valentine), Robert Englund in multiple scenes, some narration by Angus Scrimm, and a fun character played by Jenny O’Hara, who, I kid you not, I only know from a random episode of House (the series starring Hugh Laurie). This movie just had a fun bunch of actors and actresses, and even the individuals who I didn’t care for as much (such as Andrew Divoff, who was a bit too hammy at times) did okay.

Also, the special effects need to be brought up. A few times, they didn’t work out well, especially when they went the hideous early CGI route, but overall, the special effects through the film were something to behold (at both the sequence at the beginning and the party at the end, it’s endless eye candy, such as the great skeleton scene and the half-alligator man). So many of the death scenes were well-done (great jaw-ripping scene), and the special effects just looked great.

Wishmaster is no doubt a B-movie, but I think that works out in it’s favor. I really liked Lauren’s acting, and her character’s final wish was pretty clever. While I cannot speak on the necessities of the sequels (I’ve seen only the second Wishmaster at the time of this writing, and was deeply displeased), I can say that this one is very much a movie worth checking out. Having seen it twice, now, perhaps three times, I think you’ll have a fun time.

8/10

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

Curse of Chucky (2013)

Curse of Chucky

Directed by Don Mancini [Other horror films: Seed of Chucky (2004), Cult of Chucky (2017)]

For the first time since 1991, we have a good Chucky film, and luckily for us, barring a few minor problems, this is rather better than Child’s Play 3.

The story was appropriately dark and had a rather somber tone, something we’ve not seen in this series since at least the third movie. Taking place entirely over the course of one night, it’s an atmospheric and confined movie, even more so because our main character, Nica (played by Brad Dourif’s daughter Fiona) is wheelchair-bound. It’s a nice change of pace from Bride and Seed, and even Chucky’s antics seem very much muted.

Pretty much everyone in the film did a good job, with my highest compliments going to Fiona Dourif, who played her character amazingly. Danielle Bisutti did the whole bitchy sister act really well, and playing a bit of an airhead with a secret, Maitland McConnell stood out also. Everyone else was fine, but these three deserve the highest praise.

Filling in Chucky’s background a bit was nice, and I thought it worked out decently well, but there are portions which seemed to disregard previous movies (such as Tiffany’s account in Bride of Chucky vs. what we saw here). That’s not a big deal, especially considering that this movie is better than Bride by a long shot, but I still couldn’t help but notice it.

This is a tense, dark movie, which is certainly a great addition to the series and a great viewing to any horror fan. While gore wasn’t the strongest point of the film, there were still solid instances that stood out. The endings, with a few surprise guests, were also nice, but the post-credit scene seems to disregard the sequence right before it, at least as far as I could tell.

Some small continuity issues aside, Curse of Chucky is the third-best entry to the series, with the first two edging it out. I liked it when I first saw it, and am glad to report that, to me, at least, it still stands strong.

8.5/10

Das Wachsfigurenkabinett (1924)

Waxworks

Directed by Leo Birinsky [Other horror films: N/A] & Paul Leni [Other horror films: The Cat and the Canary (1927), The Man Who Laughs (1928), The Last Warning (1928)]

A far more well-known silent anthology than Unheimliche Geschichten (1919), this Paul Leni film (commonly known as Waxworks) has an entire different set of problems, but at the same time, still comes out a slightly better film.

With two stories comprising most of the hour and 23 minute film (each story an average of 38 minutes), the biggest issue with Das Wachsfigurenkabinett is that it’s tone isn’t that consistent. The first story is a bit of a light-hearted adventure, with jaunty sequences and music. The second was a much slower, almost somber, historical piece about Ivan the Terrible. And the last sequence was a mere six minutes or so, which is where most of this movie’s horror elements come from.

So an adventure/history/horror mix is certainly an interesting idea, and the framing story (a writer comes up with stories on some waxworks figures) is certainly decent, but how is the movie as a whole?

The first story, starring Emil Jannings (previously seen in the 1918 Die Augen der Mumie Ma) as a Caliph, was lot of fun, with some great looking set pieces and an enjoyable story. The second, with Conrad Veidt (from 1919’s Unheimliche Geschichten and 1920’s classic Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari) was certainly more in the vein of horror, but the story didn’t do much for me until the pay-off at the end. And the third sequence, with Jack the Ripper/Spring-heel Jack was just too short to really warrant strong opinions one way or the other.

For any anthology movie, I feel that there should be a base of three to four stories, and not counting the framing story, Waxwork had two, all things considered. And while one of them was pretty fun, and many sequences looked cool (along with a fight on top of a temple), this movie didn’t have what I really look for in anthology films.

Paul Leni, who later directed such titles as 1927’s The Cat and the Canary, 1928’s The Man Who Laughs and The Last Warning (perhaps one of my favorite silent horror films), did an okay job, but again, the tone didn’t really work for me. That said, this is still considered a classic for a reason, and providing that you’re able to locate the right print, if you’re a fan of silent flicks, this is still worth a watch (if for nothing else, the expressionist set pieces), but all-in-all, it falls a bit below average for me.

6.5/10