The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

Directed by Roger Corman [Other horror films: The Beast with a Million Eyes (1955), Day the World Ended (1955), It Conquered the World (1956), Not of This Earth (1957), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), The Undead (1957), War of the Satellites (1958), The Wasp Woman (1959), A Bucket of Blood (1959), House of Usher (1960), Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Premature Burial (1962), Tales of Terror (1962), Tower of London (1962), The Raven (1963), The Terror (1963), X (1963), The Haunted Palace (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound (1990)]

A somewhat classic movie, The Little Shop of Horrors is a rather black comedic horror film that is probably more enjoyable than it should be, though it’s not altogether amazing.

Being a Roger Corman movie, it would shock no one that the film is really campy at times, and the humor is, more often than not, over-the-top. This is evident in multiple scenes, such as the ones starring the dentist, or any scene with Myrtle Vail (also in A Bucket of Blood, from 1959). Hell, even the carnivorous plant is over-the-top, with his constant clamoring to be fed and his silly voice.

Performance-wise, Jonathan Haze does decent as the main character, and Jackie Joseph as his love interest, but there are more interesting and amusing faces here. Mel Welles, who played a foreign florist shop owner, cracked me up with most of his lines (he also appeared in one of Corman’s earlier movies, Attack of the Crab Monsters). Also, there are two faces that I just love to see, being a young Dick Miller (following his starring role in the aforementioned A Bucket of Blood, also directed by Corman) and a younger Jack Nicholson (this is his sixth credit, and fourth movie). Also, if you’re into the JFK assassination, the name Karyn Kupcinet may mean something to you, and she appeared in this movie also as an annoying teenager.

If you can stand a goofy plot, The Little Shop of Horrors may be worth looking into. There’s not really any gore of note (this isn’t H.G. Lewis), but there are some body parts being fed to a carnivorous plant, so occasionally the film comes across as more graphic than you might expect for the age. I don’t find The Little Shop of Horrors an amazing movie, but I’ve seen it quite a handful of times, and have been consistently entertained.

7/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 (2011)

Directed by Robert Hall [Other horror films: Laid to Rest (2009), Fear Clinic (2014)]

Well, the first Laid to Rest wasn’t amazing, but it did enough to keep the movie memorable. This movie had the gore that you might hope for, but the story wasn’t that great whatsoever.

I don’t care for organizations of killers, so when we find out Chromeskull has backers and a small group of people working for him, my interest in this sequel went down to about zero. Make no mistake, the gore is decently solid, and there were some rather gruesome scenes here (such as the face reconstruction at the beginning), but unlike the first movie, which had a story that fit with the killer, this one threw in elements I didn’t care for at all.

Honestly, that’s about all I have. The gore was fine, but I didn’t like much about the story. Few characters really stood out, and I thought the post-credit scene (starring the Wife of Chromeskull) was just pointless, bordering on idiotic.

The first movie isn’t great, but I think it far surpasses this one, and I probably wouldn’t recommend this one to anyone. It’s not even a particularly poor movie, but I didn’t care for the story, and no amount of gore can make up for that.

5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If you want to hear Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, please listen below.

Jaws 2 (1978)

Directed by Jeannot Szwarc [Other horror films: The Devil’s Daughter (1973), Bug (1975), The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1986)]

GODDAMN, SON, THAT’S HOW YOU KILL A FUCKING SHARK!

Personally, I enjoyed this film a lot more than the first Jaws, and I’m not entirely sure why. Whereas the first often felt dry and almost procedural, Jaws 2 generally feels a lot more soulful and tense. This isn’t to say the second half of the first film wasn’t great, but Jaws 2 was fun all-around fun, and the drama was top-notch.

One of the best scenes in the film has to be when Roy Scheider’s character comes home drunk after getting fired as police chief. He’s drunkenly telling jokes and making toasts while his wife and second-in-command have some of the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. That scene really blew me away with how touching it was, and while there was nary a fin in sight, this was the highlight of the film.

There’s solid shark frenzies, though, especially that first one with the sailing teenagers. Talk about carnage and utter tension. Even when things wind down, the scene of the kids trying to help out the young boy (in-movie, Schieder’s youngest), was rather touching.

And that ending? Read the first line of the review again to see my enthusiasm toward the fantastic finale.

Roy Scheider’s pretty much the only performance that matters here, and he does a great job. From the breakdown on the beach to that city council scene, Scheider did just amazing here, and you really felt for his character. I know I did, especially after he was fired. And while he’s not there a whole lot, Murray Hamilton, who also appeared in the first movie, was nice to see again, though his character, that of the mayor, was pretty atrocious.

Jaws 2 hit the spots in a way the first movie was unable to, and I really got a kick out of this one. Pretty much a fun ride from beginning to end, this is a sequel that did it right.

8.5/10

Hannibal Rising (2007)

Directed by Peter Webber [Other horror films: N/A]

While this isn’t really a horror movie, it’s in a series I generally consider horror, so I’ll just throw this one in, which is unfortunate, as I had to watch this pile of trash.

I’m not exactly sure what my biggest problem with this was. Partially, I suspect, my disdain is due to the fact that an origin story was entirely unnecessary. What doesn’t help is the fact that I couldn’t even once see this character as Hannibal Lecter. So he accidentally eats his sister, and then decides to be a cannibal? Oh, and a samurai? Love it.

To be fair, this movie had a decent kill every now and again. One was even actually good, and potentially memorable. It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for any of the characters (be it the generic serial killer lead or the pointless detective on his trail) or the movie as a whole.

Gaspard Ulliel didn’t once remind me of Lecter, but I guess he was fine. Dominic West (The Wire) was pointless. I didn’t like Li Gong’s character whatsoever. And no one else was particularly memorable or good either.

A few good kills doesn’t make a movie good, especially when the movie is otherwise entirely generic and unnecessary. Truthfully, this was a struggle to get through, and I’d easily take Red Dragon or Hannibal twenty times over as opposed to ever having to watch this piece of trash again. I legitimately didn’t enjoy this. I did not have a good time. I was displeased.

3/10

7eventy 5ive (2007)

Directed by Brian Hooks [Other horror films: N/A] & Deon Taylor [Other horror films: Nite Tales: The Movie (2008), Chain Letter (2010), Meet the Blacks (2016), The Intruder (2019)]

Originally known under the hideous title 7eventy 5ive, this slasher, better known as Dead Tone in the USA, isn’t that great. It’s okay, it’s watchable, and once you get past the first thirty minutes, it’s tolerable, but the film isn’t quite good.

As far as the cast is concerned, few stand out. I liked both Brian Hooks and Antwon Tanner, and sure, German Legarreta’s flamboyantly gay antics cracked me up, but I didn’t love anyone here. Closest I got was in Austin Basis and Aimee Garcia – Basis’ character was pretty interesting, and Aimee Garcia reminded me of someone every time she was on-screen (though after scanning her IMDb credits thrice, I’ve got nothing), so she became memorable that way. Rutger Hauer literally added nothing to the film but a big name, and Wil Horneff’s performance toward the end was a bit ehh.

The ideas within 7eventy 5ive are interesting, and the ending did something that indeed caught me off-guard, but I think they could have done a better job than they did explaining the twist. It was still a unique idea, but I don’t think the execution was the best.

Something else that somewhat bothered me was the lack of memorable kills. There was a couple of decapitations, but pretty much everything else, save for one of the kills near the conclusion, were generic ax deaths, and none were that enthralling.

On another note, the final ten seconds were terrible. Everything looks to be wrapped up, but OH MY GOD WHO’S THAT??????!?!?!?!?

Yeah, it was the atrocious ending that I rather wish slashers, and horror films in general, would just do away with. It’s entirely possible this movie could have gotten a more average score, but that ending really turned me off. It wasn’t a good movie before, but if this had been executed correctly, I think it would have had potential.

6/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If you’re interested, listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this slasher.

Red Dragon (2002)

Directed by Brett Ratner [Other horror films: N/A]

I’ve not seen Manhunter, the 1986 movie which was the first to portray Hannibal Lecter. The film used to get a bit of a bad rap, but in recent years, I’ve heard pretty positive things about it, and when I do get to that one, I generally expect to enjoy it for what it is. Red Dragon is based off that same novel, though, and with strong star power and a decent story, the film stands out well in my opinion.

Admittedly, I like the story in 2001’s Hannibal more than the story here, but I think the cast for this one is of a higher caliber. Anthony Hopkins does well in his limited screen-time, but he’s not near as memorable here as The Silence of the Lambs. Edward Norton, an actor I enjoy in everything from The Incredible Hulk to Moonrise Kingdom, does great here, and it’s always fun to see Norton on-screen, even if he’s played a tortured FBI agent.

Ralph Fiennes (who played Voldemort in the Harry Potter films) does a fantastic job as the insane Dolarhyde. At times gentle, at times fierce, Fiennes really put a lot into his performance. Philip Seymour Hoffman isn’t a name I really know, but he stood out as a sleazy journalist. I didn’t like his character, but he did a solid job. Others who are worth a mention include Anthony Heald (from The Silence in the Lambs), Ken Leung (2004’s Saw, along with the ill-fated series Inhumans), Harvey Keitel (Pulp Fiction), Emily Watson (I don’t know her, but she is attractive, with a strong performance), and Mary-Louise Parker (a reoccurring character on The West Wing).

With as many solid cast members as there were, it’d be easy to think the story doesn’t matter, but of course it does. While I appreciated the story in Hannibal more, I did like Norton’s quest to catch the Tooth Fairy killer, and like I said, Fiennes did a great job with his role, especially around Watson’s character, who was an interesting addition.

I’d argue that, cast aside, and some story elements, the film’s not really that memorable, and it definitely doesn’t have memorable kills as Hannibal did (though the wheelchair on fire scene was pretty decent). Really, it’s an okay thriller, but since they went a slightly more psychological route, and didn’t really focus much on Lecter, I didn’t find myself enjoying it as much as I did when I’ve seen it before.

None of this means I find the film bad, as I don’t. I do think it’s closer to average than the series has come before, but I think Norton alone is able to help boost the movie up at least a point. I’d certainly recommend this, but I don’t think it’s really as good as Hannibal.

7.5/10

Hannibal (2001)

Directed by Ridley Scott [Other horror films: Alien (1979), Alien: Covenant (2017)]

I can’t recall exactly how long it’s been since I’ve seen this movie in full, but I will say it’s been at least eight years. I remembered some of the scenes here, but not that many, so the film had a somewhat fresh feel to it. Also, it’s a decent amount more graphic than The Silence of the Lambs, which only works in it’s favor. Honestly, I enjoyed this one, and thought it a mostly fun romp.

The idea of a previous victim of Lecter’s seeking revenge against the good doctor is pretty fun, and it casts the victim, Verger, as both sympathetic, but also somewhat blood-thirsty (though certainly not without reason). Even before Lecter gets back to the USA, seeing him ingratiate himself in Italy is a lot of fun too, and in fact, the Italian portions of the film were perhaps the most interesting to me (it doesn’t hurt that the segment ended with a fantastic disembowelment).

Unlike some, I didn’t think Julianne Moore’s presence in lieu of Jodie Foster’s was that bad. Obviously, it would have been great to get Foster to reprise her role, but Moore did perfectly fine playing Clarice, and got on well with Sir Anthony Hopkins. Of course, Hopkins does fantastically as Lecter, and stole the show, especially in his Italian scenes, but really, throughout the film, he’s great. Gary Oldman, playing a rather disfigured victim of Lecter’s, does a great job, and his voice creeps me out as much today as it did when I was younger, watching the film. Other stand-outs include Giancarlo Giannini and Zeljko Ivanek. I didn’t particularly care for Ray Liotta’s performance, but that’s partially because his character was so over-the-top scummy that I didn’t have an ounce of sympathy for him at any point.

This movie isn’t particularly violent, but like The Silence of the Lambs, there are a few good scenes here, ranging from a previously-mentioned disembowelment to some solid pig action (and I don’t mean in a Wedding Trough fashion). There’s nothing that seems over-the-top in Hannibal, and the ending, which leans more toward disturbing than it does violent, was pretty solid.

Really, Hannibal’s gotten a decent amount of flak, which is a shame, as I think it’s a solid follow-up to one of the most classic films of the 1990’s. Truth be told, while I do enjoy The Silence of the Lambs, I think I prefer Hannibal, and a large part of that might be because this has a little more of the horror feeling than it’s predecessor does. I’d give them roughly the same score, but Hannibal was one that, surprisingly, I found I really enjoyed after revisiting.

8.5/10

Silent Night (2012)

Directed by Steven C. Miller [Other horror films: Automaton Transfusion (2006), Scream of the Banshee (2011), Under the Bed (2012)]

Sort of a remake-in-name-only (from 1984’s Silent Night, Deadly Night), Silent Night is a decent amount of fun, and includes some memorable characters, decently gory deaths, and a cast that mostly makes things work, along with a light tongue-in-cheek feel.

Malcolm McDowell was great here. I didn’t love his portrayal of Loomis in the Halloween remake, but here, his character was a lot of fun and had some great lines. The over-the-top style he sometimes took brought with it a lot of chuckles, and he definitely outstrips the main character, played by Jaime King (who, it should be noted, still did a fine, and sometimes emotional, job). Otherwise, we have Donal Logue (whom I know best as Detective Bullock in the Gotham series), who is great to see, but doesn’t appear enough, along with Ellen Wong (a familiar face from The Void) and John B. Lowe, who played my second favorite character in the film.

There’s not really as much mystery behind the killer in this film as I sort of wish there was. Oh, people wonder who the killer is, but it’s far from a focus, and the audience finds out via a flashback at the conclusion, so no on-screen characters quite figure it out. The good thing is, though, that Silent Night is heavy on gore, and there are some pretty solid kills here. A few stand out as weak (the electrocution scene, for instance), but others make up for is, such as the flamethrower kill, and the wood-chipper scene.

Like I mentioned, there’s a light tongue-in-cheek feeling throughout the film. I wouldn’t call much of the film outright comedy-horror, but a few scenes definitely caused solid laughter, such as a pre-teen girl cussing out church, or a priest who does all the things priests probably shouldn’t be doing. Even some of McDowell’s lines illicit chuckles, such as his ‘Don’t put avocado on a burger’ talking point. This is not at all like Krampus or Santa’s Slay, but there are some amusing bits spread throughout.

There’s a lot of Christmas-themed horror out there, and a lot I’ve not seen as of yet, but it seems to me that many of them don’t quite hit the mark. Views on this loose remake seem to be mixed, and I suspect that’s partially because, as a slasher, Silent Night doesn’t really add anything into the mix. Even so, it’s a film I’ve had fun with during multiple viewings, and while I’d tweak a few things, Silent Night’s a film I enjoy a decent amount.

8/10

Vampyr (1932)

Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer [Other horror films: Prästänkan (1920)]

Sometimes called a German classic, Vampyr is a rather interesting film with unique stylistic choices. I don’t think any of it makes the film particularly good, despite the strong, often eerie, atmosphere, however.

The main issue with this film is that it’s rather incomprehensible at times. It’s experimental and dreamy, but despite the somewhat simple plot, not really coherent, so while you get some memorable sequences and rather interesting cinematography (especially regarding shadows), it’s possible that such design will fall flat if the style of the film doesn’t much enamor you.

One somewhat fun thing about the film is the sparse dialogue. The film was filmed much like it would have been during the silent era, and there are even plenty of title screens present, so the film really feels older than 1932. The dialogue they do have is generally inconsequential, and I don’t think it really helps make the story clearer.

Unfortunately, that’s my biggest problem with the film. Vampyr often feels incoherent, and while the skeleton outline of a story is there, it definitely isn’t explained well. Some may argue this helps induce a dreamy atmosphere, and it partially does, but when there’s atmosphere at the expense of story, I sometimes have problems.

As such, I can think of so many more classic horror films from the 1930’s that I’d rather watch again than this one. In fact, I might have liked this one more the first time I saw it, because it really didn’t gel with me upon my most-recent viewing. Vampyr has it’s fans, and it probably should, but I will admit to not being one of them, and despite some decent scenes and a solid aura, I don’t come close to loving the film.

5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast – listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this film.

Jaws (1975)

Directed by Steven Spielberg [Other horror films: Duel (1971), Something Evil (1972), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983, segment ‘Kick the Can’), War of the Worlds (2005)]

While certainly one of the true classics of not just the horror genre, but cinema as a whole, Jaws is a film that I don’t love, and don’t really come close to loving. There’s a lot of good stuff in it, especially the second half of the movie, but there’s also some rather sluggish scenes that no amount of good orchestra music makes up for.

Luckily, the three main characters are all pretty decent. While it took some time for Quint’s gruff character to grow on me, there’s no denying that Robert Shaw does a fine job, especially during the scene where the group compares stories and scars. I always liked Richard Dreyfuss’ character, and he consistently solid through the film. Lastly, Roy Scheider does commendably also, though honestly, I think he stands out more in Jaws 2.

The movie picks up beautifully as these three embark on a small ship in order to take out the great white, but the movie beforehand was somewhat patchy, and while never bad, portions just bored me. The second half of the film isn’t perfect, but it was a lot more tense and enjoyable in my opinion.

Obviously, this is a classic, and there’s decent reason for that, but like some other classics of the 1970’s, such as The Exorcist, I was more underwhelmed than anything. I’d probably say the movie’s just a bit below average, but it’s close. Jaws is still worth seeing, please don’t think I doubt that, but unless you’re already a fan, I don’t know how likely it is that you’ll end up loving it.

6.5/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.