Shark Week (2012)

Directed by Christopher Ray [Other horror films: Reptisaurus (2009), Megaconda (2010), Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus (2010), 2-Headed Shark Attack (2012), Mega Shark vs. Kolossus (2015), 3-Headed Shark Attack (2015), A House Is Not a Home (2015), Circus Kane (2017), Minutes to Midnight (2018)]

I’m not playing around with this one, brahs.

I recorded this off Syfy for some unexplainable reason (well, I guess the reason was that, at the time, I recorded almost any horror movie I hadn’t previously seen, so there’s that), and so I got what I expected, and it’s just another God-awful shark movie by the Asylum, void of almost anything enjoyable.

So a crazy guy captures eight people and puts them on his island, where he’ll make them fight sharks and go through traps because he’s angry about the death of his son (all of these people have a connection with that death in some way). It’s basically Saw: With Sharks, only nothing like that, because as bad as the worst Saw movie was, this was worse.

Acting was horrible throughout. Patrick Bergin and Yancy Butler were the worst offenders, but literally no one did well. Frankie Cullen almost looked like David Arquette, so there’s that, and Joshua Michael Allen was almost a hero worth rooting for, but I didn’t care for a single one of these characters at any time, and even if the acting was atrocious intentionally, it didn’t make it ‘fun.’

Obviously the plot is stupid, and special effects were more like not-special effects (see, this film drained away my clever way with words), and were just horrible throughout. Look at the land-mine scene for a good example. Oh, and speaking of which, whoever did the cinematography should be drawn and quartered. Listen, I don’t have the vocabulary to explain exactly the techniques they use – it was like instead of showing a whole scene, they just cut a second out every other second – it’s jarring, annoying, and entirely unnecessary.

A good example, again, is the landmine scene. A guy steps on a landmine. Another guy comes over. And we get a few quick cuts to his foot, then to guy A’s face, then to guy B’s face. It just looks like amateur hour.

Oh, and the dialogue was horrible too, but there was one joke I laughed at, though, so I’ll give it a point for that.

Also known under the title of Shark Assault (not that a retitling is like to change anyone’s mind about this film), Shark Week is horrible, and I don’t know why I bother.

1.5/10

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)

Directed by Eugène Lourié [Other horror films: The Colossus of New York (1958), Behemoth the Sea Monster (1959), Gorgo (1961)]

Giant monster movies aren’t really my go-to, even if they are classic. Sure, I enjoyed The Black Scorpion well enough, and Them! is a classic I grew up with, but in general, giant monsters running amok isn’t really my cup of tea, and as decent as this movie is, especially for being one of the earliest movies of it’s genre, I don’t personally know if I consider it that special.

Certainly the special effects are pretty good for the time (the stop motion can look a little janky, but it has it’s charm), and most of the destruction and chaos are fun to watch (such as that cop getting eaten – I could play that on loop for the rest of my life and count myself a lucky man), and I even like how they sort of build things up to the final confrontation, but despite all that, it’s not a movie I’d really find myself in the position to watch often.

Part of it may be the generic cast. Aside from Cecil Kellaway, who I loved pretty much every minute while on screen, the cast just had a been-there-done-that feel to them, and though I guess the main protagonist was interesting in that he was a foreigner (Paul Hubschmid, who was born in Switzerland), he still didn’t jibe with me, nor did anyone else.

More than anything, though, it’s the story here that just makes me pull away. I don’t want to give off the wrong impression, though – the movie’s perfectly fine, and I’ll be giving it a solid average rating. It’s just that it doesn’t amaze me the way I wish it would, and it also doesn’t have near as much an anti-atomic weapon moral that you’d perhaps expect from movies of this time.

No one can doubt that, in it’s own way, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms is a classic movie, and there are some great scenes (aside from the aforementioned police officer scene, don’t forget that lighthouse being taken down), but it’s not a movie I’ve ever happened to love either time I’ve seen it, for whatever that might be worth.

7/10

Magic (1978)

Directed by Richard Attenborough [Other horror films: N/A]

Certainly a well-known film, and for good reason, Magic is a fantastic psychological horror film with some solid actors, a good story, and great tense scenes.

Obviously, Anthony Hopkins here is just amazing. When it comes to high-caliber actors, he’s not really at the top of my list (though I’ve loved him in plenty of movies, from the action-adventure The Edge to the court-based thriller Fracture), but he does fantastic here, and his tense character is both uncomfortable to watch yet almost impossible to look away from. Burgess Meredith (here two years following a small appearance in Burnt Offerings) is great too, in his chummy agent way.

The scene the two share in which Meredith’s character confronts Hopkins’ about his mental problems is pretty fantastic from beginning to end, and within possesses one of the tensest scenes in the film, where Meredith challenges Hopkins’ to shut up the dummy, Fats, for five minutes. We pretty much know he’s going to break at some point, but even so, it’s a great scene, and Meredith looks like his heart breaks when he sees just how far gone Hopkins is.

Ann-Margret is good here too, of course, and I’ll even give some kudos to Ed Lauter, but really, Burgess Meredith and especially Anthony Hopkins steal the show.

Because the film is based more around the mental decline of a character than anything else, there’s not a whole lot of gore here, but the few murders we get are all decently solid (though I don’t think any of them are really all that memorable, as little as that really means). Certainly the highlight of the film works out great, and even the conclusion is oddly emotional given the situation.

I don’t think that Magic will ever top my list of the 1970’s, because there were so many fantastic and enjoyable films from the decade, but this is definitely a film that’s worth seeing, especially if you want a little something different in your horror, and more so, if you’re a fan of Hopkins.

8/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I find the magic in Magic, brahs.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)

Directed by Victor Fleming [Other horror films: N/A]

When I revisited the 1931 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it. I didn’t really have the same hopes for this, one, though, and unfortunately I was probably right in that.

Part of the lack of high hopes was that lightning can often only strike once (which obviously isn’t true, but #fuckitbrahs), and given that I enjoyed the 1931 version quite a bit, I thought it unlikely that I’d enjoy another one, especially one so close in time period, quite as much. Even with the cast, Spencer Tracy being the most impressive, I think this feels more drawn-out than necessary, and it just wasn’t near as much fun to watch.

Certainly seeing Spencer Tracy in his only horror role was interesting. He’s not necessarily an actor I’ve seen a lot from, but he was in some movies I really enjoy, such as the fantastically underrated comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and the solid Bad Day at Black Rock, and seeing him playing Dr. Jekyll was fun (though he looked older than I’d really expect his character to look).

No one else in the cast really adds that much, but Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner, Donald Crisp, Ian Hunter (of one of the best movies of all time, 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood), and Peter Godfrey all put in perfectly acceptable performances. In fact, I think the scene where Turner’s character is going to Dr. Jekyll for help against the abuse she faces from Mr. Hyde is one of the strongest in the movie, certainly one of the most emotional, so many kudos to Lana Turner for that.

Also, while speaking of Turner, I think that song will be stuck in my head for at least the next few days. When the band commences playing, my feet begin to go. For a rollicking, romping Polka is the jolliest fun I know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Despite that fun, though, I wouldn’t call this a fun rollick, partially because it unnecessarily almost clocks in at two hours. I didn’t feel that much dragging in the 1931 version (though that’s not to say the film was without flaws), but boy, I certainly felt some here, and it also felt a bit more melodramatic than it really needed to be.

I won’t say that this was a waste of time to watch, because it wasn’t, and I won’t say it’s a bad movie, but I think I will say that the 1931 version is one that I’m more likely to stick to, Spencer Tracy or not.

6/10

Rabid (1977)

Directed by David Cronenberg [Other horror films: Shivers (1975), The Brood (1979), Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983), The Dead Zone (1983), The Fly (1986), Dead Ringers (1988), Naked Lunch (1991), eXistenZ (1999)]

Given this was a David Cronenberg film, I went in with mild apprehension. I’ve not seen a ton of his films, but out of the ones I have seen (Videodrome, The Brood, The Fly, and Shivers), I’ve only really liked Shivers. Rabid isn’t quite as enjoyable as Shivers is, but I did find it a pretty satisfying and almost time-relevant film.

It took a little while to get going, and at first I thought that most of the mayhem would be centered around the plastic surgery clinic in a localized fashion, but as the movie went on, the battleground against a mysterious virus became the whole of the city of Montreal, which I thought led to some pretty tense scenes. Just seeing multiple scenes of a city under martial law in order to combat the growing virus was great, and gave a great sense of urgency, and it was all so natural in the film.

Perhaps one of my favorite scenes is earlier on, though, right after one of the characters goes crazy at the plastic surgery clinic, and police are investigating the crime. There’s something about it that seems real, organic, with a lot of moving people and some characters walking in and out without even being stopped by police, getting separated and seeing the extent of the craziness.

I have to admit that the two main performances, those of Frank Moore and Marilyn Chambers, left something to be desired. Certainly toward the end, Chambers had some good moments, but neither of the two really did that much for me. Joe Silver (who was also in Shivers, but I forget to what extent) played a fantastically nice guy, and we got our eye candy with Susan Roman (most people would think that Chambers, who has a handful of nude scenes was more attractive, but Roman and the glasses she wears does something to me). No one else in the cast stands out one way or the other.

Like I said, Rabid started out a bit slow to begin with, and it does deal with body horror which is a sub-genre I’ve never much cared for, but during the second half of the film, the larger focus seems to be on the pandemic spreading across Montreal, and the horrors it brings (armed guards standing around the mall, innumerable garbage trucks to pick up dead bodies, people forced to wear Ids identifying them as getting a preventative vaccine), and it just hits harder given that I’m writing this in October of 2020, with COVID still very much a concern to most people.

This movie isn’t at all perfect, but for a Cronernberg movie, I enjoyed it far more than I’d have expected, and it’s definitely worth checking out if you’ve not already.

7.5/10

The Mummy (1959)

Directed by Terence Fisher [Other horror films: Three’s Company (1953, episodes ‘The Surgeon’ & ‘ Take a Number’), The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Dracula (1958), The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959), The Stranglers of Bombay (1959), The Brides of Dracula (1960), The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960), The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), The Phantom of the Opera (1962), The Horror of It All (1964), The Gorgon (1964), The Earth Dies Screaming (1964), Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), Island of Terror (1966), Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), Night of the Big Heat (1967), The Devil Rides Out (1968), Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)]

Confession time – I’m a big fan of Universal horror films, and in fact, it’s probably the fact that I was largely raised on movies like Dracula, Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Invisible Man that I’m a horror fan today, and a lover still of the Universal classics.

I never could get into the Mummy, though, and to this day, I don’t know if I can honestly say I’ve sat through the whole thing without losing either my focus or consciousness.

Luckily, Hammer came around 20-some years later and gave us a new version, and it’s one I’ve seen a couple of times now and find quite a bit more palatable. Now, to be fair to the 1932 version, I don’t think there are any scenes in Hammer’s rendition that are near as classic or memorable as the opening to Universal’s story (the ‘he went for a little walk’ scene, with that slow, dragging hand, always kicked things into gears that just couldn’t be sustained), but overall, I find the Hammer version an easier movie to get into and enjoy.

Definitely the cast has to do with that. Peter Cushing is one of my favorite classic horror actors (Vincent Price is preferred, but Cushing is a close second), having starred in some damn fantastic movies such as Horror Express, Dracula (1958), The Flesh and the Fiends, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Hound of the Baskerville, and The Abominable Snowman, and he’s no less great here. I love how, despite his character’s leg injury, he’s able to get some decent action in toward the end, and his back-and-forth with George Pastell’s character near the conclusion was top-notch stuff.

Pastell isn’t an actor I’m widely familiar with, but I really liked him here. Obviously, Christopher Lee played the titular Mummy (doing so much like how Karloff played Frankenstein’s Monster in the 1931 classic), and while his more muscular design wasn’t quite as good, or as classic, as the original version, I loved how he just burst through doors and went to town on people. Definitely a quicker-moving and more action-packed mummy, and I can’t complain about that.

Some aspects, or perhaps better said, the only aspect of Yvonne Furneaux’s character seemed to come in a bit late into the story, and it felt somewhat cliché (and in fact, it was done before in previous Universal Mummy movies), but it still led to some quality scenes. Eddie Byrne was solid too as an inspector who was actually open to the possibility of a mummy walking around and committing murders, so kudos to him.

There is a 13-minute flashback about halfway through the film that does drag a little (most of this is the history of the mummy and Egyptian stuff that you can find in every mummy horror film), mostly during the funeral procession lineup, but it’s the only time in the film we can really see Christopher Lee outside the decaying bandages, so it comes with it’s pros.

Being a Hammer film, the color here does help bring the film more to life, and the film, at least to me, rarely feels as dry as my experiences with the 1932 version. After seeing this twice, I still enjoy it, and while it’s not quite as good as Hammer’s Curse of Frankenstein or Horror of Dracula, it is perhaps one of the few Hammer films that, to me, outdoes the original Universal counterpart.

7.5/10

Lost Souls (2000)

Directed by Janusz Kaminski [Other horror films: N/A]

I wasn’t really expecting too much out of this, given what little I knew about the plot (an atheist journalist finds out he’s the Antichrist, essentially), and also given this came out a year after End of Days, another Antichrist-based horror film, so after finishing it, Lost Souls basically went how I thought it would.

Certainly I’ll admit that it’s nice to see Winona Ryder (Beetle Juice and Alien: Resurrection) and John Hurt (Doctor Who and Whistle and I’ll Come to You), both of whom did an okay job, and I didn’t mind the other performances, though Ben Chaplin, despite being most of the focus of the film, never really resonated with me.

That said, the story, while occasionally interesting (the most enjoyable portions being the short time spent with Ryder and Chaplin investigating Chaplin’s origins), felt really rushed at times. I mean, that ending just came and went like zat, as my homegirl Fleur would say (that’s a random Harry Potter reference for all my wizard friends out there). There were some aspects in the story worth delving into (though no matter how hard this tried, it couldn’t beat Damien: Omen II in the Antichrist learning his origins), but that didn’t really happen here, even with the pointless twists thrown in.

Also, I just don’t buy for a second that all of those people at the end knew Chaplin’s character was the Antichrist his whole life and were able to keep it a secret. With that many random people, I don’t care how secure the cult, word would get out.

I feel like this movie was trying to cash in on the whole End of Days and Stigmata trend (Stigmata is a film I started once, but never got around to finishing, on a dull side-note I can pass off as interesting), and while I did like this marginally more than End of Days, maybe solely for Ryder’s presence and maybe that assassination attempt (which was almost tense), it’s not a hell of a lot more than below average.

5.5/10

Isle of the Dead (1945)

Directed by Mark Robson [Other horror films: The Seventh Victim (1943), Bedlam (1946)]

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I started this movie because, in truth, while I knew the title, I didn’t really know anything about it. After seeing it, I can’t say I’m disappointed, as I had few expectations going in, but I can say that it’s not quite the movie I was looking for.

Like some horror films, especially horror films related to Val Lewton (who was one of the writers here), there’s a decent amount of build-up before we get to anything that really feels like actual horror. Hell, the director of this picture, Mark Robson, directed a horror film where it almost never gets to actual horror (being 1943’s The Seventh Victim), which is almost a feat in itself. Certainly this movie picks up with the final twenty minutes or so, and it’s not exactly dull beforehand, but given the talent involved here, I expected a bit more.

Obviously Boris Karloff doesn’t really need an introduction. Among my favorite performances of his is that of The Black Cat (a movie I didn’t love at a whole, but I won’t deny he did great in it), Frankenstein, The Body Snatcher, and Bedlam (which, coincidentally, was also directed by Robson), and he’s pretty good here, as a by-the-book general who might be a bit too brutal. Others here do okay, such as Ernst Deutsch, Marc Cramer, and Ellen Drew, but really, Karloff pretty much commands the screen.

Story-wise, there’s an interesting (and, as I’m writing this in late 2020, time-relevant) plot where a group of people are stuck on an island trying to survive a plague. It leads to the expected tension and increased feeling of being on edge, which might be a bit much for some characters, such as that played by, of course, Boris Karloff. It leads to some quality scenes in which characters argue between science and religion (and of course, this being an older movie, my atheist friends and comrades will be disappointed by the illogical nature of the conversations), but ultimately, it doesn’t really get good until a confluence of events at the end.

The finale itself is no doubt pretty solid, though I’d argue it’s not enough to really warrant watching this one again, at least any time soon. Isle of the Dead isn’t a movie that I could see myself throwing into a favorites pile of classics, but I did certainly appreciate the, for lack of a different word, almost atypical presentation and story, and it may just take some more viewings for it to really grow on me.

6/10

Anaconda (1997)

Directed by Luis Llosa [Other horror films: N/A]

I saw Anaconda once before, but I can’t pretend I know exactly how long it’s been. I’d estimate somewhere between ten to 15 years. All I know is that while I knew the plot outline, none of this really rang any bells. And I have to say, in another ten years, I can imagine the same plight falling upon me, as Anaconda doesn’t strike me as being that memorable a film.

Certainly the cast was decently strong. I couldn’t stand Jon Voight here, personally, as it just seemed so obvious from the get-go that he wasn’t exactly trustworthy (and the fact that another individual got stung by a wasp underwater apparently didn’t make anyone any more suspicious of him somehow). I didn’t care for his character, and I just don’t think it worked with the movie (not that the movie works that well on it’s own).

Otherwise, though, the cast is strong. I don’t really know Jennifer Lopez (I recognize the name because it’s a recognizable name, I’m guessing), but I’ve literally not seen her in anything else. She does decent here, but she doesn’t blow me away. A bit better, believe it or not, is Ice Cube, though he’s still not great. I think my favorite performance here was that of Jonathan Hyde, and it’s probably not even because he was exceptionally good, but more due to the fact that I know him from films such as Titanic and Jumanji. I enjoy his character here, no doubt, but I can’t pretend he’s all that important for most of the movie.

Not that it really matters. I was surprised in some ways by just how blah a lot of this movie was. I mean, hell, even the snake looked a lot worse than I ever would have thought it would. Plenty of giant snake films followed this one, such as King Cobra and Python, and I gotta be honest with you guys, I think both of those films had more heart. Sure, the snake here looks better than either of those two films, but this movie had Jennifer Lopez and Jon Voight in it – if the snake didn’t look better, then what the hell are they doing?

Much of the story didn’t really interest me, and while I did like pieces of the setting and some of the musical score throughout the film, more often than not I just wish it were a lot more fun (which is a problem that, as low budget as it was, Python had no problem delivering on). Oh, and Jon Voight’s character winked after being regurgitated by a snake, so that happened. Just an unremarkable experience, and ultimately a shame.

5/10

An American Haunting (2005)

Directed by Courtney Solomon [Other horror films: N/A]

I’m somewhat of two minds about this one. I certainly like some of the scenes in the film, and I don’t object to that much of the movie, but the finale didn’t really feel right to me, and the ending scene itself struck me as just overly dramatic (here’s a hint: instead of screaming at a moving car, just call the police to stop the car. It’ll probably work better, at least if you’re white).

Before I go further, I should explain that there are two versions of this film, a PG-13 version and an unrated version. I didn’t know this before hand, but thankfully, it turns out I watched the unrated version, which was about eight minutes longer. I saw this film once before, and I can’t recall if what I watched then was also the unrated version, or perhaps the PG-13 version, but either way, what I thought about the movie the first time around is about what I think this time around.

I don’t hold it against the film for looking for an explanation that might be a little more memorable than your average supernatural movie, but I have to say, even with the tiny hints and clues that something else was afoot, it felt, at least to me, that the ending came out of nowhere. Also, while I believe that the victim of such a circumstance might be forced to forget about the incident, others who happen to just walk into such a situation strike me as not being able to forget so quickly. It just felt odd, especially when it seems that the entity, whatever it was, set out to harm and persistently bother both Donald Sutherland’s and Rachel Hurd-Wood’s characters.

Some years ago, I watched a Japanese film known as Tales of Terror: Haunted Apartment, and it was mostly a decent little Asian horror film. That was, until the ending, which threw in a plot twist that, as far as I could tell, was basically never hinted at once throughout the previous hour and a half, and it just felt like it was thrown in to shock people. Here, there are hints given, but I don’t know if they’re too subtle or maybe not given enough, but it just didn’t really feel like an earned finale to me.

I’ve only seen Sutherland in a handful of movies (the most recent ones being the 2004 Salem’s Lot mini-series and the 2003 remake of The Italian Job), but I think he’s pretty okay here. I think that if the story had been changed up a little, his character could have been a lot better, but hey, he’s still a good actor. Rachel Hurd-Wood is solid too, though she doesn’t necessarily have a high amount of personal agency in the movie. Sissy Spacek (most famous now and forever for Carrie) was fine here, as was James D’Arcy (who played Jarvis in the ill-fated Agent Carter series), but neither one blew the top off the house.

Many of the haunting scenes themselves are decent, though few are stellar. Much of it is the being-held-down-by-an-unseen-entity variety, but that carriage scene was pretty solid from beginning to end. Also, I think Hurd-Wood’s interactions with the spirit at school were all enjoyable, though I wish the spirit had done more to help her than to terrify her, but then again, who am I to criticize how a spirit operates?

Once all is said and done, and we get past that ending which still feels off, An American Haunting is an okay movie, and certainly more well-made than some other versions of the story (such as the low-budget 2004 Bell Witch Haunting), but I don’t think there’s enough here for me to call it a good movie, even with the unrated version at my disposal, and overall, while I think there’s some good things here, ultimately it’s below average.

6/10