Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Directed by Charles E. Sellier Jr. [Other horror films: N/A]

So I first saw this cult classic under in a less-than-suitable way (I sandwiched it in during a day when I watched eight other movies), so it didn’t make much of an impact the first time I actually saw this, so watching it again was something that I was quite excited for, and overall, while I do find a few issues here and there, I generally found the movie pretty enjoyable.

What really stands out, as far as the opening is concerned, is the amount of time spent on Billy’s character as a kid, playing out almost like a character study. It does make some of the beginning feel a tad sluggish, but it’s not that bad, and things pick up nicely when Billy, now 18, gets a job at a toy store, just in time for the holidays.

Which leads to my all-time favorite montage ever in a movie. I mean, if Jesus Christ and Muhammad worked together with Buddha and The Beatles, they couldn’t have come up with a montage as beautiful as this. The focus is Billy’s hard work, both on and off the clock (and his boss’ smile and nod as Billy straightens that book cracked me up to no end), and set to a song called ‘The Warm Side of the Door’ by Morgan Ames. It’s truly magical.

Robert Brian Wilson did pretty decently as the lead, despite never really doing much else before or after. He had a good sense of foreboding that I appreciated, and when he went off the deep end, he went off the deep end. Though she didn’t add as much as you might hope, Toni Nero was good, though her character does bother me a bit toward her final scenes. Ditto Randy Stumpf, only I never cared for his character.

Aside from Wilson, the second-most important performance might well be Lilyan Chauvin (as Mother Superior), who was a solid showcase of the dangers of religious extremism. Superior was literally a horrible woman, and she consistently abused those children, so it’s a shame that she may have survived the film. Admittedly, Linnea Quigley (Return of the Living Dead and Night of the Demons being among her most important work) supplied the film with quality nudity, so her character may well be more important than Chauvin’s.

For the most part, though, Wilson is the focus. Sure, we get a little Gilmer McCormick trying to find and help Billy, and related, some H.E.D. Redford trying to track Billy down, but we pretty much follow Billy as he kills random people on a rampage, which is good and all, but it does occasionally feel as though it’s lacking a personal touch.

I think it’s here that the movie fails a bit, as much of Billy’s killing spree lacks that personal touch that you might expect. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the kills themselves are still decent, but it almost feels hollow at times, which surprised me, if only because that’s not a common feeling I get from the average slasher film (though as said, to be sure, this is far from the average slasher in approach).

Still, that ending. It was both sort of ridiculous and ridiculously funny, so I can’t really complain. Also, on the finale, the fact that it took place during the daytime as opposed to night was an interesting choice, showing again that this movie isn’t the most typical slasher.

I can’t say with honesty that I loved Silent Night, Deadly Night, but I did have a moderately decent time once we got past the somewhat involved opening. It’s not necessarily a movie that I think I’d go back to that often, but there’s certainly a place for it, and for me, that place is probably around average.

7/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. If you’re interested in hearing Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this cult classic, look no further.

Demented (1980)

Directed by Arthur Jeffreys [Other horror films: N/A]

I didn’t really know anything about this before jumping into it, and in fact I described it to my rabid Twitter followers as a “rape-revenge” film, which Demented really isn’t. I don’t know if Demented is a terrible movie, but it’s definitely a film I have mixed feelings on.

Firstly, the rape takes place a minute and a half into the film, and luckily, it’s not too explicit. I Spit on Your Grave didn’t spare the audience anything, but this one is done and over with in about a minute, which I was definitely okay with. What I was less than thrilled about was the drama that followed.

Not that it’s the worst idea in the world, following a woman who suffered a gang-rape after she’s released from a psychiatric hospital, and it’s not without a few “scary” moments (those hallucinations and night prowlers), but I wasn’t exactly excited by the content, and though I was still marginally invested, I can’t say that I wasn’t bored at times.

Things really pick up toward the final thirty minutes once the woman, for lack of a better word, snaps, and started going after some night prowlers as though they were the men who raped her (as she’s insane at the time, and more so, has every right to defend herself in her own home, I can’t say that I once felt any sympathy for any of these assholes). We get some good scenes, and the acting strikes me as better. I just wish they had gone a different direction, but whateves.

Sallee Young takes on a complex role and does fine. I think her performance is definitely shaky at points, almost laughably so, but after her character is gang-raped, who’s to say how she should act, and I can’t hold any of it against her. Playing her husband, Harry Reems (who was in the unpleasantly hairy Forced Entry) was fine as a very assholeish guy, cheating on his wife with Kathryn Clayton’s character. I did legitimately enjoy Bryan Charles’ doctor character, but he didn’t have any screen-time toward the end, which was a shame.

Demented isn’t a film I liked, but I do think that it got better toward the end, which certainly still possesses it’s fair share of somewhat silly, if not downright offensive, scenes of Young’s character turning the tables on her would-be rapists and seducing them, to their confusion. She even ties one down and has a lengthy, rather distracted and manic conversation with, much to the young man’s displeasure.

Before that point, though, I think the film bordered on boring for a pretty long time, and though I enjoyed aspects of the conclusion, I don’t know if it warrants the first hour of the film, and so I’d say that if you want to see a slightly different take on rape/revenge, Demented might be worth considering, but I don’t think this will ever top anyone’s list.

5.5/10

A Stranger Is Watching (1982)

Directed by Sean S. Cunningham [Other horror films: Case of the Full Moon Murder (1973), Friday the 13th (1980), The New Kids (1985), DeepStar Six (1989), XCU: Extreme Close Up (2001), Trapped Ashes (2006, segment ‘Jibaku’)]

Perhaps most-known (when it’s known at all) for being directed by Sean S. Cunningham (DeepStar Six and more famously Friday the 13th), A Stranger Is Watching isn’t the easiest movie to categorize. It’s primarily crime, but certainly strong slasher elements persist, and while the film doesn’t end up a great movie, there’s enough here to at least recommend a single watch.

It should be said that this film is not your traditional horror movie. I think that some people see it’s directed by Cunningham, and get the idea that it’ll be another 80’s slasher. And let’s not be coy – when I say ‘people,’ I mean myself. It’s based on a novel by Mary Higgins Clark from 1977, though, and as someone who’s read a little bit of her work, once you realize it’s based on a novel, you’ll know it’s probably more influenced by mystery/crime.

Rip Torn (Dolly Dearest and Coma) did pretty great as the rather mentally-unstable killer here. He had that grimy style (which was certainly accentuated by the fantastic setting, which I’ll touch on shortly) that you have to appreciate, and a good sense of violence. This is a somewhat early role for Kate Mulgrew (who I don’t know, but see starred in Star Trek: Voyager, for any Trekkies who happen to be reading), and I thought she did a solid job, and her opposition to the death penalty was acceptable also.

And it’s on that topic I wanted to take a few moments. Part of this film deals with a potentially innocent man being sent to death based on a single witness, and I think that points out just how atrocious the death penalty is. Aside from being barbaric for a state to sentence someone to death, the very idea that an innocent person could be killed because they’re poor (because let’s be honest – how many wealthy men and women have been put to death in the USA?) shows what a terrible policy it is. Unfortunately, it’s a terrible policy that has always had over 50% approval in recent decades, which is just ridiculous.

I don’t know what Cunningham was aiming for specifically when he threw in this plot point about the death penalty (and it’s possible it’s a point straight from the novel), and it may be that he shared some of the same reservations as I do, but regardless, it did bring in a more realistic and socially-relevant subject into the film, which I appreciated.

What I also appreciated was the fact this movie wasn’t quite typical, as I mentioned earlier. As stated, while certainly horror, quite a bit of this felt like a crime film, a beautifully gritty one, at that. Once two of the characters are abducted, there’s a few sequences of them trying to escape, and while occasionally horror elements find their way into these scenes, it mostly feels more suspenseful with, of course, a dash of crime.

A Stranger Is Watching wasn’t a bad watch. I didn’t really know what to expect, but it wasn’t bad. At the same time, I can understand why I don’t really hear too much about this one, and if it had been more of a straight horror film as opposed to a crime film with strong horror elements, that may not have been the case. Still, it’s not bad if you want something a little different, or want to see what Cunningham was up to following the massively popular Friday the 13th.

7.5/10

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

Blood Harvest (1987)

Directed by Bill Rebane [Other horror films: Monster a Go-Go (1965), Invasion from Inner Earth (1974), The Giant Spider Invasion (1975), The Alpha Incident (1978), The Capture of Bigfoot (1979), Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake (1980), The Demons of Ludlow (1983), The Game (1984)]

It’s been some years since I’ve last seen this one, and though I enjoyed the film the first time around, I’d be lying if I said that I remembered a lot about it, because I didn’t. Aside from Tiny Tim’s presence and a few scenes revolving around him, I went into this without too many memories, which probably helped a bit with the enjoyment factor.

Obviously Blood Harvest is far from perfect, and it may ultimately wind up around average, if not below, but Tiny Tim (who is a singer most known for his falsetto voice and such hits as “Livin’ in the Sunlight, Lovin’ in the Moonlight” and “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”) gives a fantastically emotional performance as he plays a mentally-handicapped man who recently lost his parents and is deeply struggling with it. Some of his antics might seem a bit much, but from the scene of him singing and sobbing in the church, I was hooked. An odd, but great, performance.

Aside from Tiny Tim, though, much of the movie comes across as a bit pedestrian. They throw in some occasionally interesting elements, such as the local farmers being unhappy with someone due to the bank’s recent foreclosures, so much so they vandalize the house of the bank’s spokesperson, and certainly there were creepy moments when someone drugged the main character, played by Itonia Salchek, and then stripped her naked to take pictures of her, because that’s the type of stand-up guys we need in the world.

As far as Salchek goes, this was her sole movie, and amusingly, her IMDb profile states that, to this day, “people are still trying to find or find out what happened to her.” I don’t know if it’s as serious as all that (the profile also says that after filming this movie, she either “disappeared or died” which seems dramatic to me). Regardless of what happened with her, Salchek gives a decent performance, and is no stranger to providing some quality nudity, so kudos for that.

I’ve already mentioned that Tiny Tim is the best performance here, but I’ll reiterate that I really felt an emotional punch at times throughout the movie due to him. He may look silly with clown make-up on, and his “Gary and Jill went up the hill” song that pops up here and there, but what a performance. The sheriff, played by Frank Benson, was occasionally amusing, and while Lori Minnetti (who was also in the odd 1984 film The Game, or The Cold) didn’t add a lot, I did like her appearances on-screen. Dean West didn’t really leave an impression either way.

None of the kills here are stellar, but I do sort of enjoy that oppressive mystery that surrounds Itonia Salchek’s Jill – she gets back home, but her parents are missing, and with no way to contact them, she’s just sort of lost. What’s even creepier is that some of the action is taking place at a barn pretty close to home, and yet she’s not aware of it. The violence here was certainly okay, but I think the mystery is probably the moderately more interesting aspect (aside from the fact that most of the red herrings fail pretty miserably).

Sometimes it can feel like not that much is happening, though, and in that aspect, I think Blood Harvest fails to fully engage the audience (which is a bit of a shame, because the director Bill Rebane also directed The Demons of Ludlow, from 1983, which, despite it’s current 3.4/10 rating on IMDb, is a pretty fun movie), and though the movie is by no means long, I do think it drags at parts.

None of this is to say the movie is bad. For a late 80’s slasher, it can provide an okay time, and though there are plenty of others I’d prefer to watch, such as Iced, Moonstalker, or Intruder, I could see myself watching this one again, even though I find it a little lacking.

6.5/10

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

The Burning (1981)

Directed by Tony Maylam [Other horror films: The Sins of Dorian Gray (1983), Split Second (1992)]

For a long time, this has often been one of the first slashers I recommend when asked by someone who doesn’t have a background in 80’s classics, as I’ve always found The Burning a very solid film. I still do, and though it may not be spectacular, it’s very much worth a look.

It has that classic slasher feel that fans of 80’s horror would love – a pretty solid opening origin, memorable special effects (that raft scene is the most referenced sequence in this film for a reason), and a pretty good antagonist in Cropsy (and Cropsy’s choice of weapon – garden shears – was inspired).

To an extent, I do think many performances are of the more forgettable variety. True, Dave (Jason Alexander, known mostly for a long-running role on Seinfeld) was pretty solid, defending both Alfred (Brian Backer) and Woodstock (Fisher Stevens) on multiple occasions. Glazer (Larry Joshua) definitely feels like a dickish bully (I love how he tries to drown Alfred, and flaunts it to the girls on the raft), and Alfred (who amusingly reminds me of a younger David Krumholtz) is okay in his own awkward way, but everyone else is either undercooked or merely average.

Admittedly, I did like Todd (Brian Matthews), but I don’t know if he stands out that well, and it’s the same with a lot of the women, such as Michelle (Leah Ayres), Karen (Carolyn Houlihan, who graces us with one of the few nude scenes in the film). I wish I could have liked Eddy (Ned Eisenberg) a bit more, and I wish we had more scenes with Tiger (Shelley Bruce) and Sally (Carrick Glenn, who gave us a quick nude shower scene), so there was some room for improvement.

The raft scene in the film is great, with quality tensions and fantastic special effects, with fingers being cut off and the like. It’s easy to see why it stands out – while the other kills are decent, Cropsy’s massacre of five, what with the cinematography, was glorious (and of course, a lot of credit also goes to Tom Savini). This said, the ax to the face at the end is quite good also.

It might also go without saying, but the music – a sort of funky electronic style that wouldn’t feel out of place in an Italian film – is on point, especially during the opening credits.

As far as camp-based slashers, The Burning doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any means. I always enjoyed it more than Madman, but it doesn’t have the same pull as many of the Friday the 13th films. Still, it’s a solidly-made slasher that hits many of the right spots, and is definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan of classic slasher films.

7.5/10

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

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

Directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard [Other horror films: After Darkness (1985), Night Angel (1990), Omen IV: The Awakening (1991), The Hospice (1991)]

For the longest time, I thought of this entry as when the Halloween series started going downhill. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers is still an okay movie, and due to a combination of performances and nostalgia, I still sort of like it, but it’s nowhere near as good as any of the previous four films.

I’ve never cared for what they did to some of the characters here. How they deal with Loomis, I can understand – desperation can do odd things. It’s more how they deal with Rachel. I think they could have gotten a lot more out of her, but alas, she’s not in the movie that long, and it doesn’t end with much fanfare. Tina is a nice addition (though I probably would have preferred it if they brought back Leslie L. Rohland’s Lindsey), but like Rachel, she’s not given that much plot to really deal with either.

Regardless of that, I do think the movie moves at a decently brisk pace, and most of it is painless. The mental connection that Jamie has with her uncle, Myers, is a bit odd, as is that tattoo that pops up on Michael’s arm out of nowhere, not to mention the guy in a black coat and steel-tipped boots, but all of that is just set-up for the next film, and doesn’t really matter as far as this one is concerned.

Actually, when I was a kid, I remembered always liking the mystery guy in the steel-tipped shoes. I probably didn’t catch back then that he had a matching tattoo with Michael Myers, but I dug how he just popped up a few random times, and then participated in the surprising finale. Given that nothing is explained here – luckily, the word “Thorn” never comes up – I can see it turning people off, but at least it theoretically gets the audience pumped for the following film.

Donald Pleasence as Loomis is great here. He’s a bit controlling at times, and the way he handles Jamie used to bother me, but after seeing this multiple times, I get that he’s really trying hard to finish this whole thing. Danielle Harris is non-verbal for the first portion of the film, but she does just as well as ever, and during the finale at the Myers’ house, her performance was great.

Other returning faces make less of an impact, such as Beau Starr (Sheriff Meeker) and Ellie Cornell (Rachel). It’s nice to see both of them back, but neither one really does all that much, which is disappointing. Wendy Foxworth (Tina) made for a nice new character, and I love how close she is with Jamie, but she doesn’t really last that long. Other performances worth mentioning include Betty Carvalho and Troy Evans.

Being a Halloween movie, none of the kills are particularly gory, but most of them are pretty fun, such as stabbing a guy with a pitchfork or throwing a guy out of a window to hang. I think the best kill was Myers using a gardening tool (I think it’s called a cultivator, or something like that) and just fucking someone up. What was particularly funny about that scene is that he scraped the guy’s car beforehand, just to piss him off. Good times.

The ending being what it is, Halloween 5 has always felt rather mixed to me. I think the movie goes pretty quickly, and it can be fun to watch, but when you compare it to the previous films in the series, it’s definitely nowhere near as strong. I struggled a bit with the rating, and I don’t really know if the film is above average, but I think it’s close enough that I can be generous. It’s not a bad movie, but if you have access to The Return of Michael Myers, I don’t really know why anyone would watch this instead.

7.5/10

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Directed by Dwight H. Little [Other horror films: The Phantom of the Opera (1989), Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (2004)]

Giving us the first Myers since Halloween II, I always personally found this movie a lot of fun. God knows I watched it a lot when I was a kid on AMC, and it’s not impossible that I even saw this movie before I laid eyes on the first. Because of this nostalgia, let’s just admit that the movie’s almost perfect.

I mean, it’s not perfect, but honestly, what is there to really dislike about this one? I find the atmosphere of the finest quality, a good example being the opening, which showcases Halloween decorations in rural farmland. There’s something quite creepy about it, and it just seems a fantastic way to open the film, and always struck me as somewhat unique.

Another of my favorite portions of the film would be when the group tries to protect Jamie from Myers, and shut themselves in the Sheriff’s house, and so you have Jaime, Rachel, the Sheriff, the Sheriff’s daughter, Loomis, Deputy Logan, and Brady all there. One-by-one, though they’re locked in tight, they get picked off (and that battery-powered radio in the dark of the basement was creepy in of itself) slowly. It’s just a great sequence, and I also loved it.

Though focusing on Myers’ niece, Jamie (played by Danielle Harris) keeps some of that family element, it’s fair to say I think I liked the cast of the first Halloween more. That said, I think most of the central performances here, including Danielle Harris, bring a lot to the table.

I’m not usually fond of most performances from children, but I think Danielle Harris was fantastic. She has a strong emotional range, and it’s just impressive, especially as the movie carries on. Ellie Cornell was strong too, and worked well and believably with Harris. Beau Starr is no Charles Cyphers, but he makes for an okay sheriff. Michael Pataki (who I’ve recently seen in Graduation Day) was nice to see for his scenes, Kathleen Kinmont and Sasha Jenson make for okay side characters, and George Sullivan looked great sitting in a chair in the dark.

Of course, one of my favorite performances is that of Donald Pleasence. It’s in this movie that he gives one of my favorite quotes (calling Myers “evil on two legs”), and I love every time he’s on screen, from his certainty at the ambulance crash site that Michael escaped to the gas station to his conversation with the drunk religious guy to his approaching the Haddonfield police, asking for Brackett. He’s just such an engaging character, no matter what Pataki’s character might have to say about him.

Another thing I rather enjoy about the film are the kills. None of them are particularly gory (save maybe one toward the end when someone gets their throat ripped open), but they’re all well done, from someone being stabbed through the gut with a shotgun to heads being crushed. There’s solid suspense here, such as the opening dream of Jamie’s to the scene in the general store (itself another favorite scene of mine), and that’s to be commended.

Something about Halloween 4 also works in it’s favor, but it’s hard to put into words. The general store scene I mentioned above is part of it, another being Rachel looking for Jamie on the dark empty streets. That is a strong sequence – she briefly sees Myers, but gets away by climbing over fences and cutting through backyards – before she finds Jamie. Then the sheriff and Loomis find the pair before escaping a bunch of fake Myers and the real one.

It’s almost a sense of closeness, which isn’t quite right. I’m reminded of The Prowler, where I got a similar feeling. Some of the action took place only blocks away from a major party, and yet it was a private affair. You know there were people in their houses when Jamie and Rachel were both screaming for each other, and yet it was like they were the only ones in existence. It just gives the film a vibe I can’t quite explain, and I love it.

The ending of this one (and in fact, the main background of the next couple of movies, being the Curse of Thorn) might be a bit atypical, but I personally dug the final scene. It’s foreshadowed a few times, and I never had an issue with it, especially since Loomis loses it and goes for his gun, screaming “NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!” I mean, in my mind, that’s how you end a movie. It’s nowhere near as good as the first movie’s conclusion, but it’s still worth it.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved this movie. I love the vibe, the story, many of the characters, the opening rural Halloween decorations, the gas station sequence (which always reminded me of another favorite from childhood, being Children of the Corn) – this movie is one that I can’t say no to. I always have fun with it, and it’s a solid addition to the series.

9/10

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace [Other horror films: Fright Night Part 2 (1988), It (1990), Danger Island (1992), Vampires: Los Muertos (2002)]

There seems to primarily be two vocal camps about this film – one camp finds it a pretty enjoyable film, the other camp despises it for multiple reasons (from no Michael Myers to a silly story). Far be it for me to say that film is perfect, as it’s not, but I find myself firmly in the first camp, and Season of the Witch is a definite favorite of mine when it comes to Halloween-themed movies.

Plenty of reasons exist for this. I find the cast pretty solid, the story (though somewhat undercooked at certain parts) intriguing, the mystery and setting pretty fun, and that finale is literally excellent in every way.

Tom Atkins (of The Fog and Night of the Creeps) isn’t the most likable lead I’ve ever seen in a movie, but he does a good job at coming across as your every-day average man. Stacey Nelkin was cute in her role, and sort of fun, but ultimately not all that crucial. I think that Dan O’Herlihy was great, though, in his role of Cochran, and I sort of loved how Santa Mira treated him as a God – it made his character even more fun.

While the special effects were occasionally questionable, I do think the effect of the masks, what with the insects and snakes, is damn terrifying, and that first test sequence is fantastic, and given the conclusion of the film, you can only wonder exactly how many more slithery bois are now exploring their new lands. Also, while sort of hokey, I liked the electrical storm those computer chips caused near the finale.

The detective work that Atkins and Nelkin do isn’t anything special, but it was fun, if not a bit obvious. Their connection was never really the deepest, but watching them sleuth around a company-ran town, complete with over-surveillance and patrols, not to mention a curfew, really possessed a quality aura.

And as I said, I find the ending spectacular. While the whole android thing was 50/50 (I sort of like how it was partially down-played, and not necessarily obvious at first), the final couple of minutes was amazing. I loved the shots of children trick ‘r treating about an hour and ten minutes in (showing just how wide-spread Silver Shamrock’s reach is, along with showing that they even have vans with loudspeakers reminding kids to get home), and in particular, that Phoenix, Arizona shot, with the silhouettes, just looks amazing.

Silver Shamrock’s commercials have an incredibly catchy jingle, even catchier than The Stuff’s (Can’t get enough OF THE STUFF!), and I just love their brand. I’m not so sure of the pagan rituals and ancient Celtic rites, but with a jingle that catchy, how could they be wrong?

I get it – there’s no Michael Myers in the movie, and this is definitely not a slasher. As a huge fan of the first two movies, I can understand the disappointment. Still, I think this movie has a lot going for it, and were it not connected to the Halloween series, a big part of me says that this would be a bit more respected (though I am seeing more positive views nowadays than I did even five years ago, so it’s a start).

Halloween III: Season of the Witch is not flawless, but it is fantastic in many ways, and I utterly adore it and all of it’s Celtic, pagan joy.

8.5/10

Ghost Story (1981)

Directed by John Irvin [Other horror films: Haunted: The Ferryman (1974), Dot.Kill (2005)]

I have to admit that I wish I liked this one more than I do. I’ve seen it once before, but didn’t remember too much about it aside from the general idea and a few scenes. And damn it, just that alone was enough for me to consider the movie good, but after seeing it with fresh eyes and keeping my expectations in check, I need to be honest and admit that I think Ghost Story had potential but ultimately faltered.

The cast is stellar here, my favorites being the old-timers in the Chowder Society, being Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and John Houseman. I don’t particularly know any of these actors well (Melvyn Douglas being the potential exception, as I’ve seen him in The Old Dark House, The Vampire Bat, and The Changeling), but I think they work fantastically off each other. They strike me as life-long friends, and to quote Icona Pop, “I love it.”

Elsewise, we have Craig Wasson and Alice Krige. Wasson, of course, was Neil in Dream Warriors (he looks different enough here that if you didn’t catch on to this fact, I wouldn’t blame you), and he was certainly decent in that film, but here, he doesn’t really make a huge impression (even during his extended flashback). As for Krige, I definitely dug her character in the flashback (along with feeling rather bad for her), but for most of the film, she doesn’t especially overwhelm with personality.

I think many of the film’s better scenes take place during the Chowder Society flashback in the latter half of the film, and much of what came before felt somewhat plodding, especially Wasson’s flashback, little of which really interested me (and there wasn’t much of an ommpf at the end to even make the sequence worth it). I mean, the location was great – a small, New England town enshrouded in snowfall – but the story, while occasionally atmospheric, just fell flat, and the whole subplot with the escaped asylum patients didn’t do a thing for me.

Certainly I respect the way they decided to tell the story here, what with multiple flashbacks with some tense scenes in-between during the present-day, but I can’t help but think that if we had seen a bit more of the younger Chowder Society (Ken Olin, Kurt Johnson, Tim Choate, and Mark Chamberlin), things would have maybe smoothed out a bit (not that any of those four are near as good as their older counterparts, but those sequences were still enjoyable and, near the ending, tragic). That said, it still made for a fine idea, it’s just the execution felt a bit weak.

And alas, I think that could really be said for the whole of the film. I wish I could enjoy the film more than I do, but it just runs on too long with too little content of interest, and ultimately, I think Ghost Story, while it has some strong points, ultimately ends up only of moderate interest.

6/10

Opera (1987)

Directed by Dario Argento [Other horror films: L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo (1970), Il gatto a nove code (1971), 4 mosche di velluto grigio (1971), Profondo rosso (1975), Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980), Tenebre (1982), Phenomena (1985), Due occhi diabolici (1990, segment ‘The Black Cat’), Trauma (1993), La sindrome di Stendhal (1996), Il fantasma dell’opera (1998), Non ho sonno (2001), Il cartaio (2003), Ti piace Hitchcock? (2005), La terza madre (2007), Giallo (2009), Dracula 3D (2012), Occhiali neri (2022)]

Sometimes considered one of the last great Argento films, Opera is a movie that I’ve long been aware of, and given my love of some of his previous work, a movie I’ve wanted to see for some time, and overall, while I thought a few changes here and there might have worked, I found the film quite solid.

A big part of this would be the gore and quality special effects throughout the film, and there are some really spectacular scenes here. Perhaps the most remarkable would be the slow-motion headshot sequence, in which a bullet exits the gun, shoots through the peep-hole, and, as one can imagine, pierces a poor soul in the head. Also quite solid is a kill with a knife through the jar, and a woman forced to watch lest she lose her eyebrows via needles taped near her eyes (as the poster demonstrates).

For a late 80’s giallo, over ten years since the heyday of the sub-genre, Opera did a pretty good job as far as the gore goes. The mystery isn’t quite great, but you’re left wondering who exactly is committing the crimes, the answer for which isn’t entirely satisfactory, but the showdown between the mysterious killer and Cristina Marsillach is pretty solid. I don’t love the final scene – I can see why some wanted it removed for the US release – but that’s not too much a deterrent.

Cristina Marsillach isn’t the best lead I’ve seen, because her character (and this isn’t just her – this could be applied to multiple characters throughout the movie) made her fair share of somewhat questionable decisions. Ian Charleson was a character I wanted to like more, as he struck me as potentially interesting, but I felt he wasn’t entirely fleshed out.

In fact, I think this is a complaint I have with most of the characters, so not only do many of them make some foolish decisions (Marsillach not going to the police after witnessing the murder, or Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni not getting help for Marsillach as soon as she saw her in the glass, etc.), but they make those bad decisions while feeling like somewhat shallow characters, and though that didn’t make the film terrible, by any means, I definitely noticed it.

Of course, I did enjoy seeing the occasional Argento addition of odd lighting at times (the two women being trapped in the apartment may have been the best example of that), but the film, as far as stylistic endeavors went, seemed quite a bit more tame than Argento’s previous works. I also could have done without the somewhat jarring heavy metal music during the kills, but I can understand why they’re there.

So though the mystery wasn’t great, and honestly, the characters weren’t great (Urbano Barberini being one of the few shining lights, as far as dim shining lights go), the kills were pretty solid, and I can say that I did enjoy the film. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as Deep Red or even Suspiria.

7.5/10