Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)

Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson [Other horror films: Bones (2001)]

When you have a really fun movie with a really fun cast, you know you’re in for a great time, and that’s entirely what Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight is.

The story here is pretty hokey at times, and a lot of that comes from the utterly over-the-top performance of none other than Billy Zane. His antics here are just hilarious (look at his seduction of Dick Miller (!!!) and tell me they’re not), and though without Zane, the movie still would have had one hell of a cast, he really brings things together as the Collector.

Really, the story starts off quick and from the get-go, it has you invested. Not all is as it seems, and hell breaks loose (almost literally), which was a lot of fun, in part due to the solid special effects, but primarily due to the cast.

Zane was great here, but you also have to give William Sadler a lot of credit. I’ve not really seen him in that many movies (and certainly no starring roles) outside of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, so it really surprised me when I first saw this movie that he can bring it. His character’s story was a bit much, but he sold it, and I liked seeing him form a (grudging) relationship with Jada Pinkett’s character.

Jada Pinkett is an interesting case. When I first saw this movie, she was a no-one to me, but now having been a regular viewer of Gotham (a show which definitely has it’s highs and it’s lows), Jada Pinkett Smith is very much a known quantity, and it’s really cool seeing her as a kick-ass teenager, being bossed around by no other than CCH Pounder (who I know primarily from voicing Amanda Waller on Justice League Unlimited, but she was also decent in Psycho IV: The Beginning).

And saving the best for last, who doesn’t get a kick out of seeing Dick Miller? In most movies (The Howling, Gremlins, Chopping Mall, and Night of the Creeps), he’s delegated to a small, yet amusing, cameo. But here, Miller appears throughout the film, and when he finally does go, he leaves with a smile on his face (again, seeing Zane and Miller in that scene just makes me giddy with happiness). God, I do like Miller, and he’s great here.

Like I said, the story here does have a tendency to be a bit hokey, but coming from a Tales from the Crypt movie, I couldn’t imagine that really being the problem. Hell, even the ending of these movie (the Crypt Keeper in Hollywood) was charming, in it’s over-the-top laughable way. Definitely a movie I’ve enjoyed with each watch, and that will continue until I’m dead.

8.5/10

Pet Sematary II (1992)

Directed by Mary Lambert [Other horror films: Pet Sematary (1989), Strange Frequency (2001), Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005), The Attic (2007), Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (2011)]

I wasn’t a big fan of the first Pet Sematary, nor was I a big fan of the book. But boy, Pet Sematary II is even worse, and I cannot overstate just how much I dislike the direction that this one took.

As far as performances go, it was briefly nice to see Clancy Brown (of The Shawshank Redemption) here, but then his character quickly becomes one of the biggest dicks imaginable. Unfortunately, his character is only utilized in worse ways once he’s brought back to life, but I’ll touch on that atrocity a bit later. Anthony Edwards was somewhat enjoyable here, especially toward the end of the film, but he wasn’t anything special.

The two main kids, Edward Furlong and Jason McGuire, were okay. I sort of liked the bond between the two, but much like Edwards’ performance, I don’t think either one was particularly special. McGuire certainly was at his best, though, with his asshole step-father (Brown’s character).

It’s with Brown’s character that I really started losing interest in the film. Once he’s about to strike his step-son and gets killed, the boys decide to bury him in the burial ground to bring him back, and back he comes. How the wife didn’t notice that her husband was essentially a zombie blows my mind, but really, any scene past Clancy’s death was pretty much coming to unwilling eyes, because the whole “My step-father’s a dangerous zombie, help me,” was just so stupid, and I didn’t care whatsoever.

The whole idea of a son desperately wanting his mother back was touching, and I do think some of the finale was perfectly okay. But boy, I could definitely have done without the other portions, and overall, though I didn’t care for the first movie that much, I found this even harder to swallow.

4/10

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Directed by Robert Rodriguez [Other horror films: The Faculty (1998), Grindhouse (2007, segment ‘Planet Terror’), Planet Terror (2007), Red 11 (2019)]

I’ve seen this a handful of times before, and it’s never been a favorite. I enjoy the first half, with a crime/action feel to it, enough, but I can’t say I much care at all once they hit the Titty Twister.

The cast is pretty superb throughout. George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel (Two Evil Eyes), Juliette Lewis (Kalifornia), a younger Danny Trejo than I’m used to, Tom Savini, Fred Williamson, Ceech Marin, and, for a few seconds, John Saxon. It’s a Robert Rodriguez/Tarantino movie, so the cast is about as good as you’d expect.

As great as the cast can be (and they certainly are in some aspects, looking at Clooney and Keitel’s characters), though, I don’t love the shift into vampire terrority, at least not the way it was done here. It became an all-out rumble with the undead, and that’s not really what I look for when it comes to vampire flicks.

On a slight positive note, the final shot in the film was pretty damn cool. It’d make a quality poster.

As far as special effects go, they were decent. Personally, I didn’t much care for the design of the vampires, but they stood out. There were a lot of solid sequences during the multiple fights, from plenty of gunplay to a decapitation, and the fact that a few of the characters left are ones you felt for helped, but still, the whole action-orientation of those scenes doesn’t endear me.

From Dusk Till Dawn feels special only in that you can tell Tarantino was involved in the script. At times near the beginning, it doesn’t feel dissimilar to Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs, which certainly makes aspects of the first half memorable, but once vampires start coming into the picture, I admit, it loses me.

There are better vampire films from the 1990’s (The Night Flier and Carpenter’s Vampires, for two), and there are certainly better action films, so watching a subpar mix of both doesn’t blow me away. From Dusk Till Dawn is decently popular, and there’s certainly a reason for that, but I’ve never loved this one, nor particularly liked it, and this most recent viewing hasn’t changed that.

6/10

Scream 2 (1997)

Directed by Wes Craven [Other horror films: The Last House on the Left (1972), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Stranger in Our House (1978), Deadly Blessing (1981), Swamp Thing (1982), Invitation to Hell (1984), The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1984), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Chiller (1985), Deadly Friend (1986), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), Shocker (1989), The People Under the Stairs (1991), New Nightmare (1994), Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), Scream (1996), Scream 3 (2000), Cursed (2005), My Soul to Take (2010), Scream 4 (2011)]

I think most people agree that this sequel isn’t anywhere near as good as the first movie, and I concur. I thought Scream 2 started out well, began to move a bit more toward a generic direction, but then bounced back up again toward the last hour. I think there’s some things to really like here, but ultimately, I feel the movie definitely hovers around average.

We have plenty of returning characters, such as Sidney (Neve Campbell), Randy (Jamie Kennedy), Dewey (David Arquette), Gale (Courtney Cox), and Cotton (Liev Schreiber), in a very much expanded role, so we have a great feel of continuity. I do wish that Dewey’s sister, who was killed in the first movie, was mentioned more than once here, but it seems she’s mostly forgotten, which is a shame.

Campbell, of course, does a great job, and Kennedy too did really well, especially during the rather tense phone-call scene. Dewey and Gale were decent, and I did like a rather brutal attack on Dewey near the end, but I’ve never loved Gale’s character, even with her being a bit more understanding. As for Cotton’s return, it makes sense in the context of the story, and I like how the film ends, with Sidney giving him more limelight. Also, on a small note, I liked seeing Omar Epps (most well-known for his long-lasting role on House) in the opening.

The fun thing about Scream 2 is the large amount of potential killers. Up to a point, who couldn’t think that Randy was involved, or Hallie (Elise Neal)? I suspect most people think that Dewey’s in the clear, but Gale, or her camera-man, Joel (Duane Martin), who disappeared at a rather convenient time? Even the drama professor Gus Gold (David Warner of The Omen and Nightwing fame) seemed suspicious, which is where a lot of the fun comes from. Who’s the killer, or are there multiple killers? Let the guessing begin.

As it turns out, I wasn’t overly satisfied with the answer to that question come the end. I understand the thought process behind the killer’s actions, but I just don’t think it’s nearly as memorable as the first movie’s finale was, not by a long-shot, which isn’t really surprising, but it was somewhat disappointing. On a side-note, when the killer first revealed her/himself, I entirely forgot who the character was, which made it lack some punch.

The opening of this film, which takes place during a showing of the movie Stab (which is based off the events of the first Scream) cements this series as one with a particularly meta feeling, from the argument in film class about sequels and their comparison with the originals to the argument that the violence in movies causes people to commit violence in real life (‘The Christian Coalition will pay for my legal fees’). Scream 2 has a great meta feeling going for it, and of course, even one of the characters sprouts off an impressive list of slashers while taunting the killer, such as The House on Sorority Row, The Dorm That Dripped Blood, Splatter University, Graduation Day, and Final Exam. I always love a character that knows his slashers.

Some great sequences are in the film, from the fun opening to the great killing in the middle of the movie, not to mention the tense car scene near the end, nor the enjoyable Ghostface chasing Gale and Dewey in the college. These scenes may not quite be able to match the glory of the first movie, but that scene with Randy might stand up pretty well.

I don’t think Scream 2 is as good as the first, nor is it even that close. You have a few silly scenes, such as that guy singing to Sidney while standing on the lunch tables, but overall, I do think Scream 2 is decent. It’s been so long since I’ve last seen it, by the way, that I actually forgot who the killer ultimately was, so it did make a film a bit more fun as a rewatch than usual. If you enjoyed the first Scream, I think you’d probably enjoy this, but it’s just not near as good.

7/10

Scream (1996)

Directed by Wes Craven [Other horror films: The Last House on the Left (1972), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Stranger in Our House (1978), Deadly Blessing (1981), Swamp Thing (1982), Invitation to Hell (1984), The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1984), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Chiller (1985), Deadly Friend (1986), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), Shocker (1989), The People Under the Stairs (1991), New Nightmare (1994), Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), Scream 2 (1997), Scream 3 (2000), Cursed (2005), My Soul to Take (2010), Scream 4 (2011)]

I won’t say that Scream is a perfect movie, but I will say that it’s close. A deeply enjoyable and meta slasher, Scream did pretty much everything right, and it’s always a blast to see again.

Wes Craven did a fantastic job revitalizing a dying subgenre of horror, being slashers, and brought a very self-aware, dark comedy aspect with it, combining everything to make Scream a pretty unforgettable experience. The cast works, most of the humor works, the plot works, and really, were it not for his previous film, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven could easily have crowned this one his best.

Pretty much all the main performances work here. Neve Campbell, who was only in a few films before this, including The Dark and The Craft, did great as the focal character, one who is both attractive and highly sympathetic. Matthew Lillard, who is generally too goofy for me (check out Thir13en Ghosts), does absolutely brilliant here, and I pretty much love everything about him throughout the film. Others who merit a positive mention include Rose McGowan, David Arquette (like Lillard, pretty much all of Arquette’s scenes were golden), Courtney Cox, Henry Winkler, and Skeet Ulrich (a name I don’t know, but does quite decent here).

The comedy here really adds something to make the film stand out a bit more. Seeing the killer consistently get knocked down by the would-be victim never fails to cause some laughter. It makes the killer seem human, which is something that many slashers before didn’t do, or if they did, they didn’t do it that well.

Scream is a classic, and for good reason. There’s little to dislike about it aside from some of the annoying teenagers, and the mystery and finale are well worth watching.

9/10

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

Arachnophobia (1990)

Directed by Frank Marshall [Other horror films: N/A]

Truthfully, I can’t think of a single thing I dislike about this film.

The cast here is close to flawless. I pretty much like every performance, my favorites being Frances Bay (Happy Gilmore), Henry Jones, Roy Brocksmith, James Handy, Mark L. Taylor (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids), Stuart Pankin, Julian Sands, Harley Jane Kozak, Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom), and of course, John Goodman. Goodman’s character is golden anytime he’s on-screen, and Daniels just does a fantastic job here playing a lead you can definitely feel sympathy for.

With so many great scenes, it’s really impossible to point out where the best portions are, but a scene that always terrified me (and still does today) was the segment in the house when the spiders finally swarm. They crawl on the television, crawl out the vents, crawl out the sink – you name it, the spiders are there. That scene is somewhat hard to watch, but there’s no denying it’s effective.

Also, I want to give a lot of kudos to the twenty minute opening. It’s a fantastically atmospheric opening, what with the rainforests and bugs of all sorts falling from trees. It’s just a great beginning to a film, and sets the tone beautifully in a way that isn’t always common for a lot of movies.

Sometimes when a movie’s good, you can harp on and on about it. I did such with Bedlam, and I’ll likely do so again. But for Arachnophobia, it seems pointless – the cast is great, the story is great, the suspense is great, the music is spectacular, and everything else is great to. Easy top score, and a highlight of the 90’s.

10/10

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

A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell (1990)

Directed by Brett Piper [Other horror films: They Bite (1996), Drainiac! (2000), Psyclops (2002), Arachnia (2003), Screaming Dead (2003), Bite Me! (2004), Shock-O-Rama (2005), Bacterium (2006), Muckman (2009), The Dark Sleep (2012), Queen Crab (2015), Triclops (2016)]

Well, with a title like this, how can the movie go wrong?

The sad thing is, while the film is so far from good, it’s actually a somewhat hard movie for me to hate. I certainly think it carries with it a charm that many other lower-budget films lack entirely, and while I don’t love the very fantasy-feel of the film, I can’t deny that they did well with what they had.

I think that, by far, the worst part of the movie is the introduction, which has our lead Nymphoid Barbarian explaining how the Earth got decimated and why society (or what’s left of society, which is very little) lives on a post-apocalyptic planet. It’s cringy, and doesn’t even make sense, as later in the film, the character (who was a little girl when the war started) has no idea what books or lighters are, which leads me to think she should have been born generations after the Event.

Personally, that’s the biggest flaw I found with the film. It just didn’t seem necessary, and might lead people to the untrue conclusion that A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell has some comedy influences, when it really doesn’t. Sure, the title itself doesn’t help battle against that stigma, but the movie and plot itself is pretty straight, if dodgy effects don’t cause one to burst out laughing.

This said, I actually thought that most of the makeup and special effects ranged from tolerably competent to rather charming, in the case of the Claymation monsters. There was a wide-range of terrible creatures, from scaled lizard men, to dwarf-type things, to giant worms (somewhat reminiscent of Beetlejuice, actually), along with giant crab-type things. They often didn’t look great, but honestly, I sort of liked it, and I enjoyed it far more like this as opposed what many modern movies would do, and just CGI the shit out of everything. A guy getting his arm eaten off was good fun also.

The dialogue wasn’t much to be proud of, but the story came across fine. Linda Corwin didn’t strike me as much a ‘nymphoid,’ but whatever. As the main antagonist, Alex Pirnie did fine, and ditto for Paul Guzzi as Corwin’s side-kick. Perhaps my favorite character was Mark Deshaies, who played a rather bad-ass disfigured man.

Another thing that deserves a small mention are the settings, my favorite being a decent-looking castle which held a distinctly evil aura. It might be fantasy 101, and the same could be said for the somewhat threadbare plot, but it was done well despite the budget.

Like I said, A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell is a hard movie for me to actually hate. I was by no means fond of it when I first saw it some years back, but it’s grown on me. I still don’t think the movie’s that great, and I definitely don’t think it’s a film that I’d rewatch all that often, but I will admit to finding the film, despite it’s problems, a charming little addition to the fantasy/horror genre.

6/10

The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999)

Directed by Katt Shea [Other horror films: Stripped to Kill (1987), Stripped to Kill 2: Live Girls (1989), Dance of the Damned (1989)]

I wasn’t a big fan of the first Carrie, and this sequel follows much in the same vein as the original, but luckily, The Rage: Carrie 2 is undeniably a better film. Okay, that last part is a joke, before I start getting angry messages sent my way, but it is true that I did tend to enjoy this film more than the classic 1976 movie, so take from that what you will.

What stood out first about this film was all the recognizable faces. Few of these characters (save Dylan Bruno’s) are all that important, but it was still nice. Dylan Bruno, as the main antagonist, is an actor I know rather well from the television series Numb3rs, so seeing him much earlier on was interesting (though he definitely didn’t look like a high school student). He did great as a rapist jackass here, which, for some reason, didn’t surprise me.

Zachery Ty Bryan also did well as a jackass rapist, which definitely felt right. Bryan’s not a name that I knew beforehand, but as soon as I saw his face, I thought to myself, ‘Isn’t that Brad from Home Improvement?’ and indeed it was. His character was despicable here, what with being a rapist, so it was an interesting change from how I usually see him. Mena Suvari and Eddie Kaye Thomas appeared together later the same year in American Pie, as Heather and Finch, respectively. Rachel Blanchard was in an indie comedy/drama I liked from 2008 titled Growing Op.

The main two characters (Emily Bergl and Jason London) are completely unknown to me, but both did a pretty fine job. Bergl was possibly too attractive to really emulate Sissy Spacek’s performance, but she still did a memorable job (though I didn’t care for the whole tattoo thing at the end). London was solid throughout, and though he was also probably a rapist, he was one of the few likable characters in the film. Of course, Amy Irving (only individual to come back from the original film) was decent, but honestly, she didn’t amount to much aside giving a reason to show flashbacks from the original.

A big problem I had with the film dealt with the amount of utterly unlikable characters in the film. Like I said, Bergl and Londons’ characters were both good, but many of the characters were either rapists or those who have no problem with rapists (such as the town government, as the movie shows, which isn’t uncommon when the rapist in question is a football player). Seeing many of them get killed was the most fun this movie had to give us, but at the same time, since only unlikable characters were killed, I don’t know if it’s necessarily the best choice.

At times, it’s true that the special effects are somewhat awful (especially during the horrific dream sequence at the end), but I thought they got more right (glasses shattering, the shards flying into the wearer’s eyes) than they did wrong. I somewhat question the black-and-white sequences, as they seemed unnecessary, and the flashbacks to the first movie didn’t feel particularly relevant either.

I’ll say this for The Rage: Carrie 2 – I enjoyed it more than I did the first one. But it’s still not a movie I particularly liked that much. The finale was pretty solid, and perhaps the best sequence of the film (though easily lacking the emotional resonance the first one had), but for much of the film, though I found it more relatable than the first movie, I simply found it passable, not good.

6.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if you’re interested in hearing Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, check it out.

Mimic (1997)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro [Other horror films: Cronos (1993), El espinazo del diablo (2001), Blade II (2002), Crimson Peak (2015)]

In many ways, Mimic’s a late 90’s film that doesn’t get talked about all that much. While the movie in of itself isn’t necessarily amazing, I do think that it has a lot going for it, especially in terms of special effects.

The story was pretty interesting, dealing with a genetically-modified breed of cockroach created to eliminate a plague of sorts, only after some years, things got out of control. I don’t know if the story is absolutely great, but it really does a good job of keeping people engaged.

Character-wise, the focal characters are all pretty worth it. The two main performances, those of Mira Sorvino and Jeremy Northam, were both solid, though certainly at times Northam wasn’t particularly likable. Charles S. Dutton (of both D-Tox from 2002 and Gothika from 2003) was pretty fun throughout, and the conclusion to his story arc was certainly worth it. Last person really of note would be Giancarlo Giannini, and though I did like his character, I wish more was done with him.

The special effects here are really what makes the film work, though, as they’re pretty much good throughout the film. Toward the end, a few of the scenes don’t look that great, but overall, where Mimic really stands out are the solid effects.

Mimic’s not a movie that I really have a lot to say about, but it is a well-made film, and certainly in the late 1990’s, a somewhat stand-out flick. It’s not really a movie that I utterly love, but it stood up solidly the first time I saw it, and seeing it again did little to dissuade me of the positive feelings I have of the film.

7.5/10

Tales from the Hood (1995)

Directed by Rusty Cundieff [Other horror films: Tales from the Hood 2 (2018), Mr. Malevolent (2018), Tales from the Hood 3 (2020)]

This is one that I’ve seen once before, and I recall enjoying it, but seeing it again shines an even brighter light on the film, because I now think it’s one of the best anthology horror films of the 1990’s.

Honestly, competition isn’t that high, as most anthology films usually falter in one or two of the stories, but Tales from the Hood boasts not only four pretty decent stories, but a solidly amusing framing sequence right out of Tales from the Crypt, with a very classic Amicus feel.

Of all the stories, the only one that I didn’t absolutely love is the final story, titled ‘Hard-core Convert’, but I’ll be honest: as a white guy who barely knew any black people until college, I don’t even know if I really have a right to say much on this one.

The comparison between the violence committed on blacks by racist whites to the violence committed on blacks by other blacks (gang violence, primarily) struck me as somewhat troubling in it’s nature, but then again, as I’m not at all black, and have little experience with the experiences they deal with on a daily basis, especially in areas overrun by gangs, I admit that this is something I don’t think I know enough about to comment on. I’ll simply say that while the story was certainly one that made me think, the implications (seemingly ignoring the poverty and lack of upward mobility that leads many into the gang life in the first place) bothered me.

I think the best story is difficult to choose, but I’d likely go with ‘Boys Do Get Bruised.’ It’s certainly the most moving of the stories, and I definitely thought that it really stood out in a genre that sometimes comes across as callous and cold. I especially enjoyed both Rusty Cundieff’s and David Alan Grier’s performances, and while the ending wasn’t necessarily amazing, I think the story had a lot going for it.

‘KKK Comeuppance’ and ‘Rogue Cop Revelation’ were both pretty good, and also topical to today’s rather racist climate, unfortunately. I’d probably give the edge to ‘Rogue Cop Revelation’, almost for the pure joy of seeing racist cops killed for their atrocious actions of killing a black community leader. Cops like that, and those who defend said cops (which seems to be a vast majority of the corrupt police force), are utterly without virtue, and seeing, even in a fictional movie, the revenge so rightly deserved taking place brought me a lot of joy. There’s joy in seeing a racist politician taken down too, no doubt, but the police seem more solidly protected from the consequences of their racist actions than do politicians (just look at all the police officers who get off on murder charges when they’re clearly guilty).

On a related note, I suspect that while many of the stories in the film are well-crafted, including the framing story (though the conclusion is both expected and ultimately a little on the corny side), if one’s a conservative, or a racist, they may take issue with the film. That’s not to say that some conservatives couldn’t enjoy the film for what it is, but given the issues that the film tackles, I think it’s safe to say that some would definitely be turned off, claiming the film carries with it a ‘political agenda.’

As it is, I’m nowhere near conservative, so I had no such problems enjoying the film. Really, looking through the 1990’s anthology films, I struggle to find one that get’s anywhere close to matching how much I enjoyed this one. Tales from the Darkside: The Movie had one pretty great story, but was otherwise forgettable. Two Evil Eyes ultimately didn’t do anything for me. I’ve not seen either movie titled Campfire Tales (from 1991 and 1997), nor Quicksilver Highway (1997), and I really didn’t care for Body Bags (1993). Looking at the competition, there’s not really any choice, and even without comparing Tales from the Hood with underwhelming movies, I think it stands on it’s own merits. Well worth the watch, and definitely one that I’d go back to.

8.5/10