Non aprite quella porta 3 (1990)

Directed by Claudio Fragasso [Other horror films: Virus (1980), Rats – Notte di terrore (1984), Leviatán (1984), Zombi 3 (1988), After Death (Oltre la morte) (1989), La casa 5 (1990), Troll 2 (1990), Una notte da paura (2012), Italian horror stories (2021)] & Bruno Mattei [Other horror films: Casa privata per le SS (1977), KZ9 – Lager di sterminio (1977), Virus (1980), L’altro inferno (1981), Violenza in un carcere femminile (1982), Rats – Notte di terrore (1984), Zombi 3 (1988), Terminator II (1989), Occhi senza volto (1994), Cruel Jaws (1995), Snuff killer – La morte in diretta (2003), Mondo cannibale (2004), Nella terra dei cannibali (2004), La tomba (2006), L’isola dei morti viventi (2007), Zombi: La creazione (2007)]

This Italian film, originally titled Non aprite quella porta 3, was an occasionally fun, occasionally dry movie, but I don’t think many people could say that it wasn’t entertaining.

Once the film moves away from the random kills and starts focusing on a single woman (Tara Buckman) and her ordeal of being abducted by a mysterious man (Peter Hooten), I think the movie gets in a bit of a lull, but it really doesn’t stay there long, and even though the portions I could have done without, it doesn’t stay too dull.

I’d say that no one really went out of there way to give a great performance, but most of the main actors and actresses were fine, such as Tara Buckman and Peter Hooten (despite his somewhat questionable character). Mel Davis (the police officer) and Lee Lively (the doctor) made for an interesting pair when they were on screen, and I appreciated it. I don’t think we learned enough about Richard Foster’s character to really make a judgment one way or the other.

Being a slasher fan, I did enjoy most of the kills here. None of them are really amazing (most of them end with the killer ramming his razor-sharp claw-glove through women’s stomachs), but that opening scene had some quality suspense and even a painful-looking cut. As for the end – well, I appreciate them going outside the box a little (because if things had ended how it was setting up to, it would have been quite the lack-luster conclusion), but I’m not entirely buying it either.

The masked killer in Night Killer looks silly, but it does possess it’s hokey charm, and certainly if he’s raping and killing women, the silliness of his mask sort of declines over time. I don’t think this Italian movie was necessary, and I wish it felt more like a giallo than a third-rate slasher, but for the early 90’s, in a country where soon horror would be hard to come by, I can appreciate the film. I just don’t love it.

6.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. If you’re interested in hearing what Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I think about this Italian film, check it out, brahs.

Scary Movie (1991)

Directed by Daniel Erickson [Other horror films: N/A]

I definitely didn’t know what I was getting into going into this movie. I know that IMDb labels it a horror/comedy, which I guess is a fair description, but what I didn’t anticipate is just how much fun I would find much of the film.

If there’s one main drawback, it’s that I think Scary Movie runs on a bit longer than it needs to. I think they probably could have cut out ten minutes, maybe 15, and made it a quicker experience, because there were a few times when I felt my focus wander off. Otherwise, though, I think that it’s a movie with a lot of spirit and a lovely and charming encapsulation of Halloween.

For the first thirty minutes of the movie, a group of four friends are standing in line to get into a Haunted house attraction. During this time, an insane killer breaks loose. Most of the film, though, follows the friends, specifically the nervous wreck that is Warren (played by John Hawkes).

On a side-note, one of my favorite things in the film was, when the group of friends played jokes and pranks on Warren, this guy standing behind the group in line – not a part of the group, and in fact never actually talks to anyone in the group – laughs along with the others. The camera often puts him in focus as he cackles at Warren, and in fact he’s credited on IMDb as ‘Laughing Man’ (Ernie Taliaferro in his sole role, if anyone’s wondering). That happened multiple times throughout the movie, and it never got old.

What also never got old were the hokey yet charming set pieces in the haunted house, and really, the whole movie reeked of the spirit of Halloween in a way that, to me, few movies have (such as Trick ‘r Treat, Halloween III: Season of the Witch and, of course, Halloween), and for that alone, I had a really good time.

John Hawkes (who later popped up in Identity, which must be where I recognize him from) was an interesting lead character, and throughout the film we see him consistently surviving the horrors he’s facing. He’s a jumpy guy, though, so the amount of horrors he’s actually facing are sometimes in question. Ev Lunning is decent as a sheriff running for re-election, and Zeke Mills (‘You wonder where the yeller went when you brush your teeth with Pepperdent’) has some funny lines. The best actor, though, is probably Taliaferro and his laughing.

I don’t know if the end of the movie is entirely satisfying, but I think it works with the story, and feels oddly dramatic given the rest of the film’s somewhat light-hearted nature. This is definitely a movie that surprised me, though, and Scary Movie is a movie I’d recommend to fans of early 90’s slashers if they want something a little atypical.

7.5/10

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

The Borrower (1991)

Directed by John McNaughton [Other horror films: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986), The Harvest (2013)]

Filmed in the late 80’s and not released until 1991, this science-fiction/horror mix isn’t a particularly great movie, but if you go into it not knowing much, nor expecting anything from it, The Borrower might turn out to be an okay watch.

As it was, I didn’t love it, but I will admit I was impressed by the fact that, despite the goofy premise (an alien is exiled on Earth for his crimes, and must survive by stealing the heads of Earthmen), this movie isn’t actually all that steeped in humor. Sure, there’s a little here and there, but much of the film is played decently straight (it helps that there are some serious topics addressed in this, such as homelessness, taking a life in self defense, and sexual assault), which was a pleasant surprise.

That doesn’t make the movie good, of course. The story itself doesn’t drag, but it does seem somewhat aimless at times (which might be expected, but it doesn’t make it any more enjoyable), and the conclusion, at least to me, felt rather lack-luster. Certainly the special effects, for what they were, weren’t at all shabby, but a competent story with decent special effects isn’t like to really keep people excited throughout.

I don’t think that Rae Dawn Chong, the lead actress, did a bad job here, and she did shine in a few scenes, but I’m hard-pressed to say that she really brought a lot to the film. More interesting to see was Antonio Fargas, who was in the classic 70’s television series Starsky and Hutch (a series of which I’ve seen most episodes of, believe it or not). Here, he played a homeless man who came into contact with the alien, and they almost have a buddy cop feel to them (up to a point, of course). Fargas didn’t really make the movie, by any means, but he was certainly a nice and familiar face to see.

When all’s said and done, The Borrower did exceed the admittedly meager expectations I had, but it still came out as a below-average film. Certainly for an early 1990’s movie that I’ve almost never heard of before, it was a somewhat nice surprise, and I certainly recommend it to fans of alien-based horror, but it’s a far cry from great, and definitely a different look for director John McNaughton (who directed the classic Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer).

6/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss The Borrower in all it’s glory.

Ice Cream Man (1995)

Directed by Norman Apstein [Other horror films: N/A]

I won’t deny that part of my enjoyment of this movie stems from strong nostalgia. I saw this film, or at least pieces of this film, quite a bit as a child, and due to that, despite the somewhat goofy idea, I sort of like what Ice Cream Man was going for.

Most of the time, when horror comedies tend toward the goofier, sillier side of things, my enjoyment wanes. There’s not necessarily a whole lot of overly silly scenes here (sure, the giant ice cream cone with a decapitated head is a bit much, but that puppet play was on point), but there were enough to make me cringe a few times. Even with that, though, I found the movie more charming than anything, which, like I said, is probably the nostalgia talking.

Really, as far as the story goes, there’s not really a whole lot happening. A bunch of kids (such as the beautifully nicknamed Small Paul and, even better, Tuna) think the new ice cream man is creepy, and potentially kidnapping the youngsters, and set out to prove it. It’s pretty much Summer of 84 twenty years earlier (only with 1/10th of the production budget, of course, as Summer of 84 was stylistic as fuck).

None of the main kids, aside from maybe Anndi McAfee, are that memorable, but there are some quality faces in here, such as Clint Howard, David Warner, Olivia Hussey, and David Naughton. Okay, Howard is pretty fun (as expected), but Warner, Hussey, and Naughton weren’t anything special. Warner (who I recently saw when watching Titanic again, and is perhaps most notable from The Omen for horror fans) didn’t have much of a character, Hussey’s performance was one of the more cringe-worthy portions, and Naughton (An American Werewolf in London) was mostly forgettable, but hey, it was still nice to see some of these people.

Despite being a rather cheesy film, there has always been one part of the story that legit creeped me out, being the asylum scene toward the latter half of the film, in which two detectives, investigating the allegations against the ice cream man, check out the mental institution he was released from. The whole of the scene is pretty unrealistic (in much the same way the existence of Gatlin from Children of the Corn is unrealistic), but it has a rather unsettling vibe to it, and I remember it actually scaring me a bit as a kid. Definitely a personal high-light for me.

Otherwise, Ice Cream Man is pretty much what you’d expect. A few more gruesome scenes, but nothing overly gory, and definitely a very cheesy movie, which, like I’ve said, adds a bit of charm to it. It’s nothing amazing whatsoever, but honestly, it’s a movie I could see myself watching again and again without hesitation, and because of that, I’d probably throw this one an average rating.

7/10

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

Sorority House Massacre II (1990)

Directed by Jim Wynorski [Other horror films: Chopping Mall (1986), Not of This Earth (1988), The Return of Swamp Thing (1989), Transylvania Twist (1989), The Haunting of Morella (1990), Hard to Die (1990), Scream Queen Hot Tub Party (1991), 976-Evil II (1991), Ghoulies IV (1994), Sorceress (1995), The Wasp Woman (1995), Vampirella (1996), Storm Trooper (1998), The Bare Wench Project (2000), Raptor (2001), The Bare Wench Project 2: Scared Topless (2001), Project Viper (2002), Wolfhound (2002), The Bare Wench Project 3: Nymphs of Mystery Mountain (2002), Cheerleader Massacre (2003), Bare Wench Project: Uncensored (2003), The Thing Below (2004), The Curse of the Komodo (2004), Gargoyle (2004), Komodo vs. Cobra (2005), The Witches of Breastwick (2005), The Witches of Breastwick 2 (2005), Bare Wench: The Final Chapter (2005), Cry of the Winged Serpent (2007), House on Hooter Hill (2007), Bone Eater (2007), Vampire in Vegas (2009), Cleavagefield (2009), The Hills Have Thighs (2010), Dinocroc vs. Supergator (2010), Camel Spiders (2011), Piranhaconda (2012), Gila! (2012), Scared Topless (2015), Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre (2015), Legend of the Naked Ghost (2017), CobraGator (2018)]

Oh boy, this was a fun film.

So, first thing’s first, I guess I have to mention that the flashbacks shown here aren’t from the first Sorority House Massacre (which, in it’s own way, was an enjoyable film), but from The Slumber Party Massacre. Why they just threw that footage here to give this killer an origin is beyond me, but hey, they did. It’s a brave choice, really – instead of footage from the first movie, they throw in clips from an entirely different movie.

This film is on it’s own plane.

I think that I speak for everyone when I say that the VIP here is Mike Elliott, who is pretty much fun in every scene he’s in. He also can’t die, as he’s shot multiple times with a shotgun toward the end, and is still kicking. This is after being stabbed and strangled, so this guy is certainly a go-getter.

The main cast, though, consisting of Dana Bentley, Michelle Verran, Stacia Zhivago, Melissa Moore, and Robyn Harris, are all decent in their own way. This mostly takes the form of nudity and scantily-clad pajamas, but here, everyone plays their parts. I think that Harris (who is on IMDb under the name Gail Thackray) was the most attractive here, but let’s give these women their due and admit all are rather pretty. Some were even in adult films before this, so no doubt that played a part in their casting.

Story-wise, what Sorority House Massacre II comes with isn’t that unique, but it’s not exceptionally poor either, especially when some of the more silly elements (such as Mike Elliott’s red herring status throughout) are intentional. I will admit that they took a route toward the end that I really didn’t care for, so it could have been a bit better, but still, it was decent. I will admit, though, that the addition of Jürgen Baum’s character was pretty pointless, aside from giving us more nudity during the strip club scene (which was funny overall, especially with those two Middle Eastern mens’ catcalls).

None of the kills were great, but most were perfectly competent. Either strangling or death by hook, we did occasionally get some blood splatter, but that wasn’t something they focused on. More than anything, it was half-naked women running around a dark house (they could have escaped easily earlier on, as they could have outrun Elliott’s ploddingly slow character, but of course they didn’t) and trying to survive. In it’s own cheap way, it was fun, save for an element toward the end I could have done without.

The film’s laughable, to be sure, but I don’t think that’s overly damning. As soon as they threw in flashbacks not to Sorority House Massacre but The Slumber Party Massacre, I was in awe. The movie isn’t really played comically, but there were enough goofy things here to make me happy without becoming too overbearingly campy. The first movie is a better film, but this one isn’t a movie I could imagine ever having a problem watching again. It’s not great – and it maybe overvaluing the film to call it average – but that’s what I’m going with, because whatever else you can say about it, it’s a fun movie.

7/10

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

From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter (1999)

Directed by P.J. Pesce [Other horror films: Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008)]

The second straight-to-video From Dusk Till Dawn was a hard one to go into with anything nearing moderate expectations. I hated the second one, and I really never cared much for the first. Of course, the third time’s the cha- wait, no, this was utter shit too.

I’ll give the movie credit for having interesting characters. Michael Parks was pretty fun in his role. Lennie Loftin was somewhat amusing in his breaking bad scene, and Rebecca Gayheart (Urban Legend) was decently attractive, and her story went an unexpected direction. I didn’t think that we learned enough about Marco Leonardi’s character to make an impression, but Temuera Morrison at least looked threatening. Neither Ara Celi nor Jordana Spiro did anything for me.

Still, overall the cast is decent. It’s a shame that the story is so God-awful. I mean, sure, it connects to the first film far more than the second film ever did (which might make inherent sense, given this is a prequel), but when the story and special effects are as insufferable as was present here, I don’t think an increased attention to continuity really matters. Especially when the exact same final shot from the first film is used here, which I suspect most people saw coming.

Of course, they throw in an awful and pointless post-credits scene, but what you would expect? I mean, it’s awful, but at least it keeps it’s consistency with the rest of the film. And truth be told, the more I think about this one, the more I find it hard to believe that some people like it more than the second. The second was bad, don’t get me wrong, but this just struck me as much worse.

Honestly, it may not really amount to much. Both direct-to-video sequels were awful, and while I found this quite a bit worse, neither one gets anywhere close to the first movie, which, as I said, I wasn’t even that fond of. You get some okay characters here, and maybe an amusing scene or two, but honestly, this really isn’t worth much at all, unless Exorcist references are all you look for in life.

4/10

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Directed by Tim Burton [Other horror films: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Dark Shadows (2012)]

Tim Burton didn’t make that many horror films, but after seeing this, you really wish that he would. I’m not going to go as far as to say this rendition of the classic story is flawless, but Sleepy Hollow is a hell of a lot of fun, with a fantastic cast and a mystery that’s actually quite engaging.

Of course, you have some Burton staples here, such as very artistic scenery (especially during flashbacks and dreams), and there’s admittedly some questionable CGI during the witch scene, but overall, this is 1990’s horror done right, and I can only imagine how fun this was to see in theaters.

That cast, tho…

Johnny Depp (A Nightmare on Elm Street and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) is a no-brainer casting choice here. Utterly love his performance, and I like how he’s not as weak as other portrayals of Ichabod Crane tend to be. Christina Ricci (who I best know from the 1990’s Addams Family movies) did great as an innocent young woman with a secret.

No one here, though, did a bad job. Jeffrey Jones (Beetlejuice and Ravenous), Michael Gambon (Dumbledore from the third Harry Potter film onward), Miranda Richardson (Rita Skeeter from Harry Potter), Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers), Christopher Walken (The Dead Zone and Batman Returns), Michael Gough (Alfred from 1989’s Batman and it’s sequels), and Christopher Lee (don’t get me started) were all great. Seeing a cast of this caliber was more fun than I can say. I mean, I’ve seen this movie before, to be sure, but I forgot just how good it was.

With as good as the cast was, though, let’s not downplay the intriguing mystery playing out. There are multiple red herrings, and a lot of potential suspects, and given that the mystery was actually good, it was a very pleasant ride throughout, especially once we’re shown at the end the various clues to the ultimate solution. Very satisfying story, and I commend it heavily for that.

Crane’s more scientific mindset being at odds with the Headless Horseman was an interesting route to take. I don’t know if it was used to as much effect as it could have been, but I did love his defeated attitude once he actually saw the supernatural being in action. He overcomes his fears, though, and really works hard to figure out the mystery and save the town.

The Headless Horseman (played by Walken) had a pretty fun origin, and overall, I really liked the design of the Horseman. Related, that first tree scene always stuck with me – the blood just spurting from the tree was always a good time, if not a bit gruesome.

Sleepy Hollow isn’t my favorite horror film from the 1990’s, but it’s an enjoyable ride through-and-through. Artistically, it’s quite beautiful, and the setting is stellar. Honestly, I don’t think most would expect anything less from Tim Burton, but Sleepy Hollow is certainly worth a watch, and worth the praise.

8.5/10

Tremors (1990)

Directed by Ron Underwood [Other horror films: N/A]

Ever since I was a kid, I loved the Tremors movies. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve seen the first three movies combined, so to say I grew up with them will be the best I can do. The first film isn’t the best horror film of the 1990’s, but I’ve always found it enjoyable, and nothing has changed.

It’s a pretty simple monster movie with a rather small cast, but Tremors keeps us entertained with the quality character building, interesting ideas, and a decent amount of humor sprinkled throughout (though never becoming too overbearing as to distract from the suspense). If one of the many monsters movies from the late 1950’s had been made around the 1990’s instead, this is definitely what they’d hope to be.

Kevin Bacon is one of those big names that I honestly pretty much only know from this movie. I mean, I’ve seen Death Sentence, and of course I’ve seen Friday the 13th, but as far as Bacon individually standing out, Tremors stands alone. He works fantastically well with Fred Ward, and seeing the two of them interact throughout the film is a lot of fun (“Legs that go ALLLLLLL the way up!”).

Of course, it should go without saying that Michael Gross (who I know best from Family Ties) is great here, along with his wife (played by country singer Reba McEntire), as a pair of gun-nuts who are incredibly fun to watch, and Gross himself has plenty of funny lines (deadpan, “For my cannon” is probably my favorite). It’s clear why Gross made such an impression, even more so than the stars that were Bacon, Ward, and Finn Carter.

The monster design here was pretty interesting, even though we’re basically talking about giant worms. They look suitably dull, and seeing them killed in various ways is fun enough, but also the fact that they do learn as the movie goes on gives them a little more of a fear factor, even though they’re never quite terrifying.

Also, let’s speak briefly about the setting, being the (very) small town of Perfection, Nevada. It was indeed perfection, as a population of about 14 people total has always amazed me, just seeing the way that these people would live as opposed to those in a larger town or city. I couldn’t imagine living in such a small place, and maybe due to that, this setting always stuck out to me as something really memorable.

Other films from the early 1990’s combined humor and horror better than Tremors did (I’m primarily looking at Arachnophobia, which came out the same year), but Tremors has been a pleasure to watch since I was a kid, and I still really enjoy the first three movies, and wholly recommend the first two if you haven’t seen them before.

8.5/10

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

The Ugly (1997)

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

Honestly, The Ugly is a pretty simple movie, which the lower budget does well with. Certainly not a classic or anything so grand, this New Zealand film still has enough going for it to be consistently enjoyable.

First off, the budget here is a bit on the lower side, evidenced by both the somewhat terrible set (though I think it works to a point in-universe) and the small cast. They didn’t really need a large cast, though, and I definitely think what they had worked out well.

The idea behind the movie (a psychologist learning about the life of an insane serial killer) wasn’t anything too special, but the film was somewhat innovative in its stylistic flashbacks. Some good lighting, some interesting black blood, things just jelled here. I wish that the ending had been a bit more reasonable, as it sort of reminded me of Frailty, but whateves, it’s cool.

There’s plenty of solid cast members here, from Jennifer Ward-Lealand (who plays one of the most unlikable mothers in cinema) to Rebecca Hobbs and Roy Ward (that guy just struck me as utterly random throughout the film). My two favorites here, though, are the main serial killer, played wonderfully by Paolo Rotondo and a childhood friend of his, played by young (at the time, she was around 13) Beth Allen. Both brought a lot to the film, and I especially enjoyed Allen’s scenes early on. Her adult counterpart (Vanessa Byrnes) didn’t do near as much for me, alas.

Much of the film might come across as a typical origin story of any run-of-the-mill serial killer, but I thought it packed a pretty emotional punch here and there. Like I said, it’s more the stylistic nature of some of the sequences more than anything that make it memorable, but there are some decent kills and suspenseful scenes throughout.

I didn’t really think that much of The Ugly when I first saw it years back, but it’s aged nicely, and though I don’t think it’d make my ‘Best of the 90’s,’ it’s certainly a slice of foreign horror that might be worth experiencing once.

7/10

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